I have missed you all so so much it is unbelievable! I didn't anticipate how big of a reception this fic was going to get, nor how massive a part of my life it was going to become. I noticed a few of you had questions about what happened next: what happened to Hermione Granger in the original timeline? What happened with Avery and Hermione?

I wrote this as Bliss, a kind of sequel to TL but decided that I might as well upload it at the end here as well as a separate fanfiction, because it answers a lot of questions you may have had. I suppose this is a thank you for sticking by me, for committing to a fanfiction that I had no idea what was happening or where it was going the majority of the time! You inspire me daily guys.

Admittedly, this focuses more on the relationship between Hermione and Avery as it develops after the war, although the other characters are in here too. When I introduced Avery, I never anticipated an original character of my own creation would receive such a warm response but I can honestly say it means the world to me! As someone who wants to publish one day, I'm using this entire experience to learn all that I can about world-building and character-building and you have helped me so much with that. But as much as this is about their relationship, it's also about the effects of war, the way we heal each other's brokenness and the incendiary power of hope, and love. I feel like these things are very important at the moment.

So, here it is, perhaps an unconventional couple, but one that survived all the torment and tribulations I put them through in my last fic. I hope you like it.


Sometimes I have the strangest feeling about you. Especially when you are near me as you are now. It feels as though I had a string tied here under my left rib where my heart is, tightly knotted to you in a similar fashion. And when you go, with all that distance between us, I am afraid that this cord will be snapped, and I shall bleed inwardly. –Charlotte Bronte

November 1981

It was really quite impossible to think of a time before Frederic Avery. Though she tried, and sometimes she tried often, the smug Slytherin always seemed to permeate through every memory he was absent from, like water devouring a piece of paper.

There was no keeping him out, though Hermione found she didn't mind it quite as much as she thought she might.

He was always there, usually silent; a statue of strength and resilience, a tree with its roots planted so deeply and firmly in the ground, no tornado could uproot it.

Of course, when this observation had been made, one could never have predicted that it would take more than a tornado. Nobody could've predicted Hermione Granger would be the one to uproot him.

He was a tall boy, with broad shoulders and a resounding chest that never seemed to fall. His face was marble, effortlessly sculptured, painstakingly carved. It nearly always wore the same expression of impatient boredom, though Hermione found the patience (or fury) to wring from him a rare droplet of a smile from time to time. His eyes were dark, his hair black, and it was as though he was allergic to warmth for it seemed to roll over him in strictly eluding waves. That being said, there was something eminently warm that lingered in those dark eyes when Hermione Granger held him, or kissed him, or even forced a laugh from his bow lips.

It took time for people to melt around him. The world could not seem to understand why they fit together so perfectly, or how they managed to love one another in full.

For she, on the other hand, was a resounding sun. Though plain in appearance, there was something blinding about her, something which made your eyes ache and forced you to squint if you stared for just a second too long. Her small body was perpetually tense and alert, and yet there was an undeniable softness to her very existence. She seemed to exhale compassion, breathe the gentle lull of consideration. Everything she did, she did passionately; she let it consume her.

Perhaps that was why they were so in-tune. She consumed him in her love, and for once, he didn't mind terribly to relinquish his control. He was never bored around her.

Whatever the reason was, it was cemented in place: Frederic Avery and Hermione Granger were in love. It was a skinny love, a love that was conveyed through lingering touches and fleeting glances that lasted just a moment longer than necessary, but it was love nonetheless.

And it was a love rattled though resilient. The war took a lot out of them, but they remained standing at the end of it. Somehow.

The world slowly rebuilt itself, and neither one of them had a place to belong anymore, so they returned to the Muggle lady's house, quiet sewing their lips shut, grief weighing them down. They were disconsolate prisoners to the past, and the torments they had seen. Everything they did felt numb, like they weren't really doing it. Only Regulus retained that fresh youthfulness that they had all once thrived on.

It was an evening, peaceful and free, untouched by the cruelties and demands of the world around them, and Hermione sat on the settee, curled into the corner. She had a blanket strewn over her lap, and her eyes were staring but not seeing. Everything was calm; everything but the crackling of the fire.

The grandeur of the house had long since fallen from her fancy, and she no longer regarded the alcoves or pretty cabinet displays with wide eyes. It had become the mundane to her. Hermione didn't even think of the Muggle lady who was currently living in an idyllic seaside cottage in France. Not that often anyway. Though she didn't know why she bothered, the rich old dear was probably living the dream.

Avery appeared in the doorway of the living room. Her eyes blinked, focusing on him, and he brought her a cup of tea. She accepted it gratefully, bringing it close to warm her body up.

He sat beside her. There was space between them, stretching out, chilling them both.

Neither one of them spoke; they simply basked in the serenity that still felt foreign to their tired bodies. Regulus was out someplace. He seemed to be living to the fullest, spreading his wings and pulsing with unbridled electricity to make up for all the years he'd spent locked in Grimmauld Place.

Hermione and Avery could not share in his liberty. They left the house very rarely, often choosing to remain in their designated rooms. Headquarters was still open to her, and all the other members of the Order, though she found that it just reminded her of everything they had endured. Every time she closed her eyes, she was plagued with nightmares, haunted by things that had both happened and not. So, at the soonest opportunity, she had moved out and into this place. She slept better here. Avery, though he'd never said it in so many words, had seemed quite glad for her company. They were going through the same thing. It made sense for them to quietly go through it together.

"It's strange, isn't it?" Hermione asked. Her voice was soft, barely an indentation on the air.

"What is?" Avery replied in a voice just as quiet.

She paused for a moment, then said, "How things are more frigid now the war is over."

He looked at her. "Frigid?"

"Scarier," she amended. "More on edge."

Avery considered this. "Perhaps it's because you're not used to freedom. You know how to survive a war. Life, on the other hand, is very different… it is not so easy to live."

Hermione didn't quite know what to say to that, but she sipped her tea. It was hot, scalding her lips. She ignored the burn and continued drinking.

"You know what else is strange?" Avery said.

She hummed questioningly.

"That we don't have to hide anymore and yet we can't seem to leave the shadows."

Hermione stopped drinking. She looked at him and said, "This isn't the shadows. You should know. We've both been there."

"So you're trying to tell me this is the light?" he demanded, eyebrow raised in slight disregard. "If this is what you stand for, I'd request a different title."

"No," said Hermione. "I'm trying to tell you that this isn't dark. Nowhere near. Not even close."

She reached out and held his hand, breaching the distance between them, and it was more than some thirty centimetres she crossed. Avery's eyes latched onto her. It was so much more.

He realised maybe she was The Light for a reason.

Avery dragged his eyes away, and asked, "Do you think it will ever go back to normal?"

"What?" She stared at him, a small frown knitting her eyebrows together.

Their hands were still lazily interlocked.

Avery swallowed, looking back at her, and repeated, "Do you think it'll ever go back to normal?"

A wry smile curled her lips. "I don't think you could really call it normal."

"How it was meant to be then," he explained. There was something vulnerable about the urgency in his voice.

Hermione just stared at him. "This is how it's meant to be," she said softly.

And Avery gave her one of those rare smiles; the type that fluttered her stomach and made the room that much brighter.


December 1981

It wasn't always like this; that skinny love didn't always present itself in the most obvious of ways, nor the easiest.

But it was there in the nights they both woke up screaming, writhing in the darkness, tangled in the grip of their bed sheets and memories. Hermione had cast a silencing charm around her room, but that didn't stop him from knocking at her door one night. She was sat up in bed, throat torn and hurting, heart racing in her chest.

It had taken her a few seconds before she was able to call, "Come in."

Avery opened the door gently, standing in the doorway. He had bags under his eyes, dark hollows, and from the look of him, she assumed he hadn't gotten much sleep either. She didn't know how he had heard her through the silencing charm, if he had at all, but she was glad for him; she soaked the sight of him up.

Hermione held out her hand, and he walked over to her. Their fingers grasped the others, linking them, interweaving their souls. He climbed into bed beside her, and she pressed herself as close as she possibly could into his warmth. His heart beat steadily against her ear.

"How much sleep have you gotten?" he asked her.

She whispered, "Not much. You?"

Avery paused for a moment, and she felt his throat bob. "I haven't slept since the war ended," he murmured honestly, his free hand playing with her hair.

"Me neither," Hermione replied, matching the vulnerability of his voice.

"I keep seeing him fall to the floor," Avery said. There was nothing else in the air, just his words and their stolen, shared breaths. "Every time I close my eyes. And I imagine that he's not dead, that he survived it somehow. That he's coming for us."

"He's not," said Hermione immediately. She couldn't look at him, but held him tighter. His hand stopped at the base of her neck. "He's gone. For good. We're safe now. The war is over."

"That's what scares me," he whispered.

She finally looked at him, sitting up a little to take in the blank smoothness of his indecipherable face. He always looked cold, like art frozen in stone.

"What do you mean?"

Avery kept his eyes firmly on the ceiling. His eyelashes were so long they cast shadows.

"I mean, I did bad things. I did really bad things. I did some stuff that I could never tell anyone about, not even you... I did things that keep me up at night, because closing my eyes makes me relive them, and I'd rather die than have to do them all again..." He paused for a moment, trailing off. He seemed to regain his track of thoughts for he continued soon after. "But I was in a war. That was my excuse..." His voice dropped to a whisper, so frightened it was almost inaudible. "I don't have an excuse anymore. What if those things are really me? What if I do more bad things, and there's nothing to stop me? What if that's who I am-?"

He broke off, and the look on his face made Hermione's stomach twist. She swallowed, shaking her head slightly. Her smile was constricted.

"Of course that's not you-"

"How do you know?" He demanded, finally looking at her. His eyes were oddly bright in the darkness of the room.

Hermione stared at him. "Because this heart is who you are. This one, right here." She pressed her hand against his chest, framing his heart as though she was trying to protect it, or steal it away. "And it's a good one. It's a loving one. It's not the heart of a monster."

Avery watched her, frozen in place. Eventually, he whispered, "You can love a monster. It can even love you back. But that doesn't change its nature."

"But that's where you're wrong," Hermione whispered back. His eyes clung to her, desperation prolonging every second. The truth set him free. "It changes everything."


January 1982

The New Year's Eve party was a night exploding with laughter and cherished recklessness. Life became that much tenderer once you saw the end of it, and that had never been truer than in this instance.

The Order danced and sang at the top of their voices; they grinned and let go because one day, they wouldn't have the chance to. It was a night of freedom, of stepping away from the shackles of the war and embracing the future for what it was: fresh, promised and there in front of them; ripe for the taking.

Avery, though he'd agreed to come when Hermione had asked him, stood by the window of Godric's Hollow's living room, thoroughly unimpressed. He had a drink in hand, though he'd yet to try it. His dark eyes roved over the throng of people swaying to the sound of the music (Celestina Warbeck was on- Salazar knew whose horrifying taste this was), but they kept straying back to one in particular.

Hermione was dancing in the middle of the room, with Marlene. She had her arms up in the air, and a sweet blush to her cheeks. She kept laughing, bubbles of euphoria tripping over her lips.

She glanced over, catching him looking, and beamed at him, and the gesture made her eyes light up. Avery swallowed.

"You still get nervous seeing her?" asked James, coming to stand beside him.

Avery's jaw clenched, and he seemed to straighten up. Despite the fact that they had fought in a war together, and James made the effort at every possible opportunity, the ice between them still had yet to thaw. Sirius didn't even try. There was an entire glacier between those two.

Even so, Avery replied stiffly, "Of course. I never know if she's going to strangle me or write me poetry."

"She wrote you poetry?" James asked in surprise.

Avery's face tightened. "I was speaking figuratively…"

James considered this for a moment, nodding. He asked, after a slight pause, "Was the poetry good?"

The scowl knitting his eyebrows together was his only answer, and James took this as the cue to stop pressing. A small smile curled his lips, however, for he knew that, though Avery acted like he detested them all, there was the semblance of fondness in his blank face.

"I wouldn't have put Hermione down as a poetry kind of girl," he replied lightly.

Avery inhaled deeply. He said, in that cool voice that never had so much as a crack in it, "No. For good reason too. She rhymed angelic with astrophysics."

James looked at him, surprise making his features soft and his eyes crinkled at Avery's lame attempt at a joke. It seemed the ice was melting after all.

Hermione bounced over to them, hair electrified with the spike of Firewhiskey. "Do my eyes deceive me?" she cried, though she was smiling. "Or are you two chatting amicably?"

Avery rolled his eyes. James grinned, his ears tinged pink.

"We're bonding over a shared opinion," began James.

"Yeah," agreed Avery. "We both find you painstakingly embarrassing."

Hermione scowled at the pair of them but completely ignored this statement and decided to drape herself over his back, wrapping her arms around his neck, chin propped on his shoulder. Avery pulled a face, though made no move to shrug her off. She smiled victoriously.

"You both love me though," she said, voice smug.

James' face softened into a smile. "Of course."

Hermione looked at Avery. He raised his eyebrow. "You're alright, I guess."

"Charming!" she exclaimed.

She began to disentangle herself from him, but he caught her arm and held her in place. Hermione's smile was tender. She pressed a kiss to his pulse.

James watched them, something twinkling in the mellowness of his hazel eyes. He said, "Yeah. I think he does."

When they both looked at him, he simply raised his glass in mock-toast, before leaving to wrap his arms around Lily. Avery looked at her, and she just smiled. He pulled her round so she was tucked against his side.

They stood by the window, watching the party, though minds whirring with something else, something much bigger.

Hermione turned to him abruptly, eyes tracing the floor. "I love you both too."

She dared to glance at his face. Avery was staring at her, eyes unbelievably soft and he pulled her closer to his side. Hermione leaned into him.

His eyes narrowed when they caught sight of Sirius, who was dancing round the house, utterly lost in the euphoria of a survivor. He was singing at the top of his voice, and casually kissing anyone who looked at him.

"I still don't like him," said Avery.

Hermione thwacked him.

"Stop taking pride in being an arsehole," she said dismissively and she missed the way Avery's eyebrows raised. "It's boring. You're not intimidating anyone."

"Not even you?" He asked. She looked at him as though he'd just told her a very bad joke, and she was waiting for the punchline to end.

Hermione said, "Especially not me."

Avery moved his lips close to her ear, his dark eyes steady and boring into her. He murmured, "Then why have you got goosebumps, darling?"

She stared at him, and Hermione wished that he wasn't right but her skin had erupted in goosebumps at his closeness. Instead of replying, she scowled and rubbed her arms.

Avery huffed a laugh.

"It's cold!" she said defensively.

"Oh, I'm sure."

She was saved from embarrassment as the countdown to New Year started; it was loud and explosive, and their slurred shouts echoed around the house. They dominated the world.


Hermione looked up at Avery. His dark eyes were cast out at the crowd.


He looked at her.


His head ducked down, and he pressed a long but sweet kiss to her lips. It left her breathless. There was nothing urgent about it; it was lazy and content, like they had all the time left in the world.

When he pulled back, their faces remained close together. Every breath was shared, kissing her cheeks and existing inside the stolen space between them.

"Happy New Year," he whispered.

Hermione stood on her tiptoes, pressing another chaste kiss to his swollen lips. She held his face in her hands, feeling the way his jaw clenched, and his eyes fluttered closed.

"Happy New Year," she smiled.


March 1982

Avery sat at the dining room table. His eyes were glued to the paper laid out in front of him, his face was impassive.

Hermione entered the room, rubbing her eyes, immediately flicking the kettle on to sate her tea desire. She leaned against the countertop.

"Good morning," she smiled.

He didn't reply. He didn't even look at her.

Hermione frowned. "Freddie?"

His head shot up suddenly and he said, "My father's trial is today."

She felt herself falter, and the empty mug she had just retrieved from the cupboard nearly slipped from her grasp.


His eyes lingered on the picture of his father, before he flipped the page. "And Rosier got sentenced last week. Life. Minimum 45 years if he behaves. But I doubt it. That boy couldn't even behave in school."

Hermione averted her eyes when he glanced up at her, turning around as the kettle whistled. She made her tea, and the sound of the spoon clinking against the mug echoed deafeningly around the kitchen.

When she was finished, she turned back around and noticed Avery watching her. Hermione swallowed.

"Snape got let off easy," he continued, never once looking away. "Dumbledore vouched for him." His smile was tight. "Lucius wasn't so lucky."

She held his gaze for a few moments longer before she took a sip of her tea. Avery scoffed, his taut smile turning bitter. "Is that it?"

"What do you want me to say?" Hermione asked quietly.

"Something!" he demanded. "The only reason I'm not rotting in a cell with them is because of you!"

"Then perhaps you should be thanking me, instead of biting my head off," she replied coolly.

Avery's face was cold and hard. "Perhaps."

She stared at him, jaw clenched, eyes burning. "I feel like, for whatever reason, you're trying to retain your superiority."

His eyes narrowed. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

"It means you still cling to the idea that you're better than everyone else!" Hermione explained heatedly.

He regarded her for a moment. His tongue flicked out to wet his lips.

"You know that's not true," he said in a low voice.

"Do I?" she demanded, incredulity making her sound like she'd lost her mind.

Avery sighed deeply. "Maybe I miss the society," he began. "Maybe I miss my mother and father, and all my friends, and everyone who was a part of my life before they got sent to Azkaban to have their soul sucked out. Before-!"

His words increased in volume and vigour, before he cut off. Hermione felt the unspoken word linger in the air between them.

-before you.

"It's not my fault they picked the wrong side," she said, folding her arms across her chest, watching him carefully.

"No," Avery agreed. He was seething, in that reserved terrifying way he got when the anger poisoned him. "But it is your fault they're behind bars."

"Then maybe you should've let Voldemort kill me!" Hermione said loudly, anger finally getting the better of her.

Avery's eyes flashed. "Maybe I should've!"

She felt the cold seep through her, and the breath lodged in her throat. She stepped back as though he'd struck her.

Avery's face dropped, and his lips moved to grapple for the words, trying desperately to take them back because no part of him meant them. They were throwaway fragments of his frustration, shards that had bubbled up and pierced her skin before he had time to stop them. The regret pounded through his body, infected the lines of his face.

"Hermione," he began, clambering to his feet, moving towards her. He reached out, but she ripped her hand away.

"I-" she started, then swallowed. She didn't look at him. "I forgot. I was meant to be meeting Sirius."

Avery's head dropped to the side, and her name cracked on his tongue, "Hermione-"

She apparated before he could get to her, leaving him standing in the room, alone. The cup of tea she had been holding shattered on the floor, spilling into a puddle. His eyes closed. A ragged sigh slipped from his lips. Everything felt heavy.

It was difficult, trying to survive as though you were part of the winning side. How was he supposed to explain to her that Lucius had been there for him in a time when everyone else acted like he was invisible? How was he meant to tell her about the time his father had taught him to read, and they'd both spent the entire day laughing because he couldn't, for the life of him, pronounce Herbology right? How was he supposed to explain that the people she was sending down were his friends, his family? That, apart from them, he had no one else left in this world.

Avery screwed his eyes shut. It was hard because the winners wrote the history books, and he wasn't part of that winning side. All he'd done for redemption was love a girl so much he'd betray everything for her.

And she couldn't so much as find a flying fuck to give that it was her fault he'd been uprooted and wrenched away from everything he'd once known.

The same hands that had killed so many people had tucked him in at night for ten years. The same blue eyes that had watched Muggles get tortured had regarded him with mirth and companionship. Now, they were rotting in Azkaban, with only their memories of his rancid betrayal to keep them going.

And he was out here, free to walk down the street but shackled to the torment of knowing that he'd condemned them to their fate. He was alone, wallowing in guilt. He was drowning in it.

Avery lashed out, exploding abruptly, kicking the dining table. It made his toes numb and throb painfully but he didn't care. The end of the war was supposed to be the end of suffering. As it turned out, suffering never really ended. Life was just as bad.

When Hermione didn't come back that night, he stayed up until the early hours of the next morning, waiting for her, and all he got was a letter informing him of his mother's descent into illness.

Avery thought life might just be worse.


Hermione apparated into the kitchen four days later.

She felt tired, like her bones were dragging her down, and there was a tightness in her throat. She swallowed to try and dislodge it but it wouldn't budge; her anxiety was suffocating.

The house was quiet, though that may just have been because everything felt magnified. Her footsteps broke the silence, her breathing sounded laboured. Avery was nowhere to be seen.

Sighing, Hermione collapsed in one of the chairs, closing her eyes, holding her face in her hands. Her entire body ached. She'd been staying with Remus and Sirius for the past few nights, and though she hadn't told them what had happened (Sirius would've killed Avery), they seemed to have known that it was something to do with the Slytherin regardless.

He hadn't even tried getting in touch with her, and though she'd come close multiple times, when the other side of the bed felt cold and empty, she'd refrained from writing to him, or coming back home. His words still stung, and their blackness had settled deep within her like a toxin.

Hermione breathed in deeply to try and settle her jangled head. She opened her eyes, and stared. It was only when she blinked that she saw what was in the centre of the table.

They were purple in colour, dainty and small, looking as ethereal and delicate as the magic that had created them. Cyclamens.

Her breath caught in her throat. She wondered whether Avery remembered, even slightly, that those had been the flowers he'd procured to guard Regulus' grave.

"I'm sorry."

Hermione spun round.

He stood in the doorway, looking as tired as she felt. His eyes had dark circles framing them, his face was drawn and pale. Avery was little more than a ghost, fraying on the edges of existing.

The tightness in her throat just got tighter. She didn't say anything.

She watched as he moved closer to her, carefully, slowly, as if he didn't want to scare her away again, or maybe he just didn't have the energy.

"I didn't mean it," Avery said.

"I know," Hermione replied. Though his face was expressionless, she saw the way it dropped. "You're just frustrated. You don't understand why you got to live when all your friends didn't. And now you're lost, battling for happiness in a world where you don't belong. I wonder where I've heard that before."

Avery stared at her. He felt his heart like it was heavy in his chest, and he just wanted to hold her. He recognised the pain in her voice and the forced blankness of her face (though he saw her fury was bubbling underneath- she never had an empty face).

"I'm sorry," he said sincerely.

Hermione looked at him. Her shoulders dropped a little. "I'm sorry too."

"What for?" he asked. "You didn't do anything wrong."

"For making you feel alone. And unworthy." She swallowed thickly, and it held the tears at bay. "For not appreciating the fact that you and I were two very different people before this war. For forgetting that you had a life outside of your role in mine. That was very selfish of me."

"Hermione Granger? Selfish?" Avery replied, his words were light, even if his voice wasn't. "Impossible."

She couldn't help but smile slightly at him.

Her smile faded and they just stared at one another. Every inch of her wanted to go to him, to feel his heart beat steadily in his chest because he was, and always had been, her equilibrium; the only thing that kept her steady.

Hermione stood up, never once taking her eyes off of him. Avery watched her, something flickering in his face; an unsureness as to whether she would hit him or kiss him. He didn't really mind which. He deserved to be hit- his words had been cruel and toxic and he shouldn't have said them. He just wanted her next to him. If it meant he could feel her, he would gladly be punched a thousand times, till his skull cracked open and all that could be felt was her forgiveness and the tangible whisper of her soul.

She stopped in front of him. They were millimetres away, and he could feel every one of her breaths. He heard the way they hitched, and saw the pulse in her jaw that meant she was angry and trying to hide it. He knew her too well not to notice the slight furrow of her eyebrows, and the almost eerie stillness of her chest, and he knew she was hurting because he was hurting too.

And that was why he was so surprised when Hermione stepped closer and wrapped her arms around his waist, burrowing her face into his chest. Avery reached up quickly to hug her back, to hold her, to commit the feel of her love to memory.

"Don't ever leave again," he murmured, and his plea caught in her hair. She knew what he really meant.

I missed you.

"I won't," she promised. He knew what she meant.

I missed you too.


April 1982

Avery's mother was a woman with bright blue eyes, as clear as the sky, and laughter lines that far opposed the strictness of her son's face. Despite this, Hermione could see the resemblance; see the tightness and rigidity of someone who had lived in the shadows of the spotlight; who had once walked footpaths with the Devil himself.

The first time they visited her, Hermione's breath had caught in her throat and Avery had held her closer because the Manor was a place of nightmares now. Though it was a war ground, it was still his mother's house, and it was the place she wanted to die, which was what led to them standing outside her bedroom door on a Monday morning that was as cold and clinical a spring as Avery was. She felt the chill from him.

"Relax," murmured Hermione.

She noticed the extremity of his stiffness only when he tried to loosen up.

"I'm fine," replied Avery.

She looked at him. He stared at the door. "You're trembling."

She hadn't realised but the hand in hers was shaking, ever so slightly, and he untangled their fingers and clenched his fist till his knuckles turned white to try and stop it.

Hermione watched him for a moment longer, before he slipped back into composure and, though she shouldn't be by now, the ease with which he did so surprised her. She reached out to open the door, but he caught her wrist.

"I just- want to warn you," Avery said. "She's not very well. And she- she's what you'd expect a fascist Pureblood wife to be like-"

Hermione interrupted him. "She's your mother. She can't be all that bad if she managed to raise someone like you."

He stared at her, his eyes boring into hers, before he moved his hand to where her fingers were still holding the handle and opened the door.


His mother's voice was soft and awed when they entered, eyes catching on her son and lingering there, like she couldn't quite believe he was standing in front of her, tangible meteor of bounding heart and rushing blood.

Avery's smile was small and weak. "Hello mother."

He moved to sit in the chair by her bed, taking her hand when she held it out. She pulled him into a tight embrace, and Hermione saw the way he clutched his mother like she was his lifeline.

His mother opened her eyes, and her smile softened when she saw Hermione standing in the doorway. She patted Avery's shoulder and he leaned back.

"You must be Hermione," she said.

Hermione swallowed, stepping closer and offering her hand. "Yes. It's a pleasure to meet you."

But Mrs Avery brushed her hand away, pulling her close. Her arms were warm and strong for such an ill woman, and Hermione momentarily felt the rush of remembrance. She had not been held by a mother for a long time.

When they separated, Mrs Avery turned to her son and said, "Will you read to me?"

Avery stared at her. "Of course. What would you prefer?"

"Surprise me," she smiled.

His reluctance was only evident by the way he did not move straight away, and his eyes flicked back at them before he disappeared from the room. They were left alone together.

"He's fond of you, you know," his mother said suddenly, breaking the silence. Hermione only stared at her, feeling heat rush to her cheeks. "I haven't seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you."

She didn't reply, though his mother was not concerned because she continued softly, almost wistfully, staring at the slit in the curtains, where the light sifted in from the sky, "Like a blind man seeing the sun."

Hermione's smile was watery and breathless, and she reached over and held his mother's cold hand in hers. "It's a privilege to love him, isn't it?" she said.

His mother squeezed her hand and she looked at her, into her. "And it's a privilege to be loved by him." Hermione looked at her. His mother said, "It's a warmth. That starts here." She lifted a bony finger and held it at Hermione's chest. "And spreads outward until you feel like you might be consumed, and you feel safe. Like you could live a life and die fulfilled at the end of it."

Avery walked in on them then, holding a collection of books in his hand. He paused when he saw how close they were. His mother didn't miss a beat.

"Ah, Bronte? How did you know?"

The visits usually went like this: they would turn up; his mother would hug them; Avery often read to her or they sat in content quiet, savouring the serenity.

"I'm grateful you came," his mother told him one day, interrupting him mid-sentence.

Avery paused, eyes lingering on the words on the page before they flitted to look at her face. He didn't say anything, just swallowed and continued reading.

He spoke quietly, if at all, to her, often resolving to sitting at her bedside and taking her hand when she reached for him. Hermione found their eyes often met when this happened, and Avery would out-stare her, forcing her to look away.

It was as though, even when his mother was on her deathbed, this blatant display of human emotion was too much, like he had to silently warn her not to tell anyone his capacity stretched to grief.

His mother was many things, though a fascist she was not, though perhaps that was simply because malady had wrung her of her supremacy and left her little more than a breathing corpse, who could only smile, sleep and listen to the books her son read to her. Hermione found she was a rather cultured woman, who bore the sparkle of wisdom in her impossibly bright eyes and spoke with an air that suggested she knew something you didn't and was uncontainable with her thrill at the fact. Nevertheless, she quite liked Avery's mother and that was only partially attributable to the stories from his childhood she shared with her, much to her son's chagrin. Neither one of them spoke of their conversation, though Hermione realised that they both looked at Avery the same; like he was a star they were both wishing on.

It was one day, when the sun was sinking beneath the edge of the garden wall, and Hermione was curled up on a little armchair by the window, sleeping because they had been there for hours, that his mother turned to him.

She put her hand on the book, lowering it, and Avery stopped speaking, and looked at her. His mother tapped her lips, motioning to where Hermione slept, and when Avery's eyes snagged on the chair by the window, she reached up and held his cheek so he would focus on her.

"I thought I'd only ever see you on the front of the papers," his mother whispered. Her eyes traced over every line of his face, every individual eyelash and shadow, as though she would never get to see him again. "I thought I'd have to watch you grow up in ink."

Avery's throat tightened, and he simply stared at her. There was a guarded vulnerability to him, to the stillness of his chest.

"We forced a lot on you," she said, her face taut and pursed. Her eyes were wet with tears. She was nodding slightly. "A lot of bad. But you found your own little bit of goodness. Don't let anyone take that away from you."

He looked away because he hadn't cried since he was ten years old and his falcon flew straight into the manor wall and snapped its neck, but his eyes stung now. His mother, the woman who had loved him and stroked down his hair and kissed him goodnight every time he fell asleep, was dying, and there was nothing, no magic or prayer, that could bring her back. There was nothing he could do to save her. He had never felt so powerless.

His mother brushed his hair back, smoothing the crease of his frown, and Avery forced himself to look at her. She was still crying, silently, because for her entire life, she'd had to be silent and it seemed she would not break the delicacy, not even in death. He wrapped his arms around her, grasping her tightly, holding on.

His mother patted his back, smoothing circles by his shoulder blades, drawing wings, and Avery climbed onto the bed beside her, curling up like he used to when his father was out and he'd had a bad nightmare, when the blackness had groped from every corner, clawing at him. She had always held him close and shielded him. She had always fought away the monsters after him.

He hoped, as he curled up by her side, clutching her to him as the warmth drained from her, that she had fought away the monster within him. It had to be enough now because soon there would be nothing.


May 1982

His mother died and there were only three people at her funeral, standing together in the drizzle, because everyone else was either incarcerated or dead. Hermione held his hand tightly, monitoring him because Avery had a tendency to shut down on the world, and when she'd promised not to leave him, she'd meant it. She wouldn't go where he could not follow. She'd done it once before, and his screams still haunted her-

"Come back… Come back-!"

Hermione blinked and the past fell away. That promise was mutual- he could not shut down on her, he couldn't leave her. Not now. She squeezed his hand, feeling relief when he squeezed hers back.

Regulus stood on Avery's other side, and he lifted his wand. Small, red roses began to grow, dancing along the grave; colour in the dying winter's black and grey.

They all stood silently, staring at the flowers.

"Thank you both for coming," Avery said.

Hermione held his hand tighter, standing as close to him as she could, so he could feel the warmth of her body, pulsing next to him, reminding him there was still warmth in the world even though everything was cold and frozen at the moment. Regulus rested his head on Avery's arm.

Neither one of them had known his mother fully, but they knew the son her love had helped forge, and for that, they were graciously and eternally indebted to her, because they loved him too.


October 1982

The morning sunlight sifted through the curtains, and Hermione groaned, throwing an arm over her eyes in an attempt to steal a few more seconds of sleep. It was early. She could tell because every bone in her body felt heavy still, and the world was jilted because she had been wrenched from her dream too soon.

The other side of the bed was cold, and her hand stretched out, reaching for him but Avery wasn't lying beside her. Hermione sat up.

He was sitting on the side of the bed and the light danced on his bare back. She moved to kneel behind him, resting her head against his shoulder. He was cool, and her lips were searing as they pressed a kiss to his skin.

She nuzzled into his throat. "Having trouble sleeping?"

"Mm," he hummed. "You?"

She didn't answer.

"You know what day it is?" she whispered.

Avery exhaled deeply. "Yes."

"It's been a year," said Hermione. She kissed his neck again, gently.

"Already?" he murmured, running a hand down his face. He sounded tired.

"I know."

It seemed that in all their whirlwind freedom, they had let time slip through their fingers.

The war had finished a year ago today.

They sat in silence for a few moments more. Her chin was propped up on his shoulder. She muttered, "I want to honour them."

Avery didn't ask who. They didn't wait around for much longer. There was a restlessness to them, a sense of unease, like they knew they weren't supposed to be here, like they were aware of their stolen time. As soon as they'd eaten, Hermione had offered him her hand and, without hesitation, Avery had taken it. She apparated them straight away.

She hadn't seen the hill in so long, and the sky seemed to smile down on them. It was bright and fresh for October, and Hermione inhaled the thrum of life, gulping it down. The wind was sweet, picking up and twirling through her hair, playing dot to dot with the ghostlike freckles on her cheeks.

Avery looked around. There was a slight frown on his face. "I feel like I've been here before."

Hermione smiled slightly. She held out her hand, interlocking their fingers when he came to stand by her side.

She stared down at the little patch of dirt by her feet. It was unbroken. Unearthed. No grave was marked out for a lost boy on a trip to a star, second on the right and straight on till morning. Even so, Hermione dropped to her knees, taking out her wand and conjured eight yellow roses, which twined around one another, reaching for the sun.

She stared at them. They symbolised so much more than flowers fighting for the light. They symbolised the life of eight people who had died in another time, who had sacrificed everything they held dear, all their hope and dreams and love, for a better world. The same better world they thrived in now. Though it had happened in a time that ceased to exist, the agony ripped through her again. Her throat ached from the memory of screaming until it was raw and she couldn't speak. Grief consumed her.

"It's raining," Avery said, eyes tracing the clouds, blinking as raindrops snagged in his eyelashes.

Hermione shook her head, wiping at her face. "That's the sky crying for us."

"Is it sad?" he asked.

She smiled. "No. Hopeful."

When she climbed to her feet, brushing the dirt from her knees, she noticed Avery was watching her. Hermione couldn't help but stare at him.

He was so painfully beautiful, yet she knew his soul had been sculptured from pain and fear. His dark eyes bored into her, deep and resonating and she felt her breath trickle from her lips. To the bystander, Avery was just another statue in God's labyrinth of creation but to her... Well, he was everything. He was the vine that pirouetted round flowers and the incendiary collision of waves against the rocks; he was all of life's heartache and power melded into a living being. He was everything that made the world turn.

"Close your eyes," she said suddenly.

Avery frowned at her. "What?"

She sighed impatiently, repeating, "Just close your eyes."

He stared at her for just a few more seconds before he raised his eyebrows, exhaling deeply, and closed his eyes. Hermione swallowed, stepping closer to him, taking his hand.

"Keep them shut," she whispered, when his face creased.

"Hermione, what-?"

"I want to say all the things I've been afraid to say," she began quietly, "ever since I met you."

She saw his throat bob, though he kept his lips sealed. She took this as the sign to continue.

"From the moment I saw you, I knew you were dark," said Hermione after a breath. "But you stared at me, with this… this curiosity, like you saw right through me. You never treated me like a child, or a victim. You treated me like someone who you knew could kick your arse-"

"That's because you could kick my arse," Avery murmured.

"Can," she corrected. "I can kick your arse."

He smirked but before he could say anything more, Hermione continued, "Everyone acted like I was going to break. Like I was a vase with cracks in that would shatter at any minute. You didn't. You just- you just saw me for me. And I can't thank you enough for that. I respected that. Grudgingly, I'll admit, I respected you. And then, you kept pushing. You were always there. Always interrupting, always getting in my way. It irked me to no end. You're incredibly vexing, I hope you know that."

"I try my best."

"Try your best to shut up then," she replied, holding his lips. He smiled regardless.

"And then you sent me that dress. That damned dress! And I- I knew it was you. I knew you were the vessel and I just- I just couldn't. I lied to Dumbledore for you. We hardly knew each other and yet I knew you enough to know that you were worth saving… I wanted to save you."

Her voice dropped to little more than a whisper, and her hands on his face turned soft and featherlike. "Then it all changed… You bled out in my lap… And I couldn't do anything but hold you. You said I should've let you fall then, because you were a monster. Do you remember?"

By the strain of his face, Hermione guessed he did.

"I forgave you then- of course I did. I forgave you for everything, even though you didn't forgive yourself… and you asked me to stay. Like I would ever leave."

The silence kissed them, languidly, softly.

Avery swallowed, then muttered, "Are you finished? You're making me blush."

Though he was teasing, the pink tinge of his otherwise pale cheeks gave him away. Hermione grinned and replied lightly, "Not yet. Though I can save you the embarrassment. Do you want me to leave?"

Something trickled across his perfect, expressionless face. He turned his head, and his lips brushed her palm, heating her veins. His eyes were still closed.

"Not yet," he whispered. "Not ever."


April 1983

They stared at the Manor, squinting up at the turrets piercing the sky, and the glare of the windows. It was undoubtedly a beautiful house; red brick which simmered in the sun, and white trim. There was something odd about its face, however, something dark behind the heavy drapes. Even if it hadn't witnessed the destruction of evil, Hermione would have shivered at the sight of it.

Nonetheless, Hermione had to ask, "Are you sure?"

He was staring at the house with empty eyes, and she knew him deeply enough to recognise his silence as one of grief. They had not stepped foot on the grounds since a year ago.

She swallowed, continuing gently, "This is your home after all-"

"It's not my home," Avery interrupted. "It's the building I grew up in. You're my home."

She looked at him, rendered momentarily speechless. She couldn't help but smile.

"Let's destroy it then," said Hermione, eyes sparkling. "This could be a good outlet for you to get rid of all those passive-aggressive spoilt childhood issues."

He raised an eyebrow at her, then looked back at the house.

"I don't have passive aggressive issues," Avery told her.

"Childhood issues," she corrected. "Spoilt childhood issues, in fact."

This didn't sit any better with him and his eyes narrowed slightly. She could only grin.

It had been his decision to demolish the Manor. They had been entwined, lying together in the darkness. His fingers had stroked her spine, his breath tickling the curls of her hair when he whispered, "Why don't we move out?"

Hermione laughed, but she decided to indulge him, turning over to face him. "Where would we go?"

"The Manor."

The smile on her face faded, and she swallowed tightly. Avery was still drawing patterns on her back, and he noticed the change in her demeanour for he said, "We could knock it down. Create our own place, our own somewhere, with a pond and a library the size of London. We could make it ours."

Hermione traced the curves of his lips with her thumb. "What's wrong with here?"

As if on cue, there was a noise from downstairs as something shattered and a consequent, mumbled, "Shit."

She dropped her head against Avery's chest, muffling her amusement at their housemate. "Ah. Regulus. Point taken."

"Besides," he continued, and he tipped her head back, brushing her hair away so he could look at her face. "I want our own somewhere."

Their own somewhere, as it turned out, was to be built from rubble and ashes, from the ground up. It was their own little Phoenix, constructed from magic, with life breathed into its white, ivy kissed walls and a humble grandeur which sat somewhere between his extravagance and her own simplicity.

The library, as promised, was grand and impressive, and the bookcases wore the ceiling as a crown. Avery had taken it upon himself to make, crafting it with the pulse of his hands and the stick he brandished, and he waited until her birthday, when he'd covered her eyes (impatiently shushing her protests), and led her into the room with decided delicacy.

When he moved his hands away, he whispered, "Welcome home."

Hermione's first reaction had been one of quiet awe; when her breath had skilfully evaded her parted lips. Her eyes kissed every inch of the place, taking in every book, faltering at every shelf. It was only as she'd walked down the centre aisle, fingers brushing the spines of ancient tombs, caressing peeling gold lettering and well-worn pages, that her breath returned to her.

She came suddenly to a stop.

There, already propped up in an alcove set deep into a large window, was the purple felt and golden twinkle of Peter Pan.

"Do you like it?" asked Avery.

Hermione looked at him. For some reason, though she couldn't exactly pinpoint why, she was crying.

"It's magical," she whispered because she could not manage anything louder.

And it was.

Every golden picture frame was matched by a rustic antique: a broken clock Hermione had charmed to work exactly like the Weasley's; the leather armchair Avery had stolen, much to Regulus' chagrin, from their old place of residence; a globe with all the Wizarding towns in the world on it. Hermione liked this the most; she liked to walk her fingers over the mountains of Europe and wonder how strange it was that dragons soared at their peaks.

"It's our own little somewhere," Avery replied. "It's home."

Hermione shook her head, smiling at him. "You're home," she said.


December 1983

She woke up, and for some reason, one she could not fathom, there was a childlike excitement thrumming in her veins. Hermione had long since exhausted the idea of Christmas, and yet she woke up early, before the sun had touched the snow-snug ground. She rolled over so her nose was touching Avery's, and he frowned slightly in his sleep.

"Freddie," she whispered.

He groaned, shifting.



"Are you awake?" she asked.

Avery's eyes cracked open and he glared groggily at her.

"You just woke me up. What do you think?"

Hermione pressed her lips against his, and when she pulled back, she said, grinning, "Merry Christmas!"

Fairy lights hung from the alcoves of the living room, twisting round lamps and dangling down from the ceiling. They cradled the room in a soft glow, kissing the leather chairs, coaxing the fire, which crackled and leapt in the hearth, before joining to dance around the tree in the corner.

They'd made a day of decorating that tree; charming bells to tinkle and trains to whistle as they chugged past the needles, whizzing through the air.

Hermione remembered the way the toy soldiers had followed her around, marching in a line at her heel, and attacking Avery every time he got too close. He had fixed them with a nasty glare, grumbling about something or other, as she'd laughed at him.

She dragged him down the stairs, hand clutching his tightly, hair billowing out behind her. It was matted and knotted. She could barely pause to brush it.

They sat on the living room floor in front of the fire, which crackled merrily and contentedly, bathing them in a warm, soft glow. Cups of tea grew cold by their feet, as they stared at one another. Then, they eyed the presents sitting in front of them and similar smirks curled their lips.

"How shocking," remarked Avery, regarding the red present, wrapped in golden thread, with his name on.

Hermione raised an eyebrow at the green box before her, encased in silver ribbon. "Indeed."

"It appears we haven't really changed at all."

Though he said it plainly, their eyes met and they both knew that they had changed more than they could ever dare to voice.

"You go first," said Avery, casting his dark eyes on the present in question wearily. "I fear the consequences should we leave it any longer."

Hermione's perturbed glance delayed them for only a second.

With hesitant hands, she slid the box closer to her, pausing once more when she heard something hiss inside.

"Oh dear God, Avery, what have you done?" she whispered, and his deep chuckle surprised her immensely. It did nothing to quash her worry. In fact, it probably doubled it.

Chewing her bottom lip, Hermione slipped the silver ribbon off and lifted the lid. Her mouth dropped open.

The creature craned its head back to observe her, and she felt a giddy laugh bubble from her lips as it flapped its wings and chirped vivaciously. It looked like some sort of mystical hybrid between a snake and a bird, and the feathers seemed deceptively like scales, glinting in the twinkling fairy lights. Its body was both blue and green, and the colours twirled around one another, merging with the yellow tint of the firelight and the purple plumage of its feathery tail.

"Are these legal?" she breathed, reaching into the box to drag her knuckle down the blue plumes of the Occamy. It preened under her touch, feathers fluttering.

Avery shrugged. "Most likely not."

Hermione shot him a glare.

"When have I ever let the intricacies of the law stop me from giving you what you deserve?" he asked without concern. She found she couldn't look away from him.

"And what's that?"

"Everything," said Avery simply.

Hermione felt her cheeks grow hot, and she ducked her head to refocus on the beast, which had curled around her hand, nuzzling into the quickening pulse of her wrist. For its serpentine appearance, she was surprised to find it smooth and soft, like caressing the tufts of a dandelion. Despite the Occamy's fragility, she was acutely aware of its danger, never more so than when it nipped her palm with its razor sharp beak, causing her to cry out and extract her hand quickly.

She sucked on the cut, hoping to stop the bleeding.

It was odd- she had almost forgotten the sight of blood. It had been so long.

"It reminded me of you," said Avery, and his eyes had not left her face. Hermione frowned at him, unsure whether to be flattered or defensive. "Beautiful but deadly. An innocent flower, and the snake beneath it-"

"Is that what you decided on?" she questioned instead. "That I'm not one nor the other, but both?"

He let out a short, derisive laugh. "Believe me, Granger, I know how it sounds… But I find that when it comes to you, you're a walking contradiction. Being with you is like seeing the sun in the middle of the night, and wondering whether I should wear sunglasses."

Hermione couldn't help but laugh at his dry tone, and she reached back into the box to scratch the Occamy's neck. It leaned into her, like a cat might, and she felt a rush of tender remembrance for Crookshanks. Vaguely, she wondered what happened to her ginger companion.

"Does he have a name?" she asked.

Avery shook his head. "I thought you'd like to do the honours."

She considered the creature for a moment or two, then said, "What about Box?"

The curl of his lip, and slight raise of his eyebrow, suggested his answer was not one she wanted to hear. But ultimately, it was her pet, and her decision so he kept quiet.

What Hermione didn't tell him was that the green ribbon reminded her of another box, gifted to her long ago. That box, on the contrary, had not held a magical creature but a dress, the golden colour of the firelight flickering across Avery's skin.

It also contained a note.

'I don't want to fall either.'

And despite the darkness she had witnessed, he was a beacon of light and she knew he hadn't fallen. He was never even close. Every time he felt his feet slip, he was just flying amongst the stars.

"Thank you," said Hermione sincerely.

All at once, Avery appeared embarrassed, and he averted her gaze and shrugged. "You're welcome."

He reached for his present, and she was suddenly overcome with bashfulness though she didn't know why. Hermione watched him under her lashes, absently stroking Box, and she felt her heart stop when he lifted the lid and froze.

Avery picked the book up, and laid it across his knees. The front page gave nothing away (black, leather-bound- it was simple, she thought he'd prefer it), but he seemed to know what it was anyway, for he stole a breath as he opened it.

There were pictures, both magical and Muggle, tacked to the parchment: there was a photograph of him as a baby, chasing a little conjured dragon around a grand front room; and another of who she now knew were his parents, standing formally in front of the very house she and Avery had knocked down and now sat in the phoenix of. If you let your eyes linger, the stiffness of the posture melted and their austere countenance gave way to laughter and tender smiles after the initial flash. Hermione saw Avery pause at this, thumb brushing the faces of his childhood.

Beside this photograph was a note, signed off by his mother, addressed to a young and troublesome Frederic, telling him his father didn't mean what he said, and of course he still loved him. Hermione wondered what had happened for this note to exist, and by the way the corners of Avery's lips dipped in a frown, she suspected it was something that haunted him still.

There were old birthday cards and letters from Lucius Malfoy that seemed to be written in some gobbledegook language Hermione couldn't fathom (though she tried)- perhaps some code they had concocted to avoid getting intercepted by meddling parents.

The next few pages were dedicated to his Hogwarts years. She had been surprised to see that he had kept his Hogwarts letter, however hidden it had been in a charmed drawer of his desk. His Slytherin tie had also been kept and cherished, though it was fraying at the ends when she'd pinned it to the thick parchment.

Hermione had done the scrapbook without magic. It felt like it meant more, that way.

There were moving photos of Avery and Malfoy, laughing on broomsticks, and she didn't think she'd ever seen him that untouched by trouble.

He looked genuinely happy. This was paralleled with an older photograph, curling at the edges from where she'd tried to glue it down, of two chubby toddlers sitting together, playing with levitating toys; the blond of one offset the dark hair of the other.

And then, the photographs became more recent. There were Muggle ones of him and Hermione, more often than not fighting. There was one, Regulus must've taken it, where they were draped across the settee back in the Muggle lady's house, legs tangled together, sleeping soundly. He was in a few of them himself, always smiling like the sun was there to keep him company, throwing his arm around Avery or riding his back, or laughing together.

Avery turned the page, and his fingers stopped before stretching out to feel the creases of the purple cyclamen pressed and glued to the paper, witness to the incendiary turmoil they had been through together.

Another page held a satin bag, filled with the confetti from New Year's, serving as a multi-coloured reminder that they made it. They'd stayed alive long enough to watch the turn of a year they thought they would never get to see.

And then, a picture of his mother, lying on her death bed but beaming toothily at the camera, looking more alive than Avery had seen her look in years. The picture moved and she looked off to the side, laughing. It was beside a single rose.

"I searched your old room before you destroyed it," she said quietly. For some reason, the words left her mouth quickly and nervously, a ramble of an explanation. She watched his face, as his thumb traced over the photographs. "I know you're not exactly a sentimentalist and really, you border on being a sociopath, but I figure you must have some happy memories. I just salvaged what I could and made this. I thought you'd like it... I hope you like it-"

"I love you," said Avery.

He was staring at her. Hermione trailed off mid-sentence, mouth still gaping.


"I love you," he repeated.

She swallowed thickly.

"I love you too," she replied. She shook her head slightly to clear it, and added, "I'm sorry. Does this mean you like it-?"

Avery's face split into a grin and he laughed. "Yes. Yes, I like it. Thank you."

Hermione still stared at him. "You're welcome."

His grin was not something that she saw often, but the way it stretched his lips, lighting his eyes and breaking through the stony exterior he usually wore was like the sun stealing through a crack in a storm.

She found it difficult not to stare. His happiness was blinding.

Avery leaned forward to cup the back of her head and kiss her. His lips were soft, and she could feel his gratitude, his love, pour from his body. There were no fireworks this time, but sparklers behind her eyelids, spelling out things she had pondered on but never dared to voice. She loved him. Hermione Granger loved Frederic Avery.

The moment was rudely interrupted by something that ricocheted its way down their chimney, skirting the flames of the fire with decided caution and whizzing through the air to whack Avery in the face. He recoiled backwards, grabbing the object in offence.

Hermione frowned. It looked to be a card.

"What is this?" he asked in disgust, holding the piece of parchment up to view it more clearly.

The card was framed with artfully decorated holly and mistletoe, but the real centre of focus was the photograph in the middle, depicting a scantily dressed Sirius Black, sporting a rather questionable Father Christmas costume. They both could only gape as the photo-Sirius did a little twirl to face them, reaching up seductively to pull the ribbon belt of the garment, which fell open-

"No!" announced Avery abruptly, throwing the card away. His eyes were wide, features contorted in horror.

Hermione took one look at his face and burst out laughing; she laughed so hard she was forced to clutch her stomach. Avery merely scowled at her.

When she finally managed to stifle her amusement, she said, "I wanted to see how it ended!"

"I will forever have that image burnt onto my retinas," he said calmly. "What the actual fuck is wrong with your friends?"

Hermione threw her arms around him, still laughing slightly, and placed a sloppy kiss on his cheek. Avery wiped it off, though did not push her away.

"You should be proud," she told him teasingly. "It looks like he finally deemed you worthy of the Christmas card list."

"Lucky me."


March 1984

"You're going to work yourself to death," she said, stepping into his office.

Avery only spared a moment to glance at her, over the top of glasses he had adamantly announced he didn't need, before his eyes dropped back to his work and his quill resumed its furious scratching.

"You need to stop every once in a while, you know," sighed Hermione. She dropped her bag onto the empty chair in front of his desk.

She honestly couldn't remember how many times those words had left her mouth, nor could she recollect how many times Avery had ignored her.

They had both worked, and worked hard, to get where they were in the Ministry. Avery had decided fairly early on that The Department of Mysteries appealed most, and Hermione had almost laughed at the irony. Of course, he loved mysteries. He loved her, after all.

And yet, though the Ministry had been more than eager to give Hermione the position she desired (as part of the Wizengamot), Avery had had to work harder than anyone in order to prove himself. It seemed his surname remained the shackles of his existence, and she'd seen firsthand the weary expressions the people around him wore, as if he was liable to snap and murder twenty of them in no time at all.

Sirius had barked in laughter at her choice of job, demanding incredulously, "Why on earth would you want to do that?"

"I want to make the world a better place," she'd sniffed.

Hermione had not had the heart nor courage to tell him the real reason.

'I can't let anyone else go without a fair trial. Not after what happened to you.'

Avery's profession, on the other hand, had wrung some rather surprising and grudgingly given respect from the elder Black, though she doubted he cared either way what Sirius thought of him.

In a late conversation, where Sirius kept her company over three cold cups of tea, as they waited for Avery to return home, he'd asked quietly, "Is he always this late?"

She'd tried to sugar-coat it, but the answer dropped from her lips like a stone in water.


"Do you mind?"

Hermione had looked at him then. "No," she said, though she wasn't sure how truthful that was. "He deserves the promotion. How can I mind when he's doing exactly what I would be in that situation?"

Sirius played with the handle of his untouched cup.

"I don't like the guy," he said eventually, ignoring Hermione's scowl. "But even I have to admit that he deserves more."

And there was something in her friend's eye (maybe respect? maybe grievance?) that made Hermione think Sirius felt closer to Avery in that moment than he ever had. They were both black sheep, forever tarnished despite the fact they shone with brilliance.

Now, Hermione saw that brilliance slowly seeping out of him, and he eked it for all it was worth. She moved round to rest her hands on Avery's shoulders, gently rubbing the tense knots she found there. He was like a tight coil of apprehension and fatigue, but she felt him melt under her fingers and eventually, he allowed his quill to falter and droop.

"Why do you do this to yourself?" she murmured.

Avery buried his face in his hands, and Hermione ducked to kiss the back of his head.

"I want to be a good person," he whispered, head muffled by his palms.

Hermione's fingers paused and she knelt down beside him, reaching out to touch his wrist. "You are a good person."

"To you," Avery smirked wryly. It was wired and perhaps not as whole as it could be. He peeked at her from behind his hands.

"Yes," she agreed. "And others. Being a good person isn't about how the world perceives you. They're not your jury; they don't get to decide your verdict. It's how you perceive you. You're the Judge. I think you're a good person but what do you think? Do you really think a bad person would do all this?"

She gestured to all his work, the files that lay scattered across his desk to the ones that were piled high, already completed. Each symbolised hope, a step to a fairer and better world. Avery's eyes didn't stray away from her face.

"You make me good," he said softly.

"No," said Hermione, cupping his cheek and swooping up to press a sweet kiss to his lips. "I remind you you're good. There's a difference."

He regarded her for a moment, before something made his eyes flick away, back to his work which he ghosted over with careful fingers.

"My father wasn't a good man," Avery said quietly. "But not a day goes by that I don't wish he was here. He's a murderer and I miss him. What does that say about me?"

"That you're human," replied Hermione, wrapping her arm around his shoulder, resting her chin in the slope of his neck.

He sighed deeply. "Maybe. Whatever it is, it's tiring."

"Yes," she said dryly. "Being a fully-functioning member of society does that to you."

A wiry smirk curled his lips, making them tilt ever so slightly upwards. Hermione still felt it bothering her though, and she asked uncertainly, "Do you really believe you don't deserve to be here?"

His smirk disappeared. Avery was quiet for a long time before he said, "No. I'm just scared it can be all taken away."

His eyes were unsure and wavering when he looked at her, and she realised that he was working so hard for the same reason she always worked so hard in school. It wasn't that he didn't deserve this, he was just so acutely aware of the fact that things had been wrenched from his grasp before, and who's to say they couldn't be again? After all, nothing was guaranteed in this world. You had to fight for it, and even when you got it, you had to fight harder to keep it.

Hermione swallowed, and she leaned her forehead against his. She knew no words could change how crippling his self-doubt was, but she could love him enough that there was no question whether she agreed.

"I won't let that happen," she told him.

He huffed a laugh, and said, "Somehow, I don't doubt it."

When Hermione pulled back to look at him questioningly, Avery elaborated, "Well, you're you, aren't you? You could stop a storm if you tried hard enough, and the thunder would cower at your feet."

She blushed, shaking her head to try and dispel her pleasure at his sincerity, but he stood by the statement, stacking his papers on his desk and getting to his feet.

Avery offered her his hand and said, "Come on, let's go home."


January 1985

They laid in the meadow despite their better judgement and Avery's grumbling that they would likely freeze to death. Hermione had ignored this, and pointedly stared at him as she'd plopped down on the damp grass, laying back and fighting a shiver as the winter dew soaked her back in seconds.

Avery simply raised an eyebrow before sitting beside her, casting a warming and drying charm on them both. She would pretend this was her plan all along but the victory of having the stubborn Slytherin lying in the middle of a wet meadow in a January as cold and unforgiving as he was, was too sweet and distracting.

His arm was under her head, giving her something comfier than the hard earth, and Hermione wasn't sure whether it was the warming charm or the heat from his pulsing flesh that made her feel tingly and mellow.

There was a tree over their heads, cutting jagged lines in the grey sky, and whilst the leaves were sparse, they twinkled with dew and frost. The grass kissing their skin was wet and cold, and Hermione vaguely thought it looked to be crying, the water collecting on the tip, making it droop and weep. Every time she breathed, the tears would fall and there would seem that moment of hope where the stems would retain their posture and beam at the bleak sky.

"What do you think of marriage?" asked Avery abruptly.

In her sudden alarm, Hermione shot upright, turning to look at him, not realising that he was doing the same, and their heads clashed violently together. She recoiled, mewling in pain, and Avery swore loudly.

"For fuck's sake, Granger," he growled, rubbing his forehead with his free hand. "You really know how to spoil things."

"I just- you surprised me, is all. It's not a question one usually brings up in casual conversation," she added nervously.

Avery glared at her. "Would you rather I approach the subject whilst levitating fifty metres in the air?"

"Well, then you'd just look like an idiot," said Hermione rationally.

He merely scowled at her, as she laid back down across his arm. He remained sitting up, casting his eyes out across the white glade, and she had a feeling it was only to avoid looking at her.

"If you don't like the idea, you could've just said," he told her.

Hermione swallowed, and she didn't know why she felt so uncomfortable. "It's not- I'm not against marriage," she explained, feeling her entire body heat up despite the fact that it was winter and she was only wearing thin clothes. "In fact, I'd quite like to get married someday."


There was only a slight lilt to his voice, informing her he couldn't really care less, though she suspected he was more interested than what he was letting on.

"Yes, if I was… in love with somebody, then of course I'd want to spend the rest of my life with them." She cleared her throat. "And yourself?"

Avery was quiet for a moment, before he replied contemplatively, "I suppose I always assumed I'd marry a Pureblood girl. Something my father would arrange, no doubt."

"And now?" Hermione pressed delicately.

He finally looked down at her, fixed her with a gaze that was as indecipherable as he was, and she wondered what he was thinking behind those dark eyes and long eyelashes. She reached up and held his cheek, just to see if it was as cold as it looked (and it looked like porcelain). He leaned into her touch. She found him burning.

"Now, I'm a little scared," he murmured.

"Frederic Avery? Scared? That's unheard of," teased Hermione breathlessly.

He huffed a laugh. "Exactly. It's completely unknown territory."

They both fell quiet for just a moment.

"Why are you scared?" she whispered. Some dew had fallen and threaded itself through the darkness of his hair. It made him look colder, somehow, but she was more than aware of the heat radiating from his body, warming her through.

"Because I've never been in control of my own life before," said Avery. "What happens if I screw it up?"

"You won't screw it up," she dismissed, retracting her hand and lacing their fingers together, though she couldn't help but remember all the times she'd come close to walking out the door, when he did something or said something, and the nights she'd slept alone because he hadn't come back home.

He shot her a look that clearly said he didn't believe her.

"You know, it's really quite appalling that I have more faith in you than you do," Hermione rolled her eyes, attempting to make light of the situation.

Avery snorted. "No, it's not. You have more faith in everyone than they have in themselves. It's one of your hamartias."

"One of?" she raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, that, and your ability to be absolutely idiotic when it comes to self-sacrificing. You're quite a liability, really," he explained.

Hermione felt her mouth drop open. "If it wasn't for my so-called 'self-sacrificing,' I doubt you'd be here!"

Avery scoffed. "Oh, there's no doubt about it. We'd all be dead in a ditch- me, and your little suicide squad."

"You're incorrigible," she told him.

"And yet, you're still in love with me," he retorted, and his voice was as light as she had ever heard it.

"Unbelievable, I know," said Hermione dryly.

They allowed the quiet of the morning to wash over them, bathing them in a sweet and innocent serenity. Hermione relaxed into the ground, closing her eyes and focusing on the way the grass tickled her face, and the frost soaked into her hair and skin.

"Do you love me enough to marry me?"

Her eyes shot open. Avery was watching her intently, face impassive and closed off, but there was an undeniable tenderness there. She found the breath stuck in her throat.

"I do," she whispered, without missing a beat. "Do you?"

There was a small quirk of his lips. "I do."


April 1986

The marquee was large but cosy; long tables, drenched in white lace tablecloths, ran the length of it, with deep purple petals strewn down the centre, as well as wispy baby's breath bushes. Despite the seeming mundanity of the wedding, it would not be theirs if there was not the thrill of magic spiking the air. One had to venture with caution as Box was hiding in one of the pots, though no one could remember which one they had seen him in last, and whenever someone brushed the snapdragons dancing in the grass, they would explode like miniature fireworks of incendiary colour.

The crockery held the names of all the guests, along with little doodles that someone (Hermione could probably guess) had charmed to stick all day, depicting the turn of spring, and black dandelion tufts blew in the wind down the plates, whilst the sun rose on a teacup, and a lamb took its first clumsy steps across the bowls. There were also more personal ones for the people they knew and loved: Lily and James each had a deer that would trot over to one or the other's plate to reunite with its other half, frolicking in the white porcelain before they would soon be swamped with food; the shaggy dog on Sirius' bowl would chase its own tail every time he tried to fill it, and he shortly gave up, resorting to gushing that the little thing was too cute to cover up; Peter's eyes were skittish and darting as he grew dizzy watching the rat running around the rim of his teacup; Remus had the moon cycle, and a wolf howling to the stars, though there was something oddly charming every time the full moon shone, and the deer, dog and rat from the other plates would come bounding to meet him.

Regulus' had been kept simple, and he had taken a few moments to stare quietly at it as a lone figure was joined by others who he recognised as his new family. They would throw their arms around him, and cheer as he was hoisted into the air, and though the creation was silent, he could swear he heard the laughter ringing around his head long after the dinnerware had been cleared away.

On the contrary, Avery seemed less than amused by his depiction. Whilst the snake had elicited a smug smirk from the former Slytherin, his lips had twisted in a grimace once the green scales drained to red, and the snake became ensnared by a golden leash. Hermione had particularly liked that one.

"They're implying I'm whipped," he'd stated in affront.

"Are they wrong?" she asked innocently.

Avery's eyes cut to her. "I am not whipped."

Hermione shrugged, and said in a voice that was imperceptibly void of emotion, "If you say so, now will you be a dear and pass me the sugar?" though she failed to keep a straight face, for James and Sirius were too busy making whipping noises from along the table as he retrieved the little jar of sugar and handed it to her.

Avery's face twitched. "Did we really have to invite them?"

"They're my friends!"

"So? We're married now. Can't you just… find new ones?"

"That's not how this works."

"You know, I think the world has changed," interrupted Regulus, and his eyes were so soft when he looked at them, "and then I see you two, and your familiar bickering puts that worry to be almost instantly."

Hermione had been almost breathless with excitement to look down at her plate, and when she saw it was empty, a frown had marred her pretty face. Then, the air was stolen from her as from behind the handle of her cup, a phoenix of the most brilliant red soared, swooping over the undiscovered space of the table and reappearing to dance across the white sky of her plate. It looked remarkably like Fawkes, and she swore it winked at her when she stared for a moment longer.

"How fitting," Avery had commented quietly, eyes similarly entranced with the spectacle.

There was a large tree in the very middle of the space, standing proud and tall, with its branches full to burst, stretching along the veins of the tent to hold it in place. Woven around the leaves were yellow fairy lights, strung high and they fluttered every now and then, as though they were alive. The floor was open, and the grass tickled their ankles when they moved, and the blissful sun trilled above them, rejoicing at the ephemeral happiness of those present, and the utter tangibility of it all. As night fell, the fabric of the marquee shifted to mirror the sky above, and the stars billowed down on them, planets disappearing in the ripples, galaxies becoming lost in the moment.

They held one another close as they danced. Hermione let her dress drape behind her. She had gone simple, white and whimsical, with a fitted bodice that unfurled into an airy tulle skirt. Embroidery of lavender-bush flowers and verdant vines were planted in her ribs, exploring the swell of her breasts and dip of her collarbones to kiss her neck. Avery had worn white, and it was not a colour she had ever expected to see on him, though she still trailed off when she glanced at him, for his dark hair and long eyelashes made him look like some sort of angel.

His arms were wrapped firmly around her, and her head rested in the crook of his shoulder. Avery glanced at the top of her head. It was so hard to remember what his life had been like before Hermione Granger had fired her spells and forced her way into it. It hadn't always been doom and gloom, but the thunderstorms reigning overhead had seemed obdurate and the threat of death had loomed over him. It wasn't that Avery hated life, or living. On the contrary, he rather enjoyed it. It's just that sometimes, he forgot that an existence was valuable if there was no reason for it.

Why do you live?

I didn't used to know.

She lifted her chin to peer up at him, and he was struck again with how lucky he was. This girl loved him. And she loved him despite everything that he'd done, despite the pain and the darkness; she loved him because she'd bared witness to all of that and yet she still saw a flicker of light within him.

Avery never thought his heart would brush off its cobwebs, the rusted cogs breathed life into after an eternity of immobility. He never thought he'd be allowed to be happy, but the witch in front of him made him happy.

He leaned down to kiss her, relishing in the way he could taste her pulse on her lips.

Why do you live?

For her.


May 1990

The cries filled the room, and they seemed to break through everything that had ever existed before them.

It was odd that the sunlight sifted curiously through the slit in the curtains, whilst Avery sat by the bed, hands clenched so tightly his knuckles were going white. He had been sitting there for hours now, only Merlin knew, and whilst he had barely moved, his entire body felt on edge, like he'd just run for miles, or flown through a storm.

Hermione laid in bed, thin blanket strewn across her top half, legs stretched open and the Healer remained by her feet, coaxing her into the final stages of her pregnancy.

Every now and then, Avery would lean his head against hers, murmuring words of encouragement, and even though she gritted her teeth and, more often than not, told him to "Shut the fuck up and do this for me then!" he knew she was in pain and let it slide.

"You're nearly there," he soothed quietly, stroking her damp hair. "So close. You've done so well, Hermione."

Another scream was ripped from her lips and she screwed her eyes shut, throwing her head back into the pillow. When she opened her eyes, she fixed him with a withering glare.

"This is all your fault," she gasped.

He raised an eyebrow, but his fingers did not stop their ministration. "My fault?"

"Yes," Hermione grimaced in pain. "If only you'd kept it in your pants."

Avery's mouth dropped open despite himself and he exclaimed, "You jumped me."

"And your mouth shut!"

Nevertheless, he had kept his mouth shut, but his hand had not left hers. He remembered the day she'd told him as though it were just moments ago. He had returned home to hear singing. This had surprised him for a number of reasons, though none that he could entirely explain. Hermione had swayed into the kitchen, hair messily atop her head, bowl in hand as she mixed what looked like cake batter. She was still singing, and the tune was soft and lulling, and Avery had felt his lips tilt at her. He hadn't wanted to interrupt, so he made sure to be quiet as he sat at their little dining table, and watched her.

The dress she wore was bright and mellow for the end of August, as the sun slowly drew within the ever-clouding sky, and the temperature dropped a few degrees each time they stepped outside, and yet Avery thought she made it feel like summer was only just beginning.

Eventually, he felt a yearning to hear her voice and see the softness of her eyes when she looked at him. "You're awfully happy," he said.

Hermione jumped, clutching the bowl to her chest so she wouldn't drop it, and she spun to face him. Surely enough, her eyes softened.

"You startled me," she laughed. "You're not supposed to be home for another hour."

Avery leaned back in his chair. "Well, I wanted to see you."

She beamed at him, and though he'd seen her just that morning, for some reason, he thought she looked to glow. He held out his arms for her, and she wasted no time in placing the bowl on the table, and wrapping her arms around his neck. He breathed her in, holding her close.

"I missed you," he murmured against her skin. Avery felt her chest buzz when she laughed.

"It's only been a few hours."


Hermione ran her fingers through his hair, and he felt her sigh contentedly.

"I never thought I'd get to grow old," she said, and he pulled back so he could look at her. "Honestly, I never thought I'd live to get married."

Avery brushed his thumb along her cheek. "It's a good thing you were wrong," he said, eyes dark and sincere.

Her entire face broke out into a blinding smile then, and she leaned her head against his, squeezing his jaw. "Freddie," she whispered, and the laugh that bubbled from her lips broke into a sob. "I'm pregnant."

He stopped. His heart sped up in his chest.

"What?" he murmured.

"We're going to have a baby," Hermione beamed at him, and she was crying, and then she was kissing his face and it was only when he felt her lips touch his skin that he realised he was crying too. Avery didn't waste another second and he jumped to his feet, tightening his arms around her and lifting her into the air. Her laugh was loud and euphoric, bouncing around their kitchen.

He slid her down to place her back on the floor, cupping her face with his hands, and pressing a kiss to her lips before he said, "We're going to have a baby."

As it turned out, the baby was not as excited as they were. In fact, he seemed to rather reluctant to be born, which is why they had been in this position for hours and why Avery's hand felt like it was about to wither and drop off.

And then- the first cries- cutting through the rest of the world, rendering it silent, causing it to slip away-

Avery felt his breath trickle from his lips as he stared at the Healer. He didn't think it was possible that he could hold Hermione's hand any tighter.

The Healer smiled, cupping the baby's head, conjuring a small blanket to wrap him in. "Congratulations," she smiled gently. "You have a little baby boy."

She passed him to Avery, who held him daintily, as though he might shatter or break if he moved too abruptly. Hermione's head fell backwards, and a long, laboured breath escaped her. She titled her face to look at them, and a sleepy smile curled her lips.

Avery swallowed.

He wasn't sure what it was, but he had never felt love like this. This tiny thing, barely able to open his eyes, made of all the same genes and dust as his father, and the blood and brain of his mother, he was everything Avery had never dared to dream of, because he never thought it would be his. He pressed a kiss to his son's head, closing his eyes to stop the tears blurring them.

Avery handed him over to his mother, whose face softened at the sight of him.

"Hello sunshine," she breathed, smiling when he blinked up at her. "You were such a pain, you know that? Don't tell me you're taking after your father already. He was a pain too."

She tucked her arm underneath, pulling him as close as was humanely possible, melding him against her heart. Hermione nuzzled her cheek against the top of her baby's head.

"You weren't a walk in the park yourself, Granger," he replied teasingly.

"Avery," she corrected.

Her eyes shone at the look of wonderment on his face.

"I got married, you know," said Hermione, lips trembling from trying to stifle her grin.

"So you did, Mrs Avery," he said. "I heard he's quite the catch."

She shrugged. "I could probably do better."

Avery's eyes narrowed at her, and she laughed a little, but they both fell silent as the baby between them, their own flesh and bounding nerve, hiccupped loudly.

"Have you got any names in mind?" asked Avery, reaching over and his son wrapped his chubby, tiny hand around one of his fingers.

Hermione considered him. "What about Pan?"

Avery looked at her. He knew the name meant more than what met the eye. He knew it meant hardship and war, a dark so obdurate and a death so looming that you could feel the ticking crocodile of time breathing down your neck…

But it also meant hope. It meant children would get to grow old, and they would be loved and safe. It meant happiness, and a future.

"It's perfect," he told her sincerely.

Suddenly, Pan hiccupped again, and this time a little bubble appeared, floating high above their heads. They both watched it in surprise.

"Already?" exclaimed Hermione.

Avery smirked. "Well, he is our son. What did you expect?"

"I sure hope he gets your modesty too," she replied sarcastically.

Though secretly, Hermione was proud. Her family could never be dull. They were full of surprises. They were golden.


September 1991

"Hands off my wife, Black," a voice drawled and Avery came to stand beside her. He was infinitely tall, and dark, with black hair that skimmed his cheekbones and long eyelashes framing his eyes. His face was pale, a wedge of finely sculpted marble. He was still beautiful. If anything, Avery seemed to have grown more beautiful with age. He knew it as well. Though not smug, he carried himself with an air of sophistication and poise. She often found it difficult to tear her eyes away from him when they snagged for more than a second. His hand found hers, and he sent her a smile.

Sirius pulled a face. Even after ten years, their relationship did nothing but disgust him. Avery seemed to know this for his lips were curled upwards with the ghost of a smirk.

Sirius pointed warningly at him. "You're only on the Christmas card list because you're married to one of my best friends," he said.

Avery's smirk became a full-on grin. "I look forward to this year's. I particularly liked your satire of Father Christmas' elf. Though I can't say green does wonders for your complexion."

Sirius' eyes widened dramatically and he demanded, "I'll have you know, it brings out the green in my eyes!"

Avery raised an eyebrow. Sirius narrowed said eyes, though there was no real animosity lurking in them. He suddenly spied Dorcas and Emmeline, emerging from the barrier, with their two children (they had adopted a brother and sister who had been made orphans during the war) and went to meet them. Hermione waved, though didn't go with him. Dorcas winked at her.

Hermione turned to her husband, thwacking him hard. He looked at her reproachfully.

"You do know how to wind him up," she berated.

Avery raised his eyebrows. "It's purely friendly banter."

She scoffed, though allowed him to wrap his arms around her waist and pull her closer.

"The desire to murder me has not been in his dark, pretty eyes since our fourth wedding anniversary."

Hermione looked at him in exasperation.

"We've only been married four years," she pointed out.

"Exactly. His rage at me marrying you is long gone."

Though he spoke matter-of-factly, Hermione recognised the lightness of his voice and couldn't help but laugh. He smiled, pressing a kiss to her nose. She leaned into his chest.

A thought struck her then, causing her eyebrows to furrow deeply and she drew back and demanded, "Where is he?"

Avery sighed, but humoured her regardless. He raised his eyebrows. "Where's who?"

"Pan." Hermione's eyes flashed. "Our son?"

He raised his chin in realisation and said calmly, "His Godfather has him."

"Is that a good idea?"

As if on cue, Regulus came speeding towards them. Above his head, controlled by his magic which stemmed from the wand held tightly in his hands, was a baby, soaring and flying around people. The baby had a tuft of dark hair and was giggling, squealing and smiling happily. Every time he laughed, a bubble would hiccup from his toothless beam, flying until it popped.

He was wearing a fluffy lion suit, complete with tail and mane, and Hermione smiled proudly when she saw it.

Avery rolled his eyes, lip curling. "What is he still doing in that?"

Pan's eyes lit up when they saw her, and he seemed to move faster towards them, causing Regulus to walk quicker, tripping over cages and loose cases in his haste to keep up.

He grinned when he caught sight of them and sang, "Peter Pan! Peter Pan! Fly away to Neverland!"

Hermione held her arms out and Pan flew straight into them. She held him close to her chest, and he nuzzled his head into her cheek.

"What have I told you about flying him with magic?" she demanded when Regulus stopped.

Though sheepish, he was too joyfully exhausted to care about this reprimanding and shrugged. "I only dropped him once."

"Onto a pile of blankets," Avery supplied, offering his son one of his fingers to clutch. At the glare Hermione shot him, he turned to Regulus and said sternly, "Though that is one too many. You could've killed my only son! Who would pass on the family name?"

She pursed her lips and said, "You're not very good at this."

That was a lie, of course. He was extremely good at fatherhood, and the smirk he gave her told her he knew it.

Regulus adopted a solemn face and said sincerely, "I apologise profusely, Hermione. I promise to not drop and kill your son until he's passed on the family name."

Avery pointed at him. He said, "See. He's learning."

Hermione scowled and thwacked the pair of them. Pan clapped his little hands.

Regulus craned his neck back, eyes roving the platform. His brow furrowed and he asked, "You haven't seen my brother, have you?"

"Over by that pillar. You see?" she supplied, pointing in the direction of Sirius. Sure enough, he was stood with Dorcas and Marlene and Benjy, who must have arrived shortly before.

He followed her finger and his eyes lit up. Hermione felt her heart flutter.

"Thanks," Regulus said, and he pressed a kiss to her cheek, and one on Pan's head, before he bounded off, weaving his way back through the crowd to jump on his brother.

Avery looked at his son. "That reminds me," he said, and tapped his head with the tip of his wand. The lion suit he was wearing morphed into that of a snake, with felt scales. He brushed Pan's hair back with a smile. "That's better."

Hermione frowned. "It's not better."

"Weren't you just playing advocate for House Equality?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. She looked at him.

"You heard that?"

Avery scoffed. "Of course I heard that." He paused for a second, swallowing, before he added, "I also saw you with Lucius' son. Does this mean you'll agree to meet him now? You know, I can only give him so many excuses before he questions why he hasn't formally met his best friend's wife."

Hermione rubbed her thumb across his knuckles and said delicately, "I know. I just didn't know how I'd react… seeing Draco again."

She pushed back the hood of the snake outfit Pan was wearing, caressing his baby-soft cheek. Avery was watching her carefully. "You still haven't told me why that is."

A wry smile curled her lips. "Wouldn't you like to know."

"It's been ten years and I haven't pressed," he pointed out.

"Exactly," replied Hermione. "So you can wait a bit longer."

He didn't seem amused by her, though she still grinned at him. A slight frown creased the space between his eyebrows when he asked, in a quiet voice, "Will you ever tell me?"

Hermione thought about it. It was only a moment of pondering, but the platform seemed to stop entirely. There were still moments when the world broke, and fractured, and she would have to remind herself that she could breathe. There were still nights that she woke up screaming, or that she couldn't sleep at all. She was still haunted, the nightmares kept their claws embedded within her, though she knew their grip was relinquishing.

She looked at him, and smiled, because it really wasn't that difficult a decision at all. "One day," she promised. "I'll tell you all. I'll tell you how we all survived, and what we sacrificed-"

"But not yet," he finished for her.

She just smiled, holding Pan close against her chest. He snuggled into her. "No. It's a darkness that I have no desire to release yet."

Avery looked exasperated. He said, "I'm quite accustomed to darkness, Hermione. I grew up in it. I fought for it, remember?"

Hermione just stared at him, throat tight. "Not this kind of darkness."


December 1992

"-and then, all of a sudden, Robert finally knocks his brain into place to do something useful and the troll's club goes flying out of its hands, up into the air, before- oh, no thank you Molly, I've just had a cream slice-"

"Mum! Stop interrupting! You're ruining the story!"

"I can't very well let a guest starve, Ronald. You're being ridiculous."

"Honestly, Ron, it's fine. Where was I? Oh, yes. So Robert drops its own club onto its head! And Henry is still clinging onto its neck, even as it starts swaying, and it lunges forwards, falling flat onto its face, and Henry is still gripping on for dear life!"

The two boys sitting in front of her roared with laughter, so audaciously they had to clutch at their stomachs. They were young, and their youth dripped from the ceilings, bouncing around The Burrow's living room and drenching all who heard it in that blissful remembrance.

Hermione leaned back into the settee, smile curling her lips but it faltered. It was at times like these that she felt some small twinge of regret. She had lived two lifetimes within the span of one, witnessed the dawning of three timelines when others had barely seen the sun rise in their own. But as she sat on the squashed cushions at The Burrow, igniting the air with tales of her past, Hermione couldn't help but feel as though she was merely jogging the memory of the two who had experienced those adventures with her.

For sitting at her feet were two boys she had never thought she'd ever see again. Harry Potter was still that scrawny twelve year old, with hair that never laid flat, and eyes the colour of the grass in spring. He was still that vessel of uncontainable triumph, of brash grins shared when things finally went their way, and curiosity that filled him to the brim and spilled over his circular glasses. He was still the best friend, the brother, she had known and loved.

Only, this time round, he was loved. He was tucked in by his parents, and the monsters under his bed were checked for by his father every night, without fail. He was kissed by his mother every morning, afternoon and night, and surrounded by uncles who spoiled him rotten and viewed him as the thing that kept the world spinning.

It was funny to think, that in a different timeline, he was.

Ronald Weasley, on the other hand, was exactly the same.

He was gangly and tall, with a nose too long for his face and hair too bright for the paleness of his skin and freckles so abundant his cheeks looked permanently flushed. He was still bold and blunt and insecure and cocky; that contradictory firework he thrived as, short circuiting every time someone lit his fuse, with a temper to blow erratically.

He was the boy she had once fallen in love with, the boy she had seen die. Hermione felt her heart break just a little when she looked at him. But he was alive now- that's all that mattered.

She told them these stories every time she saw them, stories of a life they would never get to live because the world was much brighter now, and the future was as uncertain as the past had once been. The awe in their eyes, shining and splendid, made her warm because they should be proud. They would be great men, and maybe things were different now, maybe death wasn't clipping their heels, but they were still Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley and they were incredible. She just knew it.

"Tell us another, Hermione!" begged Harry, those familiar eyes wide and insistent. "Please!"

She laughed, conceding easily. She could never say no to them. They seemed to be her weakness.

Hermione thought for a moment. "Have I told you about the one where they escaped Gringotts on a dragon?"

Judging by the way their eyes lit up, she guessed she had not.

"They really were in quite a pickle. There were wizards firing from every angle, left, right and centre!" On cue, Sirius conjured up little men, made of sparks, and their makeshift magic soared over the boys' heads. Hermione grinned at him. He tipped his head.

"They'd got what they came for, and that hadn't been easy… but then again, breaking into the safest and soundest fortress in the country wouldn't exactly be a breeze. There seemed to be no way out, but just as Henry and Robert were about to start fighting back, Hera concocted something brilliant. Crazy, yes, but admittedly brilliant. Without a warning, she launched herself from the balcony and grabbed onto the dragon's scales-"

There was a knock at the door.

Molly stopped her bustling in the kitchen to answer it. Lily and James were laughing with Benjy and Marlene, and James was absently stroking his daughter's long hair from where she stood at his side, whilst Sirius, arm casually hooked around the back of Remus' chair, watched the story from the table. Dorcas and Emmeline were also there, as well as Caradoc, and the twins. The Order, loosely interwoven because of their alliance during the war, were a family- a large and dysfunctional family, but a family nevertheless.

"Poppet, you're gonna give these kiddiewinks nightmares," Fabian teased, grin electric.

"What can I say?" she replied. "It's a strength of mine: scarring people for life."

Caradoc smirked a little. "I feel like that is a grand understatement."

Hermione's mouth dropped open and she demanded indignantly, "I saved you, didn't I?"

He bowed his head in acknowledgement. "That you did," he agreed. "That probably goes for most of us here."

She snorted. "Try all of you."

Avery covered Pan's little ears, and said, "And you're scared he'll get arrogance from me?"

Hermione scowled at him, but she let him wrap an arm around her shoulder anyway and pull her into his warm side.

"Where do you get these stories from?" Avery murmured, bouncing Pan on his knee absently. The little boy had grown dark ringlets, though his golden eyes were clearly his mother's. He was babbling away, shoving his fingers in his mouth every once in a while.

Hermione smiled. "A timeline locked away, to which only I have the key."

"It sounds like quite a life."

She hummed. "It was. But so is this."

"-just in time, dear!" Mrs Weasley was saying cheerfully before she called, "Ron! Harry! Your friend is here!"

Hermione raised her eyes to the door and she felt her heart stop in her chest.

She did not know why it did this, for she had seen things that most would deem more improbable, but even so, she felt time slow down a little when she saw the young girl.

The girl was only thirteen, though she looked much younger. Her hair was bushy and light, lighter than Hermione's, and her teeth dug into her bottom lip slightly. She was small but strong, and she bounced on her feet, though Hermione recognised the spark in her eyes, the perpetual awe at this magical world. She had her mother's eyelashes and her father's nose. She had Hermione's eyes.

"Oh, come on, you need to meet Hermione!" Harry exclaimed after he'd hugged the newcomer, and he dragged her over to the older witch.

"Hi," the girl said. There was not an ounce of shyness in her being, and Hermione delighted a little at the information. "I'm Helen."

Hermione stared at her, and the smile curled her lips before she could stop it. "Like Helen of Troy."

The little girl's face lit up, a beam that made her hazel eyes twinkle. "Exactly! My mum always liked the story. Both my parents love mythology, but especially that one!"

Hermione felt her heart skip a bit. "You know, my parents did too. That's why I'm named after Hermes, the-"

"Messenger God!"

The two stared at each other for just a second longer, and Hermione swore something shifted. In time. Maybe. Maybe even in herself.

"Tell the troll one again, please Hermione," said Ron eagerly, making sure Helen was listening, as they sat back down on the carpet by the fire. "It's my favourite."

Hermione faltered, and for some reason, she felt her throat clench. She smiled and said, "It's my favourite too." She paused, taking a moment to recollect herself, before her heart settled, content in her chest, and she began, "There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them…"



Time had not been kind to them.

Of course it hadn't.

It had chewed them up and spat them out. It had swallowed them whole and engulfed them in a darkness so obdurate not even the light could break it. It had made them think there was no hope left in the world.

But then, it had also been gentle.

Like the break of day after a storm, when the clouds open up and the sunlight pours through. They had received their sunlight, not in ounces or hours, but years. Despite it all, time had given them a second chance.

To some, it had even given a third.

Hermione felt the sun lazily soak into her skin, dousing her in warmth and mellowness. She didn't move, just leaned back on her hands, relishing in the way the grass tickled her skin, and listening to the way her breaths were steady and free.

The serenity was short-lived, though, and she sensed him sneaking up behind her long before he pounced. Hermione simply flicked her finger, and her eldest son was hoisted up and hung upside down in mid-air.

She tipped her head back to look up at him. He grinned impishly.

"That's not fair," he stated.

Pan's nine years hung from his frame mischievously. His dark hair had long since lightened and it was now golden curls that kissed his eyes and glinted in the sun. She already knew he would be a Gryffindor.

He wasn't stealthy enough to be Slytherin.

"Neither was creeping up on an innocent civilian," Hermione told him smoothly.

He scoffed, a habit he'd picked up from his father, much to her chagrin. "You're not innocent," he said. "Dad's told me what you've done."

She raised her eyebrow, inwardly cursing her snake of a husband. "And what have I done?"

"You've ridden dragons."

The statement surprised her, and she jabbed her finger so her boy was upright again with his feet planted firmly on the ground.

"I also defeated the world's most evil dark wizard, but of course, dragons is what impresses you," said Hermione dryly, and she patted the ground. Pan grinned at her again, throwing himself down beside her. He laid on his back, staring up at the blue sky, and she ran her fingers through his hair, wondering when he got so big.

"I'm sure I've told you this story before," she murmured.

Pan shook his head. "No, but Harry has. And Ron. You've told me the giant snake one."

"And it didn't give you nightmares?" she questioned, surprised.

"No," he responded proudly. "I'm not scared."

"I was," Hermione said. She thought for a moment. "What about the time I broke into the Ministry of Magic?"

Pan shot up at that. He looked at her in astonishment. "Definitely not."

It was only then that she realised her mistake. Her eyes widened. "And nor should I! Oh dear God, you're not supposed to know about that!"

He sucked his lips into his mouth to try and hide his smile, but eventually mimed zipping them closed, and throwing away the key.

Hermione watched him wearily.

"You certainly can't tell your father-"

"Can't tell me what?"

Frederic Avery appeared behind the pair of them suddenly, blocking out the only sunshine that trickled through the leaves of the tree above their heads. He was holding their youngest son, who kept mashing his head into his father's neck. Avery raised an eyebrow.

"Nothing," both Hermione and Pan said immediately. Then, they shared a glance and started laughing. Pan hiccupped and a bubble escaped his lips before he could stop it.

Avery sighed. "It irritates me to no end that he's so Gryffindor."

Pan sobered up at that, and he looked between his parents. "Is that a bad thing?" he asked unsurely.

As Hermione said, "No," Avery replied, deadpanned, "Yes."

She shot him a glare. "No, sweetheart," she soothed, stroking his golden hair. "I was in Gryffindor. Only the brave go there-"

"And the insurmountably annoying."

"And yet, you married me," Hermione reminded him in mock-wonder.

Avery pulled a face, sitting beside them on the grass, and propping the four year old between his legs so he wouldn't lick his face any longer. "I know. I'm still trying to figure out what higher power-"

"It was my disarming wit," she informed her son knowingly. He nodded in agreement.

"-ever compelled me to do so. I clearly wasn't in a right frame of mind-"

"I'm sure you've inherited it," Hermione patted him on the shoulder, ignoring her husband's tirade. Pan just laughed, laying back down and reaching out to play with his brother.

Their third and youngest child had been a surprise, though not an unpleasant one. The problem was, they had already named a child each, and could not seem to come to an agreement.

Avery had been hell-bent on naming their new-born son Frederic Jr, to which Hermione had adamantly and bluntly replied, "We are not naming him after you."


"No! You weren't the one that had to carry him inside of you for nine months then push it through your-"

"Alright! Point taken. We're not calling him Frederic."

Regulus, as Godfather, had suggested they name him after a constellation, like the Black family were known for. She'd meant it sincerely, though her smugness had been far too apparent when she had said Leo. Avery had been less than amused though had settled for Leo, under the condition he could pick out his middle name.

In conclusion, Leo Draco Avery epitomised the clash of his two parents and their very different backgrounds, though perhaps summarised their hubristic stubbornness more effectively.

Their middle child had been the daughter Hermione had always dreamed of. Seven years old and already, she had taken her into the Ministry and pinned Werewolf Rights badges onto her little pinafore dresses. She was an avid reader, a curious mind that saw each of life's steps as a deceptively thrilling puzzle.

"Mum! Mummy!"

Hermione turned around to see Wendy running towards them, blue summer dress flying behind her. She was holding a teapot, her dark eyes wide and worried.

"Darling, what's wrong?" Hermione asked when she got closer, sitting up.

"I lost him again," exclaimed Wendy glumly. Hermione didn't even have to question.

She sighed, patting Pan's knee and said, "Box is missing again. Go help your sister find him. And if you do, your father will take you flying tomorrow," she added at his groan.

"I will?" Avery asked pleasantly.

"You love taking them flying, be quiet."

Their two eldest children raced back into the house, and they both watched them quietly, feeling that sense of content embrace their bones.

"Are you sure it's wise to send your children on an Occamy hunt?"

Hermione huffed. "Oh, they're my children now, are they?" She cast her eyes back at them, catching just a glimpse of their golden hair before they disappeared into the house. "Besides, I was fighting Voldemort when I was just a few years older. They'll be fine."

They both relaxed into the lull of their garden once more, feeling the sun drench them, and the breeze nuzzle into their skin. Hermione's eyes followed Leo as he wandered amongst the flowers, attention captivated by a large white butterfly.

"Remember, all those years ago, when you asked me how I did it?"

Avery looked at her, a small frown creasing the space between his eyebrows. He nodded silently.

Hermione smiled. "It was because of you. When everything was dark, I'd look around and you'd be there, the only thing still standing tall. My little bit of goodness. You were my light."

His face softened, dark eyes growing gentle, lips parting. He drew her towards him, pressing a kiss to her temple, and Hermione closed her eyes.

She had never thought that sunlight was something you could bathe in. Perhaps bask in, or lounge beneath, but not be encompassed entirely in the infinite warmth of a star that had witnessed the creation of life itself. But Avery's arms around her, his heart beating steadily in his chest, and the love she was consumed in; all of it felt like liquid sunshine. She had dreamt of this life, of happiness that blinded you, and a love that set you on fire.

And yet, she had never thought it would be quite like this.

Like bliss.

AN: Once more, and I KNOW I sound like a broken record but my gratitude for you all can never properly be conveyed, thank you so much.

If you want to read this as a stand-alone fic, it's called Bliss on my profile, or I'm currently writing another Marauders fic called The Marauders (original, I know!) which is their story, as canon as I dare to make it. It will be dark, and there will be lots of scenes stolen from TL but it's focusing on their lives, and the intricacies of youth, love, loyalty and friendship.

I hope this epilogue answered any questions you still had! If not, feel free to message me and I can tell you what happened to any characters you may be wondering about!

A little more information about Hermione and Avery's children:

Pan was definitely sorted in Gryffindor, no doubt about it. He was bold and rash and brave and kind, and would probably have a lot of Hufflepuff in him too. The hat barely touched his head before it decided.

Wendy was Ravenclaw, taking after both her parents' brains, though she was sneakier than both her brothers combined. She scored highest on all of her tests, and was a certain Professor Lupin's favourite student.

Leo, and you know this was the bitterest form of irony, was sorted into Slytherin in a heartbeat, much to his father's delight. He was quick and sharp witted, and ambitiously bright- and absolutely adored his Godfather.

And, to Hermione's surprise, they lived happily ever after.