A/N: Well, folks, this is it. The last chapter. I wish I could thank each and every one of you fantastic readers for sticking with this story, but as it happens, I'm at a loss for words by the support you have all shown me. This was my first long fic, and you all have definitely made it a pleasure to write. Thank you.
AMY, my love, my life, my darling - I dedicate this chapter to you for being such a phenomenal beta, friend, and co-writer.
Chapter Thirty-Five: Epilogue
The war was over.
The final battle between the light and the dark had descended swiftly upon Hogwarts Castle just days before exams. Though triumphant, the side of light had been dealt several harsh losses. Parvati Patil was found wandering the Forbidden Forest aimlessly, her soul destroyed by the Dementor's Kiss. Percy Weasley – finally finding his loyalty – had jumped in front of a curse intended for Fred. Neville Longbottom, hand clenched around the lifeless form of Luna Lovegood, had been struck down by the malevolent evil of Rabastan Lestrange.
And Albus Dumbledore, defender of the side of light, had fallen at the hand of Lord Voldemort himself, as the final sacrifice that allowed Harry to destroy the epitome of evil once and for all.
Though disheartened by these and other, equally devastating losses, the sudden freedom of the wizarding world from the dark threat that had clouded their lives for decades cast a sudden, bright light upon the brave souls that had brought about the new era. Kingsley Shacklebolt had been named the new Minister of Magic. Arthur Weasley was selected to head up the department of Magical Law Enforcement. All the members of the Order of the Phoenix – recruits included – were awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class, for their brave efforts in the final battle. And the Golden Trio – two engaged and all blissfully happy – were celebrated as the defenders of all that was good and right with the world.
The light, late-August breeze whipped around the revelers as fairy lights twinkled merrily in the fading dusk. Hermione sat contentedly on her husband's – both in magic and in law – lap, watching her friends and extended family enjoy each other's company. She was glad that the year of peace that had passed had not dulled the friendships they had all forged in those years of great fear and tragedy.
She smiled as she watched one-year-old Viktor climb out of his mother's lap to toddle over to six-month-old Victoire, who sat contentedly with her teddy bear at Fleur's exhausted feet. The hooked-nose toddler – the very picture of his late father – gripped a strand of Victoire's sleek blonde hair and tugged, giggling uncontrollably and scampering away as Victoire gave a loud shriek. Mina did her best to chastise her young son, but Fleur's angry glare was not directed at Viktor as much as toward a chuckling Sirius, who stood by the punch bowl.
Shifting her focus to the raven-haired Marauder, Hermione smirked as she saw him go back to the argument he was having with Snape. She knew that a year was far from enough time to heal the deep wounds between the two men, but as Snape cracked a wry smile at something Sirius said, Hermione knew that there was hope.
Victoire's shrieks had brought over her father and eldest uncle, both of whom were carrying plates of what looked to be very rare meat. As Charlie's attention was focused on his niece, Hermione watched as Bill traded his side of meat with his brother's, as Bill's seemed to be bleeding more. Though she found the whole situation slightly distasteful, Hermione had to hand it to Bill for going out of his way to destroy the centuries of bad blood between werewolves and vampires by making sure his brother got used to his new classification as a tainted soul.
She felt Remus's arm coil tighter around her waist and she snuggled back into his body, her left hand entwining with his as their wedding bands caught the candlelight. Though they had only been wearing them for a few hours, the glinting gold felt so right against her finger that she wondered why she had ever doubted marriage in the first place.
"What are you thinking about?" her lover's voice questioned.
"As if you have to ask," she replied, causing him to chuckle, his lips pressing lightly against the base of her neck.
"I do believe we're being upstaged," he whispered as he sat his chin affectionately upon her shoulder, and she followed his gaze to where Harry and Ginny – tanned and sunburned respectively from their recent honeymoon in Fiji – sat snogging heavily. Harry's hair was more disheveled than usual from Ginny's hands combing passionately through it.
"Just wait 'til he gets her pregnant," a voice said beside them and they turned to see Tonks, her belly swollen, ease into the chair next to them. "Then she won't be so eager to paw him in public."
"I don't know, Tonks. From what Ron's told me, you're not exactly putting up much of a fight. In fact, he's quite exhausted by the amount of shagging you demand of him."
"Depends on the day. Some days I love him, others I want to rip his guts out."
"Rip whose guts out?" Ron asked, materializing beside Tonks with a glass of firewhiskey in his hand.
She looked up at him accusingly.
"Where's mine, then?" she asked, ignoring his question.
"Now Dora, you know Madame Pomfrey said…"
"I don't give a rat's arse what she said. It's a wedding! One drink…"
"I'm not risking my child's – "
" – health because you don't want to follow directions."
"Then get me some punch instead," she said stoutly. "I'm dying of thirst over here!"
Ron gave a chuckling Remus and Hermione a long-suffering look before stalking over to the punch bowl.
"I love him, but sometimes it's like living with his mother," she said, smiling affectionately as Ron battled his way passed the twins toward the punch bowl. Then she groaned. "Oh bloody hell, now I have to pee. Excuse me," she added, almost as an afterthought as she struggled to her feet before shuffling toward the Burrow. She almost knocked into Angelina as she and Padma were exiting the kitchen with a tray of food.
"I'm honestly amazed she hasn't killed him yet," Remus said.
"You should have seen her when she found out she was pregnant," Hermione replied. "Her hair went stark white and her body turned bright red. It would've been funny if I hadn't been holding her back from hexing Ron."
"She seems to have recovered nicely," Remus said with a chuckle.
"I think she knew it was bound to happen someday. Though, she found out right after Ron had asked her to marry him for the sixth time and I think she was worried that he had replaced her contraceptive potion or something to get her pregnant intentionally." She paused. "He didn't, of course, but it was murder trying to explain that to her for the first week or so."
They sat once more in comfortable silence, once again surveying their friends. Hermione chuckled as she watched Mr. Weasley ask her parents various questions – undoubtedly Muggle appliance-related – at a nearby table. The looks of confusion and slight trepidation on their faces was priceless. Hermione was glad her parents had agreed to come to the wedding, but she had come to the conclusion that she was going to live her life with or without their involvement – the choice, of course, being theirs. In turn, Mr. and Mrs. Granger seemed to know that they had all but lost their daughter to the secret wizarding world they would never really understand.
"Hermione," a voice said, and she looked up to see Snape standing next to her. "I think I'm going to go. I leave for Hogwarts in the morning and there's some last minute packing that needs to get done."
"Must you go? We still have to throw the garter and the bouquet," she said, standing and smoothing out the skirt of her dress as Remus followed, looping his arm around her waist once more.
"Oh, I hardly think my presence is required for that. And there is only so much of Black that I can tolerate at any given moment."
"Now now, you both need to learn how to play nice," Remus joked, shaking Snape's hand. "You're going to be colleagues, after all."
Snape gave another wry smile.
"I'm trying to forget that piece of information for the time being, Lupin. He truly is…"
"Insufferable?" Hermione teased.
"I was going to say 'intolerable', but I suppose either is appropriate."
"Well…thank you, Severus. For everything. And especially for giving me away today," Hermione said, hugging the stoic man and feeling him relax slightly under her embrace.
"It was my honor. Though why you didn't want your own father to do it…"
"He understands how much you mean to me," she interrupted, pulling away as her eyes shone with happy tears.
"Now now, none of that sentimental drivel, Miss Granger…or rather, Mrs. Lupin," Snape said in kindly reproach. "My reputation, after all."
"Oh, we all know you're just a big softie," Hermione joked, kissing him on the cheek.
She and Remus waved good-bye and turned back to their guests once he left.
"I'm going to get some punch. Would you like anything?" Hermione asked as Remus sat again.
"No thank you, love," he replied. "Hurry back."
Smiling, Hermione made her way over to the punch bowl, stopping every so often to speak to well-wishers. When she finally reached the drink table, she had barely poured herself a glass before George grabbed it, replacing it with another.
"I…er…wouldn't drink that," he said, his eyes casting around – undoubtedly making sure his mother wasn't within earshot.
"Why? What did you do?" she asked, narrowing her eyes.
"Nothing!" Fred, who had appeared at her other shoulder, said quickly.
"Then why shouldn't I drink that punch?" she repeated, pointing to the glass George had just confiscated.
"Well, we might have put a little – "
"A lot, actually," Fred corrected.
" – of various different alcohols in it," George finished.
Hermione eyes widened.
"Don't worry, we gave her a harmless one too," Fred assured her.
"Yeah. That baby is going to have enough problems to worry about, what with Ron's unfortunate nose – "
" – and lackluster Quidditch skills."
Hermione chuckled, taking a tentative sip of the punch and finding it blissfully alcohol-free.
"You two are too much," she said, kissing each of them on the cheek and heading back towards Remus.
She was intercepted by Mrs. Weasley.
"My dear, it's almost time for the cake," she said, her gray-streaked red hair coming out of her bun from all her running around. "I think you should throw the bouquet and garter first – just to raise the excitement a bit."
"Alright," Hermione said, motioning for Remus to come over. "You've done a phenomenal job, Mrs. Weasley. I can't really thank you enough. Really."
"Oh, 'Mione, it was my pleasure. Though I do wish you would start calling me Molly. We married women need to have some equity amongst us." Her eyes twinkled merrily as Remus joined them. "Remus, dear, I was just telling your lovely wife that you should throw the bouquet and garter before we have cake to get everyone excited."
"Sounds good, Molly. Thank you again for doing this for us. Have you had a moment to enjoy it yourself? Have some punch and relax."
Hermione was about to protest when Mrs. Weasley chuckled.
"Oh, I will. Merlin knows I'll need the obscene amount of alcohol Fred and George have inevitably added to it."
She winked at Hermione and bustled off as Hermione chuckled, taking another sip of her punch. Remus looked at the glass in her hand and then at her, arching his eyebrow.
"They gave me a safe glass," she explained, handing it to him. "See?"
He took a sniff before handing it back.
"I'll try not to be too disappointed by the fact that I won't see you drunk. Ron says you're quite adorable when you're inebriated."
She grinned playfully.
"I want to be sober when I make love to you tonight," she said softly, placing a lingering kiss on his lips.
"Hmm…sounds like a plan."
She smirked before clearing her throat.
"Ladies and gentlemen," she announced, receiving everyone's undivided attention. "I've just been told that it's time for the bouquet and garter to be thrown."
There was wild applause and a few cat calls as Sirius brought a chair to the center of the dance floor, grinning at his best friend as Remus led Hermione to it.
"Keep it clean, Mooney," he teased. "We don't want a replay of James and Lily's wedding."
Those who had been there or had heard about James's less-than-appropriate removal of Lily's garter chuckled, while those who were in the dark received quiet explanations as Hermione sat in the chair. She locked eyes with Remus as he knelt before her, taking her right leg and placing it gently on his shoulder.
"I can't wait to remove other things from your body," Remus's voice said in her head as he ran his hands up her calf, placing a chaste kiss on her knee.
"Are you going to remove my knickers with your teeth too?" she asked mildly as he kissed up her lower thigh.
"Oi! No sharing dirty thoughts!" one of the twins shouted from the crowd.
"Yeah! She's blushing like a tomato!" the other twin called.
Hermione could feel Remus's lips curl into a smirk and she slapped him playfully on the shoulder. He nipped at her thigh, which caused her to shiver slightly, before continuing with the task at hand and slowly bringing the item down her leg.
"Single gents, please stand over here," Ginny said authoritatively, having disentangled herself from Harry's arms to perform her duty as maid of honor.
"That doesn't include you, Ronald."
"Dora, I was getting out of the way."
"Alright Sid and Nancy, calm down," Ginny interrupted, pulling Ron away from the small throng of men. "Remus, when you're ready."
Remus stood, grinning down at his wife as he let her leg drop, and tossed the garter behind him.
It fell comically on Sirius's head.
"Well I suppose that was fairly predictable," Sirius said with a grin, removing the piece of cloth and grinning mischievously. "Alright, 'Mione, let's see what unfortunate lady I get to put this on to."
The single women huddled together excitedly, casting glances at Sirius as Remus helped Hermione up onto the chair. Turning away, she paused before flinging the bouquet backwards. Hopping down, she watched the scramble with a knowing smile. Several seconds later, Mina – slightly dazed – emerged with the bouquet.
She blushed as Sirius came forward, and Hermione noticed the Marauder gleam in his eye.
"You did that on purpose," Hermione mumbled to Remus as they watched Mina sit awkwardly on the chair as Sirius knelt in front of her, the garter already between his teeth as he reached for her leg.
"Did what?" he asked innocently.
"You know what," she said, grinning up at him. "I know for a fact that she was nowhere near where that bouquet landed."
"I might have helped it along," he said. "No more than you did. Causing the garter to land on his head was a nice touch."
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"I'm sure you do, little witch."
Hermione chuckled, leaning into him.
"I figured I'd give them a push. They've been living together for over a year. Viktor already thinks of Sirius as a father. It was all for the stability and happiness of my godson, really."
Remus laughed, gazing into her eyes as the crowd catcalled Sirius and Mina.
"I have a bit of a present for you, if you want it," Remus said softly.
He dug into his pocket and pulled out a vial of potion. Hermione arched an eyebrow.
"My contraceptive potion? Remus, if it's the present I think it is, I've unwrapped it several hundred times, and as incredible as it is…"
She trailed off as he removed the rubber stopper and poured the contents onto the grass below. Then he looked into her eyes.
"I'm ready when you are," he said.
After taking a few seconds to comprehend what he had just said, Hermione flung her arms around him, kissing him deeply, uncaring that they were surrounded by friends and family. Words simply could not convey the love that was surging through her heart at that moment as she held her husband in her arms and felt his strong, safe body cocoon her.
Pulling away, she gazed into his eyes, knowing that she would never get sick of the stormy gray or dancing amber, or the indescribable mixture of the two – which was what she was gazing at now. He was neither just Mooney or just Remus.
He was just simply hers.
"I love you, Remus John Lupin."
"I love you too, Hermione Jane Granger-Lupin."
"Just call me Mrs. Lupin," she whispered before kissing him once more, knowing exactly how her fairy tale was going to end.
Happily. Ever. After.
Thank you so much for reading. If you're curious what my next project is, just ask when you leave me love and I will let you know!
Thank you again for your patronage.