Chapter 1 : Now or Never
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A splinter in the light
It caught and frayed the very heart of us
It's been hiding there inside for all this time
How a sure thing winds up just like this
Clockwork silence only knows
Harry sat wearily in the corner of the tent. The flap covering the mesh window was folded slightly to the side, and the faint rays of the moon peeked through the lightly falling snow to cast a pale shadow into the tent. His eyes followed it to where Hermione lay sleeping, swathed in her sleeping bag. He could see the curls of her hair barely in the dimness, and his hand reached briefly out towards her before pulling back to heave a silent sigh.
They'd been out for months looking for the Horcruxes that Voldemort had created. On the run, with no where to hide really after the Headquarters had been infiltrated by the Death Eaters, they had ended up out in the woods. At first it had been the three of them; Harry, Hermione and Ron – with the ghost of his feeling for Ginny all crammed together. At least they'd all had been together, and he was grateful for the support his friends offered him. At first it had been hard to accept the other two in his mission, but the words of Albus Dumbledore had rung in his head about love, and the power of it.
Harry had always known how the two of them felt for each other – the shy looks, the accidental touches, and the desire shown when the other wasn't looking. The budding feelings of love and romance had been evident to many – just they had been blinded to the other's feelings. But now, after Ron had fled off in a huff, he was left to deal with the sad looks, the longing ones as she had stared out into the empty expanse that surrounded them.
We're trying far too hard
The tattered thought balloons above our heads
Sinking in the weight of all we need to say
Why's and what if's have since long played out
Left us short on happy endings
He'd been the one to hold her as she had broken down, and felt the few tears she'd allowed herself to shed soak into the cloth that covered his narrow shoulders. As he held her, he had felt the faint stirrings of something, and the memories of Ginny's looks the last time he'd seen her had made him remorseful also. But it had been for her own good, and she'd move on and be happy – without him to endanger her life.
Harry leaned his head back, the coldness of the canvas cooling the heat of his cheeks as he remembered exactly when his feelings has changed. Trying to keep them hidden from Hermione was hard – for they covered his face each time she looked away. For her to find out would ruin the friendship they had – and he valued that more than he could have imagined.
The rustling sounds of the sleeping bag had his head turning to gaze again at Hermione, and the soft grin hidden by the tent's darkness belayed his heavy thoughts. Every night went this way since Ron had left them. This was the time he allowed himself to feel, to hope – to dream of a future that was impossible to have.
But still she slept, and Harry watched as the moon's rays caressed the pale skin of her face now exposed by her body's shifting. A small tear drop of despair rolled down the darkened circles beneath his eyes to dry on his cheek as he rubbed angrily at it. Time was ticking – and it soon it would all be over. Why was he allowed to feel love, but never express it for fear of the dangers that surrounded them?
Love was fickle, an illusion that faded each time his hand reached out to grasp it – fleeing into the shadows that encircled his life. The desire to hold onto her made him bow his head, and his hands clasped together tightly. The hot drops that fell upon his fingers, the slight shake of his shoulders joined into the silence of the night – the quietness broken only by the soft stirrings of the girl beneath the padded sleeping bag.
There's no black and white
Only you and me
On this endless night
And as the hours run away
With another life
It was almost morning now, and Harry lifted his face to take a deep breath. He looked towards the pallet near where Hermione slept. It was time to grab a few hours of sleep himself to stave off the looks of concern she gave him during the day. He feared the closer she looked at him, she would see beyond the veil he covered himself with to realize his true feelings for her.
A sudden gust of the wintry wind outside shook the canvas of the tent – whistling through the opening in the window Harry had opened to let the moonlight in. Its coldness invaded the warmth of the small area, and Harry picked up his wand to recast the Warming Charm – too late.
“Harry?” Hermione said sleepily, sitting up to rub her eyes. She looked at Harry – the sight of him making her brow quirk in wonder. “Why aren't you sleeping?” she admonished him lightly, moving to unzip the bag. The rasping sound grated at his senses, and and he grabbed the glasses that lay just next to his feet.
His defenses up, Harry looked at her. The small grin that covered his face he hoped hid the thoughts that lingered there still. “The wind -” he begin to say as he fixed the window shut. True darkness fell in the tent, “I was just resetting the -”
“Harry Potter!” Hermione exclaimed, “You can't sit up night after night pining for-” she sighed, shuffling herself across the floor until she was beside him.
Harry felt the warmth of her skin on his as she took his hand. He jerked it away to run it through his hair, making it mussier than it had been before. His eyes blinked wildly as her wand tip burst into light, brushing the shadows away around them.
“I'm not pining-” Harry retorted, but her small gasp interrupted him. His saddened eyes met her brown ones, and he watched as they widened. He felt the tips of her fingers brush against the tears that hadn't dried against his cheeks yet, “Not for Ginny....” he mumbled out, and turned his head away.
It's now or never
It's now or never
“Look at me,” Hermione whispered, her hand cupped his chin to turn his face back towards hers. Slowly a hand raised up, and she removed the glasses he hid behind.
“Don't!” Harry protested feebly, and sighed when he felt her forehead press against his. His eyes closed, and he leaned closer into her. He couldn't deny or hide his feelings anymore – not to himself, not to her.
“Who?” Hermione whispered out, and Harry swallowed back his answer. After all they had meant to each other, was he willing to risk it all?
“Harry,” Hermione said his name again, a soft touch of her fingers against his cheek again.
“I – I -” Harry's eyes opened again, meeting hers. The look in them was puzzled, but held a something else. The something else that gave him hope, and he took a deep breath.
“Tell me,” Hermione entreated him, moving herself closer towards him.
“You,” Harry admitted finally – and felt her lips brush against his. The pounding of his heart threatened to burst through his chest, and he murmured her name against her lips as she pulled away.
“Me?” Hermione murmured out, “Why haven't you said anything?” she asked him.
“With all that's going on,” Harry replied, “He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, his pack of Death Eaters -” His hand reached up to touch hers on his cheek, “The Horcruxes - Ron,” He gulped when he said their best mate's name, his eyes glancing around as if he were there, “Ginny,” he gave a sigh of defeat with that name. He still loved Ginny – he realized though he wasn't in love with her. Hermione's kiss, however brief it had been, had given him some hope. But – how did she feel about him?
“Harry!” Hermione exclaimed and she moved to sit beside him. Her arm wrapped around his shoulders, and she hugged him close.
“What's going to happen?” Harry blurted out, “I mean – gah...” His hand ran through his hair again, “I can't endanger you -”
“Love,” Hermione's hand reached up and brushed at the mussy black locks that covered his head. “I'm already here,” she reminded him. “I love you – and I'm not going anywhere!”
Harry's head bowed, though her words made his heart pound, could he really allow himself into her life romantically? The seconds seemed to tick by as he struggled within himself, and then he looked up.
It's now or never
It's now or never
In her eyes he saw everything he had ever hoped for. They shined with the love she felt for him, and the soft smile that upturned her lips made him grin back. Instead of speaking, he drew closer to her and placed his lips against hers.