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The Half-Blood Prince and the Muggleborn by Hermione Clone
Chapter 9 : Chapter 8-Birthday Bashing
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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A/N: Wow, I can't believe it has almost been a year since I last updated! I am truely sorry about that, this has been a rough year for me and fanfics took a back burner. However, I've just finished writing another 50,000 words to the more than 50,000 I already had, so I should be able to update much more frequently. My plan at the moment is to update about once a month, though this may change depending on how much I am able to write/edit. I assure you that this is only a small fraction of this story, and I hope you'll have the patience to stick with it.

Also, I know you know this, but I am not J. K. Rowling nor do I profess to be here. And I am creating my own plots with her characters because that is after all what fan fiction is. :)

Thank you for reading! Enjoy!

-HC

Chapter 8-

 

Harry leaned back in the nice big armchair George had bought his parents for their anniversary the year before. Ginny had decked the whole thing out with streamers and balloons, and had hung a sign on it declaring it the King’s Throne, and that no one but Harry could sit there today. He couldn’t help but laugh at her antics. She was the sweetest woman that had ever walked the earth, of that he was sure. He just couldn’t help but love her, and heaven knows he didn’t deserve her one bit, no matter what she said otherwise. Still, she for some reason chose to grace him with her presence, and for that Harry would be eternally grateful.

The party was going into full swing now, much more so than when the whole Severus and Teddy episode had gone on. Most of the living Weasleys were there, all except Ron. Ginny had invited Tabitha as well, but she had flooed saying that she wouldn’t be able to make it until later because of the whole Bagdish situation. She had flatly refused Harry’s offer to come back into work for an hour or two to help out, which was a relief because no matter how noble and professional he tried to sound, he really didn’t want to have to do paperwork on his birthday.

Neville had sent his apologies at the last minute. Luna had come down with a nasty cold, and he wanted to be there for her. Harry couldn’t help but smile. The two really made a perfect couple. It wasn’t all that surprising to those who knew them well when they announced their intentions to get married about a year after the war. Ginny had informed him about how the two of them had gotten close during their lost year at Hogwarts, and just how devastated he had been when Luna had been spirited off to Malfoy Manor. She thought that it had been the final point of transformation from the meek boy to the strong leader he became. Harry suspected that they wanted to get married sooner than they actually did, but they had wanted to wait until they had completed their extra year of schooling that was offered, since the previous one had been practically worthless.

"Harry!" Teddy's little voice called out. The boy practically flew out of nowhere and flung himself around Harry's legs.

"Hey, buddy," he responded, ruffling his hair which was currently a sandy brown. Harry was instantly reminded of Remus. Without thinking, Harry scooped Teddy up into his arms and held him tight. For the umpteenth time, he silently thanked Remus and Tonks for leaving him this wonderful, precious boy. It still hurt that they weren't alive, but having Teddy made things a little easier. "Grandma Molly finished with you?" he asked his godson half suspiciously. Teddy nodded. "Good," Harry whispered in to his ear.

"Hey, Birthday Boy," Ginny's voice called out. "Dinner's ready!"

Harry couldn't help but smile yet again. "Are you hungry?" he asked Teddy. It was a somewhat rhetorical question. Teddy was always hungry. The little boy's nod was lost as Harry plopped him on his shoulders as he stood. He glowed in the boy's giggles as they made their way outside. They had set up tables outside just like they had the summer before his fourth year. Harry gazed at all of the people taking their seats around the dining area. He felt the slight weight of the boy he was carrying. They were his family.

He couldn't help but be happy.

*********************

As the guests began to file outdoors to be seated, Severus lingered slightly. He knew that his hesitation was irrational, but he couldn't help it. Ever since the incident with the Lupin child, he had been sulking in the corners. He hated to admit it, but he was ashamed of his actions. Going out into the open would bring attention to him, and that was the last thing he wanted.

Snap out of it! a voice in his head demanded. You have said it yourself. You are not a coward. Are you going to let yourself be intimidated by a five year old?

Severus straitened his posture. No, he would absolutely not. Using as much confidence as he could muster, he strode out onto the lawn of the Burrow.

By the time he had finished arguing with himself, all of the seats had been taken except Harry's and one right next to Hermione. His stomach swooped slightly, realizing that he was going to be sharing at the very least the next hour or so with her. Severus chided himself as suddenly as the thought had hit him. She was going through enough. The last thing she needed was to have to worry about his horny self.

Sighing, Severus made his way over to the seat. Hermione looked up as he pulled out his chair to the left of her, a small smile crawling over her features. He couldn't help but notice the tired look in her eyes. It drove a knife through his heart, and there was nothing he could do to help. "You again?" she teased, although it didn't quite reach her eyes.
 
"What, sick of me already?" he bantered back, content to talk around what neither of them wanted to discuss.
 
"And if I said yes?" He could tell by her tone that she had no intention of actually saying yes, but there was a genuine curiosity in her expression.

"I would say that you were in sound mind."

Hermione scoffed. "Well, I guess that means I'm completely bonkers."

Before Severus could reply, Harry entered with Teddy Lupin draped over his shoulders. He couldn't help but feel a pang of jealously towards his younger friend. He was just so...happy. No matter how much his life had improved in the last five years, he still was in many ways alone. Some might call it self-inflicted punishment. He just called it life.

Harry plopped himself down in his seat and pulled the young boy off his shoulders and into his lap. He picked up his fork and looked around at everyone. "What are you waiting for?"

"Aren't you going to make a speech or something?" Ginny teased lightly. Severus gritted his teeth. He loved his friends dearly, but all this cheesiness was making him feel sick. He half glanced at Hermione, who in spite of having a smile on her face looked downcast.

Harry rolled his eyes at his fiancé's comment. "Let's eat!" he exclaimed. Following his lead, people up and down the table began to reach for the plates of food closest to them, and a murmur arose from the combination of various conversations.

"Pass the potatoes please," Hermione asked him quietly, her voice an odd pitch. He looked her directly in the eye as he passed her the dish.
 
"You're terrible at hiding things," he couldn't help but inform her. Severus held his breath, afraid that his comment might evoke her furry, but by some miracle, she actually smiled.
 
"How do you know?" she asked smartly. Before he could reply, she added, "Maybe I am good at hiding my emotions, but you're just good at reading me."
 
Severus couldn't help but chuckle. "That could be true." He turned to grab a roll as the basket whisked pass. "I still think I'm right, though," he added, half under his breath. The comment gained him a shove in the arm, but he had made her smile. That was all that mattered.
 
**************

A short time later after some more small talk Severus noticed that Hermione was looking downcast again. "How come when I was in hot water you were perfectly cheery, but now you're all down in the dumps?"

Hermione chuckled slightly. "You're a good distraction, I guess."
 
Severus thought for a minute. "Is there anything I can do to distract you now?" he asked. The question twisted itself in his head.  In another context, it sounded very suggestive. Actually, even in this context it seemed slightly suggestive. He prayed that in her heartbroken mental state Hermione wouldn't notice.
 
"Well, I guess you could get up on the table and start singing."
 
Severus choked on the water he had been drinking when Hermione was talking. After the coughing spell passed, Severus asked, sputtering, "Pardon?" his voice raspy from the near death experience.
 
"Are you alright?" Hermione asked, her voice worried.
 
"Absolutely spiffing," he replied darkly.
 
Before either of them could say anything else, Harry called out, "Tabitha! Glad you could make it!" Severus turned to see Tabitha McNaughten walking across the lawn to the table. He had met the woman a few times, but he didn't know much about her.
 
"Hey boyfriend!" she called back. Severus, as well as everyone else at the table stiffened slightly at the words. Harry just groaned. "Oh, I guess you didn't tell them." The woman had a huge grin on her face, but it didn't do her any favors. Severus got an immediate feeling of dislike for her.
 
"Harry...?" Ginny questioned, her voice wavering slightly.

"Don't worry, love," he heard Harry try to reassure her. "It's not what it sounds like."

"Then what is it?" his fiancé demanded.

Tabitha interceded. "We had a situation today, and Harry just pretended to be my boyfriend for about a minute. Don't worry, I know Harry's taken. Besides," she added slyly, "I've got my eyes set on somebody else."

Severus looked down the table at Ginny. She was smiling again, though not as brightly as before. Harry took her hand and whispered a few things to her, which seemed to help, but Severus couldn't help but to detect a slight stiffness in Ginny's movements and a strong determination in her eyes.

Tabitha stood their awkwardly, apparently waiting to be invited to sit. Since there were no seats remaining, Severus picked up his wand and conjured one up and placed it on his left. He didn't really want to sit next to her, but he also knew it would help things with Harry and Ginny. Besides, it was always a good idea to keep your enemies close. He gestured with his hand to sit, and Tabitha took the invitation.

Ever since her arrival, there was a general termination of chatter. She obviously noticed this, and tried to make some small talk. "It's a shame that Ron couldn't make it. He would have loved all of this food." Hermione visibly tensed at her words, and Severus was getting the feeling that it was Tabitha's intention to make Hermione squirm.

"Well, he can come and get some any time he wants," Molly interjected frostily. "He is my son, after all." Obviously she hadn't taken too keenly to Tabitha's entrance either. Severus could clearly see the Weasley matron getting ready for an attack if need be. Ginny was very lucky to have such a caring mother.

"Of course," Tabitha continued, "But I'm sure he would have loved to see everyone. I know how much family means to him." Hermione's eyes were closed tightly, and her breathing was becoming somewhat labored, as if she was trying to control it and failing miserably.

Harry must have notice Hermione's discomfort as well. "Tabitha, this probably isn't the best topic to be discussing at the moment-"

"Why not?" she asked with mock innocence. "It's not like it's her that got dumped. She doesn't have any business sulking around about it."

"That's it," Hermione stood up hastily, half tripping on her chair. Severus looked up at her, and saw that her now opened eyes were rimmed with tears. "I'll see you all later. I'm sorry I ruined everything, Harry."

Before anyone could stop her, Hermione rushed from the table.

*****************

Ginny was furious. She had worked so hard to make today perfect, and that slut that called herself an Auror had to come and ruin it. When she ran Hermione off, that was the last straw. She now officially hated the name Tabitha, and decided there and then that no daughter she ever had would get it.

She stood up to go after her friend. Harry began to rise, but she put her hand on his arm. "I've got Hermione. You handle this." She gestured her head towards Tabitha, the last word of her sentence becoming a slight hiss.

"Got it," was all Harry said, but his eyes told her that he wanted to talk to her alone. Ginny couldn't help but be touched by it. The poor fool, he actually thought that she was mad at him.

Shaking her head, Ginny rushed after Hermione. She wasn't entirely sure where her friend would go, but she wanted to catch up with her before she left the house.

"Hermione!" she called out as she entered her childhood home. "Hermione!" There were footsteps coming from upstairs. Ginny dashed up the stairs, continuing to yell after her friend. "Where are you?"
 
Ginny came to the landing where her old room was, and saw the door slightly ajar. She nudged it open softly and found Hermione slumped on the old bed, sobbing. Without thinking, she rushed over to her friend's side and wrapped her arms around her. "Shh, it's alright," she tried to smooth.

"I-I'm sorry," Hermione hiccupped between uncontrollable sobs.

"For what?" Ginny inquired. She couldn't help Hermione if she didn't know exactly what she was blaming herself for.

Hermione sighed exasperatedly. "For everything! I ruined Harry's party! I'm sorry I'm such a useless, weak, pathetic-"

"Stop right there." Ginny ordered. "You are not pathetic or weak or anything like that. You were provoked."

Hermione shook her head, wiping some of the tears from her eyes. "I'm a grown woman. I should be able to control myself better."

Ginny snorted. "Says who? Mum looses it all the time, and she's a lot older than we are."

Hermione began to play with something on her sleeve. "That's different," she mumbled.

"No it's not," Ginny insisted. "Look," she grabbed her friend's hands, desperate to get through to her. "Just because you aren't perfect doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you! I'd be worried if you were perfect!"

Hermione smiled. "I know. But I have to try to come as close as possible to it."

Ginny groaned. "Fine. Just remember that even perfect people need to let off their steam now and again."

"Thanks," Hermione replied, "I'll keep that in mind." She looked down at her hands which were folded in her lap. "She was right about one thing, though."

Ginny frowned. This conversation was not headed in a good direction. "What was she right about?"

"Me," Ginny was about to protest, but Hermione cut her off sharply. "I am the one who dumped Ron. I shouldn't be acting like it was the other way around."
 
Ginny let out a great big sigh. "Look, that...woman," It was extremely difficult to refrain from calling that snake anything too indecent, but she wouldn't be helping by insulting her. "She only has two ways of thinking. You love someone or you hate them. No middle ground. That's not how things are with you and Ron." Hermione cringed at the name. "Look, I know you're hurting, but your acting like it's Voldemort's name I keep saying."

Hermione blushed sheepishly. "Sorry," she mumbled.
 
"That's alright," Ginny responded before continuing where she had left off. "You still love Ron, we all can see it." This time it was Ginny who cut off protest. "No, I know not romantically, but you still love him as a friend, right?"
 
"Yes, but still-"

Ginny groaned in frustration. "I didn't get through to you earlier, did I." Hermione shook her head guiltily. "Figures."

She sighed. It was going to be a long night.
 
*****************

Harry walked over to where Tabitha was sitting. He noticed Severus poking at the small amount of food remaining on his plate with unnecessary force. All Harry got when he raised his eyebrows at his former professor was his customary glare. He knew Severus well enough to understand that the anger in his expression was not aimed at himself, but at Harry's co-worker.

"Look, Tabitha," Harry began quietly. "I think it would be best if you left."

She looked up at him innocently. "But I just got here," she pleaded like a child. Harry could have sworn that George had faked gagging from his seat a few chairs down from Tabitha, out of her sight. Harry had to choke down a laugh especially since George had just done it in front of his mother, who apparently didn't notice or care about her son's rudeness.
 
"We're going to have to discuss this later, but I really think it would be best for everyone if you left right now."

Tabitha sighed. "Alright." She picked up her purse. "Fine. I see how it is." The enraged woman stalked off, Apparating as soon as she was far enough away.
 
Harry was about to go off into the house to locate Hermione and Ginny when he was intercepted by Molly Weasley. Harry groaned inwardly. He had a feeling he knew what was coming. It appeared everyone else knew as well, and even Arthur was giving him a sympathetic look.

"Harry James Potter!" she said softly, though her voice was a clear and strong as a laser beam. 

"Yes ma'am," he replied cautiously, not wanting to evoke any more of his future mother-in-law's wrath.

"If you expect that you'll get away with treating my daughter like this, you are sorely mistaken."
 
"Molly, I know that. I would never intentionally do anything to hurt Ginny, I promise you that. We were just on a case, and it was the first thing that came to mind..."
 
Molly sniffed. "You could have said sister. Cousin. ANYTHING!!!" Harry was a bit startled by her reaction. She almost never let loose on him like this; it was usually an honor reserved for her children. "But no, you didn't, and that bitch came here and-"
 
"What does that word mean?" Teddy's little voice asked. The color drained from Molly's face when she realized what she had done. She rushed over to the little boy.
 
"That's a bad word, and I shouldn't have said it. And I don't want to hear you say it either. It's not nice."
 
"Then why did you say it?" the boy countered. In an odd way, Harry couldn't help but be proud of his godson.
 
"Teddy," Arthur interceded, "I think this is a good case of 'do as I say, not as I do,'" Molly rounded on her husband, but Harry caught her arm. He had to explain things to her, he had to make her see that she didn't have anything to fear. Plus, he figured he would pull the anger off of its innocent target.

"Molly, I know it was wrong. I'm sorry, and as soon as I can I'm going to talk to Ginny and ask her what I can do to make up for it. I love her. I really do." Suddenly, the anger that filled his future mother-in-law's eyes dissipated. Harry was pulled sharply into a warm embrace. 

"I'm sorry I lost it," Molly apologized needlessly.

"You had every right to lose it." Harry replied with a smile. "I should probably go after them, make sure everything's alright." 

Molly nodded. "I'll try to salvage things here."

Harry's smile grew wider. "Thanks...for everything."

With a pinch of the cheek, Molly bounced off to revive the party. Harry turned and quickly made his way into the Burrow. He hoped that Ginny had managed to calm Hermione down. He might be good at many things, but women in hysteria was not one of them.

"Hello?" he called out, his voice echoing though the deserted room. A million thoughts began to race through his head. What if something happened to them. What if there was someone here, and they had taken them somewhere. What if... He shook his head. This was absurd. He had just entered the building; he shouldn't be giving up on them so easily. 

"Ginny?" 

"Up here, love!" Her voice carried from somewhere upstairs. He heaved a sigh of relief. She was alright. And she had called him love, which had to mean that she wasn't too mad at him. He had a chance to salvage the night, and that made him want to dance. 

He refrained, however, and instead charged up the stairs. He found the two women he was seeking sitting in Ginny's old room. He smiled at Ginny who thankfully smiled back, and walked over to Hermione. "You alright?"

She gave a watery smile. "Yeah," She rubbed a hand across her eyes. "Sorry I made such a scene."

Harry sat down next to her and put a hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry about it."

She stood up suddenly. "I should be going."


Harry frowned. "Going where?"
 
Hermione shrugged. "Home, out somewhere maybe? I don't know."
 
Harry sighed. "Hermione, Tabitha's gone, if that's what you're worried about." Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Ginny's face and fists tighten in anger. He reached over and grabbed one of her hands reassuringly.
 
"Well, that's part of it," Hermione started, "but I just made a complete arse out of myself. I can't go down there!"

Ginny shook her head. "She's hopeless," she muttered good-naturedly to her fiancé.
 
"Look," Harry told Hermione as he stood. "One of you had to leave, and it sure as hell wasn't going to be you." Hermione smiled slightly at the comment, but still looked downcast. Harry checked his watch. "I have an idea. Molly said that Andromeda made her promise that Teddy would be in bed by eight, and it's almost seven thirty. How about I bring him up and you can spend some time with him and help him get settled in. It will give you some more time to cool down."
 
To his astonishment, Hermione started to grin. "Using my pain to do all your dirty work, huh Potter?" she teased. He knew she was joking, but he hadn't seen her look this happy for a while. It would be for the best to play along.

"No, I-" he sputtered.

Ginny came up behind him. "I think she knows that love," she whispered in his ear. 

"I know," he whispered back. "I'll go get Teddy. Be right back."

After giving Ginny a quick kiss, Harry left the room.

*******************

By the time Harry descended the stairs, Molly had begun to usher people back inside the house. She was already bustling around, still hoping to revive the party. "Molly!" Harry called out in greeting, inadvertently startling her, causing the woman to drop the platter of food she was holding and nearly falling down with it. "I'm so sorry," he apologized, "Let me take care of that." Harry whipped out his wand and the food flew back on the tray. With another flick all the little particles it had collected from the floor were removed.

"Good heavens, Harry dear! You nearly scared me half to death!"

Harry grinned at her sheepishly. "Sorry,"
 
Molly brushed the apology of with a wave of her hand. "Never mind that. What were you all worked up about?"

"Nothing, I was just looking for Teddy. It's getting close to his bedtime, and I thought it would be best to get him away from all the excitement so that he could calm down a bit."

Molly beamed at him. "You're going to make a wonderful father someday."

Harry's insides bubbled at the unexpected compliment. "Thank you," he replied, astonished. "Though not too soon. We're not quite married yet."

Molly made a face. "You better not wait too long. I want some more grandchildren!" 

Harry grinned. "No problem."
 
"Good. Teddy Lupin! Get in here!" Teddy came scampering around the corner, and dashed into his godfather's arms when he caught sight of him. 

"Hey buddy," Harry whispered into his godson's hair. "Ready to come upstairs?"

Teddy wriggled in his grasp as soon as he said the words. "I'm not tired," he whined. 

Harry held onto the boy firmly as he drew back slightly. "I promised your Grandmother you wouldn't stay up too late. It's already past your bedtime." 

Teddy stuck out his tongue. "No," he insisted.
 
Harry stood. "Fine." Both Teddy and Molly looked at him, shocked. "Well, I guess I'll have to tell Aunt Hermione that she can't see you, then."

Teddy froze. "Upstairs?" he asked cautiously. Harry nodded his head. Teddy looked like he was deep in thought, and for a moment Harry could have sworn he was looking into Remus's face once more. The little boy sighed dramatically. "I guess,"

"How about you say good night to everyone first," Harry suggested. Beaming gratefully at his godfather, Teddy darted back into the other room to make his exit.

Molly chuckled. "You do know he's going to try to make saying goodnight take two hours,"

Harry nodded. "I figured I'd give him a few minutes, then whisk him upstairs before he gets too involved again."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Molly stated with a smug grin.

*********************

Hermione couldn't help but smile as Teddy entered Ginny's old room in Harry's arms. The little boy was just so cute, and she loved him with all her heart. She still couldn't believe just how much he had grown. It seemed like only yesterday when she held his tiny body for the first time. So much time had passed.

Harry set the boy down on the bed. Teddy sat up, but his eyes were beginning to droop. "I'm not tired," he insisted, but the fact that he was having trouble holding his head up betrayed him.

"Of course not," Hermione mock agreed with him as she brought him to her in a hug. "Let's get you ready for bed."

She looked up at her two friends. "You go back downstairs. I'm sorry I've kept you from your party so long, Harry."

Harry shook his head. "Don't worry about it." He approached his godson and gave him a kiss. "Goodnight, Teddy. I love you."

The boy flung his arms around Harry's neck. "I love you too," he whispered. 

Ginny said her farewells after Harry. The two prepared to leave the room when Teddy called out, "Happy Birthday, Harry!"
 
"Thanks, buddy." Harry turned to Hermione. "Come back down once you’re done."

Hermione sighed. She had kind of been hoping that she could have camped up here all night. "I will," she promised, albeit halfheartedly.
 
With a few last calls of goodnight, Harry and Ginny left the room.

*****************
 
As soon as they were out in the hallway, Ginny threw her arms around Harry. He stiffened slightly, caught off guard by her sudden movement. He almost instantly relaxed, probably as soon as he realized that she wasn't attacking him. "I love you," she whispered into the cloth of his shirt. She felt her fiancé shiver slightly from the effects of her warm breath.

Harry chuckled, and the sound was warm and loud in her ear that was pushed into his chest. "Even after all that?"

Ginny nodded. "Yeah, even after all that." She drew away slightly, and grabbing his hand, dragged Harry over to the stairs where she indicated that they sit. "Although you could have said something besides 'girlfriend'," she half teased. 

"Well, technically I don't have a girlfriend," Harry countered. Ginny frowned. He wasn't trying to break up with her, was he? "I have a fiancé," he continued. His face froze. "I still have a fiancé, right?" Ginny nodded. "Good," he replied, a very satisfied tone in his voice. This time it was he who drew Ginny into a sudden, but loving embrace. "I don't want anything to come between us."

"I don't either," Before the conversation could go any further, Harry brushed his lips against Ginny's. Warm emotions bubbled inside her, erasing all of the negative things that had happened that day. She pressed against him, and very willingly deepened the kiss.
 
After several minutes, Harry broke off. "We should probably get back down there," he whispered huskily. His voice sent shivers down her spine, but she forced the feeling back, knowing that she had to restrain herself for a few more hours. 

She grinned at him slyly. "I think they can wait another minute or two. She leaned in to kiss him before he could respond, effectively ending the conversation.

She was in heaven.

***************
 
Teddy snuggled under the blankets as Hermione tucked him in. "You like that, huh," Teddy nodded his little head. She couldn't help but smile at him, all snug as a bug in a rug, his favorite stuffed animal hugged close.
 
The small animal was a little battered, but Teddy didn't seem to mind. It was a gray wolf that he carried everywhere. Hermione could remember the day they had gotten it for him just like it was yesterday...
 
****************
 
It was just the four of them: Harry, Ginny, herself, and Teddy. Spring had begun to bloom and presented the perfect opportunity for an outing. Harry had suggested a Muggle park for their picnic so that he could minimize the chance of getting recognized. They had invited Ron to join them, but he had already promised George that he would help out in the shop. It was a Saturday, one of their busiest days of the week, and George could use all the help he could get.

Hermione picked up the remains of their lunch as Harry romped around with the three year old Teddy. It was magical to watch the two of them together. They had grown so close, and Harry was the closest thing to a father that the boy had ever known. Hermione knew that he was overcompensating because of his lack of a childhood, but their relationship was wonderful all the same. 

She looked at Ginny who was sprawled out on the checkered blanket, watching the frolicking boys with an odd look on her face.

Hermione frowned. "You alright?"

Her friend nodded her head. "Yeah," she replied absentmindedly. "Harry's going to be a magnificent father someday," she continued after a pause.

Hermione voiced her agreement, but still noticed something odd on Ginny's face. "You're hoping he'll be the father of your children, aren't you." Ginny blushed, but didn't deny the charge. After a minute of thought, Hermione added, "I don't think you have anything to worry about."

"It's silly, really," Ginny said hastily. "We haven't been together all that long, and he could always change his mind about me, or I could change his mind about him, or-"

"Ginny," Hermione cut her off. "I think things will work out all right. There's no use worrying about it right now." Her friend nodded. "You could always try talking to him about it." This remark brought on an even deeper flush.

Ginny stood up hastily. "Come on, we can't let them have all the fun." The redhead darted off towards her boyfriend, leaving Hermione alone at the blanket, shaking her head. Ginny was usually pretty confident about things, but she seemed quite reserved about discussing babies with Harry. It reminded her slightly of the meek little girl who had first fawned over Harry, but not quite. Ginny had overcome that embarrassment, and she would overcome this one as well.
 
Hermione placed the now full picnic basket on the ground as she stood to fold the blanket. Her task being completed, Hermione followed after her friends, albeit more slowly than they had departed. She finally caught up to them, Harry holding Teddy in one arm and holding Ginny's hand on the other side, and they began to stroll down one of the walkways in the park.
 
Soon after they had regrouped, they came upon a vendor, whose wares ranged from stuffed toys to snacks. Before anyone could stop him, Teddy wriggled out of Harry's arms and rushed towards the booth.

"Teddy," Harry called out, dashing after the boy with Hermione and Ginny close behind.
 
"Well, hello little chap," the vendor greeted Teddy as he approached the stand. The man had a large black mustache and dark hair, and a smile that stretched from ear to ear. Hermione couldn't tell if he was sincere or not; she brushed her hand over her wand in her pocket, just in case.

"Hello," Teddy replied as Harry scooped him back up.

The vendor's smile grew even more. "Would you like to buy something?" he asked, directing his question to the boy rather than the three adults standing around him.

"No, thank you, not today," Harry replied.
 
Teddy stretched out his arms towards the stand. "Moony!" he exclaimed.

Harry, Ginny, and Hermione all exchanged a look. They had never told Teddy about his father's nickname, or even about his condition. They knew that they would have to tell him soon, but at such a young age, it was near impossible for him to fully understand the situation. They didn't want to risk him thinking that his father was an evil monster.
 
"Oh, you want the moon!" the vendor exclaimed, reaching up into a colorful barrage of toys and pulling out a yellow crescent with a face and a nightcap.

Hermione sighed. It must have been a coincidence. It had to be. Teddy just wanted the moon. She caught her breath again as the boy shook his head vigorously, pointing his little hand towards the pile of toys. "Moony!" he repeated vehemently. 

"This is Moony," the vendor replied. Teddy just shook his head.

Harry had a strange look on his face. "I think he means the wolf," he told the man, pointing to a little gray lupine form in the direction Teddy was pointing. 

"Really?" the bewildered vendor questioned, but grabbed the toy anyways. 

Teddy's face lit up. "Moony!!!" he shouted gleefully."
 
Harry was looking at Teddy, mesmerized. "How much?" he asked the vendor absentmindedly. 

"Three pounds," the man replied. Harry exchanged the money for the toy wolf and placed it in Teddy's arms. The boy hugged the toy wolf to his chest, snuggling his face in it.

"Thank you," he whispered.

Harry kissed his godson on the head. "No problem,"
 
****************

"So, would you like me to tell you a story?" Hermione asked Teddy, pulling herself out of the past. The boy nodded his head vigorously, obviously wanting to avoid the inevitable sleep as much as possible. "What kind of a story would you like to hear?"

"One about Daddy," he stated confidently.
 
"Love," Hermione started, "you know that Harry's a lot better at telling those kinds of stories than I am."
 
"I know," the boy whined, "but you have some too!"
 
Hermione sighed. The only thing she could think of was telling Teddy about some of his father's lessons, but she didn't think they boy would appreciate hearing that. Although it might make him fall asleep quicker. But that was the last thing she wanted. The sooner Teddy fell asleep, the sooner she would have to face everyone else again. Then it hit her: she could tell him about the night in the Shrieking Shack when they had found out the truth about Sirius. They had already filled Teddy in on the details of his parental unit's furry little problem, so hiding that from him was no longer an issue.
 
"Alright," she began. "Once upon a time, when Harry and I and..." she hesitated a bit, "and Uncle Ron were at Hogwarts, your father was our teacher one year. He was really nice, but I figured out that he had a little secret."
 
"That he was a wolf," Teddy interjected.
 
Hermione nodded. "Yes, but I didn't tell anyone. I knew that there had to be some explanation for it. So, one night, Harry, Ron and I were wandering around the grounds of the school." She didn't think adding the whole bit about Buckbeak's quasi execution was really necessary. "And a big black dog chased us and dragged Uncle Ron off into a tree."

"Padfoot!" Teddy cried out jubilantly.

"Yes, Padfoot. But we didn’t know it was him at the time. So, Padfoot dragged Uncle Ron into a tree, but it wasn’t any ordinary tree, it was the Whomping Willow."

She went on to tell Teddy about the adventures of that wondrous night, tweaking it slightly so that he would remain entertained. She also edited Severus's part. Even as his friend, she had to admit that he had acted quite mental that night, and based on his episode earlier, she didn't want to scare the poor boy any more than he already had been.

"And then we all went home and were snug in our beds and had wonderful dreams of everything we loved." The statement sounded corny to her ears, but she couldn't really say that they had lived happily ever after. Two of the participants of that night had died within a few years, and Harry especially had a lot of suffering to endure in the years that followed. No, it was better to tweak the truth than tell Teddy an outright lie.

They little boy's eyelids were drooping down, begging him to let sleep come, but he was stubbornly refusing. Hermione kissed him on the forehead, and he muttered, "I'm not tired,"
 
She chuckled. "Sure you're not." 

Soon, Teddy's breathing slowed into a gentle rhythm as sleep finally overcame him. Hermione couldn't help but smile. She sat next to him on the bed, not wanting to leave, but knowing that know that he was down, there were no more excuses.

She stood up quietly but resolutely. She was going downstairs. There was no other option.

****************

The atmosphere was slightly tense after the Tabitha incident. Molly had done her best to keep her guests entertained, but they all kept wondering how Hermione was doing. Harry had come down to bring Teddy to bed, and he had told everyone that she would be alright, she just needed some time to herself, but that didn't stop Severus from constantly checking the staircase to see if she was descending.

The only positive thing about that woman showing up and ruining things was that it took some of the heat out of his earlier episode with Teddy. Not that it was much consolation. He would have gone through what he had earlier twenty times if it meant that bitch didn't mess with Hermione's head.

There was a creak by the staircase. Everyone in the room turned their heads like synchronized swimmers in that direction to see Harry and Ginny coming down, their hands intertwined. There was still no sign of Hermione.

The couple walked over and plopped themselves onto the couch next to Severus. "She's alright." Harry said softly. "She's getting Teddy ready for bed." The young man seated next to him proceeded to launch into conversation, looking like he was attempting to enjoy himself. The few words were not enough for Severus.

"Excuse me," he muttered, standing up. In response to the strange looks he received, he continued, "Loo,". Thankfully, they left their inquiring expressions at that, and allowed him to ascend the staircase. Of course, he had no intention of using the restroom. He wanted to see with his own eyes that Hermione was alright.
 
Once he reached the top of the stairs, he saw a light coming from a slightly ajar door. Hermione's soft voice was coming out of the room, in the midst of telling a story to Teddy Lupin. He halted, not wanting to alert her of his presence. He listened intently as her smooth voice formed the words which were flowing from her mouth, the stream of sound intoxicating to his senses. He vaguely registered what she was talking about, something to do with Black, but he didn't really care. He was far too wrapped up in the voice, the voice that was molded for storytelling, the one that knew how to draw a listener in and hold them captive.
 
Suddenly, the voice stopped, and the loss was like physical pain to Severus. At the same time, however, as the mystifying strains ebbed away, reality sunk in. He suddenly realized how absurd he must appear, one hand on the railing, each foot on a different stair, and just standing there. He shook himself to return fully to reality.
 
She seemed alright. That's all he had wanted to know. Severus turned back around and descended the stair case. He didn't want to be there when she came out of the room. That would just be downright awkward.

****************
 
The sounds of people talking and laughing, of silverware clinking against plates and glasses against tables drifted up to meet Hermione's ears at the top of the stairs. She held her breath, not daring to go down, yet knowing it was what she had to do. She could still smell some of Molly's delicious cooking, and her stomach rumbled at the thought of it. She had barely touched anything earlier, and she was only beginning to realize just how hungry she really was.

Hermione took a deep breath. Slowly, slowly, she placed one foot in front of another, inch by inch getting closer to her dreaded destination. Regardless of what her friends has told her, she had made a complete arse out of herself, and she was humiliated. Just before she was in the line of sight, Hermione paused. This was her last chance to go back, to hide within her little cocoon. She thought of that awful woman, and her resolve hardened. She was not going to let that bitch turn her into a coward.

Finally, she took those last few steps. The warm glow of the room contrasted sharply from the shadows of the hall. One head turned in her direction in a response to a creaking floorboard. Other heads soon followed, and soon the entire room was staring at her, silent, as if waiting for her to make the first move. She wanted to bolt, anything to get away from those eyes. But she held her ground, and then a surprising thing happened.

One by one, the faces morphed from hesitant worry into a smiling madness. The faces stood up and merged on her. One by one the bodies connected to the heads came towards her, and enveloped her in a hug, whispering a few words of encouragement in her ear. Harry came over, Ginny came, Molly, Arthur, all of them. Every single person in the room came to comfort her. Even Severus came over and gave her an awkward embrace, asking if she was doing alright. 

Suddenly Hermione felt so foolish for her apprehensions. These people, these faces, were her friends. She didn't have to be afraid of what they thought of her. They were on her side.

"Thanks," Hermione offered as an inadequate display of gratitude as she was pulled towards a seat. "Can I get something to eat, please?"

Before she even had finished the sentence about three different people began piling plates for her and Molly dashed off into the kitchen to get even more edibles. She couldn't help but laugh out loud at the absurdity of the situation, but she appreciated it all the same. 

This night hadn't been perfect by a long shot. Yet somewhere deep inside, she felt the tiniest flicker of hope. She saw for the first time since she had torn her world asunder that what everyone had been saying was true; she would be happy again. 

Hermione sighed for what must have been the millionth time in the last week. But this time it was different, it was a sigh of contentment. In that moment she knew. She would make it through.

***********************

After another hour or two of partying, the assembled began to disperse, each to their own dwellings. Harry and Ginny were the last to depart from the Burrow, since Harry was the Guest of Honor after all. After bidding their goodbyes, the pair strolled out of Ginny's childhood home arm in arm. They separated only for the moment it took for Apparition, then when returning to their own home joining each other once more.

Ginny snuggled up against Harry as they approached their door. A slight chill was filtering through the summer heat, just enough to cause the hair on her arms to stand up. Her fiancé tightened his grip on her, burying his face in her hair. "I love you," he whispered into her ear.
 
She pulled away from him reluctantly to unlock the door in front of them. Ginny cast a mischievous glance over her shoulder. "You keep saying that like you have to prove it to me,"
 
Harry looked at his feet, briefly looking like a reprimanded child before raising his eyes to meet her gaze head on. "I feel bad about what happened today, and I-"

Ginny turned full around to face him. "We've gone over this love. It's not your fault."

The space between them quickly grew smaller. "I know. But that doesn't mean I still don't want to make it up to you." He smiled that quirky smile that made her just melt inside as he leaned in, closer, closer, his lips hovering over hers, his body pressed up against her own, and...

Suddenly Ginny felt herself falling backwards and reached out blindly for something to hold on to as the door she had begun opening swung back, eliminating the support it had been giving her. Her fingers grasped the door frame, but the wood was ripped from her clutching fingers as Harry's forward momentum pulled them both to the floor.

"Oof," Ginny exclaimed as she was crushed by Harry's weight. 

Almost immediately, Harry pulled himself off her and was offering a hand to assist her up. "I'm so sorry!" he proclaimed. "Are you alright? Did I hurt you?"
 
Although there was a slight throbbing on her back, Ginny replied. "I'm alright. I am the idiot who leaned up against an open door, after all."
 
Harry closed said door. Then, suddenly, he turned around and scooped Ginny up in his arms. "You can never be an idiot." he whispered in her ear before placing a kiss on her cheek, then progressing to her lips. Ginny shivered with pleasure, her mind racing to the room upstairs. She pulled away quickly before Harry could go too far.

"Wait," she breathed, earning yet another concerned look from Harry. "I'm fine, really," The look of concern had shifted to a look of resigned understanding. Merlin, can he stop blaming himself for things he can't control for two bloody seconds??? Ginny thought with annoyance, but she kept it out of her features. "I just wanted to have some tea or something to eat first. You know, wind down a little." She lowered her voice in what she hoped to be a suggestive manner. "You wouldn't want me to be all tired out by the time we go to bed, now would you?"
 
Harry found her lips once more and she could feel the smile on his face. He sighed as he pulled away, but the dramatics put into it told her loud and clear that he got the point. "Alright. If we must," he lamented. "After you, M'lady," he announced regally, half bowing as he indicated the way to the familiar kitchen.

***************

The cheerful sound of Ginny's laughter echoing through the halls was music to Harry's ears, a sound so beautiful it sank into every pore and was absorbed into his very being. He could tell that she was annoyed with him for his inability to forgive himself for the afternoon. She just didn't get it. Indirectly, he had ruined the wonderful day the love of his life had planned, and that was unforgivable.

But somehow here he was, following Ginny, as if nothing ever happened. He couldn't help but be thankful for that.

"What kind of tea would you like?" Harry questioned as they entered the kitchen, rushing ahead of Ginny between her and the cabinet.

"I'm perfectly capable-" she began, but Harry cut her off.

"What kind of tea would you like?" he repeated with a firmer voice.

Ginny rolled her eyes. "Peppermint," she replied before plopping herself down in a seat. As he put the water on the stove to boil, Harry noticed Ginny rest her head in her hands and rub her eyes.

"You okay?" he asked worriedly.

Ginny gave him a wan smile. "I'm alright. I just didn't realize how tired I was. It was a long day." As if to emphasize the point, she let out a great big yawn at the end of her sentence.

Although every cell in his body was protesting, Harry told her, "You could turn in early, if you'd like."

She smirked at him. "Really, now. So if I just walked right on upstairs and fell asleep, you wouldn't mind?"

Harry looked straight at her and said with conviction. "No, as long as you're happy, I'm happy."

Ginny scoffed at his answer. "Suck up," she jokingly accused.

Harry crossed his arms in mock anger. "What, you don't believe me?"

A grin spread over Ginny's face. "I never said that I didn't believe you. All I said was you're sucking up."

He shook his head as he turned around to check the teakettle. Harry jabbed it with his wand, hoping to speed up the boiling process. 

“So, was Ron really the only one who could wrap things up at work today?”

Harry nodded. “He’s my second in command, he’s the only person on my team other than myself authorized to do those kinds of things.”

“Shame,” Ginny continued. “Though it might have been a bit better for both of them this way.” There was no need for Ginny to specify who the other person she was referring to was.
 
Harry sighed. “They’ll have to face each other sometime.”

“I know,” Ginny replied, a sad expression brushing her features with its melancholy hue. “But I think that they just need some time. They’ve fought before, but they managed to get through it. They’ll come though this time, just like all the rest.” Though her words were confident, her voice was not. Harry could plainly see what concerned her. Every other time his two best friends had fought, they had secretly (or not so secretly) loved each other, and more often than not that actually contributed the tensions. This time, however, though Harry was certain that the pair still cared deeply about each other, even if not in the same fashion as before, he wasn’t sure if it would be enough. For the first time since age eleven (give or take a few years) there was going to be nothing romantic in their feelings towards one another. He wasn’t entirely sure how exactly ‘just friends’ would work with Ron and Hermione.

Harry checked the kettle that was finally beginning to boil. “Can you believe Mum today?” Ginny asked while his back was still turned, obviously trying to change the subject.

“Hmm?”
 
“Mum, what she said when you first got there?”
 
Harry frowned. “You mean about Hermione?” he answered, turning his head in time to see her nod in the affirmative. 

“She’s hardly broken up with Ron and already Mum is trying to fix her up with someone! She needs more time!” Harry gave her a noncommittal grunt in response as he carefully poured the steaming liquid into a cup, inserted a tea bag, and carried the beverage to his fiancé. “Although,” Ginny added thoughtfully, “she and Severus would be good together.”

Harry frowned. “You think?” It wasn’t that he thought one friend too dangerous or weak for the other, but the obvious age difference was his most prevalent qualm about the possible pairing. “Isn’t he a bit old for her?”

Ginny merely rolled her eyes in response. “Maybe that’s what she needs. She’s always been more mature most her age, maybe she needs an older man that can be more her equal intellectually. I mean, face it, I love my brother, but I could see why she could want more than he could given her. 

Harry screwed up his face. “Yeah, I guess. I just have trouble picturing it.”

A thoughtful grunt escaped from Ginny’s mouth. “I think they’d make a cute couple.”

Harry couldn’t help but snort in laughter. “Don’t let Severus hear you call him ‘cute’, he’d have a fit.”

The truth in her fiancé’s words brought a grin to her face. “I won’t. I think maybe in a few months or so, once this whole break up thing has settled down a bit, I think we should fix them up. I know Mum would help-”

“Ginny,” Harry had to cut her off. It amused him how when she began the conversation she had been skeptical of the potential relationship, yet now here she was advocating its conception. “We shouldn’t get involved in this. If it happens, it happens, who are we to interfere?”

The gorgeous red-head before him sighed as if he was completely missing the obvious. “Harry, they are our friends, and we want them to be happy, right?”

“Yes…” Harry agreed warily.
 
“So if they could make each other happy, then we’d be doing them a service by helping them find each other, and maybe it might accelerate the process which means they’d be happier sooner.”

The convoluted logic baffled Harry, but he saw he wasn’t going to win, and frankly, it wasn’t a argument he really felt he had to win. The more Ginny spoke, the less absurd the idea of Hermione and Severus seemed. He even had strange notions about assisting Ginny in her schemes, but those could wait. He waited until Ginny had placed her mug on the table before he stood up suddenly, plucked a squealing Ginny up in his arms, and sat down with her sturdy form placed in his lap. Harry leaned down and kissed her deeply. “How about we make ourselves happy?” he inquired in a voice that dropped an octave. “I think the love lives of our friends can wait until the morning.”

A giggling Ginny wrapped her arms around his neck. “I guess so,” she mock sighed, the breeze of her breath tickling his ear in a way that was surprisingly seductive. “Ready for your last birthday present Mr. Potter?” In response, Harry returned once again to her sweet lips. When at last they surfaced, Ginny mumbled with slightly puffy lips, “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Harry stood up with the young woman still situated in his arms. He looked down at her tenderly, lovingly, soaking in every detail. His heart pounded in anticipation, a drum that lead the beat of the march up the stairs, down the hall, and into the room they shared. As the couple poured out their love for one another, Harry felt a sense of completion that he relished. The ecstasy of the moment overwhelmed him, and he held the woman he loved close, not wanting to let go of her or the happiness she brought to him.

As they lay there in each other’s arms, clothed in nothing but the sheet that was draped about the bed, Harry couldn’t help but give a contented sigh. Ginny rolled over so that she could reach his face and gave him a peck on the cheek. She looked deep into his eyes and whispered in a voice that expressed every emotion that must have been coursing through her in that moment,

“Happy Birthday, love.”


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