This one's for rincredible
Harry Potter is not afraid of his shadow.
He is envious of it.
Once, when the three of them had been traveling for hours, pursued by the hot, unceasing light of the sun, he had glanced over his shoulder, catching sight of two shadows leaning into each other - his and Hermione's - close, like they were kissing.
It's odd that he's never really noticed it before. Never noticed how his shadow leans forward, depending on the time of day, sometimes looking like it wants to be drawn back into the earth, other times looking defiant; ready for a fight, maybe. (It's more ready than he is, at any rate.)
Never really paid any attention to the way his shadow seems to know much more than he does, realize that it has what Harry never could.
'Are you all right, Harry?' Hermione asks. They're walking along a brow-beaten path, just the two of them, alone ever since Ron had got up and left them in a flurry of lanky limbs and angry words, his face red to match his hair.
(He's not sure he'll ever forgive him. He's not sure he wants to anymore.)
Her face is pale, streaked still with dried tears; neither of them had the chance to wash before packing up.
Harry shakes his head. His eyes are trained to the ground, at their shadows.
'I'm fine, Hermione,' he answers. His voice is unconvincing. 'I should be asking you
She shakes her head, like it doesn't matter. Or maybe it does, but she'd rather not say. 'You're a horrible liar,' she says instead. She touches his hand, the barest brush of skin against skin.
'I know,' he responds. His voice is a murmur.
Hermione takes a couple steps forward, and the two dark figures separate.
'What if we stayed here, Harry?'
Harry looks up from Hermione's copy of Beedle the Bard
. It's his turn to make some sense of Dumbledore's gift to the brightest witch he knows.
(He isn't having terribly much luck with it so far.)
'We could grow old here. It's peaceful.'
The words are out before Harry can stop them. 'We can't do that.'
Hermione nods, almost apologetic. She dips her head, touches the bark of the tree and sighs. 'No, I suppose we can't.'
In Godric's Hollow, it's night. Christmas Eve. Snow falls like a cloud being split apart, dusting everything around them, covering the dark with white.
Hermione loops her arm through his, holding him just there
. Harry tightens his arm ever-so-slightly, sure she won't feel a thing.
(But hopeful that she will.)
'Hermione,' he starts. The words are tied up on his tongue, should
's and can't
's entangled amongst 'maybe
's and 'i love you
He can see their shadows against the dim light of the streetlamp, joined as one, like a pair of lovers embracing — or a mutated monster.
Just before Harry leaves the tent to take watch, Hermione stops him. Her skin is glowing by the light of the tiny glass lamp, filled with conjured flame.
He wonders if his is glowing too.
'Harry,' she starts.
He looks away, looks to the side, finds their shadows. The bushy haired silhouette leans into the figure of the boy, their features losing coherency.
She stands before him; he can smell her hand-creme — and it takes everything he has not to lean forward and kiss her.
'Harry,' she says again.
And, closer than he's ever been to her, she rises up on her toes and kisses his mouth: brief, chaste, and tasting of burnt mushrooms and lip gloss.
Cold and wet, a shattered locket clutched between icy fingers, Harry stumbles up the hill.
The sound of a metal tip, dragging against the permafrost, crackling leaves and drawing a line in the dirt, follows close behind.
'Mental,' says the voice. 'Harry, you could have bloody died out there.'
Ron's expression is one of wide-eyed worry, watching his best mate as though a part of him can't quite believe he's there.
Harry feels the same.
His eyes keep flicking to his shadow, obscured by trees, a band of dark streaks across his figure, cutting him into ribbons.
'But we did it. We destroyed the Horcrux,' Harry says, turning his gaze away. 'I'm glad you're back.'
The words taste just a little like a lie.