Author's Note:

This is a sort-of-sequel/ prequel/ companion piece to my fic "Faultlines", and is the story of what happened to Ron in the first three months after Hermione left him. You don't have to read that first, but it might help to understand some of the back story.

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Don't panic, I haven't given up on "Biscuits", I'm just going through a bit of a period of writers' block at the moment, and the best way to get over such things is... well, to keep writing, even if it's something completely different. So while I struggle with Chapter 9, this is something a little darker to tide you over. Well, a LOT darker, in fact. I wrote the first 35,000 words of this story last Autumn, and it's been on my mind again lately, probably because some of the themes in it currently have more resonance in my own life than I would like. Fellow writers will understand that sometimes we have no control over what we write; the stories just take us over! And besides, Ron wanted his side of the story to be told, and he can be very persuasive when he wants to be, as I'm sure you can imagine.

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So, to everyone who asked me for a happy ending: be careful what you wish for! Strap yourselves in tightly, keep your hands inside the car at all times, and come with me on a journey into the deepest, darkest recesses of Ron's soul. It won't be pretty. It definitely won't be fluffy. It will be dark, and rather bleak in places, and there will not be many jokes, but sometimes that is what life is like, my children, and better to learn that particular lesson from fiction rather than personal experience, I promise you.

Enjoy, and especially, review!

Pinky Brown, Feb 7th 2009

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After Her

Chapter One: Aftershock

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She had gone. She had really gone. He didn't know how long he stood there, staring at the back of the front door, not moving, not thinking, not even blinking. He had asked her not to leave. He had asked her not to fucking leave and she had just left! As though she didn't even care! As though the last thirteen years meant nothing to her. As though he meant nothing to her anymore.

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He actually went and opened the front door as though she might be still standing out there in the hall, but the hallway was empty and silent. Maybe she was already there, in her new flat, wherever it was. She was somewhere in Yorkshire, that was all he knew. He hadn't even asked her the name of the town. The minute she had told him she was leaving, it was as though it was set in stone for him. He just gave up, didn't even try to persuade her to stay, resigned himself to it, the way he used to resign himself to losing Quidditch matches: "What's the point in trying? I'll only lose."

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He wandered dazedly into the kitchen, which was looking clean and tidy and empty. He made himself a cup of tea and a sandwich, just for something to do with his hands, and was about to wipe the crumbs from the breadboard when he remembered that she wasn't here to nag him about it anymore. He shrugged and left the mess on the worktop. A slice of tomato fell from the sandwich in his hand and landed with a splat on the kitchen floor. He looked at it lying there on the lino dispassionately for a few moments, then simply stepped over it, and back out into the front room.

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The front door came immediately into his line of vision. This was ridiculous; it was just a bloody door. He could hardly go around for the rest of his life not going though doors now, could he? He laughed out loud, and the sound seemed to echo in the nearly empty room. Three walls of empty, gaping bookshelves. He didn't like them being empty. Their emptiness seemed to mock him, to remind him that she had gone and taken all her books with her. Books had always been the very essence of Hermione. Even before they'd become friends, his mental image of her was of a lot of brown curly hair bent over a large, heavy book. He needed to put something else on the shelves to reclaim them, so they didn't remind him of Herm – of Her anymore.

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"Fat chance of that," he thought, gloomily. As though everything in the flat didn't remind him of her! And he didn't possess a single book, what was he going to put on bookshelves? Maybe he could get a goldfish. Or a hamster. Might be nice to have a pet. Oh Merlin, that was sad! She'd been gone, what, twenty minutes, and he was already thinking about getting a bloody goldfish just for the company. That really was pathetic.

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He walked into the bedroom and stared at the bed. He could almost see her rising from it only a few hours before. He'd watched her get out of bed, wrap herself in her dressing gown, and walk out of the room, all without a glance or even a word to him. They hadn't spoken in days now. Not since Tuesday night, the night before their fucking anniversary, for God's sake. She had suggested they go out for a meal. As though it was something worth celebrating! Seriously, what the hell was there was to celebrate? He had just stared at her, outraged. "Are you still leaving on Sunday?" She had flinched. "Yes." "Then what's the point?"

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He had stormed out of the flat after that - there had been a lot of storming out from both of them lately - and by the time he had eventually stumbled home, not nearly drunk enough in his opinion, she was in bed, asleep, or pretending to be. There had been a lot of that lately, too. It was easier, somehow. If they weren't talking to each other, then they weren't arguing either. Things really had got that bad.

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Wednesday had been… hard. It was their seventh anniversary and, it seemed, their last. He could hardly bear to even be in the same room as her by then. Sleeping in the same bed felt like a bad joke. He lay there all night got up when it was still dark and went into work early, just so he could avoid seeing her. For the rest of the day, he was on edge, snapping at his work colleagues and breaking two quills in anger. After work he had briefly considered going home and trying to persuade her to stay one last time, but then bitterness had taken over. Why should he? She'd made her decision. She'd made that quite clear. She was leaving on Sunday, and nothing he said or did would make any difference. If anyone should be making the effort to sort things out between them, it should be her. She should be begging him to let her stay. Fuck her. He went to the pub instead, ended up sleeping on a colleague's sofa. They hadn't spoken two words to each other between then and now.

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Maybe it was stupid, but he hadn't really thought she would actually leave. He kept expecting her to burst into tears and tell him she was sorry, and that she had turned down the job and wanted to give them another chance. He kept expecting it right up until the moment she had stopped fussing about the flat, looked at him properly for the first time in days, and said, quietly, "Well… I'm off, then." As though she was going on holiday!

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What did she want from him? Permission? He had refused to even look at her, too angry to speak. And then she had walked up to him and hugged him. Oh, God. Nothing she had said could have undone him as quickly and easily as that hug. The emotion had welled up inside him, the sudden realisation that this was it, she was really going, he was really going to lose her. He had clung onto her tighter than he ever had before, and pleaded, "Don't go." Thrown his dignity to the wind and begged her not to leave. There was no dignity in love. He should have realised that long ago. He should have realised that when he was twelve, and ended up vomiting great fat slugs when trying to defend her honour with a dodgy wand. She had pulled away from him, and they had looked at each other, really looked at each other, for the first time in weeks, and still, despite all this, she had just shaken her head sadly, and told him, "It's too late."

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At the time he'd been too dazed to do anything but just watch her walk out of the door, but now those words angered him. No! Not too late! Never too late! If she really loved him, if she hadn't given up on their relationship long before he had even realised there was anything wrong, it need never have been too late. She could have changed her mind at any time. She could have told him the truth, too. Why was it too late? Because she'd signed a contract on her new flat? Because she'd accepted this new job in Yorkshire and didn't want to let them down? No, none of that would have mattered if she had really wanted it to work between them. So, then, why was it too late?

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He stared down at the bed, uncomprehending. Their bed. She'd made it before she left, of course. She liked things to be neat. Well, he wouldn't need to do that from now on. Wouldn't have to worry about her nagging him about hanging his wet towels up properly. He could chuck the pillows on the floor if he wanted. He could sleep on the other side of the bed if he wanted, too. Her side. He could reset the alarm to some sensible time of the morning instead of a quarter to sodding seven. What kind of person was awake before seven o'clock on the morning anyway? What kind of person left you after seven years and didn't even bother explaining why?

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That was the worst thing. The lack of explanation. They'd argued about everything under the sun these past few weeks, and he'd long ago lost track of what they were even arguing about anymore. Nothing about this made sense. He had asked her a hundred times why she had applied for a job that meant she'd have to move two hundred miles away, but she hadn't seemed to even know herself, just muttered things like, "I've told you already" (she hadn't), or "It's nothing to do with the job".

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Well, if it was nothing to do with the job, then what was it to do with? And if it was to do with the job, why hadn't she asked him to come with her? He would have done, if she had asked. He would have jumped at the chance to get out of London. Four and a half years was long enough. She must have known that; they'd talked about it often enough.

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So the only explanation – in lieu of a proper one from Hermione herself – was that there was some other reason she didn't want him to come with her. Like maybe she'd met someone else and was moving up there to be with him. She denied it, of course, but it was the only thing that made sense. He just didn't understand why she couldn't tell him. Of course he'd have been devastated, but he could hardly have been more so than he was already, and at least she'd have given him a reason. He wouldn't be driving himself half-mad wondering about it. He would at least be able to try to understand why a relationship that had already survived the worst he thought life could throw at it – war, separation, Lavender – had managed to disintegrate so badly within the space of six weeks that she had actually left him.

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And it wasn't like Hermione at all. Hermione was the most sensible, reasonable, logical person he'd ever met. Hermione would insist on explaining things, even when he didn't want them explained. Hermione had once written him an essay on how to use the new mobile phone she'd bought him (it didn't help). Hermione would always try to find a solution by talking about things. It was what she did. What they did. Talked about stuff. And yes, sometimes those discussions would turn into arguments, but they'd always get through them and find a solution. They'd been doing it for thirteen years, after all. It was just how they worked. But this time… this time somehow they hadn't been able to get through the arguments and find a solution. Maybe because neither of them knew what they were actually arguing about in the first place. It made his head hurt, trying to understand what had happened.

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He heard a noise outside the front door and rushed back into the front room just in time to see a pizza leaflet being delivered through the letterbox. He stared blankly at the back of the door, still valiantly hoping she might walk through it. There was no way this was actually the end. She'd get to the end of the street, realise what she had to lose, and rush back. Any minute now the key would turn in the lock, the door would be flung open, and she'd throw herself sobbing into his arms, begging for his forgiveness. Yep, any minute now. Any… minute...

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He dragged his eyes away from the door and stared down into his teacup dazedly, then drained it and placed the cup carefully in the centre of one of the shelves at chest height, standing back to admire his handiwork. There. Now they weren't empty anymore. He had reclaimed them. They weren't her bookshelves anymore. They were his shelves now and he could do what he liked with them. Ha. That would show her, if she came back, that would… yeah.

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He ran a fingertip across the white-painted shelf, and a sudden realisation made him sit down heavily on the sofa. She'd taken the time to dust the bookshelves and make the bed. She'd wiped down the surfaces in the kitchen and mopped the floor. She'd thought of every last thing, but she'd forgotten to tell him why she was leaving. As though he was an afterthought. As though dust-free bookshelves were more important to her than he was now. And maybe that was true. He didn't know anymore. Everything he thought he knew was lies.

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The flat was utterly silent. He didn't think he could remember it ever being so still and quiet before. Herm - She used to say the only time it was ever quiet in their flat was when they were asleep, because they both loved talking so much. And then she'd nudge him playfully and add, "Although not even then, really, because Ron's such a terrible snorer..."

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He laughed at the memory, but then the laugh died in his throat. He was suddenly very aware of his own blinking. How long since he had moved? He had no idea. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut, but he could still see the door. It was like when you stared at the sun for too long and you closed your eyes and everything went blood red, or purple, only you could still see the shape of what you had been looking at, and imagine, just for a moment, what being blind might be like.

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What was he supposed to do now? Just get up and go to work tomorrow as though nothing had happened? Just carry on as normal? What the hell was he going to do, without Her?

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Author's Note:

This is really just the introduction, of course, but please let me know what you thought, and if you'd like to read more of my "dark side"! (And Ron's, obviously – anyone who's read "Six Foot Of Ginger Idiot" will know just how dark Mr. Weasley's dark side can be.)

Thanks!

PB x

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