She stumbled over a root as she tried to navigate through the heavily wooded area. She just knew she had to find the exact spot. It was so important that she find the exact spot. She needed to see the spot where she realized she was in love with him. But she didn't want to think about that. The long dress she was wearing was all tattered and torn along the bottom, and her hair once perfectly coiffed for once was down and tangled around her shoulders.
She was a Gryffindor and running away wasn't something she decided to do lightly. But she couldn't take it. Things that would have been right a year ago, were desperately wrong now. That one moment a year ago changed everything. But after the war, they tried to pretend it hadn't. They tried to go back to how they were before. But war changes people…the war changed everything.
She was not the naïve know-it-all she was in Hogwarts. She now was more reserved, her power exuded from her in a way that most fully adult wizards never accomplished. She knew what it was like to lose practically everything, and at this point she just wasn't ready to lose the last shred of sanity she really had left. And that sanity rested on the fate of one person. The person she gave up everything for, she was willing to lay down her life to protect him. When she realized how she really felt about him, that's when her world shifted forever.
She really did love Ron, before the war she would have gladly married him and had many clever red-headed children. But Ron left, he left them in the darkest hour. He abandoned her, and with it all her delusions of their future together fell apart. She wept for days, she couldn't even be near Harry really. She felt like she had just lost the last chunk of her childhood.
Finally she had stumbled on the spot…and to her surprise Harry was standing there, looking handsome if a bit untidy in his dress robes. It seemed as if he were waiting for her, but as she approached him he looked a tad startled and embarrassed. He rubbed the back of his neck, and opened and closed his mouth several times as if he was searching for the right thing to say and kept thinking better of it.
She kept looking at him, as if expecting him to disappear or to yell at her…or anything really. They hadn't really been alone together since those times when Ron had abandoned them on the horcrux hunt during the war. Life had gotten in the way, or more like Ron and Ginny had gotten in the way. She barely knew what to say to her own best friend.
"Hermione, I thought I might find you here." He finally whispered.
"I couldn't do it Harry. I kept thinking back to that night when he left us here all alone. And I remembered how my heart broke. He wasn't ever able to fix it. In that one action he killed whatever he and I had been building. But I tried Harry, I tried so hard." She whispered while tears began streaming down her face.
"I don't blame you Hermione, things have been a bit strained. But why did you let it get this far, why didn't you stop things sooner?" He asked looking puzzled.
"Because I knew I couldn't be with you Harry. I felt trapped, and I still care for Ron, I just don't love him the way he needs me to. It's not fair for me to keep doing this, he ruined things a year ago." She explained, grasping at her wedding dress looking ashamed.
"I left Ginny. When I was trying to come after you, she gave me an ultimatum. She told me it was either you or her. I didn't even have to think twice." He whispered stepping closer to her as he spoke.
"Why Harry? I thought she was your dream." She asked.
"She was my dream, she was my normal life. But I've never been normal Hermione. The war changed me just like it changed you and everyone else involved. That is, except Ginny it seems. She doesn't know me, she doesn't understand why I wake up screaming in the middle of the night. She doesn't understand why I can't make myself walk in to Gringotts, or why I'm not boasting about our winning the war. She thinks of me as some hero, and in some ways maybe I am. But in the end I'm just an ordinary wizard with an extraordinary witch beside me through everything I've ever had to endure since entering the magical world. You've never left my side, even if it possibly meant death. No one will ever understand me the way you do, and there is no one I trust more in my life than I do you. Ginny was a pipe dream for a boy who wished for a normal life. And I, well I'm a flawed man, and I'm not a normal boy. And I can't have that normal life. I don't want that normal life. Especially not after I realized that you are what I need and want in my life." He finished while staring into her shocked eyes, moving closer all the while.
"You need me?" She whispered, looking hopeful.
"I do, I feel like I've lost you over the last year….lost us….lost myself. I hated watching you and Ron plan your wedding. I hated that dead look in your eyes every time he whispered that he loved you and you made yourself reciprocate. I'm sorry I didn't speak up sooner. I love you Hermione, I want you to be with me. I don't want my life without you." He finished taking her hands in his.
"I love you too Harry, I think I always have." She whispered leaning in to kiss him lightly on the lips.
"Oh don't think you are getting away with only a little kiss like that after all this time!" He growled before pulling her flush against him and kissing her like he really meant it.
After they pulled apart Harry just held her close as if he were going to lose her, "what happens now Harry?"
"I don't know love. I suppose we go back home. Tell people the truth. Ron and Ginny, not to mention the other Weasley's, are not going to be happy or forgiving. But we can't just run away." Harry said looking at the girl he'd willingly give up everything for.
"You're right Harry. They're all going to hate me." She mumbled.
"I won't." He gave her a small smile.
She giggled, "I sure hope not!"
Soon they decided to head back to the Burrow and face the Weasley's. Hermione was still in her wedding dress that had been ravaged a bit by her trek through the forest. They held hands and moved as if walking into war for a second time. And for all intents and purposes they practically were. When they entered the Borrow they saw Molly first who gasped at the sight of the couple.
"Hermione! Harry! Where have you both been? I believe we deserve an explanation!" She exploded upon seeing them, her face quickly turning red.
"Please Mrs. Weasley, we are going to explain, just please get everyone all together so we can explain all at once." Harry said holding his hands up in surrender.
In no time at all the Weasleys were all gathered in the kitchen, the biggest meeting place in the house, and looking at the couple with mixed feelings. Certain Weasleys looked positively angry and hurt. The others mostly just looked extremely confused, except for George whose face remained vacant as it had been ever since he lost his twin. For Harry and Hermione it was scarier than facing the death eaters.
"So I owe you all an explanation. But I'm not sure where to start. Perhaps it would be best to start where things started to change. The horcrux hunt changed everything. We had to be adults completely for the first time in our lives. Harry, Ron, and I had to live in constant danger and fear. I had to give up my family, Ron and had to leave you all, and Harry had to face the responsibility of his prophecy. It was hard. We were all feeling the wear and tear especially by the time we had obtained the locket of Slytherin which is our first horcrux. That stupid necklace made things all that much darker for us.
And finally, we imploded. Ron left us, in a moment of weakness, that I know he has done nothing but regret since it happened. I understand that but that doesn't change how horrible it was for us, for me. I had been in love with Ron since I had been in second year, and the moment he walked out and left me sobbing and screaming for him something broke inside me. I knew it couldn't ever be fixed.
I cried for days. Harry stood by confused and hurt and not sure what to do with me. Then one night Harry came into the tent and found me listening to that old beat up radio, and asked me to dance. Anything to cheer me up. At first it was awkward. But we danced, and we ended up kissing. We needed each other so badly. I fell in love with Harry. I think I had been in love with him a long time. I would willingly give up my life for him. I risked everything for him. It was that moment that I knew.
A few days later Ron came back. I was still so angry at Ron. I was confused. Ron still seemed to love me. And I was just at a loss of what to do. So we tried to continue on as if nothing had changed. Until the battle of Hogwarts things were ok, we kept fighting to end the war. We kept working towards the big goal. Then the night of the battle I kissed Ron in a rush of adrenaline. Harry and I hadn't kissed since Ron had come back but as soon as my lips touched Ron's I knew I was wrong.
I love Ron, but I'm not in love with Ron. But it was so easy to fall into that pattern with Ron. And Ron, you are an amazing guy but we had our chance and it passed us by. We don't want the same things in life. I want someone who isn't going to pick fights with me over all the things I love. I want someone who is going to support the things that I do and be sensitive to my needs. Someone who understands me, and won't keep pressuring me to do things I'm not ready for, or keep pressuring me to know every detail of my life.
I'm sorry I didn't stop the wedding earlier, but when you proposed I didn't know how to say no. I didn't want to hurt you, and I still managed to hurt you in the worst way. I'm not going to apologize for loving Harry, but I am apologizing for not being forthright about it. I also understand if you hate me, I deserve it after all of this. But please don't hold it against Harry." Hermione finished rather breathless and pleading.
"How dare you! How dare you steal my boyfriend, you slut! First you hurt my brother then you practically kidnap my future husband!" Ginny shouted coming up and slapping Hermione hard.
Harry Grabbed Ginny's hand and shoved her away, "Don't you dare hit her! I understand you're angry, but after everything violence is the last thing we should resort to."
"Harry, Hermione…Fleur and I have often discussed this whole thing. And I think, especially after the time we've spent together fighting Voldemort, that I know you both pretty well. You love each other, and I think we all saw that a long time ago even if not all of us admits to it. I hate that my brother and sister are hurting but who are we to stand in the way. Fleur and I will stand beside you, you have our blessing." Bill Weasley smiled at Harry and Hermione and hugged them both.
"We, Bill and I have always wondered when the two of you would see what we did." Fleur explained with her flowing French accent before dropping a small kiss on each of their cheeks.
"Honestly, I feel like you both are still family regardless. Like Bill, I hate that our brother and sister had to get hurt but it's better sooner rather than later. It was always just a matter of time, and I am not even around most of the time and I know that." Charlie added in.
"I always thought you were too smart for my little brother Hermione." Percy said with a smirk, with his new signature humor he adopted after the war, realizing that life is entirely too short.
"I have something to say. I hate that you guys took so long. Fred would have been so excited. He's been betting on you guys all along. I'm happy for you guys and I know Fred would be too." George said with a small smile, which was quite uncharacteristic for him these days.
"You will always be family, like my son said, it was just a matter of time." Mr. Weasley commented.
"I suppose it is my fault, I turned you into some sort o-o-of scarlet woman! You've left me for my best friend! My mother planned our wedding for us! You left me at the damn alter! I will never forgive either of you!" Ron screamed turning a brilliant shade of red and storming off.
"You should both be going now." Mrs. Weasley stated looking both sad and angry.
"I'm so sorry." Hermione whispered crying while Harry gripped her hand and started to lead her away.
"I'll walk you both out." Mr. Weasley said following the couple.
Once out of earshot of the rest of the family, "Things will get better, as you can tell most of us are supportive. It will just take time. If you need anything I will be more than happy to help you, you know where to find me at the ministry. If I may ask, where are you going to go?" Mr. Weasley asked.
"Home to Grimmauld Place. Kreacher is probably expecting us. Thank you Arthur, for everything." Harry said, shaking the older man's hand before leaving the Burrow with Hermione.
The next day the Daily Prophet had a front page story. Hermione was painted as some sort of slut leaving her former boyfriend at the alter for war hero Harry. Practically disregarding their entire history and the fact that she's a war hero herself. There were exclusive interviews with Ron and Ginny completely bashing the new couple. Hermione was devastated but Harry held her and threw the paper out.
It took awhile for all the drama to die down, though after everyone saw that Harry and Hermione weren't going to be broken up they gave up. Harry and Hermione took the time to make Grimmauld Place into a real home with Kreacher helping them. They eventually eloped in a small ceremony at Hogwarts, far from the prying eyes of everyone except their two witnesses Bill and Fleur and Professor McGonagall whom married the couple.
They led a very quiet life. Hermione took up writing, documenting all their adventures and also writing text books. Harry too became a writer, co-authoring his own autobiography with Hermione and writing legitimate biographies on Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape, Remus Lupin, and several others. They eventually mended their ties with the entire Weasley clan after Ginny had married Dean Thomas and Ron married Lavender Brown. Things were never the same but at least it was better.
Harry and Hermione had 4 children, gorgeous children just as mischievous as their father and as smart as their mother. Their oldest child was a Gryffindor named Sirius James Potter and a rather brilliant chaser. Their next eldest child was a Slytherin girl named Lily Nymphadora Potter, she was sneaky and looked up to her Uncle George like no other. Then there was Persephone Minerva Potter, a sweet Gryffindor with her nose always in a book. Then their final child a boy named Albus Frederick, a kind and loyal boy who resided in Hufflepuff. Their family was large and happy.
Life wasn't always easy but it was theirs. Harry and Hermione understood each other and raised their family to be excepting and to not rely on the fame of their parents. As Harry and Hermione grew older, so did their children. Then their children had children. Harry and Hermione lived until they were a 130 years old. They died together, in their sleep. By that point they were thought of as the greatest love story in the wizarding world. Essentially the best happily ever after they had ever witnessed.