The Dementor's Kiss
Worse than dying, it’s a matter of the soul
It had been another long day at the Burrow, but the remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix were said to be coming the next day, and Harry was excited about that. He planned to talk to Lupin about the job in Norway. Tonight, however, Harry decided it was time to start going through his things, now that the prospect of returning to Hogwarts was no longer in his mind.
He opened his old school trunk and began to rummage around. He still had the Invisibility Cloak and the old photograph album Hagrid had given him. He found an old sweater that Mrs. Weasley had made him for Christmas, and he also managed to find a few of Ron’s things buried inside.
Harry gazed momentarily at a delicate golden necklace draped in the palm of his hand. How this had made its way into his trunk, he wasn’t sure. There, in ghastly script writing, it read, ‘My Sweetheart.’ It was the necklace Lavender Brown had given Ron in their sixth year. Harry could have sworn Ron had gone to throw the necklace in Moaning Myrtle’s commode. Myrtle must have given him a right telling off, and he must have run back and hid it in Harry’s trunk. Harry shook his head, recalling the whole scene of Ron opening the gift, seeing it just like one would see a movie playing. With both hands he very gently set the necklace down on top of one of Ron’s old essays that he had never turned in.
Harry’s eye then caught a very small package of something in the far corner of the trunk. He pulled it out and found himself staring at an unbelievable treasure. Lying in his hand was an entire pack of wizard trading cards from the countless chocolate frogs they used to eat. The cards must have been stuck in his trunk since first year! But they were definitely Ron’s collection - an assortment he had meant to add to the rest he had at home in the Burrow. How the pack of moving-picture cards had survived seven years at the bottom of his trunk, Harry couldn’t guess.
He very gingerly set the deck of cards next to the necklace, old essays, scrawls of Quidditch plays, and other various items, completing the pile of Ron’s things found in the trunk. For a moment Harry gazed at it all, tempted to lose himself in memories. He furrowed his eyebrows in thought, and then decided to move the pile to the other side of the room.
Carefully, he placed all the items in his arms and carried them some distance away, setting them all down gently near Bill’s old wardrobe. He stepped back and looked at all of them, then moved a few pieces around. The objects kept pulling at his mind, begging him to remember, to watch the film in his head. Finally, he was content that the stack of Ron’s things had been arranged properly. He cast the pile a few more weary glances as he returned to his trunk to continue his search.
At last, Harry found his old notebooks and parchments full of class notes. He wondered if they would be any help to him at this new job in Norway. He pulled them out, shut his trunk, and determined to look through them.
He wasn’t sure how long he had been reading notes when he heard his bedroom door open.
“Oh. Harry, you’re still up.” Hermione’s voice beckoned Harry’s gaze, fully interrupting him from his note-searching. She had spoken with some surprise and quietly slid inside his room and shut the door behind herself. She faced Harry and leaned her body back, resting against the closed door through which she had just entered.
“More dreams?” Harry asked sympathetically. He was still sitting on his bed; old class notes lay in his hands and on the bed, scattered around him.
“Well, no, not yet… But I know they’re coming.” Hermione sighed, her body shrinking slightly in defeat.
A moment of silence passed between the two of them, in which Harry found himself watching Hermione, then glancing down at his notes, and then looking up at her again. After a bit of deliberation, Harry put down the page of notes that was in his hand and tossed the stack of parchment onto the floor next to his bed. He stared up at Hermione, giving her his full attention. She had been watching him, and their eyes locked for a moment before her gaze fell to the floor. Then she started to speak again.
“I’m so tired of them, Harry. I’m tired of the dreams, the nightmares, and the constant reminders. Just when I think I’m going to get through this, and I form some kind of plan to move on, I’m hit with all this… with dreams or… with old photos or… everything… everything that seems to remind me-”
Hermione’s voice became quite tearful as she continued on. “I’m just so tired of it! I don’t know what to do! I feel like, you know, just falling apart and crying and hiding myself away and not coming out for days… but I know I should be strong and get through this. I know I will, but I try to, and I fall apart again… I’m dying to find myself busy again so I’m not constantly thinking about everyone I miss, but I dread the thought of being around others or having to tell my story or acting as if nothing ever happened. I’m so… I’m so tired, Harry.” And with her final statement, Hermione was completely overwhelmed with the sobs that had been fighting so hard against her words.
Harry knew her situation quite well, for it was his too.
But Hermione only allowed herself to sob for a mere moment before she forced the sobs to end, and instead some silent tears streamed down her face in their place. She still stood, leaning against the door, her gaze shifting from the ceiling to the floor to some of Bill’s old things as her mind continued to work. Finally, she looked over, and Harry found her staring at him as though waiting for his invitation or validation. Was she crazy? Was it just her? Did he understand?
Am I a cold hearted being for sitting here on the bed, not moving a muscle to comfort Hermione, while she cries and pours her heart out in front of me? Harry’s mind filled with an array of similar thoughts, racing around in a simultaneous, split-second fashion. He didn’t want to see her cry. He wanted her to be at peace, to not be tortured by the nightmares. He wanted to be able to hold her, to wipe away the tears, to be able to assure her that everything was okay, that he could help her get through it all. But could he? He felt completely useless. She was describing his own feelings and problems. What could he do; how could he help her? He didn’t think he could. And that thought removed all of Harry’s will to help Hermione. The cycle of self-degradation began all over again.
However quickly his mind had filled up, it was emptied by the sight of her piercing brown eyes, still searching his for a response or an answer.
“Come here, Hermione,” Harry offered, and Hermione immediately took the steps to cross the space between them. Harry stood from the bed and took Hermione in his arms, hugging her and holding her against him. Hermione wrapped her arms around his back and held onto him as though, if she didn’t, she really might fall apart into hundreds of broken little pieces. Hermione stood on her toes and rested her chin on Harry’s shoulder, feeling the side of her face next to the side of his, as he held on to her. Harry soothingly ran a hand up and down her back slowly, but he never once loosened his grip on her in their embrace.
As a child, a mere First Year, the idea of hugging Harry, or even Ron for that matter, had seemed awkward to Hermione, but now it seemed soothing and natural. They had each grown up and accepted the fact that sometimes they needed affection. And sometimes they could only get it from each other.
For a brief moment, a memory flashed through Hermione’s mind. It was an image, not of darkness, but of tenderness during their darkest times. She remembered the tent they had put up hastily while the rain had been pouring. She remembered sitting in the dark with Ron in the wet tent, lightning flashing all around them, and she, hugging onto his body, shivering, while they both sat in anxious silence, waiting for Harry to return from his scouting mission. They had waited for hours.
Hermione hadn’t been consciously aware of the tears forming in her eyes that night, but when Harry had finally burst through the tent’s front flaps, soaking wet, with a few scrapes and burns, but alive and successful, Hermione had leapt up from the ground and instantly wrapped him in a hug. The whole scene was vivid in her head as she thought of the many tender moments she had shared in the last year with her two best friends. But now there was only one…
And he was not pulling away. No matter how long the comforting hug lasted, Harry stood, holding her in a strong embrace. He felt no need to rush the hug or end it. Something felt right while he hugged Hermione. And, no matter what potential the situation could have for awkwardness as moments passed on, Harry remained holding his dearest friend, someone he could easily consider as family, and he allowed her to hold on to him, knowing that hardly anything could truly become awkward with Hermione these days. They had been though so much together.
She was, perhaps, all he had left in the world. And, Harry supposed, she had lost her own family and friends too, and that just might make Harry the only thing she had left too.
Harry leaned his head against hers and continued to slowly run a hand up and down her back. He could smell the scent of her hair again, with her so close to him. He considered now that perhaps her hair had the potential of being intoxicating. It smelled quite nice. Harry figured that he ought to say something, but he didn’t have any answers for her. All he could do was show her that he cared, that she wasn’t in this alone.
His silence didn’t bother Hermione, for she was lost in her own thoughts.
Hermione was relishing the feel of a protective and consuming hug. It reminded her of the feeling she got when she was very small and her dad hugged her. It felt as though she could get lost in the hug and the hugger. And standing there, being held firmly between Harry’s chest and arms, Hermione felt safe, protected, shielded, and even consumed. She closed her eyes, and she could smell the distinct aroma of ‘Harry,’ a smell she had known for several years now.
The three important men in her life – her Dad, Harry, and Ron – had each had their own scent. Harry’s was like the smell of the woods blanketed in snow on a cold winter’s morning. That was the only way she knew to describe it. She could feel his face against hers, smell his wonderful ‘Harry’ smell, and feel her body wrapped in his arms, and it made her hope against all pain. She’d be okay. They’d be okay.
Finally Hermione pushed all the memories, smells, and images from her mind and pulled away from the hug. She let her hands slowly slide down Harry’s back as she shifted her weight away from him. Only then did Harry release his hold on her. His hands lingered on her shoulders for a moment as he offered her a sympathetic gaze. She felt at least a little better.
“Well, I guess I should head back to my own room,” she resolved, thinking out loud and then yawning.
“Hermione, don’t be silly. You’re just going to end up back here.” Harry’s voice was edging the line of teasing, and he actually seemed to have a smile begging to be permitted, but before Hermione could cut in, he continued. “Or I’ll end up in your room.”
Hermione’s smiled, though sadly. The entire Burrow, on occasion when someone did smile, only contained sad smiles or smiles that were footnoted with sorrow or pain.
“I was just thinking about going to bed when you came in,” Harry continued, turning to his bed.
“Well, you’ve stayed up late enough; it’s nearly two in the morning!” Hermione tried to tease him. Again, all teasing or small jokes still contained the hint of sadness or pinch of grief. But one sometimes found the seriousness unbearable and discovered even the smallest jokes to be a bit of a relief.
“Well, you were certainly still awake!” Harry taunted back. Soon the two of them turned the lights out and climbed into Harry’s bed, hoping dreamless sleep would meet them sooner rather than later.
The world around Harry was dark, but the darkness began to take on a bluish tint. Harry watched as it slowly filtered into white.
The battlefield surrounded him, but it was lit by an odd light. And then, Harry could see Ron and Hermione fighting a Death Eater. On his left were Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood, but they seemed oblivious to the battle and were merely talking and making lots of hand gestures. On Harry’s right were Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang. Cedric? He had been gone for a long time now.
Then, Cedric seemed to fade into the distance, and Cho came near to Harry. He thought she was going to talk to him, but instead, she kissed him. Harry was utterly nonplussed at the casual conversations and now, kissing, that were taking place when they should be fighting Lord Voldemort. But Cho kept persisting and seemed as if she wanted to start full on snogging right there in the middle of battle. More Death Eaters showed up, and wands and spells were flying.
Then Hermione appeared at Harry’s side and pulled him away from Cho. They pulled their wands out and started flinging spells at Death Eaters. Ron had vanished, but Harry didn’t know where to. Neville had vanished, Luna had vanished, Cho had vanished, and Harry and Hermione were the only ones left on the field as Death Eaters were surrounding them.
“Dumbledore spoke about love! Love would conquer! Love would protect!” Hermione was yelling to Harry. Of course! Dumbledore had told him that his love made him special! It made perfect sense; love was the way to defeat Voldemort and his Death Eaters! And then, just as Harry thought Hermione had a special spell up her sleeve, instead of pointing her wand, Hermione grabbed Harry’s hand, and, in the middle of surrounding Death Eaters, pushed her lips against his and kissed him. Harry was reeling inside, but it was perfectly logical. He had to defeat all the evils surrounding them. It was the only way!
“Dementors suck souls out with their kiss, but we can repel all evil, also, with a kiss!” Hermione was telling him, having pulled away from their kiss momentarily. And then, the Death Eaters vanished. Harry and Hermione were kissing again. Then he saw Cho’s face, and then Ron’s, and then Hermione’s again. And then, he saw darkness.
It was so dark and warm. The lights that had cast an eerie glow on the caves in the distance behind the battlefield had disappeared. It was completely quiet except for a gentle hum somewhere far off.
Harry turned, looking about him, his eyes searching for something to hold on to in order to get himself orientated again. And then, he caught the image of a lock of hair, and then an eyelash. There was Hermione again. Her voice was ringing in his mind: ‘we can repel all evil, also, with a kiss!’
‘It’s the only way to win against Voldemort,’ Harry thought to himself. He reached his hand out, gently touching Hermione’s cheek, first with his fingertips, then his palm and thumb. Her skin felt so real; she felt so real. Harry leaned close to her, and he could feel her breath against his face. Her eyes were closed, and she was very still.
And then, Harry’s lips met hers, and he was kissing her. Hermione wasn’t responding to his kiss, and he kissed her harder and pushed himself closer to her. He ran his hand down from her face, along her neck, shoulder, arm, and her side, where his hand came to rest at her waist.
Harry felt her move and could feel her hand on his arm. Her lips were kissing him back. Maybe their kiss would really work against Voldemort! Harry could feel the adrenaline surge that always came during battle. He pushed harder against Hermione’s lips, and his hand moved from her waist, to the small of her back, trying to hold her nearer to him. This had to work. The kiss, love - it had to defeat evil!
Harry wasn’t sure at what point it occurred to him that he might not still be dreaming. His eyes fluttered open, hesitant to test the world around him. He could, after all, simply be dreaming that he was opening his eyes.
But he opened his eyes, and at first perceived darkness, and then in a very blurry, distorted way, he could see he was looking at eyelashes and a pair of closed eyes. And then he took in the sight of a very real Hermione, whom he was presently still kissing. He stopped all movements while his mind reeled at trying to understand what was happening. The two closed eyelids across from him began to open. Staring back at him was a pair of plain, familiar brown eyes. But she was staring at him, if only for a few seconds, and not pulling away or jumping out of the protection of the blankets. And then, her eyes fluttered closed, and she began kissing Harry again.
Lost in the moment and not presently having the strength of mind to make sense of things, Harry continued kissing Hermione back, allowing the heat of the blankets and the passion of the moment to take control.
Hermione’s hand, which had been on his arm, slid down to his chest where it rested softly. Harry still held his hand against her back, holding her against him. His tongue began to trace along her lower lip, and Hermione opened her mouth, allowing him free roam inside. Harry moved around until he could pull his right arm out from under himself and moved his hand into position on the back of Hermione’s neck, allowing him better pressure, and pleasure, in their kiss.
Harry’s left hand roamed along Hermione’s back, then returned to her waist before traveling down along her leg as far as his hand could reach. His fingers found the crook of the back of her knee and the soft bare skin, left so because of the shorts she was sleeping in, and he gently tucked his hand behind her knee and pulled her closer to him.
He loved the feel of her skin, the feel of her body against his, and the feel of her kiss. He could feel her soft breath was becoming faster and probably more difficult to gain, and at last she pulled back from the kiss, breathing heavily. Her chest was expanding as she gasped for deeper breaths. Harry released his hold on her leg and replaced his hand on her waist. He stared at her, unsure of what to think, say, feel, or do.
Hermione stared through the darkness into Harry’s deep green eyes, wondering what was behind them tonight. And as quick as it came, Hermione’s mind was off in a different direction. She had been staring at beautiful green eyes, but in her mind flashed bright blue ones… And now Hermione was thinking. The feeling had run away to hide itself.
Harry had seen the change in her eyes. He had never noticed before now. But if he watched closely enough he could almost see Hermione’s mind working in her eyes. First her eyes had said one thing, something she was sharing with him, and then there had been a switch, and she was lost in a thought world that was entirely her own.
Harry felt her arms wrap around him, her head rest against his chest, and her body start to calm itself. She would be falling asleep soon. Would she even remember this in the morning? Would he?
Author's Note: This chapter was grammar beta-ed by KML.