“I don’t want to go,” grumbled Ron, straightening his tie.
“Stop complaining,” Ginny snapped. “You aren’t the one swollen to the size of a whale with puffy ankles and fingers too fat for her wedding rings!”
“Ginny … if you don’t want to go, Harry would underst—”
“No, Hermione,” Ginny cut her off. “He would say it but …”
“You come first,” Ron said gently, abandoning his tie. “You know you do.”
Ginny sighed. “I know.”
“He’ll be fine,” Hermione reassured her. “We’ll both be there.”
“I want to be there for him,” Ginny said softly. Ron nodded and held out a hand to help his sister from her chair.
“Let’s go see if the old softie has finished saying goodnight to those children of ours,” Ron added.
The three of them went into the sitting room where Harry sat on the couch, three small children sprawled on top of him, crumpling his best formal robes. A tiny baby lay cradled in the crook of his left arm. A large picture book hovered in front of him.
“… and they all lived happily ever after,” Harry read quietly before flicking his wand to close the book and levitate it to a nearby side table. He reached around the curly head resting on his right shoulder to tuck his wand in the top pocket of his shirt and leaned down to press a soft kiss to the downy head of the tiny baby.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny watched him from the doorway as he shifted a little to tuck a small body with messy, wispy, black hair closer to his body. The children were slumbering quietly, Rose on his shoulder and James and Albus with their heads on his lap.
“So, we have to go soon, you guys,” Harry said quietly. “You’ll be all right here with Grandma Molly. You don’t want to come to this thing anyway. I don’t want to go to this thing, but it’s easier if I do. This day sucks, it really does. It’s the worst day ever. You know what? I don’t want this day to be a day when you guys are sad. When you’re a bit bigger we’ll take you trick or treating or something fun for Hallowe’en.” A little snuffling snore erupted from the direction of the couch.
“Rose is just like you,” Ginny whispered to Ron. Her brother elbowed her in the ribs.
“So, I’ll see you when I get back, Hugo,” Harry said. The baby was looking up at Harry with big blue eyes, only just at the age where he could focus on his uncle’s face. “Don’t go changin’.”
Hermione moved into the room quietly; she laid her hand on Harry’s shoulder and Ginny smiled as the two of them conversed and Hermione extracted Rose from his embrace.
“How does he do that?” Ron asked his sister. “If I had all four of ‘em on me I’d go spare.”
Ginny shrugged. “Can you help me with James and Albus?”
“Sure,” Ron said, gently stroking her swollen belly in an unexpected gesture of tenderness. Ginny watched as her brother approached her husband and scooped both of her sons into his arms. Little James, his hair an almost exact match for Ron’s, woke up slightly and wound his arms around Ron’s neck.
“Unca Won,” the two-year-old murmured. Ron smiled and gently bore the two boys up the stairs. Harry was left with Baby Hugo and Ginny waddled over to him and laid her hands on his shoulders as he cradled the baby tenderly.
“So, hopefully we’ll have a playmate for you soon, buddy,” Harry said. “Another boy, do you think, or maybe a girl?”
“Better be a girl,” Ginny said softly. “Three babies in three years, I’d better get a pay off.”
Harry chuckled and turned to look up at her. “How’re you feeling?”
“Like an elephant,” Ginny grumbled.
“I’m sorry about tonight—”
“Harry, it’s not your fault,” Ginny said. “I’ll manage. It isn’t everyday you have the … twenty-eighth anniversary of … well …”
Harry stood up and turned to face her. “Well, to be fair, they were aiming for the twenty-fifth anniversary,” Harry muttered, his face dark and scowling. He looked down at his nephew and his face softened. “No, you guys aren’t going to see this day like that. They can make silly ceremonies and things all they like but we’re going to make some good memories.”
Ginny winced as a needle of pain pierced her back. Harry reached out to Ginny, stroking her stomach tenderly.
“You tell me if it’s too much, we’ll leave straight away,” he said. Ginny nodded and Harry walked around the couch to hand Hugo to his wife and gently encircle her in his arms, rubbing her back. “I’m glad you’re coming. I don’t know if I could do this without you there.”
Ginny smiled tiredly at him. “Well, once they get you to cut the ribbon, we don’t have to do any more,” she said as Ron and Hermione came back into the room. “You can say no.” Harry nodded and leaned down to kiss her.
“Ready, mate?” Ron clapped Harry on the shoulder and leaned down to press a gentle kiss to his son’s head.
“As I’ll ever be,” Harry grumbled, taking Hugo from Ginny and kissing his soft baby cheek before handing him to Hermione.
“You’re awfully clucky,” Ron chuckled. “Good thing you’re having another one or maybe we’d find our son more attached to Uncle Harry than dear old Dad.”
“Leave him alone, Ron,” Hermione said, smiling. “I think it’s sweet that Harry spends time with our children.”
“They’re special,” Harry shrugged, pulling Ginny close. “Let’s go, maybe we can get this thing over with and get out of there.”
The four of them traipsed through to the kitchen where Molly was emerging from the small laundry room. Hermione handed Hugo to his grandmother who immediately began cooing over her youngest grandchild.
“We won’t be long, Mum,” Ron said. “Thanks for staying with the kids.”
“Take care, dears,” Molly said, looking worriedly at Harry. “I’ll have some hot chocolate waiting for you when you get back.” She patted Harry’s arm and squeezed it gently.
The four of them left and Apparated to Godric’s Hollow, into the designated area in the tent set up behind the house. Ginny took a deep breath and grimaced as they arrived but waved off Harry’s attentions.
“Just a bad Apparition,” she murmured, leaning over slightly. “I’ll be fine.” A low murmuring came from outside the tent. Within minutes the four of them were approached by the current Minister for Magic.
Dagan Ellis was a simpering, short, bald man who bowed and scraped every time he was in Harry’s presence. He’d spent a rather large portion of his time convincing Harry to endorse the new exhibit in the garden of the house at Godric’s Hollow. Hermione had eventually intervened and got Harry to agree to the exhibit and to attend the opening if the Minister agreed to Harry being omitted from all future commemorative ceremonies or unveilings.
“Wonderful, wonderful,” the Minister said effusively, “we’ll be getting things underway quite soon, quite soon—”
“How about we do it now?” Harry interrupted briskly.
“Such enthusiasm, Mr Potter, I can’t tell you—”
“I’m not at all enthused,” Harry said flatly, stepping towards the man. “I have had to leave my two young children at home and drag my wife out on one of the coldest autumn nights in quite some time, in an advanced state of pregnancy for this little show of yours. I’d appreciate it if we could get it over with so I can take her home.” His voice was rising as he spoke and the Minister looked quite taken aback.
Harry was very distracted by Ginny, who was still leaning heavily on a nearby chair but turned at the sound of hurrying feet as Arthur and George Weasley made their way into the tent.
“Well, it’s a large crowd out there,” Arthur announced, “couldn’t fit another witch or wizard in that space.
“Lee’s in place to cover it on the wireless,” George added, staring at Ginny. “Say, are you all right, sis?”
Ginny straightened up suddenly and waved a casual hand. “I’m fine, just fine,” she said airily.
“You look pale,” Ron said bluntly. Ginny scowled at him.
“He’s right,” Harry said, “are you sure you’re all right? We can go—”
“No, no,” Ginny said firmly. “I’m pregnant, not an invalid.”
“And you’re not in any pain?” Harry asked.
Ginny shook her head before replying breathlessly. “Fine, fine.”
The Minister bustled over to them.
“Not long now,” he said. “Place is packed to the gills, we’re right on schedule.”
“Well, let’s do it now,” Harry said.
“What?” The Minister looked scandalised. “But we’ve advertised the time for eight o’clock—”
“I don’t really care what time you’ve advertised it for, Minister,” Harry said shortly. “My wife is not going to admit that she’s in labour, and has been for a couple of hours, and let me take her home until I cut the damn ribbon on your stupid exhibit! So let’s do it now before your security forces have to physically restrain me from strangling you with your own ceremonial ribbon!”
The people in the room stared at Harry. Ginny just gripped the back of the chair again, her knuckles going white. The Minister hurried out, babbling incoherently about setting things up. Harry watched him go, a satisfied look on his face, before striding across the room to Ginny.
“How did he know that?” George asked as Ginny bent over and breathed heavily, her charade dropped now that Harry had revealed her secret. Ron waved two fingers in the air back and forth.
“They’re freaky like that,” he said, “soul mate stuff.” Harry turned around and rolled his eyes at Ron.
“I’ve seen her in labour twice before, idiot,” he said. Harry turned to Ginny and reached out a hand to rub her back. “Why didn’t you say something?” Ginny shrugged, straightening up.
“Honestly, Ginny,” Hermione huffed.
“I think the Apparition sort of triggered it,” Ginny said. “I was fine before.”
“No, you weren’t,” Harry said, pulling her into his embrace. “I was too wrapped up in Hugo and moaning about this stupid ceremony to notice at the time, but you were leaning on chairs and wincing before we left.”
“I was preoccupied,” Ginny muttered mutinously. “I was trying to get you through this stupid ceremony so we could move on with the rest of our lives. It was so beautiful what you were saying to our children about today and wanting it to be so they wouldn’t be sad on Hallowe’en. I could see them all next year, dressed up, the four of them running around like little pumpkins or something instead of everyone sitting around pretending like they weren’t remembering your parents died.”
“Five,” Harry whispered softly, “five children. They’ll have us outnumbered.” Ron groaned as Harry smiled contentedly. Ginny moaned a little and clutched at his robes.
“Can we stop then?” she asked breathlessly. “I don’t think I can do this again.”
“She always says that,” Harry murmured, holding her close and kissing the top of her head gently.
“She means it this time,” came a muffled voice from his shirt front. Harry chuckled.
“Hey, let’s ditch this place,” George said quietly. He moved over to his sister, who was leaning against Harry, her eyes closed. “Let’s get you home.” Ginny shook her head wordlessly.
“C’mon, Ginny,” Harry urged. “What’s more important? This stupid exhibit or you and … the baby, the nameless Potter baby.”
“Just cut the ribbon,” Ginny murmured. “Cut their ribbon and get it over with and then they can’t bother us any more. I’m not going anywhere until you cut the ribbon. In fact, I’m going to just go out there and wait for The-Boy-Who-Lived to show up and do his thing. I heard he’s very dreamy.” She waddled to the door of the tent, purposefully, without speed.
George chuckled and hurried to her elbow. Harry watched as they disappeared between the flaps of the tent, Ginny telling George not to wipe her brow just yet. Harry sighed heavily before sinking into a nearby chair and resting his head in his hands.
“Stubborn witch,” he said, without venom. Arthur clapped him on the shoulder.
“C’mon, son,” he said, “sooner we get this done, sooner she’ll let us take her home.”
Harry snatched the enormous pair of ceremonial scissors from the hands of an overawed Ministry worker who appeared at the flap of the tent moments later.
“Minister Ellis asks if you won’t reconsider, sir?” the man asked timidly. Harry growled at him and strode out of the tent.
It seemed an interminably long time to wait while Minister Ellis smoothly apologised for moving the ceremony forward and began a long and pompous speech about that Hallowe’en so long ago. Harry watched, one knee bouncing up and down as Ginny sat between George and her father on the front row, her face pale and her hands gripping those of the men beside her. Every so often Arthur or George would lean towards her, whispering something in her ear. Probably no one else noticed that Ginny Potter was rocking back and forth ever so slightly every now and then, or that Bill Weasley, who was sitting behind her with his wife, would periodically reach out to rub her back in the little gap between the seat and the back rest of the folding chairs that made up the rows of the audience.
Harry nearly missed his cue and was grateful to Ron, who’d sat beside him in the seat that Ginny should have occupied, when he elbowed Harry in the ribs. Hermione shoved a scroll of parchment in his hands and pushed him towards the lectern. Harry mechanically unrolled the scroll and read the words written on it. He didn’t know what they said, his attention was too fixed on his wife who spent the entire hurried speech with her eyes screwed tightly shut, one foot tapping restlessly on the soft grass of the lawns that had grown up around the ruined cottage in Godric’s Hollow where James and Lily Potter had been killed on this same night twenty-eight years ago.
Harry watched his wife struggle and, after he cursed her stubbornness, he wished the Ministry had managed to organise themselves to do this three years earlier, before James was even born, on the twenty-fifth anniversary. In a daze, Harry cut the ribbon on the new exhibit that now stood on the site of his parents’ murder and posed for a photograph before he extricated himself from the thronging media and hurried back to the tent. He could hear the Minister making excuses as he left.
Ginny was leaning on her father, in the tent, her eyes tightly closed, swaying gently back and forth.
“Percy’s sending a Ministry car,” Arthur said quietly. “She doesn’t want to Apparate.”
Harry hurried to Ginny’s side and she turned to him instinctively. Harry gathered her into his arms and rubbed circles on her back the way he knew she liked and even though there were a number of other family members there, Harry blocked them all out, concentrating on Ginny.
He didn’t know how they got back to The Burrow. He remembered that George had to fight off the Bat-Bogey Hex after he made a comment about women in labour sounding like cows stuck in mud. He remembered stopping the car twice for Ginny to be sick. Nor did Harry recall how he ended up in Molly and Arthur’s bedroom, holding Ginny as she swore at him that if this pain didn’t end in a girl, she was never going to speak to him again.
It was all over so fast in the end and Harry sat on the edge of the bed while the midwife cleaned up around them, gazing at his beautiful wife and equally beautiful daughter.
“You should go and tell them,” Ginny said quietly.
“But she doesn’t have a name,” Harry whispered.
“We’ll call her Lily,” Ginny said decisively. Harry smiled and pretended he wasn’t crying.
“This is the best day,” Harry said softly. “Hallowe’en is the best day, ever.” He reached out to stroke the soft, downy hair and Ginny shifted slightly, moving the tiny girl into his arms.
“Go show them,” she said.
Harry gathered up his brand new red-headed daughter and slowly made his way out of the room and down the stairs to the sitting room. He paused to look around at his family and saw Ron on the couch in front of the fire, his best, formal robes creased by the small bodies of Harry’s sons as they lay sprawled across Ron’s lap listening to Hermione quietly read a story. Baby Hugo was curled up into the crook of Ron’s neck and Rose sat contentedly on one of Ron’s feet, her little hands clutching at his trousers.
Harry padded softly into the room and went straight to Ron, ignoring Molly who was sitting drowsily in a chair by the door and George who was lying on the hearthrug, a cold compress to his nose. Arthur, who had been dozing in his armchair by the fire, jerked awake as Harry addressed Ron in a low voice.
“Reckon you can handle all five at once, mate?”
Ron looked up, startled, and broke into a broad grin at the sight of Harry who gently placed his pink-swaddled bundle into the crook of Ron’s arm.
“Hey there, princess,” murmured Ron. “I’m your Uncle Ron … and I’m not allowed to teach you how to fly.”