Disclaimer: I don't own HP or any of these characters. That belongs to JKR, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, etc.
It was on his son's eleventh birthday that Harry Potter knew his loss.
It did not strike him in the morning, when he rose to the sight of his wife's smiling face. It did not strike him as he and his wife hurried about, finishing their preparations for the party. It did not strike him when his son's friends began to arrive or when the cake was cut. This was good because he was able to laugh and smile all day long – or at least until the very end.
It struck when his son was saying good-bye.
It was a sudden grief; an unexpected angst. It hit him hard in the stomach and then traveled upwards to possess his heart. He had long lived with pain and with sorrow, but against this anguish he had no defense. His throat parched; he choked on a sob. He escaped from the scene by fleeing out the back door. He looked up to see the lonely moon inhabiting the dark sky above and knew – that to this sorrow, there could be no end.
So it was his wife found him standing outside, gazing into the night. She stood there a moment, admiring his profile and the set of his chin, before speaking.
"What's wrong, Harry?"
He did not wish to speak of his grief. To speak would be to make it ridiculous and it was too precious for him to do that. "It's nothing, Hermione."
He heard a soft sigh escape her lips. He heard her footsteps as she walked towards him. He felt her arms come around her and her forehead come to rest against his back. "I know something happened back there. It's not like you to be rude and you looked so sad. But if you don't want to tell me, I'm not going to press you for details."
How long they stood there, he did not know. He simply took comfort in feeling her presence all around him. Eventually, he found his home again, by her as always. He found the will to speak.
"He's going to be saying good-bye to us too."
Her breath caught; her arms tightened around him. She replied, "Yes, he is. This year he's going to Hogwarts. Just like we knew he would. Just like we wanted him to. But you know that he'll be back."
"Only to say good-bye again." He turned to her and looked into her eyes. "I feel like I'm letting you down for being so silly about this. But after this year, things will never be the same again. He's going to go away and one day, he's not going to come back."
"And the saddest thing in life is knowing that you'll have to say good-bye," she whispered.
He knew that she would understand him. "It makes me want to take off work. It makes me want to spend the rest of the time before he leaves with him, to make it the best possible summer he could ever have. And it makes me want to spend more time with the girls as well because I feel like I haven't spent enough time with them. I've never thought about this before but right now I'm wondering if I've—"
She placed her index finger against his lips, commanding him to silence. "You've not failed them or me in any way. I won't let you forget that. And if you want to spend more time with them this summer, then perhaps that's what you should do so you can make memories to last a lifetime."
He closed his eyes knowing that was no cure to what was troubling his soul. "But it's not ever going to get better?" he asked in a petulant, child-like voice.
She smiled sadly at him before replying. "Yes. And no. There will be times when it gets worse but there will times when it's better. We just have to take life's ups and downs as they come."
That wasn't the response he had wanted to hear. It offered him no comfort and little hope. So it was that he found himself asking, "Did you think of this before?"
She nodded, not trusting her voice. She closed her eyes in remembrance. She recalled that moment in time and gathered herself to answer. "It was shortly after Elizabeth had been born. You were working late that night, and I had my hands full with Elizabeth so I hadn't had time to check for monsters under Rachel's bed. When Elizabeth was finally asleep, I went to check on her, slightly puzzled that she had not called me. When I walked in, there was James reading to her. He told me he had already checked for monsters and that he was old enough to watch out for his sisters." Her voice thickened from the sorrow starting anew. "That was when I knew."
He stroked her hair as she rested her head against her shoulder. He felt her pain and knew it too. "What makes me really sad is knowing that their childhood is going to end."
"No, that's wrong," she said, shaking her head. "Childhoods never end; they simply drift away. And our dreams that come true are never really over. They just fade and change into something else. If their dreams should depart from ours, I think that we'll just have to be happy for them."
He smiled then. "But our dreams – they're ours, not yours or mine. They belong to us together."
She returned his smile and he felt his heart quicken with love. "That's right. I'll always dream dreams with you. And whatever may come—"
"—we'll face them together."
Author's note: Just in case anyone hasn't heard about it yet -- there's a website for H/Hr shippers that has just launched. If you have any time, please go and check out www.pumpkinpie.org. Thanks!