Author's Notes: Many thanks to jayiin for his crusade against the overuse of dashes and the word that, to Sherylyn for whipping this into shape, and to ohginnyfan for holding my hand and encouraging me the entire time I was writing this fic. All three of these individuals helped more than they can know, and I appreciate their mad beta skilz. *glomps them*
This story was written for Magnolia Mama in r_becca's Changing Seasons H/G fic exchange on LiveJournal.
Autumn into winter, winter into spring, spring into summer, summer into autumn. So rolls the changing year, and so we change; motion so swift, we know not that we move.
~Dinah Maria Mulock
"Oof!" Harry said as the small body hurtled into his lap. He turned from the window, where he'd been watching snowflakes fall around the large beech tree outside, and settled back into the sofa, grasping the young boy--his great-grandson, Jack--by the arms and trying to still the wriggling child in his lap. Harry had discovered early on that Jack was all elbows and knees and pointy bits, and he winced as he received another elbow in his midriff.
"Tell me a story, Granddad."
"You want a story?" Harry asked after Jack had settled comfortably into his lap. The small boy nodded his head vigorously. "What shall I tell you, then?"
Jack took a big breath. "Tell me about the tree, Granddad. And about how you and Nanny planted it and it growed and growed…"
Harry let his gaze drift across the room to his wife of sixty-three years, watching as she decorated the large pine tree standing in the corner. "Are you sure that's the story you want, Jack?" he teased. "Your nanny and I… we're pretty boring."
"Nuh-uh! You're not boring, Granddad! Nanny played Quidditchand you were anOr--anArr-- an Arr-er."
"An Auror," Harry corrected, smiling at Jack's mispronunciation.
“Yeah, you were … that thing,” Jack said, wiggling on Harry’s lap, grinding a very bony hip into Harry’s own. “But I want to hear about the tree, Granddad. Please? "
Harry laughed at Jack’s insistence and ruffled the hair on the boy’s head. “Okay, okay; I’ll tell you about the tree. Your nanny and I had only been married a short time, just a few months." Harry turned his head and glanced back out the window, a small smile forming on his lips as he caught sight of the tree in question. It was tall, the branches silhouetted against the grey sky. At the moment, the tree was bare of leaves and icicles hung from the branches, but in the spring and summer, it provided shade for picnics, and in the autumn, the colours brightened up the increasingly bland landscape.
"We'd been living in a small flat in Muggle London, not far from the Leaky Cauldron. Nanny Ginny was a reserve for the Harpies, and I was just finishing my training to be an Auror. Merlin, that was hard." He smiled and shook his head, remembering. "She had been travelling with the team, and it had been forever since she'd been home, so I thought I'd do something to surprise her."
"Long day?" Harry jumped at the sound of his wife's voice, dumping the measuring cup full of flour on the floor. So much for constant vigilance. She wasn't supposed to be home for another two hours, and he'd been caught off-guard.
"What are you doing home?" he asked. "I wasn't expecting you until half-six."
"Obviously." Ginny smirked and gestured at the mess in the kitchen. She sauntered over to him and kissed him quickly, stepping back to brush some flour off of the front of his jumper. "Gwenog decided we're at top form and she wants us rested for our match tomorrow, so she let us go early." She shrugged. "Not that it really matters; Jill and Tamara are playing the best I've seen, and Claire's not far behind. I won't go in unless one of them gets injured or sick."
Harry waggled his eyebrows at her. "So you don't really need to rest tonight…"
"Yes?" he asked. Ginny had made her way over to stand beside the sofa and was shaking her head at him in exasperation.
"Think about your audience, love," she reminded him. "Jack's only five. He doesn't need all the details."
"Oh, um, right. Sorry." He grinned sheepishly at Ginny before turning back to Jack, gently moving the elbow that was digging into his ribs again. The child was all skin and bones. "Where were we?"
"Nanny Ginny came home and surprised you and you had flour everywhere and you were kissing!" Jack supplied helpfully.
"Right. I had flour everywhere," Harry said, winking at Ginny. "So your nanny helped me clean the mess I'd made--"
Ginny pulled back from the kiss, looking pleased at his reaction to her presence. She frowned when he stepped away from her, though. "What are you doing?" she asked as he went to the cupboard to gather a broom.
"Sweeping." He showed her the broom and dustpan he was holding. "What does it look like I'm doing?"
"What am I going to do with you?" she asked, shaking her head. She drew her wand and pointed it at the pile of flour that had spilled on the floor."You are a wizard, aren't you?"
"What are you on about? Of course, I'm a wizard." He took the broom and started sweeping, the flour making a small cloud of dust as he worked.
"Honestly, Harry," Ginny said. "You're not helping." She waved her wand, saying, "Scourgify," and the mess was clean in less time than it had taken him to make it. "Hmm. Sometimes I think you forget."
"You forgot you could do magic?" Jack interrupted.
"He forgets he can do magic a lot, Jack." Ginny said, grinning at Harry as she sat down next to him. "Granddad grew up with Muggles, remember?"
"Yeah, but… It's magic." He twisted his head to look at Harry. "How can you forget about it?"
"I was distracted, Jack," Harry said, ruffling the boy’s hair again. "You see, I'd made a decision while your nanny was gone and I was going to tell her, but I was a little nervous about it."
"Hmph," Ginny snorted. "Made a decision involving both of us without asking me my opinion, you mean. And told someone else before you told me."
"Thus my nervousness," Harry said dryly. "I was young and stupid, what can I say?"
"What did you do, Granddad?" Jack asked. He bounced on Harry's lap, causing him to grimace and Ginny to grin at his discomfort.
He shifted Jack over to his leg and pulled him close to his chest, hoping the position would keep the child still, if only for a little while. "Well, you see--"
Harry cleared his throat. "I didn't forget. I just wanted to do it the Muggle way," he said, turning back to the counter. "Damn. I hope I didn't ruin this."
Ginny walked over beside him and leaned against the counter. "What's the matter, Harry? You're acting a bit…off."
He cleared his throat again, levelling the flour with a knife and carefully pouring it into the bowl. "Nothing's wrong, Ginny."
"Right," she said sceptically. "That's why you spilled the flour and then forgot how to doa simple cleaning spell. As a matter of fact…" She raised her eyebrow at him and gave him a thoughtful look. "As a matter of fact, that's why you're doing all this in the first place, isn’t it? What did you do?"
"Nothing," he insisted, adding salt to the mixture. On the fifth--or was it the sixth--teaspoon-full, Ginny reached over and gently took the salt and measuring spoon out of his hands.
"Whatever that was supposed to be, it isn't going to be edible now," she said. She grabbed him by the hand and led him out of the kitchen and into the lounge, gesturing for him to sit on the sofa. Once he was settled, she sat next to him, taking his hands in hers. "Now why don't you tell me what's going on."
Harry sighed. This was not the way he'd intended to do this. He'd wanted to cook dinner, serve her some wine, get her relaxed, and then break the news. But she was home early, dinner was most likely ruined, and now she was going to force him to tell her what he'd done.
"Iboughtahouse," he mumbled, looking at their hands interlinked in his lap.
"You what?" she asked, sounding incredulous. "I thought you just said you bought a house, but surely--"
He lifted his gaze and looked her in the eye. "I did. I bought a house yesterday. I- I wanted to surprise you."
"You bought a house without asking my opinion?" She looked wounded.
He grimaced. "It sounded like a good idea at the time. But, Ginny, it's perfect. And someone was making a counter-offer, and I wanted to make sure we got it, so I outbid them and…well…it's ours now." He squeezed her hand for a moment. "We don't have to live there. We can sell if you don't like it, but I really think…I think it's the one. Will you come look with me?"
"Was it this house, Granddad?"
Harry looked down at Jack and smiled. "Ah, but that would be telling, Jack. Just wait and see." He winked at Ginny and continued the story. "Your nanny was angry at me--"
"Rightfully so," she interjected, smiling.
"Rightfully so," he agreed. "She was angry, but she agreed to go with me anyway…"
"All right, Harry," Ginny said. "I'll look at it. I still wish you hadn't--"
"I know, I know. I'm sorry. It just-- Well, wait and see, okay? You may be pleasantly surprised."
"Let's go, then," she said, standing up and smoothing her skirt out.
"Yes, now. If we want to eat sometime tonight, then we need to get you into a less distractible mood. You’re no good in the kitchen when you're like this." She pulled him to his feet and latched onto his arm. "You're going to Apparate us there, I presume?"
He blinked at her. "Oh, right. Yes. I'll Apparate us there. Hang on, yeah?"
They stumbled a little when they arrived in the clearing in the front of the house. It had been the first thing Harry had seen when he'd first come to look, and he wanted Ginny to see everything just as he had.
He took her hand and turned around, pulling her with him. A house sat above them on a small hill. The front gate hung crookedly and the flowerbeds were overrun with weeds. Behind them, the house, with its white siding and green shutters, almost glowed in the late afternoon sun. He glanced over at her to see her reaction as he led her to the front door, but she was keeping her face impassive, and he had no idea what she was thinking.
He opened the door and let her step in first, hanging back to so she could capture the atmosphere. He felt a bit silly and sentimental about the house, and he didn't know why. It was modest in size, big enough for them to have friends and family over, but small enough that they would never feel lost in it. The fixtures and layout were nice, but they didn't explain the longing he'd felt when he first walked through the door. It had felt like…home, like he could feel love everywhere he walked. It reminded him of the Burrow, he realised when he thought about it.
"There's wood flooring throughout," he told her, pointing to the scuffed hardwood floor. "It needs a little work, but it will be beautiful with a little sanding. There are five bedrooms upstairs, and a study down here. Three bathrooms, two up and one down. The kitchen's through that door; the appliances are brand new. And if you look out that window," he said, nodding his head towards the west wall, "there's a paddock out back that we can use for a pitch. It just needs some--"
"Harry," Ginny said. "You're babbling." He stopped talking, and she pulled her hand from his, stepping away from him. "Stay here."
"Where are you--"
She waved him off and walked towards the staircase. "I'll be back in a minute."
Harry stood nervously, listening to her as she moved from room to room, opening cupboards and doors as she went.
She looked thoughtful when she came down the stairs. He wished he knew what that meant--he never knew when it came to his wife.
"There's one other thing," he told her, leading her out to the back garden, where there was a small tree leaning against the rock wall of a flower bed, its roots wrapped in burlap. "Neville gave us that tree-"
"You told Neville before you told me? Harry--"
"I know, I know. I should've talked to you first." He hung his head and looked at her apologetically. "I'm sorry."
"Hmph. I'll forgive you this time. But don't do it again," she warned.
"No, I won't," he said. He took a deep breath and started his explanation over. "Anyway, Neville gave us the tree for a housewarming gift. Said we needed to plant it together, right over there, where we can see it from the house." He pointed to an open spot in the middle of the garden. "He said it's a Wishing Tree."
"Wishing tree?" Ginny asked softly, touching the bright green leaves with gentle fingers. The top of the foliage just barely reached her chin. "Has he been talking to Luna lately? It just looks like a tree to me, Harry."
"Hm," Harry said, nodding. He thrust his hands in his pockets. "I know it does. But that's what he called it. He said if we planted it where we could see it, we'd be reminded of past wishes that have come true…and it would provide us with a place where we could focus future wishes." He turned to her and took her hands in his. "You've already given me so much, Ginny, and I know we don't need a house for us to have a home, and I know I should've waited until you could come with me, but this place…it just feels right. I can see us sitting out here, watching our children play under that tree, climbing it when it's bigger… It's not even in the ground yet, but the wishes…they're there." He gazed into her eyes, silently begging her to understand.
She looked back at the house behind them and then turned to look at the tree again. "Come on," she said, tugging his hand and pulling him along with her.
"Wait! Where are we going?"
"To plant a tree."
Harry's steps faltered as he figured out what she meant. "To plant a… Really? You like it, then?"
She smiled at him… that secret smile that let him know everything was right with the world. "I love it. It's perfect, just like you said. Now let's go."
"Wait." He drew his wand and pointed it at a rock, transfiguring it into a spade. "We'll need this."
"Ahem." Ginny coughed and looked at him, then the spade, and back at him again.
"You don't need to help dig the hole, Ginny. I can do that."
"I thought we were supposed to do this together."
"Well, yeah, but-"
"But nothing. If we're planting the tree together, then we're planting the tree together." She transfigured another rock into a spade and walked over to a clearing by the fence. "Does this look like a good spot?" she asked.
Together, they dug the hole, making sure it was deep enough to cover the roots. Harry held the tree up while Ginny unwrapped the burlap and they placed it into the ground, covering the roots carefully with soil. When they were done, they watered it and stepped back to admire their handiwork.
Jack bounced on Harry's lap again. "Granddad, how come you digged the hole all by yourselves? Did you forget you knew magic again?"
Harry smiled at him. "No, Jack. We didn't forget we knew magic. Sometimes, doing the work yourself is better than doing it the easy way." He thought back to the time, so long ago, when he had dug the grave for Dobby. "Sometimes doing it the hard way is the right way, do you see?"
Jack wrinkled his brow for a moment and his lips pursed in concentration. "Like how Mummy likes cards I make better than ones Daddy buys?"
Harry smiled at him. "Exactly like that."
Jack smiled happily. "That's why she always gives me biscuits when I give her a card. Daddy just gets a yucky kiss."
Harry coughed to cover his laugh while Ginny giggled beside him. "That's right."
"What happened next, Granddad?"
"Oh, I don't think you want to hear what happened next, Jack," Ginny said, as she leant forward and looked him in the eye.
"Yes I do! You haven't even got to the part where the tree growed and growed. That's the best part!"
"It involves kissing," Ginny warned, and Harry blushed at the wink and smile she gave him as he remembered what had happened next. It had involved quite a bit more than mere kissing.
Harry cleared his throat. "Yes, well. We can skip the kissing part, eh, Jack?" Jack nodded, and Harry continued his story. "We moved in two weeks later. I'll never forget the day. It was the twentieth of March, and we were just starting to see the first signs of spring."
"Where do you want these, Harry?" George and Percy were cancelling the shrinking charms on the sofa and armchairs while Harry and Ron were doing the same to the dining room furniture.
"Right over there's fine. We can move them into place when Ginny and Hermione get back with the food."
"You mean you need Ginny to tell you where to put them," Ron said, grinning widely.
"I do not!" Harry replied. "She trusts me to do stuff like that. I bought the house without her, didn't I?"
"Yes, we've all heard how well that went over with her," George said. "I'm surprised she didn't hex you, to tell you the truth."
"Hey, she agreed with me," Harry protested. "Said it was the perfect house. And she never once threatened to hex me over it."
"And that's why you're leaving the furniture placement for her?" Percy said dubiously. "Because you're not worried she'll hex you?"
"No, he's leaving the furniture placement for me because he knows I want to have a part in it," Ginny said from the kitchen doorway. She came over and kissed Harry on the cheek, saying, "Food's here."
Ron immediately dropped the chair he'd been levitating and started for the kitchen. "Brilliant! I'm starving!"
"There's a surprise," Ginny murmured to Harry, laughing. "You do know you could've arranged the furniture any way you wanted, don't you?"
He wrapped his arm around her, and they started walking towards the kitchen. "Yeah, I know. But I didn't want to do it without you." He shrugged. "It just seemed like something we should do together."
"Awww, isn't that sweet?" Charlie said, dropping into a chair at the table. "Harry, do you have any idea how many shoes Ginny has? Blimey. She could give Madam Malkin a run for her money."
"Shut it, Charlie." Ginny said good-naturedly, snatching a dishtowel off the counter and snapping it. It made a popping noise as it hit his left ear.
"Ow! What was that for?" he grumbled, rubbing his ear. "Not like I'm not telling the truth."
George snorted. "Not like that matters. You should know by now that you don't mess with our little Gin-Gin."
“Oh, both of you, just sod off. I have to have so many shoes. You know, for my public appearances when I’m not on the pitch.”
“Right. I forgot. A famous Quidditch star as yourself has got to be well-dressed in the foot department,” Charlie commented sarcastically as Ginny snapped the towel at George. She quickly turned and snapped the towel at Charlie again, nicking his ear before he had a chance to move.
Laughing at the bantering siblings, Harry looked around the kitchen and grinned at what he saw.
Charlie was still rubbing his ear and glaring at his sister, who, with Hermione's help, was quickly and efficiently setting the food out. George and Ron had started talking about Quidditch and the Cannons' chances of winning a match this season, and Percy was gathering utensils and plates. Molly and Arthur were scheduled to come the next morning to help with the housewarming party, and Andromeda and Teddy would be arriving in the afternoon. It would be a full house, and Harry couldn't wait.
This--having his family gathered together--was one of the things he'd imagined the very first time he'd seen the house, and here it was happening, right before his eyes.
"Harry?" He looked up to see Ginny standing at the sink, looking at the back garden through the window. "Have you looked at the tree lately?"
"Not since we planted it," he said, rising and going over to stand next to her. "Why?"
She pointed out the window. "Because it's grown. A lot."
He looked at where she was pointing, and, blinking, tried to wrap his mind around the sight that greeted him. Instead of the small sapling he and Ginny had planted, he found a large, sturdy tree, looking for all the world as if it had been there for years. He turned to Ginny in shock.
"Are you sure that's it?" he asked her. "Maybe we planted it behind that big one."
She looked at him in askance. "That big one wasn't there two weeks ago, Harry. That's it. It has to be."
"Yeah. Wow." They stood together, gazing out the window at the tree.
"What are you two looking at?" Hermione came up beside them and peered out the window.
"The tree," Harry said.
She just looked at him, clearly waiting for an explanation. Neither Harry nor Ginny gave her what she was waiting for, though. Honestly, Harry had no idea what to tell her. How did one explain a tree more than doubling in size in two-weeks?
"And? " she prompted. "I mean, it's lovely, but it's just a tree."
"No… I don't think it is, Hermione," Ginny said slowly. "Two weeks ago, that tree was shorter than me. Now look at it."
"Ha ha. Very funny, Ginny."
"She's telling the truth, Hermione," Harry said. "We planted it a couple of weeks ago, the day I told her about the house."
"Where did you get it, then? And what kind of tree is it?"
"Neville gave it to us as a housewarming gift," Ginny said. "He said it's a Wishing Tree."
Hermione's face cleared. "Oh. Well, that makes sense, then. No wonder it's so big. There's been a lot of wishing and dreaming going on around here lately. And I'll bet that when you two planted it, you invoked the magic. It's really quite simple."
"And what, exactly, is that supposed to mean?" Ron asked from his place at the table.
"Wishing trees aren't just normal trees," Hermione explained patiently. "Any ordinary beech or oak tree would grow after it was planted, but it would grow very slowly. But Wishing Trees are magical, aren't they?"
Harry snickered when he saw the blank look on Ron's face.
"And what does that have to do with anything?" Ron demanded.
Harry turned back to Hermione to catch her reaction; her eyes were closed and her lips were moving. It looked like she was counting to ten.
"It’s a Wishing Tree, Ron," she said with exaggerated patience. "It uses wishes like most plants use fertilizer, only faster."
"So you're saying that when Ginny and I planted it and…wished…that it made the tree grow?" Harry asked.
"Assuming you wished something, then yes," Hermione replied. "Did you?"
Harry cleared his throat and felt his cheeks heat up. "Yeah."
"And you, Ginny?" Hermione asked.
Harry looked up and saw his wife's eyes on him. "Yes."
"Well, there you have it," Hermione said matter-of-factly. "You both made a wish, and that invoked the magic."
"But… " Harry paused, trying to gather his thoughts. "Would that be enough to make the tree grow that much, in such a short time?"
Hermione shrugged. "You'd have to ask Neville to be sure, but I'd think, if you both wished the same thing at the same time… Well, it makes sense that the tree would grow quicker than if you had opposing wishes, doesn't it?"
Harry tilted his head, considering. "Maybe, but--"
"What did you and Nanny wish, Granddad?" Jack asked excitedly.
Harry looked at Ginny over Jack's head and smiled. "I wished that we'd have a happy and content life, with children of our own along with our family and friends. And I hoped that someday I'd be able to look at the tree and tell my grandchildren and great-grandchildren about it."
"And I hoped that the tree would grow straight and true, that it would provide shelter and shade, and that our home would always be a haven for us, like the tree would be," Ginny added.
"And they came true, too, didn't they, Jack?" Harry said. He looked around at his family, who were gathered for the holidays. James, Albus, and Lily's husband, Wayne, had taken over decorating the tree and had somehow managed to entice most of their own children to help. Lily was standing by the fire, talking to her own daughter and holding her infant granddaughter. The boys' wives were in the kitchen. And Jack, James' oldest grandson and their very first great-grandchild, sat in his lap, listening to the story of the tree. Harry's arms wrapped around the small boy and hugged him tightly.
"They all did, really. Because we made more wishes, didn't we?" Ginny said.
Harry grinned, thinking back. "Anytime something important happened. No wonder the tree's so big."
Ginny leaned against him, placing her head on his shoulder. "Do you remember--"
Harry stepped out of the floo and brushed the soot off of his clothes, looking around for his wife. It had been a long day--a long week, actually--at work. The case he and his partner had been working had been rough, but he felt a sense of satisfaction that they'd managed to arrest the suspect earlier that afternoon.
"Ginny? Where are you?" he called, shrugging his robes off and tossing them on the sofa. He loosened his tie and rolled up his shirtsleeves as he walked; it was hot out--ridiculously so--but he didn't want to take the time to change. He just wanted to see his wife.
After looking though the house, he finally found her, although it was a total accident on his part. He'd paused by the window in the lounge, the one from which they could see the tree. Today, its leaves were a bright green, and they provided a welcome respite from the hot July sun.
Ginny was sitting in its shade, her knees pulled up to her chest, as she idly picked pieces of grass. Even when she was clearly troubled by something, she was still the most gorgeous thing he’d ever seen.
"Hey," he said as he came out and sat next to her.
She smiled wanly at him and went back to picking at the grass. "What's wrong, Gin?" he asked, concerned. This was very unlike her--he could count on one hand the number of times he'd seen her like this.
"Nothing," she said.
"Uh-huh," he said sceptically. "That's my line, I believe, Mrs. Potter. And as I think you’ve told me in the past, it’s not a very believable one at that." He leaned back against the tree trunk with his legs spread and pulled her back so she could lean against his chest. "Now, spill." She tucked her head under his chin, and he could feel her relax as she settled against him.
"I want to quit," she said.
"'All right'?" She pulled back and turned to look him in the eyes. "That's all you have to say?"
"Is there more I need to know?" he asked. "Ginny, I know you've not been your happiest there for a while. If you think quitting is the best decision for you…"
She sighed and leaned back against him. "I'm not sure it is," she admitted. "But I don't know that I can take any more." She pulled a crumpled piece of parchment out of her pocket and handed it to him. "This is just the last straw."
Harry read the note over her head, frowning as he did so. "This doesn't seem that bad, Gin. They just want to make sure everyone's ready on game day."
"Read the fine print, Harry," she said, sitting up." They want us to stay in a hotel the night before we play. No outside contact--other than the press, of course--for twenty-four hours. And they mean no outside contact, Harry. No floo calls, no owls, nothing." She sighed and let her head thump back onto his chest. " I don't know if I'm willing to give that up. Between your job and mine, we're already apart far more than I like. There are rumours they're talking about adding to the schedule, but there's no talk of compensation."
"What if I cut back on my hours?" he asked. "Would that make the extra time the Harpies are demanding more bearable?"
She shook her head. "I don't want you to have to do that."
"I will," he said. "You know I will. You shouldn't have to make all the sacrifices."
"That's the thing though, Harry. It's not going to be that much of a sacrifice. Quidditch isn't fun anymore; it's become work. I used to love to fly, but now it's a chore. I want to be able to join a pick-up game with my family and just play. I can't do that if I stay with the Harpies." She huffed and shook her head angrily, her pony-tail whipping him in the shoulder as she did "Especially since they also just handed down a rule forbidding us from playing unless it's for the team. I can't even go one-on-one against you." She tossed the parchment onto the ground. "It says if I get injured playing Quidditch and it's not sanctioned by management the consequences 'include, but are not limited to' a fine, a demotion to the reserves, or even termination. It's totally unfair."
"If you're that unhappy…" She nodded and he rested his chin on the top of her head. "Have you given any thought to what you're going to do next?"
"You mean like sit around eating bon-bons whilst you keep me in the manner in which I've become accustomed?" she asked. He was relieved to hear the humour in her voice.
"If that's what you want," he replied. "Although I must say I think you'll go spare in about a day or two."
Ginny snickered. "You think I'd last that long? I give myself a couple of hours, tops." She snuggled back against him. "Actually…" She paused.
"Actually…" Harry prompted.
"I've been offered a job already."
"Yeah? That's brilliant, Ginny."
"Hm. Wait until you hear what it is before you call it brilliant." Harry felt her take a deep breath before she continued. "I know you're not entirely fond of the press--"
"An understatement if I've ever heard one," he muttered.
"Yes, well. I've been offered a position as a Quidditch correspondent for the Prophet."
"I… wow. Ginny, that's--"
"You don't like it, do you?" She sighed and he could feel how tense she was. "I won't take the job if you don't want me to, but I thought it'd be perfect--"
"What do you mean, you won't take the job?" Harry demanded. "Do you want to take it?"
"Well, yeah. I do," she said. "I love writing, and I love Quidditch. I think I'd be good at it."
"No, you wouldn't--" Harry said, adding quickly before she could get angry, "you'd be bloody brilliant. When do you need to give them your answer?"
"I've got two days."
"So you're going to send the owl now, right? Tell them you're going to start… When are you going to start?"
"You really think I should do this?"
"Absolutely," Harry said resolutely. "I said it before--you'd be brilliant. Besides… Maybe you can do some good there. If they've got even one reporter with integrity, then they've got someone who can be a good example for the rest of them."
She pulled away from him and turned to look him in the eye, as if to determine the sincerity of his words. What she saw must've reassured her, because she leaned up and kissed him passionately.
"The owl can wait," she said, leaning into him and kissing him.
He pulled back, grinning. "If you say so. We have something more important to do anyway." He closed his eyes and concentrated, then opened them to find her staring at him and looking a little confused. "Our wishes, Ginny. I already know what I'm going to wish for…what about you?"
"I know exactly what I'm wishing for, Harry Potter. You should know that by now." She grabbed his hand in hers and closed her eyes, and Harry followed suit, thinking hard, and wishing that Ginny would find peace, whatever her decision. When he finished, he opened his eyes and found her, eyes closed, with a peaceful expression on her face.
One more wish come true…
"What other wishes did you make, Granddad?" Jack asked.
"Hmmm," he said, thinking. "Well, we wished anytime some big decision came up, or if we had something exciting happen, or…" He glanced across the room and saw his children laughing as they charmed lights on the tree. "We have a tradition, you know. We wish every time someone joins the family." He nodded at James across the room. "Like your grandfather over there. We really started the tradition with him."
He couldn't believe it. He was married to the most amazing woman in the world. And he was a father, just three days past his own birthday. As he held his son in his arms, he marvelled at how tiny--and how perfect--James was. Ginny had drifted off to sleep, and Harry walked over to the window of their bedroom, so his son could see outside for the first time.
"There's your garden, James. There's a pitch out there, where you can learn to fly. And there are places to run and gnomes to toss and trees to climb--"
And he knew what he had to do. Stealthily, so as not to wake his sleeping wife, he and James made their way out of the room and down the stairs. At the door to the garden, Harry paused. "We've got a special spot for you to see. I think you'll like it out there. It's hot outside now, but it's always cool and shady where we're going."
He stepped outside, shading James' eyes with his hand, and made his way over to the tree, stopping when they reached the shelter of its branches.
"James, this is the Wishing Tree. Your mum and I planted it, but it's yours now, too. Whenever you need to think, or you need a place to just dream, this is the place to come. It won't let you down." He smiled and shook his head at the absurdity. He'd just introduced his child to a tree, of all things.
"Did you introduce me to the tree, too?"
"We did indeed," he replied. "And your Great-Uncle Albus and Great-Aunt Lily, when they came along, and when your Grandpa was ready to get married, we introduced your grandmother--" he nodded at James' wife-- "and when your mum was born, we introduced her. All of your aunts and uncles and cousins… The whole family."
"That was one of your Aunt Lily's 'places' when she was growing up. It's always been a good spot to just…be. They all used to sit and play under its branches when they were little." Harry smiled wistfully, remembering grand adventures involving pirates and fairy princesses. It seemed like so long ago. "And she got married under that tree, did you know?"
Ginny found him in the lounge, staring out at the Wishing Tree, just like he knew she would. The leaves were beginning to turn colours now, and the October sun filtering through them highlighted the chairs arranged in a semi-circle under its branches. The orchestra was setting up off to the right, and he could just hear the boys off in the distance, getting into some sort of mischief, he knew.
She leaned against him and pressed a kiss into his cheek, brushing the corner of his lips with hers. "Knut for your thoughts?" she said, wrapping her arms around his waist.
"Not so sure they're worth a Knut," he said, jokingly. "A Sickle, maybe…"
"Aren't you the funny one," she said, and he turned into her, leaning his cheek on her head and taking a deep breath.
"I can't believe my baby's getting married," he said finally.
"She's not a baby any more, Harry," Ginny said. "She's twenty-three. She's older than I was when we got married."
"I know," he said, sighing. "It just seems like it was yesterday when you told me we were expecting again, and then she was born, and I was bringing her out here to meet the tree, and now… now she's getting married and moving away."
Ginny smiled at his mention of the tradition he'd started. She always acted amused about his idiosyncrasies when it came to the tree, and who could blame her? Sometimes he wondered if he was completely barmy, as he introduced each new family member to the tree. But he knew, deep down, she found it endearing, no matter what she said.
"It's fitting that she's getting married there, isn't it?" Ginny asked softly. "It really was her place, even more than either of the boys. She used to dress up and have tea parties, do you remember?"
He chuckled. "She brought Wayne over to meet the tree," he said, remembering the first time he met his daughter's fiancé. "I was worried at first, but he acted as if it were the most logical thing in the world for him to do. I knew then that we could trust him with her."
"So you're not worried, then?" Ginny asked.
"Not worried at all, actually. Just remembering. We wished it, Lily and I. It'll be fine." He gave his wife a lingering kiss. "We'd best get ready, Mrs Potter. We've a wedding to attend and we best not be late."
Harry smiled again. " And not too long after that, your granddad James and granny Rebecca had your mum and they brought her over to meet the tree, too."
"Really?" Jack asked. "What happened?" Harry smirked.
"Your mother," Harry said, "somehow managed to banish all of her clothing as soon as we reached the tree."
"Ugh. Granddad, do you have to tell him that story?" Harry looked up to see his granddaughter standing by the sofa. She leaned over and ruffled Jack's hair. "Hello, Monster. Have you been good for Granddad and Nanny?"
"'Course I have, Mum," Jack said, and Harry chuckled at the artlessness of the child. "Granddad has been telling me stories about the tree."
"So I heard," she said dryly. "Granddad, everyone already knows this story. Can't you tell something else…like…like when Uncle Albus wished for ice cream and then ate so much he got sick, or when Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione found out they were pregnant with Rose? Or what about when Rose and Scorpius--"
Harry paused and tilted his head, trying to look like he was considering her request. "Yes, well, we can tell the tale of Rose and Scorpius later. Jack wants to hear about his mum."
Resigned, Emily sank to the floor next to them. "You never had any intention of not telling this story, did you, Granddad?"
He grinned. "Nope."
"Fine, let's just get it over with." She turned to look at her son. "Just remember that I was a baby when this happened, Jack."
"As I was saying…" Harry said. "Your mum started crying as soon as we went outside."
"It was November!" she protested. "I bet I was cold!"
Harry laughed. “There was no way you could have been cold, Em. Your mum and dad saw to that.”
Harry stood patiently, waiting for James and Rebecca to finish fussing over their daughter. Honestly, you'd think it was freezing outside, the way they were acting. The poor thing was bundled so tightly that she could hardly move, and they were adding more blankets.
"All right, you two. That's enough," Harry said. "It's not that cold outside. She's going to suffocate if you don't stop."
"James, your mother and I raised you, Albus, and Lily. We know how to keep babies warm. Trust us. She'll be fine." He held out his arms and raised his eyebrows, hoping they'd get the hint and place his granddaughter into his arms. They finally relented, but not before adding yet another layer of blankets. He cuddled her as close as he could, given the amount of cloth between the two of them and headed for the door, opening it and stepping outside.
At first, she looked content, but as they got closer to the tree, she started acting like she was annoyed. Her face screwed up, and she started to struggle in his arms. Then she started crying.
"Here, Dad," James said, "let me take her." But that didn't calm her down--if anything, she started crying harder. Giving her to her mother didn't do any good, either. Only Ginny was able to calm the little girl, and even then, they weren't sure how long it would last. In fact, as soon as they reached the tree, she started getting agitated again.
And then, suddenly, she was as naked as the day she was born. As soon as the cool air hit her, she calmed down, smiling and allowing Harry to take her from his wife.
"Well," Harry said, smirking. "I guess we know what she wished for!"
"Mummy wished her clothes away?" Jack asked, incredulous. Emily just hung her head, shaking it slightly when she heard everyone laughing.
"She did," James said. "We…erm…might have gone a bit overboard when it came to keeping her warm."
Harry laughed. "You might have gone overboard? The poor thing was in pyjamas under clothes under a winter cloak under seven blankets. And you had cast a warming charm on her. I'm surprised she could breathe. No wonder she banished her clothes." Harry nudged Emily's shoulder with his knee and leaned back into the sofa. "Nothing to be embarrassed about, really, Em. It was a pretty impressive show of accidental magic. The tree just helped you along a bit."
"You got better about your wishes as you got older, too, didn't you, dear?" Ginny said.
Harry blinked and stood up suddenly, bringing Jack with him. He'd just had an idea. "Where's your cloak?" he asked the boy as he set him on his feet.
"In the cupboard. Why?"
"We need it. Come on!" Everyone stood and tried to follow them to the cupboard, expect for Ginny, who looked like she knew exactly what he was doing. Actually, Harry thought, looking back at her, she probably does. He turned his head and watched her stand gracefully, coming over to where they stood while they waited on the rest of the family to get ready to go outside.
"To the tree, then?" she asked.
"Of course. I think it's Jack's turn to wish, don't you?"
He felt a tug on his hand and looked down to see Jack standing beside him.
"I get to wish?"
"Are you part of this family?
"Do you want to wish?
"Uh-huh!" Jack said enthusiastically.
"Well, then. There you go, Jack."
They made their way outside, through the garden, and over to the tree that had become such an important part of their lives. Harry and Ginny stood, arms wrapped around each other, and watched as Jack walked over to the tree. He turned back to look at them, and Harry nodded his head encouragingly. As he got closer, Jack screwed his eyes shut, looking like he was thinking very hard.