Such a bittersweet feeling writing the final chapter of the story. There are so many that start the journey of putting words to paper but sadly so few finish. I made a promise that I would never be one of those people and my passion for this only continues to grow the more I write and the more I develop my own style.
Here's to many more stories to follow, my friends.
The absence of elation remained prevalent as he exited the Hospital Wing, intending now to visit the Headmaster to fulfil the promise he had made all those months ago. He was of course relieved that Peter was finally adjusting to only having one leg and that Sirius, James and Remus were recovering well too having suffered minor injuries of their own, but still, the hollowness remained, the lack of purpose he felt continued to burden him. It felt as though his entire life had been centred on bringing Tom to an end by whatever means were necessary and such a view had left him unable to look beyond his task, to what it was he wished to or would do should he prove successful in his efforts. He had dared not even consider the possibility that there would an 'afterwards' for him, as much as he desired it. And now, he faced that reality, against all odds, he had triumphed and the prospect of being more than just 'The-boy-who-lived' was very much real. Of course, he had Bellatrix and his family and he could not begin to envision a future that they were not a part of. However, the problem he faced was determining what the future would entail now that he was certain he did in fact, have one.
He pushed the thoughts concerning such aside as he approached the gargoyle that sprung aside without request, allowing him to make his way up the spiral staircase and to the office he had come rather familiar with. Something else he had become just as familiar with was the room itself being in use by more than just its sole occupants, though the Headmaster and his phoenix were very much alone this evening as was made clear when the younger man was bid to enter.
"Ahh, Harry," Dumbledore greeted him with a sincere smile. The man appeared to be tired but much more relaxed nonetheless now that Tom had been vanquished. There had been little time to discuss matters due to the aftermath of the battle and the many Wizengamot gatherings since and the vigil that Harry had insisted keeping in the Hospital Wing when he himself was not required nor his audience requested by a person, department or group, which had happened much more regularly than he would have anticipated.
"Professor," Harry returned the greeting, "how are things progressing?"
Dumbledore shook his head in frustration and gave an amused chuckle.
"There are many wishing to take the mantel," he sighed, "and three quite serious contenders. For now, however, Madame Marchbanks is filling in on a temporary basis."
"That's good. Who are the main contenders?" Harry enquired.
"Well, understandably, the name Potter is attracting a lot of support, though Charlus is insistent that he will not accept the post. Longbottom also but it is more likely to be Augusta who would take the nomination. Her husband is a very keen Auror and Frank is much too young. The next most popular appears to be one Cornelius Fudge. Quite an astute man if my memory serves me well."
Harry shook his head vigorously.
"Believe me, Headmaster, Fudge is a disgrace. He was Minister where I came from and was the worst kind of man steeped in bribery and corruption imaginable. I would give every Galleon I have to make sure he never gets into office," Harry replied firmly.
Dumbledore's eyebrows rose to near his hairline at the declaration.
"Very well," he offered with a bow, "I trust your word Harry and will put my own support behind another candidate and advise my colleagues the same also."
The teen breathed a sigh of relief.
"And what about you, my boy," Dumbledore continued, "I understand the week has been even busier for yourself?"
Harry shook his head. It was as though every media outlet had wanted to speak to him, every company wanted an endorsement or there were those that simply wanted to offer him gifts. It had been mostly trivial things like books, small amounts of money and offers of betrothals. Those, Bellatrix had not been happy about. The Ministry having gotten wind of this were not to be outdone. Only this morning he had received a letter, signed by the entirety of the Wizengamot, stating that, for eliminating the threat of the Dark Lord, the lands surrounding Potter Manor would be repaired and paid for by the Ministry themselves and that he would be personally rewarded with the sum of one hundred thousand Galleons.
He could only wish that these things were the least of his concerns. He had humbly accepted what had been bestowed upon him at the behest of all he discussed it with and not wishing to appear ungrateful to those that had sought him out. The other issue he faced was one he perhaps should have foreseen.
He was very flattered by the job offers, both from within and outside the Ministry, but he saw it only as these people wishing to stroke their own egos. The only genuine one seemed to be the one he received from Moody, who had been named as the head of the DMLE since the battle, though thus far, he was in St Mungo's recovering from his own injuries. It would appear that the man was destined to carry the moniker 'Mad-Eye'.
"I didn't expect to avoid everything," he sighed, "I just didn't expect there to be so much."
Dumbledore gave him a sympathetic smile.
"It is in these moments that I myself am reminded at just how young you still are, Harry. But forgive me, if anyone can understand your position, it is me," he chuckled.
Harry snorted and nodded.
"How did you cope with it all, sir?"
Dumbledore released a deep breath himself.
"Not very well," he answered unashamedly. "I was much older than you when I defeated Gellert and, I beg your pardon for saying so, a little wiser. Before I knew it, I had several positions thrust upon me, though I managed to avoid becoming the Minister of Magic. I simply found it difficult to say no. The people looked to me as though I was this great beacon of wisdom and could fix all their problems with either my mind or wand. They failed to see that I too am not infallible and prone to making mistakes."
Harry could not help but appreciate the raw honesty in his words as he nodded in understanding.
"If you were me, Professor, what would you do?"
Dumbledore shook his head.
"The question is, Harry, what is it you want to do or think you should do?"
The younger man groaned internally. For once, the conversation with the man was going well and without the need to induce a headache from thinking too much about what had been said.
"Honestly, I don't know. I am flattered that so many people would want me, but it's not on my own merit. They seem to think I can do anything because I managed to defeat a Dark Lord, but that is far from the truth. I haven't even sat my NEWTS and I have no real experience of the world," he finished with a shrug.
Dumbledore beamed with pride at his reasoning. He opened a draw to his desk and removed a sheaf of parchment and passed it over to Harry after he had looked it over briefly.
"I'm not suggesting this to you, Harry," the old man spoke seriously, "I am asking you as both a man who understands your position and potential to consider that option," he implored as he gestured to the parchment.
Harry eyes widened as he took in the contents, his dumfounded gaze switching between the parchment and the man before him.
"An apprenticeship with you?" he questioned curiously.
Dumbledore gave a single nod.
"It is something I have been considering for quite some time but did not want to broach the subject until the time was right," he explained.
"What would it entail?"
"Whatever you would want it to be," Dumbledore returned. "I am, without being too modest, a rather accomplished wizard with connections to the best in their fields. I would insist that we do not focus on any one subject but give you a very solid grounding in many. I believe that you are a very capable young man, Harry. Much more than just a good wand for fighting."
Harry was flabbergasted by the offer.
"I don't know what to say, sir."
"Then say nothing yet, my boy. Take your time to think it over and discuss it with your family."
"I will," Harry vowed as he stood, almost forgetting his own reason for coming tonight. "As promised," he said, offering the other man the Gaunt Family ring.
The expression of the Headmaster became sombre and his hands trembled as he reached for it.
"Is this truly it?" he whispered.
"It is," Harry confirmed with sad smile, already knowing that the old man would not be able to sleep until he had spoken to his sister.
Dumbledore swallowed deeply, his eyes shining in both gratitude and worry.
"Say nothing yet, sir," Harry advised, "and use it well, for as long as you need."
With no other words necessary, he took his leave, making sure to pet Fawkes on the way out. The Headmaster had his own things to attend to and he himself had a decision to make, one that began to fill hollowness that had been plaguing him since the demise of Tom Riddle
For several minutes, Albus Dumbledore could only stare at the ring reverently, equally terrified and excited that his youthful pursuit was very much in his grasp. The Elder Wand had been quite the acquisition but he would have traded it in a heartbeat for what it was he held now, something that no amount of Galleons could ever give him.
He was pulled from his reverie by his companion squawking, eliciting a chuckle from the old man.
"I wish it were so simple, my friend."
Fawkes chirped sadly, his countenance matching that of the man he had chosen to follow.
"None of that," Dumbledore chided lightly, "we will finally be able to say goodbye at the very least."
Though his words were optimistic, inside, a fear he had never expected to feel yet yearned for had settled in his stomach like a lead weight. More than anything in life he had desired the chance to speak to his sister just one final time, to apologise, to beg her forgiveness, to just hear her voice.
Mind made up, he stood and held out his arm for the phoenix who promptly hopped across the desk and situated himself.
"Perhaps a walk," he offered, "you know he is not so keen on your method of arrival."
Fawkes released a sound of indignation as the duo exited the office and made their way through the castle and onto the grounds. It was a pleasantly cool evening, one that the gamekeeper was taking full advantage of by taking his usually lazy dog for a walk at the edge of the forest in the distance. The rest of the school was seemingly deep into their slumber. The lights on in the castle were few and far between as they exited and made their way to the village, to visit one pub, whose owner would not be particularly pleased to see them.
As the Hog's Head came into view, the last of the stragglers were leaving, stumbling over the threshold in their inebriated states. Albus paid no mind to the men. He had his own vices but had never been one to take to drink. He'd never found comfort at the bottom of a glass as others did, even after the events he came to address tonight, his preference always erred on the side of sobriety.
The musty smell of unkept wood and stale alcohol assaulted his senses as he entered. The place was by no means maintained to any degree that could be considered healthy, but the place was rarely devoid of patrons. It was a place that any could come to drown their sorrows or simply enjoy a drink without bother from others if that is what was desired. It had a rather questionable reputation and were it not his brother that owned the establishment, Albus himself would not frequent the place in any capacity.
His arrival did not go unnoticed. As he passed through the front door, the man he came to see released a ragged breath and slammed both of his hands on the bar that he had been wiping over with a rather soiled rag.
"Albus," the man gritted out by way of greeting.
"Good evening, Aberforth," Albus returned quietly.
The relationship between the brothers had been strained since they were young men. Albus had cast a rather large shadow during his years at Hogwarts as a student and many had expected the same level of excellence from his younger brother. Aberforth was an exceedingly gifted wizard in his own right, far above the average student but his own performance had always been compared to that of his older brother and was quite often deemed lacking. This coupled with the untimely death of their sister and scandal surrounding it had only served to increase the rift between them. Albus didn't blame his brother and shouldered the responsibility himself, something that Aberforth took only as a further slight against him. He had become quite the bitter man because of it and Albus carried the guilt for what his brother had become. He was a wasted potential and could have become almost anything he set his mind to, instead, he had wallowed in said bitterness, any ambition he possessed seemingly quelled by both the death of their sister and years being outshone by his sibling.
"What do you want, brother?" Aberforth questioned resignedly.
Albus smiled sadly as his brother turned to face him, feeling every one of the years he had lived. Both had grown old, the wounds between them ever-gaping, haunting both from their youth to this very moment.
"Peace," Albus answered sincerely.
Aberforth snorted, his eyes flitting between his brother and companion.
"Stay if you must," he sighed as he walked behind the bar and retrieved a couple of glasses. He poured each of them a generous measure of Firewhiskey and downed his own in a single gulp.
Much to his surprise, Albus followed suit, something he had never expected to witness from his brother.
"It must be bad if you're drinking," he mused aloud.
"Perhaps," Albus agreed, "but it is something that must be done."
Aberforth shook his head as he refilled their glasses.
"So, brother," he spoke again, emphasising the last word mockingly, "what really brings you here? I'm almost certain that it is the wonderful ambience of this dump nor the prospect of thrilling conversation."
Albus unwittingly chuckled. Though not similar to himself, he had always found the sarcastic disposition of his brother to be quite humorous.
"Not quite," he agreed, "but I do want to share something with you, if you wish to join me."
Aberforth huffed as he glared at the other man.
"Speak plainly for once in your life, Albus. I have no time for your riddles."
Dumbledore sighed as he nodded.
"As you wish," he offered with a bow. "The summer before I left, do you remember what it was that I and Gellert were researching?"
Aberforth's countenance darkened considerably at the mention of the other wizard before he roared in laughter.
"Your dream of uniting the Deathly Hallows? You were going to change the world," he mocked. "Bloody foolish errand if there ever was one," he finished with a shake of his head.
"Not quite," Albus whispered as he removed the ring from within his robes and placed it on the bar between them. "All three exist; the wand, the cloak and the stone," he reeled off, his eyes flickering towards the rather inane-looking piece of jewellery between them.
Aberforth sobered immediately.
"You have all of them?"
Albus shook his head.
"Just the stone, which has been loaned to me," he explained.
Aberforth tentatively picked up the ring and rested it in the palm of his hand, an expression of longing adorning his features.
"Why?" he questioned.
Dumbledore sighed as he gave the other man a weak yet meaningful smile.
"Because you're my brother and deserve this more than any," he answered.
Aberforth frowned for a moment before shaking his head in disbelief.
"It can't be real," he denied, "surely this is a jest?"
Albus shook his head.
"They are very real. I have seen the others."
"I don't think I can," Aberforth sputtered, "I can't face her, Albus."
The Headmaster steadied his brother's now trembling arm in his grip, calming him somewhat after a few moments passed.
"My greatest fear is facing her," he revealed, "but my biggest regret would be not to do so. If you wish, then I can return this and we need never speak of it again. I will only do this with you."
"You would not take this opportunity if I asked it of you?" Aberforth questioned sceptically.
The older brother shook his head.
"This is something that we either both do or neither should," Albus replied.
Aberforth nodded and emptied his glass once more. He lost himself in thought for several moments before finally sighing.
"Alright," he agreed worriedly, "I too would regret not taking the chance."
He stepped around the bar and offered the ring back to his brother with a shrug.
"So, how does it work?" he asked nervously.
Albus frowned before closing his eyes and his hand over the ring. Squeezing it tightly in his fist, he felt for the magic within, attempting to decipher what was required for the stone to function as desired. For an inordinate amount of time he familiarised himself with the implement, frowning occasionally and humming in understanding before he opened his eyes once more.
"It is a simple of case of thrice turning the stone in my hand whilst thinking of the person we wish to summon," he answered confidently.
Aberforth took a deep breath to steel his resolve and placed a hand on his brother's shoulder.
"When you're ready," he encouraged.
Both brothers looked on, unmoving, as Albus finished turning the stone in his palm, neither daring to even breathe. They waited for what felt an eternity before Albus sagged in defeat, his head hanging as he closed his eyes to hide the despair he felt.
"I'm sorry," he muttered to his younger sibling.
He received no reply and looked up to face the undoubted ire of the man only to be met by a look of disbelief marring the features of the man and his eyes welling with tears. His own breath hitched in his throat as he followed his brother's gaze. In front of the pair stood Arianna, appearing no different than she did the day she passed on. Her form was ghost-like as she looked around the room in confusion, her stare finally settling on the two men that had brought her here. She frowned in confusion before a look of recognition became prominent.
"Abe? Albie?" she questioned emotionally.
Albus could only nod, his throat too tight to speak.
"It's us, Ari," Aberforth choked.
The girl giggled.
"You got old," she deadpanned.
"Not too old to put you across my knee, sister," he returned good-naturedly.
"If only you could," she sighed sadly as she gestured to herself.
Aberforth stiffened immediately at his faux pas and chided himself.
"I'm sorry, Ari," he whispered, "I'm sorry for everything."
Arianna shook her head and glared at the pair as she placed her hands on her hips.
"For all the intelligence between the two of you, you are both rather stupid," she chastised.
She sighed deeply before offering them a resigned smile.
"What happened, happened and nothing can change that. I'm glad it did but not for what happened after."
"You're glad?" Aberforth questioned in disbelief.
Arianna nodded firmly.
"My life was miserable after the incident with the muggles. Our family fell apart and I was stuck in my own mind most of the time. I had no control over my life and all it did was make the two of you just as miserable."
Any reply the brothers had was cut off by the girl as she continued.
"Do not deny it," she warned, "it is the truth. I know you would have both given up your lives to care for me but that is not what I wanted. What happened was for the best. I got to be with mother and father and the two of you got to have the life that you would have been denied, so do not be sorry for that."
"Was it me?" Albus cut in. "Was it my spell that hit you?"
His tone was desperate and Arianna shook her head.
"I don't know, Albie, but it does not matter. For too long you have let that memory haunt you and the two of you are the last of our line, mostly because of it. The only thing you should be sorry for is the way you have treated each other. You are both stubborn, infuriating fools but I love you both. Mother would bang your heads together if she were here and father would certainly take the belt to your hides."
Albus chuckled and the two brothers shared a sheepish look, both agreeing with Arianna's supposition.
"You need to let it go," she spoke again, this time pleadingly. "Dwelling on the past does neither of you any good."
Albus shook his head as a tear escaped him and cascaded down his cheek into his beard.
"I can't," he sobbed.
Arianna stepped forward and reached up to cup his cheek, wiping away the moisture with the pad of her thumb. Albus shivered at the coldness of her touch but met her begging eyes, nonetheless.
"Yes, you can Albie. I know you can do that because it is me asking."
Albus leaned into her touch a little deeper despite the discomfort and finally nodded.
"I will try," he vowed in a whisper.
"That is all I ask," she replied as she stepped in front of her other brother and offered the same gesture, "and for the two of you to put aside this ridiculous animosity you have. Live your final years in peace and come to us when it is time, as brothers, the past left where it is."
Aberforth sighed and nodded reluctantly.
"For you," he croaked.
She gave the man a warm smile also and took a step back. Gazing upon her siblings, the smile did not waver even as she shivered involuntarily.
"I couldn't be anymore proud of you both but I must go back. I do not belong here," she said apologetically. "Do try to get along, maybe then mother and father won't have to deal with the pair of you," she giggled as she rolled her eyes. "I love you both, very much and will see you when the time is right and not before."
As she uttered her final words she began to fade away and was gone but only a second after she had finished speaking, leaving her two brothers alone once more.
The two said nothing as Aberforth took his place behind the bar and took a large gulp of liquor straight from the bottle.
"Trust her to chew us out," he mumbled causing Albus to laugh.
"We should have expected it. She always was just like mother," he chuckled.
Aberforth grumbled under his breath before joining in and offering Albus the bottle. The older brother shrugged as he took a drink and the two enjoyed a companionable silence for a few moments until the younger of the two broke out in an uproarious laugh of his own.
"Do you remember when Ari accidentally transfigured father's robes to be see-through in the middle of Diagon Alley?" he questioned, his yes alight with mirth.
Albus chuckled and shook his head.
"I remember getting the blame for it. A bad time to have your first bout of accidental magic."
"Well, you were the Transfiguration prodigy, of course you were going to get the blame," Aberforth pointed out. "She was barely three at the time."
Albus took another sip of the strong alcohol.
"What about when she let the goats loose and made them glow in the dark?"
"I might have helped her with that," he muttered. "Scared the hell out of mother when she went to use the privy in the night."
Both laughed again as Aberforth drained the remainder of the bottle and fetched another.
"It wasn't all so bad, was it?" Albus asked.
Aberforth shook his head.
"No," he conceded, "there were good times."
The evening continued in a similar sentiment. The bottle was passed between the pair as they reminisced in shared memories of their childhood becoming only more inebriated as they both mourned and celebrated what they had lost. The reunion of the brothers would be something discussed in the years to come, only because how the night ended. None would have been wiser of the time shared between the siblings if it hadn't been for the scandal they had caused during their drunken stupor.
Evidently, each had become emboldened under the influence of the alcohol and had attempted to recreate some of the fonder memories they had shared. They were discovered the next morning on the grounds of the school by an irate Professor McGonagall and bemused gamekeeper asleep below the Whomping willow, each clutching an empty bottle, the grounds littered by a collection of creatures the two had seemingly set free from their enclosures. What was not discovered immediately however, was that all the creatures now glowed in the dark, something that had become apparent the very next evening by a confused Care of Magical Creatures professor, who, try as he might, could do nothing to rectify to the issue.
Again, the two brothers found themselves under the stern glare of the Deputy Headmistress as she gave them both a rather unpleasant dressing down and insisted that they fixed it, lecturing them also on the lack of decorum they had exhibited during their escapades and questioning how to old men had allowed themselves to become so immature in the space of a single evening.
Despite all of this, it became a regularity to witness the Headmaster of the school visiting his brother at least a few times a week, and although there wasn't a repeat of the scandalous incident, they could often be seen in the company of the other, their interactions much more familial than any believed possible.
Before entering the carriage for the final time as a student of the school, Harry paused and gazed upon the first place he had considered home, a sense of sadness washing over him. It was not necessarily goodbye, he would be spending much of his next five years here also, but it was an end of not one, but two eras for him, the first having never received the farewell it had deserved. In his earlier teenage years, he had envisioned leaving Hogwarts with both Ron and Hermione, himself and his redheaded friend destined for the Auror academy and the girl to wherever it was she decided.
He shook his head morosely as he felt a hand rest on his shoulder.
"You'll be back soon," James comforted.
Harry gave him a wan smile and nodded.
"It wasn't just a school to me. Hogwarts was the first place I ever felt that I belonged."
James squeezed the shoulder he held in sympathy.
"I understand, Harry. You could always end up teaching here."
"One day, maybe," he conceded, "but for now, I've got another five years to decide what it is I want to do. Perhaps I will teach, I might decide to play Quidditch or I might just buy a house in the country and have those dozen children Bella seems keen to give me," he finished, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
James chuckled as he bundled the other teen inside the carriage, shaking his head at his son's antics. Harry had begun to relax much more over the past couple of weeks since the NEWTS ended, the burden of the Dark Lord and his undecided future no longer weighing heavy on his mind. The tension that seemed to always linger about his shoulders was not so evident and even his eyes were less haunted than they had been.
"He deserves it," he sighed internally as he joined the group, pondering what the future would hold for himself and the rest of them.
Himself, Peter, Lily, Harry and Bellatrix would be back here come September. Alice, and surprisingly Marlene, would be heading to begin their Auror training and Sirius and Remus would both be under the tutelage of members of the Black family, the former with his Grandfather and the latter with Cassiopeia. Arcturus had even agreed to have Regulus join them for the same training when his own schooling was complete so that Sirius could pursue a career away from only politics, something that had overjoyed the Black Heir who planned on working as a Hit-wizard also. It was not the career as an Auror that he had dreamed of, but it was certainly something that would allow him to build a legacy of his own, one befitting the line in which he came from.
"I know some of us are coming back but it's still quite sad," Peter sighed, pulling him from his thoughts.
James had been astounded by how well the smallest of their group had been coping with the loss of his leg. The first two weeks had been the most difficult and he was prone to bouts of melancholy at times, but now seemed to be thriving. He had been fitted for a prosthetic, paid for by Harry who had insisted that he be given the very best, and had worked diligently in learning how to walk with it. It had been a strange sight to see the boy grimacing, limping and gritting his teeth in determination, but he had persevered with little encouragement and was now quite comfortable with the leg. However, it was the attitude that he had adopted since that had been the most surprising development. For one to lose a leg to have a rather bitter disposition would be entirely forgivable, only Peter seemed to be lighter than he ever had.
Harry and James were by his bedside in the hospital wing as Peter had his dressings changed. The wound was mostly healed but still required bandages as the prosthetic would irritate the damaged skin considerably. The boy himself was reading over a potions journal as he nodded and smiled to himself causing James to frown in confusion.
"An article on potions surely cannot make you so content," he chuckled.
"It's a good article," Peter defended, "but it's not just that," he added with a frown of his own. "I almost died, James."
"And that makes you happy?"
"No, but surviving does," he sighed. "I lost a leg, but not my life and neither did a lot more people because of it. I'm happy to have lost a leg to save the lives I did."
Both James and Harry smiled at the proclamation.
To most it would sound as though their friend was bragging and displaying a lack of modesty, but what he said was certainly accurate enough. Peter and Remus had, between them, brought down the majority of the giants and prevented a considerable number of people dying by attempting to do the same.
James could only ruffle his head proudly, the good mood of the boy finally making sense.
Peter had always been the underachiever of the group, his prowess with a wand having been found lacking and academic performance subpar other than in potions. Now however, he could finally hold himself in equal esteem as he did the other Marauders and carry himself with a bit of pride, live a life where the deeds of his friends did not overshadow his own.
"It is," Lily agreed, "it doesn't mean that we won't see each other still."
"As much as we can," Sirius declared. "Just because we aren't at school anymore doesn't mean everything has to change."
"At least once a week," he broke in. "At least once a week we will make time to spend together, all of us, whether it's just getting dinner or something."
"I can agree to that," Remus declared.
"Then that is what we will do," Harry interjected, his arm wrapped tightly around Bellatrix who nodded, "no matter what, we make time."
Promises such as these, made in the heat of the moment without considering the possibility of changing circumstances, usually became forgotten with time, even if the intentions were good.
But not this time.
Over the following years, the word of all would be kept, even if one or more were away and had to arrange a Portkey, it was always done and the young men and women in the carriage only grew closer as time went by, the friendships of childhood and the camaraderie of war prevailing over everything else that would come and go.
July 31st, 1980: St Mungo's Maternity Ward
For the best part of two days, Harry had been here, pacing back and forth in the waiting area, both overwhelmed and nervous at what was happening just behind one of the many doors that lined the corridor outside. Alice and Frank had welcomed their son into the world only the day before and Lily had gone into labour only a short few hours later, much o the now twenty-year-old's consternation.
"I guess some things weren't ever going to change," he had muttered, pale-faced as Lily was helped past him in the reception of the ward with a panicking James in tow.
"For Merlin's sake, Harry, will you bloody sit down," Bellatrix huffed as she rubbed her own swollen belly.
Harry gave a sheepish grin as he took a seat next to her and did his best to prevent himself from fidgeting. Like himself and Bellatrix, James and Lily had not planned their pregnancy. Frank and Alice, without informing the others, had. It came as no surprise to the rest of the group, however. The two had married less than a year after Alice had graduated, much to the delight of both families.
James and Lily had followed suit a year later and Harry and Bellatrix a few months after.
Their child however, had not been something they had discussed and it certainly came as a shock to the young man when Bellatrix announced it.
It had been a busy day for Harry. He had been working with Dumbledore on Runic Studies, something that he had become quite taken with these past months. Not only that, he had also been fixing up the house that himself and Bellatrix had purchased; a very remote Victorian home, by no means as grand as either the Black or Potter Manor's, but a large building and a considerable amount of land that afforded them much privacy and all the room they could ever need. Needless to say, he was exhausted from his efforts of the day.
The work on the house was progressing very nicely and he estimated that most of the works would be completed in just a month or two at most, but tonight, was his time for relaxing. The Group would be gathering at Longbottom Manor for dinner and a catch up of what had been happening over the past week; an opportunity to just be around their closest friends and unwind away from the hectic schedule they all kept.
Alice and Marlene had both completed the Auror training and were now working in the field. Remus was most of the way through his own mastery under Cassiopeia and Sirius had surprised them all with the amount of dedication he was showing in his training towards becoming the new Lord Black.
James, Lily and Peter were still at Hogwarts pursuing their own higher educations along with Harry and Bellatrix, who was making her own waves on the national duelling scene.
Harry had discovered, very quickly under the tutelage of Dumbledore, that the man was a taskmaster, a truly brilliant man that expected a certain level of excellence from his charge. The young man was not one to complain however and had taken the challenges put before him in his stride and was learning more and more each day under the guidance of the Headmaster.
After a quick shower he took the floo to Frank's ancestral home where he was the last to arrive. The others were already settled in their chairs when he entered the dining room and he gave Bellatrix a quick kiss on the cheek as he sat down, apologising for his tardiness to his host, who waved him off unworriedly.
The usual small talk took place whilst they ate and drank and everything was proceeding as was custom until Frank stood to garner the attention of the room a nervous yet proud smile adorning his features. He coughed nervously as he tapped his glass with a spoon unnecessarily.
"I Just wanted to thank you all for coming," he mumbled shyly, shooting a pleading look to his wife who shook her head in exasperation.
"Just tell them, Frank," she urged with a good natured-huff.
The man nodded and attempted to compose himself.
"We're having a baby," he muttered, his cheeks flushing a bright crimson.
It took a moment for the news to settle in before a resounding cheer sounded in the room.
"Bloody hell, Frank," Sirius called, "you chase and capture the dregs of society and you struggle to tell your friends you're having a kid."
Frank shrugged as Harry gave him a playful slap on the back, the man's current demeanour reminding him very much of a friend long since left behind. The thought of the slightly chubby boy had him pausing, calculating dates, his own eyes widening at the realisation as he turned sharply towards James and Lily who had yet to leave their seats, both appearing to be shocked by the revelation.
Lily met his gaze and gave an imperceptible nod. He fell into his chair as his legs began to tremble and took a deep swig of his butterbeer, wishing he had asked for something stronger.
"What is it?" Bellatrix asked, a worried frown marring her features.
The rest of the group seemed to have become aware of his internal conflict and their attention turned to him as he shook his head and pointed at the other seated couple in the room.
Under the scrutiny of the others, James placed his hand over Lily's and nodded.
"Us too," he confirmed hoarsely.
"Bloody hell," Sirius exclaimed after only a second or so of dumfounded silence, "a double celebration then," he cheered.
"You'd better make that a triple," Bellatrix broke in once the second wave of cheering and congratulations had passed, her voice little above a whisper.
Harry's head snapped towards her, his eyes bulging, mouth opening and closing as he attempted to formulate a coherent sentence.
"H-how," he managed to sputter.
Sirius was the first to recover from the development and placed a fatherly hand on Harry's shoulder.
"Well, when a man and woman love each other very much," he began mockingly.
Harry slapped his hand away irritably.
"I know how it works you mongrel," he spat, "I mean how? I thought we were being careful?" he questioned in confusion as he turned his attention back to Bellatrix.
Bellatrix laughed and took his hands in her own, her eyes watering. She knew he wasn't truly angry, merely shocked.
"We are both quite powerful," she sighed, "the potion wasn't going to prevent it forever. I'm surprised it took this long."
Harry could only nod dumbly as he stood and began to pace furiously.
"Harry?" Bellatrix questioned worriedly.
She had been nervous about his reaction but did not expect an almost stoic countenance.
"This is real?" he asked sternly, "It's not a mistake?" he added weakly.
Bellatrix shook her head as the first tear broke free. She felt more than a little foolish and had to fight down the fury that had started to boil within her at his questioning.
Her anger was not last.
Without warning, she was hoisted out of her chair and felt herself wrapped tightly in his arms as he jumped up and down, mumbling incoherently about the baby that would be with them in around half-a-years' time.
"You're really pregnant?" he asked again.
Bellatrix rolled her eyes at his ridiculous grin.
"Yes, Harry," she huffed, "now put me down, you're upsetting her," she chided as she pointed to her stomach.
He frowned as he complied.
Bellatrix raised her chin in the air defiantly.
"It will be a girl," she said with certainty, "I can feel it."
The smirk he wore only grew as he shrugged carelessly.
"It doesn't matter to me, as long as she is happy and healthy."
"Well," Frank broke in, interrupting their moment, "to all six of us then," he toasted, raising his glass, his hand trembling slightly.
The others followed his lead, the talk of impending the impeding arrivals quickly becoming the favoured subject of the evening.
Although happy at the turn of events, Harry could not shift the feeling of nervousness that overcame him, not only at the prospect of being a father, but the timing weighed heavily on his minds.
Most of his worries were put to rest by his mentor who had stated with categoric confidence that he himself had nothing to be concerned about regarding the timing. Harry had received his first lecture from the man on magics of the soul and how that his own soul had been successfully transported here, and that if it hadn't, he would have perished in the attempt.
Though his fears had mostly been assuaged by the word of the man, he couldn't shake the worry entirely and he had spent many sleepless nights wallowing in trepidation, something that had only increased when Lily had gone into labour on the very date that he was born.
He was pulled from his reverie as the door to the room burst open, admitting a very shaky and pale James, his eyes haunted by his most recent traumatic experience. Harry had shot to his feet immediately and approached the wreck of a man, his expression almost pleading.
"It's a girl," he announced.
Harry sagged in relief as he pulled James into a tight hug.
"How is she?" he asked.
James gave him a relieved smile.
"Lily was amazing," he praised lovingly. "They are both doing well."
Harry nodded as he felt Bellatrix grip his hand excitedly.
"Can we see them?"
James nodded and led them from towards the room, the trio followed by Remus, Peter, Marlene, Sirius and the elder Potters who had manage to get permission for Lily's parents to be here.
They entered the birthing room and was greeted by the sight of an exhausted yet content Lily, her red tresses in disarray as she clung tightly to the bundle she held in her arms. She gave them all a welcoming smile as she beckoned Harry towards her and angled the swathe of blankets so that he could get a better view of the babe.
The girl was sleeping soundly, her own patches of red hair peeking out from within the confines of her wrappings.
"She looks just like you," Harry whispered to the exhausted woman.
Lily nodded tiredly.
"She has our eyes too," she revealed in a conspiratorial whisper.
"What's her name?"
Lily's smile widened as she looked towards James and nodded for him to answer.
"Her name is Jasmine Potter, yours and Bella's Goddaughter."
Harry could only nod dumbly as he held the girl closer. Lost for words he smiled and handed the baby over to Bellatrix who looked upon her with equal reverence.
Everyone else in the room took that as their cue to come closer and began fussing over the newest addition to the Potter family, each giving their own congratulations.
Catching the longing look of Sirius, Harry leaned in and nudged him with his shoulder.
"Your time will come, Sirius," he assured the man.
Sirius nodded and gave him a genuine smile.
"I never thought about children before," he muttered in reply.
"Well, there's plenty of time for that, but your own goddaughter will be here in only a few weeks."
"Me," Sirius choked in disbelief.
"Of course," he sighed. "You never really got the chance to be mine where I came from, so now you can be the Godfather that I should have had to my daughter."
"Aww, Siri, it's not so bad," Bellatrix soothed mockingly as she joined them, "there's no need to cry."
"I'm not bloody crying," the man grumbled as he swiped suspiciously at his eyes.
Bellatrix laughed as she rubbed his back comfortingly.
"Harry and I agreed that you and Marlene would be our first child's godparents, only if you intend on marrying her of course," she added with a wicked grin.
"I already asked her father for permission," he answered.
"And what did he say?" the voice of Marlene broke in, seemingly appearing from nowhere behind the man.
Sirius swallowed deeply and nodded before smiling.
Marlene shook her and beamed a watery smile.
"Is this you asking?"
"Not the way I planned, but yes, it is," he answered sincerely.
Marlene sobbed as she threw herself in his arms and nodded into his chest.
"The only two left are Remus and Narcissa," Bellatrix whispered as she pulled Harry in to a hug.
"WHAT?" Sirius bellowed, clearly having overheard his cousin.
"Oh, this isn't good," Harry sighed.
"CISSY AND HIM?" Sirius continued his rant, the attention of the others in the room now firmly on him and his tirade as he pointed at the offending man.
"Control yourself, Sirius," Marlene hissed, "remember what happened last time you tried to interfere," she reminded him, shooting a glance at Harry and Bellatrix.
Sirius narrowed his eyes but visibly calmed as he approached an open-mouthed and pale Remus.
"So, Remus," he began sweetly, "you wish to marry into the House of Black?"
Remus trembled under the scrutiny of one of his oldest friends.
"No one has mentioned m-marriage," he stuttered.
Sirius raised an eyebrow at the werewolf and shook his head.
"I hope you don't plan on defiling my little cousin without the intention of it," he warned as he wagged a finger under his nose.
Remus shook his head frantically.
"I've not d-done anything of the sort," he stammered.
"Let u keep it this way, shall we?"
The question was rhetorical but still, Remus nodded his understanding.
"And you will explain how this has come to be, without me being any the wiser?"
"That would be because you can be a very dense and ignorant git, Sirius," she huffed.
Sirius pouted but seemingly decided to let it rest for the time being. He however did sulk for some time after the revelation of one of his closest friends and cousins being romantically involved, something that was quickly forgotten only a couple of weeks later when his goddaughter did indeed arrive as expected.
Lyra Cassia Potter graced her parents with her presence in the early hours of August 13th, heavily favouring the look of her mother; a thick mane of black hair and violet eyes, the very same delicate features of the young woman that birthed her, much to the delight of her father.
September 1st, 1990: Kings Cross Station
Today was the day that Harry James Potter had been anticipating since the fall of Lord Voldemort; the day that he wold bear witness to the fruits of his sacrifices and would finally learn how much a difference his endeavours had truly made.
He knew in his heart of hearts that he had been mostly successful. He had ended Tom's reign much sooner than had occurred previously and had managed mitigate the negative outcome as best he could, but today, he would know for certain.
Bellatrix had, on several occasions, labelled him foolish for the worry that had plagued him but the question that Croaker had put to him all those years ago had stuck.
"Tell me, Mr. Potter, how many people do you share your dormitory with at Hogwarts?"
Out of everything that had happened, this was the one thing that played on his mind and had now for as long as he cared to remember. He had cursed the man for such a question, such an inane thing that had bothered him day in and day out.
He shook his head as his family approached platform 9 ¾; himself, his wife and the six children they had been blessed with. Lyra, of course, had been first followed by Henry a couple of years later. The twin boys, Jaime and Jon had arrived only a year after him and the two youngest Marius and Callidora one year and two years later respectively.
It hadn't been the dozen that they often goaded the other with, but Harry and Bellatrix could not be happier with each of their children, though both would admit they could be a handful.
The man himself hid his smirk as they crossed the barrier between platforms nine and ten.
He found his eyes widening at the sheer amount of people here and breathed a sigh of relief at how many small children were running around in unmarked robes.
"Now do you feel better?" Bellatrix sighed, having had no doubt that his fears would be unfounded.
Harry nodded and smiled politely at a group of people openly pointing and discussing him.
It was something that had taken some getting used to since his victory over Tom and it wasn't as though he gave the general population time to get it out of their systems. He had become somewhat reclusive, firstly spending much of the first five years after the war within the walls of Hogwarts and only venturing out when he knew the streets of the wizarding world would not be so busy so that he could avoid the attention and adulation that was bestowed upon him. It wasn't until Lyra herself noticed the pointing, the offhand comments and the people paying so much attention to her father that she broached the subject with him.
She had of course been rather too young, in Harry's opinion, to be regaled with the feats he had achieved and had made the excuse that it was simply because he was a Potter and that the family was very well known.
She had not been entirely placated by his explanation but knew better than to argue with her father. However, when she was nine-years-old she had no such qualms, not when she provided irrefutable proof that the man that had sired her was much more than she was aware.
Harry was pouring over a tome in his office, his brow furrowed as he attempted to decipher the runic array before him. He had received his mastery in the subject during his years as an apprentice under the tutelage of an Egyptian specialist whom Dumbledore had introduced him to. He had become very enamoured with the subject during his study on wards whilst planning the final confrontation with Voldemort and had decided that he would like to pursue it further. The work he was reading however was proving to be just as exciting as it was boggling and so immersed in his work, he did not hear the door to the room opening nor the shuffling approach of his eldest child. It wasn't until a slither of card fell in front of his eyes that he became aware of her presence.
Frowning, he looked up and was met by the glare of his daughter, the very same look his wife had when he was soon to find himself in trouble. She said nothing but drew his attention to the piece of card she had deposited on his desk with a nod. His frown gave way to a reminiscent grin as he looked upon his own image on the front before flipping it over to read the words he had not seen in quite some time.
Lord Harry Potter (27th March 1960 – Present) Order of Merlin First Class
First noted for his achievement in becoming the youngest person in recent History to represent his country during the European Duelling Championship of 1977 where he was controversially disqualified when he reacted to being placed under the Cruciatus Curse by his opponent in the semi-final. His notoriety only increased in 1978 when he vanquished the Dark Lord Voldemort in single combat, ending the tyranny that Magical Britain had been under for several years. Seldom seen in public since, Lord Potter is a known Quidditch fan and is married to rising duelling star, Bellatrix Potter.
He had once mocked the sentiment displayed by Dumbledore during his fifth year at Hogwarts when the man had been rather dismissive in losing the many titles he held and had claimed that he would be content so long as he remained a feature on the Chocolate Frog cards. Now, he understood the sentiment completely. Although proud of his Order of Merlin First Class and the honorary lordship that had been bestowed upon him, the chocolate frog card held considerably more meaning.
Lyra cleared her throat and his smile faltered as he found himself under her scrutiny, a single brow risen as she waited for an explanation. He shook his head and sighed as he gestured for her to take the seat opposite his own.
"I didn't want you to find out like this," he said apologetically.
"So, it's real? You're a hero?" she questioned in awe.
Harry smiled at her innocence, reminded of why it was he did what he had done almost a decade ago. He nodded in confirmation as he grinned.
"Believe it or not, your father was not always a boring and stuffy man," he joked.
Lyra frowned at him; the words she had occasionally used against him being thrown back at her.
"I don't think you're boring, Daddy," she denied, "I just find it hard to believe," she shrugged as she pointed at the card he still held.
"Why is it so hard?"
The girl bit her bottom lip in thought as she shrugged again.
"It says that you killed a Dark Lord. You're the kindest man I know, I can't imagine you killing anyone."
Again, Harry found himself smiling at her innocence.
"I like to think I am kind, Lyra," he sighed, "but I am fiercely protective of those I love and care about and, without sounding so egotistical, I am very good with my wand."
The diminutive girl nodded. It was not often that she saw him using his magic as herself and her brothers were strictly forbidden from entering the training room in the basement when their father was in there, but the times she had seen him, he had always left her dazzled with his displays. Still, she found it hard to see the soft-spoken, gentile man in front of her as someone capable of taking a life. She had seen him angry at times and he had been terrifying, but it would only be very briefly. He always managed to calm himself though and was again her daddy, the same man that took her flying on his broom, even though mother did not like it.
"Is that why everyone is really kind to you?" she asked.
"Partly," he replied with a smile. "They respect me for what I did and they are a little scared of me," he added with a sigh.
He shook his head morosely. This was not a conversation he was relishing but knew it was one that needed to be had. She would be going to Hogwarts soon enough and he would rather her hear his explanation before facing possibly skewed notions of the man he was.
"Come here," he requested, opening his arms and motioning for her to join him. She complied and he pulled her into his lap and gave her a tight hug, eliciting a giggle from the girl.
"When you get to Hogwarts, people will know who you are because of me and what I have done. I want to be the one to tell you about those things, so you know the truth, not some embellished tale from someone who was not there, people who did not experience what myself, your mother and the rest did."
Lyra nodded, her attention completely focused on her father as he spoke her expression shifting between awe and disbelief as he regaled her with the tales of his youth. When he was finished, she could not help but look at the man in a new light. Her father, if anything was an honest man and she did not doubt what he told her was true but it was still hard to fathom and were it not for the haunted look he wore as talked, one could not blame her for thinking such things as merely fanciful, delusional even.
But this was her father, her quiet yet intelligent father who was kind to everyone, who loved his friends and family to a fault, a man she had never seen exchange a harsh word with any.
"You killed people," she said sadly. "You always said that hurting people was bad."
"I did," he sighed. "I did what I had to, to protect those that couldn't defend themselves against those that wished to cause them harm."
Lyra hugged him tighter.
"So, you really are a hero?"
Harry snorted slightly.
"Many have said as much," he chuckled, "but I only see myself as having done the right thing."
The little girl smiled brightly at him.
"Can you show me?"
Harry frowned at the question.
"Show you what?"
"Show me how you can fight, silly," she huffed.
"When you are older," he promised. "When you are old enough, I will teach you our family magic, but until then, young lady, how about you go and change and I take you flying?"
His daughter was out of his lap and room as fast as he could blink, leaving her chuckling father still seating behind his desk. The moments with his wife and children were what he lived for. Much of his time was dominated with work but he always made time for them and time to fly also. He had never pursued a career in Quidditch as he had considered, something he at times held regret for, but he still found enjoyment in it, whether that was watching or having pick-up games with James and the others and even more so teaching his children the art.
"Are you up for it today, Hed?" he asked the snowy owl perched on her branch where she now spent much of her time.
She gave a hoot as she landed on his shoulder and began nuzzling him affectionately. She was certainly getting on in years but still, she remained his ever-faithful companion, his one reminder of a life that had slowly become but a distant memory.
His thoughts were interrupted by a gentle tugging on his sleeve and he had to use every ounce of effort he had in the moment not exhibit any emotion that would arouse suspicion. Many eyes were on him, all looking in his direction in awe but it was the ones that were in front of him that he was focused as he looked upon a very familiar pair of brown orbs, freckles and a shock of red hair.
"You're Harry Potter," the young boy squeaked.
Harry almost laughed at the expression, the same he had encountered from this very boy on his first journey aboard the Hogwarts Express.
"I am indeed, Mr. Weasley," he confirmed, not unkindly.
The boy swallowed nervously.
"You know who I am?"
Harry quirked an amused eyebrow.
"I only know of one family famous for their red hair and freckles," he answered.
"My brother, Bill, says he knew you at school."
This time, Harry did let out a brief chuckle.
"Ahh, William," he mused aloud. "How is he?"
"He is working for Gringotts as a curse-breaker," the redhead answered proudly.
Harry nodded and gave the boy a smile.
"I'm so sorry, Lord Potter," the voice of Arthur Weasley interrupted, "I did tell him not to bother you," he added, shooting his son a disapproving glare.
Harry simply waved him off.
"Think nothing of it, Arthur," he insisted, "he demonstrated some of that Gryffindor bravery coming over here."
The boy stood a little straighter at the comment and smirked triumphantly.
"I'm going to be a Gryffindor just like you and my other brothers," he declared. "It's the best house."
Harry could only laugh as he shook his head.
"I don't think my wife would agree with you here, Mr Weasley," he deadpanned, "she was a Slytherin," he added with a wink.
Ron paled at the revelation and shot a fearful glance towards Bellatrix who only smirked in response.
"A Sl-slytherin?" he stammered, "b-but they're all evil."
Arthur shook his head in exasperation as Bellatrix rolled her eyes.
"Not quite," Harry chuckled. "My wife can be very scary, but I too was almost a Slytherin."
"You?" Ron questioned in disbelief. "But you're Harry Potter."
"A house does not make somebody evil, young man," he explained. "It is the actions that define a person, not a house they're selected for when they are still a child."
Ron frowned at the thought but nodded his understanding.
"Being brave is admirable but so is loyalty, intelligence and ambition. The best people have a mix of all those things," Harry continued. "It would be a mistake to let your house define you and even more so to judge others based on where they are placed."
Ron nodded again, more resolutely this time before a look of contemplation took prominence.
"But You-know-who was a Slytherin, so was Rudolphus Lestrange," he argued weakly.
Harry's eyes narrowed at the mention of the latter. Lestrange had been on the run since the war, making quite the nuisance of himself and refusing to believe that the pureblood movement had been quashed. It wasn't until Harry had dealt with him personally that he too became little more than an unpleasant memory in magical Britain's history but more an unpleasant memory for himself and his family, one much more recent that only served to reinforce his already formidable reputation.
Ever since her owl had arrived two weeks ago confirming her place at Hogwarts, Lyra had been insistent that she be allowed to head to Diagon Alley to purchase what it was she would need for her first year of school. Harry, however, knew that his daughter was showing so much enthusiasm for one reason; her wand.
For as long as the girl could talk, she had pestered him incessantly about getting her one, something that he had flatly refused to do. He had afforded many allowances but this was something he had refused to compromise on, but now, the day she would get her wish had arrived.
After experiencing a disrupted breakfast, he had finally relented and took her along with Bellatrix and the other children, it was considered a special occasion after all.
Lyra herself had been impatient whilst they went from shop to shop, gathering the required supplies, barely paying attention as she continuously stared in the direction of Olivander's.
Eventually, the family arrived, Lyra ahead of the others as she pushed herself inside the small shop, which was thankfully empty despite how busy the Alley itself was.
Harry entered and shook his head in amusement at the expression on her face as the tape measure measured the bridge of her nose.
"Ahh, Bellatrix Black," Olivander greeted his wife, "Walnut with a dragon heartstring core, 12 ¾ inches."
It's Potter now," she corrected with a smile.
"Indeed," Olivander acknowledged as his penetrating gaze swept over Harry, making him shiver internally.
"Lord Potter," the man addressed him in little more than a whisper, "though not one of mine, I imagine that your wand has some very interesting tales to tell."
Harry shrugged as he removed the one on his right arm and looked at it fondly before offering it to a surprised Olivander.
"I think you are just about the only person I can think of that would appreciate it," he explained.
Olivander smiled as he took the wand and looked upon it.
"Ebony and Purpleheart," he declared, "with the heartstring of a Ukrainian Ironbelly and a Thestral hair," he finished with a look of wonder.
The man nodded before closing his eyes and placing the wand next to his ear. He remained this way for several minutes, the only indication that he hadn't fallen asleep being the occasional nod he gave or sound of wonderment.
"Very interesting indeed," he stated as he opened his eyes and scrutinised Harry uncomfortably. "Remarkable," he added as he handed the wand back. "Tell me, Lord Potter, what did happen to your holly and phoenix feather wand?"
Harry silently applauded the man. Wandlore was something he had investigated before his trip through time and again something he had revisited since but had found he had no natural ability in the subject. He had read that a master could deduce much by simply holding one and he had been quite keen to see the method put into practice.
"I outgrew it when I was fifteen years old," he answered. "I still have it at home."
"Understandable," he sighed, "sometimes people that can wield the power you possess will find that the wand they carry is no longer sufficient but they will remain a part of us in some way."
Harry nodded his agreement.
On occasion he would retrieve his own wand and though it felt mostly dead in his hands, a spark of life remained in it. He kept it under lock and key in his office along with a few other mementos such as the Marauders Map, something that Bellatrix had forbidden him to give to the children, ever.
"As much as I could discuss wandlore with you, Lord Potter, I believe your daughter is rather impatient to get her own," Olivander pointed out.
Indeed, Lyra was frowning in his direction and rolled her eyes as he took note of her expression.
It took a little more than an hour to find her match, an Ebony and dragon heartstring construct, 11 ¾ inches, much to her joy and relief. After thanking and paying the wandmaker they exited the shop to head home for a late lunch, only for such a notion to vanish as they made their way towards the floo in The Leakey Cauldron.
They had barely begun their walk when a scream rang out across the street spurring Harry into action. In the blink of an eye, his wand was in his hand and he had swept it in a semi-circle, ripping the pavement away from the ground and wrapping his family up in a protective cocoon of thick concrete in the nick of time. A series of spells impacted against it immediately and a shout of rage got his attention.
"POTTER," a familiar voice screamed. "YOU FINALLY COME OUT OF YOUR HOLE, YOU FUCKING COWARD."
Instantly, the genial man was gone and, in his place, stood the hardened warrior he had become through trial and tribulation.
"Lestrange," he growled, his eyes glowing eerily, the temperature around him dropping considerably, causing his children to shake.
Harry was simply furious, more murderous than he had felt in over the decade.
"Daddy, what's happening?" Lyra questioned fearfully, trembling as she looked upon her father.
Harry attempted to give the girl a reassuring smile that came across more as a feral grin.
"Protect them," he commanded his wife.
Bellatrix could only nod as she placed herself in front of them, aware that the anti-apparation and portkey wards would had been activated.
Harry was seething as he blew an enormous hole in his improvised barrier and was met with the sight of a frozen crowd and six figures in Death Eater garb.
"You know, I always wondered what happened to you, Rudy," he spat. "You and your disgrace of a father, too cowardly to fall with your master?"
The man was on the cusp of answering but Harry decided that there were no words that needed to be exchanged between them. The man had attempted to attack his family and his only thought was that he was going to make him regret such a foolish move.
With a flick of his wand, the robed man on his left collapsed in a heap and began screaming as he clawed at his face desperately. Two others were taken down before the group could mount an offense, victims to a Bonebreaker to the pelvis and a brain-swelling curse respectively. This seemed to snap the remaining three out of their thoughts as they fought back, each sending a volley of spells towards Harry who dodged and batted them away as though they were inconsequential.
Another man fell with a rattling roar of agony as his tongue exploded in his mouth and the final accomplice took this as his cue to run, only to be lassoed by a flame whip. Harry dragged the pleading man in front of him to absorb the next wave of spells Rudolphus sent his way. The man quickly fell limp leaving only their leader alone to face the irate Potter.
Rudolphus became aware of the unfavourable situation he found himself in and sent another chain of spells at Harry who flicked them aside as he stalked towards the man, intent on making the last of his moments as miserable as possible.
True to his nature when facing adversity, he tried to flee only to be hit with a tripping jink that sent him sprawling to the ground. Before he could gather himself, Harry was upon him and stomped with all his might on the hand that clutched his wand, eliciting a pained yelp. Not content with this, he dragged the man to his feet by his throat and ripped off his mask before ploughing his fist into his nose a few times for good measure. Tightening his grip, he pulled Rudolphus closer so they were almost nose to nose as he glared at him, revelling in the fear he could see in his eyes.
"Many years ago, I told you that if you ever even looked at my brother in a way I did not like, then I would flay you, do you remember?" he gritted out.
Rudolphus nodded weakly as he gasped, choking in the clutch he could not break free from.
"And you dare attempt to attack me in front of my children?" he continued in a deadly whisper. "YOU DARE, YOU BASTARD?"
The sound of dripping water caught his attention and the unmistakable odour of urine was strong enough to fill him with disgust.
"Lord Potter," a tentative voice called.
Harry turned his stony expression towards a nervous duo of aurors and bared his teeth.
"Finally decided to arrive and do your job?" he replied callously.
"My apologies, sir, but we were told not to intervene," the auror explained as he pointed to a man behind himself and his partner.
The sight of Alastor Moody lifted his spirits but did not abate the rage that coursed through him.
"Alastor," he greeted the man cordially.
"We can take it from here, Harry," Moody responded.
Harry shook his head.
"Not necessary. I made Rudy a promise and I intend on sticking to it."
Moody drew his wand nervously.
"You know I can't let you do that," he sighed.
Harry growled and pressed his wand into Lestrange's throat stubbornly.
"Harry," the voice of Bellatrix pleaded. "Not in front of the children."
He looked towards his wife and cowering children feeling shame wash over him. He was not ashamed by his actions, only that he had lost control in front of them. He had never wanted them to see this side to him and had managed to hide it all these years.
He nodded reluctantly and both Moody and Bellatrix breathed a sigh of relief only to be taken aback as Harry drove his knee into Rudolphus' groin before releasing him.
"I'm sorry," he muttered as he approached his family, "I'm sorry."
Bellatrix pulled him into a hug as he apologised to his stunned children, his eyes expressing the sorrow he felt.
Both Lyra and Henry, shaken by the experience, wrapped their arms around him and though they were all safe, it would be a memory that would stick with them for quite some time.
The sound of the whistle announcing the imminent departure of the train sounded, pulling him from his thoughts. With another mumbled apology, Arthur led Ron away and Harry pulled his daughter towards him and kneeled before her.
"Now, remember to write at least once a week and for Merlin's sake do not do anything to worry your mother, but if you have to, don't get caught," he finished in a whisper.
The girl giggled as she extracted herself from his grip.
"I'll miss you, Daddy," she sighed before placing a kiss on his cheek.
"And I you, princess," he returned sadly as Bellatrix all but shoved him aside to say her own goodbye.
He allowed his eyes to sweep across the platform once more, content that his efforts had not been in vein with the vision of countless families waving farewell to their children as they boarded the train and hung out of the windows to watch the parents disappear from view.
It was a bittersweet moment for Harry. It felt as though only yesterday he was holding his first daughter in his arms and now, he was seeing her off for the start of her magical schooling.
"She will be okay," Bellatrix whispered next to him.
Harry could not be sure if she was saying it for his or her own benefit, but that coupled with the sight of familiar mass of brown hair leaning from the now moving train made him smile warmly in remembrance as he spotted his first female friend.
"She will be okay, "he echoed.
August 18th, 1996
Harry was sitting in front of the fire in his office and though it was only mid-afternoon and he was not prone to drinking unless the occasion called for it, he held a tumbler of Firewhiskey.
"Are you going to tell me what is bothering you?" the voice of his wife sounded from the doorway.
Harry shook his head as she sat on the arm of his chair and looked at him with concern.
"It's the exact date that I came back," he sighed, his tone thoughtful.
Bellatrix stroked his arm sympathetically.
"Are you having regrets?"
He again shook his head.
"No," he assured her, "it's just a strange day for me. I remember asking what would happen when I left and Croaker said that it was likely that the timeline where I came from would alter to reflect what I did when I left," he explained. "What we see around us is it, I guess," he added with a frown.
"It's not all that bad, is it?"
"Not at all," he sighed, "definitely better than when I left but certainly not what I was expecting," he chuckled. "But I wouldn't change a thing, not what I did or where we are now."
"Even if Albus finally got you to accept a teaching position?" Bellatrix returned with a smug grin.
Harry huffed slightly as he dragged a hand through his hair.
The man had been trying to lure him back to Hogwarts for more than ten years and he had finally relented, accepting the role of teaching Ancient Runes at the school. Bellatrix had succumbed to the man the year before and was teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts joining Peter and James who were teaching Transfiguration and Potions, each sharing the responsibility with Snape and Minerva.
"The old goat got me in the end," he conceded.
"Come off it, Harry, you knew you would end up back there some day, you miss the place far too much."
He could not deny it. He did miss the hustle and bustle of the castle and his years away had not stopped the yearning he felt for it.
"Well, I do still have one more thing to finish before I go back," he reminded her. "I'm hoping to have it within the week," he said determinedly.
Bellatrix shook her head and sighed at him. Of all the careers he could have had he had decided to go gallivanting around the world in the most dangerous places he could find to look for lost treasures, a career she blamed Albus for entirely. The man had encouraged it and even joined him from time to time when he could along with James, Peter, Remus, Sirius and Frank.
Harry had come upon a journal as he was perusing the Headmaster's personal library that speculated on more than a few of the treasures and where they could likely be found. Harry, being the curious person he was, had taken it upon himself to seek them out and had surprisingly experienced much success. This, along with his warding business had given them more than a comfortable lifestyle, rather opulent in fact due to some of the things he had discovered over the years.
"And you promise this is the last one?" she questioned suspiciously.
"I promise," Harry laughed before placing a kiss on her cheek.
The life of peace he had led during his years as an apprentice had been welcome but there was always the lingering need of risk. He wasn't sure if it was simply in his nature or that he had become so accustomed to it that it was normality for him. The only thing he could be certain of was that he could never envision himself working in a stuffy office or for the Ministry. It had come on in leaps and bounds since the war but his experiences with it throughout his years had soured him to even entertain the idea. The discovery of the journal had been a boon to him which broke up the monotony of erecting or breaking wards for societies' elite and had, often, satisfied his thrill-seeking side.
"Good," Bellatrix declared as she stood. "Now, if you're finished moping, brooding or whatever it is you are doing, everyone will be here soon."
Harry smiled at the thought as his wife left to prepare for the arrival of their guests and as it was summer time, all the children would be present.
Sirius and Marlene had married and had four of their own and were as wild and carefree as their parents had always been. Arcturus, their eldest, was two years younger than Lyra and an almost exact replica of his father. He along with his three younger siblings; Orion, Marius and Lucretia were quite the pranksters and Sirius was reaping what he had sowed during his years at Hogwarts much to his delight, and at times, annoyance.
Frank and Alice added Layla a few years after Neville had been born and had been content to stop there. Both enjoyed their careers but insisted they would have another when they felt the time was right.
Narcissa had given Remus a son and two daughters. The two had married with Sirius' blessing though Pollux had not been pleased when he discovered that his future son-in-law was a werewolf. He had seemingly learnt from his past mistakes however and had welcomed Remus into the family albeit grudgingly.
Peter had dedicated himself to his studies and had not married until recently. He had been content to play the role of uncle to all the children over the years but had finally relented and married a healer he had held affection for with the urging of the others. His wife, Helen, was carrying their first child and the small-statured man was a nervous wreck. It had taken hours to calm him down when he learnt that he was going to be a father and it was only when Sirius pointed out that he himself had done it, so Peter should have no problems.
Harry could only shake his head as he thought of his own parents. He couldn't help but feel partly responsible for their own lot after all.
Try as they might, a son had not been born to them and after birthing three girls, it was advised that Lily not attempt to have any more children. Her last pregnancy had taken its toll on her leaving it very unlikely for her to carry another without severe complications.
It wasn't until little Eleanor, the youngest, arrived that Harry had pondered some words spoken to him during his strange encounter with the being that claimed to be Death.
"It is fate that should worry you…have no fear, she will claim what she will to restore balance…"
He knew that it could have been worse if his assessment of the situation was right. Fate was punishing his parents for his transgression by not allowing them to birth another son, though both James and Lily had dismissed his concerns when he had discussed it with them. Both had pointed out that they were more than happy with the daughters they had and that they couldn't be prouder of Harry. They again reminded him that, no matter what, he was their son and nothing could change that even if it was only spoken about with those in the know. It certainly was not something he would explaining to his own children if he could help it.
Harry was proud of all his friends, his parents, their achievements and their children, a sentiment that was shared with the elder members of their families also.
Arcturus had stepped down as the head of the Black family when he had deemed Sirius ready to take over and had been enjoying his retirement for near on a decade now.
Charlus was still active in the political field and had encouraged James to enjoy a career in teaching before taking on his other responsibilities, something that James was grateful for.
Dorea had taught for another three years at Hogwarts before retiring herself. She mostly spent her time caring for the various creatures that dwelled within the forest at Potter Manor and doting on her grandchildren. She could often be found at either Harry's or James' home assisting Lily whilst she was writing her books on charms with the input of Filius Flitwick. It had been a plan the two had devised during her years under his teaching and had become a success for the passionate charms mistress.
Unsurprisingly to Harry, Nymphadora had chosen to become an Auror and visited her relatives often when she was not working. Arcturus in particular had taken a shine to the girl from the moment she appeared and the Great Grandfather had been her long-time favourite person. He spoiled the girl throughout her youth and was even pleased that she had become a Hufflepuff, much to the surprise of her parents, who had become regular guests during the get -togethers' over the years.
The one thing that had always given Harry comfort, were these thoughts. He knew with certainty that had he not made the sacrifices he had, things would have turned out very differently for himself and those he considered to be his family.
There would be no Frank, Alice, Marlene or his parents. Their children would never have been born and he had no doubt that he would have lost many others on the way had he stayed. Even if he were successful in bringing Voldemort down, he did not doubt that he would have had to sacrifice more than he had and gained very little.
He groaned as he stood from his chair and made his way to the kitchen where he knew the others would be, a smile at the thought of his impending return to Hogwarts adorning his face. It may seem to most that he had accepted the position with reluctance, but it was where he wanted to be, where he belonged.
There were things in life that would change and as he looked upon the weekly gathering of his friends and family, he was reminded that there were things that never would. No matter what fate had thrown his way and no mater where his life had taken him, Hogwarts was a part of him, it would forever be and Harry Potter would have it no other way.
After two and a half years, it is finally done. You all have my gratitude for both the support and patience you have shown whilst I have been putting this together and I cannot thank you enough.
The 'Green in the Grey' will be my focus for fanfiction now but I will be making some structural changes and some editing before it is continued.
On a slightly less unpleasant note, my laptop has recently typed its final words but thankfully, the epilogue was mostly complete it wasn't such a daunting task to finish it on my phone/tablet.
With that being said, I am working towards replacing it and it will hopefully not take long. In order to help with this, I am having a competition/ giveaway where lots of Harry Potter goodies are up for grabs including;
1.A Hedwig statue from the noble collection
2. Bellatrix and Sirius POP! Figures
3. A Rock candy Bellatrix collectible
4. A complete set of 2007 Royal Mail HP postcards
5. UK print Harry Potter books
And much more.
I will also be selecting random entrants who will receive a personalised greetings/thank you cards and this is open to everyone. All the proceeds will be going towards replacing my laptop and of course, any donations received are much appreciated.
More details of this can be found on my ko-fi (link on my profile) including a picture of what is up for grabs so please do support where possible and share the heck out of my Twitter, KO-FI and pages.
Again, you have all humbled me over these past couple of years with your reviews, messages of support and encouraging feedback, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
Until next time my wonderful followers, it's all love.