My first one-shot in AGES (no egg-throwing if it sucks). You all know how much I love these little scene-lets, and I have about a THOUSAND stacked up on my computer, I just haven't had any time for rewrites because I've been so focused on ACtA! Anyway, I'm posting this because I think that ACtA is going to be delayed for a couple of days while I fact-check and finish the war. It's turning out WAY longer and better than I ever anticipated, which is AWESOME, but because of the way I want to upload it, I need it to be finished when I start posting-shouldn't be more than a couple of days, I promise.
So this is to make up for my (likely) lack of posting! It's a little tag scene to "To Endure," and HERE THERE BE SPOILERS for it. A lot of people liked the way I wrote Ron and Hermione, but they were sad that Harry's friendship didn't come into the picture more-I can get behind that. So, in the spirit of the chapter "Hermione" from "Oh, Harry," I bring you, "Coda."
Best friend huggles to you all,
20 September 2029
Harry knocked on the front door of Ron and Hermione's house. There was a long period during which he heard nothing, and he wondered for a moment if Hermione was still sleeping. He wouldn't blame her; the whole family had had a very late night.
Rose was coming around the side of the house, a book hanging slack in her hand. She beamed tiredly at him. "What are you doing here?" she asked, hugging him tightly. "Aren't you supposed to be at work?"
"Aren't you?" he asked, and she grinned.
"Fair enough. I took a sick day," Rose admitted.
"And I'm the boss, so I can take a lunch hour whenever I feel like it," Harry said.
"Mum's round this way," she said, gesturing to the path leading to the back yard. "Is Dad still at the office?"
"Well, he's not the boss," Harry said indignantly, and Rose laughed. She led Harry around to the back garden of the house. It was a small space, densely packed with the widest variety of magical and nonmagical plants Harry had ever seen outside the Hogwarts greenhouses. Hermione was quite proud of it.
Hermione herself was lying back on a wicker sofa in the shade of the large oak tree that filled up a corner of the yard by itself. Her eyes were closed, but she had the Daily Prophet open in her lap and her glasses perched on her nose. She looked better than she had in quite a while. Harry beamed, seeing the bracelet Ron had spent so much time painstakingly picking out for her fiftieth birthday present.
"She just fell asleep a few minutes ago," Rose whispered to Harry. "Have a seat, she—"
"She can hear you, Rosie," Hermione admonished gently, raising her head. She smiled. "Hi, Harry."
"How are you?" he asked, leaning over and giving her a gentle, one-armed hug.
She stretched, the sleeves of her robes falling back to reveal how thin her arms still were. "Tired. I don't think we've had a party like that since Ron and I got married."
"Mm…Lily and Hugo's graduation party gave you a run for your money," he said.
"Why are all of Molly's best parties preceded by hospital stays?" Hermione laughed. She seemed to realize that his was a bit of an uncomfortable topic and looked away quickly. She removed her glasses and set them atop the newspaper on the small table beside her.
Harry took her hand. "How have you been, really? I feel like I haven't been—"
"Shut up, Harry," Hermione advised him. Harry stared at her. She shook her head, amused, and looked at Rose. "Sweetheart, would you mind making some tea? And I wouldn't say no to something to eat, too, if you can find anything."
Rose smiled and hopped up to her feet, hurrying inside the house.
"I just meant," Harry said slowly, "I haven't seen much of you since we got you home from St. Mungo's, and I'm sorry about that."
"No," Hermione said knowingly, slowly moving into a sitting position to face him better, "You're beating yourself up because you think you haven't been enough of a friend to me in all of this." She relaxed against the back of the sofa, watching him with sharp brown eyes.
Harry gave a nervous sort of squirm that he covered by crossing his knees.
"You've been Ron's biggest comfort, Harry," she said. "And…with everything that happened this summer…"
"That's what I mean, though," Harry said, frustrated. "You got poisoned, and here I've been at work all this time, not even—"
"Sitting vigil by my bedside?" she finished.
Harry was quiet for a moment. "You've done it for me. A lot."
Hermione sighed, looking around the garden exasperatedly. "Harry, that's because there was nothing else I could do!" He frowned, and she sat forward a bit. "You and Ron have both nearly died on multiple occasions, and I couldn't do anything about it. What else was I supposed to do but wait?"
"Exactly," Harry said plaintively. "I feel like I've never—"
"But this time, when it was me," Hermione interrupted him gently, "You were able to do something about it. You and Ron found Abner, you found Wilma Crouch, and—and this was really important, Harry—you helped Ron be ready for whatever was going to happen to me, when it got…uncertain." She blinked, and Harry felt his heart twist painfully.
She pressed on. "I have never, ever been as grateful for Ron as I am right now, and you helped him through the worst thing we've ever experienced in our marriage." She pulled herself up again, folding her arms, and her voice quavered just a bit as she added, "So don't try your 'tortured savior of the wizarding world, sorry for all the wrong he's done' act on me, Harry Potter, because it hasn't worked in decades."
Harry was looking down at his shoes.
"Besides," Hermione added, taking his hand again. She looked almost nervous as she said, "You've already died for me. If you think for a moment that I don't know you're my best friend…"
Harry stared at her. His stomach was churning in the oddest way; he was remembering, as he knew Hermione was, a very old conversation with her and Ron, the story of his walk alone into the forest. Trust Hermione to have the perfect thing to say about it, even thirty years later.
He leaned forward suddenly and embraced her; she was skinny, too small, but she hugged him just as tightly. "I don't know what I'd have done if…" he said, and he didn't need to finish the sentence for Hermione to squeeze him gently and kiss his cheek.
After a moment, they pulled back from each other. Hermione brushed away a few tears, and Harry sniffed.
"So are you holding Ron prisoner at the office or something?" she asked after a minute, and Harry conjured a handkerchief for her to wipe her eyes. "Can't leave all those new Aurors wandering around unsupervised."
"I traded him a nap in my office after lunch for letting me come and see you," Harry admitted. "I wanted to give you your birthday present."
"A present?" Hermione asked. "You all threw that massive party last night, and you think I still need presents?"
"Well, I didn't pay for it. And it's definitely not new…or nice…at all," he answered slowly, and Hermione laughed as he reached a hand into his pocket and withdrew a moldy-looking object. "Bill had me come over last week and get it, and Ron said I ought to be the one to give it to you…"
"Harry," Hermione murmured, her hands shaking slightly as she looked down at the book he had passed her. It was Albus Dumbledore's copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
"Apparently," Harry continued quietly, "Bill and Fleur found it while they were clearing out some old things. It was years and years ago and they forgot about it, but at the time they knew it must have belonged to one of us. After we left, though…"
"It wasn't really on the top of anyone's list of priorities," Hermione agreed, her voice trembling as she delicately turned a page to find the mark of the Deathly Hallows, inscribed by Dumbledore himself over Tale of the Three Brothers.
"I thought you might like it back," he said. "I remembered you missing it…"
Hermione nodded, blinking hard.
"Mum, do you want to eat outside?" called Rose's voice from the back door. Hermione looked up, startled.
"It's a bit chilly," she said to Harry, and he nodded, tactfully turning away to as to allow Hermione to wipe at her eyes again.
"We're coming in, Rose!" he called back, and he offered his arm to Hermione, who stood with some difficulty, but seemed perfectly fine after that. She held onto him as they walked together to the kitchen door.
"I can make it from here," she said, leaning on the doorframe. "Thank you for my present. You should go make sure your recruits are still alive. Oh—" She hooked an arm inside, around the door, looking for something that must have sat on the countertop. "This is for Ron. Rose and I made it for him, but you look like you might need some too."
Harry chuckled, rubbing his badly shaven chin as he looked down at the potion bottle full of (or so the label said, in Hermione's handwriting) "The Cure for a Weasley Party."
Hermione smiled at him. "Works well, I must say."
"What is it?" Harry asked. "Not that I don't trust you…"
"Pepper-Up and firewhisky," she told him. "Don't take too much, you'll be steaming out the ears until next week."
"Hermione, how very Muggle-ish of you," he answered, and she laughed. "I'm sure Ginny says thank you in advance. She didn't go in to work today either."
"Poor thing," said Hermione, trying to look sympathetic and failing. She chuckled. "You know, I'm rather enjoying not being able to drink anything but tea. I love moments like this."
"When you've got the answer to everybody else's problems?" Harry asked.
She took a deep breath, as though she were relishing the feeling. "As it should be."
"You're a nutter, and you're getting weirder with age," Harry informed her. He grinned and winked. "I'll send Ron home early."
Hermione smiled. "Thanks, Harry. And thanks for this." She held up the book. "I'll have to show Minerva."
Harry was already walking back across the yard. "See you this weekend for dinner," he called, waving a hand. Hermione waved back and disappeared inside.
Harry walked out to the road by himself, shaking his head. Some things never changed, no matter what…and Hermione, his best friend—eternally stubborn, always right, and constantly ready to prove it, was one of them.