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Chapter 15 : Chapter 14 - Happy Birthday, Mum
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"Ginny?" Alicia called softly. "Are you okay? It looks nice."
Turning back to the mirror, Ginny reached up and touched her now shoulder length, layered, honey blond hair. "It just looks so different," Ginny said, her voice cracking slightly. "I'm sorry. I know it is just hair, but I don't feel like myself at all." Stepping away from the mirror, Ginny turned to her former teammate. "Okay, let's keep going."
Alicia hugged the younger girl. "It will be okay, Ginny. We're going to meet Harry at Specsavers. He should have had his eye exam already and hopefully his contact lenses will be ready. We can do a bit of shopping before heading over to my aunt's house."
"Alicia." Ginny placed her hand on Alicia's arm stopping her from leaving. "Thank you for helping us. I don't know what we would have done. My family is under surveillance, so we can't exactly go to them for help."
Looking at the younger girl, Alicia said, "This is my way of helping. I'm not as brave as you and Harry. I'm not very good at duelling or fighting, but I can help out a friend in need. My brother and sister came home for the holidays full of praise for you and the other members of the D.A. This is my way of paying you back."
Three hours later, Alicia carefully looked over her companions. Ginny's distinctive red hair was cut and coloured, Harry's hair had been lightened a bit, and his trademark glasses were gone. He now had blue-grey contacts that made him look totally different. She smiled. "You two look good. Different enough that you shouldn't be recognized at first glance. I don't know how well they would hold up to close scrutiny, though."
Harry smiled over at her. "Thanks, Alicia."
As they walked down the streets, Harry said, "Are you sure your aunt doesn't mind us staying in her basement?"
Alicia laughed. "Yes, Harry. I'm sure she doesn't mind. She usually has tenants, but she hasn't let it out for a few months. I hope you don't mind. I told her you two wouldn't mind helping her fix it up a bit."
"That's not a problem," Harry said as he reached for Ginny's hand, squeezing it reassuringly. "Is your aunt a witch or a Muggle?"
"She is a Muggle, so she doesn't know who you are," Alicia explained. "I just told her that you are friends from school."
Turning, Hermione saw Justin Finch-Fletchley hurrying across the courtyard toward her. She had been happily surprised to find that she had a small group of friends at Beauxbatons already. In addition to Justin, Lisa Turpin and Mandy Brocklehurst from her year had transferred to Beauxbatons. Hermione was not even the only Gryffindor. Lauren MacDonald, who was one of Ginny's roommates, and her sister Natalie had also transferred out of Hogwarts.
"Hi, Justin," Hermione greeted him as he caught up with her.
"I'm glad I caught up with you," Justin replied. "Are you headed towards Potions?"
"I am so glad that Beauxbatons does not have dungeons, aren't you?" Justin said easily. "I am amazed at how much better I am doing in Potions with a more competent teacher."
Hermione laughed. "I know what you mean. In some ways I'm upset that I didn't know this was an option earlier. I would have really enjoyed attending school here."
As Justin fell into step with her, he looked at her appraisingly. "Would you really have given up all of your adventures?"
"No," Hermione admitted. "I…I really miss Ron and Harry. They were my first and best friends. Being Harry's best friend has been an amazing adventure that I never could have predicted. I guess now I'm just seeing the path not taken."
The pair entered the Potions classroom and started setting up their cauldrons and ingredients. Justin smiled over at her. "I know what you mean. I've wondered what it would have been like to attend school at Eton or here at Beauxbatons. I don't regret attending Hogwarts, though. Basilisks and evil Professors notwithstanding."
Hermione laughed. "I know. I think I would be an entirely different person if I had not attended Hogwarts."
"Hermione, don't take offense, but are you dating Potter or Weasley?" Justin asked.
A look of surprise crossed Hermione's face. "N-no. Harry is more like a brother to me than anything else. Ron and I…we are just good friends."
Justin smiled. "Good."
"Good?" Hermione asked blushingly.
"Oh, I didn't mean it that way." Justin looked over at her uncertainly. "I just…I heard that we can go into town in two weeks and I was wondering if you would like to go with me?"
Hermione stared at Justin. Had he really just asked her on a date? She had to admit, she had enjoyed getting to know Justin better over the past few weeks. He was smart and witty, quite good-looking and he had actually asked her out. "Sure, Justin. I would like to go into town with you."
Harry cast a cautious eye down the street. After ensuring no one was watching him, he cast protection spells over the nearest homes. He had gotten into the habit of taking a different route home each day and casting protection spells. He and Ginny had been in London for the past two weeks. They would help Alicia's aunt, Anne Watson, in the morning by fixing up the flat and then use the afternoon and evening to search for possible locations of Hufflepuff's cup.
He hurried back to the flat. He couldn't wait to share his news with Ginny. As he reached the street entrance to their basement flat, he jumped down the stairs and pushed the door open. Following the music, he found Ginny dancing in the kitchen while she was preparing dinner. He watched her for a moment, entranced. She was so graceful and full of life.
He couldn't help himself. He laughed when she picked up Sparkle and started dancing the kitten around their tiny kitchen. She spun around, blushing slightly, but with laughter in her eyes.
She and Sparkle danced over to him and she greeted him with a kiss before turning down the volume on the wireless. "Hi, love."
"Hello, beautiful." Harry laughed as he deepened the kiss. Poor Sparkle squeaked as he pulled Ginny closer. He felt the kitten jump down as Ginny wrapped her arms around his neck. Lifting her into his arms, he set her down on the kitchen counter. He quickly took advantage of the position to slide his hands under her shirt.
As she pulled back slightly, she whispered to him, "Can you make sure the food won't burn?"
He looked confused before a smile lit his face. He cast warming and preservation charms on the food, before turning his attention back to her.
Sometime later, Ginny rested her head on his bare chest as she listened to his heartbeat slowing down. Reaching out with her left hand, she joined hands with him as she drifted off to sleep.
When she woke, it was dark outside and she was alone on the couch covered with a blanket. Smiling, she pulled on Harry's t-shirt that was still on the floor where she'd thrown it. She wandered into the kitchen to find Harry checking on the chicken in the oven. He had taken the time to pull on a pair of jeans, but was shirtless and barefoot. Ginny took a minute to admire him. In the past month and a half, Harry had started gaining back some of the weight he'd lost during the fall. He was still quite slim, but he had a layer of muscle defining his chest and arms.
Her husband turned and smiled at her. He had taken out his contacts so his beautiful green eyes were shining at her. Ducking his head, he pressed a quick kiss on her cheek. "Hi, love."
Taking a seat at the kitchen counter where they usually ate, Ginny watched Harry as he finished putting their meal together. She smiled. "You do that so well."
Looking up from the salad he was putting together, Harry asked, "What do you mean?"
Ginny shrugged a bit self consciously. "I can't seem to get everything ready at the same time. My mum could always get all of the food ready at the same time. I can't do that."
"Love, your mum also uses magic." Harry laughed as Ginny pulled out some plates and utensils.
"You don't," Ginny replied as she poured them each a glass of cold pumpkin juice.
"I have lots of practice," Harry explained as he served up the roasted chicken, potatoes and vegetables. "My loving aunt had me helping with meals as long as I can remember. If I didn't do it well…let's just say that my aunt and uncle would punish me. I learned rather quickly to do it correctly."
Ginny's heart went out to him as she listened to him calmly talking about being punished for not cooking well. She remembered her mum laughing about dropped eggs and burned muffins when she and her brothers helped in the kitchen. Her mum would never have dreamed of forcing one of them to cook an entire meal, much less punish them if it was not cooked correctly.
As they ate, Ginny told him about Fred and George's ventures into cooking. He laughed and even joked about Hermione's attempts to make mushrooms more palatable. After they shared the chore of washing up after dinner, Harry asked, "Would you like to take a walk?"
They walked hand-in-hand through the streets near where Alicia's aunt lived. It was a diverse section of London with a variety of shops and restaurants and the young couple enjoyed walking around seeing the sights. For Ginny, it was an amazing new world. She had never spent so much time in a completely Muggle neighbourhood.
"Guess what?" Harry said as he pulled up his collar against the cold wind.
""What?" Ginny asked. Her bright brown eyes shone in the light from the nearby streetlights.
Harry gestured to a side street she hadn't noticed before. "Come with me."
Curious, Ginny followed him to a small studio set back off in the far corner of the square. He watched her face as she studied the front window.
"Sword fighting?" she read in surprise.
He nodded in excitement. "I stopped by here earlier. I got lost and found this area. I thought maybe as long as I have a sword, I should learn a bit more about it."
Ginny looked up at him and could read the barely suppressed excitement in his eyes. "Should you show your sword around so many Muggles?"
"I talked to the owner, Paul. He said that they start with practice swords and they have swords you can use." He looked down at her. "Would you like to learn with me?"
"Me?" Ginny asked in surprise. "You are the one who has summoned the sword."
Harry laughed. "And you are my wife. It only makes sense that we learn together."
Leaning up to press a kiss on his cheek, Ginny agreed.
The snow was much deeper than the last time he was here. The cold winter morning was crisp and clear. Reaching out for Ginny's hand, he took a deep breath as he pushed open the gate and led the way into the graveyard.
Leading the way over to his parents' grave, he was surprised to notice a bench he hadn't seen the last time. He stopped short as he realized that someone else had been to visit his parents. There was a small Christmas tree as well as some greenery adorning the grave.
"What's wrong?" Ginny asked.
"Someone's been here," Harry explained. He looked around and deciding it was safe, knelt by his mother's grave. Placing a bouquet of pink and white lilies on her grave stone, he whispered, "Happy birthday, Mum."
Reaching his hand back, Harry tugged Ginny next to him. "Mum, Dad, I'd like to introduce you to my wife, Ginny."
He laughed. "Can you believe that I'm married? I still can't really believe it myself."
The young couple spent some time telling Harry's parents what had happened over the past few months. Finally, Harry leaned over and ran his fingers over his mother's name. "I love you, Mum."
Helping up his wife, the couple headed out of the graveyard.
Harry spun around, his wand barely concealed. He relaxed slightly when he saw the older priest standing in front of him. "Hello, sir. My wife and I were just…visiting my parents. I hope that is alright."
"Of course, my son. We encourage families to visit. I am Father Stephen."
Harry hesitated a moment before he extended his hand. "I am Harry and this is my wife, Ginny."
"Harry, I am glad to see you back again," Father Stephen said. "I saw you several times before Christmas."
"Yes, sir," Harry said. "My relatives did not approve of my parents and I was never able to visit them before."
Father Stephen nodded. "A friend of your parents mentioned you. Remus?"
After exchanging a startled look with Ginny, Harry nodded. "Remus was one of my father's best friends."
"He visits every Christmas," Father Stephen explained. "He mentioned that he had lost touch with you."
"I didn't realize he visited my parents." Harry replied. "I haven't seen him since the summer."
Looking back over the graveyard, Harry turned back to the priest. "My godfather d-died almost two years ago." He swallowed heavily, even after so much time it was still hard to talk about Sirius. "His body was l-lost, so we didn't have a body to bury."
Ginny squeezed his hand as she looked up at him and noticed his eyes shining with unshed tears.. He looked down at her and gathered strength from the love he saw in her eyes. Turning back to Father Stephen, he managed to ask, "Would it be possible to have a s-stone placed to honour him?"
Father Stephen's face softened as he watched the young man before him. Judging from the dates on his parents' gravestones, he realized that Harry must have been quite young when his parents died. To have lost not only his parents, but also his godfather seemed rather cruel. His heart went out to the young man.
"Certainly, my son. If you would like to step into the office, we can help you make the appropriate arrangements."
An hour later, Harry and Ginny left the church satisfied with what they had accomplished. They had decided upon a simple grey stone with Sirius's name and dates. Instead of the Black coat of arms, Harry had decided upon the Potter coat of arms in one corner. The other corner was adorned with a large black dog. Under his name and dates, Harry had asked for a single line to be engraved – I solemnly swear I am up to no good.
Harry opened the gate for Ginny and showed her into his parents' home. He took her hand as he showed her around the lower floor. Sinking down on the couch, he told her about the time he'd stayed here. He sobbed into her neck as he shared the memories he had seen through Tom's eyes of his parents' last moments. Ginny held him and cried with him until he fell asleep. Summoning a pillow and blanket, Ginny settled her husband against her chest and held him while he slept.
Harry awoke with a stiff neck. He smiled sleepily as he realized his head was buried in Ginny's hair. He could feel her hand running through his hair. Lifting his head, it took him a minute to realize where they were.
Blushing, Harry buried his head for a moment. "Sorry, love. Did I fall asleep on you?"
Ginny kissed the top of his head and tightened her arms around him. "Yeah, I was glad to be here for you."
Sitting up, Harry pulled her into a sitting position. He put his glasses on and looked around the room. "I would fall asleep, dreaming about what it would have been like to grow up here with my parents."
"It's a nice house. I bet it would have been a great place to grow up," Ginny said softly. She silently cursed Voldemort for destroying Harry's family, Dumbledore and the circumstances that destroyed his childhood. She could see the love and care that had selected the furniture and pictures that decorated the house. Smiling, she could easily imagine Sirius playing with Harry here.
Harry stood up and then helped Ginny. "Gin, I couldn't go upstairs before. W-will you come upstairs with me?"
"Of course, my love." Ginny squeezed his hand and softly kissed him.
Holding her hand tightly, Harry led the way upstairs. When they reached the top of the stairs, Harry turned to the left side of the house. They found a guest bedroom with a pair of twin beds. From the décor, Harry assumed this is where Sirius and Remus might have stayed when they visited. There was a small sitting room lined with bookcases. Harry smiled as he walked along the shelves. Muggle classics were mixed amongst the romance novels and magical classics. One bookshelf appeared to have James and Lily's old school books. Harry recognized some of the same books he himself had used in class.
Ginny smiled at the array of pictures scattered around the room. There were wedding pictures, pictures of James and Lily, pictures of James, Sirius, and Remus, but by far most of the pictures were of Harry. Harry as a newborn, Harry at Christmas, Harry with his parents, Harry and Sirius. Ginny smiled as she picked up a picture of Sirius holding baby Harry.
Harry wrapped his arms around his wife and looked down at his infant self patting his godfather on his face. "He looks so young."
Putting the picture down, Ginny turned in his arms and held him for a minute. Harry smiled and kissed her on top of the head. Holding tightly to her hand, Harry walked down the hall. Opening one door, Harry looked briefly around a light green bathroom. His mother's make up sat neatly in a box on the edge of the vanity. A pair of toothbrushes sat in the small cup next to the sink.
There were only two doors left, both of which were slightly open. Taking a deep breath, Harry chose the door on the right. He sighed in relief when he realized it was his parents' room. It was decorated in blue, a dark blue rug with lighter blue on the walls. There was a large king sized bed with a blue and gold blanket. A large wardrobe revealed the Potters owned a mixture of Muggle and magical clothing. There was a full length mirror against one wall next to a chest of drawers. A picture of Lily sitting under a tree at Hogwarts sat on one side of the dresser.
Harry reached out a hand to the photo. "She is so beautiful."
Ginny nodded. "She is. I can see a lot of her in you."
He laughed. "I can't imagine that, but I will take your word for it."
Turning, he looked across the hall to the last room. "She knew he was going to kill her, but she just stood there in front of the cot. He k-kept telling her she didn't have to die. I don't know if he r-really expected her to just watch him kill me, but he never had a mother either so maybe he did. H-he k-killed her and she fell in f-front of the cot. He watched me for a minute, almost savouring the moment. I can actually remember the searing pain and the flash of green light."
He wiped the tears from his eyes. "I d-don't feel worthy of their sacrifice. D-did they regret that they had to d-die for me?"
Ginny moved so she stood directly in front of him. "Sweetie, they loved you. I can tell just from the pictures around the house. The stories Sirius told, they loved you and I can't imagine that they regret anything."
Ignoring the tears she knew were streaming down her face, Ginny looked up her husband willing him to believe her. Harry looked down at her, uncertainty etched on his face. "My relatives always told me what a…burden I was and how they wished they didn't have to take care of me. It just seems like such a stretch to go from that to someone willing to die for me. I mean I'm no one special."
"But you are," Ginny whispered. "You are so special. You are brave and noble. You try so hard to do the right thing. I love you so much and I know that your parents did too. Your relatives have no idea how amazing and special you really are. I mean you try so hard to help others. I've watched you spend time with Neville to make sure he understands a spell. You are an amazing Quidditch captain. You really care about your team. You let my mum mother you and don't ever complain. Do you even realize how much you've done for my family? You saved me, my dad, and my brother. You helped the twins realize their dream. I am certain your parents would be so proud of you."
Harry caught her eyes. "Really?"
"Really." Ginny kissed him gently, wishing she could explain to him just how wonderful he really was. "When you were in that graveyard with Tom, your parents came to protect you again. They wanted to make sure you could escape, because they love you. Not because they want you to do anything in particular, but because you are their son."
Wiping her tears impatiently, Ginny said, "I was talking to Sirius and Remus one morning in Grimmauld Place and they were talking about how proud James would have been of you making the Quidditch team in your first year. Not any of the amazing death defying adventures you have had, but just because you are such an awesome Quidditch player."
Harry gave a watery smile. "Sirius told me that I was a better flier than my dad." Gathering her close, he whispered, "Hold me for a minute before we go in there."
Ginny tried to infuse as much of her love into her hug as she could. She held him, freely giving of herself, until he pulled away.
Holding tightly on to her hand, Harry walked across the hall and pushed open the door. Some type of spell must have been cast to protect the room from the elements, but the weak, winter sunlight streamed into the room. It had obviously been lovingly decorated with a Quidditch theme. The walls were painted a buttery yellow with a white chair rail around the room. A toy broom lay forgotten in the far corner.
Harry's eye was drawn immediately into the cot that had been obviously blown to pieces. Portions of the cot and changing table that sat next to it were strewn about the room and some onto the lawn below. He could see pieces of a mobile and bits of pillows about.
He felt his knees buckle as he gazed at the spot where his mother had given her life for him. Ginny immediately slid her arm around his shoulders, offering him her support.
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