Disclaimer: I don't own HP :)
A/N: Hello, everyone! I am back, finally, after a long absence due to a research paper in an english class. Spring has been rough on my concentration - my dorm room is so small and outside is so big. Anyway, thank you to all who reviewed my last chapter. I do realize it jumps around and doesn't exactly complete ideas or sentences, but that was sort of the point. It was a major action/drama scene and I just imagined the characters to be so confused that they didn't have the time to put things together. I may, however, revise it later. Keep checking back from time to time for re-posted chapters.
This is it! This is the epilogue, this is the wrap-up, this is the official end! I'm saddened by the thought of the story being complete, but it also gives me great joy. I've spent around two years working on this - it's the first chapter novel I've ever completed and it's given a great sense of satisfaction. I hope that all who read it will be happy with this. It's taken a long time to figure out exactly how I wanted it to end. It is a romance first and foremost, so I owe the reader some love before the back cover closes. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you to all who read and reviewed! It has made me so happy. Enjoy!
The bathroom was painted a soothing lavender shade, fading into a white as the light from the opened window streaked across the wall. It glinted off the small square of a mirror and Hermione looked away. There were bobby pins jutting out of her tightly-pressed lips as she wandered the cool, tiled floor. Her shoes were still lying outside of her closet in the other room and would be forgotten until the last minute. The air was fresh with simple fragrance of budding trees and dew. The ladybug that brushed past her shoulder smelled like summer. She sighed with closed eyes.
There was a rustling from the next room, as the bathroom door was left open and inviting. Ron was limping across the hardwood floor in front of their bed dressed in nicely-pressed pants and a cotton undershirt. His hair was still damp and messed about his ears. He was in search of a collared shirt that hung somewhere in the depths of his unruly closet. His feet were warmed by the April sun.
The breeze drifted across Hermione's bare arms, tickling the flesh timidly. Her neck trembled with the sudden chill. She could not brush away the prickled feeling as her hands were tangled in curls, trying to achieve a clean semblance of a French twist. At last, the bobby pins were perilously in place.
"Ron?" she called, arching her neck to catch the reflection of her handiwork in the mirror. "Will you bring me my dress?"
"Where is it?" his gruff voice replied from far away.
Hermione licked her upper lip and tasted her lipstick. "Laid out on the bed." She ran her hands over her cheeks and up towards her forehead, smoothing the hair that had managed to spring forward despite her best effort.
Ron appeared in the doorframe a moment later, his shirt unbuttoned and a tie loose around his neck. Draped over his freckled hands was a shift dress. "You look fine in that."
Hermione smiled. "I can't go out in this," she replied, picking up an earring from the white sink top and pulling it through her ear, "it's a slip. It's supposed to go underneath."
"I know," he said, leaning his shoulder against the wall and watching her with great interest. She tugged the other earring through, consulting the mirror again. "You just look better in that."
Hermione laughed tentatively, grabbing her dress from him. "Get dressed."
Ron's fingers deftly found the buttons and slipped them through their appointed slots in the crisp, white fabric. He liked to watch her prepare in the mornings – her routine was appealing and vaguely sensual. The way she would smooth lotion across her shoulders or slide a skirt over her hips kept his attention every day of every week of every month they had spent together. Even now, as she lifted her arms and carefully allowed her dress to drift over her body, Ron's eyes widened and he forgot all about the tie underneath his clothing.
Hermione turned her head and caught him. "You look like a fool," she teased. "The tie is supposed to go outside the collar. It's like you didn't live in a uniform for seven years at all. Try it again, love."
Ron almost blushed, dipping his head. "Can't help it," he grumbled. "Just can't."
"That was a lovely speech," Ginny said in a low voice, her eyes skimming the vibrant grass underneath her shoes. "I'm sure he would have appreciated it. Viktor, too." Her eyes stung with tears, but they were useless and irritating. She nodded her head and lifted her gaze back to Dean.
Dean's hand was on Ginny's shoulder in a moment, squeezing with appropriate comfort. "It was difficult," his voice was familiarly soft, deep. "But they deserve it." He smiled sheepishly and breathed in the sweet air of spring. "To be completely honest," his voice broke a bit, "I keep thinking that Viktor will walk up here and throw an absolute fit for wasting valuable Ministry time and resources. I'd have to give my job back. It's ridiculous, I know, but there's always that chance. It's okay with me."
Ginny returned the smile, baring her teeth. "He does have quite the temper."
"Alright," Dean breathed, feeling her body stiffen under his touch. "I'd better go mill around for a bit. Collect compliments – you know, that sort of thing. Stay as long as you'd like. I'll be around to see you out." He put his hand back by his side and began looking to the tables spread out across the hill. People were collecting food on small plates and picking up small cups of lemonade. He could faintly hear the buzzing of voices and the high pitches of laughter.
Ginny swayed backwards. "Okay," she returned, following his eyes. "See you later." She didn't feel hungry, but went towards the food-laden tables anyway. Her shoulders brushed against the filmy fabric of dresses and the rigid feel of suits. There were a few smiles, a few eyes smudged with tears, a few hands that reached out to grasp hers in seconds-long solidarity. She babbled her way through the crowd and wandered with a cup of cold drink over to the platform Dean had delivered his speech from.
It was like an outdoor graduation. There was an elevated stage with a podium placed in the middle. It overlooked metal folding chairs, spotted with crumpled bits of paper – the remnants of the pamphlets with Seamus' faced splashed over the cover. How easily some could forget this whole thing, Ginny thought to herself angrily. She squinted as she meandered through the rows of seats, the sun directly overhead at this point in the day. Eventually, Ginny found herself standing directly in the middle of the whole ordeal – the seats behind her, the stage in front, and the blown-up pictures of Seamus Finnigan and Viktor Krum on either side. It was simply part of the honoring ceremony – the only presentation of the men the crowd was celebrating that was appropriate for the occasion.
Ginny's free fingers skimmed across the smooth paper. She touched Seamus' red cheek, rounded over his exposed ear, and down towards his collar. He was dressed in his regular Order uniform – starched, black robes and dress shirt, with a shaved head and a no-nonsense visage. Seamus was completely still beneath her touch – it was a Muggle photograph her father had suggested at the last minute. "It'll be easier to deal with," he had said, "trust me." Ginny had let him do whatever he pleased. She was looking forward to being done with the ceremony.
Seamus had passed away two weeks after the incident. He never fully regained consciousness, but mumbled some in the troubled dreams he slept through while nestled in St. Mungo's. Ginny had been at his bedside frequently. She listened to his pain, watched his life disappear, and cried when his body was carried from the room. A small, closed funeral was held three days later out in the Irish countryside. He was buried next to his parents with a grey tombstone that read Seamus Patrick Finnigan. 1979 - 2004. Dedication. Loyalty. Faith. It was a touching little remain that the Order had funded – it was the least they could do.
Viktor Krum did not receive a tombstone. Proof of death had not been established. Though the battle site had been picked over several times in the past months, Viktor's body had not been found. For some, that meant the shining glimmer of hope – that Krum was still out there, somewhere, wandering about. To Ginny, however, it was just another cruelty served by the unjustness of that night. His body had burned along with pile of corpses beneath him. His heroics, his duty to the Order had been rewarded with his picture hanging in the corridor leading to Dean's office. There was a small plaque underneath with his name.
There was talk of establishing a memorial to the fallen. A nice, bronzed statue for the rest of the Order to glance at on their way to work. A small fountain with a coin-paved bottom for the wishers and dreamers. A garden in a sunny patch of London with a bench or birdfeeder for each name. Ginny would have nothing to do with it. Her interaction with the Ministry and the Order had evaporated. Her last official act was to chair the Honoring Ceremony. It was better that way, though it proved very difficult to face the living Order here, today.
They were all out there on the hillside. Ginny could pick them out easily. They all wore uniforms today – their black robes sticking out easily against the colorful backdrop. She imagined they were hot, sweaty, tired, in the warming spring sun. She saw her brother – still tall, still gangly – taking a seat at a table. His hair had been pushed messily off his freckled forehead and stuck up all around his ears. He sat next to Luna and Neville, chatting with a solemn face. She hadn't expected them to show up, but Seamus had kept contact with his schoolmates well after Hogwarts had ended. Ginny swallowed, swaying.
Hermione appeared by her side shortly after. She, too, wore the oppressive black cloak. It was unzipped all the way down and flowed around her calves. Hermione took her time examining Viktor's picture. Her red eyes soaked in his taught mouth, his pronounced nose. She could still see him as a teenager. He smiled as he tripped over her feet during the Yule dance.
"You don't have to wear that thing," Ginny told her, still surveying the crowd. "You haven't been a part of the Order for three years."
"It's tradition," Hermione bit, "Viktor would have wanted it this way."
Ginny said nothing. She felt tense all over.
"It's my way to honor him. Respect them both."
"Alright, I understand," Ginny returned, not wanting to hear anything more. She wished Hermione would go away. Usually she didn't feel angry, but today was full of exceptions. Hermione still had a good semblance of normal life, while Ginny was living with her parents and struggling to find work. Hermione still had Ron, while Ginny was left unaccompanied to the ceremony. Harry had a meeting at the Order to determine his settlement award that morning. He was, indeed, trying to take a desk job. He was trying to settle down. "It just takes time," he said, running his fingers through her hair. "I'll be there as soon as I can." There was no trace of him yet.
"Well," Hermione sighed, "I should leave you alone, I think." She smiled as best she could; accepting again that her relationship with Ginny would never be as close as it once was. She understood the powerful impact of grudges. She could live with the little bit of tension left over from the resolution Ginny would make as she slowly learned to forgive and forget. Time was neutral. It could begin to heal, though there were no promises of complete recovery.
Ginny caught her eyes for a moment. Guilt stabbed her chest in one feral swoop. She said nothing.
"Ron wanted me to check on you," Hermione breathed, turning her back to Viktor. It was a picture she'd seen enough of now. "We're both going back to the Burrow and staying a couple of days. He wants to see you after all this ends. I hope he will."
"Sure." Ginny's voice cracked over the words, as if she hadn't spoken in a week. Her frown hurt. "That's fine. I'll see you at home."
Hermione's fingers brushed Ginny's arm as she walked towards the others.
Hermione could hear the rumble of Ron's voice as she stretched out on the floor. He and Ginny had been speaking quietly for an hour or so. Hermione's eyes shut as she let her body relax against the worn rug. It was nice to be surrounded by so many people, so much family. Ron and Hermione had eaten dinner surrounded by their loved ones, sat by the fire and read shared parts of the newspaper, and eventually retired to an extra bedroom Molly had aired out for their arrival. It was strange to call Mrs. Weasley Molly now, but the woman had insisted on it. Hermione wasn't a girl anymore.
Ron had kissed her forehead after slipping out of his good clothes and into his regular, ratty attire. He still fit into his tattered Chudley Cannons shirt. George had found it months before, crammed under his bed. He proudly displayed the dusty garment to his brother during a quiet moment in the hallway. "Be careful," George had warned him softly, "you never know if Fred did anything to it. I certainly can't remember." The grin that stretched across his mouth had been sincere. Ron returned it with his own, long smile that crinkled his eyes and heated his cheeks.
Hermione had heard Ginny's footsteps down the creaking staircase, mumbling something as Ron pulled her along. She imagined they sat in the kitchen. The soft candlelight would glow on the table as Ron poured rum into tiny cups. He wasn't particularly good at heart-to-hearts, but he was set on this one. Hermione hadn't said anything about it – it wasn't her decision. There was a bit of apprehension in the back of her mind, however, as the Weasleys were not known for their cool headedness. Ginny was having problems and might not appreciate Ron's intervention.
However, the rumble of conversation was steady and low. That was good. Hermione felt the sharpness of the day become hazy. The emotions began to drift. The tears she had shed were distant. She was at home now. She could rest comfortably as soon as Ron was back. Maybe she would fall asleep and he would find her stretched out across the carpet at the end of the bed. Maybe he would pick her up gently and tuck her into the bed, careful not to lean on her hair. Her hair that now brushed her collarbone, her hair that was now long, now curling wildly as it pleased. She would wake up next to him and a new day would begin. That would be nice.
"What are you doing?"
"Shit!" Hermione cried, eyes springing open wide. She saw nothing. "Who's there!" she demanded. She pushed herself to her feet shakily before wrapping her arms over her chest. Her pulse began to pound heavily in her ears. Fear crept up her legs and made them itch. Her nightmares sometimes began like this.
"I'm over here," the voice grumbled. There was a body sitting in the wicker chair next to the nightstand. He waved in one, fluid motion, before resting his hands back in his lap. "Hello," he said in a pleasant enough manner.
"Viktor?" Hermione hissed, leaning towards the apparition in the dark. She squinted, though there was plenty of starlight coming in through the window. Viktor Krum was sitting rigidly in the chair – just as he would at his desk while working – glaring at her. "Viktor!"
"Yes," he replied.
Hermione could not tear herself away from the paralyzing fear that still kept her body prisoner. "That's not possible," she whispered. She began to shiver. "This isn't possible. I must be dreaming." Sometimes it helped to talk through her dreams – it helped her disconnect from the horrible images that presented themselves during sleep. "You can't be here."
"Well," Viktor said in a much softer voice, "I am." He had no idea how to go about this. Hermione was the first person he chose to show himself to – the reaction was a bit unnerving, but not unexpected.
"No!" Hermione said forcefully. Her nose began to sting, her eyes began to water. "That can't be true! I went to your funeral!"
"Shh," Viktor rose from his seat, hands outstretched. "Keep your voice down. Ron might hear. I don't want him attacking thin air and upsetting everyone else." Viktor took a few, tentative steps forward.
Hermione watched him move. Her throat closed up as realization bloomed in her mind. Viktor was grey, pale, haggard-looking. His feet barely touched the ground. It could be a trick of the dark and the time, but…
"Are you…?" she could barely force the question out. Her lips trembled as they hung open, useless.
Viktor stopped, sighed, and put a hand to his temple. "…A ghost?" he finished. "Yes. It's difficult to explain, but all you need to know-"
"A ghost?" she breathed, feeling the air slip from her chest. Her knees bent, arms huddled close, head bowed, Hermione felt hollow. Viktor was there – a visible soul – in her room. Speaking to her. The grieving process Hermione had led herself through after losing a loved one began to unwind. Her acceptance, her anger, her grief, her doubt – she could feel every emotion as clear as it struck her the first time. Her vision began to blur as blinking had been forgotten. "That's not possible."
"It is!" Viktor insisted, looking slightly annoyed. "I'm right here, aren't I? Trust me." He had spent a lot of time alone in the previous months, flitting in and out of existence. Contrary to his previous beliefs, ghosts just did not appear. They were created. A soul must become realized, become concrete through effort. It was literally like pulling his body out of thin air. Viktor felt tired all the time, though he knew feeling would eventually leave him. Tangibility was just a memory yet to be forgotten. Being invisible was better than nothing.
"How?" her voice was soft as it hovered in the air between them.
"It's a long explanation," Viktor explained. "I don't really want to talk about it. I just want to be around people for a while. I tried to find you at your flat, but. I found a letter sitting in your reading chair talking about the Honoring Ceremony." He felt like blushing, though his skin wouldn't betray him that way anymore. Still, he scratched the back of his head as his gaze fell. "I followed the two of you here. I've been waiting for a while."
Hermione began to cry. Deftly, her fingers wiped away her tears. "I can't believe this," she repeated with a changed tone. "Viktor." She took a step forward and reached out for him. Her hands went straight through his torn robes. They both flinched.
"Sorry," he sighed.
"I would hug you if I could," she gasped, staring at her hands. "Oh, God, Viktor. You have no idea the worry you've caused!"
Viktor could not help but roll his eyes. He remembered accusations like this from his school days. Viktor, you should really stop staring and study. Really, what would people think with you over there drooling like that? Viktor, why haven't these reports been signed? I can't exactly waltz into the Minister's office with unverified information! Viktor, please, just iron your shirt. You can't be productive if you look like a slob. Hermione had not changed – still worrying about appearances, the veneer of perfection. What did he care now? He was still dressed in a bloodied, burned outfit that would scare children and horrify their mothers. Looks meant little to him. However, this did not mean he couldn't feel sympathy. He knew exactly the amount of time that had passed – four months – and how long a heart could take not knowing. He felt ashamed in some absurd way.
"Sorry," Viktor replied, ducking his head warily. "You know I couldn't help it."
Hermione's tears ran fresh and unchecked down her cheeks. "I'm shocked," she told him. "This is just so… surreal." Ghosts generally weren't friends. Not anyone she knew previously, anyway. They were old, untouchable, fading in an out of memory so quickly that Hermione forgot about their presence until she drifted through them again.
Viktor was not the case.
"Sit down," she said quietly, gesturing to the wicker chair again.
Viktor sat with a smile. Hermione sat on the edge of the bed with her elbows digging into her knees and her head sagging into her palms. They did not speak for a long while. Hermione could feel Ron's voice through her feet. He had no idea. No one knew.
"How have you been?" he asked gently. Though he no longer had a pulse, Viktor still felt jittery and nervous – like he was on a first date all over again. He could feel electricity running swiftly over his arms and down the back of his neck. This acceptance was new, young, fragile. It took an effort to keep the welling emotions inside and under control.
Hermione shook her head and sniffed. "Fine, just fine… I guess. I've made an easy recovery. There are a couple of scars still left, but nothing a potion or two can't cure."
Hermione glanced at him. There he was, sitting plain as day in her bedroom. His face looked exactly the same. Albeit, his pallor had grayed remarkably, cuts lined his chin, and his hair had come out in the back to reveal a large, scabby gash. Torn, blood-stained clothes hung off his shoulders and pooled around his ankles. Viktor had turned out to be quite a sight. Perhaps she shouldn't have brought up her health.
"I can't believe you're actually dead," she burst. A red smudge of embarrassment crossed her cheeks. "Not that I can't see you perfectly now, but… Viktor… everyone had hopes that you'd make it back someday, well, looking quite differently. I'm sorry; I know I sound horribly offensive. I'm really trying not to be, but the Order's expectations have all been dashed now."
Viktor shrugged. "I intend to return and collect some sort of settlement. They owe me that much, I suspect. Ghosts can't do much with the regular currency. I figure I'll donate it or split it among you lot. Everyone's expectations will just have to change."
Hermione nodded, tucking her hair behind her ears with steady hands. The normalcy of their conversation had a strange effect on her. Despite all odds, she was still able to function relatively well.
"I guess you know that Seamus is dead," she sighed.
Viktor grimaced. "Yeah. That's a real shame. A real, damn shame. How's Ginny taking it?"
Hermione shrugged, feeling the prickle of ice across her skin. "She's angry, but it gets a little better every day. Ron's got her downstairs trying to figure out how to move out of the Burrow."
"What about Harry?" Viktor snapped.
"He's fine, I think. Quitting an Aurorship isn't as easy as some might think. There has to be a reason and the Order'll do anything to keep him. He's finishing up some things and looking for an apartment for the two of them. I don't know how long that'll take, though, considering its Harry."
Viktor bobbed his head, feeling his tension resolve bit by bit. "And Ron?"
"Fine," Hermione beamed unintentionally. "He's taken a job as an apothecary. Still does some freelance work for the Order. We've bought a beautiful apartment on the coast."
She watched his eyebrows rise and couldn't help but to laugh. "You two are together still?"
"Yes!" she cried indignantly. "And we're thinking of buying a dog!"
"Just making sure you're okay, too."
"You don't have to come back to babysit, Viktor," Hermione smiled. "We'll all be fine eventually."
"I came back to settle my business," he replied tersely. "I'm going back to the Order and demanding a job. So long as I can, I'll be working. Ginny and Harry's problems don't upset me, but I can still feel. I can care."
"Fine," Hermione backed off. "I didn't mean to sound insensitive."
Viktor ran his hands over his face. He took a great breath and let it out slowly. When he dropped his hands, he was smiling sadly. "Jesus Christ. I don't mean to sound so… old. I'm happy to be here again. I can't wait to see everyone else. They can't possibly have a worse reaction than you."
"If I could hit you," Hermione grumbled playfully, "I would."
The morning was foggy with mist and a long, vast span of graying clouds. The Weasley's yard limped with the weight of dew. Ron took a seat on the lounge chair that had been left on the patio for several weeks. He could feel his jeans soak up the rain, but it didn't matter that much. He had a mug of coffee and company to keep him distracted. Blinking the sleep from his eyes, Ron turned his head to regard Viktor.
Viktor sat in the lounge chair a few inches away. In the light of the early morning, he looked worse than ever. Ron had to control his flinching reaction every time he caught a peak at the back of his companion's head. He would just have to get used to it. At least, that's what Viktor had snapped a few nights ago after being bothered for too long.
"Can I ask you something?" Viktor prompted, looking a bit sheepish. His gaze was not on Ron, but gazing out into the yard.
"Shoot," Ron returned, sipping at his coffee. Usually he didn't wake this early and his body was still in a sleep-drugged state. His knees ached around this time – they weren't used to walking around yet. He had broken both of them in his jump and he remembered the freefall with every twitch and let-out.
"You and Hermione," Viktor began, trying to look as cool as he could, "yeah?"
"Yeah," Ron said, glancing over at him. "Why? What's wrong?"
Viktor sighed and looked Ron straight in the eye. "When are you going to propose to that girl? She told me all about the house and the pet and the job and how wonderful it all goes for you two. Why don't you just do it? No sense in leading her on."
There were a few beats of complete silence. Ron burst out laughing. His voice rang out loudly across the lawn and reverberated against the windows behind them. His body was shaking so hard, he had to place his coffee on the table between them. He laughed so hard tears began streaming down his cheeks and his breath caught in his chest. Laughter pealed out of his mouth, flowing off his tongue in a gushing stream. Words would not block its path.
Viktor warmed. "What?" he demanded, "What did I say?"
Ron sniffed, wiping the tears away from his eyes. If only that poor git knew what was going to happen in a matter of an hour or so. The timing was less than perfect; Viktor would soon know that and that embarrassed look on his face would surely become permanent.
"Stop laughing at me!" Viktor continued, "You're going to wake up everyone else."
"I can't help it, mate," Ron replied, licking his lips. His cheeks hurt. It took a great amount of effort to settle down again. "I just can't."
"What did I say?" Viktor repeated his question.
"Ronald!" a voice shrieked from the kitchen inside.
Ron cocked his head.
"Ronald Weasley!" Hermione screamed as she trampled down the staircase. Her hands were shaking around a tiny, black box. She hadn't the courage to open it yet. She flew through the kitchen and threw open the screen door to where that man was lounging about.
Ron winked at Viktor, feeling his pulse race. "Yes?" he asked innocently.
Hermione stopped short as her feet met the cool, cracked pavement. "Did you hollow out the inside of my book to cram this thing inside?" she demanded, her hair frizzing around her face. She looked like a wild woman. She shoved the parcel under Ron's nose. "Did you ruin my book just for this? Do you think this is funny?! Don't look at Viktor – look at me! Did you?"
Ron dipped his head innocently. "What's inside?" he asked, peering up at the box.
"That's not the point!" Hermione cried, exasperated. She set the box down on the table next to his hot coffee. "Hello, Viktor. It's lovely to see you this morning." Her eyes closed as she ran her hands through her hair and over her face.
Viktor managed a small, "Morning," as he watched Ron slip off his chair. Hermione wasn't paying him any attention as he held the black box in his palm. Viktor figured his participation in this scene would not be needed. He vanished a few moments later feeling a fool.
"Well," Ron cleared his throat, "This wasn't exactly the way this was supposed to happen, but this will just have to do."
"What are you doing?" Hermione griped. "Get up! You shouldn't do that to your knees, Ron. Stop being silly and go and fix my book."
Ron glared up at her. "Will you just shut up for a moment?" he snapped, but not uncaringly. Hermione's eyes widened and her mouth opened, but she seemed shocked enough to stay quiet for a good while. "Anyway," he grinned, snapping the box open. "Hermione Jane Granger, you insufferable, lovely, beautiful, know-it-all – I love you. Despite everything, I can't help but love you each and every day. I love waking up to you and going to sleep know you're there." His face grew serious as he grasped her hand. "I want to marry you... for real this time. I'm not much good at this sort of thing, but I want you. That's it. Just you and me. Do you think you could agree to that?"
Hermione sunk to her knees, cupping the box in her hands. She paid no attention to the ring.
"Will you be my wife?"
"Yes," she gasped, staring into his freckled face. Swiftly, she leaned forward and kissed him.
A/N: I loved writing this story, truly I did. And I sincerely hope that you all liked reading it, too!
I titled the epilogue The Times They Are A-Changin' in reference to the great and wonderful Bob Dylan. You may or may not have noticed that all of my chapter titles - as well as the title for the overall piece - came from songs that I listened to while I wrote. If you can guess most of the bands and singer/songwriters - more power to you. I just that would be a cool little theme throughout.
Please leave one last review before moving on to some other work! I appreciate the feedback and the slaps to my ego when I wander. I hope to have another story like this again - not too soon, though. I think I need a little break before another masterpiece. ;) I hope to read some of your works, too, in my newly-found free time! I hope you all have a wonderful day. I thank you again from the bottom of my heart for your dedication. You did, after all, make it through thirty-four chapters.