Disclaimer

The Harry Potter universe and all the characters in it belong to J. K. Rowling. I get nothing out of this except enjoyment.

-xox-XOX-XOX-xox-

Epilogue

Harry waited impatiently in the antechamber near the front of the church, fidgeting and tugging at his tie, to the amusement of the other men waiting with him. In a few minutes he would meet Hermione at the altar. It would be the final one of the many times he'd met Hermione Granger. After this she would be Hermione Potter, and besides that, if he had his way they'd never be parted again.

It had been an easy decision to ask Cho and Cedric to stand up for them on this special occasion, and likewise Neville. Hermione had been undecided on her second attendant. She'd first wanted Fleur, but the stunning French witch had passed, not wanting to risk distracting any attention away from Hermione. As she pointed out, she couldn't turn off her Veela powers, and muggle men had no resistance to it whatsoever. She'd finally picked Susan over Ginny, since the pretty Hufflepuff was currently dating Neville.

Fleur and Ginny would get their turns at the wizarding bonding ceremony that was to be held the next day in Ottery St. Catchpole, jointly hosted by the Weasleys, the Diggorys, and the Delacours.

But for now, there was nothing for Harry to do but wait. And reflect.

-oooOOOooo-

After the turmoil of their first four years at Hogwarts, the last three finally were normal. That was not to say they were without drama, but it was the sort of drama one might normally find in a school.

It began with the awarding of the Prefect badges for their fifth year. Cedric's Head Boy badge arrived while they were in France, as did Hermione's Prefect badge. Harry had been disappointed, but enthusiastically congratulated his friend and his girlfriend on their accomplishment. (1)

The other three students were outraged. Without telling Harry, each of them wrote letters to Hogwarts. Cho informed Professor Flitwick that she was undecided about remaining a prefect, and incidentally inquired as to who the new fifth year ones were. Cedric wrote the Headmaster and Professor Sprout that he was still deliberating about whether to accept the Head Boy position. He too, asked about the new prefect assignments. Hermione was the most direct. She wrote to Professor McGonagall that she appreciated the honor of being named prefect and was considering her response, adding that it would be influenced by who the male prefect was. She commented that she assumed that it would be someone who had demonstrated leadership, and whom the other students looked up to. Her implication was crystal clear.

Unbeknownst to all of them, Neville had written a letter of his own, returning the Prefect badge that had been given to him. He declared that it was not right for it to go to anyone other than Harry Potter. (2)

There was an enormous uproar when these letters were revealed in the next staff meeting at Hogwarts. Three of the Heads of House threatened to resign, along with several other professors. Snape scoffed at these actions, bud did grudgingly agree that Potter was more deserving of the position than Longbottom.

When the Board of Governors heard about these threatened resignations and the reasons for them, several of the members questioned whether Dumbledore had finally taken leave of his senses. His eccentric ways, long cultivated to keep others off balance, were now working to his disadvantage. Two weeks of intense negotiation ended with Dumbledore resigning as Headmaster 'in order to devote all of his time to his Wizengamot duties and finding a way to permanently end the Voldemort threat'. McGonagall had been named interim headmistress, and naturally her first action was to make Harry a prefect!

Dumbledore indeed had his work cut out for him. Most pressing was the need to magically secure Voldemort's essence until the dark lord's attempts at immortality could be negated. As Chief Warlock he worked with the new Minister of Magic, Amelia Bones (Fudge did not survive the Sirius Black scandal), to ensure that the known Death Eaters were imprisoned this time, using testimony from Barty Crouch, Jr. and Pettigrew. Bones's first action was to begin a corruption investigation, which would eventually ferret out payments that had been made to let certain well-connected Death Eaters go free.

The 1st of September saw some major announcements at Hogwarts, as McGonagall was intent on making changes to correct the abuses she'd seen as the Deputy, but been powerless to correct. The new number one priority of the faculty would be excellent teaching, and number two would be collegiality. There would be no more appointments made for 'political' reasons. And students would be held accountable for their behavior, regardless of house affiliation.

Snape had already resigned before the start of the term. He'd easily seen what was coming, and he'd never enjoyed teaching anyway. He'd been forced into the position by Dumbledore, and now he was free of that pressure. Hagrid was persuaded to return to being the gamekeeper. Binns and Trelawny were replaced, Divination was downgraded to an upper year elective, and the Muggle Studies curriculum was to be revamped. By the time Harry and Hermione finished their seven years, the new Hogwarts scarcely resembled the one they'd started at.

Cedric quickly picked up on McGonagall's themes of competence and collegiality, and as Head Boy he worked hard to encourage his fellow students to improve their relationships, both within their houses and across house boundaries. As prefects, Harry and Hermione worked at reaching out to more of their housemates, and the fifth year Gryffindors became a particularly close knit class. This included Ron, whom Hermione agreed to tolerate for form's sake. But, as Harry pointed out, Ron had turned out to be a pretty good guy most of the time, at least when he wasn't being jealous of Harry. And Harry frequently made Hermione smile by reminding her that as far as he was concerned, having her for a girlfriend would give any guy reason to be jealous of him.

It took longer, but they also began to make inroads toward interhouse cooperation after Hermione suggested in a prefects meeting that they form study groups for OWLs. A problem arose, however, when she had to overcome the urge to be in charge of every subject, setting schedules and determining material for revising. Not to mention that all of the good students wanted to study with her!

It didn't take much urging from Harry for the other prefects to step up to help, particularly after he offered to lead the DADA study session. Hermione claimed Arithmency and Transfiguration, while Padma Patil took Ancient Runes and Charms, also suggesting her sister Parvati for Divination. This gave everyone a chuckle at the expression of distaste that flashed across Hermione's face at the mere mention of her least favorite subject.

Hannah Abbott volunteered for Herbology if Neville would help her, which brought a full blush to the shy Gryffindor's face when he was so informed later that evening in the Gryffindor common room. One by one the other prefects stepped up and soon all the courses were accounted for. McGonagall allowed them to set up in the Great Hall, and clusters of students began gathering at the different tables every evening.

The experiment proved to be an unqualified success, both socially and academically, and was so popular it was repeated the following two years. Their class ranked among the best in recent memory on both OWLs and NEWTs, and many new friendships were formed. As expected, Hermione finished at the top of the class, with O's across the board, and Harry was quite satisfied with his collection of O's and E's, which to both his and Hermione's delight placed him 8th overall.

-ooo-

The Gryffindor quidditch team continued its winning ways. Ron won the tryout to replace Oliver Wood as keeper, but his play was, to put it charitably, uneven. Given the unmatched skill of their chasers and beaters, they still won all their matches, but they were high scoring affairs. The closest game that year was with Hufflepuff, where Harry and Cedric put on quite a show for the professional scouts in the stands before Harry finally caught the snitch.

The Ravenclaw match was memorable in a different way, as Cho raised her distraction technique to another level. She began by giving Harry a kiss during the prematch handshake (having previously cleared this with a highly amused Hermione and Cedric) and continued by marking him so closely throughout the match that it sometimes seemed as though they were sharing a single broomstick.

When Harry caught the snitch despite her efforts, he joked during their post-game hug that if she really wanted to distract him she would've played the match in the nude. She teasingly shot back that she might consider that for the next year. Unfortunately, Fred and George overheard and were soon enthusiastically pushing the concept of a Naked Quidditch Match to anyone who would listen. Quite a few males in the castle were all for it, particularly if it involved the Gryffindor chasers or the Ravenclaw seeker, or better yet, both. Angelina Johnson finally brought the idea to a screeching halt when she let Fred know in no uncertain terms exactly what it would cost him if he kept pursuing that nonsense.

All three of the other seekers easily defeated Draco Malfoy yet again, causing him to be thrown off the Slytherin team at the end of the year. Hogwarts had indeed changed, and not at all in his favor. Early on in the year McGonagall had stripped him of his Prefect badge for repeated abuse of his position. His whining about his father had no effect since Lucius Malfoy was powerless to interfere, having plenty of legal problems of his own to deal with. (That year was the last they would see of the conceited blonde ferret, since he elected to transfer to Durmstrang for the final two years of his schooling. After a while word came back that he'd been killed in a duel at his new school. Evidently he'd mouthed off one time too many.)

Sixth year was a rebuilding year for Gryffindor, as they needed to replace two beaters and two chasers. Harry captained the team, assisted by Katie Bell. Ginny took one of the open chaser slots, and proved to be quite talented at it. Ron was challenged for the keeper position by a large seventh year, Cormac McLaggen, and Harry and Katie decided to put both on the team, intending to play whoever was doing best in practice prior to each game. That lasted less than a month until the obnoxious McLaggen alienated the entire team with his constant criticism and complaining. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Harry finally informed him that his services were no longer required.

They didn't win every match, but did take the Quidditch Cup on overall points. To quite a few onlookers' disappointment, Cho did not in fact play her last match in the nude, explaining with a saucy grin that as Head Girl she had to set a proper example.

For his last year when Harry was named Head Boy he relinquished the quidditch captaincy to Ron, who was much, much more passionate about the sport then he was. Even Hermione had to admit that it was a touching moment when Ron held up the Quidditch Cup after his final game as a Gryffindor with tears in his eyes.

-ooo-

As for Harry's relationship with Hermione, she told him the evening he arrived in France about her discussion with Cho and Fleur, and that she'd come up with a two-year plan. They would gradually increase their level of intimacy one step at a time, starting with Harry's fifteenth birthday (which was the next day).

Accordingly, the following morning she took him out to another private balcony and introduced him to the joys and wonders of topless sunbathing. It took Harry a full ten minutes before he could look at her without his breath catching or his heart racing. His initial inclination was that this was a 'look, but don't touch' invitation but after another half hour Hermione decisively put an end to that misconception.

The two of them would manage several more visits to that sunning balcony during their month in France, culminating with an outing to a beach on the French Rivera. There, Harry had the good sense and the presence of mind to devote most of his attention to his enchanting girlfriend.

For the rest of his life Harry would have fond memories of the blue and white string bikini that Hermione made such good use of that summer.

On Hermione's birthday, back at Hogwarts, the two new prefects shared a revealing rendezvous in the prefects' bath. Throughout that year they made periodic visits to that facility to continue their explorations, and became thoroughly familiar with each other's bodies, each learning how the other liked to be touched.

Harry very soon came to regard Hermione's plan as simply brilliant! On each birthday thereafter they took another step along the path she'd devised, culminating with making love for the first time on Harry's seventeenth.

On that day Harry offered a surprise amendment to the plan when he presented her with an engagement ring at dinner. He'd known that even though she had accepted the wizarding custom, in the back of her mind she'd still been uneasy about going through with it before she had a ring on her finger. After that lovely surprise, she'd been even more enthusiastic that night, if that were possible.

During their final year at Hogwarts the loving couple made full use of their Head Boy and Head Girl privileges!

But before that, there were other significant events to celebrate with their friends. Prior to sixth year the other two couples, Bill and Fleur, and Cedric and Cho, announced their engagements. The following summer, shortly after Harry's most memorable birthday, Harry and Hermione would participate in both weddings.

-ooo-

Harry rarely interacted with Albus Dumbledore after the ancient wizard resigned from Hogwarts, which took some getting used to after all the time they'd spent together during his first three years. In hindsight, he realized that the headmaster had begun distancing himself already during the tournament. On those occasions when their paths did cross, Dumbledore seemed to regard him with a confusing expression – part disappointment, part regret, with a touch of sadness.

Harry assumed that the man probably missed Hogwarts – after all, he'd been associated with the institution for such a long time. But Dumbledore was busy now with the Wizengamot and the Death Eater trials, not to mention having to figure out a way to destroy Voldemort's spirit. And Harry was quite happy to not have to worry about that issue! As far as he was concerned, the former dark lord was no longer his problem; he'd done more than his part! What was quite curious, though, was the odd reaction of the former headmaster when he noticed that Harry's scar had changed.

The itching in the scar gradually lessened for two years, then stopped completely after his seventeenth birthday. He'd felt as though something shook loose when he gave Hermione her engagement ring and asked her to marry him, then 'celebrated' later (although he was too preoccupied to give it much thought at the time!). The scar had begun to fade after that, and now it was just a faint white line. It hadn't bothered him in years. All was well. (3)

-oooOOOooo-

It was time. Harry walked out into the church to meet Hermione once more, this time coming down the aisle. She was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. For Hermione, things were a bit fuzzy due to the moisture gathering in her eyes, but to her, Harry had never looked better. He took her hand as she joined him at the front of the church and smiled.

"Fancy meeting you here," he quipped. She beamed at him, knowing he was trying to help her relax.

"I'm glad to see you remembered how to get out here," she responded in a cheeky retort. He grinned broadly at her allusion to the first words she'd ever spoken to him, and squeezed her hand.

The two of them turned to face the priest to make the vows that would bind them from that day forward. They had a long life together ahead of them and they were going to live it to the fullest.

-xox-XOX-XOX-xox-

(1) I always assumed that Cedric was a 7th year during the Triwizard Tournament, but have recently read some fanfics where he was a 6th year. I realized that this was probably correct, because he and his father used the portkey to travel to the Quidditch World Cup. If he'd been of age he would have apparated to the location like Percy, Charlie, and Bill did. Therefore, he must have turned 17 sometime between late August and the end of October, making it likely that he was in fact a 6th year. The HP Lexicon concurs.

(2) I wonder if Ron in Book 5 even considered turning down the Prefect Badge. It was pretty clear that he knew that Harry deserved it more than he did.

(3) Readers may assume that if Horcruxes do exist in this story, Dumbledore eventually successfully tracked them down and destroyed them. And if by chance there was one in Harry's scar, it evidently couldn't survive the intense emotion of love he experienced that evening. After all, love was supposed to be 'the power he knows not', right?

-xox-XOX-XOX-xox-

A/N So, another story comes to a close. I want to thank everyone again for such an enthusiastic response. I have more stories in development, including a short and sweet one-shot that's already finished. I haven't decided which one to focus on next after that one – I'm leaning toward something that's post-Hogwarts – but you should see the results in another month or so.