Chapter 2 : Yearning to Die
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When she was just a girl
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach
And the bullets catch in her teeth
Sometimes, she hated being the brightest witch of her age.
Hermione brushed a stray curl out of her face as she tried to get comfortable in the tent, flinching slightly as her shirt moved up just enough to expose a tiny sliver of white skin to the cold earth upon which she laid. No matter which way she turned, the threadbare blankets she’d packed from The Burrow failed to insulate her body from the winter freeze that seeped into the tent. She sighed softly, pressing her eyelids together and trying to ignore the wetness leaking from behind them. That was another thing she hated – crying. She’d done far too much of it in recent months.
She had felt the tears streaming down her face while she packed for this venture. It was hard to believe that just days ago she had been standing in Ginny’s bedroom at the Burrow, gingerly folding her shirts and pants and tucking them carefully into her bag, which she had charmed to make it bottomless. Next, she’d stacked her schoolbooks and placed them on top of the clothing.
Why did I pack those? But she knew. She was so used to carrying around her books and school supplies that she barely noticed the weight anymore. The lightness would have bothered her.
Hermione opened her eyes and glanced over at Harry, who was curled up in the corner to her left. Though her tears blurred her vision slightly, her eyes found the faded line that adorned his forehead, the jagged reminder that he was the reason she and Ron were sleeping outside tonight. The hint of bitterness that was borne of her stomach bile quickly perished in its own cradle. None of this was Harry’s fault, not really. Her stomach raged anew with the shame of her own thought. It was his fault, the one whose name she wanted to say but was almost too afraid to even think. He was the reason her memories of this beautiful forest, where she’d collected twigs for her mother to start a tiny campfire while her father readied the poles for an impromptu fishing trip, would now and forever be tainted by the sight of Ron’s splinched arm and bloodstained leaves.
Sometimes, she hated being the one with the plan. But it was the only thing that could be done. All of Harry and Ron’s memories were too obvious, too closely connected to their loved ones.
Harry twitched under his blanket, and she frowned slightly. She had tried to resist berating herself for not choosing a warmer place. Her family had normally stayed within England for their vacations, not having the money to journey to more exotic locations with warm sun and sand. Part of her wished she had been the one to be splinched. Ron might have chosen Egypt, at least. Here, she was chilled to the bone, though she could not tell whether it was merely the snow that graced the thick tree branches above them or instead the fear that they might yet be discovered.
She turned over and found herself face to face with Ron. If she exhaled, it would touch his lips.
She was glad he seemed to be sleeping well, his face no longer twisted in agony and his shoulder safely bandaged and in the process of healing. His body trembled slightly under the thin blanket, and she glanced down to see tiny goosebumps forming on the bare skin of his exposed hands.
His mouth fell open just slightly in his sleep, and she couldn’t help but smile, if only just a little.
Standing there on the Hogwarts Express, debating the credibility of the spell he was attempting to use to turn Scabbers a shade or two sunnier, she would never have predicted his hold over her. She was far too involved with her schoolwork to worry about boys, a fact well proven by her ability to resist Viktor Krum even as many female admirers lined up to catch a glimpse of him.
Ron, well, he was nothing special. He had always been overshadowed by the exploits of his brothers. Bill the curse-breaker, Charlie the dragon tamer, Percy with his cozy Ministry position, and Fred and George, whose exploits would live long after their graduation from Hogwarts… they all had a claim to fame. Even Ginny had caught the attention of numerous Hogwarts males. But Ron was only known as Harry Potter’s best friend. Hermione knew it bothered him greatly.
She knew this, of course, because she spent nearly all of her time with him. When Harry wasn’t involving them in one scheme or another, he was busy blaming himself for the trouble he’d gotten them into over the years. He was the reason Professor McGonagall kept a close eye on all three of them even as she extended warm smiles their way each morning in Transfiguration.
When Harry went away to ponder these matters, he left Ron and Hermione without a mission. They sat by the fire, doing homework and discussing their mutual concern for their burden-laden friend. As the years passed, these moments increased in frequency, and the conversation gave way to stolen glances and hidden smiles. Harry’s absence became gradually less noticeable.
I know you better than anyone, Ron Weasley. Her smile widened, but her eyes darkened.
What had happened to those days where examinations were the problems that kept her awake? She tried to remember how it felt to lay comfortably in her bed in the Gryffindor Common Room, what a Hogwarts breakfast tasted like, the sense of triumph that came from witnessing the Gryffindors’ victory over the Slytherins in a game of Quidditch. Another tear slipped down her cheek when she realized that she could not. She might never feel the warmth of the common room fire again, and there was no triumph in this competition, not even if a Death Eater died.
The corners of her mouth twitched as the tears began to flow more freely. A sniffle escaped her, and she heard Harry turn over, twisting himself more tightly in the blanket. Hermione carefully removed her hands from beneath the flimsy shelter of her covering and put one over her mouth.
As she laid there on the cold earth, staring idly at Ron and listening to the sound of the wind gently shaking the trees outside, one thought succeeded in halting her precarious sobbing.
It would only take one carefully aimed spell, one shining flash of green light to end it all.
It didn’t matter from whom it came, and any potential captor would recognize their faces from the posters Umbridge and her goons created afresh at the Ministry each morning for the Daily Prophet. Perhaps it would hurt, at least for a moment, but it would be over within the next one. Then, she and Ron could have peace at last. They would finally be free. They would be together.
It would be just like going to sleep, except there would no longer be a need to dream.
Ever since she was a little girl, Hermione had been curious about what would happen when she died. If there was life after death, it would have to be one that each person desired, at least if they had lived a reasonably good mortal life. She had never been able to decide what she would want.
Now, though, she realized why that was. Anything would do, as long as Ron was there with her.
Hermione blinked back the last of her freezing tears, slipping one arm back under the blanket. With the other, she bridged the small gap between her and Ron, her fingers lightly twisting in his. His eyelashes fluttered slightly in his sleep, and for a moment she forgot the chaos she hated.
Is he dreaming about me?
Then, swaddled in the comfort of a fleeting hope, Hermione Granger found rest at last.