Chapter Thirty Seven
A/N: Thank you to Nevaeh -Rose Malfoy, rolly21 and kpop1392as for reviewing the last chapter.
When dawn broke, the air was cold and still, the sun like silver peering from behind the clouds. The echoes of battle still lingered in the air, the spirits of fallen warriors on both sides. Hermione cursed her choice of words as she thought; neither mindless fanatics nor schoolchildren could truly be called warriors.
Those who had been unable to sleep that night- an unsurprisingly large proportion of those who had fought- had taken it in turns keeping watch from the windows of the Great Hall, in case the Death Eaters should return over night. It had been Ron and Bill, seeking distance from their mourning family for a short while, who had seen the army approach that morning.
The crowds had been slow to move to the courtyard, the fear of the Death Eaters and their leader more prominent in their mind than ever, but Hermione had been one of the first to leave the doors. She strode towards the oncoming army with all the confidence a Gryffindor should possess. She saw Voldemort at the head of the army, Nagini hissing at his feet. She saw the Malfoys, cowering beneath Bellatrix's triumphant glare. She saw Hagrid, sagging beneath the weight of the body in his arms.
And then her heart stilled in her chest.
"Harry?" she called out, sounding like a frightened child. There was no answer. "Harry!"
"Hermione." Ron was at her side, clutching her arm just tightly enough to stop her from running forward. "There's nothing you can do, don't get yourself killed."
"What do you mean, nothing I can do?" the young woman exclaimed, her voice reaching a feverish pitch. Her eyes were fixed on the army ahead as she tried to pull free from his grip. "It's Harry, Ron. This is Harry. We can't just leave him, we have to help him."
"Hermione." The voice was soft, comforting, and so familiar it moved the girl to tears. In an instant, Minerva was at her side, holding her close. "It's done."
Suddenly, the world around her seemed to blur, colours and sounds melding together like water droplets running down a not-quite-dry painting. She could hear Voldemort speaking somewhere in the distance, his hissing voice laden with sickening pride, but she could not hear the words. Not that it mattered. If Harry was gone, they had lost the war.
For the next few minutes, Hermione looked at the ground, unable to bring herself to see Voldemort's face. The smoke from a score of nearby fires was stinging her eyes, making it impossible to hold back her tears, and her legs were shaking so ferociously that she could barely stand upright without her mother's arms wrapped tightly around her. For all the stories of the powerful witch she had supposedly become, Hermione could not imagine looking more pathetic than she did that moment.
Suddenly, Voldemort stopped speaking, and the young brunette summoned the strength to lift her heavy head from where it had hung limply from her shoulders. The faces of all those around her were grey and drawn, as if they had seen a murder committed before their very eyes. Hermione looked one way then the other, accounting for each and every person that mattered to her in the crowd, but the only one who lay pale and lifeless was Harry.
And then she saw him, stood forward, proud and strong just as Harry had always been. Of all the people she would have expected to take on Lord Voldemort single-handedly, she would not have thought it would be Neville.
The Dark Lord's wrath was overshadowed by his amusement, that overshadowed even further by his interest in the blood running through the young man's veins. Voldemort's own insecurities about his Muggle father meant he would extend the hand of friendship to even the most loyal of Harry Potter's followers, provided both their parents were magic-born.
The crowd waited with bated breath for the second it took Neville to reply. "I'll join you when Hell freezes over! Dumbledore's Army!"
It was a rally cry, one that was answered by almost all the students at his back. The name of their old headmaster still cut at their hearts- especially for those who had known him well- and there was no stronger banner they could fight behind.
Except, perhaps, for one.
Hermione slammed her eyelids tight shut, then opened them again, unable to believe the wonderful sight before her eyes. Harry's lifeless body had gone tumbling to the floor, rolling free of Hagrid's arms. But then he stood up.
Chaos erupted all around them, but the brunette was frozen in place. Her lungs burned from lack of air, even the ability to breathe seeming too difficult to master. Her world had been torn apart, her heart ripped from her chest… and yet here he stood, the boy responsible. The Boy Who Lived.
Across the courtyard, Harry met her eye, a thousand emotions coursing through his gaze. Relief, guilt, fear. Love. Hermione did not know what was reflected in her own eyes. Her heart was beating so ferociously that she could barely feel at all.
Unconsciously, a smile crept across her face, and far across the crowd, Harry shared it. Their moment was brief, the fighting around them intensifying too much to be ignored. But the comfort in knowing they were both alive, both alright, gave Hermione a confidence she had no known before. Since Lord Voldemort had first reappeared, the girl had had faith that they would win the war eventually. But for the first time since she was a child, she truly believed that they not only had a chance to emerge victorious, but that they certainly would.
'Far too much has ended over the last night, the months, the years.' she thought, her heart clenching as she remembered all those who had been sacrificed at the altar of Voldemort's cruelty. Fred Weasley, Remus, Tonks, even her own father. 'That stops here. There are so many things beginning right now, so much more than me and Harry. And if those beginnings have to be defended with our lives, it will be worth every second.'
A/N: I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter. Hermione and Harry together again in the next one. Please review!