Reflection

Disclaimer: It all belongs to JK Rowling.

Summary: With her forehead against his, she can imagine a world with just her and Ron and a sunny day at the Burrow beside the pond, where light warms their bodies and fills up the dark parts of their hearts, where they can forget worries and forget futures and pasts, and just breathe. r/hr, oneshot

A/N: So yeah, this incredibly angsty-emo R/Hr oneshot has been sitting around since probably November. It was originally written for the one word prompt reflection, but I never bothered to submit it--I wasn't happy with it. I've recently dusted it off and tweaked it a bit. It's still uber-angsty, and I know, I know, I am such a sucker for R/Hr firsts and I keep writing them over and over, but sigh. They make me happy, at any rate. Pleasepleaseplease read and review, and, most importantly, enjoy.

Definition of reflection: an image; representation; counterpart.

For D/S, who gives the best reviews and writes the most awesome R/Hr in the world. Until I manage to get inspired and churn out more of Guardian, this one is for you.

Ron's never liked his reflection, and these days, he hates it more than ever.

He sees the same old Ron in the mirror—tall, gangly, messy ginger hair, cobalt eyes, too many freckles, ears that never fail to give away his true emotions—and somehow, every time he catches sight of himself lately, he feels sick.

He may look like the same old Ron, but he doesn't feel like whoever that person is anymore. He feels old and tired and unbearably sad, and sometimes he thinks the weight of everything will crush him. He didn't know how much he'd miss Hogwarts—he sure as hell hadn't counted on this ache, this horrible ache inside him whenever he wakes up and finds he's not in the familiar four poster. He'd never thought this was going to be a jolly day trip, or anything, but he'd also never reckoned it would be so damn hard.

He's stopped sleeping at night, for the most part. He always tells Harry and Hermione he'll take first watch, and then never bothers to wake them up once they've gone off to sleep. Ron sits in the hotel room by the door or window, holding his wand loosely and staring unseeingly into space, edgy and nervous. Sometimes, he paces, other times he goes to Hermione's bed and watches her sleep, bites his lip to stop himself from whispering her name or stroking back her hair. She's so beautiful, she's so good, she's so…so…

So Hermione.

He can't bear the thought of losing her to this war, can't imagine life without her, and he lives with a constant, nagging fear that if he even allows himself a moment's rest, he'll wake up and find her gone—bed neatly made, all the girly things in the bathroom vanished—as though she's never existed to begin with. When watching her gets to be too much, he goes and sits by Harry, who he's equally as terrified of losing, and equally as protective of, but in a different kind of way. Harry may not be related to him by blood, but he's as good as Ron's brother—

the little brother he's never had—and dammit, the kid needs somebody to look out for him, somebody to be there for him while he's doing this bloody saving the world business. If Ron feels the burden of what they're trying to do, Harry must feel it a thousand…no, a million times over, and Ron hates to see his best mate suffer more than he already has. He hates to hear his troubled mutterings in his sleep, and he's startled when one night, he hears Harry murmuring,

"No, Dad, please don't leave…don't leave—no, Dad! No!" Harry kicks under the blankets. "No, Mum, don't save me…don't save me, I don't want to live Mum, just go, just go, please just—no, don't kill her—you…you…" Harry chokes out a sort of sob in his sleep, and Ron realizes with a horrible start that he's reliving the night they died.

Ron puts his head in his hands, angry for Harry and miserable for him, too—wishing that he'd never had to go through this, that none of them have.

"Ginny," Harry says quietly now, "no, not Ginny." Ron raises his head and stares intently at Harry, who is curled in a tight ball, trembling. "Please not her, I'll do anything…anything—"

Ron can't watch Harry suffer anymore, and he doesn't want to wake him up and tell him he's talking in his sleep. Harry hates it when Ron knows what he goes through, he thinks it makes him seem weak.

The nightmare will pass, it always does.

Ron goes back to sit by his post at the window, too tired to sleep.

Hopelessness at this level doesn't exactly allow for restfulness.

----

They're going to die.

Hermione thinks this matter-of-factly as she crawls out of bed and goes to the tiny, filthy window across the room.

They're going to die, and there is nothing anybody can do to save them.

What were they doing, thinking they could handle this? What the bloody hell made them suppose three not quite qualified seventeen year olds could defeat the darkest wizard the world had ever known? She was supposed to be the clever one, and she'd let her wild Gryffindor side get away with her, had let bravery and loyalty consume her…

She should never have agreed to this, she should never have let Harry think this was up to him—what in Merlin's name is the Order of the Phoenix for if its members can't be the ones to find Horcruxes and save the world? Damn Harry's vengeance, damn his bravery, and damn the prophecy; he's a boy, just a boy. He's not ready for this, nor is Ron.

And nor, come to think of it, is she.

Yes, she's mature and smart, as much an adult as one can be at her age. Of course she could've taken the N.E.W.Ts last year and passed with flying colors.

But this is different. This is real life.

Calmly, she peers at her reflection in the window. There are dark circles under her large, brown eyes from lack of sleep, her already uncontrollable hair is springing from her head in five different directions, and she's so thin from worry and lack of food, her collar bone protrudes alarmingly. She sees this Hermione, and feels helpless.

She sees this Hermione in the window, and she feels weak.

She's been scared, she's been angry, she's been lonely, and she's been desperately sad—but never, never in her life, has she been weak, and the fact that exhaustion is consuming her now makes her want to break something. She doesn't want this. She doesn't want to be here, she doesn't want to see Harry struggle and Ron quiet and determined and see herself collapse, fold into herself…die.

She wants to live. She wants to marry Ron, have a dozen children (well…perhaps not quite that many, but after all, Ron is a Weasley), make Harry their godfather, become a Healer or an Auror or an Elf Rights Activist or a Runes professor or something. She wants to grow old and live well, and she wants to do it in a world that, if not perfect, is at least peaceful.

She never wants her children to live like she has since she was twelve. Not ever.

Her reflection blinks sadly back at her, reality in its hollow gaze. It is too much to hope for a marriage and children and a full, happy life. It's foolish to think she'll so much as live to see her eighteenth birthday next month.

It's time you grew up, her reflection seems to whisper. It's time you stopped dreaming, Hermione.

Tearing her eyes away from the unfamiliar girl in the window, she edgily moves to the door and heads into the living room, wincing as she hears Harry cry out in his sleep.

Nightmares again.

She's not falling asleep anytime soon—she'll tell Ron to get some rest for once, she'll take watch the rest of the night. He never lets her or Harry have their turn at keeping vigil. It's always him, sitting resolutely up until early daylight, catching a few hours of sleep only when Harry stumbles into the kitchen to start breakfast.

Ron rarely eats these days, either.

He's leaning against the window when she finds him, his face pressed against the glass, ginger hair rumpled. He's fallen into the kind of sleep that's not refreshing or restful—he's muttering under his breath, clenching and unclenching his fists, grunting nervously. Hermione kneels before him, and puts a hand to his cheek, feeling unbearably sad. How many nights has he stayed awake for her sake, and Harry's? How many nights has he been this way, falling into restless sleep for a few moments, jerking himself back awake, terrified something's happened?

She doesn't want to know; she has enough weighing her conscience as it is.

"Hermione?" He's woken up, dazed, uncertain. "What time is it?" She quickly pulls her hand away from him, checking her watch.

"Three-thirty."

"Oh." He runs a hand blearily across his pale, freckled face. "Must've drifted off for a moment…last time I checked the clock is was three twenty-four."

"Ron, listen," she begins, "you've got to have a proper rest. Let me take over—just look at the state of you! You're exhausted."

"You're exhausted too, Hermione!" Ron objects. "When was the last time you had a proper rest, or ate a decent meal, or laughed without looking like you were holding back tears? When was the last time you had a good dream or your eyes lit up like they do when you prove you're right?" He glares at her fiercely. "I'm not thick, you know. You don't fool me with your blankness—I know you worry yourself half to death, and I'm not about to let you sit out here all night and wear yourself out even more!"

"You're one to talk. You get even less sleep than Harry, and I don't remember you eating at all yesterday! You think just because I'm tired or sad I'll let you go on like this? You need sleep, too, Ron."

"It doesn't matter," he says quietly. "I want to make sure everything…everything's all in order. I want to keep us safe; I won't be able to sleep if I don't know you're…you're…" His voice catches.

"I know," she whispers miserably. There is silence, and it's filled with things they can't say.

Are you scared about what it'll be like, when we die?

"I'm so sick of feeling like this," Ron says after some time. Hermione is still kneeling, so he slides off his chair to sit beside her, leaning against the wall. She scoots over next to him, stretching out her legs.

"Me, too," she agrees. "I miss your teasing."

"I miss your nagging."

"Nagging!" Hermione feigns offense, a hint of a smile flitting across her features. "I am sure, Ronald Weasley, that I have never nagged you in my life!"

"And I am sure, Hermione Granger, that I've never called you a know-it-all." Ron pauses to think. "Ever!"

"And I'm sure I've never quoted Hogwarts: A History!"

"And I'm sure that I've never beaten the hell out of you at chess!"

"And I'm sure I've never even thought of knitting hats for house elves!"

And for the first time in a long time, they both laugh.

They laugh until they cry.

"I—I'm sorry," Hermione splutters, hiccupping in between sobs. "I—I didn't m—mean to—"

"'s not your fault," Ron manages thickly, his face in his hands. "We were laughing…w—we were laughing about the stupidest stuff…That must've been the dumbest conversation we've ever had…"

"I know," Hermione gasps. "But I sort of forgot, then it hit me again, and…why? Why can't I ever escape this?" She glares furiously at a ceiling that shimmers through tears. "Why can't I forget about it all?"

"We're not supposed to," Ron manages simply. "Nobody's supposed to."

"I'm scared of missing things," Hermione tells him point-blank, scraping the back of her hand angrily across her eyes and cheeks. "I wanted so much—I'd hoped for so much!—and now…"

"…now you wish you could do it all again," Ron says quietly. "Right?"

"How did you…how did you know that?"

"Because I feel the same way." He sighs. "All those fights I wouldn't have had with you, those things I wouldn't have said, the things I would've done and said…" He meets her gaze, and she doesn't have to ask what he's talking about.

They know each other too well for that.

He leans forward, brushes the hair away from her face, runs his thumb gently across her cheek to dry her tears. She reaches for his face, her hand on his cheek again, feels the heat of his blush and the coolness of his tears. Her eyes close as he draws her to him, resting his forehead against hers, reaching down and taking both her hands in his, intertwining their fingers.

So close, Hermione thinks. I could do it, if I wanted.

With her forehead against his, his breath on her cheek, the wonderful warmth of his grasp, she can imagine a different world, one without an evil wizard and fear and coldness. She can imagine a world with just her and Ron, a sunny day at the Burrow beside the pond, where light warms their bodies and fills up the dark parts of their hearts, where they can forget worries and forget futures and pasts, and just breathe.

"Hermione?" Ron whispers, and she opens her eyes. He is so very, very close—their noses are almost touching.

"Yes?" she whispers.

"Don't think," he tells her. "Don't be scared."

"No," she agrees. "I won't."

So Ron closes the distance between them, his lips on hers, his hands letting hers go and coming back to her face. Her arms are around him as he eases her down onto the floor, kissing her face, her hair, her neck, a desperate, beautiful thing that makes her want to cry again. She is drowning in the weight of this—all his love and sorrow and anger and strength filling her, finally pulling her under into the deep, bottomless pit of a pool with countless ripples.

And when she surfaces, she is not afraid to tell Ron the thing she's known for years.

"I love you."

"I know," he says simply, "because I love you, too."

She looks at herself in his eyes then, and he looks at himself in hers. They are so alike, Hermione and Ron, each with a fiery temper, a fierce sense of loyalty, insurmountable courage, and equal fear at what might happen. She is his counterpart, and he is hers. When there is no one left to yell at, they turn to each other. When there is nobody left to cry with, they find comfort with one another. When they feel as though their world is suffocating them, they breathe life into one another again.

It has never been as complicated as they both felt.

It has never had to be.

They know at least that now.

----

Harry wakes up in the morning to make breakfast, and he sees them.

They're curled up identically, her forehead pressed against his, their breathing even and in synch.

They look happy, at peace.

Will they die? Harry doesn't know. They might. He catches sight of his reflection in the window and grimaces at it. His face is too thin, too pale—his eyes too hollow.

You can do this, he tells himself for the five billionth time. We can all do this.

His gaze drifts to Ron and Hermione, mirror images of each other—the best, bravest friends a Boy Who Lived could ask for.

Oh, yes, they might die—in fact, they probably will. But the fact is, Harry reminds himself while he turns to make coffee, they might live, too.

As the coffee pot fills, light hits the water just right, just enough so that it's easy to catch a glimpse of his reflection.

As Harry stares into the water, he's a bit surprised to find that for the first time in weeks, some of the darkness has lifted from his eyes, and the corner of his lip has tugged upwards into something suspiciously like a smile.