It was dark and supernaturally warm. Hermione opened her eyes to see the long form of Nagini, bathed in the red glow from the fire. He turned his diamond shaped head to her and grinned wide-jawed, his large deadly fangs dripping with venom.
He suddenly grew as large as a basilisk and his huge head took up her entire line of vision.
He reared back and opened his jaws wide and Hermione recoiled, seeing only the large pink mouth, forked tongue, and enormous fangs.
He lunged at her, she fell back and screamed…
Suddenly the picture changed. She was still in the same cabin, but the danger had somehow shifted from herself. She was now surrounded by Harry’s force field again, and this time it was more than two feet thick…completely impenetrable.
Hermione pressed her hands to it and caught sight of two figures from the corner of her eye.
She turned and saw Harry and Voldemort, circling each other. Harry was badly injured and looked on the verge of collapse, and Voldemort was taunting him.
“That’s right Harry… If Granger hadn’t let herself be taken, you would be safe right now…back at Hogwarts with your friends…under Dumbledore’s protection…”
Voldemort’s wand released a small bolt of red energy, striking Harry in the chest. Not enough to harm him permanently, but enough to make him suffer.
Harry cried out for a moment but tried to stay strong. He tried to retaliate, but his wand wouldn’t respond. He threw it to the side angrily and held his hands up in an attack stance.
“That’s not true… She tried to fight back…You killed her!”
Hermione realized with a sinking horror that Harry thought she was dead.
“Harry, I’m here! Don’t give up! I’m still here…”
She banged and clawed at the force field, but even her voice couldn’t penetrate… and Harry wasn’t looking.
“She’s the reason you’re here, Potter… The reason you’re going to die…”
Another red bolt zapped Harry in the arm. Harry fell back and clutched his arm, hissing through his teeth in pain.
“Harry! No…I’m sorry! Please…” yelled Hermione.
“Liar…” Harry growled to Voldemort, lunging at him. The dark lord side-stepped him easily, letting him fall to the floor.
Harry tried to get back up but Voldemort shot an even more painful bolt to both of Harry’s legs, and his knees buckled, sending him to the floor, once more.
He tried again to stand, but his legs were useless.
Finally facing Hermione’s way, he caught sight of her in the corner, surrounded by the transparent blue. His eyes widened.
“She never cared about you, Potter…”
“No Harry! I tried to fight; I tried to get away! Please…”
“She was willing to let you come here; to fight me…”
“Shut up!” screamed Harry, but he looked over to Hermione with a betrayed look in his eyes.
“She could’ve gotten away…In a way, she must’ve wanted you to have to face me…
“Harry, that’s NOT TRUE! I’d never willingly put you in danger…”
But then, Harry shook his head. He looked hopeless and resigned.
“NO! He’s lying…”
“You never really cared about me… No one ever has…”
“I LOVE YOU!” Hermione clawed at the force field and made her fingers bleed. She began sobbing frantically.
“I don’t have anything left to live for…” said Harry in an almost surprised voice.
“Harry, NO! HARRY!”
Suddenly Harry rose to his knees and threw out his arms, his head back.
Voldemort grinned. “I thought so… Goodbye Potter…”
“No…” Hermione breathed raggedly.
The curse hit Harry hard in the chest and he crumpled to the floor, twitching in the last throes of death.
“HARRY!” screamed Hermione desperately.
Hermione bolted upright in the dim room, completely unaware of her surroundings.
“Miss Granger…it’s all right…calm down now.”
She heard a familiar gravelly voice. She looked around wildly to see Headmaster Dumbledore on her left, holding her hand and Ron to the right, staring at her wildly with heavy lids and heavily glazed eyes as if he’d just been abruptly awakened.
Ron sat bolt upright in his chair, grabbing her other hand.
“Are you all right!? How’d you feel!?”
Hermione shook her head, trying to gather her senses about her.
“Ron! Professor Dumbled… Where’s Harry!? Where is he!?”
Hermione looked terrified and tried to crawl out of her bed, but both Dumbledore and Ron restrained her.
“He’s all right Miss Granger… He’s all right. See for yourself…”
Dumbledore shifted a little in his seat and Hermione peered past him to the bed on her left.
There lay Harry, in a black tee shirt and flannel pajama pants. He was sprawled out unevenly, twisted in the bed covers, one arm bent under his head, the other dangling over the side of the bed.
His mouth was open and he was muttering somewhat; his head turning from side to side every now and then.
Hermione caught a few phrases like “Don’t touch her…” and some mutterings of wand curses.
She closed her eyes briefly, letting a ragged sigh escape her lips. It had been a dream…he was ok…
“‘Mione, are you ok? Answer me!”
Hermione turned to look at Ron. He had a frantic look about his face; dark circles under his eyes. His hair stood up in odd places all over his head. He looked almost as bad as Harry and she must look at the moment. She squeezed his hand and mustered a small smile.
“I’m ok, Ron…just a bit sore.”
Ron finally nodded, but still clutched her hand as if afraid to let go.
He slumped back in his seat and rubbed his forehead. Hermione favored him with an affectionate smile, but then turned to Dumbledore.
“Why is Harry still sleeping…Are you sure he’s all right?”
Dumbledore patted the air patiently. “He’s all right Hermione…He’s just exhausted. Madame Pomfrey gave him a sleeping draught. Unfortunately, it was the only bottle that she had left, and not powerful enough to give him a dreamless sleep.”
“No! ‘Mione stay back…” Harry thrashed in his bed once and turned on his side, throwing an arm over his head.
Dumbledore sighed and turned back towards Hermione. “I think we should talk now before he awakens. Harry informed us of everything that happened. Apparently you were unconscious for most of it.”
Hermione nodded, not taking her eyes from his sleeping form. “I don’t remember much about the fight… Only what happened before then. I came to once or twice while Voldemort and Harry fought…I think…I hope I helped some.” She shuddered at the memory of Voldemort’s hideous face, and the huge python that had watched her so intently. “Professor…is…is Voldemort dead?”
Dumbledore shook his head, his eyes closed. “No. He’s still alive, although he no longer has his body. Harry made sure of that…”
Dumbledore paused thinking of the right way to phrase his next words.
“In order for Harry to kill Voldemort, he would need to use a dark curse, for as you know, a killing spell is a dark arts curse. The user needs to be extremely careful… it’s not something to be taken lightly. As I’ve told you all, the use of the dark arts makes the user more susceptible to the allure of them… It would be difficult for even a fully trained wizard to use a killing curse without feeling its draw… Harry understood this, and he acted in the only way he could… for now. Unfortunately that means that the dark lord is still alive, and still a danger, no matter what his state.”
Hermione swallowed, trying to absorb all of the information. “What about Starven? He’s the one that took me… He’s in league with Voldemort…”
“Dead,” said Ron.
Hermione whirled to look at him.
“Voldemort killed him… Seems Starven, uh, rather Kavan, had wanted to run, but Harry made him lead him to you… I guess Voldemort knew he was trying to leave.”
“Kavan!? Is that Starven’s real name!?” Where had she heard that name before? There were too many questions…Hermione clenched her fists so hard that the fingernails dug into her palms. Both she and Harry had come so close to death themselves…
“No worries now, Hermione,” said Dumbledore in a soothing voice “Both you and Harry are fine…He should awaken at any time now.”
Hermione turned her head quickly to gaze out the window at the clear night.
“Professor, shouldn’t he sleep longer? He needs it…”
Dumbledore smiled affectionately at Hermione and patted her hand. “My dear, you’ve been asleep for three days.”
Hermione’s eyes widened in shock. “Three days!?”
Ron sat up and nodded numbly, wiping his tired eyes.
Dumbledore turned towards Ron and affected a stern expression. “And now Ronald, I fulfilled my part of the bargain; Miss Granger is awake. It’s time for you to get some rest of your own.”
Ron straightened quickly and protested.
“Professor, can’t I just stay until Harry wakes up? Like you said it shouldn’t be too long…”
“I estimated at that Mr. Weasley,” replied Dumbledore sternly, but not without a kind smile, “We’re not sure quite how long it will take, and I’ve let you sleep in here for two nights already… Go off to bed.”
Ron sighed and stood, stretching his sore muscles. He gazed at Hermione, smiling.
“I’m so glad you’re both back here safely…I was so worried.”
Hermione smiled at him and pulled his hand down so that she could peck him on the cheek.
She felt a lump rising in her throat that kept her from speaking. Tears began to well in her eyes.
Ron took one look and took a step back, holding up his hands in a defensive gesture. “Well, that’s my cue!…’Mione please don’t cry…I can’t stand it! I never know what to do…”
Hermione rolled her watery eyes at him and slapped her hand down. “Ron, you great prat! I swear…”
“That’s me,” he replied lightly, smirking a bit, but then smiled genuinely. “I’ll see you two soon.”
He left, clicking the door shut gently behind him. Hermione turned her attention back to Dumbledore, who was gazing at Harry with something bordering on…respect?
She opened her mouth to question him but at that moment Madame Pomfrey strode in, her arms full of flowers, candy and cards.
She almost dropped them when she saw Hermione sitting upright and awake.
“Headmaster!” she shrieked.
Hermione bit back a guffaw as Dumbledore jerked in surprise, and turned to face her.
She was the only one in the school who could scold him and get away with it.
“I thought I told you and Mr. Weasley to come get me the minute one of them awoke!”
“She only just awoke, Poppy…”
“Where is Ronald as a matter of fact!?”
Hermione spoke up. “He’s been sent off to bed.”
“I just sent him off…” began Dumbledore.
“Well it’s about time too!” Pomfrey cut him off again and strode over to a table near Harry and Hermione’s beds, dumping the gifts and flowers unceremoniously. “Two days sleeping in a chair, holding on to those two’s hands for dear life… I don’t know why I allowed it!”
She strode over to Dumbledore, hands on her hips, and puffed at a frizzy piece of auburn hair that kept falling in her eyes.
“And now I want you out of here too, please…I have a patient to examine…”
Dumbledore nodded gently and rose with a smile. “I was just leaving.”
He began to walk out with a nod towards Hermione, but she stopped him. She still had many questions she wanted answered.
“Professor wait! About Starven… How did he get in the school undetected? I don’t understand…What about the Ministry?”
Dumbledore thought for a moment before he spoke. There had been a serious flaw in the charming of the school grounds, although not one that had been foreseeable. Since Kavan had once been a student, and since disappearing, his name had never been bothered to be changed to non-student status, the “charm” as it was, had recognized him as a student, and had not alarmed the teachers of his presence. Even now, since Kavan’s whereabouts were now known, the ministry was trying to determine who the bones found in Knockturn Alley belonged to. Dumbledore didn’t wish to burden Hermione with information that had nothing to do with her, so he chose his words carefully. “Starven was already here when Professors McGonnagol, Snape and I put the safety charms around the school so there was no way of knowing… As far as the ministry is concerned, they did have some to do with this as Quidditch is one part of the Ministry of Magic, and they hired the recruiters… Starven wasn’t the imposter’s real name… We’ve recovered his body and it’s being sent to the ministry for an investigation. That’s all I can tell you for now Miss Gran…”
“Yes, yes…” began Pomfrey, cutting in once again, “I’m sure the Ministry’s been turned on it’s ear trying to figure out how one of Voldemort’s minions infiltrated them and disguised himself so easily, but the questions will have to wait Miss Granger. You’ve been seriously beaten about and you need to lie back and relax while I examine you.”
“But I need to know…”
“No buts! It’ll all be there when you’re well enough to hear it. Now lie still!”
Hermione grimaced and glanced over to Dumbledore while Pomfrey poked and prodded her.
Once again, Dumbledore gave Hermione a “she’s only doing her job” smile, and left quietly, clicking the door shut behind him.
While Pomfrey examined her, both she and Hermione heard low moans and mumblings coming from the bed beside them.
Hermione kept straining to peer past Pomfrey at Harry but she kept gently pushing her back down.
Finally, Pomfrey sighed as well and turned to glance at Harry, shaking her head and tsking. Her expression was one of annoyance mixed with worry.
She began mumbling sharply to herself as she turned back to Hermione, peering in her eyes and then gently peeling the bandage from her forehead to change it.
“I swear that boy…always marching off like a hero…wonder he’s not already dead…bursting in here carrying you like a limp rag doll, both of you drenched and filthy, covered in bruises and cuts…lucky those were easy to mend…no broken bones…”
Hermione glanced sideways at Pomfrey with wide, surprised eyes. He had carried her? She couldn’t remember…
“…wouldn’t even leave your side…tried to make him go get some rest…wouldn’t budge…finally had to force him to drink the sleeping potion…no sleep in over thirty five hours…just sat there and stared at you…”
Hermione sat up quickly, her eyes full of tears. She almost bumped heads with Pomfrey and locked her eyes with a gaze of misery.
“Harry stayed here with me the whole time? Even though he didn’t have too!?”
Pomfrey’s expression changed instantly, surprise lighting her face as she realized Granger had been listening. But she sighed irritably, glad for someone to hear her woes.
“Couldn’t make him leave!” She gazed back at Harry. “He flew in here three nights ago carrying you…you looked awful…We even had a hard time making him let you go! He was just in tears…wouldn’t leave your side for one minute. Found him in here the next day curled up beside you on the bed. Well that was the last straw! I told him if he was going to stay he had to clean up, eat something and take the sleeping draught…Finally made him; good thing too. Poor thing looked about ready to collapse.”
When Pomfrey turned back to Hermione, she saw the girl slumped down in misery, her hands over her eyes. A torrent of tears spilled down her cheeks and she could hardly speak.
“He did all that for me…”
Pomfrey’s usually hard expression softened and she sat on Hermione’s bed, placing an arm about her shoulders and pulling the younger girl to her.
“Now then…no need for all of that…of course he did.” She patted Hermione’s shoulder comfortingly, settled her back in her bed once more, pulled the covers up to her waist and turned to leave the room.
Hermione sighed raggedly and tore her gaze from Harry to look at Pomfrey.
“Madame…what’d you mean ‘of course he did’?”
Pomfrey stopped and gazed at Hermione, her eyebrows lowered in a not unkind scowl. She shook her head in astonishment.
“Great wizards…Love truly is blind…no matter what age you are.”
She stood for a moment taking in the surprised, confused look on the young girl’s face and then strode over to the door and pointed her wand at the candle lamps in the room.
Instantly, the candles snuffed themselves out, leaving the infirmary lit only by the light of the moon, shining in through the window.
Pomfrey took one last look at her wards and sighed, shutting the door behind her gently.
Hermione lay still for a moment, gazing at the ceiling. Since she’d already slept for three days, and so much plagued her mind, she didn’t know how she was supposed to sleep the night through.
She turned towards her night stand and found a round mirror in the drawer. Taking it out and gazing at her reflection, only lit by the moon, she gently lifted the bandage on her head. The wound had already healed, thanks to whatever Madame Pomfrey had magicked up. Pomfrey was always over-careful, and the material itched like crazy, so Hermione lifted it off of her head and laid it aside.
The small nicks and cuts on her face, arms and legs, and all of the bruising had been easily dealt with. But the pain would take some time to subside. Both she and Harry had taken quite a few lumps.
But the most noticeable difference were her eyes. The reflection that stared back at her was no longer confident, but seemed haunted.
A million different thoughts began swimming in her head as she laid the mirror down and turned over to gaze at Harry, who was blessedly devoid of nightmares for the moment.
How long would she, Harry, and Ron have to go through this? Voldemort wasn’t going to stop until either he or Harry were dead. And he wouldn’t stop trying to get to him through any means necessary.
Hermione thought about what Dumbledore had said about the use of dark magic. She had somehow known that Harry wouldn’t kill Voldemort. He wouldn’t use dark magic even if he could without it taking hold of him. Dark magic was what killed his parents, and Harry loathed it. He’d hated Voldemort and everything he stood for from the moment he’d found out the truth about his parents’ death.
But someday, Hermione knew, Harry might be forced to use it, for it was the only thing that would permanently rid them of the dark lord. He’d have to be strong enough to use the dark arts without being consumed by it.
Harry had become quite powerful, but still not powerful enough to kill and be able to let go of that power once it was done. One had to be very strong to use it and turn from it afterwards.
But Voldemort was still alive, even without his body; and since he had found a way to get it back before, he would find a way again. He still had supporters out there; ones who claimed to have seen the error of their ways, but were secretly waiting for a sign from him…
“NO! Don’t go near her…fight me…d…don’t…”
Harry had begun to dream again. The blankets were hopelessly twisted around him as he tossed. One arm flew out and knocked his glasses from the nightstand.
Quickly Hermione got up and walked over to him, picking up the thin lenses and setting them back on his table.
Finally, he settled uneasily back into his favorite position, one arm curled under his head, the other draped across his stomach, when Hermione saw a chain dangling from his fist.
Reaching over to gently pry apart his fingers, she slowly pulled the chain from his grip.
It was the pendant necklace that he had given her. The red heart glowed brilliantly in the dark room.
Hermione closed her eyes for a brief moment, holding the pendant to her. For a while, the necklace had been the only thing that had kept her from breaking down when Voldemort had her.
She tried to keep the tears from coming but she couldn’t help it.
She lowered her head as a wave of guilt ran through her. She stayed that way for some time before speaking softly.
“Harry…I’m so sorry.”
Harry turned his head and slowly opened his eyes. The room swam for a few moments before it came into focus. He made out the slightly blurry form of Hermione, standing beside his bed, tears streaming down her face. She was holding her necklace to her chest, and choking back sobs that left her shaking.
Harry’s mind cleared quickly enough to remember all that had happened and he tried too quickly to sit up. He felt a wave of pain run through his head and opted to try it again a little more slowly.
Hermione jumped back a little, startled that he was awake. Quickly she swiped the tears from her face as Harry grasped her hand, drawing her closer.
“‘Mione! How long’ve you been awake? Are you ok? Do you hurt anywhere? What’s wr…”
“I’m ok, Harry,” Hermione cut him off gently and looked down, “Y..You were having a nightmare… I guess I had them too.”
“Was I? I don’t remember…”
Harry squinted his eyes shut and swiped a hand over his head, his hair a mess. Hermione thought she hadn’t seen him look so young in a long time. When he fought Voldemort he looked so dangerous it was hard to remember that they were only sixteen, but in this moment, with the moon playing over his smooth features, sans glasses, in a rumpled tee-shirt and pajama pants, he seemed a young boy again.
Harry tried to stretch but found that the pain in his spine wouldn’t allow him too; one too many times being thrown against the wall or to the floor. He groaned a little and put a hand to his back.
“Bloody hell…I feel like I’ve been run over by a hippogriff.”
Hermione dropped his hand and backed up a little, pressing her lips together and fighting the urge to cry again.
Harry looked up at her confusedly, with those achingly beautiful green eyes again, even more so without the glasses, and she lost it.
Her chest heaved and she stepped back, landing heavily back onto her bed, and staring at him through tears.
“Harry…I’m s..so sorry…I’m so sorry!”
Instantly Harry shot out of bed and was at her side, ignoring the pain. He sat beside her and took her face in his hands, searching it desperately.
“For what!? What’d you mean? Wh…what is it? Are you hurting? Where?”
She pulled away from him and grabbed his hands, staring at him intensely.
“This is all because of me! You had to face Voldemort again because of me! H..He almost KILLED you…” She sobbed again and shook her head at herself angrily, “All because of me…”
“What!?” Harry looked almost angry at her and turned her face up to meet his gaze.
She looked at him reluctantly, guilt and shame all over her face.
“Hermione, that’s crazy! He took you to get to ME! It was my fault!” said Harry in exasperation.
“If I had tried harder…maybe I could’ve gotten away! You wouldn’t have even had to come after me! I fought Starven but I wasn’t strong enough…With the wand, I had him, but he blew it away from me…and then…I couldn’t fight him physically…he was too strong…”
“‘Mione, I came after you because I love you!”
Immediately, Hermione’s gaze shot up. She supposed later that most girls instant reactions to that statement would have been some love-sick hysteria…more sobbing… but she opted for stunned silence.
She couldn’t even force the word “what!?” out properly, so it came out more as a strangled whisper.
Harry raked a hand through his hair and brought it to the back of his neck, rubbing it harshly. A multitude of emotions raged on his face, but one that did not register was confusion.
He knew now exactly how he felt. What he didn’t know was how she felt. He rubbed his neck hard once more and let his hand fall to his lap.
“I..I know you might not feel the same way yet..or, or ever…I know we just started going out a few days ago. But I’ve known you for six years now, and this…th…it didn’t just start for me…I think I’ve loved you for years…I just…We were friends and I didn’t want to ruin it…for Ron either. And now…now that Voldemort knows, you’re in more danger than ever, and it’s because of me. And we can’t go back now..He already knows…he already knows…”
“Harry.” Hermione breathed out his name. She didn’t trust herself to be able to speak normally yet.
Harry looked down anxiously, shaking his head. At what…he didn’t know. He was just overcome.
Hermione screwed up her courage. “Harry, I’ve loved you for so long it hurts.”
Instantly Harry’s mouth dropped open and he jerked his gaze up to hers. Words completely left him.
Hermione knew that it might seem like a silly thing to say, but it was true. It had been almost physically painful to love him and not be with him.
They both began breathing rapidly. Was it from what they had just admitted? Neither were sure, but both had just stepped over a line that couldn’t be re-crossed.
Harry was sure that he would never ever forget those nine words for as long as he lived. They were the sweetest and most powerful that he had ever heard, and they were for him…from her. He was completely amazed.
In an instant they were in each others arms, kissing so desperately that it seemed like the first one.
Harry wrapped his arms around her tightly, crushing her to him. It scared him to know how much he needed her. He didn’t even feel worthy of her and yet, she had chosen him.
Hermione ran her fingers through Harry’s tousled hair and gently crushed a handful of it in her fist. She had waited so long for him to hold her…kiss her…touch her…
Both secretly hoped the other had enough will power to stop. Harry laid Hermione back gently. He kissed her hair, her cheeks, her neck. She tangled both hands in his hair and kissed the top of his head, bringing his lips to hers again.
She kissed his cheeks, his ears. Harry’s hands began to wander again of their own accord. He kissed all over her face, the hollow of her neck, her collarbone…
But as soon as his hand made it under her pajama top he stopped, breathing raggedly.
He flopped beside her and ran a hand over his face.
“You’re killin’ me Hermione…you know that don’t you…”
Hermione stared at him intensely, breathing just as raggedly. You and me both… she thought guiltily.
Harry slid a hand under her waist and drew her close to him. She laid on her back, her head on the arm that was curled under his head.
They laid like that for some time, both still very aware of the others nearness.
After a while, it was clear to Hermione that Harry was deep in thought about something and was unsure of how to share it with her. Knowing him so well, she decided to tough out the wait until he was ready.
Finally Harry spoke in a whisper.
“I uh…I want to…I need to show you something.”
Harry turned on his side facing her, and with a look of apprehension, stretched a hand towards the lamp by her bed.
In a quiet but eerily masterful tone, he muttered a spell.
The dark lamp began to rattle a little on her table and then slowly rose, hovering at the same height as Harry’s hand.
The higher Harry lifted his hand, the higher the lamp rose until he finally willed it to stop about five feet above them.
Hermione was stunned. She looked at Harry almost a little fearfully, and sure enough, saw no wand in his hand. Her eyes widened.
Only fully grown wizards were able to perform magic without their wands…and that had only come after many years of study and practice.
Harry glanced at her a little nervously and then back at the lamp.
He snapped his fingers and instantly a tiny flame kindled on the wick of the candle.
When Harry wiggled his fingers at it the flame rose higher and burned brighter until he was satisfied with it, and lowered his hand.
He turned a little hesitantly to take in Hermione’s reaction. She just continued to stare with an expression of awe at the lamp burning brightly above them.
Finally she turned towards Harry.
“How…how long’ve you been able to do that?”
Harry turned his gaze back toward the lamp. “For a while now…You’re the only one that knows. I haven’t even told Ron.”
Hermione shifted up onto her elbow, looking down at him. “Harry…how…what else can you do?”
He shrugged. “A few things…I wish I could levitate more than one thing at a time without my wand though. It might’ve helped with Voldemort…”
“But still, Harry! You…you’re not supposed to be able to do that!”
Harry turned from her and sighed, a troubled expression on his face.
He stretched a hand toward the lamp again and closed his hand into a fist. The flame snuffed itself out.
Then he magically led the lamp back to its nightstand.
Hermione fell back again onto his arm and moved closer, amazed at what she had just witnessed. It mightn’t have seemed like much when faced with wizards like Dumbledore, but she and Harry weren’t even fully grown wizards. Mastering magic without the wand usually took years of intense practice and incredibly, it just came to Harry?
He’d defeated Voldemort at age one, defying reason by emerging unhurt from the Avada Kedavra curse and also almost killing the dark lord. He’d faced him many times since and the dark lord had yet to defeat him completely. And now this?
“What are you…” Hermione whispered barely audibly.
“I’m just a wizard Hermione,” Harry answered quietly, “I’m just…a little different.”
Harry turned toward her in that moment and looked more vulnerable than Hermione had ever seen him. He had grown up so much, and had become so powerful, and yet… at times Hermione swore she still saw the little discarded boy on Privet Drive, locked in the cupboard under the stairs behind his eyes.
She realized it had taken a lot of courage for him to show her what he just had, knowing that it might have caused her to back away from him.
He had a beseeching look on his face, quietly pleading with her to tell him it was ok… that she still loved him, as different as he was…with all of the trouble that followed him…
Hermione replied by kissing him as thoroughly as she could, wrapping her arms around him. Harry responded immediately, holding her as tightly as he could.
When they finally broke apart, completely breathless, they turned on their sides, facing one another and snuggled close. Hermione rested her face in Harry’s neck, an arm about his waist and he put a hand on the back of her head and one arm underneath and around her.
Harry lay there for some time, listening to her breathing change. It had taken a mere half and hour or so for her to fall asleep.
He felt his mind begin to drift as well and focused on a few remaining thoughts.
Voldemort almost certainly would come again, and he wanted to be ready; even more prepared. He wasn’t ashamed to admit to himself that the dark lord had been clumsy…he’d underestimated Harry, and as a result, hadn’t fought as well as he could. Harry had been lucky and he knew that Voldemort wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
He needed to learn more about these powers that suddenly had begun revealing themselves to him. Somewhere deep in his gut, he knew the day would come soon when one final battle would take place. He needed to be ready.
Harry held out the hand that was encircling Hermione, palm out, and whispered quietly.
A small blue flame erupted in his palm, wavering slightly. He watched it for a moment and then squelched it with his fist, a small smile playing on his face.
Finally he closed his eyes, held Hermione close, and let sleep claim him.