The main characters of this story, Harry Potter and Hermione Weasley, are the same characters as in the canon Epilogue, now three years older. This story assumes that in the Epilogue, J.K. Rowling forgot to mention that Harry and Hermione each had been potioned for years by his/her Weasley spouse.

Chapter 1
Happy Bloody Birthday

Friday, 31st July, 2020
Harry Potter's 40th birthday
Potter Manor, the formal dining room

"Greyclay!" Ginny Potter commanded the air. "The cake! Now!"

A large chocolate birthday cake, with four lit candles, appeared on the dining table. At the same time, Greyclay, the head Potter house-elf, popped in front of Ginny Potter and Harry Potter. Greyclay's face was unsmiling as he asked, "Does Lady Potter want anything else?"

Amongst the party guests in the formal dining room, Dudley Dursley murmured to his son Vincent, "Lady Potter? Bloody hell."

Meanwhile, Ginny was speaking imperiously to Greyclay: "No, everything is acceptable for now. You are dismissed."

Greyclay's nose dipped an inch, as he made the world's smallest bow to Ginny. Then Greyclay popped away.

Hermione Weasley said to Ginny, "Must you speak so coldly to Greyclay? He's a person, just like you. He has feelings."

Ginny waved a hand in dismissal. "He's a house-elf. I don't need to care about his feelings, he needs to care about mine."

Hermione glanced at Harry briefly—but only briefly. It had been years since Hermione could expect Harry's help in an argument, even when Harry agreed with her in his head. These days, Harry simply could not get excited about whatever had Hermione stirred up at the moment.

But to everyone's surprise, including his own, Harry spoke up now. "Actually, Ginny—"

"Hush, Harry. I don't want to yammer about house-elves, I want you to blow out the candles so we can eat the cake."

"Yes, dear," Harry replied. His shoulders slumped. At work, he was a Master Auror and he was deadly to dark wizards, but at home, he was a henpecked husband. How did this happen? he wondered.

"Yeah, hurry up with the candles," said Ron Weasley, "I want cake!"

"Honestly, Ronald," said Hermione, slapping her husband's arm. "It's Harry's party—you should be nice to him, not demand that he be nice to you."

Luna Finch-Fletchley's dreamy voice said, "Harry Potter, before you blow out the candles, now is a great time to make a wish."

"Just so long as he doesn't take too long to make his wish," snapped Harry's son James. "Hurry up, Dad."

Harry did not blow out the birthday-cake candles as he had been ordered to do; instead, he looked around. Dudley and his son were here, as Harry's only blood family (other than Harry's and Ginny's three children). Ron and Hermione's children were likewise present. Also standing near the dining table were the quiet heroes Neville Longbottom and Justin Finch-Fletchley, and their wives Hannah and Luna. Luna had just come from Saint Mungo's, and still was wearing her Healer robes. Ten off-duty Aurors and their spouses were here; Harry apparently was popular at work. Lord Samuel Flint, the owner of the Puddlemere United Quidditch Club was here, because Ginny had invited him for some reason; but oddly, Lady Flint (a.k.a. Heiress Daphne Greengrass) had not come to Harry's birthday party. Arthur, Molly and George Weasley were here; the Weasley men were quiet, but Molly as usual was jabbering loudly and constantly.

Harry sighed. He was forty years old today. To Muggles, Harry was just some bloke with an odd forehead scar. To Wizarding Britain, Harry was the Boy Who Lived and the Slayer of Voldemort, a wizard-hero for the ages. But to Molly and Ron Weasley, and to Harry's wife Ginny and to his children, Harry was merely a quite-tall house-elf who was holding a fat Gringotts key.

Trying not to be obvious, Harry looked sidelong at Hermione Weasley. A long time ago, he had loved Hermione, but had realised this too late; and a long time ago, he suspected, Hermione had loved him. But now, he and she were all but strangers—they never spoke to each other, even when they were standing only a few feet apart.

Harry thought, My life is not what it could be, and I have no clue why. I wish I knew what was wrong with my life and how to fix it.

Then Harry blew out the four candles.