be brave, be silent; out of such patience you can hope
the child you leave behind will not lie unburied here
--Euripides, "Trojan Women"
"Hermione Granger's been taken."
Harry, stepping off the elevator, was faced with a dilemma; did he punch Dawlish right there, hit him hard enough to crack ribs, or did he get the whole story, force himself to be civil in order to be effective. He hadn't even stopped off at home to change.
The very first time Harry laid eyes on Hermione and Ron kissing, he was filled with envy. Behind his eyes, vision clouded a little bit; he clutched at the door frame of their dorm room, and then whirled out. Maybe ten minutes passed before Hermione stumbled out, very red.
"We didn't." She sat down beside him. "Listen, we're very sorry, Harry, very. We didn't want you to find out like--"
Harry found his voice. "I'm sorry I walked in like that," he said, and forced out a laugh. He'd never been so embarrassed in his life. The truth was, he'd considered Hermione, possibly, but not really. Not enough to feel any lingering jealousy, not enough - the envy was for them, curled up together.
He and Hermione talked about it, and Harry - haltingly, quietly - expressed his loneliness, couched in stilted phrases, many pauses in between. When he finally got Ron alone, Ron looked like he might die on the spot, and tried to apologise. Harry just said, "next time, lock the door maybe?"
Next time, the door was locked.
It was Fred's idea to have an early warning system between members of the Order. They each had a coin just like the ones Hermione made them in fifth year, golden and warm to the touch. Words danced across Harry's and he dropped the sack of coal he was currently trying to coax into the stove - and the innkeeper said the new wood stove would take any fuel - lighting the grate with his wand. The coin started to whistle in his pocket.
There were different colors to each type of message - red was obvious, blue was good news. Purple and orange and yellow. Dumbledore preferred gold. This one was yellow, which meant someone else had gone missing. Just last week, two witches that worked a floor below him had stepped off a train and never come back.
Harry couldn't get in touch with anyone any way, and Hedwig was home with Molly. The need for reliable news was too great in every war, and too scant to count; he didn't even have Sirius's mirror, which used to reach Remus at the very least. The only hope was Ginny would pick up her mobile phone, but after ringing twice, he got the voicemail recording that the number was invalid. She'd had to switch again, then.
There was nothing for it; he'd just have to wait, and hope, and pray the coin in his pocket glowed blue again before nightfall.
Dawlish sat him down. "We sent the best, Harry, because we know she's--"
Harry strode off the elevator, moment of panic forgotten. Not forgotten. Not at all. Put on hold. Pushed aside. Hermione. "Why didn't anyone see fit to inform me?"
"You were gone," he said. "Smith's looking. We don't even know where she was taken from."
This was all wrong. Something tweaked the back of his mind; he put his hand in his pocket, felt the coin, felt the Muggle lighter he kept on his keychain. The keychain was nothing, really, just a place to house useful tools like the knife Sirius bought, other trinkets. He carried it nearly out of spite. "Then how do you know she's gone?"
It was just like Tonks. Tonks and Dedalus. They found Dedalus, of course, but later. He was stretched out in a tree, face slack. At least it didn't look like he had suffered, and his family could put him in the ground with a calm expression. He had suffered, and everyone in the Order knew that, but at least it didn't look like he had.
"She managed to send a message," Dawlish said quietly. "They must have her controlled, and she snapped out of it briefly."
Hermione never could properly throw off the Imperius Curse. Harry cursed himself for being in Wales hunting Macnair when he could have been home.
Fred was back at Grimmauld place; he said to Harry, "fuck off."
Normally, Harry would have been offended - after all, Hermione was hardly Fred's concern - but there were too many people around to duel about it, and not enough space, and besides, Harry was fairly sure that he could take Fred, and then Molly would yell at him. No one would feel better, and they'd just have to patch Fred up afterwards, and mop up a lot of tears. Hagrid was crying already.
"Were you home?"
"No." Fred wiped his nose with the sleeve of his coat. "I had to meet with someone about a shipment for the shop." He glared at Harry. His eyelashes were wet, though his cheeks weren't. "She was well able to take care of herself."
A vision, Hermione floating around in a trance, dress torn, while Ron held her hand, floated into Harry's mind. They had gone dancing to celebrate the end of school, Harry mostly sitting on the sidelines. It was all right.
Hagrid blew his nose, noisily. The sound echoed through Harry's skull. "Firs' Ron and George, an' now this--" and he wiped his eyes again. Harry thought that Hagrid probably shouldn't be here, he was just upsetting Molly, who was already moaning in the corner, knuckles in her mouth.
Remus saved him by suggesting that he go pick up some curry for dinner, and hauled Harry out to the front hall. "This is your house, Harry," he said. As if it made a difference.
Macnair was supposedly working in Wales, near a mine. He was following his orders and had picked up a penchant for talking to goblins. "Tell Dumbledore he'd better watch the rest more closely," Harry answered, already putting his runners on to leave. "Someone found her awfully quickly."
It didn't strike Harry at all suspicious that Hermione was snatched. She would be the perfect bait to try and lure him out; he was doubly surprised that they hadn't got an owl at the Ministry for him about it yet. He would go, more to the point; he would go, and face down Voldemort, and bring Bellatrix to Remus to do what he wished, and Hermione would be able to go back to - Fred, of all people, as if it were where she belonged.
Her and Ron, and Fred and George. It was as if, when Ron and George were taken out of the equation, they created complementary gaps that needed to be filled. In many ways, it was like laying brickworks, all the relationships and marriages to come from the deaths that surrounded them. One brick removed, the others had to take more of the lode, and partnered up to bear it.
Remus took the curry and fed everyone, making sure Harry got a plateful. "You might as well eat," he told Molly, with a gentle hand on her head. "You're no good if you don't eat."
Harry dug in. It wasn't where they belonged. the coin in his pocket was silent.
There were so many little things they all hated about the situation they were in. Molly hated the most, perhaps, because her family was gone. Neville hated Grimmauld Place. Hermione and Fred - maybe they hated Harry, for not being there in Ron and George's place. Harry didn't know what Remus or Hagrid hated. Dumbledore hated the waste of life.
Molly and Neville hated the way that food stayed in the fridge too long, because people came for lunch and then never stayed for dinner. Fred hated that his customers were afraid to come into the store. Bill hated his mother's eyes. Maybe Remus had hated Wormtail, maybe Bellatrix Black.
Harry stared at Hedwig, stroking her feathers. He cried, hot and fast, into her wings, while she hooted softly, knowing that tonight was the only time he would allow himself the luxury, and then, Hermione would be another missing persons case to add to the file. Ginny had a dozen on her desk, Harry the same, and they were the shortest stacks in their whole department.
It was a precipice, waiting for news like this; staring down a great chasm and across to the other side. You hovered at the very edge, feeling the tug of that drop, seeing how easy it would be to get across. The more time passed, the more steps you took away from the very edge, though - until you could barely remember there was an urgency to the possibility of news.
Ron had borrowed the money from Harry to buy Hermione a ring. "And I'll give you this money back, mate," but Harry didn't want the money. That was good, because Harry never would get it, now.
He went back to Wales, and found Macnair, finally. After being fed a truth potion, he coughed up a location. Dedalus had hung from a tree for four days before anyone found his body; animals had tried to claw it. There had been a greenish tinge to his flesh, like reflected light or powder stains - it faded before his wife saw it.
"You're sure?" Dawlish blinked at him, all thick glasses. Harry nodded. "Can we get her out safely?"
Harry desperately wanted to hit him. He said, "I don't know."
"Follow up on Macnair." He dismissed Harry.
His coin turned blue, and gold.
Dumbledore himself brought Hermione home, and tucked her into bed. Nobody asked how he knew where she was. "It was not the worst," he told Harry in a whisper. Harry didn't believe him.
Downstairs, Fred was weeping openly, big tears rolling down his cheeks and splashing onto the table like raindrops inside. Molly was stirring custard on the stove; Bill and Ginny were hovering, Remus stuffed in the corner, and Dung leaning against the stove. Even Katie had come, to see if she could help. Of all of them, Neville looked the most calm.
When Dumbledore sat down at the table, all eyes except Fred's turned to him. "She will be," he announced, "all right." Harry didn't listen; he watched Fred wipe his eyes, all trembling hands and nothing else. Fred felt they had lost something more than simply Hermione, something more than his brothers, than the whole battle - and then he understood. A flash of insight occurred under his breastbone.
Harry waited until it seemed appropriate to leave, and then stepped out the kitchen door, to stand under the stars in the back garden. Usually this would be Ginny's cue to follow him, but she waited nearly an hour before slipping outside. Her face was closed off. "Did you know that Ron was going to be a father?" she asked, arms wrapped around herself.
"From the way Fred was crying."
Ginny sighed. "Who would have thought that those two would end up being the first ones to get married, hmm?" Harry turned sharply. She nodded. "Last week. Their witnesses were Muggles, Hermione coaxed them off the street."
Perhaps it was a grief that Harry, not being female, would never understand. He pictured having a child, and simply couldn't - in truth, he just couldn't imagine being a member of a family. Perhaps it was part of the Dursleys' upbringing; perhaps, every time he pictured his own child, he envisioned it living in a world where you had to find out your best friend was missing from a colored coin, and wished to spare it the misery.
Remus spoke to Hermione first, because Fred was sleeping. "You should eat something." He passed her the porridge. "Are you all right?"
She shook her head. "Not, not really."
"I suppose Dumbledore told you." She nodded again. "I'm so sorry."
Hermione swallowed. "I always wondered whether Harry would have been, happier, with both his parents alive." She started to cry. "Maybe, if we can't be parents--"
Remus let her cry, sob quietly with her arms wrapped around herself. They had no idea how the Death Eaters managed to abort the child, but the process was thorough. Nothing of Ronald Weasley remained. Fred came in, eventually.
At the Ministry, they were relieved. It meant that maybe someone else could be found, saved. Harry stared, moody, at his notes. Macnair's habits had no pattern he could see, not even after catching the man. He found a family, dead, ringed around their fireplace in Wales, a meeting in Morocco; two Muggles dead in Spain.
"Harry," and Dawlish's face poked, strained, into his cubicle. "Do you want to take the afternoon off?"
Grimmauld Place, or work. It was just like every other funeral; they hadn't even got over the last casualties before this new one came to take its place. Harry sometimes felt as if his life would be over before he had enough time to let himself grieve properly. "No."
It was surprising, naturally, to find Ginny staying home. "What are you doing here?"
Her and Katie were mixing - at least, it looked like mixing, perhaps it was burning - soup from a Muggle can. "Making lunch," she said, and pointed to the table. "You can wait."
Her mother was nowhere in sight; Neville was sitting at the table, and shrugged silently. He was reading the Prophet and trying to write a parchment at the same time. "Oh," Harry said, quiet.
When Hermione came into the room, he jumped up, offering her his chair. She sat, and a sick feeling overtook him. She was wearing the nightdress that she used to wear at school. Katie served soup; Harry declined, not hungry.
He was desperate to know whether Ron had known or not; Ginny stood, and said coolly, "Why don't you just ask her."
But he couldn't. Still and the same, Hermione came to join him outside, and stared up at the stars. Perhaps Ginny said something. "He didn't know," she said, quietly. Harry fled. It wasn't that he didn't want to know, that he didn't want to be close to her, but so much distance was already between him and the other side of the chasm he couldn't remember what it was like on the other side. Perhaps Hermione sensed this, because she didn't bring it up again, just like all the other things they didn't bring up.
Hermione moved out, went back to live with Fred, and quit the Ministry. They didn't reopen the shop.
"What are you doing home?" Ginny asked him, yawning. It was nearly noon; she stumbled into the kitchen wearing an old teeshirt that said 'beatles tour'. It must have been one of the original Order's, it was so old, and hidden away in the attic for years - boxed up with the rest of the things stored up there. So many people's things were being kept that Harry had no idea whose it could be. It smelled musty.
"Why are you wearing that?"
She shrugged, and sat down. "It was this or wash my own." Her legs stretched out, rested on his thighs under the table. "Why haven't you talked to Hermione about Fred?"
Harry felt tired. "There's nothing to say."
"She picked Fred over you," Ginny replied bluntly. "There's nothing to say?"
"Not really." Most people would think it was a lie, but Harry was being truthful. There was nothing he could say. Fred was probably the better choice. "You ever feel like this house hates us?" he asked suddenly, staring around at the walls.
"Sometimes." She stroked his leg with her bare toes. "Why?"
Something was welling up inside of Harry; he didn't have the mettle to ask Hermione to go back to work. "I bet it would give us up, if it could."
The thing that Harry hated, more than anything else, was that he currently lived in the Black family house. Harry still missed Sirius, irrationally, even though he'd seen so many more deaths since then. "Probably," Ginny agreed. "Why are you home then?"
"It's like, we've lost." Harry couldn't explain it. "We're living in the enemy's house." He bit his lip. "No wonder people keep moving out. No wonder no one lives here."
"It's your house, Harry." Remus's comment, and then, "You have to fight it back."
Harry didn't know how.
It was a lie, of course. He had always known exactly how to fight back, but there was no way he would ever have conceived of raising a family at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, not in a house that was protected so violently. At best, Harry once had had vague hopes of being a godfather some day.