An excerpt from Potterwatch by EruditeWitch

Summary: A missing moment from Deathly Hallows. Hermione and Ron deal with the pain of him leaving and the uncertainty of emotions behind his return.
Lyrics by Sarah Bareilles

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Hermione sat at the small table in their little tent, watching Ron fiddling with his wireless. She pretended to be poring over a book on defensive magic as he tried desperately to find a radio show he had listened to at his brother’s. She watched his mouth curve in concentration, watched his broad, thin body bend over different sides of the small radio, and even chuckled silently as he stomped away from the radio like a frustrated child.

It had been two months since he had returned, and she was no closer to openly forgiving him for his desertion. Sure, their companionship was almost back to normal, their way of easy bantering and the obvious teamwork required to make it through, but she hadn’t forgiven him, and he knew it. She could see the pleading behind his eyes every time his met hers, and it made her want to forget it all right there. But he had hurt her too badly this time, and she didn’t know if they could ever be the same. The thought broke her heart, so she avoided his eyes.

Something always brings me back to you.
It never takes too long.
No matter what I say or do,
I’ll still feel you here,
’til the moment I’m gone.

The night he came back, she had never been so happy and so angry in one moment. She wanted to wrap her arms around him and cry when she saw him step awkwardly into the tent, but her broken heart won out and she fought his return. Throughout their long walks, she ached to grasp his hand, but she remembered him leaving as she pleaded for him to stay, so she did nothing.

After they got back from the Lovegoods’, she wanted to fling herself on him in relief, but she did no such thing. Everything was at war in her world, and her heart and head were no exceptions. When he took her side, so to speak, in her argument with Harry about The Deathly Hallows, she wanted to kiss him, but instead she just left for her watch, figuring he was only trying to get on her good side anyway.

Ron was holding back too. On difficult paths, there was no arm beneath hers to hold her steady. When she led the way, there wasn’t a hand on the small of her back to ensure her. And when she was afraid, she had nowhere to find safety as his seat was always farthest away from hers. When they walked, he would shove his hands in his pockets and gaze at her furtively from the corners of his eyes.

Despite her best efforts, despite all of her strength, he was still on her mind every night before she slept. She wanted him when the darkness of their lives took over. She needed him beside her.

You hold me without touch.
You keep me without chains.
Never wanted anything so much,
Then to drown in your love,
And not feel your rain.

Another day, and Ron still had not managed to find the radio show. He finally gave up late one night as Harry walked out of the tent to take the first watch, trying to inconspicuously take the Marauder’s Map with him.

“Well, we’d better rest up. I’ve got the middle shift, so you’ve got to get up quite early,” Ron said, standing up and stretching. Hermione found herself blushing at the thinness of his pajama bottoms as they stretched over his body. She quickly hid her face by getting up and busying herself by preparing her bed for sleep.

“Hermione? If you don’t mind, could you set an alarm so I can get up and send Harry to bed?” Ron asked. Normally he would not be nearly so polite, and this artificial courtesy felt so false and unfamiliar that Hermione found herself missing the old Ron.

“Mmmhmm…” she answered, not trusting her actual words. He reached up with his Deluminator and took out the lights in the sleeping quarter. Soon, she was lulled into an uneasy sleep.

Set me free, leave me be.
I don’t want to fall another moment into your gravity.
Here I am and I stand so tall,
Just the way I’m supposed to be.
But you’re on to me and all over me.

She ran her hands down his bare back as he hovered above her in the camp bed. She sighed when he kissed down her neck and his tongue passed over her bare breasts. She could feel the heat pooling in her center as he whispered her name over and over again.

“My own. ‘Mione. Hermione!”

She sat up abruptly, Ron’s calls waking her from an embarrassing sleep.

“Sorry, but it’s time for your watch. I can do it if you’re…”

“I’m fine, Ronald. I’m not a porcelain doll.”

He chuckled in his old way at her snap, and she couldn’t help but smirk as he tucked back in for the remainder of the morning.

Hermione grabbed Beedle the Bard and settled herself in for the 4-hour morning watch. Approximately halfway through her shift, she heard quiet sounds coming from their tiny kitchen. She peeked her head in to find Ron, lit only by his wand, attempting to make tea.

“What are you doing awake?” she whispered, genuinely concerned.

“Couldn’t sleep.”

“Are you feeling okay?”

“Fine. I’ve jut got a lot on my mind…of course. I just want to hear how everyone is doing, and I can’t get that damned wireless to work!” he said, looking sadly around the low ceilings of the tent.

“Want some tea? I can sit out there for a few minutes. It’s chilly anyway, and you need to warm up,” he said, giving her a sad smile.

Hermione nodded and climbed into the tent’s entrance as Ron was climbing out. As she walked quietly down the steps, she felt his fingers brush lightly down her back. The feeling gave her chills, and she had to close her eyes before making her tea.

You loved me ’cause I’m fragile.
When I thought that I was strong.
But you touch me for a little while
And all my fragile strength is gone.

As she was making her tea, she reached into her bag and pulled out her homework planner to mark the days off. March 7th…Ron was 18 and he’d never mentioned anything! Her inner turmoil be damned. She pulled out two chocolate biscuits she was saving, and lit a bluebell flame over one.

She walked back out of the tent to find the sun getting ready to come up. Ron was standing against a nearby tree, focused on nothing but whatever was in his head.

Hermione decided to cast her bitterness aside, albeit momentarily, and began to hum a very quiet version of ‘Happy Birthday’. Ron almost jumped out of his skin, but when he saw her, a shy grin spread across his face.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” she asked, levitating a biscuit toward him, avoiding his long fingers as they grasped the sweet treat.

“We’ve been so caught up in other things, I didn’t want to be a distraction.”

Hermione just nodded solemnly. Her birthday had passed without a word.

“Kind of like you did in September? I didn’t even realize until Christm…Well it took me a while.”

“Touche, Ronald,” Hermione said, swallowing a lump in her throat at the period of time he alluded to.

“Hermione, I…”

“No. Not now. I can’t.”

Ron was quiet for a spell, and then went to speak again with an even more apologetic tone.

“Hermione, I need to…”

“Ron! I’m not ready! I can’t.”

“Damnit! You have to let me do this!”

“I don’t have to do anything,” she answered, trying to sound forceful, but failing as her voice quivered.

Ron dropped his teacup, grabbed her shoulders, and turned her to face him. Though he looked cross, his hands felt soft on her shoulders.

“I’m sorry. I’m more sorry than I’ve ever been. I’m ashamed that I deserted you. I’m ashamed I left Harry after I said no matter what that I wouldn’t. I’m a coward. Nothing can change how awful I feel about what I did.” He said, his own voice breaking up. Hermione tried to look away from him, to hide her own tears, which were forming in her eyes. He took his hand and turned her chin toward him, and she saw the horrible pain on his face.

“But I will spend forever making it up to you, even if nothing changes. It’s all I can do,” he whispered the last line, letting go of her shoulders and turning to leave.

“Ron!” she said as he walked away.

He turned his bright blue eyes at her, shining with tears he was desperately fighting.

“I promise…if that even means anything…I will never leave you. Never.” He struggled to speak over a roughness in his throat. Hermione couldn’t compose herself. She wanted to tell him it would be all right. She wanted to tell him he had forever, because she would never leave him either. She wanted to promise him so much. But she held it in. She needed to be strong, or she would never last.

“Eat your biscuit,” she whispered. It was the only thing she could articulate. He smiled, his annoying ability to read her face working overtime. They both hastily wiped their faces before Ron took a bite of his treat. She sighed easily when he placed an arm around her shoulders.

The day went by quickly and soon they were nestled into a new hiding place. Hermione set about trying to read more about The Deathly Hallows in order to prove Harry wrong, but she kept glancing at Ron’s back, bent over his wireless.

Ron’s excited yell pulled her from her not so obvious pretend reading.

“I’ve got it! I’ve got it! Password was ‘Albus’! Get in here, Harry!”

Hermione jumped off her chair and crouched down in between the boys. They all smelled like rain and dirt, but there was such an excitement in the air that it didn’t matter. A person whose voice was vaguely familiar to her began to echo out.

“…apologize for our temporary absence form the airwaves, which was due to a number of house calls in our area by those charming Death Eaters.”

“But that’s Lee Jordan!” Hermione exclaimed. She was so excited to hear a familiar voice, she didn’t realized how closely she had scooted toward Ron.

“I know!” beamed Ron. “Cool, eh?” he said. She marveled at the biggest smile she had seen in weeks.

“…now found ourselves another secure location,” Lee was saying, “and I’m pleased to tell you that two of our regular contributors have joined me here this evening. Evening boys!”

“Hi.”

“Evening, River”

“ ‘River’, that’s Lee,” Ron explained. “They’ve all got code names, but you can usually tell,”

Hermione had to quiet his excited rambling so that she could hear the programme.

“But before we hear from Royal and Romulus,” Lee went on, “let’s take a moment to report those deaths that the Wizarding Wireless Network News and The Daily Prophet don’t think important enough to mention. It is with great regret that we inform our listeners of the murders of Ted Tonks and Dirk Cresswell.”

Hermione looked around, scared to death. She had just heard his voice not long ago. How close were Death Eaters to finding them?

“A goblin by the name of Gornuk was also killed. It is believed that Muggle-born Dean Thomas and a second goblin, both believed to have been traveling with Tonks, Cresswell, and Gornuk, may have escaped. If Dean is listening, or if anyone has any knowledge of his whereabouts, his parents and sisters are desperate for news.”

The radio show went on, with Hermione shushing Ron often, and Kingsley Shacklebolt’s voice booming through the tent. There was defensive advice, news on the Muggle world’s troubles, and even some opinions of how some of the more cowardly wizards were acting. Then, Hermione had to gasp as the ‘Pals of Potter’ segment started, and Hermione whispered, “We know it’s Lupin!” to Ron to keep him from shouting again.

Remus Lupin began to speak of his assuredness that Harry was alive and well, which Hermione had to smile at, because at least those who cared knew he was okay. And then, Lee asked Remus a question that almost made Hermione sob in her already emotional state.

“And what would you say to Harry if you knew he was listening, Romulus?”

“I’d tell him we’re all with him in spirit,” said Lupin, then hesitated slightly. “And I’d tell him to follow his instincts, which are good and nearly always right.”

Hermione could feel her eyes welling up with emotion. She missed them all so much. Everything was so unsure, so shaky. And here their closest friends were, standing by Harry despite no news whatsoever. And yet, Hermione had to remind Harry he wasn’t ALWAYS right, just nearly.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” said Ron in surprise at Harry and Hermione’s silent communication. “Bill told me that Professor Lupin is living with Tonks again. And apparently she’s getting pretty big too…”

Hermione marveled at the happy look glazing over his eyes. It almost looked like hope.

“…and our usual update on those friends of Harry Potter’s who are suffering for their allegiance?” Lee was saying.

And Hermione listened with bated breath as tales of Hagrid’s daring escape, Xeno Lovegood’s imprisonment, and more encouragement to keep supporting Harry rang throughout the quiet tent. Then, someone named Rodent was introduced, and no one could contain his or her excitement. They all cried out Fred’s name in unison.

“No — is it George?”

“It’s Fred, I think,” said Ron, leaning in closer, as whichever twin it was said:

“I’m not being ‘Rodent’, no way, I told you I wanted to be Rapier!”

“Oh, all right then. ‘Rapier’, could you please give us your take on the various stories we’ve been hearing about the Chief Death Eater?”

And so Fred went on with the latest news of fact and myth about Voldemort himself. The show was witty, informative, and the most comforting thing Hermione had experienced in ages. Lee’s voice was signing off.

“Listeners, that brings us to the end of another Potterwatch. We don’t know when it will be possible to broadcast again, but you can be sure we shall be back. Keep twiddling those dials. The next password will be ‘Mad-Eye.’ Keep each other safe. Keep faith. Good Night.”

Hermione felt deep, sweeping relief knowing everyone she loved was okay for another day. That is, until she and Harry got into it about the Elder Wand yet again. Then, every little bit of comfort faded away as Harry said his name. Voldemort.

“The name’s Taboo,” Ron bellowed, leaping to his feet as a loud crack sounded outside the tent.

Panic overtook her, and her senses numbed. She could only hear the beating of her own heart in that moment. There were angry voices, but she couldn’t tell what they were saying. One look at Ron said it all.

Ron grabbed her hand and she gathered the strength to curse Harry into disguise before they were ripped from the tent. She fought as hard as she could, but their strong hands were too much.

She heard Ron shout, and then she heard his face get hit hard. Her senses came back.

“No! Leave him alone! Leave him alone!”

“Your boyfriend’s going to have worse that that done to him if he’s on my list,” said the rough voice. “Delicious girl…What a treat…I do enjoy the softness of skin,” he whispered, running a hand down her face. He smelled of blood, a cold metallic smell that made her want to vomit. She cried out as Ron and Harry were pushed to the ground and the men went into the tent.

She felt herself press up against a tall figure, and heard a familiar voice whisper her name. Dean Thomas was standing with his back to hers. She didn’t have time to find her words, when she heard Harry identify himself as Dudley.

Ron tried to call himself Stan Shunpike, and Hermione’s stomach lurched as she heard another hit meet his face. He finally used Barny Weasley as his disguise.

Soon, the offending man was facing her again, asking for her name. Thinking fast, she answered the first name that came into her head.

“Penelope Clearwater,” said Hermione. She was terrified, but kept her voice firm. The buzzing in her head continued, until she felt Harry and Ron press up against either side of her. They could only sit, and lie, as the men searched their tent. Then, they found the sword. Hermione was faint with fear when she heard her name.

“’Ermione Granger,” Scabior was saying, “the Mudblood who is known to be traveling with ‘Arry Potter.”

Hermione’s mouth went dry. She grabbed for a hand behind her back. She had no idea whose she was holding, she just needed the strength to go on. He was talking to her again; she tried to answer the Death Eater.

“It isn’t! It isn’t me!” she cried, but her voice squeaked and gave her away. She hated herself for giving him away. Now they knew it was Harry, and the Death Eaters slowly put the pieces together.

Too soon, they had decided to take them to where Voldemort was headquartered.

I live here on my knees
As I try to make you see
That you’re everything I think I need
Here on the ground.
But you’re neither friend nor foe
Though I can’t seem to let you go.
The one thing that I still know
Is that you’re keeping me down

Hermione panicked when Draco Malfoy was forced to identify their faces, but he turned to shrug it off. She breathed easier, knowing Bellatrix would never summon Voldemort unless she knew for sure who they were holding.

The seconds seemed to pass like agonizing hours as they argued over their identity. Narcissa had picked them all out, and was convinced they had ‘Potter’, but Bellatrix had noticed their sword, and wouldn’t let anyone summon Voldemort yet. More infighting occurred before Bellatrix had overpowered them all and made up her mind.

Narcissa Malfoy had commanded them all be taken into the cellar, and Hermione was relieved to be leaving that room so that she could gather her thoughts.

“Wait,” said Bellatrix sharply. “All except…except for the Mudblood.”

“No!” shouted Ron. “You can have me, keep me!”

As Ron begged for them to keep him, she struggled to say no, to beg for his and Harry’s safety. But they were taken away, and all of those malevolent faces stared back at her. She tried to keep Ron’s eyes in her mind. He was close, and he was safe.

The pain ripped through her, and Hermione wished for death. She couldn’t go on through this pain. She was hoping she’d stop breathing, that she would choke on her own pain and die, ending this horrifying feeling.

Then, she heard Ron calling from somewhere far off. He was screaming desperately for her. Despite all that had transpired, Hermione knew beyond logic that they needed each other, and she had to be strong.

Set me free, leave me be.
I don’t want to fall another moment into your gravity.
Here I am and I stand so tall,
Just the way I’m supposed to be.
But you’re on to me and all over me.

Disclaimer: The characters of and situations of Harry Potter used in this story are the legal property of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury, and AOL Time Warner. We are just borrowing them. No copyright infringement is intended.

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