~A/N~ Again, thank you to Curlscat, RainbowBlitz, and Tyrannicpuppy for looking over this chapter. And thank you to Hasty for bringing this part of HHr's story to life through her beautiful illustrations.
When Harry finds out that Hermione is pregnant, his brain instantly goes into panic mode.
It's not entirely unexpected; they're already a few years into their marriage and decided a few months ago that they would like to expand their little family. But it doesn't stop him from being entirely and utterly terrified.
He doesn't know anything about being a good father. Sure, he loves Teddy and tries to shower him with as much love and care as he is able to, but he didn't raise him. Andromeda did. His own childhood was dark and miserable, and the only parenting he grew up with was wretched and abusive. He wants to think that he'll be better than that, but there's a deep, twisting fear that taunts him and says that he's irreversibly scarred and emotionally stunted. That his kids will suffer for it.
"Harry, where in the world have you been?" Hermione holds the door open for him as he balances a box in his arms.
"I did a little shopping." He tries not to look too sheepish as he empties the box on the living room table to reveal dozens of books on parenting, both magical and muggle.
Hermione raises an eyebrow at him. "Stocking up on books? I thought that was my job."
"I just thought it wouldn't hurt to be a little prepared." He shrugs and can't quite meet her eyes. "I know I'm not exactly the best father material, but I want to be."
"Oh, Harry." She reaches up to cup his face and forces him to meet her gaze. "Listen to me. You are going to be a great father. You're the most caring and compassionate person I know, our kid will be smothered in love."
He smiles wryly and just hopes that she doesn't see the fear in his eyes.
But she sighs and drops her hand. "You know, it's okay to be scared. I'm scared too. This is all so new and exciting, and I thought I would be ready, but I don't know if I am. People sometimes tell me that I can be bossy and demanding. Cold. One time, someone joked that I'd be a nightmare of a mother—"
"Rubbish!" Harry interrupts fiercely. "Cold is the last word in the world I'd use to describe you." Hermione is all happiness and laughter and warmth. He goes on a rant about how these people clearly know nothing about her, how he can already see how much their baby will love her and only stops when Hermione starts laughing.
"You see? We're going to do just fine. The both of us together." She says and some of Harry's worry dissipates.
"In the meantime, let me get my things and we can start making some notes. Ooh! Harry, you chose some great ones!" There's a look of excitement on her face as she flips through the books Harry bought and just like that, all of his worry is gone.
They spend the rest of the evening sitting cross-legged on the carpet, surrounded by open books and hastily scribbled on notebooks as they read points from the books out loud, arguing over and discussing their plan for parenthood.
"It says here that kids need a bright, open environment to be fostered properly." Harry rubs his chin and looks around the dark corners of Grimmauld. "I've grown used to Grimmauld, but I don't think it's the best place for that. And besides, I want to have a house with a yard."
Hermione frowns. "What about your ancestral home? We agreed we would move in once it's restored."
They have been working on restoring the home his grandparents left behind for a few years now, ever since their marriage, but it is slow and steady work. Close, but not there yet.
"Our ancestral home," Harry corrects. "And yes, if we speed things up we could probably move in before the baby's due. I just don't know if I want to put that pressure on you while you're pregnant."
"Oh honestly, Harry." Hermione huffs and rolls her eyes, but gives him a small smile nonetheless. "Thank you for the concern, but I can handle this. I want to finish building this home with you."
With that topic decided, they move on.
"Lullabies?" Hermione groans.
"Guess you have to take singing lessons now," Harry teases and dodges when she playfully swats him with a book.
"I can't wait to teach him how to read," She says dreamily.
"I can't wait to teach her how to ride a broom." He smirks.
Hermione glares at him. They haven't found out the baby's gender yet, but she's convinced it's a boy.
"Ten galleons that it's a boy and he looks just like you." She points at him intimidatingly.
"Ten galleons that it's a girl and she looks just like you." He makes a grand gesture towards her.
They shake hands and the bet is made.
It turns out that both of them are wrong.
Harry stares in awe at the two little humans sleeping peacefully in the crib. It's been almost half a day since his children came into the world and he's still in a state of wondrous disbelief.
"Harry," comes Hermione's tired voice from the bed.
His head whips around and he rushes to her side. "What is it? Is everything all right? Are you feeling—"
"I'm fine. Exhausted and certainly not going to get pregnant again any time soon, but fine. " Hermione snorts. "It's just that you've been standing near the crib for ages now. They won't disappear."
Harry runs his hand through his hair and grins sheepishly. "I just want to hold them again, but I don't want to wake them when they just fell asleep. So I'm just looking. They're so beautiful, Hermione."
Hermione's features soften with a small, proud smile. "Yes, they are."
Rose Lily Potter has the same bushy brown hair as her mother and already has a stubborn set to her chin when she scrunches up her face to cry. But her green eyes are his. James Sirius Potter has Harry's unruly black hair and is the quiet one of the twins, barely ever crying. He has Hermione's warm brown eyes.
When they wake up a while later, Harry carefully cradles Rose in his arms and gives her to Hermione, before taking James and seating himself next to the bed.
He drops a light kiss on James' forehead, a little overwhelmed at how small and fragile he feels in his arms. At how tiny his fingers are compared to his own.
"Welcome to the family," Hermione whispers to Rose and then looks up to Harry with a knowing smile. His heart fills with happiness at the word.
Family. It always seemed such an unattainable, foreign concept to him. Something that other people had, something that didn't and would never belong to him.
But he has one now and he's never letting go.
Harry creeps into the house late at night, trying to tread lightly and praying that Hermione has already gone to sleep.
No such luck. The light is on in the nursery and Hermione comes out with James swaddled in blankets against her chest and her eyebrows scrunched up in worry.
"Harry, you're covered in blood!" She rushes towards him but he takes a step back.
"I didn't want the kids to see me like this," He mumbles, knowing it's silly but self consciously fiddling with his red-stained Auror uniform anyway. "Don't worry, I'm fine. The mission went bad but we got out of it in one piece."
Hermione doesn't say anything, waiting.
"I quit the job." Harry admits, the words spilling out of him like a flood. "That's why it took so long for me to come home. Had to tie all the loose ends up."
"What brought this on?" She asks quietly.
He swallows hard. "There was a close call today with a stray spell. I'm so used to near-death experiences now, I usually don't feel anything anymore. But this time was different. All I could think about was if it had hit me, I wouldn't be able to come home. I wouldn't be able to see you and the kids again. I've spent my whole life trying to do the right thing and for a time it meant helping people and living up to my name as a saviour."
James makes a little gurgling sound and Harry looks down at him with a small smile. "But now the right thing means being alive and being there for my family."
"Oh, Harry." Hermione takes his hand, entwining her fingers with his.
"You don't mind?" He feels compelled to ask even though he already knows the answer.
"That you've finally quit that horrible job everyone pushed you to do when it never made you happy? I'm ecstatic. And besides, this couldn't be more perfect timing." Her eyes shine with mirth. "My maternity leave will end soon soon and now we don't have to search for a nanny."
He snorts. "Hold your horses. The Ministry did offer some other options—they're really not eager to let me go. They said I could take a representative position of sorts, or even involve myself in the Wizengamot. My appearances would be infrequent, but it's something to consider."
"Seems like they want to keep a position open for you in case you ever go back," Hermione shifts James in her arms, biting her lower lip in thought. "Well, it makes sense. Even without the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing, your years with the Aurors have been nothing short of exemplary. You're a legend in more ways than one, Harry."
Throughout his life, he has had many titles: the Boy-Who-Lived, the Man-Who-Conquered, the Hero-Who-Vanquished, the Chosen One, the Saviour of the Wizarding World. Most of them are bold and boasting and grandiose, but the ones he prefers are much simpler. He is Harry Potter.
Despite rushing headfirst back into the politically murky waters of the Ministry, Hermione makes sure that she never misses a single one of the twins' milestones.
The insanely proud look on her face whenever one of the twins manages to do something new never ceases to amuse Harry. James is the one who talks first, but Rose learns to walk before him.
"That's it! That's it, Rosie!" Hermione holds her arms out to her daughter who is currently taking wobbly steps towards her. "Harry, are you getting this?"
"Yes, yes." Harry has a wizarding camera in his hands while he cheers their toddler on. "Slow and steady, Daddy's here if you fall."
Rose manages to reach Hermione right before she loses her footing, but Hermione is there to scoop her up and pepper her face with kisses. Harry takes one more shot of mother and daughter, before putting his arm around Hermione and joining in their little celebration.
"James," Hermione calls to her son, who is still focused on his toy blocks and content to remain inside the playpen. "Do you want to try walking too? Mummy will help!"
"No!" Is all he says before turning his attention back to his toys.
This time, it's Harry who chuckles and tries to cajole him into talking again. Hermione is torn between despair at the blunt refusal she received from her son and pride at the conviction with which he said his first word.
"Well, at least he's confident in what he wants." She beams.
Harry can't stop snickering. "I wish everyone who thought you would be a strict mum could see you now."
She raises her eyebrow at him. "You talk as if Rose doesn't have you wrapped around her little finger."
From the side, Kreacher lets out a disdainful humph.
Poor Kreacher was somehow persuaded by Hermione to leave Grimmauld behind and come with them to the Potter Manor where the eventual heirs of the Black Family residence would be raised. Despite his constant complaints about the noise and messiness the twins' birth has brought, he has regained a bit of his old energy.
He says in an exasperated, croaky voice: "Masters are both fools for these stinky brats."
The two young parents reluctantly admit that he may have a point.
Harry agrees with Hermione that sending their kids off to kindergarten is the best course of action, but when the day comes to send them off he almost can't bring himself to do it.
He crouches in front of the school entrance and busies himself with straightening their already perfectly ironed clothes.
"I packed some extra snacks in case you get hungry. I know this is different, but it'll be a fun opportunity to make friends and learn new things. Remember that you can't—"
"Let people know about magic," James nods seriously. "We know."
"Dad!" Rose stamps her feet. "The other kids are already going inside!"
"All right," Hermione interferes and pulls Harry back. "It's time to say your goodbyes kids, we'll be back to pick you up before you know it."
"Bye dad! Bye mum!" Rose waves happily before bouncing off.
James doesn't say anything, but surprises Harry by giving both his parents a tight hug before running after his sister.
Harry watches them go while Hermione links their arms together and gives him a gentle nudge.
"You did well," she tells him, and he thinks ruefully that she must have seen the tears he tried to hold back.
If it was anyone else, he would think they were making fun of him. But Hermione knows how much this moment means to him. Hermione understands.
He squeezes her hand in thanks.
Harry looks through his parents' wedding photos, coming to a stop at a particularly worn photograph: James Potter and Sirius Black, faces flushed, laughing uproariously, and still so full of youthful hope and joy at the prospect of their future.
Sometimes, Harry regrets the name he gave to his son. When Hermione was pregnant, they took lots to decide who would be naming which twin. He decided on James Sirius after two men who were brave and good, two men who risked their lives for him, two men who could have taken the role of his father, had life given them a chance.
There is no one else Harry would have named him after, but sometimes—when people comment that James Sirius must be another prankster in the making—he wonders if he should have ever named him after someone else at all. He knows all too well the burden of expectations.
One day, while Harry and James are sitting in his study—Harry going through papers for the Wizengamot and James finishing his homework—Harry feels the urge to ask.
"Does it bother you?" He puts down his papers and looks at his son seriously. "That joke your Aunt McGonagall made about you being another little Marauder?"
James chews on his pencil and Harry finds it adorable just how much his scrunched up face looks like Hermione's when she's deep in thought.
"Yes!" He finally says and Harry's heart sinks. "Everyone thinks I'm going to be a prankster, but I'm not!"
"You can be anything you want to be." Harry rushes to reassure his son, but before he can continue James launches into a very Hermione-like tirade.
His eyes are sparkling as he recounts all the stories Harry told him about the Marauders and how he's come to a conclusion that his namesakes were only so successful at pranks because of how brilliant they were.
"I'm going to be a real Marauder. I'm going to be a genius!" He proclaims and Harry is momentarily at a loss for words, before he bursts into laughter.
"Oh, James." He ruffles his son's wild hair, hair just like his own. "I have a feeling that Prongs and Padfoot would gladly welcome you into their ranks."
When they first started dating, during that period of emptiness after the war, Hermione would take his hand and drag him all over London to experience the muggle life he never had a chance to as a child. She never asked why things as mundane as going to a restaurant or the theatre were such foreign concepts to him, and just focused on drawing a smile out of him. It wasn't very hard—Harry never seemed to stop smiling around her.
But as they grew older, had children, and Hermione grew more occupied with matters of the MInistry, Harry took the responsibility of planning those dates upon himself. It was his turn to relieve the stress off her shoulders, to make her smile.
They go on family dates with Rose and James too, but sometimes he wants it to be just the two of them. Today is one of those days. After dropping the twins at Andromeda's place, he takes Hermione's hand and kisses it dramatically.
"Where does my lady wish to go?"
"Harry!" She laughs at his ridiculous antics. "Honestly, I don't mind where we go—I'm just so happy to be away from work for once. Surprise me!"
And so he does.
First, they go to the amusement park and Harry pulls Hermione along on all the 'childish' rides that she's hesitant to go on.
"I'm a mum now, Harry. I'm too old for this!" She protests feebly and Harry rolls his eyes, remembering when he had once said something similar, self conscious of his lack of experience.
"You're never too old for fun." He throws the words of her eighteen-year-old self right back at her and she huffs but sits besides him on the rides anyway. The snapshot of one particular ride shows her half screaming half laughing, her hair flying madly in the air, and tightly holding onto one Harry Potter who looks entirely too pleased with himself.
They do all of the things they want to do, giggling like kids as they get their faces painted, binge eating cotton candy, wearing those goofy animal eared headbands, and playing game after game until Harry finally wins the otter plushie he's had his eye on.
"There," he pushes the plushie in her arms. "Now that stag you gave me all those years ago finally has a partner."
When they get tired of walking around, he takes her to a restaurant and gives a small smile when Hermione stops and stares. "Oh! We haven't been here in ages, Harry!"
Hermione's face glows with joy throughout the meal, but she's surprised when Harry pulls out movie tickets and informs her that their date isn't over yet.
It's a rerun of an old movie from more than a decade ago. Not many people are in the theatre, but Hermione doesn't seem to mind as she cuddles closer to him and rests her head on his shoulder.
As the movie starts, she leans closer to him and whispers against his neck: "The same movie too, huh?"
By now, she's clearly caught on that today was a recreation of their first date.
He leans his head against hers. "I just wanted to let you know. No matter how many years pass, some things will never change."
The love he has for Hermione isn't flashy or dramatic, but the one thing he can promise her is that it will always endure. In the Forest of Dean, she once told him: "Maybe we should just stay here, Harry. Grow old…" That's all he wants now, to grow white haired by her side and have many more days of simple happiness just like this.
Harry loves reading bedtime stories to his kids. They switch back and forth between muggle storybooks and wizarding fairytales, but lately the twins have started to take initiative and nominate their own choices for a story.
He is usually happy to encourage this, but when he settles into his chair next to the bed that night and Rose shoves a book excitedly into his hands, his blood runs cold.
It's a book titled The Boy Who Lived and the Hero Who Vanquished. The top half of the cover shows a baby swaddled in white and surrounded by a glowing light which causes the crimson scar on his forehead and the single tear rolling down his cheek to stand out. The second half of the cover shows a heroic figure, clothed in pristine robes and standing on top of a mountain of bodies with a triumphant smirk on his face. His foot is on the face of a monstrous creature, snakelike and red-eyed even in its cartoonish illustration.
His hands tremble and he almost drops the book, bile threatening to rise to his throat as his stomach churns at the mockery in front of his eyes.
"Dad?" Rose asks quietly, her excitement gone. "Is something wrong?"
"Where did you find this?" He struggles to keep his voice steady.
"It was in your study. In that bag of things Uncle Ron brought over yesterday." She squirms uncomfortably under his stare.
Harry exhales deeply. Books like these have existed and circulated among the Wizarding masses ever since that fateful Halloween night. No one had bothered to tell his clueless child self that he was the main character of these ridiculous stories, but after the war ended and the Harry Potter book mania had a resurgence with people everywhere looking to profit after his misery, he couldn't have avoided it if he had tried. They salivate at the picture of an innocent, pure orphan growing up to be the ruthless, powerful hero they had always envisioned him to be.
Hero, they whisper even all these years later. The Chosen One. Who is that stranger they draw, standing on his enemies' corpses with a delighted grin on his face? Were they even there that day, when he actually killed Voldemort? Did they see the dirt and leaves on his blood splattered clothes from the forest floor where his lifeless body had once laid? Did they know of the exhaustion in his bones, the blood racing in his ears as the memory of dying screams rang over and over, the ache in his feet as he forced himself to move just one step forward?
He didn't smile that day, he didn't kill Tom Riddle and think of success and glory. He killed him and thought of what a waste it all was. That his entire life had been uprooted and destroyed just so fate could have him kill one monster. That he had completed his so-called destiny and felt no happiness, no triumph, just a chasm in his chest where his heart should have been. He had thought, "Ah, so this is the end. Why did it take so long?" and then struggled to not sway on his feet, to not collapse in the middle of the Great Hall in front of everyone.
"Dad?" Rose is pulling at his sleeve and her voice is quivering. "I'm sorry I went snooping in your study, I shouldn't have! I'm sorry—don't be mad!"
Harry snaps out of it and reaches out to squeeze her shoulder comfortingly. "I'm not mad. Not at you, Rose."
He remembers now. Ever since he retired from the Aurors and took up a prominent position in the Wizengamot, learning more about laws and his rights, he's made an effort to stamp out any books that try to exploit his fame. They always appear one after another, like undying weeds, and by now his friends know to inform him of the ones that escape his notice. Ron must have dropped one by for him and he had just been too busy to look into it.
"Is that book about you, dad? The Boy-Who-Lived?" James looks up at him curiously and Harry tries to hold back a groan when he recalls how his son attempts to read the Daily Prophet once Hermione's done with it and that rag still brings up those titles in headlines every now and then.
"That's what they used to call me," Harry sighs and gets off his chair. "All right you two, budge over." The twins squeal and obediently make space for him in the middle of the bed.
"This book here," he holds it up for them to see, "is complete nonsense. James might know this already, but I'm a bit...famous in our world. And the truth often gets lost when people try to tell my story."
He goes through the pages of the book then and starts pointing out inaccuracies while the twins snicker and chortle loudly at his commentary.
"I did kill that basilisk, but I wasn't nearly as tall or handsome as they portray me here. I was twelve! And I was terrified."
"Dad, can I—"
"No, Rose. You may not fight a basilisk. I don't know where you would find one in any case, but there aren't any in our bathrooms."
She giggles and James rolls his eyes.
Harry frowns as he goes through the pages. "Another thing is that they make me out to be a lone hero of sorts, but I had people to help me along the way. You see that dragon they show me facing?"
They nod seriously, hanging on to his every word.
"The only reason I survived that encounter was because your mum spent practically day and night searching for a way to help me. We practiced the charm I needed to escape the dragon together for ages. Or else I would have been toast. Dragon toast." He grins as both six year olds groan at the bad joke.
"Tell us more about mum!" James implores him, his eyes shining.
So he does. He tells them about how the books are wrong, he was never a legend or some glamorous hero. He was just a skinny little boy with taped-together glasses and a childhood of loneliness who came to Hogwarts searching for a home. He tells them that it was Hermione
who was the first person to ever tell him he was more. Not the Boy-Who-Lived or the Man-Who-Conquered. He was the boy who gave her friendship, the boy who was brave. Somehow, that became a badge he was prouder to wear than anything else.
He can't tell them of the things they went through together in detail, the horrible danger that no children should have had to face, the war that should have never been theirs to fight. But he can tell them of how things weren't ever easy, how he doesn't know if he would have made it through without her there by his side.
"Sounds like Mum needs her own book." Rose says in between her yawns.
"Sounds like it's time for bed," He closes the book and manages to untangle himself from the two little monkeys climbing over him and begging for just one more page.
"Good night," He murmurs softly once as they have finally settled down and drifted off to sleep, kissing their foreheads one by one, closing the light, and tip-toeing to the door.
What he finds there almost makes him let out a startled yelp.
"How long have you been standing there?" Harry whispers to Hermione, who is standing by the bedroom door in her Ministry robes and staring at him with the most peculiar look in her eyes.
"Long enough," Is all she says before she throws her arms around his neck and kisses him soundly.
"Mmph—I thought you were going to be held up longer with that emergency." He questions in between her onslaught. "Hermione! The kids might wake up!"
She doesn't seem to be in the mood to listen so he rolls his eyes and picks her up, carrying her to their room himself.
He's barely put her down on the bed gently before she's tossed her robes off and pulled him on top of her.
Their faces are pushed close together and Harry playfully nuzzles her nose. "Maybe I should tell bedtime stories in front of you more often if this is the reaction I get."
Hermione always wears her signature white blouse under her robes and Harry takes great care to unbutton it one by one, dropping a soft kiss on each newly exposed patch of skin as he goes down.
"Harry," There's something in the breathless quality to her voice that makes him look up at her flushed face and bright eyes. "Harry, I want another baby."
"What?" His hands pause in their movement.
"I want another baby." She repeats more forcefully and then turns a little red at the confession. "I know you're going to ask why and why now when we've decided the twins are enough. I don't know why. All I know is that I came home today, tired and weary, to my husband telling my children the most ridiculous, sweet bedtime story—our story—and I thought that I don't want it to be the last time I hear it be passed down."
Harry lets out an incredulous laugh, both deliriously joyful and disbelieving. "I've always wanted a large family, Hermione. You won't find me disagreeing."
"Another baby, huh?" He smirks down at her. "That can be arranged."
Hours later, when the both of them are tired and sated and Harry is about to drift off to sleep, he feels Hermione burrow her face into his back and murmur drowsily against his skin, "I told you, didn't I? I said you would be a great father, and I was right."
"You were right." He smiles and allows himself to close his eyes, knowing nothing but peaceful dreams await him. "You always are."
It's Rose who brings up the topic. She's the clumsier, cheerful one of the twins, always looking to get up to some mischief, unlike her brother who prefers to bury himself in his books yet always gets dragged along with her antics anyway.
But if there's one thing the twins inherited from their parents, it's their curiosity and love for questions.
"Dad, when can we meet your parents?" She asks at breakfast one day and Harry nearly drops the spatula he's holding.
"Honey," Hermione's spoon pauses in mid air from where she was feeding their one year old son. "You know that your Grandma and Grandpa Potter aren't in this world anymore. We've had this talk."
"I know," Rose nods solemnly. "But I still want to meet them. James and I have so many things we want to tell them!"
James fidgets. "I read a book from the library where some kids went to their parents' graves and it helped put the parents' souls at ease. Can't we try that with Grandma and Grandpa?"
It's not like Harry never planned to take his kids to visit the Potters' grave, but he had imagined taking them when they were much older. However, now that he has them both gazing at him with those big, pleading eyes he has no choice but to change his plans.
He shares a look with Hermione, silently communicating, before he sighs and says, "All right. I guess we can make a visit."
"You hear that, Gus?" Rose leans towards her baby brother. "We're going to visit our other grandparents!"
Harry apparates his family to a field at the outskirts of Godric's Hollow. They make their way to the graveyard silently and even little Augustus, with his green eyes and black hair just like his own, is quiet against Hermione's shoulder.
He has returned to this place many times, but today Harry's steps feel especially heavy as he makes his way to the graves marked:
James Potter, born 27 March 1960, died 31 October 1981
Lily Potter, born 30 January 1960, died 31 October 1981
"Hello mum. Hello dad." He says softly, barely loud enough to be heard over the wind that sweeps in at that moment and blows his hair in stray directions.
Harry stands there and remembers a different time. A time where his seventeen-year-old self had come to this very graveyard, desperate for some comfort or closure by meeting his family, and had only been faced with the grim knowledge that his parents were gone, that their bones lay moldering below the earth, that they were perhaps already reduced to dust with no idea that their adult son was before them. Wishing that he could join them, thinking that maybe it would be better for him too to fall asleep, lie under the snow and join them in their slumber. Home at last.
Rose squeezes his hand and he is jolted back to the present when she speaks: "Hello Grandma and Grandpa. It's me, your granddaughter Rose."
James introduces himself too and soon the twins are rambling, telling their grandparents about their day so far, how they've been told so many stories about their namesakes, how they'll be sure to make them proud.
"Don't worry about Daddy," Rose looks up at Harry and back to the gravestone with a determined expression. "We'll take good care of him. Right, James?"
James takes the wreath he brought with him and places it on the grave. "Of course we will. That's what family does."
Hermione's eyes are watery; she too is lost in memories. "I promised that we would be happy together. And I'll keep that promise."
"You are happy, aren't you?" Rose bites her lip and asks Harry.
He steps forward and places his hand on the marble grave stone: the vestiges of the life he could have had lying in front of him and the life he has now—the family that so fiercely loves and cherishes him—waiting behind him.
Harry wishes he could go back in time and tell his younger self—always so lost, desperately searching for a family and a place to belong—that the answer was there all along. Right there next to him.
"I am," Hot tears spill down his cheeks and for once he doesn't try to hold them back. "I am happy."
They take their time going back to the field. Along the way, Rose gets tired of walking and Harry raises her onto his shoulders, listening as she points at the clouds in the distance and tells him what they look like. James grows bored and wants to ride his broom once he gets to the clearing; Hermione gives him an ultimatum to be careful, but takes out the broom and snitch from her beaded bag anyway. Augustus is clearly tired of the excursion and pouts on Hermione's shoulder.
Harry closes his eyes and when he opens them again, nothing has changed. It's not a dream. The sun is going down and he's still surrounded by the chatter and laughter of his family.
Hermione holds her hand out to him and he takes it.
"Let's go home."
~A/N~ The art by Hastyhand for this chapter is based on two moments: "Welcome to the Family" and "Not a Dream." You can find the links to them on my profile or on the #homeishhr tag on instagram/tumblr
I wonder if anyone caught the reference to the story title's meaning here. The first time Harry visits the graveyard he wants to lie beneath the snow and make his home there, but things are different the second time around; his heart isn't with the dead anymore, but with the living. Harry's home is wherever Hermione and their family is.