It was long past midnight and Harry couldn't sleep. The Battle was over. Voldemort had been defeated and the Death Eaters were on the run. He'd fulfilled his destiny and felt like he could take a deep breath for the first time in years.
He wandered the destroyed halls of Hogwarts, surveying the damage. He couldn't bear to be down in the Great Hall. As he climbed the stairs of the Astronomy Tower, he saw a shadow. Someone else was awake. He approached cautiously, in case he was interrupting a private moment but as he got close enough, he recognized Hermione's silhouette. She was hugging her knees and looking up at the clear night sky. He saw a puff of smoke flow from her mouth.
"Those things'll kill you." He said. She jumped, not expecting to be found.
"I'll take my chances." She replied. He sat next to her and she leaned her back into him. He slipped an arm over her in a comforting embrace.
"Where's Ron?" He asked.
"Same place as Ginny, I expect." She took a long drag from the cigarette, blowing the smoke out the side of her mouth.
"Where did you get those, anyway?" He asked. She smirked.
"Dung isn't the only one who swipes things." They sat there silently looking up at the stars.
"Thank you, Hermione. Thank you for everything. It's all over now, we can start living."
He felt her start sobbing before he heard it. He held her tighter, placed a brotherly kiss on her temple and let her cry. She got it out and heaved a heavy breath.
"Do you remember Muggle school, Harry?" She asked, lighting another cigarette.
"Vaguely. 'I before E' and all that." He smiled, it seemed like a lifetime ago.
"Did you know there are only about 50 words that actually follow that rule?" Hermione asked still looking up at the sky.
"I didn't but I'll take your word for it." He joked.
"There's Sirius." She said pointing up, the cigarette firmly gripped in between her fingers. Harry's gut twisted.
"Sirius. The Dog Star. It's the brightest star in the sky."
He looked to the star she was pointing to and it was indeed brighter than all the others. Thinking about Sirius, of course led to thinking about Remus, Tonks, Fred and everyone else who was lost.
"And the moon, look. It's almost full. It's beautiful isn't it?" She asked. Her voice sounded so far away.
"It is. It's beautiful."
"Does it seem possible that that's the same moon and the same stars we looked at when we were kids? It doesn't to me. The world has changed so much. We've changed so much."
He hadn't thought about it, but no, it didn't seem possible. He felt a shiver go up her spine and he pulled her in closer.
"When a star dies, the light continues shining for hundreds of years. They're so far away, the light from the sun reflects back into the sky long after the actual star died. I wonder how many of those are already dead and we won't know for years…maybe they'll go on shining after we die."
This really frightened him coming from Hermione. She hadn't ever talked this way, not even when they were in the gravest danger. It was unsettling to hear it from her now that the war was over.
"What's on your mind Hermione? All this talk of stars and death…and the smoking…it's just not you." Harry said, concerned.
"I'm fine." She said, sounding anything but fine in his opinion. She was silent for a long time and then he felt her pull away from him. She turned, swinging her legs down and threw the cigarette off the side of the tower into the darkness.
"I could have lost him." She sighed. She pulled the sleeve of her shirt up and stared at the ragged mess carved there, courtesy of Bellatrix Lestrange. It was healing, but if Harry was any judge of scars, it wasn't ever going to completely fade away. "Seeing you dead in Hagrid's arms…I felt like a part of me was gone, too. But…"
"You don't know, Harry. If it were Ron instead of Fred…I would have died with him. It's hard enough watching him and his family sitting by Fred's body downstairs. I think my heart would have just stopped beating altogether if…" She suddenly punched him in the stomach, hard.
"Oi, what the…?"
"That was for pretending to be dead." She said smiling briefly.
"Sorry. Kind of had to." He shrugged.
"We made a pact, you know. Down in the Chamber of Secrets. If one of us was killed, the other would die protecting you." Hermione rested her head on his shoulder again.
"I wouldn't have let you do that." Harry said.
"Which is exactly why we would have done it. Life isn't worth living if Ronald Weasley isn't around to annoy me." She replied, smiling.
"Mione? Is that you up there? Who are you talking to?" Ron was behind them. She saw his fists unclench when he realized the man she was sitting so close to was Harry. He knew there was no competition for her affections on that front.
"What are you two doing up here?" He asked, sitting on her other side. She leaned into his chest and he wrapped his arms around her.
"Couldn't sleep." Harry said.
Ron turned Hermione's cheek to him and kissed her sweetly. "I got scared when I woke up and you were gone."
"S'alright. I plan on keeping a close eye on you from now on though." He said gently squeezing her.
They sat there quietly, Hermione looked up at the stars. Ron nuzzled into her neck and she lovingly ran her fingers through his hair.
"I'll leave you two alone." Harry said, starting to go. Hermione grabbed his wrist and pulled him back down.
"Stay, Harry. I want my two boys where I can see them. Just a little longer."
Just knowing they were both safe was enough on this night. Safely wrapped in Ron's arms, Hermione's head soon bobbed into sleep on his chest.
"You take care of her. I mean it, Ron. No mucking about." Harry said quietly.
"It took me four years to kiss her, Harry. I'm sure I'll screw up some things, but I'm not losing her for anything." He replied.
"She was talking really strangely before you came up. Very…dark. Un-Hermione like. When did she fucking start smoking? I thought I was seeing things…"
Ron frowned and kissed Hermione's temple. "She came a little…undone after Malfoy Manor, mate. She can only hold it together through so much. She had the wildest nightmares for a while. I started sleeping in the bed with her at Bill's until the nightmares stopped. As for the cigs, she only does it when she's trying to calm herself. She says her Mum does it, too. I'm not a big fan of it, but…" he shrugged. "We made it, that's the most important bit."
Harry nodded. "I think I'll go back to Ginny. She still in the Great Hall?" Ron nodded and looked down at Hermione, smiling.
"Thanks. Ron?" Harry said before descending the stairs. Ron raised his eyebrows.
They smiled at each other briefly and Harry exited, the words he'd meant to speak never came.
After a few minutes, Ron gently shook Hermione's shoulder.
"Mione? Wake up, love, let's get you to bed." She moaned softly and cuddled into him. He smiled. It took him a minute to figure out how to do it, but he managed to scoop her up into his arms and carried her inside and carefully down the stairs. He came upon a torn tapestry crumpled into a heap in the floor. Staring at it a minute, he tried to figure out how to get the wand out of his pocket without dropping her.
He saw a wand sticking out of her pocket, much easier to reach. He carefully pulled it out and transfigured the tapestry into a small double bed. Completely knackered, he was amazed he'd gotten the spell right. He kissed Hermione's cheek and laid her down on the bed. She moaned softly and rolled onto her side.
Ron took a deep breath as he looked down at the woman he loved. The other half of his heart. He crawled into bed and held her.