Harry closed the front door behind him with his right foot. It took some effort to get it closed though, his right hand held a large bouquet of roses and in his left hand he was carrying a bag over packed with groceries. He wanted to surprise Hermione with a romantic dinner.
The door slammed behind him and he hurried into the kitchen, he stared at his clock and was relieved – he still had two hours before she got back. Every Tuesday and Thursday Hermione was at the children's-home, which was a nicer way of saying orphanage, and she was there eight in the morning to eight in the evening.
He placed the groceries on the kitchen table and reached for a vase as he heard the door close again.
He peered around the corner, wishing that it wasn't her. He let out a sigh of relief when he saw Sirius walk around the corner.
"Thank Merlin, "he said to himself.
"Yes," Sirius grinned, "I hear that a lot – usually it is the women thanking Merlin for my presence though," he grinned and caught the apple Harry had just reached for in the grocery bag and tossed at him.
Sirius walked inside and stared down at the groceries.
"Lobster, shrimps, salmon, - a seafood evening I see, these are her favorites I guess?" he said and walked over to one of the cupboards. It pained Harry to admit it, but he could only be honest with Sirius.
"I don't know her favorites," he admitted, "I've asked – but she doesn't really know yet, so I am just trying things out. I can't very well make her chocolate for the rest of her life. Although I think she'd like that…"
Sirius nodded and poured himself a very large glass of Firewhiskey. Harry was used to Sirius grabbing an after work drink, bit there was something off about this. "What's happened?" he said and froze at the spot.
Sirius downed the whole drink and Harry knew it was really bad. He walked over to Sirius and handed him the bottle. Who had gotten away? Who had they found dead?
"Don't worry, it's not what you think," Sirius said and Harry slumped down in the chair. He had no idea what Sirius believed he thought.
"It's just my brother," Sirius finally said and refilled his drink.
"Did they find him?"
Sirius downed the drink again.
"What's left of him…" he said quietly.
Harry felt a pang of pain in his heart for Sirius. He had never met Regulus, but he knew… Sirius had always damned his brother for being on Voldemort's side, but Harry knew - he knew Sirius was hoping Regulus would come back to him.
"Well," Sirius sounded incredibly tired, "Regulus turned against Voldemort at some point" he saw the look on Harry's face, "Don't get your hopes up – he never did anything heroic. But he expressed a free thought or something. I don't know – but he was killed, about eight years ago."
"I am so sorry Sirius," Harry had no idea what to say.
"Buried alive…" Sirius continued without hearing Harry's words. Harry just stared at him perplexed. "Yeah, they found his grave, he was buried alive with our old elf…" he trailed off and downed another drink.
"Then why didn't they-"
"The damn elf was petrified…."
Sirius passed out in his room an hour later. He had drunk the better part of the bottle and Harry tuck him in. As he closed the door he called for Dobby who arrived at once,
"Please Dobby, I am really worried for him. Could you please keep an eye on him?"
"Of course, Dobby will kee-"
"If he wakes up, just get me."
"Dobby will do whatever you ask. I should also tell you that Ms. Gran- or is it Mrs. Granger? Or no, Mrs. Potter is it? She is downstairs."
Harry jumped down the stairs three at a time. He found Hermione unpacking the bag into the freezer. She looked exhausted after her day at the orphanage – as she usually did. She heard Harry enter and gave him a tired smile.
"Hi sweetie how was your day?" she asked and Harry saw her shove the lobster inside the freezer.
He sighed disappointedly; he had really wanted to do something nice for her.
Hermione was tossing and turning and he knew she wasn't able to fall asleep. She was always like this when she had been at the orphanage. Her mind was filled with the images of the beautiful children who just needed hugs and love.
His mind flashed from the orphanage, to Sirius, to the job at the ministry, to Hogwarts and he sat straight up, running his hand through his hair.
"Harry?" she mumbled tiredly.
"The loo," he lied and practically ran out of the room. He stumbled down the stairs and slumped down in the chair next to the window – staring outside.
He always wound up here, no matter the chair, no matter the window.
What should he do? Should he take the job at the ministry? He guessed that was how he could help people the most. But then again, just being at the orphanage was helping as well... What was the right thing to do? He groaned aloud and the groaned turned into somewhat of a startled shriek as he felt a hand on his shoulder. He recognized the touch and didn't move his stare from the window as Hermione sat sideways in his lap and leaned her head against the crook of his neck.
"I know," she whispered close to his skin and then gently placed her lips against his neck.
"I am just really sad, I know I shouldn't be" he swallowed something – stuck in his throat "I know it all worked out. But it just makes me think about everyone else. It all worked out for us, our small group - but what about everyone else?"
"I know," she repeated. "Come to bed."
"No, I just can't."
"Harry, you can't change the whole world at once, you can't help every single one. You can just start one piece at a time. And if you continue like this you'll be useless."
He looked down at her and frowned.
"I can't sleep," he stated and looked back out the window.
"Fine, I am making you some sleeping draught and you are drinking it." He didn't argue.
He and Ron had breakfast alone, Hermione had left before he woke up and Luna was crazy busy at the Quibbler, trying to get it running after her father's murder.
"So, when were you going to tell me about you and Luna?" Harry asked and drank some coffee.
"Oh sorry mate, we just decided to surprise everyone, 'sides we only decided the night before. But just imagine how great it'll be – the four of us here. Well, technically it's five with Sirius… but you hardly see that bloke, do you?" Ron's face fell a little, "I guess I never thought about asking you, sorry Harry. Did you and Hermione want to live here alone?"
Harry gave him a stern look before he broke out into a smile.
"Course you are welcome to stay. I'm not sure what I and Hermione'll do though, I kind of feel like we should start our own life. We're married now you know; I just want to spend time alone with her."
"Yeah I get that," Ron smiled widely.
Hermione walked from store to store, just gazing at everything in the stores. She ran her hands over the pretty dresses. She bought ice-cream at the sweets-store, she looked at practically every item at Fred and George's shop. Against her better judgment they still shoved about three full bags on her as she left, she would let Ron and Harry deicide what was safe or not. They had showed her something called "Fantasy fulfiller" and she hoped one of those had made its way into the bag; she wanted to try it out. Even funnier would be if Harry and Ron tried that one at once, what would they confess? She giggled at the thought.
Every Muggleborn had been given a sum of magical money, a sort of fund to be able to start their life in the magical world if they chose. If not, they could cash it in and continue whatever they had been doing before.
Hermione felt quite guilty about spending almost every single knut, but Harry kept telling her that she was worth it and every time she hesitated she forced that back into her mind.
She walked down Diagon Alley, six bags in her hand and a pumpkin pasty wrapped in paper in the other. She was enjoying it, walking slowly down the street. It took far longer than one would think; there were so many people to talk to as she walked. Now and then, she would meet someone who she had met under different circumstances, some recognized her and looked away, others smiled to her as if nothing had happened.
She walked by a very small shop and looked in the window, this shop was new. It hadn't been there before the war.
In the window, lots of small pictures were floating around.
"Press me," a large sign spoke and read at the same time and Hermione put her hand against the window.
"What kind of house are you looking for?" the the magical voice asked.
"I-I'm not sure," she stammered.
"Big or small?"
"Hm, do you have children or do you plan on having them?"
"I guess..." Hermione looked over her shoulder, had people stopped on the street to look at this strangeness? But no, everyone was just hurrying on around her.
"A London girl, a city girl, an out of Towner, a loner, a villager-"she interrupted him before he could go on.
"I guess in between, not in the city, but not all alone." Her mind flashed to the Burrow, something like it.
"As yes, the Burrow," the voice said and Hermione yanked her hand away realizing that the voice had seen the house in her mind.
"How is this?" he threw up a picture and Hermione leaned so close her nose touched the window again.
"Harry," she yelled loudly as she entered the house. She slammed the door behind her. "Harry?"
She found him in their bedroom folding laundry. She told him excitedly about the house.
"It's a stone cottage, with a wooden porch and a fireplace. There's a forest behind it, and a small creek with a bridge in front. It is so pretty, couldn't we just go and look at it?"
She spoke so fast, she almost lost her breath. "I am telling you Harry, it is perfect."
When all Harry did was grin she got annoyed. "Say something!" she demanded.
"I just love how excited you are, of course we will look at it if you love it Hermione, but honestly if you love it this much – let's just buy it," he grinned.
"But it's quite far away, it's hour-"
"We can always apparate," Harry shrugged.
Hermione stopped still and stared at him. "I love you," she said and jumped up on him, causing him to drop the socks he had just been rolling into a ball.
Harry grabbed her and then tumbled back into the bed.
"And I worship you!" he mumbled into her neck. Hermione straddled him and sat up; she tugged her shirt off with such enthusiasm that her bra almost followed in the tug.
"Wow, I will buy you a house everyday if this is the reaction," Harry just about had time to say before Hermione's mouth was on his.
"Hurry!" Hermione bossed Harry who was levitating firewood into the small cottage.
"Yes dear," he said and she frowned because she knew he was mocking her. They had been living in their new little house for three months and tonight they were having their first dinner for friends and family.
The house had needed a lot of fixing up, but they had enjoyed every minute of it. Doing a lot of it the Muggleway, just enjoying spending time together and having peace and quiet.
Hermione had planted a small herb garden in the back, and she was growing vegetables like she had done in the camp.
Harry taught a few times a week at Hogwarts, just to keep busy when he needed a break from working on the house. Hermione was still at the orphanage Tuesdays and Thursdays but had accepted a position within the Ministry and would start after the summer months had passed.
"I hear someone," Harry yelled from the living room into the kitchen were Hermione was amongst cookbooks, pots and pans. When he heard her swear loudly he hurried in.
"I burnt my bleeding hand on that bleeding pan," she muttered and shoved the hand under the cold water in the kitchen sink.
"Why don't you go out and see who's arriving, I've got this," he assured her. She looked ready to implode. "Make a welcome drink and be a cute hostess," he added with a smile. She took a deep breath and then planted a kiss hastily on his lips.
"Fred, George!" she exclaimed happily as the twins entered. She had gotten very fond of the brothers. They kissed her on the cheek and looked around.
"So, will you give us the grand tour then?" Fred asked and she gestured around the room.
"Well this is the living room; you sort of enter right into it." She pointed at the fireplace, "We haven't had time to set it up to the floo network yet."
"It'll be scorching hot in here if you plan on having that fire blazing, it's bloody June Hermione," Fred said and reached inside his pocket and drank from a small flask.
"We do have a drinks table over here," she nodded.
"Sure, we'll hit that later," Fred said.
"And no, we are not staying in here – we will be far too many. We will eat in the garden."
She proceeded in showing them the kitchen where the twins took great pleasure at the very stressed Harry who was now about as red faced as Hermione had been just minutes ago.
"Loaf number five is done, where should I put it," he asked Hermione as she opened the overstuffed fridge and handed him a butterbeer.
"I have enchanted the table in the back, it will keep everything hot," she said and left with the twins.
"There's a small bathroom downstairs, a small library area, or whatever it is supposed to be."
They walked upstairs.
"I really like your house," Fred said.
"Yeah, reminds me of home!" George agreed and Hermione smiled proudly. Her own home… and it was reminding them of the Burrow… it was a great compliment! She had never been inside a warmer home in her life.
"Upstairs is even smaller, a bathroom and two rather small bedrooms."
The peered inside and nodded in agreement.
"Hello?" they heard Sirius call out and hurried downstairs.
Once the door to the living room opened it seemed like there was a steady stream inside, once someone entered they heard the sound of a new apparition in the backyard. They had to take turns in showing the house tour, and then guiding people into the garden, they just couldn't fit. Luckily Mrs. Weasley arrived and helped them with the kitchen.
The evening sun was golden in the small garden where ten people and a small elf were gathered around the old recently painted table. The table was about ready to break with all the food and drinks on it, but the mood was high and laughter was plenty.
Hermione's gaze flickered from face to face, she felt so happy as she leaned her head against Harry's shoulder. He flung his arm over her shoulders and pulled her closer. He reached for another crab cake and she knew he would get a stomachache from eating too much but she was just happy that the Muggle recipe was such a hit.
Luna bent forward and dipped the end of her braid, tossed over her shoulder in a bowl of jam for the third time and Ron just shrugged his shoulders, wiped it off and she didn't even seem to notice. Hermione smiled at them.
"Oh I forgot; guess who is coming to England next month!" Mr. Weasley asked the whole table, "Viktor Krum!"
Hermione and Harry looked at each other and Harry kissed her nose before he started a long speech about all that Viktor had helped with during the war.
Hermione focused next on the twins, they were sitting next to each other, and positioned like that they actually looked quite different, she reached for her wine as she studied them some more.
She closed her right eye, then her left, and then her right again… focusing on one at a time.
"I can save you the time," Fred said, obviously noticing her stare. "I am more handsome."
She just smiled and sipped the delicious wine Ginny had brought. Ginny was wearing a very large engagement ring. It was very new and according to her brothers it was too hasty, but Ginny had met a Muggleborn named Dean Thomas and they had fallen in love. Hermione knew him of course, from Improbus and she had vouched for him. He was a very good person.
Ginny was having a private conversation with her mother and Hermione guessed they were discussing veils now, because she was pointing from her hair, to her shoulders to her back. Mrs. Weasley was nodding vicariously and was completely enthralled in her daughter's plans. Mr. Weasley was still speaking to Harry about Viktor Krum. Seeing the two leaders of the Weasley family always made her reflect on her own parents, how they would have been if they had lived now. How they had looked…
She moved on to Sirius. Sirius had all but begged Ron and Luna to stay at old Grimmauld place, he had been devastated when Harry and Hermione had announced that they had bought a house. Sirius didn't work, not yet... He enjoyed his life in the open again, spending most nights with Remus Lupin and his wife. He also enjoyed spending time at various Muggle pubs around England, and he had spent quite a few evenings eating dinner and then sleeping on Harry and Hermione's couch. Hermione actually believed he was quite lonely, and she wondered what made Sirius not want to return to Grimmauld Place, why he was always finding excuses to be somewhere else. It would all be alright, she thought.
Next to Sirius sat Dobby. He was on a chair but on the chair was almost a dozen books so he could reach up. Dobby looked almost shameful and awkward at being seated at the wizards' table, and Sirius had nearly ordered him to not eat in the kitchen. Dobby followed Sirius everywhere now. He had taken a job at Hogwarts after the summer, but until then - he was always by Sirius side.
Ron spoke up and Hermione's focus darted back to him, he had his arm around Luna's shoulders just as Harry had over Hermione's and he was rubbing her shoulder lovingly.
They were such an adorable couple, and she just felt a warm feeling in her stomach watching them. Fred and George were completely focused on their new store in Hogsmeade, and Ron was now the manager of the shop on Diagon alley. A job he had excelled in. He complained a lot naturally, mainly about how much he had to work, and how much Luna worked at the Quibbler – but they both loved their work and made sure they had breakfast, lunch and dinner together every single day.
At last Hermione looked up at Harry who was laughing at what ever Ron had said. The warm feeling she had just felt about Ron and Luna turned into something very hot and bubbly.
Still? She marveled. Still I adore him so insanely.
Sometimes at night she would lay awake and stare at him and wonder if he really existed and was for real. Was it a dream? Was she crazy? Was he a fantasy? Sometimes she had to touch him just to see that he was still there.
She felt his body vibrate as he laughed loudly, she loved that sound. She leaned closer to his neck and smelled him.
She felt his hold tighten.
"You are being very quiet, you alright?" he whispered.
"Perfect," she sounded dreamy.
"You didn't taste Fred and George's flask did you?" he joked but sounded slightly concerned.
He reached over with his free hand and took one of her hands. She was just about to tell him that she loved him when Ginny started speaking about Cedric's and Cho's wedding coming up in a few weeks.
Oh never mind, Hermione thought, I'll just tell him later. I have all the time in the world. After all – all was well.
And there you have it guys, the last chapter. I want to thank all of you who took the time to read my story, and especially those who left a review. I also want to thank Anna my Beta, the story wouldn't be online without her. I am taking a break from fanfiction for a while, but I'm sure I'll return in the future. I already have a few ideas…