Disclaimer: Not mine, as if you lived under a rock and thought it was.
Hermione wasn't sure what had awakened her. She lay motionless for a moment, assessing. The house was silent, she was snugly under the sheets and coverlet, and the weak, winter sun had not yet begun to filter through the windows of their bedroom.
She rolled over, yawning dramatically and splaying her toes out in a luxurious stretch. When she let her eyes open, she was greeted by the wide green ones of her husband, only millimeters from hers.
"Sweet Merlin, Harry!" she said in exasperation, one hand flat on her breastbone, as an indication of how he'd startled her. She arched one eyebrow at him, with a no-nonsense expression. "How long have you been awake?"
"Not that long," he admitted, so reluctantly that she knew he was lying. She curled up sideways under the warm covers, tucking both hands under her cheek, and waiting for the inevitable. She didn't have to wait long. "Can we get her up yet?" he asked a moment later, in a hopeful voice.
"Didn't Mum or Mrs. Weasley teach you anything? You never – "
" – wake a sleeping infant. I know," Harry finished for her. "But she's not an infant anymore. She's two and a half. Can't I go ahead and get her up? I can't wait to see her face when she sees everything downstairs."
"You said that last Christmas. You said that when she was only seven months old." Her voice was stern, but her eyes glinted with amusement. "You're the adult, Harry. You shouldn't teach her that it's okay to wake up before dawn on Christmas morning." She shook her head with mock horror. "Bill and Fleur said that Ari had them up at 4:30 last year." She turned her head to squint at the clock on her bedside table. "It's not even six yet."
"You mean to tell me that you never woke your parents up early on Christmas morning?" Harry teased, and Hermione glowered at him.
"I had an alarm clock that was set for 7:30, and that's when I got up," Hermione said in a stiff voice. "And I've told you that before." Harry was chortling quietly.
"I know. I just think it's funny that you set an alarm clock on Christmas morning."
"Well, you're not waking Lily-Grace up. You can wait until she wakes up on her own. Do you really want her to be all cranky and out of sorts by about 2:00 this afternoon?" Hermione said, ending his teasing by ending the point of contention.
"We're going to need to get up soon, if we're going to make it to brunch at the Burrow," Harry tried again. Hermione responded to this new tack by curling more tightly under the covers and closing her eyes. She knew that he was just excited by Christmas, that he always had been once he'd left for Hogwarts, never having had any kind of Christmas at all when he was with the Dursleys. The child-like anticipation had only multiplied once their little girl had arrived, and he had been determined to follow every single tradition of Christmas, even while Lily-Grace was much too young to retain any of it. Hermione figured that she really shouldn't be so hard on him; it was only one day out of the year, after all. But the bickering about it had become somewhat of a holiday tradition in itself. And she knew that he would wake their daughter eventually…he always did.
"Hermioneee…" Harry stretched out the syllables of her name in a wheedling tone. She didn't make any movement or sign that she had heard him. He repeated himself, reaching over under the covers and skimming his feet up her leg. She curled up even more tightly. Finally, he pounced, wrapping his arms around her and pressing his cold nose in the crook of her neck, causing her to squeal involuntarily, and try to squirm away from him.
Soft padding footfalls interrupted the lingering kiss that followed.
"Daddy?" came a childish treble, as she struggled to open the door. Hermione looked at Harry suspiciously, as he sprang out of bed.
"She's awake!" he said triumphantly.
"You did that on purpose," she accused. He widened his eyes at her innocently.
"After you yelled at me last year, for pulling her covers off of her – even though I clearly never left this room – I promised that I wouldn't wake her up again. I didn't wake her up. You did." He almost made it through his speech without grinning, but didn't quite succeed.
"You cheated," she pointed out, sticking her jaw out mutinously. Harry looked at her and shrugged, as if to point out that the entire matter had been removed from his control. He then sat up in the bed, and held out his arms in welcome to the dark-haired little sprite that was standing in the doorway.
"Merry Christmas, little love!" he said, as he pulled her up into the bed with them, and snuggled her down in the covers.
"Is today Christmas?" she asked excitedly.
"It certainly is!" Harry replied, and Hermione couldn't help but smile at the blissful look on his face. "Do you want to go downstairs and see if there's anything down there for you?"
"Presents!" Lily-Grace was in rapture. Her parents exchanged glances, and climbed out of the bed, Harry reaching for his cane, and Hermione reaching for her robe.
It was a low-key affair, even though Lily-Grace was quite excited about her gifts. She was just able to manage unwrapping on her own, and Harry was content to sit and watch her enjoy herself, while Hermione watched Harry, occasionally snapping a picture.
She watched the blissful expression on his face and felt her heart swell. He had given up so much to save the world, and now he was getting to enjoy what he'd always dreamed of. She felt lucky – nay, privileged – that she got to be the one with whom he shared this dream turned into reality.
As Lily-Grace sat amid her pile of presents, looking at each one in turn, as if she didn't know what she wanted to play with the most, Hermione leaned under the tree, and casually tossed Harry a small, rather squashy package.
"Hermione, we're going to take that holiday next month," he protested lightly. "We weren't going to get each other anything." She shrugged, and he added, "It was your idea."
"It's just a little something," she countered, knowing full well that they could afford to buy each other just about anything they desired.
"Good," he said impishly, "I got you a little something too." He extracted a small package that he'd hidden under the tree skirt, and handed it to her. Hermione eyed him dubiously, knowing that hers actually was a 'little something', while his was probably ridiculously extravagant. He grinned at her, knowing exactly what she was thinking. "You needed something to match your necklace," he told her, as she exposed the dark velvet of a jewelry box, referring to the sapphire pendant he had bought her for her birthday 3 months previously.
She opened the box to reveal a pair of teardrop sapphire earrings, and looked at Harry with some dismay.
"Harry, your present really is a little something," she protested.
"Well, after I bought the new Firebolt last month – " he began.
"How much did that cost?" Hermione wondered aloud, interrupting him.
"Trust me," Harry said, "you don't want to know." Hermione's naturally frugal personality had had some difficulty adjusting to the fact that Harry was quite wealthy. She was the one who clipped coupons and went to sales, telling Harry that it was for her own personal satisfaction, not because they had to. She had been the one to suggest that, since they were taking that holiday in a month, that they forgo buying each other Christmas presents. Harry was the one who tended to make flamboyant, spontaneous purchases, at times without even glancing at the price tag.
He slid closer to where she was sitting on the floor, her back against the sofa, and planted a soft kiss behind her ear.
"I don't need a special occasion to buy something for my wife," he whispered, and his warm breath on her neck made her lean toward him. They kissed gently.
"You haven't opened yours," she pointed out, as she slid the earrings into her ears. He obligingly ripped into the brightly wrapped package, and held up his hand, dangling two little yarn shoes from his fingertips.
"I don't think these are my size," he joked, looking at them with amusement.
"Harry!" Hermione exclaimed with frustration, and he looked at the gift again. They were quite small, smaller than Lily-Grace's feet even, and they were knit from blue yarn. He turned and looked at Hermione, who was watching him quietly. Dawning awareness was flaring in his eyes, though he still looked hesitant, as though he didn't want to say anything and be wrong.
"I thought we might get a boy this time," she finally ventured, when it became clear that Harry wasn't going to say anything first.
With a whoop, Harry suddenly lunged for her, gathering her up in his arms, and hugging her tightly. He was saying something incoherently and raining kisses down all over her face, while Hermione laughed. It sounded like music.
"Another baby!" he exclaimed. "How could you say that's just a little something? How long have you known?"
"Just a couple of days. I went to see the healer while you were doing that interview," Hermione said, causing Harry to glower.
"Another reason for me to hate reporters," he muttered.
"It wouldn't have mattered anyway," she answered him lightly. "I wanted to tell you on Christmas."
"It's the best present you could ever give me, Hermione," he whispered, pressing his forehead to hers.
"It's the best present we could ever give each other," she corrected him softly. "I love you."
"I love you too," he replied, as he pulled her into his lap, and they watched Lily-Grace with her toys, in utter contentment. "Always."
"What's with Ron?" Hermione said, within five minutes of their arrival at the Weasley family home, whispering subtly in Harry's ear. Harry had noticed their friend's odd behavior too.
"I don't know. He's acting awfully antsy, isn't he?" he replied softly, not that anyone would have noticed their exchange. Bill and Charlie had Ari and Lily-Grace on their shoulders, and were parading through the living room, winding through the kitchen and back again, singing Christmas carols in a very loud and off-key fashion. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were bustling in the kitchen, and Neville, who had come with Ginny, had been cornered on the stairs by both Weasley twins looking up to no good.
"If I didn't already know that Ron and Luna were married, I'd say he looks like a man who's about to propose," Hermione observed, watching Ron shift his weight from foot to foot, and look around anxiously. His wife leaned over and whispered something in his ear, that made Ron smile and relax slightly.
"If he's going to propose again, I'm getting out of range," Harry joked, and Hermione grinned at him. Ron had been unbelievably nervous, last year, when he proposed to Luna, and Harry had ended up being the one talking him into it, out in the garden at the Burrow. He had also gotten thrown up on for his efforts, something which got brought up at every Weasley family gathering, much to Ron's dismay.
"So are we going to tell everyone today?" Hermione asked him, leaning into his side.
"At the table, I guess," Harry answered laconically. The Weasley dining table had become the choice spot for all announcements, since that first Christmas, where Bill and Fleur announced Ari's impending birth, and Remus and Tonks announced their marriage. Ron and Luna had announced their engagement there, and Percy and Penelope had announced their own expected arrival there. Their little boy, Thomas, was just 3 weeks old now.
After everyone had been seated– the table having to be enlarged once before the meal could actually begin – Mrs. Weasley began to levitate the platters and tureens into a line down the middle of the table, so that everyone could serve themselves.
The conversation, as it did every year, turned to the state of affairs in the Ministry, and what was going on now with regard to the defeat of Voldemort, and the hunt for Death Eaters. Harry and Ron managed to still be very deeply involved in what went on, despite their rather innocuous careers in the world of Quidditch.
"Snape's up for parole next year," Mr. Weasley remarked, serving himself some potatoes.
"Won't the Death Eaters be gunning for him?" Bill wondered aloud, passing the platter of rolls down the table, absent-mindedly.
"He won't be able to make any solo trips down Knockturn Alley, that's for sure," Fred said seriously.
"D'ja hear that Draco Malfoy's back in town?" George blurted suddenly, causing a complete silence to fall on the table. Harry glanced at Hermione, who, he noticed, had immediately looked to Ginny. Ginny had an odd, strained look on her pale face. Neville was watching her with concern, his fingers laced tightly through hers. As Harry watched, Neville leaned down and whispered something in her ear, to which Ginny replied by shaking her head in the negative, and whispering something back that caused Neville to smile and kiss her hand.
"Doesn't anyone have any announcements to make?" Charlie finally asked, only half-joking.
"That's rich coming from you, Dragon-Boy," Bill said languidly. George, sitting with one arm along the back of Angelina's chair, snickered audibly.
Harry threw a glance Hermione's way, and scooted his chair back from the table, opening his mouth to speak…
…and saw Ron already doing the same. The two friends noticed each other at the same time, and each indicated that the other go first.
"No, you go ahead, Harry. You know how I hate announcing things in front of the whole family anyway," Ron stammered, color flooding his face.
"You're not going to throw up on me, are you?" Harry said with mock plaintiveness, sending Fred and George into a paroxysm of laughter. Ron's face darkened further. "I'm just kidding, mate," Harry assured him. "You go ahead."
Ron looked despairingly at Harry, who had leaned back in his chair, as if he had had no intentions of announcing anything at all.
"Mum, you're going to have to make more room on your wall this summer," he blurted suddenly, gesturing toward the wall opposite, where there hung matching round framed pictures of Ariane, Lily-Grace, and Thomas. The color drained from Ron's face, as everyone's eyes went to the pictures, and turned back to him with varying degrees of comprehension. Mrs. Weasley made her way around the table, and gave them both a tearful hug, speaking in an incoherent high pitch, which seemed to be her standard operating procedure when confronted with news about a new grandchild.
There were murmurs of congratulations and squeals of excitement, which Harry interrupted by laughing rather loudly.
"That's absolutely brilliant, Ron!" Harry said sincerely. "Eleven more years, and there'll be a Potter and a Weasley being sorted together into Gryffindor again! Almost makes me wish Snape was back at Hogwarts!"
There was another pause, while everyone sorted out exactly what Harry meant.
"Hermione, are you – ?" Ginny asked incredulously. Hermione smiled and nodded in response, and the table erupted once again, causing little Thomas to startle and begin fussing in Penelope's arms. Ron and Harry were talking animatedly to each other, obviously ecstatic that they would be going through this together. Harry was saying something about,
" – and whatever food she asks you to buy at three in the morning, don't argue about it, just do it!" Hermione nudged him rather sharply in the side, and he grinned at her unrepentantly.
The afternoon was just beginning to deepen into twilight, when Hermione drifted out into the garden, winding a scarf around her neck to ward off the chill, to where Ron was standing, staring at nothing, leaning on the back gate.
"Knut for your thoughts," she said softly, coming up, and resting her elbows on the gate, next to him.
"You'll have to give me more than that," Ron quipped, still not looking at her.
"I didn't get a chance to congratulate you," she said softly, and then looked at him more closely. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, great, really. It's just – I can't believe this is all happening. It's so – so – "
"Amazing? Incredible?" Hermione supplied. Ron looked at her then, grinned, and nodded.
"After everything that's happened – and only four, five years ago – and it seems like some other lifetime…" he mused.
"You're waxing awfully philosophical tonight," she teased him, nudging him in the side with her elbow.
"He must have been hitting the Ogden's while nobody was looking," came the voice of her husband, as he joined them by the gate, stepping behind her and wrapping his arms around her middle.
"I'll have you know I am perfectly capable of having philosophical thoughts," Ron said, with an air of one in high dudgeon.
"Congratulations on the baby, mate," Harry said, smiling genuinely and letting the teasing slide. "Get ready for no sleep for more than three hours at a time, nasty nappies, freaking out every time they sneeze, no more hot meals – "
"Why not?" interrupted Ron, horrified.
"Because you'll be busy feeding the sprog," Harry said, as if it were obvious. Hermione rolled her eyes toward him with a look that said, "who did the majority of the feeding?" Harry continued, "And no more shagging!"
"Harry!" Hermione said, obviously having had enough of Harry's bleak picture, knowing that he absolutely adored being a father.
"And when they start moving around – well, it's all over then. They get in your stuff, break things, lose things…they always have sticky hands and a messy face. They never want to eat when it's time to eat, but they'll wake you up at five wanting 'bret-fuss'."
"If there's no more shagging, then how did – " Ron said, obviously hung up on that part, and gesturing toward Hermione.
"It took awhile," Harry said sagely, while Hermione glowered at him. The two men made it a little bit longer, before succumbing to laughter.
"You two think you are so funny," she muttered, while they both slung affectionate arms around her.
"Seriously, Ron," Harry said somberly, though his eyes were still twinkling with mirth. "It's the – when Lily-Grace – she…there's nothing like it, mate. It's the most unbelievable feeling in the whole world. It's – " he shrugged, unable to put it into words.
"Better than shagging?" Ron teased, glancing at Hermione.
"Better than flying," Harry said seriously, and Ron grew serious too.
"That brilliant, huh?" The trio stood in silence as the last dying rays of the sun flashed once more and disappeared. "You'll be the godparents, won't you?"
Hermione and Harry exchanged glances and smiled.
"Of course, Ron," Harry said. They all stared at each other for a moment, remembering the dark years that their friendship spanned, and everything that it had withstood. They had been thrust into adulthood early, but now stood there in their own right, moving on toward a new chapter…one where they still remained essential friends.
"You're cold, Hermione," Harry said, watching her shiver. She looked up at him, her dark eyes shadowy in the vanished light, and shook her head lightly, even as her breath puffed out cloudily in front of her face.
Harry and Ron moved to flank her, and she snuggled in between them, laying her head against Harry's shoulder, as they moved back toward the house, in classic Trio formation.
She wasn't cold. Not anymore.
Excerpt from The Daily Prophetfirst page of the Sports section, May 3rd, 2020
Saturday, Hogwarts bore witness to perhaps one of the most remarkable games of Quidditch – and certainly one of the longest in recent memory – between the two houses of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw for the Quidditch Cup.
The game ran for sixteen and a half hours, and was scoreless for nearly four of those. What made this game so remarkable, however, was the well-known names of the students involved.
Gryffindor's team had been the winner of the Cup for an unprecedented eight years in a row, until Ravenclaw began a sudden dominance, taking it the previous two years. This year, captained by Keeper Thomas Weasley, who is also the Head Boy, Gryffindor had easily beaten Hufflepuff and Slytherin, and narrowly defeated Ravenclaw earlier this year. Also of note on the Gryffindor team, stand-out third-year Beater, Brian Potter.
Ravenclaw's team is captained by their star Chaser, James Weasley, cousin to the rival Keeper. James is being recruited by several professional Quidditch teams, and is one of the most outstanding flyers that this sportswriter has ever had the privilege to watch. But the true gem of this match-up is Ravenclaw's Seeker, also the Head Girl, who won the spot above all other takers, when she was only in her first year. Readers may remember when her famous father also made Seeker on his House team in his first year, as well. Her name is Katherine Potter, and she is planning to sign with the Chudley Cannons as their reserve Seeker, upon graduation.
The game, despite James Weasley's best efforts, largely due to Thomas Weasley's incredible saves, as well as those of Ravenclaw Keeper, Lucy MacMillan, remained scoreless for four hours and five minutes, when Ravenclaw's Chasers, flying in a Exploding Wedge formation, finally managed to get one in.
Both teams remained stingy with the scoring, although it did pick up after the eighth hour, when many of the players began to tire. The game continued on through the night, illuminated by wandlight, although finding the Snitch would be nearly impossible under such conditions.
Finally, just before lunchtime yesterday, Katherine Potter caught the Snitch, giving Ravenclaw the win and ending the game. The dive she executed to reach the Snitch was flawless, and she moved as if she were one with her broom, even performing a risky Krum Corkscrew to maneuver the last few meters, scarcely two meters from the ground. The score before the Snitch was caught was nearly dead even: Gryffindor 100, Ravenclaw 90.
Of course, sitting the stands were many student fans and proud family members. Most notably, Harry Potter himself, now the manager for Puddlemere United, as well as Ronald Weasley, who has just recently retired from the starting Keeper position with the Chudley Cannons. Accompanying Harry Potter was his wife, Hermione, and his oldest daughter, Lily-Grace Potter, 20, who is recuperating from a minor injury sustained while playing Chaser for Southampton, the team that signed her straight out of school.
If the Weasleys and the Potters have begun peopling a new Quidditch dynasty, it is one that this sportswriter is unashamedly eager to witness.
Well, here it is, folks. I had real trouble with the epilogue for some reason, and ended up completely scrapping and rewriting three different versions. I wanted it fluffy and fun, but…well, I still don't know. I do like the newspaper article at the end, because I wanted to give you all this information, but in a more oblique way, I guess.
I particularly loved that neither of the expected children from the epilogue ended up in Gryffindor…that was just me having fun.
Anyway, it's been a great ride, and I should have an update on "Isle of Mists" pretty soon.
'Til we meet again.