He dreamed about it going a different way, but it doesn't matter now.

Their love story is always a story about growing up: never quite first or last or exemplary or even an example at all.

No. Never, not at all. Not until that last Tuesday.

Ron follows but isn't followed, even when she's holding his hand & they struggle over the wall together, pulling by nails and elbows and figurative teeth. One after another. Her thin fingers tangle behind his neck and he struggles to swing her up and over, all 60 kg of difficulty. He calls out to Harry, who's running on ahead; and for a moment Harry looks back, light flaring on lenses, and Ron's lips are pursed as he watches. Then Hermione collapses from the wall onto the ground next to him, swaying on her feet, and he's got to hold her up when she vomits. He's an example of something all right, a hard look & a soft one: now his insides are writhing and he's so angry but he has to laugh, he laughs just a little under his breath, with the softness all for her as she stumbles forward.

That's how it is: Harry's always running on ahead now they've made him promise never to stop, but Ron's still here. He's holding his girlfriend's hand, cooing inanely. Oh Merlin love my love hell Merlin Mione. For a moment they lean against the bricks together, wheezing, and he spits out a fat gob of phlegm. "We've got to hurry." It doesn't sound half as urgent as it should.

"I know," Hermione says. She's shaking her head. One side is wet with someone's blood; he looks at it and he thinks not yours, not yours, not yours.

"You're making it a bit hard, aren't you?" He jokes to keep from whimpering.

They can hear the fighting going on in that house - next door - and nobody's followed, nobody's noticed their absence, so the moment becomes a long moment and then longer and longer, till they're standing in a miniature universe, a little landscape of time. That's what he says about it later: that it felt like everything stopped, everything except for them, and it was the happiest he'd been in days.

"Can you make it?" He asks her.

She doesn't say anything.

Ron touches her face gently then, gently as he can being Ron: all those dirty nails, callouses, a broken thumb. He kisses her on the brow, gets that blood on his lips. And he knows his voice isn't sounding much like his voice anymore, but he lowers it for her like he would to keep Harry from waking, and he tastes the air between them - crackling with magic, heavy soot and ash. "I'll carry you if I have to."

"I know," Hermione says again. They start after Harry, and Ron wants to move faster; he's taking big steps, dragging her along with him, and his wand hand's gone white at the knuckles. His heart jumps, screams.

Harry's gone into the trees. It's been nearly a minute since they last saw him - he could be out the other side already. But all Ron can do is hold Hermione up, hold her little elbow, then slip round her waist; the part of his brain that knows all those spells can't keep up with the remembering, and he would have her floating but he doesn't know how. All he can think of is how much he wants her to be alive - how amazing it is, her mumbling, shivering, as they reach the treeline. They trip over the roots together.

"Hell," Ron mutters. "Can we apparate?"

Hermione looks up at him. Her eyes are wide, worried, cos it's a problem she can't work out this time, no matter what. Not even if she could think clearly, and he knows she can't cos her steps cross eachother, her eyes cloud like they're steaming from the inside. She keeps making little noises against the fabric of his shirt.

"I'm sorry," He tells her. "I just dunno anymore."

Later he's going to wonder why he couldn't have thought of anything better; cos you know when it's all over it's so easy, he's coming up with a thousand eloquent goodbyes every time he stops to think, but then again as long as Hermione was breathing he could never believe she might stop. It didn't make sense.

"Ronald?" She asks him. She sounds tired now.

It may or may not be true that other people are coming over the wall; he doesn't know (I dunno) and he can't focus on them long enough to tell because he's looking at Hermione. He can't help looking at her. It seems like the most important thing in the world to be doing - the only thing he can do, could do, and it's always been so hard with her. She makes everything so hard.

Hermione only smiles at him with her bloody teeth, and their bubble shifts; then there's a lot of color, a lot of reds and greens and yellows, and for the rest of his life Ron has to think, some part of him is always thinking about how hard it really was.

How hard she really made it to let go of that hand once it went slack.