A/N: Here we are my darlings. The end. Thank you to all those who have stuck with me, and thank you to those that regularly submitted reviews. You're superstars. This is the end for these two now. Completely. Hope you enjoy it.
One by One.
He is so very proud.
He never thought he'd live to see the day, but here he is, and here Harry is. Tired, cut, bruised, damaged inside and out, but alive.
"I know James would be in awe of you," he says at last, breaking the silence. "And your mother, she would be so proud."
The faintest of smiles curves Harry's lips, and then he asks the question that Sirius has been waiting to hear for a long time.
"Where's Hermione? Dumbledore said -" he breaks off, his eyebrows knitted together in a frown as he stares down at the desk. "Dumbledore said you'd know."
"She's fine," Sirius says. "She's...she's in the past."
"What?" Ron half laughs, as though he thinks it's a joke. "What d'you mean?"
Sirius pulls out a collection of photographs from his jacket pocket and slides them across the desk to Harry and Ron. He has known for a long while that this conversation would come, and so has kept the evidence on him, to make it easier. Pictures paint a thousand words, apparently, and the dog eared black and white photographs spread out before Harry and Ron explain the situation much better than Sirius ever could.
Harry picks up the smallest photo. Hermione and Lily are arm in arm, giggling. James had just fallen in the lake, and been shoved out again by the giant squid. Sirius of course, had had nothing to do with the event whatsoever.
"What's so funny?" Ron asks, looking up from the photo.
"I tripped James up," Sirius says, realising now that he's smirking. "Head first into the lake."
Ron doesn't appear to see the funny side. "Where is she now?"
The three of them jump at the sound of her voice. She has been leaning against the doorway for the past minute or so, the side of her face still covered in blood, a thin cut running the length of her forearm. Purple bruises are dotted all over her skin, and her neck bears the markings of someone's attempt at strangling her.
"Hermione?" Harry breathes.
She nods, and then swoops down on both Harry and Ron, pulling them into a fierce hug. She kisses the tops of their heads, then turns to look Harry directly in the eye.
She hugs them again, her swollen lower lip trembling. He knows how much she's missed them. Knows that she thinks of them, every single night, before she goes to sleep.
"It was you," Ron says, dazedly. "You pulled Fred back from that explosion."
Even from a portrait, Dumbledore's sharp blue eyes manage to intimidate very well. Hermione takes a step backwards, towards the door, while Sirius looks between her and the portrait, waiting for one of them to make the first move.
"You just can't help yourself, can you?" Dumbledore's voice has a resigned edge to it, though he does not appear to be angry.
"No," she says. "Problem?"
Harry and Ron watch, aghast. Sirius is willing to bet that neither of them have ever seen Hermione speak to anybody like that, let alone a teacher, and let alone a headmaster.
"None whatsoever," Dumbledore replies, and the twinkle that Sirius has not seen for a long long time has returned to his bright blue eyes.
Hermione's mouth opens, as though she's about to say something, but then her lips curve into a smile.
"The feast'll be starting in a minute," Sirius says, getting to his feet.
Harry distracted from the conversation, points at something by Hermione's side.
"Are you two married?" he asks, his emerald eyes wider than ever.
Hermione raises her hand to look at the ring on her finger and scowls. "It got scratched when I was duelling Mulciber."
"No," Sirius says, answering Harry's question, then, smirking, adds, "We never seemed to have the time."
"Oh very funny," Hermione says sourly, looking up from her ring. "Very funny indeed."
He snorts, then, turning back to Harry, claps him on the shoulder.
"Come on," he says. "You can't keep people waiting. They want to worship you. You're The Boy Who Lived Again."
"How many people have you saved?" Ron asks Hermione softly, looking at her as though she is an impossible sight.
"Not nearly enough," she replies. "But maybe this time around, there'll be a few more."
"Eh?" Ron's astonished expression has switched rapidly to one of confusion. Hermione smiles and pulls him into a hug.
"You've done ever so well. I'm proud of you."
"But that doesn't answer my question," Ron says, glancing at Sirius over Hermione's shoulder.
"No, I don't suppose it does," Hermione says with a sigh. She smiles, takes Sirius by the hand, and leads the way down to the Great Hall.
Tonight has been a long time coming. It's their third shot at the second of May, and it seems, to Sirius at least, as he watches Tonks, resting her head against Remus' shoulder while he drinks deeply from his goblet, and Fred, flicking peas at Percy, who is caught halfway between impatience and fondness, and Arthur, who is sat between Percy and Bill, with nothing but relief, dancing across his tired face, and Hermione, who is holding his hand under the table and chatting to Ginny while she eats, that it is definitely a case of third time lucky.