A/N: Hello Readers! This is just a little story about what I think could have happened after the war. The trio is celebrating, but somehow, they lose track of Hermione, and Ron goes off to find why she's left. It's a oneshot, but I may continue it into a little of the rebuilding after the war if I'm inspired, or if I get a good response. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I was pretty young when the Harry Potter books started coming out, so honestly, I think it's reasonably unlikely that mine was the genius mind to create them. Meaning, no. What were you thinking? I definitely am not lucky enough to own Harry Potter.
And now (finally):
Beauty in the Time of Tragedy
Ron stumbled. Falling over what seemed to be nothing upon a second glance, he felt his arms reach out to the wall beside him to catch his balance. In was dreadfully dark in the corridor, and it helped little that his nerves were acting up. He'd just fought the war of his life, and the war that ended many others', but for some unfathomable reason, the thought of speaking to Hermione scared him more than anything.
He removed his hand from the stone wall and rubbed tenderly at one of the scabbing gashed along his upper arm. As he moved slowly forward, he could tell he was caked with the blood and dirt of days.
He'd seen her disappear along this corridor just moment earlier, and finally, a light came into view, escaping in wisps from beneath a sturdy door at then end of the corridor. Ron found himself standing before it, and, using what felt like just as much courage as he'd needed that day, he knocked.
No answer. Ron sensed his breath shallowly entering and exiting through his nostrils, it suddenly seeming much louder than he'd remembered it, making him even more self-conscious. He lay a hand on the brass knob and turned gently to find a solemn-looking Hermione perched gingerly atop the oversized desk at the head of the room.
He watched as her head shot up to him, only to return once again to it's downward position from before.
"Hermione," he called as lightly as possible. With his current state, the breathy sound was barely audible. Ignored, he began to step towards her. It was only then that he realized where he stood. The room seemed unusually familiar to him, and he had a vague recollection of Arithmancy being taught there in years previous. Of course the upset Hermione would have fled here; Arithmancy had been one of her favorite classes.
By the time his mind had adjusted to seeing his old school in it's current, empty state, he'd already reached the desk. He stopped suddenly, realizing how close he now stood to the girl.
"Hermione," he tried again, a bit louder, he hoped. But she just shook her head, her refusal prompting Ron to sit nervously, taking the desk at the front center of the room, only feet in front of her.
Knowing he wouldn't get her to talk just yet, he let his eyes wander. The old room, the old text books, the old scent. It all seemed so familiar, but, beyond it's abandonment, there was something missing from the area. It was as if he didn't belong there anymore. His time there was over. How strange that he should stand there again. He considered his family, left behind in the Great Hall. It's not that he hadn't wanted to stay with them, try to comfort them, but he could only take so much. He'd stayed as long as he could, but he had to get away from all the pain, at least for a moment. Not to mention the odd gut feelings that swarmed him regarding the sudden change in his relationship with the girl before him earlier that day.
He let his eyes rest on her. He studied her, taking in each inch of her emotion read from the still figure. He could look and understand exactly what she was feeling right now. But he was apprehensive to mention anything to her. He didn't want to upset her in her fragile state.
She was dirty, at least as much as he. It pained him inside to see the dried blood that fell about her limbs and the scratches along her cheeks. Why had he let her leave his side for a moment? What of all he saw could he have stopped? She seemed incredibly thin, frail. He knew there had been little to eat, but for Merlin's sake, had she even seen food in weeks? The hair she'd braided flat along her neck earlier had fallen almost entirely from it's tie and fell loosely, limply around her pale, tired face. Ron ached to help her.
With a sudden burst of courage, he rose from his seat and took his place, instead, beside her on the desk, being cautious to leave several inches between them so as not to worry her.
"Why did you leave?" the words whispered from his lips a moment later as he watched her intently. Her pained eyes met his, and her lips parted for a moment, only to close again. He could see the thoughts rushing through her head, but her actions seemed slow, like some barrier of emotions was blocking everything she may have tried to do. Her eyes shut willingly, he head shaking heavily from side to side. To his horror, he saw her eyes go glassy and a tear run down her cheek, leaving a dirty streak along the side of her face.
"Hermione!" he tried to shout, though what came from his mouth was less that impressive in volume. He guessed he suffered the same barrier as she. He was glad, for a moment at least, to recognize something they shared in common. He had, after all, learned his emotions from her.
She turned away from him suddenly, scooting towards the other side of the desk, unwilling to speak. He watched as she set her knees together and lay her elbows along her legs, setting her head in her scarred palms.
Torn at his heart, Ron stood and moved so he kneeled right before her on the ground, looking up at her down-turned face. "Hermione," he spoke shakily, "Talk to me, please. I want to know what you're feeling. I want to help." But the only response he got was her head turning up towards the ceiling, refusing to meet his own.
Not accepting it, he stood, setting one hand on her back and sliding the other beneath her knees. She blinked at his action, surprised no doubt, but seemed unable to resist in her weak state. He pulled her up to him, so she was held tightly against his chest, her chin resting backwards on his shoulder. He felt her resistant hands release their grasp and her stiff body go limp in his arms. But her compliance only hurt him, to think she was so damaged it wasn't even worth it to try anymore. He brought her closer nonetheless.
He carried her to an unlit corner of the room, hoping not being able to see one another well would help to ease the tension obviously between them. Leaning into the wall, he let himself slide to the floor, bringing her weightless frame down with him so she sat curled against him on his lap.
Soft sniffling came from the warm figure in his arms. He felt her gentle tears on his shoulder, and her body shook just slightly.
"Ron," a weak voice whispered after a few moments had passed.
"Hermione, what is it?" his frantic manor set in. Finally, she would speak.
"It's too much," she grasped for the words, but they simply weren't coming.
"What's too much, Hermione?"
A loud exhale followed, "Everything," her tears picked up again, and he only wished he knew the way to help her. He was never one with words, no, and his words certainly weren't good enough to speak to the brilliant witch in his arms. He felt suddenly inferior. Like this tiny girl cradled on his lap was only looking for him to pull out a great string of vocal inspiration, that he should be able to fix all her problems. Like he'd only be as good as he could make her feel. And as of now, all he could make her do was cry. "It's all too much," she continued before he'd realized he'd let his mind slip, "This war. We shouldn't have to handle it. We're too young. We're..." she paused, "We just aren't ready." Her tears had subsided, but she was shaking fervently now.
"Hermione," Ron suddenly spoke up, realizing what pain this was causing her, "Hermione, it's over. The war is over. We've won." He spoke to her, though her head remained away from his.
"But it isn't!" Suddenly her eyes were wide, dark, staring into his. Her face was panicked. "Our battle is over, Ron, just barely at that, but now we have to deal with the side effects, and who knows when those will end!" She was nearly in hysterics now, and Ron was slowly realizing that, once again, she was more than right. "All the evil we've destroyed has only resulted in just as much! Ron, Tonks and Lupin are dead! Dobby is dead!" she continued, as if she had not yet proven her point, "Hogwarts is destroyed, the government is destroyed, families have been destroyed. Fred is-"
She stopped, just as Ron felt his anger well up inside him. He stood suddenly, knocking her to the ground. "I-I'm sorry," she whimpered, realizing what it was she had almost said, "I shouldn't have said-"
"You're damn right you shouldn't have said that, Hermione!" Ron roared, a sudden burst of courage from his part. The dim lighting cast a shadow eerily upon him, "You think I don't know that? Do you think I haven't realized that my own brother is dead?" he hissed.
"No, Ron, I-" she tried to intervene, but was cast aside by his hand shooing her off, back into the dark corner where she was huddled.
"Do you know what it's like to lose someone, Hermione? Do you have any idea what I'm feeling? No! You don't know what this has been like for me!" Tears were flowing freely from his eyes now.
"Ron!" she rose suddenly, stamping towards him. He watched the shrunken figure below him rise on her toes to stand nearly face-to-face with him, a furious glint burning in her eyes. "I know, Ronald Weasley, what you've gone through! I went through it all, too, in case you hadn't noticed! I fought every battle! I was in that tent! And unlike you, I didn't feel the need to run away from my fears! At least I stayed!"
"Don't you ever-" he screamed, but was interrupted.
"I wasn't a coward!" She spat the words at him, and before he could stop himself, he saw his own hand reaching up at an alarming pace, and cracking with a deafening sound as it swiped across the cheek of the girl before him.
Hermione whimpered, turning away, sobbing suddenly. "Hermione!" Ron shouted regretfully, realizing what he'd done. "I-I'm so sor-"
She whipped around and struck her own hand against his cheek, "Don't be." She stalked off, but not wanting to enter the corridors in her current state, took instead to the opposite corner of the room. She sat herself protectively on a low bookshelf that sat before a vast broken window.
Ron stood paralyzed for what seemed like hours. Had that really just happened? How could he ever- But logic took the best of him. If he didn't fix this right now, it could only get worse.
He dragged his feet tentatively towards the bookshelf where Hermione sat. He pulled himself onto the opposite corner and watched her. "I'm sorry," he spoke gently after several silent moments had passed in which she'd refused to look at him.
He watched terrified as she breathed deeply, "So am I," she began, her whole face suddenly becoming much calmer than he had seen it in some time. "I shouldn't have said-"
"Shh-Shh," he quieted her, scooting a little closer. He could see clearly the raw skin growing pink where he'd hit her. He felt suddenly overwhelmed in guilt. "You didn't do anything for which you should be sorry. It's my fault. And it doesn't matter now, anyway."
"I know," she began, finally letting her eyes reach his. She too moved closer towards him, "I just had to let it out. So much has gone through my head. Sometimes I just need to tell someone what's gone on, why everything hurts. Ron," she paused and breathed deeply, "Everything hurts."
"I know," he whispered to her, "It's been hard. And you were right. No one should have to deal with this, but we do. And Harry does, and most of the wizarding world does. But it's not our fault. Honestly, Hermione, it's better because of us. It's better because of you. You've done nothing that's gotten us anywhere but closer to success. For Merlin's sake, Hermione, they should just hand you a plaque and hang your picture in every classroom from now until eternity."
He watched her blush, a smile playing on her lips, "You think?"
"They could do just the same for you, Ron," she began, now speaking to him enthusiastically, "You've been so brave. It's all anyone could have hoped for."
Ron laughed, "We're quite the pair, aren't we? Just saving the world all over the place," he joked, lightening the mood, "Who needs Harry when there's Ron and Hermione?"
Hermione giggled whole-heartedly, but as quickly as it had come, her smile faded, and a serious look washed over her face. Ron was suddenly terrified at what was coming. What was it he'd said? "Ron," she began, "speaking of us," he felt his throat tighten and mouth go dry, "Ron, earlier today when we, uhm-"
"Destroyed Hufflepuff's cup?" He threw in nervously.
"Yes, yes, we did do that. But after that, Ron. I uhm," she tried again. But seemingly unsuccessful, he made the decision to state the obvious.
"You kissed me, Hermione," he let out, shutting his eyes tightly and clenching his sweaty palms once he'd heard the words that had been uttered by his lips.
"Well, yes. Yes I did. I guess I was just worried, I mean-" sh began, trying desperately to defend her actions.
"Me too," he stuttered, "After all, we were in the middle of the war."
"Maybe I was a little excited."
"We'd almost won."
"But no one was sure."
"And we could have died," the words were being strung together so quickly, it was a miracle one could understand even the slightest mumble of the other.
"I guess I just got carried away," she concluded, her breathing suddenly very fast and her face quite flushed, "Anyway, I'm very sorry. It was completely uncalled for."
"Oh," Ron stumbled over the short utterance, surprised at how quickly they'd come to such a negative conclusion about the earlier action. "Well there's no reason to worry. It didn't bother me."
"No, no. Me either," Hermione suddenly found herself saying nervously.
"I mean, of course not. There's nothing wrong with a little kiss anyway," he threw in, trying to sound casual.
"Oh no. Never. I mean, it was hardly anything."
"After all, you're like a sister to me, Hermione. It's not like we should dwell on something so little."
She tried to sound reassuring, "I'd do it again, no problem."
As soon as the words were stated, Ron found his eyes locked in with hers. He took her hand in his, and watched as the wind from the broken window blew the stray locks of her hair. He tucked one carefully behind her ear saying, "Any time."
The words struck her, and before she could stop herself she found herself saying, "How about now?"
Moving his hand tenderly from behind her ear to her darkened cheek, he felt their faces grow closer. Suddenly, he was watching her eyes flutter shut and feeling her hand warming his previously unoccupied one. Then, without warning, her lips had reached his, and just as before, his hormones blazed at the contact. Lovingly her lips caressed his own, and he participated whole-heartedly. Kissing Hermione was unlike anything he'd ever known. His whole body felt awake, and for once in his life, he was completely aware of everything it was doing, and everything she was doing to it.
He pushed her gently down so she was lying against the top of the bookshelf, and he placed gentle kisses down her neck and along her collarbone, exposed through a rip in her blouse. She laughed as he let his eyelashes tickle the soft flesh there. He moved back up towards her waiting lips when he encountered something that suddenly changed the mood.
With regret, he acknowledged the bloody scar that lie horizontally along her neck, left over from the blade Bellatrix Lestrange had heartlessly pushed into it. A heaviness suddenly fell over him, and slowly he lifted his head as Hermione sat up. He watched her eyes grow glassy, resisting the urge to revisit the situation.
"I'm sorry, Hermione. I didn't mean to ruin this," he began. "We've been through so much. I just wanted to have a little fun for once, but I guess I wrecked that."
She wiped her eyes and halted the tears trying to form, "You ruined nothing, Ron. We were bound to have to talk about all of this eventually."
"I guess," he breathed, releasing her from his grasp and facing turning to hang his legs over the opposite side of the bookcase so that he might see what it was that was beyond the window, "But we shouldn't let it spoil what we have going now."
Hermione turned to join him, nodding. "We'll talk about it later."
The pair sat bewildered, looking out over Hogwarts Lake and the trees, seeing the mountains in the distance. A navy sky blanketed it, with an ivory moon reflecting in the shimmering water.
"Brings back memories, doesn't it?" Ron interrupted the silence. "Everything we've done here. During the Tri-Wizard Tournament, they tied us up in that lake. We take the Hogwarts Express through those mountains each year. He pointed out into the distance, "And that's where I liked to take you walking in the evenings," He shifted his finger slightly, "And Hagrid down there."
"It's beautiful, Ron," Hermione barely whispered. Ron watched her. He could tell her mind was working. "It's all happened because we wound up here. All of the history before us, and everything we've done is all a part of this. Time, Ron," she spoke softly. "How could you ever measure everything that these walls have seen? And once they've seen it, there's no way to bring it back. It's an amazing thing, how all that could happen in this space. We think we've done so much here. Like just because we're here now, it belongs to us, but no. It belongs to everyone who's ever glanced at it, thought of it, lived it. I guess it's none of ours, really. And everything we've just done is only one more part of it. It's no more important than any other moment here. No. You could never measure Hogwarts. And we're all part of something so much bigger than ourselves."
Ron listened as her words soothed his mind. She was right. How she managed to always find just the right words was completely beyond him, but he loved it. He wanted to know that this brilliant talent of hers would always be his, as well. He wanted her to stay with him there forever. She added, almost like an afterthought, "It's odd, the way time affects us. And how everything we've fought for will affect us forever, even though it's over."
"How can it be?" he suddenly spoke, closing his eyes and feeling the night breeze on his scarred face. "How can it be that even as all of the horror takes place here, just beyond these walls, the world is oblivious?" He paused, considering what it was he was saying, "This world knows nothing of what happens within it. It knows nothing more that itself. It's strange, isn't it? That we can be fighting a battle of good and evil right now, but everything here will be just the same, always? Yes Hermione, for some reason, this is all unbelievable beautiful. I guess I never took the time to think about it."
She smiled at him knowingly, "Funny how the situation can change," she laughed. "Just moments ago I was furious with you. It's not worth it though. I guess we don't get a lot of time here, so we shouldn't waste it bickering."
"No. No, I guess we shouldn't. But I'm glad I found you here."
"I'm glad that you found me. It helped; talking, that is."
He smiled down at her, "Good. But let's not talk to much. There's too much else going on right now. There will be plenty of time later."
"Right, we'd better get back, then. They'll be looking for us now," she reminded him that there was indeed still a war going on beyond the old Arithmancy room: a war that they needed to be a part of. "They'll want our help to clean up, I'll bet."
He nodded and stood, taking her hand as she did the same. The pair walked slowly, as if reminiscing, towards the exit, and, for the last time, stepped from the room. Not that it mattered. They'd been there once, so they'd be there always. The only thing stopping them from being right there on the bookshelf at any moment was time.
A/N: How was it? Kind of random there at the end, eh? I thought so, but I got kind of philosophical as I was writing it, so I just thought I'd throw it in there. I may continue this a few more chapters about fixing up all that the war has broken if the response is good, so please review! Thanks for reading!