Rated M for language. That is all. Everything else is relatively mild.

Hermione Jane Granger had never been so angry in her entire life, not even when she and her best friend, Harry Potter, had stood up to the one and only Lord Voldemort in the final fight that killed the dark wizard.

That had been six months ago, and she hadn't heard a single word from Harry since that fateful night. She had tried and tried to send him letters with her owl, Atheos, but every single one of them had come back undelivered. Everyone who had survived the fight had desperately tried to make contact with the emerald-eyed wizard, and all of their attempts had been unsuccessful.

Hermione had been writing letters back and forth with Luna Lovegood, and Neville Longbottom nearly every day since the battle. It had taken a bit to get Neville to both respond, but Hermione wasn't surprised. After all, Ginny Weasley had been one of the unfortunate casualties in the fight. Not only had they lost Ron and his little sister, but also Neville had lost his fiancée. It had taken several attempts on Hermione's part to get the boy to write back to her, and she suspected that he did so with much coercing from Luna.

Luna had thought it a brilliant idea for the four surviving members of the DA to move into a flat together in London. She and Neville were now staying there, but Hermione and Harry had not joined them. Hermione's parents, after realizing that they had almost lost their daughter to the battle, wanted her to stay with them for quite some time. Harry was another issue altogether, which was what had caused Hermione to be so upset.

Beyond sending daily letters to the bespectacled wizard, Hermione had been scrying nearly every few hours to discover his location and taking as many trips as she could to areas he had frequented during their friendship in the hopes of spotting him. The remaining Aurors of the Magical Law Enforcement unit of the Ministry had been scouring the English countryside for him for ages, at the orders of the Minister himself. There had been numerous search parties sent out for Harry, and finally the Daily Prophet printed an article offering a reward for any information leading to his discovery. Hermione hadn't liked that one, feeling it put him on the level with Azkaban criminals, but she was willing to take any help she could get.

Perhaps she could have understood his isolation after the final battle had he said something along the lines of 'I need time to myself, I'll see you in a few weeks,' but when he had seen Voldemort's body laying stone cold in the middle of the battlefield, he had given Hermione a sad glance, a few words, and Apparated from sight. The Ministry had been willing to record him as a missing person, but Hermione had refused. Somehow, she could still sense his presence. She knew he was out there, but the feeling wasn't specific enough to pinpoint where.

On the six-month anniversary of Voldemort's death and Harry's disappearance, Hermione sat alone in her bedroom at her parents' house, hunched over a desk. She had spent the morning having Atheos attempt to deliver letter after letter to Harry, hoping that at some point the brown owl would find him. When Atheos was off on another failed delivery and not giving her a stern glance as if to say 'give it up already!' Hermione was busy trying other ways to locate her best friend.

She had spread a large map of England in front of her, and was scrying every second that she had the chance to. She hadn't bothered with a map of Scotland to see if Harry was at Hogwarts. The school had been entirely demolished in the battle, and no one had had the time or energy to attempt to rebuild it again. Some took the destruction of the school as a sign that its time had come to an end, and until the four heirs of the founders chose to start over, it would remain a pile of rubble in the highlands.

Just as Atheos fluttered back into the spacious bedroom, Hermione let out an ear-piercing shriek of triumph. Dropping his undelivered letter on her bed, Atheos chose to exit through the window and head for a place where there were no loud noises to hurt his delicate ears.

Flicking her wand this way and that, Hermione quickly packed and shrunk her magical trunk as fast as she could. Refocusing on the location that her scrying crystal had landed, Hermione concentrated with every ounce of her magical being and Apparated with the softest of pops.

She found herself seconds later in the middle of Diagon Alley, which was more packed with busy shoppers than Hermione had ever seen it. The end of Voldemort's reign of terror had seen an increase in wizard social abilities, as they were out by the thousands, wandering the streets for the first time that they had been safe in over a decade. Struggling to spot Harry amongst the crowd, Hermione realized that not a single person there resembled him in the slightest manner.

Desperate to find her friend, Hermione used the Sonorous charm to magnify her voice. "Harry!" she boomed over the crowds, causing everyone to stop and stare. "Dammit, Harry, where are you! I know you're here!"

The crowd remained frozen, silently passing glances from one pair of eyes to the next. The entire wizarding community was acutely aware of who Hermione was, and there was no other man named Harry whom she would be yelling for. His disappearance was common knowledge, and Hermione's random appearance screaming for him in Diagon Alley was more than enough to make several witches and wizards think that she'd finally lost it.

Not a single one of them said anything negative towards her though, for they all realized that they owed their lives and safety to the chestnut-haired witch. The stories from the battlefield were widespread, and though few witches and wizards understood exactly how the events had transpired, they all knew that Harry Potter had drawn on his connection with his best friend to defeat Voldemort. It had been rumoured for some time that Voldemort's inability to love would be his downfall, and Harry's connection with Hermione had proved just that.

When the time had come for the final killing blow to be dealt, Harry had been so worn from the battle that he barely had the energy. He had watched Voldemort torture and kill several of his friends, including Ron and Ginny Weasley. He had seen Voldemort use the Cruciatus on Neville nearly to the breaking point, break every bone in Luna Lovegood's body, and Hermione… It had been his attack on Hermione that had driven Harry's anger to the point where the killing curse would be effectual against the Dark Lord. Voldemort had, with a casual flick of his wand, stripped the witch bare in front of all of his minions, and 'crucio' her for an agonizing ten minutes. Harry had been magically restrained the entire time and was forced to watch her writhe in pain before Voldemort tossed her into the waiting arms of Lucius Malfoy. The elder blonde Death Eater had been more than happy to accept the Mudblood witch as a trophy, and had prepared to violate her in front of the crowd just to bring Potter's ego down a few notches.

When Harry had struck out and brought her back to his side, she was unconscious from the effects of the Cruciatus. He barely had time to conjure her a robe when Voldemort struck again, bringing him to his knees on the ground in pain.

"First, I think I'll have you watch as I kill your precious Mudblood. And then, I'll kill you," the evil wizard had gloated, taking up precious seconds.

As he had spoken, Hermione had become conscious enough to grasp Harry's hand in her own. An emotional torrent had rained down on the raven-haired wizard, Hermione's feelings for him coming crashing down around his ears. Take my energy, she had insisted, somehow forming a temporary telepathic connection with him that lasted just long enough for him to hear her words.

Harry had been about to collapse as she poured her magic into him, giving him new strength. In that moment he used an Unforgivable Curse for the second and final time in his life, fuelling it with his love for Hermione and his hatred of Voldemort. The Dark Lord had fallen the moment the jet of green light hit him square in the chest. Hermione had fully regained consciousness and had sat on the ground, staring up at Harry as tears poured down her face.

When Harry did not step forward from the crowd in Diagon Alley, a kindly older witch stepped up to Hermione. "I don't think he's here, dear. And I don't think he's coming back," she said sadly, placing a comforting hand on the younger witch's shoulder.

Hermione's eyes glazed over as her thoughts returned to that night.

"I don't think he's coming back," Harry had reassured her after making sure that Voldemort truly was dead. He had crept forward on his knees until he was face to face with her on the ground. "Are you all right?" he had asked, gently taking her hand in his.

Barely finding the words to speak, Hermione nodded. "Are you?"

Harry nodded in the affirmative, drawing her into a hug. They had sat there for several minutes, taking in the scene around them. Tears slid down his cheeks as he took in the bodies of his friends, and the severe injuries on those who had survived. "I—I can't do this," he'd said, standing.

Hermione had looked up at him in confusion, not understanding what he had meant.

"It's never going to end," he had whispered, "There will be another one… there always is. Dumbledore had Grindelwald, and he died trying to help me while I had Voldemort. There will be another who follows in Tom Riddle's path, and Merlin knows it'll be the end of me." He'd raked his fingers through his inky black hair in frustration, his shoulders drooping. "I'm not going to do this anymore. Some new dark wizard will come along and want to kill me, but if I remove myself, the temptation won't be there." He sighed, a few more tears flowing freely. "I won't let any more of the people I care the most about get hurt because of me." Stooping to kiss his best friend on the cheek, Harry had turned and waved a final goodbye.

Before Hermione could open her mouth to argue, he had Apparated and never returned.

"Dear?" the witch shook Hermione by the shoulders, bringing her back to reality. "Hermione Granger, are you okay?"

It took every ounce of strength Hermione had left in her to shake her head. The torrent of emotions from the last six months finally overcame her. She was emotionally exhausted from her constant search for Harry, and the physical drain it had put on her magic was too much for her. She sank into the arms of the old witch as she fainted, whispering before she fell, "I need Harry…"

The crowd went into a panic as they watched the brunette witch slump to the ground. Several voices rang out, calling for medi-witches and Healers alike. One person in a dark, hooded cloak left the fray and made their way straight for Hermione as she lay prone on the cobblestone of Diagon Alley.

The figure bent over her, hands spread wide as a red glow faintly emanated from them. The onlookers seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief as the anonymous person tried their best to heal the witch, truly concerned for her welfare. After all, had it not been for Hermione Granger, Harry Potter would not have been able to defeat Voldemort in the way he did.

The older witch retreated to the front of the crowd, letting the Healer do his work. He gently scooped Hermione up in his arms and held back as her arms instinctively went around his neck, her head resting against his collarbone.

He turned to face the crowd as his hood slipped from his face, a loud gasp rippled through the masses. A messy shock of raven hair sprang free, as his emerald green gaze bore into the group.

Before a single one of them had a chance to say or do anything, both he and Hermione vanished without a trace.

Several hours later, Hermione woke up in an unfamiliar, dark bedroom. She was lying on a soft mattress with a warm blanket tucked around her, and her head resting on a pillow. She could feel someone's eyes on her, watching her. It was a familiar presence, one that Hermione recognized and knew better than her own, even after its absence for half a year.

She fumbled for her wand at her side to light up the room, but to her dismay it was not there. Hermione glanced nervously around the room, knowing that he was there somewhere. "Harry?" she whispered tentatively.

Over in a corner she saw a reflection flash off of a wired pair of spectacles, and hear a small thud as a glass tumbler connected with a wooden table. The sound of glass clinking against glass preceded the gurgle of a liquid filling the tumbler. A few moments of silence passed as Harry drained the contents of the tumbler and slammed it back down on the table. The harsh, heavy sound caused Hermione to flinch.

She could hear his footsteps as he strode over to a window, throwing back the heavy velvet curtains to let some light into the room. Hermione watched in horror as the shell of the man she loved returned to his chair and refilled his glass. She struggled to focus on what he was drinking, and did her best not to scowl as she read the label. Apparently in the time since Tom Riddle's demise, Harry had taken a liking to muggle alcohol over Ogden's Old Firewhisky. Hermione recognized the red and silver of the Smirnoff vodka label, watching the sunlight flashed off of it as Harry poured himself another glass.

Hermione cringed as she watched him toss the potent alcohol back like it were nothing, knowing that vodka burned on the way down nearly as bad as tequila. He slammed the glass back down and moved to refill it again when Hermione lifted herself from the bed. As she put her foot forward to cross the room towards him, his emerald eyes flashed angrily at her, causing her to pause mid-step.

"Don't," he said quietly, his eyes threatening her.

Retreating back to the safety of the mattress like a scolded child, Hermione drew up her knees and wrapped the blanket back around her shoulders. She could see how angry and frustrated Harry was, and knew that going closer to him would make things worse.

"Where are we?" she asked in a low voice, hoping not to disturb him.

She watched as he took a small sip of the vodka, apparently not wanting to drain the entire glass again. She already knew that he had consumed two full glasses, and they were roughly the equivalent of a triple shot. Harry seemed to be pacing himself now, waiting for the buzz to set in.

"Potter Estates," he answered her, keeping his glass close to his mouth.

"Is this where you've been hiding the last six months?" she questioned him, struggling to keep her voice even. Harry's position in the corner left a large portion of his body in the shadows, but Hermione was not so fortunate. The bright mid-afternoon sun shone directly onto the bed, offering her no place to hide.

His only answer was another pull at his vodka, which Hermione took to be an affirmative answer.

"If you've been here, then why hasn't Atheos been able to deliver any of my letters to you?"

Harry glowered at her from his shadowy corner and slammed the tumbler back onto the table, vodka splashing over the edges. He crossed the room in what seemed like an instant and glared at Hermione as the sunlight brought him clearly into view. "Must you always ask so many damned questions?"

The sight before Hermione brought tears to her eyes. Harry's hair was wilder than it had ever been; it had grown two or so inches since she'd last seen him, and was more unruly than ever. His eyes, though they still glowed a vibrant green, held none of the life that they had so long ago. The colour was bright but the emotions were flat. His scar, ever-present, was now accompanied by a thin slash across his right cheek; a remnant from the battle as Peter Pettigrew had again charged Harry with a dagger, right before Harry had blown his rodent-like head off of his shoulders with a Reductor curse.

He wore a torn pair of jeans that hung low on the hips and an old, fading scarlet button-down shirt, which he had carelessly left undone. His chest was exposed, and Hermione could see more of his scars from the battle. There were a few here and there that were fading with time, as Harry had not had the diligent care of Poppy Pomfrey to ensure their disappearance. Only one stood out as it would for the remainder of his life, which had been a parting gift from Pettigrew.

As the man's body had slumped to the ground, his arm still extended with the blade, the tip had sliced its way from Harry's collarbone to his hip, much like the scar that Hermione had escaped the Department of Mysteries with. This too would have faded with the other scars, but Pettigrew had been smart in choosing his blade. It had been imbued with magical properties that would cause a wound to heal the muggle way, which was why Harry still had the scar on his cheek as well as across his chest.

Hermione's eyes fearfully travelled the length of the scar from his left hip to his right collarbone, taking care not to linger too long on the muscles that still remained from their physical training prior to the battle. She did her best not to cry as her eyes searched his face, taking in the deep bags underneath his eyes and the hollowed look to his cheekbones. He appeared to be a shell of the Harry she knew and loved, filled with sorrow and regret rather than the laughter and life he had come to know during their time at Hogwarts.

He stood there, silent, allowing Hermione to see what the war had truly done to him. He knew that his appearance would bother her, but he was past the point of caring. "I said, must you always ask so many damned questions?" he prompted, distracting her.

A few tears spilled over as she struggled to say, "I'm sorry, Harry… So, so sorry…"

He turned away from her and retreated to his dark corner, draining the remainder of his vodka as he went. "I already know what your questions are going to be, so I'm just going to answer them." He sighed as he poured himself another glass of the strong alcohol, this time conjuring a few ice cubes to add to the tumbler. "Yes, I've been here for six months. Atheos couldn't deliver the letters because he couldn't find me. This house is Unplottable, as well as under a Fidelius Charm. Before you ask, I performed the spell, and I'm my own secret keeper. There are more wards on this house than there were on Hogwarts, so no one is going to find either of us here. You're in the house not only because I brought you in, but when we arrived you were conscious for a few moments, just long enough for me to tell you the house was here."

Hermione sniffled back a few more tears as it sunk in how well Harry knew her. Those had been the exact questions she was going to ask him, but she wasn't done. As she opened her mouth to ask a few more, he waved his hand in a gesture of silence at her.

"Don't bother, I already know. You want to know why today, after six months of hiding here, your scrying managed to turn something up. I Apparated to Diagon Alley for a few things. Conjured food and supplies just aren't the same as the real thing, so I was planning on picking up everything as quickly as I could before you'd notice. How was I supposed to know that you'd be scrying every ten bloody minutes to find me? Before it was two or three times a day. When I was leaving Flourish and Blotts with a stack of parchment and some new quills under one arm and some books in the other I…I felt you there. I couldn't see you, but I could feel you. I shrank every parcel I was carrying, stuffed them in my pockets, and went to find a quiet place to Apparate when I heard your voice."

For the first time since she'd regained consciousness, Hermione saw traces of emotion flicked across Harry's face and through his eyes. His eyes were glistening and his hands were shaking. She wanted nothing more than to go to him, to wrap her arms around him and whisper words of comfort in his ear, but she knew that he would shut her out.

"I turned to leave even when I could hear you screaming my name, but I stopped as soon as I heard the crowd yelling for Healers and medi-witches. That's when I saw you," he said quietly, his voice cracking with emotion. "You've barely slept, haven't you?" he asked, his eyes boring into hers. "No more than four hours a night, right? You've spent every waking moment trying to find me." Harry scrubbed a hand across his face, disguising the few tears that slipped across his cheeks. When he saw Hermione frozen on his bed, too frightened to say anything, he couldn't stop himself from yelling at her. "Dammit, woman, don't you ever bloody listen? I told you that night! I told you to stay away! I might not have said the words but the bloody implication was damned well there! I won't let anyone else I care about get hurt. You can sit there and tell me that Riddle's pushing up daisies for all I bloody well care, but I know that someone will take his place. He took Grindelwald's place, and someone will take his. I should've killed that bastard Malfoy when I had the chance…" he added, raking his hands through his hair in frustration.

"We lost more than half of the DA, Fleur's going to be raising her baby without a father, Ginny never even stood a chance, and Ron…Ron's going to miss out on the happiest day of his life," he lamented, sinking back into his chair. "I still count my blessings every day that I know that Neville, Luna, and you made it through, which is why I've stayed away. I'm not letting anything happen to any of you. Especially you."

Hermione felt like she had stayed silent long enough. "Nothing is going to happen to us, Harry, except for a load of heartbreak and sadness if you keep staying away like this! If another dark wizard comes along, we'll fight him and kill him. We can do it, Harry, you know we can."

"You don't fucking get it!" he exploded, swearing at her. Hermione cringed, but stood her ground. "I know I can bloody well kill any new dark bastard who comes along, but that's not the bloody point! I've fulfilled the fucking prophecy, I've saved the damned wizarding world, and I've made everything a whole load safer for everyone. I've done all these things that no one else could do, and what's it gotten me? I've been in hiding for six months now to stay away from it all! I just want to be fucking normal, Hermione, is that so much to ask? Even with the war and everything done and gone, I'll still be in the fucking spotlight! It'll have gone from Harry Potter, The Chosen One and The-Boy-Who-Lived to Harry Potter, Conqueror-of-He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Saviour of the Wizarding World, and Order of Merlin, First-fucking-class! I don't give a damn about the awards and badges and shite everyone wants to give me, it's all bollocks as far as I'm concerned. Everywhere I go there'll be people at my feet, thanking me for saving them from Riddle. I don't care about any of that. The war is over, the bad guy's dead, and I just want to be home. Is that so bad? To want to live a normal life after all of the shite I've been through? I want to be able to go to work each day and come home, cook dinner and spend a nice evening in with my wife, make love to her before going to sleep, and start all over again. That's it. I want to be normal but Merlin knows I can't even try to date anyone without worrying that they're only after me because of what my name entails and not who I really am."

Harry grabbed at his hair, nearly tearing it out in his frustration. In his six months of isolation he had aged considerably, and now resembled a late twenty-eight instead of his youthful twenty.

"Harry," Hermione began cautiously, continuing only after being sure that he wouldn't explode at her again, "you deserve to be normal more than anyone else I know. I'm sure that everyone would respect your decision to stay out of the limelight if you made them aware of it. And I—I never knew that that was all you wanted to be normal. I had always thought that normal for you would be becoming an Auror and hunting down every last Death Eater before you settled down."

Harry sighed, tossing back a bit more vodka. The buzz had set in a few moments earlier when he had been screaming, but the clear, potent liquid was dulling the sharp pain in his heart. "Six months ago, that would have been exactly what I wanted. Hell, a small part of me still wants that, to make sure that every last one of those dodgy bastards is behind bars. But now…" His eyes glazed over as his mind wandered through the possibilities he would never experience. "You should go, 'Mione," he whispered, turning his face away. The liquor was really starting to take effect, and he didn't know how much longer he could keep himself hidden in the corner.

"I'm not leaving you," she said stubbornly. "I want to stay."

"Why?" Harry asked, doing his best to keep the emotion from his voice. "Why in the name of Merlin would you want to stay here with me? Bloody hell, if it hadn't been for me, at least Ron might still be around to marry you in the fall."

Hermione fell silent, unconsciously running the fingers of her right hand around the ring finger of her left. She had taken her engagement ring off seven months ago, and had worn it on a chain around her neck until the night the war ended when Lucius Malfoy had ripped it from her neck.

"Even if he'd made it, it wouldn't have happened," she admitted quietly.

Harry shot her a strange glance through the fuzzy haze of his inebriation. "What are you talking about, 'Mione?" He tried to quell the beating of his heart at her words, but it wasn't working.

"I—I told him," she stammered, refusing to meet his eyes. "About us… About that—that night."

It was Harry's turn to fall silent as Hermione's words sunk in. His mind travelled back to relive that night, seven months earlier. Hermione had stayed behind after another DA practice at the Ministry Auror Training Field to talk to Harry. They had calmly walked the length of the pitch together, towards the Auror's locker rooms in silence.

They reached the hallway, the door to the witch's room on the right and the wizard's on the left.

"Are you ever going to leave him?" Harry questioned, his throat constricting. "Hermione, you know he's with Lavender and Parvati every other night the last few months. He's my best mate, but I can't keep a secret like this from you. I can see it in your eyes, you know what he's doing, and yet you still wear that stupid ring on your finger like nothing's wrong."

Hermione's face grew hot as tears slid down her cheeks. She nodded, silently admitting that she knew everything Harry had told her. "I could smell them on him when he came home last night," she said tearfully. "I couldn't tell where he began and they ended."

Harry sensed that she was about to fall apart, and he drew her into his arms before she could escape through the door on the right. "You deserve better than this, 'Mione," he told her, stroking her hair. "I can't for my life understand why Ron would do this to you… Merlin knows I never would."

Hermione's eyes found his, lit with hope. Harry froze, realizing what he had let slip.

"Harry?" she asked, her face inching closer.

"What I, uh, what I mean is, um… I would never, erm, be able to do that to s-someone I care about." Harry stuttered, trying to cover his own arse.

"Bullocks," she said softly, searching his eyes. "You said you'd never do that to me."

"No, I wouldn't," he admitted, taking a few steps back. "And I wouldn't do this," he said, indicating the physical proximity, or lack thereof, between them, "to Ron. Wanker as he is, he's still my best mate."

Hermione paused for a moment, leaning back against the wall. "How come you never asked me to the Yule Ball in fourth year, Harry?"

His eyes widened at the question. "Because I asked Cho and she turned me down flat?" he offered meekly.

"After that. When you still didn't have a date."

Harry shrugged, raking his hands through his already messy hair. "Because Ron beat me to it?"

"Before that, Harry," she said impatiently.

Harry tried to play dumb, but deep inside he knew exactly why he hadn't asked her. "I—I don't know what you mean," he tried, his eyes telling her the truth.

Hermione glared at him. "Stop lying, Harry."

"Do you really want the truth?" he asked carefully, not meeting her eyes.

"I do," she said softly, reaching her hand out to his.

Harry drew his hand back and with a quick flick of his fingers, their surroundings mimicked that of the Great Hall as it had been decorated for the ball, with its frosty windows and enchanted falling snow. Another flick and Harry was again in his dress robes, while Hermione looked like the belle of the ball in her icy blue dress. It was a tight-fitting bodice with a skirt that gently flared as it flowed to the ground, and it took Harry's breath away.

He held his hand out for her, and they danced silently together to an invisible band playing inaudible music.

"As nice as this is, Harry, this doesn't answer my question," she reminded him, tucking her head against his shoulder as they swayed in time with music only they could hear.

Harry ignored her as he continued to hold her close, revelling in the sensation. He gently pressed a kiss to the top of her head, his hand caressing the back of her neck. She looked up at him, her eyes locking on his.

"Harry," she prompted, her eyes filled with questions.

"Are you sure about this?" he asked gruffly. "I can show you why I never asked; what I wanted to happen. Everything right now is just that – right now, surrounded by enchantments and illusions. Just because it looks like the past doesn't mean we are changing it."

"I want to know," she breathed.

At her words, Harry twirled her from the dance floor and through the hallways, up the many floors of the castle to the Room of Requirement. The door floated open for them, as if it had been waiting. Inside Hermione found the room filled with a very large bed in the centre, surrounded by massive piles of soft, comfortable-looking pillows. The bed was a four-poster like the ones in the dormitories, with heavy red velvet curtains hanging around it.

Harry cautiously led her towards the bed where they stood, for several minutes, looking into each other's eyes.

Hermione had fully grasped his implications, and couldn't help but feel shocked. "Harry, we were fourteen!"

"You were fifteen," he reminded her, drawing her close. "And even then I was in love with you. I just didn't know it yet." He nuzzled her neck, his lips leaving traces of goose bumps on her flesh. He felt her shudder at his touch, and he took a few gentle nips of the skin below her jaw.

"H-Harry," she stuttered, her eyelids drooping in pleasure.

"You wanted to know," he said as he captured her lips. His kiss was gentle, soft at first, but as he felt Hermione respond to him and mold her body against his, his kiss grew urgent. His tongue ran along the seam of her lips, begging entrance, which she granted. As their tongues danced their hands roamed, desperately trying to find a way to get closer. Hermione's knees went weak as they tumbled back onto the bed, clinging to one another.

"Harry," she panted, barely protesting as his hands found the zipper of her dress.

"Mmm?" he mumbled, pressing his lips to her neck.

Hermione struggled to find words as her mind was reeling from the sensations Harry's mouth was causing. "I—I think I get the point," she said, breathing heavily.

Harry paused to look into her eyes as the zipper of her dress came undone. "Do you want me to stop?" he asked.

Hermione lost herself in the deep pools of emerald, revelling in the lust and love she found there. She could feel him against her thigh; feel how desperately he wanted her.

"Yes…No…Not like this, Harry," she choked, her eyes opening wide.

With a few flicks of Harry's fingers they found themselves in the girl's room of the training facility, with Hermione lying on a bench and Harry pressed on top of her. He gently eased himself off of her, making no attempt to hide his arousal. He knew that after eight years of friendship he couldn't hide anything from Hermione.

"So what is it then?" he asked, his eyes glittering with something she didn't understand. "Yes? No? Ron? Me?"

"Yes, Ron! I mean, you! No! I mean…Dammit!" she stuttered, her face flushing as she got to her feet. It was at that moment she realized that her shirt was on the floor and she had been left in her jeans and her bra. Apparently Harry's undoing of her zipper in their fantasyland equated to her losing her t-shirt in the real world.

In the blink of an eye Harry had dragged her from the bench and shoved her into the overly large shower stall that was most likely built for group showers. He pressed her up against the wall, pinning her hands above her head as he claimed her lips once more. "Don't make me turn the water on," he threatened between kisses, their bodies flush against each other.

Hermione responded to every light touch of his, thrusting her hips into his own in a frantic motion.

Ice cold beads of water rained down on her as Harry backed out of the shower, his eyes cold and hard.

"I'm not going to watch him do this to you anymore." He said slowly, his voice having trouble finding the words. "I'm not going to sit back and hope you come to your senses, and realize where you damned well belong."

Hermione's eyes widened as she realized what he meant.

"I know where my heart lies, Hermione. Do you?" he asked quietly, his eyes suddenly finding something interesting about the shower tiles.

He turned away, muttering as he left the change room. "I need you," he whispered in a tone so low Hermione had to struggle to hear him.

As he left her that day, she had sunk to the floor of the shower, the cold, hard rain still beating down on her skin. "I need you too," she whispered back, her tears mingling with the water from the showerhead.

"Why did you do that?" Harry hissed. "I swear, 'Mione, you better have told him all the damned details, because if he thinks that we shagged, I swear I'll—"

"You'll what, Harry?" Hermione flew across the room, glaring at him from a foot in front of his knees. "I told him everything that bloody happened. That I knew about Lavender, and Parvati, and Merlin only knows what other slags he was shagging behind my back; that you knew and cared too much to keep it from me. I told him that we kissed, and that I lo—"

"Don't even fucking say it, Hermione." He threatened, the vodka clearly starting to go to his head. "Just tell me he didn't die thinking that I tried to steal his fiancée away from him."

Hermione shook her head. "No, he died thinking that I hated him. We were going to try to work things out, Harry, really! He promised to stop seeing Parvati and Lavender, and I promised that I'd stop… talking about you every five seconds. And then we fought, right before you killed Riddle. We were still screaming at each other when we felt your call for help; him about how he was too damned blind to see how I felt all these years, and me about how things could have worked if he could have kept it in his pants."

A few tears escaped from her eyes as she remembered watching Ron die at the hands of Tom Riddle. Even though their last words to each other had been words of anger, she hoped that he'd known she didn't really hate him as he died.

"I would have gone through with it, you know," she mumbled, dropping to the floor and leaning against Harry's chair. Against his better judgement he slipped a few fingers into her hair, playing with the strands. "I would have married him."

Harry went numb at her words. "Really?" he asked in a small voice.

She nodded. "After that night at the Ministry you just… dropped the subject. You never even told me you loved me, Harry. Hell, aside from the connection we had at the fight, you never really spoke to me again. I mean, sure, at training and stuff, but we didn't talk. Not like we used to. I figured you were so mad at me that you just didn't care anymore. Even if you'd run like a madman down the aisle at our wedding when there was a call for objections screaming your bloody head off…" She smiled, "Well, no, I probably wouldn't have if you'd done that, but that's besides the point."

"What were you two fighting about that morning?" Harry asked, his voice pained with an expression to match.

"You," she said simply. "I told him I—how I felt. That I didn't think we should be together, or get married. I was about to give him his ring back when you called."

Harry winced at the inopportune timing, but continued his line of questioning. "Is that why you spent so much time and energy looking for me?" he asked, stumbling over the words. The vodka was in full effect now, and his head was spinning.

Hermione reached for the bottle of Smirnoff and took a few swigs. "Might as well be on your level," she explained as she took a few more and replaced the vodka. "In answer to your question, yes. Not to tell you what happened between Ron and I, I knew you'd feel guilty, but I also knew that you'd just end up squeezing it out of me anyway. I wanted to tell you that I lo—"

"Dammit, Hermione, I already told you not to say that!" he yelled as he pounded his fist on the table for emphasis. The vodka bottle jumped an inch off of the surface, and Hermione quickly grabbed it and took another mouthful before putting it back.

"Oh sod off, Potter," she said angrily, stalking back over to the bed. He stared at her in amazement that she'd told him off. Apparently Smirnoff ran through her veins quicker than it did his. "I didn't spend six months with nearly sleepless nights, worrying every waking hour over you, scrying every spare minute I had between writing you letters to have you tell me to shut up when I want to tell you the most important thing I've ever had to say in my life."

Properly put in his place, Harry sank back into the chair as Hermione gently padded across the floor to stop in front of his chair. "Stand up," she commanded.

Harry staggered to his feet, having to stabilize himself by holding onto one arm of the chair.

"It would figure you'd have to be drunk to hear me out on this," she muttered, guiding him over to the bed. She helped him onto the soft coverlet, having him sit cross-legged and facing the foot of the bed. She figured that if he passed out from the vodka, at least he wouldn't hit his head.

"I'm not d-drunk," he hiccoughed, swaying slightly.

Hermione found her wand on the table next to Harry's chair and pointed it at him. "Sobrietus," she muttered, appreciating the immediate effects of the Sobering charm.

"Thanks," Harry said, looking a bit embarrassed that he had been too drunk to sit up properly.

"No more vodka. At least, not that much," she chided softly, seating herself to face him.

Hermione reached across her legs and grasped Harry's hands in hers. "Before I say anything, I'll have you know that I have no problem whatsoever in binding your arse up with ropes and Silencing the hell out of you until you listen to what I have to say, so you might as well sit here quietly and listen."

Harry nodded, his palms beginning to sweat. He had loved her since they were eleven years old, and his heart had been ripped neatly in two when she had announced her engagement to his best friend. It hadn't helped that Ginny had been right next to him, loudly proclaiming that they had been together longer than Hermione and Ron had, and her ring finger of her left hand was still unadorned. They had broken up that night.

He knew it was coming and, as much as he wanted to hear it, he couldn't help but dread the words. "Hermione, can I say something first?" he asked as he helped to steady her. He knew that the only way she'd heard him out first was if she still had the vodka running through her veins, so he took advantage of her lack of sobriety and began speaking. "I just want you to know that I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I had to show you what I'd wanted to happen at the Yule Ball, and I'm sorry that I inadvertently caused your break-up with Ron. I'm sorry for the number of times you've been in danger because of your friendship with me, and I'm sorry that Ron died fighting at the battle. I know that Riddle is dead and he's not coming back, but I'm scared anyway. I'm scared that there's going to be another dark wizard, and that he's going to come for me, too. I'm scared that I'll never have a normal life, and I don't want to put you in harm's way anymore. I'm—I'm not going to lose you. I wish there was some way for this to happen that you could be happy and safe, but I—I really don't know what t-that would be." His throat constricted as tears welled in his eyes, threatening to spill over.

"Oh, Harry," she whispered softly, leaning forward and twisting her body so that she could hug him. She sat back once he returned the embrace, and chewed her bottom lip thoughtfully. "There is a way for things to happen the way you want, Harry," she said quietly, her gaze meeting his. "We can go somewhere else. We can dye your hair and get you coloured contacts; hell, I'll do the same. We can run away and never come back, just the two of us. You can be normal, we'll never have to fight the bad guys again." She moved across the mattress to snuggle herself firmly into his arms. "The only way that I can be both happy and safe at the same time is when I'm with you." She felt his arms tighten protectively around her. "This is the safest place for me, Harry. Right here, in your arms…where I belong."

She twisted her head to catch his eye, and saw a few tears spill over onto his cheeks. Hermione turned her body in his arms and pressed forward, causing Harry to lie back on the bed. She stopped, hovering over him, their eyes locked together. "I love you, Harry James Potter," she whispered, kissing him.

His fingers shot up to tangle in her hair as he spun her over on her back, kissing her thoroughly. With a few flicks of his hands the two of them were safely snug under the covers of the bed, and their clothes were on the floor. Harry was taking his time in showing Hermione just exactly how he felt about her, and as they came together, collapsing against the mattress, she heard his silky voice in her ear.

"I love you too, Hermione Jane…Potter."

Her eyes flew open, finding a wide grin on his face. "Harry!" she exclaimed.

"You have no idea how badly I've wanted to say that since I met you," he responded, blushing. "I watched you, you know," he added.

"You what!"

"The last six months… Apparently scrying doesn't cover invisibility cloaks, because I was right there in your room with you when you were doing it."

Hermione grabbed a pillow and threw it at his head, glaring as her mind still tossed around the idea of Hermione Jane Potter. "You saw how upset I was and you never bloody said a damned thing? You just stood there? You continued hiding from me until today? How could you?"

"I knew you'd be angry," he chuckled.

Hermione certainly could not see the humour in the situation as she sat with the covers pulled up over her chest, glowering at him.

"I had to make sure you were okay," he admitted, a sheepish grin on his face.

"You never told me what you'd been doing here for six months," she pointed out.

"At first I was hiding," he admitted, looking away. "And then I was planning."

"Planning?" she asked curiously.

He nodded, and led her out of the bed towards the door, throwing a robe around her shoulders as he went.

He took her on a brief tour of the Potter Estates mansion, showing her each and every individual room. "You should've seen it when I got here," he lamented. "Place was a bloody mess."

"Why?" Hermione asked, still a bit upset. "Why did you spend time cleaning a house when you could have told me that you were okay?"

Harry stopped and gestured to the room around them. "This is the Library," he explained, watching Hermione's eyes light up as she saw the expansive amount of books stretched out before her. "I spent the last three months alphabetizing it for you."

"For me?" she squealed, looking straight at him.

"For you," he confirmed, leading her over to a shelf. He brought her attention to one specific book. Hogwarts: A History in all its leather-bound glory sat proudly on the shelf. Hermione lifted it and ran her fingers lovingly over the cover. "Newest edition," Harry commented, pointing out the Roman numerals at the bottom of the cover. "Well, go on," he prompted her.

Without further ado, Hermione opened the cover to the first page. There was an inscription there.

My Dear Hermione,

I love you, but I'm sure you either already knew that or I've told you myself by now. I've spent the last six months in isolation trying to decide whether or not you returned my feelings for you, or your search was to find your best friend and not your potential lover. If you are reading this right now, then it's clear how you feel for me. If you turn to page 315, my feelings for you will be clear as well.

Love always,

Hermione eyed him curiously as her nimble fingers flitted over the pages, and her breath caught in her throat when she arrived at the one marked three hundred and fifteen.

"Harry Potter, how dare you destroy such a precious bo—what in the name of Merlin?"

Harry had carved out the centre of the remaining pages past number three-hundred-fifteen, leaving a roughly three inch square in the centre. In the middle was a small golden ring held in place by magic. There was a large, princess cut ruby in the centre, with a golden roaring lion superimposed on the stone.

"Godric's ring?" Hermione asked in a small voice, lifting it from the book's mutilated pages.

Harry nodded, grinning in delight. "Found it in my parents vault. Apparently, Heir of Slytherin wasn't all that far off, just a few houses to the other end of the spectrum. My dad was somehow distantly related to Godric Gryffindor, and I'm the last remaining descendant." He took the ring from Hermione's fingers and dropped to one knee, slipping her left hand into his own.

"Hermione, I've been in love with you for nine years now, and I was too stupid to realize it until our fourth year at Hogwarts, and too afraid that you wouldn't return my affections if I was open with you about them. I've stood by and watched Ron, bless his soul, break your heart and wished more than anything that I could take away all of the pain he caused you. My heart broke when you agreed to marry him, and I felt like a part of me had died. These last six months without you have been the hardest of my life, because I knew that I loved you and I had to watch you every day crying as you tried to find me.

"I wasn't ready for you yet, 'Mione. After the war I was a broken man who had watched his closest friends among others fall at the hand of evil. I had taken lives, even though it was for a good cause, and I needed some time to deal with that. I needed to heal myself to become the man I am today, who kneels before you and is asking to spend the rest of his life making the last six months up to you. Hermione Jane Granger," Harry paused, his voice cracking with emotion as he saw tears forming in the corners of Hermione's eyes, "will you do me the honour of being my wife?"

Hermione broke down in tears as she fell to her knees, kissing Harry so hard that he could barely breathe. "Yes!" she exclaimed, "Yes, yes, yes!"

The couple spent a few minutes kissing and celebrating, when Harry received a very hard punch to the arm from Hermione. "Oi! What the bleeding hell was that for, woman? I put a ring on your finger and you hit me?" he joked.

"You'd better replace that book," she threatened, grinning.

"I have a spare in the bedroom," he offered, cocking an eyebrow at her.

Hermione took the invitation as Harry swept her up into his arms and carried her down the hallway, her delighted laughter echoing off of the walls.

A/N: This is just a oneshot for the hell of it, a plot bunny that hopped into my head while I was writing Harry Potter and the Final Battle, but I couldn't end the story with this as it would completely discount the plot. So please, enjoy angsty-drunk!Harry and.. yes.. enjoy. :o)