The Restaurant

The silence in the tent was heavy, unbroken even by the soft bubble of the tasteless stew Hermione was boiling on their stove and the twiddling of buttons as Ron tried vainly to get into Potterwatch. As the days flew by, the atmosphere became, more and more often, like this—silent and brooding. Anxiety and unhappiness hung heavily in the air, almost tangible enough to touch, but never tangible enough to be conveniently swept away.

"Forget it," Ron finally announced, looking extremely disheartened. It wasn't often that he showed discouragement—ever since his return, he had tried to keep his spirits up and take charge, what with Harry's obsession with the Hallows and Hermione's prickliness. "I can't get in. Bill was great at guessing the passwords, but I'm rubbish."

Hermione silently handed him his bowl of stew by way of answering. Harry looked down at his own bowl and began eating laboriously, chewing at the tough roots.

The oppressive, unpleasant silence had settled back in, like a hulking monster slinking back into the tent, when Ron spoke once more. Suddenly plunking his spoon down (and inadvertently splashing some of the stew on Harry), he said in the quietest voice imaginable, "I hate this." He paused, and when no one rebuked him for his words, he continued. "I hate this. Let's leave all this and… and… and go abroad, open a restaurant or something. Someplace warm," he added, shivering a little. "I'm sick and tired of this."

Harry understood. The tension between them all was painful, and the days that passed were stretched as taut as a bowstring. Ordinarily, he would have chided Ron for his words, but he was feeling the same way, and they all knew that whatever Ron said, whatever any of them said, they were all going to stick to this cursed mission and finish it. Some dreaming couldn't hurt…

"If we're going to open a restaurant, it should be somewhere in the country," Hermione surprised them both by saying. Though the bags underneath were dark, her eyes seemed to have regained a faint spark, and her voice had a slight touch of weary humor in it. "A little town, maybe, where everyone knows each other."

"We'll hire cooks," said Ron quickly, looking deeply stunned that she was playing along, but lightening his tone. "You're doing an amazing job here, Hermione, but you can't cook for the life of you."

And most uncharacteristically, Hermione laughed. "I know," she said quietly, shaking her head in amusement.

"We'll do Italian," continued Ron, warming up to his theme, sounding less bitter and more animated, "and serve all kinds of pasta and pizza and breads—"

"And we'll have a little bower outside, with ivy and roses climbing along the walls—" said Hermione.

"We'll have those menus," Harry finally put in, reluctantly drawn in by their growing enthusiasm, "the ones where you just say what you want and your food appears in front of you—"

"And I could seat the guests," said Hermione, leaping up and giving a mock curtsey.

"We'll hire musicians every Tuesday and clear a space for a dance floor!" cried Ron, standing up as well. He seized Hermione's hand and gave her a little twirl, as if he could already hear the violins.

"Waiters in suits—" said Hermione breathlessly, as Ron continued to waltz with her to imagined music.

"Carved mahogany tables," Harry contributed.

"A classy restaurant, but a place people can enjoy themselves in," grinned Ron, still keeping a grip on Hermione's waist.

"A place where people are free to eat to their hearts' content—"

"A place where people behave because they want to, not because they feel they should in such a fancy restaurant—" added Hermione, the idealist.

"But a place where people feel at home, feel that they're free to do whatever they want," insisted Ron.

"Yes, of course—"

"A place full of people who care about each other," said Harry, suddenly weary. "A place without fear…"

But he didn't think they heard him anymore. They were too caught up in their own vision, a vision of flying far away and leaving dread and care behind, to go to a place where they could simply be happy and forget…

But if Voldemort was defeated, thought Harry, maybe the world they were living in right now could be that place. Their restaurant, their vision was what they were fighting for, and over the next few days, when the Snatchers caught them, when they were locked in the Malfoys' cellar, when they spent sea-breezed days at Shell Cottage—he only had to remember Ron and Hermione dancing in the fading light, only had to keep in mind his vision of a cozy Italian restaurant dressed in ivy and roses, and his resolve returned.

(It seemed almost an insult to think of the little restaurant as a goal, when so many people were suffering and dying, when so many wrongs could be righted. But it was a dream, and dreams are always worth fighting for.)

A/N: I've been MIA for the past few weeks, and I sincerely apologize for that. So much has been going on; I haven't been able to read or review that many stories, much less actually write new ones. I was listening to Rent songs recently, however, and in listening to the song Santa Fe, in which Tom Collins sings about leaving their hard lives for the pleasant prospect of opening a new restaurant in "sunny Santa Fe", I was inspired. I wrote a bit too hastily and published a bit too hastily, though, and took this story down the first time I posted it, resolving to edit it first-- sorry for the confusion caused for those who received alerts.

I suppose this is a tribute, too, to the magnificent, recently-ended musical that is Rent.

Enjoy, and I'd love it if you could leave a review! :)