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Promises by Sidial

Chapter 1: Promises

Author's Notes:

Even though they had only been two by the time they moved into a flat of their own, and had bought furniture to fill it – neither she nor he having had anything to bring to it – the bed was still large enough for three. They hadn't talked about it, just done it. It just seemed right.

The charmed alarm clock went off by her head, and she blearily turned it off before sliding her way out of his still-sleeping embrace. She had to smile softly at that. He still managed to sleep through them, after all this time.

And how thankful she was that he slept, the nightmares that were the legacy of their shared past silent, for now. He hadn't slept – none of them had – for what felt like months up to the final battle. She glanced to the far side of the bed, empty, the pillow untouched, and felt the familiar pang. Their third part was gone, and always would be. But the pillow had stayed there, just in case, somehow, he miraculously returned from the dead. There was always hope, she reminded herself, as she slid her feet into the self-warming slippers. As long as a Muggle girl could get an owl from Hogwarts, telling her that magic was real, and she was a witch, there was always hope.

She watched him a moment longer, as he shifted in his sleep, at first looking for her on one side, then, still asleep, turning over, to search for the warmth that had been missing for five years now, but should have been right there. She willed the tears away as her sleeping husband murmured the name of their missing friend-and-lover, then her name, questioning their absence. He would probably wake soon, he always did when he couldn't find her.

So, she left to de-fur her teeth, ever mindful of the lessons her dentist parents had ingrained her with as a small child, even if, as a witch, she really didn't have to worry about cavities and the like. And she went down to start breakfast for three, although one plate would never be finished, indeed, no food ever did get placed on it after the first six months. Having to throw away the leftovers from the untouched plate had become too painful to do any more, at that point. They still cooked for three, though, and set the table for three.

"Good morning, Hermione!" Ron's voice rang out, as she came down the stairs. He always was the first to greet her, and he nudged her own portrait-self and Harry's awake. The other two grumbled at him, then seeing her up and about, brightened. "Morning!" they chorused.

"Morning," she grinned back at their portrait-selves. Even as she opened the fridge – charmed within an inch of its augmented life, she was sure of it, so it'd work in the sort of high-magic field that was their flat – she pondered the portrait.

It was of the Golden Trio, ensconced on a couch that was very similar to one in front of the fireplace in Gryffindor Tower. After Sirius had died, Harry demanded that the three of them get their portraits taken – together – and that Remus have one done as well. He said it was "just in case" the rest of his family, or he himself, didn't make it. So that they'd still have each other, even if it wasn't the real thing. She remembered the fight, as she cracked the eggs against the counter's edge, like she had since before she'd started going to Hogwarts, watching as they fell gracefully into the pan, already bubbling around the edges. Dumbledore had been furious with Harry, for wanting something that would possibly place him in an unprotected situation. Harry had stood him down defiantly, and the showdown had been how she and Ron had learned of the prophecy.

"I want my portrait, Headmaster," Harry had spat at the man he'd always had so much respect for. "I want a portrait of me, not for my sake, but for my friends' and for Remus. And I want one of them because if I'm going to be your little war-winning toy, they might not make it, because I'd have to stun them in order to get them to stay behind. And I won't do that to them, because if it was one of them stuck with the existence of the Wizarding World on their shoulders, I'd battle every Horntail and Dementor I had to, to be at their side to the very last."

Hermione remembered being so proud of him, for not even questioning that she or Ron would follow him to Hell and back, death being the only thing to stop them. And horrified, too, a moment after, when she realized what Harry was saying. But it'd always come down to them, in the end, hadn't it? So now it was just a bit more official. That's how she reasoned it, when, ten minutes later, Ron had recovered enough from his shock to start bellowing at Harry and Dumbledore both. She and Harry had had to yell in tandem at Ron before Ron shut up, and flung himself at them, to hold on for dear life.

And she remembers holding on to a sobbing Ron, who was babbling and apologizing for every time he was jealous of Harry, or annoyed with Hermione, and begging them to promise him they'd survive the war, as Dumbledore looked on, blue eyes wide in shocked surprise. She remembers looking across Ron and into Harry's eyes, and seeing for the first time, that Harry loved her as much as he loved Ron, and realizing she loved them both too much to not promise Ron. Even if she qualified it with, "You know we can't completely promise that, Ron. You know that." Ron's only response had been to hold on to both of them tighter and cry harder.

After that, she remembers how another boggart had been found there, in Grimmauld Place, and Ron's deepest fear was no longer spiders. No, it was of Harry or Hermione being dead or worse. Hermione felt it appropriate that hers was of Harry or Ron being similar. And Harry's .... Harry's was of the Dementors, still, and he explained to Remus, loud enough for his two best friends to hear...

"You see, Remus, I think why I still fear the Dementors above everything else, is because all I hear is my Mum screaming, Voldemort ordering Cedric's death, Sirius falling, and Ron and Hermione being hurt in the Department of Mysteries."

Remus had nodded. "Do you know which one of those memories hurts worst?" he'd asked, ever so gently.

Harry had sighed. "Six weeks ago, I would have said Sirius falling. But I can't change that. Now what my nightmares are about is that Death Eater getting Hermione, and the brains attacking Ron."

Remus had just smiled softly, and pulled Harry to him tightly. "And don't hate yourself for that, cub. We miss him, and we love him, but we can't bring him back... So we have to protect what we've got left, and what the two of us have is each other, and Ron and Hermione. And it's what we're going to have to concentrate on, eh?"

Harry had nodded. "Eh."

Portrait-Ron's cheerful voice rang out again. "Morning!" he cried. "What're today's Quidditch scores?"

Her husband laughed. "Let me get the paper, and I'll tell you," he answered, as Portrait-Harry teased Portrait-Ron for only caring about Quidditch. Her husband came in behind her as she finished cooking, and dropped a kiss on her neck. "Morning, beautiful."

"Morning, handsome," she answered, smiling up at him. Her mind was still on the portrait, even though she cooked with her normal skill.

Christmas that year had been at Grimmauld Place again, and the weight of Sirius being gone had hung heavily on Harry, despite their best efforts. They were currently huddled in Buckbeak's room, while Harry did his best to be semi-cheerful. After all, it was Christmas.

Remus opened the door, startling the three of them. "Ah, I thought I'd find you here. C'mon, I want you to look at your portrait." He was smirking, such an odd expression on his face, not the one Hermione was so used to seeing.

"But we saw it when it was finished, Remus," Ron answered, looking as confused as she felt. Harry, she noticed, was confused, too.

Remus' smirk got a bit wider. "Yes, but you haven't seen this." She swore the man looked like a kid in a candy store being bought a Hershey's kiss the size of his head. "Trust me, you'll ... be interested."

They'd glanced at each other, shrugged, and got up to follow Remus. When they got to the library, he ushered them in, and Portrait-Remus, who'd obviously been watching for them, put a finger to his mouth, and then jerked his thumb at the trio's portrait. Shocked silence as Remus – both of them – did their best to not smirk and snicker. Well, at least they managed to not snicker.

Hermione felt herself sidle up to Remus and whisper, "Do they do that every day?"

"More or less," he whispered back, sniggering under his breath.

"Umm," Harry started, whispering, too, but his voice sounding oddly strangled. "You do realize, don't you, Remus, that we've never done that?"

Remus – both of them – snickered loudly, and the Portrait-Trio broke apart from their three way snog guiltily. "Why do you think I'm showing you?" He winked at both the portrait-trio and them, and then left the room.

Harry'd glanced at Portrait-Remus for some sort of advice, and he had simply smirked and said "Well, at least you might be able to give pointers to each other." And Hermione still swore that that had been a leer that'd crossed Portrait-Remus' face before he disappeared, much like his real-life self.

Her husband had put the bread in the toaster, and it was the mechanical twang that pulled her out of that memory. "All right there, Hermione?" he asked.

She smiled mistily at him, finishing with the rest of breakfast just now, actually. "As good as ever," she answered, her eyes flicking to the spot that hadn't been sat at since the table had been brought in here. After the first time her husband had, in pure furious rage, hexed Seamus for touching the chair, their friends knew that, no matter what the occasion, you didn't touch the missing member of the trio's chair. Ever. It was a life-and-death matter – your life was forfeit, basically.

Her husband nodded sadly, and once she'd placed the food on the table and sat down, he stood behind her and held her tight. "I miss him," he muttered into her hair.

"Why didn't we make him promise, too?" she asked one of the questions that had always haunted them.

"Just never occurred to us, I guess," he sighed. They shared a moment of silence, and she knew that he was thinking of what they'd been told after they'd woken up from the battle, in the infirmary. What he'd done to save their lives, to bring them back from death's edge.

Portrait-Ron's voice rang out in the silent kitchen. "Sure wish I could have some of that food. It looks like it smells delicious."

Harry looked up from where he'd been crying silent tears into her hair. "I sure wish you could too, Ron." And he gave his wife a sad smile as he sat down at his chair. "And it does smell delicious."

"So what were the Quidditch scores?" Portrait-Ron asked. And sometimes Hermione worried that they wouldn't remember him properly, because this Ron wasn't quite as grown up as their Ron had been.

Harry didn't answer immediately, choosing to grip Hermione's hand tightly. "This Ron," he said quietly, knowing precisely what she was thinking, "is the Ron who made us swear we'd live."

She nodded, mute as she always was, when she let herself remember too much. Yes. The portrait had shown them what they really meant to each other, hadn't it? And there, they were still together, and would always be together. She glanced at it, where Harry had walked over, to show the Daily Prophet's sports page to the Portrait-Trio. She glanced at Ron's plate, so empty. And she had to remind herself, Ron was just waiting for them somewhere, waiting for them to have full lives and kids in full Weasley-style, so they'd have new stories to tell him, between snogs and more, when they met up once again. "Just let us know when you want something, Ron," she whispered, to the place-setting, the plate, the air, the never-been-used pillow on their bed, the towel brought from his trunk in Gryffindor Tower and hanging on the towel rack in their bathroom, the maroon jumper slung over the chair he'd pointed out to them in a shop on a Hogsmeade weekend as being the one he wanted for himself when "we move out of the Burrow so we can snog on the livingroom couch in peace". "We'll promise."

Even the impossible.