Chapter 1 : The Power of Radio
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The first duty of love is to listen.
Hermione blinked. The soft snores of the two reconciled boys were the only sounds she could hear nearby. Around her, in the star-scattered darkness, there were slight rustling of leaves, owl hoots, and just normal animal sounds. When she was a child, camping with her parents, she used to be afraid of the eerie living sounds in the nature around her, and would huddle in her sleeping bag whilst her mum and dad would chuckle at their small daughter’s antics. But now, they made her feel safe, somehow. Like everything was back to normal: her, in a tent, with two people who cared about her, with animal and forest sounds around her.
Somehow, she wanted something more. She missed him, hearing his voice, being in his arms, hiding from the rest.
Ever since Ron had told them—Harry and her—that there was a rogue radio station, operated by members of the Order, that spewed out the truth to the population under a password, she had been aching to hear it. Would he be on it? Would he be talked about, and more, would he be talking?
Her eyes drifted down to the two boys. They were undoubtedly asleep. Especially Ron, she knew that when he started snoring like that, there was no waking him up. Slowly, she sat up, the top of her head brushing the fabric of the tent. Though the tent was large and roomy, it was still a little suffocating, and not very good with privacy, which was hard for a girl in the middle of two raucous boys.
She got down from her bed, tiptoeing across the floor of the tent, grateful for the silence that was comfortable, instead of tense. Somehow, at night, she forgot that they were hunted, that she was at the top of the Death list of the most powerful wizard alive, and that they were on a dangerous quest to kill him. Somehow, at night, it was just her and the boys, on a camping trip that they might have taken at the end of Hogwarts, in friendlier times. Maybe he would have been there with them, and Ginny too, and someone for Ron that wasn’t her.
She bit her lip as she looked at the sleeping boy’s form. She didn’t know exactly when she had gotten over her schoolgirl crush on him, but she figured it was about the same time as his crush on her evolved into something more. Bad timing, she thought. She still felt guilty, though. Maybe she owed him this, at least, after all they had been through. She felt like she had led him on last year, and that now that she wasn’t feeling anything more than friendship for the boy, she would be betraying him, in a way.
The problem with Hermione was that she was loyal, and thought of others more than herself. Especially when it came to friends like Harry and Ron.
She shook her head and thought to leave that debate for another time, because every minute she was losing was another minute of his voice gone. She reached the radio she had deftly packed in her purse, like he had told her to, and smiled weakly when she remembered his giving it to her.
Though it was dark, the fabric of the tent allowed for the light of the stars to shine through if the people in it wished it to, and Hermione had only to sit in a corner in which the moonlight shone particularly bright, and block all memories of moonlit walks, to concentrate on the small radio. She started playing with the dials, thinking about what Ron had said. There was a password. And it had something to do with the order.
She thought about the people who were behind the idea of the radio. It had to involve senior members, but it surely hadn’t been their idea from the start. It had to come from younger people, witches and wizards who had grown up with the omni-presence of radio and knew that it could influence many people, ranging over many miles and countries. So, it had to be something simple, yet challenging for anyone not in the Order or good friends with the people in it.
She looked up at the moon, and realized the date. It was February the fourteenth, Valentine’s Day. Six months to the day that she had fallen in love with him. Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day was a day for love, for young and old love, for everything that comes with it. It’s a day to remind yourself of what you are fighting for. And if the radio station was trying to contact Harry, what would be the name on the tip of his tongue?
She dialed ‘Ginny’ as the password.
A wizzing sound sprung from the small instrument, startling Hermione. Then, a crinkly noise of feedback, followed by a long beep, showing her that this password was incorrect.
She took her face in her hands, panting. She had been on the verge of being able to hear his voice, on being close to him. She closed her eyes tightly, a tear threatening to roll out of them. She took a deep breath, checking again that her two best friends were still sound asleep. The snores were still coming regularly.
She went back to thinking about the issue at hand. Valentine’s Day. Whose name would be the most desired at this moment? She thought of putting his name in, but she felt in her heart it was wrong. No one knew of them, no one would put that as a password. Maybe Molly, or Tonks, someone dear to a man in the Order. But they could wish them a happy Valentine’s Day on their own, with flowers and kisses, so they wouldn’t need another thing. She tried to punch in ‘Harry’, ‘Ron’, ‘Ted’… But nothing worked.
Suddenly, she realized it. With trembling fingers, she punched in an H. Then an E. The dials seemed to be wizzing and clicking appropriately. She continued until she finished, with O, N and E, her own name.
A last click was heard, and the sound of familiar voices filled the air around her.
“Hello, and welcome to the Valentine’s episode of Potterwatch! I’m River, and I’m glad to announce that our secure location has remained so for this week, and so we are able to send out this message from all of us. Even though we’re in the middle of a War, though we are oppressed, abused, tyrannized, nothing has come to stop the fact that February the fourteenth came around, just like Christmas did. Today is about love, not fear. Isn’t that right, Rodent?”
“Bugger off, River, I told you I was to be named Rapier! Where the hell do you get Rodent from?”
Hermione’s heart skipped a beat at the voice. It was him. His voice was in her ear, just as close as he had ever been, and though his words weren’t meant just for her, they were there.
“I have a warped and twisted mind, Rapient, do not question its undertakings. Rapient here requested to come and talk to you, whilst Romulus is off on some more * cough * important * cough* business, and Royal doesn’t believe in over-commercialized holidays. We tried to convince him that it was only commercialized in the muggle world, but you know the man—or not--, he would not go back on his word.”
“Very true, River, and I requested to come on for a very important reason. To spread the love, of course, but also to declare my own.”
“Really, Rapient? I wasn’t aware of any significant other of yours… Was she the one who tried to name you Rapier?”
“Nah, if it was up to her my name would be Rabbit, or Rutabaga, something to make her laugh. She does love it when I make her laugh.”
Hermione smiled softly, tears pearling in her eyes. He was talking about her, making her smile again, just like he used to. And he was mentioning, no, declaring, their love to the whole world.
“Well, Rapient, the feed is all yours, tell that lovely girl you love her.”
“I can’t say your name on here, darling, because of the whole Dark Lord thing, which is inconveniently getting in the way of our courtship in every way. I wish I could be taking you out to dinner today, remarking on how beautiful you look in your simple dress. I would take your hand, look into your eyes, and tell you I love you, because I do, Rowena, I do.”
She smiled softly at the nickname he had just given her. “I love you too, Fred.” She mouthed to the radio.
“D’you know what I would do? There’s this one thing that I felt like doing, the day you left. Well, maybe not that same day, but very, very close to that day. I wanted to take you to that little place, you know, that little place by the sea that you love so much. We would go on the rocks, just like that day, and sit on them, just watching the waves break against the stone as the wind whips your beautiful hair so annoyingly into my face. We would sit there, with you humming that stupid tune I hate so much and is always stuck in your head, and I would look at you. I would brush a strand of your hair behind your ear, and you would turn to look at me, with that smile on your face that makes me forget about how awful that tune is. And I would pull out a small box from my pocket, and put it in your hand, and say ‘open it’. You would stare at me, knowing what was inside, and tell me we’re too young, we’re too crazy, we’re too reasonable…”
Hermione could not believe her ears. Was he proposing? What?
“And then I would put my head in that little hollow under your head, and pout softly. You would glance at me, laugh happily, and say yes, yes I will marry you, yes, I will stay with you forever, because that is what is meant to be. Because it is, Rowena, no matter what anyone may say, it is. So, I’m asking you now. I don’t know where you are, or if you’re even listening, which I doubt, but I do know that in my heart we are sitting on that rock, and all I’m waiting for is your answer.”
There was silence for a few moments, and then he reprised with a shaky voice.
“I’m sorry I’m asking you now, in the middle of war, but if you can’t do it on Valentine’s Day, when can you?”
“This is River. Thanks. Rapier. I think we all needed to be reminded that love exists. That it persists, through wilderness, through war. Do not forget, if you’re on the run, or if you’re trying to fight back, or if you’re hiding, or wherever you are. Please do not forget the ones you love, the ones who died and the ones who lived. Do not despair for those who have disappeared, just love them, love them like a young boy loves a young girl, like a parent loves a child, like a best friend loves a best friend. It is only through love that we can beat The One Who Is Too Cowardly To Love. There it is, I’ve changed his acronym. Let us remember that killing innocents and muggles is easy, that even the weakest of Death Eaters can do it. What takes courage, true courage, is not to face the enemy, but to face our own humanity, our own emotions.”
“If Tom Riddle shies away from Love,” Continued River, “He has fear inside of him, and does not have the courage to face it. One day will come when we will all be tested, and we shall all face our fears. The ones who fight back will survive.”
Hermione tuned out the radio. She sighed and stayed in silence until a voice behind her broke the spell.
“It was you, wasn’t it?”
She wheeled around, trying to discern which of the boys was talking, though she could guess from the snores still resounding in the tent that it was not Ron.
Harry came into the light, looking down into his best friend’s pale face. “And here I was thinking I was the only one of the Trio leaving their loved one behind.”
She smiled weakly at him. “Don’t tell Ron.”
“I won’t. somehow, I feel like I understand your weird thinking. What are you going to tell Fred?”
“About what?” She asked, fidgeting with her hands.
“About the proposal. Yes, or no?” He detailed with a knowing smile.
“Oh, Harry… Like he said, it’s crazy.”
“And like he said, it’s fate.”
They stayed silent for a while, and Harry reached to take her hand, squeezing it comfortingly.
“You’ll know what to do. You always do.”
Hermione nodded. She knew. Her heart had known for what seemed like forever. Yes, she would marry Fred Weasley, because she loved him, and it was meant to be.
Three months later, when they met at Hogwarts, Hermione told Fred that she would marry him. Three months and two hours later, she was left sobbing over his dead body, a cold ring on her finger. Nobody understood. Nobody had known. Harry watched his best friend marry his other one, knowing that her heart wasn’t in it.
Her heart, after all, was buried under a small hilltop in Ottery St Catchpole.
Footfalls echo in the memory, Down the passage which we did not take, Towards the door we never opened, Into the rose-garden.
--T. S. Eliot