~A/N~ I blame this fic on Hastyhand and the beautiful art she drew of Harry and Hermione's family. This was supposed to be a short drabble for just that moment, but then I started asking myself how HHr got to that moment. How would they come together after the war? How would they heal and grow and go through all the moments of creating a family and a home? And well...got a little carried away.

Thank you to Curlscat, RainbowBlitz, and Tyrannicpuppy for looking over this chapter. And thank you to Hasty for going along with my ramblings and bringing this HHr AU to life through her illustrations with me.

Harry can't pinpoint the exact moment where everything changed, but after the Battle of Hogwarts ends, he keeps finding himself going back to that day at Godric's Hollow when he visited his parents.

With Hermione.

The war is over, Voldemort defeated, and Harry's fulfilled his role in saving the Wizarding World, but why can't he bring himself to be happy? There's a weary numbness, a hollow feeling that's settled deep into his bones and all he can think about is how much he has lost.

He thinks of standing in front of his parents' graves and trying not to crumble against the prospect of the family he could have had. Wondering why. Why did it have to be his parents? Was he doomed to stumbling through life with everyone he loved dying and leaving him, with nowhere and no one to belong to?

Hermione took his hand then and he almost choked on his tears in relief, at the stabilizing force her presence gave him.

She always did have a way of centering him.

Harry joins the Aurors.

Everyone is thrilled—exultant even—that the Boy-Who-Lived will be personally involved in hunting down the stray Death Eaters and leftover forces of Voldemort that remain in hiding.

It's only right, their whispers reach his ears, for him to finish the job. It's his calling.

Everyone is thrilled. Everyone besides Hermione.

"You don't have to do this, Harry." She says to him one evening while visiting Grimmauld Place.

Harry doesn't know why he came back here, to this dreary old place where the memories of Sirius linger in the shadows. But Kreacher is here and that grumpy elf would probably feel lonely all by himself and—and he didn't have anywhere else to go, really.

"I don't know what else to do," Harry tells her honestly.

He remembers the surprised look Ron had given him when he had expressed his doubt about his career path.

"Blimey, Harry. Is that even a question? What else would you do? You're the Man-Who-Conquered now, things will be smooth sailing for you there!"

Ron has suffered from the war too, with his own moments of somber silence whenever Fred is mentioned, but he seems determined to move on. To push forward and go back to his cheery self, taking advantage of their fame to enter this new stage of life with aplomb. Harry can't find it in himself to feel the same.

He remembers Ginny approaching him and wanting to rekindle what they had before he went off on the Hunt. But she looked at him with those same eyes—those eyes of worship, of adoration, that he's confronted with everywhere lately, and his heart froze. He tried desperately to regain some of the passion he had felt in sixth year, that casual joy from the normalcy her presence had given him—but he felt nothing. She expected him to move on too, for everything to go back to the way it was, and he doesn't understand how she can expect him to be the same as before, after everything he's suffered and everything he's lost—

He feels nothing.

"Harry?" Hermione asks, her concerned voice shaking him out of his thoughts.

"I'm just tired of this void in my life right now. I just want to do something," He looks at her, pleading for her to understand with his eyes. He doesn't have to say it out loud; he just wants to feel again.

"I know." She sighs, and Harry can't help but notice the bags under her eyes and the slump in her shoulders. "I feel the same."

Ever since Hermione found out that her parents would need to be hospitalized in St. Mungos for months to even have a chance of recovering their memories, she has been restless and frazzled.

"I'm not going to Hogwarts for my eighth year," She confesses. "Everyone expected me to— McGonagall even planned on making me Head Girl—but I can't go to classes and pretend everything is normal and… It's just not the same without you and Ron there."

She pauses on Ron's name and winces, clearly recalling the last time she had mentioned him to Harry. It had been after their one and only date, a date that had ended in disaster.

"The kiss during the battle—oh, honestly! I don't know if it was adrenaline or nerves or what in the world I was thinking. But it's clear to me that Ron and I are better off as friends."

"If you're not going to Hogwarts, where will you go? And where are you staying?" He tries not to let the worry seep through his voice.

"Probably the DMLE. At least if I join them, I can put my frustrations into making changes and being useful. Maybe you and I will even bump into each other at the Ministry." She attempts to smile, but it doesn't last. "I'll probably stay at my parents' house. The one I made them leave behind."

Harry is overcome by an unsettling feeling of wrongness. Hermione has always been so full of energy and passion and life that it hurts to see her like this. So worn out, so tired, so lonely. He doesn't like the idea of her all alone in that house, surrounded by the memory of a happier time with her parents and riddled with guilt. He doesn't like the idea of her being anything but happy.

And before he knows it, he's blurting it out: "Stay with me."

"What?" She cocks her head at him. He finds it strangely adorable for some reason.

"Stay here. At Grimmauld. There are so many rooms here and we could both use the company. We've already cohabited for months on end in that tent, so this shouldn't pose a challenge."

His mind scrambles to find more reasons but he just ends up repeating himself, almost desperately. "Stay."

She laughs and a weight Harry didn't notice was even there lifts off his shoulders.

"All right," She rolls up her sleeves and there's a familiar, determined glint in her eyes. "But if I'm staying, we're doing things properly this time. We have to get this place in good order—upstairs is still so dusty, I'll need to speak to Kreacher about a plan. We need to draw up a list: Who will do the groceries, how will we divide the housework? Oh! And I'll need your help moving some of my belongings..."

She's on a roll, listing off things they'll need to do and Harry just nods along, basking in the knowledge that she won't be leaving anytime soon.

It happens naturally. Hermione just starts sleeping in his room one day and neither of them comment on it.

This way, Harry won't have to run to Hermione's room when he's woken up by her screams at night; sometimes it's that night at Malfoy Manor that haunts her, sometimes it's the fear that her parents never regain her memory, but more often than not it concerns him.

"You died. You died." She muttered over and over as Harry held on to her. "You left me. You never even told me, just went to go die by yourself! How could you be so stupid? Do you know how I felt seeing your body, limp in Hagrid's arms?"

"I'm sorry," he tried to console her, rubbing her back even as her fists hit his side and he felt her tears at his collarbone. "Yes, I died. But I came back. I came back to you, Hermione."

Harry doesn't scream during his nightmares, but Hermione always seems to know he's had them just by looking at his face in the morning and never fails to fret over him. He doesn't like exposing his fears and he feels a bit silly because everyone's been telling him to move on and yet these dreams are proof that he hasn't.

But Hermione is nothing if not stubborn and insistent, so he tells her.

Sometimes, he sees Dobby's eyes glaze over and the red spread throughout that dirty pillowcase he always wore, sometimes he sees Sirius freezing in the middle of his laughter and falling through the veil, sometimes he hears her screams at Malfoy Manor and he's powerless to stop it.

The night after he confesses the last one, he finds her sleeping in his bed. They wake up in the morning holding on to each other and silently decide to keep it this way. It's just easier sleeping together. Practical. He feels safe in her arms and she does in his.

The only real downside is how conscious he starts becoming of her physical presence and his own craving for her touch. He finds that he likes the way her body fits into his arms as he spoons her from behind. He likes it when their legs get tangled when they sleep. He doesn't even mind that she moves in her sleep so much that some mornings he'll wake up to her weight on top of him, her head of bushy brown curls resting against his chest, and her soft breathing the only sound in the peaceful room.

On those mornings, he is content to stay in bed and play with her hair until she groggily wakes up, greeting her with a sheepish smile.

The nightmares grow less frequent, but they are still there.

Harry confesses to her one night: "I have dreams about it too—dying."

Hermione stills.

"Especially right after the war, I used to dream that I was back at King's Cross Station and I would choose to go on, choose not to keep living. The other side had my parents and Sirius and I was so tempted. So bloody tempted to stay in the dream and never wake up." He reaches under the covers to grab her hand. "But I'm glad I didn't. Every day I spend with you, I'm a little more glad I chose to come back."

"If I hadn't, I wouldn't have—" he holds up their entwined hands, "—this."

Hermione makes a strange sound—a cross between a laugh and a sob—and breaks away from him.

Harry stares at his now bereft hand and back to her in confusion until she speaks.

"Harry—you can't—you can't just say things like that and expect me to not react!" She struggles for words and his mind freezes, wondering if he said something wrong.

"Oh, bugger this!" She makes a frustrated noise and throws her hands up in the air. "I can't do this anymore!"

"What—" Is all Harry has the chance to say before she's pushing him down on the bed, climbing on top of him, and kissing him senseless.

They don't get much sleep that night, but for once, it's not because of the nightmares.

Hermione takes the Ministry by storm.

Of course, due to her age and lack of experience, she's still limited in what she can do. But she's fierce and passionate towards her endeavours and she has the sharp intelligence to not only know what she wants, but how to go after it.

And as others are now learning, she can be one stubborn witch.

"Usually, someone like me would have no chance to make a dent in the DMLE," Hermione tells Harry while they eat breakfast together. "But I have a reputation now. I'm the girl who helped the 'Saviour of the Wizarding World'...well, save the wizarding world. I'm part of the "Golden Trio" now—you know, that ridiculous name the Daily Prophet came up with. They've even taken to calling me the 'Brightest Witch of Her Age.' And I despise those titles as much as you do, but I've decided recently that I might as well make use of them to build on the reputation I do have and let my skills speak for themselves!"

Harry leans with his elbows on the table and smirks. "You're advancing through the ranks faster than me, I see."

"Please. I can't go anywhere in the Ministry without hearing some news about you successfully completing one mission after another at record speed." She scoffs at him, before turning serious. "But be honest with me, Harry. Are you happy with your work? Does it ever get to be too much?"

"I don't know if 'happy' is the right word to use." He admits. "But it's not as bad as it was."

He doesn't particularly love the job. When he first started, it was only out of a desperate need to fill the void in his heart. Sometimes he felt like a machine on auto-pilot, made numb to violence and bloodshed. But seeing Hermione so passionate about what she's doing, the endless drive for justice that she has, inspired him to find a reason to continue what he does besides the fact that it's the one thing everyone's told him he's good at or because it's the 'right' thing to do.

He wants to push himself to the limits as she does. He wants to be better.

She's speeding through this next phase of their lives and he doesn't want to be left behind. He wants to stay on equal footing with her, being able to challenge and tease her like he does in days likes these.

But more than that, he knows it won't be easy for Hermione to implement all the changes they've discussed and it'll only be an uphill battle from here on. He wants to be her support just like she was always his.

It's not much of a grand or lofty goal, but it's a purpose. And after searching for one for so long in the emptiness that followed the end of the war, Harry grasps on to it firmly.

It's enough.

As time goes by, Harry notices that nothing much has changed after they both confessed what had been lingering unspoken between them for so long. They were practically living together as a couple this whole time anyway, instead of normal 'roommates.' And their friendship has always been open, easy, and understanding.

It's the little things that excite him. Being able to sneak up behind her when she's in the kitchen and wrapping his arms around her waist, the stolen kisses whenever they bump into each other in between breaks at the Ministry, the meaningful glances Hermione sends his way that only he can understand.

After a long day's work at the Ministry, Harry and Hermione often curl up on the large couch in the living room, talk about their day, and just unwind—relaxing in each other's presence.

One such day, Harry has a realization.

His head is lying on Hermione's lap as she holds a book in one hand and absentmindedly combs through his messy hair with the other.

"I just realized," He opens his eyes. "We're a rather boring couple, aren't we?"

There is nothing particularly dramatic or epic about their relationship. They are just two friends with a deep trust and understanding, who have vowed to find the simple happiness they've yearned for with each other. Sometimes, they argue, sometimes they have their differences, sometimes the frenzy of emotions and passion and energy collide, sometimes the shadows of the past war looms over them. But at the end of the day, they are just Harry and Hermione.

"Hmm?" Hermione looks away from her book and pauses in her stroking. "I suppose we are. Does that bother you?"

"No," Harry looks into her eyes and smiles. "I quite like it this way."

They are just Harry and Hermione and that's all they need to be. Together.

When Hermione's parents regain their memory, she breaks down completely.

They're in her parents' old house, cleaning things up and getting it ready for their return when Harry hears a crash. He runs to the living room only to find her sorting through broken shards of a photo frame that had held a picture of Mr Granger, Mrs Granger and seven-year-old Hermione.

"I was just going to return these photos to the wall and I must have made a mistake when levitating them—"

But her eyes are glassy, and her bottom lip is trembling, and Harry knows she wouldn't make a mistake like that.

"Hermione," He says softly. "Tell me what's wrong."

"I've wanted them to remember me for so long now, but now I'm terrified, Harry. What if they hate me for what I did? I lied to them, I broke their trust, I'm a terrible daughter—"

"Stop it!" Harry takes a hold of her shoulders, "You wanted them alive. We were teenagers in the middle of a war, making impossible choices that no one should have to make. Isn't that what you always tell me? Don't be so hard on yourself."

Harry has to spend hours reassuring her that it will be okay, that her parents will forgive her, that they'll see that she did it for them. But there is an unsettling, twisting feeling of guilt in the pit of his stomach as he remembers that—no, she did all of this for him. She gave up the life and family she knew, the possibility of ever knowing them again, to go with him.

Seventeen-year-old him was too much of an emotional mess to give that action the attention it deserved, but the more time passes, the more Harry is astounded at the gravity of all Hermione has done for him. All she has sacrificed to just stand beside him.

It humbles him and scares him and fills him with all these emotions that he has no idea what to do with. All he knows is that he's going to spend the rest of his days making sure that she is cared for and loved as fiercely as she has always loved him.

When Hermione finally meets her parents again, Harry is right there with her to offer support. What follows is a lot of hugs and crying, but the moment that sticks with him is when Mrs Granger takes one look at him and just knows:

"Harry Potter...we've heard so much about you."

They marry young—too young, some might say. The early twenties are a time for exploring one's options and trying out new things. But Harry thinks that he has had enough 'excitement' for a lifetime; he wants stability, he wants peace, he wants waking up to Hermione's laughter, he wants all the Hermione Hugs and Kisses she has to give, he wants to be her family and for her to be his. He has known her for so long and gone through so much together. It feels like all their adventures and experiences from the time he first met her on the Hogwarts Express has been a long, winding road leading to this moment.

The wedding is small and private, hosted in a large garden during spring, with only their close family and friends invited. Hermione walks down the aisle, looking radiant in her flowing white dress, and Harry can't help but stare in awe, unable to believe that this is happening, this is really happening.

He reaches for her hand as they both face forward and say their vows, but something inside of him breaks when she squeezes back. She's real and this is real and—despite his best efforts, his eyes turn watery.

As if she knows, Hermione turns and beams at him; her eyes, too, are full of tears.

"…then I declare you bonded for life."

Harry is brought back to another moment, so different yet so similar, where he had heard those same words and had been filled with the most peculiar feeling when he looked into Hermione's eyes. Looking back, it feels like they were inevitable, like they were always gravitating towards each other without even knowing it.

Bonded for life. It feels like the stray pieces of a puzzle have finally aligned and for once in his life, everything feels right.

Even as they greet their guests, Harry's eyes keep travelling back to Hermione, not wanting to take his eyes off her for even a moment.

Ron thumps his shoulder, startling him out of his gaze. "You know, I think I always knew this would happen. You and Hermione."

"Did you now?" Hermione smirks at him.

"Hey!" Ron splutters. "That was one date—"

All three of them break into laughter.

"Aunt Hermy!" Little Teddy jumps out of Andromeda's arms and Hermione leans down—not caring about getting her wedding dress dirty—to hold on to him. "Grandma told me Uncle Harry has to treat you extra special now."

Harry chuckles and ruffles Teddy's wild blue hair, assuring him that he will.

Hagrid hasn't been able to stop crying throughout the whole wedding.

"Look at yeh two!" Big, fat tears roll down his face and he blows his nose with a gigantic handkerchief. "All grown up and getting married! Why—jus' yesterday I was bringing yeh in my boat to Hogwarts!"

Hagrid reaches out and pulls both him and Hermione into a bear hug, mumbling in between his tears: "Jus'—jus' be happy."

When the reception is about to end, Harry knows it's time. With much squealing and laughter from Hermione, he picks her up in a bridal carry and she encircles her arms around his neck.

"Mr Potter," Hermione says as she grabs his lapel.

"Yes, Mrs Potter?" Harry allows himself to be pulled by her, leaning forward so that their foreheads touch.

"We are going to be happy together." Her eyes gleam mischievously as she repeats Hagrid's words like a statement. Like a fact.

He kisses her then, slowly and softly, smiling against her lips.

"That was never in question."

~A/N~ The art by Hastyhand for this chapter is based on the wedding scene: "Bonded for life. It feels like the stray pieces of a puzzle have finally aligned and for once in his life, everything feels right."

You can find the links to them on my profile or on the #homeishhr tag on instagram/tumblr

The title for this chapter is "A Long Winding Road," because I truly believe that, no matter how many bumps they have along the way, all roads lead to Harmony.