Hello! I'm attempting to get back on the fic horse with some vaguely nostalgic ramblings, set sometime post-8.8 (I think I may have taken some liberties with seasons/dates etc). Title inspired by a poem of the same name by RM Rilke. Disclaimers and all that jazz apply, as ever.

It is a game he used to play in the months after she left, creating for himself a bizarre approximation of a child's make-believe friend that he could never quite bring himself to let go of. He would stand in his office, sit in his armchair or lie in his bed and pretend she was there.

A draft from his office door was the waft of her imagined exit; an unexpected shadow in the corner of his living room was the ghost of her presence; the soft bulk of his duvet behind him was her sleeping warmly by his side.

And even now that she is back, Harry imagines her still. Tonight, in the aftermath of Ros' death and the loss of her weighing heavily on his mind, he magics Ruth up to help fill the absence that long ago lodged itself inside him and grows a little more every time a new tragedy occurs.

It is late summer, and late in the evening. He is sitting in his garden, on the wooden bench that catches the last of the sun before it finally dips below the houses and departs for the night. He has his eyes closed, and one hand is wrapped around a cold glass filled with ice and whiskey.

In his mind, she is sitting with him, and it makes him feel better. He feels the warmth of the sun on his right shoulder and imagines it is her head resting against him. The frond of the leafy plant that is tickling his cheek is a wayward strand of her hair. The scent of his neighbour's honeysuckle, drifting in on a light breeze, is her perfume. Her smile and voice are conjured entirely from memory, and the completeness of the illusion helps to ward off the chill that is starting to seep into the air.

He rests his third finger on the rim of his glass and imagines the crystal is really metal: a ring. He wonders what they would do after leaving the garden for the night. He wonders what they would talk about, whether they'd bicker over the washing up after dinner (almost certainly), which side of the bed she likes to sleep on…

It occurs to him that he might not have to pretend anymore. Lately, there have been signs. Lingering looks and small touches that might not seem much but, given everything that has happened, mean the world. They are not on different sides of the continent any longer, pushed apart and left only with memories.

Now there is a chance for new memories, if he's lucky.

Harry shifts on the wooden bench and it dislodges the plant that had been resting against his cheek. It breaks the fragile illusion and he opens his eyes, shifting out of the remains of the sunlight, no longer wanting to feel the taunting warmth when it isn't of the kind he is looking for. It's not enough. The incoming cool of the night cannot be ignored when she isn't really there. He wants her there, with him.

And, just like that, he makes his decision.

There may be potential for one or two more chapters if anyone's interested :)

Thanks for reading!