As Embers Dress the Sky
Shine on evening skyfire
Paint the sky with the blood of a raven
Bereavement, oh garment of ebony
As embers dress the dusk of man...
It was that hour between night and dawn when the sky is still dark, but the still hidden sun was slowly turning it from black to dark blue. Harry Potter was in his four-poster bed in Gryffindor tower, in his old room for the first time in over a year since he embarked on his journey to rid the world of Voldemort's horcruxes and defeat his mortal enemy. He woke up with a start, parts of his latest nightmare still lingering behind his eyelids, bright green flashes, explosions and dead bodies taking up much of the duration of his worst dreams yet. He slowly rubbed his eyes, thinking that even if he'd had no nightmares before, then surviving such a terrible war would surely guarantee some now. His mind still a little foggy from sleep, he got up and walked to the window near his bed and took a look outside, to the once majestic grounds of Hogwarts and that breathtaking view of Scottish mountains he had come to love. Now the surrounding area beared heavy signs of the war that just ended the previous day. Parts of the castle were in ruins, large rocks that once were part of the castle walls were hewn all over the grassy plains. Fires still raged in craters and small charred holes, evidence of the destructive force of employed by the combatants, and embers dressed the sky. It looked like everyone had taken the day off to recuperate from the battle, having only removed the dead bodies from the surrounding area, but leaving everything else as it is for the time being. It was a view both haunting and beautiful in its savage grace.
It was certainly a view to make one collect his thoughts and think about the future, and that's exactly what Harry did. All the time since he had come to Hogwarts, he had a purpose, like a shining beacon lighting his inevitable path. He had one aim in his mind which made everything else come second in its urgency. His one insurmountable goal all along was clear. Defeat Voldemort. He always imagined his life as a winding road, rocky and rugged, with all the hardships he had to overcome, briefly interspersed with oases of calmness symbolising the few good times he experienced, and at the end, one impossibly tough wall blocking his path; his final conflict with Voldemort. Until that time, he had been unable to imagine how the road ahead looked like, beyond the inevitable block in his life, and frankly he had been too scared to envision a future past that point. He thought it would be cruel to imagine a bright future, were everything would be incredible and everyone would be happy, only to have that taken away from you when you fail to achieve the impossible.
Nevertheless now he had to envision what he wanted his life to be from this point forth. Surely, after surpassing such a hurdle, he should be able to shape his life the way he always wanted to. But he could still see a dark cloud on the horizon. On that had the potential to hurt him even more than death. Because, even if he died, he thought, he would reconnect with his parents and Sirius and Dobby and he would be happy. But living in agony would be a fate worse than that. The one person he loved above all others, the one friend that had been there for him all along, the one he had given his heart to, but never actually revealed his feelings to, was in love with someone else. Hermione was in love with his best friend. If it had been someone else she was in love with, he would fight tooth and nail, with every dirty trick he could think of to win her back. But he couldn't do this to his best mate. He coulnd't break his heart like that, and if it meant that she would be truly happy, then he would leave her be. Thinking of seeing her every day for the rest of his life, happy and in love with someone else though would be torture a thousand times worse than Voldemort's Cruciatus curses.
He first realized that he saw Hermione as more than a friend when he saw her coming down the stairs to join her date at the Yule ball in his forth year. The way she looked, ethereal like the greek godess of love, Aprodite, slowly coming down the stairs, radiant in her incredible beauty, took his breath away and left him speechless for a full two minutes. Once his brain restarted he could only think one thing; she was a breathtakingly gorgeous young woman and he couldn't understand how he could be so blind, that he hadn't realized it before. Maybe it was because her beauty was more subtle than other girls'. She was always there, with her shy smile and her warm brown eyes and the Hogwarts robes that covered so much of her aluring curves and he was blind to it all. He appreciated that she was always there for him with kind words and hugs, make no mistake, but until then he thought that his feelings for her were entirely familial, like a brother would love his sister. From that moment on though, his feelings shifted like the turning of the tide, inevitable in its occurence and impossible to halt. He realized that his silly crush on Cho Chang compared to his all-consuming love for Hermione was like the a single soft snowflake compared to an uncontainable avalanche.
Ever since that year, ever since that dance that marked his life so pointedly, his struggle commenced. He loved her unconditionally, but he couldn't reveal his feelings to her. He felt unworthy of her friendship, never mind anything more. He was just a damaged, broken little boy, always leaning to her for support and always asking for her help, but with nothing to give in return. And so, he struggled with himself, to move on, to be there for her as a friend and a brother, but bury his true feelings deep inside, because he thought if he reavealed them to her, he would reject him surely and then where would he be without her in his life? Then after his fifth year, when he knew of the prophecy and of his inevitable future clash with an enemy deadlier than anything he had faced before, he knew they would never be together, so he battled with his feelings in vain, trying to see some other girl in a romantic way, for he yearned to be loved, that was always his greatest strength and weakness. He had a brief affair with Ginny in his sixth year, but it wasn't what he hoped it would be. He always felt immeasurably guilty for using Ginny as a crutch, to help him move on from Hermione, who had started to have feelings for his best friend. So he broke up with her.
After Ron left them alone in the tent, he thought about finally revealing his feelings to Hermione. But a couple of things kept him from making that leap of faith. He knew that Hermione had feelings for Ron, and he felt that he would be taking advantage of her grief after Ron left if he decided to make a move. Additionally, he thought that the odds were stacked against him in his fight with his nemesis and he didn't think he would survive the war. So, getting together with Hermione and then getting killed by him would break her worse than if he abandoned her like Ron did. Thus, he kept on with his now familiar struggle. When he saw her, though, kiss Ron in the final battle at Hogwarts, even those little, flimsy shreds of hope he had of ever getting together with her died as if they were sucked in a black hole and crushed by the insurmountable pressure of nothingess that not even light could pierce. That little piece of him that hoped he would survive this final battle, died along with those hopes and it made it that much easier to walk into that forest clearing and give himself up, sarifice his life. so that she would live and be happy. Seconds before the green light of death touched him, he thought of all the moments he got to spend with her, of their dance in the tent, of the feeling of her body against his and with his last breath muttered her name one final time, as if in prayer, and then he knew only oblivion.
In that space in between life and death, ironically presented to him as a replica of the Kings Corss station, he briefly conversed with his old mentor, and decided that he would go on living. Despite his unrequited love for his friend, he thought it would be a betrayal of his parents' memories, a squandering of their sacrifice, if he were to pass at a chance to live the rest of his life now that he rid the world of the cancer that was the Dark Lord. So, he came back, he went through the motions and went to bed as fast as he could, for he was afraid he would collapse where he stood if he didn't get some much needed rest. And now he was looking through his window, captivated by the dying fires' embers dancing through the dark blue sky, his thoughts having come full circle to this moment in the presence. His senses now alert, picked up the sound of soft steps outside his door. He decided to remain where he stood, with his back to the door, looking out to the grounds, as if unaware of the person approaching him, and if it was someone who wished him harm, ambush them and take them down fast. His insticts honed by constant battle and war, were razor sharp and he was ready to react when the door opened and a soft voice echoed in the room. Her voice. "Harry?"
As quickly as they came, the defensive instincts left him, he released the breath he had uknowingly been holding and his tense body relaxed. It was her. He longed to see her as much as he longed to hide from her loving brown eyes, but in the end his desire to look at her face won, like always and he slowly turned from the window to lay his eyes on what, to him, was the most beautiful woman in the world. Framed by the dim light of the still hidden sun, just below the horizon, he stood like a shadow and waited for her to speak. He knew she would, after all she had sought him out.
"Hey, Harry, I came to see you because I was worried about you. You've spent almost a whole day sleeping. Of course you were tired I understand," she was babbling, she always did that when she was nervous, he thought. "but I wanted to see that you were okay, I..." he decided to stop her there, save her from further embarassment.
"I'm fine Hermione, just woke up, and I was looking out the window, thinking." He said
"Oh, you must have been really tired. You were sleeping for almost 24 hours straight." She said anxiously. 'Now she was repeating herself. She must be more nervous than I thought' he thought to himself.
"Hermione, you are nervous. Calm down and tell me what's troubling you." He told her, revealing that he was aware of her sudden nervous countenance.
"Oh!" She was looking at him a little strangely now, with a look he had seen her give him before, but never understood what it meant. Then with a little voice, and a small amount of sadness said "You were always so good at 'reading' me." so softly that he wasn't sure if he was meant to hear that. She then said a little louder "I wanted to ask you some questions if you don't mind." With a little more hesitation, she continued. "About where you disappeared to in the middle of the battle, and why Voldemort thought you were dead."
'Oops!' he thought, that was going to be an unpleasant conversation. "Well, you see..." He started. Then he told her everything, from watching Snape's memories in Dumbledore's penseive, to revealing himself to be alive to Voldemort and his perspective of what happened afterwards. He didn't tell her of course why it was so easy to walk to his death, only that it was necessity and inevitability that drove him. By the end of his story, she was in tears, hugging him as if he was going to disappear any second, and he could feel soundless sobs coming from her body in his arms. He rubbed her back and reassured her in a gentle voice that everything was okay, that he was alive and that they succeeded in their quest to defeat the greatest evil of the last century.
When she finally calmed enough, he wiped her tears with his thumbs, longing fiercely to kiss her, and saw again that strange look he couldn't recognise, only stronger this time. He couldn't tell what it meant, only that it gave him courage to take that frightening last leap of faith and reveal him feelings to her. He felt that she deserved to know, that it was lying to her if he didn't tell her how he felt, and that even if she rejected him, which she probably would, then he wouldn't have any regrets later in his life, looking back at this moment and thinking 'What if?'. And so he told her everything. His all-consuming love for her ever since that fateful dance, his struggles with himself, his agony and selfishness at seeing her happy in the arms of someone else and finally his thoughts during what he thought, at the time, were his final moments on this world.
When he finished, she was looking at him with this look of raw, uncontained hope and longing that would have brought him to his knees if they weren't already sitting at his bed, holding each other. It restarted the faint fires of hope in his soul, the vanquished embers of a feeling long since lost, reignited. Then she told him the impossible. She told him that she had feelings for him ever since that daring rescue they attempted together in their third year. She confessed how those feeling turned into love in their next year, when he was entered in that Merlin-forsaken tournament and was faced with deadly threats once again, and she realized that she coulnd't go on living if he died. She revealed to him how she thought he would reject her feelings and how that stopped her from telling him how she truly felt. Finally she told him something he himself was all too familiar with. The futile attempts at denying these feelings and trying to move on with someone else, in her case Ron. With tears and sobs she told him how broken and anguished she felt when Voldemort announced to everyone that Harry Potter was dead. In a trembling and breaking voice she told him how she felt her heart was metaphorically torn out of her chest when she saw Hagrid carrying his body back to the castle, and of the gut-wrenching death wish that took over her and pushed her to fight the remaining death eaters when the battle commenced once again.
His brain was frozen, he didn't know what to think. She felt the same as he, even before he did. Their fear of rejection had kept them apart for so long, made them both feel miserable and it only took him dying and her seeing him dead to finally confess their feelings to one another. When his mind 'rebooted', he held her tighter and told her "I love you!" and when she reciprocated, with a soaring sensation that he hadn't felt before, not even when he flew for the first time, he leaned down and captured her lips in a gentle, loving kiss. For a tiny moment, she didn't respond, but then as a small flame igniting into a roaring bonfire, she returned the kiss with equal fervor. They kept kissing, nipping at each other's lips, caressing each other's tongues as the dawn of the new day shed its light on the world, bringing with it new hope for everyone, but most of all for the two young lovers entangled in their passionate embrace.
Harry didn't know where Ron was, he didn't know how they were going to tell him that they were in love, how it would probably break their friendship beyond repair, but at the moment he didn't care. He didn't care about what he would do for a job, where he would live, he didn't care that there were still a few death eaters out there who wished him dead, nor what the Weasleys, and particularly Ginny, would think of this new development. He only cared about this incredible woman in his arms, and vowed to himself that she would come above all else, for without her he did not want to live. In the end she was everything, and he would show her what she meant to him every day for the rest of their lives.