Clean up was much more painstaking than any of them had imagined- even using magic. Most of the damage done was from curses and therefore, could not be fixed with a simple spell. Paintings were being gathered to take to a special repair shop in Diagon Alley. Towers would not stand no matter how many witches and wizards were casting levitating, fixing, sticking, and all other manner of charms.
Everyone was helping clean up the castle including Harry, Ron, and Hermione. It had been a long two days, but no one could sleep. There was rubble to pick up, bodies to remove, and families to console. Excitement mixed with sadness gripped each weary heart, yet none of them could bear to part company and move on. If they walked away, then it was really over. People were really dead. Lives were forever changed. Yes, things would be better, but there was a long road ahead.
After a late afternoon snack had appeared on what was left of the house tables, the trio finally sat down together. They had worked with each other and with the rest all day, but they had not had a chance to speak since their trip to the headmaster's office. They were all battle-worn with cuts and bruises on almost every inch of visible skin. They looked at each other in relief.
"I can't believe it's over," Harry started. "Only yesterday we were at Gringotts and today it's done."
"Yeah," Ron replied.
"Always profound, Ronald," Hermione said.
Ron reached over and cupped her face in his hand. He traces a surface cut on her cheek.
"Have you been looked at yet?" Ron looked very worried.
"I haven't had time. Have you? Or you, Harry?"
Both boys shook their heads. The atmosphere in the room was changing. It looked as though people were starting to leave the Great Hall. Families were gathering and using either the floo network, which had been connected to the Great Hall fireplace only, or going out to the gardens and apparating.
"Where's everyone going?" Ron asked. Molly, Arthur, and Ginny were coming over to them.
"It's late and there's nothing more we can do here tonight. I think it would be best if we went home and got some rest," Arthur explained. He had his arm around his wife.
"Of course, that means our whole family. Harry and Hermione, we want you to come and stay with us, Molly said. "Bill and Fleur, Charlie, Percy, and George will be staying with us for a while, too. It will be nice to have you all around me." All of them noticed the absence of Fred's name. A tear ran down Molly's face and Ginny sniffled.
"Are you sure you want us there, Mrs. Weasley?" Harry asked.
Molly grabbed one of Harry and Hermione's hands. Ron held Hermione's other.
"Harry dear, you and Hermione are as much my children as the ones I birthed. To be honest, I will need you two around to help me cope with, well, you know." She hugged them both.
"Mother, we should be going," Percy interrupted. "The others have already apparated back home."
"Thank you, Percy," Arthur said.
The Weasley's moved toward the large front doors. Arthur and Molly went first and Percy followed. Ginny moved next to Harry and took his hand. All four of them looked at each other and at the castle again before turning in their spots and vanishing into thin air.
That evening was a subdued occasion at the otherwise noisy Burrow. Molly was in her room, no doubt weeping for her lost child. Arthur was in the shed, probably doing the same, but in a more manly way. George was sitting at the kitchen table alone, drinking fire whisky. Everyone else was in the sitting room crying, holding each other, and sitting in silence. Hermione was reading Hogwarts: A History, which was a sort of comfort to her. Ron was at her side, his eyes misty.
Bill and Fleur retired first, with Charlie close behind. Percy stopped to pat George on the back before heading to his room. George left soon after, hiccupping on the stairs.
Harry looked most exhausted of all, but he also looked like he still had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"I think I could use some fresh air," Harry said.
"Aren't you ready to go to bed?" Ginny responded.
"I can't go to sleep. I just… can't. Not right now." Harry walked out of the house with Ginny on his heels.
"Do you want to go to bed?" Hermione closed her book and shifted to look at Ron. "Are you okay?"
Ron had tears pouring down his cheeks. Hermione pulled him close and held his shaking frame in her arms. She rocked them back and forth as he cried for a while. She could not help but cry, too.
"Every time I close my eyes, I see Fred."
"Oh, Ron. I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do?"
She ran her hands through his hair and rubbed circles on his back. She did not know what else to do.
"Just you being here is enough."
"I'll always be here."
Ron pulled back and looked at Hermione.
They had known for quite some time how they felt about each other, but only when they thought they would lose each other forever, did they finally admit it to each other. They were both still tear-stained as they leaned forward.
"I should have kissed you first, a long time ago," Ron breathed, his lips barely touching her.
"Make up for it now."
It was a slow, soft kiss- like a first kiss should be. He moved his hands up her arms until they cupped her small, bandaged face. Their kiss became deeper and faster, replacing the despair in their hearts and minds with a fervent hope for the future. They only broke apart when they needed air, but then returned with the same feverish intensity.
"Oh, ho. What do we have here?" a voice called from the doorway. The two broke apart immediately.
"Dad! We didn't hear you come in."
"Don't let me interrupt," he said with a grin as he turned to leave. "Might I inquire- how long has this been going on?"
Hermione and Ron looked at each other.
Ron answered, "We've been together a while."
"But, we only figured it out yesterday," Hermione said with a smirk.
"By all means, we need some good news in this house. Just turn out the lights when you retire."
The two on the couch waved goodnight and then turned red. For some reason, they could not look each other in the eye.
"It is getting awfully late, Ronald. Maybe we should go to bed."
"Yeah, maybe," Ron said, fidgeting a bit.
It took a moment, but they finally looked up, both wearing a bit of a grin.
"What are you smiling about?" Ron asked.
"I just can't believe you actually kissed me. I mean, you know, properly."
"I can't believe you attacked me in the Room of Requirement in the middle of a war!"
"I only did it because you hadn't made a move!" The tension was rising between them.
"I never made a move because I didn't think you wanted me too," Ron retorted.
"When did I ever say that? I've been giving you signals since fourth year," Hermione could not believe how thick he was.
"Fourth year? I thought you hated me that year. I wanted to be with you then, too. Why didn't you say something?"
"I did! I told you to ask me to the… Wait," Hermione took a deep breath. "Are we always going to fight?"
"Probably. It's what we do best." He paused. "You know, I like that I can fight with you about anything. You and Harry are the only people that know the real me. And I don't want to snog him."
"Neither do I."
"Are you sure? This is your last chance to run." Ron looked down. For a moment, he imagined her coming to her senses and walking out.
"Look at me," she put her hand under his chin and forced him from his pout. "I want to be with you. I always have and always will. Nothing will change that. Not even the Boy Who Still Lives."
"Good, because we have a lot of snogging to catch up on."
With that he lunged for her giggling mouth. They fell asleep after a while of kissing and whispering, but hours later, when Ginny and Harry came back in, they were awakened and sent to bed with their bunk mates.
They both thought about each other as they fell asleep and were, for once, excited about the future.
Hi Readers! I have been reading fanfics for just a wee few months and I have become quite obsessed! This is my first attempt, so please read and review!