Standard disclaimers apply. I don't own Harry Potter and I make no profit from this.

The Truth At Last ... Almost

They've made it to Shell Cottage in one piece ... now all Hermione wants is some actual peace. Hermione's POV.

All she wanted was ten minutes to herself, was that too much to ask?

She loved these people, really she did ... she just needed some time to herself.

She hated the fact that they were planning to dupe Griphook and keep the sword, but she also couldn't help feeling they'd made a deal with the devil.

OK, that's a bit dramatic.

He was a cold piece of work, though, and she didn't doubt for a moment that if he could get one up on them he would.

Just like we're planning to do to him.

She knew Harry was slightly annoyed with her refusal to help them come up with idea's to get the sword away from the goblin – she could even understand why, but she just couldn't bring herself to be involved in such duplicity.

She looked back at the cottage from her vantage point in the garden; small, white and homey, quite lovely really. She's love to live somewhere like this, one day ...

Noise issued for it, as usual; snatches of conversation and shouts of laughter. Wonderful aromas wafted from the open kitchen window and she could see a pie cooling on the window sill. From somewhere upstairs Luna's voice drifted down to her, something about purple ears and waltzing. Honestly, that girl, she thought fondly, utterly mental.

It had been such a surprise to see Luna at Shell Cottage. An immense relief, too – Hermione had been so worried about her in the hands of the Death Eaters, or locked away in Azkaban.

"Want some company?"

"Hello, Ron," she smiled, but didn't turn around. "What brings you out here? I thought you'd be right in the thick of things."

"Bah," he snorted rudely, sprawling beside her on the grass, "I had to get out for a bit. Needed to breath, you know?"

"It is rather crowded," she agreed wryly. "Hey, Ron?"

"Hmm?" He shaded his eyes with one hand, gazing out to sea.

"Why do you think I'm wrong, not helping you and Harry figure out how to keep the sword from Griphook?"

"Well," he seemed to be considering his words carefully, "I think we need the sword, to destroy ... things ... so I do think you're a bit wrong. Then again," he rubbed his face, "I can understand why you don't like it, even though I disagree. I think he'd sell us out in a moment, given the right conditions – but you obviously don't ... and if you feel that strongly about not tricking him, then you're in the right by not helping us figure out how. It's not like we're getting very far with it anyway."

"Don't you feel the slightest bit bad about it, Ron?" she asked, a curious disappointment seeping through her.

"No." He said it so bluntly it surprised her.

"Why not?"

"I want this over with, Hermione. I want the ... things ... found and destroyed, and I want You-Know-Who dead. Unless you know another way to get rid of the bloody things, we need that sword. Anyway, it's like Harry said, isn't it? Griphook can have it, when we're finished with it. You know Harry will make sure he gets it. The little sod could have asked for ANYTHING, really. What made him decide on the sword? It's only because he knows we need it for something."

She hadn't really thought of it that way. Obviously she knew they needed it, but did Ron really think Griphook had been deliberately difficult? "Oh, I don't know, Ron. You can't know he only asked for the sword because he knows we need it."

"You, Hermione," taking one of her hands he studied it carefully, "are far too morally upright to even consider such a thing." He flashed a lop-sided grin and wrinkled his nose. "The rest of us mere humans, though? We know better."

"Oh, pish," she found herself blushing. "You make it sound like I'm some sort of paragon of virtue or something. I assure you, I'm not."

"Aren't you?" his voice sounded odd. "I think you are. Always doing the right thing. Always thinking about those less fortunate than you. Always fighting the good fight." He laughed suddenly, clearly embarrassed. "Or maybe I'm just unbelievably biased."

There was something in his eyes. A particular look she'd seen before, very occasionally ... and much more often, lately. She had to know.

"Why would you be biased?" She considered laughing, to lighten the mood, but couldn't bring herself to do it.

"Don't you know?" he looked directly into her eyes, his expression serious and vulnerable.

I don't know! I don't know! I know what I want it to be. Just tell me, please! Tell me I'm not imagining this. That you return my feelings.

"When Bellatrix was torturing me," she said, moving closer to him, "I could hear you, down in the cellar."

"I'm not surprised, I was panicking," he admitted, automatically draping an arm around her. "I thought she was going to kill you."

"So did I," she shivered at the memory, "but you saved me. And when you bought me here, I heard you beg Bill and Fleur to help me."

"What else was I supposed to do?" he squeezed her shoulder, "leave you out to fend for yourself?"

"I don't think that's all it was about though, was it?"

He shook his head. "You're right, as usual."

"So why have you never? I don't understand ..."

"Hermione," he pulled her closer, "please don't. Not here. Not yet."

"When?" she allowed herself to relax against him, her heart suddenly about to burst. "Soon?"

"Would you ... would you want that?" His voice cracked and he held her even tighter.

Merlin yes, I want that! More than anything. How can you not see it? She kept that to herself though, and just nodded.

I think this is the last of the missing moment type of things, from me. I'm not going to write about the destroying of Hufflepuff's cup, because I've seen it done so well, so many times, that I really couldn't add anything new to the idea. :-)

So now it's off into "what might be" land, from here on in.