For the first time
Summary: Harry has never belonged anywhere. He was a wizard and a muggle, a halfblood. He has always been unique and where everybody else says ‘special’, he replies, quietly in his own heart, ‘alone’.
Hermione remembered the day she found out about Harry Potter.
It was the day she first set foot on the world of the Witches and the Wizards, the world of magic. It was interesting, and overwhelming, and very much different from the world she knew, the world she grew up in. And she’d wondered whether she’d fit in this world much better than she did than the one before and if not, then it wouldn’t be so bad at all. She would have her books and her magic to keep her company. She wouldn’t be lonely.
The first time she encountered the name Harry Potter was through a book, a name without a face, a legend of a boy who survived the killing curse of the powerful Dark Lord. A missing hero. An orphan.
She had traced his name in the book (Famous Witches and Wizards of the Twentieth Century Third Edition, Chapter Thirty-Four, page 777) over and over again, trying to figure out why his name made her pause in her reading so abruptly, what made him so special among the many wizards and witches she’d read about, including Albus Dumbledore (Defeater of the Dark Wizard Grindelwald, recipient of the First Order of Merlin, Current Headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the one whose presence made Voldemort cower). In the end, she had shrugged it off and continued reading, readying herself to face this new world she would now be immersed in.
His name continued to haunt the back of her mind, ringing HarryPotterHarryPotterHarryPotter over and over again. But she didn’t mind, it was a comforting name, and she’d felt like he was her first friend, the one she’d thought about and wondered about and worried about.
It was nice.
Hermione remembered the first time she saw Harry Potter.
It was a special day, because she was finally going to Hogwarts, and she’d be away from the others who’d hurt her and teased her because she liked books better than she liked most people. She was excited and very nervous. She already knew that Hogwarts always had floating candles up in the ceiling through a spell, and that she was to be sorted to her house by the Sorting Hat. She’d pored over Hogwarts: A History over the summer and memorized each line, committing them to memory. She liked to be prepared, you never knew if one of the professors would be conducting a pop quiz!
Her mother had cried, while her father looked his stern self, but she could see the softness around his eyes, and the way he couldn’t quite let go of her while they said their goodbyes. She remembered her mother smoothing down her bushy hair, like she always had when Hermione was much smaller, and how her father had kissed her on the forehead, an affectionate habit that had tapered off while she was growing up.
Hermione found she couldn’t quite say goodbye without her voice going wobbly, and she realised she was going to miss her parents very much while she was away. She’d promised to always write, and to take care of herself.
‘Do your best.’ her mother said.
‘Make us proud.’ her father said.
And she would, Hermione promised.
Hermione saw her fellow first years say their goodbyes to their families. She noticed a family of redheads, the mother looking haggard but fond, each of the four children receiving a firm hug and a kiss and a family of blonds, all looking dignified and very rich, the parents looking stern and cold, and the son haughty, but Hermione could see a soft look in the parent’s eyes as they each gave their son a brief hug and a few words.
The train gave its last honk, signaling that it was time to leave and students jumped inside, waving a last goodbye before setting off to find their compartments. Hermione wavered, wondering if she should find an occupied compartment and share, or find an empty one.
She pursed her lip and shook her head, straightening her back and lifting her chin. She would try to make friends now, and if it didn’t work out, then she would just to live with it and spend the next seven years by herself. She knew she could do it, it wouldn’t be different than what she had been doing for the last six years. She’d adjust. She wouldn’t be lonely.
Hermione heard the whispers, the reverrent saying of the name Harry Potter. Each person she passed were exclaiming over the fact that Harry Potter was on board and was going to study at Hogwarts too!
‘Are you sure?’ a female student asked.
‘Yeah, yeah! Heard it from the Weasly Twins, I did.’ her male companione replied.
‘Where is he then?’
‘That compartment at the end’ the boy pointed.
Hermione blinked and saw where he was pointing at, then immediately walked up to said compartment, not thinking, just pulling it open.
Then she saw him. A skinny boy with messy dark hair and green eyes behind the big, rounded spectacles he wore. He did not look remarkable in any way, not the strong looking Harry Potter she’d imagined, nor the ethereal one she had dreams about.
Hermione couldn’t understand how this boy, who was in the same age as her, could defeat the fearsome Lord Voldemort, unless the Dark Lord wasn’t that fearsome at all.
She couldn’t understand why he could be so powerful while he looked so vulnerable, so thin and pale, as if he didn’t get much sunlight at all.
But most of all, she couldn’t understand why the sight of him made her relieved all of the sudden, as if she really had been worrying about him, and why she felt sad, because he looked like he hadn’t been loved for a very long time.
She was very much confused.
Hermione remembered the first time she met Harry.
She was frustrated and angry and sad. She couldn’t understand what she was doing wrong, she was only doing her best, just like what she promised to her parents. She was answering the professors’ questions, and she was trying to be nice to everyone, but they didn’t like her at all. She was angry because she didn’t do anything wrong to make everyone angry at her! It wasn’t her fault she knew the answers, and that she was smart and had bushy hair and buck teeth!
She’d tried not answering the teachers question all day once, and the teacher had asked if there was anything wrong because she had been unusually quiet. She had said nothing was wrong, but the teacher had called her parents to ask if everything was okay at home. Her parents had asked her if she was okay and why was she not participating in class like she used to? She’d said that she only did it to make the others like her and be her friend, and her parents got this very sad expression on their faces so she promised not to do it anymore. The next day, she answered every question and paid even more attention in class, and her classmates hated her even more. But that was alright, as long as her parents didn’t get that expression on their faces anymore, she didn’t care. Her parents loved her, and that was enough.
She didn’t need anyone else.
She had been crying ever since she’d overheard Ron Weasley say hurtful things about her, and berating herself why she was crying over such an inconsequential thing as Weasley’s opinion of her, when the troll had entered the bathroom and broken all the doors. She had been paralysed with fear and an overwhelming urge of death about to strike her as the troll lifted its wooden club to hit her when Harry and Ron burst in and fought it for her.
After the troll had been dealt with, Harry came up to her and held out his hand. She had stared at him, still in shock, until he lifted the corners of his lips in a reassuring smile and took her hand to help her. She felt the tingle shoot up through her and thought,
And Hermione remembered every moment, every word, every touch, every smile, with Harry since then.
‘I won’t let you hurt him,’ was the one thing Hermione had thought as she shielded Harry from Sirius, thinking he wanted to hurt her friend, shoving him behind her forcefully. She hadn’t thought of anything else, not about the fact that the man in front of her was a convicted murderer and that he would not hesitate to kill her, nor that there was little she could do to stop him. There hadn’t been anything else, except her fierce determination and Harry’s warm (alive, so alive) body behind her.
It wasn’t until later, while she was cleaning up for bed, at near dawn, that she noticed her hands were clammy and trembling, that her heart hadn’t stopped pounding and the haunted look in her eyes when she imagined all of the things that could’ve gone wrong, that she might’ve lost her best friend and that she might have never gotten over it.
It frightened her, the fact that Harry had become such an important part of her life in just three short years. She’d never needed anyone this much before, never depended on anyone else until now.
‘How did this happen?’ she asked herself.
In the end, she didn’t get to sleep at all.
‘I love him.’
It was a sudden, unconscious thought, one that hadn’t been at all related to the previous ones that had been running through her head. It was neither surprising, or new, the idea of her loving Harry.
She looked over to where he was lounging in one of the many couches in the Gryffindor common room, lost in thought, his Transfigurations homework lying misshapen in the table in front of him, with several sentences erased and rewritten. She had finished her own an hour ago, and was now reading for her Muggle Studies class. She watched him cover up a yawn and sitting up, presumably to work on his homework once again.
She turned back to her book, hiding a smile.
No, it wasn’t surprising at all.
‘I’d die for him‘, she screamed in her head, in her heart, while Bellatrix carved painful words into her arm. ‘This is nothing, nothing, nothing at all, if I lost him. Nothing.’
‘I’d kill for him‘ her heart thundered, striking Death Eaters left and right while she ran, her dress for Bill and Fleur’s wedding fluttering around her, hearing Harry’s running footsteps just behind her, his erratic breathing her anchor. ‘I’d kill for him, and I would never regret it.’
“It frightens me,” she spoke out loud, her nose still buried on the book in front of her. She heard Harry shift from where he was sleeping just beside her in the bunk, face slack in sleep, “It frightens me sometimes, how much I love you.”
She lowered her book and turned to him, smoothing away his hair away from his forehead gently, and she continued, shifting her gaze to the flap of the tent, voice lowering in volume, “I would do a lot of things, just to keep you safe. Unspeakable things.”
“I don’t think I have ever loved, or will ever love, someone this way. I…I don’t think I’d want to.” She looked back at Harry again, whose forehead had creased slightly, as if he was hearing her, but his breathing was slow and steady, still. “I would kill for you, die for you. I would happily do both, with no regrets, if it meant you didn’t die.”
The hours blurred into each other, and she felt numb, firing hexes and curses with frightening accuracy at each enemy she encountered, not thinking, willing herself to continue on, knowing that the fight wasn’t over until either Hogwarts fell or every last ally of Voldemort died or the Dark Lord himself was dead.
“Hermione!” she felt Ron tugging at her arm, forcing her to look at him. “I think, I might know how to get rid of the Horcrux in the cup!”
Hermione’s full attention instantly zeroed in on Ron.
Killing the Horcrux was surprisingly easy once they got the basilisk fang, just a stab, and a satisfying scream made by the Horcrux and then it was over. Hermione stared at where the soul had vanished a moment ago, feeling the rage and grief inside her calm while she gripped the fang in her hand.
‘All this pain, this suffering, because of the greed of one man.’ she thought, disgusted. ‘Just one man.’
And then they heard Voldemort.
“I’ll go with you.”
She hated how the words appeared to completely shatter Harry, how his eyes widened with sad understanding and his mouth frown in guilt the next second. She saw the emotions warring inside him through his clear green eyes, and wanted to reach out so much her hands unconsciously twitch in his direction.
‘Let me go with you,’ she pleaded to him with her heart, ‘Please.’
She knew what was going to happen when he went to Voldemort, knew what Harry needed to do to defeat him, that she was going to lose him soon. If he was going to die, she was going to die with him.
But he shook his head, and his eyes showed guilt and grief.
‘I love you so much!’ she wanted to scream at him.
‘Don’t leave me.’ her heart whispered.
She quickly gathered him in her arms, holding him tightly to her, her lips forming the words ‘don’tgodon’tgodon’tgo‘ while she cried, desperate to hold him to her, to keep him safe.
‘I can’t. I’m sorry.’ the ferocity of his embrace told her.
‘I love you much.’ his lips in her hair told her.
Hermione remembered the day Harry broke her heart.
Hermione couldn’t quite remember what happened the next few minutes, hours, but she knew it had felt like years to her, the knowing, the heavy knowledge of the inevitable. She wasn’t sure how she had survived, how many people she had killed, how many of her allies, her friends, had died, while she fought and bled along with the rest of them.
What she did remember though, was the taste of blood and tears in her mouth.
“I’m sorry for worrying you,” Harry whispered to her, later, over the top of her head, arms tight around her and fingers carding through her hair.
‘I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused you.’ he didn’t say.
Hermione remembered the debilitating pain of losing him, and the overwhelming relief of getting him back, and shuddered.
“Just don’t do it again.” she replied, fingers tapping his chest in sharp staccato and sighed, slowly.
Hermione blinked slowly, frowning at the empty space beside her in the bed, and sat up. Warm sunlight was streaming from the open window, the cloudless sky outside telling her that it was going to be a nice morning with nice weather. She figured Harry must have only gotten up minutes before her, since the space where he normally slept was still warm. She got up and stretched her arms, feeling herself waking up in increments and put on her robe, tying it securely before stepping out the bedroom.
She found Harry sitting in the kitchen table, like most mornings, still in his pyjamas while he poured milk in his cereal in one hand, and scratched Crookshanks’ fur in the other. He looked up, and seeing her, gave a sleepy smile.
She walked towards him and gave him a morning kiss, morning breath and all. It had become a habit, over the years, something small and simple in their life together that she treasured dearly.
“Good morning, love.” Harry murmured against her lips.
“Good morning.” she replied, granting him a small smile before she went on to prepare her own breakfast.
Later, as she was putting her keys in her pocket, Harry already having left for work half an hour before her, she felt something bump against her fingers. Puzzled, she pulled it out and saw a ring.
‘Marry me. – H’
And Hermione remembered the first time Harry made her deliriously happy, and the countless joy since.