Teenagers in Barefeet

Please read & Review. This is my first Ron/Hermione fanfic.

In her dreams Death was so close. He stood on the shoreline, his hand outstretched, beckoning her towards him. She stood her ground, her bare feet digging into the sand. She didn't want to go.

"Come," said Death. His voice was warm and soft. This surprised her, for she had expected it to be cold and blunt.

She shook her head like a stubborn child.

"No – Harry and Ron need me."

Then before she knew it Death lunged at her, his hand snaked around her throat.

"Foolish girl," he laughed. It was a horrible laugh. It reminded her of Bellatrix's laugh. Cold and sadistic. His grip tightened around her throat, so she could no longer breathe. She was suffocating, just like she had suffered under Bellatrix's blade…

Hermione woke up with a gasp, her eyes wide and fearful. She looked wildly around her in a panic, before she leant against the headboard of the bed; her heart beating loudly. It was just a dream, she told herself. It was just a dream. Yet she knew it was more than that. Only a couple of hours ago, she had escaped from death's clutches. Only a couple of hours ago Bellatrix had tortured her, just as she had tortured Neville's parents.

Hermione looked around her. Her surroundings were vaguely familiar. It took a moment for her to realise that she was in one of the few spare bedrooms at Shell Cottage. The room was small and dim, and she felt claustrophobic. She threw the bed covers off herself, got out of bed, put Fleur's dressing gown over her pyjamas and tip toed down stairs.

The cottage was quiet. Everyone must still be asleep, Hermione thought as she unlocked the front door and stepped outside. The salty aroma of the sea greeted her and the early morning breeze played with her bushy hair.

Barefooted, she walked across the lawn and towards the beach in the distance. She supressed a sob as she walked passed Dobby's grave stone. Just hours ago Harry had placed Dobby in the ground, and Luna had closed his eyes…Dobby had looked tiny in death. Dobby didn't deserve to die. He had died to save her Hermione thought. He had died to save them all. Why is it that the good and the innocent always die? That was something Hermione never understood.

Hermione was so absorbed in her thoughts that she didn't realize she had made it to the shoreline until waves broke at her feet. The water was icy and made her feet numb within seconds. Hermione looked at the sea; it was a beautiful sight, particularly against the rising sun. When she was a child her parents would always take her to the beach for holidays. She missed her parents so much that it was like having a constant ache. She wanted to see them again, if only just for a second, just to know that they were okay. She wanted her mother to hold her like a child and tell her that everything was going to be alright. She wanted her father to tell her that she was doing the right thing. She wanted to tell them she loved them…just in case…for Death was always so close. Last night it had touched her skin with an icy silver blade…

Yet what frightened her more than death was the thought of losing Harry or Ron. All three of them had all duelled Death countless times. The amount of time they has escaped Death rushed through Hermione's mind like a tidal wave…Nagini at Godric's Hollow, the battle at the Ministry…Malfoy Manor…the battle at the Astronomy tower. She thought she would lose them then…she thought that Death would take them. He never did. And that night Ron stormed out of the tent Hermione thought that he would never come back.

Hermione didn't want to run, hide or fight anymore. She just wanted to feel safe, protected and loved, but she knew that would never happen until Voldemort was dead. Tears welled up in her eyes. It was all because of Voldemort. The death of Dumbledore, Dobby, Neville's parents and countless more all came back to Voldemort.

Suddenly she heard faint footsteps against sand and then a voice.

"Hermione?"

Ron was standing before her, his face anxious and concerned. Hermione quickly and subtly tried to wipe the tears away.

"Hi, what are you doing up?" She asked.

Dawn was just starting to break.

"Couldn't sleep." He paused for a moment and then awkwardly said "Ah…um…Hermione are you okay?"

Her lips trembled violently as she tried to say something, when no words came out she just shook her head. She looked at Ron, shaking her head sadly, silently telling him that she was not okay. And before she knew it she was sobbing against Ron's chest. She was sobbing so hard that it hurt to breathe. She could feel Ron rubbing her arms and shoulders gently, telling her that it was going to be alright. But how could it be alright, when the thought of losing Harry or Ron or her parents loomed over her like a constant rain cloud. How could it be alright, when Death was following them like an eternal shadow?

Hermione's sobs turned into ragged breaths and she peeked up at Ron through her eyelashes. He towered above her, his face full of concern and gentleness and that's when Hermione realized she truly loved him. She wanted to touch his face, kiss him, and tell him that she loved him, but instead she just stayed in his embrace, listening to the thudding of his heart. His expression was so different from the day he stormed out of the tent and Hermione wondered how someone you loved could hurt you so much. Their relationship seemed strange even to Hermione's eyes…it was fragmented, awkward and utterly imperfect. Hermione broke away from Ron's hold; her sobs had now disappeared completely.

"I'm sorry Ron, I'm being stupid," Hermione said wiping the remaining tears away.

"It's okay," Ron said looking apprehensive and embarrassed at the same time. A pregnant pause followed his words.

After a while he tentatively grabbed her hand, entwining his fingers within hers.

"Do you want to go for a walk," he said looking at the endless stretch of sand.

Hermione smiled. Love doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to be true.

Death was not going to touch them today.