Living Past the End
Writer: avonlea_dreamer (aka bingblot)
Summary: A fiction about Trio after war, how each of them face to normal life. Ron feels good, but Harry and Hermione don’t feel the same way. Harry can’t sleep, and he has a nightmare.
Harry had stilled.
He had just finished putting up a ward when he’d just… stopped. Hermione glanced at him, a question on her lips, when she realized what he was staring at. She caught her breath in sudden understanding.
The full moon.
Quickly, she finished putting up the last of the wards and then moved to stand beside him. She didn’t speak—somehow, it didn’t feel like a moment to break the silence—but she lifted her hand to touch his arm for a moment before letting her hand fall. He didn’t respond to her touch, didn’t react in any way, so that in anyone else, she might have wondered if they were even aware that she was there, but this was Harry.So she only waited, standing next to him, seeing the way his features had tightened into an expression of grief.
And after a minute, his hand—but only his hand—moved, sought hers, and then curled his fingers around hers.
They stood there like that, holding hands, for another few minutes and then he blinked, sighed, and turned his head to look at her.
“Let’s go inside,” she said gently. “I’m beginning to get cold,” she fibbed.
He didn’t respond in words, only turned, not releasing his grip on her hand, so they could walk back into the cottage.
He released her hand when they were inside, settling on the couch in the front room as they had every night for the past few nights.
Harry leaned back against the couch with a soft sigh, closing his eyes briefly.
She stayed quiet, sensing that he didn’t feel much like talking, and so they sat in silence for a while. A silence that was comfortable but somehow sad as well, as for a fleeting, uncharacteristically fanciful moment, she could almost imagine that the spirits of all the people who had died in the War were crowding into the room. So many people, many of whom she’d never even met, and some—like Fred and Professor Lupin and Tonks and Headmaster Dumbledore—whom she had known and cared about.
Oh, how much they had lost… Not just the people that had died but something else, more delicate and infinitely precious—a sense of innocence. Not even innocence as in an ignorance that evil existed in the world but innocence in the sense of a youthful confidence that right would prevail and any sort of belief in their own longevity. She had expressed it to Harry in one of their nights at the Burrow, this feeling that she had aged beyond her years, and she knew, better than anyone almost, that Harry had aged too.
She glanced at him, noting yet again the physical marks the stresses of the last year had left on his face and seeing the shadowed—haunted— expression, so familiar now, in his eyes.
Yes, they had lost so much. Lost so much that they could never get back and all they could do was hope, in that blind way of people who didn’t know what else to do, that what they gained would somehow prove to be worth all they had lost.
But finally, he broke the silence. “A sickle for your thoughts,” he offered quietly.
She looked at him, hesitating with sudden reluctance to tell him, to say anything that might add to his own grief, before she settled for responding, “How do you know I’m thinking anything at all?”
He gave her a look. “You’re always thinking.”
She gave up the futile attempt to be evasive and admitted, “I was thinking of everyone that we lost, what a high price we paid for peace.”
“It was a high price, too high…” He looked, and sounded, bleak.
But somehow, strange as it was, given what they had been talking about, she felt her heart lifting a little. They had paid a high price—but at that moment, hearing him say it had been too high, all she could think was that it wasn’t true. For all that they had lost, the price had not been too high because… because Harry had survived.
She felt guilt twist inside her at the thought—it seemed so selfish, so wrong—but there it was. In spite of everything else, in spite of the fact that so many other people—even people she had truly liked and cared for, like Fred and Professor Lupin and Sirius—had been lost, at that moment, she could only feel gratitude and, yes, relief that the price had not been higher, that Harry had survived.
Harry—and Ron and the other Weasleys, of course.
They had all paid a price and even the survivors would never be the same again, she knew, but in the end, she thought, all that really mattered to her was that Harry had survived. Not the same—he would never be a boy again, she knew, had seen too much, suffered too much, that even if the nightmares improved, even when he learned to relax and move forward, he would do so as a man, older than his years. But he was alive, could finally live a life without the constant threat of Voldemort hanging over him, could finally do whatever he might want to do without fear. He could be happy.
And for the first time, she felt, not only that the War was over and that they were safe, but that they had won. Odd to feel that now, weeks after the fact, and yet perhaps not at all. At first, they had all been too exhausted to feel much of anything and then, the immediate aftermath had been too full of grief over those they had lost and the lingering nightmares and fears to feel much in the way of relief or anything else. But now, after all the years she had spent wanting nothing so much as she wanted Harry to be safe—now, he was safe so how could she feel anything but relief?
She glanced at Harry and felt another swift curl of guilt, promptly scolding herself for her own selfishness in thinking only about her own feelings over Harry having survived when Harry himself was grieving for people they had both known and cared about.
“He was the last, real link to my parents.”
“I know,” she murmured quietly—and as always, concern for him swiftly drowned out anything she felt for herself.
“He was the first person who really talked to me about them, gave me any sense of what they had been like.” Harry blinked rapidly and then sighed. “I just… he had only just gotten some happiness and then…”
She said nothing—after all, what was there to say? Harry wasn’t speaking in order to get a response, was more thinking aloud.
She thought of Professor Lupin—Remus—too, remembering how tired he’d looked whenever the full moon had come around, and more than that, remembering the way he had looked at Harry sometimes, from the moment they had met in their Third Year and after that, as if he were seeing not Harry at all but an odd reincarnation of James. Every once in a while, usually after Harry had done or said something characteristic, Remus had looked at Harry oddly, and Hermione had realized that what she knew as a characteristic look or gesture of Harry’s was something Harry had inherited from his father and that was what Remus saw.
She suddenly remembered, too, that lesson with the boggart in their Third Year and wondering why Professor Lupin would be frightened of a crystal ball. A faint, rather sad smile curved her lips at the thought. Frightened of a crystal ball— not exactly.
“What is it?”
She looked up at Harry. “I just remembered the boggart in Third Year and how I wondered why Remus would be frightened of a crystal ball.”
“But you figured it out. When did you figure it out, Hermione?”
Hermione frowned a little. “I don’t remember exactly when. I just… knew it one day when everything came together in my mind, his looking tired and Snape’s potions and everything.”
“You never thought to tell me and Ron?”
She made a wry sort of face. “If I remember correctly, it may have been around the time when neither of you liked me much because I had gone to Professor McGonagall about your Firebolt.”
Harry grimaced. “Oh, right. I’m sorry about that.”
She glanced at him with a sudden smile. “Don’t look so guilty, Harry. I’m not mad at you over that and anyway, it’s ancient history.”
“Yeah,” he agreed and then was silent for a moment. “You never told Remus that you’d figured it out either, did you?”
“No. I didn’t mention it to anyone.”
Hermione lifted her shoulders into an almost-shrug. “What was the point? I liked Remus and we all trusted him and it wasn’t my secret to tell. It was his. He didn’t want people to know and I thought he wouldn’t be happy to know that I knew, even if I wasn’t going to tell anyone, so I didn’t mention it.”
She felt Harry’s glance. “You’re very clever,” he blurted out.
She had to laugh and gave him a teasing look. “Thank you but did you just figure that out?”
He smiled briefly. “No, but it’s worth repeating.” He paused and then added, “Remus told me once that you reminded him of my mum a little. My mum figured out about him and didn’t mention it to him for a while either.”
Hermione straightened a little. Harry so rarely spoke about his parents at all. Even for her, she tried to avoid any references to his parents. It was one of the few—really, the very few—topics that were generally off limits between them, she knew.
“Oh,” was all she ventured to say, carefully.
He was silent for a while, for so long that she’d begun to think he would say nothing further about either Remus or his mother, but then he began, speaking slowly, a little less than fluidly, “It was at Christmas of their Sixth Year, Remus told me. Mum and Remus were friends…but Mum mostly just tolerated my Dad then. Remus, Dad and the… others… were in Gryffindor common room.”
Hermione nodded, her heart pinching a little at how Harry avoided mentioning Sirius’s name, out of grief, and Pettigrew’s name for the obvious reasons.
“Mum came up and gave Remus a Christmas gift. It was… one of those chain necklace-type things that some fellows wear, more common back then, Remus said. It was silver. And before Remus or anyone else could react, Mum said she wanted to see him try it on and put it on him. Remus said… he said he expected it to burn and almost leaped to his feet… but then, it didn’t. It didn’t hurt him at all.”
“It was white gold,” Hermione guessed.
He glanced at her. “Yeah. I’d never even heard of it before Remus told me this story. He said he and everyone else just stared at Mum for a minute and then Mum said… Mum just smiled and said, ‘it’s white gold. Did you really think I would be silly enough or mean enough to get you anything silver?’ And that was when Remus realized that Mum had figured it out and just not mentioned anything to him or anyone until then.”
Hermione smiled. “That’s… nice.”
“Remus said that was really when Mum started to become friends with all of them, not just him.”
“That makes sense. There’s nothing like sharing a secret to become friends.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve also found that fighting a cave troll is a pretty good way to become friends,” Harry commented with a faint smile.
She slanted a smile at him. “That works too.”
His returning smile was fleeting before he sobered, looking away for a long few minutes. The silence stretched on until Hermione started to think that, after all, he wouldn’t say anything more. He had already said more about his parents than she ever remembered him saying in all the years she’d known him.
“I don’t know…” he finally began haltingly, “many stories like that about… my parents… you know… It—it meant… something… that Remus had known them so well… I just… miss him now…” His voice trailed off with the faintest tremble, something she wasn’t sure she’d ever heard from him before.
She sighed but didn’t say anything, could not think of anything to say. A swell of sympathy, of understanding, closed up her throat.
She couldn’t speak but she reached over and grasped his hand.
And so they sat in silence, each thinking their own thoughts, but connected by their joined hands.
Hermione stared at the floor, her heart aching for Harry and the thought of all he had lost.
And yet mingled in with her pain was a poignant thread of happiness that Harry had shared all he had with her just now. She knew better than anyone that Harry generally didn’t talk about those wounds that cut the deepest, which was why Harry never really talked about his parents, only rarely spoke about Sirius anymore. So the fact that Harry had talked to her as he had now… meant something. It spoke of a level of trust that went deeper, perhaps, somehow, than even she would have expected, a level of trust that Harry didn’t quite feel with Ron. She knew, treasured the knowledge—although it was never spoken in so many words—that Harry tended to be more open with her alone about those things which troubled him most. She wasn’t sure exactly when it had begun or even why it was so, but for once in her life, she didn’t try to analyze it further. She could only be thankful for it, keeping the belief that Harry could confide in her tucked safely into a corner of her heart.
She wasn’t sure how long they sat like that, in silence, but it was long enough that the grief that had seemed to thicken the air dissipated somewhat, leaving just a simple sense of comfort behind.
The sound was faint, just barely recognizable as a strangled shout. And it shattered the silence and the comfort in an instant.
Their eyes met, both of them instantly tense and alert.
“Ron.” She was never sure which of them said the name aloud, which of them only mouthed it in sudden dismay. But it didn’t matter. They were both on their feet and running for the door and up the stairs before the single syllable was finished.
Harry thrust open the door of Ron’s room, rushing inside with Hermione following just on his heels.
Now the name did escape both their lips in messy unison and Ron jerked awake with a start and a gasp, looking around a little wildly before his gaze focused on the two of them.
She sensed Harry’s tension abruptly relaxing as he sank into a chair while she crossed the room to sit at the foot of the bed.
Ron lifted a hand to push his hair back, his breath still coming somewhat fast. “Did I cry out?” he finally asked after a long minute, his voice not quite himself.
“Are you okay?” she asked in response.
He sighed even as he nodded. “It was just a nightmare.”
“I didn’t—I didn’t know you had nightmares,” Harry spoke up, his voice almost cracking in spite of his effort to sound calm.
Ron glanced at Harry, the ghost of a wry smile just touching his lips. “I don’t, not that often. But I guess I’ve spent too much time with you and nightmares are contagious.”
Harry sucked in his breath and Hermione somehow sensed him stiffen. “I’m sorry,” he blurted out and then abruptly stood up and left the room with almost as much suddenness as he’d entered it.
Leaving Ron to stare after him with surprise and dismay written large on his features.
Hermione sighed, torn between the wish to follow Harry and make sure he was okay and the sense that she should stay with Ron, at least a little longer. “Oh Ron, did you have to say that?”
“It was a joke!” Ron protested, his expression changing to defensiveness. “I didn’t really mean it, not like that.”
She sighed again. “I know that.” And she did—she had from the moment he’d said it. Ron could be blunt but unless he lost his temper, it wasn’t like him to be intentionally cutting. For the most part, when Ron said something hurtful, it was out of thoughtlessness, even obliviousness, not malice.
And she suspected Harry would have known that too—or he would, once he got over his instinctive hurt. But would he—could he—get over his hurt?
“Did Harry have to overreact like that?”
“That’s not fair, Ron. You may not have meant it like that but you didn’t sound like you were joking either.”
“Oh come on, Hermione!” Ron flared with some irritation. “Harry’s known me for 7 years now; he ought to know when I’m joking and when I’m not.”
“Maybe he would if he were really himself, but he’s not himself. Not really. Not yet. You know that. Can’t you see that?”
Ron’s expression settled into a rather mulish one. “Don’t you ever get tired of having to treat Harry like he’s made of glass and will shatter if anyone so much as looks at him funny? We’re his friends but we shouldn’t have to babysit him.”
She glared at Ron. “Honestly, Ron, you can be such an insensitive clod. You know all that Harry’s been through in the last couple years. If ever anyone was entitled to being a little fragile right now, it’s him! And if you don’t want to be around to help Harry get back to normal, then you can just leave!”
Their eyes clashed for a long, fraught moment and for a second, she thought Ron might actually decide to do just that and leave. She held her breath—but then he gave in, his eyes dropping as he slumped back. “Okay, Hermione, you win,” he conceded. “Don’t look at me like that. I couldn’t really desert Harry now, you know.”
She relaxed, unbending enough to give Ron the faint beginnings of a smile. “Good.”
He gave her a sideways look. “Y’know, you’re really scary when you’re angry.”
“Well, don’t say stupid things and I won’t need to get angry.”
“Sorry.” He paused and then sighed. “I know Harry’s still having a bit of a hard time but it’s a little wearing to have to tiptoe around him.”
She sighed. “It’s only been a couple weeks since everything ended. Give him some more time.”
“How much more time will he need? The War ended almost a month ago now. I could understand the first couple days but really, I thought he’d be over it by now.”
And there Ron went again, showcasing his masterful insensitivity. She sternly bit back her annoyance—getting into a fight with Ron wasn’t going to help, would only trigger Ron’s stubbornness—and said with forced calm, “You of all people know that Harry’s been fighting this War for years and a month is not that long a time.” She paused and then added more softly, “You know everything was so much harder for Harry than it was even for us.”
“Yeah, I suppose,” Ron admitted with something less than grace but admitting it nonetheless.
She could have quibbled with his grudging acknowledgment but changed the subject instead. “What do you still have nightmares about?”
Ron shrugged a little, his fingers picking absently at the covers. “Things that happened in the War.” He paused and then added very quietly, “Fred.”
“I’m sorry,” was all she could think to say, equally quietly.
“I know.” He was silent for a long moment and then said with a visible effort to sound unaffected, “I’m sorry if I woke you up.”
“You didn’t,” she assured him. “Harry and I were just talking.”
Ron’s eyebrows lifted as he glanced at the window and the darkness outside. “It’s the middle of the night!”
She hesitated, a little reluctant to say that she and Harry had spent almost every night in a while together talking. It wasn’t a secret, of course, but it was also not something either of them mentioned during the day or to anyone else. “It’s the full moon tonight,” she settled for saying instead. Which was true. And if Ron took that to mean that tonight was unusual for that reason, well, there was nothing technically untrue about that. Tonight had been different—sadder—than the other nights. She pushed aside the little niggle of discomfort at her parsing her words.
Ron’s expression blanked as the implication of this hit him and then he winced a little. “Was Harry all right?”
“He misses Remus and everyone else.”
Ron winced again. “And then I had to make that joke about my nightmares. You—you’d better go make sure he’s okay now.”
“Will you be able to go back to sleep?”
Ron lifted his shoulders, his expression turning to one of manufactured insouciance. “I’m an insensitive clod, remember? Nothing can keep me awake at night for long.”
She felt a sudden rush of affection for him. “You’re only an insensitive clod some of the time. Seriously, Ron, will you be able to sleep?”
“I’ll be fine,” he said firmly and more seriously. “One nightmare a night is usually my record.”
She managed a slight smile. “Okay, then.”
Ron waved a hand. “Go make sure Harry’s not beating himself up.”
“Goodnight, Ron.” On an impulse, she bent forward and kissed his cheek quickly before standing up.
Ron pretended to make a face at her. “Night, Hermione.”
She gave him a last, small smile before she left to find Harry.