The next morning found Hogwarts' Head Boy and Girl curled up on the hard floor of the Room of Requirement. Whether by subconscious demand or under the persuasion of the castle's magic, the room had reconfigured itself. Instead of the Room's usual setup for DA meetings, there were now 3 large bay windows facing east, allowing the morning sun to peek in on its occupants. Slowly, Harry opened his eyes. Feeling the cold floor beneath him he snuggled closer under the covers as he tried to get his bearings. As his mind sluggishly woke up he sat up with a start. His covers were moving! After retrieving his glasses from his trouser pocket how'd they get there? he realized that the covers he had been clinging to were in fact a warm body. Specifically, the warm body of his best friend. Well this is awkward. He thought to himself. As he tried to untangle himself from her sprawling limbs, he thoughts trailed back to the previous night. They must have fallen asleep talking after the DA meeting. Just as he was piecing together last night's conversation, he caught a glimpse of Hermione's watch and jumped to his feet.
They had slept through most of breakfast and had twenty-two minutes to shower and make it to greenhouse 3 for Herbology.
The head boy and girl made it to class with seconds to spare, but their disheveled appearance was enough to set certain tongues wagging. The dazed expression Harry carried for most of the day only added fuel to the fires. Everyone knew that something had happened between the two Heads but no one agree on what that something was. After their frenzied entrance to the greenhouse, the pair studiously avoided each other for the next three days. Harry spending more time out on the quidditch pitch or with his ducklings, Hermione holing herself up in the library and taking additional hall patrols.
By the third night even Ron was fed up with their behaviour and called a meeting for the three friends in the Heads common room.
Stalking back and forth in front of the fireplace, he muttered to himself as two sullen pairs of eyes followed his progress. "What the bloody hell is going on between you two?" he finally managed. Suddenly his expression cleared, as if a puzzle had finally resolved itself "Are you together? Did the pair of you shag and now things are awkward?" Before he could continue in this thread his two friends started and quickly moved away from each other on the small sofa.
"What? No!" Harry stuttered while Hermione just looked shyly at her hands, clasped tightly in her lap.
"No Ron, we didn't shag. After the DA meeting we had a slight difference of opinion and I was trying to give Harry some space to work it out." Harry looked over her incredulously.
"A difference of opinion? Hermione, this isn't s problem to be worked out. You know as well as I do that it will never happen." The anguish and sorrow in Harry's green eyes put the lie to his otherwise calm exterior. In a much softer tone he asked, "Why are you making this harder than it needs to be? Hope is the last thing I need right now. "
As his two best friends stared intently into each other's eyes, Ron decided his work there was done and quietly slipped out of the suite. Paying no heed to the red-head's silent departure, Hermione responded to Harry's question. "I'm not trying to make anything harder. I'm trying to give you a gift that you are too stubborn to take. I think hope is the only thing you need. Hope and love, to get you through this battle and give you a reason to come back to me—to us." Taking his hand in her own, trembling, grasp she waited for a response.
"Hermione, we're 17. Even if without the madman out to kill me, I have no business being a father. In fact I don't know which would be worse, leaving a baby to grow up fatherless or surviving and ruining some poor child's life by having him grow up as my son."
"Harry, you'll make a brilliant father. I know you want this, why won't you just accept?" An agonizing thought flashed through her mind just then. Perhaps the reason Harry refused wasn't that he didn't want a family, but that he didn't want one with her. As the idea flitted through her mind the words bubbled up to her lips. " Oh, umm…unless of course…I don't mean to pressure you…" as she stuttered an explanation, realization dawned on Harry.
"No! er…" he interrupted.
"I understand if you don't want me to be a part of…" she continued on
"Not at all…" he said, trying to assuage her
"I mean, I'm sure there are prettier…"
"There aren't." he said firmly, finally disrupting the stream of words pouring forth. "And I wouldn't want them anyway. They would do it to get close to the Chosen One, you're offering because you're already close to Harry." A soft smile graced his face. "It means more to me than you can imagine that you would offer, but we can't. You know we can't."
"Why not. We're both of age. I'm more than capable of handling this and I think it would be good for you."
"But what about you, Mione? This isn't just a one off, it doesn't just go away. When I face Riddle there's a good chance that you'll be a widow left to raise a child alone. You'd be giving up the rest of your life to just to make me happy."
"I'm not giving up my life. And even if it was- you're my best friend Harry, I'd do it anyway. I'd die for you, just as you would die for me. How is this any different?"
"Because I can't stop you from making that sacrifice but I can bloody well prevent you from doing this. I can stop you from throwing your life away for me."
"I'm not throwing my life away. This could be the start of a new life, a new family to help heal the hurt from the one that's been stolen from you." A small smirk slid across her face before she pulled out her last, long shot "Besides, if I'm pregnant or taking care of a baby that would keep me from the front lines of the war for at least a couple of years. Isn't that what you want?" she added with a hesitant smile.
Looking down at their intertwined hands Harry sighed, "I don't know what I want anymore." Thoughts and arguments raced through his mind as the pair sat silently in their private quarters.
More than anything he wanted to keep her safe from the war. Was this the way to do it? He had always been protective of her, the most important female in his life for six years running. Over the past few months those feelings of friendship, loyalty, and protection had grown in to an overwhelming need to have her in his life. Although unsure as to why, Harry knew that he needed her as far more than a best friend, he needed her to be safe and happy and part of his life. Here he was presented with a way to ensure all three. For once, could he be selfish enough to accept? Tentatively he asked her with hope shining in his eyes, "Would you really stay away from the fighting?"
The significance of the question was not lost on Hermione as she pondered her answer. Saying yes would allow him to believe he was doing it for her sake, instead of his own.
Realizing that though their reasons were different, the feelings behind them were the same, she responded with a silent nod.
"Are you sure? Three days isn't a lot of time to make a decision that will last you the rest of your life"
"I'm sure. I've been thinking of nothing else ever since I blurted it out Thursday night. I won't take it back."AN: Thanks to everyone who's stuck with this story over the long break. If not for support from reviewers I would have abandoned this story completly. Drop a line and tell me what you think!