Fair warning: this is a very tragic one-shot!
January twenty-fifth nineteen ninety-nine was a day of celebration throughout magical England. It had been exactly one year since Harry Potter, the Chosen One, had defeated Lord Voldemort.
Of all the gatherings in the land there was only one where none of the occupants were celebrating. Inside Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place there were four humans, two elves, an owl and a cat who had little to be thankful for.
"You know right now McGonagall is probably giving some great speech before the feast," Ron Weasley casually mentioned.
"It's always about his heroism and sacrifice to that lot," Hermione spat out. "None of them ever truly cared for Harry…"
Everyone gathered allowed her angry tears to explore her face a moment before Neville tired to put an end to it, "We did Hermione."
"All of us here, and he knows even from where he is now how much we all truly cared for him," Luna Lovegood supplied as she rested one hand on Hermione's on the table, leaving the other tightly laced with Ron's under the table.
The four of them had been inspirable from Harry for the last six months of the wizarding war and had all suffered from his tragic death, but none more than Hermione who had spent the last year of her life locked away inside Grimmauld Place with just the elves, Hedwig and Crookshanks. Ron, Luna and Neville were sure without the elves around Hermione would have starved herself with grief, but none of them could have ever guessed her true feelings.
At the start of the summer following Dumbledore's death Harry, Hermione and Ron had disappeared on their quest and through mostly luck found Slytherin's locket hidden away in the ratty old house. Kreacher had appeared when Hermione pulled it from his hiding place and Harry had kicked the old elf a little harder than needed when she was attacked. The conversation on if they should mount his head along with the others only lasted as long as it took for Ron to dig a hole outside.
The next day the news was released that Hogwarts was to be closed until further notice; letters offering help from both Luna and Neville came the following day. Apparently Mrs. Weasley had to forcibly restrain Ginny inside the Burrow from going off to help them. It was also the day Dobby appeared inside Grimmauld Place carrying Gryffindor's sword, apparently ordered by both Professor McGonagall and Dumbledore's portrait. Of course once he been admitted inside Harry Potter's house he refused to leave.
As Dobby busied himself repairing the house he managed to overhear quite a few conversations between its five habitants and managed to piece much of the information together. Winky had always accused him of hijinks, but when Dobby announced to the people gathered that he could get them one of the objects they required if they'd hire Winky from Hogwarts ten minutes of silence followed.
"Dobby, we know almost nothing about what we're trying to do. It's not like we can just send you out to the market for a hunk of Voldemort's soul," Ron finally managed.
"Dobby knew of the importance the Dark Lord's book that he gave his former master. He also knows Winky's former master Barty was given a bracelet of equal importance."
Harry jumped back in shock promptly destroying an end table, "If you're right about this I'm paying you each a thousand Galleons."
Once Dobby had been revived they summoned Winky. She was still a bit attached to her former owners, so it took a few hours of convincing but eventually she popped out of the house only to return five minutes later with a silver and sapphire bracelet.
Leaving the necklace and bracelet both strictly guarded by their newly hired elves the five then spent the rest of the summer trying to locate Hufflepuff's cup. Following their short hiatus to attend Bill and Fleur's wedding, where Ginny once again tried to force her way into the now quite tight-knit group (and was denied by all five following the temper tantrum she displayed), they followed the only lead any of them could think of.
Harry's birthday was quite subdued, just the residents of the house spending an evening in the kitchen. He'd demanded that anything they had planned could wait until their mission was complete, only submitting to a nice meal and cake. He found Hermione waiting for him just outside his room that night where and she insisted he at least get a birthday hug. The tender embrace seemed to last a lifetime as all of the emotions the two of them had shared throughout the years washed over them both and the following kiss on the cheek, really just a hair away from his own mouth, kept him awake half the night. A piece of his brain seemed to think whatever he'd just felt from Hermione was because he missed Ginny, but nothing with Ginny had ever felt that right.
They spent the entire month of August searching the forests of Albania, knowing it to be a place Voldemort had at least twice called home. It was Luna who eventually found a tiny cavern leading to a dimly lit chamber. Surrounded by darkness the faint golden gleam of the cup could just be made out. Perhaps it was his impatient nature, or the fact that they hadn't had a decent meal since the wedding, but Ron decided to walk straight over and grab it.
The five of them found out that they had not happened into a dark chamber. It was a cavern filled with Lethifolds. That was they day Ron first discovered he had a terrier for a patronus, which along with a stag, otter, turtle and an owl were the only things that allowed the five of them to see the sun again. When the sun eventually set that night Ron was still being berated by Hermione for his stupidity.
Harry had sat mutely nearby, tightly clutching the cup and slightly shaking. He'd recognized what was attacking them almost immediately, but what had destroyed his own nerves was the fact that he'd seen one of the beasts nearly wrap completely around Hermione.
"It's just like the ministry, isn't it?" Neville asked as they all sat watching Ron take his lashings.
"What, with Ron and his brains?" Harry asked.
"No, though that wasn't entirely his fault," Luna reminded them.
"With Hermione," Neville returned to point. "Do you know Harry, every time I've seen you fight you can ignore almost everything around you as long as she's safe?"
"What are you on about?"
"What do you think it means when you care more for someone else's safety than your own?" Neville tried easing the point across.
"I'd do anything to keep any of you safe, you have to know that," Harry completely missed the point.
"We all know that Harry," Luna helped along. "I think between the five of us there isn't one who'd be unwilling to sacrifice themselves for the others."
"None of you are going to die," Harry firmly stated.
"Well we all hope so but one can never tell, and who knows, maybe death really is a great adventure," Luna's eyes drifted up to the stars.
"What I'm trying to remind you of," Neville got back on track, "is that night in the ministry when Hermione was cursed."
Harry shivered at the memory that had plagued so many of his nights, "I thought I'd gotten her killed."
"The only time I've ever seen you have a reaction like that night was just now," Neville admitted. "I've seen you take on dragons, Merlin knows what inside that maze and Death Eaters by the dozen but when Hermione's in trouble you freeze."
"Well how do I make that go away?" Harry asked feeling like he was being friendly criticized.
"You can't really make love go away," Luna didn't shift her gaze from the heavens.
"Not that sort, at least," Neville half-chuckled.
"Well, we've been friends for years, of course I care about her-"
"Harry," Luna placed a hand on his shoulder and looked him directly in the eye, "the way the two of you go about life in that old house is nearly exactly the way my Mum and Dad acted before she died."
Neville watched Harry's floundering expression for a few moments, "The two of you really love each other, unfortunately I think having the rest of us around has put a damper on your lives."
"But… But I thought Ron fancied her," Harry nearly whispered.
"I certainly hope not with the frequency he spends the night in my room," Luna took no notice of the two shocked faces to her left.
"Look Harry," Neville firmly stated, "we all know after the fit Ginny threw at the wedding that you're not dating her, so please, for all our sakes, at least try something with Hermione."
"You really were a more pleasant person to be around when you had someone to kiss," Luna agreed. "Now it's like your soul's been clouded in fog."
"You're both mental, you know that right?" Harry asked but his brain had kicked back to his birthday and feel of just having Hermione in his arms.
"Can we go home now?" Ron wandered over once Hermione'd finally run out of breath.
"I think we'll all find home a much happier place now," Luna smiled and accepted Ron's help up.
Within an hour of their portkeying home Harry mysteriously found himself alone in the house with Hermione. She had of course went straight for the library and Harry summoned up every once of courage he possessed to follow her in where he dropped on the sofa next to her and pulled her bare feet up into his lap as she read.
"Harry, whatever are you doing?"
"Trying to help you relax," Harry forced his voice even.
"They'll be plenty of time to relax when this is through."
"Yes there will, but who says we can't take one night off after a trip like that? Apparently everyone else has."
Hermione set the book aside with only a slight bit of annoyance and sat up, "Fine, then how do we relax?"
"We seem to be the only two who haven't figured that part out," Harry shakily mentioned as their shoulders brushed. He kicked his feet up on the table and cautiously placed an arm around Hermione's shoulder feeling an immense flood of release when she slid into his embrace rather than backing away.
"So they've left the two of us to… cuddle up alone in the house?" she asked with a slightly shaky voice.
"Looks that way… If you be interested in that sort of thing."
Hermione tightened her grip around Harry a bit, "I think I could be quite interested."
"You know your birthday's coming soon," Harry conversationally mentioned while noting just how close her face was to his own.
Hermione hesitated for a second, "Are you simply repaying me for my present to you?"
The tickle of her breath on his lips finally broke down Harry's will; he swallowed once and kissed her. Within seconds of their lips locking they were stretched out on the sofa, limbs entwined, "Maybe with a bit of interest," Harry cheekily replied when they finally broke for air.
The next morning at breakfast when Harry and Hermione walked in holding hands Ron, Luna, Neville, Dobby and Winky all wore quite mischievous smiles that didn't seem to wear off for nearly a week.
The five people in the house spent nearly all of their time from that day on sitting in the drawing room sifting through every book they could find to do something about the three horcruxes they now had sitting on the table before them. Of course many of their nights were spent in other rooms doing anything but reading. Harry couldn't feel a little sorry for Neville, but when he found some time to talk to his friend about it he found out the arrangements we no bother to him and Crookshanks had taken quite a liking to him being that everyone else shooed him from bed.
The subdued day of research Hermione had demanded for a birthday present was never received. Upon setting up Grimmauld as a base they had restricted access to just the five of them and the elves, so there was no way for them to be warned when the Death Eaters attacked the Granger's surgery that morning. The letter from Remus that had arrived shortly after lunch burst into flame in Hermione's hands as her emotions took hold, she then locked herself away in her room until the next day when her practical side told her there had to be some arrangements made.
Out of both pity and safety Remus handled the majority of the proceedings. The five of them were forced to drink polyjuice potion simply to attend the funeral. Hermione's emotional withdrawal lasted most of the month, but thanks solely to Harry she was back to normal by the beginning of October. Ron had actually been slightly grateful for the break from the constant research but knew much better than to ever voice the thought.
Luna had managed to slip through Knockturn Alley relatively unnoticed and bought several quite gruesome tomes and thanks to them they had their first success. They discovered the only way a Horcrux could be destroyed was if it was actively feeding on another soul. Harry surmised Dumbledore figured this out the hard way.
A plan was devised; first they discovered the safest way to destroy each of the objects then Ron, Luna and Neville all volunteered to be possessed in turn so the others could smash the Horcrux. Actually they had all volunteered but no one would allow Harry to do it and he point blank refused Hermione's offer. Dobby, again showing just how informed he'd kept himself, procured a magical hammer that was reputed to be able to smash any object no matter how cursed. Luna again made a trip to the seedier part of the wizarding world to find the most cursed object she could to test the hammers claim. The broach she'd returned with was reduced to powder in a single stroke.
The destruction took place on Halloween. Neville placed a small amount of his own blood in the cup and collapsed to the ground, before he could suffer any further consequences Harry smashed it to bits. Ron follow suit with the necklace, and Luna with the bracelet. By sundown the only remaining obstacle to Voldemort's defeat was a rather large snake that none of them had any clue how to find.
The Halloween edition of the Quibbler never came out and a few days into November the five were once again under assumed forms at a funeral. Everyone had assumed Luna to have been as inconsolable as Hermione, but in truth she'd dealt with the pain of losing a parent before and in her own beliefs knew they were happy to be together again.
The rest of the year in the house went by as if they were simply a family with nothing to do. They played games, practiced dueling in the attic, pranked each other and generally had as much fun as possible with what was happening in their world.
They all had to do their Christmas shopping under disguise, but this definitely helped Harry as he walked into the jewelry shop in Diagon Alley. Ron had accompanied him for the enjoyment but by the time they left both men were staring at the packages they had in the palms of their hands as if they weren't really sure what had just happened.
On Christmas morning, while Neville was trying to keep Crookshanks from the Whomping Willow sapling he'd received Harry and Ron simultaneously knelt in front of Hermione and Luna. The last thought that went through Harry's mind before Hermione tackled him was that he didn't think it possible for a person to look as surprised as Luna did just as Ron opened his box. Neville quickly found himself the only person left in the room.
The five of them had quietly arranged to meet the Weasley's for Christmas Supper but when they arrived the Burrow was in flames. The Weasley family, not being small in number had put up quite a fight. One that was still raging. The three eldest Weasleys seemed to be trying to protect the rest, some of who were injured by the looks of it. Without thought the five newcomers began blasting curses at anyone without red hair. Somewhere in the confusion Ron and Luna had been separated from the group and as if in slow motion Harry saw a rodent hiding in the weeds transform into a man with a silver hand, a hand that he punched clear through his best friend with. Apparating to his side at the same time as he withdrew the sword he now always carried hidden on his back Harry sliced the man who had betrayed his parents in two. The only noise apart from Ron's slight whimpering was a soft hiss. Harry turned to see Nagini lunging at him and felt an indescribable pain as her fangs sunk into his chest. The last thing he remembered before blacking out was rearing back with the sword still in his hand, cleaving the serpent of Voldemort just as he had the servant.
Hermione had heard Harry's scream as she saw the last of the Weasley's finally be struck down, Neville appeared at her side, thought he looked to be missing part of his arm, as they bolted to their friends. Harry and Ron were both dreadfully close to bleeding to death and Luna seemed to have been struck with something that had left her arms and legs furiously twitching around. As quickly as she could she arranged the three bodies on the ground with the sword laying over them told Neville to hang on and turned it into a portkey straight to St. Mungo's. As soon as the staff saw who had arrived the entire hospital went into lockdown.
Luna's nerve damaged was fixed in a matter of hours. Neville, unfortunately, had to have a magical replacement made for the left hand he'd lost. Thanks to the fact that the hospital had had some experience dealing with Nagini's poison Hermione was assured Harry'd be fine with a week or two depending on how deep her fangs cut him. Ron however was in a state the healers almost had no idea where to begin working with. Wormtail's hand had traveled through Ron's ribs, then lung, then back out the other side before Harry had made it to him. In the end it took a team of healers a day and a half to magically replace the lung Ron had lost then begin on setting the external parts of his body back in order.
The five of them stayed in a heavily guarded room in the hospital waiting for it to all be over. Neville's hand, while not like Wormtail's was decided to be a good thing, as it would negate ever needing a pair of protective gloves with dealing with dangerous plants. Harry spent most of his time sitting in bed with Hermione watching Ron across the way. He had yet to wake up even though the healers said his body should be well enough along to be up and about any day now. Luna never left his side, only occasionally smoothing his hair or blankets.
The public, of course, had known of Harry's injuries and the hospital was as far as anyone knew the most protected sight in Britain because of him. On January twenty-fifth that didn't seem to matter. Voldemort himself, along with the twenty or so remaining Death Eaters he controlled made their way in. The fighting could be heard long before it reached their room but the wards surrounding it prevented all magical travel so against everyone's better judgment Harry gave Hermione one last long look and even longer kiss before hoisting Gryffindor's sword and rushing from the room. The others made it to the lobby just in time to see Harry valiantly shoving a young woman clear of a killing curse and in the same move lunge at Voldemort, thrusting the sword through his unknowingly mortal body.
A brief look of triumph crossed the Dark Lord's face, possibly thinking that the fool of a boy had just exposed himself before he felt the fear of death beginning to take him. Unwilling to go alone Voldemort pulled a slickly green looking blade from his robes and drove the dagger directly between Harry's shoulder blades.
The remaining Death Eaters howled in misery as their dark marks began burning their flesh away as Hermione shrieked her way to Harry. She withdrew the blade and rolled him over to find his vision already glazed. He smiled happily at seeing her again and tried to say something but the words never came. Every muscle in his body failed and Hermione felt his face grow icy-cold within seconds. Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, the Chosen One, her fiancé, was dead.
"So, how's life without magic?" Neville fished for conversation around the table a year later.
Ron barely held back a sob as Luna spoke for them, "It's well enough now. It's good that we live so far removed from everyone as Ronald had a bit of a hard time adjusting."
"But it was your idea!" Neville still didn't understand his friend's decision.
"Look at me. Look at the lot of us except you Neville. Magic's killed all our families and I'll be damned if I let it take either Luna or myself."
"And how've you been doing Hermione?" Luna gently asked. The only conversations they had been having for a year had been over the telephone.
"I'm getting by," Hermione's ghost of a voice answered.
"You will see him again, you know that, right?" Luna questioned with a touch of firmness.
"Yes," Hermione sniffed. "On the next adventure."
"You've been alright Neville?" Ron eased away from Hermione's discomfort.
"I get by. Sometimes Gran still drives me bonkers so I'll shut myself out in the greenhouses for a day or two. It was sure nice to be able to build those things…" Neville trailed off as they were all reminded of the money Harry had willed to them unknowingly. Neville had built his sanctuary; Ron and Luna had built their home in the country; none of them knew just how much Hermione received but they all knew it was more than them, along with the house she refused to leave.
"Are you sure you wouldn't like to come spend a few days with us?" Ron asked Hermione.
"I've told you, I can't leave here."
"But why?" Neville tried to insist.
"This is Harry's house," Hermione's eyes filled with tears. "It's all I have left of him and I refuse to leave it behind for one second!"
"And we bring in anything from outside Miss Hermione requires," Dobby firmly stood up for the woman who had earned the respect he'd had for Harry.
"Just please promise to phone us if you ever need anything, okay?" Ron quietly pleaded.
Hermione mutely nodded in reply. The rest of their night was mostly silent. They knew across the land people were chanting Harry's name. There was even talk of building a statue of him in Diagon Alley. Harry was a hero, a martyr, and a modern legend to the rest of the world except to those sitting Grimmauld Place. He was a friend who was murdered; a lover stolen.
The four friends said their good-byes out front of the house as Ron and Luna climbed into their sedan and Neville Apparated home, each one of them expressing their desire to reach out and help if she ever needed it. Hermione had sent Crookshanks with Neville for a few days saying the cat needed some time away from her foul attitude and would help clear out any gnomes around the Longbottoms before going in to make some tea for herself and the elves.
Hermione sat with Dobby and Winky in the drawing room silently looking over the wall of pictures that now occupied the Black Family Tree's former location. Pictures of the last months of Harry's life, of him and his friends all gathered and not showing a care in the world. There was even a picture of Hermione and Luna proudly showing off their rings taken just minutes before they'd gone to the Burrow. Harry had told her once of an old photo of the original Order of the Phoenix and how they had all looked so happy no matter how close it had been to their own deaths. It almost seemed unfair to call it magic.
The elves went to sleep shortly after taking their tea and Hermione dashed off a quick letter to Hagrid knowing how'd be missing Harry nearly as much as the rest of them today. Hedwig took a moment to softly nuzzle Hermione's cheek before flying off into the night.
Silently reflecting as she drew her hot bath for the evening Hermione thought about love and life. How someone who had such a capacity to love like Harry could have been denied it for so long. Hermione Granger seriously believed her one great accomplishment in life was to have been able to show Harry Potter what true love was. Their relationship had been short but intense, and now she was alone. She had lost so much with Harry that day. She had lost her own ability to love, and really without love, what is there?
Tears flowed down Hermione's cheeks as she slipped into the water. She was alone in Harry's house. Crookshanks and Hedwig had been sent off with friends who loved them. Dobby and Winky were sleeping; the potion in their tea guaranteed that. When they woke up they'd be the wealthiest elves in history.
As she took one last deep breath through the steamy air Hermione could almost smell Harry. With a slight smile she reached for the straight blade she'd placed on the edge of the tub…
I know, you all hate me now, but you write your moods, and I did give you a warning about it being a tragic story.