The End of the Beginning

Chapter 9

Hermione was writing furiously in her journal. She had started the instant she had finished unpacking and as the clock read three in the morning she still hadn't stopped. Her brow was furrowed as deep as any exam had ever sent it as she poured her thoughts onto paper. Things that she had long repressed in her conscious and things that she had never allowed herself to think.

She had been upset with Harry for a very, very long time. It wasn't that she didn't understand that he often had the entire wizarding world on his shoulders. She genuinely empathized with him. Hell, she had done everything short of giving her life to help him remove that burden.

But that didn't change the fact that she was human. She had her own burdens too and as long as she had known him, Harry had rarely given her troubles much thought. All too often, her problems only seemed to matter to Harry when they overlapped with his.

That's not to say that he didn't have his moments. Certainly when the cards were on the table and her life was at stake, he was as protective of her as anyone. Even more so in fact. No one took care of her in some of the ways Harry had. On every adventure together he had been an arm she could grab or a hand to hold. He had shielded her and looked after her when she had been hurt.

He even had his few moments outside of their more perilous adventures. She was especially grateful for how helpful he had been during Ron's Lavender phase or when he danced with her during the horcrux hunt. But those stuck out precisely because of how rare it was for Harry to show any genuine concern for her more mundane and non-life threatening problems.

She often did feel like she was simply there to keep him alive. Just another tool for him to complete the tasks set before him.

Never mind the fact that she went out of her way to take care of him or that she cared enough for him to trade her life for his.

Never mind that she had helped him with schoolwork, relationships, his friendship with Ron, and myriad other lesser problems for seven and a half years.

Never mind that she had sent her parents off without their memories just to be with him.

Never mind the fact that she gave up her only meaningful relationship to stay with him.

At times it had made her deeply resentful of him. There were times she wanted to scream and hex him into a pile of jelly. But she always kept her composure and soldiered on. Convinced that helping him was the right thing to do, regardless of any neglect she felt on her part.

Ron, bless him, had always tried to help her in his own way. At times his humor was all that had helped her keep it together. Maybe that's why she had loved him so much. But what she really needed was for Harry to acknowledge that she needed his help as much as he needed hers. That their relationship was one of give and take instead of Hermione giving and giving.

The dam had almost burst tonight. When he made another one of his stupid remarks about how she was the reason he was alive she almost lost it. She was at her wits end with his emotional neglect and without Ron around she didn't have anything standing in her way.

But then, he had said what he said tonight. It wasn't so much that he said the words that she had waited to hear from him for seven years, but it was how much she saw he meant them. She had seen Harry make promises he wasn't keen on keeping and this wasn't one of those. He had genuinely meant every word.

She could read all the signs when he was feeling guilty about something, that being one of his trademarks, but she had never seen him more regretful and sorry about anything for as long as she had known him. He had known in that moment how much he had hurt her, without her even saying it and it spoke volumes to Hermione about her relationship with Harry. When she finally allowed herself to open that part of her up, he had seen it without any prodding.

It was this more than anything else that troubled her. Why was it she was so willing to trust him and communicate so well with him when they were fighting for their lives, but she hadn't been willing to let herself trust him any other time?

She went through her usual arguments: that it was a product of adrenaline, that Harry had had enough on his plate already, or that she was better off talking to Ginny. But the truth was that despite how helpful Ginny could be, what Hermione had needed most was her best friend and that was Harry.

The other truth was that while it was true that Harry could have been much more attentive to her, Hermione never asked him for help either. Never once had she tried to tell him, verbally or otherwise, that she needed him. Never allowed him to see.

Why was that?

Why did she even care that he wasn't more involved in her more mundane worries?

If she did care so much, why had she never approached him about it?

While the truth was perhaps more complicated than she'd like to admit, the simple answer was that she had never felt worthy of him attending to her problems. Despite how upset she was that he didn't seem to care, if she was honest with herself, she never really expected him to. His problems had always looked so much larger and his need so much greater that she always convinced herself that his needs came first.

Not to mention that she had always had a low opinion of herself. It was easier to simply accept his neglect without approaching him than to approach him and be crushed by rejection. Deep down, she had been grateful that a guy like Harry had noticed her at all, let alone be friends with her, and so she was willing to put up with the emotional neglect if it meant she could keep her place.

That was, after all, the primary reason she developed a loyalty to him so fast. Her first year had not exactly been easy. Ron's comments on Halloween had spoken to her every fear: that no one liked her and that she would never fit in. But when Harry and Ron had come to rescue her from the troll, it wasn't some romantic notion of being saved by the shining knights in armor that made her lie to McGonagall, it had been the simple realization that they had remembered her. That he had remembered her. When they followed it up by becoming friends with her, her loyalty was sealed.

That was what made what Harry said so special. It wasn't just that he was trying to correct a wrong he had done. It was that, in his eyes, she was something special. She was someone that he cared about, not just because of what she had done for him, but because of who she was. He had said she was the most loyal and compassionate person he knew. To think that he would compare her to Ron or anyone else and not find her lacking was the sweetest thing anyone had ever told her (her parents excluded of course).

And he meant it. Merlin those green eyes of his were so intense. She could feel it in her bones that he cared, that he was sorry. She knew in her heart that she never had to worry about dealing with her problems without him again. It was ridiculous of course, to base all of that off one conversation, but she knew Harry. When he set his mind to something, there was nothing in the world that would stop him. She had seen that first hand.

Well, if he was planning on starting tonight, it was as good a time as any. She had been holding it together regarding Ron, but now that he wasn't physically present it was truly sinking in that it was over. She knew it to be the right thing, so why did it have to hurt so bloody much? It was time to put Harry's promise to use.

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