It was time to go.

Hermione Granger stared into the mirror without seeing her reflection or the tears that were running down her cheeks, recalling the conversation she just had with Harry Potter and committing to memory every little word spoken.

Yes, Hermione, remember and learn.


Fred and George Weasley were in the middle of trying to convince their brother Ron on the effectiveness of Ton-Tongue Toffees in attracting women when Hermione decided to excuse herself from the table to step outside for a much-needed breath of fresh air.

The Hogwarts Great Hall was packed with wizards and witches who had come to attend the first year anniversary of Voldemort's Defeat. Tonight's event was but another in a long series of celebrations, parties and commemorative ceremonies that have been held throughout the year which had begun when Albus Dumbledore finally announced to the Wizarding World that Voldemort's Reign of Terror was finally over. After the news was out, the celebrations began. Over the past year, numerous awards were given to those who played a part in the victory: the members of the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's Army as well as the Slytherins who turned against Voldemort by aquiring useful information from their Death Eater fathers and handing the information to Dumbledore.

And while Hermione completely understood the reason for the year-long, extended celebration, after all, she was one of the central characters to the historic event, deep down inside, she wanted it to be over. She wish she could do what Draco Malfoy did. The young man had refused to attend any of the celebratory events and returned all of the awards that were given to him untouched. He was the only one who had effectively avoided the public eye by simply and quietly disappearing. Probably vacationing in some nice tropical island, Hermione thought.

Oh how she wished she could just do something like that. But she couldn't. Not when she was expected to be responsible and show up at all the events at Harry Potter's side as his most loyal and brilliant best-friend. She chose to be part of the war against Voldemort and now she had to live with the consequences. But really, she wanted, needed, get on with the rest of her life.

She was admiring the fairy lights that hovered in the gardens surrounding the Great Hall when Harry came out to stand next to her.

"This is getting tiring, isn't it", Harry said as a way of greeting.

"Honestly? Yes. I mean the parties have been fun but if I hear one more speech about good triumphing over evil or how brave we all were, I'm going to scream", Hermione said wryly.

Harry chuckled, "I know exactly how you feel."

They shared a companionable silence for a few minutes before Hermione spoke again.

"How are you really doing, Harry? And don't give me a trite Daily Prophet response". She had a good idea how he was faring but she needed to hear Harry articulate his thoughts and feelings, knowing that he needed to do so as well.

"I'm much better. The nightmares are not as frequent anymore. You know that, living with me, haven't you noticed that I'm sleeping so much better now?"

"I've noticed. Just wanted to confirm it."

"I think I'm beginning to realise that there is life beyond Voldemort. Eversince I learned of the prophecy in our fifth year, I've not thought beyond defeating the bastard. I've never dared to plan beyond that. It felt like putting the carriage before the horse and all that. You know what I mean?"

"You were afraid to think about what your life beyond Voldemort would be because you felt that if you had made plans and dared to dream about a future, then you'd have more to lose and you might balk in the final battle. Plus, a part of you felt that it would jinx your chances. Plus, really, you were too busy planning and training for the war to think about anything else."

"It's amazing how you can articulate a year's worth of anxiety in three sentences, Hermione." Harry smiled and playfully tugged at one of her curls.

Hermione looked at him and smiled back, feeling that familiar rush and warmth running along her spine. "It's one of the perks of hanging out with two emotionally-constipated blokes for the past eight years."

"Thank you, Hermione." Harry had stopped smiling, gently taking hold of her shoulders to turn her around to face him. "I mean it. I don't know how I could have gone through all of this without you and Ron. And I don't think I've ever thanked you two properly, especially you, Hermione." He pulled her in a warm hug.

Hermione inhaled, breathing the familiar and much-loved scent that was uniquely Harry's and daring to hope. Is this it? Is he finally seeing her? Will he finally admit that she was an important part of his life and that he could never live without her? She had waited for so long. Patiently, because she knew the difficult path that was placed on him, contenting herself with her appointed role as The Brains and loyal friend, but hoping that he would eventually see beyond that and place her where she wanted to be: in his arms, in his heart, in his bed, in his life. Is this the beginning of happily ever after?

He finally let go of her and placed a brief kiss on her forehead.

"So now what?" That was her, finally impatient to hear about the rest of their lives, confident that the signs were pointing to where she wanted them to point: that he loved her as much and in the same way as she loved him.

"I think I'm ready for the future now, Hermione."

"And what would that future be, Harry?" she couldn't keep the smile from her face.

"Well, Ron and I have applied for Auror Training and just yesterday, we both received our acceptance letters. We wanted to surprise you with the news and Ron's probably going to kill me for telling you now. So act surprised when he tells you, ok?" He was smiling back at her.

OK, that wasn't what she was expecting. He and Ron had made plans without her? Her smile faltered for a bit but she replaced it with a bigger one to cover up her disappointment. "That's brilliant news, Harry! You two would make good Aurors. I can imagine you two as Aurors, dashing and all James Bond-like."

"There's more, Hermione. The Auror Training is just the tip of the iceberg."

"What else, Harry?"

He blushed and looked down, avoiding her eyes. "Well... one of the things that I've put aside in the past three years was ... well... my lovelife. I mean, after that fiasco with Cho and learning about the prophecy, I didn't think it was wise to get involved with someone, you know?"

Again her heart took flight and dared to hope.

"Of course. You didn't want to risk someone else in your life. I understand, Harry. You've lost so many of the people you loved because of Voldemort. You couldn't risk losing another person. And since you were not sure if you'd survive Voldemort, you also did not want to leave anyone behind just in case you didn't make it. Besides, you were busy with more important stuff."

"Exactly, Hermione. Voldemort has used my loved ones against me time and again. Imagine what he would have done if I had been in love with someone. I don't think I could have survived it if I fell in love with a girl and lost her to Voldemort."

She reached out to briefly stroke his arm. "Yes, I understand, Harry."

"But now he's gone, Hermione. He's gone! Can you imagine how free I feel? Free to dream of a future. Free to think about other things. Free to love!" He pulled her into another hug and Hermione couldn't stop the tears of happiness from falling freely.

She pulled away from the hug after a few minutes and wiped away her tears "I am so happy for you, Harry."

"So am I. Can you imagine, Hermione? I can start dating. I can start meeting women without the fear of putting them in danger. I mean, I'm not saying I'll fall in love with the first girl I meet, but at least now I can go out there and find someone to fall in love with."

"Oh." She stared at him, trying to school her facial expression to hide signs of her heart breaking.

"You ok, Hermione?"

She placed another brave smile. "Of course, Harry. It's just that I've never imagine you falling in love, you know. You sound so adult, saying that."

"I know, totally out of character for me, eh? I'm being selfish, I think. I've never even asked about your plans, Hermione. What are you going to do with the rest of your life now that we're free?"

Yes, Hermione, what are you going to do with the rest of your life? You're free from Voldemort. You've aced your NEWTs and because of the fact that you're Hermione Granger, former Hogwarts Head Girl and one of the people responsible for defeating Voldemort, everyone will want to want you to work for them. And the boy you've loved for Merlin knows how long has finally admitted that he's ready to go out and meet other women, effectively dashing that one thing you had hoped for all these years. What are you going to do?


It was time to be Hermione Granger, loyal best-friend and Head Geek once more.

"Oh. Well, right now, I'm not sure... I have offers, of course, the Ministry of Magic wants me to work with them... and Dumbledore told me that if I want a post in Hogwarts, I'm more than welcome... Beauxbatons also offered me a job... I have options. Lots of them. I just haven't decided which one to take... I think we should go back inside, we don't want anyone noticing that we've been here alone for quite some time. Next thing we'll know, the Daily Prophet would be insinuating things about us again. That would ruin your chances with the girls, you know."

She made a move to re-enter the Great Hall.

From behind her, Harry spoke "It's ok, Hermione. I know it's a bit confusing, having all those options. But knowing you, you'll make the right decision. You always do."

How can you know me when you don't even see me, Harry?


So now here she was, standing in the Girls Loo where it all began, remembering the events in her first year in Hogwarts that involved a troll and the two young wizards who would eventually take over the rest of her life. Thank Merlin Moaning Myrtle's decided to stop sulking tonight and join in the celebrations.

Upon re-joining the celebration in the Great Hall, she immediately made excuses and headed here. She began crying as soon as she reached the bathroom, clutching the area above her heart, trying without success to soothe the searing pain she could feel under her hand, recalling what brought on that pain.

She shook herself to snap out of the memory of that conversation and took a good look at herself in the mirror. She smiled mockingly at her reflection. Honestly, Hermione, what made you think that he would ever love you that way? Look at yourself, look at him. He's Harry Bloody Potter! He could have any witch he wanted. Why would he want you?

To which her heart, tattered as it was, responded: Because you've stood by him. You were the one who was always there. Because no one could love him the way you do. Because you thought you were enough.

But you're not. You'll never be enough. As far as he's concerned, you're just Hermione Granger. And you will never be anything else. Accept it and learn to live with it.

She pulled herself from her own thoughts and took out her wand. She gave herself one long hard look. She inhaled deeply and slowly exhaled, calming herself and quieting her thoughts. When all else fails, make a list.

She conjured a quill and a roll of parchment. It was time to stop obsessing about what happened and didn't happen. It was time to plan and make lists. It was time to get on with the rest of her life.

It was time to go.