Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor any of his friends, nor his enemies, nor his relatives, nor his teachers, nor any other part belonging to his world. That all belongs to J.K Rowling and Co. I'm merely borrowing them.
Notes: Wow! Can I just take a moment to tell you how truly awesome you all are? I went to check my e-mail the day after I posted chapter ten, and there were twelve, TWELVE!, reviews. It hadn't even been 24 hours since I'd posted it! I've never had such an immediate response to a posting before. I felt so loved!
That being said, I feel the need to extend my appreciation to certain individuals who played key roles in the completion of this fic. To these all credit and honor is due:
Yami Boy: My most faithful reviewer, I love you! You've been with me since the very beginning; of all those who have reviewed my story, you're the only one whose stuck with it the entire time! That kind of devotion is rare, and I always looked forward to seeing your reviews. Thank you!
pudadingding: Haha! I finally wrote a chapter you didn't need to correct! Triumph is mine! But seriously, thank you so much for the constructive criticism. You're the only one who bothered, and you have no idea how much I appreciate it. There were a couple of chapters that I considered posting as soon as I finished them (and similarly, several paragraphs that were just terrible in their original form) that I went back and edited instead because I knew you'd be reading them. You made me work harder to write better, and I owe to you the quality of my later chapters.
Underappreciated: Ah, my conscience. Without you, there's no telling when this thing would have been finished. Every time I took too long to update (i.e. got too caught up in my school work/ re-modeling and forgot to write), you were right there, reminding me to get off my tail because there were people waiting. I can recall at least two times when I posted much sooner than I would have otherwise because of your e-mails and reviews. I'm a very busy and easily-distracted person, I need people who are willing to nag me. Seriously, thanks for "camping out" on my front lawn. ^_^ Feel free to continue doing so.
Elvish Fairy: Whose steady and glowing reviews in the early chapters built my confidence. Thank you for the unconditional love of my imagination's creation.
Einstein09, Legofiance, bethzc, samurai-lapin, and Nessie8: Oh what to say? To the five of you I owe much thanks. You were my most devoted reviewers, for varied reasons. Samurai-lapin has been with me almost as long as Yami Boy. The rest of you have reviewed steadily almost every chapter since your first review, and I am grateful for your willingness to do so again and again; to spend your time telling me what you thought, even if it was only a "good job, update soon." I appreciate you more than you know.
And to all the others who read and reviewed: Thank you so much! When all are accounted for, there were more than eighty of you. That's incredible! I wish I had time to thank each and every one of you individually. Unfortunately, it would take too long and I need to get this chapter posted. But I wanted to make sure you all know how grateful I am for your comments and encouragement. You're wonderful!
Okay, enough rambling; we all know you guys are awesome, so…without further ado, I now present to you:
Chapter the Last: Epilogue
Hermione awoke Saturday morning to find a beautiful sunny day waiting outside. A day she planned to enjoy to the fullest, and for once, that meant not studying. She stretched and opened the window, admiring the sun on the new plant-life just beginning to flourish on the grounds below.
"Brrr! Hermione close that!" Lavender reached past her to pull the window shut in a bit of a slam, and gave her a suspicious look. "I thought you were supposed to be all happy and in love now. Why are you trying to commit suicide?"
Hermione barely heard the jab, distracted as she was by the indirect mention of Ron. Unwittingly, the prefect allowed a silly grin to spread across her face.
"Oh, you've gone and done it now, Lavender. You went and said the 'L' word. Now she'll be completely hopeless until she gets to see him. I've told you time and time again, don't mention the 'L' word or the 'R' word until we're ready to leave the room. Otherwise she just stands there grinning like a fool, just like that." Parvati poked gently at Hermione's face. The other girl made a disgruntled sound and slapped her hand away, but she never lost the grin. Parvati shook her head. "Hopeless."
"Oh, yeah? Well what about you and Jack, huh?" Hermione shot back, grinning triumphantly at the other girl. Lavender arched an eyebrow at the brewing storm, but wisely kept quiet.
Parvati pulled her hair back into a ponytail and said, "What about us?"
"You're the same way, you know. It's like the two of you are glued at the hip, and whenever you're together, you can't seem to take your eyes off each other. It's sickening." Hermione made a face.
"We're not that bad," Parvati said, rolling her eyes.
Lavender made the mistake of snorting in disbelief. Parvati did not hesitate to turn on her.
"And what about you, huh?" she poked Lavender in the side and the ticklish girl couldn't help but laugh. "You're always going on about how wonderful your boyfriend is, never giving us a moment's peace; it's always Seamus this and Seamus that. It's impossible to hold a normal conversation with you."
"Hey!" Lavender protested, slapping Parvati's hand away.
"Says the girl who can't look away from her boyfriend long enough to talk to anyone else, much less hold a 'normal' conversation," Hermione replied in Lavender's defense, arching a challenging brow at their roommate. "Of course, that's assuming she were capable of 'normal' conversation to begin with…which she isn't," she added thoughtfully, speaking more to herself than anyone else.
"Oh yeah?" Parvati asked her, walking back towards Hermione's bed and picking up a pillow. "We'll just see about that," and she hurled the feathered sleeping-comfort-turned-projectile at her unsuspecting friend. Unfortunately, it hit the wall three feet to the left of her intended target.
"This is why Jack plays Quidditch, and you only watch him," Lavender observed. Parvati scowled and threw the next pillow at her.
Parvati really does have poor aim, Hermione thought examining her shirt for any tell-tale feathers where the pillow meant for Lavender had accidentally hit her. Calmly, she reached down and lifted the "weapon," holding one end firmly with both hands and grinning wickedly. "Parvati, you are about to discover why Ron and Harry never challenge me to a pillow fight. May you learn a valuable lesson from the experience." Without another word, she swung away.
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The three occupants of the sixth year girls' dormitory came down to the common room looking rather disheveled. Ginny, waiting with Harry and Ron for Hermione to come down for breakfast, looked up at their entrance and gave her friend a sly grin.
"Had a bit of a row this morning?" she asked, taking note of the feathers caught in her hair and clothing.
Hermione cheeks turned a faint pink color and she pulled a couple of feathers from her jumper. "Yeah. One of the pillows exploded."
"That was Hermione's fault," said Lavender quickly, then smiled at Seamus as he came up behind her.
"Mine?" Hermione arched an eyebrow.
"Well, not the pillow exploding," Lavender amended. "That was actually my fault. Or Parvati's for provoking me." She frowned trying to remember, ignoring Parvati's protests, then looked back at Hermione. "But the fight was your fault."
"Hermione?" Seamus looked incredulous. He wasn't the only one. Gryffindor was slowly becoming accustomed to this bright, laughing girl who caused all sorts of trouble, got away with blaming it all on Ginny, and still managed to get top grades. Apparently she'd been hiding inside the old Hermione the entire time. But there were still those who had difficulty believing when they hadn't seen it.
"You've been getting into an awful lot of fights lately, Hermione," Ginny commented. "I think maybe you need anger management classes."
Hermione grinned and tossed a couch pillow at her cheeky friend. "I'm not the one with the Weasley temper, Gin."
Ron started to ask what she meant by that but was interrupted by Lavender. "It doesn't matter much, apparently. She starts fights just fine without it," the girl pointed out.
"Oh, I do not."
"You do! This one was all your fault."
"It was not! Parvati was the one poking fun at me." Hermione glared half-heartedly at the other girl.
"If you hadn't been staring off into space, none of this would have happened."
"I wasn't aware staring off into space was a crime."
Parvati grinned. "It wasn't the staring off into space. It was the goofy smile." At that all three roommates smiled, Hermione's the same goofy grin as before, and her roommates' because of the goofy grin. Lavender's smile swiftly turned evil, and she regarded Hermione with a wicked glint in her eye.
"Parvati was right about you, you know," she told the prefect mischievously. Hermione's eyes refocused on her roommate in response.
"And I was right to say that she is the same way." Hermione pointed out. She scowled at Lavender. "As I recall, I started off defending you. Blaming everything on me is poor thanks, Lavender Brown."
"You were quick enough to turn on me when the pillows started flying!"
"You hit me first!"
"Only because Parvati hit me while trying to hit you!"
"She does have terrible aim," Hermione reflected.
"It's true," Lavender agreed.
"Hey, I'm standing right here!" Parvati exclaimed, waving her hand between her two roommates. Hermione and Lavender ignored her.
"You're right Hermione." Lavender finally conceded.
"Right? What is she right about?" Parvati wondered.
The two girls looked at her pointedly. "It was your fault," they said simultaneously.
"And don't ever let her play Quidditch, Jack," Hermione added, addressing the tall boy standing at Parvati's shoulder.
"No really," Lavender added.
"Stop ganging up on me! None of this was my fault!"
Jack looked at her speculatively. "I find that hard to believe."
"My own boyfriend!" Parvati moaned.
"Next time don't start a fight!" Hermione told her, grinning again.
"I didn't start it!"
"Before you start a fight over who started the fight, maybe you could tell us what were you fighting about?" Ginny asked, looking pointedly at each of the girls. All three blushed furiously and mumbled a dismissive answer. Lavender and Parvati even made a hasty retreat. Hermione, however, was stuck with the inquisitor.
"Traitors!" she called after her roommates.
"Hey, they're your friends!" Parvati replied, grinned, and climbed through the portrait hole. It closed with a definitive thump behind her.
"Well?" Ginny persisted.
"Why are you asking me that, when you know I'm not going to tell you?"
"Because I have a feeling I already know, and I want to see if I'm right." Ginny's smile was wickedly smug.
Hermione glared at her balefully. "Ginevra Weasley, you are a terrible person." With that she stalked toward the portrait hole.
"Where are you going?" Ron called after her.
"I'm hungry, Ronald."
"Don't I even get a hello?"
Hermione stopped what would have been the start of some serious retribution for her roommates for deserting her and turned instead to look at her boyfriend.
My boyfriend. The goofy grin was back.
"Oh brother," muttered Ginny. "Come on Harry. I love breakfast, it's my favorite meal. I want to eat some before I lose my appetite." Despite her words, Ginny was fighting smile.
"Yeah," agreed Harry. "We'll meet you downstairs, mate," he told Ron, then took Ginny's hand and led her from the room.
Once out in the corridor, Ginny and Harry paused long enough to grin at one another.
"About time," Ginny told him, for what must have been the hundredth time in the last two days.
And for the hundredth time, Harry replied, as he always did, with a heartfelt echo, "About time."
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It was ten minutes into breakfast before Ron and Hermione took their seats across from Harry and Ginny. Hermione noted Harry's smug little smirk, considered ignoring it, then flatly told him he couldn't give her that look anymore.
Harry's smirk only broadened.
Mentally resigning herself to get used to it, Hermione settled into breakfast with a vengeance. No one was particularly surprised, as she'd missed dinner the night before in order to catch up on all the sleep she'd missed that last week. Ginny had been somewhat surprised she'd been willing to sacrifice an evening with Ron, close as the two had been lately, but Hermione had been looking pretty tired, so it was probably better that she'd slept. And she was looking much healthier this morning. If nothing else, Ginny thought wryly, her appetite seems to be back.
Hermione had just finished her third piece of toast when the mail flight arrived through a window at ceiling height with all the usual hooting and near silent fluttering of wings. A feather landed on her head and she was in the midst of making a disparaging remark about the nature and origins of feathers while Ron laughed and removed the offending plumage when she came to the realization that there was an owl sitting on the table in front of her. Harry's owl, to be exact. And she was carrying a package.
"Hello, Hedwig. Is that for me?" The owl, who had taken to carrying Hermione's mail as well as the Weasleys' whenever Harry hadn't any, hooted softly and lifted her leg to indicate the package should be untied. Hermione obliged her, then offered Hedwig the crust from her bread which the bird accepted graciously before nipping affectionately at her fingers and turning to greet her master. Hermione then felt free to examine her package.
Hope and excitement rising in her chest, the brunette prefect lifted the box and turned it over, staring at the handwriting scrawled across the front. It was from her parents, she noted, which meant…
"Yes!" she cried exuberantly, jumping from her seat with her fist in the air. "I'll see you in a little bit," she told Ron, hurriedly kissing him and waving goodbye over her shoulder without even glancing at the others.
The three remaining companions stared after her for some seconds, until Harry's disgusted snort brought attention to him instead. "Some best friend," he said with a sneer, then turned to Ron and gave him a searching look. "I think she loves you more than me," he told him in mock disapproval.
Ron met his gaze squarely, and frowned. "She better," he told him, and Harry laughed.
Hermione, meanwhile, was making her way to the Gryffindor common room with surprising speed. The entire way all she could think about was ripping off the paper and getting started on the project inside. She had waited so long for this to get here. She didn't know why her parents hadn't sent it sooner, if she'd known it would take them so long to pick up her new toy and send it to her, she would have had the company send it to her directly. But it was here now, she thought to herself, climbing through the portrait hole and making a beeline for the empty couch before the fire. The four Gryffindors who had occupied the room up to that point, took one look at their prefect, noted that glint in her eye that Gryffindors everywhere were beginning to realize meant trouble, and immediately left the room. Hermione remained oblivious to their exit, focusing on tearing off paper and twine as quickly as possible to get to the item inside. A short letter fell to the ground as Hermione peeled the paper away, and she paused long enough to retrieve it.
Hermione, it said.
Here's the kit you asked us to pick up for you. I'm sorry it took so long, dear, but Dad and I had a little problem with the car, and we had to wait for the mechanic to fix it. We would have told you, but we figured it would already have arrived at the store before you received our letter, so we waited. I don't know what you want this for, it seems a little odd if you want my opinion, but I hope you enjoy it just the same. Keep up with your studies, Hermione, and we love you!
Hermione grinned, set the letter aside, and continued tearing at the paper until there was none left. Inside the plain brown wrapping, an excited Hermione found a medium sized blue box with silver foil lettering embossed across the top. "Magical musical accompaniment kit" the label read (make your own magical musical accompaniment magically!). Excitedly, Hermione pulled the top off and dug for the instructions, settling back for a quick read before she got to work.
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After Hermione's rushed disappearance, Harry, Ron and Ginny had finished their breakfast at a leisurely pace. As the day had been scheduled to be a fun day for the four of them, Hermione's return was expected momentarily, and the boys determined that the best place to wait for her to come back was the place where she'd left them. That decision made, the three sat for some time at the Gryffindor table, sipping hot chocolate and laughing together as they had not been able to do in some time. What with everything that had been going on recently, there hadn't really been much time to relax and there wasn't one of them who didn't appreciate the chance, even if it did feel odd without Hermione there. At the end of the hour, however, when Hermione had still not returned (and Ron was beginning to look noticeably depressed), the three decided it was time to go find her. Being that she was a Gryffindor, the common room was naturally the first place they looked.
It was also where they found her.
The three had approached the fat lady's canvas without much thought, laughing and joking as they had all morning. But before Harry could give the password, Ginny, who had reached the portrait first, stopped and cocked her head to one side curiously. When the other two tried to ask her what was going on, she just made a hushing noise and waved them to silence.
"Don't you hear that?" she whispered.
Sure enough, a faint sound could be heard drifting through the portrait.
"Is that music?"
"Only one way to find out."
Ginny, curious as ever, gave the password and was surprised when the fat lady hesitated, gave them all wary looks, and said "all right. You'll only yell at me if I try to warn you, so have it your own way," then swung open, muttering about someone always making a racket. Instantly the music became much louder, and there was the definite addition of words, though they were indiscernible from this distance. Exchanging puzzled glances the three teenagers climbed through the hole and stood, surprised and amused, just inside the entryway.
On the table in front of the fire stood a small blue box embellished with gold enamel and it was from this box that the loud and admittedly catchy music originated. Beside it stood Hermione, fist clutched around her wand, singing at the top of her lungs.
"At curfew rounds she will appear
Intelligent and fair…"
"It has theme music now?" Ginny groaned. "Hermione, what have I done to you?"
"Who's that cunning mind behind
That really bushy hair?" Hermione closed her eyes and began dancing to the beat, still singing into her wand/microphone.
"Everybody knows her name
She always does her work!" Her voice became just louder than a whisper, and her audience had trouble not laughing, "Yeah, here comes,
Hermione!" She was singing at full voice again.
"(She's a wicked prefect)
(Let's get serious)
Hermione! Yeah, Her-mi-one!"
As the song came to a close and the music went through its final notes, Ron, Harry and Ginny broke into raucous applause.
"Brilliant, Hermione, absolutely lovely!" Harry told her, still clapping, but no longer pretending not to laugh.
"You just had to go and give it music!" Ginny exclaimed, walking over to her friend and picking up the lid to her musical accompaniment kit.
Ron was too busy laughing to say anything.
"Stop it you," Hermione told him, smacking his arm and blushing. Ron laughed harder but put his arm around her when she tried to hide her face in his chest.
"This is terribly familiar," he told her, choking back his laughter and lifting her hair away from one ear to look at it. "If I remember right, your ears were red then too."
She groaned, and put her hands up on either side of her face to hide them. "Ronald!"
"Yes, Hermione?" he asked innocently.
Cautiously, Hermione looked up at him. "You're such a prat, you know that?"
Ron grinned. "Yeah, but you love me anyway."
"Can't figure out why."
"Hermione, what is all this?" A grinning Harry was holding up the blue and gold contraption in one hand, and the box it had come in (confiscated from Ginny) in the other. He arched an eyebrow. "Musical accompaniment?"
"For my theme song," she told him, raising her chin in a defiantly dignified manner.
"Theme song? You have a theme song?"
"Yes, Harry, my theme song. What? Don't you have one?"
Chuckling slightly, Harry shook his head. "No, Hermione, I can't say that I do."
"Savior of the world and he doesn't even have a theme song," Hermione told Ron, shaking her head disapprovingly.
"Hey! I never said I was the savior of the world! Why do people keep saying that?"
"No modesty here, Harry. Just because you don't say you are something, doesn't mean it isn't true all the same."
"But you can't just go around saying things like that. People will start saying I'm arrogant again."
"She's right though, Harry," Ginny told him. "You are what you are."
"But savior of the world?"
"Well. You're my hero."
"Oh, spare me." Ron pretended to gag.
"Shut up, Ron." Harry told him, intent on kissing Ginny. She didn't seem to mind.
Hermione grinned and looked up at the boy in her arms. "Stop it, Ron. You pushed for this, remember?"
"Yeah, but I wasn't joking at Christmas when I said I didn't want to see them kissing. It's gross seeing my best friend and my sister like that. Elch!" Hermione rolled her eyes. Ron ignored the motion and turned his attention to the music box Harry had set down in favor of kissing his sister. "So what's this then?" He released Hermione long enough to retrieve the box, and held it up to her eye level.
"This is what I've been waiting for all this time."
"Funny it doesn't look like a letter. Krum didn't even sign it? Not much of a love note if you ask me, Hermione." He shot her a mocking glance.
Ron just laughed and examined the music box. "All of that for this little box, huh?"
"It's not my fault you thought I was waiting for something else, Ron."
Ron grinned. "I can't help it. I'm a jealous person by nature." He pulled her tight against him. "Mine! All mine!" he growled into her hair.
"Down Ronald!" she exclaimed, giggling. He loosened his hold and grinned down at her. She just rolled her eyes and took her music box back from him, fiddling with it slightly.
"What is it this thing does, exactly?" Ron asked when he decided her attention had wandered away from him a little too much.
"It plays music," her tone suggested he should know this already.
"The music for you theme song." He confirmed, his voice matter of fact, and he arched an eyebrow.
"Yes." She said it as a statement, but her voice wavered in embarrassment.
Ron grinned teasingly, and took the box back. "And you had a theme song before you got the box?"
Ron laughed. She was definitely embarrassed, and he decided it was cute. "You're ridiculous," he told her.
Hermione blushed fiercely. But then he dropped the music box on the couch and leaned close.
"You're also beautiful." He kissed her forehead. "And very sweet." He kissed her nose "And I love you. Have I told you lately how much?"
Hermione grinned then. "This morning Ron. Right before breakfast, remember?"
"Ah yes. And breakfast was right before I came into the common room and found my girlfriend dancing around the room and singing her very own theme song into her wand." He tugged gently on a curl and grinned as she blushed all over again. She let her gaze fall, too embarrassed to watch him laugh at her, but he cupped her chin in one hand and tilted her face up. "You're ridiculous," he told her softly, and then he leaned in and kissed her for it. Hermione sighed blissfully. Life was good. Harry was happy with Ginny, Hermione's theme song was complete, and Ron loved her, even if he did think she was ridiculous.
If he keeps kissing me like this, she decided, then maybe "ridiculous" isn't such a bad thing to be. She smiled as he kissed her again, remembering a time she had thought this would never happen, and realizing how lucky she was that it had.
He loves me, she thought in wonder. And it isn't even a holiday...
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It feels so weird to say that. And it makes me sad, too. This story is my baby, and now it's all grown up! *sniff* Okay, but seriously. This is the end of the end. That's all that was written. It's done. I realize, as far as this chapter alone is concerned, that it doesn't do much for the story where plot is concerned. But I felt, after I had finished chapter nine, that I had left a bit of a string hanging with the whole waiting for the package thing, and I really wanted to do something with the theme song anyway because everyone seemed to enjoy it so much. So I came up with this comic little epilogue, which I hope you all enjoyed. Unfortunately this means the story really is finished, but never fear! I have prepared something with which you may ease your sorrow. The first chapter to the Seasonal Suffering prequel! Yay! It'll be up by the end of next week (I have a trip this weekend, so I haven't quite enough time to write it now, or it would be up by Monday). So. Review, and then (next Friday) go read it.