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Gross and Boring (Or Thank God for Sleepovers)

Chapter Text

Ding! Dong!

Lavender Weasley looked up excitedly at the doorbell’s chime. Whipping off her apron, she quickly strode to the door and flung it open to reveal just who she expected. Harry Potter’s green eyes greeted her from behind his glasses. Those same green eyes looked up at her from a small boy of nine years old. Lavender swept the boy up in her own crushing hug that her husband swore could rival his mother’s. James Potter puffed out a laugh at the exuberant greeting he always got from his best friend’s mom. No matter if she had just met you, Mrs. Weasley would always be a hugger.

“So good to see you, Jamie,” Lavender muffled into his messy, brown hair.

“Good to see you too, Aunt Lavender,” James wheezed out.

Once relinquished from the vice-like grip of Hugo’s mom, James scurried inside to see his best friend standing not far behind his mother. The two boys greeted each other with their secret handshake then went to chuck James’s overnight back into Hugo’s room. Laughing and jostling each other as they went, the two boys skidded around Hugo’s twin sister, Penelope, who said a quick greeting to Jamie. She and his little sister, Elizabeth, went up to Penelope’s room to put Elizabeth’s supplies in. Eventually, the four kids were back in the living room of the Weasley home. They played games of exploding snap as James and Rose’s dad talked with Hugo and Penelope’s parents.

“Thank you both for doing this. It’s been a while since Hermione and I have gotten an evening to ourselves,” Harry said, smiling at the sight of his kids playing with Ron and Lavender’s brood.

“Always, Harry. You two have fun tonight. Enjoy the holiday the way it was meant to be enjoyed,” Lavender replied kindly. Ron laughed at that.

“You do realize that, apart from us, Harry and Hermione are perhaps the biggest saps in Britain?” Ron joked.

“Need I remind us all of who couldn’t keep their public oral examinations to themselves in sixth year?” Harry fired back, to which the three adults laughed at their younger selves and how…affectionate they were with the one they had dated. As their laughter subsided, Harry checked his watch for the time.

“Well, I’d best get back and see if Hermione is ready for our date. Thanks again, you two.”

“Anytime, mate,” Ron replied as he hugged his best friend.

“Lizzie, Jamie, I’m going now,” Harry called. His children shot up and ran into his arms. Harry smiled and squeezed their smaller forms tightly. No matter how old they got, he hoped they would always hug like this. “Now you two be good for the Weasleys, alright. Their house, their rules. Got it?”

“Yes, Dad,” they acknowledged. Harry smiled and gave them one more hug goodbye.

“Love you two.”

“Love you too, Dad,” James replied. Elizabeth squeezed him tighter and mumbled her own affection for her father into his shirt. Smiling, Harry bid his kids one final goodbye and departed out the door.

When they heard the telltale sound of their father apparating away, the two children returned to their game with their friends. Games led to more games, invoking laughter and joy from the children. Soon, they were hungry, and Lavender Weasley’s cooking beckoned them to the table with the smell of delicious food. Shortly thereafter, the Weasley family and their guests for the night were enjoying a roasted chicken, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, and cool water to wash it all down. Conversation flowed as freely as the water.

“So, James,” Ron began, an amused smile on his face. “You’re almost eleven years old now. Excited to get your Hogwarts letter?”

James answered with a bright grin of his own.

“Absolutely, Uncle Ron. Teddy has been sending us letters almost every week, and it all sounds so exciting.”

“Nervous at all?” Lavender asked.

“Maybe a little. I’ve heard all of Mom and Dad’s stories, and I don’t know if I can match that,” James admitted with no small measure of bashfulness.

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that, kiddo. They’re already proud of you, and they fought so you don’t have to. You just focus on letting them know how much you appreciate it by living a good, honest life,” Ron advised sagely. Lavender kissed him on the lips for that, to which Hugo and James covered their eyes and made small noises of disgust.

“Eugh, I already get enough of that at home, Aunt Lavender,” James whined. “Especially today of all days.” Ron and Lavender simply laughed and shook their heads, but thankfully did not resume their gross displays.

“Believe me, Jamie, they’re worse,” Hugo whispered in his ear. James almost felt like vomiting. Thankfully, he was able to keep Aunt Lavender’s awesome food down enough to whisper back.

“Then let’s hurry up and finish so we can get to the fun stuff.”

Nodding in agreement, both boys quickly began eating their food as fast as they could while remaining as polite as they had been taught. The sooner they were out of sight of the gross adults, the better. Their respective sisters shook their heads at the antics of their brothers, but even they had limits watching the lovey-dovey grown-ups.

Harry appeared before his house with a pop. Walking into through the wooden door, he cast his eyes about the warm and inviting space. A small stack of Hermione’s books was on top of an end table beside her favorite spot on the couch. The evening sun filtered through the sheer drapes, casting the room in a peaceful, golden glow. The fireplace stood empty beneath a mantle, upon which sat various pictures. Some were moving in an endless loop; others were as still as their frames.

Harry noted one thing about the house that seemed different, and shortly after this, he realized what it was. Everything was quieter. James wasn’t announcing his arrival home. Harry didn’t hear the scurrying of young legs racing toward him. It had become such a part of his life that not being slammed into by living missiles that shared his blood was always the first thing he noticed. Instead the house was still, a prophecy of his future when all three of his children would be at Hogwarts and then on to live their own lives. Despite the longing he felt to preserve everything as it was, Harry couldn’t help but smile at the thought of the future.

In the quiet house, he could just make out the sound of running water coming from the master bedroom. He followed the sound to the closed door of the master bathroom, where he gently knocked.

“Harry, is that you?” her voice asked.

“It’s me, love. I just got back from the Weasley’s. We have the whole evening ahead of us,” he spoke through the door.

“Excellent. I’m excited to see what you have planned for me, Mr. Potter,” she replied. Harry could almost hear the smile in her voice.

“Count on it, Hermione. I’ll let you wash up,” he said, leaning away from the door. Satisfied that his wife would be occupied for awhile, Harry immediately made his way to the living room. He arrived before the grandfather clock tucked away in a corner away from the fireplace.

“Finite. Accio.”

From the recessed top of the grandfather clock, a small shopping bag hopped over the top and down into his hands. Fishing out the box from the bag, he opened the lid to inspect the gift he had kept hidden there for the better part of the last month. At seeing nothing amiss with the gift, Harry smiled once again and slipped the box into his pocket. He disposed of the bag in a nearby bin as he made his way back to the master bedroom, where he set about getting dressed in his best formal attire.

Hermione smiled as she heard Harry walk away from the door. Leaning against the cool tile of the shower walls, she smiled as her mind floated back to that day in sixth year. A day she now could look back on and laugh at how foolish she had been. When she was little, Hermione once held a secret hope of marrying a hero, but that hope died as she learned of the cruelty of children and adults alike. It was only in her sixth year that she finally remembered that secret hope. While Harry had always been a hero, but it was only that night, as he comforted her broken heart, that she remembered a little girl who once had a wish to be loved by a hero like the stories she loved to read.

Hermione watched him more carefully after that night. Her long-time assumption was that he was jealous of Dean for dating Ginny, but she remembered that he had never said that he felt like he did because of Dean and Ginny. He had only said that it felt like what she was feeling, and that was not how he acted around Dean and Ginny. With them, he was more temperamental and easier to anger, but he was almost never melancholy. He only seemed to be sad when Hermione was sad about Ron and Lavender. His sorrow seemed to perfectly match hers in timing, and yet with him, there seemed to be no trigger. She knew he didn’t fancy Lavender or Ron, and yet every time she started to feel blue over the fact of them together, Harry was there to share in her sorrow.

Her answer slapped her in the face shortly before Valentine’s Day. She and Harry had been in the Gryffindor common room, pouring over the Half-Blood Prince’s book when they eventually decided to take a break. Harry reclined on the couch, and Hermione didn’t hesitate to curl up into his side. Though it was something she had never done before, the action came so naturally to her that she hadn’t even given thought to the consequences. It was only seconds later when she realized the intimacy of their position. Unbidden, all the times when people had asked or assumed they were an item sprang to the forefront of her thoughts, and it was in that moment of reflection that she recognized the source of Harry’s mysteriously timed melancholy.

“How long have you fancied me?” she had whispered, not knowing if he had heard her, for his eyes were closed and he seemed to be just on the edge of sleep. But at her question, his eyes had opened slowly to stare at the ceiling.

“Long enough. End of fourth year at the latest,” he had whispered back. “I didn’t know what I was feeling for you at the time, but after the Department of Mysteries, I knew it for what it was.”

“I feel like such a fool,” Hermione had said after several moments of silence. Harry looked down to where her head was pillowed on his chest. She had looked up to meet those green eyes that, seeing closer than she ever had before, seemed to fill her stomach with a flock of hummingbirds. “Here you were, right before my eyes, and I only just now see it. You’re it.”

“I’m what?” Harry had asked into the narrowing space between them.

“The best boy I could have fallen for,” she had whispered back.

Harry wasted no time in capturing her lips with his own, and that had been that. Their relationship officially began that night, and every bright and dark day since then, they had remained bound in love to each other. Their marriage had finally happened after they had helped her parents recover their memories, and every day since then had been nothing short of the imperfect perfection of a life filled with love.

Hermione returned to the present moment and resumed her shower. After washing herself clean and toweling dry, she stepped out of the bathroom to find her husband tucking a white dress shirt into black pants. The creak of the door drew his attention, and his eyes filled with love and desire at seeing her in naught but her towel. His shirt was only half buttoned up, leaving an enticing amount of his lean chest exposed. She drew closer to trace her hands over the familiar planes of flesh, drawing herself up to a deep, tender kiss between them that quickly built up in passion. It was Harry who ended it.

“There’ll be time enough for that later, love. Sadly, our dinner reservations are first,” he had whispered breathlessly on her lips. Hermione would have giggled at how affected he could be from a simple kiss if she herself was not equally as affected. It still amazed her that they could still have such an easily stoked ardor for each other after ten years of marriage and indulgence in their passion.

“Then you leave, and let me get dressed,” she said with a teasing smile. Harry simply kissed her again and gathered his remaining clothes with him as he left. Now alone once again, Hermione quickly got dressed in something that she almost knew Harry would like. This was going to be a fun night.

The movie had just finished its final act, receiving happy cheers from the little Elizabeth Potter. The credits rolled as the children, still alive with energy at seven o’clock in the evening, immediately started pondering things to do. Both boys and both girls wanted to do different things. The boys wanted to play “Aurors and Dark Wizards” while the girls thought that having a game of house would be fun. In the end, they turned to Ron and Lavender to settle their dispute. It was Ron who suggested they play hide-and-seek as a middle ground. This was an option both parties agreed to.

As it always does with energetic children, hide-and-seek inevitably evolved an element of tag. Soon enough, four children her moving lightly on quick feet to avoid getting caught before they made it to base. Laughter and shrieks soon filled the homely halls of the Weasley home. To and fro the children scampered, brother chasing sister, sister chasing brother. Up and down the stairs they clambered, boy pursuing boy, girl seeking girl. Seconds later, after all had been caught, the game began anew.

But even children eventually tire out, and hide and seek was substituted for board games. As they played, James spied Ron and Lavender kissing in the kitchen, and he couldn’t help making a face of disgust.

“What’s up, Jamie?” Penelope asked.

“Your parents are being gross, Penny,” he replied. All four kids turned to briefly confirm the act of gross kissing and turned away in disgust. “They’ve been like that all day,” Penelope groaned. “I don’t mind it as much as Hugo, but even this is too much.”

“Mummy and Daddy have been just as bad,” Elizabeth chimed in, rolling the dice and watching her piece move itself across the magical board. She took a card from the pile she had to and did as it told her.

“Yeah,” Jamie agreed as he took his turn. “And they’re probably going to be worse now that they’re alone,” he added, before smiling a bit. “At least we don’t have to see it. Right, Lizzie?”

“Yeah,” she chirped.

“Lucky you,” Hugo sighed, shifting a bit so his back was to his parents and their grossness. They continued their game, stubbornly ignoring the tacky, sappy, yucky affections Ron and Lavender were committing not far away.

Thankfully, the Weasley parents were eventually satisfied and returned to watch their game conclude. Elizabeth wound up being the winner, and after congratulating her on the win, with no small amount of teasing the losers, the family and their guests settled in for another movie. Being the winner, Elizabeth chose to watch the Princess Bride.

All children present immediately sympathized with the sick boy regarding the gross kissing.

Harry stood at the bottom of the steps, his body clothed in a black coat and pants, a crisp white shirt, and a dark grey vest that held in place a red and gold tie. He checked is watch, and seeing the time, was satisfied that they were fine waiting some more for Hermione to finish getting ready. He checked the mirror beside the steps and was about to return upstairs to further the taming of his hair he’d already managed when he caught sight of her.

She was beautiful. She had styled her hair as to have it weave into an elegant braid that hung from the back. A few tendrils framed her smiling face as she descended on legs hidden beneath the smooth sheen on her red gown. Occasionally, the sequin on the gown would part to tease Harry with a peak at the creamy skin he knew lay beneath. Moving his eyes upward, he saw how the fabric clung around her bosom and wrapped like silken wings over her arms, but only just hanging from her shoulders. A wispy, golden shawl was draped from that smooth skin, seeming to disappear and reappear in veins of gold. His eyes once again found hers, and he saw that same coy, yet also shy, smile that she bore every time she got a chance to dress up.

He met her at the foot of the stairs, and they fell into an easy embrace and kiss. His hands smoothed over the skin left bare by the low back of the dress, and he felt her tremble in delight at the feeling of their warmth. No matter how long they were married, sometimes Harry just couldn’t help but to kiss her.

Parting from their kiss, Harry reached into his coat and withdrew a small black box. Presenting it to her he whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Hermione.”

Hermione beamed at him, and gently took the box. Opening it, she smiled at the gift. There, atop white silk, sat a small, golden locket with an engraving of an open book on the cover. Opening the clasp, she found Harry and her children smiling and waving at her.

“It’s beautiful, Harry. Thank you,” she whispered, pecking him on the cheek. She handed the box back to him and turned away. Understanding the request, her husband drew his arms around her and lifted the unclasped chain to hang from her neck, when his fingers fastened it close.

Before he could get them going Hermione pulled out her wand and cast her own summoning charm. A packaged flew into her hands from the direction of their bedroom. After he received it, Harry opened the lid to reveal a leather-bound book. The cover bore, in golden letters, the following words:

Happily Ever After

Opening the cover, Harry found himself and his wife smiling brightly beneath the evening sun on their wedding day. On the inside cover, Hermione’s hand had written the words:

Our happily ever after is still being written, Harry. Let’s make it one worth telling. -Hermione

Each page thereafter was filled with photos from various important or memorable moments in the past ten years of their life. And there were many more blank pages, each almost full of potential happiness for him to discover. Smiling tearily, he set aside the gift to embrace his wife fiercely.

“Thank you, Hermione. For making this happily ever after possible.”

“Always, Harry,” she mumbled into his strong chest. They remained in that embrace for a short while longer, before Harry finally pulled away.

“Come on, love. The night is ours,” he said, offering his hand to her. When her soft hand was safely clasped in his, he pictured their destination and apparated away.

After their third movie had drawn to a close, James again stifled another yawn. He looked over and saw Hugo and Penelope not faring much better. Elizabeth had fallen asleep long before. Rousing his sister, Jamie told Lizzie they were all going to bed. Up the stairs went Elizabeth and Penelope, hand in hand. Ron and Lavender retired to their room for the night. James and Hugo found themselves in Hugo’s room, wherein both boys slowly found some of their energy returning.

Feeling as though sleep was still relatively close at hand, both boys made themselves comfortable. With Hugo on his bed and James in his sleeping bag, both boys began talking aimlessly about anything that crossed their mind. With the current holiday having affected almost everything around them, their talk eventually wandered to it.

“Jamie, ever wonder what your mom and dad do on their dates?” Hugo asked.

“Eh, I think I could guess. I would assume that they would go somewhere Lizzie and I don’t like. You know, one of those fancy places without the kids’ menus,” James mused idly. Hugo nodded at that.

“That’s it?” Hugo probed.

“Maybe, but imagine them talking about all the mushy stuff too.” At that Hugo made a gagging sound, and both boys snickered at the joke. “But I don’t think that’s all they’d do. Mum and Dad try to get me and Lizzie to dance with them often enough, so maybe they’d go somewhere where the grownups do that stuff. And not the cool dancing either, but the lame kind. Slow, couples dancing. Where they can be even more mushy with each other.” Hugo gagged again, sending both boys into another fit of snickers.

“I think I’ve heard enough. Our parents get really mushy on Valentine’s, and I can’t wait to go to Hogwarts and get away from it every year,” Hugo finally declared.

“Amen, brother,” James said, holding out his hand. The boys did their secret handshake and bid each other goodnight. As James drifted off to sleep, one question arose in his mind.

If he and Lizzie were at a sleepover, why would his Mum and Dad just go out dining and dancing? Why not just get a babysitter?

All around them, pockets of candlelight illuminated the faces and forms of smiling couples sitting across from each other. Hands were clasped across tables, laughter at corny jokes was heard mixing with the soft music, and a feeling of growing or strengthening intimacy was in the air. Waiters moved throughout the romantic pockets like ghosts, appearing and disappearing to take orders, bring food, and top off drinks.

Harry and Hermione were much like their compatriots. Every chance they got, they were in physical contact, whether by holding hands, the occasional kiss, or touching legs under the tablecloth. Even without the physical contact, the married couple felt as close as they had ever been. There were few secrets between them, and those that were present were never looked into as the one trusted the other.

“This is nice. Thank you again, Harry,” Hermione sighed.

“Always, love. We haven’t had an evening to ourselves in awhile, have we?” he mused. Hermione smiled and shook her head at that.

“Jamie and Lizzie keep the house busy. And then you have your work as an Auror,” Hermione pointed out. “Do you ever regret it? Being an Auror, I mean?” she asked, watching as Harry thought for a moment.

“Can’t say that I do. Even without Voldemort and the war, I don’t think I’d be as happy anywhere else. I think I’m meant to protect people, and that’s what the Aurors ultimately do,” he said, before a small laugh escaped him. “That, and the uniform is really cool.”

Hermione laughed at that, still amazed how despite the darkness of their early years, both she and Harry were some of the happiest people they knew.

“You were meant to be a hero, Harry,” she summed up.

“Just as you were meant to have a book in your hand,” he replied, lifting her hand up to place a kiss on her fingers. “What about you? Did you ever see yourself as an acclaimed author and theorist?”

“Not really. I always saw myself as librarian before coming to Hogwarts.”

“No one to bother you or your books,” her husband quipped, drawing an amused smile from her.

“Ah, that would have been good for a time, but I imagine I’d get rather lonely after awhile.”

“As beautiful as you grew up to be, I doubt that’d last long. Even then, you’d find a cause to champion. If I am meant to be a hero, so are you.”

“Oh, and what cause would I champion?” she asked in curiosity.

“You would find something. Personally, I can always picture you fighting some bureaucracy. You’d set them straight and get rid of a lot of unnecessary red tape. They’d never be able to keep up.”

“Hmm, that’s nice. And where do you fit into this picture?”

“Hopefully, right by your side, covering your blind spots. You get the spotlight, this time. I'll take the background.”

“I’d drag you into the light with me, you know,” she teased.

“For better or worse, right?” Harry quipped back. That earned him a kiss from Hermione, who leaned around the candle to peck him on the cheek.

Their waiter appeared with their food, and the couple eagerly dug into the small, but delicious meal. Conversation still flowed easily between them, but it was markedly lessened as they ate. They talked about their day, pondered over their future, and joked about their friends and family. Eventually they wandered onto their children, as Hermione looked down lovingly into the locket Harry had given her.

“I’ll miss them, you know,” she said, already beginning to feel some moisture gathering in her eyes.

“So will I, love,” Harry comforted, placing a hand over her free one. “We raised some good children, didn’t we?”

“As best we could.”

“Do you ever regret it? Becoming a mother and only writing when they’re in school?” he asked.

“No,” she answered immediately. “There will always be someone else to come up with better theories and write better books. But James and Elizabeth Potter only ever had one chance to be, and I’m glad I took that chance.”

“Me too. I don’t think I could picture my life without my wife and children with me.” With that, he took his glass and raised it to her in a toast. “Here’s to hoping that we will never live a life without our family.”

“Never without our family,” Hermione repeated, gently touching her glass to his with soft chime.

Soon enough, their plates were cleared and an offer was made for dessert that was declined. After paying for the food, Harry once again offered his hand to Hermione. As she weaved her hand into his, Harry led her away from the exit and deeper into the building. They arrived at a set of doors at the back of the large dining space, which opened magically as they approached. Inside, Hermione could see couples dancing and swaying to unheard music. As they crossed the threshold, the music suddenly filled the air around them.

A waltz was being played by a yet-to-be-seen full band. Couples spun around in whirls of color and laughter to the beat of the song. Warm light was emitted from ensconced alcoves of magical luminosity and a floating chandelier that would occasionally change the color of its light. A smooth floor peaked from beneath the dancers to reflect the light above.

“I love magic,” Hermione heard Harry sigh. Turning to him with a beaming smile on her face, she grabbed his arm and began pulling him into the middle of the crowd, not that he needed much persuasion.

They danced the rest of that song, then the next one, followed by the one after that. An ebb and flow of the music had formed, with the band playing first slower and slower songs, then livening the atmosphere with great pieces of loud, raucous music that encouraged a crowd of dancers back onto the floor. People came and went as they pleased, some staying for many songs and some only a few. Harry and Hermione were on and off the dance floor, laughing at the silly group dances they joined, and sharing many heartfelt affections amid slow tunes.

Finally, a song they knew well began to play. A modern song from the muggle world, this song sung of love and home and steadfast devotion. Harry and Hermione joined the sparse couples on the floor and began to dance. Twirling and dipping, spinning and lifting, they lost themselves to the song whose words almost perfectly captured their relationship. Unbeknownst to them, many eyes watched them in fascination and awe as two people of great renown and heroics were celebrating their love in this special holiday. As the final notes echoed in the air, Harry pulled Hermione to him with such force as to almost knock the air from their lungs.

Amid cheers and their panting from the exercise, they stared into each other’s eyes as their ever-present love and desire for each other was heightened by all the events of tonight. They saw no other way to end the song than to pull each other into a kiss like no other. A fire had been building in them all night long, and this kiss sent it into a blazing inferno.

“Take us home, Harry,” Hermione mumbled onto his lips. With no small amount of reluctance, the couple broke apart and made a polite, yet hasty exit. Almost as soon as they had left the building, Harry had wrapped his arms around Hermione, and they vanished home to spend a rare night with only each other. It was indeed, a happy Valentine’s Day.