*Whatever Comes*

A/N: Hey, second fanfic here! *does a dance* This takes place the summer after Harry's fifth year. It's got lots of Ron/Hermione fluff, and a corny song in the end. I had a lot of fun writing it and I hope you enjoy reading it, and if you don't, well thanks for your time anyway!

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter verse (darn it!). But I think it rox. Props to JKR! In the end of the fic, by the way it becomes sort of a songfic. The song is "My Only Love" and I do not own that either. It is from the Sailor Moon Soundtrack, performed by Jennifer Love Hewitt. I think it's a very nice song so I borrowed it for my story. You can tell the song lyrics apart from the rest of the story because the lyrics are bold and italicized. They come in near the end of the story. Okay, here we go!

~*~

"GEORGE! FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR SKIN THAT HAD BETTER NOT BE ANOTHER ONE OF YOUR WHEEZES!"

George shoved the pastry back into his pocket and feigned a look of innocence. "Now, Mum, it hurts my feelings that I, your SON, can't even give you a hand at dinner without you hurling some crack pot accusation at me," he said, now trying to look hurt.

"Don't give me that! Get out of the kitchen now before I banish you out myself!"

George slumped out of the kitchen and into the dining room and plopped into the chair next to Harry. "Just because Dumbledore was thick enough to eat the Canary Cream last night..." he grumbled, looking disgusted.

"What about Shacklebolt bleeding all over the tablecloth last Thursday, eh?" Harry snorted.

George buried his head in his arms, moaning, "How many times do I have to explain that the Blood Blisterpod was meant for Snape?!"

Fred came and sat on the other side of Harry. "It's all Ron's fault for sitting next to Snape's regular seat. Stupid git, because of him, Snape chose a different seat and Kingsley took his."

Ron, who was sitting across from Harry, narrowed his eyes. "Bloody hell, it's your own fault for not making up some excuse to grab Shacklebolt's plate!"

"Yeah, mates, from what I remember, you two were too busy stuffing your faces," Harry added.

Fred and George ducked their heads in mock shame before rolling their eyes. "You forget that we are working businessmen now," Fred said in a professional voice. "We need to keep our strength."

"Dealing with fighting little schoolchildren, all wanting a piece of our genius is no easy task," George lamented dramatically.

Hermione came in and sighed as she dropped into the seat next to George. "You're just lucky that Dumbledore and Shacklebolt found it all so amusing," she retorted. "If it had been your mum who lost three quarters of her blood to the tablecloth, Ron and Harry would be sporting new jackets made out of your skins!"

Fred plucked nervously at his new dragonhide jacket. "Now, now, Hermione, haven't George and I apologized enough times? I for one have found it has become quite boring."

Hermione tried to look severe but gave in and cracked a smile. "Okay, okay, just stop looking at me! Bloody Weasley puppy-dog eyes," she grumbled, looking away. Ron, Fred, and George grinned at each other while Harry laughed into his napkin.

As other members of the Order filed in and dinner was served, Hermione surveyed the scene. She had been a little worried that Harry wouldn't be able to stand being back in Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, but so far, Harry seemed to be handling it fine. Okay, so when he first came he had been rather grumpy and isolated, but after a few days, the bustling household worked its magic on him. Hermione, Ron, and Harry had stayed up late talking about their summers and discussing what is to come their sixth year, and Hermione for one was very relieved to hear that Harry no longer dwelled on Sirius' death. Of course, all three had carefully avoided the subject as much as possible, but at least Harry's mood was improving by the day.

When Dumbledore had finally given the Order the okay, Remus Lupin, Alastor Moody, Nymphadora Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and the rest of the Advanced Guard immediately went to Number Four, Privet Drive to retrieve Harry from the Dursleys. Needless to say, Harry's family had been relieved to see him go; his piercing glares and foul mood swings had really been getting to them. They, of course, assumed it was his hormones and such kicking in; they didn't know about Sirius and the war that was coming. When Harry realized that the Portkey had taken them to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, he had been adamant in his refusal to stay at Sirius' old home. He stayed outside for a full two hours before Moody got impatient and cast a Summoning Charm to force Harry inside. Harry made sure he got his bit in, however: Moody was knocked clean off his feet by a flailing and kicking teenage boy in a very foul mood.

But after a few days, Harry had settled down. Mrs. Weasley seemed to think it was the chaotic but loving atmosphere created by the twins and everyone else, but Ron and Hermione privately thought it was because Harry let off a great deal of steam by lobbing his cauldron into Mrs. Black's face when she started shrieking gleefully about the death of her traitorous son. Hermione had watched in shock as Harry's face screwed up in a murderous rage and before she and Ron could stop him he had opened his trunk and grabbed the heaviest thing in sight (the cauldron) and sent it flying straight into the screaming old hag's head. A very astonished (and dented) Mrs. Black had stopped screaming immediately and now for two weeks straight hadn't made a peep. Ron still snorted uncontrollably with laughter whenever the doorbell rang and Mrs. Weasley opened the door, glancing nervously at the curtain shielding Mrs. Black from view, obviously expecting her shrill cries to ring out.

But that wasn't all that was different around the Black house. After Kreacher's betrayal that ultimately led to Sirius' murder, Dumbledore decided it was no longer safe to let him wander around listening to the Order's secrets. However, as it was also dangerous to let him go, Dumbledore used magic to create a chamber in the house for Kreacher to stay in at all times. The chamber had enchantments to keep Kreacher within it. Hermione had protested that it was inhumane to lock him up in such a manner, which had almost resulted in a disastrous fight between her and Ron.

"Have you gone mad?!" Ron had sputtered indignantly when Hermione argued against isolating Kreacher. "That bloody elf practically killed Sirius! What about Harry? Have you become so bloody obsessed with your beloved spew that your friends don't even matter to you anymore?!"

Now that she looked back, Hermione was grateful that she had given in so quickly. She never would have thought Kreacher capable of such treachery. Maybe it was best for everyone that he stay out of sight. Besides, Professor Dumbledore had assured her that the chamber would be very comfortable for Kreacher: full of memoirs of the Black family members whom he had adored so much. When Harry arrived at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, he seemed very content that he wouldn't be running into Kreacher during the holidays. They seemed to have come to an unspoken agreement not to talk about him.

~*~

As dinner progressed, Hermione smiled as she looked around the table. Ginny and Tonks were giggling animatedly about a love letter Ginny had received from Dean that morning, while Ron ranted enthusiastically about upcoming Quiddich matches. Hermione guiltily let her eyes rest on Ron. Up until their fourth year, Hermione had believed that she had nothing but platonic feelings towards him. At first, she shrugged it off as a silly schoolgirl crush on her best friend. Wait, what was she thinking? Of course it was just a silly crush! She could not possibly have any feelings for that lazy, sloppy, sweet smiling redhead across the table whom she had known for years...Hermione shook her head. No, Hermione, she chided herself. This is not the time for you to be checking out your best friend! Have you gone daft? Hermione groaned inwardly to herself.

"Hermione? Are you okay?"

Damn. Hermione thought to herself. Willing herself not to get caught up looking into those deep blue eyes, she forced out a laugh. "I'm fine, Ron! What are you talking about?"

Ron blinked. "Oh," he mumbled. "I don't know, you just seem to be a little...distracted."

Hermione fidgeted, and blurted, "Why would you think that? Just because I'm not some obsessive Quiddich freak you automatically assume something is the matter?" As soon as the words were out of her mouth she regretted them instantly. Oh no, not again, Hermione! Why oh why did she always use such scathing words with him?

Ron looked taken aback. Then his whole demeanor changed. "Obsessive Quiddich freak? YOU'RE THE ONE WHO IS DATING SOME BIG QUIDDICH STAR! How is ol' Vicky, anyhow?"

Hermione slammed her fist on the table. Everyone who wasn't already staring at them was certainly staring now. "First of all-Dont call him Vicky! And-and-what's it to you anyway? Why do you always have to pry into my life? It's NONE of your nosy little business!" she roared. Now you've done it. Tell him you aren't seeing Viktor in that way! Tell him Viktor isn't the one you love! Tell him-wait, LOVE? Where did that come from? Love Ron? He is just a self-centered immature bast-

"WELL FINE! GO WRITE VICKY-POO ANOTHER RUDDY LOVE LETTER THEN! SEE IF I GIVE A DAMN!" With that, Ron jumped up and stormed out of the room.

Hermione's brow furrowed in frustration. She sighed, then realized that everyone was staring at her (they all looked away when she looked up of course). Figures that Ron would storm out first and leave her here to deal with the uncomfortable stares. She took a deep breath. "I think I should go...loads of uhm, reading to do..." she muttered, rising from her seat.

"Of course, dear, you go on ahead, I can send Ginny up with your dessert," Mrs. Weasley said gently.

Hermione nodded, and forced herself to walk out of the room. Once she reached the stairs, however, she started sprinting up into the room she and Ginny shared and shut the door behind her. Nice job, she thought bitterly. Way to make Harry feel comfortable, you know how much he hates it when you and Ron fight. She groaned inwardly. That nagging voice again. But it's Ron fault for bringing up Viktor, she protested. "Why does he have to be so bloody immature?" she wondered outloud, crossing her arms and glaring out the window.

"Because my brother is an idiot, that's why."

Hermione whirled around and saw Ginny standing by the door, holding a plate of treacle tarts. Hermione sighed. She had been so caught up arguing with herself that she hadn't even heard the door open. Hermione groaned and flopped onto her bed. Lying on her stomach, she buried her face in her pillow. "Why do we always argue, Ginny?" Her voice came out muffled, but Ginny seemed to understand it.

Ginny sat cross legged on Hermione's bed and helped herself to a treacle tart. "Well, you know how guys get when they are jealous," she said, making a face.

Hermione sat up. "Don't be ridiculous," she said stiffly. "What are you talking about?"

Ginny sighed dramatically as she finished off her tart and reached for another, "Isn't it obvious? My brother fancies you, Hermione! Here, have a treacle tart, I swear, they're really good."

Hermione's heart fluttered. Stop it, she ordered herself. She laughed sadly. "No, Ginny, I'm afraid you're mistaken. Ron only likes girls with pretty faces."

Ginny sat up and hurled a pillow into Hermione's face. "What are you on? Hermione, don't you remember the Yule Ball? You looked so gorgeous! Everyone knows how pretty you are! And if you don't start eating these treacle tarts I'm going to leave or else I'm going to end up eating them all and then I'll get all fat and Dean won't like me anymore!" She tried to look threatening.

Hermione laughed and chucked the pillow back. "Who do you think you're fooling?! You're skinny as a rail!" She bit into a tart. "Do you really think he likes me?"

Ginny rolled her eyes. "Hermione," she said solemnly. "For someone who is so smart, you sure are stupid!"

At this, Hermione tackled Ginny and both girls fell giggling onto the floor. Each grabbed a pillow and beat the other with it. After a few minutes, the pillow fight subsided and Ginny straightened up. "So are you going to tell him?"

Hermione looked up nervously. "Tell-tell him-what?"

"That you fancy him too!"

Hermione ducked her head. Ginny was usually very smart about these things, but this time the younger girl was surely wrong. "Ginny, I see the way he looks at girls like Fleur, even Lavender and Parvati. Those are the sorts of girls who spark his interest. Not boring, book-loving best friend-types like me." She squeezed her eyes shut to block out the unwanted tears.

Ginny looked at her friend sadly. "You should tell him how you feel." She stood up. "I'm going to go answer Dean's letter, I think you need some time to yourself." She smiled sympathetically. "With stupid blokes like my brother, sometimes the girl has to make the first move." She left the room and shut the door quietly behind her.

Hermione sighed and stared out the window. "Maybe I will."

~*~

Harry gently opened the attic door leading to Buckbeak's room. Since Ron wasn't in their room, this was most likely where he would be. Sure enough, Ron was feeding bones to Buckbeak while Pig hooted enthusiastically around his head. "Hey, Ron," Harry called softly.

Ron's head snapped upwards. "Oh, hi, Harry." He sounded guilty.

Harry sat down on the floor next to him and handed Buckbeak another bone, who crunched it up happily. "Knut for your thoughts?"

"I'm sorry."

"Why are you apologizing to me?"

"Well, because," Ron looked uncomfortable as he raked his hands through his mussed up hair. "Because I know how much you hate being stuck in the middle. I'm sorry I screwed things up again. It's just-I don't know how to be around-her."

Harry looked amused. "Well she has only been your best friend for about five years! Haven't you figured out by now how to act around her?"

Ron shot his grinning friend a disgusted look. "You know what I mean."

Harry stopped smirking and nodded. "Seriously though, aren't you ever going to tell her?"

Ron scratched his head and sighed. "How can I? How can I tell her anything like this when all we ever do is go at each other's throats?"

"Now come on, you guys do get along once in a while"

"It kills me to even look at her."

~*~

Hermione crept up the stairs into the attic. Someone had to apologize after all, right? Since Ron wasn't in his room she figured he would be hiding out in Buckbeak's attic. She reached the door then stopped dead when she heard Ron's voice.

"I mean, she is so beautiful. It's like it hurts me to see her and she has no idea how I feel! Sometimes I'm afraid to even talk to her! It's not like when I first met Hermione, I can always talk to Hermione! But when I look at her, it's so different. She's not Hermione, who is my friend, she is perfect. Harry, I think I love her."

Hermione throat was dry. He loved someone. It wasn't her. She couldn't even compare to this girl. She tried unsuccessfully to will the tears away but they came. She covered her ears. I am so stupid. What did I think, that Ron would actually love someone like me? She turned and fled down the stairs and back into her room, slamming the door behind and throwing herself onto her bed, sobbing uncontrollably.

~*~

Harry smirked. "Are you saying that Hermione turned into someone else?"

"No! I mean, it's her, but it's like a different 'her?than when I first saw her on the train. It's like, getting to know her changed her right in front of my eyes." Ron buried his face in his hands. "Harry, I'm never going to be able to tell her."

Harry smiled sympathetically. "If you don't she is just going to go to the next Viktor Krum."

Ron's eyes narrowed in intense dislike. Then they softened and were filled with pain again. "Those are the types of guys she likes. The guys she deserves. Famous. Brilliant. Brave." He sighed bitterly. "If anyone else looked at the three of us, they would automatically assume that her interest would be in you."

Harry winced, pretending to look hurt. "Now, Ron, you don't really think I fit that boring mold do you?"

"If the hat fits- shuddup, Pig." Ron batted angrily at his minute owl, who was still hooting excitedly.

Harry suddenly looked serious. "Look Ron, I really think you should talk to her. I mean, I know it's mostly my fault but you don't know how much time you have left."

Ron looked up at his friend in surprise. This was the first time Harry had said anything like that. "No, Harry, mate, you don't think I resent being part of this with you-"

"-No, Ron, I know, you guys are my friends and I couldn't get through it without you guys here. I'm not looking for an argument," he added, when Ron opened his mouth to argue. "Look, the thing is, none of us really know where we're going end up. I mean, look at Sirius-" Harry dropped his head and fought back the tears that swam in his crystal green eyes.

"Harry-"

"No!" Harry looked up defiantly. "I'm not asking for pity or comfort or whatever, I've gotten enough of that. The thing is, I don't think Sirius planned on snuffing it any time soon, and he did. You need to tell Hermione how you feel because if there is one thing that I've learned from all this, it's that you don't know how much longer you've got and you need to make the most out of what you have right in front of you!"

Ron looked at his best friend, who had gone through so much and was still strong enough to sit here and give him advice on such trivial matters when his own life was still on the line. He cracked a small smile. "Yeah, thanks, mate. Maybe I will."

~*~

Hermione heard a soft rapping on her door. She lifted her head from her pillow. "Who's there?" she called somewhat grumpily.

"It's me."

Hermione's stomach flipped. Right away she tried to brush that feeling aside. You're nothing to him but a boring old friend, she reminded herself harshly. He feels nothing for you. Stop being silly. "What do you want?" she called, sounding angry now.

There was a pause. "I just wanted-I think we need to talk, I mean, I want to talk to you. Can I come in?"

How dare he? After he shattered her heart into a million fragments, how could he come to torture her like this? She got up and stormed over to the door, yanking it open. Ron looked taken aback at her expression. Well what did he expect? Hermione narrowed her eyes. "What could we possibly have to talk about?!"

Ron looked hurt. He glanced down at his shoes. Hermione's eyes almost softened when she looked at him. He was so cute when he was sorry. The way his ears would flame at the tips and he'd run his right hand through his hair repeatedly until it stood up at odd angles; he'd open and close his mouth as he tried to think of the right words to say and his eyes would twinkle on relentlessly and she would get caught up in them...STOP IT! Stop! You're nothing to him! He doesn't love you! Stop being so bloody stupid!

"I'm sorry I got us into this argument."

Hermione sighed. Just go away, Ron, leave me alone. Leave me alone. She held back her tears."I'm sorry I got so wound up, Ron. We need to stop arguing for Harry's sake."

Ron looked relieved. His eyes lit up in that adorable way. "Yeah, I was thinking-"

"I'm really tired, Ron."

Ron looked crestfallen. "Oh, okay. I guess I will talk to you tomorrow?" He looked hopeful.

Hermione almost let herself get caught up looking into his sweet and sincere face before she snapped out of it. Not trusting herself to speak, she just closed the door in his face. I don't know how I can keep looking at you knowing you will never love me.

~*~

"Did you tell her?" Harry asked when Ron came into their bedroom.

Ron shook his head as he flopped onto his bed. "I think she hates me. Harry, I just don't think I can ever tell her. I don't think I could handle it if she told me bug off."

"But Ron-"

"It's okay." Ron tried to smile. "I think I'm just going to get to sleep. 'Night, Harry."

Harry sighed. "Okay. Night, mate." He slowly drifted off to sleep, his mind running with thoughts of his best friends, Voldemort, and Sirius. Sirius, how could you leave me? Remember when you said I could come live with you that time in third year? None of them know that I still can't believe you're gone.A tear trickled down his cheek as his breathing grew regular and steady and sleep finally claimed him.

~*~

Traitorous vermin who disgrace my mistress' home. You will pay, you will pay, foolish youth with the despicable scar upon your vile forehead. Poor Kreacher, reduced to attacking with his own loyal hands, you will suffer, stupid boy who befriends Mudbloods and disgraceful excuses for Purebloods, you will scream before darkness fades...

~*~

Harry wasn't sure what had woken him up. Wrenching his eyelids open, he reached for his glasses and put them on. He glanced at the clock hanging on the opposite wall. Four a.m. He sighed. "Getting paranoid, eh?" he muttered to himself. He rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

"The time for revenge is now!"

What the-? Harry opened his eyes again and sat up in confusion. He reached for his glasses but his hand never reached them. "What the bloody hell-" His eyes widened in horror. His body was frozen! His rigid body crashed into the nightstand and onto the floor. Out of the corner of his eye, he frantically searched the room, hoping to get a glimpse of his attacker.

"Harry?" Ron's voice was groggy from being woken up in the dead of the night. "Blimey, Harry it's 4 am! What the hell are you do-HARRY!" Ron gasped when he saw his friend bound by invisible cords gagging on the floor. He grabbed his wand. He scanned the room for the bugger who was attacking his friend. His eyes widened in intense hate and revulsion. "YOU! What the hell are you doing in here?"

Kreacher smirked maliciously. "Oh, Kreacher will get his revenge for his mistress very soon, son of traitorous wizards. You will not stop Kreacher. Kreacher serves his master, he does. Kreacher is on orders."

Ron shook his head in disbelief. "How did you get out? Bugger off, you prat." He pointed his wand at the elf. "Stu-"

He was cut off by Harry's yells of pain. Ron stared in horror at his friend who was writhing in agony on the floor. He glared at the elf, who cackled evilly.

"Young sir will think twice before pointing his wand at Kreacher," he shrilled. "Spotted boy does not want the Potter boy in any more pain, does he?"

"Harry!" Ron rushed to his friend's side. "What the- what are you doing to him?!"

Kreacher pointed at Harry, and his screaming subsided. Now Harry was just panting heavily, as if he had just run a marathon. His eyes were squeezed shut in pain. Ron placed himself protectively in front of his friend. Kreacher eyes darkened. "You best stay out of Kreacher's way, boy. Kreacher will take the Potter boy to his masters and your feeble attempts to stop Kreacher will only lead to your sticky end."

"Stuff yourself, I'm not letting you take Harry. Impedimenta!!"

Kreacher held up his hand and the spell bounced off him and ricocheted off the walls. Ron ducked to avoid being hit by his own spell. He stared at Kreacher in shock. "Bloody hell. What are you playing at?!"

Kreacher laughed manically and pointed his gnarly index finger at Ron. "No one will stand in Kreacher's way. Goodbye, filthy, unworthy excuse of a Pureblood."

~*~

Hermione tossed fitfully in her sleep. Thump. Thump. Thump. She opened her eyes. What had awakened her? "Crookshanks? Is it you?" Hermione whispered groggily. Her eyes landed on her fat ginger cat sleeping on her bed near her feet. Crookshanks opened one lazy eye and hissed grumpily at his owner for waking him up. Hermione scratched behind his ears. "Sorry," she whispered, feeling guilty. She settled back into her bed and stared up at the ceiling. Just as she was drifting off to sleep, she heard another distinct noise. Only this time, it wasn't a thump. It sounded like a scream. Hermione's heart thudded painfully hard in her chest. Did that come from the boys' room? She listened, holding her breath. There was no more noise. However, the eerie feeling she sensed remained. She sprang up from her bed and grabbed her robe, quietly, so as to not wake Ginny up. It wouldn't hurt to just check on them...

She tiptoed up the stairs to the boys' room. Her heart was beating so fast she was afraid it would pop out of her chest. The feeling grew stronger. Screw this. She began to sprint up the stairs. Oh, Harry, Ron, please be okay. She prayed that she was just being paranoid. She finally reached their room and yanked at the doorknob. The door flew open. Hermione stepped in and her heart stopped.

Harry was gasping and moaning on the floor, Ron was kneeling next to him, pale as chalk and staring in horror at someone. Hermione gaped in disbelief at Kreacher, who was pointing at Ron.

"Goodbye, filthy, unworthy excuse of a Pureblood."

Hermione gasped and screamed, "NOOOO! RON!!!" In anguish, she began to run towards Ron. Ron looked over at her in terror.

Deep in my soul

Love so strong

It takes control.

"No, Hermione, get out of here!"

Hermione ran over and threw her arms around Ron. Kreacher snarled, "Filthy, disgusting little Mudblood. How dare you corrupt the walls of my mistress' home?" His little fists were clenched in rage.

Hermione turned and drew her wand. "Stupefy!!" Caught off guard, Kreacher froze in midair.

Ron grabbed Hermione. "We have to get Harry out of here!" Hermione nodded and grabbed Harry's arm.

"Kreacher cannot allow you dirty scoundrels to take the boy from him."

They whirled around and saw Kreacher was already in full motion. Ron swore. "How the-"

"You forget that Kreacher has his masters' permission to use his powers. You will regret getting in Kreacher's way!" He pointed at them.

Ron turned to Hermione. Her eyes were wide with fear and brimming with tears. "Oh, Ron-"

"Hermione, I- don't cry, Hermione, please," he wrapped her in a tight embrace. She sobbed into his shoulder. He pulled away from her and looked into her deep brown eyes. "Hermione, I have to tell you. Harry was right. I need to get this out before it's too late."

"Ron-"

"Shh, Hermione, listen. I need to tell you this. I-I love you. I've only known it for two years but I think I've loved for much longer. And I will always love you, no matter what happens."

Hermione eyes widened, and her breathing became ragged and uneven. Hardly daring to believe this, she shook her head. "No, Ron, you don't have to just say this to make me feel better-I love you and it doesn't matter that you will never love me back-"

Ron couldn't believe his ears. How could she not believe him? "Hermione, how could you be so-why can't you believe me? I LOVE YOU! Do you hear me?" He hugged her tightly. "I love you, Hermione, please tell me you believe me..."

Hermione was frozen in shock and happiness. He loves me. He loved me all along. "Oh, Ron, I love you too-"

Now we both know

The secrets bared

The feelings show.

"ENOUGH! You traitorous children make me sick!"

Ron and Hermione sprang apart. They had forgotten the danger they were still in. Ron took Hermione's hand in his own and glared at the house elf. Kreacher pointed at Ron. "Boy, you get over there by the window. Now. Unless you want Kreacher to blast your girlfriend into smithereens."

Ron gulped. He looked at Hermione. He tried to smile reassuringly at her before he pulled his hand out of her grasp and walked over to the window. Hermione let out a dry sob.

Driven far apart

I'll make a wish

On a shooting star.

Hermione closed her eyes. "Oh, please," she whispered, tears coursing down her cheek. "Let us get out of here safely, Please don't let Ron get hurt..." Her knees gave away and she sank onto the floor.

Kreacher pointed at her. "Now you, Mudblood, go over there by the mirror."

Hermione hesitated. She didn't want to leave Harry. She glared icily at the elf. "I was nice to you."

"You are nothing but a Mudblood. The object of Kreacher's mistress' most intense hate. Move. Now. Or else say goodbye to your friends."

Hermione crawled numbly over to the mirror. She looked over at Ron, who looked as lost as she. He looked into her eyes from across the room. "I love you," he whispered.

Hermione smiled and cried softly into her hands.

There will come a day

Somewhere far away

In your arms I'll stay

My only love.

Kreacher laughed malevolently. "Now, Kreacher will bring The-Boy-Who-Lived to his Masters. He has no need of you two." Hermione's heart plummeted to her shoes. Kreacher pointed his finger at her. "You go first, Mudblood."

Hermione closed her eyes. I'm sorry, Harry. I've failed you and the Order. She glanced at Ron. I'm sorry, Ron. I wish I had told you sooner. Now she glared at the house elf. "Go then, Kreacher." Her fiery brown eyes locked onto his large bloodshot ones. She did not notice Ron suddenly jump to his feet. Neither did Kreacher. Kreacher laughed and a blast emitted from his finger. Hermione shut her eyes and waited.

"NOOOOOO!" Ron stumbled over and landed on Hermione, knocking her flat onto the floor. Hermione gasped when she realized that Ron was shielding her. When she heard his cry of pain, she screamed.

"RON!"

Even though you're gone

Love will still live on

The feeling is so strong

My only love

My only love.

Ron tumbled off of her and lay spread-eagle on the floor. She grabbed him in her arms. "RON!" Hermione cried in pain as she rocked his upper body in her arms. Ron coughed and blood trickled from his mouth. Hermione hastily wiped it with her sleeve. Her tears blurred her vision and trailed down her cheek and landed on his. "Oh, Ron, why, why, how could you be so stupid?" She sobbed heartbreakingly.

Ron looked up into her eyes. He reached up to her face and wiped her tears. "Hermione, I love you. I will always protect you. Remember that I love you, okay?"

"I love you too," she whispered, bringing her hand to her face and placing it over his. He smiled as his eyes slowly closed. "No, Ron! RON!"

There will come a day

Somewhere far away

In your arms I'll stay

My only love

Hermione closed her eyes. She saw the first day she had met him on the Hogwarts Express. She saw his dirty face and the disgruntled expression he had thrown her. She saw his look of exasperation when she tried to boss him around. She saw him begging her to let him see her homework. She saw his sparkling blue eyes giving her the puppy-dog look. She saw his smile whenever she would give in and help him. She saw his determination when he sacrificed himself in the giant chess game so that Harry could save the Sorcerer's Stone. She remembered herself screaming when he was knocked out by the white queen. She saw him belching slugs into a bucket because his of his failed attempt to hex Malfoy for calling her a Mudblood. She saw him standing up for her when Malfoy made fun of her on other occasions. She saw him apologizing to her for snubbing her over Scabbers in Third Year. She saw herself throwing her arms around his neck as she sobbed into his chest from exhaustion and relief that he forgave her for Scabbers' death, and remembered his awkward hands patting her head.She saw his eyes light up when it had dawned on him that she was a girl,and his face fall in jealousy when she showed up at the Yule Ball with Viktor. She saw him glaring at her while she danced with Viktor. She saw him yelling at her in a jealous rage. She saw his surprised look when she kissed him for good luck before his Quiddich match. She saw him telling her he loved her. And she saw him shielding her from harm. Oh, God, please don't take him from me, she prayed. "Ron, please wake up..."

You've reached the deepest part

Of the secret in my heart

I've known it from the start

My only love

Kreacher chuckled. "Foolish boy. Falling for a Mudblood. All for naught for Kreacher will kill the Mudblood now."

Hermione glared at him with a new hatred in her eyes.

"And then Kreacher will bring the boy to his masters. They will be very pleased with Kreacher."

Hermione jumped up. "YOU MONSTER!" She screamed in fury. She raised her wand. She didn't care anymore. "You killed Ron." She pointed her wand at him.

Kreacher's eyes studied her. "The Mudblood has not the guts to kill Kreacher," he said simply.

Hermione's eyes flashed. "That's what you think," she snarled. Her hand shook and she steadied it to point the wand at his black little heart.

BOOM!

Kreacher fell over, gasping and grabbing at his sides.

Hermione looked at the doorway in surprise. Her heart lifted. Albus Dumbledore was standing there. His wand was pointed at Kreacher and his usually twinkling blue eyes now had a fierce look of intense dislike behind them.

Kreacher began to moan. "Kreacher has failed his master, blast that traitorous wizard who defied the Dark Lord! How will Kreacher face his masters, oh how will he face them empty-handed," he rasped, moaning and breathing unevenly. His large eyes grew wider in shock as his rigid body began to shake. It looked like he was having a heart attack. "Kreacher will join his ancestors," he raved, glaring at Hermione. "But he went trying, and the Dark Lord will prevail over the foolish and treacherous fools to who defy him..." He gave his final gasp as he lay limp and lifeless on the floor.

Dumbledore nodded at Hermione, who rushed back to Ron's side and began to cry again.

There will come a day

Somewhere far away

In your arms I'll stay

My only love

Hermione turned to Dumbledore. "Professor, Kreacher...he's killed Ron!"

Harry crawled over gasping and tears trailing down his face. "No!" he said hoarsely. "He can't be dead..." His eyes were wide and bloodshot and he looked at his best friend's unmoving body.

Albus Dumbledore came over. He lifted Ron's eyelid and studied his eyes closely. Hermione and Harry held their breaths. Harry put his arm around Hermione and they watched Dumbledore. Hermione began to moan softly and cried into Harry's shoulder. Harry's face was blank. He was at loss for words. First Sirius. Now Ron. To their utter surprise, Dumbledore chuckled. "What we need," he said, looking at the two teenagers, "is a miracle."

Harry and Hermione looked at each other in confusion. But suddenly a spark of fire appeared in the middle of the room and Fawkes appeared from it. Harry stared at Dumbledore. "But, Professor, Fawkes can only heal..."

"Precisely, Harry," said Dumbledore, looking pleased that Harry seemed to remember that much about his prize pet and companion. "But that is really all we need. You see," he continued, seeing Harry and Hermione's puzzled expressions. "Kreacher had a powerful brand of magic. The fact that he had his master's consent to use it made him a very powerful elf indeed. However, an elf really only has so much magic. He could kill of course, but unlike the killing curse that wizards possess, the effects are not immediate." As he spoke, Fawkes fluttered over and began to cry pearly tears over Ron's face.

"Do you mean Ron wasn't in any danger-"

"No, Miss Granger," Dumbledore answered softly. His eyes glinted in anger. "Kreacher was still very powerful for an elf. Had Fawkes arrived just two minutes later, I presume he would be too late. Kreacher's magic just wasn't as fast-acting as Avada Kedavra, and thank goodness for that."

Hermione shuddered, but then she heard a moan. "Ron!" She cried with joy as her love began to stir. "Oh, Ron, I-we-oh, we thought you were dead!" She held him tightly.

"Ow, Hermione, not so hard..."

"Good to see you again, mate," Harry grinned at his friend.

"Glad to back," Ron grinned back.

"Oh, Ron, I was so worried..." Hermione voice was muffled as she still had his face buried in his shoulder. Professor Dumbledore, Fawkes, and Harry quietly slipped out of the room.

"Hermione, I told you I would always protect you, didn't I?" Ron smiled at his love.

Hermione sat up and smiled through her tears. "I'm so glad you're okay, Ron."

"So am I, Hermione." Ron smiled maliciously. "I would have kicked myself if I died before I got to do this."

"What-?" She was interrupted as he grabbed her and pressed his lips against hers. Hermione's eyes widened in shock before she finally closed them and lost herself in the kiss. Ron was kissing her! She had dreamed about this forever. The kiss invigorated her and she clung to him, shivering in excitement and emotion. As the kiss grew deeper, she pushed all thoughts out of her mind as she kissed her beloved.

You've reached the deepest part

Of the secret in my heart

I've known it from the start

My only love

My only love...

~*~

Outside in the hallway, Harry sank down onto the floor and leaned against the wall. He sighed in relief.

"I presume you are pleased that Mr. Weasley is alive and well, Harry?"

Harry shifted guiltily. "Well, yeah. I mean I'm glad he is okay and all but I'm also glad I didn't also lose him to Voldemort because of me..."

"There is no need to feel guilt, Harry. Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger knew what they were getting into when they became involved in this. They treasure your friendship, your life, they treasure you, Harry."

Harry looked up into Dumbledore's eyes. "But sir, how did you know to come save us?"

Dumbledore had a strange look in his eyes. "I'm not sure how to explain it myself, Harry." Harry looked confused, and Dumbledore continued, "When I got into my office at Hogwarts to send out letters to the new students, I found a note waiting for me on my desk." He handed a small piece of parchment to Harry.

Harry read it outloud. "Dumbledore- Potter is in danger. Tonight someone will try to take him. Up to you what you're going to do about it." Harry looked up at Dumbledore. "It's unsigned."

"I know."

"Do you know who sent it?"

"I have suspicions."

"You're not sure?"

"One can never be."

"You're not going to tell me who you think it is from, huh?" Harry ran his finger over the bright green ink and handed the parchment back to Professor Dumbledore.

Dumbledore chuckled. "If it becomes crucial for you to know, I will tell you, Harry. I promise."

Harry nodded. "Sir, the war has already started then, has it not?"

"It has. Sirius was one of the first casualties. But know this Harry. Sirius wanted to protect you. And that is no crime of yours. I hope our talk in my office has helped you to carry on."

Harry nodded slowly. "It has, sir."

"I'm glad."

"Professor?"

"Yes, Harry?"

"Whatever comes will come then right? I mean, whatever is to come, there isn't anything we can do but face it, huh?"

"I'm afraid so. But I think we are ready, don't you, Harry?"

Harry nodded slowly. "Yeah. I suppose so. Voldemort can bring it on, I guess."

Dumbledore laughed heartily. "Yes, he can try. He no longer has Kreacher to pass along secrets to him. I suppose that heart attack came in a good time."

"Was he passing information to the Malfoys?"

"To Narcissa and Bellatrix, I assume."

"How did he escape the enchantments you put in his chamber."

"Ahh, that was a fault of mine. It appears that the magic binding a house elf to his master is stronger than we thought it was. Narcissa and Bellatrix called him, and since his previous master was already dead, he was free to move on to his next masters of kin. And that bond was what allowed him to leave the room. Obviously, they asked him to bring you to them."

"Bastard."

"He has moved on now," Dumbledore said gently.

"Yeah." Harry couldn't help not feeling the least bit sorry.

"Well, Harry, I suggest you get some rest. It appears that Kreacher locked everyone else in their bedrooms and silenced them so that they couldn't hear what was going on."

"Lucky he forgot Hermione and Ginny's."

"Perhaps it was a good thing Miss Granger had been kind to him. He didn't think she would be any trouble. You see, being kind does have its benefits."

"Whatever. I say we bury him head and all."

"You know all Kreacher ever wanted is to have the honor of having his head mounted onto the wall next to his ancestors'."

"Tough for him then." Harry rubbed his scar. "I want Sirius back, and I'm not getting that either."

Dumbledore's eyes softened. He smiled sadly. "Harry, you are a good person. I have never doubted that, not even this year when Voldemort was trying to possess you. I think you will find it in your heart to understand Kreacher."

"I still say we make him keep his head."

Dumbledore laughed. "Well, I better go let everyone else out of their rooms. They have a right to know what went on while they were sleeping soundly." His eyes twinkled as he headed down the stairs.

Harry sat silently there for a while before he decided it was safe to enter his room. He smirked at the sight of his best friends snogging on the floor. "Hem, hem," He cleared his throat, while Ron and Hermione jerked apart. Harry laughed, his first genuine laugh since dinner. "Well, I'm glad some good came out of this incident..."

Whatever comes will come.