Lovingly dedicated to the director ( divagonzo ) and participants of romioneficfest 2021 ( romioneficfest ) posted on Tumblr.

Finally, in English.

All my appreciation to headcanonsandmore, without whose help the realization of this translation would have been impossible.

He did an OUTSTANDING job revising the original, something I can never thank him enough for. Any errors or inaccuracies in the text will be my fault, not his.

Preliminary consideration. Even after reading headcanonsandmore's annotation and, because the text is basically the interaction between a male character and an elf. Continuously using he/his/him would perhaps have given the text a lack of freshness, as it was continually making 'notations' to clarify which of them is speaking. I hoped this would make it easier for the reader. I apologise if this may offend anyone in any way.

The home elf

When the first rays of sunlight broke through the windows of Grimmauld Place, the sapphire eyes of Ronald Weasley greeted them open.

He hadn't slept much that night and there was a good reason for that. In a few hours Hermione, Harry and himself would infiltrate the Ministry to try to obtain Slytherin's locked.

The first of the Horcruxes they must locate and detsroy brought with it the real meaning of what they were getting into and the terrible dance that they would be facing from them on.

Not that he had been unaware of it before, but he had always felt protected under Dumbeldore's magic and presence. It was the attack on his own home that reminder him what that protection was over.

Just once, he had felt like this. So exposed, so vulnerable, so insignificant, so useless and scared. It was when Hermione had been injured in the Department of Mysteries. If it were up to him, he would have hidden Hermione with her parents on the other side of the world. This was a nice dream to find solace in but he was aware that without her, the mission would be doomed to failure.

The night when the first lights of dawn were coming to an end had been a constant succession of lucid nightmares in which he had envisioned the thousand and one dreadful fates they might face once they passed through the Ministry's atrium, and all but two of these nightmares had as their protagonist a witch with thick bushy hair and chocolate-coloured eyes.

For a moment, resentment against Harry nested in Ronald Weasley's heart. He had no problem sharing the fate of his best friend. If Harry asked him, Ron would be able to go down to hell with one hand tied behind his back, which in fact was exactly what he was about to do! Ron wasn't stupid. The experience of previous years had given him a realistic perspective of the war. The price that was paid day by day and the price that was still to be paid, but that price should not include a stubborn witch who was wise, crazy and with a mouth he wanted to kiss. Harry should have insisted and forbid her to endanger herself by traveling with them.

As if you or he could have stopped her! A voice whispered in the back of his head causing a hint of a smile to play on the redhead's lips as images of a platinum blonde ferret getting a superb punch to the nose replayed in his mind.

Besides, you know that if it weren't for her, you'd both be perfectly dead and He-who-not-to-be-named would be walking the land of Merlin long before.

A brief growl escaped Ron's smile at the thought that the little voice seemed to have the echo of a too familiar 'I told you so'.

Even so, he could not refute that claim. Had it not been for Hermione and her prodigious beaded bag, their situation at this very moment might have been very different. They would not have had the supplies to survive until they had reached the Sirius's residence and had been able to carry out all the surveillance of the ministry...

A thunderous grumble from his stomach put an end to all that introspection.

"I wonder how she's arranged the food thing? She's been reminding me of Gamp's laws for six bloody years," he muttered as he sat up.

Knowing that he was unable to stay in bed for even minute longer, and hoping to calm his nerves and nightmares with a good cup of tea, he started towards the kitchen when he found the light leaking under the door of the room in which he had left Hermione the night before.

This had not ended in one of their famous arguments because he had preferred to bite his tongue rather than go to bed with both of them angry at each other, but he had been very close to grabbing her by the hip, throwing her over his shoulder, and throwing her over the nearest bed to force her to sleep, when she insisted on staying awake, going going over the details of infiltrating a Ministry dominated by Voldemort to the point of exhaustion. The rage he had barely managed to control returned with full force when he realised that she had to keep working on it.

With typical Weasley outburst, he burst into the room ready to end this madness and force her to rest for the few hours that remained, when he froze in the doorway while all the anger that had once made his blood boil evaporated as if it had never been.

Under the flickering candlelight, a sound-asleep Hermione, rested her head on a book on the theory of magic and a countless number of scrolls scribbled with diagrams and plans of the Ministry.

Ron needs to lean against the doorjamb when he feels his legs turn to jelly as he watches the flickering candlelight catch infinite shades of copper from the petite witch's hair, how, despite the small trickle of drool that escapes from between her lips. They look softly pink and absolutely adorable. The long lashes, blessing eyes that would be able to get anything from him just by looking lovingly at him, and the seven little freckles she has on her nose. He never told her, but he learned the configuration of the constellation Orion when he saw it perfectly represented on that little nose. But above all that, what touches his heart is to see the look on her face completely relaxed, as if for a moment, sleep has blessed her with a few hours of peace, oblivious to all the madness that has been raging around her.

For a moment he tempted to take her in his arms and take her to a bed where she rest properly. H is arms tingle at the mere thought of touching her, but he knows that if she wakes up, she will insist on continuing her crazy review, losing the little rest she so desperately needs, something he will not deny her. Although a part of his heart cries out for the set image of indulging in what has so far been only one of his craziest dreams like taking her to a marriage bed like a bride, the rest of her whole being makes him close the door slowly while casting a soundproofing spell her to prevent any noise from disturbing her sleep.

Only then, as he resumed his journey to the kitchen, does he allow himself to wonder. When she became so important to him? What at point did she become his whole world?

Surprisingly he couldn't find a specific moment. Somehow, Hermione had been infiltrating his heart without him being fully aware of the stealthy invasion. Evidently, he had realized that what he experienced in the fourth year was a storm of jealousy, so big! That seemed to have turned his brain into jelly and incapable of thinking. But only when he faced the possibility of losing her at the end of fifth year did, he realized the "the sheer extent" of emptiness his had inside if she wasn't in his life.

And while his mind is lost in the memories of a bossy little girl who scoldes him for having a dirty nose, with a young girl who looks amazing meanwhile she glides majestically through the great dining room with the hand of a pumpkin-headed arse with a ridiculous goatee; Ron finds himself in the kitchen just as he sees the old Sirius' home elf, stirring between pots and pans, probably anticipating the housework of the day that begins with breakfast for the three tenants of the old Black House, while the Regulus' locket hangs around it neck.

Well. Not 'Sirius''. It's Harry's elf now, he rectifies in his mind as he remembers that Harry's godfather had been the biggest victim of that fateful night...

"Good morning, master", the broken voice of the old servant interrupts the thoughts that again caused a shudder in his spine. "Perhaps Master Weasley woke up too early? Can Kreacher help his lordship with a cup of tea? "

"Yes, Kreacher. Please." He thinks he'll never get used to the elf's sensitive ears. Somehow, the little servant always seems to sense what is happening around him, even if it was turning its back on him at the time. Ron's heart still comes out of his chest when he remembers the time he sneaked into the kitchen looking for something to eat at midnight, and when he closed the cupboard door, he found a pair of bulging eyes within an inch of his face staring suspiciously at him.

"Master would like something more substantial to go with his tea?"

Ron has not gone unnoticed by the change that had taken place in the Elf's attitude since Harry had given it the Regulus' locket. Its previous hostility towards Harry had turned into a quasi-devotion after that small act of kindness. He wondered, what would have happened to Kreacher, if all of Hermione's ideas about S.P.E.W. and dealing elves with dignity and kindness had been applied by Sirius? Perhaps the tormented elf wouldn't have found the flaw that allowed it to alert the Deatheater. In a twisted way, the last of the Black had forged his fate by treating his servant miserably.

Then, perhaps, he thought, Sirius could have stayed alive and Harry could have had a real family, where he could have felt the love and warmth of a real home.

"Master?"

"No Kreacher, thank you very much", he replies kindly and with a smile when he returned to the present. Here is another one of Hermione's crazy ideas for the magical world and which, however, she is right; he thought. "Tea will be enough."

"As Master Weasley wishes. Should I to prepare breakfast for the other guests, perhaps?" A furry eyebrow rose with doubt.

"I don't know. Have either of them woken up?" Ron wasn't about to let either of them lose moments of sleep, so he considered finding out what his friends' current situation was first before the elf mistakenly interpreted that it was time to wake them both up.

"Master Potter is still asleep, though he hasn't stopped hanging around in bed and grumbling all night," Kreacher seemed to know where Ron's thoughts were headed, "as for the mudblood..."

"DON'T EVER! NEVER! YOU WILL NEVER CALL HER THAT AGAIN, KREACHER. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? DON'T EVER!"

Ron was not even aware of his reaction, until he saw the terrified eyes of the elderly elf as he lifted his arms in an attempt at self-protection.

He was unaware that the chair on which he was sitting slammed against the wall when he stepped abruptly, nor of his agitated breathing, nor how his fist looked white like snow leaning on the table, nor of how he had projected his body towards the elf like the wolf that stalks its prey.

Ron had not been aware of any of it, until he saw an elderly house elf, trembling with terror and with the certainty of supreme punishment in his eyes. That's when a cascade of revelations is triggered in his mind, like if they had always been there, only now they seem to fit perfectly together.

To see how a being, with a magic infinitely more complex and more powerful that human wizards is so shackled by his social conditioning and fear, to the point to be unable to react even only to save its own life or the lives of its own, to become less than vermin in the eyes of it oppressors. And as he gazes into the terrified eyes of the elf, before her mind's eye is the image of other eyes. The sweet chocolate eyes full of love and compassion for any living thing of a girl with big front teeth, who wears a hideous S.P.E.W. badge on her chest and that makes him feel so vile, unworthy and miserable that he feels nauseous of himself.

"Kreacher," his voice sounded harsher than he intended with the try to control the gags that haunt him, causing the elderly shudder before him.

"Kreacher," he repeated, this time with much more warmth. "Please, have a seat."

The elf is so scared that it went like the victim of the 'Imperius' curse, to the nearest chair to sit, ignoring all the social conditioning that prevents it to sitting under the presence of a wizard.

"Kreacher," Ron took a deep breath, as if he wanted to draw from the air the inspiration he needed to face the task before him. "I'm sorry; please forgive me. I shouldn't have yelled at you, or frightened you."

If previously the elf's expression was one of absolute terror, it was replaced by one of utter shock.

"Is… Is Master apologizing to Kreacher?" Its voice sounded like a frog's and his eyes seemed to pop out of their sockets as the thought finally pierced its skull.

"Yeah. You see," the redhead graded his hair trying to focus. He had a difficult problem before him. On the one hand, he couldn't put into crisis all the old servant's beliefs at the stroke of a pen. That would only cause the elf to close itself to listen to him, but on the other hand, he had to make it see or at least consider, the abomination of belittling the mere existence of a sorcerer for the simple fact of his magical origin. "I didn't mean to hurt or frighten you. Just don't use that word again when you mean Miss Granger. She really doesn't deserve it. "

The elf's stupor had not disappeared, but a glimmer of curiosity appeared in its gaze.

"Look, I know how all that purity of blood crap goes, but I'm asking you to disregard it for once, okay?" Kreacher's face implied without a shadow of a doubt/beyond a shadow of a doubt that it wasn't understanding a word Ron was trying to explain.

"Kreacher. Imagine for a moment that you didn't know Miss Granger's origin. That you didn't know her at all, and that the first time she had set foot in this house, instead of appearing in Muggle clothes and accompanying a handful of outlaws and bloog-traitors, she would have come at the hand of Master Regulus, dressed with fop's elegant tunics and looking absolutely beautiful and relaxed, as if this had been her social environment all her life."

"Master Weasley," the elf looks absolutely desolate, "Kreacher can't do that. Kreacher can sense the magic of the wizards. Its origin, its intensity. It is impossible that Kreacher would not have realized that she had been a charlaton."

Ron felt his jaw clench and his back tended to stiffen with pure stiffness as he heard it refer to Hermione as a fake. Getting his point across seemed like an impossible mission. The elf's behaviour seemed to be conditioned by the first impression of perceiving the origins of a wizard's magic in conjunction with all its training. Once the conditioning of a lifetime, nay, a whole dynasty, intervened! There was no room to look at anything else...

"… Anything else…" he whispered, "Anything else. There is no second chance." Ron's eyes opened like plates.

"Is Master right?" Kreacher had left the chair and cautiously approached the wizard who seemed unconcerned.

"There is no second chance," he whispered again, and on his face appeared the smile and glow in her eyes that her opponents in chess they knew so well. "KREACHER! "

The unsuspecting elf jumped backwards so much that stumbled upon the chair it had previously occupied and began to stumble with its own feet until the fall proved imminent, only to be taken in scooped up and gently placed on its original chair by freckled and plenty scarred arms.

"Are you okay, Kreacher? Ron's voice had genuine concern. It was not only because of the continual jolts to which he was subjecting the old heart of the weak elf and the fear of destroying any bridge of understanding that might have been created between the two, but that he might have really suffered some injury.

"What did the master just do?" The elderly's eyes were locked on Ron's.

"I... I, I'm sorry Kreacher. I'm not good at mastering my impulses. I didn't mean to scare you again." Ron's eyes turned to the ground as shame flooded him again. It was the second time he had frightened the elf. It was only logical that it would never trust him again. Any chance to make him understand the human greatness of the curly-haired witch had gone out the window thanks to his blatant and never well-measured combination of stupidity and impulsivity... "Shit!" He moaned.

"Did Master help Kreacher?" its eyes widened like saucers. "Master protected Kreacher!"

"Errr...? " Ron's face was the manifestation of absolute astonishment.

"Master protected Kreacher! He didn't forbid Kreacher to punish itself, no. He protected it." Ron's face clearly showed that he still did not understand what the servant was telling him. "Only Master Regulus did something similar once."

"Hermione does it all the time" Oh Merlin! If that's not a good opening, I don't play chess.

"What?" Poor Kreacher looked as if it was being carried away by a stream of revelations that prevented it from being able to structure its thinking properly. It had been days since a half-blood Master who it hated had given it the treasure that had belonged to the best Master a house elf could wish for, at the same time forbidding it to punish itself even when it had betrayed him and alerted his enemies. Kreacher knew that it was a mere technicality that it could justify its actions on the basis of Master Harry's vague instructions. Kreacher was aware that any action taken by a house elf that could directly or indirectly harm his master, could be severely punished, even with life and, in any case, a master did not need much justification to punish his servant if he chose to do so. Now a pureblood had used his own body to protect it, he had apologised for his action and was now letting it know that a mudblood was in the habit of protecting other house elves all the time. Its brain could not quite take it in and the question had slipped from his lips unconsciously.

"Ms. Hermione does it all the time. She loves every magical creature. She's not worried about its origin. She always says it's the actions that give greatness, not the origin. Kreacher, is it true that you can sense magic?" He asked hopeful.

"Kreacher can, master."

"And is it true that you can feel the intensity of a wizard's magic, Kreacher?"

The elf nods.

"Then: How do you perceive the power of Miss Hermione's magic?

The elf blinked, as if had never stopped to properly evaluate that point.

"Magic is very strong with her. Kreacher can remember only one witch with such intense magic, though the muggleborn witch's might be stronger."

"Who was the witch, Kreacher?"

"IS. Lady Lestrange, Bellatrix."

An icy finger runs down the Weasley's youngest son's back cutting off his breath.

"She's nothing like Bellatrix, Kreacher," Ron can feel, almost physically, as if his heart is being squeezed out of his life. "Hermione has sweet eyes, full of curiosity and affection. They don't exude hatred and madness like that motherfucker," there is a dull anger growing in Ron. A roaring fire of anger, fear and hatred.

"It was she, the one who tortured Neville's parents to madness. Two purebloods whose only sins were to defend innocents people who had never harmed anyone or anything from her madness and hatred. It is people like her who are responsible for Neville and Harry not having parents. It is people like her who drag sensitive people like Regulus down a path from which there is no return Kreacher. It's people like her who bring pain and suffering into the world just because they think they are superior to everyone else," he says as he tries to pull himself together.

"The point, Kreacher, is: Hermione..." there is genuine passion, there is a palpable devotion in every word that comes out of his mouth... "not only she is the most brilliant, studious and beautiful witch of this generation, but she is the best person you can imagine. That she's a witch is a fucking blessing because, instead of the Muggles being the ones who have the opportunity to benefit from her privileged intelligence, her bravery, her desire for justice and her infinite love for any creature, it's the magical world that has that opportunity because of "He-who-must-not-be-named" and People like Bellatrix, we're being assholes refusing to accept that gift and all that magic that far surpasses the rest of the three of us and..."

"That's wrong."

"Excuse me?"

"Her magic is not the most powerful of the three of you." The elf's narrow eyes remain nailed into the ocean of the youngest of Weasley's men, like if they were contemplating something only they can see.

"Right. Obviously Harry has to be a hell of a wizard if he has to face the Dark Lord", he says, looking away from the elf as he feels a pinch of envy in his heart for not being good enough and losing missing the surprised look Kreacher gives him, "but I'm sure her magical power must be very much like Harry..."

It is then when the emotional teaspoon that is Ronald Weasley is aware of how this crucial game of chess is unfolding.

Kreacher himself has just breached its own defence when the idea of a muggleborn can be as powerful as the most abominable Deatheater in the host of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. But that is not enough. That may have shocked its brain, but to win the game, to truly win it, Hermione must win the heart of the tormented being.

"She's the smartest witch I've ever met, to the point where not even that smug git Snape, someone who enjoys making everyone look like fool , has been unable to keep her from scoring less than Outstanding on all his tests." He proudly recalls all the times Hermione managed to get a pure curl of irritation out of the pitiful professor. One for every time she gave him the right answer even when that wasn't the lesson of the day. "Continuously defeats any pureblood by doing a magic they aren't even capable of dreaming of. By sheer intelligence she solved a lethal riddle in her first year and in her second she brewed an NEWT level potion that only master alchemists are capable of performing, discovered a fucking basilisk crawling through the castle's pipes and survived an encounter with the damn thing using a simple hand mirror."

Ron can't help the shiver that runs down his spine when he remembers the image of a little girl in a bed too big for her, stiff, limp and cold as snow. It was then that he realized there was something different about Hermione. He didn't know what it was, but something was bloody wrong with him if she got hurt.

"You should see her when she's studying, Kreacher. She's quite a sight to behold. When she's studying a particularly difficult subject she frowns adorably, her eyes sparkle with determination and she leans over whatever she's reading so hard she looks like she wants to get inside the book and when she's about to master all that new knowledge, she bites her bottom lip so hard I sometimes fear she's going to hurt herself, but there's an immense joy in her gaze. Just like when she is reading something she particularly likes. Then, she starts playing with one of her crazy curls by twisting it around her finger. I think she must be the only person in the world who flirts with a book while reading it," there have been so many times watching her study in the library that Ron doesn't even need to concentrate to conjure up such images. They are so deep in Ron's heart that they are already a part of him, and the memory of them brings a smile to his freckled face.

"She is also courageous, determined, and just, like the day she shook a superb punch at the ferret's nose in her third year..."

"Did she hit a ferret?" The elf's jaw dropped as listened to the redhead.

"What do you mean...?" Ron's initial surprise is quickly replaced by wide eyes as comprehension washes over him, given way to a thunderous laugh. "Not at a ferret, Kreacher. 'The Ferret one.' She gave a fucktastic punch to the only and genuine heir to Malfoy's House," he completes with a chuckle meanwhile he watches the poor elf's eyes pop out of their sockets as it imagines how she attacked a renowned pureblood with something as mundane as a punch to the nose. "Oh come on, Kreacher! That was great and she looked awesome. Besides..." his face suddenly turns serious as he looks at the elderly servant who still doesn't seem to have come out of its stupefaction. "She was only defending an innocent creature from a spoiled child willing to gloat over its death just because it hurt his self-centred pride. She spent sleepless nights searching through old treatises of magical law for some way to save the life of a creature that wasn't even human. Only because it was the right thing to do. Only because it was innocent." A weight settles on Ron's soul when he remembers that she was alone all those nights and he wasn't there to help her.

"I've seen her support for her best friend and almost lose her life for it even knowing that he was wrong," the lump in his throat threatens to keep him from talking. "I have seen her risk losing that same friendship just to protect him, and I have seen her be taken for eccentric or crazy just to defend that creatures like you, should be treated with dignity, regardless of race and origin."

In his troubled speech, Ron feels the moisture flood his eyes and he wipes it away by running his sleeve over his face, unaware of how the elf has cocked its head slightly to one side and is watching him intently.

"She is also kind, sweet and loving." The weight of his heart disappears when a warmth envelops him. "At eleven years old and not knowing him at all, she helped the shyest, most insecure guy look for his lost pet. Even if she wasn't a prefect, she was always willing to take first-year tadpoles under her wing, to look after them and guide them when they were stunned by how great Hogwarts is. She helps them find their way around the castle, helps them complete their homework, hugs them when they miss their parents and tells them incredible stories that only she knows from the thousand and one books she has read," she says as her eyes sparkle with pride in her best friend, "and she will do it with each and every one of them. To all of them she will give her incredible intelligence and her boundless love regardless of any other condition".

That's when he realizes that Kreacher is staring at him with its eyes and mouth wide open, like if it can't believe what it's seeing.

"Errr... ahem... This... This doesn't mean she doesn't have flaws, she does. She has a temper worthy of an explosive potion," he says as he rubs his tingling arms, "So many times she's so convinced she's right, she forgets that the people concerned also have a say for themselves. Like that time when as prefect she sent extra homework to the OWLs students because she thought they weren't preparing them," a smile creeps onto his face. "Kreacher, you should have seen when McGonagall found out. She asked her if she wanted her position as head of Gryffindor house and Hermione turned so red she looked like a real Weasley."

He doesn't know why he said it, but as soon as he finishes saying it, the image of the most beautiful Hermione, dressed in a flowing white satin robe at the beginning of a hallway and holding a small bouquet in her hands, suffices that her heart seems to have lost the ability to beat properly.

"Kreacher", he says softly looking at the elf with the intensity of one who is trying to convey the most important message of his life and fears that his words will fail him, "It's not that she wants to offend you. Not you or the rest of the house elves when she wants to give you freedom. Freedom is a divine gift, yes, but it's like a good roast rib. It may be tasty and crunchy, a fucking delight to the palate, but you can't force it through a baby's gullet. That way all you can do is to kill him with almost complete certainty."

"It is simply that she loves you too much. She loves you so much, she loves every creature in Merlin's green fields so much that, she cannot wait to give you what you all deserve. That is why she is wrong. She does not yet see that you are not ready for freedom, "he says to the servant's curious gaze." No... I don't mean to belittle you, the house elves, I mean, "he completes in a stammer, raising his hands in peace. But it is true nonetheless. Freedom frightens you, it breaks the scheme of things and the rules of your world. She cannot see it yet, Kreacher, but in time she will, and you will have no better ally and no better friend than she."

"Is that her greatest flaw, Master?" It seems impossible, but Ron would be willing to swear to Merlin that the elf is leaning towards him as he looks deep into his blue eyes, as if it wants to discover something hidden deep within the troubled red-head.

"Well, not really," a sad smile creeps across his freckled face. "She has a pitiful interest in pumpkin-headed wizards with horrible accents and pompous nasties too full of themselves, as long as they're great quidditch players."

"Still, the teacher is very impressed by Lady Granger." The elf's eyes are practically flashing before him and yet Ron can't find a shred of contempt, mockery or hostility in his voice, if anything... recognition? And then something breaks in Ron when he realizes that the little bastard has just called her 'Lady' for the first time.

"So much that I would gladly give my own life so that she would have a full and happy magical life. Away from all the horror and war, away from the absence of her parents and the fear of being killed at any moment just because they are Muggles. Even if she was married…" his voice breaks," she was married to either of those two bloody gits and their kids were...

Maybe it's from years of involuntary training trying to save his life or their other two very best friends, maybe it's from the keen senses of a quidditch keeper or maybe it's just instinct, but Ron feels a tingling on his back on his neck, a feeling of a presence behind him just before he hears the crackling of the wood of the floor behind him and Ron can see how, for a moment, Kreacher's eyes abandon his own eyes and turn to the space behind the redhead to open like plates when they focusing one specific point behind him. It may be again for all those years lurking around death, for all the trainings that have sharpened your reflexes or just warrior instinct, but without waiting to the command of his brain, he right hand goes to his wand, his body shrink to minimize as target and he moves around looking for a twist to shield midway between the servant and the place where the sound came from and, when he does, he does it in such a natural way, so instinctive, that seems that protecting a little body was often his only goal in life. And it's when his head is close to complete the turn that will lead him to face the threat, when he feels a rough hand holding his wrist tightly enough to unbalance it and stop the rotation of his body. Even so, the arm with his wand continues its trajectory to point to the space that a few moments ago was behind him and one nonverbal 'Protego' unfolds from it while her eyes search for the owner of the hand that has stopped his movement to meet, face to face, with other eyes. Bulging, wrinkled eyes, gazing intently at him and glowing with the light of understanding.

"Master loves her."

"With all that I am and with all that I will be, Kreacher. With so much intensity, it hurts. It hurts as much as hell itself."

It is not a question. It is a truth revealed and as such it can no longer be shrouded in the shadows nor can it be denied, but needs to be proclaimed because it can no longer be contained.

And the elf nods. Once again, her eyes turn to the space behind Ron as he feels that the prey that the little character exerted on his arm gives way, allowing him to regain full mobility. That's when Ron turns his head to face whatever is behind him just for his eyes can see an empty door.

"This damned house and its creepy noises are going to drive me bloody mad", he says as his shoulders sink as all the tension he has been building up escapes from him.

"She didn't know", he murmurs. "Master hasn't told Lady Granger." Kreacher ignores the insult to Black's ancestral meanwhile its inquisitive eyes turn to the tormented redhead.

"No, Kreacher. Not yet, and I can't do it now. What's at stake is too important and much bigger than us", he says, shaking his head, as if he was trying to get some thoughts out of his brain and clear his own ideas. "When I confess to her and she tells me she doesn't share my feelings, I'd have nothing left to fight for except to keep them both safe and sound, and leave if we win them. And if by some miracle she shared them, I couldn't fulfill that mission. I could endanger Harry because when it came to protecting them, she would always be my priority."

It is when the rays of sunshine flood the old kitchen that Ron realizes how far the morning has gone and the dreaded moment has come. It's time to complete the final preparations to infiltrate the Ministry. With a snort of resignation, he heads for the door to wake up her friends when he feels the elf's hand again on his arm, only in this case it is a gentle grip. Very similar to the touch of a friend who's just trying to get your attention.

"No", he says in a calm but determined tone. "Kreacher will take care of waking up the rest of the wizards."

"No. Kreacher must to insist. Master Harry and fellows have a long day ahead." The little servant surrounds the tall figure of Gryffindor's old guardian while gently pushing him towards a chair in front of the large kitchen table. "Master Weasley will finish his tea and then Kreacher will return so that all of them can have a proper breakfast."

Resigned to the now familiar elderly elf's stubbornness, Ron nods and takes a seat in the chair as he lifts his cup of tea to his lips and watches it leaves the kitchen.

As soon as it has crossed the threshold of the door, the last servant of the ancient and honourable Black House turns towards the bedrooms, passing by the figure who leans against the wall, tries to keep herself hidden into the shadows while holding her hands over her face, trying to silence the desperate sobs that make her small body shake all over.

"Now Lady Granger knows", it whispered as it turned to face the young woman.

Between sobs and shudders, a slight nod of her head is her only response.

"Perhaps it is time Master Weasley knew too."

The elf's voice sounds firm, but there is a decided hint/edge of pleading in it.

A head full of curls sharply denies, sending the wild locks flying in all directions, while the hands covering the face wipe away the tears that run down it.

"It is not possible, Kreacher. Like Ron said, the stakes are too high. Much higher than the two of us, and I can't let Harry stop being Ron's priority. Without Harry, there's no future for anyone. Without Harry there's no future for both of us."

"Master Harry is not the most powerful magician under the roof of this house", says the elf as if it had not heard the prodigious witch's answer as its eyes turn to the kitchen door.

"I know," she says in a sob as a sad smile insinuates over a face that is once again, streaked with tears and whose eyes focus on the same point the elf is looking at as if she expects to be able to see the redhaired man on the other side of it at any moment.

"However", Kreacher's eyes now turn fixedly to Hermione's eyes, "he is not the most self-confident wizard either."

"I know that too, and I curse myself every day for what I have contributed to his self-loathing." The girl's eyes briefly meet the elf's and then search the threshold of the kitchen again, like has unwittingly become the border between the will and the duty." But we'll both have to wait Kreacher," and her eyes, now full of fire, meet the elf's again. "Though right now, my whole being is crying out for the desire to walk through that door and on the kitchen table, make him my own like only a woman can make a man her own to seal the deal. Because I've been his, forever."

"That's not fair to him."

"Nothing in this war is fair, Kreacher."

It nods in understanding and just when it seems that he is going to resume its path in search of its rightful master, it stops and looking carefully at the muggleborn, makes its fingers snap making Hermione feel a rejuvenating freshness running through her red eyes and her eyelids swollen by tears.

"Master Weasley doesn't need any more worries at this time."

"Thank you, Kreacher", she smiles, "and thank you for not giving me up earlier", she says, pointing to the treacherous loose piece of wood on the floor, just outside the kitchen door.

And for the first time in his long life Kreacher, the last proud servant of the ancestral, noble and elitist bloodthirsty Black house, gives a genuine smile to a witch born of Muggles.

And for the first time in its long life Kreacher, the last proud servant of the ancestral, noble and elitetist pureblood House Blacks, gives a genuine smile to a muggleborn witch.

"It will be our secret Lady Granger", it says as it completes a graceful bow and leaves the place to look for its rightful master, even though it feels that something inside its has changed forever.

Months later:

"Hang on a moment!" said Ron sharply. "We've forgotten someone!"

"Who?" asked Hermione.

"The house-elves, they'll all be down in the kitchen, won't they?"

"You mean we ought to get them fighting?" asked Harry.

"No," said Ron seriously, "I mean we should tell them to get out. We don't want any more Dobbies, do we? We can't order them to die for us —"

It only takes a moment, but for Hermione Granger it's as if she's been hit by the 'Arresto Momentum' spell. A lifetime of feelings and images flashes through her privileged mind so real, so sharp and clear, it's as if she were reliving her own memories in a pesieve...

Terness

A beautiful boy with a stain of dirt on his nose...

Loyalty

A rough stick falling over the head of a mountain troll...

Nobleness

Slugs vomited in a bucket...

Courage

Badly wounded, covered in dirt, sweat and blood, standing, with a broken leg, like a bulwark between two teenagers and a serial killer…

Jealousy

The broken arm of an action figure at the foot of a bed...

Devotion

A male figure with horribly scarred arms, who watches over her when she wakes up with a terrible wound in her chest...

Excitement

The smell of parchment, freshly cut grass and a soap with scents of wood and clove when hug that glorious body...

Hope

A broom that materializes in front of the burrow driven by a metamorpagus witch...

Confort

Hands joined, just before sleeping at Grimmaud Place...

Love

Blue eyes that watch over her when she wakes up at Shell Cottage...

Fear

A small boy, with a large head wound on a chequered floor...

Panic

A freckly face, as white as a sheet, on a bed surrounded by a bunch of redheads who look scared...

Terror

A mangled arm that bleeds so much that it is impossible to believe that a human being can contain so much blood...

Desperation

A soaked figure, with his face crazed with pain and anger, just before disappearing in the pouring rain on an autumn night...

Everything is a stormy maelstrom that consumes her, takes her breath away and threatens to blow her head up incapable of bringing together so many emotions at once, and that's when a picture emerges above all that emotional explosion. A scene watched sneakily from the half-light, under the threshold of a door in an old manor house.

The image of a humble old house elf listening Ronald Weasley's confession of love for her.

And the feeling that neither can, nor wants to be hidden any longer, breaks through. The imperative need, greater than breathing, to take what is rightfully hers and which she has been denying herself for far too long.

She is barely aware of what is going on around her, drunk as she is, of the emotion that envelops her. She does not hear the sound of fangs striking the ground, nor does she see a lightning-shaped scar warp as the eyebrows above green eyes rise as they widen, nor the movement of her own legs, nor the surprise reflected in a freckled face. Her heart is all she feels, the love overflowing from it and then the trembling of her own body and the feeling of to be at home when she jumps up and embraces the impressive hunk before her. The tremor in the core of her belly as she attacks lips that seem to have been made just for her. The vertigo she feels when Ronald Weasley, "Ron", her first, one and only true love, makes her flutter like a schoolgirl in the embrace that envelops her as he kisses her back with such intensity that she feels her toes curl and the shudder of her centre becomes so intense it burns. It burns like the very fires of hell within her.

He loves her.

She loves him.

And both will fight like hell, against any power in heaven or on earth that tries to separate them again.

The End.

Author's note

I never liked the kissing scene. Not in the book and even less in the movie. I simply always found it insipid and without feelings. There is no climax, there is no cascade of emotions that ends with the most desired kiss of the whole series. That's why I asked myself some time ago, how to give it that content without breaking the canon. The readers will be the ones to say if I succeeded or not.