Disclaimer: None of the people, places, or things surrounding Hogwarts and the Wizarding world are my creation; they belong to the wonderful Ms. Jo Rowling.
Author's Note: Well, here we are: the end of this story. I almost can't believe it. It's just another thing in my life that's slowly coming to a close. THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who has faithfully reviewed! Your support is what has kept this story alive for so long!
Epilogue: Nothing Like It
There was nothing like it, Hermione thought, as she watched Harry and Ron from across the floor. Bill and Fleur's wedding reception had gotten under hours ago...she didn't know how long everyone had been outside the Burrow, talking, dancing and laughing with each other. And frankly, she could care less. They needed this, she knew. Everyone did. They needed these moments of good times and love to keep them all from remembering what had happened only weeks before.
And what was still to come.
There was nothing like a beautiful wedding in the midst of a war. There was nothing like watching the two people she cared most about in the world being able to relax--if even just for a moment--before remembering the sad thoughts. There was nothing like finding love, then realizing almost too late before you let it go, that when times get trying, holding on to that love just might be what saves you.
There was nothing like the year that she had just been through. Finally understanding that the emotion she felt for one of her best friends was indeed love...then watching as he seemed to throw any semblance of caring away for another girl. There was nothing like the feeling that you didn't matter; that you were nothing more than a friend, someone to help with schoolwork...nothing more.
There was nothing like hearing tender confessions and apologies. Nothing like realizing that if she and Ron had simply talked, the pain would have lessened. There was nothing like finally finding happiness, right in his arms, where she felt she had always belonged.
Hermione silently wiped away the tears that had started flowing down her cheeks, smiling as Ron said something to make Harry laugh. Seeing Harry's smiling face was like finding a needle hidden beneath the largest of haystacks these days...it simply didn't happen.
Unless Ron was around, she amended to herself. Ron, who before this year had trouble defining his own emotions, let alone anyone else's, had made it his own personal mission to see that Harry be happy, if only just for a bit, whenever possible. They truly were lucky to have found each other. All three of them.
As if reading her thoughts, Ron and Harry made their way over to the table at which she'd been sitting since retiring from dancing for the time being.
"Oi, Hermione!" Ron said happily, and she felt her heart jump a bit in her chest. Though Ron would swear up and down against it, Hermione was now adamant that even though he'd been stubborn for six years in admitting his feelings for her, the sparkling look that came into his eyes whenever he saw her had always been there.
He sat down beside her, and as if he couldn't stop himself from touching her, laid a hand on her tear-soaked cheek. "What's this? Tears?" He glanced at Harry in amusement. "Now, Harry, why might Hermione be crying?"
For his part, Harry played into the joke well. "Well, Ron, I'd say it was because we're at a wedding. An emotional event, meaning that by rights, Hermione should be crying." He made a play of checking Hermione's eyes. "Yeah, she's crying, mate."
Hermione giggled as she swiped a hand across her cheeks and underneath her eyes, hoping she wasn't smearing anything. "Oh, shut-up, the pair of you."
Ron and Harry merely laughed and shook their heads. "Girls," Ron muttered, though from the blazing look in his eyes, she knew he didn't mean it in a negative way.
Hermione allowed herself to get lost in Ron's gaze for a few moments. It honestly amazed her sometimes, how she knew that this feeling had been between the two of them for what felt like forever, but that it had taken so long to get to this point...and now that they were here, it somehow didn't feel awkward at all.
It was only Harry's quiet sigh that brought them both back down to Earth. Ron seemed to want to ignore it, but Hermione slapped his hand away and peered at her friend.
Harry seemed to be off in his own world, staring intently across the dance floor. Even without following his gaze, Hermione knew he was watching Ginny. The past few weeks had been hard on him. Even before the three of them had returned to the Burrow for the wedding, Harry had been moping around the Dursley's, and Ron and Hermione had both learned that it was what Harry wasn't saying that was more important.
"Look, mate, just go over and talk to her," Ron said in a gruff voice as his face tinged with red. "She's been...well, I'd reckon she's been acting just like you. Mum's said she's been really quiet all summer."
Harry simply groaned and threw his head in his hands. Hermione bit her lip in frustration, reaching over and patting him lightly on the back. "Ron's right, you know," she said. "Her letters...Harry, you both are utter messes without each other. You haven't been able to concentrate...and that's hardly going to help in finding the Horcruxes, is it?" she asked, her voice becoming a whisper.
At this, Harry's head emerged from behind his hands. "I know that, Hermione!" he snapped. "Do you think I want to be feeling this way?"
Hermione felt her own anger rising. "Well, you wouldn't have to if you'd just admit you love her, and go over and tell her that!" she retorted.
"I can't do that!" Harry yelled, but his angry words were taken down by the hurt glaring from his green eyes. "I can't do that," he continued more quietly, "Because...because what happens if--if she...if something happens to her? Because we're together...I couldn't--that would kill me, Hermione."
Next to her, Hermione felt Ron tense, and, looking at his face, she saw how pale he had gone. Oh, Ron, please. For once in your life...just let it go, she told him silently, and miraculously, he seemed to listen. "You know, Harry," he broke in, "Not telling her--Ginny--that you lo...well, you're feel--feelings..." He gulped. Merlin, he wished he and Harry could go back to silent communication through nodding as they had when this sort of thing had happened before!
"If you don't...then, well, aren't you sort of letting You-Know...Vol--Voldemort...win?"
Hermione's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets as she took in Ron's words. That was exactly the same thing Ron had told her before. Well, and Dumbledore, McGonagall, Ginny, Mrs. Weasley... She shook her head, trying to keep up with their current conversation.
"...So, if you don't tell her, then you're just playing into his hands, right?" Ron was finishing. He could tell he was getting through to Harry, at least a little bit. His friend seemed to listening intently, his gaze still focused on Ginny.
"You'd be all right with it?" Harry asked him. "Me and Ginny...together during a war? When I could very well go off and get myself...well, you know."
Hermione had to physically restrain herself from either jumping up and down, or answering the question for Ron. She put her fist in her mouth, bouncing in her chair.
Ron laid a hand on Harry's shoulder. "As long as you don't mind me and Hermione together during a war."
Though she was shell-shocked, if Harry was surprised at hearing that his two best friends were together, he didn't show it. "Congratulations, mate. We were all wondering how long it'd take."
The boys shook hands, and Harry stood up to go talk to Ginny. "Oi, Harry!" Ron called after him. Harry turned. "Take care of my baby sister." Ron's face turned red, but his firm stance showed he was serious.
Harry nodded resolutely. "Nothing is more important," he said.
Ron watched his best friend walk off towards his sister for a few moments, then returned to sitting with Hermione at the table. He silently grabbed a cup of pumpkin juice, and drank it one gulp. He noticed Hermione staring at him in wonder, and merely rolled his eyes. "What? You'd think I have a problem with this rubbish, or something," he said in mock seriousness.
Hermione promptly burst into tears. Ron's brows lifted into his hair in shock. Without thinking, he reached for her, pulling her somewhat onto his lap in the chair. "Hermione! Why are you crying!"
"Because I'm--I'm so--so happy!" she wailed. "You...you did such a good job...Har--Harry actually listened to--to you...and...you talked about..." She trailed off, throwing her face into his shoulders.
"I just love you so much!" she finally got out. Taking a deep breath, she willed the tears not to come back, at least for a little while.
Ron seemed utterly perplexed by all that had just happened. "So you're crying because you're..."
"Proud of you, you git!" she finished loudly. "Look at what you just did for Harry and Ginny. They would have both been miserable for the rest of the summer...or longer, if you hadn't stepped in like that."
Ron shrugged. "Just telling like it like it is," he said.
"Well, you did a fine job," Hermione replied happily, reaching in and kissing him on the lips. It felt so wonderful, being able to hug and kiss Ron whenever she wanted to. A new feeling, but a truly spectacular one.
Ron seemed to realize the futility in arguing, and gave himself over to the kiss. He vaguely felt as if fireworks were going off somewhere behind him, and suddenly wanted no space between himself and Hermione. He skated his tongue around the edge of her lips, and with a small sound, she opened her mouth to him. He wondered how far she would let him go...he made a move to bring her closer.
She pulled back just then, and Ron was tempted to simply grab her and kiss her deeply. But he didn't. Mainly because she started speaking again.
"Ron, we're around people!" she hissed, looking feverishly around them. "Around your own family...what if your mother had seen?"
That thought stopped Ron from bringing her mouth back to his. The idea of Mrs. Weasley coming upon her youngest son snogging a girl--even if it was Hermione--at her older son's wedding was positively terrifying. "She'd be royally pissed," he muttered in agreement.
"Shocked, more likely," Hermione put in lightly with a smile. She twined her fingers with Ron's. "It's not that I don't want to...Just not when there are loads of people around."
Ron's eyes blazed even more at that, and Hermione backed away a little, not because she was scared, but because she was worried that she'd simply throw herself at him, not caring who may or may not be watching. She sighed, leaning into him a little.
"Why don't we go out by the pond?" she asked softly. "So we can have some...time."
Ron snorted, but he stood and held out a hand to her. "You best be glad I know you so well, Hermione. Any other bloke would have taken that to be an invitation."
Hermione's cheeks pinked, but she held Ron's gaze steadily. "Sometime, it might just be," she said quietly. Ron's blue eyes darkened into sapphire pools, and Hermione felt a momentary rush of pride when his breath quickened.
"Right, then, let's go," he said gruffly, turning quickly, and frankly pulling Hermione along behind him.
The two went off towards the trees surrounding the small pond near the Burrow. As they grew closer, Hermione could make out Harry and Ginny's voices, a bit muffled, but she knew that they were close. "Ron, maybe we should..." she began, but Ron shook his head.
"Nah, we can't really hear them. And besides...the closer we are, the, erm, better we can...keep watch."
Hermione decided to let that one go, and sat down on a moss-covered bench on the bank of the pond. "Ron, did you ever think that we'd end up here?" she asked softly, staring out at the dark night sky.
Ron sat next to her, linking his hand with hers again. "What's 'here'?"
"I don't know, exactly. Together, perhaps. Not yelling our heads off at each other." Here, Ron grinned.
"Well, I think we realized that all that tension was coming from this location," he said, gesturing with his free hand to theirs locked tightly together.
She smiled. "But more than that... We're about to fight a war, Ron. Did you ever think--at the beginning--that one day, it would lead to this?"
He was silent for a long time, contemplating. "Yeah, I guess I did, at some point. I mean, every year since we started Hogwarts, we've been through some kind of adventure or another. We're not exactly strangers to what Vol--Voldemort can do." He paused, as if an idea had just come to him. "I reckon we know a lot more about him than most fully grown wizards do."
Hermione nodded. The same thoughts had occurred to her. Even though they were young, she, Ron and Harry were, in a way, more "qualified" for the roles they had been put into than many others. Harry, especially. That thought gave her pause.
"Poor Harry," she murmured.
Ron seemed to understand exactly what she was saying. "We'll be there, Hermione, remember? We promised him. An--and I know this'll sound stupid, but...there's really nowhere else I'd rather be. You, me and Harry...we're a team, you know? And there's really nothing like it, what the three of us have."
"No, no there's not," Hermione said tearfully. She looked up at Ron. "I love you. Both of you."
For his part, Ron also seemed to be struggling not to cry. "Me...me, too, Hermione. Me, too."
Then, the two stood up, silently deciding to find Harry. "If we're going to do this, we sort of need him, don't we?" Ron asked a bit inanely, but Hermione merely smiled in agreement.
There was nothing like it, they both thought. Nothing like the bond their Trio had...And somehow, they knew that that bond would hold them together, through the harrowing journey ahead of them. There was a love there, broken up into different aspects. Ron had Hermione; Harry had Ginny, who of course, would play a vital role in the months ahead. But when it came down to it, three of them would fight until the end for each other, and would stick together, no matter the obstacle.
There was nothing like the love between friends.
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed this story. Until next time, Sugarquill...