a/n: Well here we are, the final chapter of TotP. It has been one hell of a ride and i can't even begin to form words strong enough to convey just how much your support and reviews have meant to me. This chapter ends one period in Harry's life and hints at the next. It requires a teeny bit of familiarity with my side series Dinner with the Dursley's but nothing terribly noticeable. There will be a sequel titled Songs of the Phoenix but don't expect to see it before October. Thanks again!
The Weasley Family
The invitation had arrived with all the rest of the morning's mail and if it hadn't been in a brilliant red envelope that had Ron snatching at it in horror – it did look sort of like a howler – it probably would have gone unnoticed until Daphne bothered to go through the pile over dinner. They'd discovered early on that anything sent by the twins was best left until later and anything else that came through the post was junk or one of the million magazines Daphne subscribed to.
It wasn't a howler. Ron tossed his toast carelessly down on his plate and flipped the envelope over to see if there was a return address on the back. He hadn't recognised the handwriting on the front and a quick sweep with his wand proved it was harmless.
He thought about reconsidering that assessment when he opened it and pulled the invitation out.
'Bloody hell,' he exclaimed with astonishment.
'Bloody hell!' a voice parroted from behind him and Ron whipped around with a yelp.
'Oi,' he reproached, 'don't say that! Never say that, especially not in front of your mother.'
He pushed his chair back from the table and lunged. His four-year old son – so soon to be five – darted out of reach at the last moment, leaving Ron snatching at nothing but air and the wisp of bright orange pyjamas. Giggling madly, the surprisingly quick red head ran back down the hall and toward the stairs. With a laugh of his own, Ron took off after him, one hand still clutching the invitation as though he couldn't bear to part with something so surprising.
He caught the boy as he tried to slip around the stairs and into the lounge. Scooping him into the air, he swung him around, placing noisy wet raspberries against his son's cheek.
'Dad!' Will protested with a squeal. 'Put me down!'
'Never!' Ron declared, tossing the boy over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and starting up the stairs in search of his wife.
Daphne was still in bed, propped up against the pillows, she was reading a book to their three-year old daughter who had her head pressed against Daphne's swollen belly like if she was really quiet she could here her new baby brother or sister moving around.
Ron knew from experience she was much more likely to get an elbow to the side of the head but he doubted Rose would mind, she'd probably be delighted. She was delighted by everything at the moment, Daphne was always telling him he indulged her just a little too much but he pretended not to hear her.
'You'll never guess what just arrived in the post,' Ron told her, dropping Will casually onto the bed with enough force to bounce but not so much that he bounced right off the mattress. Rose liked the idea so much she got to her feet and started jumping.
'You checked the post?' Daphne replied with such surprise Ron probably should have been offended.
'I do occasionally, you know.' At the look she gave him he conceded that maybe the only time he checked the mail was on his birthday but that was entirely beside the point. 'Its an invitation,' he told her, holding it out to her through the jumping bodies of their kids. 'To Harry's wedding.'
'You're kidding?' She took the card he handed to her, struggling a little to push her heavy body further up the pillows. 'Never thought that would happen.'
'I know, Steph is going to be so smug, she had it pegged for December.'
'This says April,' Daphne read, confused.
'Yeah,' Ron agreed, 'But no one else had it down for at least another two years.'
Daphne laughed, placing the invitation in the book she'd been reading to Rose to mark her place and dropped it onto the nightstand.
'Come on, you two,' Ron snatched a kid with each arm and drew them to his sides. 'Breakfast, or I'm going to be late for work.'
'Are you going to catch a bad wizard today, daddy?' Rose questioned, arms wrapped around his neck.
'Merlin, I hope so,' he muttered, 'I'm sick of paperwork.'
Miss Hermione Granger
Hermione was a morning person, Peter, she was coming to discover, was most definitely not. He stumbled into her small kitchen, hair all tangled and looking in desperate need of a shave. His eyes weren't even properly open and he stumbled toward the bench top hand stretching out as though it could find the coffee pot of its own accord. She was beginning to think it could.
'Morning,' she greeted cheerfully, not even trying to hide her amusement.
He grunted in response and she took that to mean he was returning her greeting and unamused by her cheerfulness. He didn't have any pants on and his shirt was buttoned wrong, it didn't make it any easier for her not to laugh. She loved seeing him like this, loved the opportunity to watch him come awake in the morning and squint at her through bleary eyes as though he wanted to talk to her but really, it was simply too early and couldn't she have waited until noon?
She loved that she knew how many sips of coffee he needed in the morning before he could open his eyes and properly see her. She loved that he was still a bit awkward around her flat, that he'd sometimes forget where the mugs were or go to grab a dishtowel that wasn't there.
She loved that when she'd finally told him what it was that she really did, he'd asked her a million and one questions about her job and how it was that he could help her improve relations between muggles and the wizarding world. He'd offered to let her use his classroom as a test to see if they could integrate the young kids before they went off to Hogwarts (he'd gotten the name wrong and it had made her laugh).
She loved that he could take an owl swooping in the open window at six thirty in stride. Although, she did often wonder if he wasn't simply half asleep and didn't notice the feathery form dropping letters in the middle of the table right in front of him. She loved him and she thought that perhaps she should start actually telling him that. And that perhaps it was time she introduced him to her friends and not just her muggle family.
'My friend Harry is finally getting married,' she told him, waving the newly arrived invitation around. 'Want to be my plus one?'
The smile he gave her lit up the whole room and made her insides flutter. It would take her hours to lose the silly smile and it would creep back when she let her thoughts drift throughout the day. It would have made it even harder for her to stop smiling if she'd known that in his classroom at the primary school in her tiny village, Mr Winton was being teased mercilessly by all of the girls in his grade six class for smiling goofily.
The Weasley Family (again)
Once upon a time, the sound of something exploding would have had Emmy tearing out of bed, wand in hand and eyes searching for the source of attack. These days she pulled the pillow over her head and snuggled deeper into the covers. If she pretended she didn't hear it then she wouldn't have to go and investigate and her boys could clean up whatever they'd done. It was a lot easier to pretend she didn't know they were making a mess than have to go upstairs to the attic and yell about it.
She heard hurried footsteps scurrying down the stairs and a moment later the bedroom door opened. Emmy stilled, the footsteps had been too light to be her husband and if Percy was coming to interrupt her sleep then there was a good chance it was because whatever had exploded had caused some actual physical harm to Fred.
With a sigh, she tossed the pillow aside and threw back the covers. Her son had that look on his face that said whatever had happened had been awesome – pity that Dad had gotten hurt. Both of his eyebrows were missing and he was carrying with him a smell that Emmy didn't even want to name.
She narrowed her eyes at him and waited for him to stop squirming with excitement. 'Tell me,' she began, 'do I have time for breakfast?'
'Probably not,' he advised, sounding much older than his seven years and giving Emmy a hint of what she had to look forward to when he grew up.
As she had done back at Hogwarts during the war, Emmy always kept a pair of boots and a jacket beside her bed and her wand within reach. These days it was usually because they needed a quick trip to the Malfoy Institute and not a fight with Death Eaters.
'What happened this time?' she asked, buttoning her jacket and guiding him out the bedroom door.
'We got a bit surprised and dad dropped a bit more rat tail in than he was supposed to.'
They took the stairs two at a time, Percy almost running to keep up with her longer strides. 'A surprise?' she repeated dubiously. 'What kind of a surprise?'
'An invitation to Uncle Harry and Aunt Ally's wedding.'
'Oh.' Emmy supposed she could forgive Fred this time, that was a very surprising thing to happen.
The Black Family
Any meal in the Black household was an elaborate and noisy affair. More than one had involved flying food and more often than not it involved a quick wash afterward. Sirius, to his utter consternation, had been gifted with girls. This was a frightening concept for many reasons, least of which was the fact that he still very clearly remembered what boys were like as teenagers.
This had led to many threats of never letting the girls attend Hogwarts and the occasional suggestion they be locked in a tower.
Ruby found the whole thing hilarious. Sirius, she knew, had nothing to worry about from their girls. He should probably, in fact, warn any boys that could potentially stray into their attentions. Between the two of them, they'd managed to instil in their two daughters a very healthy sense of adventure, humour and the ability to be forthright, sarcastic and – worryingly – a good healthy desire to take care of themselves. This had been known to leave bruises on Teddy if he wasn't careful. Or just happened to be the only one around to annoy.
This particular morning they were on holiday, well they were supposed to be leaving for a holiday but there'd been arguments, pranks and a case of invisibility that had pushed their timetable back a smidge and so tempers were a bit short as they ate breakfast. Apparently, even at the age of seven and eight, girls could be snarky and, as Sirius was beginning to learn, difficult to control when they really didn't want to be moved on a subject.
The post owl was a welcome distraction from the frosty barbs he knew his daughters were exchanging. The invitation in the scarlet envelope put them all in a much more cheerful mood. Sirius even consented to letting the two bring along their cat Puddles as long as they promised not to turn him invisible again.
A Weasley or two
Ginny was sitting at their small kitchen table when George stumbled through the door of the little flat they shared above the joke shop. She sipped calmly from her mug of tea and hid her smirk behind a copy of the morning's Daily Prophet. It wasn't the first time she'd been witness to George doing the walk of shame and she seriously doubted it would be the last.
She watched without comment as he tried to sneak down the hall as quietly as possibly but failed when he lost his hold on one of his boots and it dropped to the floor with a heavy thud. Ginny laughed aloud when he winced at the sound and George jumped, spinning around to face her.
'I gave Steph your bed when you didn't come home,' she informed him lightly.
George nodded, eyes drooping and a yawn forcing his mouth open when he tried to reply to his sister. She waved him on, not really caring to hear whatever excuse he was going to feed her. She was definitely old enough to know what he had spent the night doing that had him so tired.
Heedless of the fact that his bed was currently occupied, George continued on his path down the hall and slipped into his darkened room. Ginny listened through the early morning quiet as her brother moved about his room. She could picture him hopping about as he tried to untangle his legs from his jeans and bumping into something as he tried to take his t-shirt off. She gave it a moment where she imagined he was plopping down face first on his bed.
She counted to three under her breath but only made it to two before she heard her brother grunt in pain. Experience told her he'd just received an elbow to his ribs. She waited a few more minutes to see if he was going to come slinking back out again and try his luck with her bed instead but there was no more movement. Apparently he'd caught Stephanie on a good day and she'd decided not to kick him out of bed.
Ginny placed her mug back on the table and picked up the invitation she'd been reading earlier. Harry was finally getting married.
'Its about damn time,' she murmured, carefully placing the invitation back onto the table where she knew George would see it when he finally crawled out of bed in a few hours to tend to his shop.
She supposed she had better find a date. Maybe she'd finally take Abby up on that offer to set her up with her brother-in-law. Maybe.
The Malfoy Household
With his chin resting on his fist, Draco stared into the eyes of his young daughter. Across the breakfast table she copied his pose, eyes narrowing as she determined to beat him. A minute went by. Draco felt his eye begin to twitch. Across the table his daughter tried desperately to keep a straight face. The corners of her mouth were twitching. Draco felt his own start to move in response. His eyes began to water and he narrowed them to try and hold out just that bit longer.
She poked her tongue out at him. He broke first, a laugh escaping him before he could swallow it back.
'I win!' she crowed delightedly. 'Daddy, you kind of suck.'
'Yes, thank you for that reminder, Artemis, it is exactly what I like to be told over breakfast.'
'Teddy says I should tell it like it is,' she informed him sagely.
'Teddy doesn't know everything.'
'Really?' Artemis clarified. 'He thinks he does.'
'Teddy thinks it's a smart idea to tease Cassiopeia and Lyra,' Draco reminded her.
She nodded thoughtfully, picking up the spoon she'd abandoned earlier in her (successful) attempt to beat her father at a staring contest. She chewed on a mouthful of porridge, nose crinkled just as her mother's did when she was thinking deeply about something.
'Okay,' she agreed finally, 'Next time I'll ask you before I believe Teddy.'
'Good, now do you want to go and tell your mother?'
'Not really,' she told him, looking up with a grin. 'I just wanted to see if I could beat you.'
Draco resisted the urge to bang his head against the table and instead scooped up the invitation that had arrived in the post. Looked like he was going to be the one to tell Astoria after all. He might also have to have a word to her about how their five year old was going on thirteen. He hadn't had nearly enough time to prepare for that.
The Potter Family
All four members of the Potter family were still asleep. It was one of those lazy days where they didn't need to be anyway early and they'd managed to wear the kids out enough that they might even get a proper sleep in.
All four members of the Potter family were dreaming. It was dark, the stars in the sky obscured by thick clouds that threatened to burst and pour heavy rain down on them. Lightening streaked across the sky and thunder rumbled an instant later. They didn't recognise where they were but the storm was close and they knew they would need to leave and find shelter.
It wasn't safe here. Not anymore, there was a darkness coming, something that swept across the land, filling the horizon with nothing more tangible than a sense of foreboding. The darkness sucked at them, but couldn't seem to touch them. Flames licked around them, sending long tendrils of blonde hair twisting like live snakes. Black hair stood in disarray more pronounced than ever before.
They formed a beacon of life and safety that the approaching darkness was swooping quickly toward. They turned and ran, feet sluggish as they thumped the muddy ground. They were heavy as they tried to pull them out. They looked back over their shoulders. The darkness was right behind them now. A figure began to emerge from the darkness, a hand outstretched, reaching to grasp their shoulders held just out of reach.
They tripped, foot failing to lift free of the mud. The hand finally landed on their shoulder. They whipped around, hands reaching for a wand that wasn't there.
A face emerged from the darkness, twin balls of flame hanging where there should have been eyes.
Harry and Ally shot up in bed, breathing heavy, brows covered in sweat. They had a heartbeat to slow their breathing before the girls awoke with twin screams. Harry and Ally tore out of bed, wrenching open the door only to meet their girls in the hallway. James was white as a ghost, her hands shaking while Alex was crying, her whole body shaking with her sobs.
Harry could do nothing more than sweep up James as Ally reached soothing hands out to Alex. With James cradled in his arms, he locked eyes with Ally over the top of their daughters' heads.
Something was coming. Something much worse than anything they'd faced before.