She heard their footsteps first before she heard their laughter. The pitter-patter of feet against the hardwood floors echoed against the walls, the rising decibel signalling that whoever was running was getting closer.
"Careful!" she called out as she turned off the tap. She knew it was futile since they wouldn't have heard her. She wiped her hands on a kitchen towel and removed the freshly washed fruits from the sink. She reached into one of the drawers and grabbed a shallow wooden bowl. Carefully she placed the glistening red apples on the bowl and arranged it on top of the counter.
"Mum! Mum! GUESS WHAT?!"
There was a smile on her face even as her ears hurt from their excitable yells. Hermione turned to face the two kids who barrelled into the kitchen one after the other. Their eyes were bright and they looked like two very happy puddles of mess. James' hair was completely windswept, his brown curls falling in disarray atop his head and some even blocked his eyes. He ran a hand quickly through his hair and grinned at her. Meanwhile, Rose's ponytail was completely lopsided. She had some dirt on her cheeks as she smiled gleefully at her mum, the dimples on her face deep and pronounced.
"What is it, love?" Hermione asked as she approached the two. "And indoor voices please," she reminded them.
Rose giggled and looked at her older brother to announce the news of their victory.
"I-" James started to say very loudly.
"Shhhhh!" Rose interjected, her index finger placed firmly against her lips in the universal sign of "be quiet!".
James' eyes widened as he remembered what their mum asked just a second ago. He grinned sheepishly before trying again:
"I beat Dad!" he whispered, giddily.
Hermione's eyebrows rose and her eyes caught sight of her husband who had just entered the kitchen following their children. He, too, was a windswept mess. His usual riot of black curls was even messier and he was sporting a smile which reached his bright, green eyes. A broom was clasped firmly in his right hand.
"He did, he did!" Rose attested happily as she nodded her head. She was always ready to be her brother's witness. "I saw it! James won when they raced!"
Hermione beamed at her eldest and stroked his cheek. "Well, that's great! Congrats, baby."
James grinned toothily again as he revelled in his success. "I was so fast!" he babbled excitedly. He turned to his sister and said, "Wasn't I, Rosey? I got to you so much quicker than dad!"
The baby of the family nodded again, her ponytail swaying back and forth. "The best!" she replied. Innocently, she turned her gaze to their dad who was watching the scene with a content smile on his face. "Daddy, why were you flying so slow today? Is it because you're old now?"
"Pffft," James scoffed. "Dad's not that old! He's only forty!"
Rose frowned in thought. "But that means he's…" she trailed off, biting her bottom lip and squinting her eyes as she remembered her arithmetic. "He's thirty-four years older than me! That's… that's old!" She exclaimed, flabbergasted.
"Hmmm… I guess so," James agreed after much thought.
"Alright, alright," Hermione said, breaking their conversation with a shake of her head. "No more chatting. You two need to head upstairs and into the bath. We need to leave in an hour for Daddy's birthday party." James and Rose brightened again. Before they could open their mouths to ask, Hermione nodded. "Yes, and everybody will be there," she confirmed.
The two kids cheered and quickly bolted out of the kitchen. Hermione smiled as their footsteps thundered around the house. She strode towards her husband and grabbed the broomstick in his hand. Carefully, she laid it against the wall. Harry's arms immediately wrapped around her waist. He laid his chin on top of her head as they hugged each other in the now quiet room.
"James really won in one of your races?" she mused.
"Mmhmm," he replied.
"And it wasn't because you let him win?" she clarified.
"Yep," he confirmed.
"Wow," she breathed. "He's getting really good at flying."
He didn't say anything and Hermione raised her head to look at him. There was a smile on his face, but there was a hint of something else in his eyes. "Everything okay?"
Harry's smile grew wider and his eyes cleared completely. He looked at his wife in his arms with nothing short of adoration. "Of course," he replied easily. "It's my birthday and I have everything I could ever want."
Hermione beamed at him. She stood on her tiptoes and placed a lingering kiss on his lips. "I love you," she said softly.
"I love you too," he replied.
She withdrew from his arms and grabbed his hand. "Let's head upstairs. You and I need to be getting ready as well," she said.
A mischievous grin spread across his face. "Would you care to take a shower together then, Mrs. Potter?" he asked.
Her eyes narrowed. "You and I both know that we'll be late if we showered together," she responded.
"I promise I will keep my hands to myself," he said cheekily.
Hermione pursed her lips but acquiesced. She grabbed his hand and tugged him out of the kitchen. Together they made their way through the house they built together and upstairs into the sanctuary of their bedroom.
The Potters arrived at Mr. Potter's 40th birthday dinner thirty minutes late. It was held in a large restaurant in the heart of wizarding London. The whole restaurant was booked for the event and all of Harry's friends and family were there.
Ron had to give them some ribbing on their tardiness though. Harry only smirked while Hermione blushed. Thankfully, before the redhead could say anything else, the rest of the party surrounded the couple and gave their birthday greetings to Harry.
It was such a fun evening filled with laughter and delicious food. James and Rose were ecstatic that all of their "cousins" were there as well. All of Uncle Neville's and Aunt Luna's children were in attendance as well as Uncle Ron's own brood. The rest of the Weasley grandchildren were there too, but they were older so James and Rose didn't spend a lot of time playing with them. They did spend some time teasing their "young Uncle Teddy" about Victoire though, since he kept on making goo-goo eyes at her. Granted, she looked very pretty in her dress so they understood.
Everyone, from Harry's close friends to his coworkers at the Ministry and even the blokes he would play pick-up Quidditch with on the weekends, were in attendance. The party organized by Hermione was a huge success and the crowd felt nothing but joy all throughout the night. It was a wonderful time, and Harry couldn't help but be thankful for it all.
Merlin, he's forty!
He never even imagined that he would live to be this age. He felt nothing but astonishment when he thought about it. His years at Privet Drive now felt like a small, insignificant memory and his Hogwarts years felt like a lifetime away. Yet when he thought back to what they did and what they accomplished when he was only a teenager, he couldn't help but be in awe.
How the fucking hell did he manage to survive all of that?
The answer was currently in his arms, her head raised so she could look at him with a smile. A sleeping Rose was cradled against her chest while James stood sleepily beside. They were just about to apparate away as the night drew to a close for their family of four. There was still much revelry to be had for the other partygoers so Harry had made his way around the room a couple of minutes before to say his goodbyes.
Harry and Hermione gave their last farewells to their closest friends by the apparition point with promises to see each other soon. Together, the Potters apparated away.
As soon as they arrived home, Harry and Hermione divided and conquered. Harry took James while Hermione took Rose. It was quite difficult coaxing the sleepy girl to change into her pajamas. She also demanded a bedtime story about the little frog prince so Hermione read a chapter of the book with voices and all. Thirty minutes later, her baby was asleep and Hermione quietly tiptoed out of her bedroom. She passed by James' bedroom as well and quickly nipped inside. Her son was already fast asleep so she gave his cheek a gentle kiss before quietly heading outside.
She found her back pressed against the door as soon as she entered their bedroom. Hot lips pushed against hers as strong hands gripped her waist firmly. She succumbed to the onslaught of kisses and closed her eyes, her fingers losing themselves in the tangle of black hair atop the person kissing her.
Harry's hands were everywhere. They were on her back, on her waist, snaking up her side, and pulling her ever closer. The little ribbon of her wrap-around dress was quickly undone by his nimble fingers and he peeled the dress off of her as if she was a present and it, the wrapper.
"Have I told you how sexy you looked in this dress?" Harry growled into her ears as he let the midnight blue silk fall on the floor. It pooled around her feet and Hermione shivered when the cool air of their surroundings hit her bare skin.
"I might have guessed that when you couldn't keep your hands off of me this whole evening," Hermione mumbled, her lips swollen. He descended again and gave a nip on her bottom lip. She gasped, and he took that opportunity to snake his tongue inside of her mouth. Their tongues battled for dominance and Hermione lost. She moaned and Harry only released their kiss when the need for air became dire.
Harry laid his forehead against hers and smirked. In one swift motion, he bent down and scooped his almost-naked wife into his arms. "I think I might have made Neville blush a couple of times too," he mused.
"You did," Hermione replied as Harry laid her carefully on the bed. "And Ron and Ginny kept giving us sly looks," she added, as he, fully clothed, climbed on top of her. "You were quite... inspired tonight."
He knelt in between her spread legs and quickly removed her bra. His lips immediately closed around a nipple and she gasped. He brushed his tongue against the hardening bud before biting it gently. Hermione moaned at the sensation with her eyes shut tight. Her breasts were one of the most sensitive parts of her body and her husband loved to exploit the fact. He lifted his head for a second so he could give attention to the other.
"Wh-what brought this on?" Hermione breathed. Her husband wasn't usually so handsy in public. It was an understatement to say that they were both very prominent figures in wizarding society, with her as the Minister of Magic and he, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Excessive public displays of affection were just not something that they would usually take part in.
She gulped when one of his hands traced a trail down her stomach. It stopped right at the waistband of her lace knickers before a finger slipped underneath the material. She groaned when he continued his assault on her breasts as a finger touched her aching core. He traced his finger up and down her slit yet not quite dipping inside of her.
He finally lifted his head from her chest and looked at her with dark, hooded eyes. "Got something to prove," he mumbled in response.
Before Hermione could question what he meant, his long index finger finally made itself home in her aching core. She gave a low, guttural moan when his digit started to pump in and out of her. His thumb joined and started to rub against her clit. Hermione's hands gripped the bed sheets tightly as Harry continued to make her body feel like it was on fire.
"Oh god, yes, Harry," she whispered. He watched her writhe in bed underneath him with a satisfied smile on his face. She was so beautiful, so sexy. Her curls were like a halo of vines. Her lips were swollen and her chest heaved as she willingly welcomed his touches.
She whispered his name like a chant and that was all he could take. Nimbly, deftly, and as quickly as his Auror reflexes would allow, Harry withdrew his hand and unzipped his trousers. He removed his aching cock from the confines of his clothes, tugged at the lace ripping it thoroughly off her body, and buried himself home.
They groaned simultaneously when they were finally one. His hips pistoned back and forth, back and forth, in a rhythm that was all too familiar to the couple. Her wet heat gripped his thick, hard cock like a vice and Hermione's hands clawed at his shirt as she desperately sought to feel his chest underneath her palms. He let go of her thighs but didn't stop his rhythm as he helped his witch unbutton his shirt. She delighted when it finally hung open and her hands immediately traced the flat panes of his chest.
"Yes Harry, give it to me," she moaned incoherently. Harry's thrusts sped up and Hermione groaned. Her arms brought him closer so his top half was fully on top of hers. Her hands lost themselves in his hair as she revelled in the feel of her breasts pushed up against the hard muscles of his body.
Harry drove them closer to the edge. They climbed together, higher, and higher. They reached the pinnacle of their climb and together, they fell.
"Harry!" she cried as she climaxed. Her walls squeezed him so tight that it was all Harry needed to follow.
"Hermione!" he moaned as he emptied himself inside of her.
His thrusts slowed down and then he stopped. He lifted his hips and scooped her into her arms. He held for a moment as they tried to regain their breaths with her back tucked against his front.
"That was… wow," Hermione said with a small laugh.
She felt him bury his face into the nape of her neck and inhale her scent. She smiled when his arms tightened around her waist.
"Mhmm it was," Harry agreed. One of his hands curled around her breast and Hermione felt something hardening against her arse. "But who said we were done?"
He made love to her one more time before he carried her into the bath. There, they made love too. Hermione was utterly spent when she slipped underneath the covers of their bed and snuggled by Harry's side. A quick look to the bedside table showed that it was nearly midnight.
Hermione's eyes brightened when she remembered the comment he made during their lovemaking. "Harry, what did you mean that you've got something to prove?"
Her husband let out a little chuckle and bowed his head bashfully. He avoided her gaze which made Hermione all the more curious.
"You're going to think it's silly," he said.
She narrowed her eyes. "Try me," she replied.
His fingers started to stroke invisible patterns on her waist as he contemplated what to say. After a moment of silence, he said, "I'm… I'm forty now. I'm… old."
She gasped in disbelief. "Harry James Potter!" she cried. "That's the most outrageous thing ever! If… if you think that just because you're older, you won't be able to… to please me in bed or something then you need to get your head checked!"
He smiled at her indignation. "It wasn't just about that. It's stupid but… we've got a bunch of new Auror recruits today and they were all so young. They're all in top shape and crazy good. We had a friendly spar and one of them bested me. Then at home, James beat me in a race," he said. Hermione looked at him incredulously and he chuckled. He pulled her close and kissed her nose. "I know it's silly. It was just… a reminder that I wasn't as young as I used to be."
"Well," she began, and Harry knew that he was in for one of Hermione's famous lectures. What he didn't expect was for her to agree with him. "You're right. You are not as young as you used to be."
Wide-eyed, he looked at her. "Oh."
"But that isn't a bad thing," she continued. Her hand cupped his cheek and she smiled brightly. "You're wiser now, and much less of a hothead. You've grown into a wonderful father to James and Rose and a loving husband to me. Not to mention everyone at the Ministry looks up to you, Mister Potter," she said. A smile was starting to form on his face. "Age is just a number. I wouldn't have you any other way."
Harry laid a kiss on her lips.
"I love you," he said, his voice full of adoration and gratitude.
"I love you too," she responded.
Hermione soon fell asleep in his arms. As his birthday ticked its final seconds, Harry closed his eyes. He couldn't help but feel that every birthday of his was another testament that he was still in this together with her.
He wouldn't have it any other way either.
As sleep consumed him, Harry's last fleeting thought was how he couldn't wait to live his next forty years with Hermione.