Yes, you read that right. Hermione/Albus. I know Albus is not exactly on the het side of the Kinsey scale, but who says exactly where the poor guy falls? I am after all borrowing JKR's entire word, so I can have fun with a character's orientation if I feel like it. (Have to say, I'm normally a slash writer. This is the first time I've ever taken a character in this direction...)
Title is in homage to Babylon 5, the great 90's SciFi show. This is NOT a crossover, but the title fit so perfectly that I had to use it.
ENIGMA by Edgar Allen Poe
The noblest name in Allegory's page,
The hand that traced inexorable rage;
A pleasing moralist whose page refined,
Displays the deepest knowledge of the mind;
A tender poet of a foreign tongue,
(Indited in the language that he sung.)
A bard of brilliant but unlicensed page
At once the shame and glory of our age,
The prince of harmony and stirling sense,
The ancient dramatist of eminence,
The bard that paints imagination's powers,
And him whose song revives departed hours,
Once more an ancient tragic bard recall,
In boldness of design surpassing all.
These names when rightly read, a name [[make]] known
Which gathers all their glories in its own.
If there was one thing that Hermione hated most about her life it was being cold. The damp and the chill never left her anymore. Sleeping in the dirt, eating scraps, wearing rags, those things she could deal with, but being cold wasn't something she could get used to. The colder it got the more she ached - too many rounds of crucio, too many nameless injuries and practically no medical care. For each of her twenty-two years she'd gained a dozen wounds per annum. She had scars and she had traumas and she hated the cold.
It didn't matter how much she hated it, she lived in it. There was nowhere else to go. There hadn't been, not for a long time. Not since Ron died. Not since Hogwarts fell. Not since Headquarters was sacked and the Burrow burned and her parent's murdered and Severus captured... It was always cold now.
Harry huddled next to her, his breathing shallow and pained. It wouldn't be long now and she'd be colder. His heat was failing and there wasn't anything she could do about it. The curse was working in his system, slowly rotting him from the inside.
Harry gripped her hand tightly and opened his eyes to try and see her. The green was gone, the iris faded to a grayish murk.
"You have to do it, Hermione. There's no one else that can." Harry said softly, gripping her hand even tighter. "I hate to ask you."
"Just like Dumbledore hated to ask Severus." Hermione snorted. "Don't lie to me, Harry. We've been together too long for that. You want me to kill you and leave. You want me to do it, not because I have to or because I'm the best choice. You want me to do it so you don't have to hurt anymore."
Harry's body shuddered and he shook his head weakly. "Oh Hermione, I...I don't want to keep going. I won't lie to you. But if all I wanted was my death I'd have given up a long time ago. He can't win, Hex. He just can't. We've all fought too long and too hard."
Hermione cringed at the pet name but kept silent.
Harry leaned his head back and grimaced as another wave of pain shot through his ravaged body. "Look, we can argue this again but the facts won't change. Mulciber's curse isn't going to slow down. One way or another I die. The only choice is whether we take advantage of my death or not. Personally, I'd rather go into the afterlife knowing I did some good."
"If I do this, you won't have done anything, Harry. You won't exist. You'll probably never exist." Hermione coughed roughly, the damp irritating her lungs. "None of this will have happened."
Harry shrugged and closed his sightless eyes. "The way my life's played out, I'm pretty happy about that part. Think of it this way, you can save so many people so much pain, Hex. Isn't that what we all wanted in the beginning?"
"No. I wanted to survive." Hermione sighed. "That's all any of us wanted. Even back at Hogwarts, when we went after the Stone. All we really wanted was to survive."
"And you will." Harry reached his hand out and groped till he found her chin and forced her head around to look at him. "You've lost everything in this war, Hermione. You lost your home, your chance for a normal life. You lost Ron and Severus and now you're losing me. But you've got a chance to change it. One chance. And all you have to do is kill me."
"You say that like it's easy."
Harry smiled grimly. "It is. We've both killed plenty of times, Hex. Two words. One flash of green. And you're on your way."
"Assuming it doesn't re-bound. You have a history of that you know." Hermione sighed. "And I wish you'd stop calling me that."
Harry chuckled. "Draco was right you know. You're so fast with your wand these days you're a spell personified." Harry's smile fell and he took an unsteady breath. "I miss him, Hermione. I miss all of them, but Draco..."
"I know." Hermione pulled Harry closer to her and held him tightly. "You loved him."
Harry shivered, feeling the curse progress further into his body. "You loved Ron and he died. You loved Severus and he died. How did you keep going?"
"I didn't have a choice." Hermione brushed a strand of untidy hair off her friend's forehead and ran a finger down the lighting shaped scar. "War isn't conducive to love."
Harry shuddered harder and gripped her hand tightly. "Promise me, Hermione. Promise me you'll love him."
"I can't." Hermione felt her tears like trails of fire down her cheeks. "How can I promise to do that after all of this?"
"Because the only thing that can change this, the only thing that can save us, is love." Harry smiled tightly and opened his eyes. They'd gone from grey to a murky white and Hermione could smell rotting flesh. "You've got to do it, Hermione. You've got to end this."
"You're my best friend." Hermione bit back a sob. "I can't do this, Harry. I just can't."
"You can." Harry's face was hard with determination. "You're strong enough to do this, Hermione. Snape believed in you till the last. He gave his life to give us time to finish researching the spell. Mulciber's just made it easier on you. You don't have to kill me in cold blood. You can do it knowing it's a mercy killing."
Harry smiled softly and touched her cheek, his hand cold and slimy, the flesh moving unnaturally against the bone. "I love you, Hex. You're the sister I never got to have."
Hermione leaned forward and placed a quick kiss to his forehead. "I love you too, Harry." He smiled softly and nodded once.
Hermione raised her wand and started chanting. The ancient Gaelic words swirled like mist around the two and lit the darkened warren they'd crawled into with a pale mawkish light. Harry took a deep breath as the words grew to a crescendo and sighed as the first syllabus of the last spell began.