Epilogue: Days Gone By
"How long have we got?" Daphne asked as she fiddled with her earrings.
"A few minutes," Harry answered, his arms folded as he leant casually against the doorway. "Though knowing that lot we'll probably be the first there."
"What a surprise," Daphne muttered darkly as she finally managed to the earring into place. She looked meticulously at her reflection, not that she could do anything but it was still good to be sure. Her dress was a dark blue and rather elegant, stopping at her knees and hugging her body in all the right places. The ridiculous tiny bag that muggles seemed to be so fond of matched her dressed and the golden earrings that she had spent the last couple of minutes fighting with. Ever since she had gotten together with Harry the pair of them had completely stopped going to charity functions, ministry balls and anything that would require them to dress up. The spotlight shone brightly on them at those kinds of events, so given the fact that they both detested them anyway and being gawked at only made it worse, they had simply stopped going.
While Daphne was immensely grateful that the only Greengrass who now represented the family was Astoria, it also meant that she gotten out of the habit of dressing in evening wear. She ran her fingers through her hair one last time, making sure that everything stayed where it was supposed to. She might not be allowed to use magic for the rest of the day, but magical products didn't count and Daphne was going to make sure that she at least looked the part, even if she didn't really want to be there.
"How are you feeling?" Harry asked gently, he hadn't moved from his position by the door but as she looked into the mirror she could see his eyes fixed on hers through the reflected image.
"Okay," she nodded turning away from her reflection so as she could look at him properly. "I'll be fine once we're in there. It's just seeing them all in one place can be a bit… difficult."
"I know that feeling," Harry said sympathetically. "But it's only one day."
"That's what I keep telling myself," Daphne assured him. It wasn't as hard for him, after he'd come back they had all realised what they had been missing and apologised. Almost all of them had, he still wasn't on good terms with Ginny and by extension neither was Daphne. But at least Harry didn't have to suffer the sideways glances from her mother who seemed to dislike Daphne purely because she wasn't Ginny, or the somewhat stilted conversation with Ron who, despite his best efforts, still had trouble moving past what he'd done. While Daphne had long since forgiven him, for whatever reason Ron had yet to forgive himself. Everyone else was fine with Daphne, having taken up the philosophy of 'whatever makes Harry happy, makes us happy'. Even Andromeda.
But it was always going to be awkward, the way that everything had ended with Ginny and Harry and remained broken for so long, it was always going to be difficult trying introduce someone else, someone he loved, into that circle of people. Mrs Weasley, for all her fussing of Harry and apologies, still wished that it had been Ginny who ended up with Harry, even after Ginny herself had admitted that they weren't suited together. As for Harry and Ginny, they just tried to avoid each other. Too much had happened, or rather not happened. When the Weasleys had all flooded to him after the accident Ginny had stayed away and though Harry would never say it, Daphne knew that he'd taken it personally.
"How do I look?" Daphne asked in an effort to steer the conversation away from the inevitable.
"Like the most beautiful woman in the world," Harry answered. Daphne couldn't help but smile, the longer they had been together more open Harry had become. It was nice, she had to admit. It wasn't something she'd dreamt about as a teenager, finding the man of her dreams or any of that rubbish. But these days she couldn't imagine being without him.
"You're right, I do look amazing," Daphne smirked. "You're not so bad yourself."
"Thanks," Harry grinned. He was dressed in a tailored black three piece suit with a crisp white shirt and a thin dark red tie that Daphne knew matched the back of his waistcoat and the display handkerchief in his top pocket. "It's going to be weird seeing everyone else like this."
"It's going to be even stranger if they manage to hide magic for a whole day," Daphne commented. While Hermione's parents were aware of magic, her extended family were not and Hermione had point-blank refused to get married without them there. The result had been more than one rehearsal with the more clueless purebloods, namely Ron's family, to make sure that they knew how the muggle world worked. That was all well and good, Daphne agreed, until alcohol and a party were factored in. Then it was anyone's bet as to what was going to happen.
"Arthur isn't going to cope."
"Teddy could be fun to deal with too," Daphne pointed out. "Mind you, I think they'll leave pretty early, won't they?"
"Probably," Harry nodded. "Anyway, I think we'd better get going if you're ready? Hermione will kill me if we're late."
Daphne rolled her eyes before following him out of the room. She had yet to decide whether it was their room or not. For the past few months she had slowly been moving more and more of her things into Grimmauld Place. It had started just being work equipment, then clothes for times she would stay over and obviously toiletries too. Without her really realising quite a lot of her things had managed to sneak their way into Harry's house, it was only when Harry had tripped over a pair of her shoes on the landing in the middle of the night that she had noticed.
It was still strange to think of it as her home too though. As much as she loved being with Harry, she also missed Greengrass manor, not that she was there much these days. Nobody was really. Her father lived at Hogwarts during term time, Astoria had long since moved in with Draco and so Daphne had been stuck on her own. It was only natural that she'd start spending more time with Harry, if only to stave away the loneliness. But it was more than that, Daphne could happily cope with her own company. It was that she simply preferred to be with Harry, something she hadn't seen coming.
"Technically aren't you supposed to arrest them if you see anyone breaking the statute of secrecy?" Daphne asked idly as she followed him down the stairs.
"Technically," Harry admitted, a little awkwardly. "But no-one will be that bad."
"There's degrees of 'badness'?" Daphne asked sceptically. "I'm not really sure that's how laws work."
"Maybe, but I'm not on duty so it's fine."
"I thought aurors were meant to be incredible crime-fighters who stop for nothing in their search for justice," Daphne said sarcastically, "that's what you said. I remember, I was there. It was a cute speech."
"To my godson," Harry argued back exasperatedly, "who is eight years old."
"Are you saying you should lie to children? Harry, how could you?"
"I'm serious, you could mess up his whole life, ruin his view of authority figures and destroy his trust." It took all Daphne had not to laugh as she said that. She loved being able to be like this, in the rest of her life she had to be so serious and focused. Even with Tracey, Daphne had always been the responsible one, although it was hard to be. Tracey had a track record for being immature and childish sometimes. But she also knew, deep down, that she trying to be funny on purpose.
Harry just shook his head as they reached the bottom of the staircase, he picked up his coat as Daphne donned her own. She had grown accustomed to muggle clothing and so the age old sensation of feeling trapped in someone else's skin didn't arrive, although she could only imagine what the Weasley family would feel like.
"You okay?" Harry asked when they had reached the door, he didn't open it, not yet and Daphne knew he wouldn't until he was sure that she was alright.
"Yeah, don't worry. How about you? It's been almost a year since last time."
"I'll be fine," Harry answered, although his face could've fooled Daphne. "I'm not excited to see her again, but it'll work out."
"Just one day," Daphne added.
"Just one day."
Even though Harry was sure that they had left on time but there were still hordes of people already at the church. Some he recognised, Bill and Fleur, who had got a babysitter in so as they could be there; Arthur, Molly, Andromeda and Teddy had all found their seats, although Arthur kept hurrying across to the other side of the aisle so as to be able to talk to Mrs Granger about muggle technology.
The only people missing were Ron and Hermione, for obvious reasons, George and Ginny. The absence of the youngest Weasley Harry could understand, there would be plenty of make-up, hair and other things that Harry didn't comprehend that would need dealing with. But George's absence was less easily explainable, especially given that Angelina was already there chatting away with Bill and Fleur on the second row.
He and Daphne made their way slowly down the aisle, Harry nodding at people he knew or vaguely recognised. Neville and Luna, along with Neville's new girlfriend Hannah Abbott, were near the front, positioned by Andromeda and Teddy, all except Andromeda waved when they saw him. Andromeda was too busy keeping a watchful eye on Teddy who didn't have the best track record at muggle events, primarily because he got too excited and accidentally changed the colour of his hair.
"Do you mind saying hi without me?" Harry asked Daphne quietly as they reached the row that contained his godson and friends. "It's just, Ron's not here and neither's George."
"Think he's getting cold feet?"
"Maybe," Harry shrugged. "I don't know."
"Well, you've got a while yet, just make sure you're back before they start. Can't have a wedding without the best man." Daphne said, although Harry the feeling that what she really meant was 'please don't leave me at the front with your friend's family', which was understandable.
No matter how much Harry had tried to get them to like her, there was nothing he could do. Arthur, Bill and Fleur were all civil, but Molly was still having trouble. Much to Harry's frustration, it had resulted in more than one or two arguments when he would visit the Burrow with Ron. But there were only so many times he could bang his head up that particular wall. Molly was loyal, kind and stubborn to a fault.
Harry gave Daphne a reassuring smile and fleeting kiss on the cheek before turning and heading back down the aisle. He only stopped when he got to the door, glancing back. There he saw Neville smile at Daphne, introduce Hannah and be thoroughly interrupted by Teddy happily flinging his arms around Daphne's waist as he grappled onto her. Harry couldn't hear it, but he watched Daphne laughed and hugged the small boy back. Daphne had never been the most maternal person and in the beginning she had struggled with getting to know Teddy, but after the first few months he had let his guard down just as she had. Harry couldn't stop the smile that crept onto his face, even as he caught Andromeda's eye, the exact same expression on her face.
It didn't take long to find Ron, there were only so many rooms and there was no way that Ron would be allowed free reign with a car to get there on time. Hermione had probably insisted that he be taken to the church an hour early by his parents, which was a good idea for any muggle drivers that Ron might try and hire but a bad one for the man himself. It gave him time to do nothing but think.
"You alright, mate?" Harry asked as he entered the small room just off of the main section of the old church. It was quite a large church, almost akin to a cathedral, but even so the rooms where the congregation weren't strictly meant to go were small and cramped. Ron had sunk to the floor, sitting underneath the plain glass window. Next to him was something Harry was sure was called a font, covered by an old dust sheet.
"He's nervous," George answered, who had taken up a position against the stone wall next Ron. "Merlin knows why, I've told him, if he wasn't marrying Hermione then I'd do it myself."
"I'm not sure Angelina would appreciate that," Harry commented, earning only a shrug from George. "Speaking of, she asked where you were, I said I'd send you back when I found you. Don't worry, I can look after him."
"Never a moment's peace," George muttered dryly, throwing a smirk Harry's way, Ron was in no state to appreciate it. "Right, I'll be off," he grinned down at Ron before giving him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "No backing out now little brother."
And with that George headed out of the room, the grin that had appeared only moments earlier faded as soon as his face was hidden from Ron's line of sight. He nodded to Harry who understood the message perfectly, 'your turn'. George had apparently tried everything, though Harry wasn't sure whether joking about was what Ron needed right now and when George failed with serious conversation that was always his default setting.
Harry unbuttoned and removed his coat and suit jacket, gently folding the two and putting them to rest on the top of the dust sheet. A quick glance at his watch as he did so told him that he had about ten minutes, he almost sighed, but he'd done more with less. Although, that was usually in a duel not trying to talk one of his best friend's into marrying the other.
Harry said nothing, instead he waited for Ron to speak first as he pressed his back against the wall and sunk down to the floor to sit by his best friend. Pushing Ron would just make him close up more, the only thing that was going to work would be letting him speak when he ready. Seconds dragged by, what was barely half a minute felt like hours, but still Harry remained silent, his eyes constantly flitting to his watch which was constantly within his vision due to how he had propped his arms up on his legs.
"Do you ever think you're not ready for something?" Ron asked eventually, not looking up from the spot on the floor that he had been staring at ever since Harry had crossed the threshold. "Like you've thought it was a good idea and then actually when it comes to it you're terrified."
"All the time," Harry nodded.
"How do you stop it?"
"I don't," Harry answered, "I just do it anyway. Is that what this is about? You're not sure if you're ready?"
Ron could only nod, his jaw was clamped tightly and his head bowed.
"There's no real way that you can be sure," Harry said slowly, as his brain raced desperately trying to think of what was best to say. "Not really, not 'til you do it. I get where you're coming from mate, you've no idea what this is going to be like, if things are going to change. But you've just got to take that jump. When you do, I guarantee you're left wondering why you were panicking in the first place."
Ron didn't say anything, just carried on sitting there like a statue. Harry blew a gust of air between his lips, he scanned the room, as if his eyes were searching for some sort of inspiration. Amazingly it didn't come, at least not from what he was looking at.
"She's going to kill me for telling you this," Harry continued eventually, "but when we first got together, me and Daph, it was great, like really good. Then one day we went for a drink, just normal stuff, and she told me she wasn't sure if this was what she wanted."
"What?" Ron asked, finally breaking his silence as he stared at Harry. "You never told me that."
"You guys weren't really getting on back then," Harry explained, it had happened just after he'd got back. Ron and Daphne had yet to properly deal with what had been said. Harry could remember it with ease, the way she'd barely been able to look at him, the crisp feel of the air on his skin. She'd been wearing a knitted orange bobble hat and a deep red scarf, she never could deal with the cold, even with warming charms. They'd grabbed a coffee and gone for a walk, she'd taken them away from the public footfall and leant against the hard, cold stone wall as she'd told him.
"It was tough, hearing that," Harry continued, "I thought it was me. I asked her why and she wouldn't tell me to start with. Just told me to stop trying to fix it, that I couldn't fix her. I sometimes get the feeling that she thought she wasn't good enough for me. She never told me, it was the way she was talking. I tried telling her that I didn't want, that I just wanted her and then she said something and suddenly it all made sense. She said, she wasn't sure if she knew what love was. I mean I knew that she'd never really had a proper relationship before, but I didn't even think it would affect us. It was amazing and I had no idea she was that scared."
"Why're you telling me this?"
"Because even though everything was going well and had been for weeks, Daph was still scared of taking that jump. It's just a fear of the unknown, same as you. Things have been amazing for you two this last year and before that too, but now you're standing on the edge of something new and it's hard. You don't know if it'll change stuff, how it'll work, what it's like and that's okay. Do me a favour, remember who you're taking that leap with."
"You're right, I know you're right, I'm just being stupid."
"No, you're being human."
"Thanks mate," Ron said, finally turning his head to look a Harry a sad smile on his freckled face.
"You don't need thank me, it's what friends are for." Harry shrugged before clambering back to his feet and holding out his hand for Ron. "Now, c'mon, you've got somewhere to be."
Ron took the extended hand and Harry pulled him up to his feet, he waited for Harry to slip his jacket back on, the coat he slung over his arm, and then together they headed back towards where the many guests were sitting. Barely anyone noticed as they entered, though Harry was sure that he saw George send him a thumbs up from the front. Ron made his way up the front and was soon swarmed by his fussing mother, an experience which Harry, who had experienced it many times, was intent on avoiding. So instead he picked his way through the guests and joined Daphne and the rest. They chatted for a while, but before too soon the ceremony began and Harry had to quickly dash to the front so as to be by Ron's side as the music played and Hermione, her arm in her father's, walked in.
Harry was sure it was going to take either a serious magical charm or a muggle work crew to get Ron's jaw off the floor. Though, he couldn't blame his best mate, Hermione looked beautiful. Her hair was delicately curled, her make-up was simple but elegant and her dress was everything Harry imagined a woman would want a wedding dress to be. Flattering, stunning and complete with a long hem that brushed along the floor as she proceeded down the aisle.
A brief moment of panic set in as Harry felt around in his pocket for the rings, he knew they were there but that still didn't stop the blind fear that gripped his heart as his fingers searched in the depths of his inside pocket.
"We are gathered here today," the minister began. She was a small, plump smiling woman with grey hair and purple glasses that hung from her neck by a thin purple ribbon. "to celebrate the union of Ronald Bilius Weasley," somewhere George sniggered, "and Hermione Jean Granger."
The ceremony went without a hitch from there and before long Harry found himself applauding with everyone else and then being forced into more photographs than he could remember. It all blurred into one after a while, apparently being best man had elevated his status. Though it was nice to be photographed because of his relation to Ron and not because he was the Boy-Who-Lived. There was one particular photo of just him and Daphne that Harry would have to thank Hermione for insisting on after, partly because it was a nice photo but also because the photographer had suggested the best man and the maid of honour, a photo that neither Ginny nor Harry looked thrilled to be a part of.
The ride over in the cars went quite quickly, although Harry wasn't really paying attention. His mind was far too busy running over and over the speech that he'd been preparing for weeks. He hated public speeches, everyone staring at him and hoping he'd say something amazing. The first few weeks at the academy hadn't been a cake-walk. All those students waiting, some practically open mouthed, as they sat enraptured as the Great Harry Potter got ready to talk. Of course, that hadn't lasted very long and soon they just treated him like all there other instructors, particularly after he started enforcing mock duels where he was the target. But Harry couldn't exactly get a bunch of wedding guests to try and curse him in a bid to calm his mood, somehow he imagined it would ruin the atmosphere.
Harry was just getting straight the part about the time he and Ron had crash landed the Weasley's flying car, when the car he was currently in stopped and Daphne, Andromeda and Teddy all got out. He followed them into the hotel they had arrived at. He'd seen similar kind of places in glossy brochures Uncle Vernon had brought back to Privet Drive. Unlike Uncle Vernon though, Harry had never even wanted to go into one. They looked far too familiar to Aunt Petunia's kitchen but with more waiting staff and larger ceilings.
The ballroom was enormous, far larger than that of Greengrass Manor or even Hogwarts Great Hall or the majority of places that the Ministry held functions at. Large circular tables were dotted about with a carefully constructed walkway allowing the guests who were to sit at the top table to access it. Harry, due to being the best man, would be up there with Daphne, both sets of parents and Ginny a fact which Daphne, he knew, wasn't excited about. Out of a table of nine people, ten if Ginny had brought a date though Harry hadn't seen one all evening, Daphne was on good terms with two of them and one of those was her own boyfriend.
Thankfully though Harry and Daphne were on the end, sat next to the Granger's who were both nice and yet completely baffled by magic which put questions like: 'what do you do for a living?' off limits. Combine that with the fact Harry had no idea what was happening in the muggle world aside from the parts he went into and they rapidly ran out of conversation topics. Not that it needed to last long, food was quickly served and Harry instead happily chatted to Daphne.
"So, let me get this straight," Harry started as he finished off the last of his pasta. "They've been together three weeks and she didn't tell you?"
"Didn't want to jinx it apparently," Daphne answered, somewhat sourly. She hated being left out of the loop, particularly by her best friend who had a habit of forcing Daphne to tell her everything about her own life. But, for once, Tracey had kept her relationship on the down low and Harry couldn't really blame her. From the sound of it every time she got excited something went wrong, he could understand the logic of wanting to keep it quiet until she was sure it was something real.
"Or for you to jinx him," Harry teased.
"That happened once and he was a git," Daphne retorted, "twice if you count the photographer." Harry just shook his head, he could well imagine what Daphne would do to a man she thought wasn't good enough for Tracey. "I still can't believe she didn't tell me. I'm her best friend."
"She probably just wanted to make sure it was actually a thing first," Harry pointed out. Daphne just shrugged, a sign Harry had come to know meant that she agreed but refused to let on. "Have you met Matt yet?"
"We're going for lunch Friday, she said to ask you along but you've got that practical exam."
"Bet he's nervous," Harry smirked, he couldn't quite imagine what preparing for lunch with Daphne as Tracey's best friend would be like. For Harry it had always been the other way around and Tracey was relaxed, supportive and friendly; whereas Daphne was over-protective and critical.
"Are you trying to say I'm intimidating?"
"Are you trying to say you're not?"
"I can be nice."
"The fact you have to add can be there kind of makes my point," Harry said. Daphne shot him a mock glare which was ruined by the grin on her face. "I'm glad she's found someone though."
"Me too, Merlin knows if anyone deserves it, it's Tracey."
"She's sweet," Harry agreed as his plate was picked up by a waiter, who looked as equally dashing and handsome as all the other waiters around him.
"I'm not friends with terrible people," Daphne said, her eyes looked past Harry at the army of waiters who were slowly making their way across the room collecting plates and politely suggesting that the one or two slow eaters either give up on their food or hurry up and finish. "How're you feeling?"
He was half-expecting a sarcastic remark, this was Daphne after all. But instead her expression softened and he felt her hand gently squeeze his forearm that was resting on the table.
"You're going to be amazing," she said softly. Harry didn't say anything, instead he just put his arm around her, gently resting his head against hers as she leaned into him. After a long moment and as the waiters finally managed to wrestle a practically empty plate of Hermione's Aunt Beatrice and retreat back into the kitchen, Harry gently kissed the top of her head before getting to his feet, a glass in one hand and a fork in the other. That was how speeches started, right? He was sure he'd seen it on a TV programme.
The shrill clinking of the metal on glass cut across the chatter of the ballroom like the snapping of a twig in a forest at dusk and suddenly the room went silent. Well, close enough to silent, there was the sound of awkward shuffling and chairs being dragged around so as those with their backs to Harry could see them. Harry could feel his heart racing. He swallowed hard and looked at the one place that he knew would always make him feel better. The face of his godson who was beaming up at him and pointing, much to the displeasure of his grandmother. A small smile, unbidden but gratefully received, pulled at the corner of Harry's lips.
He set down the fork and slipped his hand into his pocket, feeling the hard cardboard of the cue cards that he'd written up a few days before. If there was thing he didn't want to get wrong it was this. Ron and Hermione had been there through everything, even if they'd sometimes had their arguments, they would never truly turn their back on him. The least Harry could do was give them a speech which gave credit them the credit they deserved.
He'd spent so much time on this speech, read so many books and asked everyone for advice. There was everything, jokes, sentiment, stories. But the more he stood there, frozen in a brief instant of time that seemed to drag on forever, the more he wondered if that was really what he should say. Surely the best speech he should give shouldn't meet some pre-set criteria? It should be from the heart. That was the only thing that could even get close to doing them justice.
Harry removed his hand and set down his glass, he felt stupid holding it aloft. He turned to look at Ron and Hermione, they were staring back at him, Ron blissfully unaware of what was going on in Harry's mind but his silence had caused the smallest of frowns to crease Hermione's brow.
"I did have something prepared for this," Harry began looking out at the many friends and family that were congregated in front of him. "It was funny, there were some stories like when me and Ron drove an old car into a tree and I think it ticked all the boxes for what a best man's speech should be." He paused, a few people were muttering between themselves. "But that didn't feel like what I should say, because the two people that we're all here for today deserve better than something which was written to be a good speech and to make people laugh. They deserve the truth.
"And the truth is that there are no words I can possibly say that will ever describe how glad I am to be so lucky to have them both in my life. They are two of the kindest, most loyal friends that I could have possibly asked for. I don't know how I'd have gotten through half of the stuff we've been through without you. You're both so much more than anything I could have asked for in a friend and to see you both together is… beautiful. When I say that you both deserve each other there is no higher compliment I can give either of you.
"Ron, you can be one of the most oblivious, headstrong people I know, but you're also one of the bravest and most loyal. You'll always stick by your family, even if sometimes you might go a bit too far." Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw Ron nod, "Hermione, you're one of the smartest and nicest people I know and I couldn't be prouder of everything you've done. But I couldn't be happier to see you both together. Apart you may be amazing but together you are extraordinary. You've got the one thing that everyone has always wanted, the thing that's the really the story of everything: love. I hope someday that everyone will be able to have even just a slice of what you two have together."
Harry felt his gaze irrevocably drawn to Daphne and he couldn't help but think he'd found just that in her. If he was totally honest with himself he couldn't remember a time he'd been happier. Sometimes he thought it would end, there was no way that life could deal him this good of a hand without presenting some kind of pitfall, but they were thoughts that he tried to ignore.
He shifted his gaze back to the crowd and raised his glass, trying to ignore the sad smile on Andromeda's face. "So, to you both. I'd wish you luck but I know you won't need it."
There was a smattering of applause, some people too raised their glasses and drank, but Harry wasn't really paying attention to them. Instead he was all too focused on the couple to his left. Hermione had tears in her eyes, whilst Ron's jaw was clenched tight in a valiant attempt to stop his emotions pouring out.
"That was nice, Harry," Daphne whispered gently.
"Yeah, well, it's how I feel." Harry shrugged.
The reception went fairly well from there, Harry found himself pulled into more dances than he was usually comfortable with thanks to both Daphne and Hermione. Though, this time, he didn't mind. As the night wore on the music got lively and lively and the guests considerably drunker. Harry found himself alone at a table, Daphne had been dragged onto the dance floor by a very insistent Teddy Lupin. Andromeda was off talking to Neville, other Weasleys were all dotted around the dancefloor, and George making a fool of himself in the centre of the dancefloor as Harry somehow knew he would be.
"This seat taken?" Harry looked up into the face of one of his oldest friends.
"No," Hermione gratefully took the empty chair next to him, bending down and loosening the straps on her heels. A small sigh escaped her lips as she took them off.
"No amount of cushioning charms makes them any more comfortable," Hermione muttered darkly. She glanced around quickly, but all of her muggle guests were too preoccupied either with talking to each other or dancing to notice her accidental slip up.
"So how's it feel?" Harry asked as Hermione tucked her legs up and sat cross-legged on the chair, sparring her feet the experience of coming into contact with the somewhat sticky floor. It turned out that older guests and alcohol didn't make a good combination.
"I don't know, I'm not sure it's sunk in yet," said Hermione, wincing a little as she massaged her sore foot. "Though we've been living together almost a year now, how different can it be?"
"Asking the wrong person there," Harry answered, though had everything gone to plan he would've been the perfect person to ask. He and Ginny would have been married months ago, they had been planning for a summer wedding. He sometimes wondered what that life would have been like, given the unspoken issues and the refusal by either of them to admit they were there Harry had the feeling it wouldn't have been great. But it didn't stop him wondering.
"I don't think it should be though," he mused, "I mean, you've been together ages. What's it been? Eight years now?"
"Must be, I can't believe it's been that long."
"You're not the only one, George was sure you'd kill each other. He reckoned you'd last three months at best." Harry chuckled to himself. "I think I was the only one that saw it lasting this long actually. Percy went for six, I think Ginny did a year."
"You had a bet?"
"George wanted to make it a bet," Harry hurriedly answered, "wish I'd taken him up now, he was giving 25/1 odds."
Hermione rolled her eyes. That was something that had definitely changed, Harry thought. In the old days she'd have flown off the handle, gotten annoyed at George and threaten to curse him into oblivion, or worse tell his mother.
"How are you two doing?"
"Me and George?"
"No, you and Ginny."
"Oh," Harry hummed, he didn't really like talking about Ginny. "I don't know. I don't think we ever will be again." He sighed. "I mean, honestly, I don't know if I'd want to be. It'd be weird, after all this time to just get back to normal like nothing happened. Because it did and no amount of apologising from either of us is going to fix that. We were both…"
"I was going to say terrible but that works too. It just didn't work, it wasn't healthy, for either of us. And that's okay, you know, not everything works out. It's just -"
"Too hard to try and fix it?"
"Yeah," Harry finished lamely. He'd felt quite guilty about it for a while, but it wasn't exactly like Ginny had made the effort either. They'd managed to get the stage where they were civil to one another, but that was it. It would never be the same again, but for some reason Harry's guilt had long since faded along with any regret he might feel. Instead he just accepted it for what it was.
"It's why she didn't try and talk to you after your accident," Hermione confessed. "She told me that she wanted to, the only problem was that she wasn't sure how to do it without causing a fight or stirring up bad memories. So she stayed away, tried to get on with her life, like you did."
"Maybe it's what's best."
"Maybe, it just seems a shame that after everything it has to end this way."
"That's life," Harry said sadly. They were both to blame, in the end, but too much time had passed now. Too many missed chances. All that was left was the memory of what was and what could never be. Harry had thought at the start, when it had first happened and it had been so raw and crushing, that it would never get better. That had been his plan after all, marrying the woman he loved and settling down and when that dream had died he'd felt broken, like it was just the last thing in a long line of shattered hopes. Yet, here he was and despite all of that pain and loneliness he wouldn't change it for anything.
He looked up, eyes cast to the dance floor looking for the one person in the crowd that had been able to turn his life around. Her hands were being gripped tightly by Teddy, who was jigging up and down excitedly to the music. Behind the smile that she had plastered on her face, Harry could see the tiredness in her eyes but there she was, dancing along anyway. Harry watched for a long moment until the song ended and Daphne took the chance to escape the grasp of the over-eager child who by now had come to view her as family. She glanced up, saw Harry watching and rolled her eyes at him. He couldn't smile back. It was like everyone else had faded into the background and she was all that he could see. The woman he loved and the most beautiful one there, not because of how she looked but because of who she was and what she meant to him.
Sure, it wasn't what he'd had planned but this, he knew, was where he was meant to be
AN: So that's that, thanks everyone for reading and sticking with this story. I know it's been a long time to get it to completion but just want to say thank you for anyone who has read this and especially those of you who've taken the time to review, fave and follow. You're great! Hope you all like this ending.
Also - if anyone wants to read a good Neville/Hannah story my friend is doing one called Branching Out, by RoonilWazlib29. It's amazing, so is she so check it out