A heavy rain was pouring down outside the tent. Hermione had cast two sealing charms to keep the water from leaking through the canvas since it had been alternating between ice and rain for two days. Ron had been back for the better part of a week and the three of them were sitting at the table sharing a meager dinner of beans. Ron had done the cooking, as he'd been doing since he'd returned. He'd brought cooking oil and spices with him from his foray into the real world. A little salt and pepper, a little garlic powder, and meals weren't quite as bleak as they had been.
"When this weather let's up," Ron said to break the silence. "We're going to have to go somewhere near a village. This was the last of the beans. All that's left is porridge, a few potatoes, a couple of carrots, and a bag of split peas."
"Alright," Harry said.
Hermione remained silently picking at her bowl of beans.
"I saw Bill and Fleur…while I was away," Ron ventured, desperate to have some conversation.
Hermione cut her eyes at him and then looked back at her bowl.
"Yeah?" Harry said. "How are they?"
"Fine. They're not able to work right now, but they're safe enough."
"Good," Harry said.
"Anyway, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with Fleur," Ron continued.
Hermione muttered something under her breath, but refused to look at him.
Ron ignored her and went on. "She's a really good cook."
Hermione let out a soft huff.
"Yeah?" Harry said, looking at Hermione, whose head remained down.
"Yeah," Ron said. "That's the French for you, right? So, we talked a lot about how to make easy, inexpensive meals. I have some ideas about supplies we should get. I'll make a list after dinner and we can go over it."
"That sounds good," Harry said.
"I also talked to Bill," Ron said, glancing at Hermione. "He and Charlie used to go camping a lot. He taught me a spell for a stunning snare. Sometimes we see rabbits and hares. If we could catch one, it would be nice to have meat for a change."
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "I can't remember the last time we had meat. Grimmauld Place probably."
"Right? And if we're somewhere near water, there's a fishing pole here, and Bill also showed me how to stun ducks. I don't know that we'll have the opportunity, but if we do—"
Hermione stood abruptly and went to scrape the remains of her meal into Harry's bowl.
"Stop that!" Ron snapped. It was the first time he'd spoken sharply to her since his return. Harry gaped at him. Without saying anything, Hermione scraped the rest of her beans into Harry's bowl.
"You need to eat all your food," Ron said, his tone calmer.
"It never bothered you before," Hermione said, her voice unnaturally calm. "I'm smaller than either of you. I don't need as much."
"Bollocks," Ron said.
Harry gathered his bowl and slid down the bench and out from under the table, quietly making his way outside.
"What is?" Hermione said, undeterred by his language. "That I'm smaller than you two? Or that I don't need as much to eat?"
"Both," Ron said stubbornly. "You and Harry are the same height."
"But he's a bloke," Hermione said, still keeping her tone neutral. "And the Chosen One."
Ron shook his head. "You need to eat your portion. You're both so…I mean…bloody hell, Hermione," he said quietly, "that shirt used to fit you."
Hermione looked down at the flannel shirt she was wearing. He was right. It had darts in the front designed to make it more fitted and now it hung off of her like a feed sack. "Well, I'm sorry if my clothing doesn't meet with your approval," she said acidly, misinterpreting what he was trying to say.
"That's not…" He huffed. "You're just so thin now."
She frowned at him. "But you're not, are you? Well-fed and right as rain, you are."
He could feel his embarrassment flush across his face, but he remained undeterred. "Yeah, yeah, but that's just it. Before, before I…left…I didn't notice so much. I guess because we were all losing weight and we saw each other every day, so it wasn't so obvious, but now…now that I'm back…well…I'm just saying…it's a stark contrast."
She leaned forward resting her palms on the table and he couldn't help noticing that he could see the outlines of the bones and tendons in her hands in a way he never could before. "Well, I'm so sorry that you feel bad about how little there has been to eat around here," she said with a threatening edge to her voice, "but it's been a challenge getting enough food with just the two of us."
"I know," Ron said. "I shouldn't have left. I tried—"
"I've heard this before, Ron," she said testily.
"I'm sorry." He shook his head. "I just want you to eat your share."
She huffed at him and reached for her bowl, but he got to it first. "Leave it. I'll do the cleaning up."
She glared at him. "So that's it, that's your strategy?"
He looked up at her. "What?"
"You're going to do all the cooking and all the cleaning. Ron the house elf and all will be forgiven." She was shaking, she was so angry.
He sighed. "Yeah. I don't know what else to do."
"Well, that's just," she sputtered. "That's…" She let out a kind of strangled growl and stormed into her area of the tent, yanking the curtain closed behind her.
A deafening silence fell on the other side of the curtain and he knew she'd cast a muffling charm. He sighed and picked up his bowl to join Harry outside. Harry was finishing his dinner in front of the fire. Ron sat down. Harry looked at him without saying anything. They ate in silence for a while.
Harry set down his empty bowl and Ron picked it up and put it under his. "You reckon she'll ever forgive me?" he asked.
Harry shrugged. "Don't know, mate, but she does have a real fondness for house elves."
Ron chuckled then said seriously, "You've forgiven me though, yeah?"
"Sure," Harry said, "but you did save my life and you didn't humiliate me."
"What?" Ron gasped. "I never—"
Harry scowled at him. "She ran after you, cried your name, and begged you not to leave. She put her cards on the table and you spit in her face."
Ron shook his head. "I…it wasn't…oh, bloody hell, bloody hell." He sat in stunned silence staring at the fire. "I just want to take it all back," he whispered.
"Well, you can't," Harry said grimly. "So, I'd settle in, if I were you, because I don't think she's likely to perk up any time soon."
"Right," Ron said sadly and got to his feet. "I'm going to go do the dishes." He slipped back inside the tent feeling a tight fist in his stomach. When he was done in the kitchen, he did as he had done every night since he'd gotten back, he fiddled with the radio trying to find Potterwatch so he could take a stab at guessing the password. He really wanted Harry and Hermione to hear it. He was sure it would cheer them up to hear the voices of their friends and to know there were people out there on their side.