For the first time
Summary: Harry has never belonged anywhere. He was a wizard and a muggle, a halfblood. He has always been unique and where everybody else says ‘special’, he replies, quietly in his own heart, ‘alone’.
The next consecutive nights found them falling asleep together in Harry’s bunk, Hermione clutching him to her like he was her lifeline—and maybe he was, Harry thought—and him listening to her heart beat as it slowly lulled him to sleep, like a strange lullaby only he could hear.
Meanwhile, they spent their days reading books and researching about the Horcruxes. Harry found that he only talked to her when he discovered something that could help them and she did the same to him. Needless to say, they rarely talked at all. This caused Harry to feel a twinge of sadness and nostalgia, remembering the easy way they used to interact and how these interactions were always filled with mirth and affection.
And the change was mostly caused by Ron’s departure. Harry wanted to feel bitter and angry towards his male bestfriend but he was too tired and weary from everything else to summon the energy to do so.
It was now a month since Ron left and Harry was to be found standing on an open field not far from where they had set up camp, the sun just rising up the sky. The grass was green and moist, and the air smelled of the lingering morning dew. Everything was so quiet and still, one would’ve thought not a living thing resided there but it was not so. He occasionally rabbits scampering around and heard birds chirping merrily as if greeting the sun as it rose. Harry’s face was turned up towards the sun, like a sunflower seeking the sun, absorbing the warmth it gave him, making the coldness he constantly felt recede a little. The cold wind brushed and tangled his raven hair and caressed his face soothingly. He took a deep, cleansing breath and just—felt.
He felt an inner peace he hadn’t felt since Voldemort’s reappearance.
As a skinny kid who looked like he never got enough sunlight, he worshipped it. He loved the light and warmth it provided him. Somehow, it gave him comfort and reassured him that as long as it shined, there was hope—something that was becoming scarce as Voldemort continued to terrorize them.
He closed his eyes and stretched his arms, fingers reaching up as if to touch it, hold it in his hands and never let go. He needed that kind of warmth when he was so utterly cold.
“Las’hark,” he mumbled, lips twitching up into a tiny smile. “The sun. The hope’s Hope.”
He often thought of Hermione as his Sun, with her honey brown eyes that seemed to reflect the sun’s brightness and warmth in her smiles and laughter, her heart’s tenderness rivaling it. His own miniature sun, only she wasn’t his to keep, not his to treasure, never his to love. These thoughts caused the smile on his lips, tiny and temporary, vanished. He opened his eyes, careful not to stare directly at the sun and heard the sounds of quiet footsteps walking towards him.
Stifling his sigh at having his solitude broken, he turned and saw Hermione herself, watching him with a strange expression, one that looked almost like awe but not, because it was deeper and more profound, like maybe—he put a stop to his thoughts, berating himself for even going there. After giving himself a mental shake, he notice the way she was walking toward him, hesitant and unsure.
He gave her a small, encouraging smile, which she reciprocated immediately.
“You were gone before I woke up and I got worried when you still didn’t come back after two hours so I…” she trailed off, voice soft.
He shrugged. “Just wanted to stretch my limbs for a bit. I didn’t realize I’ve been gone for that long. Sorry for worrying you, ‘Mione.”
Her smile turned fond. “It’s fine.”
Not wanting to go back to the constricting walls of their tent yet, he unceremoniously plopped down the soft grass, thankful that it was mostly dry, and stretched out his elbows behind him, continuing his previous activities and closed his eyes. After a minute, he heard the grass shift as Hermione sat down beside him, his tense body unwinding until he completely laid down, the soft grass underneath him proving to be an adequate pillow. In no time at all, he fell asleep, his dreams full of laughter and happiness.
Harry woke up slowly, his brain emerging from his restful sleep to realize that something was different. He opened his eyes and blinked blearily, unable to stop the yawn that sounded from his mouth. He rubbed his eyes, idly realizing that his glasses were missing and someone was stroking his hair. He quickly sat up, spine rigid as he turned to look at his companion. Heart beating erratically, he saw Hermione staring at him with confused and hurt eyes, hands till aloft from where she had been stroking his hair earlier. Feeling guilt well up inside him, he gave her a sheepish grin.
“Sorry, Hermione. Force of habit. I’ve been paranoid ever since this all started.” He explained, watching as she put her hands on her lap and squeezed them.
She gave him a nod, understanding and sympathy written clearly in her face. She handed him his glasses and he immediately put them on, blinking as his eyesight adjusted.
“It’s okay. I understand, Harry.”
He sighed and lay back down again, gazing at the blue sky and the clouds passing by above them blankly. From the corner of his eye, he saw Hermione shuffle closer to him and felt her gently ease his head back to her lap. His eyelids fluttered close when she started stroking his hair again.
Minutes ticked by in peaceful silence as the birds continued to chirp around them and the sun finally reached its place in the sky. He was about to fall asleep when she broke it and stated,
“I had a dream last night.”
He looked up at her, seeing her staring back down at him. Their gazes held for a moment before he asked, gulping slightly,
“Yeah? What was it about?”
She frowned and averted her gaze, looking thoughtful.
“That’s just it. I don’t remember at all, but I know I felt happy and…content.” She turned her attention back to him. “…I think you were there as well.”
He didn’t respond, keeping his thoughts blank. His gaze off to the side, he watched a rabbit emerge from its hole and, after scanning its surroundings, hopped out. It stood on its hind legs, sniffing the air cautiously before hopping off to search for food. He frowned for a moment, and then sat up, immediately missing Hermione’s gentle hands. He squashed the feeling and stood up, dusting his trousers for imaginary dirt.
“We better get back to camp before someone sees us. It’d be good to read up some more, too.” He said, walking towards their campsite.
That night, he made sure to stay up as late as possible, waiting for Hermione to fall asleep before he turned in himself. However, instead of settling in beside her in his bunk, he used the unoccupied one. He fell asleep watching her.
To his surprise, when he woke up, Hermione was tucked in beside him, arms keeping him close to her. He cursed silently and tried to lessen her grip around him but failed, only causing it to tighten even more. He heard a whimper and looked at her, seeing tiny glistening tears falling down her cheeks. Sighing, he relaxed and wound his own arms around her waist, pulling her closer to him. He wiped her tears away with his thumb, his fingertips lingering on her lips. He stared at her for a few minutes, making sure that she was still asleep before placing a gentle kiss on her forehead. Tucking her head under his chin, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Harry stood alone in a darkened alcove inside a familiar forest, the blood red moon shining from the sky eerily. He looked around, searching for Hermione but not seeing her anywhere.
“Hermione?” he called out, his voice ringing in the empty forest.
The back of his neck prickled and goosebumps appeared on his arms as the leaves fluttered around him. He felt like someone was watching, an ominous presence pressing against him. He heard a twig snap minutely and swiftly turned around, spine ramrod straight and wand at the ready.
His heart stopped.
Lord Voldemort stood before him, his snake-like, inhuman face arranged in a smug and cruel expression. His thin lips twisted up in a smirk and he opened his mouth, voice hissing Harry’s death.
Harry tried to will his body to move but failed, numb and unmoving. He watched as his Death approached, the green colored curse rapidly flying towards him and hitting him straight on the chest. At first, there was nothing—no pain, no agony—then it was as if a thousand knives plunged into his body at the same time, an iron hand squeezed his heart so hard he couldn’t breathe and his mind was split apart—splinched—the pieces breaking apart and scattering. His ears rang with screams, images flew across his eyelids, voices long gone returning and haunting him.
—No, please don’t hurt Harry—Take me instead—
His mother begging Voldemort to spare him.
—Please, I beg you—
He watched as Lily Potter fell and slumped on the floor, lifeless and unmoving. He felt his heart call out to his mother’s—mommomomoMOM!—his soul reaching out, fingers stretching for hers, her soul draining, slipping away and he felt his heart tear apart, crying out while his mouth was shut, green eyes staring at Voldemort’s looming form, knowing that he should be afraid—
—He felt time stand still, numb with shock as Sirius’ body fell through the Veil, eyes wide open and completely blank. Harry didn’t even realize he was already running towards the Veil, arms outstretched until an arm around his waist stopped him. His mind chanted his godfather’s name—SiriusSiriusSiriusSirius—he couldn’t breathe, people were surrounding him, trapping him, everything was a blur of forms, voices, touches—he wanted to run, get away from them, and follow Sirius—
—Harry stared at Dumbledore’s wise, blue eyes and saw the spark, the life fade from them as his body fell, his robes fluttering, disappearing from view and undoubtedly dropping on the ground. He found himself unable to move, his mind struggling to understand what just happened—Snape betrayed them, the Death Eaters are destroying the castle, Voldemort’s moving—he was overcome with shock, grief, loss and his body was taut with mounting tension, like a rope being pulled tighter and tighter until it snapped—k
—Dumbledore’s dead—He’s dead, what’s going to happen now—
—Blood, so much blood, it soaked his clothes and his hands, the eerie red color contrasting starkly against the pale white of his shaking hands and he didn’t know where it came from—where was he—what happened—
And then he saw the one sight he never wanted to see, in his life, in his dreams and even his nightmares.
Hermione lay in a pool of blood, her clothes drenched with it, and a gaping wound on her chest. Her face was tinged with blue, achingly lifeless, and her bushy auburn hair singed. Ron sat on the ground, cradling her head in his lap as he stroked her cold, pale cheeks. Tears fell rapidly from his eyes to drop on Hermione’s face while he sobbed silently.
A sound of pure agony tore from Harry’s throat and he ran to them, kneeling and reaching out a hand to touch Hermione—pleasenonotHermioneno!—his vision blurred, tears filling his eyes to fall down his cheeks, he refused to believe that Hermione was dead, she was only unconscious and she’ll wake up soon. His hand was slapped away violently and his head jerked up to look at Ron, speechless.
Ron was glaring at him murderously, pale blue eyes dilated with rage and sorrow. He snarled at Harry, shouting furiously,
“DON’T TOUCH HER! IT’S YOUR FAULT SHE’S DEAD! IF YOU HADN’T MESSED UP—KILLED VOLDEMORT FASTER, SHE’D STILL BE ALIVE! I KNEW IT—YOU COULD NEVER PROTECT US PROPERLY, PROTECT HERMIONE! IF I HAD KNOWN, I WOULD’VE TAKEN HER WITH ME—I TRUSTED YOU TO PROTECT HER, YOU BASTARD! HOW COULD YOU LET HER DIE LIKE THIS?”
—NonononoNO—she couldn’t be—Hermione—NOOOO!—
He could only watch as his male bestfriend raised his wand against him.
“I will never forgive you.”
He closed his eyes and let one last tear drop before everything went white.