Chapter 14 : December
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A/N: I know, this is a terribly long chapter, but please bear with me- the events of this one seem to flow together really well. So please bear with me.
“Harry! You have a child of your own now! It is time to stop acting like one yourself!”
“I’m just going to play some Quidditch!”
“Harry, dear,” (Harry cringed. She never called him dear.) “Lily has a cold. I have been up the entire night calming her down so that YOU COULD GET SOME SLEEP!”
“And now, I would like some of my own. Only for a couple of hours. I think you can take care of her for that long.”
“And don’t use magic on her. Please. I don’t want to wake up to find that my daughter has sprouted a pair of antlers.”
“Of course not.”
“Right.” Ginny looked at Harry suspiciously. With good reason. He wasn’t usually this agreeable. “But wake me if you need help. I don’t need sleep that much.”
“Good-night, Harry.” Ginny pulled the duvet over her body. Harry stepped quietly out of the room, closing the door softly behind him, with Lily propped up on his shoulder. December 9th. A Saturday. Off from work. It was a nice feeling, retiring. He was only twenty. He could be a father. Stay at home. But he should probably get a job. Meanwhile...
Lily giggled as her father went down the stairs. The jerking motion was fun for her. She softly patted her father’s shoulder. Her hands are so little, thought Harry. Were my hands ever that small? Was I ever that small? Harry turned into the den. He set Lily down on her blanket. She began grunting with the effort of rolling onto her stomach. Harry sat down near her, watching her movements. Watching her live. She finally got over to her stomach. That task successfully completed, she pushed against the floor with her arms to prop herself up. She looked at her father with happy eyes. Green eyes. Like mine. Like my mother’s. Her grandmother’s. Lily’s. Both of them. Her red hair glowed in the sunlight streaming from the windows.
“Right. Boogwa. I’m not really sure what that means, honey. Could you clarify?” He loved talking with her. When she turned her eyes toward him, it felt like an actual conversation, however one-sided it was.
“Bluh gum bluh.”
“Ah. Okay. I think I get it now.” Harry nodded. Lily looked back toward him, sticking her bottom lip out.
“Yeah. Boogwa.” Harry reached over and picked her up, setting her down again, in a sitting position. He tucked cushions behind her back and around her sides. He handed her a small chewy rubber toy, in the shape of a dragon. It squeaked. There. Successfully distracted.
Harry looked into the corner at his polished Firebolt. Still his old one. He sighed. He had really been looking forward to playing some Quidditch. After he left the Ministry officially, he planned on attending the Spring League Tryouts. He needed to get into Quidditch shape. But there were some things more important than Quidditch. His family, first and foremost. Secondly, his current job. He was still working, and hard- just at a desk job, instead of out in the field. Thirdly, Quidditch. Right now, it was first things first. His daughter, his wife. The two most important females in his life.
“Waaaaaaah!” A cry broke his thoughts.
“Lily? What’s wrong?” Lily’s face was as red as her hair. Harry didn’t panic about this. He had at first, but then Mrs. Weasley had told him that all seven of her children had done it, and it wasn’t anything to be worried about.
“Matter of fact,” she had said, “They still do it when they’re angry.” Harry smiled, remembering Ron as he remembered that. He picked Lily up. She hiccupped.
“Oh, no, you got them hiccups. Those nasty hic-em-ups.” He gently bounced her up and down. She spit up. “Oh, dear, Lilykins. Got those nasty yuck-em-ups, too.” Harry didn’t panic. He was rather used to this. He grabbed a magic rag from the floor and wiped off his front and Lily’s shirt. Her hiccups were gone. Good thing, too, he thought. Ginny said not to use my wand on her, and I guess that includes getting rid of hiccups, too.
The fire turned green. A shape appeared in it. Hermione.
“Oh, hello, Harry. How’s everything going right now?”
“Okay, I guess. Lily has a cold,” Harry said, gesturing at his daughter, who proved his statement by sneezing.
“And Ginny is taking a nap?” Hermione asked, stepping out, brushing ashes away with her wand, making them disappear.
“How’d you guess?” asked Harry, smirking. Hermione groaned.
“Percy’s had more than his fair share of colds, let me tell you. And Ron’s had his share of watching Percy while I took a quick nap.” Harry laughed.
“Well, I tell you, she’s in a right foul mood now. Worse than normal,” said Harry darkly. Hermione smiled sympathetically.
“She’ll be like that for a while, Harry. I still am. Don’t get too angry at her. That’s all the advice I can offer.”
“Thanks. I know you mean it. It’s just hard, right now.”
“How’s everything else going?” asked Hermione.
“Pretty good. Work’s moving along real nicely.”
“I’m glad Ron’s out.”
“They were talking about pulling him back into service, this last time. I talked them out of it.”
“Is that what did it? We wondered. And how did you get back so quickly?” Hermione asked. She had evidently been wondering about this for some time.
“I think they had enough people. I don’t think it’s a particularly dangerous group of Death Eaters, anyway. But the Auror Training Center had loads of new recruits during the war, and the first class from the year after the war began just graduated. So they sent a bunch of them. It was big, too, for the ATC. Something like fifteen graduates. That’s really big, for one class. And all of them were the same age, too.”
“Wow. The last class had... what, seven people?”
“And even that was big.” They fell silent a moment. Harry liked spending time with Hermione. They had been close friends, but lately, marriage, family, and work had been getting in the way.
“I’m glad they let you come home. Ginny really needed you. You never saw her when you were gone. It was horrible.”
“I know- no, wait, I don’t. I can imagine, though. I went through hell while I was gone. Not from the work. Well, sort of. Every time I was sent on a spy mission, I kept thinking about dying. And how Ginny would react to it. What would happen. And I felt so guilty, marrying her and getting her pregnant with my baby. I felt so guilty. I didn’t want my child to grow up without a father. Not like me.”
“She would have had Ginny.”
“Yes, but- it’s not the same. And I never would have seen this. Never seen her.” Harry’s eyes filled with tears. He watched his daughter wriggle, reaching for a toy. He stuck out his hand and moved it within her reach. Hermione remained silent for a short while.
“Harry, it’s okay to cry. We all do it, nearly every day. Parents do it without going what we’ve gone through. And we -all of us- nearly had this taken away,” said Hermione quietly.
“It’s just,” Harry’s voice broke. “It’s just so wonderful to have a family.” Hermione started to tear up, too. This was a very emotional topic for all of them.
“I know, Harry. I know.” They were both quiet and still. The only sounds were Lily’s, as she shook a rattling snitch.
“Okay. I’m fine now.” Harry grinned at Hermione.
“It doesn’t go away for a while, Harry,” Hermione responded, in a tone implying that she was still going through it.
“Oh, I know. I’ve been like this since I got married. Not a big deal.”
“Crying isn’t. Family is. And, speaking of family, Mum wants me to make sure you remember the dinner tonight.” Harry laughed.
“How on earth could I forget? It’s the holiday season. Every Saturday in December.”
“I know, I know, but she just wanted to make sure you knew. She wants everyone to be there.”
“Are Bill and Fleur coming?”
“Yes. They actually eat dinner there every night now, as they’re not entirely moved into France yet,” said Hermione.
“Oh. Are there any guests?” Harry asked.
“Just Remus and Tonks. As usual. Although I think Neville might be coming. I’m not sure, though.”
“That would be nice. I haven’t heard from him for a while,” remarked Harry.
“Neither have we. I do hope he’s doing all right.” Hermione had a worried expression on her face.
“Don’t worry about Neville. He can take care of himself.” Harry grinned. “He’s probably just busy with his plants. Maybe he’ll make a new breakthrough in Herbology.” Hermione laughed at this.
“This is so pathetic, Hermione. We haven’t had a decent conversation for months and when we finally do, we end up talking about Neville’s career.”
“What should we talk about?” asked Hermione, smiling.
“Well, you know... work, kids, that kind of thing.”
“Harry, you’re an Auror, and I’m an Unspeakable. We can’t talk about work.”
“Surely you can.”
“So can you.”
“But that completely violates the rules!”
“Harry, my job title is Unspeakable. But here’s something I can tell you. That’s not my actual job title. My job title is, quite literally, unspeakable. No one outside my department is allowed to know it. Aside from Ron, of course.”
“What’s so special about Ron?” Harry asked, lifting one eyebrow up.
“He’s my husband. Or haven’t you heard?”
“Well, yeah, but that’s not what I meant. I mean- oh, never mind.”
“Yes, well, both my title and my work are unspeakable. At least everyone knows your job title and what you do, though not the specifics.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Harry sarcastically. “Auror, fights bad guys. It’s so little, what outsiders think of it. Kids wanting to be one think it’s completely different. They’re so naive.” Hermione frowned at this.
“Harry, you were once that fourteen-year-old boy who wanted to become an Auror, and fight Dark wizards. Was your goal any less worthy than anyone else’s?”
“No. Merlin’s beard, Hermione, you make me feel so guilty sometimes. Can’t I just be pessimistic for one day? I’ve been fighting Dark wizards my whole life. Don’t I deserve a break?” Harry’s manner was somewhat sarcastic, but he was half-way serious.
“Yes, Harry. You do. But we’re adults now, Harry. We need to act like it. I know it’s hard for you- you had your childhood stolen away. So now, you can’t progress. But that’s the psychology viewpoint. Not our viewpoint. We’ve all had problems after the war, and getting used to it all. We all had to grow up too fast. But it was for our kids, Harry. For her, Harry.” Hermione gestured at Lily. “We gave up normal lives so that they could have them. There was a famous Muggle, and he said ‘I study war and politics so that my children may study business, commerce, and science, so that their children may study literature, art, and music.’ That’s what this was all about, Harry. So that our kids can be what they want to be, and not have to fight. And what on earth is that smell?” Hermione grimaced.
“Er- not the most eloquent ending for your speech, Hermione. But that smell would be Lily.” As if on cue, the four-month-old began crying. Harry reached over and scooped her up.
“Are you going to change her?” asked Hermione, plainly amused.
“If you’re not volunteering...” Harry made a face. Hermione laughed.
“Oh, no. I do enough of that. Don’t feel unfortunate- Ron does plenty of it, too,” Hermione chided.
“Oh, I’m sure. I do it often, myself. Ginny finds it amusing. But I figure it’s kind of my duty. I mean, I made this mess, I should clean it up, you know?” Harry commented thoughtfully.
“Actually, Lily made the mess,” said Hermione, laughing.
“Actually, Hermione, I did, just over a year ago.”
“I assume Ginny was more than willing,” said Hermione wryly. She remembered all of the conversations she had had with Ginny before Ginny was married... she remembered them all too well.
“Oh, of course. But it was half me, so I clean up after Lily.” Harry laughed. Hermione grinned, too.
“That’s what I tell Ron. But he never seems to listen to me. Maybe you should talk to him about that,” said Hermione, a little wryly.
“Not that it would do much good. But do you know something? Bill changed-”
“Most of Billy’s diapers. Yes, I know. Veelas are pretty forceful.”
“Fleur’s only one-quarter Veela,” Harry interjected.
“Part Veela, all Veela,” Hermione said. “I’m just glad she’s safe and neutral with Bill. I’ll never forget how Ron was before then.”
“That’s ‘cause he didn’t know how good he had it with you,” Harry grinned.
“True, true,” said Hermione laughingly. Then, as if on cue, the fireplace flared again. Ron was there, with Percy over his shoulder. Percy was wailing.
“Hermione, I’m sorry to bug you, but he’s hungry,” said Ron sheepishly. Hermione shook her head.
“Hand him over,” she said, taking Percy in her arms. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Harry, it’s called breastfeeding. And I’m modest about it. Stop blushing, you. You’re such a Muggle. I’ll curse you- and I can do worse than Bat-Bogey. Ask Ron,” she snapped, nodding in his direction.
“Hermione, Harry doesn’t need to ask. He’s experienced it first-hand- from you too, might I add.”
“It was his own fault.”
“No, it was-” Harry said, but was cut off by Ron.
“Never, never argue with a woman who is breastfeeding. Never, Harry. Just don’t do it.”
“Very good, Ron. Do I hear something upstairs?” asked Hermione. Harry cocked his head to the side, listening.
“Yeah. That’s probably Ginny- Dobby’s been holed up in the kitchen, knitting a pair of socks for Lily.”
“How long has she been napping?” asked Ron.
“A couple hours. She might not’ve been napping the whole time, though. She sometimes just needs alone time. You know how it is,” said Harry.
“Oh. Well, in that case, I’m going upstairs. I need to ask Ginny something. Ron, help me up. Percy’s not done,” Hermione ordered. Ron made a face, but still helped her up.
“Careful, Hermione. It takes her a while to wake up all the way,” warned Harry.
“Harry, I assure you, I’ll be just fine.” She marched up the stairs, carrying Percy.
“Women,” muttered Ron. There was silence, as both strained to hear what was happening upstairs. After a few minutes, Harry stood up.
“So, how ‘bout them Cannons?”
“Harry, I’m on the team.”
“Happy Christmas Eve, Gin,” murmured Harry.
“Mmmm. Happy Christmas Eve to you too, Harry,” said Ginny, burying her heads in the pillows.
“Ginny, do we have to get up?” asked Harry. Ginny reached over and picked up the alarm clock, shaped like a snitch.
“Yes, Harry. It’s twelve noon. I wonder why Lily hasn’t disturbed us.”
“She was up late, too,” groaned Harry. “What time do we have to be at the Burrow?”
“Whenever. Before six, I think. I want to get over early, though. Help cook. Play Quidditch. That kind of thing.”
“Oh. Right. Quidditch. Man, my broom is gonna be so outclassed by the others,” Harry complained. Ginny rolled her eyes.
“Harry, the only ones with the new Firebolt are Ron and Charlie. And Ron keeps.”
“Yeah, but Charlie plays Seeker, too.”
“You’ve beaten faster brooms before. Like Malfoy’s old 2001.”
“Yeah, but he wasn’t any good in the first place. Charlie is good.”
“Yes, and the only better Seeker than him has been you,” rebutted Ginny.
“The broom’ll even things out.”
“So it’s fair, then,” Ginny said, in a manner indicating that she was losing patience.
“I like to win,” Harry said stoutly.
“Harry, it’s family. And if you’re so stubborn about playing opposite Charlie, I’ll Seek against you, then. Charlie can Beat,” Ginny smiled. She knew that Harry remembered the fiasco when Charlie had decided to Beat at a family game several months before.
“Ginny, I was thinking more along the lines of ‘Happy Christmas, Harry. You can have your new Firebolt early!’”
“Not happening, and you know it.”
“One can dream.”
“One can get out of bed.”
“I get the hint. I’m up, I’m up,” said Harry, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed.
“Shower quick, you,” said Ginny, pointing a finger at him threateningly. “I don’t want to cast a Hot-Water Charm for myself.”
“Gin, a year tailing Voldemort taught me to be quick. In, out, done.”
“But don’t neglect the soap.”
“When have I ever?”
“Try the day after the last battle,” Ginny smirked.
“Ginny, I was a little distracted then. So unless you like seeing me stand here in my birthday suit...”
“Oh, I do. But you can hop in the shower, now. And shave.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Ginny heard the water go on. Lily cooed at the sound of the rushing water.
“Come on, let’s go see Daddy.” Ginny swung her legs over the side of the bed and scooped Lily up from the middle. She walked into the bathroom. When they got in, she lifted Lily up so she could see over the curtain rod. Lily began giggling.
“Hello, Lilykins. Tell Mummy that I’m even shampooing,” said Harry.
“Remind him to condition, Lily, sweetie.”
“Tell Mummy that’s not going to happen.” Lily giggled.
“Oof, Lily. My arms are getting tired. Here- good. Mummy’s getting good at the Hovering Charm, isn’t she, young lady?” Lily laughed as she felt her mother let go of her, while maintaining her height.
“Don’t drop your wand, Ginny.”
“It’s not Wingardium Leviosa. Wand control doesn’t matter at this point. And the only thing I’m dropping now is my drawers. Don’t worry- I have a cushion underneath her on the floor, just in case.”
“Well, then, Hovering Charm, cushion under her, we’re good to go. Lily, that’s Daddy’s razor.”
“Harry, what on earth is your razor doing up there?” asked Ginny. Harry’s razor was on the top shelf of the shampoo rack, and well within Lily’s reach. Something Lily had just figured out.
“When I gave her a bath last night, she kept reaching for it, so I moved it.”
“Move it to a middle shelf now, please.”
“Done. And so am I.” Harry stepped out of the shower. “Your turn.”
“Thanks, dear. Would you mind changing Lily’s diaper?”
“Yes, I would mind.”
“Thank you, sweetie.” Ginny kissed the end of Harry’s nose as she stepped into the shower. Harry quickly dried and dressed himself with a wave of his wand, then waved it again at Lily. She flew into his arms. He caught a whiff of a messy diaper and groaned. Lily laughed, tearing Harry’s glasses from his face. He set her down on the changing table, grabbing a spare diaper and some wipes.
“Lily, give Daddy his glasses, please.” Harry pulled his glasses from Lily and fixed them on his nose. She made a grab for them again, but he grabbed her hand and laid her down.
“There we go! My, don’t you have a messy diaper!”
“There’s a charm for that,” called Ginny. “Abstergo, with a single wave of the wand, from the side of your body that isn’t your wand arm, to the other side.”
“Why didn’t you tell me before?” asked Harry, somewhat irritated.
“It was in the parenting books I have. And it was fun watching you.”
“Oh. Abstergo!” he exclaimed, moving his wand over Lily from left to right. The soiled diaper fell flew away from her, and hit the edge of the changing table. Harry quickly put a new diaper on. He picked up the dirty one and dropped it in the rubbish bin.
“Harry, could you put her in the outfit I laid out for her on the dresser?” asked Ginny.
“Sure,” said Harry. He walked out, feeling that perhaps Hermione should start a Society for the Promotion of Harry’s Welfare. He quickly dressed Lily in the green turtleneck and denim overalls, thinking that it was a little silly to be fussing over a baby’s clothes when she didn’t care what she wore. The shower turned off. He heard Ginny muttering a drying spell. She walked briskly into the room, grabbing an outfit hanging in her wardrobe. Green turtleneck and blue jeans.
“Harry, would you mind wearing this? It brings out your eyes,” said Ginny, holding out a green turtleneck. Harry groaned.
“Aw, Gin, not Slytherin colours!” Ginny’s eyes flashed. “Okay, Christmas colors. Will do.”
“Thank you, Harry.”
“This is your Christmas present, mind.”
“Let’s go. Come on, Lilykins,” said Ginny, lifting Lily up onto her hip. They walked into the drawing room. Ginny grabbed a pinch of Floo powder and threw it into the fireplace.
“The Burrow!” she said clearly. Harry followed.
“Ginny! Harry! Good, you’ve come. Harry, would you mind taking Billy out back and flying with him? Bill’s late in work, and Fleur is working on moving things, still. Poor things. Three months pregnant and in the middle of a move. Ah, well,” said Mrs. Weasley, sighing. Harry and Ginny froze.
“Fleur’s pregnant again?” asked Ginny. Mrs. Weasley’s eyes widened.
“Oh, dear, I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone, she’s not far along, but Bill wanted me to keep an eye on her. Oh, dear.”
“It’s alright,” said Harry. “We won’t tell them you told. We won’t tell anyone.” Ginny smiled triumphantly.
“I thought so! That’s why she’s been avoiding the rest of us like crazy. She knows we can tell.”
“What?” asked Harry, bewildered.
“It’s a female thing. When we’re pregnant, we radiate... something, I guess. Witches are more sensitive to it than Muggles, particularly witches who’ve had children. That’s why Mum here can tell almost the day... er, after.”
“Weird. I’m going out back. See ya! C’mon, Bill,” said Harry, motioning to the small three-year-old now jumping around his legs.
“Do you need help cooking, Mum?” asked Ginny, setting Lily down on the floor to crawl around.
“What? Oh, yes. Here. Can you make the stuffing?”
“Sure.” Ginny began busily mixing ingredients, looking at the clocks. The family one had a new location called “Their Home”, and several new hands. Ginny smiled as she saw her face, Harry’s, and Lily’s on the “Home” section. She saw a hand on the clock move. It was Fleur’s. It had gone from “Their Place” to “Traveling.” Ginny watched as it stopped on “Home.” She heard Fleur’s voice calling from the living room.
“I do hope zat leetle Bill hasn’t given you too much trouble, Molly,” she said, walking into the kitchen, brushing soot off her silvery hair.
“No, he hasn’t. Harry actually has him out back. He’s teaching him to fly,” said Mrs. Weasley absently. Fleur rushed the window.
“What? Flying? No!” she shrieked. “‘Arry ‘as ‘im on ‘is own broomstick! Oh, oh!” she cried, looking faint. Ginny glanced out the window.
“Fleur, it’s fine. He has a safety harness on and Harry’s a good flyer. And I’m not just saying that because I’m his wife. He’s taken Lily flying several times now,” said Ginny, reassuringly. Fleur gripped the window sill, knuckles turning white.
“Zey- zey are doing fleeps, now!”
“Fleur, since it bothers you, I’ll go tell Harry to stop.” Ginny walked out of the house, pointing her wand at her throat.
“HARRY JAMES POTTER! IF YOU DON”T COME DOWN TO TWENTY FEET I WILL PERSONALLY MAKE SURE YOU NEVER FLY A BROOMSTICK AGAIN! FLEUR IS HAVING A HEART ATTACK!!” She walked back into the house. Fleur smiled at her, now holding a cup of tea.
“Thank you, Ginny,” she said, relieved. “I am sorry for my outburst. I am just a leetle tired and stressed at ze moment.”
“That’s just fine, Fleur. He shouldn’t have been up that high, anyways. Not with someone else’s child.” She smiled at Fleur. She noticed a slight glow around Fleur, not visible, but more of a feeling. “So how have you been lately, Fleur?” she asked politely, but raising an eyebrow. Fleur smiled wryly.
“Eez it zat easy to tell?” she asked. Ginny nodded.
“Yeah. It’s a little obvious. When are you due?”
“Around ze end of May, or ze beginning of June,” she sighed. Ginny pursed her lips, calculating.
“So you’re about three, four months along?” asked Ginny.
“Oui. Bill and I had planned on announcing it tonight.”
“So you’re just a couple months behind Tonks, then.”
“Zis time hers will be first, yes,” said Fleur, smiling.
“Who is coming tonight, Mum?” asked Ginny, turning to Mrs. Weasley.
“Yes. Everyone will be here, except for Remus, Tonks, and Andromeda. They’re having dinner tonight at the Tonks’, and tomorrow at Lupin’s parents’ home. So we won’t be seeing them at all, unfortunately.”
“Oh, that stinks.”
“Zat eez too bad. I was looking forward to spending time weeth Tonks,” remarked Fleur, examining the fingernails on her left hand. Two years ago, Ginny would have laughed at this statement, as the two women were so often at loggerheads, but lately, Tonks and Fleur had become close friends.
“Me, too,” sighed Ginny. “Lily, what are you eating?”
“Ginny, dear, it’s just a bit of a biscuit,” said Mrs. Weasley. Ginny jumped up from her seat.
“Oatmeal, dear,” said Mrs. Weasley. “I know very well that she’s sensitive to wheat.”
“Sorry, Mum.” Ginny smiled sheepishly and sat down. “I don’t know why, but I’m just so paranoid about Lily. Is that normal?” she asked. Fleur smiled.
“Did you not notice my reaction to Billy flying? Of course eet eez normal.”
“Ginny, I’m still paranoid about you,” pointed out Mrs. Weasley.
“Don’t I know it,” sighed Ginny. “Mum, I need to do something. Can I chop those onions?”
“May I. And yes, you may.”
“Hello, Harry,” said Charlie, waving his broomstick from the Quidditch area.
“Hey, Charlie,” said Harry, jogging over. “Are the rest here yet?”
“Enough for a game. You, me, Kirsten, Bill, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny.”
“Four on a side, then.”
“As usual, Harry. Oh, and Dad’s the ref.”
Harry walked into the house. “Quidditch!” he yelled. There was an immediate scramble for broomsticks and jackets. Harry grabbed his old Firebolt and walked outside. He ran his finger down the polished handle, well worn through the years. He smiled.
“Who’re the team captains?” yelled Ron.
“How ‘bout you and me?” said Harry, as the nine grouped in a circle.
“Okay.” The two walked to opposite sides of the circle. “You first, Harry.”
“Okay. I pick George.”
“Fred,” responded Ron.
“Ginny,” said Ron, winking.
“Done, then. What are we playing this time ‘round?” asked Harry.
“Let’s not do Bludgers right now. How about one Keeper, two Chasers, and a Seeker?” suggested Ron.
“Okay. My team, huddle!” called Harry. He and George, Kirsten, and Bill grouped together.
“Who wants to Keep?” asked Harry.
“I’ll do it,” said Kirsten.
“You seek, Harry,” said Bill. “George and I will Chase.” The four walked to the small pitch in the backyard. They assumed their starting positions, with Kirsten by the two hoops, Bill and George at the center, with Harry in between them. Harry watched the other team’s lineup. No surprises there. Ron was Keeper, Charlie was Seeker, and Ginny and Fred were Chasers. Mr. Weasley brought a box out into the center.
“Okay. On the count of three, then- one, two, three!” And with that, he threw up the lid. Two balls zoomed out. One was a red blur. One was only a slight gold shimmer in the air. Harry met Charlie’s eyes, and grinned. Charlie flashed a smile back as he zoomed upwards. Harry quickly followed him. They met up in the air.
“How many points do you want to wait for, Charlie?” asked Harry. They usually waited for a certain amount of points to be scored before looking for the Snitch. Each game was different, and they never told the rest of the players.
“I dunno... maybe thirty each?” asked Charlie.
“So when both sides have scored thirty, we can go. Let’s do some tricks. I’m gonna pull a Wronski on you. Is that the new Firebolt, by the way?”
“Nah. This is the first model. Is yours the new one?”
“No. Same as yours. So we’re even.”
“Except I’m way better than you,” Charlie laughed. Harry didn’t even respond to that. He pulled up a hundred feet and dived down sharply, almost vertically. Charlie quickly followed him, preparing to pull up just after Harry. They worked hard to coordinate their stunts together- of course, everyone knew they were just stunts, but they were fun to watch. And you never knew...
Harry saw the ground rushing up at him, felt the air blow past his ears, and felt his broom beneath him. This was what he lived for. He pulled up quickly, taking a quick spiral upward. He heard Mr. Weasley shouting from below.
“That’s ten points come to Harry’s team scored by George! Ten-zero!” Harry heard a whoop come from below, then a thud, followed by more shouting by Mr. Weasley.
“And that was a DELIBERATE foul, Fred Weasley, penalty to Harry’s team. And Bill’s taking it... he shoots... and doesn’t score.” Harry heard Ginny, Fred, and Charlie singing “Ronald is our King” from below. Ron passed the Quaffle to Ginny, who flew quickly to the end of the pitch.
“Block her, Kirsten!” shouted Harry. Kirsten flashed him a grin, then turned back to Ginny. Ginny tossed the ball in a wavy arc, and it looked like Kirsten was going to miss it, until- Harry ripped off his glasses and wiped them- she jumped off her broom and caught the Quaffle against her chest, cradling it like a baby. She tossed it into the air, and whacked it with the end of her broom, and it landed neatly in Bill’s hands, as he streaked down the pitch. Ron, still shocked at Kirsten’s save, left his right hoop unguarded, and Bill easily, almost lazily, tossed the red ball into it. Bill flew a victory lap around the pitch, and as he passed Harry, yelled,
“Start looking, Harry!” Harry knew that he had to wait for forty more points, but a few tricks wouldn’t hurt. He did a few flips in the air, doing handstands. He pulled a few rolls. Opposite the pitch, Charlie was flying upside down in a spiral. Harry flew over and flew down the middle of Charlie’s spiral. His slipstream caught the tail of Charlie’s broom, and threw it off course. Charlie fell downward. Harry laughed. Charlie was pulling an old trick. It looked like he was falling, but he was really in perfect control. Harry knew that Charlie would stop about two feet from the ground. But Kirsten apparently didn’t know that. Harry saw her leave her post and zoom rapidly underneath Charlie. Harry covered his face with his hands. But he couldn’t cover his ears. Mr. Weasley’s yell came through, loud and clear.
“And that’s a double goal for Ron’s team, scored by both Fred and Ginny, and the score is now ten-twenty, Ron’s team in the lead!”
“Kirsten, get back! He’s faking it!” shouted Harry. “Charlie, that was cheap!” He zoomed down to where Kirsten was lifting Charlie up. “Kirsten, he’s on the other side! Get back to your post!”
“I will, Harry. Give me a chance to hex my husband!” Kirsten pulled her wand out of her sleeve and aimed it at Charlie. She wriggled it in the air, then tucked it back in her sleeve. It had been a nonverbal spell, but Charlie seemed to know what it was, as he had a horrified expression on his face. Kirsten laughed and flew back. Charlie clambered back onto his broom, somewhat gingerly. He muttered something.
“What’s that, Charlie? I didn’t quite catch that.”
“I hate it when she does that,” he muttered, a bit more clearly this time. “And no, I’m not going to tell you what that was.”
“It’s your call, mate. Let’s go.” Harry spiraled quickly upwards. He heard Mr. Weasley yell out the score once more. 20-20. A tie. Harry began searching for the Snitch, his eyes darting around the pitch. He wanted to be able to find it just after the teams reached thirty. A glimmer of gold caught his eye- Mr. Weasley’s glasses. His eyes finally landed on the Snitch, hiding in a bush on the ground. He kept one eye on it, and did a few flips, so Charlie would think he was still just tricking around. He saw Fred streak down the pitch toward Kirsten, and the ball just made it into the hoop. 20-30. Harry flew a lazy spiral, ending with starfish-on-a-stick. He was strong, and able to maintain the pose for quite some time. It usually wasn’t wise in a Quidditch match, because you presented a large target for Bludgers, but when there weren’t Bludgers, it was perfectly safe. Harry watched the Snitch. It had darted to the other end of the bush. Charlie hadn’t yet seen it. He was slowly circling the pitch, waiting. Waiting for-
“And Bill brings the Quaffle down to Ron’s end, passes it to George who curves it into Ron’s left hoop, better luck next time, and the score is thirty-thirty!”
Harry dived toward the ground, aiming for a spot twenty feet to the left of the bush. Charlie followed him. Harry could hear Charlie grunting in surprise behind him as he flattened the dive, not spiraling up as in the famous Wronski Feint. Harry, three feet off the ground, aimed himself directly at the bush and grabbed the Snitch as he flew by. He held it up in the air, whooping. Kirsten, Bill, and George flew down to him, clapping him on the back. Mr. Weasley blew his whistle, his favorite part of being a referee. Harry landed and gave the Snitch to Mr. Weasley. He tossed his broom over his shoulder. He shook hands with Ron, who was holding the Quaffle. They grinned at each other. Harry found Ginny, and carried her broom. She reached up and bit him lightly on the ear.
“What was that for?” he asked, slightly hurt.
“That was for beating us,” she responded. Then, she grabbed his hand and slowed him down, until the were at the end of the line trying to cram into the door. Ginny reached her arms up and twined them around Harry’s neck. She pulled his head down, and kissed him firmly on the lips. “And that,” she said, “was for winning.”
“Can you pass the potatoes, Charlie?” asked Hermione.
“Which ones? Cheese or mashed?”
“Kirsten, would you like some salad with your dressing?” said Fred, grinning.
“That’s not my fault! It came out faster than I thought it would!” And indeed, the dressing nearly covered her entire plate. She waved her wand at it, and most of it disappeared, refilling the bottle. Harry turned to her.
“Kirsten, remember that save you made?”
“Which one?” she asked, distracted.
“The one where you jumped off your broom and caught the ball!” exclaimed Harry. Kirsten looked up from Eirik, who was trying to grab some lettuce.
“Yeah, I remember. What about it?” she asked.
“How did- how on earth did you do that? Who taught you how to fly?” asked Harry.
“My parents. And after that, I was Keeper at my school. Youngest Keeper ever. My dad coached me in the summers.”
“You never told us that!” exclaimed Harry.
“Charlie knew,” she said simply.
“That’s how we met,” said Charlie. “The rangers on the reserve were having a Quidditch game, full teams and all, and she Kept for the team I was on. She made a different save- I believe you were hanging upside down by your feet and you grabbed the ball with one hand,” he said to Kirsten, who nodded, “and so I asked her afterwards about it, and Quidditch, and we just kept talking. We’ve been on good terms ever since,” he said, grinning mischievously. His resemblance to Fred and George was really quite shocking.
“That’s cool. Have you ever considered being on a professional team, Kirsten?” asked Harry.
“Not really. Charlie and I want to have children, and I like dragons. But I have thought about it. What about you, Harry? I understand that you were the only Seeker at Hogwarts who was better than Charlie.”
“Er... maybe. I mean, it depends on how you look at it, I suppose. I was really just a prodigy.”
“Stop being modest, Harry. You beat Charlie almost every time you play him,” said Ron through a mouthful of food. Hermione rounded on him.
“Ronald, if you don’t stop speaking with your mouth full, I will have to place a Silencing Charm on you,” she snapped. Ron swallowed quickly.
“Sorry, Hermione,” he said guiltily.
“You had better be,” she said, glaring. She handed Percy a small piece of turkey. He stuffed it quickly into his mouth. Lily watched in fascination. Ginny smiled at her.
“Honey, in about a month I’ll let you have solids. Wait your turn.” She handed a teething ring to the infant, who began chewing on it intently. Ginny and Hermione began discussing solid foods and other things like that. Harry didn’t really pay attention. He felt suddenly detached from the conversation as he looked around. For someone who had once had no family, he had come quite a ways. He was just another one of the Weasleys. His fame, his past, they didn’t matter here. Everyone knew him and loved him for who he was, not what he was. Even Fleur and Kirsten were just part of the family. Fleur had never been particularly awed by him, and Kirsten was not a witch easily impressed. Kirsten and Fleur were already in a deep discussion about families with multiple children. By this time, it was well-known that Fleur was pregnant again, and it was common knowledge that Charlie and Kirsten were trying to have a second child. Bill and Charlie were holding their respective sons on their laps as they were discussing, along with Ron, Quidditch statistics. Fred and George were discussing ideas for the joke shop with their father.
But there was one voice missing from the general noise and hubbub. Harry looked towards the foot of the table, and met the eyes of his mother-in-law, Molly Weasley. She smiled at him, but Harry could see the pain in her eyes. There was another voice she heard, a voice that was missing, a voice that Harry could never miss in the same way, and hoped he never would. Percy. Harry had hardly known him, and even though he had leaped in front of Harry to take a curse not meant for him, Harry still did not feel the sorrow Mrs. Weasley had. Percy was not his child. And Harry knew that Percy had made his own choice. He respected that. And he also knew that Mrs. Weasley knew it was not Harry’s fault that Percy was the way he was.
Ginny looked out the window, beyond the table. It was snowing. It was like the day of the final battle- December 21st, 1998. The darkest day of the year. And from then on, they had gone into brightness, both literally and figuratively. It had been followed by a time of confusion. Most of the students at Hogwarts had planned on staying home for the Christmas break, but after the war was won, most had gone home. All but a few- and one of those few had been Ginny. Her family had been damaged, but were still taking care of others. She felt that the best thing for her to do was stay at Hogwarts, and wait for everything to be sorted out. She had been part of the final battle, but, when it was all over, she wanted to pretend that she was just a regular student. Someone who had no responsibilities beyond homework and classes. Someone who was not involved with the war. Someone who had never been damaged, never hurt by Lord Voldemort. Because that was someone she could never be, not after her first year. Not after enduring things that were the stuff of nightmares. Not with memories that were repressed until dementors came around. She gazed out the window. She thought she saw a figure out there, a smudge of brown in the white landscape. The figure came closer to the house, stumbling. It was a person, unrecognizable beneath the thick coat, scarf, and hat. She nudged Harry, nodding her head toward the window. Harry stood up quickly.
“Someone’s coming toward the house,” he said, not yelling, but loud enough to be heard over the conversation. Ron and Hermione quickly stood up, handing Percy to Mrs. Weasley. Ron and Hermione stood on either side of the door, while Harry looked out the window. The rest of the family had their wands out. Harry watched the person come closer. The stumbling gait of the person looked slightly familiar. As the person drew nearer, Harry caught a glimpse of his face, and sighed in relief.
“It’s Rivers. John Rivers. My boss,” he added, for the benefit of everyone who wasn’t Ron, Hermione, or Ginny.
“John?” asked Hermione. “What on earth is he doing here? Wasn’t your squad assigned on a mission?” she asked, perplexed.
“Yeah,” said Harry, furrowing his brow. “I don’t know what he’s doing here.”
“But I don’t think it’s to offer us a Christmas turkey,” remarked Ron. Harry chuckled. There was a joke among the Aurors about John Rivers and turkeys, ever since it was found out that one of the men who had founded the country Rivers had come from had wanted the national bird to be the wild turkey.
“Whatever it is, it’s not good,” said Hermione. Ginny only looked at Harry, eyes fearful. She alone knew the details of Harry’s dangerous mission, and she alone knew that if Harry was called back, his chance for an early retirement would be pushed back five years. Harry opened the door. Better sooner than later.
John Rivers stumped in, scattering snow across the floor. Ron waved his wand, and it all disappeared. Harry took his coat while the man unwrapped his scarf.
“Have a seat, John. We were just having dinner. Would you like to join?” asked Mr. Weasley.
“Ah! Arthur! Under ordinary circumstances, yes, but I need to speak with Potter for a moment. Harry,” he said, turning to Ginny, who had pushed herself back from the table. “You retired a while ago, and I have no jurisdiction over you, except to ask that you remain where you are until I am finished speaking privately with Harry. Is there somewhere where I may do so?” he asked, turning to Harry.
“Yes, sir. Over here.” Harry led John Rivers into the living room, and closed the door. John looked towards the door uncertainly.
“Are you sure-”
“Yes, sir. The only one inclined to eavesdrop would be my wife, and she knows I will tell her, anyway. Besides, there have been multiple charms placed on this room to keep noise in and out.”
“Good. Harry, I don’t bring good news. The remaining members of the band of Death Eaters led us on a chase through Russia, Scandinavia, and finally here. It appears that their stopping point in Alaska was merely a rest stop on their journey. It was a miracle our sensors picked them up. We only battled them there one time- you were there.”
“But now, I fear I will have to bring you back on active duty. No,” said John Rivers, holding up a hand, “there is no one else. But this will be your last mission, because once this band is dealt with, there should be no more, and it shouldn’t take long. But we need you back because these Death Eaters have once again begun their regime of ‘purification.’ We found the Dark Mark over a house today. About thirty minutes ago.”
“Whose house was it?” asked Harry, his voice strangled.
“The Bones manor. They got the whole family- the grandparents, Susan Bones- I believe she was in your year- her brother, Edgar Bones, his wife, and their two children, Edgar and Roger.” John lowered his head. Harry clenched his hands.
“But why? They never did anything against them. The Bones family was pureblood,” he protested.
“Potter, Edgar married a Muggle. His children were half-blood. And you know the Death Eaters never leave a job unfinished. The family was having their Christmas Eve dinner. We were incautious, forgetting why we were chasing this people.” John’s voice shook. Harry suddenly remembered that Mr. and Mrs. Bones had been the ones who had offered John Rivers houseroom when he first came from America. They had been about the same age as him.
“When do I report, sir?”
“We need you to report in an hour. You may tell your family about this. And tell Weasley that we may need to recall him, also. But only if there is an emergency- in which case, we may well recall his wife and yours. I’m sorry to tell you this, as you both have young children, but there are more lives at stake.”
“We understand, sir.”
“Good. I have to leave now. See you in an hour, Potter.”
“Good evening,” said Harry. He held the door open. John walked back into the kitchen, put on his coat, hat, scarf, and boots, and walked out the door, Apparating as soon as he got outside the Anti-Apparition zone. As soon as he disappeared, eleven voices began questioning Harry. He would ordinarily have laughed, but he wasn’t in the mood.
“One at a time. Ginny,” he said, nodding toward his wife.
“Why was Rivers here?” she asked.
“I’m getting called back on active duty. Ron next.”
“Where are you going?”
“I’m not going anywhere. The mission has been moved to England,” he answered. Hermione had the next question.
“Why did you get called back?” she asked, although she knew the reason, having been a former Auror herself. Harry sighed.
“There have been some deaths.” Everyone gasped.
“Who?” whispered Mrs. Weasley.
“The Bones family. Mr. And Mrs. Bones, their two children, Susan and Edgar, Edgar’s wife, no, I don’t know her name, and their two children, Edgar and Roger,” he said quickly. He knew that once he said it, it would become real to him. Better to get it over with quickly. But Ginny gasped.
“I saw them over the summer- Susan and Edgar and little Edgar. At the Memorial. Edgar- little Edgar- asked for my autograph.” She blushed. “He was so adorable.” Her voice trembled a little.
“I have to report in at the office in an hour,” said Harry.
“Well, the dinner was nearly over anyways. Why don’t we clean up and go in the other room for the rest of the night,” suggested Mrs. Weasley.
“Thanks, Mum,” said Harry. He waved his wand at his plate, and Ginny’s, which wiped themselves clean. He carried them over to the sink, as he knew that his mother-in-law liked to clean the dishes after everyone left. Everyone else followed suit, before turning into the living room. Ginny hung back, holding Lily, along with Ron and Hermione, while Percy crawled on the floor. Everyone knew where they were, but no one said anything.
“Ron, you know what might happen,” said Harry. “It’s fifty-fifty right now.” Ron nodded and shrugged.
“I know. I was expecting it, really, when John turned up,” he sighed. Harry turned to Hermione and Ginny.
“There’s also a chance they might call you two back, also. John’s not happy about it, but that’s how it is,” he said dejectedly. Ginny nodded.
“Not unless it was really desperate, though,” said Hermione. Ron looked at her as though she had just sprouted a third eye.
“Not really desperate? Blimey, Hermione, there’ve been several murders!”
“I know. But... oh, never mind. It’s just that recalling someone takes a good deal of paperwork. That’s all.”
“Hermione, it’s a WAR! They won’t bloody care about the paperwork- there are dozens of loopholes!”
“Why does it matter, Ron? Look, it’s Christmas Eve. Let’s not fight, okay?” pleaded Hermione, looking Ron straight in the eyes. Ron seemed to swell up, but then relaxed his shoulders, with his breath coming out in a sigh.
“You’re right,” he conceded. He scooped Percy up from the floor and took Hermione’s hand with his free one. They walked into the other room, expecting Ginny and Harry to follow them.
Harry turned to Ginny, who was still holding Lily, and put his arms around her. He could feel her breathing deeply and quickly, while tears pooled in her eyes. Lily didn’t notice, but reached for her father, who transferred her to his arms, while somehow managing to keep both of them around Ginny. Harry gave his wife a simple kiss on the forehead, and led her into the other room. Everyone was sitting down somewhere, except for Little Bill, who was brandishing a stick from the kindling pile like a sword. The conversation quieted, but only for a moment. Ginny and Hermione squished their way into the couch with Fleur and Kirsten. Harry perched himself on the back of the couch, leaning against the wall, as he massaged Ginny’s shoulders. Ron picked up a stick and engaged Little Bill in a vicious sword fight, allowing Bill to “cut off” various limbs and finally stomp on his chest, victorious. Harry smiled. He had to leave in an hour- less than that, actually- and he wanted to enjoy himself, with his family, on Christmas Eve.
Harry left when he had to. Ginny remained, as did the rest of the family. His absence wasn’t terribly noticeable. They still enjoyed themselves, had fun talking, celebrating. But Ginny and Hermione felt somewhat detached from the celebrations.
“You know,” said Ginny thoughtfully, “there are ways to avoid being recalled.”
“Yeah. Ron’s on a professional Quidditch team,” said Hermione, “and they don’t like to remove people from that. It makes it less secretive, and whatnot. I highly doubt I’ll be recalled, as I’m in another department now, and I’m he- er, somewhat high ranking,” she finished, blushing. “But it’s really likely you’ll be recalled.”
“I know,” sighed Ginny. “Even having a baby won’t keep me out of the running.” She patted Lily’s hair softly as she slept. Hermione suddenly went very still, her eyes moving from Ginny, to Lily, and back again, over and over. Ginny, being used to Hermione, was not fazed, only a little curious. Hermione finally closed her eyes tightly. After a moment, she opened them again, grinning.
“What?” asked Ginny, her curiosity piqued. Hermione laughed a little.
“Having Lily might not keep you from being recalled, but-”
“Oh!” exclaimed Ginny, laughing. “You’re right! But I don’t know if I could do that right now.”
“It’s the whole stress thing. And I don’t know if it would be ethical. Just to stay out of the Force.”
“I would help you, and so would your mother. But think about it. Talk to Harry about it when he gets back. It wouldn’t be a problem if you decided to do it. I would throw in my share. It was my idea, sort of!” exclaimed Hermione, laughing. Ginny joined her.
“What time is it?” asked Ginny. Hermione glanced at her watch.
“Five till ten.”
“Seriously? I need to be getting home. Lily is way past her bedtime. And by Lily I mean me.”
“So’s Percy. And by Percy, you know I mean Ron.” The two looked over to where Ron was slumped in an armchair, barely awake, with Little Bill climbing all over him. All around, most of the young parents were in various stages of unconsciousness, with only Fred and George remaining alert. Hermione laughed softly.
“I remember when we used to stay up long past midnight and wake up before the sun rose on Christmas. And now look at us!”
“Yeah,” said Ginny, yawning. “We really should be going home now.” She stood up, holding Lily, and headed towards the monstrous pile of coats. She dug hers out from the bottom and wrapped Lily in her blanket. Mrs. Weasley jumped up from where she had been sitting.
“Ginny, are you leaving already? Come on, let’s get your presents.” Mrs. Weasley picked up a box from a pile by the door, and waved her wand at the pile of presents beneath the tree. Several presents flew through the air and into the box.
“There you go, dear. Now you can go,” said Mrs. Weasley. Ginny nodded gratefully, and through a pinch of Floo powder into the fireplace. She stepped in, and Mrs. Weasley waved the box in with her.
“Number 12, Grimmauld Place,” she said firmly, but quietly, so as not to wake Lily. When she arrived in the dark, cold family room, she sighed and headed up the stairs, trying to stay awake until she got into bed.
Harry stumbled into the house long after Ginny had gone to sleep. He crept into the family room, and arranged more presents under the tree. He pulled three stockings out of a bag he had hidden in the pantry, and quickly filled them. He carried them upstairs and saw Ginny sleeping in their bed with Lily curled up next to her. Harry quietly changed into his pajamas and set the three stockings across the foot of the bed, then climbed in there himself.
A/N: So, time for a little drama... this story is going all over the place, isn't it? Sigh... I try, but this story just won't twist the way I want it to... So, I'm glad you made it through to this point, and, honestly, if you're tuckered out from all that reading, you don't have to give a decent review. Just a simple "good," or something similar... maybe I should start a list of steady reviewers... just to be fair and all- because, honestly, those of you have have kept up with the story, even if you came in somewhere in the middle, you are the ones who have made me want to finish this story and not totally give up and put a check mark in the "abandoned" box. So thank you. You know who you are.
P.S. The weather here is perfectly frightful (I don't deal well with heat), so I've been holed up inside, working on my stories... because I'll be going off fanfic from June 14th to sometime in August, as I will be travelling a lot this summer, and I want to cut off fanfic a month before the release of the seventh book... and I want you to know, that if anything terribly drastic happens in Deathly Hallows, then this story will become AU, because I am NOT changing it. Didn't I say the plot was mine?