Author's Note: Okay, I dunno how much sense this whole thing makes. I wrote it in the middle of the night, after sustaining a conversation that led to the "Hardest Question" herein. I'd like to think the characters are obvious in their roles, but if not, review or PM me and I'll enlighten you. This obviously takes place some time after the events of DH, but before the Epilogue.

And so, I'm afraid without any ado whatsoever, here's the first work I've completed in forever. Please enjoy "The Hardest Question"


Ever notice that the word 'how?' is always excluded from the other question groups? The way that a reporter asks "who, what, where, when, why?" but never the "how?" That people ask "what do I tell her?" or "why do I feel this way", but there's never a how involved. Maybe because the others are possibilities; for example, "why should I say that?" suggests I may or may not speak, but "how can I say that?" makes things a foregone conclusion. I guess that's why we don't use "how"; because we like to believe we are the ones in control—that we can choose to say something or not, be somewhere or not, believe something or not. Do something, or not.

Love someone, or not.

But that's a joke, it really is. Because we're not in control. We speak without control over our mouths, and say something we knew was a bad idea to say. We go places that we shouldn't, walking where angels fear to tread. We believe against common sense and traditional wisdom to the contrary.

And love is, by its very nature, uncontrollable.

So, that brings us back to the "how" point I'm trying to get at. "How" is the sixth question; it's the last one in line, and the last one we ever want to ask, least of all to ourselves.

Because, quite frankly, the answers (when there are any) are hard to take. I should know, I've been asking it of myself lately. I look in a mirror at a man I do not recognise, and I ask him, how did this happen? He has no answer. How did the way I feel about the love of my life change so much? No answer. How can I betray her in such a simple, basic manner? He has no reply. The lack of an answer to any of these questions has always troubled me. So I push other questions, ones I know are something that can be answered.

How did I start to fall for her? That one, at least, is easy. We spent a significant part of our lives with each other; it's only natural for close bonds to occur. It's only natural, also, that since we were comfortable with being emotionally and physically close, that those bonds would run deeper as time went on. Even more so, since they were the defining years of our lives, and there was rarely ever anyone else for us to turn to.

How did she become more important to me? The answer is complex. Firstly, she was there first; she's been part of my life for a longer time, and for most of that time a bigger part of it than my wife. Second, she's always been closer to me; sad, I know, but my best friend is the one I turn to when I'm in trouble, the one I talk to when I'm lost, the one I trust completely...instead of my wife. When I have a secret, I confide in her...instead of my wife. When I need advice or help, I turn to her.

Instead of my wife.

Third, it's how I think of her; lately, she hasn't simply been my friend, or my sister, both of which she's been for the longest time, but more and more lately, she's "my girl".

Fourth, and this is what gets to me the most; it's that she's the most important person in my life. It's that she completes me. It's that every spare second I have, I want to, and almost always do spend with her. It's that her smile, her laugh, her words make my heart skip more beats than is healthy and burn so hot I'm sure it'll make my shirt catch fire. It's that I'm beyond wanting to have her around, I need her. It's that I need her not like a drug or a heartbeat, but like the sun or the grass; without her, my world is no longer the beautiful place she makes it. It's that the nightmares of losing her affect me so much worse than similar ones for my wife; finding my wife dead, even if it's only in my head is hard on me, and I'm not agreeable the next morning...but finding my girl dead, her arms cold, the colour gone from her soft cheeks, the light in her eyes gone forever, that dream throws me out of bed screaming, so terrified that my hands won't stop shaking.

The last question is hardest of all. Ironic that it was spawned by a question entirely different. Even though it could've been a mistake, I told this dear friend recently that there was someone catching my attention that was not my wife...someone that lingered in my thoughts and imagination far more than they should have. So, she asks, "Who is it?" And therein lies the dilemma, the question I ask myself at that very moment, the question I ask that unfamiliar man in the mirror now, and the question that will dog me to the day I die.

How can I tell her the truth?

I've never once lied to her before, but I lie to her now, and say it's an old flame of mine. She smiles and shrugs it off, saying that Cho would probably bounce around in my mind forever. I feel some relief, but so much more remorse as the conversation moves on. But in all honesty, how could I have done it? How could I tell my best friend that I think of nothing but her? How she seems to whisper in my ear all throughout the day, how I dream of her at night, and how in that moment between being awake and being asleep, I swear that she's there with me. How all I can think of is her. How much, how truly, how madly how deeply I love her?

How can I destroy everything we have...for the sake of honesty?

So I lie. So I hate myself a little bit more. So I stand in front of a mirror in the middle of the night, staring at a man I don't know anymore, and I ask him the question that the answer to is simply "you can't";


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