A/N: This was an idea in my head for like three months, honestly, that would not go away. If the Harry Potter books were a little more adult-themed, I can almost see this actually happening. Reasonably plausible at least.

Spoilers for Deathly Hallows. Enjoy!

Duties and Dreams

It was Harry's turn at guard duty that evening, so he was sitting on a stump outside the enchanted tent that he and Hermione shared, the snow wet and thick around his ankles.

He supposed it was a beautiful night in these woods, moonlit clouds shifting overhead to reveal bright constellations of stars he still did not know, despite five years of Astronomy lessons. Yet anything beyond his own misery concerned him very little at the moment.

Ever since he had discovered the world in which he truly belonged, over six years ago, Christmases had been an overwhelmingly happy affair, filled with presents, love, and the companionship of his friends. Now, at seventeen, he had a seemingly impossible job before him - a task that would claim his life - and he was almost friendless, alone in these dark woods.

Perhaps he was truly friendless, he mused. He wasn't sure he and Hermione really counted as friends at the moment, or perhaps ever again. She had been grieving ever since Ron had left them, as desolate and inconsolable as if he had actually died instead of merely abandoning them, breaking their friendship and Hermione's heart at the same moment.

His feelings of disgust for Ron and his abandonment of their quest were strong enough, but every time he thought of Ron, walking out on the girl of his dreams as if she meant nothing to him, he felt bile rise in his throat.

Harry would have given anything in the world, endured endless pain, walked willingly to his death tomorrow, if it meant he could see Ginny one last time before he died, and Ron had thrown away his own fleeting chance at love. For both his own and for Hermione's sake, he could never forgive Ron for that.

A whispery, shuddering sound made Harry look down, and he realized he had unthinkingly taken out the Marauder's Map from his pockets yet again, and was clutching it in shaking hands. His eyes automatically sought out that familiar dot in girl's dormitory in Gryffindor Tower, but Map was almost empty, and Ginny had long since left on the holidays for the Burrow. She would never learn that he had watched her all these months, just for the comfort of knowing she was safe and warm at Hogwarts.

Then, as they did at least a dozen times a day, his thoughts drifted, as he pictured her lovely, lightly freckled face, her full lips, and her beautiful curved body. She was slim, but with surprisingly full curves in all the right places. Of course, if she had looked like a hag, he still would have wanted her.

If she had asked to come on this suicidal mission, he was not sure he could have refused her, despite the danger it would place her in, so he avoided that temptation. He hadn't told her there was even a plan involving him, Ron, and Hermione, so she would never know to ask to come. The last he had seen her was at Fleur's wedding, where he wasn't even himself at the time. He had watched her twirling in circles on the dance floor, long hair fanning out as she spun, and wanted so badly to hold her that it was a physical ache.

Before the wedding, Ron had told him off for snogging her, but Ron could go die from Cruciatus exposure for all Harry cared now, and besides - Ginny had always been the one to initiate things between them, from their first kiss to their last. Without her forwardness, he would never have thought he stood a chance in hell to be with her.

He wondered if she ever thought of him now. It had been over three months, after all. Surely someone better had caught her eye at school. At least he knew Dean Thomas, her ex-boyfriend, was far from Hogwarts, too. He winced. Death Eaters would kill the Muggle-born boy on sight if they found him, and he was worried about Dean getting it on with Ginny?

His jealousy was the only argument he and Ginny ever had, and really, it was more her yelling at him until he apologized and promised not to be so paranoid. He wasn't stupid, though. He knew what Ginny looked like, the way male eyes followed her wherever she went, and he couldn't help fearing that she would leave him for someone infinitely more suited to the position of Ginny Weasley's boyfriend.

"How many times do I have to say it, Harry?" she had demanded one evening walking back from the lake, eyes blazing. "I choose you - I chose you a long time ago before you even knew what boys and girls did together, and I'm not going to leave you now. I don't like feeling like you don't trust me!"

Harry had reached out for her then, and whispered, "I trust you with my life," and even though she usually did not like being interrupted before her anger died down, this time she had let him kiss her. The kiss turned more passionate, and he backed her up against the stone wall and ravaged her mouth, letting himself become engulfed by her, one of the only people in the world who wasn't the least bit afraid of him or what he could do.

A few days later, she had dragged him into the Room of Requirement, whispering into his ear what she was going to do to him, and laughing lowly when he blushed to the roots of his hair. There, on an impossibly soft four poster bed, between kisses and as he was feeling happier than he ever had in his life, he told her he loved her.

Instead of smiling or returning the sentiment, Ginny's face had gone very still. "Truly?" she whispered, her expression unreadable. "You swear it?"

Harry was confused. "Honestly, Ginny! I wouldn't say something like that if I didn't mean it." Was he moving too fast? Did she want to see other people?

Her lower lip was trembling. "Tell me again," she demanded unsteadily, staring straight into his eyes.

"Ginny Weasley, I love you." Not that it would do much good, he knew. He had a sinking feeling that allowing her to be close to him would lead to her heartache in the future. He would have to face Voldemort soon, and probably die in the process. Neither can live while the other survives...Nevertheless, Dumbledore had told him that the ability to love gave him an extraordinary power, and he wasn't about to throw away his happiness before he had to.

Still looking a little shaken, Ginny had pulled his head down to hers again, and against his lips murmured, "Make love to me, Harry Potter."

Harry's eyes had widened, and he pulled away slightly. He had not expected this to happen. "Ginny...you know I have to face Voldemort soon - I might not make it..." He didn't know what to say next. He wanted this, more than he had ever wanted anything in his life, but the thought of hurting her was unbearable.

Instead of arguing with him about his odds of survival, like she usually did, she had just said, "Then let's be happy together now, while there's still time." She had punctuated these words with a delicious little twist of her pelvis against his, and that was all it took. He was lost in her and her soft, warm body, and time stood still for the two of them, for that hour of blissful happiness.

Harry's head and neck were suddenly freezing cold. Icy water from melting snowflakes were sliding down the back of his jacket and making his skin break out in painful goose pimples. It was snowing again, the wind blowing flurries around his face and into his eyes and making his eyes sting, adding new tears to the ones already tracking down his cheeks. He stood up slowly, sparing one last glance for a winter night that still stunning despite the sudden snowfall.

He and Hermione, in one of their rare conversations these days, had agreed that anything in the woods would be hidden from their view in the snow, but so too would they be from any prying eyes, so standing guard duty in a snowstorm would be rather pointless. Hermione had charmed the tent pure white a few weeks ago as an extra precaution, and indeed, it was barely visible as Harry trudged back.

He was glad to be heading in, and not just for the weather. Hopefully, he could sleep now and try to get Ginny out of his head, at least for a few hours. His mood was darkening again. Sometimes he wished he could just curl up and fall asleep forever in the snow, if that had not meant leaving Voldemort free to destroy the world, and Ginny with it.

Stepping inside the dark tent, he tried to take off his thick coat silently. He did not expect Hermione to still be awake, considering that if she wasn't crying, she was usually sleeping, but there she was, sitting on the bottom bunkbed, staring at nothing. He sighed. He was almost painfully hard after his thoughts of Ginny, and had hoped for a bit of privacy to find relief before exhaustion claimed him.

He and Hermione hardly ever spoke now, but if he left the room while she was awake for much longer than it took to use the loo, he would return to find her shaking uncontrollably, and despite his attempts to comfort her, she would sob softly for hours afterward. He had made this mistake a few times, stopping to sit on a chair in the dining room or outside on the ground and contemplate the impossibility of finding Voldemort's Horcruxes in time to make a difference. He supposed Hermione was afraid that he would leave her, too. Most of the time, they even sat guard duty together, silent for hours on end, but he had slipped out this evening while she was asleep.

Unwilling to risk Hermione's tears, Harry resigned himself to sleeping through his aching loneliness, and began to climb into the bed above hers, when she spoke to him suddenly. His feet were already on the second rung of the ladder, but he stepped down and crouched down to hear her shaky voice. "What do you think he's doing now?"

This was the first time she had said anything in two days, and her voice creaked with disuse. He didn't have to ask who she meant. He tried to formulate an answer without actively thinking of Ron, who had so casually tossed away what Harry would have given anything to have. "At the Burrow, I suppose," he responded as casually as he could. With Ginny.

She didn't respond immediately, so he assumed that was the end of it. But as he turned to climb up the ladder again, he caught her eye. Then he looked at her, and really noticed what he was seeing.

Hermione's usually full face was gaunt, with dark bruises of shadows under her eyes. Her nose was peeling from constantly blowing it, and her usually think hair hung in lank strands around her face. She was looking at him now, but not as if she were really seeing him. "Do you expect we'll die out here?" she asked finally, as if did not matter to her one way or the other, and perhaps it didn't.

Maybe it was the loneliness, maybe the fear, or perhaps seeing all his worries reflected in her dark eyes, or the lingering arousal he felt, but he leaned across the bed and kissed Hermione full on the lips.

Hermione had never been plump, by any means, but she was an academician, not the athlete that Ginny was. Yet in the weak light he could almost pretend that hers was Ginny's face, as if that made it alright, with Ginny's finely-defined features and thin arms and legs.

Hermione gasped against his lips, and some part of him was glad that he could make her react to something, at least, after long weeks of her disengagement from the world. He pulled away and took her face in his hands, intending to press a final kiss to her forehead and be done with it, and both of them could pretend this never happened and go on with the small time remaining to their lives. But Hermione reached for him and took off his glasses, then pulled his face to hers again.

He wasn't sure if this was to make the snogging more comfortable or so she could pretend he was Ron, but he let her, feeling his heart racing at his throat. She tasted vaguely of the mint gum she chewed constantly instead of eating most meals, and her lips were chapped from the constant wind outside, but he didn't care. She was warm, and alive, and she was here with him. He had never thought of Hermione like this except in the idlest of fantasies, but it had been so long since someone had touched him that he almost shook with the overwhelming sensation of it.

Her small, soft hands slid inside his jacket, and they were surprisingly warm sliding against his skin, feeling for the bottom of his shirt as she tried to tug both of them off at the same time. He obediently raised his hands above his head and let her. Once they were off, she seemed uncertain again, clutching his coat and shirt in a bundle in one hand. Her eyes were brighter, clearer, than he had seen them in weeks, as she regarded him.

"This isn't how it's supposed to be," she said, not sounding angry or upset, but stating a simple fact. Her own thin jumper had risen above her belly button while they had been kissing, and his stared in fascination at her smooth, rounded stomach. Skin was good. Skin was...a connection with another person.

Then he was kissing her again, tongue sliding into her warm, wet mouth without thought. He felt her jump with surprise, but she reciprocated the passion in his kiss, and he slid his hands under her shirt. He could feel each of her ribs distinctly as his hands roamed over stomach, then up and up to her full, soft breasts that she always kept hidden under baggy shirts. He traced around her nipples, small and erect under his hand. They were good breasts, he determined, though nothing compared to Ginny's.

That thought made what he was doing sink home, but he could not stop himself for reaching to the only other person in the world here with him. He knew it was wrong, on so many levels, but he could not stop himself.

Neither, it seemed, could Hermione. "You've done this before," she gasped, arching her back as he gently squeezed a nipple.

"Yeah," he admitted, and reached to pull her jumper over her head.

She had gotten so thin in the past weeks, and her skin was sallower than it should be, but he kissed her ferociously anyway, then made his way down her neck to her breasts, sucking and biting. He suspected that if he tried to be too gentle with her, she would start sobbing and might not stop. He was not here to fulfill her fantasies of gentle lovemaking with Ron, nor did he want to.

Why was he doing this? The question came to him as Hermione mewled and slid her hand into his pants. Harry wasn't sure, but it seemed necessary to fix what had broken between him and Hermione. To fill the void both of them felt every day of their lives now, even though they were not meant for each other.

He wasn't sure she would want to actually have intercourse, but she insisted, something haunted and painful in her eyes.

"If he comes back before I die...I think I would forgive him anything, Harry. But this -" she gestured to his crotch, and hers, pressed tightly together - "he should have to pay for it somehow, even if he never knows it. He should." Her expression was fierce, and she didn't seem close to crying anymore.

Hearing that he had done this before shocked her, but she simply nodded her head impatiently and spread her legs for him, clutching the sheets on either side of her. Once he was inside, she closed her eyes tightly, and they rocked back and forth, making the bunk bed creak and shift. Outside, the snow fell steadily on the tent, and he timed his thrusts to the howls of the wind.

He was trying to be gentle for her behalf, not expecting her to find release on her first time, merely trying to make the process as painless as possible for her. She surprised him by tightening her grip on his legs and urging him on silently, harder and faster, harder and faster. He obliged, and was shocked when she suddenly tightened and convulsed around him, eyes still closed and her head lolling back, panting. She looked...not happy, but satisfied, a distorted reflection of the old, vivacious Hermione.

While she was still recovering, he closed his eyes and thought of Ginny spread out before him, and imagined that she had Apparated beneath him somehow and that it was her he was fucking. It didn't take long. One, two, three, and he came hard inside of her, rolling to her other side, mentally and physically exhausted.

Her wavy brown hair was tangled all around her pillow, one hand still caught under Harry's torso. His tremulous illusion shattered. It was Hermione of course, whom he was lying against, her thick, dark hair nothing like Ginny's red-gold locks that always smelled so good slipping smoothly through his fingers.

Gradually, Hermione's breathing slowed, and the pain returned to her eyes. She stared at the bunk above them, not looking at him. "It was never supposed to be you," she said, as if to herself. "The Daily Prophet and God knows how many other people thought it would be, but I think from the moment I saw Ron, I knew."

Saying Ron's name somehow sealed in his mind what had just happened between them, and Harry felt his heartbeat pounding in his ears, drowning out everything except Hermione's words. "I wish I could turn off loving him," she said, voice cracking, and Harry knew she was on the verge of hysteria.

"Don't wish that," Harry responded fiercely. "Hermione, look at me." She turned unwilling eyes to him, already drowning in misery again. "Love's a gift, Hermione. The point of living. Even if he didn't love you back - and I know he does - it would still be worth it. I wouldn't trade my year with Ginny for anything in the world, even one hundred Voldemort-free years without her. Love makes it all worth it."

It seemed surreal for him to reassure her about their former best friend when this had just happened between them, but he knew as he was speaking it that every word was true. Hermione seemed to sense his conviction and nodded slowly, her eyes not leaving his face. She looked a little less strained, worry lines around her mouth and on her forehead perhaps a little less pronounced.

Then she closed her eyes and let out a long breath, tense shoulders relaxing back against the mattress a fraction. She looked as if she wanted to go to sleep, so Harry sat up and reached for his discarded clothes. He probably should have left it at that, but as he was crawling over her prone form to get into his own bed, curiosity and concern got the better of him. "Do you regret this?"

Hermione was silent for a long moment, and Harry was beginning to fear that he had done something truly monstrous, created an irreparable rift in their already-strained relationship.

"No," she said finally, and Harry let himself breathe again. "No, I think it was necessary. You reminded me we have to keep fighting - I can't just crawl into a hole and die, even if I want to, because everyone will die if we fail." She reached out and squeezed his hand once, then let go and looked away. "It was necessary, but..."

He knew she was thinking about Ron again; rather, had never stopped thinking about Ron, and he didn't expect her to say anything more. He was under his own covers, lights completely extinguished before he heard her finish softly, painfully, "...but I don't think it was right, Harry."

He closed his eyes tightly, and thought of silky sunset hair and a Chaser's lithe but supple build and bright brown eyes warm with love, and then what she would think if she somehow found out what he had done tonight. He shivered.

Then he thought of Hermione's eyes shining with life and awareness. He had faith now that she would regain the will to live, and help him survive to fight and die another day, so that everyone else he loved in the world might grow old and die happy in a world of peace.

No, it wasn't right, but it was necessary.

Another A/N: Honestly, I have never liked Ron, but when he abandoned the group in Deathly Hallows, I was furious. So anyway, I actually prefer to imagine that this little scene went down in canon, and Ron can suck it. And if this truly were canon, I would also imagine that both Harry and Hermione would never tell a soul.

Please review and let me know what you liked as well as what didn't work for you!