"Dammit, Steve! Those don't go there!"
"That's where they've always gone!"
Harry looked at her boys as they tried to redecorate the room. She offered to help but had been regulated to the sidelines…her casted leg may have something to do with that. She had taken a rather unusual curse on her last mission and had been on medical leave since. Which is why Steve and Bucky had her sitting out while they tried to redecorate. Honestly, she could do it with magic but there was something satisfying about doing things the muggle way. And the boys insisted they do it themselves.
"Having the desk here gives me the perfect lighting for drawing!"
"But then it's in the way of everything else!"
As if to prove his point, Snuffles, their adopted rescue dog who was missing a leg but didn't let that bother him, came running across the tile floor, skidding into the desk. He shook his head, dazed, but immediately trotted over to Harry for some affectionate and head scratching.
Bucky looked at Steve with the 'I told you so' expression Harry was becoming more and more familiar with.
"Who's a good boy? Yes, you are, yes you are!" Snuffled dropped his ball into Harry's waiting hand.
She threw the slobbered ball for him and he chased after it, a thud something in the distance, indicating he had run into something else.
Feeling her stomach growl, she hopped up with her crutches and started making her way to the kitchen for lunch.
That grabbed both of their attention as they abandoned their little argument and rushed to her side, already fretting over her.
With anyone else, she would've denied the help, but from Bucky, she gladly accepted it as Steve ran to the kitchen to start on lunch. That had become his pastime since coming out of the ice: cooking. He had looked up videos and how-to's and Bucky and Harry were now his guinea pigs.
Bucky pulled out her chair and helped her put the crutches aside so she could sit. Snuffles came skidding into the kitchen, jumping up into a chair at the table, dropping his slobbery ball onto the table. One look from Harry and he was slinking off to Steve, begging for scraps.
"That dog is too spoiled," she grumbled, using a Scorgify on the table where the ball had been.
Bucky chuckled, "He deserves it."
She knows what he means and agrees with him. It was part of the reason Snuffles came to live with them in the first place. He was abused and crippled by a previous owner. None of them could let that go after hearing it, so Snuffles came home with them that day. Bucky had worked on therapy with him so the lost appendage didn't hinder him and his personality began to shine through after a few weeks.
They all loved that dog even if Harry always ended up being the voice of reason in setting boundaries. But he rarely crossed them. He was a good dog; unusually intelligent. In some instances, he reminded her of Padfoot but that wasn't fair to make comparisons. But she did often wonder if Snuffles had been sent to them. He was too perfect.
Steve set lunch down at the table a few minutes later, sliding into his spot, Snuffles at his heels, wagging his tail.
"So," she started off, drawing the attention to herself. "I've been talking it over with Hermione and I've decided to retire."
Wide-eyed looks were sent her way so she continued.
"This last raid put a heavy toll on my body. This job has taken a lot from me."
And it had. She had a scar across her eye, one stretching from her chin to her neck, and various others littered across her body. To be honest, she was beginning to look a bit like Mad-Eye.
"Ron and Neville have retired from active duty and I think it's time I followed. Twenty years is a long time to be an Auror. The Healers said I might have lingering nerve damage to my leg after it heals so I would only be a hindrance in the field." She was still trying to sort out her emotions on that particular piece of information. "I mean, it only makes sense. Steve's kinda retired as the Avengers have everything handled and you've been working on yourself, Bucky. Things have been quiet recently so this would be the perfect time."
Silence followed her statement and she wondered if she had said something wrong.
It dragged on as the boys turned to look at each other, silently communicating.
It was something she had been giving a lot of thought to. It was like she said, she had given her time and the rest of her friends had already moved on. She had given the best years of her life and she wanted to finally live her life how she wanted, without answering to anyone else.
It had taken a lot of work to get where they were now. Steve had been the glue holding them both together for the first few months but eventually, Bucky and Harry found their own rhythms and no one could tell that the three hadn't been together their entire life.
It was Bucky and Steve getting used to a bond they thought lost decades ago and relearning each other.
It was Steve and Harry connecting over expectations and their love of the world. Their belief that there were causes worth fighting for, and causes worth dying for.
It was Bucky and Harry joking around, knees deep in their trauma and helping each other get through it. Harry not handling Bucky like he was made of glass, having no preconceived expectations. They loved Steve but there was still that lingering light of expectations and the brief dimming when Bucky didn't react how he used to.
Steve was trying and they knew he didn't do it on purpose but with Harry, all she knew was this Bucky and he liked being free with her.
It had taken a few years to get to this point but they all knew they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with each other. Natasha had quite literally pushed Steve out of the Avengers and Harry had paid for the best doctors she could find to help with Bucky. They had both went to Stark to see about a new arm for him as well.
"We also want to talk about that," Steve began.
"The city is a pretty loud place and if we're retiring, we were thinking of somewhere peaceful and private."
"There's a plot of land we've been looking at, Buck and I have been working on it these last few months. There's a lake and a forest, away enough for you to practice your magic."
Both looked at her, waiting to hear her answer.
She knew they must've been planning this for some time and were only waiting for the right moment. They knew that at any other time, she would've been hesitant but with her confession, the gates had been opened. They were all ready to settle down to a quiet life with each other and Snuffles as companions.
She knew Bucky wanted some chickens and goats so that was probably in the works as well. And she wasn't against learning how to fish. Steve was probably designing the house and everything around it which means she had nothing to worry about.
Their shoulders lost their tension and she had to let out a laugh that they really thought she would say no.
Snuffles joined in on the laughter, woofing at the joy of his family.
Flash forward a few more years:
All three were seated on the dock, fishing poles in hand. Bucky and Harry were having a competition on who could catch the largest fish while Steve just patiently waited for a nip.
"Nothing beats good old fashion bait: a nice big worm!" Bucky said in a sage-like voice as he observed his line in the water. "Don't need flashy lure or magical bait."
Harry threw him a heated gaze, the competitor in her fired up. They were situated on either side of the dock with Steve seated between them. When the initial competition had been announced, Steve excused himself from it, not wanting to get caught in another war between the two. There was nothing on the line, just the duo's pride.
"It's called technology; maybe you should get with the time, old man!"
Steve rolled his eyes at the insult. It had been years since they had been introduced to the 21st century so that line was way outdated but it didn't stop Harry from using it.
He saw her bobber drifting with the light breeze. Nothing was caught on her hook yet. The same with Bucky. His bobber was farther out and had probably lost its bait already.
The other two froze in shock, quickly reeling in their lines when Steve calmly stood up and quickly reeled in his line, keeping an eye out for Snuffles who had been swimming out there a few minutes before.
They stood, dumbfounded at their empty hooks while Steve smugly held up his two and a half foot walleye.
A muffled bark grabbed their attention as Snuffles walked up the launch site, shaking out his fur all while maintaining a firm grip on a smaller fish.
"That counts as mine. I trained Snuffles to fish." Bucky piped up after shaking out of his stupor, letting out a laugh as Snuffles sneezed and accidentally let go of the fish which flailed in a bid for freedom.
His laughter was cut short when Harry magically pushed him into the water. He came up sputtering and coughing at the water that had invaded his lungs.
He tried to splash Harry but she was too far back on the dock, instead, he pulled himself up swiftly onto the dock, Steve doing nothing to help but raising an eye as if to say, "You dug your grave."
Bucky rolled his eyes, removing his wet shirt and running a hand through his hair.
Harry threw him a smirk as she pulled Snuffles into her arms, rubbing him down from his head to his hind-quarters.
"You're such a good boy! Yes, you are!"
Snuffles' tongue rolled to the side of his mouth, taking in the praise, tail beating against the weathered wood as his eyes closed in pleasure.
Steve looked on fondly, knowing he would never change a thing about this life he had found and built for himself.
And there it is, the final conclusion to Stand By Me! Thank you so much for all your lovely reviews. I honestly never thought I write past the first chapter but the three arc conclusion ended up wrapping things up nicely. I had this chapter in the works before I saw Endgame but with the ending they gave Steve and Bucky, I knew I had to give you guys something to make up for it (I needed something to make up for that ending).
Thank you for being on this journey with me as I say goodbye to Stand By Me just past the anniversary of the original posting!