Disclaimer: All characters, settings and ideas borrowed from the Harry Potter series belong to JK Rowling. I just play with her ideas.
Nineteen Years Later...
(the epilogue of an epilogue)
"Harry Potter," Harry repeated patiently. "I have a booking for ... well, all of us." He gestured to the large mass of people milling before the bar. The young witch simply blinked, gazing up at Harry's forehead with an expression of dumb incomprehension. He suppressed the urge to laugh at how easily he'd forgotten who he was, and thought ruefully that he probably should have asked Percy to organise.
"Harry!" Hannah Longbottom bustled through a doorway behind the bar, beaming. "Go and clear table three, Louise, I'll deal with this." She gently manoeuvred the girl away, smiling apologetically. "That time of year again, is it?" she joked cheerfully, catching her husband's eye in the crowd of people and smiling. "Come with me."
Harry smiled gratefully, gesturing for the rather large party, comprised mostly of Weasleys, to follow as he fell in step with Hannah.
"Did Neville tell you Luna's pregnant? She's expecting twins?" he asked conversationally.
"Luna and Rolf."
"That's what I thought you said - Pregnant? With twins?" Hannah Longbottom let out a little laugh of disbelief as she led the rather large party of Weasleys up a small corridor beside the Leaky Cauldron's bar. "No, he didn't say - I never thought I'd hear that one!"
Harry Potter shrugged, smiling ironically. "You, them, his family, us … everyone's a bit surprised, I think. But there you have it! Gin says she's due in January. Apparently Luna asked us to let you know… She was a bit vague on who she'd actually told, you see."
Hannah raised her eyebrows merrily. "Was she just…?" she replied, in what seemed to Harry like a very accurate imitation of Luna herself, as she paused to wave them all into the private parlour.
"Come and join us, won't you, Han'?" Neville murmured, touching her arm lightly as he made his way inside.
Hannah rolled her eyes, smiling, and hurried off back down the corridor. Harry watched her go with a shake of his head. Between Neville, Alice, Apparating across the country to work everyday and running the busiest hotel and bar known to the wizarding world (or at least, Britain), Hannah was the busiest person he knew. He had no idea how she did it…
"And I hope Alice wasn't too nervous this morning?"
Molly's voice interrupted his thoughts. Harry made his way into the room as Neville opened his mouth to reply.
"Not really – I mean, it's not like she's going too far away from home, or anything. It almost felt like a waste of time, having to come from Hogsmeade to Kings Cross, just so she could go back…"
Everyone was gathered around a long wooden table that ran the length of the room. The adults of his extended family sprawled down the length of the table, occasionally peppered by the younger children. They'd all just come from waving the older ones off to school at Kings Cross, and lunch at the Leaky Cauldron had become a bit of a tradition after this grand event each year; at first, to appease the children left behind, and then as their numbers had dwindled and the excuse with it, to take advantage of the rare opportunity for a family gathering.
The walls were a plush shade of red that gave the impression of rich decadence, and glancing up along the table to where Molly sat at its head, he couldn't help but imagine briefly that she was taking court. It should have felt strange, to be surrounded by so many relatives when he'd been accustomed to having so few, but as his eyes traveled along the train of faces, he couldn't help but feel a strange sense of pride welling in the pit of his stomach. It didn't feel strange at all. These people, this family that he'd built for himself - Arthur and Fleur and Percy and Audrey and George and Angelina and Roxanne and Hermione and Ron and Hugo and Lily and Ginny and Neville and–
As Harry took his seat beside Ginny, Bill and Teddy slipped into the room; Bill's ears were red, and Teddy met Harry's eyes, grinning sheepishly.
Harry caught his arm, raising his eyebrows. "Been behaving yourself, I hear?" he murmured.
Teddy smiled. "Oh, enough. I'm not really in trouble… Fleur wasn't happy, so Bill sort of had to say something, but …" Teddy shrugged, pausing. "Hold on – how did you-?"
"Oh, we all know," Ron interrupted, grinning. Harry glanced around the silent table ruefully; they'd all been listening. Ron caught Harry's eye, winking. "No secrets here, mate – we probably should've warned you a few years back…"
"Teddy, are you going to marry Victoire?" Lily asked eagerly, turning to kneel in her seat and clutching at his shirtsleeve. She gazed up at him dreamily. "That would be sooo romantic."
"No one eez marrying anyone," Fleur interrupted sharply from across the table, folding her arms.
Lily turned again to frown at her aunt's disapproval, but Bill leant over to kiss his wife's cheek, chuckling, and Fleur's expression softened quickly.
"Well I think-"
"Shush, love," Audrey interrupted Percy fondly, patting his hand. "We know."
There was a slight pause, as his family waited for Percy to gather himself, and then-
Several different conversations erupted across the table at once: while Ron took the opportunity to rib Ginny across the table about sending her love to Neville, Fleur's lecture to both Bill and Teddy was drowned out by Arthur and George's enthusiastic discussion of George's new joke-shop line – developed after a lengthy consultation with Charlie - and Hugo and Lily had slipped out of their places and were standing together at the head of the table, deep in an animated conversation with Molly, who visibly twinkled with pleasure.
At the same time, Percy leant forward to ask Harry why Draco Malfoy and his wife had been staring at him as they'd left the Platform; Harry shrugged absently, not in the mood for a conspiracy theory – he heard them enough at work – and Audrey, sensing Harry's discomfort, swiftly distracted her husband with a question about the Egyptian chicken scandal.
Angelina met Neville's eye across the table, laughing at his mystified expression. "Don't worry too much, Nev – I can't keep track half the time either."
Neville grinned good-naturedly. "You Weasleys, you like to complicate things."
"Tell me about it!" Hermione muttered, rolling her eyes as Ron leapt backwards, rubbing his leg and glaring. Ginny relaxed back against her chair, smiling, just as Hannah entered the room, preceded by several trays of jugs and glasses,
Harry gazed at the disarray fondly, murmuring something softly under his breath – so softly that only Ginny and Neville caught the afterthought.
"Wouldn't have it any other way."
As so often happens with this story, this is a spur of the moment ending (and not the one I'd planned) but then again, had I planned it, I suppose it wouldn't truly be an 'afterthought', would it?
And so, we say goodbye to this little series of vignettes that I started on a whim and never dreamed would evolve into such a ... saga. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it, and a MASSIVE thanks to everyone who's read, reviewed and shared their opinions regarding this piece and the ideas it represents. You've really encouraged me to keep this going, and I've thoroughly enjoyed hearing your thoughts - I hope you continue to share them!!