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 for sex and language. 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 train 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 called to him over the din of the platform. "I still need to write up that report on the Cannons' match. Any later and the Pitch will have it before the Prophet..."
Harry nodded. He cast a glance over his shoulder. The train was nowhere in sight. He started to move with the rest of the parents towards the exit of Platform 9¾. Just up ahead, he thought he spied the silhouette of 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. Without question, both couples would be dealing with an inconsolable youngest child on the car ride home.
Harry thought of calling out to them, but the crush of parents and children had separated them and Ginny was saying something.
"You'll have to fix supper tonight for Lily. I've got to stop by the office. I forgot I left the stats there. All this preparing the kids for their send-off has made me so forgetful…" Ginny 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 to Ginny. "Should I cook for you too or just Lily?"
"Just Lily. I might as well write the report there with some peace and quiet," she said as she pushed her way between two slow-moving couples, dragging Lily and consequently Harry in her wake.
Harry nodded behind her head. 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. Harry didn't want to deal with the ramifications by himself. By the time his mind shifted to what meal would make Lily the happiest, they were at the entrance back into King's Cross. He held Lily's hand even more tightly and stepped through the portal.
As Harry opened his car door, he heard someone shout his name. "Oi, Harry!"
A shock of orange hair was moving towards him in the car park – Ron followed closely by Hermione and Hugo.
"I'm parked over there," said Ron, pointing to the far end near the exit.
Harry could just make out their navy Audi in the distance. It had been Hermione's choice to buy that car. Ron had preferred something slightly more garish, the latest generation Hummer to be exact, since he thought it would be hilarious to drive that monstrosity down the narrow alleys of London—not to mention the obvious magical flourishes it would take to park the car. Harry preferred Hermione's choice.
"Ron!" Ginny called, embracing Ron when he reached her. "How are you going to manage without little Rose in the house?"
"We'll make do," Ron smiled a bit sadly as Hermione sidled up to him. Harry glanced at Hermione's face. Her eyes were clearly bloodshot, but she was smiling as well. Lily gave a pathetic whine from the backseat of Harry's car, a polished black BMW.
"Well, you'll be over for dinner on Wednesday?" Harry asked Ron.
Wednesday was usually the day Harry took off early from the Auror Department in the Ministry, spending the afternoon at the Auror training facility supervising the 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.
"Yes, of course," Hermione replied. "I think it's yours and Ginny's turn?"
"Right," Ginny nodded.
"Okay, we'll see you then," said Harry.
But then Harry noticed Hugo holding on to Ron's trouser leg. The boy's look of utter dejection was almost comical and Harry felt the desire to comfort him.
Kneeling down as he had with Albus only moments before, he came face to face with the small boy—a perfect mixture of his two best friends.
"Hey, cheer up now?" Harry said with a smile. "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.
"Well, math and reading are important too. You can't do anything as a wizard without that," said Harry reasonably.
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 understandably boring in comparison to the Hogwarts curriculum.
"Could be worse, Hugo," said Ron from above. "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 back to Hugo. "You'll be at Hogwarts soon enough. When you come over Wednesday, bring your Firebolt and we'll fly around with Lily, okay? How'd you like that?"
Hugo beamed widely and blinked a few times. "Sure Uncle Harry!"
"All right," said Hermione. "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 Chudley report…" she explained to Ron and Hermione.
"Ugh. Why report on that?" said Ron, disgusted. 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 was smiling at him.
"See you Wednesday then," he said to her, "if not at the office on Monday?"
"Right. I imagine I'll have to stop by the AD sometime on Monday. The whole Callahan situation is getting sort of serious. So keep an eye out."
"I will. Maybe we can grab lunch. It's sort of a touchy subject at the office, understandably."
Ginny and Ron's conversation was quieting.
"Right well, goodbye," said Hermione. She leaned in and kissed Harry's cheek. As Harry brushed his lips by her ear, he heard Hermione whisper "Thanks."
It was so soft, only Harry heard it. She squeezed his elbow before turning away.
"Harry, c'mon!" Ginny called, moving to the passenger side of the car.
Harry watched Hermione and Ron disappear and moved to open his own car door. As he turned the keys in the ignition, he heard Lily cry out again in the back seat.
"I'm all aloooone," she sniffled.
Harry turned to Ginny. She rolled her eyes.
"No you're not, sweetie. We're here," Harry said.
With that, Harry moved his car out into the rush of traffic, using a little magic to get past the red light.