Chapter 1 : The Space Between
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A/N: Inspired by the beautiful H/Hr dance in Deathly Hallows. It reminded me of why I love Harry Potter so much, and why H/Hr is amazing.
She turned to face him, her halo of hair shifting slightly in the breeze. Long strips of brown curls, refugees from the confines of her hair tie, hovered around her eyes, her cheekbones. She blew them away impatiently, the musty cloud of her breath dissipating into the atmosphere.
“What is it like?” She paused, her eyebrows furrowing slightly in the way that they did when she was frustrated. “Being the one who will end the war. How does it feel, being The Chosen One?” The question was, at best, a difficult one to answer. With the weight of the locket resting upon his chest, his first instinct was to dismiss her, possibly maliciously, but the angle of her neck that belied interest and the faint glimmer in her eye stopped him. This was the only echo of life he’d seen her in days, and some deeper force that lingered somewhere in the vicinity of his ribcage silenced him.
“It’s just… heavy. I—I don’t know how to describe it, really. I think I always knew it would come to this, that it would come down to me in the end. I guess I just always felt there was some sort of urgency… importance, like you said. But it’s muted, most of the time. Like—like one of those underground rivers. You know, the ones in Africa, that they talk about on the wildlife specials? That’s the closest thing I can think of. It’s like everything is somewhere underneath, all of the worry and the fear and the stress, but it’s so far below ground, I can choose when to pay attention to it. And on some days, I’ll build a well here and there and let it out a bit, but for the most part it just stays there. Does that make any sense?”
Hermione nodded, but he could tell that she didn’t quite understand. “There are more important things to think about,” he said gently. “Perspective.”
A faint smile flitted across her face. “You know, we never did get around to celebrating your birthday,” she whispered.
Harry rolled his eyes. “I already told you, ‘Mione, some things are more important than my birthday right now. I appreciate the thought, but if we win this war, we’ll have plenty of birthdays for me to celebrate.”
Her eyes shone with a hard glint as her chapped lips pressed into a firm line. “No, Harry, you’re wrong. You may have plenty of birthdays left, or you may not. But that’s not why I wanted to celebrate it. Right now, there isn’t anything more important than celebrating your birthday. Don’t you see?” The urgency in her tone was startling. Harry had grown almost used to monotone, monosyllabic speech from her. Watching the old glow sink into her cheekbones as she waved her skinny wrists to accentuate her story was a bit like coming home. “Ron’s left, and we’re all alone in the bloody snow, and we may never see anyone we love ever again. We’ve got to wear this damn locket, and it sucks the goodness out of us like a bloody dementor, and we’re lonely and cold and sad and stressed and scared and you shouldn’t have to feel heavy all the time. And I am making you a cake and it will have icing roses on it and it will be bloody delicious!”
Harry was a little frightened.
Thin, pale fingers wrapped around his eyes, shielding them from everything but the faint lines and contours of her hands. “Come with me,” she whispered, her lips grazing the tip of his ear as her hair tickled his neck. His legs, imbibed with a sudden rush of energy, jolted into a brusque stride that Hermione had to jog to keep up with. She was supposed to be leading him, so it didn’t take longer than two seconds before the two of them were a tangled heap on the ground.
Harry heard a breathless “ow” from somewhere below him and to the right, but his glasses had been flung into the snow as they’d tumbled down, so he had no clue where Hermione was.
“Sorry ‘Mione,” he called out to the gray and charcoal blurs that dominated his sight. He felt a warm, soft presence settle over his legs as a beige and maroon blob invaded his field of vision. Warm breath trickled down onto his neck as his glasses were placed gently onto his face. He found himself staring quite pathetically into brown eyes.
“I should smack you for that, you know,” she breathed.
Harry chuckled slightly. “I’m sorry,” he grinned.
“You don’t look sorry!”
“Well I am,” he muttered. He wasn’t quite sure whether it was the cold of the snow or the sight of her mouth hovering inches above his own that made him temporarily decide to abandon his sanity. His mind grew fuzzy and his senses seemed muted as he brought his hand up to her face, dazedly tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear. Her grin faded into an expression that was entirely too serious.
“What are you doing?”
“Your hair was in your face.”
Her eyes narrowed slightly as her cheeks, already quite pink from the cold, darkened a few shades. “It does that sometimes,” she gulped. She pushed herself up, away from him, and awkwardly got to her feet. He took her outstretched hand, immediately regretting his actions as he brushed snowflakes from his trousers.
“So what were you going to show me?” He inquired.
She shot him a small smile. “Come to the tent,” she said.
He followed her up the powdery knoll until they came to the entrance of their temporary home. Hermione slid open the flap and slipped inside.
“This is… it’s… incredible,” Harry murmured. The tent was filled with dozens of floating candles, the bunks and table and chairs all swathed in maroon fabric. In the middle of the table stood a small three layered cake, complete with icing roses, as promised. Hermione glowed.
“So you like it?”
Harry could only nod emphatically in reply. Even that didn’t seem like enough to express the immense wave of something swelling inside of him. “It’s perfect. I mean, you didn’t need to do this—any of this—but it… it’s perfect,” Harry managed.
Hermione’s smile was almost painfully wide in response. “Let’s cut the cake,” she said.
They sat across from each other, each eating their monstrous piece of cake in silence. It was a comfortable silence, though, one that was engulfed in the warm glow of candles and imbued with years of familiarity and a seemingly converse feeling of newness. The stuffy air inside the tent crackled with an odd electricity that flowed into Harry’s limbs, causing his feet to tap and his knees to bounce.
“Wou—“ his voice cracked. “Would you like to dance?” He covered, blushing slightly and feeling younger than he’d felt in months. Hermione’s lips, soft and pink in the muted light, crinkled upward.
They arose in tandem, tugged by invisible strings like marionettes into the common area. Neither of them resisted the pull as their hands slid onto each others’ waists and shoulders. Driven by the beat of the song playing on the scratchy radio, their hearts rising and falling with each piano note, they melted into one another as they swayed in time with the birch trees in the forest outside. Harry could feel the icy breeze and the flutter of tiny wings and the glow of the sunshine as it reflected off of glassy hillsides. He could feel the warm softness of Hermione’s cheek as it rested against his and her tiny hands as they wrapped around his neck and the fuzzy threads of her sweater as they slid through his fingertips.
“’Mione,” he whispered.
“Can we stay like this for a little while?”
He waited for her to pull away, to allow the space to flow back in between them. He waited for her breath to hitch as she remembered Ron, for her eyes to turn sad as she glanced at anything but him. But this time, her cheek and hands and waist stayed in place. This time, he felt goosebumps erupt across his skin as she leaned in a tiny bit closer and said, “Yeah, I think we can.”
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