The End of the Beginning

By Andrew Crawford

Drama / Romance

Chapter 35

Hermione woke up the last morning before the winter holidays to find Harry asleep on the couch in the common room.

"Harry, why didn't you go to bed?"

"Had a lot to think about." He grumbled, groping for his classes. Hermione couldn't help but smile at his rumpled hair.

"I know it's been rough since the breakup, I've kept trying to talk to you…"

"And I kept avoiding you, I'm sorry."

"It's okay; sometimes you don't want to talk. I get that." She took a seat next to him on the couch. "Are you okay?"

Harry hesitated, "I don't know."

She frowned, "What do you mean?"

"Maybe I've just been getting my whole life wrong." Harry ran his hand through his hair, "Maybe I've been so focused on what others thought of me, even when I thought I didn't care, that I've completely missed being my own man. I had never thought about it until Aubrey said it to me, but I've spent my whole life letting other people define me in some way. I never once thought for myself who Harry Potter was."

He said all of this with the same detached calm that he had used when he had told her about the horcruxes. A memory that felt like it was from a different life.

"So you talked to Aubrey?"

"Yeah, she came in the night it happened. She had some interesting things to say."

"I can imagine."

"Ron found himself a keeper." Harry smiled.

Hermione smiled back, "That we can agree on."

An amiable silence fell, only the sound of the clock ticking and the distant sounds of students in the corridor could be heard.

"Well, I think you better get ready. See you at breakfast?" Hermione stood up to leave.

"Yeah." Harry ran his hand through his hair again and made his way to his room. Hermione made her way into the corridor and towards her usual meeting spot with Luke in the entrance hall. She was taking a shortcut and about to push a portrait back when a hushed voice made her stop.

"You have to tell her."

"No I don't."

"It's only fair."

Hermione pressed her ear to the canvas, curiosity overtaking her. One of the voices certainly belonged to Luke, the other one she didn't recognize.

"It's not right and you know it Luke." A female voice scolded.

"No, that's not the real crime here." Hermione cringed; she had ever heard Luke's voice sound so harsh.

"I know it's hard," The female voice filled with sympathy, "but it's not fair to involve her and she not even know it."

"It's not happening, at least not now, end of discussion." Hermione heard both sets of footsteps make their way down the steps. She couldn't bring herself to move and her brain was in overdrive. She had known there was something Luke was hiding, but hearing him admit to it and refuse to even acknowledge the possibility of telling her made Hermione's mind whirl. What could it be that he had to be so secretive about? What did he mean by "that's not the real crime"? Why was this girl so sympathetic to him?

"Oi!"

A small first year bumped into Hermione's back in the dark passage. "What's the holdup?" Hermione pushed the portrait open to illuminate a small Gryffindor boy by the name of Logan. When Logan caught sight of Hermione he let out a small yelp.

"Apologies Miss Granger." His eyes went wide with fear and a smile stretched across Hermione's face.

"No worries Logan, just because I'm Head Girl doesn't mean I'm going to get you in trouble for bumping into me. Relax." She patted him on the shoulder, Logan visibly relaxed and let out a long breath.

"Next time I'll make sure of who it is before I run my mouth." Logan ran off down the steps two at a time, Hermione smiling as he went. She had almost forgotten why she had been stopped in the passage before her feet brought her to the foot of the stairs.

"'Morning luv." Luke gave her a kiss on the cheek.

"Good morning Luke." She faked a smile back, her mind back to racing. There hadn't been anything unusual about him since their date. He was back to being a perfectly charming and handsome man, but now Hermione could see it for the mask it was. It was all too perfect. "Ready for the holiday?"

"I am." He smiled lazily as they walked hand in hand into the Great Hall, "By the way, I talked to my mum and I'm able to spend some time with you if you'd like."

"That'd be great." She briefly thought to herself that it might be weird having her new boyfriend at the Burrow for the holiday, but now was as good a time as any. Besides, Ron was bringing Aubrey and Harry and Ginny were probably going to be the center of attention anyways.

"Good morning Hermione." Ginny's voice was lacking its usual enthusiasm. She hadn't taken the breakup well.

"Good morning Ginny." She put her arm around her friend and gave her a squeeze, getting a forced smile out of the redhead. "How are you?"

"I'll manage." Ginny lifted her eyes towards the front door. "I'll see you around." Right as she got up to leave Harry approached the table and sat across from Hermione, a distinct frown on his face.

"What did you expect? She's still pretty hurt you know." Hermione parsed her tone carefully, treading the line between sympathetic and stern.

"Well it's pretty hard to talk to her when she leaves the room every time I come around." Harry grumbled into his toast.

"Well, that's what happens sometimes Yoko." Hermione smiled but Harry and Luke both looked confused. "John Lennon's wife? Broke up the Beatles?" when their confusion continued Hermione blew out an irritated breath. "You'd think the muggle world never existed!"

Harry laughed while Luke looked more confused than ever. Harry finally took pity on him. "She's a little more muggle than most witches." He explained, winking in her direction.

"What do you mean by that Mr. Potter?" she used her false sweet voice, teasing Harry that he was in dangerous waters.

"Just that you know more about muggles than most."

Recognizing the hidden deeper compliment, Hermione smiled as Ron and Aubrey joined them and the boys soon struck up a conversation about how to split the teams for quidditch over the holidays.

One thing I'll never understand. Hermione laughed to herself, boys and their quidditch.

She eyed Luke carefully. It was rare to get moments where she could observe without having to participate in the conversation, but again nothing seemed amiss. She could still see the mask, but nothing had let it slip.

While the boys made their plans for the holiday, Hermione was forming a plan all her own.

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