A/N- The final chapter has come at last! I can hardly believe it- I've been working on this story since after the sixth book came out, and now we're almost to the seventh- craziness. The title of this chapter comes from the movie "The Good German."
Picking Up the Pieces
If War is Hell, What Comes After?
Three months later…
Harry sat at the dimly lit table, finishing his glass of wine. Ginny sat across from him, her short red hair pushed back with a headband. The scars on her pale skin were well hidden under a long-sleeved black dress. She looked incredibly small under the voluminous layers. Her cheekbones jutted out against her skin, and her once shining blue eyes looked continually exhausted. It made Harry feel a terrible sense of guilt just looking at her like this. She put on a brave face for everyone, smiling and laughing at the festivities celebrating the defeat of Voldemort. But when they were alone, her façade slipped and Harry saw that, three months later, she was nowhere near healed.
"Gin, you need to eat something." He said, looking at her barely touched plate of fish.
"Harry, I already have my mum and dad obsessing over how much I eat. I don't need this from you."
"I'm sorry…I'm just…worried about you."
"I know! I get it! Everyone's worried! But just…don't be. I don't want to talk about what happened anymore. I'm not going to off myself or anything, and I'm so happy everything worked out in the end. That's all that matters."
"That's not all that matters."
Ginny took a long sip from her glass of water, checking the watch hanging on her sickly thin wrist.
"Where are Ron and Hermione anyway?"
"I don't know. They told us six o'clock, right?"
"Yeah. The newspapers are going to figure out where you are sooner or later, I wish they'd hurry up before this turns into another media frenzy."
Harry sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"It'll die down eventually."
"Harry, you liberated the entire Wizarding world. I don't think it will die down anytime soon."
Ginny looked around, seeing that more than a few people were looking at the two of them, exchanging whispers.
"I'm afraid you're doomed to a life of celebrity."
Just then, the door to the restaurant banged open, Ron holding the door for Hermione, both of them looking rather wind-blown and laughing about something.
Ginny and Harry both looked up, happy to see living proof of the most tabloid-celebrated result of this whole ordeal- Harry Potter's two best friends had gotten married.
Hermione spotted Harry and Ginny, waving as Ron took their coats to the cloak room.
"Already delegated him to the hapless husband?" Ginny grinned as Hermione came over, kissing Ginny's cheek and hugging Harry.
"Of course. Sorry we're late." Hermione grinned, smoothing down her straightened hair as she took a seat.
Harry couldn't believe how much older Hermione seemed. In just three months, she had left girlhood completely behind. Wearing a white button-down shirt and a skirt, her gold wedding band glinting in the light, the little girl he'd grown up with seemed a far-distant memory.
This experience had aged all of them, for the worse or better. It had certainly agreed with Ron and Hermione, who had gone from bickering teenagers to a married couple in what seemed like no time at all. Many people had whispered behind their backs that they had rushed into it, that maybe Hermione was pregnant (she vehemently denied this, especially to a skeptical Mrs. Weasley whose 'intuition' told her otherwise), that it would never last. But Harry, who knew them better than anyone, saw this as a long time coming. He was genuinely happy that something tangibly good had come out of all of this.
He kept being celebrated as a savior, but he still felt incredibly empty. Lupin was dead. Sirius and his parents' false reappearances had hurt him more than he let on. All of the victims claimed by the war were still lost. Ginny was changed, maybe irrevocably so. The numbers were still coming in on the missing and dead.
It was hard to keep smiling as people congratulated him, when he felt like the defeat of Voldemort had left him even colder and more cut-off than before.
"Bloody freezing out there! Where's this storm come from?" Ron said, coming up to the table, kissing his sister's cheek and clapping Harry on the shoulder.
"Well, if someone would learn to apparate properly…" Hermione grinned.
"Quiet, you." Ron smiled back.
"I'm just saying…"
"Ignore her, she has no idea what she's talking about, I prefer not to apparate."
Hermione shook her head, sighing.
"Oh, Gin, Harry, mum and dad were wondering if you two would come over two weeks from this Sunday. Big family dinner." Ron asked, flipping through the menu.
Ginny and Harry looked at each other, shrugging.
"Yeah, sure." Harry said.
"Mum'll be thrilled. She asks about you two every second she's not asking me about when Ron and I plan on 'becoming a family'." Hermione rolled her eyes.
Ron looked alarmed.
"No new developments on that front, I'm assuming?"
"You know what they say about assumptions." Ginny grinned.
Ron looked between his sister and wife as if they knew something he didn't.
"You'd be the first to know." Hermione assured him.
Ron, a little flushed, took a sip of water.
"I mean, we just got married a month ago. Shouldn't she be bothering Bill and Fleur more than us?" He said in a slightly nervous voice.
"She's more bothered with trying to get them to move closer to home. Wants the whole family together, you know." Ginny sighed.
"Are they still in Egypt?" Hermione asked.
As Hermione and Ginny kept talking, Ron leaned over to Harry.
"Hey…did you hear about Snape?"
Harry looked up, surprised.
"His memorial's next week. Some secret location. Dad said the Aurors at work are trying to figure out where, so they can arrest anyone who attends. Said Severus died Public Enemy Number One, no matter what we say he did for Ginny."
Harry let this sink in for a moment.
"Why would I lie to make Snape look better than he really was? I hated him. I always will."
"I know that. I saw what really happened, remember? But apparently no one's really all that convinced. All they believe is that you beat Voldemort, and that's all anyone really cares about."
"I still don't understand why he did that."
"People change." Ron shrugged.
"No, they don't."
"Harry, look around the table. We've all changed. Why couldn't Snape?"
"Don't tell me you feel sorry for him." Harry said, his eyes narrowed.
Hermione and Ginny looked over at Harry's angry voice.
"Sorry for who?" Hermione asked.
"Ron seems to think Snape was some kind of martyr now."
Ginny and Hermione exchanged a look.
"Oh, and now you do too? Are you forgetting that he killed Dumbledore? Forced someone to pretend to be Sirius?"
"Harry, calm down." Hermione put her hand on his arm.
He shook her off, looking to Ginny for support.
"Snape saved my life." Ginny said softly.
Harry looked at her, shocked.
"You honestly thought I was going to kill you?"
Harry and Ginny had skirted around this topic (and most others) since it had happened, but it could only go so long without being addressed, and they both knew it. They had been pretending to be a happy reunited couple, but had kept their conversation and interaction weirdly formal and polite.
Ron and Hermione looked at each other, alarmed.
"Of course you wouldn't have done that…" Hermione laughed nervously.
Harry ignored her, still looking at Ginny.
"Answer me. Did you think I was going to kill you?"
"Guys!" Ron looked between them helplessly.
There was long, tense silence.
Ginny took a deep breath, her eyes unwavering as they filled with tears.
"I didn't think you'd do it. But I wanted you to kill me. I was hoping you would."
Hermione looked at her with wide eyes as Ron's mouth fell open with shock. Ginny got up, practically running from the table.
Ron got up to follow her, but Harry put his hand on his shoulder.
"This is between me and Ginny."
And he went after her.
"What the bloody hell is going on with them?" Ron shook his head, getting undressed that night.
Hermione sighed, putting down the book she was reading in bed.
"They've both been through a lot, Ron. Every since they were eleven, Harry and Ginny have been through a lot. We can't understand it, because we've always been the ones watching from the outside. We've never been possessed by Voldemort. We've never been tortured. Harry's right- it's their fight, it's their conversation. You and I just need to let them deal with it."
"Hermione, it's Ginny and Harry! She wants to kill herself, and Harry's practically been a zombie since it all ended! You're not worried?"
"Of course I'm worried. But we can't help them."
Ron sighed, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
"I can't accept that."
"You don't have a choice."
He looked at her for a long moment. With a sigh of resignation, he lay back beside her in bed, Hermione pulling the comforter over his lanky form clad in plaid pajamas.
Ron switched out the lamp next to the bed, and they lay there in darkness for a moment, listening to the cold, rainy night outside. Hermione snuggled closer to him, thinking how nice and warm he always felt in bed beside her.
"I thought things would get better when this was all over." He said sadly.
"Things have gotten better. Voldemort's gone. But that doesn't just erase all the things that got lost along the way."
"Or found." Ron smiled at her, his face in shadowy outlines.
"That was cheesy." She giggled.
"Heaven forbid I try to be romantic."
"I love you, you know."
"I love you, too. And if that's the only thing we've got in the middle of all this, that's a hell of a lot to me."
Hermione smiled, genuinely touched.
Ginny pulled her cloak tighter around herself, barely feeling the ice cold rain. She wanted to be away- away from all of this, away from them, away from the memories she couldn't stop reliving. If only she could not feel anymore, not hurt anymore- she would give anything just to disappear.
She thought she could be all right, thought she could put it all behind her now that it was over- but she couldn't. And she couldn't pretend anymore.
She looked up, finding herself in the dark and winding streets of a nearly deserted Knockturn Alley. No one dared to show their face here after the defeat of Voldemort. They knew Ministry patrols of the area were rigorous during the day, and to come here at night was said to be only for those with a death wish. The hardest and most vicious of Voldemort's former followers were said to have secret meetings in the empty, dusty basements of the shops, planning their revenge.
It was all rumor of course, and no Death Eaters had even been glimpsed since the day Voldemort had fallen. But there was still of a heavy air of unease and decay in the empty streets, like a hand slowly winding spindly fingers around Ginny's throat.
What if the rumors were true? What if she came face-to-face with her former captors?
She wondered what she would do if she saw Bellatrix again, the woman who had continuously tortured her. Would she be afraid? Resigned? Angry?
She continued down along the cobbled road, and came to the Hangman's Cliff at the end of the path. She looked down, hundreds of metres, down into the dark waters of the ocean.
Ginny felt dizzy, stumbling backwards into the famous tree at the edge of the cliff where hundreds of Muggles and Halfbloods who opposed the Purebloods had been executed in the tumultuous times before the Founders.
She had learned this place's grisly history in History of Magic. Heaven knows why she was remembering it now. That class- that girl who had scrupulously written notes to friends while pretending to listen seemed very far away now.
Once, she had found gory stories of the past fascinating, a great way to liven up a boring class. But not now. Death seemed much nearer to her now that it had then. And she felt much closer to the line between the living and the dead that so many here had crossed.
So many dead. So many lost. But not her. Why not her?
Ginny closed her eyes, refusing to listen.
She looked at the edge of the cliff.
What if she just walked off it? Right now?
She remembered Hermione had told her once that the difference between a crazy person and a sane person is that they both hear the little voice telling them do something mad, but the crazy person is the one who does it.
Maybe she was crazy. Maybe she had been for a long time.
She took a few tentative steps forward, the waves crashing against the rocks coming into view. It really wouldn't be that difficult…certainly easier than watching Bellatrix sharpen a knife that she knew was about to be dug into her skin…
Ginny spread her arms out wide. Maybe she'd be like a phoenix…rise from the ashes of this life in a glorious rebirth somewhere else…somewhere better…
She felt her feet slip slightly as she came to the edge. Someone was yelling, but she could barely hear it over the storm.
She took a deep breath, stepping forward again.
But suddenly, a surprisingly strong grip caught her from behind, pulling her backwards onto the soaking wet grass. It was Harry, He half-carried, half-dragged a struggling Ginny underneath the tree.
Once they were somewhat shielded from the rain, he took her by the arms, shaking her.
"What do you think you're doing? Have you lost your mind?" Harry yelled, his voice shaky and hysterical.
"Let go of me!" Ginny yelled back, trying to shake his grip.
"No! I'm not letting you do this! I'm not letting you kill yourself!"
"WHY NOT? You couldn't finish the job, why shouldn't I? I'm supposed to be dead, Harry, don't you get it? You keep saving me, and for what? So the whole cycle can start again? I'm not waiting around for it anymore- at least this way, I choose when it happens. How it happens."
Harry looked at her incredulously.
"Listen to yourself! Listen to what you're saying! That's insane!"
"Maybe I'm crazy, Harry! Maybe you are too! Tell me it doesn't make you sick to your stomach to have everyone smiling and congratulating you when you know that so many people died! Tell me it doesn't make you want to throw up when you see Ron and Hermione acting like nothing bad even happened! I can't take it, Harry! I can't keep faking like I'm going to be fine, when I know I'm not! And everyone just keeps looking at me like the way I feel is wrong, and that it's just ruining all the happy people's day to have to DEAL with crazy, fucked-up Ginny!"
Harry took a deep breath, his green eyes dark and hurt.
"Ginny…what you just said…I have felt that way every day of my life."
She looked back at him, catching her breath. For the first time in a long time, she felt a stab of remembrance of the aching, consuming feeling Harry had always stirred up in her. The air between them was suddenly electric, their sadness and anger becoming something else.
"I don't want to feel this anymore." She said quietly.
"Me neither." Harry said.
They leaned towards each other, kissing for the first time since it had all happened. It was a strange, almost desperate embrace, both of them wanting to block everything out, just forget it all, if only for a moment.
But that wouldn't work. And Ginny knew it.
She broke away from him, getting to her feet.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I just can't…I can't watch myself become your charity project. You're doing this because you feel like you have to, to stop the crazy girl from doing crazy things, and I…I don't want your pity."
Harry looked suddenly furious and slightly embarrassed.
"My pity? Give me a break, Ginny! You want someone to feel sorry for you? Sorry, it won't be me. You have the perfect family who loves you, who wants to give you everything, who wants you to be happy! You've been through a hard time, yes, but have you ever stopped to think about how many hard times I've had to go through with no one to come back to? No one to depend on? Every battle I've fought, I've fought on my own! And do you see me throwing myself off cliffs?"
She turned to him, furious.
"Oh, no, because the noble, perfect Harry Potter would never think of doing something like that! Poor little orphan Harry, who just uses his friends to construct the family he wishes he had! Of course, no one but you understands real pain! No one but you has ever suffered or lost or gotten hurt- you just get the automatic trump card in that department! You win, Harry! You win the horrible life contest! I'm sorry for even trying to compete!"
Harry stepped away from her, his expression completely blank but tears sliding down his cheeks.
Ginny swallowed hard, knowing she had gone too far.
"Harry…" She stepped towards him, reaching for his hand.
He hit her hand away.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it, I…"
"But you did mean it! And that's what I don't get about you, Gin- nothing is ever good enough. I have tried everything, done everything to try to make life better for you, for us- and then I find you trying to kill yourself. Do you know how that makes me feel? After all of this, after all this time searching for you? I was willing to give up everything and I…I still would. But that would have been a mistake, wouldn't it? If it's so easy for you to just throw it all away?"
"I can't help how I feel."
"No, you can't. None of us can. But you can help what you choose."
"Don't lecture me, Harry."
"Just listen to me! Sometimes, making a choice to keep going is the only way I could. There was something Dumbledore told me a long time ago. He told me, it's our choices that make us who we really are. You have to choose to keep going, Gin. Choose to see your life as a gift, not a curse."
Ginny blinked back tears of her own. She suddenly felt like a selfish, petulant child. And Harry…her Harry, the boy she had loved since she was a girl, had become a man right in front of her eyes.
Harry looked at the dying storm, stepping out from under the tree. The fresh smell of everything in the old world being washed away permeated the air. Ginny followed him, suddenly desperately wanting him to stay.
"Harry, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what I said."
"No, it's not. I wasn't thinking- I was acting like an idiot. I'm sorry."
"I told you…I understand what you were thinking. I've thought the same thing a hundred times over."
She took his hand.
"Please, forgive me."
Harry looked down at her.
"I forgive you, Gin." He said, and she couldn't tell if he meant it.
Ginny smiled, but it was a bit forced.
"Let's get you home." Harry broke the awkward silence.
"Where are you going to stay?"
"My flat here. You need time with your family."
"I…I'd rather just stay with you."
Harry looked at her, surprised.
Ginny blushed furiously.
"Never mind. Nothing."
"I know It's not the right time for either of us. For that. I know. Sorry."
"Don't be sorry- I just think, for now anyways, let's just-"
They walked along the path, finally reaching his flat. They walked up the stairs together, reaching Harry's door, numbered 203.
"Thanks, Harry. Yet again…thank you." She smiled.
"I told you, you don't need to thank me." He said, getting the key to the door out from his wallet and unlocking the door.
"Okay well…I'll see you later."
"Yeah. See you."
"Friends?" Ginny suddenly stuck out her hand, smiling.
Harry turned to look at her, suddenly seeing a flicker of the Ginny he had fallen in love with. He always loved the way her freckled nose crinkled when she grinned, her big blue eyes warm and sparkling.
"Yeah. Friends." He smiled back, shaking her hand firmly.
Ginny let go quickly, sticking her hands in her pockets.
"Oh, yeah- come on inside, you can use my fireplace to get home. It's approved, don't worry."
"I was really concerned." She giggled, following him inside.
Hermione walked through the doors of the refurbished Ministry, holding lunch for herself and Ron.
It had become their nice little newlywed tradition that every Wednesday she brought him take out from the same little shop, and they had lunch in his cramped little office.
Ron had temporarily taken over for his father, who, on Molly's insistence, was taking a much-needed break after the war.
Hermione was still figuring out what she wanted to do, and wanted to give it a good amount of thought and not jump into anything. She was still working on her graduation degree from Hogwarts, which McGonagall had agreed to give her by correspondence (Ron had said she could probably finish the curriculum in a weekend if she really wanted).
She stepped into the nearest elevator, and nearly ran straight into Tonks.
"Oh!" Hermione started, dropping her plastic silverware and nearly everything else.
Tonks helped her pick up wordlessly.
"Thanks--at least nothing spilled!" Hermione giggled nervously, stepping into the elevator just as the doors closed, sealing them both in awkward proximity.
"How are you, Hermione?" Tonks asked, her toneless voice indicating little interest.
Tonks' hair was long and dark, pulled back in a tight ponytail, and her youthful face looked tired and drawn. She was wearing a black sweater and jeans, looking about ten years older than the last time Hermione had seen her.
"I'm doing really well, thank you. How about you?"
"Fine." Tonks said quickly.
"Tonks, I'm so sorry." Hermione said, her words coming out in a rush.
Tonks swallowed hard.
"Can we not do this?"
"You have to talk to someone!"
"Hermione...I'm trying really hard to be okay here. I'm just here to clean out of my office and I'll be out of everyone's way…so just please, please don't say anything else about it."
"We all miss him."
Tonks looked at her, her big blue eyes furious. For a second, Hermione thought Tonks was going to slap her.
But she didn't. She stepped closer to Hermione.
"How would you feel if Ron had died?"
"Imagine Ron dying right in front of you, right in your arms. Saying he doesn't want to live anymore. And there's absolutely nothing you can do. Imagine that, and then you'll scratch the surface of how much I miss him."
The doors opened at the next floor, and a short old wizard with flaming red hair got on.
He looked between them, laughing.
"I'm losing me mind! Forgotten me spectacles at home again!"
Tonks and Hermione stood there silently, forcing smiles.
"Knock, knock!" Hermione grinned, stepping through the door of Ron's office.
"Hey, Mrs. Weasley!" Ron smiled, getting up to kiss her and set the food down on the table.
"That still freaks me out." She laughed, pulling a chair to the other side of his desk.
"Me kissing you?"
"Ha. Ha. No, the 'Mrs. Weasley' thing."
"It's a very distinguished name." Ron said, feigning hurt.
"I just always think someone's talking to your mother when people call me that."
Ron shrugged, digging into his bangers and mash as Hermione sat down across from him.
"Did you talk to Ginny or Harry?" Hermione asked, dipping a piece of fish into mushy peas, a habit which continually grossed Ron out.
She hardly thought he was one to talk about gross eating habits.
"I talked to Harry this morning. He said everything's fine."
"Really?" Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"Apparently. They battled it out, and now everything's fine."
"Hmm." Hermione stabbed her fish with her fork again.
"Oh no. The 'hmm.' What did I do now?"
"Nothing- I just find it hard to believe that everything got wrapped up so nicely."
"Well, talk to Ginny then. I'm sure she'll give you all the gory details."
Hermione nodded, and they ate in silence for a moment.
"Oh, guess who I ran into?"
"Yikes. How was that?"
"So awkward. She was cleaning out her office. Can't imagine what she's going to do now. I'm frankly a little surprised they even let her back in the Ministry. I mean, she killed Shacklebolt!"
"Apparently, her testimony gave enough evidence to prove her being Imperiused. Plus, everyone's keen to believe anything bad about Snape these days, so her story fits nicely into the Ministry campaign towards pretty much everything being Snape's fault."
"I still don't know how I feel about him." Hermione whispered, almost guiltily.
"I know. I mean…all respect to Dumbledore and Harry…but he did do a pretty noble thing there at the end."
"I still can't believe he's Draco's dad."
"I know. Yuck." Ron wrinkled his nose.
"Oh, grow up. You've got to accept where babies come from one of these days." Hermione grinned.
"Draco was not a baby. He was demon spawn."
"Ron…" Hermione rolled her eyes.
"I'd just like to get my hands on the Amortentia potion that swung that for him."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, Draco's mom is…you know…"
"Go on." Hermione's eyes narrowed.
"Really horrible looking too." Ron said quickly.
"Nice. Very nice, Weasley." She laughed.
""You know what's weird?" Ron said after a moment.
"The fact that you insist on separating your sausage from your potatoes?"
"That's not weird. That's genius. Makes it seem like more food."
"Whatever. No. Tell me what's weird."
"Did Lupin ever have a funeral?"
"No…I guess not. I suppose Tonks took care of that. I mean, his parents both passed on a long time ago…and I mean all of his close friends…"
"Yeah." Ron looked down at his food.
"She's barely older than us. She'll find someone else."
"Don't be insensitive."
"I mean, I'm not going to go setting her up on blind dates or anything, but come on."
"She loved him."
"I know, I'm just saying."
"Well, it makes you sound like a jerk when you say stuff like that."
"So now I'm a jerk?"
"NO. Ugh, forget it."
"Come on , you get such great joy from pointing out my mistakes, tell me if I'm being a jerk."
"Okay. Now you are."
"Ron, I don't really want to spend your whole lunch talking about you being an idiot."
"That's how you've spent 95 of your life- why stop now?"
Hermione glared, getting up.
"Fine. Eat by yourself."
Ron followed her.
"See if I care! I love eating by myself. You just make me talk the whole time and it gets cold."
"Oh, poor baby. That's the saddest thing I've ever heard. Your mean, hateful wife who forces you to talk to her while eating the food that she brought you."
"That I pay for!"
Hermione's eyes widened.
"What did you say?"
"You and my dad made me take this job! And I don't even like it! But if I didn't do it, where would we be?"
Hermione threw her coat on, furiously buttoning buttons.
"If you don't want to work, don't work. I don't care."
"Yeah, right!" Ron rolled his eyes.
"You're being so impossible right now." Hermione said, pulling her hair out of her jacket.
The scent of her hair hit Ron, and he realized how close they were standing.
"Oh, really?" Ron said, stepping closer to her.
"So you married a hopeless, insensitive jerk?" Ron said, his voice still angry but his hands sliding around her waist.
"Looks like it." Hermione said, trying not to smile.
"That sounds like more your fault than mine."
Ron leaned closer to her. Hermione put her hand on his chest, stopping him.
"Your food's going to get cold. And you're going to blame it on me again."
"I'll just get my lovely wife to reheat it."
"Eventually you'll have to learn these spells yourself."
"Right now?" Ron asked, kissing her.
"It can wait." Hermione sighed, as he took off her coat.
"Might want to lock the door." Ron grinned.
"How presumptuous of you."
"Don't use your smart-people talk around an idiot like me."
"Just shut up."
Tonks sat down at the gravesite later on that night, her legs crossed.
She stared at the simple plaque bearing his name, the only thing she could throw together at such short notice.
It had just been her there while they buried him, an early morning chill still in the air.
She supposed she could have invited the Order, but just couldn't work up the desire to do it. She knew how they would all look at her- all their pathetic attempts at sympathy, their knowing looks as she stood there by herself.
She couldn't stand it.
She felt totally abandoned and isolated, like her life had completely fissured in one moment. This past year had taken it all away- a career that had meant everything to her now seemed pointless. The war was over. And yes, Harry had won, but the wizarding world had lost a great deal.
And she had lost him. She had never been in love before Lupin, and not only had she practically ruined his life this past year, she had stood there helplessly as he died.
Everyone at work avoided her completely- and she would have done the same had she been in their position. She had murdered one of their coworkers, coerced or not. She had betrayed them all.
She had failed Lupin, and failed herself.
What good could she be to anyone?
What could possibly be left for her now?
Harry walked out of the bookshop, a big, cheesy smile on his face as he waved goodbye to all of the people who had begged to shake his hand and take a photograph while he shopped.
"Ridiculous…" Harry muttered to Hermione, who had come out shopping with him while Ron was at work.
"Oh, Harry, like this is anything new. At least you have good books to read, and now you can hole up in your flat all you like." Hermione said, proudly thumbing through her suggestions.
They walked in comfortable silence for a moment, Hermione putting her arm through his.
"So everything's really all right with you and Ginny?"
"For the millionth time, yes."
"Well, come on, that sounded pretty dreadful!"
"Ginny's been through a lot, Hermione. She's allowed to not be perfectly normal right away."
"And so are you." Hermione looked at him, smiling sadly.
"Good to have your permission." He smiled back.
"So are you two…"
"No. Just friends."
"Oh, Harry." Hermione frowned.
"I'm serious. It's the best thing for both of us."
"To not be with the person you love?"
"It's not that simple, Hermione! It's not like you and Ron!"
"Oh, because that wasn't complicated at all," She sighed, irritated, "Look, the only reason things worked out for me and Ron is because we finally saw that we were making the easiest thing in the world way too hard- love isn't complicated, Harry! You want to be with someone, be with them!"
"Hermione, enough with the inspirational speeches, please. It's really not your business."
She looked away, hurt.
"I want you to be happy, Harry. That's all."
"I know you do. And I appreciate that. But I'm getting there, okay? I just need more time."
"Okay. Sorry." Hermione said, letting go of his arm.
They continued down the street in silence for a moment, taking a turn down an alley leading to his flat.
Harry sighed, looking at her.
"Hermione, don't be pissed- I really do appreciate you trying to help, it's just-"
Suddenly, someone banged open a door leading into the alley. The figure was hidden by a long, dark cloak as he pushed Harry and Hermione against the opposite wall.
They reacted immediately, pushing the figure to the ground and both withdrawing their wands.
"Who are you?" Harry demanded, breathing hard.
The figure reached up, drawing the hood of the cloak back.
It was Draco.
"What the hell are you doing?" Harry sputtered.
"Please…don't hurt me. I want to help." Draco shakily got to his feet, his once delicately featured face looking older and harder.
"Help with what?" Hermione said, looking over their shoulder to make sure no one was watching.
"I know where Snape's memorial is. My mum will be there. Bellatrix too. Along with other former followers…many people were more loyal to Snape than Voldemort himself in the end. They'll come."
"Why would you tell us something like that?"
"To gain immunity. I want a Ministry pardon, Harry. I want a second chance."
Harry snorted with laughter.
"And you thought, what? That we'd help you after you captured and tortured Ginny and Ron?"
"I never tortured them, Harry! I swear! I never wanted any part of this- I was just doing what I was told. I was just doing it because I thought it was what my father wanted…but Lucius Malfoy wasn't my father. Everything in my life changed after I knew that. I want a new start. I want my mother…my twisted family…out of my life and in prison where they belong."
"You'll be a social pariah, Draco. You must know that." Hermione said, somewhat sadly.
"I'll go away. I'll start again. Please."
Harry looked at him, trying to feel anger. But Draco looked so exhausted. So broken. So immensely different from the schoolyard bully Harry had once hated with such vehemence.
"I'm saying that I'll help bring down the final followers of the Dark Arts, Potter. I would do that, gladly. That alone should be enough evidence that I've changed."
Harry still said nothing.
"I'm trying to do the right thing for once in my life. It's the one decision I've made by myself, and I want it to be right. I want to be better, Harry. I want to be more like…more like my father."
"More like Snape?" Harry growled.
Hermione caught his arm.
"Harry, Snape died to protect us. To help end the final battle. You have to accept that." She whispered.
"I'll tell you anything, I swear. Just forgive me. I'm so sorry for everything." Draco looked at the two of them, his silvery eyes disconcertingly sincere.
Hermione and Harry exchanged a look.
"We'll have to take you to the Ministry, and they'll put you in custody. There's no guarantee of immunity." Hermione said, crossing her arms.
"There would be if Harry Potter asked for it! They would give you anything you wanted!" Draco said desperately.
Harry looked at him, feeling a twinge of pity.
"I don't know, Draco. This is asking a lot."
"I said I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for what happened to Ron and Ginny. But they're alive, unharmed-"
"Unharmed?" Harry snapped.
"Bellatrix hurt Ginny! Not me! And now I'm giving you a way to make sure she's put away for life! Or worse!"
Harry sighed, looking at Hermione.
Harry grabbed Draco's arm.
"Fine. But if you try anything- if you're trying to screw us over- you're dead."
"I know that. I won't. Thank you, Harry." Draco said, looking like he was about to cry with gratefulness.
Harry couldn't get over this insane situation. He almost wanted to laugh- if the Draco he had gone to school with could see the Draco looking back at him now…
Narcissa looked at herself in the mirror, draped in black.
She made a startling visage in the color, her pale skin and white-blond hair looking almost ghostly.
She had lost so much in such a short period of time that she still hadn't come to terms with it all. Lucius was dead. Severus was dead. And Draco had disappeared.
Narcissa was tired of crying, and couldn't do it anymore. She had to go on.
But to what?
Bellatrix knocked on the door, her long nails painted black, in full mourning regalia. She hadn't taken it off since the Dark Lord's vanquishing, and didn't plan on it anytime soon.
"Thank you, Bellatrix. Has Draco come back?"
Narcissa nodded, her lips tightly drawn together.
"His own father's funeral."
Bellatrix looked away, disgusted.
"What? You have something you want to say to me?" Narcissa demanded.
"Severus betrayed the Dark Lord. Betrayed all of us. I've always known he would, and he proved me right in the end. I'll play along with this little charade, but I just thought you should know- no sister of mine, no real member of the Black family, would ever…consort with a filthy half-breed traitor. Much less have a child with him and lie about it like a common whore."
Narcissa looked away, biting back tears.
"Lucius and Draco deserved better than this. Better than you." Bellatrix said cruelly.
Tears slipped down Narcissa's pale cheeks as she turned to look at her sister.
"Bellatrix, you're the only family I have left. If I don't have you…I don't have anyone. I'm sorry- I'm an awful, deceitful woman. You're right."
Bellatrix looked straight at her, her dark eyes piercing.
"I am right. And after this…after today…we're done."
"That's all I have to say to you. Now go on- let's go remember the man who killed our Master. The man for whom you gave up every good thing in your life."
And with that, Bellatrix was gone.
After a long moment, Narcissa followed her downstairs to the memorial.
She barely made it to the foot of the stairs before the place was swarming with Aurors.
Narcissa watched them with a kind of numb detachment, watched them drag a screaming Bellatrix into chains with little sympathy.
As restraints encircled her own wrists, Narcissa didn't fight back.
She didn't respond, putting in foot in front of another, the Auror's wand digging into the small of her back.
Fate had finally caught up with her. She didn't know how, and didn't really care. She was finally paying for all of her sins.
And as she closed her eyes with painful acceptance, she remembered him. Loving him had been worth it- worth it all. Narcissa realized that if she had it all to do over again- she wouldn't change a thing.
Tonks sat at the kitchen table in the Weasley's kitchen, holding the warm tea cup in between her hands.
"I can't keep feeling like this, Molly. I feel like I'm losing my mind."
Mrs. Weasley put her hand on Tonks' arm.
"Life will get better, Nymphadora. I know it. You still have big, amazing things in front of you. This isn't the end."
Tonks nodded half-heartedly.
"You don't believe me?" Mrs. Weasley asked.
"I can't. I can't believe anything. I've lost it all. What's the point?"
"Don't talk that way, darling."
Tonks looked down, taking a shuddery breath.
"I can't stop thinking about that night…I want him back. I want him here with me." Tonks said miserably.
"You know what Remus would want? He'd want you to be happy. It would break his heart, seeing you like this."
Tonks nodded, brushing tears off her cheeks.
Molly smiled sadly, taking her hand.
"He's still with you, dear. He always will be."
Tonks looked up at her.
"What can I do, dear? What can I do to help?"
Tonks considered this for a long moment.
"I just…I need to get away. I need to get out of here, away from everything and everyone that reminds me of him. I need to start over. And I have no idea how."
Mrs. Weasley considered this for a long moment, and suddenly was hit with a flash of inspiration.
"Oh, Nymphadora- I know just what you should do!"
Tonks blinked, surprised.
"Yes! Charlie, you remember- my second oldest?"
"Yeah, of course. Crazy for dragons."
"Yes, yes- he's coming home two weeks from this Sunday for our big family lunch- celebrating Ron and Hermione's wedding, and all that- anyway, when we were making plans for his arrival, he mentioned that they're recruiting. They need new dragon wranglers for an Egyptian expedition that Charlie's heading up- you'd be perfect!"
"I've never been within ten feet of those nutter creatures." Tonks laughed for the first time in months, Mrs. Weasley's enthusiasm infectious.
"Oh, please- you've had Auror training in how to handle all sorts of mythical creatures far more fearsome than dragons- plus, you've got more nerve in your little finger than his current staff put together. Charlie would be so thrilled- this is his first big solo project, and a familiar face could be just what he needs!"
Tonks had to admit that the thought of shipping off to some foreign place where no one knew her, no one knew about Lupin, and no one would give her sad, pitying looks was a pretty tempting one.
"Molly, I just…I wouldn't want to impose…"
"Oh, nonsense! I'll owl Charlie about it today if you're interested- you could come over that Sunday night and leave together. He hates traveling alone- he'd be thrilled."
"That's really nice, I just don't…"
Molly sighed, cutting her off.
"Tonks…are you interested or not? Don't think, just answer."
"Yes, I'm interested. I would love to be a million miles away from here."
"Well, now you can be."
Tonks took a deep breath.
"I don't know what to say. You've always been so wonderful to me, even though I've acted like a moody nutcase half the time. And I've broken practically everything in your house…"
"Easily mended, my dear."
Tonks smiled back.
"Nothing beyond repair?"
"Nothing ever is." Mrs. Weasley patted her hand in a motherly way that made Tonks want to cry.
Overwhelmed with gratitude, Tonks hugged Mrs. Weasley tightly.
"Thank you. Thank you for everything. "
"That's what I'm here for, dear. I try to keep everything running smoothly."
"Well, you sure do a bang-up job of it."
"See you in two weeks- Sunday night, then?"
"If Charlie says it's all right."
"I think he will." Mrs. Weasley said with a wink.
"I'll see you then." Tonks said, smiling an easy, genuine smile.
As she left the Burrow, she finally felt as though there was a glimmer of light at the end of the longest, darkest period of her life. It was time to come up for air.
Hermione came home that night to an exhausted husband, passed out asleep on the couch.
Ron looked up wearily when he heard the front door close.
"Finally, you're home."
She took off her coat, walking over and kissing his cheek,
"I know, I'm sorry, darling. McGonagall was a bit long-winded."
"Did you eat?"
"Yeah- I picked up something. Yours is in the fridge."
"Oh good- thanks, I'm starving." Hermione went to the fridge, opening her take-out and sitting beside Ron on the couch.
"So how'd it go?" Ron asked.
"Kinda…weird. I really want to know what you think."
"McGonagall said I'm done with my courses, and have effectively graduated from Hogwarts through correspondence."
"Yes…and now the Ministry's actually interested in recruiting me for a job."
"Even better. What's the job?" Ron sighed, sleepily rubbing his eyes.
"They've made a new Covert branch of the Ministry…for further ridding any vestiges of Dark collaborations all over the wizarding world."
Ron looked nervous.
"You're not going away are you?"
"No, darling. I'm not leaving you."
"I know you're not leaving me…"
"No, Ron- just listen. I would be doing the managerial side of things- the Ministry contact for the group. I would handle all the paperwork, planning, etc…but from here. I'd actually be working with you, at the Ministry."
"Cool." Ron smiled.
"Yes, it would be…cool, I suppose. But…don't be mad…"
"Why would I be mad?"
"The team that I would be heading up and managing includes some familiar faces."
"Well, Luna, for one."
"Wow- haven't heard from her in awhile! That's great, good for her." Ron shrugged.
"I know, I mean, she may have been a bit out there, but she actually graduated with top marks from Hogwarts while we were gone- top of her class in Defense Against the Dark Arts. The Ministry was dying to recruit her."
"Okay. Who else?"
"Well, you know what I told you about Draco working out an immunity agreement?"
"This is the agreement. He's going to serve as an undercover agent for the branch. Voldemort's former followers don't know that he turned to our side…he could prove really useful."
Ron wrinkled his nose.
"I don't know, Hermione."
"I know…it's really strange to even think of working with him. But Ron- it's like you said, people change. Maybe Draco's changed. I feel like I have to give him a chance, especially when he helped put Bellatrix in prison."
"Okay. Well, I mean that's pretty weird…but okay."
"Yeah. And this last thing- it really isn't a big deal. But the whole job…the whole branch was started because they were contacted by a man who knows of a big Dark Arts operation in Bulgaria."
"Bulgaria? That's pretty random."
Hermione waited for a moment, seeing if it would sink in.
"Ron, it's Viktor Krum. I'll be working with Krum- and it's really nothing, it's no big deal…"
"Krum?" Ron stammered.
"The guy who's been in love with you since you were fourteen?"
"He was never in love with me, Ron. I was just a kid…we just went out, it wasn't anything more than that. Besides, he's married now. He has two kids."
Ron seemed undeterred.
"You kissed him. Your first kiss."
"Big deal. It didn't mean anything. I didn't even want to."
"Ron, please don't do this."
"How would you feel if Lavender and I worked together?"
Just the thought made Hermione's blood boil.
But she forced a casual shrug.
"I wouldn't care. It's over. You're married to me."
"You wouldn't care at all if Lavender and I shared an office and spent all day together?"
She rolled her eyes.
"Ron, Viktor and I certainly won't be sharing an office and spending all day together! I'll see him, Draco, and Luna together- once a week, for about an hour. It's NOTHING. It's no big deal. I'm just telling you because I didn't want you to hear it from someone else."
Ron looked away moodily, flexing and unflexing his toes against the carpet.
"Whatever. Do what you want."
"Ron, look at me. I need your support in this. If you don't want me to do it, I won't." She took his hands in hers.
Ron looked surprised.
"You would not take the job just because I didn't want you to?"
"Of course. You're my husband. We make decisions together now. We're a family."
"You really feel that way?"
"So- tell me what you're thinking."
"It's just…what if Viktor still had feelings for you?"
"So what? If he still wanted to be with me, he just automatically gets to be? Not a chance. I love you, Ron. I choose you. You're my best friend, the love of my life- you're it, okay? You've always come first to me, and you always will."
Ron blushed deeply.
"I'm serious. I want to grow old with you, I want to have kids with you…I want it all. With you. No one else."
Ron blinked, taken aback.
"Well, someday." Hermione said, blushing now too.
Ron kissed her, grinning.
There was a moment's silence.
"Hermione, if you want to do it, you should do it."
"Yeah, really. Tell Viktor your husband says hello."
She giggled, hugging him.
"Don't worry, I will."
"You, Draco, Luna, and Viktor- I could have drawn names out of a hat and not come up with a team that random." He laughed.
"I know. Crazy."
Hermione sat at her desk, looking over her new team.
Draco looked bored, examing his nails. Viktor was smiling encouragingly . And Luna was wearing a full-length parka with fur lining, zipped to her chin.
"You know, Lovegood, we don't even leave for Bulgaria until tomorrow." Draco said snidely, looking at her attire.
Luna gave him an airy shrug.
"I'm just preparing."
"She's being very clever- we haff very cold weather there." Viktor said.
"You don't say?" Draco said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Hermione sighed, clapping her hands together.
"Okay, everyone. If you've got any questions, now's the time to ask."
"Living arrangements?" Luna asked.
"Viktor and his family already have a home in Bulgaria, and the Ministry's been able to acquire the split-level flat next door for you and Draco. You'll each have your own bedrooms and baths, obviously, but share a kitchen and living area. Like roommates."
Luna gave Draco an oddly lingering appraisal.
"Fine." She shrugged.
"Don't get any ideas." Draco said quickly.
"I'm always getting ideas." Luna smiled, humming a little to herself.
Hermione tried not to laugh.
"How much will you be in contact with us?" Viktor asked.
"As much as you need me. But the four of us will have regular meetings every Sunday afternoon in this office, at 3 o'clock sharp."
Draco looked up at Hermione with a surly expression, clearly hating taking orders from her.
"So we'll be in Bulgaria…"
"As long as it takes to bring down the Dark Arts faction there." Hermione finished for him.
"It can actually be a beautiful place." Viktor added cheerily.
"I'm sure it will grow on you two." Hermione nodded.
"Dad's got me doing tons of Quibbler research- he says Bulgaria is the place with the most red-horned tuzzle sightings in the whole world. I'm quite excited."
Viktor and Draco looked at each other, bewildered.
"Well…great. Have a wonderful trip, you three. And check in with me once you've arrived."
Hermione stood up, holding out her hand. Draco declined from shaking it, giving her a dismissive nod. Viktor shook it firmly, smiling at her. Luna gave her a little curtsy and followed them out the door.
That Sunday afternoon, the Weasley house was filled to the brim with guests and food.
Mr. Weasley sat at the head of the table, and on one side was Mrs. Weasley, Charlie, Bill, Fleur, and Ginny. On the other side sat Fred, George, Ron, Hermione, and Harry.
Mrs. Weasley had gone all out- the table was practically about to buckle under the weight of all the food.
Harry sat, watching them all in silence. He had been prone to introspection as of late, and today was no different. They had all come so far, changed so much- but it was still the same group of them as it had been all along. Despite the addition of Fleur and the loss of the still-estranged Percy, it was the same nine people that made him feel at though he really wasn't without a family, after all.
They had all made it. All the pieces of their little family finally fit back together after being so scattered and nearly destroyed.
At the end of the battle of his life….he was home.
"What are you thinking?" Ginny asked, breaking him out of his reverie.
"That I feel happy." Harry said, smiling at her.
Ginny smiled back, surprised.
She met his eyes for a long moment.
They looked at each other, both wanting to say more.
"So, tell us, Harry." Fred's voice cut into their little moment, "What are you planning to do these days? Ron and Hermione are already taking over the Ministry, how about you? Auror plans?"
The whole table turned to hear Harry's response.
Harry cleared his throat, laughing slightly.
"Oh, well, I have actually…been approached for something."
"Big surprise." Ron grinned.
"You didn't tell us anything!' Hermione said.
"It just happened yesterday."
Everyone waited with bated breath while Harry took a large swallow of his food.
"Oh, don't leave us on ze pins and needles!" Fleur finally cried.
Everyone laughed, including Harry.
"Okay, okay- I've been offered the job of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts."
"But that job's cursed!" Ron shook his head vehemently.
"Oh come on- Harry can conquer Voldemort, I think he can withstand some made-up curse." Ginny rolled her eyes.
"No one ever lasted more than a year." Hermione said nervously.
"Well, okay, scary curse reservations aside, how do you guys feel about it?"
"I think it would be wonderful!' Mrs. Weasley beamed.
"Who could be better at it than you?" Bill said, raising his glass in consent.
"I wish we had more children to send through Hogwarts, just so they could learn from you." Mr. Weasley smiled at Harry, clinking Bill's glass.
"Hear, hear!" Charlie said, obviously dipping well into the wizard's fine wine Mrs. Weasley had put out.
"Well…actually, I mean- I still have to finish school." Ginny said a little awkwardly.
Everyone now looked at Ginny. Every single person there had forgotten that she hadn't graduated yet.
"Of course, dear, of course." Mrs. Weasley said, as though of course she hadn't forgotten.
"Harry's going to be Gin's teacher?" Fred and George said in unison, laughing madly.
Harry and Ginny looked at each other.
Ginny shook her head.
"I was actually thinking of doing the correspondence route, like Hermione. I was thinking of maybe going with Charlie to Egypt."
Charlie nodded encouragingly to his younger sister, as if they'd rehearsed this.
"Oh…I don't know, dear." Mrs. Weasley looked skeptical.
"I've always wanted to work with dragons, and if Charlie's there, I'll be safe."
"And Tonks, too." Charlie pointed out, as Mrs. Weasley had just finished her Tonks-going-to-Egypt sales pitch during lunch.
"Tonks? Oh, cool!" Ginny smiled widely.
"What do you think, Arthur?"
"She should be able to do whatever she wants." Mr. Weasley smiled proudly at his daughter.
"That'd be cool, Gin." Ron nodded approvingly.
"We'd still see you occasionally, right?" Hermione asked, worried.
"Of course." Ginny nodded.
"You'd still drop by Hogwarts occasionally?" Harry asked.
"Yeah. Of course." She smiled at him.
"I suppose that would be all right…" Mrs. Weasley said slowly.
"YES! I'll go pack after lunch!" Ginny got up, hugging her mother tightly.
"So, Hermione- speaking of strange, foreign things- how are Draco and Luna?" Fred asked.
"Okay, so far. They owled me to say Viktor's gotten them all settled in. Apparently, Luna insists on sleeping with all of her windows open in the dead of winter to 'adjust to the new climate', and Draco's about to throttle her, but that was to be expected."
Ron laughed through a bite of chicken.
"Who knows? Maybe they'll make a really weird, really blond family someday." He shrugged.
Everyone laughed as Mrs. Weasley went to the kitchen to bring out the dessert trays.
Ginny threw everything she owned into her trunk, still hearing the pleasant sound of laughter from downstairs.
She was so excited. She, Charlie, and Tonks in Egypt- how cool would that be?
Of course she was sad to leave Ron, Hermione, and especially Harry- but she felt like getting away would be good for her.
There was a small knock at the door. She turned around to see Harry standing in the frame, smiling.
"Not too busy to talk to you. Come in." Ginny indicated her bed.
Harry sat down on the edge, watching her fold sweaters and throw her dirty old trainers in.
"So, Egypt, huh?"
"Looks like it." She smiled at his awkward attempt at conversation- Harry had never been one for small talk.
"Should be amazing."
"I hope so." Ginny
"I'm just going to be a boring old Professor while you're out conquering the world."
"Harry- there wouldn't be a world to conquer if it wasn't for you. You just saved the world. I would hardly call that boring."
"I know. I just…I'm really going to miss you, Gin."
Ginny smiled, putting down her folding and sitting beside him.
"I'll miss you too, Harry. All the time. But we gotta figure out some stuff, like you said. And being apart might be the best way to do that."
"Harry…this doesn't mean anything's over. Not for me, anyway."
He looked at her.
"I don't want anything to be over…but it's just…I kind of felt like you were wanting to forget me…like that's why you were leaving."
"I'd never want to forget you, Harry. I love you."
They looked at each other, surprised. They had never told each other anything like that- neither were much for grand declarations of passion. But there it was.
"Yeah. I do."
She hugged him tightly.
"I love you too, Gin." He said quietly,
"We'll be together someday." Ginny said into his shoulder.
"I can't wait." He said, pulling back and kissing her forehead.
"Oh come on, Harry," She smiled.
"I'm leaving tonight. Really kiss me."
He was happy to oblige.
Charlie, Tonks, and Ginny stood at the fireplace with all of their luggage.
"I can't thank you enough for this." Tonks said to a very inebriated Charlie.
"Sure, sure, of course." He patted her on the arm.
"You sure you're okay to travel?" She laughed.
"Never felt better in my life." Charlie looked surprised at her concern.
"A trip through the Floo Network should sober him right up." Ginny giggled.
"All right then, in we go…all right there, Charlie?" Tonks took his arm, leading him towards the fireplace as the Weasleys and Harry looked on, looking both parts exasperated and amused.
"Your hair's pink." Charlie grinned at her stupidly.
"Well-spotted." Tonks laughed.
"Come on, dear brother…" Ginny rolled her eyes as the flames turned green in front of them.
"Bye everyone! Thanks again! CAIRO, EGYPT!" Tonks waved, stepping in and disappearing.
Charlie gave them a lazy smile and wave, falling in after her with a lackadaisical 'Cairo!'
"Bye everyone!" Ginny looked around at her family.
Hermione and Mrs. Weasley raced forward, hugging her tightly as her brothers loaded her luggage into the Floo Network. She hugged them back, taking her first step into the fireplace as she looked around at them all, smiling and waving.
Her eyes rested on Harry for a moment as she stepped into the flames. He gave her a small nod.
She knew what it meant, and nodded back.
"CAIRO!" Ginny called out, falling back into the green flames and disappearing from the Weasley living room.
Later that evening, Ron and Harry stood outside on the porch, having a drink.
The sun was setting over the Weasley's sprawling backyard, and the sky looked brilliant in shades of red and purple.
"What a day." Ron shook his head, leaning against the railing.
"I know. Good for Ginny, though." Harry said, watching the clouds move across the sky.
Ron nodded, choosing his next words carefully.
"How are you doing, mate?"
"I'm fine. Why...is Hermione still worried?"
"No. I'm not asking for her. I'm just asking. Between you and me. You can tell me if you're not."
Harry looked at Ron, suddenly seeing how much his best friend had grown up.
"Thanks, Ron. But I'm really okay. I'm really getting better all the time. I'm excited about working at Hogwarts."
"That should be cool."
"Maybe you'll teach me and Hermione's kids."
"Yeah…I'd have to be careful not to give them special treatment."
"Doubt they'll need it if they take after her." Ron laughed.
Harry stopped laughing.
"Ron…what's with all the kid talk?"
Ron smiled, his ears turning flaming red.
"We didn't want to tell anyone this soon."
Harry's eyes got very wide.
"No- but you're sworn to secrecy, Harry! She didn't want to tell anyone this early…but I mean, technically, I didn't tell you, you just figured it out, and it's not my fault you're so good at figuring out things when I was trying so hard to keep it secret-"
"Ron," Harry cut him off, laughing, "Can I just say congratulations before I'm sworn to secrecy?"
"It's just because my mum would make such a huge deal out of it, and Hermione and I just kinda want to enjoy it for awhile without all the pressure. I mean she just found out a few days ago."
"I think it's great! Better than great. I'm so happy for you guys. You're happy too, right?"
"Yeah." Ron grinned contently.
He never had been a man of many words when it came to things like this.
"I won't tell a soul." Harry stuck out his hand.
Ron shook it, and Harry pulled him into a hug, both of them laughing.
Just then, Hermione opened the back door.
Harry looked at her standing there, looking just as she always had, but so different too. He suddenly felt his eyes stinging slightly. Hermione was going to be a mum. His two best friends were going to be parents.
"Hey, Hermione. What's up?"
"Do you two want to go to the Leaky Cauldron? Just the three of us?"
Harry and Ron looked at each other.
"Yeah, of course." Harry nodded enthusiastically.
"We just haven't done anything just the three of us in awhile." She smiled, taking Ron's hand and putting her arm through Harry's as she joined them at the railing.
"Yeah, we haven't done much together lately, except save the world."
"Very funny, Ron." She sighed.
Harry smiled at his two best friends, their profiles highlighted by the sun disappearing behind the mountains.
As they watched the sunset in silence, he knew it had been worth it. Moments like this were what he had been fighting for all along.
And whatever else came, it would be just like now. Harry, Ron, and Hermione would stand together.
A/N- And that's all she wrote! Thanks again guys!