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Poetic Dragon

Sepia (R, Hr/R)

I can't believe I forgot to post this here. I fixed the wonky formatting, a couple of things that nagged me and a few typos. All remaining mistakes are mine.

exartemarte and pili204 tremendously helped me  on making this story happen, and they deserve all my thanks. dragon_animagus and queenb23more are the reasons why I'm still sane after writing this one, and I owe them.
Was first published on Checkmated on January 15th, 2008.


Title: Sepia
Rating: R
Characters: Hermione, Ron, Harry, Ginny, Rose, Hugo
Genre: drama
Summary:

Written for the Ron/Hermione Colorful Winter Quote!Fic Challenge

"You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings." -- Pearl S. Buck (color: sepia)

+ + +

There was a picture of Harry, Ron and herself on page four of The Daily Prophet. It had been only a few years since Harry defeated Voldemort, and the photograph seemed prematurely faded.

It had the distinctive colour of memories.


Sepia

+ +

She always wrote in black, whether the words she lay down on paper were loving, caring, pressing, or official.

As she was a deeply practical witch, she was not sentimental about ink. Ink needed to be available when required; ink was reasonable and reliable. It was a necessity of her everyday life, and she could care less about those fancy inks that fade in colours she felt covered the true message, however the lovely ink may be sepia, green, red, or blue.

But according to her son, she had on ongoing love affair with parchment. Parchment smelled of luxury and intoxication. It exuded powder and wildflowers. Buying fine parchment thrilled her.  She shared her enthusiasm with various shop owners who quickly understood this client’s needs and wants. The best way to get this aficionado raving (and spending) was rumoured to use a spell with a unique magic understood by a few of us: ‘Egyptian parchment’…two words that could become the strongest enchantment when placed together.

Ink on parchment meant to her knowledge or lies, and since she was an avid reader, the written word fuelled her reflections and actions.

In books lay words that she claimed were faithful companions and made her winters more golden and less grey.

[…]

++

Winter 2014

In the feeble light, Hermione buttoned her blouse, a sated sigh escaping her. A low humming told her that Ron was still occupying the bathroom. Rose’s giggles could be heard, as well as Hugo’s increasingly high-pitched whining.

“Enough of that, you two,” Hermione said to her reflection in the mirror as she fastened her hair into a bun.

Something heavy fell to the floor. She could not resist a small grin as she imagined her children looking at each other with surprise in the neighbouring room. “Rose, stop teasing your brother. And Hugo, you need to get dressed. Madam Snell will not accept you wearing your pyjamas all day.”

“How does Mummy know everything?” Rose audibly whispered.

Fair question, Hermione thought. Her reflection in the mirror smiled back at her when Ron belted out a chorus with a stentorian voice.

Their children laughed. “Silly Daddy, silly Daddy, my Daddy is a silly Daddy,” Hugo sing sang.

This breezy winter morning, singing Ron or not, Hermione could not forget the intimacy of their lovemaking when night remained dark, and the sun hesitated to rise.  Ron’s touch lingered on her; his caresses lived on her skin, covering her like the silky and luxurious chocolate slip dress he had hidden under her pillow on her last birthday.

Hermione stepped into the kitchen. An owl was patiently awaiting payment for The Daily Prophet under Crookshanks’ interested guard. The wall clock informed her in a stern and stiff croak that her presence at the Ministry would be required in an hour, and she’d better be there or else. 

Hugo, she noticed, had dressed himself artistically again. “A green jumper and green trousers, dear…are you sure you want to wear this today?” she asked as she busied herself to prepare the children's breakfast.

Hugo shrugged. “I’m a tree, Mummy. A tree that eats birds.”

“I never saw one of those, so thank you for warning me. You’re a ferocious tree. I shall remember that.”

Rose came in, all curls and smiles. Hermione leaned in to kiss her forehead. “And what are you today, young lady?”

All that red was blinding. Hermione acknowledged with an inward sigh that monochrome outfits were a small price to pay in exchange for raising self-confident children.

“I’m myself,” Rose stated with worry.

It was a lazy morning. Hermione did not want it any other way. She let the moment sink in: the children were talking quietly as they munched on fruit, waiting for their porridge.

Moving slowly would help to preserve the memory of Ron’s skin on hers. She was still making love to him as she carried the teapot to the table. She relished those moments before dawn when the sky faded and their children were sound asleep in their beds.

Ron’s caresses were not quite as precise as they were at night when he captured her. Their strokes were not as passionate as they had been some afternoons when they had breathed heavily against the other’s mouth.  She loved Ron’s fire and energy, but she treasured his surprising gentleness when he hovered between slumber and wakefulness. Earlier, he had fumbled when searching for her mouth with his. He had not bothered with excuses when he had yawned in her face; he went to the heart of the matter with simplicity.

He had chuckled with a husky voice against her neck, and then he had murmured words that made her heart swell.

The teapot dripped on the table, and Hermione shook herself from her reverie as she wiped a spot of tea with her thumb. The kitchen window was showcasing what would probably turn out to be a sad winter morning, grey and muddy. Rain had washed the snow from the ground, and what had been white and luminous the day before was now soiled with dark patches.

Hermione closed her eyes when Ron suddenly pulled her backwards, his hand tilting her chin up so his mouth could pause on hers.

“Morning,” Ron whispered against her lips.

Hermione gave into his kiss before going back to her daily perusing of the paper. Ron carried the porridge to the table. “Slow down, Hugo,” he warned, before he caught a bowl sliding away. “Ah! See that, son? Keeper’s reflexes.” He winked in Hermione’s direction. “I’ve still got the moves.”

“Good for you.” There was a picture of Harry, Ron and herself on page four of The Daily Prophet. It had been only a few years since Harry defeated Voldemort, and the photograph seemed prematurely faded.

The picture had the distinctive colour of memories.

That image was opening a window on a life that ended with a glorious sunrise. She had spent the following years methodically, invested by a conscience of the past, present and future, all consumed by building a life… her life, their life. She had busied herself to look out for others still aching from their bruises; to attempt to soothe hers; to study and to work; to enjoy friendships that became much less complicated and frantic; to mend tenuous relationships; and most importantly, most essentially, to make love in the early morning with Ron.

And then they had children, as well as they build a place for them to call home.

Hermione studied her face, immortalized by a random photographer. In that picture, her gaze was unflinching and her jaws clenched. Harry had triumphed over Voldemort a few hours earlier, but tiredness had the best of her. On the picture Ron’s hand kept on clutching her arm as if he’d hoped to keep her to his side.

She eyed the adult version of him over the paper. “It’s been more than ten years.  But they persist in writing that Kreacher was with us the whole time, and they spelled my name wrong. You’d think they’d be getting the facts straight after all this time. Journalism is about facts. This isn’t journalism.”

Ron helped himself to tea and toast. “I’d expect you to do something about it.”

No smile stretched his lips. No twinkle shone in his eyes. Hermione sighed. Ron was not joking.

She attempted to make some sense of Ron’s expression as she stared at him over The Daily Prophet. Hugo was pushing the porridge with his spoon. Rose was chewing mechanically, her hungry eyes taking in the scene as she hung on to every word as usual.

“What? What do you think I should do?” Hermione asked, somehow anticipating his answer.

The idea had been floating between them for a while like a rippling wave of understanding. Ron would whisper that she should do something about it, and she would take it in, only to ask him what he wanted her to do. The familiarity of the exchange was comforting, almost agreeable. She felt his enthusiasm, and his eyes reflected his silent belief she could do it.

She wistfully smiled. Ron had faith that she could do anything, and he strongly hoped she would do so.

Crookshanks rubbed his head against her feet under the table. The teapot clank against the table, and the cat hissed before sprawling himself on her left foot.

Ron poured milk into her cup. Despite the fresh scar on his cheek, he radiated like the winter sun. “You should write what happened,” he insisted. “You should write it… y’know, write how we managed to get through that year.”

She pushed herself backwards on the chair as she studied him in silence. Ron was absorbed by this idea, enough to abandon his breakfast. He crossed his fingers under his chin. “Yeah,” he added. “You keep telling me how they get everything wrong.”

“They do,” she retorted. Her hand lightly tapped the newspapers. Sarcasm was difficult to resist, when such foolery was being written. “The worst of it are the supposedly eavesdropped conversations that never happened…all this rubbish about me and Harry.” She scoffed when Ron hid a cocky grin behind his hand. “Don’t laugh. It’s infuriating.”

“Write the truth,” Ron repeated, his blue eyes grey in the winter light. “About how you always thought Harry was a toad.”

“Uncle Harry doesn’t have warts,” Rose said with a scowl.

“That’s what you think,” quipped Ron.

“Of course not. Daddy is joking.” Hermione stared at the picture. “I’m not a writer, Ron.”

“Not true. You write all the time.” Ron was making himself seductive. He grinned, seemingly convinced that his idea was worth the shot. “You’d be brilliant.”

“I’m not hungry anymore,” Hugo exclaimed, slipping from his chair. He disappeared under the table, and came out with a rather discontent Crookshanks in his arms.

“Go easy on Crookshanks, little man. He’s old and grumpy,” Ron warned. “Not that age has anything to do with it that in the first place.”

“Go and brush your teeth, now.” Hermione glanced at the clock as the boy scurried off. “You too, Rose.”

“May I have some toast, Daddy, please?” Rose bit into the buttered bread he handed her, and she sank into her chair.

“Hurry up, dear.” Hermione picked up an orange slice from Hugo’s plate.

“Do it,” Ron insisted.

She sucked off the juice on the tip of her thumb. “I write reports, not stories.”

He dismissed her point with a wave. “You’re a reader.” She thought that Ron was enjoying his reasoning a bit too much. “You must have caught here and there a few tips about writing. It shouldn’t be too difficult for you,” he concluded with assurance.  

Hermione shook her head, bemused. “You really want me to do this, don’t you? Why?”

Ron was not grinning anymore as he spread preserves on his toast. “For you. So you can forget.”

Forget? Ron, I could never forget,” she objected, eyeing Rose who was intently listening. “I don’t want to forget.”

She kept the deepest memories to herself. Some pains would never be forgotten, neither would sacrifices. But relief and victory were also deeply etched into her.

“And why would I want to forget?” she added. “My memories aren’t all rosy and lovely, but they’re mine…and yours! We need to remember so it never happens again.”

“What’s a Mudblood, Mummy?” asked Rose with a tiny voice.

Tea splattered on the table and drenched the newspaper. Hermione dried Rose’s skirt, and wiped the fat, round tear that was running down her daughter’s cheek. Ron stiffly waved his wand as he took care of the mess. “Where did you hear that word?”

“Al said it. Are you angry, Daddy?” Rose’s lower lip quivered.

Al? Al Potter? Bloody -” Ron contained himself as Hermione nudged him under the table. “I’m not angry at you, Rose. I don’t like that word. I don’t want to hear in this house or anywhere else.”

Hermione touched Ron’s hand, but his eyes were glued to their daughter’s face. “Al shouldn’t have said it,” she said. “What happened?”

“Al said it, ‘cause Karin kicked Simon so Miles was saying mean things to her and Madame Snell wasn’t looking so I ran to protect Karin ‘cause she was crying and then Simon shoved me and said that my mummy was a Mudblood and then Al punched Simon in the mouth and Al said that Mudblood wasn’t a nice word to say and Madam Snell punished Al because Simon had blood on his face -” Rose halted, indignant. Her worry was overwhelming. “Is something wrong with your blood, Mummy?”

“I’m quite sure Madam Snell wouldn’t have punished Al if she had known that Simon had said that,” Ron said under his breath. “I’ll have a word with her.”

“Madam Snell would have punished both boys if she had heard what Simon had said.” Hermione glanced at the clock. “Hitting someone is wrong, Rose, as well as saying that word. We can’t talk about this right now, but we will tonight, dear. I want you not to be worried, okay? Nothing is wrong with me. Mudblood is a nasty word, a word people use to hurt others. It has no meaning unless you believe it has. Now, go brush your teeth, and tell Hugo to stop daydreaming. We’ll be leaving in ten minutes.”

Rose nodded fearfully, and slid off the chair, holding out her arms to her mother. Hermione kissed the top of her daughter’s head before the child slipped away from her embrace.

Hermione sighed deeply. Ron was staring at her, his fingers rapping the table. “I reckon this is a good reason why you should write. People - children - know that frigging word because their sodding parents use it!” He pulled on the newspaper and tapped the picture with disgust. “We were kids, and blimey, after all we went through, we were still naïve… that’s a bloody miracle, if you ask me. Remember how we thought everything would change? How we thought that people would finally understand how blood status is utter rubbish?”

Ron pushed himself back on the chair, both hands raking his hair. “Now, our daughter is exposed to the same dung. You remember what happened, but you need to write about it so others - the ones who should - can remember it too. People forget too easily.” Red crept to his cheeks. “Let them remember for you. You’ve done enough of that.”

“Ron, calm down.” She touched his hand, unsettled by his sudden burst of anger. “Simon is a good boy. When he knows what it means, he won’t use the word again. I know his mother, she’s a reasonable woman.”

“I can hear you at night sometimes.” He stared at her briefly before looking at the picture again. “You remember certain events too much.”

Hermione waved her wand to banish the remnants of their breakfast. The bitter taste of orange was still lingering in her mouth. Ron folded the paper. “I wish you’d forget, love. I wish I could find a way to remember all that stuff for you,” he said quietly.

“I love you,” she whispered, her fingers intertwining with his.

“I can’t blame you for that.” Ron pulled her onto his knees. The clock tick-ticked its disapproval. “But I love you more.”

Hermione was suddenly less than eager to leave home. “Writing about it remains the best way to re-establish some facts,” she reflected as she leaned her head on his shoulder. “I wanted to do it one day, but I do wonder. Isn’t it pretentious to be writing something like that at thirty-four years old?”

“You should do it while you still can remember everything,” Ron said, playfully pinching her hip.

“Honestly.” As he chuckled, she let the idea sink in. “You forget what is most important. It’s mostly Harry’s story, not ours. I can’t write about him without him knowing about it.”

Ron shrugged her concern away before his lips met hers. “Ask him, then. He’ll say yes.”

 + +

[…]

She called it ‘my winter project’. She claimed that winter was the only season that inspired her to reminisce and to remember. She would wrap herself in the maroon wool shawl, the one that had been specially knitted for her one Christmas as she was pregnant, and she would sit at her desk in the study for hours, staring at her quills, at photographs. She attempted to recreate moments that she had naively thought she would remember forever.

Time had already started its softening work. It had begun to fade details. The contours of her memories were blurry. It frustrated her beyond belief.

[…]

+ +

Winter 2014

A small flock of notes entered the lift. “So… what do you say, Harry? Would you accept me writing about it?”

If at first Hermione had hesitated to enter in such a project, Ron had made sure he warmed her up to the idea. He could make himself convincing.

“No.”  The lift gave a shake and squealed. Harry’s answer had been quick to come.

Hermione believed that Harry was the one of them three who had changed the most. Since he was not in survival mode anymore, his will was tangible and irresistible. Getting rid of the horror of having his life hanging by a thread had freed him to grow.

Her fear of seeing him crumble when he looked back on the trail of death Voldemort had left behind him had been unfounded, for all she knew. However strong their friendship might be, Harry had found someone else to help him pick up the pieces.

Harry is such a gushing father, she inwardly marvelled as he mentioned something funny Lily had said the day before. It never failed to stir elation and something deep in her that was associated with love and relief. “She is a precious girl.”

“Oh, she is.” He grinned as he stared at the ground. He was clearly somewhere else, in a land where daddies are heroes to little girls just because they breathe.

She nudged him. “I don’t want to bug you about this…”

“Since when did you ask for my opinion, Hermione?” Harry took a deep breath in as he pulled her closer while three more wizards crowded the lift. “I don’t want the past re-written. Some of this stuff I never want to see on paper.”

“I’m responsible about this.” She ignored his surprise. “The press is taking advantage of you. Everyone claims they know what you went through. Lies are being written and so many are perpetuating disinformation.”

“You can’t let it go, can you?” His eyes sparkled behind his glasses. “Perpetuating disinformation? Have you spoken to Luna lately?”

“You’re being silly.” Hermione clicked her tongue. “Luna is an outstanding naturalist, but honestly, I'm not sure she understands the political mechanics of disinformation as well as she masters the ethology of unicorns’ behaviour.”

"That's rather harsh to say." Harry looked over her head and nodded at a colleague. “You forget who her father was. You shouldn’t dismiss her understanding of politics. She made quite a - er, dare I say entertaining analogy with the new tax system and the way Blood-Sucking Bugbears mate,” he spoke into her ear, grinning widely. “Ginny kept the picture she drew.”

“She drew a picture? Oh dear.” Hermione laughed whole-heartedly as Harry chuckled. “I miss her.”

“I can’t stress enough how her explanations made perfect sense.” Harry shook his head with glee. “Ron would have enjoyed her lecture immensely. Pity you lot couldn’t join us.”

The lift was crowded, and Hermione leaned against Harry in a vain attempt to avoid the revolting smelling package an old man was holding away from himself. “I’m sorry we missed her. Hugo and Rose weren’t feeling well so I put them to bed with Pepperup Potion.”

The man with the horrid package stepped out, prompting a collective sigh of relief from the Ministry’s employees occupying the lift.

“About your project, Hermione…I don’t want to be rude.” Harry chewed on his lower lip. Lights flickered as the lift rattled. “I know what happened. You and Ron both know everything firsthand. Ginny knows. I’m rather content with that. I’m sick of those books claiming to reconstruct every step of our way. I’m not saying no to you writing about it for you. I just don’t want it out there, you see? I don’t want you to make this about me.”

“But it is about you, Harry.”

His hand grasped her elbow when he accompanied her out the lift. They walked in silence into a corridor buzzing with activity. As they took a turn, shadows became longer on the carpeted floor, and a long hallway with walls placated with dark wood stretched before them, virtually deserted. Soon, Hermione would be giving an introductory lecture about the ethics of dealing with magical creatures to Harry’s rookie squad. 

Before opening the door on the murmuring group of hopefuls, Harry leaned towards her.  “There are many ways to look at it, I reckon. It was about me for a while, and I don’t want it to be that way anymore. If you go forward with that, I’d prefer you didn’t make it my story. It’s our story. Whatever you decide to write about, please tell me you’ll make it about us.”

“Us?” Hermione repeated as a shadow of a smile appeared on Harry’s lips.

“Us.” Harry nodded as he held the door open for her. “All three of us.”

+ +

[…]

Urgency as well as fleeting melancholy can be found through those words she put to paper during many winters.

She forces admiration. She had fathomed the danger she was in, as she was a Muggleborn witch persecuted by a shadow government, but she feared mostly for them, the boys with whom she completed a trio of friends.

About the year 1997-1998, she wrote:

During the year we were on the run, mornings succeeded one another, faceless and anonymous. Each day felt like the day before, and the promise of an eventual tomorrow did not entice us as much as I thought it would. As irrational as the thought was, I feared that winter would never end.

Tomorrow meant a step forward, a step closer to Harry facing Voldemort. It meant that Ron and me were to be standing at his side, without knowing exactly what would be asked of us. I did try to plan everything I could during the months before we left. I spent that summer imagining the worst and most horrid possibilities, so we could have an edge over Voldemort.

All those tomorrows were inexorably getting us closer to events that we could not fathom at all. Tomorrows meant that time was running out quicker than we could appreciate its passing. That year we spent as outlaws; no day was long enough to live it as completely as I wished to. As we chased around for what would lead us to Voldemort, I do not recall going to sleep with satisfaction or peace of mind. Every step we took forward was a reminder of how many were left before us and how dangerous the path would be. Every night I went to sleep with a sense of foreboding, fearing that a fact might have escaped me, and that it could make a difference at the end.

I cannot speak on Harry or Ron’s behalf, but the preciousness of time preoccupied me during those months. For seven years, we had fought against it; I had toyed with it, and we have attempted to deal with its boundaries as much as magic would allow us to.

That fateful year, I believe I understood what time was about for me. I am still young as I write these words, and hopefully, I have a long life before me. I will probably look back on this many years from now and dismiss what I wrote as a proof of my naiveté.

Time has no reprieve, no pity; days fly away. We live our life learning to accept that tomorrows become yesterdays. This is why we must make the most of it through knowledge and action.

[…]

 

+ +

Winter 2014

The amber globe was charmed and hovered motionless over her desk so the room that served as her office and library could be bathed in a rich and warm glow. Her quill tentatively grazed the parchment, but to no avail. The irony of it was not lost on her: she was a woman of many words, but now they were fleeing her.

Hermione pushed herself back into her chair. “Ron and his mad ideas,” she muttered to herself for the tenth time of the evening.

Ron was away on business, and had promised be back the following night. She was relieved he would not be a witness to her struggle. It’s better this way, she thought with a sigh. He would have been making fun of her as she hesitated to commit herself to a few words.

Start with the beginning, Ron would have said. End with the ending. Works for me.

Hermione stood up and paced the study with fleeting irritation.

Quills waited and blank parchments lay on the desk, taunting her with their inviting pale golden hue. Crookshanks sat upon them, seemingly daring her to push him away. The house was silent: Rose and Hugo were asleep, impervious to her agitation.

Her fingers grazed the scattered pictures on her desk. Supressing a sigh, she shuffled them; here, Harry and Ron during the Quidditch Cup, pulling their tongue at the camera; there, a picture Mr Weasley had taken of them, on which Harry was smiling as Barny, the long lost Weasley cousin.

The last one swamped her in a wave of nostalgia: there they were, the three of them, a few months after the Battle of Hogwarts, smiling timidly but genuinely as they were still dripping wet from a dip in the pond at The Burrow. Hermione pulled out the battered picture from the Prophet. The difference over a few months shone through: they seemed to have been brought back to life.

Harry had a smile that she attributed to Ginny taking the picture. Ron had his arms around her shoulders.

In the picture she was giggling, trying to prevent him from throwing her back into the pond. Hermione searched for intention in his features. What had followed later was a precious memory that she hoped would not wilt, a hopeful escape from the grief that was still taking possession of The Burrow.

As moon oversaw them, she had rested half-naked on a blanket that scratched her back but felt like the softest of fabrics.

Ron’s words had made everything real.

“I want to do this with you again,” he had breathed out against her hair.

She had struggled to keep herself composed. “All the time,” she had whispered, legs shaking from euphoria, her throat tight, as they fumbled to rearrange their clothing.

His joy had been contagious. She had found herself laughing aloud. “All the time,” he had repeated with a lopsided grin.

Hermione put down the pictures. She wanted for him to be here tonight, and not somewhere in Spain.

All the time.

The pile of books and manuscripts she had borrowed from the Ministry library stood in a corner. The number of writing and archives documents attempting to recount their whereabouts had astounded her. Many facts and truths were there: she had even discovered a well-researched itinerary of their travels, probably worked out by a patient researcher, who must have gone through thousands of articles and interviews to come up with it.

She felt she was looking at the canvas of what promised to be an intricate work of art but was still looking for a heart and soul.

She forced herself to sit down again. “Come here,” she murmured to Crookshanks as she pulled him upon her knees. She dipped the quill in the ink bottle, tapping it expertly against its rim to avoid blotching.

How does one summarize years where three lives were so intimately intertwined?

She stared at the question, not entirely sure that it was the best way to begin.

She crossed out so intimately.

Hail rattled on the window. Hermione stared at the question for a long time, attempting to find an appropriate answer.

With facts and objective observation.

Words she believed in offered no comfort. The quill obeyed to her impulsion.

Or maybe not. Maybe I have to do this some other way.

+ +

[…]

Her loyalty, while never faltering, was opinionated. This can be read in this excerpt, written circa January 2017:

It has been widely written […] that the Battle of Hogwarts was predestined before Harry’s birth; consequently, Harry had no choice but to accomplish his destiny.

I strongly disagree with this assumption. It trivializes Harry’s quest and character. What was Harry’s fate but the one he chose? Him facing Voldemort was the result of his actions and determination to do so. Claiming that Harry stood before the one who robbed him of a family because ‘his life was written for him’ hypocritically undermines the boy he was and the man he became. Fate does not mean anything unless one decides to give it some sense.

One could wonder how Ron and I made our way to stand at Harry’s side for all those years. It would be most preposterous to say that our fate as friends was written before we were born.

After all, I could have decided to hide my magic and to be ashamed of it. My parents could have been intolerant and fearful of what they understood as my ‘difference’. They could have denied me the right to discover what magic was and censor my reading.

For all we know, Harry could have been sorted into another house if he had dearly wanted to. He could have rebelled against everything his parents fought for, from fear or from cowardice. He could have become fascinated by his wizarding condition and been comforted by the power of his magic. He could have become another Voldemort.

But then, he would not be himself. He would have been another boy, another man. He would have been another Harry Potter. Our friendship might not have existed. It is my uttermost belief that complacency leads us to delve into the realms of ‘what could have been,’ and to deconstruct events in a perverse way, so we can please ourselves with the idea that we have the power to reject the elusive means of choice and decision.

It comes down to the choices we make. Harry choosing in cold blood to free himself and the world from Voldemort is truly what makes him a hero.

[…]

+ +

Winter 2016

“I can’t make myself write it,” Hermione muttered as she attempted to gather the parchments into an orderly pile.

She stretched, pulling down on the silky hem of her slip dress. Ron was teasing the back of her thigh with the tip of his fingers, deep into his reading.  She attempted to keep her buttocks covered as she bended forward to reach for her wand on her bedside table. “Why don’t you read them in the order I wrote them, anyway?” she pestered. “You made a frightful mess.”

When she had stepped into their bedroom an hour earlier, it appeared to her as if the cold wind blowing against the windows had been allowed to sweep in. Parchments littered both the bed and floor, and Hurricane Ron was in the middle of it all, comfortably leaning back against all the pillows in the room.

A frown had tensed his features as he read parchment after parchment. He held out to her the one he was perusing. “You see… I don’t get that. Why don’t you write the word Horcrux? All of this would make more sense.”

She sighed with irritation. “What I wrote makes sense, Ron.”

“It makes sense,” he conceded. “But isn’t it all about how we were trying to help Harry as he went for the Horcruxes and tried to finish Voldemort through them? Don’t you think it deserves a mention somewhere?”

Hermione hid her face behind her hands. Ron was inadvertently underlining how powerless she felt in front of this growing number of parchments, not connected through anything but the three of them.

“I know how I should be writing. I know how to build a report, Ron. That would be the best way to do it.”

“Crickey, you don’t have to do anything!” Ron exclaimed, dropping the paper to the floor in surprise. “You’re talking like you’re being ordered to do something.”

“It feels like it. This isn’t what it should be.” She rubbed her eyes, and tiredness sweeping over her. “I hate writing. I hate it. If I could just documented what happened, I’d do it. But this is not the same thing at all.” She felt like a child, revolting against an early bedtime. “It needs something else from me.”

“So don’t do it this way.” Ron’s fingers tried to lure her to him.

“It’s more complicated than that.” Hermione slipped from him, and she grabbed her wool shawl. She stared at him for the end of the bed. “I’ve given much thought to this, and I think it’s the best way to do it, even if I dislike how self-indulgent it is. Writing is somehow taking responsibilities…it means that you implicitly accept being read, even though you want to keep it just for yourself.”

“Are you talking about me?” Ron opened his arms on the scattered parchments. “But I’m your husband!”

She exhaled slowly. “I can’t bring myself to write down everything we know about Horcuxes, everything we know about Voldemort. I can’t,” she said desperately.

The more she had written, the more she had comforted herself with the thought. Now that she was sharing it out loud, her resolution seemed self-serving and cowardly.

“I don’t understand.” 

“I know that it seems logical to write down a story from beginning to finish, to recall events and difficulties, to shed the light on realities, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Do you remember how much work it was to research so we could find something about Horcruxes? Do you remember how Harry told us how Tom Riddle was fascinated by them, and how  Harry had to drink Felix Felicis to get information about it? It makes me wonder…” she hesitated, “… what if this fell in the wrong hands? There are reasons why some knowledge isn’t easily accessible.”

“Are you telling me that you haven’t thought protecting of it with some kind of fancy and obscure spell I’d bet you’re the only one to know about?” Ron wondered, eyes wide. “Are you saying that you don’t want to write the truth?”

“But I do! I am writing the truth!” she exclaimed herself. The parchments flew back to her bed table and sorted themselves out. “This is the truth! Only, it’s not the truth I’d expected I’d be writing about.”

“I like it.” Ron pulled himself closer. His hands slipped up her knees. “I like when you surprise me.”

+ +

[…]

She was a strong character, a bright and gifted witch who knew how to make people stop and listen. Acquaintances have often mentioned her stable and reassuring presence, and her unrelenting care for the ones she loved and the ones who needed to be defended. Political enemies have called her shrewd and stubborn, a brilliant negotiator. But the ones who really knew her underline incessantly her fiercely loving nature and her sense of duty towards her friends and family.

Her courage has been saluted. Her words speak for themselves:.

“There were several moments where I knew I faced death. What frightened me was the sense of immobility it laid upon me, how it froze my thoughts and prevented me to find a way out. When I allowed myself to think about death, anger invariably took hold of me. I interpreted that back then as my will to survive. Could the answer be more complicated? Could it mean that when we are about to face our death, we are stripped from everything but our essence, and mine would be justice?

In Malfoy Manor I thought that my time had arrived. I feared that every step I had taken had in my life had led me there… to die on Lucius Malfoy’s expensive rug, amongst hatred and scorn for who I am.

It is difficult to admit that what saved me was not my faith in my capacity for overcoming torture. It was not the belief that Ron and Harry would come and deliver me from the pain coursing my body even though I attempted to stretch my mind to them, calling them for all my soul, wishing for them to pull me out.

It was anger, pure and simple, that had me clinging to life. Anger at them, anger at myself for not taking opportunities that I should have taken.

Pain is a complex notion. We respond to physical pain by retreating and protecting ourselves. But our brain also interprets pain emotionally, and we have learned to avoid it and to find ways to numb it before it claims our mind.

When I felt Ron’s hands pulling me through the haze of pain, I was delirious, completely out of my mind. Whatever I believed about free will and choices was thrown out the window.

I was certain that Ron and I were bound to be together; sometimes we’re pulled away from one another by a twist of fate, our faith bound up with Harry. I felt immortal.

I still believe that we are bound together, but now that these painful moments are far behind me, I know how hard we all had to work on ourselves to make it happen.

+ +

Winter 2020

Harry slowly stroked his face with both hands. “I don’t know what to say.” Hermione’s office amber globe radiated its soft, appealing light on his features. “I really don’t know what to say.”

“You wanted to read it,” Hermione said accusingly.

They had argued rather animatedly about it a week ago, and she’d hoped for him to let go when she claimed that the manuscript was not turning into what she had intended it to be.

“It’s very subjective,” she had warned him.

“Well, I hope so,” Harry had said, perplexed.

She had given in, handing him her unfinished manuscript, overcome by a tenacious grief that made little sense to her.

And now, on Ron’s birthday, Harry had brought her words home. He was standing next to them, eyeing the document as if looking for inspiration. As Ron leaned back against the wall with a frown, Ginny grazed Hermione’s arm, prompting her to face her. “I read it over his shoulder. During the year you lot were on the run… I spent most of my time trying to imagine what you were going through and kicking myself to move and to make myself worthy of you.”

She addressed Hermione with a sad smile. “Reading your thoughts transported me back then… back when I hoped with all my heart I could be one of yours. You made me cry, Hermione. I felt so much for you.”

Hermione nodded stiffly and clutched her cup. Harry shifted his weight from one leg to the other, still staring at the bulk of parchments in an unsure silence.

“Say something,” Ron stiffly pressed. “She’s writing it as she saw it. I think it’s brilliant.”

“I know. It is. ” Harry crossed his arms, and Hermione’s heart leaped. “I don’t know what to say,” he repeated, shaking his head. “Seeing this through your eyes…seeing myself, and Ron, and….” He cleared his throat. “Your thoughts…It’s…I don’t know what to say.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way.” Hermione sipped on her wine.

“You never spoke about it… to me, at least.” Harry raked his hair. “About Malfoy Manor and how you felt about it.”

“And why should I have spoken about it to you?” she softly answered. “You know it happened. War wasn’t easy for anyone, especially for you. You didn’t need to know everything, Harry.”

He swallowed. “I knew that rationally, I reckon. I know how it feels to be tortured. But now, I can feel how you lived through that.”

“You lot are meant to be friends whatever you think about fate, Hermione. You’re all alike.” Ginny stood up. “The three of you…Merlin. You’re all so moral. I never thought I’d say that one day, but even Ron is,” she quipped as she affectionately nudged her brother who welcomed her jab with a fake scowl.

Hermione was still drawn by Harry’s indefinable expression. “Reading this reminded me why you got us out of trouble so many times.” Harry shook his head. “You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings. You’re so honest with yourself it’s frightening.”

When Harry reached for her, she hugged him fiercely, trying to communicate her relief.

“I noticed that something important is missing in here,” Harry muttered as he let go of her. He flipped the pages quickly. “There aren’t many mentions of you and Ron.”

“Of course, there are,” Hermione countered, stretching her hand to grab the pile of parchments. “We’re all over the place…you said you wanted it to be about us.”

“I saw that.” Harry gently tapped her fingers away. “What I meant was there’s nothing yet about how you two…well, how you two fell in love. You mentioned Ginny and me, but not you two.” In the soft light, Harry grinned. “I’d expected you to do an exhaustive research on that subject. ”

“I’m not finished with all this, but honestly, I don’t think this is the place for that,” Hermione admitted.

“And where should it be?” Harry shook his head as he flipped the manuscript between his hands. “Where should it be if it’s not in there?”

“Ron and I falling in love had nothing to do with our friendship story. It’s private.”

“Oh, now, it’s private?” Harry snorted as Ginny rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “Where are your quills? I’ll make this private.”

++

[..]

What might be the biggest surprise of these memoirs are the intrusions of her friends. We feel them everywhere. We know they are looking over her shoulder and we can almost feel her dialoguing with them and arguing about small facts.

She kept surprisingly silent on her love life. We understand now the tumultuous rapport she shared with Ron Weasley, but she has not written much on how their love grew.

This is why it was unexpected to discover the enigmatic sum of it hastily written by Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, an addendum only recently recovered from Professor Weasley’s notes.

I was expecting Hermione’s project to be a recollection of events leading to Tom Riddle’s defeat, she being so fond of details and facts. But I was wrong. You think you know a person, and then she goes out of her way to surprise you. Hermione is in the process of writing a testimony to our friendship.

However, there is an important fact missing here. I believe Hermione will not bring herself to write it, because she believes it is not pertinent in the sequence of those events. But it is because it means something to me.

Someone has to write it somewhere, for the sake of it.

During many of those years as we three were inseparable, Ron Weasley was in love with Hermione Granger. Hermione Granger was in love with Ron Weasley. 

It is the simplest way to write it, but it was much more complicated than it seems. They know it was.

I know it is.

H. Potter

 […]

Winter 2020

For the sake of it?” Hermione nervously chuckled, unable to contain her emotion. Ron was still reading, an undecipherable smile on his lips.

Harry slipped the loose parchment under the pile, and with a bit of unease, he held out the bulk of it to Hermione. “Here you go.”

She stared at her words, tangible and fleeting, resting between her hands, suddenly amazed by their weight and importance, taking in for the first time the concentrated effort and thought she had invested into what was supposed to be simple written pictures, words written in sepia ink of not so distant memories. 

“Should I burn it when it’s finished?” she impishly suggested. “As a symbol?”

Ron and Harry stared at her with their mouth agape. “Don’t take it badly, Hermione, but now you’re freaking me out,” Ginny quipped.  “Stop pouring her wine, Ron. You can’t burn this. Never.”

“That’s mad.” Ron shook his head. “Burning it destroys the whole purpose of you writing it.”

Ron reached for it and placed it on a high shelf as if he feared nothing more than but to see her run towards the fireplace. “I reckon you need to take a look at it sometimes. You need to add stuff here and there.”

“I’m not ready to write more,” Hermione admitted.

She needed her memories to distance themselves from her. Next winter she would ask herself if she wanted to re-address the past of a friendship that evolved into another form.

Ron shrugged as he poured more wine into his sister’s glass. “Look at dad. He has a garage full of stuff. He doesn’t use half that Muggle junk. But it’s there. He goes into that place, and it gives him… dunno, comfort to know it’s there, and he can visit it whenever he feels like it.”

Ginny lifted a hand pre-emptively. “What you wrote is no junk, Hermione.”

“I didn’t say that,” scoffed Ron as he turned to Hermione. “You know what I mean.”

Ron had a way of looking at her in public that was not unlike the way he did on those mornings when love might be the only thing worth doing.

Hermione smiled. This look she would fight to keep away from paper as she would be content with it in her mind, in her skin.

“I say we celebrate,” Ron announced quietly as he raised his cup to her.

+ +

[…]

It does come to this conclusion. If many books have attempted to help us comprehend the complexity of critical events of our history, few of them have lived throughout the years as Pictures of Dark Years.

Every Modern History of Magic textbook tells us how Mrs Granger-Weasley’s work and activism has helped to reform several iniquitous practices in our institutions. But as the keen reader might have observed, Pictures of Dark Years shows another side to her in those lucid and passionate memoirs relating to the years 1991-1998, years she lived intensely as a close friend of Harry Potter and of the boy who would later become her husband, philanthropist and businessman Ronald Weasley.

Her voice represents an urgent reminder that our world is still in dire need of tolerance, cooperation, and action.

The publishing of Pictures of Dark Years has been widely written about. Many books have documented its amazing fate, the most acclaimed being Rewriting Hermione (2097) authored by her son, Professor Emeritus Hugo Weasley, Order of Merlin second class.

Professor Weasley devoted his later years to protecting the privacy of his mother’s manuscript, which he claimed had never been intended for publication. He stated that the book was written as a string of private reflections of an enduring friendship. When Parkinson & Turpin Publishers were allowed by the Wizengamot to release Pictures of Dark Years, Professor Weasley went back in court shortly afterwards to point out the publishing house’s work of censorship and to demonstrate how powerful families with misplaced interests had intervened. The following public scandals are still fresh to our collective memory.

We have restored the manuscript with Professor Weasley’s priceless notes and the exceptional help of his son, Arthur Weasley. The Malfoy name has been reintroduced into Mrs Granger-Weasley’s manuscript, following the ruling in favour of Professor Weasley. Crivey Publishers proudly present to you the third and uncensored edition of her memoirs.

Whether she had intended or not to speak through a book, Hermione Granger-Weasley began to write her memoirs at the young age of thirty-four years old (Professor Weasley attested however that most of the book has been written through her later years). She gave posterity a vibrant and powerful testimony that immortalized the strength and depth of a life-enduring friendship that was born between three young wizards in one of the darkest moments of our history.

J. L. Crivey, Publisher

London, 2156

(Note from J.L. Crivey in Granger-Weasley, Hermione. (2156). Pictures of Dark Years. 3rd edition. Crivey Publishers, p. ix.)

+ +

The end

I cannot even begin to say how much I owe to Pili204 and Exartemarte for their excellent beta help. Thank you.

Special thanks to PureBloodMuggle and Queenb23 for their friendly cheerleading.



Comments

beautiful!

complex, true. love it.

(sorry for the rubbish review. this deserves better)
I'm happy that you enjoyed the story. :) Thank you for reading.

( I understand from the next comment that you recc'ed it. Thanks so much.)
This was recommended by MrsQuizical.

So many wonderful points it's hard to pull them all out.
the image of Hermione struggling to get her trauma on parchment is profound and real. The way her feelings forced to write it, not in facts and events but in emotions really brings out the Hermione. The one who would break rules but only if she had to. I love the idea of her struggling to put the events in boxes that wouldn't contain it and being forced to break the rules.

I love how you defined the friendship so clearly. They were not predestined to do anything they choice to be loyal and to love each other.

this was beautiful!
Oh wow, what can I say but thank you for your kind comment. Hermione is such a beautiful, passionate, responsible and justice-seeking character, and I thought that putting her in a situation where she has to ponder on her possible legacy to the world could be a good way to explore the themes of memory, friendship and writing.

I'm so thrilled you enjoyed it. Again, thank you.
Oh... wow... I'm speechless! I could never write a review worthy of this story...
Simply beautiful! :)
Oh dear *blush*...Thank you for reading. This was the toughest fic to write and to let go. I had an idea in my mind, and I'm sorry to say that this fic doesn't look at all like what I intended it to be. However, I'm thrilled that it found readers. :)
I'm rereading this again for rhr_awards, and oh, how I adore the poetic quality of the whole story. It definitely deserves the nomination. ♥
Thanks so much. I'm very happy it got a nomination. :-D
This piece was rec'd on crack_broom and I came over to take a look. I'm so glad I did as you've left me practically inarticulate with admiration. This is truly marvelous.
Oh wow, it was rec'd!

Thank you very much for reading and leaving such a kind comment. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed this story! :-)
Hi! Here via crack_broom, and I'm so happy I clicked because this is beautiful. Your Hermione is wonderful and passionate and smart and loves her Ron and her kids, and her memories, even when they hurt.

Wonderful work. I wish I'd seen it sooner!
Hi! :) Thanks for giving this story a chance! I'm so glad you enjoyed the story. Hermione is a terrific character, and I loved imagining what could happen to her.

Again, thanks so much for your kind words.
I don't know what to say.
quote harry's words, that's exactly how I felt about this.
...brilliant! It's like an epic, beautiful and magnificent.
I hope that I can see more of your fics in the future XD
Thank you for reading and for your kind comment! I'm so glad you enjoyed this story. You are most welcome to look around this journal, and I hope you'll find something you'll like. :D
Hi, I am a part of the podcast Potterficweekly, The peons are going to review Sepia in an upcoming podcast. We just wanted to let you know and invite you to listen to some of our podcasts. You can find us at Potterficweekly.com, PeonCast is at the end of the main Potterficweekly podcast. If you'd like to respond to us, I can get you a copy of our review once it's been edited. We would love to add a voicemail to our release. We have enjoyed this story and are looking forward to our discussion about it.

Sue
Hi Sue! I'm very surprised (and flattered) that you guys thought Sepia was worth a review on your show. I'll be sure to listen to some of your podcasts in the next few days.

Thank you for allowing me to respond to your review. I must say that I'm not a native English speaker and have a strong French Canadian accent. I do write English better than I speak it, so I was wondering if you'd prefer a written answer instead. Just let me know, and I'll be happy to oblige. :)

Again, thanks so much for letting me know!

RedSioda
It's so beautiful. That's it, I don't know what to say/write. It's really wonderful.