Because of Her

The first time I saw her, she was walking in the hallway. She was reading a book.

At first I thought nothing of it. I looked at her and when she realized someone was watching her, she tilted her head up and I saw her inquisitive brown eyes scanning her surroundings from just above the pages of that book. Never before had I noticed those lashes- beautiful, long and full lashes that pulled me into her dark honey brown eyes.

Her eyes locked on mine and I smiled and nodded in greeting. She smiled softly to me and continued reading her book as she walked.

After that day I continued to watch her quietly. So much that I noticed her habits in class. The distinct way she would furrow her brow, the way she rolled her bottom lip between her teeth while she was thinking deeply, the way her quill would move when she wrote. Or the closeness in which she was to her boys.

Harry or Ron - one or the other really were always with her it seemed. Rarely would I catch her alone like I did outside of the Library. I accepted that small encounter as a gift. In classes we would nod or smile in greeting to each other, not often exchanging words, just acknowledging one another.

Until I started having problems.

My day started off horribly. I woke up late, didn't catch breakfast and suffered through the morning with a headache from no food and not having a restful night of sleep. No one really noticed, but she did. Perhaps because I came late into class and for some unknown reason she was sitting at a desk by herself. I joined her and she glanced at me curiously. I assumed it was because of my tardiness. I was usually quite punctual to classes as was she, so my late arrival was somewhat unexpected. I smiled while sitting down and she returned my greeting. Class went by incredibly slowly and I found myself silently nodding off. At some point I figure that I really did just sleep through five minutes of class when I felt a slight pressure on my arm.

I could hear a faint voice murmuring to me,'...you should listen to this part, its critical to our assignment. You seem tired but just pay attention to this part, alright?'

I nodded while surreptitiously trying to wake up without stretching and yawning like a little kid. I grinned gratefully while grabbing my quill and she smiled shyly while writing down her own notes. How she managed to do a million things at once always amazed me especially since she was so meticulous with everything.

After class, I thanked her for not letting me get caught while dozing and she just laughed softly and responded calmly, 'Everyone has an off day. I figured today was yours. If you need any help I'll be in the common room after dinner working on the assignment. Join me if you'd like. What with Ron and Harry running off and breaking who-knows what rules I could use a study partner.'

I thanked her for her kindness and agreed to see her there. I walked away with a silly grin on my face. It was then I thought, no, realized that I may harbor feelings for her even with the knowledge of her status at Hogwarts and knowing the names used by many there: The bookworm... the 'insufferable know-it-all'...That git of a potions master. I never did like how he treated her. She never deserved it.

Bugger him.

More than once she was talked down to and yet she held her head high. I always wanted to defend her but I knew that our House would only be reprimanded and have more points taken away. Instead, I would try extra hard to catch her eyes and smile reassuringly. Or if my Gryffindor bravery pulled through, I'd give her a gentle squeeze on her arm. She was surprised the first time I did that, but she didn't reject me as I had feared she might.

I would always be grateful for her kindness.

'...get up you pitiful Gryffindor... What? Has your bravery suddenly run out the door? Get UP, I said!'

Looking up at the face of a proud Slytherin was never a favorite position for me, but something I became used to. Yes I'm a Gryffindor but I was still not as strong as other guys nor was I as big.

And that was how she found me. I was already scuffed from the group of four Slytherins and not very happy being found that way, especially by the one I liked. She looked at me on the floor as I vainly tried not to whimper in humiliation and pain. She approached us in the hallway and had her wand out before any of them uttered another threat.

'Leave him alone. Ten points from Slytherin each. If you don't leave I will call a professor.'

The Slytherins knew Hermione didn't dish out false threats.Her status as Head Girl and always being the stickler for rules came in handy sometimes, I'll admit. They left but not before kicking me in the gut for good measure.

As I spluttered on the floor, coughing painfully I overheard their snide remarks, 'Waste of our time anyway Gryffindors aren't worth it.'

She glared at them as they passed her and then she walked over to me and made sure they had turned down the hall before putting her wand away.

'Are you alright? Should we go to Madam Pomfrey?'

I shook my head slowly, 'I'd rather just get back to our common room. Would you happen to know any simple healing charms, or perhaps a numbing charm?'

She appraised my scrapes and nodded softly. 'Better idea, we'll go to the Heads quarters. We can get you fixed up in my room.'

I looked at her, keeping my face decidedly neutral and nodded. Having the chance to be invited to her room should have been such a winning moment in my life but under these circumstances I felt completely ill fated by Merlin himself.

I knew my black eye wouldn't go unnoticed and I felt the skin of my cheek tightening more. She pulled me up tenderly but firmly to help me to my feet. I leaned on her slightly in order to prevent us from stumbling. The contact made me slightly lightheaded. She had pulled my arm over her shoulders and was walking gingerly with me. I could feel her curves at my side and I reveled in the intimacy, and felt my entire body flush from the thoughts in my mind. I hoped she wouldn't notice. She didn't seem to sense my body ablaze and she continued helping me to the Heads quarters while she eyed the hallways as we walked. We entered her room and she sat me on her bed. She stood in front of me while looking for some book or other for healing incantations and healer self help books. Then she came to eye level with me

'I'm going to numb this side of your face. My wand might feel a little weird as I do the spell.' I didn't really notice because I was captivated by her unflinching gaze. Seeing her eyes so close to mine made me almost gasp. Her eyes truly were beautiful - curious, captivating, sparkling, and so intriguing with those small golden flecks near her pupils. Spellbinding.

'Take your shirt off for me.'

I looked at her a little taken aback but complied.

'Nasty bruising you'll have there. Is your abdomen hurting terribly? We have to make sure nothing is ruptured or bleeding.' She pushed me down on her bed and waved her wand over my belly as I blushed, feeling vulnerable in my state of undress. Satisfied with her inspection she had me sit up so she could check my back. Had I known she would touch me so softly perhaps I wouldn't have shivered quite so noticeably. She paused before continuing. Her fingers grazed my back and I gritted my teeth to stifle a groan. She ran her hands over my shoulders and down my back, one hand on either side of my spine. I straightened so she could finish her examination. She caressed my back reassuringly and came into my line of vision.

'Your back seems alright. Let's get these cuts on your arms cleaned shall we?'

She made eye contact and I smiled bashfully. She grinned and placed numbing charms on the skin of my arms and then started touching each cut with her wand as I watched her quietly. After about ten minutes of that she sat down beside me and handed me my shirt.

'Does that happen often?' she asked me, concern etched in her face. Oh how I liked her so.

I looked at her tentatively, wondering if she really did care so much to ask. Apparently she did. Afterwards, she grabbed my hand and squeezed it once and slowly leaned forward and kissed my cheek in a comforting manner. I could feel my cheek redden where she kissed me.

Later I found out the group of Slytherins had been assigned detentions with Mr. Filch and more house points had been deducted for their continual harassments of other students.

Soon bigger worries loomed over Hogwarts. The war was quickly escalating and danger at Hogwarts grew.

I would see the Trio, as they were nicknamed, becoming quieter and more focused. They'd be spotted walking the halls less and concentrating more so in Defense Against the Dark Arts. I saw Harry more often than not lingering in the common room late at night and sometimes I would see Ron or Hermione with him trying to talk with him quietly, giving calm reassurances of his survival. He would stare into the fire becoming more withdrawn it seemed.

I saw the worry lines appear more often on her face. She seemed to be going to the library twice as often as before, often not leaving until Madam Pince would push her out herself.

She wasn't smiling as often and became more attached to her boys', obviously because of worry over Harry and her attentions being drawn to her other best friend in a more than friendly fashion. I was saddened by the obvious need for them to be so close to each other, but I understood her need to be with them at such a precarious time.

I hoped the war would end soon. That didn't mean I wanted it to come the next night.

A scream was heard over the grounds as I knew the apparition wards had been broken through all over Hogwarts. No one could actually Apparate into the castle but being on the grounds was just as close. I saw them running out seemingly prepared for the battle. All of them were already in trainers, jeans, and doubled shirts.

I saw her for a brief second, aiming and stunning someone, before turning to defend myself from Slytherin student Death Eaters. I looked back to where I saw her last and she was already gone.

It was chaos and in all of it, there were many wounded. Many students were lying on the ground moaning and whimpering. I was still mostly unscathed and able to fight. I was hoping to find them. I felt I needed to be near them. I heard a gasp. Near the border of the Forbidden Forest I saw a batch of curly brown hair and nearly lost my footing trying to reach it. It was her. Hermione Granger. The girl I secretly admired and liked.

She was breathing erratically and her chest was heaving from the effort of not crying out. I knelt by her and her eyes slowly focused on me. I smiled reassuringly to her and she shocked me when she grabbed onto my shirt and pulled me down to whisper in my ear '...find Harry. Make sure... he gets through... this... for me... Please,... help them both... make it... through. I can make... it if... send me to... the infirmary.'

I was so relieved to remember the spell to have her transported to the infirmary, having been told by our Head of House a week or so before. She looked at me the plea written plainly in her eyes. I reassured her, 'I'll find them... I'll make sure I do what I can… just stay alive Hermione. Stay awake' As I told her this I was healing her superficial wounds and putting numbing charms on her.

Once I knew she had made it to the infirmary I started scanning the grounds for them. I ran through the Forbidden Forests edge and saw a small clearing and saw him.

Voldemort.

He was at the top of the hill and Harry and Ron were running towards him. I ran trying to catch up to them as Voldemort started sending curses their way. I watched as they dodged many of them. It went on like that for a while and I could see the fatigue in Harry growing. Ron was trying his best not to get hit but being tall and lanky proved not to be a quality of the agile. Harry more than once winced from the singeing of a curse and he always tried to push Ron when he saw a curse aimed in his direction. Ron stumbled clumsily the longer the unfair battle went and he was hit by the Cruciatus. Harry yelled Ron's name and screamed as Ron bellowed in pain.

I started running knowing that this could be a trap by distraction. I saw Voldemort eyeing Harry closely and just as I suspected, once Harry turned to pull Ron up Voldemort fired off a curse at him.

Crucio!"

Harry heard him and turned around too late, but I had already lunged and found myself writhing in pain at his feet. I knew my body had hit the ground but the overwhelming pain of the curse took the immediate realization away from me.

My insides crawled and burned in agony. My muscles stressed and clamped in unseemly places and I knew the cries of pain I heard through the ringing in my ears must be mine. Soon though the pain stopped and as I lay there trembling, I heard a thump from close by. I managed to look in that general direction and saw Harry walking towards the clump of a black cloak, the air sizzling and sparking around it. I heard the reassuring snap and saw a broken wand land near the bottom of the hill.

Harry sent up red sparks three times.

The sign of the end.

As I lay in the infirmary I realized, I took the Cruciatus for Harry. Because of Hermione's plea I took an Unforgivable for Harry.

She came to me, still covered in bandages along her arms and healing salves on her face from where a jagged cut had sliced across the apple of her cheek. She had never looked so appealing to me. Her cheeks were rosy and she was cyring silently.

'Thank you.' She pulled my hand to hers 'Thank you for saving me. Because of you I survived this.'

I looked at her with slightly wet eyes

'It wasn't because of me,' I whispered. She searched my face quizzically, and I squeezed her hand, smiling sheepishly. I continued, looking straight into her eyes, 'But... because of you.'

A look of questioning then surprise crossed her features and then a small smile tugged at her lips while she held my hand in both of hers. She squeezed them and came nearer to me. She wiped her tears from her face as by now she could feel me trembling from the after effects of the Cruciatus still torturing my muscles. She held my hand leaned down and with a soft, tender sweetness she kissed me. Not on my cheek, but on my lips. I blinked in shock and then closed my eyes.

She pulled away and grinned shyly.

'I better let you rest. I know we're all very tired. Sleep, ok? It might be hard at first but Madam Pomfrey can give you some sleeping draught. I'm going to go lie down. Take care of yourself, ok? I'll come by again later.'

I smiled at her and she walked away gingerly. I slept for a day and a half. The pain had gone away and the only scars that remained were from the grazing of curses during the battle on the grounds. Those scars would pass as well.

The first time I saw the Trio again was during a celebration a couple of days later. It was in the Great Hall. A celebration organized by the students for the students. I was sitting at a table talking with other classmates and got up to get a drink. As I was standing and looking around for the drink area, a small, warm hand slipped into mine. I looked down, jolted by the foreign palm resting against mine. It was Hermione.

Lovely Hermione. She looked up at me (for I had grown taller and bigger since the encounter in the hall) and winked. Her big brown eyes were so captivating. I smiled back and squeezed her hand. She held my gaze and started pulling me to another area of the party. By the time I realized what she was doing, I was in front of Ron and Harry. Harry looked at me and put out his hand.

'Thank you, mate. Because of you, I was able to defeat him. You took a curse for me and for that I am forever grateful. It's because of your bravery that I am alive today.'

I shook his hand and blushed profusely, stammering a hasty reply. 'It's what any of us would have done.'

Secretly though I admitted that I had done it because it was for Hermione. It was because of Hermione I did it for her.

She watched me quietly while still holding my hand and she interlinked her fingers with mine. Ron mumbled a quiet 'thank you' as well and then Hermione caught my attention and asked if I was thirsty. I admitted that was the reason I was standing in the first place. She grinned and pulled me with her.

That night, after we got our drinks, we sat and talked about the future. She would occasionally squeeze my hand or my arm reassuringly and smile genuinely at my hopes and dreams. That night was wonderful. I'll never forget her telling me about S.P.E.W. and her hopes to become a representative for the likes of other worldly beings such as elves, gnomes, werewolves, vampires and the like in the Ministry, or perhaps a professor at Hogwarts.

The sparkle in her eyes, the flush in her cheeks as her excitement grew. It was overwhelming and catching.

And to this day I don't regret what I did. It doesn't matter that I didn't pursue Hermione more. We were kind to each other and we helped each other. Because of her, I'm more enthusiastic in my pursuits; I'm more strong-willed against arrogant, ignorant people, and their ideas. Because of her I'm kinder and more passionate. Because of her, I took a curse for one of her boys.

Because of her, I loved.

...because of her.