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The Songbirds of Avebury Manor

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I feel I should say as a preface that my husband does not know I have read his little memoir of his, and he certainly does not know that I am adding to it in these last few pages he left blank. I find it difficult to imagine that he’ll remain ignorant forever, but in the interim I feel a certain obligation to fill in a few gaps.

My husband, devoted and wonderful as he is, can be a bit of a prototypical alpha, you see: he thinks that the story begins and ends with me. It begins when he meets me and ends when he lays claim to me. And while those may serve as good poetic markers of open and close, they fail to include the best parts, because the best parts come well after our first night together.

So here you are, Harry: the epilogue. As much as you’d like to believe otherwise, I am not the sum total of your life’s achievements, and it’s unfair to imply otherwise.

We made our engagement public at Christmas (leaving out, of course, the fact that my virtue had been thoroughly and repeatedly ruined, in several different positions and rooms of Avebury Manor), during a party. I am pleased to say that the look on my father’s face was a delightful combination of abject horror and overwhelming nausea.

That was when word began to spread – not just word of our betrothal, but word of the newly rediscovered Duke of Oxford, heir to the Royal House of Gryffindor, and the incredible story of how he came into his inheritance.

Harry was, of course, completely unprepared for dukedom, but luckily he has excellent choice of partners and I was there to smooth the transition.

As we planned for the wedding, we began the lengthy process of rebuilding – physically and metaphorically – the House of Gryffindor. We were able to prove Harry’s birthright with the testimony of Inspector Shacklebolt, and reclaim his vast, forgotten fortunes. The historic seat of his dukedom, a resplendent and sprawling castle on the rolling plains of the Sussex Downs, had fallen into some measure of disrepair, and together we set to the task of rebuilding it.

It was no easy thing, making livable a castle that had for nearly twenty years gone uninhabited, but Harry was driven. Almost constantly he spoke of how he wanted it to be more than just a seat of a duke, but a home – one in which we could raise our children, one that could be passed down and marveled at for its beauty.

In April, we were married out behind the newly-reconstructed Northanger Park, seat of the newly-minted Duke of Oxford, and we said our vows. Harry chose, of all people, Mr. Snape the butler to be his best man. I recall him saying something about how, in addition to being his good friend and mentor, Mr. Snape was a “reminder of his humble roots” – ones he had no intention of forgetting.

We were, of course, desperately and passionately in love. Harry has always been such a very assiduous lover, very careful to please me, and taking his pleasure from mine. And though we were hardly strangers to one another’s bodies by the time we were married, we still took some comfort in knowing that we no longer had to hide it.

I fell pregnant in May, and Harry was undone at the news. He took me into his arms and all but wept into my hair. I would never say this to him out loud – though I am sure by now he knows it all the same – but I have always found his utter devotion to family his most attractive quality, even though it does frequently broach into the realm of needlessly sentimental twaddle.

It was during my pregnancy that something even more extraordinary came to pass: our Gracious Queen Victoria, in her wisdom, saw fit to revoke the privilege of peerage.

Allow me to explain why this news was so remarkable, and why it changed everything.

While Harry and I had been busy beginning our life together, his story had been circulating through England – and in particular, through the House of Lords. For years, the very idea of privilege of peerage – that nobles of England should be immune to arrest simply because they are lords – had been falling under scrutiny, but the news that the His Grace Thomas Marvolo, the Duke of Cambridge, had so abused the privilege brought the issue to the forefront of the public consciousness.

The case against him, after all, was airtight and, by then, common knowledge. He had tried to murder a man in cold blood – another duke, no less – in an obvious attempt to eliminate any competition to his claim to the throne. That he went unpunished was considered obscene. The cry for justice got louder and louder, went higher and higher up the ladder, until at last it reached the ears of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, who, in response, revoked the privilege of peerage for all nobility, but in particular for the Duke of Cambridge.

In an enormously publicized debacle, he was arrested and taken to trial for attempted murder. Before a jury of his peers, he was found guilty, stripped of his title, and thrown in prison.

Harry, curiously, refused to testify. I asked him why, but all he did was shake his head and mutter something about leaving the past as the past and caring only about the future.

He always was such a sentimental fool. It is agonizing, sometimes, how much I love him.

Our first child, female (and, we would later discover, alpha), was named Lillian Evangeline in honor of Harry’s mother. Giving birth to little Lily was one of the worst experiences of my life, and when the whole thing was over I was quite ready to tell Harry that I never wanted to be pregnant ever again—

—but alas, I saw his expression before I could say it. He held his daughter in his arms, his face a picture of open adoration, and all my words fell short. I suddenly thought that perhaps I might like a second child, after all.

In fact, I was pregnant with my second when we were, quite out of the blue, invited to stay at Buckingham Palace.

Harry was mystified as to why, and I thought his confusion so adorable that I almost didn’t explain, just so that I might see his shocked expression when he finally did learn the reason.

We spent two months in London becoming acquainted with the Queen of England (and yes, it does still feel strange to write those words, and I don’t think that will ever change). She was very curious as to the nature of Harry’s character, because though the issue of inheritance was all but a foregone conclusion, it still needed our gracious monarch’s seal of approval to be set in stone.

Of course, she saw in Harry what I saw in him. She saw his humble disposition, his idealism, his bravery and strength, his unshakable dedication to his family and country, and his profound love of and respect for all life. She saw a king, not just in right but in temperament. By the time I went into labor, the papers were signed: the throne of England would go to House Gryffindor.

But students of history will know that our gracious Queen Victoria was tenacious, and we had many, many years yet before she had any plans of dying.

It was for the best, I like to think, because raising two children was no easy task.

Our second, Severus (male, and a beta, appropriately enough for his namesake), was born about two years after his older sister, and even with a team of servants to pick up our slack, they proved a challenge. Before either of them could even speak in complete sentences, they were thick as thieves. They had my intelligence, Harry’s tenacity, and a knack for getting into trouble that was all their own.

In 1901, Queen Victoria passed, and Harry took up the throne in a coronation ceremony that was a thing of unmatched beauty and splendor. At the age of 48, Harry became King Henry IX, monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India.

As I write these words, we are both well into our twilight years. Looking back on our life together, I cannot say that it has been perfection. We are both of us flawed in our own ways, and neither our marriage nor our lives have been uninterrupted bliss. We have had difficult times, strains in our relationship, hurdles that needed overcoming – but there has never been an obstacle that we have not been able to surmount together.

The bedrock of our marriage – and, in many ways, our lives – has always been a strong and unflinching devotion to each other. Even when I am disagreeable and obstinate, even when Harry is hotheaded, even when we argue, that love is always there, patient, smiling, unmoving.

Harry once told me that he truly believes that we are soulmates, that our love was written in the heavens long before we twain were ever born. I do not know that I believe in destiny, but the perspective of over half a century of marriage is a certain evidence unto itself.

These days, our lives are as quiet as they can be for royalty. We wake up with the sun, have breakfast with Lily and Severus and their families, and go for a walk in the garden. Harry tends to the business of the Crown while I manage the royal charity. We meet with visiting diplomats, attend galas, and go home. We have dinner and make love, just as utterly devoted to each other as we were as newlyweds, and as we doubtlessly will be for the rest of our lives.

And in the mornings when I wake up to the scent of him, I see the songbirds take wing from their cage and fly out into the sunlight. I smile and I am unconcerned with their departure. Our songbirds are no longer prisoners, and they always come home.

Harry, my husband, my world, father of my children, ruler of my country, I do love you, more and more every day, even after all these years. I don’t say it as often as perhaps I should, but I hope you know it all the same.

I do, my love. I do. -H