Author's Notes: I'm assuming you've all been over to see Opalish and my new story, The Twelve Step Program under by penname Zombie Spuds.
Hint, hint, cough, cough.
Stolen moments of love in a world full of hate always taste the sweetest. They savor, carrying Hermione through days and nights or tortured nightmares, lingering on her tongue and reminding her that all is never lost. Misplaced and cracked, maybe, but not lost.
Harry's head lies on her lap, and the soft music of his soft breathing lulls her hammering heart to a gentle pace. Ron looks at her and smiles, their eyes meeting in a one, peaceful second snatched from the back pocket Time as he passes by. She feels her face flush, the way it always does when he looks at her.
Some things never change.
Ron reaches over and squeezes her hand. "You can fall asleep if you need to. I'll take your watch." She shakes her head, her lips curving upwards.
"No – I'll stay awake. It's peaceful."
Ron snorts, scattering the ethereal feel of the moment. Hermione smiles along with him, though, because that's generally what Ron does. "Peaceful my arse," he mutters, and then grins in Harry's direction. "Harry, mate, you've got the best end of this deal."
The Boy-Who-Lived smirks without opening his eyes. "Jealous?" He teases, settling further into her leg. Hermione heaves exasperatedly, tapping both of them lightly on their foreheads.
"Oh, honestly," she mutters. "You two are the most dirty-minded blokes I've ever had the misfortune to stumble across."
Harry cracks an eye open and shares a look with his best friend. Ron grins good-naturedly. "Clearly she hasn't met Seamus, eh, mate?"
Harry laughs, a deep rumbling sound that nearly echoes in the cold. "Never met a dirtier minded sod in my life," he agrees. "What was it he said about Lavender?"
Hermione crosses her arms across her chest, glaring at the pair of boys. "You're both completely incorrigible," she says primly. "And I don't want to hear anything about Lavender. I can't stand that girl." Harry grins knowingly at her and shuts his eyes again, rolling over in his stomach and resting his forehead against her thigh. Ron glances curiously at her but says nothing and Hermione doesn't encourage further discussion of the matter.
It's still a sore subject.
"Goodnight," Harry murmurs. "Hermione may be stupid enough to stay up with you, Ronnie, but I've got a few more brain cells."
Hermione straightens automatically. "Oh, yeah? What did you get on your O.W.L.s?" She snaps, than deflates laughing. "Oh, never mind. Go to sleep, you twit." The Boy-Who-Lived obliges happily and she's left once again with no one but Ron to keep her company.
She doesn't mind.
They sit in silence for a while, enjoying the night and calm. Eventually, Ron reaches over and takes her hand without speaking – she lets him, and even tosses him a loose smile. He grins back and laces his fingers through hers. "'Mione," he whispers, then stops suddenly. There is worlds between them, it seems, and yet he's so close she could reach over and –
He shakes his head, bringing her hand to his lips and gently kissing her palm. "It's not the time," he says simply. "Hold onto that for me, would you?" He adds with a wink. "I'd like it back eventually."
She pauses, accepting that maybe this is a good as she's going to get for a while. There is time and a place for budding romance, especially one like theirs, and Ron's right: now is not it. "I'll hold onto it," she promises, pantomiming places the kiss on her lips. "Maybe at the end of all this I can put it back where it belongs."
Ron smiles, reclaiming her hand in the darkness. "I'd like that."
The sun creeps up behind the mountains and Hermione sits with her head on Ron's shoulder, absorbing the last few hours before dawn.