A/N: Thank you to grownuphermione for the beta on the entire fic! I really appreciated your careful eyes and feedback!
This fic was my submission for The Quidditch Pitch's Ron-a-Thon silent auction. It was commissioned by the wonderful MrQuatto, who requested angst, smut, and Hermione finding out about Ron's Horcrux/locket experience and proving to him how wrong the locket was.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or the universe- they belong to the wonderful JKRowling. No infringement intended... I am simply playing with them for a while. :o)
Not a Memory Yet, Chapter 1 (In the Deep of the Night)
I rolled over for what seemed like the millionth time, not sure why I was still trying to sleep. It was such a pointless effort these days. Just like so many other things in my life.
If I had thought that Harry finally vanquishing the most evil bastard who ever lived would make everything perfect, I would have been dead wrong. If I had thought that after the War, everything would go back to how it had been and it would be life as usual, I would have been completely delusional, to say the least. If I had thought that Hermione rushing into my arms and snogging the life out of me in the middle of the Battle of Hogwarts meant I had nothing to be insecure about where she was concerned, I would clearly have not paid any attention to my history with Hermione, especially how nothing was ever easy between us.
Even the good stuff is more work for us than for other people.
Luckily, I was too realistic to have foolish dreams about an impossibly perfect future. I knew hard times were still ahead. It was hard to believe, but seven months had passed since that fateful night. Seven months of funerals and tears, rebuilding and renewing, nightmares and sleepless nights- all of which had taken a toll on me. That's not to say everything had been a struggle. Certainly, the Wizarding world had been drastically different, better, safer. Yet I felt as though the ground beneath my feet was still shifting, not quite to a place of stability.
My life wasn't shaping up to quite what I had thought it would be, not that I was complaining. At least I'm alive, at least we survived it all. I hadn't really given much thought to the future, except in broad generalisations. I never wanted to plan on something and then be disappointed when it didn't work out. I thought it was better to accept that I wouldn't always get my first choice and I could still appreciate where I landed, as opposed to constantly feeling bitter over missed chances and broken dreams.
After the War, I simultaneously worked for the rebuilding efforts and helped George to keep the shop running. I helped George to honour Fred's memory, his legacy, and his life. It was the only way I knew to be the brother he needed. I helped the rebuilding efforts so I could forget, so I could put it all behind me. I helped to hide the evidence of the horrors we had lived through by recreating better days, because I needed to believe the future would be different for generations to come.
Losing Fred was hard, no doubt about it. I hadn't been prepared for him to die. Me? Absolutely. Harry? Sadly, yes. Either Bill or Charlie? More likely. But, Fred or George? Never. I still hadn't forgiven the Universe for that being allowed to transpire.
I may never forgive the Universe for that.
Our family came together, just as we always did when it came down to it. We mourned, we celebrated his life, we tried to move forward.
We rebuilt. We planned for futures beyond this day.
Hermione brought her parents back and helped them to settle back into life in England. I wanted to go with her, but George volunteered to accompany her and I knew he needed to get away from the Burrow for a while. Instead, I stayed and got the shop ready to re-open; I wanted to show George he could depend on me. They were only gone two weeks, but I didn't sleep more than a couple hours each night without her presence. Her soft breaths had lulled me to sleep for too long and the night air was empty without her. The only things that really kept me going were the couple of letters she had posted to me from Australia. The words didn't matter, it was enough to feel connected to her and know she missed me, too. Harry, Hermione, and I got a flat together in Hogsmeade not too long after she and George returned from collecting her parents. I told myself it was convenient that we were close to the rebuilding efforts. That was true, but I knew I needed to keep my best friends near me- I wouldn't sleep if I wondered where they were. It took no convincing on their parts, so I told myself they felt the same.
It hadn't been as difficult as I had expected to settle into life as a businessman. I liked the work and felt useful. The rebuilding effort was another story. Sometimes it felt like an exercise in futility, but, finally, the weeks and months of restoring Hogwarts and Hogsmeade began to show. In fact, some areas looked better than I had ever seen them.
I spent my nights in bed, counting the hours until sunrise. Some nights I physically exhausted myself beyond reason, just to force my mind to shut off for a while. That worked sometimes, but not as often as I hoped it would. Bloody ridiculous for thoughts to keep me awake. More times than I could count, sleep was interrupted by the nightmares that plagued me almost nightly. I could've dealt with the stress of the day if I was able to sleep at night. Hell, I probably would've been fine without sleeping much at all if the thoughts about the nightmares didn't obsessively turn about in my head for endless hours throughout the day.
I thought about getting some Dreamless Sleep potion, but past experiences with it made me wary. I nearly asked Hermione what to do about it, but then I'd have had to tell her what the nightmares were about. She knew I had nightmares, of course, as she'd wound up in my bedroom several times a week over the past couple months, waking me amidst my nocturnal shouting.
I studiously avoided all of her questions about the dreams, letting her assume they were filled with visions of Voldemort and Fred and various battles we had survived. Yeah, I had those dreams, but they weren't what kept me awake at night. I felt a bit silly, truth be told, about what kept me awake.
Hermione. I sighed deeply and rolled over in bed. With everything we had seen, everything we went through to survive, it was almost ridiculous that thoughts of a girl kept me awake. These weren't just ordinary thoughts about a girl though. No, these thoughts were more like fears of what I had seen when the locket began speaking to me, fears that I worried could come true. These thoughts kept me tossing and turning hours after I should have been blissfully unaware.
Some nights I felt as though I was reliving those horrible moments, like no time had passed since those wretched feelings were intensified within me. I preferred those nights, if I had to dream at all. Other nights, the nightmares didn't stop at what I had seen that night in the forest. Some of the visions far surpassed the original encounter, showing Hermione and Harry making love, getting married, having children together. Those nights were the worst, because when I woke up I had no proof those things couldn't happen.
Yes, Harry was going out with Ginny again, but that could always change. Not likely, I'll admit that, but not impossible. And, yes, Hermione did kiss me in the middle of the battle. However, she hadn't done so since- not in that way- and I wondered if she only did it so that if either of us died, she wouldn't have regrets. That seemed a piss-poor reason to snog a bloke, but women, my Hermione in particular, were barmy and I didn't understand half the things they did. I didn't hold it against her. In my heart, I had always thought she was too good for me. I could hardly blame her for figuring it out and not wanting to get tied down to me.
Still, that didn't stop my heart from aching at the thought of her going out with another man, possibly creating a life with him instead of with me. It didn't stop my pulse from racing when she leaned against me on the couch or squeezed my hand for a second. It didn't stop me from wanking to thoughts of her when she graced me with a sweet kiss goodnight- a peck, really, but I cherished each and every one of those memories. I was grateful for those little moments; I filed them away in my mind, hoarding them as treasures that I could look at but I knew I would never own. I wanted to keep her near me, even if I couldn't have her.
Some days, I convinced myself that she could be mine someday. I told myself that my loyalty to my family, instead of immediately following my dreams to become an Auror with Harry, proved to Hermione that I could be depended on- more than I had shown on the hunt. I told myself that the gentle caresses and soft kisses from her were the first step toward something more. I told myself that those nights when I woke up sweaty and crying out, only to find her on my bed and rubbing my back, meant as much to her as they meant to me. I told myself that she wanted to stay in my bed with me on those nights and hold me for hours, not out of pitying me or worrying about me as a friend, but because she needed me as badly as I needed her.
Those were the best days, the days when it seemed as though energy was in the air and our potential had yet to be realised. Those days were like the early Spring in Mum's garden, green shoots just barely peeking out of the dark earth. I loved those days- lived for them, if I was honest with myself. If only I could hold onto those feelings, I told myself, sad that I could not force my mind or heart to retain that confidence in our relationship.
Unfortunately, darker, more cynical days almost always followed the cherished days. Hermione would floo to Hogwarts before my eyes and I would be convinced she was hiding something from me. I easily believed her to be seeing some perfect bloke at school, but not telling me to spare my feelings. I spent those days in a daze, positive she would come home and announce she was moving back to Hogwarts, to be with her new boyfriend, presumably. I imagined going to Hogwarts and killing the wanker with my bare hands, but then I thought that perhaps she would be better off without me.
Depression dominated me those days, though I was careful to never let it show to Hermione. I didn't want to give her proof of how unstable I was. I felt as though she already had enough evidence of how unworthy I was of her. Why should I give her any more?
The nights following the hard days were truly wretched. I usually went running after dinner on those evenings, going until I didn't think I could move another step and then turning around to run home. Physically exhausted, I tumbled into the shower and then bed. I prayed for dreamless hours of sleep. Sometimes they came and I'd survive the night. Thank Merlin!
Other nights, my body jolted awake. If Hermione was there, if she comforted me on those nights, I assumed it was out of pity, not out of love. Some nights I awoke alone, almost thankful I didn't have to confront the bodily reminder of my nightmares immediately. Almost. At those moments, my worst fears surfaced. In the dead of the night, all I had was my doubt and my insecurities. No logic comforted me in those still hours when deep-seated questions about my worth haunted my mind.
It kept coming back to that damn locket. The months I wore it felt like a black splotch over my life and memories. Every single fear, every single doubt and question and insecurity invaded each waking moment of my consciousness. It was as if all of my hidden turmoil came out to play when I wore the locket. Those feelings had always been there before, but it was like a light had been shone on them so I could see nothing else. Everything felt more intense than ever before. And more painful!
I never told Harry or Hermione, mostly for fear they would think I was stupid or that I had gone 'round the twist, but I had heard voices when I wore that thing. Not just voices in my head, not just the usual combination of thoughts flowing through my head about how unworthy I was to be in our Trio. Those voices I was used to.
No, I'd heard Harry's voice telling me I was the worst best mate he could ever get stuck with, that he wished I was smarter, more brave. I'd heard him wishing I would leave him alone with Hermione, so they could get something productive done without me. I wanted to hate him in those moments, but I couldn't. Why hate him for what I believed about myself?
To make matters worse, I'd heard Hermione's voice ringing loudly in my head, rattling around in my brain until I couldn't think straight. She'd told me how disappointed she was in me. She'd told me that it humiliated her for people to think we were a couple- a common misconception at Hogwarts. She'd said that I would never be good enough for her, that she could never fall in love with me. She'd claimed that whatever man won her heart would be a giant among wizards- someone like Harry, not someone like me.
I'll never be good enough for her.
I gave up sleep as a bad job and got up, pulled on running shoes, and started my morning early. As I ran, I thought one thing over and over again: if the damn nightmares would stop, those days could become memories and fade with time. If I kept having the nightmares, I would forever be stuck in those moments. I had to find a way to stop the dreams, to weaken the images from that locket. If I didn't, I would relive those moments over and over in my dreams and never move on.
It's not a memory yet.
Thanks for reading! The next chapter will be posted in a couple days. Reviews are loved and appreciated! -Risie :o)