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Chapter 37 : Year 4: Something new and someplace old
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As the owl flew across the English countryside, the sky gradually grew brighter, and the wintery landscape far beneath became visible. In most places, snow covered the otherwise grey and brown soil, and the white rooftops seemed to float together into one from the bird’s perspective. Closer to the city and the owl’s destination, there was less snow and more houses, and despite it still being very early in the morning, there were also signs of life there; with its sharp senses, the bird picked up on the headlights of cars driving by below, the sounds of engines and even footsteps, which struck hard against the frozen ground.
Upon reaching his destination in a very central part of Muggle London, the owl started tapping its beak against the window in the hopes of capturing the attention of the two people living in the flat. The attempts were unsuccessful, however, and after a few minutes, he gave up, nestled up into a ball of grey feathers, and lay down on the ledge to rest until the recipients of the short message he carried with him would wake them up.
It was not until nearly two hours later that Ginny got out of bed, pulled on her dressing gown and headed out into the kitchen to make breakfast. It was a task that she’d normally let Harry take care of, but he had been exhausted from watching Teddy the day before, and she figured she should be a good fiancée and let him sleep for a little longer. Now, she entered the kitchen of their flat while tying the belt of her robe and casting a glance at the window. Now that Christmas was over, she wished that the snow would just melt away as quickly as possible, so that she could start playing Quidditch again; the league was on winter break until the end of February anyway, but as of right now, the harsh cold in Holyhead made even training impossible, and Ginny was sick and tired of running and lifting weights, which Gwenog Jones and Darren Weinhold insisted they must do six days a week to keep in shape. Some break, Ginny thought as she walked over to the window, hoping to see snow melting and dripping from the rooftop across the street.
It wasn’t until she got nearer that Ginny noticed the ball of feathers lying on the sill, and she quickly opened the window to pick up her parents’ owl and set it down inside.
“Poor thing,” she mumbled while she stroked its head, “you must be freezing!”
Ag, the owl, was a new addition to the Weasley family – it had only been a few months since old Errol had passed away (something that had made Ron surprisingly sad, despite his muttering that “It was about time, wasn’t it?”). Conveniently enough, an owl belonging to one of Mr Weasley’s colleagues had just had owlets at the time, and Ag, the silver coloured one, had moved into the Burrow shortly after. Ginny found him absolutely adorable, and she didn’t even mind that both Ron and Harry teased her about treating the owl like her own baby – he wasn’t fully grown yet, after all, and she thought it was only right that someone cooed over him until then.
After giving Ag a snack and some water, Ginny took the piece of parchment, unfolded it and began reading.
Only seconds after, she burst into the bedroom while yowling with joy. Harry quickly sat up and started rubbing his eyes with a confused look on his face, and she skipped over to him, grabbed him by the arm and started pulling him out of the bed.
“Come on!” she said. “Get dressed, we have to get going!”
Harry glanced over at his jeans, which were lying in a pile on the floor, but didn’t walk over to actually do as she said. Instead, he raised one eyebrow and placed his hands on her shoulders, trying to get her to calm down and tell him what in the world she was on about.
“It was Mum!” she said excitedly. “The letter!” Then, she fell silent; it seemed that she couldn’t slow down enough to actually form a full sentence.
Harry started laughing and shook his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he told her, and Ginny rolled her eyes.
“Keep up, will you?” she said mockingly. Then she continued: “It’s the baby! I found Ag outside the window when I woke up. Mum wrote to us saying that they were going to St. Mungo’s, because Fleur is in labour. But I don’t know how long Ag’s been out there for, so we have to get going. I don’t want to miss it!”
Now, Harry actually did grab his trousers and started getting dressed. Ginny tapped her fingers impatiently against the wall while she waited, until she realized that she was still in her pyjamas too and rushed over to the bureau to change into something else.
“I suppose there’s no chance you’ll let me have breakfast before we leave, right?” Harry asked when they left their bedroom a short moment later.
“Absolutely not!” Ginny said, grabbing his arm again and pulling him towards the fireplace in the living room. “Come on, let’s go.”
For whatever the reason may be – perhaps more babies than usual had been born over Christmas and New Year, Ginny thoughts as she scurried after Harry through the corridors, and so no one had had time to take them down – Christmas decorations, fairy lights and miniature angels were still embellishing every last surface of the maternity ward of St. Mungo’s hospital, even though it was the middle of January. Ginny was sure that her baby niece or nephew wouldn’t mind, though; after all, who would object to being born into a world of glitter and festivities, even if it were a bit late for it?
Suddenly, Harry stopped in front of Ginny, nearly causing her to bump into him. He didn’t notice, though; instead, he just turned towards her with a smile on his face and made a gesture towards the door.
“Room 147,” he said. “Are you ready?”
Ginny nodded vigorously, and in the next second, the two of them stepped over the threshold and into Fleur’s room. As they entered, a whole bunch of heads (most of which were covered in Weasley red hair) turned towards them. Fleur was sitting up in her bed, and Bill was next to her, clenching one of her hands in his. Ginny’s gaze swept quickly past Percy, Ron, George, and Angelina, who were sitting in the chairs by the window, and the proud big sister, who was just climbing up onto Hermione’s lap. Then, Ginny’s eyes paused on her father, who was holding a bundle wrapped in a white blanket in his arms, and she stretched her neck to try to get a better view of it.
“It’s another girl!” said Mrs Weasley happily. “Come and look at her – she’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Ginny walked over to her parents, and Harry followed her. The baby was incredibly small – Ginny could have sworn that Victoire had been a lot bigger when she had been born, but maybe she had just forgotten. This baby had a tuft of hair on the top of her head that was similar to the one her sister had had, although it wasn’t quite as fair. Instead, it had at least hints of Weasley red mixed with the Delacour blond, and Ginny found it absolutely adorable.
“Do you think she’ll wake up if you put her in my arms?” she asked longingly, and her father shook her head.
“We’ve been passing her between each other all morning,” he said, “so it should be fine.”
Ginny sat down, and Mr Weasley bent down and gently placed the baby in his arms. Ginny smiled down at her niece’s sleeping little face as Bill left his spot next to Fleur and sank into the chair next to her.
“She’s so beautiful,” she told him, and he nodded.
“She really is.”
“What’s her name?” Harry asked.
“Dominique,” said Bill. Then, he leaned towards Ginny, placed an arm around her shoulder and added: “And you can forbid me from calling you by your full name all you want, Gin, but you can’t stop me from calling my daughter Ginevra. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Dominique Ginevra.”
Ginny’s eyes widened as she turned them away from the baby and to her eldest brother. A wide grin spread across her face and she reached over, grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly.
“I’d hug you,” she said, “but my arms are occupied… You’re really naming her after me?”
“Of course we are,” said Bill. “We knew straight away that we wanted to, didn’t we, Fleur?”
“Speaking of her name,” said George suddenly and jumped up from his seat, “it’s another really long one… so what nicknames are we going for, Fleur? How about Nicky? Nicky and Vicky – now that has a ring to it!”
Both Ginny and Bill started to giggle, but Fleur snorted (Ginny rolled her eyes at the fact that her sister-in-law could make even snorting sound graceful) and said:
“I am too tired to argue with you, George. But just because we made you ‘er godparents, eet doesn’t mean we cannot take eet back.”
“I don’t think you want to do that, Fleur,” said George and winked at her. “I mean, with my influence, she is going to be the best kid in the world. Aren’t you, Nicky?” he added while grinning sheepishly.
“How about we just call her Dom?” suggested Angelina diplomatically before Fleur had the chance to respond. “I should get a say too, George, because I’m her godmother.”
Ginny laughed to herself before turning her eyes back to Dominique, who was still sleeping quietly in her arms. While Bill stood up and announced that he’d better get to the hospital Owlery to write to Charlie, Ginny stroke her niece’s round, soft cheeks with her thumb and smiled before bending down to kiss her forehead. She breathed in that wonderful scent that all babies seemed to have, before smiling again and whispering:
“Welcome to the family, Dom. I think you’re going to like it here – once you get past all the craziness, this is the best family anyone could ask for.”
The news of the latest addition to the Weasley family would cover the front page of most Wizarding magazines over the following weeks, making people skip past the pages concerning the conflict with the Scandinavian Ministry or the Muggle mountain climbers in central Europe who nearly got killed by two dragons over the weekend. Dominique’s arrival seemed to overshadow most other news in the Weasleys’ personal lives as well – as often as Bill and Fleur would have them, Ron and Hermione would come over to the Shell Cottage, and for the hour or so that Hermione could sit with the baby in her arms, she’d forget about everything else that was going on around her. Percy and Audrey were relieved over the fact that Mrs Weasley was so busy gushing over her newest granddaughter that she didn’t say a thing about the two of them getting married or having children when they announced that they were (finally) moving in together. As for Ginny, she seized the opportunity to tell Harry something she had been dreading to tell him right after they had visited Bill’s family – that Oliver Wood had been given a fulltime job with the Holyhead Harpies. It meant that he would now be in charge of both supplies, broomsticks and press relations, and it also meant that Ginny would see a lot more of him than before. She didn’t know if his good mood from seeing Dominique actually had anything to do with it, but Harry took it surprisingly well, and she made a mental note to thank her niece some time for being so cute.
On the particular Saturday that Dominique turned three weeks old, another thing took up Ron, Hermione, Harry, and Ginny’s minds, though – namely their scheduled visit to Hogwarts. Neville had invited them a few weeks earlier, and they were all excited to see both him and the castle again.
The Hogwarts students who were cluttering up the streets of Hogsmeade were tiny – Ron was positive that he had been a lot bigger than them back when he had been in school. He did recognize their enthusiasm, though; their cheeks were flushed with excitement as they scurried from store to store, their house scarves wrapped tightly around their necks and their arms full of bags, most of which had the logo of Honeydukes or Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes on them.
“The shop looks great,” Harry said as he passed by what had used to be Zonko’s Joke Shop before George had bought the place. “We should go in and see if Lee is around on our way back…”
“Yes, but not right now,” Hermione said, pulling at his arm to get him to keep moving. “Neville is expecting us at half past two, and it’s already–“
“Hermione,” Ron interrupted with a smile on his face. “We’re only about two minutes late. And Three Broomsticks is right over there,” he added while sliding an arm around his girlfriend’s shoulder. “Just relax, okay?”
He waved at a group of Ravenclaws who had just stopped a few yards away, and were staring with wide eyes at them. Then, his gaze wandered on towards the pub, which was crowded as always. Through the frosty windows, he could see that more students dressed in Hogwarts colours and villagers gathered around the bar were keeping the landlady, Madame Rosmerta, busy. He was just trying to catch her eyes through the glass when Hermione hustled him, and he turned back towards her instead, his ears instantly going red.
“Neville!” he said loudly, relieved to see that their old friend was standing right outside the door to Three Broomsticks, keeping Hermione from making any comments about him staring at Rosmerta. “How is it going?”
Neville, who was just talking to a pair of the very small students, waved at them before crossing his arms over his chest and turning back to the two young boys.
“I said no, all right?”
“But Professor, it’s only half a foot too short, surely you can look past that just this once?“ said the taller of the boys.
“And the fact that mine is just a little bit shorter!” said the other one. “I’ve gone through that book you gave me, Professor Longbottom, and there’s nothing more I can add to what I’ve already written about the effects of–“
“If that’s the case,” Neville cut him off, “Madame Pince will help you find another book in the library. And don’t ask me to push the deadline until next week, because you’ve had two weeks to do this assignment, I don’t know why you’re just starting now…”
“Wow, Neville,” said Ron, walking up to his friend and placing a hand on his shoulder. “You’re tough.”
Neville smiled, turned away from the boys and gave each of his friends a hug. Meanwhile, the two students seemed to struggle to hold in their squeals of excitement as their eyes flickered between their professor’s friends.
“It’s really them,” whispered the shorter one, tugging at his mate’s sleeve.
The other boy took a deep breath and turned towards Neville again. “So it’s really true, Professor? That Dumbledore’s Army thing that everyone talks about? You really helped them defeat Voldemort?”
“I don’t think I should take any credit for that,” said Neville modestly just as Harry said:
“Yes, it’s true! We couldn’t have done any of it without him.”
“And is it true that you took those Death Eaters – The Carrows – and hung them from their ankles down in the dungeons?”
“And that you hexed Snape’s bed so that every time he tried to lie down in it, it would hurl him off?”
“And that you poisoned that Umbridge lady’s food so that she couldn’t stop vomiting for days?”
Neville raised his eyebrows and started scratching his chin. “Well, maybe you shouldn’t believe everything you hear, boys…”
“But Snape did look very tired that year, didn’t he?” said Ginny and winked at her friend. “You’d think he got no sleep at all…”
The two boys exchanged a look and grinned widely. “Wow!” Then, they both turned around and rushed towards the door that led into Three Broomsticks, most likely so that they could tell their friends about what they had just heard.
“Don’t worry, Professor!” called one of them over his shoulder. “I’ll hand in that essay in the morning!”
“Hmm,” said Hermione as Neville gave him the thumbs up, and they all started walking towards the castle. “That wasn’t entirely true, was it, Ginny? Not that I can’t see you actually doing something so stupid… I just can’t see you doing it without bragging about it afterwards!”
“So maybe it wasn’t true,” Ginny admitted, “but I never explicitly said it was. I just implied that it could be…”
Neville laughed. “Well, it worked,” he said. “Maybe they’ll tell all their friends about it, and everyone will have a newfound respect for me… I mean, most students are all right, but those two are horrible when it comes to getting their homework done.”
“So other than that, what’s it like?” asked Hermione. “Being a professor, I mean.”
“It’s amazing,” said Neville and lit up. “I mean, I’m not used to being good at things, but Herbology… I can answer all of their questions, and watching them grow is the most incredible thing. I have this one student, a first year, who refused to touch a single plant in the beginning of the year, because her older siblings had told her that someone lost their hand to a flesh-eating plant in Herbology last year. But now she’s the best in her year! It’s all about getting into their heads and seeing it from their perspective, and then the rest of it just comes naturally.”
“It sounds to me like you’re a great teacher,” Harry said. “How is working with the other professors, then? McGonagall, Slughorn…?”
“It’s a bit strange,” said Neville with a shrug, “but McGonagall is a lot less scary now that I’m not her student anymore. And Horace is really nice. He hasn’t stopped favouring certain students, though.”
They had reached the gates that led into the school grounds, and while Neville let them in, Ron lifted his head to look at the castle. A nearly overwhelming feeling of nostalgia washed over him as they started walking across the snow-capped grounds, their boots leaving deep prints in the same path they had walked so many times before. Ron loved his life the way it was now – he was with Hermione, and he was working as an Auror – but he could still miss his Hogwarts years at times. After all, it was the place where he had done most of his growing up. They had all gone through so much together there throughout the years, and it was strange, but admittedly very nice, to be back.
“So what do you want to do first?” asked Neville once they reached the entrance to their old school. “See the Gryffindor Tower again? Pay Hagrid a visit?”
“You know,” Ron said, “I’ve been really curious about that lavish accommodation you described in the letter you sent us for Christmas.”
“Okay,” Neville answered. “Let’s head up to my place, then.”
As they passed through the castle, the portraits on the walls called out after them. Ron found it very amusing to watch the painted figures scurry from frame to frame, following them through the corridors and up the stairs in attempts to capture the attention of people whom they wouldn’t have looked at twice before the defeat of Voldemort. Other than the portraits, the group was also greeted by numerous students, most of whom would cast admiring glances at Neville as they realized that Ron, Harry, Hermione and Ginny were all in his company.
Finally, after being led astray once as a passage suddenly decided to take a turn instead of continuing to the sixth floor corridor, they reached Neville’s office. It was quite a small room, but it had soaring ceilings and giant windows, which let in plenty of the bright afternoon sunlight. A large, antique desk was placed under one of the windows, and it was occupied by a series of different pots and jars, all of which held suspicious-looking plants and seeds. Behind the desk stood a bookshelf filled with books with titles such as How to Be Grand in the Greenhouse or Cultivation Tricks for Witches and Wizards. Two kind-looking, smiling people whom Ron recognized at Neville’s parents waved at him from a photo on the top shelf. Next to the frame laid a brilliantly red Remembrall (“It’s never not red, that thing!” sighed Neville, whose memory was apparently as bad as ever, despite him being a professor and all). A deck of shelf-shuffling cards was spreading out across the shelf below, until Neville made it stop by tapping his wand against it.
“My bedroom is through there,” he said then, nodding towards a wide wooden door with a golden knob. “Do you want to see it?”
He went over to open it, and his friends stepped inside. The luxury described in Neville’s letter had not been an exaggeration; a wide canopy bed stood in the centre of the room, the sheets hanging from its frame made in a fabric that looked so soft and swishy that Ron couldn’t resist reaching over to touch it. The fireplace across from the bed was lit, and Ron could feel how it heated up the stone floor through the small gap between his socks and his pant legs (a gap that Ginny had pointed at and laughed as soon as she had seen it earlier that morning, but Ron couldn’t be bothered to get changed, so he had ignored it).
The walls of Neville’s room were covered in the most amazing artworks. There were no people painted on them, and Ron assumed that it was deliberate, so that Neville would get a bit of privacy, at least in his own room. Large windows, like the ones in the other room, overlooked the Black Lake and the very edge of the Quidditch pitch. Ron squinted to try and make out the shape of the goal posts while sighing longingly – it had been a long time since he had last played, and he missed it.
He felt a hand slide into his, and looked up meet Hermione’s eyes. She smiled at him before dragging him towards the door, and he realized that the others were already heading back out into the corridor.
“Next is the Gryffindor Common Room,” explained Hermione as the two of them followed Harry, Ginny and Neville towards the stairs to head up to the seventh floor.
“I wonder if the bloke who sleeps in my bed now knows who had it before him,” mused Ron as they walked, and Hermione snorted.
“Why? Do you think we should tell him, so that he can have the mattress washed an additional time?"
“That could be a good idea,” Ron grinned.
Just as he was about to turn left at the top of the stairs, like the three others had just done, Hermione’s grip around his hand tightened, and she started pulling him in the opposite direction.
“Let’s go this way first,” she said breathlessly, and Ron shrugged as he followed her.
Soon enough, they were standing right outside the Room of Requirements – or, in the eyes of the Hufflepuff girls who were sitting on the floor further down the corridor, by a stone wall, both their heads lifted and their eyes fixed on it.
“So,” said Ron after a few seconds of staring, “why are we here? Do you have something you want to hide in here? Or is there… Is there something that you just can’t wait until we get back home to do?”
He grinned suggestively, and Hermione slapped his shoulder. “Ron!” she said accusingly. “There are children right there!”
She nodded towards the Hufflepuffs, and Ron chuckled before raising his eyebrows. “So what are we doing here, then?”
Hermione’s cheeks took a vermillion colour as she turned to her right, so that she faced him. Ron mirrored her action and she took a step forwards, placing an arm around his waist.
“I wanted to come here, because… you may remember,” she said, “that we were standing in this very spot when we had our first kiss.”
Now, a smile spread across Ron’s face, and he wrapped both his arms around her. She took a deep breath before stretching her neck and kissing him, more softly than she had done that first time, and with more confidence, because she had done it thousands of times since. That first kiss had been spectacular, Ron thought, but practising had only made it better.
When they broke apart, he playfully slapped her, the way she had just done to him about a minute earlier. Then, grinning from ear to ear, he nodded towards the students further down the corridor and said:
“Try to keep yourself in shack, will you? There are children right over there!”
A/N: So I hope you liked seeing what Neville's new life is like, and the fact that Dominique has entered the world. I knew instantly that I wanted Bill to name her after Ginny. What do you think about it?
Oh, and before I forget, I've got a rather important message for you this time. Okay, the most important thing is obviously thanking you all again for reading this story. I'm constantly amazed at the response I get and each and every review is amazing to receive. I hope you by now how much I appreciate it. :)
But let's get on with the message. From what I've gathered from your lovely reviews, it seems like many of you are looking forward to the wedding. And trust me, so am I. I can tell you now that chapter 39 will be the wedding chapter, so it's not that far away. I promise you that I will write as quickly as I possibly can and hopefully get it finished before the Christmas break, which starts on December the 20th. I really want you to have it before New Year.
And why is that, you may ask? Well, the truth is that my life is going to change dramatically after New Year. I am going to leave the comfort and safety of my home, friends and family, and move to what is literally the other side of the planet, where I will be staying for the following year. It's very exciting and very scary, and while you certainly don't have to worry about me not continuing with this story while I'm over there, I might not be able to post anything for some weeks in the very beginning, while I move and settle in and all of that. Obviously I will keep writing and update as soon as I find the time, but I have no idea how much time or energy I will have during those first weeks. I'm sure you understand. So that is the reason why I'm going to try my hardest to get to chapter 39 before that - maybe you'll send me some encouragement while I attempt to finish two chapters in two weeks (in December, which is a busy month to start with...)?
Thank you again for your tremendous support, and for making me want to prioritize this story. You are all amazing.
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