'It was a lonely and beautiful place ... the cliff-top view of open sky and wide, empty sea"
10th April 1998
Hermione sat, gazing toward the sunset with a mesmerised look on her face. A year ago she would have scoffed at the thought of a beautiful sunset, saying they happened everyday and reaching for a book to occupy her, but now she wanted nothing more than to sit and gaze at the spectacle in front of her. Another day had started and now it was ending and Hermione Granger had managed to live through that.
As soon as she heard the footsteps she knew it would be him so it was no surprise when he sat down next to her, it was however a surprise when he wrapped a blanket around her shoulders and placed a cup of tea in her hands. Over the last couple of weeks since coming to Shell Cottage Ron had been so wonderfully attentive that it salmost brought a tear to Hermione's eye. She said her thanks and sipped the tea, it was of course made just the way she liked it.
Together they watched as the sky changed from blue to pink to yellow, a thousand different colours shooting across the horizon as the sun dipped into the sea.
"It's so beautiful," Hermione whispered, watching as the dying rays sent sparkles across the water.
Ron nodded beside her "Yeah it is. Never knew you were the watching the sunset type though."
How was it he knew her so well? Well enough to know the thoughts that had been going around her own head not five minutes previously. She sighed, she may as well tell him, she felt as if she didn't have much left to hide.
"I thought I was going to die," she said simply, not lifting her eyes from the pinkish hue in front of her.
She heard Ron's intake of breath "You shouldn't…" he began but Hermione interrupted him.
"I'm not just saying it Ron," she still spoke softly, her voice calm "I really thought I was going to die. Right at the end when I was going unconscious I was convinced it was all over. The last thing I thought about was you and Harry," she couldn't believe she was saying this out loud but the words would not stop coming and she knew Ron was the only one whom she'd ever tell "But I didn't, I didn't die. I'm here. And it sounds ridiculous, but the sunset now feels like the most magical thing in the bloody world."
She finally looked at Ron and felt her breath catch at his expression, there was understanding and caring and sadness in his eyes and it made her love him all the more.
"That doesn't sound ridiculous," he said quietly, taking her hand and squeezing it "That's one of the most sensible things I've ever heard."
Hermione smiled at him and took another sip of her tea, savouring it's warmth as it slid down her throat. Every simple thing seemed more beautiful now.
"It's like," she began quietly, gazing back out over the horizon "It's like everything has shifted slightly now. All I ever wanted when I was a kid was for something different or special or exciting to happen, to not just be the girl with the book in the corner. And now … it's like…"
"Like you just want everything to be normal and ordinary and a little bit boring," Ron supplied as Hermione laughed. That was exactly what she meant.
"I feel the same," Ron continued "I'd be so happy if I got up and the biggest thing I had to worry about was a work deadline. I want a normal life."
"I want to worry about homework again," Hermione said, grinning now
"I want to play quidditch."
"I want to read a book without trying to find a secret meaning."
"I want ..." Ron tailed off, seeming uncertain.
"What?" Hermione asked gently, watching as his eyes sought out the sparkling sea in front of them.
Ron shook his head gently "It's not ... it's not like I want it ... like now. But ... it makes me see why all these people have kids when a war is on. It makes you want to bring that perfect future closer to now."
Hermione's heart seemed to stop slightly and she turned to see Ron was squinting down at his trainer, clearly embarrassed. Hermione tried to process what he had just said. Ron Weasley's perfect future included children. Ron Weasley had grown up a lot in the last year.
"I suppose," Hermione muttered, her cheeks also growing pink "I suppose I never really used to get why people would want kids in war-time. Like Lupin and Tonks or Harry's parents or, I'm sorry, but even your Mum and Dad. I just didn't get why you'd take the risk. But I think now we're in one I kind of see…" she tailed off, not sure what she wanted to say. She didn't exactly want to get up and start having babies right now, she was much too young and there were so many more things she wanted to do first. But having been tortured by Bellatrix, she understood the desire to live one's life as fully and quickly as possible.
"I kind of see why," she finished, gulping in fright that she was saying these words out loud to Ron. "It's like you want to do everything you can before it's too late. We could die tomorrow and you want to make sure you don't die with regrets. That's what I was afraid…"
She tailed off again, knowing she'd said too much.
"You were afraid you were going to die with regrets," Ron said slowly, his ears still flaming red "What regrets?"
Hermione sighed heavily and ran a hand through her hair. How on earth had the conversation gotten to this point? "About my parents and that I'd never be able to explain everything to them, about not finishing my education, about never saying goodbye to people like Ginny or Neville or Luna, about … about not telling you that I'd forgiven you."
She looked at him again and saw his expression had become slightly pained. Like he was trying not to cry. He took a gulp of his tea and squeezed her hand again.
"Well that's one ticked off your list," he said quietly and she nodded.
"Hermione," he said after a short pause, his hand still in hers "I promise I'm never going to let anything like that happen to you again. I mean it. Whatever happens, I'll protect you better."
"Ron don't say that," Hermione started, her heart seemed to be swelling rapidly inside her own chest and she was afraid it was going to burst with all the emotions she was feeling "You have no idea what's going to happen, we're planning-" she looked around her quickly to check no-one was listening to their conversation "We're planning to break into Gringotts. It could all go so wrong."
"I know that," Ron said quickly "I know. I just promise that whatever happens it won't be you again."
Hermione wanted to kiss him then and she didn't know why she couldn't. Wasn't this the moment?
"I'd let it be me again," she whispered and Ron looked at her very sharply "For Harry. We've known all along that Harry had to finish this. I'd do anything to make sure he does that."
"Harry needs you," Ron said quickly, sounding panicked "It would be me that would … that would do whatever. Jump in front of a curse or let myself be taken or whatever. You're the one that gets us out of all the messes. Harry needs you."
Hermione shook her head "Harry needs you too Ron. He needs us both. And if he needs us to die for him then I will."
She had never spoken these words out loud before but a calm seemed to settled over her. This was what she was meant for. She wanted to live more than anything, to finish Hogwarts and get a job and have babies and anything else that normal people did but if she had to, she would die so Harry could finish Voldemort.
"I will too," Ron said, squeezing her hand even more tightly "I think I've known that since that chess game in our first year. I'd die for the speckled git as well."
Hermione managed a weak chuckle at Ron's attempt at humour.
"But that's not going to happen!" Ron said quickly, waving his tea about suddenly "We're not going to die. You are going to live and you'll go back to Hogwarts and get about a hundred NEWTs and probably snog Professor McGonagall or something," Hermione chocked on her mouthful of tea at this "And then you'll get an amazing job and free all the bloody house elves and whatever other creatures need the amazing Hermione Granger and then you'll go on to be Minister for Magic and your parents will be there to see it all. You'll live Hermione."
Hermione could feel the tears on her cheeks before she realised she was crying at she gave Ron a long look, trying to put everything she was feeling into it. Would he ever know how grateful she was for everything that had happened since Malfoy Manor. How every time she'd had a nightmare he'd been by her side within minutes, every time she'd touched the cut on her neck he'd brush her hand to remind her that he was there, every time she'd cried he'd held her close and whispered that she was going to be okay. She could never find enough words to thank him.
"We'll live," she said thickly, tears flowing freely now "We'll both live Ron. You and me."
"You and me," Ron repeated as he drew her into his chest and held her close.
The last rays of sunshine dipped beneath the sea as a boy and girl hugged in a little garden by the sand. Just for a moment the world was perfect.
Sorry I took a couple of days off, I was away from home and my laptop. Thank you again for all your incredible reviews, they bring me so much happiness and make every hour this story took 100x worth it.