Chapter 12 : Year 2: The Birthday Dinner
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A small, green-haired boy stumbled forwards on his still unsteady, small feet and threw his arms around Harry’s legs, laughing happily as he buried his face into his godfather’s knees. A pair of white teeth, not much bigger than two grains of rice, peeked out from his guns, and he clapped his hands together in excitement as he bent his head back to look up, his hair sticking out of his head like a crown of little leaves. Harry chuckled and bent down to lift the boy up.
“Hi, buddy,” he said warmly. “Wow, you are getting heavy! When are you going to stop growing so fast?”
They were in the backyard of the Burrow, where Mr Weasley, Harry, Ron and Ginny had spent most of their afternoon setting up a long table and gathering chairs from every room of the house, so that all of the guests would have a place to sit. Mrs Weasley had placed a giant tablecloth, sown by her aunt Muriel, on the table to cover up the scratches in the wood, and Ginny had decorated it with Peruvian lilies, whose burning yellow and pink colours stole the attention away from Muriel’s uneven stitches and garish embroidery.
“I’m sorry Mum made us use this tablecloth for your birthday,” she had whispered to Harry with an impish twinkle in her eye while carefully placing the flowers in a strange formation to cover her great-aunt’s poor handiwork. “At least she didn’t invite Muriel – be thankful for that.”
There had been a cheerful, good-humoured ambience in the air around the Burrow all day. It had begun early in the morning, when Mrs Weasley had tiptoed down the stairs to wrap the last of Harry’s birthday presents, and it had continued as the whole family gathered in Ron and Harry’s bedroom to wake the birthday boy with song. Even the inevitable cleaning that followed breakfast had been frivolously done, and despite the fact that Ron had been clumsy enough to break three glasses when laying the table, not even Mrs Weasley had been able to stay upset for very long.
They were going to have dinner in the garden. All the guests that had wanted to come to celebrate Harry’s birthday wouldn’t have fit into the kitchen, and fortunately, the weather allowed them to sit outside. Teddy and Andromeda were the first ones to arrive, making Mrs Weasley leave the kitchen – for the first time since that morning – to welcome them.
“It’s always nice to see you, Andy,” she said, watching Harry and Teddy as her lips grew into a smile. “And it’s wonderful to see how much Teddy looks up to him already!”
“Indeed it is,” Andromeda replied. “Remus made a good choice when he asked Harry to be his godfather.”
“Where is my favourite nineteen-year-old? Sorry Ron, that’s not you I’m talking about!”
George’s voice made everyone turn around to see him and Angelina making their way across the lawn, hand in hand, George carrying a large, carelessly wrapped gift under one arm.
“Happy birthday!” said Angelina and let go of George’s hand before stepping forwards to give Harry a hug. “And hello to you, little man!” she added as she ruffled Teddy’s green hair and smiled kindly.
When Teddy spotted George – his favourite playmate next to Harry – he began wriggling in Harry’s arms, eager to be put down. As soon as his little feet touched the grass, he staggered over to George while his hair colour changed from green to Weasley red. Hagrid, Professor Slughorn and McGonagall stepped out of the fireplace in the living room just as Hermione and her parents rounded the corner of the house, having parked their Silver Audi over by the garage.
A little while later found that all the guests had arrived and Mrs Weasley had laid out a feast on the rickety garden furniture. Seamus Finnigan just barely managed to jump out of the way and avoid getting crushed under Hagrid and his chair, which fell apart in the same second that the half-giant sat down on it.
“Blimey, Hagrid!” said Seamus reproachfully. “Make sure no one is standing behind you before you throw yourself backwards, will you?”
The noise had woken up Victoire, who had been sleeping in Fleur’s arms since they had arrived together with Bill a few minutes earlier. Now, she started crying loudly, and Harry’s leaned back in his chair and let his gaze sweep between his near and dear ones. They seemed to have a habit of always bringing noisy chaos with them, but soar ears was a small price to pay for getting to have them all in his life. He had grown up without a family, but had now realised that after everything he had been through, he finally had one. And the noise wasn’t that bad, especially not when he thought about the fact that after tonight, he would head off to his new, quiet, peaceful flat to spend his first night there. It had been one of Mr and Mrs Weasley’s gifts for him – they had surprised him by helping him move his things and set the place up. “But it doesn’t mean that I’m okay with you moving out!” had Mrs Weasley said with tearful eyes that same morning. “And I’m counting on you to come back here as often as you possibly can, do you hear me?” Harry had nodded and promised that he would. She really didn’t need to worry about not seeing him – he loved spending time with the Weasleys at the Burrow.
“I would like to propose a toast!” said Professor Slughorn before anyone got a chance to take as much of a bite of the food, drawing the attention from Hagrid, who was just pulling out his pink umbrella to fix the broken chair. “To one of the bravest young boys I have ever met. I am sure that you get it from your mother, Harry. Perhaps we should toast for her too, now that I think about it. You wouldn’t be sitting here with us if it weren’t for her. You wouldn’t have turned nineteen…” He cleared his throat and raised his glass of wine. “To Harry! And to Lily!”
“How did Professor Slughorn know your mother?” asked Audrey as she put her glass back down on the table.
“He was her teacher,” Harry explained. “Apparently, she was one of his favourites.”
Sitting across from them, Professor Slughorn had turned to Ginny to discuss her Quidditch career. “You see, Gwenog is an old friend of mine,” he explained proudly. “She gets me free tickets to any match I want to go to – she’s quite lovely, don’t you think? I knew that she would become something big already back when she was my student. And you joining the team gives me one more reason to come to the matches!” He winked at Ginny, who laughed and shrugged.
“Well, I’ve only been on the team for a couple of weeks,” she said. “But I hope I’ll get to play soon.”
“I suppose you live in Wales now, then?” asked Slughorn interestedly.
“No, I still live at home,” Ginny answered. “Most of the other players live in Holyhead, but they’ve connected our fireplace with theirs to allow me to stay at home, and then I just use Floo powder to get there.”
Professor Slughorn chuckled. “That’s exactly what Gwenog said when she first started!” he remembered. “She said she would never leave her family back in Portree. It only took her a couple of months to gather her belongings and buy a little cottage in Holyhead, though. I suppose one certain young man makes you want to stay too, eh? We’ll see about that! Gwenog has not changed one bit since I knew her – she won’t let anything stand in your way, if that something is Harry Potter himself!” He laughed again, his round stomach thrusting against the table and making his knife and fork, which lay across his plate, chink loudly.
A cold, strange sensation darted through Harry, who had listened to their entire conversation. What if Professor Slughorn was right? He had talked to Ginny about their living arrangements and they had both agreed that they weren’t ready to live together. Instead, they had agreed that Ginny would stay at the Burrow while Harry moved into his flat – once the shock had worn off, Ginny had really warmed up to the idea of him leaving the Weasley home. All along, Harry had thought that there was also a silent agreement between the two of them, saying that Ginny would move in with him in a year or two, when they both were ready for it. But what if she had other plans for her future? What if the idea of having to plan her life around someone else would damage her chances of a successful Quidditch career? Harry knew that Ginny loved him, of course, but would she still do that if she began feeling like he was holding her back from her dream?
“Harry,” said George suddenly, poking him in the side. “Don’t look so grumpy! It’s your birthday, remember?”
Harry woke up from his thoughts and forced himself to smile. George nodded, gave him the thumbs up and continued shovelling food down his throat as if it he hadn’t seen food in weeks.
Harry did manage to forget his brief worry for Ginny’s future as the evening progressed. After finishing dinner, he spent some time chasing after Teddy, who was chasing Mr and Mrs Weasley’s chickens around the courtyard and who laughed happily every time one of them clucked. Hardly anyone noticed the clouds creeping in above their heads, blaming the darkening on the late hour until the first drops of rain fell upon them. By then, they had finished the two giant cakes that Mrs Weasley had whisked together the night before, and most of the guests had headed either homewards or into the house. Hermione, however, defied the rain and stayed outside to help Mrs Weasley clear the table. There were more than a few raindrops falling from the sky now, and holding her hands above her head to shield herself from the sudden shower, Hermione smiled at the sight of her father and Mr Weasley on the other side of the courtyard. Mr Weasley was holding the door to the garage open for Mr Granger, and the two of them hurried inside to escape the rain. Hermione hurried over to the long table, still smiling though she was getting completely soaked. If she knew Mr Weasley right, he had been dying to show her dad his collection of Muggle items since they had arrived about four hours earlier.
“Oh, Hermione!” said Mrs Weasley, who was just folding the tablecloth using her wand. “Leave it, I’ll take care of this! You go back inside before you get too wet!”
During the years that Hermione had known Ron’s mother, she had learned it was best not to protest against her orders, so she just nodded and did as she was told. As she stepped into the kitchen, the sound of voices coming from the living room steered her way in there. She stopped in the doorway and just watched the scene that was taking place in the room – Bill and Fleur were sitting on the couch, holding each other’s hands and talking quietly to each other. Every now and then they burst into laughter, and sometimes Fleur stopped in the middle of a movement just to gaze lovingly at her husband. Hermione couldn’t help but smile. They really were a lovely couple, and anyone who had had doubts about Fleur’s intentions in the beginning of their relationship had definitely been proved wrong. She was a loving wife – it was easy to see that she only had eyes for Bill – and a wonderful mother.
But Bill and Fleur did not manage to keep Hermione’s attention for very long. Her eyes soon turned to Ron, who was sitting in one of the chairs next to them. He was holding Victoire in his arms, and the sight of it actually made Hermione tear up. Even if Ron could be both clumsy and insensitive at times, he had really surprised her in that area. There was something so gentle and soft, so tender, in his touch when he held the baby. The little girl had swept not only her parents off of their feet, but the rest of the family too – including Ron. Hermione would have never guessed it, but her boyfriend was brilliant with children – at least with his baby niece. At the moment, he was rocking her gently while humming softly to her. His eyes were fixed on her perfect little face, and the corners of his mouth were pulled up into a faint smile.
Suddenly, Hermione was grabbed by a strong, unexpected desire. She wanted to have a baby, and she wanted to have one with Ron. She wanted to see him sit just like that, singing to their daughter. She wanted to see his face light up with the same radiant, devoted love that Bill and Fleur’s faces did every time they laid eyes on their child. She longed to sit down next to Ron and tell him that she was pregnant, to see him place a hand on her swollen belly with the same wistful expression that she had seen on Bill’s face at Christmas. She wanted to hear Mrs Weasley’s reaction. She imagined telling her own parents – after all, she was their only child, and her children would be their only grandchildren. They would be so happy… And she longed to hold a baby in her arms that was half of her and half of Ron. To share that experience with him, to feel that deep love for another human being that people said you couldn’t even imagine before it’s there…
“Hermione? What are you doing over there? Come and sit down!” said Ron suddenly while grinning widely at her. “Vic and I are trying to remember the lullabies that Mum sang to me when I was little, aren’t we, Vicky?”
Hermione could feel her cheeks heat up. What would he say if he had known what she was thinking? He probably would have dropped the baby right there and run for his life, as quickly as he ever could. And no one would have been able to blame him. They hadn’t even turned twenty yet, and they had only been together for a year. And yet, there she was, dreaming about children!
“Ron,” said Fleur accusingly. “Vicky?”
“I agree,” Ron admitted. “Vicky is not great – I think that I prefer Vic. But honestly, Fleur, if you didn’t like nicknames, you shouldn’t have named your daughter Victoire. And then there’s the fact that she’s a Weasley. Nicknames are what we do. George is the only one out of the seven of us who goes by his real name.”
“That’s just because all of your names are so weird!” Bill said. “I mean, William and George are the only normal ones… Ronald.”
“My parents chose a rather unusual name, too,” Hermione said as she sat down in the chair across from Ron’s. “And there’s not even a good nickname for Hermione.”
“How about Hermy?” Ron laughed. “That’s what Hagrid’s brother Grawp, called her.”
Bill joined in the laughter and Hermione smiled. The Ron she knew was back – his tantalizing smile, the twinkle in his eyes that he had in common with all of his siblings… The little girl in his arms would probably have it in her eyes too when she grew older, and Ron and Hermione’s child would… She interrupted the thought. Stop thinking about it, she told herself. How could she even be sure that she would end up with Ron? Even though she couldn’t picture life without him, and even though she couldn’t imagine ever loving anyone else, they were so young. Who could really know how things would end?
Fleur yawned and placed a hand on Bill’s thigh. “Maybe we should get going,” she said. “Eet is bedtime for Victoire – and for me.”
He nodded and they both rose to their feet. Ron placed the baby in Fleur’s arms, and Bill grinned when his daughter began whimpering.
“Looks like she’s found her favourite uncle,” he said. “Congratulations, Ron. I mean, you did have a lot of competition!”
“Unlike Ginny in her struggle to become the favourite aunt,” Ron said. “She’s constantly telling me that she’s the favourite aunt, and I have to remind her that she is her only one, so it doesn’t really say anything!”
“She ‘as my sister too,” Fleur pointed out. “Gabrielle."”
“Yes,” Ron admitted, “but she lives all the way off in France!”
“What about Hermione, then?” Bill said. “She’s practically her aunt too. She certainly will be when the two of you get married.”
Ron coughed loudly. He glanced over at Hermione, but then quickly turned his eyes away when she met them. “Good Godric, Bill,” he said. “We’ve barely been together for a year. That’s way off in the future! It’s too soon to even consider it!”
Hermione lowered her eyes. Ron was right. But how was she supposed to interpret the fact that she could see the two of them having children while just the idea of having a future together seemed terrifying to Ron, who still, by the way, hadn’t met her eyes? Did it mean that he didn’t love her the way that she loved him? Didn’t he want to spend the rest of his life with her? The thought felt like a sting in her chest.
“Don’t be sad, Hermione,” Bill teased her when he saw the serious look on her face. “You’ll see me again soon, considering how much Mum loves these family gatherings!”
Hermione forced herself to laugh with him as he pulled her in for a quick hug. She said goodbye to Fleur and Victoire, and then she was alone in the living room with Ron.
“It’s going to be strange,” he said, “to live here without Harry. It feels like we haven’t lived apart since before we started at Hogwarts.”
“Yes,” Hermione said without knowing what else to tell him. Normally, she would have had a lot more to say, of course, but all she could think of was the lump in her throat and the fact that she wanted to get out of there while she was still able to hold her tears back. “I’m going to go find my Mum and Dad,” she said quickly. “I have to be at work early tomorrow. Goodnight!”
Ron looked surprised, but she didn’t stick around long enough to give him time to ask any questions. Instead, she rushed into the kitchen, where Mrs Weasley and Ginny were busy cleaning the dishes.
“Hi,” she said. Her voice was so thin and shaky that she couldn’t even pretend to be happy when Ginny turned around and shot her a concerned look. “Do you know where my parents are?”
Mrs Weasley smiled. “Your mother went out to the garage to find your father, dear,” she said softly. “You should probably go and save them – otherwise, Arthur will keep them occupied for hours!”
Ginny was still staring at Hermione. “I’ll come with you,” she said. “If that’s okay with you, Mum?”
“Go on. I’ll get Ron to help me with the rest of this.”
The two girls stepped outside into the rain. Hermione was just about to rush over the garage to avoid getting soaked when Ginny stopped her by placing a hand on her arm.
“Aren’t you going to tell me what’s going on?” she asked.
“It’s nothing,” Hermione said. But the tears that she had tried to hold back for the last couple of minutes said otherwise as they began streaming down her face, mixing with the cold raindrops that fell from the skies. “It’s just that Bill made a comment about Ron’s and my future, and Ron seemed horrified. I mean, it’s not like I’m expecting him to propose to me tomorrow, I just… I can picture it and be happy about it, but he…”
“And now you think that he doesn’t love you?” Ginny asked.
Hermione shrugged and wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand.
“Believe me,” Ginny said. “I have known Ron all my life and even though he doesn’t exactly wear his heart on his sleeve, he is obviously mad about you. And the fact that the future scares him… he’s just being such a bloke! Don’t read too much into it.”
Hermione smiled – it was a genuine smile this time. “What would I do without you, Ginny? I’m so lucky to have you to stop me from having my nervous breakdowns. By the way, we haven’t talked about in a long time now… how is everything going with Harry?”
Ginny blushed. “Well, I was thinking… I don’t know about you and Ron, but Harry and I never… you know… took our relationship to the next level.” She whispered the last words and cast a glance over her shoulder, as if she was scared to catch a spy – or more likely, her mum – listening to everything she said. “But now that he has his own flat, I thought I would pay him a nightly visit.” Her cheeks were redder than ever when she smiled shyly and met her friend’s eyes.
“That’s the problem with living under your mother’s roof,” Hermione said. “She’s watching your every move like a hawk. And it’s not just her, either! It almost happened for Ron and me once, until we heard that someone was coming up the stairs. I think we beat the world record time in getting dressed – I had just buttoned my blouse when Percy walked through the door.”
Ginny laughed. “Well, he has never had a sense of timing,” she said and shook her head. “And just imagine what it’s like for me… I’ve got a whole bunch of brothers who all want to interrupt me and Harry before things go too far!”
A squeaking sound announced that the garage door just opened, and both Ginny and Hermione lifted their heads. Mr Weasley stepped into the pouring rain, closely followed by Mr and Mrs Granger. The latter waved at the girls and called:
“Hermione! Are you ready to go?”
Hermione nodded and turned to Ginny. “Good luck tonight, then”, she said and winked before running off to catch up with her parents.
A/N: Hello, my wonderful readers! Once again, I would just like to thank all of you so much for reading this story. Everytime I see that a new person has added it to his or her favorite stories, and everytime someone leaves me a new review, it literally makes my day! So thank you so much, and please let me know what you thought about this chapter :)
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