A/N: Well, this is it, the last chapter

A/N: Well, this is it, the last chapter. I'll try to write something else soon. I would like to thank the following people (in no particular order): Everyone who ever gave me a review (you know who you are, and you're all wonderful…gave me lots of encouragement :), and Lupin (lovely beta reader, as I have said many a time…and I mean it!).

Disclaimer: it's yours.

Chapter 12

Hermione woke with a start and looked around her, relieved. She was in her dorm room and safe, for the time being.

She had come to a few minutes after she had caused the explosion that put her in her predicament, and ignored the pain and the fact that three of the four Death Eaters that she had blasted were gone. Creating magical stretchers for both Ron and Sirius, she had levitated them both out of the dungeons and into the infirmary. As she was frantically explaining the situation to the nurse, the school's headmaster and several other teachers brought in the unconscious Harry; the force of the spell had knocked him out. Closely behind them was Albus Dumbledore, bearing the lifeless body of one Tom Riddle.

"Professor Dumbledore!" she had cried, ignoring the nurse's attempts to keep her seated and calm, and ran over to him. "The spell worked!"

"I can see that, Ms. Granger," Dumbledore replied, smiling. "Good work; I'm assuming that it was you who completed it, due to the fact that Professor Yang had no idea that it was even near completion, let alone finished."

"Oh, well, I worked overtime…" Hermione blushed. "Will Harry be alright?"

"He will be fine."

Hermione smiled. "Ron and Sirius will be alright according to the nurse, just suffering from some nasty curses…" Hermione paused, then continued, "Professor, I'm sorry for disobeying your orders and going to look for them, but—"

"Thank you, Ms. Granger," Dumbledore interrupted sincerely, eyes twinkling. "Thank you."

At the moment, two weeks after the incident, she was staring up at the ceiling, grateful for the events that had occurred as of late. She ignored Amelia, who was listening to loud and tasteless pop music on a wizard radio charmed to play Muggle music. She thought of getting cross with her, but decided that it wasn't worth it. As she rolled over in bed, she felt a book underneath the covers, and chuckled to herself as she realized that she had fallen asleep while doing some extra reading for Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Poor Snape, she thought gleefully, closing the book and putting it on her nightstand. Professor Snape had been revived in the hospital wing shortly after she herself had come to, and immediately panicked. Luckily, since Draco had attested to his innocence and Snape had volunteered to be questioned under Veritaserum, he was charged with nothing. Ever since, Snape had understandably been avoiding them in the halls. The afternoon before, Harry had told her that Snape had made him stay after class; after all of the other students had left, Snape had apologized. If it had been any other person, Harry had said, he would have told him an apology wasn't necessary; however, Snape had been talking through one of the worst sneers Harry had ever seen adorn his face, and he had left the room as quickly as possible. Hermione laughed as she imagined how difficult it must have been for the man (if she still didn't hate him for his malicious behavior toward her at Hogwarts, she would have felt sorry for him).

A glance at the clock told her that it was 11:00; she got up and went to take a shower. There was a rather pressing conversation that she needed to have with Ron, who was still in the hospital wing; he had been badly cursed, and he would need at least another week to heal completely. She knew that it was time.

She proceeded back to her dorm room 20 minutes later in a robe with a towel wrapped around her hair. Viktor was there when she returned, sitting on her bed and speaking with Amelia. Neither of them looked up when she walked in; it took an "ahem" and an "out" from Hermione to get Viktor out of her room (with the added expense of a "bitch!" from Amelia, who proceeded to storm out as well).

"One more month," Hermione muttered as she put on jeans, a tee shirt, and some robes. Leaving her bathrobe on the floor (she never had any time for a clean room), she walked into the hall and in the direction of the hospital wing. As she walked, she saw that a girl had taped an autographed newspaper clipping about Harry to her door, and her thoughts switched from Ron to Harry for a moment.

Poor Harry had barely gotten a second of privacy since he had woken up. Between his friends, admirers, the press, and the nonstop parties she wondered how he slept. However, it was all starting to calm down, finally; the world was returning to some semblance of normalcy at least. The hospital wing loomed ahead, and Hermione kept walking.

Ron looked up from the book he was reading as he heard a knock at the door. He had become quite a reader of the past year, especially of Muggle books (even though that meant he had to use A Wizard's Guide to the World of those Crazy Muggles every time he read). At the moment he was deeply engrossed in what he considered a fine novel by Jane Austen.

"Come in," he called, regretfully closing his book just as Hermione walked in the room. She eyed the book and let out a small snort, amused that Ron was so engrossed in the predominately girly book Pride and Prejudice. "What?" he asked, annoyed.

"Nothing," Hermione answered as she set next to where he was lying on his bed, not wanting to have that conversation at the moment but making a mental note to tease him later. "How have you been feeling?"

"Tired. Can't sleep; I dream."

"Oh," Hermione replied, letting the conversation lapse into a short silence.

"Where's Harry?" Ron asked, putting the book aside and pushing himself up to a sitting position.

"He's out somewhere, I think he's practicing Quidditch. The last match of the season's tomorrow, against Tower 4. If we win it, then our team gets the championship."

Ron shrugged. "Figures," he said, a look of disappointment crossing his face.

Hermione gave him an encouraging look. "There's next year, Ron. The only people graduating are Betty Finn and Veronica Sawyer. You can get two new and equally good beaters."

"Yeah, I guess," he responded, putting his feet on the floor so he was sitting next to his companion. Another silence lapsed between them; the window was open, and birds were chirping outside on the abnormally warm April day. Hermione stared as they flew by the window.

"So," Ron said suddenly, turning toward her, "I suppose you came here to talk about it."

"Yes," Hermione answered, sighing, "it."

Ron suddenly became self conscious that he did not have a shirt on, and he turned a tad crimson as he stood up and threw on a tee shirt that was adorned with what he had been told was the name of a 70's Muggle rock band. Hermione watched him do this, unaware of the fact that she had made him uncomfortable.

"Ron, do you honestly think that you love me?" she asked so quietly and meekly that it sounded like a murmur. He looked at her, tall, hair disheveled, face pale from curse-related illness and lack of sleep, with surprise.

"Er, well," he stammered, sitting down next to her again, "Y-yes, I think so. I already know you really well and all of that, and I'm still pining away at you for some ungodly reason, aren't I?" he grinned, silently wishing it was dark so she couldn't see the stupid look that he just knew was plastered on his face.

Great, he's trying to make it all a joke, thought Hermione, who was already dreading the effects of what she was about to say.

"Do you love me?" Ron suddenly asked rather desperately, an anxious look replacing the forced smile. She didn't answer or look at him; she just stared at her feet. "Hermione?" he questioned, sounding like he knew he was about to be squashed.

She took a deep breath. "I don't know, Ron," she mumbled, biting her lip. When she looked up, she saw him staring at her, shocked, as if unable to accept what she had just said.

"So you don't," he replied tersely after an uncomfortable pause. "Alright then." He turned away and forced another smile. Hermione didn't answer. "You know those 'movie' things? They should make one about me, called 'Let's all watch Ron make an arse out of himself' or something — "

"I didn't say that I didn't love you, Ron."

He stopped and swallowed. "Well, can you go? I'd like to feel rejected in peace, if you don't mind."

"Please hear what I have to say…I don't not love you," she began.

"But you don't love me, so what's the point?" he inquired dryly, in the manner he took on when he was so upset that he couldn't be mean. Hermione knew it well.

"Listen to me, please…I just ended a very, very long relationship," she continued. Ron showed no emotion. "I'm confused about a lot of things right now, and not just dealing with you." She paused, and the birds continued to chirp outside the window. Ron's face hadn't changed; the blank look almost made her cry. "Look, I'm really tempted to give in and say 'I love you too, Ron,' and then we can be in love and elope and move to Argentina and have 7 kids or something—"

"Then say it," he said, turning to her again, eyes pleading.

Hermione turned to face the floor. "It wouldn't be fair, to me or you."

"Well, in that case," he mumbled. "Look, can you please leave?" Hermione had to stop herself from taking his advice; she had already been in one monumental fight with him that month and did not wish to get in another one. She took a breath.

"Rushing into this would be incredibly stupid, Ron."

"Why?" he asked in a dark tone.

"Because we've worked for 7 ½ years just getting to the point where we're as close as we are!" she spurted. He stared into her eyes. "You saved me from a troll, Voldemort, Filch, you were actually nice to me when I was the little 11-year-old snob that I was!" she continued. "I don't want to lose that, and that means I don't want to just use you as a person that helps me get back on my feet after my last boyfriend. It would be a waste."

They stared at each other, and neither said anything.

"Well, can't you just use me for that and then like me afterwards anyway?"

Hermione bit her lip.

"So we're better off 'just friends' then?" Ron replied, unblinking. "Would be like kissing your brother, is that it?"

"I didn't say that."

"It was definitely implied somewhere in there."

She turned away. "I need time to get used to the idea and see if it's what I really want."

He stared down at his large feet. "Let me guess. You want us to carry on just like the night in the pub never happened?"

She shook her head. "It did happen, and we can't change that…"

"Well, what do you want then? Why are you still here?"

Hermione was silent at this. Something was causing a commotion in the hallway; it sounded as if someone had dropped something. The bustling soon stopped, and the hospital wing was returned to its previous state of mechanical silence. Hermione finally looked up and mumbled,

"I guess I'm asking if you'll wait."

"Wait for what?" he asked, eyeing her suspiciously.

"Me," she almost whispered, crossing her ankles and fidgeting with her fingers. Ron didn't answer. The birds continued to chirp as he put an arm around her shoulder; she leaned into him, and they stayed like that for a long time.

***

Harry glided above the Canadian landscape, noting how odd it was for it to be so warm, and marveling that snow still remained on the ground from the storm that had attacked a week before and the flurries that had followed. He was a hero again, even more so than before. When he had woken two weeks ago, right after he had defeated Voldemort, he hadn't a clue where he was or that he had even begun to take his Defense Against the Dark Arts test. It turned out that a side effect of Hermione's spell was temporary memory loss, but as it was only temporary his memory returned soon after with a vengeance. Panicking, he had asked if Ron and Sirius were alright but before anyone could answer he was bombarded with questions by the press, due to the fact that possibly every member of said profession had crowded in his open doorway. Through the din, Harry saw Professor Dumbledore (who had been sitting by his bedside) nod, and then he walked over and shut the door, giving Harry much-needed time to sort through everything and come up with an official statement that Dumbledore gave to the vultures on his way out.

Harry's former headmaster had stayed for a few more days, but had to leave in order to return order to Hogwarts, which was in chaos. The Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the only one who had lasted more than a year in ages, had turned out to be one of Lord Voldemort's biggest supporters and had played a major role in the kidnapping of Ron and Sirius. Harry happily accepted an invitation to visit Hogwarts at the end of the term as Dumbledore's guest so that he could be a guest speaker at Ginny's graduation (he had no idea what he would say, but he knew that Hermione would help him).

Harry had never been so glad to see Sirius and Ron in his life, even though it took Ron a week to wake up and it was several days before both of them returned to any sort of normal state of mind; the torture had had its effects. However, both of them were recovering. Ron was angry that he had to miss the last two Quidditch games, but his newfound interest in Muggle books had kept him busy. Harry was quite glad to have him back. The past two weeks had given Harry time to sleep, and that was about it. He had finally escaped all of the commotion, and was doing something that he desperately needed to do: think. He might be "the boy who lived three times" at school and in the newspapers; he might have just defeated the Dark Lord and saved the lives of thousands, but for some reason, in his mind he was none of these things: in his mind, he was "the boy who's girlfriend dumped him for his worst enemy." Not that he was exactly on bad terms with Draco; in fact, Harry thought they were on the best terms they'd been on in years (they had thanked each other for saving the other's life, and were on a mutual agreement not to speak to one another). However his state of affairs with Draco, the wounds still stung, and Harry felt the ache full force.

What had he done wrong? Should he have treated her any better than he had? Taken her out more? Punched Ron when he'd insulted her? Complimented her more often? Was there just something wrong with him in general? He looked down at the ground, so peaceful below him and so innocent looking. Harry Potter, he thought, he can defeat Lord Voldemort but loses the girl he loved when he was in the middle of telling her that he loved her—he stopped and hastily looked back as something tapped the back of his broom. To his surprise he saw Sirius flying behind him on what looked like Ron's Firebolt.

"Hey," Harry said, surprised, as Sirius moved even with him. "Thought you were still in the hospital wing."

"I was, they just let me out. Ron told he he'd heard you were out flying somewhere and he let me use his broom."

"Sure it's legal for an old man like you to be out here flying?"

"You're not an old man until you're 40; I've got 2 years of youth left. Don't take them from me."

Harry chuckled and looked off into the blue sky, observing puffy white clouds scattered about like soft pillow-like landscapes.

"What's wrong?" Sirius asked, following Harry's gaze into the great beyond. Startled, Harry answered,

"What?" Oh, nothing." They turned and began to fly over trees.

"You're upset about something, don't pretend," Sirius answered. Harry still showed no signs of opening up, so Sirius continued. "Now, what could it be about? Let's see: you just defeated Voldemort and probably saved the world, tomorrow you're most likely going to win your school Quidditch cup and probably have scouts from England begin to try and recruit you, you got a 100 on your Defense Against the Dark Arts final exam—"

"I did?! But—"

"Snape posted the grades. You know that you know what's going on when you're under the Imperious curse; just can't do anything about it. Anyway, that, your best friend is alive and recovering, and you're talking to me, which alone usually cures most ailments, and here you are staring off into the distance like someone just trod on your…hey, how are things with that French girl?"

Harry didn't answer, but his eyes told it all.

"Oh…augh, sorry Harry," Sirius said, looking very concerned. "Want to tell me what happened? All joking aside, I won't make fun of you for it, honest…"

Harry turned his head toward him and gave him a skeptical look.

"Alright, maybe I will later when you're over it, but no sooner."

Harry sighed and shook his head, keeping his mouth firmly shut as the wind ruffled through his hair. Sirius was just about to begin begging again when Harry actually spoke.

"I wouldn't blame you for breaking 'em on me, it's a pretty funny story for everyone involved but me," he began. Sirius knew better than to comment on this, and kept his mouth closed during the brief pause Harry took to try and find the appropriate words with which he would tell his godfather his tale of woe. "It was about a month and a half ago when I started thinking something was wrong. Less time together, not much talking, lots of kissing…I know, nothing wrong with that, but it wasn't like it used to be. I liked her more every day, and then you and Ron went and got yourselves kidnapped and since Hermione was always holed up in her 'lab,' Michele was the only person who would comfort me. Yes, I know, I'm a complete pansy, go on, laugh."

Sirius, to his credit, didn't even let a snigger through. "Anyway," Harry continued, "I told myself that it was love and planned on telling her after the Quidditch match against her tower. We won, and after the match I found her in the hallway and made a big fool of myself, pouring my poor little heart out to her. She finally managed to get some words in edgewise. Of course, those words were 'Arry,'" he mimicked, "'Ah'm seeing someone else!'"

Sirius whistled. "Ouch!" he said painfully, shaking his head. "That was low."

"I'm not done yet," Harry almost laughed, though he really wasn't very happy. "I asked her who it was, you know, the 'other man,' and it was…no, I'll let you guess."

"Hmm, can't be Ron, you're still friendly with him."

"Nope, they hate each other. Thank God. Keep guessing."

"Viktor Krum? Hermione told me that they had stopped seeing each other."

"Far worse."

"Not a woman?"

"No, if that happened at least I could understand why."

Sirius shrugged. "I don't know then. Who?"

"Malfoy…Draco freakin' Malfoy."

Sirius about fell off his broom. "You should sell the rights to that story to one of those American soap operas; they'd have a ball with it. Really, Harry, that's horrible. If I were you, and Draco were Snape, who you know was my own personal Draco…well, I don't even know what I would have done, but it would have been bad."

As they flew alongside each other, Harry felt a little better at Sirius' words; at least he knew someone else would have reacted in the same manner.

"Yeah, well Draco just saved my life so I'm going easy on him."

"Understood." Sirius silenced, and they dove over the shimmering blue lake and slowed to the pace of a snail as they floated above the lake's surface. "Harry, the only advice I can give you is to keep busy, perhaps drink a little, and try to remember that there are other fish in the sea, even though you're stuck on that one."

Harry nodded and stared down at the lake; it was a ripply mirror of the sky and him and Sirius, slowly flying side by side over its mysterious waters.

"Eh, it'll take awhile, but I'm sure I'll live," Harry said.

"That's the ticket," Sirius answered, dipping his finger in and causing small, circular expanding waves to form around where his finger had touched the water.

"But right now I'll take to moping, since it's honestly almost all I can think about," Harry continued, imitating Sirius because it looked like fun.

"Don't want to talk about it anymore, I take it?" Sirius shook the water off his hand.

"Not really." Harry kept his fingers in the water and watched the small trail of ripples they created as he flew above on his broom.

"Alright then." Sirius turned toward him. "What else is on your mind?"

"How's Remus?"

"He's good, he went back to work today. Poor man had the full moon right after he recovered from a week of no sleep, so that put him out again. He's in a good mood though; he said he owled you last night, so you should be getting something today or tomorrow."

"Good, I was wondering when I was going to hear from him."

Sirius grinned and nodded, and a small silence eased its way between the two.

"Is it really over?" Harry asked, finally withdrawing his hand from the lake.

"Near as anyone can tell," Sirius replied. The sun cast grateful warmth against Harry's black robes. "Your dad would've loved this…right after we became aurors, he'd brag and brag about how he was going to be the one to bring Voldemort to his knees."

"What was my dad like as an auror?" Harry asked suddenly. "You never talk about when you were aurors together."

"That's because we barely were aurors together, only a year and a half after training. Besides, there wasn't much joking around when it came to battling Voldemort and the Death Eaters…"

"Sounds like a bad heavy metal band," Harry commented, "Voldemort and the Death Eaters."

Sirius chuckled. "We were very serious in the field; it made us decent aurors, but it made for lousy stories."

Harry nodded, and began to zigzag just for fun. "Mum was an unspeakable, right?"

"Right, and I know nothing about what she did, before you ask. Lousy cook though; your dad made all the food."

Harry smiled and watched his reflection in the water do the same.

"They'd laid out the plans for the 'Voldemort's Dead' party on at least 12 different pieces of parchment. Right now, they'd be ecstatic; they would've gotten to celebrate it three times, not to mention that their little Harry was the one who brought it about." Harry laughed a little. Small schools of fish could be seen just below the surface of the reflective lake, which they had taken to circling, still at their very slow speed. Suddenly, Harry looked up anxiously.

"They'd be proud of me, then?"

Sirius' eyes gained their mischievous glimmer once again as they looked into Harry's. "Yeah, I think they just might have been," he answered.

Content, Harry set his sights on the castle and took off. Sirius was close behind him.

Alright, it's the last chapter. Can you be persuaded to read and review just this once? Please? I'll really appreciate it…:)