So sorry! I didn't quite make it before the new year. I was actually done with it late last night, or early this morning, but was too tired and went to bed. Then worked on it today to go over it for errors which I had a lot. Thankfully I had some of the chapter written already and wrote the rest during my 2-week vacation. Though I only had time in between doing xmas shopping and being sick from the booster shot. But anyway I didn't make it for xmas, so shot for new years...but didn't finish still. But it's here now, and to make up for it, you get an extra dose of little Wynter!

So Happy New Year and read on!


Meant To Be

Chapter 40

The remaining days of the week seemed to slow down, which Harry thought was unfair. His upcoming date with Tom was all he could think about and it was just taking so long to get here like it was taunting him. He was nervous, though he knew he shouldn't be, it was just Tom, they've lived together for months…but this was their first date, as a real couple. They were going to try and that was what was making Harry excited and a little scared. This was new territory for them. Harry had only a few relationships under his belt while Tom was more experienced, but this was his first real relationship, for the both of them. The fact that Tom was trying at all was surprising, Harry was having a hard time keeping his hopes down, he didn't want to be hurt again in case something went wrong. Just thinking about how vulnerable Tom had been when he apologized made his heart squeeze and the hope come spilling out – it was what he had wanted. But it was scary at the same time. He said as much when Ron and Hermione came over.

"… Marque asked me out on a date," Harry said when they got settled with Wynter in Hermione's lap, "I'm kind of nervous."

"Really? That's great Harry," Hermione said as she cuddled her goddaughter close.

"Have you never been out on one?" Ron asked.

"No," Harry said, shaking his head. "I never left the cottage except for going to the market, which is where we met, and I had Wynter, so he would just come over."

"So you would just sleep with him," Ron finished.

Harry blushed, but nodded, "Pretty much."

"Nice."

"Ronald!" Hermione admonished him and slapped him in the arm. He just rubbed his arm and winked at him over her head.

"I wanted something more, but didn't think that would happen, we were just comfortable how we were. But now that it's happening…"

"You're afraid something will go wrong and you'll get hurt again," Hermione finished for him.

Harry gave her a weak smile and nodded. He loved his friends; he didn't have to say much for them to understand what he was thinking. Even though they didn't know the whole truth they still knew exactly how he was feeling. It made things easier because sometimes he didn't even know.

"Well, don't think about it too hard," Hermione said, "It's not like you haven't had dinner before."

"Yeah, but that was me making it. This is different."

"Yeah, this time you're not making it," Ron stated and Harry threw him an annoyed look to which he just grinned.

Hermione rolled her eyes, "I'm just saying, don't blow it out of proportion. It's just dinner, like all the other dinners. Act like you normally do and everything will be fine."

"Right," Harry said, nodding as he tried to calm himself down.

"Besides, I doubt you will have time to be nervous with this one there," Ron said tugging on Wynter's foot.

She squealed and tried to grab his hand, "Unca On!"

"Did I grab your foot?" Ron asked her and grabbed her other one.

"Oot!" she exclaimed.

"That is true," Harry said smiling as Ron continued to tease her.

"And when you do have a proper date with just the two of you, we would be more than happy to watch her for you."

"Then you can be properly nervous," Ron added.

"You are not helping," Hermione hissed at him.

She suddenly gasped and struggled to hold on to Wynter when she lunged at Ron playfully, but he was prepared and caught her, hoisting her into the air to make her squeal. "I got you!"

"Ot e," Wynter exclaimed.

Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. "She scared me."

"Yeah, she's quick so you have to really hold onto her."

"You must get that from your mom," Rom said to Wynter and she agreed loudly. "We may have another Seeker on our hands."

"Who knows," Harry said, "Maybe."

From there they moved on to talk about Quidditch, the wedding, and what was going on in Ron and Hermione's work life and other things, effectively distracting Harry for the rest of the day.

But now it was the day of their date and Harry did his best to keep himself busy in the morning by doing chores by hand to make them last longer and going to the store for groceries – in a Muggle neighborhood, of course. But there was only so much he could do to keep himself occupied especially with Wynter asking every few minutes if her Daddy was here yet, and as the time crept closer, the faster his heartbeat in nervousness and excitement.

After scrubbing at the counter for the thousandth time, he finally decided it was time to get ready. "Wynter, bath time," he called as he came out of the kitchen to the living room where she was playing.

"Baf? No baf," Wynter said as she played with her blocks.

"Yes, bath," Harry responded with a smile, "We have dinner with Daddy today, remember?"

That got her attention, "Dadee?"

"Yes, Daddy."

"Dadee ere?"

"No, not yet. But you need to be clean when he comes."

"Inky?"

"Yes, you're stinky."

"Oke," she said and got up and raised her arms to be picked up.

Harry just chuckled at her logic and just picked her up and went upstairs to run her bath.

"Mama baf?"

"Mama will take a bath later. First, Wynter's bath."

"Oke. Ceen?"

"Yes, it's time to get you clean. We need to get your clothes off."

"Opf!" She repeated and stood in place patiently as he undressed her and when the tub had enough water at the bottom, he put her in along with some toys to keep her occupied while he cleaned her. She was especially proud of her foam letters.

"A!" she stated holding up the A foam letter. "Appow!"

"Yes, that is A for apple. Where is B?"

She looked around at the floating letters and found it. "B! Baow!" she exclaimed holding it up.

"Good!" Harry said, "What's next?"

"C! At!"

"Yes, cat. Good job!"

"D!" she then exclaimed, holding up the last letter in the tub because that was all she knew right now. "Dadee!"

"Yeah! D like Daddy!" Harry said, running his fingers through her wet hair proudly. "Want to know what's next?"

"Ye!"

"Okay? Ready?" Harry asked, taking the next letter from the stack that was under the sink.

"Ye!" Wynter exclaimed, watching him expectedly.

So he gave her the foam letter and she took it in awe "Ooohhhhh…Dis?"

"That is E."

"Eee?"

"Yes, E."

"E!" She said firmly, holding it up. "E!"

"That's right! Good girl," he said and she beamed up at him. "Can you tell me all the letters you know? A…"

"A! B! C! D!..." she said, then thrust the foam letter up, "Dis!"

Harry laughed, "E, Wynter, E."

"E!"

"You're so smart."

"Art!"

"Okay, time to come out and get dressed."

"E!" Wynter only said, showing the foam letter to him.

"Yes, I see." He said taking it from her and setting it aside so he could pick her up and wrap her in a towel. Once out, he set his magic to clean up and took her to her bedroom to get her dressed while she sang out her letters over and over up to her new letter E.

Once Wynter was dressed, he took her to his bedroom and into the bathroom with a few toys and set her on the floor so he could take a shower.

"Mama baf?"

"Yes, it's time for Mama to take a bath. Can you stay here for me and be good?"

"Ye," she said with a nod.

"That's my jelly bean." So he got in the shower, talking to her over the spray of the water so he could tell what she was doing, which wasn't hard with her face pressing up against the glass to see what he was doing. He just needed to stop her once from putting a toy in the toilet, but for the most part, she behaved.

"Mama ceen!" She said as he stepped out.

"Yes, I'm clean. Come on," he said, opening the door to his room so he could try and find out what he was going to wear. Wynter screeched and ran about the room entertaining herself as Harry got ready. Four shirt changes later, and an attempt at combing his hair and he was ready. But now that he was ready it was just time to wait until Tom came, and now the nerves were settling in.

Harry smoothed out his button-down shirt yet again and let out a deep breath. It's just dinner, nothing special, Harry tried to calm himself. He didn't know why he was so nervous. They've had dinner before, many times, but this time they were going OUT, in public...on an actual date. He let out a deep breath and turned away to find out where Wynter was in his room. He found her halfway under his bed babbling to herself with her butt in the air. He tickled her bare feet making her squeal before grabbing her ankles and dragging her out.

Wynter giggled and turned herself over to give him a big grin "Mama!"

"What are you doing?"

"P-ay."

"Are you playing?"

"Ye."

"Okay. Are you ready to go?"

"Edy!" she exclaimed.

"What about your shoes?"

Wynter looked down at her feet, "Oh no!" she said and ran out of the room to get them with Harry following. She found one of them by the door and the other under her crib. She sat down on the floor and helped him put some socks on and her shoes. Once they were strapped on she exclaimed "Edy!"

"Good," Harry said smiling and pulled her up to her feet, and smoothed her skirt down. He had put her into one of the outfits Hermione had given her for Christmas. A cute beige and dark brown plaid skirt and a fuzzy brown sweater that had a big pocket in front. It even came with a little matching purse that Wynter had put owl treats for Hedwig and a toy car. He had put what he could of her hair in a small side ponytail on the top of her head. She looked so cute! "Okay, then let's go wait for Daddy," he said, picking her up and heading downstairs.

"Dadee!" she squealed in joy, clapping her hands. Harry just smiled at her enthusiasm, as it was every time Tom came over and pressed a kiss to the side of her head.

As soon as he put her down at the bottom of the stairs, she took off to the receiving room where Hedwig's stand was by the window that opened on its own when she wanted to go out. Wynter dug around in her little purse and pulled out a treat and held it out "Edig!"

Hedwig fluttered down to a lower rung on her stand so she was even with Wynter and took the offered treat, making her giggle. She then patted the soft downy feathers.

"Gentle," Harry reminded her.

"En-tow," Wynter repeated and continued patting the snowy owl who preened at the attention.

They didn't have to wait long for Tom to come as he was nothing but punctual, so there was a knock on the door at 5 pm sharp.

Wynter ran straight to the door excitedly, "Dadee?" she asked, slapping the door with her palms.

"Check the window."

She peered through the window and saw Tom, "Dadee!" she screeched, "Mama, opn, opn!" she said, reaching for the doorknob that she could now grasp but not turn.

"Hold on, let me open it," he said, lifting her and setting her aside easily out of the way so he could open the door.

She immediately barreled herself into Tom's legs when he came in and clung close until he picked her up. It made Harry feel awful about keeping her from her father, but this dinner was the first step in trying to get back to a new normal.

"You ready?" Tom asked Wynter and she nodded with another "Edy!" Then he looked at Harry, lifting a perfect brow in silent question.

Harry nodded, "Let me just grab our coats."

While Harry went to the closet, Tom pulled Wynter back a bit so he could look at her outfit. "You look very pretty, Wynter."

"Piddy?" she asked.

"Yes. I like your skirt," he said, plucking at it. Wynter just smiled and patted the spot he had touched.

"Wynter, tell Daddy thank you," Harry said, slipping on his coat.

"Tnk ooh," she said.

"You're very welcome," Tom said and put her down for Harry to put her coat on too.

"You look very nice as well," Tom said to Harry.

Harry felt his face flush and he focused on doing up the buttons on Wynter's coat. "T-thanks." When he was done, he turned to Tom, "So where are we going?"

"A Muggle restaurant. I didn't think you would want to be recognized."

"Ugh, no," Harry agreed, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "I wouldn't even know how to begin to explain where she came from," he said, squishing Wynter's cheeks making her giggle.

"You'll have to eventually."

"I know. Just not now. I'm not ready and still trying to figure this out…"

"Understood," Tom said and picked Wynter up. "I'll apparate us to the restaurant," he said and turned to Wynter, "Ready?"

"Edy Dadee!" She exclaimed.

"Okay, hold tight."

"Oke," she said and burrowed her face into his neck and clung tight.

Tom looked at Harry and held out an arm for him to take. Harry took a deep breath and stepped close so that Tom could wrap his arm around him securely and oh how nice it felt. A moment later, the room dissolved as they were apparated away.

They arrived in the alley between some stores on a busy cobblestone street and nearby Harry could see a park off to the left and a wide river by some train tracks. It wasn't a place he had been before so he didn't know where he was.

"It's a little bit of a walk from here," Tom said, leading him out of the alley.

"Oooh," Wynter only said looking around, then started wiggling, "Awk."

"You want to walk?"

"Ye," she agreed. So Tom set her down and took her hand so she wouldn't take off. "Mama an!" she said reaching for Harry.

"My hand too?"

"Ye!"

"Okay," he said and took her other hand so that she walked between them. It made her very happy and she beamed as she looked around.

"Where are we?" Harry asked as he joined Wynter in looking around.

"Just outside Brixton in Battersea, there is a really good Italian place just up here. It's a little bit further."

They came around a bend and were next to a river that followed the length of the sidewalk and kept going under a bridge. There were shops along the side where Muggle shoppers were walking. On the corner, there was a big building covered in windows that seemed to be a part of something else with seating along one side with huge umbrellas to cover the tables, and there was a lot of greenery surrounding the doors – potted plants and long planters with tall ferns, and off-center to the left was the door with the name "Fiume" above the door in gold.

"Are you sure about this Tom? It looks really…fancy," Harry said feeling underdressed.

"This is rather tame compared to the other places I considered."

"Really? Geez, now I wonder where you'll take us next time."

"As long as there is a next time," Tom said. Harry just looked away as he felt a blush creeping up his neck. Tom smiled softly. "It's fine. Just trust me."

Tom took the lead and started heading toward the restaurant, Harry catching up so they were even and Wynter could walk between them. When they got to the steps leading up to the building, they each tightened their grip on Wynter's hands and lifted her off her feet, and took her up the steps as she squealed in delight. Tom then opened the door for the two of them and followed them inside.

As soon as they stepped in, a waitress perked up and smiled at them. "Table for 2?" she looked down and spotted Wynter gazing up at her, "And a half?"

"Yes, please," Tom agreed.

"Alright, follow me," she said and led them to a table in the back corner for some privacy. "Here you go," the waitress said, setting down 2 menus and a kids sheet with some crayons. "Let me just grab a highchair for you," and turned and walked away.

Harry sat down when Tom held out his chair and settled Wynter in his lap, staying her hand as it grabbed at the wrapped cutlery set on the table. "No touch."

"No otch?" Wynter asked.

"Yes, no touch."

The waitress returned with a high chair and placed it on the corner of the table.

"Thank you," Harry said as he placed Wynter in her seat, Tom helping to pull her legs through the holes.

"Tnk oo!" Wynter repeated, making the waitress smile.

"Can I start with drinks?"

"Um…" Harry started not sure what Muggle beverages there were. It wasn't like the Dursleys ever took him out. "Water?"

The waitress, Rachel – by her tag, nodded and turned to Tom.

"A bottle of your Pieropan Soave Classico."

"Understood. And for the little one?"

"Egg!" Wynter announced.

"No, no egg," Harry said with a smile, "to drink."

"Umm…Uooss," she then said.

"Apple juice if you have it," Harry elaborated.

"I'll bring those right out."

"Ie!" Wynter said, waving her fingers.

"She'll be back," Harry said, smoothing her curls.

"Ack?"

"Yes," Harry agreed.

"Oke."

Harry showed her the crayons that had been placed on the table and the drawing paper and let her scribble to her heart's content. With her suitably distracted, Harry took a look around.

The restaurant was wider than he had thought it was walking up to it, done up in whites, light blue, and natural wood colors. Right when you walked in, there was a bar to the left with barstools, different colored bottles lined the walls, and the hanging rack above. Directly toward the back was an open kitchen with an island counter that was all that was blocking the stoves on the other side with a pizza oven in the left corner. You could watch your food be prepared and cooked from the dining room. The dining room was split into two sections by a wooden partition with plants crawling up the sides like a trellis. The first section by the door had 2 long high tables with stools down the center and to the right were tables with chairs on one side and a long booth. The other side of the partition had an identical booth and table set, but the rest of the room had several tables with chairs of four, with one long table along the windowed wall for six. Harry and Tom were seated in the second section in the back in consideration of the other patrons since they had a child.

"This place is really nice," Harry commented.

"I'm glad you approve," Tom said.

"So," Harry said, picking up his menu, "Anything that you recommend?"

"Depends on what you want. The lamb is good and so is the cod, or you can do pizza."

"I did see the pizza oven back there, but we can get pizza anywhere…everything looks really good."

"If you want, we can share so you can taste multiple dishes," Tom offered.

"Can we do that?" Harry asked.

"Of course."

"Okay, then…the lamb."

"And I'll get the Cod, it's very good."

"Sounds like a plan. Now, what do we get her?" Harry asked, indicating Wynter who was still focused on her coloring.

"There's a children's menu on the back," Tom said, flipping his menu and Harry did the same.

"Bambini menu, how cute," Harry said as he read through the limited choices.

"Wynter, what do you want to eat?"

"Egg!" She said.

"There's no egg, jelly bean."

"Tay-o," she then responded.

"Potato?" Tom asked, "They do have mashed potatoes."

"Do you want chicken or pizza?" Harry asked her, they could always cut it into pieces for her to eat.

"Tic-in," she announced after a thought. "Mama ookit!" She said showing her drawing.

"That's very pretty. So chicken for her then."

Tom nodded and just in time too as the waitress, Rachel came back with drinks. A glass of water, a sippy cup with apple juice for Wynter, and a bottle of wine were set on the table in front of each of them. "Are you ready to order?"

"Um, yes. I'll have the Roasted Rump of Lamb," Harry said

"And I'll have the Cod Guazzetto," Tom ordered, and then placed a hand on Wynter's head, "She'll have-"

"Tic-in!" Wynter interrupted.

Tom smiled, "The Chicken Milanese."

"Of course," Rachel said, writing down their order. "Will that be all?"

"Yes, thank you," Tom said and she left. He popped open the bottle of wine and poured two glasses that were on the table.

"Dadee hab?" Wynter asked, grabbing his glass.

"No sweetheart, only for Mama and I," Tom said.

"Aw," she pouted and then her attention went to the empty glasses on the table and grabbed for them too.

"Wynter no," Harry warned, snatching them away from her and putting them on another table.

"A-nt!"

"No," he said sternly and she puffed her cheeks and went back to coloring. He just hoped that that would be it.

Little did they know that that was just the beginning. Normally Wynter was well behaved but that was because they were at home. This was the first time they had been out to dinner and everything was new and amazing and she had to have her hands on it.

When their food came, Harry cut up her chicken into smaller bites and set the plate in front of her with a spoon he had brought from home that was easier on her hands. She used it at first but was soon using her hands getting mashed potatoes all over her face, the table, and the floor. No amount of "Wynter use your spoon," would stop her.

She would just say "Ooon?" picking it up and holding it in her fist. Would use it for a moment, then it would be back to picking up the chicken with her fingers and her spoon would be waved around enthusiastically with mashed potatoes flying in all directions.

Harry would just sigh in expatriation and clean up her mess, Tom helping up with a bit of discreet magic and continue to try and get her to properly eat.

And then there was her constant stream of talking and questions. Again, fine at home, but out in public with a dinner crowd now in the restaurant…it was not. Wynter was an enthusiastic eater and was vocal about it.

"Good Dadee!"

"That's good, sweetheart. Keep your voice down."

"Aht?"

"Inside voice," Harry reiterated.

"Is-ie?"

"Yes, inside. Other people can hear you."

"Uh oh," She would say, covering her mouth and then after a moment of quiet, she would be loud again.

She couldn't help it, she was only a year old. But most of their date was just focused on trying to get her to eat and keep her quiet. Yet despite that, Tom and Harry would smile at each other from across the table in shared frustration and hilarity. Also, the food was really good. The lamb Harry had got was very tender and juicy and he got to try the cod that Tom got that was also really good. Wynter got a taste too, she liked the lamb, but not the cod because she wrinkled her little nose and said "Uck!" They will have to try again later when she had a more refined palette.

After they were done eating, they took a walk along the walkway with Wynter between them, sometimes swinging her to make her giggle. They looked through the windows of the stores to see what was inside and even went into a few of them to look around. Harry bought a few things for the kitchen in one of them and a small souvenir of the Battlesea Power Station nearby from another to remind himself of their first date. When Wynter started to get sleepy, they called it a night and Tom took them home.

Tom helped him take Wynter upstairs and gave her another bath where she nearly fell asleep, so he had to hold her up. Once she was dressed in her pajamas, Harry rocked her gently from side to side and before he could get to the rocking chair, she was asleep. So working together, they put her in the crib and bundled her up so she was nice and warm with her Teddy Bear.

"Well, that didn't take long," Harry whispered as they backed out of the room.

"She did a lot of walking and moving around today and had a lot of fun," Tom responded following Harry downstairs.

"And her tummy was nice and full," Harry added.

"I think she ended up wearing most of her food instead of eating it."

Harry laughed, "That is true," he said, turning around before the door. "I had a good time too."

"I'm glad," Tom said, forcing himself to not reach out and touch him, as much as he wanted to. "Can we do this again?"

Harry gave it a second thought, "Yeah," he said, swaying on the spot with his hands behind his back, holding his own hands tightly. "I'd like that. Maybe without her?"

"Sounds like a plan. Next week?"

Harry nodded with a smile. "Next week."

"Okay," Tom said, backing toward the door so he could keep Harry in sight as long as possible. "Good night Harry."

"Good night, Tom," Harry said back, softly.

They stood silently looking at each other before Tom turned around and left out the door.

Harry released the breath he had been holding and moved to lock the door and then leaned back against it. He had thought Tom was going to kiss him for a second there, and he wasn't sure he would have been able to deny him. He missed Tom, missed being with him, but he knew he wasn't ready for it. Not yet. But if things went as well as it did tonight, it was a definite possibility in the future.

While today's date didn't exactly go as he expected, it had still been the most fun he'd had in a while. Just being together as a family like they used to…just thinking about it made his heart race. But it was still going to take some time to get back to how they were. No. Even more than what they were.

Harry couldn't wait.


Hope you enjoyed this chapter because it just did not want to be written. It was the entire date part I was having trouble with. But it's out now. Not much happened but Harry and Tom had their date...kind of. I've never been out with a child but I have seen parents at it and it's a lot of work, and the mashed potatoes thing, I have seen, so I figured it was appropriate. In the next chapter, I am hoping to see Tom and Harry have a proper date. I've never been on one, so any ideas are welcome :)

I also want to take a moment to say thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me for this long. When I first started this fic, I thought it would be done in a year or two...yeah that did not happen. This story just turned into a monster that I just did not have a lot of time for anymore. Yet I wanted to keep going, not only to get this story out of my head (why can't I just have a thought translator to write it all down? it would be so much easier!) but so I wouldn't disappoint everyone.

The fact that many of you come back again and again despite it not being complete is just amazing and I love you all for it. Seeing all your support with follows and comments, really make my day. Of course, there are those who say to hurry it up and finish it already since it's been so long. Yes, I know, it's been 13+ years since I started, but I could have stopped. Abandoned it like so many others, but I chose not to. I am determined to see it through.

So yes, I update once a year, twice if I have the motivation for it. But like many, writing fanfiction is not my life, I do it for fun. It is NOT my priority. And my real-life often gets in the way, so if that bothers you, I'm sorry, but you can go and read something else. But I will still be here plugging away, going to work at two different jobs, taking care of my parents, and writing when I can, and getting it out to everyone.

This turned into a longer note than I thought it was going to be, not sure if any of you will read all of it...but anyway. I just wanted to say thank you for sticking with me all these years, to the new readers, welcome and sorry in advance for the infrequent updates that will no doubt continue to happen. I'm doing my best.

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope 2022 is a better year than the last. Stay COVID sage. See you next year! (or sooner, I hope)

phoenix