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The First Year, an Almost Happily Ever After story by Jet LaBarge
Chapter 7 : The Black and Potter Vaults
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 3

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Harry woke at about 7:00 AM on Friday May 8, 1998. Teddy was stirring, and by the time Harry had changed his nappies, he was ready to nurse. The rest of the morning passed in what had become their normal routine, but today for the first time, Ginny was going to leave Teddy with Rosemary and Andromeda. Andromeda was doing a little better and was eager to get back to taking care of Teddy, although she certainly wasn’t ready to do it full time quite yet.

With Teddy thus cared for, Ginny traveled with Harry to visit the Black and Potter vaults, deep within the caverns below Gringotts. For Harry, this was to be a trip of discovery. He had never been in the Black Vault. Neither had he seen the Potter vault since becoming adult at 17, which meant that this would be the first visit where he would have access to all the money and treasures that were there.

Harry and Ginny were met at the bank by the young goblin who had received the Sword of Gryffindor during the news conference. The goblin introduced himself as Grabhook.

“Are you of any relation to Griphook?” Harry asked, noticing a strong resemblance between the two.

“He was my father,” Grabhook said.

“I am so grateful for his help in getting one of the objects that we had to have to kill Tom Riddle (Voldemort),” said Harry. “I hope he is well. Is there anything I can do for him?”

“He’s dead,” said Grabhook, with a grimace.

“Dead? Why?” asked Harry.

“He was in the room when Voldemort was told about the robbery,” Grabhook said.

“Oh, Riddle was furious, killed everybody in the room,” Harry said, his mind replaying the scene. He wished he could make it stop.

“No wizard is ever in trouble for killing a goblin,” Grabhook said.

“That’s wrong!” Harry replied, hitting one hand in another to emphasize how he felt.

“It is the way of wizards,” Grabhook said. “There’s no need to talk about it.”

But Harry replied again, “It’s still wrong!”

By this time, they had arrived at the Black vault. Some of the heirlooms were creepy, reminiscent of the Black family’s dark leanings, and Harry arranged for some of them to be sold. Also, there were some property issues associated with the Black holdings that needed to be taken care of. By late morning, the contents of the Black vault had been assessed and the needed paperwork for the handling of the assets dealt with, allowing the couple to be back at Hogwarts by 11:00, just in time for Ginny to nurse Teddy.

Teddy was fussing and crying irritably in Andromeda’s arms when Ginny arrived, and she rushed to him as soon as she heard.

“What’s the matter, Teddy?” she asked the infant, though she looked to Andromeda for the answer.

“He’s been fussing like this most of the morning,” the older woman lamented, looking a bit frazzled around the edges.

Ginny nodded as she took the baby from her and held him in her arms. Instantly, Teddy’s tears cleared. He graced her with a toothless baby-smile before turning his face towards her chest and beginning to root around for her breast.

“Maybe he’s hungry?” Ginny suggested as she settled herself in a chair in the common room and prepared to nurse.

Teddy latched on with such vigor, she gasped.

“Yes, that must have been it,” Andromeda agreed, as Harry looked on.

They all had lunch while Ginny fed the baby, with Harry bringing Ginny’s food to her, and by 12:00 PM they were back at Gringotts, on their way down in the cart, this time to visit the Potter vault.

Harry and Ginny were again met by Grabhook. Indicating another goblin with him, he said, “This is Hammering, my father’s brother.”

“I am so sorry your brother was killed,” Harry said.

“It’s a part of being a goblin,” said Hammering.

“It’s still wrong,” Harry insisted.

“Why would you care?” said Hammering. “We are just goblins.”

“Goblins are people too, or intelligent beings at any rate. It’s not fair that wizards do not treat you as equals!” Harry replied. Hammering looked at Harry suspiciously but did not say anything else.

The cart pulled to a stop, allowing Harry and Ginny to step out. Harry inserted his little golden key and the great wheeled door rolled away, revealing the full contents of the vault beyond. Just by looking, they could tell that assessing the contents of the Potter vault and what would be needed to settle everything was going to take longer than tending to the Black vault had.

There were deeds to quite of bit of property that seemed to be located around both Godric’s Hollow and Ottery St. Catchpole. There was also a list of properties that had previously been owned by the Potters but had been sold over the years to various poorer wizards. As Harry and Ginny studied it, they discovered there was a pattern to the list and how the property had changed hands. Initially, each property had been rented to a young couple for a modest sum of money. If the couple had children, the property was eventually sold to them for a very reasonable price. If the couple did not have any children or moved away, the property was then rented to another couple, and the pattern was repeated. According to the dates of the leases and the sales, there seemed to usually be about four couples being helped at any one time, although the number varied a little. Nothing, however, had been done about any of the properties since Harry’s parents had been killed, almost seventeen years ago.

The couple studied the information on the properties as carefully as they could and discovered, while looking at a map of those in the Ottery St. Catchpole area, that the property the Weasleys lived on was one of these properties, and that Ginny’s parents only were renting a couple of acres. They were not renting the buildings, just some land, so Harry asked Ginny, “How did your parents build the house, shed and chicken coop? They are all sort of unusual.”

“Everything that I saw being built or changed was done with magic. Dad and Mum did the best they could to pick up wood and brick and other stuff that they would enlarge or transfigure into parts of the house or out-buildings. But I don’t think anything they have was built like I think Muggle buildings usually are. Also, they were always changing them while I was growing up,” Ginny replied.

Harry could believe that. He knew, from his many visits to the Burrow, that the house was a strange structure, and he could never tell quite how many stories it had or where all of the rooms were in relation to one another. They always seemed to sort of appear as you went up the stairs.

The property the house stood on, which included the orchard and the pond, was part of a much larger section of property that started at a road across from the Longbottom estate and went out from there almost twice as far as the Weasley house. According to the deeds and the map, Harry owned that entire piece of property, although there were a couple of additional houses on it with tenant farmers. There were also still a number of significantly sized parcels nearby that he held the mortgages on.

“I can’t take rent from your parents after all they have done for me,” Harry told her.

Ginny looked at him with a questioning expression.

“What I need to do,” he continued, thinking aloud,” is to give all of the property that your family has been using to your parents, free and clear. And these other properties near by?”

Ginny nodded as he pointed to them on the map, wondering what he had in mind.

“There is plenty of room there for more houses on or near that property they are using. We could give parts of it to other family members or friends,” he suggested. “Would that be okay, do you think?”

“Yes,” Ginny agreed, once again warmed by Harry’s big heart. “I think it would be nice to have a little suburb of Ottery St. Catchpole, if Mum and Dad agree.”

“We’ll ask them,” Harry promised, and they turned their attention from the real estate to the other assets in the vault.

Finally they came to a variety of jewelry that had been set aside in a modest-sized wooden box on a shelf. Inside, they found a matched set of rings that included a beautiful engagement ring, a masculine wizard’s ring, and beautiful, very old wedding rings. There was also a parchment in the box that gave a list of all of the Potters that had worn these rings, going back over 350 years. There was a second parchment with the rings that said:

“If you are thinking of giving these rings to each other, they come with a blessing and a warning.

Every couple who has worn these rings has been blessed with children to carry on the Potter name. The Potter fortune has increased, and all of the Potters have been generous because of their good fortune.

With wealth comes the obligation to be generous. Do not curse yourselves by being miserly.

If you want the blessing, you must promise to love each other in sickness as well as in health, in bad times as well as in good times, through sorrow as well as joy, knowing as you promise to love each other that there will be sickness and sorrow and hard times.”

Harry looked at Ginny and she back at him.

“I guess the parchment is trying to tell us that we will not live Happily Ever After,” Ginny said, looking carefully at the rings. She glanced at Harry, who was also studying them, wondering how she could get the engagement ring on her finger. Was this her chance? She always though you could get away with practically anything if you had enough guts, and damn it, she did want Harry, more than anything.

Harry waited a short while for everything to sink in. He was about to put the box back, when Ginny motioned for the small inner container that contained the rings, so he gave her the little box. She took the man’s ring out, looked at it and put it on Harry’s hand. “It looks really good on you, Harry,” said Ginny with a big smile on her face. She then took the engagement ring out, looked at it and gave it to Harry. Ginny put the tip of her ring finger into the engagement ring. She gave Harry a look that said, “Put it on.” Harry looked at her, trying to figure out what to do.

Harry had really not planned on asking Ginny to marry him right now. It was not that he did not want to get married, and in all honesty, he held on to the rings longer than he would have if he had simply dismissed any thought of asking her. He was still trying to figure out how to handle it, when Ginny got an impatient look on her face as she continued to hold her hand with the ring just started on the finger, so Harry pushed it the rest of the way onto the finger, feeling concerned that this would start the most serious discussion yet on getting engaged and maybe really getting married August 11th.

Ginny jumped up and down, gave Harry a very long and passionate kiss and said, “Oh, Harry, yes, yes, a thousand times yes! No Happily Ever Afters. I’ll love you and be by your side through anything. Thank you for asking! Thank you for the ring! I love you! I love you! I love you!” She followed this by another long, passionate kiss, and then looking at the ring, said sort of wistfully, “Engaged. I can’t believe it. Oh Harry, I’m so happy! Thank you!”

Harry stood there stunned. He knew that he had not asked Ginny to marry him, certainly not formally, although they had talked as if they knew they were going to get married. Ginny had all but assumed that they were going to get married on her birthday, and Harry really was willing. He DID want to marry Ginny, and the Ministry had SORT OF told them that it would be better if they were married August 11 of THIS year.

Then there was Ginny’s temper to contend with. Harry had just defeated the most powerful wicked wizard in the world, but telling Ginny to take the engagement ring off was much more terrifying that walking towards Riddle to be killed. Harry decided that being engaged was vastly easier than any other alternative that he could come up with.

Ginny, in truth, had not planned this, but when she saw the beautiful rings in their box, inspiration of the moment had taken over and everything just happened. When Harry put the ring on her finger, she was not about to let the moment pass. She really was unbelievably excited but also thought that she needed to stay vocally excited, so that Harry could not say much. As they left the vault, Ginny was also a little stunned that she had gotten away with saying “yes” to Harry, when he really had not proposed. Well, however it happened, she was engaged to Harry Potter! ‘Take that, all of you witches who want him! He’s mine!’ she thought, relishing her victory. She was surprised by how relieved she felt too. Those witches no longer represented as much of a threat.

They found Bill and Michael working together, and Harry lost no time in going over the property and what he wanted to do with it, although he said nothing about the wedding rings he’d found nor the engagement. He was still feeling stunned and was not quite ready to say anything yet.

Bill looked over the parchments and understood immediately what Harry and Ginny were trying to do, though not so immediately how to do it.

“This is going to take a little time, Harry,” Bill warned. “Can you stay awhile?”

“Yes, we can stay,” Harry assured him.

Michael Appledorn looked up from what he was doing. “Are you going to need me for this, Bill? There’s still that stack of documents in the next office we were going through. I’d like to continue that if you don’t need me.”

Bill assured him, “You go ahead while I take care of this for Harry. We’ll call you if we need you.”

Michael nodded and stepped out to the office next door, while Bill worked on the associated real estate forms.

Harry watched as Michael left the room. “Bill, does Michael need a house? Would he like to live near the Weasleys do you think?”

Bill looked up, considering Harry’s question thoughtfully. “You know, this may be just what Michael and Rosemary need. Other things are in the works too, but let me work on this for you.”

Ginny watched the two men as they talked, totally absorbed in conversations about parcel plots and land markers and property rights, totally ignoring her. Finally, she couldn’t stand it any more. Holding her hand with the ring out in front of Bill she blurted out, “Harry and I are engaged!”

Bill looked questioningly at Harry.

Harry raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders. “The ring came with these parchments,” he explained and he handed Bill the parchments they’d found in the box, giving him time to read them.

Bill looked at Harry again. “You asked her?” Bill said. “You got down on your knees and proposed?”

“Well, not exactly,” said Harry awkwardly, unsure of how to tell Bill that he hadn’t asked her at all. “But she said yes!”

Bill grinned and said, “Hell, Harry, she’s been saying ‘yes’ to the idea of marrying Harry Potter since she’s been five years old. That’s not really the question. Did you ASK her?”

“Well, not exactly,” Harry repeated, looking at Ginny. She was getting, well Harry was not sure if she was getting embarrassed or mad, but he was not really eager to find out. “I DO want to marry Ginny though, and I thought that the Ministry really wanted us to be married on Ginny’s seventeenth birthday.”

“Ginny Weasley, what kind of a stunt did you pull this time?” Bill said, not in an unkindly voice.

“I’m engaged,” Ginny said, pretending to be innocent and stating the obvious, thinking she was maybe on shakier ground with her favorite brother than she was comfortable with at the moment.

“We’re engaged, Bill,” Harry reiterated. “The Ministry wants us, needs us, to get married on Ginny’s seventieth birthday, so we’re engaged.” Harry looked at Ginny and squeezed her hand. She squeezed back and gave him a relieved look, for backing her up.

Bill took a deep breath, looked at both of them, and asked Harry, “Did you ask Dad?”

“Yes, sort of,” Harry said. “I had his permission. His worry was how to tell your mother.”

“Oh! Boggarts!” said Bill, who looked at the ceiling, and then stared at the couple. “Dad was worried or terrified? You both know, well no, I don’t think Harry has ever seen Mum in full rage. Dragon fire! Wow!”

Bill then sat with his eyes closed for a minute or two, Harry and Ginny awaiting his final assessment of the situation. Ginny hadn’t really thought about her mother’s reaction and had to admit that she was nervous. Finally, Bill opened his eyes. “The Ministry urgently needs the money, and this is the best thing that could possible happen for them. We just have to find a way to tell Mum. Merlin!

I will see you tonight for dinner, and Fleur will be with me, maybe she can help to defuse things. Go to the Ministry and tell Dad before you go back to Hogwarts. Maybe I can explain to the family about the estate problems and how you marrying Ginny will help the Ministry get urgently needed money, and maybe that will keep Mum from exploding. Maybe.”

“Thank you, Bill,” said Ginny, a big smile on her face which hid a growing terror of her mother’s reaction. If anyone could soothe her mother’s wrath, it was Bill and sometimes her father. “I’d hoped you could help us keep Mum from being too upset.”

“Ginny,” said Bill quite forcefully, looking somewhat concerned. “I’m upset. I’d be even more upset if we were not fighting all of these money and estate problems. You’re only 16! You ought to have to wait at least until you graduate from Hogwarts. Frankly, I’m going to be delighted if Mum is ¬just upset. I’m concerned she is going to be FURIOUS.”

Ginny nodded, looking warily at Bill.

“I’ll see what I can do,” he promised. “But in the meantime, go talk to Dad? I can finish up here on my own, Harry.”

“Thanks, Bill. We’ll go speak to him right away,” Harry assured him.

Feeling rather chastised, Harry and Ginny left for the Ministry without delay.

Arthur was in his new office, talking to a couple of people when they got there. He called them in as soon as they’d finished and asked, “What brings you here?”

Ginny cautiously held out her hand and showed her dad her ring. Then Harry showed Arthur the parchments.

“I thought I might ask Ginny after she graduated from Hogwarts, or if I asked her sooner, we would not get married until she graduated. But all of these estate problems seem to be pushing us ahead a year,” Harry told Arthur.

Arthur looked at Harry, then at Ginny, then back at Harry and said, “I would like to talk to you alone, Harry. Ginny, please wait outside the office.”

Ginny was very worried by the tone of her father’s voice, although it was a small comfort that he hadn’t called her Ginevra. She could argue with her mother, but her father gave so few orders that she really could not, in good conscience, defy him. She was still intimidated by her father, something she supposed would never change, so she left the office to wait outside the door and began to pace. She looked at the ring on her finger as she walked back and forth. ‘There is no way they are going to get this ring off my finger’ she thought. ‘I’ll wait until I’m 17, but they had better not make me wait any longer.’

Back inside the office, Arthur asked Harry, “How did this happen?”

“The rings were a part of the Potter estate,” Harry explained. “I showed them to Ginny just when I found them there, and as I was getting ready to put them away, she took the box and put the man’s ring on my finger. Then she held her hand out like she wanted me to put the engagement ring on her finger in exchange. She had that intimidating look, and I was not quite sure how to tell her I did not want to quite yet, well, I’m not sure what I wanted. There is no question that I eventually want to marry Ginny. Maybe if we had sat there talking I would have asked her, but everything happened so fast. So, I did not really know of a way to not put the ring on her finger, so I did, and before I knew it, she was thanking me for asking and saying how happy she was that we were engaged and kissing me.”

Arthur laughed at the young man’s rambling explanation and said, with a twinkle in his eye, “You are not the first man to be surprised by one of the Prewett women, and I was not either. So what do you want to do now?”

“I think that by far the easiest thing is to marry Ginny,” Harry answered. “If the Ministry could use us to be married on her 17th birthday, that’s probably what we should do.”

Arthur smiled. “Well, Harry, getting married is not really such tough duty. Molly and I got married early. Welcome to the family, son. We’ve thought of you as a son and loved you as a son for some time now. Feel free to call me ‘dad,’ if you want. Ginny is probably going crazy. We had better let her back in.”

Ginny walked in and warily looked at Harry and her father, who had taken the grin off of his face.

Arthur looked calmly at his daughter. “Well, it looks like we have a wedding to plan, and we are getting another son in the family. I cannot complain about your choice of a husband, Ginny.”

Ginny went over and gave her father a big hug. “Thank you, Daddy,” she said from within his arms. But the safety of her father’s arms didn’t have the calming effect they usually had. Inside, Ginny was in turmoil. Was she really getting away with this? ‘Keep cool,’ she thought. ‘Act like this is normal. Keep cool. Potter is yours!’

Arthur looked at Harry and Ginny, suddenly getting very concerned, and said “Now…how are we going to tell Molly?”

“Bill said that he was going to come to dinner and he promised to bring Fleur along. He may have some idea,” Harry told Arthur.

“I’ll try to get back a little early to make sure I’m there too,” Arthur assured him. “It’s Friday … supposed to be the end of the work week. I think Percy should come as well. I hope Molly’s not TOO upset. Oh Boy, Molly!”

“Thanks, Arthur. We appreciate it,” Harry replied, answering for both himself and Ginny.

Arthur nodded. “By the way, Harry, speaking of the end of the week, the money from the first two estates really helped. We are not worrying about paying for the foreign Aurors just now. For this week and a few more I hope, with your help, we’ll have the funds to cover it. Thank you!”

“You’re welcome,” Harry replied, as some more people came to Arthur’s door. “I was glad to do it.” Harry glanced at the newcomers, realizing that his future father-in-law still had business to attend to before he could leave. “We’ll see you back at Hogwarts,” he told him and he and Ginny showed themselves out.

Harry and Ginny got back to Hogwarts a little after 6:00 PM, to find a crying Teddy, a very frustrated Rosemary and an equally frustrated Molly. Andromeda could not take seeing Teddy cry and had left in the middle of the day.

“He will not easily take milk by a bottle. He has been fussing since mid-afternoon, and we cannot do anything about it. No wonder Andromeda was at her wits’ end,” said Molly.

Ginny took Teddy and put him to her breast. Teddy settled right down and nursed greedily. “How does a new mother take a break from her baby if she can’t leave him to drink from a bottle?” asked Ginny. “I came back for lunch!”

Molly looked at Ginny with an exasperated look, hands on her hips, and said, “Ginny dear, I had months and months of raising all of you where I had a child on my breast or my hips or next to me without a break. You decided you wanted to nurse Teddy, and for a few months at least, that responsibility is yours. I am sure we can work something out before you go back to school, but no baby can be weaned to a bottle so suddenly.”

What Molly thought but did not say was, ‘You wanted to be a grown up, well you are. Tough it out. Somebody ought to nurse the baby, not use those bottles some Muggle ladies seem to like.’

Teddy nursed greedily for about 15 minutes, then stayed on Ginny’s breast for another 15 or so before falling asleep. He was fine while Ginny was holding him, but as soon as Ginny tried to put Teddy down, he woke up in a panic and wanted to nurse again. Teddy really did not want any food this second time, just the comfort of Ginny’s breast.

Harry was watching, even holding Teddy’s hand a couple of times while Teddy was nursing. “It’s like the family I’ve never had, Ginny,” Harry said.

Ginny looked at Teddy all but attached to her, Harry lovingly looking at her, and the ring on her finger, and suddenly the permanence and complexity of what she had done hit her. This ‘being a mother’ was not so easy, and Ginny thought back to the parchments with the rings.

Molly, for her part, noticed the rings on Harry and Ginny’s hands, and both Harry and Ginny could see her looking at them with a frown on her face. Molly thought that Harry looked a little like a stunned garden gnome, although he was obviously head over heels in love with Ginny. Ginny occasionally had that smirk on her face that said she had gotten away with something, although at other times she looked really concerned and often, with Teddy, she just looked frazzled. ‘She is only 16,’ she thought, ‘way too young.’ Well, she and Arthur…, no stop, do not think about that. They are not saying anything. Molly was worried.

It was a little before 7:00 PM when Ron, Hermione, Bill, Fleur, George, Angelina, Lee, Percy, Charlie and Arthur all showed up for dinner. Arthur pulled Molly aside for a brief conversation before they sat down to eat, but Molly did not try to find out why all of the family was there, although she had a concerned look on her face throughout dinner.

Toward the end of the family meal, Bill started to explain the problems with the estates and how only Harry could break the curses. He finally went into the one possible solution: Harry and Ginny getting married on or shortly after her 17th birthday. Everybody was looking at Molly, waiting for her to explode.

When Bill was finished, he looked at Harry and Ginny, who were holding hands under the table. Harry finally pulled Ginny’s hand up and put it on the table, and she showed everybody the ring.

Everybody looked at the ring and then looked at Molly. She had a grim look on her face, but she just stared at the couple.

The air had gotten very tense.

No one said anything.

Everyone continued to look at Molly.

Molly finally said, “Ginevra Weasley, WHAT DID YOU DO?”

In a small voice, Ginny said, “I said yes.”

“I put the ring on her finger,” Harry volunteered, not wanting Ginny to take all the blame. If and when Molly ever learned that Ginny had said yes before Harry had proposed, Harry expected there would be … he wasn’t sure what there would be, but he surely did not want to find out.

“The estate issues are really pushing this, and we cannot get married until she turns seventeen anyway. I’ll be eighteen, and I have plenty of money so I can support her, and I love her, and I’m sorry if we are rushing this and please don’t be mad,” Harry said, the words tumbling out.

“Who asked whom?” Molly said, looking right at Ginny.

“Ginny did not ask me!” Harry said, squeezing Ginny’s hand. “The first word she said was ‘yes.’”

Molly looked at the couple, then the rest of the table, then the couple again, for what seemed to be hours, although it was really only two minutes. Finally, Molly said, “Are you really talking about getting married? This August 11th?”

Harry and Ginny nodded their heads.

“And that ring means?” Molly asked, knowing full well what the answer was.

“I’m engaged,” Ginny said. “It’s part of a set that includes wedding rings.”

“That’s what I thought it was,” Molly said with a sigh. Looking around at her terrified family she asked, “Am I really that scary? You all look scared to death of what I have to say.”

And Ron, bless him, said, “You’re really scary when you’re mad, Mum. All of us boys were scared of you yelling at us when we were younger. We’re still scared of you.”

Charlie piped in, “It’s easier working with dragons.”

After a little more silence, Molly answered, “I’m not happy. If it were anyone but you, Harry, it would be easy to get mad, furious. I can’t do that with you. How can I get mad at you for loving Ginny?”

Then she turned to Ginny. “Ginny, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. But you picked up the responsibility for Harry’s godson Teddy and took to it like it was the most natural thing in the world. How can I get mad at you for loving Harry and Teddy? I’m not happy, you’re too young, but I’ll not stand in your way.”

“Thanks, Mum,” said Harry. “I love Ginny, but I have fallen in love with the entire Weasley family too.”

Molly’s face lit up at that. While she’d never wanted to take Lily’s place, she’d certainly done all she could to give him a mother-figure. Now she’d actually be able to call him “son” and clearly he felt comfortable calling her “mum.” Perhaps things weren’t so bad after all.

From that day on Harry called Arthur and Molly “mum” and “dad.” The dinner conversation started again, with Harry and Ginny sharing the parchments that came with the rings and showing off the wedding rings.

When everybody was finally done eating (including Ron), George stood up and said, “All of the boys need to get together and talk to Harry. Come on, Harry.” Harry had no idea what he was facing with all of Ginny’s brothers ganging up on him. George nodded to Arthur that he should come along, which he did. When they were by themselves at the other end of the Great Hall, George said, “I won! I knew it! Rita got her so mad, Harry didn’t have a chance!”

“She is one determined witch!” said Bill. “Give me some credit for coming in second!”

“I thought they would get engaged this summer,” said Charlie, sounding disappointed.

“Blimey, I thought Harry would wait at least until Christmas to ask her,” said Ron.

“Who said Harry asked Ginny?” said George slyly, laughing. It was good to hear George laugh and be mischievous again. “Out with it, Harry, did you ask her, did she ask you, or did she get the ring on her finger before you knew what had happened?”

“What is this all about?” said a confused Harry, who was immediately suspicious of George’s questions.

“Well,” said George, bursting into laughter again, “when Ginny saw that article by Rita Skeeter, and when she saw that reference to ‘poor little Ginny Weasley,’ I thought she was going to explode. Then she got that look that I know too well, like when I pulled something over on her, and she was going to get back at me. Bat Bogy Hexes are mild compared to what she can do when she is really mad. And I could see she was going to land you, and land you quickly! Ron and Charlie were there, and I took them aside and we bet on when she would get engaged.”

“You what?!” said Harry.

“Then we asked Bill and Percy. We all sort of expected Percy to pick the longest time, but Bill’s pick was a surprise to me. Meanwhile, we also wagered on who would ask whom. Out with it, Harry, did you ask her, did she ask you, or did she get the ring on her finger before you knew what had happened?”

Harry was smiling and sort of shaking his head. “I was showing her the rings and getting ready to put them back. She reached for them and put the one ring on my hand. Then she gave me the other ring and gave me a look that said, ‘put it on my hand.’” As Harry was saying this, he was holding out his hand like Ginny had done, “You know the look that both your mother and sister get that says, ‘You’d better do what I want you to do or you are in big trouble.’ So I put the ring on her finger and she was jumping up and down and kissing me and thanking me.”

Harry really didn’t want to say that Ginny already had the ring partly on her finger. He was beginning to be embarrassed enough that he had not asked Ginny.

“I knew it!” said George. “I knew it! Well, Harry, as far as I am concerned, all you have to do to be welcomed into our family is to propose to Ginny. Down on your knees, formal, like you should have done, but in front of the whole family.”

“On your knee, mushy formal, Oh Merlin,” said Charlie, chuckling.

“If you’re going to be a part of this family, Son, you’d better do what your brothers tell you to do,” said Arthur, laughing along with his boys.

All of the brothers pushed Harry back to the table where the girls were looking at them. Meanwhile, many of the people in the Great Hall were watching, and other people seemed to be joining them. There was going to be a large crowd for Harry’s proposal.

Harry decided that he had better get it over and got down on one knee and said, “Ginny, will you marry me?”

“Not Good Enough!”

“Not Formal Enough!”

“You Can Do Better Than That!”

“Reject, Do Over.”

All of the boys were kidding Harry at once.

Harry was almost as red as Ginny’s hair. She had a victorious smile on her face that was a mile wide. Fleur, Hermione and Angelina were laughing as hard as the boys, and even Molly was smiling.

“My Fair Lady, My Princess, My Happily-Ever-After-Girl, I have slain the wicked wizard and have come to ask the fairest lady in the land for her hand in marriage. Will you spend the rest of your days with me?”

Ginny looked at her brothers and said, “Is that good enough?”

“Your call, sister dear,” said George pompously.

Ginny gingerly handed Teddy to Fleur. “Yes! Yes! Yes! Fair Prince,” Ginny said, as she pushed Harry down to the floor and kissed him, really snogged him good. Everyone in the room clapped and cheered and laughed.

“Welcome to the family, bro,” said George, giving Harry a hand up once his sister had stopped mauling him, and one by one all the brothers gave him a big hug and welcomed him into the family.

Molly quietly said to Arthur, “I thought he already asked her.”

“Ah, yes, dear, but the boys insisted Harry propose publicly,” Arthur improvised, covering Harry’s lie of omission.

Bill brought out an envelope of parchments and asked, “Does anyone mind if we make this engagement formal? It will make my job with the estates easier.”

“No problem,” Harry said.

“Great!” Ginny exclaimed.

They both signed the documents in about four places.

“Ginny’s only sixteen, so you have to sign too,” Bill said to his parents. He brought the parchments over to where Arthur and Molly were sitting.

Arthur signed. Molly looked at Bill and whispered, “Is this what I think it is?”

“Yes, these are formal betrothal papers, as binding as a marriage. They don’t know what it is,” Bill whispered. “Makes my job much easier. Have a wedding August 11th or so.”

Molly glared at Bill. “You give Ginny a hint that she’s all but married and I’ll have your head,” she whispered. “She’s way too eager to have Harry in her knickers already.”

“Not a word, Mum, but please sign the papers,” Bill said. Molly continued to glare at Bill but signed the parchment.

Shortly after this exchange, Arthur asked Harry, “What do you know about prophesies about yourself? Prophesies beyond defeating Voldemort?”

“Tom Riddle,” Harry promptly corrected. “Call him Tom Riddle. It makes him a common human, not the ‘Lord of Something.’”

Harry then looked quizzically at his future father-in-law. “Prophesies about after I defeated Riddle? I thought I would be dead. No one said anything about after defeating Riddle.”

“There is something big going on, Harry, and you are right in the middle of it,” Arthur said, feeling bad about placing even more burden on the young man’s shoulders. “Al VanLente, he is head of the International Aurors Association, the group that is helping us, he’s a big wig in the International Association of Witches and Wizards, and he is really concerned about you and keeping you safe, because of the prophesies. I don’t understand it, but somehow that you defeated Riddle and how you defeated him has changed some things.”

“I’m just glad I’m alive,” a slightly astonished Harry said. He’d just finished with one prophesy that nearly got him and everyone he loved killed. He wasn’t ready for another one.

“Even the engagement, Son,” Arthur said, pondering Harry. “Al Van asked me before I left what had changed with you, and when I said that you and Ginny were engaged. He nodded and said, ‘Oh, that may explain it,’ without ever telling me what ‘it’ was. Bill said that Kreacher said, just before they parted, that something had changed, something I guess good, something that made Bill and Kreacher’s job easier. Kreacher said Bill is your brother-in-love now, I guess, even before you are married. Not in-law but in-love, and that makes a difference in allowing Bill to work on the estate.”

Harry had no idea how to respond to this remark. His whole early life with the Dursleys’ had been completely without love, but conversely his experience with the Weasleys’ had shown him so much love. He was fine with being Bill’s brother-in-love, but how that made estate issues easier was a total mystery.

Arthur looked at Harry, then Ginny , then back and forth a couple more times. Ginny was talking to the women, almost but not quite waving the ring around, obviously very happy. Arthur grabbed one of Harry’s hands in his hands, and holding on in an intimate manner, laughed and said “Someone else is VERY happy you’re alive. We all are, but one little redheaded girl in particular is more grateful than all of us. Thank you.”

“Thank me?” asked Harry. “Thank you!”

Harry put his other hand on one of Arthur’s hands so that both men had both hands touching, took a big breath and sigh, and with tears almost coming said, “I think I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be all right!”

“It’s not going to be easy, but with a good woman beside you it’s always better,” Arthur said, nodding his head in affirmation.

A little later, as they were heading up to the dorm, Ginny asked, “What was that all about? All of that with my brothers?”

Harry said, “I guess I should have read that article by Rita Skeeter. George said that when he saw you read that and get mad, he was sure we would be engaged within a couple of weeks. All of the other brothers had dates further out.”

“They were taking bets on when we would get engaged?! How could they!” said Ginny indignantly.

“Then they bet on who would ask who. George had it right on. You would get a ring on your finger without me asking you,” said Harry, as Ginny looked like she had gotten caught. “And since I had not said the words, they insisted that I formally propose.”

Ginny kind of huffed as she replied, “Well, we both knew we were going to get married. It was nice hearing the words, though. Thank you for proposing to me in public! I loved it and I love you.”

Harry answered back, “I love you too. George was right, you are one determined witch. I have a lot more respect for your father, living with your mother. I bet our kids are going to be just as terrified of you as your brothers are of your Mum.”

“Little me?” said Ginny, with a smirk that left no question that she intended to be every bit as formidable as her mother. “Just our children?”

If Harry did not know he was in trouble before, he knew it now. Ginny was one formidable and determined witch. He quickly said, “Don’t worry, me too, me too.”

Once they were up in the dormitory room, Ron and Hermione joined them. Ron looked at Harry and said, “What’d you go and do that for?”

“What?” said Harry, thoroughly confused.

“Ginny’s my baby sister. She’s not old enough,” said Ron, winding up for an argument.

Ginny handed Teddy to Harry and then looked at Ron with the, ‘I’m about to explode’ look that everybody knew too well. “Baby sister? Baby?” she questioned. Then she said, in a quiet but determined voice, “Look at these,” pointing to her breasts. “I’m nursing a baby with these. I’ve got all of the other necessary parts too,” pointing down to her hips. “There is no reason why Teddy could not be Harry and my baby, no reason why I couldn’t have gotten pregnant last summer.”

“You didn’t?!” said Ron, looking so shocked that Harry almost laughed.

“Didn’t what?” asked Ginny. She was getting dangerous. Her hand was poised to grab her wand.

“Have sex with Harry last summer,” said Ron, looking at his trainers.

“No,” said Ginny sulkily, remembering her brother’s interruption on Harry’s birthday.

“Maybe if we had, I could have come with you?” Ginny said jauntily, with a big smile on her face.

“Noooo,” said Ron. He got a panicky look on his face. The thought of Harry and Ginny having sex in the tent while they were on the run horrified him. He finally asked, “Are you?” Ron had gotten completely Weasley-red in the face at this point.

“Are we WHAT?” asked Ginny, sounding exasperated and looking like she could explode at any moment.

“Sex,” said Ron with the horrified look still on his face. He couldn’t quite believe he was having this conversation. What had he been thinking, to confront them?

Ginny looked over to Harry, who said to an expectant-looking Ginny, “I told your Dad we would wait.” Ginny gave a deflated sigh.

“Until when?” Ron retorted.

Harry got a pensive look on his face. “I kind of expect until we get married,” he said. “No sex before, but I kind of expect that after.”

Hermione piped in, “Of course you’re going to have sex after you’re married. If you don’t, you’re not married.”

“And you have to keep doing it?” said Ron, still looking horrified.

“And once YOU have started, if YOUR partner comes to bed all hot and bothered are YOU going to say, ‘WE did it once, that’s enough?’” said Hermione, looking directly at Ron, inches from his face and poking her finger into his chest to emphasize every ‘you,’ ‘your’ and ‘we.’

Ron looked at her. He was suddenly very aware that Hermione was talking about the two of them, about Hermione having sex with HIM. Harry having sex with his little sister was one thing, but Hermione, she was really talking like it might happen … Oh he was on really dangerous ground here. “I guess not,” Ron said very softly.

There was an awkward silence.

“I was thinking of asking you to be my best man, Ron,” said Harry, “but if you don’t think I should be marrying your sister... I love her, Ron. The timing is a little, oh, maybe we’re rushing things some, but Ginny is the only one for me, and I love her.”

“I’ll be your best man,” said Ron, suddenly sounding excited rather than righteous. “Mum’s got to be furious at Dad. Did you have his permission?”

“Yes, I did,” said Harry. “Before I, uh, before … before she yessed me into getting engaged, I, well your dad asked me how serious we were, and I said that I was going to. I mean, I didn’t say when and I said that I hadn’t, but we were talking about the Ministry and the estate, and yeah, I sort of did have his permission. And then after we had gotten, you know, after Ginny had the ring on her hand and well then we saw your dad again and he, well, he said it was fine but he was really worried about telling your mum.”

“I thought Mum was going to explode,” said Ron, with the eyes-wide-open surprised-look so typical of Ron “Are you going back to Hogwarts?” he asked Ginny, more curiously than accusingly.

“I hope so,” said Ginny sort of pensively. “I hope we don’t have to live in the dormitory. The four poster beds do have curtains. I guess I could sleep with you in the boys’ dorm,” said Ginny looking, at Harry with a teasing smile about Ron on her face.

“Then,” she said, looking at Ron with her famous smirk, “you could watch over us, until we closed the curtains.”

Ron got, if possible, an even more a horrified look on his face. He finally said, “Hermione, could you imagine being married and at Hogwarts?”

“I haven’t been asked, Ron,” said Hermione sweetly, giving him an innocent smile.

‘Does Hermione expect me to ask her now,’ thought Ron? ‘How could I afford to be married? I couldn’t even afford an engagement ring.’ Finally he croaked out an answer. “Well, Harry has money. I’ve never had any money. I couldn’t even afford a ring.

Harry was reminded of just how much Ron regretted not having any money. Even if he wanted to ask Hermione just now, there was no way that he could do it financially.

“Hermione, would you be my maid of honor,” asked Ginny.

“Oh, that would be wonderful!” exclaimed Hermione, smiling at her friend to express her gratitude for not letting things get any more awkward.

Harry went to bed in awe of how Ginny had engineered the day’s events and a little relieved that Ginny’s parents were not furious at him.

Ginny went to bed sort of stunned that she had gotten away with saying “yes” to Harry’s not proposing. She was surprised that her parents had not put up more of a fight, although she was still worried. Well, she was still a little worried about everything. Teddy was going to be very demanding. She also felt somewhat triumphant! ‘Poor little Ginny Weasley, Ha! It’s soon to be Ginny Potter, it is!’ she thought, and then, ‘Oh my. I got away with it! I actually got away with it!’

Authors Notes.

The original ending of this section didn’t work, and I knew it. When a reviewer mentioned a scene I had to write by Ron to get by the censors earlier, and another reviewer liked it, I knew what I had to do to make this scene better. Your reviews do make a difference.

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