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They approached the house slowly, moving carefully under the invisibility cloak. It was raining softly, slowly soaking them through the fabric. “We’re really getting too big for this, we need another one” Hermione muttered as they moved, holding Harry up between them. He was dead weight, his head hanging limply and Ron glanced over at him, shifting him so that Hermione had to carry less of his weight and speeding up his steps. When they reached the door they lowered Harry to the ground and pulled the cloak off so that it only covered him. They rang the bell and waited, holding their breath. When no one came they rang the bell again and eventually the door opened slowly. A blonde girl around their age looked out cautiously. “Yes?”

“Is Dr. Ward here? We need his help,” Hermione said. The girl looked at them, taking in their wet and disheveled appearance, trying to decide what to do.

“Is someone hurt?” she asked finally, “because my dad doesn’t see people at home, you will have to go to the hospital.”

Hermione and Ron exchanged a look before Ron said, “Look, is he here or not? We need to see him.” The girl’s eyes narrowed suspiciously at his tone and she began to close the door.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know you so -” She didn’t finish as Ron caught the door with his hand and shoved it back open as he grabbed her. He pushed her back into the house, covering her mouth as she cried out.

Hermione came in behind him, closing the door after she got Harry, still covered, inside. “Look we aren’t going to hurt you,” she said when she saw the panic in the girls eyes; “we just need to see your father.” They didn’t have to wait for a response because Daniel Ward came running down the stairs at that moment, leaping over the last few steps, wand drawn.

“Let go of my daughter now,” he said, pointing the wand at Ron.

“Are you Dr. Ward?” Ron replied, not letting go of the blonde.

“Please,” Hermione said quickly, yanking the cloak off of Harry who was lying on the floor beside her, pale and still, “we just need your help! We can’t go the hospital!” The wizard’s gaze flicked to the boy on the ground and his eyes widened as he took in the scar on his forehead. Ron let go of the girl and she ran to her father as he slowly lowered his wand, catching her and moving her behind him as he looking back at Harry. “Please,” Hermione said, her voice trembling as her resolve faltered. Dr. Ward looked up at her and then Ron before kneeling beside Harry.

“Beth, go get my bag. What happened to him?” Beth, whose eyes had been locked on Harry, dragged her eyes away from him at the sound of her name and quickly ran back upstairs.

“He fell,” Ron answered as she left, shooting a glance at Hermione. Dr. Ward didn’t look up, he just kept examining Harry.

“He fell… That’s the story you’re sticking with? If you want me to save him I need to know what happened.” Ron looked at Hermione again and she started talking.

Dr. Ward didn't look very optimistic as he got Harry into bed and forced Ron and Hermione to wait in another room. He knew that whatever potion and magic Voldemort had used on the cup was probably powerful, and without knowing what it was it would be difficult to help him. He had to basically threaten not to treat Harry at all before Ron finally agreed to leave the bedroom so that he could work.

“Come on Ron,” Hermione said softly, taking his hand in hers. He looked down as he felt her warmth seep into his arm and allowed her to pull him from the room, following her back to the den. As Hermione led him down the stairs her fear for Harry began to overwhelm her.

Hermione could tell that the healer was worried and broke down as they sat on the sofa downstairs. She started crying and Ron pulled her to him in a hug, trying to comfort her, even though he felt as panicked as she looked. “What if he dies? Oh God, what will we do?” she sobbed into his chest.

“Don’t worry, he’ll be fine,” Ron said rubbing her back, trying to soothe her. It didn’t seem to work because she just cried harder, getting lost in her fear and exhaustion.

“You… don’t… know… th, that… Ron,” she managed between sobs.

He tried talking to her but it didn’t help. No matter what he tried it only seemed to make it worse, and he didn’t know what to do. She’s the calm one, the rational one, not the one who panics… Finally he held her away from him and gave her a little shake. “Hermione! You have to calm down, you are worrying me…” He brought a hand to her face, cupping her cheek and she looked at him, trying to contain her sobs but they wouldn’t stop. “You’re going to make yourself sick.”

He saw the fear in her eyes and wthout really thinking about it, he pulled her to him and kissed her. Shocked, Hermione tried to pull away but he held her to him with his hand, keeping his lips pressed to hers as he used his other arm to keep her against him. After a minute her sobs began to lessen and he took that as a good sign, beginning to move his lips over hers tentatively. As her sobs became more of a hiccup she began to kiss him back. When she stopped crying completely he kissed her for a second longer before he dragged his mouth away from hers.

“Why, why did you do that?” she asked, staring at him. Hs shrugged, suddenly very self-conscious.

“I, I wanted to distract you… so you would stop crying,” he said lamely.

She looked down at her hands. “Oh,” she said softly. Ron felt the blood rushing to his face, and suddenly felt an intense need to flee the room. What kind of mental reason is that? His mind railed at him. That’s the dumbest thing you have ever done, and that’s saying something. You want her to stop crying so you kiss her?

“Umm… right, well, maybe I’ll just…” he trailed of as Hermione suddenly leaned back in, catching his lips with hers. He froze for half a second before her kissed her back. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back to him. After a few minutes of exploring each other they broke apart, smiling shyly. “I was wondering how long it would take you to do that,” she said softly and Ron’s eyes widened, his face beginning to redden again. Am I that transparent?

Dr. Ward came into the room and Hermione started to move away but Ron pulled her back, keeping his arm around her waist. She couldn’t help the rush of joy at this but it was quickly replaced by fear as she waited for the man to speak. “How is he?” Ron asked. They held their breath as he looked at them.

“He’ll live.”

Hermione began to cry softly again, but this time out of relief and Ron kissed her temple, closing his eyes and resting his head on hers as the fear left him.

The fall had broken Harry’s arm and a couple of ribs, one of which had punctured his lung. The real worry however, was the potion he drank before his fall. It had sapped his strength and was going to make his recovery difficult, especially since they didn’t know exactly what it had been. He would have to be watched closely.

~..~..~..~..~

A few days later Harry woke in a bed he didn’t recognize. He tried to sit up but pain shot through him and he groaned, letting his head fall back. He felt a hand on his shoulder and forced his eyes back open to see a pretty blonde girl looking down at him, her face full of concern. “Hi Harry,” she said softly, feeling his forehead. “My name is Beth.” Harry groaned, trying to sit up but she held him down. He had so little strength that it wasn’t hard to do.

“Ron… Hermione,” he rasped, giving up on his fight to rise. His throat was on fire as he tried to speak.

“Shh… just lie back, I’ll get them for you…”

He faded back into darkness but soon woke again, asking for water. Ron and Hermione stayed by his bed for as long as he was awake. Hermione held his hand and they told him about the Wards, about what had happened and about Beth, who had been looking after him. Beth stayed back, and gave him a small smile when he looked at her. He didn’t return it.

Beth continued to look after him, helping him and caring for him. At first he was rude to her, too consumed by his own misery to care about her feelings. But no matter how he acted, she didn’t leave him. She would talk to him and sit with him and eventually she wore him down. He began to feel safe with her, calm. One night he finally broke down and his sadness and pain spilled out of him. She listened quietly and then held him while he cried.

Beth had been fascinated with him the moment she had seen him. He was beautiful. He was Harry Potter, the boy who lived, but he seemed so lost. She couldn’t help but feel drawn to him. She wanted to help him, and she soon found herself falling in love with him. She didn’t like the girl who had hurt him, but also felt a little glad, because it had brought him to her.

Even when he was strong enough to leave his bed he stayed near her. When the trio wasn’t busy planning Harry would sit with her in front of the fire. Beth was quiet and sweet and he couldn’t help but be charmed by her, drawn in by her goodness. She would smile at him as she left the room and his eyes would follow her automatically.

Ron and Hermione saw the effect Beth had on him, the ability to calm him down and were thankful for it. While he recovered they focused on finding the remaining horcruxes. They researched and traveled to different locations while Harry stayed at the Ward’s. They located two of them but waited for Harry to be strong enough before actually trying to get them. Each time they returned from wherever they had been, they found Harry and Beth sitting quietly, reading or talking, or playing chess. They saw them grow closer as the weeks went by and weren’t surprised when one day they walked in on them while they were kissing.

~..~..~..~..~

One day Beth found Harry sitting by himself. Although they hadn’t talked about it, they were obviously together and she was happier than she had ever been. He was in a mood and she approached him slowly. He had been much better the past couple of weeks and she wondered what had caused the change. “Hey,” she said as she got closer. He looked up and she saw him quickly cover the sadness in his face.

“Hey!” he said with a forced cheer as he took her hand and she sat next to him on the sofa. He scooped her up and moved her so that she was sitting across his lap and she settled against him as he wrapped his arm around her, running it up and down her arm lazily. When she looked up at his face he began to kiss her but she could tell something was wrong; his touch was a little more desperate and his kiss a little more intense as his tongue invaded her mouth. It wasn’t that she didn’t like it, she loved it, she just knew something was wrong, so after a few moments she pulled back.

“What’s the matter Harry?”

“Nothing,” he replied, avoiding her eyes.

“Harry, please tell me what’s wrong.” She saw the haunted look that used to be in his eyes all the time begin to return and she squeezed his hand. He looked at her for a minute before looking down at their clasped hands.

“It’s really stupid,” he said softly.

“No it’s not. Whatever it is, you know you can tell me,” she said, leaning in and kissing his neck as she slipped her arms around him, linking her hands on the shoulder opposite her. She rested her chin on his shoulder and waited patiently.

“No, it is stupid. It’s just that I realized today was her birthday…” He didn’t say Ginny’s name anymore, but Beth always knew who he meant on the rare occasions that he talked about her. “I had hoped to be back by now you know? And I had made this stupid plan…” he broke off, shaking his head with a bitter chuckle. Beth pulled him into a hug and was quiet.

“Why are you doing this?” He asked finally. “Why do you put up with me? I mean, here I am…”

“Shh,” she said stroking his hair. “You loved her, and she hurt you deeply. You are going to have moments like this. But you are a wonderful, strong person…” she pulled back and looked into his eyes. “And… and I love you.” He stared at her as she waited for a response. He saw the truth in her eyes and sank into their warmth. Beth loved him, Beth would never hurt him. “Not everyone will hurt you Harry.” She said softly, . He pulled her to him and kissed her slowly, allowing the sadness of before to fade into the background.

They made love for the first time that night. It was gentle and soft and new for both of them. Harry didn’t tell her that he loved her. He wasn’t ready to do that yet, but he knew that he could. He knew that she loved him. he knew that she would never hurt him, and he committed his heart to her that night. As the weeks continued to pass and he spent his time with her, letting her warmth and trust fill him. She didn’t push and eventually he let her in completely, letting her heal him.

Having to go to her house ended up being a great thing because it gave the trio a place to call headquarters. They stayed fed and strong as they worked. They didn’t worry too much about being found because no one would have any reason to link them to the Wards. As the months passed Harry’s pain was forgotten, or at least locked away in a far corner of his heart. When he told Beth that he loved her he meant it and he felt the gentle love they shared flow through him.

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