So, this one-shot came to me...I'm not sure where. I just thought it'd be nice for Harry and Hermione to get a chance to talk to each other after the craziness of DH. This story takes place two months after the Battle of Hogwarts and is canon except for the Epilogue.

Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all associated characters, creatures, etc. belong to J.K. Rowling and Scholastic Publishing Company. I own none of this stuff, people. Not even Australia (that'd be cool, though).

Enjoy!


Now What?

A Harry Potter Fan Fiction by Lord Cargyle

It had never really dawned on Harry how very creaky the Burrow was until this very night, when he could have done without any creaking sounds. Ron's bedroom door had creaked when he was exiting the room, the stairs had creaked during his descent, and again, the back door had creaked open and shut as he moved to the garden. Thankfully, his journey was silent from then on.

The dew-covered grass soaked his trainers as he walked through the moonlit night. It was a warm night; summer was on the way, a fact made evident by the budding flowers on the trees as he slipped silently through the orchard to the old tool shed situated between two particularly gnarled trees. He opened the door slowly (there was that damn creaking again) and retrieved his Firebolt Mk. 2, a new prototype provided to him by the Nimbus company just days ago. Clutching the broomstick in his hand, he made his way to the paddock/makeshift quidditch pitch. The path was familiar to him, and he let his mind wander as he walked.

What now? That was the question nagging at the back of his head, the one that had been nagging since the night after the Battle of Hogwarts. His whole life, everything had been decided for him: he would go to Hogwarts, stay safe, solve the occasional mystery thrust under his nose, defeat Voldemort, and…. Then what? Marry Ginny and have a family and live happily ever after. Only….

He was distracted from his thoughts as he reached the paddock, only to find that he wasn't the only one wandering around in the wee hours of the morning. Sitting with her back to him on one of the benches around the pitch was none other than his female best friend.

"Hermione?"

Hermione gasped and turned, visibly relaxing when she saw that it was him.

"Oh, hello, Harry," she said, her voice quiet, presumably with tiredness. "What brings you here?"

"Just…needed to fly," he said, holding his broom up to emphasize his point. "You?"

"Thinking," Hermione replied, and Harry couldn't help but smile. When wasn't she thinking?

"About?" Harry moved around the bench and plopped down next to her. She was still wearing her pajamas, though she'd thought to bring a dressing gown, which she had tied around her.

"Everything," she sighed. "What we've done, what's going to happen…what now?"

Harry nodded. "Same here," he said. "What did you come up with?"

Hermione shook her head. "I suppose I'll marry Ron, settle down somewhere and have another Weasley brood, just like Mrs. Weasley. Can you believe she's trying to teach me how to cook some of Ron's favorite dishes? Apparently, Ron told her all about the…kiss."

Harry chuckled, unable to think of anything to say. Hermione didn't seem to need a response, as she went on.

"And the kids will grow old, go on to Hogwarts, and Ron will get a job doing…something, and I'll…become a housewife…."

"I guess," Harry said, shrugging. Something in Hermione's voice sounded…defeated…resigned.

"I don't want to become a housewife, Harry," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. "And…no matter how I look at it, no matter how many scenarios I try to plan out, I can't see Ron and I ever being happy together!"

Harry looked at her, slightly stunned. This was new. "What do you mean?"

"Well, you've seen Ron's work ethic, or lack thereof, I suppose," Hermione pointed out, and Harry nodded in understanding. Everyone knew Ron was…well, a lazy arse. "If he ever gets a job, it'll be something that requires little to no effort and won't have much pay. That means I'll have to get a job and provide the money."

"I don't see anything wrong with that," Harry said. "As long as he takes care of the housework, I mean."

Hermione let a single humorless laugh. "And what are the odds of that happening? And then there's that damn inferiority complex of his. As soon as I have any sort of success, he'll get all huffy and start pouting because I'm working hard to get ahead, and nothing good's being handed to him."

"Well…maybe not…" Harry said lamely, not even believing himself.

"Remember the Triwizard Tournament?" Hermione said. "Or sixth year, when he thought Viktor and I had snogged?"

"Well, yeah," Harry said. "I guess so."

Hermione fell silent for a moment, and Harry glanced over at her, the moonlight illuminating her face, slightly pale from a lack of sunlight in the past year. Her eyes were shining with unshed tears, and he felt at a loss. Did he hug her? She definitely looked like she could use a hug.

Scooting closer, Harry tentatively wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Her eyes widened at the contact, and she looked up at him, looking mildly surprised at first, before smiling slightly and leaning into his embrace, wrapping her arms around him as he brought his other arm around her.

"Thank you, Harry," she said. "I needed a hug."

"Anytime," Harry said, hesitantly rubbing her back. She sighed contentedly and pulled away, leaning in to press a kiss against his cheek.

They lapsed into silence for a moment, but it wasn't an uncomfortable silence. Hermione took to staring at her feet while Harry poked at the ground with his broomstick handle.

"I just…wish he would be more…understanding," Hermione said after a moment. "I mean, he's done it before. There were a few moments this year when he was an absolute gentleman, complimenting me, not interrupting me…."

"I reckon that was his book," Harry muttered, more to himself than Hermione, but she still heard.

"Book?"

"Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches," Harry said reluctantly, and Hermione gave him a look of utter disbelief. Clearly, this was one book she had never heard of. "Apparently, the twins gave it to him."

"That…. He needs a book!?" she asked. "There's some sort of irony in this, but really…a book!?"

She huffed, kicking at the ground and grumbling to herself a little more before she sighed, visibly slumping. "Well, at least one of us is happy, right?"

"Yeah," Harry said, unable to look at her as he said this. "Yeah."

When he finally did look up at Hermione, he found she was giving him an incredulous look. "I don't believe that for a moment," she said. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he lied. "I'm fine." He winced even as he said this. Hermione would never take "fine" as an answer, especially not from Harry.

"Harry James Potter, you will tell me what's bothering you, now," Hermione said firmly, and Harry sighed in resignation.

"Well, I guess the same as you," he said. "I feel like…everyone expects me to marry Ginny and become the Minister of Magic or something. Or they want me to be a national quidditch star, or headmaster of Hogwarts, or…leader of the world or something. I just want to be Harry. You know, I've considered leaving the country?"

"What!?" Hermione gasped, gripping his arm. "Harry, no!"

"Don't worry," Harry said hurriedly, surprised by this reaction. "I've not made any decisions yet, but…if I stay here, I can kind of guess what will happen. Everyone will have these expectations. Even…Ginny. She hasn't said anything, but Mrs. Weasley is constantly dropping hints on a wedding, mentioning nice colors for bridesmaids' dresses, going on about how happy Bill and Fleur seem to be, asking me what my plans are for the future." He was speaking quickly now, the words seeming to flow of their own accord. "But I don't know if I'm ready for that. I mean, it's only been two months since the battle, and I'm already having my life planned for me again. I just want to do something for me. I want to slow down and relax for once, but if I stay here, everyone will be expecting something from me."

"So…do you want to be with Ginny?" Hermione asked, and Harry fisted his hair, shaking his head.

"I don't know," he said. "I just…don't know."

"Why did you start dating her in the first place then?" Hermione asked, her voice not pressing or judgmental, just curious.

"She was…normal," Harry said, letting his hands drop. "Like a piece of the normal school life I could be having, you know?"

Hermione nodded. "You just wanted to feel normal for a little while," she said. "I can understand that."

"But now," Harry went on, "I feel like…it can't stay that way. All of that stuff…the horcrux hunt, Godric's Hollow, the Malfoy Manor, and everything else…. It happened, and it'll always be there, but I don't know if I'll be able to talk to Ginny about that stuff. I could tell her, but…."

"She wasn't there," Hermione supplied for him, putting her arm around him. "I understand completely. It's the same way with anyone who's survived such a traumatic experience. You can talk about it, but it's just not the same with someone who hasn't been there."

"You were there," Harry said, looking at her with a smile. "You were always there."

She gave him a smirk. "As if I'd let you run off and get yourself killed."

Harry chuckled, poking her in the side. "I doubt I would've gotten killed," he said playfully, and she giggled, swatting his hand away.

"Who saved your arse from Nagini, huh?"

"Well, there's that – "

"And who got us all out of the wedding in time? And out of Grimmauld Place, and that time the Snatchers found us, and – "

"All right!" Harry said, now smiling ruefully. "I declare you, Hermione Jane Granger, personally responsible for the protection of my arse and all that that implies."

Hermione laughed, nudging him with her shoulder. "Well, it's a heavy burden, but I've done so well so far."

They fell silent again, Harry pondering. There was, literally, no other girl he could have this sort of moment with. Even Ron hadn't been there for the Nagini incident. But Hermione had. He could talk to her about anything, even his present distress at not knowing what to do with his life. She could guide him without feeling controlling, unlike so many others (a certain headmaster included). She really was a rather amazing girl.

Unbidden (but not unwelcome) an image floated in front of his mind; he and Hermione were watching a boy with bushy black hair scamper after a cat that looked suspiciously like Crookshanks, brandishing a large book at it. As quickly as the image surfaced, it was gone, and Harry's gaze shot back to Hermione, who eyed him in concern.

"What's the matter, Harry?"

Harry just continued to stare at her, and she held his gaze, her expression calmly questioning. Then, simultaneously, it seemed, they leaned in, Hermione cocking her head to the left, and their lips met.

It was definitely better than kissing Ginny had ever been. While Ginny had been quite eager to deepen her kisses with Harry, getting as much tongue involved as possible, Hermione seemed perfectly content to go with the flow, teasing him with her tongue, but not dominating the kiss. She brought a hand up to his jaw, gently trailing her fingers down to his chin. Harry chuckled against her lips, and she pulled away, giving him a questioning look.

"That tickles," he said, and she smiled, shaking her head in mock exasperation. "Want to keep going?"

Hermione sighed with a sad smile. "I do," she said. "But…what does this mean? What about Ron? Ginny?"

"I don't remember ever marrying Ginny," Harry said. "We never even got back together. And you've made your opinion of Ron pretty clear."

"True," Hermione admitted, and Harry smiled, leaning in and capturing her lips once more. Hermione gave a contented a sigh as they kissed, the fingers of her right hand tracing patterns over the back of his left. Harry moved from her mouth to her jaw, kissing his way to her neck (as Ginny had taught him an eternity ago, though he didn't dwell on those thoughts). Hermione made a noise between a whimper and a sigh.

"Harry, we should slow down for now," she said, toying with his hair as he pulled away, and Harry smiled sheepishly at her.

"Sorry."

Hermione shook her head smiling. "Don't be. You're quite good at that. But it's awfully late, and we should be heading back."

Harry shook his head. "Let's run away, Hermione. Just you and me. Let's get out of this place."

"What?" Hermione asked, though she'd clearly heard him. "Harry, you can't be serious."

Harry only looked at her, his heart hammering at the prospect of leaving right then and there, not looking back. Hermione seemed to take his silence as indication that he was serious.

"But...we can't do that to the Weasleys, to everyone else."

"Hermione, let's do something for ourselves for once," Harry insisted, taking her hand. "Dash the Weasleys, dash everyone's expectations. This…" he gestured between the two of them. "Us…I feel like this is something I could do for the rest of my life. And I promise I'll do better than Ron ever could."

"But, Harry, this is so sudden!" Hermione protested, standing and moving away from the bench to look at him. "We can't just suddenly decide we're meant to be and run off like this!"

"Why not?" Harry asked, moving to stand in front of her. "We've been friends for seven years, Hermione. That's not really sudden. And if it doesn't work out, at least we tried. We can still make a life somewhere else. Just as friends."

"But…" Hermione seemed out of protestations, so Harry went on.

"We could go to Australia," he said. "Your parents are already there, so why not?"

"Harry," Hermione said, almost pleadingly.

"What's waiting for us here, Hermione?" Harry asked, stepping closer so their faces were only centimeters apart. "Even if we tell Ron and Ginny we're not interested, d'you think they'll take 'no' for an answer? I know Ginny wouldn't, and Ron certainly wouldn't. That's not to mention what everyone else is going to be expecting from us. Please, Hermione?"

Hermione looked torn for a moment, looking between him and the direction of the Burrow. Harry took her chin in his hand, leaning in to place a soft kiss on her lips.

"Hermione, please," he begged. "I don't know if I can stay here any longer, but...I don't want to lose you."

"Won't you miss Ron?" she asked softly.

Harry let a single huffy laugh. "He's left us enough times, I don't feel guilty about leaving him once. Hermione...please?"

Harry could literally see her resolve crumble as he stared into her eyes, and she groaned in defeat.

"I don't know how your father ever said 'no' to your mother with those damn eyes staring at him," she said. "All right, we'll leave, but," she added as Harry pumped his fist in triumph, "we can't just up and disappear. Not without a note, at the very least."

Harry smiled and kissed her again, and she smiled against his mouth, taking his hand. When they pulled away, Harry knew he was sporting a great stupid grin, and Hermione giggled.

"Then we'll leave them a note," Harry said, "but that's it. If we try and explain it to them, you know what'll happen. Ron and Ginny will insist they come along, and Mrs. Weasley won't let us leave the house."

"I suppose you're right," Hermione sighed. "I really can't picture it happening any other way. A note, then."

With that, they turned and headed back to the Burrow, hand in hand.

……

The next morning, Molly Weasley ambled down to the kitchen, yawning widely as she waved her wand at the cupboard. A frying pan flew out and landed on the stove, which lit itself. Another wave, and eggs appeared in the frying pan, scrambling themselves. As she walked toward the stove, she spotted a piece of paper lying on her otherwise spotless table. She recognized the unmistakably neat handwriting of Hermione.

To the Weasley Family,

We're writing to say goodbye, for now. We've decided to go live together abroad, away from all of the pressure and people's expectations. This may come as a shock to you, and it may seem sudden, but we decided last night that we wanted to do something for ourselves for once. We hope you'll understand why we couldn't tell you in person.

To Ron, good luck in whatever endeavors you have. You can keep Harry's Firebolt Mk. 2. Try for a quidditch team and snag yourself a nice-looking fan. Thanks for your help in everything, mate.

To Ginny, thank you for taking care of Crookshanks while we were gone. Good luck in your seventh year. We're sure you'll have no problem finding a nice boyfriend. Thank you for being a great friend all those years.

To Mrs. Weasley, best of luck in raising your family. Thank you for supporting Harry all this time, and for being the closest thing he's ever had to a mum. Grimmauld Place is yours to keep. We're sure it'll clean up nice.

Once again, we're sorry we couldn't say any of this in person, but we didn't want to leave with any arguments hanging in the air. We'll visit if we can, we promise. Thank you, and goodbye.

Yours Sincerely,

Harry J. Potter

Hermione J. Granger

Molly slumped into a chair, the eggs forgotten in the skillet. Footsteps could be heard on the stairs as Ginny came into the kitchen, still in her nightgown.

"Mum, did Hermione go home already?" she asked. "All of her things are gone."

Molly only stared at the letter, tears forming in her eyes.

"Yes, dear," she said, her voice hoarse. "She's gone…. And she's taken Harry with her."

"What?" Ginny asked in confusion, hurrying forward when Molly held up the letter. She read it, her expression changing from confusion to disbelief and finally anger. "Those two…are the limit!" she finished, ripping to letter in two. She turned and hurried back upstairs, shouting her brother's name the whole while.

Molly only sighed, watching the remains of the letter flutter to the floor. So much for a peaceful exit.

……

Six Months Later

"What're you thinking about?" Harry asked, coming up from behind Hermione and wrapping his arms around her waist. Hermione sighed and leaned back into his touch, closing her eyes contentedly.

"Just…that night," she said. "Our last night at the Weasleys'. D'you think we did the right thing, just leaving like that?"

"I know we did," Harry said, kissing her neck. "You know Ginny's temper. She'd probably have set the Bat Bogeys on us."

Hermione giggled, craning her neck to allow him better access. "Yeah," she agreed. "And…well, I guess I can't really regret that night."

"I certainly don't," Harry said, staring out at their ocean view. Down below them, a private beach housed a dock and a rather sizeable fishing boat. Dan Granger enjoyed a good Sunday fishing trip, and Harry had found that he rather enjoyed the relaxing activity, especially while Hermione sunbathed nearby in her delightfully revealing bikinis. She had taken to sunbathing topless, which Harry wholeheartedly supported.

When not fishing and flaunting womanly curves, Hermione spent her weekdays managing her own independent bookstore, The Book Stops Here (Emma Granger came up with the name) and was currently writing a novelization of Harry's time at Hogwarts, having already published several books on magical creature rights and the deplorable state of the British Ministry of Magic. Despite this, no one seemed aware of their location.

Harry, for his part, helped with the upkeep of the bookstore and did his part to keep the house clean as well (it was much more fun when cleaning for someone you loved). He helped Hermione with her books and, though he took a little convincing at first, was now looking forward to publishing stories chronicling his adventures.

"Dad says he's having a barbecue tomorrow night," Hermione said, turning to kiss him on the jaw. "You for it?"

"Only if Logan'll be there," Harry said. Logan was a spirited little boy whose parents lived next door to the senior Grangers, and he seemed to have adopted Harry as an older brother.

"I'm sure he wouldn't want to miss an opportunity to see Big Brother Harry," Hermione said with a laugh. "You'll be an excellent father someday."

Harry's stomach did a flip; now seemed as good a time as any. "Funny you should mention that," he said, pulling away from Hermione and gently pulling her to face him. "Because there's something I've been meaning to ask you."

As he dropped to one knee, Hermione's mouth fell open, and her eyes began to shine. "Yes!"

Harry chuckled. "I have to ask you first, Hermione," he said, his face splitting into a grin. "Hermione Jane Granger, I love you more than anything and anyone else on this planet, and I would like nothing more than to have you by my side every day for the rest of my life. Will you marry me?"

Hermione nodded vigorously, crying in earnest now. "Y-yes, Harry, of course I will!" As Harry stood, she leaped on him, wrapping him in one of her trademark hugs. He slowly slid her to the ground, taking her left hand and sliding the ring onto her finger.

"I love you, Hermione Granger."

"I love you, Harry Potter."

They embraced, and Hermione could think of no reason at all to regret leaving the Burrow with Harry that night.

……

Thirteen Years Later

Professor Ginny Thomas (nee Weasley) liked to think herself calm and levelheaded. Not many others thought so, but she did. She just sometimes lost her cool. "Sometimes" being rather frequently, but nonetheless, other than in those situations, she was rather calm.

But as she sat and watched Professor Flitwick read off a list of names of students to be sorted, one name made "sometimes" rear its ugly head again.

"James Potter?" Flitwick asked, phrasing the name as a question instead of a statement. Ginny felt her blood freeze as she watched a boy with messy brown hair and piercing green eyes step forward, smiling nervously at the students watching him.

No way. It wasn't possible. They'd run off together, but…marriage…children!? But there was no mistaking that bushy brown hair, or those vividly green eyes. As James Potter sat on the stool, he waved toward the cluster of students once before Professor Flitwick placed the hat on his head. The hat was silent for a few moments before announcing, "Gryffindor!"

The Gryffindor table cheered as James Potter whipped the hat of his head with a grin and made for the table. The hall fell silent again as Professor Flitwick consulted the list again.

"Rose Potter?"

Oh, not twins! This time, a girl with bushy black hair and deep brown eyes made her way to Professor Flitwick, sitting on the chair and smiling at her brother, who gave her a thumbs up. Ginny couldn't stop herself from smiling; they were close.

"Gryffindor!" the hat called, almost as soon as it was placed upon Rose Potter's head. Rose Potter hastened to stand and make her way over to her brother, who scooted over to make room for her. They both turned to watch the group of first years with overly eager looks on their faces. Ginny had a foreboding feeling.

"Sirius Potter?" Professor Flitwick read, now sounding like he'd had all of the surprises he could handle. As one, the Great Hall watched as a boy with messy copper hair and swampy green eyes sauntered forward with a grin worthy of his namesake. He sat on the chair and the hat barely had to be placed on his head before it announced, "Gryffindor!"

As Sirius Potter went to join his siblings, Ginny heaved a sigh. Thankfully, Professor Flitwick had no more Potters to call, moving on to Lewis Purl.

Triplets. Hermione Potter had had triplets. All in Gryffindor.

Suddenly, Ginny found herself contemplating an early retirement.

……

"You think they've been sorted yet?" Hermione asked as she and Harry sat on the veranda, watching the waves on the beach.

"Probably," Harry said. "I heard Ginny's teaching Defense now. I wonder how she's taking it."

Hermione smiled ruefully. "I wonder how the school's going to handle three of your children all at once."

Harry smiled, leaning in to peck her on the lips. "Let's hope Rosie keeps them in line."

Hermione laughed. "Oh, I'm sure she'll have no problem. I just hope she can find a date in a few years with those two brothers of hers."

"Not if I can help it," Harry said. "They'll have to get through her brothers, and then me."

"Harry James Potter."

"Hermione Jane Potter."

"Lily Emma Potter!" a new voice giggled, and Harry grinned, looking over Hermione's shoulder at a small, chestnut-haired girl who was currently clutching a large ginger cat in her small arms.

"You're supposed to be in bed, young lady," he said, standing and making his way over to the girl, who smiled innocently up at her father.

"You promised we'd read chapter four tonight," she pouted, and Harry mock-huffed, placing a hand to his chin as though deep in thought.

"I did, didn't I?" he asked, reaching down to scoop the girl up, who dropped the cat just in time. Crookshanks made his way over to Hermione, who scratched the cat behind the ears. Harry carried his daughter to her bedroom to read chapter four of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, leaving Hermione to ponder her good fortune. She had four beautiful children and one more on the way (though Harry didn't know yet), and her books had finally made a difference in magical London. The Book Stops Here was just about to move to a new, bigger location, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was just about to enter publication, though the publisher had insisted on adding a rather poorly written epilogue. "It appeals to the fans," her arse.

Again, Hermione had to wonder what had possibly had her questioning leaving the Burrow that night.


Oh, fun!

A Sudden Exeunt: Those of you saying that Harry left rather suddenly, be reminded that this is two months after the battle, so the idea's been stewing for a while, as has Hermione's reluctance to marry into the Weasley family.

A Life Down Under: I think Australia would be a pretty cool place to live, especially when you're loaded enough to afford a beachside manor with a private beach and a fishing boat. Harry's putting his Potter and Black inheritances to good use.

Triplets: Yeah, Hermione had triplets. Originally, it was just going to be twins, but triplets sound more fun. A second-generation Golden Trio, only now they're all related.

I don't believe I'll go one with this one, but those who have read Why Dance When You Can Slay The Dragon? know my history with supposed one-shots.