Chapter 1 : I.
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I can still hear her shrill voice filled with panic as she screamed his named into the empty night. Even though it’s been close to one month, the pain that had laced her voice, rendering her near-hoarse, still echoed throughout my head. It had even momentarily taken over from the usual haunting of my nightmares, and it’s all his fault. His fault that he allowed the locket to take over, shoving aside his common sense. It’s his fault that he threw foolish accusations about her choosing me over him when there were more important things we should have been focusing on. And it’s his fault for leaving us alone; more importantly, for leaving her alone.
I sit up in the small bed and stare across the spacious, yet stuffy, tent at her as she lies in her own bed, back facing me. It has to be close to noon or so, but she has yet to rise.
My mouth opens, wanting to say something, anything. A slight tremor rushes through her body as she quietly sniffs, keeping me from speaking. My brow deepens as that bubbling, unwanted monster claws its way back up to my chest and into my throat; the same monster that threatened to jump out at him when he left. She’s crying. Again.
With a soft sigh, I push up off the bed, thrusting on my shoes and jumper. Snatching up a random book that she had set out for us to research, I rush out of the tent without a look back over my shoulder. In an instant, the cool, harsh February wind slices against my face, urging me to return to the warmth of the tent. A shiver runs through my veins, jumping in on the assault from the wind. Nature itself certainly doesn’t want me out in its space that day.
I turn slightly, taking a few steps back toward the tent. Pushing aside the flap, I peer in to see her still lying on the bed, her body continuing to shake.
“Hermione?” I ask, the wind nearly sweeping my soft question away.
The shakes in her body freeze, making her appear dead lying there. She doesn’t answer, like usual. And with that, I trudge back out. The tree nearby that still resides inside the field she had put up previously calls my name despite the weather’s attempt to shove me away. My legs carry me quickly to the tree, my hand clutching the book at my side tighter with each stride.
As I place myself down on the rough, cold ground, my sight goes back to the tent. She’s still crying in there, still crying over him. She needs something, someone. She doesn’t deserve to go through that, not after everything she’s sacrificed to be here, to be my friend. Regardless, I stick to my gut and stay outside. More so, I try to ignore the pressing feeling in the pit of my stomach; the one screaming for me to go and console the only true friend I have left.
Hours crawl by, and my bottom stays frozen to the ground with my back against the uncomfortable tree. I fidget for the hundredth time, trying to force my body to relax; however, nothing works. A hammer continues to strike my stomach, wanting me to get up and rush in there for her. It’s late, and we’d be going off soon again come morning. I have to speak to her before that happens, before we go off to a new location with the same feelings of dread and discouragement that’s been with us since he left.
With a sigh, I slam the book close, pushing up off the ground. My stride is quicker that time, and I’m inside the tent within seconds. She’s up at last, seated at the table with a hint of light shining down over her to allow her to read whatever book was placed in front of her. The light shines partly on her face, giving her such an odd and saddened look.
I take a few more steps in, not bothering to keep quiet, yet she doesn’t acknowledge me. Her head falls to one side, and I know she knows I’m watching, but she keeps silent.
“Hermione,” I try to say, but it comes out gurgled and weird; I had been sitting out in the cold far too long without a drop of anything to drink.
Clearing my throat, I start again, “Hermione, we need to talk.”
She’s still quiet. With every beat of my heart that strikes against my chest, no word comes out of her mouth. Once several beats go by, she leans forward, pushing back the chair nearest to hers at the table. Taking it as an invitation, I hurry over, almost throwing myself down in the chair. Everything on my mind has to leave, or else we’ll never speak.
“Hermione, do-do you…?” I try to ask. My eyes are on hers, but soon move to stare at the table. I can’t face her, not with the burning question that we both knew would come eventually. “Did you want to…?”
I can’t finish no matter what. Every word—every sentence—that rushed through my mind for the past few days flies away. I can’t speak to her about my worry. I can’t risk it being true.
A soft hand rests on my shoulder; I can almost feel her delicate touch through my thick jumper.
A slightly euphoric wave washes over me at the sound of her gentle voice and the answer she gave to my unfinished question.
I look up to see her staring at me through red, puffy eyes. Though I know we’re talking about the same thing, I have to be sure. “‘No’ what?”
A tiny, almost invisible, smile reaches her face. “I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave you.”
Something clogs up my throat, rendering me unable to take in a decent breath of air for a second. Hermione, seeing my small trouble, moves her grip from my shoulder to my hand. My eyes move to watch as our two hands clasp within each other almost effortlessly. I almost want to snatch my hand away; my rough, cracked fingers don’t deserve to be held by her thin, smooth ones.
“Ron…,” Hermione says. She takes in deep breath, easing her own nerves, before continuing on strong, “Ron will realize that it was only the locket making him paranoid, you know that.”
“You wore it too,” I force out. “You never left, you never argued like we did, like I did. I yelled and snapped at you, but you still didn’t leave.”
Her eyes water again, and I inwardly scold myself for doing to exact opposite of what I planned.
“Ron has his doubts,” she says, sounding more choked up than before, “and I did too. I did begin to worry that we weren’t getting anywhere, like we were wasting our time, but I trusted you. I still do. You’ve had some rather off plans, but I’ve always gone along with them, and so has R-Ron. This whole war is a lot to digest, and it gets the best of all of us, especially with him being so far away from his family for so long. Just don’t worry about him for now, and don’t worry about anyone else. We’re here, we’re still fighting this war, and we’ll do it together.”
The words, as simple as they are, force that lump to wedge its way in my throat again. “T-thanks, Hermione.”
She gives me a slight nod, wiping away the stray tears that fell from her eyes, but goes quiet yet again. Her hand eases its way out of mine, and her attention moves back to that old book. A strange coldness creeps into my empty hand; for the first time I can recall, I miss her touch.
“So,” Hermione says, closing the book, “we should pack things up for tomorrow so we can begin moving by time the sun comes up.”
She pushes back from the table, and my nerves cause me to jump up before I can think straight. In the blink of an eye, I’m inches away from her, my hands taking the opportunity to rest on her shoulders. Her body tenses, but that quickly vanishes as she stares up at me, her face softening. Her hands come up to my face and slide easily to the back of my neck and head as my hands move lower to her waist. Though I started the sequence, she pushes to finish without hesitation, and guides my head down. Soon enough, my chin rests on her shoulder, my arms wrapping fully around her. The frost that had seeped through from outside no longer concerns me; her body against mine is all the warmth I need.
I know I’ve received more than my fair share of hugs from her, but that one sweeps them all away. It isn’t too tight or urgent; it’s comforting, warm, and easy. It’s what I needed ever since we went on the manic hunt for the Horcruxes. It’s what I needed to go on with it all.
Two minutes go by, or maybe more, when she ends it. My hands reluctantly fall off her lower back once she releases me. As we move away, our faces nearly touch. I can even feel her light, cool breath brush against my cheek. It isn’t like the cool wind outside; no, it sends a different, strange kind of shiver through my body. A shiver that I never felt before, and the longer I stare deep into her dark eyes, the shiver only grows.
Neither one of us break the stare, we hardly even blink. In a flash, I see what my body so desperately wants. I can see myself forcing her back into me, my hands firmly planted on her slender waist so that they would never let go. My lips crashing against hers at once, and I know they’re soft. There’s no way they aren’t soft with the hundred times she licks them every day. I see it. I see it all. She’s going back at me, just as eager, just as urgent. We don’t even take a break to breathe.
The image jumps away just as quickly as it collided with me, and my sight moves to stare at nothing but her lips. Her mouth opens, pink tongue peaking out to caress her lips. My eyes instantly slam close for a few seconds before reopening to see Hermione watching me with just as much intensity as I feel. The image of grabbing her still faintly runs through my mind, but my body never budges.
Hermione reaches forward, sending another welcoming chill through my body, and grabs at something by my chest. She lifts something up and off my neck and over my head: the locket. I had been wearing it and didn’t even realize it.
She tosses it aside on the table, it landing roughly on the wood with a dull ‘thud.’ The heavy urgency that filled my body slowly evaporates, but the image of me grabbing Hermione doesn’t fully leave. The feelings weren’t as strong, but they are there. I know it, she knows it, but neither of us speak of it. In that moment, I have never been so grateful that Hermione couldn’t read minds or else the easiness of our close friendship would be ruined.
“Thank you,” she whispers, breaking the silence and stepping back away from me. “I think I needed that.”
A fire lights up her eyes, a fire I’ve only seen when she knows she’s about to do extraordinarily well on an exam, but she lets it fizzle and die. It wasn’t just the locket; she feels it too but we both know where allowing ourselves to lose control could lead. We both know it’s all due to the danger and loneliness that haunts the tent, the unknown of whether or not we were going be alive next month, and nothing more. No, there’s nothing more behind it.
I nod on at her, not attempting to speak for fear of something else other than ‘you’re welcome’ falling out. And through my struggle, I give her a smile, and she begins to go to her side to pack up the clothes and other items by hand. My eyes stay glued to her every movement as the nerve-wracking February breeze breaks through into the tent. February…it’s February, maybe even a few weeks in.
“Hermione?” I ask, pushing through the nervousness that fills my voice.
“Yes?” she asks, peering over her shoulder at me.
Taking in a few short, deep breaths, I say, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
She full turns around then, appearing bemused. However, that floats away as a large smile slides across her face, and she erupts in laughter. I can’t help but smile; her laugh has never sounded so sweet, pure, and…innocent. It’s the innocent we’ve been missing for months. The innocence that burns away the strong feelings we both went through moments earlier.
Before I know it, I’m laughing. Neither one of us knows why it’s funny, but we laugh on like we never laughed before. Laugh like we’re never going to laugh again.
“Same to you, Harry,” she says through her fit of giggles.
She turns her back to me once more, and finishes with what she was doing. I manage to control my laughter, but my stare still won’t drop off of her. She was right earlier. The two of us can do this, we can fight this war. And if we have to do it alone, then so be it. At least we can be alone together.
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