Title: The End
Disclaimer: JKR owns them, created them, and is kind enough to show us a glimpse of their world. I'm just playing with them.
Pairing: Harry/Hermione Ron/Hermione
Synopsis: The final battle has arrived and things between the Trio… happen. Plus, there's the sex! My friend described it as PG porn, which I found very amusing.
A/N: This fic has been done many, many times before by much more talented H/Hr authors than me. But… the idea came and wouldn't go away until I wrote it. Actually, I got this really big sense of déja vu writing this fic. Then I realized! I'd written it before! Only it was called 'A Beginning or an End' and it was about Buffy and Angel. But the basic plot point was the same. Sort of, anyway. But, hell, I wrote that B/A fic years and year ago when I was, like, 13 or something, so I hope that this one is slightly better. Or it has, you know, more sex.
A/N 2: I think a small tissue warning might be in order.
A/N 3: This is a re-post and I deleted the original because, basically, I'm an idiot. Anyway. I wanted to thank Falco Conlon and udderpd for their reviews, which I very much regret to say are gone.
It's the night before the end.
The Final Fight. The Big Shingding. The Apocalypse. The Fight To End All Fights. The End of the Second War.
Names—they're all semantics, really.
Harry doesn't care about the name. Every wizard calls it something different. To him, it's always been simply that.
He shivers to himself, staring intently out the window. He sits alone, up in the Astronomy Tower. It's how he wants it to be.
The magic is so thick in the air he can practically feel it pulsing against the window. Everyone knows what's coming. There is no sneaking, there is no surprise attack. The final fight will be tomorrow—the outcome will depend on him. The entire world is poised, breathless, teetering on that brink.
More than anything, he hates the wait. He hates the not knowing. He hates the time alone with his thoughts.
To live or die, that is what awaits him.
The castle is eerily still and silent. He can feel the students shifting into their dorms beneath him. They will be attempting to sleep, pretending that everything is as it should be. Though, no one will sleep and everyone knows that nothing is as it should be.
The silence on the grounds is palpable. The wind is waiting idly, the trees are dark shadows. Not even a ripple disturbs the surface of the lake.
Harry stares out the window impassively, a feeling of emptiness creeping over him. He almost finds that he does not care. He has spent too long worrying about Voldemort. He just wants it to end.
He is alone.
There is no one to spend his final moments with. His best friends have long since drifted away from him, to each other, and Harry knows. They are seeking solace in each other. It is as it should be, he has to face his destiny alone, anyway. Ultimately alone.
It is because of that, that she surprises him. He feels a presence, but doesn't turn away from his window. If he stares out of it long enough, the person will go away.
Only when she sits next to him does he turn her head. His sharp intake of breath lets her know that he is only now just realizing who it is.
"What are you doing here?" he asks softly, not quite able to keep the bitterness out of his voice.
She looks down at her hands. "I was scared."
He gives a short bark of laughter. "What do you want me to tell you, Hermione?" he says, witheringly. "That'll be okay? That everything will be fine? That the good guys win? That the good guys always win? Because I can't. And I won't."
She draws in a sharp breath, moving slightly away from him. "No. It's… I don't want to hear that."
"Then what are you doing here?" he asks again.
"I was…" she swallows. "I didn't want to be alone."
"Go find Ron, then."
Harry sighs. He feels bad. She is his best friend. He hears the slight tremor in her voice, he can tell without looking at her that her face is uncharacteristically pale. But he doesn't understand. She chose long ago. She chose Ron. And Ron is his best friend.
"Find Ron," he says again.
"I don't want to be with Ron."
"The last couple of years tell a different story."
She stares at him a minute, blinking in incomprehension. "What happened to us?" she whispers.
"What d'you mean?" he says, feeling a lump rise in his throat.
"Us!" she repeats. "What happened? We used to be so close, Harry. Now… I feel like I barely know you anymore."
That hurts him and he recoils slightly. "You used to know me better than anyone," he says softly, staring out the window again. He shakes his head. "Things changed when you and Ron… you know that."
Her voice is low and dangerous, raw with emotion. Harry feels it prickling his skin. "Really?" he snaps. "Wrong, am I? When you and Ron started going out at the beginning of sixth-year… I never felt more alone in my life than I did at that moment. You two went somewhere I couldn't follow. Don't you dare tell me it didn't change things. You were my best friend's girlfriend. You weren't my…"
"Your what?" Hermione says immediately. "Your… unofficial worrywart? The girl that went to all your Quidditch games though she hated flying? The girl that always asked you about how you were feeling? Your emotional support? Your homework help?"
"Yes!" he grits out. "And more! I was sure that… I always thought that…"
"That I liked you and not Ron?"
He bows his head and shrugs. "Maybe. I didn't think about it until you and Ron got together. By then… it was too late."
She draws in a breath. "You're right. I did… like you, really. Not that I didn't like Ron, because I did. But you… you've always come first in my heart."
Harry clenches his fists. "Why are you telling me this?" he hisses. "Are you feeling sympathetic because I might die tomorrow, is that it?"
"No!" she yells, eyes filling with tears. "I'm just telling you the truth!"
"The truth? If that was the truth then why didn't you tell me this years ago? Why did you go out with Ron? Why did you leave me behind?"
"You left us behind, Harry!" she shouts, standing up. "You left us! After Sirius died you pushed us away! We were hurt and confused and angry and we… we grew closer because of it. We didn't have anyone else to hold onto. Don't you see that? We never left you behind, you closed yourself off from us!"
He buries his face in his hands. It is too much. He can't watch her. He can't watch the pain on her face, he can't face his own. Why now? Why is she bringing this up now?
She crouches down next to him and places her hand on his shoulder. "Besides," she says softly. "I never thought that you would ever feel the same way about me."
He's momentarily stunned, their combined stupidity catching up to him. "I didn't realize how much you meant to me until you belonged to someone else, Hermione." And that's the truth. "And Ron was my best friend. I couldn't… I couldn't do anything about it."
She lets out a low whimper, her hand sliding down his arm and gripping it. Her eyes are filled with tears and she's shaking her head. "It's not fair…" she whispers. "It's not fair at all… Oh, I wish I could take it all back… I wish that I could start it all over."
Then she's in his arms and Harry's holding her tightly against him, rocking her gently as her unbearable sadness flows through both of them. It's as if the last few years don't matter. It's as if they hadn't grown far apart. She feels so warm and soft against him, so tiny and perfect in his arms. And Harry's sure of it, she still knows him better than anyone.
They're kissing. The kiss is desperate, a move for reassurance and comfort. She's crying, he can feel her tears as they slide down both their faces, their sharp, salt taste landing on their tongues. Hermione presses herself more tightly against him, her fingers sliding into his hair and gripping the back off his neck to the point of pain. Their tongues duel furiously as they both fight to get closer, to taste the other.
Hermione's hands slip down and settle on his shoulders. She pushes him down, breaking their furious kissing so she can straddle him. Then she's on him again, his hands encircling her back, keeping her effectively against him. She moans against his mouth, loudly, and arches against him. He moves his lips to her neck, hands travelling down her body, struggling with her robes.
She's gasping and crying and whispering his name. She rocks her hips against his and he lets out a long hiss, dizzy for a moment in a red haze. Her hands are driving him crazy. They're everywhere, sliding down his neck and arms, clutching at him, but gentle and soft and oh so soothing at the same time.
They're lips meet again. The kiss is gentler this time. They're slowing down, they're tasting each other, they're taking the moment to savour. He kisses her with everything he can't put into words, all that she means to him, and she kisses him back the exact same way.
They can feel it, rocking through the air. The pent-up magic, it's absorbing their passion, and they can hear it crackling and sizzling around them. Her teeth are nibbling at his bottom lip, her hands once again in his hair. Her scent surrounds him, overwhelms him, and the feel of her soft body pressed up against his is more than anything he'd ever imagined.
She moves from his lips and presses tiny, soft kisses to his face. She sighs out his name, her lips brushing past his nose and his cheeks, sliding softly over his brow and his forehead.
That does it. He starts trembling. He can feel his entire body shaking and he can't seem to control it. She feels it immediately and pulls away, her lips red and swollen, her hair mussed and confused. She blinks at him, worried, and puts a hand on his forehead.
"Harry?" she whispers. "What's wrong?"
He shuts his eyes. How can he explain? How can he explain that he'd been ready? How can he explain that five minutes ago the night before The End seemed unimaginably long and torturous? How can he explain that it now seems like such a blink of an eye? How can he explain that he can't die, now, now that she has given him too much to lose…?
He settles for telling her the truth, the half-truth, anyway. "I'm so afraid of losing you."
"Oh," she says softly, her eyes widening and her face softening. "You'll never lose me." She takes his hand and places his palm on her chest, over her heart. "You're in here. You're the only one in here. You've always been in the only one in here."
He swallows heavily, and he can feel her heart beating under his hand. He's overcome with a feeling so powerful that he feels lightheaded. He knows. It's not enough time. It's not fair, not fair to show him what he could have, what he could have had…
"I'm terrified, Hermione," he says, raw honesty in his voice. "I've never been more scared of anything in my life."
She looks down at him, a resolute frown on her face. "Good. You should be. But…" her eyes fill with tears and meet his. "But… you'll do what you have to."
She's kissing him again and he stops caring. It doesn't matter. All that matters is the moment. She's giving him a gift and he's taking it.
She pulls away, once, and seeks out his eyes. It amuses them both when she asks, quietly, "Are you sure about this?"
He cracks a smile, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "I'm sure." He waits for a second before his smile turns into an all out grin. "Shouldn't I be the one asking that question?"
In response, she pushes him down again, her hands tugging and ripping at his robes. He answers in kind, though more gently, sliding her robes down her body as their lips remain locked in a furious battle. At the first touch of skin against skin they gasp out loud. The sensation is knew for them, but they feel at ease and comfortable with each other. They whisper soft words of love, lips and hands stroking gently over each other's bodies.
He pulls away, once, asking the question that has been on his lips since they started kissing. It is the question he is most dreading. But he needs the answer. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if he didn't ask it. He stares into her eyes, as he asks the question, a simple name, but full of a thousand consequences. "Ron?"
Her eyes darken momentarily and she shakes her head. "We broke up this morning."
He feels guilt. Ron is his best friend and, for all intents and purposes, he's shagging his best friend's girl. Though he can't help the nagging feel that she's really his girl, too. And that, if Ron knew, if Ron knew how he felt, if Ron could see what they were feeling…
All coherent thought flees his brain as he loses himself in her. They melt against each other, finding warmth and comfort. They are going somewhere they have never been. Together. The brink they are teetering on is ever present, but they push it from their minds.
Their movements are uncoordinated, it is their first time, they are inexperienced and hesitant. But it's beautiful, all the same. They cry out in unison, each other's name rolling from their lips.
When it is over they lie together, barely moving, the sounds of their ragged breathing filling the room. They kiss gently, words of reassurance and love on their lips. They make love twice more during the night. The war is gone, the world is gone, and they are the only ones left.
They can both feel it. It prickles against their skin. It poisons their mind. They know. It is it, for them. It is all they have.
Their time is up.
Harry knows that she lied to him. He also knows that she wanted it to be the truth, that she believed it to be the truth, that it was her way of telling him that he still held his honor.
He doesn't blame her for it. He doesn't blame himself, either.
But he feels the weight of it.
He glances over at his best friend. Their side is preparing. Checking equipment, checking wands, practicing curses, attempting to eat. Saying final good-byes.
Ron is twirling his wand in his hand, a speculative look on his face. "Did Hermione find you last night?" he asks, absentmindedly shooting a dozen red sparks out of the tip of his wand. "She didn't want you to be alone."
Harry keeps his face perfectly controlled. "Yeah, she found me."
Ron grins. "Gave you a good talking to, I hope. All this brooding won't help you any, you know."
That's when Harry knows. Hermione lied to him. She and Ron never broke up.
With difficulty, Harry asks. "It doesn't bother you? That she didn't spend last night with you?"
Ron smiles and seeks out Hermione with his gaze. His eyes land on her, just across the Great Hall from them, seeming in deep conversation with Ginny.
"Of course it doesn't bother me, Harry," he says, as if Harry was stupid for suggesting it. "I have my whole life to spend with her. What does one night matter?"
"You really love her, don't you?" Harry asks softly.
Ron shrugs. "Yeah, I do. She was always… it, for me, I guess."
"I'm glad," Harry says and he's being completely honest. Then, voice low, "Promise me you'll take care of her, Ron. Promise me you won't let anything happen to her."
Ron tears his eyes away from Hermione to blink at him. "Of… of course, Harry. I will."
"I don't just mean, now," Harry adds. "I don't think… I don't think I'm going to make it, Ron."
"Don't," he says sharply. "I'm not throwing in the towel just like that, I'm not just going to stand there and let Voldemort murder me. But I'm not a moron. I know how these things work. And… it would be a lot easier if I knew you would be there for her. No matter what."
Ron's looking at him now, concern etched in his features. "You're… serious… aren't you?"
"You're not the only one that loves her," Harry says flatly.
Ron draws in a sharp intake of air. He stares at him for a moment, surprise on his features, before chuckling softly and shaking his head. Harry can see the understanding dawn in his eyes. They stare at each other for a moment, bodies tense.
Ron breaks through it. In a move that surprises both of them, he draws Harry into a tight hug. Harry hugs him back, feeling a wave of affection for his long-time friend.
"Don't you dare kick the bucket," Ron practically growls. "I'm planning on fighting you over her after this whole thing is over."
Harry grins, relief flooding through him. They're both startled when another pair of arms slide around their necks and they are no longer alone. It's Hermione. The three of them hold on to each other for a moment, their foreheads pressed together, the sound of their hard breathing the only noise.
"No good-byes," Hermione says softly, holding them both a little more tightly.
"Dear Merlin, no," Harry agrees immediately. "Long good-byes are terrible. All those tears and meaningless words. Best to skip it altogether."
"I love you two, you know," Ron says, sounding a little choked up.
"Ron!" Hermione hisses. "You're saying a good-bye!"
They pull away. The danger to break into hysterics is too great. They stare at each other for a beat, feeling the insurmountable battle before them.
"Well, see you later, then," Harry says, slowly backing away from them.
"See you later," they chorus, together, though the words sound forced and meaningless.
Harry glances at them one more time, standing next to each other, his two best friends. His gaze falls on Hermione and their eyes lock. He gives her a weak smile, the things left unsaid stretching before them like a canyon. Then he turns his back and walks away. His place is not with them. They will fight the Death Eaters, they will protect the castle and each other.
His place is with Voldemort.
Hermione rushes through Hogwarts' grounds. The smell of smoke hangs in the air. The stale feel of a large burst of magic surrounds her.
The battle is over. They have won.
There has been a cost, a high cost, a cost that she can't bear to begin contemplating. So many powerful witches and wizards are gone…
The yell of victory is only overshadowed by the yelling of shock and loss. There is confusion, as those in charge try to reign in some kind of order. There are people everywhere, demanding answers, searching for loved ones.
She knows she has to find him. He doesn't have much time left. She is sure of this. Just as she is sure that they need the final good-bye.
The smell of smock thickens and she follows it, stopping suddenly in shock. She has found a large, blackened out crater. A simple hole carved into the ground, black and charred, smoking lightly. She swallows, knowing what it is.
She finds Harry next to it. He's lying on his back, staring up at the sky, a bemused expression on his face. He doesn't appear to be suffering, though she finds his complete lack of cuts and bruises to be more disconcerting than anything else. She looks at him and she knows.
He is dying.
She falls to her knees beside him, cradling his head in her lap. He smiles tenderly up at her, his green eyes wide behind his glasses.
"I was hoping you would come."
She tries to smile, though her heart feels like its being squeezed painfully tight. She finds his hand. "Of course, I came. Can you walk? We need to get you out of here. We need to find a Healer or a Mediwitch… I think Madam Pomfrey's around somewhere…"
"Nothing can help me and you know it, Hermione," he says, his voice calm
She feels a flash of anger. How can he accept this? How can he just leave her behind?
"No," she grits out. "Don't say that. Don't do this to me."
He reaches a hand up to cup her cheek. "You'll go on, Hermione. You always do. You're the strongest witch I know."
She feels tears gather in her eyes. "Stop it," she whispers. "Don't, Harry. Please don't. I love you. I need you. Don't you dare leave me."
His eyes fill with unbearable sadness. "I'm sorry," he says, his voice weak. "I wish that it was different. I never expected… I love you, too."
"Then fight!" she says, her voice hoarse. "Don't just give up!"
"I'm sorry," he says again, his eyes clouding over. "So sorry."
She's crying because she can feel him giving up and she doesn't know how to help him, doesn't know what to do to make him stay with her.
"How am I supposed to go on without you?" she says brokenly. "This isn't fair! We can't share what we shared, only to get it ripped away the next day!"
His eyes bore into hers. "Keep it with you," he says. "Never forget what we shared. But you will go on. Stay with Ron, he loves you. He loves you like I love you."
She's crying because he's dying and he's comforting her. He's so calm, so sad, but so full of acceptance.
"Just tell me one thing," Harry says, his voice light. "Voldermort? Did I finally manage to kill him?"
She smiles, despite her tears. "Yes, you did. You were… you were so incredibly brave, Harry."
"I did it for you. Well, not entirely for you," he adds, hastily. "Mostly for you. I wanted you to live in a world without fear. Where you could raise children and have a family in safety."
She lets out a choked sob. "Don't you understand? That's all… that's meaningless without you, Harry! I'll never… I meant what I said. You're the only one in my heart. I can't give it to anyone else."
He closes his eyes for a moment, and she watches him struggle as he holds on. "I don't think… I don't think I want you to give it to anyone else. You just need to let someone else in enough. Enough to make it work."
She just shakes her head, her body trembling. She can't think about anyone else. She can't think that far ahead. She kisses him and feels his life draining out of him. She's hesitant to break away, knowing it is their last. Knowing that when she moves away all she'll have left is the memory.
When she does pull away she can still feel the soft brush of his lips against hers. She keeps her eyes closed for a moment, imprinting the memory on her brain, willing that touch to never leave her.
"Are you in pain?" she asks, opening her eyes and gently sliding her palm down his face.
"No. Not anymore."
She shivers. "Harry, please… don't… don't go…"
"I'm sorry," he says again, finding her gaze. She's surprised when he puts a hand on her stomach. She watches as something goes through his eyes. "Name your first child after me."
"No," he cuts in sharply. "No, that isn't right. Name your first child after one of my parents. That'll work," he continues, smiling. "Then the gender won't matter."
Oh. God. She's crying again. She can't help herself. Her tears stream down her cheeks and land on his face. He doesn't seem to notice.
"Of course… of course I will, Harry."
"Good," he says, closing his eyes.
She knows what's coming next and shudders, terrified. "Please…" she begs. "Please hold on, Harry."
"I love you. I should have been telling you that every day for the last two years. I messed up, Hermione. I let Ron get there first. But I do, more than anything."
"Then stay!" she bursts out angrily, she can't help herself. "If you love me so much, stay with me!"
"I wish I could, Hermione," he replies softly. "You have to believe me, I didn't chose this. I didn't want this. I envy Ron. He gets to spend the rest of his life with you. But… I have… I have your heart. And I think that, I think that might be the best part."
She's sobbing now, she can't control herself. She knows he can't stay, she knows that killing Voldermort has killed him, too. There is nothing that he can do about it.
"I love you, Harry. You have my heart."
He smiles a little at her words.
And then he is gone.
When Ron finds her an hour later, Harry's head is still on her lap and she is still crying. Ron's eyes darken at the sight of his fallen friend, but he remembers his promise. Gently, he takes Hermione's hands and pulls her to her feet. He encircles her in his arms and she cries heavily against him, her grief spilling out of her.
He soothes her and whispers to her, he cries with her, he rocks her, and some part of him knows. It's not really his arms she wants to be crying in.
When Hermione discovers that she is pregnant three months later, she is surprised at first. Though the grief she and Ron shared had pushed them closer in the last three months than in their last seven years at Hogwarts, they were always careful. With Harry's memory heavy on their hearts, they were desperately trying to build some kind of a life together. Children were the furthest things from their minds.
When the baby is born, Hermione is not surprised. She is beautiful, her daughter. She already has a mop of bushy, jet-black hair and big emerald, green eyes. She cradles her new child close to her chest, feeling the emptiness inside her begin to fill. Just a little.
"Lily," she tells the nurse, immediately. "Her name is Lily." Then, because it does not matter to her that it's a girl, she adds. "Lily Harry."
The nurse smiles and scribbles down the name. "So would that be Lily Harry Weasley, then? Or Lily Harry Granger?"
It's Ron who answers for her. Ron who had been with her through her grief over Harry. Ron who held her hair back when she had morning sickness. Ron who cooked for her. Ron who held her hand while she gave birth.
"Potter," he says softly, staring down at the child. "Lily Harry Potter."
Hermione finds his eyes and they lock for a moment, an understanding passing between them.
Hermione feels a rush of gratitude. That is it, then. The secret it is out. Ron knows, but he will keep his silence over it. For her. She wants to tell him that whatever part of her heart she didn't give to Harry is for him.
But she can't. Because she gave her whole heart to Harry.
She finds she can love him, almost for that alone. His unending support for Harry, despite all the reasons he could have to be bitter.
He smiles sweetly. "She's beautiful, Hermione."
She finds Ron's hand. Grips it.
"She is. She looks just like her father."
"Bloody handsome bugger, he was," Ron adds, squeezing her hand.
Hermione feels a lump gather in her throat. "He wanted to make the world safe for her. He knew, Ron. He knew before he died… he knew I was pregnant. I'm sure of it."
Ron swallows with difficulty. "Then he succeeded. He did make the world safe for her."
Hermione bites her lip, tears springing up in her eyes. "He did. I just wish…"
She shakes her head, and cradles Lily Harry Potter closer to her heart. "He was a great man, your father. He was a hero."
Ron's hand brushes over her hair. "She's a lucky girl, Lily."
"Thank you, Ron," Hermione whispers. "I couldn't have gotten through this without you. You know that, right?"
She misses the look of pain that momentarily passes over his features. "I made a promise," he answers quietly. "I'll be here as long as you need me."
"Good," Hermione says immediately, staring down into Lily's big, green eyes. "Good."
The End (heh)