"God," Ron wheezes. "God, okay, God, God."

Even in throes of exquisite pain, he's got his hand halfway up your skirt.

-

ABC. 123. Do re mi.

Reading, writing, maths. Spanish language. Then German, then Greek.

Transfiguration, where you make a handkerchief into a duckling. Potions, observing your reflection in a vat of scalding liquid, clear as glass. The fact that things like this occur makes it hard for you to take any of it seriously. Nobody knows this, but magic comes easily to you because secretly, in your heart of hearts, you don't really believe in it.

Yes! It's that simple!

-- What a joke!

Har har har. (This is what you are thinking, as you pull out your wand for the hundred thousandth time. Any day now you'll wake from your coma, and it won't matter if --)

"Shit! God, fucking Merlin, that hurts-"

Three blind mice. Three legged race. Three ring circus. Three is a crowd. Nothing good ever comes out of three. Three is awkward. You all should have known better.

But Harry, Ron and Hermione at least sounds nice. It flows off the tongue, providing the tongue knows that Harry sounds like this: crushed glass, wind whistling, the altogether disappointing whisper of death. The sound of Harry is underwhelming. You've waited for him all your life, some heroic figure on the sunset - and then he finally comes to you, and he's just like everyone else. Really, he is. You should know.

(Currently: cradling a red head, saying "Shut up, you big baby. It'll take just a second, let 'Mione get in close.")

Ron is one syllable, like 'I', 'love', and 'you'. Another good example is 'hurt', or 'don't'. 'Please' can also be considered similiar, but only in his most sincere moments. He'd be better suited for another language altogether, to be honest: something out of only your wildest linguistic dreamings. He'd be the sort of tongue that has no tongue, and all you do is sit and have nothing to say.

Gently.

And then there's you, and you're really quite simple when it comes down to it: Her, as in hers, as in My, only mine, as in Oh, I won't touch, as in your Knee, which is broken. You are all buttons buttoned. Your favorite word is 'persnickety', and sweet Merlin, how ironic.

-

Anyway.

Lost in your reverie,

you botch the healing spell. Ron's skin fuses together, as it's supposed to, but then it starts bubbling. It drips onto your clothing. He screams out and upward into the stone canopy of Malfoy's gazebo (white marble; late 17th century architecture; v. sophisticated). He clutches at you. He tears at your hair, fingers caught in your tangled curls, and Harry makes a sound somewhere in between a laugh and a choke.

"Stop! They'll hear us!"

A fist comes flying up (whose?), and then Ron is silent. You struggle to pull him into the shadows, but his knee has been shattered; dazed, he whimpers in pain. Harry whispers harshly to you, hurry the fuck up, and his voice breaks. In the light his hands are the color of yellow parchment. As you're propping Ron up, one of them brushes your thigh; his fingernail catches on the hem of your skirt, and for a moment your eyes meet. Sweet thing still has the capacity to blush and mumble sorry under his breath.

The best part of Harry, naturally, is that he's no more a hero than Ron is an intellect. And you, you couldn't be considered the authority on anything but your own selfishness. That's why you're crying now, isn't it? You're crying because you don't know if the blood will ever wash out of your favorite woolen socks. And it doesn't matter how many times you say it: Ron, Ron, Ron can't undo what you've done to him.

Still, you ask:

"What should we do now?"

Harry leans over and pulls a long, bloody piece of flesh out of your hair.

-

No, don't start thinking like that.

You'll never stop.

-

Finally, after what feels like hours, you are trying to move Ron again. You struggle to remember that spell for levitating, that charm you saw at St. Mungo's once. That was the night they moved Bill's body into the morgue, where the shell of his sincerity would wait to be numbered, his soul forever safe in catalogues. The man's bruised knuckles grazed immaculate hospital linoleum, and for a moment he almost looked alive, one hazel eye winking rougishly. For a moment, Ginny even stepped forward as if to protest: he isn't really dead! And for a moment so did you, except all you wanted was to get a better look at the hole in his head. Is that where your spirit flew out? Did it hurt? You interrogated his frozen face until the lights went out all along the wing, and then Fleur fainted and everyone went into a panic.

You remember most vividly how much deader she looked than her poor husband, eyes rolled back like that. You promised yourself that one day you would understand that kind of pain, too; you were sure you could never be completely human without knowing.

It's like this:

Grief always comes to you like a hand-me-down (Oh, Weasleys) - like clothing that has been washed to oblivion, a green checkered blouse from the seventies. A second language. You get your cue - laugh or cry - from the reactions around you, and even then you are mesmerised by the movement of your own eyes. You imagine the world as an impulse sliding down an optic nerve. Electricity bolts through blood and matter and past that slight curve of bone, bolts straight to your heart.

Cupid's best arrow is sight.

That is why,

even now, you are eyeing Ron's (very visible) patella. You imagine that this is the closest you will ever get to having him bare his soul to you. A pink mouth opens and closes wordlessly below your chest, tight like a drum. There is the mingling of a scream and labored breath, like Hades yawning, and suddenly his body presses against yours. His spine curves in agony, like parentheses. (Fuck you. Don't just sit there.) His chest heaves, his eyes bulge, his fingernails scrape against your thigh. He shoves his face against your hand when you offer it to him to squeeze, and you cut your knuckle against his gnashing teeth.

Don't die, you think suddenly, I just fell in love with you.

(from the Greek ἀνατομία anatomia, from ἀνατέμνειν ana: separate, apart from, and temnein, to cut up, cut open)

'Oh," says Harry. "They're coming."

-

Later, when black cloaks form a circle around your three, your three musketeers, your everyone's-a-third-wheel, your knife fork & spoon --

Malfoy is standing next to his father, looking taller now (it's been months) and you see the flash of something not unlike fear in his eyes. He licks his lips, thoughtful, and crosses his arms. "Yes, that's them. I can identify all three."

"Good," says Lucius, with seraphic calm. "So can I. Why the long faces? Aren't you happy to see us?"

Ron lets out a long, despairing wail. His cry is cut short by a gasp as his body is lifted, limbs dangling, to the night sky. For a moment you almost smile, and before your arms are bound you manage to touch Harry's hand.

(How lucky! They remember the spell, and it's such a hard one, too, if you remember properly; such a complicated murmur! and this is unexpected, they are nice to take him like this -- there's no way he could walk all the way to the-)

But then, between one thought and the next, Ron is flung violently against the ceiling. There is a snap --

a crunching watery cry,

the gurgle of his bruised windpipe. Everyone breathes in the mist of his bewildered heart, decimated against the black and white mottled floor. Tendons and joints snap like dead branches. You watch his head broken into pieces by exquisite architecture, angles and corners, all well-maintained. Every aspect of your anatomy screams for his touch.

-

Later, when they ask you:

"Yes, I'm Hermione Granger. I just turned eighteen."