They stared down at the newspaper on the kitchen table. Ron and Hermione were standing back a little, Hermione glancing between Sophie and Harry, biting her lip. Harry was standing over Sophie's shoulder, watching her face carefully as she took in the cover photo.
It was of them, beneath the headline, "Potter Loves Muggles - No, We Mean He Really Loves Them". It was from yesterday, they had gone to the art gallery opening and then wandered around, having drinks in any random pub they happened across. They were walking, her scarf falling forward from around her neck, her face flushed and laughing, her eyes unfocused, the hand not being held by his gesturing wildly. She was clearly sloshed. Harry looked normal, his face a little rosey, the smile across it wide and sweet.
She leaned closer, reading the caption underneath the photo and let out a strange, strangled sort of sound. She stood up abruptly, all three of the wizards in the room glanced at each other nervously as she looked around the kitchen and snatched a pair of scissors off the counter.
She went back to the paper and slowly cut into it, photo Harry looking rather nervous as the blades came nearer and cut along the edges of it. Photo Sophie stared and pointed at the scissors in drunken amazement until they were free and then they continued on walking, as though nothing ever happened.
"W-What are you doing?"
She turned towards Harry, pushing the photo out to him. "Read the caption!"
He took the clipping from her and read the caption under his breath. "Pictured above is The-Chosen-One and his new paramore, a muggle named Sandra Wade, apparently have a date night."
There was a beat of silence and then Hermione and Ron groaned, Harry frowning down at the photo. "I'm really sorry about this, I-"
"What? No." Sophie looked around at their faces and started to laugh. She took the photo from Harry and looked down at it with a smile. "I'm going to have this framed."
Ron let out a bark of laughter and Hermione covered her mouth with her hand.
"Framed? Why on earth-?"
"Look how cute you look here! You usually look so serious in photos. Though not flattering, this is also still a very accurate photo of me, so what's to be mad about? Also, they accidentally called me by your sarcastic pet name for me, it's brilliant!"
Harry's face went from relieved to amused to oddly disgruntled looking with in a few seconds. "We can take a better photo than that one, don't frame it."
"This is my favourite photo of all time. I'm going to have it framed and keep it forever and ever."
Harry sighed and shook his head, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "So… this doesn't bother you?"
She looked around at their still semi-serious faces and felt her heart warm, "Were you all worried? Don't be. Don't get me wrong, it's blowing my mind that across the country there are witches and wizards looking at my very drunk face, but whatever. I don't know any of them." She shrugged, almost surprised herself at how unbothered she was. That is, until she looked back down at the photo. "Though I have to say I am quite miffed that you don't look drunk at all."
Harry shrugged, sitting lazily back in his seat, all the tension gone from him. "Just because I hold my liquor better than you doesn't mean you should be miffed."
All three of them scoffed at him. "You're delusional. I can drink you under the table any day and I'm like a foot shorter than you."
"Yeah, it's just that you don't look or sound drunk when you drink. Act drunk, yes, extremely, after even a whiff of alcohol goes your way, mate."
"But he doesn't slur or stumble at all, it's rather irritating." Hermione joined in and Ron, Sophie and her nodded at each other, then turned to look at him almost accusingly.
He smiled wide and ran his hands through his hair, "You're all just jealous."
They snorted and stood, walking around Harry's chair as they left the kitchen. "Come on Sophie, I'll introduce you to my family and everyone as our friend, you don't have to mix yourself with that one."
"Oi!" Harry stood and followed them to the living room.
"Thank you Ron, that's very considerate of you. But, still, I rather like him and still would like to mix myself up with him."
Harry grinned and grabbed their coats, his wand and her bag and kissed the top of her head.
"No accounting for taste, then." Hermione gave a fake sigh and went with Ron through the fire place.
They followed right after, Sophie squeezing her eyes shut and clinging on to Harry for dear life. Travel by magic was convenient but rather disturbing.
They landed poorly, more falling out of the fireplace than stepping into the room, only Harry's sense of balance keeping them vertical.
Just as she felt like she got her feet under her, she was spun this way and that, a wall of noise and a blur of red heads coming from every direction. She was reminded strongly of her cousin's wedding a couple of years ago. Family seeing each other, chaos ensuing.
She spotted a red head she knew, the solemn faced young man, Ron's brother, and grabbed on to him with both of her hands, pulling him forward and using him as a buffer. "George! How's the shop?"
He looked surprised at her enthusiastic greeting and opened his mouth to answer, but she was already pulling him towards the open door that seemed to lead outside, where a massive table covered with food took up almost all of the garden. Seeing she was otherwise engaged, the swirl of people swooped in on each other, Harry's tuff of black hair getting lost among a tangle of limbs, someone shouting about how they haven't seen his sorry face in a year.
She took a deep breath and let go of George's hands. He stared down at her, laughter in the corners of his mouth. "Did you just use me as a human shield?"
She shrugged, flipping her hair over her shoulder. "You have to learn tricks when you're a short one, otherwise your liable to get crushed, or worse, your cheeks pinched."
He gave a surprised laugh, and shaking his head, moved to the other end of the yard where I young women with long, long dirty blonde hair was standing. She felt something poke at her legs and looked down to a child, maybe three years old, with bright fuchsia hair staring up at her. She knelt down next to him. "Hello."
"Hi." His voice was high and sweet.
"Who are you?"
"You're Harry's godson?"
"Yeah. He's my favourite."
"Oh, why's that?"
"He throws me 'round and let's me eat chocolate. Gran doesn't like me eating chocolate."
That did sound like how Harry would be as a godfather. "He's my favourite too."
He nodded, as though that should be obvious and then leaned it closer, whisper in the loud way young children do. "I need to go wee."
"Do you, hmm…" She glanced back towards the house, the crowd half in and half out of the door way, all the greetings still well under way. "Do you mind if I carry you?"
His answer was his flinging himself into her arms. She shifted until he was on her hip and then they squeezed through the crowd. Everyone was so tall and was fond of gesturing widely. She walked along one wall until they rounded the corner out of the kitchen into the living room, a woman with dark hair and aristocratic features raising her eyebrows at her but not saying anything as she spotted the toilet and walked in there.
She hummed and stared at the wall as he went and told him he was a good boy when he asked her to lift him him so he could wash his hands. He giggled when she said that he was better mannered than half the guys at her secondary school were and when his eyes changed to a darker colour, she realised after a second he was matching her, and she felt her heart melt.
He was talking in disjointed sentences about his day with his gran when they left the toilet, the aristocratic woman standing not far in front of the door. Teddy flung himself toward her and Sophie let him go to her, a little sad to lose her tiny chatting companion.
The aristocratic lady was looking down at her, also very tall, with a serious look on her face. She thought of George's serious face and it dawned on her that this was Teddy's gran, who lost her daughter and husband and son-in-law, and was raising her grandchild with only occasional help from Harry. No wonder she looked so serious. She suddenly felt like a child, sheltered and small.
"Are you the girl that Harry's started seeing?" Her voice was formal and stiff, but somehow warmer than she was expecting.
"Yeah, yes, um, I'm Sophie Wade." She had to fight off the damnable urge to curtsey. Why did the wizarding world make her feel like doing that?
"I'm Andromeda Tonks. Harry's told me a great deal about you."
There was a long pause. Sophie found it easier to look at Teddy than to hold Andromeda's weighty stare. Teddy flung himself back towards her and she took him, smiling, then smiling less as Andromeda's neutral face fell into a frown.
"He doesn't usually take to strangers right away."
Sophie grinned at him. "Children tend to like me, I think because I'm very short."
Andromeda's formal posture broke a little, her eyebrows raising again. "Because you're very short?"
"Yeah, I think it makes me seem less intimidating, like a slightly larger kid, which is fair, because that's how I feel ninety percent of the time."
Her stiff face smoothed out a little, her smile small but sincere. "You know, even for tall, older people, we also feel like slightly larger children ninety percent of the time."
"So that feeling doesn't go away?"
Suddenly there was a shorter woman with graying red hair, her apron smudged with flour, her hands on her hips, every inch of her screaming matriarch, standing to her right. Andromeda took Teddy out of her arms and stepped back a little.
"Are you Sophie?"
"Yes, are you-"
She was suddenly being squeezed, wrapped into the warmest, nicest hug she ever had outside of ones from her own mother. "I'm Mrs. Weasley, dear, it's so nice to finally meet you. I've been telling that boy to bring you over for ages now, but you know how he is, always so private, even with us." She was slowly released, her hands still being held by Mrs. Weasley's. "Please, I'd like you to come meet Arthur."
She looked back at Andromeda and Teddy, giving them both a small wave as Mrs. Weasley lead her away.
She made a lot of eye contact as they walked through the livingroom and kitchen back to the garden, but no one stopped them as Mrs. Weasley tugged her along, chatting. "Mr. Weasley works at the Ministry, along with my third oldest son, Percy, he's around her somewhere. Bill works for Gringotts, which I've heard you've been to, went there all by yourself, that must have been scary. I remember when Charlie, my second oldest, went there with me for the first time when he was five, he cried, poor little thing. Those Goblins can be so intimidating."
They stopped in front of a tall man with an easy going expression, his hat slightly askew. "Arthur! This is our special guest, Sophie."
"Oh yes, how do you do?" They shook hands, and then continued to shake hands, Mr. Weasley looking like he was building himself up to something. "I hope you don't mind, Sophie, but I have a number of questions about -"
"Of for the love of Merlin, Arthur, we talked about this-"
"Yes, but it's not often that -"
"Please, feel free to ask me anything about the normal, uh, that's to say, the muggle world."
Both of the Weasley parents looked at her in surprise.
"Harry warned- he, uh, let me know that you tend to be curious about us. I'm happy to answer whatever I can, I even refreshed myself on some maths and physics in preparation. So, so… feel free…" She trailed off, uncertain as Mrs. Weasley's eyes narrowed and Mr. Weasley's face brightened.
"You will not hog her all night though, I swear!" She looked up at her husband, who nodded happily. Shaking her head she said, "Don't be afraid to tell him to hold off, okay dear? I'm going to go get the last of the rolls and then we should be ready for dinner." She patted her shoulder as she left, heading back towards the house.
Mr. Weasley beamed at her. "I've been hearing a lot, the last few years, about these incredible sounding things called compatures? What are those about then?"
"Yes, those are the ones."
She opened her mouth to reply, but found that she had no idea what to say. How do computers work? There was something to do with a motherboard, wasn't there? But exactly are motherboards?
Bewildered, she looked up at him. "I've just realised I have no idea how computers work."
"That makes two of us, then." They both laughed.
She felt an arm across her shoulder and looked up to see Harry, looking relieved. "There you are, I was worried when I couldn't find you."
"I've just been meeting everyone, or you know, a small portion of everyone. You weren't joking about the crowd."
"There's nothing quite like a Weasley family gathering. Come on, I'll have you say hello to everyone before dinner starts."
He took her by the hand and lead her around to Bill and his wife and their young daughter, to his friends Luna and Neville, to the other Weasley children, more just waving to Ginny as she was talking with Charlie. There were so many names and relationships and noise that she was starting to feel a bit lost. But then they sat down to dinner, which was truly delicious, and she looked around to everyone seated, from Ron shoving off his older brother from the head lock he was pulled into, to Hermione and Ginny chatting, over to Teddy talking with Mrs. Weasley, who was nodding along with fond seriousness to his high pitched rant, and felt, with time, she could get used to this.
She was reading over her class list, sprawled across Harry's bed. "My classes sound actually...interesting."
"Aren't they supposed to?"
"I just, I don't know, even though it's clearly a daft idea, I just still feel excited. Is that stupid?"
Harry sighed. "You're the strangest person I know."
"I-I'm the strangest person you know? You know goblins and elves and giants and I'm the strangest person you know?"
She spluttered while Harry laughed. "You picked English literature to study, because you love books and writing, and have said many times that you can't make yourself study things you're not passionate about, so why do you keep waffling like this?"
"I- I'm going to be poor!" She wailed, flinging her arms out and rolling onto her back.
He sighed and opened his mouth to say not to worry about it and he had more money than he knew what to do with and she should just follow her passions but stopped. He had a feeling that wouldn't go over so well.
"You don't know that. What if you become a famous author?"
"What if I become a hobo? Or one of those people that lives in their parent's spare room until they're forty five and then they just give up and never move out, and their poor mother in their seventies and eighties still do their laundry?"
"Sophie…" He put his hand on her cheek and leaned over her, not saying anything.
She relaxed a little, anxiety leaving her eyes, her mouth smoothing out from the frown it was in. "You're right. I know I'm being silly. I'll be fine, it's just… I thought I had to suck it up and study something boring and now that I'm not doing that, it feels too nice."
He smiled down at her, leaning in closer. "See what I mean? The strangest person."
She scoffed but still leaned up, their kiss was slow and sweet.
"Ugh. At least close the door." Ron was standing there, leaning against the door frame, looking like he had just seen a bug.
"Or you could have just kept walking, you pervert."
Ron scowled, his long strides getting him across the room in two second. He flopped down between them, shoving Harry back and making Sophie bounce as his weight settled.
"What are you doing, you-"
"It's clear that you can't be trusted to be a gentleman, so I'm protecting Sophie-"
Sophie tried to roll away, but was only partially successful, her foot getting caught up in blankets. She was half dangling from the bed, Harry had Ron in a headlock, Ron used his incredibly long limbs to wrap one of his legs around Harry and was squeezing him. They were both swearing at each other.
Hermione walked in, her eyes bouncing from Sophie half on the floor, to Ron and Harry's curse filled wrestling match and rolled her eyes. She pulled out her wand and Harry and Ron were shoved to the other side of the room from each other, squawking at being suddenly airborne.
Ron reshuffled himself until he was sitting somewhat normally, straightening from his crumbled position by the wardrobe. "I was protecting Sophie from that scoundrel over there."
"Cheers mate." Sophie said, still trying to pull the blankets off from around her foot.
Harry rolled to his front and then got to his feet, walking over and helping her out. "I'll protect you, you great git, just you see."
Hermione sighed. "I swear, you two have just gotten worse. I don't remember you two hitting each other so much at Hogwarts."
Ron dusted himself off and then walked over to Sophie, now untangled from the blankets, and more or less hoisted her up by himself. "You weren't in the boy's dorm. Remember that time Seamus broke Dean's nose?"
Harry threw back his head and laughed. "He was trying out the spin kick from that one film."
"It was kind of Dean's fault, he shouldn't have shown Seamus something like that."
"Speaking of Hogwarts, Harry, you've got a letter from McGonagall."
Sophie and Ron let out strangely similar gasps, while Harry, rolling his eyes, took the envelope from Hermione's hand. They all watched as he tore it open and read through it, a smile forming as he read. Wordlessly he handed it to Sophie, Ron and Hermione reading it over her shoulder.
Dear Mr. Potter,
Please, please come teach at Hogwarts for the next new year. I cannot express my relief at your letter of interest enough.
If you have any remaining regard for me as your former head of house, please tell me that you have not changed your mind in the interim of my reply and that you still are interested in teaching.
If so, please reply by owl if a meeting discussing the position and your role works for next Thursday, the nineteenth.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
"Wow, that bloke teaching there now must be terrible."
"Oh, I heard he's fine, it's just that he doesn't want to do it anymore. He only meant to do it for a year or so. Apparently he's ancient. But nobody wants a job that was jinxed by Voldemort, even if the jinx is gone now. I bet Harry's one of the only people qualified that isn't at least a little worried about that."
"That works out neatly, doesn't it? You'll still have a fair bit of time to just relax before starting that position as well. Plus, most people don't usually have the future employers literally begging them to come teach. Nice job, Henry."
Harry grinned at them, feeling lighter than he had in ages. They all smiled back.
Sophie looked down at her black cloak and robes and tugged at the sleeves. They fit perfectly but at least it was something to do with her hands.
She sighed as she stared out into the wide lawn of the most amazing school she has ever seen. But the earlier jubilation of exploring the rooms, getting frustrated by the nonsensical stairs and having the most bizarre conversations with the portraits was quickly fading. The lawn was rapidly becoming more and more filled with people wearing black, the noise of the collective chatter becoming loud enough to hear even some distance away.
It was May 2nd.
It used to be a day for her like any other. Now it holds a strange place in her heart, a grief not her own, a pride she can't take part in, a belated relief.
It's strange to think that her silly boyfriend, who likes sweets and flying and running around with Ron and asking Hermione questions he should probably already know the answer to and picking Teddy up by his ankles and kissing her so sweetly it feels like her heart will explode, is at the center of all this.
Ron, Hermione, Neville, also all honoured and spoken about in a tone of reverence that feels so outside of their easy conversations and lame jokes.
She learned about them all outside of these roles, but though she doesn't want to admit it sometimes, she can picture them in them too. She feels the distance occasionally, the wide, unbridgeable gap in their experiences. When she was seventeen, she studied and laid around with her friends and felt invincible. She knew who she was and what she was going to do and never really questioned her safety.
Harry flinched at green lights sometimes. He gets too anxious when he doesn't hear back from his loved ones by the time he thinks he should have. His laughter, his light hearted expressions, can melt away so easily. His youthful face can harden into something grim and old too easily.
Ron, Hermione and him can have whole conversations just looking at each other. Hermione is the brains of their little group, the way they defer to her knowledge with unthinking trust. Ron, in his own strange way, has the final word. If something is going to happen, it needs Ron's okay.
But Harry, he leads them. That was strange to witness, that time she had hurt her foot and ankle being a spaz on the beach with them one gloomy winter day by Fluer and Bill's house. He barked instructions to them and they… just did them.
She had read about their adventures. She had heard about them. But the longer she knew them, the more she could see their fairy tales woven into their actions, their words, their personalities.
They were heroes.
She left the shade of the entryway and made her way over to the Weasleys. It was Ginny who turned to look at her, who moved to the side to let them join their group. Harry, Ron and Hermione were standing by a podium where the Minister of Magic was going to make a speech of some kind.
The family was hovering around Mrs. Weasley, who wasn't crying, but somehow her blank, shakey expression was so much worse.
She felt like a little alien child. She leaned towards Ginny, "I wish I could, I don't know, do something."
"You've done plenty."
She looked up at her, regret already taking shape, opening her mouth to apologise. She hadn't meant to make this about herself, to seek comfort from the girl who had lost her brother a few short years ago. Ginny shook her head before she could speak.
"You put up with that moody prat."
"Harry's not moody!"
"Alright, he's very moody, but whatever."
"Exactly. For you it's a whatever. For me it felt like failure."
Sophie considered her for a moment. "You and Harry are hardly the first people in the world to try to date an idea instead of a person. You both are so hard on yourselves."
Ginny stared back at her for a long second and then blinked once, then twice, before looking away. "Yeah. You know… yeah."
She felt a familiar warm hand take hold of hers and turned to see Harry frowning down at her. "You okay?" She smiled and nodded as Ginny made a disbelieving noise.
"What, you worried I'm being mean or something?"
Harry looked aghast. "Of course not. Besides, I know she looks like this, but she's actually pretty hard to bully."
Ginny laughed as Sophie slapped him lightly on the shoulder. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"That you look as threatening a basket of kittens."
"Hey, kittens have sharp claws you know?"
"You're a dork."
"I'm your dork."
Harry grinned down at her, pulling her towards some seats. Everyone started to settle, watching as Kingsley moved towards the podium.
"I'm glad you're here."
"I'm glad to be here."
Harry sighed, leaning back into his seat. "I'm allowed to be happy? Even today?"
"Can I always be happy?" He whispered this into her shoulder.
"No, that's not life."
"Damn." He grinned in a strange way.
She reached up and with her thumb she lightly traced the faded scar on his forehead.
"Its okay though. We'll be okay."