A/N: I know it's already been done to death, but here's what I wrote immediately after reading the tent scene in Deathly Hallows. This will be my last posting for several weeks. Italics indicate pp 309-310.
"For any one to love a man, he must be hidden, for as soon as he shows his face, love is gone."—Fyodor Dostoevsky; The Brothers Karamazov
"Leave the Horcrux," Harry said.
Ron wrenched the chain from over his head and cast the locket into a nearby chair. He turned to Hermione.
"What are you doing?"
"What do you mean?"
"Are you staying, or what?"
"I…" She looked anguished. "Yes—yes, I'm staying. Ron, we said we'd go with Harry, we said we'd help—"
"I get it. You choose him."
"Ron, no—please—come back, come back!"
She was impeded by her own Shielding Charm; by the time she had removed it he had already stormed into the night. Harry stood quite still and silent, listening to her sobbing and calling Ron's name amongst the trees.
After a few minutes she returned, her sopping hair plastered to her face.
"He's g-g-gone! Disapparated!"
She threw herself into a chair, curled up, and started to cry.
Harry felt dazed. He stooped, picked up the Horcrux, and placed it around his own neck. He dragged blankets off Ron's bunk and threw them over Hermione. Then he climbed onto his own bed and stared up at the dark canvas roof, listening to the pounding of the rain.
But another sound waxed and waned with patter of the rain—Hermione's soft sobs. Harry shifted uncomfortably in his bunk, trying to block out the noises of her despair, to block out the image of Ron running off into the night, to resist the malignant whisperings of the Horcrux in his mind.
The last was the hardest because of his anger at Ron, and it kept telling him he shouldn't be surprised. Ron had always been a bit of loose cannon, with excess amounts of jealousy, and it made sense that the Trio would end like it just had. He shut his eyes tight against the coldly pulsing metal against his heart, trying to resist the power feeding his anger, but it took monumental effort.
Harry wasn't sure the effort was worth it, either; he had every right to be angry at Ron. They had been friends for so long, but that didn't appear to matter to the redhead. And then there was Hermione. She was devastated, and Ron had been too selfish and too angry, and too fucking jealous to realize that.
Harry snorted bitterly as he thought of that book Ron had showed him—the one about charming witches—and realized with a dawning sense of irony how deeply it had backfired. Instead of wooing Hermione, which Harry had thought Ron was trying to do for at least two years now, he had hurt her in the worst way. Ron had left her.
Thinking of Hermione drew his attention once again to the only noise apart from the rain. He listened, against his will, for several minutes as Hermione continued to cry. He turned back over in his bunk, squinting into the darkness, and saw the blankets he had thrown over her shaking slightly with her sobs.
He hated this. He hated Voldemort; hated the Horcruxes and this pointless bloody search through the sodding wilderness; hated what everything during the past two years had done to his friendships with Hermione and Ron; and most of all, hated that he couldn't comfort her more than throwing some blankets over her.
The Horcrux gave an angry lurch against his skin as he, for just a moment, was in danger of letting the hatred consume him, but one thing stopped him: the ceasing of her crying. He squinted again, trying to make out Hermione in the gloom, but could only see a formless pile of quilts. He calmed his quickly beating heart, feeling as the hatred for everything and nothing receded, and sat up. He swung his legs over the edge of the bunk and stared where Hermione lay curled in the chair.
Harry didn't know how to articulate it, but something in the last two years had changed between the two of them. Whereas before the incident at the Ministry of Magic Hermione had always been supportive and understanding of Harry, since then she had been argumentative, bitter, and even distant through much of their last year. Harry had at first attributed it to the added stress of growing up surrounded by a war, but over time he had come to think it was because of Ron.
The Trio would be irrevocably changed whenever Hermione and Ron got around to making their feelings for each other official, and Harry felt a powerful wave of sadness wash over him as he considered that lonely day. The Trio would then become Two and One; never to be three again, they would probably remain close friends, but would never be able share the same type of camaraderie.
Harry's hands clenched the quilt at his sides as he continued to stare where Hermione lay. Those assumptions had just been shattered, though, both the good and the bad ones, because Ron had just walked out on them. The Trio was down to Two, anyway, but not in quite the manner Harry had expected. And, oddly, the sadness did not retreat. Three still had been split unevenly two ways.
"Hermione," Harry rasped out, not sure what he wanted to say, but desperate to break the odd tension pervading the confined space.
In that moment, Harry vividly understood that if the two of them had any hope of finishing their task, it lay within whatever trust in and friendship for the other they had left.
The blankets wobbled slightly; Hermione still did not appear from their depths.
"Hmm?" came a sound, choked and muffled. Harry took a deep breath, wondering how they could move past this. How did two people move on when their third part suddenly wrenched itself away? And how did one person move on when the one they cared about most left?
Harry frowned: did Hermione care more for Ron than him? He thought he knew they had feelings for each other, but it had never occurred to him that those feelings probably meant Hermione considered Harry second fiddle to Ron. But he cared for Hermione, deeply. And for Ron, but he didn't want to think about that right now (the Horcrux gave another unpleasant twitch beneath his shirt).
"Are we going to make it?" he asked, trying to keep his voice calm.
Would Voldemort win now that the famous Gryffindor Trio had split? Had the Dark Lord already won? To Harry, this seemed the most pivotal moment in the fight; if he and Hermione couldn't go on with what they needed to do, then all was lost.
The blankets vibrated again, and then they moved. In the darkness of the tent, with nothing but the sound of the windswept rain intruding upon their crisis, Harry could just make out Hermione's head appearing from beneath the quilts.
"What do you mean?" she asked, thickly. Though he knew it cowardly to think so, he was glad he couldn't discern her tear-stained face in detail.
"How can we do it?" he asked, with a sudden bitterness coloring his voice. "You heard him. You know he was right. I have no idea what I'm doing. We're just wasting our time out here." Harry looked down to where his blanket was still clutched in his hands. He felt entirely inadequate, and he didn't like it.
He realized, in the short silence that followed his words, that if Hermione had left too, he would have definitely been done with it all. She was the heart and brains of their entire operation. He operated on instinct alone, and without her there all along to temper his wilder notions, he would surely have been dead.
Movement drew his gaze upward again, and it was with some surprise he saw that Hermione had stood from her chair and started toward him. He watched her warily as she slowly crossed the intervening space and sat gingerly next to him. The bunk creaked slightly with her added weight.
"Do you trust me?" she asked, her voice still ripe with emotion. Before he could respond, a gust of wind threw rain against the walls of the tent; an oddly melancholy sound in an already desperate situation.
"Of course," he eventually replied. He turned his head so he could look at her. Her hair was hanging over, and therefore concealing, her face. She was bent slightly at the waist, elbows on her thighs, presumably staring at the floor.
"Then you should know that if I didn't believe in you, I would have left a long time ago," she told him. Inexplicably, against his almost immutable willpower, his throat closed up at her words. He clenched his jaw in an effort to stem the sudden flow of emotion; why her words had affected him so much, he did not know.
"But" he started, and his voice cracked. She jerked, as if she wanted to look at his face, but ultimately stayed in her same hunched over position. He cleared his throat, furious at himself for the single tear trailing down his face that betrayed him.
"But we haven't made any progress in months," he stated, quietly, hoping irrationally that saying it would make it somehow less true, or that Hermione would contradict him.
"You're right," she said, and his hopes crashed like so many waves upon the beach. He turned his head away from her as a second hot tear cascaded down his cheek, wanting to wipe them away, but not doing so because then Hermione would know he was crying, that he couldn't control his emotions.
"But we never expected it to be easy, did we?" she asked, rhetorically because she gave a mirthless snort. "Well, it seems Ron might have…" she trailed off, and he thought she would start crying again. When she didn't, he was even more ashamed over his own tears, which had abated but still coated his face like liquid taboo.
Harry felt a pressure on his arm. It was gentle at first, trying to draw him toward it, but then more insistent; still, he refused to look at her.
"Harry," she whispered, her voice quite close to him. In his surprise, he jerked his head toward her. He saw her eyes widen upon seeing his glistening face, and when he tried to turn away again she captured his face in her hands.
"Harry…" she said again, with such tenderness and caring in her voice that he could barely stand it. Not ten minutes before, she had been the one crying in the chair, and he had been unable to go to her, to comfort her. Now, in his one moment of weakness, she was selfless and understanding and everything he couldn't be. He didn't deserve her.
"You should have left with Ron," he croaked, unable to draw his eyes away from hers now that she had caught him. "I'm just going to get you killed, and for what? Some pointless quest we had barely enough information to begin on in the first place."
He closed his eyes, no longer in danger of crying, but still feeling quite shaken up. Something in Hermione's eyes, something in her pose, had elicited a response deep within his chest that he did not have the right to feel. A tender emotion he could not name curled like a hot iron just below his heart.
"Ron shouldn't have left," Hermione said, correcting him in an all-too-familiar tone of voice. He opened his eyes once again to see her brown ones still staring at him. "But this isn't the first time, is it?" she asked, eyes widening slightly. She looked so innocent in that moment that Harry desperately wanted to send her away from him to safety. But she would never be safe, not while Voldemort and his supporters were at large, because of her association with Harry.
Silence reached its fingers across the tent once again, cupping them in its palm and encasing them in nothing but the forlorn sound of the cold rain. Hermione still hadn't dropped her hands from his face. They were quite hot against his skin.
"So are we, Hermione?" Harry asked, after what seemed like eternity. He tilted his head slightly, pressing one cheek unknowingly into one of her hands. "Are we going to make it?"
She came forward then, wrapping him with her arms, pressing her body against his, in a way he could never remember her doing. He sat quite still for just a moment, and then brought his arms up and around her back, pressing her tightly against his chest. She was his anchor in all this despair.
"I don't know, Harry," she said, softly. "But we will have each other, to the very end." He rested his chin on top of her bushy curls and closed his eyes again, seeing images from the past six and a half years race through his mind.
What would the end be? Harry and Hermione victorious? Or dead? That burning sensation began to build behind his eyes again, as he imagined Hermione struck down by Voldemort or one of his followers.
He tightened his arms further as the unwanted images of Hermione's supposed final moments played over and over in his brain, and seemingly in response she began to shake slightly in his arms. Now he had to be the strong one.
He removed his head from the top of hers and hunched down slightly, resting his chin on her shoulder and leaning his cheek against hers. Trapped between their cheeks was the evidence of her of emotion, but it grounded him somehow to the moment. Her tears were the reality in all this disaster and he just held onto her as she emptied her soul onto him.
"I'm so glad you're still here," he murmured, without really thinking of his words. "I wouldn't have been able to deal with it if you left. You're why I can do this, Hermione. You're why I haven't died yet. And I don't want to d-die," he said, his voice catching at the end. They were rocking back and forth ever so slightly.
"Nor do I want you to die," he added, burying his nose and eyes into her shoulder, forcing down that prickling feeling. She smelled like cinnamon and vanilla, and it was strangely comforting for him notice something as mundane as her scent.
"I w-would for you," she responded, quietly, voice shaking. He shook his head vehemently, rubbing her scent further into his nose.
"But I don't want you to!" he exclaimed, muffled somewhat by her sweater.
"That's why we're both still here, Harry," she told him, turning her head slightly so something warm and wet rested against his neck. He thought it was another part of her cheek. When she spoke again, though, he realized with a quickening of his heart that it was her lips:
"Because we'd die for each other, if we had to."
As Harry considered how her lips felt against the pulse point on his neck, his mind flashed back to those countless hours he had spent with Ginny at Hogwarts. Their more vigorous adventures had felt neither as good nor as relaxing as the simple fact of Hermione's lips upon his neck, and in that moment he knew he had made a grave mistake somewhere along the line. Hermione had always been there for him, through it all; and yet he had cocked everything up, as usual.
"I hope we don't have to," he replied, very quietly. After a moment, he turned his face toward hers. They stared into each other's eyes for a brief instant of time, a million words passing in one simple gaze, and then nothing mattered except that he and Hermione had each other. Nothing at all, not even the rain still blowing desolately against the tent.