Hey everyone. I hope you like this – it might be my favorite thing I've written, fanfic-wise. Thanks to Serp for the unintentional inspiration, haha. Canon-compliant.
It was an October 3rd a lot like the others. Hermione woke up to the sunrise, a sunrise that reddened a grim striation of cloud lying flat on the horizon. The red of a graying woman's cheeks on a nippy day. The red of withered roses that had never bloomed.
The bloodied sky did not bode well for the day's events, and neither did the icy cold of the hardwood floor as Hermione's feet pressed against them.
She cast a glance back at the bed, as if expecting Ron to have awoken, but he hadn't. He never did until she came out of the bathroom, fresh and ready for the new day, and this day would be no different. So Hermione brushed her teeth, flossing very thoroughly, and wondered if Rose and Hugo were doing the same. It had been a while since she'd written them letters – she figured that her vigorous once-a-week habits should fade, now that both had graduated from Hogwarts and were in training. Rose was interning at the Daily Prophet, while Hugo intended to be an Unspeakable.
Hermione touched the curve of her gently-sagging cheek, staring into the mirror without dismay. Old age came with that type of physical adjustment, of course, but it also came with respect. Mountains of respect, especially now that she was the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
She opened the bathroom door. Ron was sitting up, now, his pale feet resting on the floor. Hermione wondered what it would have been like if she had emerged to find him asleep. It would have been unusual, she mused, which was a shock to realize. It would be legitimately abnormal for her to find her husband waking up even five minutes after his usual schedule.
"Morning," she said.
"Mmgh," replied Ron, his blue eyes still bleary.
Hermione gestured at the kitchen. "I'll make you some eggs, but I have to go to the office early. Mulver seems to have encountered some sort of problem with a trainee growing an extra pair of ears out of the backs of his hands, and Mungo's is full because of that bomb going off near Diagon Alley." Ron's head bobbed up and down tiredly, and he stretched out in a yawn, finally hoisting himself to his feet. Hermione continued, "I told him I'd try to get rid of them, but I'm not going to pretend I'm some sort of surgical expert... do you know any sort of countercurse I might try to use, or anything? Ron?" She paused, but he didn't answer, so she pushed on. "I tried a few of my favorite books on odd Transfigurations, but I'm not even sure if it is a Transfiguration. So I poked through some articles on body part adjustment, which didn't turn anything up, either."
He shrugged. "Just try your best; I'll sure it'll be fine," he yawned, kissing the top of her head before stepping into the bathroom behind Hermione. He shut the door.
Hermione turned to face the door. "Well, have you ever heard of something like that happening before? If Mungo's wasn't so stopped up with burn victims and everything, I'd just redirect him over there..."
"Muggle technology, I swear to Merlin," came Ron's disgruntled voice, and Hermione sighed.
"Yes, Ron," she said, and decided not to pursue the issue further. Ron never really divulged details about what he'd learned during his long Auror career with her, and extra ears hadn't really been the type of thing he'd been involved with, anyway. And the last thing she wanted to discuss was nuclear weaponry.
She made Ron a hasty breakfast and left for work with a bagel in hand.
In the end, the ears turned out to be too advanced for Hermione. She told Mulver fiercely that she'd research it and get back to him tomorrow, but he insisted on Mungo's, so she agreed, if a bit reluctantly. The rest of the day was mundane, spent on retrospective case analysis and future prevention, like any other Wednesday.
Hermione got onto the lift at the end of the day, holding some reports that needed filing. It was six o'clock. She would Floo home by six thirty. She and Ron would eat by seven.
It started off as a tiny inkling of an idea, but once it had manifested itself, she wondered why it had never shown up before. It twisted down several different avenues, casting her thoughts into disarray. What if she returned home and things were different?
What if Ron decided to do something relatively normal, like going to visit Harry? They hadn't had dinner with Harry since four months ago, when he'd gone somewhere in Egypt to investigate some odd charms around a pyramid. They owled each other weekly, but neither party had yet felt like Apparating that far – after all, the farther, the more unpleasant the sensation – but what if she returned home and Ron had decided to do it?
But what if it were something more surreal? What if she walked in the door, and Ron lay there on the bed, entangled in the limbs of another woman? What if Hermione screamed and yelled and found a strange coldness creeping into her at the sight of it? What if she just stood there, dumbstruck, unable to believe that out of everything different it could be, it was this?
What if she walked in and the walls were blue instead of red? What if she asked why, and he said, "I felt like a change?"
What if she walked in, and Rose and Hugo had decided to surprise their parents with a quick visit? What if Ron decided to cook dinner for once? What if she walked in the door and found that there was a hole in the woodwork of the floor and she just fell... what if... –
But as she stepped into the fire, and stepped out into the lobby of the apartment complex, and took the traveling staircase up to her apartment's door – as she opened the door and stepped inside – as she looked around her home –
Nothing happened. Ron sat at the table, holding Quidditch Weekly in his right hand, hot chocolate in his left. He looked up as she shut the door.
"You alright?" he asked.
"Fine," she replied blankly. "Why?"
Ron shrugged, looking back at his magazine. "You look a bit out of sorts, that's all," he said.
"Oh. I was... actually wondering," she said, but then she stopped. What was there to suggest they do? Go out for dinner? What would the change of location change, really, besides the location? They were the same people, and the conversations would be similarly sparse, or, if not sparse, contrived. "What are you reading?" she said instead.
"Oh, it's brilliant," Ron said, grinning. "Get this – the half-pin swallowtail loop that Anders pulled in the Germany-Switzerland match? Hawks tried to copy it – Cannons chaser, left front, that's Hawks – and he spiraled right into the crowd. It was stupid to think that he could do the same move, 'course... I mean, look at Anders' broom, that's specially engineered to have minimum drag on the tail end, and it's got a shorter handle and all, perfect for vertical spins..."
Hermione nodded, trying her best to look interested.
"You're not getting me, are you?" asked Ron, his grin fading slightly at the edges.
"No," she sighed. Even after all these years, Quidditch failed to appeal to her. Ron shook his head in what seemed like mild disbelief and turned back to his article.
"You know, we should go see a Cannons game sometime," Ron said, still looking at the magazine. "I mean, you'd be really interested in some of this stuff. The engineers who make brooms have got some really interesting magical techniques."
It was empty, and Hermione knew it. Every suggestion that involved the word 'should' prompted her swift consensus, but also promised that the issue would never be raised again. Nothing ever really mobilized itself unless Hermione took it upon herself to get others involved, and then she never felt like she was seeing the real Ron. Not around others.
Part of her heart glowed to realize that she held such a vital part of him – the part of him that could relax, could be quiet and serene and shy and wordless. At the same time, though, would she have rather held the part that had such vigor in it – the vitality of Molly Weasley? The part that was able to laugh and joke so easily with Harry, the part that wasn't scared of being judged for making some stupid crack at something or other? With the fade of youth, declarations of flaming passion had deteriorated into the simmers of embers, waves of old heat echoing off in unsaid ripples.
Hermione wondered why she felt almost a bit disappointed to realize that there was no hole beneath her feet into which she was going to fall without warning. There was no change in the color of the walls, no dinner ready-made for her by her husband, no slightest alteration in the panoply of things that could have been altered – that should have been altered so many times – she was suddenly dreaming of things wild and fiery and lurid and new –
But she was so tired, and so hungry. Hermione slowly sat down at the table next to Ron, her eyes carefully flickering up to, and then away from, Ron's calm visage. He was content. So content.
His hand was lying on the table. She rested hers on top of it carefully. He looked up and smiled at her, then went back to reading.
It seemed bizarre to Hermione that she could say any number of things that would change everything forever, all untrue, all exhilarating in their falsity. I'm pregnant. I'm leaving you. I'm quitting my job. I've decided to write a novel, to study genetics, to conquer evil and to fill a rocket with myself and my dreams and blast off into cold empty space in search of something – anything – anything more –
The silence held so much potential.
Ron's blue eyes worked slowly on the second paragraph.
Hermione said nothing, because she had said nothing of consequence in a year and she had made a habit of it. She said nothing, because she didn't want to disturb his peace. She said nothing, because she didn't want to bring out that old insecurity, didn't want to make him think she was dissatisfied. She said nothing, because there are just some things you can't explain, not with words or touches or twenty-seven years.
I implore you – tell me what you think. I'd really love to hear your thoughts on this.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it.
With love, as always,