A/N I know! Shock of shocks! Two updates in two days! This one is the Shell Cottage chapter and this part of the books is my favourite part to read about in fan fiction because there is so much raw emotion. So here's my take.
EDIT: I edited the ending to make it actually fit better with Affectionate 28/11/17
Ron stopped spinning and the first thing he felt was the sand. For a moment he let himself be grateful that they had actually made it. Then he looked down.
Hermione was lying in his arms, but not in the way he had always imagined it happening. In fact Ron wasn't even sure she was breathing. A wave of panic as fierce as the waves that were currently beating the rocks next to him, smashed through him. Without a second glance around the beach or a thought for Luna, or Dean, or Harry, or anyone else on this damned beach - he gathered Hermione up into his arms, and in a show of strength that he didn't even know he possessed, he picked her up and carried her.
He would be lying if he didn't admit it was a struggle. He was chronically underweight and his body had started to eat away at what little muscle he had managed to gain during his quidditch days before the war. He didn't care though, he was trying his hardest not to have an outright panic attack whilst carrying her. He couldn't bear to think about Hermione, the only girl he had ever, and would ever love not being alive anymore.
He struggled his way up to hill towards the dainty cottage sitting at it's peak. When he reached it he banged heavily with little care for the couple sleeping inside. It seemed like hours but he knew it could only have been a couple of minutes before the door opened to show his oldest brother's heavily scarred face behind a pointed wand.
Somehow the sight of his oldest brother, who Ron had always considered to be a mature adult who always had a handle on every situation, gave him free reign to let all his panic and worry out. He could feel himself practically turning into his five-year old self again, begging his big brother to fix his banged up knee without letting anyone know he'd stolen Fred's broom.
"Please Bill! You have to help me! I don't have time for this she….she…" He broke off into panicked sobs.
Bill took one look at Hermione's limp form and his brother's tears and put his wand away. He tried to take Hermione from him, but Ron couldn't let her go. He felt his brother's eyes on him as he staggered over to the sofa, placing her down as gently as his shaking arms would let him.
She looked so frail and tiny as Bill and Fleur (who had come running into the room shortly after they had laid her down) cast spells and wiped blood from her body.
"You have to fix her!" He sobbed, "Please, I can't…I can't…"
Bill turned to face him with serious eyes, "What happened Ron?!"
"I can't tell you Bill please just fix her, you have to fix her!" He managed to get out through the panicked sobs.
He was shaking and he couldn't slow his breathing down, his vision was starting to blur and he felt close to fainting when a scream broke through. Hermione's scream.
At first he thought for a moment he had dreamt the escape and that they were back inside that dungeon, but then his vision cleared and he saw that Fleur had managed to wake Hermione up. She was shaking and screaming but she was alive.
The jolt of relief that snapped his brain back into gear gave him another thought.
"Bill!" He shouted urgently over the screaming, "You have to warn everyone! They know I'm with Harry! You have to get them out!"
Bill's eyes went wide in shock, "What?! How?"
"There's no time for that! Just go!" Ron practically pushed him out of the way in an effort to get to Hermione. He distantly heard Bill leave.
Flour was trying to get Hermione to calm down but the thrashing didn't stop until Ron held her face in his hands,
"Hermione, love, you're safe. I'm here, I've got you." He said tenderly.
He repeated himself until her thrashing calmed and her eyes fluttered open.
"Ron?" Her voice called horsely.
"Yeah, It's me."
She opened her eyes, though he could tell it pained her, and winced.
"It hurts." she whimpered.
It sent a shot through his heart to see her in this much pain.
"I know love," he said as he stroked her hair, "You're so brave and strong and I'm so sorry I couldn't get to you in time, I'm so sorry." He cried into her chest and she brought her hands up to touch the back of his head in comfort.
Flour nudged him and he looked up to see her holding a vial of pain potion.
"This will help" she said softly, sympathy in her eyes.
As he helped Hermione drink the liquid, he noticed that somehow Fleur had managed to bandage her up while he was talking to Bill. Hermione sighed in relief as the potion began to take effect, flopping back down against the cushions.
Ron turned back to Fleur, "Thank you."
Flour smiled softly and ran a hand over his head, "do not worry, she will be all right.""
The crack of Bill apparating back sounded and Fleur went out to meet him leaving Hermione and Ron all alone. Some part of him wondered where everyone else was but right now he was just happy to be with her.
He turned back to look at her, to find her staring at him with a look he had only managed to catch a few times before. Usually when he caught her staring at him like this she would quickly avert her eyes but this time she didn't.
For a moment they just sat staring at each other unable to believe that they had both managed to make it out of there alive.
"You're alive." Ron's voice was hoarse from the screaming and crying, he cleared his throat before continuing, moving closer to her from his position sat on the floor by her side. "For a second there I thought you might not make it." He captured her hand in his.
Hermione looked down at her hand, tears filling her eyes, "But I did make it. Your voice, you were shouting my name." she reached a hand out to touch his face. "It helped me because when I heard you shouting I could remember why I was doing this, why I needed to stay alive."
He knew that she wasn't just talking about the horcrux hunt now. He might have had insecurities about whether or not Hermione actually felt the same way or not before, but after seeing her almost dead, he realised that he was wasting time wondering and holding back. He needed her to know, even if there was no way they could start something, even if they had an unspoken agreement to put Harry first.
"Hermione, I have to say something." He knelt up next to her, and her eyes widened and he saw a flash of something, hope maybe? She leant forward slightly and he took the hand that he wasn't already holding into his other.
"Ron you don't have to." Hermione started, but he cut her off smiling wryly.
"I know, but I need to say it. When she took you, when I heard the screaming and saw you lying there I realised that we're being bloody stupid." Hermione let out a slightly shocked breath of laughter. "I don't want to beat around the bush anymore, I love you Hermione Granger, and if you don't feel the same way then that's okay but I can't hold it in anymore, not when there's a possibility that I won't ever get to say it. I guess I thought that you and Harry were kind of untouchable in a way, that you would never actually get seriously hurt, but I was wrong. I've loved you for a long time Hermione and I just, I needed you to know."
She was crying now, but she was smiling. He kissed her knuckles.
"Oh Ron, I love you too. I guess I knew how you felt, or I'd hoped I was right. We really have been bloody stupid haven't we?" She laughed tearfully.
Ron was momentarily shocked by the sound of a swear word coming out of her mouth before he joined her in laughter.
Then the front door opened again. Luna came through with a melancholy expression.
"Oh, hello Hermione, I'm glad you're alright." She said sincerely.
"Thanks Luna." Hermione replied warmly.
"It's a shame about the house elf though isn't it?"
Hermione and Ron exchanged panicked glances.
"What do you mean Luna what happened?" Ron demanded.
"Oh! Did you not know? The house elf was caught by a knife while you escaped. Harry's burying him now."
And so their little bubble was burst and they went back to being soldiers in a war that they shouldn't have been fighting. Though they now knew of each other's feelings, they also knew that nothing could be done about them until they had completed their job.
Dobby's funeral was hard, but Ron was glad they had done it. If only to give Hermione some peace of mind. Afterwards Fleur insisted on feeding them, Ron hadn't quite realised how hungry he was until the food was put in front of him, and started to wolf it down. They ate in silence, which he was strangely glad for, he reckoned he must still be in shock, his movements were mechanical and part of him felt asleep, as though he were sleepwalking. He wasn't ready to answer the questions burning in Bill's eyes every time he looked at him.
It wasn't until Fleur had ushered everyone to bed that Bill finally caught him.
"Ron. Can we talk." It wasn't a question. It was a demand. He could see the barely hidden anger boiling beneath the surface of his older brother's concern.
Ron gave a tired nod, thinking longingly of the girl who was now making her way up to one of the few spare bedrooms.
They made their way outside and Bill put his hand on Ron's shoulder. He couldn't tell whether it was because he was swaying with exhaustion and Bill felt the need to hold him up, or he was making an attempt to calm himself.
"Ron you need to tell me what happened." Bill's eyes bore into Ron's as though he were trying to read his mind through them.
"I can't Bill, I've already said-" Ron started wearily.
"I know what you said Ronald, but for Merlin's sake can't you see that you need help in this, it's insane that you think you can do this alone! Hermione's already been hurt, you're only children!" Bill's voice was getting louder and tenser, the calm and controlled facade slipping.
"We aren't children Bill, and I promise you if I could tell you I would, we aren't doing this for no reason. Hermione's okay, we'll all be okay I promise, it was an accident. It won't happen again." He didn't know who he was trying to convince and Bill's own doubts were bringing his own fears to the surface.
"Merlin Ron! You think Hermione's okay?! She barely made it! She's alive yes, but Dean told me enough to know that she'll not be okay any time soon. This is a war Ron, people get hurt in war and everyone is going to be after you and Hermione now. You aren't invincible!" He was shaking his brother by the shoulders by this point, and it was making Ron feel slightly queasy.
"What are you talking about? Hermione's fine, you saw her! I won't let anything happen to her again!" Ron pushed his brother's hands off his shoulders.
"She was hit by a cruciatus curse, MULTIPLE TIMES, do you even know what that means?! You don't just patch that up and be on your way! She could still lose her mind! She needs rest and therapy and a healer, a real one, not to be in the middle of this mess."
The panic was rising at his words, Ron could feel it bubbling up. Images flashed through his mind of Neville's parents and of Hermione's screams when she woke up after he had saved her.
"SHUT UP BILL! She's fine, she's safe she isn't going to go insane. It's Hermione she's the strongest person I know. What do you know?!"
He was near tears, he could feel them and deep down he felt slightly guilty for shouting at his brother after everything he had done for them.
Bill looked sadly at him, sighing and running a hand over his own face.
"I'm just trying to help. Maybe we should talk tomorrow, you're tired." He sympathetically rubbed Ron's shoulder, guiding him back into the house.
"There isn't much room, you might have to sleep on the sofa." Bill offered.
Ron looked back up the stairs, with fear that maybe his brother was right. "I'll just check on Hermione."
He made his way up the stairs, his legs feeling like lead. When he reached her door, he knocked softly. She opened it gently, eyes warming when she saw him.
"Luna's asleep" she whispered, nodding to the girl in the other bed.
They stood in silence for a beat, just looking at each other, both exhausted and slightly numb.
"I just wanted to see if you were okay" He spoke softly so as to not wake Luna.
Hermione sighed, "I'll be fine, I'm just tired. To be honest though, i'm a little nervous about sleeping. I'm scared I might have nightmares." She shrugged sheepishly, attempting to hide her pure terror at the thought of reliving her real life nightmare.
"I could stay." Ron spoke without consideration, before realising what he had suggested. "I mean, I could sit with you until you fall asleep. If you wanted of course." He rubbed the back of his neck, wondering why he was still so nervous after finding out how she felt.
"I'd like that." Hermione blushed.
And so she climbed into bed as he settled into the wicker chair next to her. He wasn't quite sure what to do next and was internally fretting when all of a sudden she grabbed his hand, tucking it under her cheek intertwined with her own. She wasn't smiling, just looking at him with some intense emotion that he couldn't quite decipher in his blurry haze of sleep. Slowly her eyes fluttered shut, and he couldn't stop his own from doing the same.
Thank you so much for reading hope you enjoyed!