Disclaimer: I own none of the characters or JKR's story. She's a genius.
It was not as if she expected everything to end happily. Of course not, to do so would be ignorant.
During the endless weeks she had spend with Harry and Ron recovering the Horcruxes, Hermione would have thought that the best circumstance she could ask for would be for all three of them to live. That was before Fred had died. Tonks. Lupin. Colin Creevey, who she barely knew but felt responsible for his death. She felt partly responsible for all the deaths that had occurred just a few hours ago. Even Snape.
And what was she doing now? Walking back through the castle to the room where all the relatives of the dead were, grieving. But she knew that they would all welcome her and Ron without even thinking that they had played an important part of the death of their family and friends because they were simply too grateful for the death of Voldemort.
Harry, especially, would be welcomed without any thought. And she knew that Harry felt it was his entire fault. All the deaths and the pain and the damage that had resulted because of Voldemort. But it was Voldemort’s fault. Not Harry's, but he wouldn't accept that for a long time.
What would she have done if Harry had died? There was no way she would have had the courage to kill Voldemort himself. Neither would she have let Ron do it. If Ron had died...
Hermione's foot went through the trick step on the staircase. She'd forgotten to jump over it, too engrossed in her own thoughts.
It hurt much more than she thought it would. It was a surprise that she could feel the pain, but she did. She was certain of that.
Ron, who had been walking next to her through the castle, and was the main reason she had kept glancing to her left every so often, stopped walking immediately. She had tugged on his hand when she stopped as they had been holding hands. The gesture was only small, they both needed comfort, and everyone did. When you experienced a loss like this, so many people dying, and had a thought at the back of your mind that it had been your own fault, even though not one person blamed you, it was difficult not to want someone close to you. To convince you that it was not your fault.
Of course, Ron needed her now. His brother had died. That would cause serious damage to all the Weasleys.
Hermione felt a sudden jolt of guilt. Ginny would want Harry to be with her, which was obvious. But Harry tended to close off any connections with anyone. She was determined in that instance that she would talk to Ginny about it. And Harry.
Ron let go of her hand and put his right arm around her waist. Her pulled her to her feet and took her right hand in his. They continued to walk like this down the stairs: one of Ron's arms around her waist and holding onto her hand.
They reached the large doors that entered intro the Great Hall which were presently pulled open only a couple of metres so that the draft coming through Hogwarts’ main entrance into the Entrance Hall did not disturb the people inside. These large doors had been placed open with just enough space for the occasional person to enter or leave. The main doors that led into Hogwarts had been placed open also and, sometime after the fight had finished, a large fire had been constructed either side. This was the only source of light nearby, not including the candles twinkling on the ceiling in the Great Hall that sent a peaceful glow into the hallway. If you were to look up all you would see were the beams that made up the ceiling. It had been returned to its original state, the same way it had looked at the funeral of Cedric Diggory.
Both stopped walking. Ron took a deep breath, closing his eyes as he did so and not re-opening them. Hermione turned her head and watched him, watched his movements and his face. She took several deep breaths too but kept her eyes open, watching Ron’s face. She would not let him out of her sight ever again. Unless he didn’t want her to do that, after all, that kiss had been her idea. Sure, he had kissed her back but he thought he was going to die and he was a boy. Maybe he was just being polite.
No. How could she think that? Considering that he was standing here next to her, holding her so that she didn’t fall over or completely lose her mind and go crazy, she must just be paranoid. Even as she watched him, Ron opened his eyes and showed a weak smile when he looked at her face. She knew it was to reassure her but she could also see that he was close to falling apart. He wouldn’t break down in front of everyone, he would act strong. For his mother, father, brothers, little sister and the rest of his family and friends, he would show no tears, only pain.
The voices of many wounded people, both physically and emotionally, could be heard as a low rumble from out the door in the Entrance Hall.
Ron and Hermione walked slowly down the grand staircase which, despite once being elegant and full of students making their way to class, even just the day before, was now covered in debris and dust. They approached the large doors, hand-in-hand. Just as Hermione took a step forwards to enter the hall she was jerked back by accident. Ron has stopped walking again.
“—just give me a moment, Hermione,” Ron spoke without looking up from the floor. He took several deep breaths.
“Ron...” Hermione waited. “Ron, look at me.”
Ron sighed deeply and inhaled another breath of fresh air that was coming through the open front doors before looking up. Hermione continued.
“Ron, you don’t have to go in, you know.”
“But I do, Hermione.”
“No, no you don’t.”
A few moments passed where neither of them spoke. Hermione stared at him forcefully, daring him to object again. Another moment passed and she looked away, through the doors, towards the people who had gathered to mourn those they knew and loved who had died. More voices could be heard from inside the Great Hall, along with the clatter of knifes and forks.
Ron broke the silence between them. His voice was only a whisper, as if he was admitting a terrible crime he had made.
“I have to be strong. For my family, you know. George, Bill, Percy, Ginny, my mum. My mum,” he grimaced. “It’s my fault! I wish I could help, I really do. But I caused this. If only I helped him, pushed him out the way or something. Anything—“
“—Don’t,” Hermione interrupted, she knew what he was talking about and her anger rose suddenly. “Don’t you dare blame yourself. We spent almost a year tracking down the Horcruxes to destroy Voldemort. We barely ate, barely slept. I was tortured, Ron. Tortured.”
“You think I don’t know that?” he spat at her unexpectedly, he was furious. “I still remember you screaming. And me, stuck down in that cellar without my wand, not being able to do anything. I still have nightmares about that, Hermione. Just because I hate myself because of what happened to Fred, it doesn’t mean that I can forget about that, too. I’ve caused so much pain to my family and I just need one minute to put on a brave face so they don’t think I’m useless and pathetic for once. Is that alright with you, Hermione? I know everyone else thinks it, I can tell. You all think I’m stupid. Harry Potter’s stupid friend, that’s me. I’d be better off on my own. Dead, maybe then I could apologise to Fred until he talks to me. Why did I go back? It was stupid. I should have just stayed away from everyone.”
His temper evaporated as quickly as it came once Ron had realised what he had just said. A look of disgust crossed his face. Hermione, however, was hurt. She looked at Ron as if she was afraid at what he might do or say next.
“Hermione...” he began. “I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t mean that, honestly.”
“It’s O.K,” she replied, looking down, her voice only just loud enough for him to hear.
“No. I didn’t mean that. I’m sorry. I meant that if I hadn’t of come back then Fred might still be alive. He might have not fought...”
His voice trailed off until there was silence once again.
“Oh, Ron,” Hermione took a step forwards and hugged him.
When they pulled apart Ron took a deep breath, “Ready?”
Hermione nodded and took his hand and they entered the Great Hall together.
The Weasley Family were sitting at, what used to be, the Gryffindor table. Ginny had her head resting on her mothers shoulder and her eyes were closed, but every now and then her body would twitch and she would readjust her position. Mrs. Weasley was sitting between Ginny and Mr. Weasley, who was holding her hand; opposite them, with their backs to the doors, Bill and Fleur were also there, comforting George, who did not move; Charlie and Percy stood behind their mother, one hand on each of her shoulders.
As Ron and Hermione approached Percy, Charlie and Arthur Weasley looked up. Mr. Weasley walked around the table to comfort his youngest son and, as he did so, Mrs. Weasley turned to her daughter and they conversed quietly. Arthur Weasley gave his son a quick hug and then turned to Hermione.
“Do you mind if I have a quick word with my son for a moment, Hermione?”
“Of course not, Mr. Weasley,” she replied and gave him a small, weak smile.
Hermione turned to Ron and stood on the end of her toes to whisper in his ear, “It’s O.K. to cry, remember,” before kissing him on the cheek and giving his hand a quick squeeze. She then moved round the table to Ginny and Mrs. Weasley.
Arthur Weasley left the hall with his son just as Hermione sat down next Ginny. However, it was Mrs. Weasley who spoke first, startling everyone.
“Where is Harry, dear?”
“He’s sleeping, Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione answered, leaning across Ginny to speak quietly.
“Of course, of course,” Mrs. Weasley replied. “He must be tired. What about you, dear, I’m sure you could use a little extra sleep.”
“I’m exhausted, but I thought Ron would like some company after... after everything.”
“That was nice of you, dear,” Mrs Weasley replied, sounding as if she had not heard Hermione’s reply.
Hermione yawned just as Mr. Weasley and Ron re-entered the hall and made their way over.
“Of course,” Mr. Weasley spoke out loud to everyone, possibly trying to take their minds off things, “you must be exhausted.”
“I’m fine,” Hermione insisted.
“Hermione,” everyone turned to Ron as he spoke, following the only conversation, “you really should sleep.”
“I’m staying here, Ron.”
“Look at you; you’re going to fall asleep anyway. You might as well—“
“—I’m staying, Ronald.”
Ron opened his mouth to retort but was interrupted by George.
“Just leave her alone, Ron.”
“Georgie? Are you alright?” Mrs. Weasley spoke to her son.
“I’m fine. Everyone thinks that I’m mental or treats me as if I’m suicidal. I just want to move on from it. So can we please talk about something else?”
“Sure, umm, so…” Hermione started to say, not sure where she was going with her sentence, “what’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Ginny replied glumly.
“Gin… If you really want to go see him that much, just go,” Charlie told her quietly. Everyone could hear but no one commented. Ginny glanced quickly at Ron and then back to Charlie.
“No,” she said simply but sounded as if she was going to sulk.
It was silent for a minute from them all. Everyone lost in their own thoughts. Hermione knew that they had been talking about Harry and Ginny had refused to go see him because Ron was there. She didn’t want to upset him at the moment. He already looked too breakable.
“I know you want to go see Harry, Gin,” Ron spoke suddenly and all eyes snapped up to face him. Ginny didn’t speak, nor did anyone else. “I’m sorry that it’s because of me that you won’t go. But I don’t want to deal with you two at the moment and all the mess that comes along with it.”
Hermione knew that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were confused; she sensed their curiosity from behind her. She also sensed that Ginny was about to become angry, hearing Ron speak what she knew out loud. She knew that he knew he was the reason she was suffering without the person she loved most in the world. And this made her angry.
Before Ginny had a chance to yell at Ron, forgetting their surroundings, Hermione looked at him. She was standing so close to him that he would have to look at her soon enough. At first Ron wouldn’t look up at her but she whispered him name and he could not help looking at her automatically. Their faces were less than inches away from each other; she knew that if she tilted her body forwards slightly she could touch her nose to his.
“Ron,” she whispered again, “she needs him, Ron.” Then even more quietly she whispered, “Just like I need you right now. Ron, she needs someone to be there for her.”
As soon as she said it, Hermione was aware that her voice had not been quite as low as she had thought, or perhaps it was just that they were standing so close to his family. They all froze again, except Ron and Hermione. Ginny quickly relaxed back to being angry but the others were extremely curious now. George sat there looking quite amused with the whole situation.
Ron drew in a shaky breath and closed his eyes, “Okay,” he whispered even quieter so that even Hermione was not sure he had said it. Once she realized he had she leaned her forehead against his and closed her eyes for a moment, too.
After a few long seconds they moved ever so slightly apart and Ron looked straight into Ginny’s eyes.
“Go,” he told her softly. “You need someone. Go.”
Ginny sat frozen again; she could hardly believe that Ron had changed his mind. Then her thoughts caught up with reality and, despite their surrounding and the past few hours and all her previous anger at her brother, she smiled quickly. She jumped up, not quite happily, death was still in the back of her mind, and kissed Ron on the cheek.
“Thank you, Ron,” she whispered and turned to leave.
Hermione called her name suddenly, she needed to warn Ginny.
"Ginny?" she repeated when her friend was standing next to her. "Don't let him push you away again. No matter what he says. If you think he's worth all the pain, stay with him."
"Thank you, Hermione," Ginny whispered then left the Hall as fast as she could without running.
Hermione turned to Ron. "Thank you, too. You know how much this means to her." Ron only nodded and squeezed her hand. He didn’t look at all happy about it.
Arthur Weasley cleared his throat loudly. Fortunately for Ron and Hermione, Professor McGonagall called the attention of all the people in the hall towards the front.
“I would not like to give a long speech as I can see that most of you are tired. I will set up beds for those of you wishing to stay the night and the fireplaces in the teachers’ studies are available for those of you wishing to use the floo network. Of course, you can also apparate. We hope to open Hogwarts again in September and will begin the long and hard job of restoring the castle tomorrow. If anyone can offer any help, perhaps even by restoring something small as you walk past it, that would be greatly appreciated. We shall bring out some more food on one table incase you become hungry. Thank you.”
As she finished her sentence, food appeared on the Gryffindor table on the far side of the hall. The other three tables vanished and were replaced with many sleeping bags.
People started to file out of the hall slowly, some could be seen heading up the staircase to use the floo network, others simply vanished on the spot.
“What time is it?” Bill asked, looking at his wife who was yawning.
“Morning time,” George replied, sounding slightly more like his normal self, looking straight up at the ceiling before remembering that its usual enchantment had been removed for the time being.
“Right, thanks, George. Real helpful,” Bill told him and helped Fleur stand up. “We’re going to go back to Shell Cottage but we can meet you here in the morning, mum.”
Mrs. Weasley looked sadly at her oldest son. “Alright, dear. See you in the morning,” she told him and gave him a hug, looking as if she didn’t want to let him go.
The others all said goodbye and went their separate ways. Bill and Fleur apparated directly back to Shell Cottage while Arthur, Molly, Percy and Charlie crossed the hall to get sleeping bags. George, Hermione and Ron headed up the Grand Staircase in silence and entered Gryffindor Tower easily, the Fat Lady still hadn’t returned.
George headed straight for the staircase to look for an empty bed, possibly one owned by a first year that had been evacuated from the castle before the fight had broken out. This left Ron and Hermione standing at the bottom of the staircase.
And then it hit Hermione just how tired she was. She swayed on the spot and Ron caught her quickly before she came anywhere near hitting the floor.
“Whoa,” he mumbled whilst putting her back on her feet. “Come on – you might as well come to our dorm. You’d probably fall down the stairs on the way up to yours, anyway.”
Hermione nodded and closed her eyes. She let Ron guide her up the staircase, eyes still closed (which was probably not the best idea she’d had), and into the dorm. As soon as the door opened she felt her body fall forwards onto a warm and comfortable bed before drifting off into a very welcoming sleep.
So what did you think? I'm not sure I find this chapter very relevant but I had an idea for a chapter and I needed a filler chapter.
I've also had a stroke of inspiration but I'm not sure how to incorporate it yet.
And also, sorry for the late update. I've been so busy lately.
So tell me, what was your favourite and least favourite thing about this chapter? Any thoughts are welcome. Yes, even constructive criticism is welcome, of course. :)
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