Days like today were rare. So rare that Harry had no recollection of the last time one had occurred.

He was excited to go to the clinic. So excited it was turning his stomach into knots.

Because today, he was finally going to meet his Minions.

Minions!

With all sorts of ideas swirling in his mind, he couldn't wait to get started.

Arriving in his office, he spun on his heel, hand outstretched before realizing Tracey wouldn't be expecting him this early.

No matter. He'd check the break room and see about getting some of her wondrous coffee himself.

Exiting through his door, Harry strode down the corridor and was surprised to find someone already in the kitchen.

It was Hermione, her teeth clenched as she struggled to open a bag of coffee grounds.

With a swish of his wand, the bag sailed out of her hands and opened, floating in midair between them.

She looked up at him, her hair bushy enough to rival her Hogwarts days. If she wasn't so frazzled, he might've thought she'd come straight to work after a one-night stand.

"Thanks," she said, snatching the bag back and dumping its contents into the coffee filter.

Except there was no coffee filter.

Harry had to cover his grin when the grounds promptly fell into the pot instead.

"Argh!"

Tilting his head, he raised an eyebrow. "Having a good day, are we?"

"Tracey," she said, snarling the name out, "has informed me that her application to be on your team was approved. And seeing as today is the new employee orientation, she won't be able to come in to do her actual job."

He nodded thoughtfully. Tracey was going to be paid to have a front-row seat of Harry torturing...er...orientating his Minions, all while not having to do her usual work.

It was bloody brilliant.

But what was decidedly less so, was the lack of coffee.

No coffee filters, no coffee.

"We're out of filters?"

Hermione whirled around and glared at him. "Would I be looking through every cupboard if we weren't?"

Running a hand down his face, Harry let out a forlorn sigh. No wondrous coffee. But still…Minions. Today was going to be great.

"We'll just have to do without," Hermione said, staring at the empty basket labeled 'back-up coffee filters' before shutting the cupboard doors with unnecessary force.

Holding his hands up and backing out the doorway, Harry made room for Hemione as she barged past him and stalked back to her office.

Merlin, she was stressed. What could possibly have put her in such a state?

"Harry," she called through her open doorway, "Get your arse in here."

Glancing at the still empty coffee pot, Harry sighed again and exited the kitchen, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

"What now?" he asked, stepping through the door and taking a seat. He lifted his feet and plunked them down on the desk, crossing them at the ankles.

"We have to go over our Onboarding strategy," she said, pulling out a thick stack of paper that could only be accurately described as a tome.

Looking up at him, she glared, her eyes shifting from his feet to his face and back to his feet again.

Harry shot her his best impression of Lockhart's five-time winning Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile and silently conjured a stool without her noticing.

As suspected, the smile had no effect on her. She simply brandished her tome at his feet and none-too-gently knocked them off the desk.

They landed cleanly onto the stool instead.

And with a self-satisfied smirk, Harry locked his fingers behind his head and leaned back. "Our what strategy?" he asked.

"Onboarding."

Duplicating the tome, Hermione levitated it towards Harry, sending it on a collision course with his stomach.

"Oomf."

She spared a glance up at him as Harry took hold of the book. "Onboarding is the term for orientating new hires into the business," she said, flipping through the pages with purpose. "69% of people that experience great onboarding stay loyal and committed in their relationship to the company, while also experiencing improved happiness and joy in their day-to-day work lives."

Tapping his finger with his chin, Harry kept his lips pressed together. "And this is a manual for how to…" he said, pausing for a moment as he picked up the tome, "how to ensure 69% of the Minions experience Great Onboarding?"

"Employees, not minions," she corrected, "but yes."

Taking his feet off the stool, Harry sat up and leant forward. "Was this something you learned at the Climax Conference?"

Hermione scowled. "Not the 'Climax Conference'. The annual Healthcare Management Conference in Climax, Saskatchewan," she corrected again. "But yes, they did cover it there… It's also been a topic at previous conferences and has been an area of interest of mine for years."

Harry lowered his chin and hid his face in his hands until he could keep a neutral expression. "Can I have a pen and paper? I'd like to take notes as I ask you questions."

Happily providing the items, Hermione began explaining their strategy.

Ehh idk what the point of the change is? We can accept

"First important note: beware of inundating staff with too much information," she said, looking down her nose at him. "You can't overdo the inundation of information in your intercourse with new hires because excess inundation can lead to less than satisfactory results as they lose track of what they should be focusing on..."

Harry zoned out midway through, doodling on the page with a concentrated look on his face.

When he'd finished his sixth drawing, Hermione was still discussing something he should have been paying attention to.

"It is imperative that you do not, through your intercourse, over-inundate them with excessive discussion about the policies, procedures, and plans found in The Potter Institute for Magical and Mundane Pathologies, Lurgies, and Endocrinology Clinic: An Employee Handbook, Volumes I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and especially the newly revised–as of last Tuesday, March the 31st–pre-released, partially edited, draft of Volume VII, which covers Information Inundation–Everything You Need To Know And Everything You Thought You Didn't But Really Did, The Harry & Tracey Special Edition."

Raising his eyebrow, Harry glanced between the tome and Hermione before turning to his paper. "Right," he said, making a note.

Onboarding suffers if you talk too much.

With a self-satisfied nod, he looked up.

"You know…I'd been anticipating the biggest hurdle was to get you to even believe in this process," she said, before giving him a small smile. "I'm really grateful to have you here, Harry. I need you to be participative throughout this whole process, especially with the part that comes next..."

Smiling at her, he motioned for her to go on before adding another note: Great onboarding requires active participation.

As Hermione began covering the more technical aspects, Harry zoned out again. His mind quickly wandered to the most pressing issue facing him at the moment:

Where was he going to get some decent coffee?

He let out an audible groan as he realized he'd have to resort to Crinkly Eyes for a cuppa.

"Yes, yes, I know you aren't a fan of the aspects that require emotional intelligence, Harry," Hermione said, prattling on, "but according to the article by Robinson and Crusoe: 'Researching Onboarding Best Practice: Using Research to Connect Onboarding Processes with Employee Satisfaction,' after the initial onboarding tasks are finished, one should attempt to build rapport through the use of story-telling, shared personal history, discussion of values and the big-picture future. All through the use of unconditional positive regard and congruence. (Robinson & Crusoe, et al., 1719)."

Harry felt his eyebrows creep up as she continued.

"Robinson & Crusoe encourage employers to focus on their new hires, individually. To listen to their stories. To find out who they are and then marry those two stories together."

At this, Harry ran a hand up and down his face. "Right, I'm going to get a cuppa before we break into anything involving the word marriage," he said as he pushed his chair back and stood up.

Hermione opened her mouth to retort, but he cut her off by adding, "Would you like me to get you anything?"

He watched as she drew in a breath through her nose and then let out a huff, her frustration giving way to resignation.

"Tea, whichever Abby recommends this morning."

"You got it," he said with a wink before quickly departing the room.

Walking down the corridor, Harry was about to pass the reception area when he stopped in his tracks.

Tracey's desk...

It was gone.

Well, not literally. The desk was still there. But every trace of Tracey was untraceable.

The clipboard at the edge of the desk was missing, the photos of her cats arranged in order by weight were nowhere in sight, and her perfectly pushed-in ergonomic green chair was replaced by a dull brown mesh one.

All of the little things that made it her space were gone. And nothing was arranged in her usual efficient and effective manner.

If there was one surefire way to piss off Tracey, it was to mess with her desk settings.

Which meant…she had to have done it herself.

Which meant, she hadn't applied to be a Minion on a lark. This was planned. Premeditated.

Huh...not what he was expecting.

With that at the forefront of his mind, Harry walked into the cafe, wondering what to make of Tracey's actions.

He took a seat at a table by the window and looked around for Crinkly Eyes. She was nowhere in sight and there was no other waitress around, either. Harry leant forward and tapped his fingers on the table as he waited impatiently.

Looking down at his watch, he wondered what was taking so long. He wasn't growing any younger here!

Finally, several minutes later, Crinkly Eyes came bustling out of the kitchen, three plates of food balanced on two hands. She moved rapidly, depositing the first plate in front of Endless Eyebrow at the table across from him, and the other two at a table behind him.

At last, she approached him slightly out of breath, her shoulders slumped. "The usual coffee to go?"

Harry scrutinized her as he nodded. "A tea for Hermione, too," he added.

With his order in, she hurried off with her head hung.

Odd…

She normally annoyed him with her persistent, perfunctory, pernicious, pervasive persistence.

Even odder, a minute or so later, a different waitress came out, two cups in hand, her steps shy and tentative. "A-are these f-for y-you?"

Frowning at her, Harry reached to grab them. But before he could do so, Crinkly Eyes came bursting out of the kitchen with an overcoat thrown over her uniform. She snatched one of the drinks from the other waitress' hands and put it in a carry-out tray.

"Here," she said, passing it over to him.

Harry looked between the two of them, twice. "Who's this?" he asked, trying to read the beady-eyed girl's name tag.

It was blank. He squinted, confirming what he thought he'd seen before shaking his head.

Who wore a blank name tag?

Pushing the receipt into his chest, Abby ignored his question and asked if he needed anything else.

"Well, yes, actually," he said, accepting Hermione's tea from Nameless Nancy. "A new receptionist."

Abby took the money Harry handed over before responding. "The only receptionist we get here is Barbara, the afternoon regular that always orders the steak and kidney pie," she said offhandedly as she dug out his change.

"Wretched Wrinkles?"

Looking up, she glared at him. "She's not that old."

"Her personality is wretched, not the wrinkles," Harry said.

She paused in her search for the correct amount of change and tilted her head in thought. "She really is wretched, isn't she?"

The corners of his lips turned up in a smile. "Keep the change," he said, hoping to encourage this new fire in her.

Bidding both women goodbye, he walked towards the exit, pulled the door open and made his way back out onto the street.

In his haste to drink his coffee, Harry hadn't noticed that Abby had been following him out, and he accidentally closed the door on her.

"Oh, sorry," he said.

"S'alright," she said before pulling her overcoat tighter.

Harry dipped his head in her direction and then continued on his way back to the office.

But out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Abby matching him step for step.

Ducking his head, he tried to ignore her presence, but he was having a hard time as she kept peeking over at him.

With a sigh, he decided to end the awkwardness. "I was worried this might happen," he said, shaking his head in resignation. "I get it, I'm a charming bloke. But Abby…if you want to get in my pants, I prefer you just be upfront about it instead of playing this coy game."

Turning her head without breaking stride, she rolled her eyes. "I'm walking to my bus stop."

"Oh," he said before glancing at her thoughtfully. "Shouldn't you be, you know…at work?"

Her jaw clenched in response, and she stuffed her hands in her pockets. "Apparently I'm not scheduled today," she bit out.

"But you gave me these," Harry said, raising the tray.

"Well, I was on the schedule but Crab-Apple revised it after hiring–"

"Nameless Nancy."

Abby let out a humourless chuckle. "Yeah. Her," she said. "I asked for a weekend off. One weekend. And she takes half my shifts and gives them away."

"Crab-Apple, indeed," Harry said, rubbing his chin.

The two continued walking in silence for a few seconds before Harry looked at her again. "Well, you clearly wanted to work today..." he said, gesturing to her uniform. "And I happen to need a receptionist…"

Abby paused in her step and turned to face him. "Are you offering me a job?"

He shrugged. "We can see how you handle things," he said. "I'll pay you for the day, but it might be best to do a trial before we commit to anything."

"Alright," Abby said slowly. "Yeah…I can work with that. Should I change and come back or…?"

A grin formed on Harry's face as he handed her Hermione's tea. "We've got some things you could wear at the clinic."

She nodded. "And you're sure you can just hire me?"

Harry blinked. "Well, of course," he said. "Hermione likes you, there should be no problem. Come Work With Me, Abby."

x-x-x

"Why is my favourite waitress sitting at the front desk of our clinic?" Hermione asked, her arms crossed.

"So you could Grow Close With Her?" Harry said with a shrug. "She was supposed to work today, but her boss hired some Nameless Nancy. And well…we need a receptionist, don't we?"

Hermione's nostrils flared. "A receptionist, Harry. Not a waitress," she said, putting emphasis on the job titles as if she was speaking to a five-year-old.

Taking a slurp of his coffee, Harry swallowed the little bit of liquid heaven. "Waitresses greet customers, direct them to the right spot, write down basic information, give it to others and are used to dealing with all sorts of people every day," he said. "Bit like a receptionist's job, innit?"

Opening her mouth, her glare gave way to a frown. "Well, it doesn't even matter!" she said, throwing her hands up in the air. "I already called someone to fill in."

"Un-call them in, then?" Harry suggested, backing away towards the door. "But I'll let you deal with all that; I need to check the latest research before my first patient arrives."

The sound of Hermione's growl followed him through the corridor as he quickly made his escape.

x-x-x

"Good morning, Hermione," said a tall, sandy-haired man, wearing a grin so smug it was almost smackable. "I'm so very pleased that you finally realized how poor the organization was here; I'd be more than happy to train your new receptionist."

The waggling of his eyebrows at the word 'train' wasn't missed by her.

"McLaggen," Hermione said in greeting, unable to keep the sneer off her face. "You didn't get my owl, then? We found someone else to take the position. And I will be the one training her."

Cormac simply grinned in response.

x-x-x

"You brought both, right?" Harry said, taking a seat on the stool and rolling over to the boy with an army man shoved up his nose.

Bad-faith Bargainer nodded. He had a Gameboy Advance in one hand and the other behind his back. "Nuh-uh," he said as Harry reached for one. "Lolly first. Then you get the Gameboy."

Harry rolled his eyes, but took the lid off and plucked two from the bowl. He unwrapped one and stuck it in his mouth before offering the second.

But just as the kid tried to grab it, Harry pulled it back out of reach. "Put the Gameboy face down so I can see the game cartridge, and I'll leave the lolly on the desk," he said, eyeing him warily. "Then we switch spots on the count of three."

Bad-Faith Bargainer squinted his eyes in challenge, but nodded.

"3…2…1…"

x-x-x

"No, no, no," McLaggen said gently, pulling the filled-in patient admittance form out of Hermione's hand. "Once they sign it, you put it in the pre-prepared file."

With a slight blush, Abby looked up at him. "Oh, right, sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry about, petal," he said with a wink.

Hermione's teeth grit together as she watched them. "We don't need stacks of blank files waiting around for new patients to come in–"

Whatever else she was going to say was cut off by Cormac putting a finger on her lips. "Being pre-prepared is the key to organization, Hermione," he said, giving her a patronizing smile as he removed his finger. "Trust me, it's the key to parenting, as well. I certainly couldn't get through the terrible twos and troublesome threes on my own without being pre-prepared."

"But that's not how I set up the system!" Hermione replied, trying and failing to keep her voice from rising. "Tracey didn't need—"

"Ah," Cormac said, cutting her off again. "But that's the issue right there."

"What is?" Abby asked, hanging on his every word.

"You can't treat every child the same," he said, looking at Abby. "Each one is precious and unique. And what works for one won't necessarily for another."

The two of them stared into each other's eyes for an uncomfortably long stretch of time.

"But you'll understand it one day," Cormac said, returning his attention to Hermione. "When you have kids of your own–hopefully with a partner there by your side. Raising children by yourself is no walk in the park, let me tell you that."

Hermione left as he pulled out his wallet and began showing Abby a drop-down sleeve of photos of his 'little blessings'.

"It's one of the failings of women," she heard him say. "They really need to have children to develop the emotional intelligence and patience that us dads develop naturally."

x-x-x

"Okay, let's try this again," Harry said. "Take three steps that way."

"Nope, not falling for it," Bad-Faith Bargainer said. "I'm not moving until you move."

Harry sighed, holding the lolly tight in his hands. "On the count of three, take one step at a time."

The boy nodded.

"Un…deux…trois."

x-x-x

"You must be such a wonderful father," Abby said, smiling up at him. "And such a good husband, too."

"I–I was," Cormac said before turning away from her and hanging his head.

Abby's eyebrows shot up. "Was?" she whispered, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Did…something happen?"

He swallowed audibly and nodded. "Just after the little guy started school," he said, his voice cracking. "She was flying…and there was this pole…see, she had a big head…but it didn't protect her…"

"I'm so so sorry," Abby said, putting her hand in his.

x-x-x

"You good for another session tomorrow?"

Harry raised an eyebrow as he heard Bad-Faith Bargainer pack up his things. "You can't keep putting off the inevitable, you know," he said, not glancing up from his Gameboy. "One of these days, you'll have to grow up and actually attend your Maths class."

The boy grunted in response.

"You'll thank me later," Harry said, wincing as he nearly missed his jump because he was talking. "When you're off trying to analyze your ranking on the leaderboards, you'll finally understand the Importance of using mean, median and mode."

"Whatever," Bad-faith replied dismissively. "It's just Maths. If I have to listen to that harpy drone on about the Dissemination and Distinctions of Distribution Data Sets one more time…Anyway, it's not like I'll need it when I'm a professional gamer."

Harry snorted but couldn't take his attention away from the game. He was at the critical point that either made or broke the attempt.

x-x-x

"Umm…hi, how can I…."

Harry raised an eyebrow as he watched Cormac whisper something in Abby's ear as she struggled to read from a cue card.

"-help you! How can I help you?" Abby said, blushing hard and smiling at Cormac in thanks.

A man in a pirate's hat smiled pleasantly at them both. "I'm here for the Minion orientation," he said. "My name is Cappy, short for Sir CaptainHindsight."

"Sir Captain?" Cormac repeated with a doubtful look.

(Cappy reacted with a doubtful look in return.)

Harry stepped in at this point and clapped his friend on the shoulder. "Sir Captain the Fluffy Knight to you," he said to Cormac. "Right this way, Cap. Abby–send all the Minions to the conference room."

She nodded enthusiastically.

(Cappy reacted by nodding enthusiastically as well.)

Harry smiled at Cappy (who reacted by smiling right back) as they walked towards the conference room, the same thrill from this morning running through his gut at the prospect of finally meeting all his Minions.

When they entered, a few Minions were already seated around The Handmade Single Select Reclaimed Bastogne Walnut Wooden Slab With Trapezoid Black & Gold Tiger Striped Powder Coated Steel Framed Dining Table. They were conveniently wearing name tags on their chest thanks to his excellent new receptionist.

The conference room was rarely used by anyone. It was mostly bare save for The Handmade Single Select Reclaimed Bastogne Walnut Wooden Slab With Trapezoid Black & Gold Tiger Striped Powder Coated Steel Framed Dining Table, and one wall that served as a large one-way glass into another room. Harry had never quite figured out what its original purpose was, but he assumed Hermione had her sinister reasons for it.

"Lordslayer69," Harry said, reading off the nametag of a man that looked remarkably like Lord Krishna. "Huh…have we met before?" (A thumbs up sign appeared behind him as he spoke.)

The man nodded, (Cappy nodding along with him). "I came here once to be treated for a broken left phalange," he said, wiggling his deformed finger at him. "But I wasn't wearing the proper attire."

"Theme week?" someone named 'Gab' said from the other end of the table.

"Theme week," Lordie said with a wise nod.

Harry smiled at the interaction, happy to see his Minions building rapport. Wasn't that somewhere on Hermione's marriage checklist?

With a feeling of satisfaction, he continued listening into the conversation until a knock on the door interrupted the steady stream of small talk about Sgt. Peppers outfits.

A small hush fell over the room at the sight of the newcomer.

"A…girl?" Lordie said as a woman with a 'Bippy' name tag waved at all of them.

(Cappy waved back.)

"Whatever you do, don't tell Tracey," Harry said at once, giving them all a serious look. "She'll scare her off with professions of love."

"I thought she wasn't gay?" Cappy said (with a serious look in return as he held up a poster with a question mark on it).

"She's not," Harry said off-handedly, not bothering to ask how Cappy was aware of this information.

"Bi, then?" Gab said.

Harry raised an eyebrow at them before standing up to address the room. "Welcome, everyone," he said loudly. "Settle in, please, settle in. We're just waiting on a few more Minions."

As soon as the words left his mouth, the door slammed open again to reveal none other than Tracey. She scowled at everyone before coming to a halt across from Bippy.

"Another…girl?" she said, a slow smile spreading across her lips. (Cappy watched the interaction with a slow smile spreading across his lips, as well.) "What's your name? How are you? How did you find us? I love you, do you want to be best friends?"

Harry shut his eyes and sighed, waiting for the inevitable slam of the door as Bippy ran for her life the way so many others before her had run for theirs.

But the slam never came.

Bippy merely smiled and held out her hand. "Sure!" she said with a shrug.

Tracey pushed her hand aside and wrapped her arms around Bippy instead. "Welcome home," she said in a warmer tone than Harry had ever heard before.

"Well, isn't this wholesome," said a new voice in a thick Yorkshire accent.

"Wardie!" several voices shouted in unison as the Yorkshire Floof walked into the room with a wide smile and rosy, dimpled cheeks.

Cappy excitedly tapped the chair next to him for Wardie to sit in.

Harry watched the scene in contentment, waiting patiently as a few more stragglers joined the room and acquainted themselves with everyone else.

"Good morning, all. And welcome to The PIMPPLE," Harry said in a booming voice, spreading his arms out wide. (Cappy reacted by spreading his arms out in return.) "Now, before we begin the orientation, I thought we could go around the room and introduce ourselves–"

Thump.

Harry paused as everyone's heads snapped towards the door at the sound. Everyone aside from Tracey who looked straight at the one-way glass and rolled her eyes.

"It's Hermione," she said, gesturing towards her.

Frowning, Harry turned to look at the glass to see Hermione on the other side in the next room. "I thought that was a one-way," he said. "How are we able to see her?"

Tracey shook her head. "You have to charm it on, first. Right now, it's just a window for her to stick her nose into."

Indeed, Hermione's nose was pressed up against the glass as she cupped her hands around her eyes and peeked through.

"And…is she aware of that?" Harry said, looking right at her.

"I think she thinks it's a one-way," Tracey said in amusement as Hermione continued to stare at them in silence.

Harry smiled pleasantly. "Brilliant."

Turning back around, he proceeded to summon a bottle of tequila and several shot glasses before passing them around the table.

"We'll begin," he said, walking towards the two-way glass and standing with his back blocking Hermione's view, "with a team building activity. 'Never have I ever'!"

Several excited murmurs erupted throughout the room.

Raising his shot glass high in the air, Harry began. "Never have I ever…gotten drunk at wor–"

But before he could say another word, the conference room door slammed open to reveal a red-faced Hermione. Without a glance at the group before her, she grabbed Harry by the back of his robes and pulled him into the corridor before depositing him on the other side of the two-way glass.

He made eye-contact with Tracey and winked at her before turning to Hermione with a straight face. "Something wrong?" he asked with both eyebrows raised in concern.

"Something? Something?" Hermione said in a fury. "How about everything! You bring in those ragtag group of morons–"

"Minions," Harry corrected.

"After I specifically told you to burn all those applications and start over with qualified candidates!" she said, talking over him. "Then you go and play a drinking game with them in the middle of the work day? Have you gone absolutely mental!?"

Harry vaguely wondered if the sound-proofing feature was also charmed off the one-way glass. Judging by the amused look on Tracey's face, he'd have to go with yes.

"They are qualified," he insisted. "Based on my qualifications."

At this, Hermione let out a screech of frustration. "Not one of them has even a day's worth of experience in the medical field!"

"Oi! I've been working here for over four years!" Tracey said in indignation.

The colour instantly drained from Hermione's face. She froze for a moment before turning slowly towards the glass.

The entire group of minions were staring straight at her as she stared back.

"Please tell me the glass is charmed on," she said to Harry.

"Er…well, it's not," he said, helpfully.

Nostrils flared, she grabbed Harry by the collar and hissed at him. "In. My. Office. Now."

With that, she turned on her heel and stalked off. And Harry had no choice but to follow right after her.

Hermione was on a warpath.

Which was very unfortunate for Abby, who popped out of the reception area and into the corridor at that very moment.

"Hi, Harry!" she said, causing him to stumble into Hermione in surprise. "I've got two more minions here waiting to see you."

"Oh, no, no, no," said a surprisingly white middle-aged voice behind her. "We're not Minions. We're friends."

With an outrageously handsome grin, Swiftie Stan took a step forward with his arms at his waist in a Golden God-like pose. The live studio audience around him enthusiastically clapped and whistled at his sudden cameo.

After the noise died down, he embraced Harry before turning to Hermione and giving a respectful bow of the head.

"We're friends, yes!" a new voice added, this time with a Spanish-Portogueaase lilt.

Hermione rolled her eyes in response. "Great, he's here, too?"

Stumbling forward with a glass of orange juice in his hand (that promptly spilled all over Abby's clothes), Brazilian Beta straightened up and smiled. "I'm here for the Minion orientation," he said.

The words seemed to set off a trigger in Hermione, and she immediately let out a snarl of frustration. "If I hear that word one more time–"

"Way to go, Nauze," Swiftie Stan said.

"Real smooth, Nauze," Harry added.

"#balmeNauze," Abby and McLaggen muttered under their breath in unison before turning to each other and giggling.

Swiftie Stan stared at the new duo for a moment with one eyebrow raised before turning back to Hermione. "I apologize on my friend's behalf, Hermione," he said. "He quite often puts his foot in his mouth."

With a shrug, Brazilian Beta took a sip of his OJ. "Whatever, it's not like I'm a Hermione fan, anyway."

Several gasps rang throughout the corridor, the loudest coming from Swiftie Stan himself.

"I-I'm so sorry, Hermione. I'll take care of this, I promise," Swiftie Stan said, pulling out a heavy binder labeled "Harmony 3" and hugging it to his chest. "You two go on, I have a lot of work to do."

With that, he pulled Brazilian Beta by the arm and dragged him into one of the clinic rooms, slamming the door shut behind him.

"Well…that's that love Pauzed, I suppose," McLaggen said, earning another giggle from Abby.

By this point, Hermione seemed to have had enough. She threw one more glare at Harry before stomping off to her office with him following behind her in resignation.

With a sigh, he took a seat in the chair across her desk and slouched back, waiting for the inevitable tirade to come.

And come, it sure did.

Harry blocked most of it out, occasional words like 'unprofessional', 'childish', 'immature', 'contumelious', 'malapert', 'opprobrious' 'vituperative', 'flagitious' and 'ribald' seeping through his consciousness. He knew this conversation like the back of his hand, having heard it countless times before.

"Now," she said, attempting to catch her breath after her last round of insults. "I want you to go into that conference room and purge it of every last one of those Minions if you know what's good for you, Harry Potter. As for me…I've had just about enough. It's my turn for a holiday! I'm taking the rest of the day off and going to the spa. So do not contact me!"

With a wave of her hand, she dismissed him.

Harry rolled his eyes and left the room.

The melodramatics, honestly. Must be nice being able to give yourself a holiday whenever you damn well pleased.

And to think…he was having such a good morning.

He had half a mind to keep the Minions here all day just to spite Hermione, but if she was leaving the clinic early, there was hardly any point. He'd just have to rethink his approach and determine a new way to ensure he could take full advantage of this situation.

In the meantime, he might as well send the group home. There was no reason to keep attempting to onboard them if he wasn't going to be able to shoot his shot. It would just leave them all frustrated.

"Alright lads and ladies," Harry said, slamming the conference room door open. "Clear out, we're done for today. Possibly forever if Hermione has her way. But she never does, so I'll contact you for further details."

The group shrugged in unison, including Tracey who stood up and walked over to Harry. "Does this mean I get the rest of the day off?"

"I suppose so," Harry said. "We've got two new receptionists at the moment, won't be needing you for a while until this Minion thing gets going again."

Tracey nodded before staring off to the side in thought. "Right," she said, biting her lip. "Maybe…maybe this is the push I need."

With a frown, Harry turned to face her fully. "Push?"

She gave him a small smile. "Let's face it, Harry. The Minions are never going to happen," she said, shaking her head. "I hoped that they might. Even went and quit my steady full-time job for it."

He opened his mouth to respond, but she cut him off.

"I don't blame you," she assured him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I don't. But…I have to make some Important decisions now that I've been dragging my feet for years."

The expression on her face grew serious for a moment.

"I've always felt there was something more out there for me. Something different," she said before shrugging. "Maybe I really just needed to burst from the protective layer of the PIMMPLE and flow freely."

Harry watched as she brought her hand down to The Handmade Single Select Reclaimed Bastogne Walnut Wooden Slab With Trapezoid Black & Gold Tiger Striped Powder Coated Steel Framed Dining Table and traced the pattern of wood absentmindedly. "I've had some amazing times here, you know," she said, looking up at him with a wistful smile. "Making Hermione's life a living hell, pranking patients, wreaking havoc, working with you…"

As she trailed off, they both stared at each other in silence. Harry wished he could find the right words to tell her how much she meant to him as a coworker and friend. But that was the thing about Tracey. He didn't need to. She'd always anticipated his every move, read his every thought, entertained his every wild idea.

Just as he'd done hers.

So it was without words that he shared his final goodbye: a silent 'thank you' and 'until next time.'

Picking up her things, Tracey took his hand in a firm shake. "Until next time," she said before walking towards the door.

Harry watched her go, leaning back against the two-way glass and feeling a heaviness settle in his chest.

And he registered the fact that as he grew older, he grew worse and worse at saying goodbye.

x-x-x

"Hey, Harry," said a voice as he walked into the kitchen to grab some coffee. "Why the long face?"

Harry was surprised to find Brazilian Beta and Switfie Stan staring up at him from the table.

"Oh, er…hey. Sorry, I forgot you guys were still here," he said, bringing himself back to the present. "I let the Minions go home. Hermione was blowing a gasket."

Brazilian Beta rolled his eyes. "That is so like her–" he said before jumping in his seat as though he'd just been shocked. "I mean, that is not like her. No, not like her, at all."

Rocking back and forth in his seat, he shook his head quickly as Swiftie Stan gave him a supremely serene smile.

With a groan, Harry rubbed his face. "Why are we even talking about Hermione right now?" he said, desperately wanting to get his mind off things. "We're in the kitchen, Nauze. This is a safe space."

"Yeah, Nauze. How hard is it to have specific conversations in specific spaces? Just look at the sign on every room," Swiftie Stan said, pointing to the flashing 'kitchen' sign above the door.

Harry and Swiftie Stan shook their heads in disappointment while Nauze hung his head.

"Anyway, since you both already made the long trip here," Harry said, sipping on his disgusting coffee. "How about a tour of the PIMMPLE?"

They both immediately let out excited cheers and pumped their fists in the air.

"I didn't even get a chance to thank you for traveling all the way out here for the Minion orientation, by the way," Harry said as he led them to the reception area and waiting room. "It means a lot to me."

When he'd been formulating his Minion team, Harry had decided to bring on a few wildcards to spice things up. Tracey, Swiftie Stan, and Brazilian Beta had been the obvious choices. Not that Hermione had been aware of this. For all she'd known, they'd just been visiting an old friend.

But Harry was immensely grateful they'd agreed to make the trip from the far-off exotic lands of Ohio and Brazilia to the UK. Swiftie Stan had been hesitant at first. Especially when confronted with the frightening reality of having to leave the confines of his tub, which had become a safe haven for him from the rest of the world.

But here he was. And Harry couldn't be more glad to have them both here.

"Doesn't Tracey usually run the front desk?" Swiftie Stan asked as they stood in front of McLaggen and Abby, the former showing the latter photos of his son.

"She was going to apply for a position with the Minions," Harry said, the heaviness in his chest returning. "But seeing as that's been put on hold, she's decided to explore her other options."

They both nodded in understanding.

"Anyway," Harry said, trying not to sound too abrupt, but failing. "This is the reception area and front desk."

Gazing around the room, Swiftie Stan nodded. "Looks pretty standard."

A small smile came over Harry's face at that. "You should have seen it during Theme Week," he said, recalling the memories with fondness. "It was anything but standard. Tracey and I had it all decked out. There was Beatles Day, Clap-Skate Track Day, Kilt Day–"

"Kilt Day?" Brazilian Beta said before looking Harry up and down. "Were you a true Scotsman, then?"

"WTF Nauze!" the entire room said in unison.

Harry sighed and shook his head at the man before leading them back into the corridor to show them the exam rooms.

"This is where I hide away from Hermione to waste time," Harry said, opening the door to Exam Room 3.

"Don't you mean it's where you treat patients?" Nauze said.

With a click of his tongue, Harry crossed his arms. "No, Nauze. That's Exam Room 1. I'm showing you Exam Room 3. For Merlin's sake, keep up and stay on topic."

Swiftie Stan shook his head in disappointment. "Really, Nauze. It's not that difficult," he said, looking him up and down as he walked past.

Nauze rubbed his face in frustration at himself. "Sorry, just continue with the tour, please," he said before gesturing towards the door on the right. "What's this room?"

"The conference room. We were in here earlier," Harry said, pushing the door open and leading them inside. "We never really use it because there's only three of us working here. And Hermione prefers to establish dominance by forcing us to sit in the small chairs in her office rather than around a round table. It is a shame though…you really can't find better quality wood than this–"

"Uhhh…speaking of quality wood…" Nauze said hesitantly.

Harry and Swiftie Stan both turned around in confusion and immediately let out loud yelps.

McLaggen and Abby were both in a state of semi-undress and going at it like bunnies on the other side of the one-way glass which was, in fact, definitely still a two-way.

"My eyes!" Harry said, snapping back around and gagging.

Swiftie Stan shrugged. "I saw them canoodling in the reception area earlier," he said, turning to face Harry. "'Bout time. Definitely looks like she needed some, the poor girl. Good for her."

Brazilian Beta was the last to turn around, and Harry immediately led them out of the conference room after that, leaving Abby and McLaggen to it.

And to think…she was in such a terrible mood this morning. If things could turn around for her, he sincerely hoped fate would do the same for him.

Finishing up the tour, Harry bid Swiftie Stan and Brazilian Beta goodbye for now and thanked them for coming. But he made sure to tell them to stay in London. His Minion dream wasn't over just yet.

It couldn't be.

x-x-x

Stumbling out of the floo and into the sitting room of the Burrow, Harry was late as usual for Sunday dinner.

This time though, it had been deliberate. He knew Hermione would be here today, and he'd been wanting to minimize the amount of time he had to see her as much as possible without seeming too obvious.

As the rest of the previous week had progressed, he'd realized that this fight between them ran deeper than many of the others they'd had in the past. Harry really didn't understand why she continued to have a stick up her arse about the Minions. She was the one who gave him the free reign to choose his team. She was the one who wanted to start this expansion process to begin with, pushing to constantly progress her career and not even bothering to ask what he wanted.

He liked how things were; how they'd always been.

If anything, she should be blaming herself for all this!

But Harry wasn't going to let Hermione Granger-Gibbons ruin his dinner at the Burrow. He'd just have to sit far away from her and pretend everything was normal.

"Evening, Weasleys," Harry said, as he walked out into the garden.

Ginny was in the middle of talking, as usual. But everyone cut her off to say hello to Harry and ask how he'd been doing.

"Feels like we haven't seen you in ages, Harry, dear," Molly said, making her way over to him after he sat down and hugging him from behind.

"Yeah, that was some hiatus you took from us," George said, leaning over and rubbing the top of Harry's head with his knuckles.

He accidentally elbowed Ginny's arm in the process, causing her to splash her spoonful of soup onto her face.

"George!" she said, broth dripping from her chin. "Watch it!"

Laughing good-naturedly at George's antics, Harry apologized for his time away and continued to exchange hellos with everyone. But the conversation died quickly when a new voice spoke up from the other end of the table.

"You know…it's funny."

At once, they all turned their heads, and Harry internally groaned as he spotted Hermione.

"What is, dear?" Molly said, placing food onto Harry's plate.

Hermione steepled her fingers together as she stared them all down. "Well…Ginny was just in the middle of telling us something very important," she said, "but as soon as Harry walks in, everyone suddenly loses their minds and forgets she even exists."

Everyone frowned in unison.

"What's your point?" Ron said, through a mouthful of bread rolls.

Even Ginny turned to look at Hermione for an answer to that question.

"My point?" Hermione said, slamming her hands on the table. "My point? My point is the world doesn't revolve around Harry Potter! Ginny should be allowed to tell us her news with or without Harry here. And if he's going to walk in late, then walk in discreetly and show some respect. If he even knows what the word means–!"

"So does that mean I can finish telling my news?" Ginny said.

"Quiet, Ginny. I'm talking!" Hermione said in exasperation.

Molly and Arthur both threw looks of disapproval at their daughter.

"Go on, Hermione, dear," Molly said.

With a huff, Hermione continued. "Look, I don't know about the rest of you, but I've had it up to here with Harry's antics!" she said, standing up. "He thinks he can say anything, do anything, break any and every rule with no consequence?"

Fleur gave Harry a questioning look, but he merely shrugged. "Where's all this coming from, Hermione?" she asked. "Did you two have a conflict at work?"

"A conflict? A conflict!? No, Fleur. We've had many conflicts. Countless conflicts," Hermione said, her voice getting louder. "And I'm tired of it! For weeks, I've been building this expansion project for the clinic all on my own. Working overtime to get it all running smoothly. Not eating, not sleeping, not a single moment to rest. And I ask him for one thing, Fleur. One thing! Just build a competent team from the applicants that I supplied you with!"

"And you can't even do that…" she added quietly, shaking her head at him.

At this point, there were tears of frustration building in Hermione's eyes. And Harry swallowed hard at the sight, feeling a true sense of shame overcome him for the first time.

He hadn't really considered how much of her work he'd ruined. He was truly unmoored by it all.

With a long exhale, she wiped her face. "I'm just sick of it all. I really am," she said with a tired shrug. "Your stupid jokes and pranks. Your useless Minion agenda. I started this clinic so I could work with my best friend. But at this point…after everything…you've made an enemy out of me, Harry. And I don't know if we can ever bounce back from this."

He stood up, but she brushed him off.

"I'm sorry," she whispered shakily before pushing her seat back and running into the house.

Harry immediately turned to chase after her, ignoring Fleur's calls to leave her be for now. "Hermione!" he said, rushing towards the back door of the Burrow. "Hermione, wait!"

He saw her step into the fireplace with a handful of floo powder, and he skidded to a halt in front of her. "Where are you going?" he said, feeling a sudden sense of fear enveloping him for reasons he couldn't explain.

She shook her head. "I don't know," she said, tears streaming down her face. "I just can't be here…I need a break from all of this. From you."

Feeling a stab to his chest, he stepped towards her. "Please," he said, his voice sounding small. "Let's just talk. No games, no antics. I know I screwed up. I pushed the limits too far. But you can't leave…you can't leave me."

Hermione stared at him with her forehead pinched in a frown. "I should have. A long time ago, but I couldn't. Because I know why you do it, Harry," she said softly. "Why everything is a joke to you. Why you can't take anything seriously. You've been this way for so long, but the last few years, it's just been getting worse and worse. "

Her brown eyes were so piercing that he had to shift his gaze away.

"You lose people. And it hurts. So much so that nothing starts to matter anymore. And with Gabby…I know you still miss her every day," she said, trying to comfort him even now. "And maybe this is the only way for you to cope. I've tried to be patient because of that, Harry. Because I know you're hurting…but now you're hurting me, too."

He didn't want to acknowledge the truth of her words. He didn't want to think of the loss of Gabby and so many others in his life when he was so dangerously close to losing Hermione, too.

Hermione was his best friend. Closer than anyone had ever been. They'd gone through hell and back together. And perhaps he pushed too far with her because he knew she'd always be there.

Growing old with him. A constant companion.

Who was he without her?

"Just give me another chance," Harry said, grabbing both her hands. "Please, Hermione. I'll fix this. I'll fix everything at work. Everything between us. Just one more chance."

She shut her eyes for a moment, tears dripping from her lashes.

Finally, she nodded. "One more chance," she whispered.

He'd make this right. He refused to say goodbye to one more person.

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

Days like today were rare.

Harry was standing in front of his mirror. Not to check his teeth, shave his beard, or ensure his hair wasn't too much of an unruly mess.

Rather, he was simply staring at himself. At the man staring back at him. With the same green eyes, scar, and glasses that he knew so well. But a hardness to his eyes, a hollowness to his cheeks, and an all-consuming air about him that was alarmingly unrecognizable.

Somewhere along the way, he'd allowed things to go awry.

And while Hermione was the impetus for this current introspection, he couldn't help but think that if Gabby were to meet him for the first time now, she might have hated him. Perhaps even as much as he hated himself in the current moment.

He'd never intended for things to go like this. The introduction of the Minions was supposed to be a great week of fun, of building HYPE, general mayhem and shenanigans. Hermione would play along in her masterminded ways, sending him difficult case after difficult case, all with the sole Intent of proving him wrong. That his Minions were an utter failure and his team was Impotent.

But then he'd swoop in and show her the Importance of his Intent: that he didn't need a team. That he would solve every case sent his way. Every. Single. One.

And of most Importance, that an expansion wasn't necessary. Instead, they just had to get rid of clinic hours and pile on the CYSTs (Cases You Shouldn't Take). And with the guaranteed success and notoriety that would come of that, it would be a win-win for both of them.

He didn't need highly trained healers taking initiative, he needed loyal people who followed his orders and could do the grunt work to help him solve his cases.

He needed Swiftie Stan, Brazilian Beta, and Tracey. And all of his brilliant planning of the Minion orientation and onboarding week was supposed to lead to that end result.

But as he looked back on it all, he had to wonder what on earth he'd been thinking. It wasn't like he couldn't have guessed how Hermione would take it.

She was his best friend. He knew her inside and out. How could he not have predicted this?

It seemed that while his plan had been flawless, he'd forgotten the thing of most Importance: to include Hermione in it and consider how it might impact her.

Just brilliant.

He snorted in derision and shook his head.

And now, because of all that, he was standing in front of his mirror with his stomach in knots, having an existential crisis.

He was truly frightened of the basilisk he was about to face. And this time he didn't have Fawkes to rely on or a legendary artifact. All he had was the genuine contempt for who he'd become and the sincerity to ensure he didn't screw up his final chance to make things right.

Splashing his face with water, Harry shook himself out of his mental funk. He wasn't going to fix his mistakes by sitting around and moping. He had to man up and face the music.

He could do this. He had to do this.

Quickly popping into the cafe before work, Harry ordered a coffee and tea from Nameless Nancy and then made his way to the clinic. He waited in Hermione's office for her to show up, checking his watch periodically and smiling in satisfaction when she appeared exactly when he'd expected: approximately one hour before the clinic opened for patients.

"Morning," he said, holding out her tea.

She looked at him, her eyes steeped with suspicion. "I hope you don't think knowing my schedule, showing up early and buying me tea will fix things, Harry James Potter," she said, accepting the drink and taking a sip.

Holding up his hands in defense, he nodded. "I know, I know," he said. "Just wanted to do something nice."

"Well…good," she said, taking a seat and gesturing for him to do the same. "I thought we could get right into it, then. First things first, we are weeks behind schedule. If we're to get things back on track, I'll need you to cover all of the clinic hours until I've hired and onboarded the new staff."

"All?" he couldn't help but ask.

"All."

Harry gulped down the sip of coffee he had taken. Of course she was going to demand reparations for the hell he'd put her through. It wouldn't be enjoyable, but he knew he deserved it. "Anything else?" he said, the words tasting like acid on his tongue.

Hermione held up her fingers to list things off. "No shenanigans, no messing about with patients, and absolutely no research."

Blimey…he knew she was mad, but this was just turning into spiteful pettiness now.

"Fine," he said, ducking his head. "I'll do it. However…I do have some stipulations of my own."

Hermione's eyes flashed. "I meant what I said, Harry," she said, her hands planted on the desk as she stood up and towered over him. "I'm not putting up with your games anymore. You either agree to cover the clinic while I get us out of the mess you put us in, or I'm done. With everything."

Shutting his eyes, he nodded. "I know, I understand," he said. "But I'm not asking for myself."

Sitting back down, Hermione eyed him over her tea as she took a sip. "Fine," she said. "Let's hear them."

"I want Tracey looked after," he said before quickly adding on, "We work exceptionally well together, and you know she's been good for the clinic."

Hermione slammed her hands down on the desk in response. "If you're planning on using Tracey by proxy to Play Games With Me, then you may as well walk out that door right now," she seethed. "You two have been the biggest pair of thorns in my side since you started working together."

Harry felt a painful clenching in his chest at her words. The thought of doing so hadn't even crossed his mind. But apparently he really had fallen far in Hermione's eyes.

"Tracey's finished as a receptionist. But I'd like to have her on my team," he said, holding his hand up before she could cut him off. "She's not going to be a healer, but I was thinking she'd make an excellent diagnostician. Besides, you know I need someone like her to keep me on schedule. She's–"

"Startlingly efficient and effective," Hermione finished for him. "I know."

The two stared at each other, and though they had just connected on the same thought, there was no smile, no warmth. Harry tried to ignore the heavy weight that settled in his gut.

Folding her hands together, Hermione placed them on the desk and leant forward. "Look, I'm sorry. But I don't think I can do that," she said, shaking her head. "I already agreed to hire Abby yesterday–somebody you brought on–"

"Oh, I didn't realise you'd made that official," Harry said.

Not that it was a problem; she would be good at the job and was far more personable than Tracey liked to be. But it was just another thing he'd done without consulting Hermione.

"–but I draw the line at Tracey," Hermione continued. "No matter how much you say you're going to change, I know you both feed off each other. She loves driving me crazy just as much as you do."

Harry nodded as he stared down at his hands.

With a long sigh, Hermione spoke again. "Look…you don't even know if she wants to be a diagnostician, or even if she wants to come back," she said. "But if she does…we can consider it then. Right now, there's just too much work to be done here."

Taking in deliberate, slow breaths, Hermione sat there for a full five seconds, her eyes squeezed shut.

While Harry had known things between them were strained to the breaking point, it hit him just how far he'd pushed things. This wasn't an incident they could sweep under the rug and move on from. This was the culmination of years of deliberate antagonism that not even a magic rug could cover.

"Hermione," he said into the silence.

She opened her eyes and stared at him, her face looking more tired and older than he'd ever seen before. "What is it?"

Knitting his forehead, he gazed into her familiar brown eyes that seemed so foreign to him now. "Are we going to be alright?" he said. "You and I."

No immediate reassurance came. Instead, another silence descended between them as Hermione stared back at him, conflicted and seemingly unable to turn her thoughts into words.

"I kept waiting for you, Harry," Hermione said, shaking her head. "After the war, after all the politics and the rebuilding, especially after Gabby."

She trailed off for a moment, licking her lips before continuing. "We've both been through so much together. And it changed us, I know it did," she said, giving him a sad look. "But through it all, I kept hoping–praying that you'd Grow Young With Me. That you'd go back to being that amazing, brave, loyal man you used to be. And that we could finally, finally, be just as close as we once were."

A tear rolled down her cheek, and Harry swallowed hard. He wanted to wrap his arms around her in a Hermi-hug, but he knew she needed more time.

"I can't do this anymore," she said, wiping her fingers across her cheek. "I've waited and waited and waited for you to Grow Young With Me. But in all that time…I got this, instead. This 'Healer Harry'. With all his pranks, chaos, and insanity. And at this point, it's broken something within me that I'm not sure can be mended."

Harry watched as his best friend continued to shed tears. Tears of frustration and sadness that were years in the making. Because he'd changed too much, pushed her to the point of no return.

Clearing his throat, Harry conjured a handkerchief and placed it between them. "Don't bother with the Tracey thing, I'll look after her myself," he said.

He wanted to say more, to offer some words of comfort even though it seemed futile. But the opportunity was lost as they both heard Abby calling out for Hermione.

"I'm covering the clinic," he said, putting both hands on the armrests and pushing himself up. "I'll make sure Abby's Set Up With Me, and get McLaggen in to help if she needs it."

"Not that she'd deny extra help from him," Harry muttered to himself as he grabbed his coffee and made his way to the door.

It was a good thing he'd be busy with clinic duty all day. He didn't need to see those two together ever again.

Just as he was about to step into the corridor, Hermione called out his name.

"Yes?" he said, popping his head back in.

She pursed her lips as she stared at him for a moment. "We're not okay. And I'm not sure we ever will be fully," she said, wringing her hands together. "I'd like for there to finally be progress on you Growing Young With Me, but…I've just been burned so many times. I'm not sure I have faith anymore."

Harry blinked and then nodded. She looked as though she wanted to say more, so he took a sip of his coffee to buy time. But no amount of the comforting liquid could quench the dryness in his mouth.

"Some hurts can't be helped so easily," Hermione whispered finally. "If they ever do, they take time."

Bowing his head, Harry understood. Perhaps All Too Well.

"I'll make this right," he said, resolve bubbling up within him. "I promise."

Before she could respond, he left the office and took two steps into the corridor before sinking to the floor, resting his back against the wall.

His entire life, he'd always been able to overcome the odds, to fix the problems around him. But he knew, just like there was no fixing the Gabby-shaped hole in his heart, there was nothing to undo what he'd done to Hermione.

"Harry? Are you alright?" Abby asked from the end of the corridor.

He looked up, his head coming up off his knees.

"No," he said, being honest with himself for the first time in a long time. "But let's make sure you are before the patients start arriving. Come Walk With Me, Abby."

x-x-x

"Hi, I'm Healer Harry Potter, how can I help you?" he said, opening the patent file as he entered the room.

"I want two lollies today," Bad-Faith Bargainer said without introduction. "I brought the same game as last time plus a new one."

Harry snapped the file shut. "Out," he said, pointing to the still open door.

"Two," the boy repeated, crossing his arms. "And I'm not budging until you give them to me."

"I said, out," Harry said.

The boy stared up at him with a scowl, a fidget spinner hanging out of his left nostril. "Well, fine, then. If you're going to be so stingy…you can play the old game, and I'll play the new one."

"I really don't care," Harry said, placing his clipboard down on the table beside him. "This is over, kid. It's time for you to grow up, go to class and stop wasting your mother's time. Don't you care that she's worried sick about you? That she's probably in trouble with her employer for taking so many days off to bring you here? That she thinks you've got some fixation for sticking rubbish up your nose. And for what? For skipping maths? An essential course that can only help you in the future?"

Bad-Faith Bargainer clenched his jaw tight. "Don't act like you suddenly care about all that," he said. "Me? Grow up? You're the doctor that skives off while he's supposed to be helping people."

"Well, I'm done!" Harry said, throwing his hands up. "I'm done playing around."

The boy stood to reach his full height which was only up to Harry's waist. "That's not fair," he said, pointing a finger at him. "You still owe me from last time! What, so you're a liar now, too?"

Letting out a long sigh, Harry crumpled back onto his stool and rubbed his forehead.

Damn. He did owe the little snot.

"The average appointment runs for 14 minutes," Harry said, feeling defeated. "You can play till then, but then you leave and never come back unless it's an emergency, you understand?"

Narrowing his eyes at him, the boy pulled out his Gameboy and sat back down.

"It's time for you to grow up, Charlie," Harry said, reaching behind him to grab a red lolly and place it in the boy's hand. "Time for me to grow up…"

Charlie looked up at him with a small frown before opening the lolly and sticking it in his mouth.

With that settled, Harry left the room for a moment and returned with a stack of paperwork. It had been a busy morning of seeing clinic patients along with all of Hermione's regularly scheduled ones. He had to read up on their medical history and notes before treating them.

"You really don't want to play?" Charlie asked after several minutes of silence. "I bought a new game. One you'd like."

Turning over the next page, Harry kept on reading. Every file he got through during the day was one more he wouldn't have to read after his clinic hours were done.

"It's called Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."

Harry gave a small hum of acknowledgement. "And what's it about?" he said, taking pity on the boy and trying to make conversation.

"Er…one sec, lemme read it," Charlie said, pausing his game. "'In the mystical land of Persia, a young prince obtains an ancient dagger that can turn back time. Tricked by a treacherous v-vi-vizier into unleashing a cataclysmic sandstorm, he must team up with an enemy princess in a harrowing journey to restore life and peace…"

The file Harry was holding fell out of his hands. "What was that?" he said, looking at the boy. "The first sentence you read, say that again."

Charlie raised an eyebrow but read it once more, this time slower. "'In the mystical land of Persia, a young prince obtains an ancient dagger that can turn back time."

Time.

The Sands of Time…

"So…does this mean you want to pla–"

But Harry didn't stick around to hear the rest of his sentence. He thanked the boy quickly, tossing the entire jar of lollies at him before bounding out of the clinic room in two steps and racing to his office.

As soon as he stepped inside, he threw powder into the floo and called out for Kingsley's emergency line before jumping through the fire.

Like usual, he came shooting out of the floo in a clumsy mess but was able to stick the landing. He heard his name being called as he dusted himself off.

"Yeah, Kings, it's me!" Harry called back.

The Minister of Magic walked in, confusion marring his features. "What are you doing here?" he said, looking him up and down. "Is everything alright?"

Although Harry had had Kingsley's floo address since the war had ended, he'd never made use of it in all that time, despite the man's repeated offers to Go Floo With Him. It was somewhat miraculous that he'd even recalled it at all.

"I need your help," Harry said, glancing around the room to make sure they were alone before looking the man dead in the eye. "I need a favour, Kings, a big one."

"What is it? What's going on?" Kingsley asked, leading him toward a couch in the centre of the room.

Without a pause, Harry responded. "New patient of mine. Got exposed to Time Sand, and I need–"

Kingsley held up his hand. "Time sand?" he said, his face turning grave. "Merlin…what's happened to them, Harry?"

The man was right to be concerned. After the destruction of the Department of Mysteries in Harry's 5th year, the Unspeakables had tried to salvage the time turners as best they could. But they'd only been able to collect and quarantine off the sand that had been held within them. The production of Time Turners was a lost art; most Ministries around the world had attempted the feat but none of the attempts had been successful.

Many had even been fatal.

"They were trying to Grow Young," Harry said, bowing his head as Kingsley let out a gasp.

It was a term Harry knew because he had been brought in to assist with the initial 'Grow Young' case.

The phrase itself had been adopted after the only known survivor of the experiments had been heard proclaiming the words: "Grow Young With Me!" before embarking toward the future. It was an extremely brilliant and utterly unique play on words that symbolized the vitality of life just within reach.

The clever bastard.

The purpose of the Grow Young experiments had been to try and utilize the Time Sand to go forward in time to the fixed point in which the recreation of the time-turners was complete. A way to cheat the system, really.

How anyone thought that would end well, Harry had no idea.

Harry had taken one look at the situation and knew there was nothing he could do to assist. Years had been dedicated to the research and treatment of the survivor. But all that work, all that waiting, had stalled out with no end or even progress, in sight.

The experiments had started successfully, even seeing continued, if uneven progress. And the project showed extreme promise. But just as everyone thought it was nearing completion, headway halted and it ended prematurely.

Kingsley shook his head. "Those fools tried to empower progress. But instead of Growing Young, they were all forced to wait out the magic to no end, all the while Growing Old in the process."

It was a terrible fate that struck the 'Youngsters', as they were dubbed. Instead of going forward in time as they'd intended, they were transported to random points in time and stuck in stasis with their biological clocks still ticking. Always waiting, never able to move forward or progress with their lives. Not until the 'Grow Young' experiment had finally finished.

Last Harry had heard, the only hope for salvation of the poor souls wasn't expected to bear fruit until 2035, a good 13 years in the future!

"He came in through Hermione's international referral program?" Kingsley said, breaking him out of his thoughts.

Harry tilted his head. "You know about that?"

"Know?" Kingsley chuckled. "The Department of International Magical Cooperation has been working on this with her, at my direction, for months now."

"Oh," Harry said. The level of cock-up he'd created was well beyond his reckoning. It wasn't just Hemione's work that was being destroyed by his quest for Minions, it was her reputation. Countless hours of meetings and politicking with nothing to show for it yet.

Kingsley slapped him on the shoulder, causing him to jump. "Not to worry," he said. "Hermione didn't want to burden you with it all; she just wanted to let you enjoy doing what you do best: solving cases. As you are here to do now."

Harry couldn't feel any smaller than he did at that moment.

Merlin, he was such an arse.

But that was why he was here to begin with. He had one shot at fixing this.

"I need access to the Time Sand," he said. "I have a theory; it might even lead to salvation for all those waiting on the completion of Grow Young."

"Say no more," Kingsley replied. "Anything we can do to assist those poor souls, we must do."

If there was one thing Harry had learned by trying to treat the Youngsters, it was that one couldn't overstate the Importance of patience. Time Sand did not like to be messed with or manipulated and seemed to bask in using any excuse for remaining inert. Only Time Turners were able to produce reliable results.

Travelling through time using Time Sand was possible. But the results varied greatly.

Sometimes you waited hours, other times days. But most often it was months, or even years, before the person would get back to their own time, often with catastrophic consequences.

There wasn't even a defined correlation between the 'Chapters' or # of grains of sand used (according to the Youngster lingo) and the amount of time travelled. Whether it was one Chapter or thirty, the results were never linear.

In the end, all that could be concluded for sure, was that no attempt at completing Grow Young had brought about the completion of the project. It only made the person Grow Old, instead.

As Kingsley led the way down to the Department of Mysteries, Harry mentally ran through all he knew of this magical dilemma.

The theory of magic, itself, was best summarized by Daphne Greengrass's genre-defining work: The Importance of Intent. It was simplistic yet complex all at the same time. Though perhaps…

With the right Intent…

It had never been done before…

But perhaps…

"Here we are," Kingsley said before Harry could delve further.

Harry nodded as he looked upon the glass case full of Time Sand, running his fingers along it carefully. "I'll just need a moment to examine it in order to confirm my theory."

With an order from Kingsley, a cloaked Unspeakable cast a spell to lower the glass until it was level with the height of the sand it contained.

Peering over it, Harry held his hand out just above the Time Sand, marvelling at the wave of energy that rippled through his skin. He could almost understand how so many foolish men and women had gone drunk with the sense of power, thinking they could manipulate and control the sand when it was the complete opposite.

Nobody could fool time. Nobody could Grow Young. Skipping the wait, the work, and all the ingredients that made the end product that much more wonderful. You had to wait, even if it took what felt like an eternity. Because that was how great achievements were accomplished, brick by brick with blood, sweat and tears as the mortar.

The only thing one could successfully do with Time Sand was travel backwards. When the famous first Youngster had yelled out 'Grow Young With Me!', he hadn't taken into account the core principles of magic.

His Intent.

His Intent had been to cheat the system, to skip all the trials and tribulations so that he could achieve an end goal that wasn't rightfully earned. And for that, he suffered a terrible fate, indeed.

When Harry had used the Time Turner to save his Godfather, he'd used it with the right Intent. When Hermione had used it time and time again to attend all of her classes, she'd used it with the right Intent.

Intent.

It was how Harry was so sure this was going to work.

His Intent was not to manipulate time. Not to jump to some specific point, change or discover events and jump right back.

No, he was going back for the sole purpose of living.

The long way round. Replacing his younger self, not duplicating himself in the same time stream.

And this time, he would do it right.

Heedless of the cries behind him, Harry thrust his hand into the sand and channeled all his magic into the single thing that had always fuelled his deepest, most purest of Intentions:

Love.

x-x-x

The eerie blue tint of the Department of Mysteries dissolved around him, Kingsley's shouts turning into faint echoes in the distance. A fast wind, almost painful, swept over him, through him, pushing him backwards through a tunnel of blurred colors and shapes. And all the while, he tried to latch onto something, regain his footing, anything to get rid of the swooping sensation in his stomach.

Until finally, after what felt like an eternity, everything stopped.

Harry blinked with bleary eyes and looked around. It wasn't King's Cross, that was for sure. Unless he'd died and gone somewhere else this time. Somewhere much better.

But that couldn't be the case. For he felt very much alive.

"Huh, not what I was expecting," he said aloud, staring at a pair of bare breasts being exposed to him.

Ones he knew intimately.

Gabby's breasts.

"Why's that?" she asked, her voice sounding fragile to his own ears.

Swallowing hard, Harry tried to recall when and where he was. But all he could focus on was the woman before him. Looking so much younger than when he'd last seen her. If he was to land anywhere in time, he was immensely glad to land here. With her.

Glancing around the room, he took a note of his surroundings, the memory starting to take shape in his mind. They were at the PIMMPLE, of course. She was his patient.

"See, I cleared the room of any item that might have potential to cause injury, but I still figured your magic would have some sort of negative reaction," he said, the words seeming to come to him as though reading from a script.

"Can I cover myself, again?" she said in a tired voice.

"What?" Harry said in a daze, still trying to take everything in. "Oh, yeah, that's fine."

For Gabby's concern to be about covering herself and not about why he'd suddenly materialized in front of her as his older self, it seemed his plan had worked out exactly as he'd Intended

Why the Time Sand had chosen this exact place and this exact time, Harry couldn't be certain. But he sent a silent thank you to it as he took in the features of his Beloved.

She was close enough to touch, blue eyes still filled with wariness instead of love as she gazed back at him.

Love.

Harry felt the visceral power of it rise within his chest, forcing emotions up that he'd forcibly buried deep within him for years. It made him want to weep. Of sadness, joy, relief.

For so long, he'd craved just the image of her in front of him.

And here she was…whole and alive.

Harry could remember this memory so vividly now from his former life. Though he hadn't acknowledged it then, even to himself, he knew his love for Gabrielle was forming its foundation in this very room. In this very moment.

"So beautiful…" he whispered.

Gabby looked up at him. "What?" she said, looking so vulnerable as she sat there.

He swallowed hard and shook his head, wishing he could wrap her up in his arms but knowing he had to tread carefully.

"Er, nothing. Just…I'm really glad you decided to come see me," he said, going off-script as he approached her. "For treatment, I mean. I'm…really glad you made that choice."

A look of confusion passed over her face for a moment before it settled into a small smile. "Well, let's just hope this all works out," she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

There was a slight flush to her cheeks that Harry knew very well, and he marveled at it.

He hadn't known it then, he hadn't had the faintest idea. But as he looked back on this moment from his older perspective, he could see clearly now that he wasn't the only one who'd been slowly falling in love.

And that's when he realised why he'd landed here.

Perhaps this was the moment where he would begin re-living.

Except this time around, he would do things right. He would Grow Young in the true, unadulterated sense of the word.

"It'll work out," Harry said, nodding. "I'll make sure of it."

x-x-x

And from that day on, as the years trickled slowly on by…grow young, Harry did.

x-x-x

The sound of a knife clinking against glass drew everyone's attention to the front of the table.

"Bonjour, bonjour, I'd like to thank you all for coming," Bighead Garçon said after letting the clamour of the garden lull into silence–or as silent as it ever got at the Weasley gatherings.

"It's been a full decade now since my marriage to Ginny, and not a single day goes by where I don't count my blessings," he paused, lowering his glass to look at his wife. "Without you, my life would have taken a very different turn. And not a good one, my love. I want to thank you for these ten wondrous years so far. And I also want to thank Harry for giving them to me."

Ginny was in the midst of a wide smile, but it immediately fell at his words. She rolled her eyes as if by reflex.

Harry, for his part, bowed his head humbly as several cheers rang throughout the garden at Bighead's words.

"Without Harry working tirelessly all those years ago to solve the case of why my ego kept making my skull bigger, and then finding a mechanism to invent the patented Big Boy Big Head Humongous Helmet™, I fear I would have met my end with the rate my head was growing," he said, tapping the helmet he was currently wearing as several people laughed politely. "Thank you so much, Harry. I truly owe you my life."

After everyone finished congratulating Harry, Tracey stood up across from him, clinking her glass with her fork. "I'd like to say something as well…first of all, thank you for inviting me today," she said, with a genuine smile on her face. "Becoming friends with you all through Harry has been a highlight these past several years. And since we're on the topic…I'd also like to take a moment to thank Harry."

Ginny opened her mouth to protest, but Molly shushed her quickly.

"I'm not really the sentimental type, but Harry…you've had a huge impact on my life," Tracey said. "You got me my job at the PIMMPLE–"

"The Potter Institute for–"

"Hermione!" everyone complained in unison.

"–as a receptionist," Tracey continued unfazed. "You've helped me out of countless spots of trouble. I mean…who knew shagging could serve as a viable medical cure, eh?"

Harry grinned in amusement, recalling the days of their Theme Week. They'd tastefully toed the line with their shenanigans, earning many exasperated but amused expressions from Hermione at the time.

"But more importantly than all that," Tracey continued, looking serious now. "You've been my biggest support and greatest friend. Financing my way through school, helping me jumpstart my career as the premier Diagnostician in the country, and giving me a spot on your elite team of clinicians. I couldn't be happier working with you and I can't wait for whatever comes next for the both of us. So thank you again, Harry. For everything."

Everyone clapped, though Fred and George had been hooting and hollering since Tracey mentioned the word 'shagging'.

At that moment, another voice carried over the noise, causing Ginny to groan aloud.

"Although the Big Girl Big Head Humongous Helmet™ wasn't needed to protect my head," Little BigHead said with a giggle, standing up with her glass raised in toast. "Harry was instrumental in ensuring Lupéęë and I could bond over The Princess Bride. He personally sent me a copy with his own background commentary."

Lupéęë took her hand in his. "And then she fell in love," he said, staring at Little Big Head with love in his own eyes. He pulled up the visor of his helmet and gave her a peck on the lips.

"Thank you, Harry!" they said together.

The display made everyone coo and flutter their eyelashes in response.

By this point, Ginny was slouched back in her chair with her arms crossed, seemingly giving up on being able to make her own speech at her 10-year anniversary party.

"Uh…I'd like to speak, too," Brazilian Beta said in his Spanish-Portugeeuse accent. "First, I'd just like to thank Harry for being the best friend I've ever had. He always lets me do things for him, always uses my patio in Brazilia on his holidays, and never fails to provide me with sparkling Orange Juice. With all his help in giving me things to help him, I've also managed to have time to fix all of Draco's faulty faucet design issues. And as a result, I'm now a top-rated faulty-faucet-fixer on Fiverr!"

"What's Fiverr?" someone called out from the other end of the table.

"An online marketplace for freelance services," Brazilian Beta said, "look me up. Oh and by the way, Harry…thanks again for a bangin' birthday party this year."

Harry bowed his head in acknowledgement.

"Speaking of bangin'," Astoria said from the far end of the table. "I have Harry to thank for making this possible."

She gazed down, her face glowing with motherly love. The babe in her arms gurgled away happily.

"Oh, careful, now. You're supposed to keep the head elevated a little more," Cormac said, helpfully repositioning her hand. "The gentle neck is so fragile at this stage, you really need to gently be gentle–"

A loud romantic sigh cut him off, and Harry looked to the spot next to him and saw Abby staring at her (now) partner, Cormac, with fluttering eyelashes. If ever there was an unexpected couple, it had to be those two. But Harry was forever amused by the way they'd hit things off.

"If you ever need any advice," Mclaggen said, dropping a hand on Draco's shoulder, who stared up at the man with a disgusted sneer on his face. "I wrote a book on childcare. It's three galleons at Flourish and Blotts, but I'll give you a deal for two galleons and sixteen sickles."

Abby giggled and nodded her head enthusiastically. "He's just amazing with kids," she told Draco before looking down and patting her slightly swollen belly. "And speaking of. Since we're all here for Harry–"

"That is definitely not what we're all here for!" Ginny interrupted, red-faced.

"Pipe down, dear," Molly said, placing her hand on her daughter's mouth. "I want to hear this."

Pursing her lips, Abby continued. "As I was saying," she said, looking at the woman in exasperation. "I wanted to take a moment to thank Harry, as well. For popping into my cafe all those years ago and taking it upon himself to give me a position as receptionist at the PIMMPLE. I'm forever grateful that I did. It's where Cormac and I met and fell in love that very first day. And where I got to meet all you lovely people."

"We love you too, Abby!" Fred and George yelled out.

A loud clearing of a throat sounded after the applause died down for Abby. Harry turned his head and watched warily as Daphne stood up, patting down the wrinkles in her skirt.

He could see Hermione's jaw tighten out of the corner of his eye.

"Yes, yes, thank you, thank you," Daphne said before gazing around at them all with a diplomatic smile. "Since we're all going around, I thought I could take a moment to personally thank Harry, as well. First…for many, many wonderful nights–"

A few icy looks were thrown in Daphne's direction at that (mostly from Hermione), but the woman merely let out a tinkling laugh.

"–second, for all his pivotal help in my genre-defining research proposal: The Impotence of Intent. And finally…for all your arduous work at the PIMMPLE," Daphne said, saying the last word through a gag. "I imagine it's difficult carrying the success of that clinic on your shoulders alone–"

"Who the hell invited her anyway!" Hermione burst out with a glass of ice in her hand, ready to be thrown at the woman's face.

Ron seamlessly maneuvered it away from her.

An outrageously handsome man stood up at that point, raising his hand. "Uh…I did," he said, giving Hermione a harmonious smile, before glaring at her husband, Ron. "And since we're on the subject of me–"

"You? Who even are you?" Ginny asked rudely.

Several gasps rang out across the table at this.

"In all my years!" Molly said, placing a hand over her mouth as Angelina fainted to the ground in shock.

"Swiftie Stan needs no introduction, Ginevra Molly Weasley," Arthur said, holding his wife close as she wept in his arms. "Of all the countless things you've done to upset your mother…this is by far the worst, young lady."

Everyone (besides Nauze) held up their identical mugs in camaraderie with Swiftie Stan, who was so much hating as he looked at Ginny.

"Thanks, Mug Gang (not Nauze)," Swiftie Stan said, staring around at them all.

"It's only with your great support that I've learned to appreciate my true self-worth. And no matter how many times Nauze says I'm a worthless nobody just because I'm not a published author, I know in the depths of my soul that I'm a strong independent woman who don't need no man!"

Everyone (besides Nauze) cheered in support of women everywhere.

With a golden smile, Swiftie Stan continued. "And since we're all here for Harry, I'd like to take this opportunity to also thank him personally."

He reached into his pocket and withdrew a small fuschia-coloured silk handkerchief. "Harry means the world to me. See…when my parents, Mr. Genre and Mrs. Definer, told me that the life I'd been living was nothing less than a devastating disappointment and that third place was too good for me–" He paused, getting choked up and dabbing his eyes with the silk cloth.

Tracey leant over and patted him on the shoulder in comfort before clinking her matching mug with his.

Harry saw this and raised his own matching mug in silent, comforting support. Support that meant the world to the three of them.

How anyone could go without a comforting, supportive, silent, matching mug, he'd never understand.

But we don't talk about Bruno.

"Anyway…the point is," Swiftie Stan said, after calming himself down again and tossing the silk handkerchief over his shoulder. It hit Ginny in the face as she walked behind him to grab the tub of ice cream on the table. "You mean the world to me, Harry…Thank you, thank you. A thousand times, thank you."

Not a dry eye was left in the audience after that speech. Especially Ginny's.

Though her severe silk allergy might have had something to do with that.

Harry shook his head in amusement at the unfortunate coincidence.

"Well, I suppose if Swiftie Stan was the one to invite her…Fafne Preen-ass can stay," Hermione said with a glum expression. "As long as she doesn't mention the r-word in front of me."

She sent a death glare at Daphne, who was grinning back at her before addressing the table. "But since we're all thanking Harry…"

Ginny stuffed her puffed up face with a large spoonful of chocolate ice cream.

With lips stretched into a bright smile, Hermione turned to face Harry.

And as he gazed upon his best friend, a wave of warmth spread through him at the pride and love in her eyes.

In another life, a life he still knew and remembered very well, a look like that would have been inconceivable.

Ever since the Time Sand had thrust him into this new reality, Harry had held onto Hermione as his anchor. Teasing her and wreaking slight havoc as always, but supporting and being loyal to her as well. And above all, acting as the friend he should have been all along.

Growing Young With Her.

He'd seen what came of a life without her by his side, and he never wanted to go back to that place again.

"Thank you, Harry," Hermione said, placing her hand on his and looking at him as though she could somehow understand his tumultuous thoughts and emotions. Even though he knew it was impossible. "For always being my backbone, for helping make my dreams come true, developing the clinic and expanding it…For being my best friend and brother. I wouldn't be where I am today without you."

He squeezed her hand tight.

His anchor.

"And I, you," he said in response.

Harry and Hermione looked over to Ron who'd placed a silencing charm on Ginny just as she was about to interrupt their heartfelt moment. He winked at both of them before speaking himself.

"And thank you, as well Harry," he said, placing his arm around Hermione's shoulders and kissing her forehead.

Swiftie Stan began to gag and excused himself to run to the loo.

"For keeping our Hermione in check and forcing her to have a work-life balance so she could have time to be with the true love of her life. Me: Ron Bilius Weasley-Gibbons."

The two exchanged a heated kiss until a loud retching noise came from just outside the house.

Swiftie Stan hadn't made it inside quick enough to miss the overly amorous public display of affection between the made-for-each-other lovers. The bush to his left was streaked with his vomit.

"I'll clean that up," a Spanish-Portugeueuese voice said, being overly helpful and appearing beside Swiftie Stan with a bucket.

While everyone was in various states of disgust, Louis took the unsupervised opportunity to pick a wet, gooey, but somehow still crusty booger out of his nose.

He gazed at his wondrous prize from his treasure hunt and looked around.

"That is disgustin–" Ginny began to say as Louis flicked it across the table, causing it to fly straight into her mouth.

She grabbed onto her throat and began making choking noises.

Bighead got up in an instant to give her the Heimlich, but everyone was focused on Fleur, who started to speak to Harry.

"I, too, have to thank Harry," she said, giving him an adoring look as she stood up with a hand on her large belly. "I have five wonderful children who I couldn't be more proud of."

She paused to pat Louis affectionately on the head. "And it gives me great joy to announce that after Harry solved Bill's fertility issue for the third time, we have not one–but two more babies on the way!"

All around the table, everyone ooh-ed and ahh-ed, clapping and congratulating them both while Bill just sat there, trying and failing to do more than give a faint smile.

"And because he is the best brother-in-law that anyone could have ever asked for, and he dotes on my darling Gabby," Fleur added, beaming at her sister and Harry in turn, "we've decided to name the boy after his Uncle Harry!"

The applause and excitement was twofold now.

Bill finally stood up beside his wife, wrapping his arms around her. "You really are the best, Harry," he said before dropping a kiss on top of Fleur's head. "Even if you are a dickhead."

Everyone laughed good-heartedly. Everyone besides Ginny, who was still receiving the Heimlich from Bighead. In the midst of her flailing, Bighead accidentally hit his head against hers, causing his helmet to beep loudly in alert with large flashing lights and deploying a protective field that bounced off Ginny.

The sudden wave of impact caused her to finally cough up the booger.

"See," Bighead Garçon said breathlessly, rubbing Ginny's back. "Harry's invention is always protecting me, and now he's gone and saved you, too!"

"Thanks, Harry!" everyone proclaimed while Ginny sat there red-faced as she tried to catch her breath.

As another round of applause finally settled down, it was Gabby's turn to stand up.

Everyone was silent at this point as they watched the two soulmates stare into each other's eyes. Harry could feel his heart swell in his chest at the mere sight of her. Ever since traveling back in time, he'd made it his mission to never let a moment go to waste where he didn't appreciate her beauty and the love he had for her.

He listened with rapt attention at what she had to say next.

"It was ten years ago tonight that the two of us first learned that we were Soul Mates at Ginny and Jean-Jaques Pierre-Phillipe Babineau-Béliveau's wedding–"

"Who?" Harry asked, tilting his head to the side.

At this point, Ginny had turned a shade of putrefactively putrid purple. "MY HUSBAND, YOU ARSE."

Several charmed smiles were thrown in Harry's direction.

"Anyway," Gabby said, giving him a soft smile. "It's also been five years tonight since you saved me from that Belligerent Boggart–"

"Don't forget about the Rampaging Randy Roomba," George called out.

"Or the Conceivably Cocky Cockatrice," said Ron.

"Who could forget Harry putting an end to the Dumbfoundingly Docile Demonic Dust Buster," Molly added.

As everyone nodded along, Little Big Head, who'd been resting her head on Lupéęë's mint green suit of armour, stood up. "And we all remember Harry saving Gabby from this Piteously Pathological Pontificating Pygmy Puff," she said, gently patting said Pygmy Puff on her shoulder.

Gabby nodded along before looking down at Harry, her eyes gleaming with love. "My hero," she said softly, placing her hand on his cheek. "I wouldn't be standing here right now if it weren't for you."

A shadow of Harry's past life flashed before his eyes at her words. He grabbed her hand at once, and squeezed it tightly. "I would never let that happen," he said, placing his hand atop hers. "Never."

She smiled warmly at him before turning to address everyone. "I'm so glad we could be here today to thank Harry for all he's done," she said, earning several murmurs of agreement. "As we can clearly see, he's impacted all our lives more than we could ever realize."

A muffled grunt sounded from the other end of the table, and Harry looked over to see Ginny drop her face into the tub of ice cream.

"But you've all forgotten one very important thing Harry's done for us," George said, before looking over at his twin brother. "Without him, we would have never developed and perfected the lucrative Weasley's Wizard Wheezes product: Firework Banners!"

Ginny groaned aloud while everyone at the table whooped and cheered.

Before their eyes, something shot out of George's wand and exploded into the night's sky. A large, flaming, multi-colored Firework Banner bearing the words:

Thank You, Harry!

As everyone held their significant other and stared up into the night sky, Harry closed the distance between him and Gabby and gave her a loving peck on the lips. "Life would be meaningless without you," he said, staring into her warm blue eyes.

After the fireworks faded, Harry called out for everyone's attention, a wide smile on his face. "There's only one way to celebrate such a momentous night in my life, nay, in all of our lives," Harry said. "To Brazilia, we go!"

Everyone broke out into cheers.

x-x-x

The patio in Brazil had never been so full. Of life, exuberance, joy…and people.

The entire extended Weasley clan's friends and family had joined together for an all-expenses-paid-holiday-extravaganza to Brazilia, courtesy of Harry. Currently they were all gathered on Nauze's patio, enjoying the beautiful night as glasses of crisp, cool orange juice were being handed out.

Harry glanced around at all the people he loved so dearly, feeling truly content.

It seemed like a lifetime ago since he'd first been transported by the Time Sand. And as the years had gone by, memories of his old life began to fade like old photographs in the sun. Though he could recall them if he tried hard enough, this new life had become his real one. The one he'd so longed for. The one he'd never trade.

It took going through some hard times to make him realize what was most Important.

Friends. Family. And–

"Orange juice?" said a thick Spanish-Portgeuzaese accented voice.

Harry smiled up at Bruno. "You guessed it, bud," he said, accepting the glass from him before patting an empty seat on the patio for him to join.

Sipping on his OJ, he took in a few of the conversations going on around him.

Tracey and Swiftie Stan were in a heated discussion about the new app sweeping the world: Taylor Swift's Heardle. AKA (also known as), Teardle. Swiftie Stan was in a near state of tears as he lamented his lack of Reputation knowledge while Tracey simply smiled supremely serenely in response.

Val and Hal, Hermione's amazingly awesome, astonishingly awe-inspiring friends from the Climax Conference were also there. Both being amazingly awesome and astonishingly awe-inspiring. Hal was shotgunning a can of orange juice while Val did the limbo aggressively beneath an egregiously enchanted bar.

Mr. and Mrs. Delacour were also present, doting on Harry while Bill sat with his arms crossed beside them, muttering "dickhead" under his breath as he looked at all his helion children running around. The two youngest were taking a leaf out of Louis' book, fingers in both their noses.

Surprisingly, Mr. Genre and Mrs. Definer were also present. They were watching from several feet away, gripping the wooden fence surrounding the patio and muttering to each other furiously as they watched Swiftie Stan struggling with today's Teardle. Harry could overhear them from where he was sitting.

"And he calls himself a Swiftie Stan," Mrs. Definer said with devastating disappointment. "Can't even score above 3rd place in Teardle. This is pernicious to our Reputation."

"Well, Don't Blame Me," Mr. Genre said, holding his hands up in defense. "You know he was always a Delicate boy."

With a small hiss of pain, Mrs. Definer held up her hand and showed him a splinter she got from grabbing onto the fence too hard. "Look What You Made Me Do!" she said, tutting loudly. "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things. You take me all the way to Brazil on holiday in your Getaway Car. It's New Year's Day, and I'm wearing my best Dress. And now I've got a splinter and a failure as a son!"

"You've always had a failure as a son," Mr. Genre said with a disgruntled look. "Call It What You Want, but I still think this was a fantastic holiday. We were just Dancing With Our Hands Tied like five seconds ago, and you look Gorgeous in that outfit."

A light blush coloured Mrs. Definer's cheeks as her frown gave way to a smile. "Oh, honey…you really think so?" she said, glancing down at her dress. "You, sir, are the King Of My Heart. My one and only. My End Game."

With a devious glint in his eyes, Mr. Genre grabbed his wife's hand. "Are you Ready For It, darling?" he said.

"What, sweetheart?"

"This." Picking her up bridal style, he placed a kiss on her lips before giggling like a school-boy. "I Did Something Bad."

"Oh, you!"

And So It Goes…Mr. Genre and Mrs. Definer proved once again why they were the prime subjects for Daphne Greengrass's Impotence of Intent research study.

Harry gagged as they both ran off into the sunset.

Shaking his head, he focused back on all his loved ones, happy those two had buggered off.

"Well, now that Mr Genre and Mrs Definer have done their best to contribute to Nauze's lifelong mission of destroying Swiftie Stan's self-esteem," he said, standing up and reaching for his mug.

He paused as everyone (besides Nauze) pulled out their own matching mugs to console Swiftie Stan and confirm that he was a strong, independent woman with great value (even if he was 3rd).

"I'd like to say a few words," Harry announced.

Everyone perked up, taking sips of their orange juice in unison.

"Though it's difficult to move on from perfection," he said, gesturing to their surroundings as he looked out across the crowd of his most precious people. "We do have to go back to real life after this. And unlike this patio in Brazilia, real life isn't so perfect…"

Pausing for a second, Harry measured his words carefully. "In real life…we make mistakes. We fall into deep, dark valleys of tough times and have to claw our way out of them."

His old life flashed in his mind's eye as he spoke, and he gazed down at Gabby, holding onto her hand tightly. "But it's a good thing that life isn't perfect," he said, smiling at her. "Perfect is static. Dull. Real life is messy and unpredictable. But I promise it's a journey worth tarrying. Because through all those ups and downs, through your day to day lives, you meet people."

He looked around at everyone seated there. Old friends and new.

"Beautiful, wonderful people that make the journey so much easier. So much better," he said, surprised to hear a waver in his voice. "Through the twists and turns, the pits and valleys, the heights of triumph, love, and accomplishments. In each and every endeavor…you live, you learn and you grow closer to all those you travel with."

Pausing, Harry looked over at Hermione. "You Grow Younger," he said.

She stared back at him, warmth in her familiar brown eyes.

"So I say to each and everyone of you," he said, addressing them all. "As we go back to our lives…live yours to the fullest. Spend time with your friends and family. And be kind to all. You never know what actions you may come to regret and how far love, grace and friendship will go to fill your days with joy."

Everyone nodded in understanding, their eyes filling with tears in unison.

Gabby stood up and hugged Harry tight, whispering 'I love you' in his ear. She then raised her glass in toast. "Grow Young With Me!" she said, her face alight with joy.

"Cheers, we'll drink to that," everyone said as they clinked their glasses and drank.

~~WANGST~~

First, we'd like to thank Nauze for once again delaying our chapter from being posted. If we were published authors you would have done an extra 13 revisions, for free. Instead, we had to wait impatiently while you ate, walked, breathed, and existed before deigning to open the doc. #nonpublishedauthorsmatter. Without Nauze's persistent, perfunctory, pernicious, pervasive persistence ways, we wouldn't have felt so persecuted. Thanks Nauze!

Thirdly, (not secondly– because Petri is never in second place) we'd like to thank Petri for not delivering his contractually-obligated outtakes. Your Christmas Bonus is owed to SalTalStudios through GYWM's final chapter (2035) and the penal clauses forcing further outtakes for the subsequent spin off works of HH's GYWM Finale: Come Work With Me (2045), Play Games With Me (2055), and Go Floo With Me (2095).

Fourthly, we'd also like to blame Fate for willing HH into existence. Without Fate constantly ensuring everything worked seamlessly to utter perfection, HH could not have come to fruition. Time after time, Fate provided ample material for trolling and a strong telepathic bond for twinning.

Fiftly, we'd also like to thank Sir Cappy the Knight for deciding to join STS (RIP) all those months ago and allowing us to forcibly pull him from his lurking ways. The server would not have been the same without your reacts and fluffiness and all-around amazing ways.

Sixthly, we'd also like to blame the reader for wasting your time by reading our nonsense. As well as leaving your feedback with emotions varying from love, laughter, tears, shock, dismay, disgust, joy, grief, ambivalence, confusion, and awe. Our automated response machine has never seen so much action and joy as when it responds to your PMs with further rubbish.

And finally, we'd like to thank Taylor Swift for the release of her 6th studio album Reputation. Each and every song on that album is extremely memorable to everyone who hears it and calls themselves a true fan (not Petri). First and second place aren't for everyone, but they sure are for Taylor Swift fans!

Thank you to all you Euclanites for travelling with us on this journey. Through all the chaos and trolls, all the confusion and befuddlement. It's been a wild ride. In the words of the great Healer Harry Potter, you have all been beautiful, wonderful people that made this journey so much easier and so much better. And we've had a blast writing this story for ourselves (and for you).

For the final time,

Stay Classy Eucla!