Title: Hold On, Love
Prompt: Snowed In
Pairing(s): Ron/Hermione, Harry/Ginny, George/Angelina, Percy/Audrey, Bill/ Fleur. Allusion to unrequited Charlie/Tonks, but kept faithful with Remus/Tonks.
Summary: Christmas it's always a time for reflection, especially the first one after the War. And as the date draws nearer, Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys reconnect, learn how to let go of their grief and hold on to what's important – love.
A/N: I think I've taken the prompt and wrote something completely different from what it had started out as, but I hope you can all enjoy this story. I tried my best to capture the dynamic of those couples, especially Fleur/Bill. Fleur speech is hard, and I've done my best. Many thanks goes to the lovely A.J. for insisting that I had to cut down some scenes, because otherwise this story would turn our crazy long; as well all the hugs in the world for Anna, for not murdering with all of our back-and-forth while we tried to tame the grammar and punctuation of this little beast.
Hold On, Love
"And when the darkness falls over
Like a storm cloud in my head,
Something inside says it's easier
To push you away but stay and
Hold on love."
December 20th, 1998
On that grey, cold morning, when Harry Potter walked into the spacious and newly renovated kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place, the place he was slowly growing accustomed to calling home, he wasn't surprised to find his best mate, Ron Weasley, already sitting there with a cup of tea. Ron beating him to the kitchen was an everyday occurrence, as Harry had grown to learn ever since they'd moved into the residence a couple of months after the end of the war.
After the funerals and the rebuilding of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, Harry had spent his days drifting around in a haze of helplessness that came once one fulfilled what felt like their sole of his existence.
But Hermione, Merlin bless her heart, seemed to be only who hadn't lost her focus in the wake of destruction that followed Voldermort's defeat, and she had practically forced her friends out of their stupor when she announced that she would be returning to Hogwarts to complete her education.
After several arguments and loud rows with Harry and Ron about their future, Hermione seemed to settle down and accept the fact that, as Ron had bluntly put it, "there was no way in hell they were ever going back to school."
Now, months later, things had settled into a quiet routine. Harry had started his Auror training at the Ministry of Magic, doing his best to help keep their world safe from the evil that still lurked around after Voldermort's defeat. He was also helping Andromeda Tonks look after with his godson, Teddy, whom Harry had grown to love very deeply.
Ron now seemed to be faring a lot better than he did after the death of his brother, and since Hermione had left in September. He has been putting all of his focus and energy into helping George with the joke shop, but Harry could tell he was having a hard time. Ron was missing Hermione, and was looking forward to seeing her once she came home for the Christmas holidays.
But now, as Harry entered his kitchen rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he could sense something wasn't right. Ron was staring at the scrap of parchment clutched in his hands, transfixed, completely mesmerized by the contents of the letter. His tea sat cold in the table in front of him, and he paid Harry no attention, as if he hadn't even heard him come in.
"Any news from Hermione?" Harry asked, barely stopping himself from asking about Ginny, his very own source of anxiety, as he pulled out one of their chipped tea-cups from the cupboard.
"Yeah," Ron exhaled loudly, tearing his eyes away from Hermione's letter and looking at Harry for the first time. "She said she's not coming home though."
"Oh." Harry didn't quite know what to respond – he had feared this would happen, and so did Ron, even though they'd both tried to remain positive.
"She says she can't afford to neglect her NEWTs revision now, and that it would be best if she stayed at school during the break." Ron let out a laugh, but Harry could hear the bitterness behind it. "Can you believe her?"
"Look, Ron –" Harry started, but his friend interrupted him.
"Don't bother, Harry," he warned. "We both know that the real reason why she won't come home for Christmas has nothing to do with school."
He nodded, taking a sip of his tea and wincing once he realized he'd forgotten to add the sugar.
"But if Hermione thinks I'll just sit around waiting for her to come to her senses, she's sorely mistaken," Ron added, shaking his head as he walked out of the room.
Oh boy, Harry thought, pouring some milk into his cup – This cannot end well.
December 21st, 1998
George opened his eyes, trying to access his surroundings. His head was pounding with all its might, his tongue felt like sandpaper and he was fully-clothed except for one missing shoe.
It had been one of those nights.
"It's alive," a raspy voice nearby announced, but there was no amusement behind its tone, as George quickly figured out. "I was beginning to worry, but then I figured that you couldn't have been that pissed out of your mind, since you still managed to Apparate to my flat."
Angelina, his brain recognized. George tried to sit up so that he could see her, drink her in. Merlin, it had been a while, too long, and suddenly he was nervous.
"Hey," he whispered at her direction once he'd managed to sit up. She was sitting on an ottoman across the room, and George realized he'd been sleeping on her purple sofa, with a thick blanket lying across him, a protection from the cold weather.
He tried to muster a smile, but it came out as a grimace instead.
"Hey yourself," she shot back, motioning towards a vial of something sitting on her centre table. "Drink this; it will put an end to the circus inside your head."
"Thanks," he choked out between gulps. It tasted horrible, but it was a small price to pay if it took care of the nausea and other usual fun symptoms of a hangover. "You didn't need to do this, Angie."
"Don't call me Angie," she snapped. Her face and eyes were burning with something akin to anger, but not quite. Merlin, she was beautiful. "Just don't, okay? You've got no right to, anymore."
"I know, I'm sorry –" he tried to apologize, but she wasn't having any.
"How long do you think you can keep on doing this, George? Going on those drinking binges and coming here, when you said, said we'd never..." He cringed when he saw the tears forming in her eyes, and even though he was no longer hung-over, he still felt like shite. "You keep hurting me, and I keep letting you.
"But I can't do this anymore. All I want is to just go back in time, back to when Fredwas still alive, and you weren't so full of pain, and things between us weren't this complicated."
She was staring at him as if she wanted him to have all the answers in the world, but the truth of the matter was that he didn't, that he barely knew anything anymore.
"Angie," he said softly. "It was never uncomplicated." He took a deep breath, trying to speak through the growing tightness his throat, "I'll go, and I won't ever come around anymore if you don't want me to, but what I've said before about us..." he trailed off, looking for words that seemed to evade him.
"I miss him. This will never stop being true. There's no one out there that could replace him, and it gets so hard sometimes, not having him around. And I'm sorry, I'm so sorry that I hurt you before, and I can't promise to never do this again, but what I can promise to do is try harder. I'll stop drinking; I'll deal with this... with losing him." He took a deep breath. "Because I can't lose you too."
Patting his pockets, George finally found his wand. Angelina had turned her back to him, and from the rigid posture of her shoulders, he could tell she was trying her best to hold herself together until he left.
"I – do you want me to go?" he asked, almost cringing at how equally pleading and unsure he sounded. But that's how he felt, and she knew that now.
"No," Angelina whispered. "Stay."
So they met halfway, crossing the space between them with four long strides, their bodies touching in every single place, leaving no room whatsoever to anything else but this quiet understanding they'd reached, of this promise to try and get better, to be better and kinder and not bitter for each other.
December 22nd, 1998
How long had it been since he was standing in front of the blue door like a fool?
Charlie had always prided himself on being strong, on being brave, but somehow, when it came to her, he often found himself turning into a spineless coward.
He didn't even know why he'd thought the need to come here, to this place that held so many memories and so much loss, but ever since he'd come back home for Christmas, this was all that he could think about.
But maybe it was a stupid idea in the first place, Charlie tried to convince himself. Despite what Audrey thought, doing this wouldn't do him any favours, and maybe he wasn't even welcome here anymore in the first place.
Maybe he should just leave.
Maybe he should stay.
The decision was made for him, though, when the blue door opened and a regal looking woman answered the door with a blue-haired toddler in her arms.
"Charles!" She looked surprised, but her eyes softened when she caught the look on his face while he stared at her grandson. "Please, come in."
Charlie felt completely out of his element, standing on the spacious living room across from Mrs Tonks like he'd done so many times before. But this time, there was no stumbling pink-haired girl standing right next to him.
"I heard about Mr Tonks," he offered awkwardly. "I'm truly sorry for your loss."
"Thank you, Charles," Andromeda acknowledged, and even though she kept her usually cool exterior, Charlie still saw the flush of pain in her eyes when he mentioned her late husband's name. "I'd assumed you would come around here sooner or later ever since... Nymphadora."
"I'd meant to come earlier," he admitted. "I just...couldn't," he finished lamely.
"I understand," she reassured him. "It was a difficult time for all of us. I just made tea, would you like some?"
"No, thank you, I'm fine."
They sat in uncomfortable silence for a couple of minutes, Charlie watching hernine-months old son playing with his red and gold lion on the floor, his hair occasionally changing colours to match the fur of his stuffed animal.
"I don't even know why I'm here," he suddenly blurted out.
"You were one of her closest friends," Andromeda volunteered.
"It's not just that – I never told her how I felt," he couldn't stop talking, couldn't keep the words in now that he'd said them. "I was a coward when I left for Romania, because I knew I would never make her happy, she always burned so bright, and I never told her, I've never... and now I can't."
"That's okay, Charles." Andromeda's eyes were kind and filled with compassion and understanding when she looked at him. "I think she might've known it anyway." After a pause, she added. "I'm sorry you have lost her as well."
He shook his head – how could he have lost something he'd never even had in the first place? He had realized too late that he'd wanted her, and by then, she had already given her heart to someone else.
"Did he – did Lupin made her happy?"
"Most of the time," she admitted. "Other times he drove her mad, but I think that's just the nature of love. When it's true, it isn't always pretty, and it's almost never easy, but you find it in your heart to keep fighting for it. And in the end, it was all worth it, wasn't it?" She motioned to her grandson, whose hair had just turned a blinding shade of yellow. "They made Teddy, and for that, I'm forever grateful."
She sent him a serene smile that spoke volumes about acceptance and grief before standing up, kissing him on the cheek, and offering him the baby.
"Would you like to hold him?"
December 23rd, 1998
"I really don't want to this, Mum," Ginny protested, but her mother has having none of it. "I don't need new clothes, and I don't feel like going to Diagon alley today. I just got back from school, for Merlin's sake. Do you know for how long I've wanted to sleep in my bed?"
"You can sleep in tomorrow, Ginevra." Her mother was using hers no-nonsense tone, and Ginny knew there was no getting away with this. "I need you to go by Madam Malkin's and fetch the new robe I ordered for your father. And since we got some extra money, I thought you might like to get fitted for a new dress."
"I hate dresses."
"Suit yourself," Molly answered, blustering around the room and picking up some of the dirty clothes that her daughter had left pooling on the floor. "But you're still going. Unless you want to be the one doing all the Christmas cooking."
"Thanks, but no thanks," she conceded, then letting out a loud yawn. "I'll go."
"You need to be there precisely by ten, and it's after eight now, so you need to get up and get ready." Her Mum sent her a hopeful smile, and Ginny braced herself. "And since you claim to hate dresses, maybe you could look for something a little bit festive while you're out. I have also heard The Leaky serves a decent lunch on Wednesdays, Ginny, did you know? Apparently, Tom needed help, and that Abbott girl helped him turn the place around."
"Up you go then, Ginnykins."
"Mum! I'm of age!" She couldn't avoid blushing. "Would you just –"
But she was cut short by one of the famous Molly Weasley's hugs.
"I'm glad you're home, Ginny," her mother admitted.
"I'm glad to be home," Ginny replied softly, touching her mum's hand. "But I would love it much more if you let me sleep in tomorrow."
"We'll see," Molly winked in her daughter's direction, walking out of the room just as fast as she had gotten in.
Ginny huffed but got up anyway – as much she would like to just lie in bed all day, there were things to be done, and she would rather shop around in Diagon Alley than spend her day cooking while Celestina Warbeck played on the background.
Percy could barely keep his eyes open.
He had endured a fourteen hours shift at the Ministry of Magic, where he was still working in the position of Junior Assistant to Kingsley Shacklebolt, the interim Minister for Magic. Things at the office have been hectic, to say the least, but with the holidays fast approaching, they were all working overtime.
As he was leaving, Percy decided on a whim to Apparate to The Burrow instead of his flat, which he shared with Ethan Sullivan, a Hufflepuff from one year below him at school that he'd befriended while working for Bartemius Crouch.
Even after the War, when Ethan had moved on to the Improper Use of Magic Office, he and Percy had remained friends. They've been as flatmates as well for three months, but now Ethan's girlfriend was supposed to be staying at their flat for Christmas, and Percy was trying to make himself scarce. In order to give the couple a bit of privacy, at least for a couple of hours more, Percy Apparated straight to his old bedroom. He would probably go downstairs later to see his Mum, and he might even come to his Dad's shed and work with him for a while.
The room was immersed in complete darkness, just like Percy liked it. He stepped out of his shoes immediately, stripping down to his pants and undershirt before setting his glasses into the bedside table.
The bed was warm, which was rather unusual, but while it was a surprise, it wasn't an unpleasant one at that. Percy rolled around, hoping to spread out his limbs a bit before falling asleep, but let out a loud yelp when his body collided with another one, a soft and curvy one, that certainly didn't belong in his bed.
"What the hell?" A female voice shrieked, still a bit gruff from sleep. She tackled him on the ribs with her elbow, sending Percy to the cold floor.
"OW!" Percy cried out, his voice wavering as his butt painfully connected with the wooden surface.
"Who the hell are you?" the blurry blond-haired girl demanded, kneeling on his bed, clad only on her black bra and lemon-green knickers. She was pointing her wand at him, and Percy flushed, groping around for his trousers and hastily putting them on.
"I should ask you the same question," he bit back, trying to sound as dignified as one can while blindly searching for his glasses with a beautiful, half-starkers girl staring him down. "Especially since this is my room."
"Oh." Now that the girl was in focus, Percy could see that she had big, expressive green eyes. He could also see a whole lot more than that, though he was really trying not to. "Sorry. You must be Percy, then. I'm Audrey Fawcett, Charlie's friend from the reserve, the charity case he invited back home for Christmas."
She made a move to shake his hand, and then cringed once she realized her current state of undress. Gathering Percy's stripped blue and white sheets around her body; Audrey hopped out of his bed and extended her hand.
"Your Mum told me it was okay to sleep here, I'm sorry."
He shook her hand briefly, putting some effort into trying not to stare at her still visible cleavage, which was a real hardship; as it had been a while since he has had a girl in his room. Scratch that – he'd never had a girl in this room before.
"No, I'm sorry; she didn't know I was coming home. It was a...," he gulped down when she gave him a wide, toothy smile. "A coincidence," he finished awkwardly.
"That's okay," Audrey agreeably accepted. "If you give me five minutes, I'll pull myself together and get out of here so that you can sleep."
"Oh, okay," it took him a beat to figure out what she meant. Percy retreated to the hallway with something akin to regret pitting at the bottom of his stomach, having just realizing this Audrey girl had very kissable lips.
Shaking himself, Percy willed his thoughts and agitated body parts to remain calm. His life was a bit of a mess at the moment, and he positively didn't need to deal with this kind of confusion, particularly when he was still trying to make amends with his family.
"So which one are you?" She asked through the door. Percy could hear her padding around, probably gathering her stuff. "The curse-breaker one? I can't get all of your names straight, there's just so many of you and frankly, I'm terrible at it. And Charlie isn't much of a talker, as I'm sure you know."
Percy laughed a little bit – that was an understatement.
"That he's not," he approved. "I'm the one that –" But then he stopped. He was the one that what? – the one that had up and left, disowning his family? The one that got so blinded by his ambition that he lost sight of what was important?
He wasn't that person anymore, nor did he wish to be.
"I'm not really sure which one I am," he confessed. There was a moment of silence from the other side of the door, and then Audrey said.
"That's okay, I think. Most days I'm not really sure who I am either."
There was a loud bang, and he could hear her mutter some curse words in another language, probably Romanian, from what Percy could gather.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, I just bumped into your work desk, no big deal," she assured him. "Look, Percy – right?"
"My Mum used to tell me that half of the fun of being alive was trying to figure things out," and with that Audrey opened the door. She was now wearing clothes, and her curly blond hair was swept into a tight ponytail, making those vibrant green-eyes of hers stand out. "I'm taking my time, you know? I might not know exactly who I am yet, but I know who I don't want to be, so, for now, that's good enough. Maybe it can be good enough for you as well."
Harry's stomach was growling, vehemently demanding some food. He'd done some house calls this morning, following up on sightings of suspected Dark wizards, but there was still what looked like a mountain of paperwork to get done. It was a Wednesday; the day The Leaky served tangerine chicken with red rice, one of his favourite dishes.
His mouth practically salivated at the thought, so Harry got up, deciding that the paperwork would just have to wait. As Mrs. Weasley often reminded him, he was a growing boy in need of nourishment, and he was more than inclined to agree with that statement now that the hunger pains were getting difficult to ignore.
He sent Ron an Owl, asking him to meet him at the pub. Harry was hoping to catch his friend in a better mood than the foul one he'd been in lately, ever since Hermione's letter, and Harry thought that good food might cheer him up.
The Leaky was filled with customers as usual, and Harry craned his neck trying to find Hannah Abbott, the new landlady, hoping to get a seat by the fireplace.
He spotted a flash of red hair by the bar and smiled. Ron had gotten his message and showed up, so maybe things were turning around.
"Hey, mate," he called out as he approached. "You came here awfully fas –"
But he stopped dead in his tracks once he realized that the red-haired person was at least a head smaller than Ron. And that it was most definitely a girl.
"Ginny," he breathed out. He stood there, gaping like a fish. While he knew she was coming home for Christmas, he'd figured he would only get to see her at the Burrow. He certainly hadn't expected her to be sitting here, at the Leaky Cauldron, looking a bit confused, quite flushed and very surprised.
Realizing he must look quite weird, just standing there staring at the girl he hadn't seen in months, Harry made a motion to sit. She nodded, and he took the stool right next to her, his growling stomach forgotten.
"Hi, Harry," she greeted him, a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips.
"You cut your hair," he blurted out, touching the tips of her auburn hair without even realizing. Now it barely reached her shoulders, and he found that it made her look more mature. He had liked it when it was long, and he'd spend very memorable moments running his hands through it. But this new look suited her, though; it suited the haunted look in her eyes.
Realizing what he was doing, Harry removed his hand, mentally scolding himself. They hadn't seen each other for precisely three months and twenty-two days, ever since she left for her last year at school. To top it off, they hadn't talked, really and truly talked, ever since those awful days that followed Fred's funeral.
The fact was that they hadn't been at their best then, and some harsh words were exchanged on both accounts. In the end, Ginny had made it painfully clear that they had a long way to go before they could call themselves friends, let alone something more, and Harry was trying his best to give her some space.
But now that he'd finally gotten to see her, looking even more beautiful than he could remember, Harry had to fight against every instinct of his that begged him to touch her, to kiss her, to hold her close and never let her go.
He wanted so bad to ask if she still felt about him the way she did when she'd kissed him for the last time, way back, on the day of his seventeenth birthday.
"Have you eaten yet?" was what he'd asked her instead.
"No, but I've just ordered the tangerine chicken –"
"With the red rice?" Harry finished. Surprised, she laughed and nodded. "It's my favourite dish, you know? I come here to lunch every Wednesday just for that."
"You do, do you?" Ginny muttered, rolling her eyes. Her Mum was so transparent, and yet, so devious sometimes. "Of course you do."
"What?" Harry asked, genuinely flabbergasted.
"Nothing," she said, shaking her head in amusement. "Are you going to order? If you have the time, maybe we could have lunch together and catch up?"
"Yeah, okay," he agreed, his heart thrumming louder with the perspective of sharing the next hour talking with the girl he's been missing so much, and for so long. Lunch was a start, wasn't it? It had to be. "I think I have all the time in the world. I'm really, really hungry."
Ginny laughed and flagged a waitress, ordering them two Butterbeers, and Harry couldn't help but laugh right along with her – and this was all he'd ever wanted to do anyway.
December 24th, 1998
Fleur could always tell Bill's mood.
She was so attuned to this man, to her husband, that she always knew, by something as simple as a quick look into his deep blue eyes, the way Bill was feeling.
He wore his heart on his sleeve, Fleur's mother-in-law had once told her. Please don't break it, was what Molly's words meant instead.
As if she would ever.
Today, she could just tell it would be one of the bad ones. Bill was restless, and it was in part because of the shifting tides of the fast-approaching full moon, but Fleur felt that it had a lot more to do with what this date meant to him and his family, the Christmas Eve.
For Bill, this was a time to be joyful, a time to be grateful. A time for presents and delicious food, of Celestina Warbeck's Christmas broadcast and Weasley sweaters. It was a time made for laughter by the fire, kisses that tasted of egg-nog and rowdy games of Exploding Snap with his siblings.
But this year, one of them wouldn't be there, and he would never be there again.
Death, Fleur though, was like a thief in the night. It sneaks into your house and barges into your home announced. It steals from you when you least expect it, taking things with it that can never be replaced, that will be greatly missed.
And you're left with this feeling that permeates your every thought and every action, a feeling that never disappears, and that even when it ebbs away sometimes, always returns with a vengeance, burning everything in its wake.
Bill didn't know how to grieve, Fleur had come to learn.
It was almost funny, how practically nobody knew that Bill was putting up this front, playing the role of the big brother like it was a mission, carrying on pretending to be fine.
But she knew, she sawhow much it took out of him to act as if he was the strong one, the one who tried so hard to hold his family together when they were all falling apart after Fred's death.
Fleur understood, even though Bill tried to put up the facade with her as well, trying to be strong for her. But what he couldn't seem to understand was that she didn't needed him to be strong for her. She didn't need him to act like he wasn't suffering as much or wasn't as torn apart as the others.
She saw him.
She saw all parts of him, good and bad, and she loved them all.
And Fleur, she needed him to see iher/i. To see that she was by his side, and that she wouldn't shy away from his pain. That she didn't want him to be strong for her because this was the time that she could be strong for him, for the both of them.
But no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't get through the emotional wall Bill had put up in the last six months.
Tonight, he was lying on his back on their bed, watching her as she slipped into the lovely green dress he'd given her for their first anniversary. He was already dressed in the black slacks, silver buttoned-up shirt and his inseparable Dragon-hide jacket, his long hair tied up to appease his mother and to keep her from complaining to Fleur about its length.
"Look at you," he told her, his voice somewhat husky in a way that never failed to elicit some primal response from Fleur's body. "You're breathtaking."
"Merci, mon coeur," she said, sending him a smile. Fleur was conscious of how she looked; she'd always known she was beautiful. But there was something very different in the way Bill looked at her, something that made her heart take flight. There was no one else that could make her feel like that. She turned her back to him. "Could you zip me up?"
When his warm fingertips touched her bare arms, trailing across her skin as if she were the most precious thing to have ever existed, Fleur legs almost gave out on her. Bill brushed her long hair away from the nape of her exposed neck and planted a kiss there, knowing very well that Fleur couldn't suppress a sigh of anticipation whenever he did this.
"Sometimes I wonder," he started, cradling her body close to his, his hands slowly skimming up the hem of her dress, "I wonder what makes you stay."
"Stay 'eere?" Fleur asked, trying to maintain a coherent train of thought, which was rather difficult when her husband was touching her like that.
"Stay here," he admitted, planting another kiss on left shoulder. "With me."
"You are not so bad," she teased, revelling in the way his hard body felt against hers. "It is evident zat I am actually quite fond of you."
"That's always good to hear," he smirked against her skin. "Especially since my looks are long gone."
"You know zat was nevair why I said yes," she chastised him.
"I'm broken, Fleur," he admitted, all playfulness gone from his voice. "Can't you see that? I can never be who I was before... before everything. And I need you to understand that, because I can feel that you're growing impatient, so if you are... If you want out, you can just tell me. I won't blame you."
"Walk out?" She shrieked, her voice turning shrill with shock, all arousal gone from her body. She turned around and tackled her husband into their bed, hard, seething. "I 'ad nevair taken you for dim, William."
She climbed on top of him, cradling his face on her hands. The look of vulnerability in his eyes was not enough to soften her need to make him hear her out, to make him finally see what she'd been trying to show him for months.
"Do not call yourself broken anymore, do you 'ear me? You are not broken. You are still ze warm, caring man zat I married. Are you listening to me, Beell? Zere will be no walking out. Do you understand zat?"
He nodded meekly, and Fleur tried to blink back the tears that were threatening to escape with an overwhelming force.
"Good. Now, zis is 'aat you need to know, Beell – I love you. Zis is not somezing I take it lightly, and I know you know zat. So I do not need you to act like you are doing great, because I can see right through you, mon amour.
"I am your wife. If you need to cry, zen you can cry in front of me. I will not love you or respect you any less because of it. We 'ave lost so much. You 'ave lost so much. It is okay if you are angry, and if you are sad, because I am too. But moi? I need to be everyzing zat you are, with me, because I did not sign up for parts of you. Ze day I married you, I married everyzing you carried around – yours scars, and your pain, and your fight, and your family, even your muzzer. Do you understand 'aat zis means?"
And even though she was trying really hard not to fall apart and cry, the tears were already running down her face. Bill reached out to her and closed the distance between them into a searing, salty kiss, his hands brushing away her tears and tangling in her hair, her hands fisting the clothing on his sides.
After a while, when her lovely green dress and his clothes were lying forgotten on the floor, and they had worshipped each other thoroughly, Bill spoke.
"I'm sorry for trying to run out on you," he apologized, kissing her temple.
"Zat is fine, as long as you don't do it again." Fleur's voice trembled around the edges, but when Bill enclosed her hands in his, her heartbeat grew steadier and so did her resolve. They would get through this, together. "Just be 'eere."
It was just his luck, Ron figured, that it had to be snowing.
It wasn't in his plans to spend Christmas Eve locked outside the Gryffindor Tower. All the while a persistent blizzard fell around the Hogsmeade village, leaving it covered in a thick blanket of white snow, as if something straight out of a fairy tale. There were no signs of life around him; the hallways were completely deserted, the Fat Lady was absent from her portrait, probably visiting in another part of the castle.
But Hermione was somewhere inside, and she needed him.
When he'd received her latest letter, filled with feeble excuses as to why she couldn't come back home for the holidays, Ron couldn't understand why she would go to such lengths to dance around the truth.
He knew why she wasn't coming home for Christmas – and it had nothing to do with the exams or her obsession with revision.
It had everything to do, however, with her parents.
He went with Hermione to Australia that summer, once the war was over, to restore her parents' memories. At first, she'd been terrified of doing something wrong, or not being able to reverse the spell and get her parents back.
As Ron had always known, Hermione was an amazing, talented witch. She had had no problem setting her parents straight, no problem at all.
But as for getting her parents back?
That couldn't have been as easily fixed as they'd hoped it would.
Mr and Mrs Granger were lividat first, even after a stuttering Hermione, fazed by her parents' cold demeanour, choked out an explanation. Ron had filled in the parts where she simply couldn't talk, he'd told them about the Malfoy Manor and Bellatrix, about the Snatchers and the prize on their heads. About the Hogwarts Battle, and how they were the only ones that could've ended it.
But they still hadn't been able to get through to them.
Oh, her Mum had cried, and her Dad seemed saddened and fazed, overwhelmed by it all, but in the end, they'd let Hermione know, in those exact same words, that they still needed some time to adjust to the fact that their daughter robbed them of their minds and of their lives for more than a year.
That anger hadn't faded by the end of the summer, even though the Grangers had agreed to move back to England and resume their old lives. From what Ron had gathered, Hermione relationship with her parents' had been frosty at best, and partly out of the pleasure she took in learning and partly because she just needed to escape the oppressive environment that her home life had become, Hermione decided to return to Hogwarts to complete her seventh year.
She hadn't talked much about them in her letters, or when Ron visited her on Hogsmeade weekends, or even when he'd tried to push the subject. She was a smart girl, his Hermione, and she would always come up with little ways to distract him from the subject of her parents.
But there was nothing that could divert him from fulfilling his purpose now – he would get her to talk, and he would get her to come back home with him.
"Are you mad?" Those were the first words out of her mouth as soon as the frame of the Fat Lady portrait swung open. She was standing there wearing a fluffy red sweater with an H stitched on it, his mother's handiwork.
Her tone meant business, and her hands were resting on her hips, the usual What-Have-You-Done-Now-Ronald-Weasley combative posture. But she was giving him that a quiet little smile she reserved only for him, the smile he'd been craving to see and kiss out of her lips for six long, frustrating weeks.
"I might've fallen off my rocker," he said. "You would have to check my head to know for sure, though. And that would involve you getting much closer to me than you are now."
She shook her head, unable to keep the smile off her face.
"Come inside," was what she said instead.
He followed her to the empty common room, watching her every move. She plopped on what he knew to be her favourite armchair, with a table nearby completely covered in mountains of books and parchment.
"Sit," she ordered, motioning to the place in front of her. "Explain."
He just grinned at her – hair tied into a bun but still in disarray, curling around her heart-shaped face; eyes big and bright, a deep colour of brown, her skin a little pale but looking very soft in the candlelight.
He couldn't even begin to describe just how much he'd missed this bossy, demanding and beautiful know-it-all.
"What do you want me say, Hermione?" He shot back. "You know why I'm here."
"That I do," she admitted. "Is the how that gets a bit foggy."
"Well, as you may or may not know, people can't Apparate inside Hogwarts grounds," he pretend-lectured her, smiling harder when he saw her cute, little scoff.
"Then how did you – oh." She was trying to suppress a laugh, he could see. "Why, I never knew you were on such...intimate terms with the Headmistress for her to grant you the permission to use her office Floo."
"What can I say," he teased her. "McGonagall has a weakness for strong and determined red-haired men. She never stood a chance."
"I can't exactly fault her," Hermione admitted, leaping up from her seat and throwing herself into Ron already waiting, open arms. "Some people say we are quite alike, me and her, I'll have you know."
"No, you're not," he protested, tugging on her bun and freeing her curls. "You get some privileges with me that she has no access to."
"Lucky," she giggled, sitting on his laps with her back to him, covering his body with hers until they were what one could only describe as entwined. "What sort of privileges?"
"Well, there's this one," and he kissed her neck, nipping at it lightly. "And this one," his hands brought her closer to him, wrapping around her waist. "And let's not have forget what I think is the best privilege yet," and he tilted her face to his until their lips connected, a wave of relief and familiarity surging through him when she kissed him back.
"I can see your point," she agreed once they broke apart, her voice a little breathless. "Those benefits are quite fantastic."
He chuckled, burrowing his face into her hair and smelling her usual Hermione-scent: vanilla and ink, sided with the new perfume he'd gotten her for her birthday.
"I missed you," he confessed, his words coming out jumbled and a bit strangled.
"I noticed," she said, wriggling in his lap and laughing when Ron groaned.
"Well, not that," and she chuckled. "Fine, that too – I'm a man after all, – but I've missed you."
"I was just teasing you," and with that she kissed the palm of his left hand. "I don't think I have ever been more surprised than when I got your Patronus tonight, though, telling me that you where outside."
"Not enough," he complained.
"No, not even close," she approved. "I've missed you too, in that bigger, abstract sense that makes me write you those long, rambling letters every day.
"And that?" he questioned, feeling the tip of his ears turning a little bit red.
"Yeah," and she was sounding all breathless again in a way that didn't help the matters in Ron's current state. "I've missed that as well."
They stayed in silence for a while, just holding each other, until Hermione spoke again, her voice sounding a bit small but deeply sad.
"They still don't trust me," she acknowledged. "They wrote to me two weeks ago, telling me they were heading for Australia for Christmas.
"Australia, Ron," she sobbed out. "And they didn't even invite me."
He felt the silent tears running down her face when she turned around and burrowed hear head against his collarbone, sniffling a little bit.
"I'm sorry, luv," and he kissed the top her head, her right shoulder, every place of her he could reach without breaking them apart. "I'm so sorry.
"You have to know, though, it's not your fault."
"Except it kind of is," she protested. "I was the one that took their identity away. I was the one that sent them to Australia in the first place."
"It takes a lot of strength to let them go like you did, and you were only trying to keep them safe. If you hadn't done what you had to do, things could've turned out much worse - they could've been tortured about our whereabouts, or... You know all of this, luv. It wasn't safe for them to be your parents while the Death Eaters were in charge."
"But now it is," she choked out. "Now it's safe, and they don't want to."
"Yet," he amended. "They're still angry and confused, but you have to keep fighting for them. One year apart doesn't erase the previous eighteen years, and it doesn't change the fact that you're their daughter. But you can't keep doing this, carrying this around like you're alone. Because you're not, you know that. You have Harry, and Ginny, and all of our friends, and my family.
"You have me. You'll always have me."
"I didn't mean to – I know I'm not alone," Hermione continued to sob. "But sometimes it gets harder to remember that, and sometimes it's easier to just pretend like it doesn't bother me to have parents that don't want me. I'm sorry, Ron."
"There's nothing to apologize for, Hermione." She was looking at him now, her eyes wet with her newly shed tears but soft with something he couldn't quite place, something that made his heart nearly burst out of his chest.
"And who are they, really, not to want you in their lives? There are so many people in this world who want you," he began to enumerate. "My parents, for example. Do you have any idea of how big of a fit my Mum will have when she sees you this skinny? And my Dad? You knowhow much he loves talking to you.
"Then there's Harry, who considers you his sister, he told me so himself. And he desperately needs you to tell him how to fix things with Ginny. He's trying to act all subtle, pretending that he doesn't miss her like hell, but I can see him pulling those creepy moves, staring at her footprints on the Marauders Map."
She laughed, and Ron couldn't help but join in – her laughter was so contagious and fun that it made him never want to stop trying to elicit one from her.
"Then there's me. I want you, Hermione, all the time, even when you're being stubborn, which, let's face it, is how you act most of the time. George makes sure to tell me how unhealthy that is, but I don't even care. And my Mum, well she told me that this is pretty much what love feels like, you know?
"I reckon she's right."
Her laughter turned into tears again, and she threw her arms against his neck, peppering his face with feather-light kisses.
"Oi, what are those tears for?" He was a bit dumfounded – this was not the reaction he'd expected when he first told her he loved her. It wasn't like she didn't already know, right? He'd made it pretty clear that she was it.
Which turned out to be a lot less scary than he'd expected it to be.
But still, she was crying.
"Those are happy tears," she clarified. "Very, very happy tears."
"Thank Merlin," and Ron let out a loud sigh of relief. "You were beginning to scare me a little bit there."
"Shut up," she said, and kissed him, hard. He wasn't complaining, though. "And even when you're acting like a git, I love you."
"You love me?"
"Always that tone of surprise," she reprimanded him, right before rubbing the tip of her nose against his, as she liked to do after some of their kisses.
"Now that that's settled," he announced, making her get up, "let's go."
"Go where?" Her expression was a mix of surprise and a bit of annoyance at the interruption of their snogging.
"It's Christmas Eve, Hermione," he drawled out, partly just to watch the irritation reach her eyes. "We're going home."
"But my parents – oh," she finally caught on. "You mean The Burrow."
"I meant our home," he reassured her. "It's my home as much as it's yours now. Face it, luv – you're stuck with us."
"But your parents –" She was frazzled, running her hands through her hair and tucking it into another bun. "I'm not properly dressed!"
"My parents pushed me to come here," he tucked a stray curl behind her ear. "And you're already wearing your Weasley sweater – that's like our secret password."
"But, Ron! We're snowed in here, and if you ever read Hogwarts, a History, you would know that we cannot Appa –"
"Hermione." He put his hands on her shoulders. "Breathe. Think."
He could sense the fight going out of her. A small smile was tugging at the corner of her lips, and she put her warm, small hands into his big, calloused ones.
"I suppose you would be nice, seeing everybody," she relented. "The feast here can't quite compare to your mother's cooking."
"Yeah," he approved, giving her his biggest smile. "Also, I have some plans involving slipping Firewhiskey into the eggnog and convincing you to sneak into my room after everybody's gone to bed."
"Ron!" She rebuked him, trying to sound disapproving but failing when a giggle escaped her lips seconds later. "Who needs you room when we can just meet in pantry, where you know where your Mum keeps the chocolate?"
"You know me so well," and he winked at her before kissing their linked hands. And together they left the Gryffindor Tower, in order to find the gargoyle that lead to the Headmistress' Office. It would be his family first Christmas' without Fred, and while it would never be a perfect again, they all still had each other.
And most of all, he and Hermione had each other to hold on to.
A.N: Aw, my teeth, they hurt. Please review to let me know if you enjoyed/loved/hated/despised this story!