TITLE: Ireland


RATING: PG-13 for discussion of violence

SUMMARY: Trapped in the maelstrom of the War, Ron and Hermione take a moment to remember what it is they are fighting for.

A/N: For Sydney—welcome back! I've missed you. In honor of your support and friendship (and because you asked for this fic!), I dedicate this one to you. I rearranged the placement of the lyrics to make it flow…all I did was remove the chorus between each verse. I hope it suits you. And just for you…a Ron POV! *grin*

"They say mother earth is breathing,

With each wave that finds the shore.

Her soul rises in the evening,

For to open twilight's door.

Her eyes are the stars in heaven,

Watching o'er us all the while,

And her heart it is in Ireland

Deep within the Emerald Isle…"

I woke up alone--an unusual happenstance since Hermione and I sleep in the same bed every night. But then, when has anything we've ever done been usual?

I rolled out of bed, pulled on pajama bottoms and went in search of my beloved. I found her standing on the porch of the tiny house we were currently inhabiting in the lush green hills outside of Belfast. Coming up behind her, I wrapped my arms around her waist and buried my face in her tangle of caramel brown locks. She was stiff in my arms, lost in thought as she gazed out at the scenery before us. I nipped her ear with my lips and drawled, "Morning, baby."

My words pierced the mental fog she was lost in, and she turned in my embrace to plant a deep kiss on my lips. Holding her close, cradling her in my arms, I knew something was wrong. I knew Hermione better than anyone else on the planet did, and I'd always had a sort of sixth sense when it comes to her—though I surely never used it in school. I could always tell when something was troubling her, even when she refused to tell me. A line from one of those American movies she'd convinced me to watch with her crossed my mind. "Penny for your thoughts."

She smiled weakly and turned back to the hills before us. "Ron, do you even know what a penny is?"

I grinned despite her emotional upset. "Yes, Miss Granger, since you've coerced me into watching those American Muggle cinematic masterpieces with you…" My blustering had the desired effect—a real smile, a pure Hermione smile, graced that beautiful face I loved so dearly. I kissed the smiling lips tenderly. "What's on your mind this morning, sweetheart?"

She sighed and nestled into my arms, her eyes still trained on the landscape. "Look at this beautiful place, Ron. So brilliantly green and teeming with life and possibility and viability. Innocent land, innocent lives…and it all could be destroyed in a matter of minutes. This living, breathing, spirited land, decimated because of a war that has nothing to do with this countryside or these people or…" She trailed off, frustrated. I stared off at the hills around us, mulling over her words.

The land that surrounded us was certainly lovely and alive and enchanting. But all too soon, it would become a battlefield, a war zone—a cemetery for the fallen.

"We are forty against hundreds,

In someone else's bloody war.

We know not why we're fighting,

Or what we're dying for.

They will storm us in the morning,

When the sunlight turns to sky,

Death is waiting for its dance now,

Fate has sentenced us to die."

She was right, of course. The patch of land where our little cottage sat had been previously untouched by the horrors and bloodshed of this war. It truly had no place in the fighting, no reason for involvement…other than the fact that we were there. Because of our station there, this undisturbed beauty would be forever spoiled.

Marked, as she thought, with blood. Our blood, spilled in battle.

As two of the last of the surviving Order, we were targeted. We topped the list of targets, actually, for no other reason than our own innate goodness and our love for and devotion to our best friend, the indomitable—it seemed—Harry Potter. Of course, that alone devilled our sense of purity—to Voldemort and his supporters, we were the next best thing to the mortal enemy. Second only to Harry himself, we felt certain that we were next to be attacked. They'd come in the early morning hours, when we lay sleeping in each other's arms, the first rays of golden sunlight peeking through our windows. Innocent in thought and in action, we would be slain. It was not Divination, not precognition.

It was our fate. Our destiny.

Unless we fought back. Fought back and succeeded.

That was what Hermione feared, I realized. That we would not succeed where we had so many times before.

"Ron, what are we even fighting for? We're only three people—how can we do this? How can we defeat him with all our resources lost and all our support gone? "

"Hermione, we've always managed before. We'll manage again." Even to my own ears, however, my words sounded hollow. We both knew it.

"Ron, we had help then. This time, it's only us. We haven't a clue where Harry is, and everyone else…"

Everyone else was dead. I knew she was still having trouble wrapping her mind around the concept. It had happened so quickly. The rest of the Order—my parents, Lupin, Sirius, Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher…all killed in battle. My brothers. Ginny. Seamus Finnigan. The Patil twins. Draco Malfoy, who had turned his back on the Dark Side. All of them dead, lost in the War.

Perhaps the most stunning loss of all, however, was Dumbledore.

Our leader, mentor and friend. That loss has hurt the most—in more ways than one.

"Oh the captain he lay bleeding,

I can hear him calling me.

'These men are yours now for the leading,

Show them to their destiny.'

And as I look up all around me,

I see the ragged tired and torn.

I tell them to make ready,

'Cause we're not waiting for the morn."

On the brink of death, Dumbledore had charged us—Harry, Hermione and I—to lead the fight to end Voldemort's reign of horror. He'd told us we were the hope and future of the wizarding world, and he knew we would be able to accept the responsibilities given to us. He was certain, confident, even at the end. And as he died, he told us that he loved us, he was proud of us, and he had faith in us.

We had none in ourselves, though.

Frightened and now terribly alone, we'd struck out to follow Voldemort and plan another sneak attack. This one was a mild success, and we escaped unscathed. We were weary, though, tired of the fear and the fighting and the growing despondency and desperation we felt. But we carried on, just as Dumbledore would have wanted.

"Love, do you remember what Dumbledore told us after Cedric was murdered?"

Hermione looked up at me, brow furrowed. "He said a lot of things."

I smiled despite myself and kissed her forehead. "He said that if the time came when we would have to make a choice between what was right and what was easy to remember what had happened to Cedric. He knew, love. He knew it would come to this, and he wanted us all to realize the power we held in making the right decision. True, the easiest thing to do would be to run away, change our names and disappear from sight, but that isn't the right thing to do, and we both know it. What we're doing is the right thing to do, not just because we fight for the Light, but because it's what we were meant to do. We were destined to be soldiers in this battle, Hermione. It was never a choice for us."

She rested her head on my shoulder and breathed deeply. "I do know that, Ron. Logically, I mean. But God, the pain and the fear—it's so much sometimes. I just want to quit, but I know we can't. I know I never could."

There were times…times when I thought, surely we couldn't be expected to carry on like this. Our numbers had dwindled and we'd grown tired. And now…it was just us. Hermione and I, and Harry, somewhere. But I kept thinking of something else Dumbledore had said. He'd told us that we were only as strong as we were united and only as weak as we were divided. He was right—our combined strength and abilities had been what had gotten us this far, at least.

"And if we quit now, then he really will win, won't he? But we're not alone, 'Mione. I can still feel the spirits of those we've lost, fighting beside us, urging us on. We have to keep fighting. For them, for us, for the world. For this land, Hermione. This beautiful and rich land, its history, its people. We fight for them. That's why we're doing this. We're saving the world."

She released a small laugh, and I hugged her tighter. "Self- appointed guardians of peace?"

I shook my head. "Not self-appointed, love. No, this was something chosen for us, because we're capable of doing it. We can do this, 'Mione. I know we can."

She took a deep breath of clean mountain air and faced me with a smile. "I know it too, Ron. We'll win this. It's our destiny."

Taking my hand, she led me into the house and started preparing breakfast. The sun had risen, the birds were singing, and Hermione and I…

We were ready.

"Ireland, I am coming home.

I can see your rolling fields of green,

And fences made of stone.

I am reaching out, won't you take my hand?

I'm coming home, Ireland.

I am home, Ireland."