And it was love...

harry x hermione

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The Darkness and the Light — Chapter 13
Harmony - closer
avsno26rocks wrote in xharryhermione
Chapter title: Darkness
Rating/Warnings: PG-13: Slight Claustrophobia Angsting
Word Count: 2989
Author's Notes: I've been diabolical about updating here, but hopefully that will be remedied now.

From the second the lid closed him in, despite the Bubble-Head Charm, Harry’s breath seized in his chest. It was dark — so, so very dark. Not so much as the faintest sliver of light penetrated into the mouldy sides of the trunk. He wanted so badly to scream, to flail against its boundaries, but his limbs were frozen, and his lungs had been held captive by some hideous thing inside of him.

One thing rebounded through Harry’s brain was something he had tried to shut out for over a decade: he could not stand enclosed spaces. After spending years of his life pent up in the cupboard underneath the stairs, even the idea of returning to such small confines made him feel ill. But at the moment, he was barricaded and trapped in a place one quarter that size, unable to move, unable to even bury his face in his knees and pretend that he was somewhere else.

Had he been in a better state of mind, he might have been able to concentrate hard enough to use wandless magic, which he had learnt during Auror Training, to free himself of the Body-Bind, but every time he tried to clear his mind of all thoughts save for the incantation, that empty space was promptly filled with a fresh wave of crippling anxiety. And Yaxley was a powerful wizard; it was doubtful that the spells would be wearing off any time soon.

Completely at his captor’s mercy, Harry knew that, for the sake of survival, he would have to find some way, any way, to keep his mind off the fact that he couldn’t move a muscle, let alone escape the miniscule box. However, that proved to be impossible as the whole thing seemed to lurch and rock for a few seconds before settling with a great thump. The trunk had been moved. Was Yaxley hiding it? Or worse, was Yaxley leaving him there alone with no means of escape? More than ever, Harry wanted to thrash and to pummel his fists against the wood, even though he knew it would be useless.

But everything changed in a moment when a heavy whoosh and a dull thud were punctuated with the sound of the lid creaking overhead. Illness loomed in Harry’s oesophagus, which was held captive by the Body-Bind, as well, blocking the already faint flow of oxygen into his body. Feeling his lungs burning for air that was not coming, a panic that he could not slake overcame Harry. Every fibre of his being wanted to kick and to thrash and to revolt against this imprisonment.

In his short lifespan, Harry had been possessed, cursed, chased by all manner of horrific creatures and objects, and tortured in several ways, but he had never been buried alive. He tried to scream, to cry for help through the layers of earth above him, but the only sound he could manage was a nasally whimper.

Stop it! Harry’s higher reasoning began to reassert itself at last, washing away a large measure of his fear. He was a trained Auror, and on top of that, there had been dozens of far more fearsome foes than claustrophobia, and he had not acted like a frightened child then, even when he was a frightened child. His resolve strengthened, he concentrated on the simplest task: blinking. If he could just break the Body-Bind, he stood a far greater chance of escape.

With every ounce of strength he had, he focused his entire conscious mind on that one simple, solitary duty. All he needed was a millimetre, and he would be able to do it. Just a hair was all it would take to weaken the spell. He had to do it — for Hermione, for Hope… for Ron. That last thought gave Harry an extra dose of motivation; Ron had died to save him, so he would be damned before he would die in some hole while everyone he cared about the most was in danger. That was the coward's way out.

With one mighty surge of energy, Harry commanded his eyes to blink, and by sheer force of will, he was able to close them completely. Encouraged by his progress, Harry then tried to re-open his lids to loosen the curse even further. This time, it only took about a minute. His confidence higher than ever, he repeated the blinking a few times before concentrating on moving fingers and then his whole arm. In less than an hour's time, he regained full mobility.

From there, though, there was a dilemma of a different sort. The whole area was protected by an Anti-Apparition ward, so that avenue of escape was already nullified. And a Blasting Curse, even if he could wandlessly conjure up a powerful enough spell and assuming he were only a couple feet down, would simply cause a cave-in and bury him alive without the benefit of a trunk for protection. Using a digging spell wouldn't help, either, if Yaxley were above ground; the moment his head appeared, he would likely be killed on the spot. There really was no viable way out. The last time he was imprisoned, Dobby had Apparated in and saved them all, but that was not likely to happen.

With a roar of frustration, Harry punched the lid of the trunk. There truly was no way out. If Hermione was there, she would have already figured out how to escape three different ways and to fill Yaxley’s pants with itching powder while she was at it; all he could manage was to freak out and hyperventilate. It put into stark contrast other times of danger in his life — namely, how he’d had so many other things on his side to help bail him out. For years, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, Dobby, the Order members, Hedwig, and even wandlore itself had rescued him in countless ways. But all he had on his side were his wits and the ability to move his body, and those fell short in the worst way.

But I would be more valuable to Yaxley alive, Harry thought weakly. He was not sure if he actually believed that this was true, but at the moment, he needed something to keep his hope from diminishing even further. He was completely out of choices, unless he wished to take the chance of blasting his way out, which would most likely kill him than not, but even that was starting to grow in appeal the longer he stared through ink-stained blackness at the lid of the trunk.

Then his thoughts shifted to Hope, and any thoughts of doing something reckless were promptly squashed. Just a couple years ago, he would have tried it without a second thought, and the change in his reasoning process intrigued him. He had never had to be a daddy before, even though Hope was not his biological daughter; it entirely changed the way his mind worked. Before, he lived alone, and outside of work, he answered to no one. Yet he would not have traded Hermione’s constant chiding and unwavering devotion to both her daughter and to his well-being for anything. At one point, he could not have imagined living with her day after day, as her peculiarities would have been tiresome to his younger self, but it was different. She was different. They were both different.

As if she was in his head, Harry could have sworn that she was there with him, even though that would have been ridiculous. She was likely still fast asleep at her parents’ house, dreaming of a day when she could do normal things again, like take her daughter to the beach or visit friends without fear or subterfuge, which was what he had wanted. Except he had gone and screwed everything up, and everyone dearest to him was still in just as much danger as they were before he had set foot into this accursed graveyard.

Fresh anger flared in his chest, directed squarely toward himself. It irked him that he could have been so blind. Yaxley was right; they had really only seen what they wanted to see. It had ultimately cost Ron his life, and it was only the beginning. He had created this situation with his constant lack of good judgment, and Yaxley was going to add yet another tally to his victory column.

With one petulant kick to the trunk lid, Harry rolled onto his side as best he could. If he could at least cover his eyes with his arm, he could pretend that he was not where he was and that this was just a bad reaction to something he had eaten. Or maybe he could attempt to breathe through his sleeve and block some of the mould spores swirling inside the Bubble-Head Charm’s confines. He had not expected it to work, and his theory was confirmed quickly as all he got was a lingering cramp in his shoulder

From there, he tried to shift himself into some semblance of a comfortable position, but no matter where he moved, the walls’ proximity never could quite allow him to settle in a tolerable position. Finally, he compromised and just lay on his back, even though his knees burned from being severely bent. It gave him something upon which he could focus that did not require any sort of thought.

However, his ploy to draw his mind away from the world above was not working quite the way that he had hoped. In his mind’s eye, all he could see was Hermione begging him to come back to her and Hope, but his cries of reassurance that he was only a few feet away stopped short in his throat. When he reached out a hand in her direction, heavy iron shackles snaked around his wrists and kept his hands near his chest. It seemed as if the more frantically he tried to get to her, the more she pled with him to come back. Harry wanted to badly to tell her where he was so she could find him and they could go home. To hell with Yaxley and whatever it is he wanted.

“Stop it!” he shouted into the trunk’s intense silence. He would gladly take pain over hallucinations. The last thing he needed was to lose touch with reality, or his chances of escape would go from slim to none in a hurry. He needed to think, no matter how fruitless it seemed.

But before he could bet his brain engaged on an exit strategy, he felt the stale, fetid air of the trunk become far more pungent, and it did not take him long to figure out why. The Bubble-Head Charm was gone. Miraculously managing not to panic, Harry shifted his palms to within an inch of his ears and squeezed his eyes shut. Taking a deep breath of what air still remained, he fought to expel everything but the thought of a new Bubble-Head Charm. Over and over, every atom chanted the spell, but no matter how hard he tried to will the protective sphere to reappear, it would only flash for a moment before fizzling back into nothing.

After the third failed attempt, Harry’s concentration was waning, and the panic that he had tried to so hard to banish was beginning to return. Despite the fact that he knew better, his greedy lungs seemed to capture more air than they needed, desperate to hoard the last few molecules of life-sustaining oxygen. But soon, the woefully small supply was gone, and he found himself heaving for air, but each inhalation gave him less and less.

Beyond rational thought, he hoarsely mouthed, “Help,” even though the sound was barely more than a wheeze, and then the already ink-black nothingness in his field of vision became even darker. It became more and more difficult to draw a breath, and his brain could not hold a thought. This was it. He was going to die in this miserable hole in the ground, just like he had promised himself that he would not.

He barely heard the sharp crack! that sounded inside the trunk, nor did he feel the arms that wrapped around him and sucked him into oblivion. But when his starved chest grabbed at the cool, damp air and drew it in with one sharp heave, the darkness that had been his constant companion inside his would-be tomb melted into glaring moonlight so bright that he had to shut his eyes to it. Slowly, the sensation of the dew-moistened grass underneath him soaked into his limbs, which were stretched out in full for the first time since he had been hit with the Body-Bind.

The rapid change in atmosphere shocked Harry’s lungs, sending him into a fit of coughing. It was not until he was once again breathing normally that he noticed where he was, or, more specifically, where he was not. Tentatively touching the ground, he wanted to be sure he was not having a mental fit, but the sodden turf that he ran through his fingers felt real enough. Then he finally dared to open his eyes just a sliver, allowing his pupils to acclimate to the reintroduction of light. Once his vision became less blurry and he could adjust his glasses, though, he had not been expecting to have company.

“Master Harry is awake.”

Not once in his life had Harry wanted to hug surly, moody Kreacher, but at that moment, he wanted to do just that. “How did you…” he tried to say, but his oesophagus felt dry and angry. Clearing his throat, he repeated, “How did you know?”

“Master Harry asked for help. Kreacher will always come when his master needs help.”

Holding ownership over another living being had never appealed to Harry before, and it had been only at Kreacher’s bequest, as well as Hermione’s annoyance, that he had remained the master of the Black family house elf. However, as he felt dirt and wetness soaking into his clothing, he knew he would count that elven loyalty as a blessing for the rest of his life. He managed to hoist himself to his knees and sit back on his heels before setting his hands on Kreacher’s wizened shoulders. “Thank you. Thank you.”

Barely inclining his head in acknowledgment, Kreacher asked, “Does Master Harry require any further services from Kreacher?”

Just as he was about to say ‘no’, Harry stopped. Instead, he said, “I want you to go back to the graveyard, quiet as you can, and see if Yaxley is still there. If he is, then let me know straightaway. If not, then get my wand and bring it to me. I have to go after him.”

The moment Harry dropped his hands, Kreacher Disapparated, which gave Harry time to look around at where he was. He was most definitely still in the Little Hangleton area, since he could see the silhouette of the Riddle House with moonlight from overhead illuminating various nooks and crannies of its architecture. In a way, though he never wanted to go to that blasted graveyard ever again, he was grateful. If he had to retrieve his wand, he could approach with a semblance of surprise and possibly not get himself killed in the process. But he was also far enough that Yaxley would not be able to spot him until Harry passed through the Detection Wards.

Hardly ten seconds passed when Kreacher returned without his wand, which told him that Yaxley was still prowling around, probably dancing a jig on Harry’s supposed grave. However, Kreacher spoke before that grim thought could be banished. “Yaxley is still there, Master Harry. Kreacher remembers him well. But Master’s Mudblood friend is there, too.”

“Hermione?” Harry gasped, sickness brewing in his gut, this increased threefold when the elf nodded in confirmation. Numbly, he muttered, “Thank you, Kreacher.” Urgency overcame him as he began to stalk toward the graveyard. Over his shoulder, he called, “Your services are no longer required tonight.”

The closer he got to his destination, to what he knew was going to be his final showdown with Yaxley, the more clear-headed he became. There would be no more emotional outbursts or flaring temper the next time around. Not when Hermione was counting on him. The first time, it has been just Yaxley to think about, but if he touched so much as one frizzy hair on her head, Harry knew that he would gleefully start breaking the man’s limbs with his bare hands.

Soon, he was at the perimeter, just beyond the scope of the Caterwauling Charm, the presence of which he could almost feel. Luckily, though, he was in a position to see a bit if the exchange between Hermione and Yaxley. The latter pointed toward the location where the trunk had been buried, and Hermione covered her face with her hands. She thought he was dead, and Yaxley had done that to her. He, Harry, had allowed that bastard to do that to her. This realisation caused a heavy swathe of rage to wipe away his previous measure, and he ran toward the smattering of headstones. The shrieks of the Caterwauling Charm did not so much as tickle his ears as he sprinted toward Yaxley, who was only beginning to show signs of looking for the source of the disturbance.

Before Yaxley even him coming, Harry tackled his nemesis with every bit of strength he could muster. His prey’s daze did not last long, however, as he rapidly shook off Harry’s assault and hauled back to his feet, taking a swing himself. Ducking the blow, Harry kicked Yaxley in the shin, taking the opportunity to pluck the wand out of his opponent’s hand.

Seeing the combination of surprise and anxiety in Yaxley’s expression made Harry smirk cruelly. With a sarcastic sneer in his voice, he said, “Did you miss me?”

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Oh yay! Keep going. I'm enjoying this immensely!

OH! You've reminded me to update. <3 you for that, hehe!

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