Anywhere but in Between
I only own the plot.
Okay, folks, here it is. The End. Just in time, too, for us to enjoy the real thing (HP&HBP!).
Suckr4romance-I'm glad I almost had you convinced Harry was dead. I didn't know if it would be believable or not!
AngelicOne-I LOVED writing that scene with H/G…I just see them as having this intense, romantic love…
Ffaddix-I can't tell you how much it pleased me to see your review. George's line was my absolute favorite of the last ten chapters or so. I wrote it and was like, damn…Great minds think alike!
Lostinwonderland-They DID go down pretty easily, didn't they! LOL. It was three in the morning and I was like, ah, hell, just die already so we can get on with things. I know, a major cop out, but what can I say…I'm allowed at least one…
I'm not going to spout off about how much you all have meant to me during this writing process, because it would take ten pages itself. Just know that without your support I would have given up on this a while ago. Every review spurred me on and made me push myself to be better. So thank you.
Keep an eye out for me! I got lots more goodies to come in a few weeks, after we've all read the sixth book about a zillion times! I wish there was a way we could all talk to each other about it after we've read it…(I hate the HP chat rooms though. Immature children talking about anything but.) I might have to write a really stupid five line story and you guys can post reviews to it in the form of conversations about how you felt about the book. That would be funny!
Okay, so (sniff, sniff) here we go, for the last time…
Chapter 24 – Anywhere but in Between
He felt as if he was moving slowly through a thick fog, stumbling, reaching for something that was just beyond his grasp. Noises rushed all around him, blurring into the scenery, becoming a part of it long enough to cut through his mind.
A flutter of eyelids, painful – moving his arms to grab whatever was out there.
"That's it, Harry, now just open your eyes."
Hermione. It was her voice he was hearing, and that was a good thing. Hermione had always looked out for him, even when he didn't want her to. If she was here, he was alright.
He blinked, feeling his eyes burn at the slight movement, but he didn't want to sit in that fog any longer. He needed to escape the visions of his past, once and for all.
His eyes finally opened completely, but the world was one big blur. He could see the outline of Hermione's face, but beyond that, nothing. She seemed to read his mind, as she always did, and placed his glasses on his nose.
Once she was in focus, he could see the strain etched in her face. She looked as if she hadn't slept in weeks, if the dark circles under her eyes were any indication.
"Hey," she said softly, handing him a glass of water with a straw. He took it from her gladly, feeling the cool liquid almost burn a path down his parched throat.
"Where am I?" he asked, coughing a bit at the energy it took to form the simple question.
"You're in St. Mungo's," she replied, busying herself by straightening his bed sheets. "You've been unconscious for about a day."
Suddenly, everything came rushing back to him and he tried to sit up. The effort nearly winded him, but he had to know what was going on. "Ginny –"
"Is fine," Hermione consoled, pushing him back down. "As is everyone else. There were only two casualties from our side. A man named Martin from your department and a higher official in the ministry…I don't know his name."
Harry sighed deeply, allowing the news to fully wash over him. "What happened?" he asked, trying desperately to piece together the events that occurred after being trapped in the room with Ginny.
"If I start from the beginning, do you promise not to interrupt or move around? You're supposed to be resting…doctor's orders," she said, pointing to herself.
He nodded, and she settled herself on the side of his bed to fill in any gaps she could. As he listened, he couldn't believe how quickly they had overcome the Death Eaters this time around. When he said as much, Hermione shrugged.
"I count that as the one blessing that came out of this," she said resolutely. "I just don't think they knew what they were getting themselves into this time. Besides, how successful could they have been with Malfoy leading the charge?"
"What happened to him? And Bellatrix? Did all of the Death Eaters –"
"Harry, you said you weren't going to interrupt. I'll tell you everything I can, I promise. Besides, I have some questions of my own when I'm finished, so save your strength for answering them," she chided.
He grimaced at her, but went silent. Seemingly satisfied, she continued. "Well, after we secured the floors we headed down to the Great Hall. It's where Ron told everyone to go if we were separated, remember? We were only there a few minutes, but in that time, Knightly told us that the Aurors were going to transport the Death Eaters – yes, that includes Malfoy and Bellatrix – to the headquarters where Dementors were waiting to administer the kiss to them all." Here, she paused. Her eyes held Harry's evenly as she continued in a level voice. "Except Bellatrix. She was scheduled to be executed for crimes against the people."
Harry's eyes slid closed and he felt an overwhelming relief sweep over him. He had assumed, once, that he was not capable of wishing anyone dead, but he had been wrong. There were now two people whom he was not in the least sorry to see be put to death.
"Everyone is alright, Harry. The Weasleys, Lupin, Tonks, all the teachers…it's a miracle, but everyone is just fine. The Death Eaters have been destroyed, and the only thing that has kept everyone from celebrating is you lying in this hospital bed," she said, a small smile on her face.
Harry shifted, trying to find a comfortable position. His vision was completely clear now, but there was a dull ache around his ribs and abdomen. He brought his hand to his chest, and Hermione noticed the action.
"As for what happened to you, that's where I have some questions, but I'll tell you as much as I know first," she said, fixing his pillow so he could feel some relief in his midsection. "You were taken into the trophy room at Hogwarts and Ginny went after you. She said that Bellatrix had you tied up in enchanted ropes that you were struggling against. Hence, the bruising of your ribcage," she said, with a slightly disapproving look. "Anyway, Ginny said that Malfoy came along shortly after and was about to perform the killing curse on her when you shouted something that surrounded her with a shield of some sort."
Harry's chest began to hurt even more when he remembered the situation he had found himself facing in that room. He had come so close to losing Ginny, and he had never told her how he felt about her. It had been the most horrific moment of his life watching Malfoy's wand pointed directly at her heart. In that one blinding second, Harry had seen everything his life should have been, and wouldn't be, if Ginny were to die.
"Harry," Hermione said, breaking into his thoughts. "How on Earth did you know to perform the Mortego spell?"
He looked at her in surprise. "How did you know…?"
"There is only one thing that has ever stopped someone from dying at the hand of the killing curse. It's the deepest, most pure magic there is. The Mortego spell is probably what your own mother used on you when you were a baby," she explained quietly.
Harry sighed deeply, feeling the pain in his lungs as he did so. Wincing slightly, he shrugged. "Dumbledore told me about it when we were in seventh year," he said. "I guess by then he knew that half-truths and simple explanations weren't going to cut it with me anymore."
"But you didn't use a wand. Ginny said yours was at least ten feet away when you performed the spell," she said, raising her eyebrow in awe.
"Dumbledore said that it was such a distant, old form of magic that it didn't require wands," he said, shrugging again. "I guess I was so desperate to keep her safe that I didn't have time to think about what to do. I just did it."
Hermione's eyes grew bright for a moment, but she blinked rapidly and it was gone. "Harry, that spell is so complex that it binds together the two being protected. You split the curse so it would fall onto you."
"So why am I still alive?" he asked, thinking back to his mother. "If my mum performed the same spell when I was a baby, why didn't she survive, too?"
Hermione smiled softly. "Well, first, you were just a baby. You weren't big enough or aware enough to split the curse with your mother. Also, it was before any cognition or reciprocity on your part."
"Do you mind putting it in English, please?" he asked, his brow furrowed.
"When we're babies, we don't feel love. We don't feel anything really. We have needs, and yes, we know our mothers and fathers when they hold us or enter a room, but babies are incapable of acknowledging or returning feelings of love," she explained patiently.
"So when my mum deflected the curse, she died because I didn't love her enough?" he asked incredulously, his eyes narrowing at her.
She sighed in frustration. "No, Harry, you're missing the point. You were physically incapable of splitting the curse with her. She must have spoken the same words, put some sort of protective shield over you to deflect the curse onto herself, but some of it did get through to you. You got that scar, didn't you?" she asked, pointing at his head.
Harry's head swam in confusion. He still didn't understand what he was doing here when his mother had died performing the same spell.
Once again, Hermione didn't disappoint him. She read his thoughts as clearly as if he had spoken them aloud.
"Don't you get it? When you said the spell, you protected Ginny by deflecting the curse, sharing it with her. You didn't die because she is more than capable of expressing her love for you. You shared the curse equally because you share your love equally. You didn't die because just like you took half the curse for her, she took half for you."
So, as much as he may have saved Ginny, it was really Ginny who had saved him. By loving him, she had kept them both safe. His chest began to hurt again, but this time it had nothing to do with his wounds. He loved her, and more than anything at this moment, he wanted to see her.
"Is she okay?" he asked.
"She's fine," Hermione replied softly. "I checked her out myself. A bit banged up, but we all are. The only thing she got from the curse was a scar of her own, on the back of her left shoulder. She must have been turning toward you when the curse splintered the shield."
"Can I see her?"
"Of course. She's been at me all day to let her in, and seeing as how I'm the doctor, I can allow anything I want," she said, grinning at him.
As she got up off the bed, Harry reached out and grabbed her hand. "Hermione, thanks," he said. "Thanks for always taking such good care of me."
Hermione squeezed his hand, and laughed. "It's what friends do. I just wish you wouldn't make it a side-career of mine. I have plenty to be getting on with as it is."
Harry grunted, wincing at the repeated pain in his chest. Hermione laughed again and released his hand. "I'm warning you, Potter. No unnecessary movement," she said, waggling her eyebrows at him as she walked backward out the door.
A few moments later, the door opened again, and Harry watched silently as Ginny entered the room. Her long hair was disheveled and dirty, there were scratches on her pale cheeks, and she was walking with a slight limp.
Harry had never seen her look more beautiful.
She walked directly up to the side of his bed, and without so much as a word, ducked her head and pressed her lips against his gently. If there had been any doubt in Harry's mind before that he was indeed alive and well, it was gone now. He could feel the light caress of her kiss through every aching muscle in his body.
She broke away from him and sat on the edge of his bed, holding his face in her hands. "Don't ever do that to me again," she said softly, her eyes shining with unshed tears.
He nodded mutely, not taking his eyes off of hers for even a second.
"If you hadn't…Malfoy would have killed me," she said, letting her hands trail down to rest in his. "You saved me."
Remembering Hermione's words, he laced his fingers with hers. "You saved me, too."
"I guess we saved each other, then," she said, laughing quietly. Harry smiled at the sound. He knew he'd do anything in his power to hear it every day for the rest of his life.
"Ginny, months ago you told me you loved me, and I never told you back," he said. He tried to push up to a sitting position, but Ginny held him down and gave him a look.
"You didn't need to. The spell wouldn't have worked if you didn't love me like I love you," she explained softly.
"But I want to say it –"
"It's not the words that are important, Harry –"
"Yes, they are –"
"It's the actions, and you have –"
"Would you just let me say it?" he said forcefully, wincing a bit at the pain it caused him. Ginny fell silent at his insistent tone, and then she smiled.
Harry groaned inwardly. This wasn't how he had pictured this going. He wanted it to be romantic and sweet, not a declaration of love professed on the heels of his practically demanding that she stop talking.
"Well, now it's ruined," he said sullenly. "I mean, really, what sort of bloke yells at the woman he loves to be quiet so he can tell her that he loves her?"
Ginny burst out laughing at his expression. "Well, it's definitely not the stuff greeting cards are made of," she said, barely audible through her laughter.
Harry couldn't help it. As always, when Ginny laughed, it was infectious. He grinned at her and reached out to tug her down onto the bed with him.
"No, no," she said, trying to catch her breath. "Dr. Granger said no unnecessary movement."
Harry pulled harder, until she was lying next to him on his bed. "I would consider this very necessary."
They lay together, his arms around her as she laughed. She turned in his arms so they were face to face, and her laughter died down. Their eyes held each other's steadily as she put a light hand against his chest.
"Does it hurt much?" she asked, moving her hand slowly as if she could take the aches away.
"No," he said, feeling her hand trace soft patterns over his ribcage. "Does this?"
His hand crept up her back to her left shoulder, where the shirt had been torn away from her shoulder. His fingers felt the indentation of the scar there, and she smiled at him.
"No. I guess we can consider it a matching set," she said, her eyes flickering up to his forehead.
"You know, Hermione said that the spell binds the two people together who were being protected," he said, his voice as slow as her hands on his chest.
"Looks like you're stuck with me, Potter," she said softly, smiling up at him.
"I love you, Ginny," he said, before something else could come along and ruin it.
"I love you, too," she replied quietly, leaning in to meet his kiss halfway. Then she pulled back, a playful grin on her face.
"You know, I think I liked it better when you were telling me to shut up," she said. "Much more our style."
"Really?" he said, giving her a look. "So instead of me telling you that I love you every day, you want me to tell you to shut up?"
"Sure," she retorted, still grinning. "Why not break from tradition?"
"Alright, then. Shut up, Ginny," he said, causing her to break out in a fit of laughter. "Shut up, shut up, shut up."
"Wow, I think that's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me," she said, her eyes shining into his. "In fact, I can't wait to tell my parents that today, you told me to shut up and it made me so happy –"
"Yeah?" she said, wiping at her eyes.
"Shut up." Before she could begin laughing again, Harry lowered his head and captured her mouth in a kiss that left no doubt in either of their minds that even if the spell hadn't bound them to each other, their love did.
Ron cast a look at the door to Harry's room. He could hear Harry and Ginny laughing loudly behind it, then in the next instant, silence. He shook his head.
"Nutters, they are. Both of them," he mumbled to himself. He sank further into the chair across the hall from the room, knowing that it would probably be a good, long while before Ginny let him have his visit with his best mate.
The rest of his family was crowded into the main waiting room upon Hermione's orders that Harry could only have one visitor at a time. She was still busy checking them all out anyway, not trusting it to any of the other healers actually on duty. It was almost as if she wouldn't believe they were all fine unless she saw it for her own eyes.
Just then, she came out of one of the examination rooms with Fleur. Ron immediately rose to his feet when he saw the tears on Fleur's cheeks.
"What is it?" he asked in alarm. "Are you okay?"
Hermione and Fleur shared a look, and Fleur laughed through her tears. "I'm fine, Ron. I just have to find my husband."
Ron watched her walk past him before turning in confusion to Hermione. "What's going on?"
Hermione simply grabbed his hand and began following Fleur down the hall, smiling in such a soft way that he wanted to pull her into a corner and kiss her until she couldn't stand up any longer.
When they reached the waiting area, Bill was standing in front of Fleur, demanding to know why she was crying. Ron had never seen his brother look so scared in his entire life.
Fleur was shaking her head, trying to speak, but she began crying even harder. She looked back at Hermione, helplessly.
Hermione smiled reassuringly at Bill, her own eyes bright. "You're going to be a father, Bill."
Ron was quite sure that they would be kicked out of the hospital at any moment after all was said and done. There was such an uproar of congratulations and well-done's that it sounded as if they were throwing their own private party right there on the ward.
His mother started bawling so hard that Fred had to guide her into a seat so she could collect herself. Mr. Weasley was pumping Bill's hand, and George and Charlie were trying to guide Fleur into a seat of her own.
Ron joined his family, embracing his brother who was now shaking like a leaf. When he released him, Bill turned sharply to Hermione and croaked out, "Tonight…after all that…the baby, Fleur…they're fine?"
Hermione smiled softly at Bill. "Perfectly fine."
Bill seemed to deflate with relief as he went to sit next to his wife. He took her in his arms, and the two remained in each other's embrace for a very long while. Then Fred yelled out, "I hope it's a girl!" and Ron had to recant his earlier statement. He had never seen Bill look this scared in his entire life.
Ron turned to Hermione, who was watching the joyous scene with a look of utter serenity on her face. He reached down for her hand, and when their fingers met, she turned to look at him. He pulled her away with him, suddenly wanting to be alone with her more than anything in the world.
He found a quiet, secluded corner and pulled her into his arms. "You're amazing, you know that?" he said quietly, trailing kisses down her jawline.
She laughed softly. "I didn't do anything. Fleur isthe one who's pregnant."
His arms tightened around her, holding her as close to him as he could. "Everything, this whole night…Harry's okay, my sister, the baby…" his voice failed him and the smile left her face. Her hand reached up to cradle his cheek as her eyes grew serious.
"You're the one who did it," she said quietly. "You figured out how to save us all. All the students, their families, they all owe you their lives. I've never been more proud of you."
He exhaled a long breath and turned his face to kiss the inside of her palm. "You know, tonight, when you went to help McGonagall, I had this split second where I was transported back to the fight three years ago at the ministry," he said. "Watching you run off to fight, wondering if that was the last time I'd see you alive…"
"No, let me finish," he said, and she fell silent. "Back then, that night, I realized I loved you, how much I needed you in my life, and I never said anything. I waited, and for years I was in this in between place where in my mind I was more than your friend, but less than I wanted to be. Now that we're here," he said, taking a long, steadying breath, "I realize that it's like that night all over again."
Her face clouded in confusion. "I don't understand. We're fine, we're here together…"
"I watched you run off again tonight, knowing that you knew I loved you, but not that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you," he said, his voice shaking despite his best efforts. "I'm in that place again because I'm your boyfriend, but I want to be more."
The confusion in Hermione's eyes was replaced with a look of understanding. The softest, mostamazing smile crossed her face, nearly taking all his remaining breath from his body.
"Someday you will be," she said in a low voice, stroking his cheek gently.
Their lips found each other's in a soft kiss, full of memories of the past and a promise for the future. It wasn't enough for them after a while, however, as they deepened their kiss to the point where neither was standing solely on their own any longer. They were leaning on each other, drawing strength from the otheras they had always done.
Hermione broke away to catch her breath, and took hold of his hand.
"You know, I just realized something," she said, her eyes twinkling mischievously. "I never gave you your examination." His eyes met hers and he smiled, wondering how on Earth he had ever gotten on without her.
As she led him down the hall to the most remote, most secluded examining room, he realized that now, he would never have to wonder again. They were still young, but someday…she would be his wife, he would be her husband, and they would have a family of their own.
I hope I fulfilled my fluff duties with this chapter, leaving a good feeling in the hearts of all my readers. I actually like the way this turned out. I was toying around with the idea of a proposal at the end, but if I'm true to my story they are only around 21 or so. I thought that a bit young, although it seems that in the wizarding world people have their children much younger. Still, Hermione and Ron have quite a few years of hot passion still to discover before the kids start coming…
Well, that's it. Kind of sad, actually, but at least it's going to be out there forever in a way. Kind of happy, too, because I just got the most brilliant idea for another story, and I can't wait to start working on it.
I don't want to say goodbye, so I'll just say, See Ya 'Round.
I truly hope that this story finds everyone happy, and healthy. Thanks again.