A/N: Hello everyone, and welcome to our final part of 'The Guarder Snake.'
This has been an insane journey in so many ways, and I'm especially grateful to everybody who stayed with it until the end. Thank you all so, so much for reading my (and the Betas) work, for reviewing, favouriting, following etc. It means a lot, and finally, here we are at the end of our very first fic.
Thank you all so much for the continuous support!
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(Sorry if you don't like the chapter!)
Bold = Parseltongue
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August 24, 2008
"Good morning everybody," Harry said with a yawn as he approached his family, all of them seated at the dining room table with an assortment of food spread out.
"Good morning dad!"
"Morning Uncle Harry!"
Harry's oldest two children and his pseudo-nephew all responded quickly, the three of them always wanting to be first in everything.
"I hope you three haven't been causing any problems this morning," Harry said as he teasingly narrowed his eyes at them.
They had planned a vacation of sorts to begin that very evening, and it would go on for nearly two weeks. Everybody had worked together to coordinate it: Cora, Clara, Ashtyn, and Alisa. It had taken nearly a full year to do so, and it still felt unreal that their trip had finally come.
"They've been wonderful," Cora said, finally speaking up whilst Alisa and Clara continued their conversation. "Good morning, Harry."
"You let me sleep in," He accused, his teasing look still in place, only now it was transferred to his wife.
Cora tutted. "Don't be getting lippy with me, I've always known what's good for you," Cora smiled and grabbed his hand across the table then. "Head Auror is stressful, and with your promotion soon to come, I figured I'd do what I could to ensure the start of your vacation was relaxing. Once we get to that resort too, I'm sure there's more we could do."
"That's raunchy," Clara commented, her eyes still on Alisa as she did so.
"Mummy, what's raunchy?" Sean, their eldest child, asked with a curious look and cocked head.
He looked so nearly a perfect blend of their features; Sean had his darker hair and nose, Cora's eyes and freckles… and Celtsean's name, somewhat.
"It's another form of ranch, duh," Clara said, going so far as to stick her tongue out at the boy.
Sean gave it right back to her, and then his younger sister imitated his actions just as she always did.
"If you rile them up too much, you'll have to deal with it," Cora said to Clara, the former already pouring herself a second cup of coffee.
"Nuh-uh, that's not how the cool, bad aunt works. I get to give them whatever they want, regardless of what it is, and you two have to deal with the repercussions," Clara turned to Ashtyn, the older witch having been silently watching everything with a smile on her face. "Isn't that right Auntie A?"
Ashtyn shook her head and rolled her eyes at her niece. "When you have kids, you'll find out what that's like."
"I'm not gonna have kids. Why would I when I can already get all the cool benefits of them without any diaper-changing or other stuff like that?" Clara smirked deviously then and turned to Sean, that same teasing expression on her face that Harry had seen when he was a first year in Hogwarts. "Did you know I changed you a couple times when you were a baby like the Twins? You were stinky."
Sean's eyes widened and immediately looked to his parents. "Aunt Clara didn't change me, did she? I wasn't stinky either!"
Cora sighed, took a long sip from her coffee and patted her thighs. It didn't take long for Sean to run over, and when he did, so did their daughter, only she ran to Harry rather than Cora.
"Up!" Emma demanded, her arms held towards Harry demandingly as she gave him that sweet look of hers.
"You've gotten heavy," Cora said from beside him as she picked up their son.
That comment was followed by giggles. A lot of giggles… he imagined Cora was tickling their boy again. He hoped he didn't pee himself like he did when he was younger and she'd played that same game.
Harry would never forget how funny th—
"Daddy! Up!" Emma demanded again, the little girl stomping her feet in a manner that was distinctly Cora-like.
"Oh, alright," Harry said as he did as was demanded of him. "Better now?" He asked once she was settled in his lap with her head against his chest.
"Better," Emma agreed as she reclined further into him, her eyes already fluttering as if she were ready for a nap after breakfast.
When he looked at Cora and saw Sean was doing much the same, then Alisa's boy Asher who kept blinking, Harry's Auror instincts kicked in; it didn't take a genius to figure out what the three of them had done.
"Stayed up again, didn't they?" He asked Alisa.
"Yes, they did. I read them a story at four in the morning when I noticed giggles coming from their room," Alisa smiled softly, her eyes looking between the three children. "They're precious, I hadn't the heart to punish them with our holiday as close as it is."
Clara agreed with that. "Yeah, don't punish them or else I'll punish you."
"And I'm the raunchy one?" Cora questioned, a brow arched as her hand tightened around Harry's.
"Cut it out, else my grandchildren will end up corrupted," Ashtyn spoke up, drawing the room's attention to her. "I take it my newest two grandbabies are still sleeping in their cribs, lovely daughter of mine?"
Cora nodded and Harry smiled at the mere thought of their two newest children, Mary and Morgan. He couldn't believe that they'd had four children in the past ten years, and considering the activities they got up to, he didn't think four would be where they stopped — Harry did feel slightly bad for their son and Aster's too, for it was only the pair of them that were older. Emma, the twins Mary and Morgan, and all those that would follow would be six or more years separated from the others.
"Wonderful, I'll be going to check on the pair of them," Ashtyn said, the older woman standing from her seat after finishing off her pancakes. "Don't grow complacent either, I'd like another few from the pair of you."
"Same, I need more mini Harrys and Coras to spoil and tease," Clara agreed before she yelped, Ashtyn's fingers pinching her earlobe as the older woman began leading her out.
But not before she made one final remark for the happy couple at the expense of her niece.
"You can chip in too, Clara," Ashtyn teased, causing a blush to bloom on Clara's cheeks and a loud burst of laughter from Harry and Cora. "Be good now - you two as well," The older woman said, amusement plain to hear in her voice as Clara stammered.
Harry loved his family.
Another few hours later, and when he found himself alone with Cora in their hotel room, he finally relaxed.
"This feels weird, but nice," He said as he gazed about the room.
It was a wonderfully designed, decorated, and spacious place that they'd rented out. Dover during the summer in a place that was solely for magicals… he couldn't believe how great it was. Sure, it couldn't compare to France or the United States, but with neither of them wanting to leave Magical Britain, it worked well enough.
"I'd imagine," Cora said as she stepped out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her with a second one on her head wrapped about in a way that always left him stupefied. "I believe it was completely necessary for you. Everybody else agreed too, especially Clara — you work too hard, it reminds me of Hogwarts."
"I'm older now," Harry said. "Who else is going to clean everything up ? You know most of the blokes and witches at the Ministry are corrupt or inept."
Cora removed the towel from atop her head, then she unwrapped the second one before finally getting under the covers. "I'm still older than you by a few years, Harry. You'll always be that little Hogwarts boyfriend of mine too — you were adorable in that uniform in your seventh year, you blushed a lot more back then too. Especially in the months that followed everything, when we made Sean."
Harry felt his cheeks heat up just a smidgen at how casually she'd said her final sentence. He knew she thought he was cute even if she'd not called him 'Cutie' like a certain witch did, but it still felt weird for his wife to speak that way.
"I'm surprised you don't have us put on the un—" Harry found himself hit with one of the comfortable, soft pillows that were piled high on their bed.
"Bad," Cora said, her tone the exact same as when he'd get off topic during their study sessions all those years ago. "Now, why don't you get under these covers and warm me up for a little while? I need a nap before we go out to that buffet with the rest of our family, I'm sure you could use one too."
I could, Harry thought to himself before he shook his head immediately thereafter.
There was absolutely no way he was getting that old. He didn't take naps in the middle of the day, what kind of Head Auror would he be i—
"Mummy! Emma keeps following Asher and I!" Sean's voice rang out from behind their door, the loudness making it very clear the boy had pressed his mouth to the space at the bottom of said door so that he could be heard.
He and Cora both still hated that Clara had told the children about that.
Harry smiled at his wife, leaned over to kiss her cheek, and then made to move away. "I'll deal with it."
Cora smiled tiredly at him, her semi-wet hair sticking to her face in a way that accented her beauty.
Had Harry mentioned that he adored… loved… Cora?
If he didn't, he'd do so again. Tomorrow too, and then the next day. He figured he'd do it until the end of time, really.
"Buffet time, huh?" Clara asked from beside him, Emma in her arms.
As always, Clara would take Emma. Harry knew the pair of them loved each other, and that was saying something too, because Clara loved all of the children in her own way. She wasn't exactly… maternal, with what she'd do, not with anybody else save for Emma.
Merlin, Clara would dote on their baby girl when she figured nobody was minding the pair of them. It was adorable, and it made him sincerely hope that Clara would find the right bloke for her. She deserved it just as much as Alisa did, but they all knew that the latter girl would never marry again. Alisa had said as much, and beyond that, she said the only boy in her life would be her son — Asher was a total momma's boy too, and had Aster been around to see it, Harry would've totally teased his friend about it.
Then again, Harry did do that from time to time anyhow, when he was all by himself. He'd get his, he knew, when the time came for him to meet all of the fallen… but until that time came, Harry would be enjoying all the one-sided teasing that he could. It wasn't like Alisa's doting, loving and overly-nurturing persona was bad either, especially not since it transferred to all of the children in the home.
Alisa was like a second mom to his and Cora's children.
"Wake up, daddy!" Sean said as one of his little hands pulled on his stubble.
"I'm up, I'm up," Harry said to the boy, smiling despite the painful pulling when he saw how his son was grinning at him.
Clara spoke past him before Harry could say anything more, her head bent forward to speak to Cora. "Why aren't you carrying any of your miniatures?"
Cora rolled her head lazily to look at her cousin. "I carried four of them for nine months straight, Clara. Unless you'd like to do that for me, I'll be taking a bit of a break whilst I can."
"Does that mean I g—" Clara said, her devious look and trap sprung only to be cut off by Cora.
"No, mine," Cora said, those two words spoken as deadpan as they were only causing a chain of laughter between the party as they continued their long march — small walk — to the buffet.
When finally the group came upon the entrance with Ashtyn, Alisa and Asher in front with the rest behind, they nearly sprinted inside. Manners be damned thanks to how they'd rented the whole small hotel out, they well and truly didn't care considering how famished they were.
"That's a lot of food," Clara commented once the group seated themselves at the closest table to the buffet carts.
"It is," Harry agreed as he set Sean down beside his sister's booster seat; Asher was on the boy's other side.
"I think he'd be horrible if it wasn't completely cleared before we made our way to the beach, wouldn't you?" Clara asked him, her eyes beginning to narrow and her tongue sliding out to wet her lips.
Harry's muscles tightened in response to Clara's question, and beside him he could see Cora narrowing her eyes. Alisa and Ashtyn had already begun to tell the children how everything worked, including the most important rule of not cutting people ahead of you despite the lack of… well, people.
"It would," Harry eventually agreed, his body slowly leaning forward… until… finally… It happened.
He and Clara took off as fast as they could towards the carts. It was a race, and it wouldn't be one that was finished when they were seated again.
It would continue on and on.
It was a battle.
Last. Person. Eating.
Harry and Clara would go on to be horrible examples of the children at the table — Cora would eventually shut him off and flick his nose. It was thoroughly chastising, and horribly embarrassing.
Needless to say, the kids loved every moment of it, and they weren't the only ones.
August 25, 2008
"Morgana," Cora said with a sigh as she took off her sweater and stumbled over to Harry, her wits only barely about her. "You get one drink into her and she talks about skinny-dipping like we're teenagers again. I'm nearly thirt- I'm over thirty… that's horrible, though I don't think you mind, do you, sweet husband?"
Harry had been ready to assure Cora that she was still beautiful and young when she'd stumbled over her age. It wasn't a common occurrence, her being drunk or overly emotional, but it'd happened enough times for him to know how to handle it. When she'd made the switch to her husky tone as one of her hands came up to dance across his chest, he knew it was then that he found himself in trouble.
Drunk Cora was easy to handle, Buzzed Cora was unpredictable.
Lucky for him, he didn't have to wonder very long about what he needed to do thanks to two guests who were supposed to be in bed.
"Mummy! Daddy!" Two voices echoed as they squeezed through the gap of the door, one of the two each seeking out a separate parent.
Harry responded for he and Cora both, considering the state of the latter. "You two should be sleeping, wasn't Ahma reading you a bedtime story?"
Sean nodded emphatically while Emma hid her face against his leg. He knew he should be the stern parent and put them back to bed, but it was the first night of vacation and they wouldn't be with them overly long. Not if the yawns and tired looks of the two kids were anything to go by.
"Well, come on then," Harry said with an exaggerated sigh that the kids giggled at.
He led the two children over to the bed all the while supporting his 'buzzed' wife, though she seemed as if she'd gotten past that point whilst he'd been speaking to their two children. Harry wasn't sure how she'd accomplished such a feat either, not until he remembered that she was just as much of a lightweight when it came to drinking as Clara was.
Neither could handle their alcohol well in the slightest, and it was that very reason that they didn't drink all that often.
"Up!" Emma demanded as she always did, his daughter too lazy to climb and too affectionate to miss the chance to climb her dad.
He didn't mind.
When he turned around to place her beside Sean, he saw that his son had already burrowed into Cora's side with the covers nearly completely concealing him. Cora, for her part, was playing with his hair much like she did with Harry when he'd cuddle into her side. In a way, very weirdly, he felt like he was seeing what Ashtyn or Celtsean often would when they'd come to find where their daughter had gone off to.
"Higher?" Emma asked.
His daughter was standing on the bed now, her little legs wiggling thanks to the softness of the mattress as she gazed up at him.
"Higher," Harry agreed as he once more picked her up and raised her towards the ceiling.
She squealed with excitement, and hearing that, Harry grinned as an idea came to his head. One that he had to fulfil; he adjusted his grip on her, and took off in circles towards the centre of the room. Emma giggled, snorted, and squealed all the while.
He'd found the future Quidditch player of the family.
"Mmmm," Cora groaned, her hair covering his face and waking him up with the urge to sneeze.
"Goo—" Harry sneezed, then he turned and grinned at his wife. "Morning."
"You're a dork, and good morning," Cora leaned in to kiss him, her soft lips feeling perfect as always against his, then she cuddled up into his side and sighed.
Harry couldn't help but smile stupidly at her action. "It used to be me that did that."
Cora tilted her head from its spot on his chest so that they could make eye contact, and once they did, she narrowed hers. "Don't get used to it, you're still the little spoon and I'm the person that does the doting. It's just a nice change, from time to time — your warmth is especially pleasing to your cold, shivering, and hungover wife, you know."
"Hungover, huh?" Harry asked, his grin getting smugger as he looked at her. "I thought you could hold your alcohol, unlike Clara. Isn't that what you said, cold, shivering wife of mine?"
Her eyes narrowed at him, and the effect was entirely too amusing for him to hold in his laughter. How could he when only her eyes and higher were visible? The rest of her face pressed into him as it was, with her body doing the same under the covers. Cora was entirely too precious in the morning, and now that he was larger than her, he could enjoy it more easily.
"You're in the dangerous territory of sleeping on the couch if you keep teasing me, my young husband," Cora said, her face raising so that she could look down her nose at him.
Always the age difference, Harry thought with a smile.
Who would he fool if he said he didn't like older girls? He figured his marriage to Cora and his two closest friends were testament enough that he best got along with them. It wouldn't have been that way if things had ended differently, but it was.
"Suppose you'll want me to call you mummy next, huh?" Harry said.
He immediately winced after he said that too, as Cora had very quickly pinched his inner thigh.
"That's definitely something different," Clara's voice came from their doorway, the woman leaning against the frame with her eyebrows high up. "I didn't know the two of you were into that, though I guess it makes sense in Harry's case. Still, I could've lived with not hearing that."
Clara took a few steps into the room, but when she noticed the silence as well as the looks the two of them were sending her, she stopped.
"Good morning, Clara," Harry said then, his grin back on his face as Cora turned away from her cousin to fully press her face into his side.
"Morning Cutie, G'night Cousin," Clara said, a matching grin in place as she took another few steps only to stop short when she saw a discarded sweater. "So… you two aren't making a fifth niece or nephew for me right now, are you?"
Harry laughed loudly, earning himself another pinch on the thigh that quickly stopped him — Cora was still tired, and she'd never been all that much of a morning person since their firstborn.
"Nah, we were just feeling lazy," He explained.
"Oh, perfect. Alisa and I are doing the same, especially since we have this place for so long," Clara finally plopped herself down on the bed beside the two of them. "Think we could buy it someday? Come here whenever we want?"
Harry shrugged, though he was definitely interested in doing just that.
"I can't see why not, especially with how many Galleons we have between the lot of us. Our only problem is a lack of time thanks to our jobs… being old sucks," Harry said with a sigh, the twenty-eight year old sad with his age.
"Speaking of being old, your babies and Alisa's baby are all still asleep. They'll probably be snoozing into the afternoon thanks to another late night. I wonder if Mary and Morgan are sleeping just as much as the rest of them are," Clara said with a thoughtful expression before it turned playful. "You used to sleep a lot too, mister. I remember all the times I'd come over looking for my favourite lil cutie only to be told 'you can't see him, he's sleeping' by your wife or Auntie A. I bet we could've had loads of fun if you hadn't been so tired."
"Blame it on Voldemort or all the other things that I got up to when I was younger. That Basilisk or the Dementors were awfully tiring too," Harry paused to stretch, and as a result, Cora slid down his body a little ways.
She groaned and mumbled something unintelligible, then went right back to burrowing into the warmth that his side provided. Sleep came for her not long after.
"I'm sure," Clara whispered, an amused look on her face as she looked down at the top of Cora's head.
Harry had just about been ready to ask her something else when something dawned on Clara.
"Stupid!" Clara whisper-yelled, only barely avoiding a tired Cora's wrath. "I came up here to get the two of you for breakfast with Alisa and Ashtyn, they'll probably think I slid into bed alongside you. Wake your wife up, we get to eat whatever we want for dinner!" Clara finished excitedly, the loudness earning her an angry groan from the lump of Cora between them.
He knew he could let Cora sleep in for another hour, or five, but she'd already been asleep for nearly ten. If he didn't wake her up now, her entire sleep schedule would be messed up… at the same time, waking Cora up was never a good idea. Not with how grumpy and spell-happy she was.
"Why don't you help me o—" Harry had been about to ask Clara, only for the girl to jump off the bed and surge towards the door.
"Nope," Clara said, popping the 'p' and leaning against the doorframe just like she'd been doing when first she came up to see the pair of them. "You married her, you have to deal with her grumpy mornings now — thanks for that, by the way. It always used to be my job back in the dorms."
With those words, Clara was off with laughter on the air and Harry was left looking at his tired, beautiful wife.
He'd give her another five minutes, he decided whilst stroking her hair.
Cora deserved the peace, and he, well… Harry loved the slower, dull moments in life.
October 21, 2008
"Can you believe it? Ten years old?" Harry asked Cora all the while he was shaking his head and looking at his lounging wife.
"We've gotten older, Harry. I'm thirty-one, you're twenty-eight," Cora said, shrugging and placing her book down. "Did you honestly think we'd remain young forever?"
Harry stopped shaking his head and instead gave a petulant look at his wife. "No," he said with a sour tone and a huff. "It's just these years, they go by so fast! Next thing we know, Emma will be going to Hogwarts and Sean'll be getting married. What about our other children, if we have any? They'll be gone before we know it."
"Meltdown time already?" Ashtyn asked from the doorway, one hand on her hip and the other holding a glass of water.
Cora nodded lazily. "Yes, Harry's only realised now that we've gotten older. You were right, mum, it happened the day that Sean turned ten."
Ashtyn hummed and took a sip of water before she looked at Harry with a vicious smile. "It only gets worse dear, believe me. I had the privilege of seeing my baby girl turn into a mother herself, and now, I have as many grandchildren as I could want," Ashtyn then looked to Cora, her features softening. "Give it fifteen years, perhaps less, and the two of you will be grandparents too."
"Oh Merlin," Harry said, his eyes widening as he started pacing.
"Mum," Cora said with a sigh. "You just had to get m—"
"Cutie! What's wrong?" Clara asked, her head appearing over the shoulder of Ashtyn's in the doorway.
Cora shook her head and sprawled out onto the bed. "Come on in, both of you. I don't suppose Harry and I will be getting any more sleep… sleep… are the children still asleep? We reset their schedules more than a week ago."
"They're all still asleep, probably will stay that way for an hour if not more too," Clara answered, squeezing between the doorway and Ashtyn so that she could run and jump on Cora. "Happy 'your son turns ten today' day!"
Harry groaned and looked at Clara with narrowed eyes. "You're not helping me feel any younger, you know."
Cora rolled her eyes, patted Clara's cheek and finally rolled off of the bed. "I should think it's time for my morning shower, Harry, you still need yours too. If we don't have it soon, we'll not have one until the evening — Sean will see to that."
"Couple showers, huh? It's just like that book you read a few years a- oh, right, secrets," Clara slowly got off of Cora and Harry's bed, then she started whistling as she made her way over to Ashtyn. "I'll make sure breakfast is ready, Sean's favourites, I think you said… have fun!"
With those final words, Clara was off and Ashtyn was once more left looking at her daughter and her adopted-son turned son-in-law. "She's not matured, has she?"
Cora shook her head. "No, mum, I don't think she has."
Harry sighed and slung his arm around Cora's waist. "I can't believe he turns ten today. Do you think he'll like everything we've planned out? Everything we've got for him?"
"I'll see you two at the dining room table," Ashtyn said with an undertone of amusement in her voice as she waved them farewell.
"Bye mum," Cora said before she wrapped both of her arms around Harry. "I know, I know, he's grown up fast. Sean will love everything too, you know that. He's very easy to please, just like his father. Now, come on, let's get our morning soak in or else we'll have a day of feeling entirely too sweaty on our hands."
Harry nodded and walked with Cora into the bathroom… Those days were the absolute worst.
"Happy birthday, Sean!" Rang a chorus of voices, the youngest of whom yelling it at the top of her little lungs so that she could be heard with the adults.
Sean giggled and cheered along with the group when he blew out his candles. Harry, of course, had a wizarding camera at the ready to commemorate the occasion just as he'd done with every previous birthday — he'd never lose a memory with his family, never.
"Can I have an end piece, Ahma?" Sean asked, his little legs swinging from the chair as he gave Ashtyn, the cake-cutter, his best pleading look.
"I suppose the birthday boy can have an end piece," Ashtyn said with an exaggerated sense of deliberation in her voice as she cut the piece and handed it over to him.
Emma was next, then Asher, then all of the adults. Alisa, Clara, Cora, everybody had a piece — or two in the case of Clara and Cora — with ice cream to match. Harry ensured that his two youngest, Mary and Morgan, had a taste of the frosting too. They both loved it, their little lips smacked incessantly after they'd had a dollop of the buttermilk frosting. Morgan especially enjoyed it, as her eyes from that moment on didn't leave Harry so long as he was in range with the smell of cake still on the air as it was.
He felt slightly bad for that, but in his defence, at least he'd given them a taste instead of making his infants wait.
Good thing they can keep a secret, Harry joked to himself before he was pulled away by his pant leg.
"Daddy, daddy, come on! Presents!" Sean said, his explanation incredibly convincing as he led his father over to the parlour room where Christmasses had been held as early as Harry could remember.
Cora's hand was in Sean's other one, and soon enough, the lot of them were all assembled around the boy. He even climbed atop the couch without help from anybody, help that he always requested despite his size being more than good enough to get atop the comfortable piece of furniture.
"Me me!" Asher said, bouncing in Alisa's arms as his mother lowered him towards a small package on the ground; old as he was, that being nearly ten, Alisa still insisted on picking him up or having him in her lap… Cora was the same with all of their children too.
Asher and Sean were inseparable, that much was a fact for plenty of years. But for their birthdays — on their separate days — or Christmas, as long as the two boys were old enough to understand what those days meant, they absolutely insisted their gift or gifts were given to the other first. Harry's pride was as great as the rest of the family's when they witnessed that, for the two were like the closest pair of brothers — Aster and Reinhard, he thought bitterly.
"Thank you Asher, thank you Aunt Alisa!" Sean said, his voice louder than usual thanks to the eagerness the boy felt.
"You're welcome Sean," Asher said with the biggest smile on his face as he proudly presented the package.
Alisa chose to smile and rub Sean's hair, her affection for the boy more than well known. Her silence too, as that had yet to change in all the years Harry had ever known the woman. Asher certainly inherited Aster's vocalness.
Sean looked at Harry, and when the latter nodded, the former turned to Cora for the same nod of approval. Cora couldn't hide her dimpled smile when Sean sought her permission too, and once the boy had it, he very quickly began shredding the wrapping paper. It reminded Harry how he'd been after a few years with the Averys, and Cora seemed just as nostalgic based on the wink she sent over their son's head.
"Wow, you got me an elf figure!" Sean proclaimed as he looked at Asher, his small hands pulling out the Muggle-made figurine.
"They were your favourite from the Muggle screens," Asher said with a nod and wide smile, happy that his brotherly figure approved of his gift.
Alisa looked to Harry then, her voice quieter than the two boys who immediately began playing with the new figurine. "I hope you don't mind, Harry, Cora. When we went to that Muggle picture some few months ago… or years, the two fell in love. They're much too young to read the books, but I assumed a miniature toy for them both would be fine."
Harry leaned forward to give a half-hug to Alisa. "It's perfectly fine, you know any gift you get is something we'll trust."
"If anything, all you've done is make a new tradition for us," Cora added. "We'll have to take the kids to a Muggle picture every year, perhaps we could find another set of them to watch. That blonde elf and the little hairy man were very enjoyable to watch."
"I think the kids would enjoy a yearly event such as that quite a lot," Alisa commented, a small smile on her face as she watched the two boys finally separate themselves from the action figure.
"Daddy, daddy," Sean said again, one of his small hands pulling on Harry's pant leg. "Can we do the next one?"
"Dibs!" Clara immediately said, snickering loudly and sticking her tongue out at an offended-looking Emma as the former woman strode over to Sean with a hefty package in her arms. "Here you are Sean, as requested. Don't forget your promise either."
"I won't Big C!" Sean said with a hand on his heart as he looked up at Clara with a goofy, suspicious smile.
Cora seemed just as curious, if not more so with the promise as well as the gift. As with any promise from Clara, there was a high chance that it meant a prank or something troublesome would be coming their way in the near future.
"Good boy," Clara said, putting the package carefully in his lap and then messing his hair up in a more aggressive fashion than Alisa did. "Cutie's Cutie," she cooed once she finished and stepped a few feet backwards to watch the gift get opened.
Sean didn't ask permission to open the gift this time and instead tore into it with more ferocity than he did the last one. It took longer thanks to the incessant amount of tape Clara had used, wrapping paper too — she was horrible with her wrapping skills… or she enjoyed using whole rolls on one gift. Clara being Clara, the answer was likely both.
Eventually, Sean managed to open the gift and what it revealed was very easily determined to be a second Muggle gift. Instead of a figurine as Asher had gotten him, it was something that required building.
"Your own fort," Clara said when she noticed how lost Sean was. "You take all the parts inside of that, add blankets, use the clips and boom — you have a fort. I'll show you tonight."
"How big is it?" Sean asked as he tried to move the box from his lap and to the floor, requiring Harry's help so that nothing was broken.
Clara shrugged. "Couldn't tell ya Cutie, there weren't three of them."
Asher has one too then… the Ballroom's going to be taken over at some point, Harry figured, his knowledge of the two boys telling him that they'd combine their kits and make a 'castle' in the large open space that was the Avery ballroom.
"Thank you Big C!" Sean said again, holding out his arms for a hug.
"Anytime," Clara told the boy as she gave him what he wanted, going so far as to tickle him until he was squealing. "Anytime," she repeated when she pulled back after half a dozen seconds went by.
"Would you like to go, Alisa?" Ashtyn asked, her eyes on the younger woman before they moved to Harry, Cora and Sean.
"Sure," Alisa said, smiling at Ashtyn before she picked up a small gift that was on the arm of the couch beside her. "Here you are, Sean. Please be careful with it, the fragility is a bit higher than I'd anticipated."
"Thank you Aunt Alisa," Sean said with another charming smile as he cradled the gift.
Alisa leaned down, kissed his forehead, then went back to her seat across from the birthday boy. Her son, Asher, very quickly found his way cuddled up beside her as the pair watched Sean open his most recent gift.
"A Bracelet?" Sean asked once he withdrew the piece of jewellery from the small container it was in.
"One with your birthstone and a companion piece to that of Asher's," Alisa said as she raised one of her son's wrists to show off a similar work of art around it. "Yours has a carat of diamond in the centre and has a matching inscription to Asher's. Be careful with it, lest the diamonds plop out."
"I will," Sean assured, his head nodding rapidly as he looked at the gift with a new sense of wonder.
After a few minutes went by — with the rest of the family also observing the gift he was given — Ashtyn finally stood up from her seat with a large basket in one hand and a smaller item in the opposite one. "I know, we're only supposed to do one gift, but it's his tenth birthday. Asher got the same treatment too and so here you are, my beautiful boy," Ashtyn directed her initial comment at Cora and finished by handing both gifts to Sean.
"Thank you Ahma, I love you," Sean said with a wide, toothy smile that showed off his dimples.
Ashtyn bent down and kissed each of his cheeks before doing the same to the tip of his nose, making the boy giggle. "I love you too, now go ahead and open your gifts."
Sean laughed with joy and did exactly as he was ordered by his grandma, the older woman lingering a foot or two from him as she watched with a wizarding camera in hand. Ashtyn loved taking pictures during family events, it was the memories, she claimed. Memories that Sean's future children would cherish and their children too.
"Candy! Chocolate!" Sean exclaimed, one after the other as he dug through the basket first. "There's everything!"
Cora narrowed her eyes at her mother and scooched closer to Sean so that she could get a better look. Harry didn't need to, considering his taller build, and so he got to see what else was in Sean's basket of goodies; crisps, biscuits, chocolates, candies, Muggle snacks… everything a kid could want.
"Mother," Cora began.
"I'll watch him with you," Ashtyn said with a roll of her eyes and flick of Cora's nose, the latter action making all the kids — babies excluded thanks to their nap time — laugh. "I always need more time with my grandbabies."
Cora huffed but didn't say anything more.
Sean didn't eat anything right off, and once he put the basket back together, he moved to Ashtyn's second gift. It was small, only slightly larger than the bracelet box that was meant to keep the aforementioned item without dust. Harry hadn't a clue, as the gifts they all got for the children were secrets until they were opened. All they'd do was coordinate what genre it was so that they wouldn't get the same present.
"That's a cool ring," Sean finally said. "Two cool rings!" he amended.
Ashtyn smiled and looked at the 'two cool rings' in the boy's hands. "They belonged to your papa, Celtsean. He wanted your parents' first kid to take them. I hope you'll take care of them."
Sean nodded emphatically and with more care than a ten year old should ever exhibit, he placed them back into the box they'd come in. "I promise to keep them safe, Ahma. Nothing will happen to them!"
"I know, baby," Ashtyn said, placing one last kiss on the boy's forehead.
Harry felt a lingering sense of sadness with the gift, the memories of the war and losses therein coming back to haunt him as they always did, despite the cheerful nature of the day. One cursory glance around the room confirmed that the others felt just as he did, Cora especially with the singular tear rolling down her beautiful cheeks, until… the usual happened.
"Harry, Cora, you have to give him your presents now," Clara prompted as she rose to her feet, a smile on her face as she slithered across the room exaggeratedly, making the children laugh at her snake-like movement. "If you don't, I'll have to steal them!"
"No Big C!" Sean begged, his little hands tightening around the sleeves of Harry and Cora's clothes. "Daddy! Mommy! Tell her no!"
Clara slowly got closer, her eyes narrowed and a large smile on her face all the while.
Harry stood up, wrapped an arm around Clara's waist, and heaved. With little effort on his part, the woman was over his shoulder and facing Sean from said position. "There we go, Big C's dealt with. Cora, would you grab his presents from us?"
Sean, Emma and Asher were giggling so loudly he nearly misheard his wife. "Yes, my wonderful husband."
A few seconds later- seconds that felt longer thanks to the grown woman half-heartedly beating on his chest and kicking to wiggle free- Cora was back with the gifts meant for their son.
"Three presents as requested by one handsome baby of mine," Cora said formally as she set them down beside Sean on the couch.
"I'm not a baby," Sean said with his nose raised much like how Cora used to do when she was younger.
Cora cocked her head and squinted her eyes at him. "Aren't you my baby?"
"Well… yes, but I'm not a baby baby," Sean said, his bottom lip stuck out at his mother while Harry began to finally set Clara down.
"Hurry Sean, Big C's getting free and she'll go for your gifts!" Harry said as he play-fought with the Carrow woman.
Sean squeaked, dropped his conversation with his mother, and tore into the three gifts that she'd set down beside him.
In order, the presents the birthday boy opened were: a toy wand with a series of spells that could be activated courtesy of a series of runes that acted like buttons; an amulet that was custom made for the boy to celebrate his tenth birthday — one that was a mixture of the Avery and Potter colours as well as crests; and finally, Harry's prototype broom, the likes of which he'd received on his first christmas.
Sean had often talked about flying, and whilst the boy was still too young in the minds of Cora or Ashtyn, Harry figured it was high time he learned. Sure, that learning would be in the arms of Harry or Clara, but the broom would eventually go on to be Sean's and Sean's alone once a couple more years passed them by. That wouldn't take all that long either, Harry surmised, not with how quickly the first ten had come and gone.
All in all, with the birthday presents having come to an end and a day of festivities still to go, Harry would proudly think of this birthday as one of the best Sean had ever had. His son, the boy he and Cora had made together in a time of grief, had changed their lives with his conception. He hadn't stopped there, every year… month… day that passed, Harry found himself loving his children more and more. It was impossible to communicate or otherwise put words to, but Harry had more love within him than ever he thought possible.
That was saying something too, considering how much he'd changed during those years he'd spent at the Avery home.
"They're all asleep now," Cora said with a yawn, her cheeks rosy from the wine as she crawled across their king-sized bed towards him conveying all he needed to know.
Harry held out his arms and peeled back the covers once she was closer.
Cora smiled widely at him. It was the same smile he'd seen for over a decade, nearly two of them. "You've always been able to read me."
"Not always," Harry corrected when she slid in beside him and pulled his warmth closer to her. "I used to be deadly terrified of you when we were younger. You'd be surprised how scary you could be when I had a crush on you, I half thought you knew whenever we talked."
"I think I did, though I didn't believe it for a good deal of time," Cora said as she pulled Harry's head to her chest, her hands already weaving into his hair in one of her favourite actions.
"Why's that?" He couldn't help but ask as his shoulders untensed and his brain began to get fuzzy thanks to her menstrations.
Cora laughed lightly, the pitch angelic as ever. "Mum wanted to formally adopt you, Dad wanted to keep you a bit more at distance in case exactly what did happen, happened. He was always annoyingly intuitive, and I suppose I should be happy that he was. Imagine if you were my brother by law?"
Harry wrinkled his nose and made an 'ew' sound. His ear pinch and the laughter that followed from Cora said she found it just as funny despite the offensive sound he'd made.
"Do you…" Cora trailed off, the strength of her voice dipping so much that he thought she'd fallen asleep mid conversation.
"Do I?" He prompted quietly, not looking up.
Cora's fingers, previously stilled when she'd stopped speaking, picked up again. Her voice followed very quickly thereafter. "Do you find yourself wanting to keep our children here? We could teach them everything they'd ever need to know, they wouldn't need to leave our house."
"It's appealing, especially with the few people I'm sure still hate us," Harry admitted, the thought truthfully having crossed his mind before. "But we can't do that to them. It wouldn't be fair or right. They deserve to go through Hogwarts just like we did — they'll make friends, date in their seventh year and no earlier, learn more than we could teach them by masters of every field… there'd be too much that we'd be depriving them if we kept them here."
"You're right. I knew much the same too," Cora sounded sad despite the happiness of what Harry had mentioned. "I just want to keep them safe. After everything we've been through, our children and Asher deserve a time at Hogwarts free of anything horrible."
Harry finally picked his head up then, and he turned towards Cora once he did so.
She looked sad, her eyes were as red as her cheeks and her emotions reminded him of when she was pregnant. He didn't mean that negatively, Cora would kill him if he did, she simply wasn't all that emotional. Her tears and his too had been dried up for quite some time; a lifetime couldn't compare to the first year post-battle tear-wise.
"Hey," He said, using one hand to maneuver her face lightly until she was looking him in the eyes. "We'll get through everything. I love you."
Cora smiled and sniffled then, the soft exhale reminding him of the wine she'd drank only minutes ago. "I love you too."
Harry couldn't help but think, especially with the events that followed, that this day had been one of the best of his life.
January 6, 2009
"Hogsmeade!" Sean yelled loudly, his fists in the air.
"Hogsmeade!" Asher echoed, his fists raised just like his cousins were.
Emma raised her arms from her spot in Harry's arms, the quickness making him shoot his head to the side to avoid a tiny fist colliding with his jaw. "Hogsmeade, daddy!"
Unlike the two boys, Emma had only raised one fist while pointing towards the approaching village with her other arm. It was a cute gesture, one that showed her individuality that he and Cora had begun to see at such a young age. Their daughter always loved to spend time with their eldest and Alisa's, but Merlin, the girl loved her alone time or time with her baby sisters.
"I remember when you were like that, cutie," Clara said from his right.
"Harry was never like that," Cora sniffed from his left, her body more pressed against his than the other woman was. "He was far more shy, hence your absolute love for smothering him in your especially large bosom during our younger years. Dare I agree with mother, had I not agreed to date him, I haven't a doubt that you would've."
Harry swallowed. Conversations that went the way the current one was, never ended well. Not with Cora and Clara's double-teaming teasing.
"Oh cut the boy some slack, daughters," Ashtyn said from her spot opposite of him in their rented carriage.
"Yes mum," Clara said first, a wink shot at him shortly after.
Cora leaned her head against his shoulder, the slight height disparity not great enough to stop her from doing so. "Tomorrow, then."
"Tomorrow," Clara agreed.
All the while the two girls were playing with Harry and his daughter had returned to her napping on his chest, their two boys had gotten up to a good deal of mischief. Already, the two showed a propensity for pranking and the like, and it was only thanks to Alisa that they never truly did anything too stupid. Harry supposed it was her close relationship with Aster that gave her the sort of sixth sense that she had.
He didn't think any person not that close to Aster could ever detect a prank, shit-housing or other similar behaviour so easily.
"Harry, take these," Alisa said when he looked her way, one hand extended towards him with a good few items from the Weasley Twins' shop in it.
"Thanks," He said to her when he pocketed the items without questioning what they were — there wasn't any reason to know, all that a parent needed to see was that infernal logo to know whatever it was had to be no good.
There was only one person, one witch, who would've gotten the two boy's something too.
"Clara, my dear friend," Harry started, only to be interrupted by the older woman.
"Dear friend?" Clara questioned with furrowed brows and an offended lilt to her voice. "Not sister? Potential mistress? Cutie Caller? I just get dear friend?"
Harry rolled his eyes, an action that was matched by Cora. "Sister and Cutie Caller," he amended. "Did you get the two of them those… gifts?"
Clara delayed her answer for nearly two minutes, and conveniently, that was about the same amount of time that'd been left in their carriage ride. Even then, with the carriage parked and the Carrow girl already out along with their two boys, no answer was given. Not until Cora prompted her cousin with narrowed eyes and that general look she had- the one that could very easily see through deception.
"Clara," Cora said warningly.
"Fine, fine," Clara said as she took hold of both the boys' hands. "I did ge— run boys!"
Like that, Clara was off with a fit of giggles, those giggles joined immediately in a chorus by Asher and Sean's.
"She knows she has to ride home with us, doesn't she?" Alisa questioned blandly.
"I believe she does," Ashtyn answered before a pondering look fell on the older woman's face. "Then again, it is Clara, so I suppose anything's possible. Perhaps she thinks that by the time she returns with the two of them, we'll have forgotten her actions."
Cora huffed. "As if. Clara's the reason I'm half as observant as I was when Sean was first born. She can't seriously think we'll forget something that happened within a few hours."
A few hours later.
Harry, Cora, Alisa and Ashtyn had gone on to spend a good deal of the afternoon hours in peace. They moved from one shop to the next, the lingering sounds of giggling from the three miscreants the only sign of their presence whilst they went about their business. All was well, happy, lovely, until Clara returned with Asher at her side and Sean in her arms.
What Harry first noticed was the good deal of blood running down the boy's leg, and then he saw the bite.
Whatever words Clara was speaking didn't get through to him. He had tunnel vision on his son's bleeding wound, one that should've been healed much earlier than it was. Clara's inability to use healing magic had made Sean's pain and wound linger, and it was only thanks to Alisa's expertise in the field that it was closed as quickly as it was.
Still, the damage was done and his skin was ashen. He looked horrible, worse than Harry had ever seen any of his children look.
Words were spoken to him, words that were indecipherable thanks to the beating of his heart that overtook the conversation they were trying to have with him.
Aster, Harry thought suddenly, the wooden building — the shrieking shack — was only a few dozen yards from them thanks to the recent Hogsmeade expansions.
He ran to it, he ran so fast that he thought it was the fastest he'd gone before, and it didn't take long for Harry to Accio Aster's stash to himself. It was in a crate, and all of it was potions with labels in his hand-writing. Hand-writing that Harry doubted he'd ever see again in his life once he'd learned of his friend's passing.
That thought flashed through his mind so quickly that he hardly paid it any attention, so quick was his backpedalling until he was putting the potion down Sean's mouth. Seconds went by, one's where his hearing finally returned in addition to his ability to focus on his surroundings again.
"Where'd you find those?" Cora asked again, her tone short as she held Sean in her arms.
Alisa had already begun digging through them, or rather, she'd tried. It didn't take a genius to see she'd figured out who the hand-writing belonged to the moment she first saw it; nobody else was as messily legible as her husband.
"Aster," Alisa said with a queer glance at him, a glance that turned demanding a second later. "How?"
Harry smiled, a smile that was thanks to Sean's body recolouring and Aster's help despite the number of years that'd passed. "Ten years ago, longer by now, he'd said there was a stash kept under a stasis charm in that shack. He had told me they'd be there if I ever needed them… I, I forgot about them. Who would've thought all these years later, I'd finally remember and at the same time, they'd come in so useful?"
"I'm sorry," Clara said first, Cora and the other women not given the chance to speak.
"You've said that a hundred times, Clara," Cora said with a shake of her head as she pulled her cousin into a hug. "None of us could've known there was an unhinged animagus or poorly trained pet wolf that was going around biting people. It's not your fault."
Clara had tear tracks running down her cheeks, her eyes were large and puffy too. She looked as if she'd been bawling, and the snot that was running down her nose made her look especially young.
Harry stepped in closer and pulled the pair of women into his arms. "Everything's fine Clara. It's alright, you saved him."
One by one, the rest of the family joined the group hug — especially the younger and more eager for affectionate members — until all of them were surrounding the recovered Sean in a group embrace.
It only made sense that right then, with his son fully recovered, that he'd ruin the moment.
"Can we get food? Too much hugging," Sean said.
Cora and Harry laughed first, the anciness of Sean's voice and the first thing he wanted after such an event making them do so… truly, how else could they respond?
"He's your son," Cora said through her laughs, and shortly afterward, they were joined by the rest of the family just as they'd been in the hug.
Harry loved them, all of them, and hours later when he found out that Cora was pregnant with their fifth, he could only imagine the shenanigans they'd find themselves in with their newest member of the family years down the road.
It was perfect.
Matt9917: I replied on Ao3, but as always my friend, thank you so much!
DeadDredd: It hurts, but I'm so happy that everyone's enjoyed these final couple parts. This journey has been absolutely insane, and thank you so much!
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Canuto-90: Thank you so much, and here it is; I hope you enjoy it! Thank you!
LifeIsAGreatAdventure: I purposely changed how his character interacted early on rather than go with the usual canonical version of him. I know it may not be great, but I felt it flowed better for the story. I'm glad you agree with the lack of older characters too, it feels like so many would be interested in him! Thank you for that compliment too! My writing definitely changed (thank you Betas) as we progressed, as for the characters, I liked presenting them as a unique bunch of friends who didn't agree with most others in their house or families. I've never read a similar story to this, and thanks for checking those other one-shots out. Thank you!
Hank1967: Thank you so much, and definitely glad to see Cora escape anything else that's horrible. You're definitely right too, it hurt to kill off a couple of those characters! Thank you for liking, reviewing and sticking with me my friend!
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Hunting Nightshade: I hope this final part answers the first part of your comment, and it does in large part, I think haha. There are a couple of Guarder Snake one-shots in the vault, but who knows when they'll be released? Even I don't lol! Unfortunately, I wanted to skip through a lot of the filler stuff to see how it meshes with my writing style, and I also hate retelling stuff in fics. Thank you so much!
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F*** Names: I'm glad you like it, and thank you so much - that's a pretty apt description of it too! I hope this final chapter reads well.
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