Fandom: HP, H/D, one-sided H/Hr and H/R, PG.
Summary: And Harry is the sun.
Notes: Those of you who like the Trio as a unit might want to think of this as AU. (Also, you won't like it. I'm serious.) I prefer to think of it as OotP-compatible.
Hermione Granger hates the color red.
She wears her Gryffindor colors with pride, but wishes the gold was paired with something else – Ravenclaw's blue, maybe, or Hufflepuff's black. Red is the color of mistakes, of failure, of shame. Red is the color of the blood she has hated shedding since the first morning she woke to pain and wet sheets and the mocking snickers of her roommates. Red is the color of Ron Weasley, of snide, hateful digs at her intelligence, her looks, her studiousness, her beliefs; and when he asks, or rather commands, her to help him with his homework, the unspoken words that hang in the air between them – That's all you're really good for, isn't it? – are blazoned a red that only she and Ron can see. Sometimes she feels as if they are speaking a secret language, the two of them, a language that began to form the first day she looked at him in contempt and realized that his eyes were as cold as her own.
It's their secret, but neither of them makes much effort to keep it, not anymore; the two of them are like a long- and unhappily-married couple who no longer make even a token effort to hide their affairs. Hermione doesn't know if no one else sees, or no one else cares, or if they've simply been bickering so long that the cold rancour that has crept into their voices slips by unnoticed. But there is one agreement that they have made in this hidden language of theirs: everyone else in the world can understand and be damned, they can shout their hatred of each other from the top of the Gryffindor Tower, but Harry must never, ever know. He must never know because then he might feel compelled to choose between them, and neither of them is secure enough to have no doubt of being Harry's choice, and he has been the sun the two of them have revolved around since the first day on the Hogwarts Express.
Of all the things she hates about Ron Weasley, the thing she hates most is that he sleeps in the same room as Harry, able to watch as long as he wants while the moonlight weaves light and shadow around Harry's sleeping form; and if Ron should win this unspoken battle for the heart and soul of Harry James Potter, he could claim his prize as easily as slipping from one bed to the next.
Sometimes Hermione can't sleep for wondering, trapped in the girls' dormitory with her heart thudding painfully in her chest at the thought that Ron might be making a move that she cannot be there to counter, and she spends breakfast frantically studying the two of them for a sign. Not that it would be hard to see; it would be written all over Ron's face, in the silent words of their language, and he would make sure she was the first to know, would want to pass the sentence of her exile himself.
They made short work of Harry's infatuation with Cho, unlikely allies closing ranks against a common enemy. Ron's attack was direct and savage, as clear as if he'd said Sorry, mate, your friends don't like her, and Harry had been furious but he'd heard the message. Hermione was cannier: her weapon was a simple Let's meet on Valentine's Day, after your date with Cho, and Harry had blamed himself. This is their war, hers and Ron's. They fight it every day, in dozens of barbed comments and slights and small coldnesses, in struggles over homework that aren't about homework at all, in the way they sit and stand and keep Harry always, always between them. In seven years, neither of them has gained ground over the other for long; but it is their battlefield, and they will suffer no other armies on it.
Sometimes she wonders what good can possibly come of this. But then Harry smiles, or needs comforting and is too stupidly stoic to reach for it, or catches the snitch in a dizzying blur of sunlight and gold, and she realizes anew that she cannot afford to lose.
"Oi, where's Harry?" Seamus calls, and Hermione sets her knitting down – more hats for the house elves, one more front on which their war is fought, and one in which Ron seems to have the advantage.
Ron looks up from his homework and frowns. "Blimey, is it that late? He'll miss curfew."
"I'll go find him," Hermione says decisively.
"I'll come with you," Ron says, and gives her a cold smile. "Wait here, I'll be right back."
Hermione watches him up the stairs, and thinks that the sweetest part of winning this war, as sweet as Harry's arms around her and his child growing in her belly, will be driving a wedge into the Trio and exiling Ron Weasley to the end of the world – out of their lives, forever. She has looked forward to that banishment every day for years, and oh, when it comes she will make love to Harry for hours and laugh while he touches her until he laughs with her and Ron might as well have never been.
"Coming?" Ron asks, pulling on his robes as he comes down the stairs. Hermione nods and puts her knitting back into her bag.
Once the two of them are in the hall his voice is curt and icy, resentful of the need to speak to her at all. "I checked the Map. He's down in one of the old classrooms in the West Wing, and Malfoy's with him."
"Malfoy?" Hermione asks sharply. "Are you sure?"
"I can read, you know," he snaps. "Did you think I got Malfoy's name bloody confused with Professor McGonagall's?"
"I wouldn't be surprised," she answers, goaded into open rudeness more easily without Harry between them, and speeds up. "That must mean they're duelling –"
"Harry would have said."
" – and that means he'll lose House points again," she says, irritated and fond. "We have to stop them before they hex each other into the hospital wing."
"Wow, you can lose House points for duelling? Really? I'd no idea," Ron sneers, and in their private language Hermione hears Bloody bitch.
You wait, Ron Weasley, she thinks, and walks faster.
Eventually he turns into a side corridor, then another and another, and stops in front of a door. Hermione frowns, listening; there is silence on the other side.
"I don't think they're here," she says, and finds herself whispering in the oppressive dark.
Wordlessly, Ron reaches out and opens the door. They move forward, each intending to be the first through.
Then Hermione gets a good look inside the room and feels herself stop, her body realizing a fraction of a second before her brain that there is no longer any reason to move. There is no longer any reason, in fact, at all.
The room is bare and derelict, with broad, high windows that let in the moonlight to edge everything in silver and make shimmering glitter of the dust that lingers in the air. There is only one piece of furniture in it: a couch, long and soft-looking, set where the moonlight will fall on it; long enough for two people to fit comfortably on it when one lies on top of the other, spilling long silver hair over lightly tanned skin. Malfoy is asleep, his head resting on Harry's chest and arms tucked close in against their bodies, half-embracing Harry, breaths slow and peaceful. Harry is nearly asleep, but not quite; his fingers are still carding gently through Malfoy's hair, stroking it with a slow tenderness that freezes Hermione's breath in her throat and turns it to something hot and choking. Harry is beautiful in the moonlight, fey and strong in some indefinable alchemy, and there is a contentment in his face that Hermione doesn't think she's ever seen before. His discarded glasses wink silver from beside the couch, on top of his and Malfoy's carelessly piled clothes, looking lost and useless. The blanket wrapped snugly around them bears Slytherin's crest as if it were nothing more than the sigil of a favored Quidditch team.
Hermione steps back and closes the door, and for a long time she only stares at it, lost in her thoughts. "Seven years," she says finally, whispering so as not to disturb Harry, even now. Strange how she can feel the weight of every day of those years like a millstone dragging her down into some alien dark. "I've put up with you for seven years, for this, for nothing."
"Checkmated by Draco sodding Malfoy," Ron says softly; and Hermione might hate him but she knows him, and she hears a coldness in his voice that wraps around this moment and traps it like a spider in amber. For just a moment she shivers, thinking of the two boys beyond the door finding peace in each other's touch; but then it fades, and she is left with Ron Weasley and something too cold and slow-running to be rage.
Hermione has always thought that divination was nonsense. But she sees now – and knows she sees true – that years from now someone will ask her a question that begins with Why, and this moment will be the answer.
They walk back to the Tower in silence, practicing the pretense that nothing is wrong. Hermione's usual expression feels alien to her, and when she puts it on it feels like donning widow's weeds. She'll have to work on that, to practice until it feels natural; for the moment, no one in the common room seems to notice. She and Ron settle into chairs by the fireplace, she with her knitting and he with a Quidditch magazine – best friends, or an old married couple, quietly sharing the warmth of the fire. The hour grows later one crystalline minute at a time, and one by one the other students drift off to bed.
When Harry returns to the common room, with untidy hair and clothes and a sweet, pensive smile, Ron and Hermione smile back at him. They smile because he's Harry, and he will never notice that their smiles don't reach their eyes.