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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no profit in the creation of this story.

AN: As always, thank you to TenthWeasleyWriter for beta-ing this story and for keeping me sane!




Chapter Twelve: Letters of the Heart

An ornate sofa cushion caved in at the pressure of Hermione's fists pounding into it under the pretense of plumping the spongy material to sleep on. The firm line of her lips was the only real sign of the true feelings residing in each punch. Her arms felt strained and heavy as she continued her onslaught, taking advantage of Ron having disappeared to the toilet moments ago and Harry having fallen asleep a few paces from where she had built a bed out of cushions. Ron had insisted she use the rather feeble luxury instead of the drawing room floor and a sleeping bag.

"You'll have to sleep in that ruddy bag for who knows how long if we ever have to leave Grimmauld Place," he had explained, his cheeks reddening after his surprisingly chivalrous suggestion. "Besides, Harry lived in a bloody cupboard for eleven years, and I've had to share a bed with Percy, Fred, and George all in one go on a few occasions — I think we can handle the floor."

Hermione had tried to protest, as she was no less capable of handling the sleeping arrangements than they were, but Ron was hearing nothing of it, and Harry had kept his trap shut, watching the other man with obvious amusement before settling into his designated "ruddy bag."

Now, without either of her companions to distract her from her thoughts, she was left to think about how she had managed to push her emotions to the back of her mind in order to complete the task that had needed to be done: Getting Harry as far away from the Burrow as possible. With her adrenaline settled from the havoc of the wedding reception, as well as their tussle with some Death Eaters in London, she was feeling everything that had been suppressed since leaving George — mostly anger, but there was also guilt, helplessness, and fear.

As she ended her attack on the innocent cushions, Hermione's body sagged. She moved from her kneeling position to let her head fall to rest on one of the flattened pillows, curling up in a fetal position as if to protect herself from the thoughts that kept coming back into her mind, no matter how much she tried not to think about them.

The memory of George's face as she'd Apparated away would haunt her until her dying day, she was sure. The image was so clear it was almost like she was back reliving that fateful moment, and she squeezed her eyes shut at the pain that filled her heart. George had looked every bit as distraught as she was sure she looked now. His eyes had glistened, as if welling with tears, despite the battle raging around him. His shoulders had slumped in defeat, hands clenching tightly before they'd reached out as if to pull her back to his side, despite the meters that had separated them during that last fleeting glance they had shared.

He had looked like a man who had loved and had lost everything.

She wished she had been able to part from him with smiles on both of their faces, like she had originally hoped. If the plan of leaving two mornings after the wedding had went accordingly, she would have had the time to wrap her arms around George's impressive frame, ducking her head into his neck to press a kiss there before inhaling deeply in the hopes of tucking his scent into her memory forever. She would have been able to tell him not to go off with some no-good hussy while she was gone, because she'd hex his bits off if he did. That would have gotten a laugh and one of his signature smirks, she was sure. Most importantly, if all had gone to plan, she would have been able to kiss him in a toe-curling, heart-stopping, lip-bruising way that expressed every bit of love and passion she had ever felt for him. And that was how she was supposed to leave him. With no hexes, no danger, and no panic… Just love and the hope of seeing each other again soon.

Hermione reached over to her bag, biting her lower lip to fight back any tears that threatened to fall. She didn't want to hover on her sadness and guilt. She wanted to go back to her anger, because it was so much easier to manage. The sadness made her heart feel empty in her chest, a constant pressure on her ribcage and a rock in her stomach. The guilt made her throat feel as though a hand was clutching it wildly, blocking her air supply and killing her slowly. Her anger, on the other hand, felt like a fire in her blood, making her burn and cackle with energy.

Energy was good. Energy got things done.

She placed each object carefully to the side as she pulled out a quill, some ink, the Patented Daydream Charm Fred had given her, and her copy of the twin journals.

A red hot wave of anger filled her at the sight of the charm. If all had gone according to plan, George was going to pick up a load more of them for her at the shop when he worked tomorrow. He'd wanted her to take a bunch, so that she could have a piece of him with her while she was gone. They'd talked about coordinating the use of the charms through their twin journals; that way, they could know that for the thirty minutes of the daydream they were both exclusively thinking about each other. It had been a wonderfully romantic thought that had now gone up in flames.

Hermione picked up the product, curling her fingers around it. If she concentrated, she could pretend to feel the warmth of George's touch on it from when he'd pulled it from her pocket on the day they'd first made love. Her eyes gleamed as she quickly placed the charm back into her beaded handbag and out of sight.

She turned her gaze on the journal. It would be the one connection to George throughout the coming adventure, and she aimed to use it as often as she could. An excited smile broke through her melancholy at the thought of hearing from him already. She knew he was safe, thanks to Mr. Weasley's lovely Patronus showing up earlier. The moment she had heard that the Weasleys had all gotten away she'd sunk to her knees in relief. She feared what it meant that the family was being watched, but knew the twins and Bill alone were clever enough to outwit a herd of Death Eaters, never mind the entire clan put together (save Percy). She forced herself to cling to her faith in their brilliance.

A grin pulled at her lips as she grasped the quill and flipped the tiny journal open to the very first page. The words that met her made her heart skip a beat.

I will love you, come what may.

It was what George had written her on the day she'd given him his copy of the journal. They had been intertwined, still basking in the glow of their love-making. As she thought back to it, Hermione could almost feel the trace of his fingers as they curved over the skin of her hip. She could remember how she'd run her fingers slowly through his fringe, which had clung to his bandaged forehead from the exertion. She had felt in that moment that she was going to marry him someday. He was it for her. There would never be another who could make her feel the way he did.

George had had his eyes closed as he'd turned to pull her lips to his and whispered that he loved her. Then he'd grinned roguishly at her before sliding from the bed. Even after their intimacy, she had blushed and averted her gaze as the sheets fell to reveal his bum. He'd chuckled at her once he'd returned, holding their journals and a quill in his hands.

"Let's write the first thing in the journals," he had said. "I want us both to remember how we feel for each other right now."

So that's what they had done. They had both written in their journals. Under the first line, in George's endearing chicken-scratch, was Hermione's own precise script.

You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love you to the stars and back.

The words were sappy, but they were sweet. And they were direct results of the love that they'd shared for the first time that day, which made them special.

As she looked at the words and remembered, Hermione was so happy that George had thought up the idea. Seeing the writings made her relax. Unfortunately, there were no new additions to the journal, which meant George had yet to write to her again. At least she had the beautiful words of his first message to cling to as she waited.

She dipped her quill into the ink and then thought for only a moment before starting her own letter. Since she knew he was safe, she figured she should return the favor. Hermione knew that she couldn't be too explicit about their whereabouts, but she could mention some things ambiguously. After all, the journals were charmed to only open to Hermione, George, or their families, the last rule of which she'd added as an afterthought in case something happened to either George or herself; then the family would have something to remember them by. It had been a gruesome thought, but a logical one. The journal would make for a knowledgeable primary source of the war for future generations if neither of the pair made it out to tell the tales for themselves.

My George,

I nearly fainted when I heard you and the rest of your family were safe. Tell your father I said thank you for sending word. Ron was immensely relieved as well. Mr. Weasley told us not to respond, but I figured he didn't know about our journals yet. Even if he did, and disapproves of my writing you, I needed you to know that I was fine but sad to have left in such a way. I wish we had had the time for a more fitting goodbye, though the fun we had in the woods will be a wonderful memory to cling to until we see each other again. Only you could make me act so silly. I love you.

Harry, Ron, and I are at the safest place we can possibly be right now. It's rather black and old, but the art is rather nice — which I mean sarcastically. I will write you again when I can, and please tell me how everything is going with you. Have you heard any word from the other guests?

I miss you already, and it has been mere hours. The time without you will never pass quickly enough, but they do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and whatnot. I know that ever since I left you, you're all I've been capable of thinking about. So maybe the romantic sap who came up with the cliché knows what they're talking about.

Loving you to the stars and back,

Hermione

Sighing deeply, Hermione blew on the ink until it had dried completely before closing the journal with a snap and returning it and the ink to her handbag. She settled into her makeshift cushion-bed in an attempt to squelch the guilt she felt for writing some of the things she had in the letter. That was when Ron came ambling back into the drawing room. He plopped down onto the floor between Hermione and Harry, glancing over at the slumbering man before sliding into his sleeping bag and turning toward Hermione.

"You're still up," he observed with a whisper. "I thought you'd be out like a light as well."

"Couldn't quite shut my brain off," she answered, turning on her side to face him.

"That's because it's so bloody big. I reckon it takes a lot to turn it off completely. You probably translate runes in your sleep."

"We can't all have a pea in our head."

"You never make fun of my brain when I beat you in chess," Ron smiled.

Hermione shrugged. "The boorishness of wizard's chess is simply too distracting for me."

"Excuses, excuses."

They both turned onto their backs and went silent. All Hermione could truly hear was Harry's deep breathing. She knew, despite their lack of conversation, that Ron was still awake. Not only could she not hear his snoring as a clear sign he'd drifted off, but she also knew him well enough to know that his family's safety would keep him up longer than usual. The relief that had been clear on his face after Mr. Weasley's silver weasel had bounded away made it apparent that Ron had been nearly beside himself with worry. He wasn't the type to forget such a feeling merely because of a message saying they were all right. He would reason it off as them being safe merely for now, which seemed perfectly reasonable in a time of war, no matter how sad it was.

Knowing her friend needed the comfort, and needing a bit for herself due to the nature of her thoughts, she reached over and down. Her fingers interlaced with Ron's as she gave his hand a soft squeeze. "I'm glad everyone's all right," she whispered, without looking over.

His hand squeezed hers back in response. The feel of his rough hand in hers was enough to calm her a little more, so sleep didn't seem so elusive. Her guilt lessened a tiny bit to the point where she could give in to her tiredness without focusing on how she had both lied and withheld information from George, not only in the letter but in the time leading up to her departure.

After all, Hermione kept implying that they would see each other again, when in reality, both she and Ron had gone with Harry knowing it was an adventure they had little likelihood of returning from. When she had left George, she did so knowing that they may never have the future together that she so wanted, and the guilt for the illusion she had created for him was too much. When she had reasoned that the memory of George's face as she had left would haunt her until her death, she did so knowing that her death might not be as far in the future as she would have hoped. She hoped George knew the dangers that came with optimism.




She looked fiercely beautiful, like a warrior angel. Her hair billowed behind her as she strode forward purposely across the stilled battlefield, wand down but arm clenched, just in case a quick cast was needed. The battle may have been over, but a person trained in the art of war didn't drop their guard mere moments after the end of an era of darkness. It took a bit more than the death of You-Know-Who to relax after all the perils and hardships that had come to pass. Either way, George had never seen someone more lovely.

He moved forward then, unable to watch idly by a moment longer. It had been months since they'd parted at Bill and Fleur's wedding, and a day hadn't gone by when he hadn't worried about her. He'd driven himself mad wondering if she was all right. Seeing her again for the first time in so long had almost made him collapse in relief.

Hermione didn't see him approaching until he was only a few meters away. He watched intently as her face shifted from numb shock to weary delight as she registered his presence. She smiled slowly, eyes widening as she took in his appearance from head to toe, as if checking for injury. George felt a grin split across his features at the joy that filled his heart. He didn't think he'd ever be as happy as he was in that moment. Nothing could compare to the feeling of having the thing you cared for most in the world ripped from you and then given back at long last. He felt for sure he was trembling with excitement. He'd been a fool to ever have thought the journals would be enough to soothe the ache. Nothing compared to the real thing.

"I've missed you," Hermione said softly, her voice the sweetest of melodies after seeing nothing but her inked words for nearly a year.

George reached a hand up to cup her cheek. "Never leave me again."

"That's sweet, Georgie, but I've just been in the loo. Can't even manage on your own for more than a half hour?"

The world swam into focus as George blinked away the last shred of the daydream and dropped the hand that had been outstretched to caress something that had existed only in his mind. His eyes ached from having stared blankly ahead of him for so long, and his heart still raced from the feeling of seeing Hermione again. Unlike a dream, the Patented Daydream Charm kept the user conscious, making the fake scene feel unbelievably real. Unfortunately, instead of satiating the deep desire to see her again, he'd just fueled the fire. The illusion wasn't enough.

She hadn't even been gone all that long yet. In fact, yesterday had marked one full month. The weeks since her disappearance with Ron and Harry had passed so slowly that it felt like years to him. Every day he wondered if he'd hear terrible news about the trio. His heart had nearly stopped a week prior when Hermione's name appeared in the Daily Prophet. It seemed the Ministry wanted to "interrogate" her, which he knew meant they wanted to dispose of her. He could only hope she was as far away from the people who wanted her head on a platter as possible.

"You've taken another charm?" Fred asked, leaning a hip against their Aunt Muriel's dining room table where George sat with a pile of parchments that Lee had sent along from the shop. "I'm going to start making you pay for them, you know. It's getting bloody ridiculous."

George sighed, running a hand through his hair before staring down at Lee's outline for a project the wizard had called "Potterwatch" the last time George had seen him. "I'm sorry, but I can't help it. It's the only thing that keeps me sane."

"I know," Fred said, slapping a hand to his shoulder in reassurance. "On the up side, while you were off with Granger, you missed Aunt Muriel insinuating that I was gay."

"Where'd she get a silly idea like that from?" George asked, smiling tiredly at the thought. "Not that I wouldn't fully support you if you did swing that way," he added with a chuckle.

Fred grinned. "Thanks, brother. Means a lot. And it was because I told her that Harry looked rather dashing in that new picture on the front page of the Prophet."

"The one where he's made to look like a raging nutter?"

"Seems she doesn't quite understand sarcasm."

"Clearly."

George laughed with Fred before handing over Lee's outline for his twin to look over and disappearing upstairs to their shared quarters. Once again alone, he couldn't resist taking out the twin journal, which he kept under his pillow so he could easily access it whenever he needed a piece of Hermione with him. He'd taken to using the Daydream Charms quite frequently in her absence, but the journal was the only real connection to her. It was something that she actually had touched.

He opened the journal, immediately finding her neat script on the page. As usual, he read the short passage beneath the words that he'd written to her that day in late July when she'd first given the book to him to ease his mind about their imminent separation. He loved looking at that sentence, because he always was transported back to how he'd felt in that moment when he first read them. Sometimes it was even enough for him to stop worrying for a moment or two.

Mouthing the words to himself, George ran his fingers over the text as if he would be able to feel her presence through the ink. As always, that was not the case. Then he looked down at the rest of the page's writing. There were lines and lines of stories and questions. He flipped through the journal and continued skimming the words. There were letters for every day since Bill and Fleur's wedding. Some were hopeful, some were anxious. All of them were sad.

Because every single one of them was from him.




"Oh gods," Hermione whispered tearfully, her shaking hands coated with blood from cleaning up Ron after he'd been splinched. Her voice had quivered as she'd talked Harry through removing the Essence of Dittany from her bag and explained how Yaxley had seen where she'd aimed to go mid-Apparation. She felt horrible that they were unable to go back to Grimmauld Place because of her.

Ron's shirt lay open around him from where she'd split it for better access to his wound. She let her hands drop to the ground and crunched her fingers through some leaves to get rid of the blood, unable to think clearly enough through the shock of their infiltration of the Ministry of Magic and Ron's injury to properly use her wand to vanish the mess.

She took a deep breath, aware that Harry was doing the same beside her. They'd both been more than a little stressed by the turn of events. Hermione felt like her heart would burst as she looked at how pale Ron had become. He'd lost so much blood that for a second she thought he wouldn't be able to pull through. She was scared she wouldn't be able to help him in time. The thought terrified her, a knot forming in her throat.

What would she have done if something happened to him?

The month since leaving George had been terrible. She missed him so much it hurt, yet Ron had really stepped in to help ease the ache. She'd been more than surprised when her normally rather immature best friend had kindly told her he would be there whenever she needed to talk about it. It had been a week after they'd left when she had cried over having not heard from George in front of him. She'd felt awful and confused, unable to comprehend why her boyfriend had yet to contact her despite the six letters she'd managed to pen for him in her journal at the time.

"George is mad for you," Ron had said, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly from the piano bench in Grimmauld Place as he'd watched her pace back and forth in front of him. "He must have a good reason for not writing."

Ron had eventually managed to calm her down enough that night for her to agree to teach him a few notes on the instrument. It had been the most fun she'd had since the three of them had all gone off together. She could still remember how Ron had nearly fallen off the piano bench in laughter as she'd called him a clumsy imbecile with no control over his fingers. She'd compared him to a jellyfish at one point, but she couldn't quite remember why.

Now, looking down at the redhead's unconscious form, Hermione wiped away a tear for him instead of her boyfriend, thinking about what a waste it had been to cry so much for George. Ron had been right; George loved her and must have a reason for not writing, despite the letters she had penned him. And until she did hear from him, she'd just have to take comfort in her friends.

A tender feeling spread through her chest as Ron came to, and Hermione vowed to be more appreciative of him as his exhausted smile of gratitude greeted her with the warmth of sunshine.




AN: There you have it! The complications have officially begun, so I cannot wait to hear what you all have to say about the turns the story has made! Some of you have definitely seen something bumpy coming for our couple, but it may have not been so foreshadowed to others. :) Let me know what you thought!

On a side note, my oneshot, Distaster, about Lucius and Narcissa is up if anyone likes my writing enough to try another pairing. I have a story about Fred and Hermione that I'll hopefully finish up soon too. I'm still deciding if it should just be put out as a long oneshot or if I should publish it as two separate parts of a story. Stay tuned for more on that.

Thank you for reading! Please review!

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