The first time Ron tried to hit Hermione, she blocked him and hexed him with a move she was surprised she hadn’t forgotten from their war days.
He’d been drinking, she’d been drinking, and they’d started shouting about a bill she was trying to push through the Ministry.
Too slow , he’d complained, because when he was drunk he forgot everything he knew about strategy and planning.
It had gone from there and then he’d taken a swing.
She took three steps back and looked at him. “Don’t do that again.”
It wasn’t a threat, it was a warning.
He muttered something and rubbed his arm where the stinging hex had hit him. “I won’t, ‘Minoe,” he muttered. “I’m sorry.”
“Just… don’t do it again,” she repeated.
It seemed inadequate. It seemed wrong , like he was getting away with far too much.
But he hadn’t actually struck her, after all, so she let it go with just that warning.
The second time Ron tried to hit Hermione, she struck him with a full-body bind before he could land the punch. He tumbled backwards, muffled sounds like swearing coming from behind the Bind.
They had been talking about sports — or, rather, he had been, and she, tired and less than patient, had snapped at him.
They’d been drinking — he’d been drinking, this time. She’d been too busy with work to think about losing any control at all, and yet, it’d been her who snapped first — and he who tried to swing the first punch.
“Ron,” she warned him, as she poured a sober-up potion down his throat, “this is your last warning. Do not hit me again.”
“Shit, ‘Mione,” he sputtered, as she released the Bind. “What — what the hell was that? What- shit .” He scrubbed his eyes and promised, again, that he was sorry, that it would never happen again.
“It can’t happen again,” she reiterated. “Twice is enough, Ron.”
The third time Ron tried to hit Hermione, she saw the punch coming and let it hit.
It hurt in a way she hadn’t imagined being struck could, in a way that being tortured hadn’t. It was just a punch, she told herself, and she'd been punched before.
Her lip split and she didn't flinch, didn't lift her wand, watched Ron look at the blood on his hand in drunken confusion.
They had been — truth be told, she didn't remember what they'd been arguing about. Something about spells and the way that some of them seemed Dark, and what made magic Dark, she thought.
“You were supposed to block,” he groaned. “You were supposed to block!”
“Ron.” She felt cold, sort of like she was floating. “That was it.”
She called a sobering potion to her; he drank it while sputtering the whole time, apologizing and complaining in the same words. “I'm leaving,” she told him. “I still think we can be friends. But you have to let me leave.”
It took her less than fifteen minutes to pack all of her possessions into two chests with extension charms. They came close to being the longest minutes of her life.
“You were supposed to block,” Rin kept lamenting, interspersed with “come on, you can give me just one more chance” and “you know I didn't mean it. I was drunk!”
Hermione ignored him as much as she could. She packed silently, he wand moving in jerky half-movements that never would have been enough, had she not done these spells so many times. She was not crying; she was not going to cry. But her whole being felt numb as if she had already been mourning for days.
She left him things they had bought together and food she had bought to share, presents he'd given her with clear romantic intent and the flat-warming gift Harry had given them when they moved in together. She took the things that were hers and almost, of course, all the books.
“You were supposed to block,” Ron muttered one last time as she left.
“You,” she managed, although it felt the way speech did in dreams sometimes, like she was forcing the words through a thick soupy fog. “You were supposed to not hit me.”
“I didn't mean it! I didn't mean to! You've got to know that, Hermione! You do!”
“Even if i did.” She hadn't thought it could get any harder to speak, but then it did. “Even if I knew that, it wouldn’t — it wouldn’t change what you did.” She lifted her trunks with a flick of her wand. “We’ll talk, Ron. Just not tonight.”
She went to Harry’s. He was still her other best friend, after all, and she thought he, of everyone, would understand — understand and not demonize either of them.
It was Harry who awkwardly patted her back when she finally cried, Harry who, a week later, helped her find her own flat, a place that looked and felt like her place, where her things belonged, where only she had the key and only she was keyed to the wards. It was lonely. It was safe. It was quiet .
It was Harry that found muggle anger management classes and Harry who went with Ron to them, twice a week every week, Harry who told Ron, “Mate, if you can't control your temper when you're drunk, then the answer is to not get drunk.”
It was Harry who kept having get-togethers at his place, Harry who reminded them as often as he needed to that they were both still his friends, Harry who listened to both of them, their doubts and angers and self-recriminations.
But it was Ron who, after a particularly intense session, asked “What about you and Hermione? I mean, I can be angry about anything, I mean… I can make it sound Muggle, whatever I’m mad about. But you and her, mate, I've been reading up. You need a group or a therapist too, you both do, and it can't be a muggle thing.”
And it was Ron who pestered brothers and parents and cousins until he came up with a squib who had gone into psychiatry, a squib who could be trusted with the things Hermione and Harry couldn’t tell just anyone, the Mudblood scar on her arm and the lightning scar that, sometimes, still hurt him.
“She'll have more business than she knows what to do with once word gets out,” Ron predicted, “but I suppose we'll have to get people used to the idea of healing their minds with talk.”
Neither Harry nor Hermione reminded Ron that he, too, had needed some getting used to that idea. Wizards didn't do things like that; they'd had to explain it to Molly, even, at least five times.
It helped, though. It helped Hermione to be able to, for the first time, really both cry about and rail against the pureblooded prejudice that had been slammed on her face since the moment she learned she was a wizard. It helped Harry to be able to scream about being abused, being tortured, being dead, being set up like a sacrificial lamb.
It helped Ron, least of the Weasley family, to finally that resentment off of his chest, to finally begin to accept his own achievements as worthy. It helped him to finally find a way to ask for forgiveness; it helped Hermione forgive him without letting him into her wards or her home.
A little over a year after the last time Ron would ever hit Hermione (and the first time he'd actually struck her), the three of them sat in Harry's living room and raised glasses — Ron's was soda — in a toast.
“To the three of us.” Hermione's smile was broad and genuine. “What Voldemort couldn't end, let no being try to sunder.”
“To the three of us.”
Ron and Hermione would likely never be a couple again. All three of them would need their time and their therapy and their space to heal — and all three had been changed forever by the war.
But they were the Golden Trio, and if they had not been able to sunder their friendship, then nobody else would, either.