Disclaimer: The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.
Summary: Bloody and wounded, scarred and just searching for a beacon of hope at the end of the war.
All the soldiers say
"It'll be alright,
We may make it through the war
If we make it through the night."
All the people, they say:
"What a lovely day, yeah, we won the war.
May have lost a million men, but we've got a million more."
All the people, they say
"People Say" by Portugal. The Man
He groaned. "I don't know what the fuck you were thinking," he angrily muttered as he dipped the make shift cloth that had once been his shirt into the water, soaking it and rinsing it before using it to wiped her forehead. "I mean, honestly, Hermione, what the hell?"
She smiled weakly, her breath coming out in short gasps. "Don't be such a selfish prat, Harry… you shouldn't be here, I can take care of myself."
He rolled his eyes, huffing as he drew back the cloth, moving back to repeat the action he'd been doing continually for the past three hours. "Don't be ridiculous, Hermione, I only got you to stop bleeding an hour ago… you haven't even started properly clotting yet. How can you just expect me to leave after you jumped in front of that spell for me?"
She frowned. "Don't be a bloody martyr, Harry—"
"Oh, I'm not; you've taken on that role far too well for me to even attempt it," he snapped, squeezing the cloth before moving to a long cut across her midsection, wincing at the sight as he softly dabbed it. "You're not supposed to get hurt."
"Who says?" she challenged with a glare, wincing a bit when Harry poked too roughly in his fit of aggravation. "Careful," she whispered the plead with a low hiss.
He grimaced, regretfully. "You shouldn't have jumped in front of the curse, I hope you finally realize that."
"Stop being so ungrateful."
"No," he adamantly shook his head. "God damn it, Hermione! Of all people… I thought you were smarter than this."
"I am the smart one, you prat! —It's why I'm the one who understands why it has to be this way and you, you imbecile, don't," she retorted through gritted teeth as she held back a groan at the sting that felt like it was frying at whatever was left of the mutilated looking flesh surrounding the deep gash that slashed across her stomach.
"I hope you realize that this is probably going to scar," he informed her with a low growl, one that grew stronger when she simply rolled her eyes in reply. "Stop it!" he ordered, clenching a fist in a desperate attempt to contain his aggravation. "Stop acting so blasé about this, Hermione, you could have died, for fuck's sake!"
Hermione sighed, sending him a tired look as her eyes fluttered a bit, her body begging for rest that she willed herself to avoid after the way that she had banged her head on a rock after she fell from the curse.
"Don't you dare fall asleep!" Harry intoned.
"I know, stop being a prat. I saved your damn life and here you are lecturing me, you ungrateful berk!"
He rolled his eyes. "And what good would it have done if you had died, huh? Tell me, Hermione, how the hell is your life worth less than mine, because last I checked you were the brains of this whole operation, I'm just the damn face… the lame one of the group."
"Don't say that," she whispered, pulling a hand up despite the fact that it felt as if it weighed a ton in her exhausted state. Slowly, but surely she brought it to his face, caressing him softly and smiling when his body seemed to give in as he leaned into her palm. "I couldn't let you just take the curse, Harry. You didn't see it coming, at least I was able to place some sort of a defense against it, it would have been worse without it… you would have died, no ifs about it."
He softly moved his face, his mouth hot against her palm as he brought a hand up and used it to softly push her palm towards his awaiting mouth. He placed a soft, open mouth kiss against it, one that had her gasping for air in her fit of shock.
He pulled away slowly, but kept her hand in his, entwining their finger. "You really never did get it."
"Get what?" she asked, her voice hoarse and weak.
"How much I need you."
She smiled up at him, mustering up the widest one she could manage, despite how weak it ultimately ended up being. "Same here, but, Harry, out of the two of us… I couldn't let you die, for both my own selfish reasons and the fact that they need you… all of them."
He scoffed. "For what, Hermione? I'm just a face."
"Don't say that. You're hope, you have no idea how much strength that can bring."
He shook his head. "Come on, Hermione, let's be honest, I'm just a kid. I'm an average kid who they stupidly deified… I'm an excuse to make people think that there's no chance at a loss because I'm invincible. I'm not, though… I'm not that person."
"No, God no," Hermione refuted, her smile somehow finding the strength to widen, even if just a smidge. "Harry," she squeezed his hand lightly. "You… if it weren't for you I don't know how I could have held onto hope. You've given me so much strength, can't you see that? If… if you didn't make it to the end of this, there'd be no chance for our side, Harry, we need you."
"And what about what I need?"
She rolled her eyes, silently scolding him for her petulance with just a mere glance his way;--one that immediately had him cowering in shame. "Don't be selfish now, Harry. Sacrifices always have to be made, it's a war, and you know that."
He adamantly shook his head. "I can't do it without you, none of it…"
"You're so much stronger than you think you are."
He groaned in aggravation as he pulled away from her and returned to the cloth that he had let himself forget about, quickly soaking and rinsing it before returning to caring for her scars. "You know the healing charms, not me. Fucking hell," he angrily muttered. "It should have been me, not you… never you."
He closed his eyes and released a drawn out breath as he tried to regain control over his warring emotions. "Sorry," he whispered. "I just… I just need you, Hermione."
"I'm sure you can find someone else to do the research; there are smarter people than me, believe it or not."
"That's not it, Hermione."
"Then I don't see what the problem is. Most people would be thanking me, kissing the ground I walk on in their fit of undying devotion, but you—you berate me, you bastard!"
"Because what you did was stupid," he grumbled.
She managed a small laugh at his words and Harry couldn't help, but allow the small smile tugging on his lips to turn into a full-fledged grin upon hearing the breathy sound.
"Really though, Hermione," he said, seriously, as he dropped the cloth and grasped her face in both his hands. "I need you."
"I'm going to let you in on a little not-so-secret-secret," she impishly whispered. "I need you, too."
He groaned, throwing his head back. "You still don't get it."
"Then how about you tell me?" she goaded.
"I love you, you fucking bint!" he finally snapped, a scowl marring the otherwise sweet declaration.
"I love you, too, you darn prat," she returned with a puckish smile.
"No, you don't get it!"
"Harry, I'm tired—I don't even know where I'm finding the strength to speak, much less stay awake—so why not make this all a bit easier for me?"
"I'm in love with you, you dolt."
Hermione gasped in shock, trying to grasp at some sort of a reply when suddenly two lips descended upon hers. She laid there stiffly as she tried to process what was going on, where that had suddenly come from as the shocking prospect that she may have fallen asleep, despite her possible concussion.
When Harry pulled away his eyes were wide with apology and, at that moment, Hermione realized just how much of a reality it actually was. She bit her lip as she tried to configure some sort of a reply.
She shook her head, an action she immediately regretted when she felt her brain practically swimming in her head a tidal wave of nausea hitting her. She swallowed thickly. "Promise me something, will you?"
He nodded, a tinge of trepidation notably crossing his face. "Anything."
"Do that again when I'm strong enough to respond," she smiled flirtatiously, biting her lip as a blush formed on her cheeks.
Harry grinned. "It'd be my pleasure… but to be able to do that, we can't have you taking anymore stupid risks like this."
"It wasn't a stupid risk," Hermione bitterly retorted.
"Just promise me that you wont do it again."
"Can you promise me that you wont jump in front of a hex for me?" when she received no reply, she continued. "Then I can't either. I need you just as much as you need me, Harry… you can't expect me to make a promise like that. All I can tell you is that, at the end of all this, I'll be there for you. Promise."
He nodded begrudgingly as his eyes looked down at the wound across her stomach, his finger idly tracing the flesh around it. "This should have been me though… if anything the scar would have looked sexy on me," he grinned towards her.
Hermione laughed softly as she moved her hand and laid it over his. "You're gaining a sense of humor, I like that… it's been ages since I've heard you laugh or even crack a joke."
He moved his other hand to caress her face, rubbing small circles into her cheeks. "Maybe I just haven't had much inspiration to try till now."
"I'm glad… you make me happy, too, Harry."
author's note: I was having a tremendous amount of difficulty writing the next chapter of In Retrospect (the new one is almost finished, but given how much I've struggled with it, it will probably need tons of revision) when the idea of this just popped into my head. It's a small piece, just a short snippet from my version of the war, but hopefully it was decent enough.
Also, many thanks to my beta Searcy!