Chapter 24 : Silent Nights
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“Good night, James.” Ginny leaned over to place a tender kiss on her first born son’s forehead, smoothing his untidy dark hair as she withdrew. She cast Harry an expectant look before ambling out the door, stopping to scoop up a yawning Lily from the open doorway into her arms as she did so.
“Sleep tight, mate.” Harry grinned, squeezing James’ shoulder before rising too and heading towards the door.
James, completely unaffected by his parents’ well-planned and heartfelt goodnights, grinned happily and pulled up his covers to his chin before contentedly shutting his eyes.
Puzzled, Harry stared at his son for a moment. Tomorrow, James would leave for Hogwarts. This was the last night in his family home until December. Harry couldn’t think of a time when his son had spent the night away from family – and while there were plenty of sleepovers at the Burrow or Shell Cottage or Ron and Hermione’s, James had always been surrounded by family. It made no sense for him to be so thoroughly nonchalant about the whole thing.
Resolving to put this odd behaviour down to James being the mystery that he was, Harry quietly shut the door behind him and trudged up the stairs to say goodnight to Lily. Albus, being Albus, was already asleep, having been the first to be put to bed.
Harry gently pushed open the door to Lily’s room. Over time, he had grown immune to the initial shock of pale pink; every surface in the room was decorated in some way with pink, the walls were a pale shade, the bed covered with a handmade pink and white patchwork quilt, even the dark hardwood floors were adorned with Lily’s pink clothes strewn throughout.
Ginny was sitting on the bed beside Lily, Snuffles curled up at their feet and the family’s well-worn copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard in her hands. She continued to read Lily’s absolute favourite story, the Fountain of Fair Fortune, as Harry crossed the room to give his little girl a tight squeeze, his awful dog a good scratch and his lovely wife a kiss on the cheek.
Breathing a mixed sigh of relief and exhaustion, Harry wandered downstairs, to the kitchen, cracked open two butterbeers and turned on the wireless, switching from the WWN to NQN, or the National Quidditch Network. Being a Thursday night, the weekend Quidditch matches were fast approaching and Ginny needed to tune into an interview with Aidan Lynch, seeker and captain of the Irish team, for an article she was putting together for Saturday’s Prophet.
Harry fell into the cushy leather sofa and kicked his feet up on the coffee table. Exhausted, he took a sip of his butterbeer and waited for Ginny, all the while tuning in occasionally to the buzzing voices of the wireless. It didn’t take long for Ginny to appear, tapping the wireless with her wand so as to save the interview to replay later, when it came time to prepare her article.
She traipsed over to Harry languidly, sinking into the couch, curling up against his side and coming to rest her head on his shoulder.
“Bit odd, don’t you think?” mused Harry out loud.
“Hmm?” asked Ginny. Her eyes were shut; apparently it was taking a lot of effort to remain conscious.
“He doesn’t seem remotely upset.”
“It’s hardly something-” Ginny let out a great yawn, “-to get upset about.”
“You know what I mean, it’s a big deal. He doesn’t seem to be anxious in the least. He’s not at all – I don’t know – affected, you know?”
The deep, authoritative voice being emitted from the wireless “And now, joining us live in our studio is star seeker and Irish national team captain, Aidan Lynch…”
Harry and Ginny settled in to listen to the interview, which took up the better part of a half hour. Turns out, Lynch had agreed to the interview in order to clear up some gossip circulating about rumoured tension within the Irish team and as it was, to announce his retirement. After such a significant broadcast, Ginny’s department would be in complete pandemonium come the morning – but with James’ departure tomorrow, Ginny made sure to push aside all thoughts of the impending nightmare and set her priorities in order. Consequently, it wasn’t long before Harry switched off the wireless, tapped the lights off and put out the fire, following Ginny up the lengthy staircase and up to bed.
Five minutes later, Harry removed his glasses wearily and leant back into his pillow as Ginny closed the bathroom door behind her and slipped into bed, switching off the bedside lamp as she went.
Harry was contentedly drifting off into a blissful state of semi-consciousness, when he heard the bedroom door clicking open. Perhaps Ginny was going downstairs to fetch a glass of water. Awoken, Harry turned over in bed, to find Ginny sleeping soundly beside him.
Harry squinted into the darkness, making out a small figure in the partially opened doorway.
“Lily, is that you?” whispered Harry, hoisting himself onto his elbows. Beside him, Ginny stirred and turned over where she lay.
The shadowed figure tentatively crept over to the bed. It took until the little person had come right up to the side of the bed before Harry could make out which of his children had come to visit. His discovery took him completely by surprise.
Harry tapped the bedside lamp into use and felt around for his glasses. A very forlorn looking boy was standing before him, his pleading brown eyes full of melancholy as he tugged on blue striped pyjamas absently.
“Can – can I get in bed with you?”
Harry exchanged a look with a very bleary-eyed Ginny, who was leaning on Harry’s side to make out James better in the dim light.
“Just for a bit,” James insisted, a little wobble in his voice.
Neither Ginny nor Harry said anything in response, Ginny simply grabbing at James’ pyjamas and hoisting him into bed with them. Grimacing, James clambered into the space between him while Ginny lit her own lamp.
When both Harry and Ginny came to inspect their son, he looked shamefaced indeed. Still grimacing, he gazed desolately at the scarlet duvet, resting his head on his arms.
Ginny began to play affectionately with his messy, jet-black hair.
“You’re not going to tell Al I was here, are you?” James muttered defensively.
“I don’t see any reason to,” chuckled Harry, leaning on his elbows.
“What’s the matter, love?” pried Ginny, gently.
James looked apprehensively from his mother to his father before sighing dramatically and confessing, with significant gravity, “I think – I think I’m going to miss you.”
Harry caught Ginny’s eye and they shared a private smile.
“A lot.” James concluded. Apparently making such a confession was quite significant to the eleven year old; he heaved a sigh of relief that he had managed to get the words out.
“It’s a big deal, going off on your own like this. Most Muggles don’t desert their parents at age eleven to go to school miles and miles away from home.” Ginny reminded him. “But you mustn’t forget that really, that’s not the case. You’re not on your own at all because you’ve got so many family and friends looking out for you - all sorts of people, teachers and students and prefects. You’re a very lucky duck.”
James scoffed, wrinkling his nose at his mother’s dated choice of words. All the while, Harry watched his wife contentedly as she worked her magic on their son; James had definitely relaxed, even managing to tear his attention away from the velveteen bedspread in order to meet Ginny’s matching brown eyes.
“You know we’ll miss you very much,” Ginny pressed on, giving him a poke in the belly. “Please don’t forget it, young man.”
James resigned himself to his mother’s comforting words and leaned into to let her squeeze him tightly. Harry too, was permitted to hug his son. He planted a kiss atop of James’ messy mop of hair, so very like his own, realising he had barely offered a word of advice himself, before the boy had clambered off the bed and tip toed over to the door.
“Love you Mum, love you Dad.” James whispered, smiling.
“Love you James,” Harry and Ginny chimed in unison.
James slid out the door, shutting it behind him, leaving Harry and Ginny alone to share a long, ‘isn’t our son wonderful’ look. Unfortunately, it was their wonderful son who interrupted the tender moment; James peeking his head through the door once more and reminding them, in a rushed, emphatic tone, “Don’t tell Al!”
“Oi, where do you think you’re going?” Harry demanded, as he noticed James was already half way down the packed car park’s pedestrian strip.
“I’ve got a train to catch!” James called back.
“Don’t yell at your father!” Ginny cried after him. “Come back and help with these trunks!”
While James dawdled back to the car, Harry’s attention fell on his two other less-than-pleased looking children. Albus in particular was looking rather pale, staring gravely at the large clock face atop the station’s central tower. On the other hand, Harry could tell a quiet storm was brewing inside Lily. It looked like she wasn’t going to give up on her plans for early admission to Hogwarts that easily.
The trunks and cages now all unpacked, Harry sent James off to fetch a trolley.
“Dad, do you think Teddy will be here by now?” Albus asked, watching James’ back disinterestedly.
“He will be here, though, won’t he?”
“Sure he will,” said Harry with a grin, catching Ginny’s eye. “He just had some other business to attend to.”
Silence; a sound seldom heard outside the blissful hours in which James, Albus and Lily Potter slept. Consequently, Harry relished every single second of such moments and this silence was quite a treat. Ginny had taken the boys into Diagon Alley to fetch school supplies and Lily, not one to miss out on anything, had tagged along. Harry would be going in to meet them for dinner at the Leaky Cauldron at seven, but until then, he had the house quite delightfully all to himself. Even Snuffles was dozing soundlessly, sprawled out in front of the fireplace hearth in the kitchen.
The peace and quiet made for perfect working conditions, which came in handy as regretfully, Harry had quite a fair bit of work to do; the Wizengamot was scheduled to sit in the morning and Harry had barely glanced at the briefing materials his assistant, Millicent, had put together about tomorrow’s sessions.
Harry dawdled into the study - primarily Ginny’s domain as she worked from home – and fell into the large, cushiony leather desk chair. Outside the sun was beginning to set on the hot, sticky late July day.
Stretching, Harry put his hands behind his head and let his eyes wander over the briefing files, trying to commit names and crucial policy points to memory. He was relieved when he heard a distraction coming, in the form of heavy footfalls on the stairs. Lazily, Harry - happy to welcome any form of distraction – looked up from his work and eyed the open doorway expectantly, considering who could be visiting him. Number twelve’s fireplaces were strictly connected to the homes of family and friends alone, everybody else had to apparate onto the street. His best guess was Ron or Hermione, one of them coming to complain about the other. Otherwise Teddy, who popped in on almost a daily basis – but he was accompanying Victoire and her family on a visit to her grandparent’s house in France.
Harry didn’t have long to ponder this, however, when his guest appeared unceremoniously in the doorway.
Panting, Teddy leaned into the doorframe as he came to a halt. It was quite clear he was in a state of serious distress, his mousey brown hair more wild than its usual shaggy appearance and his gaze unfocused, unseeing.
“Ted,” Harry greeted him, brow furrowed in concern as he rose from his seat. “What’s wrong?”
“Everything’s-” Teddy wheezed, breathless. “It’s wrong.” He met Harry’s gaze solemnly, frowning, before Harry ushered him into one of the chairs across from the desk, Harry perching himself on the desk’s edge. Teddy hunched over, resting his elbows on his knees and dropping his head to his hands. “I’ve ruined everything, Harry. Everything - it’s all wrong.”
“Teddy, slow down. What’s wrong? What have you ruined?”
Teddy straightened up and took a breath. “You know, I’ve spent the last nineteen years trying to push my way into your family-”
“Ted-” Harry began to protest.
“No, it’s the truth.” Teddy rebutted. He was working himself out, his words spilling out in a frustrated burst of emotion. “I’m not a Potter, and I’m definitely not a Weasley. It’s all I ever wanted to be, to be yours, to be part of your family. I’ve tried so hard, you can’t ever know how hard, to blend in. I love the Weasleys, all of them; I only ever wanted to make them happy, after how kind they’ve all been towards me. And now, now I’ve gone and messed it all up…”
Harry’s patience was waning. “Teddy, what are you talking about?” he demanded.
“I’m in love with Victoire.”
Author's Note: And there we have a completely unnecessary cliffhanger - it was that or end the story right here and now, and really we can't have that. One chapter to go and that's it, folks! Quite sad, I know. In other news, NaNo was a bit of debacle but some good did come from it - I have the better part of a nice little Teddy/Victoire up my sleeve that with A LOT of editing could shape up to be okay. Torn as to whether I should post that or my only partially written Rose/Scorpius first. Both are major fluff/drama/romance, the usual for me. Thoughts? I just want to say thank you so very, very much for all your support throughout this story, I really don't have the words to express how much all your reviews have meant to me. Truth be told, I write just as much for you guys as I do for myself. Keep the lovely feedback coming and I'll keep writing and writing and writing - like the Energizer Bunny, but more HP :-)
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