“Hi guys! I can tell from the befuddled looks on your faces that you managed to find the press before you got here.” George and Angelina handed all four of them a shot of Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey with a smile. They had only just Apparated outside the Burrow to find George and Angelina waiting for them.
The first year after Fred’s death had been really hard on George. But, once he started dating Angelina everything seemed to turn around. He would never be the same without his twin. But he was as close to the old George as anyone could ask since he and Angelina had tied the knot.
Hugs and handshakes were passed around after the group had downed their shots. It was clear they were several behind George. “Medicinal,” he said, joining Harry and Ron in another.
“How’s my favorite Angel?” Harry asked Angelina.
“Absolutely great, Harry. We’re off the clock and it feels wonderful.”
Ron and Harry both laughed. Then Ron answered for them both, “I know exactly what you mean.”
“Ginny!” Angelina gave her sister-in-law an extra long hug. “Your flying drills really paid off last night!”
“Harry told me,” Ginny replied, full of relief that she’d played some part in keeping them all safe. “Thanks.”
“She’s amazing.” Harry’s eyes were starry as he gazed lovingly at his fiancee.
“Potter? I think you’re star struck.” Hermione laughed. “Or drunk.”
“What’s the difference?” Harry replied.
“Don’t forget the brightest witch of our age!” Seamus, another early arrival, strode up to the group and gave Hermione a peck on the cheek. She beamed. “That new mass stunner spell of yours was brilliant!”
Hermione tried to frown, but just couldn’t keep up the effort. “You know you’re not supposed to use…”
“…unapproved spells,” everyone finished for her. Hermione blushed hot pink as she joined in the group laughter.
“So. Who’s going to escort me in to this wonderful party?” Ginny asked, batting her eyelashes.
“That would be me, beautiful.” Harry extended his arm, which she gladly took. Ron and Hermione did likewise. As the four walked toward the Burrow they gave a collective gasp as they took in the decorations. The mothers had outdone themselves.
The trees gave off a soft glow. Between them were strung white veils that formed an enchanted canopy that would shimmer every so often. The veils sheltered the gilded tables and chairs that were used at Bill’s and Fleur’s and, later, George’s and Angelina’s, weddings. The center pieces were an arrangement of lilies, in honor of Harry’s mother, and red, white and pink roses, Ginny’s and Hermione’s favorite flowers. In the center of the marquis was a solid oak dance floor, with a magnificent ice carving, charmed to never melt. The carving was of Harry and Ginny and Ron and Hermione, dancing. To the right was a small stage where the band was still setting up.
Hermione looked up lovingly at the warrior on her arm. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “But I know what you’re thinking. Go ahead.” The scent of the food that was now being laid out by Kreacher on the long tables was overwhelming.
“Thank the gods,” Harry and Ron chorused and made a bee line for the food table.
“Just a small snack! The party doesn’t start for another half an hour,” Ginny called after them.
Ginny and Hermione shared a look. “I’d hoped they’d grow out of that.” Ginny shook her head as Hermione rolled her eyes.
Just then, Molly came bounding out of the door. “Hello dears!” She scooped the girls into one of her signature Molly Weasley hugs.
“Mum, this is positively wonderful,” Hermione said, almost in awe.
“You’ve outdone yourself this time,” Ginny added.
“Nothing is too good for our girls,” Molly said with a teary smile. “Besides, Kathy Granger and I have been waiting a long time for this.”
“Mum!” Harry and Ron said around mouthfuls of meat pies, hugging her.
“Haven’t you two broken them of that yet?” Molly asked the girls, referring to their fiancés’ eating manners.
Ginny and Hermione gave her pained and exasperated shakes of the head.
“It just makes us more lovable,” Ron said with a grin full of food.
Kissing them both on the cheek, Molly tried to fix them with a scornful look. It didn’t hold.
Swallowing, Harry smiled at the woman who’d joyfully filled the role of mother for him for so many years. “Mum, this is absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much.” The passage of time, and the love that surrounded him from his surrogate family, the Weasleys, had helped cushion the blow of the realization that Harry had no relatives coming, save Teddy, who had yet to arrive. Still, I wish Sirius could be here…
Ron nodded enthusiastically. “Absolutely amazing, Mum.”
She shot them both a smile and, turning to Harry and Hermione. “Hearing you two call me Mum is all the thanks I need.” With that, Molly began to tear up in earnest.
As she wiped her eyes on her apron, she composed herself. “Hermione, your mum’s been here all day, of course, but your dad just got here an hour ago. Your mum’s in the kitchen with me. Your father’s out in the shed with Arthur.” She said the last with a disapproving glance at Arthur’s “lair.”
“Mr. G’s here already?” Ron asked excitedly. Seamus and George had heard that as well and came hurriedly up to the group. Harry looked eager to join the duo in the shed as well. George Granger, or Mr. G as he was affectionately known, had become something of a hit with the extended Weasley family.
Hermione and Ginny turned on them before Molly could utter a word; the girls beat her to the punch of a preemptory scolding. Hermione’s eyes blazed. “If anything explodes tonight, or burns to the ground…”
Ginny’s eyes blazed just as fiercely. “Or if you try to plan to import Muggle liquor in exchange for firewhiskey again, or if you try to repeat that stunt where you enchant a broom so that Mr. G. can play Quidditch with you…”
Molly finished, “I’ll turn these two loose on you and see if they’ve been paying attention to what Kathy and I have been teaching them about how to deal with men who try to act like boys.”
The four former members of Dumbledore’s Army, two of them decorated war heroes, visibly blanched. It was George who summoned up the courage to respond. “Ladies, I promise you no harm will come to the other George.” With that, he gave Hermione a peck on the cheek and the four young men scurried off to the shed.
Molly whispered to Hermione conspiratorially, “Don’t worry too much, dear. They just think they’ve found a lost Weasley.”
Ginny couldn’t help but smile and try as she might, Hermione couldn’t help but respond in kind.
“Hermione!” a familiar female voice shouted from the kitchen door.
“Mum!” Hermione leapt through the door into Kathy Granger’s warm embrace. With that, Angelina, Molly and Ginny went into the kitchen where Kathy had already poured out five glasses of wine.
“Ron the Great!” Mr. G. shouted, pulling Ron into a bear hug after Ron embraced Arthur.
“So you got the Prophet I sent you?” Harry asked, with a sadistic smile as he pumped Mr. G.’s hand and hugged Arthur.
“Read it cover to cover.” Mr. G., said with a toothy grin.
“Potter!” Ron shot a look at his best mate. Harry just laughed.
“It’s all George and I have been talking about. We’re very proud of you boys,” Arthur said, including Seamus in his praise.
“That we are,” Mr. G. chimed in. “Head Auror, Harry? Well done. And from what I read, it looks like Seamus didn’t waste any time putting those Death Eaters in their place, either.” The Grangers had made a point of keeping up with their daughter and all things magical ever since the Battle of Hogwarts. In fact, for George Granger, it had become almost an obsession.
Once Ron and Hermione had found them in Australia and restored their memories, explaining everything that had happened, the Grangers had thrown themselves into the Wizarding World with a will. They weren’t going to be excluded from their daughter’s life again. The result had been yet another expansion of the ever growing Weasley clan; the Grangers were welcomed with open arms.
“Thank you, sir,” Harry replied sheepishly. As always uncomfortable with praise, Harry motioned to the long cylindrical tank that stood between Arthur and George Granger to change the subject. “What’s that, Mr. G.?”
Arthur answered with a conspiratorial whisper, “This is a secret, boys.”
“Artie, I think the grooms should probably go first.” George Granger handed a gas mask attached to the tank over to Ron. “Now, take a deep breath.”
“Oh my gods!” Ron was shaking with uncontrollable laughter.
“Mr. G., what is this stuff?” George Weasley asked.
“Special occasions call for special dispensations.” Mr. G. was smiling from ear to ear as Arthur slapped him on the back, guffawing. “We Muggles call it laughing gas-- completely legal when dispensed by a practicing dentist. Lucky for you, that’s what I am. Now, now, only one inhalation per patient or the ladies might get suspicious.” It was clear that Arthur and Mr. G. had already had a sample. Or two. Or three.
Arthur dropped George Granger a wink. “Form a line and be sure to get your shot of Old Ogden’s as you pass me by,” Arthur added.
Harry collapsed into an overstuffed chair next to a befuddled Seamus and just took in the scene, a sloppy grin on his face. Arthur’s shed had always resembled a Muggle electronics shop that had been ransacked by Dudley’s hooligan friends. But ever since the Grangers, and Mr. G. in particular, had become regular visitors to the Burrow, it had taken on more of a clubhouse feel. The various plugs, extension cords, televisions, can openers and other Muggle objects still adorned the walls and shelves. However, Mr. G. had introduced Arthur to the concept of the “man cave.”
Now the shed was adorned with its own icebox, second-hand furniture and a wireless set. Arthur and “the other George,” as he was also affectionately known, had made it their own personal hideout. As it turned out, Hermione was definitely her mother’s daughter. Kathy Granger (she usually preferred to be called “Doctor”) did not approve of her husband’s shenanigans, but so loved the Weasley clan and Ron in particular, she chose to turn a blind eye to most of the mischief her ne’er-do-well magic-addicted husband often got up to.
Harry turned to Mr. G (he definitely did not like to be called “Doctor”) and marveled at how well he fit in. Mr. G. really was the Muggle version of Arthur. In retrospect, it was no surprise that Hermione had taken to Ron. When they were at Hogwarts, Harry could never quite understand how her constant exasperation with Ron could turn to affection so quickly. After getting to know Mr. G. and realizing how similar to the Weasleys he really was, Ron and Hermione’s relationship made infinite sense.
“Oh, bollocks. I almost forgot.” Arthur dug into his shelves.
“What is it Artie?” Mr. G. asked.
“I got this for you.” He handed the dentist a small flask. “I charmed it.”
Arthur didn’t even try to contain his Cheshire-cat-sized grin. “I did. It won’t run out of Ogden’s for at least a month or two.”
“Artie, I really can’t…”
Arthur put up his hands defensively. “George, after that MP3 player you smuggled in here for me last month…Fair is fair.” Before he struck up his friendship with Mr. G., Arthur would have surely mispronounced the gadget as an MCP or some such other misnomer. But in Mr. G., Arthur finally got the Muggle tutor he’d always hoped for.
“Thanks! This is wonderful,” Mr. G. exclaimed. He put an appreciative hand on Arthur’s shoulder as he stashed the flask in his coat. Sitting down next to Ron on the couch, he put an arm around his soon-to-be son-in-law and grinned. “Son, I love magic.”
Ron smiled. “Dad, that’s Harry’s line.”
That drew a round of laughter.
“Now. GW,” Mr. G. turned to George Weasley; he was always “GW” when Mr. G. was around, just to cut down on the confusion, “tell me what new and interesting things you’ve been cooking up in your shop, but be quick! I want to go give my little girl a hug.”
GW smiled devilishly. “I was wondering when you’d ask…”
As the men walked up to the house, their peals of laughter grew louder, drawing the attention of the ladies in the kitchen.
“Mum?” Hermione asked her mother in exasperation, “Tell me Dad didn’t bring the nitrous oxide tank with him?”
Kathy Granger fixed her daughter with a slightly amused smile as she refilled everyone’s wine glasses. “Dear, we regularly have to keep our men in their place to prevent them from being complete barbarians. But occasionally, a blind eye is called for. This would be one of those times.”
“Unfortunately, I agree with Kathy,” Molly added as Angelina chimed in her approval. “If I pounced on Arthur every time he brought one of his enchanted Muggle toys home, I’d have to hex him daily.”
Ginny was shocked. “Mum, you knew?”
“Ginevra, dear. Don’t be dense. Do you really think there’s anything that goes on around here that I don’t know?” Molly arched a knowing eyebrow at her daughter. The implications shocked Ginny to the core; she blushed. Seeing her daughter’s reaction Molly continued, “And yes, I knew you and Harry were sleeping together the summer after the Battle. But I knew you were being safe and I could see how in love you were.”
Kathy shot a similar look at Hermione, who blanched. “Girls, the first and most important lesson to learn about children, and trust me, children includes our husbands,” Kathy began as Molly and Angelina laughed heartily in agreement, “is that we keep a firm hand on them, but don’t crush them. Unless…”
“They really need it.” Molly finished. As the men walked into the kitchen, they were met with the women’s laughter which was even louder than their own.
“H!” Mr. G. shouted as his little girl bounded into his arms.
“How’s my girl?” he asked.
“Just wonderful.” She beamed as she saw Arthur pick Ginny up in a huge hug. Kathy gave Ron a peck on the cheek, which instantly made him blush; she smiled.
“Thank you so much for everything you’ve done here, Dr. Granger. It’s wonderful,” Harry said; Ron chorused his agreement.
“Our pleasure. It truly is.” Kathy gave all the kids a smile and Harry and Ron a warm hug.
“Well, we were just giving your prospective husbands a talking to and they made the grade. Just barely though…” Arthur grinned.
Molly shot her daughter a wink. “Really, Arthur? That’s what you were doing out there?”
Arthur began to stammer; Kathy came to his rescue, as she smiled at Molly. “Mmmhmm. So, let’s get the last of the food outside. The guests should be arriving any minute.”
As the men were loaded down with food and shuffled out the door, Molly whispered to Ginny and Hermione, “Even if you give them the blind eye, always keep them in fear of the crushing.” Kathy couldn’t stifle her impish laugh.
“Can Mr. Granger and I have your attention please?” Arthur rose from his seat at the head table, casting a light Sonorous charm on his voice. Mr. G. followed suit, George Weasley providing the spell so the Muggle could be heard.
“G.W., if you’d just take me to Ollivander’s, I’m sure I could find my own wand and you wouldn’t have to keep lending me yours.” Mr. G.’s magnified voice was thick with humor and drew laughs from around the yard and a roll of the eyes from his daughter.
Most of the Auror Corps was present. As Seamus draped his arm over Susan Bones’ chair, many began to wonder if their kiss in Diagon Alley had led to something or was merely the first public display of a relationship that had been kept in the shadows. Fleur kept whispering to Bill and pointing at the couple, as did almost everyone else. Seated next to Bill and Fleur, Andromeda was trying desperately to keep Teddy from pulling Victoire’s hair as she settled in for the speeches.
Everyone had been stuffed to the gills with Molly's and Kathy's excellent cooking. Only Ron and Hagrid seemed to have the wherewithal to keep eating. Empty tankards drained of mead were lined up in front of the half-giant like chessmen. Even Headmistress McGonagall was on her third glass of wine and Percy himself had smiled so much this evening, people were wondering if Audrey had hit him with a Confundus curse, at Ginny's request.
Although everyone was overjoyed for the two happy couples, it was clear something far greater was at work. This was the first time that everyone felt the weight of the Second Wizarding War begin to lift and all were determined to take advantage of it.
Arthur resumed his speech. “Marrying-off a daughter is not an easy thing for a father to do.” He gave Ginny a watery smile that she returned as Harry gave her a slight squeeze with the arm that was wrapped around her shoulders.
Mr. G. continued, “It’s usually a day we dread our entire lives.” He turned to give a sweetly-pained smile to Hermione, who began to tear up as she leaned into Ron. “But few fathers have the advantage that we do of knowing their little girls will always be protected, loved and cared-for like ours will be.”
“Ginny dear, it seems like it was only yesterday you were stealing the boys’ brooms from the shed and tearing around the pitch. And although you’ll always be my little girl, I want you to know I do realize you’re a grown woman--beautiful, talented, more than any father could ever hope for.”
“Hermione, you’ll always be my little H. But the brilliant witch you’ve become…I can’t even tell you how proud of you I am, with the way you’ve conquered this world that was so new to us only eleven years ago. You’re beautiful, smart and strong. You’ve done us proud.”
“Harry, you’ve really been a part of this family for years. Gods know you’ve saved the lives of more than one of us, including me, countless times. Your devotion to our daughter and the way you’ve always carried yourself speaks volumes about your character. You know we’ve always thought of you as a Weasley; but now, Molly and I are thrilled to finally be able to call you what you’ve been for so long: our son.”
“Ronald, Kathy and I never really knew if there was a man out there who could meet Hermione’s high standards. Like her lovely mother, she always expects perfection. We knew that for any man to succeed, he’d have to be truly exceptional. He’d have to be brave, strong and have infinite patience. Having seen the man you’ve become since that day in Diagon Alley ten years ago when we first met, I know she’s finally found him.”
“Harry and Ron,” Arthur continued, “You’ve protected our little girls—as well as each other—over the years and, before Ginny and Hermione get angry at us for portraying them as the damsels in distress, we both know how you’ve all been there for each other on countless occasions.”
Mr. G. carried on, “And that’s what solid friendships are based on. It’s also exactly what strong marriages are made of. We know all four of you have learned this lesson and that’s why, even though we’re sad to be losing our little girls, we have the peace of knowing that you, all four of you, will take care of each other.”
Arthur finished, “We love you all and wish you only the best. Cheers!”
With that, the two fathers raised their glasses and the crowd did likewise. Shouts of “Hear, hear!” and “Slàinte!” echoed around the Burrow. And afterward, a tearful Ginny and Hermione embraced their sadly happy fathers.
“Those two are a hard act to follow,” Ron said to Harry, motioning to the father/daughter hugs.
“No worries, Ron. We’ve got our entire lives to try.”
“Well, enough of the mushy stuff!” Mr. G. shouted, “This is supposed to be a party! And we want to dance with our little girls.”
“If you boys are lucky, we might give them back to you tonight.” Arthur finished. Smiling, they pulled Hermione and Ginny to the dance floor as the tables and chairs were banished and the band began to play.
Shortly after the first dance, the adults began to melt, either into the kitchen, or to their homes, letting the younger people have their fun. Andromeda, who’d drawn baby-sitting duty, Apparated with Victoire and Teddy, as soon as Harry promised to take his godson flying before the week was out. Eventually, Ron and Harry did get to dance with their fiancées.
Ron was drawing a tankard of ale when Harry whispered in his ear, “Mate, I need a favor.”
“Gin and I are going to sneak back to Shell Cottage for about twenty minutes...”
Ron wheeled on his partner. “Damn you, Potter!”
Bugger, the overprotective brother’s returned, Harry thought with alarm.
“Hermione and I were going to do that after I polished off this ale,” Ron said, disappointed.
Harry relaxed instantly. “We can’t all four go. We’d be missed. I was hoping you could run interference for us if anybody asks where we are.” The plan was for everyone who hadn’t already left to stay at the Burrow. Molly had been insistent there be no Apparating while intoxicated. “Besides, I already used the sobering charm…”
“Fine,” Ron said grudgingly. “Twenty minutes. Not one minute longer or I’ll rat you out. Guess I’ll have to find Hermione and tell her we’re delayed. She was meeting me there.”
“Thanks mate!” Harry found Ginny and began to move nonchalantly to the Apparation point.
“Damn.” Ron downed his ale, as Bill and Fleur walked up to the kegs.
“I can’t believe I forgot it,” Bill said, shaking his head.
“Ees not too late,” Fleur replied. “I can go back to zee Cottage and get it.”
“No, no. I’ll go. It’ll be a quick trip.”
Ron muttered, “Double damn.” Then, louder, “So, what did you forget?” he asked the couple.
“I’d been saving a very special bottle of champagne Fleur and I brought back from France for tonight. I’m just going to Apparate back and get it. Won’t take me long.”
Ron didn’t want his sister and best mate to get interrupted, or worse, by his oldest brother. Think fast, Weasley! “I was just going back to get Hermione’s sweater. It’s no problem for me to bring the champagne back too. Where is it?”
“You don’t mind? This is your party little brother,” Bill said.
“No. They won’t even miss me. Where is it?”
“I took it out of the cellar so I wouldn’t forget it. Middle cabinet over the sink, third shelf, green bottle, Chateau le Lune.”
That gave Ron a start. “Bill, that’s really expensive stuff.”
“Special occasion. You’re all worth it.”
“Thanks. Thank you both.” Starting off toward the edge of the wards, Ron finished, “I’ll be right back.”
He appeared near the Cottage and approached the front steps. Trying to be as quiet as possible, he opened the door and had to suppress a grimace. Don’t those two ever use Muffliato? Not listening, not listening…Ron kept running the words through his mind as he made his way past the stairwell, down which the noise was descending, toward the kitchen, which was blissfully quiet. He decided to cast his own Muffliato, to keep from hearing the sounds coming from the master bedroom and just in case he banged around the kitchen too much in his search for the champagne.
As luck would have it, he didn’t need to; he found it quickly. He grabbed the bottle and immediately felt eyes on the back of his head. He spun around to find…
“Ron?” Her voice was desperate, choked with emotion; tears were glistening on her cheeks.
One look at the state she was in and Ron was overwhelmed with worry, so much so he didn’t quite register the young child in her arms (Teddy?) or the fact she was wearing a traveling cloak over a flannel nightgown he didn’t recognize. “What’s wrong love?”
“Oh, Ron!” She flew into his arms, kissing him as she wept uncontrollably.
Ron dropped the champagne bottle in a panic and pressed her to him. “Gods, ‘Mione, what is it? Tell me.” Then, looking over her shoulder, he saw someone standing in the doorway. But he simply couldn’t comprehend what his eyes were telling him. Hermione was here, in his arms, weeping into his chest. But she was also standing in the doorway, pure shock spreading across her face. Then the shock erupted into unrelenting rage. The Hermione in the doorway’s wand began to rise, held in a hand that was shaking in unmitigated fury.
AN: This story is written to stand on its own. However, if you want the full back-story of the Hermione that’s suddenly appeared with a child in her arms, I suggest reading my short story, Stop All the Clocks, before reading the next chapter.
I do not own Harry Potter. The toys belong to JKR; she just lets us play with them.
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