Disclaimer: I would love to own Harry Potter, but unluckily (or luckily) it's JKR that does that.
A/N: Sorry for the delay, but in Venice I didn't have internet. And I went to the library of my University for using their computers, but I couldn't open the file that my beta-reader had sent me. Anyway, here you are, the last chapter. I'm a little bit sad that this story is over, because I love it, but that's not so bad after all, because I can't wait to post the first chapter of the sequel. But before I give you some information about it, I wanted to thank you: thanks for reading this story, thanks to all the people that put this story in their Alerts list, in their Favourites list and in their C2s. And a very big thank you to all the people that reviewed in this last two years, those reviews really made my day. And thank you if you are going to review in the future! Now, back to the sequel for a moment before I leave you to the chapter… It will be called "Don't Forget Me", so, if you are interested, watch out for the first chapter in the next days. It will start a month after the end of this story, and it will be a little bit more adventurous and sad, with some 'apparitions' from the past of Harry and Hermione. Okay, I think I bored you enough with all this blah, blah, blah, better if you start reading the chapter right now. I hope you'll enjoy it.
To Danii: Thank you so much for beta-reading so quickly and for all your nice comments to my story. You are really supportive.
A New Beginning
Harry did his best to stand while his feet slammed onto the floor. He had Dumbledore's portrait in his hand and couldn't let it hit the floor.
Hermione fell at his side and hit her knees on the floor.
"Are you back? What a displeasure," said a nasty voice as they appeared in the Headmaster's Office.
Harry helped Hermione to get on her feet and ignored Phineas Nigellus.
"Are you okay?"
"Almost," said Hermione, rubbing her knees.
Harry smiled and walked in the direction of the wall where Professor McGonagall and Armando Dippet were hung.
"Oh, young Harry Potter and his lovely friend are back," said Armando Dippet. "Minerva!" he called to Professor McGonagall, who was snoring on her chair in her portrait.
Professor McGonagall moaned in her sleep and moved on the chair without waking.
"What?" she asked crankily, opening her eyes slowly.
"Look who's back," said Dippet, nodding towards Harry and Hermione.
Professor McGonagall suddenly became alert. "Oh," she exclaimed, sliding her glasses up her nose. "Oh, did you find him?"
Harry looked at her, "Actually, Professor McGonagall, we-"
"You didn't find him," she finished for him, looking despondent.
Harry raised his eyebrows and smiled at her. "Actually, Professor McGonagall, we did find him," he said, pulling Dumbledore's portrait from behind his back.
"Albus," she exclaimed happily, almost jumping out of her chair.
"Oh, my dear Minerva, I'm so pleased to see you," he said, smiling gently at her.
"Oh, it's wonderful to see you again. Where did you find him?" she asked Harry.
Harry opened his mouth to answer, but Dumbledore interrupted him. "Actually, Minerva, I think that Harry and Hermione are very tired, and all they need is some time for themselves. But I will be more than pleased to answer all your questions myself," he said kindly.
"Oh, yes, of course," she said. Harry hung Dumbledore's portrait on the wall between Dippet's and McGonagall's.
"Good night, Harry. Good night, Hermione," said Professor McGonagall to them.
"Good night? What's the time?" asked Harry, surprised.
"It's almost eight in the evening," said Dippet, nodding towards a clock on the other side of the room.
"Oh, that's really late. I would have said it was earlier," said Harry pensively.
"We better go, Harry," said Hermione, taking his hand.
He nodded. They exited the room hand in hand, bidding all the portraits good night.
Hermione walked quickly in front of Harry, letting go of his hand, and headed for the seventh floor. She muttered the password to the Fat Lady and entered the Gryffindor common room. Harry was right behind her.
"Well, if you want something to eat, I can-"
"No," said Hermione, turning to face him. "I can remember how to do a simple charm like that, but I'm not hungry."
"Let's go to sleep in the Boys' Dorm, then," he said, smiling at her.
"No," repeated Hermione. "No, Harry. I'm sorry, but I think that I need some time by myself. I need to understand some things."
Harry nodded in disappointment, but he understood.
Hermione stood on tiptoes and kissed him quickly before she headed for the Girls' Dorm. Harry followed her with his eyes until she disappeared behind a door without looking back, and then he sighed heavily. Then he slowly climbed the stairs to his dorm.
He lay down on his bed and stared at the ceiling. He had spent almost thirteen years at Hermione's side without feeling anything but a great friendship for her, and now, in less then four days, he had learned to love her with all his soul. He was sure that he loved her, although he wouldn't have done any difference with her Memory Charm.
He closed his eyes, but the thought of Hermione didn't let him fall asleep very soon. However, it was not a bad delay; on the contrary, Harry enjoyed all his fantasies and thoughts. Next morning he would talk to her.
In the meantime, in the Girls' Dorm, Hermione was on the bed that used to belong to her, her face hidden in the pillow. The soft noise of her sobs filled the room. All she wanted to do now was give vent to her feelings. But she knew that next morning, she would have to face him.
When Harry woke up the next morning, he rubbed his eyes and smiled. He had slept very well; the best thing was his dreams. He had dreamt about Hermione all night long.
He jumped out of bed and heard his stomach rumble loudly. It had been almost 24 hours since he had last eaten. He decided that the first thing to do was to get some food. A mug of milk and some cookies appeared in front of him. He ate quickly and decided to wait for Hermione in the common room.
He hurried down the stairs and waited in front of the staircase that led to the Girls' Dorm. Almost twenty minutes passed and Hermione didn't appear. Harry decided to check the clock and discovered that it was seven thirty.
'Maybe it's too early, she must be still asleep,' he thought, moving towards an armchair next to the window. As he sat down, he glanced outside and his eyes fell on a small figure sitting near the Lake.
Harry opened the window and leaned out of it to concentrate on the figure. It was Hermione.
He slammed the window shut and hurried out of the common room, then he ran down seven staircases. When he reached the first floor, Filch screamed at him, "How am I supposed to sleep if everybody is running up and down at this hour?"
Harry simply ignored him and opened the old oak door that led to the grounds of Hogwarts.
He sprinted by Hagrid's hut, but when he caught sight of Hermione, he slowed down and tried to control his breathing.
He stopped when he was only feet away from her, and looked at her.
She was sitting on the grass with her arms around her legs. She had changed her clothes and now was wearing the light-blue dress that he had got for her. Her long hair was loose and wind-swept around her shoulders. She was looking at the Lake. She didn't seem to hear Harry as he approached her.
When he sat down next to her, she didn't even look at him. Harry followed her gaze and saw that she wasn't looking at anything in particular.
He cleared his throat loudly.
"I know you're here," said Hermione without looking at him.
"Good morning to you too, Hermione," said Harry jokingly.
Hermione smiled. "Good morning, Harry."
"What are you doing?" he asked her, leaning back on his elbow.
"Just thinking," she said, shrugging.
"Oh, yes, I remember that you used to – but now there's no need to tell you these things, because you remember as well," he said, smiling.
"Yeah, I remember," she whispered.
They sat there in silence for a good half-hour, while the cool morning breeze caressed their faces.
"Harry?" asked Hermione shyly, finally breaking the silence.
"Yes, Hermione?" answered Harry, looking at her.
"I wanted to ask you something," she said, still not looking at him.
Hermione seemed to hesitate for a moment, and her voice shook slightly when she spoke. "W-what you told me yesterday – that you-"
"That I love you?" asked Harry, lowering his eyes.
"Yes. Well I wanted to know if you really-"
"If I really do?"
Hermione sighed. "Yes," she whispered.
"Hermione," he said seriously, "I do with all my heart."
Hermione closed her eyes and a tear slid down her cheek. Then she opened them and smiled. "Well, I'm happy, because, Harry I love you too, with all my heart," she said, finally looking at him.
Harry smiled and took her face between his hands, and kissed her very softly over and over. When they broke apart they were very close to each other and Harry's right arm was around Hermione's shoulders.
Hermione placed her head on Harry's chest and breathed in his scent. He did the same with her hair.
"What are we going to do now?" she asked him calmly.
"I don't know," he said slowly. "Maybe we really can live here at Hogwarts, as you suggested."
"No," she said placing her left arm around Harry's back. "No, I thought about that, and you were right. Hogwarts is a school, not a house. Sooner or later, it will be returned to its old use."
Harry nodded. "What do you think, then?"
"I thought about going back to our old work, but really, Harry, there are no more Dark Wizards to fight, and above all there are no more good people to protect," she said firmly.
"I can only agree with that," said Harry.
"I don't know what to do then," she said, a little depressed.
"Well, actually, I thought of something too, but I don't know if you'd be interested in that," said Harry, looking out at the Lake.
"Try me," she answered with a grin.
Harry smiled. "Why don't we leave?"
"Leave? And go where?" asked Hermione without understanding.
"I don't know, we can go wherever we want. It will be just the two of us, no thoughts, no worries. Just you and I," he said, holding her close.
Hermione didn't answer. She just looked in front of her with a thoughtful expression.
Harry had already given up hope when she spoke.
"Okay," she said simply.
Harry took a little while to recover from what he heard. "What?" he asked, after he had recovered.
"Okay," she repeated, tipping her head back to look at him and smiling warmly.
Harry smiled back and embraced her, leaning his cheek on her head. They looked at the Lake and knew that they would be happy.
They could have stayed there forever. Everything they needed was on their side, and a new beginning was waiting for them. No thoughts, no worries on their path. Just their love, and that was the most powerful thing that they had.
- The End -