A/N: I decided to try my hand at H/Hr, and this idea popped into my head just a few days before the release of Deathly Hallows. Great timing. Of course, being the H/G and R/Hr shipper that I am, I couldn't make it happy, even if I wanted to. So... H/Hr shippers will like it, since they are together in this one, but H/G and R/Hr shippers should be satisfied too. Or you might all hate it. :)
Anyway, this fic is very dark, and it definitely fits the M rating. Just warning you. And it's not happy at all. There are zero happy bits. This is more for me to experiment (and to brace myself, in case JKR pulls a Hamlet and kills everyone in the seventh book).
I hope this ends up AU in a few days. If not, I will be very sad.
Disclaimer: As I have no idea what happens in the seventh book, the characters, etc. are not mine. Hopefully, the premise is, because if it isn't...
Rain falls steadily from the grey skies above. Harry stands stiffly, unmoving, as Mrs. Weasley sobs into a black handkerchief on his left and Hermione weeps silently on his right. Scrimgeour is up on the platform right now, droning on about how the "deceased served their country well" or some similar rot, as far as Harry is concerned.
On Mrs. Weasley's other side, Fred makes a choking noise as his face crumples. Fleur clutches little Pierre to her as she leans her head on Percy's shoulder. They are all that's left of the Weasley clan.
The space in front of them is a sea of caskets, all the Order members who died during the final battle against Voldemort. All the Order members... and Ginny. But even the thought of Ginny, her red hair flowing around her face as she fell for the last time, does not cause Harry to cry. Nor does the memory of Ron, throwing himself in front of him and Hermione, right before the Avada Kedavracurse hit. Harry hasn't been able to feel a thing since the battle.
Scrimgeour finishes, and there is a loud noise as all of the caskets begin to sink into the ground. Several people wail loudly, and Hermione buries her face into Harry's arm. He keeps his eyes fixed on the casket in the first row, second on the right – Ginny's. He does not blink until it has disappeared from view, until the dirt has covered it and the flowers on top completely, until the headstone has magically appeared.
In truth, everything after her death is a blur. He remembers tears, his last ones, it seems, and then a roar of fury and grief. He remembers launching himself at Voldemort, Voldemort's high-pitched laugh. Hermione's hand in his own as they say the spell together... Voldemort's surprised eyes as he fell, defeated.
Everyone begins to move, and there is a murmur of conversation in the back, where the general public is – people who came to pay their respects to the war's heroes, yet were unaffected themselves. Harry turns away from the new graves. He knows he is not ready to face them yet, and he and Hermione, along with the other family members and friends, begin their grim procession down the centre aisle.
They Apparate back to the Burrow, where they know even the most intrepid reporters dare not venture for fear of the entire wizarding world's disapproval. Harry is the only one not crying as they set themselves up in the living room, which still has the vestiges of a cheerful atmosphere from better days. Fleur hugs her son to her chest, tears flowing down her beautiful face. She holds her mother-in-law's left hand. Percy, newly reconciled with his family just a few weeks before, holds her right hand. Hermione continues to weep, and Harry puts an arm around her.
Around them, the remainder of the Order grieve. Lupin and Tonks embrace, having miraculously come out intact. Lupin had once confided to Harry that he had expected to be the first Marauder to die, as he was a werewolf. Harry's mouth twists slightly as he considers the irony. He knows now too how Sirius felt, losing his best friend. And his life as well, because he can't imagine a future without Ginny now.
The first time it happens is just two weeks after the mass funeral. Harry lies, half-asleep, in what used to be the room he and Ron shared, but is now just his room. He, Hermione, Fred, Fleur, and Percy cannot bear to leave Mrs. Weasley alone, so they are staying at the Burrow. Harry is to begin Auror training in a month's time. Hermione spends as much time as possible at her job, making up new charms in the Ministry. She had been offered the job two months before, and Ron had been so happy for her. Harry has the feeling that she works to forget, just as he prepares for his training the same way, immersing himself in pre-training texts.
It is nearing two in the morning when his door opens. Harry hears it in the foggy depths of his mind, but he does not open his eyes. The door clicks shut, and there is a shuffling sound as someone makes his or her way over to him. He smells the familiar smell of Hermione's perfume, the same kind Ron had given to her when they were in the fifth year, and his bed creaks slightly as she sits down.
He feels her hand running gently through his hair and opens his eyes. She seems to know that he is awake. "Harry," she whispers. Nothing else.
There is a rustling noise as she gets into bed with him. Her hand tentatively touches his chest, and then slowly moves down until his breath hitches. He knows immediately what she wants.
They bite their lips to keep from making a sound. It does not cross their minds until afterwards that they are shagging their best friend... and only that. There is no love involved, not that kind. Harry loves Hermione, and she loves him, but he cannot offer her the love that Ron could. And she cannot offer what Ginny did. What they are doing so wrong, yet it feels so natural.
"Ron," Hermione gasps as she rolls away. Harry feels a tear, finally, trickle down his face as he lies there, completely still. He hears a snuffling sound and realizes she is crying as well. Then he pulls his boxers up, wipes the lone tear away, turns to face the wall, and goes back to sleep.
The next morning, at breakfast, they avoid each others' eyes. Mrs. Weasley seems to believe that acting as if nothing had happened is the way to surviving afterwards, and she bustles about, stacking food on their plates and wiping away the occasional errant tear.
"Eat up, all of you," she says, smiling tightly.
Fleur takes a dainty bite of her bacon and compliments Mrs. Weasley's cooking. Harry shovels food into his mouth mechanically. Across from him, Hermione does the same.
"Did you sleep well, Mum?" asks Percy.
"Yes, yes, I did," says Mrs. Weasley. There are dark circles under her eyes, and she has lost a lot of weight just in the past couple of weeks. "But there was some creaking upstairs. I think I have to take a look; maybe something's come loose." Her face crumples. "Oh, but it was always your father who took care of all that!"
Fleur, Fred, and Percy rush to console her. Harry and Hermione carefully look away.
Harry goes to Hermione the second time, a month later. He is tired from his training, but he can't stop thinking about Ginny. Today is supposed to be her seventeenth birthday.
She is waiting for him, reading Hogwarts, a History, as if she is expecting him. As soon as he has entered the room and shut the door, she switches off the light and pulls up her nightgown. It's his turn to whisper Ginny's name now, and when he is done, she turns the light back on, dresses, and returns to reading as if nothing has happened. Harry puts his glasses on and leaves without a word.
He has training early in the morning.
They finally visit the graves three years later for the first time.
Harry cannot remember Ginny or Ron's faces clearly anymore, not without looking at one of Mrs. Weasley's pictures of them. He cannot remember Ginny's scent or Ron's loud laughter. He can still feel Ginny's lips pressed against his, but that is more torturous than being unable to remember much else about her.
Neither of them cries. It is as if they are both emptied of tears. Hermione touches Ron's headstone lightly, and Harry places flowers on both their graves.
They go to Hogwarts next. McGonagall welcomes them. Flitwick nearly falls off his chair when he sees them, Lupin embraces them both, Neville waves at them from the greenhouse, where he is teaching his second years about mandrakes. They even visit Malfoy, who has replaced McGonagall as Transfigurations professor after the war. He tells them to see Slughorn, who is eager to catch up with them.
Slughorn is with his sixth year N.E.W.T. class. There are four cauldrons around the room, and Harry realizes this is their first lesson. Slughorn greets them genially and leads them around, introducing them to select members of his class. Harry pauses by the Amortentia. He closes his eyes in longing as the familiar scent of flowers wafts toward him, and he knows Hermione is feeling the same way next to him.
"Well, what do you smell?" asks Slughorn, grinning.
Hermione's lip trembles and she says nothing. Harry swallows, and then replies, "Flowers, sir."
By now, Fleur, Fred, and Percy have moved out of the Burrow. Mrs. Weasley, however, seems to want to keep Harry and Hermione around, as if they are Ron and Ginny themselves. They do not mind, for they both feel as if they owe her that much.
The night after they visit Hogwarts and the cemetery, Hermione comes to Harry again. For the past three years, they have met every couple of months or so at night, always making sure Mrs. Weasley was out of the house, either at one of her children's houses or at a friend's house. But tonight, both of them need the other.
Harry is used to Hermione whispering Ron's name, and vice versa. Neither of them gets any real enjoyment from meeting like this, but it soothes them, as if the guilt overshadows the grief. Harry himself feels like he is shagging his sister every time, if he ever had a sister, and he knows Hermione feels similarly. He separates nights like this from the rest of his life, as does she. Outside of their meetings, Hermione is even seeing Viktor Krum. It is as if they are not Harry and Hermione now, but just a he and a she.
Neither hears Mrs. Weasley coming up the steps outside. It is only when she opens the door and says, "Harry, dear?" that Hermione gasps and clambers off the bed, wrapping herself in a sheet.
Mrs. Weasley looks at them for a very long time. Her face is expressionless. Harry cannot meet her eyes; instead, he stares at the hem of Hermione's makeshift sheet-wrap, his cheeks burning with embarrassment.
Long after Mrs. Weasley backs out silently, they stay there, frozen in shame
Harry is sitting alone in Ginny's old room one day a week later when Mrs. Weasley enters. At first, she seems to ignore him, as she has done for the past week. But she sits down eventually next to him on Ginny's bed and stares straight ahead, at their reflections in the mirror across from them. "You've grown into a handsome young man, Harry."
He does not reply, just continues to stare at his shoes. "Your parents would be proud," she continues, putting an arm around his shoulders. He flinches, but she doesn't pull away. "As I am." She sighs. "To be honest, Harry, there are days I wish Ron had never met you on that train that day. That one of you had been Sorted into a different house, perhaps. But then I think, I wouldn't trade you or Hermione for the world. It's as if you two are my children now too. I still have five... Percy, Fred, Fleur, you, and Hermione. Three of you aren't of my blood, but I love you all the same."
"Mrs. Weasley..." Harry chokes out. "I'm – I'm sorry about—"
"Sorry about what, dear?" She interrupts him. "Harry, dear, I know both you and Hermione are hurt. I don't know what I would do if I were in your position. And I know you two are... confused. But it's not betraying either Ron or Ginny if you have to grieve together. I know you two are the only ones who can truly understand each other." She stands and begins to rummage through Ginny's things. "Here." She hands him a small, half-empty glass bottle. It is Ginny's old scent. "You keep this to remember Ginny."
Harry studies the bottle in his palm, feels its coolness against his skin. He can see her in his mind's eye, dabbing it on. And then his face crumples, the dam breaking, as he begins to cry. He hasn't cried like this, not since the battle. Mrs. Weasley sits down again and wraps her arms around him, and she cries too.
"I tried to save her," he wails. "I tried to save her."
"Shh," she replies, hugging him tighter. "It's all in the past now, Harry. There are things that we just can't prevent. You loved her, and she loved you back, and that's all I ever wished for."
Harry and Hermione marry two years later in a small, private ceremony. There is much fanfare in the media as everyone, from Rita Skeeter to the most respectable reporters, discusses this new development. The wedding involves Harry and Hermione's first kiss. It is a chaste peck on the lips, not much different from the way they always greet each other.
Both fight to smile throughout the whole thing, more for the sake of Mrs. Weasley than anything else. The night of the wedding, Harry attempts to kiss Hermione more deeply, but all he can see under his closed eyelids is Ginny's face, and they break apart quickly, reddening with guilt.
Their marriage is one of convenience, and this soon becomes apparent to even the most thick-headed of romantics. It is not loveless, as Harry and Hermione clearly love each other, but they are not in love. They have two children, who they name Anna and Andrew, but they never show affection in public, and the rumour goes around that Harry has a mistress, that Hermione is seeing Viktor Krum yet again.
In private, Hermione admits that she has met with Viktor, but that it was only once, and they had agreed to be just friends anyway. Harry doesn't particularly mind. A small, niggling part of him even thinks for a moment as she tells him that it ought to be Ron she's telling, not him, until he remembers that Ron is dead.
As for Harry, after the media's pronouncement, women begin to throw themselves at him. He toys with some of them but quickly loses interest. They all accuse him of being in love with his wife, and he longs to tell them that it's not Hermione's face he always sees, but Ginny's.
When Andrew is thirteen and home for the winter holiday, he breaks a small glass bottle sitting on his father's bedside table. Before he can wonder why Harry has perfume next to where he sleeps, Hermione is upstairs and shouting at him, her face pale with rage.
Then, when he is pressed against the wall, completely cowed by her anger, she bursts into noisy tears. Both he and Anna, who is sixteen, offer to help clean up, but she is inconsolable and waves them away. When Harry gets home, they weep together among the shards of glass. They do not explain their behaviour to either of the children, and an hour later, both act as if nothing has happened.
Yet Andrew notices that the shards of glass are not cleaned away for a week, and that the room smells like flowers for months.
Sometimes, when Harry watches his children play with their children in the garden, he wonders what life could have been like. Sometimes, he sees Anna and Andrew with red hair. Sometimes, Anna is not Andrew's sister, but his cousin.
Sometimes, Ron is watching them as well, holding hands with Hermione.
Sometimes, Ginny is there.