She will always have a tone of surprise when it comes to Ron. He does things that she does not expect. Most of which involve anything that displays the intellectual or useful nature in his character. Five years after the chamber opened and the whole madness surrounding Harry speaking Parseltongue, Ron opens his mouth and does the same bloody thing.
Why does Ron constantly do things like this? Sometimes, he appears to be little more than a boggart, shaping to fit whatever is the last thing needed at any given moment. As she stands there with Ron, separate from Harry for the first time since her torture, she does not need to be reminded of the chosen one and the odd things he can do. She needs only stay focused.
Ron ruins that when he throws a proud look her way and says, "Harry talks in his sleep, you know that?"
"Of course not," she answers easily. The look on her face would give her away if he cared to look though. She actually does know. Sure, Ron has spent six years rooming with Harry over the course of their time at Hogwarts, but Hermione has spent the last year with Harry, nonstop, sleeping when they can on the ground or, if they're lucky back in the tent. A few nights she slept in his bed just because that is what they did without Ron. Not in a sexual way. They snuggled up to each other and just felt that another person was alive. They were reminded that there was another person that they loved who wouldn't die or abandon them until the very end. Even after. Even after, nothing would separate them.
Hermione grimaces at the thought. If only she didn't have to get the fang. But they need it. For the horcruxes.
The cup isn't like the locket. Its torture isn't visible. What it does is reach into Hermione's mind, whispering in her ear the same way the real Voldemort has been doing to communicate. The cup toys with her mind until her throat feels as if it could crack from the sheer strength of her sudden thirst. The whispering only intensifies. At the time, she can hardly hear the words; they enter her mind so quickly like her very own thoughts. She cracks the cup. The water falls but does not assuage her. She kisses Ron. That sort of does the trick. The absurdity of the situation makes her laugh. She's kissing him where his sister almost died. How peculiar.
The words come back eventually and she hears the cup, loud, clear, and echoing into the very confines of her heart and soul.
There's a hole in you deeper than you let yourself see. How delicious. How… interesting. You have a thirst in you that will not be fixed by mere magic. You need the eldest sort of it, but you can't have it. Your brains won't complete you. You can crush me, but it won't bring you any closer to him. You crave the one boy you can never have. He doesn't love you. Not as more than a sister anyway. Besides, he'll be dying soon. Very soon. After all, Harry's a Horcrux, isn't he?
She tells herself that Harry can't be. Honestly, he can't; she loves Harry and she really, really hates horcruxes.
Harry confirms it himself.
The stupid voice of the cup echoes in her mind then. He'll be dying soon. She speaks before she even knows it.
"I'll go with you!"
She doesn't regret saying it. Nor does she abridge her statement to include Ron. She and Harry are a unit, always have been. She fixes his problems. Ever since the beginning, she makes Harry's life better and clearer. He needs her. She needs him even more. Like Draco's wand, her allegiance lies with Harry. Always Harry.
For a startling moment, she considers that this scene has a Shakespearean feel. Harry is Romeo and she is Juliet. She wants to be exiled with him from everything that they know. She is held back though by her ties – to Ron, the castle, and all of their friends. She wants to die with him. Wants to walk into the forest that has been a part of each of their amazing seven years in this world fully knowing and almost anticipating the dual deaths it shall lead to.
When did she become that girl?
She blames the cup.
It is cruel torture for Voldemort to walk back to the castle the way he does. Hagrid walks in chains, captured by the same man who ruined his magical education over fifty years prior and bowed over the young man who instilled an undying hope in him sixteen years prior.
Ginny speaks, asking what Hagrid is holding. Everyone knows. If not from the positively boastful faces of the Death Eaters, then they know from the stillness in the air and their hearts. Hermione's skips a few beats, enough where she wonders if perhaps Harry is somehow directly connected to her heart and has taken it with him. She hears nothing. Her own thoughts sound miles away.
Damnit. Damnit, Harry! Damn you! Why didn't you let me go with you? Why make Ron keep me here? What am I supposed to do now? Tell me! I have no idea what to do at this point. None. Move, Harry. I need you to move. I need your body to move because I can not breathe right now. I should have been there. I could have stopped you. Stopped him. You should move, Harry. Come on. You're more than just a Horcrux; you're my best friend. My very best…. I never got to tell you – never even got to think that I – bugger, I…. I lo-
Harry pops out of Hagrid's arms before the thought completes itself. All of her springs to life. Does she go along? Does she wait until after Voldemort stops sending spells recklessly into the edges of the castle? Does she dare finish her thought?
No. Not today at least.
She finds herself grinning. Harry's alive. Harry is alive. Maybe not all of the horcruxes are bad.
Ron turns away from their moment on the bridge first. He grumbles something about going back to George and the rest of them. Honestly, Hermione doesn't feel the blow of their deaths until now. She looks at Ron and sees how he has aged in seconds. His brother just died. Fred Weasley died.
She wraps herself around him. He hugs her back for a moment before releasing her. He takes a step back as if unsure what happens next.
Harry seems to be the only one sure. He announces, "I'll hang back. I don't think I'm ready to go back in there just yet."
Ron nods his understanding. He turns his gaze to Hermione then. In his eyes, he knows her answer will match Harry's. Still, he waits until she offers the apologetic smile to nod towards her as well and head back for the castle.
Once Ron is out of ear shot, Hermione turns around and slaps Harry across the arm. He voices his pain, but she just hits him again. And again. And again.
"You died, Harry!" she says. She punctuates each syllable with another blow. He turns a tad to swap one arm for the other. She only grows more distressed, visibly so. Her eyes water and spill over. Her body tenses. So much so, she collapses slightly. Harry catches her, which makes her struggle even more.
"Hermione," he tries to say. She sobs at the sound of it. What if she had never heard that again? What if-
"Getting yourself killed is worse than being expelled," she sobs. "So much worse because I could never see you again. I could never-you're not to leave me. You're the one, Harry. You're the only one who never turns away from me. You never mocked me. You always saw me. You can't leave me like that! Do you know what it was like to see you in Hagrid's arms? Do you?"
He does not know. He almost voices as much. He decides it best not to.
Hermione goes on to say, "If you ever try something like that again, I will kill you myself."
The threat does not feel as empty as he wants it to so he nods.
"Of course, Hermione," he says.
She rather likes the sound of that.
"I love you, Harry."
She means it more than she wants to so she doesn't look up. She doesn't want to see the way he grins at her like the sister he never got to have. She just wants to pretend that their lives are not all mapped out, that he won't turn from this hug and go back to Ginny, and that she will not spend the rest of her life with Ron Weasley and the intense yet often bouts of insanity. Wouldn't that be nice?
"I love you too, Hermione."
Shame she doesn't look up; it would be her first time seeing a look that only two women in this world will be special enough to see – herself and Lily Luna Potter, his daughter.
Some would say that love is the ultimate horcrux.
Hermione would have to agree. Loving Harry certainly makes her feel as if she can live forever.