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Afterwards by unknownhorcrux
Chapter 9 : Chapter 9
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2

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Over the next week, Ron found himself in a sleep-deprived daze. George was still hardly coming into work, and as much as Ron tried to talk to him, he preferred to sit in his room, writing letters to Angelina Johnson. Along with the huge workload, he was having to pack for Australia. He had only ever been abroad twice: once to Romania, and once to Egypt, and he was looking forward to the trip with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. He had, after all, never been introduced to Hermione’s parents as her boyfriend, and even though he had met them before, he felt a nervous pang in the pit of his stomach every time they were mentioned.

Hermione had taken to being completely over-active. She would jabber at Ron for hours on end about completely trivial matters. She started baking hundreds of cupcakes. She pushed herself to smile constantly, but when she thought his back was turned, Ron caught glimpses of how she really felt: blank and drained. She had kept the fear out for too long, and it was finally flooding back in. Ron and Harry were having problems as well; but Hermione’s feelings had seemed to surprise her into recognising them. The two boys had grown used to disturbed nights and painful dreams, but for Hermione, it was a shock to the system, a constant jarring pain.

On the day of their departure, Ron and Hermione left Grimmauld Place at 9:00. Kreacher had insisted that they take some sandwiches with them, even though the journey would take a matter of seconds. They had sent their luggage in advance with the Apparition Courier Service, so their bags would meet them when they got to Australia. Harry had to go into training early that morning, so only Ginny waved them goodbye from the doorstep, wearing her fuzzy slippers and old pink dressing gown. When they had said their goodbyes, Ron took Hermione by the hand and lead her out of the square, in the direction of the long-distance apparition point they had been appointed. Hermione seemed more calm than she had been in days, and he smiled at her every now and then, trying to show her that everything would be OK soon.

They came to the top of a hill overlooking a small park, and it was here that Ron finally dropped Hermione’s hand. “Ready to go?” He asked with a smile. She closed her eyes for a second, and then breathed, “thank you for this.” He stroked a hand through her hair, marvelling at that lilac scent that he knew so well. He took her hand again, and concentrating with all his might, he turned on the spot.

’56 Honeytree Lane’ he told himself over and over again, trying to ignore the feeling that his chest was broken, that breathing didn’t work anymore. He felt Hermione’s hand in his, and squeezed it gently. Her mirrored response calmed him down, letting him concentrate fully on that one address…

Suddenly, his feet touched ground. He panted hard, and looked around for Hermione. He found her right next to him, holding her sides and wheezing. They were in the middle of a dusty street, completely deserted but for the occasional bird flying overhead. The orange light of the sun permeated the place as it dipped slowly in the sky, setting in an outburst of vibrant yellow and orange. He stepped to the curb and sat down; Hermione joined him. They were sitting opposite a small cottage, with a pale tiled roof and roses creeping up a trellis which was laid against the red brick of the wall. Lace curtains were pulled shut over the windows, and in the driveway there stood a letterbox, upon which the name ‘Wilkins’ was written in green paint, peeling from the heat.

They sat there in silence for an eternity, just staring at that letterbox, letting the faint perfume of the air wash over them. Ron listened to Hermione breathe deep, long, painful breaths, and waited for her to move.

The sun dipped still further down, sending shots of gold and ochre into the already fiery sky.

Hermione started biting her fingers, nibbling at her thumb in a way that Ron had only ever seen her do when she had a big test she hadn’t revised for as much as she would have liked. He waited for her still, letting the rose-tinted breeze wash over him, mixing faintly with the scent of lilacs from Hermione’s hair.

The sun dipped still further until only a thin slice could be seen, and the sky was left to dim into purples and navies.

It was only when the first star studded the black sky that Hermione spoke. “Ron…” Her voice came as a shock through the still night air, yet he didn’t react, just waited for her to say what she needed to. “Ron,” she started again, “Did I do the right thing?”

He couldn’t tell whether she was talking about her parents, or Hogwarts, or just life, but he draped his arm around her hunched shoulders and murmured, “it is impossible for you to do anything other than the best thing that can be done. That’s what I love about you. And I know you can do this. You need this.”

She turned to him at last and said, “Ron Weasley you are truly the most remarkable person I know.” With this, she raised herself up from her stoop, brushed off her jeans and pushed a stray wisp of hair out of her face. With a glance back at Ron, she walked slowly up the driveway and knocked on the front door.

It took a while before anyone answered, and Hermione was just about to knock on the door for the second time when the door was flung open by a grey haired man with a slight belly, who was beaming and laughing along with the voice of a woman which came from within the house. He looked at Hermione with a mixture of confusion and surprise, as if he had’t expected there to be anyone there. His eyes passed over her face without recognition. “Can I help you at all?” He said with a smile.

Ron saw a tear roll down hermione’s cheek at this. He looked down at the ground, feeling awkward, as if he were including himself on a scene too private, a moment too personal. Hermione breathed out slowly, raised her wand and said, “mementa”.

The man looked like he had been slapped in the face. His smile faded, his eyes widened. Soon, though, a smile came back to his face. “Hey baby girl!” He shouted. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages!” At this point, Hermione cracked. She ran into her father’s arms, and let out all of the pent up anger and fear and anxiety that had been raging inside her for the past year. Her father looked a little confused, but put his arms around her and held her as she slowly soaked his shirt with tears, sobbing furiously into his chest. 

When Hermione’s tears had finally subsided, he held her out in front of him, wiping a strand of hair from her face with his thumb. “Hermione…” He said, only now noticing his strange surroundings

“We’ll explain later” said Ron, finally finding his tongue. At this point, a woman with long brown hair flecked with grey came into the hallway saying,

“Wendell, what’s going on? It sounds like a cat’s being strangled….” Hermione, wiping her blurred eyes, repeated her spell on her mother, who rushed to hug her, commenting on how it felt like so long since she’d seen her. Hermione clung to her mother for a few moments, and then asked to sit down. Mr. and Mrs. Granger had some trouble finding the living room of this strange house, but did so eventually, sitting on a sofa opposite Ron and Hermione. Here, Hermione explained everything that had happened in the past year: the hunt for horcruxes, the fear, the final battle…

Mr. and Mrs. Granger sat wide eyed through this explanation, only speaking when at last, Hermione said, “You aren’t angry, are you?” The two parents looked at each other, and went to hug their daughter.

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