AU set in the last book. Harry knows what he must do. He leaves his friends to go on alone, but someone refuses to be left behind. H/Hr
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.
Succinct explanation of my views: Hated Jo's ending, my Hermione's middle name is Jane, dislike several Weasleys, and Harry and Hermione are fated in my opinion.
A/N: Wow, I'm tired. Work is taking a lot out of me at the moment. It happens this time every year. I suppose it is somewhat worse this time around, but Good News Everybody! Katdemon18, who is a wonderful Harmony author, has written the wedding scenes for Good News and Balancing Debts/. This is especially good news because I was probably never going to write them myself due to my inability to do them justice. After consultation and with my blessing, she has written and posted them under her profile. If you liked my stories, then you should head over and give /The W Files a read.
He stood at the foot of the steps. Hermione, Ginny, and Ron both stood behind him, back near the doorway. It was dark and from where he stood, he could see the edge of the forest. Now was the time.
Harry looked pointedly up over his shoulder and saw that this was probably the best location he could hope for. Here, the bastions and curtain wall gave him the opportunity to wall off the stairs so he could not be followed. Certainly, they could re-enter the castle, run to another exit and then give chase, but by then he would have disappeared into the inky darkness of the forest.
It was a plan. Admittedly, it wasn't a good plan, but that was to be expected; Hermione hadn't come up with it - he had.
Harry cast his spell, turned back a moment to imprint her face into his memory and then began to briskly walk off to face his destiny.
All three dashed to the foot of the stairs. They all called after him. They still didn't have aplan yet and they were confused as to why he was walking away from them.
Harry ignored them all, until finally Ginny said something that caused him to stop.
"I knew you wouldn't be happy unless you were fighting him."
Silence. Harry said nothing but at least he wasn't moving away.
Ginny gulped before continuing, "Just finish this. Finish it and come back to me."
Now Harry turned back to face them and spoke. "I'm not coming back... "
This was not what Ginny expected. Wasn't he a hero? No, he wasn't JUST a hero-he was HER hero. This wasn't right. "Harry. You'll beat him. I know you'll win. Don't give up!"
Harry's mouth tightened at that last remark. "Give up? Give up! He's an immortal, dark psychopath. He's got more magic in his little finger than most people have in their entire body. He's killed dozens, if not thousands of people, and he's afully trained wizard. Why the hell should I want to give up? He bit out in arough voice, suffused with barely contained emotion.
Ginny's jaw wobbled and tears filled her eyes. "You can beat him, Harry. I know you can. Do it for me. Do it for-"
But he didn't let her finish. "I'm not doing this for you." His gaze shifted noticeably away from her. His eyes focused on a figure standing a few steps behind Ginny.
There, with concern etched on her face, stood Hermione Granger. Dirty, disheveled, and so very tired but steadfast and resolute - both hands clenched tightly in front of her, her wand gripped tightly. Ron Weasley stood beside her and had an arm wrapped possessively around her shoulder.
Ron's face was grim and darkness ringed his eyes. "I reckon this is something you need to do on your own." There was an edge to his words. He wanted Harry to understand... to realize that he and the rest of the Trio had come this far but would go no further - it was all up to Harry now.
The only one who hadn't spoken was Hermione. She had locked eyes with the last scion of house Potter and felt ashamed. After everything they had been through, after all they had done for one another; this was how it was to end? Ron's words and their meaning had not been lost on her. In one deliberate motion, she slipped free from Ron's arm and briskly moved forward to stand beside Ginny. She never broke eye contact with Harry, nor did she want to.
Ginny tried again."No, Harry!" and she stepped forward to embrace her hero...
But she ran into an invisible wall. She pushed against it; strained trying to move forward, but the invisible barrier was as unyielding as stone. She moved her hands all over, probing for a weak spot and when she found none, she lifted her wand and cast curses and hexes, trying to breach the wall. Each spell that shot out of her wand failed and so she continued to try more and more powerful and destructive magic.
Ron stepped up beside his sister. He had an ironic smile on his face as he reached forward and tapped the barrier with his knuckles. "Cute. Like the spell Snape used to seal the tower off. Should a' known you'd protect my sister. 'Least the Greasy Git's memories were good for somethin'."
Hermione turned to Ron, her visage dark, her tone full of venom, "You. Know. Nothing!" She turned to Harry and instantly her features softened. "Harry, we're NOT letting you do this alone. Let us through... please."
Harry's expression remained firm and unchanging; he betrayed no shock or any other emotion as Ron snorted at Hermione's words. He obviously didn't want to go any further than this. Nor did the minuscule shake of Ginny's head escape his notice. To Ginny and Ron, Voldemort was worse than the boogey man - Voldemort was real and from birth she had been taught to fear the Dark Lord and revere the Boy-Who-Lived that had defeated him. Facing him herself, even by Harry's side, was just too much to ask.
Only Hermione's resolve was unwavering. Coming up to the barrier, her left hand flat against the unseen wall, her right fist pounding against unyielding nothing and her voice imploring him to talk to her, trying to get him to react.
He closed his eyes for a moment, and when they opened there was deep sadness in his eyes. Emotion filled his voice as he spoke to her alone. "It's no use, Hermione. Surprisingly, Ron's two for two tonight. I've got to face him. You know the prophecy," he paused for a moment as if gathering strength. "It's my destiny," he almost spat.
Slowly shaking her head in horror as she denied the injustice of what he was saying; Harry's eyes that were already filled with sadness that clutched at her heart were now filled with pain. "Anyway, you've chosen. I thought... after the tent-but, no..." He took a calming breath and shut his eyes for another brief moment. When he opened his eyes, all emotion had drained from his face."That spell was one of Snape's, and it's completely intent based. There are only two ways through it. One way is to be more powerful than the caster. Barring that, the only other way is to have no doubts about wanting to go through while having nothing you value left behind. Basically, you either brute force your way through or you would have to forsake everything to pass through with no regrets."
Harry turned to leave.
Hermione, her resolve strengthening with each breath she took, gritted her teeth and pushed forward against the barrier with everything she had. She channeled her hopes(A bucktoothed girl with frizzy brown hair made friends with a dark haired boy on a train after she fixed his glasses), her dreams (After waiting for weeks for her best friend to ask her to the Yule Ball, she finally agreed to accompany Viktor Krum; having stalled for three days by asking for time to think it over. Was it so bad that she had wanted to dance?), her desires(She resolved that if this was to be her last year as a student, then it would be a normal one. And, by Merlin, she WOULD have a boyfriend this year, even if it wasn't Har-err-her first choice. At least this one she had a chance with. He was a real fixer upper, so it couldn't be too hard, right?), her love(And when she had been tired, depressed and so alone after they had been deserted in the tent, Harry had been there for her. He cooked for her, he took care of her, and he was there for her. He had opened his heart and she had given herself to him. Her first time with anyone), her frustration (The memory was so hazy, frustratingly difficult to remember. Ron had opened the Chamber of-wait... Ron? It had been Ginny. Hadn't it? Her head began to pound), and herfears (Harry's deathly sad eyes as he turned away from them - from her); the wall began to bend.
Ginny seeing that Hermione was making progress tried to shoulder her aside and make it to her hero. But Hermione might as well have been made of stone. Despite not seeing how, she was swatted away and tumbled back a dozen meters away.
Hermione was singularly focused, but a red-arsed fly buzzed in her peripheral vision - she brushed it away with only a thought. Harry had taken one-no-two steps away from her. /Unacceptable/. She somehow pushed harder. The wall stretched further- her fingers digging into the magical barrier as if it were thin plastic.
Ron, seeing what had happened when Gin had tried to push Herms aside, rubbed a couple of brain cells together and eventually decided on a different tack. He strode up to her to grab her arm and say, "Come on Hermione. Harry has to do this alone. You'll just be in the way." But he never got that far. The instant his hand touched the fabric of her top, he was smashed back. Despite never having played, seen, or even heard of golf before, the sensation he felt as he was knocked back to land spread eagle on the ground was most similar to that of agolf ball being driven by a wooden driver. His entire chest and mid-section was all one great big bruise.
The wall should be buckling soon. It would buckle. It HAD to buckle. Another insignificant bug fluttered in her periphery. She didn't have time to be distracted - she swatted at it. /Four steps, now five. Ugh... soon he'll be out of sight./"NO. Not going to happen," she growled to herself.
Deep breath..."HARRY!" she yelled one final time.
He stopped. The desperation and force in her voice resonated with something deep inside him. He turned to glance back over his shoulder. His eyes bulged as he took in the sight. She had stretched the barrier's magic out the length of her body. It looked seconds away from ripping asunder, and Hermione didn't look like she was about to quit anytime soon.
The barrier parted not with a bang but with a whimper. What had been a nigh immovable object suddenly parted and allowed her passage through. Nearly tripping over her own feet as the resistance suddenly ceased, she found herself being supported by Harry's strong arms. "I'm going with you," she declared.
Looking ready to protest, Harry saw the determined look in her eyes. "What about..."
"-I'M going with YOU" she interrupted.
Harry knew from long experience that she would brook no argument.
Ron had crawled to the once more seamless barrier. His scrabbling fingers tried to find purchase to lever himself up, but his fingers merely grasped at solid, slick nothing. "Herms!" he shouted after her retreating form.
Hermione didn't answer.
Ginny, being far less injured than Ron, loudly called Harry's name from a safe distance.
Harry didn't answer.
Harry and Hermione disappeared together into the forbidden forest.
"You shouldn't be here," he whispered to her. Disbelief tinged his voice. This absolutely CANNOT mean what I think it means. Things like this just don't happen to me. There must be some other explanation...
"I'm where I'm supposed to be," she whispered back. Huh... That was easier than Iexpected, and not even a shred of regret.
"No, I mean it's impossible for any of you to have gotten through that barrier. My magic's stronger and you left Ron behind. You shouldn't be able to be here." I don't deserve to be happy. There must be something I'm not seeing.
She glanced at him sideways. "So why am I here, then?" Her cheek twitched slightly as she bit it to keep a straight face. Harry looks so adorable all confused and uncertain; much better than heartbroken and depressed.
Harry scratched his head. "I don't know," he admitted. But I wish you'd tell me.
Hermione looked up at him in disbelief. "You don't know?"
He shook his head."No, do you?"
She shrugged."Well, if everything was as you explained it and since I know I'm not more powerful than you, then I can only conclude that nothing that was back on the other side of the barrier was more important to me than what was on this side of the barrier."
His eyes still looked confused.
Sounds like he's figured it out, Hermione mused. "Do you understand what I'm saying, Harry?" She held out a hand.
"I think so." He reached out to grab her hand.
They scanned the forest for enemies before resuming their advance.
"When this is all over..."
He smiled at her. He had an idea what she was trying to ask. "Anything, just you name it."
She smiled back at him. "Will you take me dancing?"
This stopped Harry in his tracks and he abruptly turned to stare at her smiling, hopeful, and simultaneously naughty face.
Smiling at the absurdity of the conversation in the face of nearly certain death, he decided that two could play at that game. "All right, when this is all over, you and I will have the first dance at our wedding." His face broke into awide grin. "Will that suit you?"
Hermione leaned over and kissed him. "That suits me just fine."
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End Notes: Special thanks to Ralph and all the wonderful people at Seel'vor's Yahoo group. This story would be much worse without their help.