“Well, I’m not drunk and it’s through no fault of my own!” Harry declared, as he sat down at the well-scrubbed kitchen table.
“The boys are just as sober as I am, though as normal, I didn’t think that James was coming home with us,” Harry replied as his wife questioned him on their evening.
When Ginny giggled in the way only she could, it was obvious that she had partaken in more than just one of Ogden’s Finest on their night out. Whilst Harry had been with the boys at Barnabas’ stag night, Ginny had been with Lily at her hen party.
“Don’t encourage him, Ginny,” said Harry “He’s still acting like he was at sixteen. He has a responsible job now as an ambassador.”
James may have been the magical ambassador to the United States, but he was still a man who was always up for a party and a pretty girl, though according to Albus the pretty part was optional at times.
“Come on Dad, you don’t see me for months and all you can do chew me out. I’m always on my best behaviour at work.” James lent back on his chair, arms folded and smirking in a way that would have made Draco Malfoy proud.
A snort erupted from his younger brother as he turned towards James. “Everyone knows that your definition of ‘best behaviour’ is different from everyone else’s.”
James tried to pull of a look of hurt aimed towards his brother, but failed miserably.
For the second time Harry enquired how their evening had gone, trying to move the conversation away from his eldest son.
“How about you and Lily, have a good time? How was the party at the Three Broomsticks?”
“It was fun,” Ginny replied. “Hermione moaned about the lack of strippers. Every hen night it’s the same with her fifty years old and wanting more naked men. Perhaps Ron doesn’t do it for her anymore or perhaps she wants something to get herself in the mood when she returns to him.” Yet more giggling erupted from her, while a collective shudder ran through the other four seated around the table.
“As much as I would love to think about Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione getting down to business, could we possibly not discuss this at a place where food has to be eaten?” asked Lily, who paused with a look of pure disgust and another slight shudder. She had heard enough about their love life from Aunt Hermione tonight to last a lifetime. Turning towards James, she asked, “Why is it you almost didn’t come home?”
Before James could reply, Albus answered for him. “He was chatting with a group of girls, all of whom were vying for his attention. It was sickening. They were all Hufflepuff girls from my year. Even back then, they followed him around like little lovelorn puppies.”
“You know what they say, Al,” James replied with a large grin, “There are only three certainties in life. Death, taxes, and Hufflepuff girls.”
“James!” Ginny scolded. “That’s not a nice thing to say. Back when your father and I attended Hogwarts, no one would have dared say such a thing. Not only was it not like that in our day, it wasn’t true then as I’m sure it isn’t now.”
James, not looking even the slightest abashed, muttered under his breath, so only his brother and sister, sitting each side of him could hear. “Back when you and Dad attended Hogwarts, the Dead Sea wasn’t even ill.”
“So then Lils,” James asked in a slightly louder voice, “ready for your big mistake on Saturday?”
The reactions around the table all differed. Harry choked on his cup of tea; Ginny giggled at her son and shook her head, knowing how he liked to rile Lily about Barnabas; and Al shot him a look something akin to that of a Basilisk.
“What! Oh come on, the bloke’s a nightmare with his oh-so-handsome looks and his perfect wavy hair.” As James said this, he unconsciously moved his hand to his hair and tried to smooth it down. “He, according to some deluded fools, may be a genius but he hardly can tell one end of his wand from the other. Barnabas may be great at the theory, but he’s not the best at the execution of spells. He may be able to charm Lily but in his Charms O.W.L. he couldn’t even get a pineapple to tap-dance across the table.” James concluded with, “Which tells me that a pineapple may be slightly more intelligent than my sister.”
Lily huffed and turned her body away from her brother. James simply smiled knowing he had received the reaction he expected.
“So, Mum, as an expert, what advice do you have for our Lily as she starts her life as a nagging wife?” James asked.
Ginny glared at her eldest for several seconds. “James Sirius, are you implying that I am a nagging wife?”
“Of course not, Mum,” James replied sincerely. Ginny was, at this stage, looking slightly mollified. “I’m saying you’re a nagging mother. It would be up to Dad to say if you were a nagging wife.”
Ginny’s expression went from slightly mollified to totally stupefied in a split second.
“I do not nag. I encourage,” Ginny said haughtily.
“If you say so, Mum,” James replied. “As an encouragingwife do you have any advice for our Lils before she tries to make a man out of her fiancé?”
“Oh, I’ve given her plenty of advice, James, just as I’ll give any girl brave enough to marry you advice,” Ginny replied.
“Come on, Mum! Are you going to let us in on the secret?” James asked, with a slight grin.
“I told her that they should never both be angry at the same time. It’s a rule that has worked for your father and me, most of the time.” Ginny gazed at Harry, who smiled and nodded.
James tried to hide a laugh by turning it into a cough behind his fist. Giving his parents his best ‘I don’t believe it’ gaze, he then looked at Lily and said, “If her temper is anything to go by, it’s going be Barney who tries to keep calm. Though, to be fair, he is quite even tempered.”
James turned his eyes to his father. “What advice have you given Barnabas about our loving sister?”
Harry looked intently at James, then at Lily before replying. “Not much. I just told him to forget any arguments they have had by the next day and get on with life.”
Lily and Ginny smiled at Harry. “That’s sweet,” his wife said. “Who told you that? I find it very hard to believe you thought of it yourself darling.”
“Oh, your dad told me the night before the wedding. He took me into his shed to view some new contraptions he had recovered and gave me that advice.”
Harry neglected to tell Ginny that Arthur had added, “It’s pointless for you both to remember them and believe me she will,” after the first part. Harry, knowing his daughter and her likeness to Ginny, had passed on the information to her husband-to-be.
The conversation turned from the evening’s gossip to general family matters. Harry asked James how life in the States was going. James asked Albus if he had dated any of those Muggle nurses he had heard so much about. Lily asked Ginny about proposed transfers for the new Quidditch season, and Ginny asked Harry if he had heard from Minerva McGonagall who had Floo called him yesterday.
After an hour Lily said her goodnights and went to bed as she had a busy morning picking up her wedding dress. Albus followed a short time later, and James finally went after a few not so discreet comments from his mother.
Harry extinguished all the lights in the kitchen after making a couple of drinks. He passed one to his wife and suggested they retire to somewhere more comfortable.
He led Ginny, by the hand, down the main hallway to their private lounge and pulled her down on his lap as he landed in his favourite chair.
“Did you really have fun tonight?” he asked.
Ginny sighed. “I did, I really did. It’s just that I still find it hard to believe that she’s getting married, Harry. I find it even harder to believe thatyoucame to terms with it before me. I keep remembering that Ron was still in denial about Rosie even after the honeymoon. You know he tried to ground them both when he heard they didn’t get in till three one evening. It wasn’t until Hugo, of all people, had him body-bound, hanging by his ankles, and gave him a very Hermione-like lecture he eased off.”
Harry smiled at the memory, which Hugo had shared with family members via a Pensieve.
“I’m lucky, I’ve been able to spend more time with Barnabas over the past few months, and though James may disagree, he does know which end of his wand to point away from him. I would say he’s at second year Auror trainee level now. He needed some training, but that’s not the reason I really wanted to give him the lessons... I just wanted to get to know him, just the two of us, before he married Lily.” Harry paused and stared at the unlit fireplace with such intensity, it was as if he were trying to light it with the gaze from his eyes, as he wondered how best to phrase his thoughts to Ginny.
“I’ve always had trouble letting go of things,” said Harry “Sirius, Dumbledore, The Hallows, and you after sixth year amongst others.”
Harry lifted Ginny off his lap so he could move away from the fire. He walked to the window and looked up at the full moon in the cloudless sky. Even after all these years, he felt a pain as he remembered his father running with Lupin, thought of Teddy and all the things that he had been a part of that Remus and Tonks had missed. That led to musings of Sirius and the activities he hadn’t been a part of because his godfather had been locked away in Azkaban.
“With Lily it’s different. I’ve never been able to deny her anything even though I’ve tried.” Harry smiled at distant memories of a young girl who twisted him round her little finger. “I would and always have done anything to make her happy, to make her smile. It’s Barnabas that she wants and I know he makes her happy.”
Harry turned away from the window so that the moonlight appeared, to Ginny, to give him a halo.
“We’re not losing her, not really. We’ve done a wonderful job with her, with all three in fact. She’s so like you, my Ginny. From her looks, to the way she rides a broom, right to her temper. I never thought I would love anyone as much as I love you, but I do.”
Ginny just beamed at Harry and opened her arms to him in invitation. “Harry, come and sit down, dear.”
Ginny moved to give her husband more room and he placed himself close to her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and smelling the same scent in her hair he had enjoyed for well over thirty years.
“You’re right,” Ginny said.
Harry snorted. He didn’t hear those two words in that order very often. Ginny cuffed him round the head for his indiscretion and gave him a sharp look.
“What I was going to say,” she continued, “is that we have done a great job with them, even if we say so ourselves. Albus will soon be a qualified doctor. Lily is happy with Barnabas and her Quidditch career, and James – well James is just James – and I don’t see him changing anytime soon. But he’s happy, he’s successful, and he is as loyal as they come.
“On Saturday Lily gets her wish, and I hope she’s half as happy as I have been. She will remain our daughter and will have a wonderful, long, and happy life.” Ginny brushed some hair off Harry’s forehead revealing the lower half of a scar that had lain dormant for thirty-three years.
“Harry, you are letting one child go and gaining several hundred in the next couple of months. Just as you have been and will continue to be a great father, you will also make a great Headmaster.” Ginny smiled at Harry who couldn’t keep the look of anticipation off his face.
He tried to cover it by saying, “Neville should have been made Headmaster. He’s been there for years; he’s deputy head; and everybody at the school respects him.”
A slight chuckle escaped from Ginny. It wasn’t the first time that this conversation had taken place between them. “Oh Harry, you know he doesn’t want to be Headmaster. Neville wants to teach. Besides, he couldn’t stay impartial during the Quidditch matches. He cheers now just as much as he did when we were playing for Gryffindor.”
“You think I’ll be able to be impartial?” Harry asked
“Of course you will, you’ve always been fair to everyone. It’s part of who you are. I know Minerva is pleased as punch that you are taking over. As the oldest living head, not to mention as a Hogwarts governor she was the one who pushed, along with Neville, for you to be Headmaster.” Ginny reached over and took his free hand in hers.
“That reminds me, Ginny, Professor McGonagall gave me the new Hogwarts staff book this morning. There’s a rule about reporters not being allowed on the grounds. Dumbledore amended it after the Triwizard Tournament.” Ginny pulled her hand away from Harry as she looked at him in shock.
“You mean I can’t stay with you!” his wife looked outraged which didn’t abate as Harry chuckled softly.
“It’s ok, there’s a clause that states if it’s a staff member’s spouse they are able to live in the castle.”
Looking relieved, Ginny took hold of Harry’s hand. “Looks like we are all set to move into your quarters. You have the Cloak. I know you’ve reclaimed the map from James, so I guess it will be like old times. Well, as much as it can be without Ron and Hermione there.” Ginny raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps we can find time to do some things we never got round to the first time as I’m sure that when you return you won’t need to go out saving the world every year.”
“Of course,” Harry said. “I’m not Dumbledore. I don’t have to divide my time between the school, Wizengamot, and fighting Dark Lords. What do you say to going to bed and discussing the kind of things you want to do at Hogwarts, some of them may need practice?”