After the war, Harry barely left the Burrow. Kingsley Shacklebolt wanted to start his Auror training right away, but Harry refused. He wanted time to rest, time to celebrate with his friends, time to mourn. He ended up doing more mourning than celebrating or resting. For him, the loss was too great. His parents, his godfather, his mentor, his owl… not to mention his favorite teacher, two Aurors that he idolized… and his best friend's brother, his girlfriend's brother. For me, it was my older brother, my hero, my friend. The most difficult part of losing Fred was watching George. I tried to equate George's relationship with Fred to my relationship with Harry, so I could try to comprehend his loss. It didn't work, but it wasn't because Harry and I weren't twins or even brothers. It was because my feelings for Harry went deeper than friendship.
When I realized this, I dove into bed with Hermione and stayed there for a month, distancing myself from Harry and letting him spend time with my sister. The only times Harry smiled during the period he lived in my mother's house was when he was with Ginny. I envied her. I had no right to be angry with her, but I was. I felt that she didn't appreciate Harry the way he deserved, the way he needed. When he gave her that heart-melting smile, she didn't smile back or throw him on the floor and shag him senseless. Instead, she kissed his cheek and continued talking about Quidditch or whatever else.
I would have treated him differently. I would have given him non-stop love and attention and sex and support. He deserved it more than anyone else I knew. When I asked him if Ginny was treating him well, he smiled and nodded, love twinkling obviously in his eyes. He said that Ginny made him feel normal. I decided that it was a good thing Harry wasn't with me. I would probably smother him with… with what? With too much love? Would that be so bad for him?
Eventually, after a year, Harry left the Burrow. He took Ginny with him. I stayed behind with my family and decided to help George at his shop. He was okay when someone was with him. Left on his own, though, his terrible heartache took over and drowned him in grief. Fred was more to him than a friend, a brother, or a twin. Fred had been half his mind and soul for his whole life. Alone, George floundered about, rubbing a hand over the hole in his head.
After a few months, I moved into the apartment above the shop. George and I redid Fred's old room. I invited Hermione to live with us. She moved in immediately. I hadn't heard from Harry since they day he moved out of the Burrow. Ginny hadn't sent many owls, and when she did, she didn't mention him. I didn't even know where they were.
Hermione told me not to dwell on Harry. She told me that he needed time to recover and time to think. How much time did he need? The war had been over for a year and a half. We had won… he had won. He was the symbol of hope and goodness for the entire magical world. He was everything to witches and wizards everywhere… he was everything to me.
One day, ten months after I last saw Harry, he walked into the shop. I was in the back room. George called for me and I came out, expecting Seamus, but finding Harry. He looked old, much older than nineteen, but happy. His hair was short, but his attempt to tame it had failed – it stuck out everywhere, like it always had and always would. The smile that hit his beautiful lips when he saw me was enough to make me drop the clipboard I had been holding. He walked over and picked it up for me. Then, without a word, he handed it off to George and pushed me into the back room.
"I'm engaged," he said, beaming, "to Ginny. We're engaged. We're getting married."
I hugged him and congratulated him and invited him upstairs for a drink. He apologized for hiding for so long. I shrugged and told him Hermione would be home soon. He asked if we would get married. I nodded.
Sometimes I thought he knew how I felt. Occasionally he would lean across a dinner table and brush the hair out of my eyes. I always blushed. He always looked surprised at my reaction and would avoid eye contact with me for the rest of the night. At night, after Hermione was asleep, I would imagine that he felt the same way about me and wasn't surprised at my reaction, but was surprised at his own actions, his own forwardness.
Harry and Ginny got married and I proposed to Hermione in our room after the reception. When Harry and Ginny returned from their honeymoon, we took them out to dinner and told them the good news. Harry seemed thrilled. Ginny gave me a look. My stomach churned. She knew. She knew that I loved Harry – that I loved her husband. I excused myself and was sick in the bathroom of the fancy restaurant.
After that night, I avoided Harry and Ginny for as long as I could. I concentrated on Hermione. She was beautiful and she was mine. I loved her. I would have died for her. I needed her. The only thing was… I needed Harry, too – loved Harry, too.
Hermione and I got married. I was happy. She was ecstatic. Harry was thrilled. Ginny gave me that look again.
Harry invited me to come work with him when he got a job at the Ministry. We would be Aurors together. I agreed. I wasn't much help at George's shop. I wasn't very enthusiastic about working there, and George nearly hurt himself nodding when I asked if it was okay if I stopped working for him.
To celebrate the fact that we would be working together, Harry took me out for a drink. I had too much. Harry was sitting too close, smiling too beautifully. I put my hand on his leg. He didn't blink. I put my other hand on the side of his face. He frowned.
"I love you."
His reaction was calm and understanding. He took my hands away from his body and ordered another round of drinks. He told me, reminded me, that I loved Hermione. That was that. I pretended the next day that I didn't remember telling him. He didn't act any differently. I dedicated myself to loving and appreciating Hermione. She deserved it and needed it, too. Harry had Ginny. He didn't need me. He didn't want me.
Hermione became pregnant.
Having a child was weird. He had thick, red hair and an insatiable curiosity to complement his uncanny ability to fall into trouble.
Years passed and there were more children. Harry and Ginny had some, too. By then, I was consumed in my family and my work. Harry and I didn't spend much together, even at the Ministry. Hermione and Ginny spent a lot of time together, and the Weasley and Potter children befriended each other. It was natural and sweet.
One day Hermione asked me if I missed Harry. I lied and said no. She told me that she missed him. I spent more time with her, making up for the missing Harry in both of our lives with romantic dinners and heated weekend vacations.
More years passed and all of the children were out of Hogwarts and out of the house. I retired from the Ministry and decided to build Hermione a new house. I didn't tell her. It was a present for our thirty-fifth anniversary. She was floored. I was a little embarrassed. It wasn't perfect and it wasn't very attractive, but she loved it and called it home. Harry was impressed when we invited him and Ginny over for drinks. Hermione joked that I should build a house for him and Ginny. Harry laughed. Ginny gave me that look.
Hermione died in that house fifteen years later. We were seventy and she was frail and cold and not as energetic or inquisitive as she once had been. Her mind had been slipping for years. I woke up next to her cold body and lay there with her for an hour. She had been my wife for fifty years. I had loved her, in my way, for most of my life. I felt empty.
Ginny came often to visit me. Harry stayed at their house.
When Ginny died after another six years, Harry moved in with me. Ginny's death had been less peaceful than Hermione's. She fell and when Harry tried to Apparate her to St. Mungo's, she died. He blamed himself. He didn't speak much.
On my eightieth birthday, Harry kissed me on the lips. We had been sitting in the kitchen, innocently discussing the various dramas in the lives of our many children, when his son James entered the conversation. James had recently divorced his wife and moved in with a man. I had avoided making any comment about the situation for months, afraid of addressing such a topic with Harry.
"I'm happy for him," Harry said, a bit sadly.
"But you're frowning."
"I'm… I won't deny I'm jealous."
My heart skipped a beat, which was a bit dangerous at that age. "J-jealous."
His piercing eyes bore into mine. "Yes. He has his soul mate. His partner. His lover."
"That's true… we're sad old widowers, aren't we?"
"We're not that old. Not for wizards."
"Look at me."
I looked up. His face was mere inches away. "What?" My voice was a pathetic whisper.
He kissed me, briefly. The fire that shot through my body was the single greatest thing I have ever felt. When he pulled away I kept my eyes closed, trying to convince myself that it wasn't a dream, and that he would still be there when I opened them. He wasn't, though. He had walked calmly away, out of the kitchen and into the backyard.
Neither of us mentioned it during the next thirty years. I would have died a very happy man with just that one kiss, and I think he knew that. Luckily, that didn't stop us stealing kisses from each other every chance we got. He moved into the master bedroom with me, and we spent all of our time together, going shopping and visiting children and grandchildren with each other. I think our kids knew, or suspected, but none of them ever said anything. It felt very natural to be with Harry, if not with Hermione, and for Harry to be with me, if not with Ginny. No one seemed shocked, not even my brothers or their own large bands of younger generations. Sometimes I wish I could have spent more time with him, but I suppose then I would have missed out on the chance to visit his or my children with him as my partner.
Now that he's gone, I can feel myself slowly losing the desire to continue living. I love my family more than I can say, but it is very lonely in this house that I built. Traces of Hermione and Harry are everywhere, and yet they themselves are nowhere. I am getting older and frailer, but somehow I am glad for it. I was not meant to exist without my two friends, my two soul mates, my two partners, my two lovers. Nothing brings me more joy than my great-grandkids, but nothing brings me more grief than going home afterwards, to that house, and finding it empty. I have lived the best of both worlds. I had a beautiful wife and beautiful children. When that life ended, I had a beautiful man to spend all my time with. I am old and sentimental, but I know how lucky I have been. Some people never find love, but I found Hermione. And Harry.