Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling... as I'm sure anyone reading this knows!

Note: Hey! My latest foray into the fandom is this very short Hermione x Ron oneshot set during the Battle of Hogwarts. It's a snapshot of the moment the trio head to the Shrieking Shack. Emotionally, it was an interesting moment to explore – Ron and Hermione have just got together, then they lose Fred and now they're after Voldemort. There's a lot going on and it was fun to write. Anyway, enjoy... I know it's short, but that was what I intended. Oh, and please do review if you have time! That would be lovely. :)

Blood Slicked

Hermione slipped. The grass was wet. Wet with what, she didn't want to imagine. Giants were arriving in droves, shaking the earth with each colossal step. The screams of the battle were unending; anguished voices blended into one desperate cry. Behind them, they could hear the crunch of brick and stone and the zing of spells as the castle – Hogwarts, their home – crumbled.

"The Whomping Willow," said Harry. "Go!"

They couldn't stop, not for a moment. Ron's hand snatched out of the darkness and gripped Hermione's, steadying her. All she could think of was that first time he properly held her hand – a lifetime ago in the drawing room of Grimmauld Place – and how different that moment was from this.

Their destination was the Shrieking Shack and Voldemort himself. Once she let go of his hand, she might never hold it again.

"It's now or never, isn't it?" Ron had said it himself. Except between then and now the unthinkable had happened. Fred Weasley was dead. Every time Hermione thought of it, the shock rolled fresh across her. And suddenly this wasn't just a battle – it felt more like the end of the world.

"It's now or never." Maybe 'never' would've been better. Easier. Now the stakes were higher. She'd had a taste of what could be, so to lose it now was more than she could take.

Harry was just ahead of them as they ran across the grounds. Hermione dared a glance at Ron. His lips were white and moving fast, but she couldn't make out what he was mumbling. Cursing the Death Eaters who killed Fred? Or himself for not being there in time? More likely, she thought, he was praying that when he returned to the castle it wouldn't be to another loss. Whatever he was thinking, his grip on her hand tightened until it was vice-like.

For the first time, Hermione was genuinely and wholeheartedly glad that her parents were thousands of miles away on the other side of the world.

It was still daytime in Australia.

They were drawing close to the Willow's swaying, swishing branches when Hermione slipped again and Ron stumbled with her. He swore violently. Forgetting everything, her instinct was to chastise him for swearing just like she would have long ago...

"Ron!"

Last summer. It was before the wedding, before Harry arrived and they were in the garden of the Burrow with Ginny. The air was full of the smell of freshly mown grass. Ron was supposed to be de-gnoming the garden, but one bit him and he let out a string of the worst expletives Hermione had ever heard. Ginny just laughed, but naturally she told him off.

Hermione wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. Even now, in the midst of this, she wanted to chastise him for swearing because, after all, some things never change.

But then Ron, still grasping her hand, pulled her up and they ran after Harry, over the blood slicked grass.

Some things change us forever.