Sometimes, Harry was amazed at how—for the most part—smoothly everything went from there on out. He and Hermione spent a few more days in Australia, sorting things out with her parents and enjoying their time together, basking in their newfound relationship.
Things could be a little weird at times—their smiles were still shy, a little bit awkward, but then his hand would reach for hers, and then she would lean up and kiss him on the cheek, letting her lips linger, and gradually they settled into their new normal.
Harry was invited over for family dinners, and the Granger's were somehow completely charmed by his awkward sincerity and Hermione shone at the love and harmony in the room. During this time, the Granger's and Harry came up with a plan:
While the Granger's closed up their practice, sold the house, and tied up loose ends, Harry and Hermione would travel back to England—for a short time—to make sure the Granger's house was ready for them, and, more importantly, go see Fleur and Bill and their new baby, Victoire.
So Harry picked up his meager items, and Hermione packed up her large bag, and they bid the Granger's good-bye and they boarded a plane back to England. They spent three days in Hermione's house there, where most of the items still remained in good condition, surprisingly, and, to Hermione's amazement, the personal items that had disappeared when she erased her parent's memories had come back.
Harry frowned. "That certainly makes sense why this was a quick sale. I was wondering why that couple wanted to leave here so quickly. They had already moved out, too, when I purchased the house. Perhaps… when you gave your parents their memories back, these physical manifestations came back? It probably freaked out the owners."
Hermione gave a little gasp and turned to him. "You think so? Well, that certainly makes a lot of sense. Good—good deductive reasoning, Harry!" She sounded incredibly surprised and a little bit impressed.
They very easily put everything back in order and when that was done, they wrote to Ron, telling them they were back. Harry agreed, with Hermione's urging, that if they were to travel the world, they needed a companion to keep in contact with everyone.
He relented, buying a chocolate brown owl with golden eyes that he named Atticus, and sent him off with a message for Ron, Hermione adding in a little missive to Ron thanking him for his little note.
Ron's scribbled response was delighted, surprised, and heartfelt, and he eagerly encouraged them to come to the Burrow to stay. Harry and Hermione, though grateful, winced at the thought of being with Mrs. Weasley and Ginny in such close and constant quarters.
After the Granger house was deemed "picture perfect" by Hermione, with every straight frame, hand-woven blanket, rose-lined china set, and all of Hermione's baby teeth, in a specially made case, all in a row, perfectly placed, the two packed their things and went to Grimmauld Place.
Harry knew he couldn't live in Grimmauld Place forever, but for now it was—in all of its grim glory—familiar, and he and Hermione padded around the too-large space quietly, nervous and fluttering, before they made the trip to the Shell Cottage to see the new, youngest Weasley.
They apparated a bit farther away, on the beach where they first landed after the hellish encounter at Malfoy Manor, and Hermione put socks and scarves on his grave, thinking it was more appropriate than flowers.
Then they were at the little door of the Shell Cottage, homey and bright, and they could hear the chatter of all the Weasley's inside. Harry took a deep breath. "Are you sure we can't just meet your parents in Hawaii?' He asked her hopefully.
Hermione raised an eyebrow at him. "And disappoint Ron?" She said. "He won't forgive you for that. You've already left him with his family for over a month, including three incredibly hormonal women."
Harry sighed. "Yeah…"
Hermione looked at him hesitantly. "Is this really about Ginny?" She asked, referring to the letter. Harry had told her one what he had written to Ginny and while Hermione agreed it was for the best, she did agree that perhaps being blunt was perhaps not the kindest, though most necessary, route. Harry looked at her sharply now, trying to discern any insecurities in her tone.
"A bit," he admitted anyway, honestly. "She's never pleasant to be around when she's angry."
"Is anyone?" Hermione tried to say fairly.
Harry gave her a look and snorted in disgust. "Ginny's viciousness makes Rita Skeeter look like a Hufflepuff."
"Harry!" Hermione protested, but looked much too pleased for him to take her serious.
"I have a question," Harry said to her as she was poised to knock. "What, exactly, was written in Ron's note to you?"
Hermione gave him a wide grin. "I thought you'd never ask," she told him, guessing correctly at his curiosity. "He ripped it out of the first page of that one book he used for advice sixth year? I guess there was a quote in the beginning of it that read: 'The first person standing in the way of your dreams is you.' And then he wrote 'whatever you want, I won't stand in your way. Make sure you don't, either.'"
Harry looked at her, amused and astonished. "Ron wrote that?"
Hermione shook her head, "Ron has been wiser in his old age—I can't really believe it myself, but it's good for him. He might actually be maturing."
"He has been spending more time with Luna," Harry mused. "He told me in one of his letters that she dropped by sometimes with personal copies of the Quibbler for him. I think he even did an interview for the paper."
"I think she'd be good for him," Hermione decided. "Luna is a very patient person and can put up with him."
"More than you could?" Harry inferred.
Hermione flushed a little, but admitted, "Yes, much more than I could."
Harry took her hand and squeezed it and Hermione met his gaze and smiled. Harry raised his other hand and knocked.
A few crashes and shouts later, the door opened. Ron's freckled face broke into a wide grin when he saw them and when he saw their clasped hands he gave a big whoop and hugged them both. Harry and Hermione both laughed, the happiness contagious, and hugged him back tightly.
"So my advice worked, eh?" Ron said to Hermione and she shook her head, still laughing.
"Yes, Ron," she said, "you could make a lot of money with advice like that."
Ron pulled back and said, "Well, that would be pretty difficult considering I'm now George's business partner!"
"That's great, Ron!" Harry said. "I think it's a good fit."
"I do, too," Ron said. "I'm really excited about it. We have this new product that—"
"Ron!" Came Mrs. Weasley's shrill voice from in the depths of the little cottage. "Is that Harry and Hermione? Don't let them stand in the doorway, tell them to come in!"
Harry and Hermione exchanged nervous smiles, hands still joined, before entering.
Ron looked back at them for a moment as if he too, could sense their anxiousness, and said, "Don't worry—no one will cause trouble." This was said with a confidence that had not been expressed before.
Still, it was a bit unnerving to walk in. Mrs. Weasley's eyes went straight to their hands, but she hid her disappointment mostly well, giving them each a large hug and a scolding never to scare her like that again, sneaking off halfway around the world.
"Because sneaking off to go defeat Voldemort was so much worse," muttered Ron next to her, which earned him a whack on the head.
Mr. Weasley welcomed them back in his light-hearted way, made even more jovial by the arrival of his first grandchild.
Charlie and George gave them some good-natured ribbing about their newly cemented status, but otherwise were very kind and welcoming about the whole thing.
They were guided to the bedroom to see the new parents and baby. Fleur was in bed, tired but radiant, with Bill sitting at her side, beaming at her adoringly. Surprisingly, the baby was being held by Percy in the rocker, who cooed and aahed at her in a way that shocked everyone. He had been a wonderful help to Bill and Fleur, taking an extended leave from the Ministry to come relieve the new parents and assist them. Both were always kind to him and here he felt the most welcome. His devotion gradually won over the rest of the family.
Fleur lit up when she saw them. "You two are together," she exclaimed immediately. "Ron may have told me, but even wit'out that, I still would 'ave known just from you auras. I just kno' these t'ings. Oh, Bill, aren't they beautiful together?"
Bill grinned at them. "Congrats, you two," he said. "It's about time."
Both teens flushed. "We should be saying congratulations to you!" Hermione exclaimed. She went over to Percy and Victoire and both ex-prefects started to fuss over the swaddled baby. "She's perfect."
"And why wouldn't she be?" Fleur demanded playfully. "With parents as gorgeous as us, she is destined to be a beauty!"
Bill rolled his eyes at his wife's antics. "How are you, Harry?"
"Great," Harry responded. "Couldn't be better, actually."
Bill's smile grew. Fleur jumped in and declared, "I knew you two would end up together. You could never belong to anyone else but each other."
At this unfortunate moment was when Ginny stuck her head in and at Fleur's words, she scowled deeply and slammed the door behind her, stomping back down the stairs.
Both Harry and Hermione froze. Percy soothed the fretting Victoire, glaring at the door. "Some people around here," he muttered.
Bill frowned after her and Fleur's blue eyes were ice cold. "Do not worry about her," she commanded Harry and Hermione. "That girl needs to grow up sooner or later."
"Hopefully sooner," Bill said grimly. "I'll go talk to her," he said.
Harry felt incredibly awkward, but Fleur reassured him, feeling incredibly motherly at that moment, "Bill and Ginny have always been close, despite their age. He will sort her out. Everyone but Ron has been tip-toeing around her since your letter—do not feel bad!—and it is time someone tells her the truth!"
Hermione worried her lip. "We never meant to cause any trouble," she said.
Fleur waved her hand. "Pah! Ron certainly does not care and that shows his growth. Ginny will have to learn as well. She will find someone. Do not worry about her. Besides, I hear you two are going to see the world! How fascinating. Tell me everything!"
Hermione eagerly did, telling Fleur about their plans and the places they were going to see. As mentioned, her parents were going to join them in Hawaii, and they had talked with Ron—he would also join them for a good part of the trip, but he couldn't get away from the joke shop for too long, so for about half the time, it would be just the two of them.
Mrs. Weasley insisted that they stay for dinner and so they set up long tables outside the cottage and had a lovely large meal. Ginny stayed on the opposite side of the dinner, glaring at them from afar, but both Harry and Hermione ignored her, and if Hermione's smile was a little smug, well, who could blame her, really?
0 0 0
They left the Shell Cottage many hours later. Hermione turned to Harry as they entered Grimmauld Place and said, "You know, it was lovely seeing Victoire and the Weasley's before we leave, but I think that there's someone else we need to pay a visit to."
Harry furrowed his brow. "Like who?" He wondered. Maybe Hagrid? McGonagall?
"When was the last time you saw Teddy?" Hermione asked him.
Harry froze. Teddy. His godson. He had seen him twice, and it was difficult to look at him without feeling some guilt, without seeing Remus and Tonks's faces. And Andromeda was so kind and motherly and lovely and it was hard for Harry, for some reason, to be around her. His heart always hurt a little bit.
"Harry," Hermione said gently, "It's okay to grieve for Remus and Tonks, but you can't let Teddy suffer for it."
Harry sighed and flopped on the sofa. Hermione sat beside him. "I know," he said quietly. "I just feel like such a failure already it. I couldn't save his parents and I don't know how to interact with children—"
"Harry," Hermione laid her hand on his arm. "You think Sirius was a great godfather, don't you?'
"Of course," Harry said, "but—"
"But what? You didn't blame him for your parents' deaths—once you learned the truth. You think Sirius had the faintest idea how to be a godparent to a teenager? Babies are easy compared to teenagers! But you loved Sirius and he loved you and was there for you and that's all you really wanted, wasn't it? I'm sure that's all Teddy wants."
Harry swallowed, pressed his face in his hands. "All right," he said. "We'll go see him tomorrow. But what about when we leave? We'll be gone nearly a year. He's already nearly six months old now. He won't know me when I come back."
Hermione straightened, grateful for a problem to solve. "Simple," she said after a moment. "We'll arrange for international portkeys. We will visit for one day once a month and then once we come back, we can see Teddy as much as we want."
Harry appreciated that with Hermione, everything was simple—he especially liked her use of 'we'. That, more than anything, calmed his anxiety.
"So it's settled," he said.
"Yes," she replied, but she was already writing two notes at once: one to Andromeda about a visit at tea time, and another to the Ministry to set up the international portkeys.
The next day, they dropped in on Andromeda. Her home was large but cozy, on the outskirts of a small wizarding village south of Godric's Hollow. She welcomed them with a warm smile and led them to the living area. Their shoes echoed—the house was beautiful but felt empty, sad.
"It's a little big for an old woman and a baby," she said, almost apologetically.
"It is lovely," Hermione insisted. "And it will feel fuller when Teddy gets older."
Andromeda smiled. "This is true," she said, "but I think a move is in order. Teddy and I need a fresh start, I think."
Harry frowned. He was holding and bottle-feeding a rapt Teddy, who kept changing his hair color to try and match Harry's eye shade. "Where would you move to?" He asked.
"There's a cottage for sale in Godric's Hollow," Andromeda said, carefully casual, "right in the midst of everything. It will be good for Teddy to be more integrated with people and other children his age, as he grows older. This was a lovely home for Nymphadora," here she faltered a bit, "but Teddy is a different child, and I suppose I always thought that you would return to Godric's Hollow," here her gaze focused and sharpened on Harry.
Harry shifted Teddy in his arms, moving him easily to his shoulder to burp him. Both Hermione and Andromeda smiled at the action. The first time Harry fed, let alone held, Teddy, he was visibly tense, anxious. "What if I drop him? What if I do this wrong? What if I hurt him? I don't know how to do this-" He had pleaded with the grieving Andromeda, who smiled genuinely for the first time in weeks.
"Like anything new, it will get better in time," she assured him.
Now he was a natural, and although he was still bewildered by Teddy at times, he was getting there. "Hmm," he shifted his gaze to Hermione, who blinked owlishly at him, bemused. "I've thought about going back to Godric's Hollow for a little bit, but I suppose it's something we'll have to discuss."
Andromeda's eyebrows raised a fraction in a manner Hermione found eerily similar to Narcissa Malfoy, but, then again, the two were sisters. "I see," was all she said. "Well, do keep me informed on those matters, would you? I will need to put in an offer soon for the cottage if I want it."
"If you like it, I think you should buy it," Harry encouraged. "I'll be there for Teddy no matter where I live."
Andromeda smiled fondly at Teddy. "Of that I don't doubt, dear. And I do appreciate what you're doing to come visit Teddy during your trip," she directed towards Hermione. "Have fun, though. I remember when Ted and I travelled, before Nymphadora." Her eyes unfocused and misted over. "It was a wonderful time."
Harry and Hermione stayed and chatted with Andromeda a while after Teddy was put down for a nap and left before supper. Their international portkey wasn't due to leave for another week, and they promised Andromeda that they would come by again and say a proper goodbye to Teddy.
Despite the wonderful day, Harry noticed that Hermione was awfully quiet during dinner. He knew she would share when she was ready but as the night wore on and she still remained introverted and contemplative, Harry grew impatient and decided to get to the bottom of it before she went to bed. It would be too easy for her to awaken the next morning and sweep everything under the rug.
Hermione was, as usual, reading a book by the fire, entitled "So You Don't Know What You Want To Do With Your Life" and Harry was half-heartedly trying to read the book she bought for him "So You Just Became a Godparent". Around half-past eleven, Hermione stood up abruptly and shut her book with a quick "SNAP!"
"Well," she said, trying to sound cheerful. "What a delightful day. I'll just turn in then." She went over to Harry and, hesitating just a moment, kissed his cheek, as she had done every morning and every night. "Good night, Harry."
Hermione, to her credit, could be very quick when she needed to be, but Harry wasn't the most well-known Seeker in Hogwarts for nothing. As she bent down to kiss his cheek, he quickly flung his book off his lap, swept his right arm underneath her knees, and swept Hermione on his lap, his arms encircling her so she stayed there. "Harry!" She gasped. "What on earth are you doing?"
"Forcing you to talk to me," Harry said firmly. "You've been acting strangely all night, and I'm not letting you sneak away from me without telling me what's wrong."
"How—there's nothing wrong!" Hermione sputtered. "Harry James Potter, you let—"
"Hermione Jean Granger," Harry mocked, "you tell me what's wrong!" His arms tightened ever so slightly around her as a promise.
Hermione huffed, folding her arms in a way that reminded him of an 11-year-old girl years before, pouting in her nightgown that they were sneaking out again. Harry waited, patient, and Hermione tried valiantly not to flush at the position they were in. But then she deflated and grew quiet. "It was just—I was thinking about something that happened today," she said. She paused. "When Andromeda asked if you would live at Godric's Hollow again, you said that… that we would have to talk about it." She looked at him, bit her lip, unsure. "You meant me?"
Harry looked at her, puzzled. "Hermione, who else would I mean?"
Hermione stood up, and Harry let her. She began to pace in front of the fire. "But—but that doesn't make any sense! Why, why would we have to discuss it? Do you think I would try and dictate where you live? I mean, maybe, maybe things are different now, but I don't want people like Andromeda—or, or the Weasley's—to think that I'm kind of scarlet woman who wants to control you!"
Harry stood up, frowning deeply. What was going on in that head of hers? What was really the problem? "Hermione," he said gently, taking her hands in his, trying to calm her agitated breathing, "why would anyone think that? Everyone sees how right we are together. You didn't need to—to manipulate me or coerce me in order for me to want to be with you. Didn't you hear Bill and Fleur and Ron and Charlie and everyone else? This has been a long time coming." He shook her playfully, a nervous grin on his face. "Have you been re-reading old Rita Skeeter articles? I want to be with you because you're you. And I don't want you to dictate where I live—I want us to talk about it." It was written all over her face, he thought. Hermione couldn't quite believe that their relationship was real. That he chose her. She didn't understand—or believe—that he would always choose her. The trust in their friendship was solid, but the trust in their romantic relationship was still fragile. Did Hermione believe she wasn't worthy? Or that he didn't believe in them either?
Hermione shook her head, confused. "But—I mean why? Wherever you choose to live, I'll find a place near you. I always thought you'd end up back at Godric's Hollow, but if you don't want to, it's fine with me. Did you want to discuss renovating or—"
Harry shook his head, gave a bark of a laugh. "I can't believe you're not getting it," he said, mostly to himself.
Hermione scowled, tried to pull out of his grasp. "This isn't funny, Harry," she said, hurt. "I don't—I don't understand."
Harry sighed, his eyes apologetic. He tried again. "I want to discuss this with you," he said softly, "is because this decision affects both of us." He swallowed, looking at her earnestly.
"Hermione," he said, "I don't—I can't remember what it was like not to live in the same place as you. And I don't want to start. I want—I want us to live together." Hermione stared at him, disbelieving, but then a silly grin broke out on her face and her eyes started to tear. A wide smile broke out of Harry's face. "Whether we live in Godric's Hollow or Grimmauld Place or Australia or Hawaii, it doesn't matter to me, as long as you're happy."
"But sI just want you to be happy," Hermione whispered, voice breaking.
Harry shook his head. "For us both to be happy. And I think that as long as we're together, we will be."
"How long do you think we'll be together?" Hermione said hesitantly.
Harry pushed a curl behind her ear, looking clearly into her eyes. This he couldn't mess up. "I can't ever imagine us not being together," he said simply.
Hermione stared at him a bit in disbelief, a smile breaking through her tears slowly, like sunshine. "You really think we'll be together forever?" She whispered.
Harry grinned at her. "Hermione," he said. "It's you and me. Could we ever belong to anyone else?"
"No," Hermione admitted, and he saw something akin to wonder in her eyes, an epiphany of sorts. "I suppose you're right."
Harry chuckled. "I'm finally right and you're finally wrong?" He chortled in triumph as Hermione scowled. "Well, I suppose if I had to be right about something, I'm glad that—"
Unable to take his gloating, Hermione shut him up in the only way she could think of, kissing him soundly and lovingly, her lips conveying what she could finally feel: I believe, I believe.
There were still a lot of unknowns in their lives: What the next year would bring; what adventures they would have; what would happen to them when they returned; what careers they would pursue; where they would live—but Hermione knew that as long as they had each other, it didn't matter if it took them days or weeks or months of years- they would figure everything else out.
After all, they had time now.
0 0 0
Notes: My loves, my loves, this is the end of our little journey. There were still a few plot holes that I wanted to tie-up but refrained; there was quite a bit going on in this chapter and the things I left out weren't that important anyway.
Firstly: I made Victoire's birth a couple years sooner than it is in HP universe. Whatever, I did it to suit my needs, and this story ignores the Shit Epilogue anyway, so who cares?!
Secondly: I only did the first thing to make Harry and Hermione come back and see the Weasley's. I originally was only going to mention them in passing but everyone wanted to see a glimpse of Ginny in this chapter, and goodness, you're a bloodthirsty lot! (Not that I blame you, she's a bitch) I didn't make this chapter overtly catty, because this story isn't really about Ginny, she was only a necessary plot device, really. But I hope her snotty little cameo was acceptable, anyway!
Thirdly: Ron, my dearest Ron. I can do Dumbledore-bashing and Ginny-bashing and even Weasley-bashing stories, but when authors make Ron seem conniving and manipulative it breaks my heart. Ron is not perfect, but I think HHr shippers fail to realize that neither are Harry and Hermione and neither is anyone in real life either. Ron made his mistakes but he isn't a malicious character and I think HHr fandom treats him rather terribly Ron is capable of maturing like anyone, and so that's the side of him I wanted to show. So there! (Not that any of you were hating on him, but I've wanted to say this for a long time).
Finally (Most Importantly): Thank you. The love and support I've gotten for this story has been lovely and has only fueled the fires for me to keep writing. I only started this for myself and my love for this ship, but it's definitely re-introduced me to HHr writing and reading. Thank you all for re-inspiring this in me You reviews have been wonderfully constructive, insightful, and heart warming.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
Until next time!