Author's Notes: This story fills some gaps from the trio's stay at Shell Cottage with what I think could have happened right after their escape from Malfoy Manor, with focus on Ron and Hermione. It will use some references from HP7, though, of course, I don't claim to own any of those. Everything you recognize belongs to the genius that is JKR. :-)

Ron felt as if he was in a bad dream as he was standing in the salon of Malfoy Manor, frozen to the spot by a sickening mixture of fear, desperation and fury. His gaze, like everyone else's, was fixed on Bellatrix who was standing right underneath the huge crystal chandelier that brightly illuminated the large room and bathed the female Death Eater in an grotesque, eerie light. Her left arm was wound around Hermione's chest, pressing her tightly to herself. To Ron's immense relief, Hermione was wonderfully living but still, she was unconscious and badly bruised from what must have been at least twenty minutes worth of torture. Bellatrix' right hand was still holding her dagger level with Hermione's throat, ready to make the deadly cut as soon as he or Harry made a wrong move. Ron knew that Bellatrix was not bluffing. Only a few moments before, she had scratched Hermione's throat with that very same dagger, just to prove exactly that. He could still see a tiny trickle of blood running down her neck from the wound that the dagger had produced.

"...we ought to tie those little heroes up again, while Greyback takes care of Miss Mudblood," Bellatrix said with a nonchalance that made Ron's stomach turn over. "I am sure the Dark Lord will not begrudge you the girl, after what you have done tonight." [1]

He was barely able to contain himself any longer, his entire body shaking with dread, his breath fast and shallow. The whole situation was unbearable. There he was, no more than twenty feet away from Hermione and Bellatrix and there was nothing he could do to help her.

He was such a rubbish friend, he thought to himself with a feeling of self-disgust. Not only had he abandoned Harry and Hermione months ago in a fit of childish jealousy of Harry, but even now that he had returned, he was of no use. He had failed to protect Hermione, failed to prevent her torture through that awful hag, failed to be with her when she had needed him most.

He was not sure what felt worse - being locked up down in the Malfoys' dark, moldy cellar hearing Hermione's agonized screams, almost physically feeling her pain, as she was being tortured, or being here, forced to helplessly watch Hermione being killed and eventually fed to that bastard Greyback. He was feeling so weak and useless. This couldn't be happening, he thought in despair as his gaze flickered to the werewolf who was shuffling on bowed legs towards Bellatrix from the far end of the salon, licking his lips in a revolting manner. Hermione couldn't die, mustn't die, not tonight and definitely not like that! The thought of Hermione dead almost made him break into sobs again. He couldn't, didn't want to live if she was no more.

Just when his desperation had reached its peak, Ron heard an ominous creak above him and horror overcame him as he realized what was about to happen, yet he could not avert his eyes from it.

In an oddly slow fashion, as if somebody had tampered with time and decreased its pace, the chandelier above Bellatrix came from the ceiling. Having realized it, too, Bellatrix dove out of the way, shoving Hermione roughly to the floor, and with an unnaturally loud sickening noise of glass shattering, the chandelier crashed to the floor, burying Hermione and Griphook underneath it.

Ron did not even think. He instantly darted over to the chandelier while at the same time, the battle resumed. Jets of light came flying from all directions, some missing Ron only by a hairbreadth, but he did not care, his mind entirely set on Hermione and Hermione alone. Having reached the chandelier, he dropped to his knees and started to dig her out of the debris, cutting his hands and arms in the process. He neither stopped nor slowed down, though; all his physical pain and concern about his own well-being were practically nonexistent in comparison to his fear of what he might find once he would get through to Hermione. The chandelier was so large and had fallen from such great height; surely the impact was enough to kill a person. He unsuccessfully tried to shake this thought off his mind. He had seen the effing thing fall down, he thought, his insides burning with guilt. He had seen it fall and just been standing there, watching like an idiot, and not done anything to stop it. Then he numbly remembered that he had surrendered his wand to Bellatrix moments before. He could not have done anything about it. Still, it did not make him feel any better.

Eventually, he managed to grab Hermione under her armpits and to pull her out from under the chandelier onto his lap. He gave a shudder when he saw that she was looking just as bad as he had feared. Her hair was a mess and strands were plastered around her face with blood, sweat and tears. The chandelier had inflicted uncountable cuts on her in addition to her numerous bruises from the torture. Her right arm stuck out in an odd angle. Shards of glass and crystal were sticking all over her clothes, hair and skin.

"Hermione..." Ron whispered, sick with fear.

"Ron, catch - and GO!" [2]

Ron whipped his head into the direction of Harry's voice and he saw a wand soaring towards him. As if it was attracted to him by a magical force, it flew directly into his outstretched hand.

He did not hesitate. Pushing his arms under Hermione's shoulders and the hollows of her knees, he picked her up, scrambled to his feet, and turned on the spot.

[1] Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Signature series, p. 521 © 2007 J.K. Rowling
[2] Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Signature series, p. 522 © 2007 J.K. Rowling