Chapter 18 : No Comfort There Shall Be
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What’s gone and what’s past help
Should be past grief.
The ambulance siren wailed as red lights flashed, but Ron could not hear it. Healers gathered round him, firing question after question at him – exactly what had happened? Did he know how the fire started? Was he okay? – but Ron could answer none of them. He couldn’t even hear them talking; just a steady, dull buzzing filled his ears. Hermione had to step in and answer their inquiries as best she could – I think he’s in shock. I just arrived; I don’t know what happened – while Ron just sat their, holding his wife’s hand, her icy cold fingers intertwined with his own warm ones.
“You’re going to have to let go of her, sir. We need to move her into the ambulance,” said one healer, a middle aged man with graying hair and glasses. Ron tightened his grip on Gwyn’s hand; he would not let her go, not ever again. He would not lose her. “Sir.”
When Ron did not make a move to detach himself from his wife, the healer reached over and sharply twisted Ron’s grip so that Gwyn’s arm was set free of his clutch. Ron howled and tried to run toward her as the other healers moved her onto a gurney and wheeled her into the back of the ambulance, muttering as they waved their wands at her and felt her throat for her heartbeat, but the man with glasses held him back. Ron struggled like a savage animal, straining against the man’s muscles, as Hermione watched in horror and sorrow. He must have really loved her, she thought sadly. Much more than he ever loved me...
“Why don’t you just leave her alone?” wailed Ron, still struggling. “Leave us be! Why does it matter that you get her to the hospital? Why does anything matter? She’s not breathing! She’s gone...” Ron trailed off, his eyes unfocused as what had happened seemed to finally sink in, setting him into a monotonous stupor. “She’s gone...” he whispered again, more softly than before, as a single tear wound down his face. It hurt Hermione to even look at his face, it held so much pain...so much suffering. His misery was even greater than hers...and she hadn’t had thought that possible. Until now.
The healers ignored Ron’s pleads and continued to poke at her with their wands, muttering complicated spells out of the corner of their mouths. But nothing seemed to work. Ron slackened against the man who held him tight, his eyes downcast...defeated.
“Hey, Jack, come here,” said one of the healers that stood hunched over Gwyn’s still body. The man who was holding Ron let go of him and jogged over to the person who had called him. Ron fell to the ground and began to rock, his head in his hands. Hermione stared at him – she couldn’t take her eyes off him – although she wished she could look away.
The healer mumbled something that neither Ron nor Hermione could hear, then pointed at a chart, then at Gwyn. The man with graying hair and glasses nodded and a tired smile appeared on his face. He wiped the sweat off his brow and walked slowly over to Ron’s hunched-over figure. His expression was filled with sympathy, but also a degree of hope. He began to speak.
“Sir, you’ll want to know this,” he said, his voice stern and commanding, yet kind. Ron did not look up; he didn’t even move. It was as he no longer cared...about anything.
Hermione suspected that, now that Gwyn was gone, he truly didn’t.
“Sir,” said the healer again, smoothing out his blue robes. “Sir, listen to me.” He kneeled down and tried to look Ron in the eye, but Ron turned away and stared at the concrete even harder.
“Sir...you’re wife’s not dead.”
Ron stiffened, then finally looked up at the healer, his expression one of disbelief, as if he was afraid to believe what could be a wonderful truth. The healer nodded tiredly, a smile stretching across his face.
Ron sat next to Gwyn’s hospital bed, his hand clutching hers, his forehead furrowed in pain. When they had said that his wife was alive, he did not expect this...not again...no, not again. He didn’t know how much he could take until he could finally take no more and sunk into the ever-present shadow of darkness and despair that had threatened to take him several times over the past five years...and even before then. For as long as he could remember.
A coma...his wife was in a coma. Not like the coma Hermione had been in; at least with her they said that there was a chance that she might wake up. With Gwyn...well, what they said was very different. They said that it was highly likely that she would never wake up again. Her burns would fade in time, her bruises would heal. But her head trauma that she had suffered when the roof had caved in, collapsed and broken over her skull...that would not heal so quickly, for although the human body was an amazing thing, it could not heal every injury. There were some things beyond the body’s ability to repair, and beyond the realm of magic. There were some things that nothing would fix. The healers had said that they could keep her in a magically sustained coma for the time being, although they didn’t know for how long. They had said that eventually, her body would fail...her brain activity was decreasing every day. Sometimes, Ron wondered if it would be better to just sign the paperwork that lay on his desk at home. Perhaps it would be better for everyone if he would just give into fate and save his wife from forever remaining a vegetable. Perhaps it would be better to take her off of life support, magically sustained or not.
Ron shook his head, trying to clear his muddled thoughts. Now was not the time to make such a decision; he needed more time to think, it was much too large a decision to make right now. He needed more time...he always needed more time. The past three months had simply not been enough. Ron lay his head in his hands again. The position was growing all too familiar for him. Why couldn’t it have been him that had been standing under the expanse of roof that had collapsed? Why, instead, had he been forced to see his wife like that – all covered in blood, barely conscious, hardly breathing. It was so wrong, when everything that had happened was his fault. Tears burned at the backs of Ron’s eyes and he blinked to clear them. He could not cry, not now...not when Hermione was watching.
Hermione sat in a chair across the room, watching Ron hold his wife’s hand...just watching. It seemed that that was all that she could do for Ron nowadays. She knew nothing of his life with Gwyn, so she could not comfort him, tell him what a great person she was and how she didn’t deserve what she got. No, she could not do that, for although she had liked Gwyn – at least the little she had seen of her and the few words that had been exchanged – she hadn’t truly known the woman. Ron had been her best friend, her love, her entire life, but they had been forced apart by circumstances beyond their control. Now it was like she hardly knew him. He was suffering and she could not comfort him. All she could do is watch, a bystander.
And it hurt.
Ron... Hermione thought as tears twisted down her cheeks. I’m sorry...I’m so, so sorry.
Ron had no idea of Hermione’s thoughts. In fact, by now he had completely forgotten that she was in the room. He was too deep in his own thoughts, not only wallowing in grief but in guilt. In his mind the events of the day replayed over and over and over and over...they would not stop. He watched the fight with his wife replay in his mind again and again and again...and again.
“Ronald, will you please come wash these dishes!” Gwyn snapped, her brown eyes narrowed, waving a dishtowel at the piles of dirty dishes collecting in the sink. "I’m done cooking the jumbalaya, but I need a dish to put them in! And they’re burning, look!”
“Just a moment, honey,” came Ron’s voice. “I’m busy.”
“No, you are bloody well not busy!” snapped Gwyn, stomping out of the kitchen and onto the terrace and grabbing her husband on the arm. “You can finish charming the terrace to repel gnomes later! Besides I thought you liked gnomes...”
“Not since the last one bit me on the knuckle! See, look, there’s still a scar.”
“Where?” asked Gwyn skeptically, eying his hand. “I don’t see anything.”
“No?” asked Ron in disbelief, his pale eyebrows raising to meet his hairline. “You don’t see it? See, right there – that little white slivery thing!”
Gwyn rolled her eyes and began to walk back towards the house. “Whatever.” Right after entering the apartment they shared, she peeked her head out of the sliding glass door and yelled after her husband, “Don’t think I forgot about the dishes!” She then disappeared inside.
“Don’t think I forgot about the dishes!” mimicked Ron in a sickeningly sweet voice. “Bloody neurotic she is, a damned control freak. Sometimes I wonder why I married her...” Nonetheless, Ron did not want to get on the bad side of Ms. Control Freak, so he decided to head inside and do as his wife had asked.
Before he had taken but two steps, Ron heard a bloodcurdling scream from inside. He ran through the sliding doors and into the kitchen where he met bright, crackling flames that rose toward the ceiling, off which thick grey smoke emerged.
“Gwyn! Honey!” Ron shouted, his voice hoarse, his face pale. He felt scared, more scared than he had in a long, long time. His heart beat erratically in his chest.
“Here,” whispered a voice feebly. Ron recognized it as Gwyn's. He crept toward the voice, skittering around the hot, pulsing flames. He reached his wife quickly, and wrapped her in his arms.
“The pan was hot...I dropped it,” she whispered, clearly shaken. “I’m sorry...”
“No, no it’s fine,” whispered Ron, pulling her to her feet. “Come on, we have to go!”
He began to pull her through the blaze when suddenly she stopped, her eyes wide. Ron stopped as well, turning around. “What is it?” he asked, his voice wavery.
Ron’s eyes misted over as he thought of their brand-knew puppy, which he had named after his dear, lost friend, but still he knew where he priorities lay. “No time. We have to get out of here.” Ron then commenced to pull his wife back toward the exit.
But she pulled away from him and began to run back into the flames. “Harry!” he heard her shout. “Harry!” Suddenly, a scream tore through the smoke-filled air and Ron’s heart turned cold. He raced toward the sound and came across, as he had feared, his wife lying still on the floor. Dark blood pooled beneath her head. Ron looked up, his eyes streaming, and say that the roof had collapsed. He felt her pulse – nothing. Then Ron lay next to her body and began to cry.
Ron’s tears fell fast and heavy down his face as he clutched onto his comatose wife. The second woman he had dared to love, the one person with whom he had finally had the courage to move on past Hermione and their terrible past...gone. She may have still been breathing, but to him, she was gone. And it’s all my fault, thought Ron miserably to himself. If only I had listened to her. If only I had gone to do the dishes sooner, if only I had held onto her tighter, not let her slip away...she would still be here, by my side. As she should be. Ron’s shoulders shook and an animal sound, rough and naked with despair, emerged raspy from his throat.
Suddenly, arms enclosed around him. Ron looked up through reddened eyes to see Hermione, kneeling beside him. She gently pried his hand from his wife’s – he let her, although he didn’t know why. Then she rocked him against her chest and whispered, “Shhhh...it’s all going to be okay.”
“No, it’s not,” whispered back Ron. Tears still fell down his face, although now they were silent. “It’s not.”
But he did not pull away.
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