(Author's Note: Yes, it really is meant to be jumping around in time like this. Honest.)
"It's finally arrived!" Hermione cried, waving the letter in the air for all to see.
At once, Hermione was swamped by a seething mass of humanity as the Burrow's inhabitants, both permanent and temporary, crowded around her, bombarding her with questions, and trying to read the precious letter that the postman, who had gone away looking a bit befuddled, had just handed to her.
Harry had grown up in the wizarding world, and these days there were fewer and fewer things that had the ability to amaze him - he had become used to taking magic for granted. So used to it, in fact, that he had been surprised one day when Ron had shown up on his doorstep with a bottle of whiskey and a look on his face that at first made Harry think that someone had died.
In many ways, it was worse.
The final battle had gone badly for the forces of the Light. Tricked into destroying a fake horcrux, Harry's attack on Voldemort had been doomed from the beginning. A synchronised, well-drilled Death Eater attack had left Harry separated from his friends and allies. Now Voldemort stood before him, on the other side of a circular room in the centre of which stood a lectern upon which was balanced a scarred, worn shield. It had been Ravenclaw's heirloom, a defensive weapon that Voldemort had used to mock Harry, moving it with a wave of his wand this way and that, blocking Harry's spells, all the while laughing his high, cold laugh.
All the while his friends had been in battle, screams and cries filtering somehow through the solid stone walls.
The aftermath of the battle had been brutal. The numbers of the dead had been surprisingly low, but the death of Rufus Scrimgeour in battle had sent shockwaves through the wizarding community, while the fall of Mad-Eye Moody had struck much closer to home for Harry. A revived DA, led by Neville and Ginny, had suffered losses. Ernie McMillan had fallen to Fenrir Greyback, an Auror driving a silver stake through his heart as the full moon lighting the battle had forced the lycanthropic change on the young man. Hannah Abbott hadn't been seen since then, retreating back to Muggle life just weeks after returning to Hogwarts.
But worst of all for Harry had been the death of Luna Lovegood. The dreamy girl had sternly held back the advance of a trio of Death Eaters led by Peter Pettigrew that had tried to ambush and capture a group of younger students returning from Hogsmeade. Luna alone had held them back, but her trusting, optimistic nature had led her to lower her wand when the declaration of Voldemort's death had come through. The Death Eaters had not been so easily quelled - instead the only women of the trio, Alecto, had drawn on the blonde girl and killed her in cold blood, seconds before Bill and Fred had arrived to subdue them.
Voldemort's last revenge on his enemies had broken Harry and Ginny. Harry had remained at Hermione's bedside, not sleeping, not eating, barely living, willing his friend to awaken.
Ginny had vanished, disappearing from the face of the earth for two months until she reappeared one day, tanned, scarred and cursing fluently in a South American dialect as she forced the Healers to use the medicine that she'd found to heal her best friend.
She had asked for him to go along with her, and he had agreed without a second's thought, but now as he sat in the overheated waiting room, he wondered why.
"Because you're you, Harry," she said, and squeezed his hand. "I love Ron, and Ginny and Molly are wonderful, and my Mum would have come in a heartbeat… But sometimes your presence is just very soothing."
Despite himself, despite their surroundings, Harry felt himself smile.
"I mean, when you don't really understand, and you're not quite sure if you should be saying something, you just sit there and radiate calmness and surety. It's very soothing. And you don't ask questions."
Harry's smile faded slightly. He wasn't sure whether he was being complemented anymore.
The doctor, a middle-aged Indian woman in a sterile looking white outfit, was standing in the doorway.
"Do you want me to-"
"No, Harry," she said, quickly. "But wait for me?"
Hermione's first night at Ron and Harry's flat had turned out to be a raucous, memorable affair. What had been intended to be a quiet family meal had turned into a wild celebration, as the news of Hermione's release and return to health spread, and the survivors of the final battle arrived and took very little persuasion to stay.
In the centre of it all was Ginny, bickering with the twins, remembering Luna, welcoming Remus and Tonks – who was looking quite far along now – and laughing with Eloise Midgen.
Harry watched, enchanted. She'd done something to her hair, he thought, or maybe it was just the magic in the air. He didn't care who was watching, didn't care that Fred and George had their heads together in a way that suggested he'd inspired a new product for their shop.
He did care that she didn't once look in his direction.
As soon as Harry and Hermione arrived back at the flat, Ron whisked Hermione away to hear the latest news, leaving Harry and Ginny alone together.
Harry was pleased that they'd got past the awkward stage of their relationship.
"How was he?" Harry asked, his eyebrows arcing in the direction of Ron and Hermione's room.
"The same as he's always been," she said, glancing up from her magazine with a slight smile. "Nervous, jittery, prone to bouts of erratic nervous energy. Fairly typical Ron."
He took a seat by the fireplace, and watched as the flames licked at the logs that he'd helped Ron cut, months before. Hermione had charmed the fire cleverly, producing an effect similar to Muggle central heating. The logs didn't burn, and the fire only gave off heat when the temperature fell below a certain level.
Harry was always amazed by the fire and the way that magic could defy one of the most basic natural laws. He wondered how it was that magic could do so much, but-
He glanced back at the door to Ron and Hermione's room.
-but that there was still so much that it couldn't do.
"There're a lot of people in the world who don't have as much as they do."
Harry turned to look back at Ginny, who was watching him over the top of her magazine.
"So they shouldn't want more?" he asked.
"They can be happy with what they have," she replied, going back to her reading.
Harry stared at the top of her head for a moment. He opened his mouth to reply, thought better of it, and closed it again.
Yes, he was very glad that the awkward stage had passed.
They were deep in what Hermione had termed the 'awkward stage'.
"It's only natural, Harry," she said, as he helped her pore over the half-rainforest of leaflets she'd collected since the private talk with the doctor, weeks before. "Ginny wanted nothing more than to have you back in her life – but she changed while we were away. We've changed, as well."
"I haven't," Harry said, adamantly.
The sharp SNAP! behind him made Harry leap from his chair, his ears recording the clatter of the chair against the floor even as his mind counted and discarded options of attack even as his hand slashed to his belt and back up again, his wand ready for hexing less than a second after the sound had reached his ears.
Ron stood in the doorway, one of Hermione's innumerable document boxes in his hands. As Harry untensed, Ron snapped the lid closed again.
"Yes," Ron said quietly, as Harry wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead. "You have."
He hovered over Burnham Breech, watching the rest of his team soar through a series of drills. The coach had banished him to the sidelines until he could focus on the training.
"Potter, whatever else is in your head, get rid of it before you take off, okay? When you're on my Sickle, you think what you're told to think – you don't moon about wondering whose bed you're going to end up in tonight, got it?"
Harry's cheeks burned. An unfortunate incident with a groupie at the Christmas party had left him with an unwelcome – and unwarranted, he protested – reputation as a serial Romeo. That the story had made the Prophet the next day had made things immeasurably worse, he felt. He hadn't noticed any change in the way that Ginny treated him, but he couldn't imagine that the story had improved his standing with her. He'd considered broaching the subject, but couldn't begin to think how.
The mid-morning, mid-summer sun made the room far too hot for Hermione in her condition, and Ron and Harry took great pains to reduce the temperature, with Cooling charms and opened windows and conjured fans all doing their bit. Ginny conjured a bowl of cold water, and Ron and Harry looked ruefully at one another as Hermione slipped off her shoes and slowly let her bare feet sink into the water with a blissful sigh.
Ginny caught Harry's eye and giggled. Harry's heart soared.
He'd tried very, very hard on Valentine's Day. Cautiously, he'd enquired about her plans for the day, and when she'd said that she was free, he had offered to cook her a meal.
No strings attached, he was quick to add.
She'd stared at him for a long time, and then accepted, graciously.
He'd wanted so very much to impress her. She didn't often come to his matches – and more often than not, he only found out that she had afterwards. This time he knew that she was coming, and he'd been hyperactive and talkative all day.
And then the coach had read out the teamsheet, and his name hadn't been among the starting players. He'd watched on as his team slipped to a turgid, painful defeat.
She hadn't joined Ron in the family lounge after the match.
It was hard to imagine how he'd messed up Valentine's Day. He wasn't a bad cook, by any stretch of the imagination, but the meatballs had been dry, the spaghetti chewy and the sauce rubbery.
The less said about the wine, the better.
Harry had become increasingly frustrated at the whole affair, not helped by the way in which Ginny had clearly been struggling to control her giggles from early on.
He'd snapped at her, for once not caring.
Her expression had gone cold in an instant, and she'd snapped back.
The result had been a blazing row, in which he'd accused her of being cold, and she'd told him that he was stupid and selfish.
He hadn't seen her for weeks afterwards. He was too embarrassed – and she, he knew, would be far too angry.
Hermione was upstairs, weeping. The offending letter lay on the table between them, and Harry stared at it, wishing above all else that the words could change. He knew a charm that would do it – but for once magic was of no use.
Ron was sat outside the bedroom door, waiting for Hermione to burn off the first wild spate of emotion. It was a lesson that he'd learned the hard way. The first letter had brought a similar reaction, and when he'd tried to comfort her from the first, a blast of accidental magic had tossed him across the room and through the heavy, oaken door of the wardrobe.
"She's only twenty," Ginny said, at last. "There's still time. And she's a witch."
"The spell did too much damage," Harry sighed, the words uncomfortably familiar to his ears. He was too tired even to argue. Ginny was in denial – she had been since the doctor's first prognosis. But they'd argued too often for him to risk it again.
"There could be a discovery tomorrow."
"You're right," he said, for the first time in a very long time.
They looked at one another, equally surprised.
Hermione had been insistent. It was probably the last thing that Harry would have chosen for her first day out since her return from hospital, but she had been insistent. Her mother thought it would be good for her as well. It struck Harry as odd that he'd never really met Hermione's parents before – as much trouble as he'd got their daughter into, he felt as though he should have known them better. He was as jittery as though he were meeting a girlfriend's parents for the first time. Ron, who had met his girlfriend's parents several times, teased him about it all the way along the motorway. Ginny, sat in front of him, said nothing, but occasionally her shoulders shook.
The Mothers and Children day was a big monthly event at the Grangers' surgery, and Hermione had helped out many times. Harry wondered whether it was where she had learnt to cope with him and Ron – one glance at the picnic area reminded him of the some of their wilder moments.
The four of them had no sooner walked through the gates when each had a baby placed in their arms.
Hermione looked awkward, shivering slightly even as she took the smallest child. Her mother guided her to a table where a skinny older woman sat, a headscarf wound tightly around her head. Harry watched the woman for a moment, slightly worried about the baby clasped in her frail grip, but if the woman looked weak, she seemed to have no problem jiggling the grizzling infant slightly as her and Hermione fell deep into conversation.
"You're a natural, mate," Ron said, interrupting his train of thought.
Harry looked down at the baby in his arms. The child – a girl, Harry thought – slept peacefully. Ron had his child slung carelessly over one shoulder, the toddler laughing as Ron spun on the spot, its short arms outstretched as far as they would go.
Ginny, meanwhile, was regarding her child critically. As Harry watched, she glanced up at him and Ron, as though offended that they had taken to childcare so easily. She held the child like a football, elbows clamped to her side, arm out straight in front of her. She looked back down at the baby, which was looking up at her. Hesitantly, she smiled, and jiggled the infant slightly.
Her face fell as the child began to protest, first squawking slightly and then, as it seemed to find its pitch, its cries grew louder until everyone was looking at her.
Harry hadn't seen her blush so much since she was eleven years old.
The fifth letter had come when Harry was dragging Ron home from Seamus' stag party, early one Saturday morning. The blurry, inky stamp across the top of the envelope was still clear enough to tell Harry exactly where it was from – and Ron sobered up considerably when Harry managed to communicate exactly where it was from.
Hermione found the two of them staring at the envelope as though it were a ticking bomb. She shook her head and slit it open with her wand.
"I haven't got my hopes up," she said, at Harry's questioning look.
"Probably for the best," he said. "And you're still young, Hermione. You never know what the future may hold."
She crooked an eyebrow at him. "You're starting to sound a lot like Ginny," she said.
"Well... She's right," Harry shrugged.
On the fourth month, Ron and Hermione were unavailable, but Harry and Ginny went along to the day out anyway. Harry had come to rather enjoy spending time with the children – and watching them grow up, even in the short time he'd been around them.
He'd told no-one that at the end of the last day, one of the little girls had called him 'Uncle Harry'.
He'd spent a long time on his own thinking about that during the last month, and he hoped that she'd be there again that day.
Harry had been thinking about this, and it took him a little while to realise that they had become lost.
"I know," she said. She glanced across at him. "Look, just don't say anything, okay?"
"We should stop and ask for directions," he said, mildly.
"No need, I know where we are," she said.
Twenty minutes passed.
"So, in fact, you didn't know where we were?" Harry asked, pointedly.
"Oh, go ahead and yell at me, if that's what'll make you happy," she snapped, swinging the steering wheel wildly and sending them down a side road. "You've been waiting to all morning, haven't you?"
"No," Harry said, bemused. "Not at all. I'm just disappointed that we're missing out on seeing the kids."
Ginny glanced at him, but said nothing.
The seventh letter came a year to the day after Voldemort's defeat, and the spell that had slashed across Hermione's abdomen.
Ginny and Harry hugged one another when they heard the news.
It wasn't until later on that either of them thought that it had been at all out of place.
The last of the Death Eaters was placed on trial. Alecto had done everything she could to try and buy her freedom, giving up Ministry moles and implicating those who had evaded detection.
But Harry had been insistent. She had committed murder. She had killed Luna. He had used every gram of political influence he possessed to ensure that she was placed on trial for her crimes.
When the day came, he sat with Ginny in the public gallery, watching as the woman who had killed their friend stood silently. She betrayed no emotion as the prosecutors listed the evidence against her. She barely blinked as witness and victim alike stood and gave their testimonies. Only when her sentence was announced, and she was condemned to a life of imprisonment at the reinforced Azkaban prison, did she show any trace of feeling. She looked up at the public gallery and laughed.
"I suppose you hoped I'd be killed, did you, Potter? Well, I'll thrive in Azkaban – and next time the Dark Lord rises, it won't just be one of your friends that I'll kill. Be warned!"
The Chief Wizard drowned out her words with a hasty Silencing Charm, but Harry knew what she was saying.
She was wrong. He hadn't wished her dead. Death was an escape from the punishment she deserved.
"She's gone," he muttered, just loud enough for Ginny to hear.
"She's at rest," Ginny replied.
They left together, and took Hermione the news. It seemed to bring her some relief – but it was hard to tell. She was not in a very coherent mood, although Ron assured them that it was just the heat. The Hogwarts – A History shaped bruise across the side of his face suggested otherwise, but neither Ginny nor Harry would have dreamed of mentioning it.
Hermione was no longer able to make the trip to her parents' day out, and Ron hated to be away from her, but Ginny and Harry travelled religiously. Ginny had even found a shortcut that shaved ten minutes off their journey.
They could have Apparated, Harry realised one day. But he was glad that they continued their monthly drives. Time alone with Ginny was something that he enjoyed. He'd been restored to the first team, and was training harder than ever, determined to put his previous problems behind him.
She, meanwhile, was so often busy with her Gringotts apprenticeship that she wasn't around as much.
But they still went to the Mothers and Children days. They'd never missed a single day since they started, even if they had arrived rather late on that one day.
That was a memory that they laughed at, now.
On one level, Harry felt that he owed it to Hermione. On another, it was now routine. So routine that Harry and Ginny didn't even bother making arrangements – it was now accepted that Ginny would pick up Hermione's car, drive to Harry's, and then take them to the day out.
Harry didn't enjoy it one jot less for its familiarity.
It was 'his' little girl's birthdays, and she demanded that her Uncle Harry help her blow out the candles. He had noticed Ginny conspiring with Mrs. Granger over the cake, and wondered what they had been up to. The firecracker snaps, pops and bangs that greeted their huffs and puffs were his answer, as the picnic table was illuminated with an impromptu display of WWW Mini Big Bang Candle Surprises, to the delight of everyone present. Harry laughed along with everyone else, and cheered loudly enough that the birthday girl turned to her adopted uncle and pressed a finger to her lips. Harry looked suitably chagrined as everyone laughed.
He noticed Ginny smiling at him, and he smiled back at her.
At last the day came when Hermione went back into hospital. Ron and Ginny were with her, and Harry was close behind. The rest of the extended Weasley family arrived in ones and twos and family groups. Remus, Tonks and their daughter Beep were the last to arrive. Beep, as always, toddled straight to Fred and George, who had rechristened her after hearing Remus declare for the eighth time in a day, that she was taking after the Black-Potter side of her family in her mischief making.
"How are things going?" Remus asked, as Tonks sank wearily down on a chair that Arthur conjured for her. She was due to give birth to their second – which Fred, George and Beep were already calling Meep – in just over a fortnight.
Harry shrugged. The number of doctors that had crowded into the room concerned him. He hoped that there was another door for them to leave by – he was sure that there was no room for them all to still be in there.
"We're waiting to hear something. Anything," he said. "Ron hasn't even been out – although I did hear him yelling something an hour or so back."
"Well, he's not going to be at his best at a moment like this. Hermione either," he added, with a quick glance at his wife.
"I just can't believe that we're finally here," Harry said. "It seems so long ago. Such a stupid, small thing..." he trailed off. The door to Hermione's room swung open.
He was at the front of the horde, Ginny half-a-step behind him. He was just barely aware of Molly and Arthur ordering everyone else to hold back for a moment.
"Ron," Harry's voice cracked in his throat. He tried to swallow, but he was suddenly blinking back tears.
"Is it over?" Ginny asked.
Ron nodded, taking deep, shuddering breaths as a questing hand reached out for the solid wall beside him. Ginny took his arm and guided him to the wall. He slumped back, exhaling heavily.
"Yeah," he said. "Yeah, it's over. It's..." he looked up, grinning. "It's a girl. Caitlyn Luna Weasley – can you believe it? A girl, first off. Mother and daughter are fine. Hermione's just getting ready to feed her. She said to let you know, and then get back in there so she can yell at me for yelling at the doctor."
He grinned again, if possible, even wider than before, and then turned and headed back into the delivery room.
Harry and Ginny turned to face one another, smiling giddily as the rest of the family pressed past them to peer through the tiny windows in the doors at the happy scene beyond.
Harry reached out and tentatively touched Ginny's hand. She looked down with a start, and then back up at him, and then with a smile she took his hand.
Together, they turned and joined the rest of the extended Weasley clan in celebrating the new birth in their midst.