If you're reading this, then good job! You've successfully chosen to read my story, and I greatly appreciate you for it. Now, this story takes place after the Final Battle and follows cannon... mostly. Since I think Ron and Hermione make the worst couple in the history of couples, I ignore the fact that they kissed in Deathly Hallows. This story also ignored the epilogue completely, that terribly thing. So, hopefully everyone is in character, and you find that this is a somewhat plausible turn of events.
Disclaimer: If you recognize it from the books, I don't own it. Everything else is pretty much mine, though. Enjoy!
One week ago this day Lord Voldemort had finally been defeated. The survivors and their families were convened at Hogwarts to celebrate and mourn together. Newly appointed Headmistress McGonagall had commissioned a feast for all the families taking refuge at Hogwarts. Unlike Ron, Ginny and the rest of the Weasleys, Seamus and Neville and Luna who were all sitting in the Great Hall both rejoicing and still grieving, Harry Potter was sleeping hunched over on a bed in the Hogwarts Infirmary. He'd barely left the chair beside this particular bed all week, only moving from his perch when absolutely necessary. He'd made a brief appearance at the feast to thank everyone for their support and make his plate before returning to the Infirmary to eat. He refused to stay away from her for more than thirty or so minutes at a time.
In the beginning, Madam Pomfrey had tried her hardest to force Harry to leave, to return to his dorm and get some rest. She had treated his wounds quickly, but the stubborn boy would not have it. He'd only asked for a chair to sit next to her bed and to be notified of any changes in her condition. When the healer realized Harry's determination, she made sure to keep the next bed over empty for his use as soon as she could spare it.
After eating some of the food he'd brought with him from the Great Hall, Harry laid his head on the side of Hermione's bed and fell asleep with her hand clutched in his. It was while he was asleep that Hermione began to regain consciousness.
Her sense of hearing returned first. It had almost startled her; she'd been in the quiet darkness for so long. She listened intently, still on guard, as she waited for her other senses to return. She heard the soft voice of what she thought was a woman in the distance and the quiet breathing of someone much, much closer.
After listening to the breathing for a moment –using each breath as a means of keeping time –she began to recognize smells. Her surroundings had a very clean scent, very crisp and nothing at all like the dirty, irony smell of the battlefield. There was also a hint of musk, a very earthy and refreshing smell. It was somewhat familiar, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.
While she pondered this enticing scent, she began to feel her hands and feet, arms and legs. And as this feeling was returned to her, she realized that she was rather sore and her head was pounding. But she also realized that there was a warm pressure on her right hand. It felt very nice, but confused her greatly; the last thing she remembered was watching Harry seemingly return from the dead and engage Voldemort in the duel that would end one of their lives forever. Then, everyone was fighting again. Curses were flying like crazy around her as the forces of good and evil fought for dominance once more. She had just stunned the Death Eater with whom she was fighting and turned to see how Harry was faring; what she saw was a shock for sure but a huge relief as well. Voldemort lay dead on the floor, his lifeless form ashen and unmoving. It was the best thing she'd ever seen. She sighed in contentment just as Harry turned and met her gaze. She smiled at him reassuringly, and he began to return her smile before a look of absolute horror contorted his features. She turned to see the cause of his distress as he yelled her name and the last thing she remembered was seeing the streak of bright purple light headed straight for her.
Remembering this and extremely anxious to know what had become of her friends and family, Hermione forced her eyes open. She squinted at the soft light and watched as her surroundings became more and more clear. There were beds across the room from her and the windows above them were dark; it was night. How long had she been out?
She very gently turned her head to the right to see a tangle of black hair on the bed by her hand. She smiled; he was all right. He was breathing gently, his glasses askew on his face. He was pale and perhaps a little thinner than she remembered, but he was alive. As she continued to look at his sleeping face, she realized that the warm pressure on her hand was his hand.
She sighed and closed her eyes again for a moment; she was so tired. But she knew it was time to wake up and join the real world again, to face the devastation that everyone else had been dealing with for who-knows-how-long while she slumbered. Though she didn't know how long she had been asleep, she could sense it was a while.
Opening her eyes again, she focused her energy on shaking the hand Harry was holding. She really didn't want to wake him up –he looked like he could use the sleep –but she needed answers. After a minute of her best efforts at shaking her hand, he began to stir. He opened his eyes and slowly sat up in his chair, wiping his face with his free hand. When he finally looked up at Hermione, a giant grin broke out on his face.
"Hey," she said, her voice coming out as more of a croak than anything else. She grimaced at the sound.
"Hey, sleepyhead," he replied softly, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
"How long…?" The question hung in the large open space of the hospital wing. She saw his face register an emotion that she couldn't quite place but that she knew wasn't a good sign.
"Seven days. The seven longest days of my life," he said, shaking his head. He looked like a tormented man, she thought.
"A week, a whole week? That's so long. What about everyone else?" So much could've happened in a week; how many of her friends were still alive, how much happiness had she lost?
"The Weasleys sans Fred are with Neville, Luna, Seamus, and Dean in the Great Hall. McGonagall is having a feast for everyone taking refuge here. Teddy is with Andromeda," Harry sighed at this and Hermione felt as though she would cry at the implications. She smiled a watery smile, encouraging him to go on. "Everyone's families and the Order are here. Everyone was a little worse for wear at first, but they all seem fine now. Madam Pomfrey does quick work, as you can see," he said, motioning around the empty room. All the beds had been full after the battle. A few days later, however, Hermione was the only one left.
"Why… why aren't you out there with them?" she asked after a minute of contemplating everything she'd just learned.
"Don't be daft, Hermione. I watched you fall and there was nothing I could do about it. And when Madam Pomfrey said you'd be out for a while, I just had to stay."
Hermione felt her eyes sting as her heart swelled with appreciation for her longest and best friend. He'd stayed; he'd stuck by her like she'd always stuck by him.
"Thank you," she managed, though her voice cracked.
"Don't –don't thank me. It's my fault you're in this mess anyways," he said, and she could hear the sadness in his voice. "Besides, I knew you'd worry yourself sick again if I wasn't here when you woke up." He was trying to lighten the mood; she smiled halfheartedly at him.
"It's good to see you're awake, Miss Granger. You've been out for quite some time." Madam Pomfrey had chosen this moment to check on Hermione; she bustled over to her bedside and addressed Harry. "And you, Potter, why didn't you notify me when she woke up?"
"I'm sorry, but she's only been awake a minute," he replied, looking sheepish. He sat there quietly for the next few minutes as Hermione was examined by the Healer. She was given a clean bill of health and instructions to simply rest and take the prescribed potions for the next few days. Harry sighed with relief at this news, and Hermione could almost see the weight lift from his shoulders.
"Good. So, we're free to go, then?" Harry asked in what Hermione thought was a somewhat hopeful tone. She looked at him questioningly for just a moment before Madame Pomfrey replied in the affirmative and gave Harry a case of potions before wishing them both well and walking back to her office. He nodded thankfully and turned back to Hermione, who hadn't left her spot in the bed since she'd woken. "Ready?"
"Ready to go where?" she asked, confused. She really didn't feel like going to the Great Hall and being forced to mingle with her surviving friends nor did she feel like trekking up the endless flights of stairs to the girls' dorm. She just felt like resting, like closing her eyes and sleeping for another week.
"Grimmauld," was all he said.
"Grimmauld?" she repeated questioningly, not moving an inch and clearly not understanding.
Harry sighed. "When madam Pomfrey told me that when you woke up, if you woke up, you'd need to be somewhere quiet and comfortable with someone to look after you. So, I had Kreacher clean you out a room."
"Oh, Harry, thank you! I –that sounds wonderful," she said, her eyes prickling for the third time since she'd woken up. Harry was so wonderful.
"It's no problem. Of course Mrs. Weasley offered to have you at the Burrow, but it seemed like you wouldn't get much peace there."
"You're probably right," she agreed, smiling up at him.
"So… you ready to go?" he asked again, looking down at her expectantly. She nodded slowly as to not further agitate her already ailing head. She sat up fully and threw the covers off herself. When she saw that she was in one of her own dressing gowns, she was confused and a little embarrassed to be so dressed in front of Harry. Ignoring the blush that crept up her neck to her cheeks, she swung her legs over the side of the bed, feeling every ache in her body much more acutely than before.
She gladly took the hand Harry held out for support and got to her feet. Her legs were shaky, but she managed to stand though still gripping Harry's helping hand.
"Harry, how are we getting there because I'm not sure–"
"We'll be traveling by portkey; I didn't think you'd be very keen on the idea of apparating," he cut her off, smiling as he took a pen out of his pocket. Hermione wrapped her slim hand around the end Harry wasn't holding, and the object began to glow faintly before they were being tugged through space. Harry landed on his feet in the foyer of Grimmauld a second before Hermione, just in time to gather his wits and catch Hermione as her landing had not been so steady. His right arm wound round her waist, steadying her and pulling her to him in the same move. She was a little shaken and placed a hand on his chest to steady herself; she was tired and weak and suddenly quite hungry.
"Up we go," Harry said, bending down to pick her up. She squeaked when her legs were taken from under her by Harry's arm. Cradling her like an infant, Harry began ascending the narrow, creaky stairs to the third floor.
"Harry! Put me down," Hermione demanded, weakly hitting his chest in protest.
"Absolutely not. You heard what Madam Pomfrey said: you need your rest. I'm not going to let you do anything straining or stressful while you're here," he replied, looking down at her for a second before focusing on the stairs again.
They were on the third floor landing much sooner than Hermione would have expected; Quidditch must've done Harry well, she thought. Harry walked her to a slightly ajar door down the hall and gently kicked it open. Hermione gasped at what she saw, looking all around as Harry set her down on the bed.
"This is amazing, Harry. Is this really one of the rooms that we cleaned out when we were here last?" she asked as she found a comfortable position on the bed. She patted the empty space next to her when she was settled. Harry smiled and sat next to her on the bed.
"Yes, Kreacher is really a very capable interior decorator," he replied, leaning his head back onto the headboard and laughing a deep laugh. Hermione reveled in the sound; it was the first time she'd heard him laugh in a long time, and it was a warm sound. It felt like home.
"You didn't have to do this. You could've simply given me one of the smaller rooms on the second floor, so you didn't have to carry me all the way up here," she said turning her head to look at him much too quickly. She brought her hand to her head and rubbed her temples.
"I'm staying in Sirius' old room; I like it best. And I put you in this room because it's the only other room up here. I wanted you to be close in case you need something. Speaking of which," he said, getting up from the bed, "I think you need some of the potions Madam Pomfrey send with us. I'll go get them and be right back."
He began walking toward the door but stopped when Hermione called him. He turned back to her, waiting.
"Could, um, could you get me something to eat?" she asked, smiling shyly.
Harry couldn't help thinking how cute she looked but quickly dismissed the thought. This was his best friend, his injured best friend. He was supposed to be looking after her, not pining after her.
"Of course," he replied, returning her smile with his own lopsided grin. "What do you want?"
"Anything will do, really. Some soup or something sounds good."
"You got it," he said, nodding before turning and leaving the room. He walked down the two flights of stairs to the entry, passing the portrait of Mrs. Black quietly before going down another flight of stairs to the kitchen. He called Kreacher, who appeared promptly without making a noise.
"Yes, Master Potter?" he croaked, bowing so low that his long nose touched the dark floor.
"Could you make some soup for Hermione?"
"Of course, Master Potter. Does she prefer a kind?"
"Vegetable stew is her favorite," Harry replied, inwardly smiling at his knowledge of his best friend. Kreacher nodded and scurried off. While he was busy working, Harry grabbed two pumpkin juices. By the time he had returned, Kreacher had a large bowl of soup on a tray. Harry placed the drinks on the tray and took it from the old house elf.
"Thank you, Kreacher." Harry turned to leave with the tray, moving carefully as to not spill the soup. "Also, could you take the box of potions in the hall up to her room? Oh, and the rooms look great," he turned and said before exiting the kitchen. Kreacher bowed again, and Harry thought he could see a hint of a smile on his wrinkly old face before he disappeared. He smiled himself as he made his way back up to the third floor. When he entered Hermione's room, Regulus' old room, he immediately paused. She was lying under the covers, her head was leaned back on the headboard and her eyes were closed. She looked so peaceful, a contrast to her time in the infirmary. While she had been unconscious she was pale and seemed to have been stressed. Her face was often drawn tight and she sometimes twitched fitfully.
He walked slowly and quietly to her bedside table and set the tray down, taking his pumpkin juice with him. He slowly got back on the bed and sat against the headboard, thankful to not have woken Hermione as he moved into place. Once settled, he took a minute to really look at the room.
Kreacher really had done a good job. He'd redecorated in Gryffindor colors, scarlet and gold, which was a refreshing change from the previous Slytherin décor. They were sitting on a full size four-poster bed –very reminiscent of the beds in the dormitories at Hogwarts –that was covered in a fluffy gold comforter with red curtains tied up at each post. Heavy curtains matching those on the four-poster framed the windows on either side of the bed, and a fire flickered warmly in the fireplace opposite. It was an overall cozy environment, and Harry wondered what Kreacher had done to Sirius' old room. He'd check it later. Presently he was enjoying relaxing in the warmth of the fluffy bed with his best friend safe and sleeping beside him.
They both lay there lazily, Hermione sleeping and Harry dozing, for a while before Hermione woke up again. Harry felt her stirring and turned to her. She opened her eyes slowly and smiled at him.
"There is some vegetable soup on the table," he said and motioned to the table. "I know it's your favorite. There's a pumpkin juice, too."
"Thank you, Harry. I'm really hungry," she said, taking the tray from the table carefully. She looked hungrily at the large bowl and did not hesitate to scoop a spoonful of the still-steaming soup into her mouth. Harry watched her eat for a few minutes before getting up to get the potion that she was supposed to take. He took the vial of light purple liquid from the box Madam Pomfrey had given him, which Kreacher had placed just inside the door, and returned to the bed. He handed it to her when she had had her fill of soup, taking the tray and placing it on the table beside the bed. She pulled the stopper out and, in one gulp, downed the nasty liquid.
"Ick," she said, scrunching up her nose and sticking out her tongue.
I don't think I know what I got myself into, Harry thought as the idea of his best friend of six years being cute crossed his mind once again.
"I know, it seems like the better the potion the worse it tastes," he said, chuckling slightly as he remembered all the disgusting potions he'd been forced to drink during his years at Hogwarts. "Maybe you should work on that when you become a world famous healer, yeah?"
Hermione swatted his arm lightly, liking the way he was able to joke with her.
"Yeah, I'll see what I can do," she replied, rolling her eyes and laughing. They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes before Hermione sighed and rested her head on Harry's shoulder. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and listened as her breathing became more slow and steady.
Content that she was sound asleep, Harry dislodged himself from her and stood up as slowly and quietly as he could manage. Luckily, Hermione did not wake from her slumber. Taking one last look at her sleeping form, he left her room to go inspect his own. He'd been too worried about getting Hermione settled to really appreciate the changes that had been made to the house much less look in all the rooms. He quietly opened the dark wood door and saw the transformed room for the first time.
The paint hadn't needed any change, since Sirius had already decorated in Gryffindor colors; but the room was much more lively now that the cobwebs and dust were gone. The bed was the exact same as Hermione's: a full size four-poster with scarlet curtains and a fluffy gold comforter. There was a desk in the corner with fresh parchment, a quill, and an inkpot. The closet was filled with his robes and the few normal clothes he owned. I'll have to work on getting some more regular clothes, he thought. Now that he was free of the Dursleys, he could do as he pleased. This was an exhilarating thought; he never had to see those awful people again.
After making his way around the room, he returned to the desk in the corner. He sat down and began to write a letter to Ron:
I hope you and your family are settled back in at the Burrow. Sorry we didn't stop by the Great Hall to see everyone before leaving; I just didn't want Hermione to overwork herself talking to everyone there.
We're at Grimmauld, as planned. The place looks great! Kreacher really knows how to redecorate. You know, I think I might consider staying here… like permanently. It really is a nice house now that it's fixed up.
Anyways, I know Hermione will want to see you soon. You're all welcome whenever and we'd be glad to have you. See you soon.
Harry placed the letter in an envelope and turned to send it off when he realized that he didn't have an owl. The thought of being without Hedwig, his longest friend and first present ever, made his eyes sting. He shook the thought out of his head and called Kreacher instead. The elf appeared instantly, bowing slightly.
"Kreacher, can you sent this letter to the Burrow? Please?" he added, remembering all Kreacher had done for him and the endless lectures Hermione had given him about the proper way to treat house elves.
"Yes, Master Potter. Does Master require anything else?"
"No. Thank you, Kreacher," Harry replied. The elf disappeared, and Harry was left alone in his room. With nothing else to do and feeling tired, he lay down on the bed and drifted off to sleep.