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Chapter 1: Always
He knows he ought to be asleep, under the comfort that it’s over, but his mind races and he can’t quite bring himself to close his eyes. In the beds around him, he can hear Neville snoring lightly, Seamus muttering under his breath and the steady rise and fall of Harry’s breathing, a sound he has become attuned to over the years. In Hogsmeade, he knows his family will be lying just as still, just as empty as he does, waiting for the aching heads and tired eyes to dull before they lift themselves out of bed. Downstairs, Fred lies on a cold, stone floor, alone.
The sun is high in the midday sky, the few who cannot sleep already beginning to pick up the pieces. Their voices travel through the window Dean propped open before he fell asleep, and resigning himself to the fact he will not join the four around him, Ron slips off the covers and drifts to the door.
It takes a lot of effort from his tired arms to pull it open quietly, but nonetheless he manages without any of the others stirring, and shuts it tightly behind him. His bare feet pad on the stairs, the occasional voice drifting out from behind a closed door, and he starts at the emptiness of the common room. It has never felt so bare, so lifeless. Pieces of parchment litter the floor, books stand propped open in their place, cushions still dented from earlier on, from twenty-four hours ago when dozens of students would still have been sat in place, oblivious to the destruction to come.
He doesn’t really think about what he’s doing. The parchment is almost like an invite and he puts a half-broken quill into a pot of ink and scrawls on it. He has forgotten what it is to write, to feel a pen in his hand, and the message is barely legible but she will understand. He flicks his wand, always close by, and it becomes a slightly lopsided plane, swooping up the girls’ steps and out of sight. There is a part of him that feels quite smug, mildly impressed with how useless some of the magic he knows is, but it doesn’t last long. His legs are tired and he collapses with a soft thump onto the sofa, his eyes fluttering shut for just a moment.
When he hears the shuffle of her body on the floor, he finds himself unable to move. The guilt settles deeply inside him, the selfishness of him needing her, but she doesn’t seem fazed as she sits down beside him, lifting a tatty gold cushion onto her lap and resting her head against the back of the seat. They say nothing. There isn’t much to say. They both know what this feels like. They are empty, exhausted, both aware that there are only three people on this earth who truly understand what has happened.
“Were you asleep?” he asks, his voice raspy from the dust that has settled in the castle air. She shakes her head against the cushion and brushes her hand back through her hair. He can see the redness in her eyes, the bags beneath them, the light in her eyes faded now the adrenaline has disappeared. In the pocket of her jeans, he can see the corner of a tissue poking out, black with dirt.
“Her bed’s empty,” Hermione says, shaking her head. “I couldn’t – not knowing.”
Another wave of guilt overcomes him as the sight of the girl who stole his first kiss – a mass of limbs upon rubble – flashes before his eyes once again. The images play like a reel of film, one more body in every scene that passes; dead, alive, somewhere in between, it doesn’t matter. They make his stomach ache in a way he has never felt before.
“Do you think she’s –?” he asks and he cannot finish the question because he does not know what to ask. Is she dead? Will she be okay? Will she suffer as Remus did or will she have come out lucky, like Bill? Hermione does not answer. She shakes her head, burying it slightly in the side of the chair that he has only just noticed is flecked with blood. “Sorry.”
His hand twitches on his leg and as he has not considered anything he has done for the past few hours, nor does he waste time considering if this is the right thing to do. It drifts up gently, sweeping her hair out of her face so that he can see the tears drip down her cheek. He has never been so tender with anyone but there is a part of him that does not want to break her more than she has been already, and so when his fingers brush against her cheek, he can barely feel the skin beneath the tears.
“I don’t know what to do,” he says desperately, honestly, his voice barely a whisper.
His hand hovers in the air, somewhere between knowing and not knowing but she does not move. He presses it gently against her once again, fingers finding open cuts and darkening bruises, and not even when she winces at one particularly painful scratch does he lower his hand. He has spent too long denying this to stop. If he has been taught anything, it is that time is just as uncertain as everything else in life and if he dropped to the floor tomorrow, he would want to know that he did all he could.
“Hermione.” At the sound of her name, she sits up, his hand jerking against her but he holds on still. She cannot speak, but there is a ferocity in her eyes that he knows he loves her for, the determination and drive and the start of something amongst what feels like the end. “I miss him.”
She knows. He is well aware that it is in every fibre of his being, the darkness and the hollowness and the loss, and she knows, and she understands and she might not have anything to say but she is there.
“I know,” she says, his hand moving with her words, and she covers it with her own. Something has changed. The tables have turned and he cannot make the tears come with such elegance, such beauty as her. His wrack his body: his throat aches, his eyes sting and she turns to a blur before him. The hand against her falls away but it does not hit the bottom, caught in hers so tightly that if he were not so broken already, it would surely ache. “I know, I know.”
Perhaps he falls into her or maybe she moves to him, he could not tell, but his head fits so perfectly in the curve of her neck and her hand is so soft against his dirt-ridden hair that nothing aside from them matters. She knows. She understands. She feels it. Behind her closed eyes, she too sees Colin and Tonks and Lavender and Fred and Harry – brilliant, breathing Harry – lying still against the battleground. She feels the loss, the shock, the drill vibrating through her heart as each death pierces her with a forceful stab, just as he does.
This is not romance. It has never been about that. This is them. This is Ron and Hermione and two souls finding the part to make them whole.
It is not flowers and kisses and promises that will surely be broken.
It is all they need.
A/N: I never write proper canon characters but the release of the final film has inspired a new adoration for Ron/Hermione and I couldn’t help it. I may yet extend this, depending on how things go with my other writing, but I hope you like it as it is ^_^