Epilogue: 3 Years Later
The sounds of a giggling, screaming baby echoed throughout the halls of his ancestral home and Harry grinned to himself as he chased after the little girl on his hands and knees, roaring all the while. He found her standing in the middle of the front hall, looking over her shoulder, clearly waiting for him to catch up. She lit up when she caught sight of him.
"I'll get you!" He growled playfully.
She squealed, laughed uproariously, and then took off as fast as her chubby toddler legs could carry her. She had just disappeared into the library when the doorbell rang. Harry momentarily froze, as few people arrived by this manner. They usually requested floo access. His heart began to pound in his chest, whether it was hope or something other than that which was controlling it, he couldn't have said.
He went to the front door. He felt, rather than saw the Potter elves appear behind him and he hesitated before he opened the door.
"Should I be prepared for battle?" He asked them, only half joking.
"No, Master Harry," his head elf Nelly answered, "it's Mistress Hermione's parents, but their energy is...not nice...unsettled. We are not knowing what to expect."
Part of Harry sighed in relief. Hermione's parents had finally come to see her. He and Hermione sent them a letter every time they came to England; her parents had moved back almost two years ago. But up until now they'd seemed largely uninterested in making contact. That hadn't stopped Harry from sending them a permanent portkey onto their property. However, after a while, it seemed like they would never partake of the invitation.
But now they had.
Harry took a deep breath. "Nelly, I assure you that they mean you no harm. They are simply uncomfortable with magic. I will go and greet them." He held a hand out against the elf's protests as he strode towards the door. "Your service is very much appreciated but they are unused to non-humans, I wouldn't want to startle them from the get-go."
He pulled the door open. "Mr. and Mrs. Granger," he greeted them. He heard the pounding of little feet- apparently there was one being in the house who was not deterred by his orders. "Come here, little bit," he called and the little girl trotted into the room, halting slightly at the sight of strangers, but then she broke into a run until she reached him. He scooped her up, a little disconcerted by her behavior as she was never shy and he could only assume she'd sensed the tension in the air.
Hermione's mother burst into tears. Harry shifted uneasily, he was bad with crying women generally, a crying Granger woman could easily bring him to his knees. "I'm sorry Mrs. Granger, I know we haven't started out well, in general, but is there something which has upset you in particular?"
The woman, who looked so much like an older version of Hermione that it almost hurt, reached towards the baby in his arms, stopping just before brushing her cheeks with her fingers.
"I can't believe my baby had a baby without even letting us know."
It was all Harry could do not to bite back with an angry retort. Hermione wrote them monthly. Harry understood that they distrusted her magic, but it had been years. Years of him watching his wife sit down every month and try to justify herself for trying to keep them safe. Years of begging them to understand.
But it wasn't his decision to make. They were finally here, he wouldn't risk chasing them off before they'd even seen Hermione. However, he could set them straight.
"I'm sorry but you seem to be operating under a misapprehension. This is Lillian, she's our goddaughter. Do you remember Ron?"
Both Grangers nodded.
"This is his daughter. Please come in, if you'd like. I'm sorry but Hermione is out on a research project at the moment but I expect her back at any time."
Lillian, naturally precocious, almost immediately reached for Richard Granger. The man in question chuckled. "I'm happy to take her, if you don't mind."
Harry just nodded and he reached out his arms for her with a return nod in Harry's direction, "I miss this age."
And then Harry said something that he knew was emotionally manipulative, but he couldn't bring himself to care. "I'm enjoying it with Lilli, but I'm really looking forward to it with my own."
Helen gasped. "Is that- are the two of you planning on that soon?"
Harry looked at her evenly. He and Hermione had, in fact, finally started talking about trying for a family in a serious manner. But he knew that Hermione would prefer for him to be circumspect about the issue. However, that knowledge warred with his own nature to defend those that he loved and tell this woman just how much she could be missing out on. But then he heard the door to the back garden slam closed.
"Harry! I know what I've said in the past, but I think we're going to have to do something about the gnome infestation. It's getting out of control."
"Mi Mi Mi Mi," Lillian chanted, a delighted look on her face and her arms outstretched, anticipating her godmother's entrance.
Hermione entered the sitting room and paused only briefly at the sight of her parents, but she quickly gathered herself to go and collect her goddaughter from her father.
"Hello sweetest of girls, did you have fun with Uncle Harry?" She asked as she gathered the toddler up in her arms and returned to Harry's side, a look that was equal parts defiance and hope on her face. "Mum, Dad," she greeted cursorily. "What are you doing here?"
"Hermione," Harry whispered, half warning, half scolding. As surprised as she probably was by their sudden appearance, he knew that she would regret it if she pushed them away with her attitude without even hearing them out. Which he knew made him a hypocrite, given how tempted he'd been to give them a piece of his mind not two minutes ago
"I stand by my question," she murmured as they led her parents into the living room and she fell onto the sofa next to Harry.
Harry gestured for the Grangers to take a seat on the opposite sofa. There was a long beat of silence. Harry wasn't going to break it, and he could almost feel Hermione's determination not to.
"We realized," Helen Granger licked her lips and looked at her husband.
"We've been cowards," Richard Granger took up the narrative for his wife. "No just about how we reacted after your war, but how we treated you after you found out you were a witch. It wasn't our fault that you had magic, but it also wasn't yours."
Harry felt himself bristle, but before he could speak, Hermione did: "It's nobody's fault," she huffed. "And if you continue to act like it's some kind of disease then our relationship is probably over, " she let out a great heaving sob. "It's not what I want, of course, but my magic is just a part of who I am."
"Hermione-" Her father began.
She shook her head. "It will almost certainly be a part of who my children are and I won't allow you to shame them for it. I've-" she choked on a sob, "I've missed you terribly, but this is important."
"You're right," Helen gasped, "We thought this little one," she gestured to Lillian, "was yours. I'd never forgive myself for missing out on such a thing,"
That startled a chuckle out of Hermione as she gazed at Lillian. "As gorgeous as she is, how could you possibly have thought that Harry and I made a baby who looks like this?" She eyed the little girl's strawberry blonde hair and cornflower blue eyes; but it wasn't just her coloring, she didn't resemble herself or Harry in any way.
"Well, " Helen Granger began, "now that you're all sitting there together it does seem rather improbable. But you have to remember that we don't really know Harry."
There was yet another uncomfortable silence broken only by Lillian making a fuss to get down and then gathering a collection of her toys to entertain herself at her godparents' feet.
"That was your choice," Hermione whispered. "I hate that all you really know of my husband is what I wrote in my letters. And I couldn't possibly express in words how amazing he is."
"We'd like to start changing that," Helen said quietly. "We missed you terribly as well. It took us years to even begin reading your letters. It was easier to just put them- literally- and you- figuratively- into a box and try to get on with our lives."
Harry was wary of their sudden appearance, but he was also anxious to agree with their offer to begin rebuilding the relationship. Things had improved with the Weasleys over the years, especially since they'd been named Lillian's godparents. On top of that, they also had a good support system of friends in America, but Hermione's parents were really the only blood relatives either of them had left, and that felt important to him.
However, he also recognized that it was Hermione's decision. She was sitting rigidly, from what he could tell she'd barely breathed since they sat down. He looked at her out of the corner of his eyes.
She shifted, almost imperceptibly, in his direction, but to him she might as well have been shouting. She reached for him and he took her hand, intertwining their fingers, hoping to impart that, whatever decision she came to, he would support. But when she met his eyes he knew that she was thinking of her own self-exile, of four years on another continent running from feelings which had scared her, and he knew exactly what she was going to say.
"I understand," she let out a shuddering breath. "Welcome to Potter House."
Author's note: Well, that's it, I hope you enjoyed it. I can't thank you enough for following me through this journey. Stay safe y'all and, again, thanks for reading!