A/N: Well, it’s been a long time. A confluence of factors led me to pick up quill and parchment again. I had just finished re-reading the Defining The Relationship universe, for my own pleasure, when the new movie was announced. Only days after that, PS announced it would be celebrating its Tenth Anniversary. And so, inspiration struck, and it had a purpose, and here it is.
It’s been good dusting off the characters as they were in DTR. They’re all long since AU, since DM and DTR began as post-OotP fics (wow that’s a long time ago!) So if you’re an old friend come back, this is a look in, ten years down the road from the events of the DTR story. If you’re not familiar with those works, you’re an old friend just met, then you should go check out the other works in the series, or you’ll be quite lost.
Thanks to my wife, VinFan, for putting up with my sudden rekindled interest in fic writing, thanks to my dear old friend Arnel, who betaed for me, thanks to Sherylyn, who also had a look, and Aggiebell, who encouraged me. And thanks to PhoenixSong for being an awesome place on the internet, and I hope it’s still around ten years from now.
-- -- -- --
It was good that Hermione was so good at — well, everything, Ron allowed, but in this case — charms. There would be a huge crowd for Charlie’s tenth birthday. Ron still wasn’t sure that one had sunk in. How was it possible that Charlie only had a year to go before he and Hermione would be hauling him to London to catch the Express? Ron grinned inwardly. One of the odd idiosyncrasies of the magical world, he supposed. There was no reason, no reason at all, that he, or anyone for that matter, couldn’t Floo to the Three Broomsticks and walk their children up to the gate. Charlie could Floo directly to Hermione’s office. But the Express was a tradition, somehow. How that had come to be, Ron couldn’t say. He thought he’d learned it somewhere, or at least heard it, probably in Binns’ class, be he couldn’t be sure. Hermione could tell him, he was sure. It was probably in Hogwarts: A History.
The thought of that book made Ron chuckle out loud. The newest edition (it was updated every generation or so), had come out a few months ago, and Hermione was still fuming about it when she got the chance.
“Oi, what are you laughing at, Weasley?” Harry asked, coming around the corner of the house, levitating an extra table at the end of his wand.
“Oh, just thinking about Hermione’s favourite book,” Ron grinned.
Hermione, from inside the Haven’s kitchen, overheard this remark through the window. She was busy waving her wand and enlarging the table and room to accommodate the horde that was to descend on them in a few hours. “It is not my favourite book,” she called back. “How they could… I mean, honestly!”
“She still on about that?” Harry asked.
“They got it all wrong, Harry!” Hermione said. “Half the things they said I did, Ron did! It’s not right!”
Ron grinned at Harry, winking. “’S’alright, love,” he said. “I mean, you’re the cleverest witch of our age. Why shouldn’t you get more credit?”
“Because, years from now, people will think you were just some appendage to Harry and me, and…” She trailed off as she realized that Ron was winding her up on purpose. She huffed. “I don’t understand why you think this is so funny. They’re minimising you!”
Ron shrugged. “I reckon it doesn’t matter much,” he said. “I’ve got all the recognition I need,” he said. “After all, I wouldn’t want to be poor Harry. Can’t go out without being swamped.”
Harry shook his head. Much to Harry’s chagrin, his life continued to be newsworthy. Especially lately, as there was much talk of who might eventually replace Ron’s father as Minister of Magic. He’d let slip in an interview at the beginning of June that he only planned to serve until he was seventy. Granted, that was still nine years away, but the speculation was already running rampant. Despite his rocky start, and the fact that the pure-blood community viewed him with suspicion, he was proving to be one of the most effective ministers in the history of Wizarding Britain, drawing comparisons to great Ministers like Bagnold and Spavin. But Harry had been bombarded with questions about whether he planned to try and succeed Arthur in office, and Hermione had even had a few questions about it as well. Ron, well, even though he was next in line to take Kingsley’s job as head of MLE when he retired, nobody had even bothered him. Which was fine with Ron.
Harry set the table down, and conjured a tablecloth for it. “Who’s bringing the punch?” he asked. “Not Fred or George, right?” he grinned.
“No,” Ron said. “I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid,” he said. “Chris and Penny are bringing it.”
“Good call,” Harry said. He looked around the Haven’s backyard. “How many people are coming?”
“You should talk, Harry.” Ron shook his head. “I can’t understand how Ginny got Flitwick’s job, since she can’t seem to perform a basic Contraceptive Charm. I blame nepotism.”
Harry laughed, but it seemed to Ron as if it was forced.
-- -- -- --
Double blurs came barrelling into the sitting room. “Slow down!” Ginny ordered the boys. “And quiet down,” she ordered. “Cedric is sleeping.”
“Sorry,” they chorused. Ginny sighed and looked from one to the other. Charlie was the spitting image of her brother. Charlie looked exactly like she remembered Ron did at ten and James looked like Harry. It was a little spooky looking at the cousins together. It was like looking in a mirror at the past.
“Can we take our brooms out and go for a fly?” Charlie asked.
“Can we, Mum? Please?” James begged.
“No,” Ginny said. “We’re due at the Haven in an hour for your party, Charlie. And I don’t want you getting off somewhere where I can’t call you in.”
Ginny and Harry had built a house on the land that Harry and Remus had inherited from Sirius. The Black “hunting preserve”, as it had been described in the legal documents, encompassed a “lodge” (where Remus currently lived) and more than a thousand acres of field and forest that included what could have been called the backside of the Forbidden Forest, at least from the Hogwarts point of view. Harry had finally convinced Remus that he could have neighbours, even as a werewolf, and Remus had reluctantly allowed Harry to build on the land. They’d built a big, sprawling house that had included a mini-Quidditch pitch… and lots of space. It was convenient for Harry and Ginny to get back and forth to Hogwarts, which they often did by broomstick, racing each other. She hadn’t really expected to get the job at Hogwarts when Flitwick stepped down. Harry and Hermione had begun hinting at it years beforehand… that same summer that she and Harry had started going out, in fact… and she’d done quite a bit of brushing up. But she hadn’t felt prepared going in to the interview. Her teaching experience, she felt, would not have counted for much, given that she was mostly teaching basic subjects at Merlin Academy, like reading and writing, and basic maths. Not spellwork at all, but McGonagall had seemed impressed and she’d been hired for the job.
Hermione and Ron had asked Ginny to watch Charlie, David and Meredith while Harry helped set up the Haven for Charlie’s party. David and Albus were upstairs in the playroom, and Meredith was having a tea party with Lily in Lily’s room upstairs. David and Albus were the same age, seven, while Lily at five was a year older than Meredith. Cedric was in the nursery, napping. He was due up any minute, and then Ginny would be responsible for herding the seven children to the Haven. How her mother had managed, she had no idea, but at least she had…
An enormous crack signalled the arrival of Dobby. One day, shortly before Ginny and Harry had moved from Hogwarts into their newly completed home, Ginny had made the mistake of jokingly mentioning to Dobby that it was too bad they couldn’t take him with them. Harry had returned that evening to their quarters, shaking his head. “What did you say to Dobby?” he’d asked. It had taken her a moment or two to come up with the passing jest, but Harry had groaned, and informed her that Dobby had gone straight to McGonagall, and asked for release from his Hogwarts employment so that he could go work for Harry and Ginny… and Winky as well.
Dobby had proven to be far more useful than Ginny had ever imagined, and even Winky had begun to recover a little. Ginny would not say she was an ideal nursemaid, but she was now competent enough to leave alone with the small children for short periods, long enough for Ginny to get dinner, or tidy the bedroom. Hermione and Penny had given Ginny no end of chaff for having two house-elves, involved as they were in Hermione’s resumed campaign to end elf enslavement, but it was good natured, since they knew that Harry paid both elves generously. He couldn’t get rid of them if he tried.
And the truth was that Harry actually owned three house-elves, though Kreacher still refused to leave Grimmauld Place unless specifically ordered, and would return there at the first opportunity, which was fine with Harry and Ginny, because they didn’t want him muttering around the children. It did, however, cause the Ministry some issues, as he often would shout at the tourists visiting the museum there. Harry had wanted to free him, but Kreacher had howled so much that it would kill him to be freed that Harry had actually come to suspect he might be telling the truth. Hermione had investigated and discovered that the Blacks had placed a Dark Enchantment on their elves, which wouldn’t allow them to be free in the normal sense. The Blacks didn’t want any elves they might have freed to be out and about and telling secrets, so freeing Kreacher would have resulted in his heart stopping. The house-elf heads that had once decorated number 12 had actually been trophies of elves that had been freed. Harry, horrified, could not even consider it now. So the Ministry would just have to suffer until Kreacher passed on from natural causes.
“Missus Potter!” Dobby announced. “Master Cedric is awake!” This last part was unnecessary, as Dobby carried the child in his arms, and he was fussing rather loudly. Cedric wouldn’t be small enough for Dobby to carry around much longer. Ginny took him from Dobby.
“Thank you, Dobby. Would you please tell the other children to come down to the kitchen? It’s time to get ready to go to Charlie’s party.”
Charlie and James’ disappointment about not being allowed to go for a fly was tempered by the promise of a party where they would see their enormous pack of cousins and, of course, Charlie couldn’t wait to open his presents.
The other boys and the girls came bounding down the stairs a moment later, as Ginny carried a now placated Cedric. Cedric, like her other boys, never woke up well from a nap. They always needed a few minutes of cuddle time before they perked up, and Cedric had his head flopped on her shoulder. “Mummy, I got you,” he said, putting his arms around her neck.
“I got you,” she said.
“Mummy!” Lily said breathlessly. “Is it time to go to Charlie’s party?”
“Yes, dear,” she said. “Everyone to the fireplace and line up, please,” she said.
The children formed an orderly line… well… almost orderly. Albus and David appeared to want to try to claim the same spot in line behind James. In one of those quirks of fate, the two boys had been born nearly on the same day, and despite the usual rule of oldest first, they tended to try to usurp each other, though David was older by a few hours. Midnight had divided them, however, and Ginny gently reminded Albus of this, and he sulkily acquiesced.
One by one, the children tossed their Floo Powder into the fireplace, and disappeared off to the Haven. Ginny turned to Dobby before taking her turn as the last in line. “You’ll bring the cake along?” she asked the elf.
“Yes, Missus Potter,” he said. “Dobby will be right along with the cake,” he wheezed. Ginny frowned.
“Are you feeling all right, Dobby?” she asked.
“Oh, yes, Missus Potter,” he assured her. “Dobby feels just fine.” And with a crack, he was gone.
Ginny thought about it as she stepped into the grate and felt herself being pulled along. Dobby had to be getting old. She had no idea how old he’d been when he’d left the Malfoys in her first year, and it was getting to be a long time since then. Charlie was turning ten, which meant that she and Harry would be celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary at Christmastime. How long did house-elves live? She would have to ask Hermione.
With a jerk, Ginny stumbled out of the Haven’s fireplace. Cedric fussed, upset at being jostled. “Oh, it’s all right,” a voice said. “Come see your Grandmummy.” Hands relieved her of Cedric.
“Hello, Mum,” Ginny said with a sigh. She loved her mother dearly, but Molly had a tendency to be possessive of her grandchildren. Ginny’d not noticed until James was born, but had quickly found herself commiserating with Hermione, Angelina, Alicia and Penny about it.
“Hello, dear,” Molly said. “I sent the others off to play in the garden. Fred and George are already here.”
“Hi, Ginny!” Hermione said, coming in from outside. “Come on into the sitting room,” she said, and led Ginny into the cosy sitting room where the Weasley wives were already ensconced, letting their husbands deal with the rambunctious children in the back garden.
A chorus of welcomes greeted Ginny as she joined them. “When’s Penny getting here?” she asked.
“She and Chris are on their way,” Hermione said, and handed Ginny a glass. Ginny took it warily, realizing it was wine. Ginny took the glass, and set it on the end table, hoping no one would notice she hadn’t actually sipped it.
“They coming in that flying lorry?” Angelina asked.
“Of course,” Hermione said. “How else could they come?”
Ron had given up his flying Land Rover after Penny had married Chris in a small ceremony at The Burrow the summer after Ginny and Harry had married. Ron had given it to the couple as a wedding gift, and taught Penny how to fly it. Since Chris couldn’t Apparate or Floo, not being a wizard, it made sense for them to have some way of getting from their house in Cambridge to The Burrow, Hogsmeade, or to Penny’s parents’ house in Norfolk. Chris was now the Superintendant of the Cambridge Police. He’d tried to teach Chris, but despite the fact that the charms were already in the car, and were only controlled, not cast, by the driver, it didn’t seem to work quite right. (“I don’t understand,” Hermione had said at the time, “The charms are controlled by the mechanical levers and buttons in the car, it shouldn’t matter who pushes them.” Immediately, she’d gone off to do research.)
Just then, a shout from outside announced the arrival of the couple in question, and they all rose to go great them. Ginny abandoned her glass on the table.
-- -- -- --
Chris had to admit to himself that not being able to drive the car rubbed at his pride a little. On the other hand, Penny flying the car was preferable to driving on the actual roads. For one thing, they made great time, covering the distance from Cambridge in only a few hours, rather than the full day it might otherwise have taken. Faster, and with no traffic.
Penny brought the car down smoothly in the lane outside the Haven, and parked it in front of the house.
“They’re all here already!” Annabelle exclaimed. “There’s Lily and Meredith!” she said excitedly. “Mummy, Daddy, can I go play?”
“Of course you can, dearie,” Chris said, and Annabelle was off like a shot, before Penny and Chris had climbed out. Chris was doing better these days. Hermione and Harry had sneaked him into Hogwarts a few years back, and had Madam Pomfrey, the school’s nursing sister, look at his leg. She’d clucked and fussed over it, muttering all the time about how she could have done more if she’d been there when it had been broken in the first place, but she’d managed to ease the aches and pains, and he hardly ever used his cane anymore.
Arthur followed them up to the house. Arthur was nearly thirteen now, and at an awkward age. He’d just finished his second year at Hogwarts, and none of his cousins had yet begun. It set him apart from the rest, a proto-grown up among children. It gave Chris a pang to watch him, a boy who, only a few years ago, would have joyfully joined in the roughhousing and the frivolity, now wasn’t quite sure where he fit in. He’d even asked Chris if he had to come today. Chris had told him firmly that yes, he’d had to come. He hadn’t told Penny about it yet, but he meant to. It was only natural that Arthur might have preferred the company of his age mates from Hogwarts, where he’d been another in the long Weasley tradition of Gryffindors, much to his mother’s chagrin and amusement, who’d been quite certain he would have been a Ravenclaw. Chris had found himself hoping that Penny would have been right on that one. It was hard enough on Arthur with his Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny as professors, plus his Aunt Hermione as Assistant Headmistress. Chris knew, from a private tour of the school that Penny had asked Harry to give him, that there was a memorial to all those who had died at the Battle of Hogwarts in the Entrance Hall. Percy’s name was prominent there among the Gryffindors. That was a lot for a boy of eleven to live up to upon first arriving.
Arthur finally allowed himself to be dragged off to play with his younger cousins with the lure of Quidditch. In that respect, anyway, Arthur was all Weasley. He was quite good, and he’d told Chris he hoped to make the house team when school returned to session in the autumn.
“Hey, mate,” Ron said, putting his arm around Chris. “How was the flight?”
“Not bad,” Chris allowed, as they moved off toward the back garden. The men were gathered around the table. Penny, who had retrieved the punch bowl from the Land Rover’s boot, was levitating it onto the table. “Quite the crowd!” he said, surveying the teaming mass of children.
They were all there. Fred and Angelina’s twins Irissa and Iella, and George and Alica’s girl Sara, who would all three start Hogwarts come the new term, gossiping under an oak tree while sharing a copy of Witch Weekly. Charlie and James, plus George’s boy Gideon, and Fred’s boy Fabian, who were trying to get Arthur to give them Quidditch tips. His own Annabelle, with Lily and Meredith, giggling and watching the boys play Quidditch. Cedric toddling around after his grandmother.
“Are Bill and Fleur coming?” Chris asked Ron.
“They’ll be here later,” Ron said. “Fleur runs on her own timetable.” He grinned.
“She is pregnant, Ron,” Harry pointed out.
“And you would be the expert on that, wouldn’t you?” Fred said with a grin.
“He’s aiming for twelve,” Ron assured them. “Trelawney once predicted he’d have twelve kids and be Minister of Magic. At the rate they’re going, they need to pick up the pace if Harry’s planning to succeed dad.”
“Ha,” said George. “I think they’re done. At least that’s what Ginny told Alicia,” he said.
Harry choked on his punch, coughing. Chris patted him on the back. “Okay, Harry?” Chris asked.
“Yeah,” he said, gasping a little on the remains of his punch. “Fine.”
Chris glanced at him sideways.
-- -- -- --
Hermione was in the kitchen when the fireplace roared and Remus stepped out, followed by Dora. (Tonks had begun going by Dora, shortly after her marriage, since she realized it was a little awkward to be known by her maiden name.) Remus was wearing the slightly bemused expression that had been his permanent companion since Dora had finally broken down his resistance six years ago. His protests about their age difference had fallen on deaf ears. After all, when you could live be one hundred or more, thirteen years was really not much. Teddy Lupin was five, and he immediately ran outside to join the others.
“Wotcher, Hermione!” Dora announced, placing their gift for Charlie on the kitchen table. The table resembled a small mountain, if there was ever one made of brightly coloured packages.
“Hello, Dora,” Hermione smiled, hugging both. “Hi, Remus. Thank you for coming!”
“Our pleasure,” Remus said.
“Harry, Ron, Arthur and all the men are outside,” Hermione waved in the direction of the back garden. “We’re all in the sitting room,” Hermione beckoned to Dora.
“Hard to believe that Charlie’s ten already,” Remus mused. “I remember when Minerva and I came to The Burrow the day he was born.”
“That was an eventful summer,” Hermione said. “What with Harry and Ginny, and then Malfoy, and all that mess. What a year that was.”
“And I missed it all,” Dora huffed. “Off in Japan most of the summer. I only caught the very end of it.”
“I think you probably were better off for having missed it,” Hermione allowed. “It was a pretty busy time.” She and Dora entered the living room, where Penny was sharing a story about Annabelle.
“And she just batted her eyes up at Chris, and he just melted,” Penny grinned. “Daddy’s little girl.”
“It’s a good thing Fred’s learned not to fall for that anymore from the twins,” Angelina said. “Otherwise, we’d be in serious trouble.”
“Hi, Dora!” Ginny said. “When did you get here?”
“Oh, just a few minutes ago,” she waved. Dora saw a full wine glass on the end table. “This one taken?” she scooped it up.
“Oh…” Hermione began, recognizing it as Ginny’s, but Ginny said nothing as Dora took a long sip.
“Good wine, Hermione,” Dora said. “What is this, a Cabernet?”
“Pinot Noir,” Hermione responded absently, narrowing her eyes at Ginny.
-- -- -- --
“Quite a crowd,” Remus said, as the men smiled in a sort of bemused stupor at the pack of children in the back garden.
“Too fertile for our own good,” George snorted into his punch.
“They’re going to have to start expanding the dormitories at Hogwarts,” Arthur said. “This kind of scene isn’t limited to the Potters and Weasleys, you know? They tell me that there’s going to be quite a crowd up there in another year or two. A baby-boom of sorts, after the end of the war with Voldemort.”
“Well, you lot still haven’t figured out television, so you have to have something to do on Saturday nights,” Chris said with a smirk. Harry laughed uproariously, Remus chuckled, having spent so much time in the Muggle world, and the others, missing the curve, could only smile and nod at the crazy person.
“So many married young,” Remus added after a moment. “Big families will be common for a while.”
“Or it could be that some people just can’t keep their hands to themselves,” Ron said, giving Harry a sly look.
“With four kids, when do they find the time?” Fred added.
“Can I help it that Ginny is so sexy? We make time,” Harry shot back, temporarily forgetting about the presence of Arthur. Ron and his brothers looked uncomfortable and even Harry felt a blush creep up his cheeks when he caught Arthur looking at him with a raised eyebrow and a bemused expression.
It may have been in jest, but it was true. Harry was as much in love with Ginny at this moment as he’d been since… well, as long as he could remember, but not admitting it. It was hard to believe that it really had been ten years since they’d come together. Harry grinned inwardly. He had a quite a plan for their tenth anniversary… his thoughts faltered. Maybe he’d have to modify his plan.
“…do you think, Harry?” Fred asked. Harry realized that Fred had asked him a question.
“What?” Harry shook his head. “Sorry, what was the question?”
“I said,” Fred looked at him with a grin, “do you think that Bill and Fleur will have more?”
“More than two?” Harry shrugged. “Maybe. If this one that Fleur’s got now is a girl, they might try for a boy.”
“That would be nice,” Arthur said. “I think that every family should have at least one of each.”
“Only took you seven tries,” Fred, George and Ron muttered at the same time, and then everyone laughed.
“So how is your cousin doing, Harry?” Mr. Weasley asked. “Speaking of children.”
After the war, Harry had reconnected with his cousin. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon remained more or less closed to him. But Dudley had warmed a little, especially after he had married (to a women of whom Aunt Petunia had not approved, no less) and had children, one of whom — in a twist of irony appreciated by all — turned out to be magical. Dudley had reached out to Harry when his daughter first showed signs, and Harry recognized the supreme effort it had taken to swallow his pride in that way. Harry wouldn’t have said that he and Dudley would ever be friends — like Harry was friends with Ron, or Neville, or any of the Weasleys — but they got along, and Harry and Ginny had brought the kids to see Dudley’s kids, to help acclimate them to the world Dudley could no longer avoid. It was not a surprise to Harry that Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had declined to visit at the same time. Harry had also had the tact not to ask Dudley how Aunt Petunia had taken the news about her granddaughter.
“Doing well, sir, thank you,” Harry said.
“Uncle Harry!” Charlie called. “Will you come show us some Quidditch tips?”
“Go on, Harry,” Ron said. “Go show the young ones how it’s done.”
Harry reluctantly allowed himself to be chivvied onto his broom. The children cheered when he lifted off. He’d purchased a new one, some years ago, something a little bit more up-to-date for refereeing the Hogwarts Quidditch matches, keeping up with the young folks. But here, at family gatherings, he still used the broom he felt most comfortable with, the Firebolt from Sirius. It just felt right, somehow. So that’s how Harry found himself hovering over Ron’s back garden, with Arthur just beyond him, along with James and Charlie.
“Show us the Feint, Uncle Harry!” Charlie asked.
“Yeah, Dad!” James encouraged.
Harry chuckled. “No, I don’t think so, not today.”
“Oi! Potter!” Harry swivelled and saw Ron and his brothers rising on their brooms. “Hog all the fun, will you?”
“This is hardly fair,” Harry said. “Three on one?”
“You can have the midgets,” Ron allowed, waving his hand at the three children. “Then it will be four and three.” Harry glanced over his shoulder. The boys were staring up at him eagerly.
“Okay. Quaffle only?” Harry asked, and Ron nodded. Harry aimed his wand at the Haven’s chimney and conjured a single hoop. “Arthur!” Harry called down. “Toss up that Quaffle?”
Arthur, chatting with Remus and Chris, looked up and shook his head. He retrieved the Quaffle from where it lay on the grass near the house, and expertly launched it up. Harry and Ron both dove for it, but Harry was just a hair quicker. He snagged it, and before Fred and George closed in from either side, pitched it under-broom to Charlie, coming up fast below.
-- -- -- --
Penny heard the shouting from the back garden, and then the fireplace in the sitting room gave a little shudder. It could only mean one thing. “I think the boys are at it again,” she said to the room, interrupting the conversations.
Ginny sat up. “Bloody hell,” she said angrily. “If they’ve started Quidditch without coming to get me again, Harry’s going to be sleeping on the couch for a week.” Angelina and Alicia muttered agreement, and the three former Chasers stalked out of the sitting room. Perforce Hermione, Penny and Dora were compelled to follow.
It was quite the sight that befell them when they came out. Arthur, Remus, and Chris were standing on the grass, yelling encouragement up to the players, along with the younger boys and all the girls. It looked to Penny as if Ron, Fred and George were playing Quaffle-only against Harry and the three eldest boys. They were making a game of it. Ron’s team appeared to be trying to play the children a little soft, while the boys were having no such qualms, as Charlie gave a lengthwise broom check to his Uncle Fred that would have done well in any Gryffindor-Slytherin match.
“What’s the score?” Penny asked her husband, slipping her arm into his as they gazed upwards.
“Not a clue,” Chris allowed. Even after nearly ten years of marriage and countless Quidditch matches, he still had difficulty following the rules. To be fair, she’d never understood cricket, either.
“Potter!” Ginny roared. “What in blazes do you think you’re doing?”
“Ginny’s on my team!” both Ron and Harry said at once.
“Your team?” Harry said incredulously. “She’s my wife!”
“She was my sister first!” Ron said, grinning.
“If you think I’m playing on either of your teams, you can go soak your head,” she called back. “I warned you about not coming to get me the next time you decided to play,” she said. “What do you think, ladies?” she asked Angelina and Alicia. They already had brooms. “C’mon girls,” Ginny said to Iella, Irissa and Sara.
In a matter of moments, Ginny led the girls into the sky. She expertly snagged the Quaffle from Fred, passed it smoothly to Alicia, who passed it to Iella, who put it through the hoop before Ron could react.
At that point, even Penny lost track of the score. The teams seemed to shift like liquid. At first she thought it was going to be girls versus guys, but the men seemed to hold to their original squads for a time, and it was bit like three-way Quidditch. But then Harry put a mighty broom check on Ron as he was about to block Ginny from taking a shot on the hoop. There was a roar of anger at this betrayal, and from that point, the game took on the aspect of a free-for-all. Penny and Chris could only watch as the more-experienced players carved arcs through the sky, and the younger players tried to keep up, but weren’t left behind. On the contrary, every adult went out of their way to encourage the children to participate in the game, sending them passes, laying out blocks on others threatening to block their shots. Penny imagined that in a few years, there was unlikely to be anyone on the Gryffindor house team except Potters and Weasleys, given the level of instruction these children were getting.
Finally, Hermione called a halt to the game by announcing that it was time for cake and ice cream. The children came hurtling toward the ground at a pace that made Penny’s heart stop, before they pulled up short and dismounted. Most of the adults made their way more sedately toward the ground.
“Not a bad block, there, Potter,” Ginny was saying to Harry as they strolled by Penny and Chris, with Harry’s arm around Ginny’s waist. “You may have redeemed yourself there from spending the night on the couch.”
“Thanks, love,” he said. “And you looked in fine form today, especially considering…” he trailed off.
“Not now,” she hissed.
Penny turned to Chris as Harry and Ginny moved off out of earshot. “What was that all about, do you think?” she asked.
“Hm, what?” he asked. He hadn’t been paying attention.
“Nothing,” she sighed.
-- -- -- --
Bill and Fleur had just arrived by international Floo connection, with young Victoire in tow. Fleur was eight-months pregnant with their second child. Of the Weasley children, Bill had been the last to tie the knot, though he and Fleur had lived together in Paris for years — much to Mrs. Weasley’s displeasure of course, but then, that’s why they’d done it in Paris.
The cake — which had been Ginny’s contribution to the event, she found she quite enjoyed baking — was enormous. Even so, it had still been barely enough for everyone. More friends and family had showed up, including the Headmistress, Hagrid, Neville, and Luna.
And there had been the presents. A mountain of presents. An avalanche of presents. Hermione had, like Ginny (and Penny, Angelina and Alicia), begged everyone to keep their gifts small. Birthdays were bad enough, Christmas was a nightmare for the parents of this horde. It was fortunate that they were all wizards, and could expand the space under the tree.
Eventually, the cake, ice cream and gifts were finished, and the children were dispatched to the back garden again to run off the sugar and the excitement. The adults, however, collapsed in the house, with the men in the kitchen, and the women in the sitting room.
Ginny found herself sitting next to her mother on one side and Penny on the other.
“Well,” Molly said, “another wonderful birthday.”
“Yes,” Penny agreed. “And it’s always nice to get together as family… even if we’re sort of bursting at the seams.”
“You’re not kidding,” Angelina said. “Ginny, I think we’re going to need to have all of our family get-togethers at your house, from now on.”
“Or Hogwarts, in the Great Hall,” Alicia added, “After all, Ginny and Harry are entitled to live there, and so is Hermione. So they should be able to use it.”
There was general laughter at this.
“Perhaps, after diz one,” Fleur said, patting her belly, “We might not need any more space,” she said.
“Goodness,” Molly said. “I would think so.”
Ginny felt herself smiling weakly. Just then, there was a roar of laughter from the kitchen that threatened to shake the house.
“What are those boys going on about?” Minerva asked.
“I think they’re making jokes about sex,” Luna said innocently. “Neville suggested that the reason Harry and Ginny had so many kids is because they’re the only ones who…”
“So,” Molly said, cutting across Luna, “Minerva, who looks good for the Quidditch Cup this year?”
The conversation shifted to Quidditch, thankfully, but from across the room, Hermione called, “Ginny, can you help me upstairs for a minute?”
Ginny looked over at Hermione. I am so busted, Ginny thought, seeing the look on Hermione’s face.
-- -- -- --
There was barely enough room to move around the kitchen, especially with Hagrid, but they managed. Harry was content to let the conversation flow around him. This was marvellous. He sighed happily from his place near the counter, thinking over the last ten years. It had been a wild ride. He’d made a lot of progress. Dr. Berger had been good for him. Doc had retired a couple years ago, but he still made time to see Harry once in a while, when Harry felt as if he needed it. Those times were few and far between now. Harry had even coaxed Ginny to see him, and Ginny, while initially sceptical, had warmed to Doc, and Doc had helped her deal with some lingering issues she’d had, stemming all the way back to her first year at Hogwarts, and then from her kidnapping.
Harry looked up, startled, at the person who’d been speaking to him. “Hmm?” It was Neville, who’d arrived at some point, but Harry had missed his entrance. Neville had been overseas that summer when Charlie had been born, and spent almost as much time out of England as in it, researching exotic plants in South America, Africa and Southern Asia. Neville, who’d started at Hogwarts as a plump, round kid who was scared of his shadow, was now a lean, tanned, broad-shouldered young man who carried a wicked-looking knife at his belt and wore a charmed brown fedora. Harry and Hermione had given him a hard time about it, joking about Indiana Longbottom, to which Neville had sheepishly admitted he liked the look, but that it served a practical purpose. Inspired by Harry’s story of how the sword of Gryffindor had come out of the Sorting Hat, Neville had charmed his hat to hold all sorts of useful stuff, like a machete, or rope, or other survival tools.
“I said,” Neville said, as some of the others smirked, “how’s Ginny?”
“Oh, she’s fine,” Harry said. “You know how the kids keep her busy. Both ours and the ones at Hogwarts.”
“How many is it now?” Neville asked, smirking. “Six, seven?”
“Just four,” Harry said quickly. Maybe a little too quickly. Ron narrowed his eyes at him.
“Maybe you ought to get fixed,” Fred suggested.
“Snip, snip,” George added. “Then you don’t have to worry about charms and potions.”
“I don’t see you lot rushing off for that,” Harry said.
“They don’t need to,” Neville said, coming to Harry’s aid. “After all, their wives haven’t let them since their youngest were born.”
A roar of laughter filled the kitchen.
“Hey, Harry,” Ron said, “want to help me haul some of these presents upstairs?” Ron asked.
Harry looked over at Ron, taking in his look. I am so busted.
-- -- -- --
Ginny followed Hermione up the stairs to the first landing, and Hermione tugged Ginny in to her and Ron’s bedroom.
“Ginny,” Hermione hissed, “are you and Harry…”
“What?” Ginny asked, trying to hold the act just a little bit longer.
“Are you…” Hermione stopped, there were footsteps outside the door.
“Harry?” Ron’s voice.
“Have you given my sister another bun in the oven?” Ron asked.
Hermione snorted. “Honestly,” she muttered. Ginny giggled, she couldn’t help it.
“What are you talking about, Ron?”
“Every time we’ve joked about kids today, you’ve gone all shifty. Are you and Ginny expecting another kid?”
Ginny brushed past Hermione and burst out onto the landing, letting the door take her brother in the chest. “Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she said, as the breath left Ron in a whoosh. “Yes, we’re going to have another baby,” she said. “Is everybody happy now?”
Ginny was suddenly aware that for some reason, there had been a simultaneous lull in conversation in both the kitchen and the sitting room at the bottom of the stairs. This lull turned into a dead silence as Ginny could picture several dozen heads swivel toward the stairs.
-- -- -- --
Much later, Harry and Ginny finally packed James off to bed. The other children had long since passed out, a combination of fresh air, a rambunctious day and crashing sugar highs.
They readied for bed, in the grand master bedroom of the home they had made together, with its solid king-sized four-poster. Ginny, in her gauzy summer nightdress, sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. She placed a hand on her belly. Harry, wearing only his pyjama bottoms, smiled and sat down next to her. He put his arm around her and she leaned her head against his shoulder.
“They took that well,” Harry said.
“Mum’s thrilled,” Ginny said.
“Of course she is,” Harry chuckled. “The more the merrier.”
“I think the others are a little blown away,” Ginny added. “Don’t know why, Mum managed seven of us.”
They were silent for a few moments. “Do you think this is it?” Harry asked.
Ginny shrugged. “We’ll see. You know I kind of like being pregnant. And we’ve been letting nature take its course.” They hadn’t used a Contraceptive Charm since they’d got married.
“I thought you might want to think about it after this one,” Harry said.
“We’ll see,” Ginny sighed. They sat in comfortable silence.
“Hard to believe it’s been ten years,” Harry said finally.
“I know,” Ginny said.
“Any regrets?” Harry asked.
Ginny lifted her head, and touched his cheek gently, looking into his eyes. Harry could get lost in those brown eyes of hers. “Only this,” she said, “that it hasn’t been longer.” She moved in to kiss him.
A few long moments later, Harry broke this kiss long enough to wave his hand in the direction of the lamps. “Nox.”