Just Feel Better
Disclaimer: Not mine, for obvious reasons. Thanks Jo for such an exciting ride through the Harry Potter universe.
A breeze smelling of salt and flowers gently blew strands of Hermione's chestnut brown hair across her face. She tried repeatedly to corral it behind her ears with little success. When she'd showered early this afternoon after getting only a few hours of restless sleep, she'd been stunned at how much her hair had grown since she'd last got a really good look at it back in September. It was April now. Perhaps she'd ask Fleur or Luna to give her a bit of a trim sometime over the next couple of days.
It was late afternoon, and she was standing in the garden at Bill and Fleur Weasley's Shell Cottage. Her body was pressed against the whitewashed wall that overlooked the cliffs and sea below. With her elbows close to her body, her forearms stretched out in front of her resting on the top of the wall.
She couldn't believe that not even a full day had elapsed since she, Harry and Ron had been taken hostage at the Malfoy Manor. It seemed like a lifetime ago…somebody else's life. Tears started to fill her eyes as she started to think of what her body had endured. The pain had been indescribable that still now she could feel its effects on her aching muscles.
She quickly pushed aside those memories and tried to detach herself as she had all morning and afternoon. She had thought of asking Bill if he could possibly Obliviate that memory from her, but she knew that particular memory would help to motivate her in the glooming battles to come.
The breeze shifted and now carried a third scent with it. A scent that she'd smelled all those months ago in Potions class along with parchment and freshly mowed grass…a scent that was utterly and completely his.
So when Ron came to stand with her at the wall, she wasn't surprised by his presence but instead by the fact that he had chosen to stand directly behind her instead of beside her. She'd assumed that he'd come to offer her comfort in the form of his arms. But, how could he do that standing behind her?
Of course, that question was quickly answered when his hands came to rest on the edge of the wall near her elbows but not quite touching.
She realized that he was once again embracing her, but this time without actually touching her. Ron's long arms and her slighter than his frame allowed him to engulf her within the confines of his arms and body even though he was able to keep a good four inches or so between them. Certainly, that didn't stop his body heat from reaching out to her like a gentle touch.
Hermione had expected this to be another one of those times where their shared moment was spent in nearly complete silence, so she startled a little when he spoke with his voice so near her left ear.
"How are you?"
She only tensed slightly then took a quick deep breath and gave the answer that she'd dispensed so many times since she'd regained consciousness at Shell Cottage that it was merely an unconscious response.
"I'm fine." She brought her arms up to cross in front of her chest in an attempt to hold in the anguish that wanted to escape.
His exasperated breath ruffled her hair a bit, but it was then that she felt his thumbs lightly rubbing each side of both of her elbows that had been left resting on the top of the wall.
"It's me, Hermione. You don't have to pretend for my benefit." His voice was so soft that it was like a light stroke upon her weary soul.
"I was there. I know what they put you through; well, I heard enough to put the pieces together to create an all too vivid picture. You're one of the strongest women I know, Hermione, and you proved that strength even more in the last twenty-four hours. So don't you dare think that you have to be all stubborn and hide from me that fact that you are hurting and scared."
Tears were again filling her eyes, and she knew that she couldn't respond without her anguish flowing through in her words. Even though he'd shown a great deal of maturity these last few months (the episode with him running out on Harry and her notwithstanding), Hermione was reluctant to admit to Ron what she had endured and how it had affected her.
She didn't want his emotions to dictate his actions the next time they came face to face with that Lestrange bitch; therefore, she chose to remain quiet. However, she took a slight step back so that her back came into just the slightest contact with Ron's front and her shoulders were barely pressing into his chest. She just needed the soothing touch she'd grown accustomed to the past few months and hoped that her silence wouldn't give him the wrong impression or make him angry.
Apparently it did neither. He continued his light ministrations with his thumbs before he wrapped his hands around her elbows.
"God, Hermione, it killed me, listening to your screams and not being able to get to you. You don't know how much I wish they would've just taken me like I begged them to, because every time that bitch hit you with that blasted curse, she might as well been hitting me too. And then knowing what that effing Greyback had done to Bill and what he could've done to you . . . I couldn't breath. I could've killed them all with my bare hands."
Tears were flowing freely down Hermione's cheeks now, but she resisted the urge to wipe them away, because she would have to disturb Ron's hold on her arms if she did.
When he spoke next, his voice was filled with raw emotion. "After all we've been through together…the three of us…that is the most frightened I've ever been. I've never felt so helpless. I could've lost you then and…and…oh, shit, Hermione."
Ron's arms came around her so quickly that she didn't have time to react; therefore, her arms were trapped still crossed over her chest. His hold on her was crushing and agony on her already pained body. Had they both not been sobbing, she may have asked him to let up a bit sooner than she did.
However, after several moments had passed, she finally choked out, "Ronald …arms …too tight."
Ron had dropped his arms so quickly that Hermione thought that it was much like she had just burst into flames, and he was trying his damnedest not to get burnt. However, Hermione wasn't ready for the comfort of Ron's arms to be over with just yet, so she quickly spun around and threw her arms around his neck and pulled him to her. Ron's arms immediately wrapped around her once again, and she found her head resting against his chest just under his chin.
Hermione closed her eyes and let the emotions of the moment flow through her as she took some deep calming breaths. In the process, she was treated to the wonderful scent of Ron and a delightful aftershave that he must've borrowed from Bill after his shower. For some unexplainable reason, a serenity that she'd never felt before washed over her, and she suddenly knew that they were all going to be all right. They had to be. They'd come through the victors in so many battles that they couldn't possibly come to the end and not be the champions.
Her mind, body and soul at ease for the first time since the horrifying episode with Bellatrix Lestrange, Hermione softly said, "I'm fine, Ronald. Really."
Hermione not only heard but felt the growl that rumbled through Ron just before he gave a warning, "Hermione."
She pulled away from him then but didn't break contact. She merely slid her hands from around his neck to rest on the pectoral muscles of his chest. Setting her watery eyes on his slightly less watery eyes, Hermione gave him a small reassuring smile before she started to plead her case with him.
"Honestly, Ron. I am fine." Before he could interrupt, she quickly continued. "That's not to say that I wasn't absolutely terrified during the situation or that my body isn't extremely sore from it. But, I'm here. I'm still alive, and thank God that other than the soreness and the horrid memories, I came through it pretty much unscathed. Think of Neville's poor parents. It could've been a lot worse. I don't even what to think what would've happen had the werewolf got a hold of me."
"Also, don't you realize what happened back there, Ron? We beat them again. Harry beat him again. He's got to be getting rather upset that Harry keeps slipping through his fingers. I know we've got so far to go yet, and what we've faced in the past isn't going to be anything close to the dangers that are coming in the too near future. But don't you see that all of these little wins just make me sure that in the end, everything is going to be alright."
"So, when I say that I'm fine. I am fine because I've know that I've got two of the bravest, smartest, most talented wizards by my side in a fight that will help my children and their children to lead a better life. I also know that those two wizards will do everything in their power to protect me. I just hope that they both know that I'd do whatever I can for them, even if it does involve the occasional nagging."
Ron snorted a little at the last comment. Hermione was sure that he would argue the point that her nagging couldn't be described as "occasional" especially in their current quest, but he quickly turned somber again.
"You know, Hermione, I was sure I was going to lose you. Don't ever do that to me again."
Hermione couldn't help but chuckle and shake her head. She lightly brushed the fringe on Ron's forehead out of his eyes and gave him a warm smile. However, the smile quickly dissipated and her eyes widened when Ron's hands moved to each side of her face and his thumbs gently began to caress her cheeks. Hermione's heart swelled at the gesture as well as the look in his eyes.
Her breath caught when she realized that Ron's face was moving closer to hers. Her eyes had just fluttered closed, and she felt just the slightest softness of his lips on hers when a shout from the direction of the cottage caused them both to jerk apart.
"Oi, little brother! Fleur said to let you know it's almost time to eat."
Ron let out a long sigh and pulled Hermione back into the embrace of his arms while he mumbled, "Now I know how Ginny felt."
Hermione pushed back slightly confused. "What?"
"Never mind. Long story. Anyway, we better get you in and settled in front of a heaping plate of food. I've got the strangest feeling that Fleur has picked that habit up from my mum."
Ron gave her a genuine smile and stepped around Hermione to direct her toward the cottage. They had taken a few steps when he pulled her to a stop.
"Hermione, I just want you to know that I'm going to do my damnedest to not let anyone or anything else hurt you. I need you to know that."
Hermione smiled back at him. "Me, too, Ron. Me, too."