A/N: First fanfic I've written in a long while. Sorry if it sucks! One-shot only. Through DH, not epilogue-compatible.
She told him one night that she loved his scars. No, not THE scar, the lightning bolt-shaped one that singled him out as the Boy Who Lived To Defeat You-Know-Who And Save The Wizarding World Twice, though she liked that one perfectly fine. They sat on the couch in the flat they shared with Ron and she turned to him – in the middle of her reading her book and Harry pretending to read his book but actually just dozing lightly – and told him, as though she was commenting on the storm brewing outside or the fact that Ron was gone for the weekend for Quidditch.
At first, Harry didn't know what she meant. His scars? But his scars were just blemishes, imprints of his failures forever branded on his skin, were they not? He couldn't stop Wormtail from killing Cedric and slicing his arm open to bring back Voldemort. He continually got himself detentions, even though he knew he shouldn't, and ended up writing lines with his own blood. He was an idiot to go back to Godric's Hollow and not expect a trap of some kind. What could Hermione have meant? Surely she couldn't see any good in his scars. He tilted his head to the side as if the different perspective would explain why Hermione would suddenly say that to him, but he said nothing and waited for her to elaborate.
She shrugged as if there was nothing else to say on the matter and went back to her book, instantly becoming reabsorbed in it, as though she had never broken the comfortable silence to say something that would rock Harry's state of mind.
What was Harry supposed to say to that proclamation? Should he thank her? He wasn't sure, so he said nothing at all, but spent the rest of the night thinking about what she said and sneaking small glances at her, as if looking at her long enough would make what she said suddenly make sense. Maybe the more he looked, the more he would understand? When it was time to go to bed, they silently bid each other goodnight and went to their respective rooms, though it took Harry a long time that night to fall asleep.
It was two weeks before Harry found the courage to ask Hermione what she meant about his scars. He had waited for another weekend in which Ron was gone. He didn't tell best mate about Hermione's declaration, and Hermione hadn't brought it up to Ron either, so he assumed that it was something she didn't want Ron to know and thought it was best to simply not mention it. A small part of him thought that that excuse was rubbish, that he simply didn't want Ron to know because Hermione's statement was somehow becoming profoundly personal to him, and he wanted to puzzle it out by himself, but he pretended that he was just not telling Ron in order to keep Hermione's privacy. After all, everyone needs to believe in an excuse once in a while, right?
In the two weeks after Hermione had told him, she had not acted any differently than before. She still smiled at him the same, brushed her hair out of her eyes the same, read books on the couch the same and made tea the same and just did everything the same as she always did, and to tell the truth, it was driving Harry just a little bit bonkers. In fact, a part of Harry was quite convinced that he had simply dreamt that night and that Hermione hadn't said anything of the sort.
He had spent the better part of the last two weeks focusing on Hermione. He now knew that she always used her left hand to unscrew the cap off her ink pots and that whenever she was really concentrating on something, she would wrinkle her nose a little and softly chew on the top of her quill. He also knew that in the mornings before she went to work, the first thing she would do when she got to the kitchen would be smile at him, before going to pour herself a cup of tea and sit next to him at the kitchen table and read a book while he read The Daily Prophet. He found out that she would constantly be reading more than one book at a time; the one placed on the kitchen table would only be read in the mornings and the one placed next to the couch would only be read in the evenings and she never had any trouble picking up where she had left off, even if she had read two or three books in between. As time went on, Harry started noticing more than what she did; he started seeing her differently, when her smiles made his stomach do flips and her touch left goosebumps up and down his body. She had a small splashing of freckles on her left shoulder and Harry wondered why he had never noticed that before, but now that he had, he craved to reach over and connect the dots with his fingers. He hoped her skin was as soft as it looked.
He watched her out of the corner of his eye, as though she would disappear if he didn't keep his eyes on her, and he slowly learned just about everything one could learn about another in a two-week span of watching.
But his curiousity was getting the better of him and his work performance was slipping, because he couldn't well do Auror work if his mind was off thinking about Hermione and not focusing on catching rogue Death Eaters that still hadn't taken the whole 'Voldemort's Dead' thing to heart. After Moody had taken him aside and talked with him ("CONSTANT VIGILANCE!"), Harry decided that if he found out about the scar thing, then the torture would be over and then he wouldn't spend so much time watching her and then he could concentrate on not-Hermione-related things, right? So at the two week mark, when she was sitting on the couch reading her Evening Book (as Harry had now started calling it) and he was sitting next to her pretending to read his Quidditch magazine but actually just watching her, he asked her what she meant about his scars.
It was her turn to tilt her head. "All of your scars tell a story, Harry – about how brave you were, how hard you worked or how you never gave up. All things I admire in you. They're who you are. But you knew that already, didn't you?" She leaned over to him and kissed his cheek, lingering perhaps a little longer than necessary, before smiling and going back to her book.
Harry's cheek tingled where Hermione had kissed him.
"But, Hermione, I'm really not tha-"
"Harry. You're the bravest person I know." She replied in her no-nonsense way before turning her head to her book again, as though she hadn't just said something that caused Harry's heart to do backflips in his chest.
Harry blushed a deep red.
And as Harry looked over his scars, from the 'I Will Not Tell Lies' on his left hand to the snake bite Nagini left on his forearm, from the cut on his arm from Peter Pettigrew to the oval-shape over his heart from the locket, Harry thought that perhaps he had known all along. Maybe all he needed was an excuse to let himself watch her.