Chapter 6 : Welcome Home
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“It’s as if this child is a parasite, stealing my sense and my good taste!” Ginny huffed one evening as Harry cooked dinner. Ginny’s attempt lay burnt beyond recognition in the rubbish bin, forgotten in the oven while perusing an article on Braxton-Hicks contractions. When the smell of burnt eel filled the cottage with noxious fumes (more than the usual foul eely smell), Harry jumped up to retrieve the smoldering mass from the oven. Secretly joyful at his reprieve, he assured Ginny that he could handle dinner for the evening and set about making something he could actually stomach.
“Oh, c’mon Ginny. It’s not so bad, is it?” Harry tried to cheer her, and realized he’d chosen precisely the wrong thing to say in order to do it.
“Not that bad! Alright Harry, if it’s ‘not that bad’, I choose for you to look as if you’ve swallowed a crystal ball and feel as though it’s sitting right on your kidneys. I choose for you to get all stretched out and know that there’s plenty more to come! I think you should live in the loo for awhile, first sick and then unable to go for ten minutes without having to pee! You try wanting to eat disgusting things, and then living with the horrible indigestion afterwards. You can try finding something to wear that isn’t decorated with bloody ribbons or wonky bows across the front! You can…..Harry!”
Ginny cut her tirade short, hand to her belly, eyes wide. Without a second thought, Harry dropped the spatula in his hand and rushed to her side. Fear rose in his throat until he could taste it like acid on his tongue.
“Ginny! What? What is it?” Harry searched her for signs of injury, or blood, or something. He didn’t know what. Suddenly Ginny’s face broke into a huge grin. Without explaining, she grabbed Harry’s hand and pressed it to the side of her expanding stomach. Harry’s eyebrows drew together in confusion, until he felt it. A soft thump under his palm.
“There! Did you feel that? Right there? It’s him, Harry!” Harry marveled at the slight flutter he felt. If he hadn’t known what he was looking for, he’d never have known what it was. His face matched Ginny’s own, until he realized what she’d said.
“Him, Ginny? I thought we’d decided not to find out after all. You didn’t owl Astoria after we left last time, did you? Is it a boy? Really?” He could barely get the words out in his excitement. It really didn’t matter which it was, he and Ginny had agreed on that. Just the thought of putting a name to the little life inside her gave him a thrill, though. Ginny shook her head.
“No, Harry. That just came out. I’ve had several vivid dreams lately that it’s a boy, but I’ve also had a couple of realistic dreams that have Ron turning into a Pygmy Puff. That is very satisfying, by the way. I always wake up so disappointed.”
Harry snorted. Ginny and Ron still had not reconciled, and with the wedding two months away, it was getting harder and harder for Hermione to get wedding plans arranged with her matron of honor and her fiancé not speaking to each other.
“Speak of the devil,” Ginny murmured as a knock resounded on the cottage door. Harry opened it, but it wasn’t Ron and Hermione. Seamus Finnegan stood, grinning from ear to ear, papers in his hand. Gulping, Harry stepped quickly out the door and closed it behind him before Ginny could see who it was.
“Seamus! Mate, I told you not to come here with the papers! Ginny doesn’t know yet, and I’m trying to surprise her, you dolt!”
Eyes widened in horror, Seamus sucked air. “Oh! That’s right, I forgot. Sorry! I just got so excited to come and tell you that it’s all done! Dean’s plans were perfect! I have never seen a more fantastic house. Ginny’s gonna love it! I brought over the papers for you, and it becomes official the moment you sign them. The place is yours! What are you going to name it?”
Harry’s head spun with the information. Only two weeks ago, he’d contacted Dean Thomas to request house plans be drawn up. With his talent for drawing, Dean created the most impressive and sought after architectural firm in wizarding Europe. Seamus worked for him in the real estate division, finding land to build on and closing the deals for him. Harry thought Seamus could sell glasses to a blind man, but Dean’ artistic genius really drew in the clients. Harry’s heart swelled to see his fellow DA members doing so well now.
Seamus shuffled through paperwork and pulled out a small stack of photos. Taking them from his friend, Harry looked at a moderately large manor covered with flowering vines. The entrance into the front garden opened with an ornate wrought iron gate, the words “Love Conquers All” worked into the top. The next picture showed a bright, airy kitchen with a window framing a view of a small creek and a stand of apple trees. Flipping through the rest Harry’s eyes found the eight bedrooms he’d requested, several bathrooms, a sitting room, and a game room already furnished with a wizard’s chess table and a mini Quidditch game board. Harry allowed Dean to send his interior decorator over one day while Ginny attended an appointment with Astoria, and she walked through the little cottage looking and asking about Ginny’s taste and the things she liked trying to get a feel for who Ginny was and what she’d love to see in a house. Harry stared at the photos and thought she’d gotten it just right. Smiling up at Seamus, he nodded.
“This is perfect. Give me a quill, I’ll sign right now!” He put his quill in the ink Seamus held out for him and wrote his signature on the dotted line.
The door opened behind him, and Ginny appeared in the doorway.
“You’ll sign what, Harry? What are you and Seamus sneaking around here on the porch for? What’s that you’re holding behind your back? Something strange is going on here, and it isn’t smart to mess with a pregnant woman. Give it up, man. What are you up to?”
Wide eyed, Seamus grabbed the parchment back, rolled it up, and Disapparated on the spot.
“Chicken.” Harry mumbled. Looking down, he saw Seamus had left the key on the ground where he’d stood. Chuckling, he bent down and picked it up.
“Well, I guess now is as good a time as any. I have a surprise for you Mrs. Potter. Would you be so kind as to grab my arm?” It was a spur of the moment idea, but he didn’t think he could keep it from her now. He had barely been able to keep it from leaking before he’d seen the pictures. Now that it was real, there was no way for him to hide it. Ginny always knew when Harry wasn’t being entirely truthful with her.
“Where are we going?” Ginny cocked a coppery eyebrow at him.
“You’ll see. Now hold on!” He twisted into nothing, hoping the uncomfortable feeling would not bother Ginny too much. She had about a month before Apparating anywhere would be out of the question.
Their feel touched solid ground, and the sweet smell of lavender and jasmine filled his nostrils. Turning to see Ginny staring up at the big, cheery looking house, he waited for a response. Any response. For a moment, there wasn’t one.
Blinking in confusion, Ginny looked back at Harry. “Where are we? What is this place, Harry?” She took a step forward, placing her hand on the beautiful gate that held the words she’d once heard her husband say to her after a long battle.
Tentatively, Harry took her hand. “Welcome home, Ginny.”
Eyes blazing, she whirled to face him. “Home! This is ours? Harry.. how…
why…when…” She trailed off, eyes drawn back to the warm light spilling out of the high windows.
“I feel that I ought to be mad that you did this without me, Harry, but all I can think is how much I want to go inside and look around. This really is ours?”
Smiling softly, Harry led her into the house. They entered the kitchen, lit the lamps, and he watched as Ginny wandered. Her fingers traced over the oak butcher block counters, and she gasped at the size of the built in refrigerator.
“Harry! Who do you think we’re feeding, with an icebox this size?”
Smirking, Harry recalled his best mate’s appetite. “If this is a Weasley boy you’re carrying, we will need every inch of that icebox. Anyway, I love a house full of people, whether they’re family or friends. Now we’ll never have to worry about having enough for everyone! You know Kreacher is going to love this.”
He followed her as she climbed the back stairs, laboring over each step. Harry put his hand on her back, helping her keep her balance as she went up to the second floor. Each bedroom was done in Ginny’s simple, elegant style. She raved over the bed clothes and window dressings. The furniture wrought exclamations of excitement from her. Harry beamed, relieved that his gift was being so well received. It wasn’t until he reached a room that he had determined to be his study that he got his own surprise.
On the door, a little blue piece of parchment caught his attention. Harry pulled it down and read over a vaguely familiar, looping handwriting.
I sat down with Dean and Seamus during lunch at the Leaky Cauldron a week ago, and I overheard them discussing the plans for your beautiful home. I hope you don’t mind, but I asked if I could help out with the one little room that is yours alone. Having recently come back from Greater Hangleton after picking up some portraits myself, I contacted the artist and asked if I could deliver yours to you. I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed helping create it for you.
Your friend always,
As they entered, the richly colored carpet hushed their footsteps. The décor surrounded them in what Harry felt to be a sanctuary. Green plants sat in various corners and atop furniture, lending a peaceful feeling to the room. Neville’s touch was obvious in the care shown in the arrangement of each planter. Bookshelves lined one wall, and another was covered in cabinets filled with whirring silver instruments that brought a wistful smile to Harry’s face and a tear to his eye. The greatest shock came, however, when he looked toward the mantle over the ornate fireplace. The portraits he’d ordered months ago of James and Lily Potter and Sirius Black sat, smiling down upon the man who stood with tears streaming down his face. A small gasp escaped Ginny, and she reached out to take Harry’s trembling hand. Neville had outdone himself.
“Well, well. Doing very well for yourself, are you Harry? Don’t tell me you’ve already gone and knocked up the Weasley girl!” Sirius teased, releasing that familiar, barking laugh into the quiet room. Harry stifled a sob of joy at the sound.
“Sirius, how crude! That is my daughter-in-law you’re talking about!” Lily rolled her eyes, and Harry stared in fascination as the auburn haired woman in the portrait motioned him nearer. “Harry, love, come a little closer. Your father and I want to see you and this beautiful woman that is carrying our grandchild. We are so proud of you!”
Walking further into the room, Harry led Ginny by the hand until they stood in front of the portraits of his lost family. In a moment that Harry never expected would be afforded to him, he looked into the eyes of his mother and father and introduced his wife. Then, without another word, he sank down to the floor of his new home and wept.
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