The explosion slammed into the boulder Ron was taking cover behind with such force that he thought it was the last clap of doom.
Blood ran into Ron's eyes, mingling with dirt and sweat. It is the end of the world, Ron thought darkly as he peered through the ever-present gloom at the rotting corpses of countless wizards and witches that littered the landscape. Through his blurred and bloody vision, Ron spied his target and returned fire at the Death Eater not ten feet away from him.
The gloves had come off after the Battle of Hogwarts. One day had blurred into the next as he and Hermione had done little but run for their lives, fighting skirmish after skirmish, suffering wound after wound and enduring the unendurable with little sleep or food. The constant fighting was interspersed with brief respites when they mourned their dead.
Ron turned to find Hermione, more than thirty yards to his rear, where she had taken cover behind an outcrop of rock when the Death Eaters had ambushed them. Between his position and hers, there was no place to find shelter from the exploding barrage of curses.
"Hermione! You've gotta get out! It's your only chance!"
Tears of rage, grief and exhaustion were leaking from Hermione's eyes as she cast shield spell after shield spell at the never ending onslaught, trying to keep them safe, trying to keep the last of those she loved alive. "Protego!"
"I'm not leaving you, Ron!" she screamed through her tears.
"Apparate dammit!" he shouted in desperation, casting two Reducto curses nearly simultaneously, trying to keep their enemies at bay. "You have to go! This has all gone bollocks! Get out! GET OUT NOW!"
Judging the distance between them, and the lack of cover, Ron knew there was no way he could reach her and not be cut down. And, not for the first time since the Battle, Ron desperately wished his best mate were here, that Harry was still alive. Could use the help mate. And then, pleading through the pain, he croaked, "Just don't let me fail her now. Let me get her out of here alive."
The Death Eaters were closing in; Greyback leading them. They had pursued these two with single-minded purpose. Now, at the Cliffs of Dover, the two renegades were shockingly close to escape; an escape the Dark Lord had forbidden in no uncertain terms. They knew something, something that had to die with them. Of that Greyback was certain; even though he wasn't fool enough to ask the Dark Lord what that secret might be.
The plains were a charnel house, covered with the bodies of those who had tried to leave the country and failed; a mass graveyard for the desperate. And now, Fenrir snarled to himself, now the Mudblood and the last of the blood traitors had managed to make it an escape route! He shuddered at the thought of what the Dark Lord would do to him if they slipped the noose once again.
"Cut off Weasley!" Fenrir barked to his men. "Circle to the right! I'll have the head of anyone who lets them escape!"
Curses and spells exploded around Ron; he was pinned and they were moving to flank him. Checkmate, he thought to himself in exhausted resignation.
Hermione was fighting like a woman possessed. Her hair flew wildly about her as she cast curses at the oncoming Death Eaters. But Ron could see that the horrors of the last several days had finally taken their toll. Despite the look of pure murder in her eyes, it was clear that her strength was failing rapidly.
In that momentary glance at her through the carnage, he knew that his love for her was about to be put to the ultimate test. There was only one way that Hermione would leave him. He searched his memory for the incantation. Then, a tear slid down his cheek, mingled with blood and dirt as the last of his courage, dredged from the depths of his nearly broken spirit, forced his legs to straighten.
He rose from the cover the boulder provided.
"GREYBACK!" he shouted.
Hermione gasped, "Ron, please! NO!"