A/N: Thank you so so so much to my lovely Beta, lozipozivanillabean! The amount of emails we've exchanged just to make sense of this monstrous fic is too damn high but I appreciate you so much. Thank you for the effort and the time and for crying when you edited this last chapter HAHAHA!
Yay, surprise! My Beta was able to edit this chapter immediately so that I can post it today.
So yes, hi, you've reached the epilogue of 'Hero of the Story'. I'll save the long post at the end. Enjoy!
how rare and beautiful it is that we exist
(Saturn by Sleeping at Last)
July 31, 1991
"Are you really sure about this, Hermione?"
The worry in his voice was thick, and despite the humongous nervousness she was feeling, Hermione managed to crack a small smile. "Really? You're asking that now when we're practically a few blocks away already?"
Peter threw a withering glare.
Hermione's smile wobbled, her heart thudding wildly inside her chest as the various, familiar houses lining the quaint street in Heathgate passed by them. Her tongue grew thicker with each step she took, and although a part of her still doubted this was a good idea, her curiosity trumped the nervousness she was feeling.
"Harry just received his Hogwarts letter," she softly explained. "I just thought… well, I got really curious." She sighed and reached for Peter, hooking her arm around his. "I wanted to see for myself. I've wondered about it for years and today just seemed like a good day to finally see it for myself."
"It's my godson's birthday, blimey," Peter whined. "There are plenty of other days to do this, Hermione."
She lightly pinched him on his arm, earning her an annoyed scowl from her older brother. "We were on the way," she pointed out. "Just… just stop making a fuss. It won't even take an hour."
Peter blessedly relented, although he still wore his petulant scowl. Underneath his annoyance, though, Hermione could see the deep worry he had for his sister. She squeezed his arm in appreciation, silently relaying her gratitude that he was accompanying her today.
As they continued to walk along one of the lovely streets of the Hampstead Garden Suburb, Hermione took that time to observe her surroundings. It was a beautiful summer's day, with the sun high in the sky without any clouds in sight. Her eyes slightly watered upon spying the familiar playground she used to frequent as Hermione Granger, the place filled with laughing children being chased around by their exasperated parents. They passed by the park bench Harold Granger used to sit with her on, and the father-daughter pair would observe the passers-by in contented silence. Up ahead, at the crossroads, stood the imposing church the Grangers used to go to, before they discovered their daughter was a witch.
The whole place was exactly how she remembered. Although memories of Hermione Granger were now incredibly blurry in the brunette's mind, it flummoxed her greatly how she could still remember the place she'd once called home.
Her heart leapt into her throat as she finally drew to a halt, standing in front of a handsome lawn filled with rows and rows of flowery bushes. A soft laugh escaped from her lips, spying the ridiculously ugly gnome Harold Granger was very fond of, nestled in between blooming bushes of sunflowers.
"Everything's… everything's the same," she breathlessly said, her watery eyes taking in the brown brick-walled exterior of the house.
"Are you okay?" Peter worriedly asked, squeezing her elbow to get her attention.
Hermione tore her gaze away from the house and glanced at her brother. "I-I don't know," she slightly stuttered. Her heart felt heavy, overwhelmed by an onslaught of emotions she could never make sense of. Tears slipped down from her eyes as she turned her gaze back towards the house, reminiscing about insignificant memories of Hermione Granger strolling around this home.
A gasp escaped from her lips when the front door suddenly tore open. Hermione tightly gripped onto Peter when a man in his late thirties, with unruly hair that almost rivalled a Selwyn's, slipped out of the house. His familiar brown eyes blinked at the Pettigrews in surprise, before an uncertain smile stretched on his face.
"Can I help you?" Harold Granger asked. Hermione's eyes travelled towards the heavy box in his arms, before glancing at the small suburban car parked in front of the house.
"Um… I-I, well," she breathlessly started.
"We used to know someone who lived here," Peter blurted out, saving Hermione from her embarrassing blubber.
The older man's eyebrows knitted in confusion. "Oh?" he asked, now looking suspiciously at the two. "As far as I know, I've been living here for almost thirty-nine years."
"Right," Hermione said, wanting to smack herself for not thinking this through. Now, surely Harold Granger thought they were too bloody suspicious. "Right… um, sorry." She canted her head at the box in his arms, which he then deposited in the trunk of his car. "Going somewhere?"
It was clear Harold was debating whether he should continue conversing with the strangers. The way his shoulders tensed meant he felt mighty uncomfortable with their presence. Hermione gave him a placating smile, trying to relay that they meant no harm. Harold blinked his eyes at her, before a small, almost hesitant smile grew on his face.
"The missus and I finally decided to move to Australia," he slowly replied. "About damn time, if you ask me. Although England is home, we've decided it's time to discover other beautiful places in the world."
Her heart ached, remembering Harold's story when Hermione Granger was younger. He and Jean Granger had always dreamt of moving to Australia to continue their dental practice, but with Hermione's sudden birth and consequent acceptance at Hogwarts, they'd decided to continue staying in England. Which was why Hermione Granger had instantly known that once she'd Obliviated her parents, she'd send them to Australia.
"I'm sure Australia will be wonderful," she whispered, trying her very best to keep her emotions at bay. Her grip on Peter's arm was very tight, judging from the way her brother grimaced in pain. Thankfully, however, Peter did not peep any protests.
The door opened once more and out came a woman with a straight, dark brown hair and chestnut-brown eyes.
"Oh," Jean Granger said, her eyes sweeping towards the strangers. "We have visitors, Harold?"
"We're just passing by," Hermione assured, a wobbly grin appearing on her face. "We used to know someone who lived here."
"Oh," Jean repeated, this time a lovely smile now appearing on her face. "Well, you passed by at a terrible time. My husband and I are moving out of the country."
A question sat on the tip of Hermione's tongue, and try as she might, she could not form the proper words. She did not know how to ask about… about her without sounding too intrusive and strange. Her head already felt fuzzy at the sight of the two people she'd once called parents.
"Just the two of you?" Peter suddenly blurted out. "No children protesting at the huge move?"
Identical sad looks appeared on the Grangers, with Jean looking the most forlorn, but there was a small, tentative smile on Harold's face. "No. Oh no, no children," he explained. "It's just the two of us."
Hermione's breath hitched, unsure how to feel about the fact that Hermione Granger was currently non-existent. Somehow, she'd already had an inkling this was the case. Hermione Pettigrew wasn't supposed to exist during Hermione Granger's timeline. It made sense one could not exist while the other was alive. It would create too many complicated rifts in the timeline.
"Oh," she found herself breathing out. "I-I'm sorry."
Jean chuckled and discreetly brushed an errant tear away. "No need to apologise," she said with a lovely laugh.
"We should probably get going," Harold then said, reaching forwards to tightly hold onto Jean's hand. "Our flight's in a few hours and we cannot afford to miss that."
"Right, of course," Peter said with a vigorous nod. "Come on, Hermione. We should… we should probably go."
Hermione's blue eyes softened at the couple she'd once considered her family. "I sincerely wish you both a wonderful life," she whispered, unable to stop a few tears from escaping her blue eyes. "You both… you both deserve it."
They looked at her oddly, but there were hesitant smiles on their faces.
"Thank you," Harold said.
Peter murmured a quick goodbye and tugged her away. Instead of Apparating, her brother sat her down on the nearby park bench and held her hand.
"Are you okay?" he asked, peering at her tearful face with worried eyes.
Hermione huffed a laugh as she lifted a hand and brushed her tears away. "Yeah," she murmured. "Yeah. Just… just give me a few minutes, Petey."
Her brother nodded and resolutely held her hand while Hermione softly cried. She wasn't entirely sure how she truly felt – perhaps grief, for a Muggleborn girl who'd never had the chance to experience magic for the first time, or guilt for being the reason why Jean Granger never bore a child. There was this odd relief in her heart too, but Hermione could not truly understand what it meant.
It took her a few minutes to compose herself. "We should probably go," she said, turning to Peter to give him a shaky smile. "Merlin, it's my Harry's birthday! I can't afford to feel like this today."
Peter smiled sadly and draped an arm over her shoulder. "Let's go back to our family," he said.
Her smile grew. Family. Even though she'd had to give up her life as Hermione Granger just to make this world a better place, Hermione Pettigrew—now Potter—had no regrets, because in the end, she had still found a group of people she now considered her family.
"Let's go home," she said.
The Pettigrew siblings rematerialised at the Apparition point in Godric's Hollow. Hermione, by then, had calmed down from her overwhelming emotions after their visit to the Grangers and had reached out for Peter to link arms with him once more.
"How's Mary?" she asked, tilting her head upwards to gaze at her brother's face.
"She's… managing." She snorted at his grimace, prompting him to sheepishly smile. "This pregnancy is worse than when she was carrying Annie. She's now even more convinced Baby No. 2 is a boy." A sly smirk then appeared on his face, his blue eyes glinting brightly as they continued to walk along the narrow streets of Godric's Hollow. "How about you? Am I expecting another niece or nephew?"
This time, it was Hermione who made a face. "Please. No more," she cried in exasperation. "I don't think my poor body can take another one."
Peter merrily chuckled, then continued to tell her about his previous Auror assignment. Hermione indulged him by answering at the right time, laughing like silly over the ridiculous jokes he quipped.
As they continued their journey back home, Hermione expelled a contented sigh. It was rare for her to see her brother nowadays, seeing that he was swamped with his Auror work. Hermione, as the appointed Arithmancy Professor, was already readying for the next school-year. Added to that was Harry's impending first year at Hogwarts. Things had been rather busy at the Potter Cottage, as Hermione had made it a point that Harry would have everything he needed once he started going to school.
Her attention was brought back to Peter when he released a loud groan. "Seriously," he whined. "Why won't they remove that stupid, stupid thing?"
Hermione grinned widely, already knowing the reason for Peter's disgruntlement. The obelisk bearing the different names of World War II victims came into view and as they neared it, the monument shifted to show an imposing statue of Peter Pettigrew, towering over a snake wrapped around a skull, with his wand tip pointed at the symbol of the Dark Mark. A small inscription was scribbled below:
To strive and triumph in the face of fear
Is what it means to be a hero
It was terribly cheesy and magnificent at the same time. Peter's statue looked formidable, which was wholly laughable for Hermione because her brother was a sweet, sweet man. Granted, the statue looked almost exactly like Peter, but the expression on its face looked so out-of-place.
"I think it's brilliant, oh Great Saviour," she teased. Hermione yelped when Peter pinched her side.
"Don't call me that," he whined, cheeks blooming red as he tugged Hermione away from his embarrassing statue. "It's been eleven years since that day. Why can't they just… let it all go?"
"Well, you were brilliant that day," she reminded him. "Of course people would want to rejoice, because you managed to kill the vilest wizard the Wizarding World has ever known."
"If people should hail a bloody hero, it should be you."
The corner of Hermione's lips quirked into a small smile. This wasn't an unfamiliar argument; Peter constantly insisted that he'd just followed Hermione's plans. He thought that someone who'd thrown an Avada shouldn't be hailed a hero. Of course they were allowed to use an Unforgivable if the need arose as an Auror, but Peter still thought it was mighty weird everybody just accepted that.
"I'm too tired of the limelight," she finally answered, echoing her usual words to dismiss Peter's insistence that her involvement in Voldemort's downfall should be recognised more than his last-minute spell. "Just let me live in peace."
He snorted, but had thankfully dropped the subject once they'd reached Potter Cottage.
For a brief moment, her eyes landed on the window connected to the room where Harry's nursery used to be. James had suggested for them to move out a few days after Voldemort's defeat, but Hermione insisted they shouldn't bother. Instead, they'd spent the remaining year destroying the very same room where Voldemort was killed, filling it with trinkets and furniture laced with fond memories of their family's growth through the years. None of them frequented that room, though, but Hermione still found herself standing in front of the door, constantly reminding herself they'd finally triumphed and Voldemort was dead.
"Hermione?" Peter called, breaking through her thoughts.
"Right, sorry," she hastily said, throwing him a good-natured smile. "Come on."
Even before Hermione had crossed the threshold, she could hear the loud ruckus coming from inside. Her smile stretched wide on her face when Peter ushered her inside her home. They walked past the empty living room and into the huge backyard behind.
It was pandemonium, with little children chasing one another around the vast garden. The adults were huddled in one corner, exchanging various conversations over a game of Wizard's Chess.
For Harry's eleventh birthday, James had insisted they invite a lot of people over to Potter Cottage to celebrate this milestone with them. Their firstborn was of course delighted, because this meant he'd be seeing his friends all gathered in his home. Hermione had been dreading this day, however, because she knew it would be exhausting - preparing everything for Harry's birthday, while at the same time, making sure everybody was entertained and that none of the children would do something silly and get injured.
"I'm going to the kitchens to see if I can help," Hermione said, her blue eyes briefly scanning the mass of people to see if anything was amiss. She then pierced Peter with a stern glare. "Make sure no one's going to get hurt, especially my children, Merlin Almighty. I'm always nervous every time Sirius and the older Weasley children are together."
Peter snorted, no doubt remembering the disastrous monthly Sunday dinner at the Weasleys' Burrow that ended up in a food fight, which had definitely been instigated by Sirius and the oldest Weasley sons. "I'll try my best, but no promises, 'Mione," he said.
"That's good enough," she said with a sigh. Hermione bid him goodbye and sauntered back inside her lovely home, towards the kitchen.
Her nose was soon assaulted by various odorous scents, prompting her mouth to water in hunger. She hadn't had her breakfast yet, mind too consumed with nervousness prior to visiting the Grangers' home.
She grinned at the sight of Anya and Molly Weasley skirting around the kitchen, various pots and pans, spatulas and bowls dancing in the air as they prepared Harry's birthday meal. Fleamont and Euphemia were there to assist, and amongst the flurried actions of the older witches, James was standing over a steaming pot, bringing a small spoon towards his lips to have a tiny taste. James grimaced and grabbed some salt and pepper and started to add more into the pot.
"Hello," was Hermione's greeting.
All of their eyes instantly snapped towards Hermione. "You're back!" James exclaimed, beaming the brightest amongst the group.
"Peter and I took a brief detour," she sheepishly said, settling down the paper bags on the countertop. "What can I do to help?"
"Harry's birthday cake hasn't been made yet, sweetheart," Anya said. Hermione snorted at how humongous her bushy hair had grown from the humidity inside the kitchen. "Molly and I need some help to make that."
"Just don't let her design the cake," James murmured from his spot near the steaming pots.
Hermione's cheeks reddened. "What was that, Potter?" she sniped.
Her husband threw her an innocent grin. "Nothing, love," he placated.
The brunette rolled her eyes and strolled towards the scattered ingredients of the birthday cake.
"Let me help you with that, Hermione," Euphemia volunteered, standing beside Hermione. "I am actually quite good with baking."
Fleamont, who was helping Molly mix some of the pasta sauce for the lasagne, loudly snorted. "Good at baking, yes. But preparing pasta, however…"
"What was that, Potter?" his wife sniped, bringing out a boisterous laugh from James's lips. Hermione grinned in amusement when Euphemia threw another snarky retort back at her husband, which Fleamont wholeheartedly returned with a well-aimed reply.
"I miss talking with adults so much," Molly then lamented, a comically relieved sigh escaping from her lips. "Being constantly surrounded by children every day almost drove me mad."
"You're amazing, Molly. Truly," Hermione said. "I don't know how you do it."
"Hear, hear," Anya added with a laugh. "Taking care of just two of the stubbornest children in the world gave me a headache."
The youngest witch in the group sheepishly grinned at her mother whilst Molly merely laughed and happily continued preparing the lasagne for the group. Hermione's eyes strayed towards the small, redheaded witch, her heart fluttering with fond memories of her older version. Although admittedly she was wary of Molly Weasley because of some instances in Hermione Granger's life, the love she gave her children was unconditional. Now that she had her own children, Hermione understood how fiercely protective Molly had been with her children and had reached out to her as soon as Voldemort was dead. Besides, she was curious to meet the younger versions of the Weasleys, especially Ron. It didn't surprise Hermione when Harry and Ron instantly forged a friendship she definitely knew would transcend time.
Her eyes then tore away from Molly when a new set of footsteps arrived in the kitchens.
"Dad," eight-year-old Stella Potter called, making a beeline towards her father. "Dad, please. You're needed outside! Everybody's playing Quidditch."
Hermione was unable to suppress a snort when James's face brightened just at the sight of their daughter. She still remembered, clear as day, how James had cried shameless, happy tears when baby Stella was placed in his arms. While Stella had inherited the riotous Selwyn hair, her eyes were hazel like her father's. And, she knew right then and there, that while Hermione had spoiled Harry rotten, Stella would be the apple of her father's eyes.
"Stella, princess, you know I'm making a meal for your brother," James sighed, gesturing towards the steaming pot he'd been slaving over ever since Hermione had arrived.
The eight-year-old petulantly tugged on her curls. "Uncle Pads knew you'd refuse and told me to tell you that Uncle Reggie's playing as Seeker for the other team," she continued.
Predictably, James stiffened, his hazel eyes glinting with ridiculous resolution. "Really now," he said, surreptitiously glancing at Hermione. "Well, I used to play Chaser for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, but I'm a decent Seeker too."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Really, James?" she snorted. "This ridiculous rivalry with Regulus is getting way out of hand. It's been years, blimey."
He lifted his chin in the air. "I am a better Quidditch player than him," he pointed out with a small scowl. "In fact, I'll show you." James then turned to Molly and gave her his most charming smile. "Molly, dearest, I'm sorry for not finishing this soup but I'm really needed outside. Defending the honour of my lady love is the utmost priority after all."
"Oh, Merlin," the brunette sighed, stopping herself from slapping her forehead with the palm of her hand. Molly laughingly shooed James, who then threw Hermione a winning wink, and grasped onto Stella's hand to lead her out of the kitchens.
As soon as they were gone, those remaining in the kitchens slipped into easy conversation whilst they finished preparing for Harry's birthday meal. Hermione mostly kept quiet, content in listening to the anecdotes recounted by the older witches inside.
This went on for an hour or so and once they were done, Hermione volunteered to announce to the others that lunch would be served soon.
Once she stepped into the back garden, however, a loud gasp escaped from her lips. "Sirius Black, put my son back on the ground this instant!" she screeched, heart thudding wildly upon spying her youngest messy-haired boy sitting in front of Sirius on his broomstick. Her thunderous eyes swept across the various hovering figures in the sky and she glared at her sheepish husband. "I told you no Quidditch until they're ten, James Potter!"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, this won't happen again!" James hollered from above, a tad panicky judging from his tone of voice.
Sirius, on the other hand, loudly sighed. "Merlin, kitten, calm down," he petulantly called, although he and her son were descending from a great height. Even before Sirius's broomstick landed on the ground, Hermione had snatched her five-year-old from the broom and was hugging him tightly against her chest. "Prongslet No. 2 was having so much fun!" He reached forward and pinched his cheek. "Weren't you, little lion?"
"Yes!" Five-year-old Leon Potter happily quipped, his blue Selwyn eyes alit with genuine excitement. "Please, Mummy, again?" He did that thing with his eyes which always melted her heart, but Hermione's motherly instincts overrode whatever stirrings in her heart had been brought on by his very adorable face.
"Once you're ten, you'll be able to fly really high, Leon," Hermione sighed, dropping a kiss onto her disappointed son's mop of brown, messy curls. "I know you want to fly with your father and Harry, but for now, stay on the ground for Mummy, okay?"
Her youngest wore a dejected face but expelled a huge sigh. "Okay," he sighed. Hermione warmly smiled and placed him back on his feet, and he raced towards the younger Weasleys and started playing with them.
Harry was definitely a happy accident, while Stella was planned. What James and Hermione didn't expect was Leon's conception. Nevertheless, they welcomed his birth, his parents just happy that their small family was growing. Hermione had already placed her foot down and refused to make another child after Leon, which James accepted.
"Lunch will be ready soon!" Hermione then called. The various broomsticks hovering over the garden went to land as Hermione turned back towards the kitchens to help prepare.
Lily, whose face was flushed from her flying, immediately jogged towards Hermione and linked arms with her best friend. "Are you all right, Hermione?" she asked as Hermione led them both back inside. "You know, with Harry's Hogwarts letter and all?"
A lovely smile escaped from Hermione's lips. "Of course, I am okay," she said. When Lily pierced her with a look, Hermione deflated, her smile turning forlorn. "I am a little sad, yes, but I've always known Harry will grow up one way or another. I'm just… I'm just happy that he's safe and surrounded by people who'd do anything for him. I'm sure he'll be brilliant at Hogwarts."
Lily sighed, squeezing Hermione's arm in return. "I don't think my heart will take it once Iris starts going to Hogwarts," she complained. "At least my sourpuss will be with my daughters constantly. Sev always points that out to me and I'm jealous."
Hermione snorted. "Iris and Ivy will drive Sev mad, I'm sure," she cheekily pointed out. "Especially since both of your daughters look like you so much. I wonder how Sev will handle it once he realises his precious flowers are growing up and starting to show an interest in boys."
Lily's emerald eyes lit up in amusement. "You have to tell me about his expression once that happens, Hermione," she insisted. "Since you'll be at Hogwarts with him."
The younger witch laughed and assured her best friend she'd do that.
When they arrived at the kitchens to help, the others were already carrying the bowls of various meals outside and into the gardens. Fleamont and the Marauders fixed the long table and arranged the plates of food. James herded everybody to gather around and pulled Harry with him to the front of the table.
It was Hermione who brought out the chocolate cake, beaming brightly when Harry's cheeks flushed at the amount of attention he was getting. Harry Potter—past and present—still hated the spotlight, but his blue eyes were twinkling impossibly bright and it was undoubted that he was happy, albeit a tad embarrassed.
Hermione led the singing of 'Happy Birthday' and placed the cake in front of her firstborn. Harry caught her eyes and brightly smiled. James sidled beside Harry, with Leon perched in his arms, while Stella stubbornly tried to push her older brother away to blow the candles out herself.
"Princess, please, today's not your birthday," James lightly admonished. "What did I tell you about waiting for your turn?"
Stella's bottom lip protruded, the tell-tale signs of a tantrum already making an appearance. Hermione shot a glare towards James, knowing full well it was his fault for spoiling their only daughter. James sheepishly smiled in return, also knowing fully that it was his fault.
But Harry, sweet, sweet Harry merely laughed and held onto his sister's hand and said, "We'll blow the candles out together, yeah?"
Hermione and James exchanged an amused glance while Stella vigorously nodded her head.
"Make a wish first, sweetheart," Hermione smiled, reaching forward to lightly pinch Stella's cheek. Her daughter's eyes fluttered close, deep concentration on her face. But Harry's blue eyes stayed open, grinning widely down at his sister. When Stella's eyes flew open, she silently glanced at her older brother, and with Harry's firm nod, the two blew the candles out together.
The guests broke into loud applause, different tones of 'Happy Birthdays' slipping out of their mouths. Harry's cheeks turned bright red with embarrassment and happiness combined.
Hermione smiled, remembering her old Harry Potter's story about his eleventh birthday and Hagrid's disastrous attempt to steal him away from the Dursleys. Now, she was sure this Harry would have fond memories of his eleventh birthday.
Harry met her gaze, smiling widely in return. The brunette reached forward and tried to tame his messy hair, but seeing as he'd inherited his father's dishevelled mop, it was a futile attempt.
"Happy birthday, Harry."
Hermione was hanging out near the refreshments table, blue eyes contentedly watching as the numerous guests in her house interacted. She spied Sirius, with nine-year-old Iris Snape and seven-year-old Ivy Snape, sneaking behind an oblivious Severus, who was busy conversing with Arthur Weasley. Mischief was alight in the eyes of the trio and if it weren't for Marlene, who quickly intervened and stopped her fiancée and the little Snapes, Sev would have been drenched in orange juice.
Remus was conjuring various tricks, much to the delight of the older Weasleys, whilst James, together with the Longbottoms, loudly recounted their previous Auror mission to the older witches and wizards in the group. Little six-year-old Anastasia Pettigrew, fondly dubbed Annie by her father, was running around with her cousins Stella and Leon, while a heavily pregnant Mary watched over them. Peter was helping Neville, Ron, and the other remaining Weasleys finish the small treehouse that had become a huge project at the Potter Cottage.
Everywhere she looked, her heart swelled with happiness and peace. The children had now been untouched by Voldemort's reign of terror, and the thought that Ron and Harry and their peers would only hear about the vile wizard through bedtime stories from their parents, placed her heart at ease.
"Why aren't you joining in the fun, Pettigrew?"
Unwittingly, a snort flew out of her mouth when Regulus sidled beside her.
"Merlin, please just call me 'Hermione'," she pleaded, but Regulus merely smirked and gave her a half-hearted shrug.
"Old habits die hard," he pointed out, prompting Hermione to sigh and shake her head in slight exasperation. "You've been well, though?"
"Oh, marvellously," she replied with a smile. "I've long since finished my lesson plans for the next school-year, so I have nothing else to do but prepare for Harry's impending departure."
Regulus's smirk turned into a small, fond smile. "You've made various colour-coded lesson plans for your students again, haven't you?" he asked.
Hermione sheepishly grinned. "Well, if it can help them with their lessons, why not?" she asked. "Headmaster Dumbledore still thinks I'm too barmy and strict, but I've explicitly told my students they do not have to adhere to my colour-coded schedules."
"You know that none of them will adhere to your ridiculous schedule, right?"
"Of course," she laughed. "Nevertheless, I have so much fun making them. I'm sure at least one or two of them appreciate the effort."
"Merlin, you're barmy," Regulus sighed. "I can't believe I once tried following your stupid schedule."
"Well, my stupid schedule gave you nine OWLs, you prat," she reminded.
He shrugged. "A happy coincidence," he teased. "I do have the brains to keep up with you, you know."
Hermione laughed once more. It felt like a long time since she'd talked to Regulus like this. Ever since he'd become the new Head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black, Regulus had been swamped with bureaucratic shite. He once tried to ask Sirius if he wanted to assume the position when the title was passed onto him, but his older brother told him he'd only be half as good as he was. Nevertheless, Sirius had been wholly supportive of Regulus, trying to give the Black family a better reputation now that their older, more bigoted relatives were buried six feet underground.
"Have you been well, Regulus?" she asked, her eyes glancing at the dark smudges underneath his silver eyes.
"I've been well, yes," he sighed, lifting a hand to tiredly rub his eyes. At the same time, the Black family ring gleamed on his finger, momentarily blinding Hermione. "Still managing. I hate all the paperwork but yeah… yeah, I'm well." He gave her a sideways glance, quirking a suggestive eyebrow. "Have you thought about my proposition yet?"
The brunette rolled her eyes. "I still love James, I'm sorry," she teased in return. "And my three children would be terribly sad if I ran off with their Uncle Reggie."
"Shame," Regulus said, the corner of his lips twitching into a amused smile. "I'm far richer than Potter, you know. Now that I am Head of a very old Pureblood family."
"I don't doubt that one bit," she answered. "And I'm sure plenty of witches are now batting their eyelashes your way, just to catch your fancy."
Regulus made a face. "The media will have a field day once I finally find a proper Black wife," he tiredly sighed. His silver eyes glinted teasingly once more. "You sure you don't want to run away with me, Pettigrew?"
Hermione's eyes caught James's hazel ones from where he stood and she felt her heart flutter, even after all these years. She already had this inkling James would evoke these feelings from her even when they were old and wrinkly and grey. "I'm sure," she said, eyes turning fond when James mouthed a soft 'I love you' before going back to his conversation with Anya and the older Potters.
There was still a certain resigned sadness in Regulus's eyes. Hermione gave him an apologetic smile, wishing that he'd find someone who would love him unconditionally.
"I'm sorry, Regulus," she whispered.
Regulus's cheeks turned ruddy as a scoff escaped from his lips. "Please, Pettigrew, don't you bloody apologise," he admonished.
"Still," she said with a sheepish grin.
He rolled his eyes and pulled one of her curls. "Merlin, don't look at me like that," he sighed.
Hermione chuckled and reached for his hand, giving it a slight squeeze. At the same time, she caught sight of Harry sitting on one of the benches in the garden, seemingly content at watching everyone and not participating in any of the activities. "Oh, Merlin, why isn't Harry having fun?" she worriedly asked, wondering if something had gone wrong, when she'd worked hard to make him feel special today.
"Go on," Regulus said, lightly pushing her away.
The brunette smiled at him and gave him a brief hug, before excusing herself and meandering through the crowd to reach her firstborn.
"Why aren't you playing with Ron and Neville?" Hermione asked, plopping down on the bench beside Harry. She noticed the glint of sadness in his blue eyes before he looked away from his mother's gaze. "Is everything all right, sweetheart?"
Eleven-year-old Harry expelled a huge sigh. "I'm going to miss home, Mum," he said. "I'm going to miss everyone."
Her gaze softened. "Oh, Harry, you'll see me every day in Hogwarts," she pointed out.
"But it's not the same," he reasoned. "You get to go home to Dad and Stella and Leon, while I'm stuck at Hogwarts."
"You'll have plenty of fun at Hogwarts, I promise," Hermione replied. "You'll meet a lot of friends and find yourself involved in a lot of shenanigans, seeing that you're your father's son."
Harry sadly grinned and met his mother's gaze. "I know," he said. "But it's not home."
Hermione felt her heart swelling at his earnest declaration. Ever since Voldemort had been defeated, Hermione, with the help of James, had worked her very hardest to fill their house with abundant love and happiness. It wasn't a hard thing to do, especially because her small family had brought infinite joy to Hermione's life. She was just happy that Harry, who'd once upon a time never had a true family he could build a home with, was reluctant to leave his own home here, where she was with James and his two younger siblings.
"I can sneak you out a few times," she suggested.
Harry's eyes widened. "Mum!" he exclaimed. "But that's against the rules."
Hermione laughed heartily. "Did I ever tell you I was the truest Marauder of us all?" she cheekily asked.
The young wizard snorted, no doubt recalling his father's stories about the adventures of the great pranksters of Hogwarts.
"But really, Harry, I promise you. Hogwarts will be loads of fun," she said.
He finally sighed. "Okay," he said, absentmindedly pushing his slipping glasses up the bridge of his nose.
"So, don't just sit here – go and play with your friends," she urged.
"No, I'm happy just watching everyone," he said with a sigh, leaning against the bench to warmly glance at the ruckus unfolding before them.
Hermione also found herself observing the people in her home, content to know that she was surrounded by people who'd become very important in her life. She threw a sideway glance of her son, noting the happy expression painted on his face also.
"What did you wish for a while ago, Harry?" she asked.
Harry blinked before a sheepish smile grew on his face. "Honestly?" he started. "Nothing, Mum."
"What? Really? Not even a Nimbus 2000?" she teased.
The bespectacled boy snorted. "Please. I caught Dad sneaking in the broom last week," he said. He then jutted his chin towards the table where his assorted, wrapped gifts sat. "Besides, that gift is unmistakably a broomstick. So I guess I knew I couldn't wish for it. And besides…" He trailed off and closed his eyes, a serene smile blooming on his face. "I already have everything I want."
It was a terribly mature thing for a young boy to say, but Hermione had forgotten this was Harry Potter. Although the eyes were different, and maybe his hair was a tad curlier due to the Selwyn genes, he was still Hermione Granger's best friend in spirit, who wanted nothing more in this world but genuine happiness for those he cared for.
Tears prickled Hermione's eyes as her gaze flew towards his unmarred forehead. It relieved her immensely when she started to forget how emerald-eyed Harry Potter's scar looked, after gazing at her blue-eyed Harry Potter for eleven years.
"Then, maybe you'd allow your mother to make a wish for you instead?" she asked.
Harry laughed, his blue eyes dancing in amusement. "Mum, I already know what you'll say," he cheekily pointed out. "You always tell me on my birthday."
"Still, indulge your mother," Hermione said, lips stretching wider into a grin as she reached forward and brushed his messy hair away. Hermione was given a clearer view of Harry's smooth forehead.
For a brief moment, she felt like she was looking at a different version of this boy, emerald eyes gleaming with mischief and innocence. When she blinked once more, it was her blue-eyed son now staring back at her.
A tear slipped down from Hermione's eye as she leant forward and kissed his scar-free forehead.
"Live a happy life, Harry."
A/N: Aaaaaaand, that's a wrap!
Fun Fact: the inscription on Peter's monument was shamelessly borrowed from 'Trollhunters' HAHAHAHA. It's just very fitting for Peter's character!
I tried so hard to include everyone important in this epilogue hahaha but to be really honest with you, that last scene was the only one that really mattered to me. If 'The Long and Winding Road' was Hermione and James's theme song in this story, 'Saturn' is most definitely Harry and Hermione's. I think it's just fitting that the prologue will parallel the epilogue.
So yes, thank you all so much for the abundant love and support! Although this fic had definitely stressed me out more than the other fics I've written before, this will always have a special place in my heart. This fic is way out of my comfort zone and I'm still in disbelief I've managed to concoct this ridiculously long fic for 5 months and manage to finish it too! This fic was my quarantine passion project and I'm just glad I'm able to make some of you happy with my little, daily updates. I'm a bit sad I won't be able to update daily anymore, so to compensate, I'd try to reply to all of your reviews in the epilogue hahaha.
Thank you so, so, so much. I think I'm going to rest from the fanfiction world for a while again. Things are starting to get a bit hectic with my current work so I need to focus all of my attention to that first. I don't think I can really say goodbye to writing, though haha. Truth be told, I have various one-shot ideas for this story but I'm too swamped with real life to find the time to write them hehe.
Thank you for loving this little world I've created. Thank you for loving the characters I've created—you have no idea how I make little happy whoops when someone points out it was so weird how they're growing attached to Peter hahaha. Still, the ultimate goal was to share my genuine love for my guilty pleasure ship James/Hermione so I hope to read more fics about them in the future!
That's it! See you all soon and I hope you all live a happy life.
P.S. Follow me on tumblr (kimmy-writes)! I might still make moodboards/posts about this fic in the future, but no promises hehe.