Dedicated to Airelle; she doesn't read Harry Potter, and much less any fan fiction about it. I haven't shared this many tears with someone in ages. Love, you know I'll never desert you.
"Another night, another dream wasted on you."
She'd been crying for hours, despite the initial horror having past days before. Most every sound forced her limply out of bed, and out into the cold. Her eyes would scan the forest surrounding them, looking for him. Her mind would play tricks on her; a faraway tree would suddenly take the appearance of a man, a flower floating in the wind would look like a tuft of red hair.
But of course things weren't truly what they seemed. Every little thing she saw was everything but him.
He'd gone, and accused her of picking Harry over him. She would never, could never… not in his sense of the phrase.
Fresh tears streaming down her face, she eventually resorted to taking the shift Harry had abandoned by going to bed, leaving the locket on the chair by the entrance to the tent.
She held the Horcrux in her hand, feeling the ticking of the tiny heart inside it against her pale skin. She could barely stand to look at the thing; all she could see reflected in the gold of the watch was Ron's angered face as he tore the locket from his neck just moments before he left.
A sob escaped Hermione's throat. She curled up on the hard chair with her knees pressed closely against her chest, the Horcrux hanging limply from her hand and less than a centimeter away from dragging to the floor. She buried her mouth in her knees and released the harsh wails that had been dying to escape. New tears painted her face multiple times per second, rushing down her cheeks with such ferocity she was sure there'd be ruts left if she didn't calm herself soon.
Unfortunately for her breaking heart, Hermione couldn't calm herself.
Without him there, there may as well have been nothing. She could have followed him, could have Disapparated after him… left Harry to deal with the Horcruxes on his own. But she hadn't, and, rationally speaking, simply couldn't have. She'd promised him, promised she'd stay with him until the end.
Had that promise really been enough to overpower her love for Ron? Apparently it had.
Nightmares had haunted the little bits of sleep she'd had since Ron left; brutal, vicious nightmares that tore at her insides and made her awake shaking and crying. None of them woke Harry, but sometimes she wondered if he could hear her through his sleep…
Time was running out. Every second was marked by the Horcrux that hung on the chain her hand held. The time ticked away like the pulse behind an aching bruise; the little time she could imagine counting on her fingertips.
They had to act soon and quickly, before it really was too late. She didn't have a plan, but she'd be damned if she went much longer without trying to think of one.
The tears would continue, cease, and come once more. The migraines would continue to pound in her head, the nightmares would continue to bring her pain. But she had to fight through it; throw aside her personal suffering just long enough to bring them another step closer in reaching Voldemort's defeat.
Hermione reached for her beaded bag, slipping the locket around her neck. She pulled out several things she thought she'd need in order to make an educated decision as to where they should go next. She read passages in multiple books through watery eyes, ignoring the stains her tears left on the pages.
And though she worked hard and determinedly until the sun rose in the sky and she heard Harry stirring in his bed, her eyes would occasionally flutter to stare outside the tent, hoping halfheartedly to see Ronald Weasley step into the clearing once more.