A/N: Hey guys, it's been a while! If you've seen my poll recently, then you already know that i currently have 6 in progress stories sitting on my laptop. This story was one of them, though it thankfully has reached completion. I tried something a little different here; the POV is always Ron, but it bounces between past and present. My inspiration for this story came from reading some very well-written Romione by Cloverlover (adorable!) and Blood sugar love (Beautifully done angst!). As much as i love fluff, i always seem to gravitate to darker genres when it comes to writing, which is why 90% of my work is angst. Yay :D Anyway, I hope you guys like this because it has literally taken me a month to write! Also, check out my updated story "An Almost Fairy tale" which is now under the name "Letting go for beginners". Enjoy~
(p.s Haha not my intention, but this is probably the longest one shot in the history of oneshots, so you might want to take a seat. It'll be a while)
There was a time when shopping for drapes was fun; a time when Ron would even mark the date on his Nascar calendar (A present from her) in anticipation. He would wake up early and bumble around the house doing chores, straightening pictures, sweeping the porch, dusting his old Quidditch trophies, and busying himself for as long as possible so Hermione could sleep in. (She really never fancied it when he woke her up at five-thirty in the morning) Around the time he'd finish, Hermione would be wide awake, coffee cup in hand, grinning at his eagerness.
(She said his enthusiasm for Home-Improving never ceased to amuse her)
But it wasn't the drapes themselves that made the trips so fun, or even the shopping, it was her. Holding her smallish pretty hands as they walked down the silverware aisle, kissing behind a wall of paint cans; laughing at her reluctant grin as he jumped on their shopping cart and rolled past the curtains and pillows.
(Being with her was like a perpetual shopping-cart ride; flying fast and reckless, grinning, laughing, emboldened by the champagne-foam-like happiness bubbling in his chest)
And eventually, a store manger would say something very stern to them, Hermione nodding solemnly like a chastised student, and Ron suppressing another bout of laughter.
(Hermione-with-hands-on-hips: Ron, I told you we shouldn't have been doing that!
Ron-with-grin: You didn't seem so stern when we were doing handstands by the barbecue pits)
And it was the stuff of Fairytales, of cliché muggle films (Hermione was surprised when Ron turned out to like Romantic comedies more than she), of perfectly painted pictures. It was a lot of things, actually, but mostly it was love.
You have a lot of visitors in your quiet little apartment, mostly your friends and sometimes family. Today, it's the Potters.
Ginny and Harry exchange worried glances when they see you sitting by the window again, clutching Crookshanks to your chest. Harry is holding some casserole that smells like an amateur replication of one of mum's old recipes and Ginny is carrying two paper bags filled with groceries. (They assume you can't feed yourself and you don't bother proving otherwise. Let them cook. It makes them feel like they're helping, anyway) Harry reaches out and pets the old cat, grinning when Crookshanks purrs into his palm.
"Mate, how've you been?" Harry asks, voice brighter than the sun. His smile is too wide to be considered natural, and he is gripping your shoulder like he thinks you're going to crumble. (Like an old statue being pelted with rocks. Like a tower of cards. Like a graham cracker crushed in a toddler's fist)
"I'm okay, how are you guys?" Hermione appreciated good manners, and responding accordingly to well-intentioned questions is a good show of them.
Harry's eyes are brightish green (like grass) when his face meets the strips of light spilling through your partially closed shutters, then deep, dark green (Like the forest at night) when he sits down beside you and falls into shade.
"We've been well! Luna and Neville recently got married, actually," He pauses and glances at Ginny. She nods imperceptibly and goes back to organizing the popsicles in your freezer. Emboldened by his wife's consent, he asks, "Why didn't you come? Luna said she sent your invitation first,"
You didn't go because nobody wants a miserable ghost taking up space on their wedding day, no matter how 'welcoming' the cream-colored invitations claim to be.
You thought about going, actually. On the day of the wedding, you pulled on an old suit, brushed your hair, splashed cold water on your face, put on shiny shoes and a swanky tie, and just when you were about to leave, it occurred that you'd forgotten something. You searched for about twenty minutes, lifting couch cushions, checking in drawers, under the bed, in your closet (What were you looking for anyway?) before it dawned on you. What you were missing wasn't an 'it', it was a 'she' and though you knew she couldn't be found underneath dusty shoeboxes or in the cupboard, you missed the wedding and spent the rest of the day looking.
"Came down with a nasty cold, couldn't get out of bed for a few days."
Harry nods at your lie, soft understanding flashing across the steady green pools of his eyes.
Until Hermione, Ron never understood his father's endless infatuation with muggle things. That all changed the moment she pressed a plastic rectangle covered with buttons into his hand (Remote. She had said patiently, Ree-moat) because ever since, he couldn't get enough of the muggle world.
(Mostly television and especially movies)
Hermione joined him on their jean-material couch with a bowl of popcorn, donning her most comfortable pair of pajama pants.
(He liked when she looked like this- hair all flyaway and messy-perfect, soft makeup-less skin, mouth smiling and happy. Beautiful)
"Here, I found this movie in your room. Should we watch it?" He held up a video with two cartoon deer on the front, alongside a rabbit and some bluebirds.
She looked at him incredulously. "Bambi? You want to watch Bambi?"
He shrugged, cheeks flushing slightly, but began putting the video in anyway. "I haven't watched that many movies yet, and I want to see all types,"
She grinned and curled into his shoulder as he sat back down. "Just be prepared for some tears, okay?"
He chuckled. "Hermione, I'm not a first year. I think I can handle a few cartoon forest animals."
At the end of the movie, Ron claimed the tears were from allergies and Hermione pretended to believe him, smiling to herself as she put the empty popcorn bowl in the sink.
You're opening your mail, sorting through the annoying ads and bills, making sure to carefully place aside the coupon book as usual. You never cut them out or even consider using any of them, though.
(Hermione used to love getting the little booklets. It was one of those miniscule things in life she found happiness in)
Sometimes you stare down at your hands that are pale yellowish and covered with too many freckles, and you think of her hands. Small and softish and elegant, with enough evident scars and calluses to show strength. Sometimes when she was sleeping or laying beside you, you would trace your clumsy fingers along the scars one by one, connecting them into constellations and shapes, feeling the bumpy white ridges of wounds long since healed.
(But do wounds heal forever?)
It scared you to see so many bruises and cuts and gashes (Healed or not) on her pretty form, even though ninety percent of the time you were there when she got them. The worst was on the inside of her left arm, the spot that still faintly read "mudblood".
(You never forgot the sound of her screaming that night. It was like having your heart ripped in half)
As the stack of mail thins, you find a small letter, buttercup yellow with a pressed wax stamp, addressed to you in curling ink. You don't get letters often, being that you use the muggle postal system instead of owls, so you're both curious and suspicious.
"Dear Mr. Weasley,
It is the Ministry's greatest pleasure to invite you to the first annual War Heroes Appreciation ceremony, an event held to honor you and many others for your brave, selfless acts throughout the duration of the war-"
Life has a sense of humor sometimes, because right as you're crumpling the paper into a ball, Harry rings.
"I'm not going, Harry."
"If you don't come, I'm not going, and neither will Ginny, Neville, Lavender, Seamus-"
"I get it. If I don't go Gryffindor won't either, but that doesn't change anything," Your own wounds are too fresh, yet to scar over, and to go to some stupid ball with constant reminders of her? Well, the scabs would burst at their bloody seams.
You think that Harry will give up like usual (because he thinks you're breakable and fragile) but instead he plows on.
"Do you think this isn't going to be hard for me too?" It is soft anger, whispered and vulnerable, traveling miles through telephone wire and into your ear, the pain in his voice as evident as his eyes are green. "I need you there, mate. I can't do this alone,"
"You have Ginny," A weak protest, scraped together with half a heart.
"You know it's not the same. Gin tries her best but," His voice breaks a little and he clears his throat. "It was the golden trio, remember?"
You stare at her coupon book and watch the colors melt into one another, the bills blurring into the ads, as saltwater beads in the corners of your eyes. You couldn't speak even if you had the words.
Harry doesn't need a response, though. He understands. "I know it's not perfect, Ron, but two-thirds is all we've got."
Sometimes if he tried very hard, he could pretend nothing existed outside of their little apartment in muggle London. It was so easy to focus only on the sunny-side up eggs bubbling in Hermione's frying pan, the upbeat music streaming from the radio, and the two of them dancing in the kitchen, her arms full of Crookshanks as she spun around with him in some semblance of a waltz.
(The old cat wasn't too happy about the arrangement to say the least)
She grinned, placing the miffed cat on the floor, and promptly fell into Ron's arms breathless with laughter.
He grinned and hugged her to him, his chin propped up on her head, face buried nose-deep in her cinnamon-scented curls. The beach boys sang about 'getting around', Crookshanks retreated to the corner for a nap, and the sun bathed their small kitchen in lemon-butter-honey-colored light. He smiled and began reaching into his pocket for something, a little box, eyes sparkling. She hadn't noticed what he was doing yet, and he couldn't wait for the surprised elation that would cross her face once she saw what lie inside. Merlin, how could he not do this right now? The moment- this moment- was so perfect.
(And so easy broken-)
The moment shattered like glass once Ron heard that familiar tap tap tap of an owl outside their window. The two sprang apart, suddenly somber.
(This was a war they were living in after all and owls no longer meant letters or cheerful notes. Either someone was dead or a meeting was going to be called. Ron couldn't decide which was worse)
"I, um, I'll go see what it is," Her eyes downcast, she strode into the living room purposefully. (With a pinch of reluctance and a spoonful of fear)
Ron was left standing in the middle of the kitchen, suddenly sick. The happy music blaring from the radio seemed perverse and wrong now, the sunlight inappropriately bright. With shaking hands, he roughly switched off the music and dropped the shutters, the velvet box falling back into the dark depths of his coat pocket. He paused for a moment to take a deep breath, before following her into the room (Rhymes with doom), Crookshanks at his heels.
Hermione was sitting on the floor, her legs carelessly splayed underneath her, the letter clenched in her shaking fist. "Ron," she whispered, glazed brown eyes focused at nothing. "Ron, they- they said it's time."
His heart stopped for a moment as her words sank in. It was time; the war was finally going to come to a close. He was deathly afraid of what that 'end' would entail, but he was also an Order member- not to mention a Gryffindor- so bravery prevailed over fear. With straightened shoulders and a steady gaze, he helped her from the floor.
"We better get to Hogwarts, then."
It's six o'clock in the morning and there is an obese cat sitting on your chest.
"Get off, you bloody nuisance," You mutter groggily, trying and failing to push the smug animal away. He knows you aren't going to do anything about it, so he remains tucked under your chin, his weight pressing down on your soon-to-be-shattered ribs.
Regardless of the mammoth perched on your chest, you close your heavy eyelids and prepare to drift back to sleep. (This is all very typical anyway. The day when that cat didn't try to suffocate you like this would be a strange day indeed) Just as sweet tendrils of unconsciousness begin to pull you under, you hear a series of rapid-fire knocks on the door.
For a long moment you contemplate simply ignoring it and sleeping instead, but before you have the chance of reaching a decision, your bedroom door is tossed open.
"Why, hello there Crookshanks!" Luna grins and glides into the room, perching herself on the edge of your bed, playfully shaking the cat's paw. Perhaps if it were anyone else you would feel irritated- and rightly so- at them for intruding, but this is Luna and she acts according to her own type of logic. Besides, it isn't as if she is being harmful. If anything, her unexpected presence is beneficial, as she has managed to coax Crookshanks off your person.
You sit up and scrub the sleep-sand from your eyes. "Good Morning, Luna. To what do I owe this pleasure?" She smiles serenely and rakes her pale-blue nails through Crookshank's fur.
"I wanted to show you my wedding photos,"
Acidic guilt churns in the pit of your stomach. You haven't spoken of the wedding with her yet, not even to ask how it went or to congratulate her, because the mere mention makes you regret (and yet not regret simultaneously) your decision to miss it. You focus your gaze on the sheets and respond with a well-rehearsed lie.
"Yeah, I'm really sorry I couldn't go, Ya' know that nasty cold and all-"
She raises an eyebrow in soft amusement and gently stops you with a wave of her hand. Something is sparkling behind the many layers of blue and crystal in her eyes; something like understanding and forgiveness.
"Not couldn't; Didn't want to. I didn't expect you to go, Ron,"
You stare at her in confusion. Then why would she bother sending out an invitation if she was so sure you wouldn't come? And what made her so sure, anyway?
"Ron, I know what you were planning to do before…before the last battle," Your heart stops beating for a moment, because the only person you told was Harry, so only Harry should know. For the first time you can recall, Luna looks apprehensive about her next words. Unsure.
"Harry told me about the ring," She whispers, jewel-blue eyes shimmering with tears and sorrow and animated grief. "How could anyone expect you to go to a wedding- even mine- after what happened? I only sent one out so you knew you would be welcomed, regardless," She sniffs a little and brushes her fallen tears from Crookshank's now-damp fur.
It is too early in the morning for your chest to be aching like this. It feels like your heart is breaking all over again. "It's okay, Luna. Im sorry I didn't want to go,"
She smiles a little through the tears and scoots closer, placing a mint-colored photo album in your hands. "It'll be like you were there"
She pecks you on the cheek and gives Crookshanks one last adoring look, before gathering her things to go. At the last minute, she pauses in the door frame, turning slightly.
"I lost my mother, Ron, I know how this feels. It gets better, never completely, but in pieces and bits until one day it isn't so much a wound as a scar." Her small pink mouth bends into a tired smile. "And as ugly as they can be, scars mean healing."
. . .
Luna is a vision in her buttercup-yellow wedding dress, her pale-golden tresses adorned with hundreds of brightly colored flowers. You've never seen Neville look so happy and content, and his eyes seem to be sparkling just as much as his new wife's. The wedding is in a field, bright and filled with sun, as evident from the occasional glare in the photographs. But the main thing you notice is that they look happy. The kind of happiness and peace and utter contentment that is just so vast that keeping it internal is impossible, causing the light to spill from their eyes and color every word they speak with joy. It's lucky that the pages are covered in plastic sleeves; otherwise there would be salt water spots everywhere. You brush the tears from your eyes and instinctively reach for Crookshanks, who, understanding your current state, allows himself to be wrapped in your shaking arms. This all hurts so badly because the cold fact of the matter is-
You two could've been that happy.
The very moment Ron and Hermione stepped through the fireplace and into Dumbledore's old office, they were bombarded with noise and flurried, panicked movement. Mad-eye dove at Ron, gripping his collar in a fist.
"Where the hell is Potter?" he snarled, flecks of saliva flying from his sputtering lips. Confused, Ron wordlessly shook his head, and Moody quickly released him, frustration, rage, and borderline panic etched into his features. "Damn it," he muttered, forgetting about Ron completely as he moved on to the next victim to question.
Ron surveyed the chaotic scene before them. From what he could tell, there was absolutely no sense of order here whatsoever, which was actually rather ironic given that they were called the Order. Among the noise and closely wedged bodies, he saw no sign of Remus, which was odd considering he was the unanimously elected leader of the group. The small office was full to bursting with members all screaming and shouting over another to be heard, panic and fear clear in each of their voices. "This is bloody mad," Hermione hissed, irritation clear on her face. Beside him, she clenched her fists and stepped forward.
Her sharp, clear, unfaltering voice cut through the noise and caused a surprised silence to fall across the room. She surveyed the crowd. "Where is Remus?"
The man in question stumbled forward from within a large circle of the higher-tier members, such as Tonks and Moody. He looked rather haggard and wan, hair sticking up in odd places, mouth drawn into a grim line. "I've been waiting to speak with you two," he began quietly, walking towards the pair. He glanced around the room and sighed, "But first I must take care of this," Donning a now perfect mask of confidence and fearlessness, he turned to address the tense crowd.
"I urge you all to listen very closely to what I am about to say; I know the savior's whereabouts are currently unknown, but fear not. I have an inkling as to where Mr. Potter may be, and I have already sent several members to scour the castle grounds in search of him. I am also aware that the Dark lord's army is nearing, which is why I need each and every one of you to stop behaving like senseless animals, and get your heads on properly," In the same authoritative tone he began listing off orders to certain members, issuing some to begin casting protective spells, and telling others to continue searching for Harry.
Ron and Hermione glanced at each other, now as worried as everyone else. His head was swimming with confusion- where was Harry? The letter hadn't said anything was amiss, only that tonight the final battle would take place. The message was grave enough as it was; they couldn't have bothered to include that last crucial bit of information? Hermione's hand wrapped in his, they sought Lupin and began demanding answers.
"I have a feeling Harry went to…" Remus paused and took a fortifying breath. "To face the Dark lord on his own," The minute those words left Lupin's lips, Hermione sprang forward, eyes filled with pure fear.
"Why would he just go? He didn't even wait for us to go with him?" Underneath the many layers of concern and worry in her voice, there lie a deep sadness and betrayal. Ron couldn't blame her, either. It was common knowledge that Harry preferred to do dangerous things on his own, but something like this? He should have waited for them. He should have bloody waited.
Hermione's brow furrowed in thought, her eyes glazing over as she contemplated their options. "I'm going after him. Ron, you can stay here and help out with the Order. No need to take two members away, " She said at last, tone resolute and firm.
The mere idea of allowing Hermione to walk straight into the heart of the battle- alone- was so absolutely ridiculous, that he found himself laughing. Hard. Tears budded in the corners of his eyes, and his body nearly bent in half as he tried to catch his breath. Quickly recovering, he straightened and looked down at her, expression abruptly grave. "No. Either we both go, or neither of us goes."
He knew for a fact she was a stubborn witch, but how could she not see that there was no logic in going on a suicide mission? She glared up at him in silent defiance. He blew a puff of air between his lips and wearily ran a hand down the side of his face. "Remus? Make her see sense."
Their former professor glanced between the two, before finally nodding in agreement. "Yes, I do believe neither of you should go. Mr. Potter's intentions either involve bravery born of utter confidence that he will emerge victorious, or…"
All three of them knew what remained unsaid, (Horcrux. The final piece he never intended to create. Only one can live. A piece inside Harry's soul. The prophecy. Horcrux, Horcrux, Horcrux) but Hermione insisted on having it voiced. "Or what?"
"Or he has just knowingly made himself a sacrifice."
It's been a while since you've had any reason to dress nicely, so when you find yourself standing in front of a closet containing only Quidditch t-shirts and jeans, a mere two hours before the War Heroes Appreciation Ceremony, you can't help but feel mildly panicked. You rifle through hanger after hanger, throw open the drawers, dig through laundry, and the only formal attire you procure is that bloody horror from the Yule Ball back in fourth year. (It no longer fits you, thank Merlin, and you only kept it because it reminds you of her in a funny-not-so-funny way)
It's also been quite some time since you've looked at your reflection. (Really looked) Of course you pass the mirror every day, seeing that brief flash of red hair and overly-freckled skin, but you make a point not to linger. Maybe it's because you've never been entirely comfortable with your reflection.
(In a house full-to-bursting with red hair and the same skin and the same eyes, appearance seemed fairly unimportant. Then one day you saw your reflection and noticed you were too lanky and too tall and your hands hung awkwardly from your bony wrists like mitts, plus your front tooth was sort of crooked.)
Today, you stand directly in front of the cracked bathroom mirror and force yourself to inspect the sallow-skinned man looking back at you. Hollow-ish cheekbones like those muggle-skeleton decorations on Halloween, lavender bags sitting heavily under your dimmed eyes, and lips perpetually thinned into a grim line. Somehow, when you weren't looking, a tiny gray hair grew amongst the sea of red. Ever since the war ended and smoke cleared away (to reveal wastelands), everyone says you look much older than you are. It's funny because sometimes it takes a minute to remember exactly how long you've been alive, mostly because each day feels like decades. If someone asked you right now how old you were, you might just say two hundred.
Because nineteen is just a number and it in no way expresses the amount of time you've had to slog through just to get here. Nineteen years is nothing.
(But apparently it's enough to induce a gray hair. See? Time did this, hardships did this, she did this; not age.)
Crookshanks pushes the door open and struts into the bathroom; his small wiggling nose grazing the ceiling as if he owns the place. (You really must remember not to leave the door ajar) From his comfortable spot on the tile, he watches you awkwardly run your clumsy fingers through tufts of red hair, vainly attempting some semblance of a hairstyle. After a solid ten minutes of no success and several wasted handfuls of styling gel, it occurs to you that there is probably a spell somewhere that could save you a lot of trouble.
(However, you've made it a point to stay away from magic up until now, storing your wand in the bedside drawer only as a safety precaution)
After a few moments of contemplation, you leave the bathroom, scruffy hairdo still in place. It truly does not matter, does it? No one is really expecting you to come, so they'll most likely be pleased with anything you decide to wear.
As if reading your thoughts, the old cat purrs his approval. Quidditch shirt it is.
When you pull open the door to greet your escorts for the night (Gin and Harry insisted that you three arrive together. Well, Ginny insisted, Harry simply asked) your sister's face instantly pulls into an expression of utter horror.
"Y-you're wearing that?"
Before you can answer with a customary shrug, she pulls out her wand to transfigure your cannons shirt into, as she would say, something more appropriate. It takes a lot more energy to disagree with Ginny than it does to simply stand there and let her do what she wants, so you eagerly choose the latter. "There," She says, eyeing the new suit in satisfaction. "This is the kind of attire one wears to a ball, not some grimy old Quidditch shirt,"
Harry smiles tightly and claps you on the shoulder, but you don't miss the look he shoots at his wife. Don't push it, Gin. He barely wants to go as it is.
All quite true.
The apparition point is rather far from your apartment, so you three walk for some time down the sidewalk, the wind fluttering the edges of Ginny's teal-colored dress, and Harry's age-old glasses sliding down the bridge of his nose continuously, always seconds from falling before his fingers push them back up. You have your hands in the pockets of the suit that isn't yours, eyes roaming across each house in your neighborhood. You remember the day you two moved here as if it had happened only moments ago.
"Ron I don't know about this," Her fingers tightened around the steering wheel.
He turned to Hermione and flashed a smile, giving her anxiously jumping hands a reassuring squeeze. Trepidation and worry were etched into her face as clearly as the brand new scar dimpling her chin. (He didn't know where it came from, but they would surely discuss it later)
It was actually kind of funny that Hermione was the nervous one, considering the seemingly endless reserves of bravery she would show during Order meetings, and Ron, for once, felt absolutely and entirely sure of himself.
Maybe Hermione couldn't see it yet, but moving to muggle London was a good idea. He knew her primary worry was that they'd be too out of reach should the Order contact them, but that could be easily remedied by the use of floo powder. Then, she feared they would be making themselves vulnerable to Death Eater attacks by living in such a weakly protected area, but he promised time and time again that they would cast every charm and spell in the book if necessary.
And, last but not least, she was simply afraid of change.
(Which was a terrifying prospect to many, but especially to the girl that strove on order and predictability)
And sure, maybe they were a little young, but they'd both been through more than enough to warrant such a big step. It was the middle of a blooming war for Merlin's sake; time was as precious as life itself, and he'd seen far too many waste it on worrying and fear. (Which wasn't even living, in Ron's eyes)
They were moving here because they needed a break from bloodshed and panic; from grim meetings, weary nights, losses, missions, planning, death eaters, crying, and scars that shouldn't be there. Mostly they just needed to start breathing again.
She stopped the car in front of the apartment building but didn't turn to look out the window. Instead, she calmly unbuckled her seat belt, pulled the keys from ignition, and promptly fell against the steering wheel in tears.
"Mione, what's wrong?"
His arms were instantly wrapped around her small, shaking frame; big, clumsy hands rubbing circles on her back. She shook her head and smiled crookedly, tears still leaking from the corners of her eyes, "Ron, why are we doing this?"
Without a beat of hesitation, he answered, "Because we both need a break, Mione. Maybe not a long-lasting one, but a break nonetheless. It's unhealthy to be around so much misery all the time, and I think getting a little separation from it will be good for both of us,"
"But, Ron, we can't just run from our problems. The war is still here-"
Gently, he stopped her. "We aren't running. We're living, okay? Who knows how long this war is going to drag out? Do you really want to spend every second until then waiting around for bad news in Grimmauld place?"
She gently brushed the tears from her eyes and shook her head. "No, of course not,"
"Neither do I. All im saying, is that we need to start moving on with our lives and enjoying them while we can, because you and I both know that life is finite," They were grim words but true nonetheless, and she nodded in agreement.
"Harry, the bloody savior himself, moved into the Burrow with Gin, and you know what? He's been so much happier since then. Just because there is a war, doesn't mean we need to put our lives on hold forever, okay?"
She smiled and met his encouraging gaze, her eyes two beacons of renewed courage.
"I love you"
He leaned in and gently kissed her, grinning against her lips like a loon. "Hey, I love you more," He muttered, pulling her closer. Hermione smiled back and brushed a stray hair from his forehead, her gaze adoring.
It's been a little over a year since you've been to Hogwarts, but the minute you set foot on castle grounds, every memory floods back until it feels like you never even left. After the final battle, the school was left in smoking piles of rubble, even the strongest of walls left in ruins, leaving only the barest foundation and memories of a castle that once stood tall. Since then, the ministry has worked feverishly on repairing the school and despite your very biased dislike towards them, the castle is looking better than you expected.
Ginny releases your hand as you three step away from the apparition spot and you find yourself wishing she hadn't. All of a sudden the sight of your former home is too much, far too overwhelming, and any kind of anchor to reality would be much appreciated. Gin saunters ahead on her little clicking heels, drinking in the castle with morbid interest. (Is she imaging the bloodstains that used to coat this wall or that wall, as well? Is she remembering the bodies that slumped against those pillars, or the death curses that soared through this presently clear air?)
You make it past the Quidditch fields and a small spark of long-forgotten joy flickers within, the edges of your lips twitching into what would be a smile if you still knew how to do such a thing. You think back to the first day of tryouts, and how awkward you felt in your gear, like a child jokingly placed in a man's clothes. It was a million moments ago, but the butterbeer you drank after your first win is still the sweetest thing to ever pass your lips. Harry's eyes are glossed over in nostalgia as well, his mouth curved in an absent smile.
The feeling of peace does not last, though, because you know that place is coming up. The place it all ended. The place everything in your life was completely and irrevocably changed, shattered like a fragile crystal dish in a world with no repair charms or muggle glue. (And you aren't referring to the death of Voldemort)
You reach the Black lake and everything seems to just stop. For a full second, the expected swell and contraction of your heart ceases to exist, leaving your hollow chest with unsettling silence. You stop walking and simply stand there, staring out across the mirror-like surface of the water, so unnervingly calm and unrippled, that unconsciously you are waiting for something to strike. (There is no such thing as safe) Over and over you relive those final moments; watching her sway slightly at first, then fall into the lake's unfathomable black depths, cranberry-colored carnations blooming across the water's dark surface like flowers or red ink. You remember diving in and feeling the deepest chill of your life, the absolute cold seeping into the very marrow of your bones, but your body temperature was the last thing on your mind because all you needed to do was save her and you had to save her because life wasn't worth living without-
Harry takes off his glasses to wipe the tears from his eyes.
You reach for Harry's hand and interweave your fingers like a complex knot, squeezing hard like a scared child seeking comfort. (At least you aren't burying your face in his shoulder) He doesn't say anything, only squeezes back and keeps walking.
(Lingering doesn't do much good for anyone, as Harry has always said)
The Great hall is decorated with bright, sparkling banners and ribbons, and in each corner a cluster of balloons are charmed to sing the school's anthem. Guests bustle and move, tightly packed together like well-dressed sardines, laughter and conversation covering up the sound of a mediocre band the Ministry hired last-minute. A witch with banana-yellow hair glides by and offers you and Harry a flute of something sparkling and clear from her tray. Harry takes one without hesitation and knocks it back, so you do the same. (Perhaps the numbing properties of champagne will make this whole thing easier)
Another witch with dark hair escorts you two to your section, where you find Ginny, Lavender, Seamus, Neville, and Luna awkwardly seated around a glittering table covered with gold-plated name cards. Seamus and Lavender are talking quietly about something, Luna draws patterns between the flecks of glitter, guiding Neville's hand to do the same, and Ginny bites her nails. You sit next to Harry and Harry sits next to Ginny, and voila the odd table is complete now that the savior and the ghost have joined. Gin playfully steals a sip from Harry's glass, before flagging down a waitress for her own drink. After accepting the flute with a smile, she turns to face you, irritation now clear on her face. "The utter amount of décor and glitter and bloody singing balloons here is sickening. They make it seem like this is some sort of gods-damned party," She bitterly takes a swig of champagne before gruffly slamming the glass back down on the table.
You have never agreed with your sister more. It's funny in a way that isn't funny, because more than half the people here didn't even fight in the war. (Maybe because most that did are now dead) A large majority of guests are top-tier ministry officials and high-ranking witches and wizards. In other words, they are people that had the least to do with the triumph over Voldemort, and yet they attend this ball as if it were a gala. (Which, from what you can see, it might as well be) Harry's face is slightly pinched but otherwise blank, which is how you and Ginny know he is extremely upset beneath the surface.
A small pudgy ministry woman totters her way across the stage to Dumbledore's old podium (now bright red and varnished with flowers and ribbons). She clears her throat a few times, before pressing the tip of her wand to the hollow of her throat: "Hello witches and wizards, I thank you all for taking time out of your busy schedules to attend this ball and honor those who lost their lives fighting for a wonderful cause,"
Seamus scoffs under his breath. "A wonderful cause? Makes it sound like we ran a charity for puppies or some rubbish," Gin clinks her glass to his at that, and Lavender nods in agreement.
"Though they are no longer with us physically, their memories will forever live on in our hearts. We lost men, women, and most regretfully, children in this struggle. I will now read down a list of those who sacrificed their futures for our own," She clears her throat and puts on a pair of small reading glasses. "These names are in no particular order. Okay, here we go: Diggory, Cedric," The hall explodes in applause which is odd, but you won't hold it against them for not knowing how to respond. You are supposed to be celebrating and honoring these deaths after all, so maybe clapping is appropriate? (Still, there's no way in hell you're clapping. Gin is staring daggers at the speaker and Harry looks like he just got sucker punched in the stomach) "Moody, Alastor. Black, Sirius. Lupin, Remus," The woman fires off names and each is met by short bursts of applause.
(Your stomach hurts, Harry looks like he wants to die, and everyone at your table is now glaring at the woman as if it were her fault your loved ones have been reduced to mere names checked off like a grocery list. You feel sick.)
"Burbage, Charity; Scrimgeour, Rufus; Bagshot, Bathilda; Tonks, Ted; Tonks, Nymphadora," Your hands are shaking now and the flecks of glitter on the table are blending together as salt water forms in your eyes. Lavender is shaking her head, tears sparkling, and Ginny is now on her third glass of champagne. Harry stares straight ahead like a statue. "Creevey, Collin; Snape, Severus; Cresswell, Dirk," The woman continues listing name after name, but you stop listening, tuning out the applause and terrible music and names of the fallen, and instead focus on other things. You busy yourself by counting flecks of glitter on the table, then counting Ginny's freckles plus your own, then guessing how many singing balloons there are in total, then drumming your fingers, then-
"Dumbledore, Albus; Weasley, Fred,"
Ginny grabs your suit sleeve and buries her face in your shoulder, her body shuddering in quiet sobs. "I wish they would stop bloody clapping," She hisses, tears and anguish marring her features.
Yeah, you do too.
She folds up the list and stows it away, but this action doesn't make sense because she's forgotten one name (one name that is screaming it's presence in your head like a broken record). Everyone at your table notices, eyes sharp and jaws set, waiting for this woman to realize her mistake. (Say her bloody name. Acknowledgement is the least you owe her) Except, she doesn't notice anything and proceeds right to the next bit.
"And now, we honor the boy that saved us all, the one who prevailed through thick and thin, beat every trial, and conquered the epitome of evil itself; I present to you, Harry James Potter, or as we know him, the boy who lived!" The room seems to vibrate with the sheer force of applause and cheering that follow. Harry rises and plasters on a humble smile, though to the five of you it is apparent that the joy doesn't reach his eyes.
The woman grins with excitement when Harry shakes her hand, practically exploding with joy at the close proximity between her and the savior. "But he couldn't do it alone! Why don't the rest of the 'golden trio' join him up here? C'mon, you two, don't be shy!" The (stupid, ignorant, uninformed, foolish, unaware) crowd begins clapping in anticipation of the smartest witch of her generation and the red headed best friend. It takes a long five seconds for someone off stage to say something to the official; making her artificially rose colored cheeks flush deep scarlet. "Oh my," She stutters, "I believe I've made a small mistake,"
(Just a small one)
"Er, I meant, will just Mr. Ronald Weasley join us on stage?" Harry is still smiling good naturedly, but his hands are twitching and you have a feeling he wants to either punch something, or swallow a couple dozen fire whiskies. (Or maybe that's just you)
In the time it takes you to walk onto the stage, all of the enthusiastic clapping and cheering dies person by person, until you are standing alongside Harry in absolute-silence. The woman, clearly uncomfortable, awkwardly attempts to, as they say, 'get the ball rolling again'. "Now, you two have served the Wizarding world in ways we can neither measure nor repay. All of your bravery, courage, strength, and perseverance will not be soon forgotten, and the most we can offer you is but our humble thanks," The crowd begins clapping again, albeit less energetically than before. She continues to lament your victories and high points of the war, showering the two of you with glowing praise. Harry is used to being an object of attention, so he handles the compliments and cheering with grace, smiling out at the room in humble appreciation. You, on the other hand, would not have been capable of handling this even on a good day, and find yourself far- far- past your comfort-zone. The spotlight always looks like a great place to be, but once you're in it, Merlin does it burn.
Sometime later you find yourself up on the astronomy tower balcony, thinking about how they forgot her name. How, out of an entire list of people, her name was glossed over.
(Even if they didn't take into account her wonderful personality, beautiful smile, sharp wit, endless love, and brilliance, she still had been part of the golden trio and the brightest witch of her generation, so she should've been bloody remembered)
You lean over the stone railing and stare down at the snow-covered grounds. But, it's not close enough, so you carelessly toss your legs over until you're sitting at the very edge, feet dangling in empty air. Maybe this is stupid, but there's not enough in you to care. The brief adrenaline rush from knowing you could fall at any moment is a sufficient distraction from the bothersome thoughts festering on your brain.
Still, you really should've had more champagne. A buzz would be very nice right now.
Long before the stranger joins you, their pungent cigarette smoke curls out onto the balcony announcing their presence.
"Bloody he- What the hell do you think you're doing Weasley?"
Oddly, laughter bubbles in the base of your throat at the thought of Draco Malfoy's without-a-doubt horrified expression. (You'd turn around and take an eyeful, but abruptly shifting in such a precarious position wouldn't be the wisest of moves)
"Sitting." You reply flatly.
He scoffs and edges closer. In your peripheral you can see his movements are choppy and tense, a tightly placed expression of calm on his face. "Listen, Ron, why don't you come down?"
(He's never called you Ron as long as you've known him)
"Relax, Malfoy, I'm not going to jump or anything." Sure, maybe you didn't intend on doing it, but falling wouldn't be the worst thing to ever happen to you. (She wouldn't have wanted you to jump or fall, though, which is why your hands are securely grasping the railing instead of spread out like wings)
Draco calms down a bit and leans against the edge, cigarette loosely pressed between his lips. "The Mrs. doesn't approve of my 'habits'," He explains, exhaling a mouthful of ghosts onto the starry backdrop.
You get the impression he isn't out here just to smoke. There is no doubt in your mind that he is away from the festivities for the same reason as you; he doesn't belong. Perhaps you two don't fit in for different reasons, but this mutuality is enough to make you put aside past grudges for one night. "Did she make you come? I'm guessing you didn't show up out of self-will,"
He shrugs and gazes out at the dark sky, brow folded in deep thought, obviously miles away from the present. "Yeah, I guess" He replies absently, cooling cigarette forgotten between his fingers. "I know I'm not wanted here, though. Everyone in this entire castle knows I only just managed to keep out of Azkaban. If Mother hadn't saved Potter, I'm fairly sure I'd be rotting in a cell right now,"
"Funny how some things just work out like that,"
"Yeah, I guess. Hey," He blows a few rings of smoke into the dark sky, eyes suddenly somber. "I'm sorry about Gra- Hermione. I'm sorry about Hermione,"
It's weird hearing him of all people say such a thing, but what's even stranger is the absence of animosity you currently feel for him. Almost unsettling, yet decidedly not. "They forgot to mention her name,"
He smiles bitterly. "The ministry is full of idiots, Weasley. My father was an expert schmoozer, though his skills were hardly required with those bumbling officials, so I've seen firsthand exactly how brilliant the lot of them are," He looks down at his cigarette pensively, before tossing it out into the empty space beyond your balcony. The burning bright cherry seems to float on air for a moment, starkly contrasting with the star-studded, black canvas behind it, before finally falling down into the snow to be extinguished. "Regardless of their lack of respect, she was a true fighter, loyal down to the very roots, and the strongest witch I ever met," He pauses for a moment and shoots you a sidelong glance, afraid he's overstepped boundaries by speaking as if he knew her. The unsaid look on his face reads clearer then anything-
(I'm sorry for being such a prat, but that was the past and now all I can do is hope for forgiveness. I truly am sorry for the world's loss of its brightest witch)
"Yeah, she was wasn't she? Thanks, Malfoy."
Then you close your eyes and decide you don't want to talk anymore. It's much easier to get lost in the cold air and musky clouds of smoke than it is to think about the terrible dishonor they did her. Sometime later, Draco leaves with the joking-but-not-so-much statement of "I better rejoin the lovely crowd and hide in a corner so my traitorous face doesn't offend anyone". You swing your legs like when you were a child and mother used to sit you in one of the big chairs for dinner. You felt so mature, so grown up, when you were perched in that seat like a little king, even though in reality it was a normal chair and you were just especially small. (Ironic considering your current height)
For a second you contemplate what would happen if your fingers slipped and you fell from the balcony, an entire castle's length of a fall, and went klump into the snow banks. Maybe it would feel like a dream, a strange sort of detachment, or perhaps you'd be out-of-your-mind terrified, spending your last seconds in fear. You imagine what everyone would think (oh the grief finally got the best of him. Tsk tsk cant say im surprised) and more importantly what your friends would say (No, they wouldn't say anything, because sometimes sadness is so vast that it swallows up words and sounds. They would be silent. Absolutely silent). Maybe Malfoy would shake his head in numb horror, thinking you really had intended to jump when he found you. Maybe he'd stare at the fire with a drink later on, going over the scene again and again in his head trying to make sense of it. Mother would cry and Father would crumple into his easy-chair, orange hair flyaway and eyes swollen-pink. The world would be without yet another spot of red.
You shake your head and climb back onto solid ground, shaken by your own morbidity.
It was ironic that the first few hours (of what would later be dubbed 'The final battle') were spent simply waiting. Waiting for the Aurors to track down Harry, waiting for the protection charms to be completed; waiting for the 'okay' to start fighting.
Ron spent most of his 'waiting time' trying to ease Hermione's anxious mind and fluttering fingers. (She had a terrible habit of fidgeting her hands when she was nervous) After exactly two hours and thirteen minutes, Remus burst through the office doors, face flushed with relief, a very stony-faced Harry Potter standing beside him. Both Ron and Hermione instantly enveloped him in a suffocating hug, mumbling into his shoulder (and in Ron's case, his hair) What were you thinking going out by yourself, but also We are so relieved, and how could you, but we're so glad you're okay, until finally they broke apart and asked, nearly in unison; "What happened?"
Apparently, while Ron and Hermione had still been flooing over and getting themselves situated, Harry had watched Snape die at the hands of his master. He sat down in numb defeat, blandly recalling Snape's memories that he'd seen in the pensieve, starting from the day he met Lily and ending at his last conversation with Dumbledore. That was where he'd been for the past few hours, viewing memories and thinking things over, thankfully proving Lupin's theory wrong. (For the most part)
"Ever since first year, he knew I would have to die," Harry said colorlessly. "Dumbledore knew that to truly defeat Voldemort, I'd have to die,"
Ron and Hermione shared a look of worry. It wasn't like Harry to be so emotionless, so either a storm was coming or he had truly lost the ability to feel. Ron wasn't sure which he preferred. Gingerly, Hermione asked, "Harry, how do you feel about this?"
He raised an eyebrow and glanced up at her. "How do I feel? Mm, betrayed, foolish, horrified, accepting," He listed off casually, "But, Dumbledore was right to keep this from me. I found out at the right moment, because now I know what I have to do. I have to die," He smiled cynically at his own statement and began to stand. "Never thought I would say that, but I've never meant anything more,"
After a long, heated debate over this, Lupin, Hermione, Ron, and the rest of the Order reluctantly agreed that Harry's option was the only conceivable one. Though, surprisingly, it was Hermione's statement that swayed the last few members in doubt, including Lupin. "Harry's right; as much as we love and care about him, there is absolutely no way we can let so many people die in favor of his survival. The chosen one has a destiny and if we want a Voldemort-free world, it must be fulfilled," Ron stared at her in numb shock, a horrid, sick feeling settling in the pit of his stomach like a rock. Around the room, heads began nodding in hesitant agreement, moved by Hermione's strong words and reasoning.
Harry nodded stiffly at her, jaw squared and angled sharply, though his eyes were as soft as tears and silk. "I love you two," He said quickly, turning away and heading for the door without a second glance. Hermione watched him go, wordlessly, expression completely blank. Ron, on the other hand, was a mess. He couldn't wrap his mind around why Hermione was letting their best friend walk to his death as if it meant nothing, and he tried to storm after Harry only to find her body blocking his path.
He stared down at her incredulously. "Hermione, what the hell are you-" She stopped him by pushing her flattened palm to his mouth, her eyes overly-bright. "Wait about one more minute, and we're following him," she scoffed and shook her head, "Did you really believe I would let Harry go out there on his own? I just needed him to think that's what he's doing, so we would have the upper hand. We started this together, and we're ending this together. Harry knows it too; he just refuses to acknowledge it yet,"
True to her word, Ron and Hermione did end up following Harry, catching him by surprise only a few minutes into his quest. At first, he was absolutely enraged, (Can't you understand I need to do this by myself? Go! Go back, I'm not letting you two get hurt!) then pleading, (Please, just try to understand? You two mean the world to me, and I can't let anything happen to you!) Until he finally pulled them close and muttered "Thanks,", because the three of them had always known he'd never wanted to do this alone. As Hermione had said; they'd done everything together from the start, and they were going to do everything together till the very end.
The battle erupted into full-swing as soon as Voldemort's forces managed to destroy the protective charms guarding the school, both sides charging at each other at once with wands blazing. Ron, Harry, and Hermione trekked through the heart of the battlefield, deflecting spells and occasionally firing them, as they made their way towards the place where it all would end. (Hermione's spells were flawless, but there was a certain quiver to her grip that wasn't usually there, and Ron's stomach wouldn't stop turning and Harry, though mild in expression, seemed several shades paler. The place where it all would end? What exactly would that mean? Ron's heart felt like that of a frightened sparrow's)
The forbidden forest was where the trio was finally forced to part ways. Harry's eyes darted back and forth between the dark thicket of trees and his two best friends, expression oddly calm. "I'm ready to do this," He said softly, gripping his wand in a fist. For a long moment the three just stared at each other, unsure of what to say next. Finally, Hermione flung herself at Harry, nearly knocking him over in the process, and Ron quickly followed suit.
("I love you two so much and you've been the best friends anyone could ask for and I don't want you to grieve too much because I'll always be here if not physically then in your hearts and-")
They broke apart and Harry cast a lingering look at the pair as if trying to memorize every detail, before turning to go. Ron's heart pounded in his chest and it reminded him of when Seamus brought those toy drums to class and wouldn't stop playing with them all day. Boom-ba-boom-ba-boom. It was so dark and silent that Ron could hear his own blood pumping far too clearly, and Hermione's hand in his was shaking, the moon was but a silver sliver hiding amongst the trees, and the stars were oddly absent. Maybe the wind meant to convey a message as it whispered through the tree-branches in its eerie lilt, but he couldn't understand what it said because the sounds of the battle, although dimmed somewhat by his distance from it, rang loudly in the background. This was it, this was the end. Either victory or defeat would greet him in the morning, but the darkness of the sky was so absolute that to even think of lightness was difficult.
This was it.
He squeezed Hermione's small hand and together they ran straight into the thick of the battle.
Hermione used to love building puzzles, especially the 1000-piece ones. She would take her box and mug of tea, situate herself by the window, and work for hours, occasionally sipping at her drink in contentment. You never really understood her interest in them, because as far as you were concerned, building puzzles was a tedious and time consuming activity that generally reaped no benefits.
But, that was then- that was before- because now you build a new puzzle every Sunday.
As per tradition, you reach into the closet and pull out your latest project; a park scene equipped with two small children and a dog. (1500 pieces)
You don't really have too much clutter anywhere, so finding a clear space isn't difficult. Crookshanks jumps on the coffee table, seating himself regally as if it were a throne and not a shabby piece of furniture. The cat has deemed himself comfortable and stationary, and since he wears the pants in the family, you have no choice but to build the puzzle there.
(Maybe it's kind of sad that the 'family' is you and a cat, but so what? He's a pretty good companion when he isn't scratching your ankles to ribbons)
You lay out each piece in neat rows facing upwards, creating an organized sea of faces, clouds, fragments of grass, and small sections of indistinguishable mystery. (Could be a smile or a sparrow, only success will reveal the answer)
The snobby cat makes a point of walking across the half-finished dog in distaste, denting some of the pieces in the process. You roll your eyes and readjust the sky and nearly-completed Labrador. By the time you've found the last piece of its wagging tail, the doorbell chimes.
No one ever really rings the bell. Usually they just come in because they assume you're too weak and frail to manage opening a door. (Why bother proving them wrong? Less work for you) It's probably Harry or Mum. You swing open the door and prepare your "Im-okay-don't-worry-about-me" face, which immediately falls when you see who it actually is.
"Well if it isn't little Ronnykins," George grins warmly, eyes sparkling like the shimmering surface of a pool. "S'been a while, yeah?"
You manage to sputter out a surprised chuckle, before instinctively tackling your brother in a hug. "Yeah, George, it has," He squeezes back just as fiercely, "It really has,"
No one in your family- including yourself- has seen George since Fred's-
(Passing, turning, loss, absence, finish, ending)
Death, because he disappeared the very next day. Just disappeared. Gone. He didn't take much with him, and the only notice he gave them was an owl that came three days after his departure.
"I'm sorry, but I need to think some things over. Tell mum not to worry about me, I'll be fine. See you all when I see you.
P.S. I love you lot, okay?"
It has been ten months since then. It almost doesn't feel real, so you keep a firm hand on his shoulder as he walks inside just to make sure this isn't a dream. He's looking a bit worse for wear, but a hell of a lot better than you would have expected. Still, there's something about his posture that shows a certain heaviness. (His hands are a lot shakier, and his smile is crooked like a sign hanging by only one nail) His bright-blue eyes that once sparkled with mischief and conspiratorial humor are now several shades dimmer as if some internal light were flickered off, his face far more somber and grave than you remember.
(But that's what death does to a person- it darkens them. Dims them. Pours shades of grey over everything so that the blue of his eyes and red of his hair are barely evident anymore, so far beneath the shadows that you have to squint to see color)
It's been a while since you've been the one playing host, so it takes a bit of awkward fumbling around in the kitchen before you can procure a decent pot of tea and some sandwiches. (And a can of tuna for Crookshanks, which happens to be your best dish)
He takes a sip of tea and pretends, for your sake, that it isn't bitter as hell.
"I was staying with Charlie,"
You didn't ask, but you didn't really have to either. He sets down the chipped enamel mug and focuses on his folded hands with glazed eyes. "When Freddie d- left, I had no idea where to go. It was like the entire world had flipped upside down, leaving me suspended in the air, gasping like a bloody fish out of water. I thought about," He pauses and swallows hard, blue eyes so much like yours and Fred's filling with suppressed tears "I thought about joining him for a while," An unexpected sob lurches into his voice and he quickly coughs, scrubbing at his eyes, trying desperately to maintain control. "But that's not what Fred would've wanted, is it? He would have wanted me to wreak havoc on this planet for as long as bloody possible," He chuckles thickly, a watery smile crossing his lips. "So, I stayed with Charlie in Romania for a while, just me, him, and the dragons and I thought things through. You know what I figured out?"
Your own eyes are dangerously brimmed with tears, saltwater ready to slip down your face at the slightest movement, so the most you can offer is a choked, "What?"
"He's still with me, Ronny. He's still with all of us, and the last damn thing he would've wanted is for us to waste precious life on being sad. Freddie was never about sadness, see? He liked making people laugh, he loved smiling- that's what he wants for us. I just know it." And the small sliver of broadening peace on your brother's face is enough to make you believe that.
He reaches across the table and grabs your hand in his, squeezing firmly. "Ron," He begins softly, eyes genuine and searching, "You know she would've wanted the same, right?"
And with those few words, your heart is exploding behind your ribcage, pounding against your bleach-white bones like a fist, your blood racing. It feels like falling, except there's no ground to catch your body, and the only things you can see as the deep dark pit swallows you whole are George's eyes. Two bright blue beacons pulling you away from your own darkness.
But still. You can't speak. Your throat is constricting. Your chest hurts.
"Ron, it's okay. I know how it feels," His voice is little bits of dandelion fluff tickling your nose and the back of your throat, floating gently across your face.
"I can't talk about it." It takes every ounce of strength to say just that mere sentence. You grip the edge of the table and squeeze your eyes shut tightly, relishing the colorful fireworks that pop behind your closed eyelids.
You haven't talked about her with anyone. Harry has tried so many times and Ginny has tried and so have Mum and Dad and everyone else in your life, but, see, the key word there is tried.
(You can't share her with anyone, it's bad enough that she's –gone- and if all you have left are memories, then you will not share. You can't. They belong to you, she loved you and you loved her and she was taken away when she should have stayed. No one gets her but you)
"That's how I felt about Fred, Ron. He was my second half; you can't get much closer than twins. It took months for me to open up to Char, but once I did, a huge weight just lifted from my shoulders. I became unburdened,"
"She isn't a burden,"
"She isn't, but the grief is," Softly he says, "It's time to let her go,"
It's hard to look at him so instead you stare at your reflection in the wavering amber-colored tea. "How?" You ask hoarsely.
"Why don't you start by saying goodbye?"
Because, somehow, despite the fact that he wasn't even here for ten months, George knows you didn't go to her funeral.
In all of his seven years at Hogwarts, Ron never imagined that people would be fighting, killing, and dying in the same courtyard he played muggle-football in. It never occurred to him that blood could spill across the same lush-green Quidditch fields Gryffindor claimed victory on. And the very idea of death, by any means, occurring in even slight proximity of his school had never once plagued his thoughts.
And such thoughts still didn't reach his mind even as he watched the ugly tribulations of war play out before him; even as he himself fired a few lethal curses, the importance and gravity of what was happening didn't fully impress upon him. It was like a dream.
His only anchor was Hermione, the beautiful, brilliant, bright-as-a-star witch standing beside him, bearing an expression nearly as lethal as the flawless curses exploding from her wand. Together, they mowed through death eaters, Ron's strong suit being brute force and strength, and Hermione's being precision and a very meticulous selecting of spells. Together, they were nearly unstoppable.
Time was irrelevant, but after what felt like a few hours at least, Hermione said they needed to split up. A death eater bearing slight resemblance to Goyle fired two death curses their way, only to be killed seconds later by the very same spells, thanks to a deftly cast shield charm. (Courtesy of Hermione) She raked her hair back, pulling her hand away to find it covered in sticky blood and dirt. The area where they stood had calmed down a bit, as most of the fighting had migrated to the western wing of the castle, and Hermione took advantage of the brief reprieve. "Ron," She said breathlessly, "We need to separate," His expression instantly turned appalled.
"What? Mione, are you mad? Why the hell would we do that?"
She took no note of his frenzied tone, and continued calmly. "We can cover more area if we're separate, therefore saving more lives. We are both trained fighters, Ron, there will be no need for either of us to worry about the other's safety, or ability to fend for themselves," It was plain she was referring to his fear of leaving her to take care of herself. (It wasn't that he didn't trust her, but the thought of what he would do if something happened to his Mione…well it was not only too horrible to fathom, but enough to make him guard her like a dog as well)
"Hermione, there are a lot of fights I plan to let you win, but this one I refuse. We are not splitting up, okay? It's far too dangerous!"
She breathed out a heavy sigh and stepped closer to him, gripping his hands in hers. "Ron, I need you to trust this decision. I need you to trust me," Her wide, doe-like eyes peered up at him from beneath an awning of soot-colored lashes. (please, her gaze begged) He swallowed hard and abruptly pulled her small form to him, wrapping his arms around her so tightly that for a moment it felt as if they were one united being. Eventually he pulled away and lightly brushed her forehead with a kiss.
"I'll see you soon, love," She promised.
Ron had never felt so exhausted- both mentally and physically- in his life. It seemed that Voldemort's army was infinite, for, with every death eater he killed, five more appeared. He wasn't sure how long he'd been at it, but it felt like years. All the while, the well-being of his loved ones persistently stabbed into his thoughts, sending prickling-cold sensations of fear down his spine. He had crossed paths with Neville, Ginny, and even Seamus on a number of occasions, but so far he'd yet to come across Hermione, his family, or Harry. He was casting a shield charm as yet another unforgivable flew his way, when something odd caught his attention. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see someone approaching on the horizon. Someone large and burly, almost giant-like, with an unruly beard and- Hagrid! His heart leapt at the sight of the groundskeeper, immeasurably relieved to see the kind wizard was still alive. As he approached, though, Ron could see the man's face was despondent and dark, completely marred by grief and tragedy, and the reason for his expression seemed to stem from whatever (whomever?) he held in his arms.
The same dark, foreboding hiss that had threatened the school earlier once again echoed throughout the grounds, now colored with something akin to pleasure.
Your precious little savior ran like a coward and died like a coward. There is no one left to save you. Either join me, or join little Harry Potter in the afterlife.
The entire battle seemed to stop, even the death eaters themselves halting in motion at the sound of their master's voice. Ron's heart beat shallowly in his chest and, to his horror, found he suddenly lacked the ability to breath. From somewhere behind him, he heard a shrill and all-too-familiar shriek. It seemed to last for a solid minute; just one continuous, nearly animalistic note of keening that cut into the heavy silence like a blade. Ginny burst forth from the crowd and continued screaming, twisting wildly against the restraining arms of Seamus. "No! No! He isn't dead, he can't be!" She struggled less and less until finally she was in a crumbled heap on the ground, muttering No over and over like a chant.
Silence, girl. He's dead! Here, his pathetic corpse is on display! Take a look, fools! Look what has become of the boy who lived!
And then Ron saw it. It was such a small, nearly imperceptible gesture, but it caught his gaze nonetheless.
Harry's fingers twitched.
And exactly one instance later, the boy who lived rolled from Hagrid's arms onto the ground, wand aimed at the unsuspecting Dark lord. With that, the battle exploded back into motion, spells being fired off even more viciously than before, the morale and hope of the Order now restored ten times over.
Ron watched as Harry battled Voldemort, temporarily rooted to his spot in both awe and fear. The two wizards dueled in a way that suggested they were long-time adversaries that had developed the ability to predict the other's move right as it happened. The pair was so evenly matched, that the collective magic their two forces produced was powerful enough to blow an entire crater in the courtyard. When the smoke and clouds of dust parted, the enemies were still locked unflinchingly in battle at the center of the gaping depression.
Ron, in his entire life, had never seen a wizard stare down death as dauntlessly as Harry in that moment, scar blood-red and blazing like a crimson-colored beacon. The elements of nature -wind, lightning, rain- all seemed to be working in favor of the chosen one, the churning wind pulling his raven hair back to reveal the scar even further; white-hot lightning replacing the shadows on his face with otherworldly light, making the boy who lived glow almost ethereally.
The words shared between the two existed only to their ears, for the nearly deafening sound of great magic clashing against itself drowned out even the slightest pretense of sound. It seemed as if the earth itself was quivering, the pillars supporting the school bending slightly and creaking as if ready to break. Ron crouched down and shoved his palms to his ears in a vain attempt to drown out the shrill sound of the battle. It felt as if something was both being destroyed and created at once; the clash of good and evil, black vs. white, light and dark, the battle of two starkly opposing sides seemed to nearly be too much for the school, or even the world, as the sky had now began to glow blindingly white and the earth itself was cracking like an eggshell.
Ron closed his eyes and when he opened them, all he could see was white, every last sound and sight blanketed by the muting, non-color. Then, bit by bit, his hearing returned and the dull ringing faded, images slowly coming into focus.
With so much occurring before him, one would think that Ron's first sensation would be fear, or as least confusion. However, when Ron first came to, his eyes instantly landed on a solitary figure standing in the middle of the courtyard, wand loosely at his side, eyes glowing with victory, and he knew. He knew that Harry James potter had just achieved the unthinkable and lived. He knew they'd won. He knew it was over.
So his first sensation? Well, his first sensation was relief.
He also knew what he needed to do, now that he could rest assured that Harry and his family would be safe.
Without a second thought, he broke into a run. Forgetting all else, he ran through the nearly deserted battlefield, screaming Hermione at the top of his lungs, every breath laced with her name.
"Hermione!" Lavender and Seamus were embracing each other underneath the willow tree, the small girl sobbing in both relief and anguish, consoled only by the boy's gentle words.
"Hermione!" Scenery flittered by like a rushed slideshow of photographs, his mind too intent on finding her to note the reappearing sunlight.
"Hermione!" His heart was pounding because that little velvet box was still in his pocket, spelled to only reveal itself if he either died or chose to remove it himself. This was happening, it was happening now. He would propose the next bloody second he saw her-
His steps stuttered to a halt as he heard a faint voice shout his name in return. He immediately sprinted in the direction of the voice, quickly finding himself at the black lake.
His head felt light as air, heart pounding roughly against his ribcage. Before he knew what he was doing, he found himself running at her full speed like a fool, but he didn't care. She jumped into his arms and he lifted her in the air like a doll, swinging her around while still managing to keep his lips locked to hers. "Mione, Hermione, Love, darling, Hermione," He whispered into her hair, tears of relief spilling from his shuttered eyes.
She was laughing and crying into his shoulder, her small frame quivering from sobs and giggles of relief. "It's over, Ron," She breathed, "I-it's over, Harry did it. We did it," He grinned and closed his eyes, relishing the moment. And no matter how unconventional the setting, the love he felt for her was so overwhelmingly real that he had to do this now.
He didn't want to end the embrace quite yet, though, so he pulled her to him tighter and-
She stopped moving suddenly, her voice abruptly silent. His abdomen felt oddly wet and her hands, which had been previously running through his hair, stilled. His brow furrowed and he began asking "Hermione?" Before she pulled herself away from him and looked down in numb shock. "Oh" said Hermione blankly.
She glanced up at him with big-doe eyes filled with confusion, before showing him her hands that were cherry-red, the same color staining her abdomen and the tip of the knife protruding from it.
"Ron?" She asked softly, before falling head-first into the dark water.
George doesn't give you any time to prepare or over think anything, because the very second you decide to visit her, he is telling you to get your coat because he'll be waiting in the car.
The day of her funeral, you were a mess. Easily, that morning, afternoon, and night were the worst sequence of events to ever befoul your existence. You really can't recall much, but from what sparse information Harry has shared, you can tell it wasn't good.
(Calling out for Hermione, punching Harry in the face when he tried to tell you she died, destroying every piece of furniture in your room, accidently breaking a window in the process and cutting up your entire left arm when you passed out in the shards of glass)
The only thing you handled in regards to her death was the place she was buried, because she once mentioned in passing that she'd like to be buried alongside her parents. Originally, the spot next to her parents was already purchased by someone else for when they died, but you easily fixed that problem by confunding the muggle and purchasing the plot space for Hermione instead.
(Perhaps Hermione wouldn't approve, but she never really agreed with one hundred percent of your ideas anyway, so it's okay)
The drive is a long one and you can't stand the anxiety and twisted anticipation bubbling inside your gut. You desperately want George to turn the car around, but at the same time you know that whatever occurs today will finally provide some-
(But do you even want that? To close the book of you and Hermione and shelf it, replacing it with another?)
George senses your tension and turns on the radio, some up-beat muggle song blaring through the condensed speakers.
You stare out your window as the scenery outside flickers by too quickly to appreciate.
"I love this song," George blurts out, turning the music up even louder in some vain attempt to ease your nerves.
It's the Beach Boys. Hermione's favorite.
You lean your forehead against the glass and hum along, because you know the lyrics by heart.
The chill of the water penetrated deep into the very marrow of his bones, touching each delicate nerve with frigid fingers; holding his melting heart in a fist of ice. But it couldn't have mattered less to Ron, because in that moment the only concern he had was for Hermione. How had things so suddenly gone wrong? He had been so gods-damned foolish for being with her so out in the open when there were still death eaters lurking around. This was entirely his fault and he should be the one paying the price, not her.
The black lake, true to its name, was as dark as ink. The moon's single ray offered a very weak stream of light amidst the still, black water, but it was hardly enough to provide any assistance. He swam quicker then, a fresh wave of panic crashing over him. He couldn't even see his own two hands in front of him, let alone Hermione, and his heart pounded at the notion of not being able to reach her in time.
At last, after waving his long arms wildly before him, he felt her slender wrist brush against his opened palm. Not wasting any time, he grabbed her hand and began swimming towards the surface. It was a good thing the lake was so motionless, otherwise finding the top would be impossible given the very disconcerting nature of the water. (So absolutely dark, that it seemed to be spun of midnight itself)
He pulled her onto the shore of the wide lake and gently turned her over to examine the wound. His heart stopped when his eyes fell upon her abdomen.
The knife had gone straight through.
Her skin was as white as parchment, lips pale blue from both the water's temperature and extreme blood loss. "Mione?" He whispered, voice trembling terribly. "Love, wake up," He brushed strands of wet curls from her cold forehead, allowing his rough palms to linger on her face, his shaking fingers gently grazing the curve of her cheek. She sleepily opened her eyes, but their usual rich brown color seemed cloudy, as if something inside her was boiling and steaming. "Ron?" She croaked, her lips hardly moving.
(No no no this was not going to happen. He would save her. He could still save her. As long as her pulse pounded between his fingers, everything could still be okay)
"Hey, you're going to be okay," he whispered to her, brushing her hair back in a soothing manner. "I'll just run and get someone to find a blood-replenishing potion, then we'll get you to Madam Pomfrey, and you'll be right as rain," His voice broke a bit at the end, the pitch of his tone unnaturally high, and even to his own ears it sounded as if he was saying the words more to reassure himself than her.
She shook her head weakly, "Potion won't work," He was about to disagree when she cut him off with another shake of her head, "Too much blood loss. Don't go, love, stay," He swallowed hard and continued petting her hair back, his throat constricting. "But, Mione, if I stay then I can't get help, and you wont get better-"
George gets out of the car first so he can hold your door open like a chauffeur. "C'mon Ronny, I'm here, okay?" He says reassuringly, tone gentle. The cemetery is very nice as far as cemeteries go, with lush green fields and sweetly-scented cherry blossom trees. The only indications that this place isn't a lovely park are the headstones peppering the grass and hiding beneath the trees.
Your head feels oddly light, your heartbeat but a faint fluttering against the hollowed cage of your ribs. As you walk past row after row of graves, your mouth grows dry and arid, your palms suddenly slick and clammy. And all at once the realization of what you are about to do hits you, (She is not buried underneath the earth- she can't be! If she's underground then she can't be in your arms, in your head, your mind, not even in your heart. You can't let her go-)
"I-I cant do this,"
George places a hand on your shoulder and squeezes hard. "We're here," His voice is soft as sunlight and silk.
"Hermione, love, please let me get someone-"
She smiled weakly as her gaze lazily set on the moon behind him. "I-it's a lovely night, isn't it?"
His beautiful, fragile, weak, crumbling best friend and only love was right before his eyes, her small form swallowed by tall, wet grass, that miraculous fluttering of a pulse resting beneath his fingertips. Sound seemed nonexistent, save for the melancholic song of the wind as it whispered through the trees. The sliver of moon hanging in the sky offered very little, casting a single strip of light across her pale face, the shadows filling in her cheekbones and nose and the curve of her trembling lips.
Ron closed his eyes and held her small hand to his face, gently kissing her palm and the tip of each finger. He pressed his lips against her pulse point, ready to praise the heavens for allowing such a miracle, but when his mouth met her skin, he found only silence.
(Scared little boy seeking comfort and a shoulder to cry on, but no one is around, and she's just laying there like she could be sleeping or pretending to be sleeping so he has to kiss her like a prince to get her up just like in the fairytales she loves-)
Once, you two went to the beach and spent the whole day watching the water crash against the shore, in awe that even the tallest and strongest of waves were eventually reduced to naught but sea foam.
That's how you feel when you eyes fall onto her grave.
Relentless, powerful, waves of emotion and bottled up grief come crashing down on you so fiercely that you fall to your knees. George doesn't say anything, just stands a few feet behind you in silence, but his presence alone is enough comfort.
"Hermione-" You begin, voice immediately breaking off like splintered glass. "Love, I miss you, okay?" It's funny that, with so much to say, you can't find the words.
How do you explain the way she made you feel when she smiled against your lips, or the immeasurable comfort you found in just looking at her? She was the girl that made you double check your short temper, grow up and be brave, learn to admit you were wrong; she was the girl that latched onto your soul and colored it bright red and gold- like Gryffindor or sunlight and red lips- and made it a bit stronger than before. Who else but Hermione Jean Granger could have made you look forward to shopping for drapes? You never woke up early, until you had her beautiful sleeping face to wake up to, a prize surely worth any loss of sleep. How many times did you just sit there in silence with her, hands intertwined, feeling absolutely content with the lack of words? How many times did her honey-colored eyes say more than her lips ever could? Sometimes when you two would drive along the freeway listening to the radio, you'd forget the words to your favorite song, too busy staring at her profile. Freckles, dimples, eyes, lips, strands of hair, eyelashes; they all compiled together to create a beautiful image, yet it wasn't a total of physical attributes that made you think she was pretty. It was something else, something you couldn't quite hold in your hands, because like fog it would roll out in wisps and curls from between your fingers, evading definition. The way you felt about her was as slippery as a soul- something you could never quite pin a label on, but beautiful nonetheless.
How do you tell her how much she meant with only twenty six letters in the alphabet?
For the first time in a year, you cry and allow yourself to release the pain and misery with each tear. Wave after wave of liberating sobs wrack your shaking body, until your forehead is pressed against the cool surface of the grave marker, tears staining the stone dark grey. It's in this moment that you realize what George said was correct: Hermione wouldn't want you to feel like this
Ron never found out who it was that killed her, but later would discover Muliciber's fresh corpse only feet away from where it happened, meaning it very well could have been him.
Once every last death eater had been either captured or killed, Harry and Ron's family went looking for him. It wasn't until midnight that they discovered his shaking body entwined with Hermione's still one, head on her chest and palm at her wrist as if anticipating a heart beat.
"Ron?" Harry burst into sobs of joy upon seeing his best friend alive, oblivious to Hermione's fate. (Harry would still be sobbing hours later, only then it wouldn't be out of joy)
Ron couldn't be pried from her body until someone got the sense to subdue him with a powerful (But still ineffective) calming draught.
George, hollow-eyed and grim, told Ron about Fred.
(The sky was so dark that night and Ron swore he would never see another star as long as he lived)
And suddenly, you know how to say all the things you feel. Deep in your pocket is a velvet box that has been charmed to only show itself if you either die or chose to remove it personally. It has sat there for one year and five months, and such a beautiful item should not be left in the dark.
You open it and find yourself smiling. This is for you, love.
Do you, Ronald Weasley, take this woman, Hermione Granger, to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, in sickness and in heath, in good times and woe, for richer or poorer, keeping yourself solely unto her for as long as you both shall live?
I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.
You press the surprisingly warm gold circle to your lips before gently setting it on the grave.
And this time when you cry, you can practically feel the fresh wounds becoming scars.
("And as ugly as they may be, scars mean healing")
A/N: So what do you think? Again, sorry that was really long! Last time i check it was 12k words. o.O But, length aside, I hope you enjoyed it! I certainly loved writing it :) Stuff you loved or even things you hated, leave them in the reviews! Along with criticisms, compliments, yadda yadda. Thanks for reading! Oh, and don't forget to check out my poll and "Letting Go for Beginners" Thanks, loves!