Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters/Pairings: Ron Weasley/Hermione Granger
Word Count: 957
Disclaimer: Not mine. All JKR's.
Summary: Ron and Hermione and another ending that wasn't. A companion piece to "Gone."
She squeezes her eyes shut when they lower him into the ground. She wants to look elsewhere – at the trees, the mourners, the cloudless sky above them– anything but the coffin before her. She refuses to open her eyes, because if she keeps them closed she can lie to herself and say she was brave, say she was there, say that she stayed strong and stoic and did not cry. There is sobbing all around her, friends and family, but she can't hear them. Ginny tightens her grip on her hand, but she barely feels it. It feels as though she's been plucked from her life, from her bed (half asleep, turning the pages of a book and not really reading the words, rain falling on the window in a steady rhythm that makes her drowsy) and dropped down into this solemn scene. It doesn't seem real. It can't be real.
If Ron was still alive, he would have slung his arm around her shoulders. Would have held her close, dried her tears, taken her home and tucked her into bed. Would have kissed her forehead and told her that things would be better tomorrow. But he's in the box before her, and she wishes she were dead.
Later – much, much later – when he's only half-buried in her heart, she gazes at another man as she walks up the aisle, her father beaming on her arm. Ginny gives her a knowing smile from the altar and Harry nods slowly (sadly) from his place in the crowd. This new man is not her man – not their man – and never will be, but she loves him and she thinks (she hopes) that this can be enough.
They lie in bed on their honeymoon and she buries her face in his neck, breathing in the smell of aftershave and the ocean (not parchment. not grass. not wool. never again) and wishing this made her happier.
They have a son and a daughter, a dog and a yard and a garden and a fence. They both work at the Ministry and both their children are Ravenclaws, like their father. Hermione lies awake some nights, running over policies and contracts and mortgage payments in her head. Her husband snores and her children chatter and the dog needs to go to the vet and how in all buggering Hell did she get so old? She has grey in her hair and lines on her face and a ring on her finger for fifteen years, and she feels like she's been screaming in a crowded room, but no one has bothered to notice.
She takes the train to work one morning and misses her stop on purpose, wondering what it would be like to just not come back (to live for herself, with no husband, no dog, no MummyMummyMummy! every ten damn seconds). In the end she goes home and owls in sick, spending the day curled up in bed and listening to the rain on the windows.
Sometimes she thinks about Ron, but the memories are faded and torn around the edges, like photographs handled too often. She tries to recall his face when she's lonely, or his voice, or the way his mouth felt on hers, but she can't. Ron is shrouded in the rosy glow of memory, parts added and taken away and she can never be too sure of the details. She tries to think of him as he was, to recall every inch of his face in crystal clarity, but it seems as though the harder she tries, the faster the pieces slip from her grasp If there as one thing she wanted in the world, it would be to hear his voice again. Even if he was just arguing with her, flushed red in his ears and sputtering as he tried to prove his point. She'd give her left arm to hear him call her a "Know-It-All" just one more time.
When she dies, reading in her bed with Hogwarts, A History propped up on her chest, she feels no pain. Her eyes are heavy and then suddenly they are not, and she finds herself standing in the middle of a great field, with nothing but sky and grass as far as she can see. She turns, feeling the youth of her body, her hair long and dark and falling past the shoulders of her jumper, and she twirls her fingers around the bushy curls she hated once upon a time. There's a building in the distance, and she walks to it, her fingers tingling in anticipation.
Ron catches her on the way, swooping down on a broomstick whooping and hollering and knocking her to the ground when he lands. There's dirt on his nose and his hair is windswept and wild, but he runs his hands through her hair and whispers her name over and over again in her ear.
He pulls her to her feet, grinning from ear to ear, and he takes her to a house. It is a cottage, really, small and comfy and big enough for two. There are roses on a trellis and books on the shelves and a Chudley Cannons poster framed in the front hall. Ron squeezes her hand, leading her around and showing her his home, giving her worried little sideways glances like he's afraid she won't like anything.
She thinks of him here, in his home (in their home), reading and flying and waiting for her. All this time, she has thought of him - carrying him with her always - living her life as best she could without him.
He holds her close and asks her if she's happy, and Hermione can't do anything but smile.