A/N: Last chapter of this story, guys. I want to thank AmyChris for our wonderful correspondence throughout the writing of this story. I'd also like to thank SugarQuill824, 1Gabs, Angel aka trinigyal, and Machiavelli Jr. (I'm really curious as to why you chose that penname, too. Drop me a line sometime, Machiavelli) for the wonderfully specific reviews I always received. I'd like to thank MadiWillow for the grammar corrections (you were absolutely right and I totally missed it; I've corrected it now). And the other day HermioneWeasley28 revealed to me that she loved me. Well, sweetheart, I love you too! You've been such a great reviewer, and that earned my love. And I wanted to point out to Belle, that no, you are not incredibly thick. In fact you're the only one who picked up on what you wrote in your review. Read on, Belle, your predictions are correct. Lionsgate was reading my mind as well. Good job. Thanks to my other loyal reviewers. Enjoy the last chapter!
All four teens were instantly on their feet. The table clattered to the ground, and they all looked nervously back at the tent.
"Oh, don't worry about them. I didn't come to kill a bunch of pathetic blood-traitor wedding guests." Malfoy crept closer to the foursome, his voice thick with disdain.
"What do you want, Malfoy? Why are you here?" Harry growled at him.
"Here's the thing, and let's get his straight, I'm only telling you because I want to. I think someone should know why I'm doing what I'm planning on doing."
"Stop wasting our time, Malfoy. I'm going to just go ahead and curse you in a minute," Ron said angrily.
"I'll tell you when I'm good and ready Weasleby. You see, my failure to kill that old oaf was not looked on very kindly by the Dark Lord," Malfoy started with an air of blithe unconcern.
"Yeah, but what does your being a coward have to do with us?" Harry asked. The only reason Malfoy wasn't already laid out flat on the ground was that he hadn't killed Dumbledore when he had the chance.
"It wasn't cowardice, Potter," Malfoy spat, "It was common sense. I was considering what would benefit me most from Dumbledore's offer. But that's not why I'm here. You see, I need to get to my father. Now I could go and visit him easily, but the Ministry would know for sure that I was carrying a message. So I need to be sent to Azkaban; an inside man with inside information for the Dark Lord."
"How will your being in Azkaban possibly help Voldermort?" Harry wanted to know.
"That's none of your business, Potter. All you need to know is that I need to be sent to Azkaban. So I thought to myself, what could I do that would be fun for me and land me exactly where I need to be? Then the answer came to me. My father's cousin had run into a woman in a shop and he found himself under some sort of spell. He told this woman he was in love with her, and she revealed to him that she was getting married. They fell into conversation and, behold, it was the woman who's married your brother, Weasel! Somehow William wrangled himself an invite and I sent him here to spy on you lot."
"William Smythe is your cousin?" Harry said, somehow not all that surprised, the resemblance had been there. "And he left early tonight," Harry was putting the pieces together, "to come back and tell you all he knew."
"Amazing, the powers of deduction you have, Potter. I was worried you would recognize him. He looks a bit like me, or so I'm told. I thought that might be a problem, but obviously I overestimated your already limited intelligence. Anyhow, he told me that you four were staying in the yard which gave me ample opportunity to get to you without having to go through a dozen members of your very large and ragged family, Weasley."
"What are you on about, Malfoy?" Ron asked again, his face growing more and more red.
The four were still standing, all with their wands out now. They were waiting for the moment when they would have to spring into action, but they were all on the same wavelength. They had to get all the information they could out of Malfoy.
"You see, to get into Azkaban I have to commit a crime. I get to pick the crime. And I want to hurt you, all of you. Especially the Mudblood. She's just caused me so much trouble over the years, and I wanted to hurt her most. But I couldn't do it physically, no. That wouldn't have the same effect. Fun, yes, but not good enough." He sneered at Hermione.
Ron moved to attack, but Harry held out a hand to stop him, he needed to know more.
"That's right, Potter, keep your pet on a tight leash."
"You have ten seconds to say whatever it is that this overlong speech has been leading up to or we curse you."
"I'm getting to it," Malfoy said lazily, "So, I thought what would hurt you lot the worst. And it came to me. There's only one of you that I could kill that would cause that much damage. Now, I'd give you three guesses, but the Mudblood's intelligence would probably only need one. I can't take that chance. Potter, you actually gave me something very useful the day you nearly killed me."
"What're you-" Harry started, but before any of them could so much as process what Malfoy had just said, Malfoy had pulled his wand out, pointed it at Ron and said,
He hadn't finished the curse. Hermione had performed a spell without speaking that looked as though an invisible rope had pulled Malfoy's feet from under him. Hermione was running towards Malfoy's form lying on the ground three feet from in front of Ron. She had a look on her face that Harry had only seen when they had discussed Malfoy a few days before. It was a look of pure, unfiltered hatred. She approached him and rested one very high, lethal looking heel on his chest, pinning him in place. Her wand was pointed at his face and she said in a voice trembling with abhorrence,
"If you so much as move, I will curse you before you could blink. You are not going to hurt Ron, ever again. Do you understand? You almost killed him once, and for that I hate you. You are the most disgusting, loathsome creature I have ever had the misfortune of meeting. Now that I have you here, you're going to answer a few questions for us. Nod your head if you understand."
Malfoy nodded, whimpering. Ron was watching Hermione in admiration. Ginny looked at Malfoy, her expression murderous. Harry found it odd that all he could think of was how lucky it was that Hermione had that slit in her dress, otherwise, she wouldn't be able to hold Malfoy down at all. His attention was drawn back to Malfoy as Hermione began to question him,
"Why do have to get into Azkaban? I assure you that you're going there, but we're going to know exactly what you know."
"I don't know anything." Malfoy said in a high pitched voice.
Hermione dug her heel into his chest, and he cried out.
"Try again. Next time, I'll just hex you."
"I swear, I don't know anything."
"You told us that you did, Malfoy. Either you were lying then or you're lying now."
"I swear! I was lying. H-he's terrifying. There's no escape from him."
Hermione looked slightly mollified. She believed him now. She was putting it together herself,
"So your solution is to go to Azkaban? You think he can't touch you there? You coward! You'd rather rot away in a cell than admit to him that you're done doing his bidding!"
"He'd kill me!"
"You deserve to die!" Hermione said menacingly, "What do you know about Snape's whereabouts? Where is he?"
"I don't know."
"That's a lie! Let me tell you, I'm clever, but Ginny over there is a whiz at non-fatal but rather painful hexes. I could bring her over here if you like."
"I honestly don't know," Malfoy nearly sobbed, "After that night, Snape took me home to my mother. Then he left. The Dark Lord came later that night and told me that since I was young, he'd give me one more chance. He said he'd be in touch soon with a new mission. I-I didn't want to even receive the m-mission. After Snape left me that night, I don't know where he went."
Hermione seemed to think that this was all the useful information they would get out of Malfoy. She said without taking her gaze away from him,
"Ginny, run down and get someone…anyone. Just tell them to come, don't take time to explain."
Ginny nodded and, removing her shoes, ran towards the orchard.
"You'll go to Azkaban, Malfoy, but know that sooner or later, he's going to find out what you did and why."
She remained in the position she had adopted as Mr. Weasley and Lupin came running up the hill behind Ginny. They reached the tents, panting,
"Hermione-what are you- who is that?" Mr. Weasley panted.
"It's Draco Malfoy, sir. He tried to kill Ron."
"He what?" Mr. Weasley looked shocked. Lupin looked at Malfoy with a calm gaze.
"Is this true, Mr. Malfoy?"
"Very well. We have to contact the Ministry. You do realize that since you are of age now, Mr. Malfoy, you will be sent to Azkaban for this?"
Malfoy nodded again, and Lupin said very kindly to Hermione,
"It's alright, Hermione, you can release him now. Arthur and I will take him back to the house."
Hermione nodded and stepped away from Malfoy. Mr. Weasley still looked very stunned, but he took Malfoy's arm, Lupin took the other.
"Ron, I'm not going to tell your mother until we get him out of here. So just say your goodnights and go to bed if you want to avoid, well…you know how she's going to react."
"Yeah…alright." Ron said, but he was looking at Hermione who stood frozen where Malfoy had been.
Lupin and Mr. Weasley left and the four were left alone again. Hermione very suddenly burst into tears. Ginny moved towards her, but Ron waved her off. He knelt by Hermione, who had collapsed onto her knees, crying. He pulled her into his lap, and let her cry, stroking her hair.
"He knew what would hurt me the most, Ron. He tried to kill you. Again. I couldn't take it. Not again, and I just-I just snapped. I wanted to kill him, I really did," Hermione sobbed into Ron's chest. He looked pained, and Harry and Ginny watched as Ron lifted her face up to his,
"Hermione, I'm fine. You saved me."
"But he tried to kill you, Ron. I never told you before how upset I was. I never let on to you, but Ron, I was terrified. Because, the truth is, Ron I-"
"Hermione, you should know that I-"
"I love you," they said at the same time.
"How's that for compromise?" Ron said, grinning.
Hermione gave a weak smile and said,
"I kept hoping you'd tell me."
"I was hoping the same thing, but it doesn't matter now." And Ron brushed the tears from her eyes and kissed her, right there in the middle of the yard, feet from where Mrs. Weasley was still seeing guests off from the wedding. Ginny jerked her head at Harry, indicating that she wanted to talk to him away from the otherwise occupied Ron and Hermione. Harry walked towards her.
"Harry, Malfoy knew! He knew that to hurt Hermione the most he would have to kill Ron. He knew they loved each other before they'd ever even admit it to themselves. Do you really think Voldermort-yes, I said his name, I'll say it again-Voldermort won't know how we feel? I really don't think he's going to care that you broke up with me, so technically we're not together. I'm not a girl to beg. I'm bringing this up once because I love you too much not to, and if you tell me this time that we're just friends, I'll stick to it. But, Harry, I love you. You told me you loved me. Voldermort's going to know that make me a target whether or not we're dating, and besides, didn't Dumbledore say that love was the one thing that would defeat Voldermort? Hmm?"
She was making sense, and Harry suddenly realized that he had been incredibly stupid. He would rather have Ginny made a target as his girlfriend than as "the-girl-he-was-in-love-with-but-had-broken-up-with-to-protect-her". Ginny stared him down, that blazing look on her face that made Harry fall even harder. She was so hard-headed and stubborn. Harry knew that if he blew it this time, she would keep her word, and she would close the book on him. He made up his mind in a split second, and he pulled her to him and kissed her.
"He sees reason! Who knew?" Ginny smiled as they broke apart, "I knew that eventually, you would see that the decision you had made wasn't 'noble'. It was stupid. But you wouldn't be who you were if you didn't do these things. I guess it's why I love you, but I swear, if you try this stunt again, Potter, I will beat you down!" she said.
"If you're done insulting me, I'd really like to kiss you again."
"I can take a break, I s'pose. But know that I'm saving these up for later when you annoy me again."
"I'll remember that."
A little while later, Harry decided that they should get to bed before Mrs. Weasley came up to check on them. Ginny agreed, and they walked round to the front of the tents. Harry kissed Ginny goodnight, and they entered their tents. Almost immediately, they were back outside, both looking into the yard. They were lacking two roommates. Sure enough, Ron and Hermione were snogging out in the grass. Ginny cleared her throat. Nothing happened.
"I swear, if this turns out to be like Lavender…" Ginny mused aloud.
"It won't," Harry assured her, "This is just six year's worth of tension finally finding an outlet. They'll have a pretty normal relationship after tonight, I think."
"Let's hope you're right," Ginny sighed, then raised her voice, "Oi! Ron! Get your ugly face off Hermione. We need to go to bed."
The couple broke apart and Harry laughed at Ginny shaking her head. Ron and Hermione made their way towards the tents hand in hand. They kissed goodnight, and Ron followed Harry into their tent and Hermione did the same with Ginny.
Harry grinned at Ron as they undressed for bed,
"About time, mate. I think if you took any longer, I was going to have to step in. And believe me, the last thing I wanted to do was play matchmaker."
Ron grinned stupidly,
"She's great, isn't she?"
"Yeah, she is. Congratulations. Oh, by the way, I'm dating Ginny again."
Ron's grin faded a bit,
"This time it's for real, right? I mean, Ginny can take care of herself, but I just don't want her hurt again, you know?"
"Yeah, I get it. It's for real this time."
Ron nodded, and he and Harry got into bed,
"Funny isn't it, how we would have crossed Smythe off that list if Hermione and I hadn't fought?"
"Malfoy's a bloody coward, but I almost understand what he's doing."
"Yeah, but I hope I kill Voldermort soon, and Malfoy still has to spend the rest of his life in Azkaban."
"That would be brilliant!"
There was silence and Harry thought Ron had passed into sleep until his voice floated up in the darkness,
"I have a question. But if you don't want to answer, I mean I don't want to bring up painful stuff-"
"What is it, Ron?"
"Well, you said that the reason you survived You-Know-Who's attack is because your mum died to protect you, right?"
"Yeah, that's right," Harry wondered where Ron was going with this.
"If I was, I mean, if we find ourselves up against him and I, well, if he went after Hermione, and I offered myself for her, would it…I mean would that mean she'd live even if he tried to kill her?"
Harry rubbed his temples. This was exactly what he didn't want his friends to have to think about: dying.
"I couldn't tell you, mate. My mum was given the choice. He was going to let her go if she stepped aside, and she didn't."
"Oh. I just want to protect her, you know."
"I know. Just don't break up with her to protect her. I've tried it. Bad idea."
"Yeah, thanks for that shining example of what not to do. But, I just want her to be safe."
"Ron, look, Hermione's the cleverest witch we know. She'll be fine. She knows perfectly well you'd take a bullet for her-"
"Never mind, it's a Muggle saying. It just means that you'd put down your life for hers. She knows that."
"It's not just about making the gesture, you know. I want to be able to protect her."
"I know…but I've found out that you can't. She'd get herself into trouble all on her own, Ron, you're not causing it. She can take care of herself, and we'll be with her all along the way. So stop worrying, at least right now. We have a little less than two months here, so let's make the best of it. Maybe we can actually enjoy ourselves a bit."
"You're right, mate. I guess we'll just deal with things one step at a time."
And they bid each other goodnight.
Harry rolled over and fell asleep listening to Mrs. Weasley's frantic cries of,
"What do you mean he was almost killed?"
At least they had a little while left in a relatively safe place with people who loved them, Harry decided. He thought he just might have a good summer before the horribly dangerous year that was sure to come. Things were good right now. Ron had Hermione and he had Ginny. How bad could things get when he knew that he'd wake up in the morning and find that he was dating Ginny again. Yes, no matter what was to come, he had his friends and he had Ginny. He had family.
A/N: This is what it must feel like to raise a child then send them off to college. This is my baby, and I'm so sad that it's over. That's why I'm writing a sequel to be called: Life Goes On. School's starting in two days for me, so I'm going to try and get the first chapter up before then. I'm not sure how hectic my schedule's going to be, though. Please don't give up on me; I'll come through, I swear. Please read and review the conclusion of The Wedding. I have to go cry now…it's pathetic, but it really is hard to realize that it's over.
For all REALLY fanatic Potter fans like me. I want to recommend a GREAT site, if you haven't already discovered it. It's called It's AMAZING! So check it out.