Disclaimer: I don't own HP or any of these characters. That belongs to JKR, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, etc.
Chapter Thirty Nine : Beautiful Day
The door downstairs creaked open, then slammed shut, once, twice, thrice in quick succession. Hermione winced at the noise, shaking her head as she silently promised herself to have another long talk with Harry about how to set a good example and not slam the damn door so as not to give her another damn headache.
"Hermione, are you there?" Harry bellowed from below.
"Yeah, Mum, come downstairs. Come see what Dad bought us," cried James, their eldest.
"Yeah, you'll love it," Eliza said.
"Not if what he bought is a pair of brooms," Hermione muttered to herself as she put the book she had been reading down upon the table next to her. She got up and proceeded to make her way down the stairs of their home to the foyer where those three had come in. She had initially been ecstatic when Harry had volunteered earlier to take their children out, so she would have time to catch up on her reading. Now she wasn't so sure that she should have done so without setting some ground rules, such as not buying new brooms even though James had made the Gryffindor Quidditch team last year, and Eliza was dead set on making it next. Not for the first time, Hermione wondered why both of their children took after their father instead of their mother. Wasn't there some unwritten rule out there that said that if a couple had two children, one should resemble the father while the other should be more like the mother?
"I should have bloody well had that codified long before getting pregnant," Hermione muttered to herself before she entered the foyer. "All right, all right. So what is it that your dad bought . . . ." Suddenly, she felt something cold and wet touch her leg. Looking down, she saw big, brown eyes and an enthusiastically wagging tail.
"A puppy?" Hermione blinked. That was unexpected.
"Yes, Hermione, a puppy. I thought it's about time we got another pet around here," said Harry.
"Yeah, Mum, it's been ages!" Eliza agreed. "And Bottle here was the last one at the shop, and he looked so lonely that we couldn't just leave him all alone!"
"His name is Bottle?" That was another surprise.
"That's what he was called at the pet shop. So if that's what he's used to, then we shouldn't really change it, should we, Mum?" replied James.
Hermione, always being a quick thinker, had several thoughts running through her head at that moment. The first was that she was going to kill Malfoy for getting Ginny and Blaise's kids that puppy at the start of summer. She never quite understood why Gin was so upset, but the thought of muddy paws tramping through the kitchen and no one else wanting to take the puppy outside when he heard the call of nature—that was quite upsetting. Her second thought was that she was going to kill Harry for actually buying the pup. Her third was no she wasn't because then she'd be locked up, the kids would have to live with Gin (as Ron's bachelor lifestyle really had no room for children in it), and besides, she could make Harry take the puppy out for walks and clean up after it's muddy paws.
Her fourth thought was that it was quite a shame that such a cute puppy was saddled with such an awful name.
Her fifth thought was that she really shouldn't get too made about anything because the puppy was cute and she knew damn well she too would have trouble leaving the pet shop without buying it, knowing that the rest of its litter was already gone. That one won.
Bending down, she picked up the black puppy, who turned out to be heavier than she thought. "If he knows his name as Bottle, I suppose we shouldn't change it," Hermione said, ignoring how both her husband and her children's faces lit up at her words, as though they had been expecting her to make a big fuss about the puppy. "Do you know what sort of dog he is?" she continued. "He looks a bit like a Labrador. And how old is he anyways?"
"He's a Newfoundland," said Harry. "And he's about ten weeks old."
"Oh dear," said Hermione. "You're going to be a great, big dog someday," she told the puppy. Bottle licked her nose as though he was agreeing with her.
"Bigger than Albert," James noted. Both of his parents' eyebrows when up at that.
"Not that there's any sort of bet whatsoever between you and Nick about dogs, right James?" asked Harry. James often had some sort of obscure bet going on with Nicholas, Ginny and Blaise's son, though for some reason, it appeared that he was often the loser of those bets. Losing, however, was never a deterrent for him to stop betting with Nick about things like who could hit a bludger farther.
"No. Just that I wouldn't want a small, puny dog, that's all." James wrinkled his face. "You know the sort that she"—and he pointed at his sister—"would get all dressed up."
"I would not!" Elizabeth stamped her foot. "You're so stupid!"
"Not as stupid as you," James snerked.
"That's enough," said Harry. "Let's not start that argument again."
Hermione nodded. "Especially as that wouldn't be a good welcome for Bottle, now would it?"
"Yes, Mum," James and Eliza said together—inadvertently, given the glares they threw at one another.
Hermione sighed and shook her head. Both she and Harry had wanted more than one child, as they each had wanted a sibling when growing up (Dudley obviously not counting as one for Harry). Sometimes though, she worried that her children's sibling rivalry was going too far. At those times, she made a point of it to speak to Ginny, who would laugh and tell her some story about something the twins did to Percy, just to reassure her that it could be much worse. That was probably why Ginny only had Nick—Gin obviously had enough of tensions amongst siblings to last her several lifetimes, growing up at the Burrow. When Hermione had mentioned that to her, Gin had laughed aloud and said that Nick and James were virtually brothers, given the way they acted.
"Shall we go over to Aunt Gin's?" asked Harry. "I'm sure she'd like to see Bottle too, and maybe we can introduce him to Goldilocks."
"Another perfectly awful name for a dog," Hermione muttered.
"But it does suit her," Eliza reasoned with her mum.
"I cannot say anything to Gin about that now. Not that the name was her fault, as I'm sure Gin has better sense than that:" said Hermione. "But yes, let's go. Your aunt was asking us when we'd next visit."
"Portkey or floo?" asked Harry.
"Portkey. Floo is always so messy," replied Hermione. "And I wouldn't want to scare Bottle his first day her with a tandem Apparation."
"Wait, Mum, Dad! I need to get a—"
"Leave the broom here, James," said Harry.
"Yeah, James," echoed Eliza. "If we decide to play there, we can each borrow one from Nick." Eliza grinned at her brother, knowing what his response would be.
"You only say that because he gives you the best one, and I wind up with that relic that belongs in a museum. Oh wait, that's right, Nick's house is a museum." James rolled his eyes.
"Be nice," Harry chided mildly. "It's not as if you don't return the favor when Nick is over here and needs to borrow a broom."
"But he started it!"
As she absently listened to her family's banter while trying to get them all into the living room so they could visit their friends, Hermione smiled. She was happy. Very happy. This life that she was leading now was so good. She had a wonderful husband and two lovely children. Her job at Hogwarts, while difficult at times, really did challenge her and also allowed her to see her children throughout the year. And she had friends, good friends, who were also content with their lives.
And though life wasn't perfect and there were so many things she wished she had done differently, everything did manage to work out. She managed to wind up in the place she was needed the most—and that she needed the most.
Author's note: I do apologize for the long wait for this chapter, and this is not even the ending I had planned for this story. But it has been so long, that I couldn't quite get started with that ending, and so this one came about instead. This chapter was always meant to be the last one. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed this story. Words are wholy inadequate to describe how much those reviews kept me writing. Once again, I'm sorry for the delay and I hope this ending will do.