Chapter 1 : The Aftermath
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The pair of them trudged down the marble steps and crept into the dark and depressing Great Hall. There was nothing left, only the bodies which had been replaced on the ground and their loved ones. They spotted the mass of red haired people at the end of the hall and slowly, as though dragged by death were brought towards them.
'Ron,' said Hermione nervously, peering into the empty face. Ron stood, frozen to the spot, staring into the blank eyes which were his dead brother's. He trembled slightly as he left Hermione and pulled his brother, George into a tight embrace.
The pair of them sobbed and hugged for hours it seemed as they trembled in each other's arms. And as they let go of each other, George picked up Fred and cradled him in his arms, not caring if he looked like an idiot and not worrying that everyone in the hall had turned to hear the source of the noise escaping his mouth. It was a cry, a cry more genuine then they had ever heard come from George. It was a cry which left the Weasley family wondering if their brother and son would ever be the same again.
Hermione took Ron's hand again in her's and held him close to her. Her eyes were stained with tears and grime and her face full of anguish. She allowed herself to peer over at the lifeless forms of Lupin and Tonks and she held Ron closer to her then ever before not daring to look again.
Harry and Ginny joined them and Ginny, trembling as much as George, reached down and stroked Fred's hair, the blood in it hardly visible. Hermione rested her own hand on her shoulder and Harry held Ginny tight to him. Mrs. Weasley was leaning against her gaunt husband and Percy sat in a corner, apparently too distraught to even look into the eyes of his brother. They could hear him muttering, "it's my fault, all my fault." Charlie was sitting on the cold, hard floor staring blankly at the wall opposite him and Bill was standing next to Fleur, who had her head rested against his, tears spattered all over her face.
Hermione looked over at the doors leading into the Entrance Hall and stood up. Her hand slipped away from Ron's as she hastily ran towards them, unable to bear the dense despair that swam around the Hall. As she entered the destroyed Entrance Hall she turned right and sped out into the grounds, the sun rising as though it too saw the hardships ahead. She planted herself underneath the great beech tree that Ron, Harry and herself had sat under so many times in the past. She looked out at the lake and wondered solemnly whether her life would ever be the same. She thought of George, and tears started streaming uncontrollably down her face again. She didn't know what he would do without Fred. His cries in the Great Hall were enough for anyone to see the man's despair. As the tears continued to roll down her face she felt a hand fall down on her shoulder. She looked up and saw Ron's face peering concernedly down into her's and she broke down again into a set of catastrophic tears.
Ron sat down next to her and put his arm around her, holding her close to him. He lifted his head slightly and kissed her gently on the forehead. Hermione's heart warmed as she looked again into the eyes of Ron. She smiled slightly as she moved herself closer to him.
'What are we going to do?' she said, looking down at her feet. She wanted him to say that everything would be okay but she knew that would be a lie. How could anything be the same again?
'Rebuild I 'spose,' Ron answered gloomily. And with that the pair of them left the lawns towards the castle, preparing for the soul crushing journey ahead.
Weeks went on and soon it was time for the burial of the dead. All of the lost ones of the war were to be buried in a special cemetery created as a memorial for the ones who died in battle.
It took Mrs. Weasley quite some time to come to terms, still, with the death of her son. She would look at him, as though hoping that he was one of her boggarts and that soon her real son would pop out of a tree and frighten her. But she allowed him to be buried in the memorial.
Hermione sat next to Ron during the service, squeezing his hand so much that she thought she had turned it numb. But her pain ceased to numb. Remus and Tonks had always been people she could rely on to give her wisdom and guidance. Remus, to always be thankful for what she has and Tonks, to be more free and spontaneous. The Weasley's had been her family. Fred and George, like annoying older brothers. But as she looked over at George her heart shattered. His eyes were streaming tears as he made no attempt to stay strong and happy. Soon came the time when he got up to make his speech.
'F - F - Fred was ma - many things,' he choked through his sobs, 'but I - I don't think an - anyone was closer to him th - than me.'
'W - we never tho - thought that one of us w - would d - die before the other and never b - believed it even when the battle commenced.' The man shuddered and collapsed into renewed sobs too much to even speak. Two last coherent sentences escaped his lips, 'I love you Freddie. Thanks for the fun and laughter.' George nearly collapsed on his way off of the podium as he made his way back to his seat next to Charlie, who hugged him warmly as he sat back down. Hermione stared with glassy eyes as the rest of the funeral unfolded. She couldn't see a world without Fred. No one could really.
The coffin was closed on George's request as he said it would kill him to see his dead twin once again but Hermione could see George fighting the urge to run over and snatch it. Hermione occasionally would look over at George and see him standing proud as though determined not to cry over his brother. This however, only made her cry more than she was already. As Lupin and Tonks were carried down the asle Hermione spotted Andromeda with Teddy. She was squeezing him tightly in her arms and was sobbing uncontrollably. She had lost her husband, her daughter and her son-in-law. All she really had left was Teddy, his turquoise hair rippling in the chilling wind.
The silence inside the small living room was unbearable. The only noises which could be heard were the slow breathing of the people inside the room and the sound of people occasionally sipping Firewhisky from their bottles. Ron's arm rested on Hermione's, moving up and down in a soothing way. No one really seemed to notice the couple. Hermione heard someone moved. She averted her eyes from Ron's arm to the source of the noise.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had gotten up, their eyes both stained with what seemed like tears. There had been a lot of that today, tears. Hermione had shed too many to count. To see Mr. and Mrs. Weasley broken like this was devastating.
"Molly and I thought we might turn in," said Arthur abruptly. Everyone in the room were shocked to hear a voice break the silence.
“Do you think George should be up there by himself?” Ginny asked tentatively to the room. There was only the four of them left inside the dense room. Ginny, Harry, Ron and Hermione. Everyone else had gradually gone to bed. George had gone to his and Fred's room as soon as he had entered the front door, “You know after the funeral and all.”
“Don't say that Ginny,” said Ron, a little more aggressively than was necessary. The funeral, having been held that day, had taken its toll on George. Everyone was scared for the man. No one had seen him like this since the day of Fred's death, and that day they thought he might have ended his life as well.
“Ron you cannot just sit here and pretend that our brother is fine,” Ginny protested, “because he is not fine!” Tears began to stream down her face as she buried it in her hands. Hermione left her seat on the lounge as Ron's arm fell limply to his side. She crossed the room and knelt on the floor next to Ginny, causing her to lift her head. Hermione looked her in the eyes.
“We have to stay positive, especially around George. That is the best we can do for him,” Hermione gave Ginny a reassuring look. Finally Ginny spoke again.
“I'm going to bed,” she carefully lifted herself out of the couch, kissed Harry on the cheek and marched off to the stairs.
“I'd better head off too,” Harry spoke into the silence, “Are you coming Ron?”
“Yeah I'll come in a minute,” was Ron's reply.
As Harry made his way up the stairs Ron and Hermione were left alone for the first time since the battle. With people coming in and out of the house there had been no time to discuss the kiss which had somehow said things they never had spoken of before. Even when Hermione had gone to Australia to find her parents, Harry had come with them. It was a strange feeling, just being together with no one else in the room.
“Ron, I – ” Hermione began.
“Is this even real?” Ron interrupted. Hermione looked over at him and saw that he was staring at her with an inquisitorial look. She eased herself off the ground and sat next to him on the lounge.
“Is what real?” she asked.
"Us," said Ron, "I never thought I'd have you." Ron quickly got up out of his place, kissed Hermione sweetly on the lips and hastened upstairs. Hermione touched her lips where he had kissed her. It was too surreal. Ron was not a romantic man. Slowly she went upstairs to bed where she barely slept. She was thinking about that day, how it had been so horrible yet it had ended up as one of the best days of her life.