Ink Stains and Balloons

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Story Notes:
The house is quiet when Harry gets home from work. It’s supposed to be his day off, but there had been a minor emergency that required his attention, so he’d had to Floo Hermione and beg her to come stay with Teddy while he went in to deal with everything. Fortunately, she’d agreed, and he hadn’t had to involve Andromeda. He loves the weekends he gets Teddy, so he doesn’t want to jeopardize those because of work. After checking the sitting room and kitchen without finding them, he goes upstairs to take off his work robe and to see if maybe Hermione has put Teddy down for a nap in his room. That room is empty, too.

“Kreacher,” he says, deciding to just find out where they are from his house elf instead of searching all of Grimmauld Place for them.

“Master Harry, you be back,” Kreacher says when he pops into view.

“Yes, I’m back. Do you know where Hermione and Teddy are?”

“Missy Mudblood has the boy outside. They be helping Kreacher talk to his wonderful master.”

Harry arches a brow and decides it’s not worth asking questions because Kreacher is likely to just make him more confused. During the six years since the war ended, he and Kreacher have come to an understanding about a great many things. Harry knows when to question and when to give up. Kreacher still insists on calling Hermione by mudblood, but he no longer says it with derision and Hermione’s accepted it, so Harry tries not to get too upset hearing it. It doesn’t usually work, but he no longer snaps at Kreacher since Hermione gets mad at him when he does. “Are they out back in the garden or did they go to the park?”

“They be in the garden. Kreacher will make fresh lemonade for his Master Harry,” Kreacher says, nodding his head several times before disappearing with a pop.

Harry shakes his head and smiles before heading downstairs. When he steps outside, he blinks in surprise. There are balloons everywhere. All different colors and sizes are just floating a few feet off the ground. In the middle of the field of balloons, Hermione is seated with Teddy on her lap. Their heads are together as they focus on the parchment they’re writing on, so they haven’t noticed him yet. Teddy’s hair is a vibrant shade of turquoise today, which means he’s in a good mood. He moves a few balloons out of his way and steps onto the cobblestone path that leads to the table where they’re sitting. Before he walks over to join them, he notices that the balloons have ribbons hanging down with what appears to be scrolls wrapped up at the end of each one.

Glancing at Hermione and Teddy, he sees them still focused on their project, so he reaches out to grab the nearest balloon. After untying the ribbon, he reads the parchment and is confused. It’s a brief letter to someone named Tabitha Jones, who is someone he doesn’t know. Why is Hermione writing some woman about thinking of her and not forgetting her? Not forgetting what? Harry reties the scroll and reaches for another balloon. There’s a similar note, only this one is to a bloke who Harry doesn’t recognize. He checks several more on his way to them and each one is a note to some stranger. By the time he reaches their table, he’s confused.

“Uncle Harry!” Teddy notices him first and smiles as his hair flashes through a rainbow of colors.

“Oh, you’re already home!” Hermione looks up and smiles. There’re spots of ink on her face, probably from Teddy since they seem to be in the shape of tiny fingers, and her hair’s a bit of a mess, but he thinks that she looks beautiful. Of course, he tends to think that most the time, not that he ever has the nerve to tell her.

“I got everything finished as fast as possible so I could get back,” he explains. “It wasn’t that big an emergency anyway. Auror McWilliams is just a passive aggressive arsehole who dislikes taking orders from me.”

“Language, Harry!” Hermione looks down at Teddy pointedly.

“Right. Sorry.” He shifts his weight from one foot to the other and smiles sheepishly. “Kreacher is making us lemonade. He was prattling on about you helping him talk to his master?”

“We’re writing letters,” Teddy says with an emphatic nod. “Kreacher wroted one with us.”

“Wrote,” Hermione corrects, ruffling Teddy’s hair. “And, yes, we did help him write a letter, too.”

Harry waits for more information, but she just smiles at him. Pulling out one of the chairs, he sits down beside them and asks, “What exactly are you doing? There are a billion balloons all over my backyard.”

“There aren’t a billion,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Teddy was sad this morning after you left, talking about his parents, so I thought of an idea that might cheer him up. We wrote letters to Remus and Tonks, and we’re using the balloons so the letters will reach them.”

“Reach them?” Harry glances down at Teddy then back at Hermione. “Who were those other people who had letters?”

“Andromeda has told Teddy that his parents are in heaven, up above looking down and watching out for him,” Hermione explains quietly, making sure Teddy’s focused on the picture he’s coloring instead of listening to them. “The balloons can float high with magical help, and they’ll disappear from sight.” She gives him a pointed look. “That’ll mean Teddy’s parents receive the note and know that he loves them and wishes they were here. The other letters are for all those lost in the recent war. I was inspired to write a note to all of the victims, just in case. We never truly know what the next adventure is for us, do we?”

Harry slowly smiles. “No, we don’t. And the more letters, the more balloons. Teddy’s coloring pictures for some of them?”

“For his parents and his grandfather, for his cousin Sirius, for Fred and a few others,” she murmurs, smiling down at Teddy in a way that makes Harry’s heart hurt. “He’s been coloring while I wrote the letters. I helped Kreacher write one for Regulus; that’s what he was talking about that confused you.”

“You’re amazing.” Harry feels his cheeks flush when he realizes he actually said the words instead of just thinking them. “I mean, this idea and all the balloons and knowing how to give Teddy what he needs.”

“I can’t take credit for the idea. I read about it in a Muggle paper years ago,” she says, ducking her head and fussing with Teddy. “I just remembered it earlier when Teddy was unhappy.”

Harry reaches over to brush his thumb over one of the ink stains on her face. She raises her head and stares at him. At that moment, he really wants to kiss her, and he’s not sure how much longer he can continue pretending that he just thinks of her as a friend. “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” he admits quietly.

“You’ll never have to find out.” She lowers her gaze and picks up the quill she set down when he first arrived. “I don’t plan on going anywhere, Harry.”

“Promise?” He bites the inside of his cheek. “Even if I do something extremely stupid, you won’t go away?”

“If I were going to go away any time you did something stupid, you’d have lost me ages ago,” she points out, flashing him a small smile to let him know she’s teasing.

“Teddy, why don’t you go see if Kreacher needs help?” he says, reaching over to pull Teddy off of her lap. He brushes a kiss against Teddy’s cheek and grins at him. “He’s squeezing lemons, and you know he usually lets you help with that.”

“Lemons!” Teddy nods excitedly before dashing off towards the house.

“He’s getting so big,” Hermione murmurs, shaking her head. “He’s starting to notice his parents’ absence, though, which is why I thought of using the balloon communication thing until he’s older and understands it better.”

“It’s hard to believe he’s almost seven,” Harry agrees before focusing on Hermione. He knows it’s not the right time, probably not even the right place, but he’s feeling particularly brave right now, so he’s going to go for it and damn the consequences. Besides, there’s never going to be a perfect time or moment. Life doesn’t work that way. Before he loses the nerve, he leans forward and kisses her. She makes a surprised noise against his mouth, but she doesn’t push him away. Instead, she starts to kiss him back. Harry almost falls out of his chair as he scoots closer to the edge, tangling his fingers in her hair and deepening the kiss.

“Lemonade!” The sudden squeal startles him, and Harry does fall out of the chair, breaking the kiss and staring up at Hermione as she starts to giggle.

“You okay?” she asks, lips swollen and face flushed in a way that makes Harry realize they spent longer than he realized kissing. She’s looking at him curiously, and he knows the question isn’t just about his fall.

“I’m better than I can ever remember being,” he says honestly, watching as she smiles down at him. Before she can say anything, he stands up. “I know we need to talk, and we will, after Teddy’s sleeping. It’s real, alright? Don’t start letting doubts or whatever nag at you. I meant it, and I want to do it again. A lot.”

“I wasn’t planning on it. After all, I’ve been waiting over a year for you to finally do that.” She shakes her head and grins when he blinks at her. “Harry, you’re not very subtle to someone who knows you as well as I do. I was going to give you until Christmas or else I was going to make a move. We’ve been dancing around this for ages. By the way, I want to do the kissing a lot, too. And more.”

“Yeah, well, I wish you’d have been as unsubtle as I apparently was because I never knew you wanted me that way. I definitely want more, Hermione. I want it all,” he says, smiling sheepishly as Teddy runs over to grab his legs. He picks Teddy up and spins him around a few times before sitting back down. “Can I have some of the parchment and a quill? I’d like to write a few of those notes before we let the balloons go. I’m going to tell my parents about this amazing woman who makes me happier than I ever thought I could be.”