Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Harry Potter. It all belongs to J.K. Rowling, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, et al. I write these stories purely for entertainment purposes; no copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: I've had this little story in the works for a long time, and was inspired to finish it during an HP movie marathon in preparation for DH Part One. (DH Pt. 1, by the way, was amazing!) I somehow really liked the idea of Hermione as an Auror Medic, and of course wanted to write a story about her and Harry figuring themselves out, so here we are. I also always enjoy Dolohov getting his comeuppance, the evil git. Also, I freely mix DH bookverse and movieverse toward the end. This story isn't meant to be particularly complicated or complex, just some fluffy fun, two or three chapters at most.
Confessions of the Heart
Hermione Granger was having a bad night.
In the three years since Harry had defeated Voldemort and he, Ron, and Hermione had joined the Aurors, they had seen their share of nasty battles, Hermione thought grimly, but this one eclipsed anything they had seen yet.
They had been sent to Latvia, of all places, to take down a large cell of Death Eaters who had gone into hiding after the fall of the Dark Lord. Ironically, perhaps, the cell was headed by Anton Dolohov, the same wizard who had rendered Hermione unconscious in the Department of Mysteries four years before. She still bore a long scar on her abdomen from that encounter, although no one else knew that but Madame Pomfrey.
When they had been given the mission at Auror headquarters, Harry and Ron had looked at her, then looked at each other, and Hermione could see the grimness settle on them like its own sort of cloak. They were determined to bring in Dolohov or kill him, make him pay for what he had done to her. She shared their disgust, but her inner voice, the one that knew these two boys so well, instantly alerted her that this fight was going to be ugly, and therefore, dangerous.
Hermione had earned her own sort of place in their squad over the last two years. She was an excellent fighter, but also knew more about healing than anyone else in their unit. She would stay with Harry and Ron, fighting, until the injuries grew too numerous or too critical, and then would go with the injured back to their rendezvous point, performing triage on wounds that might otherwise be deadly. She had saved quite a number of Aurors who had been seriously hurt, simply by giving them immediate attention and doing what she could for them before they reached home. Her work in the squad had become a pattern, one that the others relied on her to execute.
Dolohov had about twenty Death Eaters with him, those who were there out of either loyalty or fear, and so the Ministry had sent thirty Aurors to deal with the group. It was a much larger number than they usually took on missions, and Hermione had stocked her medical kit heavily before they left, trying to assess how many supplies she would need.
The wounds had begun early, but Hermione had stayed in the fight as long as she could, forming a tight back-to-back triangle with Harry and Ron and dueling one Death Eater after another. When they finally found Dolohov in all the fighting, they confronted him as a trio, their faces set.
"Ah, Miss Granger," Dolohov sneered. "Come back for another dose of pain and humiliation at my hands, I see. You have your two admirers with you, actually able to fight this time. How quaint."
Hermione felt Harry and Ron tense beside her, and she prayed they would stay calm.
"You haven't learned any respect, Dolohov," Hermione said, arching a brow derisively. "I'm very glad to have the opportunity to teach you some – and I'm sure the boys here are just as eager for their chance."
A smirk formed at the corner of Dolohov's mouth, just before he raised his wand to strike – but Harry was faster. He deflected Dolohov's curse, and the fight began.
It went on for hours – and they had already fought their way to Dolohov. Hermione felt as though it would never end. Dolohov was constantly joined by one of his Death Eaters and then another, so that they were almost always fighting two or three. Spells and curses flew every which way, and Hermione was conscious of nothing but the two men beside her and the ones in front of her, aware of every move, every shift in posture.
At last it was simply the three of them, Dolohov, and two other Death Eaters. The rest of the Aurors and Death Eaters had been killed, captured, or injured; Hermione dreaded what awaited her back at their rendezvous point. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Ron put one of the Death Eaters in a full body bind, leaving only Dolohov and one other. With a quick tumble, Ron landed next to Harry, who caught the other Death Eater with a well-placed "Petrificus Totalis!"
"Hermione, go!" Ron said to her before deflecting another curse from Dolohov.
Hermione hesitated; she wanted to help them if they needed her, but she knew the two of them together were more than a match for Dolohov.
From her other side, she felt Harry move closer, even while keeping his eyes and body on defense against Dolohov and continuing to use his wand. "Hermione, go," he repeated. "You don't want to see this."
Hermione caught a glimpse of the hardness in the emerald eyes that were usually so gentle, and she shuddered.
"Bring yourselves back," she ordered, and apparated away.
She thanked her stars for the clever manacles she had helped Harry create that sent captured prisoners directly to Ministry holding cells. Aurors simply had to place the cuffs on an incapacitated Death Eater for them to disappear. Otherwise, the injury count they sustained on every mission might have been much worse – and on this mission at least, it looked as though the casualties were going to be quite high enough. What awaited her at the cave that was serving as their temporary headquarters was as bad as she had feared. All of the Aurors they had brought with them had sustained injuries ranging from minor to critical. Hermione also noticed that several faces were missing; she set her lips as she accepted the fact that they had lost some of their team. Firmly placing that in the back of her mind, she went to work on the living, attending to the crucial ones first, the half-dozen who had sustained life-threatening curses or wounds. She became so focused on the triage, treating one wound and then another, administering potions, murmuring spells to try and help the healing process, that time slipped by without her noticing. When she looked up from the last of her six emergency patients, she suddenly realized that she had not heard the boys come back. She looked over to Luna, who had become an Auror despite the surprise and doubts of her classmates. The blonde girl was quite the fighter now, but the air of otherworldliness that had clung to her during their school days still remained.
"Luna, where are Ron and Harry?" she asked.
Luna shook her head. She was clutching her arm, which was, Hermione could see, broken and sitting at an awkward angle. "I don't know, Hermione. I'm sure they're all right, though."
"They aren't here?" Hermione exclaimed. "I thought I just hadn't heard them come in."
Luna's mouth twitched in amusement, though the half-smile didn't quite manage to cover the pain on her face. "They always come to you first. You know that."
Hermione stood up, scanning the cave anxiously with her eyes. It was large, and only lit with wands and bluebell flames hovering next to various Aurors, but she could make out faces in the flickering light. Now that the immediate urgency of major wounds was past, she could truly assess who had come back and who hadn't, and she felt her lips tighten again as she counted. Nine, including Ron and Harry, were missing. Hermione's heart began to beat frantically when she realized that she had left them. She had left them to fight Dolohov by themselves, and if anything had happened to either of them –
Hermione began to run toward the front of the cave, but she heard noise behind her, and suddenly Luna grabbed her arm with her good hand.
"Hermione, don't. They wouldn't want it – you know what they're like, they'll kill you for putting yourself in danger again –"
"And since when have I ever listened to them about that?" Hermione snapped. "I'm an Auror just like they are, and they know I'm as good a fighter as anyone here – and if they're out there, I'm not going to let them die! I never have, and I'm not going to start now! I won't stay here when I can be helping them!"
Her voice had risen until the entire cave heard her, and by the end of her tirade she could hear the frantic fear in her own voice. They never took this long to come back, even when they were the last to arrive. Hermione tore her arm from Luna's grasp and was about to run out of the cave when suddenly, with a loud BANG, Ron and Harry appeared in front of her.
Or rather, Ron appeared in front of her. He was carrying Harry, and he was covered in blood. Harry's blood.
Hermione's eyes widened in horror. There were openings all over Harry's body, oozing blood at an alarming rate. Her best friend was unconscious and white as a sheet.
"Sectumsempra. Help him," Ron gasped. Hermione noticed that he was wheezing; he had broken ribs. She didn't ask questions; there was no time.
Ron laid Harry on the ground at her feet, and Hermione immediately began muttering the countercurses and healing spells. Harry lay unmoving as she worked, and Hermione fought down the panic that threatened to overwhelm her. Sweet Morgana, there was so much blood. She finished closing up his wounds and frantically felt for the pulse in his neck.
There wasn't one.
"No!" Hermione cried. She shifted her body so that she was straddling his torso and began pounding the heels of her hands into his sternum. She tilted his head back and pressed her mouth to his, pushing air into his lungs.
"You do not get to die this way; do you hear me, Harry?" Hermione panted angrily. "Don't you dare, not now!"
She had insisted that both the boys learn CPR and had taught anyone else in their Auror Academy class who wanted to learn. Ron had thought it was ridiculous at the time, but Harry had understood. A Rennervate spell would not rouse someone who was dead, but CPR might. It had saved more than one person on their missions, and Ron had quickly learned to see its merit.
She worked for what seemed like years, although in reality it was scarcely two minutes. Suddenly Harry inhaled, filling his lungs explosively. Both Hermione and Ron went limp with relief, and Hermione blinked against sudden tears as Harry's eyelids fluttered.
"You're fine, mate," Ron said reassuringly. "Hermione here was brilliant, as usual."
"We're going to get you home, Harry," Hermione said quietly. "Just rest."
Harry's mouth curved with a trace of his usual smile, and he managed a little nod before slipping back into unconsciousness. Hermione kept her fingers pressed against the vein in his wrist for several minutes to be sure; his pulse stayed strong and steady under her fingertips.
Hermione finally sat back on her heels, exhausted. She brushed away the tears that were still on her cheeks and looked at Ron. "Thank Merlin you got him here."
Ron nodded, and Hermione suddenly realized how drawn and pale he was. "Ron! Here, pull that robe off and let me look at your ribs." Ron began to move awkwardly, obviously in pain, and Hermione went over to help him. There was considerable tenderness and swelling in his side, and Ron winced when her hands came anywhere near it. She stood up and ran to her kit in the back of the cave, returning with a large rolled bandage. She helped him pull his shirt off and began to strap his ribs tightly. Ron started to speak in order to distract himself from the pain.
"We got ambushed, Hermione. It was only us and Dolohov when you left, and we thought we were alone, but I think he had set up some sort of signal for the last of his fighters. There were another five of them that suddenly appeared, and so it was the two of us against six of them. It was a hard fight – you know how long we'd already been fighting, up to then – but we were doing pretty well up until the end. Harry and I had just managed a double Petrificus spell on Dolohov, so he certainly couldn't get away, when one of the others hit me with a levitation spell and threw me into a tree." Here Ron grimaced, indicating the broken ribs that Hermione was still working over. "It took me a moment to get up, I was so dazed, and so Harry was by himself fighting the two that were left. One of them somehow managed to hit him with the Sectumsempra spell – I think his reflexes just weren't quite quick enough. We were both so tired by then. I ran over, firing any spell I could think of to keep them back, grabbed Harry and Apparated. I knew it was dangerous to bring him back that way, especially since I was injured too, but I knew if I didn't he more than likely wouldn't make it. You know the rest." Ron sighed and closed his eyes in weariness, then opened them again and gave her a small smile. "I left one of them dealing with a Bat-Bogey Hex and the other fighting off a flock of your murderous birds, I think."
Hermione also smiled at the thought of those two particular spells. Her eyes met Ron's, and they shared a silent moment of remembering before Ron crawled back to the wall and leaned against it, closing his eyes again.
"What about Dolohov?" Hermione inquired suddenly. "You immobilized him, but did you cuff him before you left?"
Ron nodded, his eyes still closed. "Yes, somehow. When I got up, I managed to crawl over and cuff him, even though I could barely see straight. I wanted to help Harry, but I would never have forgiven myself if that menace walked free. I saw Harry get hit just after that."
"It wasn't your fault, Ron," Hermione reassured him, hearing the heavy guilt in her friend's voice. "We've all been there before; that's why we fight in teams. You're lucky you were conscious at all, and you managed to capture Dolohov and bring Harry back, despite your own injuries. I'm very proud of you."
She didn't receive a response to that, but she saw the faint smile that flitted over Ron's face.
"How did Dolohov's companions know that spell?" Hermione questioned softly. "I can't believe Snape would have taught it to them willingly; even he wasn't that evil."
"Dolohov or one of the others might have heard him use it, though; that was the spell that took George's ear off the night we took Harry from the Dursleys' house," Ron reminded her. "And of all the spells that Death Eaters use, a Sectumsempra isn't nearly the worst."
Hermione nodded in her turn, her expression sober as she looked at Ron and herself, covered in blood and dirt, and then over at Harry, who was even more bloody and was sleeping the exhausted slumber of the seriously injured. Hermione found herself suddenly shaking, and Luna appeared out of nowhere over her shoulder.
"Here, drink this," she said, handing Hermione a small thermos. Luna was still holding her broken arm against her abdomen, but she had managed to carry the thermos in her other hand without jarring her arm. "Careful; it's hot."
Hermione sipped slowly, realizing with a thankful sigh that it was steaming tea. After a minute, she started to turn around to have a look at Luna's arm, but the other girl shook her head.
"Just sit for a moment, Hermione," she admonished. "I'll be all right, and you've had a hard night of it, especially in the last few minutes. I'm going to check on Ronald."
Luna made her way over to where Ron was resting, and Hermione heard her soft inquiry and Ron's murmured answer. She continued to sip her tea and kept her eyes on Harry, unable to stop reliving the moment when his pulse had ceased. Sheer terror had swept over her then, terror and an emptiness that felt like a yawning black hole waiting to engulf her. She had trained herself to be focused and efficient during a battle, keeping back the emotions that caught up to her later, but right then she had been absolutely paralyzed by the possibility that Harry would not live.
"You should admit that you're in love with him," Ron's voice said calmly.
Hermione jumped as though she had been stung, and she jerked her gaze to where Ron was sitting, Luna curled comfortably against his uninjured side. Ron's blue eyes were gazing at her with sympathy, but she began to shake her head in automatic denial.
"It's not like that, Ron, you know it isn't."
"Do I?" Ron smiled, shaking his head a bit in return. "Hermione, the way you look at him when you think no one is watching is enough to tell me that you love him, even if you don't want to admit it. I used to be completely oblivious to that sort of thing, but I'd like to think that I've grown up a bit in the last few years. I've had a little help, too," he added, with a warm glance at Luna.
Hermione took in the look between them. How long had that been going on? She gave Luna a questioning stare, but Luna just smiled her serene smile.
"Ron's right, you know," said the blonde witch. "Harry loves you."
Hermione shook her head again, her throat tight. "He couldn't. Why would he?"
"'Why wouldn't he?' is the better question," said the Ravenclaw girl. "Hermione, you've been with him through everything; you've always understood him better than anyone. Why wouldn't he?"
"He does love you, Hermione," Ron declared. "This is one of those instances where you're both being idiots because you're both so scared. He looks at you too, when he's sure you won't notice, but he's just as afraid as you are. What was he ever taught about love growing up, except what we've been able to give him? You and I, my family, Sirius, Remus, Dumbledore, and Hagrid, that's all the love he's ever known. He's lost half of those people because of all this bloody fighting, and he blames himself for it. Of course he's afraid of losing you."
It made sense. Hermione knew Harry inside and out, knew the guilt that he burdened himself with, knew about the nightmares that still tortured him. If Ron was right and he did love her (and, oh, she prayed he was right), she could see all of the reasons he would come up with for staying away from her, could see how he would convince himself that she felt nothing more than friendship for him – because she did the same thing every moment she was with him.
Hermione gave Ron a small smile. "When did you get to be so smart?"
Ron raised his eyebrows. "You mean I wasn't always?"
Hermione rolled her eyes, but her smile was genuine this time, which had been Ron's objective in the first place.
"Finish looking after the rest of these people," Ron said. "We'll keep an eye on Harry until you're ready to go."
Hermione took a deep breath. "Right." She rose to her feet and strode over to Luna. "You first. I need to bind that arm until you can have it set properly."
Several hours later, an exhausted Hermione sat slowly onto a bed at St. Mungo's, doing her best not to disturb either the redhead who lay sleeping on one side of her, or the dark-haired wizard on the other. Luna was in the bed beyond Ron, her forearm set properly in a clean white cast. The healers had repaired the break, but wanted to keep her arm stable for a day or two.
After binding Luna's arm, Hermione had gone through the rest of the Aurors with minor injuries. Some had gashes and cuts that simply needed mending, others had burns that were more serious, or bits of shrapnel that needed removing. She couldn't do anything about the latter, except make sure that the debris was not in danger of piercing any major arteries or veins. Once everyone had been looked after, she had called St. Mungo's Transportation Elves.
The transportation team was an innovation of which Hermione was particularly proud. Moving injured Aurors was often a problem; apparition and portkeys were disorienting even when one was physically healthy, and to use either one when injured could result in splinching, vomiting, or other aggravation of injuries. Combat, more often than not, did not take place in close proximity to a Floo; therefore the Floo Network was also impractical.
So Hermione had poked, prodded, wheedled, and argued her way into forming a medical transportation team made up of hired House Elves. She often thought that if she had not been one of the "Golden Trio," and if everyone hadn't been intent on fawning over the three of them after the war ended, she never would have accomplished it. Even after working her way through all of the wizarding bureaucracy, and managing to talk her way past the prejudice against and ignorance about house elves, finding Elves who were willing to participate was not easy at first, especially because she insisted on paying them. She was finally able to attract some of the elves from the old "pureblood" families, many of which were in disarray and disgrace after Voldemort's defeat. Hermione found that, like Dobby, there were plenty of elves who had been abused at the hands of their Death Eater masters, and once they understood that she wanted their service even though she paid them for it, and that she respected both their traditions and their magic, they were more than willing to come and work for the hospital. The one stipulation from the elves as a group had been that Hermione had to be their direct supervisor; they were willing to trust her, but did not yet trust all witches and wizards to treat them fairly.
The magic of the House Elves allowed them to transport patients cleanly, without any ill effects, and Hermione had found them to be invaluable. After setting Luna's arm as best she could, Hermione had called for the leader of the Elves' team, a cheerful female elf named Rose, and let her assess how many elves would be needed. In the meantime, Hermione had sent her otter Patronus to Madame Pomfrey, asking her to go over to St. Mungo's as soon as possible. Harry absolutely refused to let anyone other than Poppy (or Hermione herself) tend to him, so Madame Pomfrey was always alerted first when he was being brought in after a fight.
Hermione then led four of the elves over to Harry, who was still sleeping, albeit somewhat restlessly. Hermione knew that he never slept very soundly; although the visions planted by Voledmort had stopped, he still dreamt of some of the worst moments of the war. In addition, their training as Aurors meant that they could all wake at any disturbance. Hermione suspected that his sleep was only as deep as it was because of his injuries; his body was forcing his mind into submission.
The elves' eyes widened when they saw who was lying on the ground. No need for introductions, then, Hermione thought. Aloud, she only said, "Harry was hit with a Sectumsempra curse and was very seriously hurt; be as careful as possible with him."
She removed a shrunken canvas stretcher from the pocket of her robes and enlarged it, carefully levitating Harry onto it before nodding to the elves. Despite their diminutive size, elves were surprisingly strong creatures, and the four of them lifted Harry with ease and gentleness before disappearing.
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief; knowing that Harry was safe and in Poppy's care lifted a huge burden from her mind. She had turned briskly and began the work of transporting the other patients. Those who could stand on their own feet simply took the hand of a house elf and left, whereupon the elves would return for another patient. Those who needed stretchers had been levitated on to them and then taken away. Ron and Luna had helped, remaining with Hermione until everyone else had been transported.
"Thank you," she said gratefully, looking at the pair. Both were pale and tired, but wore equal smiles of reassurance.
"You're welcome," Luna said. "We couldn't leave you when you have so many nargles around you, could we?"
"I suppose not," Hermione said, with her own smile at Luna's reference to the invisible creatures. Although she had never been able to see all of Luna's mythical beings for herself, Hermione had learned to take Luna's abilities on faith; the thestral ride in fifth year had been proof enough.
"I'm not about to let you out of my sight after what happened earlier," Ron said sharply. "Harry would have my head if I did, wouldn't he? And you spent enough years doing work for us; it's about time I took my share of it."
"You've been taking your share and more for quite a while now, Ron," Hermione replied seriously. "No one standing here has ever doubted how courageous and good-hearted you are; you've nothing to make up for anymore. You did that already." Smiling, she stood on her toes and kissed his cheek, and he nodded in acknowledgement of the compliment, his eyes thanking her without words.
They all reached out together to take hands with the patiently waiting trio of house elves, and found themselves moments later in the admittance ward of St. Mungo's, with healers bustling to and fro.
Hermione sighed softly as she sank into the bed, relishing the softness and warmth that took the ache from her muscles. She had immediately begun to help the healers, and Ron and Luna were whisked off to be attended to. She had only stopped working when everyone was settled, and it took the combined insistence of two healers to persuade her to have her injuries treated and go to sleep. Thus she found herself assigned to the bed between Ron and Harry, too tired to even take off her robes. The staff at St. Mungo's knew by now that the Golden Trio was not to be separated, for if they were, they all inevitably struggled against being treated or confined to bed. Nine years of perilous adventures, combat, and near escapes had made it imperative for each one of them to know that the other two were safe and living. Apparently, Hermione thought amusedly, they've also caught on to Luna and Ron's attachment, given where they placed her.
She looked over at Ron, giving an affectionate grimace at the sound of his snoring. Aside from the broken ribs, he had suffered several painful burns and deep slashes in his limbs, as well as considerable bruising from his brutal encounter with the tree. The healers had assured her that he would be fine after a few healing potions and a few days' rest, but it was still a relief to see him sleeping so normally.
Then she turned over on her other side to gaze at Harry, and her heart twisted painfully as she saw again the stark red lines of healing gashes crisscrossing his skin. Poppy had worked over him for a long time, and while she had been sure that Harry would recover, she had said it would take some time for him to be up to full strength again.
Hermione's breath caught as she watched Harry sleep. He looked somehow both older and younger without his glasses on, something she had noticed before, but never had it tugged at her heartstrings as it did now. She could see in his face the little boy he had been when they first came to Hogwarts, but she also saw the young man he was and the older man would be in the years to come. He was truly Dumbledore's successor in magical strength and wisdom; although it might take him years to acquire all the skills of their old headmaster, he was already far beyond most of their generation in his ability to intuitively assess danger and unravel the complex political scheming of wizarding society. A skill that our seven years at Hogwarts taught him in spades, Hermione thought grimly. He never would have survived without it, or without us. Thank Merlin and Morgana that Ron and I were there for him then and were able to save him tonight. He had come so close to dying, and without him Hermione wasn't sure she could bear living. She arose from her bed on tiptoe and went to his bedside, leaning over silently to lay a hand on his head in benediction.
"I love you, Harry James," she whispered. "Don't ever leave me."
With that, she slid back into bed and fell asleep, her body facing the green-eyed young wizard who held her heart.