"Rise and shine, London! And it's a beautiful Sunday morning, chaps! The coffee is boiling, the cauldron is simmering and it's the WWN here ready to brighten up your sullen days! And in today's entertainment news, singing sorceress Celestina Warbeck announced her engagement this morning in front of—"
"Shut—up!" Ginny Weasley muttered sleepily, hitting the wireless with her diary.
Yes, it was Sunday. A beautiful Sunday morning, indeed. The sun was way up in the sky, washing Ginny's whole bedroom with whiteness. It was mid-morning, and the birds that had been singing a familiar melody were now long gone and replaced by Mr. Mackenzie's Muggle thingamajig next door, making Ginny's eyebrows knot in annoyance. First singers, now lawnmowers she thought grumpily, her eyes still shut tight as she tried to regain the sleep she just had.
It was the day she had been waiting for all week. No hospital work, no cranky bosses, no bawling babies from the downstairs ward, no errands—in other words, absolute freedom. It would only be Ginny and her bed, and her bed alone. It was time to get the sleep she had been longing for since Monday.
But with that wretched wireless screaming about singing sorceresses Ginny didn't care about and Mr. Gadget-Happy-Next-Door-Neighbor using his irritatingly noisy Muggle junk, it was impossible for her to have a bit of a lie-in. So much for beauty sleep. It wasn't a mystery now why her mum was annoyed with her father's obsession with Muggle things.
Ginny buried herself deeper into the covers, trying to remember the dream she'd been having about dewdrops and tulips…her mind's eye could see the Burrow's lawn and the gnomes running about…she could hear the catcalls from her twin brothers and she could hear Harry saying nervously, "Gin, I—I was thinking—"…her lips were curving into a smile…
"—and the defense appealing to the Wizengamot.' That was Sophia—"
"ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! I'M GETTING UP!" Ginny screamed loudly, grabbing the wireless and banging it hard on her bedside table. Why did I ever buy that piece of junk, she thought grumpily and saw the clock on her bedside table say "You're late!"
Ginny tried to tie her long red hair into a ponytail, ignoring the words on her clock. It was Sunday; there was no work. How could she ever be late?
She dragged herself out to the kitchen, and found her flatmate Fiona Berkley sipping a mug of coffee and reading The Daily Prophet. Fiona looked up and smirked at her. "And I thought you'd never wake up."
"Morning to you too," Ginny yawned, grabbing a mug from the pantry. "A dozen Aurors were sent to St. Mungo's last night. I think they were from some raid. Everyone's home so I had no choice but to stay and help."
Fiona smiled and tapped her mug with her wand to heat it. "I told you that you should come home in the late afternoon."
"Yes, but I thought I could have a long sleep today, you know," Ginny sighed, pouring coffee into her mug. "Remind me not to buy things that are purple and fluffy. I swear that wireless is going to the trash. I'm getting rid of it. I can't believe I let Tara make me buy that thing."
Fiona laughed, "Don't let her hear that. She's awake in her room you know."
Ginny turned her head towards the door at the opposite side of the dining table and shrugged. "She went out last night then?"
"Apparently. She was stressed out from all the classes at the Dance School and said she needed to ‘release some pent-up energy,'" Fiona said, throwing the newspaper at the chair beside her. "And releasing such energy meant not coming home last night. She just came home, you know. And I'm betting ten Galleons that that woman met some bloke in The Dungeon."
"Oh, not again," Ginny groaned. "Please, after that fiasco with Luke, I thought she was over with it."
Fiona stood up and started igniting the stove. "Oh you know her, Ginny. She'll never get tired of it as long as it's someone as obsessive compulsive as she is."
As if on cue, the door swung open to reveal a petite blonde with violet eyes walking toward them, clutching her stomach. "Fiona, how many times do I have to tell you not to use your Sleekeazy in the shower? I told you it clogs the drain and you know that cleaning the drain is not an easy job, even with magic!"
"All right, all right," Fiona said, rolling her eyes and going to the bathroom. "I'll clean it up, Your Highness."
"Fun night?" Ginny asked as she poured coffee into Tara's mug.
"Not really," Tara shrugged before sitting beside her. "Chris insisted on going back to his place before the Weird Sisters could even start playing."
"He's a Herbologist. He's now researching the other uses of toadstools and his team is studying horned toads," Tara said grinning. "Exciting, isn't it?"
Before Ginny could ask her what was so thrilling about horned toads, Fiona walked into the room and voiced her thoughts. "Horned toads? Toadstools? What's with him and frogs?"
"He's a Herbologist," Tara said, rolling her eyes at Fiona. "And don't even get me started about how boring Herbology is. At least I've got someone!"
"Ginny, I bet you twenty Galleons she's got a new guy next week," Fiona said nonchalantly, sipping her coffee.
"Hey!" Tara exclaimed.
Fiona laughed and patted Tara's hand. "I was joking, you nut! And besides, we really shouldn't be talking about us here. Gin, I thought you're going out today?"
"Yeah," Tara said, staring at Ginny. "Where's that boyfriend of yours anyway? I thought he was going with you."
"David?" Ginny asked. "I'm staying here all day. We won't be seeing each other, I think."
Fiona dropped her newspaper and stared at Ginny. "Don't tell me you forgot!"
Ginny screwed up her eyes and tried to remember her schedule. It was Sunday. No work. And the meeting with Healer Brandon would be on Monday. She had nothing to do—or so she thought—
"Oh yes, she forgot," Fiona sighed, shaking her head.
"What? Is there supposed to be something—"
"Accio Ginny's towel!" Tara laughed and tossed her the summoned towel. "It's your niece's birthday party, right?! Oh, Ron and Hermione are going to kill you!"
Ginny muttered a few chosen words, and without another word, fled to drain-clogged bathroom with towel in hand.
* * *
The Burrow was in its usual chaotic state that morning. The front lawn was empty except for a clutter of boots by the front steps and a dozen cloaks hanging by the front door. Laughter was disturbing the quiet country air from the backyard. It only meant one thing: All of the six Weasley brothers were there with their families, and it was because of Ron and Hermione's daughter Aya's first birthday.
Ginny Apparated and half ran toward the house, clutching the gift for her niece and goddaughter. From the looks of things, Hermione had really made sure that the party started at exactly eleven o' clock. It was now half-past twelve, and the noise coming from the back of the house meant that everybody was in the middle of things. Hermione's going to skin me, Ginny thought miserably as she opened the front door.
She was right. There was no one inside the house. She entered the kitchen and saw her mother and her sister-in-law Penny working with the cake. She shrugged. Here goes nothing.
"Hey, Mum, Penny," she said casually, walking toward the kitchen's back door. "Everybody's outside, then? Where's my baby girl?"
"Ginny!" Mrs. Weasley said. "Hermione's been waiting for you for over an hour now! Where have you been?! And where's David?"
"First, I got up late. And I was dead tired from work, Mum!" she added before her mother could start lecturing her about punctuality. "And about David, I have no idea."
"But I thought he promised Percy to talk about work," Penny said.
Ginny sighed, "Honestly, I don't know what to think now."
Yes, she was tired of everything. She didn't want to think of David and their relationship anymore. She had been dating David Croft for two and a half years now, and their relationship wasn't much different as of the last two years. David's family owned the Wizarding Wireless Network and that meant that he was always too busy running the network to even spend time with Ginny. She understood everything; but with her work in St. Mungo's stressing her further, she was not exactly happy anymore. She had thought it was just because they were starting out, but it had been two years now and there was still no change. Three-quarters of their supposed dinner dates were spent alone without a sign of David. She was tired of everything, but she loved him and David always knew how to say a proper apology. Yet, she hated herself for accepting every single ‘sorry' and not saying anything about how upset she was.
"And the woman of the hour has finally arrived," Ron Weasley, Ginny's brother, said, entering the kitchen. "Where have you been?"
Ginny stood on her tiptoes and kissed her brother on the cheek. "I'm so sorry. But I got up late and—" She sighed. "What the hell, I'm here anyway so don't ask questions anymore."
Ron smirked as he led her to the backyard. "'Mione was having a fit earlier, you know. Kept muttering about how it's our daughter's first birthday and both godparents aren't here. Oh look, there she is now."
Ginny turned and saw her best friend and sister-in-law Hermione walking toward her briskly. "And you came!"
She smiled. "Of course, I'd come! Do you think I'd forget Aya's birthday?" Ginny kissed Hermione on both cheeks.
"Honestly, I'm starting to think that you did forget," Hermione said, raising her eyebrows suspiciously.
"No, of course not," Ginny lied, smiling sheepishly. "I just woke up late, that's all. Anyway, what's the big deal? I'm here now."
"You know, I was going to hex you and Harry if neither one of you showed up," said Hermione, leading Ginny toward the buffet table.
Ginny turned sharply to her sister-in-law. "Ha-Harry's coming?" she asked surprised, her heart beating unexplainably faster than usual.
Harry had moved to New York three years ago because of his new assignment with the International Auror Confederation and had never been back in London, missing Aya's birth and christening altogether. Hermione was furious at him for missing his goddaughter's christening, but they couldn't do anything since he was in the middle of an important operation —the downside of being an Auror, as Ron put it. Ginny hadn't heard from Harry since then except for the occasional owls and parcels he sent to her for her birthdays and holidays.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Oh, how I wish! Harry owled us last week saying that he can't take a week, or even a day, off."
A silent sigh of relief escaped Ginny's lips. For what reason, she didn't know—much like the reason why her heartbeat had raced earlier.
"And that's why I was going to hex the two of you if you didn't show up," Hermione said threateningly.
Ron chuckled and put his arms around his wife. "Hermione, darling, relax. You know Harry, he's letting himself get swamped with work. No wonder he's still a bachelor."
"How can you be so sure that he doesn't have a girlfriend in New York, Ron?" asked Ginny, finding her brother's comment rather silly.
Ron looked at his sister and smirked. "Well, for one, he's a bloody coward."
Ginny frowned in an attempt to hide the blush she knew that was starting to creep into her cheeks. So what if he did—or didn't—have a girlfriend in New York? It didn't matter, right?
Ginny turned around and saw two little redheaded boys running towards her followed by a laughing Fred and George Weasley. "Oh, why, it's the amazing Jerry and Ken!" She knelt down and kissed her nephews on the cheeks. "What are you two up to now?"
Jerry, Bill's youngest son, pointed at the twins behind him. "Uncle Fred and Uncle George showed us new tricks, right Ken?" he said proudly before turning to his older brother, who nodded and nudged Jerry's elbows. The two exchanged identical mischievous smiles and ran as fast as they could towards Percy's twin daughters, Valerie and Vanessa.
Ginny laughed. There was no doubt about it, Bill's sons would definitely take the place of Fred and George as the Weasley Dynamic Duo—and they were getting all the help they needed from their uncles.
"I see that those little protégées of ours have divulged our little secret," Fred said, pulling Ginny forward for a peck on the cheek.
"And what exactly are you teaching those two angels, huh?" asked Ginny, turning to the smirking George.
"Oh, just a couple of new tricks from the Weasleys Wizard Wheezes," answered George. "It's good to have new products to launch if you're opening up in Paris, you know."
The twins' joke shop had been continuously booming for the last seven years and they had opened several stores in London, Hogsmeade, Wales, Scotland, and in other places on the continent. With that, Witch Weekly had recently named the twins as London's most successful bachelors and entrepreneurs. And it was only now that Mrs. Weasley was becoming proud of her sons for opening the joke shop.
"Just promise me you two won't blow up Aya's birthday cake," Hermione warned.
Fred turned to his brother and smirked. "Now, that's an idea!"
Hermione crossed her arms across her chest and stared at Fred and George menacingly. A suppressed laugh escaped Ginny's lips at the thought of the twins' wedding gift to the couple, which showered the whole Ministry ballroom with several…interesting things. Hermione had sent them death glares, while Ron had turned redder than his hair. Harry, Ginny, Fred, George, and Charlie, on the other hand, had burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter.
"Don't worry, sister, dear. We don't fancy an exploding cake much," George said before turning to his twin. "Right, Fred?"
Fred nodded, a smug smile playing on his lips. "But if it's Percy's, we might consider it a bit."
"Fred!" Ginny exclaimed at the same time that two identical cries echoed across the whole backyard.
"Jerry! Ken! I'll get you for this!" Valerie screamed as she and Vanessa ran after their guffawing cousins.
Hermione, Ginny and her brothers all laughed at the four children as they ran about the whole Weasley backyard; Valerie and Vanessa waved their arms threateningly, while the boys' laughter was carried in the air.
Percy, however, was not amused by what had happened. "Bill! Could you please control your sons and keep them from tormenting my daughters?"
Bill shook his head and tried to look innocent. "If there's someone you should tell off, it's not me, Perce. Remember, your twin brothers are here."
Percy shook his head, shrugged and went back to conversing with their father.
More or less the same scenario had happened in the next hour as laughter and dozens of "oohhs" and "aahhhs" could be heard from the children in the Weasley backyard. As usual, Fred and George provided the day's entertainment with some new and famous tricks they had brought from their joke shop. Ginny had forgotten her earlier irritation and frustration because of David's absence, though it crept in once in a while when her family asked her why she wasn't with David—and that started to irk her even more.
"Ginny, could you help me bring the presents into the living room?" Hermione called, her arms full of brightly wrapped boxes. "Aya's going to start opening the gifts and I'd like everything to be proper in the living room."
Ginny smiled, thinking that some things really never change. "Was there anyone from the Auror office who came?" she asked as she grabbed a couple of boxes.
"Not many. A couple or so and they left rather quickly," Hermione said, arranging the boxes on the living room table. She turned to her and raised her eyebrows. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, nothing," Ginny shrugged. "I was just surprised that it's just the family that's here."
"Ron wanted it to be family only, anyway," Hermione said, smiling. "If only Harry could come, don't you think so?"
Ginny swallowed. Hermione's look was making her turn red. Get a grip, Weasley, she thought. And so what if he comes? Yes, so what, right? "I suppose he's busy."
Hermione waved her hand irritably in the air. "Ah, sometimes, I'm really tempted to wrap my hands around his neck and strangle him. He promised me last month when I talked to him through Floo. And now look what he's done!"
"You talked to him?" Ginny asked suddenly, her head snapping towards Hermione.
Hermione simply smiled at her knowingly, causing Ginny to blush before bending down over the gifts again. "Yes, he Floos in at least once a month. He's always asking about you, you know."
"Really?" Ginny asked suddenly.
Hermione nodded nonchalantly. "Asks us to give him a blow-by-blow of everything happening to you."
Ginny knew she was blushing profusely by now. Stop it, he's just a friend, she thought miserably, but the famous Weasley blush was creeping up again.
"But of course, he asks for a blow-by-blow of everyone," Hermione said, smirking. "Something wrong, Ginny?"
Ginny closed her open mouth and ran her hand through her hair, composing herself. "Of course. I—I think I'll go to the kitchen to help Mum and Penny."
Hermione's smile widened and she nodded, obviously controlling the huge grin about to spread across her features. "Yes, you do that."
Ginny hurriedly went in the kitchen and helped Mrs. Weasley and Penny with the cake and the pudding before Hermione could ask more. It was common knowledge to everyone in the family that she had never got over her feelings for Harry. They were all there when she had burst into tears when he announced he was moving to New York. She had tried to hide her true feelings that day, but the truth was obvious in her eyes.
She cursed herself for acting like a love-struck teenager. Hell, that was three years ago! Why couldn't she just make herself believe that he would never like her back? That her feelings could never be returned and that he only thought of her as a friend? Yes, she had to tone down these feelings, and thanks to David Croft, she knew that she had succeeded. But why was it that all of a sudden she acted like this?
And thinking of David just annoyed Ginny even more. Where the hell was he?
"Ginny, you're squashing the pudding!"
"Wha—" Ginny snapped back into her senses. Penny grabbed the sabotaged pudding out of her hands.
"I said you're squashing the pudding!" Penny said, trying her best to fix the poor thing.
Ginny smiled sheepishly. "I'm sorry, I'm just thinking of some things."
Penny shrugged. "I know. Look, David not coming is not supposed to make you this sullen, okay?"
Ginny frowned. "What does this have to do with David?"
"I know that look, Gin." She smiled and turned back to take the pudding outside.
Still confused, Ginny was about to follow Penny when she saw a figure, carrying a huge package walking toward the Burrow. Must be just one of Ron's Auror friends, she thought but there was something familiar about the man. What it was exactly, she couldn't discern. It was like she knew him well, but she couldn't connect the face to a name.
Ginny screwed up her eyes but the sun's glare was making it difficult for her to see his face clearly. From what she could see, he was lanky but the way he walked exuded a certain aura that would make girls like Tara sigh in awe.
"Mum, I think Ron has another visitor," she said, still looking at the man and trying to figure out that something familiar in the stranger.
Mrs. Weasley looked out at the window and turned back to Ginny, handing her the cake she was holding. "Take this outside, dear, I'll take care of it."
Ginny nodded, took the cake from her mother's hand, and went out of the kitchen. Maybe she had seen him and got introduced during one of those countless Ministry gatherings she had to attend being the daughter of the Minister of Magic. She sighed; yes, maybe that was it.
She went back out into the backyard and placed the cake on the table. "Anyone want cake?" she asked aloud.
Five little heads in varying shades of red ran towards her, their hands raised. "Me, Aunt Ginny! I want cake!" all of them said at once.
"Okay, okay. Hold on." Ginny smiled as she took out her wand and tapped the knife, cutting the cake into several slices and sending them onto the platters. "There you go," she said as she handed each of her nieces and nephews a platter.
"Thank you, Aunt Ginny," Isabelle, Bill and Anne's eldest child, said before heading towards her mum.
Ginny took a plate of cake and went towards Aya's playpen. "How about you, baby girl? Do you want cake?" She cut a small bit and fed it to the little girl. Aya jumped and clapped her hands; Ginny laughed. "Like it?"
"Ron, Hermione, dear, guess who came to visit?" Mrs. Weasley said from the kitchen door.
"Oh my God!" Ginny heard Hermione squeal in surprise. "Ron! Oh my God!"
Ginny turned around and saw Hermione throwing herself into the arms of the man she saw walking towards the house earlier. Though she couldn't see the man's face, Ginny was now absolutely certain that there was something familiar about him—something eerily familiar.
"I miss you, too, Hermione," she heard the man say, chuckling. Her heartbeat raced; that voice—
Hermione released herself from his arms and swatted him lightly on the shoulders. "Bloody right, you should! You owe us big time!"
The man laughed heartily; he threw his head back, his eyes shining brightly with laugher. Hermione whacked him again playfully, unblocking Ginny's view of their newest visitor. The tall, handsome, dark-haired man standing in front of Hermione was none other than her best friend for fourteen years—Harry Potter.
Ginny's jaw dropped.
To be continued…
A/N: Thanks to the crazy Hogwarts Philippines witches and the two Taiwanese Muggle boys who made a cameo in this fic. And to our wonderful betas, JennaMae, KC, and Solveig, many, many thanks! You guys are the greatest!