Rejoicing and Remembering
    Defining the Dots Series, Part IX
    by vanillaparchment
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Granger's Army
The sounds of weeping, of laughter, of shouts and of cheers filled his ears; he dropped his wand
and pushed through the crowds, and he could hear and almost feel the sound of her racing
footsteps, and she was in his arms, holding him tightly.

He was kissing her hair; she was not pulling away, and her cheek was pressed against his chest.
Ron was next to them, arms encircling them both, and he was whooping with joy, and suddenly
they were overwhelmed by a wave of supporters, hands clapping backs, arms around others,
dancing, laughter--

And on the edge of the crowd, Neville and Ginny embraced, sword lying forgotten. Neville's
bruised fingers were stroking Ginny's long mane of red hair. Harry looked down at Hermione,
whose eyes were shining, cheeks were flushed, and he bent to kiss her cheek once more.

Ron had clapped him on the back again, and he walked over to Luna, who was dancing happily
with a few of the house-elves. Harry grinned and jerked his chin; Hermione followed his gaze
and smiled.

Ron bashfully offered to replace the house-elf, ears flaming. Luna beamed, and soon Ron had
awkwardly but enthusiastically joined her in the celebration, several house-elves dancing at
their heels.

Harry's smile faded then, and Hermione seemed to notice, for she slipped an arm around his
waist and allowed her to lead her to the opposite end of the hall.

There, Harry stood before the bodies of the Lupins, throat tight, and together, he and Hermione
knelt beside them. Hermione placed a soft kiss on each forehead before they rose again, and
Harry moved to stand above Fred Weasley, Colin Creevy-- each familiar face, and Hermione
would whisper a quiet thank you when Harry could not.

They continued to thank the dead, and to comfort the families of the dead, and Hermione would
say all the compassionate, earnest things to them that Harry longed to say himself but couldn't.
He would simply join her in embracing the parents and grandparents and siblings. Then they
would move on to the next still face, the next life that had been lost--

They reached the end of the hall and the makeshift hospital in two hours, and drained as he was,
Harry led Hermione to each of the injured patients. As he looked around, he knew that he had
to show, in some small way, how much he regretted their injuries.

His eyes fell on Firenze, who was lying on the ground. His gleaming flank was spread with a
sticky green substance, which had congealed around the wound. Cautiously, Harry pulled
Hermione towards the corner where he lay. Immediately, Firenze's head lifted, and his
peculiarly keen blue eyes bored into Harry's.

“You have done a great thing, Harry Potter.” he spoke quietly, coughing and shifting his hooves
slightly. “The stars will remember you.”

“Thanks, Firenze.” Harry croaked hoarsely. “Can I-- do anything for you?”

The centaur closed his eyes and smiled peacefully.

“You have done enough.”

Madame Pomfrey came rushing by then, arms full of potions and bandages, and Harry tugged
Hermione on down the row of beds.

A third year girl Harry had never met before lay in the bed. She had heavy blonde brows and
thick blonde hair. She gazed up at them blearily as they approached, then widened as she saw
Harry.

“It's-- it's you.” she said in a thick, hoarse voice.

“Yeah. Just me. How are you healing up?”

She moved her left arm and pushed blankets aside, displaying her limp right arm.

“All right, I think.” she said rather bashfully, “They took the bones out of my arm; I had to take
Skele-gro.”

“Oh, yeah. Not pleasant, that stuff. I had to take it to fix my arm once.” Harry said, cringing at
the memory.

She grinned.

“Thanks, Harry. I think I'm going to rest a bit now.”

She closed her eyes. Harry glanced around the makeshift ward and saw with some relief that the
third year was the youngest among the injured. Hermione seemed to notice this too, for she let
out a quiet sigh of relief.

It was nearing noon when they'd finished. The house-elves had returned the kitchens,
presumably to throw together a lunch for the defenders of Hogwarts, and families of students
had come to Hogwarts by now, searching for relatives among the dead, the injured, and the
living.

No one seemed to notice that all three of the famous trio had disappeared into the headmaster's
office, but the three came back out to join the group for lunch.

Later, Harry and Hermione found Ron and Luna down by the lake's edge, watching the Giant
Squid splashing about on the lake's surface. The water was lapping gently on the damp, shell-
speckled shore, and the sunlight dappled the murky waters a pale green.

In fact, had it been any other day, the setting could be considered rather romantic. Harry and
Hermione watched the two talk quietly with each other for a few minutes, then continued
walking to the right.

They settled underneath the large oak tree. Harry leaned his back against the trunk of the tree,
Hermione beside him with her legs crossed.

He glanced over at his best friend, noticing how lovely her eyes looked when the sunlight
caught them. Her hair lay freely across her back, unruly and curly as ever.

Her eyes glowed softly as she gazed out onto the glimmering lake, a few curls of her hair
trailing over her eyes, and the sunlight coaxing a faint flush into her cheeks.

A soft smile was tugging at her lips, and Harry caught her hand in his own. She twined her
fingers with his instinctively, and continued surveying scene in front of her.

“I love you, you know.” he said quietly.

She whipped her gaze around, her eyes wide. He smiled at her, affectionately rubbing the back
of her hand with his thumb. Then her look softened, and she returned the warm smile. She
looked down at their hands, moistening her lips before looking back up.

“I love you, too.” she murmured, reaching up and pushing her hair out of her eyes, her eyes
fixing on his. “I love you, too.”

He allowed a pause, content to gaze at her for a little longer, before he spoke again, this time in
a more normal tone of voice.

“Walk with me?”

He helped her up, and they began to walk around the edge of the lake, careful to avoid Ron and
Luna. The breeze had picked up, and it caught Hermione's hair rather like the wind in the sails
of a ship. The sunlight brightened, and Harry closed his eyes, breathing in the smell of earth and
water.

Hermione halted, smiling as he tilted his head back, allowing the sunlight to catch his face, and
the breeze to race through his hair.

Suddenly he turned, his eyes opening and regarding her seriously.

“I suppose I should have kissed you.” he said after a pause. Hermione stifled a laugh, amazed
at the feeling of laughter that had recently been so unfamiliar.

“If it sounds that unpleasant, I won't force you.” she said, her laughter bubbling over. He
grinned sheepishly, blushing.

“Well...” he said slowly, shuffling his feet. “No. I think it might be-- rather nice.”

A flush crept into her cheeks.

“But I'm not exactly sure...” he trailed off, raising a hand to her cheek and stroking it lightly. He
paused, looking nervous.

“Perhaps you had better do it,” he suggested finally, “I've never been very good at things like
this.”

“Neither have I.” she said honestly, blushing. He smiled.

He gazed down at her softly, his smile slowly changing to a look of tenderness. “You don't
mind if I do it right or not, do you?”

She smiled gently, and Harry felt a thrill go through him.

“It's you, Harry.” she said simply, and he grinned at her. He raised his hands to either side of
her face, and she closed her eyes, and he allowed his fingers to touch every feature of her small
face, trailing down the bridge of her nose and sliding along her cheekbones and finally tracing
the soft outline of her smiling mouth...

Before Harry knew exactly what he was doing, or even what
Hermione was doing, they had both
moved in the same moment and kissed. Hermione rose to her toes, and her arms were around
his neck, and her lips were pressed warmly, delicately against his own. She pulled back slightly,
looking startled at her own actions, and then Harry bent again.

His arms slipped around her waist, and his hand rested at the back of her neck as she tilted her
chin back, allowing him to kiss her again. He felt her lips curve under his own and held her
closer; he'd never kissed anyone while she was smiling--

He pulled back reluctantly, still holding her waist. Her arms were still around his neck, and he
could feel her breathing rather quickly under his hands.

They gazed at each other, immersed in the sounds of water and wind and each other, and
finally, Harry spoke.

“I reckon... we're going to be all right, aren't we?”

She laughed softly, hiding her face in his chest and murmuring, “We'd better be. I think you've
had enough trouble.”

He dipped his head and breathed in the smell of her hair, and smiled.

“I think I've had enough trouble for both of us.”

Suddenly, there was an enormous splash from the lake's edge. The cool spray of the water
reached even them, and Hermione laughed as she tugged Harry down towards the edge of the
lake.

Ginny and Neville were standing knee-deep in the lake, laughing and holding fistfuls of what
looked like clear green seaweed. Luna was chatting happily to a dazed Ron, whose red hair was
sopping and covered in seaweed as he struggled out of the water.

“What on earth--” Hermione stared at Ron, “Ron, what are you doing?”

“Blame them.” Ron spluttered, jabbing a finger at his sister and Neville. “Dumping the stuff
down a man's back... just isn't right...”

Harry felt a laugh begin in his chest, and slowly, Hermione's face broke into a smile, and she
joined him in laughing.

Ron sloshed off after Neville and Ginny, who were sprinting around the shore, laughing and
holding hands. His threats echoed across the lake, mingled with Luna's serene comments.

Harry turned towards Hermione, who smiled and shook her head affectionately.

“Let's finish that walk.” he suggested, offering her his hand.

“I don't think we're finishing it as much as starting.” she remarked thoughtfully.

He smiled, taking a deep breath and letting it out.

“I hope that's always the case, Hermione.”
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