The whole family had decided to stay over at The Burrow after the trip to the zoo and it meant that the kitchen was as crowded as it had been years ago, when Harry and Hermione had stayed over in the summer, in fact it was even more crowded, with all the wives and children that had joined them.
George and Bill had gone outside to de-gnome the garden whilst Ginny, Molly, and, much to Ginny’s annoyance, Fleur were busy cooking. Percy and Audrey had gone outside too, up to the top field with all the kids. Hermione had no idea how Audrey had persuaded Percy to do such a thing, looking after so many kids wasn’t exactly Percy’s fad. Harry and Hermione on the other hand were sat in the living room, side by side on the sofa.
“Remember when Scrimgeour read out Dumbledore’s Will to us? Right here?” Harry spoke up, pulling Hermione from her reverie. She’d been momentarily lost, thinking about the Battle of Hogwarts and her first kiss with Ron, which was, she realised, rather wrong considering she and George were now an item.
“Yeah, I’ve still got Dumbledore’s version of The Tales of Beedle the Bard actually, couldn’t bear to get rid of it, it’s right next to my bed, with Ron’s, I mean, I mean Dumbledore’s Deluminator,” Hermione replied, faltering over Ron’s name.
“I’ve still got the Snitch too,” Harry nodded, “weird isn’t it? How things change? We were facing the biggest threat of the last century, we were the only ones that had a hope of stopping it, and when I think back, it was one of the best and worst times of my life.”
“I’ve got to agree, those days where we just stayed in that tent, thinking over what to do next, I loved those days, just spending them with you, and Ron of course.”
“And when we actually did something, like breaking into Gringotts, it was so dangerous and so risky, it had never been done before, and we managed it, it was mental all the things we managed to achieve, and we did it together too, the three of us, we were a good team, you Ron and I.”
“I’ve got to say, no matter how treacherous and difficult our days at Hogwarts were, I’d go back to that time and do it all again very happily,” Hermione smiled, turning her head to face Harry.
“Agreed!” Harry laughed, “look at us; we’re like two old biddies talking over a scone and a cup of tea or something.”
“I know,” Hermione chuckled too, “come on, we best get doing something else I’ll start crying, or worse, smiling like flaming Gilderoy Lockhart.”
“Wouldn’t want that now, would we?” Harry grinned and stood, offering his hand to Hermione. She dismissed it and pulled herself up, wiping her eyes slightly where moisture had started to form. She walked over to the kitchen area quite deliberately, leaving Harry who decided going outside to help the other men with the de-gnoming would be a good call.
“Hermione dear, come to help with the food?” Molly asked, bustling over to the bin and scraping some strange thick liquid into it. Hermione wasn’t going to ask what it was.
“Yeah, what can I do?”
“Ginny’s just preparing the vegetables, if you want to go and help her with that?”
“Sure,” Hermione nodded. She couldn’t help as she joined Ginny to notice the Weasley family clock out of the corner of her eye. At first she’d hated catching sight of it, but now it kind of warmed her heart to see Ron’s and Fred’s hands were now always pointing to Home.
“Hey Hermione, fancy cutting up a couple of those carrots?” Ginny smiled as Hermione reached her. Hermione nodded and grabbed a nearby knife before digging into the bag of carrots and getting out a rather large fat one.
“How are you then?” Ginny asked as Hermione got to work. Ginny was preparing onions and she was sniffing quite violently. Hermione would have thought someone would have come up with a spell to stop such a thing but clearly not.
“I’m fine,” Hermione replied, taking a teaspoon from a nearby counter, “here, put the thin end in your mouth, should help with the onion.”
“No, it’s fine, that would stop me talking to you,” Ginny shook her head, wiping her nose with her sleeve as she did so. Hermione nodded and took out another carrot from the bag.
“What did you mean? About getting the old me back?” Hermione questioned as Ginny dropped the chopped onion into a nearby pan.
“You know exactly what I meant,” Ginny shrugged, “I think you’ve made the right decision by the way, to let us all know.”
“Not like I had a choice.”
“True, George can be a cheeky bugger at times, but I think he’ll make you happy.”
“Or drive me insane, one of the two,” Hermione replied darkly, although a smile was visible on her lips. The comment was met by a hearty laugh from Ginny.
“Well he has driven Mum mad a few times, that’s for sure,” she grinned.
“Oh look, talking about me again!” George’s voice suddenly sounded behind the two women. Ginny jumped, the knife in her hand slipping and slicing her finger. She let out a slight yell.
“George, I could kill you!” she shouted, switching on the tap and running the water over her bleeding finger.
“Doubt it,” George laughed, “sorry about your finger though, that does look sore.”
“Too right it does,” Ginny nodded, grimacing.
“Hey!” Molly butted in, “Bill and Harry are still chucking those gnomes, why aren’t you still out there helping?”
“Sorry Mum, just wanted a break,” George explained, “plus one of the buggers bit me, I was just coming in for a plaster.”
“Do you not know any healing magic?” Hermione sighed, grabbing George’s hand and forcing him to open up his palm and reveal a deep cut at the bottom of his middle finger. George laughed, grinning with his brown eyes twinkling as Hermione pulled out her wand and rested the tip on the palm of his hand.
Hermione muttered a spell, concentration clear on her face, and the cut on George’s finger closed up, seeming to sew itself together, form a small scar then scrub the scar away. George took his hand away and inspected it.
“Nice work,” he said, pulling his hand closer to his eyes.
“No problem,” Hermione smiled before taking George’s wrists and pulling his hands away from his face, “now, go and get de-gnoming that garden, I don’t want the little potato heads causing a riot in the house.”
“They’re garden gnomes, they don’t come inside, but okay, I’ll go be a big boy,” George winked then darted forward, kissing Hermione quickly on the lips and then turning and running off out the door.
“Well, you can’t say you haven’t got your hands full at least,” Ginny said as George vanished.
“Yes, he definitely keeps my mind off darker things,” Hermione replied. The rest of the women fell silent at this and Hermione, feeling the slight awkward tension, returned to chopping up her carrots.
“Hermione, pass us the gravy would you?” Bill called from across the table. Hermione obliged, passing the gravy along the line of people to where Bill was sat. The table was very crowded, with hands darting everywhere to get at food. Several drinks had almost been spilt already.
“Thanks Molly, this food is excellent,” Harry grinned, picking out some roast potatoes from one of the bowls.
“No problem Harry, although you should thank Ginny, Hermione and Fleur too, they helped!” Molly smiled delightedly.
“Thanks Ginny,” Harry said, leaning over and kissing Ginny on the cheek before raising his glass to Hermione and Fleur, “and of course you two too.”
“You are very welcome,” Fleur nodded. Hermione nodded.
“Grandma, what’s this?” Lucy piped up, pointing at her cauliflower.
“That’s cauliflower dear, Percy, have you not fed her that before?” Molly frowned.
“No, Audrey doesn’t like it, do you?” Percy shook his head. Audrey nodded, turning slightly red.
They ate through the dinner, talking and chattering animatedly to each other, throwing jokes left right and centre. By the end Hermione had to wipe away the tears that had come from so much laughter. She finished her last potato and put down her knife and fork side by side on the plate.
“I’d had a hunch for ages that we had to go to Godric’s Hollow, there was just something about it, and so, after thinking over every other option Hermione decided that I was right and that we should go,” Harry was explaining, Ginny was rolling her eyes, having heard the story so many times before, but many others were enraptured . Hermione watched Harry explain, ready to butt in if he missed something out.
“It was Christmas Eve and there were people in the Church, singing carols, we went into the grave yard and that’s the first time I saw my parents grave, Hermione helped me through it, she held my hand and without me asking she produced this Christmas wreath, it was beautiful,” Harry continued, Hermione blushed slightly, “but then we saw this figure in the lane and she was beckoning us to follow her, so we did and it turned out to be Bathilda Bagshot, but it wasn’t really her, it was Nagini, Voldemort’s snake, and it was only due to Hermione’s quick thinking that we managed to escape.”
“I did break your wand though,” Hermione admitted, blushing still with embarrassment.
“Yeah, but still, we would have been dead right then and there if you hadn’t got us out.”
“Turned out Hermione had been right all along, the whole thing had been a huge trap,” Harry admitted.
“No, I wanted to go there, I thought it was logical that Dumbledore had hidden the sword there, and it wasn’t all a waste of time.”
“No, don’t you remember? Afterwards I said Ron’s name and that’s when the Deluminator helped him to come back,” Hermione explained, “and we got the book about Dumbledore, you probably wouldn’t have found all of that out until much later if we hadn’t gone to Godric’s Hollow, and don’t forget Harry, you saw your parents grave, and you saw where they got killed, personally I think that made you want it more, it made you fight harder.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Harry nodded.
“Okay guys, you can talk about the good old days over a nice meal for two, this is getting a bit intimate for me,” Bill suddenly broke into the conversation.
“Sorry Bill,” Harry blinked, letting out a slight chuckle, “got a bit engrossed in my own story there, didn’t I?”
“Just a bit,” Ginny nodded.
“What’s Gofic’s Hollow?” Hugo frowned, his little freckled face offering an expression of deep confusion.
“It’s a place where Mummy went with Uncle Harry on Christmas Eve a long time ago; it’s very special, particularly for Uncle Harry,” Hermione explained, glancing at Harry with an understanding only she had.
Nobody other than Hermione, Harry, Ginny and Ron knew that every Christmas Eve, once all the children had been put to bed, Harry and Hermione went to Godric’s Hollow and visited James and Lily Potter’s grave. It was something they had done ever since that first time and every year they laid a Christmas wreath and visited the house where Harry had got his scar. They had never ventured inside the house, Harry had never wanted to, and Hermione greatly respected that, seeing the exact spot where your parents had been murdered was something nobody would want to do.
“So, I’ve arranged the rooms for everyone for tonight’s stay,” Molly announced, breaking off Hermione’s thoughts.
“Yes?” George piped up, it was the first thing he had said in a while, and Hermione had almost forgotten he was there, which was rather awful.
“I’ve arranged so Hugo, Rose, James, Lily and Albus are all in the one room, Ginny’s old room actually if that’s okay?”
“Perfect,” Ginny nodded.
“And Victoire, Dominique, Louis, Molly and Lucy will all share Percy’s old room,” Molly continued.
“I’ve got to share with all the girls!” Louis exclaimed, deep disgust written across his face.
“Unless you want to sleep with me and your Mum, then yes young man, you’re sharing with the girls,” Bill said sharply.
“Dad!” Louis complained.
“Listen to your Father Louis, he is right,” Fleur butted in. Louis quietened, although a scowl was still clearly visible on his face.
“Right,” Molly continued, a little put off by Louis’s interruption, “Arthur and I will be staying in the attic.”
“The attic?” Percy frowned.
“Yes,” Molly nodded, “don’t worry, the ghoul died years ago, it’s quite safe, Percy and Audrey, you’ll be staying in Charlie’s old room, yes?”
“That’s fantastic, there’s a lovely view in there,” Percy nodded. George rolled his eyes.
“Harry and Ginny, if you can stay in Fred and George’s old room, and Bill and Fleur, you can stay in Bill’s old room, then that leaves you two, George and Hermione, I was going to give you separate rooms but in light of recent events I’ve made up mine and Arthur’s room for the two of you, I didn’t think you’d want to stay in Ron’s room Hermione?” Molly smiled warmly.
“That’s great with me, thanks Mum,” George grinned. Hermione nodded in agreement.
“Okay,” Molly grinned, “Bill, Arthur, George, Percy, help me clear the table would you?”
“Sure Mum,” Bill nodded.
Hermione climbed the stairs, fatigue setting in her legs. She’d decided to go to bed, just as Harry, Ginny, Percy, Audrey and the kids had done, whilst the rest of the family were still downstairs, having a rather animated discussion.
Hermione passed the door to Ron’s old room, her throat closing as she did so. She was just about to take the next step when she heard a whisper from inside the room. Hermione stepped back and noticed that light was pouring out of the gap at the bottom of the door. She frowned. There was someone in Ron’s room. She reached out and turned the handle, opening it a just a crack, and tried to look in. She could see Ginny, sat on the wicker chair. Hermione opened the door fully and let herself in. Harry was sat on Ron’s old bed.
“What are you doing in here?” Hermione accused.
“Talking about Ron, and- and you,” Ginny admitted, a little shocked from Hermione’s sudden entrance.
Hermione looked around the room. Still Chudley Cannon’s posters plastered the walls. She hadn’t been in this room since Ron had died, nobody had as far as she knew, except perhaps Molly, seeing as there wasn’t any dust about. A picture that was stood on the small table in the corner caught Hermione’s eye. Ignoring Ginny and Harry she walked over to it and picked it up.
It was a picture of the three of them, Harry, Ron and Hermione, and the sight of it drove a splint through Hermione’s heart. They were stood in the Great Hall which was made up mostly of rubble and Ron was stood in the middle, his arms around Harry and Hermione and his lips pressed against Hermione’s cheek. Hermione was grinning, clearly laughing, but the effects of the Battle were clear to see. Blood was running along the side of her face and down her cheek from a deep cut on her forehead and her bare arms were littered with cuts and bruises, the rest of her skin was covered in dirt and her hair was a mess too, put up in a ponytail and extremely mussed up. Even from the photograph it was possible to see the deep sadness and loss in Hermione’s brown eyes. Harry on the other hand looked exhausted, his face also cut up and one of the lenses in his glasses smashed through, clearly nobody had bothered to mend them just yet, but he was smiling as well, even though there were tears creating a clean path through the dirt staining his face.
Hermione watched as the picture moved. Ron pulled his face around to look at the camera and he was grinning and laughing, and Hermione, in response to the kiss on the cheek, was pushing Ron playfully on the chest. Then, as the cycle was about to end, a red haired girl catapulted into the picture and jumped on Harry, causing Ron’s arm to slip from Harry’s shoulder and Harry to fall over onto the stone floor, Ginny on top of him.
Hermione let out a laugh and set the picture back down on the table.
“I’ve never seen that photo before,” she said as she turned to face Ginny and Harry who were watching her intently.
“Neither have we,” Ginny shook her head.
“I think I might get a copy,” Hermione said, making her way over to the other chair and settling in it, “I thought the two of you were going to go to bed?”
“We were, but then we thought we’d take a look in here,” Ginny explained, “if you want us to leave, we will?”
“No, no, you’ve as much a right to be in here as I do.”
They sat there in silence for a moment, Hermione gazing round the room, inspecting every little thing. Harry and Ginny watched her do so.
“I don’t know why I didn’t come in here earlier,” Hermione broke the silence, turning her attention to Harry, who noticed that tears were swimming in Hermione’s eyes.
“Same reason as us I suppose, couldn’t bring yourself to do it,” Harry said, letting out a small smile.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Hermione nodded, letting her eyes rest on a poster of Viktor Krum, standing proud in his Bulgarian Quidditch Robes, Hermione couldn’t help but notice though that the picture had small marks on it, like the picture had been hit over and over with a dart. She smiled at this. Ron had most likely bought the picture after The Quidditch World Cup but had clearly grown indifferent towards it after Hermione had turned up to the Yule Ball with Krum.
“You know he hated Krum with a passion after you turned up to that Ball with him?” Ginny said, noticing where Hermione’s gaze had been caught.
“I didn’t,” Hermione smiled, turning her head to face Ginny. There were a lot of things Hermione didn’t know about Ron she realised.
“What was he like?” Hermione asked Ginny, “before he met us, Harry and I?”
“I can’t really remember,” Ginny admitted, “but I do remember him being at the end of a lot of Fred and George’s pranks, see, because I’m a girl they didn’t want to play jokes on me but as Ron was the youngest brother he was the easiest target, they did all sorts of things, buckets of slime above his bedroom door, cling film on the toilet, putting gnomes in his bed, and Ron, although he got angry, I think he liked it, it meant he was centre of Fred and George’s attention, because Mum and Dad generally were always fussing over me and the older boys so Ron never got that much attention from Mum and Dad.”
“I’ll have to ask George about that,” Hermione laughed.
“He told me, when I first met him, that he collected a lot of Chocolate Frog Cards?” Harry questioned.
“Oh yeah, he collected a ton of those things, they should be under the bed actually, if you want to get them out?” Ginny nodded.
Harry got off the bed and pulled up the sheet that was blocking the underside of the bed. He pulled out a large cardboard box labelled “COLLECTION” and opened it, revealing stacks and stacks of Chocolate Frog Cards. Harry picked one up from the nearest pile.
“Hey look, it’s Godric Gryffindor,” he said, showing it off to Hermione and Ginny.
“Yeah, he got a lot of those, Mum ended up taking him to some shop to sell them off, he only got a few knuts for them but it meant he could buy a couple more packets,” Ginny nodded.
“Weird isn’t it?” Hermione started, “how nowadays we can open a Chocolate Frog and find our face staring back?”
“Well I can’t,” Ginny muttered.
“Sorry, I meant Harry and I,” Hermione apologised.
“It is strange, James has the three of us, you, Ron and I, it’s odd seeing our stories on the back of them,” Harry nodded.
“Well usually they only issue a card for someone once they’ve died, don’t they?” Hermione said, “there are only five people ever to have got one whilst they were alive, you, me, Ron, Dumbledore and Voldemort, even Nicholas Flamel only got one once he died.”
“I thought they issued one for Voldemort after he died though?” Harry frowned.
“No, remember, when he took over the Ministry they issued a Voldemort one, the biography was greatly flawed, but he still got one,” Hermione disagreed.
“I remember, I got it that year in one that Bill had sent me for Christmas,” Ginny nodded.
“Okay, point proven,” Harry said, rolling his eyes then taking out another card from the box, “hey look, it’s my Mum! I never knew she got a card?”
“Oh yeah, they issued that one right after she died, Dumbledore made sure of that, your Dad has one as well, I don’t think Ron ever collected that one though,” Ginny smiled.
Harry flipped the card over and read through the biography on the back. He flipped it back over and looked at the picture of his mother, who was grinning and winking up at him.
“Do you think Ron would have minded if I kept this?” Harry asked, looking up at the two women on the chairs.
“Not at all,” Ginny shook her head, “I’m sure there’s another one of her in there anyway.”
“I think he would have loved you to have it,” Hermione smiled. Harry grinned and tucked the card into his pocket.
“I miss him,” Ginny whispered as she watched Harry. Hermione looked at her, her eyebrows sewn into an empathetic frown. Harry too looked up at his wife, who had tears in her eyes. It was rare that, for Ginny to be tearful, and it took both Harry and Hermione by surprise. It was Hermione that acted first though.
Hermione stood and pulled Ginny up off the chair and into an intense hug, letting Ginny nestle her face into Hermione’s thick messy hair. Ginny’s soft sobs were enough to set Hermione off and before they knew it both were crying and holding each other rather fiercely.
“Why didn’t you ever say anything before?” Hermione sniffled in Ginny’s ear.
“I thought I had to be strong, for you and Harry,” Ginny mumbled back.
“Don’t be so silly, I can’t believe you’ve kept this all inside for so long.”
“I cried at the funeral, and sometimes I get upset when I’m on my own too,” Ginny admitted.
“I don’t care, you shouldn’t have to be scared to let me and Harry know what you’re feeling like, I should have realised, I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“Yes it is, next time you’re upset or sad, don’t you dare not say anything, I want you to tell me, or Harry, understand?”
Ginny didn’t reply but she did give a brief nod, which Hermione took as an agreement. Hermione stepped back from the hug. The tears that had been falling from Ginny’s eyes were slowly clearing up. Hermione reached up with both her thumbs and wiped the area below Ginny’s eyes. Ginny gave a small smile. Hermione stepped away and allowed Harry in, who sat Ginny down on his lap and began whispering to her.
Hermione felt a little put out and was rather relieved when George’s head appeared around the side of the door.
“Hey, sorry, I checked our room and you weren’t there, then I noticed the light was on in here and I guessed you’d be in here,” George smiled, but his face went blank as he noticed the tear stains on Hermione’s cheeks and the way Ginny was curled up with Harry.
“Am I interrupting something?” he frowned.
“No, no,” Hermione shook her head, feeling a smile appear on her lips at the sight of George. No matter what she wanted to tell herself George was who she needed, he made her smile and he made her laugh, and after what had just happened she knew she needed that, just like Ginny needed someone to lean on and trust, just like Ginny needed Harry.
“Come on, let’s go,” Hermione said, making her way to join George and leave Ginny and Harry in peace. Before she did so though she stopped and kissed both Ginny and Harry on the forehead, whispering a quick goodnight to the two of them.