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Granger's Army
Leaving with Memories
    Defining the Dots Series, Part VIII
    by vanillaparchment
Harry couldn't stay in that hall any longer. The sounds of moans and sobs and whispers was too
much; he wanted to forget how to feel, to leave this behind... he knew it was his fault; he knew
he would be blamed.

He turned and ran, clutching the vial of Snape's memories in sweaty, fumbling hands. The smell
of blood and healing potions caused a bitter taste in his mouth.

“Harry!”

But there was no turning around; no facing it-- for once, Harry wished to run, to forgo his
Gryffindor ties and run away.

“Harry, wait!”

He could hear her panting, hear her footsteps clattering on the flagstones, and suddenly he
stopped, his lungs under immense pressure... he didn't know whether it was from running or
from the sobs.

“Harry.”

She spoke his name again, and her fingers wound around his, around the smudged glass vial
filled with silvery memories. He wanted to turn away-- he could not bear to imagine finding her
among the dead, and her presence only made the image more vivid and more painful.

“Please leave me alone, Hermione--” he choked, “Don't follow me; don't be with me--”

“Oh,
Harry.” she whispered, in a voice of agonized empathy, a voice that caused him to sink to
the stones. She too sat; he heard the vial clink to the floor.

“Please--”

Her hands slid into his, holding on tightly.

“Harry, I know-- I know there's things you have to do without me.” her voice trembled, and she
hastily cleared her throat. It didn't help. “I
know that. But don't leave me-- not like that-- not--”

She took a shaky breath.

“Not without... not without telling me.”

“I can't promise you that!” he burst out, half-angrily, half-despairingly, “Don't you get it,
Hermione, I can't promise you anything!”

He heard her gasp, in a way that told him she was struggling not to cry.

“Then promise-- promise you'll remember me. When it happens, when you have to--”

She broke off abruptly. He felt her hands quivering in his.

“I'm sorry it worked out this way.” he managed to whisper. “I'm so sorry, Hermione-- you
deserve better from me.”

“Don't you
dare apologize!” she said fiercely, her voice suddenly sharp. “Don't you apologize
for this; it's not your fault! None of it is!”

“That's where you're wrong.” he said, more savagely than he intended. “You and everyone else
have been fighting because he wants
me! Fred and Remus and Tonks died because of me! “

“Oh, there you go again!” she retorted, “Would you
look at me?”

He felt his face burn, but he obeyed. Her face was streaked with tears, but he could see her eyes
blazing passionately.

Her hands squeezed his, and she spoke in a low, steady voice, one quivering fervently, “They
died for you, yes, but they also died for their families. For themselves-- for the future. And they
did not die
because of you, they died for you and there's a difference!”

He jerked his hands away, feeling angry and grateful at the same time. Something in him had
lightened, just slightly, at her words, but he didn't show it. He couldn't.

“You don't understand.”

“Don't I?” she whispered, her voice breaking again. “I may not understand your insistence on
taking responsibility for everything that ever happened, but I
do understand what it feels to lose
someone. Fred was a friend of mine, too-- the Weasleys are part of my family, I
hate to see Ron
and Ginny hurt-- and their parents and siblings--”

“Oh, fantastic, so you're sad.” Harry said angrily. “Make me feel even better, will you?”

“Shut up, Harry!” she exploded, “Just-- shut up!”

He was so surprised that he fell silent. Her cheeks were flushed and eyes were still sharp and
bright.

“I don't want to lose you!” she said furiously, her voice high-pitched and tearful, “I'm
not losing
you! And I certainly
don't want to keep hearing about how everything is your fault, because as
I've constantly driven into your thick skull, it's not! Don't you realize how much it hurts me to
hear you talk like that? Have you completely lost your heart as
well as your mind? Maybe I'm
not as important to you as Ginny is, maybe I'm not as close to you as Ron--- I don't know! Maybe
I'll never know! But you're more important to me than anyone in the world and I wish you'd
remember that!”

A ringing silence took over the corridor, as Harry struggled to let the words sink in. His heart
was feeling rather sore from pounding against his chest-- or maybe that was from hearing her
cry...

“Hermione--” he said thickly, with great difficulty. “Hermione, I'm sorry.”

She scrubbed at her face and covered her eyes with her hands.

“No, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have... I lost my temper.”

“I don't blame you.” he said sincerely, cautiously stretching out a hand and squeezing her
shoulder. “You're right-- I was being... I was--”

“... a complete prat, when it comes down to it.” she said in a muffled voice, and he wished he
could smile. But his churning insides wouldn't allow it.

“Yeah.”

There was another silence, and Hermione finally dropped her hands. Harry saw with regret how
puffy and red her eyes were, and how wet her cheeks seemed.

“You're important to me, Hermione.” he said finally, and immediately felt stupid. Of course
he'd say something like that; when his time with her could be very short. “I mean--“

“It's all right.” she hiccupped, with a feeble smile. “Look at me-- crying all over the place when
you-- when you need me to be...”

She trailed off, swiping her hand across her eyes again. He could see a shudder pass through
her frame.

He wished he could say something to her. He wasn't sure what, only that he wished to see her
smile,
really smile...

“I don't mind it if you cry.” he said finally, again feeling that the statement was incredibly
ridiculous. “I reckon it helps sometimes.”

She nodded.

“I suppose it does.” she agreed, and Harry felt the awkwardness of the silence settle in the pit of
his stomach.

“Hermione, I--” he broke off, trying desperately to find what exactly he was attempting to say.
She looked up, and her eyes fixed on his. “Look, I'm-- I'm sorry. No--” he said quickly, when he
saw her open her mouth to protest, “Just listen. Let me say this at least.”

She nodded, obediently closing her mouth and watching him silently.

His face felt quite hot, and his fingers were suddenly quite clammy as he rushed on, “I don't
know if I've ever told you this-- actually, I do, I never have-- I'm... Merlin, I'm not very good with
telling you... what I feel, I mean...”

He felt so
stupid. Babbling on like a mindless idiot when his time was slipping away.

“That's all to say... I mean--”

He'd yet to say anything meaningful, anything worth remembering, and she sat patiently, head
tilted back.

“I just.... I wish we could have... I--”

Suddenly, her hand was pressed softly against his cheek, and he fell silent, his heart sinking.

“Hush.” The whisper broke the silence tenderly. “I understand.”

He closed his eyes, feeling her thumb caress his cheek lightly.

“I'll be fighting for you. And waiting.”

She hesitated.

“I'll always be here.” And her hand pressed against his heart. “As cliché as it sounds, I'll always
be with you.”

Her hand dropped from his chest, and he heard her get up. His eyes snapped open, and he
looked up. “Hermione?”

“Remember what I said.” Her fingers trailed through his hair.

“I could never forget.” he found himself mumbling rather tightly. “I don't want to.”

She bent and quickly kissed his head.

“I'll see you soon.” she whispered, and before Harry could utter another word, or catch one
more glimpse of her face, she had gone.

He reached out a hand and grasped the bottle of memories. He stared at its silvery contents,
feeling a tight knot in his chest, and slowly, mechanically, he stood and faced the gargoyle in
front of the headmaster's office.

He chanced one more glance back, half-expecting to see Hermione coming back down the
corridor as he turned around. But no, she'd gone.

She'd known he had to do this alone. She hadn't wanted to leave him, and part of him wished
he'd entreated her to stay. But both of them knew, it seemed, that Harry had to finish this... alone.

He took a deep breath, closing his eyes and feeling his heart give something of a throb. There
was so much he hadn't said, wishing to make saying good-bye easier... but now he found that
his goodbye felt washed in regret.

“There are more important things! Friendship and bravery and-- oh, Harry, do be careful!”

A faint smile reached his mouth as her voice seemed to resound in his heart, then he opened his
eyes.

“You were right, Hermione.” His lips moved in a whisper. “But I wish you'd finished.”

It's not that difficult to finish, Harry, an echo of her voice whispered in his mind.

A small smile tugged at his mouth.

Perhaps she hadn't left him quite yet.
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