Disclaimer: I would utterly ruin the wonderful world of Harry Potter if I were to have any ownership of it.
A/N: To everyone who had read this fic, enjoying and loving it, I can't begin to express how much I appreciate it. Every kind words and sentences of "I loved it", etc. brought much encouragement to me and honestly, it made me feel really good about my writing (something I've loved since secondary school). So thank you, I'm glad to have brought much smiles (and fluff) to you, but do know that you've all brought me much smiles as well. Just a note of warning though, this epilogue doesn't quite lean on humor - which sort of slides off the genre, but it wasn't quite possible for me to be funny with these serious scenes. Anyhow, I hope you will all enjoy it just the same. And thank you.
When Hermione Granger woke up from her bed in the Hospital Wing, the first words that escaped her lips, in a croaking voice, were Harry's and Cedric's name. She closed her eyes tight as visions of the day's events flooded her mind, overwhelming her as she cried out in pain.
Hermione saw herself in the Ministry with the others, being separated from half of them and running in a flurry of spells and hexes with Death Eaters following close behind. The fear and panic that ran through her veins then, coursed through her again and she bit her lip hard as the vision of Harry, Neville and her struggling to keep up with their counter-attacks while trying to defend themselves flashed in her mind. The last vision that came to her mind was one of Cedric, of his sudden appearance as he casted a hex against one of the Death Eaters who had been targeting Hermione. After that, everything else went black. Her eyes flew open again.
"Hermione." Ginny gently placed her hand atop Hermione's. "It's alright, you are in the Hospital Wing back at Hogwarts. You lost consciousness during the battle with those foul Death Eaters."
"Where's Harry and Cedric?" Hermione croaked out again. Ginny knowingly brought a glass of water to Hermione's lips and allowed the fifth-year to take a long sip before placing it on her bedside table again. "Where are they?"
"Harry," Ginny paused, "Harry's hiding himself somewhere in the castle, Ron and Neville's trying to find him. But he's alright, save for a few injuries here and there."
Hermione noted Ginny had a few light injuries of her own as well. "Are you okay?" Ginny smiled and nodded. "What about Cedric?"
"Cedric's not around." Ginny uneasily said.
"What happened to him?" Hermione quickly pulled herself up, wincing as she did so. "Ginny, is Cedric injured?"
Ginny bit her lower lip. "Well, he has a broken rib." Hermione's eyes widened as a mixture of shock and anger colored her features. "But it's a minor injury so Madam Pomfrey has gotten him fixed, just a little difficulty when he attempts to move much."
"Where is he?" Hermione demanded, feeling rather delirious by the second.
"The Order? Why is he there?"
"The consequences of the battle were awful. We lost someone along the way and the Ministry's all messed up and everything; the news are flying so fast and everyone's scared now that the truth is revealed. So Cedric's there helping out with all that he can."
"Why is he there when he's barely able to move himself?" Hermione frowned angrily.
"He's part of the Order, remember?" Ginny gently mollified Hermione. "He'll be back soon. He was here hours earlier, holding your hand as Madam Pomfrey fixed him up."
"He came like he said he would." Hermione softly whispered. Something else that Ginny had said made her looked up again. "You said we lost someone. Who was it?"
Ginny's gaze averted from Hermione's. "Sirius." The redhead's voice was barely audible to Hermione's ears but she caught the name all the same. Tears welled up in Hermione's brown orbs and without even bothering to conceal them, she allowed the tears to fall freely. Her hand flew to her mouth as she tried to muffle the sounds of her sorrow. Her shoulders shook violently as tears continued to crash down her cheeks. Ginny turned to Hermione with her own red eyes. The redhead reached out to Hermione and pulled the older girl in a hug. Together, they cried for the passing of someone whom they had grown to love and deeply care for in just two years – 'an awfully short time', Hermione thought as she argued at the unfairness of it. Her heart ached not just for his passing, but for Harry as well. At the thought of her best friend, she knew that no words could comfort him now and he needed to have the time to sort out his thoughts before anyone should say anything. Her eyes flew up when she felt another pair of arms wrapping themselves around her. Luna gave her a small, sad smile of understanding. Hermione reached out for the Ravenclaw and enveloped her in their hug.
"People leave when it's time for them to." Luna softly said.
"But Sirius hadn't much of life to live; he spent more than ten years in Azkaban – being framed at an age where he should have been enjoying life with Harry's parents and his friends. He hardly had enough time with Harry either." Hermione tearfully argued.
"But at least he did have these two years." Luna answered. "And you had all gotten to know him and pronounced his innocence. I think Sirius would have been satisfied with that."
Ginny slowly nodded. "There's nothing else we really can do, is there?"
"No, we can be strong for Harry. He needs us." Hermione answered. Luna and Ginny nodded.
"Hermione?" Three pair of eyes averted to the entrance of the Hospital Wing. A worn-out, slightly bruised, Cedric Diggory stood by the door with a faint smile. Ginny and Luna shared a knowing look and quietly excused themselves. Cedric warmly smiled at both girls as they passed him and he slowly walked over to Hermione's bed, his steps a little shaky and his breathing uneven. But his smile grew as each step he took brought him closer to the Gryffindor fifth-year. "You're up." He simply said as he reached her side. Hermione could barely say a word as she reached out for the older boy, her hands snaking up his neck and she held herself close to him, all while trying to refrain from holding him too close to her in fear of hurting him. She buried her face in the crook of his neck and inhaled the faint smell that was Cedric's but this time, with blood, dirt and sweat, tainting the mix. The waterworks in her eyes set off again and Hermione found herself sobbing into Cedric's neck. The Hufflepuff's arms went around her, pulling her closer. No words were exchanged between them as minutes passed.
Cedric felt a sudden wetness upon his cheek and he realized it was a lone tear from his own eyes. He bit his lower lip hard and his fingers laced themselves tighter around the trembling and sobbing Gryffindor. When Cedric had stepped into the Ministry earlier that evening, it was the first time he really felt threatened by death – not of his own, but the possibility of death claiming someone important to him. Seeing Hermione amidst the upheaval of shouts, threats, spells, counter-attacks, and hexes, had brought Cedric's blood to turn cold before he rushed forward to counter an attack from one of the Death Eaters that had been aiming for Hermione. When she had fallen, Cedric found himself in the worst fit of fury as his mind went delirious with vengeance and wrath threatened to burst forth from his being. He felt pure hatred for the first time in his life. If it wasn't for Harry who dragged him away, Cedric would have used the Unforgivable Curses on the Death Eater. Harry had shouted at Cedric's ear to make the Hufflepuff stop and regroup his senses. They had then carried Hermione to safety, only to encounter more Death Eaters just as Ron, Ginny and Luna found them. Together, they battled against the Death Eaters. Both Harry and Cedric were the last ones standing, albeit bleeding with their own injuries, and for a brief second they wondered if it was a déjà vu of the Triwizard's final task. Their hope almost faltered when members of the Order suddenly burst in. Encouraged, they both fought on. When Sirius called out to Harry and him to take the others to safety, his mind immediately flew to Hermione. His sudden distraction caused him to be unaware of an attack made by one of the Death Eaters which sent him hurling backwards and slamming him hard against the wall as a hard and heavy object made a direct impact on his chest, effectively fracturing his ribs in the process. He had barely been able to move or even breathe, but seeing Hermione lying on the ground motionless made him excruciatingly crawl towards her.
When they left the Ministry and arrived at Hogwarts, Cedric had an argument with Madam Pomfrey as he insisted the mediwitch to look at Hermione first instead of worrying about him. After several heated shouts, and Remus' intervening, the disgruntled mediwitch set about to heal the Gryffindor prefect before working on the others and finally proceeding to him. He sat by an unconscious Hermione throughout his time at the Hospital Wing. When his ribs were fixed and a thick bandage was wrapped around his upper body, Cedric regretfully left Hermione's side to follow Remus back to the Order. Remus had offered to let him stay with her but Cedric shook his head and said he would go to the Order and return later when his duty was complete. Remus had smiled and helped Cedric to his feet.
"I was so close to losing you." Cedric murmured.
"You weren't here when I woke up. I thought I had lost you." Hermione replied softly. She pulled her face away from his neck and shifted her chin atop his shoulder. Hermione brought herself closer to the familiar warmth she had grown to love and knew she wouldn't want to live without. "You came like you said you would." Her shaking gradually subsided and her breathing fell to an even pace. She closed her eyes for a second before quickly opening them again, as if to ensure having Cedric in her arms wasn't a dream. His life had almost faded a year ago and she hadn't gotten the chance to know him then. Now that she had, selfishness arose within her to keep him with her.
"It was a promise, remember?" He hadn't been in Hogwarts when the Harry had told Ron and Hermione about his dream of Sirius' capture at the Ministry. Right after his final exam, Cedric had floo-ed back to the Order as Moody explained of a suspicious gathering of the Death Eaters. When Snape burst in with the news of Harry's message and the trouble at Hogwarts, they found out most of the Death Eaters they had been tracking had disappeared. Kingsley Shacklebolt narrowed down to the possibility of their being at the Ministry – the very place Harry and the others might have gone to. Cedric had immediately stood up, more than ready to apparate there but Remus stopped the Hufflepuff by convincing him to wait as they made sure of the details. He hadn't been too willing to wait, and as soon as the others were distracted, Cedric immediately apparated himself to the Ministry.
"And you got hurt for it."
"It's nothing serious. Just a little breathing difficulty."
"I'll be your nose if you would like." Cedric started to laugh but quickly stopped when pain shot up through his body as if his chest was on fire. He winced. Hermione pulled herself back and Cedric saw her eyes were puffy and red from crying. "I'm sorry."
"It isn't your fault. Not for anything." Cedric gently said. Their faces were barely two inches away from one another. He tilted his chin and laid a tender kiss on her forehead. A small smiled touched upon the fifth-year's lips. He gazed at her again as she looked at him. Steel-grey met caramel brown orbs. Cedric's lips grew into a smile as he continued to look into her eyes. He rubbed his nose against hers, eliciting a small giggle from Hermione. She pulled away by a bit, an inch or so between his face and hers. Hermione's gaze travelled to his cheek and down to his jawbone before pulling up again to his nose and back to those steel-grey orbs. In her mind, she memorized every line and bit of his facial features, drawing up a sketch of it in her memory. Cedric leaned close, effectively closing the small gap between them and his lips touched hers in a brief second. He pulled back by an inch, catching sight of the flush of red hue coloring Hermione's cheeks. Cedric drew himself in again, this time capturing her lips with his for a gentle and innocent kiss. Hermione gradually pulled away after a few seconds with a smile. Their gazes fell onto one another once more. Cedric had never felt more compelled in his life to remain where he was and to just gaze at the girl before him. Cedric whispered into her ear, "I love you."
The last short days at Hogwarts were quiet for them as they tried to help Harry while getting over the grief of losing Sirius in between the pandemonium rising in the wizarding world. Hermione was constantly by Cedric's side, and they were never without the other. It was as if their near loss had served to strengthen their relationship more than ever. Gradually, Harry came out of his bleak shell, and their spirits found the sunshine that left their hearts.
On the train back to London at the end of the school term, Cedric sat with Hermione, Harry, Ron, Luna, Neville, Ginny, Haden and James, in the same compartment, laughing as they talked. Cedric's arm rested itself comfortably around Hermione's waist as she leaned into his warmth, but careful not to lean directly on his chest where his injury was still healing. Each of them, save for Haden and James, sported an injury of some sort. Haden had joked it was a medal of honor for them to which everyone threw their Licorice Wand at him in response.
"Finally, home." Cedric softly said as Haden, James, Ron and Harry immersed themselves in a game of Exploding Snap while Ginny, Neville and Luna were absorbed in a conversation about Chocolate Frog cards – trying to determine who had more.
Hermione nodded. "It's been an eventful year." She thoughtfully said. "Umbridge, Dumbledore, the DA, the Order, Harry –" her voice faltered at her last word.
"Us." Cedric added with a wry smile. "I didn't think you'd have forgotten that."
"I didn't. I just didn't think it was that important." Hermione teased.
"Really? I wonder who was the girl who cried buckets on me last week."
"That was not buckets."
"That was at least a day's worth of our daily intake of water."
"You're exaggerating." Hermione snorted in laughter. Cedric grinned. "I suppose I'll miss seeing you over the summer." Her gaze fell to a spot on the seat.
"Didn't I tell you, Granger?" Hermione shot him a questioning look. "I'll be spending a week with my parents before coming over to join you for the rest of summer. Well, not quite the entire summer – I still need to be with the Order every now and then but for the most of it, you'll have me around."
"I'll have to be with you for almost five weeks?" Hermione made a face.
"Hey." Cedric protested. "That was not the reaction I was hoping for."
Hermione laughed. "I'm kidding. Of course it would be nice to have you around."
"Fine. Great. Are you happy now?"
"Much better." Cedric grinned as Hermione rolled her eyes. "It will make up for the times we'll miss in your next school year."
As Hermione registered Cedric's words in her mind, her face unknowingly fell to a frown. "That's right; you would officially complete your studies at Hogwarts once your N.E.W.T.s results are out over the summer."
"I'll be proceeding to join the Auror training while still being in the Order." Cedric informed her. "Occasionally, I may be able to make a visit to Hogwarts – so as long as Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall allows me to." Noticing Hermione's subdued self, he tilted her chin up with his free hand. "I'll be around; we just won't see each other that much like we did for this school year."
"Oh, I wasn't thinking about that."
"Then what were you thinking of?" Cedric's eyebrows furrowed in curiosity.
"Who am I going to have study sessions at the library with now that you are gone." Hermione answered matter-of-factly. Cedric scowled. "I told you that you weren't that important." Hermione grinned mischievously.
"Don't go back to Egypt." Cedric muttered. Hermione lightly laughed. Her hand reached out for his and gently intertwined hers with his. She looked up and smiled at the Hufflepuff. 'I love you' she mouthed. Cedric's lips tugged upwards in a grin.
Two years passed and the inevitable final battle came about within the grounds of Hogwarts itself. Students fled in fear; screams of terror filled the castle, bitter cries of helplessness were heard, and shouts of spells and hexes arose against the bloody and raging din as everyone struggled to stay and make it alive. Death permeated the air. Bodies fell like rag dolls casted aside. The sight of blood on anyone became a dreaded fear because it meant the possibility of severe injuries and possibly, death.
The events leading up to the Final War saw Hermione and Cedric through a tumultuous period, though most people would have been torn apart in such instances, Hermione and Cedric only grew closer. The most of Hermione's sixth year had gone by with normalcy but the end of it had her battling Death Eaters again and Cedric rushing to her side as he did in her fifth year. Both ended up with severe injuries, alongside with their friends. While hiding in the arms of Cedric in the late hours of the night, huddled in a corner of the Hospital Wing, Hermione finally released her pent-up fears, the ones she had kept up for all those years and what was to come next. Grief and wretchedness wrecked her being as she cried uncontrollably, miserable sobs emitting from her lips as she felt a painful, invisible grip tightening on her heart. Dumbledore's passing added on the stung on her heart. Cedric had been wordless, unable to say anything of comfort unlike the year before. He could barely even move his lips to reassure her even with the faintest of smile. Cedric knew the very girl he loved, the one in his arms, would be off on a journey for almost a whole year. It scared him to know he could be holding her at the moment and losing her in the next yet he bit his tongue and said nothing. It was her journey to make with Harry and Ron. That night, he silently gave his consent to her impending journey.
When summer came, he spent his time with her family once more before helping Hermione with one of the hardest decisions she had to make in her life – erasing her parents' memory of her and sending them off. He had watched silently as she casted the spell, tears falling from her eyes like a rain on a bleak, damp day. They then set off to meet the Order before going to Harry's uncle and aunt's home with the others. On the night before Bill and Fleur's wedding, Cedric had held Hermione's hand under the night sky, watching the stars above them. They tried to locate the different constellations of the summer sky, laughing as they recalled the first time they spent together looking for constellations at Hogwarts. During Hermione's sixth year, Cedric made an effort to make it a regular pastime of theirs as he cleverly obtained an approval from Dumbledore to be in the Hogwarts ground at midnight on the first Friday of every month – on the grounds that nothing else but innocent star-gazing would occur during those times. In fact, they had never gone beyond anything more than a hug, a cuddle, or an innocent kiss; Cedric kept his hands within a decent parameter, rightfully respecting Hermione's chastity and virtue. That night under the stars, Hermione told Cedric she loved him and promised she would make it back to him, alive – just as she did a whole year ago. Cedric had smiled, saying he would wait and made sure she kept good on her promise. Their separation on the supposed happy day for all, had been too soon for either one of them, even though they had both prepared themselves for the day Hermione had to leave with Harry and Ron. Hermione had a last gaze at Cedric amidst the screams and chaos of fearful wedding guests; he was on the opposite end from her as Remus pulled him away and Harry grabbed her. It was only in the dead of the night at Grimmauld Place that Hermione silently cried herself to sleep.
The rest of Hermione's supposed seventh year saw Hermione constantly struggling to keep herself alive. In front of her two best friends, she placed a strong façade of confidence but when the night creeps in, she hid herself amidst the darkness the night solitude offered her, and allowed her guard to fall. Cedric on the other hand, found himself delirious with worry as he agonized over his absence from Hermione's side at a period she needed him most. Remus and Kingsley saved his sanity by constantly involving him in matters of the Order, pulling him away from the now-corrupted Auror training and instead, teaching him their own lessons. His mother and Mrs. Weasley, understanding his grief, constantly checked up on him, always offering him a comforting word. Haden and James made sure he was never alone. Tonks even had him preoccupied with her expected baby, constantly prodding him to get her things even when both she and he knew that she could get them herself. When the baby boy was born, Cedric was made honorary babysitter, much to his awkwardness and amusement. Tonks had even playfully squabbled with Remus over the decision of little Ted's godfather – she had wanted Cedric, having grown fond of the boy and taking him as her own younger brother over the months, while Remus had wanted Harry. Cedric had laughed at their banter and good-naturedly thanked Tonks for the honor but felt it wasn't his role to take it, "Besides, the title of babysitter is more than enough for a 19 year old male to handle," he joked as Remus and Tonks laughed. He appreciated the concern everyone around him gave, but the loneliness and misery within remained like a darkness constantly hovering in his heart.
Now that they were both back in Hogwarts amidst the terror and fear, it felt as if it was a final test on their relationship – between life and death. When Hermione stepped into the Room of Requirement, the sudden cheers overwhelmed her, Harry and Ron. Relief swept over them as they saw each and every one of the friends, still alive albeit the battered scars. Hermione felt crushes of hug and murmurs of welcome, but her eyes scanned the crowd for a pair of steel-grey orbs. When she finally saw them, Hermione felt her vision blurring and a choked laughter bubbled from within her. Cedric stepped forward with a smile upon his lips. She stood where she was until he reached her. Without a word, his arms went around her and hers wrapped themselves around his neck. All around, their friends cheered for them. Unfortunately, they didn't had much time to themselves as the battle loomed over their heads. They managed a quick kiss, bitter as it had been on their lips yet with the unspoken sweetness lingering within, before Cedric left her side to be with the rest of the Order, planning of the students' safety and working up the best way to defend themselves against the Death Eaters and Voldemort. Hermione left with Harry and Ron to reach the diadem.
When the trio returned to Hogwarts again, feeling as if all hope was fading from them, they were greeted by the sight that horrified them to their very core. The battle's casualties, while they had been gone, were laid out in the Great Hall. Hermione's gaze swept through the bodies, silent tears falling down her cheeks as she trembled. Ron's eyes fell into a dark gaze as if everything within him was lost forever. Harry found himself hyperventilating before his heart suddenly constricted and he felt himself gasping for air; he turned and ran away from the sight. Hermione couldn't bring herself to follow him. Her hand gently reached for Ron's, giving it an almost lifeless squeeze. She bit on her lip hard until she tasted a bitter metallic tang. Hermione couldn't bring herself to clearly look at the fallen, so afraid to see the body of the one person she never want to see laying there, stone cold, without a breath of life or the mirth shining in those eyes.
"Hermione?" She whirled around to see Cedric, limping weakly as he struggled to reach her, blood stains all over his clothes and fresh blood pouring fourth from a large gash on his right arm, smudged dirt over bruises and a split lip. Hermione immediately ran to him, catching him just before he collapsed to the ground.
"Cedric!" Her scream resounded painfully and clearly across the hall. "Get up! Get up!" Delirious, Hermione kept shaking him as she kept repeating the same words over and over again. "Get up, you hear me? Get up!" She didn't realize she was crying until she saw drops of water smearing the dirt on Cedric's face. Ginny hugged Hermione as Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey quickly set about on healing the nineteen year old. Hermione numbly stared as Madam Pomfrey called out to Kingsley for more bandages. "He's not dead, is he?" Hermione whispered with a dazed stare at the boy, the tears lingering at her caramel brown orbs.
"No, no, he's not." Ginny hugged Hermione tighter. "He'll be fine." Ginny was overcoming her own grief of losing one of her brothers, and the sixth-year knew she wouldn't want her closest friend to feel the same devastating wretchedness she was feeling inside. "He'll be fine." Ginny murmured again, praying hard she was right. She sat with Hermione on the cold stone floor, Luna quietly joining in, hugging a numb Hermione between them. Ron couldn't find himself to say anything but instead sought George who was stricken with overwhelming grief. When Madam Pomfrey finally backed away from Cedric, Kingsley and Haden came forward to help carry the still unconscious boy. Hermione didn't dare to ask if said boy was alive. Instead, the dark-haired witch had her gaze directed on the pool of blood where he had laid moments before.
An hour passed, and the news of Harry's death stunned everyone within the Hall. Hermione snapped from her daze upon the announcement. Ginny cried as did Luna, Hermione wondered if she had any more tears to shed. As Voldemort brought himself closer to the castle, Hermione gathered the last of her courage and stood up. She lifted her wand and as Ron stepped up beside her with an arm around her shoulders; Hermione decided to go in to the new battle for the last of her life's worth. In the back of her mind, she was handing herself a death sentence as she found nothing worth living for with Harry dead and Cedric, possibly dead. The last was the determining blow to her decision – two years ago, right in Hogwarts, she already knew there was nothing left of her once Cedric's flame of life was swept away. She shouted spells as she ducked from the attacks of the Death Eaters, furiously promising herself to hold on until the very last second. Everyone was battling to survive through it all; Hermione was battling to end it all.
When Harry finally revealed himself, Hermione felt herself turning weak in the knees as relieved cheers erupted around her. She smiled with tears of relief running down her cheeks. As glad as she was to see Harry alive, it didn't entirely lifted her spirits as her mind was still on Cedric. She watched as Harry dueled against Voldemort. Only when Voldemort fell with a flash of green light, she realized she had been holding her breath throughout the duel. Together with Ron, she rushed to Harry's side and they held the weary raven-haired wizard up. Shouts of joy burst in delight all around them. Harry turned to her with a small knowing smile. "Go to Cedric, he's alive. He wasn't there when I used the Resurrection Stone. I'll see you in a bit." Hermione's eyes widened before she quickly pushed against the crowd to reach one end of the hall, where Winky, the house-elf, had been tending to Cedric while everyone else were caught in the second battle. The house-elf smiled upon seeing Hermione approaching and moved aside to reveal Cedric, breathing with small breaths and steel-grey eyes that looked her way. Hermione's hand flew to her mouth in disbelief. Cedric managed a half-smile at the young witch.
"You look horrible."
Laughter bubbled from Hermione's chest. "You don't look any more better yourself." Cedric pulled himself up with Winky's help. Hermione gingerly took small steps forward. "You are alive." Her words whooshed out of her being like a balloon with its air released.
"I couldn't possibly leave someone who kept screaming at my ear to get up." Cedric joked. "In fact, I'm probably slightly deaf now. Mind speaking in a little louder tone of voice?"
"I love you." Hermione closed the distance between them with a throw of herself at him, regardless of her injuries, embracing him close. Cedric managed a small laugh as his arms wrapped around her, feeling better than ever despite his wounds – knowing that they have both faced and survived the test of their relationship and whatever came next, he was sure as hell he wasn't going to be apart from her anymore. Harry and Ron caught his eyes with a smile from across the hall, and he smiled back. Hermione pulled back and gazed into his steel grey orbs. "The princess wants the prince to remain by her side, forever and always."
"And to live happily ever after?"
"Just like a fairy tale." Hermione smiled. Cedric smiled and answered her with a soft kiss on the lips.