Harry watched, transfixed for a moment, as dark smoky shapes swirled out of the Horcrux locket, almost like they were chasing Ron. He saw himself and Hermione appear, and he tried not to hear all the words they said. They were cruel, but some part of him relished in the look of pain on Ron's face. Some part of Harry felt like Ron deserved some form of punishment, and he was only grateful it didn't have to be his own words piercing Ron's heart.
The internal glee, however wrong Harry knew it was, was cut short when the Horcrux Harry and Hermione started snogging. That tore his heart. He knew it wasn't real. Hermione didn't feel that way about him. She never appeared to. He stopped looking and turned to Ron, shouting for him to kill the damned Horcrux.
After a long internal battle, Ron finally brought the Sword of Godric Gryffindor down on the cursed locket. He stood over it, seething, a look of utter rage coloring his face.
It was nearly an hour later that they had found their way back to Harry and Hermione's campsite, and Ron had told them how he had found his way back to them.
Harry kept his face still as stone, but he felt the unspoken rejection in the smile Hermione had on her face.
Harry had to keep that same straight face on while Ron told him how he felt about Hermione, even while he gave Ron the sarcastic advice to keep telling Hermione about the damned 'ball of light' touching his chest.
The Trio ate dinner together for the first time in a long while, which included Ron's recovery from the Splinching incident.
Right after Harry finished eating, he put his dishes away – charmed spotless. "I'll take the first watch. You two can continue catching up," he offered.
Hermione pulled her wand from her pocket and handed it to Harry.
"I already gave him a new one," Ron replied proudly.
Hermione smiled slightly but turned to Harry. "It'll be stronger than the one he took off the Snatchers. You've already used it before." There was little material on wandlore that she could find, but she had read that wands grew with their handlers in experience. Hers would have had more time with Harry.
Harry smiled. "Thanks," he said, taking the wand. A familiar sensation filled him as his fingers closed around the wand. It was a diluted version of the way he felt when he received his own holly wand the first time. He turned around and exited the tent.
Harry sat on a rock near the wards he had set up with Hermione's wand just that morning. He sighed heavily. He turned over his thoughts about the whereabouts of the rest of the Horcruxes, but his mind was constantly redirecting towards the tent. He had a sick urge to cast the Twins' Extendable Ears Charm and listen to what they were talking about. As their primary investor, they had shared some of their more ingenious inventions and secrets with him in confidence. They came in handy now and then, but now was not the time to use that spell. Harry would not torture himself like that.
It was about two hours before the lights went off in the tent, plunging Harry into complete darkness that was disturbed only by the moon peeking through the trees. It was a full moon tonight, and Harry could only wonder how Remus and Tonks were doing on a night like this at a time of war such as this as well.
There was a rustle behind him, and Harry knew one of the other two had come out to see him.
"Harry?" Hermione's voice came across the breeze.
Harry turned towards her. "Yes, Hermione?"
"Are you alright?"
"You're lying," she said flatly.
Harry sighed but shook his head. He turned back to the forest, his eyes peeled.
"Tell me," Hermione pleaded, sitting down in front of him, right at the edge of the wards.
Harry stood and pulled Hermione further into their protected bubble. "Hermione," he hissed.
"Tell me, Harry," she begged.
"Fine, you want to know what bothers me? Muffliato. What bothers me is that Ron, who claims to be my best friend, walked out on us. What bothers me is that he waltzes back in and thinks that saving my life in that frozen lake somehow makes us square. What bothers me is that he destroyed that Horcrux out of rage for me than Tom," Harry ranted in a low voice, despite the Muffling Charm he had just cast.
"What do you mean he destroyed the locket out of rage for you?" Hermione asked.
"When the locket opened, it attacked Ron. It was Tom's voice, telling him he'd seen his heart, that it was his. It was taunting him, telling him his mum would have preferred me for a son, and…" he trailed off.
"And what, Harry?"
"And that he was 'least loved by the girl that preferred his friend'," Harry said, looking her in the eye. He didn't dare tell her more of what the locket had shown. It would be dangerous for him. "I don't know how Ron truly feels. I don't know if the locket was telling the truth or just egging him on, but Hermione, you need to know something. You need to hear it, at least this once," he whispered.
"What is it, Harry?" Hermione asked, her voice nothing but a whisper. Her heart was beating wildly in her chest at his proximity, at the intensity in his stare.
Harry brought his hand up to her cheek in a light caress. "I love you, Hermione, so much more than he thinks does, but the choice is yours to make." He pressed his lips against her in a soft kiss, not asking for her to kiss him back, but just bestowing his affection. He pulled away.
"H-Harry," Hermione gasped, lost. She had felt the kiss, the heartbreak in it, and she was at a loss to stop Harry from withdrawing.
Harry shook his head. "It's because I love you that I won't ask you to choose me when it's him you want. I'm sorry, I wish you didn't have to forget this," he said before locking gazes with her. "But you do," he finished. "Alieno Is," he spoke the incantation while gripping Hermione's vine wood wand.
Hermione's eyes went blank.
"You won't remember what I've said unless you truly choose me. You will remember only that we were discussing Ron's return, that we're happy he's back on this adventure, that we're going to defeat Tom once and for all together. You won't remember what I said about the Horcrux's apparition." He sighed, watching Hermione's blank eyes, her mind accepting his instructions as if Hermione was hypnotized. "Pro Iam." The final word of the incantation snapped Hermione's consciousness back into motion.
She smiled at Harry, her mind already filling in the blanks that he had ordered it to.
It was shortly after the Battle of Hogwarts that Harry fixed his damaged holly wand with the Elder Wand inside the Headmaster's office.
Harry was still hiding from the rest of the school and the survivors when the Golden Trio left the Headmaster's office. Ron went to rejoin his family, and Hermione, not knowing what to do with herself, decided to stay with Harry.
Harry wasn't ready to face any of the Wizarding World's gratitude, because he didn't think he had done any of this, any of the heroics from when he was eleven until now, at all by himself. So Harry and Hermione slipped through the castle undetected under the Cloak of Invisibility.
Harry and Hermione stood side by side at the highest remaining point of Hogwarts, which was in fact, Gryffindor Tower.
Harry jammed his good-as-new wand into his pocket and raised the Elder Wand one last time. He aimed it at a random spot on the horizon. His mind cleared, and he focused on a 10 ¾-inch vine wood wand with a dragon heartstring core that bore his and Hermione's spellwork inside it. "Accio wand," he shouted, holding out his left hand to receive his Summoned object.
The force of the incantation and the power of the Elder Wand meshed together and summoned a slender piece of wood from a great distance. It hurtled toward Hogwarts at breakneck speed.
It halted right at Harry's outstretched hand. With its final spell at Harry's hand cast, Harry pocketed the Elder Wand. He held the vine wood one out to Hermione. "What is rightfully yours," he said with a smile.
Hermione smiled back gratefully, a glow bursting forth over her features out of joy to be reunited with her true wand. She glared at the wand of the late Bellatrix Lestrange. In a move of spite, she chucked it as hard as she could into the ruins of the Battle. She received her old wand from Harry with an even brighter smile. "Thank you," she said, as her fingers closed around the wood. That warmth filled her, just like when she had first touched this wand at Ollivander's six years ago. It was happy as well to be reunited with her after so long apart.
But the warmth persisted, building into a rush of feeling inside Hermione. A sudden image swam through her vision, and she was unsure if she was seeing it in front of her or in her mind as she looked at Harry.
"I love you, Hermione," Harry's voice echoed in her ears. The sound flitted in and out of clarity. "Alieno is… You won't remember what I've said unless you choose me… Pro Iam."
"Harry," Hermione said, her balance wavering from the force of such a memory being unlocked. She grabbed onto his arm for support.
Harry caught her weight and let her lean on him. "Are you alright?"
The whole memory came back to her in a flurry of images and sound. "You," she breathed, "you erased my memory."
Harry shook his head. "I simply kept that memory from you for a while," he replied. He felt bolder, knowing that she felt something for him. She wouldn't have remembered it otherwise. A warm feeling had settled in his chest.
"But why?" Hermione asked. She released his arm. "Why would you take that away from me?" By casting the charm with her wand, it had made it imperative to have her wand back in their possession to unlock it. That wand's temperament towards Hermione and Harry had always been ambiguous.
"I didn't want to complicate things with Ron, but I needed you to know, somewhere deep down, just in case I failed to defeat Tom," Harry told her. "In case you ever did feel the same."
Hermione gave him her half-smile, the one that told him she was exasperated with him being so thick and she was just grateful he was alive. She stroked his hair, just like she had done somewhere along the Horcrux hunt. It was a testament to their true friendship, how they could transition from such seriousness like war to such tenderness like confessions of love. It was what made Hermione fall so much further in love with him over the course of their hunt. He had done his best to protect her, and even she could see the logic in erasing the memory albeit temporarily. She wished, however, that it could have happened under less dramatic circumstances. She was fairly certain that the moment would not be any less meaningful.
A mischievous glint blossomed in Harry's green eyes. It was a look worthy of James Potter. "So I take it you do choose me," he said with a small smile, the same smirk he'd worn the day he joked about being the Chosen One over a year ago.
Hermione put her wand in her sleeve and rolled her eyes, as was her norm. "Of course, you silly prat, and besides you cast that spell. You tell me," she said.
Harry's grin grew, his eyes still locked on her face. His hands came up to either side of her neck. "Unless I'm half the wizard I thought I was, then I'll take that as a yes," he told her, leaning in and pressing his lips to hers for the second time.
This time, Hermione kissed him back, telling him without words that her answer to his question truly was yes. After a beat, she pulled away a few inches, just to look Harry in the eye. "I love you, too, Harry."
I know the whole thing with the vine wood wand makes very little sense, which is why I said that its temperament to Harmony was ambiguous, in a way that it allows Harry to use it like no other wizard would be allowed. I like to think that it ships Harmony, and maybe Hermione's wand learned to love Harry, too. Just my little rant. Sorry. And thank you for reading. :)