Hello everyone! Okay, here's the FINAL chapter—hopefully this time anyway—of my story Outlet. I know some of you would have liked to see more of a Harry/Hermione ending, so here you go. However, I really liked it ending ambiguously (to a point), so hopefully this will be enough to satisfy! I'd been planning the second Harry flashback from the beginning, and thought I wasn't going to be able to use it! So naturally, I was excited to be able to.
As always, nothing is mine!
CHAPTER ELEVEN: COULD NOT ASK FOR MORE
The snow is cold, but we don't move. Why were we lying out here in the snow in the first place? A shiver runs down my back. Harry pulls me closer to him, but it doesn't help. I don't pull back though—why would I ever not want to be this close to him?
The sun in blinding as it reflects off the snow. Harry's eyes are closed in deep contentment, blocking out the offensive light. I try to close mine as well, but it still hurts my eyes. I want to ask him how long he wants to lay out here, but I don't.
Because part of me—the part that doesn't care that I'm freezing and blind—doesn't want to move. That part always wins with me. It's the part that I've given to him, no longer putting my own interests first.
We're silent. I wonder what he's thinking. I can usually tell, but right now, I can't. It isn't hard to guess the direction of his thoughts, however.
The war. Of course he's still consumed by thoughts of the war—the lives we lost, the lives we stole, the sense of security the Wizarding World is trying to gain back with difficulty with him at the center.
It's been six months, and we are still rebuilding.
"What do you think our future holds?" Harry asks suddenly, his eyes still closed.
I'm caught off guard. Unsure of what he wants to hear—of what I want to say for that matter, I begin slowly, "I'm not sure…but it has to be better than the past, doesn't it?" I don't know if it's a question or a statement.
He smiles a sad smile, still not looking at me while I stare intently at his face, his cheeks rosy from the cold. "I suppose. Do you think we'll ever, I dunno, bounce back from this? It's like…I've been battling Voldemort since I was eleven—or just a baby if you want to count that. It's hard to believe it's really over. I guess I feel like…like now, I don't know what to do with myself."
I listen to his concerns without offering advice. Sometimes, that's exactly what a person needs—just someone to voice their thoughts to, and not have them telling them what they think they should do. "What do you want to do?" I try to coax him, wondering the answer myself.
I feel him shrug. "Does it matter? When have I ever had the liberty to do what I want to do?" I don't miss the slight edge in his voice.
My eyes fly open and I turn my body so I am hovering over his. He feels my stare, but doesn't open his eyes. His words irritate me—as if he's bound to live a life he doesn't want, and there's nothing he can do about it.
He deserves his happiness—more than anyone. I scoop up a handful of snow in my frustration and throw it on his face.
His body jerks up into a sitting position as he tries to get the snow from his face. "What the hell, Hermione?" He asks, clearly aggravated by my unsuspecting assault.
I scramble to my feet and stand over him angrily. "What makes you think you don't get to be happy?" I ask, frustrated. "Now that you're free from everything…why shouldn't you be able to do what you want to do? The war is over, Harry, over. Why can't you see that?" Why did he always have to do this? Sacrifice his own happiness for everyone else? Why did he feel bound to do this? It pisses me off to no end.
His temper starts to flare. "I'm well-aware that it's over, Hermione." His voice is hard, as are his eyes.
I set my jaw stubbornly as we glare at each other. "Then what are you going to do about it?" I shoot back defiantly. "Continue to prance around like their personal pet even though you hate it?" I refer to how he attends every ceremony asked of him, to show his support for the rebuild, to give the Wizarding World a face to believe in—even when he doesn't believe it himself. Normality. He is trying to show everyone he is moving on, so they can to. Ribbon cutting ceremonies. Balls. Radio interviews.
And he hated it. He hated it because he felt there were worthier people to take this place. There were worthier people…who can't because they didn't survive.
I know he feels almost selfish because he hates the spotlight. I know he wants privacy.
My words stun him, but only for a second. "I'm helping them, Hermione.
The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them. "You are their puppet, Harry. They aren't worth it."
My words hang in the air.
An incredulous look takes over his eyes. "They aren't worth it, Hermione? This is my world—your world! The people we belong to. How can you turn your back on them?"
My teeth are clenched. "They had no problem turning their back on you."
Harry slowly gets to his feet. "This isn't about me."
"Everything is about you, when it comes to me." I tell him, my voice softening now.
My words melt his cold exterior. I can see this little row is over as his eyes look defeated. How could he argue when he feels the same way about me? "What do you want for your future?" He asks suddenly, taking my hand pulling me back to the ground as he stems back to his original question.
I shrug, still not cooled off quite yet.
"Do you think we'll get married and have kids and a white picket fence and the whole deal?" He asks with a laugh.
I can't help it—his vision makes me laugh. "Not the white picket fence. I don't think we'll ever get to be that normal…maybe a nice rusty red one or something though that's falling apart."
Harry squeezes my hand. "Not the white picket fence," he repeats with a small grin.
That night had been his last radio interview.
It is just beginning. The wedding. The starting line to the journey we are about to embark on with each other in a whole new way. As I stare at my reflection in the mirror, everything feels…right. Perfect.
It is just the beginning. It's the beginning of us being bound to each other for good—with no question. In a sense, I feel like I've been bound to him since I was eleven. But this is different. We will be married. We will have a concrete future—something we've never let ourselves ever fathom getting lucky enough to survive to have. Even after the war, leading a normal life, one with all the appropriate twists and pit stops, one with a full bout of happiness…it still always felt out of reach. But here we are.
And now, it is out there for everyone to see. No shame, no guilt. Just love.
Nothing is perfect. Everything is wrong. The clouds are rumbling in a distance, but we are determined to have this outside. Harry always wanted an outdoor wedding.
My mother is panicking over the wrong flowers—these aren't tulips! My father is upset with the seating arrangement because he had ordered more chairs than this—hadn't he? Why were people standing! Why were people gathered across what looked like some invisible, imaginary line—watching the ceremony from afar?
Apparently Harry Potter getting married is a big deal. There are several people I don't recognize, and I know there is no way they were on the guest list. Therefore, they don't actually get in to the ceremony. Watching from a distance is the best they can get.
Mrs. Weasley is fretting over the food—did she make enough! Ron is grumbling about the rain clouds—we aren't really going to be sitting in the bloody rain, are we!
My grandmother asked me if I was sure I got a big enough dress—it's looking a little tight, dear, particularly in the middle..? No I'm not pregnant, Grandma, I just have a slight belly. Thanks for reminding me.
I know Harry has been harassed as well. I know he and Ron have physically thrown out at least two guests that have made comments about his bland bride.
It doesn't bother me. I feel confident. Radiant. Perfect. Today, nothing can touch me.
Because it's the beginning. The beginning of my new life full of love—lasting, forever love. Of having children with the man I love more than anything. It's the beginning of creating new family traditions. A new beginning to having bills we can't pay and going to jobs that we hate. A new beginning to fighting worse than ever, countless arguments that will no doubt lead to possible doubts of us, and make-ups that will last well into the night, reminding us of everything we have together. It's the beginning of everything I've ever wanted, and am ready to take.
Nothing can touch me. Not today, not ever.
The rain is warm on my face as I stand at the altar and wait for my bride. A large canopy is protecting the guests from the offending water. I don't mind it. I love the rain. It feels like it brings a new beginning—new possibilities. And today is a new beginning. A new beginning with her—the woman who saved me from myself more times than I can count. The woman I love, and have never given up on. A thousand times before I have dreamed of this moment. Of this new beginning Hermione has helped me to—it certainly hasn't been the first time she helped me jumpstart my life.
This was it. This was my last tribute to the Wizarding World. Though I didn't exactly share Hermione's cynical feelings towards the Wizarding World, she helped me see dwelling on the war isn't going to help me move forward.
And for once in my life, I need to move forward above anything else. I can't live the way I've been living. I deserve happiness. It's not that I don't want to help the Wizarding World—I can't fully explain, despite the many years of hardships I've had to endure, the life it has given me. How can I proper thank the world that saved me from a cupboard under the stairs when I was eleven?
But I need to move on. Being their puppet was no longer an option. I need to take charge of my own life, and figure out what I want to do.
I fought for everyone else—perhaps part of that fight was for my own future as well. That isn't too selfish, is it?
I take a deep breath and take my seat beside Sonia Whizgambit, someone important in the WWN. I didn't listen to her credentials fully.
She asks me questions I've had answers to for the last few months. Yes, of course I'm glad the war is over. Yes, I completely understand the difficulty in rebuilding the Wizarding—and Muggle—community, but I fully believe that as long as we stick together, we can come back strong.
"In my experience," I say into the microphone, "I've never felt stronger than when I saw everyone working together, as one. Even while on my own assignment with Ron and Hermione, the bond that we had—still have—is what kept me alive. It gave us hope, and something worth fighting for."
No, I don't know my future plans. Right now, I'm looking at an easy, boring job at the Ministry—just for the time being while I get my life in order. I may be ready for Auror training next spring.
The questions were monotonous. I've answered them all before.
"Yes, this is going to be my last interview. I understand the Wizarding World needs someone to bring them together—I'm not trying to abandon the world I love by any means. But right now…I just really need to work on myself and figure out what I want. I think it's important that we try to move on. There were so many lost—let's not make those losses in vain." I tell them with a sad smile as my mind automatically flips through lives important to me that were no longer with us.
"One last final question, Mr. Potter. I can fully empathize the positive and negative attention you have received from the very community you, along with many others as you always insist, put your lives on the line to save. There had to be moments of doubt. You're only human, after all." The older lady smiled as if it was a private joke between us. "Tell me…what one thing kept you going, even when you didn't have any fight left in you?"
I'd never been asked this exact question. I could only pick one thing? My mind played over various key points of help I'd received, but the second I looked up, the answer was easy and sitting right in front of me in a chair against the opposite wall. Our eyes met, as usual, I was mesmerized by her. She was here, like she always was despite her disdain about the Wizard World using me. Always right there with me. Usually against her better judgment. Often putting her life at risk. More than once putting me above any and everything else in her life.
How could I ever pay her back for putting up with me? I had no idea. But at that moment, I knew I would spend the rest of my life doing whatever I could.
Not because I felt like I should—I did.
Not because it was the right thing to do—it was.
Not because she deserved it more than anyone—she did.
No, for once, it was because I selfishly wanted to, and Hermione said I deserved to have everything I wanted—so I would.
Finally, I look back at Sonia, who was still expecting an answer.
I give her a small smile and clear my throat, knowing no one would understand exactly what I mean—maybe not even her, though I like to think she will. "Love."
Well, what did you guys think? Please review and let me know! I also just posted another one-shot called "A Tribute To My Own State Of Ruin" (It's better than it sounds—I promise!) so everyone should check that one out too!
I just want to thank all those who have given me lots of support with this story—I really really appreciate it. And all of your wonderful reviews have made my day. Thank you!
Until next time,