A/N: One bottle of Chardonnay, two viewings of Bridget Jones’ Diary and three readings of an old favorite piece of fanfiction produced this story. To give credit where credit is due then, I thank, in reverse order, Beedaily, Helen Fielding, and Dry Creek Vineyards for their creations.
I hated anniversaries. Especially when they impinged on my sleep.
My first Saturday off in a hippogriff’s ageand my lovely parents, dear as they are to me, have decided that instead of allowing their only daughter a well deserved lie in, I must leave my dark, warm and cozy flat and be forced into manual labor to make ready for the slew of guests descending on the Burrow.
“Ginny! WHERE ARE YOU? Get yourself into this kitchen this instant! Do you have any idea what time it is?”
I squinted into my bedroom fireplace. The crimson face of my mother was dancing about the grate. I shoved my head underneath my pillow and groaned.
The irate visage vanished and I contemplated burrowing farther under the covers when a new face sizzled into view.
“What the hell is this, King’s Cross?”
“Ginny, are you there?” The bushy haired head of my sister-in-law peered about the room. “Ginny, you better get yourself over here if you know what’s good for you. The twins are doing something with the canapés and Fleur is driving me up the wall. I’m not going to suffer by myself!”
I tossed one of my shoes toward the fireplace, but it merely took out the tongs and shovel in a loud clatter of metal.
“Now really! No need to get nasty.”
“Twenty minutes,Ginny, or I’m coming to get you.”
Nineteen and a half minutes later, I Apparated before my front yard. Despite my semi-comatose state, I loved seeing the Burrow at this time of year,covered in snow and icicles. The grayness of the wintry day made the light radiating from the hodgepodge of windows all the more charming. I tramped my way across the yard; the wind swirled about me,kicking up the snow and spinning it around the evergreens.
“Could be on a placemat, couldn’t it?”
I turned around to face the smile of my brother Charlie who was tossing a snowball from hand to hand.
“Do it and you die.”
The snowball dropped in an instant. No one messed with the Weasley women. Especially when we’ve had no sleep. I grabbed his mittened hand and we strolled along toward the house.
“Walk in before me –Mum loves you best. That way I can slink in and not get yelled at for shirking my daughterly duties in lieu of ameasly ten more minutes of shut eye.”
“Fourth year’s wicked. Healer’s motto: ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead,’ right? It’s the reason I broke it off with Gretchen in the end. Nonstop work that one.”
“I thought it was because she called you a two-timing idiotand tossed a drink in your face.”
He scratched his chin and offered up a mischievous smile. “Could be.”
I lunged over and hugged him thoroughly. He might be a rogue dragon tamer, but I loved him to pieces. He kissed the top of my head and laughed.
“Merlin, can you imagine? Mum and Dad have been married for thirty-five years. I can’t keep a relationship going for a month let alone years.”
At least you have relationships, I mused, knocking the snow off my boots against the side of the front porch. My social life consisted of chatting at the Healer’s station between rounds and warding off the unwanted advances of randy patients.
Opening the door, an explosion of smells and shouts bombarded my senses. The warmth of the room dispelled the chill from the outside; scents of roasted turkey and cinnamon hung intoxicatingly in the air.
“Charlie! Is that Charlie?” a familiar voice bellowed from the kitchen.
Add Seer to another of Molly Weasley’s hidden talents.
Charlie made for the den when I grabbed his arm. “You promised!”
“She’s going to make me talk to Aunt Pledge – the one with the blue hair and the twitch.”
I wrinkled my brow trying to remember. “The one with the talking goiters?”
“No, that’s Aunt Parse. Aunt Pledge was in the freak cauldron explosion. She’s deaf in one ear and thinks we’re all characters from Shakespeare.”
Charlie studied me for a moment. “Don’t they teach you anything in school these days?”
He Apparated before my eyes,leaving me exposed to the penetrating glare of my mother.
“It’s about time,young lady. March yourself in here right now.The curry needs sifting.”
Oh Lord, turkey curry with gooseberry gravy. Ever since her children had left the nest,my mother had embraced Muggle cuisine,thanks to Hermione. Unfortunately, the more exotic, the better according to Mum, which explained why the huge crowd around me were clenching drinks in their fists.
Shouldering through the gaggle of partiers, I finally pushed open the kitchen doors.
The sea of red hair startled even me.
“Grab the sieve, if you know what’s good for you,” said Bill,smiling as I tossed my cloak aside.
“Whoa, did you forget something?” asked Fred, arching an eyebrow.
“Like your skirt?” snorted George.
True, my choice of a black cashmere sweater and leather mini skirt may have been a bit daring,but I think it was the thigh-high boots that set offmy mother. Dragging me over to the corner, she muttered under her breath. “I’ve got some clothes of yours upstairs.”
“I am not going to wear an old jumper and plaid skirt, Mother. I’m twenty-two years old, practically a professional.”
“Which profession?” she countered archly, frowning at my lipstick.
“Hi,pumpkin! How’s my girl?” Dad entered the room and gathered me up into a bear hug. “How’s school going?”
“Peachy! Mum wants me to go change.”
Just then Ron burst through the doors with Hermione in fast pursuit.
“Mum, Uncle Levon is turning the triplets into balloons again. Could we please have a little more food to go with the alcohol?”
“Ronald, I left you alone with the babies for two minutes, TWO MINUTES, and I come back and they’re floating around the ceiling! They could have drifted out the window. Do you have any idea–”
The ranting continued as I handed Hermione the sieve and marched out in search of my nephews before my nieces got out the darts. Between Ron and Hermione’s boys and Bill and Fleur’s twin girls, there was never a dull moment in the Weasley household.
After deflating my nephews as well as dodging the pinches of a few snookered uncles, I stole away to inspect the room my parents had bewitched onto the house to hold the massive banquet table and chairs.
I gasped; Mum had outdone herself.
Stars and candles floated overhead; iridescent flowers blanketed the table,reflecting the cutlery and crystal goblets,and a violin and cello bobbed about the room playing softly. Enjoying the quiet solitude, I strolled about, adjusting the odd forkand switching about a few place cards when I stopped short. A calligraphied “H.” followed by “Potter” froze me to the spot.
“Whatever you do, please don’t sit me near Hermione,” a warm voice sounded from the doorway.
There he stood, his gaze unwavering. Several long and incredibly distressing seconds passed. Suffice it to say I was never so aware of my lack of clothes as at that moment.
Harry. Harry Potter. After the war, he had gone off to become an Aurorand I, a Healer. We had remained cordial, each obligated to see the other every few months, fellow sufferers in the unending barrage of Weasley family functions. The truth was I loved him too well to stop liking him, despite whatever his feelings may be for me. We were friends now and that was fine, I told myself, completely fine–really. Although why did the very sight of him stop my heart?
“When did you get back?” I asked holding onto the back of a chair for support.
He tilted his head to the side.“A few days ago. The case took longer than we thought.”
“Where were you stationed? Or would you have to kill me to tell me?”
He laughed, that warm contagious laugh of his, causing my knees to buckle.
Instantly, visions of scantily clad female Aurors filled my mind. By the time he spoke again I had already envisioned Clarissa, a tanned, Polynesian agent with looseauburn curls and even looser morals.
“It was hot and buggy. I couldn’t wait to get back actually.”
Before I could croak out a “Really?” the doors flung open and the deluge of the all things Weasley descended into the room.
I lost sight of Harry, having been grabbed by cousin Winifred who deposited me in a chair next to her, demanding that I introduce her to that “Mr. Potter” as soon as humanly possible.
“Isn’t he just divine?” she cooed in my ear as she whipped open her serviette. “Didn’t you read that article about him in Witch Weekly? He’s been renovating that magnificent farmhouse of his in the Cotswolds. They say he’s having a devilish time dealing with the Muggles who can’t understand how its windows keep changing every week. I guess he just can’t settle on anything. But you never know, maybe the right girl could change his mind.” She primped her hair and beamed across the table where the man himself was pulling out a chair for Aunt Pledge who kept crying out, “To what, my love, shall I compare thine eyne?” Those very “eynes” flashed playfully at me before he took his own seat.
I felt my cheeks blush. I was so used to remembering him as a teenage boy that it proved downright unnerving to view the man before me. Tanned skin offset the green of his eyes; his hair was styled in the blunt Auror cut, exposing his angled cheekbones. He still wore glasses although the frames were more expensive as was his attire: black Gladrags’ robes and an emerald dress shirt which fell in stylish creases about his well toned–
“Can you reach the potatoes, Sis?”
Charlie had somehow materialized next to me and was dishing an inordinate amount of turkey curry onto his plate.
I blinked at him in surprise before the clanking of glasses drew our attention to the far end of the table where my father stood, hand held high.
“Before we all enjoy this lovely meal that my bride of thirty-five years has prepared, Molly and I would like to thank all our family and friends for joining us tonight. We’ve been through much these past few years,but we’ve managed to emerge closer and stronger than ever thanks to the love we all share. So please raise your glasses and toast to Molly Weasley for saying yes and to the love that binds us all.”
Shouts of hear-hear and the tinkle of glasses resonated up and down the table. Turning to toast Winifred, I caught Harry staring directly at me. Looking away, I downed my drink in one gulp.
Four glasses of wine, two servings of turkey curry and four overheard sonnets later, I pushed back from the table to make my way to the loo.
“Oh,Ginny,dear!” my mother cried. “You don’t have to make a toast. How sweet of you!”
Dumbfounded, I stood there and glanced about the room in horror, all eyes now riveted on me. Toast? What toast? My mind went into overdrive trying to think of something worthy of the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter. Oh hell!
“Ah. . .” My eyes fell to the twins who smiled wildly, evidently thrilled they had remained seated. Hermione’s lips were moving though nothing seemed to be coming out of them. My father merely kept nodding as though his movements might yank the words out of my mouth. In a panic I reflexively turned to Harry whose warm eyes calmed me instantly. “You can do it,” he whispered.
How I managed to string coherent thoughts together after staring into those eyes was beyond me. I finished the toast with, “And I have to hand it to my dad for not only managing to send out the owls in time,but also remembering the date in the first place. He’s the only man I’ve ever met who remembers anniversaries without have anvil sized hints left about. To the man who remembers and the woman he could never forget. Mum and Dad.”
The room burst forth in cheers and I downed my glass. After extricating myself from a swell of well-wishers, I swiftly exited out the side door.
“The first of September, nineteen ninety-one.”
I turned. Harry was standing with his hands in his back pockets, leaning against the wall.
“The first of September, nineteen ninety-one. It’s the first time I saw you. At Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. You were there with your mother.”
“Oh,” I answered numbly. He pushed off from the wall and took a step closer.
“The fourteenth of February, nineteen ninety-six. The first time I saw you on a broom.”
My heart was beating wildly. He was standing dangerously close now. He hadn’t shaved and I was overcome with an uncontrollable desire to run my fingers along his chin.
“The tenth of May, nineteen ninety-seven.”
I knew that date. How could I forget? The first time we had kissed.
“I thought you–”
“Ginny.” His voice was strangely hushed. “I’ve been such a–”
Suddenly Aunt Pledge pushed open the banquet room doors, Winifred in tow.
“Why here is that young man! Where did you go to,kind sir? But ah, ‘Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their books.’” Winifred scowled at this, casting me a caustic look.
“The dancing is starting, why don’t you young people come and join the merriment?”
Winifred beamed and took Harry’s arm as I made a hasty retreat to the loo.
What had just happened? Did he truly remember those dates? I stared at myself in the mirror. My cheeks were flushed and my eyes looked brighter than I had ever remembered. After all this time? Did he really want to begin again?
Suddenly I felt very wide-awake indeed.
By the time I made my way back to the banquet room, the band was in full swing. The tables had vanished to be replaced by a parquet dance floor with floating champagne flutes overhead. My mother and father danced like newlyweds around and around, the band swinging madly.
Before I knew it I had danced with almost every redhead in the room before landing in the arms of Mad-Eye Moody who kept whipping me around in some sort of spastic disco-gone-bad fashion. The spinning coupled with the frequently snatched flutes made the room seem strangely lopsided.
"I prefer third anniversaries," he said with a wink. "That's when you get ... leather." “Huh?”
“Mind if I cut in?”
Dizzy and slightly confused, I stood there, my arms raised, the image of Harry reeling before me.
“She’s all yours.”
On cue, the music turned dreamy, the candles dimmed.
Oh dear God.
Harry gazed down at me, his green eyes unfathomable, his jaw clenched. The warmth of his hands as he slipped them about my waistgathering me to him nearly undid me. I reached up, tentatively resting my hands on his shoulder, my heart racing.
His hand nestled in the small of my back, the other clasped my hand firmly as we began to sway to the rhythm of the music. He pulled me closer; I could feel the strong steady beat of his heart pounding against mine.
Merlin, where had he learned to dance? Despite our difference in size we fit, my head hidden comfortably under his chin. I began losing awareness of everything else in the room. I closed my eyes and felt his hand trail down my lower back, his fingers briefly stroking the hollow of my spine as he drew me closer still. We turned; my sweater inched up my back. I lurched, stepping on his foot.
“Sorry, sorry,” I mumbled, my eyes glued to the floor.
He tightened his hold about my waist,his fingers brushing across my bare skin.
I swallowed hard.
Enfolded in his arms, I fought the desire to rest my head against his chest. Instead I took a deep breath and raised my chin. His dark eyes met mine and searched my face. I noticed his throat tighten. His gaze still riveted, he clutched my hand securely and settled it under his chin, holding it there as he leaned his forehead against mine.
“The twenty-seventh of March, two thousand three.”
My mind was racing. That was only two days ago.
“The twenty-seventh of March, two thousand three – the day I realized I made the biggest mistake of my life.”
I went to speak and he silenced me with a kiss. Stunned, I felt the stubble of his chin brush against my cheek as he whispered in my ear. “The day I realized I can’t live without you. I love you, Ginny Weasley.”
I tried to speak,but he silenced me again, this time longer and more luxuriously. Sometime later, he pulled slowly away, his eyes almost black in the candlelight. My smile, lighting up my entire being, must have betrayed my heart for he picked me up and spun me around, tossing his head back in laughter, his face joyful and carefree.
“What’s six months from today?”
The absurdity of the question caused me to giggle against his shoulder. I scrunched my face up only to receive another kiss.
“The twenty-ninth of September, why?”
“The twenty-ninth of September, two thousand three: a good day for an anniversary, don’t you think?”