A/N: *excerpt from-Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden. Story and chapter titles taken from said poem and author.I want to thank all of you who have read this tale. "Clocks" is the first thing I'd written creatively in nearly 20 years. It helped reawaken my creative energies. Since "Clocks" was written in 2009, I've finished the sequel, entitled "Children's Crusade." Although it is intended to be a stand-alone-story, it does pick up this plot thread. "Crusade" spawned an entire universe of tales, six total so far, which I hope to begin posting here soon. So, if you enjoyed "Clocks" please visit my author's page again as more will be posting shortly. My friends ghostchicken (a/k/a siledubhghlase), justanothermuggle and 1917farmgirl have been at me for years to start posting my work here at ff. I'm glad I finally took their advice. I owe ghostchicken a tip of the hat for her editorial advice and justanothermuggle for the inspiration his and ghostchicken's wonderful work has provided.And now, we end at the beginning…
From what Ron could see after Yaxley fell, the Death Eaters that examined the body had no remorse once they were sure whom it was they'd killed. Ron could only assume that they believed Yaxley had tried to flee the country in desperation, rather than face Voldemort's wrath at losing Ron and Hermione again. The pair Apparated back to their previous spot north of Dover and waited.
It took the better part of the day for Hermione's nerves to settle. Ron knew she was not doing well and had a horrible suspicion as to why. He guessed she didn't break her hold on Yaxley thoroughly enough, that she felt him die. This is my fault, he thought to himself. I shouldn't have made her do it.
But he could also tell that she was coming to terms with it. There was no question that Yaxley deserved his fate, but actually feeling it happen…Ron couldn't fathom how much that could shake a person, even his gifted Hermione. He did his best to keep her focused. However, his attempts to keep at bay his nagging feelings of guilt that he was, yet again, responsible for hurting her was another matter.
"When he hit the Teeth, I felt it give," Hermione was able to say an hour after Yaxley's death. She was still shaking as Ron tried to soothe her. "I think we can break through at the focus point. As long as we don't try to Apparate through it, I don't think we'll raise any alarm."
"I think it will once it cracks. We'll just have to be ready for it," Ron said, caressing her back. "How do we break it?"
"Simultaneous spells should do it. A combination of Expulso and Evanesco, if we're lucky, should do the trick."
He gazed into her teary eyes. "Love, I need to know, can we Apparate closer to the barrier?"
Her lips trembling, Hermione answered, "I don't know. I don't think we should risk it. I could feel it pulling him…" She shuddered as she spoke, unable to meet Ron's eyes.
"Okay, love. It's okay. We'll go back to that copse of trees and make our way down on foot."
Hermione's eyes were wide. "Ron. Through all of…all of them?"
Ron immediately understood her trepidation; he shared it. They would have to crawl through the field of corpses. The thought chilled him.
Trying to keep his voice steady, he whispered, "I don't think we have a choice." He looked deep into her chocolate eyes, questioningly.
Hermione summoned up the last reserves of her self-control. "I think I can maintain a disillusionment charm over us."
Her talents, and her strength, never ceased to amaze him. "That's good. I don't know if I could find the right spot if we were to try to do it at night."
"The charm won't be too strong, I'm afraid. It won't take much to pierce it if we're careless."
"Then we won't be careless." He took her in his arms again. "I promised you we'd get through this and we will. Soon we'll be in France; we'll find Fleur's family…and we'll start one of our own."
Hermione looked up at Ron; a slow smile broke across her careworn face.
I'll be a father. Ron hadn't had time to properly process the thought. And this amazing witch as my child's mother. Gods, at least something good has come of all this horror. It was almost as if these thoughts passed between them; Hermione gently rested her head on Ron's chest.
"And then we finish him," Hermione said with conviction. "We have a new reason to fight, Ron. And to live."
Ron nodded his agreement. "The most important kind."
"I'm ready. Let's get out of here," Hermione said. They clasped hands and Apparated back to the copse of trees; Hermione immediately cast a disillusionment charm over them both.
Ron quickly surveyed the landscape, then he whispered, "There don't seem to be any Death Eaters within line of sight."
"That doesn't mean they're not there, doing what we're doing."
He held tight to her hand. They began to move through the killing fields.
They moved slowly, stopping at every sound. Ron was deathly fearful they'd be hit by a Homenum Revelio before they reached the Teeth. Your invisibility cloak would come in handy here, mate.
It was a grisly task, crawling slowly through the plain, the dead littering the landscape. Their trek took its toll on them both. More than once, Ron could hear Hermione sob, her breath catching as she recognized one of the fallen.
"We're almost out of this, love," he whispered, forcing down his own revulsion and grief. "Just a little farther, thirty yards on the other side of that boulder and we're scot-free."
After what felt like an eternity, they finally reached the spot Ron had been leading them to. Realizing they needed to see each other to coordinate their spells at the barrier, Hermione lifted her spell. They crouched, anxiously hoping they weren't being watched. Hermione extended her hand, palm out, to feel the barrier.
"This is it," she whispered, pushing her hand against the Teeth. She could almost put her hand through it. Almost, but not quite.
They moved back several feet and lifted their wands, pointing them at the weak spot. Hermione nodded to Ron, signaling she was ready.
He shouted, "Expulso!" at the same time Hermione yelled, "Evanesco!"
With a thunderous crash, Ron was blasted backwards, smacking into a boulder. The wound on his forehead opened with the impact; blood rushed down his face. Hermione had been pulled in the other direction. She had been sucked through the twenty-foot wide hole their spells had made, coming to rest just on the other side of the barrier, near an outcrop of rock.
She's out! Thank the gods! Ron rose, intending to dash through the hole after her.
Then the world exploded.
As Ron took cover behind the boulder, he turned on the spot.
Even with the barrier breached, he couldn't Apparate through the hole. He couldn't reach her.
The explosion slammed into the boulder Ron was taking cover behind with such force that he thought it was the last clap of doom.
Blood ran into Ron's eyes, mingling with dirt and sweat. It is the end of the world, Ron thought darkly as he peered through the ever-present gloom at the rotting corpses of countless wizards and witches that littered the landscape. Through his blurred and bloody vision, Ron spied his target and returned fire at the Death Eater not ten feet away from him.
Ron turned to find Hermione, more than thirty yards to the rear; she had taken cover behind the outcrop of rock she had been hurled towards. Between his position and hers, there was no place to find shelter from the exploding barrage of curses.
"Hermione! You've gotta get out! It's your only chance!"
Tears of rage, grief and exhaustion were leaking from Hermione's eyes as she cast shield spell after shield spell at the never ending onslaught, trying to keep them safe, trying to keep the last of those she loved alive. "Protego!"
"I'm not leaving you, Ron!" she screamed through her tears.
"Apparate dammit!" he shouted in desperation, casting two Reducto curses nearly simultaneously, trying to keep their enemies at bay. "You have to go! This has all gone bollocks! Get out! GET OUT NOW!"
Greyback shouted above the din of the battle, "Cut off Weasley. Circle to the right! I'll have the head of anyone who lets them escape!"
Greyback saw that he had the blood traitor pinned and his men were moving to flank him; but the Mudblood, the tasty Mudblood had landed on the channel side of the Teeth. Four days of bloodletting and hounding these two all the way to the Cliffs of Dover, the Cliffs that were supposed to be their grave, and now, Fenrir snarled to himself, now the Mudblood and the last of the blood traitors had managed to make it an escape route!
Bellatrix, Yaxley, Rowle, Dolohov, Rookwood, Crabbe, Goyle; nearly all of the original core of Voldemort's Death Eater's were dead. Only Greyback remained alive and in the Dark Lord's favor. Stretched due to his losses, Voldemort had at last grudgingly seared the Dark Mark to Greyback's forearm. But the werewolf hesitated to use it to summon him. If he did, perhaps the Dark Lord could stop the Mudblood from escaping. Or he could arrive just in time to kill me for my incompetence!
Then two more of his men fell, succumbing to Ron's curses. Damn them! Between the renegades and the Battle of Hogwarts, the Death Eater's had lost nearly all of their best fighters. And trap though Dover was, these less-experienced Death Eaters were caught out in the open, while the renegades were behind good cover. Bloody Gryffindors! They simply don't know when they're beaten!
Fenrir swore again as three more Death Eaters fell, victims of the deadly blur that was Hermione's wand. Greyback could see that the Mudblood was tiring, despite her battle frenzy, as she cast her hexes through the hole in the barrier. She was clear of the Teeth, but she hadn't Disapparated.
Weasley was the key. If he could take Weasley alive, he could lure her back. The thought made his mouth fill with spittle. To tear at her soft pink flesh as she writhes naked beneath me…
Then he saw Weasley rise from the cover the boulder had been providing.
"GREYBACK!" he shouted.
Hermione gasped, "Ron, please! NO!"
"HOLD!" Fenrir barked as his wand dropped slowly to his side. What's this? A parley? His battered men ceased their assault, although they continued to close on Ron, cautiously, taking their cue from Greyback.
"Hermione, stay there!" Ron shouted over his shoulder. He gave her a reassuring wink that kept her in place. For the time being.
Greyback snarled, "Give up now. The Dark Lord doesn't want you dead."
Such an obvious lie, but Ron was counting on it. Brains have never been this cur's strong suit, Ron thought to himself. But he knows she won't leave me here. He's not totally mental. Play the brash hero; get them closer.
"Take me and let her go."
"We already have you. The question is whether she wants to watch you die here," was Fenrir's retort, which spurred laughter from his men, "or gives herself up and keeps you alive." He leered at Hermione with a glint in his feral eyes as he continued to slowly close on Ron.
That's right, git, keep coming. But you'll never get your bloody paws on her.
"You don't have me yet. If you haven't noticed, it seems you have about half as many pups with you as you did when you first got here," Ron replied coldly. Just a little closer.
"Then she can watch you die."
Ron expected Hermione to give him only a few short seconds to develop his play before she broke cover. He could almost feel her rage and desperation building to an explosion behind him. Now that Greyback was about to strike, he knew he was out of time. I'll have to do this non-verbally to have any prayer of pulling it off. This is it. Prove yourself worth a damn. Channel your emotions. Focus, Weasley.
As Greyback's wand came up from his side, the final moments drew out into eons.
Ron thought of Hermione, his beautiful Hermione. Of the first day he saw her on the train to Hogwarts. Of how he so callously treated her in Charms class and managed to make amends only by saving her life later that day. Of his heartbreak at seeing her lie petrified in the hospital wing and how relieved he was to see her when she returned to the Great Hall, smiling and full of life. Of how she cradled him in her arms after Sirius had dragged him into the Shrieking Shack. Of the time he wasted with Lavender that he could have spent with her.
Of their fights, the endless fights. How he hurt her at the Yule Ball. Of how much pain he'd caused her by abandoning her in the forest. How palpable her anguish was when he returned. At his core, he always feared she would end up with Harry. Then, finally, at the height of the Disaster at Hogwarts, when the battle still seemed winnable, how she had chosen him. The most talented witch of her age had chosen him over Krum, McLaggen and yes, even over Harry. He'd just been too dense to realize it until almost too late. Of making love to her.
Of the horror of Hermione being tortured by that monster Bellatrix while he was trapped in that accursed cellar, listening helplessly to her screams.
And now, he thought of this beautiful angel, his love, his unborn child's mother, his Hermione being torn limb from limb by the animal that stood across from him, whose wand was rising in slow motion, to deliver the final blow. Of how she would suffer if he was weak, if he failed.
Not bloody likely.
All of his love, hate and fear, all of his soul was forced into the spell. His wand was a blur as it came up from his side before anyone could react. The incantation boomed in his mind:
* * *
Hermione sat on the shores of Calais, weeping uncontrollably, rocking back and forth. As she clutched her knees to her chest, her steady stream of tears began to soak her dirt-covered jeans. The agony she was suffering threatened to engulf her. The three words she kept repeating through her tears became a whispered litany; a desperate prayer to have the last few minutes wiped out of existence.
"Ron, please, no."
Yet the memory remained seared in her mind…
The monstrous Fiendfyre that Ron had conjured raged with an ear-piercing roar. Greyback and his Death Eaters, stunned by the redhead's ferocity, desperately hurled curses at both the renegades.
The Fiendfyre consumed the frantic spells that were aimed at its wielder and the woman under his protection. Then it devoured Greyback and all of his men without mercy.
Its caster spent all of his might keeping the flames away from Hermione. But that focus came at a cost; the inferno turned on its master. Just before the blaze reached him, he turned to her. She saw his look of grim concentration soften into a small, sad smile as he locked his eyes on hers. A silent tear slid down his cheek; she couldn't hear the words he spoke over the screeching of the inferno, but she understood them, nonetheless:
"I'm sorry, love. Save our child."
The conflagration wailed like a tortured banshee.
Then, in a blinding red flash, Ronald Bilius Weasley was no more.
Even with Ron's passing, the fire from the abyss refused to yield immediately, so powerful was the force behind its creation. At last, free of its restraints, it sought to spread through the breach in the Teeth. Hermione had no choice but to Disapparate across the channel.
Now, as she peered north to the Cliffs, the slowly dying column of flame continued to scream its rage at the heavens as it began its death throes.
The flames had taken her love, the love whose last dying act was to save her and the child she was carrying. Her heart broken, she buried her head in her hands.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.*