Rabbit Heart

Ninnik Nishukan

Summary: Even Ron didn't seem to smile anymore. Deathly Hallows. Response to the recent terrorist attacks in Norway.

Author's note: I'm watching a whole people trying to get things back together again here in Norway, after the fact of the massacre. For a long while, Norway has sort of just been this safe, rich, obscure little country where nothing much happens, which made the shock all the greater. Practically nobody really expected foreign terrorists to be interested in tiny Norway, so unfortunately nobody realized the threat could come from inside, from one of our own, either.

Listening to the radio, anxiously trying to find out what was going on, who and how many had been killed and who had done it, reminded me of Ron listening for deaths on the wireless in Deathly Hallows. I feel stupid about associating that with a horrible real life tragedy, but I can't seem to manage to write about the subject more directly yet (I've tried; I'll try again), so I'm going by way of Harry Potter to begin with. Sometimes you just need to write something to get some feelings out, to process the grief.

So far, I think the Norwegian media and our politicians are doing a good job of keeping down fear and paranoia and promoting unity and solidarity, which is part of what this story is about. Keep calm and carry on.

Hermione wasn't funny. She'd never been funny.

If she hadn't already known this before (she had), then spending a big part of last year in the company of Harry in the library, stubbornly (understandably) not talking to Ron, had really driven the point home.

Harry had looked miserable, and she'd suspected it hadn't only stemmed from being tired of her and Ron's ongoing animosity and coldness towards each other, or from being worried about them. It was also because she wasn't Ron. Oh, she knew he was fond of her, knew he needed her just like Ron, but she still wasn't Ron. She didn't challenge him to Wizard's chess or Exploding Snap, she didn't talk about Quidditch, she didn't take the mickey out of him and she didn't make him laugh. Hermione had never prioritized making people laugh, and she'd never even thought of doing so since she was naturally bright but not the sort of naturally funny that might've beckoned her attention and her energy towards the area of humour and entertainment.

Those few (long) months, Ron and Lavender had driven her out of the common room, but even if they hadn't, even if it had just been the two of them, her and Harry from the beginning, then she would've probably still spent a lot more time in the library. Often, Ron was what tethered her to the common room, which was in any case frequently too noisy to use as a study hall. Part of why she was there was because she gravitated towards him, liked watching this person who was so opposite from her, who lit up a room, who could almost always cheer up Harry and around whom they both seemed to spin, she and Harry, like planets around the sun.

Now…Ron didn't seem to smile anymore. His already pale skin seemed to grow paler, greyer with each passing day (even the freckles were no help), the circles under his eyes seemed to deepen further each time she looked at him (which was often; she just couldn't help herself), and he just…did not smile.

Never mind actually laugh.

Ron did his share of what needed to be done, gathered food, cleaned up the tent after each meal, took his watch shifts, wore the locket (which almost seemed to affect him the most; his injured arm didn't help, either), just like they all did, but whenever he had a moment to himself (which was often; the waiting was terrible), all he did was sit there in mute, grim attention, clutching the wireless in his ashen hands and listening, listening, listening.

It was a rare thing when Ron spoke less on average than even Harry. Whenever it had happened in the past, it invariably meant that something was wrong, but it had never been as bad as this.

Hermione found herself sitting a bit apart from Ron. She wanted to gather him to her, yet he frightened her. So she sat, in silence like him, trying to keep her hands busy with chopping the meagre findings of mushrooms, or searching the pages of Beedle the Bard, or washing her socks in a stream, and listening, listening, listening, waiting to hear what the number was today, what the names were.

Some were captured. A few were killed. Even fewer had names she actually recognized. When would it be the day when they heard a name of not just somebody they'd heard of, or some superficial acquaintance, but somebody close, somebody they really knew, somebody they cared about?

Sometimes, a shadow seemed to fall over Ron's face, as though he wanted to do something violent. She wasn't sure who exactly he wanted to direct this urge towards; Voldemort, Death Eaters, her, Harry or himself. Either way, what scared her the most wasn't even that dormant threat of violence— what scared her the most was that she was starting to forget what his face usually looked like, what it'd looked like before they'd begun their journey.

She tried to remember the wedding. He'd smiled at her as they'd danced. It felt like years ago now, but it hadn't even been months.

Hermione wasn't funny. She never quite knew how to proceed in cheering somebody up. And whenever she tried to comfort people, she ended up sounding like she was lecturing them instead.

When she'd suggested (gently, she'd thought) that Ron could use a break from his constant wireless vigilance, he'd snapped at her.

Harry seemed more susceptible to kind words, which helped a little, but even so, her main focus was on Ron. She was so used to Harry being troubled and being in trouble, had been around his problems since she was twelve, so she was simply better equipped to deal with him.

Ron being this atypically un-Ron just broke her heart. Ron was supposed to be the child-like, cheerful one, who rebelled against formality and rules, reminded them they were still just teenagers when they needed it, and who loved to crack jokes and loved to eat.

Each and every day, she did her very best to remedy the latter point, at least, did her best to improve his mood by trying to lessen his hunger, but their supplies were limited, she was no cook, and she'd never been in the Scouts. It hurt when he complained about her food.

Sometimes, she got angry at him, wanted to shout that she was in this situation as well, that she needed support and comfort, too, that he should stop being so elusive and stop only thinking of himself, but then she remembered he was trying to hear if his family members were safe, and the worry would bubble up in her once more.

Ron was funny, his sense of humour ranging from the silly and puerile, the lowest common denominator (which made her roll her eyes and sometimes resolve not to smile), to the sardonic and bitingly sarcastic (which sometimes forced her to hide a snicker behind her hand).

Ron had been funny.

Now, he wasn't funny, she wasn't funny and even Harry's observant, dry irony (which she also appreciated a lot) seemed to have evaporated. Sometimes it felt as if they'd already been discovered, as if there were already enemies there, close by or even inside their camp (inside them), unseen and unheard yet somehow perceived.

One afternoon, she decided (almost on a whim, as if she hadn't been thinking about it for weeks) that it couldn't go on.

Her knees trembling, she walked out of the tent to join the boys, who were sitting outside, Harry whittling aimlessly at a twig with a dull knife he'd found in a drawer in the tent, and Ron with his ever-present wireless, his ear practically pressed right up against it.

She hadn't planned anything (all she knew was to choose a time when Ron wasn't the one wearing the locket), hadn't had any idea what to do before she was standing there. Then she saw that the rainfall of the night had, apart from dampening the grass, created a small mud puddle.

She glanced at the two boys; Harry looked up only briefly, and Ron didn't look up at all. Her stomach was tying itself into knots as she moved towards the puddle.

Her hands shaking, she crouched down, filled both her hands with cold, runny earth, stood up slowly, and then, without much ceremony, hurled a big glob of mud straight at Ron's head.

She heard and saw the wireless drop to the wet, muddy grass, unharmed (even if she'd come to hate it, they needed it), heard Ron's sharp intake of breath, but didn't pause, only launched the remaining wad of damp dirt at Harry, heard him gasp and splutter.

Ron stood bolt upright from the rock he'd been sitting on. "Hermione—!"

She didn't let him speak again. Scooping up more mud, she ran towards them, lobbing another projectile at Harry before simply letting herself collide with Ron, bowling him over. He hit the ground with a surprised outpouring of breath and a loud smack, she already crawling over his long body like a playful child eager for fun and attention, until she reached his face and—

—splat went the last of her weapons, finding its home atop his red hair like a lopsided mud pie hat. Her hands left filthy prints on his faded, orange shirt. She wondered what it would've been like, if a tiny Ron had been there as she'd played in the sandbox in the rain as a child. Would he have lost interest in her, like the other children?

Hermione was never funny, and she was never all that physical. She felt his warm, damp breath coming out in heavy puffs on her face, saw his pallid face finally regaining some colour, even if it was bordering on purple now, and wished she could get more physical. But Harry was there, they were covered in mud, and they had so, so much left to do.

She scrambled to her feet. It didn't matter; she'd only been down there for about five seconds. Even so, Ron looked overwhelmed and disorientated.

Disappointment had begun to creep and claw its way into her (Ron wasn't laughing; why wasn't he laughing, why weren't any of them laughing?), when she experienced a sensation like being slapped on the side of her face with a wet towel.

As mud began to dribble unpleasantly down her face, she turned and saw Harry standing there with dirty hands, grinning wryly at her.

Hermione let out a single, disbelieving bark of laughter.

To her delight and astonishment, there was an echo of this sound behind her. Again, she turned, and there was Ron, rising from the ground, bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked despite his obvious fatigue.

Hermione saw him throw his head back, heard him laughing for a moment, the sound rich and lovely and seeming to reverberate in the clearing, making her breath catch in her throat; then he was chasing her, still laughing, bringing with him a fistful of mud and a befuddled but also laughing Harry at his heels. She was suddenly in the process of running, without any conscious knowledge of having even started, a wild laugh tumbling out of her; verging on hysteria, but never quite crossing that line.

She caught a glimpse of Ron across her shoulder as she ran.

Once more, he was making warmth ripple through her entire being just by smiling at her.

She could've kissed him.

The End.