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Granger's Army
Finding Hope in the Unfinished
    Defining the Dots Series, Part III
    by vanillaparchment
Sweat.

Tears.

Hot.

Cold.

Fury.

Pain.

“It's all right. It's all right, I'm here!”

Pain.

~*~

Her hands tore off his sweaty T-Shirt with great difficulty, shreds of his shirt clutched in her
trembling hands. Still he struggled, his flushed skin gleaming with sweat. On his heaving,
glistening chest burned a white-hot locket, and without a thought Hermione seized the circle,
ignoring the pain exploding in her palms.

She wrestled it furiously, her hands feeling as though the skin was about to melt off. Finally, she
released it, feeling breathless sobs shuddering in her throat. She stumbled backwards, thrusting
a hand into the pocket of her jeans and whipping out her wand with her burned fingers.

Gasping, she clamped her hand down around his tense arm and pressed her wand to his chest.

Severios.” she muttered, and a horrible scream rent the air. She leapt back, locket clattering to
the wood floor. The scream ended, but Hermione's sobs did not.

She sank to the ground, staring blankly at the white and pink burns on her fingers and feeling
tears well up in her eyes again.

This illness—or whatever this was—was almost
possessing Harry... and somehow it felt like it
held her too. She knew she must be overreacting to this; surely there was some way to help
him—and yet she'd tried everything. Sleeping draughts, Pepper-Up potion, and she'd already
used Essence of Dittany.

Nothing helped, nothing brought calm to Harry's face... she'd even yelled at him, commanding
him to snap out of it.

She'd always wondered how it felt to be truly, completely desperate and alone.

She wished she'd never found out.

~*~

She didn't trust herself to try to mend the burns on her fingers. So she struggled to her feet and
stumbled to the bathroom. She thrust her hands under the icy water, unable to stop the tremors
even under the flow.

The bathroom echoed dully with the sound of her uneven sobs. Suddenly her stomach heaved,
and she barely managed to make it to the toilet before she vomited what precious little she had
eaten that day.

She curled up then, forehead leaning against the cracked tile floor. Her fingernails bit into her
already aching palms. Her mouth tasted bitterly of vomit and tears, and Hermione found herself
whispering to the ground, to the tent around her, “Please help me, please, anyone, I don't
know-- I don't-- don't let him...”

She choked again, burying her face in her hands.

“I don't know what to do anymore--”

She hated the fact that her mind had failed her in the moments when she needed it the most. The
times when she needed to merely think the facts and not the feelings... but her heart's wild,
feverish whims had taken over, and all she thought was dictated by the wild emotions burning
in her stomach and in her mind and on her lips and in her eyes....

She lifted herself up to her knees and clutched the towel rack for support as she pulled herself
to her feet again. Then she was at his bedside again.

He was muttering to himself, feverish, low muttering that sounded nothing like she was used
to. Suddenly he stiffened.

No...”

“Harry.” she breathed, and something within her forced her to rise to her knees, to clasp his
hand. “Listen to me-- listen.
Please.”

He let out another moan, and Hermione knew then what it felt like to have one's heart broken. It
had nothing to do with you, it was another's pain that did it. She couldn't remember the last time
she had felt... felt anything, really. She lowered her forehead to rest against his hand.

“Harry James Potter.” she murmured quietly, not knowing what she intended it to do. “You're
all right. You're-- you've got me.”

Even to Hermione, the words sounded ridiculous. It was perfectly obvious that while he didn't
mind having her along, he would rather have Ron or Ginny. Or anyone.

Tears seared her eyes, and she blinked rapidly, feeling his sweat dash her forehead as his hand
shifted.

“Harry, please wake up.” she begged hoarsely, “I'm sorry I've been so distant, I'm sorry I didn't
trust you, I'm sorry-- I'm sorry I didn't stop you... I'm sorry I--”

I'm sorry. I'm sorry. The words felt so inadequate, so useless...

Or more accurately, perhaps Hermione felt inadequate. Useless.

Desperate.

“I've been no help at all-- I let you go and I'm sorry--”

He moaned again, and she rose, leaning over him. His face was contorted into a grotesque look
of pain, and her heart constricted. She bent closer, noticing the scars barely distinguishable
along the thin bridge of his nose.

His hot, erratic breath burst against her neck, and the smell of his sweat swept into her nose. She
could see the cause of the smell dribbling in sticky rivulets down his face, staining his messy
hair a shining jet black.

Her hand lifted, and habitually, instinctively, she pressed it to the side of her jaw. She choked
again on a sob, and cautiously, she lowered her hand. She hesitated, then brushed away the hair
plastered to his forehead.

She'd grown so used to distance these past two years she'd forgotten how precious nearness
could be. Nearness of partnership in a common goal or nearness of laughter.

She drew back, feeling somewhat winded.

Perhaps nearness was precious only in moderation.

She sat back, brushing the tears away from her cheek and staring at the wood siding of the bunk.
A thought had come to her then.

She had forgotten how to be afraid.

Her fear had become so animal recently; survival had become her goal. That kind of survival
didn't call for emotion; it didn't call for kindness or friendship...

This fear, this one she had been feeling tonight-- it was motivated by friendship and bravery
and...

It would be best to let that thought end there, as it always had... always, perhaps, will.

“No...”

He moaned, and she sat up. As she saw his face, his familiar face, something like tenderness
flooded her heart, and she rested it on his cheek, cautiously caressing his cheekbone with her
thumb.

“I'm here.” she whispered, and it seemed to her than she'd expressed more emotion in those two
words than she had even when she'd talked to him about love. “You'll be fine.”

She continued to stroke his cheek, closing her eyes. His skin felt slick under her finger, and she
felt his tears and sweat stinging her burns. She felt so tired—

Suddenly, she let out a small noise of pain. His hand had clamped around her wrist, and his
moans increased.

“Harry, it's all right!”

The feeling of peace left her in an instant, and suddenly his eyes snapped open. His green eyes
were dazed, but very much alive.

“Hermione--” his voice grated against the silence.

She felt sobs bubble up her throat, and she felt herself losing the will to remain upright next to
him. His grip relaxed on her hands, and she swayed suddenly as she suddenly felt rather dizzy.

He struggled upright, and she felt him hesitantly catch her other hand.

“What happened?”

“You've been ill.” she knew she was weeping by the sound of her voice, “Very ill.”

Somewhere amid her spinning vision, his green eyes focused on her face.

“Hermione, you look terrible.”

A hysterical combination of a sob and a laugh left her trembling mouth.

“That's rich, coming from you.”

He swung his legs over the side of the bunk, casting aside the sweaty blanket. He saw the
shreds of his T-Shirt on the ground, and frowned.

“What happened?”

“It-- it stuck to your chest--” she whispered feebly, “I had to use a Severing charm to get it off--
I'm sorry.”

“Don't apologize.” he said rather roughly, staring hard at his chest. Then his countenance
softened. “Look, I didn't mean to-- I'm sorry, too. Let me take watch; you look terrible.”

She sank back onto the ground, feeling weak and undone as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Oh, Hermione.” he said with gentle impatience, “You know I didn't mean it that way. Where's
my wand?”

Her trembling hands found the broken pieces of his wand in her pocket, and he stared at it,
looking whiter than before.

“It shattered in the explosion.”

“Mend it.” he said hoarsely, breaking the silence.

“I've tried--” she protested miserably, but he looked at her imploringly.

“Please.”

She raised her wand, and barely managed to whisper, “Re-- Reparo.”

The wand's wood grafted awkwardly together, but the phoenix feather was sticking out in a
terrible direction. Harry took it in his hand as though he were handling a wounded pet, pursed
his mouth, and stared hard at it.

Hermione stared at her knees, lips pressed together, and felt herself shiver uncontrollably. She'd
left him wandless and defenseless-- how he must hate her now.

“Why does everything I care about break?”

Harry cast the wand aside, his green eyes burning in anger and despair.

“Harry?”

He stood up, pacing feverishly up and down the tent, breath shuddering and hands clenched.
His lips were white with the pressure exerted on them by his mouth.

“My family's dead, Sirius died, Ron ran off and there went our friendship, Dumbledore's dead
and my trust in him is gone, my wand's broken, my only home is being controlled by Death-
Eaters, and you-- well, look at you! Look at
us!”

His words pierced her to the core as he whirled around, eyes blazing.

“What have I done to you?” his voice broke wretchedly. “I've broken you, I've broken
us.”

“We're not broken!”

A surge of strength had crashed over her, and Hermione stumbled to her feet, and weak as she
was, passion had pushed her to cry out in defense.

“I haven't left you!” she cried, her heart thudding wildly against her ribcage. “You haven't left
me! We're
together!”

“But we've
broken.” he whispered. “Don't tell me you haven't felt it?”

“Felt?” Hermione took a shaky step nearer to him. “
Felt? I haven't felt for ages, Harry-- I haven't
felt anything!”

“I've felt it.” he said sharply. “We don't even
talk anymore.”

“That's not true!” Hermione stumbled, and he reached out. She shied away from his arms and he
let out a sound of frustration and triumph.

“You won't let me help you, you don't talk to me about anything but Voldemort and the power
he knows not and all that rubbish--”

“Rubbish?”

“Yeah, rubbish.” he said roughly, “It's rubbish if it hurts the people I care about.”

“That's not what hurts me.” she said, her voice rising, “It's not that--”

“Oh, so it doesn't hurt, then, does it, to ship your parents off to Australia?” he said, almost
savagely, “It doesn't hurt to have to wear a bit of Voldemort's soul round your neck or to nearly
starve?”

“You
know it hurts--” she said, angrily swiping away tears and feeling her knees tremble. “You
know it does.”

“And you know it's my fault that all of that happens.” he said in a low voice.

“Even if it was,” she retorted, “We
haven't broken.”

She would have gone on, but her breath and knees gave in at the same moment. He made a swift
movement, and for a moment she was afraid that he had turned away, but then she felt him
wrap his arms around her. She realized then that she could feel his heartbeat against her cheek,
and hear his breath heaving in his lungs.

He was holding her tightly, and she didn't try to pull away. He was breathing hard and
shallowly as he drew back, clasping her hands in his.

His cheeks were quite flushed, his eyes still fiery and boring into hers. He licked his chapped
lips and whispered rather feebly, “I know something's changed. I
know something has. I'm not as
thick as Ron, Hermione. I know you better than that; at least, I used to.”

“Then you should know that it's not you, Harry.” she choked, miserable that he should know
what she knew would slip out. “It's me.”

His eyes narrowed in puzzlement, and Hermione stumbled on.

“I'm just-- I'm so... I feel so... I feel--”

She shuddered.

“What do you feel, Hermione?” he spoke softly, and she went on.

“I don't know.” The words tumbled out in a stammer, a sob. “I'm just afraid… you'll leave me,
like he did.”

His eyes softened.

“I was afraid you were going to leave, too.” he said quietly, “I was afraid you'd had enough.”

A silence fell heavily over them, as they stared at each other.

Hermione felt her heart flutter, just a little, in a vaguely familiar feeling-- perhaps it was
affection?

He reached out and took her wand from her hand, and mended his T-Shirt before throwing it
back on over his head. She watched him mutely, still keenly aware that through the dirty
material, his eyes were still steadily on her hers.

“Hermione,” he said finally, in a rather shaky voice, “I--”

He coughed, looked down, and then looked up again.

“I want you to know that I--”

She still watched him, breathless, confused, and out of sorts.

“I hope you... I want you to...”

He dropped his head.

“Ron's very lucky to have someone like you.”

Her heart seemed to drop a bit at his words, though she didn't know why.

“And Ginny.” she spoke finally. “She's luckier.”

He nodded, looking at her rather oddly.

“But Harry--” she suddenly felt quite nervous. “Ron hasn't got me, at least, not at the moment...
you've still-- I mean, I'm still here for you. If you need me.”

His eyes grew somewhat wide.

“What?”

“I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that.” she said quickly.

He was silent, then he spoke.

“Ginny hasn't got me, either.” he said finally, “Not anymore. She's better off-- with someone
safer.”

Why was her heart suddenly pounding like mad?

“But you know I... after this is over...”

He dropped her hands.

“You're probably the... I'm very lucky to have you with me.”

That broken sentence would drive her mad.

But then again, it wasn't necessarily broken, Hermione thought as she thanked him quietly, just
unfinished.

And what a difference that made.
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