Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, and I sadly never will.
A/N: Ok, I really wanted to start writing again, and I'm hoping this one-shot, after seeing DH 2 last night, will get my juices flowing again. This is sort of a combination of the events from the book and the film, so if you haven't seen it yet, and you're confused by the minor changes, that's what they're from. Don't read if you want to see the film first. And let me know, I guess, if you think I should continue it or just leave it as is...
Hermione is more terrified than she's ever been in her life - and at this point, that's saying a lot. She's sitting in the Great Hall with the Weasleys, and she's trying to stop her own shaking. One way to do that, she knows, is to not look at Fred. She can't look at Fred. If she does, then Molly will want to help her, and that should be the least of her concerns right now. Molly Weasley has other people who need her help more than Hermione Granger, and she should be free to help them. Besides, Hermione knows her fear right now is bigger, even, than this. She wonders, with a small, distant part of her brain, if maybe she's allowing this fear to overtake her because she doesn't want to deal with the grief, and that could be part of it. But the bigger part of her brain knows something else - she doesn't know where Harry is right now, and she doesn't like that. She doesn't like that at all.
She wants to look at Ron, wondering if he's even aware of Harry's absence, but she's suddenly not sure how to do that. As much as she wishes she could, she can't erase the image of him crashing to his knees beside Fred's still, lifeless body and bursting into tears. She'd tried to look away, but she'd stared, horrifed, as Molly ran her hand over his hair She'd never seen Ron like that before, and until a few moments ago, she'd have said they've been through everything together. But they haven't, and nothing could be clearer right now. In the face of his overwhelming grief, not only does she not know how to help him, but she doesn't even know if he wants her to.
She swallows hard. As much as she dreads this, she does have to talk to him. She can't keep sitting here not knowing where Harry is. Slowly, she turns to where Ron is sitting with George. And almost instantly his head comes up, and his eyes meet hers. She notices with a pang that even though his eyes are bloodshot, they are also pleading. And Hermione knows what she hadn't before. He does want her help. He's asking right now. She blinks quickly and reaches her hand out to him. He grips it tightly and tries to smile, but his chin is trembling too much.
Hardly realizing what she's doing, Hermione tugs at his hand and he's surprisingly unresisting as she pulls him to his feet and even - reluctantly on her part - away from his family. No one says a word, though, and they wend their way through the solemn crowd, neither of them looking closely enough to see who they're passing. That would be too much right now.
Neither of them speaks until they're out of the Great Hall, and they're on the crumbling staircase when Hermione finally stops moving. She turns to Ron then. Before she will allow herself to give into her fear about Harry, she has another type of fear to overcome. She does the one thing she knows she must and hopes it's the right thing. She puts her arms around Ron for the first time since - well, since the world as they knew it came crashing down. At first, Ron hardly responds; his arms encircle her waist, but it almost seems instinctive... until Hermione realizes that his breathing has become labored, and his grip is tightening. She holds onto him more firmly, and then, almost before she's aware of what's happening, he is shaking against her, and his sobs echo in her ear as she barely makes out the words, "Fred, not Fred..."
There is a lump in her throat the size of a boulder, and she closes her eyes as the tears trickle down her own face and drop onto his shoulder. It is a long time before either of them is calm enough to let go of the other, and once they do, they are both surprised to find that there is no awkwardness, no embarrassment. They simply wipe their eyes, and then Hermione feels a chill as she realizes that she is still going to make things worse.
"Ron," she says and is distantly, pleasantly surprised when her voice doesn't tremble, "Harry - Harry's been gone an awfully long time..."
Ron looks at her for a moment, and his face drains of any color that was left in it. "You don't... you don't think," he mumbles, and now Hermione's heart aches because his voice isn't steady at all. It's shaking, and he's trying to make it steady, but he's failing miserably. She reaches out again and presses his fingers tightly, and he lets out a deep breath and is marginally calmer. He looks at her and swallows, manages to whisper, "you don't think he went to the forest..."