Of course, I own none of this. Just taking a ‘what if’ moment with the wonderful characters and places created by JKR. This fic was inspired by ‘Pictures of You’ by The Cure. This story began as a song fic, and is posted as such at The Ink Pen.
Memories. That’s what all of these pictures were, memories of stolen moments, of happier times. Here a smiling Ginny and Harry, taken just after he was released from St. Mungo’s. No one thought he would survive his confrontation with Voldemort, but then again, no one, not even Harry himself, knew just how much he was loved.
Ron scanned across the page of the scrapbook he was holding and stopped at a picture of his parents on their wedding day. He watched a very young Molly and Arthur squeeze their hands together and then pause for a kiss, repeating the action over and over again. So much happiness, so many good memories, thought Ron. Page after page of happy Weasleys spanning various ages: Charlie victoriously holding a Snitch aloft after a game at Hogwarts; Percy polishing his ‘Head Boy’ badge (which suspiciously read ‘Big Head Boy’); the family trip to Egypt . . . Moving to the more recent pages, Ron paused to look at a photo of Bill holding his tiny newborn son Brian as a look of awe crossed Bill’s face with a tired but triumphant Fleur smiling in the background. Ron paused to chuckle at a picture of the twins. Small wisps of smoke spiraled in the background as one of Fred and George’s experiments exploded in their shop in Diagon Alley while they proudly posed for the grand opening of their store. Pasted next on the page was a clipping from The Daily Prophet announcing the engagement of Ginevra Weasley to Harry Potter.
As he flipped the page, Ron stopped on a picture featuring Hermione in her Hogwarts days. Hefty tomes and bits of parchment surrounded her, but the photo caught her resting her chin upon her hand as she gazed out a window of the Gryffindor common room, a small smile dancing across her lips. On that same page, a picture of the infamous Gryffindor trio, toasting the camera with frothing bottles of Butterbeer, and just below, a picture of Ron and Hermione slow dancing at Harry and Ginny’s wedding. Ron watched as they held each other close and slowly swayed to the rhythm of the music, looking as if no one else existed at the party.
Tears, once so uncommon to Ron, began a familiar journey down the slopes of his cheeks. He didn’t bother with wiping them away. Why should I? He thought. They never stop coming.
Ginny tried to take the photo album away from Ron earlier in the day, telling him that he needed a break. A break? He thought. How can I stop? These are memories, my memories, of my Hermione. Ron had gently brushed her hands away as he retreated from his well-meaning sister. With an understanding nod from Harry, Ron had left the kitchen of the Burrow to sit by the pond in the golden sunset. He had moved back home soon after…well…soon after it happened. He felt that he couldn’t be surrounded by all of Hermione’s things, her robes, so carefully placed in the wardrobe, her tattered but highly prized copy of Hogwarts, A History, even her toothbrush in its holder, were all too painful for Ron to see. The only memories Ron could tolerate were those bound between the leather cover in his hands.
Tracing Hermione’s face with his fingers, Ron briefly closed his eyes and fought to remember the dazzle of her smile, the softness of her hair, the sweetness of her kisses.
A half smile crept along Ron’s face as he opened his eyes and turned the page to reveal one of his favorite snapshots. Sopping wet and muddy, Ron and Hermione were standing by the fireplace in the kitchen of the Burrow with his mum and dad. His father kept shaking his hand and mouthing “Congratulations” while his mum was holding Hermione’s left hand, examining a small sparkle before pulling her into a motherly embrace as happy tears caressed her cheeks.
Ron looked out across the pond and remembered how he had planned his engagement to Hermione to the very last detail, but somehow, despite his careful planning and meticulous attention to details, everything had backfired. Ron had planned to floo to meet her at Flourish and Blotts where Hermione had been doing an inventory. As the new owner of the store, she would take meticulous notes of her stock. Ron had planned to whisk Hermione away for a romantic dinner, complete with champagne. When the champagne had arrived, Ron was going to profess his undying love for her, tell her he couldn’t live without her, and then ask her to be his partner in life for the rest of their remaining days. Then, if all went well, the ring, temporarily set to be used a Portkey, would transport them a small cottage Ron had purchased to start their lives together as Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Weasley.
Instead, just as Ron had finished pressing his best dress robes he had received an owl from Hermione saying that there would be no possible way she could meet him for their date as The Ceaseless Chameleon: How to Blend In With Your Surroundings book order unfortunately lived up to its promise and for all intents and purposes, had vanished. There was no way she could leave anytime soon until each book was accounted for. Undaunted, Ron had Apparated to the store bearing a full picnic basket and flask of wine to convince Hermione she needed a break. Summoning an old blanket, the two had an impromptu feast in the middle of the shop. Hermione had realized just how famished she was and began to devour everything in sight. Deciding not to wait a moment longer, Ron gently tossed a small velvet box to Hermione.
“There, now don’t eat that,” Ron joked.
Hermione’s eyes grew wide as she reached out a shaking hand and picked the box up from her lap. “Ron, is this what I think it is?”
Ron shifted so that he was on one knee before her. “Will you?” he asked, feeling as if there were hundreds of Snitches fluttering in his stomach. “Will you marry . . .”
Ron couldn’t finish asking the question before two small tears slipped from Hermione’s dark eyes. Fear gripped Ron’s stomach.
“Hermione, are you okay? Oh please, don’t cry. You don’t have to, you know. I mean, really . . .”
But Ron never had the chance to finish his sentence. Silencing him with a kiss that made his toes curl, Hermione drew back. With a huge grin, she nodded.
Warmth flooded Ron’s body as he grasped the fact that Hermione just agreed to be his wife. Taking the delicate ring out of its box, Ron gently slipped it on the third finger of her left hand. Holding Hermione’s hand to his lips, he placed a delicate kiss on top of the ring, and just as his lips made contact, the newly engaged couple felt the familiar pull behind their navels and left the sanctity of Flourish and Blotts.
Rolling on the ground, Ron looked up to discover that Hermione was already standing in front of the small house, gazing at the ‘sold’ sign in the window. She turned to Ron with questions in her eyes.
“Ron?” Her voice wavered with emotion. “ Why are we here?”
Ron stood and brushed his clothes, then smiled and pulled out a key. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve found a place for us to live. It’s not much, but I think, at least, I hope you’ll like it.”
“This is yours? I mean, ours?” Hermione turned to Ron, heedless of the soft rain that began to fall. “But how? When? Can we afford this?”
He grasped Hermione’s hand and led her through the garden gate. “Don’t worry, love. It’s ours.” Ron gathered her into an embrace. “Would you like to see your library?”
Some time later, the two had Apparated to the Burrow to share their good news with the rest of the Weasley family. The twins had set off several firecrackers while Harry and Ginny had opened a bottle of champagne. Their future had seemed so promising . . .
With a sigh, Ron flipped the page, knowing what was next in the album. It was a picture of Ron, Harry, Hermione and Ginny in front of Flourish and Blotts, taken at the one-year anniversary of Hermione’s ownership. They all had seemed happy, but no one could deny the circles under Hermione’s eyes or her severe loss of weight. Ron usually laughed off his mother’s concern – it was common knowledge to anyone in the Weasleys’ inner circle that Mrs. Weasley showed her love through a heaping plate of food. To cover up her loss of appetite, Hermione had often make some excuse to the Weasley matriarch, claiming, “I had a large lunch, really, I’m not very hungry” or, “Let me take this home with me to finish later – I’m absolutely stuffed!”
Ron knew the haggard look surrounding Hermione was more than the result of the passing of her father. The two had very close, having survived the war when his wife had not, but no one had thought that a drunk driver would kill the kind dentist while he was simply crossing the road. Closing his eyes, Ron vividly remembered the evening they had received the call from Dr. Granger’s assistant informing Hermione about her father’s accident. Harry and Ginny had been over for dinner and the four had just been laughing over Hermione’s story of catching underage Hogwarts students trying to sneak into the ‘Mature Witches and Wizards Only’ section of her store. Ron could never forget the unusual sparkle in his wife’s soft eyes as Hermione had jumped up to answer their phone. (Ron never answered the fellytone, having never mastered the concept. Why talk into a Muggle contraption when it was so much easier to use a fireplace?) Turning at the small gasp that Hermione had released, Ron had realized immediately that something had been wrong. Without warning, his wife had dropped the receiver and ran outside, paying no heed to the concerned words of her family. Without having to be asked, Harry had picked up the receiver of the phone to take care of details as Ron had quickly followed Hermione out the cottage door.
That night, amongst the stress, shock and tears, Hermione had miscarried their baby.
No one in their family had known that Hermione had been pregnant; they only knew that Ron and Hermione had attempted with fervor for years to create a family after Hermione’s father had passed. Hermione had continued to miscarry, losing energy and life with every baby. After consulting with Healers and Muggle doctors alike, after trying various home potions and a few far-fetched ideas, Ron and Hermione had decided to give up the idea of having a baby. Ron had held his wife and assured her that he couldn’t possibly want more than the life they had together. There was no denying the passion and sincerity behind Ron’s words as he had held his wife in his arms. Indeed, there was no more favorite aunt and uncle among the growing numbers of Weasley and Potter offspring. All had known they could come to Uncle Ron for fun adventures and secret stashes of sweets, or see Aunt Hermione for homework help or a kind ear to bend.
With great reluctance, Ron continued on in the album, bracing himself for the photos he never wanted to see, yet couldn’t stop studying. Hermione, very pale and wan, reclining in a chair under a birch tree just outside of their cottage with Bill’s child, Brian, perched on a blanket next to her on the dewy grass. Hermione was smiling, pausing from knitting another jumper for one of Harry and Ginny’s new arrivals to bask in the tepid sunshine and listen as Brian read from his parchment. Ron studied Hermione, the beatific smile on her face and the way she lovingly corrected a word or phrase in Brian’s work, leading Ron to catch the tremble in her hands. That tremble would grow worse at an alarming rate as her body continued to weaken. Ron felt the familiar clench of his heart, wishing there was a way he could fix what had happened and make his wonderful wife and companion return to him. It was soon after that picture was taken that Ron and Hermione had been informed that Hermione would not be getting well. It had been discovered after extensive tests that Hermione’s body was damaged beyond repair due to repeated exposure to spells and hexes during the war. She would rapidly weaken, never to recover.
Hermione, ever faithful in books, had refused to believe what she had been told. She would get better; she had known that she would find a way. Ron had asked Ginny to take over managing Flourish and Blotts so that he could help Hermione research every possible cure, following every avenue until Hermione had become too weak to continue. Ron had stopped his wife’s fanatical research when he had come upon her curled up in a weakened state in her library, crying and raging against the hand that fate had dealt them.
The next photo was of Hermione in the hospital, propped up by mounds of pillows as the entire Weasley family surrounded her. Her room was decorated with crepe paper streamers and balloons as the family gathered to celebrate her birthday. Pausing to chuckle softly, Ron watched Fred and George pulling faces at the various youngsters, eliciting cries of terror from Harry and Ginny’s young twin boys as each face became more and more gruesome. Everyone had a smile, but Ron could make out the shadows in his father’s gaze, the red-rimmed eyes of his mother and the continued squeezes of support from Harry on Hermione’s shoulder. Soon after the picture was taken, the Healers had shooed the family out of the room. Each family member had given Hermione a warm embrace and birthday wishes, reassurances that she would be well and home in her little book-filled house again soon.
Ron recalled sitting with Hermione that night, laughing over their past antics, reflecting on first impressions, trying to make every memory count. Each “Do you remember?” had seemed to bring strength to his wife, so much that Ron had clung to the wild idea that Hermione could actually get well. When they finally had run out of memories, his beautiful, intelligent, charming and wonderful wife had looked deep into his eyes and smiled.
“I love you, Ron. I’ve loved you from the first moment I saw you, dirty nose and all on the Hogwarts Express. I want you to promise me a few things.”
Taking his wife’s frail hand into his own, Ron bowed his head to kiss her fingers.
“Anything, love. For you, the world.”
Hermione gave a small sigh. “Remember that I will never really leave you. I will be with you in every sunset, every drop of rain, and every breeze that ruffles your hair. Laugh. Live. Live for me and know that I love you. It will be okay.”
Exhausted from her long speech, Hermione reclined against the pillows and shut her eyes. Ron climbed into the narrow hospital bed and held his frail wife in his arms. “I promise.”
Surprised, Ron looked down at his wife. “Yes?”
“Don’t forget to always wear clean underwear.” Hermione smiled as she felt the deep rumble of Ron’s chuckle.
“I solemnly swear it, love.”
Ron had continued to hold Hermione, matching his breathing to hers, inhaling the soft flowery perfume, the same perfume Ron had given her for Christmas back in their fifth year, which didn’t quite mask the medicinal odor of the pain-relieving potions she took.
Ron had opened his eyes to a beautiful dawn breaking across the world and a sense of deep peace in the room. It had been several moments before he realized that Hermione wasn’t sleeping, but had passed during the night, smiling her special smile, the one she usually reserved just for him. She had looked so much like the young girl he had fallen in love with, her face free of pain and worry. It was the last clear memory he had, preferring numbness to mask the pain of the funeral preparations and Hermione’s burial.
It wasn’t until a week after Hermione’s death that Ron had begun to ache with a pain so acute it nearly took his breath away. Anger coursing through his veins, he had smashed all the pictures of the two of them, which were scattered through their home. He had torn into Hermione’s library, scattering her books to the floor, turning cases over, desperate to feel anything other than the blackness that threatened to swallow him whole. If only I found the right spell, if only I found the right spell, if only, if only, if only. Ron had chanted this mantra over and over as he had slammed another text against the wall. I should have studied more, done more research, should have searched to the ends of the earth to keep her here with me!
Harry had been the one to help pull back Ron into some semblance of normalcy. Harry had never patted his hand and said it would get better. He had never come over with forced cheer or a wooden smile. Harry had sat with Ron for hours on end where no words would be exchanged, yet Ron could feel that Harry really understood. Harry and Ginny had packed up the little house where Ron had been so happy with his Hermione and brought him home to the Burrow and Ginny had presented him with the rescued photographs bound in Ron’s old family album.
Closing the leather bound book and holding it to his chest, Ron looked to the horizon to see the sun finish its magnificent descent, casting a warm and fiery glow on the pond. Ron stood and took a moment to wipe his eyes. Blowing a kiss to the west, he took a deep breath and walked back home.
Author’s Note: With profound thanks to my pre-betas, Yoda and Hershey, for making me dust off this fic and finally finish it, as well as suggestions to make the story come together. Adoration and idol worship belong to bart, to my Checkmated beta, wmlaw…and for making sense of my incorrect use of tense, flowers and chocolate by the ton go to my Phoenix Song beta Tari!
Ron’s line after tossing the ring to Hermione is borrowed with love from the movie Return to Me.