She edged her way through the long walkway of Diagon Alley, trying painfully to block out the whispers and stares she was sure were directed toward her. Three more stores, her mind whispered. She came to a stop in front of Flourish and Blott's, taking the doorknob in her shaking hand. She slowly turned the knob, struggling not to draw too much attention but finding it quite difficult to steady her trembling hand. As she reluctantly pushed the door into the shop, she stumbled. Staring her in the eye through the door window was a pair of brown eyes that had lost their humor years ago.
Fred Weasley stared in shock at the woman he faced. Catching his breath, he pulled the door open, the doorknob practically leaping from her hand. He stepped back, remembering the manners his beloved late mother had always emphasized. She hesitated, scared of what he might say. When no sound came from his direction, she stepped into the bookshop and looked up at the man she had loved.
"Fred. It's… been quite a while, hasn't it?" she began unsteadily. He regarded the fear and uncertainty in her eyes. Every wall of defense he had just erected nearly crumbled to fine dust when he looked into her doleful brown eyes. He took a deep breath and nodded. He didn't want to make her cry, but the cold, detached nod was more than enough to bring tears. He reached up and wiped away the few tears lining her eyes.
"How are you doing?" he asked. She sniffled softly and tilted her head downwards, avoiding his slightly warmed gaze.
"Getting by, I suppose," she mumbled. "And yourself?"
"I manage. Er… well, how's that cat of yours?" he asked, instantly regretting the question when he saw her shoulders drop.
"Crookshanks was run over by a car, actually. It's been a couple months now. Er… well, I suppose I ought to get going." She desperately wanted to escape from this conversation, for a sales clerk to appear and ask if they could help her. But there was nobody in sight, only a few customers either very engaged in their purchases or politely pretending not to notice the awkward exchange.
"I have more shopping to be done," she muttered, making a quick turn on her heel and heading for the door. Before Fred could stop her, she was out the door and walking briskly down Diagon Alley towards her next stop, Madam Malkin's. Fred jogged after her and pulled her away from the public's prying eyes and ears. "Please, I have to get some things," she pleaded, trying in vain to remove her arm from his grasp.
"Then why were you in the shop? You just accidentally wandered into the bookshop?"
"Fred, please, don't," she begged, her voice little more than a whisper.
"Don't? Don't what? After all this time you run into me and act like nothing happened and expect me to-"
"I'm sorry!" she screamed as she turned back to him, her voice full of raw pain and remorse. She began to push past him, but he did not budge. Stepping back, she hung her head. "I'm sorry for what happened that night, and I'm sorry for what I cost you," she spoke in a low, broken voice. "I've never stopped loving you, and to this day I cry myself to sleep every night. I know that I hurt you, and I know you hate me for what happened. I'm so sorry…" she trailed off, sinking further into herself.
He stared at her, unsure how to respond. He struggled to find the right words. They had never spoken like this before, never even talked about what had happened. He remembered the few moments in the Great Hall, before reality had sunk in. The sobs behind him as he walked away.
"I know. I know you're sorry," he paused, taking in the hope the suddenly lit her eyes. Those eyes had once been the only thing he looked forward to seeing. He began to speak, but stopped. He remembered the eyes he saw regularly now, the broken heart visible in his father's eyes. "For the past three years, my father has asked me why you never told us that Ginny was a Death Eater. I know that you knew. He asks me what happened to make my sister, his little girl, go astray. He asks me how I loved someone for so long, someone who couldn't even save his daughter." He sighed, blinking away a few stray tears.
"I have no answers for him. Because you didn't tell me when you found out Ginny's true loyalties. You knew why she joined them. And the third question, I can answer easily. But I don't. Because it would hurt him far too much. I loved you because you were innocent, radiant and so kind. You were the most beautiful woman I had ever met. I had so much faith in your strength, your goodness. You believed in stunning, and that was all. You had too kind of a heart to kill someone. I can't tell my father that I knew you would never make use of it when they began letting Aurors use the Killing Curse. I was wrong."
"The day Ginny died, everything I thought I knew about you vanished. I could no longer love you. You were a different person. I know you were trying to protect our future, but you should have known I couldn't have a future with someone who I couldn't trust. Someone who couldn't trust me.
"You could have Stunned her, cursed her, anything. But you chose the worst curse of them all," he paused in his tirade. Was this how he wanted to end this? Did he want to continue? The idea of leaving now, of letting it go, flitted across his mind. He turned and walked away. Standing at the mouth of the alley, he heard her begin to sob quietly.
"What really gets me is that you didn't even apologize when I confronted you about hiding her loyalties. You were sorry you killed her, and you were sorry that you didn't think twice, but you were never sorry for not telling me. I don't want your apologies. I want the woman I loved back, but that's not going to happen."
He took one last look at the love of his life and blinked. She was so small now, so broken and defeated. Her thin form registered in his mind as a sign that she wasn't taking care of herself. Her crumpled body, the way she curled into herself as she cried, meant that she really was no longer the strong woman he had fallen in love with. He could see this through the anger seething within him, but he refused to care. He was done with this woman who had broken his heart.
He Disapparated and met his brothers two minutes later when they would Apparate to the cemetery. They always visited her every month. He broke away from them for a few minutes, venturing into the forest to vent his anger before seeing his sister.
Hermione Granger was left crying on the ground, unaware of anything around her. Hours later, she Apparated into her flat only to find a letter from Ron Weasley telling her to leave his family alone. That if he ever found out she talked to his brother again, he would use all the Unforgivables without hesitation. Unable to handle anymore unforgiving hatred, she crawled into her bed fully dressed. I'm sorry, Ginny, she thought. I'm sorry I couldn't save you from Voldemort. I'm sorry I couldn't save you in time to save both of us.
Disclaimer: All things Harry Potter belong to JK Rowling.