Summary: After the final battle, Hermione is searching for the smile that she lost somewhere along the way. She returns to a familiar childhood pastime: roller skating. Of course, Fred and the others follow. Fred: "While I would do anything for you, my dear 'Mione, I would like to think that breaking my tailbone is not necessary for a laugh from you." Sequel to "Falling".
Author's Note: This is a sequel to my story "Falling", though you don't have to read that story first. This story takes place after Deathly Hallows, a few mentions of that book are in here. But I did not stay true to everything that happened in the book (you who have read the book know what I'm referring to).
Thanks to my father (who helped teach me how to skate), my brother Travis and friend Spencer who are expert skaters, and my friends who go skating with me.
Thanks to my beta Johnathan who inspired the tailbone part of this story.
I hope this makes you smile because it made me smile when not much else would.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I also have no idea how popular roller skating is in England. Please just go with it.
Finding a Balance
She paid the woman up front, walked through the double doors, and sat down at the same spot on the same bench that had always been hers. She took off her shoes and slid them into their slot.
She closed her eyes and forced herself to be fully in this place, in this moment. She pushed away memories of frozen nights spent inside a tent. She closed off thoughts of blasts shaking castle walls. She stopped everything before something worse came into her vision.
She forced herself to hear the music being played, although she was too far removed from current pop culture to recognize the song. The music had a happy, bouncing beat made for dancing; exactly what she expected to hear.
She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. Children from a birthday party laughed as they cautiously moved onto the floor. Brightly colored lights skipped throughout the room. Murals on the hard walls depicted different scenes from the countryside close by.
Everything was comforting and familiar, just as she remembered. Something wonderfully Muggle that remained unchanged by the acts of dark wizards.
Finally, she smiled. Smiles had been few and far between over this past week. But she hoped that here, in this place, she could find smiles and hold on to them.
She pulled on her roller skates. The light brown leather was worn and soft against her ankles. She pulled the laces tight across her feet and tied them once around her leg for good measure.
These were the trusty four-wheel skates her parents had given her as a birthday present. She had decided long ago that inline skates were not for her. She had learned on four wheels and felt an easy balance on them. She could control her direction, speed, and brakes on these skates. They were simply extensions of her feet.
She decided to forgo stretching and head straight onto the skate floor. There were enough children on the floor that she had to be careful, but not so many that she was surrounded.
She moved her legs out and in, slowly picking up speed. As she reached a curve in the oval floor, she placed one leg in front of the other and gracefully glided across the arc. She repeated this at the next curve, and the next, and the next. "It's the same as it's always been," she thought to herself.
As she was preparing for the next arc, something changed. She knew, with the abilities of someone who had been in hiding, that eyes were upon her.
She braced herself for the worst possible sight: an escaped Death Eater.
She smoothly turned on the spot, her hand reaching for the wand hidden up her sleeve.
There, standing at the entrance to the room was Fred Weasley. He was watching her with a sad smile on his face. This was soon replaced by his normal grin as Harry, Ron, Ginny, and George trailed in behind him.
While children attempted to skate around her still form, Hermione awoke from the shock. She motioned for them to sit at her bench and left the floor to join them.
Fred pulled her aside before she reached the group. Hermione couldn't take her eyes away from the deep scratch on his face or the way he was favoring his left arm. The vision that she was trying to avoid most suddenly flashed before her: Fred in front of her smiling. A blast of magic hitting the castle wall. Fred disappearing under the rubble. Fred being pulled out unconscious.
Hermione's heart raced as she desperately tried to control her breathing.
Fred lightly touched her face and the skating rink returned to her sight.
"'Mione, I'm right here." He wrapped an arm around her, tucking her into him. He kissed her head.
"Just keep telling me that, would you?" She placed a hand on his chest, feeling the constant beating of his heart. Fred waited for her to speak next.
"How did you find me?"
"That was easy. Harry saw you sneaking out of the Burrow with your rolling shoes—"
"Skates," she lightly corrected.
Fred smiled. "Skates. I remembered you talking about a place in your hometown where you skated and figured you would come back here."
"I hope you don't mind that I came and brought everyone with me." He received no answer.
He gently turned to face Hermione. "I know you've been miserable, we all have. All we've done for the past year is balance between life and death; you three especially. I thought it would do us all some good to try something different and maybe have a bit of fun. You know me, laughter is the best medicine."
Fred tilted her face up to his. "What do you say?"
Hermione released a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. "I say…it should at least be fun to watch you all attempt to skate."
"I am offended by your lack of faith in my skating skills," Fred protested.
"You shall just have to prove me wrong then," Hermione smirked. The smirk stayed on her face a moment longer than most as she realized this was her first smirk in months.
"I accept your challenge, my lady. Prepare to be dazzled."
Fred and Hermione had to prod the others some, but soon enough everyone had on the "rolling shoes." Of course, none of them had tried this before. Hermione slowly led them out onto the floor. They watched her skate around the floor once and then began trying themselves.
"Ron," Hermione directed, "stop snarling at the children passing you. Just try to ignore them. Once you get better they'll stop pointing and laughing at you."
While this statement did not seem to ease Ron's embarrassment, it did wonders for the others. Even Harry smiled.
After several falls, most of the group found their balance and were able to move around the floor. Harry and Ginny never let go of each other's hands. "For balance," they claimed.
"For some kind of balance," Hermione thought.
Before long George and Ron were chasing each other around the floor playing an illegal game of tag. George was winning at the moment. This was mostly due to Ron's problems with braking and the resulting tumble he took over the short wall that enclosed the skate floor.
Hermione's only pupil left was Fred. She turned to see how he was doing and heard her answer.
"Are you trying to be this bad on purpose, just to make me laugh?"
"While I would do anything for you, my dear 'Mione, I would like to think that breaking my tailbone is not necessary for a laugh from you."
"I'm sorry Fred," she said through the laughter. She pulled him up.
"I suppose hearing your laugh is worth a bruised arse."
Hermione bit her lip harder in a feeble attempt to stop laughing.
"I seem to remember you saying that skating was like flying."
"Yes," replied Hermione. "It's like flying with your feet on the ground."
Fred's stretched out arms moved rapidly in small circles as he tried desperately not to fall…again.
From his place on the ground, Fred spoke. "I have been flying on brooms for the majority of my life and I can definitively tell you that this is not like flying."
Hermione responded with a light eye-roll. "You just need to stop trying so hard."
She offered him both hands, which he gratefully took.
She savored the familiar spark from his touch before pulling him up.
After making sure that he was stable, she stood facing him. "We'll try doing this the way my father taught me."
Fred stood watching as Hermione touched their hands palm to palm and then intertwined their fingers. "Lean into me to keep your balance as we move."
She slowly began to skate backwards and brought Fred with her. Each time Fred began leaning in one direction she would counterbalance him.
Before long they had survived an entire lap around the floor without a fall.
"Having fun yet?"
"I'm getting there. The skating part is definitely more fun than the landing."
"Very true," she admitted with a grin. "Let's try it again now, but faster."
"Faster?" he squeaked.
"Yes. You see, skating, like flying, is most fun when done fast."
Without giving him a chance to answer, she firmly gripped his hands and took off. She alternated glancing over her shoulders and into Fred's eyes. Within him she saw fear, excitement, and joy.
"You know," he said, "I saw you skate some before you noticed me. You were flying out here, gliding really. You were free."
She tried to memorize this moment; to savor it. Life was perfect, right here, right now.
Harry and Ginny were cuddling as much as two people in love can while on roller skates. Ron and George were laughing and teasing each other, as they had always done. She suspected to be drawn into their game of tag at any moment. And Fred…
"Child down, 'Mione," Fred yelled.
Hermione glanced back and saw the fallen child just in time. She broke apart their closed coupling so that she was only connected to him by one hand. The child was safe under the space between their arms as they skated past.
Fred, however, was less safe.
And Hermione, still connected to him, found herself pulled into his lap.
"Ummph," she said.
Fred wrapped his arms around her. "Maybe the landing isn't so bad after all."
"Maybe we should go skating more often," Hermione countered while leaning towards him.
"Maybe we will." He closed the gap between them to a chorus of whistles.
From that kiss, Hermione knew that her dangerous balancing act was over and the only balancing she had to think about now was on skates and a broom.
In case this didn't come across, I was really interested in the theme of balance in this story.
I also wanted to show a distinct shift in tone from when Hermione is alone and focused only on her own thoughts to when she is with Fred and friends remembering what it's like to have fun.