Completed: 8/21/05 3:11 PM
Posted: 8/21/05 3:25 PM
A/N: Aha! You thought my angsting days were over. Written a bit oddly – kinda like Black Dresses. Basically the required "final battle" romance-ish scene.
Blood. The ground reeked of it – sickly and metallic, like rusting copper pennies. Crimson-stained grass was obscured by the autumn leaves being blown out of the tall trees across the grounds; a fierce wind echoing the tortured cries. The screaming was as thick as the stench.
They looked like little dolls, the dead – porcelain faces sucked clear of all life and color by a single chartreuse blast. No matter the strength of the blood-pennies' odor, most of them were barely injured past a few scrapes and bruises, appearing as though they'd simply fallen and were simply unwilling or unable to get back to their feet. A monochromatic ending.
Over the mounds of the dead and past the burning hut, the black-on-black bodies aren't really that different. No masks, no shadowed cloaks and everyone is alike. Faces blur and the line that differs the two sides dies along with them.
Now, from a dying, spell-scorched pumpkin patch a doll is dragging itself; robes black, just like all the others. It's a girl, her once slender hands streaked with blood and one swollen tearing up the earth; digging, clawing, dragging, pulling. She is half-buried beneath corpses and churned earth covering her body in blood, entrails, and rich brown silt. A rust-colored leaf sticks to her tattered back.
People are still screaming, charging, fighting around her, but no one stops to help those too late to save, and the grass is stained in a smear behind her as her desperate pull-drag aggravates her numerous injuries. There is something almost stubborn to her desperation – each labored breath, each flushing expulsion of blood and fluids neither deterring her progress nor slackening her pace. And when any other mortal being would have expired from such wounds and such stubborn damaging, death seemed to be waiting just off to the side, patiently shouldering his scythe and pausing for her to get to this place that she was willing to kill herself to make it to before he'd let the blade drop across her neck.
Away she pulled herself. Away from the battle, away from the still bodies of friends and enemies all alike, and away from it all. The grass here was still green and crisp and smelling freshly cut, and as if sensing such purity, her gaping, spewing wounds stopped, held their breath and it was like she no longer had the blood left to bleed. There was no blasted earth, splintered tree-bark, or noxious fumes clouding the air and brightly lit wildflowers still poked their petal-ed heads above the grass un-trampled.
And here she collapsed.
Grass rustled, the wind sighed its saccharine lament and so very far off in the distance a bird twittered. A hand reached out and laid itself in her own. It's owner whispered to her in a halting, breaking voice.
Her body was truly empty for as she shuddered out cries, a scant few tears welled up in her battered eyes and then no more. "I-It's me, Harry. I'm here."
He sobbed in a shuddering, immeasurable release, and Hermione, laying beside her love, squeezed his hand as tightly as she was able. For his part, great crocodile tears poured from the corners of his green apple eyes and he cried enough tears for them both, giving all the strength he had into squeezing back.
"I knew you'd find me," he whispered through saline-slicked lips, and Hermione cried, choked, squeezed, and loved him for all she was worth.
They needed each other and Harry, grabbing a great fistful of grass with his free hand, managed to tug and rock and eventually roll himself across the small gap of sweet grass that separated them and he fell against her, their joined hands crushed between their bodies. They breathed in heavy, staccato rhythm, off-pace with one another, and their chests crashed into one another's, jarring the precious air from their mouths and lungs, but still a desperate, end-of-the-world reminder that they were here, together.
"I will always come for you," she told him, lips pressed to the ash-gray skin of his throat. Cold skin, lips tingling; "My place is with you. Forever."
He cried into her hair. It was bittersweet, lamentably poetic and just as finite as death could make it. Already his shadow was falling over the battle they could no longer see and licked at the edge of their sun-struck meadow that had somehow survived the carnage.
"If only I could see you."
It was choked into her knotted curls; one last selfish, wanting, confession of a wish. The curse – gray, electric, exploding – that had blasted him out so far had been preceded by the one that had taken his sight; burning, smoking, screaming, scalding out his vision. Sightless jade cried pink streams into her hair, saline diluting the thick crimson of the blood seeping from the corners. His mother's eyes were dead.
Hermione squeezed his hand unable to speak; unable to tell him he was better off blind, unable to sooth his broken soul, unable to even breath a whispered word of love through her soft, erratic gasps for life. But Harry squeezed back, without judgment or grudge at her silence, and the slowing rise and fall of his chest as his skin died to gray was like a fiery knife in her gut; twisting, wrenching, cutting her open to find that last sustaining pocket of blood.
The wind picked up, almost as if to try and ease their labored breaths by filling their gaping mouths with billows of air, flavored by the sharp tang of earth and the bite of a coming winter. Crisp, crinkly leaves were plucked from their tenuous hold on thin branches, scooped from their hollowed hibernation in the roots of trees and blown down across the meadow in cart-wheeling, tumbling cacophony. The leaves rolled over their joined bodies like brief caresses, flew above them in dizzying spirals, and caught in their hair and tattered clothes. They clung to them as if they were trying to pull them up and away into the air along with them, to die along with them; autumn sinking into a frozen winter.
"I'm so tired."
"I know." She kissed the hollow of his throat with shaking lips. "Sleep now."
"I'll dream of you," he said, but they both knew he wouldn't. There was no time. "And I'll see your beautiful face again...and I'll be with you..."
"Good," she whispered, her voice breaking.
He was like a block of ice against her own body – her legs trembling, intertwined with his – and his voice was equally cold and weighted as though he were speaking through a thick fog, uncertainty of who was on the other side making his voice tremulous.
"Is it finished?" was what he asked.
"It's over" was what she said.
The sun was going down, winter was coming, and it was over. As sure as the breath was dying in their lungs, as sure as the decaying autumn leaves gathered around them encouragingly, it was over. They'd failed, they'd succeeded – none of it mattered anymore. They two, together, had been fighting forever, for their lives, for eternity. No more.
Their souls were old, aged past their boundaries; as crinkled and brittle as the autumn leaves now becoming their coffin. War and pestilence, horror and cruelty, torture and trials had weathered the untangible, invisible energy, and this was just the moment where their two bodies finally caught up with their dying spirits. A tragedy, a loss, a blessing.
"I love you."
It didn't matter who said, who didn't say it. It was unsayable, it was implied, it was known. They were irrevocably bound to one another; he to her, she to him, they two together. Their love ran deeper than could be measured, wider than could be imagined, and permeated ever infinitesimal speck of the universe and beyond; it did not need to be vocalized aloud because it simply was. But simply because it didn't need to be told, doesn't mean it can't be – and they both wanted it, probably both needed it.
Death would not wait much longer for Hermione Granger. Already the soul-stealing scythe was becoming hot in his hands and he was checking the sinking sun with the anxiety of a child, his only want in life to take those whose time had come and add their souls to his weathered collection. His icy hand was settling over them both, paralyzing, freezing, sucking, coaxing – a dementor's kiss of their very life force.
The words were barely distinguishable, so lightly wheezed out onto the tumultuous winds, but the voice was all that needed to be heard anyway. It was shocked, as though it never could have imagined such a thing ever – something improbable, impossible even. Pigs flying, hell freezing over, a thirtieth day to February kind of impossible.
"It's really over."
And they were at peace; lying together, dying together in a tiny scrap of field that had escaped the war. The exhaustive battle of their lives was now dwindling to a premature halt, but only in the eyes of those who had no understanding of the weight those young bodies had carried in so short a time. Like Atlas with the world upon his shoulders. No one had ever asked if they might like to take a break from holding up the battle, or offered to take their place if only so that they might finally stretch their arms or for once just stand up perfectly straight, unencumbered.
Tangled together, they looked more like a pair of lovers reposing together on a remote hillside in the country, the hypnotic lull of the setting sun persuading them into a calm sleep. The leaves were caught all around them and Death was hovering over them. Hermione, slicked in blood, was the dying heat of autumn, and Harry, with his cursed stone-gray complexion, was the ice of approaching winter, capturing the devoted fall in his strong arms and bringing it into numbness and oblivion.
Hermione squeezed his hand and the barely-there touch was returned with equal strength – all they had left, given to each other.
Harry closed his eyes first; she dimly felt the soft caress of his lashes through her blood-stuck hair, and then Hermione too let her eyes drift gratefully shut, her chest shuddering with her breaths and rising a little less each time. It was cold, it was hot; dark, and light. It was everything and nothing and it was over, so none of it mattered anyway. It felt so good to just close their eyes, close their thoughts, let go.
The first shining curve of the sun touched the horizon and their joined breaths stopped in poetic harmony. The scythe came down – once, twice – and it was done and Death had come and gone from the tiny little field where the two lovers lay embracing.
It was like they'd fallen into a long sleep that no one would be able to wake them from, and even if they tried it was useless. No matter their appearance, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger were gone. And if only someone had taken the world off of their shoulders, just once, their friends might have known that they didn't want to wake up. Not any more.
Because deep in the cell of their hearts, they were glad to go...