Summary: "I'm going. Alone," Hermione said, leaving no room for Ron to argue. One night, so long ago now it seemed, really had changed everything.
A/N: I just wanted to say a couple things before you start reading.
First of all, I pretty much had to write this and post it because I actually already had a full chapter done, and even though I kind of said I wouldn't do this, I wanted to get some feedback on the story to see if anyone likes the direction it's going in and if you guys are having as much fun with my new ideas as I am :) I will not be spending a lot of time in the coming weeks on this story because I have other priorities with other stories on here at the moment, so I just want everyone to know that I can't really say when I'll update this story. I do, however, have a plan for the full thing, so it's not going to be something that I'll one day come back to but have serious writer's block on and leave everyone hanging for all eternity!
I also wanted to explain really quickly that this chapter jumps between two days. I have marked each day with the date at the beginning of every switch to try and make it less confusing. This will not be happening with all the future chapters, but I needed it to be this way for this one. I hope you all enjoy this. I simply could not resist posting it when I realized that I actually had the full chapter already written down on notebook paper. After all, what's the point in hoarding new writing? ;)
Chapter 1: Fools and Their Follies
[Companion Track: Two Door Cinema Club - Costume Party (http: // www . youtube . com / watch?v=sz3AL5w1Rfs) ] - remove spaces in link
April 8, 1998
"I don't want to die."
May 2, 1998
A cool breeze stirred the grass around her feet, tickling her ankles in the space between the hems of her trousers at the tops of her socks. There was something sickly cold about the way it moved, soaking deep beneath her skin.
April 8, 1998
"We haven't really lived."
May 2, 1998
She knew they were close. She could feel them though she couldn't see or hear them. Things had crashed around them, falling to crumbs and ash, but what remained would be solid, steady and perfect... soon. It was a blinding light for them all now, a path they could choose to walk down that hadn't even been an option before now.
April 8, 1998
"We're going to be fine," he said, his voice laced with fear at her directness. He never liked a conversation without a punchline. But maybe she hadn't heard him. She was lost in an idea.
"What if this is it? I've never even..."
"What?" He couldn't help himself, impatience building as she bit her lip.
"What's the point..." she muttered with a trace of defeat, though hope remained...
"Please..." She looked at him as he longed for her to tell him what was on her mind.
"Ron," she cried, and he stifled a flinch at the desperation in her voice, a new thing he was not used to.
"I don't want to die without ever... before I even..." Begging him to understand, her eyes narrowed to keep her tears at bay, but he could not solve the riddle. "We're supposed to have love before..."
He widened his eyes on purpose, heart pounding. He needed her to sense what he had chosen to conclude from her words, hope filling him as he waited.
"I can't... can't ask you this..." said Hermione, her voice cracking as she tried not to let go.
"What are you asking me?" he whispered.
"You're my... best friend..."
"Whatever you want..." he began, stepping closer, terrified but summoning all the courage he had, "you know I'll... I'll do anything you..."
"Let me... believe that..."
Steady tears ran down her face as she approached him. She was going to tell him, but first...
"Promise me we won't change. Nothing will change..."
"I can try..." He was beginning to understand more clearly, a hint of regret in his tone for already allowing it to go this far, for her to so easily take anything she wanted from him. Not that he didn't want to give it, whatever it was, but now that he sensed the importance of what she needed, what she could not yet say, he felt his heart already breaking... but why?
"K-kiss me..." she whispered, barely audible and white with fear.
May 2, 1998
She stared out at the vast landscape before her. Red morning light seemed to coat the summer grass in blood, appropriate for the circumstances of the night before. They had won, but so many people had died, so much bloodshed for the sake of what was to come, a new beginning.
She wondered if she'd ever seen anything more beautiful...
April 8, 1998
He was reluctant to even speak at first, staring at her as if he had never seen her before. But when he blinked, the cloud lifted and he was himself again.
"I don't think you know what you're saying..." he said slowly, and she paused to take offense at his implications.
"Of course I know what I'm saying..."
"You're just... afraid..." he continued by way of explanation. His own line of excuses for her request seemed to fail even himself as he did not step back, but rather moved closer to her as he halfheartedly attempted to dismiss her. But he knew the conclusion he was headed for, as if it had ever been a question. Yes...
"Of course I'm afraid," she sniffed, and she looked terrified, all the world of suffering in her round eyes, begging for something she feared she'd die without. No use arguing, he stepped closer once more...
"You don't want things to change," he stated, shocking himself with the fact that it was not even a question. He had committed to being what she needed right now, no matter how many pieces his own heart was torn into. "Cl-close your eyes."
Her eyes widened first. He needed no more convincing. When she finally allowed her eyes to close, her chest rose sharply with a nervous inhale. The small guest bedroom seemed to shrink around them as he stepped into the beam of moonlight Hermione was standing in.
When his lips touched hers, she jumped from shock, but her eyes remained closed, her body twitching as his arms awkwardly embraced her. Their feet remained glued to the spot, trying to find a way to make things make sense. It was achingly new. She was startled by the intensity of her immediate reaction to his touch, like a bolt of lightning through her veins.
His lips, the softest touch she could remember, like he was afraid of hurting her. His hands shook, unaccustomed to solitary closeness, to silent rooms filled only with the sounds they were making. Moments turned into minutes, and he found his legs bumping into the edge of his mattress, his eyelids breaking open for a tiny second to look back into her flushed face, her eyes tightly squeezed shut as if deep in concentration, perfecting the work she was doing, this new project she had sought without proper planning...
Her hands moved inside his shirt, climbing up his back, but he could no more resist her now than he could stop breathing and go on living. Falling gently backwards, he pulled her with him, ready to go wherever she led him. But she wanted him to lead her there too, wanted to fall under his spell, the one that she was already sinking beneath, whether he knew it or not. Perhaps she didn't want him to know, if she was honest with herself. But she let him hold her, touch her, his lips moving to her neck, her jaw, her collarbone. The effort of resisting wasn't worth a knut. She had only one plan... Make no plans.
Clothes piled up together on the floor creating a beautiful mess, something she'd wish she had looked at more carefully later when she took the time to remember. He glanced over the side of the bed at her bra on top of his t-shirt, bright orange and silky black so carelessly tossed together, pushed into the same vicinity, a place that neither was familiar with. They could not have belonged together more, could not have blended more perfectly.
The feeling of cool skin over his warm chest nearly undid every restraint he had built up just now, wanting to be sure, but knowing that he could not ask her, words worth nothing now that they were here. It was never how he had imagined it, never in his fantasies that she'd come to him in tears, ask him for the one thing he had always planned on saving for her... if she wanted it.
She looked into his eyes, and he reached for his wand on his bedside table, watching every breath, every swallow, and every dart of her eyes, hoping with all that he had that he knew her well enough to understand, to take everything she had inside and spell it out into neatly written down words that he could simply read and accept, following the instructions she laid out for him.
She watched as he fumbled with his wand, clearly not knowing what he needed to do... his knowledge only stretched as far as the theoretical when it came to what they were about to do. But she knew everything, and he counted on her to be the one to say it now, to tell him what he needed to do.
"Ron..." she said as she covered his hand with her own, pointing the wand at her stomach, then his. Dazzled as usual by her ability to always know what to do, he nodded at her spellwork, his assumption that she had done it correctly all that he could really hold onto. He was losing everything he had control over. He wasn't even trying to remain coherent.
Underneath him, she moved, her body sliding against his with agonizing perfection, his heart aching but body tingling as he tried to join his conflicts into one solid feeling, something he could understand, because being so conflicted wasn't the way he had seen it, imagined it when he'd dreamt of it...
It hurt, and then it didn't. He shouted, and then grew silent, her eyes locked with his, their bodies locked the same way, together and in sync, nothing out of place or awkward for that blissful moment when it seemed that he had what he wanted, what he'd always dreamed of, what he'd thought was too good to ever come true.
But before he could breathe again, before he could remember where he was and why he had to stay silent, why he shouldn't really call out her name, it was over and she was undoing what they had built, the bridge they had made to get from one side of the turbulent river to the other. He slipped... and as he watched her stand, her back towards him, a small but sad smile on her face as she glanced his way nervously, he fell into the water, gasping for air as she pulled her blouse on over her head, ducking to avoid contact with his eyes as she thanked him, her voice hardly a whisper. He could not respond. He was underwater. He nodded.
Her heart in her throat, she left him alone in the guest room, morning dawning even as she made her way to the loo across the hall. They would leave very soon, mere weeks now, the next part of their impossible journey suddenly lit by a very small flame. And when they were through, they could add master thieves to their list of accomplishments. Gringotts would be slightly less full after what they had in store. And this... this was something she could plan, something simple, something that made every bit of sense...
She could put it behind her now, what they had just done, the thing that she had to force herself not to be ashamed of. It was over. Wasn't it? He was her best friend. That would never change. He had promised. All she wanted in the world was for him to still be there, still smile at her and encourage her, still give her a reason to go on living. Maybe he didn't love her, maybe he never would, but she had felt it, just for a moment, just now in a strange room in a strange house with the only person in the world she ever wanted...
They had to be the same. They simply had to. And she had to be sure it would work.
As she closed the bathroom door, she felt a nagging in the back of her mind, a little voice that whispered that she was a fool. How could it not mean anything? How could he possibly go on the way things had been before? He would look at her differently, and even if he didn't, she would think that he did. Shaking her head, she stomped her foot in frustration. She had made one promise, one simple rule when she'd allowed her tears to show, asking him... no, begging him... for the one thing she thought she was lacking, the one thing she wanted before her own death, before what might be coming. She imagined briefly how things would be if she had never been with him, never felt so loved and protected and comforted... but was it a lie that she was feeling? Had it all been inside her own head? She had convinced herself that she didn't mind, that if she could just feel it, she'd be okay, whether or not it was sincere, whether or not he loved her at all. But would she really? Could she?
She nodded. She had to. This was it. They needed her. She needed them. And she had a job to do, a plan.
A plan. A focus. A direction.
Blind to everything else, clearing it from her mind, or so she thought, she nodded once more at her own reflection, and stepped out onto the landing... ready.
May 2, 1998
Voldemort was dead, had been for nearly an hour, but it would not sink in... not until...
She heard Ron's voice behind her, saying something to Harry, and now that they were alive, faced with what they had done for all time, his voice became like a knife, razor sharp but distant, colder than ice.
"It's over," she whispered to the world, to no one perhaps, though her words would never mean what they would have to anyone else. If she was alive, then why did she feel so dead?
She could have been a ghost, floating just above the surface of the earth, her body suspended weightlessly in a state of limbo between this life and what came next. But she would always know that next was too far away to ever reach, a goal she would never accomplish or see to the end. And as she now realized, like a punch in the face, being stuck here now, knowing that what she'd asked for, a promise to never change, was as impossible as dying and returning to life... well, it was so much worse than knowing the truth, than facing the reality of never truly living, of dying with his smile and his face etched into her mind, but a question on her lips, one she'd never ask... It suited her, it seemed to taunt and tease her, reminding her that it was now impossible to go back and have what she wished could be. If she could have that, the chance to know... But it was over, death now... stuck in between knowing and denying, words and silence.
She was dead. They just didn't know it yet.