I am blown away by all your comments and reviews. They made me write like a madwoman these past two weeks. If not for your encouragement, your support and your suggestions, the Epilogue you are reading today would not have been created.
To all of you who have written reviews on the Keeper or on my other stories, know this. You have played a big part in how the story has turned out. I am grateful to you all for helping me create it.
I will beg forgiveness from literary experts. This is not a typical epilogue. It is not from one point of view and not a short summary. Brevity was never a skill of mine . Also, there was a revolt of character voices in my head. They wanted to tell their own stories. They held my mind hostage with their plotlines and scenes it was distracting my real life so much that I caved and have written their stories as requested. Mostly it was Lily – I don't think she trusts Hermione! Considering the many English words I've murdered, idiomatic expressions I have mixed up and grammatical errors I've committed I hope not adhering to Epilogue rules is a small thing.
Here's your list of what you wanted to see addressed in the Epilogue:
Will Harry and Hermione have another child?
What will Hermione do with the engagement ring?
Will Hugo get over his crush on Isa?
Will Lily ever forgive Harry?
I may have missed some so let me know.
September 2022 – Hermione, 43 - 1 year later
"It's not funny," I tell Harry.
He is trying not to laugh but failing miserably.
We are lying in bed facing each other, mostly undressed. We just had amazing angry sex. Well, I was angry. He was mostly clueless about what I was, and kind of still am, angry about.
He kisses me and then insults me, "You are insane and I love you."
"Harry," I admonish, "I'm 43 years old. I'm too old for this!"
"Apparently not," he snorts.
"Let me get this straight," he lays it out for us, "You're angry at me because we're pregnant."
"Well," I stall as I try and remember what logic got me to this reaction, "Why is it that I only ever get unplanned pregnancies with you? Why can't your bloody sperms be disciplined enough to stay away from my eggs?"
He laughs, again, "Should I answer that or was that a rhetorical question?"
"You are amused by this."
"Very. You have the most unusual reactions to finding out you're pregnant. Did you know that?"
"What do you mean?"
"The first time I got you pregnant you thought it could be the end of us so you completely took advantage of me by climbing into bed, freshly showered and totally naked. Hmmm…that was actually nice…"
I sigh as I remember, "That was really nice."
"The second time I got you pregnant you decided not to tell me at all," he said plainly, meaning nothing of it, "Enough said about how loopy that reaction was."
"Again, I'm sorry about that."
"Long forgiven, moving on. And now this, angry sex because you're blaming me for the fact that your eggs are so bloody attractive my swimmers are unable to resist."
I am deflated. Logic does get affected by hormones during pregnancy. This is going to be a frustrating eight more months.
I bounce back with another lame counter, "If you put it that way then you should be angry at me and my eggs too."
"I love you. I'm happy and excited we're pregnant. And you're not really angry," he pauses and peers at me through his warm, understanding eyes.
He knows me better than I know myself.
"No, I'm not," I cave. "I'm actually happy and excited too. But also very afraid. What if I mess up?"
"You did very well with Rose and Hugo," he points out.
"That's debatable," I think of all the times I screwed up.
"Stop the self doubt, you're a great parent, your kids turned out okay," Harry sets me straight, "And this time I'm around and we can raise our son or daughter together right from the very beginning. We've never done that. I'd love to raise a child with you, Hermione. I think we'll be awesome."
Awesome? Really? I gaze deeply into his green eyes and loose myself in his joy and excitement. Dammit, why is he so convincing? Or is that the hormones too?
"Okay, if you say so," I concede, then threaten in half-jest, "But Potter, I will remember this conversation when our son or daughter needs diaper changing every two hours."
He just laughs, "Come over here you crazy woman."
Harry pulls me in closer and kisses me longingly until my neurotic mind is emptied completely and I am breathless. As we break apart I see that he is filled with love and bliss. The past year was tough on us but we stood by each other and withered the storm together. Hard to imagine but there is more 'us' now than there ever was before. And we are going to have a baby.
"I love you, Hermione," he says.
I reply, "And I love you, Harry."
We kiss again.
He holds me close. I let him and I just take in the moment. I sense he is brooding about something.
"What are you thinking?" I ask.
"Marriage," he mentions then makes sure I don't misunderstand, "Don't worry, I'm not asking you to marry me."
I tease, "But what of honour? You got me pregnant. Is there no chivalry in this world anymore?"
He chuckles, "If I ask you to marry me, what would you say?"
"You mean hypothetically?"
"Hypothetically I would ask why."
"Hypothetically I would answer 'because I want to be your husband and I want you to be my wife'."
"And how would that be different from how we are to each other now? You know I love you and I know you love me. We are committed to each other whether a piece of paper says so or not."
"I don't care about the piece of paper or the vows which I know we would never break," we are not talking hypothetical now, "Maybe I'm just old fashioned or being a sentimental fool. This is going to sound awful in a possessive and even backwards kind of way."
"Spill it, Harry."
He is still hesitating, "I love you and I've loved you for a long time. I have this image of me one day being able to call you Mrs. Potter."
I reflexively moved away from him.
"Oh wow," I say, taking a deep breath in and out, "Well, I didn't expect that to hurt."
"I'm sorry," he is concerned, of course he didn't mean for it to sting, "What is it?"
"We have a problem, Harry," I say honestly, "In my mind Mrs. Potter will always be Ginny."
He now understands, "I can see how that can be a problem."
"I'm sorry," I say.
He's hurt and he's trying to put up a brave face so I won't know how much I hurt him.
"Did I just, hypothetically, decline a marriage proposal?"
"Hypothetically, I think you did."
I can't bear to see him like this. I now wish I can take back what I said and just be okay with what he wants. I am sure I can hide my aversion to being called that name. Maybe it's just too soon. Maybe it won't sting as much over time.
Of course, it won't be just him referring to me as 'Mrs. Potter'. All the people I work with and deal with will too. And I almost forget. I'd have to introduce myself as that. Just thinking about it is making me twitch.
Who am I kidding? I can't do this. The old younger me would have sucked it up but the older me won't take the abuse. Then I just thought of something that can potentially make him feel better and avoid future disastrous proposals, hypothetical or not. As long as my hormones don't make a mess of this.
"Don't go away," I say to him.
I put a robe on and leave him for a bit to fetch something. When I come back he is still in bed but sitting up, wondering what I am up to. I smile and cuddle up to him, sitting on his lap so I can face him and be close. I show him what I have in my hand, peel off the black cloth and hold up our engagement ring.
"Did you have to steal it or did she give it back to you?"
He is joking, it makes me smile.
"She mentioned you intended to give it to me so I should have it and that I should keep it because of what it stands for," I explain.
"And you accepted."
He finds this surprising.
"You know Ginny. She can be very convincing."
After a while he cannot wait anymore and says, "So, are we just going to stare at it, or are you waiting for me to say something?"
He reaches for the ring and I slap his wrist.
"Don't you touch it and you are not saying anything," I say firmly, "This ring is like magic in your hands. Merlin only knows what I'll agree to if you get your hands on it."
He laughs and jokes lightheartedly, "You're taking too long. The suspense is killing me."
I steel myself to be serious and gaze into his green eyes, meaning every word I say, "Harry Potter, I love you. I may not want to marry you now but if there is anyone in this world who can make me change my mind about marriage it is you. I don't know when that day will come but you have made me change my mind about many things so I know it eventually will.
"Until then, I think you've proposed to me enough times so I'll make you a deal. I don't want you to hurt and be disappointed about this each time you ask and I say 'no'. Eventually, you'll either stop asking or I will say 'yes' just to put you out of your misery. We wouldn't want that to happen. What I'm saying is, if you are willing to wait, I'll propose to you when I'm ready."
It is a compromise but I'm confident it will work out. I have a lifetime to get rid of that baggage. He is looking at me warmly as if I just said something amazing.
"So, are we good?" I ask.
He nods, "We're good."
We lean in and kiss, then I wrap the cloth around the ring and set it on our bedside table. I was anxious about what I was going to do with it and now that he knows I have it it's not going to burn a hole in my pocket, at least not for a while.
I note how different this conversation could have gone when we were younger. It never ceases to amaze me how, compared to our old selves, we're the same and we're different at the same time.
We slip back down into bed. He holds me in his arms and kisses my hair.
"Good night," he whispers.
"Good night," I whisper back.
We fall asleep.
May 2023 – Harry, 42 – 8 months later
We came home a week ago from St. Agnes. I'm sleep deprived but I don't feel tired at all.
I am holding Emily in my arms. To me she looks just like her mum. She is sleeping soundly and I find that watching her so peaceful like this has a profound calming effect on me.
Out of the blue I remember Lily. I remember feeling the same way when she was born. She was so tiny, just like Emily. An overwhelming heartache hits me. I miss her terribly. Her smile, her voice, her hugs, and the way she used to look at me. I miss my Lily.
Hermione takes Emily and sets her down on her crib. Then she comes over and holds me in her arms. She says nothing and just holds me. She knows and understands why there are tears in my eyes.
May 2026 – 3 years later
"Potter! My office! And bring your unfortunate partner with you!"
It's my first month on the job and already I get called into my supervisor's office. The most troubling part is I don't exactly know what I did wrong.
My partner, Kurt McGuire, shrugs. He knows nothing. We make our way to the office. People are watching me do the walk of shame.
I go in first. Ted Lupin meets me with a glare, his hair fiery red as it has been known to be with he is mad. Why do I find this more dreadful than that duel against the murderer earlier this week?
"Sit down! Better yet, don't! You're going to want to hear this standing up!"
Am I getting fired? But I aced Auror training. Surely I would be given more than a month to prove myself. Geez, and he doesn't even bother shutting the door. Half the entire Auror team is gathering just outside his office.
Ted, er, Auror Lupin points at the huge stack of case files on his desk.
"Do you know what that is?"
"Er, um," I stammer, looking for an intelligent answer or at least an answer that isn't completely wrong.
"Kurt, help the rookie out!"
"Looks like the case files we closed out since we partnered up," Kurt answers nonchalantly, not intimidated by our boss' tone.
"Exactly! Twenty-two, you have twenty-two tags in your first month as an Auror! Do you know what that means Potter?"
"That I have to close out more?"
"Wrong! That's two more than what your father closed out his first month," Auror Lupin is grinning, his hair now bright yellow, "Congratulations, Potter. You now hold the record and bragging rights over your old man. I guess we should keep you."
I breathe a sigh of relief. I hear laughter and applause, Auror Lupin is shaking my hand.
"Now get out of here. Don't you have to look pretty for this wedding you have to go to?"
Right, the wedding and the other thing after. I can't be late for that. I make my way out of the Ministry grinning like an idiot. I am still in disbelief that I beat my Dad's record. I didn't even know they kept records like that.
I get to my flat a few blocks away, the one I share with my brother. I don my tux and grab the small box from my side table. No surprise I find Hugo in his room not quite dressed. He is pouring over a thick book, I gather a test of some sort. I've lived with him for two years and this, eating and crapping is all he does. I don't know how my brother can stand the constant torture that is the Healers Academy of London.
While he is technically two years younger than me, Isa and Spencer, Hugo took and aced the equivalency tests and graduated the same year we did. He, as he always planned to since Malvado, went into a healing program while I signed up for Auror training.
Isa applied for work as an Unspeakable for a few Ministries and to our delight got multiple offers. She decided to accept the London MOM job so we could be together.
Rose was undecided at graduation but has completed two degrees in as many years, one in management because she said she liked telling people what to do, and the other in education because she fell in love with her Management course teacher and wanted to impress him. Rose passed both with flying colors in spite of hard partying; I don't know how she did it. And now she's on her third degree. It escapes me what it is.
Spencer barely graduated but in their last year developed a social conscience. Last they heard he had joined the Werewolf and Vampire Alliance, an organization aiming to eliminate prejudice against vampires and werewolves.
"We're going to be late," I try to rush Hugo.
He barely lifts his eyes off the page as he replies, his voice robotic like a recording, "We've got plenty of time."
"No we don't."
I take the book away from him, slam it shut and toss it on his desk.
"Hey!" my kid brother protests, "I was reading that. I have orals tomorrow."
"I have something more important tonight. I got to ask you before we go."
I ignore his unconcerned reaction because I need his opinion desperately. It's not the first time I've reached out to him about this particular subject matter.
I open the box in front of him. He stares at it for what seems like an eternity. Finally I can't wait any longer.
"Well, what do you think?"
He looks me straight in the eye and answers, "Al, we're brothers. I love you but I can't marry you. And besides, the ring won't fit my finger."
Hugo is grinning. He is so like Rose sometimes I don't know why that surprises me. He is up on his feet and starts undressing.
"What do you think?" I ask again.
"What do you mean?" he turns his back to me as he changes into his tux.
There's lots I want to know, "Is the ring beautiful, is the stone big enough, will she like it, will it fit her, will she say…"
He interrupts me, "And how would I know that?"
"Because you know Isa better than I do," I tell him the truth.
Hugo retorts, "That's debatable. The walls are thin, Al. It's amazing I get any studying done whenever you have her over. And would it kill you two to use the Impertubatus spell?"
"That's not what I mean. Please. Help me out here. I'm nervous and I don't want to crash and burn the first time I ask Isa to marry me. I mean I only want to ask her once and for her to say 'yes'. Do you think she'll say 'yes'?"
Hugo lets a gigantic sigh out and sits in front of me. He is thinking about the question seriously now.
"Really, I don't know," Hugo replies honestly, and plays devil's advocate, "She'll think you're being impulsive what with the wedding and all. And aren't you two a bit too young?"
"Maybe twenty is too young but we've known each other for five years and we've seen each other constantly for the last two. We both have good jobs at the Ministry. She's it for me, Hugo. I know it and I feel it," I share, "I just don't know if I'm it for her too."
His brother tells him, "I've seen how she looks at you. She loves you, Al. And you're a great guy. Only a fool would say 'no' to you. Isa is not a fool."
I get up and hug my brother.
"That's settled then," I am set, "I will ask her tonight. But first, the wedding."
The wedding is over but there is still the reception. As the night goes on I find it increasing difficult to pretend I believe in what we are celebrating. Weddings are a fairy tale. Marriage is reality and there is no such thing as happily ever after.
In spite of what I believe I am here because it is my Mum's wedding and I am being supportive. I like Lance Elliot; he adores my Mum and most of all he makes my Mum happy. I am happy that Mum is happy.
Most of the conversations I have tonight I feel I'm not really a part of.
"You look beautiful tonight, Lily, just like your mother. You'll make a beautiful bride someday."
"Congratulations, Lily. I hear you've been accepted to the HeAL. I'm sure you'll be as brilliant as your brother Hugo."
"That brother of yours James is going to be the best Chaser the game has ever known!"
"Did you hear? Al beat your Dad's case completion record!"
"I wanted to speak to your father about a matter of grave importance. Is he around?"
Yes. I saw Dad earlier with Aunt Hermione. We spoke briefly and I found an excuse to be somewhere else like I always have since I found out about the affair.
It has been almost five years and still I cannot talk to him, at least not in the way I used to. And it's really difficult to explain how I feel about him. Sometimes it's anger, sometimes it's sadness, sometimes it's disappointment, but there is always pain. And I go somewhere else when I feel the pain. I'm too proud to let him see how much I hurt.
After the divorce Mum and Dad sent me to talk with a professional. The shrink was an exercise in futility but I dealt with it the best way I knew how. I told the witch what she wanted to hear so they could stop wasting my time and their money. I'm not the way I am because of the divorce. I am the way I am because of what I know about my family and no amount of talking would make me feel better about the truth.
I remember vividly how I found out. Mum. She was trying desperately to make me understand why Dad had an affair while she was pregnant with me so I could forgive him. She explained how Dad and Aunt Hermione were lovers from before they got married, how Dad tried to save Aunt Hermione then lost his memory of them, how they had the affair when he remembered years later. She mentioned how she found this out months into their marriage, before James was born, and how it was her fault she did not let Dad know then. And Dad never knew about me until after the affair was over.
So here's the truth. My brothers and I exist only because my Dad lost a memory. We were not the family he wanted but the family he got stuck with.
In fairness to Mum she really wanted me to forgive Dad. She did not tell it to me this way but it is what I gleaned from what she said. And in spite Mum's vehemence that she wanted the divorce, frankly what choice did she have knowing that Dad wanted to be with someone else? I don't blame her for hanging on the false notion that she had a choice.
And Dad wants everyone to be okay with it; to accept everything and to move on. Mum is okay with it; she divorced him and married again. James and Al are okay with it, they see Dad frequently.
In a way I am okay with it, just not in the way that he wants me to be okay. I am not bending over backwards so he can be at peace with his decision. Why does he get everything he wants when he didn't want us in the first place? And if he did not want me then why am I here? Why do I exist?
I'm 18. I used to know who I am but I don't anymore. I'm not even sure who I want to be. All I know is who I don't want to be. I don't want to be Lily Potter, daughter of Harry and Ginny Potter, sister of James the Chaser, sister of Al the Auror, sister of Hugo the Healer, sister of Emily the Cute and Adorable. I want to be someone else and there is only one way I can do that.
"New York," Al finds me in the shadows; he always looks for me, "Really?"
"Mum told you."
"To talk some sense into you," Al was always the level headed one but a bit of an alarmist when it comes to my safety, "Do you have any idea how dangerous New York is to an 18-year-old girl like you?"
I let the 'girl' reference pass. I have resigned myself to the fact that both James and Al will always look at me as a little girl.
"I'm going there to study, in a reputable Healer Academy, in a reasonably good part of town. Not walk the streets in high crime neighborhoods," I reason.
"Why so far away? Why not stay here? You got accepted into HeAL. Hugo can help you and you can work at St. Mungo's together."
For an Auror, Al can be so naïve sometimes. Or maybe this is him being him and trying to fix the many broken things in our family.
I tell him honestly because I know he can take it and he is really the only one I talk to this way, "There are too many Potters in this town. I get so confused."
"Lil," he calls me a name that my Dad used to call me, "Mum's married and happy. Everybody has moved on but you. And it hurts me to see you and Dad hurting this way. Don't you think it's about time you forgave him?"
"I have moved on," I answer truthfully, "I've just done so without the forgiving part."
He embraces me and I let the pain of the truth linger. In some way I am thankful that I still feel pain. At least I know a part of me still cares.
Al asks, "I take it there is nothing I can tell you to convince you to stay?"
I hug him tight and say, "I'll miss you, Al. Come visit me often?"
The next day, Mum and Lance are off to their honeymoon. I pack my bags and take a long look at the Pitch. Rivers of tears run down my face as I leave for New York.
July 2028 – 2 years later
I am back in London after being away for six months. Al said it was okay to crash in my old room at his flat so I can be more presentable for Dad's birthday gathering at Grimmauld in a few hours.
The trip back was exhausting. Civil unrest in many parts of Africa has made International Floo travel tricky and longer than usual. I toss my pack into my room and jump in the shower. The warm clean water and soap feels so good. After living in remote villages in Central Africa without the amenities of modern civilization, this is a piece of heaven. I contemplate changing my decision to sign up for another six months with the Healers Without Limits.
After I shower I look at myself in the mirror. I lost a bit of weight and I need to shave. Mum's going to fuss but I'm too tired and while I can make myself heavier and make the facial hair disappear I see no point as she will find out. That and I do miss her fussing.
I mindlessly go into my room only to realize I don't have clothes. I lost my other bag in the Floo network. Without a second thought, I walk across the hall into Al's, grab a shirt and some track pants, consciously foregoing underwear. We're brothers and we've gotten close but I draw the line.
My room seems a million miles from where I am now so I take the couch. It's lights out the second my head hits the cushion.
I open my eyes some hours later. It is dark except for soft light coming through the window and I am holding a woman in my arms. In the past two years I have held many forgettable and faceless women in my arms this way but today is different. This woman isn't faceless. It is Isa. I know because I will always remember this scent of her everywhere I go. She is still, likely asleep, her head on my chest, her body warm alongside mine and her arms wrapped around me.
At first I think that I am dreaming. After all I have dreamt of this moment many times. But it is not a dream. It is very real and, judging from the undisciplined part of me in Al's pants, it is likely to become more real if I don't wake her up. She obviously saw the clothes and thought I was Al.
I move and she stirs.
"Hey, can we be a bit late for dinner?" she says in that voice I've only ever heard her use with Al.
As I try and sit up I feel her soft lips on my mine.
I am torn. On the one hand I want to kiss her back tenderly. On the other hand, I want to kiss her back like I've never kissed any woman in my life before. I know; neither is appropriate.
"Isa, stop," I say, groaning internally, "It's me, Hugo."
She is off me in less than a blink of an eye, look of horror on her face. Somehow lights have turned on. I would take a mental picture of her reaction if not for the momentary blindness I am experiencing from the bright lights. I shield my eyes with my hand and blink it off.
"Hugo? What are you doing here?"
"I'm home for Dad's birthday," I explain, now up, eyes adjusted and seated. "Needed to get some rest before I go through Granger inspection."
"Listen," she has one thought on her mind, "I'm sorry. I thought you were er, um…"
"…Al," I finish for her, "My fault. Lost all clothes in transit. Borrowed some of his."
"Can we, er…um…"
I do it again, "…forget about the kiss. What kiss? Never happened."
I breathe. I am replaying in my head thoughts of her soft, sweet lips on mine. I regret not kissing her back but I'm also relieved that I didn't. Normally when I get back into town we would hug but considering what she just did I am not about to ask her for one.
"Where's Al?" I ask.
Yup, talking about my brother, her fiancé, will certainly kill impure thoughts quickly.
"You know, the usual, looking for Dark Wizards, saving the world," Isa has canned answers to questions regarding Al's whereabouts because she usually did not know, "So, how are you?"
She sits beside me on the couch. She looks a bit different. Her hair is a bit longer.
"Tired but good. And you?"
"The same," I hear her words, although I sense something off.
She hurries our conversation along, "Did you find answers?"
"You know, about your ability to morph into a phoenix and your ability to heal?"
"Oh that. No luck yet," I admit, "I signed up for another six months in South America. Maybe I'll find more knowledgeable traditional healers there."
"Hugo, you didn't," Isa expressed dissatisfaction.
"You're not staying? The gang misses you. Your sisters miss you. I miss you."
She misses me?
"I can't stay. I don't have work here. I don't want to mooch off Al and you."
"And that's your lame excuse? St. Mungo's would be lucky to have you. I could even slip your name in the employee files and you won't have to go through an interview," she can do this, "How much money do you want to make?"
I look at her with disapproval. Her three years as an Unspeakable have only encouraged her to bend and break more rules.
"I'm kidding," she takes it back.
I can't help but notice her ring, "Have you set a date for the wedding yet?"
It has been two years since Al asked the question, two years since she said 'yes'. I don't know what's taking them so long. Some days, like today, I wish they would marry already and then there are some days I wish they wouldn't marry at all. Whatever it is, I know it has nothing to do with Al.
"What's the hold up?" I enquire.
"What's the rush?" she punts back.
I suggest the most obvious, "Starting a family. Kids."
"Sure. Kids being raised by kids."
"A house in the burbs."
"And the chains of mortgage."
"A lifelong commitment with the man you love."
"Until you don't love each other anymore and you divorce."
I frown, "Since when did you become a cynic?"
"My father cheated on my mum and left us," she says what I should already know, "I've always been a cynic."
I frown even more, "Isa, you're engaged. That means you agreed to get married."
"Oh, is that what it means? Of course, I know what it means! Do I look like I don't know what it means?!"
"Then why did you agree?"
"Because I was young and in love," she explains, in the past tense perhaps not meaning to, "Not that you'd know but love makes you do very very stupid things."
You have no idea.
I feel obligated as Al's brother to say the truth about him, "Al loves you. He's a good guy. He will keep his word. I can't think of anyone better who can disprove your cynicism about marriage."
"I think it's why I haven't broken it off. That and I don't want to hurt his feelings," Isa calms down, we're quiet for a while, then she breaks it with a loaded question, "Hugo, am I being selfish?"
"What do you mean?"
"Holding on to him and wearing this ring even though I don't believe in what he believes in. He's good and he's kind and he deserves a girl who does," she is agonizing, "I can't help but think there is someone else out there for him."
I sense where she is going with this and I can't let her, at least not without giving Al a chance to make a choice.
"It's not selfishness, Isa. It's hope. It's hope that you are wrong; hope that things won't get worse, that they at least stay the same or get better, and that there is such a thing as happily ever after. And you're losing hope," I speak of it with certainty because I feel the same way, "You can hope alone but it's hard. It's so much better if you hope with someone else."
"I have to tell Al, don't I? So we can hope together?"
"It's either that or carry on with this neurotic insanity you've got going here," I joke.
That makes her laugh.
"How long has this been going on?"
"A few months."
I think of her dealing with this on her own and I feel I let her down by not being around.
"Did you at least talk with Rose?"
She winces, "Not really. She hooked up and broke up with three boyfriends in the past six months. She has been in and out of her men-are-bastards phase. Timing has been challenging."
"I see," I do; my sister and her intense, short lived relationships.
"Do you think he'll understand that giving him back the ring doesn't mean I don't love him?"
"I really don't know," I am honest.
I sense someone else in the room. It is Al. I don't know how long he has been standing in the shadows but it is long enough. And I can't see his face to gauge how he is about to react.
"It's a good thing I'm here," his tone is chilly, "You can ask me yourself."
I remember saying 'hello' to Al and leaving them because they had to talk. Still with no clothes and really nothing appropriate to wear to dinner, I decide to drop by a store on my way to Grimmauld.
The second I step into the foyer my five year old sister is running towards me.
"Hughie!" she almost knocks me over with her giant sized hug, "You're home!"
"Hi Em," I greet her as I grin from ear to ear, "Got you a present."
"Thank you! She's beautiful!"
She hugs it. It's a doll. She likes all dolls. She is so easy going and not hard to please.
"Come on. Everybody is waiting for you."
Emily is dragging me by the hand. We reach the dinner room and I see all lit up faces. My Mum, my Dad, Rose and even James. They are happy to see me. I am happy to be home.
January 2033, 5 years later
There is a sound of knocking on the door.
I bolt up from deep sleep, instinctively bringing sheets up against my chest. I am naked. I scan the hotel room for my clothes. The naked man in bed with me is up too.
"Go away!" he shouts towards the source of what woke us up.
Typical rude American. At least the blond scares the hotel staff off. He finds my underwear and hands them over.
I see a clock. I am late for work. I quickly send word to Priscilla to start without me. I trust her and I don't like keeping my patients waiting.
We are lost in our own worlds trying to find our clothes and putting them back on. Luckily the man feels no need to talk. No eye contact, no idle chit chat. I prefer things the same.
This situation doesn't usually happen to me. Majority of times I am out of the room before sunrise while they are still asleep so I can skip the awkward goodbyes the morning after. It's just that last night was a bit intense.
Clothes, shoes, purse, I'm good to go.
I reach the door at the same time he does. I get to it first but as I pull the knob he pushes the door back shut. I look up, annoyed. I am not prepared to see what I see. His blue eyes are dark and full of desire.
The next thing I know he has me pinned against the door and his mouth is crushing mine. My body instantly betrays me. It responds with the same untamable yearning it did a mere few hours ago. I am kissing him back.
My purse drops, the shoes come off and eventually we are undressed again.
I don't know who this man is. I just met him last night and it pisses me off that he has this effect on me.
After torrid sex we lie in bed both satisfied and breathless.
He speaks, "Do you ever regret it?"
"Not knowing each others' names; not exchanging phone numbers."
"I'm not looking for complicated."
"Was that why you accepted my proposition last night? Because I didn't look complicated?"
It's the most words we've exchanged since entering the bedroom. He is actually older than I first thought he was. He looks my age but there is more wisdom in his voice, maybe mid to late 30s or even early 40s. I don't know why I answer but I sense it's simpler to do so than ignore it.
"You turned down three other girls before you asked me, girls who obviously were looking for complicated. I accepted because you want the same thing I do."
He is amused, "You presume too much. Maybe I turned down the girls because they weren't my type."
Awkward morning after conversation. It is my cue to leave. I get dressed again and he doesn't say anything else. I feel him watching me and I try my best to ignore him.
Just as I am about to reach the exit he says to me.
"Four weeks," I stop when I should just get going, again not sure why, "If you change your mind about what you want, four weeks from today I will wait for you until midnight, at the same place we met."
I leave thinking nothing of it.
The next three weeks I bury myself in work like I always do. Or maybe a bit more than usual. Even Priscilla, my very competent trainee Healer who never complains, tells me to ease up.
But there are many patients waiting to be seen. The New York City Witch and Wizard Hospital is a non-profit, publicly funded facility. I chose to work here because of the underprivileged community it was built to serve.
I start thinking about seeing him again four days before the date he set. It is triggered by a phone call from Al. He calls me a few times a month as does Mum, and James to a lesser extent. He updates me on the happenings on his side of the pond.
Al was recently promoted to Team Lead. Like me he works very long hours and I've heard he's really good at what he does. He hasn't been the same since he and Isa broke off their engagement and while I liked Isa I think he needed that dose of painful reality. At least he's not trying to fix anything anymore.
James is having another great Quidditch season for the London team. He and Therese married last year and are expecting any moment now. I plan to go home to see my nephew when he comes.
Mum is happy, still writing her column for the Prophet and helping Lance run it.
Emily. She's almost ten years old now. Whenever Al mentions my sister I of course remember my dad. I can't believe I've spent almost half my lifetime not speaking with my father.
Thinking about family and how messy things have been and can be, I chose to stay in New York away from it all. My life here is simple; not complicated at all. I am perfectly capable of spending the next half of my life living this way but is this what I really want?
I go to the pub that night he said he would come. It is 11:30 and the man is waiting at the bar. I go and sit on the stool beside him. He doesn't turn.
He asks me just as the barkeeper arrives, "Do you want a drink before we go?"
I tell the barkeeper to get me what he's having. It looks strong and I need it.
Then as the server leaves I say to him just to be clear, "Nothing has changed. I still don't want complicated."
He responds sagely, "I don't think anybody does. But we don't always get what we want."
He tips his head back and downs the rest of his drink. I laugh to myself when I realize, he would have been more relieved had I not shown up just as I would have been had I decided not to come. This is going to be a train wreck.
When my drink comes I drink it the way he did. It burns a path straight down my throat. He pays for it, we get up and walk to the nearby hotel. We get a room and we are in the elevator, alone.
The second the elevator doors close something ignites between us. He takes me in his arms and we are kissing each other passionately. I feel the intensity of what he is trying to draw from me and I am taking as much as I can from him. It is clear that we need something from each other, something more primal than the obvious physical undertaking we are about to engage in. But we are both empty and there is nothing to take.
I hear the elevator doors open and he lifts me and carries me effortlessly. I don't know or care how he gets me into our room and into bed.
He breaks off our kiss abruptly and we are breathing hard.
"Damian," he introduces himself, "My name is Damian."
"Lily," I respond.
He looks at me, deeply into my eyes. I do the same and I see what he sees. Desire and something else. A hopelessness that things are going to remain the same. We are both tortured souls. I don't want complicated and neither does he.
And this is what we do three more times over the next month. We meet at the pub, we go to the hotel, and have sex until we're exhausted. One of us leaves before the other awakens to avoid the awkward talk. The truth of the matter is this arrangement suits me. I have the physical perks of having a boyfriend but none of the emotional baggage of a traditional one.
But this morning things are different. I wake up wrapped in his arms, his warm body is against mine. He is awake. I feel him kiss my hair with a tenderness I have not experienced from anyone before. And I find myself not wanting to leave. I fall asleep feeling this way.
The next moment I open my eyes he is beside me lying on his side fully clothed, watching me from a very close distance. Why is he still here?
"Good morning," he says.
"Good morning," I reply.
"I'm hungry. There's a diner a couple of blocks from here. They make a mean eggs benedict. Would you like to join me for breakfast?" he invites and waits for my response.
Damian is breaking status quo. He's hoping I will do the same.
I bravely meet his gaze and I see how he looks at me. There is more hope in his eyes than before and he is giving some to me. I am so empty I naturally take what I can.
I answer, "I'm not a breakfast person. Do they have tea?"
I have a hot date. I have been single and I have not had a hot date in three years. Tonight I will finally have one.
No, I did not join a nunnery. I have been focused on my first real career. I am teaching at the London IMAN of Higher Learning.
I have been at the job for four years and I think I'm pretty good at it. The students actually learn something from me and they like me. It's a lot of work but I love my job. Who knew that the ten degrees and diplomas I've accumulated in the last nine years would actually be useful. It still amuses me when somebody refers to me as "Professor Weasley." And Al's dumbfounded reaction to my title is also priceless.
There is the school and I am also heavily volunteering time at the magical being community centre across town. I blame Al and my Mum's genes. Al took me there once to show me the deplorable conditions currently plaguing being populations and I, being my Mum's daughter, developed this unwavering compulsion to help make things better.
History is repeating itself. Certain groups are being marginalized and unfairly cast as savages and there is rampant discrimination against vampires and werewolves. There has been fighting within being groups with militant factions seeking immediate reforms. I volunteer to engage the at-risk youth in something more positive.
But enough about that. Tonight I am not teaching, I am not grading papers, I am not saving some young vampire from being recruited into becoming a turner. I have a hot date and I really like him.
I am getting ready when there is a knock at my door. Adam is a bit early.
"Just a minute!" I whip up my wand to put on some finishing touches on my appearance and open the door with the best smile in my vast arsenal of facial expressions, "Hi."
I lose the smile, deflated, "Oh, it's only you. What do you want?"
Al responds, "Is Isa here?"
"Nope," I swing the door shut, hoping he will go away, but the Auror is quick with his foot, he prevents it from shutting. I snap at him, "What?"
"Can I come in?" he asks.
"Al, now is not the time to talk about your girl problems," I say, it's a running private joke though most times now it's true.
I turn and walk away. He follows me into the living room.
"Going on a date?" he states the obvious.
I roll my eyes and then as I turn I see my reflection on the mirror. I need a matching sweater and head for my bedroom. Al comes too and sits on my bed as I rummage through my closet, purposely throwing stuff in his direction. He tortures me, I torture him. This is how we love each other.
"I need to talk," Al is anxious.
I carry on with my hunt for a smashing red sweater.
"Don't you have access to shrinks in your line of work?"
"It's about Isa," at least he is uncomfortable, "I want her back."
This may be the first time he is admitting this but it is old news to me. Even in my busyness, I see his feeble attempts at getting her back. Thankfully they have been so feeble Isa hasn't noticed, yet. Have to nip this in the bud. I love Al and I don't want him hurt.
"It's a bad idea," I shake my head, as I toss each lame sweater I see, "You broke up with her five years ago. In general, dumpers don't get the dumpees back, no matter how much they beg."
"I know. But five years ago I was immature, angry and wrong," Al is sounding like a woman and I have no time for this, "I've seen what's out there. There is no one else. She is it for me and I need your help to get her back."
I discourage him, "Get over it, Al. She's not interested."
"How do you know?"
"She has a boyfriend."
"She broke up with Russ."
This must be recent, not that I care. I didn't like Russ.
"She's still not interested," I reiterate, "Will you stop bugging me?"
Al is quiet now. This means he feels bad and goes into himself. It's not a pretty sight. Now I have to comfort him. And my hot date is coming soon. This requires a discreet tactical maneuver that will be beneficial to us both.
"Look, you want her back but you are asking the wrong person. Once I dump mine, I never want them back so I have no experience to share with you," I logically point out to him, "But I know someone who knows how to get someone back. Go talk to Uncle Harry."
"You're right. Dad would know what to do."
"Yup," I say as I usher him out the front door.
That wasn't too hard. Forget the sweater, showing cleavage is better. I barely take two seconds checking myself in the mirror when the door swings open. It is my flat mate, Isa.
She asks, "I just saw Al. What did he want?"
I shrug, "The usual, girl problem."
Isa is uncharacteristically anxious, as she paces the living room, "I need your help."
I try to ignore what she just said and share, "It will have to wait. I have a date with Adam."
"Adam, the vampire you work with at the Community Center Adam?"
"He's gorgeous, isn't he?"
"All vampires are gorgeous by definition. Rose, I know you haven't been out in a while but is this a good decision?"
Isa is judging based on stories of vampire dates turned bad. I work with these suckers. Not all of them are bad guys. Adam volunteers at the centre more than I do. Vampire with a bleeding heart. Take that you naysayers!
"It's one date. He won't give me a kiss. Adam's really nice and a gentleman."
She chortles, "Weren't they all two hundred years ago?"
"Shut up. Let's not talk about Adam and me. That will be for tomorrow," I take out my lipstick to do a retouch, "What is it that you need help with."
"I'm in love with your brother," Isa blurts out without warning and my hand jerks a long trail of purple off my right cheek.
"Hugo?!" I want to confirm.
"Well, Sam and Brian are twelve. Sadly, it's not them."
This is news to me. It's big news that I really do not have time for right now.
"When did this happen?" I multi-task, and remove the purple lipstick from my cheek.
Isa rattles off, "The other day, last week, five months ago, seven years ago, since I've known him, take your pick."
"So this is why Russ is history?" she nods, and I think back, maybe Al as well, "Are you sure about this?"
"Yes, no, I don't know," Isa replies vaguely; she is making my head swirl, "I hate the woman he's dating."
"You set them up," I remind her.
"I know. I get insanely jealous when they're kissing."
"You're not making any sense."
"I know," she admits again, "But I need your help. What am I going to do?"
I feel for Isa. She is my best friend. I would do anything for her. But this thing between her and Hugo is complicated. This will take all night to sort out with no guarantees of being resolved. Worse, I could make a giant mess out of it.
A brilliant idea pops up in my head.
"Listen, I don't have experience in that is-it-or-isn't-it-unrequited-love-for-my-best-friend bullshit. I would help but as you know, with Hugo, it is complicated like a minefield fraught with emotionally devastating complications. You should go to an expert and I know just the person to see. Go ask my Mum."
"Aunt Hermione? No."
"Because she knows Hugo."
I take her hand and start pulling her gently to the door.
"Even better," I say convincingly, "She knows what will work and what won't. Give it a try."
I think she is still worried but at least she is walking away.
"Tell me all about it tomorrow!" I shout after her, "Not earlier than noon!"
Phew! Now where was I?
Someone's at the door. I open. It's still not Adam.
"Come in," I say to my brother, and I interrupt before he opens his mouth, "Don't tell me. You need to talk."
Hugo frowns, "How do you know?"
"Is it a full moon out there? Or a sign on my door that says, 'Free advice. Come in.'?"
"Huh?" I confuse my brother.
"Let me guess. You want to talk about Isa. You think of her as more than a friend and you want to tell her how you feel. But first, you want to know if she feels the same way because if not then you'd rather continue to hide your feelings from her, not effectively enough if I may add, because as you can tell I've noticed. And then there's the fact that you and I know Al still cares about her. You want me to tell you what to do."
I summarize for him. Hugo is stunned but he knows me well enough not to mind.
"So what do I do?" he asks after he recovers.
I have had it. I go on a rant.
"Why does everybody think I have the answers to all these questions? Because I'm older by like two months? Or is it because I have the benefit of at least a dozen relationships with the opposite sex and you all think I'm an expert on it? Geez!"
Hugo just looks at me, speechless. I do what I did before.
"I have no experience falling in love with my best friend so I wouldn't know what to do about it. But you know who has experience?"
"You got it. But I suggest Uncle Harry if you want to get the girl."
Hugo hugs me, "By the way, you do have a degree in relationship counseling. According to that you are an expert. Thanks."
Fancy that. Hugo is right. I do have a degree in relationship counseling.
My brother leaves and I am standing in the middle of the living room exhausted. What just happened? Oh dear Merlin, did I just send all three of them to Grimmauld at the same time?!
There's a knock on the door. I look up and it is Adam. Tall, handsome, with a great sense of humor for an old soul Adam. He has flowers in his hand.
I sigh, take the flowers, and apologize, "I'm sorry. Impending family crisis. Raincheck?"
After I send Adam on his way I take a smidgen of Floo powder and I get in touch with my Mum. Maybe they weren't at Grimmauld.
"Oh, hi Mum!" I try to sound upbeat but Mum is already on to me.
"Rose Weasley, it's 8:30. Do you have any idea why Al, Isa and Hugo appeared at my doorstep one after the other?"
"Maybe?" I have fun fibbing when it comes to my Mum, "Don't worry, Mum. I'm coming over to fix it."
I floo. Mum meets me at the fireplace.
"Where are they?" I ask.
"In the kitchen," she replies.
We see the three of them through the French doors. Uncle Harry is serving them tea.
"What is this about?" Mum asks.
"Mum, I know it's been a while since you've been a part of one but it's so obvious. It's a love triangle," I explain.
"Oh," my Mum sees it now and she is worried because she knows at least one of their boys was going to get hurt.
I look at three of my most favorite people in the world and it's clear to me what has to be done.
"Is Em in her room?" I ask about my soon to be 10-year-old sister.
"Sleep over with Juliet at your Dad's," Mum answers, "Harry and I were going to go out."
"Perfect," I say, "Do you think you and Uncle Harry can disappear for at least a couple of hours?"
"I'm sure we can manage that," Mum didn't put up a fuss.
Hmm…odd but I will take it.
I open the French doors to the kitchen and announce myself, "Step back! Love expert coming through!"
I order my Mum and Uncle Harry to leave then ask Al to wait outside. I take Hugo and Isa into the living room and light up the fireplace. They think I'm going mad but they will thank me for this for the rest of their lives.
I take Hugo's hand in my hand and Isa's hand in the other.
"All right," I say as I bring their hands together, "Mum and Uncle Harry are going out on a date. They will be gone for a long time. Em is sleeping over at Dad's. I'm leaving with Al. The house is empty. You need to talk and I mean really talk. Or better yet you can just look at each other like you are doing right now, oblivious to the rest of the world including me, and I'm pretty sure you'll know what this is about. Or you could kiss like that, that's pretty clear communicating too."
I'm happy for them I have tears in my eyes. I am not needed in the room anymore and I have to stay with Al. I see him sitting on the porch steps, shoulders hunched over, withdrawn and in a lot of pain.
"I'm sorry, Al," I say to him as we walk outside Grimmauld, "I've known for a while that Hugo loves her. And Isa just told me she loves him. It was going to happen with or without me and you were going to be roadkill. Let her go, Al. Hugo will take good care of her."
Al nods, still speechless but I know he is listening.
"I've got ice cream in my fridge. Want some?"
I'm talking a stroll with Harry. It's been one very strange night. We were on our way out when the Al, Isa and Hugo dropped by unexpectedly. I was quite worried we weren't going to be able to leave.
Harry notices something, "You seem to be taking all that in stride."
He is referring to the thing between Hugo and Isa. I shrug.
"He could do worse. Isa we know and love," I reply, "But I feel bad for Al."
"I know what you mean," Harry is also concerned, "Sometimes I wish he would fall in love as quickly as Rose does."
I am somewhat appalled, "Are you encouraging my daughter's ability to switch boyfriends like they were some designer fashionwear?"
"No," he always defends Rose, "I'm merely pointing out that she's special because she has this immense capacity to love. I hear she's practically at the center every day. She seems to be doing really well at the IMAN too. And I haven't met a boyfriend in at least a couple of years. She's settling down."
"I hope so, Harry," I share, "I worry about her."
"She will be fine," Harry reassures me, "And I think Al will eventually be okay too."
We walk for a bit and then he asks mischievously, "How much time do you think Hugo and Isa need to, um, sort things out?"
"That's difficult to say," I reply, "From our experience it took us all night and into the morning."
We remember and share a knowing smile.
"Maybe we can stay at a hotel?" he suggests.
"You wait your turn," I scold him, "It's my turn tonight."
"Okay, what do you have for us tonight, Granger? I vote hotel."
I ignore the boyish pleas of a horny one-track mind.
"This is much better. You know the drill," I reply, "Close your eyes."
He does as I ask and he always has a smile on his face when he does this. I take his hand in mine and we side along. Harry's reaction when he opens his eyes warms my heart.
We are at our pond in the Forest of Dean. Charmed string instruments are playing soft music. There's a bonfire close to the edge of the water, a table, two chairs, dinner plates warming nearby, Harry's favorite wine and a clear, see-through canvass tent set up for two.
He turns to me and asks, "What are you up to?"
"I don't know what you mean," I smile, "It's just dinner and maybe stargazing later..."
He suddenly picks me up, throws me on his shoulder and heads for the tent.
I am laughing at what he is doing.
"Harry! Wait! Put me down! I prepared a riveting tale of true and undying love! I'm not done setting this up!"
But he is determined, "I'm really sorry, your tale will have to wait. This is your fault."
"How is this my fault?"
He takes me inside the warm confines of the tent, sets me down on the cozy cushions and joins me. With advanced planning I see no need for us to be cold while naked and to sleep on the hard forest floor.
"Thirty years ago to the day," he is smiling from ear to ear, his eyes sparkling, "I remember."
I'm glad he does.
"Twenty seconds, Potter. It certainly took you long enough."
He silences me with his lips. We kiss, at first gentle and sweet. In no time we are swept by compelling desire, much like how it was thirty years ago. We are kissing heavily and passionately until we are overwhelmed by want and no amount of zealous kissing can gratify our need to touch.
We slowly undress each other. The feel of his bare skin on mine ignites my flesh and his caress fuels the fire. The pleasure of his lips and his hands touching every inch of me is both dizzying and maddening. As we make love unhurriedly under the moonlight, our eyes meet and we fill each other with affection.
It is this that breaks our resolve. I instinctively shift to make room for him and he plunges himself deep into me with all the intensity of his yearning. Surrendering all of myself to him, he takes me again and again, each thrust deeper and more pleasurable than the one before.
I am so close and so is he. I touch his mind with mine and we connect just as waves of pleasure erupt within me. I lose control. He feels all I feel and he comes with immeasurable passion, emptying himself completely into me with one final thrust. Then his emotions hit me and I find myself completely immersed in his own astounding climax, coming on the heels of mine.
I scream out his name.
With considerable effort he shifts to my side and takes my body with him. We lie motionless and breathing heavily for a good solid minute. I am weak and exhausted as he holds me. We don't speak because we can't. It usually takes a while to regain full function.
After some time I feel him kiss my hair.
I hear him say, "That was amazing."
"Yes it was."
"It's too bad we have to wait a few days to do it again," he complains of its physiologic limitations.
I feel him shift. He is facing me.
"So, my love, I am dying to know. Why did you bring me here?"
I turn towards him and see him looking on, "It's been thirty years to the day since you first charmed me to take my clothes off. Isn't that enough cause for celebration?"
"Whoa! Wait a minute," he is pretending to protest, "I did not charm you into undressing. If I remember correctly you seduced me."
"I did not seduce you," I argue, "If anything you seduced me."
"I beg to disagree…"
I kiss him on the mouth and he kisses me back. I pull away and can't help the smirk on my face. If he liked that surprise he will like this even more. I sit up and put on his shirt which is close by.
"There is one other thing," I say to him as I motion him to sit in front of me.
He is set and waiting patiently. Holding out my hand, I lift the disillusionment charm off my finger. Harry is all smiles as he sees that I'm wearing my engagement ring.
Taking his hand in mine, I gaze into his beautiful kind eyes and say, "Harry, you are my true and undying love. My love for you is unconditional and it has withstood the test of time. You will make me the happiest woman on earth if you agree to take me as your wife. I would be honoured to be Mrs. Potter. Harry, will you marry me?"
It is my first proposal and I don't notice tears streaming down my face.
Harry looks at me with complete devotion and admiration and replies, "Hermione, you are an amazing woman. You are my true and undying love. I love you no matter what. Of course I will marry you."
The Keeper report Card:
DH and Epilogue Canon compliant – check
Ginny and Ron alive – check
HHr forever – check
Will Harry and Hermione have another child? - check
What will Hermione do with the engagement ring? - check
Will Hugo get over his crush on Isa? - check
Will Lily ever forgive Harry? – oh, right, missed this one if you wanted a yes, not my fault as Lily has refused to budge. I think she just needs more time.
I may have to break one more literary rule to completely resolve Lily's storyline. There is also this nagging thought that while the Harry and Hermione outcome in this one is I think amazing, they deserve an even more amazing one after what I've put them through.
So here is a question for you.
Epic-logue or should I leave it the way it is?
I will await your vote on this one. As always, I aim to please.