WARNING: The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center is a highly tender subject to most people, especially Americans who were alive to witness the tragedy, like me. If you feel like you are especially sensitive to this subject, and feel the need to criticize this story harshly ("harshly" meaning "beyond constructive criticism" or "unnecessary unkind comments") please save us both the time and DO NOT READ THIS STORY. This story is NOT, in any way, meant to insult the day, or those who died in the attacks. It's to pay tribute to the day in a unique, harry potter-related way.
So...please enjoy and NO FLAMES!
8 September 2001
London's muggle airport was bustling with hundreds of people, just like it did on most days. The sound of a thousand shoes hitting the floor echoed through the huge place, bouncing around Ron's head at a volume louder than usual. As he looked around, he noticed a lot of them were in muggle suits, but most seemed to be preoccupied with finding their next destination.
Ron nervously gripped his wand inside his pocket as he pulled his suitcase with the other. This seemed like the kind of place where Death Eaters would attack. He knew he needn't worry, but though the war had been over for three years, the Auror Department was still finding convicted Death Eaters daily.
Hermione was at his side, her arm sliding into his as she led them to buy a ticket to the next flight to New York. He noticed her worried expression as she received the ticket, the way she wrung her hands like she did when she was nervous. He knew she hated it when he went away for an Auror mission, especially when Harry wasn't with him. He couldn't help feeling a little sorry for himself; he knew she meant well, but he felt as if she didn't think he could look out for himself unless Harry was there with him.
In a haze, he realized Hermione was pushing his ticket into his hand, which now also held his boarding pass and his passport. He suddenly realized he didn't have his suitcase, only his carry-on bag over his shoulder. He looked back and comprehended that Hermione had dropped it off with the rest of the luggage that was going with his flight.
They arrived at his gate, and he numbly sat down as Hermione spoke to the lady behind the desk. He had only been on a plane once before, when he and Hermione had gone to Australia so she could retrieve her parents and fix their memories. This time, the rest of his Auror unit was flying out of the airport in Cornwall and he was alone. They had told him that they would meet up with him at the airport in New York, and he really hoped they would, because he had no idea where to go from there.
Hermione returned from the desk and sat down next to him. "They're going to start to board at ten. Your flight leaves at ten-thirty." She sighed and looked apprehensively out the window at the huge airplanes, which were only visible from their blinking lights in the night. He watched her as she started fiddling with the sparkling diamond on her left hand, her hands shaking as she did so.
He studied her for a moment more, watching as she spun the ring around her finger and look at anything but him. He sighed and gently took her left hand in his. "Love, please stop worrying. I'll be fine, alright?"
Her brown eyes found his and she looked at him reproachfully, as if it was his fault he was being sent across the ocean by his Department. "I wish Harry was going with you. I don't like it when you don't have each other. I know you battle best when you and Harry are together."
He frowned slightly, a bit offended, but he knew Hermione meant well and decided to hold back his anger. "I know." He gently took her face in his hands and pressed his lips to her forehead. "I'll be careful, alright?"
She nodded, though her eyes now were shining with unshed tears. Ron looked down at the diamond that glittered on hand and squeezed her fingers gently. "I promise, when I get back, we can sit down and start planning this wedding, alright?"
Hermione smiled through the tears that now fell down her face and said seriously, "You swear?" They both knew it wasn't a promise about the wedding at all, but his safety.
"Swear to Merlin." She gave a watery laugh as he planted his lips on various places on her face, kissing the tears away.
It wasn't long until a cool, woman's voice announced above them: "Attention: Flight 657 is now boarding."
Hermione's face immediately fell as she faced Ron. "That's you."
He said nothing but wrapped his arms around her, hugging her so tightly that he feared they would soon become one being. He felt her arms fold across his back, and the moisture from her tears darken his shirt.
They stood there locked in their embrace for what felt like forever before Ron finally gently pulled back. He looked into her eyes once more before recklessly capturing her lips with his.
He became aware of every small detail that was happening between them. He felt every curl as he ran his hands through her hair and in contrast, he could feel her hands gripping the hair at the back of his neck. He felt the warmth of her back as his other arm wrapped more securely around her waist…
"Last call for Flight 657 to board."
The voice shook Ron from the embrace, and he broke apart from Hermione. She looked up at him sadly and grabbed his carry-on bag, handing it to him. He slung it over his shoulder and gently kissed her one last time.
"I'll be back in a few weeks," he told her, his eyes meeting hers. "I promise."
Then he got in line, handing the woman at the desk his boarding pass. He turned one last time before entering the terminal, waving slightly to Hermione, who waved sadly back.
He boarded the plane, and felt like he had truly left his country, along with Hermione, even though the plane hadn't even left the ground yet.
4 August 2001
The bloody ring that had been burning a hole in his pocket for weeks finally was going to be gone.
Ron took out the small box and opened it, picturing what the glittering diamond was going to look like on Hermione's hand. He had finally saved enough to purchase a diamond that was actually visible.
Tonight was going to be the night. Ron had retreated to the flat he shared with Harry right after work to change out of his work robes, and into the emerald green dress robes that had cost him almost as much as the ring. At lunch, he had told Hermione to meet him at his flat after work. She had looked at him curiously, but he had only winked at her and left. There was no way she was going to figure out what he was planning.
At six o'clock, there was a knock on the door, and Ron rushed to open it. Hermione stood before him in a modest black dress, her hair in a messy bun. She seemed to be fussing with herself, smoothing her dress and patting at her hair, but Ron didn't think there was a way to improve such a perfect picture.
"Hermione, you look beautiful," he told her. She beamed and accepted his arm around her.
"Ron where are we going?"
"You'll see," he said with a smirk. From inside his flat, they Apparated to the destination.
The smell of old books was the first to meet Ron, and he knew they were in the right place.
Hermione was looking around with a smile on her face. She turned to Ron and said, "We're in the library at Hogwarts, aren't we?"
He only smiled and snaked his hands around her eyes. "You'll see."
"Just follow my lead." He stepped forward, and so did she. He led her to the back of the library with his hands over her eyes, where he had found her so many times reading in the window seat, hidden away from the rest of the school.
When he led Hermione around the final turn, he grinned at the sight of two chairs and a table set with candles and an elegant dinner placed in the middle of the huge space in the back of the library. It had cost him two months of savings, but George had pulled through for him.
He removed his hands from Hermione's eyes, and she gasped at the sight. She shot Ron a huge smile as he pulled out one of the chairs for her. Once they were tucked into the dinner, they began to talk about everything there was to talk about. Though they had been best friends for such a long time, they still got to learn something new about the other person every day. Ron realized that no matter how many conversations he had with Hermione, he never got bored. She would talk to him about her day, but he wasn't always listening. Sometimes he would use the time to simply gaze at her features, wondering how on earth he had gotten so lucky.
Halfway into their meal, Hermione was talking about the five essays she had to have done by Friday when Ron felt like his carefully planned proposal was going to burst out of him if he didn't do it now.
He had cut her off, and her eyes narrowed. When she read his soft expression, however, she said, "Was I talking too much again?"
Ron grinned. "You always do, but I love that about you. Speaking of that, I was just thinking of the reasons why we should get married."
Her eyes widened, but after a moment, she recovered and raised an eyebrow. "Well, I don't know," she said as she sipped her brandy with a smirk playing at her lips. "Why should we get married?"
"See, that's the issue I've been dealing with, Hermione. I reckon you have no reason not to marry me, especially because of my charm and good looks." He flashed her a cheeky smile and she looked at him challengingly with a twinkle in her eye.
"Really?" she asked, peering at him with a raised eyebrow. "So what reasons do you have that makes you want to marry me, Mr. Weasley?"
Ron smiled, admiring the way she blushed slightly at their flirtation. "Well, I reckon after ten years of fighting with you, crushing on you -" he reached into his pocket and felt the soft velvet of the small black box. "- and loving you more than anything, I probably should get on with it."
He got out of his seat and bent down onto his knee in front of Hermione. He took out the box and opened it, revealing the sparkling diamond inside. Hermione's hand covered her mouth, her eyes glinting with tears, all signs of flirtation and teasing gone. "Ron…"
"Hermione," he looked up at her seriously now, drinking in every part of her. "Will you do a huge favor for me and make me your husband? I know we fight a lot, but I swear I'll take care of you and love you more than anything else –"
He was cut off when her lips pressed against his, causing him to forget everything he was going to say. She wrapped her hands around his head and tugged him closer to her. He smiled and enveloped her in his arms.
When they finally broke apart, he spoke to her with his lips an inch away from hers:
"Is that a yes, then?"
10 August 2001
10: 44 PM
Ron stepped out of his fireplace and onto the hearth, ruffling his hair to get the soot out. He looked up and noticed how dark the flat was. A small crack of light was seen behind his and Hermione's bedroom from the space between the door and the floor. He dropped his briefcase on the kitchen table and approached the door, wrenching it open.
Hermione was sitting cross-legged on their bed, deeply immersed in a book. She looked up when he entered and raised an eyebrow questioningly. He approached her and gently kissed her lips. "Sorry, love. They kept me late again."
"You said you be home at seven, Ron. That was almost four hours ago." She glared at him reproachfully and turned back to her book.
Ron furrowed his eyebrows and fell onto their bed, taking Hermione into his arms. 'I'm sorry, Hermione, I really am. The Department's really keeping me busy –"
"Yes, Ron, my job keeps me busy too!" she burst out, wiggling out of his arms. "But I have an eight-hour day, and I come home at six every night!"
He frowned at her and thought about his day and the news he needed to tell her. She looked away, disgusted, and rolled off their bed, marching into the bathroom and slamming the door behind her. He heard the water in the sink turn on and knew she was brushing her teeth to avoid talking to him. He sighed and changed out of his robes, replaying the news he had gotten from his Head Auror in his head.
Moments later, Hermione emerged from the bathroom, frowning at him as she reluctantly crawled into their bed next to him. Before she could pick up her book, however, Ron blurted out, "Hermione, I need to talk to you."
She looked over at him and met his eyes. She seemed to read the earnest in his eyes and said nothing, but gave him her full attention.
He inched toward her and took her hands, feeling her engagement ring under his thumb. He took it as a good sign that she didn't pull away.
"Hermione, I'm not sure how to tell you this, but…they're assigning me to another Auror mission." She seemed to take a sharp intake of breath, closing her eyes for a moment. "For how long?"
He could sense the tears were coming, so he wrapped an arm around her, pressing his lips to her forehead. "Only a month. But it's…it's in New York."
She looked at him incredulously, her eyes lit with a new fire, but this time it was different. It was sadder. "New York? Why do they want to send you there?"
Ron sighed. "Our Head has reasoning to suspect there's a group of Death Eaters building a new sort of cult under the city."
"Under the city? Like…underground?"
He nodded, squeezing her hand. "We'll be underground for most of the time. Our Head says we're leaving on the eighth of September. In between then and now, they're be training us to get ready to go underground." He studied Hermione's face apprehensively, watching as her face fell in sadness.
"But – I – you –" she stammered and he squeezed her tighter to his side, kissing her temple. Finally, she burst out, "You can't go underground, Ron, especially is a foreign country, it's too dangerous! And you just proposed! I can't be planning a wedding without you around!" Tears were falling down her face and Ron felt his heart slowly start to break. He embraced her, tucking her head under his chin. He hated himself for putting her through this.
"I'm so sorry, Hermione. If I could get out of it, I would, but they're making me go." He was watching her carefully again, gazing at her as she wiped the tears from her cheeks. Finally, she sighed and spoke once more. "I suppose I can't do anything about it. Just promise me you'll be careful. Please, Ron, I can't lose you, it would end my world –" She cut off as he kissed away her tears, finally capturing her lips with his. He looked deep into her sad, brown eyes and saw all the worries that were going through her head. He kissed her one last time for the night and said with the strongest earnest he could muster, "I promise, Hermione."
She seemed satisfied, but it was difficult to tell behind her mask of stony sadness. She looked like she was already planning his funeral. He just held her tighter and kissed every part of her face all over again.
Finally, before she fell asleep in his arms that night, she whispered, "Sometimes I really wish you weren't an Auror, Ron."