‘James, don’t you touch that! ’ Ginny hurried across the kitchen towards her son, whose tongue was poking from his lips with concentration as he climbed a bookshelf, little fingers closing around his mother’s wand. Deftly snatching the wand with one hand and James with the other, Ginny tutted angrily. ‘I said, don’t touch! What did Daddy tell you?’
Ginny’s wand had begun to adapt to its owner’s motherhood and was becoming careful about responding to James’s touch, but she had to keep an eye on him nonetheless. It wasn’t long since James had bashed his Aunt Angelina’s wand against the floor and been propelled at speed towards an open window - luckily, Angelina’s years on the school Quidditch team had kicked into action and she had launched herself at the frightened toddler, skilfully snatching him out of the air at the last second. Ginny had seen the blood drain from Harry’s face as he’d shouted at his son, telling James that he must never ever touch a wand without Mummy or Daddy watching, and knew that her own terror must have been similarly writ in her own features. Now, she looked down at the chastened little face pressed against her shoulder and felt a familiar parental thud of guilt and love in her chest. Placing James carefully on the floor amongst his stuffed animals, she gave a wave of her wand and the toys began to chase each other in circles around the toddler, who beamed up at his mother and laughed as he tried to catch a fluffy zebra mid-prance.
She tucked her wand into the pocket of her jeans, which were beginning to be comfortable only when she unfastened the top button. Her mother had told her that things would happen more quickly with a second pregnancy, but Ginny felt it a little unfair that she’d only just begun to fit into her old clothes and already she’d have to dig the maternity jeans out of storage. On the other hand, she had been pleasantly surprised two days previously when, lying in bed, she’d distinctly felt the gentle insistent fluttering of the baby. Ginny had woken Harry from his doze to tell him what she’d felt; he’d smiled sleepily and wrapped her in his arms, looking forward to the baby being big enough for him to feel the wriggles and kicks too. For a little while, Ginny had laid with her head against her husband’s chest, feeling his heart beat against her neck, a deep slow rhythm counting out the hum and swirl of the tiny life she felt moving within her. It was these quiet moments of togetherness, or the explosive joy of their young son, that Ginny forced herself to recall when Harry was late returning from work and she was stuck folding laundry and trying to keep James from accidentally maiming himself.
The clock in the hallway chimed and Ginny glanced up from a pile of mismatched socks. Harry should have been home half an hour previously; they were meant to have dropped James off at The Burrow by now, and Ginny was in serious need of a change of clothes and a shower before she could head into London to meet Ron and Hermione. She knew they wouldn’t mind her turning up with patches of orange juice on her shirt and yesterday’s ponytail sitting messily on her head, but that wasn’t the point. Whilst Ginny had still been playing Quidditch professionally, Harry had been happy to look after James on his own for a few hours in the evening whilst she was at practice, or at weekends when she travelled to matches. Sometimes, he’d bundle James up and come to watch; the girls had loved it, and considered the baby a good luck charm. But since Ginny had quit the Harpies, Harry seemed to have become more and more relaxed about getting home on time, knowing that Ginny didn’t have to go anywhere.
Ginny was sure Harry wasn’t doing it on purpose; if she were in his position, she’d probably be enjoying the freedom to chat to a friend after work, or to stay on and get a project finished so that the whole weekend would be free, but as it was... it just wasn’t fair. Ginny looked down at James, who had caught the stuffed zebra and was whispering gibberish in its fluffy ear, and felt another jab of guilt. What on earth was wrong with her? She’d ultimately quit work because she’d felt guilty about leaving James, and now that she was at home with him all of the time, she felt guilty about missing Quidditch. Perhaps there was simply no right answer... A green glow crept across the hallway and caught Ginny’s eye; she marched through to the living room, where a figure was spinning into the large stone fireplace.
‘It’s about time, Harry!’ she snapped, feeling heat jump into her cheeks. She squinted into the green flames. ‘Oh - ’
‘Hello Ginny,’ said Molly Weasley, as she stepped out onto the hearth, brushing a fleck of soot from her cardigan. ‘I’m sorry to turn up uninvited, but I was worried about you. You’ve not forgotten about your dinner tonight?’
‘No,’ sighed Ginny as she moved forwards to hug her mother. ‘But Harry’s late and I haven’t stopped all afternoon. Sorry.’
‘Oh, don’t worry, dear. These things happen,’ said Molly kindly. ‘I can’t stay long; I’ve left your father alone with the girls.’
Ginny laughed. ‘Poor man... How long have you got them for?’
‘Until Wednesday; Fleur’s grandmother’s funeral is on Monday, but they promised to stay an extra couple of days. I don’t mind it, but I’m sure the novelty of being at Granny and Grandad’s house will soon wear off and Dominique will be homesick by the end of the weekend. Now, where’s my little man?’
‘I left him in the kitchen, but he could be anywhere by now.’
Molly smiled good-naturedly. ‘You were just the same. Make sure you enjoy your evening out; you need a little break, and James will be perfectly fine with us.’
‘I know,’ said Ginny, truthfully.
James was, despite expectations, exactly where Ginny had left him. When his grandmother entered the room, he smiled broadly and waved his arms. ‘Up up up, Granny!’
Molly stooped and gathered James and his toys into her arms. ‘Well, hello there, James. Is this your zebra?’
James nodded solemnly. Ginny smiled to herself as she swept the unfolded laundry back into the basket and flicked her wand at a pile of plates in the sink, which began to wash themselves.
‘And what’s his name?’ asked Molly.
James appeared to think seriously about the question, before an idea bloomed on his face. ‘ ’s called ‘Granny’!’
‘Really? What a great name!’ Molly laughed and turned to Ginny, who raised her eyebrows .
‘That zebra was called ‘Mummy’, earlier.’
Molly smiled and planted a swift kiss on James’s silky black hair. ‘Well, let’s take your zebra to see Granddad, shall we?’
‘We’ll be back by nine,’ said Ginny, handing her mother a small rucksack. ‘James has had his dinner, and his pyjamas are packed, don’t worry about a bath tonight -’
‘We’ll be fine,’ Molly interrupted. She looked at Ginny for a long moment. ‘Just take your time, and enjoy yourself. We can keep him overnight if you’d rather, it’s no trouble.’
‘Thanks Mum, but we’re going up to Andromeda’s tomorrow morning - it’s easier to get James up and going early. Just keep an eye on your wands, okay?’ said Ginny anxiously, as she followed her mother and James into the living room. ‘He’s so fast.’
‘Ginny! He’ll be fine.’
‘Okay, okay. Sorry.’
Molly took a pinch of Floo Powder from a cut glass jar atop the mantelpiece, and was about to throw it into the fireplace when green flames leapt up before her, and Harry spun into view.
‘Oh, hello Molly!’ he said cheerfully, as he stepped out of the fireplace. ‘Didn’t know you were coming to get James.’
‘She wasn’t meant to be,’ said Ginny tersely as Harry ruffled his son’s hair. ‘You’re late.’
‘I know, I know, I’m sorry. I bumped into Percy on my way out, and work took longer than usual without Ron - ’
‘Ron? Why wasn’t he at work?’ asked Molly.
‘Healer’s appointment,’ said Harry, putting his bag down on the hearth and leaning towards Ginny to kiss her cheek. She hesitated for just the briefest moment before smiling and squeezing his arm in response. ‘Think he said he was just having a check-up.’
Ginny knew exactly why Ron had missed work this afternoon; he had been at a Healer’s office, but it was Hermione’s appointment, not his. She had kept her promise and told Ginny about the baby six weeks ago, but asked her to keep quiet about it, as Ron was looking forward to telling everyone together. Tonight, the news would finally come out and Ginny would no longer have to keep the secret; she hated keeping secrets, especially from Harry.
‘I should go,’ said Molly. ‘Last I saw of him, Arthur was being dressed as a fairy by the girls. I should go and stop them before they get glitter everywhere.’
Harry and Ginny laughed and waved their son goodbye as Molly stepped into the shimmering green flames and disappeared out of view.
The Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley, London.
Half an hour later, another fireplace burst into green light, and Harry and Ginny stepped out into the soft evening light of The Leaky Cauldron. After a few heated words and a lingering kiss of apology, Ginny had quickly washed her hair and changed into a clean top- a silky blue thing that she thought was probably too formal for dinner with Ron and Hermione, but it would probably never get worn otherwise. Harry loved the way it felt on Ginny’s skin and could never resist touching her whenever she wore it; his arm slipped comfortably around her waist as she stepped from the flames.
Tom, the ancient landlord, hurried over to the new arrivals. ‘Good evening, Mrs Potter. And back again, Mr Potter?’ he asked with a friendly, toothless grin.
‘‘Again’’? repeated Ginny, with a frown.
Harry gave Ginny a guilty look. ‘Percy insisted I pop in for a quick drink with him. He had some time to kill before a meeting and I hadn’t seen him since Lucy was born...’
Ginny raised an eyebrow, but then glanced at Tom and gave him an apologetic smile.‘Sorry, Tom, we’re not stopping.’ She fished in her purse and pulled out a couple of Sickles and added them to a jar atop the pub’s fireplace, labelled ‘Floo Money’. Tom shrugged amiably and wandered back to the bar.
Having taken the little-used door out into the Muggle street, Harry and Ginny walked towards Covent Garden. Although it was October, it was quite warm and the Friday night crowd was building up in the bars and restaurants; Ginny found herself staring a little at the Muggles - she and Harry lived in the countryside in a mainly-magical village, and she still wasn’t quite used to being amongst Muggles. Most of them seemed to be attached to mobile telephones, staring at the little screens as they walked, even whilst they talked to one another. She and Harry walked in silence, but their hands were gently entwined.
La Cucina, Covent Garden
‘Can’t we just order?’ groaned Ron. ‘They won’t mind, and I’m starving.’
‘They’ll be here soon.’ Hermione craned her neck to look down the busy street. She and Ron were sitting outside a small Italian restaurant, both feeling slightly too warm beneath a tall outdoor heater. ‘Just have a breadstick for now.’
‘Ugh, breadsticks. What’s the point? I’d rather have actual bread.’ Ron paused and drummed his fingers on the table. ‘I’ve eaten them all, anyway.’
Hermione laid her hand over Ron’s. ‘Are you nervous?’ she asked.
‘Excited,’ Ron replied. ‘You?’
‘A bit of both,’ said Hermione with a smile. ‘I keep wanting to get the photo out and look at it now - Ooh! There they are!’
A cloud of flaming red hair had appeared briefly behind a group of people, and now Ginny and Harry were nearly upon them.
‘Harry! Over here!’ called Ron.
Seeing their friends, Harry and Ginny both waved and hurried over to the table. Ginny swept down to kiss Hermione’s cheek in a wave of apologies and apple-scented hair. Ron, Hermione and the Potters settled down at their table and chatted easily as they awaited the arrival of their food, the little tensions of the day beginning to ebb away under the soothing distraction of good company. Harry tried not to complain about his long day at work, although his eyes felt heavy beneath the enticing warmth of the heater above them. Opposite him, Hermione looked much better than she had the last few times he’d seen her; her hair and eyes were shining in the fading light of the day, and she smiled as she chatted animatedly with Ginny about their friend Neville’s new job, teaching Herbology at Hogwarts. Harry had been really pleased for him, knowing that although his friend’s days at school were not a particularly happy time, Neville had come to be a champion of Hogwarts, both during the darkest days of the War and in the years of rebuilding afterwards. Returning to the old castle as a teacher was, to Harry, a sign of how far Neville had come. He didn’t want to be patronizing about it, so he hadn’t said anything, but Harry was really proud of Neville Longbottom - and he knew that Professor McGonagall would not regret hiring her new Herbology teacher.
Ron, meanwhile, was almost face-down in a bowl of spaghetti carbonara.
‘Hungry, Ron?’ Harry asked, watching his friend shovel pasta into his mouth at a rather impressive speed.
‘Mmmph!’ nodded Ron, enthusiastically. ‘Din’ have ‘ny lunch.’
‘So everything was all right at the healer’s, then?’
‘Huh?’ Ron swallowed his mouthful, looking perplexed. Hermione glanced sidelong at him, and his expression cleared. ‘Oh! Yeah, yeah ... everything’s fine.’
An odd silence settled over the table, and Harry glanced from Ron to Hermione.
‘What?’ he asked. ‘Why are you all being weird?’
Hermione gave a little smile and began to fiddle with the strap of her handbag.
‘Actually, it was my appointment. Not Ron’s.’
Harry looked at Ginny, who shrugged, an inscrutable expression on her face. ‘Uh ... okay then,’ he said, puzzled. ‘Are you alright?’
‘Yes ... in fact, we’ve got something to show you,’ said Hermione, opening her handbag.
Harry wondered what on earth Hermione was about to produce from her purse, and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. ‘Something from your healer’s appointment?’ Um... that’s alright, you don’t need to - ’
Next to her husband, Ginny was shaking with barely suppressed laughter. ‘Oh, Harry.’
‘Here, you idiot.’ Ron took a small piece of card from Hermione and passed it to Harry, laughing.
Harry stared down at the black and white picture in his hand. Like other magical photographs, this one displayed a moving image. Depicted in grey lines, the outline of a baby rocked gently back and forth, a tiny circle of a hand appearing to wave slightly every now and then. He looked at it for a long moment, before a vague realisation dawned on him.
‘Is this - ?’ he started, turning to Ginny. ‘This isn’t our picture...’
‘It’s ours,’ said Hermione, her voice filled with laughter. ‘Ron and I are having a baby.’
Harry felt his mouth drop open and his chest seemed to fill with butterflies. He looked from Ron and Hermione’s beaming faces, to the ultrasound photograph, and back again. ‘You’re kidding - ’ he grinned, jumping up from his seat. ‘You guys! That’s brilliant!’
Ginny got up and threw her arms around her brother, who had temporarily abandoned his dinner. ‘I’m so happy for you,’ she said, her voice muffled by Ron’s shoulder.
Grinning broadly, Harry gathered Hermione, Ron and Ginny and the four of them swayed together, laughing happily despite the various elbows and heights making the hug rather uncomfortable. As they broke apart, Harry became aware that the Muggles at the next table were staring at them; he gestured towards Ron and Hermione.
‘My best friends are having a baby!’ he called.
The people smiled and nodded, raising their glasses in congratulations before turning back to their meal. Hermione blushed deeply at the attention and sat down again, carefully placing the ultrasound photograph back into her handbag.
‘So, when’s the baby due?’ asked Ginny as she returned to her seat.
Hermione flashed Ginny a knowing smile. ‘The twenty-fourth of April, they told us today.’
‘You’re not far behind us then,’ said Harry, raising his eyebrows at Ron. ‘Hey - they’ll be in the same year at school!’
‘Oh, Ron’s been thrilled about that ever since we found out, haven’t you?’ said Hermione, ruffling Ron’s hair playfully. He rolled his eyes and ducked out of her reach.
‘I just think it’d be nice for the kid to have a friend before starting at Hogwarts,’ he said, the tips of his ears turning pink.
Harry thought back to two little boys meeting on a train many years before, teaching each other about Quidditch and Muggles. He took a sip of his drink and raised his glass. ‘I agree. To friends.’
Glasses clinked as they made the toast, and a waiter came to clear the plates; Ron asked for the dessert menu to be brought to the table.
‘Oh, we can’t stay too late,’ said Ginny, her brow wrinkling briefly. ‘We’ve got to pick James up from Mum and Dad.’
‘We might follow behind you,’ Ron suggested. ‘ We haven’t told them about the baby yet.’
Something softened in Ginny’s eyes as she looked at the excitement on her big brother’s face. ‘They’re going to be so pleased - Mum’s ickle baby is having a baby...’
‘You’re the youngest!’ Ron protested.
‘Yeah, but you’ve always been Mum’s little boy,’ Ginny countered. Ron poked his tongue out at her, but a happy glow spread across his face.
‘Have you told your mum and dad yet?’ Harry asked Hermione.
‘No - we’re going tomorrow,’ she replied. ‘They’ll be delighted; my cousins have all had children, and my parents have been looking forward to grandchildren of their own for a while.’
Ron laughed and stretched an arm languidly around Hermione’s shoulders. ‘Reckon they thought you’d be married before - ’
Colour rose in Hermione’s cheeks. ‘Yes, well...’ she began, before trailing off. An awkward silence began to settle amongst the friends. Harry saw the consternation on Ron’s face and opened his mouth to quickly change the subject when -
They both looked up to see Dean Thomas beaming down at them, his slender height all the more impressive as he blocked out the streetlight behind him, creating a sort of halo.
‘Dean!’ said Harry, standing up to clap his old friend on the back.
‘Hi, Hermione,’ said Dean. ‘You look lovely.’
‘Thank you,’ Hermione replied. ‘You look great too - we haven’t seen you since Harry and Ginny’s wedding!’
At this, Dean turned his eyes towards Ginny. ‘Ah, Ginny. We must stop meeting like this,’ he said, with a little wink.
Ginny laughed and invited Dean to join their table, but he declined, saying he was on his way to meet someone.
‘Meeting like what?’ Harry asked suddenly.
‘Sorry?’ said Ginny.
Harry looked from Dean to Ginny, with a tense smile. ‘You and Dean need to stop meeting like what?’
‘Oh! James and I bumped into Dean at Diagon Alley the other day,’ said Ginny brightly. ‘Didn’t I tell you?’
‘No,’ Harry replied quietly. ‘You didn’t.’
Dean glanced at Ron and Hermione, who were watching quietly, then smiled. ‘Great kid you’ve got there, Harry - a real bright spark.’ Harry nodded curtly, murmured something in agreement. Dean hesitated for a moment before clapping him playfully on the shoulder. ‘I’m in London all the time at the moment - let’s catch up properly soon, yeah?’
Ron looked at a muscle twitching in Harry’s jaw, and pushed back his seat, reaching across the table to shake Dean’s hand. ‘Sure, sounds good!’ he said enthusiastically. ‘We’re both at the Auror’s Office at the Ministry most days.’
Dean nodded. ‘I’d heard that’s what you were up to now. Well, I’d better go ... it’s been good to see you all.’
He bent low to kiss Hermione’s cheek, and then hesitated as he realised he could not reach Ginny across the table. Ginny leaned awkwardly towards Dean and he clasped her hand briefly, before giving Harry a quick, one-armed hug and strolling on into the warm October evening.
Ron and Hermione glanced at each other, and braced themselves as Ginny rounded on Harry. ‘What was that about?’ she growled, her eyes flashing dangerously.
‘What was what about?’ Harry snapped, sitting down heavily. ‘I’m fine - ’
A waiter appeared by Ron’s elbow, holding a small chalkboard decorated with delicious-looking words like gelato and panna cotta. ‘Okay, ladies and gentlemen,’ he chirped. ‘We have a few lovely choices for you this evening...’
‘Just the bill, thanks, mate.’
Hermione looked at Ron with surprise as the waiter rolled his eyes and marched away. ‘Don’t you want pudding?’ she asked.
Ron shrugged and looked up at the moon rising in the sky. ‘It’s getting late. I’m sure Mum will have something in the larder if my sweet tooth gets the better of me.’
‘You’re right,’ said Harry. ‘We’d better go; we’re off to Andromeda’s tomorrow, and James will be all over Teddy. If he doesn’t sleep well tonight, he’ll be a nightmare by lunchtime.’
Hermione looked over at Ginny, who merely raised her eyebrows in silence and looked away. So much for a celebratory dinner, thought Hermione with a vague sense of sadness and irritation as she reached for her handbag.
The Burrow, Ottery St Catchpole
In the glow of the firelight, Dominique’s wispy ponytail was definitely showing signs of turning from baby-blonde to a Weasley-ish red. She was curled up in her grandfather’s lap, her eyelids fluttering as some wonderful childish dream danced in her mind. Above her, Arthur snored gently, his glasses slightly askew as his head rested against the winged back of his cosy kitchen armchair.
A pair of wide blue eyes watched them earnestly for a moment.
‘Why is Granddad asleep?’ Victoire asked in the endearingly silly stage whisper of a five year-old. She and her grandmother had been padding quietly around the kitchen, gathering up scattered dolls and placing them in the big toy box. Molly looked over at her husband and saw him sigh contentedly. In this light, and with such comfort on his face, Arthur almost looked thirty years old again.
‘Because he’s tired, Vicky,’ she replied, fiddling absently with one of her granddaughter’s silvery ringlets. ‘He works very hard.’
Molly thought of the long hours Arthur had always worked, which hadn’t lessened since his promotion to Head of Office a few years previously. Even on the weekends, though, Molly generally woke up to find an empty pillow next to her. Arthur’s early morning walks had become a quietly acknowledged part of their life together since Fred’s death. Looking at her life, her family, her marriage, Molly knew there had been many losses and scars along the way, but after Fred was killed, she could clearly see the alteration in the light; one of the brightest stars in the sky had been extinguished, and there would always be a deep patch of shadow, even on the sunniest of days and brightest of nights.
Some well-meaning relative had once mentioned life ‘post-Fred’, and Molly had left the room immediately so as to stop herself from scratching the poor woman’s eyes out. There would be, could be, no ‘post-Fred’. Fred was forever. Fred was always with her. His life had ended, but he was still here, irrepressibly, wonderfully, Fred. As in life, he often surprised her. A sudden breeze on a still day, making the sheets on the line billow and dance. The first robin of winter landing on the windowsill, and fixing Molly with a look of bright-eyed mischief. The expression of thoughtfulness she would sometimes see on little Dominique’s face, just before the child did something ingeniously naughty. Molly did not need to go looking for Fred; he always found her. Arthur, however, found comfort in his solitary morning walks. Often, he would leave before the sun had even risen, before slipping back under the covers as the dawn crept across Ottery St Catchpole. Cold and shivery from the outside air, and smelling of dewy grass and coffee, Arthur would nestle into his wife’s arms and tell her some - but not all - of the things he’d told Fred that morning, and update her on the growth of the crocuses beneath the marble headstone. From time to time, Molly joined him on his walk, but for the most part, she left Arthur to it. God knows, he’s happy enough, but - Molly’s train of thought was interrupted as she realised Victoire was looking at her thoughtfully.
‘What is it, Vic?’
‘You work quite hard too, Granny,’ Victoire said slowly. ‘But you’re not tired.’
Molly suppressed a grin. ‘Oh, really?’
‘Yes,’ said Victoire, nodding solemnly. ‘You’re always sort of... fizzy. Like a Whizbee.’
Molly laughed and leaned down to kiss Victoire’s white-blonde curls just as the fireplace glowed suddenly emerald. Arthur stirred and, arms folded around Dominique, peered sleepily into the flames.
‘That’ll be Aunty Ginny here for James,’ said Molly. ‘I did tell her not to hurry back-'
Molly broke off in surprise as the tall figure of her youngest son emerged from the fireplace.
‘Hi Mum,’ said Ron as he stepped onto the hearth. The fire continued to blaze green, and Hermione spun into view.
‘Ron, Hermione - what a lovely surprise!’ Molly exclaimed. ‘Where are Harry and Ginny?’
Ron had placed an arm around Hermione’s waist as she’d wobbled unsteadily out of the fireplace, but now he reached down to scoop Victoire up into a hug. He and Hermione exchanged a glance over the child’s shoulder before he spoke. ‘They’re behind us... they’ll be along in a minute.’
Arthur looked from Hermione to Ron. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘Nothing,’ said Hermione quickly, flopping into a seat at the worn kitchen table. ‘Gosh, I’m tired.’
‘Do you two want to stay here tonight? We’ve got plenty of room,’ said Molly, hopefully.
‘Maybe,’ replied Ron, plopping Victoire onto Hermione’s lap. ‘We’re going to see Hermione’s parents tomorrow, but that’s not until the afternoon.’
The fire burst into green flame once again, and Ginny and Harry stepped into the kitchen. Harry’s jaw was set, and there was a steely glint to Ginny’s eye that made Molly pause uncertainly before offering them a cup of tea.
‘No thanks, Mum,’ said Ginny, leaning over Dominique’s gently snoring body to peck her father on the cheek. ‘We need to get James home.’
‘He’s upstairs ... he dropped off about an hour ago,’ said Arthur. ‘I’ll come up with you; this little one needs to be in bed.’
‘You too, Vicky,’ said Molly.
A frown creased the little girl’s perfect nose. ‘But Granny, I want to stay here with Hermione.’
‘Victoire...’ A tone of warning had entered Molly’s voice, and Victoire rolled her eyes as she slid off Hermione’s lap and pattered up the stairs behind Harry and Arthur, who was carrying her younger sister. After the girls had been put to bed, and the Potters had stepped into the fireplace once more, James’s unresisting arms wrapped around his father’s neck, Arthur turned to Ron with a low whistle.
‘What’s up with those two?’
Ron shrugged. ‘Think they’re both just tired.’
‘Did you have a nice dinner, though?’ asked Molly, setting teacups down on the table and flicking her wand at a copper kettle sitting on the hob; the water began to bubble and steam almost immediately. ‘Did you go somewhere nice?’
‘It was lovely,’ said Hermione, glancing at Ron. Despite her tiredness, she felt her stomach give a small leap of excitement as she thought of telling the Weasleys their news. Molly had been considerate and discreet as always, and had not asked Hermione about the possibility of a pregnancy since Freddie’s weekend.
Ron gave Hermione a little nod. ‘Mum, leave the tea for a minute, and sit down. We’ve got something for you.’
‘Oh?’ said Molly, flicking her wand to extinguish the flame beneath the kettle. She settled on the arm of Arthur’s chair and smiled tiredly at her son.
‘Yeah, it’s an early birthday present,’ said Ron, reaching into the pocket of his jacket and pulling out a small package wrapped in shiny red paper.
‘My birthday’s not for three weeks!’ laughed Molly. ‘Are you in on this, Arthur?’
Arthur shook his head. ‘Not a clue. I haven’t got your present yet; these two are making me look bad.’
‘Actually Arthur, it’s sort of a shared present,’ said Hermione. ‘And you’ve already got lots of them, but this is the first one from us.’
Molly and Arthur exchanged a bemused look.
‘How cryptic,’ Arthur mused, as his wife tore into the wrapping paper. Molly’s mouth fell open into a perfect ‘O’ as she unwrapped an ultrasound photograph in a silver frame. She looked up at Ron and Hermione’s nervous smiles, and then wordlessly passed the frame to her husband. Arthur stared at it for a moment. ‘Is this Ginny’s?’ he asked in confusion. ‘Why - ? Hold on...’
He took off his glasses and peered closely at the letters etched along the bottom of the frame: ‘Baby Weasley-Granger, Coming Soon!’.
As realisation dawned on Arthur’s face, Molly launched herself at her son with a gleeful shriek, and gathered him into a tight hug. She reached out an arm and Hermione was pulled into the embrace, as Arthur looked on with pride beaming from his face.
‘My little Ronniekins! A daddy!’ said Molly in a voice choked by tears. ‘I’m so happy for you both!’
The commotion was quickly added to by the arrival of a small feathery creature, awoken from a snooze above the living room fireplace by Molly’s cry. Pigwidgeon swooped into the kitchen and zoomed excitedly around Ron’s head, hooting in joy. The little owl had moved in with Ron’s parents when he and Hermione had moved to London, for although Mr Stuckey upstairs had resigned himself to the existence of Crookshanks, that he would not report the presence of a hyperactive ball of feathers to the landlord may have been too much to expect. Pig had been greatly enjoying his retirement at The Burrow, and now he settled into his favourite roost; the flaming red nest of Molly’s hair atop her head. She half-heartedly batted the owl away, but he landed in her bun once again and she rolled her eyes.
‘This owl, I don’t know - ’
‘Congratulations, you two,’ Arthur smiled, clapping Ron on the back and leaning to kiss Hermione on the cheek.
‘Thanks Arthur,’ said Hermione. ‘We’re very happy -’
‘- if a little surprised?’ added Molly, a knowing look in her eye.
Ron blushed and glanced at Hermione. ‘Well, yeah.’
‘Not to worry,’ laughed Arthur. ‘It’s been known to happen. And a baby before a wedding, well that’s certainly happened more than once in the Weasley family tree. Take your mother and I -’
‘What?’ gasped Ron, turning to look at his mother, whose deep blush now mirrored his own.
‘Oh, we were getting married anyway,’ continued Arthur. ‘The imminent arrival of Bill just sped things up a bit.’
‘Honestly Ron,’ Hermione laughed. ‘You’re twenty-five years old and you’ve never done the maths?’
‘No!’ he exclaimed. ‘Mum, I’m surprised at you!’
‘Ronald Bilius Weasley - ’ said Molly, a tone of warning in her voice. She paused and looked at Ron and Hermione, a girl whom she had thought of as family for years, even without the expectation of this baby. She smiled. ‘Let’s put this up here, shall we? I’m afraid we don’t have anything decent to toast with...’
Molly placed the photograph carefully on the mantelpiece, and flicked her wand at the teacups on the table. They filled instantly with hot tea, and Molly lifted hers carefully.
‘To Baby Weasley-Granger,’ she said, looking up at the fuzzy grey outline swimming back and forth within the frame.
‘And to his - or her - excellent parents,’ added Arthur, also raising his tea. Ron and Hermione beamed and joined the toast; Pigwidgeon looked up from his nest in Molly’s hair and hooted shrilly in agreement.
The next morning, after a night curled up close to Hermione in his old single bed, Ron joined his father on a crisp October walk and told Fred that he was going to be an uncle again.
Authors Note: So Chapter 6 is finally here! Sorry it's taken so long. Chapter 7 is not far behind...