Written for the LJ community springkink.
Disclaimer: Howl and Sophie belong to no one--except Diana Wynne Jones, who is nice enough to let us play in her worlds.
In Which Howl Contemplates "Happily Ever After"
Fairy tales always end with the phrase "happily ever after," but few of them elaborate on what exactly that means. As a child Howl had always guessed that it meant the prince and princess never had to worry about anything again and didn't argue at all. Now he wonders how he could ever have thought that: his own "happily ever after" with Sophie is just as hair-raising as he had predicted.
Howl blames it on the fact that Sophie didn't go back to being the sweet, docile little mouse after the spell on her had been removed. Instead she remained just as strong-minded as the old woman had been, and just as determined to create some sense of order in his life. The fact that she knows about her magic and is learning how to use it now only makes things more interesting.
Because now her words have more power. Where before she could have only leveled him with that glare and confrontational attitude of hers, she can now put the weight of magic behind some of it. Sleeping in most mornings is a thing of the past, for example. She's already talked the comforter into sliding off him in the morning—he doesn't want to give her reason to talk the bed into dumping him on the floor. If she wants the house cleaned, it will be cleaned either by her or tools she's talked into doing the job. Arguments are unavoidable, not only because she won't let him slither away but because, despite being in love (Howl has no doubt about that) they're still them,.
Not that it's all bad. Howl takes full advantage of the ways her powers can be used to help him in his work. So far she's made cloaks that have been talked into being waterproof as well as helping the wearer be invisible when necessary; clothing that will draw in or repel specific people or encourage others not to notice the wearer; not to mention her ability to talk people into buying or not buying something. Of course, whenever she realizes she's being taken advantage of Sophie takes him to task for it by, as he predicted, ruining some part of his wardrobe and forcing him to repent. While he doesn't like arguing, he can never fault her for reprimanding him, though, and thinks it oddly ironic that, of course, he would fall in love with the one woman who wouldn't let him charm his way out of a confrontation.
So, no, happily ever after is not peaceful for him. It's full of arguments and making up from arguments and him being forced into some semblance of honesty. Because they are who are they are: a habitual slitherer-outer and someone for whom 'because I said so' meant it was spell-backed fact. Howl was just glad she loved him. She made him a better man than he'd ever have become on his own.