The ticking of the Muggle watch on her wrist weaves through the darkness. Hermione squints her eyes, trying to make out the numbers on its dimly lit face. Five minutes until midnight.
She sighs and rolls over on her stomach. She can see the Harry’s motionless silhouette in the entrance to the tent, a velvet cut-out against the moonlit darkness beyond. She wonders if she should get up and relieve him from his watch, even though her turn is in five minutes. It isn’t as if she is going to sleep anyways. She hasn’t slept for weeks.
She gets up, grabs her cloak, and steps outside. A single nod is all she and Harry exchange, and then he disappears inside.
The wood looks beautiful in the starlight. Dark, wild, untouched. Patches of bare mud show through the melting snow, but at least the moon is nice and full, a silvery eye watching over them all.
An image rises unbidden to her mind: herself and a boy with red hair, hand in hand looking up at the stars. He whispers something in her ear, she laughs…
No. No no no no.
She closes her eyes and shakes her head frantically. Ron is gone. He isn’t coming back.
She can remember the day he left. There hadn’t been any snow then. It had been raining, and she had run after him, screaming his name, but the curtain of rain had swallowed him up and she had fallen into the mud sobbing…
And now she was angry at him, angry enough to hit something. Angry enough to burst into tears at random moments. Like right now…
The tears are hot, they warm her numb face, her frozen nose. She wipes them away angrily nonetheless. She had never wanted to cry for anyone, especially not Ron Weasley. Not that immature, stubborn-as-hell Ron Weasley. She tells herself to stop it. The tears will freeze on your face, Hermione. It will only wear you out, Hermione.
She takes great, shuddering breaths of the cold night air, and eventually feels calm enough to return to watching the silent flakes now tumbling from the sky.
The snow covers the ugly. White covers the mud. It spreads out before her like a virgin page. She still has time to write, he still has time to change. She still has time to change. There will always be snow to bring a fresh new start…
She thinks she hears footsteps, but she isn’t afraid. Not yet.
“Ron?” She whispers the word, but her voice does not quiver. She is hopeful.
There is only silence.
With a sigh, she reaches into the tent and pulls out A History of Magic. Before she becomes fully immersed in the book she thinks she sees someone through the trees, she thinks she hears a faint cry: Hermione!
But then again, perhaps it is only the wind in the trees. Perhaps it is only her imagination forming futures on the newborn snow.