Chapter 31 : Year 4: Lily's ring
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Harry stopped in front of that certain headstone, his eyes sweeping over the inscription twice, as if he thought it would change the second time he read it. It had occurred to him that same morning, as he and Ginny had got dressed to leave for Godric’s Hollow, that he hadn’t visited his parents’ grave since that one time during the Horcrux hunt, when he and Hermione had been there, right before being attacked by Voldemort’s snake at Bathilda Bagshot’s house. He had felt a twinge of guilt over not having come back in over three years, but at least he was there now.
Turning around, Harry realised that Ginny, Ron and Hermione had stopped a few yards behind him, and they were all staring anxiously at him, waiting to see what he was going to do. He beckoned them with his hand before sinking to his knees by his parents’ grave. A short moment later, he could feel Ginny’s hand on his shoulder, and he placed his over hers. Hermione and Ron stopped by his other side, and they all remained quiet for a couple of minutes, before Ginny opened her mouth.
“Hello, Mr and Mrs Potter,” she said. “I’m Ginny. I… I hope you approve of my being your son’s girlfriend.”
Hearing her words, Harry unwillingly let out a sob. If he would have had just one wish, it would have been to get to know his parents. Over the last couple of weeks, he had imagined, more than once, sitting down with his father and asking for his advice on how to propose to Ginny – he didn’t even know how James had popped the question to Lily, or if it had been the other way around. He wanted to be able to go to his parents’ house after the proposal and watch as Ginny stretched out her left hand towards his mother, whose green eyes would be filled with tears of happiness at the sight of the ring. He wanted to see the two of them at the front row of their wedding, next to all the Weasleys. People often said that it was in the small, everyday moments that you miss people the most, but Harry thought differently. It was these things, the life-changing, huge and important things, that he wanted to tell his parents the most. And he would never be able to.
Harry had thought several times of what life would have been like if his parents had still been alive. Even though he knew that the thought alone was probably enough to sentence him to spend his afterlife in hell, he sometimes imagined that Voldemort had gone after Neville instead, and left his family alone. Then, he would have grown up here, in Godric’s Hollow, and he would have known his mum and dad. Sirius and Lupin would probably have been like his uncles, and maybe he’d even have younger siblings; a proper family.
Ginny had knelt down beside him now, and her arms were wrapped around him. Harry leaned his head against hers and closed his eyes. She was his family, and all of the Weasleys, Hermione, and their friends. He would be eternally grateful for having them in his life, but he still couldn’t help but wonder.
It was a quiet hour that they spent at the graveyard; Ron was much too uncomfortable to even think of starting a conversation, and Harry was too lost in his own thoughts to give any coherent responses when Ginny or Hermione said something. Finally, they all sat down in silence, and Harry was once again filled with gratitude. It was exactly what he needed; he didn’t want to talk. He only wanted them to sit with him, just like that.
After leaving Godric’s Hollow a while later, the group parted. Ginny and Hermione headed off to Hogsmeade to meet Luna Lovegood, who had finally returned to England after travelling the world for nearly two years. Harry and Ron, on the other hand, were going to the jeweller in Diagon Alley to buy Ginny an engagement ring.
Ever since the war, Ron and Harry had learned that passing quickly through the Leaky Cauldron was no longer an option. There seemed to be no end of the line of diners wishing to shake their hands, and when they finally managed to escape them, Tom the landlord stepped into their way. After politely listening to his chitchat and his reminiscing of the first time Harry showed his face in the pub, they somehow wriggled out of having to say hello to the young girl Tom had just hired to help him out and managed to escape.
“… I’ve reached an old age, you know,” he had told told them, as if his deep wrinkles and hunched back were invisible. “She’s been very helpful, Miss A–“
By this point, he had been interrupted by a shattering sound; a woman at the table next to them, who seemed to have had a few too many drinks, had dropped her glass on the floor, and it had broken into a million pieces.
“We should let you get to that,” said Ron quickly. “It’s always nice talking to you, but we really must get going…”
And they had slipped out through the backdoor and made their way into Diagon Alley. Now, they were walking along the main street, peeking in through each shop window while enjoying the lovely weather. As always, people were staring at them, but out here, they seemed to be too shy to do more than that. Ron had to admit it was a relief; while he would never complain about getting as much appreciation as he did, it was sort of nice to not always be disturbed.
“Do you want to go to Gringotts first?” Ron said. “I reckon you’ll need a whole bunch of galleons for this, don’t you think?”
His voice was not without hesitation, and Harry seemed to debate on the matter for a few seconds before finally nodding. Neither one of them was very eager to enter the enormous marble building that towered over Diagon Alley like a castle, casting shadows over the surrounding shops; ever since their break-in nearly three years ago, the goblins working at the bank had been everything but welcoming towards Harry, Ron and Hermione. They were only lucky to have Bill to help argue their case – somehow, he had managed to convince the goblins that they had only broken in for a good purpose, and that they would never try anything like it again. Thus, the three “thieves” could set foot in Gringotts again without fearing for their lives, but the goblins always seemed to take personal offence at having to see their faces at all, and they never failed to take all precautionary measures possible before letting either one of them enter a vault.
A goblin with a wide, crooked nose and close-set eyes met Harry and Ron at the entrance of the bank.
“Oh… Mr Potter, Mr Weasley,” he said, his eyes narrowing as he looked up at them. “If you don't mind me asking… are you here to withdraw gold or to steal it?”
Ron, frantically scanning his own brain for the advice Bill had given them on how to stay on good terms with the goblins, bowed. “We’d like to visit Harry’s vault, Mr–“
The goblin sniffed, but Ron noticed how he also straightened his back a little, and his eyes weren’t quite so suspicious when they met his. “I’m Quoryn,” he said. “Follow me.”
Ron’s bowing and sucking up was not enough, however, to get them out of the humiliating and, in Ron’s opinion, very ridiculous security checks they had to pass through. The goblins could talk all they wanted about how being showered in ice-cold water was a “standard procedure” or “highly necessary,” but Ron was still convinced that it was a treat saved only for him, Harry and Hermione. And then there was the fact that they were no longer allowed to bring their wands into the underground passageways where the vaults were located; the first time it had happened, Ron had been sure that the goblins would kill him as soon as they were out of sight from the other visitors (of course, he had never admitted this out loud to Ginny, who had been with him, because he knew that she would have mocked him for it). As he handed over his wand today, he didn’t fear for his life, but he didn’t like the look on Quoryn’s face as he and Harry joined the goblin in the little cart, their hair and their shirts dripping with cold water – perhaps that was the real reason why they took their wands, Ron thought. So that they couldn’t dry their clothes and hair after being showered in water, and instead had to go down into the underground and nearly freeze to death every time they needed to make a withdrawal.
The ride to Harry’s vault was, as usual, an uncomfortable one, and it wasn’t exactly made better by the fact that both Harry and Ron were so cold that the sound of their teeth chattering echoed in the twisting passages. It was a relief when they finally reached vault 687, and Quoryn, using Harry’s small, golden key, opened it up. Ron was convinced that he would never get used to seeing the enormous piles of gold coins that Harry owned; they were so many that they actually lit up the cart and track just outside of the vault, and they reflected in Quoryn’s eyes, somehow making them seem a bit kinder.
Harry had stepped into the vault but was now turning around again. “How… how much would I need?” he asked.
“How should I know?” said Ron with a shrug. “I’ve never bought a… I don’t know.”
Harry turned back around, and as he did so, a stack of boxes in the back of the vault caught his eyes. How had he never noticed them before? Filled with curiosity, he stepped further into the vault to pick them up. A cloud of dust stirred up as he moved them, making him cough and squint before he could finally take a look at their contents.
“What is that?” Ron asked.
“I don’t know,” Harry responded. “I’ve never seen this before.”
He grabbed the box on the top and handed the others to Ron. Lifting the lid off, he could feel his jaws drop as the light from the torches outside the vault fell over its velvet interior. Spread over the soft material was a necklace, decorated with a wreath of emeralds, which was intertwined with the golden chain. Harry held it up to get a better look at the charm; it was a lily, consisting of the same kind of small, green rocks as those in the chain. He turned it around and noticed a small inscription on the back of it: To my Lily, from Dad. A grin spread over Harry’s face as he lifted his head to meet Ron’s eyes.
“It was my Mum’s!” he said. “From my grandfather…”
While Ron started looking through the other boxes, Harry continued to admire this unexpected heritage from his mother. He tried to imagine it hanging around her neck; surely, his grandfather had picked out the emeralds because they were almost the exact same colour as her eyes. Not paying much attention to Ron’s mumbling (“Just another necklace in this one… it looks quite old…”), Harry then wondered when his mum had last worn it. Had she had it on that night, when she had died? Had someone decided not to bury her in it, but instead keep it here, so that he would find it one day?
“Harry,” said Ron suddenly, finally capturing his mate’s attention. “Look at this.”
He held out the smallest of the boxes, and Harry’s heart took a small leap in his chest when he saw it. It was a ring – the most beautiful ring he had ever seen, to be more precise. It was made of gold, adorned with three small diamonds on its front. Thin, golden threads were weaved around them, before entwining like the roots of a tree and forming the back of the ring.
“Perhaps we won’t have to got the jeweller, after all,” Harry mumbled, picking it up and placing it on his palm.
“Does it have an inscription?” Ron asked. “Maybe it was your mother’s too?”
Harry held up his hand and squinted, trying to read the small letters in the dim light. He could feel a lump spring in his throat as he handed it to Ron, finding it impossible to repeat the words out loud.
“James and Lily, September 1st, 1979,” Ron read. “Harry, this was your mum’s wedding ring!” When Harry simply nodded, Ron continued: “You have to give this one to Ginny. It’s perfect! And I’m not just saying that because I don’t want to spend an entire afternoon in a jewellery shop – I really think so.”
“I know,” said Harry, who had finally regained his ability to speak. “It is. You know, I wish I had asked Lupin or Sirius to tell me more about these things… The only thing I know about their wedding is that Sirius was my dad’s best man. And I guess… I guess there is no one left to ask now, is there?”
Ron scratched his chin while handing the ring back to Harry. Then, his face lit up as he said: “What about Hagrid? He might know something; he did know them, right?”
“Yeah, I suppose…” Harry mumbled while placing the ring in the box again.
“Let’s go see him,” Ron said. “Right now. We should do that anyway – it’s been a while since we were there. Besides, we’re not supposed to meet Luna and the others until later tonight, so we’ve got time!”
He and Harry made it back up to ground level and got their wands back, and they left the bank in a good spirit – Quoryn even granted them a smile before heading off in the opposite direction. Then, the two young men apparated to Hogsmeade and appeared in the main street of the small wizarding village, only seconds after Luna Lovegood had left that same street and walked into the Three Broomsticks to meet her friends. As soon as she had stepped through the door, a red-haired figure had jumped at her and thrown her arms around her neck while shouting out her name and laughing.
“Luna! It’s so good to see you!”
Luna smiled as they let go of each other. “It’s always nice to feel welcomed,” she said while following Ginny over to the table where Hermione was waiting for them.
“How have you been?” Hermione asked. “I can’t believe how long it’s been!”
Luna certainly looked well – her hair had always been long and blond, but it seemed to have grown even longer and become even lighter in the sun. Her normally fair skin was a tad darker than usual, making her teeth shine brightly as she smiled and gave Hermione a hug. The two of them, being each other’s complete opposites, had never been very close, but Hermione had to admit that it was nice to see her friend again, and to see that she didn’t seem to have changed at all.
“You’ve got to tell us about your travelling,” she said as they sat down. “Where have you been?”
“Here and there,” Luna answered. “Most recently, we were in Africa. But we started out in northern Europe – Sweden, Finland, Russia…”
“Have you told Neville that you're back?” Ginny interrupted. “He’s been talking about you, you know. He was so disappointed when your father returned home without you last summer.”
“Oh,” Luna said. “I would have thought he would have met someone else. Since he’s such a nice person, you know. I did. Meet someone, I mean. He’s the one who took me to Africa.”
“What?” exclaimed both Ginny and Hermione. Then, after the initial shock, Ginny added: “Who is he, then?”
“You know who Newt Scamanader is, right?” Luna asked.
Hermione nodded quickly, but Ginny’s face was blank.
“Oh, come on!” Hermione said. “The author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Surely you’ve heard of him? That book is in the first years’ reading list at Hogwarts. Didn’t you ever open yours?”
“I was kind of busy during my first year,” said Ginny, jutting her lower lip. “You know, Voldemort possessing my soul, opening the Chamber of Secrets…” The look of guilt on Hermione’s face made her giggle. “I am messing with you. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I do recognize the name.”
“But he’s not the one who took you to Africa, is he, Luna?” Hermione asked, turning away from Ginny again. “That would be impossible, considering the fact that he died almost ten years ago.”
“I wouldn’t say impossible,” Luna answered. “My grandfather did fall in love with a ghost once, before he met my grandmother. But no, it wasn’t Newt, but his grandson. Rolf.”
“So where is he now?” Ginny asked. “Did he come with you to England?”
“Oh no, he stayed in Guinea,” Luna explained. “With some friends.”
“So you’re going to go back there?” Hermione asked. “Or is he coming here?”
“No,” said Luna simply. “I’m going home to my daddy. After I’ve seen your flat, Hermione. I do hope you checked for Nargles before you moved in. They can be very hard to get rid off once they’re settled in.”
Not far from the spot where Hermione was suppressing the urge to roll her eyes, Hagrid was startled by a knock on the door to his hut; back when Harry, Ron and Hermione had still been in school, visits in the afternoons had not been unusual, but lately, he had got used to spending them alone. Of course, that was until she had made a habit of dropping by… Hagrid sighed, and Fang jumped off of his bed and crawled in under the table, where he placed his head on his massive paws and started mewling plaintively.
“Oh, shut up, will yeh?” Hagrid told the dog. “I don’ ask her to come ev’ry night, yeh know!” Then, turning his head towards the door, he called out: “Who is it?”
“Harry! And Ron!”
In the next moment, Hagrid had flung the door open. His smile was wider than ever as he grabbed the two boys by the arm and pulled them inside.
“Sorry for soundin’ a bit grumpy,” he said. “But with the students outta school for the summer, the on’y person who visits is Professor Trelawney, an’ ev’ry day she’s got a new vision of me bein’ fired, or dyin’…”
“I suppose she needs to fill the void now that Harry’s gone,” said Ron with a grin.
“I’ll put on some tea for yeh,” Hagrid said, walking over to his stove. “An’ I made some bred the other day, if yeh wan’ some.”
Harry and Ron, carefully disguising their dismay over having chosen to visit so close to one of Hagrid’s baking days, both nodded before sitting down at the table. A while later, Hagrid had placed three giant cups of fuming tea in front of them, and the two young men were chewing politely on the bread rolls while praying that their teeth wouldn’t fall off in the process.
“I actually wanted to ask you something, Hagrid,” said Harry. “I was in my vault at Gringotts today… I was going to buy an engagement ring.”
Hagrid’s small, black eyes seemed to grow bigger and he slammed his fist on the table. His unruly beard moved as the corners of his mouth pulled up into a wide grin. “Yeh’re proposin’ ter Ginny?” he asked. When Harry nodded, the excitement nearly made Hagrid spill his tea. “Yeh’re gettin’ married!” he exclaimed. “It feels like yesterday tha’ yeh could fit in me hand, and now yeh’re getting’ married!”
“Assuming that Ginny says yes, of course,” Ron interposed. When Harry shot him a concerned look, he grinned and added: “Relax, mate. It was a joke. We all know how much she loves you and exactly what her answer is going to be.”
“Either way,” Harry continued, turning back to Hagrid, “I found this in the vault. It was my mother’s.”
He got out the little box from his pocket and handed it to Hagrid. Then, he watched in amusement as the man struggled to open it – his enormous fingers made such a delicate thing quite difficult – before Ron finally reached over to help him.
“It’s beau’iful,” Hagrid said, wiping a tear from the corner of his eyes. “Your ol’ man had good taste, Harry.”
“I was wondering if you knew anything,” Harry said, “about their wedding… how my dad proposed…”
“Oh, yeah,” Hagrid said and nodded. Then, he emptied his cup in one sweep before continuing: “I wasn’ there for the wedding, but I’ve seen photos. Remus gave me a few… they’re in tha’ album I got yeh, Harry, do you remember? Then yeh know that your mum was very pretty. She always was, but more ‘n ever on her wedding day, eh?
She an’ James were here a couple o’ weeks before tha’ day, actually. We had tea, jus’ like now. They were havin’ the wedding on the firs’ of September, ‘cause it was the anniversary of the day they firs’ met. Of course, Lily thought James was a bloated brat back then. I took ‘em across the lake, the firs' years, an’ James nearly pushed Snape in the water. Lily was furious – it made your dad mute. She was the on’y one who could make ‘im speechless, already when they were eleven.
Anyway, they had tea with me, ‘cause I couldn’ make it to the wedding, and Dumbledore couldn’ come either. The students were comin’ back to Hogwarts that day, so we had to be here. And there was a war goin’ on, so they decided to keep it small an' intimate. The on’y ones who came were Mr Evans – your aunt refused, of course – an’ Mr and Mrs Potter. An’ Sirius, Remus an’ Pettigrew.”
Harry’s eyes seemed to turn brighter for each word that Hagrid said; every time he learned something new about his parents, as he got to know them a little better, he felt like he moved a step closer to them. Though he would never really know his mum and dad, he would gladly have sat like that all day, just listening to stories about them.
Suddenly, a thought sprang to life in Harry’s mind, and he put his teacup down with a bang that made Fang, who had gone back to sleep in Hagrid’s bed, wake up, lift his head and bark loudly.
“I’ll propose to her on the first of September!” Harry said. “Ron, do you realise that this September, it’s been ten years since we started at Hogwarts? That means that it’s been ten years since I saw her for the first time… and it will be just like it was for my parents.”
Hagrid let out a loud sob and pulled out a handkerchief from his chest pocket. After blowing his nose with a sound that resembled the very loud trumpet noise that elephants make, he reached over and placed a very heavy hand on Harry’s shoulder.
“They would’ve loved that!” he sobbed. “James… he was a romantic, he would’ve done tha’ same thing! And Lily, she would’ve thought it was so sweet of yeh…” He closed the little box that held the ring and gave it back to Harry. “An’ if there’s one thing I’m sure o’, it’s that she would’ve wanted this to be the ring yeh’d give ter Ginny. No doubt ‘bout it.”
A/N: Okay, so I've got two things I'd like to comment about in this chapter. Firstly, I can't imagine Harry making this huge decision (proposing to Ginny) without really feeling his parents' absence. That's why I've basically dedicated an entire chapter to it, and I really hope you like it. Secondly, Luna. I have been dreading writing her, but I knew she couldn't be away travelling forever. I love her as a character, but I've just always felt like I can't do her justice. If you've got any tips for me that would be absolutely fantastic! :)
Thank you once again for supporting me in writing this story. I really wish I knew a good way to show my appreciation instead of just this rambling at the end of every chapter, but just know that each time you read this story, or leave a review, or add it to your favourites, I just want to do a happy dance! You are all so amazing and you're probably sick of me trying to express my gratitude, but I find it impossible to stop ;)
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