He Didn't Care

Disclaimer: only in my wildest dreams does Harry Potter belong to me. As does Rupert Grint.

Author's note: my take on what happened after Malfoy Manor. I've combined elements from the book and the movie. I liked that they had Bellatrix carve 'Mudblood' into Hermione's arm in the movie, but I really wish they'd included the book version of Ron's reaction to her torture. The scene in the book was gut-wrenching, and I was sorely disappointed to see that it wasn't acted out on screen. I think that most of us R/Hr fans will agree that the scene in the book marked a pivotal moment between our beloved characters. Ah, well. I just need to remember that the movies are only based on the books, and we can't have it all. Also, I didn't know how to rate this story so I settled for 'T' because Ron likes to say 'bloody' a lot, and I'm not sure what the deal is for swearing. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this, even though it's been done a million times already.

She sat on a rock facing away from Shell Cottage and looked towards the water, wishing for a place to hide. She felt hollow.

A few days earlier she'd been mercilessly tortured by Bellatrix. She had thought she would die from the pain that had been inflicted upon her over and over again. Moreover, she had wanted to die. At the time, surely dying would have been the better choice of Bellatrix's two offers. A quick and painless death compared to extreme torture at the hands of a deranged woman seemed like a god-send.

She had just about the lost the fight when she heard him. Screaming for her. Crying for her. Fighting for her. And it dawned on her then that there was a third option, one that Bellatrix had no control over – to get back to him, no matter what.

He may not have realized it, but he had saved her life in that moment. If she ever told him, she knew he'd only downplay his actions, convinced that he'd done nothing to help her. If only he knew what it meant to her. But Hermione understood Ron well enough to know that he'd always feel guilty that he hadn't stopped Bellatrix in time from hurting her both mentally and physically.

If a complete stranger happened upon Hermione at that very moment, they would have never guessed at the horror she'd so recently experienced. Thanks to Fleur's care, there was barely any evidence of a physical attack, save for the faint scar across her neck. That, and the derogatory term now permanently carved into her left arm.

The magic used to create a mark so undeniably cruel was incredibly dark, and try as she might, Hermione had yet to come up with a single spell to remove it. From the first attempt, she knew deep down that her efforts were in vain. She'd be a fool to actually believe that Bellatrix wasn't vindictive enough to ensure her wandwork was permanent.

Looking at it made Hermione feel dirty. Knowing that other people could see it embarrassed her. If she survived the war, how would she ever explain it to the ones who would no doubt ask? Any future interactions with Muggles meant long sleeves no matter the weather. Any pictures taken and she'd have to remember to keep her arm at her side.

More and more future scenarios danced around in her head. Surviving the war and starting a career only to have her colleagues sneer at her in disgust. How her parents would react if they ever saw it. Awkwardly dancing with her father on her wedding day so as to avoid having her guests see something so...so ugly at such a beautiful moment. And the worst future scene of all – her children wondering why their Mum bore such a mark.

Hermione shuddered at that last thought, and pulled her already long sleeve down lower. She hadn't let anyone see the scar yet, save for Fleur, and that was only because she had tended to Hermione's other wounds. Hermione especially didn't want Ron or Harry to see it as it would only add to their guilt.

Without realizing she was doing it, Hermione slowly started to rub her sleeve. It soothed the dull ache in the tender area surrounding the ugly wound.

'Hermione?' Ron's voice broke through her reverie. Subconsciously, she gripped her arm.

'Hi Ron,' she listlessly replied.

'Can I sit with you?' he asked hopefully.

'Of course,' she answered. He sat close to her and she felt instantly comforted by his nearness.

'Why do you keep doing that?' he questioned.

'Doing what?' she replied, clearly confused.

'Rubbing your arm. I've been watching you from the window. Are you hurt?' Hermione felt a prickling in the back of her eyes when she heard the concern in his voice.

'No,' she unconvincingly responded. Her voice shook. Ron scoffed disbelievingly.

'What is it? Why didn't Fleur fix it?' He was irritated now. Hermione sighed deeply and closed her eyes.

'Because she can't,' she said.

'What do you mean, she can't?' His question was in vain for Hermione only sighed in response.

'Let me see it,' he demanded. Hermione looked at him, horrified.

'No!' she cried. Rather than deter him, it had the opposite effect. With a pointedly determined look, he gently gripped her arm. Hermione yelped and twisted her arm out of his grasp.

'Why won't you let me see it?' he gently asked.

'I don't want anyone to see it,' she said. Her eyes were watering.

'Hermione, it's me. I'm not just anyone. I'm your best friend,' he said. His words were her undoing, and she began to cry softly.

'No, Ron, I don't want anyone to see it. Especially you.' She noticed something like pain flash through his eyes.

'You'll never trust me again, will you?' he asked in a defeated tone.

'What do you mean, Ron?'

'You know what I mean, Hermione. I really don't blame you. I can't blame you. I can't help but hope for forgiveness, though,' he said with a sad smile.

Hermione was unsure of what he was talking about. She racked her brain, but regardless of her brilliance, came up blank.

'Ron,' she began. 'I really and truly don't know what you're going on about.' For a moment, he stared at her, and Hermione couldn't help but flush under his gaze. His eyes had always unknowingly penetrated her to the very core of her heart.

'I left,' he said. 'I left you…and Harry, of course. Even though you begged me not to go. I can never redeem myself for that, can I?'

Hermione stared. Could he really be that daft?

'Ron, you're an idiot,' she said.

'Oi!' he cried indignantly.

'You think you can never redeem yourself? Do you even realize what you did last night?' she asked. He nodded miserably.

'Of course I do, Hermione. I failed you...again. I begged them to take me instead and ended up wandless and locked in a bloody cellar where I could do nothing to help you.'

'Ron,' she whispered. 'You saved my life last night.' Ron snorted in disgust.

'Not bloody likely, Hermione.'

'You don't understand, Ron. I was ready to give up. I...I was ready to die.' She heard his sharp intake of breath, but continued.

'I heard you calling my name over and over again. And it reminded me why I had to keep fighting. Your voice...it brought me back to you. The same way my voice brought you back to me. Your voice, Ron...it saved my life last night.' She watched as an odd expression passed over his face.

'My voice?' he asked.

'Yes,' she replied.

'Just like yours,' he stated. With closed eyes, he bent his head and smiled. Hermione nudged him with her left arm and he looked up at her.

'Go ahead, ' she said in a quivering voice. 'Look at it. If there's only one person I trust in this world, it's you, Ron.'

He gave her a small smile and slowly lifted up her sleeve, until one by one, the letters became visible. When the word as a whole was exposed, Ron only stared. Hermione waited with bated breath.

Finally, he looked up at her. There were tears in his eyes, and Hermione fell even more in love with him at that moment.

'You didn't want me to see this?' he asked. Hermione slowly nodded.

'But why?' he said. 'Why me specifically?'

Hermione took a deep breath and realized she'd been lying to herself. It wasn't just that she didn't want him to feel guilty. It was that it was him. She was madly in love with Ron and hated the idea of having to show him something so horrendous on what she felt was an already inadequate body. She'd never felt like someone to be physically desired by Ron, and she felt like this mark only lessened her chances. Deep down, she knew it was a stupid thing to think, but like every other girl on the planet, Hermione had her insecurities.

Ron cleared his throat and she jumped. She almost forgot that he was waiting for an answer.

'Hermione,' he repeated. 'Why didn't you want me to see it?'

'Because it's ugly,' she quickly responded. She sincerely hoped he wouldn't ask her to elaborate.

His brow furrowed in confusion as he looked at her. His eyes moved down to her scar, and he began to slowly trace the letters with his index finger. Hermione shivered and he stopped.

'Am I hurting you?' he asked.

'No,' she admitted. 'It...it feels good. Comforting.' And when he continued, she sighed in relief.

'You know, ' he said. 'You didn't really answer my question. Are you planning on explaining?'

'Do you think it's ugly?' she blurted out, and instantly blushed. 'Of course you do, ' she said. 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to put you on the spot like that.'

'Hermione,' he said softly. 'I'll admit...at first glance, it's not the most pleasant thing to look at. But I think that you can bear it proudly.'

'What?' she gasped. 'Ron, how -'

'No, let me finish,' he gently interrupted. 'When we survive this war, the people who matter will see it as a mark of bravery. They'll know what you've gone through...know that you conquered. Bloody hell, Hermione. You survived an attack from Bellatrix. Not many of her victims can say the same.' He took a deep breath and watched as she silently cried.

'And Hermione,' he nervously continued, his fingers still stroking her arm. 'She could've marked you on every inch of your body, and you'd still be beautiful.' And then he lifted her arm and placed a gentle kiss over the offensive word.

A great sob escaped her as she threw her arms around his neck, revelling at the warmth she felt when he wrapped his arms around her waist and held her tightly to him.

And she didn't need to explain it to him because he already knew the answer. And he, the amazing man that he was, didn't hesitate to reassure her that he didn't care.

In that moment, the urge to hide disappeared.

She knew it would never come back.