Disclaimer: I am not, to the best of my knowledge, J.K. Rowling, so any of the characters, events, or places you recognize are not mine. Though, wouldn't it be nice?
A/N: I'm certain that I will be receiving several complaints/comments that I should be focusing my time on Bound to Him or my other WIPs. However, I hope you all understand that while I am always thinking about all of my stories, I cannot always bring myself to work on them. I have limited time for writing, but multitudes of plot bunnies, so some days I am more interested in working with certain ideas than others. While it slows down the completion of my stories, I feel like it enables a better product over all, so please be patient!
This is one of those shiny ideas taking up space in my creativity, which I have been picking away at gradually whenever experiencing temporary writer's block on my other stories. I hope you enjoy it, even though it isn't a coveted update to Bound to Him or Rumored in Love or even Shepherd's Passage. This work will include about a dozen chapters and is approximately 90 percent written already, so updates should be more regular. Please leave reviews, as I always love to hear your thoughts!
"Mum, can we go visit Dad?"
Hermione Granger paused while putting away the leftovers that Molly Weasley had sent home with them. Clearing her throat, she glanced down at the small, dark-eyed boy who was resting his chin on the countertop.
"Now?" she asked. "Brendan, it's getting late."
"So?" he returned, tilting his head.
"So," she stated slowly, "it's past your bed time as it is, and they're likely to close any minute."
Brendan's eyes were wide as he shook his head. "They're open til ten, though! I remember the sign. Plus it's my birthday. Can't I stay up on my birthday?"
With a loud sigh, the witch closed the icebox door and then tousled his hair. "We were just there a few days ago, you know."
"But it's my birthday, and I want to see him today," he whined. "Wouldn't he want to see me on my birthday?"
Hermione smirked lightly as she took in his pleading gaze. "Alright, we can go."
"Yes!" He jumped up and down in excitement.
"But," she clarified, holding up her pointer finger. "I want to see you in coat, hat, and mittens this time."
The boy let out a small huff. "Can I skip the scarf?"
"You may skip the scarf," she nodded.
"Okay!" he cried in excitement before scampering out of the kitchen.
With a shake of her head, Hermione gripped the edge of the countertop and took in a steadying breath. Despite the time that had passed and the number of visits they had made over the past two years, she still found herself struggling to keep her emotions under control. And when she could not quite manage the feat, it only broke her heart further afterward when her son would try to comfort her whenever he caught her crying. But if Brendan wanted to see his father, how could she deny him that? It made him happy, and she would do anything to see him smile.
"Come on, Mum!" the boy stated brightly as he popped back into the kitchen. "Are you ready yet?"
"Of course," she smiled, turning toward him. She adjusted his winter cap and straightened the collar of his coat before gesturing in the direction of the front door.
"Can we apparate?" he asked, glancing over his shoulder at her with wide eyes.
Snorting quietly, Hermione nodded. After donning her heaviest travelling cloak, she pulled on her own hat and gloves and then took hold of her son's hand.
A moment later, the pair arrived on the northern edge of Hogsmeade village, and the boy immediately gave an excited squeal.
"Ten fingers, ten toes!" Brendan called, holding up his free mittened hand. "Two eyebrows, one nose!"
"All in one piece, then?" his mother asked in amusement.
"Yep," he nodded. "You didn't splinch me, Mum."
Laughing, the witch squeezed his hand as they walked down the quiet, snowy lane. As they neared their destination, she glanced down at him. "So what was it you wished for when you blew out the candles?"
"Muuum," he groaned. "If I tell you, it won't come true!"
"Fair enough," she smiled. "Was it a good one?"
Her son nodded emphatically at the question. "The best."
"I bet it was," she agreed, pulling open the door to the Wizarding Wars Memorial Museum. "If it comes true, will you tell me then?"
"I s'pose so," the boy mumbled while stepping past her into the museum lobby. Immediately, he yanked off his hat and mittens and shoved them into his pockets.
With a smirk, Hermione reclaimed hold on his hand. Out of habit, she nodded toward the old witch at the front desk who was dozing quietly and then dutifully followed as her son tugged her through the corridors. When they were near the correct stall, she let go of his hand and watched as he scampered up onto the bench in front of the exhibit.
"Hi, Dad!" Brendan said quietly.
The witch smiled at her son and then took in a slow breath as she raised her eyes to the painted face. The familiar weight settled onto her chest as it did every time they came to visit him. The painting was so life-like that she had to fight the urge to reach out and stroke his cheek. She would give anything to feel the warmth that had been lost to her for nearly seven years, but the painful truth was that there would be none of it left in oil and canvas.
The portrait had the piercing gaze and the stern, yet smug upturn of his lips. It could not, however, capture the softness his eyes held whenever she was with him. There was no quiver of his lips while he fought to keep control of his smile as there had been whenever she walked into his classroom or passed him in the corridor. It could never don the carefree expression that he had worn during the summer afternoons they had worked together. It would never show the relief he had displayed whenever he found her in the wilderness, or the unmistakable fear that had flickered in his eyes when she would tell him of their planned movements. And it certainly could not replicate the tranquil bliss that had consumed his features after he had finally surrendered to her requests for more physical intimacy.
Hermione had never truly known the extent to which he loved her, but despite everything that Harry had seen in his memories, she could not deny that the man had cared for her deeply.
Even prior to their affair, he had accepted her assistance in the lab with very few complaints, and most of those had been directed at the Headmaster for assigning her the task without first consulting him. Throughout the summer before her sixth year, they had become quite comfortable in each other's presence, and when the last weeks of August brought her great sorrow as they approached the conclusion of their collaboration, she knew that she had fallen in love with him.
For months she had battled her feelings unsuccessfully, until she realized they could not – and should not – be repressed. She could sense his rising anxiety and pain as the year progressed, which had spurred her to offer him every instance of kindness she could manage. Before she left for the Burrow that Christmas, she had sought him out with the intention of giving him a handmade card, but had instead followed her heart when it suggested that her feelings would be better expressed by gently pressing her lips against his.
She could still remember the uncertain terror that had sent her rushing out of his office and had plagued her throughout the holiday. Upon her return, she had nearly died of mortification when he had asked to speak with her, but the feeling had vanished when he responded to her advances with apologies instead of anger. With her sworn to secrecy, he had confessed to her what would be required of him in the coming year in an attempt to dissuade her affections, but she had found them only strengthened. Time and time again she had assured him that she would not abandon him, and when she and the boys had gone on the run, she had brought Phineas Black's portrait with her so as to re-establish communication with him. When it was possible, he would come to her on the nights she held watch and sit disillusioned at her side.
While he had held her for some length of time each evening, they had gone no farther than exchanging a few tender kisses. She had always assumed there would be plenty of time to explore their feelings further, but while she had felt her strength waning under Bellatrix's wand at Malfoy Manor, she had realized just how foolish that was. During her recovery at Shell Cottage, she became determined to share as much with the wizard as she could. He had dismissed the notion the first time he had checked on her, but had been unable to refuse her for much longer.
If she closed her eyes, the witch could recall every last detail of the night they had first made love on one of the more secluded dunes that could not be seen from the cottage. She could almost hear the crash of the waves against the pebbled shore and the rustle of the long grass around them. She could smell the salt of the ocean and the fragrant perfume of the blooming sea lavender that had been carried upon the cool breeze. She could feel the roughness of his woolen cloak against the bare skin of her back, the tickle of his hair against her face, and the slight sinking of the cold sand beneath the fabric. Never would she forget how he had kissed every remnant of her session with Bellatrix, nor the soft assurances he had whispered in her ear, nor the gentleness with which he entered her, nor the intense pleasure that had invaded every cell of her body as they moved together in the moonlight.
Their time with each other that night had been limited as she had needed to return to the cottage and he to Hogwarts before anyone noticed their absence, but it had still allowed them a momentary escape from the horrors surrounding them. For a short while, they were the only two occupants of a private world afflicted not with conflict and death, but instead with desire and peace. There had only been one more frantic and frenzied coupling amidst the moonlit dunes the following week, but they had found within each other a renewed strength that had carried them through the remaining days of darkness.
"Mum, why doesn't he like me?"
Hermione startled out of her reverie to see her son staring back at her. "What do you mean?"
"He never talks to me," the boy shrugged before looking up at the portrait. "Professor Dummydoor always says hello to me and asks me lots of questions, but Daddy never does. And Teddy says his mum and dad always talk to him when he visits."
"Oh, sweetheart," she sighed, touching his head. "He has a different sort of picture, that's why. Your father's portrait is like a Muggle painting."
Brendan narrowed his eyes. "Why?"
"I don't know, darling," the woman murmured honestly. Though a few museum administrators had claimed to have attempted enchanting it in the usual manner, there were rumors that they had purposely left him frozen for they were afraid of what might tumble out of his mouth. When she had questioned Harry on the matter, he had simply shrugged and asked if anyone could really blame them. Patrons of the museum came to pay their respects and to teach their children; they did not come to be insulted. While it pained her that she could not speak to him again, she could not deny for very long at all that Harry had a point.
"Are you sure that's why?"
Hermione nodded and kissed the top of his head. "Yes, baby. If he could, he would talk to you."
"Are you really sure?"
"Yes." A smirk toyed at her lips. "Unless he absolutely had to, your father was never one to hold his tongue."
Her son frowned slightly as he considered the statement. "Why would he do that? That's just strange, Mum."
"It's an expression, dear."
"Not a very good one."
The tone of his voice was so similar to his father's sneer that it made her laugh in surprise. Wiping her face, she smiled and squeezed his shoulder. "I suppose it isn't."
As she returned her gaze to the portrait, Brendan casually hopped down to the floor and peered out from the stall. "Hey, Mum – what's wrong with that man?"
Hermione raised one eyebrow, but did not pull her eyes away from her former lover's likeness. "What man?"
"There's a man with a hooked stick," the boy explained, glancing up at her, "and he walks funny."
"That would be a cane; not a stick," she corrected with a small smile. "And it isn't polite to stare."
"But it's my birthday," he protested.
She briefly flicked her gaze to him in warning. "Brendan."
"Fine," he sighed, dropping his gaze to his feet. A moment later, however, he returned to his earlier observation of the newcomer. "He's stopped at your stall, Mum."
Hermione snickered softly and leaned her head against a pillar. "I imagine quite a lot of people stop there."
"Like us?" the boy queried hopefully.
"If you would like."
"Do you think he'll still be there when we are?"
The woman shrugged. "Perhaps."
"Good," he stated. "Then I can ask him why he walks funny."
"Mum!" Brendan hissed a moment later. "He's touching you!"
"What?" she snapped, automatically covering his eyes with her hand as she reared her head back in concern. The boy gave a grunt of frustration as he pulled her hand away from his face, but Hermione did not appear to notice for she had frozen in place.
Though he wore a bulky, dark travelling cloak with a hood, there was something about the man's form that was incredibly familiar. And when he appeared to gently trace his gloved fingers over the bronze face of her sculpted likeness, her lips parted in shock.
Glancing up at his mother, Brendan noticed how focused her eyes were. "Mum, you said it isn't polite to stare."
The witch swallowed slowly as she continued to study the dark shape at the other end of the corridor. Her heart began pounding wildly as she watched the wizard lower his hood to reveal dark hair. Biting down on her bottom lip, she silently willed him to turn around so that she could see his face.
Almost as though he had heard her plea, the tall man glanced over his shoulder.
"Oh, my god," she whispered, feeling slightly as though the room were beginning to spin when he slowly turned to face her. Unconsciously, she crept forward and, as he similarly moved toward her, she could see the look of realization dawn upon his face.
His gait was different as noticeably favored his left leg, his hair was shorter than she ever remembered it being, and he sported a beard... but it was him.