Somewhere in England, there is a small house that sits on a grassy hilltop, overlooking a rustic village. Only two are awake in the house, and one is a wailing baby. The other, a young man, attempts to quiet him.
The baby continues to wail.
"Come on now, quiet down...Merlin, child, aren't you tired of all that bawling yet?"
The baby continues to wail.
"Look, there's a flying hippogriff outside your window!"
The baby looks up briefly, but then resumes crying.
"Do you want to hear a story, then?"
The baby continues crying, and the young man sighs, shifts the child in his arms, and begins to tell him a story.
Once upon a time, there was a boy who liked a girl. This boy was immature and arrogant and had an ego the size of the castle they attended, and the girl knew it. So when the boy asked her out, she said no.
But he asked again, and she said no. He asked yet again, and she said no.
But the boy thought that the girl was beautiful and spirited, and thought that he could love her. So he asked her at least once a week. She said no every time. Nearly all the other girls in the school would have jumped at such a chance, as the boy was very handsome and charismatic. But still, she said no.
A year passed, and then another. There was a threat growing outside of the school. The world outside was in chaos. But still the handsome boy, as persistent as ever with his schoolboy ideals of love, asked the girl out every week, and she continued to say no.
And then at the end of their sixth year, the girl began to notice that the boy and his friends were growing more sober and silent, as if something had happened to make them forget their laughter. She noticed that the boy had started acting as a peacemaker between two of his friends, which was remarkable coming from someone who usually reveled in causing trouble. After the initial curiosity, she paid it no mind and told herself that it would wear off by the summer's end.
Her summer was filled with dark news about the wizard making trouble in her world. The return to the castle at the end of the summer made her feel safer, but the atmosphere was overshadowed by the students' knowledge that there was a war going on that affected them all.
Being so preoccupied with her final year of school and the war that the Dark wizard was waging against people like herself, who were unworthy in his eyes, it took the girl a few weeks to notice that something was different.
The boy hadn't asked her out since last year. She began to notice smaller changes in him, like how he didn't call attention to himself in public as much anymore. Like how he'd stopped his silly habit of ruffling his hair to make it look windblown. Like how he'd stopped hexing people left and right simply because he could.
And one day she felt that it was safe to tell him that she had noticed these things. He merely muttered a reply, and looked after her for a long time after she walked away.
The next day, the boy asked her out again. Annoyed, she nearly turned him down. But then she noticed that the tone of his voice was less cocky and arrogant. She looked at his face, and saw that he was not smirking as self-assuredly and cheekily as he used to. She noticed that closer up, there was a bump or two on his forehead and his nose wasn't quite centered.
So the girl said yes.
The boy and the girl began seeing each other more and more frequently. They laughed and joked together, and often the boy wondered why she said yes after years of rejecting him.
One night, he asked her and she told him how she saw his ego shrink and his maturity grow, how she noticed his imperfection that first time he had sincerely asked her out, and how he had stopped ruffling his hair and hexing his enemies and flaunting his intelligence. So the boy kissed her, and thought to himself that he would love the girl forever.
Life went on, and the boy and the girl and their friends grew up and left the school. They fought the war against the Dark wizard side by side and matured more than they ever imagined they would by seeing the effects that the war had on them and their world.
Yet life still went on, and once in a while the boy and the girl managed to get time alone together. At the end of one such occasion when the boy saw her home, they stayed just outside of the door, talking for half an hour. The boy seemed jittery and nervous, and stayed that way until their conversation ended and the girl turned around to go inside. When she placed her hand on the doorknob, he reached out and grasped her elbow. She turned around, and the boy asked her to marry him, if it wouldn't be too much trouble.
She said yes.
They married simply and without pomp and show, for they knew that the Dark wizard wanted them dead. But it was hard to think of such matters when a few months later, the boy and the girl, who were now a young man and woman, announced to a select few that they would be having a child.
Not a week after the happy news, they found out that a prophecy had been made—a prophecy that the Dark wizard had heard of, and that might concern their child. The young man and young woman continued to fight the Dark wizard harder than ever, determined that no evil would touch their son or daughter. But when a little boy was born, they started to maintain a low profile to protect him. They knew that it might be necessary for one or both of them to give up their lives to protect their child.
So one night, when their son wouldn't fall asleep, the young man told him a story about a boy and a girl long ago who fell in love, hoping that one day he would be able to understand that it was their love that would protect him for as long as it lasted.
"For as long as it lasts," the young man murmurs to the now sleeping baby. He leaves the nursery and enters the room where the young woman is now only half-asleep on the couch. "Forever, right?" he whispers into her ear.
The young woman opens her eyes, and they understand each other perfectly.
Many thanks to Ajax, Night Zephyr, and Caroline for their wonderful input and beta-ing of this story. Reviews are much appreciated!