From This Moment On
by Lorelai Grint
Chapter 1: Shatteringly Broken
Returning to the Great Hall was probably the last thing Ron wanted to do at that very moment. It was over at last. You-Know-Who was gone forever and he would never again feel that shiver of utter fear at the sound of the Dark Lord's name. However, this new feeling brought its own weight: the loss of his brother, of so many people, families torn apart by the action of one and one only: Lord Voldemort…
Hermione's soft touch on his upper arm retrieved him from his darker thoughts. Looking at his left, he saw her strained smile, the brown of her eyes nervously unsettled. There she was, so close, miraculously with him still, and yet it seemed like centuries had passed since that precious moment when their lips had touched so eagerly. Tenderly, she motioned him to walk through the large wooden doors and only then did he realize they had arrived to the Great Hall. With a gigantic leap of renewed anxiety at what he would have to face again, Ron stepped reluctantly towards his family. Hermione tried to seize his hand but hesitated and before she knew it Ron was already walking ahead of her, his steps increasingly steadier and surer.
Harry could not have missed such awkwardness in Hermione's lost actions and by looking at her following Ron he saw himself struggling to comfort Ginny. There was no easy way to handle such losses as those the war had brought to the wizardry world but how were they supposed to deal with Fred's absence? And at that point Harry could not even bear to think of Tonks and Lupin's child, his orphan godson Teddy…
The silence inside the Great Hall, Hermione suddenly realised, was so immensely uncharacteristically that it was as though the real Hogwarts was several miles away. The destruction could swallow them up and had not been for more imperative issues Hermione would have let herself go at the thought of so many memories shattered like that. However, the pain in the castle was stingily palpable and to Hermione Ron's was particularly pungent.
'Where is George?', Ron's voice sounded muffled.
'Right over there…' Charlie answered, teary, poiting to the place where Fred's body stood. 'We've tried all the ways we could think of to make him… make him leave him, leave… leave Fred', Charlie almost broke at his brother's name 'he just won't. He won't budge… he hasn't even cried yet-'
Ron did not hear another word coming out of Charlie's mouth. Somewhat fearfully, Ron walked over to Fred's cold body, further down the Great Hall, near which stood George on his knees, his unblinking gaze fixed upon his twin's lifeless face. Mr Weasley was holding Mrs Weasley in a tender embrace, her quiet sobs hushed against her husband's chest, who had unstopping tears falling from his wide eyes.
Hermione followed Ron midway but felt unsure to continue. All she wanted to do was take Ron's pain away and yet he would barely look at her. She could not possibly know how to feel at that. Nonetheless, looking over her shoulder she saw Harry talking quietly to Ginny, softly taking her hair away from her face after kissing her gently on the cheek. Ginny showed no intention of shoving Harry away – then why would Ron keep her away?
'George?', she heard Ron's warm call to his brother and noticed something unusual on his tone . 'George… How are you feeling?'
Hermione's surprise should not have been that great but to her own amazement it was. Not only Ron was willing to talk about feelings, he had had the courage to go rescue his brother from the deepest hole by himself. He was putting aside his own pain at Fred's disappearance to try and ease George's. However, the latter seemed to have missed every single word addressed to him – as well everything else around him except Fred's still body. To the inexistent response Ron replied with a caring hand on his older brother's shoulder. George's expression was not that far from Fred's up to that moment – the same absence of joy, expression, life. Hermione noticed how hard Ron was trying not to look directly at Fred and she was sure Ron knew he would break down the moment he did. At Ron's touch, George quivered rather abruptly and closed his eyes, allowing two large drops of salty water to make their way through his freckles. Ron froze, unaware of Hermione sliding softly to the floor, giving in to the smashing sting in her heart. Ron then relaxed and made to hug George, mumbling something amongst sobs.
Hearing their sons' muffled whimpers, Mr and Mrs Weasley made to comfort George and Ron but to their surprise they had to let go of a rebelled Ron, who made to leave the Great Hall after a shaken 'No, Mum, no'. However, his will to reach the door was momentarily forgotten by the sudden arrival of Angelina Johnson, who made her way quickly through the abandoned bodies of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange.
'No, no, no… Oh god, please no…', mumbled Angelina, reaching Fred's body. Her whimpering whispers were heartbreaking and Hermione fought the daunting thought of going through the same with Ron.
'Oh George, George… George, no…', to everyone's surprise, George had suddenly come out of his lethargic stare and was holding Angelina as though she was a frighten toddler.
'I – I …' George tried to articulate, but no words would come out.
'Why, why him, why now? Why Fred, not Fred, please not Fred…', Angelina cried into George's shoulder.
Professor McGonagall approached quickly, looking just as much crestfallen as everyone else. She was in charge of assuring the retrieval of every single body of those lost in combat and therefore had to deal with the pain at its rawest state.
'Miss Johnson, come on now… Come here, my dear, come here', she made to take Angelina's from George's embrace but she just wouldn't let go. 'Angelina, dear, come on now! You better see Madame Pomfrey for a soft potion…'
'No: Fred… I want Fred, George, I can't – I won't, I-'
'I know', George replied, his voice seemingly assured. 'Neither will I. I know, I won't, I can't, I won't…'.
'Molly, I am sorry but I believe it is best for George to come as well… Arthur, please… We ought to start moving the – well, you know – take the – take – take them to a place where we can identify everyone and prepare the – I mean, the – well, a ceremony', stuttered Professor McGonagall.
'Well, yes, I understand… Molly, dear, what do you reckon?', asked Mr Weasley.
'Yes, Minerva, of course, I think…', Mrs Weasley looked deeply unsure. 'What did you ask?'
'I believe it is best to take Angelina and George up to Madam Pomfrey', Professor McGonagall explained again with a sweet tone. 'I believe it is better for them to go and take a sleeping potion so they will be able to take a decent rest tonight…'
'Oh', murmured Mrs Weasley. 'Oh, yes, of course, Minerva. Thank you, yes. It is best. Yes.'
"And, hum… I am sorry, Arthur, but it's just-'
'It is OK, Minerva', Mr Weasley interrupted Professor McGonagall. 'I understand… Yes, it is time we take Fred to the other room. Don't you agree, Molly?'.
Mr Weasley was clearly making an over human effort not to break down; even so, his voice could not hide the pain and failed. Mrs Weasley mastered no reply beside a louder sob, even though it was clear that she as well believed they could no longer stand in the Great Hall wishing for a miracle that just would not come.
Ron was still standing on the exact same place, dumbstruck and very statue-like. Hermione got near to him and called out.
'Ron', she grabbed his wrist. 'Ron, come her-'
'No, stop, please', he pulled his arm and turned around. 'No, please…', he repeated.
Hermione stood there, her watery eyes aching with doubt, watching Ron walking away from her to a near window. As Professor McGonagall asked Bill and Charlie to help take Fred's lifeless body to one of the empty classrooms, Hermione could see Harry holding a sobbing Ginny at the sight of George and Angelina still holding each other as though everything they held dear in the whole wide world had just been crushed, shattered, broken. And then again, perhaps it really had been.