Well I've been struggling with this for the last few chapters, and after the last one I didn't have even a tiny little idea - so I knew I needed to end it. So, this is the final chapter. It's a little sudden, I know, but the story's run its course now. And as I've been idea-less, this probably isn't all that great. But it's more of an epilogue than anything else, so there's not a lot to it.
So, thanks to everyone who read, and especially those who reviewed.
This takes place at the end of Teddy's final year, so there's been a time-jump.
Chapter 10 – And After
"...And they all lived happily ever after." Hermione finished, and closed the book. "Well, what did you think?
He paused, choosing his words carefully. It was a muggle story book, after all, and Teddy didn't want to offend Hermione. "It was...OK." He said finally. He prepared to wince, expecting her face to crumple, for hurt and disappointment to creep into her eyes. Instead, she carried on smiling and nodded. "Yeah. Not brilliant, though, huh?"
"Well...No." Teddy admitted. "It was kinda boring, and there wasn't even any fighting. And...I don't get it."
"Don't get what?" Now her smile faded slightly into puzzlement.
"The story. The fairy used magic to get Cinderella to a ball, and then the prince decided to marry whoever her shoe fits? That's stupid – it could fit anyone, not just her. And she didn't even know him – you can't marry a stranger, just because they're a prince." He shrugged, and was a little confused when Hermione grinned.
"You know, Teddy, that's exactly the way I always felt about this story." She brushed a hand over his hair.
"Really?" That made him feel smart, because Hermione was really clever, and if she shared his opinion on this, it must make him clever, too, right? Even just a little bit. "So why do people like it so much?" He asked. This time it was she who hesitated, chosing her words.
"Well, I guess people just like to believe it could be that easy to find love and get married and live happily ever after."
"And people don't get happily ever afters in real life." Teddy said flatly. Hermione looked over at the Moses basket by the wall, where her baby daughter was sleeping.
"If they're lucky they do." She murmured, then looked back down at Teddy. The beginning of his life had been dark, she thought. If anyone deserved a happy ending, he did. "Maybe you'll get yours."
"You think?" He asked, clearly unconvinced.
"Oh, yes. But not that easily."
"Huh. I won't have to carry a shoe around, will I?"
He was nervous. It made no sense at all to be nervous, but he was.
It would have been normal if this were his first day, or an exam, or...well, anything except his last ever day at Hogwarts. The last day shouldn't make him nervous. Tearful, maybe– Lainey had spent the last few months saying how sad it would be to leave and never come back, how much she'd miss the place, and how she knew she'd cry on the last day, a fact he and Jake knew to be true. Sad, sure. Nostaglic, even – he'd caught himself, a few days ago, staring at the entrance to a passageway he and Jake had once hid in, trying to get out of History of Magic. They'd been caught, and had detention for a full week, but it had been an experience, and he'd found himself thinking he'd miss acting like an idiot.
So there were a whole range of emotions he should be feeling, first thing on his final day. But nerves?
He sat up, pushing away the bedcovers, and thinking that he'd miss this bed. Then he shook his head, telling himself he was acting like a girl.
And then he quietened that thought, too, because he had never known any girl to announce they'd miss a bed. And he knew plenty of girls. He sighed as he stood up, and headed down to the bathroom.
He'd miss the bathroom, too. The way you had to turn the hot tap to a certain point, or else the water would be scolding. The way one of the tiles on the floor was lose, and moved when you stood on it, tipping your balance. He'd fallen over more than once, first thing on a morning, sliding on that tile as he hurried into the room. He'd even miss the way the door jammed sometimes when no one was inside, so on more than one occasion he or one of his roommates had been stood outside, yelling for the occupant to hurry up, only to find that while they'd been painfully desperate to pee, the room had been empty. He'd miss the little things about the room, and the fact that he knew them, understood them. The bathroom had it's little quirks, and he'd miss them.
He exited the bathroom, nervous again.
His last day. God, what would he do now? Where would he work? What would exam results be? Why had he not decided all of this months ago? Sure, George had already assured him a place at the WWW indefinitely, while he figured out what he wanted. But shouldn't he have some ambition? He was eighteen, and he should be happy about going off into the big bad world, not wishing he was eleven and just starting here.
Yet he was.
Jake was still asleep, he noted, and after quickly dressing, he started out of the dormitory, thinking that this was the last time he'd ever have breakfast at Hogwarts.
"I think I'm losing it." He muttered, entering the hall and forcing himself not to think it would be the last time he'd see the inside of it. The last time he'd look up at the impressive ceiling, sit at one of the huge tables and eat from golden plates. He scanned the table as he walked towards it, finding Victoire in the crowd. She looked up, met his eyes, then looked back down at her plate.
"Hi." He said, sitting opposite her and Holly. She didn't react, though Holly said hello. "Uh...Vee?"
"Mmm?" She still didn't look up, toying with the food on her plate.
"Is something wrong?"
"No. I...Just remembered something I have to do." She stood, and hurried from the hall.
"What've I done?" Teddy asked, looked at Holly in confusion.
"Duh." She rolled her eyes. "She's upset because you're leaving."
"But...it's not like I'll never see her again." Teddy said blankly. In all his thoughts about the castle, and the teachers and the friends he knew he wouldn't keep in touch with, he'd never considered Victoire - or Jake or Lainey or Holly, for that matter. Some people were too much a part of his life for him to think he'd lose them. And Victoire was far too important to him to lose.
"Yeah, but she's never been at Hogwarts without you." Holly shrugged. "She's scared about it, and she's upset that she's not going to be seeing you every day anymore."
"She told you this?" Teddy asked awkwardly. He had to fix this, he was sure of it. If only he knew how.
"She didn't have to." Holly murmured, her gaze beyond Teddy, watching her brother enter the hall. Teddy followed her gaze, and understood.
"Ah. Holly – you and Jake have always been close, that's not going to change. And he's going to miss you, you know." Teddy said uncomfortably. The whole comfort-thing wasn't his strong point. Holly offered him a smile, nodded.
"I know. You should go after Victoire."
Teddy nodded, sighed, and picked up a piece of toast before walking out.
"Hey." Jake said as they walked towards each other. "Victoire?"
"Yeah. Talk to your sister." Teddy replied as they passed each other. He paused in the entrance hall, not knowing where she'd be. And then he noticed that one of the front doors were open, and started out.
She was stood, leaning back against a tree, only a few feet away. He approached her slowly, still not knowing what he was going to say. She didn't turn, but spoke when he'd reached her.
"Guess Holly explained." She said quietly.
"Yeah. She did."
"Always was determined we wouldn't fall out. Made sure she'd fix things between us whenever they needed fixing. She was so convinced we'd end up...Well."
He shifted from on foot to the other, wondering what she'd been about to say before she'd cut herself off. "Uh, look, Vee. There's no need to be upset about this. We'll still see each other all the time. Holidays and stuff. I'll even come down to Hogsmeade on your weekends there. You're my best friend." It felt so strange to say the words - he couldn't remember saying it since he was about twelve.
She nodded, still with her back to him. "Yeah. I know. I'm fine, Ted, really. Go back and finish eating."
"No. You're still upset."
"Yeah. I am. You're leaving."
"I...I know." He shifted again, extremely uncomfortable now.
"Holly...Since we were about twleve, thirteen, Holly's been convinced me and you would end up together." She was talking very fast, as though either forcing herself to get to words out, or blurting them before she could stop herself. "At first I told her she was wrong, but after a while I started to think it, too. It made sense, and so I was just waiting for you to – to realise it, too." She shrugged, and he knew that her face would have gone red now. "I guess now it's too late for you to stop thinking of me like a sister."
At some point during her speech, his mouth had fallen open in surprise. And now he struggled to find words.
This was his chance, his one and only chance, the one he thought he'd never get, should never get.
"Last – last year, Jake said something - he was trying to wind me and, well, he said it was the only way he could think off to make me realise that I...Well he said you'd – what was it? Grown up hot." There was both faint amusement and left over annoyance in his voice.
Finally, she turned to him, looking surprised. "Excuse me?"
"Yeah. I know. I, uh, hit him."
"What? Just because of that?"
"I didn't hit him hard." Teddy said, aware he sounded like a small child. "And he said he might, you know, ask you out."
"So you hit him?"
"It had been a long day. I was tired and irritable." Teddy replied defensively. "Can I get to the point of the story now?"
"Yeah, sure, go ahead."
"Well, after I'd hit him, and he'd hit me back and, well, anyway. He said he'd said it to prove a point. Um, that he and Holly had known for months that I...This sounds so pathetic and childish." He said flatly. "He said they knew there was something between us, and it was about time I realised it to. And well, it worked, and I figured you'd be freaked or mad or something if I told you and I thought I should just wait and eventually it'd - it's stop and...and..."
In the doorway of the castle, Lainey, Jake and Holly were watching, in the way only close friends can get away with.
"They're gonna end up together, right?" Holly asked. "'Cause this has gone on for too long."
"Sure they – ah." Swiftly, Jake lifted a hand and covered her eyes.
"Jake -" She squirmed, trying to get away from him. "Come on, this is my best friend – I've seen people kiss before!"
"Jake, let her go." Lainey said, rolling her eyes and pulling his arm.
"Just so long as you've never kissed anyone, sis." Jake said lightly, then glanced down at his sister, who simply smirked. "Wait – what? Who – when – no, actually, I don't want to know."
"We should get back inside." Lainey said. "Before Teddy and Victoire realise we've been watching them make out. Come on..."
"You saw them watching, right?" Victoire asked as she and Teddy walked back towards the castle.
"Yeah. It was a little weird, actually."
"Mmm, just a bit."
Several hours later, he jumped down from the train, one last time.
"Weird that we'll never ride that thing again." Jake said beside him. Fresh tears formed in Lainey's eyes.
"Come on, it's not all bad." Jake said, slinging an arm over her shoulders. "You can't cry again, 'cause Teddy'll cry too."
Lainey laughed, nodded, and swiped at her eyes. "So long as you promise you'll keep in touch. Both of you."
"Course." Jake nodded. "Don't worry so much. You'll get wrinkles or something." He squeezed her shoulders; Teddy noticed a look pass between them that made him wonder...
"This is it, then." Holly said, looking sad herself. She looked at Teddy and Lainey. "We're gonna miss you guys."
"What about me?" Jake put in.
"Huh. You'll stick around. I've been trying to get rid of you since I was three. It's impossible."
"That's not true – she loved me at the three. It was five that it all stopped." Jake said, then looked around the group. "We're all gonna do the hugging thing, aren't we?" He said unenthusiastically.
"I'm not hugging you." Teddy replied flatly.
"Thank God for that." Jake replied, smirking. "We don't really need to do the hugging thing – we'll all see reach other again soon..."
"It's symbolic." Lainey replied, rolling her eyes, she stepped forward and hugged Holly, then Victoire.
"Write to me, 'K? Both of you."
"Will do." Victoire replied, as Holly nodded. Victoire hugged Jake, Lainey hugged Teddy; then Teddy hugged Holly as Lainey hugged Jake.
"You're still meeting me and Ted next week in Diagon Alley, aren't you?" Jake murmured to Lainey, who nodded. "'K. Good." He released her, looked at Teddy. "Guess I'll see you next week, then."
"Just hug will you?" Holly said impatiently, pushing her brother forward. One quick, guy-hug later, the group split up, heading their separate ways to their families.
"We're gonna stay together, right?" Victoire asked Teddy as they wondered towards the Weasleys and his grandma. "When I'm at Hogwarts and you're...not."
"Course we are." He stopped, faced her. "Don't worry about that, OK?"
"You never know." Teddy shrugged. "We might just live happily ever after."
She raised her eyebrows, amused.
"Maybe we will."