A/N: This story is dedicated to levioosing on tumblr.
She can't feel her body. None of it. Everything is totally blank, like it hurts so much that she's shutting out the pain. And Hermione is grateful, so grateful. Because her ears are still ringing with the sounds of her own screams, and her face still tastes salty from her tears, and she thinks that if she could feel her own pain at that very moment she may very well explode. Instead, she concentrates on the feeling of the person underneath her, carrying her at a run. She wonders whether she could move even if she tried, but finds that she's glad she hasn't found out. She's glad that Ron is protecting her. Saving her.
He's her savior.
He's always been her savior, of course. Except now he embodies that title more than he ever has, on account of what he's been doing. Running. Bellowing. His voice is shaking, and his body is shaking, and she wishes she could reach up and wipe the tears off of his face, but she knows he doesn't want her to move. That's why he's carrying her in the first place. That's why she's snuggled into his arms, nose pressed against the plaid of his jacket, inhaling his Ron scent.
Normally, this smell in such a large quantity comes with a wave of lust that washes over her and causes her to waver on the spot. But there's nothing romantic about this moment. If this moment were romantic, it would be full moon instead of dead night. And the tears that dripped off of his face would be falling onto the grass of a meadow or mixing with the ocean, not combining with the blood on her neck. She imagines it would sting if she could feel anything. But she can't.
Hermione assumes that she is in shock. Really, this is the only logical explanation for the fact that her body is on fire and she can't feel it one bit. She can feel other things, though. She feels like a child. Weak. Vulnerable. Ashamed of her own shortcomings. Oblivious to the world other than herself. And now Ron is included inside of that world. She's well aware of the fact that he's taking her somewhere, and it vaguely registers in the back of her mind that it's probably to some sort of hospital or safe house, but the idea of other people walking into their world and interrupting them causes her to panic. Her grip tightens further around his jacket, and she whimpers quietly in his arms. Instantly, he stops.
"What? What's wrong? Are you hurting? Am I jostling you? What, Hermione? What?"
His voice is hysterical with fear, and she feels tears prickle at the corner of her eyes. She can literally feel his emotions in the grate his voice, and this is the hammer that starts to chip away at her nothingness. The realness of Ron is so solid that she can't exist in an alternate, painless universe anymore. She has to come back to him. So she opens her eyes. She takes in his face. She sees his expression. And she screams.
The pain has hit her so suddenly, a wave-like phenomenon breaking the stupor. He's so surprised that he almost drops her, but he sinks to his knees instead, mindless of how the wet grass seeps through his trousers and onto his knees. She squeezes her eyes shut as she feels him burying his head in her neck. Now the tears that leak from his eyes finally sting, causing her to sob harder. She wants to tell him that he is hurting her. She wants to tell him that the stinging feeling is only comparable to when he left her behind in that tent- that kind of pain. She wants to laugh at how destructive they are when they're together, her pain causing his pain, his pain directly affecting her pain. Making it worse. But that's not fair. He's not trying to hurt her.
He's never tried to hurt her, not really. He's tried to hurt a Hermione that isn't in love with him. That Hermione, the one in his mind, is the one that he's trying to hurt, because she's hurt him so much. But that Hermione doesn't exist. A Hermione that feels for him what he feels for her? That Hermione exists. And that Hermione is the one he's protecting right now.
And regardless of pain, regardless of context, regardless of the darkness, Hermione decides that she wants to stay in this moment forever. She savors the twisted wrongness of it, because she's just been tortured. She can't locate any good in the world, can't remember why there was a point to live besides this man who has saved her once more. And she's not remotely ready to return to a place in which there is light. Nothing is light. Nothing should be light. The world is so obviously dark. The world hurts everybody.
So she'll stay here.
Hermione opens her eyes to see Bill standing over them, mouth gaping open, expression almost nauseated at the sight of his brother clutching onto a limp, bloody body.
"Bill," Ron manages to choke out. "Help?"
"What… what the fuck happened to you?"
Hermione stares up at him, the tears streaming down her face now coming silently.
"Please," Ron begs. "Please, Bill."
"Get her into the house now," Bill demands quickly, seeming to shake himself from the shock more abruptly than Hermione would have thought possible. She now sees why Ron brought them here. But she resents it. It would have been better to die in his arms, wouldn't it? She knows he doesn't know she thinks that, she knows he isn't conscious of anything she's thinking just then, but she would think he'd need the darkness as much as she does.
Hermione doesn't want to communicate this to him. Instead, she grips the grass tightly in her hand as he rises from the ground, which only results in the pieces being ripped abruptly from their home. For a moment, she feels like a killer. Disgusted with herself, she lets the grass rain back to the ground. She can't seem to stop thinking about it is Ron carries her jerkily back to the house. Those poor pieces of grass, uprooted from their home for absolutely no reason but selfish intent. Her selfish intent.
It takes a few minutes for Hermione, so consumed in thought and in herself, to remember that it is grass she has killed. Not people. Still, she can't help shivering in Ron's arms. And she can't help but wonder how much mental deterioration has occurred from the incident, because she can't seem to remember anything.
My name is Hermione Granger. I'm a witch. I'm best friends with Harry Potter, and we're on the run together. Ron left me. Ron came back to me. I was tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange. I want to die with every single fiber of my being, but I can't because, like an idiot, I fell in love. And I can't die while he's still here.
"Vat is this? Bill, vat is going on?"
"He didn't tell me. But, Fleur-"
"Bring 'er upstairs. Immediately," Fleur says, and from the hardness of her voice, Hermione knows that Fleur knows. Then there are Fleur's footsteps rushing away as Bill starts to climb the stairs, and the feelings Ron following soon after. He bumps her head on the wall of the staircase a couple of times. She tries not to scream as he whispers apologies into her hair again and again, lips brushing her sweaty forehead every so often. She can feel how cold they are and wonders if he is more scared than she is. Without thinking, she lifts her arm and reaches towards him. She means to touch his face reassuringly, but instead her fingertips find his hair and wrap her fingers around the strands in a vice-like grip.
She hears a door being kicked open, feels herself being lowered onto a bed, and from the searing pain decides that she has broken a rib. Bill's footsteps rush out of the room, and lighter ones, Fleur's obviously, come inside.
"Get out," she says to Ron.
"What?" he says incredulously, voice slightly breathless from carrying Hermione up the steep stairs.
"I 'ave to undress 'er and you 'ave to get out,"
"I'm not going anywhere, so you can just fuck off," Ron snaps at her.
"I doubt she's going to want you to be seeing-"
It's around this moment that Hermione feels like her head is about to explode.
"I doubt she'll fucking care, now save her life or I'll fucking-"
"Ron," Hermione moans. "Stop swearing and come hold my hand."
She can only imagine the smug look Ron is giving Fleur right now as she hears him pull up a chair by her bed and feels his large, shaking hand slip into hers. She feels his lips press against her hand and thinks that she might possibly want to stay in this moment forever, too. She opens her eyes to check and see if Ron is blushing, but he's merely staring at her with an intensity and a vulnerability that she has never seen in him before. Fleur is ripping her shirt open, pulling it off, but his eyes don't even move from her own as the veela starts performing spells. Hermione feels her stomach heat up as though it's glowing and squeezes Ron's hand tighter.
"She 'as three broken ribs, a broken leg, and a broken arm," Fleur says shortly.
"From when the chandelier fell on top of her," Ron guesses.
"Not to mention the scar."
"Scar?" Ron repeats, looking up for the first time. "On her neck, you mean?"
"Yes. And 'er arm."
He seems surprised.
Fleur raises an eyebrow and wordlessly points to Hermione's arm, which has been covered by a sleeve that had conveniently slipped down when Ron had picked her up from the wreckage. His eyes slowly travel to the limb, unwilling to see what he's about to see. She can see his breath catch in his throat as he notices the scar for the first time.
"Oh my god. Hermione. Oh my god."
"It vas obviously done vith a knife," Fleur says, sounding properly disgusted.
They both stare at it unabashedly. Hermione wishes she had the strength to apologize for her own hideousness. Instead, she is merely forced to gaze up at the both of them as they gawk at her, feeling like she deserves the horrible feeling that steals over her subconscious. Like she's supposed to be a zoo animal that everyone gapes it, like she's now supposed to be punished because of what happened to her. She deserves to feel hideous and broken and tainted and more like a mudblood than she ever has in her lifetime.
They both look up when tears, unbidden, begin to leak out of her eyes. Ron's face immediately contorts into an expression of guilt, as if he knows her so well that he can tell what she's thinking. Actually, it's probably true. For someone who can be so stupid, Ron Weasley is remarkably in tune to her, something that never fails to surprise Hermione. She wonders whether it surprises him half as much as it surprises her. In any case, the moment is short lived as his face falls into an expression of helplessness. He is at a total loss for what to do, what to say.
"'Ere, let me give you some pain potion," Fleur says upon seeing Ron's face, and she reaches a shaking hand into the pocket of her apron and pulls out a disgusting looking potion. Hermione takes it wordlessly, Ron guiding the bottle with his hands when he sees that she can't hold it up. Feeling calmer already, she flashes him a weak smile as he pulls it back.
"Thank you," she says quietly.
"No problem," he returns, equal in tone. He reaches up and brushes a bit of her hair away from her face. She closes her eyes at his touch, only wanting to feel the feeling of the rough hand against her smooth skin. The contrast that makes them so perfect for each other. And maybe, just maybe, she should choose this moment to stay in forever, so tender and gentle and everything that she needs from the one person that she needs. Yes, this is a good moment, too.
The moment is interrupted by Fleur, who clears her throat and says,
"I think I should tend to the others. Coming, Ron?"
"Er, I don't think-"
"Let 'er sleep, Ron," Fleur says sharply before exiting the room. Ron gives Hermione a guilty shrug before turning and starting to leave the room after his sister-in-law.
She is suddenly desperate to do anything or say anything to have him stay. Which is what gives her the courage that she has so lacked for quite a long time.
"How long have you been in love with me?"
He pauses with his hand on the door. He'd been pushing it open to leave, but now he grips it hard and stares at his knuckles turning white. She wishes he wouldn't. She wants to see his face, not just the hair that is probably as red as his ears at this point.
"What?" he says, voice cracking on the single word.
"I said," Hermione begins, slowly and clearly, "how long have you been in love with me, Ron?"
His arm swings, and next thing she knows he's slammed the door closed and has turned to look at her with a face that can only be described as horrified and amazed simultaneously.
"What are you talking about?" he demands.
"Are you denying it, then?" she asks, sitting up and fixing him with a pointed look.
And then he looks sheepish as he shoves his hands into his pockets. His stare turns to the floor, the tips of his eyes turn red, his shoulders hunch up, and his foot scuffs nervously back and forth. It's such a classic Ron pose that she abruptly wants to cry. Because she hasn't seen it in a long time. Because suddenly she can't remember at which point she started referring to him as a man in her head and not a boy, and that scares her. There seems to be a roaring in her ears and she begins to realize that he's a different Ron, and she hadn't noticed it because she was watching him change before her eyes, and it was so gradual and so slow and he's so different.
But through the sudden haze, one thing manages to touch her ears, the one thing that matters.
"No. No, I'm not denying it," he whispers hoarsely.
The only thing Hermione can think of comparing this to is a sunrise. A real and true sunrise, one that, doesn't peak, but bursts over a horizon and exposes a brand new world just waiting to be explored. Those words are the best kind of sunrise she's ever heard, and she can't help herself from smiling brilliantly at him, mouth slightly agape in shock.
Now she thinks she could drown in this moment forever, feeling the feelings that uncase her and swirl around her stomach and dance along with her heart. So what if she's finding it hard to breathe and her brain has turned to mush?
"My god, we're so stupid."
She begins laughing at her own statement, laughing so hard, and he laughs too as he steps forward and sits on the bed to hug her, forgetting for one split second that she's only wearing her bra.
"Shit!" he says, in a completely different voice, jumping back from the hug. "Sorry, Hermione."
"It doesn't matter," she says offhand.
He seems to freeze where he's sitting, looking totally unnerved. Then he cocks his head at her.
"Is… is there some sort of alcohol in that pain potion she gave you? Anything that would loosen inhibitions? Because I don't know where the bloody hell that came from, but-"
"I had to ask. Seeing as I love you too and all that. And the way you treated me tonight, Ron… before you were the boy I fancied, and then the boy I fell in love with. But I could hear your voice, and you kept me alive. I could feel your touch, and you kept me conscious. And in everything you did tonight, right down to the tears, I just… I knew. I could tell how much you loved me. And now you're even more than all those things. I honestly think realizing that loosened my inhibitions more than anything else."
Without further ado, he surges forward and hugs her again, this time burying his hands into her hair. His head bends down so that his nose is resting in the crook of her neck, and she knows he can smell the sweat and blood on her skin, but now isn't exactly the time to get up and take a shower.
They're embracing. Like, touching. In a manner that is not purely platonic. It's exhilarating, and it hits her like a wall that this particular moment is one that could be totally life changing. Or, at least, it could be, were he ever to get his nose off of her skin.
"Ron," she murmurs. "Please, please kiss me."
His entire body stiffens against her.
"No," he says, pulling back abruptly, surprising her. "I… I can't."
"What do you mean you can't?" she implores, eyebrows knitted together. Her stomach is nervous now. She wonders if she has misinterpreted everything. She wonders if maybe she should have remained in the other moment instead of trying to make it even better.
"You're injured," he stammers.
"Nothing happened to my lips."
"You're on a pain potion, you might not remember."
"Memory loss is not one of the side effects."
"You're weak, Hermione. You've just been tortured."
"Hence the potion, which gives me strength as well as pain relief."
She stares at him, eyes narrowed.
"Ronald Weasley, are you nervous?" she asks suddenly.
He looks up guiltily.
"Er, yeah. A little." She has to close her eyes to stop herself from laughing. "Well, it's just that there's a lot of pressure on this! I mean, kissing you. It's something I've wanted to do for forever and I didn't exactly expect you to just ask me."
"Well you weren't doing anything, I figured I'd give you encouragement!"
"Look, Hermione, the outcome of our entire relationship could depend on this kiss! Do you even want a relationship? Fuck, I don't know. I just know that kissing you is a big damn deal and… and… you're in your bra, Hermione."
She bites her lip.
"Great, now I'm nervous," she moans. "Ron, you're such an… uhg. Why did you have to explain yourself?"
"Hey, you wanted-"
"How do you think this helped anything? Now we're just going to put so much pressure on a first kiss because you made a big deal out of it instead of going with the moment like I-"
But the rest of her sentence is cut off because he's kissing her. One of his hands is still tangled into her hair, but the other one moves to cup her cheek. She can taste blood on his tongue and wonders if he'd bit it to keep from screaming earlier. The thought makes her picture him down in a dark basement screaming her name, makes her imagine her own screams, makes her remember the pain that she had felt earlier.
Hermione shudders as she pulls away from the kiss. She wants to crack a smile, to make a joke, to complement his kissing skills, even. But he sees the look on her face before she can rearrange it and his expression changes instantly.
"What is it?" Ron asks quickly, hand still cupping her cheek. She turns into it and kisses his palm.
"Nothing," she responds, voice muffled. "Thank you."
"For kissing me."
"I sort of realized while you were rambling that if I continued doing what I've been doing for the past seven years, we'd never get anywhere at all."
She can feel herself falling apart at these words and leans in to kiss him again. Things go from teasing to intense so fast that even she doesn't understand the change, but suddenly his kiss is healing her, turning her into a new person, the Hermione that is Ron's Hermione, the Hermione that she has wanted to explore since she first realized she was in love with him. She hears whimpering noises in the back of her mind and it takes a second for it to dawn on her that they're coming from her. She's suddenly conscious of everything that's going on, Ron's hands on her back, so large and warm and comforting. And his lips against hers, kissing her like she's never been kissed before by anyone, pouring all the desperation he's felt the entire day, maybe even the entire year, into his kiss. She feels it too, and there's a gratefulness for the fact that they're both still alive and well that's pouring from herself, and this above anything else is what makes her fingertips go to the hem of his shirt and slide up it. Her hands press against his warm, sweaty back, and for some inexplicable reason she has to feel his skin on hers, just to prove he's alive, to prove that she's alive, even. Just to prove that she still can do this, and that she did this once before she died.
So she slips his shirt off and when he doesn't protest she reaches behind herself and quickly undoes her bra. And then she gives him twenty second to ogle her before tilting his chin back up with her finger and leaning in to kiss him again. She moves closer and closer until their torsos are plastered together, skin against skin contact serving as a kind of reaffirmation. When it becomes too much, she pulls back and presses her lips against his shoulder and he buries his nose in her hair and they sit there together, on the bed, and just breathe.
"I'm so in love with you," he tells her, voice husky.
"You're everything," she says without hesitation. "Now more than ever, you're everything."
One of her fingers is twisted into his gorgeous hair, and she can feel the rise and fall of his chest against hers. Her breasts are crushed between the two of them, but for some reason it doesn't feel awkward at all. It just feels right. Like it's easier to breathe when he's breathing with her. He heaves a little sigh and mutters a sound against her that sounds something like,
And hearing the noise, the little noise, sends her reeling into another entire world of thoughts. They're silent for a while as she contemplates the mysteries of her life, and it's then that she whispers in his ear.
"You're why I'm in this war. You're what I'm fighting for."
He pulls back, face holding the same amazed disbelief as his finger lifts to shakily trace the features on her face. She closes her eyes against his touch, wanting more than anything to remain here, right here, in this moment, forever.
But as she feels his lips touch hers again, a brand new idea flashes through her brilliant head, and she becomes conscious of something that she's never really had the luxury to think about before.
She's going to have thousands of moments with this man. She's going to have big moments and little moments and light moments and intense moments and moments that she will tell the story of for years to come and moments that she will keep to herself and Ron. And she's going to want to remain in every single one of these moments with him, as always. But for the first time, there's a promise of another moment tomorrow that is just as perfect as the one she's in today. And maybe another one the day after that. And another one still the day after that. For the first time, there's a promise of tomorrow, so she and Ron won't need to remain stuck in the same moment for all eternity. In the long run, she's going to have thousands of moments that she'll want to live in forever and ever and ever. But instead of her whims being granted, she's going to live to have something else with Ron. A lifetime.
She wouldn't trade that for anything.
A/N: Well. Wow. I hope you liked that because it was so much fun to write. I've never written anything remotely this… topless. So, once again, I hope you liked it. And if you're thinking that Hermione was sounding a little bit young here, I was kind of trying to do that. As strong as she seems, this is a weak, vulnerable day for her. She's eighteen years old. I think she has the right to fall back into a sort of childlike thought process- I think she'd need to forget herself for a few hours before returning to the real world. The hard part of this, anyways, was never straying to Ron's POV to show what he was thinking, because you can imagine that he's having a really crazy thought process right about now, too. That was the real challenge for me- not exploring his side of the story. Anyways, please tell me what you think! ~writergirl8