It wasn't until the third day at Shell Cottage that anyone really got out of bed. In the early morning, Harry awoke in the bedroom Mr. Olivander had stayed in. The sun had already swept in through the curtains and he could faintly hear the waves from down at the beach. He stretched, wincing at the pain in his arm, and sat up to examine himself in the mirror. Across his forehead was a large, messy gash that was healing quickly but looked rather unnerving. His left eye was black and blue, something the nurses said he'd have to let heal on it's own. Half of his left arm was wrapped up in bandages, and his shirt hid a series of big, tender bruises that had kept him from sleeping comfortably. Everything was sore, but the cuts down his legs had been almost entirely healed, and anything small had already vanished.
Sliding out of the bed, Harry fixed his hair with his fingers and made his way into the kitchen. Fleur had left fruit and muffins out for everyone after Bill insisted that she, too, get rest, instead of fussing to feed and care for everyone whenever they needed it. Hermione was already awake, staring out the kitchen window. Although her injuries weren't too bad, she was having a very tough time. After the battle, Ron had gone back to the Burrow with Ginny, George, Molly, and Arthur. Harry and Hermione had gone back to Shell Cottage. The Weasley's needed a little time and space to grieve. Bill and Fleur insisted that they didn't go far, though, and had them stay at the cottage. Bill spent most of his time at the Burrow anyways, and it did Fleur good to have company to fuss over. Besides, they really had nowhere else to go. Ron had agreed, and said he would come by and see them, but he hadn't.
"How are you feeling?" Harry asked her
"Much better," she blinked, only just realizing Harry had entered the room. "You?"
"Starved," Harry groaned, taking a seat at the table and reaching for a blueberry muffin. Hermione still stared absently out the window.
"You know, you are looking much better," Harry told Hermione after a long moment. "Beach looks very calm today. We should get outside. You up for it?"
She hesitated. "Sure. It does look nice out."
And so that's what they did. Harry stretched his injured arm as they walked, trying to release the tension in his muscles. The air was getting warmer with the season, and summer was on it's way. The sky was clear and cloudless, and it reminded Harry of the day he burried Dobby. A lot of lives had been lost in the Dark Lord's rise to power, but Harry still felt the sting from the loss of those closest to him. Fred, Remus, Tonks, Dobby, Snape... so many taken too young, so many who never saw their victory. Usually, that made Harry sad, but today, looking up at the sky, seeing the lack of clouds, it was as if the sky was clear so they could look down and see what had become of things. He knew that they were celebrating somewhere.
Hermione was silent as they walked, and Harry felt the need to bring her out. She'd been sulking the past few days, and although their hearts were heavy, he knew that moping around wasn't going to help anyone move on. He finally stopped in his tracks and sat down in the sand.
"I s'pose we'll have to figure out to do with our lives now, eh?" He said as she sat down next to him, looking out across the horizon. When she didnt' speak, he continued. "I still want to be an auror. Probably be out of a job quickly, though, all the bad guys will retire when they hear I'm out to get them."
Hermione actually smiled. It was a start.
"Got to be honest, though, Hermione, I don't know if I'll go back to Hogwarts. Kingsley tells me they'll probably hire me on the spot, but I told him not to get involved. You going to be okay with that?"
Hermione looked straight at him, a sad look on her face. She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again and looked out at the water. "Doesn't really surprise me, to be honest. You'll write all the time, won't you?"
"All the time. Are you going back?"
She nodded. "Yeah, I think so. I don't know what I want to do yet, but I supposed it'll depend on..."
She stopped, eyes fixed on the water.
Harry moved over, putting his arm around her shoulders like a big brother does when his sister comes home after she's been picked on by a bully. She burried her face in her arms, and he patted her shoulder in comfort. "Don't beat yourself up, he really has come 'round, Hermione. He just needs a few days to deal with... you know. It's nothing to do with you. The look in his eyes after you kissed him, I've never seen him like that. If you ask me, Hermione, he loves you, a lot. My bet is that it'll only take him a few more days and he'll be following you around like a lost puppy."
She laughed at the last part, wiping a stray tear from her face. Harry stood, pulling her to her feet, and they kept walking.
"He didn't..." she paused. "He didn't say that, did he? About... loving me? Not that..."
He laughed. "It's okay, Hermione, you can say it, I know you love him too. But no, he didn't say it, I can just tell."
They continued walking along the beach, Hermione actually looking a bit more up in spirits. Harry didn't dare tell her that Ron had, in fact, admitted that he loved her, back at Shell Cottage after the incident at Malfoy manor. He was sitting in the living room with Harry, all distraut about her being tortured, and Harry told him to relax. She was upstairs sleeping and Ron was beside himself. He looked up at Harry and simply said that he couldn't calm down because he loved her. But Harry would never tell Hermione that, not untill she heard it from Ron first.
Ron began making his way up the hill, hands stuffed in his jacket pockets. The morning air was crisp on his face and his hair moved across his forehead with the breeze. At first, he felt very alone. That only lasted until he began rounding the corner and saw her.
She stood near the top of the hill, smoothing out her skirt and rubbing under her eyes to make sure her make-up wasn't smudging. For a split second, he just observed her, but then she turned and saw him. She came walking straight toward him and into his arms, holding him around the neck. He burried his face in her hair and breathed in the smell of her hair. They didn't have to say anything. Squeezing her around the waist, he let a breath out and felt her muscles relax just slightly. The world was quiet, but even if it wasn't, they wouldn't have heard anything anyways.
"I missed you," she spoke into his collarbone. It was so muffled that only he could hear it. His chest swelled and he kissed the top of her head, meaning that he had missed her too.
Then they pulled back and moved away as if to resume the day like nothing had happened, only as they went, she gripped onto his arm and leaned into him. The rest of the day was a depressing blurr. It went by like a trance, and Ron would have thought it was some messed up dream, but she was too real. The way she stayed touching him the entire day kept him in the real world. One minute they were moving up the hill toward his family, and soon they were standing in front of a mahoganny casket, watching it as if something were going to happen with it. But nothing did. And then they were in a muggle car, driving down unfamilliar streets toward two more caskets with even more people standing around crying. Ron didn't find funerals a good way to say good bye. He didn't like to display his emotion publicly, so he tried his best to block it all out. Two funerals was all, and they were glad it was, for they weren't sure they could handle more. Soon they were at Shell cottage, sitting around trying to eat food and talk to relatives and loved ones who only brought more saddness into the mood. Neither Ron, Hermione, nor Harry were in the mood to eat, so they stayed close to each other, but she never let go of Ron's arm until people began clearing out and she went to go help Fleur clean up.
Ron Weasley made his way into the back garden alone, hands still stuffed in his pockets. The night air was cool and breezy, but the wind was mild and the night was tolerable. He took a seat on a garden bench in a little patio area and sat, hands folded, looking into his lap. It had been a long day.
When Harry and came out, Ron cleared his throat and acted as if he'd just come out to see the stars. Harry smiled sympathetically and lit a fire in the little pit at the centre of the garden.
Searching his mind, Harry wondered what to say to Ron. Seven years of friendship reduced to silence, but Harry knew they'd get back to the way they were. Sometimes the wounds were just too deep, and the best way to heal was rest.
"You alright, mate?" Harry asked, patting Ron's shoulder.
Ron nodded, smiling at his best friend. "Yeah... yeah, thanks. You?"
Harry smiled. "Yeah."
They didn't really mean that they were alright, because they weren't. What they really meant was, "no, but I will be."
Hermione came through the back door just as a gust of wind blew through the wind chimes.
"Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to-"
Harry shook his head, standing to abandon them together, purposely. "No, I was just leaving, I should go see if Bill needs help clearing up."
Ron's eyes got lost in the sky again. Hermione went and sat next to him. The silence was unbearable. Unlike Harry, Hermione did not easily accept silence.
"Hey," Hermione looked up at Ron, urging him to look back at her. He did not.
"Ron," she insisted, giving a half-laugh. "Look at me."
Their eyes met and he could no longer block the world out. All the emotion came rushing to the brim. They pressed their foreheads together as her hand came up and rested on his cheek. She liked the slight evening stubble - it made him seem more mature.
"Sorry," he appologised, trying to lift his spirits.
"Stop it," she said. "Don't. You have every reason to be upset. Don't you dare appologise, Ron, I'm here, okay? You can tell me anything. That's why I'm here."
He stood up, pulling her with him by the hands. Then he led her down toward the beach, and together, they walked, hand in hand, forgetting everyone else and the events of the day. They just listened to the waves.
Hermione loved just being by his side. It wasn't like things used to be. It was as if the energy between them had shifted, and they were now pulled together, almost magnetically. She loved it. Something told her he did too, but she didn't want to get her hopes up. There are very few moments in your life that stick in your memory so boldly that you can relive them as if they just happens. This moment was one of them.
"Mum's going to invite you all back to the Burrow," Ron told her, looking at the rocks beneath his feet.
"Yeah, I just..." he paused, swallowing. "I don't know it's such a good idea."
Her heart sank. "Yeah, you... you're probably right."
"So..." he took a deep breath, stopping and turning to face her. His eyes finally met hers again. "I thought maybe I'd come stay here."
She had to hug him and burry her face in his chest to stop herself grinning like an idiot. He wrapped his arms tightly around her, kissing her head as he had done earlier that day. Hermione slide her hands up and clasped the back of his neck, sending shivers down his spine that drove him so wild that he grabbed her round the waist and picked her up.
All he could think about was kissing her, but as it always seemed to go in their relationship, there was something to get in the way. Out of nowhere, it began to rain down on them. They ran back to the cottage as fast as they could, hands held tight.
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