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An Alternate Yule Ball by Hermione_Crookshanks
Chapter 10 : The End of Fourth Year
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 86


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Okay, here's the final chapter! I hope you enjoy it. I had a blast writing it, even though I was on cold medicine the entire time and I knew this would mean the end. *Sniff* This chapter is more trio focused than H/Hr focused, as I realized that Ron had been in the dark most of the time, and that was just horrible of me. Remember that Rowling owns Harry Potter. Now there's a shocker.

Oh! Before I end, I'd like to add that my story has reached over 22,000 reads - I'd like to thank all of you who have read my story. The fact that it's been viewed so many times means the world to me. It was your loyal reviews and reading that motivated me. So, this chapter is dedicated to all of you. You'll never know how much I appreciate it.


*****

Hermione woke up, her head feeling heavy, and her back aching. It was then that she remembered that she had fallen asleep while still sitting up. She stood up and stretched, allowing her cramped back to relax. Hermione regretted the idea until she saw Harry’s sleeping form. Her expression softened, and she realized that she didn’t mind the pain at all.

Hermione glanced over at the clock and saw that it was 7:30. She decided she would go to breakfast in about half an hour. Realizing that she needed fresh air, however, she walked over to an open window, placing her elbows on the windowsill and her chin in her hands, she sighed as she looked out at the Hogwarts grounds. Everything looked so beautiful and perfect. She wondered why life couldn’t be as perfect as the calm lake and the gorgeous green grass.

However, something else caught her attention. On the windowsill, right next to her elbow, was a ladybug - a ladybug who seemed to have glasses frames around her eyes – glasses frames very similar to those of Rita Skeeter’s.

Hermione smiled. At last, that cow of a woman was going to get what she had been asking for. Hermione, with reflexes she didn’t realize she had, quickly scooped up the ladybug, making sure she couldn’t escape. With a last look at Harry and a goodbye and thank you to Madam Pomfrey, Hermione made her way to her room in Gryffindor Tower. She was relieved to find it empty – Lavender and Parvati were most likely outside, enjoying the perfect summer day.

Hermione, Rita Skeeter still imprisoned within her fist, searched through her trunk with one hand until she found a glass jar. After unscrewing it by holding it to her stomach, as her right hand couldn’t hold it, Hermione popped Rita into the jar and quickly closed the lid. She took her wand and quickly whispered, “Reducto,” thus producing tiny holes so that Rita could breathe, and then muttered an anti-breaking spell so that Rita wouldn’t break the glass by transforming back into her human self.

“I think we need to have a little discussion,” Hermione said to the bug. “Don’t we, Rita? Now, if you can hear me, fly up to the top of the jar.”

The bug stayed stubbornly at the bottom.

“Oh, come on,” Hermione said impatiently, tapping the glass. “We can either do this the hard way or the easy way. I can either turn you into the authorities…” Hermione paused to let this sink in. “Or we can make a little deal. If you want to make a deal, fly to the top of the jar.”

Hermione waited a few seconds, but Rita finally flew to the top.

“Very good,” Hermione said, clearly delighted. “Now, I won’t tell anyone about your little secret. However, in return, you mustn’t write anything for a year. Let’s see if you can break your horrible streak, hmm? Fly to the bottom if you agree to these terms,” Hermione instructed. Rita obeyed. “Excellent,” Hermione commented. “Now, I will let you out once term’s ended – which, of course, is when we all get off the train. So, until then, you can stay right by my bed…” Hermione placed Rita on her bedside table. “Perfect,” she smiled. “You make a wonderful ornament, did you know?” And patting herself on the back, for once, at her own brilliance, Hermione made her way to the Great Hall, slowing down as she came closer to her destination, realizing that once again reality was going to take center stage.

*****

“All of you are, of course, aware, that something horrible happened here last night,” Dumbledore addressed the students during breakfast. Hermione stared blankly at him. All happiness from earlier this morning had evaporated. Horrible didn’t even begin to cover what had occurred. “I will explain all of it to you later. However, I have a request to make.” Dumbledore eyed each student. “None of you may discuss this with or talk to or question Harry Potter. I realize that you all know that he was somewhat involved in what occurred, but he does not need any reminders of the horrible things that happened last night.” Dumbledore closed his eyes briefly, as if he himself was in pain. After a long silence, he finally said, “You may commence eating,” and sat down.

Hermione picked at her food, unable to eat the eggs and toast that she had absentmindedly placed on her plate.

“Hermione,” Ron said gently, “it won’t do you any good to not eat.”

“I know,” Hermione said softly. “I’m just worried about him.”

“Hermione, he’s fine,” Ron reassured her. “I was worried, too, but he’s safe now. He got back and he’s perfectly okay.”

“Physically,” Hermione said darkly. She turned to Ron with an accusing look in her eye. “You know perfectly well that I mean emotionally. Can you even begin to imagine what Harry must be going through? I can’t…” Hermione seemed unsure whether or not to continue. Finally, she seemed to strike up the courage, and said, “And what about You-Know-Who? If he’s back…I mean, Harry…”

“I know,” Ron said quietly, making sure they couldn’t be overheard. “I’m just as worried as you are that You-Know-Who's first act will be to kill Harry.”

“He already tried that,” said a familiar voice from directly behind the two. Ron and Hermione turned around quickly, discovering that Harry, healed of all bruises, cuts, or scratches he had the previous night, was looking down at them.

“Harry,” Hermione said happily, pleased that he was now awake. She scooted over on the bench to allow Harry room to sit down, and immediately piled on his plate, with the help of Ron, all the food that the two could reach.

The trio was silent, until Ron, rather bravely, Hermione thought, brought the topic back up again. “Harry,” he asked slowly, “what do you mean by that he already tried?”

Harry sighed. “I think this conversation would be better discussed outside, where no one can here us.” He looked at Hermione and Ron’s still full plates. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Of course not!” Ron and Hermione said together, both finding themselves still without an appetite and both too anxious to learn what had happened to Harry to really care even if they had been hungry.

“C’mon then,” Harry muttered, indicating for the two to get up. Hermione quickly pushed her plate away from the edge of the table and, swinging her legs over the bench, got up and joined Ron and Harry as they walked out of the Great Hall and towards the front doors. Hermione noticed as they made their way through the crowded Hall that people were averting their eyes – they seemed to want to avoid Harry at all costs. Hermione shook her head, disappointed in her classmates. They had some nerve to treat him like this.

Once outside, Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat down under the shade of a willow tree, right by the lake. Normally, Hermione would lean on Harry, her head on his shoulder while he held her around the waist, but Hermione knew that during this conversation it would be important that they all keep eye contact.

“You know, Harry,” Ron said quietly, “you don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to.”

Harry stayed silent, not responding.

“He’s right you know,” Hermione added. “Dumbledore did say that we shouldn’t question you, and we don’t want to—”

“It’s fine,” Harry said, heaving a sigh. “As you said back when the tournament started, better to find out from the source, right?” Harry gave Ron and Hermione a smile that didn’t quiet meet his eyes. Hermione nodded her head, indicating that she understood, as the three settled themselves more comfortably in the grass.

“So, what happened?” Hermione asked of Harry, a bit tentative.

“Well, I guess I’ll start from the beginning,” Harry said, leaning against the tree. “As you obviously could tell, the cup was a portkey.” Hermione and Ron nodded their heads. “Well, Cedric and I had helped each other out throughout the tournament, and, after helping one another once more, we arrived at the cup. He…he insisted that I take it myself. I…I told him that he should take it, and then…” Harry swallowed. “Then we decided we’d take it at the same time – a double Hogwart’s victory. Once we both put our hands on it, it brought us to a graveyard. It was empty until Wormtail appeared, carrying a bundle in his arms. The…the thing said to kill the spare…” Harry’s voice was growing hoarse.

“You don’t have to continue, Harry,” Hermione said gently.

“Yeah, we’d understand mate,” Ron told him.

Harry just shook his head and continued. “So, he took out his wand, and used the killing curse on…on Cedric.” All light was gone from Harry’s usually vivid green eyes. “He was dead in an instant.”

Harry went on to tell Ron and Hermione of how Wormtail had tied him up to a grave, and then placed the bundle into a cauldron. Ron and Hermione grimaced as Harry explained that Wormtail had taken bone from Voldemort’s father’s grave, then cut off his own arm, and then had advanced on Harry and taken blood from him. Hermione stifled a shriek when she heard this, but couldn’t suppress the tears as she heard that Voldemort had risen once more, and after calling his Death Eater’s to him, had untied Harry, handed him his wand, and then demanded a duel.

“What happened?” Ron asked breathlessly.

“Well, it was basically him throwing spells at me while I ducked,” Harry said, almost in a monotone. “And then, I finally decided to fight back, and right as he shouted Avada Kedavra, I shouted Expelliarmus, and our wands connected, producing beads of light. I was able to force the beads to his wand, and then all the ghosts of the people he killed – actually, they weren’t exactly ghosts…more like smoked figures, appeared.”

“You saw your parents?” Hermione asked, croakily.

Harry closed his eyes and nodded. “And Cedric. He told me to bring his body back. So, my…my parents and the other figures were able to somehow distract Voldemort, and I grabbed Cedric and accioed the cup to me…and you know the rest.” Silence ensued once Harry finished.

Hermione wanted so badly to say once more that she was sorry for everything that had happened, but having learned from last night that this wasn’t the best way to handle the situation, she scooted over to Harry and wrapped her arms around him. Ron moved over as well, placing a hand on Harry’s shoulder while saying, “It’s okay, mate.”

And so the trio sat under the willow tree, the light summer’s wind blowing through their hair. They watched as the students around them frolicked in the lake and chattered, and wondered what it would be like, even if just for a moment, to be them - to be normal, to have no pain; to live the childhood that they were promised so long ago.

*****

Dumbledore addressed the schools again at dinner – their last dinner of their fourth year, as tomorrow they would all be leaving. Black draperies hung around the Hall in memory of Cedric, and Dumbledore explained how Voldemort murdered Cedric. Tears leaked down Hermione’s face as she realized that this murder was just the beginning.

After toasting in memory of Cedric and to Harry’s bravery, the feast began, but just like that morning, the trio found themselves without an appetite, and returned to the common room where they spent a few hours of peace with one another – savoring their friendship in the days before darkness would ensue, and enjoying a vacation from the staring students.

*****

The ride home was uneventful. Hermione laughed once more, as Harry and Ron played game after game of exploding snap. Ron’s eyebrows were fairly burned once they had completed their sixth round.

Once Ron and Harry had tired of the game, Hermione glanced through the Daily Prophet, and frowned when there was no mention of Voldemort’s return.

“Dumbledore did tell Fudge, didn’t he?” she asked Harry and Ron after relaying her startling evidence.

“Yeah,” Harry said, looking confused. “I wonder why they didn’t write anything?”

“I hope they’re not going to do a cover-up,” Hermione said with a frown. “That’s the last thing we need.”

“Well, with Rita Skeeter on the bound,” Ron commented, “I’m sure something will show up – even if it’s exactly the opposite from the truth.”

“Oh!” Hermione exclaimed. “I think Rita’s days of gossip are over – at least, for a year.”

Harry stared at Hermione. “What one earth are you talking about?”

Hermione beamed as she exclaimed her capture of Skeeter and the deal she had made, and even showed Harry and Ron the jar containing the ladybug.

“Brilliant,” Ron complimented her. “Absolutely brilliant.” Hermione smiled, and then tucked the jar away.

After talking for a few more hours, the train arrived at its destination. The trio unloaded their luggage and followed the crowd off the train, going in groups through the barrier, where they met their parents. Before Hermione ran over to hers, however, she took the jar, unscrewed it, and let Skeeter free, who flew vigorously away from Hermione. Hermione simply laughed and then went over to Harry.

“Come with me,” she instructed him.

“What?” Harry asked her. “Why?”

“You’re meeting my parents,” Hermione informed him.

“I don’t think that’s a good i…”

“You’re my boyfriend, Harry!” Hermione exclaimed. “Now, come on!” And Hermione took Harry’s hand and brought him over to her parents.

“Hi mum! Dad!” she greeted them, giving them both a hug.

“Hello, darling,” her mother smiled. “How was school?”

“Er…” Hermione was silent, and then decided that it was better than her parents not know the truth. “Wonderful, as always.”

“That’s great,” her father told her. He then turned to Harry. “Ah, you’re Harry, right? Hermione’s friend.”

Harry fidgeted a bit, and Hermione elbowed him. When Harry remained silent, Hermione rolled her eyes and gave a sigh.

“Actually,” she said, giving her dad a great “please don’t overreact” smile, “he’s my boyfriend.”

Mr. Granger’s jaw dropped and his warmth towards Harry immediately cooled down.

“When did this happen?” he asked through gritted teeth.

“Er…” Hermione laughed nervously. “Well, we had our first date Christmas…”

“Christmas?” Mr. Granger exploded. “And you said nothing?”

“Well, I was a bit busy, what with all the work,” Hermione said quickly. “And, I mean, you know now…”

“I think it’s wonderful, Hermione,” Mrs. Granger said, cutting off her husband from a long rant. She eyed him. “Don’t you agree, dear.” Mr. Granger gave a curt nod, after much influence from his wife.

Mrs. Granger turned to Harry and said, “I think it’s absolutely wonderful that you two got together.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, uncertainly. He turned around to see the impatient Dursleys waiting for him, and then turned back to Hermione.

“I have to go,” he told her. “They’re waiting.”

“Right,” Hermione nodded. “I’ll just walk with you.”

She grabbed Harry’s hand and walked over to the Dursleys with him, ignoring her father’s quiet protests.

Ron joined the two.

“We’ll come for you soon, all right, Harry?” Ron told him quietly.

“Yes, as soon as we can manage,” Hermione added.

“Thanks,” Harry smiled. Ron said goodbye, and headed off with his family, leaving Hermione, Harry, and the Dursleys.

“Have a good summer until I see you, okay?” Hermione asked Harry.

“I’ll try,” he told her. Hermione looked at the Dursleys and suppressed a grimace. Then she reached up, grabbed Harry by the back of the head, and, standing on her toes, kissed him gently on the lips.

“Take care,” Hermione whispered into Harry’s ear.

“You two,” Harry replied, and then he placed his hands around her back and hugged her tightly. After a moment he let go and joined the Dursleys. Hermione walked backwards towards her parents, waving goodbye to Harry, and smiling at the shocked expressions on his relatives’ faces.

“Take care,” she whispered again, and then she turned around and joined her parents, leaving the wizarding world behind until her return on the first of September - when the trio would be reunited at Hogwarts once more.

~Fin~


*****

Well, all stories must come to an end, and that includes this one. It's been a joy to write, and your support has been amazing. I will be writing a sequel, but I'm hoping to finish The Game is On Again first.

Also, check out my story, "I'm Not Neurotic! The Diary of Hermione Granger," which is another H/Hr fanfic (completely original), and a romantic comedy.

Thanks again. You've been amazing readers!

Until the next story,
~Hermione_Crookshanks


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