Chapter 42! Well, here we are my friends, here at the end of all things. Be warned, this chapter is going to be very long! I think I owe it to you for sticking around so long.
Although the weather outside was brisk, and the snow crunched underfoot, and he could no longer feel the tip of his nose… Harry had never felt such warmth in his life. As he walked the short distance towards the pond, leaving the Burrow behind him, he couldn't help but smile. The laughter from the house floated on the wind, following him as he went.
Harry stopped at the pond, put his hands in his pockets and looked up at the twilight sky. Each star was becoming exceptionally bright and was winking down at him, sharing with him the good humor of the holiday.
It seemed surreal to think that just eleven years ago he had been in a coma with no hope of waking up. That he had been a man without any future prospect, or without a life. Harry thought back and smiled, feeling as if it had been a lifetime ago.
And now here I stand a family man. He thought with a soft laugh. Who would have though that?
Harry adjusted his green beanie on his head and rubbed his gloved hands together against the wind. He considered going back to the house and sitting by the fire along with everyone else, but he wanted his time to think.
But, soon enough he heard the crunching of snow behind him, signaling someone's approach.
"You know Harry, from back there you look very sinister, standing here in the dark all by yourself." Chuckled the approaching man.
Harry turned around and smiled in slight surprise to see the 6'3 man approach, a smile on his young face. "Joel!" he laughed. "Blimey, took your time getting here. You're mothers in hysterics over you."
Joel Weasley laughed and hugged his Godfather. "Well, nothing new there." He smiled.
Harry smiled up at Joel, feeling very happy to see him again. Joel had spent the past three years in America, training to become a Potions Master. In the program he had been enrolled in, he had become one of the Top 5 in the class. He had grown up into a very confidant young adult and apparated home every third weekend to see his parents. He had become very tall, but still retained his flare for styling his hair in outrageous colours and styles. He had a new earring Harry noticed, and also seemed to have muscled up a bit since he had seen him last.
"So, how's life in the States?"
"Cold. In fact, I think it's a little warmer here than it is there. I may even change into my shorts." Joel joked, rubbing his hands together.
"Bloody fantastic Harry! I know it's going to sound morbid, but I love sitting in those dungeons hour after hour. I mean sure, it gets a little smelly after you use goat's bladder for hours on end, but the days go so fast when I really get into it."
"You're right. It does sound morbid."
Joel smacked Harry across the back of the head. "Shut up old man."
"Yes yes, no need to get violent." Harry smiled, rubbing his head. "So, what is your secret team of masters working on now?"
Joel smiled. He had become part of an exclusive team that had been chosen by the teachers at the institute to help develop new potions, or help perfect older ones. Joel had been over the moon when he had been offered a place.
"Well, I can't really say. It's all 'hush hush' and classified you know." Joel said regretfully. "But, let's just say it's going to benefit our humble Mr. Lupin a great deal when we're done." He said with a smirk.
Harry blinked. "You're coming up with a cure for Lycanthropy?" he asked softly.
"I can neither confirm nor deny that theory I'm afraid. I'll just let you ponder the piece of information I shouldn't have given you." Joel said elusively, bobbing on the balls of his feet happily.
"Uh huh. Well, good luck with what-ever it is you're doing." Harry said. "Look, let's go inside. You're parents are going to be very happy to see you, as will everyone else."
Joel picked up his suitcase, lugged it over his shoulder and nodded. "Yeah, sounds good. I thought I could smell Nan's cooking anyway. Makes me salivate like an eighty year old man in a strip club it does."
"Joel, for the sake of humanity, don't you ever give me that mental image again."
Dinner was by no means a quiet affair. What with Arthur and Molly, Charlie and his family, Bill and his family, Percy and his fiancé, Fred and Laura, Hermione Ron and Joel, the Malfoy's and Harry with the rest of the Potters, Harry found himself musing that it was a good thing they were all magical and could therefore enlarge the dining room by ten to accommodate all the people. The long table was groaning under the amount of food it was bearing, and even more so as Eve and Hermione made a habit of leaning heavily on the table so they could frequently pick food off each other's plates.
The chatter passed around was joyful and amusing, and there seemed no room for any uncomfortable silences. Everyone seemed to have something to say, including Seth who was currently asking Molly how Rudolph's nose stayed alight and if there was a chance of it going out that night. Fred was busy complaining to Bill about how George had gone away for a business conference to Scotland and had not yet returned, even though it had finished two days ago. Percy and Kelly were busy feeding each other roast turkey and talking about the up-coming elections and Joel was busy trying to get Hermione to stop fussing over his weight.
"You're looking a little thin Joel. I don't like the sound of the food they supply you at this school. Hamburgers and Buterbeer can't be a very good diet for a boy your age."
"Mother, just shut up and eat your dinner, okay? There's a good girl." Joel joked flatly.
Harry and Ron caught each other's eye, but looked away again quickly with a hidden smile.
Harry reached out for the bowl of potato salad, but jumped as he felt a hand snake up his right knee up to his thigh. He blinked, hoping he was correct in the culprit being his wife and resumed what he was doing.
"What are the odds of having you all to myself a little later tonight?" whispered Kate's husky, suggestive voice in his ear.
Harry didn't look at her, but continued to act casual and spoon the food onto his plate. "Not right now dear, we're at the table. We have to act like humans, not rabbits."
Kate chuckled and continued to stroke his thigh. "Just say yes or no will you?"
"Is Malfoy a smarmy git?" Harry said casually.
"What's that Potter?" Draco called down the table.
Harry frowned. Sometimes Draco had such good hearing, and yet it seemed to disappear completely when Harry tried to talk to him about other, more important things. "You heard me, and it would do you right not to eavesdrop on my conversations."
"But, it's such a good pastime." Charlie said.
At that moment, Arthur cleared his throat, stood up and tapped his fork against his goblet. "Right then Gents, that's enough of that. Now, who wants to make this years speech? I've done it the past two years."
"Ooh, pick me!" cried Carmen, Bill's eldest daughter. Her hair was a very bright red and it hung long over her shoulders, just like Fleur's did. She was only eight, but still very charismatic and loved making speeches.
"All right Carmen, off you go." Arthur chuckled, sitting back down.
Carmen leapt out of her chair in excitement and beckoned for Bill to help her up onto it. He obliged, taking her little hand in his and helping her climb up onto the chair. She flipped her hair out of her face, almost falling sideways into her mother as a result and beamed down at everyone.
"Merry Christmas everyone! Nana, you did a spiffing job on the food, Daddy, thank you for my presents and Uncle Draco… you have something in your teeth."
Everyone laughed and applauded as Carmen sat back down, all except Draco who instantly stuck his finger into his mouth, searching for offending piece of spinach in his perfectly straight teeth.
Arthur smiled at his granddaughter and looked around the table once more. "Right, anyone else have something to contribute?"
Everyone looked around expectantly for someone to stand up, apparently not really wanting to themselves.
Harry sighed. "I will." He said, standing up. Everyone seemed to go quiet as he did so, as if just the simply action demanded attention. It was eerie to experience, as it was the same way everyone acted when Dumbledore spoke.
"As Carmen so wonderfully put it, Molly you have outdone yourself this year considering just how many of us are here today. I know my family look forward to this ever year almost as much as Christmas day… and possibly even more." He said with a smile at his mother figure at the head of the table. "Christmas is a time for family, and that's definitely what we are. No matter how we started out,' he said, giving Draco a flicker of a glance 'we all deserve to be here to celebrate together. So, I wish you all a happy Christmas with all the love my little heart possesses." He said, raising his glass and giving all present a smile.
"Hear hear!" agreed Fred, raising his goblet. "Cheers everyone."
"Cheers!" they echoed.
Harry sat back down and felt someone's eyes on him. He looked to his left down the table and saw Ginny looking at him. He smiled and gave her a wink. She smiled warmly at him, just for a moment, and they both turned back to their families.
Eve sighed and flopped down on the couch beside her mother, her stomachvery full and content. She laid her head down in Ginny's lap and closed her eyes. "Is it time to go home yet?" she muttered.
Ginny laughed and began stroking her daughter's hair. "I beg your pardon? Since when do you complain about spending hours on end at the Burrow? I was rather under the impression you'd been waiting for this day for the past three months."
Eve smiled but didn't open her eyes. "Bloody Nathan talks to much." She joked. "I'm just a bit tired is all."
"Mmm. Did Seth get you up early?"
"Yeah. He practically leapt onto me, shaking me and yelling at the top of his lungs 'one more sleep! One more sleep!'." Eve said with a smile. She sniffed and looked up at her mother. "You smell nice. Is that the perfume Draco gave you?"
"Yeah. Beautiful isn't it?" Ginny mused, holding up her wrist and inhaling the sweet scent of the perfume Draco had given her for Christmas.
Eve nodded and closed her eyes again. Ginny smiled down as she and continued to stroke her hair. One of her favorite times to watch her daughter was when she was sleeping. She had this expression that bordered on angelic and it took Ginny back to the days when Evelyn was only a few months old, lying in Ginny's arm as she rocked her to sleep.
Ginny shifted and cleared her throat. "So, I was talking to a certain Headmistress the other day…" she started.
Eve groaned and sat up. "What did she tell you then? That I've been slacking off in Transfiguration and that as Head Girl I should be more assertive and concentrating more on my homework than on my position on the team, or my singing?"
"Something like that, yeah."
"Well, if she was anyone else I'd tell her to bugger off." Eve hissed irritably. "I have my priorities just fine, thank you very much. And I do not need the added pressure of McGonagall on my back, telling my that just because I'm not head of the class means I'm going to flunk all my exams."
"I think you're being a bit dramatic Eve." Ginny chortled. "And I don't want to get into another argument with you."
"Then drop it, okay? Its Christmas Mama, I don't need it." Eve said, looking at Ginny pleadingly.
Ginny felt her heart melt. Eve hadn't called her 'Mama' in years. "Oh all right. But understand I'll be back on about it when you go back to school."
Eve smiled, kissed her mother on the cheek and stood up. "Such promises inspire me for greater things mother." She said.
Eve left her mother with the rest of the family and headed out of the living room towards the stairs. She had seen Nathan and Liam head up there a few minutes ago with Joel, and wanted in on what-ever it was they were planning.
She had walked only up two floors when she was confronted with the last sight she wanted to see. "Oh please, get a room!" she smiled, shielding her eyes.
Harry and Kate had been kissing in the hallway, quite out of view from anyone who had been walking past. But, Eve always seemed to find herself walking in on such situations as fate would have it.
Harry laughed, still pressing Kate against the wall. "If you're looking for the troops, they hurried at top speed that-a-way." He said, pointing up the next flight of stairs.
"Probably because they spotted you two and found themselves suddenly with the insane urge to retch into the nearest loo." Eve said, walking past them with her eyes still shielded. "Oh, and thanks for my new jumper Kate."
"No problem sweetie." Kate said, pulling Harry back to her.
Harry watched Eve disappear up the stairs and laughed.
"What?" Kate asked.
Harry turned back to her. "Just musing. Its all mushy, unmanly things that would make you question my sexuality."
"Trust me; at no point in our relationship have I ever questioned that." Kate said, kissing him quickly. "Share it with me anyway. Or… maybe I can guess."
At Harry's nod, she went on.
"You're amazed at how life's brought you to this point. You can scarcely believe that you can feel such happiness without some evil force coming out of no-where and screwing it all up. You're happy you have your family, but scared all the same. Scared that its going to all fall to pieces, because that's how you grew up, with nothing good ever lasting. But, in the back of your mind you know its all going to be okay, because your family's always going to be there, no matter what shit life throws at you."
Harry blinked, totally amazed. "Wow." He breathed.
"Impressive eh?" Kate whispered coyly. "Bet you never knew I was that good at figuring you out Mr. Potter."
"That was probably the sexiest thing I've ever seen you do." Harry said, still looking at her as if he couldn't quite believe her. "Well, aside from last year's Valentine's day." He added.
Kate laughed and linked her hands behind his neck. She leant in to kiss him again, when…
"EW! Uncle George, they're doing that kissing thing again in the hallway!"
"What? Seth, I agree with you totally. That's disgusting."
Harry laughed and turned to find Seth dragging George up the hallway. It seemed George had just gotten back from his trip, as he was still in his traveling cloak. Seth must have seized him instantly.
"George! Blimey, where have you been? You should have heard Fred at dinner, talking about how you'd probably run into some girl and taken your sweet time getting back because you were… well, doing certain things with her." Harry finished lamely, trying not to use the words Fred had used in front of his son.
George laughed, picked Seth up and set him up on his shoulders. "Well, what do you know… the first time he was ever right about something."
Kate and Harry both stared at him in amazement as the meaning of his words hit them. "You mean, you really were with some girl?" Harry asked in disbelief. George, although the swinging bachelor, did not seem the type to just do something like that.
"Well,' George said, his smile increasing in size, 'not just any girl."
He looked over his shoulder and someone began coming up the stairs. Harry waited with great anticipation as the woman came into view. She was as tall as Kate, but the rest of her was hidden in shadow.
But when her face finally came into view, Harry's mouth dropped open in utter disbelief.
"Matilda!" Kate cried, gaping openly at her best friend.
Mat laughed and shook snow off her parker. "Bloody cold out there George. I get the idea of wanting to surprise everyone, but bloody hell." She said as casually as if it were perfectly normal for her to just show up on the arm of George Weasley at the Burrow, completely unexpected.
"Mat!" Kate cried again, stepping forward. "How… when…" she stuttered, looking between Mat and George.
"Look Mum, Aunt Mat is George's new girl!" Seth announced, patting his Godmother on the head.
"How did all this happen then?" Harry asked as Kate rushed forward and drew Mat in a hug.
"We met up in Glasgow at one of the little coffee shops just outside town. She was there visiting her grandparents and I recognized her from your anniversary party five years ago. We just got talking. We seemed to hit it off straight away." George explained quietly to Harry as Mat told the same story to Kate, although far more enthusiastically.
"It is a small world, isn't it?" Harry chuckled, taking Seth off George's shoulders and holding him around the middle. Seth laughed and swung his legs out a little. "Jolly good for you though. We were all beginning to wonder if you'd end up the only Weasley without a significant other."
"Oh please. And let Percy have all the glory of nuptials?" George scoffed happily. "But, don't get too ahead of yourself. We've only been dating for a week."
"Dad, Uncle George said he saw Santa flying on his way home. Said he passed over Ireland a few hours ago." Seth said, looking up at his father. "Are you sure he's going to make it to our house?"
"Yes Seth, I'm sure." Harry repeated for the fifteenth time that hour. "Come on, let's go downstairs and hear some more about what else George saw on his trip home."
News of George's new girlfriend had been all the talk, especially when Charlie found out. In a dramatic turn of events, Charlie had teased his little brother non-stop, while George had muttered incoherently about threatening to make Charlie impotent for the next two years under his breath if he didn't quit it. Fred had been a little indignant about being stood up for some girl, but had quickly gotten over it. Molly had accepted Mat with open arms, and insisted on her eating two helpings of dinner to compensate of her lateness.
Later in the day, they had exchanged presents with a childlike grace, especially on Ron's behalf. He had sat with Seth on the floor in front of the tree, tearing open each present as if the fate of the world depended on it. Harry himself had gotten a large amount of gifts, consisting of a new polishing kit for his broom, new quidditch shields for his shins, and other practical items that only adults would find interesting.
"Hey, Harry…" Nathan started, coming over to sit next to Harry on the floor near the sofa, "what time do you think you'll be coming over tomorrow?"
"Well, Seth's usual pattern is get up, jump on Mum and Dad, run down stairs like a decapitated chicken, run back upstairs, jump on sister, and then fall back into bed. And all this usually happens before five in the morning." Harry said with a smile, examining his new quill and ink set he had received from Fred and Laura.
"Urgh." Nathan groaned, playing with his new silver necklace. "Hyperactive kids eh? Glad I never was one."
Harry laughed and gave Nathan a look. "Just get your Dad up in time and leave the rest up to me, okay?" he said.
Nathan smiled, promised Harry to do just that and moved over to sit with his sister. Harry, like everyone else, knew that Ginny would have absolutely no trouble getting up on Christmas morning. She was probably the most enthusiastic 34 year old in the entire world, and outstripped Seth's excitement by a mile. Draco on the other hand, had not been raised to enjoy the holiday, and therefore was still learning the principle behind his wife's hysterics on the day.
Harry smiled as Hermione crawled over; wearing her new glasses Ron had given her and sat in Harry's lap. "Well, you know after all this I'm still not satisfied." She sang, flipping her ponytail over her shoulder.
"And you expect me to help you how?"
Hermione grinned innocently. "Surely you can guess by now."
"Hermione, we've talked about this. Not while our partners are here." He muttered, looking around nervously.
Hermione laughed and hit him in the arm. "I'm being serious. Come to my class again. They adore you Harry."
"Only because I'm handsome." Harry said. "That's all I am to the female student body you know… something to gawk at during lessons."
"And you think that girls' fawning over you is a bad thing?"
"Well, only when its girls young enough to be my daughter, and only when one of the girls actually is my daughter. I find it a little insulting actually."
"Oh shut up. Are you up for it or not?" she laughed.
"Yes, all right. Just make sure Eve doesn't get any flack because of it, okay? I hate to imagine what the kids say to her sometimes." Harry said, casting a glance at his daughter.
"It's not that bad." Hermione said. "It's… just a lot of unwanted attention. She's such a talented witch, and I know a lot of people have high expectations of her. She surpasses everyone's ideas of what she can do."
Harry nodded. He had known since she had left for her first day of Hogwarts that it would be difficult for her. But, she rarely complained, and went on with life as if she was just any other girl.
"You still coming over Boxing day?"
Harry rolled his eyes and turned back to his best friend in his lap. "What a stupid question. Why, after the last ten years would we suddenly just stop visiting on Boxing day?"
"Just checking." Hermione shrugged. She hugged him and gave him a firm kiss on the cheek. "Merry Christmas Harry."
"Merry Christmas Hermione."
Later on in the night, everyone was finally quieting down. The atmosphere was becoming drowsy and warm, and everyone was periodically stretching and yawning. Harry had been sitting by the fire, distantly listening to Percy and Ron talk about new plans for his office as the fire warmed him up inside and out.
He closed his eyes for a moment and began to doze off, when someone kissed his forehead and sat down beside him. He looked, expecting to find Kate. But wasn't disappointed by who he really did find.
"Hey you." He said, putting an arm around Eve's shoulders. "Ready to go?"
Evelyn nodded, her eyelids heavy as she snuggled into him. She was normally a very active girl, and for her to appear this dopey was a sign of just how tired she really was. "Seth's already dropped of the planet." She giggled, pointing.
Harry followed her indication and found Kate in the kitchen sitting at the table, Seth strewn over her lap with his head on her knee and the rest of his body lying limp over the side. Kate was talking away to Molly and Mat, stroking Seth's red hair lazily.
"That can't be good for his back." Harry said, rubbing his chin.
"He's dead to the world. He probably can't even feel it." Eve yawned, stretching out like a cat.
"We'd better go anyway, it's getting late." Harry said, checking his watch. "Do you want to come? You can stay and apparate home later if you want."
Eve nodded. "I think I'll stay. Just until Nathan goes." She said.
"Okay. Don't be too late." Harry said. He stood up, kissed Eve on the forehead and walked over to his wife and son in the kitchen.
"… the odds of you ending up with someone we know?" Kate had been saying to Mat.
"Me? What about Jason and Harry's mate Dean Thomas? They've been cozy for ages! It's like Rachel and Daniel… although we all saw that one coming." Mat laughed, taking one of the biscuits of Molly's plate.
"Hello ladies." Harry said, leaning on Kate's shoulder. "I think we'd better get a certain someone to bed."
Molly laughed as Harry lifted the snoozing form of his son up easily into his arms. "Ah, they get so excited. I remember how the kids used to get on Christmas Eve. They simply would not stop walking around the house, walking into each other's rooms and sharing with each other what they hoped they'd find under the tree in the morning."
Harry watched Molly as she looked longingly into the living room where the majority of Weasley's were. It was obvious just by the look in her eye that she missed having the house full of buzzing red heads terribly. Harry sympathized with her. When Eve had gone away to Hogwarts, he had missed her so much it was like a dull ache in his side. He dreaded the day both she and Seth moved out.
"We'll see you in a few days." Kate said, kissing Mat good-bye and taking the salt shaker from the table to make a Portkey with.
"Travel safely." Molly said, giving Harry a peck as well.
"We will. Bye everyone!"
"Bye!" Everyone called. Harry had already said his goodbyes.
"Okay, you ready?" Kate said, holding out the shaker. "One… two…"
And they were gone with a 'pop'.
Mat sighed and looked wistfully at the spot where they had stood moment before. "Salt shakers that transport you home. What will they think of next?"
Kate looked up from the base of the tree where she had been lying on her stomach, piling up presents as Harry entered the living room, looking very tired but very content all the same. He flopped down on the sofa with a groan, took his glasses off and put a cushion over his face.
Kate smiled to herself and continued with her stacking. "Such is the life of a parent at Christmas eh? Worked to the end of their tether and they don't get to have half the fun that the kids do."
"That's a dumb rule." Came Harry's muffled reply.
"And since when have you held a regard for the rules?"
Harry lifted the cushion off his face to reveal a smile. "Just a quick question dear… how much notice did you actually take of me at school?"
Kate went back to the present. "Well… I may have fancied you a little bit."
Harry saw her blush a little.
"But, so did half of the student body that wore skirts, so it wasn't anything very original or special. Pass me that gift will you?"
Harry sent it to her with a wave of his wand. "Pity I didn't take to first years more when I was fourteen. We could have been together a lot earlier."
"Yeah, but then you wouldn't have Evelyn, would you?" Kate said with a look.
Harry smiled. "I guess everything does happen for a reason… even if it does suck at the time."
Both adults jumped as the phone suddenly rang.
"Oh honestly, who rings at this hour?" Kate huffed to herself.
Harry smiled, summoned the phone and tapped it with his wand. "Menswear." He answered in a low, masculine voice. "Oh, hello Judith." He said happily.
Kate lifted her head so quickly she whacked herself with many of the branches of the tree. She rubbed her head and crawled out from under the tree, looking at Harry with wide eyes.
Harry looked off into space. "Yes, we're having a lovely time here, putting presents under the tree…oh, really?... No I don't think so… you want to talk to Kate?"
Kate shook her head madly, mouthing 'I'm not here' at him.
He frowned. "Yeah, she's here."
Kate glared at him as he held the phone out for her. She snatched it out of his hand, crossed her legs on the floor and smiled reluctantly into space. "Mum, hi!" she said falsely.
Harry watched from the sofa as Kate examined her fingernails, listening to her mother talk. He didn't know why Kate didn't want to talk to her mother, but had assumed that whatever Judith wanted it had to be important, otherwise she would be calling at ten thirty at night in the first place.
"Tomorrow?" Kate said, looking up at Harry. "Oh er, well… as wonderful as that sounds, we always go to Eve's mother's house for Christmas day and spend the day with them. You understand, it's hard for Eve to spend Christmas without her brother and… Oh, um…"
She put her hand over the mouthpiece. "She wants us to go there tomorrow for lunch." She said, giving him a look.
Harry held his hand out and she handed him the phone. "Judith? Its Harry… yes, well we always spend the afternoon at the Malfoys you see. And if you had called earlier… yes, I understand that, but if you had called a few days ago we probably could have organized something else…"
Harry rubbed his eyes and put his glasses back on. "Judith, can I call you back?... Thanks, bye."
"What does it mean when people shake their heads and say 'I'm not here', Harry?" Kate growled angrily as soon as he had hung up.
"What are we going to do about this?" he asked, ignoring her irritation. "We've never spent Christmas day with your folks. They always go to America!"
"Well then, you can tell them to go." Kate said angrily, folding her arms over her chest. "We can't change our plans now, Eve'll be shattered. She's never spent a Christmas without Nathan or Ginny."
Harry sighed and ran his hands through his hair, thinking. "I don't think Malfoy'd appreciate your parents just showing up at his house. They barely even know Judith and Frank." He thought out loud.
"So, what do we do?" Kate asked.
Harry thought for a moment, before getting an idea. "We'll have it here. Its mutual ground."
"But Harry, we're not ready for visitors and…"
"Dobby! Missy!" Harry called.
Instantly, there were two loud cracks and both House Elves had appeared at Harry's feet. Dobby and Missy, a very small elf whose skirt was so small it had actually been one of Eve's old dolls' clothes, bowed low.
"Yes Harry Potter sir?" Missy squeaked.
"We want this house ready for visitors by tomorrow afternoon, can you do it?" Harry asked kindly.
Dobby and Missy beamed. "We can sir." Dobby said. "Dobby and Missy will not rest until the house is spotless sir."
"Oh now, don't work yourselves to death." Kate said. "You've got all morning tomorrow, and only really need to worry about the dining room and in here. Start when you can."
Both elves smiled, bowed once more and disappeared again.
Kate let out a mock war cry, launched herself up from the floor onto Harry and pretended to strangle him. "Too fucking hospitable you are! Jesus, my parents and the son of Lucius Malfoy in the same room? There's going to be fireworks… and not the kind you always set off after every Christmas dinner either."
"Your parents know the Malfoys?"
"Not personally, but by association. It's an old history to do with them years and years ago but… urgh! I'd kill you if I didn't love you so god-damn much." She said, shaking him a little.
Harry laughed. "It can't possibly be that bad. As long as I don't have to invite Petra and her lunatic boyfriend Matthew."
"No, thank god! And Jasmine's off with her boyfriend in India somewhere…" Kate said, looking off into space as if she too wished she could be off having an adventure.
"Well, I think you're being a little paranoid. And I give you my word that if Malfoy tries anything shifty I'll kick him right up the ass."
Kate smiled. "I bet you just want to do that anyway."
"I do, but that's not the point."
"So say no! I won't go! I won't do anything just 'cause you said so… and I know I'm better than anything it is you say I am…"
"Eve! Shut up!" Harry hissed. Eve had just appatared into the living room, signing the new Stonehenge song at the top of her lungs. Although he had to admit, it was very good singing.
Eve winced apologetically. "Sorry. Not too late am I?"
"No, not at all." Kate said. She climbed off Harry and pulled her wand out. "Well, I'd better go deliver the good news to Ginny and Draco. See you in a bit."
"What good news?" Eve asked as Kate disapparated.
Harry smiled and stood up. "Oh you know, the usual… stocks are up, I'm in the market for a new broom, we're having the Malfoy's and your step-grandparents over for lunch tomorrow…"
"What?!" Eve cried. "Tomorrow? Here? But… but…" she looked around frantically. "What time?"
"I don't know. Lunch time I guess." Harry said, a little stunned at his daughter's reaction.
"Oh god! I have to go to bed right now!" she exclaimed, pelting towards the stairs. "It takes me forever to get up and ready, and Mum's always punctual or early… bloody hell, my hair takes forever to dry… cant believe you'd spring this on my now…"
Harry laughed as her muttering died away. He took one last look at the tree, before yawning and deciding to wait for Kate's return upstairs.
"You know Malfoy; never in the history of my being would I have imagined we'd be spending Christmas lunch together, sitting at the same table with our families."
"Yes, well Potter, fate seems to have an incomprehensible sense of humor when it comes to us… being what we are of course."
"And… what are we?"
"Mortal enemies you idiotic little man!"
Harry laughed and shoved Draco in the back towards the door. "Just go sit at the table would you? Charm the guests in the way only you know how."
Draco bowed respectfully. "I will insult them to the best of my ability."
Harry rolled his eyes as Draco left. He turned back to Dobby, who was hunched inside the oven. "Listen, take your time with that turkey, okay? We've got more than enough to keep us occupied." He said, picking up a tray of entrées.
Dobby pulled his head out of the oven and nodded. "Yes Harry Potter sir."
"Smells delicious by the way." Harry said with a wink. He gave some last minute instructions to Missy and entered the dining room.
Everyone was now seated at the table, piling up their plates with all the food they could possibly get their hands on. Eve, sitting between Ginny and Draco, had probably the most. It baffled Harry how she could eat so much and yet stay so slim. Seth was asking Nathan to cut his meat up for him, and Kate was listening to her mother talk next to her.
Despite Kate's paranoia, there had been no fireworks between Draco and her parents. Of course, they had been a little uneasy when they found out who else they would be dining with, but Draco seemed to have charmed them enough to warrant civil and pleasant behavior.
"… considered it, but we thought we'd spend this year with you. We haven't spent the day together for years, and I missed our traditions." Judith had been saying to Kate.
"Traditions are dramatically over-rated sometimes mother." Kate said, smiling at Harry as he placed the tray on the table and sat down next to her.
"Harry, you understand what I'm saying don't you?" Judith asked, leaning across her daughter to give Harry a smile.
"Don't bring me into this. There is no answer possible that will save me from getting flogged by either of you two." He said, putting a hand on Kate's knee under the table.
Harry liked Judith. She was very much like Petra, dramatic and flamboyant. Her hair was dead straight and brown like Kate's and she had much the same features as well. Her American accent had not yet abated, although it had toned down considerably.
"Seth, eat your carrots please." Harry said, giving his son a look from across the table.
"But they're yuck." Seth said, pulling a face.
"No, they're not. Just eat them will you please?"
"Its Christmas Dad, we should be eating chocolates." Seth said. And with that, he picked up one of his carrots, cried 'Have at you!' and threw the carrot across the table at Harry.
Harry bit his lip, trying not to laugh as Kate gave Seth a scalding for throwing vegetables at the table. Seth looked very upset, but Harry was sure he saw his only son exchange a high-5 with Nathan under the table.
"Where's Frank gone?" Harry asked, noticing his missing father-in-law.
"In the John." Ginny answered, lathering a large dollop of butter over her baked potatoes. "He said he couldn't hold it anymore without risking future erection problems."
"Mum!" Eve laughed, while Nathan put a hand over his eyes and groaned. Kate looked equally horrified, while Seth was looking at Nathan with curiosity.
"What's erection mean?"
"Er –" Nathan blushed.
"Nothing!" Kate said quickly, giving Seth a look. "Just eat your lunch and don't ask Nathan any more questions." she said, blushing furiously.
"Well, that's what he said!" Ginny said, looking at Judith for back up. But Judith simply smiled slyly and dug into her meal.
They ate while passing conversation over, but Harry couldn't help but notice it seemed so quiet compared to the dinner they had had at the Burrow the night before. Even Seth with his ravings over the new toy broom he had gotten from Santa seemed quiet compared to the ranting and ravings of seven Weasley children.
Ginny wiped her mouth with her serviette and turned to Draco. "Draco, let me pull your bonbon."
"Ginerva, really…such vulgar language at the dinner table." Draco tutted. Eve giggled and rolled her eyes, but Ginny simply grabbed his bon-bon from the side of his plate and held it out for him to take.
Draco sighed, rolled his eyes and wrapped his elegant hand around the other end.
Ginny's eyes lit up with a fire of determination. "Right, ready? One…two…"
"Ha!" Ginny cheered as she held in her hand the bigger half. She picked up the vulture hat from the table and jammed it on her head with excitement. She looked at her husband and rolled her eyes. "You didn't even bloody try!"
Eve shook her head in mock disappointment. "You offend the spirit of the season sir." She said.
Draco had not given any effort, but had simply held onto it while Ginny pulled with a smile. He was still sitting in position, the end of the bon-bon still in his hand. "I am a grown man. Only childish imbeciles partake in such pastimes.
"Ha! Oh, another cowboy hat!"
They looked over to see Harry cramming the hat on his head. It was so large it hung over his eyes, leaving his huge, goofy grin the only thing visible.
Draco sighed and went back to his meal. "And with that, I rest my case."
Harry suddenly stood up, cleared his throat and tilted the hat back out of his eyes. "Well, I know we're only half way through eating but I wanted to make my speech now before you all get too into other things." He said with a smile. "So, I know this is a little out of our routine, but thanks Ginny and Malfoy for agreeing on such short notice to change plans."
"Maybe we should make this a permanent change Potter." Draco drawled, lifting his goblet up and swirling the wine inside it. "You can play host for the next eight years to make up for it."
Harry smiled. "Maybe I will. Anyway, this marks the first Christmas we've spent with Judith and Frank, and I'd like to toast such an occasion. But… we'll wait until he gets back to do that. But, this is also a memorable occasion because… its Eve's last few months at Hogwarts."
Eve smiled and nodded, looking sad yet excited at this fact.
"And I know that we don't make this acknowledgement until graduation, but I want to do it now… Eve, we're proud of you. And I know you'll most likely move out as soon as you can and get a place with Caleb like you've wanted to since you were thirteen, so this could be one of the last times we're all together like this." Harry said sadly.
"No it won't." Ginny said, giving Harry a look.
Harry smiled and felt Kate take his hand. He nodded, and raised his goblet. "Merry Christmas everyone."
Everyone raised their goblet and toasted.
"Oh, missed the speeches have I?"
They looked to see Frank tottering down the stairs to the dining room, tucking his shirt in his pants with a smile. His red hair was very curly and was balding a little at the top, but he still acted like a twenty year old.
"Yes, sadly." Harry said.
"Oh, too bad. I bet it was smashing too, coming from you." Frank laughed, sitting down next to his wife. "Ah, turkey!"
"Grampa?" Seth asked, playing with his food.
"Yes my boy?"
"Is your erection okay now?"
Kate spat out her Butterbeer all over her plate, while Judith hid her smile behind her hand. Draco was coughing loudly, no doubt to cover the fact that he was laughing and Harry knew he would combust if he held his laughter in any longer.
Frank looked at his grandson in amazement, ignoring the sniggers from Evelyn and Nathan. Seth simply smiled back, awaiting his answer.
Finally, Frank smiled and began laughing. "Let's hope so Seth, lets definitely hope so."
"Ha! Seth is one in a million." Ron laughed, sitting back in his chair. 'I tell you the day he asks me that question, I'll be answering the same way. Bloody quick that Frank is."
"Yes well, hopefully for both our sakes you won't suffer and erectile dysfunction any time soon. Its bad enough I can't conceive, let alone your little swimmers being out of commission."
"Hermione!" Harry and Ron both laughed, amazed.
Hermione simply shrugged and kissed Ron's red cheek.
"Oh really, you think you men are the only ones who benefit from hard-on's?" Kate piped up, giving both men a look.
"Okay, new topic!" Harry said loudly over the women's sniggers.
The four of them were sitting in the kitchen, settling down after a large round of gift exchanging, chocolate eating, caroling fun. The younger members were still in the living room, playing around with Joel's new potion ingredients to see if they could come up with a potion to make someone's hair turn orange.
"Are you sure we can trust your son with my children?" Kate asked.
"Oh sure, he's a pro." Ron said casually.
"But Eve's pitiful at potions. She always manages to…"
"…blow something up." Harry finished lamely as the sound of laughter and a faint smell of peroxide came from the living room.
"Is that why she dropped potions after her OWL's?" Hermione asked.
"That… and she hated looking at Snape's greasy head every lesson." Harry said dreamily, as if the fact that his daughter hated the Potion's master as much as he did was a source of great pride for him. "That's three generations of Potter's hating Severus Snape. Blimey, he must feel old."
"I expect we added some lines to that face after all the stress we put him through." Ron smirked. "Like third year with Sirius, or fourth year with the whole egg thing…"
Harry laughed, but Hermione shook her head. "Honestly, you two are so horrible to him."
"We are to him?" Harry cried in outrage. "And excuse me Miss Head girl, prefect and top of every class, but I do remember a time in our second year when someone suggested we steal stuff from Snape's private stores and make Polyjuice Potion."
"Yeah, that rings a bell." Ron said, giving Hermione a look.
Harry laughed as Hermione began to stutter over childish nonsense, when he felt Kate get up beside him. He looked around and saw her beginning to move out of the room.
"Hey, where are you going?" He asked.
Kate smiled as Ron and Hermione continued to bicker playfully. "It's okay; I'll only be in the living room with the kids."
"This is Trio time." She said softly, cupping his face warmly with her hand. "I know not to intrude on that. You have your fun, and I'll see you in a few minutes."
Harry nodded, gave her hand a kiss and watched her walk out before turning back to his two best friends.
"… and then the time when you punched Draco… and I'll never forget that until the day I die. And even then I won't forget it! Just face it woman, you're all an act when it comes to your prissiness."
Hermione spluttered indignantly. "How dare you? Suggesting such things to your wife… why, it's almost unthinkable that you would insinuate such a thing freely and when…"
"Oh can it Hermione." Harry laughed, clamping a hand over her mouth. "You're the queen of the world, you know everything and you're the smartest witch to ever grace the earth and its unworthy mortals with your presence. Happy?"
Hermione smiled and removed his hand. "Maybe I married the wrong one."
Ron laughed. "Let's not get into a debate over how much better of a man I am than this loser, okay? Let us talk about something else."
"Like how Mr. Man over here is feeling about his only daughter graduating in a few months." Ron said, jerking his thumb at Harry.
Harry laughed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, I'm a bit nervous actually. Not because I don't think she'll do well on her exams… because I know she will. It's just that graduation opens up a new world for her. A world that doesn't include me. I'm just… not ready to let her go yet." He said, smiling at himself.
Hermione smiled. "Harry, this isn't the last chapter of some story someone's writing you know. There's life after today and Eve's graduation. She's not going anywhere." She said supportively.
Harry quirked an eyebrow. "Do you know something I don't?"
"She may have said something to me." Hermione said elusively.
Harry exchanged a smile with Ron and shook his head. Eve talked to Hermione often about many things, and Harry had given up years ago trying to get Hermione to talk about what it was they discussed.
He sighed and let out a soft little laugh. "Well, no matter what happens… I know I'll still have you two to depend on." He said, taking Hermione's hand in his.
"Damn straight." Ron said, clapping Harry on the shoulder. "We're in a good place now. All of us, and its only going to get better from here. Nothing can disturb the peace."
"Daaaaad, Eve's annoying me!
"Oh I so am not you little cretin!"
Harry laughed, took his bottle of Butterbeer and toasted it to Ron and Hermione. "Let the good times roll."
(SEVEN MONTHS LATER)
Caleb watched Eve pace in front of him as he sat casually on the red, squishy sofa near the fireplace with not a care in the world. But the same could not be said for his best friend before him. Her brow was knotted in worry, and he was tugging on the end of her sleeve like she always did when she was anxious.
"What if I make an idiot of myself?" she asked without looking at him.
"Well then we can run out of the Great Hall while ducking fruit, grab our brooms and ride off into the sunset like the legendary Weasley Twins."
"What if I drop my notes on the floor?"
"What if people laugh at me while I'm giving my speech?"
"You're a witch. Turn them into flamingoes."
Eve stopped her pacing and glared at him. "Do you have anything constructive to tell me Caleb? Because if you don't you can take a long walk off the nearest short pier!"
"Whoa, okay!" Caleb laughed, standing up and grabbing her gently by the arms. "Listen to me. Are you listening?"
"You are Head Girl, the most popular and loved girl at this school and no-one is going to care if you show up with purple hair and a carp sticking off the end of your nose. You're speech is prepared, you're looking very smashing in your dress robes…everything is going to be fine." He said soothingly, tilting his head and giving her a smile.
Evelyn sighed. "The rational part of my brain agrees with you, but she's not in charge at the moment. My parents are out there Caleb…"
"So are mine and everyone else who's graduating today."
"But they don't have to give a speech. I do!"
"Because you offered!" Caleb laughed. "You could have let the Head Boy do it you know."
"Don't get technical with me Caleb!" Eve snapped, poking him in the chest. She sighed and wrapped her arms around his waist in a hug. "This is our last day and… it's just all so emotional."
Caleb smiled and hugged her back. "Just relax, take deep breaths and be yourself. That's all anyone expects of you."
During their hug, they didn't notice the portrait hole of Gryffindor Tower swing open, allowing a short girl with blonde hair and brown eyes to enter. She looked around for a moment, before clapping eyes on the two friends hugging and rolled her eyes.
"Alright then lovebirds, break it up there."
"We are not lovebirds." Caleb said flatly, letting Eve go. This was a phrase they had recited many times over the years, but no-one seemed to listen. Personally, he didn't get it. He could no more see him and Eve being together romantically, anymore than he could see him and Trelawney.
"Did you find it? Tell me you found it." Eve said, rushing to the girl and tripping over her feet as she did so. The girl simply smiled and waggled her eyebrows at Eve. "Kendra, did you find it or not!" Eve cried.
Kendra smiled and pulled out a small, red badge with the initials HG on them in yellow. Eve let out a sigh of relief and gave Kendra a kiss.
"Oh thank you." Eve said, pinning the badge to her robes. "I was looking for it all morning. Where'd you find it?"
"On your bedside table actually." Kendra laughed. "Look, we're already late as it is. Everyone's in the hall and you have to be down there to make your speech."
Eve nodded and took a deep breath as Caleb came to stand with her. "Right. Off we go then."
And she led them out of the tower they had called their home for seven years towards the Great Hall.
Harry settled himself into his seat in-between Ginny and Kate as McGonagall stepped up to the podium and called for hush. It was a somber moment for Harry. He remembered Dumbledore doing this at his graduation… but since he had passed away five years ago, Minerva had stepped up to the role as head of the school.
"Welcome parents to another graduation ceremony. I'm glad you could all come out to celebrate such a momentous occasion in our children's lives as they take that next step into their long, healthy futures as adults. Now, before we begin, this year's Head Girl Evelyn Potter will make her speech. Evelyn?"
Harry cheered as Eve stood up from the crowd of students, a confident smile on her face. All the Gryffindors were cheering loudly, and Nathan and Liam who were there just to watch, were on their feet chanting her name.
"Sit down!" Draco hissed pulling the boys down on either side of him.
Eve laughed and cleared her throat. "Yes, thank you Nathan and Liam for that support… and everyone else I might add. Before I get into what it is that I have to say, I want to send out a massive thank you to the muggle parents we have here today. I understand that it's a hassle for you all to get here, and we appreciate the effort you took. And please know that the rest of our transport as wizards is nowhere near as mental as that Purple bus."
Everyone laughed and Eve, feeling encouraged, went on. "So, here we stand… seven years later at the end of a journey. We all started out strangers, and have become family. Although, I don't know if that applies to everyone." She said with a flicker of a glance at the Slytherin's. "But, regardless of such differences, we moved on…
Harry tuned out her speech a little as he simply watched her with a dopey smile on his face. She stood tall and graceful, her eyes alight and her speech articulate and confident. Through all her talk about school, he couldn't help but think back…
"Oh my baby! All grown up and going off to Hogwarts!"
"Mum! Get a grip! I'm going to be late!"
Harry exchanged a glance with Draco and laughed down at Ginny. She was kneeling in front of Evelyn, her arms wrapped tightly around her daughter as she sobbed hysterically into her shoulder. Eve looked rather embarrassed by the whole thing, and was looking around for help.
Harry stepped forward and placed a hand on Ginny's shoulder. "Okay, that's enough blubbering. Move over and let me say good-bye, will you?" he said softly.
Ginny pulled herself together and nodded. "Yes, of course.
He smiled as Ginny stepped aside, going straight back to Draco and Nathan. Harry smiled down at his daughter. "You're all packed?"
"Yes dad." Eve said.
"All your books? Clothes? Money?"
Harry leant in closer. "Map and invisibility cloak?" he asked softly so no-one else could hear.
Eve giggled and nodded. "I hid it at the bottom. I didn't want mum finding out." She whispered. "Although I can't imagine what you think I might be doing with them."
Harry laughed and put his hands on her shoulders. "You're my daughter. No doubt you'll find some use for them." He said. He sighed and looked warmly into her eyes. "Well, this is it. I won't be seeing you until December."
Eve smiled. "You're not going to start crying are you?"
Harry smiled and hugged her tightly. "Just be safe, okay? And make sure to look for Hagrid as soon as you get off the train."
"All right then, I'll remember."
"Oh, and one more thing." Harry said, looking at her seriously. "Don't go anywhere near Moaning Myrtle's bathroom."
Eve frowned. "Who's bathroom?" she asked. "And what if I need to… well, you know."
"There are other bathrooms you can use. Eve, I'm not asking you, I'm telling you… stay out of there." Harry said, giving her a look that left no room for argument.
She nodded and smiled. "Sure thing."
Harry smiled as the whistle blew, signaling that everyone should start boarding. He smiled at admired the scarlet train in front of him as Eve hugged Kate goodbye, and leant into the stroller to kiss her new baby brother Seth.
"Bye Seth." She whispered.
"Eve!" Nathan cried, flinging himself on his sister. "You promise to write to me every day?"
"Every chance I get." Eve reassured her brother, patting him on the back. She stepped back and smiled at them all. "Well, see you all at Christmas."
And with that, she turned around and ran onto the train. She hoped onto it, gave them all one last wave and then she disappeared out of sight.
Harry blinked, bringing himself back to the present and looked up at her now.
"And so, with that… rock on class of 2015!" Eve finished, giving a peace sign.
The hall exploded with the students all cheering loudly once more, stamping their feet on the floor as Eve bowed and hopped off the dais and moved back to her seat.
McGonagall smiled and shook her head. "Well, thank you Miss Potter for that… very original speech. Now, Professor Weasley if you could bring me the diplomas?"
Hermione, who had been sitting with all the other professors at the back of the stage in front of them, stood up and levitated a massive pile of scrolls with her. McGonagall pulled out another from her robed, unrolled it and cleared her throat.
Harry caught Eve as she threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck in a tight hug. "Ah sweetheart, congratulations!" he said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
"Thank you. Did you like my speech?"
"Oh… yes. Very well thought out." He smiled, feeling a little guilty and not listening to more of it.
"Eve,' Seth said, tugging on her robes. "Let me see it."
Eve smiled, unrolled her diploma and knelt down beside him. "Pretty cool huh? This means I don't have to go to school anymore. This means no homework."
"Which is a good thing I'm sure." Said Nathan.
Harry smiled and left the group with Eve, patting her on the back and smiling and congratulating her on such a job well done. He moved to the back of the hall and looked out the doors. From there, he could see a patch of the front lawn. It was hard to believe that there had been a war there just a few decades ago.
Harry smiled as he felt someone slip their hand in his.
"Thinking again?" Kate asked.
Harry nodded. "I'm sad to be leaving, and it's not even my graduation."
Kate kissed his hand, moved in front of him and put his arms around her. "Everything seems to happen here, doesn't it?"
How true this was. Everything remotely remarkable in his life had taken place within these grounds. Harry had made his first real friends, he had fallen in love, Eve had been conceived just a few stories above… nothing it seemed had happened outside of these walls that made a mark in his life.
Looking back, Harry was amazed to find himself in such a good point in his life. Now he had a family, a wonderful career, a fantastic wife, a brilliant network of friends… and there was no Voldemort to take it all away like he had almost done so many years ago.
Voldemort? Harry thought with a smile. Voldemort who?
A/N – Whew. I am exhausted! I tried to cram as much as I could into one chapter, and there was still so much I could have done. Thank you all for your support over the past few weeks as I have written this. Just know that this isn't the last you're heard of me!