CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT
Seamus banished anyone who wasn't a seventh year Gryffindor from the common room the night of the End of the Year Feast.
"This is our End of the Year party," he said, passing around glasses and pulling out three bottles of Firewhiskey to which even Hermione didn't comment.
Ron and Hermione were sharing one of the chairs by the fireplace while Lavender sat between Dean and Seamus on the couch and Neville sat next to Parvati on the floor. Harry, as per usual, was nowhere to be seen.
"All right, then," said Seamus, passing around one of the bottles. "What shall we drink to?"
"No more homework," said Dean.
"No more Potions," offered Ron.
"No more Snape," said Neville, making a face.
Ron took the bottle from Dean and raised his eyebrows at Hermione. She shook her head but he knew her well enough to know that she wasn't going to say anything about him drinking – not tonight. Ron filled his glass and passed the bottle on to Parvati. The chair felt more comfortable the more Ron sipped on his glass, being sure to keep it in his hand, balanced on the arm of the chair. His other arm lay on top of Hermione's legs as she was seated sideways in the chair, curled up in a small ball, leaning against Ron, watching the rest of her fellow seventh years drink and play merry.
"All right, all right," said Lavender, "I think we're all drunk enough—"
Hermione cleared her throat.
"—well, except Hermione to have a bit more fun."
"Oh, no," said Neville, "I've heard about the kind of fun you have when you're drunk. I don't fancy snogging on Seamus or Dean tonight, thank you."
Everyone laughed, even Seamus and Dean, but Lavender shook her head, smiling.
"No, no," she said, "this is our final night here. I'm sure there's things that need to be said or things we want to know about one another that we've been too afraid to ask. But, seeing as how we will only see one another again if we want to I don't see the harm in a little truth telling."
Everyone muttered their consent, even Hermione.
"Who starts?" Parvati asked.
"Er, I will," said Lavender, "since it was my idea. Someone ask me something."
Parvati smiled. "All right – who was the better shag, Dean or Seamus?"
Dean almost choked on his Firewhiskey but Seamus looked rather amused. Lavender put a hand to her chin and tapped her finger against her jaw in thought.
"Well, I don't know. I had much more practice with Seamus so I'd have to say him. Sorry, Dean."
Dean shrugged and forced down the rest of his Firewhiskey, making a face as he did so.
"Okay, my turn," said Parvati, "someone ask me something."
"Er, I have a question," said Seamus. "You wouldn't go out with me this year when Lavender and I broke up because you fancied some other bloke."
"So, I want to know who it was."
Parvati mumbled something under her breath.
"What was that? Didn't hear you."
Parvati glared at Seamus. "I said, Ron."
"Excuse me?" said Ron. "Me?"
Ron looked over at Lavender. "But I thought you fancied me – you were always after me about being well endowed like George."
Lavender waved a dismissive hand. "I wasn't serious about that."
"Then, why'd you do it?" asked Hermione. "I mean, I don't care anymore, but it was a little bit annoying when you knew Ron and I were dating and you still talked about his massive—"
"Stop, 'Mione," said Ron before Hermione could take her statement any further.
"The thing is," said Lavender, "is that I have a lot of guts. I don't really get scared of anything except of being completely unclever. Divination is easy – you can make up all the answers and Trelawney wouldn't know the difference. I can't do that with any of my other subjects and I don't do all that well in them. I'm just not clever like you, Hermione. The only thing I really have is being blonde and quite pretty. Since we're telling the truth… the truth is, I was jealous."
Hermione was clearly taken aback. "Me?"
"You're pretty and smart and you got Ron. We all knew you two would eventually end up together but since it took you so long to actually do so many of the rest of us began to sort of fancy him. And once the two of you got together it was fun to tease him, especially since I know such intimate information about George. I was jealous he'd want you instead of me since all I have is my sex, you see. That's all the boys want from me."
"That's not true," Seamus interjected.
"Oh, shut it, you know it is," snapped Lavender.
"Do you ever even fancy any of the boys you shag?" asked Dean, looking rather interested in the answer.
Lavender avoided her eyes but nodded. "One."
Ron groaned. He was not interested in his brother's sex life and sitting here with one of his ex-lovers made the reality all too apparent. A silence hung over the room for almost a minute before Ron broke it.
"So, you fancied me?" Ron asked Parvati.
Parvati managed to look at Ron with a dignified look on her face. "Yes. At the end of sixth year and beginning of seventh. I thought you were cute."
Hermione poked Ron in the chest. "See, I told you you were cute."
"All right," said Seamus, "I asked the last question so someone asked me something."
"Okay, I'll ask something," said Hermione. "Just how many girls have you had sex with?"
"Four?" Dean cried. "I only know of Lavender and Hannah."
"Hannah?" asked Ron.
"Hannah Abbott," answered Dean. He looked back at Seamus disbelievingly. "Who are the other two?"
"Lisa Turpin from Ravenclaw and I cannot reveal the fourth girl, I'm afraid."
"There is no fourth girl," said Dean. "You're a rotten liar."
"I'd get up and smack you but I don't think I can stand," said Dean.
Hermione rolled her eyes.
"It was me," said Parvati with a large sigh.
"You?" Dean was aghast. "But, you wouldn't even date Seamus earlier this year."
"I know, but we sort of dated second term…" Parvati's voice trailed off.
"We kept it a secret," Seamus said, looking at Parvati, "because we knew it was only a matter of time before everyone was hounding us about having sex. And… I didn't want that for her."
"For her?" Dean rubbed at his temples. "What? God, do you actually fancy one of the girls you continually shag?"
Seamus frowned, his eyebrows furrowing. "See here, mate! I'll have you know I've been dating Parvati since the very beginning of February and last night was the only time we've shagged." Seamus tore his eyes away from Dean. "I'm not in the mood to get into any discussions of the heart. Besides, Hermione asked the last question, so it's time for someone to ask her something."
Hermione blushed slightly. "All right, then."
"I have a question," said Lavender.
"I do as well," said Neville from his place on the floor.
"Well, we'll both ask, if that's all right?" Lavender asked.
Hermione nodded. "I suppose."
"What I want to know is whether or not you and Ron have shagged yet."
"Of course," said Hermione so matter-of-factly that Ron almost dropped his glass. He quickly took a sip of Firewhiskey. It was one thing that Harry and Ginny knew he and Hermione had had sex before, but it was another thing for the rest of Gryffindor to know.
"Really?" Lavender squealed. "Wow. Wow. Since when?"
Hermione shrugged. "I don't remember things like that."
"You were a virgin," said Lavender. "I know you remember."
"Oh, fine. Valentine's Day. Happy?"
"Very." Lavender smiled. "I cannot believe the two of you finally did it. Good for you. You have to tell me if he's any good."
Ron resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
"Not that I have loads of experience to compare him to but I think he does quite nicely and that's all I have to say about that."
Lavender frowned but she relented, raising her hands in defeat.
Hermione turned her gaze to Neville, waiting for his question.
"Oh, okay, well, I was wondering what that thing on your finger is," he said.
Hermione looked down at her hand and the paper ring that fit snugly on her finger. She smiled. "It's… well, it's a promise ring, actually," she answered, looking back at Neville.
"A promise ring?"
"Whoa," said Seamus, "like an engagement promise ring?"
"It's a bit more complicated than that," said Hermione with a shrug.
"How much more complicated?"
"We were at the safe house," said Ron, "and I couldn't very well go out and buy a ring so I made one out of paper so she'd always remember the promises I made to her before we went to go fight…"
"What kind of promises?"
"That's between me and Hermione."
"That's pretty big, isn't it?" asked Parvati. "I mean, my parents didn't even talk about marriage until they were almost twenty five and here you are making paper rings."
"You have a different perspective on things when Voldemort is trying to kill you and your friends," said Hermione. "You hold on to the things which are dear to you and you don't let them go."
"Well, sure, but you don't think you're a bit young to already be thinking about promises to get married?" asked Seamus.
"I think it's romantic," said Lavender dreamily.
"It has to do with more than just one promise," said Ron. "Besides, didn't most of our parents get married when they were really young? Mine were married when they were twenty."
"That's because most of our parents were afraid of You-Know-Who," said Neville quietly. "They didn't think there was much other choice."
"Things are different, now. We don't have to make the same life decisions at such an early age," said Seamus.
"We did," whispered Hermione. "We didn't have another choice."
The silence encased the room and felt deafening. Ron decided he had to be the one to break it again. "It's time for Neville to answer a question."
Another silence followed.
"Mmm, all right," said Dean, "I guess I can ask the obvious. Neville, what do you see in Luna?"
The other seventh years let out a snigger; they'd all wondered it at some point themselves.
Neville blushed. "She's not that bad," he defended.
"That wasn't what I asked."
"Um…" Neville shifted his body around on the floor, seemingly uncomfortable with the question. "Well, now I fancy her plenty, but at first it was just because no one else ever looked."
Hermione instantly felt bad for Neville.
"The rest of you always had someone to talk about before bed in the dorm. Dean had Ginny for a while and then he had Lavender. Seamus had Lavender and then Hannah and then Lavender again and then Lisa. Harry had Cho and Ginny. And even before Ron and Hermione started going out we all knew he had her, didn't we? No girl ever looked at me. Luna was the only one."
"But, you're always around birds," said Seamus.
"Who? Hermione used to help me with homework a lot in the past and until Ginny left I talked to her plenty. I suppose I'm around Luna's friends…"
"That's who I mean."
Neville shrugged. "So, what? Besides, does it matter why Luna?"
"I guess not," mumbled Seamus. "Except she's weird."
"Hey!" Neville all but shouted. "So what? I don't have the choice to be overly picky and once you get used to her eccentric habits you see that she's really, really clever and – and besides, I like her. It's rather annoying listening to all you guys sitting up in our dorm room talking about sex and not even believing me when I've had just as much experience as the rest of you."
"You're right, mate," said Seamus. "You're right. I'm sorry."
Ron looked down at Hermione but her eyes were closed, her breathing even. He hadn't even needed to talk her to sleep – the others voices must have been soothing enough for her.
"Is she sleeping?" asked Lavender.
"She does that a lot."
"It's from the fight," Ron said. "Her nerves and brain and everything are still trying to physically recover. She still has potions that she takes; she just gets tired because of them. I'm going to take her upstairs before I get too drunk to carry her."
"Wow, Ron," said Lavender.
"What?" Ron asked, a confused look on his face.
"You're just such a… man now. When did that happen?"
Ron blushed. "When you weren't looking I suppose." He scooped Hermione in his arms before carefully standing up and walked to the stairs. "I'll see you lot on the train tomorrow." As Ron walked up the staircase he could hear laughter below and Neville's request to "pass the bottle." A smile crept across Ron's face. As much as he wanted to leave Hogwarts, a part of him still thought he might like to stay.
Some time near morning, but before the sun had a chance to resurface itself, Hermione woke up and realized she was no longer in the common room. She was instantly relieved that she awoke without screaming from nightmares. She didn't so much scream now as wake up crying and whimpering. Ron usually roused her when she cried in her sleep and he'd talk to her as she went back to sleep. The past week or so Hermione found herself waking up without being wet from sweat and tears and it felt wonderful.
Figuring it was almost sunrise, Hermione turned over and hugged Ron's sleeping body. He was so good to her, taking care of her, making sure she slept and ate and took her potions until she was strong enough to do it all herself. They both had a sneaking suspicion that McGonagall knew exactly what was going on, but she never spoke a word of it. All of the professors, save Snape, went easier on them. Hermione felt a bit guilty about it but Ron loved every moment of it – turning in essays a day late or messing up on charms and spells without much reprimand.
Harry, though, didn't appear to have noticed anything different with the way the professors treated him. In fact, he didn't seem to notice anything different at all. Hermione overheard Seamus trying to talk Harry into joining them for the End of the Year party but Harry just retreated into the boys' dormitory and went to bed.
Hermione didn't want to think about Harry; it hurt too much. Instead she turned her attention to Ron next to her. She ran her hands up and down his chest, from Adam's apple to the waistband of the boxers he wore to bed. A groan sounded in Ron's throat and he slowly opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was the ceiling; the first thing he felt was Hermione's hands on him. He smiled.
Turning over to his side, he said, "Why are you waking me up?"
"Because we have to get up in a few hours."
"So? A few hours more to sleep." Ron pulled her to him and tried to close his eyes but Hermione wiggled against him.
"This is the last time we'll ever sleep in the Head Boy's room."
"I know," mumbled Ron.
"Won't you miss it?"
"Not orange enough for me."
Hermione smiled. His room at The Burrow was indeed very orange with posters of the Chudley Cannons everywhere. Hermione allowed her hands to travel underneath the waistband of Ron's boxers. While he didn't open his eyes he did sigh against her hair.
"What're you doing?"
Hermione lifted her head and ran small kisses along his jaw and tugged on his earlobe lightly with her teeth; Ron always shivered when she kissed his ear. He sat up and pulled Hermione's blue gown over her head and moved his mouth to her neck while his hands caressed and kneaded her breasts. His boxers were shed before he realized Hermione had even done it and he lay over her, returning his kisses to her mouth.
"You don't have to, if it still hurts."
Truth was, her body did still hurt sometimes but the pain had gone from almost unbearable to endurable and this was their last night at Hogwarts. Ron never once asked her when she'd be ready to resume their old sexual regime; he never pushed or complained and on their last night at school Hermione wanted to give him something to remember it by.
"It doesn't hurt," she whispered. "It'll be fine."
Ron nodded and kissed her again while pushing her knickers off; Hermione kicked out of them. It had been so long since Hermione felt him inside of her. She wrapped her legs around his middle, wanting to cry it felt so good. Their movements matched, their hips meeting each other with each thrust of Ron's. It was slow, the way he was making love to her, but deep and Hermione knew he was holding back so he wouldn't hurt her. She considered, for a moment, to tell him to speed up, to make love to her as he would normally do, but she was a bit scared. Their bodies hadn't been joined since they left Lupin's house and Hermione was still cautious with everything she did as to not created a searing pain somewhere in her body.
This was good, though. This was amazing.
It didn't take Ron long to come; Hermione could feel the warmth from it. He didn't pull out. Instead, he stayed inside as long as he could, allowing his body to drink in the sensations of her. He kissed her.
"I missed that," he said truthfully.
"And I'm going to miss it at The Burrow when there's no privacy."
Hermione smiled and nodded. "Me too."
Ron let out a hollow groan in his throat and moved out of Hermione. He moved his mouth to her breasts and then her stomach and finally to his favorite place where he settled his lips and tongue and savored her bit by bit.
In the Slytherin common room Draco lay on the leather sofa wrapped in a blanket. The other seventh year Slytherin boys – Crabbe, Goyle, Nott, and Zabini – had all but kicked him out of the dormitory. Instead of enduring their taunts Draco slept in the common room each night after everyone left for bed. Zabini, who Draco always hated for being so neutral about the Dark Lord, never said a word but allowed the other boys to run Draco out of the room. He hated them all.
NEWTs were completed and Draco looked forward to going back to his house, getting away from Hogwarts. Snape told him his house had been reinforced with wards to protect him from any stray Death Eaters that might want to gain revenge on anyone who helped destroy the Dark Lord. Draco didn't think any of the Death Eaters would resurface since the ones who were captured were never going to see the light of day again while rotting in Azkaban. Still, it would be nice going home and feeling protected.
The blonde Wizard immediately sat up and looked behind him. Rebecca descended the stairs from the girls' dormitories, a green robe hanging off her shoulders.
"What do you want?" Draco had tried desperately to avoid her since his return to school.
Rebecca sat down on the sofa. "Are you going back to your house this summer?"
"Where else would I go?"
"I don't know. To a relative's house?"
"I don't have any relatives; they're all dead. Well, I suppose Bellatrix is still alive but she'd rather have me dead than help me out any."
"Why do you care?"
Rebecca, keeping her gaze focused on Draco, replied, "Because I always care."
"I know. You remind me of that often."
Draco sighed. "So, I suppose your parents are safely back home and all that, then?"
"No, they're staying at their safe house until they feel none of the Death Eaters are going to attack them. My mum's real worried since she's a Muggle and can't protect herself against magic."
"Oh. So, you'll go to the safe house, then?"
"Where is it?"
Rebecca shrugged. "I don't know yet. Why?"
"In case I decide to send you an owl or something."
Rebecca smiled. "You'd write to me?"
"I don't know. Perhaps."
"I don't expect you to suddenly fall back into my arms and be the way we once were, but it'd be really nice to hear from you this summer. I still have two years left at Hogwarts and it'd be nice if we could be friends…"
"And you can always talk to me about your father. I suppose it was self defense, then, killing him?"
Rebecca smiled. "Always a Slytherin. I'm going back to bed. I'll let you know where I'm staying as soon as I can and you write me."
"I'll think about it."
Rebecca walked back up the stairs and disappeared from view. Draco laid back down on the couch. He might still be a cold hearted bastard but the prospect of going home and owling Rebecca for the summer made living alone in a mansion of ruined possessions and house elves a little less depressing.
Ginny woke up with the sun just rising over the lake. There were a couple of hours before she had to change and get her trunk packed before heading off to the Hogwarts Express. She knew she was probably the only one who wasn't looking forward to summer; she was rather dreading it. Summer meant staying at The Burrow with her parents, Ron, and Hermione. She truly loved Ron and Hermione but Ginny knew she'd be left out a lot and since Harry had barely spoken to her.
Tears fell down her cheeks in the same tracks they did every night. Ron and Hermione tried to make sure she was included with them. She studied with them and ate with them, but it wasn't the same without Harry. It used to be the four of them since October; they were all inseparable. Ginny felt like someone removed her right arm now that Harry was gone. Intuition told the truth; she and Harry weren't going to be together forever.
Perhaps he'd come back one day – or show up at The Burrow with readied apologies for everyone and he'd be welcomed back to the Weasley family with open arms.
The last time they made love replayed itself in Ginny's mind when she fell asleep each night. It made the realization that Harry was gone real. The way his lips felt… He was telling her good bye with his hands, apologizing for hurting her with his mouth, and letting her go with his love making.
"Fuck him," whispered Ginny to herself, turning over and pulling her blankets over her head. He wasn't the only one going through tough times. He wasn't the only one who felt changed after the Final Battle. They were all damaged in one way or another: Hermione's psyche wasn't the same, waking up in the middle of nightmares, in pain if she moved too quickly; Ron had grown into a man in a matter of hours, taking care of Hermione and protecting his little sister by shielding her from Harry's absence, including her in meals and study times, trying to make her laugh, knowing what was expected of him with NEWTs and doing exactly what was needed in order to get the job done; Draco killed his father and there was no doubt in Ginny's mind that he was changed forever because of it, and now that Lucius was gone, Draco was free to love Rebecca if he so chose; Ginny was left deserted by the only boy she'd ever loved, having watched her best friend tortured by a Cruiatus Curse and rushed off to St. Mungo's urgently.
They were all different, now – quiet, separated from the rest of the students by what they'd seen and done. Didn't Harry see this? They were all going through emotional changes, dealing with the aftermath of the battle. As usual, Harry thought about himself and his problems as if the rest of them were all happy little bunnies content to just eat, sleep, and shag. It wasn't reality. It wasn't the truth. Now, along with everything else they were dealing with, they had to deal with Harry's absence.
"Fuck him," Ginny said again. "Fuck him."
Hermione held onto Ron's hand as they stood in front of the Hogwarts Express, waiting to board. Ginny stood a few feet away from them, determined not to look in the same direction as them. They were watching as Harry talked to McGonagall.
"He's coming over," said Hermione.
Harry stopped walking and ran a hand through his wild black hair and looked at the ground for a moment before tearing his eyes away from the grass and looking up at his friends.
"I'm not going back."
Hermione let a sound escape from her mouth which sounded like half a shriek and half a cry.
"Where are you going to stay?" asked Ron carefully.
"I'm staying here until Lupin leaves, then I'm going back to his house for a little while."
"You don't speak to us for a month and when you decide we're all worth your time you tell us you're not coming back?"
Harry stuffed his hands into his trouser pockets. "I'm sorry. I'm a right prat, I know that. I'm just dealing with some stuff… I didn't want to drag you all into it."
"Too late for that," Ginny whispered. She shuddered noticeably when Harry's eyes traveled to her.
"Are we going to see you again?" asked Hermione.
"One day…" Harry looked away and studied the red engine. "I just have to deal with me first."
Ron rolled his eyes. "Well, it was nice knowing you. I'm going to get a compartment before the good ones all fill up." He let go of Hermione's hand and boarded the train.
Hermione sighed. "You really hurt him, you know. The two of you've had rows before but he never completely abandoned you. Well… owl us over the summer, Harry." Hermione touched his arm briefly before following in Ron's steps towards the train.
Ginny made her way to the train but Harry stopped her by taking hold of her arm.
"You said that already."
"I told you I needed time to think things out—"
"Yeah? Well, you forgot to mention the part where thinking things out meant ignoring us all for a month and forgetting we were your friends."
Harry let go of Ginny's arm. "I know. I'm sorry. I said I was a right prat. I'll write to you this summer, I promise. Don't waste your time on a murderer, Gin. Go on with your life and don't try to think about me – I don't deserve you."
"Well, it'll be a little hard to forget about you if you're owling me."
Ginny sighed. "I loved you, Harry. I loved you in spite of your temper and your brooding and everything. I was willing to let you have time to think things out for yourself. But, I'm not willing to let my self-worth be compromised because you feel compelled to ignore me and avoid even simple eye contact. You made me feel like shite, Harry, and I'm not willing to feel emotionally abused by you any longer."
Harry took a step back from her, his eyes wide behind his glasses.
"Unfortunately, I'm still in love with you. If you promise to write to me I promise to go on with my life without you as my…"
"Boyfriend," supplied Harry.
"I'm sorry, Gin. I really am."
"You're lost, Harry," said Ginny gently. "You need to find where you are and what you're doing otherwise you really are going to be permanently left behind like the prophecy said."
Harry nodded. "I know."
Ginny reached into her bag for the faded book with yellowing pages. She handed it back to Harry. "This really belongs to you," she said. "Your father gave it to your mother and you should really give it to someone who is going to be the love of your life... Please, it shouldn't be mine to keep."
Harry took the book, his eyes turning glassy. He ran a hand over the cover. The book of love poems. He'd forgotten all about this. Swallowing, he nodded, knowing that Ginny would never accept the book back if he insisted she keep it. He loved her, even if he couldn't bring himself to tell her and be with her.
"I've got to go. Write to me." Ginny headed off towards the train. When she looked back at Harry she was almost certain she saw a tear fall down his cheek, but she just turned back around and boarded the train.
Ron and Hermione had a compartment near the back of the train. Ginny opened the door and shut it, sitting down across from them, stretching her legs out and resting her feet on the opposite bench.
"What'd he want?" asked Hermione.
Ron snorted disgusted.
They were silent as the train whistle blew and the train started its day long journey back to Platform Nine and Three Quarters in London. Ginny closed her eyes and tried to fall asleep, but Ron and Hermione both looked out of the window. They watched as the train passed Hogsmeade, leaving behind Hogwarts – leaving behind professors, the Astronomy Tower, house elves, Room of Requirement, Quidditch practice, three foot essays… leaving behind other students, scandals with Firewhiskey, Exploding Snap, nighttime patrols… leaving behind Harry.
Somehow, even through anger and disgust, that last thought was the most important thing they were leaving behind.
A/N: After exactly two months the story has been completed... finished... fini!
Okay, to answer a lot of random questions I have gotten in my reviews (in no particular order)
Q: Will you write an epilogue?
A: Um, no the end to the story solidly stands on its own.
Q: Will Ron marry Hermione?
A: What do you think? Although I do hope he can get her something other than paper...
Q: Will Ginny marry Harry?
A: Well, I certainly didn't leave you with that impression at the end of my story, did I? If I did, I certainly didn't do my job. Of course, unless you're Trelawney, the future is uncertain... so who knows what'll happen.
Q: Will Draco marry Rebecca?
A: I don't know, that depends on how nice Rebecca is - it's all up to her really.
Q: Some of your chapters are a bit like Big Brother, don't you think?
A: Big what?
Q: Will you write any more stories about Harry Potter:
A: I don't know. I've had an inkling to write a story about Lily and James or a story about Lupin and Tonks (based on what I've already established in this story) but we'll see.
Q: Are Ligers real?
A: I've answered this before. Yes. They're real. Go look them up online - you're reading my story so I know you have internet access.
Q: Are you going to write a sequel to "Finally!"?
A: Hmmm... That really all depends on the readers of this story. If enough people let me know that they want a sequel I shall consider writing one - I have some ideas for one, however this story took me two full months to write, which is rather a long commitment so if there are enough people who I think would read it, I'll write one. (I don't write fanfiction for my own jollies.)
Okay, that is all!! Hope you enjoyed my story - love, heartbreak, angst, tragedy, and Naked Ron!