Harry didn’t think Hermione could die. She was too brilliant, too much the genius, to die. And in the end, it was pure stupid luck – Goyle hadn’t even intended to hit her. And if he’d only got the incantation right, then she would have been fine, but being Goyle, he had to bugger it up, and by the time the Healers got there, it was too late.
Harry wanted to kill him. He fell into this black hole of unthinking rage that would have gladly ripped Goyle’s arms from his sockets. He’d killed Hermione. How dare he?
But Ron…someone had to keep Ron awake, keep him moving before he burst an artery. If anyone could die of a broken heart, it was Ron. So, Harry didn’t make Goyle bleed, he just walked. Back and forth until they’d taken…the body away, and Mrs Weasley came and Harry could finally sit down and realize it.
Telling her parents was the worst – except the funeral was the worst – except the first time he saw Ron, without Hermione, was the worst. In the end Harry couldn’t face any more, and retreated into a dark little flat in a nothing little district of London. He could hear Hermione criticising his decisions. At least he didn’t have a House Elf.
He still saw people of course; saw Ron practically drinking his hair white, saw Luna tripping down Diagon Alley on her errands. Ginny arrived at his door one night – all dressed up and sobbing beyond belief. She’d got the marks to be a Healer, and all she could think of was how proud Hermione would have been.
Harry put her to bed, and slept on the couch. It was as though everything inside was frozen. Deep down, Ginny was still the most amazing girl he’d ever met, the girl he…loved, but he couldn’t seem to feel it. Without Hermione, he seemed to have lost the art of being happy. He couldn’t muster the energy to sort out his relationship with Ginny, and they seemed to fall into being ‘more than friends’. He couldn’t muster the energy to get a job and fell into professional Quidditch.
It wasn’t satisfying, but there food on the table. And as many times as he and Ginny fought, separated and came back together in a sobbing heap, at least he had her. It was a haphazard life.
Ron though, couldn’t even manage that. He ended up working for the twins; working mainly to finance drinking sessions. He was so angry at the world for not having Hermione in it, that it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when he disappeared for a month, shortly after what would have been Hermione’s twenty-third birthday. Ginny eventually found him somewhere outside Hogsmeade, but she would never talk about it. That was a sobbing heap day.
Ron raged on for nearly twelve years before the fight went out of him. He married a Muggle woman – a perfectly nice, sweet woman who couldn’t hold a candle to Hermione – and farmed rabbits. They were never especially happy, and Lavender Brown talked knowingly about how poor Ron had made a ‘poor choice.’
And Harry woke up one day and realized he was twenty-nine, Ginny was pregnant and she was actually going to leave him if he didn’t sort things out. Hermione would’ve killed him, so he did the right thing – bought a ring and a cottage with what was left of his inheritance, and they lived off Ginny’s earnings from then on. He was happy, in a sort-of happy way – but he knew could have done better. Ought to have done better.
Ron had always known that Harry could die. And in the end, when he did, it wasn’t so much a shock as deeply unfair. For a while everything hurt – from Quidditch to Chess to chocolate frogs to Potions – everything reminded him of Harry. He spent so long stealing himself against all the things he had to look at every day, and trying to keep Hermione with him, if nothing else, that he forgot all about Ginny.
And Ginny, poor sweet, innocent little Ginny was pregnant. What with Harry being dead she’d forgotten all about the Morning After Potion. His Mum had been ready to kill her, and even their Dad was that terrifying thing, ‘disappointed’, and before anyone knew it, Ginny was living with the twins. It wasn’t until Elizabeth Potter, a dark haired little scrap of humanity, came into the world that Molly forgave her.
Naturally Ron and Hermione were the Godparents. Ginny was pale and big-eyed and far, far to young to be someone’s mother. But Ron let that go. She had Fred and George looking after her, even supporting her financially, and he and Hermione had to learn to be only two. They’d been ‘two’, they’d been a couple, but they’d been two in three. Without Harry…Hermione cried a lot more, and Ron…there was a part of him missing. Putting Harry in the past was almost impossible to do, because Ron could all but have a conversation with him in his head. Two halves of an apple, they’d always simply…understood one another. Now he was gone.
Hermione even broke up with him. Went off to study something complicated to do with magical enslavement, and left him on his own. Even after ten years it was hard for Ron to forgive that. When she finally came back he was so aggrieved, so determined to be wounded, that she nearly had to launch a flock of birds at him again.
In all the time that he and Hermione were breaking up and putting themselves back together, growing closer, picking careers and sorting things out, Lizzy Potter was getting big. She was an odd, skinny thing, with a mop of dark and round glasses. Ginny loved her, as fiercely as could be imagined, and it never struck Ron that she wasn’t happy.
Until one day, two months after Lizzy went to Hogwarts, when he found her curled up with Draco Malfoy. Ron had been planning to tell her that Hermione was pregnant, that they wanted Ginny to be the Godmother, but the words died on his lips. He said terrible things that day, thinking he could never forgive her for betraying Harry. It didn’t matter that Harry was nearly twelve years dead – at that moment it felt as though he could walk through the door at any time.
Ginny didn’t speak to him for nearly a year. It was left to Hermione to tell him that her relationship, or weird sex game, or whatever, with Draco Malfoy was over. Ron would have been the first to congratulate Ginny, but when he saw she looked, if anything, more miserable – as bad as the day they buried Harry.
She managed to pull herself together a bit when Lizzy came home, and Ron was around more then – however angry he might be with Ginny, he would never miss out on seeing Harry’s child. But Lizzy was at that age when she was beginning to ask questions, and one day she told Ron that she hated her father sometimes. Hated that he’d gone off with him and Hermione, and left Ginny all alone. She declared herself to be Ginny’s daughter alone, and wondered if she could change her name to Weasley. She’d never looked more like Harry.
Somehow, Ginny managed to give Lizzy better ideas, and not too long afterwards, she started a relationship with Lee Jordan. No one expected it to last, and even on the day of their wedding Ron was sure something would happen to prevent it. Of course nothing did, and it wasn’t until Ginny begged him to be happy for her, that Ron realized he’d tricked everyone, Ginny, Lizzy, even himself, even Hermione, into believing that he cared more about dead Harry than live Ginny.
The worst part was, he was right to be doubtful. Lee and Ginny had two children and then divorced after fifteen years. Ginny seemed to accept this happily enough, and she stayed a housewife, growing miraculous plants in her back garden once all the children were grown. But Ron knew – it was never what she wanted, and it wasn’t what he’d wanted for her. They none of them got what they wanted.
When Ron died, Ginny didn’t believe it. Not for an instant, not for the time it took to frame the thought, “Ron’s dead.” She dove straight into looking after Harry and Hermione, and tried not to dwell on the impossibility of what had just happened. Hermione was easier – she got pale and quiet and Ginny would spend hours convincing her to eat. Harry got caught up in such a whirl of emotion that even Ginny barely knew what to do – it seemed to hurt him to look at her.
When he decided to go off and travel the world, Ginny supported him. She wasn’t sure what else to do – she wasn’t even sure if she was allowed to kiss him on the cheek when he left, and everything was so confusing for them both, that in the end she let him go.
She didn’t hear from him for nearly six years. Oh, he wrote to Hermione, knowing full well she would read the letters, but there was never one for Ginny. In the end, she learned to toss her head and say she didn’t care, and she tried to forget that there’d been a boy called Harry who she’d loved.
After all, she was very busy. She was training to be a Healer, and moving house, and trying to cheer Hermione, and helping Neville plan his wedding; she had no time to mope. That was, until the summer before her twenty-third birthday.
Ginny was supposed to go away for a few weeks alone, to rest and recuperate, Hermione said. Instead she spent them busy having a nervous breakdown. It was a good thing she’d had her wand on her, to conjure food and water, as she could barely manage to get off her floor.
When her door opened, eight days in, for a moment she honestly believed it was Ron, come to help her sort her life out. Of course, it wasn’t; it was Harry. He had to hang on to her when she cried for her big brother; her stupid big brother who’d had no right to leave. How could he do that to them? How could he do that to her? Why, Ron-like, did he have to do everything first? Couldn’t he, just once, have waited, not left her behind again?
It felt as though she cried for months, and at the end Harry’s shirt collar was soaked. But he put up with it, and the next morning they made love – for only the second time ever. After that things became easier – with Harry back, Ginny didn’t have to be the strong one all the time any more, and, weirdly, she spent the first months of their relationship thinking about Ron, and all the ways she missed him, and all the ways she loved him.
They got married, eventually, and Ginny was over thirty before Harry would consent to have children. He saw shadows in every corner. Hermione married as well, to a cool, efficient man who Ginny hated on sight. Harry said she was jealous for Ron, but it wasn’t that. Hermione’s husband was so calm and sincere and intellectual and…all wrong for Hermione. They never fought, as far as Ginny could tell, and he never made Hermione laugh.
It wasn’t long before her friend became cool and efficient too, and if Ginny mentioned Ron, or children, or House-Elves, or anything that had mattered to her, Hermione would smile sweetly, blankly, and change the subject. It was only around Harry that she seemed to thaw, and even that was rare. But Ginny hung on – she could not accept that it wasn’t her job to protect the girl Ron had loved.
Hermione spent the war praying that the three of them would survive. Once it was over, she realized she should have been praying for four. Not that it was her fault, or any nonsense like that, but…she hadn’t realized how important Ginny was. Harry simply shut down – his eyes seemed so deadened that it was a surprise to see him breathing. Hermione was sure she trusted him to learn how to live.
Ron was furious – with himself for not protecting his baby sister, with Ginny for getting herself killed, and, needless to say, with Lucius Malfoy for doing it. Hermione had to remind him, time and time again, that it had been Ginny’s fight as much as theirs, that Ginny could never have lived with herself if she hadn’t got involved, and that she certainly hadn’t wanted to die, but nothing she said made any difference. Ron’s fury was like a force of nature; he could have blown down the Burrow with the strength of his anger, if he’d thought to try.
Hermione couldn’t say she missed Ginny exactly, that first year, because she spent so much time trying to help Harry and Ron with missing Ginny that she had scarcely any time for herself. It wasn’t until the day she and Ron had a blazing row, and she had no one to run to – no friendly shoulder, no Ginny ready with Butterbeer and Chocolate Frogs and a heartening willingness to abuse Ron – that Hermione realized what she’d lost.
Tonks found her, sobbing in the bathroom, and looked after her, but it wasn’t the same. All the things Hermione longed to tell Ginny – the first time she and Ron made love, the day he proposed to her, her first day at the Ministry and the type of wedding dress she’d wear; the pleasure of talking things over was gone for ever, and with it some bloom was gone.
They married young, much younger than they might have otherwise. Harry came, and he seemed genuinely happy for them, but Ginny’s absence couldn’t go unfelt. Her natural place – maid of honour to Harry’s best man – couldn’t be filled, and so it was a bittersweet day.
Their first child was a girl – a tiny little girl with curly red hair and Hermione’s brown eyes. They called her Josie, short for Josephine, and she grew up beautiful. Always in motion, always with scraped knees and ragged hems, but beautiful nonetheless. It wasn’t until Fred and George started calling her their scrapper that Hermione realized how much she looked like Ginny.
Ron grew overprotective, and worried about her even more than Hermione did. Losing Ginny-in-Josie would have hurt almost as much as losing Josie alone. When she looked at her daughter, Hermione remembered that Ginny, who she was used to thinking of as an adult, had been only sixteen when she died – still a child.
But Harry was worse. Because he looked at Josie as though she really was Ginny, and that made Hermione uncomfortable. She knew that Harry would never hurt a child, never even think of it, but she still wished that he didn’t see the girl he loved in her daughter.
She tried to encourage him to find someone new, but Harry was hopeless. He never got anywhere. He dated Luna, Susan Bones, Cho Chang (again), Gabrielle Delacour and finally Parvati, but each relationship fizzled quickly. Parvati, who Hermione liked so much more, now they were both women, said Harry simply didn’t want anyone else. She stayed friends with him though, and Harry even gave a speech at her wedding to Dean Thomas.
Harry died relatively young, and though Hermione wouldn’t say they were years of unremitting misery, he hadn’t exactly been living either. It had been thirty-five years of fading. Hermione didn’t want to accept that Harry had fallen in love forever at sixteen, because it seemed so…ridiculous, but then she had to remember that she wasn’t all that different. Ron said he should be buried with Ginny, and Hermione had to agree. It was all she could do for him now.