Author's Note: I've taken some direct writing from the book to start off the story as background, all of it belongs to J.K. Rowling, I own nothing but the later plot.
The echoing bang of the slammed cellar door had not died away before there was a terrible, drawn-out scream from directly above them.
"HERMIONE!" Ron bellowed, and he started to writhe and struggle against the ropes tying him and Harry together, so that Harry staggered. "HERMIONE!"
"Be quiet!" Harry said. "Shut up, Ron, we need to work out a way—"
"HERMIONE! HERMIONE!" Ron yelled again.
Hermione screamed again from overhead, and they could hear Bellatrix screaming too, but her words were inaudible, for Ron shouted again, "HERMIONE! HERMIONE!"
Within seconds Luna was back with the nail, Harry could feel her digging at the rope's tough fibers to work the knots free. From upstairs they heard Bellatrix's voice.
"I'm going to ask you again! Where did you get this sword? Where?"
"We found it — we found it — PLEASE!" Hermione screamed again; Ron struggled harder than ever, and the rusty nail slipped onto Harry's wrist.
From above came Bellatrix's voice.
"You're lying, filthy Mudblood, and I know it! You have been inside my vault at Gringotts! Tell the truth, tell the truth!"
Another terrible scream—
"What else did you take? What else have you got? Tell me the truth or, I swear, I shall run you through with this knife!"
Harry felt the ropes fall away and turned, rubbing his wrists, to see Ron running around the cellar, looking up at the low ceiling, searching for a trapdoor.
Hermione was screaming again: The sound went through Harry like physical pain. Barely conscious of the fierce prickling of his scar, he too started to run around the cellar, feeling the walls for he hardly knew what, knowing in his heart that it was useless.
"What else did you take, what else? ANSWER ME! CRUCIO!"
Hermione's screams echoed off the walls upstairs, Ron was half sobbing as he pounded the walls with his fists.
Hermione slept through the whole day and into the evening, and with good reason. Her torture by Bellatrix Lestrange had been malicious and she was very weak. As she slept, Ron had helped Harry bury Dobby and eventually they too had gone in to get some rest.
The second night at the cottage, Ron brought up Hermione some dinner. She hadn't eaten anything all day, she hadn't talked, she hadn't moved, just slept. Ron would check in on her every so often, seeing if she had woken, or needed anything. He would sit by her side, just in case. Maybe she would wake after having a nightmare, or she would be confused with where she was, whatever it may be, he wanted to make sure he was right there for her. Harry checked in on her also, sometimes both boys would just sit next to her bed, watching over their friend, hoping she would be alright.
After putting her dinner tray on the nightstand, Ron sat next to her bed and simply watched her sleep. For the most part she was still, but every few minutes she would twitch. He feared she was dreaming of her torture at Malfoy Manor and every time a look of pain came across her bruised face, his heart would ache.
But after a few seconds, her body would relax and she would be in a deep sleep once more. She's so beautiful he thought as he watched her. Even though her face was cut and bruised and her hair messy from the fight, he looked past all that and saw the honey gold highlights in her chestnut hair, her skin that was untouched by bruises, was light and creamy. How she had the most perfect button nose, her lips, though chapped, still looked pink and soft, and how even with no makeup, she still looked pretty.
Ron scooted his chair closer to her bed, and reached his hand out to take hold of hers, it was warm.
Just as he did so, she stirred. Ron froze.
Ever so slowly, she opened her eyes, staring straight up at the ceiling.
Ron held still, not knowing if he should say anything.
Her gaze lowered to her hand that was covered by his, she blinked. Then finally, she looked up and found his eyes. She would know those eyes anywhere.
A small smile spread across her face as she looked at Ron, he returned her smile and squeezed her hand a little tighter.
"Hermione… how are you feeling?" Ron asked in a low voice, almost a whisper as he was trying to hide how anxious he was about how she was doing.
Her lips parted, "Okay..." she managed to say. "Been better." she smiled.
Ron warmed at her smile; he loved it when she smiled.
"Well, you must be starved, here I've brought you some dinner…it's not much, but I didn't think you'd want a whole lot right away, but I thought you should at least have something. Are you thirsty? Can I get you some water? What about more blankets?—"
"Really! It's no trouble! Anything you want, I'll get it!—"
"Blimey Hermione, I was so worried about you…I felt so helpless, I couldn't get out of the cellar, Harry and I, we just couldn't escape…and then Wormtail, his silver hand, it just, it just turned on him, but we couldn't deal with that, I just had to get to you—"
"But Dobby came, he was so brave, bless him, but Bellatrix's knife, she killed him, we couldn't do anything!— Bellatrix! When we ran up the stairs, I saw you, I saw what she had done to you, I could kill her, I could just—"
"Ron!" Hermione managed to yelp out. "Breathe…please, just breathe."
Ron hadn't really noticed that his voice had been getting louder and louder with everything he said, nor that he was breathing quite heavily as he got so worked up. Trying to control himself, he took a deep breath.
"I'm fine now…we're at the cottage, we're all safe. I just, I just want you here with me until I fall asleep, I don't want to be by myself tonight." Hermione told him.
Ron looked her straight in the eye and said, "I'm not going anywhere, I promise." He lifted her hand and kissed it, then placing it in his lap; he started to gently massage her palm.
She could feel her eyes starting to become heavy again as she looked at him, "Thank you" she said, then her eyes closed and she fell back asleep once more.
Later that evening when everyone else was asleep, Hermione woke. She had been sleeping so much, her stomach finally won the battle over being tired and rumbled with quite a force. She sat up and looked over at where Ron had left her dinner plate, but it was no longer there. Replacing it was a small plate of cheese and crackers and a glass of water. 'Ron must have brought those before he went to bed' she thought, smiling.
The small cottage was dark, but warm from the fireplace that still burned late into the night. After Hermione ate her cheese and crackers and drank the water, she already started to feel much better with something in her stomach. But what she wanted to do more than anything at the moment was take a nice hot bath. It had been quite some time since they had clean hot water, and a bath sounded marvelous.
Getting out of bed, she poked her head out the door, and peered down the hallway, it was dark and quiet. She made her way to the bathroom, tiptoeing, being as quiet as she could. She reached the bathroom and quietly closed the door behind her, then turned on the light, dimming it to a low glow. The bathroom was small, but cute and cozy. Fleur had good taste. The bathroom had light wood cabinets and looked very handmade. The walls were painted light lavender purple with small pictures of sea shells and on the side wall was a tiny window looking out to the ocean.
Hermione walked over to the window and peered out into the night, watching the wave's splash on the shore. Lifting the lock, she cracked open the window to let in some fresh ocean air and took a deep breath. She loved the smell of the ocean.
Walking over to the tub, she turned on the tap, adjusting it to the right temperature and let it begin to fill with hot steamy water.
"Hmm, I wonder…" turning around, she opened the cabinet below the sink. On the left was a bottle of lavender-vanilla bubble bath soap.
"Perfect." she said, smiling.
Turning back to the tub, she opened the bottle and poured a little of the bath soap into the stream of hot water, instantly, bubbles started to form and engulfed the bathroom with the wonderful scent of vanilla and lavender.
As the bath continued to fill, Hermione faced the mirror and took herself in for the first time since they had arrived at Shell Cottage. Her hair was a mess. Her clothes had dirt on them, she hadn't even changed into her pajamas she had been so tired when they finally made it into the little cottage.
Slowly she took off her t-shirt and jeans until she was left in her underwear and gazed at her reflection. She counted at least 10 bruises. Considering her torture at Malfoy Manor she was surprised she didn't have more. She shuddered at the thought.
Looking away, she went back to the tub and turned off the faucet, the bath was now filled with hot, bubbly water, just waiting for her. Slipping off her bra and underwear, she climbed in. It was heaven. She submerged her body up to her neck in the hot liquid, feeling her skin take in its heat, savoring it. She splashed the water on her face and in her hair running her hands through her tresses, trying to undo the tangles. She rubbed her arms and legs with the soap, ridding of all the dirt and grime until her skin was clean, then once again, falling back into the waters comforting embrace.
Hermione was so at ease; she hardly noticed when the door opened.
"AH! Hermione! I- I'm so sorry! I didn't know you were in here!"
Eyes snapping open, Hermione whipped her head around to see Ron flailing around the bathroom, blabbering on, trying to avert his eyes to anywhere but her naked body.
Quickly gathering all the bubbles that were left in the tub, she pulled them up around her and hugged her knees to her chest.
"Ron! Calm down, it's ok!"
"Oh my god, I didn't even see you, I'm sorry! I should have seen the light but-"
"Ron! Shut up! You're going to wake everyone!" Hermione hissed at him.
Ron stopped mid sentence and hoped no one had heard him yelling. Panicking, he headed for the door to give Hermione her privacy when she spoke.
He stopped, with his hand on the doorknob.
She waited for him to turn around, but when he didn't she spoke again.
"It's alright…I'm not mad at you for walking in. It's my fault for having a bath this late, but when I woke up it sounded so good…and I really needed one." she finished with a chuckle.
Ron still hadn't moved, so she cleared her throat and said, "You know, you could stay, if you wanted."
Finally, Ron slowly turned around, but still didn't look at her; he kept his eyes glued to the floor.
Shuffling his feet, he asked, "Are you sure?" slowly raising his head to look straight into her eyes, muscling all his will power to keep his eyes on hers and not have them wander.
Smiling at him, "Yes." she said, holding out her hand for him to come over.
Hermione really wanted to be closer with Ron, she knew he shared her feelings of wanting to start something that was more than just a friendship, but she knew now was not the time. The war was still going on, they had just narrowly escaped meeting Voldemort face to face at Malfoy Manor, and they still didn't have all the horcrux's destroyed. Tonight was not the night to take their relationship to the next step, but she wanted Ron to know that she felt comfortable with him, that she wanted to be intimate without it being awkward. So she figured she's start out easy…but not too easy, she wanted to get his blood pumping. Taking a steadying breath, she spoke.
"I've got most of the dirt off, but you could wash my back if you wouldn't mind…" She turned around in the bath, so her back was to Ron, who was sitting on the floor beside the tub. His eyes bugged, trying to think if he had heard her right.
"…really?" his voice coming out a little squeakier than he would have liked. He cleared his throat quickly. "I mean, yeah, definitely, no problem."
Shaking his head to clear it, he took the soap and sponge from the holder, dipping both in the hot water; he began to scrub up her back.
Hermione closed her eyes as Ron ran the soap and sponge all over her back, scrubbing to get little bits of dirt here and there off, dipping the soap back in the water, scrubbing up the sponge again and washing her shoulders. It felt amazing, she could feel his fingers graze her skin as he washed her shoulders and down her arms, dipping the sponge in the hot water along her side, and bring it back up, grazing her breast, making her hitch her breath.
Ron was trying his best to keep his hormones in control, as his hands roamed all over Hermione's back and arms. Despite being bruised and slightly scarred from old cuts, her skin was so soft, he never wanted to let go. Ron didn't know how far Hermione wanted to take their intimacy level, he too knew now wasn't the time to start up a romantic relationship, but being this close to her made him want it even more. She had been the one to suggest he should wash her back, he thought, sliding the sponge down her side, and slightly touching the side of her breast as he brought it back up. He could hear the hitch in her breath and he smiled.
Taking a breath, he bravely, yet slowly, took the sponge in his other hand, as his right, cupped some water, and brought it over her shoulder, wiping away the suds. He started to run his fingers through her hair, releasing the tangles, and worked his way down to rub her neck, trying to knead away the knots. He could hear Hermione's breath become deeper, shallower, and she let slip a soft moan. It was like music to his ears, but it certainly didn't help with his self control. Still working the sponge in one hand, he slowly slid his other hand from her neck, around over her shoulder, massaging just below her collar bone.
Now, Hermione's head was tilted to the side to allow him better access, loving the way his strong hands felt stroking her skin. He slid his hand further and further down, along her ribs to her stomach, then, tentatively, gliding up to graze her breast. He could feel her nipple harden at his touch. He let go of the sponge, his hand gripping her shoulder as he bent his head down to kiss her neck, while his other hand continued to roam her chest.
His lips worked magic on her neck, moving up to nibble on her ear, as he whispered, "I love you." Hermione smiled as the words left his mouth, she turned her head, wanting, needing to kiss him. Getting the hint, Ron leaned in and met her inviting lips, at first it was calm and sweet, but soon their tongues started to dance in a heated passion. Reaching around, Hermione wrapped her hands around Ron's neck, drawing him closer, as he continued to massage her breasts, loving her heat, and the goose bumps that rose on her skin.
Stopping for a moment, Ron turned her around and began to lift her, Hermione stepped out of the tub and grabbed onto Ron again restoring their kiss, pushing him back against the counter. Her hands wound through his hair, as his hands skimmed all over her back, wanting to feel every inch of her smooth naked skin. Hermione pushed herself even harder into Ron, grinding her hips into his, and she could tell he liked it. Breaking the kiss, she reached her hands for his waistline, when she stopped.
She held still, her body still against Ron, taking deep breaths, trying to clear her head. Hands still on his waist, she looked up into Ron's eyes, hoping he was thinking the same thing as her. His look was soft, understanding in his eyes, and he gave her a kind smile.
Reaching around her back, he grabbed her towel and wrapped it around her. He tilted his head and gave her a loving kiss on her forehead. Wrapping his arm around her shoulder, he walked her out of the bathroom and back to his bedroom, where he opened a door that led to a little deck facing the ocean. Standing next to the wood railing, Ron moved behind her and wrapped his arms around her front, tugging the towel tight to ensure she wouldn't get cold. He moved his hands to wrap around her waist, and pulled her snug with his chest, leaning his head into her neck and took a breath. She smelled wonderful. He nuzzled his nose into her, giving her light kisses, as she turned and kissed the top of his head.
Resting his chin on her shoulder, he spoke, "One day, we'll have our own place like this, when the war is over and when everyone is safe. We'll both have good jobs and a bright future ahead of us. And when we have kids, I'll spoil them rotten."
"Oh no you won't." Hermione laughed.
"Oh yes I will." Ron said, holding her tighter, "I'll spoil them and I'll spoil you even more. I'll take you on vacations, we'll go out to dinner, and I'll buy you lots of pretty things." He stated, kissing her neck in-between words, making Hermione giggle.
They were silent for a few more minutes, just watching the waves, and the sun start to rise on the horizon. Taking a deep breath of air, this time it was Hermione who spoke, "I know Ron, one day it will be better and we will be able to live our lives without fear. As long as you're with me, everything will be ok."
"I will always be with you." Ron said, trying to put as much love into that sentence as he could. "I love you Hermione, and I always will."
"I love you too Ron."
Standing together in the silent morning, they watched the sunrise, as it gave them a little sense of peace, its light dancing off the water, bring with it a new day.
Hope you liked it…reviews are always appreciated=]