Chapter VIII: Changes, the Epilogue

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"Today I begin to understand what love must be, if it exists.
When we are parted, we each feel the lack of the other half of ourselves.
We are incomplete like a book in two volumes of which the first has been lost.
That is what I imagine love to be: incompleteness in absence."

~Edmond and Jules De Goncourt

"Oof," a feminine voice grunted as it came into full contact with Harry's chest, shocking him with the strength that it pounded against him. He closed his eyes as he tried to regain his breath. Fuck, that had to hurt.

That shock, however, quickly disappeared and was replaced with a distinct sense of repulsion and annoyance once he felt a hot stickiness against him, one whose scent indicated that it was coffee. He was only thankful that this anonymous girl probably enjoyed hefty amounts of milk, given that it was only warm rather than scalding.

"Oh, I am so sorry!" the voice cried.

Harry's eyes snapped open and he was met with a warm chocolate pair of eyes that he never thought he'd get to see again. "It… it's okay," he whispered, his voice so soft that even he had to strain to hear it.

"No, it's not," she argued, shaking her head. "I can't believe I was so careless! I wasn't even watching where I was going and then I just had to go and do this. I swear that I'm not usually this careless. I mean… I don't know if you remember me, Potter, but—"

"I remember you," Harry quickly cut in. "it's pretty hard not to, you know… with Hogwarts and the war and all… and it's Harry, please," he begged, hating the fact that he even had to ask her to use his given name. It had been eight months since he'd last seen her, last spoken to her and it felt like his heart was breaking all over again.

He could use a damn drink at that point. Preferably scotch… or maybe some grappa, that one was always great for forgetting.

Hermione, however, managed to put a halt to all of his pessimistic thoughts with a warm smile that he never thought he'd get to be on the receiving end of ever again.

"Well then surely you remember that I wasn't always this careless. I'm so sorry, please let me at least pay for a new shirt or something!" she offered.

"No," Harry shook his head. "It's fine… honestly."

Hermione blushed. "You've always been too nice for your own good, Harry."

Harry sent her a shy grin, scratching his neck. "Not really, and I bet you've thought so, too, once or twice… but look," he said before demonstrating a quick drying charm. "All good now."

"Save for that terrible stain…" Hermione sighed. "Can I at least—?"

"No, it really is fine," he assured her.

"If you're sure," she said, her tone disbelieving and miffed. "But at least let me treat you to some lunch then. I could use a coffee to replace this one and am absolutely famished… I mean, that is if you're not busy…"

"I'm not," Harry practically chirped, wincing at how eager he sounded to spend some time with her. Merlin he'd missed her.

Hermione grinned, clearly pleased with his reaction to her offer. "Good then," she said, firmly nodding once. "I'm glad; I think it'd be nice to catch up with you. We never spoke much at school about things other than the war, but you're an intriguing person, Harry. I think this could be fun," she informed him with an easy smile.

Harry chuckled. "Maybe even the start of a wonderful friendship," he said, offering her his arm.

She took it, laughing at the gesture. "And who says chivalry's not dead?"

"I aim to surpass the norm," he informed her, leading her towards a new café he knew she'd love.

"Very admirable," Hermione noted. "You know, Harry… as terrible as this may be, I am glad it was you who I spilled coffee on. You… I don't know what it is, Harry, but you seem different. I think I like this person."

"I am," he agreed. "And I think I like this person more, too… and I think this person definitely likes you."

Hermione rouged at that one, but the smile on her face was a pleased one as she shyly ducked her head to shield her face from view. Still, Harry caught it.

Fin.

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Author's Note: I must admit that I was a bit surprised that everyone was so convinced that she remembered them being together… or that the last vestiges of that memory were still there and would be unearthed. The memory of what they once were is gone though…

I'd also like to thank you all for your support. This is far from my most popular story (in fact, of all of the ones I've ever written, this is the least popular) but it has received the most written support. I'm incredibly fond of this particular piece and proud of it, I hope you enjoyed it!

Best, Cosmo