Title: The First Time

By: RahNee

Written For: Sami/silveris

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: D/Hr and H/Hr

Warnings: Character death

Disclaimer: Any characters, events, settings, etc. you find in this story that you do not find in JKR's Harry Potter Universe, you can safely assume that they are mine.

Summary:It wasn't the first time he'd held her as her world receded into darkness. Harry is a steadfast presence in Hermione's darkest hour and during her journey to healing.

Strong arms around her held her against a rock-solid chest as her body writhed in pain and a desperate need to…

"Push. You're doing fine. Just push." The words were brusque and clinical.

"I can't, I can't, too much… too tired," she gasped.


Her eyes snapped open to the familiar sound of the rich baritone voice. She saw only green, warm and encouraging. "You can do this." He sounded sincere, but there was strain around his smile and worry tugged at his eyes, his green, green eyes… his eyes that blurred as her world started to go grey and fuzzy…

The clinical voice sounded far off… muffled… "Something's wrong…"

"Harry," she whispered desperately as worried green faded to black …

It wasn't the first time he'd held her as her world receded into darkness.

"I think you'd better go in there, Mr. Potter." The voice echoed off the barren walls of the waiting area in St. Mungo's.

Harry moved with alacrity to push into the room, but was brought up short by the sight of Hermione reduced to sobs at the bedside. The figure under the covers was dreadfully still.

"Is he…" Harry croaked, but couldn't continue. Hermione's answer was to fling herself into his arms, her anguish wracking her body, threatening to split her in two. Harry held her close against his chest. He studied the man in the bed; his face was quietly composed, almost angelic, now that it was released of care. Harry's jaw clenched in anger.

Harry had warned him not to break her heart, right after walking her down the aisle (in the place of her deceased father) and right before giving her hand to him. "If you break her heart, Malfoy, I'll kill you."

Malfoy had given him a look that was devoid of the usual cocky smirk or any derision, a look that was dead serious, and had replied with complete sincerity, "You'll have to find some other excuse to off me, Potter, because I swear to you that I will never break her heart."

LIAR, his mind screamed as Harry held Hermione while she howled her grief into his shoulder.

Her sobs became shallow, desperate gasps for air. "Hermione?" he said in concern, looking down in time to see her eyes roll up into her head as she fainted.

----- -----

Hermione spent the first few weeks of widowhood on Harry's couch or in his guest room, mostly sleeping, and eating only when Harry or Ron sat and glared at her if she didn't. Ron came by often, so it seemed there was always a pair of concerned eyes, be they green or blue, keeping watch on her. She didn't care. She wished she would just die.

Harry finally decided that if she didn't care about taking care of herself anymore, that he would. He drew a bath one evening, and stalked out to the living room. Against her feeble protests, he pulled her up into his strong arms, carried her to the bathroom and set her on the closed toilet. "You need a bath." She just stared listlessly at the floor. "Are you going to make this easy? Or do I have to treat you like a child?"

In the end, he had to strip off her pajamas and lift her into the tub. He took a cup and gently rinsed her hair before leaning her against the sloping back of the tub, whispering a charm so she wouldn't slip under and one to keep the water a comfortable temperature. "Rest a while, Hermione," he told her softly, "and I'll be back soon to help you out."

If she had cared, she'd have noted the catch in his voice and read his grief at seeing her in such a depressed state on his face. Instead, buoyed by the warm water and the floatation charm, she closed her eyes and fell into a kind of dream-like daze. Her mind skipped from memory to memory and her heart ached.

----- -----

Draco, severely injured, had come under the care of the Order of the Phoenix one night and Hermione had been one of those who'd worked until the dawn to save his life. She remembered Harry quietly telling her what he'd seen that night on the tower, the night Dumbledore died, and she wondered if someone like Malfoy could be redeemed. She wanted to believe it was possible. Draco told her much later that he knew she saw something in him he could not yet, and it had made him want to find out what that was. He told her that she had been his redemption.

----- -----

Hermione found him one evening standing in front of his parents' tombstones. He had pulled every petal off the bouquet of roses he'd brought and had ripped each one to shreds. She came up behind him, and slipped her arms around him. Draco turned, and buried his face in her shoulder. "Shhh… shhh…" she soothed. "I know… I know…" Her hands traced circles on his heaving shoulders. She understood; she had lost her parents, too.

----- -----

They had been talking in the library at number 12, Grimmauld Place about some topic or another, she could not say what now, when they had gotten into a debate. She pulled out a book from the shelf, marched over to the couch and sunk down next to him, brandishing the tome under his nose adamantly. The look he gave her was amused and affectionate and exasperated all at once. He reached out to tuck a few strands of hair loosed from her ponytail behind her ear.

----- -----

Draco stepped onto the back porch of the home Hermione had inherited from her parents and saw her quiet tears. He pulled her in his arms and wiped her tears with the pads of his thumbs. "Hermione," he whispered gently, "I want to be the one who makes you smile again." And he kissed her; he kissed her sweetly, tenderly, lovingly for what simultaneously felt like hours and no time at all.

----- -----

Hermione stood on the rocky outcropping overlooking the sea and faced the wind, breathing the briny air in deep gulps. The waves threw themselves on the rocks below and flung spray up to sprinkle droplets that sparkled like diamonds in her hair. Draco cleared his throat, and when she turned to look at him, her eyes widened. He was in front of her, on one knee, and he took her hand in his.

----- -----

She walked down the aisle, Harry's arm firmly crooked around hers, and looked up to see Draco's eyes fixed on her. His gaze never seemed to leave her throughout the ceremony, or the celebration afterwards. He gently cupped her chin, and touched his lips softly to hers, tenderly claiming her as his wife for all to see.

----- -----

Draco's hair was tousled and his face was flushed as he propped up on his elbow beside her and ran his fingers down her cheek before kissing her deeply. He knew she enjoyed kissing and cuddling after they made love. He gazed into her face lovingly and whispered, "When I get back, we'll spend the entire day in bed enjoying each other, love."

----- -----

He did not come back. Not alive.

Hermione started to weep. Deep, soul-searing wails echoed through the bathroom. Harry came bursting in, and he snatched her up into his arms, heedless of the water or her nudity. He held her, and rocked her, and let her cry. Finally, he reached for a towel when he noticed her shiver, and wrapped it around her before carefully carrying her to the bed in the spare room. She clung to him, so he held her again and whispered soothing nonsense until her body finally stopped shuddering, and her breathing slowed.

Harry kissed the top of her head. "Let's get you to bed," he murmured. She nodded against his chest. He realized he did not have any of her clothing handy, nor his wand, so he simply sat back, pulled off his t-shirt, and placed it over her head. He helped her arms find the sleeves and pulled away the towel as she tugged the hem of the shirt down past her hips. He lifted the covers and she wriggled under them.

Harry leaned over and placed another kiss on the top of her head. "I'm right here if you need me, Hermione," he said gently.

She nodded and gave him a brief smile. "Thanks, Harry."

He turned out the light as he left and she snuggled further down into the bedcovers. The t-shirt felt warm, and was permeated with Harry's masculine scent. She breathed deeply; it made her think of strong arms and safety and for the first time, she thought she might, just might, survive.

It wasn't the first time that Harry had saved her life.

Two months later Harry was trying to reconcile himself with the fact that Hermione had been talking for several days about moving into her parents' old house and pulling her life back together. He knew he should have been happy for her, that she was beginning to heal and that was what he wanted, after all, wasn't it? He cursed himself for a selfish bastard that all he really could feel was sorry for himself, because these last eight weeks he had been able to pretend that she would stay and…


Harry's head jerked up as she entered the flat, calling his name urgently. His heart fell. She's decided to leave, then. He stepped into the living room to find a white-faced Hermione nearly in tears. It was as natural as breathing to him to cross quickly to her and take her in his arms. "What is it?" he asked in concern as she began to cry.

"Oh, Harry," she wailed. "I'm pregnant." And then he could no longer understand any of the words that were tumbling from her mouth as she was sobbing much too hard to be intelligible.

Harry led her to the couch and gently sat her down next to him. He held her and soothed her once again. He'd been doing a great deal of that lately, and it struck him that he enjoyed the role of being her comforter probably a little more than was proper. But what could he do? Abandon her in her time of need? He would never do that.

"Hermione, hush now… shhh. Everything is going to be all right."

"How, Harry? How will it be all right? I can't raise a child. I don't have a partner. This baby won't have a father! I can't do this, not by myself!" Hysteria edged her voice.

Harry took her face in his hands. "Listen to me. You won't be alone. You don't have to do this by yourself. I will help you however I can, I swear it."I would do anything for you to erase the pain from your eyes…

She pulled him to her in a fierce hug. "I don't know what I would do without you, Harry."

He let out an ironic half-laugh and returned the hug. "Likewise, Hermione." And he held her until he felt her breathing slow. He threw his legs onto the coffee table and leaned back until he was semi-reclined, taking her with him and settling her head in the crook of his shoulder. She pulled her legs up onto the couch. "You can stay here, Mione, for as long as you like. We'll get through this, I promise you."

She smiled weakly. "I've already overstayed my welcome by weeks, Harry. I'm putting a damper on your social life. I'm keeping you from entertaining the women that constantly throw themselves at you."

Harry snorted. "You make it sound like there were so many! I don't even have to take off my socks to count the number of women I have what you so euphemistically called 'entertained' here." He was pleased to hear her chuckle. "Besides, those relationships were all superficial anyway. There's nothing to miss when there was no substance to begin with." He fixed her with that determined green gaze. "I hope you realize that you are much more important to me than any of that."

She nodded, her throat thick and the tears threatening to spill again. She nestled into his steadfast embrace and closed her eyes, exhausted and emotionally spent.

The room grew dark as Harry continued to stroke her soft curls absentmindedly, deep in thought. He really hadn't started living until he'd arrived at Hogwarts at the tender age of eleven. Hogwarts had been the beginning, and Hermione had been intimately intertwined with that new life; he'd been happiest then, and she had been a part of that. It was unthinkable, really, to separate her from him. His friendship with her and Ron had defined him, after all.

And so, he could have likely continued deluding himself into thinking that all he felt for her was a deep, abiding friendship. It would have been easy, really, to just convince himself that he was being a true friend, offering her help and housing and comfort… if he hadn't allowed his memories to come to the surface.

----- -----

Hermione walked arm-in-arm with Viktor Krum into the Great Hall, looking absolutely stunning. She smiled shyly at him as he goggled at her in surprised admiration. At that moment, he understood what someone meant by "my heart skipped a beat," but he didn't realize the significance of why his heart would stutter so.

----- -----

Ron and Hermione joined him by the lake after Dumbledore's funeral. At Ron's reminder of Bill and Fleur's upcoming wedding, Harry glanced sideways at Hermione and saw a wistful look steal across her face, making her look momentarily dreamy and girly. He rather thought she was imagining herself as a bride, as girls their age seemed to do, and found himself picturing her decked out in bridal finery. That vision had momentarily taken his breath away.

----- -----

The battle was done, and Harry staggered to his feet, searching for his two best friends. Ron was to his left, blood dripping from a gash on his temple, and his right arm obviously broken, but where was Hermione? He panicked and shouted her name even as his heart seized up, fearing the worst. Losing her would break him; he had no doubt of that. It was with great relief that he saw her frizzy brunette head turn toward him. He hugged her to him for a long time, shuddering with emotion.

----- -----

Hermione entered the Weasleys' backyard through the side gate, a tall blond in tow. During the Sunday meal, she shyly told everyone that she and Draco were getting married. Harry's vision tunneled until all he could see was her hand tangled with the Ferret's. So this is what it feels like to be pole-axed, a detached part of his mind noted.

----- -----

Harry watched as Malfoy took Hermione's hand from him and led her up the dais to the celebrant waiting for them. Malfoy could not take his eyes off of her, and Harry couldn't blame him. She was stunning, and obviously very happy. And Harry was happy for her, really he was. He could ignore that dull ache he felt as she joined her life with someone else. He would ignore it… for her sake.

----- -----

The room was completely dark now, save for the light from the streetlamps filtering through the living room window. Harry glanced down at the sleeping face of the woman in his arms and acknowledged the ache in his heart. For the last few weeks, he admitted, he'd been entertaining the rather uncharitable thought that her grief for her husband would fade soon and then, finally then, Harry would tell her how he felt about her.

That wouldn't happen now. She was carrying Malfoy's posthumous child, a living reminder of her dead husband. Harry wouldn't burden her now with things he should have said years before. No, he would just continue to love her, and be there for her when she needed him. It would have to be enough.

He leaned down and kissed the top of her head gently.

It wasn't the first time Harry had wished he'd have grown some balls and told her a long time ago how he felt about her.

Hermione sank back into the old wicker loveseat on the Weasleys' back porch and smiled at the sight of the party décor, the cake, the streamers, and the black-haired man who was tossing her one-year-old son in the air.

"Harry! Harry Potter! You be careful with that boy, you hear me?" Molly Weasley shrilled at him before turning to Hermione. "Honestly; men!" she huffed. "Don't know the difference between a baby and a Quaffle."

Harry caught Hermione's eye and winked roguishly before tossing the giggling child once more.

Hermione smiled and said soothingly, "Harry would never let anything happen to Theo." Her words triggered a memory from the year before.

----- -----

Hermione felt the darkness slowly fade as she thought she heard a familiar voice. "Draco?" she whispered, appalled that her mouth wouldn't form his name.

"Hermione." No, not Draco's voice… Harry's. "Hermione, wake up."

Green eyes crinkled in relief as she opened hers and blinked. "Harry," she croaked, "What happened?"

"Just a small complication, minor, really, nothing you won't heal from," came the clinical voice of the midwife, "and here's the outcome." She lifted a tiny bundle into Hermione's line of sight. "A fine baby boy, and he's hungry!"

Hermione stared at the tiny baby in her lap as he suckled hungrily. She couldn't take her eyes off of him. Finally, he released her breast with a pop and turned his little face up to hers. His blue-grey eyes opened and he looked right at her, and she gasped.

Instantly, Harry was at her side. "What's wrong, Mione?" He'd been sitting quietly in the background, not wanting to intrude, but the tears in her eyes alarmed him.

"Just look at him," she whispered. "Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?"

Harry smiled. "Just like his mum." He brushed her hair away from her face. "You look tired. Do you want me to hold him?"

She looked at him skeptically. "Do you even know how to hold a baby properly, Harry?"

"Do you?" he laughed at her, but then his face softened and he told her seriously, "I'll never let anything happen to him, Hermione. I swear it." She gave him the bundle and he carefully propped the baby on his shoulder and rubbed his tiny back.

Harry's efforts were rewarded by an impressive belch near his ear. Harry grinned. "Only an hour old, and he's already demonstrating the social graces worthy of the Malfoy name." He gently removed the baby from his shoulder and stared down at the tiny body that fit the length of his forearm. Serious little eyes returned his scrutiny, and tiny rosebud lips pursed. "Speaking of names, Mione," Harry said, "have you decided what you will call him?"

"Theodore, for my dad," she said quietly, "and Draco, for his dad."

"Theodore Draco Malfoy," Harry said to the tiny face cradled in his hand, "welcome to this world."

----- -----

"Hey." Hermione came up next to Harry and leaned against the balustrade that surrounded most of the Weasley porch, observing his face as he watched Bill and Fleur's children play with their uncles.

"Hey," he answered without looking at her. He jutted his chin toward the lawn. "Won't be too long before Theo is out there, too."

"Mmm," Hermione acknowledged. They watched for a few moments together before she turned to him and said, "So, am I finally forgiven for moving out?"

Harry's eyes narrowed a bit, and he still did not look at her. "I'll repeat what I said then: there was absolutely no reason why you had to move out. I still don't understand why you felt you needed to."

She huffed in exasperation. "I told you, Harry. I'd interfered with your life for over a year already. You are better off without me and Theo underfoot, you know."

"No, no. You're right!" He turned to her now, green eyes snapping, a hint of bitterness in his voice. "I've been much better off these last few weeks, not having to watch for babies or toys on the floor, not having to fight the rubber duckies in the bath, and not wondering if the bottle I pulled out of the refrigerator was cow's milk or breast milk. Everything is just bloody rosy now."

"Damn it, Harry! You were just using me as an excuse to avoid relationships, you know. After all, no woman in her right mind would date a man who has another woman with a child living in his home."

The intense look on his face startled her. His nostrils flared a bit as he hissed, "Stop psychoanalyzing me, Hermione. I've heard all your theories before." His voice changed in pitch as he imitated her. "'You have some kind of attachment disorder, Harry, brought on by the fact that you felt abandoned by your parents and were raised in an unloving family. You're afraid to involve yourself in meaningful relationships because of a fear of losing those you love.' Well, I have news for you, Hermione," and he swept his hand to indicate the Weasley homestead and the people surrounding them, "I have plenty of meaningful relationships right here!"

Hermione dropped her eyes and flushed, hearing words she'd said long ago thrown back in her face. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Harry. I should never have said those things that day. And I certainly did not expect you to remember my words verbatim, given how drunk you were." Harry snorted. "That is, how drunk I thought you were."

"And that statement right there is proof that you do not know everything, Hermione Granger," he said vehemently. Before she could respond he turned his face to the yard and shouted, "No George! For Merlin's sake don't teach him to lean on the broom like that! You're going to ruin his balance!" Without even a backward glance at Hermione, Harry took the steps down the porch and strode purposefully toward George and little Arthur, Jr. saying, "Here, A.J., let Uncle Harry teach you how to seat a broom like a Seeker."

Tears sprung to her eyes, and not just because she was a little bit hurt that he had not used her married name when he yelled at her. She whirled at the deep voice behind her.

"Yeah, I think it's safe to say that he hasn't forgiven you for moving out yet," Ron informed her.

"What the hell was that, Ron?" she wondered, bewildered.

Ron clicked his tongue at her. "And you used to say I wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed!" he teased. "He misses you, you and Theo, silly girl. And he misses you needing him, you know."

"That's ridiculous. I'll always need him. He knows he's one of my best friends!" She sighed.

Ron lifted a shoulder and let it fall. "Nobody likes change, Mione. But Harry will get used to it."

Later that night, as she rocked Theo to sleep, Hermione thought about Harry's outburst and remembered when she'd seen that expression on his face before. Once was when she'd told him she and Theo were moving, but there had been that time, long ago, in the Weasley's back yard… she and Draco had just announced their engagement. That look had crossed his face then, too. She frowned.

It wasn't the first time Hermione wished she really did know everything, because then she would know what that look of Harry's meant.

Hermione took one last look around Harry's flat, and sighed with satisfaction. "Absolutely spotless, love," she announced to her little helper who had shined the one spot in the center of the coffee table to perfection. "Won't Uncle Harry be surprised tonight?" she asked as she swung Theo into her arms.

"Where Unka Harry, mama? Me wanna suh-pwize!"

As if on cue, Harry Apparated into the room with a pop. Startled, he looked at Hermione and then his watch in confusion. "It's not six o'clock yet," he informed her.

"Suh-pwize, Unka Harry!" Theo shouted with glee.

Harry scooped the three-year-old out of Hermione's arms and tossed him in the air. "And who are you supposed to be, Little Dragon?" Harry asked, looking at the tyke's costume.

"Not a dwagon! I Tigger!"

Harry held him at arms length and appraised him carefully. "Why yes you are…" He lifted the boy over his head to his shoulders and began to gallop around the room. "…because you're bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun…"

Theo joined in the song with his youthful voice, "And the most wonderful thing about Tiggerrrrrrrrrrrzz… is I'm the only one!" The little boy shrieked with delight as Harry carefully tumbled him to the floor and tickled him.

Harry looked up at the sound of a throaty chuckle. "Not a word of this to anyone, I'm warning you," he wagged a finger at Hermione. "I'll deny everything and Obliviate your memory."

She smiled knowingly. "Ah, but you'll never find the secret video footage." She laughed when Harry stuck out his tongue at her.

She followed him as he walked easily to his room, despite the small boy attached firmly to his left leg. "I hope you don't mind that I stopped by early to do a little cleaning up, Harry."

"You didn't have to do that, Mione," he protested as he took his newest racing broom and suspended it a foot off the carpet for Theo to play on. "Unless you had an ulterior motive?"

She rolled her eyes. "Yes, I was looking for signs of any feminine influence here, but alas, no stray bras or hidden knickers anywhere."

Harry rolled his eyes back at her. "Frankly, your continued obsession over my love-life is starting to get a little disturbing, you know."

She crossed her arms. "Are you dating anyone?"

He raised his eyebrows at her. "Are you?"

She huffed out a breath. "Okay, back to my motive then. I know Halloween isn't the easiest time for you, Harry," she started, but was interrupted.

"Yeah, but I've been thinking about that since you so shamelessly invited yourself over tonight. Maybe I need to move on, you know? After all, Halloween is supposed to be fun and now that Theo here is old enough to enjoy it…"

"I'm glad to hear that, because I have a little surprise for you," she informed him.

The doorbell rang.

Harry looked at his watch and noted it was six o'clock. "What are you up to?" he demanded suspiciously, crossing the flat to the door.

She ran ahead of him and threw herself in front of the door. "I cleaned up your place because I'm throwing a little party," she said in a rush. "I hope you don't mind. I wanted it to be a surprise. If you're not okay with this, everyone will understand…"

"Who's out there?" he asked, thinking he already knew. She opened the door.

"Happy Halloween!" Nearly everyone he considered part of his extended honorary family was there, with pumpkins and treats in hand. Little costumed bodies shot into the room, followed by adults. In no time, his flat was filled with laughter and cheer.

----- -----

It was rather late when Harry closed the door on the last of the guests and wandered into the kitchen. Hermione was washing her large punch bowl in the sink. "Here, let me do that," he told her as he came up behind her and pulled her back against his chest in a hug. "Sit down. You've outdone yourself tonight." He shoved her aside playfully with his hip.

She sat and surveyed the jack-o-lantern contest entries that still lined the kitchen counter and smiled with contentment, pleased that Harry had enjoyed himself. From her vantage point, she could see mostly his back and part of his profile. Harry was grinning, and when he tossed her a glance from over his shoulder she felt her breath catch. He's gorgeous when he smiles.

Harry picked up a slumbering Theo off the couch and offered to Apparate him home while Hermione carried the punch bowl and a few other things she'd brought over for the festivities. He placed the little boy, still in his costume, on his bed and murmured the charm to keep him from falling out. He turned and realized she had been watching from the doorway. He strode to her and pulled her into a bear hug.

"Have I told you lately how amazing you are?" he asked her lightly.

She smiled against his chest. "No, I don't think you've met your quota yet this week," she quipped.

He pulled away and cupped her face with his hand, and looked at her with warmth in his green eyes. "You are amazing, Hermione Malfoy!" He held her gaze. She suddenly felt a little light headed when she thought she saw something more than warmth flicker in his face briefly, and her heartbeat picked up. But the moment passed when he leaned forward to kiss her on the forehead and said, "Thank you."

Harry stepped back and cleared his throat a little nervously. "Well, I'd better get going. I'll see you Sunday at the Weasleys." She didn't have a chance to reply before he'd Apparated.

It wasn't the first time he'd seemed a little nervous around her, or that she'd wondered why.

A loud whoop from the backyard of her house brought Hermione to the back door. Her eyes fell on her little boy astride the broom Harry had given him for his fifth birthday and Harry himself on his latest model Thunderbolt. Protruding from Theo's small fist could be seen two small golden wings.

"I caught it, Mummy!" Theo shrieked. Harry grinned.

"Well done," Hermione praised, "and just in time, too, because supper is almost ready."

"C'mon, let's wipe down our brooms and clean up," Harry prompted.

Hermione was about to go back in the house when she heard Theo ask, "Was my dad a good Seeker like you, Uncle Harry?" Hermione held her breath to hear the response.

"Your dad was an excellent Seeker, Theo. I played against him many times." Harry reached out and ruffled the boy's light brown hair. "He would have been very proud of you today."

"Yeah," Theo agreed enthusiastically. "I'm getting really good at catching the Snitch."

"Well, you certainly inherited your father's modesty," Harry said wryly, catching Hermione's eye and winking.

The smile twitching at the corners of Hermione's mouth really ruined the disapproving glare she tried to cast Harry's way. Instead, she asked, "Will you stay for supper, Harry?"

----- -----

Hermione walked back into the kitchen after putting Theo to bed and saw that Harry had done all the clean up. "Thanks," she smiled at him.

"Of course," he replied, handing her a glass of wine. He sipped his own before studying her carefully over the rim. "He's old enough for a youth Quidditch league, you know," he told her. "They start them as young as five."

Hermione sighed. "He's growing up too fast…"

"I'll take him, Mione. I don't mind. He really is talented. It'd be a shame for that to go to waste."

She gave him a measured look. "I suppose you are going to pull out the 'it's what his father would have wanted' trump card, aren't you?"

Harry met her eyes. "You knew him better than I did," he prevaricated. He paused to take a gulp of the wine. "Theo's been doing that a lot lately," he commented, "asking about Draco."

"Does it bother you?" she asked softly.

Harry stared into his wine. "When I was a kid, I craved any information I could get about my parents. I was searching for my identity." He took a deep breath and let it out. "Theo needs to know about his dad." He looked at her. "And don't worry about what I say to him; I remember how damaging Snape's hateful words about my dad were to me." He snorted into his wine. "Besides, it's different; Ferret and I came to an understanding there in the end."

A smile played at Hermione's mouth as she looked into her wine glass.

Harry's eyes traced her face and lingered on her lips, seeing the wistful smile there. His voice was low and gentle; "Do you still miss him?"

She was quiet as she composed her thoughts. "When I found out I was pregnant with Theo," she started, "one of the reasons I was so upset was I thought that having Draco's baby around me every day would just rip open my wounded heart anew each time I looked at him. Of course, that didn't happen because babies aren't just some miniature version of the person; they have their own personality and character that grows right before your eyes." She looked at Harry, who lifted the wine bottle in inquiry. She nodded and he refilled her glass.

"That's not to say that I don't see traces of Draco when I look at Theo…" she added, and Harry nodded in agreement. Theo had his father's narrow aristocratic features and his mother's eye and hair color. "But most of the time, I just see Theo, if that makes any sense." She sighed. "I still think of Draco, but not every waking moment. And I do miss him sometimes, but it isn't like that horrible emptiness that I thought would kill me six years ago."

They sat in silence for a little while, but it was interrupted by the clink of Harry's wine glass as he refilled it. "I have always felt a little sorry for Theo, growing up without his father," he told her.

She gave a soft chuckle. "Actually, I've always considered him lucky, having so many good male influences in his life, with all of his 'uncles' and his 'Grandpa Arthur' around." She cocked her head at him. "And he's especially lucky to have you in his life, Harry… and so am I."

She reached over and squeezed Harry's hand. "Sign him up for Quidditch, Harry. And thank you."

Neither let go of the other's hand as they sat and finished their wine. Finally, with reluctance evident in his voice, Harry said, "I should get going," and he gave her hand a squeeze.

Hermione stood up and put her arms around him, pulling him to her in a generous hug. He wrapped his arms around her and pressed her to him. "You are a brilliant mother, by the way," he told her.

She lifted her head from his chest and looked up at him. "Thanks," she smiled.

Harry was entranced by her smile and he let his eyes wander over her face longer than what would have been considered proper. His breathing had increased, but so had hers he noticed. He could smell the smooth oak scent of the wine on her breath as it tickled his nose and lips. His mouth parted as he smiled in return.

Hermione felt his eyes on her face like a physical caress, and her heart started to bang on her ribs. She was under the full regard of his smile, now, a smile that she often found handsome… but now it was positively devastating. Her breath caught as he reached up and tucked her hair behind her ear, allowing his hand to linger gently along her jaw line. She lifted her chin a fraction.

She was sure she saw his head dip down, but at that moment, his eyes met hers, green melding with brown, and she thought she saw a million things flicker in those eyes she knew so well; like she would be able to know exactly what he was thinking if she could just slow it down… He blinked. Regret flashed on his face as he stepped back and said gruffly, "I'd better go." She was left standing in her kitchen with her heart pounding and a lot to think about.

It wasn't the first time she regretted not studying Legilimency.

Harry was getting ready for the Halloween party that Hermione was hosting this year, but his mind was elsewhere. The last few weeks had been a flurry of activity, with taking Theo to Quidditch, Sunday brunches at the Weasleys', and helping Hermione get ready for Halloween. He'd been spending a lot of time at her house, especially since she'd gotten the idea in her head to transfigure her living room ceiling to resemble the one in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, but it had been very stressful; there was an underlying tension permeating their interactions that was eating away at his rational thinking.

On the one hand, he was sure he was imagining it. On the other hand, maybe not. Sometimes he would watch her mouth as she talked to him and she would blush like he'd just caught her telling a dirty joke. Sometimes he could feel her gaze lingering on him when his back was turned. He knew she would watch him playing Quidditch at the Weasleys, or flying with Theo in the backyard, but if he turned to her, she would look away quickly, like a fourth year discovered staring at her crush…

The end result was he was having little success keeping his filial feelings separated from his deeper longings anymore, and he couldn't understand why. Unless… He was going crazy. Years of careful control were slipping away like sand running through his fingers. He had almost kissed her that night, for Merlin's sake!

She had tilted her chin in invitation.

She had not!

She did.



Harry groaned and dropped his head in his hands. Get a hold of yourself, Potter!

At least there would be lots of people around, which would help him keep his perspective. Perhaps he was just letting his imagination run away with him when he was alone with her; seeing things he wanted to see instead of what was real. Yes, that was probably it. Tonight would be a good dose of reality, and then things could just get back to normal.

He breathed a sigh of relief, and looked at his watch. Damn! He was late! He gathered what he needed and Apparated to her house.

He was immediately accosted by the hostess, who was wearing a Renaissance-style gown with a rather low-cut bodice. "Who is this masked stranger?" she asked teasingly, "and why are you late?"

That little voice that had been annoyingly in his head all afternoon was back and was wondering why did the Renaissance women feel it necessary to squish their breasts together like that? The sound of a throat clearing brought his eyes from her magnificent chest to her face. "Uh, sorry, Hermione, but time got away from me. I didn't realize that it was sex—I mean, six, six o'clock." Hermione's blush was rivaled by Harry's. He quickly glanced around the room. "I'm going to get some firewhiskey," he told her and made his escape.

Theo gave a great shout and ran to Harry. "Uncle Harry! What are you?" he wanted to know, looking at Harry's costume.

"I'm a complete idiot," Harry muttered under his breath, but he picked the boy up and swung him around. "I am Zorro," he told him.

"I'm a Chudley Cannon!" Theo proudly announced, preening in his orange uniform.

Harry laughed. "Did you get your costume from your Uncle Ron?"

"How did you know?" the boy wondered. "Oh, they're starting to carve the pumpkins!" Brown eyes implored Harry, "You are gonna help me make the best jack-o-lantern, aren't you, Uncle Harry?"

"Of course!" Harry had brought the biggest pumpkin he could find just for that purpose.

The kitchen was rather quiet due to the level of concentration required for the elaborate pumpkin carving that was taking place. Theo's little fist held Harry's wand, and Harry's hand closed over Theo's as they carved out the seeds and pulp first. The basic design was next, and finally Harry chose a small paring knife to complete the most intricate work. He was very engrossed in the task until—

"Hi, Mummy!" Theo greeted cheerfully.

Hermione's proximity exploded into Harry's awareness, and the knife slipped.

Hermione gasped, but immediately grabbed his finger and squeezed to stop the blood from spurting. She seized his wand from the table and used it to heal the cut before pulling him over to the sink to wash away the blood. "He's fine, everyone," she stated firmly to all the eyes that had turned their way. Carving resumed.

Hermione dried his hand, saying, "You gave me a fright! You're not usually so ham-handed."

"I don't know what happened," Harry lied. He noticed that she had not yet relinquished her hold on his hand, and that nervous feeling in his gut came back with a vengeance.

Wide brown eyes appeared next to them at the sink. "Is Uncle Harry okay, Mummy?"

"He's fine, love, see?" She showed Theo where the cut had been on Harry's finger. "All better."

"Not all better, Mummy," Theo observed seriously. "You didn't kiss it to make it better yet."

Harry's eyes flew to Hermione's in alarm. She smiled at him. "Of course," she said, bringing his newly repaired finger toward her mouth, "how silly of me to forget." And she kissed it, never removing her gaze from Harry's. "There," she whispered, "now it's all better."

Harry swallowed and tried to regain his composure. "That's pretty amazing magic." He tried to make it sound light, but somehow his voice came out gravelly.

"Mummy has the best magic," Theo declared proudly.

"Yes, she does," Harry agreed. "Thank you," he said to her and squeezed her hand before reluctantly reclaiming his. This is good evidence for the 'I'm not imagining it' argument, the voice in his head told him smugly.

----- -----

The drinks had been consumed, the treats eaten, games played and little eyes were getting sleepy. The jack-o-lanterns were suspended under a magnificently starry ceiling, providing the only light. Little by little, guests gathered up children and bid Hermione good night. Harry stood next to her, close enough to brush against her arm occasionally, and wished his departing friends a Happy Halloween, shaking hands and doling out hugs just as Hermione was doing. Theo stood sleepily by his mum.

When the door closed on the last guest, Hermione placed her hands on her son's shoulders. "All right, to bed with you, Theo!"

"I wan' Uncle Harry t'put me to bed," he demanded drowsily.

Harry nodded. "All right, then. Let's go." He took the boy's hand and led him down the hall, and helped him get into his pajamas and brush his teeth. Harry was well aware that Hermione was quietly observing them.

Harry was tucking the covers around Theo's chin when a sleepy voice said, "Uncle Harry? Can I ask you something?"

"It's 'may I ask,'" Harry corrected gently, "and what do you want to know?"

"What's 'inherit' mean?"

"It means something you get from your mum or your dad, such as money, or a house, or your physical features like your hair and eye color."

"Oh. Am I gonna inherit anything from you, Uncle Harry?"

Hermione, who was still listening, felt a little jolt when she realized that Theo thought of Harry as a dad. And of course, why wouldn't he? Harry was the father-figure in his little life. And… she cursed herself for having taken so long to realize it… Harry was the most important man in her life, too, and had been for some time now. She had to blink back tears as she watched the two of them.

Harry grinned at the little boy. "Yes you are, Theo: my collection of racing brooms."

"Cool," Theo yawned. "G'night, Uncle Harry."

Harry kissed his forehead. "Good night, Little Dragon," he murmured. He passed Hermione in the doorway and said softly, "All ready for Mummy."

----- -----

"He's already out like a light," Hermione informed Harry as she came back to the living room. He'd been looking out the large picture window, and he turned at the sound of her voice. His throat went dry; she was breathtaking in the light of the jack-o-lanterns and glow from the ceiling.

"Thank you for all your help to make tonight a smashing success," she said as she walked over to him and hugged him.

His arms didn't seem to need a command from his brain; they just circled around her of their own accord and he pulled her to him. She automatically settled her cheek on his chest. They had done this so many times before.

Except this time, Harry's heart was threatening to punch its way out of his chest and he did not want to release her from his embrace. "Hermione," he half-whispered, half-moaned.

She glanced up at him, pulse racing at the timbre of his voice and saw his eyes spark intently. Her lips parted, but no words came out. Harry was struck equally dumb, but at the sight of her lips open invitingly, he couldn't help himself. He lowered his head, intent on tasting her lips.

Her faintest intake of breath halted him, and he studied her, unsure if he was overstepping boundaries or not.

"Harry," she whispered, "were you about to kiss me?"

He looked at the floor. "I'm sorry, Hermione." No you're not! Tell her the truth!

She touched his cheek tentatively. "What is going on between us?" she asked him.

Tell her. He took her hand, looked her in the eye, and took a big, deep breath. "Hermione, you know that I love you and will support you always, no matter what. I'm your friend, and I'll be that forever."

She nodded mutely, mesmerized by his eyes and the intensity of the expression on his face. She'd seen that look on him before, only now she thought she might finally understand what it meant.

Harry gently traced his fingers across her cheek. "But I could love you so much more, if you'd let me," he whispered huskily.

"Show me, Harry," she breathed as she reached up to caress his face once more.

He slowly lowered his mouth to hers and tenderly met her lips. At the touch, sparks seemed to shower through her mind, as if the stars were tumbling from her enchanted ceiling, and her heart jumped. She slowly wrapped her hands around his neck, tracing circles in the short hair at the base of his skull. His mouth felt exquisite against hers as he tested and retested each way their lips could fit together, softly pulling here, gently tugging there, his warm breath smelling of pumpkin punch and a lingering hint of firewhiskey.

He framed her face with his hands and gave her one last lingering kiss before pulling away and looking deeply into her warm brown eyes. He was breathing quickly as he said, "Hermione, if this isn't what you want, you'd better tell me now." He searched her face for her answer, unconsciously holding his breath.

Her hands slid down his back as she pressed the full length of her body against him, her lips just a fraction of an inch from his. "If this wasn't what I wanted, Harry, would I be doing this?" She crashed her mouth to his passionately.

The soft glow of the stars overhead and the flickering light of the suspended pumpkins faded to the back of Harry's awareness as every nerve in his body became attuned to the pressure of her body against his, her lips against his, and he groaned. His hands slipped into her hair, and he opened his mouth to tease at her lips with his tongue. Her lips parted and they were consumed in ardent kisses; each moving lips over mouth, cheek, jaw, neck…giving and taking with equal abandon until they were gasping for air.

Hermione pulled away slightly and rested her forehead on his, her breath mingling with his with each soft pant. "Happy Halloween, Harry," she whispered.

He traced her jaw with his thumb. "Only because of you, Hermione," he told her, his voice thick with emotion.

She tenderly cupped his face in her hand and informed him with no small amount of satisfaction, "And now Halloween will be an anniversary of beginnings and not just endings."

"An anniversary of beginnings," he repeated thoughtfully. He grinned. "I like the sound of that." And he pulled her chin towards his to kiss her again.

It wasn't the first time that Harry had held her in his rock-solid embrace and made her feel loved and protected.

But it was the first time he'd done it while he kissed her until she was breathless.

A/N: This was my first Harry/Hermione, written for the Three Keys All Hallows Eve Fic Exchange on LiveJournal. (community name 3keysficxchnge)

I wanted a story of second love, with mature adults. I hope I pulled it off, and I would LOVE to know what you thought of this. That review button is right at your fingertips! Make an author ecstatic!

This was Sami's prompt: Pen name and Group Username: Sami/silveris

Ships: D/Hr is my OTP but there's no harm in H/Hr or B/Hr

Reading Ratings: G - NC-17

What do you want in your fic: development of a relationship, unrequited love (at first), maybe UST, too. :)

One specific All Hallow's Eve item that MUST be included: pumpkin! do whatever you want with it.

What don't you want in your fic? over the top angst or fluff, blood play, D/G

(No tricks, just treats…I hope I fulfilled your wishes!)