The Aftermath

A/N: I have long been a fan of Harry Potter (books and movies) but never ventured into the realm of HP fanfiction before. This story begins after the Battle of Hogwarts and is cannon compliant through that time. The chapters will be written in alternating voices between Harry and Hermione's points of view.

Disclaimer: I own nothing and am eternally grateful to J.K. Rowling for creating the Harry Potter universe.

Prologue

The weeks following the Battle of Hogwarts were nearly as harrowing as the weeks that has preceded it. Rather than fearing his imminent death, Harry had to witness the aftermath of the deaths of others. He'd insisted upon attending the funeral of each of the fallen. Often, Ron or Hermione accompanied him, but Ron, of course, was suffering his own personal, deep loss. Harry found it difficult to look any of the Weasley's in the eye in the wake of the Battle. He felt to blame for much of the damage done to the Weasley family - Bill's encounter with Fenrir Greyback, George's injury, Fred's death. Yet, it wasn't Fred's funeral that was the most difficult for Harry to attend, nor Lupin and Tonks' joint funeral. As Andromeda Tonks wept as she held her grandson, Teddy, tightly, Harry's heart ached. Like Harry, Teddy's parents had died fighting valiantly, and he'd grow up an orphan. Harry found some small consolation in the fact that Teddy would be raised by loving grandparents rather than relatives upon whom he'd been forced.

Despite his personal connection with Fred, Remus, and Tonks, it was Colin Creevey's funeral that pained him most to attend. Colin was his indefatigable admirer, and he'd told his parents much of his idol. Colin 's parents, Muggles, struggled with not only how their son had died but why there wasn't some sort of magic to 'fix him'. Harry was exceedingly grateful that Hermione had accompanied him to the funeral when Mrs. Creevey implored Harry, as the person Colin described as one of the most brilliant wizards of all time, to do something. Hermione helped to calm her, empathizing with her loss while lavishing Colin with praise as a brilliant wizard in his own right. At the end of the service, Harry enveloped Hermione in a nearly bone crushing hug, which Hermione returned saying only '"I know".

When the funerals were finally over, Harry settled back into the home Siruis had bequeathed him at 12 Grimmauld Place. Hermione, meanwhile, set off to find her parents in Australia and restore their memories. Both Harry and Ron insisted on coming with her on the trip, but she refused. Harry suspected that Hermione knew that Ron would be of little help in the Muggle world and merely felt, as her boyfriend, that he should accompany her. Harry persisted beyond Hermione's rejection of Ron's offer. The trip offered him an escape from the recovering wizard world, and he felt it was the least he could do when he was the reason his friend's parents' memories were erased in the first place. Harry finally relented when he began to suspect Hermione's refusal was related to a fear of Ron's jealousy.

While Hermione was in Australia, Ron spent most of his time at Harry's house, to Harry's dismay. Harry had hoped Grimmauld Place would provide him and Ginny some much needed privacy for renewing their romance. Instead, he found his home filled with two Weasleys rather than one. Harry suspected this was of Ron's own design, as he was still uncomfortable with Ginny and Harry as a couple. Ron's frequent presence allowed them only a few stolen moments. It wasn't until Hermione's month long quest that the two fledgling couples had real time alone.

In the weeks that followed, Hermione made the decision for herself and ultimately, Harry and Ron, to return to Hogwarts for the coming school year. Each member of what had been dubbed the 'triumphant trio' had been offered positions at the Ministry under the new minister, Kingsley Shacklebolt. Hermione politely refused immediately, Harry said he'd consider it, while Ron wanted to know the salary. Other offers poured in - Rita Skeeter offered each of them a quarter of a million galleons each, up front for the exclusive rights to their stories. Harry, who didn't need the money, and turned her down flat. Hermione had several choice words for Skeeter, and for Ron when he even considered the offer. Ron would have to make do with the money associated with the award of Order of Merlin 2nd Class that Harry and Hermione had received for their valor in the war.

Hermione had her mind set on finishing her education from the first minute she was free to think about her future again. Ron, unwilling to part with Hermione, acquiesced to Hermione's wishes. Harry had mixed feelings about the idea. Hogwarts without Dumdlebore was nearly unthinkable, but it was still the only home - other than 12 Grimmauld Place - that he'd ever known. Another year at Hogwarts also meant more time with Ginny, who, like many others was repeating the year they'd spend at Hogwarts under Headmaster Snape.

So it was that the triumphant trio spent another year at Hogwarts. It was, of course, impossible for things to remain same as they'd been. McGonagall was now headmaster, and Slytherin House had been abolished, but it was the changes within the trio that Harry felt most acutely. Even with Ginny as his girlfriend, he missed the easy companionship of his two best friends. The still spent time together, but it was different. Ron and Hermione's relationship was not the lavish snogfest that Ron's relationship with Lavender had been; Hermione was far too discreet for that. Yet, things were diferent, and Harry wondered if he'd find himself permanently outside looking in on the friendship they'd shared. Harry assuaged his feelings of loneliness by enveloping himself in his relationship with Ginny. His relationship with Ginny was filled with fire and passion. She'd waited over a year to be with Harry again and was making up for lost time.

After the first few months, Ron and Hermione's relationship was punctuated with bitter arguments. The quarrels they'd had as friends were amplified as lovers. The more their relationship intensified, the more heart wrenching their fights. Far too frequently, Harry found Hermione with her knees hugged tightly to her chest, crying in her bed. Somehow, Harry always knew when she and Ron had quarreled, even if he hadn't come across Ron yet. He spent hours with Hermione weeping on his shoulder. She always entreated Harry not to worry, but he couldn't bear to witness her sorry. After consoling Hermione, he'd seek out Ron to get his side of the story, which nearly always ended in Harry telling him he was a git and needed to apologize. The final fight - the one that would end Ron and Hermione's nine month relationship - left Hermione soaking Harry's robes with tears.

Ron was far from the only boy who'd noticed Hermione's blossom to womanhood. The longing stares from classmates, as well as fifth and sixth years, angered Ron. Their relationship ending fight Ron accusing Hermione of cheating on him with Seamus Finnegan. When Hermione first relayed the story, Harry couldn't help but laugh; the idea was preposterous. Harry couldn't imagine how Ron's jealousy had found Seamus as a target, though Ron claimed to have 'proof'. Harry pointedly told Ron that seeing Hermione help Seamus with transfiguration was NOT proof of infidelity. He was half surprised Hermione hadn't turned him into a tea cup. Ron refused to back down, already buried too deeply in jealousy and anger.

For Hermione, it was one fight too many. Hermione and Ron didn't speak for two very tense months. During that time, she leaned heavily on Harry. He knew that spending nearly as much time with Hermione as Ginny would have a negative impact on their relationship. It turned out that jealousy, like red hair, was a Weasley family trait. Honestly, the relationship had been fizzling by the second month into the term. Ginny was bold and brash. Despite the loss she'd suffered, Ginny still thrived in the limelight. Harry had been a celebrity since before he understood why. His fame, first as the Boy Who Lived, now as the Boy Who Triumphed, wore on him. Harry wanted nothing more than to recede into the masses, a desire Ginny did not share. Merely a month after Ron and Hermione's relationship ended, so did Harry and Ginny's. Ginny's accusations mirrored her brother's, but her claim was somewhat less unsubstantiated. Ginny accused Harry of having feeling for - and perhaps a relationship with - Hermione. Harry denied both but knew that the fire with Ginny has burned out. She'd never completely moved beyond her girlhood infatuation of him. Harry didn't want a sycophant; he wanted a girlfriend.

For a month, neither Weasley spoke to Harry or Hermione. Ron, willing to think the worst of his two best friends, sided with Ginny. Gradually, things warmed again between Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Just a month shy of graduation, the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts was observed. In the memory of such loss and sacrifice, they couldn't abide the squandering of seven years of friendship over minor jealousies. When they finished their exams the next month, the walked out of Hogwarts, possibly for the last time, together.