A/N: So here we are. The final chapter. This one is a little different.
I'll leave the big note for the end. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: J.K Rowling owns Harry Potter and I will never be able to thank her enough.
Nineteen Minutes Later
(An Epilogue of Sorts)
Harry, Ron and Hermione were sat in the Gryffindor common room. As Harry looked around the familiar room, he couldn't help but be struck by how normal this was. The three of them were thankfully the only ones in there. Harry assumed most people would still be in the Great Hall and weren't quite ready to go to bed yet. Although most of them hadn't been awake for nearly thirty hours.
Hermione was sat in one of the comfortable armchairs by the fire place opposite him with a plate of small sandwiches on her lap and her ankles crossed. Ron was sat sprawled out on the hearth rug between them, his plate abandoned next to him, the crumbs that were once his sandwiches, littering the front on his robes. Harry was sat in his usual armchair, his plate empty on the arm next to him.
Of course this wasn't your average day in the common room, Harry thought dryly. For one thing, the three of them were wearing robes that were not part of their school uniform and were ripped, burnt and filthy in every way imaginable. For another, they were covered in more bruises and cuts than they could hope to ever count. Also a fair few of the windows were smashed and debris lettered the floor. Weirdest of all was that, for the first time ever, they were not in the same room as a fragment of Lord Voldemort's soul, a thought that gave Harry chills to think about. They were, however, joined by an elderly house elf, whom Ron was currently talking to.
"It was no problem, Master Weasley," croaked Kreacher, who was sporting a bulging black eye. "Kreacher is happy to help Master's friends, especially when Master's friends have saved the entire magical world."
Kreacher gave Ron what Harry assumed was a smile but looked more like a grimace of pain given how swollen his face currently was. Ron, his ears turning faintly red, returned the smile despite looking slightly disturbed by it.
"Would Master like anything else?" Kreacher asked, turning to face Harry. "Kreacher would not mind fetching Master anything Master desired."
Harry looked down at Kreacher's hopeful eyes and shook his head. "No, Kreacher, you have done more than enough already," he said warmly.
Kreacher's round eyes filled with tears and he nodded. Just before he could Dissapparate, however, Ron addressed him again with a look of deep concern on his face.
"Kreacher before you go and do… whatever it is you do, how are the other house elves?" He had sat forward, his elbows resting on his knees.
"Kreacher is pleased to report that although many of the house elves were injured in the battle, none were seriously hurt or killed," Kreacher replied smiling.
At these words, Harry glanced at Hermione to see her reaction to them. Harry was amused to see that she wasn't looking at Kreacher, but Ron. She seemed to be on the verge of throwing herself at him again. She caught Harry's eye and immediately looked away again, immensely embarrassed.
"That's great news, Kreacher!" Ron said sincerely.
"Kreacher thinks so too, Master Weasley." Kreacher's smile faded as he continued to speak, "Although Kreacher hears that Master Weasley's brother was not so lucky. Kreacher was very sorry to learn this, very sorry indeed."
Ron's face hardened and he nodded stiffly to the floor. Harry saw tears forming in his eyes and leant forward and gripped his shoulder supportively.
"Thank you, Kreacher," said Hermione in a small voice.
Kreacher nodded to Hermione in recognition of her words and Dissapparated with a load crack.
Harry sat back in his armchair and stared into the empty fireplace without really seeing it. Fred's death hadn't begun to register in his tired mind yet, neither had any of the others', including Voldemort's. He knew eventually the losses would hit him and he would have to deal with it, but right now he was more exhausted than he could ever remember being in his life. He doubted whether he would ever fully appreciate the magnitude of what had happened over the past few hours.
After a while, Harry looked back his two best friends sat in front on him. Hermione was finishing her sandwich and occasionally shooting Ron concerned looks. He didn't notice however, as he was studying his dirty trainers, his brow furrowed. Ron was probably never going to be the same again, but he doubted any of them would be. Harry could see the pain in Ron's eyes and knew he would never understand exactly how he was feeling right now. He couldn't help but feel guilty, even if Mr Weasley had found him an hour or so ago to tell him that neither he, nor any other Weasley, blamed him and that were just happy that he was alive.
Harry knew that the main reasons for him still being alive against all of the odds that were stacked against him were the two people sat in front of him. He had gone through all of this because he had to, where as they had voluntarily elected to follow him, without being asked to and, what's more, he knew they would do it again and again. This meant more to Harry than he thought he could ever put into words but he knew he had to try.
He sat up and cleared his throat. Straight away Ron and Hermione were pulled out of their own thoughts and looked up at him.
"There's something I want to say to the both of you."
"Harry, you don't-" began Hermione, but Harry raised his hand to stop her.
"Please just let me finish," he said calmly and she reluctantly closed her mouth again. "Now I know the past ten months have been, well, it's been bloody horrible, and I know I've not exactly made the previous six years much better for you. For that I'm sorry."
He paused. Hermione was regarding him with knowing look of resignation. She had obviously been expecting this sort of speech from him and was clearly desperate to interrupt it. Ron looked faintly amused.
"Hardly your fault, mate. You didn't exactly come up to us one day and say "I'm bored" and drag us off to some mental creature's home to start a fight," he joked. Harry couldn't help but smile a little bit.
"I know, but still-"
Hermione lost the internal battle she was having with herself and cut in. "Don't apologise for your friendship. Believe it or not, the positives have far outweighed the negatives," she said. Harry had expected this exact reaction from both of them, but it still meant the world to him. He felt a lump growing in the back of his throat as continued speaking.
"I never asked you to come with me on this stupid mission, but you did anyway, without a second thought as usual." Harry swallowed. He was fighting to keep his voice steady and was determined to finish what he had to say. This was the absolute minimum that they deserved. "There is no way in hell I could've done this without either of you. You've both saved my life so many times now that I think that I've lost count and I'm incredibly grateful for everything you've both done for me over the years. Thank you. It means more to me than you could ever realise."
Neither of them interrupted him when he stopped this time. The common room was eerily silent and for a few moments they sat there in the quiet. For most of the past year, the three of them had been completely separate from the rest of the world and most of the time it had been difficult to say the least. Now it felt glorious. They were more at peace now than they could have dreamt of then. Harry took a deep breath before he continued.
"Seven years ago I came to Hogwarts with nothing. Everyone thought they knew who I was but you two actually bothered to find out. I left Hogwarts with two best friends that I still don't think I deserve and enough memories to last a lifetime. I just wanted to say that I- well-"
Harry's voice was shaking but he needed to say the last few words. He had never said them to anybody before, not even Ginny, but they were the most important. He just couldn't seem to get them out.
He was saved from finishing by Hermione, who walked over to him and flung her arms around his neck. He hugged her back tightly, his face filled with her bushy brown hair. Harry strongly suspected that she had started crying, a suspicion confirmed when she eventually said in a thick voice, "I love you too, Harry."
He gave her a grateful squeeze and closed his eyes against the tears he had been desperately trying to fight for hours. Suddenly he remembered what had happened in the Room of Requirement before the battle and looked over Hermione's shoulder at Ron, who was still sat on the floor watching the two them. Their eyes met and Harry saw none of the jealousy or anger he had expected to see. Instead Ron looked a little bit uncomfortable.
"Yeah," Ron said gruffly, "what she said, mate."
They grinned awkwardly at each other. Harry heard Hermione sniff.
When Harry felt the moment for being emotional had passed and he too started feeling a little uncomfortable, he said, "Hermione, I appreciate this and everything, but your boyfriend seems the jealous type."
Hermione let go of Harry, looking stunned. She glanced at Ron, who was blinking more than strictly necessary. Both of them blushed and Hermione went and sat down in her own chair again. It had obviously just occurred to the two of them that they were now the owners of titles like 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend'. Harry started laughing.
"That's another thing I wanted to say," Harry smiled, leaning back in his chair. "I'm really happy for you guys, honestly, but this whole thing would have been so much easier without the hormones, the drama, the constant bickering, the jealousy, the irrational behaviour-"
"Oi!" protested Ron. "It wasn't that bad!"
He looked to Hermione, who was equally scandalised, for support.
"No, it wasn't!" she agreed hotly. She sat back and crossed her legs. "Only one of us was jealous and irrational for a start," she added in an undertone.
Ron spun around, highly affronted. "What do you mean by that? When was I ever jealous?"
Harry and Hermione both raised their eyebrows at him in response.
"Well, all right," he grumbled, clearly spotting a losing battle. "I was never irrational though!"
Hermione snorted with laughter. "You? Irrational? Never! Snapping the arm off a figurine you spent fifteen sickles on is completely rational."
Harry was stunned. He had no idea how Hermione could possibly know the fate of Ron's Krum figurine and, judging by how mortified Ron looked, he guessed he was thinking the same thing.
Hermione smiled sweetly at him. "You should clear your trunk out more often and not leave it for me to do."
Ron's entire face was as red as the scarlet rug he was sat on. He goggled at Hermione, who had arched her eyebrows, waiting to see how Ron could come back from that. Feeling Hermione had gone a bit below the belt there, Harry decided to give Ron a helping hand.
"Whereas you, Hermione," Harry said quietly, "just go around confunding people."
Hermione glared at Harry, horrified that he had revealed her secret, while Ron frowned and tried to remember the incident that Harry had referred to.
"What? Who did you confund?" Ron asked Hermione.
Harry watched as Hermione bit her bottom lip and tried to work a way out of her predicament. Eventually, her eyes on the floor, she whispered, "McLaggen."
Ron started laughing and looked at Harry for confirmation. Harry nodded and Ron let out a great shout of mirth. "When?" he asked, sniggering, "Slughorn's party?"
Hermione sank lower into her chair as she shook her head and waited for Ron to work it out. She clearly wasn't going to be giving any hints or clues.
Furrowing his brow and running his left hand through his hair while he leant back on his right, Ron continued to think of other possibilities. Eventually Harry watched comprehension dawn on his best friend's face.
"No…" he said slowly. "You didn't…"
He scrambled onto his knees in front of Hermione so he could look her in the eye, a serious expression on his face. "The Quidditch trials," he finished simply.
All colour drained from Hermione's face as she launched into an explanation. "Ron, I am so sorry," she blurted out. "He was stood in front of where I was sitting and he was saying foul things about Ginny getting on the team just because she knew Harry and then he started saying even worse things about you. I knew you could get on the team on your own merits, I just- just wanted to make sure because I knew how much it meant to you."
When Hermione had finished stating her case, she looked pleadingly at Ron, who stared back at her stonily. Harry felt a twinge on foreboding in his stomach. Surely after all this time spent dancing around each other, they wouldn't break up over something so insignificant that had happened nearly two years previously. Harry froze as he remembered Ron's history with this sort of thing.
"I can't believe you, Hermione" Ron said in a low voice and shaking his head slightly. "You were supposed to be a prefect…"
Ron's face broke into a wide smile and Hermione started laughing shakily. Harry let out a sigh of relief and watched as Hermione playfully punched Ron in the chest, who then grabbed her arm and pulled her off the armchair and onto the rug. Shocked and dishevelled, Hermione glowered at him. Despite this, Ron leaned in and kissed her on the lips. When Ron pulled away, Harry fully expected Hermione to hit him again, but was surprised to see that instead she smiled and moved forward to kiss him again.
Harry let them have a moment, but after a few seconds, they both seemed to have forgotten his presence. It wasn't until Ron lifted his hand to Hermione's cheek and looked like he was about to start snogging her properly that Harry coughed loudly. Immediately they broke apart, looking embarrassed. Harry shook his head.
Ron put his arm awkwardly around Hermione's shoulders as she curled up on the rug and leant into his chest, both of them red in the face. Harry knew that being together wouldn't stop them being Ron and Hermione; he would still have to put up with the petty arguments and the unnerving pace they were able to go from not speaking to each other to being thick as thieves and then back again. That was just how their relationship worked and they both seemed to thrive off it. They were able to bring out the worst in the other one, but more frequently they brought out the best. If to do this it meant squabbling and baiting each other, then so be it.
Harry's thoughts started to drift towards Ginny, as they so often had over the past year. Their relationship had been so much more laid back. They both made the other one happy, simple as that. He knew he would be driven mad if it had been anything like Ron and Hermione. Being on the side lines had been infuriating sometimes; actually being a part of the world's longest game of cat and mouse would have been way too much for him.
"I don't know about you guys," yawned Ron, pulling Harry out of his reverie, "but I think it's getting a bit late."
"It's half ten in the morning," pointed out Hermione, who was subconsciously playing with a rip in Ron's robes.
Harry stood up slowly, his limbs aching. Now he had eaten, all he wanted to do was go to his old dormitory and pass out. Everything else - the clean-up, the grieving, the building of a new world - could wait until tomorrow.
"We have been up more than a day though," he said, stretching. "And in that time we've robbed a bank, flew a dragon, fallen into a lake, fought in a battle and ended a war."
The other two smiled sleepily at him and got to their feet. Harry started making his was towards the staircase leading to the boy's dormitories, with Ron walking beside him. They were almost at the door when he heard Hermione call out from behind him.
"Erm… Is it okay if- I mean, I don't want to be on my own tonight and-" she stuttered. Harry was instantly reminded of an almost forgotten memory that had happened in this very room many years ago. He smiled gently at her.
"Of course you can," he said as Ron reached out his hand to her.
She took Ron's hand and the pair of them grinned sheepishly at each other, still unused to being able to show their true feelings to one another.
"We can even pitch a tent," Ron joked as they started climbing the stairs. "It'll be just like old times…"
Laughing, Harry opened the door to the dormitory and was pleased to see it was as empty as the common room. The room seemed a lot bigger than he remembered seeing as only Neville and Seamus' possessions littered the floor and tables. Harry and Ron walked to their respective beds, removed their shoes and slumped onto them. Straight away, Harry thought he would fall asleep, but he noticed that Hermione was still stood in the middle of the room, looking around at the other beds. While they were empty at the minute, their owners were still down in the Great Hall and probably wouldn't be too pleased if they came up to get some well-earned rest and found someone else already there.
"Do you think they would mind?" fretted Hermione, looking from bed to bed.
Before Harry could begin to form an answer, Ron had already pulled back his covers and, his ears burning, patted the mattress next to him.
"I mean- only if you wanted to. It would save someone moving you later and-" he blurted out.
Hermione, pink patches rising in her cheeks, gave Ron a small smile and made her way over to his bed. As she got in Ron shuffled over to one side to give her room. They were lying on the very edge of their own sides, so that they weren't touching, both blushing furiously.
Smiling to himself, Harry took out the Elder wand from his mokeskin pouch, placed it on his bedside table and looked at it for a few moments before closing the hangings around his bed and getting under his duvet. As soon as his head hit the pillow, he realised he still had his glasses on but was already too asleep to remove them. In the distance he heard someone enter the room and exchange a few words with Ron and Hermione, but Harry couldn't make them out. Seconds later Harry Potter fell into a dream that, for the first time in his life, was guaranteed to be his own.
Harry opened his eyes. Every muscle in his body was aching. It was like when he woke up in the hospital wing after falling fifty feet from his Nimbus, but a lot worse. He blinked as a chink of daylight was coming in through a crack in his hangings and blinding him slightly. Squinting, he checked his watch and saw he had only been asleep for little over an hour. Wondering how on earth he hadn't slept for longer, he got up and blearily shuffled his way over to the jug of water on the windowsill.
Pouring himself a glass of water, Harry looked out of the window and saw the grounds below littered with rubble and debris. He could also make out a couple of his old professors, already starting to clear the mess up. The sight made his chest clench painfully so he turned around to observe the room instead.
First his eyes fell on Neville, who was snoring gently and sprawled out on his bed. The sword of Gryffindor was balanced on his bedside table, still covered in dirt and blood. Harry smiled. He always thought there was something special about Neville and he was pleased to realise that the rest of the wizarding world would now see this too.
Harry looked to his right and his smile became wider when he saw the occupants of the bed next to his own were fast asleep and no longer lying awkwardly parallel to each other. Hermione was resting her head on Ron's shoulder, her arm draped over his chest, while Ron had his arm wrapped around her shoulders and his head resting on top of hers. Both of their faces showed evidence of more tears that had long since dried up. Harry wondered if this transition had occurred while they were still awake or subconsciously in their sleep. It was then Harry noticed that on the table next to Ron was the ruined locket that not so long ago had been a horcrux. Too tired to think why Ron would want to retrieve the object that had mentally tortured him from Hermione's beaded bag, Harry leant back on the window sill and took a sip of water.
As he drank, Harry realised that he now had a future. For so long he had been focused on defeating Voldemort that he had never bothered to think about what would happen afterwards. To have had ambitions like that and then to lose them if they had lost the war would've been unbearable. Thousands of beautiful possibilities flooded his mind; he could grow up, get a job, buy a house, get married and have a family of his own… He found his eyes were slightly wet and wiped them on the back of his sleeve. He had never thought about these things before and now he could not only think about them, but achieve them. As he considered this he realised that he didn't really mind where he ended up; he just wanted Ginny to be there with him.
Ron snored suddenly and Harry pulled his thoughts away from Ginny. It was almost as if Ron had sensed what Harry had been thinking about and wanted to put a stop to it. Shaking this ridiculous idea from his head, Harry was reminded of the conversation he had had with Ron and Hermione just after Dumbledore's funeral. Once more he was surrounded by death and misery, but there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon. This time however, Harry thought, his spirits soaring, it wasn't a single golden day, but an entire lifetime that he had left to spend with Ron and Hermione.
A/N 2: 1 year ago, during my Nth re-read of PS, I wondered what was said during the trio's first post-troll conversation.
9 months ago these wonderings became a Word document after I had written about 20 of these moments in my head and I didn't want to forget them.
4 months ago it was a 240 page Word document, that had a bigger word count than PS.
1 month ago I finally plucked up the courage to publish it and waited for the internet to spit out my first attempt at fanfiction and tell me to stick to reading or, preferably, never darken its doors again.
Instead people read this story and said nice things. And then more people read it and more people said nice things. Then it started getting added to people's favourites and by this point I was staring at my laptop in awe, unable to believe what I was reading.
Now, 24 Ron moments, 24 Hermione moments and 1 Harry moment later, it's over.
I'd like to thank InkTearDrops, Wazlib88, Fanohermione, jac32oz, jayIVmom, Joanne Black rh, mkoala, moonliteshadow, MsAnnaGraham, not bitter just twisted, thesecondshelf, StephMcG, ozzel1, xxafterglowxx, WhiteCavalier, SmileXDanceLove, Poppy Anne Gibbons, Jessie Brooke, Justine, GingerPygmy99, spewmate, asyuraniel, Zalini, Romione-til-death, 15, TisforTatty, Restless5oul, Toby Cavanaugh Lover, sunlight1299, magicisintheair, A-LovesHP, muggleindenial28, HeyMissSarah, peacock33, iyamei, Kat0510, neuroticmess, mclaughin, DA4All, reneeogg, miuri, fallenintohistory, Just Some Human, LighintheDark33, watched 2 much tv, missjessiecakes, bootsm, MishhieLee, CottonLittleBunny, PJNHEN2, avini, Nikstar98, shocfix, RoseWeasley929, Natalie Bright, ChocolateCurls, lonksthewriter, Heldon16, Kamala76, TheMonkeyFuzz, way2domestic, NoxDawn24642, PJ XD, Readingiscool, Will2Meaning, You'reAnAngelSentToSave, Rynie2980, illegalpen, Leolina, JessicaLaurenWeasley, TheTwoDL, StarlitDreamer, adnixon, PerfectlyStrange, ober22, Obsessed With 52, bookworm299, Banana Montana, Hmm55, redheaded-raindrop, AutonomousAnonymous, milbrite, Natalie Bright, dopeyKMK, Padesoy, Romioneluver567, fihcan, lanesm, BleedingOnMyTypewriter, Tarsa, tonidepp16, DanielleElaine, Lisa the Scott and Moomoozee for reviewing, putting this story on alert and adding it to their favourites.
I mean it, thank you so much to every single reviewer, alerter, favouriter and reader. As cheesy as it sounds you've given me the confidence to write all of the fanfics I've had planned in my head and that is the best gift that you can give to someone.
That or a scented candle.
Plus I've enjoyed talking about everything from Ron and Hermione to Starkid to Shakespeare to whether 'Bobbies' should be capitalised with you all. I mean it when I say you're all lovely.
Hopefully, this won't be my last big multi-chapter story and I hereby promise not to make the final A/Ns of any future stories this long and overly-emotional but like I said, this is my first ever story and is like a baby to me so lemme have my moment, yeah?
Finally, thank you to J.K Rowling for everything. Defining 'everything' would take years so I will leave it at that.
Thanks for reading. It's been a blast :)
S'over. Go home.