Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and the people and places mentioned there does not belong to me in any way, shape, or form. No matter what the voices say. Bad voices. Shoo. Also, no matter what those naughty voices say, the lovely and talented Ms Rowling is not 'pining away' for me. Rather, it's the other way round. Pity, that.
It had been twelve years since the end of the second war with Voldemort. Twelve very busy years. Harry and Ginny Potter had celebrated their tenth anniversary the night before, and Harry was still feeling a bit groggy, feeling the effects of all the Firewhiskey he'd had. He swore to himself that he would stick to butterbeer in the future. Of course, that particular oath had been sworn in the past, but the disturbing vision that crossed his mind now of the Twins dancing naked around a small replica of Stonehenge in the backyard would be an effective deterent to consuming that beverage ever again. That could stop a hard-core alcoholic. He had to laugh when he realized that Gred and Forge probably didn't realize that the blue of the woad they'd coated themselves with wouldn't wear off for a couple of weeks.
He made his way to the bathroom and downed a strong hangover potion. The foul taste invaded his body, and he gagged it down, waiting for the effects it brought. He could feel it hitting his stomach, like a lead weight. It seemed to send tendrils out through his body, scouring him clean of all the alcohol still left in his system. It was a particularly unpleasant feeling, but the potion did the trick. With that done, he took a quick shower, getting rid of all of the sweat that slimed his skin after taking the hangover remedy. Even with the unpleasant effects that method produced, he was grateful to whomever had devised it. There was no way he would be able to deal with his rambunctious children, otherwise, not to mention the many children he taught when school was in session. Somehow, Ron and the Twins always seemed to be able to get him to go out drinking at some of the most inappropriate times. It was a good thing the kids were with Ron and Hermione for a few days.
Harry didn't drink all that often, for the simple reason that, when he did, it usually knocked him back on his arse. Ginny found it hilarious, as she had the infamous Weasley tolerance for alcohol. She liked to tease him about the fact that he could take on the darkest evil wizard of the past thousand years, yet he couldn't handle more than a couple glasses of liquor. He loved his beautiful red-headed wife, but swore she'd be the death of him yet.
Stepping out of the shower, he caught sight of himself in the mirror. The famous zig-zag scar had faded to the point where you would have to really look to find it, now. His deep green eyes shone, without the need for any type of corrective lenses, courtesy of a spell Hermione had devised back in sixth year. The effects of that one had been a pain almost as bad as the cruciatus for a veryshort time, but had been well worth it, in his opinion. It had demolished the optical nerves in his eyes, along with the eyes themselves, then slowly rebuilt them. The twenty-four hours of blindness he'd endured as a result had been one of the most terrifying experiences of his life, but had resulted in better than perfect vision. He'd continued to wear glasses, but with clear lenses. The only ones who had known of this change were Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Dumbledore, and Madame Pomfrey. His friends had taken turns staying with him, under the care of the Medi-Witch, and the headmaster had excused him from all classes for two days. He'd wanted to make sure of at least a day to get used to the difference, as well as get the faux lenses, from a muggle costume shop. The day that Voldemort had been defeated, Harry had lost the fake glasses somewhere on the battlefield. As the secret no longer mattered, he hadn't thought to look for them. He brushed his raven-colored hair back, and tied it into a loose pony-tail. It now dropped all the way to the middle of his back, with a white streak along the left side. He looked himself over critically in the mirror for a moment. Still in decent shape, exercising every day before class with Ginny, once the children had gone to the Burrow for the day.
He was now the full-time DADA instructor at Hogwarts, as well as head of Gryffindor House. He kept saying that he was only going to continue teaching temporarily, until Minerva could find someone else to take the post. Of course, he'd been saying that for the past four years, now. Remus Lupin had gone into semi-retirement a couple of years ago, helping his wife, Nymphadora Tonks, to raise their daughter, Lorelei. As he left the bathroom to get dressed, he chuckled, thinking of the handful his goddaughter was. She was the first natural multi-animagus on record, needing neither potion nor training to transform into the animal of her choice. When she threw a tantrum, it was fascinating to watch, as she shifted from one form to the other. She was nine years old now, same as Harry and Ginny's twins, Arthur James (known as AJ), and Lillian Molly. Harry and Remus liked to joke that it would be a frightening day indeed, when the three of them started at Hogwarts. Fred and George already referred to those three, along with the oldest of Ron and Hermione's, as Mini-Marauders. Luckily, Theresa, the daughter of his two best friends, was somewhat more studious, more like her mother than her father. It seemed pre-ordained that she would be the moderating influence over the other three. Luckily, it would still be two more years, before the school would have to withstand them on a full-time basis. It still seemed to be a bit early to speculate on little Emma, as she was only eighteen months at this point.
The party last night had been more than just an anniversary party, as they had also celebrated the retirement of Arthur Weasley from the Ministry of Magic. Arthur had spent much of the time since the end of the war in planning the rebuilding of the Wizarding world, and putting those plans into motion. The foundation Harry had started had a large part in that rebuilding, as it had taken care of the disposessed, the ones who had lost homes and family to the dark forces. Without that aid, the responsibility, as well as the expenses, would have been borne by the Ministry, and the process would still be ongoing, rather than largely finished for the past five years.
Molly had decreed that, now that the work of rebuilding was finished, and as long as no new dark lord was poking his head above the slime, the two of them were going to, as she'd put it, 'do a spot of traveling'. In typical Molly Weasley understatement, this meant that they were taking a very long trip around the world, visiting various wizarding communities in other countries. Of course, knowing Arthur, Harry had no doubt that they would stop along the way in plenty of muggle cities and towns, so that the elder Weasley could check out all matter of muggle contrivances.
Harry had been glad to turn over the reigns of the foundation to Neville and Luna Longbottom, no matter how much pride he took in it. He just wasn't the managerial type. Luna, on the other hand, had taken over the running of the Quibbler, her father's magazine, shortly after graduation, turning it into a much more successful publication. Flighty and strange she might seem, but she had a business acumen as ruthless as the Crumpled Horned Snorkacks she had finally captured. Apparently, the reason nobody had ever been able to capture one before her was that they would devour anyone who got close. Thus, specimen collection was a bit of an iffy proposition. Somehow, nobody was quite sure how, she had managed to baffle one just long enough to stun it, and bring it to Hagrid, who was of course delighted. Snorkacks may not be large, but they're almost as vicious as Blast Ended Skrewts. As a consequence, the half-giant groundskeeper was smitten with them, and had managed to procure another for breeding. Hermione had sworn off skepticism for the time-being, as she shuddered to think what Luna would prove the existence of next. Harry thought it would be a chuckle to see if the strange but sweet blonde had a book on Nargle detection. It would make an interesting birthday gift for Mione, come September.
As amusing as this reminiscing was, it wasn't getting breakfast made. After pulling a black turtleneck on, he bent to give Ginny a kiss good morning before heading down to the kitchen, to make breakfast. Getting all of the ingredients together for her favorite chocolate-chip pancakes, Harry reflected on the time they had been together. It still amazed him, that she would have fallen for him, despite his blindness to her for so long. He'd gone so long without realizing that she was always there for him, no matter what. He remembered all the times, back in school, when she had been the only one who had the ability to pull him out of the depressions he would fall into, when the weight of everything he'd been carrying would seem to push him down. Ginny would be the only one who could get him to see that he didn't have to carry it alone. Every time he thought about any of this, he was amazed anew at his love for her, not too mention how much she obviously loved him.
Lost in thought as he may have been, Harry still knew when Ginny entered the kitchen, though she tried to sneak up on him. He always sensed when the beautiful redhead was nearby. Waiting until she was just inches away from him, he snaked his arm back, giving her a quick pinch on the bum.
"Harry!" was the response from his wife, even as he dropped his shoulder to avoid a playful slap from her.
Pan still in hand, getting the last pancake out, he turned his head and lifted an eyebrow at her. "Yes?" was his drawled response to her frustrated squeal.
She crossed her arms, pretending to pout, as she dropped into the chair closest to the stove. "I was trying to surprise you."
Setting the pan down, he turned and knelt in front of her, looking up at her with an impish grin. "Trust me, love. I'm surprised and gratified, every time I think about the fact that you love me. Not to mention the fact that you waited for me as long as you did." He pulled her in to his arms for a kiss. Though the opportunities for snogging may not have been as plentiful as before the children came along, these two still made the most of every chance they had. After coming up for air a few minutes later, they settled down to enjoy breakfast.
Once their meal was done, Ginny cleared the table and started getting the kitchen cleaned up. Granted, there wasn't much for her to do, as her husband wasn't a messy cook. That, of course, was courtesy of his aunt. She thought back to the one and only time she'd been to the Dursley's. The place was frightening in it's cleanliness. She couldn't imagine what it must have been like to grow up in that kind of repressive atmosphere. It was amazing really, that he had turned out the way he had. Ginny's blood still boiled every time she thought of the way they had treated him, while fawning over that whale of a son of theirs. It was just a lucky thing for them that she had settled on a few (relatively) harmless pranks, rather than taking out her true wrath on them. She was fairly sure that, if the true facts of his childhood had ever been made public, the Dursleys would have been lynched. Finishing up the cleaning, she determined to put these negative thoughts away from her, and went out to the sitting room to find Harry.
He was on the sofa, going through some correspondence when she found him. Dropping onto the seat next to him, she leaned her head on his shoulder and felt his arm go around her. They sat there a while just enjoying each other's company, not to mention the fact that the house was quiet at the moment. As much as they adored the children, it was a relief at times, to have some time for just the two ofthem. The children could, at times, be a bit manic. It was probably down to the fact that, as twins, they had bonded with her own twin brothers. Worrying thought, that.
After a bit, Harry put aside the last of the letters and ran his free hand over his face.
Ginny asked, "Anything the matter, love?"
"Not really. Just a couple of things with the Foundation. Narcissa Malfoy is still being a royal pain in the arse. She's appealed, yet again, our decision to deny her claim. She still claims Lucius was under imperious the whole time the Tosser was around, both times. She wants us to pay for restoration of Malfoy Manor. D'you believe that?"
"Harry, she's a Malfoy, of course she's going to be a pain. Not to mention obtuse, contrary, bloody-minded, and an idiot. She knows that nobody will believe that either Draco or Lucius was under a spell, not with the way they always acted. What with Lucius dead and Draco castrated and obliviated, she knows that the only chance she has of staying out of the poorhouse is a grant from the Foundation."
Harry snorted at the thought of that. "Yeah. That's going to happen." He decided to change the subject. "So, where's Mione taking the kids today?"
"I think they're going to the London Zoo. Apparently, Lily found out they have a new snake in the reptile house. A ten-foot Boa Constrictor, so she says."
Harry rolled his eyes at this. "Merlin. She can't stand flying, but loves being a parseltongue. I hope she at least waits for the enclosure to be empty this time, before she talks to it. Auntie Mione really doesn't need to be obliviating a half-dozen muggles again."
Ginny nodded. "I'll never understand her. She hates the paperwork for obliviation, but no matter how much we tell her she doesn't have to do it every time, she won't hear of it."
"I think that, now that she and Ron hardly ever argue anymore, she just needs something to be aggravated over."
"Good point there, love" The beautiful redhead snuggled into her husband's side. "Now that you've made my favorite breakfast for me, what else do you want to do?"
"Hadn't really thought much about it. What do you think about a ride on Sirius' old bike?"
"Sounds good. You get the bike warmed up, and I'll get the jackets and helmets." She was off the couch in a flash.
Harry shook his head, chuckling. It was amazing that a woman of two very active children, as well as a career, could be so energetic and ready to go on adventures at a moment's notice. Luckily, the adventures these days were of a much more sedate variety than those during their school days.
A few moments later, they were astride the old Triumph, riding down the motorway.
Hermione Weasley always enjoyed spending time with her daughter, as well as her nieces and nephew. Lorelei, or Lori as she preferred to be called, may not have been related to her by blood or marriage, but she was as much a niece to her as Lily. Harry may as well have been a brother to her, as close as they were. Lori was his godfather's daughter, so he was basically an uncle, as far as she was concerned. To an outsider, the relationship might seem a bit nebulous, but it made perfectly logical sense to Hermione.
The still bushy-haired witch just hoped they could manage to get out of the zoo this time without her having to deal with any muggles noticing little Lily talking to the snakes. Fortunately, the place didn't seem too crowded today, and the other three seemed a bit itchy to get to other parts of the zoo. A.J. and Lori had developed a fascination with the aviary, and seemed to be hurrying Lily through the reptile house. Terri was interested in everything, so wasn't very concerned where they were at any particular moment, as long as there was something new to learn. Lily was a bit frustrated, though.The new Boa Constrictor wasn't very talkative, apparently.
"So what did you think of him, Lily?"
"He was stuck up, Auntie Mione. Barely said anything. Thought being related to a basilisk was something to be proud of. Hmph!"
Hermione had to restrain a laugh at this. The girl sounded so put out by the snake's behavior.
"That's alright sweetheart. We'll come back in a couple of months, and I just bet he'll be glad to have somebody to speak with, that he'll act much nicer."
They collected A.J., Lori, and Terri and headed off to the aviary.
Remus Lupin stretched and yawned hugely, as he woke. Like Harry, he was sure he would be scarred for life after the festivities the previous night. Luckily, the accelerated metabolism that resulted from his lycanthropy meant that he didn't much have to worry about hangovers. The only problem with this was the fact that it was harder to block out memories of the things that went on around him when he was drinking. On the other hand, it was hard not to laugh at the memory of telling the Twins that Woad would wash off quickly. For men who had wanted to be the successors of the Marauders, they could be awfully gullible at times.
Dora woke a few moments later. Unlike her husband, she had a raging hangover this morning. Fire-whiskey just didn't agree with her. She usually didn't have a problem with muggle drinks, but the magical equivalent knocked her on her bum, every time. As far as she was concerned, it just wasn't fair that she couldn't keep up with Remus when it came to that.
"What are you laughing at, you evil, evil man?"
"Nothing, love. Just the Twins."
"Oh yeah. I still can't believe they took your word on the woad. How long will they be blue, really?"
"About three weeks or so." he replied with a chuckle. "And I guarantee they'll have a worse hangover than yours. They drank a lot more." He gave her a draught of the hangover potion, watching as it made it's way through her system. "I'll go get breakfast ready, while you get your shower."
She gratefully padded off to the loo, to get cleaned up.
As he started to cook up the omelette Dora would need, in order to function, the flames in the fireplace flared green, and two blue faces with ginger hair appeared in it. "Remus, I think we need to have a word."
The werewolf didn't stop laughing for quite a while.
Molly and Arthur were in the midst of making the last of the preparations for their trip. They weren't going to worry about closing the Burrow up for the time they would be gone, as all of the children had said they would be stopping by to check on the house, and it was still a convenient gathering place for them. It was also the place that was furthest out in the country, which was something the family enjoyed. All of them appreciated having somewhere they could bring their children to, where they could run around outside and burn off the energy children always seem to have in abundance. Too, it was one of the few private places where everybody could indulge in their love of flying, without fear of discovery by muggles.
"Arthur, is everything packed?"
"Yes, Molly. The bags are packed and shrunk. All we have to do is get ourselves over to Gringott's, so we can take the floo connection from there to Boston. The reservations are madefor the inn we're staying at tonight. I've already sent owls to the kids, letting them know we're on our way. Harry also gave me some suggestions about places for dinner."
Arthur gave his wife a hug and led her over to the fireplace, to floo to Diagon Alley. "Ready, dear?" At her nod, they both took a quick look around, before stepping into the flames to begin their journey.
A/N: Well, this is it. The end to this particular fic. At some point, I may write a sequel to this story, but I'm not sure what direction I'd take it in. If you have any suggestions for me, please let me know. In the meantime, I'll be continuing with LCaS, as well as working with my lovely wife on our joint project, Lullaby. Of course, I also have ideas for a couple of other stories, that should be fun. At least, I hope they will be. I'd like to thank all of my faithful reviewers for the kind words, constructive criticism, and kicks in the arse to get this story out. LOL I hope you've enjoyed reading this story as much as I've enjoyed writing it. Sometime over the next few weeks, I'll be going through this story, correcting a few of the more egregious errors I've made in these chapters, and posting it to Sink Into Your Eyes. I've already started doing that with a couple of my one-shots.
Until next time, may you dream of unicorns, friendly dragons (relatively speaking), and Weasley pranks only played on others, rather than yourselves.