He gargled blushing velvet-red and laid a hand against the mottled black of bruising creeping across his chest. Smoke billowed from the castle’s wreckage and wrapped its thieving fingers around his last hope of clemency.
Somehow, he imagined that she would come for him; would march right through the line of Death Eaters—all pluck and stupid courage and shrill commands—and make him go with her.
She fought her fight and he fought his, and somehow the stream of orange from her wand had found his body and he’d not had time to find her eyes before he fell. Clawing at the mud and rock and bits of sharp, blown-to-pieces forest beneath him, he’d closed his eyes against the ache in his gut and the regret that clogged his throat.
And he waited.
He waited until the burning smell reached him, and the crunching of trees and shrieking of spells seemed to twist into the whisper of flickering flames as though they were lapping at his skin instead of the school.
He waited until he almost convinced himself that the flashing colours—all seeping together into the black—were her face hovering above him.
He waited until there was no more colour and the black was icy fog against his skin.
As his veins began to tighten against the cold, a sound danced out from underneath the sudden silence, and he fought to get up—hands slipping on moss and feet wedged in debris. The sound chased him as he writhed, and its soft, silken caress calmed his racing heart.
When he heard it for a second time he barked a bubble of a laugh, spraying his angel with glowing droplets of viscous, lively blood.
She was on top of him before he managed a response, sending shards of agony through his torso. He reached a hand to the dangling ends of her soaking-wet hair and pulled her down so she could hear him. “Granger—Hermione,” he rasped. “I’m—I’m sorry. I should’ve walked—should’ve walked away.”
Her tears fell thick and heavy onto his face. The sting of salt on his lips reminded him of another time—the year before—when they’d been his tears, and she’d coughed awkwardly and turned on her heal to leave.
She hadn’t left then, and she’d found him again.
Warm fingers enclosed his shaking hand, and she dropped something soft and delicate into his palm before lacing their fingers together. One of the petals jammed between their thumbs and he knew what it was and what it meant. He drew in a deep, crushing breath and clung to her and the rose he’d given her when he’d known—velvet-red and rich, pooling black.
“I love you anyway,” she whispered, and he let go.