And here it is...the very LAST chapter of this story. I still find it hard to believe that six months ago all I had were the first two chapters waiting on my computer, uncertain if I should even post them; and then here we are! Six months later with a story totaling 67,010 words!
I just wanted to say thank you all very, very, very much to everyone who has read this story, with a special thanks to those who have been around since the beginning and those who have commented. Every time I got a comment it made me want to keep writing (so please let me know what you liked or didn't like about my story. I am very eager to hear about everyone's thoughts now that the story is over).
I hope you all enjoy the finale as much as I enjoyed writing it. It's kind of sad that this story has come to a close, but all good things must come to an end. Also, for anyone interested, I have another novel-length fanfiction in the works for the HP genre. I am uncertain as to when it will be up (strongly depending on my situation with field classes and when I'm getting back to Canada and a stable internet connection), so if you are at all interested in reading another one of my stories, please add me to author alert and I'll keep you posted :)
(the story is a continuation of my oneshot Memories *insert shameless self promoting here* Go check it out!)
Thanks again for a great time writing,
The End – Part 2 :
Two Weeks Later :
It was turning into an ugly night Harry decided as he made his way down the hall to the front door. Whoever was calling on them that night in this storm was right mental. Opening the door, Harry met the blue eyes of someone he'd never met before.
"Hello…" The man started, looking down at the address written on the piece of rain soaked paper in front of him. "Are you Mister Potter?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, and you are?"
The man let out a sigh of relief. "I'm Devon Abbotsford. I'm so glad I-" He never got the chance to finish his sentence before Harry's fist connected with his left eye.
"You'll have to forgive my husband." Hermione apologized as she handed Devon the bag of peas. "He tends to be a mite protective over our daughters." She smiled at him too sweetly. "Just be glad Page wasn't the one answer the door tonight. You probably wouldn't have gotten off as easily as with only a black eye."
Harry glared at the boy sitting at his table and began pacing back and forth in the kitchen. He didn't like the way the boy swallowed hard at the weakly veiled threat, nor the way he kept wincing as he put the cold package to his eye. Harry hated weak people.
"Why are you even here?" Harry snapped as he made a loop. "Haven't you caused enough damage yet?"
"I just want to talk to Avery." Devon insisted. "She never came home."
Harry took a deep breath, doing his best to contain his anger. "So you wait two weeks before you go looking forward to her?"
Devon looked back and forth between the visibly angry Mister Potter, and the icy calm Missus Potter who kept tapping her wand menacingly against her folded up arms. He wasn't sure who he was suddenly afraid more of.
"It's not my fault!" He argued. "Avery never told me where you lived. I've spent the last two weeks searching for her. I only just finally managed to find your address. It's not like you were in the regular house registry of the UK."
"And why would you want to talk to her?" Harry asked. "You made it very clear last time how you felt about people of our nature."
Devon put down the bag of peas and stared at a spot on the floor. "What I said last time was a mistake. I was surprised and didn't know how to react. I am to blame." He looked back up to see Harry watching him very intensely. "I would do anything to take it back." He insisted. "I just need to talk to her."
Harry's eyes flickered momentarily to Hermione. Devon followed their eyes. Something that he had said held a special meaning to the pair of them. Hermione gave Harry a small nod and left the room. Harry moved towards Devon and took a seat in front of him. This time he approved of how the boy flinched as he pulled the chair closer. Harry liked that he was afraid of him.
"Now you listen to me. If I'm going to tell you where she is, it does in no way mean that I forgive you. And it most definitely does not mean that Avery will forgive you. What it does mean is that I know exactly what a mistake feels like." Harry's voice became lower, memories from long ago peaked out of their crevasses. "And if I hadn't been given that second chance back then, then my life would never have become what it is today. Even now I sometimes think back to that day I walked out and instead of coming back I just kept walking. To this day, it is still my greatest fear."
Devon stared at Avery's father with a slight new respect. On one hand, he utterly terrified him and now knew that he had a heck of a right jab. But on the other hand, it appeared that if Mister Potter was anything, he was fair.
Harry fixed his eyes on Devon through his glasses and watched him for a moment before taking a piece of paper off the table and one of the auto-quills that didn't require an ink pot. He wrote down Page's address and slid the piece of paper across the table to Devon.
"Be warned though," He answered in all seriousness. "Just because you have the address, it doesn't mean that you'll be able to find Page's house. She's worked very hard to avoid detection. Unless you're welcomed in, you could walk right past it and never know."
Devon looked up from the paper with confusion in his eyes. "Then how am I supposed to find Avery?"
Harry stood up. "You don't give up. Ever."
Devon felt as if he had been walking in circles for at least an hour. He had set the GPS in his car for the town the minute he had climbed in and shut the door. Much to his frustration, the little box on his dash informed him that such a location did not exist. Fighting with the map he had stored under his seat, Devon made a decision on a direction and went from there.
Evidently Harry's idea of directions consisted of a town name and then the words As soon as you come across the large limestone boulder, you're almost there. Devon held the map above his head to try and block the rain as he stared down the road. Much to his frustration, there were twenty large limestone boulders, none of which were in front of a house. Right at the point where Devon was about to give up and come back in the morning something solid was pressed into his back rather roughly.
"Who are you and what are you doing in front of my house?" A deep voice threatened him.
Devon immediately threw his hands up in defense, sending the map flying. "Don't shoot! Don't shoot! I have no idea where I am."
"Don't shoot?" The voice asked quizzically from behind him before it started to laugh. "Oh! You must be the muggle." The thing in his back disappeared as a man walked in front of him. The man held out his hand. "My name is Christopherson. I'm married to Avery's sister."
Devon took a sigh of relief as he shook the more-or-less normal looking man. "You should come in." Chris dropped his hand and made his way to one of the boulders. "You'll die of pneumonia if you wait out here."
Devon followed behind him eagerly. "You don't know how relieved I am to meet one of your kind who isn't threatening my life."
Christopherson stopped in front of a boulder that reminded Devon of a sleeping wolf, and turned around to face him. He had a smile on his face that made Devon's blood run cold. "Don't thank me yet…" He answered too cheerfully. "The only reason you're still standing here is because I promised Page that she'd get first dibs." He kicked the boulder and suddenly a two story house flickered into view. Christopherson walked up the front steps and opened the door with a flick of his wand. "Well?" He called back to the fear struck Devon. "Are you going to come in?"
Honestly, there was nothing Devon wanted to do less. Apparently the Potter family and everyone associated with them were all sociopaths. But…Devon took a deep breath and started up the stairs. This was the way to Avery.
Devon followed behind Chris like a puppy behind its new master. He was terrified that the house would swallow him whole if he took a step out of the path. Chris was approximately the same height as Devon but the stark differences in their physic made Devon feel incredibly self-conscious. He had always been lean, but Page's husband looked as if he could bench press his skinny body without a drop of effort. His brown hair was longer in the front then the back and was slicked back in a stylish way. He also had blue eyes, but unlike Devon's, Chris' eyes were the colour of blue ice; clear and piercing in a way Devon couldn't even describe.
Avery had always been very vague with what it was exactly that her sister and her sister's husband did for a living. One look at Christopherson though, plus the stories he had heard about Page, Devon did not doubt in any way that whatever it was that they did it would be considered illegal in his world.
"We're here." Christopherson announced suddenly, stopping in front of a pair of large doors. He looked back at Devon who was nearly shaking. "You'll have to talk to Page before you can even consider seeing Avery."
Devon nodded his acknowledgement. Talking a deep breath he took a step past the highly intimidating gentleman and pushed the doors forward. As he entered the room, he heard the doors click behind him, singling that he was very much locked in the room until they decided to release him.
He had been expecting a room perfect for a mafia boss. Something full of dark, rich colours, oil paintings on the walls, and a wing back chair where Page would be lounging in, stroking a fluffy white cat as she laid down her warnings. Instead what he got was a white room done up in a shabby chic design with pale blue accents, Devon tip-toed in a little further. He didn't know what was scaring him more, the fact that Page, the Master of Deception, had a soft spot for china tea cups and lace or that there was what appeared to be a hit-list book of names on her desk.
Devon nearly jumped a foot in the air when he heard the door open again. That's when he came face to face with Page. He was taken aback by the first sight of her. She was quite possibly the smallest woman he had ever seen. He had always thought that Avery was quite short at 5'4", but if her sister made 5 feet, then she was lucky. The second thing he noticed was how she was dressed.
She was dressed in a long emerald green silk dress with a slit that exposed more than a little bit of her pale thigh and had a hem that just brushed against the floor. Her mid-length black hair was softly curled and set up off of her neck, and her eyes were fixated on him from behind the pair of small half-rimmed glasses on her face. She looked pretty enough, Devon decided, in a 1920s Hollywood way, but there was nothing about her that struck fear into his heart in the way he had been anticipating.
That was until she started speaking.
"You'd better have a good reason for being here." Her voice drifted over the room, cutting into him like ice needles in a blizzard. She sat down in one of the vintage French design chairs and pressed her fingers together. "Today is my one year anniversary." She informed him. "So, I repeat…." She fixed her eyes on Devon through her glasses, freezing him to the spot. "If you do not have a good reason for being in my house, I swear that I will take you out."
Devon swallowed hard and brought out ever last piece of courage he had. He had read somewhere that when you're facing someone tougher then you, you need to pretend to be tough as well….or was that for bears? "I'm not afraid of you." He answered back.
A smirk came to Page's lips as she slowly stood up. Pressing her hands together momentarily, when she pulled them apart her wand materialized out of thin air. "I was really, really hoping you'd be up for playing. Good boy…." She purred as she advanced towards Devon who stumbled back a step and nearly knocked over a lamp.
"Hey Page…" Avery walked into the study, her face stuck in a notebook in front of her and a different coloured pen behind each ear. "Before you leave I have to ask-" Looking up, Avery stopped midsentence when she saw her younger sister holding her wand to her ex-boyfriend.
At this point Avery had two choices she could make. One, she could calmly and coolly scold her sister for taking advantage of a foolish muggle who was underestimating just how scary her little sister really was. OR, two, she could run like hell out of there.
She chose the latter.
Dropping her notebook, Avery turned and booked it out of the room. Devon stole a look at Page, whose attention was still on the commotion that Avery had just caused. Deciding to take advantage of the situation, Devon sprinted out of the room as well. As soon as he was in the hall, he had no idea where he was supposed to go. If it wasn't for the slam of a door and the slight howl of the wind he could have very likely gotten lost as well. Following the direction of the sound, Devon found the front door again. Swinging it open, Devon raced out in to the storm after Avery.
Christopherson came down the stairs dressed sharply in a suit and vest combo. He sighed when he saw that Devon had left the front door open and blowing rain was coming in. Shutting the front door Chris made sure to reset the locking charm. Walking towards the French room as he tied his tie, he met Page halfway. Somehow she managed to have both a scowl and a pout on at the same time.
"I really wanted to hurt him." She whined.
"I know Doll…" Chris replied sympathetically as he watched Page slip into her stilettos. "But it wasn't a complete loss. I cast a tracking charm on him when I came across him in the court yard. If he and Avery don't patch things up, we can always torment him after supper."
Page looked up at him with stars sparkling in her eyes. "Dinner and torture in the same night? Normally I only get one or the other." She teased him as she opened the wardrobe and pulled out her cloak. "I knew that there was a reason I married you."
"Think of it as an early anniversary gift. So…" Chris gave her a knowing smile. "What did you do to him?" He asked, to which Page looked up at him with feigned innocence. He didn't buy it. "We both know that there is no way a muggle ran past you without you getting a single spell in."
Page grinned diabolically as she swung her cloak around her in whirl. "Let's just say that the next time he decides to mention my choice in interior design he'll be receiving a nice surprise."
Chris laughed. "I swear, sometimes I think you designed that room like that just so you could get a rise out of people."
"I'll have you know that I am quite fond of that room." Page answered defiantly. When Christopherson stared down at her with a smirk, Page rolled her eyes and continued to fasten her cloak. "Well…I like the tea cups. I'm really starting to hate all of that lace and whiteness." Smiling at her husband, Page held out her hand. "Shall we?"
Chris took her hand. "Race you there."
"Avery, wait!" Devon called after her as he raced behind through the rain. "Please stop!"
"Leave me alone!" She shouted from over her shoulder. She kept running.
Somehow it was that one simple order that gave Devon the push he needed to finally catch up. Reaching his hand out Devon managed to grab hold of her arm. "No! I will not leave you alone! At least until you talk with me."
Avery spun around to face him, and stared up at him with a stone face. "What?" She snapped. "What do you need to tell me? That I'm a freak? That my whole family is nuts? What? What do you want to tell me?" By the end, Avery was screaming at him. Normally she would have felt embarrassed by this, but considering the fact that it was the middle of the night, storming out, and every other house on the block was enchanted so that they couldn't be found, Avery suddenly had no problem letting her feelings be known.
Devon suddenly went silent. Avery clenched her fists. "I don't need this." She jerked her arm away. "Why did you even come here?" She asked a bit softer.
"Because I love you."
Avery crossed her arms. "It didn't seem like that two weeks ago."
Devon took a step closer. "I was wrong to freak out. I know that, and I'm sorry. It isn't every day that you find out that your girlfriend does magic."
Avery looked down at the ground. "You didn't come after me." She whispered.
Devon took another step. "I know…I should have."
"Yes." Avery answered sharply. "You should have."
"I've been searching for you for the last two weeks. If you leave now, I'm going to keep searching for you until I find you again. I'll keep looking for you until you hear me out."
Avery crossed her arms and stared up at him. "Speak."
Devon met her eyes and nodded in agreement to her one word order. "You are my best friend and my hardest critic. You always push me to do my best and I have been taking that for granted. If it wasn't for you, I'd still be writing teenage trash…and I hate writing teenage romance. The day I let you run out of our apartment was the biggest mistake I've ever made. And it's not one I ever plan to make again." Devon put his hands in his pockets. If Avery noticed she made no note of it.
"You are the only one who ever accepted all of me, and it was cruel of me to react the way that I did and deny you the same privilege. I need you to continue on. Please give me the opportunity to make it up to you day after day…for the rest of our lives."
Devon pulled out a small box from his pocket. He hadn't told Avery it, but he had bought the ring a few months ago. He had just been searching for the right moment. If this wasn't it, then he never knew what would be. He got to his knees.
"Please, Avery Jane Potter, marry me."
Devon stayed on his knee for more than a minute. It was impossible to tell what Avery was thinking in the darkness and distorting features of the rain.
"This is who I am." Her voice was soft. "My sister is insane. Both she and her husband work for the wizarding equivalent of MI6. If I hadn't come in she would have maimed you. Despite her appearance, she is well versed in torture and counter-intelligence techniques. My dad is famous in the wizard world; you can't go into any town and say his name without people's ear's perking. My mother is a genius and is the head of the research department for the whole Ministry. William, is the most normal out of us all, and even then, he has a spell reservoir in his mind that he can call on without a second's thought that is the envy of most spell books. I have three younger siblings that are 16 years younger than I am. And if there is anything you shouldn't do, it's underestimate them. Alice is a bit of a martial arts prodigy and would have you on the ground faster than you can say hippogriff. The boys, though lacking their sister's finesse would have you tied up just as fast in ways that only a double-team can work."
Avery stared down at Devon. "This is my family. There is not a normal one in the lot. Is this what you want?"
Devon locked eyes with her. "I want you." He answered honestly.
That was apparently the right answer. Avery fell to her knees and into Devon's embrace. All of a sudden he was very happy that it was raining out as he held Avery close. It washed away just how relieved he actually felt.
Walking back to Page's house, Devon couldn't help but bring it up. "Your sister isn't exactly what I expected her to be." He admitted.
"Oh?" Avery looked up at him. "You didn't find her calculating, precise, or devious?"
"No…" Devon tilted his head to the side. The boulder really did look like a wolf. "It's how she decorated her room. I never pegged her for having such girly tastes."
And that was the last thing he got to say before the whole world went black and he collapsed to the ground.
Avery stared at her now-fiancé unconscious on the ground and sighed. Pulling her wand out of her pocket she cast a hovering charm and moved him into the house and out of the rain.
"Pardon me Mister Blake." The maître d' apologized as he brought them a letter on a silver tray. "This just came for you and your lovely wife. I believe it is of importance."
"Of course." Christopherson accepted the letter. "Thank you." Waiting until the head waiter left, Chris weighed the letter in his hand. "It's light." He observed as he handed the letter to Page. "Bets on what it is?"
Page studied the handwriting on the front for a moment before a wide grin escaped its bounds and cheerfully played on her face. "I know exactly what it is." She answered happily as she opened it. Scanning the letter she put it back on the table. "Sadly, it seems that Avery forgave him."
"Damn." Chris snapped his fingers in mock distress. "Now how are we supposed to spend our anniversary night?"
"On the plus side," Page continued, choosing to answer his teasing with a certain twinkle in her eyes. "It seems the new muggle addition to the family has already fallen into my trap."
Pulling out a pocket watch from the front pocket of his vest, Christopherson checked the time. "Twenty minutes." He smiled at Page. "I do believe we have a new record."
Page smiled contently around the room. "What a fantastic day!"
Present day :
Satisfied that Ashton's bow-tie was finally straight, Harry lifted him off of the kitchen counter and sent him outside to help his brother dust off the chairs. Looking around the kitchen, Harry didn't even feel like this was his house any more. Caterers were everywhere. Even standing in the unoccupied area, Harry felt as if he was underfoot. Leaving the hustle and bustle, Harry slowly made his way up the stairs.
When Avery had come to them four months ago and pleaded with them to let her have her wedding in the back yard, Harry wanted nothing more than to say 'no'. There was still a part of him that hated Devon, but the part that loved Avery was much larger. He said yes without hesitation.
The last three weeks building up to the wedding, Hermione had become a nervous wreck. Because they were having the wedding at their house and only Devon's parents had been briefed on the situation, it meant that each and every little piece of magical evidence had to be hidden away for the ceremony. Everything had to be done twice. Two different sets of invitations had to be sent out and two different marriage registries had to be contacted. Harry not only had to contact the Ministry and place a request to remove the locator-block he had placed on the acreage, but he also had to have several muggle event planners come to the yard to measure out the areas and plan for set up.
Without his knowing, Harry's feet had brought him right to Avery's old bedroom door. Even though it was now official Alice's room, little things there still reminded him of Avery. It was also the Bride's Headquarters for the day of the wedding.
Putting his hand on the door knob, Harry could not physically make himself turn the door knob. He heard the excitable voices on the other end and froze. Dropping his hand, Harry turned back around and walked down the stairs an out of the house to a place he knew he could be alone. As Harry started to walk down the path he could no longer lie to himself….he was not ready to give his eldest daughter away.
Hermione was frantically moving around Alice's bedroom like a hurricane on speed. Putting another flower in Alice's hair, straitening the sash on Lizbeth's bridesmaid dress, casting yet another worried look to Page's dress, still on the hanger. She was one card shy of a full house and if one more thing went wrong the entire house of cards was going to collapse around her.
"Today…" She muttered under her breath. "Why did Page have to be late today?"
She was so distracted with her own thoughts that she barely felt Alice tug on her hand. Looking down at her youngest, Hermione did her best to put on a cheery face. "What's up Princess?"
Her diminutive princess all done up in the white slip dress as the flower girl was looking around the room. "Where did Avery go?"
Hermione almost completely freaked out. One quick scan of the room to find that Avery had somehow indeed disappeared out of the room and Hermione was out of the room. She really didn't care if Avery decided to have cold feet, but what she did care about was the fact that if Avery decided to bail, she would be stuck with a house full of people that she could not forcibly kick out and if they moved one more thing in her kitchen she was going to have a conniption.
Walking down the path in the woods, Harry reminisced about all the times Avery had dragged him here to show him something she had found or made, and all the times he had forcibly been called out because Page had caught Avery in yet another trap.
When Hermione became pregnant with Page, they had immediately starting looking for a home outside of the city. They're two bedroom bungalow had been fine when they had only had Avery, but with the prospect of more children, Harry knew that he didn't want them growing up in the city.
They had spent months searching through the classifieds, both muggle and wizarding. Nothing seemed appropriate. Money wasn't a factor, but even Harry had to draw the line at two million gallons for what was essentially a swamp. He was starting to worry that they would have to compromise and find a suburb somewhere.
Then, one day Harry was called out on a story. The person he was supposed to interview was more than mildly paranoid and refused to meet anywhere where the crossing of floo networks could connect to him. Harry had driven over an hour into the middle of nowhere, collected three minutes worth of notes and two quotes, and was then back in his car and heading back to the paper.
He almost missed it.
Along the grid road, there was a long approach lined with tall trees that linked at the top, creating a canopy down the road. Pulling his car over, Harry got out and stared down the road. He could faintly see a house in the distance. Making sure that there were no 'No Trespassing' signs, Harry got back into the car and pulled onto the approach.
There was no reason for him to go down that road that day. Chances were high to none that the people who owned the property would not appreciate his being there. And yet, Harry could not turn away. Something about the place sent a tingling feeling down his spine.
Pulling into the drive, Harry got out and admired the building. It was not huge, but by no means small. It stood two stories high, all in brick with white trim. A veranda stretched out all along the edges with a large bed-swing hanging from the rafters moving lazily back and forth in the fall wind. The lawn was large and stretched on behind the house for miles. Harry walked a little closer. Lilac bushes were planted and pruned along one edge of the house. Approaching the house from either side was a vast forest.
Walking around the corner, Harry came across a room with large windows and a door that opened directly onto a path to the forest. Looking over the horizon, Harry smiled to himself at the thought of being in the room when the sun came up along this East side of the house.
"Excuse me…." A voice from behind him caused Harry to jump in the air. Whirling around he came face to face with an elderly gentleman who was leaning heavily on a cane. "Can I help you?"
Harry had been so caught up in his own thoughts that he hadn't even heard him approach. "I'm sorry." Harry hastily apologized. "I didn't mean to invade your privacy. I was just driving by and saw the house and felt as if I just needed to take a closer look. I mean you no harm." Harry rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "I can leave now if you like."
The older man's brown eyes twinkled in a way Harry couldn't even begin to understand. "Would you like a tour?"
Sitting in the crisp clean kitchen, Harry sat at the white-wash table while Arthur Mulligan poured him a cup of tea. Even though he was trying he best not to, Harry was finding himself falling deeper and deeper in love with the house and yard. Arthur had given him a walking tour around the estate without a second thought. It was as if Harry's presence was just another appointment planned out in his day.
"You have such an amazing house." Harry confessed as he looked around the room. It was sparkly decorated, but what little was there was impeccable condition. "It almost feels like I'm being drawn into it."
Arthur sat down heavily in the chair across from him with his own cup of tea. He took looked around the room with a reminiscence smile. "I understand completely what you mean. This area has a sort of energy to it. It was many years ago when I came across her in a similar way to how you came here." A soft chuckle escaped his lips. "Though, back in my day, we were still using buggies to get around." Arthur's eyes lost their focus for a moment as he stared out of large window facing the backyard. "We were just driving to town….we got lost. The trees weren't as large back then, but even then, you could easily miss the house if you weren't looking for it." Arthur's shoulders shook a bit as his consciousness came back to the here and now. He smiled at Harry.
They sat there and drank their tea in silence for a moment. In any other situation, Harry would have felt incredibly uncomfortable. He had never done well with grandparent type figures. He concluded it was due to the fact that he never had any. But it they were anything like the man sitting before him, Harry couldn't help but feel like he wouldn't have minded having one.
"Tell me," Arthur put his mug back down on the table as Harry started to ask him a question. "The room with all the windows, what was it used for?"
A sad smile came across Arthur's lips. "That was Mindy's, my wife," He explained. "study. She was a teacher, but she really liked to paint." His smile took a warmer feel. "It was her favourite room as well."
"She sounds wonderful." Harry answered sincerely. "Is she away today?"
Arthur turned his mug in his hands. "Sadly, she passed five years ago."
Harry fell silent at Arthur's response. Suddenly he felt like a complete card. "I'm sorr-"
Arthur immediately waved his hand at Harry's apology. "She lived a long and happy life. I will not allow others to be mopey for her. Now it's your turn." He stared at Harry with a pair of eyes that were filled wisdom. "What were you doing looking for this house?"
"Well, I wasn't looking for this house in particular." Harry corrected him. Arthur seemed to pay no attention as Harry continued on. "My wife and I are expecting another child. We've been looking for someplace to call home."
After that, Arthur became quite quiet. Evidently, there wasn't much more else to talk about. Finishing his cup of tea, Harry thanked Arthur for his hospitality and drove back home. Thinking that was it, he tucked away the day in his 'fond memories' corner of his brain. He didn't even bother to tell Hermione about his little adventure. There was nothing to talk about for it.
That was, until a month later when an unexpected person came knocking on the door to their two bedroom flat. It was a rare day when both Harry and Hermione were home. Since Harry could work mostly from home, he was the one who took care of Avery most of the time until Hermione went on maternity leave. But that particular day she had taken a sick day. She had come home the night before quite upset. Apparently one of her hero's in the world of magical research had died the previous day. Hermione had always looked up to him. So, add that to out of control hormones and a weak stomach, Hermione had spent much of her day off sleeping in a nest next to the loo.
Holding Avery in his arms, Harry opened the door and met the stoic stare of the man standing on his doorstep. Harry immediately recognized the three yellow diagonal bars on the crest sewn to the man's cloak as the badge of the Proprietor; the magical equivalent to an estate lawyer.
More than mildly confused, Harry couldn't help the question on his address. "Hello? Can I help you?"
The man took off his hat and gestured into the house. "May I come in? It would be easier to discuss our business inside."
Nodding, Harry moved away and allowed the man past the charms set on the threshold. Shutting the door behind him, Harry followed the man into the living room. "Please," Harry gestured to the couch. "Have a seat." Placing Avery down, Harry crouched so that he was eye level with his child. "Why don't you go and see how Mummy's feeling, okay Birdie?"
"Cheep cheep!" Avery enthusiastically answered. She had gotten it in her head lately that it would be fun to be a bird. She flapped her wings as she walked out of the room.
Sitting down across from the Proprietor, Harry opened his mouth before realizing he didn't know what to say. The man in grey paid no attention to it. "My name is Joe Harris. I handle the Mulligan estate." He put his briefcase down on the table and gave it a tap with his wand, unlocking the case. He started to pull papers out. "You've caused quite a riot amongst the living relatives of Mister Mulligan. I'll need you to sign here."
Harry continued to stare at the man. Not only did he have no idea why he was there, he also couldn't quite remember who these Mulligans were. "I'm sorry, but I think you must have the wrong house." Harry answered, not even bothering to look down at the papers.
The Proprietor didn't even bother to look up from his notes. "There is no mistake." He answered definitively. "You are the Mister Potter stated in the will of Arthur Mulligan."
A crash brought both of their attentions to the now broken tea mug on the floor. Hermione was staring at them wide-eyed. "Did you say Arthur Mulligan?"
Harry watched confused as his wife and the Proprietor exchanged a knowing look. "I'm sorry…." Harry brought the attention back to himself. "But can someone please tell me what is going on?"
Hermione cleaned up the broken shards of ceramic with a flick of her wand and then made her way over to the couch. "Arthur Mulligan was the first head of the Department of Research. He's the man who just died that I was so upset about. I had no idea that you knew him."
Harry looked back down at the papers on the table. "I didn't…not really. I found his house one day and he gave me a tour. We had tea, but that was about it."
"Which comes to why I am here…." Harris interjected. He pushed the paper towards Harry again. "Mister Milligan has left you his house and the land associated with Bishop's Lane. I need you to sign these papers and then you will have to go with a court appointed spell-smith to dispel any lingering protection charms and then the house is yours."
Harry stared at the page. "I didn't tell Arthur to do this!" He insisted. "I didn't mean to cause any rift in the family."
Harris gave what could only be called a smile, but it was little more than a miniscule peak on the edge of his lips. "Mister Mulligan has also left you a note. I'm sure it will release you of any guilt you may be experiencing. Now," He placed a quill on top of the first page needing a signature. "I still have to attend to the rest of the family today and explain to them why each and every one of them did not get the house."
Harry looked over at Hermione, lost he didn't know what he should do. Somehow it felt wrong to accept such a large estate from someone he had barely met. Sighing at Harry's clear reluctance, Harris leaned in. "If, for any reason the estate does not please you after you have signed for it, I may be summoned and a transfer of ownership may be invoked. So, if you would please…"
Nodding, Harry picked up the quill and signed the five sheets he needed to. He handed back the lot to Harris who deftly collected all the pages and had them locked back in his briefcase instantly. "So that's it?" Harry asked, still not quite believing what was going on.
"Nearly." Harris answered. Reaching into his coat he pulled out a single envelope and handed it over to Harry. "Now that's it."
Harry looked down at the neat, small black lettering addressing the letter to him. "Thank you." He extended his hand to Harris.
Accepting his hand, Harris gave him a nod. "I'll leave you to the letter. I'll let myself out."
"Nonsense!" Hermione insisted, standing up. "Please let me walk you out."
Harry smiled up at her graciously. She was giving him a moment to read the letter. He appreciated that.
Waiting until both the Proprietor and Hermione had left the room, Harry slowly and carefully broke the wax that sealed the envelope. He pulled out the single page with the same neat writing and started to read it carefully.
I'm sure that finding out who I am and then just as quickly hearing of my demise will be quite the overwhelming. As will the news that I have left you something in my Will. If this comes as quite a shock to you, I feel as if I must apologize. It's not every day a complete stranger leaves you a house. But the minute you made it past the spells I had weaved through the house and yard, I knew that you were the only one who could inherit my home.
I feel I need to explain. You are the first person who has ever found my house without a direct invitation. I hadn't been lying to you when you were down. I found the house similarly so many years ago, also under spell by the occupant of the time. I've been putting off deciding who to leave it to after I died; something that was already occurring by the time you met me so there is no need to feel sad. Having you show up that day seemed like fate.
So, Harry, please, I implore you, take care of my home. Look after it in a way that only a loving family can. I've known for a long time that there was no one left amongst my living relatives who could. The way your eyes fell upon it made me certain that you were the one. Take especially good care over Mindy's study, but don't treat it as a memorial ground. She would have wanted life and laughter to fill its walls.
Until life's next great journey crosses our paths,
Arthur D. Mulligan
Harry folded up the letter carefully and slid it back into its envelop. He could not wrap his mind around how he had created such an impression on a man he had hardly known for an hour. And yet, the words on that letter spoke directly to his heart. Harry knew that Arthur had only spoken the truth.
Looking up, Harry smiled at his wife as Hermione and Avery came back into the room. "Would you like to go for a drive?"
Coming out of Memory Lane and back into reality, Harry parted the Weeping Willow branches and walked into the cool darkness that had always been a secret place of his and Avery's. Once his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Harry didn't know what he felt, but it wasn't surprise to see his aforementioned daughter sitting in her regular spot in between the roots of the tree, dressed in her pajamas, clutching her knees to her chest. Moving silently, Harry sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulder. Avery leaned against him. They sat there in the early morning calm.
"Everything's going to be different now, isn't it?" Avery asked softly, her head resting against Harry's chest.
"A little bit…" Harry agreed as he gave her shoulders a comforting squeeze. "Not the most important things though."
Avery turned her head to look up at him. "Like what?"
Harry smiled down at his eldest daughter. It never ceased to amaze him that twenty six odd years ago he had been blessed with the gift that was Avery. Every day he couldn't help but be grateful for the way his life turned out. He had a large, loving family, despite it being much larger than he had ever anticipated. He had a job that he loved, a house that was also a home, and a wife who still managed to amaze him.
"Like just how much I love you." He answered sweetly as he wrapped his other arm around Avery and pulled her into a hug. "No matter what, that will never change."
"No matter what?" Avery asked, she couldn't contain her smirk as she looked up at him. "What if I killed someone?"
"I expect to be the first person you call if you kill someone! After all," He reasoned. "Who else would you ask to help hide the body?"
There was a two second pause before they both exchanged a mischievous smile and answered, "Page." without another moment's delay. This type of synchronous answer was all that was needed to send the pair of them into a fit of giggles.
"It is true…." Harry replied between the peals of his laughter. "Page would be better at hiding a body. BUT," He made Avery look up at him. "I still expect you tell me, promise?"
Avery grinned up at him. "Promise promise."
Harry squeezed her close again. "That's my Birdie."
"Forever?" Avery asked softly, doubt flickered though her voice.
"Forever and ever." Harry answered softly.
Avery was always her most insecure when she thought that his feelings for her would change. The first time she had thought about leaving for Hogwarts she had thought he would no longer love her the same way. When she moved out of the Potter house, the first time she got her book published, once she started dating Devon. All these times, Avery had come to him with fear in her eyes. Harry never told Hermione about Avery's insecurity over the issue. If there any fuel that could have added to Hermione's belief that he coddled her, this would have been it.
Harry let the silence take them for a moment as he enjoyed one last secret moment with his daughter before he asked, "So, why are you hiding out here?"
Sighing, Avery put her head down on her knees. "I'm just nervous I suppose." She answered. "If I stayed in the room any longer, Mum would have had me freaking out along with her."
Harry smiled at the mental picture. It seemed ironic that the woman who had told him to accept that Avery was getting married was now in fact the one stressed out. Standing up, Harry held a hand out for Avery. "Come one." He jerked his head back towards the house. "I have a feeling that if you're not there and in your dress within five minutes your mother is going to curse more than one of the caterers."
Smiling, Avery took his hand. "I suppose Devon's parents wouldn't appreciate losing their deposit if that happens."
Wrapping an arm around her, they made their way back to the house on the well-used path.
Harry pushed open the door to Alice's room to the very frustrated eyes of his wife. Avery tried to sneak past her but Hermione wasn't going to let her go that easily.
Holding up a hand to Harry's explanation, Hermione directed her attention to the bride-to-be. "Page is not here yet. You get dressed and I'm going to look for her. Alice!" Their youngest daughter snapped to attention and looked up eagerly for her orders. "You make sure that Avery stays here and gets dressed, understood?"
Alice gave her a mock-salute. "Yes Ma'am!" She answered happily before attaching herself to Avery's leg. "You're stuck with me!"
Avery laughed as she pulled on one of Alice's curls. "No one I'd prefer Princesses. Though, you'll have to let go of my leg so I can get dressed."
"You!" Hermione directed at Harry. "You come with me." She curled her finger in a 'come-hither' motion. Harry gave Avery a little wave before following his wife out of the room. Once the door was shut she immediately threw her arms around him and embraced him tightly. "I don't know what you did," She started. "But it worked. Avery was a mess an hour ago."
Harry wrapped his arms around Hermione and rested his head on top of her. "Probably no worse off than I was." He confided with her. "I think we're both a little afraid of the change that's going to happen.
Hermione have him a comforting squeeze. "Okay, I have to go and find the maid-of-honor. Can you go and make sure the boys are all alright?"
Harry nodded. "Will do. Good luck."
Avery was in the process applying her mascara when the bedroom door opened up. Watching in the mirror, Avery watched as Page walked in, more than a little disheveled. Seeing her sister, Page moved towards the vanity where Avery was sitting.
"Hey, have you seen Mum? I need her to help me fix my hair." She asked as if it was a common day occurrence. Now, this could have been considered ordinary for a regular bystander if it wasn't for two facts. One, that this was Page they were talking about, and two, that half of her hair was burnt off and the other half was still sizzling.
"Page! What did you do?" Avery asked stood up quickly.
Page ran a hand through her patchy hair and put out one of the little flames on the end of a strand. "Chris and I just got back from a job. Apparently the newest 'must-have' in the world of criminal fortress protection is Dragon Gatekeepers. Now, where is Mum? I need her to charm this better."
Sighing, Avery pushed Page down so that she was sitting at the vanity. "Mum's out looking for you. I'll help you with your hair. Lizzie," she directed her voice over her shoulder. "can you go and tell Mum that we found her?"
Nodding, Lizbeth left the room and Page in Avery's hands.
Avery picked up her wand off of the dresser. "Okay, first off, I will fix your hair, but you cannot move. I am very much out of practice at hair charms." She waited until Page nodded her acknowledgment before continuing. "And second, I need to ask to make sure…You do remember our talk about the wedding, right?"
Page's eyes started to wander around the room. "You may or may not have to remind me as to what exactly it was that I am or am not supposed to do today." She answered insouciantly, making it very clear to Avery that her sister had no clue what she was talking about.
"Only Devon and his parents know that we're all magical. None of his guests or relatives do however. I need you to promise me that you'll behave and not do any magic all day today. That means carrying your dishes, not hovering them, you will not pull your wand out of thin air, nor will you be allowed to perform any pranks."
Page pouted at Avery through the reflection in the mirror as Avery started to grow Page's hair back to its former glory. "Spoil-sport. I suppose that means I'll have to get Christoph to make our primary wedding gift to disappear."
Avery put her hands on her hips and stared down at her sister in a no-nonsense way. "What is it?"
Page shrugged her shoulders and made a big show of rolling her eyes around. "It may or may not have been a box set to explode sending millions of charmed confetti into the air singing 'There She Goes' in a falsetto as you walked down the aisle."
Avery let out a sign of relief. It was an embarrassing gift, but considering that this was Page and Chris that they were talking about, she should consider herself lucky that this was the worse that they were planning. Avery didn't quite connect the words 'primary gift' to Page's sudden devious smile at her relief.
"Yes, it may be best if that one happens to disappear off of the gift table." Jerking her head towards the door, Avery put her wand down, finished with her sister's hair. "Make it so, and do it fast. You still need to get dressed."
Page hurried out of the room. It wasn't until the door shut behind her that the two things clicked together, leaving Avery mildly stunned, not knowing what or when the Potter's most notorious couple would strike. Sighing again, Avery took her seat back down at the vanity. All this and it was only 9am. How she was going to make it through the day…she didn't exactly know.
Things were finally starting to go right. Page was finally dressed and deemed presentable by Hermione. William was outside playing with Ashton and Anthony while Harry was running between the two parties making sure that everything was running smoothly. Lizbeth had Ephraim tidy and awaiting his orders as the ring bearer. As mother-of-the-bride Hermione was more or less calm; which was saying a lot considering that an hour ago all the main characters of the wedding had decided to play truant.
Avery on the other hand was starting to feel her nerves approach. It wasn't until Page pulled the bouquet of black-spotted orange tiger lilies and yellow daffodils out of her hands that Avery even realized that she was starting to pick at them. She opened her mouth to thank her when the door suddenly opened. Every pair of eyes in the room was locked on Harry as he came in to the room. Not that it mattered. The only person he was looking at was Avery.
"It's time." He said softly, smiling at Avery in her beautiful dress.
Nodding, Avery stood up and checked her reflection one last time and smoothed her hair in place, making sure her bangs were not array.
She had never had the same showy attitude that Page did when it came to clothes. Page could pull off anything…and she knew it. So, when Avery had to choose a dress where she would be the center of attention had been a tedious event, one where she had actually pleaded with Hermione to help her with it.
They had spent nearly a week going from store to store, search for the perfect dress. Hermione watched as Avery grew more and more frustrated as all they saw was more of the same ball-gown type dresses that made her tiny daughter look like a cupcake topper. They both agreed that this was not her image.
What probably added to the frustration was that they hadn't even started picking everything else out yet. Since Avery had refused to charm her hair to grow from the very short feminine Mia Farrow look she'd had for years they would have spent a long time deciding on what look she should wear for the big day. Right before they were about to call it quits, Hermione convinced Avery to try one last shop.
The dress had caught Avery's eye right off the bat, though Hermione hadn't been too impressed with it to start. The dress seemed quite plain to her. It wasn't until the dress was on that she saw how perfect it really was. The fine silk fell along Avery's petite form like a sand dune, always moving and creating a flowing illusion. The dress gathered slightly at the hips before falling loose, coming slightly longer in the back then in the front, creating a small train that just dusted the floor. It had a small band that collected the folds around the hips and sent a line straight down the front and back. The top peaked daintily while the start of the straps came up quite high on her shoulders before the thin straps curled over the top of her shoulders and revealed a daring open back.
After that, everything fell into place. The shoes were bought five minutes later as they were walking back to the hotel. Avery contacted Page to borrow a pair of her large cascade earrings that she had worn for her anniversary. The earrings had a classic glam look and were made up of many glittering crystals that once attached to her ears, drew attention to her dainty face and sleek hair.
It was no surprise that she took away the breath of all those around her.
Alice watched as Avery accepted the bouquet from Page and linked arms with Harry. Leading the way, the whole room started to leave the room. Following close behind, Alice tugged on Hermione's dress.
Smiling down at her youngest, Hermione held out her hand, which Alice took. "What's up Princess?"
"Do you think Daddy will ever treat me the same way he does Avery?" She asked, completely serious, watching as Harry and Avery shared a secret smile.
Smiling, Hermione gave her daughter's hand a squeeze. "Sweetheart, I don't think your father will ever treat anyone the way he treats Avery."
Alice thought about this for a moment before asking, "Why?"
Hermione looked at the pair of them with loving eyes. "Avery has always been special to your father. To him, she was the catalyst between what could have been and the life he has now. Between being alone and angry at the world for his hardships, or happy with a family he loves more than he could ever express."
"I don't understand." Alice answered; the concept of a single life altering moment didn't make sense to her ten-year old mind.
Hermione smiled down at Alice and gave her hand another squeeze. "Don't worry about it Sweets. I don't expect you to yet. All you need to know is that your father loves you very much."
Alice shrugged her should. "Well, I knew that!" She answered matter-of-factly.
Laughing, Hermione let go of Alice's hand. "Why don't you go and grab Ephraim? You too will have to walk down the aisle first."
Crossing her arms in a huff, Alice stayed next to Hermione. "I hate Ephraim. Why do I have hold his hand?"
Hermione sighed. It didn't seem to matter how many different way she and Harry worded it to their daughter, Alice just couldn't seem to make the distinction between what she should say and what is best left silent. "Why do you hate Ephraim?" Hermione asked, only slightly exasperated.
Alice continued to glare at the younger boy walking with his mother. "It's not fair that a boy can be prettier than me." She replied with a scowl.
Hermione blinked a few times before muffling her laughter with her hand. It's true that Lizbeth's and Arden's son was quite pretty for a boy. He had inherited the Malfoy's fine bone structure and had hair that fell upon his face like a silk sheet in the wind; his auburn hair and the dusting of freckles across his nose however were a direct throwback to the Weasley clan. Regardless, it still made her laugh that Alice felt threated by the little Malfoy.
"Get up there." She ordered with a chuckle as she gave her daughter a push.
Putting on a show as only a Potter child could, Alice stomped up to where Ephraim was standing next to Lizbeth. Hermione didn't hear what she said, but she stuck her hand out with a huff and waited until the blushing youth nervously took her hand. Alice then proceeded to drag Ephraim up to where Harry and Avery were walking. It was the most adorable thing she'd ever seen her tough daughter do.
Avery stood by the door of the small tent set up at the back of their make-shift ceremony area. Peeking through the folds, Avery looked around at all the people already sitting in the chairs. Dropping the lip back down, Avery started to pace around the small confined area.
Noticing her nerves, and hearing the string band start its warm up, Harry decided that now was a good time to talk to his daughter. "As the ever loving and mildly over protective father that I am, I am inclined to ask if you're sure that this is what you want to do. Because if it isn't, I'm not above casting a sleeping spell over the muggle half of the wedding as you escape through the back."
Avery looked up and was instantly comforted by the twinkle in her father's eyes. Letting out a little laugh, Avery smoothed her dress a bit and took a calming breath. "When you say it that way…" She answered jokingly. "A girl has a hard time saying 'no'. But…" She smirked up at him. "I am getting married today."
Both of their heads jerked towards the door as they heard the band start up in full. Smiling softly at Avery, Harry held out an arm for her to take. "This is it." Nodding, Avery took one more breath before she linked arms with Harry.
Suddenly time seemed to move forwards at ten times the normal speed. Avery felt as if she was having an out of body experience as she watched Alice and Ephraim walk out of the tent. Followed by Lizbeth and finally Page who smirked at her sister before giving her hair a theatrical toss and strutting out of the tent. There were a few cat-calls made by some of Devon's more tipsy relatives, but these were all cut short by what Avery could only assume to be a scathing glare or menacing gesture from Christoph.
Looking up at Harry, Avery gave him a nervous smile. "This is it….I'm closing a chapter of my life right here and now."
Smiling at her, Harry shook her head. "No, the chapter that is 'Avery Potter' will never stop being written. This is just one more of the stages of your life."
Grinning up at her father, Avery's eyes lost their doubt. Moving forward, they waited until the pageboys in charge of opening the curtain drew them back exposing them to the light.
Talking their first steps onto the aisle and into the new stage of her life, Avery looked up at her father and said the only thing that was left needed to say, "I love you Dad."
Interested in what's next for the Potter family? Check out these one-shots that follow up with the stories untold!
A Very Potter Christmas Special - The Potters and spouces meet up at the Potter household for a Christmas celebration...but there may or may not be a few secrets at hand as well! s/7724510/1/A-Very-Potter-Christmas-Special
Because No One Said It Would Be Easy - Avery unwittingly confesses a deep dark secret that she had never planned to, to her sister's husband. It isn't long before Page also finds out and havoc ensues. s/9573242/1/Because-no-one-said-it-would-be-easy