Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J. K. Rowling. This story was written for fun, not profit.
Author's Note: Originally written for the hhrserendipity community on Livejournal with the following prompt: Harry and Hermione. Last moments in the final battle. Unspoken thoughts.
The worst part -- the absolute worst -- is that it's not Harry or Ron kneeling on hard ground with blood matting sweaty hair and tears spilling from smoke-reddened eyes. It's her, the least qualified person for the job, but she holds one small hand anyway and listens to the breath rattling away.
"Take care of him," Ginny says, or something to that effect. Her voice is more like a painful gurgle, and there is a detached thought that healing spells require a wand for fine control, especially when it comes to removing blood from the lungs.
But her wand's not here and she is, so she just nods. "I will."
Ginny gives a little sigh, something that is threat and promise and exasperation at idiot boys and sheer relief, and maybe there's some other word she can look up later and apply to a sentiment like that. She has no time now -- no books, books don't tell her anything about this -- and she just sits and waits.
She tells Harry later, her breath catching in her throat. He slides down the wall like he's forgotten how to stand.
After that things are never the same.
For a while Ron keeps an eye on him -- as he should, she thinks in a desperate haze, he also lost Ginny, he's the one who doesn't need words to understand feelings -- but then he's wounded and who knows if he'll ever leave St Mungo's, and now it's just her.
She is tired and guilty, because she is brilliant and she can't stitch a life back together with books and parchment and ink running over her fingers like black blood. Harry's holding up the weight of the world, the weight of everyone. Someone has to hold him up, give him something to live for and not just fight for -- she can't do this shecan'tshecan'tshecan't.
What kind of witch are you? she doesn't ask anyone out loud. The words stick in her throat, and she watches Harry and pities him and loves him and shivers at the hugeness of it all.
One night she stumbles into his room, but this time he's miraculously asleep before her and the tender-annoyed go to sleep, you're not good to anyone half-dead shrivels up unspoken. She sits on the edge of his cot and brushes his hair back from his face, and when she presses a gentle kiss to his forehead he doesn't even stir.
She loves Harry -- not just Harry, not alwaysforeveronly Harry, but there is a special piece of her heart that is his and will always be his, and maybe in another life she would brush a kiss across his lips and press calloused fingers against his too-bony cheek. She does not think of romance, just tears and could-have-beens, and what use are those?
And she knows he loves her too, and she is not concerned that maybe it's not in the same way. There is too much else at stake for words like "unrequited" to cross her mind.
So when Hermione hugs Harry tightly before he creeps out of hiding and stands up in the middle of a battlefield, when she hides her face against his shoulder and bites her lip to mask shuddering sobs, she does not tell him anything. Her last words are whispers full of advice and spells and all the things that she's good at, because she thinks those are more immediately important than declarations that might mean nothing or everything come tomorrow.
She remembers Ginny and a promise and bloody flecks at the corner of a gaping mouth. She remembers Harry relearning how to stand and breathe and live, and she can't won't mustn't do that to him all over again. Even good words can hurt.
Hermione lets him go and dodges her own attackers, and she does not call after him to tell him she loves him.