Disclaimer: I don't own a thing.
Author's Note: Please do recognize that this is H/HR. If you're not into shipping Harry and Hermione... this probably isn't the story for you. I respect all opinions and I don't mind if you don't agree with the way I'm writing the characters - it won't be for everyone. Just know that if you're finding the story not to your liking because Hermione isn't in love with Ron... you should probably go elsewhere for your reading enjoyment and you were warned in the summary. I'm really trying not to bash the Weasleys. But seriously. Don't expect what you know you won't find.
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to review - even those who aren't happy with the way things are turning out. I'm sorry if I've disappointed you.
Anyway: please enjoy the following update.
"Mione!" Teddy screamed as the two walked through the door into the warm house.
"Teddy, love, how's my favorite little boy?" she said, swooping down and picking up the little boy.
"I fine," he said. The 'adultness' in his voice caused Hermione to burst into laughter and Harry could physically feel relief spread through him at the sight of her smile. He pulled the door shut behind him and placed a hand on the small of Hermione's back, ushering her into the room a bit further.
The toddler was busy squishing Hermione's cheeks between his hands and babbling on about a new winding robot "Nana T" had magically modified for him.
"What? No big hug for me?" Harry said, poking his head around Hermione's and resting his chin on her shoulder. He filled his cheeks with air and Teddy burst into a fit giggles. He promptly let go of Hermione's face and smacked both hands on Harry's cheeks, "popping" the air out of them.
"Ugh, Harry," Hermione said, dramatically pulling Teddy in closer to her chest and pulling away from him. "What did you have for lunch? Can you smell that Teddy? That's what happens when you don't brush your teeth."
"Eww!" the little boy squealed through spurts of laughter. Harry's face had taken on an expression of mock offense and he carefully began to back away from the pair.
"Well I suppose that means this little boy doesn't need what I've brought for him, eh? You wouldn't want a surprise from sour old Uncle Harry, now would you?"
"Is that Harry I hear?" said a voice from further within the house.
"Nana!" Teddy screamed. "Harry's brought me a surprise but Mione's being mean."
Soft footsteps could be heard making their way up the hall and in no time Andromeda was coming through the doorway, a pile of unfolded sheets and blankets in hand.
"Oh, my, and Hermione as well! What a nice surprise this is," she said sweetly. "Now what's all the fuss about?"
"Well Harry has a right fowl stink to him and, doesn't he, Teddy?"
"I didn't smell a thing."
"Not a thing, hmm?" she said, holding him out a bit and looking at him with speculative eyes.
"Hear that?" Harry chastised from beside them. "He doesn't smell a thing."
"Well then I suppose there's no harm in seeing what he's got," she said, placing Teddy back on the ground and watching as he walked (again, that very grown up nature spilling forth) over to Harry's side. Hermione stepped over to the sofa where Andromeda had dumped the pile of laundry.
"It's good to see you, Dromeda," she said, gently coming up to the woman and resting a hand across her shoulder. "Can I help?" She dropped her purse and jacket into a nearby chair.
"It's wonderful seeing you. Teddy was asking about you just the other day," she said, turning and pulling Hermione into a hug before handing her a blanket to be folded. "What brings you all by?"
"Just popping in to say hello," she said. "Harry and I were at lunch with Ginny. He mentioned he was coming by; I hope we haven't caught you off guard."
"Goodness no; you two are always welcome here. Will you stay for tea?"
Hermione looked down to her watch and then stole a glance at Harry, who wasn't paying attention to anything but Teddy.
"I think we should be able to, thanks."
"Splendid. We'll wait a few minutes if that's alright."
"Oh, that's fine. I'm still quite full from lunch."
They continued to fold the linens, chatting idly and watching the boys play back and forth with the robot and the small knight figurine Harry had brought for Teddy.
"I trust things are going well?" Hermione asked.
"Oh, yes, very. Teddy and I spend most of our time here at home, but we like it that way. We'll trek over to the library occasionally, visit the park or the museums… but it's usually a very low-key sort of atmosphere around here. To tell you the truth, dear, it's just a bit difficult for me. He's a very well behaved boy, but he is four years old. He's at quite a rambunctious age."
"Well perhaps Harry or I could take him off your hands for a day or two here and there," Hermione offered.
"Harry's offered before to keep him," Andromeda said, lowering her voice a bit so as not to be overheard. "But I just can't put that kind of burden on either of you. It's a very generous offer, and I know you both care for him, but you're young – you have busy lives."
"We really don't, though," Hermione said, laughing lightly. "At least I don't. Harry gets tied up with the Ministry now and then, but we definitely have the flexibility to give you a break now and again."
"Nana," Teddy said, interrupting them from the floor where he was playing with Harry. "Can Harry and Mione spend the night?"
"Sweetheart, they have their own homes to get to."
"And Crookshanks will need feeding," Hermione added, dropping the last folded sheet on the stack. "How do you suppose he'd feel if he thought I forgot about him?"
"Hungry," Teddy responded, the look in his eyes a bit downtrodden.
"What if you come with me and Hermione to see Mr. and Mrs. Weasley tomorrow?" Harry looked over to Hermione and Andromeda for reactions. "That is, if it's alright with your Nana."
"Oh! Will Ron be there? Nana T, please?"
Andromeda gave Hermione a tenacious look. "You two are too alike for my liking at times," she said. But a smile that spread across her face and the softness of her eyes showed that she didn't mind their alikeness in the slightest. "If it's really alright with the Weasleys and these two, I suppose that'd be fine."
"Oh, thankyouthankyouthankyou," Teddy squealed, rushing over to Andromeda and giving her legs a good squeeze. His hair turned from its normal mousy brown to a bright shade of pink and Harry's heart plummeted to the pit of his stomach. The visible reminder that Teddy was a metamorphmagus never failed to blindside Harry – it broke his heart to be reminded that Teddy would never know his parents. Harry could see a similar thought spread through Andromeda's eyes as she looked down and placed a shaking hand atop the boy's head.
He wondered briefly, not for the first time, if Teddy's similarity to his mother was difficult for Mrs. Tonks or if she was glad to have a little reminder of her daughter. It was something he'd never asked her but had always wondered. It made him think back to himself and all the people in his life who had known his parents. Whenever he looked at Teddy he understood a little bit more the way people had felt the need to voice how strikingly similar he was to his parents. In a way, it was a reminder that they had lived. And that was something that brought a little peace to Harry's mind, if only for a moment.
"Alright," she said weakly. "Why don't you clean up and we'll have some tea, yeah?"
Andromeda gave him a light push excused herself to make the tea. Teddy turned and raced back to Harry, picking up the toys and placing them in a basket nearby. He then wondered off towards the bathroom, stating quite openly that he might be a minute.
"When did he get so grown up?" Harry said, standing from where he'd been seated on the floor, and walking over to sit next to Hermione on the sofa.
"I have no idea, but its equal parts adorable and heartbreaking. Where did that baby with the purple hair and orange eyes go?" she said, reaching a hand up to scratch at the mess of hair atop her head. "I can't believe he's already four, Harry. Four years old."
"He certainly didn't get Tonks' klutziness, did he?"
"No," she said, letting her thoughts drift back to their old friends. "No, I think he's very much a mixture of them both. He's the best of both of them."
The moment which was quickly turning rather heavy was interrupted by Andromeda's return, much to Harry and Hermione's relief.
"Here you are, sweets," she said, handing them each a cup of warm tea. "While he's relieving himself, are you sure it's not a problem for him to tag along tomorrow? I wouldn't want him interrupting or throwing off the atmosphere…"
"No, heavens," Hermione said, taking a sip and looking to Harry. "He'll be a lovely surprise, and honestly diffuse some of the unwelcome tension that's sure to ensue. Victoire will be there I assume – they'll have fun playing together."
"Oh, that'll be good. He needs to interact with other children some; get rambunctious, lose some of that stiffness about him."
"I wouldn't call him stiff," Harry said, nearly choking on his tea from snorting out of amusement. "We were just commenting on what a little grown boy you have."
"We think he's rather charming," Hermione said.
"Oh, he's charming indeed. Charmed me right around his little finger," she stopped fiddling with the tea and biscuits and took a seat next to Hermione. "Ted!" she hollered over the back of the sofa. They heard a flush and then the running of the faucet, followed by the pattering of little feet.
"Get everything squared away?" she asked.
"Sure did," Teddy said, nodding and taking a little cup of juice off the tray along with a biscuit.
"Good, finish up your tea and then we'll go read a story and see if you can't take a short kip."
Harry and Hermione shared a look, both of them knowing that the other was thinking the same thing. What a sweet little thing he'd become – his short trousers coming up a bit above his ankles when he sat on the sofa next to Harry, his sleeves a bit wet from the water, and two ripe red spots at each corner of his mouth from where the juice was beginning to stain the skin.
"But, Nan," he started, looking quite exasperated. "They've only just got here."
"We'll be leaving shortly either way, chap," Harry said, ruffling his hair and bringing him in to his side. "I'll be here tomorrow afternoon to get your for dinner. It won't be so long."
"And if you're good for your Nan from now until then, maybe you and Harry can zap over and help me feed Crookshanks before we head to the Burrow?"
Evidently that did the trick because it appeared he didn't need much more coaxing. He tilted his cup all the way up so that his nose disappeared and guzzled the rest of his juice, and placed the empty cup back along the tray.
"See you tomorrow then," he said, giving Harry a big hug. "Thanks for the knight."
He moved over to the other side of the sofa and grabbed Hermione around the middle. Still squeezing her tightly, he bent his head to look up at her.
"Don't forget about Crooks," he said. "It's been ages since I've held him."
"I promise not to forget," she said, placing a kiss on the top of his head. "You don't forget to be a good helper."
"I won't," he said, sweetly. He let go and waved again at Harry before wandering over to the bookcase in the far corner and pulling off a little picture book. "I'll race yah, Nana!" he said, and took off down the hall.
Andromeda sighed and took one last sip of tea. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little excited to have some time to myself," she said.
They all laughed and said their goodbyes before Andromeda walked off towards Teddy, leaving Harry and Hermione to finish their tea and excuse themselves.
Harry drank the last of his tea and set the cup back on its saucer. Hermione peered into her own cup, then threw it back as if it was a shot and placing it (gently) back on the tray.
"I feel loads better, Harry. Thanks for letting me tag along."
"How about you come back with me for a bit," said Harry. "We can watch a film or just relax. I dunno… I'm not in the mood to be alone right now."
"Me either. When I'm alone I start to think."
"You mean to tell me you don't think when you're around other people?" Harry said, giving her a sardonic look that faded into disbelief. She began to laugh a little and playfully punched his arm.
"Don't patronize me, Potter."
He stuck out his tongue and got up from the sofa, taking the tray back into the kitchen, magically tidying the teacups and returning them to their place among the other dishes. As soon as everything was right, the two crept quietly out of the house and were on their way back down the short path. The silence between them was periodically filled with the crunching of their feet against a twig or a bit of gravel, but overall, it was very refreshing to be in the outdoors together.
Harry found himself thinking back to a time when it was just the two of them… wondering around God-knows-where in search of horcruxes that didn't want to be found. He'd been doing a lot of thinking lately. Especially about the past. And Hermione.
But he couldn't help it. The past and the future so often mingled with the present, that there wasn't a day that went by that Harry wasn't thinking about one or the other – sometimes a combination of both. He assumed it was like this for all people, but then again, he wasn't completely sure of that. Up until a day or so ago, he would have thought that Hermione had it all figured out. He thought for a moment of saying this to her – or something of the like – but, thankfully, thought better of it and kept his mouth shut. He didn't want to bring anything up that might take away from their enjoyment together.
"Since when have I started walking on eggshells with her," he thought.
"Hermione," he said. The words had flown out of his mouth before he could really stop himself. Instantly, he felt a wave of regret settle through the pit of his stomach.
"Yeah?" She stopped next to a little bench that sat at the corner of the main road and the one they'd been walking along. Harry picked one foot up and then the other, mentally kicking himself for having said anything at all – even if it were just her name. He figured that now was as good a time as any though; and he would continue to have these thoughts until he got some answers.
"I don't want to make you talk about it if you don't want to, but you and me, we're good, yeah?" he asked. He took a seat on the bench and Hermione came and sat down next to him.
"Harry, of course," she said, pulling a hand out of her pocket and placing it along his forearm. "What's got you thinking otherwise?"
"I reckon I'm just nervous that you're upset about what Ron thinks happened and you're not really willing to talk about it. I don't want things to be weird between us. You know?"
"I do not feel uncomfortable with you in the slightest. In fact, you're the only person I can stand to be around without feeling out of my mind right now."
"Well good. Let's get home then." He reached out for her hand, and she took it, letting him pull her to her feet once more. The word 'home' settled over her and a sudden chill ran across her neck. Hermione was taken aback at how easy it was to think of going to Grimmauld Place as going home, and she realized that it was a sort of home for her. These thoughts ran around the back of her mind as they readied to Apparate, but she didn't dwell on them for long, promising herself she'd fully analyze that blasted chill later.
Harry undid the lock on the front door and they both entered the dark house. Hermione looked around the foyer for what had to be the thousandth time, and she was overcome with how wonderfully transformed he'd gotten the place to become. As they hung up their jackets on a coat rack in the corner, she noticed the mirror which hung on the wall. It was something she'd helped him pick out, and as she was in the process of noticing it, she looked around and began to pinpoint all the other small hints of herself that were adorning the walls or the floors… Some things you'd never know had been her doing, like the fact that the portrait no longer shouted at visitors, or the big armchairs that adorned the library, the shelves of which Harry had stocked full of either her favorite titles or titles that she had said would come in handy to have around the house.
It's no place to raise a child, she thought, thinking back to what Andromeda had said about Harry's offer to take Teddy. There are still too many dark memories that hang in the air.
"What are you thinking about?" Harry asked, having stopped to take in the thoughtful expression that had crept up across her face. "I thought I was supposed to be distracting you from thought."
"To be honest," she said. "I was just taking in the house. I know I'm here all the time, but I'm often quite awestruck with the way it's changed since the Order was using it as headquarters. You've done a great job making it into a home."
"That'd be thanks to you," he said, modestly. "What would you like to do? I think I'm going to have some firewhisky; I need to warm up. Would you like anything?"
"Do you still have that cabernet we bought from that market in Paris last month?"
"One glass of wine coming right up,"
"I'll be in the living room. I'll pick out something for us to watch," she hollered into the house, since Harry had already gone down to the kitchen for their drinks. She was just about to cross over into the living room (which was now five times warmer and cozier than it had been years ago) when Harry's head popped back up through the doorway from the kitchen.
"Do you reckon you'll be hungry for dinner? I've got a stew I can put on," he said.
Hermione looked down to her watch.
"I could probably be ready to eat again I an hour or so. Maybe we can take a break in a bit and put it on? It's still a bit early."
"Right then, sounds good to me." He popped back down and Hermione proceeded into the next room.
There wasn't much of a selection; Harry seldom watched movies on his own, but when he did, his taste didn't exactly align with her own. She tried to find something that wasn't overly action packed and settled for a title she didn't recognize. From the cover it seemed like it would be low-key enough; something about a couple who were trying to make it home in time for the holidays but were continually thrown off course. She could relate to the feeling – when you think you know where you're supposed to be and the world just seems to push you in another direction.
She put the movie into the player and turned on the telly, settling herself down into the large couch across from it. Just as she was covering up with a blanket, Harry came through the door levitating a tray with their drinks on it with one hand, while carrying a large bowl of popcorn with the other. He sat the tray down on the table which sat along the side of the room under a row of windows and handed the bowl to Hermione.
"I decided I was a bit hungry," he said.
"I can see that," she said, ogling at the size of the bowl. "You made enough for six people."
"Well I figured once you smelled it, you'd be trying to steal some anyway, so I made enough for both of us."
"There is no way you and I will finish this entire bowl."
"You wait and see, Granger."
"I plan on it!" She laughed and stuck her hand into the bowl for a fist full as Harry pulled the curtains across the windows and brought their drinks over to the couch.
"What are we watching?"
"No clue – Finding Accueil or something like that."
"Oh, that's a good one." He smiled and settled down into the couch next to her, taking a handful of popcorn out of the bowl. "You're gonna love it. I hope it doesn't make you cry…"
"Harry. I do not cry at movies."
"Hermione. You definitely do cry at movies. All the time. You cried when we watched that animated film last week."
"Stuff it," she said, elbowing him in the ribs. "The little robot was left all alone on earth and sacrificed everything to save that plant! The whole thing was just heartbreaking." He smiled and looked at her, waiting for her to turn and meet his gaze.
"You have got to be the sweetest, most sensitive girl in the world."
"Come off it," she said jokingly.
"I'm not kidding."
And he really wasn't. In that moment, Harry could have kissed her and he wouldn't have had a single regret for doing so.
AN: Trying to take my time here... but it's getting a little difficult to separate my reader side from my writer side. I don't want to rush, but I'm getting anxious! haha :) If you can, please take a moment to let me know what your thoughts are. ANY and ALL comments ARE welcome. Don't let the note at the top deter you from dropping me a line. You are entitled to your opinion.