Author's Notes: Ah, the long-awaited epilogue. I seriously doubted this would ever happen, but happen it has.
I'm not sure if the epilogue is a good thing or a bad thing. I don't think it packs as much punch as the other chapters, but I liked putting it in and tying everything up. So here you go.
The student body of Hogwarts, for once, had no idea what had happened. They couldn't even begin to come up with any idea what the truth about Fred and Hermione's past and present relationship was, and neither of them was willing to share. So Fred and Hermione just sort of went from the most talked-about couple to the most confusing couple at Hogwarts, and, in time, they all decided to leave it at that.
Harry did shout quite a bit at them both when they went to apologize for the whole near-death thing on the Quidditch pitch, but he was so relieved that their fight was over that he couldn't stay angry for long. He gave them his blessing, and so did Ron (though slightly more reluctantly), which surprised both Fred and Hermione. Ginny, of course, was ecstatic for them, and Lee and George were so grateful for an end to the miniature war that to celebrate they threw a party in the common room that became one of the best in Gryffindor history.
Fred and Hermione spent the next month in detention, thanks to Snape (who became even more vindictive after the Stunning incident) and their inability to keep their hands off of each other. They used the time to talk, get to know each other more, and grow even closer as the school's bathrooms grew cleaner than they'd ever been before. For the rest of the school year, Fred could be seen walking her to classes and carrying her books (which was no easy task when it came to Hermione) and Hermione could be seen laughing at his jokes and occasionally even helping him with some rule-breaking scheme.
She spent most of the following summer at the Burrow with Fred or at the joke shop he and George opened upon leaving Hogwarts, though she made it a point to spend plenty of time with Harry, Ron and Ginny as well. When term started again, Fred, who had completed his final year, became quite depressed and Hermione felt his absence as well. Fred's solution to this was to sneak into Hogwarts, which almost got him killed. Security spells were high, thanks to Voldemort, so three minutes after he'd arrived in Hermione's dormitory through the window, McGonagall, Snape, Dumbledore and half a dozen other teachers burst in on them, certain that a Death Eater had broken in. While Fred smiled and waved, Hermione nearly died of embarrassment. Dumbledore decided to remedy their loneliness (and prevent any more false alarms) by giving Fred permission to visit the school during the day on weekends, and this cheered both Hermione and Fred greatly.
By the time the Christmas holidays rolled around, Fred and Hermione had never been more attached to each other. Even Ginny was starting to make gagging sounds whenever she saw them together. Hermione and Fred agreed to cool it a little over the holidays to spare their friends, and as such they decided to get together before Harry, Ron and Ginny also returned to the Burrow for Christmas.
Hermione, having turned seventeen during September of her sixth year (and therefore able to use magic), decided to forgo the Hogwarts Express trip on the last day of holidays, and she Apparated straight to the Burrow to spend some much-needed alone time with Fred. Fred met her in the snow-covered garden and kissed her hello.
"About bloody time we got some alone time together," Fred grumbled. "Hogwarts has way too many students. Although our experiences with people walking in on us has led George and I to trying to invent a new locking spell. A more foolproof one."
"Well, at least it's just the two of us now," Hermione said, smiling. "Unless—are your parents home?"
"No, no, Dad's at work and Mum's visiting friends of hers," Fred said dismissively. "I thought we might go out, though, you know? We've only ever been to Hogsmeade together on dates. Maybe we could go to Diagon Alley or something—hey! Where are we going?"
Hermione had seized his hand and begun marching towards the house. "To be alone together," she told him with a mischievous grin. Fred was so startled he nearly fell over, but he caught himself quickly. Hermione dragged him through the house and up to his room. After she shut the door behind them, it didn't reopen for hours. (Well, unless you count those few seconds when they realized George was in the room, and they were forced to ask him politely to leave—i.e., Hermione drew her wand and marched him out of the room like a pirate brandishing a sword at a prisoner walking the plank.)
Hermione dozed off a good while later, and Fred watched her sleep, grinning down at her, remembering the last time he'd seen her sleep—over a year ago on the common room couch, muttering and covered in books. After watching her for long, peaceful moments, he reached out to shake her shoulder.
"Wha?" she groaned.
"Wake up, love, you're too cute in your sleep," he said, pecking a kiss on her lips. "Besides, the last time I watched you sleep, it set off this chain reaction of dangerous and bizarre events."
Hermione giggled and snuggled closer to him. "Well, it did work out pretty well in the end, wouldn't you say?"
"Definitely," Fred murmured. Then he frowned thoughtfully. "Although I seem to remember getting walked in on a lot, and I have no idea what time Mum is supposed to come home."
Hermione's eyes widened in horror and she leaped out of the bed, scrambling for her clothes while Fred laughed himself sick. Once she was dressed, she turned to glare at him irritably… and then her face softened. She knelt beside the bed and poked him in the shoulder to get him to look at her. "Fred?"
"What, love?" he gasped out, trying to regain control of himself.
"I just… I have this really strange feeling about me. Like I can do anything right now. Like I can face all my fears."
"Any fears I can help you face at present?" Fred joked, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
"Yes, actually," Hermione said, her smile becoming downright wicked. She stood up. "I want you to take me sledding."
"Sledding. I want to face my fears. And I feel so safe with you now. Come on, please?"
"Do you not remember what happened last time?"
"Yes, but that was different. You'll be with me, not cursing me." She gave him her best puppy-dog eyes and added a final, "Please?"
Fred shrugged. "Ah, why not? Let's go, then."
Five minutes later, they entered the living room, to find George playing wizard's chess with Charlie. "Hi," Hermione said brightly, waving at them both (George ducked; he'd never quite gotten over his nervousness of Hermione). "We're going sledding; do you want to come?"
"Sledding? I thought you hated sledding, especially after Fred—" George was careful to emphasize the culprit— "jinxed you last time."
"I do hate it. To be perfectly honest, it scares the crap out of me. That's why I want to try it. I want to get over it." Hermione beamed at them and laced her fingers with Fred's.
Charlie and George looked at Fred, who shrugged. "She's in a weird mood."
"Wonder why?" Charlie muttered with a smirk. Fred glared at him and Charlie raised his hands in the classic peacemaking gesture.
"I'm in," Charlie said. "George here sucks at chess, anyway. I've been bored out of my skull."
"Hey, I told you, the Exploding Snap deck was in my room, or we could have played that," George retorted, glowering at his twin.
The four of them made their way to the backyard and began dragging the sled up the same hill that Bill, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny had once climbed. When they reached the top, Charlie climbed in, followed by George and Fred. Fred beckoned to Hermione, who suddenly appeared reluctant.
"Come on, Mione," Fred cajoled. "We're just gonna go down the hill. There's nothing to be afraid of."
A slow smile lit Hermione's face as she pulled out her wand and waved it. The sled's seatbelts sprang forward, strapping the twins and Charlie to the sled. "That's right, love," she said, her smile becoming a smirk. "There's nothing to be afraid of. Keep telling yourself that."
"I hate you, Fred," George whimpered, staring at Hermione with nothing short of terror.
"Come on, Hermione, quit playing around," Charlie said in his patented talking-to-crazed-people voice. "We're very sorry about last year, aren't we, guys?" George began nodding vigorously.
Fred struggled to undo his seatbelt. "Oh, come on, Hermione," he chided, looking exasperated. "It was just a har—AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
Hermione cackled maniacally as one wave of her wand sent the sled shooting backwards down the hill, its three riders screaming bloody murder. "That's the difference between you and me, Fred!" Hermione shouted after them, stuffing her wand back in her pocket and watching the runaway sled with satisfaction.
"When it comes to me, it's never just a harmless joke!"
End Notes: Well, there you have it. The final chapter after the final chapter of "Just a Harmless Joke." To be perfectly honest, I'm not completely happy with it, so I might come back and fix up at least the epilogue one day, if not the rest of the story (though I want to edit the story, too). I doubt I'll EVER do a sequel, but sometimes I think about it, so you never know.
I hope you liked this. It looks like "Just a Harmless Joke" is now completely over… sigh. I did so enjoy this story. Oh, and by the way—I now have my own livejournal to keep in touch with my reviewers; the link is in my bio. Thanks for reading, to every last one of you. I still read all new reviews for this story, and I always will—they never cease to cheer me up, and maybe one day I'll get inspiration for a sequel from someone. I love Fred/Hermione more than any other ship, and I hope I'll come up with a new tale soon.