Hermione smiled as she stepped out of the Floo and into the villa she shared with Teddy, Andi, and her Harry. The reason for her smile was the precocious two-year old seated in his grandmother’s lap. He had begun holding certain features even when seeing different people, where in the past he would match eye and hair color with whoever was holding him, now he would change one or the other. In the last few weeks, however, he had kept his eyes the same startling green as Harry’s and just changed his hair. The result, of course, was that every time she saw him, Hermione couldn’t help but picture their own children, and that never failed to put a smile on her face.
“Hermi is home! Hermi is home!” he cried, sliding down his grandmother’s legs to toddle at Hermione. The young woman knelt down to give him a hug, scooping him up and blowing raspberries on his cheeks. Teddy let out a gale of delighted laughter at her actions, while Andi huffed good-naturedly.
“And I was so close to getting him to fall asleep,” the older woman grumbled with a smile. Hermione shot her an apologetic look as Teddy began describing his day to her, complete with sweeping hand motions and sound effects. The little boy had the undeniable ability to put a smile on anyone’s face, regardless of any other circumstances, and she knew that his presence had helped all three of the adults with the move.
The quartet had skipped Britain a little over a year ago, settling in a nice villa outside Rome which was only a mile from the ocean. It was nothing extravagant, but it was large enough for Harry and Hermione to have some privacy as adults, but still live with their godson. Harry had taken up his tutelage under Healer Nakamura and Hermione had enrolled at Kilbright, seeking a double Mastery in Charms and Transfiguration. Nothing in life was ever perfect, and like everyone else, they had good days and bad days. The difference was no one was trying to kill them, no one was vilifying or worshipping them in turns, no one was manipulating them or harassing them or abusing them.
She carefully disengaged herself from Teddy who allowed her to leave only after extracting a promise for a bedtime story. It was a game they played where he would do something to get their attention and would only concede if they promised to read to him. Harry and Hermione always chuckled because they would read to him regardless, and it was one of their favorite parts of the day. Her feet took her to the second floor, lost as she was in reminiscing about the changes. When she stopped outside Harry’s office, she leaned against the door with a soft smile and just watched her best friend, her love.
Easily the biggest change after leaving Britain had been Harry himself. He had blossomed in ways Hermione would never have imagined, and she loved every single one of them. He was healthier, happier, and more at ease with himself than he had ever been. Most of the changes started after his initial physical with Daichi, as he preferred to be called. The results of that examination had led to an hour long, rage fueled rant which featured six different languages, one of which was no longer spoken in the world, and a broken clipboard. Once the diminutive, and usually genial man, had worn out his indignation over the complete failure of the Healing profession in Britain, he had designed a regiment which would help Harry recover from the abuse he had suffered.
He had spent their first two weeks in country constrained to bed rest, but the results had been worth it. He was taller, heavier, and had the internal structure of a twenty-year-old instead of a sixty-year-old. The pair had agreed on daily exercise, and it was paying dividends in spades, for both of them if the looks Harry gave her were any indication.
His trips to a Mind Healer who had previously studied under Daichi also paid dividends. Hermione had to adjust to the idea that he would tell his Mind Healer things he wouldn’t tell her until later, or even ever. It had taken a long, emotionally raw conversation between them for her to understand the differences in the relationship and space he had with the Healer as compared to her. Harry even encouraged her to start seeing a Mind Healer and though she hadn’t yet, it was only a matter of time. His last words on the subject were stuck in her mind.
“Trauma isn’t a competition, Mi. Someone’s wounds aren’t any more or less important than anyone else’s.”
A staccato rhythm coming from inside the room draws her out of her musings. He’s hunched over his desk, with a pen and notebook to one side, with two textbooks open in front of him. The hand without the pen was beating out the rhythm in an odd order; pointer finger, ring finger, middle finger, pointer finger again. It was one of those ticks that made Harry, Harry.
It hadn’t taken long for Harry to find out that Healers in the magical world went through much of the same schooling about anatomy as No-Maj doctors did. She had watched him dive head first into it and surpass both her and Daichi’s expectations. Harry had always struggled to stay engaged with things that didn’t interest him, but when something caught his mind, he had a laser like focus that Hermione loved. Even with his love for healing, it was a rather difficult field before Parseltongue was added, and Hermione could see the frustration building in his features. She knocked on the door gently.
His head shot up and he smiled so wide it almost looked painful. “Come in love.”
It was far cozier than the monstrosity of grandeur that had been the Lord’s Study in Grimmauld. Two of the walls had bookshelves, one had a cabinet with liquor and tumblers that Harry never drank from, set next to a window, and the other had a fireplace with a deep leather sofa in front of it, covered in her favorite throw. She had fallen asleep on that sofa more times than she could count, often cocooned within his arms. Andi chided them about actually making it to bed, but it was actually innocent sleeping more often than not.
“I figured I would step in before your face permanently set in a frown,” she said with a grin. He rose and came around his desk to meet her. He gently caught her hands and held them as their lips met in a soft kiss. He smiled as he pulled back and swept her into his arms for a tight hug. She returned it happily, burrowing herself into his chest.
“You would be surprised how complicated human feet are,” he mumbled into her hair. Her laughter was muffled against him. He leaned back and gave her an over exaggerated pout. “I confide my darkest troubles in the hopes of support and receive only laughter.”
She pressed a kiss to his jaw. “I’ll always support you, but feet, really? That’s what has you looking like that? I could hear your tapping in the hallway.”
“Every now and then a small part of me wishes you didn’t know me so well, and then I think of the alternative and I’m eternally grateful for you,” he said, summoning a newspaper from the pullout drawer of his desk. Hermione felt her heart skip at his admission and pulled him back for more soft kisses.
“You, Harry James, will always have me, so it’s for the best that I can read you so well,” she murmured against his lips. She felt his broaden into a smile.
“As you, Hermione Jean, will always have me,” he replied. He looked at the paper with a sigh before offering it to her. She turned so her back was pressed to his front and took the paper, noting with surprise that it was the Daily Prophet. He wrapped his arms around her waist while she searched for the offending article. Since it was an above the fold, banner headline, it didn’t take long.
“Savior Bewitched by Muggleborn!” was being proclaimed large enough to be seen from twenty feet away. The article went on to accuse Hermione of potioning Harry into a relationship in collusion with a witch from a notoriously Dark family, read Andromeda, in order to get pregnant with an heir and then steal his fortune by killing him. It rambled about her ‘loose morals corrupting the heartbroken boy who saved us all’ and other blood purist nonsense. Hermione felt her jaw slip open as she read one ridiculous statement after baseless accusation after ridiculous statement. All of the people interviewed didn’t like her, Harry, or both, and the article was titled so far in one direction that it would have made the Leaning Tower of Pisa jealous.
She gaped at the article before bursting into laughter. Every time she glanced at the article, her howls renewed, until tears were streaming down her face and her abdomen was cramping up. Hermione had to drop the paper and lay down on the sofa before she could get control of herself. Finally, after far too long, she pulled her breathing back to normal. The first thing she noticed was the heavy disapproval on Harry’s face, from where he’d knelt next to the sofa.
“Mi, they’re accusing you of quite a lot of crimes, all of which result in a Dementor’s kiss. On top of that, they’re thrashing your reputation by claiming you’re a… a-”
Hermione placed a finger against his lips. He went cross-eyed to look at it before turning his gaze back to her. She gave him a small smile.
“I know, Harry, I read the article too. I’m not worried about it, though. You know why? A multitude of reasons; first we’re Italian citizens, so the British legal system has no jurisdiction over us. Second, the ICW doesn’t even recognize half of those as crimes, since inherited titles are not an international custom, and the half they do recognize would get dismissed immediately. Third, I stopped caring what the British public thought of me when they changed their opinion of you four times before we were fifteen. They’re fickle, love, you know that, and while I appreciate and love you for thinking of my reputation, no one outside Britain takes the Prophet seriously.”
His lips had moved up to a thin line which was progress. “They still shouldn’t be allowed to do that. I know it shouldn’t, but it still gets to me that they can slander anyone they want.”
“I think, if anyone ever had reason to be pissed at the media, it’s you. I understand how you feel, but they can’t hurt us anymore love. We got out, and we’re better for it, right?”
Harry closed his eyes and took a series of deep breaths. When he opened them again, she could see the resolution set within him. He leaned down and pressed a soft kiss to her forehead.
“Thanks, Mi. I really would be lost without you.”
“No you wouldn’t, Harry, you just wouldn’t get there as fast,” she replied. He chuckled and rolled his eyes at her, but all of his previous frustration and tension was gone, so Hermione considered it a successful endeavor. There was one thing, though, that she couldn’t figure out.
“How did you get ahold of a copy anyway?”
“Daichi gave it to me in case some go-getter reporter tracked us down, he didn’t want us caught unawares.”
Hermione huffed. “Remind me to send him a fruit basket laced with a laxative.”
Harry grinned at her and began tickling her sides. “Why, Ms. Granger, I do believe you need a lesson in respect. Daichi is a kindly old man.”
“Respect my arse. I still haven’t forgiven him for teaching Teddy to say fuck,” she replied through her laughter. Harry had pulled her off the sofa and into his arms so they were stretched out on the floor. Hermione pillowed her head on his chest, enjoying the sound of his heartbeat. “What do you have planned for tomorrow?”
He hummed in contemplation. “Nothing. Daichi gave me the day off since the last one was seventeen days ago. Why? What did you have in mind?”
“I think, we could all use a nice day trip to the beach. Some sun, some sand, and some surf will take all the stress right out,” she replied.
“I know something that could take the stress out,” Harry replied, gently rolling over on top of her. He began pressing kisses from her collarbone up her neck.
“Harry James honestly, this is, oh,” she trailed off with a light moan.
“Fuck later, dinner now,” Teddy demanded from the doorway. Harry and Hermione rapidly separated, turning to gape at the toddler in the doorway. Both of them flushed an impressive shade of red.
“EDWARD REMUS LUPIN! IF I HEAR YOU SAY THAT WORD ONE MORE TIME, THERE WILL BE NO DESSERT FOR A MONTH!” Andi yelled up the stairs. Teddy’s face and hair turned a ghostly shade of white and he bolted out of the room to his grandmother, pleading for leniency.
The couple turned to look at each other and fell into each other’s arms laughing.
“Thank you, Mi. Today’s been amazing,” Harry murmured, pressing a gentle kiss to Hermione’s neck as he stood behind her, arms wrapped around her waist. She simply hummed, gently swaying to the light music covering their balcony.
Hermione’s suggestion for a beach day had been an unqualified success, all thoughts of the article or the complexities of human feet were forgotten. The Italian Ministry had warded a small section of the beach so it’s citizens could use magic without worry. The fact that it was just down the road from their villa had been a deciding factor in their purchase since Harry wanted to be near the sea.
Harry and Teddy had spent hours splashing about in the shallow surf and building a magically enhanced sand castle, complete with working drawbridge. She and Andi had sat under a parasol and relaxed, alternating between reading and talking. Andi had lived a unique life, and Hermione enjoyed the conversations she had with the older witch. The highlight of the day had come when Harry was holding Teddy as the waves broke around his knees. She could hardly take her eyes off of him, with Teddy who looked so much like their son, a wide smile gracing his handsome face. Hermione also thought he looked rather fit in his trunks that were just a little too small, but that was a thought for later. She had been shaken from her reverie by an elderly witch approaching them.
“Your husband and son cut a dashing figure,” she said, patting Hermione on the shoulder. When she turned around she saw the woman’s husband giving her an apologetic look, like he had failed to talk his wife out of approaching her. Hermione simply smiled at them, not correcting them since her own thoughts had been headed in that direction.
“Thank you, ma’am. I’d tell him you said that, but I’m afraid it would go straight to his head,” she replied and the woman had giggled with her before leaving. Andi had smiled and shaken her head before they both laughed at the thought of Harry ever having an overly large ego. That thought had stuck with her though, of Harry as her husband with their son. She had never considered herself overly maternal, and after her experiences with Molly Weasley certainly never wanted to be like that. But the thought of children with Harry filled her with a warmth that wouldn’t go away.
“Where did you go, Mi?” Harry whispered against her ear. She snuggled deeper into his chest, watching the sunset bathe the ocean in a myriad of colors.
“Just thinking about today, and all the tomorrows we’ll have together,” she replied softly. She could feel the smile in his lips when he pressed another kiss to her neck. “Do you want children?”
He paused his ministrations, lips still pressed against her neck. “If this is your way of telling me you’re pregnant, it needs a little refinement love.”
She huffed when he chuckled at her. “Honestly, Harry James. I’m not overly traditional but I would like a ring before we truly start trying.”
“We can keep practicing, though, right? Because it’s easily my favorite thing ever,” he replied. She rolled her eyes and turned around in his arms. Her arms slipped around his neck to toy with the hair on the back of his head. Harry was grinning at her and his eyes danced with mischief and Hermione couldn’t help but smile back at his happiness.
“You really are the worst sort, you know that?” she said, enjoying the laughter she drew from him. “It’s my favorite thing as well, though.” He hummed as gently laid his cheek on the top of her head as she tucked her head under his. Hermione was content to stay wrapped in this moment forever, a gentle sea breeze washing over them as their fairy lights activated, bathing the balcony in soft light, quiet music in the background. It was so far removed from their life in Britain that it was hard to believe that had really been them. Harry’s words were soft when he spoke.
“With you? Yes, I absolutely do, more than anything. If you had asked me two years ago, or during school, I wouldn’t have really considered it because I honestly didn’t think I would make it this far. But now? Our whole lives are stretched out in front of us, and I want a family with you, Mi. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted, and I feel so blessed that you would consider it with me. Though we’ll probably spend the rest of our lives apologizing to them for their hair,” he said, with a light chuckle. She giggled even as she mentally agreed with him.
“How many? I’m not sure I could do seven, but I’d like at least two, I think. Being an only child is okay, but I would have liked a sibling growing up,” Hermione said. Harry hummed against the top of her head in agreement.
“Honestly love, the number is up to you. You’re the one who has to carry them and birth them, but I think three is a good number to shoot for. We could even name one of them Albus Severus,” he replied. It was silent for a moment and she pulled back to look at his impassive face, which cracked immediately as he began laughing at the horrified look Hermione had given him.
“Harry James Potter, if you ever suggest something so absurd again, you’ll be lucky if we ever practice again,” she answered, interspersing hits against his shoulder as he continued to laugh. She huffed at him and began tickling his sides which redoubled his laughter. He collapsed on a long lounge chair and she straddled his hips, giving him an imperious glare. Or, it would have been, if her lips weren’t bending upwards.
“Merlin woman, you’ve still got a mean swing,” he said, grinning up at her. She sniffed faux haughtily.
He held his arms open and up and she laid down on his chest, his arms wrapping around her tightly. The lay together in peaceful quiet, basking in the closeness of the other. Harry softly singing along with the music caused a swell of emotion in Hermione for the man beneath her.
Beneath the starry skies
The stars are in your eyes
You make the pale moon rise
And like a bright moonbeam,
Your spirit lights my dreams
And love is oh so nice,
Hermione sat up so she could see Harry’s face. He carefully cupped her cheek and wiped away a tear she hadn’t noticed was falling. His smile was so full of love and joy it made her breath catch. She leant down and pressed her lips against his softly, just feather light brushes. He arched his neck just enough to truly kiss her and then they were drowning in each other. Soft, sweet kisses filled with nothing but love, so much that it almost hurt, but neither would trade it for anything. Harry’s hand was slowly running through her hair. Hermione pulled back so their noses were just touching.
“Anywhere with you is a paradise, Harry,” she whispered softly.
His responding smile sent a shiver through her, and as he caught her lips again, her last thought was that there would likely be a lot of practicing for that family tonight.