“Happy Birthday, Uncle Harry!” Percy’s daughter, Lucy, called as she exited the house on her way to the pool.
It was a gorgeous summer’s day, perfect for the garden and swim party that was taking place in the back garden and grounds of Snidget’s Haven. The flowerbeds were a riot of colour with the recently-installed lap pool and hot tub the main attraction this particular warm afternoon.
Harry, clad in his swim trunks and a Muggle t-shirt that proclaimed Swimmers do it in the fast lane, stood on the back veranda of his house waiting for the last of his guests to arrive. He’d received plenty of ribbing from the Weasley brothers about the shirt, but he wasn’t going to take off his birthday present from Ginny just to make the Weasley men feel better. Besides, the shirt went exceedingly well with the colour of the water.
Two sets of footsteps and the sound of the French doors being held open made Harry turn from his survey of the garden. He felt a grin split his face as Bertram, Jocelyn and Brian Nelson emerged from the house and met him next to the wheelchair ramp leading down into the garden.
“I’m so glad you could come,” Harry exclaimed in greeting. He looked down at Brian. “I believe Lily and the others are all down at the pool. Go enjoy yourself, Brian.”
Brian smiled. “Thanks, Mr Potter. I’ll do that.”
Harry watched his young friend as he chose to take the gently sloping ramp instead of the steeper stairs, noting the ease with which Brian manoeuvred his flying chair. A twinge of regret passed through Harry as he recalled the morning just after school let out when Brian had tried unsuccessfully to do the tests which would enable him to begin walking exercises. Unlike Harry, who had been alone with Silvia during his evaluation, Brian had wanted his parents and the Potters with him for support. The disappointment had been acute for all who had been with him, but the young wizard had sighed sadly and accepted his failure with the comment that now that he knew for certain, he could stop wishing for something that would never be.
Harry had not been surprised when Lily had sat down next to Brian and pulled him into a hug. She held him tightly, murmuring into his ear, and Harry could tell his young friend was responding to her words.
He knew Brian and his daughter had formed a very close friendship because Lily’s letters home had been almost as full of news about Brian as they had been about homework and Quidditch standings. That she would understand Brian’s sorrow and be better able to help him through it than even his parents seemed natural to her father, who couldn’t help feeling proud of her. Seeing that Brian was in good hands, the adults and Lily’s brothers had moved to another part of the P-T Room to let the two have some privacy while Melissa discussed the next phases in Brian’s therapy with his parents.
A happy squeal coming from the direction of the pool pavilion–or “natatorium” as James liked to call the building complex that housed the pool and hot tub, the weight room, the changing facilities and the filtration system–brought Harry out of his reminiscences, causing him to focus on the two friends meeting in the middle of the lawn. Lily, clad in a bright yellow bathing costume, had just thrown her arms around Brian’s neck and he was awkwardly returning the hug, patting her back reluctantly. The scene reminded Harry of how Ron had acted at that age when Hermione had thrown herself at him and had didn’t know what to do with such an enthusiastic hug.
“Harry, I am so grateful that Brian has Lily as his friend,” Jocelyn said, coming to stand next to him. Out on the lawn, Lily and Brian were now side by side heading towards the pool and the gaggle of Hogwarts students sitting at one end. “She understands him so well and treats him so normally. It’s really made a difference in how he views going back to Hogwarts in September.”
“That’s good to know. I heard Lily lamenting to Ginny the other night that she thinks it’s unfair that she’s in Gryffindor and he’s a Ravenclaw,” Harry reported.
Bert cleared his throat and said, “I wonder if those two had been talking about that on those mirrors you gave them because Brian asked me whether he could be re-Sorted a couple of days ago. I didn’t think that was possible and Brian was none too happy with my answer.”
His comment stirred a memory from deep in Harry’s past. “I believe Albus Dumbledore once said that he thought the school Sorted its students too soon. Maybe this is such a case.”
“You could be right, but I don’t want my son to set a precedent of unhappy students trying to get into another House,” Bert said. He chuckled, “Our children will just have to work around this little aggravation. It’ll do them good. Goodness knows we had plenty in our school days.”
Harry couldn’t dispute that, so he gestured towards the pool pavilion. “Shall we?” he asked. “You go first,” he added, gesturing towards the steps leading down to the garden path. “I’m a little slow.” The Nelsons smiled their agreement and preceded him down the steps.
Harry walked slowly to the stairs and stood at the top for a few seconds, preparing his body for the descent. When he was sure he had his balance, he lowered his crutches onto the step below, followed by his right foot, then his left. Again, he swayed a little until he was sure all parts of his body were ready to start the process all over again. Eventually, he made it down the five steps to where the Nelsons were waiting for him, and together they walked down the path towards the pavilion and the rest of the guests who were lounging around the pool.
“Hey, Ginny,” George called as he stepped out of the fireplace and into the kitchen where Ginny was busy putting the finishing touches on the platters and bowls of food she was preparing for the meal. He snagged a carrot stick off the nearest platter and stood next to the table, chewing noisily. “Did Angelina get here? I was busy closing the shop.”
As he reached for another carrot, Ginny walked over and playfully slapped his hand away. “Keep your fingers out of the food,” she admonished with a good-natured smile. “Unless… you want to help. And yes, Angelina and the kids came through about forty minutes ago. They’re out by the pool.”
“What do you need help with?” George asked, surprising his sister by going over to the sink and washing his hands.
“Start the lettuce chopping. You’ll have to watch the knives or we’ll end up with American slaw instead of a garden salad,” Ginny said, smiling. She plunged her hands into the sink and came up with a large handful of tiny red tomatoes.
“Still washing veg by hand?” George said as he waved his wand at two knives, making them move slowly through the four heads of lettuce, which sat on the chopping block.
Ginny chuckled. “Uh huh. I hand washed so many tomatoes, carrots and courgettes as a kid, the habit stuck.” She took out her wand and dried the tomatoes with a quick spell, then dropped them a few at a time into the bowl that George was using to catch the lettuce pieces.
“Angelina still does that, too, sometimes.” Her brother was silent for a few seconds and then commented, “You seem to be your old self again, Ginny. I’m really glad.”
“So am I, George,” Ginny said. “Dr Hale has helped me work through my feelings of guilt and everything I worried unnecessarily about so that I’m much happier than I was seven or eight months ago.”
The knives stopped their assault on the lettuce as George walked over and embraced his sister. She wiped her hands on her apron and hugged him back.
“Do you know what Lily said back in April?” she asked looking up into his face.
Shaking his head, George answered, “No idea. What did your daughter say?”
“She said we were a family again, and whatever I’d been doing to find the mother she knew and loved was the right thing to have done, and that she really didn’t want to go back to Hogwarts at the end of Easter break,” Ginny answered.
“She’s a smart girl, your Lily. Just like her mother,” George said, giving Ginny one last squeeze.
Ginny batted her brother on the arm as they separated. “You’re just trying to make sure I save a piece of treacle tart for you as well as Harry,” she said, laughing.
Grinning, George started the knives chopping again. “You bet!”
“I’m so happy you could come to this party,” Rose murmured as she and Scorpius sat down on the side of the hot tub that was obscured from the rest of the pavilion by an enormous potted palm.
“Me, too,” Scorpius said. He swung his feet in the warm water, his near leg brushing hers. “When we received the invitation I wasn’t sure if Dad and Mum were going to accept.”
Rose laid her head on her friend’s shoulder. “Why?”
“It was really a big deal at our house to receive the invitation because we never get invitations to the major parties like the ones the Higgs and the Pucey families throw, and this… this is a major party,” Scorpius explained as he swept a hand in an arch, indicating the rest of the party guests. “And heaven forbid that we’d be invited to a non-Slytherin event like those at the Davies’ and the Turpin’s. It’s as if my family is a pariah.”
Rose sighed as she felt his body tense up and wiggled a little closer to him. He responded by putting his arm around her waist, although he was still sitting ramrod straight. Meaning only to comfort him, she reached up and began rubbing her hand in small circles between his shoulder blades. He jumped at her touch, but when she didn’t stop, he leaned into her hand a little.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “Your parents are so nice.”
Scorpius laughed bitterly. “Most people don’t say that about my parents, especially my dad. I’ve heard them say all sorts of horrible things to h