So...it's been awhile...

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, or any of the characters.

Ships: Charlie/Hermione; Ron/Hermione; maybe some Harry/Ginny and George/Angelina, just for kicks.

There will be spoilers; takes place post DH, pre-19 years later.

Full Summary: Hermione's tried her best to go on living since Ron died. She's moved on. She's even married Charlie Weasley. But when she discovers something that could allow her to go back to the way things used to be, she has to make a difficult choice. Will she risk her marriage and repeating a terrible branch of history to be with Ron again, or accept his death and truly move on with Charlie?


I'm running.

Everything is dark, but for the fires popping up here and there, in the courtyard, on the tops of towers, down by the forest...

Running like I've never ran before in my life.

There are explosions, sparks, jets of dangerous light flying in every direction, barely missing my face...

I don't look back. I look forward. To my destination. To the future. To something else, anything else, anything but this.

It's dusty, I'm surrounded by a cloud of dust from the ceiling collapsing in front of me, and there are cries of pain and victory and anguish...

I can't stop. I won't. I keep running.

I just need to see him, to hear him, to feel him, just one more time, just to know that he's okay...

I'm falling. Falling into a hole. A pit of nothing. A pit of darkness.

And then he's there, he's across the hall, finding me just as I'm finding him, running at me through a sea of curses and debris...

I try to scream. I have to scream.

I see it before it happens, and I can't do a thing to stop it. I yell, I call his name, one more time, just one last time...

My lungs won't work. They won't open properly.

But it's too late, and he's widening his eyes as he stares death in the face, realizing his fate a second too late, only a second, but it's big enough to make a difference...

I scream. I scream as loud as I possibly can before my lungs give out again.

And he looks at me, one more time, just one last time, and I know. I know everything he's ever said and never said and never going to say, I know it all right then with that one look he's giving me...

Everything is gone. Everything is dark, and empty, and cold.

He's on the ground, a broken shell of what was, of what used to be my everything, my future, the love of my life...

I feel numb.


"No..."

"Hermione..."

"No!"

"Wake up, Love-"

"NO! DON'T GO!"

"Hermione!"

"Come back! COME BACK! NO! NO...no...no..."

Suddenly, I'm not in that hole anymore. I'm not even in the middle of a war. The war's been over for years, I remind myself as I open my terribly damp eyes, taking in the scene before me. The bedroom is pooled in the dim light of Charlie's bedside lamp, and his arms are around me, protecting me from things I don't need protecting from anymore. No one's going to hurt me ever again...Voldemort's gone...the snatchers are gone...Bellatrix Lestrange is gone...

And it hits me again, like a train carrying nothing but boulders and bricks...

He's gone.

"Ron," I sob, turning my head into Charlie's chest. "No...no...Ron..."

And once I've started, I can't stop. I'm curling up in his arms, defenseless and childlike once more, wishing endlessly for the one thing that will never be, the one thing I can never have no matter how hard I try, no matter how badly I want it...

"It's okay, Love," Charlie whispers into my hair. "I'm here...nothing's ever going to hurt you again..."

And even though he keeps saying these things, repeats them more times than I can count, just like every other night this has happened, it doesn't matter. He can say it all he wants, but it won't ever be true. Because it will always hurt me. It's a pain I will never be numb to, always a thorn in my side, a constant reminder of what could have been...

I feel guilty as I begin to breathe normally and come back to my senses. It always happens this way. I go to bed fine, I catch myself some sleep some nights. But then I see It again as I'm sleeping, imagining the moment that defined my life, the moment I lost everything, the moment he was taken away from me for good. Then I'm awake, and my husband is soothing me-my poor, undeserving husband-over the death of his own brother. I'm not just reminding him of what he lost; I'm reminding him that I lost it, too, and that I'd rather have his brother alive and well and with me than be spending my nights with him in this bed.

The guilt catches up with me, and I'm crying again as soon as I've calmed down. I know that I've reminded him of all this and I feel just pathetic for doing so. I'm a sad excuse for a human being. But Charlie plays the game well; he lies, he tells me he just wants me happy, just wants me to stop having nightmares about the past. He pretends he doesn't know the awful truth about me. About us.

I know Harry used to have nightmares about it, too. He used to wake up in the middle of the night, shaking, in a cold sweat, sometimes yelling out names. People he'd destroyed. People he'd loved. People he'd lost.

Ginny told me all of this once, after I confided in her about my dreams. Was it normal, five years down the road, to still be seeing war scenes, to be imagining It every time I closed my eyes? I hadn't even witnessed It; It was just another terrifying experience that Harry had to go alone. For once, I'm glad he had to go it alone. The last thing I want is to really know…to really see It.

Of course, I'd already known he was having the dreams before she told me this. I just thought they had stopped. Certainly, they'd grown fewer and further between, at least the way she'd told it, they had. I've been the same way. Luckily, I'd made it down from every night to every other, and now to maybe three times a week at most. Harry has done the same. But there are nights he can't sleep. Nights he wakes up in a fit of tears. But it isn't always the same. Sometimes it's Remus. Sometimes Fred. Sometimes Sirius. Sometimes-

I hate thinking about it. It's one thing for me to dwell on it. For other people to suffer, that makes it less bearable. Then, it isn't just in my head. It's real…

Charlie gets up to get me a glass of water. It's strange, but the moment he stands up, I want him back. I want someone there to hold me, someone there for me to feel, to know I'm not completely alone in all of this. And the moment he comes back, I'm wrapped up in him again, the glass of water forgotten. I'm sobbing that I'm sorry. He's reassuring me that there's nothing to be sorry for. Again, with the pretending...

I hate pretending, but there have been times that I felt it was the only way to get on with life. To pretend that when work was over, I'd floo back to a little flat outside the city, kick off my heels and walk into the sitting room to find him there, waiting with a smile on his face. To pretend that my Ron would be waiting to hear about how awful the office is, how I must have Chinese for dinner or else go mad. Waiting to hear me profess how much I love him and how deeply and that he was never allowed to leave me, not for a minute, because the thought of living without him made me want to curl up and die. And he would shut me up and rid me of my petty worries with a good snog, then drag me out to the Chinese restaurant a few blocks away. We would get takeout and eat about half before deciding that we were full or had more important things to do. We would fall asleep in each other's arms after the more important things were finished, fall into a peaceful slumber, and wake up and go to work so that we could live out that day again...and again...

But there have been times when I had to be painfully realistic with myself. Times when I would purposefully stop by the joke shop in Diagon Alley after a long day at the office, during which I replayed that scenario again and again in my head. I'd stop in and ask to see George, and we would hug, and talk about the Weasleys that were left, and he would shout at children not to pocket things. Then I would see the picture behind the counter of him and Fred. I would think of that horrible rainy day, five years ago, when the sky cried with us as we buried one of the best men I had ever known from the best family I had ever known. It would take me back to a similar day, a year later, when we had to do it all again. Different man. Same family. Reality would hit. I'd excuse myself, mumbling something about needing to be home before Charlie, and practically run out of the store before George could say another word. Before either of us had a chance to acknowledge that the other was suffering. If it's all in our heads, we can go out and pretend to be distracted later, have another failed attempt at forgetting. If we're sad in front of each other, it becomes real. We have to accept, once and for all, that they're gone. That they're never going to come back.

After five years, you'd think we'd be ready to do that. After getting married and moving on in our careers, you'd think we could have filled the gaping holes left by our best friends, or at least shrink them down a bit. It's obvious, and painfully so, that neither of us has even thought to start on that endeavor. No, when it gets difficult, we just pretend long enough for the pain to subside, until it becomes bearable to breathe again.

Tonight, it's calm outside. It's warm, but there's a soft breeze. The type of breeze most people would find peaceful or calming. I just find it eerie. But whenever I dream like this, everything becomes eerie.

Charlie turns off the lamp and we lie back in bed to get more comfortable. He's got one arm around my shoulders, his hand reaching up to stroke my hair. His other hand drifts up and down my side, his fingers working a calming feeling into me, almost like magic, unlike any I've ever known. I let myself wrap my arms around his abdomen and my face falls against his chest. He rests his head on mine, occasionally planting kisses in my hair.

Tonight, I don't want to think. I just want to sleep. For once in my life, I want to sleep peacefully, without any dreams, without any memories, without anything dark clouding my thoughts. As I'm drifting off, I hear his slight snores, a tell tale sign that he's fallen back asleep, still wrapping himself around me protectively. I smile slightly to myself, realizing how lucky I am. Then the last few tears roll as I think that, for once in my life, I don't want to be crying over Ron Weasley.

But just before I drop off, I concede that maybe it's okay to do so one more time. Just one last time.