A/N: After having no time to write fanfiction and also losing my interest in the Potter Universe, I have recently had time to reevaluate my thoughts about fanfiction. My time constraints still exist, but I realized that I missed writing fanfiction and the wonderful community to which my stories belong. At some point during this summer, slow updates to Growing Up Granger and Bearings should begin. Sorry for my long absence!

Farewell…and Hello

Harry Potter was flying on his broomstick. He was high above the fields and forests below, streaking across the clear blue sky with the warm sun on his face and the wind whipping through his clothes. His shaggy black hair twirled and leapt as he increased his speed, leaning forward and squinting to avoid the crush of air. He wanted to shout with exhilaration, but the wind would suck any noise he made relentlessly away and out of his lungs. So he was content to grin. The raw power and speed of his broomstick always amazed him. The pure visceral joy of flying unrestrained through the summer sky was something very few people got to experience, and those that were fortunate enough never went quite as fast.

He circled around the edge of a wide, dark lake below him, blinking his eyes several times as the sun glinted brightly off the calm waters. He descended toward the lake, and as he drew nearly level with it, he could smell the fresh water. His speed was such that directly behind him a small wake expanded outward across the deep blue. The tree line was quickly approaching so he pulled up, bending in an arc toward the other deep blue, the infinite sky above him. He turned all the way over into a large loop, hanging upside down for slightly longer than was necessary; eventually he turned over and resumed his normal flight over the scenery below. He could fly like this all day—

The scene suddenly shifted. Instead of flying he was riding the Hogwarts Express through an endless meadow of high grass. It took Harry several moments to regain his bearings, and when he did he realized he was sitting in one of the many compartments; it might have even been the one Ron, Hermione, and he frequented during their Hogwarts' years. The field beyond the windows of the train literally stretched to the horizon in every direction he could see, and the grass waving in the breeze almost looked like the sea, with waves of green instead of blue.

Harry exited the compartment to find someone else and ask what he was doing on the train, but he quickly saw he was the only person. Every other compartment was empty, and the layer of dust on many of the seats hinted that the train had been empty for an extended period of time. He strode forward through the train to the conductor's compartment, which was also conspicuously empty; he went through the final door and found himself in the engine. There was no engineer—just an empty driver's seat. Harry ran his fingers through his thick hair, trying to figure out what to do next. Before he could think of anything, though, he abruptly—

—woke up in his bed, in his house at Godric's Hollow. Blue sky, the deep blue lake, and fields of green forever flashed in front of his eyes for just a second, and then the dreams faded, leaving him staring into the darkness above his bed. There was a warm weight thrown across his chest, and because he was on his back he only had to turn his head slightly to the left to brush his face against his wife's beautiful brown hair. He could feel her breathing gently against his side, and as he inhaled, the scent of her shampoo invaded his nose. It was something with strawberries and another thing he could never quite place, but he loved it because it was so perfectly her. He'd heard somewhere that the sense of smell elicits the strongest memories, and he agreed with that statement because whenever he smelled strawberries he immediately thought of his lovely and magnificent spouse.

As he let her closeness and warmth pervade his being for several minutes, his mind slowly returned to the dreams he'd just experienced, one of which was exciting and fun and the other of which was odd and unsettling. He could vividly recall what the sensation of flying low over that lake had felt like, and also see just as clearly that very empty train. He instinctively rubbed his fingertip against the sheet, wanting to get the dust from one of the train's seats off, before he realized he'd only dreamt the dust. The other odd thing about the second half of the train was that the Hogwarts Express was no longer in use—the students simply Flooed to Hogsmeade, instead of wasting hours on the train. The two dreams were so incongruous that eventually he gave up on making sense of them.

However, he was wide awake now. One glance at the bedside clock told him it was 4:10 in the morning; he had to get up for work in a little under an hour anyway, so he just decided to start the day a little earlier than normal. Carefully, with the utmost gentleness, he eased her arm off his chest. She mumbled something in her sleep that sounded suspiciously like 'you prat' and then turned slightly, snuggling deeper into his side. He almost gave up and laid there for fifty minutes just to have her warmth and softness against him, but his suddenly insistent bladder overrode that pleasant notion.

"Farewell for a little while, my love," Harry whispered, placing a feather-light kiss on her forehead.

Trying not to jostle the bed too much, he slowly rose from under the covers and moved silently into the loo. After doing his business, he padded on bare feet through the upstairs of the modestly sized house; he passed three bedrooms on his way toward the stairs, and he smiled internally at their sleeping occupants.

Harry descended into the foyer, turned left, and headed into the kitchen and dining area. The Wizarding Times already lay on the back porch, so he exited through the sliding glass door at the rear of the house to retrieve the paper. He stopped for a moment, looking around at his predawn backyard, and saw the faintest light of the new day in the east. Otherwise everything was dark and absolutely still. In fact, it was so quiet he could hear his own heartbeat in his ears. Thump… thump… thump. It would have been eerie if it wasn't so peaceful.

He returned to the kitchen and put a cuppa on, knowing that he could use the kick start and sure that his wife would appreciate the same whenever she shuffled into the kitchen. They both normally started their day at five, so he expected her around then; in the meantime, he would read the paper and watch out the back door as the beautiful dawn broke across the sky.

The first thing he noticed upon unfolding the paper was the unusually large headline, declaring that the Hogwarts Express had been found, abandoned in some large open tracts of land just north of Dover. Apparently, when the train was decommissioned by the Hogwarts staff, the powers that be had sent the train to a terminus in some large field; and then, as the story went, the train was forgotten about. Harry had a powerful feeling of deja vu when the reporter described finding the seats of the train covered in dust, and how disquieting the empty train was in the middle of the vast field. It took him several moments to realize he'd dreamt just minutes before about a very similar experience, because the dream was already slipping from his mind.

The article concluded that the train would most likely be shrunk, magically of course, and transported to the British Museum, where it would be exhibited in the magical side of the large building. The journalist mentioned plans for an exhibit featuring Hogwarts, which was the most likely destination for the defunct train.

Harry slowly turned to the next page after finishing that article, but his mind was returning to his eleventh year rather than focusing on the stories. The first time he saw Platform 9 3/4 played out in his mind, though it was faded and spotty with the intervening decades. The two things he did clearly remember were squeezing his eyes very tightly shut for fear of crashing into the barrier and the deep scarlet color of the giant Express engine. That was when he had met many of the Weasleys, all of whom he still loved like his own family. That day, when his first year of Hogwarts had started, put into motion the series of events that led to his eventual defeat of Voldemort and, after, his finding of true happiness in his wife, family, and career.

"Dad?" a male voice asked, breaking into his thoughts. He blinked and focused on the present. His son, William James Potter, stood across the table from him. The clock over the fifteen-year-old's shoulder said 4:35.

"Yeah, Will?"

"What are you doing up so early?" Will asked.

"I could ask the same of you," Harry responded, noticing the broomstick in his son's hands. His eyes flicked back to the emerald eyes opposite him. "And why do you have that broom?"

Will laughed and tossed his head back, throwing around hair that was very similar to Harry's. "I can answer both questions at the same time: to go for a morning fly. There's nothing quite like watching the sun rise while on a broom."

Harry nodded. "I know. I've done that a few times myself. Do you do this often?"

Will shrugged his shoulders. "Nah. Only when I can't sleep, or when Anna and Sophia wake me up wanting to fly."

Harry couldn't resist smiling at that information. Anna Rose Potter and Sophia Jane Potter his six- and nine-year-old daughters, respectively, and the mental image of them flying with their older brother in the morning light was very precious. And if William looked very similar to Harry, both Anna and Sophia resembled their mother, with the exception of their emerald eyes. All of his children had received his arresting eyes, and all of them by either him or his wife had slightly crazy hair.

"Well, the next time the three of you go for one of these early morning jaunts, wake me up and I'll join you. Maybe I can teach you all some tricky Seeker moves—ones your mother would never let me show you if she knew."

Will smiled brightly. "Sounds good! But you never answered my question: why are you up? Don't you and mum usually get up at five?"

"Yes, we do," Harry nodded. "But I woke up and wasn't tired, so rather than disturb your mum I got up."

"Oh, ok," Will said, and then turned toward the back door. "I'll see you in a bit," his son commented, waving over his shoulder.

"Have fun," Harry said. He watched Will mount the broom in the back yard and then rise out of sight very quickly. A sudden and gratifying feeling of love for his family swelled within his chest; if someone had told him when he was fifteen he would eventually be this happy, he wouldn't have believed them. He probably would have thought that person completely crazy. But here he was, in his mid-forties with a comfortable life, and a loving family, and an exquisite wife. He loved Will, who reminded Harry very much of himself at that age, with the exception of Voldemort and the Boy Who Lived rubbish. He loved Sophia, who was smart like her mother and more athletic than either of them had ever been. He loved Anna, who, although she was still only six years old, was quite magically advanced. Apparently Anna had received both parents' power, because Harry's lowest shield charm would buckle and ultimately fail against Anna's most powerful Stunner.

And he absolutely loved his wife. She had kept him alive during their younger years, and had been there for him during the tough times after Voldemort had been sent into the night, and ultimately had turned into the love of his life. He couldn't imagine the last thirty-five years without her constant presence, because she kept him sane and grounded. He wanted to live forever, if only he could spend eternity with her.

His thoughts drifted for several minutes, accompanied only by the silent house, the breaking dawn, and the occasional hint of Will flying somewhere high overhead. Somewhere upstairs something creaked, and his eyes sought the clock, which read 4:58. Undoubtedly his wife was stirring and would join him shortly. He smiled at how his heart sped up in anticipation of seeing her awake this morning: after twenty years of marriage, he was still excited to see her every morning. As long as that never faded, he knew he would be a happy man.

His ears tracked her slow progress from their bedroom, through the upstairs hall, down the stairs, and into the foyer. She paused outside the kitchen for a moment, and then the door opened and there she was. Her shoulder-length brown hair was mussed from the pillow and she still looked half-asleep, but she was incredibly gorgeous anyway. Harry's face lit up with a grin as soon as he saw her. She paused in the doorway; one eyebrow slowly crept up her forehead, and a wry smile soon lifted the corners of her lips.

"Good morning, Harry," she said, her voice still airy with sleep. He stood from the table and moved toward her, opening his arms for his wife. They folded each other in a strong, welcoming embrace.

"Hello," Harry whispered, into her hair. Strawberries wafted into his nose once again, and he pressed her against him just a little tighter.

"Love you, Harry," she said, returning the squeeze.

"Love you too, Hermione."