HERMIONE'S WORST NIGHTMARE
Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns all the characters, etc., mentioned in this story.
What happened inside Shell Cottage while Harry Apparated with Dobby and Griphook in DH? Find out in these missing scenes. The night from hell continues for Hermione in her dreams as she can't calm down immediately following the torture. Determined to make up for walking away from her months earlier, Ron sits with her through her nightmares and gets more than he bargained for.
This story could be slipped right into DH up until the funeral for Dobby. However, I decided to have a little fun with it after that.
A/N: This is actually the first fanfic I ever wrote. Took me 2.5 years to get up the nerve to publish. Hope you like it. My thanks to Fems, for giving me the push to share.
Chapter 1: Arrival
Shell Cottage, Bill and Fleur's, Bill and Fleur's, Shell Cottage.
Ron concentrated on those words over and over again. He visualized his brother's cottage as the compressing Apparition bands enveloped him. Deliberation, destination, and determination; those were the essential elements that would deliver him to safety. It was the most important Apparition of his life, but it wasn't his safety that was uppermost in his mind; it was Hermione's. Suddenly, the pressure ceased and Ron had Apparated, kneeling on the ground, with an unconscious Hermione in his arms. They were beyond the reach of the Protego Totalum charm surrounding Shell Cottage.
"Hermione! Hermione!" he half whispered to her urgently. She did not respond. His fingers moved swiftly to her throat trying to find a pulse. They became wet with blood. After a moment that felt like years, he found it. "Lumos" he said and the stolen wand tip ignited. He quickly examined the cut on her throat from Bellatrix Lestrange's knife. It was long but seemed to be a surface cut; he didn't think it needed a tourniquet. He wondered vaguely what he would use if it had been deeper, his shirt maybe?
He looked about him. Judging by the dark silhouette of the trees against the night sky and the break in the tree line where the road turned, he was at the end of the laneway of his brother's cottage. It lay in darkness from the road; visible only if you knew it was there to look for. His heart was pounding. They were so close to real safety; to help.
"Nox," he said as he slid his left arm under her knees and supported her back with his right to pick her up. As he walked briskly towards the cottage she moaned. His heart skipped a beat in relief as she slowly regained consciousness and looked around terrified. He could feel her begin to shake in his arms.
The torture has stopped, Hermione thought. What was happening now? She could scarcely put thought together. She opened her eyes. There was darkness all around. After a moment she realized she was being carried. Oh no! Not Greyback! She was being taken for more torture in a different form. She began to struggle with the little strength she had left.
Ron held her closer to steady her as the sudden resistance threatened to destabilize him. He reassured her immediately. "It's Ron! I've got you! I've got you! We've escaped. Dobby helped us. I'm taking you to Bill and Fleur's house. Sorry for the bumpy ride. You're going to be OK. You're safe now. You're safe, Hermione." He spoke quickly, as much to calm his nerves as it was to reassure her. He could feel her freeze initially and the slowly begin to relax but she held on to Ron as tightly as she could given her energy as he carried her to the house.
As she had regained consciousness, a cloud had moved and opened up a sliver of moonlight. He had seen her eyes before the realization that it was Ron carrying her. The look of abject terror tightened like a fist around his stomach. He clenched his teeth and cursed the Death Eaters anew under his breath. He had never seen her look so terrified. He hoped he would never see it again.
"I'm alive?" she whispered hoarsely. Her hands groped at Ron's shirt.
The words made Ron's chest feel like it was in a vice. "Of course, you are." He tried to sound confident rather than relieved. A lump formed in his throat. He swallowed it down. You are not going to break now Weasley! She needs you! He scolded himself.
"Harry? Where's Harry?" she said suddenly, raising her head off his shoulder with difficulty. "Is he OK?"
"He and Dobby should be around here somewhere. He threw me one of the wands we got hold of to get you out of there. The last thing I saw before Disapparating, was Harry, Dobby and the goblin together, Bellatrix was screaming, but wandless. Harry had a wand, Hermione. I'm pretty sure they got out."
She relaxed again and settled into his arms as he carried her. Vaguely she thought he could have used a charm to float her to the house, but even feeling as she did, she felt better holding on to Ron, drawing strength from him, her arms wrapped around his neck, her head on his shoulder. Ron was safety. How close she had come to death. She would have welcomed it rather than go through more of the torture curse. She would have welcomed it rather than be given to Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf. Thinking of him made her shudder and begin to shake again. She could smell him. He had come offensively close to her; sniffing her like a hungry dog. She unconsciously held on to Ron a little tighter, as a sniffle escaped her.
Ron shifted her slightly and rested his head against hers, attempting to give her a little comfort. "You're OK. You're safe now. I won't let anything happen to you. I promise." As he rounded the back of the cottage, he noticed a light on in the kitchen and a bedroom upstairs. Looks like the others made it fine, he thought. Arriving at the back door, he kicked at it, and waited impatiently for the door to open. He was about to yell for his brother when he saw movement behind the door's inside curtains.
Bill Weasley opened the door expectantly, wand at the ready after the last knock, and saw his youngest brother carrying a bloody, bruised, and barely conscious Hermione Granger. She lifted her head slightly at the opening door, squinting at the light from the kitchen behind him that assaulted her. The effort drained her of what little strength she had. Her head lopped down again against Ron's neck, seeking sanctuary.
Bill scanned the pair in front of him. Before him was, his littlest brother who was off helping Undesirable Number 1, Harry Potter, lead the fight against Lord Voldemort. His brother, he knew, suffered from an inferiority complex. The sixth son trying to find his way in the family; a boy who accidentally became best friends with Harry Potter, the Chosen One to end the Dark Lord's reign. He wondered if Ron understood how proud the family was of him. For that matter, he wondered if Ron knew just how much they worried for him and Harry and Hermione too. Their mother had not slept peacefully since he left. At this moment, the worry was unfortunately justified. But, whatever they had just gone through, they were here and whole—more or less. Ron looked pale and exhausted. Worry lines seemed permanently etched into his forehead. Bill moved to take Hermione from his arms but Ron wouldn't let her go. "What the hell's happened?"
Ron was annoyed. Couldn't that wait? "I can't tell you Bill, just please…"
"Yeah, all right, of course. Fleur! Help!" Bill yelled as Fleur appeared at the base of the stairs coming immediately from the small bedroom where she had been tending to Mr. Ollivander, the wand maker who had been kidnapped well over a year earlier. The other escaped prisoners, Dean and Luna, had been sitting at the kitchen table and had moved to back up Bill with butcher knives just in case it wasn't who they expected at the door. "There are more casualties!" Bill yelled as he stepped aside to unblock the doorway.
"Harry should be right behind me, so if you hear noise, it'll be him," Ron said quickly. At least he had better be, he thought.
Bill nodded, indicating he could see Harry in the distance, but he wasn't coming to the house. Suddenly Harry's pain-filled yell for help pierced the air.
One foot on the threshold, Ron looked back with concern. Torn between seeing to Hermione and helping Harry, he froze momentarily. Something was wrong. Bill alleviated the tug of war within his little brother.
"I'll go help him. You get her inside," said Bill. He suddenly felt very odd giving Ron an order. Perhaps Ron wasn't his little brother anymore—just a younger brother.
"Thanks," said Ron as he made his way through the kitchen ignoring the terrified looks on Luna and Dean. Really, there was no contest. Hermione's welfare was paramount in his mind.
"Mon Dieu!" Fleur exclaimed as she saw Hermione in full light. "Put her in ze room you stayed in," said Fleur. But, she had to find out what was going to be needed for her other casualties too. Hermione moaned as Ron had entered sidestepping his way through the back door. Fleur took that as a good sign and decided she could follow outside. "I'll be right back."
They all followed Bill out to Harry as Ron continued through the kitchen, weaving around the table and chairs. He knocked the table and some milk spilt over a platter of cheese and fruit the others had been feasting on. Ron ignored the food, glad they had left for a moment. He couldn't deal with questions right now. He hoped they hadn't said much to his brother and sister-in-law. He made his way upstairs carrying Hermione who was still crying.
Though just a cottage, it had four small bedrooms upstairs. He pushed open the door to the small blue and white room he had stayed in before. Nothing had changed. The lamp came on magically as he entered, taking care not to hit her head in the narrow doorway. He bent to set her down on the bed when a sharp squeal escaped her and she went limp. His eyes widened, frightened he had hurt her more. An earlier visit to St. Mungo's flashed briefly to his mind. No, she would be fine. She had to be. He stared at her in the full light and was momentarily frozen at the sight of her. Blood continued to flow from her neck and stain her clothes which were full of slashes. He swore to himself, not letting the words be audible and possibly frighten her if she were somewhere close to consciousness.
Fleur came back within a minute and set about getting first aid supplies for her newest human patient. Together they sat her up and gave an unconscious Hermione as much Skele-Gro and pain reliever as they could get into her, though not sure how much actually went in as opposed to trickling out the side of her mouth. Fleur was concerned. The action had not roused her. She continued on, hoping the medicine would ease some of the pain she and Ron were about to inflict on her as they examined her.
"'elp me get some of dez bloody clozes off so we can see where to treat 'er," Fleur ordered. Ron was jerked away from his haunting memory by her voice. He hesitated only a second; thinking of Hermione's privacy, but her need for help outweighed any discomfort for either of them in that regard. Fleur looked up at Ron, "Do we dare call a 'ealer?"
"Not if we can help it. The fact we're here has to be kept secret. But, if you know one who is friendly to Muggle-borns, and you think her injuries are too much for us to care for, then I'll take her wherever you say. Harry's location can not be given away, or everything we've gone through will have been for nothing. You've got some training in this don't you? They gave you a little medical training after the attack on Bill? Please, help her," he pleaded. He could barely hold the tears in check, but managed to do so when he looked at his sister-in-law directly.
Ron's reference to Hermione's blood-status stopped any further questions from Fleur as he had hoped. Snatchers had been torturing Muggle-borns and even half-bloods for months now, turning them in for bounty. The Weasleys, pure-bloods but sympathizers and considered traitors to their own kind, were targets under the new regime. Bill could not work anymore due to their sympathies. Kindness and acceptance did not come without a price.
Fleur had glanced briefly at Ron as he spoke. The look of desperation and fear for Hermione was unmistakably love, she thought. She noticed that he had not reacted to her Veela presence at all when she entered the room. That was the mark of a man whose heart was claimed. If he didn't know how deeply he felt about Hermione before, she was sure he would now. She knew only too well how coming close to losing someone you love rearranges all priorities. She thought briefly of the night Bill had been attacked by Fenrir Greyback and then shook herself back to the present.
Slightly uncomfortable, Ron helped Fleur remove an outer shirt and Hermione's shoes and socks. He discovered she had slipped the beaded bag in her right sock to hide it. He could hardly believe she still had it with her. It explained why most of her injuries were on her left side. She was protecting the bag underneath her. Noticing some blood on Hermione's side, Fleur moved her tank undershirt upwards slightly to examine her wounds. Ron winced when he saw how purple Hermione's side was. Bellatrix had used more than the Cruciatus on her.
Fleur looked over the bruises and surmised that Hermione had either been kicked repeatedly or had the Cruciatus used on her multiple times in the same spot. The body contortions could be so violent that the recipient could inadvertently break their own bones from the reaction.
"I 'eard 'er before when I was coming in ze cottage. She screamed when you set 'er down?" Ron nodded. "Look at zese bruises, I'm sure she 'as at least one broken rib wizout even a 'ealer's exam. Ze Skele-Gro will start working on zat, and any ozer broken bones. Let us 'ope zere are no internal problems," she said as she eyed Hermione's stomach and abdomen with concern. She replaced Hermione's shirt. "We'll keep an eye on her temperature. She's very pale, but zat's probably from shock and pain. I gave 'er enough medicine for now, I can give 'er full doses of each in a little bit and if zat doesn't do ze trick, I will take 'er to ze 'ealer, Ron. Remember, you are a victim of Spattergroit and can not be seen as well. It will do 'er no good to put yourself in additional danger."
He was about to argue that his cover was blown now, but it didn't matter at this point. All that mattered was Hermione.
"When ze others arrived, Bill sent a Patronus to evacuate your family from ze Burrow, but 'e 'as gone to check just in case. Oh, I guess your illness doesn't matter now," she realized as her mind began to work more clearly.
Ron shook his head, but said nothing. He swallowed, noticing his throat felt very dry. This night was tearing his family's whole world apart. He turned pale and felt a need to vomit but fought it. His eyes darted around the room searching for answers that were not there. He looked back at Hermione. She was all he could do anything for at this moment. This was where he was needed most.
"Please, unwrap zose," Fleur said as she indicated some bandages. Grateful for something to do, he quickly fumbled the wrappings off some gauze and handed it to her.
In addition to the bruises, Hermione had several cuts from the falling chandelier; the particularly nasty one at her throat, from Bellatrix' knife, was within a centimetre of fatal consequences. It was long, but shallow. "Zese are wand cuts." She looked to Ron who would confirm nothing. Some were open and still bleeding, minor ones had begun to coagulate. A black eye hinted at a broken nose. Her face was terribly swollen on the left side. Her left ankle was swollen and purple, and looked tremendously painful. Fleur noticed some blood staining the quilt and realized there was more to do for her.
Fleur raised Hermione's knee next to her and then instructed Ron on the other side of the bed to pull her knee towards him. The manoeuvre rolled Hermione efficiently on to her side so Fleur could examine her back. There were slashes right through her shirt, the result of more wand work. Fleur tutted, cut the remainder of the back of Hermione's tank shirt and then put a Dittany soaked compress to her back and rolled Hermione back onto it.
"OK. If you zink she'll want some privacy from you, I suggest you leave while I continue. I'll put 'er in a dressing gown." Ron nodded. "'ow many more are coming?" She couldn't bring herself to ask Harry outside, or to tell Ron yet about the elf.
"Uh, three. I heard Harry. They should be here by now. I'll be just outside the door for a minute if you need anything for me to get. Then, I better see why Harry hasn't come in yet." He was torn where he should go next. Fleur looked uncomfortable and opened her mouth to say something and then seemed to decide against it. He looked like he couldn't handle any more at that moment.
Ron left the room and stood on the small landing outside the door listening for instructions, happy to fetch whatever was needed and to gain a little breathing space from the fear that had crept over him. However, the moment he closed the door, he wanted to be back in there with her. The vision of Hermione's lacerated back came to him and he looked down at his sleeves. Hermione's blood was on his right sleeve. The sight made him want to be sick. His chest compressed and his breathing shuttered a moment as he took it in. "Tergio," he said angrily, pointing the stolen Pettigrew wand at his sleeve. It siphoned off the blood.
A steady repetitive scraping sound drifted in from the small open window in Fleur and Bill's bedroom. He had stayed at this cottage for more than a month and knew the grounds like the back of his hand after his many walks to get out of the house and to be alone. There was nothing in that direction but gardens. He was drawn to it; something was wrong. The window afforded Ron a view of Harry. He was digging. He peered closer and the darkness just before the break of day showed the silhouette of an elf lying nearby, ominously still. His heart sank to his stomach as his chest tightened even more.
"No! No!" he cried, as he pounded the window frame with his fist. The frame splintered, but he didn't care. He shook his head in disbelief and cursed to himself. This can not be happening!
As he retreated from the window and turned back angrily to the doorway, he saw Dean coming up the stairs; his face sombre. "Ron," he said gently, almost apologetically.
"Dobby," Ron said quietly as he approached the landing and closed the distance between them. Fleur's voice floated to him through the door. That was a good sign. Hermione must be conscious. He felt like he was in a very strange state; his senses attuned to everything in the house. He could smell the salt air; he felt every heavy footstep he took forward. And sound—the digging outside, the creak of every floorboard and stair, and voices lowered in respect and care. His eyes took in the anguished expression on Dean's face. Dean nodded his head, his lips together in a grim line, barely able to look at Ron. "I gotta help. Could you find me a spade? I've got to tell Hermione first though," said Ron dismally.
Dean nodded again and turned to go with heavy footsteps. "Yeah, I'll help too," he said.
Hermione's muffled voice came through the door and the vice that had been gripping his stomach released slightly and he drew a deep, shuddering breath of relief. He could hear Fleur questioning her.
"Do you know who I am, where you are?
"Fleur. Last time… your beautiful wedding. I don't know where I am. I've never been here."
"Zis is our 'ome. Shell Cottage," she smiled.
"Where does it 'urt 'ermione?"
"Everywhere. I just feel bruised all over. My left ankle hurts more than anywhere else right now. It was jumped on." She stopped, realizing she might have said too much.
"'ow did zis happen?"
"I'm sorry. I can't say unless Harry thinks it's OK."
Ron smiled, listening through the door as he bowed his head against it in relief. His shoulders relaxed and lowered from their tense position. She's all there he thought. Visions of Neville's parents had entered his mind. He did not know how often the Cruciatus had to be done to a person to cause insanity, nor did he want to know. She was OK, that's all that mattered. The fact that Hermione had awakened earlier and asked about Harry had slipped his mind in the worry of her relapse into unconsciousness.
Fleur told Hermione she had placed a medicated compress under her and that she would be due for more medication in about an hour. The Skele-Gro was apparently not the full strength as in hospital so it would not work as fast.
He was about to ask if it was OK that he come in again, when he heard Hermione asking for him. He burst through the door immediately. She was pale and shaking and in need of seeing him and Harry for herself. He went right to her and sat, facing her beside her on the bed and took her hand. She grasped his with both her hands, tightly, hanging on desperately, her eyes becoming glassy.
As he looked at her, Ron darted his eyes sideways towards Fleur to remind Hermione of that additional presence in anything she said. She gave a slight nod indicating her understanding, but emotion overwhelmed her as her eyes drank him in. She could not stop the tears. She was unable to keep her mouth from arching down and trembling. "Thank you." She took a shuddering breath and repeated to him, "Thank you." The words were so small, so inadequate, compared to how grateful she was that he had gotten her out of Malfoy Manor and saved her life.
"Merlin's beard, Hermione." He shook his head, and pulled her in for a hug and just held her as she cried in relief at being safe and sound. After a moment he looked back at Fleur. "Maybe a cup of tea?" he asked.
"Oui, of course," she responded and left the room immediately.
Once alone, her voice drifted up to him. "I thought I would never see you again. I thought…" She could not finish and clung to Ron anew, thinking the worst of the crying was over, she found herself sobbing into his neck.
"Shhhhh. You're safe now. Promise." Ron held her as tightly as he could. Her words echoed his own fears and the emptiness that was threatening to consume him since the torture. He felt hollow, like a walking shell. A tear escaped down his cheek and he wiped it off before she could see. It wouldn't be helpful if the consoler was crying too would it, he thought. Slowly they each gave each other what they needed, knowledge that both were safe and whole and the sobbing began to ease. It felt good to hold her after everything and he was reluctant to end the embrace. The ordeal was over. He noticed the bloodied Ditanny compresses on the nightstand and his eyes moved to her back. It seemed completely healed; no blood coming through the dressing gown now. A little relief went through him finally. He pulled back to look at her and talk. He gently brushed her hair back out of her face, stalling for time.
"Hermione, I have something to tell you," he said cautiously as he tried to figure out how to tell her. His hands remained holding her at her elbows.
She braced herself. His tone was guarded. She searched his face, and then looked past him to the empty, open doorway. Maybe Harry was not alright. Panic entered her eyes. "Harry? Is he OK? Where is he?" She knew Harry would be outside the door pacing the way she would if he were hurt.
"Harry is fine," he reassured her. "I have good news and bad. In the cellar, we found two people being kept prisoner; Luna and Mr. Ollivander."
Hermione gasped. "Luna! Mr. Ol…Are they alright?"
"Luna seems fine. She cut the ropes to free us. Ollivander had been there quite a while; he'll need help and time to get better. They are both here."
"Oh, my God!" She took a moment to digest the information and then looked back at Ron. "That was the good news?" He nodded. "And the bad news?" she asked cautiously.
"Someone was hurt tonight." He took a breath, cleared his throat and continued slowly, "Someone was killed in the escape. Harry is outside—digging a grave."
"Who?" she asked in fear as she swallowed, trying to steel herself. Her mind was still slightly cloudy. She thought of Dean for a moment and her face lost a little colour.
"Dobby," he said quietly, his face contorting slightly trying to contain his own emotions at the whole ordeal.
"No! No!" she began to weep again and leaned in one more time for consolation, knowing he would need it too. Not an elf! Not an elf for me. Not Dobby, she thought. They held each other a few moments, and then Ron pulled back as she took deep breaths for control.
"Hermione, if you're OK, I want to go and help dig his grave. I've got to do something. I…"
Hermione nodded. "Yes, of course. I'm fine. Go, but Ron, I want to be there when…"
"OK," he nodded, and stood up and kissed her hair, breathing in the scent for just a moment as he gave her a quick reassuring one-armed hug and turned to leave. At the door, he turned back to look at her puffy and bruised face and winked. He passed Fleur on the stairs on her way with a tray of tea and buttered toast.
Bill entered the cottage a short while later. Hermione could hear the slow, heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. He stopped in the doorway to another bedroom. "Luna. How's Mr. Ollivander?" he said. Hermione craned her head but could not hear the response. "We are close to being ready to bury the elf. If you want to be there, then now is the time to come down." Luna immediately excused herself and got up to go join the others at the grave.
Bill appeared in the doorway where Hermione and Fleur sat. "We'll be burying the elf in just a moment. Ron said you wanted to…"
Hermione nodded, set the tea down on the night stand and began to get out of bed over protests that she should rest.
"You're too stubborn for your own good, you know. He would understand, but, I am sure he would also be honoured," he conceded.
"He saved our lives tonight. I have to go." Hermione said determined. Bill and Fleur then helped her through the darkness to the newly dug grave. Griphook remained in the third bedroom.
Arriving at the grave, she went to stand beside Ron. She winced, but stood on her right foot and leaned against Ron, his arm around her.
(Grave side "ceremony")
As Hermione turned to head back to the cottage, she winced in pain as she put weight on her left ankle. Ron grabbed her arm to stop her from falling.
"Hermione," he said as he moved to help her.
"I'm perfectly capable of…" She tried to assert herself, wanting to take back some control that the Death Eaters had stripped away from her.
He cut her off gently. "I know you are. Just, let me help until the Skele-Gro kicks in enough, OK? The ground is uneven. I'll set you down when we're closer to the cottage where there's mown lawn if you want." Then he scooped her up in his arms before she could argue and headed back towards the cottage. Bill and Fleur, following a little behind, exchanged knowing looks and smiled.
"Ron?" said Hermione.
"You gave him your shoes," she said quietly.
"Yeah," he said a little hoarsely.
A sniffle escaped her as she hugged him. "You're a good man, Ronald Weasley."
Ron blushed in the darkness. "Let's get you back to bed."
"Ron, I need to stay up. Find out what Harry wants to do," she argued. "I am feeling better," she reassured him.
As they neared the light, he looked at her bruised face, a lump coming to his throat. He set her down and she walked into Bill and Fleur's kitchen this time. To Ron, it felt like a small triumph. Pride was erupting inside him as he watched her. Some colour had returned to her face, but it was still very puffy. He hoped she didn't look in a mirror for a while.
(Interviews of Griphook and Ollivander take place.)