She wanted him to talk about the war. Like it was one thing. One thought. One moment. It was so much more than that and she knew better, she had been through most of it with him. His emotions were so high right then, he wouldn't be surprised if he was vibrating.
And she just sat there, calmly, waiting. The only betrayal to her composed demeanor was how she kept tracing her scar with the thumb of her right hand. He was quite sure she had no idea she was even doing it.
He finally raised his eyes to hers "What do you want me to say, Hermione?" he said, voice strained. "You know you're not much better off than I am. Don't think I didn't notice you had you wand in a holster under your dress. Did you think Death Eaters were going to pop out of the cake last night?" he was being unnecessarily cruel, but she was pushing him on this and he felt like pushing back.
She sighed deeply before clasping her hands together purposely. He could see the struggle in her face to ignore his jabs. "Fine then, I'll start." she said decisively "I have nightmares. All the time."
Her admission stunned him. He didn't know why he would have thought he would be the only one affected. She wasn't looking at him now, fiddling with the hem of his jersey, but she continued to speak.
"I have two different ones." she said shakily, and he wants to stop her, but he wants to hear it as well. "One is with...Bel...with her. It's starts like it happened, she's torturing me, trying to get me to give her information about the sword, but it never ends. It just keeps going, you never stop her." she pauses for a moment and wipes her wet face and he hears her swallow audibly before continuing. "The other one. It's about you. Hagrid brings you back, but you're really dead." her voice breaks on the word and she almost can't go on "And then I see what the world would be like if Voldemort would won, and it's more terrible than you could even imagine. I don't wake up screaming from that one, but I feel such despair afterwards, as if it really happened." she's wiping her face again and he chances a glance at her.
She catches his eye and gives him a sad smile "You know, last night was the first night since we started hunting horcruxes that I've had more than three hours of straight sleep."
He scrubs his hands over his face and then leans back on the couch, staring at the ceiling. He does not want to do this. He's fine. He's survived the past year, hasn't he? Why does she insist on doing this now?
At some point he's gotten to his feet and has begun to pace the room. "Why are you doing this to me?" he grinds out, unable to look at her
"Because it's important. Because you've been dealing with this alone for too long. Because I think you've been hiding from the world, and the future, and that you don't have a clue what to do if you're not 'Harry Potter-fighter of dark wizards'." his head shot towards her, his eyes dark on that comment, but she proceeded "And mostly because I've been doing the same thing. I spent the last year hiding at Hogwarts, not talking about it to anyone, and frightened to death of spending one second thinking about what I was going to do when I left."
He had stopped by the window and spent a long minute watching the people on the street. "It's your screams." he said unexpectedly
"What?" she replied, confusion evident in her voice
"My nightmares. It's your screams. That's it. A black void and you screaming. Every. Damn. Night."
He didn't move from his spot, part of him still angry with her for making him talk, and part of him recognizing that he did feel better after making the admission.
Her arms slipped around his waist from behind and he felt her lay her head on his back. They stood like that for a long time.
"Did you have them last night?" she said, breaking the silence
It took him a moment to register her question "No." he said, surprised "I didn't"
"So that's something."
"Yeah, I guess it is." he said distractedly, his brain trying to fully comprehend the idea of a terror free night.
"You know, earlier, I was thinking about that night." she said, almost shyly, and he felt her press her face further into his back for a moment. "That night in the tent." she clarified
"Oh." and in a flash he was back. To the tent, and the wireless, and how completely forlorn she looked. How he had made the decision to cheer her up, no matter what kind of fool he had to make of himself. And she had smiled, for the first time in days. And then, something changed. Suddenly they weren't dancing like silly children anymore, and when she pulled away from him...he will never forget the intensity in her eyes.
"I was thinking that I shouldn't have walked away from you." she said softly
He turned in her arms and brought his hands up to hold her face. "I wish you hadn't."
She graced him with a broad smile and he pulled her towards him, resting his chin on the top of her head.
"You're worried about the dedication? About being back at Hogwarts?" she asked, hands soothing over his back when she felt him tense.
The thought of being back there made him want to run and not look back. He hadn't returned once. Trips to visit Hermione at Hogsmeade had been too close for him although he tried to hide that from her. If he closed his eyes all he could see was destruction and death. No matter how hard he tried he could not replace his last memory of the place he had considered his home, with images of anything other than the battle.
The Great Hall was not the amazing structure that had awed him at a young age. Now when he thought of it all he could see was Tonks and Remus laid out side by side. Dead.
"I was thinking..." she began, slowly, as if to gauge his reaction. "I was thinking about contacting the Headmistress. Asking her if it would be alright if you could come a day or two early. See the school again without the crowds, and the press, and the pressure."
He shut his eyes tight. He didn't want to. Not really. Not ever, if that was possible, but he knew it wasn't. And he knew she was trying so hard to help him, just like she always had. A flash of memory from last night came over him. It was her, standing at the top of the stairs and making a decision to bare her arm to the world. If she could be brave enough to do that then he really didn't have a choice.
"Alright." he said stiffly and he felt her jump in surprise. She didn't think he would agree. "But you have to go with me."
"Of course. I never thought otherwise." she assured him and then squeezed him tighter.
"I'm sorry about earlier." he said, need to absolve himself somewhat "I should't have called you out on carrying your wand. I never sit with my back to a door anymore, and loud noises make me jumpy. I almost blasted a hole in my kitchen last month, but it was just an owl knocking over the sugar bowl." He was going for nonchalant, but she saw right through him.
"I know. I used to love being in the library by myself, but now..."and she gave a little shudder "I can't. If it was empty I'd take everything back to my tower. There were so many wards on it I'm not even sure McGonagall could have gotten in."
He ran a hand over the back of her head, smoothing her hair. "I'm sorry I couldn't go back with you. I'm sorry you had to be there alone."
She was sniffling now, and when she raised her head her eyes were bright with unshed tears. "I missed you. It wasn't the same, not at all. But I missed you so much. I missed the little things like walking to class, and eating meals, but mostly, I just missed your presence." She reached a hand up and lay it against his cheek. "We were together every moment of every day for almost a year. I felt like I had lost a limb and my best friend. If it wasn't for all the extra help the professors needed rebuilding the castle and fixing the wards I'm not sure I would have made it."
He knew exactly what she meant. He hadn't recognized it at first. Right after the war he was numb for awhile, but then he began to notice that he felt like he was missing something, and one day, while he and Ron were flying lazy circles outside the Burrow he realized it was her.
"I almost didn't."
She looked at him quizzically. And then he began to tell her the story of how he almost fell into a pit so deep no one would have been able to save him.
It was two weeks after the war. They had all been staying at the Burrow, but Hermione had left a few days prior to find her parents in Australia and restore their memories. Harry had offered to go with her, but she said it was something she had to do on her own.
He hadn't had any sleep. Every time he would fall asleep he would awaken an hour later with her screams reverberating in his head. On the second night he slipped away, and after a few glamours to change his appearance he stepped into Ottery St. Catchpole's only pub.
A bottle of firewhiskey and a dark table in the corner were all he needed. Other than a few sips of something the boys had smuggled into the dorms one time and a cup of champagne punch at Bill and Fleur's wedding he had never touched alcohol.
On the third night of this Ron followed him, found him half a bottle later, so drunk he could barely hold his head up. When he tried to take the bottle he fought back, even threw a punch at his best mate, luckily it was wide. When Ron questioned him, wanting to know what he was doing, all he could say was that his job was done. He had killed Voldemort, saved the wizarding world, and there was nothing left for him to do. Ron argued with him of course, but nothing was getting through.
He soldiered on for over an hour. Even had a couple drinks with him, trying any tactic he could. Would he finally had realized Harry was intent on his mission he pulled out his trump card. Ron got up from the table and then leaned over him, making sure his attention, wavering as it was, was focused only on him. "I'm just glad Hermione's not here right now. If she saw you like this it would break her heart."
And then he left.
Harry didn't take another drink.
After several failed attempts he made it out the door and found Ron waiting for him. They made their way back to the Burrow, Ron supporting most of his weight and helping him to the side of the road when he was sick.
When they got back Ron put him up in the attic with a hangover potion and a glass of water. Before he left Harry made him promise never to tell Hermione what had happened.
They never spoke of it again.
Harry had stepped away from her as he told his story and eventually she had taken a seat.
"So see, Hermione. You saved me again, and you didn't even know it."
She was still for so long he didn't know if she had realized he had stopped talking. Her look was fierce when she did turn to him "If you do something like that again I will kill you myself, Harry Potter."
He swallowed thickly and just nodded his understanding.
Then she was beside him again, arms wrapped around his neck, telling him over and over again that he was a stupid prat, and daft, and lacking even less brain cells than Ron for pulling something like that. He didn't contradict anything she said, just let her berate him, until her tirade became kisses on his jaw and then he thought some participation would be acceptable.
"Thank you." he whispered right before covering her lips with his. Her surprised 'Oh' gave him the perfect opportunity to explore her mouth further. He was really enjoying how her fingers were weaving through his hair, and the newly exposed skin of her shoulder that the too large quidditch jersey was allowing him access to when, once again, there was a large 'hoot' and crash from the area of the kitchen.
Her head fell to his collarbone with a mumbled curse.
He stepped away quickly to investigate, hoping to get right back to what they had previously been doing. Barely glancing at the owl he snatched up the letter and saw that it had Hermione's name on it.
"It's for you."
"Me? Mr. Weasley again?" she asked, confused
He shrugged in reply but she was already breaking the seal.
Her cheeks took on a faint pink. "It's from King's Cross. My trunk is in holding there." her eyes met his and he didn't understand why she looked slightly embarrassed.
"So we'll pop over there quick and get it." he replied
"Yes, but I've just remembered that my parent's expected me home hours ago, I believe there was a mention of dinner with some relatives tonight. There are going to be questions about where I've been all night and day." she flushed again, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
"Ah." he said in understanding "You could just tell them the truth. That you've finally seen the light about your best friend, and have spent the time snogging him senseless. Or, at least trying to." he added, not forgetting how they had been repeatedly interrupted.
Hermione grinned and smacked him on the chest with the letter. "Very funny. Somehow I don't think that's going to go over so well." she sighed and studied the note again "I guess I had better go get my things and head over to see them." but he could tell it was the last thing she wanted to do.
He didn't want her to leave either. He wasn't sure about how to go forward with them, they weren't exactly a 'normal' couple, but he did know that he had spent the last year apart from her and he didn't want to be anymore.
She was biting her lip, like she would do in the common room while worrying over a particularly difficult assignment. He could see her in his head, firelight glinting off her hair, books spread all over the table, quill not going as fast as she would like.
With a start he realized it was the first time he had remembered Hogwarts in a good light since the war.
"Harry!" she said sharply, hand on his arm shaking him slightly.
When he turned to look at her she gave him a worried smile "Where'd you go? I've been calling your name."
"Sorry, just lost track I guess."
"Anyways, I was saying, I'm going to have to transfigure a pair of your pants or something and maybe some trainers. I can't exactly walk into the station looking like this." she said with a sweep of her hand, indicating her borrowed clothes.
He looked down and saw that from this angle the jersey hid the shorts underneath, and with the hem skimming the tops of her thighs and the smooth expanse of bare leg...His hand came forward of it's own volition and began to lightly touch the skin there, the indentation from her wand almost gone.
"Harry!" she cried in mock indignation "See, that's exactly why I can't go like this."
In short work they had managed to make the suitable changes. When he saw she intended on changing the jersey as well he stopped her. "No. I, uh, I like you in that." he said, voice deep and she blushed furiously before whispering an 'Ok Harry.' and leaving it alone.
When she was ready to go she looked at him anxiously and then gave a nervous laugh "This is ridiculous! We've barely seen each other all year but now I don't want to go."
"I don't want you to go either." he admitted
She came into his arms and stroked a hand along his face "I'll see you tomorrow at the Weasley's. But if I don't go back to my parent's place now and deal with this dinner I'll never hear the end of it."
"What about your interview tomorrow? Do you want me to come?" he offered
Her eyes lit up "Would you?"
"You don't even have to ask." he answered, stroking hair away from her face before giving her a slow kiss.
"Ready? I'll walk over with you."
King's Cross was only a short walk from his flat and it was through a muggle area so he wasn't worried about being recognized. They strolled hand in hand, enjoying acting like any other normal couple.
When they reached platform 9 3/4 she had to search for a moment before discovering the 'Lost Baggage' claim area tucked away in a dark corner. He had never been at the station when it wasn't teeming with students, and it was a bit eerie to see it so still.
Her trunk was retrieved in short order and as they turned to leave a blinding light caught them by surprise.
His wand was out in an instant and he saw Hermione draw hers as well as they both dove for a nearby pillar for protection.
Before he could even consider what or who could possibly be attacking them all they could hear were overlapping shouts.
"Ms. Granger! Comment on your scar."
" ! Who did it to you?"
" ! Were you coerced into harming yourself?"
" ! Did Harry Potter put you under the Imperious curse?"
His head was spinning and he knew they had to get out of there immediately. He accio'd Hermione's trunk, put an arm around her and apparated them back to his flat in seconds.
She had her left arm pressed into her stomach and wild eyes when they arrived. He was furious.
"I didn't think...I never expected they would..." she started, clearly in shock from what had occurred.
He didn't trust his voice right then. Didn't trust his magic either, and purposely threw his wand on the couch, not that a wand was always necessary when he was like this.
As he paced the suddenly too small living room he raked his hands through his already messy hair, trying to tramp down the visceral need he had right then to blow up every newspaper and magazine in the wizarding world.
Her heard Hermione give a scoffing laugh and he turned to her with a raised eyebrow.
"I just had the thought that if I had just wore a wrap last night none of this would be happening." she said, shaking her head and looking down at the hands in her lap.
He was in front of her in two long strides. Kneeling at her feet he captured her hands in his. "Hey. Don't ever doubt what you did. It was the bravest thing I've ever seen."
"Oh, Harry, really." she said dismissively, but he could see the tears beginning to glaze her eyes.
He tilted her chin up "Really." he confirmed "What you did took courage. We'll deal with this. You can't let them get to you. Tomorrow you'll do the statement and then that will be that, you'll see." by the time he was finished he didn't feel as murderous and then he caught the slightly knowing glint in her eyes and knew she knew exactly what she was doing.
"Minx." he growled, and pressed a quick, hard kiss to her lips before pulling her to her feet. "Come on, you've got to get to your parent's house and I've got some howlers to write."
"Harry." she said disapprovingly, but made her way to her trunk. "I'll just be a minute."
When she returned he saw her surreptitiously shove his shirt in the trunk along with her gown and heels, but he didn't say anything. Knowing she had it and would most likely wear it again made his heart race.
And then she was standing in front of him, jeans and a sweater, hair in a pony tail, looking so much like 'Hogwarts Hermione'. As if she could read his thoughts she grinned and threw her arms around him in one of her trademark hugs, and he flashbacked to the first time she had done so all those years ago.
"You know, you were the first one to ever hug me as well." he said, referring back to their previous conversation "You've staked a lot of firsts with me."
"I hope the trend continues, Potter." she said with a laugh and then flushed beet red as she realized the implications of what she had said.
A rush of desire shot through him, and he had to hold himself back from attacking her mouth. "So do I." he managed to get out before placing a trail of kisses along her neck.
Her head lolled to the side and allowed him better access. The breathy mewl she let out made him smile and he promised to explore that area fuller the next chance he got.
She finally had to place her hands on his chest and push back slightly, both of them breathless. "If I don't leave now I'm not going to."
"Would that be so bad." reaching for her again, but she danced out of his arms.
"No, it wouldn't." she said shyly before cupping his face in her palm "I'll send you an owl later if I get done early, but I can't make any promises."
He kissed her again while he had a chance and then stepped back, smiling broadly until she was gone.
The silence was deafening and he hurried to the small desk in the corner, intent on keeping himself busy.
The rest of the day went by faster than he would have guessed. The howlers he'd written were cathartic and by the time he and Ron met at a local pub for dinner he was in a good place even though he missed her.
Ron, to his credit kept his mouth shut until they had ordered, before turning a rather intense eye on Harry "So...why now?"
Harry took a long drink before answering "Can't exactly say." he said honestly "I think maybe it's always been there but I've been too daft to see. And yesterday...I don't know...it was just obvious or something."
"I'll agree with the daft part." Ron replied, smiling his thanks at the waitress who had just sat a basket of chips in front of them
"Thanks mate." Harry said wryly.
"Why do you think I was always so worried about you two? I could see it. Even if I didn't exactly know what I was seeing I knew it was there. The two of you...you just worked. Always have, ever since the beginning."
Harry couldn't bring himself to look at Ron right then. If there was a chance he still harbored feelings for Hermione he didn't know what he'd do. "You don't still...I mean...you and..."
A chip hit him square in the forehead and he looked up suddenly to see Ron's glaring face. "Sod off. That's done." he said simply before returning to his pint.
"You know when I knew we didn't have a chance?" Ron asked, and Harry glanced at him expectantly "The night of the final battle. When you told us you had to go to Voldemort and what you had to do. And she begged to go with you." he shook his head and gave a slightly strangled scoff "I'm not sure she knew exactly what she was saying, but it didn't matter. If she had gone with you she would have died, and that didn't matter to her. The night I left you two in the forest she didn't offer to go with me and I wasn't exactly walking into my death."
They were silent for a long time before Ron began speaking again.
"She's always chosen you, mate. And maybe she didn't know why all those years, but it's been pretty obvious to the rest of us."
"Yeah." was all he could manage as a reply and they sat in companionable silence for a while, eating chips before Ron decided he'd had enough and began going on about that years World Cup semifinals.
He couldn't say that he wasn't disappointed when he returned to his flat two hours later to find it both empty and with no owl from Hermione. He thought about sending one of his own but didn't want to disturb her first night with her parents.
He headed to bed grumpily but only got a few hours of sleep before he sat up, drenched in sweat with her screams echoing in his head. He scrubbed his hands tiredly over his face and then got up slowly, knowing he wouldn't be getting any more sleep that night.
A long shower, and a couple of hours of mindless television wiled away the time until the morning edition of the Prophet was delivered. As he waited for the kettle to boil he wondered if they would be bold enough to print any pictures from the 'sneak attack' at King's Cross after his latest correspondence with them. He didn't notice anything on the first few pages and let out a sigh of relief.
It was only later, when he was flipping aimlessly through to the end that he saw it. Highlight of the society page, it was a picture of them from the back walking towards King's Cross. He hadn't even known it had been taken. They were holding hands, and she was leaning into his shoulder, but the most damning image was how her hair had been pulled over one shoulder revealing 'POTTER' splayed across her back, like he was staking a claim.
The headline read 'Walk of Shame: What did the world's most famous 'couple' get up to in the hours after the Gala?'
He was too angry to even think about making tea. With a sharp flick of his wrist he turned off the cook top and stalked into his bedroom to change, the Prophet left in a crumpled heap on the table.
The owl from Arthur the day before had said they would meet the reporter at the Leaky Cauldron around eight in the morning, hoping to avoid the crowds. Harry made his way over there now, the walk helping to calm him down some.
He greeted Tom when he arrived and asked for a pot of tea and several mugs, knowing Hermione at least would want something to do with her hands during the interview.
The back room was empty, and Harry waited there, asking Tom to tell Hermione and Arthur where he was when they arrived.
He didn't have to wait long before his best friend's father and an older man he had never seen before were walking in.
"Hello, Harry." Arthur said warmly before gesturing to the man beside him "This is Clemment Hopkins, free lance journalist."
Hopkins nodded once and held his hand out to Harry. "It's a pleasure, Mister Potter."
"Mr. Hopkins." Harry replied somewhat tersely, but he recognized the name. Hopkins had only written a few articles after the war, but Harry remembered they stood out because they focused on rebuilding rather than on speculation or sensationalism.
"Arthur has only told me a little about why I'm here, but I want to assure you that I take my job seriously and I will print only what Ms. Granger is comfortable with sharing."
"Thank you, I appreciate that." Harry said, hoping he was a man of his word.
"Good morning." came a soft voice from behind Arthur as Hermione entered the room.
Arthur greeted her with a hug and fatherly kiss on the cheek and then introduced Hopkins.
Harry watched her, wondering if she had always been so beautiful or if he had really been that dense. He was betting it was the latter.
Then she was in front of him, lifting up on her toes to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth. "I missed you." she whispered breathlessly in his ear, and he had to fight the urge to kiss her senseless.
He didn't miss Arthur's raised eyebrows but he chose to ignore them right then.
As they made their way to the table he let his hand rest on the small of her back, and when they sat she grabbed his hand, intertwining their fingers and letting them rest on her leg.
Tom arrived with the tea and after they assured him they didn't require anything else he backed out of the room.
Harry performed a rather complicated silencing charm that would allow the four of them to talk but not be heard by anyone else around regardless of how close they were.
After the tea was poured Arthur explained why he had contacted Hopkins and then asked Hermione if she wanted him to stay or not. She smiled at him nervously but told him she wouldn't mind if he did.
She took a deep, centering breath, squeezed Harry's hand once before letting it ago, and then turned her attention to Hopkins.
He sat back and watched. He recognized the look of concentration and determination on her face, it was the same one she would get when she was answering a particularly difficult question in class.
Hopkins was fair but thorough. He didn't pry or become invasive, but he asked his questions in such a way that Hermione was giving him answers Harry didn't think any other reporter could have gotten out of her.
It was difficult. Sitting there, listening to her relive the night that literally haunted his dreams. She only faltered once, when she was describing seeing the scar for the first time. Harry made to wrap an arm around her but she waved him off.
It took almost an hour and even the ever-warming charm placed on the tea pot had started to fade. Finally though Hopkins closed his notebook and declared they were done saying he had more than enough for the article. He apologized for having to leave so quickly, but he had promised them the afternoon edition and if he didn't leave then it wouldn't be done in time.
Hermione look pale and worn out, but she smiled at Hopkins and thanked him for coming. Harry shook his hand again and hoped the man knew what he was doing.
Hermione was once again holding his hand and had turned to him with a sigh, letting her head rest on his shoulder.
"Should I ask if congratulations are in order?" Arthur asked suddenly, breaking the silence and Hermione jumped a foot, clearly having forgotten he was there.
Harry cleared his throat before speaking "I think they definitely are." he said, grinning broadly before tugging her closer and dropping a kiss on her forehead.
"Well done you two!" Arthur exclaimed and came around to pull Hermione away for another hug. She laughed at his reaction and thanked him. "Molly will be so pleased. Should I say something now or would you like to make an announcement at dinner?"
Hermione's eyes caught his and he shrugged, they hadn't discussed this yet. Arthur saw the exchange and waved them off "No matter. I'll stay quiet and you can decided what to do later. Now, I'd better be off before Molly starts wondering where I've gotten to. See you two lovebirds later." he said with a laugh and was out the door before they could respond.
In unspoken agreement they apparated back to Harry's flat. As soon as he had the wards down and the door opened he found himself getting pushed back against the wall, almost knocking over the coat rack. Hermione's mouth slanted over his, her tongue doing wondrous things while her hands raked through his hair. Her nails dragged over the nape of his neck and he groaned before grabbing her by the waist and flipping them.
Hermione let out a startled squeak and he took the advantage by reintroducing himself to her neck, the area above her collarbone was especially inviting and if the noises she was making were any indication she was enjoying it as well.
The hands he had on her waist capitalized on her rucked up shirt and began exploring the smooth skin of her lower back while she continued to run her hands over his back.
When he hit a particularly sensitive spot she arched her back and pushed her hips into his and he swore he saw stars "Oh gods, Harry!" she gasped before planting two hands on his chest and pushing backwards until his lips detached from her neck with a slight 'pop'.
Her hair was mussed, mouth red, and he could still see several inches of her midriff with the way her shirt was twisted. He started for her again and instead of stopping him like he thought she would she met him, sucking his bottom lip between her teeth before marching slowly forward, forcing him backwards, her kiss becoming more and more heated until he felt the couch hit him in the back of his legs.
She gives him a shove when she realizes where they are and then he's sitting on the couch, staring up at her, wondering how in the hell Hermione Granger got so damn sexy.
With an almost feral grin she straddles his hips and lowers herself down on his lap, moaning as they make contact. He captures her face in his hands "Gods I missed you 'Mione." he breaths before plundering her mouth.
She gasps and replies in between kisses "I was miserable last night. I just wanted to come back and be with you." he kisses her again, and then finds her ear, loving the groany little noise she makes. "I don't want to be apart anymore."
"No. No more." he agrees, moving down her neck again to see if this side is as sensitive as the other. "Move in with me." he states and then his hips buck involuntarily as she has succeeded in removing his shirt from his waistband and is running a hand across his stomach.
"Yes. Of course." she says immediately, hands now roaming up his chest.
"Excellent." glad to have that sorted, he can now focus on her shoulder and how she twitches when his thumb grazes her hipbone.
Then suddenly his arms are empty and she's standing above him again looking shellshocked.
"Wha..wh...huh?" is all he can get out, not understanding why she's there and he's here.
She drug a hand through her hair and then covered her swollen lips with it, "Did you just..." she began, "I mean did you just ask me to move in with you?"
"Uh, yeah." he answered and then realized exactly what he had done and he felt his blood run cold. Had he ruined everything.
"And I said yes?" she said, puzzling out what had just happened.
Hope leaped into his chest "You said yes." he confirmed, leaning forward to wrap his hand around her wrist and gently tug her towards him. She took a shuffling step and then slowly sank back down on his lap.
"I said yes." she repeated. "You're sure?"
Now brimming with confidence but his head reeling a bit from the last minute his eyes twinkled and he slid a hand along her jaw "I've never been more sure of anything in my life." he said before kissing her softly, the frantic need from earlier having dissipated.
"Well alright then." she replies before kissing him sweetly.
She snuggles her head into his neck and exhales slowly and he wraps his arms around her back. "This is it, isn't it?" he hears her ask.
Lifting a hand to smooth over her riotous hair he gives himself a moment before he answers "Yeah, it is."
"Good" she replies, and he can feel her smiling.
The last week had gone by quickly. The Weasley family dinner was one for the record books. True to his word Arthur had kept silent on the new development. Ron was also playing along, although the twinkle in his eye suggested that if they didn't get around to saying something soon he was going to do it for them. Molly was so thrilled they thought she was going to shriek the house down. George cracked a couple ribald jokes and Ginny gave them both hugs although she seemed a bit shocked.
Hermione was enjoying the first real downtime she'd had in years. Her few meager possessions (besides the books) were moved in and they settled down quickly into a new/old routine. After living together on the run for almost a year in a minimalistic tent, little provisions, and no privacy, a proper flat with electricity was easy.
She had chosen not to give him any forewarning about the trip to Hogwarts until the morning of. An owl from the Headmistress had arrived the day before and told her that, of course Harry was welcome at the castle anytime he wished.
He had known something was up because she had been quieter than usual over tea and toast and when she had suggested he wear a jumper that morning he knew why. He didn't say anything, just placed his cup back on the table and headed for the bedroom, brushing a kiss to her head as he passed.
She gave him a watery smile before they apparated and he squeezed her hand to let her known he was ok.
It was harder than he thought it would be but not for the reasons he had expected. The castle and the grounds looked nothing like the destruction he had burned into his brain. They looked whole and fine. It wasn't until you really looked close that you could see the scars. The mortar damage, spell-fire burns, gargoyles with missing ears, and the like. In a way though he preferred it like that, proof that even though it had taken a beating, this mighty building was still standing.
The longer they were there the easier it was to walk around without feeling like he was going to suffocate at any second. They walked around the lake, went by Hagrid's Hut, past the Whomping Willow and the pitch. When it came time to enter Hogwarts itself he reached for her hand and together they walked through the main doors.
He paused before the Great Hall before pushing in. It was the same as it had always been. Long tables, banners, and candle filled sconces. Now instead of death and destruction he saw the happy moments he had there and he gave Hermione a tight hug before they walked out.
They spent the next several hours wandering the halls and various rooms before joining McGonagall for tea in her office. Harry thanked her for the opportunity and she waved him off saying he was welcome anytime.
He was quiet that night as they lay on the couch, Hermione facing him, their legs tangled together. He fell asleep stroking her hair as she trailed lazy finger over his shoulder and down his arm.
The morning of the dedication they apparated into Hogsmeade and walked in with the other attendees. Ron was waiting by the gate and joined them, Hermione slipping her hand into his arm much like she had for the gala. They were seated in the front row and Harry didn't dare look behind him to see the many seats filling up.
The memorial had been placed by the lake, visible from the castle but secluded enough that it had a bit of privacy to it. Dumbledore's tomb was in sight from it as well.
When it came time for him to speak he brushed his lips over Hermione's quickly before taking the stage, their first public demonstration.
He hadn't prepared a speech and had a moment of panic when he saw the sea of faces staring expectantly at him. But then he looked down at Ron, with his arm around Hermione and saw the love in her eyes as she smiled at him, her bare arm with the scar he kissed every night caught his eye and he knew exactly what to say.
And as he spoke of those they had lost and the way they had been affected by the war he knew that it had all led to this and that there was a purpose to everything. He spoke of the future, and of hope, and of change. As the audience applauded, he took a final moment and locked his eyes with hers and let her know that he was alright, and that it was time to move forward. Together.
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This is now the end. For sure. :) It was supposed to only be a one-shot and then a two-shot...and now here we are.
Hope you've enjoyed. Please review and let me know what you think.