I'm in no rush to get older
Don't need to know who I'm gonna be
Feels like life is getting shorter
Comes and goes like lightning
Too blessed to be worried
Don't need the feeling of regret
Everybody has a story
And ours hasn't started yet
- "Lightning," Mehro
September 1st, 2009
It is quiet. For the first time in eleven years, Grimmauld Place is totally silent.
Harry places his bag on the table in the foyer and looked around. It has changed over the years - the shrunken elf heads and dark, peeling wallpaper are gone, replaced by light blue paint and several photos. Harry remembers the first time he brought Teddy home, several months after the fateful Battle of Hogwarts. There had been no discussion that he would adopt Teddy, it simply was. And there he had been, a not-yet eighteen year old with a baby in his arms, looking around at the empty foyer of the home that his own godfather had owned. He had stayed with Hermione at her parents’ London flat for that month as the two teenagers, who had just defeated the most dangerous Dark Wizard of all time, struggled to change nappies and soothe the crying child. But slowly, they got the hang of it, and Harry decided it was time to move to their own place.
And so the years went by, and Harry, still a teenager himself, began raising his godson. It took a village - Mrs Weasley, though still reeling from the death of her own son, would come to help with the precocious baby and his struggling godfather, showing Harry how to properly warm a bottle and how to create a swaddle. Neville grew plants to help with teething pain and rocked the child patiently as the troubles intensified. His old Qudditch mates - Katie Bell, Alicia Spinnett, and Angelina Johnson fought over volunteering to stay the night when Harry had auror training, and Ron and George made sure Harry didn’t run out of groceries or whatever the like would be. Dean and Seamus (now having finally realised their love for each other) babysat often. And Hermione was just... there. He could always count on Hermione. Teddy was surrounded by love of hundreds of people who had known his parents, who knew Harry, and in turn, loved him.
Ginny and Harry never got back together. It had been a school time fling, Harry realised, and now they were very much friends, but any romantic feelings had fallen away like the last remnants of snow in spring. He saw her often, at the various Weasley suppers and functions, but time had taken over. She and Neville had babysat Teddy together once and old memories of a Yule Ball and happier times were discussed. By the time Harry had come home, he had found a happy Teddy in his cot, and a content Ginny sleeping on a smiling Neville’s shoulder. They married a year later, and now had their own brood, much to Mrs Weasleys delight.
The years had been a balm to his soul. The trauma has been enormous, and for a while, putting one foot in front of the other had seemed an achievement. But Teddy eases so much of the pain, and Harry is intent on giving the child everything he deserves, every drop of love and kindness, every story about his late parents, every happiness.
And so Harry treasures every moment. He wants Teddy to experience everything - the parks, museums, footie games, random trips to the high street and Diagon Alley. And so many times, Hermione joins them, hoisting Teddy onto her hip and asking him what colours he saw in the Degas or runs after him in a park, her curls wild in the wild, their smiles identical. Harry and Hermione have seen each other through the greatest horrors, and now they were seeing each other through small, everyday joys. They are both climbing the career ladders - him as an Auror, and her as the newly instated Deputy Minister.
He knows this day was coming. How could he not? He knows one day Teddy would board the scarlet train, off to find his own friends, his own adventures. But Harry finds it still almost impossible to let his violet haired godson go, and at the last moment, Teddy, who rarely shows fear and had a strong mischievous streak, turns around and waves one last time, but with a watery-eyed smile at Harry, and Harry has to fight every urge not to run and just grab him.
“Molly said she’s babysitting the kids, thought it would be good for all of us to go out and be adults,” Hermione had said to him right before he left the office. “Don’t want your first night alone to be too quiet, do we?” Harry had shot her a grateful look and they agreed on a time to meet up with up their various extended friend group. But for now, he is alone in this giant house, and for the first time, he feels lonely.
Relationships have never stuck for him. He is too famous for people to not know much about him before he got to know them, and theyve seemed to have formed an opinion about him before they had even met. It is the same for Hermione. Ron, oddly, has been spared the same fate. He attended the memorial for Lavender a year after her death and ended up reminiscing with Parvati Patil. They formed a slow friendship, and from there, a relationship. They married several years prior and Ron is now in the the throes of new fatherhood, with his own daughter who haa completely captured his attention and adoration. Fatherhood has been good to Ron, Hermione and Harry muse to each other.
Harry pauses at a photo of himself, Sirius, and Remus from exactly fourteen years before. Fred Weasley had taken the photo, he remembers with a sad smile. Sirius had shoved the camera into Fred’s arms, and George had shouted something obscene and all of them had laughed. And now, frozen in time was their laughter. He wonders if Remus was happy with the way that Harry had raised Teddy. He recalls the deliberations of what Teddy should call him, but in the end, Teddy had decided. It was his first word - Dada. And Harry became Dad Harry, or just Dad. But Harry never lets him forget who his real parents were, and hung photos of Remus and Tonks all over. Molly suggests to add Potter to Teddy’s last name, so that when Harry had children of his own, Teddy would feel physically part of the family. And so Teddy Lupin becomes Teddy Lupin-Potter, but the children never materialise.
It isn’t that Harry doesn’t want children. Quite the opposite. He watches his friends and their children with pride but also, a twinge of envy. He and Hermione tell each other and their friends constantly that yes, they want children, but they’re waiting. Waiting for the right person to show up. And yes, they’re trying to date people, but they’re also so busy.
They meet, all of them — Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Parvati, George, Angelina, Dean, Seamus, Luna and her husband Rolf - outside some wine bar on the West End. None of them drink much anymore, not since they’ve started having careers or kids. But all listen to the suggestions of the waitress and they order. The conversation is lively. They’re a bunch of old friends that now have their own kids — except for Hermione, and Harry’s is off, hopefully now at Hogwarts, and he’s trying not to think of what Teddy is doing right now.
“Hufflepuff like his mum,” Ron says, and Harry realised that the table is trying to sort Teddy into a house.
“Ravenclaw,” Luna says, a dreamy look in her eyes, but doesn’t offer anything else.
“Gryffindor,” George interjects with finality. “His father was a gryffindor, he acts like Fred and and I and Harry did - that child is a Gryffindor.”
“He could be a Slytherin,” Ginny inputs, but everyone boos her suggestion down. Harry is already anxious to get his first letter from Teddy. He wants to know if he’s made friends. Harry gave him some extra gold so that he can buy a lot of sweets from the trolley witch, remembering his first trip upon the Hogwarts Express. Harry wonders if that tactic will buy him any friends.
“Does he have an owl?” Neville asks.
“I bought him one,” Hermione says proudly. “Looks like Hedwig, too.” Harry shoots a grateful smile at his best friend. In all the tumult, he had somehow forgotten an owl, until Hermione showed up the week before with an armful of goodies and a birdcage with a majestic, snowy owl - that was just like Hedwig. Harry’s overwhelmed by the love his friends shower onto Teddy, and by extension, himself. He knows they all met up tonight to take Harry’s mind off his newly empty home.
And the night transforms from one glass of wine to another to them crowded around a booth in a pub, yelling at each other over the latest hit while digging into plates of burgers and chips. They feel like teenagers again, and they feel exhilarated.
“So what’s next?” Ginny asks Harry quietly, so quietly Harry almost misses it. Harry shrugs his shoulders. He doesn’t have an answer. He’s been wondering this himself for a year now. He’s barely twenty nine, he’s not an old man. Yet for the past eleven years his whole world was tethered to the needs and whims of his child. And suddenly, he feels empty. He’s struggling with the worries that people often have in their early twenties - who they want to be, what they want to do.
He’s never had this because his existence was going to work and being a dad. But now he’s coming home an empty house, and instead of feeling excited, he feels lost.
George begins to dance with Angelina, and Ron spins Parvati around. Harry watches Dean try to convince his husband to dance and when Seamus waves him off, so Dean extends a hand to Hermione, and a there’s almost an imperceptible twinge in his heart as Dean sweeps Hermione around, laughter lighting her face. They’re all drunk, half on the alcohol and half off finally getting to be around their friends with no children present. Harry laughs as he watches Ron try to dip Parvati - he hasn’t gotten better since the Yule Ball. By the time Harry gets to Number 12, he’s feeling a little better about the emptiness.
September 3rd, 2009
Hermione’s mentioned previously to McGonagall that when Muggleborn students go off to Hogwarts, they don’t know what to expect and their Muggle parents are often apprehensive because they have none of their own memories. Muggleborn students have difficulty explaining to their parents their world, and Muggle parents feel excluded. McGonagall agrees, and the two create family days so that a bridge can be built for those students and their families. Harry’s proud of Hermione when she tells him that morning in his office, and she outlines the security issues and the Auror office involvement. Harry nods, he thinks it’s a brilliant idea and he’s so happy to participate.
Hermione tells him, with a sly smile, that family days aren’t limited to Muggleborn students and their families, but he’ll be able to go up and visit Teddy on those days too. He’s overjoyed, and it isn’t lost on him that his best friend gave him a gift he will never be able to repay, but he makes the smallest attempt by leaving a coffee and croissant on her desk later that afternoon.
September 5th, 2009
Teddy’s first letter arrives right before Harry goes off to work. He’s a Gryffindor, and Harry is delighted. The letter is addressed to Harry, but in parentheses, he’s written (And Aunt Hermione, since I know you’ll show her this anyway). Harry chuckles, and put it in his pocket to show to Hermione at work that day.
Hermione is just as amused and delighted, and Harry is happy to watch her smile about the same things he does.
September 6th, 2009
Molly Weasley fusses over Harry like the first time he spent the summer at the Burrow. She’s worried, she tells him, and he reassures her that while it’s quiet and he misses Teddy, he is doing alright.
“Well, are you going to start dating now, now that you have the time?” She inquires, and Harry hears her straining to keep her tone as casual as possible. Harry says something non-committal, and she loads him with leftovers to take with him to lunch all week.
September 9th, 2009
Angelina’s sick, and George is stuck at the store, so Harry drops by to babysit while she sleeps. Fred Jr, is seven, and Roxanne is four, and they bear so much resemblance to the original Fred. They’re handfuls, but Harry misses when Teddy was this age, and he enjoys being on his hands and knees with them, even if he’s starting to feel the beginning of aging in his lower back. He reads Roxanne a book and at the end, she looks up and asks, in that way only a toddler can, why Harry isn’t married. Harry doesn’t have an answer, so he tries to distract her with cake.
September 18th, 2009
Hermione’s birthday is on a Friday, and Ginny and Neville are intent on giving her the most elaborate thirtieth birthday they can. The extended friend group and her friends from work celebrate in a trendy restaurant with an unpronounceable name that they’ve rented out for the occasion. They start dancing at some point, and Harry spins Hermione around to “Wedding Bell Blues”.
“So what’s next?” Harry asks her, echoing Ginny’s words from several weeks before.
“Oh, who knows,” she says with a smile. “I’ve been so focused up until now on my goals and my plans that I didn’t get to really live. My plans for my thirties are to let life surprise me.”
Harry likes the answer, even though it’s very much not like Hermione. He dances with her for another minute before a thought crosses his mind.
“Molly asked me if I’m going to start dating again now that Teddy’s at Hogwarts,” he says.
“It’s a good idea,” Hermione nods, “I’ve been thinking about doing the same myself.”
Harry can’t put his his finger on why her words bother him. He wants her to be happy, of course.
Neville and Ginny interrupt his thoughts by bringing out a cake and the room interrupts into raucous, off-key singing, and for a second, Harry thinks of how beautiful his best friend is, her face illuminated by the candles on her cake.
October 4th, 2009
Harry is thrilled to see Teddy. Teddy’s made friends and seems to like his classes and is excited to explore the castle with Harry so Harry can show Teddy his favourite spots. Molly’s sent Harry with sweets and a new jumper for Teddy, and the weather is just nice enough to have a lazy lunch by the lake.
On the way out of the castle, he sends a patronus to Hermione, and by the time he arrives at Number 12, she’s there, waiting in his kitchen with a cup of tea, wanting to hear about his visit, and the giant house feels like home again for a little bit.
October 11th, 2009
Ever since Hermione’s become deputy minister, she hasn’t had a lot of free time. But she’s finally got a Sunday off and she wants to spend it with Harry. Sometimes Dean will join the two of them for a trip to the cinema (as they’re the only three who were raised with Muggle conveniences) but today, it’s just the two of them, and they’re seeing an animated film that Hermione says her Muggle friends raved about, and several minutes into something called Up, they’re both crying. He reaches across and takes her hand, and doesn’t let it go for the rest of the film.
He thinks about the way her hand feels in his for the rest of the day.
October 13th, 2009
Harry has a nightmare. They’re less frequent than they used to be, but he still is disconcerted the next day. Hermione notices his demeanour during a meeting and doesn’t ask him if he’s doing alright, she doesn’t have to. But she takes some time from her absurdly busy schedule, closes the door of this office, slides him a cup of tea and some Ginger Newts, and they sit there in comfortable silence.
October 25th, 2009
Sunday lunches at the Weasleys are a lively affair, and Harry chases after the kids to give their parents a break. George joins him and the ever expanding brood is delighted, tackling the two of them.
“How’s Teddy?” Fred Jr asks of the older boy, whom he regards as a beloved cousin. Harry tells Fred and Victorie (Bill’s nine year old daughter) about Teddy’s last letter, and Fred seems pleased. Dominique (Bill’s five year old) and Roxanne and Hugh (Percy’s four year old) are sitting next to Hermione, enraptured by the picture book she’s reading to them. Augusta (Ginny’s two year old) leads Harry over to the couch to sit next to the story event and settles into his lap. Harry catches George watching them with an odd look in his eye, but Harry isn’t sure what it is.
October 31st, 2009
Harry loves and hates Halloween, he tells Hermione every year. It’s the day he lost his parents, and it’s also the day he gained her. So every year they celebrate together. For several years it involved taking Teddy around to trick and treat, but tonight Hermione’s brought red wine and a bag filled with fun size sweets. Ron joins for a little bit, and they reminisce.
“Why are they called fun size if they’re smaller?” Hermione grumbles as she unwraps another Mars bar. Harry fishes around in the bag for Bounty chocolate eggs, which Hermione hates. She makes a face as he unwraps one and sticks it in his mouth with aplomb.
“Gotta work for what you like,” Harry teases, and hands her a Cadbury creme egg.
“Are you telling me about the value of hard work?” She laughs.
“I wouldn’t dare,” he says, raising his hands in mock surrender.
“I went on a date,” she supplies, unprompted. His heart feels like it’s been stabbed by an invisible knife.
“And?” He asks cautiously.
“And nothing,” she shakes her head. “Not for me. But I did it.”
Harry is considerably happier now that he knows it didn’t work out, but he’s not sure why.
November 1st, 2009
It’s too cold to take a way across the grounds, so Harry and Teddy suffice with cups of hot butterbeer in the Great Hall. Teddy tells Harry about his classes and his friends and his flying lessons, and he’s clearly having the time of his life.
“Where’s Aunt Hermione?” Teddy asks.
“Probably her office,” Harry responds, surprised by the question. “Why?”
Teddy shakes his head. “Nothing, Dad. Just thought she’d come with you.”
“Aunt Hermione is really busy lately,” Harry tries to explain. “She misses you, of course.”
Teddy shrugs. “I’m looking forward to Christmas, I miss everyone.”
“They all miss you, too,” Harry reassures him.
Teddy is silent for a moment, pensive.
“What’s going to happen to me when you have your own kids,” he asks suddenly.
“What do you mean, mate?”
“Well Lauren Wilson told me when her mum got remarried and had kids her mum kind of forgot about her, and that she thinks her mum is relieved she’s up at Hogwarts.”
Harry is heartbroken. “Well, firstly, ask Lauren Wilson if she wants to come for holidays, she’s always welcome at ours if she doesn’t feel welcome at home. I’m not having any kids soon, if at all, and you’re always going to be my first, my number one. I don’t want you to ever think something different.”
Teddy considers Harry’s words for a while and then abruptly says, “I want you to get married, Dad. You put everything on hold for me when you were super young.”
“You want that, bud? You sure?”
Teddy nods vigorously. “You need someone to look after you, now that I’m not there.” His face is so serious, Harry struggles not to burst into amused laughter.
Harry hugs Teddy extra-long before he leaves. He’s got a good kid.
November 4th, 2009
Harry has taken up reading novels. Hermione has done it for years to relax, and he’s now discovering the joys of her hobby. He impulsively visits a Waterstones and heads out with a bag full of new books. He’s reading in bed when he comes across the line “For you, a thousand times over.” Hermione’s face, in a tent in the Forest of Dean, comes to mind. He underlines the words, and falls into a dreamless sleep.
November 19th, 2009
Harry is at home, alone, when suddenly he feels his breathing go shallow, and it feels like the walls of his kitchen are closing in. He tries to steady himself against the kitchen counter, but everything is going too fast, and yet too slow. He wonders if he’s dying, and right as he hits the floor, he smells the familiar scent of jasmine and cedar and his last view is of black curls on a blob that vaguely resembles Hermione, and he feels safe.
When he awakens, Hermione is on her knees, bending over him concernedly. He grabs her hand, and she murmurs “I’m here.”
“How did you know?” He asks.
“I just felt something wasn’t right,” she replies simply. “I’m going to stay.”
He tries to protest, but she waves away his words. He makes his way to the bed, and for a fleeting second, he’s tempted to grab her hand again, and pull her in with him, to feel her face pressed against his chest. He doesn’t dare to think about what her lips would feel like on his.
But she laces her fingers through his, and whispers in his ear, “I’m here, I’m always here,” and he feels simultaneously like he’s perfectly safe and on fire, and he thinks he must be suspended somewhere between heaven and earth.
November 29th, 2009
Teddy goes into hyperdrive when he sees Hermione come into the Great Hall with Harry. Harry figured he’d keep it a surprise, and judging by Teddy’s reaction, it was the right instinct. Hermione scoops the excited Teddy up into a massive embrace, and Harry is warmer that his best friend and godson love each other as much as they do. The visit is relaxed and every bit lovely, and Hermione seems energised when she and Harry unwind in front of the fire of The Three Broomsticks.
“Do you want kids?” Harry asks Hermione suddenly. Hermione tries to conceal her surprise, but they’ve known each other too long.
“Yes, I do,” she says slowly. “We’ve talked about this. But things are different now. I don’t have much time and every man I go out with realises on the second date I’m not able to scale my hours and I don’t have any intention of being a housewife. And that’s where it all falls apart.”
“Tossers,” Harry mutters, and Hermione chuckles. “They’re fools for not realising what a prize they’ve got.”
Hermione flushes at his words, but she doesn’t protest. Instead, Harry could swear she draws herself just the tiniest bit closer to him.
December 2nd, 2009
George is shorthanded with the combo of flu season and Christmas shopping. Harry volunteers to help for a couple hours.
“So what are you doing for the holidays?” George asks as he wipes down a shelf.
“Teddy will be back, so probably having around the place and then going to your parents for a couple days.”
Harry is thrown off by George’s question.
“I don’t know, why?”
George shrugs. “You two always do Christmas together. You practically raised Teddy together.”
“I imagine she’ll be with us for some of the time.”
George makes a face and they spend several minutes in silence.
“Can I be honest with you, mate?” George breaks the silence.
“Sure,” Harry says genially.
“Don’t you think it’s time you two be honest with each other?”
“What?” Harry asks, faking ignorance.
“Oh come off it,” George says. “We’ve known each other too long. You’re in love with Hermione. Have been forever. Something changed in that tent. You came back after that year and ever since then you look at her like you’re a drowning man and she’s land.”
“She feels the same way. You two are just too prideful and you’re too afraid of losing the friendship so you’ve spent what, eleven years, not dating anyone, wasting time. Ron won’t say anything cause he’s worried but I don’t have anything to lose here. Except for a babysitter, I guess, for when you two have a brood of your own.”
“Stop being clueless and be brave. You’re a Gryffindor, for Merlin’s sake. Even Teddy knows.”
George’s words are still at the forefront of his mind when Harry and Hermione step out for a bit of shopping after work. It begins to drizzle, and he grabs Hermione’s hand and pulls her into the Leaky Cauldron, both of them laughing. Droplets cling to the ends of her long, dark lashes, and he thinks she’s never been more beautiful.
December 15th, 2009
Harry is thrilled to have Teddy home for holidays. Molly cooks up a storm to celebrate the occasion, exclaims how big he’s gotten, and wonders aloud if the house elves have stretched him. Teddy regales his cousins with stories of Hogwarts, and they listen, wide-eyed.
December 16th, 2009
Harry and Teddy and Hermione have a tradition to go around London and see the lights. They’re an odd looking group, Harry realises, but there’s no one he’d rather spend time with. It’s his family. Cobbled together, perfectly misfit, absolutely loved.
Harry gives Teddy some money to get hot chocolate, and Teddy runs ahead. A busker plays a tune that’s vaguely familiar, and they pause.
“Then afterwards we drop into a quiet little place
And have a drink or two
And then I go and spoil it all
By saying something stupid
Like I love you”
Their eyes connect, and it’s electric. They’re close. Too close, Harry thinks. He’s struggling to think, she’s right there, and then -
“Dad, here you go,” Teddy hands him a cup of hot chocolate, and Harry is simultaneously disappointed and relieved.
December 24th, 2009
Harry and Teddy arrive at the Burrow to smell Christmas dinner being cooked and hear the sounds of all of the assorted Weasleys and Celestina Warbeck’s awful warbling. They share a grin. They love Christmas.
December 25th, 2009
Harry wakes with a start. The Burrow is finally silent, and he shuffles over to his bag, pulls out the presents, and surreptitiously makes his way down the stairs. His plan is to sneak the presents under the tree, and then make his way back up the stairs.
But there’s a person on the sofa, and he realises with a lurch it’s Hermione. She’s reading, and her eyes light up when she spots Harry.
“Couldn’t sleep?” He asks, and she nods.
He sits down next to her, and she puts her book away.
It’s moments like these, he realises with absolute clarity, that he loves most. When she’s sitting on the couch, sans makeup, her face illuminated by the firelight, and there’s no one around. He’s had eighteen years of these moments, and he doesn’t want them to stop. He’s greedy for more. He wants a lifetime of these moments, where he’s closer to her, where his hands are in her unruly curls, where she presses her forehead to his neck, where he whispers words that mean nothing yet everything next to her in bed. He feels like he’s losing control, and yet he’s never been more in control. The dichotomy is confusing, yet exhilarating.
And then, before he knows it, he presses his lips against hers. At first it’s tender, and then he feels it - she’s kissing him back. Her legs wrap themselves around his waist, his hands are in her hair, and Harry is hungry for her, to make up for the lost time.
He presses his forehead against hers, so that all he can really make out is the ends of her eyelashes.
“Are you sure?” He breathes. He doesn’t have to explain, she knows. It’s Hermione. She just does.
“I’ve always been sure,” she whispers back, and he kisses her again, bathed in the golden light of the fireplace.
Chainsaw couldn't split us up
Nothing's gonna wake me up
I'm falling asleep
With you lying next to me
Chainsaw couldn't split us up
Nothing's gonna wake me up
Not even the thunder
Not even the lightning