The End of the Beginning

Chapter 4

Ron was on cloud nine.

He had gone to Hermione to talk to her, but she had shushed him the moment he opened his mouth. Instead of talking about their fight, they ended up making out on the couch in Hermione's suite.

Reluctantly pulling apart after twenty minutes or so, Ron finally asked the question. "Um, what in the blazes just happened?"

"This is me admitting to you that I was wrong. We should be….we are together Ron."

"Whoa…..do mine ears deceive me?" he couldn't help grinning ear to ear.

"Don't let it go to your head." She teased.

"I tell you what, I'll keep it our little secret. But you owe me." Ron gave her a wicked grin.

"Boys." Hermione shook her head, but couldn't hide her own grin.

There wasn't a whole lot of talking after that.

Harry noted that Ron and Hermione looked quite disheveled when they emerged from her suite later that evening.

"I see you two have patched things up." He grinned at the pair of them. Hermione blushed and Ron sheepishly grinned back.

"What's for dinner?" Ron changed the subject.

"I thought we could order in. Just relax." Harry answered.

"Sounds great. There's a room service menu in the kitchen." Hermione seemed glad for the change of topic.

After a huge meal that left them all fit to bursting, the trio moved to the balcony to watch the sunset. Harry and Ron sat on either side of Hermione. They sipped on wine and swapped childhood stories.

Harry mainly listened, not really having much from his childhood to share. This was what he cherished most: the three of them together. Just being. They weren't doing anything special or out of the ordinary, but Harry wouldn't have it any other way. If this was what life was going to be like from here on out, then he was in for a pleasant ride.

"What's got you smiling?" Hermione chuckled.

"Nothing at all." Harry answered, matching her smile with one of his own.

"What do you think life is going to be like, you know, when we go back?" Ron asked.

"Well, we all know Harry here is going to be quite famous." Hermione playfully swatted his arm. "But then again, I think all three of us will have a little more attention than we're used to."

Ron shook his head. "Maybe I'll publish a memoir. Detailing what it's really like to live alongside The Boy Who Lived. I'm sure the world would love to know about the time you ate a snot flavored Every Flavored Bean and vomited spectacularly all over poor Neville's charms book."

All three of the laughed.

"Or perhaps they want to hear about having the most awkward mistletoe kiss ever." Ron could barely finish through his own laughs. Hermione in particular thought that one hilarious. She was in tears.

"Haha." Harry intoned sarcastically, "I be the world would love a picture of Ron dancing on the table at the Three Broomsticks."

Harry grinned wickedly at Ron who looked like he had been struck by lightning. Hermione had stopped breathing she was laughing so hard.

"Y-you said there was no film in that camera." Ron looked horrified.

They had all gotten pretty sloshed at the official Gryffindor victory party. It had went on for two days and spanned the common room and both Hogsmeade pubs. Ron in particular had been quite the entertainment.

"H-he had the d-dumbest grin!" Hermione gasped between fits of laughter. Ron had turned as red as his hair.

"Yeah, he was blissfully unaware that Ginny had used a sticking charm on his chair. Quite gracefully leaving his pants behind when he mounted the table."

Harry now was laughing as hard as Hermione, who was overcome by a coughing fit. Thumping her on the back, Ron suddenly grinned at Harry.

"Of course, I could tell about a certain Mr. Potter who may or may not have…."

"You swore!" Harry countered, horrified that Ron would bring up his own shenanigans from the party.

"Oh you're not getting off that easily. If I get nailed for dancing half naked on a table, you get hammered for kissing Neville….ARRGGHH!"

Harry had jumped across Hermione and tackled Ron. They wrestled for twenty minutes with Hermione egging them on, all three laughing the entire time.

They eventually settled back into their places and sat in companionable quiet for hours on end. Simply enjoying each other's company. The sun had long sank beneath the city skyline when they each retired to their warm beds.

Harry had returned to the balcony at about five in the morning. After peacefully falling asleep following the events of the previous evening, he was awoken by another nightmare. This time, the one he kept having about Fred's vacant eyes had found him waking up in a sweat. Knowing sleep wouldn't be coming back any time soon he had moved to the balcony to gaze over the slowly stirring city.

"Couldn't sleep?" a soft voice asked behind him.

Harry had a brief struggle in his mind over how to respond, but eventually convinced himself that if anybody understood it was Hermione. "'Nother nightmare." He replied as Hermione took a seat next to him.

"Who was it this time?"

"Fred."

Hermione squeezed his arm. "Harry." The compassion in her voice left no other words necessary. They sat that way for a few moments before she spoke again.

"You know these won't last forever right?" She was looking at him now. Sadness filling her soft brown eyes.

"I know. It's just.." Harry choked back a sob, "They're gone Hermione. Fred, Colin, Tonks, Remus.." and with that he couldn't fight it any longer. The dead pressed in on every side of his heart. He sobbed uncontrollably. He had never lost control before. There had always been a reason to soldier on, to put on the brave face and keep going.

Now? There wasn't anything to stop him. Hermione wrapped her arms around him and he sobbed onto her shoulder. She didn't say anything and she didn't have to. Her being there was enough.

"H-Harry?" Hermione's voice choked after Harry had spent himself.

"Yes?"

"Do you remember what you told me? About seeing your parents, Sirius, and Remus in the Forest?" Harry nodded his head. "You know that they're still here right? They told you they would be. Remember how they were happy? How much younger Remus and Sirius looked?"

Harry lifted his head to look at Hermione. Her eyes too were red and watery with tears.

"Yeah, I do."

Hermione smiled. "Don't you know that Fred is with them too? And Tonks, Colin and all the others? They're there too Harry. They would say the same thing Remus said: they hoped to make the world a better place."

Hermione looked for a split second like she would lose her composure, but gathered herself and continued: "And they did Harry. Together, they did it. The world is a better place because of what they gave."

Hermione took his hands in hers. "You know that don't you?"

Harry looked away over the city, the streets slowly coming to life under the pink early morning sky. He thought of the Hogwart's Express full of students, of Bill and Fleur at Shell Cottage, and of Diagon Alley full of patrons; all of them going about their business, no longer a pallor of fear hanging over them. Smiles and cheery greetings replacing the heavy silence and weary looks of the past two years.

When he looked back he saw that Hermione was still looking at him. She was still smiling and there was a softness in her eyes that Harry had never seen before. He had never felt so cared for his whole life as he did now, seeing Hermione look at him that way. He couldn't help but smile back and chuckle to himself.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing, and yes I know." Harry gave her hands a squeeze. "What ever would I have done without you Hermione Granger?"

It was Hermione's turn to laugh. "Well we both know you would have died at least once a year."

Harry wasn't sure if it was the hour or how emotionally fragile they were, but they both laughed and laughed. They laughed until their sides hurt tears of a different kind poured from their eyes.

When they had sufficiently recovered, he helped her to her feet and they both stood together just enjoying the view and the company.

"You know I've never thanked you."

"And you never needed to."

"Well I am now. Thank you, Hermione. Thank you for looking out for me. For saving me more times than I can count. There have been so many times I've been so ungrateful for you."

They both looked at each other for a long time. Hermione seemed to be thinking hard and looked on the verge of saying something. Harry held her gaze, willing her to tell him what it was. After what could have been minutes, days, or years she simply lifted her hand and gently pushed a wild strand of his hair behind his ear.

"Harry."

There was something in her voice, something he could see in her eyes that he had never seen there before. He felt warmth spread from his head to his toes. He felt so many things at once: contentment, belonging, wholeness, and just a feeling of right. He wasn't sure why he felt all these things, but he knew he never wanted it to end.

After what seemed like an eternity to Harry, Hermione gave his hand one last squeeze before she turned and walked back inside. Harry watched her close the door to her room behind her and felt a strange uneasiness wash over him. He didn't know what had just happened, but he couldn't shake the feeling that something inside of him had shifted.

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