lundi 11 février 2008

chapter 21

Harry’s irritation fizzled. He was very glad Ron and not one of the
girls had found him on the floor.

“I’m sick of that bed,” he mumbled, hanging his head. His legs were
shaking so badly he could feel his knees knocking together.

“I know you are,” Ron said quietly. They’d reached the wall, but Ron
was now supporting Harry’s full weight. “Are you going to continue
being a pillock about walking, or can I Levitate you back to the bed?”

“You’re not Levitating me,” Harry said, snorting. “I’ve seen your
Levitation Charms, remember?”

Ron grinned. “Better be nice to me, mate. I’m not one of the girls –
I’d really drop you.”

Harry chuckled, hating the exhaustion fighting to claim him.

“Accio Hover Chair,” Ron said.

A floating cushioned-chair appeared in the doorway. Harry thought it
resembled something that belonged in a pool. Ron lifted him up and
plopped him onto the chair. Using his wand to direct it, he turned the
chair around, and they moved into the corridor.

“We’re leaving?” Harry asked, both excited and alarmed. He’d
desperately wanted out of that room, but he knew the reporters had been
hovering. He really didn’t want to deal with any of them yet. In the
quietness of his room, he could deny the reality of everything that had
happened for a little while longer.

“We’re not going far,” Ron said. “There’re only a few patients in this
section, and you have to go through a security check to get here. I
thought you wanted out.”

“I do!” Harry said eagerly, his tiredness rapidly replaced by open
curiosity. Ron pushed him from the lushness of the Minister’s Suite into the cold, antiseptic hallway. Even magic couldn’t erase the
sterile feel of a hospital. “Who else do they have hidden here?”

“Malfoy’s in that room,” Ron said, nodding toward the closed door next
to Harry’s. “I hear he’s been talking loads of rubbish about the
deplorable conditions. You know Malfoy.”

“I want to talk to him,” Harry said.

“Don’t do that to yourself, Harry. Wait until you’re fully recovered,”
Ron said, scowling.

“I’m fine,” Harry replied.

“Sure you are,” Ron said, rolling his eyes. Still, he stopped the Hover
Chair and knocked on the door before pushing it open. “Oi, Malfoy!
Believe it or not, you’ve got visitors.”

Draco was lying in bed in a much smaller and less lavish room than the
one Harry was using. Harry felt heat creeping up his neck, and he was
eternally grateful that Malfoy didn’t know about the difference…or
maybe he did. It was certainly something Ron would enjoy lording over

Draco looked waxy and pale against the crisp white hospital linen. Much
of the usual vigor and venom seemed to have drained from his eyes. He
turned his head to listlessly stare at them.

“Oh, look. It’s Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Can this trip down the
rabbit hole get any worse?” he asked, rolling his eyes but never
raising his head from the pillow.

“Does that make you the Mad Hatter?” Ron asked, sniggering.

“Since when do you two know about Muggle children’s stories?” Harry
asked, feeling nettled at seeing the Slytherin boy looking so weak. It
was unnerving.

Draco scowled, but Ron stared at Harry blankly. “That’s a Wizarding
children’s story about a Muggle girl who accidentally stumbled across
the Wizengamot.”

Harry shook his head. “How are you doing?” he asked.

“Oh, I think even your lame power of deductive reasoning can figure
that one out, Potter. I had my insides physically pulled out because I
helped you. How do you think I’m doing?” Draco asked scornfully.

Harry swallowed heavily but fought the piles of guilt Draco was trying
to lay on him. He’d had enough guilt to last a lifetime. “Thanks for
helping with the Occlumency. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Without any of you,” Harry said.

“Yeah, well, it’s over now, and you’re everybody’s hero – again.
Doesn’t do much for the rest of us, does it?” Draco asked.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ron asked. “Harry and Hermione both
saved your useless arse. You’re alive, you’re no longer being hunted,
and you’re free to go back to your life and do whatever it is you do.”

“Yeah, I’m free,” Draco said, rolling his eyes. “My mother’s dead, the
woman I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with is dead, and
it’ll take me months to recover enough to take care of myself properly.
My life is just perfect.”

“What are you going to do?” Harry asked quietly.

“It’s not like I have a choice. The Ministry still hasn’t released its
hold on Malfoy Manor, and I can’t go there alone in my condition,
anyway. So, I’m forced to rely on the pity of distant relatives,” Draco
said, gritting his teeth. “My mother’s sister, Andromeda, and her
Muggle-born husband have agreed to take me in – under the condition
that they’ll be well-reimbursed for my care.”

Ron’s expression turned gleeful. “D’you mean to tell me that you’re
being looked after by your aunt and uncle – your Muggleborn uncle – who
most likely blame you for the death of their daughter?”

Draco scowled. “What of it?”

“Well…at least they probably won’t make you live in a cupboard,” Ron
said, obviously delighted by the irony.

Draco’s eyes flicked to Harry before his expression darkened. “Get out.
Now. GET OUT!”

“Go, Ron – just go,” Harry said, before Ron could continue antagonizing
Draco. It wasn’t as if Draco wouldn’t have done the same thing to Ron –
wasn’t as if he hadn’t done the same in the past – but he’d still
helped Harry in the end, and Harry couldn’t forget that.

Ron moved the Hover Chair back into the Minister’s Suite while Harry
fought the fatigue that was finally overwhelming him. He barely
remembered how he actually got back into bed before the darkness
claimed him once again.


Several days later, Harry’s sleep was broken by a loud clicking sound,
startling him into full alertness. He rolled over quickly and fumbled
on the nightstand for his glasses. He heard a male voice utter a
locking spell and a loud grunt as something was wedged in the door.
Harry’s heart beat frantically as he stuffed his glasses onto his face.
He was dismayed to realize his wand wasn’t on the table. He was

Turning slowly to face his attacker, he was blinded by several bright
flashes of light. He squinted, his panicked brain gradually focusing on
the camera and the Quick-Quotes Quill hovering beside the intruder.

“Harry, I’ve got a family to support and a quote from you can feed ‘em
for a year. Just one more photo,” the reporter said, the camera
continuing to click as Harry turned his face away. He tried to pull the blanket up to cover his useless arm. He felt incredibly exposed sitting
there in his pajamas.

“Open this door! Alohomora,” a stern voice shouted from outside the
thick hospital door. Harry noticed the reporter had wedged a chair
behind it.

“They can undo the magic, but the Muggle tricks always slow ‘em down,”
the reporter said, grinning. He was tall and reedy with extremely slick
hair that he wore combed over to the side to try and cover the balding
spot atop his head. “How does it feel to have defeated the Dark Lord,
Harry? How did you do it? Did you have to use Dark Magic to accomplish
it? Everyone is speculating on how You-Know-Who actually fell. Tell me
about it – in your own words.”

“Get out,” Harry said, his teeth clenched.

“One quote, Harry,” he said, ignoring Harry’s anger. The Quill
scribbled madly despite the fact Harry had only said two words. “What’s
wrong with your arm? Why are you still hospitalized? Will there be
permanent damage from the battle?”

“Get out,” Harry repeated, yanking open the drawer on the bedside table
and searching for his wand.

The door behind the reporter suddenly imploded, blasting shards
everywhere. The reporter was knocked to the ground, his camera skidding
across the floor. An enraged Charlie Weasley stood behind it, his arms
bulging, and his wand gripped tightly in his hand. He was covered with
soot, which Harry barely recognized at first because he was so focused
on the murderous expression on Charlie’s face.

Charlie grabbed the reporter around the neck and hoisted him to his
feet. The man scrambled frantically, his face awash with terror. Harry
leaned over and picked up the camera, holding it tightly while Charlie
confiscated the Quick-Quotes Quill.

“How did you get in here?” Charlie demanded.

“The people deserve some answers,” the man gasped, struggling to
breathe. Charlie had him pinned against the wall with his forearm
pressed against his throat.

“That’s enough, Mr. Weasley,” an Auror said, entering the room, his
crisp Ministry robes neatly pressed. “We’ll take it from here.”

“Yeah, as if I trust you can do that. Where was the guard?” Charlie

Harry could tell the man was blushing deeply, despite his dark skin.

“There will be a full investigation,” he said. “Please release him, Mr.
Weasley. I don’t want to have to Stun you.”

“You could try,” Charlie said through gritted teeth. He pressed his arm
tighter against the reporter’s throat. The reporter’s eyes bulged with
horror, and he desperately grasped at Charlie’s fingers.
“Come on, Charlie,” the Auror said, dropping his formal tone. “Everyone
needs to use the loo. I’ll take it from here and make certain the guard
is firmly reprimanded.”

Charlie let go with a snarl, and the reporter slumped to the floor.
“You do that, and see to it that his camera and Quill are erased before
they’re returned.”

“You can’t do that,” the reporter whined.

“Watch me,” Charlie snapped. Taking the camera from Harry, he raised
his wand and blasted the camera into smithereens.

The Auror roughly dragged the swearing reporter outside as he continued
to threaten to press charges.

Harry was slightly taken aback by Charlie’s intensity. True, it had
been a rude awakening, and Harry really didn’t want to talk to any
reporters, but Charlie’s reaction seemed over the top. Even now, he was
pacing in front of the ruined door like a caged animal.

“All right, Charlie?” Harry asked tentatively. “He was a nuisance, I
know, but he’s just a reporter. I suppose I should just talk to them
and get it over.”

Harry was startled when Ginny appeared in the doorway, looking just as
smudged and rumpled as Charlie. She sprinted in the room and flung
herself at Harry, her eyes raking over him as her hands rapidly
smoothed his hair.

“Are you all right?” she cried.

“Of course I’m all right,” Harry said, growing increasingly baffled.
“He just caught me off guard – I was sleeping. What are you two on
about? One of those reporters was bound to get lucky sooner or later.
They’ve been trying to sneak in here for ages.”

“It makes no difference that it was only a reporter,” Ginny cried. “He
never should have got inside. It could have been a Death Eater. They
promised top-notch security.”

“Death Eater?” Harry asked, feeling as he’d just been punched in the
gut. His heart began beating very fast. “I thought there weren’t any

Both Ginny and Charlie started and averted their eyes. A wave of
uneasiness overcame Harry, and he suddenly felt very nauseous. No one
was going to make him go back into that kind of fear.

“Some of the few scattered Death Eaters who managed to escape alive
have regrouped,” Charlie said reluctantly. He refused to meet Harry’s
eyes as he spoke. “They’re insisting Voldemort will return like he did
before. They think you know more than you’re telling.”

“The Burrow was attacked this morning,” Ginny said softly, blinking
tears from her eyes. No! It’s over. Harry’s mind raced. It wasn’t supposed to happen this
way. Voldemort was dead – it was over and his life was supposed to
really begin now. It was over!

“Take it easy, Harry,” Ginny whispered, rubbing his back soothingly.
Her hand brushed against his injured arm, causing his fingers to

He was so caught up in the news that he barely noticed it. “Is everyone
okay?” he asked.

“Everyone is fine,” Charlie said. “Bill’s working on strengthening the
wards. Ron and Fred are helping him. Ginny and I brought George in to
have his new leg fitted and check on you. It’s a good thing we did.”

“Do you think the reporter’s timing was coincidental?” Harry asked, the
full implication of what could have happened finally penetrating his
foggy brain.

“I don’t know, but we’ll find out. I’m going to go Floo Kingsley
directly. I’ll be back,” Charlie said, nodding at Ginny before he left.

“Well, you certainly keep life exciting, don’t you?” Ginny asked,
grinning as she nudged him with her hip. “Budge over.”

Harry’s face brightened as he quickly complied. She sat on the bed and
leaned back so she was lying alongside him, resting her head on his
shoulder. She was on his bad side, so he couldn’t wrap his arm around
her and settled for kissing the top of her head instead.

“When am I getting out of here?” he murmured, delighting in the warmth
of her body pressed against his own.

Ginny sighed, and he felt her stiffen. “I don’t know, Harry.”

He didn’t like the tone in her voice. “What d’you mean? I thought I was
getting the all clear some time this week?”

Physically, he felt much better and was beyond anxious to leave the
hospital. He’d been up several more times since the original journey
with Ron, and could even roam the corridors on his own. The nausea was
virtually gone, and the bruises that had covered his entire body had
faded to a sickly yellow.

The only thing still left uncertain was his arm. Repairing the nerve
damage was a slow and meticulous procedure, and the Healers still
wouldn’t commit to a prognosis. They were encouraged by the fact that
his shoulder felt sore and achy after each healing attempt. Harry
suspected that only Healers would think pain was a good thing.

“That was the plan,” Ginny said. “Mum is dying to get her hands on you
and had your room all ready, but now…”

“Now, no one thinks it’s safe enough for me to go to the Burrow,” Harry
said dully. He knew the routine. He’d been here many times before. Why
had he really believed things were going to change?
“Don’t you dare start brooding on me now, Harry Potter,” Ginny said
fiercely, her eyes blazing as she turned to grasp his shoulders. “If
not the Burrow, then we’ll go somewhere else…together. Do you hear me?
It is different now, and you’re not going back to the Dursleys alone to
recover. Not now – not ever again.”

Harry smiled, although his heart wasn’t really in it. She somehow
always managed to know exactly what was on his mind.

“All right,” he said, “but soon. I’m tired of this place.”

“Tired of this place, are you?” Ginny asked, raising her eyebrow at the
vast splendor of the room. “This luxury isn’t good enough for you,
dear? Your pillow isn’t fluffed just so, and the chocolates aren’t to
your liking?”

“Oh, ho, very funny,” Harry said, pulling a face. “You wouldn’t like
being cooped up in here any better than I do.”

“That’s true,” Ginny said, ruffling his hair. “Although I’m thrilled to
see you with some color back in your face and feeling spunky, I knew it
would mean we couldn’t keep you tucked away any longer.”

“I want to see what’s happening – how everything is being put back
together,” he replied.

“I know. The Ministry is fully up and running. The first Death Eater
trials are supposed to start in September,” Ginny said. “Dad says
everyone is really eager to put all the bad behind them and start

“What are they doing about Azkaban?” Harry asked.

“I don’t know,” Ginny said, shrugging. “Some of the Dementors returned
and took up their old posts, but others are still roaming free. I don’t
think anyone really knows what to do with them.”

Harry nodded, silently pondering. “How bad is the Burrow?” he asked.

He knew if there had been any serious injuries they would have told
him, but he dreaded hearing about the damage to the Weasleys’ newly-
renovated home. Mrs. Weasley had proudly told him every minute detail
of the work being done each time she’d visited him.

Ginny shrugged. “None of us were hurt, and that’s the important thing.”

Harry scowled and raised his eyebrows.

“All right, all right. There’s a bit of fire and spell damage. Mum’s
kitchen is a mess, but nothing that can’t be fixed,” she said
hurriedly, trying to calm his building eruption.

Harry swore. “Your mother’s kitchen? Damn it, Ginny. She was so proud
of that.”
“I know it, but she’s prouder of all of us. She can rebuild the kitchen
again. Trust me, she’s much happier knowing you’re coming home, that
George is getting fitted with a new leg, and that Fleur wasn’t in the
house at the time ‘in her condition,’” Ginny said, rolling her eyes.

Harry smirked, imagining Mrs. Weasley’s fussing over Fleur and how it
would test Ginny’s patience. “Where was Fleur?”

“She and Bill rented a flat here in London. I think Fleur refused to be
anywhere near a chicken,” Ginny said, crossing her arms.

“I thought you and Fleur were getting along?” Harry asked.

Ginny shrugged, waving her hand in the air. “She’s all right, and she
does love my brother. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t get on my nerves
sometimes. She’s such a princess.”

Harry grinned, wisely refraining from commenting. Ginny elbowed him in
the ribs, anyway.

“Shut it, you,” she said.

“I didn’t say anything,” Harry said, his voice raised an octave higher
than he would have liked.

“You were thinking it,” Ginny replied.

“Yeah,” Harry said, his mind drifting back to the Burrow.

“Don’t worry about it,” Ginny said, snuggling closer to him. “Bill will
get the wards fixed, and it’ll be perfectly safe. Leticia Warbanks and
the Order are obviously extra concerned about you since the Death
Eaters want to get to you so you’ll tell them where Voldemort is.”

“He’s in hell,” Harry spat.

Ginny gently ran her hand along his chest, soothing him.

Despite the turmoil in his mind, his body had become very aware of how
closely Ginny was pressed against him. He rolled slightly to his side
and ran his hand along the bare flesh on her arm. Ginny moved her head
so their gazes locked intensely for a brief moment. Her eyes briefly
flickered to Harry’s mouth before he leaned over and captured her lips
in a searing kiss.

She opened her mouth, deepening the kiss. She tasted warm and sweet and
exactly how he remembered. His entire body thrummed with need and
longing as he stretched his arm across his body and ran his fingers
through her silky hair.

Perhaps it was only because it had been so bloody long since he’d been
able to do this, but the kiss was somehow more intense than ever – full
of hope, and promise and…possibilities. A thrill of excitement
fluttered in his belly as he realized that she was finally, truly his.
The Death Eaters might not have given up, but the threat that she would
be snatched away from him if he let himself go was past.
Harry thrilled in the knowledge as he wrapped her possessively in his
embrace. She was leaning on his bad arm an, through his impassioned
haze, he once again felt that tingling sensation all the way down to
his fingers. It was the fact that he felt them move that caused him to
startle and pull back from the kiss.

“Harry,” Ginny moaned, seeking his lips again.

“My fingers moved,” he said blankly.

Ginny pulled herself into a seated position. “What?” she asked

Despite his shock and euphoria over his fingers, her swollen lips and
the way her hair was wildly tousled pleased him, and his chest swelled
with pride. She looked like someone who had been thoroughly, properly
kissed – and he had done that.

“My fingers moved,” he repeated, glancing at his limp hand. He tried
unsuccessfully to move them again. They remained still, but he could
definitely feel that tingling sensation throughout his entire arm and

“Are you certain?” she asked, the hope radiating from her eyes. “I
mean…that was rather intense.”

Color rushed to her cheeks, and Harry grinned cheekily.

“It was, wasn’t it?” he asked, beaming. “They definitely moved, and I
can feel pins and needles now.”

“I’ll go get the Healer,” Ginny said, standing.

“No,” Harry said, grabbing her hand with his good one. “Come back over
here. All the Healers will do is poke and prod to get the same results.
I like your method better.”

“Prat!” Ginny giggled, sitting back on the edge of his bed and leaning
over to kiss him again.

They had barely resumed their activities when the sound of a throat
clearing in the doorway caused them to spring apart. Harry glanced up
warily to see Charlie looking at the floor and scratching his very red

He felt heat rushing to his face, wondering why Charlie hadn’t already
hauled him out of the bed and pummeled him. Perhaps he looked weaker
than he thought, stuck in the hospital bed. He never thought he’d be
grateful for anyone thinking him weak, but there you go.

“Nice timing, Charlie,” Ginny said, standing up to straighten her
clothes. She didn’t appear embarrassed or at all concerned about
Charlie’s temper.

“We’re so sorry to interrupt,” Leticia Warbanks said, following Charlie
into the room. Her dark eyes twinkled with amusement. “It’s nice to see
you’re obviously feeling better, Harry.”
This time, Ginny did blush – thoroughly. Harry could feel the heat
radiating from her body, and knew his coloring must have matched the
Weasley red. They’d just been caught snogging in the Minister’s Suite
at St. Mungo’s by the Minister for Magic herself. No one could ever say
his life wasn’t interesting.

“Are you two going to greet the Minister?” Charlie asked, his voice
dripping with sarcasm.

“Leave them alone. They’re embarrassed enough,” Leticia said, sweeping
into the room and taking a seat by Harry’s bed. “I’m here to discuss
some future arrangements.”

Harry looked up sharply, pushing his awkwardness aside. He wasn’t about
to allow anyone to shunt him away again. It was over. Things were going
to change.

“What kind of arrangements?” he asked warily.

“No need to be so tense, Harry,” Leticia said, smiling knowingly. “I
think you might actually be pleased with these plans.”

“Oh?” Harry asked, still doubtful.

“Andromeda Tonks owns a holiday home off the mainland in Spain in the
Mediterranean Sea. The island is called Formentera, and, although
secluded, it is still a Muggle area so use of magic is frowned upon.
Andromeda has agreed to take in her nephew whilst he recovers, and
she’s also offered to open up her home to you and your three friends
involved in You-Know-Who’s demise until the trials commence.

“There will, of course, be a Hearing, but it’s merely a formality
whilst we have time to gather up the remaining Death Eaters. It will
offer you some privacy whilst you fully recover and allow the proper
wards and protections to be placed on your home, Miss Weasley.”

Leticia spoke as if someone used to making decisions and having them
followed. It was a decent plan, and the idea of a seaside holiday was
appealing. He’d never before had a proper holiday, and he and Ginny had
certainly enjoyed their beach in the Room of Requirement.

“I believe you were familiar with Andromeda’s daughter, and she also
said you were close to one of her cousins. If it’s all right with you,
I’ll have the arrangements made, and you can leave within the next few
days,” Leticia said.

“All right,” Harry said, nodding.

“Very well. I’ll be speaking with you again soon. Good day,” Leticia
said, sweeping from the room.

Harry was still mulling over the offer. It was a chance to be alone
with Ginny at the beach – only having one brother to avoid rather than
five. Where was the down side? Perhaps Ron might even be so distracted
by Hermione that he’d give Harry and Ginny some privacy…
Charlie seemed to know exactly where Harry’s thoughts were leading.
“Don’t even think about it, Potter,” he said, scowling. “Bill might be
too distracted by Fleur and the baby at the moment, but that doesn’t
mean I can’t pop in to check on you – at any undisclosed time.”

“Get over yourself, Charlie,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes. “You’re
never very good at playing the overprotective role. I know exactly what
you got up to when you were our age. Did Mum ever learn the full story
about Alfreda Dobbins?”

Charlie blanched. “How do you know about…” he asked, trailing off with
widening eyes.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Ginny said with a wave of her hand. “You used
the treehouse, Charlie! It’s full of holes.”

“Listen to me, Ginny,” Charlie said, his ears as red as Ron’s sometimes

“I’ve never said anything,” Ginny replied, smiling sweetly. “You keep
my secrets, I keep yours. That’s how it works.”

“That was a long time ago,” Charlie said, his teeth clenched. Harry’s
head was bobbing back and forth between the two as if watching a tennis

“True, but Mum would be mortified to know she stood in front of all
those neighbors swearing you didn’t even know Alfreda, and it was so
far from the truth,” Ginny said, her smile growing threatening. “I
think you’ll do your best to convince Mum that letting Ron and I go
along with Harry is a grand idea.”

Charlie looked as if he was about to hit her before a slow grin spread
across his wide face. “Some Muggle test proved Ritchie Cortland was
that baby’s father, anyway. Well done,” he said. “I don’t think even
Fred and George have managed to hold their own when I’ve been really

“That’s because your arm is the size of a tree trunk,” Ginny said,
rolling her eyes. “They’re far from stupid. Come on, Charlie.”

“All right,” Charlie said. “I don’t think Mum will have a problem with
it, anyway. It’s not like you’ll be unsupervised. Ted and Andromeda
Tonks will be there.”

If Andromeda Tonks was anything like her daughter or Sirius, Harry
didn’t think she’d be much of a hindrance.

“Excellent,” Ginny said, her eyes twinkling. If the expression on
Ginny’s face was any indication, she was as eager as he was to get away
from the vast number of Weasleys and share some private time with him.

Harry liked that idea very much.

Chapter Thirty-Three
The Power He Knows Not

The Portkey deposited the five teenagers inside a grand and sweeping
sitting room filled with an eclectic assortment of furniture and lacy
curtains that fluttered in a lazy sea breeze. The cottage – more like a
manor, Harry thought – was Grimmauld Place-like in size, although the
décor couldn’t have been more different.

The walls were a light terra-cotta, housing both brightly cushioned
wicker furniture, and antique treasures passed down from generation to
generation. The lacy, green curtains allowed the afternoon sunshine to
filter in, giving the room a warm and inviting feel.

Harry lay sprawled on a rough, colorfully-embroidered rug, and although
it was clean, he could feel faint traces of sand. He still hadn’t
managed landing on his feet after Portkey travel. He could hear Ron’s
snickering beside him.

“Merlin’s beard! Are you all right?” a witch asked, rushing toward him
and assisting him to his feet. “Why didn’t they put you in an assist-
chair, as well?”

She had vibrant blue eyes and dark hair that she wore tightly pulled
back. Her appearance was so familiar and yet so different that Harry
had to take a step back. He knew without having to be introduced that
this was Andromeda Tonks. She looked nothing like either of her
sisters, but instead resembled a walking female version of Sirius.

She wore bulky robes covered in a loud, flowery print and a wreath of
dried vines adorned her head. Perched on the tip of her nose was a pair
of purple-tinted glasses. Uncle Vernon would have despised her on
sight, whether witch or Muggle. Harry took to her immediately for the
very reason.

“Don’t worry. That landing had nothing to do with his being injured.
Harry’s always been Portkey-challenged,” Ron said, smirking and still
on his feet. “Maybe an assist-chair is the right idea, though.”

Harry straightened his clothing and scowled at Ron. Draco sat beside
them, strapped imperiously in a soft, cushioned chair that St. Mungo’s
used to transport injured patients. Ginny and Hermione stood to the
side of the boys, using their hands to cover their snickers.

“Are you certain that you’re all right, Harry?” Andromeda asked, and
Harry had to turn away from the concern in her eyes.

He’d seen that identical expression on someone else in the past.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Thanks for having us.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Andromeda said, although her smile never reached
her eyes. “I wanted to do my part. My daughter was very fond of all of

“And we were of her,” Ginny said, her eyes bright. “She saved our
lives, of course, but she also was there with a ready smile when we
needed to talk. I miss her very much.”
Andromeda smiled wistfully. “Nymphadora always had a knack for
mischief, and she liked her fun. She would have wanted you all to be
safe, and I’m pleased to offer you accommodations. We’ve expanded a new
wing on the second floor, and there’s a room for each of you. Tuggy
will show you the way.”

A small house-elf wrapped in a tiny beach towel appeared in the
doorway, bowing low and beckoning them to follow. Harry was certain the
elf was female, although she never said a word.

“You’ll notice that the cottage appears no different than any of the
others on the island, although it has obviously been magically expanded
inside. Still, it is completely outfitted with Muggle electricity and
amenities. Tuggy knows how to use everything, so ask if you need
assistance. We try very hard to leave most magical conveniences behind
when we come to stay here,” Andromeda said, her arms fluttering in the

“My husband was raised as a Muggle, and he liked to have a place where
his own parents were comfortable when they were alive. We’ve since
grown accustomed to it,” she added. “It’s become a bit of an adventure
for us.”

“Do you mean to tell me that we’re expected to live here like Muggles?”
Draco asked incredulously, spitting the last word as if he were

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you,” Andromeda said, scowling at her
nephew and dropping the singsong tone she’d used on Harry. “It’s my
home and my rules. You’ll learn to live with them – it’s not your first
time here.”

“I beg your pardon?” Draco asked warily. He glanced around the room as
if he’d just been sentenced to the gallows.

“You were here once before as a baby, before your mother and I lost
touch completely,” Andromeda said quickly, averting her eyes. “As I
recall, your bottom burned quite badly after you’d removed your nappy.
You’ll want to be certain to apply a full Sunblocking Charm.”

Draco colored as Ron howled with glee. Harry could tell that Andromeda
had already forever won a spot on Ron’s favorite people list.

“Everyone wore nappies at one point,” Andromeda said, waving her hand
in the air. “I’m off to my basket weaving group. You girls are welcome
to join me anytime during your stay here. Tuggy will get you settled.”

Ginny and Hermione nodded politely, but Harry could tell the idea of
basket weaving didn’t appeal to Ginny at all.

“Hello, Tuggy,” Hermione said, kneeling in front of the tiny elf. “How
are you?”

The elf’s eyes widened immensely as if frightened by being directly
addressed. She took several steps backward toward Andromeda.
“Tuggy is rather timid, but she’ll warm up to you all eventually,”
Andromeda said. “My husband, Ted, has gone fishing with some of the
locals, but he’ll be here for dinner this evening. Tuggy, why don’t you
show them all to their room where they can change and go explore the

The five teens thanked Andromeda and followed the house-elf up the
stairs. Draco scolded them not to jostle him as his chair hovered
gracefully above the stairs. Tuggy directed them all toward various
rooms in a single hallway. Harry noticed that, although Draco’s room
was the same size as the others, it was furnished more plainly. After
Tuggy left them, Draco shut his own door while the other four
congregated in Harry’s room.

It was spacious and airy yet masculine. The beautiful mahogany
furnishings were covered in navy and gold fabrics with a nautical
theme, a heady arrangement of tropical plants resting on the dresser.
Ginny plopped down on his bed and leaned back with her arms opened

“I can’t believe we’re finally here. I didn’t think Mum would ever stop
saying goodbye,” she said, running her hands over the rich fabric.

Although Mrs. Weasley had liked the idea of having the four of them
safely tucked away until the Death Eater trials commenced, she’d
worried and fretted much as she did each year on the train platform.

“I know,” Ron said. “And did you catch the envious looks we were
getting from Fred and George? It was killing them that we were getting
a holiday while they had to stay behind for the cleanup. Anyway, we’re
here and on our own now, so let’s make the most of it. Who wants to go

Harry glanced out the window at the wide expanse of white sandy beach.
Deep blue water stretched as far as his eye could see. “I do. It looks
amazing,” he said.

His arm was still in a sling, although the tingling sensation was now
constant, but at least he was able to move his fingers at will. A
Healer was scheduled to travel to the house each week to continue his
treatments. They suspected he’d have full use of his arm by the end of
the summer. They’d given him a list of exercises he was supposed to
practice each night to strengthen it, although Harry had told Ginny he
preferred her therapy better. Ginny had swatted him on the head.

“It is,” Hermione said, ducking her head as she colored brightly.

“Hermione,” Ron said, frowning. “You’ve blushed like that every time
someone mentions Formentera. What gives?”

If possible, Hermione blushed an even deeper shade of red. “Well…it’s
just…I’ve been here before while traveling with my parents. Some of the
beaches are…interesting.”

“Interesting how?” Ron asked, cocking his head to the side.
Harry and Ginny stared at Hermione with puzzled expressions. She was
obviously struggling with something, and they leaned forward, waiting
for her explanation.

“A lot of the Muggle beaches here are clothing optional,” she said very
quickly, needlessly straightening some of the items on the desk.

“You mean they go sun bathing starkers?” Ron asked, horrified.

Ginny threw her head back and laughed uproariously while Ron fidgeted,
and Hermione continued to blush. Harry shifted uncomfortably – certain
body parts just weren’t meant to be sunburned.

“Well, yes,” Hermione said, clearing her throat. “Some of the Muggles
enjoy that.”

Ginny, who was still flopped on her back, rose on her elbows and smiled
mischievously. Harry worried that she was considering going to that
beach. He wouldn’t put it past her, but he wasn’t certain he was that

“Exactly how do you know about these beaches, Hermione?” Ginny asked,
raising her eyebrow.

Harry’s eyes fly open wide, staring incredulously at Hermione. Ginny
was right! How did Hermione know?

“I told you, I’ve been here before,” Hermione said, her hands
fluttering nervously as she pointed toward the window. “They’re wearing
swimming costumes on that beach, so why don’t we change so we can get
out there? The Healers said Harry needed some rest and relaxation.”

She left the room without a backward glance. Ron stared after her with
an odd mixture of horror and intrigue while Harry smirked. He’d
actually asked one of the Healers to recommend rest and relaxation in
front of Hermione so that she wouldn’t pester him about doing any
seventh-year revising while they were on holiday.

Ginny giggled and bounced out the door after her. “Last one ready has
to carry the beach stuff,” she called merrily.

Ron stared for a moment before muttering, “Bloody hell,” and following
her from the room.

Harry stood and moved to find his own trunks. He paused a moment before
closing his door, staring at Draco’s closed room. He twisted his lips
to the side, debating. The Slytherin would most likely sneer and close
the door in his face, but he supposed it was up to him to make the
first move. Squaring his shoulders, he strode purposefully across the
hall and rapped on the door.

He heard the rustle of parchment before the door swung open wide. Draco
paused, swallowing his snarl but narrowing his eyes.

“What do you want?” he asked, watching Harry closely.
“Er…we’re going to go down and take a look at the beach,” he said,
stuffing his hands in his pockets.

“And exactly how does this concern me?” Draco asked, raising an

Harry shrugged. “It doesn’t, but if you want to come with us, that’s
where we’ll be,” he said, moving back toward his own room.

Draco’s eyes widened in surprise. He silently watched as Harry returned
to his room. “I might be down later,” he said, grimacing as if it
pained him to say the words. “I have some correspondence with my
solicitors I need to sift through first.”

Harry nodded, rubbing the back of his neck. “They’re trying to sort out
your family affairs?” he asked.

“What’s left of them,” Draco replied, scowling. “I have a letter here
from your cousin, too.”

“Dudley?” Harry asked, stunned.

“Yeah. He might come and stay with me for awhile when I’m able to
return to Malfoy Manor,” Draco replied.

Harry shook his head, at a loss for words. “Er…that’s great,” he said,
running his hand through his hair. His mind had been gradually dealing
with the end of Voldemort, but he still fond the idea of a magical
Dudley Dursley as unfathomable. Never mind a magical Dudley Dursley who
corresponded with Draco Malfoy.

“See you on the beach,” Draco said, shutting the door before Harry
could respond.

“Right,” Harry said, shaking his head. Perhaps hell had frozen over.


Harry awoke with a start, drenched in sweat, and his heart thudding
painfully. Scattered, terrifying images of a dream swirled in his head
as he clutched the sheet, gulping for air. It took him a moment to
recognize the room where he slept.

He and his friends had been at the beach for a fortnight, and Harry had
often been plagued by nightmares. He’d used a Dreamless Sleep Potion
each night while in hospital, but he had to leave it behind when he’d
been released. The Healers didn’t recommend using it without the
supervision of medical professionals, and Harry had been so desperate
to leave he hadn’t cared. He’d survived nightmares before, he’d get
through these, as well.

“All right, Harry?” Ginny asked softly, and he felt her soft, warm
presence curled up by his side. He’d often found her beside him when he
woke from a dream, and although he enjoyed finding her with him, he
didn’t like the thought that he’d been loud enough to wake her in her
own room.
If they’d heard him, as well, Ron and Hermione had been kind enough not
to mention it, and although Draco had grumbled a bit about being unable
to get a decent night’s rest, even he hadn’t been obnoxious about it.

Their days at the beach house had been filled with swimming, sunning,
and fun on the beach. The Tonkses owned a pair of jet skis that were
nearly as fun as flying, and they’d all taken turns on them. They’d
played games and gone body surfing, as well as built castles in the
sand while their skin turned brown (although Ron and Ginny just
freckled) under the blazing sun. They took long walks on the beach and
saw a variety of sea life. Harry was thoroughly enjoying his stay.

Draco’s presence among them had been awkward at first. It wasn’t as if
they had ever been friends, but after everything that had happened at
the Department of Mysteries, it wasn’t as if they could be enemies
anymore, either. After sharing something as big as the downfall of a
Dark lord, they were somehow forever bonded. Harry also knew how it
felt to be alone and the outsider, and he didn’t want to make anyone
else feel that way – not even Draco Malfoy.

As the long, lazy days passed, everything had worked itself out,
anyway. Draco kept himself busy planning and plotting his takeover of
his family estate, so he tended to avoid the hot afternoon sun. This
gave the two couples plenty of time to be on their own. Like Ron and
Harry, Draco also enjoyed the jet skis and would join the others in the
evenings for meals and an occasional game of chess. He and Ron were
actually much better matched than Harry and Ron had ever been, although
Harry knew Ron enjoyed playing Harry more.

Andromeda prepared lavish meals each night, and they would all gather
to share tales of their days. Ted Tonks was a friendly, talkative bloke
with a fascination for the sea. According to him, there was no better
place to be, and he insisted it would always be his mistress. Andromeda
wasn’t bothered by this in the least, and continued merrily on her way.
They were like two separate ships passing occasionally, but their
fondness for one another was blatantly apparent.

Andromeda had said that Ted took their daughter’s death very hard, and
he hadn’t quite been the same since. This was readily apparent by Ted’s
refusal to address Draco. He wasn’t rude or unpleasant, simply
indifferent – as if Draco wasn’t there at all.

Other than the group dinners, Harry’s time was his own for the first
time he could ever remember. He and Ginny took long, romantic strolls
along the beach, and he enjoyed waking up each morning knowing that she
would there. They’d formed the habit of meeting for breakfast so they
could plan their day together. Harry couldn’t ever remember being so
carefree. Even his occasional stays at the Burrow had been marred with
the threat of war or depressing thoughts about the Dursleys.

To Harry, this time at the beach was the first time he’d ever truly
been free – and freedom was something he could definitely get used to

One of Ted Tonks’ favorite leisure time activities was fishing. The
village where they stayed was an active fishing community, and Ted usually partook when he visited. Both Ron and Draco had taken to the
sport, as well. They’d all gone out on several occasions, but Harry
found he didn’t have the patience for it. He hated having to sit still
for so long and instead preferred to dive off the side of the boat and
take a swim. Those fishing, of course, frowned on such behavior since
it scared the fish away.

Although Ginny had more patience for it, she didn’t really enjoy it,
either, and Hermione felt horrible for the live bait. She kept trying
to convince the other fishers to switch to non-live bait to no avail.
Finally giving up, she spent her time sunning on the deck while reading
a book.

The odd relationship that had developed between Ron and Draco as a
result of the fishing was amusing to watch. Neither was what could be
considered as friendly, but they both enjoyed competing over who could
catch the larger fish. Their barbs and jabs at one another were harsh
and caused several passersby to stare as if expecting a fight, but the
usual venom behind the words was missing. It was just old habits dying
hard. Harry had seen the flask of Firewhisky that Draco kept stashed in
his pocket and knew that on some days, the only thing Ron and Draco
were catching was a good buzz.

Since they bypassed these outings, Harry and Ginny spent the days
together on the beach. Harry was secretly glad he didn’t like fishing
because it gave him the opportunity to be alone with Ginny.

This was just such a day, and although he’d been awoken by the
nightmare fairly early in the morning, he knew the fishing boat would
have already left for the day.

“Was it a bad one?” Ginny asked, wiping the sweat from his brow with a
damp cloth.

Harry shook his head, the terrifying visions rapidly dissolving. “Just
scattered memories,” he said. “What are we doing today?”

“I thought we could pack a picnic lunch and take it to that spot down
the beach where the waves are stronger. Do you think your arm feels up
for that?” Ginny asked.

He stretched it out a few times. “I think I might need a little more
therapy,” he said, grinning.

“Do you, now?” Ginny asked, raising her eyebrow. “Shall I go fetch a
few potions or Floo a Healer?”

“No,” Harry said, shaking his head and trying to keep a straight face.
He waggled his eyebrows and leered at her. “I think your brand of
therapy will do the trick.”

Ginny giggled and kissed him quickly on the lips. “No. We’re actually
going to get out of here at a decent hour today,” she said, placing her
hands on her hips. “Go have your shower, and I’ll meet you in the
Harry scowled, pulling himself out of the bed. “I think I might need
help reaching my back,” he said, pouting.

“You’ll manage. Besides, I didn’t say we couldn’t do our snogging down
on the beach,” she said before sprinting from the room, her laughter
brightening the hallway.

After a quick shower and change, Harry met Ginny in the kitchen where
they took the lunch Tuggy had prepared for them and brought it outside.
The section of beach where they wanted to go was further down the road
than their usual spot. Harry tied the picnic basket on the back of a
worn old bicycle that was kept at the house. Ginny perched precariously
on the handlebars while Harry pedaled down the lane. His arm really
wasn’t strong enough to support them, but he quietly cast both a
Balancing Charm and a Motion Spell that allowed him to ride with very
little effort.

Harry had been very wary about using any magic when he’d first arrived.
He liked both Ted and Andromeda very much and wanted to stick to their
rules. After the first few days, Andromeda had pulled him aside and
basically told him not to be an idiot. She said not to do anything
blatant in front of Muggles but to definitely use any spell to ease his
comfort during his recovery. ‘What’s the use in having magic if you
don’t use it when you need it?’ she’d asked. Harry thought it was
rather rich coming from her since she was the one who’d told him not to
use it the first place.

After the spells were cast, he and Ginny began their trek to the beach.
He enjoyed their ride and could have spent the entire day just pedaling
around – and that had nothing to do with the magic eliminating the
work. He liked the way the sun warmed his skin, the carefree laughter
he and Ginny shared, and the complete lack of aim or purpose. They’d
get there when they got there, and it didn’t really matter when. Harry
thrilled at that newfound freedom.

It was later in the day while they were eating the elaborate meal that
Tuggy had packed for them that a stray memory worked its way into his
thoughts. He and Ginny had spread a blanket on the sand, and Ginny was
digging through the basket as if she’d found a pirate’s treasure. As
Harry was well aware, all Weasleys liked to eat.

Ginny was wearing a very small – very sexy – black bikini that he knew
wasn’t on Mrs. Weasley’s list of approved beachwear. His mouth had hung
open, and he’d stood there gaping like a fish when she’d first removed
the shorts and t-shirt she’d worn for their ride. The supremely
satisfied smile on Ginny’s face told him she appreciated his reaction.

He was exceedingly happy that Ginny was sneaky enough to keep the tiny
bikini well hidden from both her mother and Ron, because Harry was
enjoying watching her wear it immensely. When she pulled some chilled
Pumpkin juice out of the basket and proceeded to pour it into gold-
plated mugs, a shiver ran down Harry’s spine. He shifted uncomfortably
as stray thoughts and images flashed in his mind, making him feel dizzy
as he tried to piece them together.

“All right, Harry?” Ginny asked, dropping one of the mugs so its
contents spilled everywhere. Ignoring the spill, she moved to sit next to him, watching him closely. “What’s wrong? You’ve lost all your

“Those mugs,” he said, still staring at the gold while trying to make
sense of his memories. Images flitted rapidly through his mind, making
his head spin.

“What about them?” Ginny asked, staring intently at the mugs as if
trying to decipher the problem. “They look like the ones at Hogwarts.
What’s wrong?”

“I…I remember,” he said, feeling dazed. The air seemed to still around
him and the crashing of the waves sounded distant and out of place.

Ginny frowned. “Remember?” she asked, holding her palms up in question.
“What do you remember? You’ve lost me.”

Harry swallowed, searching her eyes – for what he wasn’t certain – but
he knew that he needed to tell her. In the past, she’d always helped
him to feel better and set things to rights. Ginny would never laugh at
him, or call him mad, or tell him it was impossible.

“After I kil-” he paused, “After it was over, at the Ministry, I went
into that locked room.”

“What locked room?” she asked, clearly confused. “What are you on
about? You didn’t go anywhere, Harry. I was right with you, and you
didn’t leave that room until we brought you to St. Mungo’s.”

Harry shook his head. “No. I remember seeing you on the floor with me,
and I saw Hermione and Ron, too. It was like I was floating and
watching you all,” Harry said, struggling to get the words out.

Ginny’s eyes flew open wide, her irises expanding so much that the
brown was barely visible. “You were in the in-between?”

“The in-between?” Harry asked warily.

“It’s the place in-between life and death. Bill says that many people
have hovered there after a life-threatening experience. Those who
weren’t killed instantly and managed to recover from their injuries
have told about it,” Ginny said, awestruck.

“I suppose,” Harry said, not wanting to accept any more oddities in his
life. “Anyway, there’s this secret locked room in the Department of
Mysteries. Professor Dumbledore told me about it before he died. I went
in that room that night – and he was there, too,” Harry said, tensing
as he awaited her reaction.

Ginny swallowed. “Who was there?”

“Professor Dumbledore. He was waiting for me, and he said the only way
to get inside the locked room is within your mind,” Harry said,
reaching out and grabbing Ginny’s hand. She turned her palm upward and
clutched fiercely.
“That makes sense. The Unspeakables study all sorts of unanswered
things there,” she said with a tremor.

“He said that we were inside my mind, and I’d called him because he was
the one who usually explained stuff to me that I didn’t understand,”
Harry said, not wanting to delve into the fact that his mind had been
so barren at the time.

“Did he help you?” Ginny asked quietly. Her eyes were so wide – so
caring – that he thought he could fall into their depths. It
strengthened him, somehow.

“I couldn’t understand how I’d managed to do it,” Harry said, his
throat raw and scratchy. “He said the voices behind the Veil helped me.
He said some of them were people who’d loved me.”

Ginny rested her other hand on Harry’s knee, squeezing it gently and
waiting for him to gather his voice to continue.

It took him a few moments before he could. “He wasn’t the only one I
saw,” he said, a small tic working in his jaw.

“Oh?” Ginny asked, keeping the solid pressure on his knee.

Harry blinked rapidly. “Sirius arrived first. He missed the whole final
battle because he was chatting up some witch,” he said, chuckling a
little as he swiped at his nose.

Ginny smiled softly. “That really doesn’t surprise me.

“It…- it was good to see him again. I mean, it was good to see him that
way. It made it easier somehow,” Harry said, clearing his throat.

“Who else did you see?” Ginny asked.

“Remus and Tonks,” Harry said, swallowing again. “Remus looked better –
healthier than I’ve ever seen him. Strange since he’s dead, huh?” Harry

Ginny blinked hard. “No, not strange at all,” she whispered, her voice
strained. “Did you get to see your mum and dad, Harry?”

Harry paused again, running his fingers through the sand. Ginny kept a
firm grip on his hand while she leaned over to kiss the corner of his
eye. He was surprised to feel the moisture there.

“It took me awhile to call them. I know that’s strange since it’s what
I’d always wanted. I don’t know what was wrong with me,” he said

“What was it like?” Ginny whispered, sniffling.

“Amazing,” Harry breathed. “It – it was amazing. They like you. My mum
said to treat you well.”

“I like your mum,” Ginny said, laughing and wiping the tears from her
“I got to talk about Quidditch with my dad. He was going to build a
pitch in our garden, like at the Burrow. I really would have liked
that,” Harry said, excited over the mere thought of it.

“We’ll have to have our own pitch one day,” Ginny said before her eyes
flew open wide and bright color suffused her face. She looked as if she
wanted a hole to open up and swallow her right there. She began playing
with the sand, refusing to meet his eyes.

“Yeah?” Harry asked, swallowing heavily. “I’d like that. Sort of a
Weasley-Potter tradition, you know?” He looked back at the sand,
feeling very exposed. He risked a glance up through his fringe and
noticed she was still blushing, but also wearing a very self-satisfied

“They all said they wanted me to return to school for my last year,” he
said. “They wanted me to have one carefree year.”

“Then you should do it,” Ginny said, squeezing his fingers. She raised
her eyes to meet his. “You deserve that chance. It’s what I want, too.
Is it what you want?”

“Yeah,” he said, the answer suddenly very clear. “I do want to go back.
It’ll give me time to get my head on straight, and we’ll get to be
together for our last year with Ron and Hermione.”

He knew he still wanted to be an Auror – that ambition hadn’t changed
since he’d first heard about it as a fourth-year, but they would still
need Aurors in another year. Waiting a year for all the furor over
Voldemort’s demise to die down a bit might be a good thing. If he
completed his NEWTs, at least he could assure himself that he got into
the program on his own merit. Ron kept saying that they’d have to take
him; he’d already proved himself. To him, however, this would feel like
walking in on his own terms.

“I’d like that,” Ginny said, obviously delighted. She wrapped her arms
around his neck and kissed him soundly. “This is going to be the best
year ever.”

They enjoyed the rest of their lunch and spent their day splashing in
the waves. Harry’s thoughts would occasionally drift back to some of
the conversations he’d had with his lost loved ones. It all seemed so
very real – much more solid than a dream. Every once in a while, he’d
catch Ginny wearing a glazed expression and knew she was pondering, as

The sun had lost its heavy mid-afternoon heat, and they decided it was
time to return so they could shower before dinner. As they were packing
to leave, Harry asked, “D’you think I dreamed it?”

Ginny paused for a moment, pursing her lips. When she answered him, he
wasn’t surprised to find that she knew exactly what he’d meant without
needing him to clarify. “No. If anyone deserved that chance, it was
you. After all you’ve lost, and all you’ve given, it seems right that
you’d be allowed the chance to make peace before you really started to
live,” she said slowly, as if carefully choosing each word.
Harry blinked and pulled her into an embrace. “I love you,” he

“I love you, too,” she said.

The soft, husky quality in her voice sent shivers down his spine. He
wrapped his arms around her more tightly and lowered his head. Their
kisses were soft and tentative at first, but they gradually grew
stronger and more impassioned. He could taste the faint hint of
chocolate as he kissed her.

Despite the fact they were still standing on the beach and not nearly
as secluded as he would have preferred, he allowed his hands to roam
where they’d wanted to go all day. The skimpy lines of her bathing suit
were driving him mad. She melded into him, pressing herself so close
that he knew she could feel his desire.

He’d always tried to pull back from her when this happened, to maintain
that level of control, but now, his body hummed as her hands traced
feather-light caresses along his chest, and his need seemed
overwhelming. He didn’t want to wait anymore. Voldemort was gone, and
there was no longer any need to allow him to affect Harry’s choices.

He knew Ron had been entering Hermione’s room each night on the pretext
of saying goodnight, and that he would always stay to say good morning,
too, but Harry and Ginny had yet to take that step. He looked into her
deep, brown eyes and saw only love and acceptance there, surrounded by
the heat of desire.

“Ginny,” he said, moving her hair back and tracing his fingers along
her scar. She was driving him mad, and he could barely think straight
here on the beach, never mind back at the house. He wanted to be
certain she felt as ready as he did.

“Why don’t you come in and say goodnight to me when we retire tonight,
Harry?” she whispered, her voice low and throaty.

Harry thought his knees might buckle. “I can do that,” he replied, his
voice cracking like it hadn’t done since he was thirteen.

He ran his hands through her hair, over her shoulders and down her back
as he leaned over to kiss her once again. Her hands continued to
explore as she opened her mouth to deepen the kiss.

The fabric of her bikini was soft, but her skin felt softer and the
simple fact there was so much of it exposed aroused him further.

Panting, he finally had to pull back, knowing it would take a while
before he was able to ride the bike home.

“Ginny…” he said.

“Tonight,” she whispered, lightly kissing his nose.

Getting through dinner that evening was nearly unbearable.

Harry awoke slowly, leisurely, feeling the gentle ocean breeze drifting
in from the open window. A wispy tickle beneath his nose caused him to
raise his hand to rub it. His hand encountered silky soft tendrils of
hair beneath his nose and continuing downward so they were splayed
across his chest.

His eyes flew open wide to find a sleeping Ginny nestled snugly beneath
his shoulder. Her bare arm was draped casually across his hips, and the
warmth of her skin eagerly awoke other parts of his anatomy. Memories
of the previous evening filled his heart and mind, and a lazy smile
drifted across his face. He lay there for a moment, taking the time to
fully awaken while he twined a piece of her hair between his fingers.

Last night had been the most amazing night of his life. Despite the
fact he hadn’t known the first thing about what he was doing, it had
turned out bloody brilliantly. Well…for him, anyway. He wasn’t certain
it had been the highlight of Ginny’s life, but he delighted in the
knowledge that he now had all the time in the world to practice until
he got it right for her. In fact, his diligence would make Hermione’s
dedication to her studies pale in comparison.

Grinning daftly, he extricated himself from Ginny’s embrace and
searched the floor for his jeans. He dressed quickly, although he had
some difficulty due to certain uncooperative parts of his body. Giving
a cursory glance around Ginny’s room to ensure that he hadn’t left
anything incriminating behind, he realized for the first time how Ginny
had made this room her own. Although far from frilly, it was definitely
bright and, well…girlish.

The candles she had lit were still burning on her dresser, giving off a
sweet, flowery scent that reminded him very much of Ginny. Gardenia,
she had called it, although he’d barely been listening at the time.

Snot sat on the other end of the dresser with his back facing the room.
Harry distinctly remembered turning him around the previous evening.
Somehow, he just couldn’t have his way with Ginny with that stupid bear
that she’d had since she was a little girl watching him. Ginny had
giggled, finding his discomfort extremely amusing.

Shaking his head to clear the memory, he gently kissed Ginny’s forehead
before slipping from the room. Although he had no regrets about the
previous evening, he didn’t want to face an irate Ron first thing after
discovering the wonder he and Ginny had shared.

He knew Ron would most likely still be asleep in Hermione’s room, but
Harry opened Ron’s door very cautiously anyway. Finding it empty, he
slipped inside and opened the bottom drawer of Ron’s dresser, knowing
exactly where Ron would have hidden the item Harry sought. He found the
book hidden inside the only neatly folded pair of jeans in the drawer.
Sitting on the floor, he haphazardly flipped through the pages of What
Every Wizard Needs to Know About Pleasing His Witch.

Fred had given the book to Harry as a joke back in fifth year after
Harry’s failed date with Cho Chang. It had embarrassed Harry
enormously, which of course had been Fred’s intent. Harry and Ron had eventually shared a few laughs over it. In truth, it was really the
only formal education that Harry had ever received on the matter –
other than Ron’s awkward repetition of what his dad had told him.

Harry hadn’t seen the book again until he’d caught Ron reading it after
Ron had started dating Lavender. Other than a few good-natured barbs at
his mate, Harry had again let it slip his mind. Now, he found it
extremely ironic that the ultimate joke was on Fred since Harry would
use the knowledge he gained from the book on Fred’s own sister. Life
was funny sometimes.

He carried the book back to his own room and snuggled down inside his
bedcovers. He read for quite awhile until his eyes grew too heavy to
keep them open anymore. He really hadn’t got much sleep the previous
evening. He hid the book under his mattress and rolled over for a kip.


The mid-morning sun was blazing high in the sky when a pounding on his
door startled Harry awake. He sat up straight, clutching the sheet to
his chest and fumbling for his glasses as Ron burst into the room.

“What’s wrong with you?” Ron asked. “Are you going to sleep the day

Unless there was a fishing expedition planned for the day, it was rare
for Ron to be awake before Harry.

“Wha-” Harry asked groggily, wiping his face.

Hermione and Ginny followed Ron into the room, both giggling at Harry’s
dazed expression. Ginny colored brightly when he caught her eye, and
she looked down at the floor. Harry felt that mad grin returning to his
face despite his nervousness. He was tongue-tied and didn’t have the
faintest idea what he should say.

He really wished Ron and Hermione weren’t there. Was there some way
they could tell what happened? Would they know? Ron would pound him,
and he couldn’t bear to see that knowing twinkle in Hermione’s eye. He
really wanted to talk with Ginny alone rather than just sit here
smiling at her…

“You missed breakfast, and it’s nearly lunch. What did you two end up
doing yesterday that’s got you so knackered?” Ron asked, breaking into
Harry’s rambling thoughts.

“Er,” Harry said, faltering and feeling thoroughly trapped.

Ginny’s eyes flew open wide, panicked. She imperceptibly shook her head
– as if he’d needed her warning not to tell Ron what they’d really been

“Er,” he repeated, his voice cracking humiliatingly.

“We went to the beach. You know - down to that part where the waves are
really big,” Ginny said, speaking very fast. “We rode the bike there.
Harry used some Charms so he didn’t hurt his arm. It’s doing much better. We brought a picnic lunch. Tuggy packed chicken and some lovely
bread, and she gave us this wonderful chocolate tart for pudding.”

Hermione’s eyes sharpened as she glanced back and forth between Harry
and Ginny. That knowing twinkle that Harry had feared lit her face, and
she stared pointedly at Ginny’s impersonation of Colin Creevey. Harry
flushed and had to look away.

Fortunately, Ginny’s talking about food had distracted Ron from her

“I’m hungry,” Ron said. “Let’s ask Tuggy to prepare a basket for us,
and we can eat it before we go out on the jet skis. I’m not going
fishing today, so I’d like to have a go.”

“Why don’t we all go and put our swimming costumes on?” Hermione said
sweetly, tugging on Ginny’s arm.

“Right. Meet you in the kitchen,” Ron said, hurrying for his room.

“Ginny, can I have a word?” Harry asked, clearing his throat. He still
refused to meet Hermione’s eyes and could feel the heat radiating from
his skin.

“You’d best let me do your Sunblock Charm today, Harry,” Hermione said,
smirking. “You must’ve done a poor job yesterday; you’re horribly red.”

If possible, Harry knew he flushed even deeper. Hermione giggled as she
pranced down the hallway to her own room.

“Hey,” Ginny said after Hermione had shut her door. Her cheeks were
bright, and she repeatedly scuffed her toe on the floor.

“Hey,” Harry said, not understanding why he felt so wrong-footed. Why
was it suddenly so hard to talk with her? It was as if they’d both been
transported back to his first summer at the Burrow.

“You said you needed to have a word?” Ginny asked, and there was a
distinct clipped tone to her voice.

Harry glanced up quickly to find her arms folded across her chest and a
faint frown on her face. He knew her well enough to know she was upset
about something, and his stomach dropped, realizing that she must have
decided last night was a mistake.

“Er,” he said, feeling lost. What could he say? It wasn’t as if it
could be undone? How was he supposed to fix this?

“You’re very eloquent this morning, Harry,” she said drolly, never
dropping her rigid posture. “Look, if there’s something you want to
say, just say it.”

Harry ran a hand through his hair, feeling things slipping further from
his control. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“Yeah, I picked up on that,” Ginny said tartly.
Harry blinked, completely nettled. “I love you,” he said, blurting the
first thing that came to his mind. He did love her, and he hoped that
she enjoyed hearing him say it as much as he enjoyed hearing it from

Ginny stared at him, and for the first time, he noticed the thin sheen
to her eyes. “I’m glad,” she whispered, resting her back against the
wall. “I was surprised to wake up alone.”

Harry’s eyes widened in comprehension. She thought he’d run away! He
jumped from the bed and quickly crossed the room towards her.

“No! I left because I didn’t want Ron to find me there. I didn’t want
to start off with a row,” he said quickly, brushing a single tear from
the corner of her eye.

“You’re not sorry then?” she asked, barely breathing.

“Never. I’ll never be sorry about what we did. I love what we did. I
want to do it again,” Harry said fervently.

A tremulous smile crossed Ginny’s face. “Good,” she whispered, blushing

“Last night was amazing, Ginny. I’ve never been so happy in my entire
life. I know it wasn’t as perfect for you, but I’ll get better, I
swear,” Harry said, speaking very fast.

“You were fine,” Ginny said, giggling and covering his mouth with her

“No, really. I’ve learned a few things,” Harry said earnestly. “It’ll
get better, I promise.”

“Learned a few things? In the past few hours? How?” Ginny asked,
furrowing her brow.

“Trust me, okay?” Harry asked, feeling so hot he thought he’d explode.
He really didn’t want to have to admit anything about the book to her
just then. This intimacy between them was new, and it would take him
awhile to get used to it.

“Okay,” Ginny said, giggling, “but you’re really being too hard on
yourself. I was nervous, too. We’re both new at this, so we’ll learn

“We just need practice,” Harry said, waggling his eyebrows.

“Yeah,” Ginny said, chuckling. “It’s going to be a nightmare on the
beach with Ron and Hermione. I don’t think I’ll be able to stop

“And I just want to touch you,” Harry said honestly. “It’ll be hard to
control myself around Ron. Hermione knows.”

“Yeah. I caught that,” Ginny said. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell her to leave
you alone. I’m certain she’s waiting for me back in my room.”
“What are you going to say?” Harry asked warily.

“Everything,” Ginny replied brightly.

“Everything?” he asked, swallowing hard.

“Oh, Harry,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes. “The one thing you blokes
never seem to understand about girls is the easiest thing of all. We
talk. You know when blokes get to that sticky, emotional part of a
conversation where they slap each other on the back and pretend it
didn’t happen? That’s where girls start a conversation. We like
details, and we talk. How do you suppose it is that I knew all about
Hermione and Viktor while you and Ron didn’t?”

“I suppose,” Harry said, scratching his neck. He still felt
uncomfortable wondering what Ginny would say to Hermione.

“Just don’t think about it,” Ginny said, laughing. “How do you think I
feel knowing that if you’re going to share anything it’ll be with my

Harry snorted. “That’s just the thing, I can’t even tell Ron!”

“It’ll get easier as we all get used to it,” Ginny said sagely. “You’ll

Harry nodded, hoping she was right. Ginny returned to her own room, and
he put on some trunks to go to the beach.


The rest of the summer passed in a haze of sunny days on the beach,
moonlit strolls, and nights filled with wonder and discovery. Both
Harry and Ginny’s birthdays passed and before they knew it, it was time
to return to the real world.

Harry had sent notes with Hedwig to Professor McGonagall and Mrs.
Weasley, informing them of his plans to return to school. The four
friends had arranged to go back to the Burrow three days before the
start of term in order to give them time to collect their books, and
for Ginny to visit the Ministry to take the test to get her License to

After long and heartfelt goodbyes to Andromeda and Ted, the four teens
Flooed back to the Burrow. Draco had been waiting by the fireplace to
see them off and told them that he’d see them at Hogwarts. Although
still moving very slowly, he was recovering as well, and had also
decided to complete his last year of schooling.

It would make for a year full of surprises.

At the Burrow, Harry was the last to emerge from the fireplace,
stepping into the newly-renovated Weasley kitchen. It was both familiar
and not so familiar with all the changes and bright, new additions. The
long wooden table was still in the center of the room, but the wood was new, shiny, and unmarred. The kitchen still smelled fantastic, and the
aroma of all of Harry’s favorite foods assaulted his senses first

“Harry! You landed on your feet,” Ron said, amazed. The blue of his
eyes shone clearly. Ron might never admit it, but he was happy to be

Harry blinked, staring back at the fireplace for a moment. “So I did,”
he said, grinning. “Maybe I’ve finally grown up.”

“How are you, Harry?” Fred asked, slapping him on the back.

Harry shook his hand, grinning. “I’m good. The beach was fantastic.”

“Just look at how tanned and healthy you all look,” Mrs. Weasley said
tearfully. She let go of Hermione to give Harry one of her bone-
crushing hugs. “Welcome home.”

Harry hugged her back tightly, delighting in the embrace. “It’s good to
be home,” he said, meaning it.

“Ginny, look at all those new freckles! Did you remember to wear your
hat?” Mrs. Weasley fussed, reaching out to touch Ginny’s face.

“I always have freckles, Mum,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes.

“What’s for dinner? I’m starving,” Ron asked.

“How was Andromeda?” Bill asked. “I’ve met her several times through
Gringotts, but I haven’t seen her since we lost Tonks.”

“She’s doing well,” Harry replied. “A bit eccentric, but I suppose I
shouldn’t have expected anything else.”

“Ze ‘oliday agreed with you, ‘Arry,” Fleur said, leaning over to kiss
both cheeks. “You look very good.”

“Thanks,” Harry replied, blushing. He looked down and noticed the
slight bulge on Fleur’s belly. “How are you feeling?”

“I am as well as I can be. I do not like zees morning sickness zat
lasts all day,” she said, frowning.

“Right,” Harry replied, running a hand through his hair.

As Bill moved away to talk to Ron, Fleur leaned over and whispered in
Harry’s ear, “I think it is ze medicine of love zat has healed you
better zan ze sea, no?” Her eyes twinkled merrily as she shot a pointed
glance toward Ginny.

Ginny stood chatting with her father, but she smiled when she noticed
Harry’s gaze and gave him a wink. Harry smiled back, and Fleur nodded,

“Harry!” George said, slapping him on the back. He’d walked over
without the slightest hint of a limp. “How are you, mate?”
“Hi, Harry,” Shannon said.

“Hi!” Harry replied. “How are you?”

“Good as new,” George replied, beaming. “Business is booming. Fred,
Shannon and I have barely managed to get a day off. We closed early
today so we could all be here for dinner.”

Shannon and George’s hands were clasped together, and they appeared
very comfortable with one another. Harry could see Iris in the far end
of the room helping Mrs. Weasley place the food on the table.

Charlie was also home and had brought his Romanian girlfriend,
Ekaterina. Harry remembered her from Bill’s wedding. They were both
sitting at the table and chatting with Hermione.

A warm, pleasant feeling washed over Harry. It felt good to be home and
surrounded by his favorite people. The Weasley kitchen was as hectic
and full of activity as it always been, and it was dizzying to try and
keep up with the scattered conversations.

They were all putting their lives back together and building a future,
but they still took the time to regroup and simply enjoy one another’s
company. Harry was no longer that little boy stuffed, unwanted, inside
a cupboard; instead he was an integral part of a warm and loving
family. Through all the hell and destruction Voldemort had wrought in
his life, in the end Harry had ended up with exactly what he’d always

As Mrs. Weasley placed the food on the table and the feeding frenzy
began, Ginny took the chair beside his, clasping his hand beneath the
table. Her eyes sparkled happily, filling his belly with warmth.

He sat back before filling his own plate, quietly observing the others.
Ron and Hermione sat across from him, Ron filling his plate to
overflowing and slopping more onto Hermione’s plate, as well. The scar
on Mr. Weasley’s wrist peeked from the sleeve of his robe as he reached
for some potatoes. He could see Fleur’s scar as she pushed her hair
behind her ear and knew Ginny’s was visible beneath her hairline.

Each and every one of them had been marred by the war in one way or
another. Perhaps the reason he truly felt so at home here was that he
knew the mark on his own forehead was truly just another scar.

Chapter Thirty-Four


The September sun shone brightly over the rolling meadow that lay
behind the Burrow. Harry leisurely walked across a well-used path,
inhaling the crisp autumn scents and pointing out the changing colors
of the leaves to the infant he carried in his arms. It had been a
little over four years since Voldemort’s defeat, and Harry still hadn’t
got over the wonder of being able to go outside alone, unhindered and
without fear of constant attack.
Ginny often teased him about his continued habit of keeping his wand in
his back pocket or within easy reach at all times. Even four years
later, she still had to be careful not to startle him when entering a
room. All in all, though, he was finally becoming comfortable in his
own skin. He could even tolerate the reporters who, after four years,
still asked for his opinion on current events.

He’d gone back to school that first autumn after Voldemort’s demise.
He, Ron, Hermione and Ginny had had their carefree year – well,
carefree for all save Hermione, who fretted continuously over the
upcoming NEWTs. Harry had done well on his exams despite Hermione’s
predictions of doom and gloom as a result of his deplorable revising
habits. He acknowledged that he could have been a better student, but
at the time, he was having too much fun to worry about it. He’d already
had a lifetime of worry.

When they’d finished school, he and Ron had immediately joined the
Ministry and began their Auror training. After everything they’d done
during the war, they were able to complete their education in two years
rather than three, and they’d begun work straightaway.

At first, they’d been assigned separate partners. Their Academy
instructor had insisted that rookies needed to be paired with older,
more experienced veterans. That had lasted for about three months
before their transfer papers arrived, signed by none other than
Kingsley Shacklebolt. Kingsley had insisted that strict adherence to
the Ministry’s old policies was what had got them all into trouble in
the first place. If something worked – don’t fix it. Ron and Harry had
been partnered ever since.

Hermione had gone into training to become a Healer. She’d only recently
finished her schooling and was apprenticing under a fully-qualified
Healer at St. Mungo’s. Ginny had gone to work at the Ministry for the
Accidental Magic Reversal Squad. Her training had only taken a year, so
she was actually the first of the four to get out and work, earning her
own wages.

After the war had ended, there had been a mad rush of weddings and
babies. Mrs. Weasley said it had happened after the first war, too.
People just wanted to celebrate the good things in life. The first of
Harry’s friends to get married had been Neville Longbottom, of all
people. He and Susan Bones had both worked in the Apothecary in Diagon
Alley after Hogwarts had closed, and romance blossomed soon after.

Seamus Finnegan and Demelza Robbins were next, followed by Lavender
Brown and Oliver Wood. Oddly enough, it was this spate of weddings and
all of their friends marrying young that turned Hermione off the idea.
Although Ron would have married her right out of school, Hermione
wanted to wait until the furor over the end of the war had died down.
She didn’t want to be accused of having it influence her decision.

Harry’d had no such qualms. He had asked Ginny to marry him on the
Hogwarts grounds during their last day at the castle. She’d accepted,
and they were married only a few months later on the first of
September. That day had always been one that Harry had counted down to
reach, so he wanted something to always mark the significance. He was proud to say that September the first had dramatically changed his life
for the better on two separate occasions.

He’d thought he and Ginny would have a small wedding right at the
Burrow surrounded by the Weasley family and a few close friends. Mrs.
Weasley and the Wizarding world had other ideas. They’d ended up
getting married at Hogwarts in a morning ceremony before the students
had arrived.

Harry had gritted his teeth and borne the fussing and fawning because
he knew he was the one who won in the end. He got to be married to
Ginny, and he’d never regretted that decision. Using the money Sirius
had left him, they’d bought a very private, secluded bit of land not
too far from Ottery St. Catchpole – but not too close, either. They’d
built their own house – one with plenty of land for a Quidditch pitch,
decorated and furnished the house together, and four months ago, their
son, James Harry Potter had been born.

Harry chuckled, remembering how desperately Ginny had wanted a son.
Weasleys always had sons, but her brothers liked to tease her that
since she was the girl, she’d have girls. Of course, that only made
Ginny determined to prove them wrong. Harry had watched her stick her
nose in the air, and her eyes narrowed with that ‘I-can-do-anything-
you-can-do’ attitude that he loved so much about her. He knew that
technically the sex of the baby was determined by him, but he’d never
doubt Ginny’s will. He was certain that their next child would be a
girl simply so Ginny could prove to her brothers that she could also do
what they couldn’t.

Harry didn’t care. He was just happy to see his family growing rather
than shrinking for a change. He’d told Ginny he didn’t care if they had
two children or twenty, he just wanted James to have a sibling so he’d
never be alone. Ginny had stroked his cheek fondly while insisting it
wouldn’t be twenty.

Although Ginny had bought the very best pram – according to Mothering
Witches – Harry still preferred carrying his son when they went for a
stroll. They had plenty of money to live comfortably, but Ginny was
still a rather frugal girl. Frugal about everything – except when it
came to her son, that is. For him, nothing but the best would do – and
Ginny was convinced he needed everything they advertised. Every time
she read one of those endless Wizarding parenting magazines, she’d fret
that she was somehow doing something wrong because James didn’t have
some new-fangled contraption.

Harry really didn’t care what she bought, or whether they ever used it,
as long as it made Ginny happy. She’d given him the best gift in the
world, and each day he was surprised to learn something new about his
little miracle. He might have missed doing all those father and son
things as a child, but he’d be damned certain he got to do them as a
father. He’d dressed the little tyke in gray track suit pants with a
red hooded sweatshirt and brought him outside for a bit of fresh air.
The Burrow felt rather stuffy with all the chattering ladies inside.

The reason for all the chattering ladies was the long-awaited,
approaching nuptials of Ron and Hermione. They were due to marry the following day in a Muggle church near Hermione’s family home. Harry and
Ginny were standing up as witnesses, and it was their job to get the
bride and groom to the church on time.

Harry thought he had the easy end of that deal. Ron had been ready for
this moment for ages – it was Hermione who was the nervous wreck. Poor
Ginny really had her hands full there. Hermione had been throwing
wobblies over inane little details for weeks. She’d always been a bit
mental, and Harry thought weddings made all women go mad.

“See, that’s the shed where your grandmother keeps all your uncles’ old
brooms. Your mum used to nick them when they weren’t looking,” he told
James as they walked past the shed behind the Burrow.

The baby was far more interested in chewing on the collar of Harry’s
shirt, but Harry really didn’t mind. His son had the same bright green
eyes as he did, but his untidy mop of hair was rust-colored rather than
either red or black. Harry liked to say he was the perfect mixture of
both parents.

He ran the pad of his thumb over his son’s soft cheek, marveling at how
someone so small could have him so completely wrapped around such a
tiny little finger. It had been that way from the moment James had
arrived in the world.

“Harry!” Bill called, trotting to catch up to him. Bill carried his
giggling, now three-year-old son, Claude, on his shoulders. Fleur was
due to give birth to their second child any day.

Hermione swore it would be just like Fleur to deliver on Hermione’s
wedding day, but Fleur was still the picture of calm serenity. Harry
fondly remembered Ginny’s pregnancy and how the two of them had been so
overwhelmed by each new development, however small. Perhaps having a
second one was easier since you had experience behind you?

“Mum said you were out here with James. The tension in that kitchen is
unreal,” Bill said, slowing his pace to walk with Harry.

“Hey, Bill. Hey, Claude,” Harry said, reaching up to ruffle his
nephew’s hair.

His nephew.

He had a nephew – two of them, actually. The fact he was part of a big
and loving family still amazed him sometimes.

“Bonjour, Unca Harry,” Claude said, beaming.

“It’s still rough in there, huh?” Harry asked, jerking his head toward
the house.

“Hermione is having a meltdown because George told her he forgot to
arrange coverage for the shop tomorrow, so he has to work. Of course,
everyone knows he’s just taking the mickey out of her, but Hermione had
the screaming abdabs, anyway,” Bill said, shaking his head.

“She’s just nervous,” Harry replied.
“Yeah. You’d know something about that, eh, mate?” Bill asked, gently
knocking Harry’s shoulder with his own.

Harry grinned sheepishly. He’d been a basket case before his own
wedding. He’d been convinced right up until the moment he spoke his
vows that something would happen to snatch it all away.

“Hermione doesn’t like when she can’t control everything. Despite
knowing exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow, it’s never happened to
her, so she’s nervous. She’ll pull it together, she always does,” Harry
said fondly.

“How’s Ron?” Bill asked. “I haven’t seen him.”

“Fred and Charlie took him out to get a pint, hence the reason there
are so many witches in there,” Harry replied.

“And George,” said Bill. “He’s the sole male presence in the kitchen,
and even he is looking rather overwhelmed.”

“George is in charge of Loki, and I’ve got James, so we couldn’t go to
the pub. Charlie said it was only bachelor blokes allowed, anyway,”
Harry said, chuckling. It took a lot to overwhelm either George or
Fred, so Harry was just as happy to be outside with James.

George and Shannon had been married right around the same time as Harry
and Ginny, and their son, Loki was just over a year old. Fred and Iris
were still together, but it was a constant on-again, off-again kind of
relationship. Charlie usually arrived for family functions with a
beautiful witch on his arm – but it was generally a different witch
each time. It drove Mrs. Weasley spare.

“Merlin, I hope they don’t get Ron pissed. That’s all he needs to
completely send Hermione over the edge,” Bill said, shaking his head.
His expression belied his words, however. Harry suspected that he
really did hope Fred and Charlie got Ron pissed.

Harry snorted. “Hopefully they’ve practiced their Sobriety Charms.”

“If not, I’m certain Mum will sort them all out – she certainly had to
take care of you after your stag night,” Bill said, laughing fondly.

Harry scowled at the memory. “You lot left me outside wearing nothing
but my pants!”

“It’s your fault for getting so pissed. The Savior of the Wizarding
World and all – you should be able to handle your Firewhisky better
than that,” Bill said.

“Everyone has their flaws,” Harry said, disgruntled. “It’s not as if
it’s Ron’s real stag night, anyway. We took care of that last weekend.
Fred and Charlie just needed to get away from all those hens.”

He scowled at the ‘Savior of the Wizarding World’ comment. He still
hated the vast number of titles that were used when referring to him.
The anniversary of the date when Voldemort had fallen had been proclaimed as Potter’s Day and was celebrated the way Muggles
celebrated Bonfire Night. Harry usually tried to escape the festivities
by taking a seaside holiday during that time each year.

This past Potter’s Day, Fred and George had invented t-shirts depicting
Voldemort’s downfall. They’d been unable to sell it, however, because
Harry’s image refused to remain in the shot.

“Heh, Charlie’s always run when the witches start to cluster, but I
think Fred is closer to wanting George’s lifestyle than he’s ready to
admit,” Bill said sagely.

James shifted his attention from Harry’s collar then reached out and
grabbed his glasses, making cooing noises all the while. It took Harry
a moment to pry them out of the baby’s little fingers and readjust them
on his face. When he did, the world was distorted through a hodgepodge
of smeared fingerprints. Harry quickly cast a spell to clean them.

“Papa, you promised to fly! Take me! Take me!” Claude said, tugging on
Bill’s hair to regain his attention.

“Ah, a promise is a promise,” Bill said, smiling and disengaging his
ponytail from his son’s tight grasp. “Care to join us?”

Harry shook his head ruefully. “I promised Ginny not until his first
birthday,” he said, regretting that vow more and more. “We’re going to
continue our stroll.”

Harry hoisted James more securely on his shoulder and walked along the
fence surrounding the Burrow’s property. The crisp October wind caused
James to shiver and cuddle closer to his dad. His little eyes widened
when the wind gusted in his face, and Harry laughed out loud at the
shocked expression.

James’s first Halloween was approaching, and Harry wanted to make it
special. He knew the baby was really too little to appreciate it, but
Harry was enjoying experiencing all the childhood things he’d missed
through his son.

He’d been so terrified when he’d first learned that he was going to be
a father. What did he know about raising babies? He’d certainly had no
experience to base anything on. If he’d thought Ginny would be a great
source of information, he was sadly mistaken. Ginny was the baby of her
family, and she was nearly as clueless as he was about what to do.

After several long and calming conversations with both Mr. and Mrs.
Weasley, they had relaxed – a little. Harry still worried about how
he’d handle it when it came time to discipline his son. He certainly
didn’t want to do anything to follow Uncle Vernon’s example. He’d begun
paying much more attention to how Mr. Weasley interacted with his sons,
and closely watching Bill and George and how they related to theirs.

Between Ginny and him, they’d figure it all out together. They always
did. Perhaps, if Ron and Hermione were quicker to start their own
family than they had been about getting married, they could all conquer
the battle of parenthood together, as well.
Lost as he was in his own thoughts, he was surprised to stumble across
Hermione outside in the chilly air. She was leaning on the fence far
from the house, her face turned toward the wind so it whipped her hair
about wildly.

“Hermione?” Harry asked, taking several tentative steps toward her.

One never knew how Hermione would take an interruption these days. She
was the epitome of a frantic bride. He was surprised, therefore, when
she turned toward him with a tear-streaked face.

“Hermione! What’s wrong?” he asked.

James must have sensed his distress for he shifted in Harry’s arms and
began to fuss.

“Oh, Harry! Everything’s changing,” Hermione said, sniffling.

“What’s changing, Hermione?” Harry asked, grinning while bouncing James
slightly on his shoulder to settle him.

“It’ll all be so different, and things are so nice the way they are. I
don’t want that to be ruined,” she said, sniffling.

Harry blinked, baffled. He knew it was mostly nerves – combined with
Hermione’s utter dislike of feeling out of control, but he was afraid
that whatever he said would be wrong. He also knew he had to try.

“Hermione, it’s going to be all right,” Harry said, wrapping his free
arm around her and hugging her close.

“Oh! That’s easy for you to say!” Hermione said, crossing her arms
across her chest.

“It is easy for me to say,” Harry replied, chuckling, “because I’ve
been where you are. And who was the one who talked me down? Who was the
only one who calmed me on my wedding day?”

“I was,” Hermione said, a tiny smile playing on her lips. “Well, Ginny
did, too, once the ceremony started.”

“Right – as Ron will for you once you’re standing with each other.
Before that, though, I was panic-stricken. You were the one who made me
see that I was getting exactly what I’d always wanted. And you were
right. Now, today, it’s your turn. You and Ron have waited a long time
for this day, Hermione,” Harry said smiling.

Hermione sniffled again and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.
James began cooing again while sucking on his fist.

“My mum and I used to talk about my wedding when I was a little girl.
The reason I agreed to do this the Muggle way was to make some of her
dreams come true, as well. We’ve drifted so far since I went away to
Hogwarts,” Hermione said.

“Hagrid told me after seven years at Hogwarts, I wouldn’t recognize
myself,” Harry said. “That was certainly true.”
“Oh, Harry! For me, too. I sometimes feel like a complete stranger when
I do normal, Muggle things with my parents. I belong to this world,
now,” Hermione said.

“You belong to both, because your upbringing there helped to shape you
into the person you are today. It’s all connected – it took me a long
time to figure that out. If things didn’t happen the way they did, I
might never have befriended or even met all of you. Everything happens
for a reason, and change can be good,” Harry said, shrugging.

“When did you get so wise?” Hermione asked, giggling as she gently
nudged his shoulder with her own.

“I had a friend who was a great influence on me when I was younger,”
Harry replied, nudging her back. “Big, bushy hair, kind of a know-it-
all. You might have known her.”

“Oh, ho. Very funny,” Hermione said, swatting him gently and gaining
James’ attention.

“She grew into quite a beauty,” Harry said, smiling.

Hermione’s eyes flew open wide and for a moment Harry feared she was
going to start crying again, but James saved him by reaching out and
grabbing a fistful of Hermione’s hair. He tugged, trying to bring it
into his mouth.

“Uh, oh,” Harry said, “hang on. He does this to Ginny all the time.”

“Ouch!” Hermione said, although she was laughing.

“Little bugger has a knack for tangling his fingers in there,” Harry
said, desperately trying to free Hermione from his son’s tight grasp.
The baby squealed with pleasure.

“Harry!” Hermione chided. “You can’t use that kind of language in front
of your son! What’s the matter with you?”

“He can’t talk yet, Hermione,” Harry said, laughing. “He knew the tone
of my voice was friendly.”

“Oh? And what will you tell Ginny when she has to write in his baby
book that his first word was ‘bugger?’” Hermione asked.

Harry chuckled. “I’ll tell her it was Ron’s fault.”

Hermione shook her head, laughing. “You two will never change.”

“See! That’s a good thing. When I came out here you didn’t like
change,” Harry said, beaming.

“I love you, Harry,” she said, throwing her arms around him and hugging
both him and James.

James squawked in protest, causing Hermione to release them.
“I love you, too, James,” she said.

“There you all are,” Ginny said, smiling as she strode across the
meadow to greet them. The fading sunlight shone off her hair, making it
glow with an ethereal beauty. Harry had never got over his fascination
with her hair – and he didn’t think he ever would.

“I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” she said, wrapping a hand-knit
baby blanket around James and taking him from Harry’s arms.

Harry frowned slightly. The one thing that always disappointed him
about visiting the Burrow was that there was always a pair of hands
eager to take the baby away.

“Fleur and Shannon are talking with Mum about Auntie Muriel’s tiara,
Hermione. You’d best get up there if you don’t want to find it
incorporated into that pretty veil of yours,” Ginny said, one corner of
her mouth quirking wryly.

“Oh, no. I’d better hurry back in there. Thanks, Harry,” Hermione said,
hurrying back toward the house.

“Hello, gorgeous,” Harry said, leaning over and kissing his wife on the

Ginny frowned slightly looking down at her faded jeans and bulky
jumper. “I might not be gorgeous today, but I will be tomorrow,” she
said. “I can’t believe that dress finally fits me. I was so worried I
wouldn’t be able to get into it in time.”

“You look gorgeous now. You always look gorgeous,” Harry said, leaning
over and kissing her again. He knew from experience that he was talking
to deaf ears, but as far as he was concerned, she was the most gorgeous
creature on her earth – along with their son, of course.

“Where have you been?” Ginny asked holding James in the air. She
giggled when he grabbed for her nose. “You’ve been gone for ages.”

“I showed James the Quidditch pitch,” Harry said.

“You didn’t take him up on a broom, did you, Harry?” she asked,
narrowing her eyes.

“I didn’t! You can ask Bill. We took a long walk around the woods and
examined all the colors. James threw my glasses on the ground three
times,” Harry said, listing their adventures.

“Why don’t you just Charm them to stay on?” Ginny asked, laughing.

“That would ruin his game,” Harry said, shocked she would suggest such
a thing.

Ginny smiled fondly, leaning over to kiss him properly. James again
voiced his disapproval of being caught in the middle.
“We should head inside. Mum is just about to serve dinner, and it’s
getting chilly out here. Mum’s arranged for the three kids to stay in
the nursery tonight, so they’ll all be here in the morning for

Mrs. Weasley had converted Percy’s old room into a nursery for her
visiting grandchildren. She’d said it was a way to remind herself that
life went on.

“Gabrielle is really going to be okay watching all three of them?”
Harry asked, feeling slightly panicked. Fleur’s sister had offered to
mind the Weasley grandchildren while they attended the wedding, but it
would be the first time Harry and Ginny had left James with anyone
besides family.

“She won’t be alone,” Ginny said bracingly. “She’s bringing a friend,
and the two of them will be fine.”

“Is Ron back yet?” Harry asked.

“Oh, no. I don’t expect to see him for hours. Hermione is spending the
night at her parents’ house, and Fleur looked ready to go to bed when I
was inside. Hermione will kill her if she goes into labor tonight,”
Ginny said, laughing.

“So, a quiet evening at home, then?” Harry asked, waggling his

“Hmm,” Ginny replied, her eyes twinkling mischievously. “I’m certain
we’ll come up with something to do.”

Harry grinned, wrapping his arm around his wife. “Come on, Mrs. Potter.
I’m suddenly exhausted. I think we’ll have to retire early.”

“Right! As if my parents won’t see right through that, Harry. They’ll
know you want to have your wicked way with me,” Ginny said, scoffing.

“Er, Ginny. I think they’ve figured that out already. After all, you’re
holding the evidence in your arms,” Harry said, tickling James under
his chin. The baby squealed with delight before beginning to fuss at
Ginny’s sweater.

“Sorry, love, but it looks like your son wants to have his way with me
first,” Ginny said, laughing. “Let me feed him, then we’ll have our own
dinner before putting him down for the night.”

“All right,” Harry said, pouting.

Ginny laughed, nudging him gently. “Then we can go home and engage in
those other activities.”

The monster in Harry’s chest perked up its head and roared.


The morning of the wedding dawned cloudy and gray with a very light
sheen of moisture in the air. Although it was typical English weather, Luna had informed Hermione that it meant the Fertility Goddess was
smiling upon her. Added to the stress Hermione was already feeling,
plus the fact she was marrying a Weasley, and Hermione was in a right

Ginny had Apparated over to the Grangers’ in order to calm Hermione,
while Harry went to the Burrow to make certain Ron was straightened
out. He’d found the groom hunched over a toilet with a full-blown
hangover. Fred and Charlie had succeeded in their mission.

Harry begged a clucking Mrs. Weasley for a remedy – she never could
resist when he used his ‘puppy-dog eyes,’ as Ginny called them. After
Ron had showered, dressed and eaten a massive breakfast, the two
Apparated to the secure location that Hermione had arranged for magical
guests. They still had plenty of time, so they took a stroll along the
street, peering in various Muggle windows as they did.

“So, are you feeling better?” Harry asked, smirking. Ron had lost the
green tinge to his skin, but now, only an hour before the ceremony, he
was finally beginning to look nervous. Leave it to Ron to wait until
the last minute.

“What if she decides not to do this, Harry?” he asked.

“She won’t,” Harry replied, smiling.

“How do you know?” Ron asked, sounding both irritated and hopeful at
the same time.

“How long have you known Hermione, Ron? You – of all people – should
know how hard it is to change her mind once she has it set on
something,” Harry replied easily.

Ron snorted. “Too right.” After a few minutes walking in amiable
silence, he added, “We’re really going to do this.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” Harry said.

“Hey! After Hermione marries me, we’ll all be family – for real,” Ron
said, appearing startled by the thought.

“You’re just now working that out?” Harry asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Shut it,” Ron said, elbowing Harry in the gut. “Who would have ever
thought when we all met on the Hogwarts Express all those years ago
that we’d one day end up as One Big Happy Weasley Family?”

“Not me,” Harry said, grinning. “I was just happy to find someone who
would sit with me.”

Ron snorted. “It’ll be good to see everyone – even Malfoy said he was

After school, Draco had finally managed to get his family funds
restored to him. Although they never Owled each other to arrange a get
together, when they ran into one another at a pub, they’d always share
a pint. Draco had gone abroad the previous year after becoming frustrated with the amount of distrust the Malfoy name still instilled
in Wizarding Britain.

“You invited him then?” Harry asked, raising his eyebrow.

“Well, it was Hermione’s idea,” Ron grumbled.

Harry grinned. They’d formed a grudging respect, but Ron would never
call Draco a mate. Harry supposed he wouldn’t, either.

“I heard he’s been going out with Daphne Greengrass,” Harry said.

“Yeah. He’s bringing her as his date,” Ron replied. “She was never as
bad as some of the others, but I never trusted her.”

“What Slytherin did you trust?” Harry asked.

“Same could be asked of you! I sent Snape a wedding invitation, too,”
Ron said, barely controlling his grin. “He didn’t respond.”

Harry chuckled. Ron had spent the past four years cheerfully sending
any news related to Harry or their lives to their old Potions’ master
in Azkaban. He even made annual visits on Potter’s Day to ensure the
surly man would get all the details of the celebratory events.

Snape had been sentenced to life in Azkaban, though Ron said his
disposition was really no different than it had been at Hogwarts. The
only thing that did seem to crack Snape’s surly indifference was news
of Harry’s success. Ron’d said he’d nearly had kittens when he’d
learned Harry had been awarded the Order of Merlin.

“Maybe you should stop and pay him a visit before you leave on your
honeymoon,” Harry said, grinning. “Ask him for a Potency-Increasing
Potion or something. You and Hermione have some catching up to do.”

Ron shoved Harry’s shoulder, causing him to stumble. Harry turned and
sucker punched Ron in the gut as the two friends laughed, continuously
strolling down the street. Perhaps it was grayness of the day causing
them to hurry or just the excitement of the pending nuptials, but they
passed a Muggle newsstand without casting a second glance at the

Mysterious Deaths in Surry

Late last evening on a quiet street in Surry, a gruesome discovery was
made. Vernon and Petunia Dursley were found dead in their home. Both
victims were found seated at their kitchen table, but a source close to
the investigation tells us no cause of death is readily apparent. Both
victims had been in relatively good health, although Mr. Dursley
suffered from high blood pressure and a dangerous cholesterol level.
Still, this wouldn’t explain how both victims died at the same time
with no obvious sign of foul play.

The doors to their house on Privet Drive remained locked, and there was
no sign of forced entry. The Dursleys are survived by one son, Dudley,
who was unavailable for comment, although one neighbor claimed to have seen him in the area on the day of his parents’ mysterious deaths. The
source tells this reporter that the strangest thing about the case is
the expression of terror on both victims’ faces. The source claimed it
was as if they’d been frightened to death…

***THE END***

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