~*~ 20 years later ~*~
The light streamed in through the bedroom window and Harry stretched his limbs out as he began to emerge from a very deep sleep. He was dimly aware that sunlight meant that the weather was likely to smile on them, and that, even to his sleep-addled mind, was a very important detail for the day ahead.
He smiled into his pillow and slowly opened his eyes, unsurprised to find his husband already awake, sitting propped up against the headboard, perusing the morning paper.
"Morning," he said with a sleepy smile and Severus glanced down at him over the top of his reading glasses.
"For a man who's approaching 40, you still sleep like a teenager," his husband told him with a smirk.
Harry grinned and said, "Big day ahead Sev, got to get all my beauty sleep."
He hauled himself up, adding in one last stretch for good measure, then sidled up next to Severus, tucking himself into the man's side as one long arm came to rest around shoulders. The paper was put to one side and the glasses were put on the beside table as Severus shifted down a little in the bed and held him close.
"By the noises coming from downstairs, I'd say the boys are awake," said Severus, amusement evident in his voice.
"Oh no, do you think they're trying to make us breakfast like they did last year?"
"I'd put money on it. We'll have to do our best to eat around the eggshells."
Harry gave a soft laugh as he rested against Severus' chest. "At 17 and 15, you'd have hoped one of them might have picked up a couple of culinary skills along the way. We've gone very wrong somewhere with our parenting."
"How long do you reckon we have before one of them sets fire to the kitchen?" Severus asked, drawing lazy patterns on Harry's shoulder with his fingers.
Harry was about to answer when an ominous crash came from somewhere in the house and Harry groaned into Severus' chest. "I'll bet you any money that's Caleb," he murmured. "He makes Neville look graceful."
"Don't you go comparing my first-born son to Neville Bloody Longbottom," Severus said with a growl, one that Harry knew wasn't meant in the slightest. Neville, along with so many others, was a welcome guest in their house.
"We'd better go and see what our kitchen looks like."
Severus nodded and began to extract himself from Harry but was stopped in his tracks as Harry grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back down on top of himself, wrapping his arms around the man and pulling him into a kiss.
"Happy Anniversary love," he whispered, smiling against Severus' mouth.
Severus gripped him tightly and kissed him once again, slipping a hand up to slide into Harry's messy hair. Harry wound his arms around Severus' neck and pushed his chest up against the beautifully familiar weight pressing down on him.
"Don't you start that," Harry said, his voice low and teasing. "We have a kitchen to save. The anniversary celebrations will have to wait until later."
"I'm holding you to that."
"When have I ever not kept my promises? Besides," he added with a sly grin, "you know full well that this isn't the way we celebrate our anniversary."
Severus returned the grin, and leant forward to press gentle kisses along Harry's jaw. "Indeed," he said, his voice a low purr. "I would hate to break with tradition."
"If you keep doing that we will be," Harry replied, nevertheless arching upwards to allow Severus to tease the patch underneath his ear that always betrayed him.
Severus chuckled. "No self-control, even at your age."
"All these sly digs about my age, I'm only 38 you rotten sod," Harry said with a laugh. "You've got 20 years on me, let me remind you."
"Still have trouble keeping up with me though, don't you?"
"I do my best," Harry said with a laugh. "Come on, let's go and see what havoc your children are causing."
Severus removed himself from his husband and hauled himself off the bed, reaching for his dressing gown and throwing it on. "Why are they always my children when they're causing trouble?"
Harry scrambled out of his side of the bed and fished around in the pile of clothes on the armchair next to the bed for something suitable to throw on, having never given in to wearing anything besides his boxers to go to bed. "Because if they only took after me, they'd be cherubic angels."
Severus snorted, stuffing his feet into a pair of slippers the boys had bought for him the previous Christmas. He hated them, but, as with so many other things his sons had bought him, he had said nothing apart from expressing his love for them, and had stoically worn them ever since.
When the two men were suitably attired, they walked hand in hand out of the bedroom, leisurely making their way downstairs. Harry took advantage of the lazy pace to muse, as he so often did, on quite how much he loved his home.
It had finally been completed a couple of weeks after he had turned 20, and he considered it the finest birthday present he had ever received. All the things that had once existed only in his mind now had become the most beautiful reality. It had taken hard work, determination, several arguments over whose tastes were better when it came to furnishings, and a lot of help from willing friends, but it had all been worth it in the end.
Harry's favourite room was still the study; with all the memories it contained it would be impossible for it not to be. It had long been given over to its proper purpose, and Severus spent more time in there than anyone with his academic pursuits and writing articles for all the potions journals that he contributed to on a monthly basis.
His second favourite place was the kitchen, the hub of all family activities and where he, Severus, Ron and Draco had drunk each other's health well into the early hours of the morning, on several occasions throughout the years, positioned around the breakfast bar and doing their best to stay seated in the tall stools. It was also, at the present moment, the scene of what could only be described as a disaster.
Severus cast a silencing and disillusionment charm on them both and they moved to the doorway, stopping and leaning against the doorframe as they watched, with great amusement, as their sons attempted to make breakfast.
"Ben! For Merlin's sake, we only have a few eggs left, could you stop breaking them?!" said Caleb, wrenching the carton from his brother's hands.
"I didn't mean to, they're all slippery, what have you done to them?"
"Nothing…my hands were just a bit eggy when I picked them up."
"Look, let me handle the eggs, you keep an eye on the bacon."
Caleb moved over to the huge range cooker and peered into the frying pan. "Um…I think the bacon might be a lost cause."
"Oh honestly!" Benji said, his expression looking eerily like Severus' own when the man was irritated, despite the fact that the boy was nearly a carbon copy of Harry. "What about pancakes? We could make pancakes right?"
Caleb pulled a face. "Dad doesn't like pancakes for breakfast, says he can't bear to start the day with anything that sweet."
"Oh but he can end the day with enough chocolate to sink a U-boat can he?" replied Benji, rolling his eyes.
Harry grinned at Severus, who in turn growled, "Little git. I don't eat that much chocolate."
"I beg to differ, love," Harry snorted.
"Pa likes pancakes," Benji continued, his hands on his hips as he looked at his brother crossly, as though the impediment was all Caleb's fault.
"Pa likes everything," Caleb countered. "You tell me one thing that Pa wouldn't eat. The only person I know who eats more than he does is Uncle Ron…and he's just unnatural."
"I'm so glad we get to stand here and be insulted by our children," said Harry to Severus, a wry smile of amusement tugging at his lips.
"They take after you," Severus told him. "I would never have been so irreverent."
Benji sighed and chucked a tea towel onto his shoulder, saying, "Let's make the coffee, we can do that can't we?"
That seemed to be the last straw for Severus, who would have suffered through crunchy eggs and burnt bacon, but would, under no circumstances allow his morning coffee to be bastardised. He reversed the charm over himself and Harry and strode into the kitchen, saying,
"I think your father and I can take it from here."
"Oh Dad!" Caleb moaned. "We were going to bring you both breakfast in bed."
"A lovely thought sweetheart, but we would like to eat sometime this year," Harry said with a grin, following behind his husband. "Morning," he said, dropping a kiss to his eldest son's head, then turning around and doing the same to Benji. He was gratified that he still had an inch or two of height over both his children, but the way Caleb was going, it wouldn't be long before that advantage was taken from him.
"What did we hear break?" Severus asked and both boys looked at each other then did their best to feign innocence, something that Benji was far better at than his brother.
"Caleb?" Harry asked, knowing how guileless his oldest son was.
"It um…it was the vase," Caleb said, nodding his head towards the kitchen windowsill where a huge glass vase containing lilies normally sat.
"Ah," Harry said, looking across at his husband, who seemed very much as though he were suppressing a smile.
"Sorry Pa," Caleb said, his pale cheeks flushing. It always amazed Harry how much the boy could look like Severus and yet have none of his artifice or subtlety. He was an open book, and had been ever since he was a child. Benji, on the other hand, was far more capable of subterfuge.
"Never mind," said Harry with a smile. "It won't be the first beloved object you've broken, nor I daresay will it be the last."
"Sit yourselves down," Severus instructed, waving his hand and vanishing the entire mess from the kitchen.
"Can we all agree that it's the thought that counts?" asked Caleb with a grin, as he and his brother took their seats at the breakfast bar.
"It's going to have to be, isn't it?" Severus replied with a quirk of his eyebrow. "Dobby!" he called, and within seconds the house-elf appeared at his elbow.
"Good morning Master Severus sir!" he said brightly. "Good morning Master Harry!"
"Hello Dobs," said Harry, idly wondering if the elf could fit another hat on his head. He must be boiling; it was August and the weather was a good deal more than temperate.
"Might we have some breakfast Dobby?" Severus asked.
"Masters Caleb and Benjamin instructed Dobby not to make breakfast this morning," Dobby replied, casting a glance over at the boys.
"Yes, well…plans change," said Severus with a smirk.
He seated himself at the breakfast bar next to Harry as Dobby happily set about making them a breakfast that promised to be a good deal more than simply edible. When the elf had learnt the estate was to become Harry's permanent home, he had insisted upon accompanying him there to serve him. Harry had resisted very hard at first, but once he had realised how unhappy he was making the poor creature he had finally relented. Dobby was paid a very decent wage for his service, and was treated as a member of the family rather than an employee.
Harry glanced up at the clock on the wall, a present from Ron and Draco many years ago, and saw that it was half nine. Plenty of time, he thought contentedly. The party wasn't due to start until mid-afternoon and Dobby, along with a contingent of house-elves on loan from Hogwarts, were responsible for organising everything. All Harry had to do was sit back and enjoy some time with his family until his extended family descended on them.
"Ben's got some news," said Caleb, giving his brother a nudge with his shoulder.
"Oh?" said Severus, shooting Dobby a grateful look as he presented them with a full cafetiere of coffee, mugs, sugar and a jug of milk.
Benji waved a letter at his fathers, which Harry managed to see had the Hogwarts emblem emblazoned on it. "They've made me a prefect," he said with a modest smile.
"Oh well done sweetheart!" said Harry enthusiastically. "Let's see your badge," he said, and Benji handed him the blue and silver badge of a Ravenclaw prefect.
"Fantastic news, Ben," said Severus with a smile. "We're really proud of you."
Benji blushed slightly and looked across to his brother, saying softly, "Do you mind?"
Caleb stopped pressing the plunger down in the cafetiere and looked at Benji in puzzlement. "Why would I mind?" he asked.
"Well," said Benji quietly, "you know."
They all knew of course, but it wasn't a subject that was spoken of very often. Caleb had missed out on his chance to be a prefect, and indeed, Harry was certain, the chance also to be Head Boy, when a fight had ensured that he wouldn't be able to hold either title. Caleb was one of the most affable, easy-going people Harry had ever encountered and he had very little temper to speak of. However, when it came to his younger brother, all bets were off.
Caleb had a deeply protective streak, a heartfelt sense of loyalty and honour that had seen him placed in Hufflepuff, and nowhere were these feelings more keenly directed than towards Benji. The two could fight like cats and dogs when they had a mind to, and some of the arguments they had had over the years had resulted in some truly disastrous magical slips when emotions had been running high, but beneath the usual interplays that existed between siblings was an abiding sense of love and fealty.
When Caleb had been in his 4th year at Hogwarts and Benji had been in his 2nd, something had happened that saw Caleb beat the living crap out of three of his schoolmates. Neither Caleb nor Benji had ever disclosed the full facts of the incident to their parents, but it had been serious, and Caleb had been threatened with expulsion. It had only been thanks to the fact that nothing like it had ever happened before and everyone knew Caleb's balanced and gentle nature that he hadn't been.
"Of course I don't mind, Ben," Caleb said sincerely. "I'm pleased for you, you've earnt it."
"Thanks," Ben said, smiling at his brother.
Caleb finished plunging the coffee and served them all, passing the milk to Harry before he proceeded to heap a couple of healthy spoonfulls of sugar into his own.
Severus shuddered and said, "I thought you were going to stop putting sugar in your coffee."
Caleb grinned. "I will," he said, "next year…maybe."
Benji cleared his throat and looked up at his fathers through his long, dark lashes. "I'm not the only one with news," he said softly, and Caleb looked at him, obviously trying to decide whether to be annoyed or pleased.
"Oh?" said Harry, looking at his son. "Well come on love, Ben's landed you in it, might as well 'fess up."
Caleb rolled his eyes good-naturedly and fished out his own letter from his pocket. He looked up at Harry, then across at Severus, who was waiting with equal interest. The boy cleared his throat and pushed a lock of jet-black hair behind his ear, looking back down at the letter in his hands. "I…I've been accepted into the Alchemy Research Programme at the European Institute of Research…pending my N.E.W.T results next year of course."
"Oh Caleb that's wonderful news," said Severus, and Harry's heart swelled to see the proud smile on his husband's face as he looked at their son.
"I knew you'd get in sweetheart," said Harry, beaming as a deeply endearing blush spread across Caleb's face. The boy didn't take praise well and he was in for an afternoon of his relatives exclaiming how proud they were of him for his spectacular achievement.
Severus reached across and took the letter from Caleb's hands, scanning over it and looking up at his son with a slight frown. "Is there any reason why this letter addresses you as Caleb Evans?" Severus asked softly, and Caleb's blush intensified.
"Sweetheart?" Harry pressed gently and Benji gave his brother a swift nudge to the ribs, silently telling him to be honest with their parents.
Caleb sighed and leant his elbows on the breakfast bar, flexing his long fingers and drumming them slightly on the work surface. "I wanted to make sure that if I was offered the place on the programme…that it would be because of my credentials…not because my surname was Potter-Snape." He looked up at both his parents, his expression earnest.
"Please don't think I'm not proud to be your son, or that I don't love you both. I just…I just wanted to be certain that I was good enough."
Harry looked across at his husband, smiles tugging at both their mouths. "Would it be awfully sappy to tell them that there are days I can't believe my luck that they're both our sons?" Harry asked through their mind link.
"If you would like them both to drop dead of embarrassment then by all means do so," Severus replied wryly.
"I can't help it," Harry replied, suppressing his grin, "I'm so intensely proud of them both."
"Dad! Pa! Would you two please stop doing that? It's so annoying," said Caleb, breaking into their mental conversation. "Are you cross with me?" he asked worriedly.
Harry turned back to look at his son and reached across the bar to wrap his hand around Caleb's. "No love, of course we're not. If anyone understands what it's like to be judged by a surname, it's me and your father. We don't care what name you chose to put on the application, the important thing is that you've been accepted, on merit alone as you say. The only thing we're sorry about is that you'll be moving abroad next year! The house won't be the same without you."
"It'll be a hell of a lot quieter," said Benji with a grin. "What grades do you need?"
Caleb rested his chin on his fist and said, "An 'Outstanding' in Alchemy, Potions, Transfiguration and Arithmancy, 'Exceeds Expectations' in everything else. I've also got to take an extra-curricular course in Metallurgy that I have to pass with at least 70%."
"Remind me again why you weren't sorted into Ravenclaw?" Benji asked with a quirk of his eyebrow. That boy took after Severus far too much Harry thought fondly.
Caleb snorted. "I'm in for a hell of a year."
"You'll have to make sure you don't work yourself too hard," Severus warned. "We don't want you burning yourself out."
"I'll be fine. I'm going to ask Auntie Hermione to help with Transfiguration and Arithmancy."
"Can't think who'll you be able to ask to help you with Potions," said Benji smirking across at Severus.
"We'll work something out," Severus said, mirroring his son's expression.
Plates appeared in front of them and Dobby levitated the breakfast over. Harry's mouth watered at the sight of the mounds of bacon, sausages, eggs, mushrooms and heaps of toast. Dobby was worth his weight in gold and he relished his work keeping four hungry mouths fed.
"Right boys, let's this lot down us, we've got a big day ahead," Harry said, loading his plate up. Today was going to be a good day.
"Dobby, I'm fairly certain I said to go easy on the heart decorations."
"But it's Master Harry and Master Severus' anniversary! There must be hearts!" Dobby protested as Harry looked with faint dismay at the overly-saccharine decorations that were adorning his garden.
"I appreciate the sentiment," Harry said, fighting his grin, "but I'm not sure it's really…'us'." It's as far from 'us' as you could possibly get, Harry added mentally, cringing as he saw a party of house elves stomping off towards the marquee with pink fluffy heart-shaped cushions. "Just…could you tone it down a bit perhaps? Not quite so much…pink."
Dobby looked dismayed, but as Harry had never given him an actual command during his tenure as his own personal house elf, he was hard-pressed to refuse him anything. "Dobby will see what he can do," the elf said eventually, looking wistfully down at the heart-shaped bunting in his hands.
"Dobs! Come with me, I have an idea," called Caleb from across the lawn and Harry shot his son a grateful smile as Dobby went bounding off in his direction.
"Did I not stipulate there were to be no hearts?" came Severus' voice and Harry turned to see his husband sweeping his gaze over the gardens, looking highly unimpressed.
"Apparently Dobby didn't think we really meant it," Harry said with a wry smile.
"I'm gratified to know that he no more listens to you than he does to me."
Harry chuckled and raised his face to the warm afternoon sun. "In the grand scheme of things, I'm sure it's a concession we can make with relatively little pain."
"Speak for yourself," Severus groused.
"Well there's a face that would curdle milk!" came an all-too familiar voice and both Harry and Severus turned to see Ron, accompanied by Draco and their two children, making their way from the house across the lawn to them. "Honestly Sev, you're such a romantic," said Ron, brushing floo powder from his clothing, then wrapping Severus up in a great big bear hug, grinning widely at the man's protests.
"Must you do that, you great big oaf?" Severus said when he was released.
"Well you told me I wasn't allowed to snog you, so I have to settle for a good grope instead."
Draco snorted and hugged Harry, each sharing a look of amusement over their respective husbands, before Harry turned his attention to Teddy and Megan, wrapping an arm around them both and pulling them into a hug.
"And how are you two? All ready for the party?"
"Yes thanks Uncle Harry," said Megan. "I've made some of Gran's special biscuits."
"Your Gran let you have the recipe? Blimey, she must be going soft in her old age," said Harry with a grin. "Can't wait to try them sweetheart."
"Hello Uncle Sev!" said Teddy with a grin that was just like his father's. "You're getting more handsome by the day you old devil," he said, flinging an arm around Severus' shoulders, which was far easier than it should have been at 15-years-old, but Teddy had all of Ron's height.
Indeed, it seemed that Teddy was the Weasleyest Weasley that had ever existed. It was as though the boy was his father, all of his uncles, his aunt, his grandparents and any Weasley ancestor who had ever lived all rolled into one. He had Bill and Charlie's fearlessness, Percy's brains, the twins' lust for life, his father's deep loyalty and Ginny's tenacity.
Megan, despite being his twin, albeit fraternal, had inherited all the Malfoy genes. She was as fair and blonde as Teddy was ruddy and red-headed. She had Draco's grace and elegance and all of his gentleness. She was more academic even than Caleb, and she spent a great deal of her time with Hermione, who positively fed the young woman's need for education and information.
Given their two different personalities, it should have been Megan that Severus was closest to, but there was an undeniable bond between the former Potions Master and Teddy that had existed all of the young Master Weasley's life. Harry rather suspected it was because Teddy was so like Ron and Severus couldn't deny his affection where either was concerned.
"Has no one ever told you to respect your elders, Theodore?" asked Severus, trying his best to look down his nose at his godson and failing utterly as the boy was very close to being taller than him.
"I tried it once but I didn't like it much," Teddy replied, keeping his arm firmly around Severus' shoulders.
"I remember a time when my life wasn't infested by Weasleys," Severus said with a wistful look.
"And wasn't it a dull existence?" said Ron, wrapping an arm around Draco's waist and pulling his husband in close to him. "You Slytherins need us Gryffindors to keep you in check."
"I don't need anyone to keep me in check, thank you very much," said Megan, looking imperiously at her father. As the only Slytherin child in the bunch, Megan felt very strongly that she had to protect her House's honour.
"You get more and more like your Aunt Hermione every day," said Ron, looking at his daughter through narrowed eyes. "I'm not entirely sure her influence is healthy on you."
"I credit Aunt Hermione with the fact that I have any sense at all."
"I rather resent that," said Severus with a smirk.
"As do I," said Draco, mirroring the look. "I did have some hand in bringing you up."
"I'll concede to Uncle Severus," said Megan with an amused glint in her eye, "but I'm afraid you were a lost cause when you married Dad."
Harry burst out laughing and Ron looked at his daughter with feigned affront. "I knew I'd regret pro-creating with a Malfoy," he said, and Megan grinned at him, displaying that there was perhaps just the tiniest Weasley DNA in her make-up after all.
"Well," said Teddy, looking at his uncles expectantly, "today was the day Caleb found out about the Institute wasn't it? What's the verdict?"
"We'll let him tell you himself," said Harry with a smile.
"Ha! No need, that proud smile says it all, Uncle Harry. Fantastic! He deserves it, I've never known anyone work so hard. Where is the old sod anyway?"
"Would you watch your language?" Draco admonished.
"Sorry Pa, but you know that when Uncle Charlie arrives all bets are off," Teddy replied, and Draco rolled his eyes, perfectly aware of the effect his brother-in-law had on his son. "Ah, there he is," said Teddy, spotting Caleb heading for the marquee with Dobby in tow. "Come on Meg, let's go torment him. I'm sure Ben's around too somewhere."
Teddy extracted himself from Severus and very gallantly ignored the blush that had appeared on his sister's face at mention of Benji. It was perhaps the worst-kept secret amongst the two families that Benji and Megan were utterly smitten with one another. Neither though, it seemed, had the courage to do anything about their feelings, and so they simply danced around one another, passing up opportunity after opportunity to confront the situation.
The twins left their fathers and their uncles and headed towards the marquee, watching as Teddy flung his arms around Caleb and lifted him off the ground. The fact that Caleb was two years older than Teddy meant nothing where Teddy's height and strength were concerned. Megan settled for a much gentler hug and kiss to Caleb's cheek as they congratulated him on his achievement.
"I've never known siblings to be so different," said Severus with a smile some would have interpreted as fond. His godchildren were nearly as dear to him as his own boys.
"Thank Merlin one of them inherited the Malfoy genes," said Draco, doing a very good impression of his haughty former self.
"Who'd have thought converging the ancient Pureblood lines of the Weasleys and Malfoys would have resulted in perfect examples of each lineage?" Severus replied as he watched his son dodge a rugby tackle from Teddy.
"Did you just call my children perfect?" Ron asked in amusement.
"Better specimens than their father, certainly," Severus returned with a raised eyebrow.
"Ah Sev, you try and hide your love for me, but it never quite works."
"Come on you two," said Harry, sharing a long-suffering look with Draco, "there's loads still to do and there's no time for your torrid love affair."
"See, I told you he knew," Ron said in a dramatic stage-whisper to Severus. "We tried to stop ourselves Harry, really we did, but he just can't resist me."
"Come on Harry, let's leave these two to their romance," said Draco, looping his arm through Harry's and leading him off down the lawn towards the children.
Ron waggled his eyebrows at Severus and gave him a dramatically low bow. "Shall we, darling?" he asked, extending his arm to the man.
"You're a bloody fool," Severus told him affectionately.
Harry took a large sip from his glass of champagne and allowed himself to cast his gaze over the proceedings with an immense sense of contentment. Now that all the guests had arrived and everyone had been fed and watered, he could allow himself to relax slightly while Dobby and his team took the brunt of the hosting duties.
He loved having a house full of people and he basked in the happiness that having his huge extended family around him could bring. All the Weasleys were there, minus Percy, whose loss was still keenly felt 20 years later. Arthur and Molly had been grandparents to Caleb and Benji and had been delighted when, before Caleb was born, Harry had requested if his boys would be able to call them Gran and Gramps, as the other grandchildren did. They were treated with the same affection and warmth that was shown to all the Weasley offspring, and Harry had marvelled, as he had done many years ago at Molly and Arthur's capacity for love.
All the Weasley boys were uncles to Caleb and Benji, and Ginny and Hermione were their aunts. Harry's heart swelled sometimes at the thought that he was able to give his children something neither he nor Severus had ever had – a warm, loving family and the sense of security and belonging that that brought with it.
"Uncle Remus says you're to stop skulking out here," said Benji as he approached his father with a smile.
"You can tell Uncle Remus that I'm not skulking, I'm contemplating."
"That's a sure sign you're getting old, Pa."
"Aunt Hermione is beside herself that Caleb's been accepted to the Institute," said Benji with a fond smile. "She's already trying to set up a tutoring schedule with him."
"That woman," Harry said, shaking his head.
Hermione, to no one's surprise, had returned to Hogwarts to teach Transfiguration after McGonagall gave up the post to become the school's Headmistress. Remus had been given the post of DADA teacher shortly after, thanks in no small part to the change in legislation regarding werewolves that had been brought about after the war, and they had been married for nearly 15 years. Severus, to the amusement of all, had played a rather large in their marriage.
He had kept the promise that he had made to Hermione all those years ago, and not only had he created a potion that returned the use of her legs to her after she had been paralysed, but he had also been responsible for ensuring, through yet another potion, that Remus' lycanthropy would not be passed on to any potential offspring. They had welcomed their first, and only child, a little girl called Imogen, seven years ago, and the little family lived happily in a sweet little cottage in Hogsmeade.
It made Harry swell with pride for his husband's achievements when he saw Hermione walking around, looking for all the world as though she had never gone through the trauma of her paralysis. It had been a long, slow road to her recovery, but Severus had worked tirelessly to restore her. Afterward, news of the potion had spread, and Severus' reputation, which had always been considerable, grew exponentially. The potion was taken to market the following year and brought both fame and fortune to the man, neither of which he particularly wanted.
He had, however, given up teaching, having never returned to it after Hogwarts had been disbanded. He had made enough money from Hermione's potion to never need to work again, but, after consultation with Harry, he had decided to donate the bulk of the money to the various charities that had been set up after the war, setting the rest aside as trust funds for Caleb and Benji. He continued to make his living as a consultant, researcher and the most sought-after Potions Master in the world.
Harry himself had not been idle, and a little while after Severus abandoned teaching, Harry picked up the profession for his own. However, it wasn't to Hogwarts that he went to pursue his career, but to Professor Daskalov's institute in Switzerland, teaching Elemental Magic, as the man himself had predicted he would. He had never lived there, having moved straight to the estate as soon as he was able, Caleb arriving a year later, but he apparated every day and truly relished his job.
He had felt he had had a flare for teaching ever since his stint leading Dumbledore's Army, and he hadn't been wrong. Teaching young hopefuls who had shown an affinity with Elemental Magic was exhilarating, as was lecturing people who had spent their lives dedicated to the topic, both in a practical and academic capacity. He had been keen to forge a reputation for himself outside Harry Potter, outside of the slayer of Voldemort, and he felt, in Elemental Magic he had done so.
"Come on Pa, Aunt Gin wants a dance, so does Uncle Draco," said Benji, giving him a little jostle.
"That doesn't bode well, how much as Uncle Draco had to drink?"
"Not as much as he had at Gramps' birthday party last year. To think, he said he'd never drink again after that."
"Uncle Draco says a lot of things," said Harry with a smile. "Has Dan arrived yet?" he asked, looking around and seeing Leada and Adam, whom he had welcomed enthusiastically a couple of hours ago, but still not spying their son.
Benji smiled that secretive little smile he had, the one that always crossed his face when he knew something his parents didn't…or thought that they didn't. "He got here a few minutes ago. He's with Caleb," he said quietly.
"Ah," said Harry, exchanging a knowing smile with his son. "Well then, best give them a moment or two I suppose."
Benji grinned and the two began walking back to the marquee, where Benji was met by a very enthusiastic Imogen, who grabbed his hand, insisting he take her up for a ride on his broom. At least, thought Harry, as he watched his youngest son being led off, Ben had inherited something besides his looks; he was a truly wonderful flyer.
He was one of Ravenclaw's Chasers and had built up a reputation for his quidditch skills that surpassed Harry's own. A number of teams had expressed interest in him and he was genuinely considering a career in professional quidditch after Hogwarts. Severus, of course, had pretended to be horrified when the subject was first broached, citing Benji's practically unblemished academic record, but Harry knew the man was as proud of their son as he was when it came to his athletic abilities.
"Are you enjoying yourself, Harry?" Hermione's voice broke through his reverie and he turned to face her with a smile.
"I have everyone I love in the world in my garden, what could be better?" he said, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pressing a kiss to her temple. "Ben's taken Immie off for a ride, I hope that's ok."
"Oh poor Ben, Imogen's been pestering him since we arrived. She's determined to follow in his footsteps."
"She does rather idolise him," said Harry with a fond smile. "She inherited her mother's good sense obviously."
"Obviously," said Hermione with a chuckle.
"We've just seen Ben," said Ginny as she and Lars came to stand with them. "His flying really is incredible. It'll be criminal if he doesn't go professional."
"It seems to be looking more and more likely, I think he has his heart set on it. I can't help but worry though, professional quidditch can be brutal."
Ginny grinned at him and said, "Well then it's lucky there are three extremely qualified Healers in the family, isn't it?"
Harry snorted and inclined his head in agreement. Ginny and Draco had both trained as Healers and had gone through the programme together and on to graduate school, Ginny specialising in paediatrics and Draco specialising in chronic illness and the long-term effect of curses on the body. A few years after Megan and Teddy had come along, Draco and Ginny had set up a practice with Adam, Leada's husband, and together the three of them had had a great deal of success.
Meanwhile, Harry's friendship with Lars had gone from strength to strength, especially after the man became his colleague and joined him at Daskalov's institute as a lecturer. He and Ginny had been married for a little over 10 years, having been in no rush to scoot up the aisle, doing everything at their own pace. They were also one of the few couples Harry knew who had decided against having children. It suited them, neither were particularly parental, and Harry rather suspected that after growing up in a family of nine, Ginny had no desire to follow in her mother's footsteps.
They were an excellent aunt and uncle though, and both enjoyed having their nieces and nephews to stay with them in the holidays, and indeed they were the guiltiest of spoiling the children mercilessly. Lars' gentle and sweet nature coupled with Ginny's mischief and vivacity made them a fantastic pair for both the younger and older children alike.
A raucous laugh erupted from the far corner of the marquee and Harry looked across to see Severus standing between Fred and George, each of their arms around his shoulders, all three men apparently sharing some hilarious joke. Oh how his husband had changed over the years, Harry thought with sweet fondness. He was still every bit as acerbic and sarcastic as he had been all that time ago, and he would never be one to suffer fools gladly, but there had been so much pain and unbearable responsibility lifted from his shoulders that he gradually allowed himself to live again.
If anyone had asked him, Harry would have told them that the true turnaround came when Caleb was born. He had known that Severus had had reservations about becoming a father, and in his own private moments Harry had sometimes worried that perhaps Severus would struggle to bond with their children. Those fears were banished the second Harry saw the man hold his new-born son for the first time. It had been as though all the man's barriers had simply melted away and all Harry had seen in the man's face had been raw, unequivocal love. Nothing had really been the same since.
An arm was slung around his shoulders and a voice in his ear said, "Exactly how many times should we expect you to get that romantic, wistful look today?"
Harry tried very hard to glare down at his godson, but it was rather impossible when the boy was a good couple of inches taller than him. "You weren't smacked enough as a child," he told him, a lament he made often.
Teddy grinned at him. "No, I was doted upon horribly. Dad and Pa couldn't believe their wonderful good luck at being gifted with a son like me."
Harry shook his head fondly, Teddy was far too much like the twins, and indeed their influence was responsible for the boy's confidence and sense of humour.
"I hate to say it Uncle Harry, but he's right," said Megan, coming to stand next on his other side. "You've been going very googly-eyed all day," she told him with a smile.
Harry looked to Hermione, Ginny and Lars for support, but it seemed they agreed with his godchildren. "I'm old and it's my 20th wedding anniversary, I'm allowed to be googly-eyed."
"Old? You're 38 you moron!" said Hermione.
"Yes," said Remus, joining them and throwing an arm casually around his wife's shoulders, "spare a thought for those of us who actually are old."
Harry smiled at the man, who, despite his protestation, was looking very well and much younger than he had done in years, thanks in no small part to Severus' constant improvements to the Wolfsbane potion.
"I shan't be apologising to anyone for getting sentimental on my anniversary, and I'll be hexing anyone who tries to make me," he said, directing the last part of his statement towards Teddy, whose grin merely grew wider in response.
"I suppose you're allowed a certain degree of sentiment," said Hermione with a smile. "Given yours and Severus' past it is rather amazing sometimes that the two of you have had the longest marriage of us all."
"Well I was forced into it when I was 17," said Harry with a snort.
"And shouldn't you be thanking your lucky stars that you were," came a silky voice in his ear and he turned to find his husband smirking down at him.
"Oh I am love, every day." He tilted his head back to surrender a kiss to Severus and heard Teddy make very loud, dramatic gagging noises beside him.
"It's bad enough when Dad and Pa do that, do you two have to do it too?" said his godson.
"Oh shut up," said Megan, "I think it's romantic."
The twins moved away, bickering as usual and Hermione and Ginny fell into conversation about the new medical trials that Ginny's practice had been overseeing. Lars and Remus agreed that they were in need of fuller glasses and left their wives to their conversation as they slipped away to join Ron and Draco at the refreshment table.
Harry slipped an arm around Severus' waist and they moved out of the marquee back into the sunshine. The gardens were truly beautiful, as Harry had always imagined they would be, and he took great pride in maintaining them. There were roughly ten acres in total, consisting of manicured lawns, a summerhouse, greenhouses for Severus' ingredients and a section of river running through it. Some of Harry's best memories consisted of playing with his children in the warm summer sunshine or making snowmen with them in the winter.
"Where's Caleb got to?" Severus asked as they walked lazily. "I haven't seen him for ages."
Harry smiled and tucked himself more tightly into his husband's side. "Dan arrived a little while ago," he said softly. "I think they've gone for a stroll together."
"Well let's go see if we can find them."
"No, no let's give them some time alone."
Severus stopped walking and turned to face Harry with a frown. "Why would we need to do that?"
Harry rolled his eyes, unable to believe his husband was so clueless. "Because, my thick-headed love," he said as though explaining a difficult concept to a child, "Dan and Caleb are…close, or at least…they're getting closer."
Severus' eyes narrowed and his lips thinned. "What are you saying?"
Harry heaved a great sigh and said, "Caleb is in love with Dan, and unless I'm very much mistaken, the feeling is returned."
Severus snorted and folded his arms. "Don't be ridiculous."
"It's true," Harry insisted. "You must have picked up on it surely?"
"They're related, they've grown up together!"
"They're 5th cousins, hardly unusual in the wizarding world. And growing up together hasn't stopped Ben and Meg from falling for each other!"
"But what?" Harry asked, greatly amused by his husband's flapping.
"Caleb is too young to be in love!"
Harry burst out laughing. "You raging hypocrite," he said in between breaths. "I was 17 when I married you!"
"But what?" Harry countered. "That was ok because I didn't love you? Well…I was 17 when I fell in love with you, and," he said, dropping his voice and moving closer, "I was 17 when you made love to me for the first time," he said, raising his hand to Severus' cheek and brushing his thumb back and forth across his cheekbone.
"He's too young," Severus said stubbornly, but Harry could see the glint in the man's eye at being so close to him. "He doesn't know his own mind."
"He's your son," Harry said with a gentle smile, "he knows his mind better than anyone. I knew how I felt about you when I was his age, and I wouldn't have let anyone tell me any different. Don't expect Caleb to either."
"Well…how do you know Dan feels the same way?" Severus asked, still obviously disconcerted.
"Haven't you seen the way he looks at Caleb? The two of them can't be in the same room together without stealing glances at each other. They find any possible excuse to be alone together and they could heat an entire room with their blushes! You don't have to be the world's greatest detective to see it."
Severus' frown deepened and Harry wound his arms around the man's neck. "Our little boy is growing up my love. Next year he'll be leaving home, embarking on a new career, he's old enough to make his own choices where love's concerned."
"Still your little boy?" Harry asked, beaming up at his husband. "It's been some time since we brought him home from the hospital, love."
"He's too young," Severus said again, a definite edge of grumpy resignation in his voice.
Harry laughed and raised himself up to press a gentle kiss to Severus' lips. "I was old enough to love you…I was old enough to marry you, and I haven't had a single day of regret. Credit our son with the same good sense."
"I suppose…I suppose at least Dan's a solid, intelligent sort of person. He…he could have made a worse choice."
"Well, I'm glad you feel that way, because they're coming this way and I want you to play nice."
Harry disentangled himself from his husband and moved to stand beside him as Caleb and Dan walked towards them from across the lawn, their hands brushing as they walked side by side, both quite obviously trying to hide their smiles.
"Just remember this is the same person you've known since he was one-year-old. You like Dan, you love him. Just because he's now your son's potential suitor doesn't mean you can be a bastard to him."
"I wouldn't – "
"Sev, sometimes I think you forget that we share a mind link. I can feel it rolling off you in waves. Be nice," Harry growled just as Caleb and Dan approached them.
"Hi Uncle Harry, Uncle Sev," said Dan, the young man smiling brightly as he shook hands with them both. "Sorry I'm so late, my study group ran over. Honestly, I keep thinking that I've met the driest people possible and then I meet another one."
"Are you still enjoying it though?" Harry asked, wrapping his arm around Severus' waist and giving him a discreet pinch for good measure.
"I am," said Dan with a smile. "It's hard work but having a Curse Breaker in the family helps."
"Uncle Bill said he was looking forward to speaking to you," said Caleb softly, an unmistakable blush creeping across his cheeks as he looked at Dan. "You'll be qualified soon and able to work as his apprentice."
Dan inclined his head modestly and said, "If I get through the next six months that is."
"You will," said Caleb assuredly, "you're so bloody clever."
"Hardly short of a brain cell or two yourself, are you?" Dan teased.
Harry couldn't understand how Severus could have possibly missed what was going on between the two. He'd been aware of his son's attraction to Dan for a couple of years now, but within the last few months he'd been certain that that attraction had developed into solid feelings.
"Dan! Dan come on, we need you for a game," came Benji's voice from the other side of the lawn. "Uncle Marcus is here and he's going to referee. We need you and Caleb to make the teams even."
"We've been summoned," said Dan with a grin. "Come on Caleb, let's show them how it's done. See you later," he said to Harry and Severus as he and Caleb turned and made their way back towards Ben, who was waiting impatiently to get things going.
Marcus was with him and Harry waved across to his brother-in-law, reminding himself to apologise to the man later for being roped in to yet another game with his nephews. Not, Harry thought with a smile, that Marcus would mind at all. The man was almost as frequent a visitor as the Malfoy-Weasley family and he had been very involved in the boys' lives. He had never really found anyone to properly settle down with, and was content enough to channel his parental tendencies to his nephews, who, for their part, adored their uncle.
Harry and Severus moved to join the crowd of spectators, standing with Lucius and Narcissa as they watched their grandchildren take off. Neither Teddy nor Megan were particularly skilled flyers, but they enjoyed a game of quidditch with their cousins. Fred's and Katie's daughter and George and Angelina's two sons were in the air, as was Bill and Fleur's daughter and Charlie and Maddie's son, and all the sets of parents came to stand and watch as the game kicked off.
"Who would have ever thought that my grandchildren would be Weasleys?" said Lucius, watching as Teddy narrowly missed a bludger sent at him by an over-enthusiastic Caleb, aided in his crime by Dan, who was flying closer to Caleb than was strictly necessary.
Harry laughed and looked at the man, the scar that went from the corner of his eye down to his jaw looking more prominent in the bright summer sunshine. It did little to diminish the man's good looks, and Teddy had remarked, on more than one occasion, that it made his grandfather look rather dashing.
"I would never have imagined that my children would be Snapes!" Harry replied, grinning at Lucius. "Funny old world eh?"
"That it is," Lucius agreed, tipping his champagne glass towards his host.
As with all the guests assembled in the garden, the Malfoys were welcome and regular guests to the Potter-Snape household and Caleb and Benji treated them as an honourary aunt and uncle. Although it had done nothing for Narcissa's image to become a grandmother, and a relatively young one at that, she doted upon her grandchildren and it was only because of Ron and Draco's staunch intervention that Teddy and Megan hadn't been utterly spoilt rotten.
"Go on Ben!" Ron cheered as he and Draco came to stand with them. "Bloody hell he's good. Honestly mate, I thought you were a great flyer, but Ben's in a different league."
Harry nodded with a smile. He thought he should have minded being outstripped by his son, but he felt nothing but pride as he watched Benji move through the air.
"It's a wonder Caleb and Dan are hitting any bludgers at all," said Draco as Ron stood behind him and wound his arms around his waist, resting his chin on his shoulder. "They can't bloody keep their eyes off each other."
Harry laughed at the perturbed look that Severus was doing his best to hide. Obviously he was having a hard time reconciling himself to the fact his first-born son was growing up more quickly than he was comfortable with. He wrapped an arm around his waist and tucked himself into his husband's side, watching as Ben sped past, his face determined as he flew towards the make-shift goals. Lexi, Fred's daughter was a good Keeper, but she was no match for Ben and he scored a goal effortlessly.
"Illegal move!" shouted Marcus, as Victoire, Bill and Fleur's daughter did her best to knock Megan off her broom. "Bill, your daughter doesn't half fight dirty!" he called to the eldest Weasley.
Bill laughed and said, "She takes after her mother, no one stands a chance against Fleur."
Harry gave Severus' waist a squeeze and decided to leave the crowd to the game, slipping back inside the marquee to see Molly and Arthur, who had decided to forgo the afternoon's sporting entertainment, as had Miverva, who was sitting in a chair that had been transfigured for her comfort, speaking easily with Neville.
"My home is overrun with your grandchildren," he told Molly as he sat down next to her. "The older ones are in the air and the littler ones are attempting to make a rope swing," he said, for Fred and Katie had two younger sons and Bill and Fleur had another daughter beside Victoire.
Molly laughed and squeezed Arthur's hand, saying, "No one could accuse us of not carrying on the Weasley line."
"True," said Harry, pouring himself a cup of tea, feeling the need for a respite from the alcohol, "very true."
"We heard about Caleb's acceptance to the Institute," said Arthur. "You must be so proud, as we are."
"I am," said Harry, unable to stop his grin, "he's worked so hard for it. I just hope he doesn't burn himself out in his last year trying to get the N.E.W.T results he needs."
"He's a sensible enough lad," said Molly. "Our first grandson," she added with a bright smile and Harry, yet again, felt a wave of emotion hit him. He was so indebted to Molly and Arthur for giving him the family he had never had, and for ensuring his children had loving and doting grandparents. He himself had referred to them as Mum and Dad ever since Caleb had been born and Molly had come to help him in the first early months when he'd felt completely out of his depth and had worried that he was nowhere near the father he had imagined himself to be.
She had sat with him and shown him all the little tricks she had learnt from mothering seven new-borns, offering tips and advice without ever being over-bearing. She had checked in on him and cooked for him and Severus, bringing over lasagnes and casseroles, knowing they would both be too shattered to cook. He was grateful every day that she had shown him what having a mother could be like, and that Arthur, with his steady and gentle nature, had only ever shown a father's love and concern for him. Making friends with Ron all those years ago had been one of the best things that had ever happened to him.
"How's your cough now?" he asked Molly. She had been laid up in bed for two weeks with a particularly nasty bout of flu, and she was still suffering from the lingering symptoms.
"Oh fine, fine," she said, waving a dismissive hand. "I was only sorry it prevented me from going to see Polly in the play her little drama group put on."
"Mum," said Harry chidingly, "you need to look after yourself as well as all of us, you know," he told her, knowing that there was no point in trying to be stern with the family matriarch.
"She won't listen, Harry," said Arthur, shaking his head at his wife. "She'll keep going til she drops."
"She'll never drop," said Harry, taking Molly's hand and pressing a kiss to her knuckles. "The world would fall apart without Molly Weasley."
"Harry," came a dreamy voice over his shoulder, and he turned to see Luna, a little boy balanced on her hip, standing looking at him with a smile. "I'm sure you have wrackspurts in the rosebeds by the river," she said solemnly. "I'd get them looked at if I were you."
"If you think I should then I certainly shall," Harry said, bowing his head and reaching out for the little boy as he reached to go to Harry. "What do you think, Byron?"
"Wrackspurts," the little boy repeated, and Neville laughed, saying,
"I'm surprised that wasn't his first word, he says it all the time."
Luna went to sit next to him and Neville took her hand, both smiling warmly at their son as he sat happily on Harry's lap. The little boy was precious to them, more so than most children are precious to their parents; Luna had suffered several miscarriages in earlier years, the last one being so serious that she had been in hospital for six months after and was told that the likelihood of her carrying a child to full term was almost non-existent.
Fate, however, had had other ideas, and a couple of years after Neville and Luna had abandoned their hopes of having a family naturally, she had fallen pregnant with Byron. It had been a tense and fraught pregnancy, both parents terrified that the baby would slip away as the others had done, but Byron, it seemed, was a determined little chap, and although he had been born a month early, he was healthy and happy, and had given his parents more joy than he could have possibly known.
A noise of commotion came from outside the marquee and was shortly followed by Draco leading Teddy inside, a bloody rag pressed to his nose. Draco guided his son, who was making an assortment of ridiculous noises, to a chair next to Arthur and knelt down in front of him.
"Oh, the world, the world is going black! How will I ever go on?" Teddy wailed melodramatically. "I had such hopes to be a model but no one will take me with a squashed nose!"
"What happened?" Harry asked Draco.
"Teddy decided to stop a bludger with his face," Draco replied with a grin.
"Uncle Harry? Is that you?" Teddy said, pretending to reach out blindly, flailing his arms around dramatically. "Oh Uncle Harry, I don't know how much time I shall have left on this mortal coil, I can feel the life draining away from me!"
Molly giggled at her grandson and Arthur shook his head in amusement, no doubt, Harry thought, both intensely reminded of Fred and George at that age.
"Uncle Harry," Teddy continued, as Draco tried to get him to remove the bloody rag so he could assess the damage. "You must listen before I draw my last breath. I have hidden a chest of gold in Hogwarts, it's down in the….oh! I can feel my life slipping away…no one will ever find my huge chest of gold…unless, unless…" Teddy gave a huge, dramatic raspy shudder and let his head fall back on the chair, emitting a loud gurgle and letting his tongue loll out his mouth. Byron giggled in Harry's lap and Harry looked at Draco as they both tried not to grin.
"Oh dear, it seems my only son has died. Perhaps now I'll get some peace," Draco said, rising up on his knees to look into Teddy's 'dead' eyes.
"Knowing our luck, he'll come back as a ghost," Harry said wryly.
"You know, this is not the outpouring of grief I was expecting," said Teddy, tilting his head up slightly.
"Let me take a look at you, you great thundering fool," Draco instructed.
"You have a lovely bedside manner, Pa. Do you speak to all your patients this way?" Teddy asked his father with a grin.
"Only the ones that have no hope of surviving the day," Draco replied, finally removing the rag and taking a look at his son's nose. "As I suspected, broken," Draco declared, taking his wand out of his robes and pointing it at Teddy.
"Can't Aunt Gin do it, she'll be kinder than you," Teddy said cheekily.
"I beg your pardon, Theodore, but your Aunt Gin is tougher than I'll ever be. Now hold still and stop being a pain in the arse."
"I love you too, Pa," Teddy replied, leaning his head back to give Draco a clear run of it.
"Episkey," Draco said clearly, and Teddy winced as the bone fixed itself. A couple of healing charms were muttered and the swelling went down and the blood disappeared. "That should ensure you don't wake up with two black eyes tomorrow," said Draco.
Teddy brought his hand up to tentatively pat at his nose and Byron giggled again, shuffling off Harry's lap to go and waddle over to Teddy, who scooped him up and settled him on his knee. Unsurprisingly, almost every child in existence adored Teddy.
"Hello pup," Teddy cooed softly, and Byron reached his little hand up to pat gently at Teddy's nose. "Hey, don't you start, it's only just been fixed!"
A whistle sounded and a few moments later everyone tramped back inside the tent, the players all muddy and sweaty, Ben and Megan grinning conspiratorially and Caleb and Dan walking next to each other, Dan reaching up and brushing a rogue leaf from Caleb's hair. Harry smiled at the blush that crept across his son's face.
"How's the invalid?" asked Ron, coming over to inspect his son.
"Good as new," Teddy replied, "and still as handsome as ever."
"How can I argue with that when you look so much like me?" said Ron, ruffling Teddy's hair and dropping into the seat between him and Arthur, smiling across at his parents as he did so.
"I'm sorry Ted," said Caleb, coming over to join the table. "Don't know my own strength sometimes."
"I'll get you back Potter-Snape," Teddy said good-naturedly. "It's time someone had a go at those rugged good looks."
Caleb snorted and rolled his eyes, but something that Dan whispered to him had him blushing again and trying very hard to hide a smile. Honestly, Harry though with exasperated fondness, how long could they continue to dance around one another?
A pair of hands settled on his shoulders, and he looked up to see Severus standing behind him, looking down at him with a smile. He titled his head further and Severus acquiesced to the silent request, leaning down and brushing his lips against Harry's.
"I thought I'd told you two to pack that nonsense in?" said Teddy.
Severus released Harry's lips and narrowed his eyes at his godson, saying, "If you don't behave, you'll find yourself with another broken nose."
"You hide your adoration for me so well, Uncle Sev," Teddy said with a wink.
"Uncle Sev," Byron repeated innocently, and a ripple of laughter broke out.
Neville smiled and looked from his son to his former Potions Master, saying, "If someone had told me when I was in school that my son would one day call you Uncle Sev, I would have dropped dead from shock."
Severus smirked in acknowledgement and Neville continued, "Now though, I can think no better uncle for my only child."
Luna nodded in dreamy agreement beside him and Harry felt Severus' hand grip his shoulder slightly. Even after all these years, it still staggered his husband to hear such positive comments directed towards himself, and Harry knew that sometimes the state of his life bewildered Severus beyond the telling of it.
"I'm honoured to be," Severus said seriously, and Neville raised his glass towards him.
Harry smiled and rose to his feet to stand next to Severus, casting his eye around the marquee to make sure everyone had found their way back inside. Teddy, sensing what he wanted to do, grabbed the nearest glass and clinked a teaspoon against it loudly.
"Everyone shush! I believe Uncle Harry wants to give us one of his fabulous speeches. Now I know he goes on, but try and humour him eh?"
Teddy gestured to Harry to begin and Harry rolled his eyes at the boy, saying, "Thanks Ted for that singular introduction, I can always count on you."
Teddy gave him a two-fingered salute and Ron whacked him upside the back of the head. Harry thought that was particularly hypocritical seeing as Ron had been making similar hand gestures since he was eleven.
Harry cleared his throat and stepped to wrap him arm around Severus' waist, the man's own arm coming to settle around his shoulders. "I promise I'll keep this short," he said, addressing the assembled group. "I'm sure Teddy will let me know if I push beyond anyone's endurance."
Everyone chuckled softly, and Teddy grinned at them all, particularly at Fred and George, who were all too proud of their protégée.
"Severus and I would like to thank you all for coming today," Harry continued. "It's the best thing in the world to have everyone we love under the one roof, albeit a temporary one that was erected by house-elves merely hours ago. Now, I know that the official party line is that this is our 20th anniversary, but all of you here know that if we're being technical, we've actually been married for 21 years.
"Our first wedding, though dear to us for bringing us together, was, we would both admit, a rather glum affair. For that reason, we choose to celebrate that anniversary privately – "
This declaration was met by wolf-whistles from Teddy and Caleb, egged on by Fred and George, but Harry ploughed on masterfully.
" – whilst this anniversary we like to share with all of you who attended our official wedding all those years ago, and of course with all the new arrivals we've welcomed since," he said with a smile towards Caleb and Benji. "At this time of celebration, we can't help but be reminded of those empty seats that we wish were occupied, the people who should be with us to mark these occasions - Percy, Kingsley, Moody, Tonks, Seamus, Parvarti, everyone who gave their life in the defence of our world, and lastly to Albus Dumbledore.
"It's hard to believe he left us over ten years ago now, and I know so many of us feel his loss still, as we do all those who were taken from us too soon. Please, if you would all raise your glasses and say a toast to our fallen loved ones," Harry lifted his glass, as did everyone else, repeating his words and smiling sadly as they did so.
"Severus and I are blessed to have such dear people in our lives, and we're particularly blessed with our beautiful children. Caleb, Ben," Harry said, turning to face his sons, "you've brought us nothing but joy from the moment you came into our lives, and your father and I want you both to know how proud we are of you. Our marriage has accomplished many fine things over the years, but nothing so fine as the two of you."
Caleb blushed as he smiled, a blush that intensified as Dan's arm slid around his shoulders, while Benji merely stood stoically, although Harry knew him well enough to recognise the small smile that was playing about the corners of his mouth.
"All that remains to be said, before Teddy drags me off with a shepherd's crook, is to say thank you once again for continuing to be a presence in our lives, and I hope we shall have many more opportunities in the future to celebrate further happy occasions."
Everyone broke out into a round of applause and the arm around his shoulders tightened as he heard Severus whisper into his mind, "Here's to the next 20 with you, my love."
"The next 20 and beyond."
The party eventually wound down and the guests slowly made their exits until finally Ron and Draco were the only ones left, as it always was on these occasions. They didn't, after all, even consider themselves guests after all these years, and indeed Severus and Harry didn't treat them as such.
Ron and Severus were sitting on the little steps that led to the manicured lawn, watching as Harry and Draco directed the dismantling of the marquee. Benji, Teddy and Megan were sitting at the table and chairs on the patio doing their best to polish off the remainder of the puddings that hadn't been eaten, and Caleb was visible a little way off in the distance, strolling by the lake with Dan.
"You really didn't have a clue about those two?" Ron asked, leaning against Severus' shoulder slightly as he poured them both a small measure of whisky.
"I just don't see it!" Severus said, watching as Caleb turned to face Dan and laughed at something he said.
"Sev, they're as obvious as Ben and Meg for goodness sake. Caleb's been smitten with Dan for years, and now that he's nearly 18…those feelings have…matured."
"Oh shut up," Severus said, elbowing him.
"You're too cute for words," Ron sniggered. "You can't handle the fact that your baby boy's growing up."
Severus frowned and looked across at his son. "Do any of us handle our children growing up?" he asked.
Ron laughed and said, "Well, I'm counting down the days when Teddy's old enough to move out."
"Liar," Severus said, trying and failing again to shift Ron from leaning against him. "You adore that boy, just as we all do."
"He's your favourite, isn't he? You like him even more than me."
"I like dysentery more than you," Severus groused.
Ron snorted and sipped at his whisky. "You love me, you always have."
"I wish you two would conduct your sordid affair in private," said Harry as he and Draco joined them. Severus held out his hand and Harry took it, allowing himself to be pulled gently to the ground, sitting between Severus' legs with his back pulled up against the man's chest.
"Sorry my love," Severus murmured as he pressed featherlight kisses to Harry's neck. "We try to keep it secret but we just can't help ourselves."
Ron chuckled and said, "And he gives in and admits it after 20 years! See, I always knew you loved me. Sorry Harry."
Harry rolled his eyes and Draco shook his head, sitting on the little wall that ran around the patio and resting his feet in Ron's lap. The four men sat in companionable silence for a few moments, all so used to each other's company and so at ease with one another that very often words weren't needed. Ron rubbed at Draco's feet in his lap and Draco smiled at him, tucking a lock of blond hair behind his ear. He looked so much like his father now it was quite uncanny and Megan, despite her very delicate feminine features, looked to be going the same way.
"When are you back at work?" Harry asked Ron, as Severus' hand came to brush through his hair.
"I have another week off, got to get Leonard's retirement party out of the way first."
"I can't believe he's finally giving up after all these years," said Draco with a disbelieving shake of his head.
Ron had been working with his friend and mentor, the inestimable Leonard Broomfield, ever since his apprenticeship with the man 20 years ago, and a few years ago the two had gone into partnership together and had sold their services to several governments besides their own in the field of military strategy. Ron worked closely with the British aurors in their missions and he had built up a reputation as the best in the business. His success had brought a very comfortable lifestyle for himself and his family, and they had a beautiful five-bedroom house a couple of villages over from Harry and Severus' estate.
"Will you take your apprentice into partnership?" Severus asked.
"I'm considering it," said Ron. "She's very good but she needs to learn the business a little more, and she definitely needs to work on her people skills; she doesn't understand yet how to get people to respond to her."
"Oh well, she'll have the joy of learning from the master, no one can charm people like you, you old smooth-talker," said Harry with a grin, earning himself the same two-fingered salute that Ron had told his son off for earlier that day.
Harry sighed and leant back against Severus as he watched Caleb strolling alongside the river, laughing at something Dan said, his handsome face lit softly by the early evening sun. "I can't believe my baby is going to be 18 next year," he said, feeling Severus' arms tighten around him. "Where does the time go?"
"I can remember when you brought him home for the hospital," Ron said with a smile, following Harry's line of sight and looking towards his godson. "He was such a lovely little baby."
"Not at 3 o'clock in the morning he wasn't," Severus drawled and Harry laughed, resting his head against Severus' chest.
"Oh Merlin, those first few months…we didn't have a clue what had hit us. I remember walking around like a zombie, constantly feeling as though I was in a daze. It was worth it though, wasn't it?" Harry asked, tilting his head up to look at Severus.
"More than I would have ever imagined," the man murmured, leaning down to press a soft kiss to Harry's lips. They broke apart and both looked over to their eldest son, each lost in their reminiscence of those early days.
Harry could hardly believe that the boy ambling slowly towards them, the boy who was so very nearly a man, had once been the tiny newborn that he had held in his arms. He had stared down at him in wonder, never having ever seen anything quite so breath-taking in his whole life. He had passed the little bundle over to Severus and had watched as the man looked down at their son, his face as unguarded as Harry had ever seen it, with an expression of such pure love on his features that Harry's whole world had shifted and hadn't righted itself since.
"It doesn't always seem real, does it?" asked Ron, and Harry looked across at him. "20 years ago we were preparing for war, the three of us were just 18-year-old boys with barely a clue and Sev had only just begun to realise that he had emotions."
Harry snorted and Severus glared at Ron, who merely grinned back at him in response. "It's a funny old world sometimes isn't it?"
"Oh no, they've gone all maudlin," said Teddy with a dramatic eye-roll as he, Benji and Megan came to join their parents, his arm slung casually over Benji's shoulders as they walked. "Has anyone let them have brandy? That's usually when they start going misty-eyed and talking about the past."
"You should have seen Dad and Pa when Caleb turned 17," said Benji, as the three of them flopped down on the grass. "You'd think they were the only parents in the world."
"Well, I suppose you can't really blame them. When you're faced with such incredibly wonderful offspring, as my parents are, you can forgive them a little sentimentality," said Teddy, lying back and pillowing his head with his arms.
"Is it too late to have him adopted?" Ron asked Draco, and the blond cast a fond smile towards their son.
"Think how dull life would be without me," Teddy said, his eyes shut as he lay back on the grass.
"But oh so quiet," Ron countered. "You take after your uncles far too much."
"Which ones?" asked Megan with a snort and Ron tilted his head in a conceding nod. "Have Dan and Caleb managed to spend two seconds apart since Dan arrived?" she asked, looking in their direction.
Teddy rolled over onto his stomach and looked across at the two with a wide grin. "Does everyone realise how obvious they are apart from them?"
"Everyone apart from your Uncle Severus," Ron told his son, and Teddy glanced over his shoulder to pin the man with a look of disbelief.
"Oh come on Uncle Sev, you're supposed to be the clever one! Are you honestly telling me that you didn't realise those two are head over heels for each other? I mean, come on! It's as obvious as – " Teddy cut himself off just in time, although both Benji and Megan were sporting twin blushes and were looking anywhere but at each other. "It's as obvious as the nose on your face, which really is saying something," Teddy told Severus with a very smug smile, and Severus narrowed his eyes at him.
"I'd be very careful if I were you, Theodore," Severus told him smoothly. "You should bear in mind that I could set fire to you simply by thinking about it."
"You may well be able to do that, but you still can't spot when your son's got it bad for someone," Teddy shot back, and Severus had to do his best to stop his lip from twitching into a smile.
Caleb and Dan joined them, easy contentment rolling off them in waves, and Harry only hoped that the circumstances would eventually align to enable them to find even more happiness with one another. He knew they were both young, but, as he had told Severus earlier in the day, he had known his own heart and mind when he was 17, and he expected no less from his son.
"Would it be ok if Dan and I popped down to the village pub?" Caleb asked his father, and Harry exchanged a glace over his shoulder with Severus.
"Fine by us," Harry said, looking at his son with a shrewd smile. "I take it you have that muggle fake ID that your Uncle Fred gave you?" he asked, deeply amused at the blush that spread over Caleb's cheeks as the boy dipped his head. His eldest son would never be capable of artifice.
"I didn't think you knew about that," Caleb said, sneaking a glance across at Dan, who was grinning back at him.
"Your father and I know everything," Harry told him, "never forget that."
"I…" Caleb began, put Harry took pity on him and said,
"Go on, get out of here. You deserve to celebrate your acceptance into the Institute."
"But don't be too late, and don't think for one minute that I'll brew you a hangover potion tomorrow if you're suffering," Severus added with a quirk of his eyebrow.
"Yes Dad," Caleb said with a grin. "See you later then."
"Bye Uncle Harry, Uncle Sev," said Dan. "I'll make sure he gets home in one piece."
"Oh, we trust you," said Harry, feeling the edges of Severus' senses bristle slightly across his own.
They bade goodbye to the others, Benji giving his brother a knowing little grin, which earnt him a friendly kick as Caleb strolled off with Dan, the two walking as close as possible without touching.
Teddy turned back to face Severus and said, "Seriously? You were one of the best spies this country has ever seen, there are countless articles published lauding your intelligence, and yet you missed that? I am deeply ashamed of you."
"Oh shut up you horrid little whelp," Severus growled and Teddy burst out laughing, Megan rolling her eyes at her brother's antics. Severus turned to Ron and said, "Why did he have to turn out be so much like you?"
Ron shrugged and leant against Severus' shoulder once again. "The gods decided to bless you with two of us."
"Shall I take them away Uncle Sev?" asked Megan, rising to her feet and walking over to them.
"If you would darling," Severus said, taking her hand. "Can I persuade you to take Ben too?"
"Of course, I was under the impression he was coming with us anyway," Megan replied, casting a look back towards Benji.
To the four children, the two houses were virtually interchangeable. Teddy and Megan had practically grown up at the estate, and Benji and Caleb had their own room at Ron and Draco's. As they had grown older, they relied less on their parents' visits to ferry them between the properties, and it wasn't unusual for Harry to find Teddy and Megan sitting in the kitchen when he went to fetch his morning coffee, nor for Ron to find Caleb and Benji sitting in his garden on a summer's afternoon.
After the war, people had been less inclined to send their children away for whole terms at a time, and although boarding was still very much a part of life at Hogwarts, it wasn't unusual for students to pop home for the odd weekend. This was something Harry was very grateful for. It had never bothered him personally, leaving home at 11 and returning only when necessary, but the second he had become a father, the idea of packing his children off and only seeing them during the holidays wasn't something he felt particularly comfortable with.
He would have never wanted to deny his children the joy and independence that life at Hogwarts could bring, but he wanted to enjoy his sons' teenage years, and he wanted either himself or Severus to be the ones that they came to when they had an issue or a problem, not their Head of House. He was determined to enjoy Caleb's last year, as he knew that when he went off the Institute, he wouldn't be coming home so often.
"We should be making tracks," said Ron, stretching his long arms up over his head. "Go and grab your stuff Ben and we'll head off."
Ben hauled himself up and trotted off inside, and Ron pushed himself up from the steps, dragging Draco along with him. Teddy stood and came to offer his hand to Severus, saying,
"Need a hand up, old man?"
"Mind flames, Theodore, mind flames," Severus growled, nudging Harry to allow him to stand, which he did, taking Teddy's offered hand instead.
"I'm not too proud to accept assistance," he said, allowing Teddy to haul him to his feet, which the boy did with an alarming amount of strength. At 15, Teddy had no business being stronger than most of the adults in his life, and it was only really Ron who could match him.
"It was a lovely day," said Draco, placing an arm around Megan's shoulders. "It seems like only yesterday we were at your wedding."
"Our second wedding," Harry corrected as Severus came to stand beside him. "Our first was…rather different."
"I can just picture it now," said Teddy with a dramatically wistful look. "Uncle Sev glowering in the corner of the room, Uncle Harry waiting nervously, both of them cursing the day they were born, never imagining that they were about to set foot on a path that would lead them to true love."
"Do shut up," said Severus, rolling his eyes.
"You never imagined," Teddy continued, undeterred, "that one day you would be the godparents of such a charming, sophisticated, witty, good-looking individual."
"You're right," said Severus, "Megan is a delight."
"You could dent a fella's ego you know," Teddy said with his best 'hurt puppy' expression.
"I try, I really try."
Benji emerged from the house with an overnight bag slung over his shoulder, giving his parents a smile and saying, "See you both tomorrow. Note what a good son I am letting you have the house to yourself for your anniversary night."
"Such sacrifice," said Harry, reaching out to mess up the black mop of hair that was so like his own. "It has nothing to do of course with your Uncle Ron's famous cooked breakfast I suppose?"
Benji grinned and said, "No one does breakfasts like Uncle Ron."
"We'll bring him back tomorrow afternoon," said Draco as he and Ron exchanged hugs with Harry and Severus.
"We expect afternoon tea out on the patio," said Ron as he enveloped Severus in an all-too familiar bear hug.
"You'll be making it your bloody self," Severus growled, pushing Ron away and straightening out his robes. "Can't we put wards up around the house that refuse to admit anyone with red hair and freckles?" he asked Harry as both Ron and Teddy did their best to look highly offended.
"You love them," Harry told him certainly.
Ron wrapped his arms around Teddy and Benji and Draco pulled Megan to his side. "Come on Ben," said Ron, "we know you prefer it with us anyway," then all five apparated from the spot.
"And then there was peace," Severus said as he wound his arms around Harry's waist and pulled him back against his chest.
"You're fooling no one," Harry told him with a smile. "You're a big softie these days love, everyone knows it."
"Allow me to retain something of my former self."
"Alright," said Harry with a happy sigh, "I'll allow you retain your wit, your intelligence and your prowess in the bedroom. Everything else went out the window years ago."
"You're a fool," Severus murmured into his ear.
"That's true, but I'm your fool. You've been saddled with me for 21 years and it doesn't look as though I'm going anywhere."
"There's one place you're going," Severus said, and Harry inclined his head to look questioningly up at him. "Into the study and back to our trusty old mattress."
"You've transfigured it already?" asked Harry with a smile.
"Tradition must be kept Mr Potter-Snape, a promise is a promise."
Harry turned himself around in Severus' arms and leant up to meet his husband in a deep and languid kiss. He felt Severus at the edge of his senses, felt the man's emotions and thoughts, felt the warmth that spread through his body and the joy at having Harry in his arms. The connection between them had only grown stronger over the years, and although it had been an adjustment that had been difficult at times, the thought of existing without the man melded to his consciousness was a deeply unsettling one.
It had been nearly 20 years since they had performed the ritual that had enabled them to fully exploit the soulmate bond that existed between them, and the intense union that it had created had been the driving force behind their marriage, holding them up in difficult times and cementing their joy in the good ones. They were as connected as two people could possibly be and they took great pains to nurture and foster that bond.
"21 years," Harry murmured as they broke apart. "It doesn't seem real. As daft as Teddy's analysis was, he was right; I had no idea when I married you that we were starting on this path. I would have never imagined all this."
Severus smiled and ran a hand through Harry's hair. "No one could have predicted it my love, least of all us. I shall be grateful all my life for that stupid law."
"We'd have found a way to each other…somehow," Harry said, remembering that Lars had said the same thing to him all those years ago. "This was meant to be, we were meant to be," he said certainly, and it was a testament to Severus' belief in it also that he didn't mock his husband for his belief in fate and other such forces.
"Back to our battered old mattress we go," Harry said, feeling the love from his husband pushing through their link.
"To honour a tradition you had the good sense to establish."
Harry reached down and took hold of Severus' hand, smiling as he led him back inside the house. The night would pass in a blur as they worshipped and explored each other's bodies, bodies that had changed over the years and yet were so well known to each other. Their link would be stretched to bursting with the love and adoration they felt for one another, and they would lose all sense of where one ended and the other began. As Harry lay in the golden afterglow, pillowed against Severus' chest, he smiled to himself, reflecting that in only a few days' time he would be transporting himself to visit his past self, to ensure that the life he so adored would remain a constant certainty.