The next couple of days passed quickly, although Harry and Ginny were both still wracking their brains over Valentine’s Day – and trying not to let the other one know they’d even thought of it. Harry had finally come up with the general idea of what he wanted to do, and he enlisted Molly’s help again by getting her to stay with Hope one afternoon while he sneaked off to the Hogwarts library. He had to be very careful to not be in any hallways where he might run into Ginny. It took him longer than he’d thought it would, but he finally found what he was looking for – it was perfect. Now he just had to find the other part of what he was thinking of…
Ron and Hermione arrived Saturday morning just after breakfast. Harry was just finishing cleaning up the kitchen while Ginny dressed Hope, when their best friends arrived at the front door. Ginny opened the door, Hope in her arms. Ron and Hermione entered the living room as Harry emerged from the kitchen, still drying his hands. Ron grinned at him evilly. “The house looks very nice, Harry,” Ron greeted him.
“Oh shut it, Ron,” Harry grinned back, ignoring the look on Ron’s face as Hermione greeted them with hugs. Ron hugged Ginny, then immediately took Hope from her arms. “How’s my niece and goddaughter?” he asked, lifting her above his head and kissing her stomach. Hope squealed delightedly at him, grabbing handfuls of hair as he tried to lower her again. “Ah! Ow!” Ron grunted as he tried to pull Hope’s hands from his hair. Ginny laughed and gently pried Hope’s fingers away.
“Serves you right for doing that to a baby who’s just eaten. Be careful, or getting your hair pulled will be the least of your problems!” Harry cautioned, shaking his head at his friend.
Hermione chuckled at Ron as well, then asked, “So… aren’t you going to give Hope her present?”
“Present?” Ginny looked at her brother in amusement. “What did you bring her this time?”
Ron grinned. “Just an early Valentine’s Day present. I wanted to see her with it, and she doesn’t know what day it is anyway, so…” He reached into a pocket of his cloak and pulled out a box decorated with pink hearts. Ginny’s eyebrow rose at the sight of the box, and Ron pointedly ignored her as he went to sit on the sofa with Hope in his lap. “Now, Hope, I want you to remember… Uncle Ron is giving you your very first Valentine’s Day present, so that makes it extra special.” Harry choked on a laugh, and tried to turn it into a cough, while Hermione and Ginny rolled their eyes. Ron opened the lid of the box and Hope delightedly grabbed handfuls of tissue paper, shredding it as she pulled it out of the box. Ginny quickly grabbed the bits from Hope’s hands before she could put the paper in her mouth, while Ron reached into the box and pulled out… a pink and white teddy bear with a large red heart on its chest that said “My Girl” on it.
“Aww… Ron, that’s sweet!” Ginny exclaimed, grinning at her brother. Ron blushed slightly, but grinned back.
“Just wait,” he answered, and touched the heart on the bear. It immediately began to play music, complete with a voice singing softly, “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day… when it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May…” Ginny grinned as she listened.
“That’s adorable! I’ve heard that song before, but I never thought about applying it to someone other than a girlfriend,” she teased.
Ron chuckled. “Yeah, well… I listened to several at the shop, but this one seemed to fit Hope.”
Hermione smiled. “Gin, you should have seen your brother in that Muggle gift shop in London. You’d have thought he was shopping for a present for the Queen!”
Harry laughed. “I can imagine Ron shopping for Hope like that quite easily. It’s just shopping for anyone else that he seems to have difficulty with.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “Hope, don’t listen to a word they say. They’re just trying to make me look bad, but I know you don’t believe them.” Hope gurgled and pulled one of the bear’s ears into her mouth.
“So…” Harry began, grinning at Ron and his daughter. “What do you lot want to do while you’re here? We could go to Hogwarts and watch the Quidditch teams practice,” he offered, knowing exactly what kind of reaction he was going to get.
Ginny and Hermione both made identical faces. “Men!” Ginny scoffed, and Hermione nodded her agreement.
“Can’t you two ever think of anything else besides sports?” Hermione huffed.
Ron grinned wickedly. “Of course we can, and we do. But usually you don’t like us to talk about that, either.”
Hermione and Ginny both blushed, and Harry laughed. “Watch it, Ron, don’t go corrupting my daughter!”
“Oh, right. Like it’s never come up around here before?” Ron answered. Now it was Harry’s turn to blush, remembering earlier in the week when Molly had shown up unexpectedly.
Ginny turned to her brother. “Ron, I really do not think you want to continue that line of conversation,” she said pointedly, and Ron just grinned.
“You’re right, I don’t. So… what are we going to do today, if we can’t persuade you ladies to come ‘round to our way of thinking?”
“Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d really like to do some shopping. I’ve scarcely had a chance to actually be out of the house for anything but school in ages!” Ginny put in.
“That sounds good to me. I need to look for a few things, too,” Hermione added.
“I should have known,” Harry groaned, then ducked as Ginny swatted at him, grinning.
“You’d better behave yourself, dear, or you’ll regret it!” she threatened. Harry grabbed her and pulled her into his lap, tickling her.
“Oh? And just what will you do, dear?” he challenged. Ginny giggled, wriggling in his grasp, but after a few moments, she got away from his tickling hands long enough to lean closer and whisper in his ear.
“I’ll let you sleep on the sofa, dear, and withhold certain privileges from you!” she hissed. Harry laughed and stopped tickling her.
“You wouldn’t!” he protested, knowing quite well that would be as much a “punishment” for Ginny as it would for him.
“Don’t tempt me!” she answered, but kissed him quickly as he wrapped his arms around her.
Ron rolled his eyes. “You two! You’re supposed to be the old married couple now. Don’t you ever stop?”
Ginny and Harry grinned, but answered in unison: “NO!” before laughing again.
Ron snorted, but before he could say anything more, Hermione jumped in. “Oh, honestly, Ron! They’ve hardly even had the chance to be an old married couple until just recently! Not to mention that they’re still young and…”
“Okay, okay,” Ron interrupted. “Don’t start!”
Hermione sputtered indignantly then grinned wickedly at him. She quickly reached past Ron’s hands and took Hope from him. “Okay, you’ve had your turn. It’s my turn to play with our goddaughter now,” she stated firmly.
Ron started to protest, but was cut off as Hermione grinned at Hope, then quickly rose and walked toward the kitchen. “Hope, let me tell you about your Uncle Ron. I can tell you all about exactly how to handle him…” Her voice trailed off as she disappeared into the kitchen with Hope.
“HEY!” Ron protested, while Harry and Ginny tried to cover up their laughter. Ginny gave Harry a quick peck on the cheek, then climbed off his lap and headed upstairs.
Ron seemed to be considering following Hermione, then he managed to drag his attention back to his friend. “Oy, Harry… looks like we’re stuck going shopping. Maybe we should at least split up, and Harry and I could go check out the Quidditch Supply shop?” Ron suggested hopefully, loudly enough for the girls to hear him as well.
Ginny turned back from the doorway to Hope’s room. “That’s actually a good idea, Ron. Why don’t Hermione and I take Hope with us for now, and we’ll meet you back here for lunch and then you two can take her for the afternoon?”
Harry nodded. “That’ll work. And then we could we could treat you lovely ladies –” he grinned impishly as Ginny snorted at him, “– to dinner at that new restaurant on the other end of town.” Ginny agreed, then disappeared into Hope’s room to hunt for Hope’s cloak and blankets, and Harry went to fetch his and Ginny’s cloaks as well. Hermione returned to the living room with Hope chewing happily on a biscuit, and sat down next to Ron on the sofa.
“Sounds good to me!” Hermione chimed in, laughing as Hope managed to grab another handful of Ron’s hair in a chubby, drool-covered fist.
“Hey!” Ron protested, grabbing a cloth from the arm of the sofa and wiping off Hope’s hand. “You keep doing that, and my hair’s going to look like your dad’s!”
“I heard that!” Harry objected, turning back from the closet with their cloaks in his hands and pushing Hope’s pram toward the front door.
“You going to deny it?” Ron grinned, unrepentant. Harry grinned and shook his head.
“I doubt it would do any good.”
Ron laughed in agreement as Ginny took Hope, bundled her into her cloak and then put her into her pram and wrapped the blankets around her, adding a warming charm to keep away the cold winter air. They all put on their own cloaks and headed out to the shops.
Ron and Harry headed toward the Quidditch shop first, but after a time of them eagerly checking out all the new equipment, Harry finally asked, “So, is there anything else in particular you want to look at while you’re here? I – um – I need to look for something for Ginny, but I can do it later if you’ve got other ideas.” Ron grinned at him over a display of practice Snitches.
“And just what is it you want to ‘look for’ for my sister?” Ron challenged.
Harry grinned back. “None of your business, my dear brother-in-law.”
Ron chuckled. “It wouldn’t have anything to do with a certain upcoming day that you completely forgot last year, would it?”
“With you around, it’s certain I won’t ever forget it again!” Harry responded, examining a new brand of broom polish.
Ron laughed. “I’d bet my sister won’t ever let you forget it again, either!”
Harry rolled his eyes. “She hasn’t mentioned it, but if you must know, then yes, I need to shop for part of her gift.”
“Part of it?”
“Are you going to keep repeating everything I say?” Harry asked irritably as they headed out of the shop and he refastened his cloak against the wind.
Ron laughed again. “Sorry, mate. I’m just –” He paused and ran a hand through his hair, then glanced sideways at his best friend. “Actually, I guess I’m a bit in awe of you and Ginny sometimes,” he said, very quietly.
Harry stopped dead on the sidewalk and gaped at Ron. “P-pardon me?” he finally croaked.
Ron turned bright red and grabbed his friend’s arm, propelling him across the street toward the Three Broomsticks. “Don’t stand there gawping at me like that. Come on,” he muttered, hauling Harry toward a booth at the back of the pub.
By the time their hot Butterbeer had been served, Harry had finally recovered his sense of speech sufficiently to finally ask, in a much calmer voice, “So… what did you mean about Gin and me, anyway?”
Ron stared into his mug for a moment before answering quietly, “Well, I’ve just been thinking about things lately, I suppose. Even though you and Ginny have had more than your share of things to have to deal with, you also have a wonderful relationship with each other. And the more I see of you two, now – the more I realize how much I want that, too. It’s just –” He sighed and took a long drink of his Butterbeer. “I do want that, and I know Hermione does too, but I’m just not certain if we’re ready for – everything.”
Harry nodded silently in understanding. “Does that mean you’re not ready to propose, or that you don’t think she’s ready to accept?” he asked, trying to keep the smile out of his voice.
Ron grinned sheepishly at him. “Probably a bit of both.”
“What does Hermione think of all this?”
Ron chuckled. “Oh, you know her. She probably has a complete timetable of when everything is supposed to happen with us for the rest of our lives. Including study sessions of some sort along the way, I’m certain.”
Harry laughed. “You’re probably right about that. But seriously, have you talked to her about it?”
Ron sighed. “Yeah, a bit. Nothing definite. It’s just this feeling… like maybe we should be making plans or something…you know?”
Harry nodded again. “I understand. I mean, obviously, I’ve never had to deal with the same situation, but I know how I felt when –” he paused for a split-second before he continued more quietly, “—when Dumbledore first brought up the whole idea to us, and I realized I wanted to marry Ginny sooner rather than later. It was pretty overwhelming, even with all the help we knew we would have available.”
Ron nodded, then looked down at his hands on the table as he spoke very quietly, “I reckon I didn’t help much with that aspect, either.”
Harry shook his head. “That’s all water under the bridge, and you know it. You’ve always been there for us–” Harry broke off and grinned wickedly. “You know, actually, I guess now I could return that favor you did for me back then…” Ron looked at him, completely baffled, and Harry continued, “Well, you did help me buy Gin’s ring.”
Ron stared at him in shock for a moment before Harry couldn’t take it any more and began to laugh uncontrollably. After a few moments of Ron turning redder and redder, Harry finally got himself under control – mostly. “I’m – I’m sorry,” he panted, wiping his eyes. “I-I couldn’t resist, and your face – ” he chuckled again, and Ron snorted.
“You are not helping,” Ron grumbled good-naturedly.
Harry sniggered. “I know, I’m sorry.” He took a long drink of Butterbeer, then turned back to Ron, serious once more. “So… have you decided anything about what you want to do, or are you just still mulling things over?”
“A bit of both, actually, I think,” Ron answered, grinning. “I saw some Muggle magazines at Hermione’s parents’ house once, and – have you ever heard of a ‘promise ring’?”
Harry frowned in concentration for a moment. “Yeah, I think so… what about it?”
“Well, apparently, it’s a Muggle thing that’s not quite an engagement ring, but it means you intend to get engaged, or something like that. I’d never heard of such a thing, but Hermione knew all about them, of course.” Harry chuckled again, and nodded.
“Of course she did,” he grinned, and Ron grinned in reply.
“So… I’m considering that,” he finally added. “What do you think?” he asked, a bit nervously.
“Honestly? I think you and Hermione are meant to be together as much as Ginny and I are,” Harry replied quietly. “But that doesn’t mean you have to be married immediately. I mean, Gin and I had never intended for things to happen as they did, but… now, I wouldn’t trade this life with her for anything.”
Ron grinned impishly. “Even with the house cleaning chores?”
Harry grimaced, but nodded. “I could do without some of that aspect, but still… it’s worth it.” He stared unseeingly into his drink for a moment, smiling to himself, and Ron chuckled.
“I reckoned you’d say that.”
They quickly finished their drinks, and then Harry asked, “So… now what? I need to go to a jewelry shop for Ginny’s gift. Do you want to go there, or somewhere else?”
Ron was thoughtful for a moment. “Yeah… that’ll do. Let’s go before we have to meet the girls.”
They hurried off down the street, and spent the rest of the morning looking in several shops for just the right gifts, without much success. It was soon time to meet Ginny and Hermione back at the house, so they finally had to abandon the search until after lunch.
When they arrived, however, they found that they were the first ones home, so Harry began preparing lunch for the four of them. Ron set the table, trying to hide his smirk from Harry. “Honestly, Ron. I’m surprised Hermione hasn’t throttled you yet about you acting like anything related to the house should be ‘women’s work’,” Harry commented, not turning around from the stove, but obviously aware of Ron’s expression.
Ron chuckled. “It’s not that. It’s just funny to see you doing it all.”
“Why? I always had to do things like this at the Dursleys, too, you know. It’s not like I was totally clueless when Ginny and I set up house. I’ve just never been accustomed to cooking and cleaning with magic.”
Ron studied his friend for a moment, then said, “Yeah, I suppose that would be rather different for you.” He grinned wickedly. “Wouldn’t the Dursleys have loved to see you Banishing the laundry?”
Harry snorted. “Yeah, of course. They’d have ‘banished’ me to the cupboard!”
Ron shook his head as he began making a pot of tea. “I still can’t get over how you bumped into your aunt when you went to the graveyard.”
Harry sighed. “I know. I certainly never would have wanted to see them.”
They were interrupted at that moment by the arrival of Ginny, Hermione and Hope at the front door, and Ginny calling, “Anyone home?”
“We’re in the kitchen,” Harry called back, as he began to fill plates with the stew he’d been heating.
“Well, aren’t you efficient?” Ginny smiled at him as they entered the kitchen. Ron chuckled again and took Hope from Ginny’s arms, then turned to give Hermione a quick kiss.
Harry ignored Ron and turned to kiss Ginny in greeting. “Aren’t I always?” he grinned at her and she laughed.
“I don’t think you want me to answer that,” she teased as Ron put Hope in her high chair, and Ginny fastened Hope’s bib, then turned to get some baby food from the cupboard.
“So… how was the Quidditch shop?” Hermione asked, as they all sat down at the table.
“Oh, it was great,” Ron replied, chuckling as Hope grabbed a spoon from Harry’s place and proceeded to pound on the tray of her high chair with it. Harry sighed and Summoned another spoon for himself.
“How ‘bout you two?” Harry asked after a few moments. “How was your morning?”
“Oh, it was fine. I found a few things for Hope and some other things I’ve needed, too,” Ginny replied as Harry began to try to feed Hope.
“Oh, that’s good, dear – Hope, c’mon, sweetheart. You like peas!” Harry began distractedly, then turned to Hope imploringly. Hope pushed the spoon away, sending the peas flying onto the table, narrowly missing Harry’s sleeve.
“Would you like me to feed her?” Ginny offered. Harry shook his head.
“No, I’m fine. You eat first and then you can take her,” he answered, wiping up the food and trying again. Hope turned away defiantly. Harry growled quietly in frustration. “I hate when she does this! If she doesn’t eat, she’ll be grouchy all afternoon!”
“And so will her Daddy!” Ginny mock-whispered to Hermione, and they both giggled as Harry looked even more irritated, then picked up the spoon to try again, but Ron reached across the table and stopped him.
“Let me try. You have to do this all the time,” Ron offered.
Harry looked skeptical. “It’s all right, I can –”
“Harry. Eat. I’ll sort her out. You and Ginny take a break.” Harry glanced at Ginny questioningly; she smiled in reply, and Harry sighed and nodded.
“Okay, Ron. Thanks.” Harry pushed Hope’s bowl toward his brother-in-law, then took the opportunity to begin his own lunch. Hope was watching them both curiously.
“Ron, are you certain you know what you’re doing?” Hermione asked.
“Of course I am. It’s not that hard – you just poke the food in. I’ve seen Harry and Ginny and Mum do it plenty of times.”
“Yes, but they’re used to it, and –”
“Hermione, it’ll be fine. I’ve done this before. It’s not like I’m going to poison her or something! Watch!” Ron scooped up some of Hope’s food and guided it to her mouth.
“Ron, that’s too much! She can’t get that much in her mouth – she’ll choke!” Hermione warned.
“How can you choke on something that’s all mushed up?” Ron challenged, as he managed to get most of the spoonful of peas into Hope’s mouth. “See? Nothing to it!”
Hermione snorted. “Just don’t choke her!”
“You can’t –”
“Actually, Ron, she can choke on it, even if is mushed up,” Ginny interjected.
“Babies have fairly strong gag reflexes –” Hermione began, but didn’t get the chance to finish, as Hope again waved the spoon she’d stolen from Harry’s place. Her fist hit the spoonful of peas Ron had been trying to feed her, and sent it flying – right into the side of Ron’s head.
Harry had just taken a bite of his own lunch, and it took all his will power not to add to Ron’s problem by spitting his stew in Ron’s direction. Hermione and Ginny were lost in gales of laughter as Ron tried to wipe the peas out of his hair with his napkin. Harry finally managed to choke down his mouthful of food, and was now laughing so hard he was crying. “You lot are no help!” Ron grumbled, even as Hope squealed merrily and banged her spoon on her tray again.
Hermione finally managed to quit laughing enough to offer, “Let me see if you got it all.”
Ron scowled, but turned so that Hermione could help clean off the rest of the peas.
Ginny was still giggling. “Oh, Ron, that was priceless! Is that the first time she’s nailed you?”
Ron grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, I guess it is.” He smirked at Harry. “How many times has she got you, mate?”
Harry chuckled. “I’ve lost count. If it’s not the food, it’s the nappies, or the spit up, or…”
Ron held up a hand to stop him. “I get the picture, thanks.”
“I think that’s got it,” Hermione grinned at him, stroking his hair down with her fingertips. “I don’t think anyone will be able to tell, at least.”
“Unless we tell for him,” Harry teased. “Weren’t we going to visit the twins this afternoon?” he added, attempting to look innocent, but his eyes were sparkling mischievously.
Ron scowled at him, while Ginny giggled again. “Oh, I’m certain they’d be thrilled to help you fix your hair, brother dear.”
Hermione tried to look appalled. “Oh, I hope not! I have to be seen in public with him!”
Harry sniggered again, but before he could respond, Hope began banging her spoon more loudly, and squealed impatiently. “Ron, would you rather I feed her? I think she’s getting a bit tired of waiting.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “No, I’ll do it.” He turned back to his niece. “Okay, Hope, no more decorating Uncle Ron, all right?” He picked up her spoon again and began feeding her. As Hope ate willingly, the others returned to their own meals. “Doesn’t she get to eat anything besides peas?” Ron asked after a bit. “I’d get sick of ‘em if I were her.”
Ginny smiled. “There’re some bananas there, too. You’re welcome to try those if you’re up to it.”
“Doesn’t she like them, either?”
Harry grinned. “She likes both of them, but whether she’ll actually eat them both is anyone’s guess.”
“Lovely,” Ron mumbled, but spooned some of the bananas into Hope’s bowl. “Here, Hope, this has to taste better.” Hope seemed more eager to eat than play, finally, and Ron was feeling quite successful by the time Harry finished eating.
“Let me feed her now, Ron, and you eat so we can get going this afternoon before she needs a nap,” Harry suggested. Ron agreed and slid the bowl over to Harry. Ginny finished as well, and began clearing the dishes.
“I’ll help you, Ginny,” Hermione offered, as Ron muttered a warming charm on his stew. “By the way, Harry, lunch was delicious. Did you make the stew?”
Harry grinned, looking a bit embarrassed, but nodded. “Yeah, Molly showed me her recipe a few weeks ago.”
Ginny leaned over his shoulder to take his empty plate, and paused to kiss his cheek. “You did it well,” she smiled at him.
“Thanks,” he murmured. As she turned to put the dishes in the sink, Harry remembered something. “Oh, Ginny – there’s an apple pie in the refrigerator. You want to serve it?”
Hermione stopped halfway to the sink. “You made pie, too?”
Harry chuckled. “No, actually, Molly brought it the other night, but I saved it for today.”
Ron grinned suddenly. “Well, at least it’s safe then.”
“Oh hush, Ron. Harry made the stew just fine, didn’t he?” Ginny challenged, giving her brother a defiant glare. Hermione turned toward him as well, her hands on her hips, her expression plainly daring him to insult Harry’s cooking. Harry glanced over his shoulder to see his wife’s and his friend’s expressions as they defended him, and grinned in spite of himself.
Ron threw up his hands in surrender. “All right! You win! Yes, Harry did fine with lunch. There, I said it!”
“About time, too!” Hermione snorted, turning to get plates for the pie, as Ginny began slicing it.
Harry grinned as he picked up a cloth to clean up Hope. “Thank you, Ronald, I’m so glad you enjoyed it,” he grinned wickedly, deliberately sounding overly formal.
“Oh shut it, you sound like Percy that way,” Ron grinned back, then reached for Hope as Harry finished wiping her face and hands. “Let me take my niece while you clean up her chair.” He lifted Hope from her chair, but as he moved her across the table, she giggled and kicked her feet – and made direct contact with Ron’s glass and plate, sending the remains of his juice and stew flying into his lap. At Ron’s strangled cry, Ginny and Hermione whirled around, and promptly burst out laughing. Harry was already laughing again at Ron’s predicament, even as he reached to take Hope so that Ron could at least attempt to clean up the spill.
“Oh Ron, honestly!” Hermione sputtered, managing to sound slightly exasperated even as she chuckled. She moved to help him wipe his clothes, but then stopped. “I hate to tell you this, but I don’t think that’s going to come out with just a cleaning charm.”
Ron growled in frustration. “Then what do you suggest? It’s not as though I typically carry an extra set of robes in a pocket, you know!”
Ginny giggled again. “When you’re around Hope, that might not be a bad idea!”
“Ron, calm down. I’m certain we’ll work something out,” Hermione smiled at him, gently patting his arm.
“Come on, Ron, you can put on some of my clothes for awhile. I can wash yours and they’ll be fine,” Harry offered, handing Hope over to Ginny.
Ron sighed and shook his head. “All right, I suppose that’s my best option.” He turned to follow Harry toward the bedroom.
Hermione called after them, “We’ll get dessert ready while you’re changing.” Ron waved his hand through the door in response.
When Ron entered the bedroom, Harry was already pulling clothes out of his closet. “I think most of these will fit you okay, but we can always Transfigure them if we need to.”
Ron took the clothes without comment, then, as Harry turned toward his dresser, Ron suddenly grinned at him. “Harry?”
“You know what I said about your life?”
Harry looked puzzled. “Yeah…?”
“I think I take it back.”
Harry chuckled as he pulled out some more clothes. “It’s still worth it, Ron. Trust me.”
Ron grinned. “I guess so. How often do you have to change clothes anyway?”
Harry laughed. “Well, a few days ago, she managed to wet on my pajama top and another shirt later in the day. Is that often enough for you?”
Ron chuckled as he pulled off his shirt. “Yeah, that’s enough for anyone. No wonder you never finish the laundry.”
Harry threw the clothes he was holding at Ron. “You better shut up about the laundry. Just remember, I’m the one who’s about to launder your clothes. How would you like to be in head-to-toe pink?”
“All right, all right… Oh no! No way! I’ll just keep my own pants on!” He threw the pair of tartan boxers back at Harry.
“What’s wrong with them?” Harry asked innocently.
“I am not wearing them!”
Harry turned to put the boxers back in the dresser. “Ginny likes ‘em. Maybe Hermione…” Harry began, but Ron cut him off.
“Harry! Don’t you dare finish that sentence!”
“Hey, just remember who it is who’s married, and who’s not!” Harry teased, enjoying watching Ron turn crimson, especially after the way Ron had delighted in teasing him the last few months.
“What does that have to do with those?” Ron demanded, gesturing toward where Harry had just put away his boxers.
Harry grinned wickedly. “Let’s just say one of us is more experienced with what women like,” he smirked.
Ron turned even redder as he pulled Harry’s shirt over his head, then tossed his own clothes at Harry. “Let’s just say that’s still my sister you’re smirking about, and drop the whole subject!” he grumbled, following Harry out of the bedroom. Harry took Ron’s clothes into the laundry room and started the laundry charms, then joined them all in the kitchen.
They had just all sat down at the kitchen table with their dessert when there was a roar from the front door. “I wonder who…” Harry murmured, as he headed toward the door. He opened it rather cautiously, even though he knew that whoever was there had to have been admitted by the wards around the house. “SIRIUS!” he yelped, just as his godfather pulled him into a rib-crunching hug. Harry returned it enthusiastically. “Why didn’t you let us know you were coming? We just finished lunch. Would you like – REMUS!” Harry had finally caught sight of his former professor. Remus Lupin stepped forward to give Harry a warm handshake. “It’s wonderful to see you both! It’s been ages!”
“It’s good to see you, too, Harry,” Remus answered, as they all stepped into the house and Harry quickly took their cloaks and hung them up.
“Ginny! Ron, Hermione! Look who’s here!” Harry called toward the kitchen. “Come in, sit down! We were just finishing lunch. Have you eaten? I could warm you up some stew.”
Sirius laughed as he and Remus sat down on the sofa. “Harry, slow down. We’re fine. We ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks.” They both turned as Ginny came through the kitchen door, carrying Hope, followed by Ron and Hermione.
“Sirius! It’s so good to see you! Oh, Professor Lupin! I’m so glad you came!” Ginny greeted them both warmly.
“Oh my goodness! This can’t be Hope! She’s grown so much!” Sirius gasped, reaching to take her.
“I’m still ‘Remus’ when we’re away from school, Ginny,” he smiled as he returned her hug. “We had no idea you’d all be here. I hope we’re not interrupting anything,” he added, grinning as they greeted Ron and Hermione.
“Oh, you’re not! Not at all! Ron and Hermione just came over to see Hope,” Harry grinned.
“Just Hope?” Sirius grinned in reply.
“Apparently. Even Molly told us a few days ago that she comes to see Hope – Ginny and I are just the ‘bonus’.” They all laughed.
“Well, she is a lot cuter than you, you know,” Ron smirked. Harry rolled his eyes, then caught Hermione doing the same thing and they both laughed again.
“We were all just about to have some of Mum’s pie. Would you two join us?” Ginny offered.
“Ooh, Molly’s pie. I think I might have to accept, Ginny. Thank you,” Sirius replied.
“That sounds good to me, too,” Remus added.
“Good. Let me bring it in here so we can all be comfortable,” Ginny smiled.
“I’ll help,” Harry said hurriedly, and followed Ginny into the kitchen. They quickly loaded the pie and tea onto a tray and levitated it into the living room to serve their guests.
Sirius was already in the middle of telling Ron and Hermione about how Harry had always made messes on him when Harry was a baby. “I swear, he brought up more than he ever ate!” Sirius finished, grinning wickedly at Harry as he did.
“You probably deserved it,” Harry replied calmly as he handed pie to his godfather and Remus. “Didn’t you tell me you were the one who first took me flying?”
“Yes, and you loved it,” Sirius smiled. “I’ll bet Hope will, too.”
“Oh no, you don’t!” Ginny grinned at him as she poured the tea.
“Why, Ginny? I was with Harry, don’t you think I should be with my grand-goddaughter, too?” Sirius asked, entirely too innocently.
Before Ginny could reply, Harry coughed meaningfully, deliberately avoiding Ginny’s eyes as he gave Sirius a furtive look. Ginny abruptly realized what he meant. “Harry James Potter!” She stared at him, eyes round. “Don’t you dare tell me you’ve already taken her on a broom!”
Sirius, Remus and Ron roared with laughter as Hermione turned on him as well. “Harry! Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?!”
“It was fine!” he protested. “I put all sorts of charms around us, so there was no way she could get hurt!”
“HARRY!” Ginny yelled, almost upsetting the teapot as she put her hands on her hips and glared at him.
Harry grinned at her hopefully, “Yes, dear?” he answered, as Sirius and Remus both tried to cover their laughter with their napkins. Ron wasn’t even attempting to hide the grin on his face – at least, not until Hermione turned and gave him an equally quelling glare.
“It’s not funny, Ron!” she hissed.
“No, no, not the broom. The way Harry…” He gave up and laughed helplessly as his sister continued to glare at her husband.
“Don’t you ‘yes, dear’ me! This isn’t funny!”
Harry attempted to look contrite. “Ginny, honestly, I made certain nothing would happen. I wouldn’t have done it if I thought she’d get hurt.” He paused, then said quietly, “You know that.”
Ginny glared at him a moment longer, then finally shook her head. “I know you wouldn’t,” she sighed. “But don’t do it again!”
Harry took her hand and kissed it gently. “Yes, dear,” he grinned.
Ginny snorted and smacked his shoulder. “You men!” she grumbled as she returned to pouring the tea.
“Hey, what’d we do?” Ron protested.
“If any of you had known what he was planning, you’d have helped, and I know it!” Ginny replied as she handed him a cup of tea.
Ron couldn’t resist. He grinned wickedly and replied, “Yes, dear.” Harry had just sat down on the hearthrug with his pie and tea, and he almost choked on the tea he’d sipped as he tried not to laugh at the look on Ginny’s face.
Sirius was laughing so hard he was crying, and Remus wasn’t faring much better. Finally, Sirius gasped in enough air to say, “I always knew you two looked like James and Lily. I never knew how much you sounded like them!”
Remus then managed to splutter, “Ginny, you have no idea how much you sounded like Lily did when she found out Sirius had taken Harry flying. I thought she was going to hex him into the next month!”
Ginny couldn’t help but laugh then. “Maybe it’s a mum thing?” she smiled.
“How did Sirius react to Mum?” Harry asked, deciding perhaps it was safe to take a bite of his pie now.
Remus chuckled. “Amazingly much like you just did – completely innocent of any wrong-doing.”
Harry grinned at Ginny. “Maybe it’s a male thing.”
She rolled her eyes at him as she sat down beside him in front of the fire. “I’m certain it is!” She then turned to Sirius and asked, “So how old was Harry when you took him up?”
Sirius smiled, remembering. “About – what, Moony? – four or five months old? Is that right?”
Remus nodded. “Yes. It wasn’t long before his first Christmas, if I remember correctly.”
Sirius grinned again. “Dare I ask how old Hope was?”
Harry grinned, even as Ginny turned to him suspiciously. “A bit older than that. It was just a few weeks ago.”
“When did you do this, anyway?” Ginny asked.
“Erm… a few days after you went back to school.”
“I should have known.” Ginny shook her head at him again, then she looked over at Sirius once more. “So I suppose we can blame you for all those nerve-wracking flying maneuvers Harry did playing Quidditch?”
Sirius grinned and shook his head. “I’m afraid he has James to blame for that. I wasn’t the first one to take him on a broom – that was James.”
Ginny looked at him blankly. “But I thought…”
Remus laughed. “Sorry, Ginny, he didn’t take Harry on a broom. He took him flying on his motorcycle.”
Ron chuckled. “Wicked!”
Hermione gasped. “How did you hold him and steer properly?”
“Steer? I was supposed to steer?” Sirius asked, completely poker-faced. Ginny snorted, just as Hope managed to get hold of Sirius’ hair and give it a hard yank. “Ow! Okay, Hope, let go of my hair, please,” Sirius muttered, trying to hold onto a giggling Hope and free his hair at the same time. “Moony, don’t just sit there, do something!”
Remus was trying valiantly not to laugh, but he managed to set his pie and tea aside and helped disentangle Hope’s fingers. “Honestly, Padfoot, have you forgotten everything you learned when Harry was a baby?” he teased.
Sirius gave him a mock-glare. “Ha. Ha. Ha.”
Ginny chuckled. “I think Hope was just showing that she agrees with me.”
Harry just grinned at her impishly, then looked back at his godfather. “I’m really happy that you two stopped by, but why didn’t you let us know you were coming?”
“Sorry, Harry. I wasn’t certain if things would work out for me to come until this morning. Remus has been hounding me to visit him at Hogwarts since term started, and I just haven’t been able to get away from work. A couple of meetings were rescheduled at the last minute, though, so here I am.”
“Oh, so Remus was able to persuade you to come, but my invitations couldn’t?” Harry teased.
Remus chuckled. “You don’t have as much ‘leverage’ with him as I do, Harry. I told him if he didn’t come soon I was going to start telling you stories about him instead of him always telling on you.”
Sirius snorted. “Most of what you know would be just as incriminating about you as it would about me, and you know it, Moony.” He smiled as he fed a bit of his apple pie to Hope. “Just like her dad – always knew what the good stuff was.”
“Did Harry smack you with peas, too?” Ron asked, grinning.
“Peas? She got lucky with you, hmm?” Sirius grinned back.
“Oh yes, she’s done quite a number on Ron today – peas in his hair, stew in his lap,” Hermione laughed.
Sirius and Remus both chuckled. “Harry was always good at ‘sharing’, too,” Remus answered, smiling at Harry as he did.
“And yes, Ron, he did do that with peas, too. Actually, he hated peas. He didn’t just throw them – he’d scream bloody murder about them,” Sirius added.
Harry shook his head, smiling. “From the way you tell it, it’s a wonder you wanted anything to do with me.”
Remus smiled again. “He’s having you on, Harry. He adored you madly. He didn’t really even mind when you… er, made all those messes on him. It was hysterical to watch him when you did, but after his initial shock wore off, he didn’t truly care,” Remus paused and glanced at the warm smile on his old friend’s face as Sirius deliberately avoided Harry’s gaze. “I’m certain it’s much like how you feel when Hope causes a mess.”
“Shh, Moony, you aren’t supposed to tell everything you know,” Sirius grinned as he wrestled his fork away from Hope.
“Speaking of messes… I think it’s about time Hope was changed,” Ginny said, smiling as she stood to take her daughter. “You can have her back soon, I promise.”
“Oh, and I should check on Ron’s clothes. I’ll be right back,” Harry added, jumping up to do so.
“Ron’s clothes?” Sirius questioned.
Ron grinned. “Yeah, I’m wearing Harry’s. Hope made mine rather un-wearable.”
“Ah. Yes, babies are good for that, at least. We used to keep extra clothes at James and Lily’s house for when we visited,” Sirius chuckled. He lowered his voice then as Hermione stood and began gathering the empty plates and refilling their teacups. “At least Harry and Ginny had a girl. Boys are even more dangerous!”
Hermione giggled. “Oh, Sirius… have you told Harry that?”
“Of course. I just hope they have a boy at some point – he deserves payback!”
Ron looked puzzled. “Do I want to know why?”
The others laughed. “Have you ever changed Hope?” Sirius asked.
“Of course. A few times.”
“Well, anytime you change a baby, it’s possible you may need more than one nappy anyway – but with boys, it can be even more ‘dangerous’ if they do their business while you’re changing them. And they’re more likely to do it, too.”
“Oh no…” Ron began laughing. “Let me guess… Harry?”
Sirius and Remus both chuckled, and Sirius shook his head. “I swear, he got me almost every time I changed him.”
“He nailed almost everyone who changed him except Lily. If he ever got her, she refused to admit it. She just said none of us knew what we were doing,” Remus grinned.
Harry entered the room again just in time to hear what Remus was saying. “Are you telling that again? Would it make it easier on you two if I just got Rita Skeeter to publicly announce that Harry Potter used to pee on people who changed his nappies?” He was grinning, shaking his head, even as he sat down in front of the fire again.
Ron snorted into his teacup. “Oh, she would love having that ‘inside information’!”
Hermione chuckled. “Wouldn’t she? Think of what her stories about Harry would have been like during fourth year if she’d known things like that.”
Harry groaned. “I don’t even want to think about it!”
“Think about what?” Ginny asked as she re-entered the room. Sirius immediately reached to take Hope, but Remus beat him to it, grinning mischievously as he did.
Before Harry could reply, Ron answered, “Harry was just volunteering to tell Rita Skeeter all about his misspent youth.”
Harry groaned again and threw a pillow at Ron. “What is this? ‘Rag on Harry Day’?”
Ron laughed again. “Ooh, no… we’re saving that for your birthday!”
Ginny laughed as she sat down next to Harry. “Ron, don’t give away all our secrets!”
“Now I know what they mean about ‘with friends like these…’” Harry dropped his forehead onto Ginny’s shoulder in mock defeat.
Ginny laughed and kissed his hair. “Poor baby. Should I tell all the embarrassing stories about Ron to make you feel better?”
“NO!” Ron answered sharply, as Harry laughed.
“I doubt we’d have time to hear that many,” Hermione teased, as she leaned forward to return her empty teacup to the tray.
Ginny laughed. “You’re right about that!”
Sirius chuckled then as Hope attempted to get a handful of Remus’ pie. “I told you she liked the good stuff.”
Remus laughed. “So you did.” He then turned back toward Harry. “We really didn’t intend to interrupt what you lot had planned. Are we keeping you from something?”
Harry shook his head. “Not at all. You’re only saving us from going shopping with the girls,” he replied, grinning at his wife.
“Shopping, hmm? For anything in particular?” Sirius asked, entirely too innocently.
“NO!” Harry and Ginny both exclaimed at the same time, then both blushed and tried to appear nonchalant as everyone else laughed at them again.
Remus was still chuckling as he asked, “Are you taking Hope with you?”
Harry nodded. “Hermione and Ginny took her with them this morning, and Ron and I were going to take her this afternoon.”
Sirius and Remus traded looks, then Sirius said, rather slowly, “You know… if you’d like, Remus and I could stay here awhile and watch after her. We didn’t really have any set plans for the afternoon.”
Harry looked thoughtful for a moment, then answered, “You know, actually… perhaps you two could come with Ron and me this afternoon, and then watch Hope for awhile this evening, while we take these two ladies to dinner? Would that be too much to ask?”
Sirius grinned in response, just as Hope smacked Remus in the face with his spoon. “Actually, Harry, that sounds delightful, as long as Moony doesn’t object?” He glanced at his friend for confirmation.
Remus grinned as well. “It sounds to me like a wonderful way to delay my marking those first-years’ essays.” He grimaced at the thought, and Sirius laughed at him.
“Don’t forget, Moony, you asked for this job!”
“Don’t remind me!”
Harry grinned delightedly. “Great!” He stood and stretched, then added, “I reckon we should get going soon.”
“Am I meant to wear your clothes this afternoon, then?” Ron asked, grinning at Harry as Hermione began to help Ginny gather the dishes.
“Unless you’d rather that I turn yours pink…” Harry retorted as he headed toward the laundry room for Ron’s clothes.
Sirius pried the spoon away from Hope while Remus distracted her with a stuffed lion. “Do I want to know why you’d want to be seen with Ron if he’s all in pink?” Sirius called after Harry.
“As long as I’m not pink…” Harry called in reply.
“If my clothes are, you will be!” Ron shot back. Harry didn’t answer, but instead, Ron’s clothes suddenly flew past the living room and disappeared into the bathroom, barely avoiding a collision with the serving tray that was following Ginny and Hermione into the kitchen. Ron sighed dramatically, then rose to follow his clothing. “I suppose I should change, then,” he muttered.
“I need to get a few things for Hope, too. I’ll be right back,” Harry excused himself, then went to gather up some bottles and other necessities for Hope’s nappy bag.
A few minutes later they all said their good-byes for the time being, and the ladies headed off in one direction, the gentlemen in another.
They walked companionably for a few minutes before Sirius asked, all too innocently, “So… what are you two shopping for, anyway?”
Harry and Ron exchanged looks before Harry answered, “Erm… I’m trying to find Ginny’s Valentine’s Day present. I know what I want, but I haven’t been able to find the right thing yet.”
Sirius gave him a knowing glance. “Are you trying to make up for past mistakes already?” Harry felt his face heat up as he shrugged, trying to avoid a more detailed answer. Sirius chuckled as he laid a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Do you want me to guess what you did, or are you going to tell me?”
Remus chuckled. “Oh go on, Harry. I’m certain it can’t be any worse than what your dad did to your mum.”
Harry looked over at Remus hopefully. “What’d Dad do?”
Sirius laughed. “The first Valentine’s Day after he and Lily began seeing each other, he totally forgot about it being Valentine’s Day. Lily could have killed him. In all fairness to your dad, though, they’d only been going out a few weeks, and I’m certain he just wasn’t accustomed to thinking of those things. But that didn’t stop Lily from making him miserable for a few days.”
Ron burst out laughing as Sirius spoke, and laughed even harder when he caught sight of Harry’s reddened face. “Like father, like son, it seems!” Ron chortled.
Remus and Sirius both laughed. “Oh, Harry! You didn’t!” Remus chuckled.
Harry bent over Hope’s pram, needlessly tucking her blankets more securely, trying to avoid looking at his companions. “I didn’t mean to…” he began, but had to pause again as Sirius let out another bark of laughter.
“When did you do this?” Sirius asked between chuckles.
“Last year,” Harry muttered.
“Last year? Then that means…” Sirius began, but Harry interrupted.
“I know, I know. We were newly married and Ginny was pregnant with Hope. If ever there was a time to not forget, that should have been it. I guess I was still so worried about everything… I dunno. It just never even crossed my mind then. But I did give her flowers later. And she forgave me. And she forgot to give me what she’d made for me then, too, because she was so upset with me. But this year, I want to do something special.”
Remus nodded sagely. “You are a wise young husband,” he pronounced, grinning.
“Oh shut it,” Harry smirked back at him.
“So are you going to tell us what you’re planning? Or at least tell us where we’re going?” Sirius asked, as he took control of Hope’s pram.
“I need to go to another jewelry shop, I suppose. Ron and I went to one earlier, but they didn’t have what I wanted.”
“Do you know what you want?” Ron asked.
Harry nodded. “Yep.”
“And that is…?” Sirius prompted.
“When I find it, I’ll let you know,” Harry responded with a wicked grin. He then pointed out a shop down the street that he wanted to visit.
That choice proved to be ideal, and in no time both Harry and Ron had found exactly what they had in mind. Ron, Sirius and Remus grinned appreciatively as Harry showed them his selection and told them part of what he had in mind. “Ginny will love it,” Ron pronounced.
Harry smiled. “I rather think she will. And I know
Hermione will love what you bought. I want to hear about her reaction later.”
“I’m certain you will,” Ron grinned.
They decided to take Hope to the park for a short visit before she got too sleepy to play. It wasn’t long, though, before even the swings had lost their appeal to Hope, and Harry recognized the signals for naptime. Harry ducked into a nearby loo and quickly changed Hope, then they located a couple of quiet benches. He sat on one with Hope and gave her a bottle while he rocked her in his arms. Harry was grateful that Hope cooperated and was asleep within moments of finishing her bottle. He carefully settled her in her pram, and murmured a silencing charm over the pram, in addition to the warming charms already on her blankets. When he straightened again, he found himself being watched carefully by three very familiar faces. “What?” he asked warily.
Sirius stood and put a hand on Harry’s shoulder again. “Don’t sound so suspicious. I was just thinking what a great job you and Ginny are doing,” he said quietly, earnestly. Harry blinked at him in surprise, but before he could reply, Remus joined in.
“I was also thinking how proud your parents would be of you,” he added, just as quietly.
Harry looked down at Hope, sleeping peacefully, as Sirius squeezed his shoulder. “Thanks,” he answered softly. “I’m glad you think so.” He caught Ron’s thoughtful expression, though, and asked, “Ron? What is it?”
Ron looked away for a moment, then said, “Nothing. I was just thinking, I suppose.”
Harry grinned knowingly at him. “Just in case you’re wondering, yes, it’s worth it.”
Ron turned scarlet. “Shut up,” he muttered as Harry chuckled at him.
“So… how does a nice hot Butterbeer sound?” Remus asked, and they all agreed.
The rest of the day passed pleasantly. After enjoying their Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, they headed back to Harry and Ginny’s house to meet the ladies. After giving Sirius and Remus a complete list of instructions about Hope’s routine, Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione spent the evening laughing and talking over a leisurely dinner. Afterward, Ron and Hermione said their good-byes outside the restaurant, then Apparated to their homes. Harry and Ginny began to walk toward home, hands intertwined comfortably. “So, did you and Ron have a good day?” Ginny asked.
Harry nodded, “Umm. It was nice to see them, and Sirius and Remus, too.”
Ginny chuckled quietly. “Did you boys behave yourselves this afternoon?”
Harry smiled, “Yes, dear. We were very good. We didn’t go up high at all.”
Ginny stopped for a moment and stared at him. “Harry! You didn’t!”
He grinned wickedly. “Of course we did. She loves it. You wouldn’t want us to make her unhappy, would you?”
Ginny sputtered. “Harry, you… you didn’t!”
Harry couldn’t stand it any longer. He grabbed Ginny into a hug as he laughed. “I’m sorry, Gin. We took her to the park for a while and let her swing. That’s all, I promise.”
Ginny smacked his shoulder. “You are evil!” she protested, but she was laughing, too.
“Hey, if you can steal my socks enough to make me turn up in a towel in front of your mother…” Ginny interrupted him by giggling into his chest. “Then I think I should be allowed to torment you a bit, too.”
Ginny leaned up and kissed him. “I suppose that’s only fair, dear.”
Harry wrapped his arms around her more securely and kissed her again. “Did you have a good day with Hermione?” he asked quietly. Ginny nodded.
“We did, but I enjoyed being with you this evening, too.”
Harry smiled warmly. “Me, too. It was a wonderful evening.”
Ginny kissed him lightly, then sighed. “I suppose we should go home and rescue Sirius and Remus, though, don’t you think?”
Harry chuckled as he took her hand again. “I suppose we should.” They walked home and found the minders sitting on the sofa in front of the fireplace, playing chess.
“She’s asleep?” Harry almost-whispered in surprise, as he hung up his and Ginny’s cloaks in the cupboard.
Sirius chuckled quietly. “Of course she is. We’re experienced with babies, you know.”
Remus rolled his eyes. “Yes, but that experience was quite a few years ago, you know.”
Sirius looked up at Harry, his eyes smiling. “I know, Moony. But some things, you never forget.”
Ginny smiled at them both. “Could I make us all some tea? I think there may even be some of Mum’s pie left.”
“Correction. There was some of Molly’s pie left. Sirius found it,” Remus grinned.
Sirius snorted. “Yes, but you ate more of it than I did.”
Harry chuckled. “I’m certain we have something else to go with the tea. You will stay a bit, won’t you?”
Sirius and Remus exchanged looks for a moment, then Remus replied, “We’d love to. We can’t stay too long, though. I still have essays to mark.”
Harry and Ginny quickly made tea and served up a plate of biscuits, and they visited together for another hour or so before Sirius finally announced that it was time for him and Remus to leave. “I promise to come back again sooner. I can’t go this long between visits with Hope or she won’t remember me properly,” he smiled as Harry fetched their cloaks.
They exchanged hugs all around and then Sirius and Remus made their exit. Harry collapsed onto the sofa, and Ginny plopped down beside him. He settled his arms around her comfortably. “This was a really nice day,” he said quietly, then kissed the top of her head.
“Yes, it was.” She settled back against his shoulder. They sat for a while, scarcely talking, until Harry realized that Ginny was almost asleep in his arms.
“Gin… c’mon. Let’s go to bed.”
She sighed dramatically. “All right. I suppose we must.”
He grinned at her and helped pull her to her feet, then quickly waved his wand at the dishes that were left, Banishing them to the kitchen. “I’ll wash up in the morning.” He extinguished the lights and followed his wife to bed.