Word Count: 749 words
Summary: Hermione stands in the Great Hall staring at the broken ceiling.
Author Note: Original posted on fwhg_ldwsfor the first challenge of round two, which it won :oD
Snowflakes swirl around the rafters, then swoop down towards the floor and magically vanish before they reach Hermione's upturned face. She stares up at the grey clouds and feels cold.
"Is it snowing outside?"
Hermione looks around to see Fred Weasley, wearing blue and white striped pyjamas, walking slowly into the Great Hall.
"No," she replies, putting away the wand she'd raised automatically. "There's something wrong with the ceiling."
He comes closer and sits on the edge of the Hufflepuff table, his bare feet just touching the floor. Like the rest of him they're covered with multi-coloured bruises and greasy from Pain-Easing Potion.
"Shouldn’t you be in the Hospital Wing?" She says it like she's accusing him of being a Death Eater.
She supposes it can't have been difficult for one of the Weasley twins to sneak out of a Hospital Wing full of tired, overworked Healers and tired, potion-dosed patients. Even if said twin was still recovering from having a wall collapse on top of him.
She wonders, as she returns to staring at the ceiling, if anyone will come looking for him.
No one will come looking for Hermione.
Her parents don't remember that they have a daughter and whilst she has been in contact with more adult authority figures in the past week than she has all year they haven't sought her out. She survived a year without any of them; a year being hunted by Death Eaters. They assume she can look after herself.
The two boys she's spent the last year being looked after by, and looking after in return, are sleeping in an undamaged Gryffindor dormitory where she isn't invited, both of them having gone all 'proper' on her since she kissed Ron. They'll assume she's asleep, alone.
"So, do you like snow?" Fred says, pulling her attention back to him. "Or are you still working on repairs this late at night?"
"Just because you never did any work-"
Fred holds his hands up in surrender and she bites her tongue, pushing the urge to fight down inside herself.
She doesn't know why she wants to; she's had enough of fighting.
"I did plenty of work, thanks," Fred says, lowering his hands. "Just never did any homework. Once you've learnt it in class, why do the same thing in your spare time? Why not try and come up with something new?"
"Some of the things you and George came up with really were quite brilliant," she confesses grudgingly, "but," she adds as Fred smirks, "do you have any brilliant ideas on how to fix this ceiling?"
"Haven't a bloody clue," he says cheerfully, tilting his head back to look at the problem. "Why's it bothering you so much anyway?"
"It isn't. I just couldn't sleep and I needed something to do. This needs doing."
"I couldn't sleep," she repeats, glaring at him. "Why are you here?"
"I couldn't sleep."
Hermione rolls her eyes and then moves so that she's sat on the table next to him, both of them watching the crazed weather.
"Actually," he says quietly, "I needed to see the Hall without bodies lining the tables. I couldn't remember what it looked like without them."
She keeps her eyes fixed on the ceiling and knows instinctively that he's doing the same.
"One of the first things I found out about magic was that this ceiling was bewitched to look like the sky outside," says Hermione. "I thought things like this were fantastical. Even when bad things happened there was still magic like this. Then we went away hunting down magic that was terrifying and coming back to see the Great Hall like this… It's as if maybe all the fantastical magic is broken. That all we've got left to come back to is broken."
If the magic is broken and there is no one who cares enough to come looking for her then Hermione doesn't want to be here anymore.
Fred finds one of her hands with one of his, laces their fingers together, and squeezes gently. She doesn't squeeze back, but she doesn't remove her hand either. Instead she carefully leans her head against his shoulder and imagines that he escaped the Hospital Wing just so he could come looking for her.
The wind howls, hailstones rattle against the upper windows as if fighting to get outside, and the snow continues to fall, but none of it touches Hermione. She holds Fred's hand and feels warm.