The rhythm of the waves was Harry's constant companion at Shell Cottage. Sometimes he'd still
see Hermione outside, next to Dobby's grave. The air had gotten colder again, and the wind had
gotten considerably stronger this week.

As he stepped from the living room into the kitchen, he glimpsed Hermione sitting alone by the
white stone, hand propping her chin up.

He paused, then opened the door and strode outside, making his way to sit beside her.

“Hermione, it's freezing out here.” he said over the sound of the waves. She blinked, looking
surprised to see him.

When she didn't reply, Harry pressed on, “It's warmer inside; there's a fire in the living room--”

“You're not angry with me.”

He stopped short, staring at her. She'd been looking much better recently; it was alarming now
to see her cheeks lose their color. Her curls whipped over her face as the wind gave a
particularly loud whistle. Through the curly mass covering her face, he could see her eyes
studying his face nervously.

“Of course I'm not angry with you.” he said finally, as she shook back her hair. “Why would I

“I'm the reason you have to use that wand, and I let them find out.” she whispered.

Astonished, Harry stared at her.

“Hermione, you can't still be dwelling on that, can you?”

Her face told him his answer.

“Look, Hermione, I'm not angry with you for any of that.” he said swiftly, hoping to calm her
and perhaps convince her to go inside. “I swear. You couldn't help it; you saved my life that

She looked away. Alarmed by her unusual behavior, Harry reached out and clasped her hand in
his own. “Hermione, you're not... you're ill-- I'll take you inside, Fleur can do something for

Hermione's eyes moved to his own, and after a long pause, she whispered, “Is that what it felt
like, every time?”

Harry's words died on his lips. He gazed at her, bewildered and worried.

“Every time...?” he repeated slowly. “I don't know what you mean.”

“When he-- when he tortured you?”

Comprehension dawned on him, and he licked his chapped lips before answering carefully, “I
suppose that's how it felt, I-- Hermione, you're not yourself; please let me bring you inside--”

She shook her head and he felt something like panic strike him; only a week before they'd had a
conversation about Teddy and she'd been fine-- something had happened, something had hurt

“Talk to me, Hermione, please.” he said desperately, “I can't help you if you don't.”

Her hands were trembling uncontrollably in his, and he gripped them firmly in his own.

“My dreams... and you didn't come; you and Ron just left me-- left me with her...” she broke off,
hiding her face in her hands. His heart gave a painful pulse as he realized that he wasn't the only
one who suffered from nightmares.

“Hermione, please look at me!” he pleaded urgently, “You're all right, I swear, I'm not going to
let her hurt you again--”

He moved closer to her, as she shook even more violently at the vague mention of Lestrange. He
felt a sudden rush of hatred for Lestrange burn through him as he reached out and pulled
Hermione into his arms. Her arms wound around his torso, in a tight grasp that almost hurt.

“I'm sorry; I'm sorry for being so frightened.” he heard her whisper, and he only squeezed her

“Don't be stupid; I'd be frightened, too.” he said quietly, “Anyone would.”

The waves crashed hard against the rocks, and he glanced up. The clouds had darkened
considerably, and the smells of the earth had gotten stronger. Rain would be coming soon.

He spoke into her hair, “We should go inside, Hermione-- it's going to rain.”

She looked up, and her face was so astonishingly close to Harry's that he caught his breath.
Every curve of her face, every arch and every line; Harry knew all of them by heart...

“I wish it wouldn't.” she murmured, clinging to him.

“Sometimes we can't help it.” he whispered finally, sweeping her up into his arms. “Sometimes,
we just can't help it.”

She only nestled closer to him as icy sheets of rain began to fall.
Escaping the Rain
    Defining the Dots Series, Part VII
    by vanillaparchment
Dots VI
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