How long has it been?
Harry looks up from his enclosed hands, hoping to find his best friend standing at the tent flap with an apologetic expression.
How long has it been since they’ve seen Ron?
“Harry, dinner is ready.” Her voice is hoarse but light in the air, almost a whisper from where he’s sitting by the tent’s opening.
“Coming...” he murmurs to the void, his eyes never leave the opening of the tent but his body moves mechanically, following the scent of food. Any food. Whatever it is, It smells bland, but he’ll eat anything.
She’s setting up two bowls of soup across from one another, the thump of the glass touching the table giving him a jump as he raises his eyes to see her and he feels his stomach drop.
Has she always been so small? She’s wearing her favorite pale pink jumper that she usually complains of fitting her the slightest bit too snugly, though he’s never complained at the sight of something fitting tightly on her. It’s overflowing on her now, swallowing her body. She has such dark, menacing circles under her eyes and chapped red lips.
She raises her eyes from the bowls to him, taking him in for the first time in a long time if her expression is anything to go by. Does he look just as ragged? Just as beaten down?
“Oh Harry,” she brings her sleeve to her mouth, covering her trembling lips. “I wish-”
He takes a step towards her and lowers her shaking form into one of the chairs, falling to his knees in front of her and holding her head in both of his hands. “Hush. Save your wishes for after the war,” he flashes a hint of a smirk but can’t bring a real one to his face. He just can’t. She’s his driving force now. He hasn’t seen anyone in months, though it feels like years. She’s been his constant when he’s broken down into her arms on cold nights.
She’ll always be there. Hermione.
“Harry James Potter! Don’t you tell me to hush!” She smiles faintly, slapping his shoulder playfully.
When he’d flirted with her in the past, she’d give him a good slap on the back of his arm or his shoulder and he’d have a bruise that lasted for weeks. This smack is feather soft.
She would grow red in the face and puffy cheeks in embarrassment whenever he hinted at his attraction for her, but not this time. She doesn’t have the energy.
Her fire is fading.
“Mione,” he whispers and reaches for her wand at the edge of the table, “would you please dance with me?” He flicks it at the little wireless radio in the corner of the room and holds it there until a soft little tune plays. He can feel her body stiffening at the word and he chuckles at her adverse reaction. “Am I really such a terrible dancer?”
“I’m tired, Harry. I don’t know if I have the energy…” She rolls her eyes, “and to answer your second question,” she places her hands on his shoulders and rests her head there, taking deep breaths. “You are that terrible of a dancer.”
“Just stand on my feet then,” he pulls her up, walking carefully to the large space between both of their beds and arranging her arms to wrap around his neck. “It’d mean a lot to me, Mione.”
“Fine,” she sighs, but gives him a small half smile in response to his questioning look. “Please, lead the way.”
Her waist is smaller than he remembers it as he wraps his hands around her, keeping her close as he takes his first few steps around the room.
She’s so fragile in this moment, he thinks.
“How long has it been?” She whispers into his neck, her breath warming his cool skin, giving him a start.
“How long has what been?” Though he knows what she’s asking.
“How long has it been since we’ve seen Ronald?” She has bitterness in her voice and he holds back his disappointed sigh. She has always been a bit unforgiving of those who don’t remain loyal.
“He’s just scared. He’ll come back once he’s come to his senses-”
She huffs and squeezes her arms slightly.
She’s getting angrier.
“We are all bloody well scared! We are all scared, Harry! He can’t actually believe we will welcome him back because he was too cowardly! This is war!”
“You’ve never been an advocate for war, love,” he chuckles and squeezes her waist to show he’s only joking. “War has certainly changed your perspective.”
“Not at all,” she gently urges his movements to the right so that they avoid hitting one of the beds. “I am and always will be an advocate for peace, Harry.” She breathes deeply at his shoulder and he can’t help but inhale a soft lock of her curls at the top of her head. “This particular war is simply a stepping stone. You will defeat him, Harry. We will all have peace once he’s gone.”
He can’t bring himself to say anything, he’s absorbing the hope in her words. He can feel it. Almost hold its tangible shape in his withering hands.
“You’re giving people hope, Harry. Never forget that.”
He has forgotten. He’s almost forgotten them. His only reminder of humanity at this point is her. Hermione.
“Sirius is hiding with Remus and Tonks, keeping an eye and ear out. The Weasleys are keeping everyone fed and safe in their home. Kingsley is watching as much as he can from the Ministry,” she pulls back and grabs hold of his head, locking eyes with him. “Don’t forget what we are fighting for. What you have been fighting for since you were eleven. What your parents died for.”
“They died because they had a traitor for a friend.”
She shakes her head and raises to press a soft kiss to the tip of his nose. “They died protecting you, their son and the love of their lives. They died with the hope that one day you would live in a world free of this strife. If you’ve forgotten reasons to fight, Harry. Fight for them. I’ll stand beside you every single step of the way.”
“You’re remarkable,” is all he says before he lowers his head and presses a careful kiss to her lips. When he’d heard people around him talk about kissing people they were in love with, they always talked about fire. How much passion went into it. The very pit of their stomach would drop and they’d fall into the other person's arms.
Kissing Hermione Granger sparked hope. There wasn’t much fire and his stomach didn’t fall out. But his heart stilled for a spare moment and he felt peace. True, unadulterated peace.
He held happiness in his arms.
She was his hope.
“Harry,” she was crying. “Harry. We can’t. What about Ginny?” She was holding his face to hers and pressing their foreheads together. Always. She always gave him hope.
“She’s in love with someone else, Mione.” He and Ginny were best as friends, they’d realized. There was no heat on either side. Simply what felt like what should happen and that wasn’t something either of them had wanted. She’d apparently met up with Luna over the summer who introduced her to Cho Chang. She and Cho had hit it off fairly quickly. She talked with Harry about her feelings and that was the end of that.
“You can’t be serious? She’s been in love with you for-”
“Not in love with me, Mione. In love with the idea of us,” He chuckled as he pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. “Besides love, she looks an awful lot like my mother. Wouldn’t it be a bit odd for me to date her?”
A smile quickly spread across her face and then a genuine laugh. They both laughed. Their first genuine laugh in what has felt like years. He wonders if this laugh adds any years back to their life, and as he’s about to ask her, she gives him a somber look.
“What is it, Mione?”
“What are we fighting for, Harry?”
“We’re fighting for life, Mione. Fighting for love,” he pauses to look her in the eyes, “we’re fighting for hope. For peace. For everything good in this world that that monster has stolen from all of us.
“I’m fighting for you,” he presses a soft kiss to her brow. “For the chance that we can return to school, which I know you’ll drag me back to, and that we can be a genuine couple. We can hold hands in the halls and I can drag you into abandoned classrooms and--”
“Watch your mouth, Harry James Potter.” She rolls her eyes and steps off his feet to twirl herself around his finger and then places her hands back to his shoulders, but dances on her own feet instead of his.
“Sorry, Mione.” He twirls her again, for good measure, and because he loves the sparkle in her eyes when she smiles at him when she returns to his arms. “I’m fighting for you. For us. For everyone.”
“Oh Harry,” she stops to look up carefully into his eyes. He knows how she feels. He can see it in her eyes and the worry lines on her forehead.
“Don’t toss this out of fear,” he places his hands on her shoulders, wanting her full attention now as he whispers these next few words not just to her but to himself. “Don’t let this go out of fear he might find out. Don’t give him that power.” He’s shaking now, his hands trembling as he realizes the lengths he’d go to have her back in his arms if she was ever stolen and harmed.
“Don’t give me up,” she whispers and he wraps her into him. For the first time in their time on the run, she breaks down, falling into him. She’s relying on his strength of will and mind to guide her dueling emotions.
“It’s not fair that we find each other now, Mione. But I’m not giving you up. I’ll never let you go.”
“He needs his friends,” Hermione whispers into his shoulder, and he couldn’t agree more. “Ron needs us there. We detached every single bloody time we wore that horrible Horcrux! When he comes back,” she snuggled more securely into his arms, “we’ll be here for him with open arms. Won’t we, Harry?”
“Yes we will.” He murmurs against her curls, keeping stony eyes on the cursed relic lying on the table top. “We’ll remind him that there’s still something to fight for.”
“You’re the hope, Harry.” She breathes.
“Peace is our hope.”