Disclaimer: I don't own "Harry Potter" or anything associated with it that you recognize.
A/N: The sixteenth and final chapter. This is more of an epilogue because the real drama and climax of the story is over. I really didn't want to end this, but oh well… to a hopefully satisfying ending for everyone! Thanks for all the wonderful reviews, and look out for my next story: I think I have ideas in the works already :)
Kiss of the Traitor
Chapter Sixteen: Christmas
Someone was talking. Hermione wasn't precisely sure whether she was dreaming or whether the black void around her meant that she wasn't dreaming and the voice was coming from outward. Oh, dear, she was so confused. But she could hear the voice. Yes, it was bone-jarringly clear, like a Chinese gong. It sounded a bit like Ron. How typical. Honestly, what a thickheaded numbskull! Didn't he realize she was sleeping?
"Personally, I think she looks rather peaky."
"No one cares what you think, Ron. And if you don't lower your voice, Madam Pomfrey will have us all forcibly ejected from this room. Oh, thanks, Luna. This Butterbeer was just what I needed. Hush, Ron!"
"Yeah, she can't throw us out yet, I haven't even finished setting up my Dungbomb…"
"Don't you dare, Fred! Hagrid, please remove him from the premises, would you?"
"It'll be my pleasure, Molly."
"All right, all right, I'm sorry. Hagrid, no! That tickles!"
"Hey, Mrs. W, when did Lupin say they were likely to wake up?"
"He wasn't sure, Terry, and I really have to remind you that I don't like being called 'Mrs. W'. Oh, Tonks, dear! Good gracious, you didn't take the Knight Bus here, did you? That would certainly be unwise in your condition, dear."
"No, I took the Vanishing Cabinet. Remus wanted to come, but the Minister demanded a meeting with him about some werewolf legislation or the other."
Really, Hermione thought indignantly, they were acting like she wasn't sleeping here in the same room. Honestly, who gave them permission to have loud conversations in her bedroom anyway? Did they have no delicate scruples? And had Fred said something about a Dungbomb?
"Oh, dear. This is too many people, I'm afraid. Mrs. Weasley, why don't you take everyone out and I'll call you as soon as she wakes?"
"Oh, very well, Poppy. Everyone, out, you're being much too noisy!"
"Can we stay, Madam Pomfrey? Please? Please?"
"Oh, all right, Ms. Weasley. Just you and your ridiculous brother, then. But if I hear another loud word out of you, Ronald Weasley, you'll join the others outside. Have I made myself clear? I won't have my patients disturbed."
"Thanks, Madam Pomfrey. I'll be quiet, I really will. McGonagall will kill me anyway."
Hermione personally thought he wasn't being very quiet at all, and she intended to tell him so as soon as she mustered the energy to open her eyes and turn over. To compensate while she struggled with eyelids that seemed glued together, she uttered a low, admonishing groan and turned her head in the direction of the unwelcome noise.
There was a gasp. "I think she moved."
When she finally managed to open them, she found Ron and Ginny staring down at her anxiously. She blinked slowly to clear her vision. "Hello," she said quietly.
"Hermione!" Ginny said delightedly. "You're awake!"
"You scared us for a while there," Ron told her, looking positively sick with relief.
"Really?" she asked, baffled.
"Of course you did! Ask Ginny, we were freaked out, and Tonks was so startled we thought that if she had been any more pregnant than she was, she would have delivered the baby right then and there!"
"Baby?" Hermione interjected weakly, looking around. "Where?"
Ron went on as if she hadn't spoken at all. "Yeah, when you guys collapsed, we thought you were dead for sure. I don't remember ever being so scared… except for when we fought Aragog's little kids," he added reflectively. "And when we had to battle You-Know-Who. And when… well, anyway, you get the point. You and Harry wouldn't wake up. We tried spells and shaking and even some silly lavender water Luna produced. Then Lupin finally figured out that you must have been knocked out while the magic seeped in. Took its time too, I have to say… You've been out cold for two days now."
Hermione put a hand to her throbbing head. Really, couldn't Ron see that she was a little off right now? What was he talking about? Delivering babies? Why was Ron having babies? Magic seeping? Seeping where? It had taken its own time to seep? They thought she was dead? Why would anyone think something as foolish as that? Out cold for two days? Who? Her? And why, why was she lying in a bed in the hospital wing of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Then, as Hermione tried to sort out these various questions, memory hit her and nearly knocked her unconscious again. The Sickness Spell, the Bonding Spell, Lupin, the light, Harry…
She let out a shriek, making both Ron and Ginny jump: "Is he dead?"
"Who?" demanded Ron.
Ginny glared at her brother, and said soothingly to Hermione, "It's all right, Hermione, Harry's just fine, he's right there next to you, see?"
Hermione turned her head and saw Harry lying in the next bed. "You're sure he's all right?" she asked them anxiously. Harry, her Harry. She loved him so much. And they'd both been through so much, given up so much for each other. She couldn't lose him now. That would be too cruel, much too cruel. He had to be okay.
"Yes, he's fine," Ginny told her patiently, smiling, "He woke up a few hours ago and he was all worried about you, in fact. Shocking." She grinned. "Anyway, Madam Pomfrey gave him something to eat and some chocolate and advised him to go to sleep for a little while."
"We promised him that we'd wake him the instant you woke up, though, if he wasn't already awake. But if you want to go ahead and wake him yourself… I daresay he might enjoy being woken by the love of his life than by the two of us."
Hermione slowly pushed off the covers in the bed and got out of bed. She was amazed by how she felt – strong, healthy, alive again. The sickness, the weakness, was gone. She almost cried. Harry had done this for her. Ginny and Ron watched her as she went to his side. He lay quite peacefully asleep, and he looked much better than he had before. His pallor had eased a bit, and the lines of strain had faded from his face. But she wanted to see him laugh. She needed to see him laugh. What was she, without Harry, without his happiness?
She stretched her fingers gently towards him and touched his wrist, smoothing them over his skin, and then wrapped her hand in his, squeezing gently. He stirred restlessly.
"Hermione," he mumbled.
She smiled and touched her lips to his forehead, kissing him lightly. "It's me, Harry."
His eyes flickered open and he blinked at her uncomprehendingly for a moment. Then a light sprang to his wonderful green eyes and he sat up so fast his head nearly collided with hers. "Hermione!" he said. "You – are you okay – how do you feel?"
"As good as new," she said softly, "Thanks to you, Harry."
He grinned. "Wow. I never thought… I dreamed… I've been so afraid."
She put her arms around him and held him tightly, and he clung to her as if he would never ever let her go. Hermione heard Ginny dragging Ron out of the room and the door discreetly close. She held Harry in her arms and kissed his head. "We're all right, Harry," she said softly. "We're finally okay. And you… your magic?"
"It was worth it," he said, grinning, "Just to see you smile like that."
Hermione let him go and she sank down on the edge of his bed, feeling a little awkward. "Harry, what happens now?"
"We're going to get married," he told her matter-of-factly, "I can't let Ron get married before I do."
She laughed. "You've given this a great deal of thought!"
"I've wanted to be with you since I woke up to how much I loved you," he said, brushing brown hair out of her eyes, a tender look in his face that was so rare in the face that had once seemed grim and worn all the time. The look made her heart sing. "So yeah, I'm pretty sure of what I want now. Marry me?"
"Alas, my romantic illusions have been dispelled," she said with false drama, "I always pictured being proposed to over a candle-lit dinner on the North Tower, a man on one knee with a real jewel of an engagement ring concealed deep within the chocolate cake…"
Harry snorted. "Well, if you can conjure up the candles and dinner and the ring, I'll bake the cake and get down on one knee."
Hermione laughed. "I love you, Harry."
"I love you too," he said. Then his eyes alighted on something over her shoulder and he reached for it. It was a small, wrapped box. "I had this crafted for you this Christmas, but I never wound up giving it to you on the day because I didn't dare." He watched her as, hands trembling, she unwrapped the parcel and found a neat box within. "You know, I figure you might be more amenable to it now, seeing as you mentioned that you wanted it romantic…"
She could feel his eyes, nervous and excited all at once, as she opened the box. She gasped. It was a ring, but not just any ring. It was silver, which touched her, because she knew Harry must have remembered that she'd once said she preferred silver to gold. And it was slim and elegant with a crafting of a lion, a snake, a badger and a raven along the band. Hermione felt tears sting her eyes as she looked at Harry.
"Yeah, well," he said, looking awkward, "This place will always be our real home. I've never been as happy as I was when I was here with you. This was where we started and this is where we've begun again. I figured it was a… a good symbol."
"It's beautiful," she sobbed, throwing herself at him, "It's perfect!"
"Merry Christmas," Harry said with a grin. "Now put it on your finger and let's shock everyone by telling them we're going to get married."
Hermione cleared her throat slightly, brushing away happy tears. She jerked her chin forward, over Harry's shoulder. Harry slowly turned his head around towards the door of the hospital wing, and sighed in resignation, as he saw no less than fifteen faces peering through the door at them, all of whom were beaming with triumph and satisfaction and delight.
"Something tells me that there isn't going to be much shock happening around here," Hermione remarked in a dry voice. "Except maybe for Professor McGonagall."
Harry sighed. "When we go on our honeymoon, we're keeping the location a secret."
"I can assure you, my good man," George bellowed from the door, "We have absolutely no desire to snoop on events taking place on your honeymoon! Try Disneyworld, it's supposed to be magical! By the way, can you name your first son after me?"
"Excuse me, if they're going to name a son after anyone, it'll be me!" said Ron indignantly.
"And a daughter after me," Ginny said helpfully, "Or perhaps they could name their daughter Ginniluna. Or Remitonks. Or Hagrinerva."
"Another wedding in the family," said Mrs. Weasley blissfully, though, technically, of course, neither Harry nor Hermione were part of the Weasley family.
"Oh, no!" Neville groaned. "I lost my two-legged Water-Plant! Someone help me look for it!"
Harry and Hermione looked at each other in feigned exasperation and resignation, and Harry mouthed incredulously: 'Hagrinerva?'. There was a light of laughter and happiness dancing in Harry's eyes that made the last wounds in Hermione's heart heal and made her feel that, at last, all the pieces had fallen together.
"Meet you at the North Tower right away?" he asked her wryly.
She grinned. "Let me get your Invisibility Cloak and then you're on."