Ch 9: Epilogue
It was the first time Harry had been able to properly enjoy the closing activities that filled the week between the end of exams and going home. Those activities included, more than anything, a lot of free-time, and in that free-time, the predicted hashing out with Ron took place.
It was not tearful, as he'd feared, but there was sniffling.
Ron said, "Sorry. I've been meaning to say sorry for weeks now. Everyone says I messed up. Hagrid, Fred and George, Ginny, Percy, Dean and Seamus. Lavender. And they're right. I shouldn't have gotten mad about the broom and I shouldn't have said that stuff when you two started dating. I had every right to be upset about you and Harry dropping Divination without telling me, but I guess we weren't really talking then, and I had the right to be angry about Scabbers, but I probably took it a little far, and obviously it's turned out he was alive and a wizard, but I didn't know that."
"A little far?" said Harry.
Hermione nudged him, and he quieted.
Hermione said, "What in particular are you apologizing for? Saying that I was crying on purpose? Saying that I only wanted to be girlfriend to the Boy-Who-Lived? Asking Harry if he couldn't have found anyone prettier?"
"All of it," said Ron.
"Alright," said Hermione, extending a hand.
Ron shook it, smiling broadly.
His smiled faded when Hermione said, "We're not best friends again. Maybe we'll become best friends again, but saying sorry doesn't make me forget five months of you being a complete git."
Ron said, "I haven't bothered you for at least a month. So it's four months of being a git."
"That makes it so much better," said Hermione, but her exasperation sounded very slightly amused, and Harry thought they'd be best friends again by the end of the train ride home. It was lucky for Ron they'd all ended up in another life threatening circumstance together.
Ron said, "I'm just sensitive over you always saying I'm stupid."
"I don't say that. Well, I did when you were screaming at me about Scabbers, but I don't say it normally."
"You suggest it."
"If you'd pay attention to what I say, you'd know I don't say that."
Harry said, "Sorry, Hermione, but you do, kind of. Even to me sometimes, but not as much." He turned to Ron. "But it's only when we deserve it."
Ron said, "Or when I say I don't like reading school books for fun. Who the bloody hell reads school books for fun?"
Hermione said, "I do, Ronald. Many of them are quite fascinating. If you'd just take an interest-"
"See, that's what I'm talking about. I'm not interested, and you can't make me be."
Hermione said, "You always interrupt me when I'm-"
"I don't interrupt you! You interrupt me!"
"You just interrupted me!"
Harry said, "Can we not fight? Let's just agree that no one's perfect, not even Hermione, and, you, Ron, were unusually, notably far from perfect much of this year, and you're sorry about it?"
"Yeah," said Ron. "That. Sorry."
Hermione said, "I'm sorry too. For making you feel stupid and saying you were jealous of Harry. I know I can be condescending sometimes, if you know what that means, and from now on I promise to try harder not to be."
Harry said, "Good. And we'll all be very polite and try not to say hurtful things."
Ron said, "Merlin, Harry, hurtful things? You've been spending too much time with Hermione. You sound like a poofter."
Harry and Hermione shared a glance.
Hermione clasped Ron's hands and said, "Ron, poofter is a very rude word. You should say homosexual, or gay. Whatever the world around us thinks, there's nothing wrong with being gay, and accepting that may be the first step to accepting yourself."
Ron asked what the bloody hell she meant by that, and Hermione refused to explain in anything but vague allusions. As they argued, Harry reflected that all was right with the world.
And as the closing week continued, all did seem right with the world. When Dumbledore handed out points for helping catch a Death Eater who'd been hiding out in the school, Gryffindor was guaranteed the house cup. It turned out that Order of Merlin Second Class included a hundred galleon prize. Ron said he'd get a broom, and Hermione said she'd a get portable library.
The results to the exams came, and Harry felt a rush of pleasure. His first year, his marks had been good. His second, they hadn't taken the exams at all, owing to the Chamber of Secrets, but he suspected that if they had taken them, he wouldn't have done so well as his first year, owing to the Chamber, and also to the fact that study buddy Hermione had been petrified during exam season.
His third year, his marks were even better than his first year. One grade in particular astonished him.
An E in Ancient Runes. An E. An actual E. He'd been praying for an A, expecting a P. He handed the results to Hermione, pointed to the box for Runes, and said, "Do you think it's a misprint?"
"First of all, Harry, these aren't printed, they're written by enchanted quills. And no, I don't think it's an error. You were working very hard and never studied for it with anyone but me, so you never realized that in the first term, most of the students were a little hazy on the differences between Elder Furthark and Old Icelandic B-Side and wouldn't have known Neo-Dwarfic if it bit them on the elbow."
"You mean I didn't have to study that hard?"
"If you hadn't, you'd only have an A, so aren't you glad you did?"
"No," said Harry. "I'm glad I got an E, but I would've rather studied less and gotten an A."
"You don't mean that," said Hermione.
"I do. But in a week, when the studying's a fond memory, I won't mean it anymore." Having said that, he returned to the Daily Prophet, a publication he'd hardly ever read before, but it had everything he wanted to know about the Sirius Black case.
When it came to resolving national embarrassments and getting them quickly out of the news cycle, the Wizengamot was nothing if not swift, and before the week was out, Black was exonerated, and Pettigrew convicted, started on the long, slow and expensive process of being stripped of his animagus abilities before being shipped to Azkaban.
So on the afternoon of the closing feast, Dumbledore in attendance, Black came to Hogwarts. Harry met them in the relative privacy of the Covered Bridge, with birdsong for company, and Black was wearing fine new robes, his hair cut, body and teeth cleaned, and already with noticeably more flesh on his bones. Potions, he explained, and told Harry to call him Sirius as they shook hands.
Dumbledore said it would better to let Harry's legal guardianship stay with the Dursleys at least through the summer, but thought Harry might spend the last few weeks of summer with Sirius. Provided that Sirius acquired a safe, hygienic and well-warded home and completed a rehabilitation program with certified mind healers.
Harry thought he'd rather live in a hut than with a madman than live with the Dursleys. But, talking with Sirius, it wasn't hard to see why he needed quality time with mind healers, which he likely wouldn't get with Harry underfoot, so he resigned himself to spending at least the first month of the summer with the Dursleys.
Practical matters concluded, Dumbledore up and left, leaving them alone, and awkwardness descended.
"So," said Black. How's school?"
"Oh, er, it's good. I like Defence and Charms. Transfiguration, Herbology and Astronomy are okay. Care wasn't as good as it could've been, History is boring and Potions is painful, but I think those are more on the teachers than the subject. Runes was hard but I'm glad I took it."
Black said, "I hear Snivellus, I mean, Snape, teaches Potions. Dumbledore says he's a good man and was a spy against the Death Eaters and told me to apologize, but I say he's Snivellus, and if he was a spy, he spied for his own Snivelly reasons. He gives you trouble? I'll prank him for it."
"Don't," said Harry. "It would just make it worse. He's sarcastic and he gives me detentions, but that's all." It was a little more than that, and he loved the idea of Sirius pranking Snape, but he didn't want Sirius getting in any trouble and maybe not being seen as a fit guardian.
Harry said, "I mean, I talk back to him in class a little. And I did accuse him to other Professors of trying to steal the Philosopher's Stone for Voldemort, and it turned out he was trying to protect it. And my friends and I stole ingredient from him so we could brew polyjuice potion in the bathroom and sneak into the Slytherin dorms, and I think he figured out it was us even if he couldn't prove it. That was after I'd lied to him about how'd I'd found Mrs. Norris petrified. And Ron and I insult him a lot and sometimes he overhears us. And one time, while he was trying to save my life, my friend Hermione, you met her, she set him on fire. On purpose. So you can see why he might not like us."
Harry blinked, because it hadn't ever occurred to him that Snape might have a legitimate reason to dislike him, but that was a long list he'd come up with off the top of his head.
Sirius Black burst into laughter and looked immensely pleased. "Set him on fire. James and I never went that far. Sounds as if you're growing up right. Tell me about it."
So Harry told him about it. About the Stone in his first year, and about the Chamber of Secrets in his second and the whole Heir of Slytherin business.
When he was done, Sirius shook his head. "I'd think you were taking the mickey out of me if Dumbledore hadn't given me the general outline. And this year you thought I was out for your blood the whole time. It's a miracle you've got time for class."
"Yeah, well..." feeling sheepish and giddy, he pulled his report out of a pocket. He'd never shown his marks to an adult before, but he'd brought them, having an idea that a godfather might want to look at them.
Sirius took the report, surprised for a moment as he realized what it was, then sad. He examined Harry's marks closely.
Sirius said, "First, my James impression. What I think James would say." He ran a hand through his hair and motioned as if adjusting glasses, and his voice, when he spoke, was deeper and smoother. "Bloody well done, Harry. And you did this along with winning the Quidditch cup. A regular chip off the old block. We'll go out for dinner. But try to buck up your Transfiguration scores, that's always been my favorite. Why don't we take a family vacation to the Netherlands or Norway, somewhere the Restriction Against Underage Magic is more sensible, and I'll give you some pointers."
Sirius backed up, rolled his shoulders, and said, "And now my Lily impression." He thrust his chest forward, mimed brushing hair from his eyes, and in a bad falsetto, Sirius said, "Nicely done, Harry, but I know you can do better. I suppose it's Quidditch's fault. Sports are a wholesome hobby, but Quidditch really ought to have more precautions in place, and many students spend far too much time and energy on Quidditch when they ought to be learning. I'll write to Minerva and suggest a restriction on the number of hours house-teams can practice. No more than four hours a week."
It was ridiculous and should've made him laugh, but as Sirius continued in that falsetto, Harry got a little misty-eyed. "Too bad you couldn't take Arithmancy, but I suppose with Quidditch you didn't have the time. And what is this potions score? I know you accused Severus of capital crimes to his colleagues, and your friend set him on fire, but that isn't any reason to grade you unfairly. I'll speak to him about it. But overall, it's good. We're very proud of you."
Sirius rubbed his throat and raised an eyebrow, impression concluded.
Harry smiled, and even laughed a little to show he appreciated the impressions, though he did not feel much like laughing. That was far and away the clearest idea anyone had ever given him of what his parents had been like.
Sirius said, "But enough of that. I need to chase down Moony."
"You mean Professor Lupin?"
"Professor? He's a Professor? Of course he is, what else could Dumbledore have meant when he said he worked here? Well done, Moony! See, he's hiding. He does that. He's all ashamed he believed I was the traitor, and all ashamed he never visited me in Azkaban. So he's been avoiding me. Didn't come to the trial. So now he's also ashamed of having avoided me. So he'll avoid me even more. And the more he's ashamed of avoiding me, the more he'll avoid me, to avoid the shame of avoiding me, you see, and so he'll never see me. That's Moony. It's comforting. Haven't seen him in 12 years and I can already tell he hasn't changed. I better find him soon or there's no knowing how far his head will get up his ass."
Harry took out the Marauder's Map.
The journey on the train to Platform nine and three-quarters was a pleasant one. Malfoy came by and said something about an insane godfather being a poor substitute for parents, but the best he'd ever have, and Harry was so pleased by Malfoy's assumption that he'd start living with Sirius eventually that he nearly smiled.
Ron started lobbing insults just in time to save him from the error.
When Malfoy left, Harry related Sirius and Lupin's meeting to Hermione and Ron, and how the awkwardness had swiftly passed, and Lupin would probably move in with Sirius later, though Sirius was staying with a cousin for at least a couple of weeks.
Ron said, "Did you hear the rumor that Lupin's a werewolf? Bloody ridiculous. He's the best Defence Professor we've had, not some mangy savage."
Harry said, "Mangy savages? Aren't werewolves just folks who got bit by the wrong thing? You just got a bit by a big dog-man creature. Imagine if it had been a werewolf. You'd be a werewolf too."
Ron said that werewolves didn't bite proper wizards, and the bite changed them anyway, and Ron and Hermione had a loud argument about werewolves, in which Ron kept making the point that she'd know better if she'd ever met a werewolf.
Harry decided to wait on telling Ron until they knew for sure if Lupin had really been outed. Not that he liked keeping secrets from Ron, but it wasn't his secret to tell.
As the train ate the miles, Harry and Hermione began to hold hands, conscious of their looming separation. Ron looked for a moment as if he would tease them over it, but thought better of it.
The train pulled into the station, and Harry helped Hermione with her trunk. Her hand brushed his, and he felt as jittery as he had the day after their first kiss.
They stepped onto the platform, stopped just outside the train's doors.
"So..." said Hermione, biting her lower lip.
Harry wanted to kiss her more than he ever had before, but they only ever kissed in private. He wished they'd stayed in the train car for a few minutes and kissed in private.
Their eyes met, and they leaned in close, forehead to forehead.
Ron shook his head at them, muttered about lovebirds and nausea, waved goodbye, and went to find his siblings.
"This is goodbye, for awhile." said Hermione.
"See you over the summer?" said Harry.
"At the Weasleys'?"
"I don't know. I might be with Sirius. But I'll definitely see you. Even if it's just a day trip."
"You'd better," she said, and licked her lips.
In public or not, they kissed. A kiss that held all their time spent as each others' only company, the sense, of danger, their adventures and secrets, fear they'd gone too far, their wish they'd gone further, all their longing, the sweet pain of parting. A kiss that-
"Wait, wait, wait, hold on!"
The kiss broke, and Harry looked at an astonished Sirius.
Harry said, "What?"
"You're kissing her!"
"She is my girlfriend."
"Girlfriend?" Sirius wiped a fake tear from his eyes. "They grow up so fast. You are a third-year, aren't you? I'm not confused about that? That was hot and heavy for third-years."
Harry said, "I just finished my third year."
"Good. You'd be a runty fourth-year. And you, Hermione, I think it was, you're a third-year too?"
Harry said, "We're the same age."
Hermione said, "We're in the same year, but actually, I'm about ten months older."
"An older woman," said Sirius. "Even better. I've never been so proud of my godson."
Hermione said, "You've only just met him."
"Honey, no godfather's ever been so proud of his godson. So, when's the wedding?"
Harry groaned. He'd had enough of this from the twins. "Probably in ten to twenty years, and I don't know who to."
Sirius said, "How long have you two...?" He pressed his index fingers together, motioning as if his fingers were kissing.
Harry groaned again and said, "End of January."
Hermione said, "January 24th. And you should remember that, Harry. Our six month anniversary is next Friday. I hadn't mentioned it before, what, with the Sirius Black matter, and I don't care very much about those arbitrary milestones, but still. Owl me."
Bemused, Sirius said, "Six months. That is a marriage by third-year standards."
Hermione glared at him, and they went through the barrier together into the crowds of Kings Cross.
Hermione's head was on a swivel, looking for her parents, but she spotted a different, less familiar figure first.
Hermione nudged Harry and pointed to Uncle Vernon, purple-faced and glowering.
Sirius said, "Is that...?"
"That's my Uncle Vernon."
"Capital," said Sirius, and walked straight toward Vernon, Harry and Hermione hurrying in pursuit, Harry worrying, because while he hadn't told Sirius much about his aunt and uncle, he had given Sirius the general idea.
Vernon took a step back as Sirius neared, and Sirius smiled when Uncle Vernon didn't shake his extended hand.
"My name is Sirius Black. I'm Harry's godfather. You haven't seen me these past 12 years because I've been in prison for a murder they've just worked out I didn't commit. They don't care any about the murders I did commit. Though murder isn't the right word for those, because they were all self-defence, more or less. I'm not sure when I'll be able to take over guardianship, due to some lingering legal matters, questions of my mental stability, you see, but I'll be watching, so take good care of my godson, you hear?"
Uncle Vernon turned very pale and trembled. Harry had never seem him do that before.
Sirius leaned in and whispered furiously to Uncle Vernon, who gave a reply Harry didn't catch.
Hermione gave Harry a final hug and whispered, "Best year ever?"
Staring into her cinnamon brown eyes, Harry thought of freeing Sirius and catching Pettigrew. Of talks with Lupin, learning the Patronus, and winning the Quidditch. But mostly he thought of Hermione. Of conversations, and hours in the common room just being next to her, and the shape of her hand in his. "Best year so far," Harry corrected. "Next year will be even better."
And it was.
Whoo! It's done. I reserve the right to use any of this for Mentordora if I feel like it.
It's safe to say that if "fourth-year is even better," Voldemort doesn't come back at the end of it. Whether that's because he's stopped by a more communicative Harry, Hermione and even Ron, or because, without Pettigrew, the whole tri-wizard resurrection plot doesn't take place, I leave up to you.
Any ideas I have for fourth-year will be saved for GoM and Mentordora, which are worryingly similar as it is.
I have a couple latter-year fluff scenes in mind which might fit this, but I don't know if I'll write them.
I don't know if this Harry and Hermione would really be together forever, but if I wrote them breaking up, I'd then write them getting back together.
I still don't think I'm good at romance, but I'm improving?
If you've enjoyed this, please go to Amazon, select the books department, and get Monstrosity, by JLL (L, J L). It's only 99 cents, and it really is pretty good. If you happen to review it, that'll be a precious fact to me for years.