Author's Note: An experiment. A Ron and Hermione story, told in counter-chronological order.
Enchant Passing Through
by Argenteus Draco
"Yes, my little one."
"Tell me a story."
A small smile. "Alright then. Which one shall we hear? Peter Rabbit? Dragon Rider?"
"No, I'm too old for those stories." A brief twinkle in the brown eyes. "I want to hear a love story."
"A love story? My, you are growing up."
"Yeah. And there should be castles, and a prince and princess, and a ball for Christmas, and--"
"Goodness! Let's not get carried away…" A wistful sigh; a memory. "All right. Once upon a time, in a castle in a faraway land, there was a man who was not quite a prince, and a girl who was not quite a princess, but they were happy there anyway…"
…There'd be no ties of time and space to bind us…
"Hermione, you look beautiful. It's like we were fourteen again."
She smiles at his jest, because they are nothing like they were all those years ago. There are lines around their eyes and mouth that were not there then. His once vibrant red hair is now an equally shocking pure white, while hers is more silver than brown. They are slower, more refined, more thoughtful. And in turning her thoughts to her own school days, she decides that children then would never have been so… she supposed raucous was a good term, as they were now.
"Perhaps we could step outside for a bit?" she asks.
"Yes, it is a little busy in here, isn't it?" He gives her his arm, and they walk side by side out of the hall and into the gardens outside. A few students have started a snowball fight, but for once she does not stop to scold them. They make their way to a bench from which they can still see the grounds, the tree by the lake where they first shared a kiss, and sit close to each other, still holding hands.
"How did we wind up back here, Hermione?"
"Well, Ron, I do believe we just walked out the front doors," she replies playfully.
He sighs, but smiles anyway. "You know that's not what I meant."
She smiles as well, and turns a thoughtful gaze out over the grounds. She's not sure herself how they both ended up back at Hogwarts. It just seemed natural that there should be a place for them. Hermione has her beloved library to look after. Ron instructs a few select seventh years who think they'd like to be Aurors. They still go to Quidditch matches, walk through Hogsmead together, and attend feasts in the Great Hall.
In a way, he's right. Nothing has really changed.
…And no horizon we could not pursue…
"Remember when you told me you'd like to visit Spain?"
She looks up from the book she's reading, and catches a familiar mischievous glint in his eyes. "Why do you ask?"
"Because I want to go."
She places her book down on the end table and shakes her head. "Ron, you know we can't just up and leave like that. We have Rose and Hugo to look after--"
"Charlie says he'll watch them."
"--And our jobs--"
"Taken care of. Harry's going to cover for me, and I've already spoken to your boss. Do you know you haven't taken a personal day since Hugo had that fever three years ago?"
"That's not the point, Ron."
"What is it then?"
She turns to look out the open bedroom door. Across the hall, Rose's door is cracked open to allow the light inside. "It's just… we aren't just young lovers anymore. We're not supposed to just run off to another country on a whim."
He steps forward and wraps his arms around her. "When has 'not supposed to' ever stopped us before?"
She buries her face in his shoulder and smiles. He's right, for once, and she knows it. "Alright," she says, and he grins, glad that he's won. "Just give me a day to pack."
Across the hall, Rose turns over in her sleep, and dreams that one day she'll be as in love as her parents are.
…We could leave the world's misfortunes far behind us…
"What do you call this stuff again?"
He raises an eyebrow at her in that 'Whatever you say, dear,' expression that she has come to know so well, and she can't help but giggle into her wine glass. A few of the restaurant's other patrons glance over in annoyance -- aside from them, and the sounds of knives on plates and waiters placing dishes, the dining room is almost completely silent. It feels a bit anti-climactic after the extravagance of their wedding, surrounded by such a large extended family.
But at the same time, it's nice to be alone with him, in a way that they have very rarely been. Its why they finally settled on this small town in the south of France for their honeymoon, and the inn that reminds her of the Leaky Cauldron back in London. She wonders what the rest of them are doing...
He suddenly jabs her playfully in the arm. "You're thinking again."
She blushes and smiles back at him. "Well then, distract me."
So he does; right there, in a room full of strangers, he leans across the table and kisses her deeply. For a brief moment she is aware of the other diner's reactions, but then she lets that go too, and focuses only on him.
…And I would put my faith and trust in you…
"Ron, are you alright?"
He doesn't answer immediately; he's shaking, and obviously fighting to maintain his composure. His eyes are fixed upon the two figures circling each other in the center of the Great Hall.
"He's alive." His voice comes out as a whisper, like he's afraid to speak too loudly. "This... this is it, Hermione."
She edges closer to him, biting down on her suddenly dry lower lip, and lets her arm brush against his. A shiver runs up her spine, and she isn't sure if its a chill in the air, or the electric rush of his touch, or fear for her best friend. And that's when the reality really hits her: "Ron, what if... what if he doesn't...?" She can't even finish her sentence.
He's silent for a while. Then he finally says, "I'll protect you," and he sounds so certain that she can't help but believe him. "Hermione, no matter what happens, no matter the outcome here, I won't let anything happen to you."
There is a blinding flash of light, and she closes her eyes and grabs blindly for his hand, gripping it hard enough for her knuckles to turn white. She feels him tense, and they're both standing like statues, waiting--
The light fades. Harry is standing; the Dark Lord is not.
She almost falls with relief, and he catches her easily, gripping her close to him and murmuring something that sounds like 'It's over,' but she suspects really means, 'I love you.' And the feel of his body, of his arms around her waist and his breath ghosting through her hair feels more real than anything else has for years; this is tangible, not some far-flung prophecy or the looming sense of a destiny that isn't even hers.
Finally, she looks up into his eyes, shining with the hope and excitement she remembers from what seems like a lifetime ago, when their lives were still adventure rather than war. They had all spent so much time preparing for this moment that no one had dared to look past it until now.
It doesn't matter, she thinks, as she is swept once more into his embrace. One day, she knows, she will look back on his moment, and she wants to remember it not just as the end of the war, but the beginning of their future.
Because she finally knows that this is the way they'll spend it.