After Life

Author: Debbie
Rating: G
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended
Summary: Harry and Hermione's later years together, as remembered by their children. Canon and Epilogue compliant.
Warning: Character deaths prior to story's beginning
Author's Note: Written for the Pumpkin Christmas community on LJ. Many thanks to Liss for beta-reading.

Lily looked around in dismay. "There's so much stuff," she said with a sigh. "It'll take us ages to sort through it all."

Rose shrugged. "I suppose it's only natural for people to collect loads of things after a hundred-odd years. It could be worse," she added. "Mum kept every book she ever read, but she was pretty good about not letting other junk collect too much."

Hugo laughed. "I remember when she threatened to hex Dad if he didn't do something with his Martin Miggs and chocolate frog collections. I think she was afraid he'd end up like Grandpa Weasley, with a secret garage full of things."

James nodded. "Fortunately, our dad seemed pretty good about knowing which things were important to keep for sentiment or usefulness, and which could be thrown away." He looked around. "If I know him, he'll probably have just a few things in a box somewhere, and the rest is stuff that both of them used for daily living."

Albus was already headed up the stairs. "Well, let's get started."

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"Happy Christmas!" Harry said in an overbright voice, coming through the fireplace with a bag in one hand and brushing soot off his robes with the other.

Hermione gave a weak smile as he came into the kitchen. "Thanks for coming over, Harry. I know you usually spend the evening with the children but Rose and Hugo left early so they could be with their cousins and it … I just … I miss him."

Harry's smile fell away and, setting the bag down on the table, went over to embrace Hermione. "I know," he said. "I do too - every single day."

Hermione wrapped her arms around Harry's waist and rested her head on his shoulder, breathing in his comfortable, familiar warmth. "I feel silly - it's been six months already since he d-died, and I'm mostly used to it now, but it's Christmas and it's just…." She trailed off.

He stroked her hair with one hand. "I understand. Even though Ginny and I separated by choice, it was still hard to go through all those 'firsts' - first Christmas, first birthday - without her. We eventually got to the point where we could be together on those holidays for the kids, and for big family gatherings, as you well know, but it was a hard adjustment at first. And six months really isn't that long, you know - not after all the years you had together."

Hermione gave a tiny nod. "I just couldn't face a big Weasley gathering this year. All that red hair … it would've been too much," she murmured into his neck, hugging him tighter. "I'm glad you're here - you're the only one I wanted to see just now."

"Anything for you," he replied. Then he straightened up and pushed her hair from her eyes. "Now, how about a bit of leftover Christmas pudding? I brought some wine."

Hermione smiled, her arms still loosely around his waist. "Sounds lovely."

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"Look, photos!"

Everyone left their tasks to crowd around Lily on the floor.

"Gosh, I haven't seen pictures of them that young in ages. They must still be at school here."

"Looks like it." Lily turned a few pages. "And here are some pictures from when they each got married."

Rose gently traced the edge of one picture with her finger. "It was awful when Dad died so suddenly. I'd only been out of Hogwarts a few years."

"I remember," James said. "And our parents had split up just a few years before that. Made all the family gatherings rather different for a while."

They flipped a few more pages, watching as they each emerged on the photos as babies, toddlers, in their Hogwarts robes for the first time, and other milestones.

"Here's one of Dad and Hermione together - looks like Christmas at some point." Lily gently pried the photo loose and looked on the back. "It says '2042'."

"Wow, has it been that long?" Albus looked surprised. "It always seemed brand new - or maybe that's how they always acted, like it was new." He shrugged. "And yet even I admit that it kind of seemed like they'd always been together, too. Strange, isn't it?"

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"Good dinner, Mum, thanks." Hugo gave his mother a hug. "And thanks for the pressies."

"Yes, thank you, Hermione," James added. "It was nice of you to invite us all over, too."

"Oh, well," Hermione replied, giving James a hug, "I thought perhaps it might be fun to combine households for the holiday this year - I'm glad you enjoyed it. You didn't miss your cousins too much, I hope?"

James shook his head as he released her. "Nah," he answered. "We'll see them all tomorrow for Boxing Day anyway." He turned to his own small son. "Say goodbye and thank you to Hermione, Fredrick."

The little boy clutched his newly unwrapped plush owl and stared solemnly up at Hermione. "Bye and fankyou. And Owly says fankyou, too."

Hermione chuckled as she bent to kiss his cheek. "You're welcome, Master Potter. You take good care of Owly, all right?"

"Okay." He caught the eye of the man next to him and added, "Grandpa taught me all about owls aweady. He says his first owl, Hedwig, was the very best sort."

She smiled at Harry over the little dark head. "She sure was."

Harry returned her smile, and suddenly Hermione didn't want to look away. There were years of memories in his green gaze, and he knew she was thinking of so many things - owls, cats, rats, dogs … and so much else - that they had known and shared together. She felt a sudden urge to go to him and wrap her arms around him, to acknowledge all that they had been and done together over the years, to kiss away the slight tinge of sadness behind that smile. And yet her body seemed frozen to the spot; she simply stayed where she was and held his gaze with her own, nearly forgetting to breathe.

"Hey, Dad, are you coming or not?" Albus' head popped back into the kitchen. "The others are all ready to Apparate back to James' and Ellen's place."

Harry started. "Right, I'll be there in a minute," he called. He turned back to Hermione. "I guess I'll see you later," he said, after a moment's pause.

"All right," she replied. Her brain seemed to have finally loosened its frozen grip on her body, and she stepped forward to hug him goodbye. "Happy Christmas," she said, giving him an awkward kiss on the cheek, feeling her own face strangely warm.

He pulled on his cloak as he stepped away, then looked into her eyes once more. "Happy Christmas, Hermione," he said softly. And then he was gone.

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"I found their Christmas decorations," Rose said, opening yet another box in the storage closet. She held up a golden fairy and flicked her wand at it, causing the little ornament to flutter around at the end of its string, shimmering in the light. "Does anyone mind if I keep this? It was always one of my favourites."

"Fine with me," said Lily. "I rather liked the snowglobes that never stopped snowing, myself."

Albus plucked one of the snowglobes from its protective wrapping and hefted it in his hand. "Remember how Dad used to take all our kids out into the snow for snowball fights and snowball-Quidditch when they were little?"

"I remember," Lily laughed. "I think Hermione wasn't too thrilled to have us all come tramping back into the house full of slush and snow, but she was always quick with the warming charms, so that was nice."

Hugo smiled at the memory. "And sometimes we could coax her out for a bit of snowplay, too."

"I admit it was a bit strange at first, combining our Christmas celebrations into a single one together - and yet not a full Weasley gathering with the rest of our cousins," Rose said, turning the fairy ornament silent and still again with another flick of her wand. "But I also admit it grew on me pretty quickly."

"Besides," added Hugo, "it's not like we didn't get together with everyone else on Boxing Day, anyway. It was kind of nice to have a smaller event on the actual holiday. Not," he continued, "that it was really that small once we all had our own kids!" He chuckled.

Albus handed the snowglobe back to his sister, who gently replaced it in the box. "Well, it did get a little bit smaller after a couple of years," he pointed out. "At least for us, anyway. Dad used to come back with us for a drink and maybe a bit of leftover turkey in the evenings, but pretty soon he'd start making some excuse to stay behind."

"Yeah, that was a little hard to get used to at first," agreed Lily. "But at least we knew he wasn't alone or anything - he was with a good friend."

Hugo coughed. "Right. 'Friend,'" he said, rolling his eyes.

"I wonder how long they pretended to just be friends before they finally admitted to us what we all knew anyway?" James said thoughtfully as he began levitating the Christmas boxes down toward the stairs.

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"It's getting rather late - I should probably head back soon." Harry yawned and stretched. "But it's been another lovely Christmas dinner."

Hermione was quiet for a moment, but as Harry began to rise from the sofa, she put a hand on his wrist to stop him. "Stay," she said.

Harry chuckled. "If I stay any longer, you won't be able to get rid of me."

"I know," she answered softly. "I want you to stay. With me."

"I … what?" Harry, who had been about to give her a goodnight kiss to the cheek, froze, his face inches from hers.

Hermione cupped his face in her hands, pulling back slightly so they could look at each other properly. "Stay with me," she repeated. Then she leaned in and kissed him full on the lips.

It took Harry only a moment to react, then he curled his own hands into Hermione's hair and pulled her closer, deepening their kiss.

"How long have you felt this way?" he asked, when they finally broke apart and could breathe again.

"Ages," she answered simply. "But I felt terribly guilty about Ron … and even Ginny … and it took me awhile to realise that Ron loved you too and would want me to be happy even if he wasn't around. And … well … I've been watching you and it seemed maybe you thought the same and just didn't want to say so."

Harry shook his head in amusement. "You always were far better at fathoming people's feelings than I was." He leaned his forehead against hers. "But you were right."

Hermione rose off the sofa, pulling Harry with her. "Then come with me. I've got one more present for you."

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"I found it!" James called.

Hugo poked his head into the little office study. "What, his broom?"

"Oh, no - Albus found that hours ago, in the broom cupboard of all places." He chuckled. "I suspect Hermione was trying to keep him from flying so much once his eyes got worse." He held up a box. "See - I said Dad would keep his few precious items in a box, and here it is!"

The others crowded in to look. There was a piece of broken mirror ("Dad told me it used to belong to his godfather," James contributed), a white feather, a few well-handled Chocolate Frog cards, a photo album, an ancient-looking piece of parchment ("Don't tell me Dad still had that Map after all these years!" Albus exclaimed), and various other small items deemed important for one Harry Potter.

"What's this?" Rose reached in and pulled out a grey velvet box.

"I dunno," James shrugged. "Open it."

Rose lifted the lid. It was empty.

"Looks like it was meant for a ring, anyway," Lily observed. "I wonder whose?"

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"Happy Christmas," Harry said, handing Hermione a large flat package.

Hermione weighed it in her hand. "Hmmm," she said, winking at the man sitting across from her. "Maybe it's a … book?"

Harry smiled innocently. "Could be. Why don't you find out?"

"I think I shall." With a grin, she carefully pulled off the cheery red paper. "2061?" She looked up in surprise. "I don't generally read Muggle science fiction any more, Harry, you know that, and, besides, Arthur C. Clarke wrote this ages ago."

"I know," Harry replied. "But this is a new edition, with a bit of a twist. Go on," he urged, "open it up and give it a look."

"All right," Hermione replied doubtfully as she flipped open the cover. Then she gasped in surprise. A square hole had been cut straight through the center of the pages - just large enough for a small grey box. She looked up at him, eyes wide. "Harry, what's this?"

Harry reached over and pulled the box from its hiding place. "Because I'm hoping that we can be together until at least 2061. And even though I know we'll probably live longer than Muggles, that's still just about the same as being together forever." He knelt beside her and opened the box, showing a sparkling diamond and ruby ring. "Hermione, will you marry me?"

Hermione stared, speechless a moment. "But … we're already so old!"

"I don't care," Harry responded earnestly. "However many years I have left, whether it's four or four hundred, I want to spend them with you." He looked into her bespectacled brown eyes. "What about you?"

"Oh … Oh Harry," Hermione cried, flinging her arms around him and sending both of them crashing to the floor. "Yes! Yes, I will marry you."

Harry removed the ring from its box and, somewhat awkwardly as Hermione was lying on top of him, placed it on her finger. "I love you," he murmured, kissing her.

"I love you, too," she replied. "I think I've loved you since we were children, although not as I do now, of course."

Harry nodded "Me, too. You've always been there for me, Hermione, and I can't imagine life without you."

Hermione smiled. "I feel the same."

"Then, as our first act 'for better and for worse', I have a favour to ask of you," Harry said.

Hermione pushed herself to her knees. "Anything, love."

Harry stiffly raised himself on an elbow and held out his hand. "Help me up!"

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"Well, I guess that's everything," Rose said, looking around. "Hugo, did you bring down the boxes of books from the guest room?"

"I think so," Hugo replied. "I've brought down so many boxes of Mum's books, even though we shrunk them, that I've lost track." He looked at the pile on the hired lorry. "But, yeah, I think we've got them all."

"Good. All right. Now - James, are you sure you can drive this thing?" She eyed the lorry doubtfully.

"Yes. My dad taught me how to drive Muggle cars when I was about twenty," James retorted.

"Yes, well, you're over seventy now," Rose retorted, "so just be careful."

"I will." James rolled his eyes at Hugo. "She's your mum, through and through, isn't she?"

Hugo laughed. "Indeed she is. But that's no bad thing, either."

"No, I suppose it isn't," James replied. "After all - look how happy she made Dad."

"They made each other happy," Lily said firmly, looking up at the now-empty house. "For a very long time."

The five of them looked at each other a moment, until Albus finally said, "Well, I guess we'll see you at the next family gathering."

"I guess so," answered Rose. "But it will be very strange not to have Mum and Harry there."

"We've survived other losses," James said stoutly, thinking of his uncle Bill, who had died some years before. "We'll survive this, too."

"I know," said Rose, "but, well, these were our parents, our mum and your dad, and … even aside from that, they were something really special together." She sniffled a little. "I still can't believe they died in the same weekend."

"It happens like that sometimes, when people have been together so long," said Hugo, putting an arm around his sister. "And they'd been close friends for over forty years even before they married."

Rose leaned her head on her brother's shoulder. "Still - it's a lot for us to lose all at once. On the other hand," she added with a small sigh, "I suppose this way neither one had to be alone. It would have been too hard to even imagine after all this time."

Lily nodded. "I'd like to think they're having a grand time with Ron and our grandparents and all those other people they'd talk about missing so much."

"And speaking of a 'grand time', how about if we go get a drink before we haul all this away?" suggested Albus. "There's a pub just down the way."

"At this hour?" Rose asked, checking her watch.

"So we'll just drink pumpkin juice or butterbeer instead of firewhisky," James said. "Come on, we'll say a grand toast to our parents, Harry and Hermione Potter, and to all they meant to everyone."

"Hear hear," said Hugo, and they all headed for the pub.


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