When and How

Hermione batted her eyelashes frantically, hoping to free them of the blood that streamed from the gash in her forehead. She fumbled through her bag; her hands were shaking violently and her mind was racing. Harry's eyes were closed; he was unconscious, asleep, or somewhere in between. The infrequency of his breaths made made her heart race all the more.

She could hear the strain in his breathing as she located the bottle she had been searching for. She could hear his occasional gasps as she began her administrations. She slid her fingers under the chain of the locket to slide it off of him. It wouldn't budge. Like cattle in the road, it refused to move. Hermione whined a little in frustration, then pulled a little more. It was stuck to him.

Her hand ventured into her robes; she removed her wand to point it at the Horcrux. She could almost hear it laughing at her, insulting her every breath. It whispered things only she knew; she struggled to keep her composure, though no one would see it she lost it.

"Diffindo," she cried and the locket shot from Harry's body. There was already a pool of blood on his chest where the spell had hit, though the outer edge had been cauterised by heat from the locket, the edges of his torn shirt were beginning to become one with his flesh.

Hermione grimaced as she contemplated removing his shirt entirely. Doing so would cross an invisible boundary between the two of them. Sure, she'd seen him shirtless on a number of occasions. In fact, she was beginning to grow used to it. This, however, was different – this time the two hands destined to remove his clothing were hers.

'No', she thought to herself. She shook the idea from her mind and began to pour a little Dittany into the wound on his chest, careful to avoid spilling. It bubbled a little, his skin began to regrow.

It was then that she noticed it: there was a large bite on the back of his arm. It was beginning to bruise; the skin around it looked as though it were diseased. Hermione tried her best to clean the holes, though the fabric of Harry's shirt proved to be more and more of a hindrance. Hermione wiped the sweat from her brow. For his sake, she would have to.

Hermione bit her lower lip. Her hand ventured to the edge of Harry's shirt; it pulled a small bunch of fabric. As she pulled the cloth away from his skin and off of his body, she took extra care not to move too quickly or too forcefully; she did what she could to be careful given the circumstances, though spots of partially-dried blood complicated the task.

His breath hitched as her pinky finger trailed up his torso. He was reacting to her in ways she had only imagined. She swallowed thickly, once again grateful for his current state of alertness. Hermione set the shirt at the bedside and crawled-up a little closer to get at his injuries, pouring the thick, brown liquid into the place where Nagini had bitten him.

His body was slick with sweat, as was her own. Hermione sighed. If he awoke now, she didn't even know where to begin. She was almost completely on top of him.

She stoppered the bottle and made to move. A strong but gentle hand stopped her.

"Hermione," Harry moaned sleepily. "Don't leave me." His arm held her in a tight embrace. Though it was freezing outside the tent, Hermione swore it was getting hotter and hotter inside.

"I – I won't leave you," Hermione stammered, "I promise." She would never leave him. She was his loyal friend. "I love you," she added softly. Her heart fluttered; the words flowed freely.

She loved him. That was true. She could count the reasons. She could count the ways. She loved him dearly and she would tell him. Not just in a gentle, passionate whisper, but she would tell him, her eyes locked to his. As to when that would be, she didn't really know – and for once in life, she was fine not knowing. She loved him and that was enough. For now.

She lay there for a few more minutes, nestled against Harry's body. The chaos of the day had drained the little energy that Hermione had when she awoke that morning. Exhaustion quickly overtook her delicate form; her arms slowly slid down Harry and onto the bed. Her hair spread gracefully upon his chest as her breathing slowed and her eyelids became heavy.

'I love him', she thought to herself and smiled. 'I love him'.

Her eyes closed; she was lost to peaceful slumber.

When and how didn't matter. What mattered, she decided, was that she loved him.

Author's Note: I know it's a nice large lump of fluff, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. Please review!