"Good morning, you lot, downstairs for breakfast in twenty minutes!" she said, the Sonorus Charm amplifying her voice from where she stood at the bottom of the stairwell. "Bring all bags, pillows, and personal entertainment items you're planning to take to The Burrow with you. There will be NO going back upstairs for forgotten items. I repeat, breakfast in twenty minutes!"
The reaction was immediate.
A thump to her right… Albus hitting the floor on all fours.
Three quick steps across the hall from left to right, followed by a door banging shut… Lily streaking into the bathroom across the hall and beating her brothers.
"Lily! You'd better be done in five minutes!" That was James… and Lily always took seven minutes in the bathroom.
A new sound, the steady shifting of the old floorboards… Harry on his way to their en-suite.
Her family was up.
Her charm cancelled, Ginny turned back to the kitchen and the pile of gifts she had been steadily shoving through the Floo to The Burrow for the last ten minutes. She had two more large gifts she needed to send before the children came downstairs, so she quickly threw a pinch of Floo Powder into the flames and when they were ready, she shoved the first big box in, called out its destination, held it until she felt it being taken from her hands and then repeated the action just as Lily came downstairs, her book bag bumping along behind her.
"Where do I put this, Mummy?" she asked.
"By the fire—no, hold on, back door, please," Ginny told her, correcting the mistake she was likely to make two more times that morning. None of the family was used to the idea of travelling by car to The Burrow, but until Harry could Apparate in his chair… Ginny sighed and finished putting breakfast on the table.
Surprisingly, her family made it downstairs, through breakfast and out to the van without mishap or forgotten items.
"Harry, love, will you be sitting with me up front or do you want to lounge in the back?" Ginny asked as she opened the van doors.
Harry rolled onto the wheelchair lift. "I thought I'd start the journey next to you, dear," he smiled at her. "Maybe later I'll ride in the back."
"All right, then. The rest of you get in on the other side after your father is settled," Ginny directed. Her children grumbled and opened the door on the other side of the vehicle.
James entered first. "Mum, do you want me to tie down Dad's chair?" he asked.
"I'll get that, James. You make yourself comfy and be sure to share space with your brother and sister."
"I wish there were three seats," Albus complained as he began arranging his belongings on the same seat as James. "How come Lily gets a seat to herself?"
"She called it first. Maybe you'll get the single seat next time if you come downstairs first," Ginny said, trying to be diplomatic. She shut the van doors, climbed into the driving seat and started the engine.
As the estate gates closed behind them, Harry remarked, "This is a first. I don't think we've ever gone somewhere as a family and not forgotten something."
"If we did, it's easy to go home and get it or borrow from family," Ginny said. "Thank goodness we don't have to get permission to go back for something like the children do at Hogwarts."
Harry smiled. "I agree," he said and opened the map to help her navigate.
Their morning's journey was uneventful. They stopped for lunch, and after they'd eaten, James asked to sit up front with her. While he helped her install the front passenger seat, Harry eased himself onto the middle seat with Lily. The two immediately began conversing in whispers as, with James' help, Ginny eased the van down the slip road and back onto the motorway. When she looked back an hour later, Harry had stretched out on the seat with his head in Lily's lap. Their daughter was happily reading a book while absently running her fingers through her father's hair. Harry was asleep.
Molly pulled aside the sitting room curtains and peered out the window. "They should be here by now," she fretted to Arthur.
Arthur turned a page of the Prophet. "Mollywobbles, will you please sit down? The enchantments will tell us when the van arrives. Besides, Ginny told us to expect them between half-two and half-three. It's only just half-two."
Molly let the curtain fall back into place and sat down in her chair. As she picked up her knitting, she sighed, "I just worry so, Arthur. This is the first year we've ever had anyone come home by car. What if Ginny gets lost? There's so much snow this year, it's even kept Ron and Hermione and the children from getting here when Hermione thought they would."
"No, Molly, I think Hugo wanted to go flying with Ron before they came this morning," Arthur chuckled. "Some sort of a father/son tradition, remember?"
"Yes, now I remember. Where are the children? The house is entirely too quiet," Molly remarked as she began knitting.
"Let's see, at last count, Roxanne, Molly and Lucy were all up in Bill's old room getting first-hand news about Paris and Dominique's new job. There was a lot of giggling going on behind that closed door when I went up there a while ago. I think Fleur, Audrey and Hermione are in the kitchen, Percy and Ron are in my shed discussing who knows what, and Bill, Fred, Louis, Angelina and George all took Hugo out to the pitch to give him some family Quidditch coaching. I think he's hoping to move up from the reserve team next year, and his uncles, aunt and cousin were more than happy to help him warm up the brooms. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a full-blown three-a-side Quidditch match being played at the moment."
"And Teddy and Victoire?" Molly enquired with a raised eyebrow. "I haven't seen them in a while either."
"Ice skating on the pond, of all things," Arthur chuckled. "Or at least that's what Teddy said they were going to do… I doubt they'll be doing much skating since they haven't seen each other in six months."
Molly smiled and sighed contentedly. "Good. All present and accounted for except Ginny and her brood." She glanced at the family clock; the Potter family hands were all still on "Travelling" as they had been since half-eight that morning. She went back to her knitting as Arthur took up his paper again.
A sudden, claxon-like alarm sounded forty-five minutes later, causing Molly to jump and drop several stitches. "Oh, Arthur," she gushed excitedly, "they're HERE!"
At Molly's exclamation, Hermione smiled and cast a Patronus message in the direction of the Quidditch pitch. Then, she hurried to catch up to Fleur and Audrey who had just reached the front door. The three witches joined Molly and Arthur as a dark blue van pulled to a stop in the snow in front of the garage. A moment later, the sound of six zooming brooms filled the air as girlish laughter spilled through the opening door.
"Did you send a message to Teddy and Victoire?" Audrey asked as the far van door slid open and the silhouettes of the three Potter children jumped to the ground.
Hermione murmured, "I did. I expect they'll be along shortly."
Audrey sighed. "I wish I could send Patronus Messages, but I've never been able to produce a corporeal Patronus," she said in a whiney tone. Hermione scowled, wishing the other witch would shut it, as Audrey continued, "Oh look, Ginny's driving. I didn't know she could drive."
Hermione bit her tongue to keep from making the stinging retort that was on the tip of her tongue. As much as she liked Percy and adored her nieces, Molly and Lucy, Hermione had never warmed up to his arrogant wife.
The driver's door of the van opened and Ginny's booted foot reached for the ground. At the same time, the other sliding door opened to reveal a wire cage, which folded down with a motorized whir to reveal their first glimpse of Harry's shoes on the foot rest of his wheelchair. A moment later he rolled onto the lift, which descended slowly to the snow.
Beside her, Audrey gasped and murmured, "The poor man," causing Hermione to glare at her sister-in-law.
"If Ginny hears you she's going to be hopping mad," she hissed. "There's nothing poor or fragile about that man, so stop feeling sorry for him. In addition, think about how Harry feels every time someone says something like that! Would you like it?"
"I didn't mean…"
"Oh, yes, you did, so I suggest you stop feeling sorry for Harry," Hermione said defensively.
"I get the point." Audrey sounded annoyed, so Hermione turned back to the scene by the van.
Nearly the entire family was now clustered around Harry and their reactions to his chair were almost comical. Ron, George, Molly and Arthur had all gone to see Harry in hospital and at The Groves, so they knew what to expect. However, the children attending Hogwarts—other than Harry's—Bill, Fleur, Percy, Audrey and the older cousins hadn't been able to visit, so the sight of Harry's Muggle wheelchair caused some consternation amongst those who hadn't seen it. What caused Hermione's mortification, however, was the fact that even though she'd prepared Rose and Hugo verbally, it still seemed her son expected his uncle to get out of the chair and walk to the house. When Harry didn't, Hugo looked rather disappointed.
Harry now rolled off the lift and Hermione groaned inwardly as the front wheels of his chair sank up to their axels in the snow.
"Hey, you lot," Harry called above the din of those greeting him, "can I have a little help here?"
Hugo, who was standing to Harry's left, thrust his broom at his uncle. Harry flinched, his head whipping round to face his nephew, as Hermione berated herself for forgetting to tell her children their uncle still couldn't see well peripherally to the left.
However, Harry seemed to be coping well enough because he said, "Thanks, Hugo, but I don't fly any more."
Her son immediately looked incredulous. "But Uncle Harry, you always fly when you're here. Why can't you fly now?"
"How about if I tell you inside?" Harry asked. "It's a little cold for such a long story out here."
Hugo seemed satisfied with this and stepped away, leaving deep footprints in the snow.
That gave Hermione an idea. "Hey, Harry!" she called as she took out her wand. "Do you want skis and a pony for your sleigh? I could Transfigure the children…"
At this, Hugo, Lily, Albus, Rose, Louis, and James all protested loudly, making the adults smile and shake their heads.
"We haven't done anything!"
"We're not in trouble, Aunt Hermione!"
"Dad, stop her! You're the head of the Aurors!"
"It's against the law to Transfigure children, Aunt Hermione, you know that!"
"Stop teasing us, it's Christmas! We've been extra good!"
Laughing, Harry quipped back, "I don't think Molly allows farm animals inside the house, Hermione, so I'll have to settle for something a little more mundane. Will you clear the snow off the path please?"
"Sure thing, Harry," Hermione agreed as three more of the nearby adults whipped out their own wands. They helped her Vanish the snow off the path to the steps and Harry rolled himself onto the porch and almost all the way into the house.
"Damn!" he cursed as his knuckles contacted the doorposts.
"Hang on, Harry!" Ginny called from where she was standing talking to Bill and Fleur. She pulled out her wand and aimed it at the door. A moment later, Hermione and the others watched in fascination as the entrance widened just enough for Harry to propel his wheelchair across the threshold.
"You'll teach me that spell?" Hermione asked Ginny as the two embraced.
Ginny smirked, "I take it you finally gave in and let Ron purchase that humungous scale model Quidditch stadium he's been drooling over for so long."
Hermione groaned. "He and Hugo wore me down. Quality Quidditch Supplies is going to deliver it on Boxing Day and I'm afraid it won't fit in the door. I was told parts of the set were un-shrinkable."
Ginny patted her arm. "Remind me later to write it down for you."
"I will, and thanks."
Teddy and Victoire had hung back to let the rest of the family go into the house behind Harry. As he watched his godfather struggle with the doorway, he let out a troubled sigh.
"I wish I'd come home sooner," he said.
"I know you do, but what good could you have done?" Victoire asked. "Uncle Harry needed his Healers, not sorrowful relatives. I know you wrote to him as often as you could, and even Aunt Ginny told you in her letters how much your news meant to Uncle Harry. Besides, your employer needed you more."
Teddy drew her into a fierce hug. "Thank you for reminding me of that," he said into her hair. "I needed to hear it from someone other than my grandmother."
Victoire had a twinkle in her eye as she said, "Ah, I see you're counting my opinion more than your grandmother's. Very wise, my darling, very wise."
As soon as the bags were stowed in her old bedroom, Ginny descended the stairs and joined her mother and sisters-in-law in the kitchen where they'd just started preparing the evening meal.
Donning one of her mother's frilly white aprons, she rolled up her sleeves and asked, "Mum, would you like me to make the bread?"
"Don't you want to sit down, Ginny?" her mother asked.
"Actually, I really need to stand for a while," she said. "I've been sitting in the van for seven hours and I need to do something other than stare straight ahead. So how many loaves would you like?"
"Four. Two wheat, two white, please," her mum requested.
Ginny found the supplies and began mixing the batches of dough from memory. As she worked, she watched her family settle in for the evening. Lily had immediately joined the group of girls clustered at one end of the kitchen table while her sons had disappeared out the kitchen door in the direction of the Quidditch pitch. If she had her druthers, Ginny decided, she'd rather be with them instead of the stuffy kitchen. Maybe tomorrow afternoon…
Her attention strayed to her husband who had parked his chair in a corner of the kitchen. With so many people, the normal furniture and extra chairs in the room, he had found a place to be with everyone and not be constantly in the way. He seemed content to have people come to him, but she still wondered what he was thinking… her constant worrying of the past months was still very active despite the understanding they'd come to yesterday. She sighed. It was going to be very hard to let go…
Just before dinner…
Harry grabbed the frame of the door leading into the sitting room and pulled his chair into the room through the narrow opening. He was happy to be back amongst his family in the crazy house his in-laws called home, but now he needed a little solitude; however, with twenty-two people in the house, a moment's quiet to himself was not something easily obtained. It impressed him that he'd managed to find a room empty except for George.
"All right, Harry?" George greeted him from his seat on the floor by the fire. "Have the rampaging hordes finally gotten to you, too?"
Harry chuckled. "It's more like our nieces and their high-pitched giggles," he admitted as he parked his chair next to the sofa and transferred seats so he could talk to his brother-in-law more easily. "Could you shrink my chair, please? I still have to be careful of how much magic I do," he admitted, thinking of how tired he'd been yesterday after moving and reassembling the ramp sections to fit the terrace.
"Sure thing, Harry," George said, pulling his wand and pointing it at the wheelchair. "How big do you want it?"
"Pocket-size, please," Harry answered.
A moment later, George handed him the miniaturized chair. Harry smiled his thanks and propped his feet on a poof, stretching his legs towards the fire. He could just barely feel its warmth suffusing through his trousers.
"So… how's business, George?" he asked as he stuffed the tiny wheelchair into his shirt pocket.
George smiled. "Couldn't be better."
"I thought so. Where's the new shop opening? Ron told me you're going to America on Boxing Day," Harry said.
"I'm opening two new shops, actually," George grinned. "He's right. I'm taking a Muggle aeroplane across the Atlantic and then two Portkeys to go across the country to get to them. The first is in San Francisco and the second one is in Las Vegas. Both cities are huge tourist attractions and they both have reputable Wizarding shopping areas, San Francisco more so than Vegas because of the latter's stigma of being free with the Galleons and adult entertainment."
"I've heard of both," Harry replied, grinning. "One of the Muggle matrons at The Groves just returned from visiting Vegas and she seemed quite awestruck with the Strip. She seemed to like a number of the resort casinos even if she lost several hundred pounds gambling."
George grinned. "I'm going to make the Galleons roll in hand over fist in that shop simply because the managers of the shopping mall I'm setting up in dictate the minimum price for most items," he said. "Sure, they're going to take a small percentage of what I make from that shop, but by and large, I get to keep most of the profits. I'm just hoping there will be enough magical customers coming in to off-set the Muggle ones."
Puzzled, Harry asked, "So your shop isn't in the Wizarding district?"
"No, it's not," George replied. "It's half in the Muggle casino mall and half in the Wizarding casino mall. I tell you, Harry, the place is huge! I have more floor space in the new Vegas shop than I have in the Bonn, Paris and Milan shops combined!"
Harry's eyes widened. He'd been to the shops George had mentioned—all three were absolutely huge compared to the Diagon Alley shop—so he had an idea of just how large the new Las Vegas shop was going to be. He'd also been to the shops in Edinburgh, Dublin, Barcelona, Rome, and Brussels when George had opened them. The only franchises Harry hadn't taken a Portkey to for their openings were the shops in New York, Boston and New Orleans in America. Now, with the two new shops on the opposite side of that country, George's monopoly on joke goods would be thirteen shops strong, and rather than be superstitious about it, Harry suspected George considered the number thirteen to be quite lucky.
"Have a great time at the openings, George," he said sincerely.
"You can count on that, Harry. I always go all-out in order to entice customers."
Harry nodded as they drifted into companionable silence.
At length, Harry said, "George, can I… can I ask you something?"
His brother-in-law smirked, "You already did."
"Twit," Harry muttered. "Seriously, this is important and you're the only one I feel comfortable asking."
The smile had slid off George's face at the change in Harry's tone. "What's on your mind?"
Harry sighed heavily, reluctant to broach the subject, but needing to talk to George about it. "There's no good way to say this," he began, "except… I want to give you my Ferrari." He glanced at his legs as George inhaled sharply.
"Why? Why do you want to give me your car?" was the shocked inquiry.
A huge, frustrated sigh escaped him as he ran a hand through his hair. "I'm never going drive that car again, at least the way it should be driven, and you're the only one in the family who would enjoy it, appreciate it, and take care of it properly. Will you take it, George?" Harry asked hopefully, his eyes now positively skewering George. "I have the transfer of ownership papers in my bag, wherever it went."
George clambered to his feet and began pacing about the sitting room. "I… I…" he sputtered, seeming lost for words.
Feeling somewhat panicked because George's reaction surely meant a rejection of his offer, Harry's words came out in a rush. "Look, the insurance is paid through July, as is the number plate. And as much as I want to keep it, I can't because if I do, James will think it's going to be his to drive next year and I'm not about to turn him loose on the roads round Snidget's Retreat in a car worth a quarter of a million pounds."
This solicited a snort from George. "And you think I'd have any success at preventing Fred from trying to drive a Ferrari if it sat in my garage?"
Harry considered this and had to smile himself. "Honestly, George, I think you'd be more successful than I," he said. He gazed at George hopefully. "Will you take the car?"
"No. I can't accept the car."
Had he heard right? "Why not?" Harry asked, mystified.
George stopped pacing and sat down next to Harry. "First of all, that car was your birthday present from my sister," he said. "I'm not sure I want to weather one or more of her tirades because we've hurt her feelings. She gave you that car, Harry, it was her idea to buy it for you."
"I know it was," Harry confessed. "That's why I can't just up and sell it. I need to keep it in the family so Ginny will understand I'm being practical."
George raised an eyebrow. "All right, I think I see your point," he said slowly. Then he added, "Do you know for sure you'll never drive again? I know the Ferrari is a Muggle car, but don't they make special controls for people like you?"
That made Harry angry. "People like me don't drive sports cars, they drive vans. That's the reality, George," he snapped.
"Sorry. Forget I said that." He thought a moment and then asked, "So why wouldn't Ginny want to drive it herself?"
That question stopped Harry completely. He hadn't even thought about keeping the Ferrari for Ginny to drive… but would she want to?
"I don't know," he said quietly as he tried to remember Ginny's reaction the one time she'd driven the yellow car on her own birthday. He recalled her initial trepidation and then the absolute joy on her face as she discovered how much fun it was to guide the car along the road at break-neck speeds. "'Almost better than flying,'" he murmured to himself, quoting Ginny's comment.
George seemed to pounce on this. "See, Harry? She enjoys the car. I can't take that away from her any more than I could take it away from you."
"But if we keep it, I'm still going to want to drive it, George," Harry said, still feeling frustrated.
"Harry, I know all your vehicles have been equipped with the spells to make their batteries run properly in magical areas because I did the charms myself. Why couldn't we charm the Ferrari to let you drive it without your legs?" George asked.
"It wouldn't be the same," Harry grumbled. He searched his mind for an appropriate analogy. "It's similar to biting into one of your Canary Crèmes and only turning into half a canary. The effect is the same, but the result doesn't feel right."
George sighed. "Fine. Do what you want, Harry, but I'm not taking the car. To me it would be like taking Fred's old Beater's bat and using it in the championship match against Slytherin. I wouldn't feel right using it because it wasn't mine. Does that make any sense at all?"
Harry thought about this for a long moment. "You win," he finally said. "I won't try to give my car away or sell it until I know for certain I'll never walk again."
George squeezed Harry's shoulder and then stood up. "Listen, Harry, I'm flattered that you think enough of me to want to give me the car," he began. "And I hope you understand why I can't accept your generosity."
Harry nodded and then took his miniaturized wheelchair from his pocket. "George, I can't sit in this when it's this small. Will you enlarge it so we can go see what's being put on the dinner table?"
"Of course, Harry," George said, taking out his wand. He cast the spell and then led the way back to the kitchen.
"Harry, dear, can I do anything for you?" Molly asked as she came upon him sitting in front of the stairwell and gazing upward with a troubled expression. George had just passed her looking bothered and she was concerned for both him and Harry at the moment.
Her son-in-law startled at the sound of her voice. "Oh, sorry, Molly," he sighed. "I was just thinking about having to climb all those stairs to Ginny's old room…"
"Is that a problem?" Molly asked. Then she took a better look at Harry's chair and instantly understood. "I take it you don't want to be carried up to bed tonight."
Harry shook his head. "It'd be too embarrassing, Molly," he said, sounding defeated. "And I don't think I can push myself up so many flights; the angle's too steep and there's only one handrail…"
"Well…" she said, "the only solution I can think of is to Transfigure the sitting room sofa into a bed for you and Ginny and then move Lily, Rose and Lucy to Ginny's room. Would that help?"
Harry looked immensely relieved. "Thanks, Molly," he said. "And if you don't mind, I'll use the scullery to change in so you can put the sitting room back together before breakfast. Will that be all right?"
Molly didn't like the idea of her son-in-law going without a shower and said so, hands on hips.
"One of the first things I reviewed with my therapist when my magic began functioning again was hygiene spells," Harry explained quickly. "I promise I'll be as clean as I would be if I took a shower. Besides, it's much quicker than a tub bath and on top of that it's one less towel for you to launder."
Admitting defeat, Molly said, "All right, dear. I'll have Arthur bring your bag down from Ginny's room after dinner." She dropped her hands and turned back towards the kitchen.
"Thanks," Harry called after her, but Molly wasn't paying much attention any more; her mind was on the meal she was preparing. She needed to test the potatoes to see if they were ready for mashing…
Having Harry and Ginny sleep in the sitting room was going to complicate the gift distribution at midnight. Normally, she rounded up all the gifts from their hiding places and Banished them to the sitting room. With Harry and Ginny using the sitting room as their bedroom, she'd just have to think up another place to assemble the piles of presents this year. Maybe her bedroom… no, that wouldn't work… not enough room. Maybe the scullery? No, again, too cramped. That left the attic where she'd hidden most of the packages to begin with. She hated having to go up there because of the ghoul and the frigid temperature this far into winter, but it was the best solution to her problem.
"Mollywobbles…" Arthur's voice cut into her reverie. "You're upset, the mash is nicely pulverized." Molly looked at the potatoes she'd been pounding away at with a Muggle masher and decided her husband was correct.
"Sorry," she murmured.
"What's on your mind?" he asked as he handed her the milk pitcher.
She told him about her agreement with Harry and her frustration over the change in plans. "I don't know why it's bothering me so," she admitted.
"Could it be family tradition?" Arthur asked. "You know as well as I do that traditions can be modified. Look how many times we've had to adapt over the years and still we've kept the spirit of whatever tradition we were changing. This is just another adaptation."
Molly sighed. "You're right, Arthur. I reckon I just don't want to make any changes, is all."
Her husband chuckled suddenly.
"What is it, dear?" she asked.
"Do you remember the year we learned just how specific Harry's Silencing Spells had become?" he asked, a mischievous glint in his eye.
"How could I forget?" Molly tittered. "Harry's learned some choice swear words from those criminals he's caught over the years."
"Well, he wouldn't have needed to use them if you hadn't accidentally hit him in the head with that iron cauldron you'd purchased for Ginny that year," Arthur said, shaking his head.
Molly turned towards him, an expression of mock annoyance on her face. "Might I remind you she hinted strongly that she wanted the graduated cauldron set?" she recalled. "How was I to know the two of them were celebrating the holiday privately in her girlhood bedroom?"
"Well, they were trying to create a family at the time…"
Molly turned back to the mash and splashed in some milk and dropped in a generous amount of butter. "I still swear James was born a month early…"
"Likely story, likely story," Arthur said, sounding very amused. "I find it rather humorous that you always Banish Harry and Ginny's gifts to the opposite side of whatever room they're sleeping in…"
Molly giggled as Arthur drew her to him and she rested her head on his chest. "We'll weather this one, just like the others," he said, kissing the top of her head.
Molly turned her face up to his and they shared a quick kiss before she turned back to her dinner preparations. "Yes, I think I've figured out the solution to this particular problem," she said.
Somehow, all twenty-two occupants of The Burrow managed to squeeze into the kitchen for the evening meal. Hermione had been roped into service to help Bill with the temporary room expansion charms, and because Harry's wheelchair didn't fit well under the kitchen table, a second, smaller table had been brought down from the attic and set up for him and the overflow from the larger table.
Harry was enjoying Fred's news from the Department of Magical Games and Sports where he'd been employed since he'd left Hogwarts eighteen months ago. A consummate story teller, Fred had the table's occupants laughing at a story about the Chudley Cannon's Seeker when Teddy Lupin stood up and tapped his water glass, bringing all conversation to an abrupt halt.
"Attention, everyone. Victoire and I have an announcement to make," he said as everyone gave them their attention. Victoire rose slowly from her chair next to him and he put his arm around her shoulders. "This afternoon, I asked Victoire to marry me and she's accepted!"
The kitchen erupted in happy squeals and loud declarations of congratulations. Several chairs, including Bill's and Fleur's, overturned as their occupants jumped to their feet in order to hug the happy couple.
"When's the wedding?"
"Where will you hold it?"
"Did you give her a ring?"
As Teddy and Victoire were inundated with questions, Harry sighed happily and caught Ginny's eye across the room. His wife was beaming and if he was not mistaken, crying quiet tears, too.
An hour later, Harry rolled out onto the back veranda to find Teddy sitting alone on the steps.
"Hey, Harry," he said in greeting.
Harry closed the door and parked his chair as close to the steps as he dared. "I know I said this earlier, but congratulations, Teddy," he said. "I'm very happy for you and Victoire."
"Thanks, Harry," Teddy said, "I still can't believe she said 'yes'."
"Why? You two have been going out for several years and it's been obvious since last summer that you were serious about each other," Harry observed.
Teddy stood up and turned to face Harry. "I suppose it's because I'd convinced myself that Victoire would say 'no' for some reason."
Harry smiled. "Would you believe the same thing happened to me?" he asked. Teddy gaped at him in surprise. "It's true. I was so nervous the week before I asked Ginny to marry me that I convinced myself she'd rather fly for the Harpies than settle down with me. All that worry seemed silly after she accepted my proposal."
Teddy ran a hand through his hair, his eyes locked on the front wheels of Harry's chair. "That makes me feel a little better," he muttered, making Harry chuckle.
"Teddy, I want you to know that if you and Andromeda need anything as you get closer to the wedding, you can always ask Ginny and me for help," Harry said. "Weddings are expensive, and if there's something your bride wants, but it means you'd have to cut corners somewhere else, please let me and Ginny help."
His godson stared at him for nearly a minute before Teddy said, "I… I… can't do that, Harry…"
Harry reached up and briefly gripped Teddy's arm. "You're part of my family," he said meaning every word, "and I would feel terrible if your special day was lacking because something was too expensive."
Teddy sighed. "Thank you, Harry," he said, smiling. "Can I tell Victoire?"
"I wouldn't be surprised if you did," Harry chuckled. "Now tell me about Australia…"
The lights in the stairwell extinguished themselves as she stepped off the last stair and turned to go into the sitting room where the sofa had been transfigured into a bed for her and Harry. From where she stood, she could see the entirety of the room in the soft light of the fairies decorating the Christmas tree. She would have to ask them to dim their brilliance so she could sleep.
Harry was already in bed, curled on his left side, facing away from the middle of the bed and the side Ginny always slept on. His wheelchair was parked as close to the bed as it would go and not be in the way, but in the cramped space, Ginny would be hard-pressed not to brush against it in one way or another. How she hated that thing! It represented everything that was wrong with her family right now. She hated the people who had hurt Harry and she had come to realize that in a way, she hated herself and her husband for what they had become together. A tear trickled down her cheek as she held her left hand aloft to look at her wedding rings. Her diamond engagement ring sparkled in the fairy light, reminding her of the evening Harry had slipped the gold band on her finger in front of five hundred guests. Had it really been twenty years? Would she ever go back to being the happy wife and mother she'd been two months ago?
Sighing, Ginny brushed away the tear and crept into the sitting room, stopping next to the Christmas tree to whisper the spell to dim the fairies' brilliance. Then she pushed past the wheelchair and climbed into bed, burrowing under the covers until only the top of her head was visible. As she closed her eyes, she heard Harry's sleepy, ascending "Hmmm?" She answered with a descending "Hmmm" of her own. He sighed and when he couldn't turn over to catch hold of her hand like he used to, Ginny silently cried herself to sleep.
A/N: I hope all of you have enjoyed the arrival of the Potter family at The Burrow. As with the first Christmas after the death of a family member, the Potter/Weasley clan are reacting to the first holiday following Harry's accident and some are mourning the fact that he isn't the same person physically as he was the previous Christmas.
I'd like to thank my pre-betas, Jedi34, RebeccaRipple, RSS, and Mutt n Feathers and my Brit-picker, Rosina Ferguson for all the help you've given me on this chapter. Also, a big thank you goes to Aggiebell for her continued beta-goodness, since she's constantly reminding my that commas aren't like salt to be sprinkled liberally through sentences.
I look forward to all comments and thank you, my readers, for continuing to make each Thursday a day I anticipate with relish.