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Chapter 1 : You Make Me Smile
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‘Where is she? What’s happened? Where is my wife?’ He pushed through the waiting people so quickly that his hair was just a blur, a flame burning through the crowded room. ‘Get out of my way. Somebody tell me what’s happened to my wife!’
The woman behind the desk looked up, startled, but saw something in the man’s eyes which told her not to argue about the other people who’d been queueing up before him. She lowered her gaze, her fingers finding the comforting security of the computer keyboard.
‘Would you like to give me your name, and your wife’s name, sir?’ she asked. The badge attached to the front of her blouse said that her name was Rebecca, but the man didn’t notice it. His eyes were darting around, almost manically, as he looked for his wife. ‘That way we can find out what’s happened more quickly, and find someone for you to talk to.’
‘I’m Ron,’ the man snapped. ‘Ron Weasley. And my wife is Hermione. Hermione Weasley.’ He took a sharp breath. ‘Now will you please tell me what’s happened to her?’
Ever professional, Rebecca kept her face expressionless, not responding to the man’s rudeness as she tapped away at the keys. Click, clack, click.
‘Could I just check how to spell that, sir?’ she asked, her hand freezing on the mouse.
‘For god’s sake, woman, are you completely incompetent?’ the man half-shouted, his face reddening to match his hair. He looked as though he was ready to jump across the desk and snatch the computer from her. ‘Hermione Weasley. H-e-r-m-i-o-n-e, Hermione. W-e-a-s-l-e-y, Weasley. It’s not hard!’
The woman nodded, pressed a few more keys and then froze again, her dark skin stiffening into a panicked mask. ‘If you’d just like to take a seat, Mr Weasley, I’ll find someone to talk to you.’
‘Take a seat? Why would I want to take a seat? I want to see my wife, damn it!’ The man was trembling now, shaking with anger and fear.
‘Mr Weasley?’ A woman appeared, older than the receptionist, holding out her hand. He ignored it. ‘I’m Dr Patel, the doctor treating your wife. If you’d like to come with me…’
‘What’s happened to Hermione, is she alright?’ The panic leaked into the words, like a jagged knife tearing his voice.
The doctor smiled tightly, trying to look reassuring, but her brown eyes couldn’t lie. ‘As I said, if you’d just like to come with me, Mr Weasley…’
1st February, 2005
‘Why do we have to do a stupid dance?’
‘Ron, you’ve danced before. At the Yule Ball, at Bill’s wedding, and George’s, and Percy’s…’
‘I didn’t dance at the Yule Ball,’ he replied stubbornly. ‘I was too busy watching you all night and being angry at Krum for asking you to go. Padma got so fed up of it that she left me and went off with some guy from Beauxbatons.’
‘Ron,’ sighed Hermione, a touch of amusement shining in her brown eyes. ‘You’re missing the point. You still danced with me at all your brother’s weddings, and you didn’t have any problem with it then. What’s so different now?’
‘Everyone’s going to be watching us this time, Hermione. I’m going to look like an idiot.’ He refused to meet her eyes, watching his bare foot tease up the corner of their living room rug. The faintest pink spread across his cheeks.
‘Ronald Bilius Weasley,’ announced Hermione, in a voice so like his mother’s that he glanced up immediately. ‘It’s tradition. If you don’t dance with me at our wedding, everyone’s going to think that you don’t want to dance with me, and then I’ll look like an idiot.’
‘It’s not that I don’t want to dance with you, ‘Mione, you know that…’
‘Well then, we’d better get practising, hadn’t we?’ She pulled on his hands and tugged him towards her, in the centre of their living room. Reluctantly, Ron waved his wand at the radio and let Hermione place his arms around her, beginning to sway on the spot.
‘Dance like nobody’s watching,’ she whispered, pressing her lips to his ear.
One, two, three, one, two, three. Ron concentrated on the steps so much that he was surprised to feel Hermione kissing his cheek. When their eyes met, he couldn’t help but laugh. He could look like an idiot when he was dancing for all he cared; he would have Hermione in his arms. Nothing else mattered.
29th October, 2036
The room that he was taken to was small, clinically white; eight tattered chairs lined the walls, their covers fraying and revealing the leaking stuffing that was intended to comfort, but in reality helped little. Dr Patel gestured to a seat, but Ron remained standing, shifting impatiently from one foot to the other, his blue eyes piercing the doctor’s.
‘What’s happened to Hermione?’ he asked again. His voice was quieter now, but the urgency still rang through each word of his question.
The doctor took a deep breath. Her expression was grave. Ron hated that word, grave. It sounded so serious, so like death…
‘Your wife has been involved in a very serious accident, Mr Weasley,’ replied Dr Patel eventually. ‘She was hit by a car when she was crossing the road. Her condition is critical at the moment.’
‘A car?’ Ron repeated, blinking, as though he couldn’t believe that something as insignificant as a car could hurt Hermione. The doctor’s words jumbled together in his mind, barely sinking in, and then the questions came again. ‘What’s wrong with her? Where is she now? Why aren’t you helping her?’
Keeping her expression carefully neutral, Dr Patel watched the tall man sink into one of the seats he had initially scorned, and responded. ‘Your wife is currently undergoing tests to assess the extent of the damage, which is why I’m not needed at the moment. You’ll be able to see her once they’re over, which should be in about fifteen minutes,’ she added, checking her watch.
‘Fifteen minutes,’ he repeated, trying to nod but only managing to jerk his head slightly.
‘Mr Weasley, I should warn you…’ Ron’s head snapped up and his eyes searched the doctor’s face, waiting for her next words. ‘Your wife has suffered very serious injuries. At the moment, the chances aren’t good.’
8th May, 1998
It was over. It was over, finished, done. The war had ended. They could breathe again.
It had been a week now, and each day Ron could barely believe it. There were parties and celebrations – he’d heard people say (the words had trickled through somehow, he hadn’t been intending to hear them. It had been a week since he’d intended to do anything) that they were even more impressive than last time. Not that he cared.
He felt numb. There were celebrations and parties but there were funerals too, and it seemed that he’d been to one every day – sometimes more than one a day – in the past week. Like his life had become a never-ending stream of death and death and death.
His brother was dead.
Ron moved like a ghost, floating along, propelled by an inexplicable force that wanted him to attempt some semblance of normal, everyday life. The others were doing it too, with varying degrees of success; it had been a week since George had eaten anything properly, and Percy was spending more time alone outside than he ever had in his life before. Nothing was ordinary anymore.
And yet he couldn’t help the thoughts of Hermione creeping into his mind, unbidden; it felt like a betrayal to Fred to be thinking of her at a time like this.
She was there, beside him. Both she and Harry were staying at the Burrow, on the insistence of his parents, and they tried their best to be helpful, and stay out of the way when they felt they were intruding on the family’s grief. Ron had noticed this – he knew some of his brothers had, too – but he didn’t have the words to thank them for it. Nor could he find the words to express what it had meant when Hermione had held his hand at his brother’s graveside, or the way that she gave him space when he most needed it.
Just a week ago they’d kissed (finally, he had thought at the time), and in the blink of an eye, he’d planned out a future for them if they both survived the coming battle. Right now that future was hovering in limbo, a paused record. He didn’t know what to do; he wanted to be with Hermione more than anything, just as he had for years, but how was he meant to do that when he was grieving for a brother who had been far too young to die?
It was Hermione, in the end, who solved his dilemma (she always was the one with the answers, he realised a few months later). Out in the garden, after a dinner when they’d barely been able to eat anything and his mum hadn’t even scolded anyone for picking at their food, she’d put her hand on his arm and looked into his eyes.
‘I’ll still be here, you know,’ Hermione told him, half-embarrassed at her own forwardness. ‘When you’re ready.’
He could have kissed her then, but something stopped him. Instead, the ghost of a smile on his face, Ron had accepted a hug from her, musing on how much better everything seemed when he held Hermione in his arms.
29th October, 2036
The door opened with a creak, and Ron glanced up automatically. This time, unlike when the anxious parents of a teenager entered, it was Dr Patel returning, and offered the man a small, half-encouraging smile.
‘If you want to follow me, Mr Weasley, I’ll take you to see your wife now.’
He stood immediately, following her without a word until they reached a pair of double doors that were flanked by a pair of policemen. He knew what they did now – the Aurors had, at times, had to work alongside the police on cases before modifying their memories. His arms, which he’d been swinging nervously at his sides, reached out to stop the doctor.
‘What are they doing here?’ he asked, panicked.
Dr Patel bit her lip for a second and her brown eyes looked down to the floor as she decided how best to phrase her answer. ‘The police are here because of the nature of the incident your wife was involved in, Mr Weasley. The car that hit her – it didn’t stop. The police want to speak to her about it.’
‘You mean she’s awake?’ Ron asked, feeling a surge of hope at the idea. If Hermione was awake and speaking, then she couldn’t be that badly hurt, no matter what this doctor seemed to think. He’d get her out of this Muggle hospital and take her to St. Mungo’s, where she’d get better almost instantly, and within a day or so they’d be back at home and laughing over it all.
‘No,’ she replied quickly, shaking her head. ‘Your wife has been unconscious since her arrival, Mr Weasley. The police are just waiting here in case she wakes…’
This time a lead weight seemed to drop from his mouth and down to his stomach. What did she mean, in case? Hermione was going to wake up, of course she was. But he didn’t have chance to ask; Dr Patel had pushed open the doors and he followed her hurriedly through them before they swung closed again. A couple of steps into the room, and Dr Patel stepped at a bedside. Ron looked at the bed.
There were wires everywhere. That was the first thing that he noticed, the wires, criss-crossing across her body like a tangled ball of wool when their cat had finished playing with it. Tubes were sticking into the woman’s arms, machines connected to her, bleeping, and a mask over her mouth as her chest rose and fell, feebly. He crept a step closer, and forced himself to look at the woman’s face. Bruises bloomed, like flowers, blue and purple down the left half of her face, and the brown eyes were closed, the eyelids swollen and red. He didn’t want to believe it, but it was his wife.
‘Hermione?’ Ron’s voice was automatically a whisper, as he reached out and touched her hand gently. There was no reaction to his touch. ‘Hermione, love, I’m here.’
11th August, 2031
‘Come on, Hermione, we’re going to be late!’
‘Give me a minute, Ron – you know I’d have been ready earlier if you’d have taken less time in the shower!’
He couldn’t help grinning at her retort; the length of time he spent showering was a frequent bone of contention between them. But he tapped his foot impatiently, fiddling with the collar of his dress robes as he watched the clock ticking away the time. They were meant to be at the Burrow by now, and he didn’t like the idea of being the last ones there, or missing the great surprise on Ginny’s face when she realised what her family had planned for her fiftieth birthday. There had been no way that they were going to let this occasion go by without a bang.
As if she knew what he was thinking, Hermione yelled down the stairs. ‘Will you stop fretting, Ron – you know that we’ll get there in plenty of time! There, ready!’
A few seconds later he heard her tread on the landing, then descending slowly, a step at a time. Hermione appeared on the stairs, emerging from the darkness of upstairs like a butterfly coming out of her cocoon.
She took his breath away.
It had been over thirty-five years since it had first happened at the Yule Ball, and he still felt like he’d been hit in the back of the head by a Bludger when he saw her, in dress robes the same shade of blue as that night, and her hair swept back into a sleek chignon. Ron’s mouth opened and closed, wordlessly.
‘Worth the wait?’ teased Hermione, stopping at the bottom of the stairs and smirking at her husband.
Finally, he found the ability to speak again. ‘You could say that. You look beautiful, love.’
‘I should dress up more often,’ she responded, still smirking. ‘It’s not every day I can get you to shut up for minutes at a time.’
29th October, 2036
‘Mr Weasley, I’m sorry to disturb you, but we need to ask you to step outside for a few minutes while we perform some more tests on your wife. Is there anybody that we could call to be here with you?’
The nurse’s voice was surprisingly gentle, and the man placed his hand gently on Ron’s shoulder as he spoke. The suffering husband blinked, jumping at the sound.
‘Call?’ For a few seconds he was silent, gazing sadly at his wife’s face. Then his eyes widened with a remembrance. ‘I need to call Rose and Hugo, our children. I need to let them know what’s happened…’
The nurse nodding with understanding. ‘If you like, we could call them for you, if you think that would help.’
‘No.’ Ron shook his head, running a hand through his hair. It was no time to start explaining to a Muggle nurse that his daughter refused to own a mobile phone, and that his own probably didn’t work here, surrounded by all of this Muggle equipment. He stood up. ‘It’s okay, thank you. I’ll go and talk to them now.’
Trembling, he stooped and softly pressed his lips to his wife’s cheek, watching her chest rising and falling for a moment. ‘I’ll be back before you know it, love.’
27th December, 1997
Hermione. Hermione, Hermione, Hermione.
This was what it always came down to, the one thought that he could focus his energy on, trapped in this room while Bill and Fleur were out at the Burrow, enjoying time with the family at Christmas like normal people. Ron couldn’t go – he couldn’t face the others, admit that he’d walked out on Hermione and Harry, that he was a coward. The radio buzzed quietly in the background, but Ron’s thoughts were travelling in a different direction.
How could he have left her? Would he ever make it back? How could he ever hope to face her again, after what he’d done?
There had been times, in the few months preceding his abandonment of them, that Ron had dared to hope – it was just a sliver – that one day there might be a chance for him and Hermione. Those quiet conversations in the tent at night; the times that she’d leaned against him for warmth when Harry was outside on watch; the way that she’d taken care of him after he’d been splinched. He fell asleep remembering that night they held hands, on the run after Bill and Fleur’s wedding, going to sleep in Grimmauld Place.
What must she think of him now? Did she even think of him now?
And then he heard it. Her voice, echoing from his pocket, his name never sounding more beautiful than in that moment. Maybe, he thought, pulling out the Deluminator and surveying it with wonder, maybe there was a chance after all. At the sound of her voice, his mouth broke into a smile.
29th October, 2036
‘Dad, what’s happening? Where’s mum?’
A young woman ran through the door, her red hair flying behind her like a flag trailing in her wake. Her expression was anxious, strained. Following her were two men, one young, looking like he’d just woken up and thrown clothes on, and one older, with messy black hair, who had brought the two of them.
‘Rose, Hugo,’ Ron said, opening his arms to give his daughter a hug. He stretched out a hand and placed it on his son’s shoulder, then spoke to the older man over the top of Rose’s head. ‘Thanks for bringing them, Harry. I didn’t know what else to do…’
‘No problem, mate,’ responded Harry, slinging his arm round Hugo’s shoulder. ‘Where’s Hermione? Is she okay?’
Ron’s face paled, and Rose, pulling away from the hug, studied her father’s face nervously. ‘What aren’t you telling us, dad? You didn’t say anything much to Hugo… why’s mum in a Muggle hospital? What’s happened to her? You only said she’d been in an accident…’
For the second time that day, Ron entered the tiny, claustrophobic relatives’ room. He hadn’t slept, his hair was sticking up in all directions, and the lines appearing on his face seemed deeper than ever before. It was as though he’d aged years in a couple of hours. As he began to explain the situation to his children, who, though well into adulthood, looked more like children than they had for years at that moment, tears began to glitter in his blue eyes and his daughter gripped his hand tightly.
‘They said…’ he began, choking back a sob. ‘They said that it’s only the machine that’s keeping her alive right now, that’s keeping her breathing. But that can’t be true… I need to get in touch with St. Mungo’s, there must be something that they can do to help…’
‘I’ll go and contact them now, Ron,’ Harry said, standing up immediately. He paused for a moment before leaving the room, his eyes fixed on his best friend’s. ‘Hermione’ll be alright you know, mate. She’s tough, she’ll get through this.’
‘Yes,’ Ron agreed, but his voice broke on the word, and for the first time his children realised that maybe their mother – the woman who had fought through the Battle of Hogwarts and spent months on the run with their uncle – might not be immortal, after all.
1st July, 2026
‘Well, I think we’ve done alright, don’t you, love?’ The two of them were sat in the living room, cuddled together on the settee, enjoying one of the rare occasions that they had privacy in their own house. Rose and Hugo were both out with friends, celebrating.
‘I still can’t believe it, Ron. Two children grown up and finished at Hogwarts. Where did all the time go?’
‘Don’t ask me,’ he responded, dropping a soft kiss on her hair. ‘You’re the smart one. How am I meant to know if you don’t?’
Hermione shifted slightly so that he could take in her unimpressed expression, one eyebrow raised slightly.
‘I know what you mean, Hermione. It only feels like a few days since you agreed to go on a date with me… look at how far we’ve come since then.’
‘It certainly took you longer than a few days to ask me,’ she joked, but pecked his cheek to soften the dig and relaxed into his arms again. ‘But I can’t believe it. Our babies are all grown up. Soon they’ll be moving out and getting married, and having kids…’
‘Woah,’ protested Ron. ‘Rosie’s not having kids before I give her permission to. She’s only twenty.’
Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘I don’t think you’ll have much say in the matter when she gets there, to be honest, Ron.’
‘Still… we’ll be grandparents.’ He struggled with the word for a second, as if the concept was too difficult for him to grasp.
‘Grandma Hermione and Grandpa Ron,’ Hermione giggled. ‘Or they can call you Grumpy when you’re in a bad mood. Or hungry.’
‘Hey, you’re not going to go round telling my grandkids that they can call me Grumpy. They’ll have some respect for me, thank you very much!’
Hermione was shaking against his chest; for a second Ron wondered if she was ill, but a glance told him that she was laughing silently. ‘Hold your horses, Ron. A second ago you were telling me that Rose wasn’t having kids before you gave your permission, and now you’re telling me what they’ll be like.’
‘Well, it’s never too early to start planning. But we’ve got a good few years yet, I reckon.’
‘Yes,’ replied Hermione, sitting up and kissing him. ‘We’ve got all the time in the world.’
30th October, 2036
‘Ron,’ the voice was gentle, as Harry tried not to wake his niece and nephew who were snoozing in their chairs by Hermione’s bedside. Ginny, her short bob swinging around her face, was beside him. In the sharp hospital lights, the two looked like beings from another world. The man dozing fitfully at his wife’s bedside woke with a jump, staring anxiously at Hermione’s unconscious form before registering the presence of his sister and best friend.
‘What is it, Harry? Can St. Mungo’s take her?’
Gravely (there was that word again, the word that Ron hated so much), Harry shook his head. ‘I went over there and they sent a Healer over straight away to look at her notes and talk to the doctor who’s treating her, Ron. They came in and examined her while you were sleeping… I’m sorry, Ron, but they’ve said that there’s nothing they can do that the Muggles aren’t doing already.’
Harry knocked his glasses askew as he sniffed and tried to surreptitiously wipe his emerald eyes, delivering the news to his friend.
‘Nothing?’ echoed Ron, disbelieving.
‘Nothing,’ Ginny confirmed sadly, the tears spilling freely down her cheeks as she leaned towards her older brother and gave him a hug.
‘Then what am I meant to do?’ Ron was blinking rapidly, as if he couldn’t comprehend the news that there wasn’t a magical solution for his wife’s injuries. ‘What happens now?’
‘I think,’ said Harry, after a few moments, his mouth twisting around the words as if they carried a sour taste with them. ‘That you have to talk to the doctors about the options.’
5th May, 2007
‘Why on earth are there so many buttons? Who could possibly need so many buttons?’
‘Ron, it’s a camera.’
‘Exactly, you point and shoot. One button. Press. Bam, it’s done.’
‘Not this camera.’
‘Well, what’s so great about this camera? We’ve got a camera already, and it works perfectly well. We don’t need another one.’
Hermione shook her head, exasperated. One hand was resting on her hip – that meant she was getting frustrated. Both hands on hips was a bad sign. Ron paused before he could work her up any more. It wasn’t his fault that this bloody Muggle camera was so complicated.
‘Ron, my parents bought us that. Rose is one next month, and they would love some photos of their only grandchild that they can actually show off to their friends. You know, Muggle photos. Photos that don’t move. So you’re going to learn to use this camera and we’re going to take plenty of photos for them, okay?’
‘I can try,’ he muttered, almost petulantly, but snapped out of it when he saw the hand inching towards her other hip. ‘So, how do you turn this thing on?’
‘You see this button here? The one that says “on-off”? You press that once, and it turns on, press it again and it turns off. Like magic.’
Ron pushed down the button and almost dropped the camera in surprise. ‘It beeped at me!’
‘Yes, Ron,’ Hermione replied, amused. ‘That’s what it does. You can turn that off if you find the camera settings. I’d suggest that you read the instruction manual, but I know you better than that. Why don’t you just try pressing the different buttons and seeing what they do? You’ll get the hang of it soon enough.’
He very much doubted that he’d get used to this confusing contraption that Muggles called a camera (it certainly wasn’t like any camera he’d ever seen), but as Hermione returned to the case file she was reading for work, he decided it couldn’t hurt to play about a bit.
Beep! Ron almost dropped the camera for a second time as it emitted a burst of light, and a frozen picture of his wife appeared on the square display screen. Hermione swivelled instantly.
‘Did you just take a photo of me? Delete it – you’re meant to be taking pictures of Rose!’
‘You gave me the camera,’ Ron replied, sticking out his tongue childishly. ‘There’s plenty of time to take pictures of Rose. Why can’t I take one picture of you?’
‘Fine,’ she answered, a smirk dancing around her lips. ‘You can keep that picture of me, but I’m not telling you how to make a proper copy of it. You can work that one out on your own.’
He’d expected her to be annoyed when, a week later, he’d returned home from work waving a copy of the photograph (it had taken four days, and eventually Harry’s help, to figure out how he could get the image from the screen onto paper. It had taken another three days for him to work up the courage to walk into a Muggle shop and ask them to print it). But Hermione had laughed and kissed him, and told him to keep the photo out of her sight, because she looked hideous in it – she still fretted about the fact that she hadn’t lost all the baby weight she’d gained when pregnant with Rose.
‘You look beautiful,’ Ron had protested, as he tried to feed Rose her dinner. More of the food was ending up on her face than in her mouth. ‘Like always.’
‘I still don’t want to see it, Ron. Use the camera to take pictures of Rosie from now on.’
He’d nodded and followed her orders, for the most part. The photo found a home in his wallet, residing in his breast pocket, beside his heart.
1st November, 2036
The three of them were arrayed, like silent schoolchildren awaiting a teacher’s judgement, on the dilapidated chairs in the relatives’ room. Ron hated this room as much as he hated the word grave. It felt like a place where people waited for nothing but bad news.
Rose sat on one side, her hair greasy and pulled back into a ponytail; Hugo was on his dad’s left, his shirt crumpled and dark circles under his eyes from the lack of sleep. They were silent, barely looking at each other; their hands grasped each other’s tightly in an attempt to comfort, though they knew there was no comfort to be had. Not in a situation like this.
The door opened, and Dr Patel, her own eyes exhausted, stepped into the room and took a seat in front of them quietly. She’d been in circumstances like this many times over the course of her career, and it never got easier.
‘Well, doctor?’ asked Ron hoarsely. He was watching her as if her next words might be a death sentence.
‘Mr Weasley, I’m sorry…’ She watched as Ron’s shoulders sank at her opening, and swallowed before continuing. ‘We’ve performed all the tests possible, and have tried every possible treatment, and so far there’s been no response. If we don’t get some sort of sign in the next day or two that your wife might begin to recover, then I’m afraid that you’re going to have to make a decision.’
‘A decision about what?’ Hugo interrupted, his tired eyes narrowing.
‘At the moment, Mrs Weasley is only breathing because of the life support machine which is breathing for her. That’s what’s keeping her alive right now. If she doesn’t begin to respond to treatment soon… you may have to consider whether or not it would better to turn the machine off.’
23rd August, 2000
Lightning flashed, an electric fork that split the purple sky in two, the rumble of thunder which followed it so loud that it seemed to vibrate through the ground itself. In the storm, two figures ran, hand in hand, across the open park and towards the nearest building for shelter.
Reaching it, Ron pulled a shivering Hermione closer to him and rubbed her arms to try and warm her. ‘Sorry,’ he apologised. ‘It probably wasn’t the best idea to go for a walk today.’
‘Maybe not,’ Hermione agreed, laughing, her brown eyes sparkling through the pouring rain.
‘And I’m slightly regretting the anti-Apparition wards on the flat, now. I think we’re going to have to wait this one out. The storm’s not so bad, but if it could just stop raining…’
As he rambled, Hermione had snaked her arms around his neck. On tiptoe, she reached up and kissed him deeply.
Suddenly the storm didn’t seem quite as inconvenient as before. It wasn’t long before Ron forgot that it was raining at all.
2nd November, 2036
‘What are we going to do?’
Ron looked across his wife’s sleeping body to Hugo, and he couldn’t find the words. Hermione was always the one with all the answers, the one who knew what the right thing to say was, but she was unconscious and unaware of their presence, and it was down to Ron to deal with this alone. And he had no idea.
‘I don’t know, son. I don’t know.’
13th January, 2029
‘Thank you,’ whispered Hermione, pressing her face into Ron’s shoulder at the end of the day.
‘Hermione, you don’t have to thank me. I’m your husband.’
At that, she leaned back a little and met his gaze with burning eyes. ‘Yes, yes I do.’ Her face was pale, the make up around her eyes practically washed away from the tears that had been falling all day. The black dress she’d worn for the funeral was becoming creased, but she didn’t care.
Ron opened his mouth to protest, but she placed a hand on his lips.
‘I mean it, Ron. I couldn’t have got through today without you. Thank you.’
Silently, he nodded, swallowing. It didn’t feel right to have her thank him for being there at her father’s funeral, for holding her hand as she buried her sole surviving parent, but when she looked at him like that he couldn’t disagree with anything she said. When she looked at him like that, he felt like she was seeing a different person to the one he saw in the mirror, someone who was worthy of her. He could hardly believe she could see him that way.
There were a thousand things he could have tried to say: comforting, hollow words about loss or a husband’s duty, meaningful but unnecessary words about how much he loved her and how much he wished she didn’t have to go through this pain.
Instead, he pulled her back into his embrace, feeling the tears brimming in her eyes spill over onto his shirt. ‘You’re welcome,’ he answered softly.
16th November, 2036
One day, two days, three days. A week. Two weeks.
People came and went, family and friends, a steady flow of visitors who sat silently by Hermione’s bedside and hoped and sometimes prayed for her recovery.
She never woke up when they came. No change, the doctors said. There was no change.
25th April, 2015
‘Dad, come and play Keeper for us again!’
‘Yeah, please, dad!’
Grinning, Ron waved a hand at Rose and Hugo, who were zooming around on their junior broomsticks in the garden, basking in the sunny weather. ‘You two play for a bit – why don’t you practise catching? Your mum’s getting lonely, sitting here on her own.’
Ignoring his children’s disappointed groans, he placed his own broomstick in the grass beside the picnic blanket that Hermione was occupying, the book in her hands unopened as she watched the flying figures dreamily. She turned to smile at Ron.
‘The kids are loving it.’
‘They’re Weasleys, of course they love Quidditch.’ Ron elbowed Hermione gently, winking at her. Reluctantly, she smiled back. ‘They’ll be playing for the Cannons by the time they’re twenty!’
‘It’s nice to know you’ve got such high hopes for our children, Ron,’ she replied dryly. ‘Isn’t it every parent’s dream to have their children playing for the worst league in the team?’
‘You know, I think I liked it better when you were complimenting me,’ sniffed Ron in return.
‘I don’t remember that part of our conversation, funnily enough.’
‘Well, now’s the perfect time to start then, isn’t it, love?’
‘Hmph, you think a lot of yourself, Ron Weasley.’ Hermione paused, then grinned at him. ‘But I will admit that it was a great idea to bring them out here for a picnic in the garden when they can’t go and play at the Burrow with their cousins.’
‘Well, they’re not the only ones enjoying themselves,’ he admitted.
‘I know. You’re a big kid at heart, really.’
‘Dad, come and play with us!’
Ron and Hermione both turned to see Rose hovering a few feet above them, Hugo bobbing up and down in the background.
‘Sure you don’t want to join us?’ asked Ron, already knowing the answer. Hermione preferred to keep both feet on the ground whenever it was possible.
She shook her head. ‘It’s fine. Go on, you don’t want to keep your adoring fans waiting.’
‘Alright.’ He leaned in and kissed her forehead, disregarding the cries of protest from the kids. ‘I love you, you know,’ he added, dropping his voice to a whisper.
Hermione swatted at him half-heartedly, but her brown eyes softened as he stood up and she watched the children’s happy responses. ‘You too,’ she replied. The smile he flashed her before taking to the air again was one of the biggest she’d ever seen.
17th November, 2036
Why did this have to happen? Why was Hermione the one who got hit? Why didn’t the driver stop or even slow down? Why was Ron the one who had to make this terrible decision?
Why was life so damned unfair?
Why, why, why.
He never had any answers.
19th September, 2036
‘Fifty-seven,’ said Hermione, wrinkling her nose. ‘Do I have to celebrate this birthday? It just means I’m another year closer to sixty.’
‘Of course you do!’ Ron was indignant. ‘When else do I make you breakfast in bed and do all the chores?’ He gestured to the tray that he’d just brought up, laden with toast and jam, a cup of tea and two champagne flutes.
‘True,’ agreed his wife, leaning over to kiss him. ‘What are they for?’ she asked, nodding towards the tall glasses.
‘Champagne, of course!’ He produced a bottle from the side of the bed, where he’d stowed it earlier. ‘We’re celebrating, aren’t we?’
‘Well, if you can’t drink champagne for breakfast on your fifty-seventh birthday, I don’t know when you can,’ Hermione replied, laughing, as Ron filled up her glass, almost spilling the liquid on the duvet as it fizzed to the top.
‘Happy fifty-seventh birthday, love,’ Ron toasted, chinking his glass against Hermione’s. ‘And here’s to many more. You know, sixty really isn’t that far off…’
29th November, 2036
‘Dad, I think we have to make a decision.’
A month had passed since the accident, a month when there’d been no change in Hermione’s condition except for her bed being moved out of Accident and Emergency to a more permanent ward in the hospital. That had made little difference to Ron. He’d been home all of three times during the month, relying on Harry and Ginny and sometimes the kids to bring him the change of clothes he needed, showering in the staff facilities.
Holding Hermione’s hand, he blinked at his daughter’s remark. Rose and Hugo were taking it in turns now to visit their mum’s bedside; neither of them could afford to take the time off work like he could – he wouldn’t have cared even if Harry hadn’t granted him all the compassionate leave he needed. Ron had insisted the two of them try and continue with some normality in their lives, and they looked slightly better for it than they had done in those first few days after the accident. Still, he hadn’t expected to hear those words come out of Rose’s mouth. It was very rare that she was the voice of reason in their family.
‘You’re right, Rosie,’ he replied eventually, sighing heavily. It was a sign of the situation that she didn’t protest to his nickname for her. ‘We will have to decide soon. But I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to lose her…’
His voice broke and he bowed his head, covering his face with his free hand. After a few minutes, he looked up again. ‘I wish I could go after that bastard that did this to her.’
‘You’re not the only one, dad,’ Rose replied darkly, and for a second he saw his own murderous anger reflected in his daughter’s eyes. She glanced at her mum. ‘But it wouldn’t help if you were locked up in Azkaban for killing a Muggle. And it’s not what mum would want you to do.’
‘I know, I know.’ The ghost of a smile appeared on his face, not quite reaching his hollow eyes. ‘But you’re right. We have to make a decision soon, Rosie. I’ll talk to your brother tomorrow. I’m not doing anything unless we all agree on it.’
22nd July, 1998
The beach stretched out before them, the sand so white it almost seemed like snow. Blue waves lapped at the shore, and the sun shone brightly even as it set, the sky a masterpiece of pink and red. Life in Technicolor.
Ron’s arm – smothered in sun cream, although it was evening – was slung around Hermione’s shoulders, and she leaned into them as they strolled along the beach, the sand slipping between their toes. It almost felt like a holiday – and maybe it was, now that they’d found Hermione’s parents and their memories were beginning to return to them. Their first holiday together. Ron liked the sound of that.
‘You know, being here, with you,’ Hermione began, slowing her pace to meet Ron’s eyes. ‘And after everything that’s happened… well, it sounds silly, but it almost feels like we’ve got eternity now. Like we’re immortal.’
A second passed in silence as Ron considered what she’d said. ‘Maybe we have got eternity, Hermione. And,’ he blushed but held her gaze. ‘This doesn’t seem like a bad way to spend it. With you.’
Her kiss was all the answer he needed.
6th December, 2036
Ron wished he could be brave like Harry, and face death with acceptance. But it wasn’t his own death that he was deciding on – hell, he’d have gladly traded places with Hermione if it gave her another day of life, if it meant that the kids still had a mother and that the world got to see more of her glorious presence on earth. But that wasn’t the way things worked, and he had to make the decision himself.
He’d talked to the doctors. They’d used a lot of medical words that he didn’t understand, talked about Muggle concepts he’d never heard of (he could hear Hermione tutting in his ear as he listened to them in bewilderment, commenting that if he’d ever read some of those books that she’d given to him, he’d have an idea what they were on about. The thought seemed so real that he half-turned to talk to her, before remembering that his beautiful wife hadn’t spoken or even woken in over a month), and explained what the situation was. The bare facts, no opinions. That was all they were allowed to share with him, apparently.
He’d talked to the kids. Rose and Hugo were dealing with it a lot better than he was, and although the strain was showing, both of them had agreed on what they thought they should do.
And now it was down to him. He had to tell the doctors what he wanted to do. He had to sign the papers, even though writing his name there would feel like he’d have his wife’s blood on his hands.
But it could wait; it could wait one more day. One more day with his wife, that was all he asked for. Was that selfish of him? Perhaps.
He didn’t care.
20th April, 2009
How on earth did Hermione do it? It was only nine in the morning and he was already exhausted, getting both the kids up and washed and dressed, feeding them (which was far harder than it should have been, but Hugo had discovered the game of dropping whatever he was holding and watching adults run to pick it up, and Ron had hit his head about four times on the table as he ducked to retrieve the fallen items), getting all of their things together and taking them to the Burrow for his mum to look after them while he went to work. He’d barely had time to get his robes on and pick up his wand before he had to apparate to the Ministry.
Ron could barely believe that Hermione managed this on a daily basis, and still came home from work with any energy. He felt drained just arriving at work.
‘Alright Ron?’ asked Harry cheerfully, opening his office door when he saw his friend appearing in the room. ‘How’re the kids? Have you heard from Hermione yet?’
‘Yeah, a letter came this morning. She got there okay, but she’s complaining that some of the people on the trip are more interested in going out drinking than visiting the historical sites there – you know, typical Hermione.’ He flashed a small grin at Harry. ‘The kids are missing her already though.’
‘She comes back on Saturday, right?’
‘Sunday,’ Ron replied heavily. It had only been a day and he was already struggling, dealing with the kids on his own and work and the feeling the constant feeling that something was missing. Last night he’d hardly slept, unused to the other half of the bed being cold and empty. Even though he knew it was a fantastic opportunity for her, he half-wished Hermione hadn’t been picked to visit Greece as part of a Ministry delegation liaising with their Mediterranean counterparts.
‘It’ll pass quicker than you think, mate,’ said Harry, patting Ron’s shoulder. ‘It always did for me when Ginny was playing matches abroad.’
‘Yeah.’ As Harry smiled, Ron dropped down into his desk chair and stuffed his hands in his pockets; he didn’t feel much like working today. A crinkle of parchment met his ears, and from the pocket of his robes he extracted a small scroll, a couple of lines of neat writing decorating it.
Bet you thought you’d got rid of me, didn’t you? Well it’s not going to happen that easily, Ron! I hope that everything goes okay with the kids; if you need me, I’m always here. Remember that, love.
8th December, 2036
Today was the day. The others had been – extended family and friends had come in their droves to say goodbye to Hermione Weasley, a woman who touched people’s hearts without even realising she was doing it. There was no family on her side left – as an only child, she’d been left alone when her parents had died the decade before, but Ron’s family more than made up for it. She’d been one of them for far longer than she’d borne their name.
Rose and Hugo were with her now, whispering words that she couldn’t hear, words that they needed more than their mum did. It had been agreed between them before they even arrived at the hospital that they’d give their dad time alone with Hermione before the machine was turned off. Ron didn’t know how he could ever thank them for that.
The doors opened, and Rose came out, her arms around Hugo, whose face was wet with tears. Rose was trembling, but her face was set. She nodded to her dad without saying anything, and Ron passed through the doors into the room that he’d come to know so well in recent weeks.
Hermione was lying on the bed, unconscious. He crept closer to her, treading softly as if afraid of waking her, and took her left hand – the one adorned by her wedding ring – in both of his, kissing it as he sat down. The swelling had gone down over the past weeks, and most of the bruising on her face had faded so that her skin was almost her normal colour again. Her hair splayed across the pillow, frizzy and bushy – a result of the cheap hospital shampoo. Ron could imagine what she’d have said if she could see herself in the mirror. Beneath the tubes protruding from her nose, her dry lips almost curved into a smile.
This was it. This was his beautiful, wonderful wife; the girl he’d loved for forty years, the woman he’d been married to for thirty. His eyes filled with tears as he thought back on all the memories that they’d shared together, the celebrations, the holidays, the birth of their children. And the little things, which for some reason stuck out more in his mind than any other right now. The way that she always managed to get flour on her face when she was baking, the nail polish on her fingers that was always chipped, the ridiculous amount of bottles that lined their bathroom shelves, all an attempt to tame her wild hair, no matter how many times he told her he loved it.
This was what he had to say goodbye to, what he had to let go. Hermione. The salty water spilt down his cheeks, but brushing it away would mean letting go of her hand, so he let it fall, dripping down his long nose and splashing onto the bed sheets.
Ron sniffed, and drew a deep breath. The minutes were ticking by and he hadn’t said half of the things that he wanted to, the words that he’d planned when he’d finally made this decision. But looking at his wife, lying peacefully on the hospital bed, it all fell away. He leaned forward, pressing his lips to her forehead, smoothing her hair.
‘I love you, Hermione,’ he whispered. ‘Always have. Always will. I hope that you know that, my love.’ His hands trembled around hers, and he closed his eyes for a second, gently kissing her fingertips. Taking one final breath, Ron looked back at his wife’s beautiful face, steeling himself to say the words.
Author's Note: The section dated 27th December, 1997, is inspired by the passage in Chapter 19 of the Deathly Hallows, when Ron explains how he found his way back to them.
This story was written for the lovely Adi, and inspired by the song Smile by Uncle Kracker - the chapter title also comes from lyrics of the song. It ended up meaning a lot to me as I wrote it, so I really hope that you enjoyed it. Writing such main characters as Ron and Hermione isn't something I do often, so I hope I wrote their characters right. If you have time, I'd really love to hear what you think of this story in a review.
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