Harry could see how Hermione always wore her robes and hid her face under her hair. She covered up her legs, and her arms, because she didn't want anyone to see. She didn't want anyone to see the scars from the war. She'd been distant lately, and not even Ron, her boyfriend, could draw her out of her shell.
He could see the bags under her eyes, and wished he could do something when she would scream during the night. Everyone could hear her, but she'd go on the next day as if nothing was wrong. He saw how she had grown into a beautiful woman, and he saw how she looked at herself, too. She hated herself. She hated the way her breasts were too small, compared to Ginny's. She hated the way she never seemed to tame her hair. She hated the way the blood coursing through her veins was that of an outcast. She hated everything about herself.
Harry knew these feelings all too well, he had them himself. He's wake up, drenched in sweat on the nights he could bring himself to sleep. He had to force himself to eat, knowing it would only increase the worry he already caused. He hated himself, too. He couldn't stop Voldemort soon enough, he hadn't been able to save the people who needed him the most. He couldn't make Ginny happy, and when she started to get close to Dean Thomas again, he could hardly bring himself to care. She deserved more than what Harry could give to her, and he trusted that Dean would. Ginny had recovered from the death of Fred, though she still cried. Harry couldn't look at George anymore, or any of the Weasley's, for that matter. He couldn't save anyone. And he hid it all behind a smile as if nothing ever happened.
Hermione did, too. But there were times when her face would go carefully blank and her hand would grab a fist full of her robe. Harry knew she was thinking about Bellatrix. When she would smile it wouldn't reach her tired eyes. But no one seemed to notice. Hermione saw how Harry looked and knew that he, too, felt the same way. It takes one to know one. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had grown apart after the war. Hermione had a feeling Ron was cheating on her, but she didn't really care. Not anymore.
Harry wanted to punch Ron for being so stupid. The year rolled on, and everything was routine. Hermione passed her time studying, and she got top marks, again. She wouldn't jeopardize her grades in school over something like emotions. Harry was quite the opposite, and his grades fell to barely passing. All of the professors knew why, though.
On Christmas in their 7th year, Ron and the remaining Weasley's went home. Hermione wanted to stay, to be alone. Harry wanted to stay to be there for Hermione if she changed her mind.
They were the only Gryffindors staying over the holidays. They exchanged gifts, and then Hermione told him about how she was feeling. Harry gasped when he found out, having no idea what to do.
"Harry," she drew up the sleeve of her robes. "I- uh- I've been cutting myself." There were thin, silvery scars that ran up and down her arm, all of them stemming from the word mudblood on her arm. Harry stared at her. He remembered the night Bellatrix carved into her arm, branding her.
He drew up his sleeve, too. There were similar scars on his. He was ashamed.
"Since the war ended," she said quietly. Harry nodded.
"Me, too. I think… I think that maybe we should see Madam Pomfrey, Hermione."
"It's why I showed you."
"We'll go together, okay? I'll be with you the whole time."
Now, months later, they sat near the common room fire and talked. They talked about how they were feeling, and they both knew that they were the only ones who understood what the other was going through.
When Ginny found out about Hermione, she'd been furious. She yelled at Hermione, and everyone in the Gryffindor tower could hear Ginny's thundering voice from her dorm.
" Do you know what I've been through? How could you even think you have it worse than me? I lost my brothers, you bitch! Stop feeling sorry for yourself! I've been through just as much and you don't see me cutting my arms up, do you?" Ginny screamed. Hermione left the room, sobbing and disappeared in the castle. No one stopped her. And no one said a thing to anyone in another house. This was a Gryffindor matter.
The next morning, Hermione was at the breakfast table, laughing and smiling like nothing happened, like she didn't almost kill herself last night. If Professor Flitwick hadn't have walked in, Hermione wouldn't be alive, and Ginny would never forgive herself. Hermione wanted her to feel horrible. That's why she almost went over the edge, it seemed like no one would care, like she'd lost everything that mattered. But no, Hermione was fine the next day, and Ginny, being as stubborn as she was, ignored her best friend. They hadn't talked since.
Harry told Ron, and Harry half- wished he exploded like Ginny. They hadn't spoken in weeks, even though they shared the same bedroom, Ron found a way to avoid him. He had no idea what to say to him. Ron just said "Oh." and walked away, leaving Harry more hurt and confused than angry. The weeks were awkward between them, and Harry found himself ignoring Ron, too.
Harry and Hermione were inseparable. They went to recovery meetings together, they ate together, and they studied together. Ron had barely spoken to Hermione since Ginny and her stopped being friends. She supposed it was because he didn't want to break up with her and have her relapse. She sneered at the thought. As if she'd care anymore. No one from the other houses noticed something wrong with The Golden Trio, and the three were content with that.
Harry sat down his potions essay he was working on.
"You know, Hermione? I think I liked it better before the war."
"Everyone did, Harry," she muttered.
"D- do you think we would still be friends with Ron and Ginny? If we hadn't, well, you know."
"Honestly? I don't think I'd want to. Ron is cheating on me. I don't think that would've changed. Ginny was looking for a fight since you weren't getting jealous over Dean. I think she would've found another thing to snap at me about. Like how I don't care that Ron's been checking Lavender out. We were never meant to be, Harry," her tone was bitter as she stared into the fire.
"I'm glad we still have eachother, 'Mione," Harry whispered, grabbing her hand. She looked at him, and his heart fluttered. She was smiling, a real smile. It reached her eyes, and everything. She leaned forward and kissed him.
"You're my best friend, Harry. You're all I'll ever need."
He kissed her again. They were slow, tender kisses, filled with longing and love. That's when he realised he'd been waiting so long for this moment. When he felt like, maybe, he'd saved her life by being next to her. He thought that she was the greatest woman he's ever known, and that maybe he just needed to save her to save hundreds of others. She was going to become a Mediwitch, after all. And then, he didn't hate himself as much anymore.
Hermione felt beautiful. Harry was panting her name between kisses, and she felt loved. She felt special. He was on top of her, one hand tangled in her hair, the other running up her thigh, sending shivers down her body. She'd never been touched this way before. Not even Ron touched her like this. His touch was so rushed and full of lust, but Harry didn't expect her to do anything like Ron had. Harry was gentle and caring, when Ron was angry and quick. She never felt like she was cared about, seeing as how Ron touched Lavender the same way. Harry pulled away from Hermione and she frowned.
"What's wrong?" she asked, sitting up, not even realizing she'd been under him.
"You're beautiful, Hermione Granger. I'm sorry that you don't see it, but you are," he said, grabbing her hand in his. It was calloused and yet soft at the same time. Harry was perfect.
"You are, too, Harry. Maybe we just needed to find each other to understand it."
He smiled at her.
"Could we just- stay here a while? I don't really want to go to my bedroom," she said, blushing a little.
"Sure." He laid down on the couch and wiggled to make room for her. Hermione was facing the dying fire, her back to Harry's stomach. He draped an arm around her waist and used his other hand as a pillow. Hermione brought her knees a little closer to her chest. They both closed their eyes and fell into a dreamless sleep.
Little did they know they would be awoken hours later by three house elves with huge, watering eyes, squealing over the sight of the couple. For now, they were content to sleep in the arms of the person that mattered most to them. Suddenly, their scars didn't seem so important.