Voldemort has triumphed. The light is all but defeated. Harry and Hermione take shelter from the Death Eaters in a shallow cave.
All fiction is derivative and fan fiction doubly so. I make no claim to own any part of any of the following, all I have done is an attempt to put together the elements in a novel fashion, using words and ideas like Lego ™ bricks.
There is no money involved – all I do is to share what I do for my own amusement.
It was dark. It was cold and damp. Above all, it was dangerous.
They had taken shelter in the cave to avoid Voldemort's Death Eaters.
She couldn't really grace their hiding place with the name of 'cave,' except that she couldn't really think of a better term for the hole that they were sheltering in.
Hidden by a curtain of ivy hanging loose, a silent testimony of the tenacity of vegetable life after the fall of a great beech tree, they huddled together. Afraid.
They were weak from fear and exhaustion; tired from lack of sleep, their red-rimmed eyes drooped, hardly alert.
It had been hours since the last of the Death Eaters had passed. Hunting The Potter Boy and his Mudblood Bitch. Things were not going well for Harry and Hermione. Not well at all. In fact, they were now thinking that their cause was becoming hopeless, unthinkable.
Unthinkable thoughts brought on by fear and lack of sleep, exacerbated by hunger and cold as they huddled in the tiny scoop of rock that currently hid them. The two of them yet too raw to mourn their friend who had fallen mere hours before,
Harry cast a silencing charm as Hermione cast her disillusionment charms. They cleaned each other off using magic and settled down to get some rest.
The shape of their cave ensured that while they could sit side by side on watch, they could only lay pressed awkwardly together.
"You sleep, 'Mione, I'll watch."
"No Harry, we will both sleep. You know perfectly well that we're both at the end of our strength. We're well enough hidden here. Rest, and be thankful for the respite."
Harry nodded, beaten, too tired to argue.
Spreading a blanket from her pack on the ground, she beckoned her friend and saviour to her. Warming charms and their cloaks completed their makeshift bed. Within seconds they were asleep, unconsciously clinging together for warmth and what meagre comfort they could manage.
Harry woke briefly to the sound of Hermione silently sobbing into his chest. He said nothing but wrapped his arms closer around the only friend he still had.
It was dark when they woke. Hermione found some stale bread in the bottom of her pack which they shared as they lay, listening to the rain beyond their hideout. They sat in companionable silence, unwilling to summon light for fear that it would be seen beyond the curtain of ivy. Together yet each alone with their thoughts.
Still tired, they lay again and slept.
Hermione woke to find herself snuggled to Harry's side, using his chest as a pillow. Harry's arm was around her shoulders, his other hand gently caressing her cheek. It was light, and yet dark still in their hide-out.
There was spring sunlight entering their cave, dimmed and green through the ivy, and still it seemed yet dimly lit.
She shifted carefully.
"Morning 'Mione. We have another problem, I fear. Nothing immediate, but we're trapped in here for the moment."
She looked down past Harry's booted feet. The flat slab of rock that had formed the porch at the front of their cave had slipped, and now closed most of the entrance. There was but a narrow slot of forest-dimmed light across the top of the slab, sufficient for light and air but no more.
She sat, being careful to avoid hurting her friend.
Examining the gap she said, "no, Harry, this is another slab, the overhanging one is still there."
Her sensitive fingers, placed against the slab to support her felt an incised line in the rock surface.
A dim mage-light illuminated the cave. Hermione saw the carving, but couldn't believe what she saw. In angular letters resembling runes, she read, "I open to those in dire peril and protect those in deadly need."
She giggled and read the text to Harry. "It sounds like something from the Arabian Nights," she commented.
Harry shook his head. "Well, I understand the words, but the reason?"
"This is old magic, Harry. We're safe here for the time being. Where are we, anyway?"
"Somewhere south of Manchester. The manor was somewhere near Macclesfield. I'm not sure where we've ended up though."
Hermione thought. They had been heading south-west and had begun the climb up a steep hill, trying to lose the Death Eaters in the woodland of the slope. It had a familiar feel to it.
"I think this is Alderley Edge, Harry. I came here with my parents when I was little…"
Her voice trailed off as she remembered her parents, Dan and Emma Granger. She remembered arriving home and finding them dead and her home ransacked. A sob escaped her lips and Harry quickly held her to him. Even after so long in hiding, even after the horrors of the past three years, she still found that memory raw.
"Thank you, Harry," she said simply.
"So, what is Alderley edge, Mione?"
"It's a scarp. This side of the hill is almost vertical, even cut by cliffs in places. The other side of the hill slopes gently to the south-west, covered in farmland and wooded copses. There's a village at one end of the edge, the other fades into the lumps and levels that become the Pennines to the East."
She paused for a moment.
"It has a reputation for being a magical place. There are ancient barrows, pre-historic monuments and the whole area is riddled with caves and mines. And legends. How there are legends! It was part of the grounds of a great manor once, and the owner built features, things like the druid's circle and the wizard's well – not really magical, but pretending to be magical. Muggle places.
"I think that we are in one of the real magical places on the edge. This magic is ancient, probably from the time of Merlin himself. I think that we are truly safe here. I suspect that we could sing and yell and light this chamber with flare-light and we would still be hidden.
"We have food enough to rest and regain our strength, and water if we are careful. Maybe we will even have time to think and to plan where we go from here."
Harry smiled. Hermione hadn't seen him smile for a long time, and the curl of his lips alone gladdened her heart. His eyes, still tired, shone. She returned his smile, suddenly finding herself blushing, she busied herself finding breakfast in the depths of her pack.
Once more they ate in companionable silence. Dried meat and way-bread that had lasted in her magical pack for months. She found a billy-can and heated water over a magical flame, transfiguring it at last into tea and pouring it into two tin mugs.
Harry smiled, even transfigured tea with no more nutritional value than water cheered him. He had missed drinking tea while Hermione had been held captive by Voldemort's followers. He was still amazed that he had been able to rescue her.
His memory drifted back to the previous rescue they had attempted, finding that they were rescuing a corpse. They had buried Ron's body in Wales, saying their own prayers over him and charming what protections they could.
Harry returned from his wool-gathering and saw that Hermione was starting to doze a bit where she sat. He shuffled over and held her, and thus she slept, leaning against his lean body; sharing what little human comfort she had in the world.
They woke together, she had turned and was cuddling him around his waist, his arms protectively around her shoulders. His cheek was resting on her head, his nose drawing in the scent of her hair, the smell of her essential Hermioneness. He sat and found himself content.
Hermione sat, a smile played on her lips. She felt warm and secure, held safe against all dangers by her companion. She could smell, beyond the faint aroma of leaf-mould and earth, the very human odour of Harry. To her, a scent sweeter than a garden of roses and violets. She discovered that this contact was enough, that she was actually happy.
They drifted for a while and finally woke, both rested and cheered, even given their difficult state. They ate and they drank, and found themselves revived, and settled themselves in for a long stay.
At length, after several days recovering and simply being together, Hermione decided to try to lodge the memory of this place in her mind.
The chamber was low at the now blocked entrance, but at the rear she could just about stand. The chamber was narrow, being wide enough at the entrance for them to sit across it with their legs out straight, but at the back, a tight squeeze for them to lay side by side. At the very back, the chamber flared out suddenly to about four feet before the flat rock went up to meet the roof.
And cut in the surface of that rock were words, angular and rune-like, but Hermione could tell only that they were words, their meaning was beyond her ken.
That day they talked. Finally, they found, they were healed sufficiently to talk about their losses. For the first time they talked about Ron's death, and Ginny's, and Neville and Luna and Remus. They spoke of the murder of Hermione's parents, of the wanton destruction of a complete generation of muggleborn witches and wizards when Hogwarts was destroyed.
They spoke at length of the death of Harry's godfather, Sirius. Dumbledore's slaying by Severus Snape. Cedric's death at the hands of Wormtail. The slaying of the remaining Weasleys since Voldemort took over the British wizarding world. At last, they spoke of Minerva McGonagall, who had been held with Hermione, and had been killed by Voldemort as they fled his manor fortress.
By nightfall, they had purged themselves of inconsolable grief and had said goodbye to their loved ones. Shriven of guilt and grief, they rested. For the first time since fleeing Hogwarts nearly two years before, they had the time to rest, and to heal, and to consider their future.
Voldemort had slain almost everyone who stood against him at the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry had escaped with the tattered remnants of the DA, accompanied by Minerva who had taught them all that she knew while they fled from hide-out to hide-out. At last, they had been captured, the last three of the last hope for wizarding Britain.
Now they were two. Beaten and shaped on the anvil of war, forged in the fires of adversity, these were no longer the idealistic children who had hunted Voldemort's horcruxes. No, these were battle-hardened veterans, scarred by curses lesser wizarding folk would have died from. These two stood, steel-eyed against the most feared monster in known wizarding history.
But, even the hardest rock succumbs to erosion over time, and they had been worn slowly by starvation, by blood loss and by lack of sleep, and more than anything by the steady diminution of their allies.
At last, at the end of need, they had taken refuge in a hidden cave, expecting to be hunted to death, or to die of starvation and exposure.
Somehow, there always seemed to be enough food and water, enough warmth and companionship. And so they healed, not just their bodies but their minds and spirits. The armour around their emotions was shed, if briefly, and they relaxed in their magical haven.
They spent an age just snuggled together, simply experiencing the warmth of human contact.
"Harry, tell me what happened when you met him in the old forest?"
"After raising the spirits of my dead and being counselled by them, I hid the hallows, Mione, and walked into the Death Eater camp. I was carrying a broken death-eater's wand. They allowed me to approach him and I showed him the wand. I told him that it was over and that he should just kill me, that my death would end most of the resistance.
"He decided to torture me for a bit, I don't know how long I was under the cruciatus curse, but when I was exhausted and no longer writhing, he used the killing curse on me. I felt myself slip from the world, and felt his soul-fragment leave me also.
"They left me for dead, but in my mind I summoned the hallows to me. Death's gaze passed me by under the cloak, the stone allowed me to return to the world, and the wand guided me, but not until I had spoken at length with Dumbledore.
"It isn't over yet, and cannot be until the time is right, he told me. He said that I didn't yet have the power to destroy him, but that I would know when the time came. He also said that there was one only who had the power to aid me, but he wouldn't be drawn further.
"It was then that I returned to the world. The rest you know. I was too late to help in the battle, but I wasn't too late to help the others to fly the immediate wrath of the Dark Lord."
Hermione pondered this. "Well, we know who will stand by you. We're the last, there are no others left, but as to the power to aid you, I have no idea at all. At least with the soul fragment gone, he cannot seek you by using it."
Harry smiled. "I'd have gone mad ages before, but for you, 'Mione. I owe you my life so many times over. I don't think I've ever actually said thank you for saving my butt, so, thank you 'Mione, for so many things."
"Harry, you've saved me often enough, but you're welcome, and thank you too."
He looked into her luminous brown eyes, and she looked into his startling green ones, and they felt a spark between them.
Harry lowered his lips to her upturned mouth, and gently kissed her for the first time.
She felt the warmth of his soft lips on hers as he felt her sweet breath on his face.
Their eyes closed and their hearts sang a sad song, yearning for peace. Their spirits entwined seeking that place, the centre, where the soul-spring lay.
Wordlessly, he told her "I love you."
In the silence of their kiss, she replied simply, "and I love you also."
The warmth of the love they had finally discovered suffused their beings, and they knew that the time was at last at hand to end the reign of horror, that the power he knew not was finally unleashed upon the world.
Their lips parted, and their kiss deepened, tongues darted and hands wandered. The couple tried to occupy the space of one body between them. Their passion flowed and Harry vaguely wondered when his friend had become his one great love.
Hermione knew that it had always been about Harry, since the first time they met, she had loved him, first as a school-friend, then as her best friend, then as her companion in arms. Now, she knew that he was the one, the man who she wanted to be with forever, until the end of all things.
They slipped from the passion of their first kiss into the warm, amniotic pool of sleep, and woke to a brave new world, a world changed forever by the power of their love.
Together, they knew that there would be at least one more battle, but then they knew that when it was over, they would see peace and a golden sunrise over the hills of Albion.