A/N: This is a missing moment from Deathly Hallows, so there are most definitely spoilers
A/N: This is a missing moment from
Deathly Hallows, so there are most definitely spoilers!
Ron toppled to his knees upon Apparating to Shell Cottage. He held Hermione awkwardly in his arms, too concerned with her wellbeing to try to keep his balance or worry about the sharp rocks that were now stabbing into his skin. Pulling her unconscious body closer, he staggered to his feet and immediately began running toward the dark outline of the small house on the cliffs. One window was brightly lit, like a beacon, and Ron headed straight for it, yelling "Bill! Fleur! Help!" as loudly as he could manage. He was winded, though, from exertion and panic, and it wasn’t until he was nearly across the garden that he saw Bill, Dean, and Luna all hastening toward him.
"Ron, are you okay?" Bill demanded as he took Ron by the shoulders and looked him up and down frantically. It was clear Dean and Luna had told him the little they knew of the situation.
"Please...help...Hermione," Ron panted.
Fleur was there, then, her silver hair whipping around in an arc as she rushed from the house and stopped in front of him. He watched impotently as she took out her wand from a pocket in the front of her apron and waved it over Hermione’s body.
"She will be all right," Fleur said, and Ron, who realized he might have been on the brink of hysteria, nearly sobbed in relief. "Take ’er upstairs to rest."
As Ron began lumbering toward the cottage door, urged along by Bill’s strong hand, Dean called out, "What about the others?"
"Harry’s got them, got Dobby and Griphook."
The others remained behind to wait for Harry as Ron carried Hermione into the warmly lit foyer and up the stairs. Now that they were in relative silence, away from the distant sound of crashing waves, he could hear little moans coming from her. Each one lifted Ron’s spirits higher, and Fleur’s words kept replaying in his head. She will be all right, she will be all right, she will be all right...
The first door on the upper landing was open. It led to the cozy room Ron had stayed in when he was here before Christmas—that seemed so long ago now. He started to take Hermione inside, but he saw that one of the beds was already occupied: Ollivander lay there sleeping, his breathing slow and laborious. Ron had forgotten about the poor bloke. Backing out of the room, he carried Hermione down the hall to the other guestroom. It was almost pitch black in there, and Ron had to feel for the edge of the bed with his leg. When he found his mark, he laid Hermione down gently on top of the covers and then lit the wall sconces with his wand.
There was a tiny wooden chair against the far wall, and he picked it up and set it beside the bed so he could sit near her. "Hermione?" he whispered.
Hermione didn’t open her eyes, but she stirred a bit and worked her mouth as though she was trying to form words. Her brows were drawn and she thrashed for a moment before lying still. Tentatively, Ron reached across the space between them and clasped one of her hands in his. Then, using his free hand, he pushed some of her hair, which was by now a tangled mess, away from her face. He thought she almost smiled.
Now that he no longer had to operate on sheer nerve, he felt spent. Scenes from Malfoy Manor came back, unbidden, to his mind. Hermione’s screams echoed in his head, and with them the nauseating helplessness of hearing her torture but being unable to stop it washed over him. If Dobby hadn’t shown up...if the chandelier had fallen just a few inches away...if Wormtail hadn’t owed Harry a life debt...if Harry hadn’t won those wands...if Bellatrix had used Crucio a little longer...if Fenrir Greyback had taken her...
Ron knocked over the chair in his haste to get up and hurry into the little bathroom that connected the two guestrooms. He just managed to get to the toilet before his stomach emptied itself violently, several times. For a few minutes he sat there, slumped across the toilet seat, shaking. He forced himself to stand, though, and rinse his mouth in the sink, all the while ignoring the what-ifs and thinking only of the fact that Hermione was going to be fine. Fleur’s words came back to him like a mantra.
When he reemerged from the bathroom, he realized that there was someone else upstairs with them. Fleur, it sounded like, asking someone to get her bottle of Skele-Gro from the kitchen. So Harry had made it back. Ron was just crossing to the door to check up on the situation when it opened and Luna stuck her head through the gap.
"What’s happened?" Ron asked her, skipping the formalities. "Who’s hurt?"
"Oh," Luna said. "Griphook’s legs are broken—Fleur’s mending them now—but he should be fine."
"And Harry?" Ron prompted, trying not to get annoyed.
Ron nodded absently and was in the process of turning back to Hermione when Luna’s next words halted him.
"Dobby died, though."
"Someone stabbed him," she said sadly. "Harry’s digging him a grave right now, with a shovel. Is Hermione awake yet?"
"No. No, not yet."
Someone had stabbed Dobby? Who? It must have been Bellatrix with that awful knife of hers. Ron sat back down in the little chair and grabbed Hermione’s hand again. She stirred a bit.
"Thanks, Luna," he said without looking back up at her. He heard the door click shut as she left, but he wasn’t given any time to let the news sink in before it opened again.
"Ron," came Bill’s voice. "How’s she doing?" The question sounded almost like an afterthought. Ron had just barely answered that she was fine when Bill began speaking again.
"What have you lot been up to? You run off to Merlin knows where, then just you show up here, having left your friends, and disappear without a word on Christmas morning. Then tonight you’re back, with two escaped prisoners, a feeble wandmaker who’s been missing for well over a year, a goblin with shattered legs, and a murdered house-elf."
Ron shook his head stubbornly. "I can’t tell you. Nothing’s changed."
"What’s happened to her?" Bill asked, pointing at Hermione. There was dirt on his hands, and strands of hair were coming out of his long ponytail. "At least tell me that."
"I’d like to, but I can’t. Please don’t ask me."
Bill looked out the dark window and let out a protracted sigh. At last he said, "Fleur’ll check on her in a bit, after Griphook’s all set up with Skele-Gro," and left.
Ron sat there for what seemed like the longest time, just staring at Hermione. He thought he might have been imagining it when he saw her eyelashes flutter, but then he could see her brown irises, and she was looking right at him.
"Hermione!" he said quietly, though excitedly. He smiled at her, and when she smiled back, wanly, it was all he could do not to scoop her up and hold her to his chest.
"Ron," she said in a raspy voice, "where are we?"
"Shell Cottage. Everyone’s here, we all got out."
"Everyone?" She sounded elated.
"Er..." How had he forgotten so soon? "Almost. Dobby, he...Bellatrix killed him, Hermione. Harry’s digging a grave for him right now."
She gasped a little, and tears flooded into her eyes. "Dobby? Oh no!"
Ron didn’t know what to say. "I’m sorry. He was brave, though. He saved all of us."
"How did he—how did he get there?"
Ron realized that Hermione didn’t know anything that had gone on in the basement. He quickly filled her in, and though she was sad about Dobby, she was thrilled to find out that Luna and Mr. Ollivander were safe, and that no one else was too badly injured. By the time he finished telling her everything, he felt like a jumble of emotions. He wasn’t sure if he should feel happy or sad; he reckoned he might explode. Hermione seemed to be having the same problem, if her intermittent laughs and sobs were any indication. Ron still gripped her hand, harder than ever, and she squeezed his in return.
"Am I interrupting?" Fleur asked from the doorway a little while later.
Ron let go of Hermione’s hand, though he remained close by her. "No, ’course not. How’s Griphook?"
"’E will be fine in an ’our or so, just tired. I theenk we are all tired, though, yes?" Tired or no, she still managed to look as fresh and beautiful as ever. She approached the opposite side of the bed and hovered over Hermione, running her wand this way and that above her.
"I feel fine, Fleur, really," Hermione insisted, but Fleur hushed her and spoke a few irritated words in French that Ron didn’t understand.
"We need to get you out of those clothes and make sure you do not need ’ealing. I ’ave a nice dressing gown you may borrow." She lifted her gaze to Ron. "Go, go, this eez for girls only."
"What? No, I’m not leaving her."
"Yes, yes, out, out, out."
With a last look at Hermione, who smiled at him and nodded, Ron allowed himself to be shooed out of the room. He headed down the stairs feeling much less tense than when he had gone up them, and in the foyer he ran into Dean.
"Where are you headed?" Ron asked curiously.
Dean tilted his head in the direction of the front door. "Figured I'd go help Harry. Dobby saved my life, didn’t he? It’s the least I can do."
"I’ll come with you," Ron said, and he remembered what Luna had told him. "I know where Bill keeps the gardening tools."