The End of the Beginning

Chapter 46

Music blasted out of the door when Hermione and Harry opened the door to the Room of Requirement. There were huge banners for each house what were edged with white and peppered with moving snowflakes. The lights were low and kept changing colors like the Christmas lights Hermione had seen in her neighborhood as a little girl.

Harry went to get them drinks and Hermione made her way through the crowd. She felt lighter than air. If she didn't know any better, she would almost swear she was glowing. It had already been one of the most wonderful nights of her life.

"There you are, I've been looking for you." Ginny came bursting through the crowd with Aubrey at her side. When she caught sight of Hermione's face her hand went to her mouth. "Hermione."

Aubrey gave Hermione a wicked grin and turned to Ginny. "Now let's not make a scene, we'll get her to dish all the details later. I for one don't want to miss the party."

Ginny simply looked from Aubrey to Hermione before letting out an exasperated sigh. "Oh, alright."

Aubrey grabbed Hermione's arm. "Come on, George managed to sneak in firewhiskey."

Hermione pulled her arm away. "Aubrey, you're a prefect."

"And you're Head Girl. And yet, here you are." Aubrey gestured. "Come on, loosen up it's a party. Besides, you of all people can't fuss too much about breaking school rules."

Hermione frowned. "That was different."

Aubrey held up her hand. "Now listen here. You're about to leave here and go on to be Minister of Magic or what have you and live your wonderful life with the savior of the world. You'll be too busy then to drink too much with us, so you're going to drink too much with us now. I won't take "no" for an answer."

"Come on Hermione, let's live a little. Merlin knows we haven't been able to before." Ginny pleaded.

Hermione looked at her two best friends and sighed. "Alright, but one drink and then…"

"Oh we'll see about that." Aubrey grinned wickedly. "Come on let's go."

Someone in the crowd caught Hermione's eye. "Go ahead I'll catch up."

"I'm holding you to it Granger." Ginny and Aubrey disappeared.

Hermione inched her way around some Ravenclaws to tap a boyishly handsome man on the shoulder. "I'm glad you could make it."

Luke turned around and gave her that charming smile of his. She wondered how real it was. "Glad I was invited, though by the looks of it the whole school was invited."

"Yeah, that'll be Aubrey's doing." Hermione shook her head.

"Listen, Hermione.."

"Luke it's okay."

"Um, okay."

An awkward silence hung in the air. "So, how are things with your parents?"

Luke hesitated. "We erm, we had a fight."

"So you did talk to them."

"Yeah, we had quite a row. Dad wanted to kick me out, but Mum talked him out of it. They tried to pull me out of Hogwarts, but once I pleaded my case with McGonagall she helped convince them to let me finish."

"That's great." Hermione smiled tremulously, "So, what now?"

"I don't know." Luke sighed, "I'm not ready to be open about that just yet, but I've decided it's not fair to me to live a lie."

"Well, you'll always have my support." Hermione put her hand on his arm.

"Thanks, I'm just sorry I got you involved."

"It's alright." Hermione felt a hand snake around her waist from behind.

"There you are. Hello Luke." Harry appeared from behind her.

"Hi Harry." Luke replied nervously. "I was just going."

"No hard feelings Luke." Harry said.

"Well I need to be going anyways. See you around." Luke waved and disappeared towards the exit.

Hermione turned to Harry, who had a thoughtful expression. "How is he?" he asked.

"He's okay." She put an arm around his waist. "I think he's getting there at least. I just wish he didn't have such a hard road ahead of him."

"If I know you, you'll do whatever it takes to make it better." Harry squeezed her.

"Thanks Harry." She gave him a squeeze in return.

"Hermione!" a pair of female voices came lofting over the music.

"I think someone's looking for you." Harry grinned.

"Yeah, they want to get drunk tonight." Hermione frowned. Harry actually started laughing. "What's so funny?"

"I would pay a hundred galleons to see you drunk."

"Harry James Potter!" she removed her arm from him like he was a hot iron. "You sound like Ron." She scoffed.

"Well he's on a table in the corner singing the national anthem, badly, so I hope I don't sound like him."

"And he's a prefect. Irresponsible." She muttered.

Harry gave her a peck on the cheek. "That's my Hermione." Another loud shout of "Hermione!" burst over the crowd. "Now go on, I'll catch up with you later."

Harry slipped out of sight. Hermione felt a little lurch in her stomach seeing her go.

He's safe. No one is trying to hurt him now.

It was the same calming thought she had told herself time and time again for months anytime Harry and her were apart. It happened less and less now and she looked forward to the day she didn't have to tell herself anymore.

But he was hers now and she was going to take care of him. That thought made her feel warmth in her chest.

"Hermione! Come on!" two pairs of hands reached from the crowd and pulled her towards a small bar in the back.

Harry chuckled to himself as he watched Hermione get dragged away by Ginny and Aubrey. He knew Hermione would have a good time. Especially once she figured out Luna was waiting for her up at the bar.

Harry stood in a corner and scanned the crowd. Practically everyone in the school was here and even some former students like Luna and George had come. He'd never tell Hermione but he and Ron had helped George clear out and widen the passage from the Shrieking Shack for that purpose. The invisibility cloak still had its uses.

He had never quite gotten used to parties. It suited him to stand here and watch his friends cut loose for a little while.

He watched Ron make a fool out of himself with George egging him on in the corner. He was now singing the Hogwarts alma mater at the top of his voice.

Draco Malfoy walked by and gave Harry a curt nod.

"Potter."

"Malfoy."

It wasn't terribly friendly and Harry didn't think it ever would be, but it was better than nothing.

He saw Draco take a seat next to Ginny at the bar. Aubrey and Ginny gave Hermione her first shot of firewhiskey and Hermione nearly gagged it back up with Luna watching serenely. Neville and Hannah were dancing to the bluesy number that was playing.

After a little while, Ginny turned and started talking to Draco. It was the most relaxed Harry had ever seen him. It made him feel uncomfortable to think of Ginny being so friendly with him, but he knew better than anyone that Ginny could take care of herself. Luna got up and started to do her own dance on the dance floor by herself. It didn't seem to match the rhythm of the song at all.

Lee Jordan, who was the DJ, switched the music to a slower song. Aubrey and Ron found each other and began a wobbly slow dance. Harry made his way over and he and Hermione joined them.

The four of them continued to dance the night away to song after song. From slow ballads to the Weird Sisters. They even switched partners for a song and Harry learned that Aubrey was an accomplished dancer. The night slowly faded away and people began to trickle back to their common rooms.

"What time is it?" Hermione asked Ron.

"Almost seven." Ron answered.

Hermione turned back to Harry. "Let's go watch the sunrise."

"Yeah." Aubrey chimed in. "I bet the top of the Astronomy tower would be a great view."

"Love, that's a lot of stairs." Ron hiccupped.

"Don't worry Ronniekins I'll hold your hand." Aubrey teased. Harry and Hermione laughed.

"You coming Gin?" Harry turned towards the bar to see Ginny leaning heavily on George.

"'Fraid she had a bit much." George chuckled. "I'll make sure she gets to Gryffindor tower."

"I love you Fred." Ginny mumbled.

George winced. "Come on dear, let's get you upstairs."

"What about Draco?" Hermione pointed to where Malfoy had passed out at the bar.

"I'll throw some water on him once she's taken care of." George said over his shoulder, carrying Ginny out the door.

"Come on; if we're going to catch the sunrise we better get moving." Aubrey tugged on Ron. The foursome made their way out the door and started the long climb to the Astronomy tower. Somehow, it had been left unlocked and they each took a seat on the ramparts, Hermione conjuring blankets, jars and a couple of blue bell flame charms to stave off the cold.

"You're bloody brilliant." Ron drunkenly patted Hermione's hand.

"And you're drunk." Hermione sighed. Harry and Aubrey laughed.

Harry and Hermione snuggled together under one blanket with Ron and Aubrey under another. The sky was a pale grey as the sun began to rise behind the hills.

Harry looked from Ron, to Aubrey and finally to Hermione. He wouldn't have been able to imaging this time last year that they would be sitting here in total peace. He had come a long way with Ron and Hermione and there was a long way ahead of them with Aubrey in tow.

The sun finally crested and Hermione squeezed his hand tight and leaned into him. Dawn seemed to capture everything Harry felt about his friends and the girl sitting next to him better than he could have put into words.

"Everything has changed, hasn't it?" Hermione whispered.

"Yes, it has." Harry answered.

He looked again at Ron and Aubrey who had fallen asleep leaning against each other and looked in Hermione's bright brown eyes.

"Yes it has."

The End

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