It was late in the night when all the inhabitants of Shell Cottage were awoken with an ear-splitting scream. It came from the room Luna and Hermione were sharing. Harry, Ron, and Hermione rescued Luna, Mr. Olivander and the goblin from Malfoy Manor and the lot of them were staying at Shell Cottage with Bill and Fleur.
Ron was the first one to the door and the second one to reach the screaming girl. Hermione had woken up from her nightmare. It was a nightmare of what happened to her at Malfoy Manor when Bellatrix Lestrange tortured her. Luna was standing beside Hermione's bed, having flipped on the lamp, but when Ron entered the room he sat down in her bed and pulled Hermione into his arms where she began sobbing. The others stood around the doorway and the edge of the bed with Luna.
"I don't understand why you won't tell me what happened to her," Bill said breaking the silence.
"I'm sorry Bill, I can't risk telling you anything," Harry replied. When Hermione had stopped violently shaking, Harry sat down on her bed and put a hand on her leg.
"We're here for you Hermione," he said.
"Nothing's going to hurt you again. I wont let it," Ron added, tightening his arms around her. His shirt was soaked with her tears.
"Are you going to be okay? Do you need anything?" Bill asked. Hermione shook her head, afraid to open her mouth in response.
"Fleur and I are going back to bed then. I suggest you boys do the same," Bill said eyeing them. The room was quiet. Luna broke the silence a few minutes later.
"I'm going to go back to sleep on the couch downstairs to give you three some time alone," she said. Harry nodded his head in acknowledgement while Ron looked down at Hermione who was comfortably watching Luna. The trio sat in silence again.
"Are you okay now?" Harry asked Hermione.
"I think so," she replied weakly, "I had an awful nightmare. Bellatrix had the both of you, and I couldn't save you," Hermione sniffled, tears coming back to her eyes. She wasn't about to tell them the truth. It had been Ron she couldn't save.
She snuggled into Ron's arms more, happy that his arms were the ones around her. She would have been okay if Harry had gotten to her first, but he was nothing more than a brother to her. Ron was different. She loved him. She was pretty sure he liked her back, but neither were able to find the voice to say anything. Harry yawned.
"I'm tired. Want me to tell Luna to come back and Ron and I will let you try to go back to sleep?" he asked.
"No," Hermione replied, "let Luna alone. She'll be okay. I think she understands enough not to ask questions."
"I'm going to bed then," Harry said. He wanted to hug her, but it was impossible at the moment.
"Goodnight Harry," Hermione said.
"I'll be in there in a few minutes," Ron said as Harry got up and headed for the door. When Harry was gone Hermione spoke up.
"Don't leave me," she said.
"I can't stay in here all night," Ron replied.
"Hermione, are you mental?"
"No, Ron, I'm not. I just don't want to be alone," she replied sadly.
"Harry offered to get Luna for you," Ron reminded her.
"I don't want Luna or Harry to stay with me," she said looking up at him. Her hazel eyes met his blue ones.
"Please?" she pleaded. Ron couldn't help but to give in. He flicked off the lamp and allowed her to snuggle against him.
"It's going to be okay Mione. I won't let anything hurt you," he said.
"What did you call me?" she asked.
"Mione?" He replied. She thought about that for a moment.
"I've never been one for nicknames," she said, "you're the only one that I'll allow to call me that. I don't even want Harry calling me that," Ron chuckled.
"You are mental," he replied with a smile.
"Ron, you still in here?" It was mid-afternoon and Harry knocked on the door and entered the room to find Ron and Hermione cuddled together in Hermione's bed. He'd interrupted the conversation they'd been having.
"Yeah mate," Ron said. Hermione's face lit up upon seeing Harry. She rolled over on her back and patted the bed on the other side of her, motioning for Harry to join them.
The bed wasn't made for two people, let alone three, but somehow Hermione had managed to make them all fit. Ron had one arm under her neck, his hand gently rubbing over her "Mudblood" carving in her arm, and his other arm resting on her stomach. When Harry lay down beside her, she hooked her ankle over top of his.
"This whole mission is crazy," she said laying her head against Ron's shoulder.
"It's difficult. We don't know what we're after," Ron said.
"I'm sorry. I too wish Dumbledore had given me something else to go off. More hints or ideas of objects that he possibly could have used. There are seven. We've destroyed three, and we only have an idea where a fourth one is," Harry sighed. Hermione took his hand.
"We're in this with you until the end; Your life or ours," Hermione said. A pained look shot across Harry's face at her comment.
"I hate that this happened to you. It's one thing for him to kill and hurt people I know, but you're my best friends, my family. Bellatrix won't get away with this. As soon as I finish off You-Know-Who, she's my next target," Harry said.
"I want to finish her off. Maybe while you're battling him, I can take her out," Ron spoke. Something in Ron's tone made Harry wonder if the pair of them had talked about their obvious feelings for one another last night. If Hermione didn't know Ron was in love with her, she had to now.
"You don't have to kill her for me boys," Hermione said, "Thank you for caring so much about me. You're both pretty much my family as well, but don't destroy yourselves killing her. You're both better than that," There was a knock on the door before Ron or Harry could say anything further. Fleur entered the room.
"Please tell me that ze two of you went to bed, in your own beds," she said in her French accent.
"Yes Fleur, we did," Harry replied.
"Why did Luna choose to sleep on ze couch zen?" she asked.
"She said she wanted to give the three of us a chance to talk. They did go to bed," Hermione said. She wasn't going to give Ron away, and from the sounds of it, Harry wasn't going to either. Fleur's expression said she didn't believe them.
"Lunch is almost ready. Come down soon," Fleur said and then left the room.
"How long are we going to stay here for?" Hermione asked when Fleur was gone.
"Fleur said lunch was almost ready," Harry spoke.
"No you dimwit, I meant how long are we going to stay here," Hermione said referring to Shell Cottage.
"Oh, I don't know. As soon as we talk to Olivander and the Goblin," Harry replied.
"Hang on a minute mate, did you say earlier you have an idea where another Horcrux is?" Ron said as some of Harry's earlier words sunk in.
"Yes, that's why we have to talk to the Goblin. I also have a few things I'd like to talk to Olivander about. I'll get him to identify the wands that I captured from Malfoy," Harry squeezed Hermione's hand and then sat up.
"I'm going on down, don't spend too much longer before you follow or you know your brother and Fleur will be suspicious," Harry said getting up and leaving the room.
"I don't want to get up," Hermione sighed.
"Me neither," Ron replied.
"Thank you for staying with me," she rolled over on her side so she could look at him better again.
"I won't let anything hurt you again, I love you too much for that," Ron said. Both of their eyes widened at what he had just said. Hermione smiled and blushed, and Ron's face matched his hair.
"It's okay, I know," Hermione said and then she hugged him. She considered telling him that she loved him too, but she wasn't sure how he'd react. He hadn't meant to tell her, but she knew he meant it.
"I'm going to let you get dressed," Ron said as they sat up.
"Okay, tell Fleur I'll be down in a minute. I've got to figure out how I can conceal this," she looked at her arm. It had scabbed over and looked more than disgusting.
"Wear long sleeves, something that wont catch on it," he suggested.
"I thought about that, but I don't want to. I'll figure something out," she replied. Ron leaned over and kissed her cheek before he got up and headed down stairs. Hermione sat there for a moment, her hand resting on the spot he'd just kissed. She smiled to herself and got up to get dressed. She wasn't sure how she was going to tell him how she felt, but she knew one day, when this dreaded war was over, she'd find a way to tell him.