Harry Potter and the Hallows of Death

Author's Notes: This is Post HBP and will follow canon as closely as possible, with some of my own twists and turns relating to DH. The Horcruxes will go unchanged, as will all events from HBP and prior. As the title suggests, the Deathly Hallows will also remain a central point of the back story of Albus. There is no character bashing, especially Albus Dumbledore, for reasons explained later. The focus of this story however, is the relationship between Harry and Hermione, the love that should have been. The relationship will be developed slowly – nurtured and intentional. As was the case with HBP, Ron and Hermione are not in a relationship and never will be. The story picks up before the start of DH, after the funeral of Albus Dumbledore. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy writing it. I don't know how long the story will end up being, but I am anticipating it to be a long one. As a self-published author, this undertaking is truly for my own personal satisfaction. Lastly, as rating goes, I don't prescribe to graphic details regarding sexual adventures; things are alluded to, certainly, but I'm more interested in the depth of the relationship. There will also be violence, death, and difficult emotions. Thus, I feel it appropriate that a T rating is sufficient. Please let me know should that change.

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, or any other property as owned by JK Rowling, whom I and countless adults and children owe the love of reading and writing. This story is for my own enjoyment.

Chapter One: The Boy Under the Stairs

Harry Potter had always dreaded the end of term at Hogwarts as it always reminded him he would soon be in the company of those who wished he had never been born. He had always enjoyed his time at the Burrow and while the abundant love he had received there often overwhelmed him, Hogwarts was home. He had to admit likewise that leaving Hogwarts was especially difficult for no other reason than the separation between himself and his two best friends. Yet, Harry had to admit while he mindlessly allowed himself to be guided towards the platform where the Hogwarts Express awaited; Hogwarts was not home without Albus Dumbledore.

It was difficult enough as images of Snape casting the killing curse played over and over in his mind; harder still was wrestling the heavy truth that he, Harry, had played his own part in weakening his beloved headmaster and even harder to acknowledge he had been unable to help. The power that Dumbledore had repeatedly tried to convince Harry was greater than any magic known was the very power that Harry wished he had none at all. Dumbledore had told him that his ability to feel pain was his greatest strength - he had never felt more helpless in his life. It had hurt when Sirius died; what he experienced now was torture. He knew he was on the verge of collapse. He knew his resolve was weakening with every step toward the platform. He had told no one where he and the headmaster had been that night. How could he? To Harry, he killed Albus Dumbledore as much as Draco and Snape had. In fact it was far worse; he had forced the headmaster through unknowable pain and misery. At least Snape had been merciful. Dumbledore had not suffered.

Hermione Granger had likewise found it difficult to pay attention during the funeral. It was unlike her, to be inattentive to what would undoubtedly be the greatest memorial gathering of any celebrated wizard in her lifetime. Rather, she had observed Harry intently through the service. She saw something in Harry she had never seen before; despair. She would bet her life on it and would defy anyone who thought they knew better. She knew her friend better than anyone, even Ronald Weasley. Despair had never graced the young Gryffindor's face. Ron had of course been completely oblivious to his friend's state of mind, as likely did Ginny despite being right beside him. Harry had been tight-lipped about what happened between him and the headmaster before arriving at the astronomy tower. Harry had admitted the headmaster had been weakened. Knowing Harry as she did, she wondered if guilt was not at the source. And she knew without doubt as she watched Harry fumble absent-mindedly with the fake horcrux locket Dumbledore had ultimately given his life to attain, that Harry believed himself at fault for his death. She would not press Harry for the details of that night but she was determined to let him know that she would be there for him when he was ready. She only hoped he wouldn't wait until he could hold the burden no longer.

But if the despair she witnessed in Harry's face was not enough, she had watched from afar the serious conversation Harry was having with Ginny. She knew what the heart of that conversation would be without hearing it. He was ending things between them. She admired Harry, even though she knew it only caused him heartache to break from Ginny. He was a true Gryffindor. She didn't need the proof of Godric's sword to know it.

The trio boarded the train and found a compartment at the rear of the last car. Ginny had understandably followed closely behind but Harry quickly dismissed her in the all the kindness he could muster.

"I'm sorry, Ginny, but I need to speak with Ron and Hermione in private," said harry. Ginny gave him a sorrowful expression, followed almost immediately with disappointment. Harry knew he'd hurt her but willed himself to be strong. Harry closed the compartment door and swiftly cast a silencing spell to ensure no one could hear their conversation.

"You can't keep her away, mate," said Ron. "I know Dumbledore didn't want people to know anything about the horcruxes, but Ginny is your girlfriend. You can tell her without going into detail."

"We're not dating anymore, Ron," said Harry. Ron's jaw dropped.

"Harry, why?" he asked dumb-founded. "When did that happen?"

"At the funeral" answered Harry. He struggled with next bit. "I don't think it's wise for me to date anyone. They'll end up dead. I'll probably end up dead." Hermione looked away and out the window as the train started its slow departure. She could not meet her friend's eyes as he said those words. She knew her heart would shatter if that fate were to come to pass. She felt her resolve strengthen to make sure that never happened, even at the cost of her own life. She turned back to Harry. He had certainly made up his mind. As before, Ron was oblivious.

"Harry you'll never be happy if you let You-Know-Who determine how you live your life," said Ron adamantly

"Ronald," Hermione scolded, putting an elbow into his rib.

"Come on, Hermione, tell him," said Ron. "You don't think Harry's just being thick and paranoid?"

"No, I don't," said Hermione. "I think it's admirable, but more importantly, his decision to make."

"Bloody hell," exclaimed Ron, beside himself. "I guess if I'm honest I suppose I'm glad that she won't be in the middle of it. She'll be a right mess when we leave. So will mum, come to think of it."

In that moment, Harry dropped his face into his hands and let out a deep sigh of relief.

"Are you alright, Harry," asked Hermione. She placed her free hand on his shoulder.

"No," he answered to the floor, surprised by his own honesty. Hermione at this point disengaged herself from her seat next to Ron and sat beside Harry, embracing him tightly with both her arms. She knew Harry would collapse at any moment. And he did.

"I – I don't want you to come with me," he said, choking back tears. "I'd ne-never live w-with myself if anything ha-happened to either of you." Hermione felt her eyes swimming in tears as she glanced to Ron, who at last appeared to finally come to grips with his best friend's motives for breaking away from his little sister.

"It's alright, Harry," began Hermione as she held him tighter, but harry shook his head defiantly.

"Dumbledore's dead because he was trying to help me," said Harry, his voice on the edge of tearing. "Sirius is dead because he tried to protect me. My parents are dead because Voldemort wanted me." He looked up at them both, eyes burning and chest pounding; he had to make them understand. "I never knew my parents, but Sirius and Dumbledore meant everything to me. And they still don't come anywhere close to what you two mean to me." He had said it. He had told them he loved them in the only way he knew how too. Saying the words themselves was too dangerous.

"That's enough, Harry," said Hermione, trying to comfort him. But Harry wasn't finished.

"All I could see where your caskets out there, that I was the one burying you," continued Harry. He couldn't stop himself. He turned first to Ron. "I saw your family gathered around you, telling them how sorry I was. It hurt just imagining it, and I don't want to experience it firsthand." He turned to Hermione. "And you, I had to tell your parents too. I told them you died because we were friends, because I couldn't protect you. I had to tell your parents their only daughter was dead because she was friends with me. It was torture. I want to die just thinking about it. I won't have it, either of you. You're not coming with me." For a moment, Harry thought he'd gotten through. They both stared at him, eyes wide with disbelief. A moment later, the side of his head was searing in pain. Hermione rose from her seat with surprising agility and smacked him across the cheek with more strength than Harry could have thought possible from his friend. She then grabbed him just as quickly with both hands at the collar so they were face to face, his eyes staring into the deep brown of hers, as full of tears as his own.

"Harry Potter, you listen to me," she said in ringing tones. "How do you think we feel, how I feel, if you were to die because we weren't there for you? Has it ever crossed your mind? How do you think we'd feel to be the ones burying you? Do you think Sirius wanted to bury you? Or Dumbledore? Your parents? They gave everything so they didn't have to bury you!"

"I –" Harry began but Hermione shook him.

"I said listen to me, Harry Potter." Harry fell silent at the fury of her voice and the intensity of her stare. "I am not going to bury you. I am not going to leave you alone to this terrible burden. I am not going to let you out of my sight and I'll be damned if you think for one moment I'm leaving you to fight V-Voldemort alone." Harry became silent, lost for words as he gazed unbelievingly up at his female friend. He knew she meant every word. Hermione released her hold of his collar and returned to her seat beside him.

"She's right, mate," said Ron. "We're coming too."

"Dumbledore told you that you needed us," said Hermione. "If the greatest wizard of the age felt it important that you had us, who are we to argue?" Harry would never admit it, but in the silence of their compartment, he was briefly happy he had the best friends anyone could ask for.

Most of the journey had been a quiet ordeal. The train, usually full of boisterous voices had fallen under the oppressiveness of waiting for the approaching storm they all knew was coming. Harry still felt convinced it would be better for him to go it alone, but knew it would futile to attempt to press the issue any further, least of all to Hermione. Hermione did not return to her original seat but appeared as determined as ever to be close to Harry.

"First thing's first, of course, is that Harry will need to go back to his aunt and uncles to re-strengthen the wards Dumbledore talked about. Harry, did he ever tell you how long you needed to stay?"

Harry shook his head.

"He only asked the Dursley's to let me return one more time." He allowed himself a quick smile remembering Dumbledore's light-handed but direct accusation that the Dursley's had been horrible to him. And then there were the floating glasses annoyingly nudging at the side of their heads.

"We do know for certain that it ends when you turn seventeen," said Hermione. "I suppose the Order will want you to wait until then. Of course, Voldemort will also know that the wards will fail when you come of age." She shuddered mildly at hearing herself utter the Dark Lord's name, but she refused to be afraid if for no one's sake but Harry's.

"But where do we start looking for horcruxes," asked Ron.

"I dunno," said Harry. "Dumbledore had only recently discovered where Voldemort had hid the locket just shortly before we went to retrieve it. He never mentioned if he suspected where any others where, other than the snake, which we don't know for certain that it is really a horcrux."

"But we do have some starting points," said Hermione quickly. "Dumbledore suspected he'd want items that belonged to the founders. We don't where the locket is, but we at least know that someone does. We'll need to find out who R.A.B. is or we'll never find it. Also, from what Harry has shared with us, we also can feel confident that Voldemort managed to get his hands on Hufflepuff's cup. I'll see what I can find any history relating to the cup; it might give us an idea on where to start looking."

"At the best, that still leaves us with having no idea what the last one could be, assuming the snake is indeed one of them," said Harry half-heartedly. The trio all nodded in agreement.

Harry found himself wishing the train ride had been longer when they finally arrived at King's Cross. They had spoken of their plans at great length, only to feel they now had more questions than answers. Many of the student's parents rushed their children through the barrier of platform nine and three quarters. The platform had never been so quiet and empty. On the other side, the Dursely's were nowhere to be seen. Despite this, Harry noticed a few familiar faces waiting to greet them. Mr. Weasley, Tonks, Remus, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Mad-Eye stood as a small group, deep in conversation with two people Harry had never seen before. They appeared to be married, Harry surmised as the gentleman had his hand around the woman's waist. It was not shortly thereafter he recognized that the woman looked shockingly familiar to Hermione.

"Harry, Ron, Hermione," greeted Mr. Weasley as they approached. Harry nodded while Ron shook his father's hand. Hermione smiled but walked to meet the strangers in the group. She then turned to Harry.

"You've never met my parents, have you, Harry?" Harry shook his head. The gentleman stepped forward and held out his hand.

"I'm William," he said, pleasantly with a brief smile. Mr. Granger was taller than Harry expected, his hair was brown like his daughters, but considerably darker and had been kept short and tidy. When he smiled Harry knew exactly where Hermione had gotten hers.

"Pleasure to meet you," mumbled Harry. He struggled to keep eye contact as the funeral visions from earlier that day came back to him. He no longer had to imagine what Hermione's parents looked like. Next was Hermione's mother, who greeted him with a pleasant smile.

"I'm Jane," she said. Hermione's hair had come from her mother, as had her eyes. Harry nodded this time.

"Harry, I don't see your relatives here," said Mr. Weasley. "They should have received the same letter about the early end of term."

"I doubt it," said Harry. "They don't want anything to do with me, so it's not a far stretch they wouldn't have bothered to read a letter." He briefly caught the confused look of both Hermione's parents. Harry suspected Hermione had not told them much of Harry's relatives and he was quite glad. He hated it when people looked at him in pity.

"We'll I suppose I could take you," said Mr. Weasley. "Or perhaps Remus and Tonks?" Before Harry could answer, Hermione spoke.

"I'm sure Dad and Mom wouldn't mind to take you, Harry?" She glanced up at her parents. They smiled and agreed they could do that since they would be driving to Surrey on their way home themselves.

"Well, I don't really see the trouble there," said Mr. Weasley. "Although it's not the most secure."

"Remus and I can tail them," said Tonks, her hair quickly flashing from pink to blonde. "We had intended to follow the Granger's anyway to make sure they got home safely."

Well, I suppose that's settled then," said Mr. Weasley. Mad-Eye nodded his agreement but not before warning Harry to have constant vigilance. Ron gave a quick goodbye to them and left with Mr. Weasley and Ginny (who gave Harry no recognition at all). He knew she was quite angry with him. Remus and Tonks helped Harry and Hermione with their luggage and placed it the back of the Granger's BMW.

"I must say, it's nice to finally meet you, Harry," said Mrs. Granger as they buckled into their seats. "Hermione has told us so much about you." Mr. Granger was quick to acknowledge the same.

"Not too much, I hope," said Harry quietly. He cast a nervous glace to Hermione, who gave him a reassuring look while taking his hand briefly.

"I must say, though, I'm surprised your relatives weren't at the station," continued Mrs. Granger. "I suppose they could have missed the owl, but I don't see how. We never do."

"My aunt and uncle aren't exactly the type who likes anything to do with magic."

"We certainly had a hard time with it at first," said Mr. Granger. "But we adjusted all the same. I'm sure there was just a misunderstanding here with your aunt and uncle." Harry chose to stay quiet.

"So Hermione, are you seeing Ronald now," Mrs. Granger asked with smile.

"No, mom," said Hermione. "He's a bit thicker than most boys."

"I'll have to have a conversation with him soon," said Mr. Granger with a smirk. Again Harry remained quiet as Hermione and her parents continued to chat. They did talk about Dumbledore's funeral and Hermione did give them only minimal information, purposefully keeping any mention of Harry from her account.

"I'm awfully worried about you going to that school," said Mr. Granger. "I know it's part of you now, but I'm just not sure I like what's happening." Hermione then went into a long explanation about how it didn't matter if she were part of the wizarding world or not – everyone was in danger.

"Do they know about me, and well, Voldemort," Harry whispered to Hermione.

"Only what most young wizards do, Harry, that he was defeated when he attacked you as a baby, and that he has returned. I've told them minimally more so. Dumbledore came to visit them after the Ministry event. He told them I was safer at Hogwarts then in their own home. In fact," she paused here giving the faintest smile. "He told them I was safer at Hogwarts because I was with you."

Harry sat in shock after that revelation. After what felt like an eternity they arrived in Little Whinging and Harry gave them the directions to number four, Private Drive. They pulled into the drive and Harry was surprised to see that the Dursely's were not home. Mr. and Mrs. Granger followed Harry and Hermione to the front door.

"Thanks for the lift," said Harry.

"It was no trouble at all," said Mr. Granger.

"Perhaps you can give us a short tour, Harry," asked Hermione. "I've never been to your house." Harry nodded and they all entered into the house where Harry had lived out his miserable childhood.

"There isn't much to look at," said Harry, suddenly suspicious of Hermione's sudden interest. Harry had never gone into details of his life at the Dursleys, but he had told his friends enough to know that it was an unhappy place for him. "My room is upstairs, the smallest, next to my cousin's. There's the kitchen, and the living room." But Hermione immediately went to the stairs. Before Harry realized what was happening, Hermione stood staring at the cupboard under the stairs as tears flowed down her checks freely. She was as familiar with the story as any child who had grown up reading the stories. She knew Harry had no idea that the most of the wizarding world knew Harry had lived in a cupboard. Mrs. Granger went to her daughter and hugged her.

"Hermione, dear, what is the matter?"

"This is," answered Hermione. She pointed to the cupboard.

"I don't understand," Mrs. Granger said trying to comfort her daughter. Then without any warning, Hermione separated herself from her mother and embraced Harry in a bone-crushing hug and she wept.

"They've b-been so h-horrible to you," she cried. "I n-never wanted to b-believe it, and I c-could n-never ask you about it." Harry tried to comfort her, his eyes darting between each of Hermione's parents as he saw gradually their own dawning comprehension. Mrs. Granger held her hands to her mouth appalled while Mr. Granger simply stood in disbelief. They turned from photograph to photograph in the many frames hanging on the wall; no photo of Harry was present.

They understood.

Author's Notes: I felt it extremely important to have Hermione see where Harry spent his childhood, as have other author's on this site. This is important because the foundation of the relationship has to be laid solidly, and I can think of no better way than for Hermione to understand how Harry became the man he is.

As I said, there will be no Dumbledore bashing; I don't believe that Dumbledore was abusive or neglectful to Harry. He knew the prophecy and as such, knew he would only be able to protect him to some degree. It's important to keep in mind that Dumbledore had put many barriers in place to prevent Harry from getting into danger; it was only when Harry managed to go around those road blocks did his life ever fall into mortal danger. As for the Durselys, I imagine that Dumbledore wrestled with himself greatly leaving Harry in that house, but as we know, Voldemort had much more success at getting to Harry at Hogwarts then he ever did when he was at the Dursleys. Furthermore, I don't believe that Dumbledore wouldn't have gone to any length to discover a way to destroy the horcrux in Harry without him having to face death as he did in DH. Based on the episode with the potion in HBP, I would be willing to bet that keeping secret what Harry would have to do was nearly as torturous as his memory of his sister. Lastly, Dumbledore knew his time was limited and had to prioritize what he could to make sure Harry had the best chance he could to accomplish his task. OotP also makes it clear that while Dumbledore's methods are not free of mistakes, he clearly, genuinely cared about Harry.