The early summer morning dawned bright and cheerful. Harry took advantage of the beautiful weather to take a short walk with his eighteen year old son, James, before they left for his Hogwarts graduation.
"How did this happen?" Harry asked after a long period of walking in silence. "It must have something to do with all that playing around with Time Turners I did, but I swear you were just getting on the Hogwarts Express for the first time yesterday."
James laughed at how much like an old man his father sounded.
"Let me guess," he said. "In your day, they didn't even have wands. People had to do wandless magic all the time, while they were walking to school both ways uphill."
"Exactly," Harry said grinning. Harry wasn't exactly old, he thought rather resentfully, he was only just in his forties, but that didn't stop James from taunting him regularly about his age.
"I'm proud of you, James," Harry said.
"Come on, Dad. Everyone graduates from Hogwarts. It's not that big of a deal."
"I didn't," he answered.
"Well yeah, but you were too busy saving the world."
"Well anyway," Harry said, "Now you'll be leaving your mother and me and going off on your own…"
"Dad, I'm going to be training as an Auror under you. I'm still going to see you every day."
"…and you'll forget all about your poor old Dad," Harry continued as though James hadn't spoken. "That's all right. Never mind that we raised you all your life. Soon you're going to get married and have a family of our own…"
"And then I'll finally be rid of you and Mum forever, just like I've always wanted," James finished, rolling his eyes.
As they walked back toward the small stone cottage, three figures emerged from the doorway.
Ginny was flattening Al's robes while he squirmed and Lily was spinning around gleefully, pretending to try to Apparate, just to annoy her mother.
"Harry, James, we're going to be late," Ginny said as they approached, without looking up while she rubbed a smudge from Al's face that only she could see.
"Mum, I'm not the one who's graduating. Stop trying to groom me."
"Oh, so I'm a villain just because I want my family to look presentable? James?" She beckoned James to her so she could look him over.
James stepped forward rather reluctantly, but Ginny couldn't see much to fix. Both Harry and Ginny knew how much time James put into looking carelessly handsome, just as his grandfather had, but at least Ginny didn't constantly bemoan that his hair just wouldn't lay flat. She rather liked that particular feature that had been the bane of Potter women for so long.
Instead, Ginny pulled Harry toward her and began grooming her just as she had Al. "Honestly, the two of you…" she mumbled. Harry didn't think she knew that she said it out loud.
The family prepared to Apparate, Lily on Harry's arm, and Al looked a little queasy. He was still new to Apparition, and Harry knew he preferred other methods of travel.
They arrived on the sunny Hogwarts grounds and the three teenagers immediately rushed off in separate directions to join their friends. Harry spotted a huddled group of red heads and he and Ginny, hand in hand, headed over to them.
After being assaulted by hugs from at least twenty people, including a teary eyed Mrs. Weasley who just couldn't believe that little James was graduating, Harry found himself standing with Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, a little off to the side.
"I don't know what I'm going to do when Rose graduates next year," Hermione confessed, wringing her hands. "It's hard enough with James, but…"
"At least we'll still have the next generation when this one's done," Harry said, thinking about Teddy and Victoire Lupin's new little one. "I still can't believe Bill's a grandpa."
"And pretty soon you'll all be in your graves because you're just so old," Hermione Dursley cut in dramatically, breaking off from the group of red heads. She had grown up beside James at Hogwarts, and had become very close with the Potter and Weasley families. Sometimes she and her parents even joined them for the holidays. Dudley and Laura couldn't be happier that Hermione had such a large support group of witches and wizards to welcome their daughter into the world of which she had become a part, but Harry sometimes couldn't help but wonder how Vernon and Petunia handled the turn Hermione and Dudley's lives had taken. Beyond making sure that they treated Hermione okay, Harry never really questioned their involvement in her life. He knew that they didn't like to talk about magic, and that the relationship between them became strained more by Hermione's doing than by Vernon's (she never did forget the conversation she overheard all those years ago), but that was all he knew. He hadn't seen or spoken to the elder Dursleys since he'd Apparated from Dudley's kitchen seven years ago.
His musings were interrupted by the sight of two very familiar looking people, awkwardly looking back at him, obviously wondering whether they should approach.
Little Hermione, as they had taken to calling her, had become enfolded again in the crowd of Weasleys, and he knew Petunia and Vernon hadn't yet seen her. It was him they were debating approaching. Finally, they began to slowly walk toward him.
Harry stepped forward through Ron and Hermione, and felt them turn to face the same direction. He heard Old Hermione (who wasn't nearly as pleased with her new name as the younger) gasp when she saw the Dursleys. She, like him, had apparently never entertained the idea that the Dursleys would ever be willing to set foot on the Hogwarts grounds, even if it was for their only granddaughter's graduation.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny stepped up on either side of him protectively, and the Weasleys, being quickly joined by more of their number as more and more people began to sense that they were needed, gathered behind him. It must have been terrifying for Vernon to approach when Harry was surrounded by a virtual army, all obviously ready to protect him, though only the oldest generations of the group really knew why.
He had to hand it to them though, they still kept walking.
"Hello Harry, Ginny," Petunia said in a shaky voice as they approached. He couldn't believe that she had actually remembered Ginny's name. "Your oldest is graduating today as well, isn't he?"
Harry nodded. Vernon's face was purple, but Harry couldn't tell if it was from anger. It seemed different somehow, almost frightened, and embarrassed. Why had they come here? He was sure they would have been forgiven if they hadn't. What were they trying to prove?
"Dudley isn't here yet," Vernon grunted, apparently trying to justify the fact that they were talking to him. "And we can't find Hermione."
Harry was surprised that Little Hermione didn't step forward at this.
Though Ron was standing completely still; though he wasn't walking, and his feet were planted firmly on the ground, he suddenly tripped, spilling his drink all over the front of Vernon's pristine Muggle suit, to gasps and snickers from the crowd behind them.
"Oh, sorry," Ron said in a flat and expressionless voice. "That was a total accident."
Holding back a laugh, Old Hermione stepped forward to siphon of the stain, but Harry saw Vernon twitch and take a step back, though he was obviously trying to hold himself firmly in front of them.
"I can fix that, Grandpa," Little Hermione said, cheerfully bouncing forward. Before Vernon could react, she raised her wand and silently cleaned his suit. It was immaculate again. Harry grimaced, ready for the explosion, but was surprised at Vernon's reaction.
"That's amazing, Hermione," he said after a moment, looking down at his chest. "I wish your grandmother could do that—then she wouldn't have to spend so much time cleaning the kitchen."
Everyone's faces relaxed at once. Despite the years that had passed, Harry couldn't believe what he had just heard. Before he could react, Dudley and Laura walked over to them, casting Harry an apologetic look and leading Petunia, Vernon and Hermione away.
The students walked across the stage by house, and Gryffindor house was first. There was applause for each student, but nothing compared to the tumult that ensued as James Potter's name was called. Over fifty Weasleys, who made up over a quarter of the crowd though none of their own children were graduating, jumped to their feet along with another quarter of the crowd who were close with the Potters. They all cheered, deafening Harry with their screams. He joined in with the screaming happily, but couldn't help giving a sidelong glance at the Dursleys who were seated, clapping politely, looking shocked at the reaction their grandnephew had elicited.
James winked, grinning, and gave an elaborate bow to the crowd, flourishing his hands as he did, and eliciting even more screams. Finally, the near riot died down enough for the next student to be called. Harry felt a little bad for Alicia Thomas, but she garnered at least as much applause as the rest of the students who had walked across the stage so far. She didn't seem to mind. Harry supposed people had gotten used to the Weasleys accounting for so much of the wizarding world but still being as close with one another as though it were a small, tight knit family.
Hufflepuff was the next group to be called. Harry had a feeling of what was to come, and he was fidgeting a bit in his seat. He saw Hermione looming closer to the stage and looked at the Dursleys.
"Hermione Dursley," Professor Vector called.
At once, the crowd erupted just as it had for James. They were on their feet, cheering and screaming Hermione's name while Hermione grinned and walked across the stage.
Vernon and Petunia looked to be in complete and total shock, barely able to applaud themselves. Were those tears in Petunia's eyes?
And then, as Hermione took her diploma, she did something entirely unexpected. She pointed her wand at her head and added to her blonde hair a streak of red, and a streak of black. It was a gesture that didn't go unnoticed by the Weasleys or the Potters, and the cheers grew to an unbearable pitch. Even James was on his feet, cheering his second cousin on with enthusiasm from his seat with the rest of the Gryffindor graduates. From the looks on Harry's aunt and uncle's faces, they had had no idea of the surrogate family their granddaughter had acquired in the last seven years.
After the ceremony, Harry stood milling around with the adults of his family while the younger generation went off on their own. Hermione, still with her multicolored hair, had gone off with another seventh year Hufflepuff boy and Harry felt what he recognized as a fatherly urge to string him up by his ankle.
Dudley and Laura stood talking with Arthur who, despite the fact that two of his sons had married Muggleborns, and one had even married a Muggle, couldn't help himself from questioning them about the amazing devices they used to get along in life. (So you really have a machine that's only purpose is to make toast? It really doesn't do anything else?)
Harry heard a cough behind him and turned to see Petunia and Vernon standing there. He waited without speaking.
They stood awkwardly for a minute and then, to the infinite surprise of Harry, Petunia hugged him quickly with stiff arms. He had to resist the urge to pull away, but luckily the hug was short.
"Thank you," she whispered fiercely, "for letting her be one of you, even though she's one of us."
Vernon grumbled awkwardly, but in agreement rather than scorn.
Harry smiled a genuine smile and raised a hand to ruffle his slightly graying black hair.
"It would have been hard not to," he answered honestly. "She's a pretty cool kid."
Petunia smiled and turned away, leading Vernon over to Dudley.
"Hey, what was that about?" Hermione asked protectively, coming over with Ron.
"They've lost their touch," he said grinning. "They've almost become human."
He looked over at Al, who was standing with his mother, James and Lily, but was eyeing the Dursleys suspiciously, thinking very hard about something. Harry realized that this was the first time his son had seen the elder Dursleys since that fateful day seven years ago. Al seemed to sense Harry's gaze and turned to face him. A large grin spread across his face.
"Hey, Dad," he said loudly. Harry waited expectantly. Al looked around as though to be sure as many people were paying attention to him as possibly could.
And then, though he was seventeen and much beyond the age where he could do so without mortifying himself, he yelled very loudly, "I love you!"