Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J.K. Rowling. This story was written for fun, not profit.

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Because I Love Her

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They have a wedding picture up on the wall. He thinks their marriage is something like it - it's beautiful and he loves it, but all he can think of is how uncomfortable the high collar of his dress robe was.

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Hermione likes to fuss, picking and choosing and straightening until he wants to tell her to stop it already, there isn't going to be a bloody test. She purses her lips and scolds. It's all he can do to stay quiet, because an argument isn't worth the big deal she'd make of it.

Sometimes he wonders exactly when he started tuning her out, when it became less of a burden for him to lie to her than to deal with her exacting, too-precise standards. When he realizes that it started before the marriage, he's not even surprised.

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"So why did you marry her?" Ginny says, and what does she know anyway, at least she and Neville can talk to each other.

He shrugs. "Because I love her." And of course it's not enough.

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Somewhere along the line he realizes that Hermione is comfortable. He's known her for more than a decade now and they've been through everything together. There's no woman in the world he's closer to.

And maybe that's the problem, he thinks. When he leaves the dishes in the sink instead of cleaning them, he hears Hermione's voice in his head, lecturing or nagging or just being disapproving. He's too close to her. It feels uncomfortably like he got a mother and sister as well as a wife, and as if none of them really know how to laugh.

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"So you're in love with her," Ginny says after a moment. "That's something. That's good."

He has to stop and shake his head. "No," he says. "But I love her."

And then she understands. "Oh. Oh, Harry." She laughs softly - not mocking, just sympathetic, because he knows she doesn't know what to say.

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He married Hermione because it was expected and practical and easy - boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy and girl occasionally almost die in front of each other while fighting evil wizard. He married her because he loves her, and he never stopped to think that he loves Ginny and Ron and his other friends too.

He isn't in love with any of them, least of all his wife.

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"Are you ever going to listen to me?" Hermione asks one evening, exasperated as ever. She doesn't understand any more than he does.

"Uh huh," he says absently, not really listening, glancing at the wedding picture. He feels like he's still wearing his dress robes.

One of these days the collar is going to choke him.