Disclaimer – All the characters belong to J.K. Rowling, I’m just borrowing them for a bit and promise to return them as good as new.
A/N –I hope you all love this story as much as I do! Thanks so much to Iviolinist, my AMAZING beta at Perfect Imagination. Without your help there would be so many commas on this page the words wouldn't even be visible. I can't wait to learn more from you! There's plenty more where this came from so prepare yourself.
The world awoke that day to a new and glorious dawn. The sun shown down on fields which were suddenly greener and more alive than ever, covered with dew that glistened gently in the sunrise. The birds sang sweet songs and flitted about, filling their nests with new twigs. For all those who had known the darkness it was truly a new dawn – a dawn full of hope and life because Voldemort and his followers were gone.
The cool rock wall outside the Great Hall was soothing to Harry’s weary bones and he rested his head back against the stone. His hands sat in the wet grass as his side and his eyes were closed loosely. The morning air was cool and it strengthened him a little giving him the energy to face the warm sunrise. He opened his eyes slowly and cast them across the grounds, his mind still seeing a confusing mix of past and present. Images of fighting and flashes of wand light mingled with those of peace and calm in front of him; had he not been so tired, a tear might have dropped for those who were lost forever.
He considered himself lucky really; a few minor scrapes and cuts, a bruise or two and that was all he had to show for defeating the Darkest wizard in a century. He had escaped with so much more than so many others.
Beside him, a stirring caught his attention and his eyes were drawn to the red-headed figure of Ginny sprawled out on the grass next to him. Her small form was covered by a blanket conjured up at the last minute before she fell asleep. On her other side were Ron and Hermione sleeping quite tangled together.
It had only been a few hours since they had all collapsed where they were. It was then that Harry had made a promise to himself – he wouldn’t rest until he saw the sun rise again. It was a sort of peace offering with the world and a dare with himself. During the events of the night he never believed he would see light again.
As Ginny’s hand reached into his, she pulled herself up into a sitting position and joined him against the wall, gazing off into the sunrise. He winced as he put his arm around her and pulled her close, knowing the pain would be worth the reward. He marveled at how she could still be so beautiful and smell so good even after the horrific battle they had just suffered. He couldn’t help but allow a small smile to come to his face.
“Good morning, love,” he said quietly.
She responded by burying her face in his neck and sighing deeply; her hair poured across his shoulder and her arm tightened briefly around him.
Harry accepted it as “good morning” and turned his face once again to the trees that formed a lower border for nature’s sunrise painting. His memory drifted away from the present again and he saw Hagrid standing tall, swinging blindly around and taking down more Death Eaters than anyone. For a moment his throat tightened as he remembered painfully the final moments of his dear friend. Strangely though, he felt little anger. It was as if the end of Voldemort had somehow taken part of him away.
He strained to focus his eyes again and this time they fell on the gleaming white headstone of his beloved Headmaster. He closed his eyes in reverence and allowed himself a moment full of memories of all that great man had done for him. He felt no bitter feelings of resentment for the choices made when Harry was one year old. Instead, he remembered one of the greatest wizards who had ever lived. He remembered a man who made life-altering decisions on a daily basis and whom he respected more than anyone else he’d ever met. Since Dumbledore’s death, his respect had only increased, coming on gradually with each new life experience. The difficulties Harry encountered and the decisions he made only reminded him of how hard Dumbledore’s life must have been. He had shouldered both the responsibility of being a headmaster and the hope of the wizarding world for the defeat of Voldemort.
As Ginny pulled slowly away from him, he glanced again at his other two friends entwined in an embrace that had lasted while they slept. He smiled again. They had fought bravely last night – not that Harry expected any less. He was proud of them and his heart ached to find a way to pay them back. Next to Hermione he could see Ron’s blood-matted hair sticking up at all angles. A wave of gratitude washed over him as he remembered what his friend had done.
Voldemort had been closing in on Harry slowly due to the powerful and apparently surprising resistance of the Order, but as he finally did approach, Harry had a moment of panic. Ron, Hermione and Ginny had sworn to protect him and somehow fate had placed them all together at the very moment Voldemort appeared. Harry knew what was involved in their magical oath to protect him, but until that moment had never believed they would face the possibility of failure. He was exhausted from what seemed like hours of battling with werewolves, ogres and giants, along with swarms of Death Eaters. In that moment of panic it might never have worked without Ron’s help.
Somehow in the midst of chaos, Harry found himself facing the Dark Lord and his mind went blank save for one thought: he was sure that Voldemort was not going to kill him immediately. Somehow he was suddenly and acutely aware that Voldemort would attack his friends first and it seemed he could only watch the events unfolding before him as if held in a Full Body-Bind.
His mind came to a sudden turnabout, however, with a simple action by Ron. In a moment, Ron had swept Hermione and Ginny behind him, raised his wand and shot Harry a weary smile. He was ready. He would watch over the girls and now Harry could fight.
Harry knew what he had to do. The blazing light that burst forth from his wand was temporarily blinding, but in a single moment it was over. Voldemort and his Death Eaters were gone. Truly gone. It was only a matter of time before the rest of his followers gave up and were arrested or simply disappeared to hide until they, too, were captured.
Harry reflected on what his friends must have gone through. He wished he could find the words to express his gratitude, but he just didn’t know any words that were good enough. They would have to settle for a lifetime – a real lifetime – of kindness and friendship from him. One thing was evident now: they would never be apart. There was nothing spoken, only everything implied, in their actions and in their words. It was a truth that they all knew and felt, but their fear had kept them from acknowledging. Now with everything behind them a strange and uncomfortable new feeling filled Harry’s body. It was a combination of numbness and happiness mixed with a small portion of guilt.
He knew it was over and he knew he was happy now – or could be – but the smile had yet to appear on his face and stay longer than a fleeting moment. Each time it showed itself a memory of a friend lost would appear on its heels and the guilt of having survived would wipe it away.
A small hand squeezed his and he turned his eyes to the girl sitting next to him. Their eyes met and for a moment he was amazed at the intensity he saw in her. The feeling of knowing he was allowed to look at her still felt new to him, but very welcome and he held her gaze with an unspoken gratitude.
“When did you get to be so wonderful?” he asked quietly.
“Only since forever,” she laughed. “You were just too thick to notice.”
Harry pulled away in mock offense. “Me, thick? I was only trying to protect you from the worst Dark wizard ever, but if you don’t need my help then I’ll just go.” He pretended to get up until she pulled him back down and he marveled at their moment of levity. He hadn’t felt this happy in a long time.
“Oh, my knight in shining armor! Please don’t leave me!” she cried and then threw her arm to her forehead, collapsing in an exaggerated swoon.
Harry gazed at her lying on the ground shaking with giggles and was amazed that somewhere inside he still had the ability to laugh. He collapsed next to her and began to laugh himself only stopping when a splitting pain in his side reawakened.
“Harry?” she asked quietly. “Are you all right? You know we could… I mean, I know you don’t want to, but maybe you should go see Madam Pomfrey.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head and struggling to draw breath. “I’m not ready yet. I just can’t… yet. There are too many others.”
She nodded in understanding and helped him sit up, resting against the wall once more. The stone had the same soothing coolness as before and he relaxed into it. Together they sat in silence for some time, each lost in the beauty of the sunrise and the memories of what had happened.
Having collapsed on the ground after his defeat of Voldemort, Harry was barely conscious when his friends lifted him and started moving toward the castle. It took all the energy he had to convince them to stop – that he wasn’t ready to go in yet. He tried to claim that others needed help more than he did and only their undying friendship allowed them to follow his wishes. They moved as far as the shelter created by the stone walls of the Great Hall and there chose the most comfortable patch of grass in which to lie.
Harry remembered watching each of his friends drift off into welcome sleep and then settling in himself to wait for the sunrise. In some small far-off corner of his mind he feared that if he fell asleep he might not wake again.
The few hours left of night passed in deathly silence. Those who slept did so peacefully, but whether from quiet dreams or exhaustion, Harry wasn’t sure. His own eyes contemplated the tree line, the grass, the lake, everything around him, trying to believe that it was truly over. Finally when the pink light of sunrise began to touch the sky, he smiled his first real smile in months. The search for the Horcruxes had been as intense and dangerous as Harry could have imagined, culminating not with the destruction of the final piece of Voldemort’s soul, but rather with tears and truths exchanged between friends. It was remarkable to Harry that the most important moments in his life never seemed to be those of fighting or of wars; they were times of peace and friendship with the people who really mattered to him.
In the end Ron’s admission of love for Hermione brought out an equally truthful but cautious admission from Harry of his love for Ginny. While she hadn’t joined them in the hunt until very near the end, it turned out to be her help that was instrumental in the discovery and destruction of the final Horcrux. Even when it, too, was gone they remained in hiding, certain that Voldemort would have detected the loss of his last outward piece of soul. They moved from place to place, never staying long, and ceased all contact with friends, family and the Order. It was a time of concern and wonder about those on the outside while inside they clung to each other for life never knowing what the next moment would bring.
It was in the midst of pain and uncertainty, however, that the admissions of love were finally made. Harry wondered at first whether it was the right thing to do, given that he knew Voldemort could use Ginny against him, but it turned out that love was exactly what he needed. Dumbledore’s originally unconvincing explanation about “powers the Dark Lord knows not” became a reality for Harry and while outward happiness still eluded him, an inward peace began to grow. He finally reconciled himself to the truth that Ginny’s love would give him strength in times of need and when finally faced with Voldemort, her love didn’t fail him.
As Harry watched the sun begin to curve over the horizon, Ron and Hermione stirred more and more until they finally awoke. Taking a seat next to Ginny, they all moved in close and covered up with her blanket, leaning on each other’s shoulders. The very air around them seemed to hold the peace they were feeling in their hearts and the sound of chirping birds was all they heard. Huddled together, they gazed off toward the horizon in silence.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” asked Hermione to no one in particular.
They all nodded in assent knowing her question only partly reflected what was in front of their eyes.
“I… I want to tell you all something,” Harry stuttered, looking at the ground. “What you did last night… I couldn’t have done it without you. So, thanks.”
Ginny squeezed his hand and smiled at him.
“Harry, you know we’ll always be there for you,” Ron said while Hermione nodded.
“Ron’s right,” she said quietly, “even through the hardest times we were together – at least in the most important times…” She smiled apologetically at Ginny who reached out and squeezed Hermione’s hand.
“So, I guess it turns out you were worth it, mate,” Ron said lightly. “I mean we couldn’t let you get all the credit.”
Harry laughed. “You can have it! Trust me, I don’t want it.” He paused and looked at Ginny. “There’s only one thing I want now.” He turned his eyes toward the trees again. “Ron, do you remember what we talked about… er, the deal we made?”
Ron tried to look away to hide his reddened ears, but gave up and turned back. “Uh, no, Harry, what was that?”
“What was that?!? You great prat, you agreed to it! It’s time. We can’t break our oath now.”
Ron looked like he was still trying to find a way out of whatever he was on the hook for, but gave up, turning away for a moment and fumbling in his pocket. Harry, too, had turned away and appeared to be searching for something.
When they turned back it was with irrepressible smiles and very red Weasley ears, but nothing evident to show for their search. The girls had had enough and with a sighing glance at each other they turned back to their strangely behaving boyfriends.
“Okay, we give up, what is it? What did you do now?” Hermione asked with the patience one usually reserves for a child. Ginny said nothing, but looked quietly into Harry’s eyes, waiting for his answer.
Suddenly he seemed unable to speak. “I, er, uh, well see, we agreed to… well…” He gave up and looked at the ground.
In a sudden moment of bravery, Ron spoke, not loudly, but steadily and firmly. “Harry and I agreed that when the time came, when V-Voldemort was really gone… well, then that was the time.” He took a deep breath. “We decided that was when we’d ask you to marry us.”
The words hung undisturbed for a moment, still as the air around them, until Ginny reached out to Harry and Hermione took Ron’s hand.
“Is it true?” Ginny asked slowly, her eyes bright for the first time in ages.
“It is,” Harry said, seeming to struggle for the words. When he finally managed to speak, his voice was barely a whisper. “Will you… will you marry me, Ginny?”
While she struggled to find her voice, a single tear ran down her face and she smiled then nodded, falling into his arms.
Hermione turned from watching them to look into Ron’s face. “Really? You… want me? I’m nothing special, I’m just Hermione.” She looked at the ground and her hair fell messily over her face.
Ron reached out a long hand and pushed it back, letting his hand remain on her cheek. “Of course I want you, I’ve always wanted you. I just never could pluck up the courage to tell you until the beginning of this whole fiasco. But now, now that everything is over… I still want you… forever.”
He paused and then said, “Hermione Granger, will you marry me?”
“Of course!” she cried and threw her arms around him, knocking him over onto the ground.
They sat for some time, enraptured in the moment, until finally Harry cleared his throat and looked meaningfully at Ron who nodded back.
“I guess,” he said, “that since you said yes, and there’s no taking it back now, you get to have these…”
The two boys waved their wands over their empty hands in an intricate little pattern and two small boxes appeared in them.
Harry held his out to Ginny while Ron gave his to Hermione. The girls held their breath as they opened the small gifts. Inside each box was a pair of rings: a simple brilliant gold for the boys and small diamonds for the girls.
“We didn’t really have much time to get them,” Ron said, “so if you don’t like it we can go back and exchange it for something bigger.”
“It’s beautiful,” said Ginny. “No, it’s perfect. I couldn’t ask for more.” Her eyes sparkled as she held up the ring and turned it around slowly.
“And I think it’s perfect, too,” said Hermione, running her finger around the smooth band, tears forming at the corners of her eyes.
Harry took Ginny’s hand and slipped the ring onto her finger. “They’re matching pairs. Our two are the same,” he motioned to Ron, “and your two are the same except they etched your names inside. We snuck out one night a few weeks ago and met an old friend of Dumbledore’s who makes jewelry – you know that man had some strange friends – and he helped us get these quietly. You really like it then?”
Ginny nodded and hugged him while Hermione leaned back into Ron’s shoulder, pulling the blanket up a bit higher and smiling to herself.
They didn’t move for a long time, trying to savor the peace and beauty of the shared moment. Even with the knowledge that the world was out there waiting for them they weren’t bothered. The peace of bonds that stood the test of time would be with them to carry them through it all.
The sunrise that morning seemed to warm them from the inside out and the four friends talked of the past and the future, reminiscing about their fun times at school and where the future might lead them. Fate had arranged for them to be together as the best of friends and now it seemed they would be together as family.
Harry watched them closely all morning, laughing and smiling. Something inside him had changed. Whether it was knowing the threat was gone or finally feeling excitement about the future, he wasn’t sure, but imagined it to be a little of both. What he did know was that the love shared between himself and his friends was true. It had survived through the good times and the bad, through war and through fear and it had held fast. It had even grown.
He was reminded of his parents and as they finally stood to go back toward the castle doors, a glint of light across the white headstone in the distance reminded Harry of words once said to him that had always helped him. “You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?” The voice was speaking of his father and right now he felt his father was closer than ever. It seemed his heart was full to the brim and pouring over the sides and it was indeed a new and wonderful day.
As they passed through the great oak doors into the entrance hall, Harry took one last look out across the grounds, smiled contentedly, and then turned and let the door shut quietly behind him. Taking Ginny’s hand, he walked into his future with the girl he loved.