"Are you sure?" he asked, for probably the eighth time that morning. "I mean, is now the right time?"
Harry looked up from his paper. "It's happening right now, isn't it? I'd say that makes now the perfect time. No point to putting it off."
Neville bobbed a quick nod and took his seat at the table again, tapping his foot anxiously.
"It will be fine," Harry assured him, "And if it isn't -"
The flames in the fireplace turned bright green and Harry didn't have time to tell Neville what would happen if things weren't fine. Something that resembled a small, red-haired rocket flew out of the fire and into Harry's arms, nearly knocking his chair back.
"Lil," Harry said, his voice thick. He hugged his daughter tightly. "You have no idea how good it is to see you."
"Happy birthday, Dad!" Lily said, reaching into her pocket. "I was going to send this by owl but I had to finish it, so I brought it." She drew a card from inside her pocket and flourished it. Harry beamed.
The flames turned green again and Harry's youngest son stepped out, looking for all the world like a miniature version of Harry.
"Happy birthday, Dad," he said as Harry stood up and reached out an arm to bring him into the hug as well.
"Al," he said fondly, "Did you get into a bottle of Skele-Gro, or are you really just that much taller?" Albus shrugged noncommittally.
The flames turned green, and deposited Harry's eldest onto the hearth, coughing as though he'd accidentally inhaled some ash. He was clutching a broomstick tightly with both hands and stepped out uncertainly.
"Hey, Dad," he said, his voice shaking as he desperately tried to pretend he wasn't that excited. "Happy birthday."
"Thank you, James," Harry said, drawing him into a hug.
The flames turned green once more and Harry stared at them, dumbfounded.
"Mum's coming too," Lily piped up. "Just for a moment."
"Ah," Harry said, his eyes tightening just slightly.
The tension was palpable as Ginny stepped gracefully from the fireplace, a blue cake box in her arms. She smiled nervously and deposited it on the kitchen table.
"Mum sent a cake," she said simply, "And says she hopes we'll see you at the Chrismas hols."
"Of course," Harry said, nodding politely.
"Mum says we can stay with you until we all go to Hogwarts," Albus butted in. "If it's okay with you."
"I get to go too this year!" Lily said, bubbling with excitement. "I get to go to Diagon Alley and get a wand and everything!"
"If it's all right," Ginny said quickly. "I don't want to impose."
Harry looked directly at his ex-wife. "Thank you," he said simply. "Of course it's all right."
"Professor Longbottom?" James said suddenly, having just noticed Neville standing off to the side. The rest of the family turned. "What are you doing here?"
Neville's tongue felt glued to the roof of his mouth, and he looked helplessly at Harry.
Harry smiled, strode around the table, and put his arm around Neville. "Kids," he said, "You of course know Neville Longbottom, from school and from some years ago when he would sometimes come around. We were good friends at school, and we've decided that it's now more than that. We're seeing each other, and I'm happy to say it's quite serious."
This remark was met with astonished silence. James raised an eyebrow, then shrugged with just a bit too much casual panache. "Does this mean we don't get any more Herbology homework?" he asked.
Neville smiled anxiously. "No. But it does mean you'll get more help on it over the holidays if you ask."
He couldn't help but glance in Ginny's direction, and found that Harry's gaze was pointed in that direction as well. Ginny's arms were crossed and her eyes slightly narrow, but then she smiled as though she had just worked something out.
"It's about time," she said simply. "You always were moony for him, Neville." She turned to Harry, seeming to enjoy the expression her comment had brought to Neville's face. "I'll send their trunks along this afternoon, then. They haven't gotten their school supplies yet, so you'll want to do that...and I promised Lily an owl of her own."
"I'll make sure it all gets done," Harry promised.
Ginny nodded, hugged and kissed each child with an admonishment to behave, grasped a handful of Floo powder from the jar by the fireplace, then hesitated. "Happy birthday, Harry," she said, a trifle formally. "And you too, I suppose, Neville." She smiled, a little more warmly. "I hope to see you both at Christmas."
"We'll see," Neville said. Ginny nodded, threw the powder into the fire, and then was gone.
"So how did...this...happen?" James asked, gesturing between Harry and Neville as he raided a box of biscuits from the pantry.
"It's...a bit of a long story," Harry said, exchanging a look with Neville.
"Is it okay?" Neville asked, heart racing. James shrugged.
"It's a little weird, I didn't know Dad was...well..." he shrugged again, as though hesitant to provide the suitable word. "And as it's my professor, that's weird too..."
"I think it's brilliant," Albus broke in defiantly.
"Me too," Lily added.
"I didn't say it wasn't," James added hurriedly. "It is. With bells on. It's just...still weird. You and Mum only just split up and all." His eyes went a little wide. "Was it...because of..."
"No," Harry said firmly. "As I told you three before, your mum and I divorced because we just weren't right for each other, and we finally admitted it. It had nothing to do with my personal preferences for relationships, nor did it have anything to do with Neville. This was just...a happy accident."
"Well, that's all right then." James gave a single nod and turned to Neville. "You going to make me call you Dad?" he asked a little challengingly. Neville smiled awkwardly.
"Only if you want to. Neville is fine. Professor Longbottom while we're at school."
"All right." He stuck out a hand, glanced at it, brushed off the biscuit crumbs, then offered it again. "Welcome to the family, I suppose."
Neville's awkward smile broadened and he returned James's handshake. "Thank you, James. It means a lot to me, coming from you."
James nodded, then shot a sly glance at Harry. "You could have done worse, you should see the great prat Mum brought home -"
Harry held up a hand. "I won't tolerate anyone speaking ill of your mother in this house. That's a rule. Understood?"
The three Potter children nodded.
"So can I call you Dad? Like Dad One and Dad Two?" Lily asked Neville brightly.
Neville swallowed a lump in his throat. "Sure, if it makes you happy."
"Cool." She smiled broadly. "Just not at school. That'd be weird."
"All right," Harry said, seeing that Neville needed a moment to compose himself. "Everyone, go change into something more appropriate for shopping. You've got your school lists, we'll go ahead and go to Diagon Alley today, as there's some time while we wait for your trunks. I want you back down here in five minutes!" he shouted after their tumultuous exit from the kitchen.
Harry beamed at Neville once they stood alone in the kitchen. "I told you everything would be fine."
Neville returned the smile. "And you were right." He reached around Harry's waist and brought him closer. "Happy birthday, Harry."
"Happy birthday, Neville."