Disclaimer: All characters belong to JK Rowling. No infringement intended.
A/N: This story takes place immediately after the Deathly Hallows Epilogue and it is compliant. It is also an H/Hr story - their friendship, their subtly deteriorating home lives, and the search for authenticity with each other. It will eventually be rated M. Hope you enjoy this first taste!
Unlike a Sister
I love her like a sister and I reckon she feels the same way about me. It's always been like that. I thought you knew.
- Chapter Nineteen: The Silver Doe, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Prologue: Words for Hugo
Harry stepped away from the platform. The steam was still rising from the tracks, obscuring the Hogwarts Express in the distance. With a heavy heart that surprised even himself, he turned and looked at the remainder of his family. With his two boys gone, his eyes fell on his small, scarlet-haired daughter clinging to his wife's hand.
Lily was crying piteously and Ginny was stroking the nine-year-old's hair. Ginny's eyes, however, were impatient and focused on Harry.
"We should head back," she said to him over the din of the platform. "I need to write up that Cannons exclusive. Any later and the Pitch will have it before the Prophet."
Harry nodded. He cast a glance over his shoulder, the train nowhere in sight, and moved with the rest of the families towards the exit. Ahead of him, he thought he spied a handsome, gangly man with his arm around a slight woman with slumped shoulders. The woman was holding the hand of a small boy stumbling over his own steps. It was undoubtedly his best friends Ron and Hermione with their son Hugo. Like Lily, Hugo was still two years away from riding the red steam engine to Hogwarts. Both couples would likely be dealing with an inconsolable youngest child on the car ride home.
Harry thought of calling out to them, but Ginny was saying something.
"You'll have to fix supper tonight for Lily. I've got to stop by the office; I left the recording there," she said as she fumbled in her bag with one hand and held on to Lily with the other.
Lily's freckled face was blotched, her nose a shiny pink. Harry moved to her other side and took her hand.
"That's fine," he said. "Should I cook for you too or just Lily?"
"Just Lily. I might as well write up a draft there with some peace and quiet," she said slipping like a linx between two slow-moving couples, pulling Lily and consequently Harry in her wake.
Harry worked his jaw. He wanted to say it might be best for both of Lily's parents to be present tonight. After all, Lily had just been made a de facto only child. He didn't want to deal with the ramifications by himself.
By the time his mind shifted to what meal would cheer Lily up, they were at the entrance back into King's Cross. He tightened his grip on Lily's hand and stepped through the portal.
Someone shouted his name as Harry opened the car door.
A shock of orange hair was moving towards him in the car park: Ron followed closely by Hermione and Hugo.
"I parked over there," said Ron, looking pleased.
Harry could just make out their Audi in the distance. The car had been Hermione's choice, vetoing Ron's more garish selection of the latest generation Hummer that he had hoped to drive down the narrow alleys of London with all the accompanying magical flourishes.
Hermione sidled up next to her husband, a full foot and a half taller than her. Harry glanced at her face. Her eyes were red-rimmed, but she was smiling. Lily gave a pathetic whine from the backseat of Harry's car.
"Still on for dinner on Wednesday?" Harry asked Ron.
Harry usually took off early from the Auror Department at the Ministry on Wednesday, spending the afternoon at the Auror training facility supervising new recruits. That usually left him free by early evening and he'd visit Ron at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes before heading to either his or Ron's house for dinner. It was a tradition from their post-Hogwarts years.
"Yes, of course," Hermione replied. "Your turn, I think?"
"Right," Ginny nodded.
Harry glanced at Hugo, gripping his father's belt tightly. His look of utter dejection was almost comical.
Kneeling down as he had with Albus only moments ago, he came face to face with his nephew—a perfect mixture of his two best friends.
"Hey, chin up now?" Harry said, cocking his head to the side. "The year is going to fly by and Rose will be back in no time. Just focus on acing your classes so you'll be ready when it's your turn to get on the train."
"I hate my classes!" Hugo blurted.
Above him, Harry heard Ron chuckle and Hermione hiss.
Harry grinned. "Well, math and reading are important too. You can't do anything as a wizard without that."
He could understand why Hugo found his classes boring. Magical children under the age of eleven were not allowed a wand. Hugo and Lily went to the same wizarding preparatory school in central London, where they learned the basics of maths, reading, and writing. Necessary skills, but uninspiring in comparison to the Hogwarts curriculum.
"Could be worse, Hugo," said Ron. "At least you're not a Muggle. That's all you'd be doing the rest of your life."
"Hey," chided Hermione. "That's not so horrible."
Harry smiled and turned to Hugo. "Bring your Firebolt on Wednesday, okay, and we'll fly around with Lily. How'd you like that?"
Hugo beamed widely. "Sure Uncle Harry!"
"All right," said Hermione warningly. "That'll be after you finish your schoolwork and I look it over."
"Tell Uncle Harry goodbye," said Ginny. "I've really got to get going. My Cannons report…" she explained to the Weasleys, but mostly for Ron's benefit.
"Why report on that?" Ron grunted. Chudley had lost their last four games, ruining an unprecedentedly good season for Ron's favorite team. While he and Ginny briefly ran the odds of a Cannons' comeback, Harry kissed Hugo on the head and stood up.
Hermione smiled at him and placed her hands on Hugo's shoulders, though the boy was rapidly catching up to the height of his mother.
"See you Wednesday then?" he said to her. "If not, at the office on Monday?"
She nodded, looking distractedly across the car park. "I'll likely need to stop by the AD on Monday. The Callahan situation is getting a little serious. Keep an eye out?"
"I will. We could grab lunch. It's sort of a touchy subject there, understandably."
Ginny and Ron's conversation was quieting.
"Right, that could work. I guess we'll say goodbye now," said Hermione. She leaned in and kissed his cheek. As Harry brushed his lips by her ear, he heard Hermione whisper "Thanks."
It was soft. He almost wasn't sure he heard it. Harry's brows knitted as she stepped away.
"C'mon, Harry," Ginny called as he patted Ron's back.
Harry watched Hermione and Ron thread their way through the rows of cars and SUVs as he opened his door. Turning the keys in the ignition, he heard Lily cry out again in the back seat like a wounded animal. It sent cold snap of anxiety twisting around his chest.
"I'm all aloooone."
Harry turned to Ginny. She rolled her eyes.
"No you're not, sweetie. We're here," he said.
With that, Harry moved his car out into the rush of traffic, using a little magic to get past the red light.