The End of the Beginning

By Andrew Crawford

Drama / Romance

Chapter 23

Hermione loved reading in the woods.

There was something whimsical about sitting beneath a tree in the middle of the forest and getting lost in another world. It was like something out of the fairy tales that her mother had read to her when she was a little girl.

The problem was that today she wasn't able to focus on the book sitting in her lap. She kept reading the same paragraph over and over and was getting nowhere. There were too many other things rattling around in her brain.

"Oh, am I interrupting?" a dreamy voice spoke from behind her.

"No Luna, I actually am having a hard time focusing. What brings you out here?"

"I like walking through the woods." She replied, not looking at Hermione but letting her gaze wander the tree canopy. "There's something freeing about it, just letting your feet take you somewhere." Hermione noticed that she was barefoot.

Luna always struck her as odd and she was a foil in many ways to Hermione's hard logic, but the girl had really grown on her in the past several years. She was incredibly perceptive and Hermione found she was a useful sounding board when she couldn't detangle her thoughts.

"Care to join me?" Hermione patted the ground next to her.

"I would love to. What is distracting your focus from your book?" Luna turned her large blue eyes to Hermione. It always made her feel like Luna was seeing into her somehow.

"There's….well…" Hermione took a deep breath, "I'm really excited about being Head Girl, but I'm also nervous about the responsibility. I'm also worried that I haven't studied enough this summer to be caught up where I am supposed to be and I don't want to start the year behind schedule because our N.E.W.T.'s are this year and they are really important for our futures and I don't want to mess them up. I'm also a little hurt that Ginny doesn't talk to me anymore and keep giving me the cold shoulder and I'malittlejealousthatsheandHarryarestilltogether."

She blurted out the last little bit so fast it amazed her she was able to form intelligible words. She hadn't meant to talk about that at all, but the inertia of getting everything off her chest had built up momentum to the point where she couldn't stop herself.

Luna didn't look surprised, at least, no more surprised than she normally looked. "I really don't think you should be concerned about being Head Girl or your exams, I think you know that you're going to work hard and excel like you always have and I'm not that surprised you would be jealous of Ginny and Harry."

"You're not?" Hermione's curiosity got the best of her.

"No." Luna replied serenely, "He's your best friend. You're used to having him around all the time and being able to talk to him or spend time whenever you want. Now there's another girl that's higher on his priority list than you, a girl who happens to be your friend too. It's natural that you would feel some jealousy."

Luna said this like it was the simplest thing in the world. It was that particular quality about her, being able to make some of life's more complicated feelings sound like very simple truths, which endeared her to Hermione.

"I guess you're right. It's not that I'm not happy for him. He seems happy and more than anything I want for him to be happy."

Luna was still looking at her, "Are you sure that's all there is to it?"

Okay, she really needed to stop doing that.

Of course there was more to it. She kept doing this thing where whenever she would see Harry and Ginny together she would picture herself with Harry instead. Harry always looked happier in her version of events. It also gave her a strange sense of satisfaction whenever she ruffled his hair and saw that lopsided grin of his.

"Y-yeah, that's it." She finally replied, dragging herself out of her own head. "What do you mean? What else could it be?"

What was it about Luna that made her lose her ability to keep her big mouth shut?

"Well, I just wondered if maybe you were jealous because you wanted to be with Harry yourself." Luna replied simply. "It wouldn't be the strangest thing in the world. Haven't people asked you about your relationship with him before?"

That was certainly true. The list of people she had had to correct about her relationship to Harry was extensive and at one time or another included just about everyone they had ever come in contact with.

"What has that got to do with anything?"

"Nothing really, but it proves the point that it wouldn't be weird at all for you two to be together. Which means it wouldn't be odd for you to think about it or be jealous that he's with Ginny."

"But it is odd Luna." Hermione huffed, "He's my best friend. He's never been anything more than that and he's certainly never looked at me any differently. I fell in love with his best friend, not him." She was growing more frustrated the longer this conversation went.

"But it didn't work out with him did it?" Luna was as calm and serene as ever. "And you've always loved Harry."

"Yeah, but not like that."

"What makes you say that?"

"I…well…."

"Did you ever picture what it would be like with Harry?"

"Once or twice…."

"Did you ever think about kissing him?"

"Once…."

"Did it gross you out?"

"No!"

"Then how did you love him any differently?"

"Harry was always…..always more like….a brother you could say. And he told Ron that that was how he thought of me." Ron had told her just last week about what the Horcrux had shown him in the forest that night.

"But he's not your brother." Luna stated simply.

"Yeah, but he's just like one." She replied weakly.

"Except for the fact that you could be with him and it's not weird or wrong."

"It would be weird though! It's….it's Harry!"

"Okay, let me phrase it another way." How Luna could stay so calm about this was beyond Hermione's ability to understand. "If there was a guy who was just like Harry in every way, would you go out with him?"

Hermione thought for a moment. "Of course I would, Harry is a wonderful guy. If there was someone just like him, but not him then sure I would."

"Okay, then why not him? What would stop you from going out with Harry if you could?"

She let that thought seep into her brain. Being together with Harry?

With Harry?

She had let her mind go there with Harry only twice. During her fifth year she had thought about the possibility of them becoming Prefects together. It would have them spending a lot more time on their own without Ron around. One thing had led to another in her mind's eye and she had pictured a scenario where their time spent on Prefect patrols finally opened his eyes to her.

Of course, Harry had still been infatuated with Cho at the time and Ron ended up being Prefect instead, so the rest had been history. The only other time she had entertained the thought was at the beginning of sixth year when she had been explaining to a naïve Harry why he was suddenly so popular. She had been honest with him about how fanciable he had indeed become by then and had indulged herself with a little fantasy about how jealous all the girls would be of her if she had been with him.

"Have the Nargles gotten to you?"

Luna's voice brought her tumbling back into the present. "Er…..no. I was just, thinking…."

"Well I did ask you a question after all."

Right, Luna had asked a question. What was it about? Oh, right, what would stop her from being with Harry if she could?

If he wasn't dating Ginny? If he was single and there was no other girl he liked? What was there to stop her?...

"Ron." She answered herself out loud, turning to Luna. "Ron. I couldn't do that to him. It would hurt his feelings."

He had always been afraid she preferred Harry to him. How could she ever let herself prove him right by dating Harry?

"I don't think it would hurt his feelings at all." Luna stated it like it was a fundamental law of the universe. "I think Ronald would be happy to see his two best friends be happy with each other. He just doesn't know it yet."

With that, Luna stood up and skipped off deeper into the woods humming a tune that sounded like "Weasley Is Our King", leaving in her wake a very perplexed and disconcerted Hermione.

Little Teddy Lupin felt so tender in Harry's arms that he was afraid to squeeze in case he hurt him somehow. Harry had no experience with babies. Let alone a baby who's hair changed color ever five minutes. At the moment it was a fiery red color that made him look very much like a miniature Weasley. Harry thought with a chuckle that this was what Ron may have looked like as a baby.

Andromeda was leaving for the evening after Harry had spent the morning and afternoon getting acquainted with what it took to watch after Teddy. Once he felt confident that he could handle it, he began ushering her out the door to spend some time on herself.

"This is very sweet of you Harry, please floo Molly if you run into any problems." Andromeda gave him a grateful look. There was a dull sheen to her eyes and she looked paler and thinner than when Harry had seen her last. The strain of losing Ted, Remus, and Tonks along with having to take care of Teddy had definitely taken its toll on the witch.

"It's no problem Andromeda and here, take this with you." He handed her a sealed letter. "I know you're going to go see them, leave this there for me will you?" Andromeda's eyes softened. "Of course Harry. I will see you tonight."

When she was out the door the house seemed eerily quiet. The only noise was the soft clicking of the clock on the wall, that is, until Teddy let out a loud giggle. Harry laughed along with him.

"What's so funny sport?" he tickled Teddy's neck to induce another round of giggling from the little boy. His hair turned a bright pink color. Harry felt his heart turn into ice; it was exactly like Tonks had often worn her hair.

"Your mummy used to wear her hair like that, did you know that?" he asked Teddy, his voice barely above a hoarse whisper. Teddy gave him a wide smile and giggled some more. He was a very happy child, much like his mother had been in life. Only in his eyes did he resemble his Marauder father, at least until he gained the ability to change them.

Teddy began to shift and squirm in Harry's arms. Considering it had been awhile since he had eaten he figured Teddy must be hungry. Warming one of the bottles from the refrigerator with a flick of his wand, he sat in a squashy arm chair by the fireplace while he fed his godson. Watching him wave his arms towards the bottle and hungrily drink the milk down, it came to Harry all at once that he had a responsibility to this little boy in his arms. He couldn't take care of his everyday needs, he had to finish school, but a conviction came over Harry that he would be there as much as was humanly possible. He was determined that Teddy grow up surrounded by people that loved him, so he briefly filed away a thought to talk to Mrs. Weasley about Teddy going to the Burrow on occasion to lighten the load on Andromeda.

Then, he got an altogether better idea.

He wasn't terribly sure how safe it was, but Andromeda had told him that he could do it if he needed to. He didn't exactly need to, but it would serve a great purpose if all went according to the idea in his mind. Settled that it was the right thing to do, he walked with a still eating Teddy out the front door onto the second step where he turned on the spot and appeared just outside of the Burrow.

Walking up to the back door, the noise drifting through the door told him that the whole family was settled around the dinner table. A sudden nervousness washed over him as he thought about what he was about to do, but he gathered his courage, stepped through the kitchen and into the dining room.

"Hey guys, mind if we have a visitor?"

The conversations around the table died as everyone took in the sight of Harry holding the infant Teddy. Mrs. Weasley was tearing up, while Hermione, Ginny, and Luna all simultaneously whispered "Awww!" Ron and George were beaming at him. Mr. Weasley had craned his neck around from his conversation with a haughty looking Percy, "Well! If it isn't little Lupin! So nice of you to bring him Harry, please sit down."

Harry took a seat next to Mrs. Weasley who instantly reached for Teddy. "Oh, Harry dear may I?"

"Of course Mrs. Weasley." Her eyes lit up as she transferred Teddy fluidly into her arms and began cooing at Teddy who grinned back around the bottle still lodged in his mouth.

"Does Andromeda know you brought him over?" Hermione looked concerned.

"Well, not exactly. But she left him with me for the evening and I have a reason for bringing him here." Everyone collectively shifted their gaze from Teddy to Harry. "I want…I want you guys to know Teddy." He took a steadying breath, "I want him to know you and for you to be involved with him. Andromeda can't do this alone and I want Teddy…I want him to grow up surrounded by people that love him. I hope that's okay with you guys and I know I'll have to talk to his grandmother but…."

"Of course we will Harry." Mrs. Weasley wiped a tear from her eyes.

"Yeah mate, we wouldn't miss it for the world." Ron grinned.

"Of course Harry." Mr. Weasley was smiling at him.

"Sure Harry." Ginny reached across to grab his hand.

George and Luna were both smiling and nodding. Percy gave him a stiff nod, and then surprised Harry with a genuine smile.

Harry's eyes finally found Hermione and his heart swelled to see the adoring look she was giving him. Pride for him was pouring out of her and she simply nodded.

"I'm so glad you guys are on board." Harry again looked around the table at the family he loved, his family, so happy that Teddy would know their love too.

Teddy gave a large yawn on Mrs. Weasley's shoulder. "You probably want to get him home Harry and get him to bed. I'll lift the wards so you won't have to go outside." Giving her wand a wave.

Harry stood up and transferred Teddy to his own shoulder smiling as the little boy's hair turned a cool shade of blue. Another round of "awww" went around the table. "I'll be late getting in Mrs. Weasley." He gave everyone one more smile before turning on the spot and reappearing in Andromeda's living room. Teddy was already fast asleep on his shoulder so he walked into his room and put him into his crib, activating the mobile that featured snitches, broomsticks, and a single wolf that Andromeda had included as a reminder of Remus.

He stood there for awhile just watching Teddy sleep before he sensed a presence behind him. His hand flicked towards his wand…

"Old habits die hard don't they?" Hermione's voice was soft.

"Real hard." He turned to face her as she walked over to stand next to him, gazing fondly down at the sleeping baby boy. "What brought you over here?"

"This." She didn't break her gaze, looking utterly content. "You're going to make an excellent godfather Harry."

"That means a lot Hermione." He grinned at her and she smiled, still looking at Teddy.

Just then Teddy began fidgeting and woke up with a muffled cry. Hermione raised her eyebrow at him and he grinned and nodded his head. She reached down into the crib and picked Teddy up. He instantly calmed and giggled. His hair went from cool blue to a brown that matched Hermione's hair. Hermione held him in front of her and Harry could practically watch her heart melt at the sight of Teddy grinning up at her. He slid up next to her so he could watch Teddy over her shoulder.

"He looks like he could be yours." He grinned at her.

"Yeah." Her voice sounded oddly distant. "Except the eyes," she turned to look at him, "his father's eyes."

Something about the way she said it stirred something in him. "You know you're going to be an excellent mum."

"Thanks Harry." Her voice was back to normal and she gave him that smile that never failed to warm his heart. He turned back to Teddy and something slid into place in his consciousness. A little baby with brown hair and green eyes….he looked a lot like one of Hermione's kids if she married someone with green eyes.

Like me.

He looked at Hermione again. The thought of getting married and having children with her was entirely new territory. There was something distinctly foreboding about it, but it had nothing to do with her. In fact, standing here with her in a nursery while she hummed a lullaby to a sleepy eyed baby seemed almost natural. But something about that bothered him too. There were too many things going through his mind to effectively pin any one of them down.

"Harry?" her voice brought him back to reality.

"Er…"

"You were staring." There was a hint of amusement in her voice.

"Yeah, sorry. Got a little lost there for a second." He felt heat rising up in his cheeks.

"That's alright." She gave him an oddly satisfied smile. "He's back to sleep now." She gently placed Teddy back in the crib and covered him with his blanket. "I should probably be going."

"Thanks for coming."

"No offense, but I really just came for Teddy. I couldn't let you get away with Mrs. Weasley being the only one to hold him." She teased.

"What can I say? I'm stingy with my godson." He teased back.

She laughed and smiled at him before turning out the door. He heard the front door open and close and knew that she was gone. He settled in to the rocking chair in the corner of the baby blue room to wait on Andromeda to return home. He had a lot to think about and he wanted to spend every second he could with his godson.

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