A.N. - Hi everybody! This is my first attempt at a fanfiction story. I hope you all enjoy it, reviews would be amazing! Happy New Year!
Grief covered the castle like a blanket. It smothered the happiness and thrill of finally being safe. Hermione could feel it like a weight in the pit of her stomach. It crushed her lungs and caused her to gasp for breath. But breathing did nothing; the air itself seemed thicker. It was as though the grief and sadness had turned the air solid.
The crumbling stone and crimson splattered walls made everything seem horribly vivid, like a nightmare with no end. Seeing the debris and remnants of the battle made her shiver. There was no escape from everything that had happened; it was consuming. Hermione supposed most people felt this way; there was a mad rush to leave the castle as quickly as possible. Later in the summer, when people had gotten some space and a little time to mourn, they would come back to rebuild Hogwarts. But now, it was too soon to start rebuilding everything.
The Weasleys were planning on leaving the following morning. Harry and Hermione, of course, were going with them. There had been no questioning in this plan; it had already been decided for them. They did not, after all, have any other place to go. Hermione's parent's house was surely destroyed, and Harry couldn't return to Grimmuald Place. Since she had not been involved in the departure plans, Hermione let herself get swept away with the voices of the others. If felt nice to allow others to decide things for her, it was such a change from last year. Knowing that other's were taking care of things, that she didn't have to worry, comforted her.
The only problem with leaving in the morning was that they would have to stay the night in the castle. Many people were; there was plenty of room for people to stay. But Hermione wasn't sure if she could sleep. The following night no one had slept; the battle had gone on all night long. When it ended in the early hours of the morning, no one could even think of sleeping. Now, as night fell around the castle, people were conjuring sleeping bags or mattresses and setting them down in empty classrooms and corridors. She was scared that if she closed her eyes, if she allowed herself to be vulnerable for a second, she would get swept away in the fear of everything that had happened. She was scared that if she closed her eyes, she would be able to hear the echoes of the fighting.
Hermione had not been able to voice these thoughts to anyone. Harry had been with Ginny all day. They had set out for a walk around the grounds in the early afternoon when Harry had woken up. They hadn't shown up until after dinner, both with red eyes and pale faces. They had spent the rest of the evening together, and Hermione thought it would have been insensitive if she asked to split them up and talk to Harry.
Also noticeably absent was Ron; he had been walking around the castle all day. Hermione had caught glimpses of him at random intervals throughout the day, but she had not spoken to him. Every time she called out to him, he would pretend not to hear her and walk away. She tried not to take this personally, but she couldn't help feeling a crushing feeling behind her heart every time he looked up at her, and then walked away.
It was strange; the three of them being split up. Hermione had been so used to being isolated with the two of them that she had forgotten what it was like to be surrounded by other people. Sometimes, it felt good. At breakfast, it was nice to just sit back and enjoy the lull of the conversation, knowing that if she didn't join in no one would notice. But by dinner time she had started to feel lost, the people surrounding her were so different than she was. They didn't know what she knew, what she had seen. The past year seemed to have set her apart in some unsettling way.
At around one in the morning, Hermione gave up on trying to sleep (though truthfully she had not been trying very hard), and tip toed out of the castle. The front doors were left open so that the cool summer breeze could enter Hogwarts, the light summer air mixing uneasily with the heavy, sad air of the castle. She let her feet guide her; there was no where that she was anxious to go, nothing she was anxious to see.
The moment she left the castle she felt a small weight lift in her chest. The stone walls didn't hold her in and remind her of things. Out here, there was nothing to trap her, nothing to hold her in. And the cries she heard in her head had nothing to echo off of, they were absorbed in the clear, summery night.
She walked past the greenhouses and past Hagrid's hut, which had been destroyed. She walked at the edge of the forest, passing the dark masses that were trees. It didn't scare her, being this close to the dark Forbidden Forest; she was almost sure that nothing would scare her anymore.
A half hour later she found herself by the lake. She sat down by the edge, dipping her toes in the cold water. The lake cast an eerie, greenish glow. Hermione looked out at the water, where the moon, completely full tonight, was reflected in the calm black water. She looked at the second moon until it burned an image on her retinas and she could see it when she blinked. A soft breeze picked up, playing with her hair and making her shiver. She removed her feet from the water and curled her legs into her chest. She sat there at the edge of the lake like this, staring into the nothingness, until the sun rose.
The day was welcomed in with a beautiful sunrise, so beautiful Hermione considered it indecent. How could something so lovely happen when there was such sadness? Why was she able to see this, able to enjoy it, when so many people could not? Hermione felt unexplained tears leaking from the corner of her eyes, as the sun rose over the mountains and the lake. When she felt as though she could not take any more, she sat up, stretching, and turned to walk back to the castle.
When she stood up, she found herself face to face with Harry. She hastily wiped her eyes with the corner of her shirt. She was not ashamed that he had seen her cry, but she wasn't sure she could explain exactly why she was crying.
"I was looking for you. We're about to leave, are you ready?" Harry asked, his voice low and soft.
Hermione nodded; she hadn't spoken in such a long time she wasn't sure if she would be able to. Without another look at him, she began walking up to the castle. Now that she had seen Harry, she wasn't exactly sure what she wanted to say to him. There was so much building up, she didn't know how to start.
As she started walking, she felt something catch on her sleeve. She turned her head to look, and Harry pulled her in, hugging her. She closed her eyes and took deep breaths as fresh tears welled up in her eyes. Like the sunrise, this closeness ripped at her soul. Being so close to Harry, with such raw emotion in between them, made her throat close up and her eyes well. She felt the front of Harry's shirt become soaked with her tears. She bowed her head slightly so that he could rest his head on top of hers. They stood like that, with his arms wrapped around her and her body curled into his, for what seemed like hours.
When they let go, Hermione could tell that Harry had tears in his eyes too, but he was trying to hide them well. She touched his cheek, but it was not in a romantic or flirtatious way. Their relationship was entirely platonic; they had known this for years. They started up to the castle together, bumping shoulders occasionally as they walked in silence. When they reached the front doors, they could see all of the Weasleys waiting for them, huddled together in the bright morning sun. Ron hung back, about five feet from the rest of them.
Hermione stopped short, looking at them. Harry, seeing that she had stopped walking, stopped too and followed her line of vision, which pointed directly to Ron. He gave her a knowing look and nodded.
"I'm worried about him," she whispered. He nodded in agreement; he had been thinking the same thing, she was sure of it.
"He hasn't said anything at all, he just walks around," Harry said, watching their best friend. "I don't know what to say to him," he added helplessly.
Hermione grasped his hand for a moment, then let go. "I – I'll talk to him. I'll talk to him when we get to the Burrow," she murmured, wondering to herself what she could possibly say.
The walked up the front stairs, and met the Weasleys, who were stationed around an old addition of a Muggle newspaper. It was a portkey, Hermione knew, that would take them to the Burrow, a place she now considered her home.
"Are you ready dears?" Mrs. Weasley asked as Hermione and Harry approached them. Her voice was shaky and broken in places. It hurt Hermione to listen to it, to hear all of the sadness in her voice. She nodded, because she didn't think she would have been able to say anything.
She placed a hand on the newspaper. It glowed blue and she looked up, meaning to take one last look at Hogwarts. Instead, she met Ron's gaze; he was standing directly opposite her. There was something broken behind his blue eyes. She felt an immediate surge of emotion for him; she opened her mouth to say something. But her brain seemed empty, a feeling completely unknown to her. His look penetrated her skin and seared her soul. She felt naked and vulnerable in front of his gaze. It was as if he knew everything about her. She tried to look back at him but she didn't know if she could hold his gaze. Then, she was jerked forward into nothingness and felt herself spinning though the air. And although she could no longer see Ron, she could feel him.
Seconds later she felt herself crashing back to earth, hitting the grass hard. She winced and sat up, rubbing her ribs. The Burrow was towering in front of her the glass twinkling welcomingly in the early morning sun. Through the sadness and the pain she felt, there was a small flicker of something else as well. She saw it reflected in the faces around her. She was home, she was safe. Here, there was nothing that could hurt her.