Hermione Granger awoke from a dream – though, as she considered ruefully, it was hardly a dream at all. Only a nightmare could so vividly account for the images that had swam through her mind of that excruciatingly long night at Hogwarts. Memories of hastily-spoken incantations and limp, lifeless bodies flooded her vision until they encompassed her completely.
With all of the strength she could muster, she turned so that she could catch a glimpse of the boy – though hardly a boy anymore – next to her. How the inhabitants of the Wizarding World had lost countless souls over the course of seventeen years, and how she had wholly gained someone in the course of seven.
As she drank in the sight of his untamed locks, the freckles that dotted the bridge of his nose, and the ginger eyelashes that gently rested upon his cheekbones, a wave of peace overcame her. His chest felt lean against her firm touch, and the scars that snaked down his arms seemed to stand out eerily in the moonlight. His brow was furrowed, even in sleep, as it had been in the last year.
She could hardly blame Ron for that troubled expression. Losing his brother was still a fresh wound, resting upon the hundreds of others accumulated in such a short span of time. To Hermione, who belonged to the Weasley family unofficially in all but name, a day without Fred was almost unthinkable. His constant pestering and spontaneous jokes were things that she had grown so accustomed to – and now he was dead.
Dead. The word tasted like bile in the back of her throat, but it seemed as if that was the only thing that she could think of in the days that had preceded her. Remus, Tonks, Colin – all dead. And even they were merely a dent in the long list that, for some, twisted reason she had felt compelled to commit to memory. Their faces, lifeless and forlorn, often blinded her until the familiar prickle of tears would sting her eyes.
Ron, appropriately enough, was the antidote to the pain.
Molly Weasley burrowed under the covers like a child longing to be tucked in. After hours of tossing and turning, and even resorting to glaring at the stream of moonlight that bashfully streamed through an adjacent window, she heaved a great sigh and turned once more – so that she was facing Arthur.
At the sight of his tired face, the corners of her mouth couldn't help but turn upward. He was snoring softly, though she knew that the façade would not last. Arthur had his fair share of sleepless nights, and often roamed their towering home early in the morning, as if blindly searching for something.
"Our son died," Molly whispered quietly, as if admitting the well-known fact would only serve to alleviate the pain.
With a heavy sigh, she fumbled with the covers, careful not to wake Arthur. Tying the knot of her dressing gown, she stealthily made her way out of the bedroom. "Might as well check on the others…" she murmured quietly to herself. Shutting the door quietly behind her, she looked up to the fifth floor, then back down, then up once more. "I'll work my way from the top to the bottom," Molly decided.
Smiling fondly at the worn sign hung on the door of Ron's bedroom, she carefully turned the doorknob, lest she wake anyone. Being on the run for a year – doing Merlin-knows-what – had apparently given Ron, as well as Harry, an acute sense of hearing. The garishly, orange decorations were somewhat dimmed in the moonlight. She could easily make out Harry in the camp bed, pushed away to the corner. A sheen coat of perspiration covered his face and the covers haphazardly tangled his limp body.
Molly arched an eyebrow at the bed a few feet away from Harry's. Lying in it was not merely her son, as she had presumed, but Hermione as well. Tucked into the crook of his elbow, the witch was sound asleep. How long has this been going on? Molly mused silently to herself. Realizing that the image in front of her was almost entirely innocent, she decided to let the matter drop. At least all hands can be seen...
The stairs creaked under her slippered feet as she descended to the second floor. If anyone was in the bathroom at this hour, she could always check on her way to her own bedroom. Tightly gripping the banister, she retrieved her wand from the pocket of her robe.
"Lumos," she muttered, poking at Percy's door with her wand, surprised to find George and Charlie there. With a grimace, she remembered hardly anyone, save for George himself, ventured into the twins' bedroom anymore. Percy was still in his bed, turned to the side. On the floor lay Charlie and George, both in sleeping bags. Molly frowned at the sight, knowing that the old house was often chilly without a decent blanket. Quietly conjuring one, she levitated it so that it settled on them, before pocketing her wand once more.
No point in checking that one, Molly thought to herself, swiftly averting her gaze from the door that stood slightly ajar on her right. With a few, impressive strides, she appeared in the doorway of Bill's bedroom. He and Fleur had chosen to remain at the Burrow for a few days before returning to Shell Cottage. Surely enough, the two lay together in a tight embrace. The sight, all in itself, softened the sharp expression on Molly's face upon seeing her daughter-in-law. Fleur, someone that she could hardly fathom, was something of a necessity to the family. With a wry smile, she noted that Fleur easily influenced Bill in almost all of his decisions – not necessarily with her charm and grace, but with her logic.
It had taken some time to getting used to, but even Molly realized that there was more to the witch than merely her unwavering beauty.
As expected, Ginny was in her bed. And not in Harry's, Molly said to herself as an afterthought. With one last glimpse, she closed the bedroom door shut. Might as well make a cuppa while I'm down here...
The kitchen was eerily quiet. The faint glow of her wand light guided her to the cupboards, where she retrieved a mug. The kettle, already on the rear burner of the rickety stove, seemed to be waiting for her. Using Aguamenti, she filled it with ease and set it back on the burner so that it would boil.
"Biscuits would be nice too," Arthur said wryly, emerging from the darkness of the landing. "I'll fetch them." Prying the lid off of the biscuit tin, he wordlessly summoned a saucer from the open cupboard and generously doled out a few for the two of them. "You're up early, Mollywobbles."
"Couldn't sleep," she murmured, gratefully accepting a ginger biscuit. The kettle whistled and she swiftly silenced it, adding a few teabags to the boiling water.
"Maybe there's something in the air," Arthur suggested softly. He nibbled on a biscuit thoughtfully for a moment. "The funeral is tomorrow."
"We're one step closer to putting this behind us, aren't we?" Molly asked, offering him a warm mug.
"We can't dwell on the inevitable forever, Molly," Arthur said kindly, taking her weathered hand in his. "No matter how badly we want to."