Harry Potter awoke with a start. He caught himself just as he was about to bolt out of bed, and instead forced himself to remain calm and to move Ginny's arm aside gently and to slip out of their bed as quietly as possible, so as not to disturb his wife. He grabbed his glasses and dressing gown and shoved his feet into his slippers as he hurtled through the bedroom door and across the hall. “Shhhh, Hope. It’s okay. Daddy’s here,” he whispered as he entered the other bedroom. He hurried to her cot and found her sitting up, holding onto her blanket and wailing loudly. He gently picked her up and carried her down the hall toward the stairs, but remembered to point his wand back over his shoulder, quickly casting a silencing charm at his bedroom door, so that Ginny could sleep in peace.
He yawned sleepily as he cuddled his daughter and went into the kitchen to get her a bottle. “I’m sorry your teeth are bothering you, sweetheart. I know you don’t feel well,” he murmured to Hope, who was now snuggled against his neck, but still whimpering. “Too bad Mummy always misses out on being with you in the middle of the night,” he whispered, kissing her cheek as he reached into the refrigerator for a bottle, and then waved his wand at it to warm it properly.
He carried Hope into the living room and couldn’t help groaning inwardly as he sank onto the sofa with her and gave her the bottle, cuddling her to him as he did so. He rested his cheek lightly against her head, loving the feel and the scent of her, and again savoring her very existence. But even the most devoted parent had to sleep at some point… and Harry had been getting up repeatedly with Hope for the past couple of weeks. She was teething again and wasn’t sleeping through the night most of the time now, and he could have sworn that it was tiring him out more now than it did when she was first born. And so… as Hope gradually drifted off to sleep as she finished her bottle… her adoring daddy also drifted into dreamland, with Hope sleeping contentedly on his chest.
Ginny awoke several hours later and reached for Harry only to realize abruptly that he most obviously wasn’t there. She sat up and looked at the clock. Only a little after six… he must be up with Hope, she reckoned. She grabbed her own dressing gown and went to find them. As she opened the door, she realized that he must have cast a silencing spell again, since she couldn’t hear a sound. She quickly terminated it, smiling a bit to herself as she did so. Harry was trying so hard to let her sleep well so that she could keep up with all the extra work she was doing at school.
She headed toward the kitchen, but then stopped as she spotted them both asleep on the sofa. She smiled at the sight, then quietly went and pulled a blanket over them, and headed into the kitchen to make breakfast. She’d just started cooking the eggs when she heard a strangled cry from the living room. She quickly set the pan off the burner and rushed to the doorway. Harry was sitting up, staring groggily at Hope, but his expression was priceless. There was a large wet spot now on the front of his pajama top, and Hope was looking a bit grumpy, but definitely awake. Ginny giggled, and Harry glanced up at her, appearing every bit as grumpy as Hope. Ginny laughed outright at his expression. “I’m sorry, dear. Want some help?”
“No thanks. I’m fine,” Harry grumbled, trying to hold onto Hope without holding her against him again. Hope was wiggling and starting to fuss. “I’ll just go get her changed,” Harry muttered, heading toward the bedrooms.
Ginny giggled again. “I don’t think she’s the only one who needs changing.” Harry shot her another disgruntled look, and didn’t answer. Ginny went back to the kitchen, still giggling as she went back to cooking breakfast.
Harry reappeared a few minutes later with Hope, both dressed and with Hope, at least, looking decidedly happier. “G’morning. Feeling better?” Ginny grinned as he entered. Harry shrugged a bit as he slid Hope into her high chair.
“Drier, at least,” he answered, as he turned to the cupboard to locate Hope’s breakfast.
“Hey, Grumpy. Don’t I even get a good morning kiss?” Ginny teased. Harry stopped in mid-reach and turned to her, grinning sheepishly.
“Sorry. Guess I’m not awake yet,” he grinned again as she slid her arms around him. He kissed her warmly, then hugged her. “That’s a much nicer way to wake up,” he said softly, stroking her face gently with one hand. She smiled at him.
“The other way may have not been as pleasant, but it was pretty funny,” she teased.
Harry snorted. “Easy for you to say. You weren’t the one – ” he was interrupted by a loud squeal from Hope, who’d managed to grab a piece of toast from the table and was waving it merrily in the air. “At least she’s happy about being awake,” he finished and couldn’t help but smile despite himself. He turned to their daughter. “Right, sweetheart?” Hope grinned at him delightedly and then chomped down on the toast. “I guess I’d better get her breakfast before she gets unhappy,” he said quietly, but didn’t take his arms from around Ginny’s waist. “But I still love waking up with you,” he added, leaning in for another kiss.
She smiled at him and whispered against his lips, “You’d better, Mr. Potter.”
She kissed him and then he whispered, “I love you, Mrs. Potter.”
“I love you, too.” Hope squealed again, and Harry just managed to tear his gaze away from Ginny long enough to see Hope reaching for the jam jar. “No!” he said quickly, trying to distract her. Hope looked back at him but not soon enough… crash!
“Ohhh…” Harry groaned, reaching for his wand, but Ginny stopped him.
“Nevermind, Harry. I’ll do it. You eat.”
“No, Gin. You’ve got to get ready for school. I’ll do it,” Harry argued, a bit louder than usual. She glanced at him, pouting a bit. “Sorry,” he muttered, grabbing a cloth and trying to wipe up the jam that Hope had smeared on her face as well. She wiggled and fussed. “I’m sorry, darling, but we’ve got to get that off of you,” he murmured to her. After he’d cleaned her up a bit, he waved his wand to clean up the rest of the kitchen. Most of the jam disappeared, but he had to do the charm more than once to get the last of the stains off the cupboards.
Ginny watched him out of the corner of her eye as she started to eat her own breakfast. Harry finished with the jam, then wordlessly got out Hope’s cereal and fruit. He warmed it slightly, then turned toward the table at last. Harry sighed and started feeding Hope her cereal. She happily cooperated, as Harry grinned at her and talked to her while she ate. Ginny was smiling quietly at the two of them as she sipped her tea. After a few more minutes of watching Harry being wound around their daughter’s tiny fingers, Ginny sighed quietly and stood to put her dishes in the sink. Harry glanced at her. “Gin? When do you think you’ll be home this evening?” She shook her head at him.
“I’m not certain. I’ve got loads of things I need to check on in the library after classes are over.” She shook her head again. “I wish I didn’t have to, but…” He stood up quickly and silenced her with a kiss.
“I know, Gin. I wish you didn’t have to work so hard on everything. I’m so proud of you for getting to do all this advanced work, but I miss you, too. And I know Hope does, too.” He wrapped his arms around her again.
“I miss being with the two of you so much! I just want to be home with you and play with Hope and enjoy our family!” She snuggled against his shoulder, squeezing him more tightly.
Harry kissed the top of her head. “I know, Gin. Me, too.” She sighed again, then kissed him.
“I hate to, but I suppose I’d best get dressed and get to school.” He nodded as she stepped away from him, and he turned back to finish feeding Hope. He watched Ginny disappear toward the bedroom, then glanced back at Hope.
“Oh, Hope…” he groaned, and reached for the wet cloth again, sighing as he pulled her hand out of the cereal bowl and started cleaning her off again.
Ginny dressed quickly, kissed Harry and Hope goodbye, then hurried away to Hogwarts. Harry sighed again as she disappeared, and Hope wiggled in his arms. He glanced down at her, and smiled as she reached for his glasses. “No, no you don’t!” he laughed, pulling her away. She laughed, and he raised her up above his face, laughing at her expression. “You’ve got too much of your uncles in you!” he laughed as she squealed in delight. He kissed her again, then put her back in the high chair with some toys in easy reach while he tried to get the rest of the kitchen cleaned up.
It wasn’t as easy as it should have been, though, because he had to keep turning around and handing Hope whatever toy she’d just dropped. Hope, of course, thought this “game” was great fun, and kept dropping more toys for Daddy to pick up. And if Harry tried to ignore her, she fussed. Harry wasn’t certain which was worse: her fussing, or him having to pick up the toys. Eventually, he settled for putting most of the dishes in the sink and just cleaning up the stove and cupboards for now, and planned to wash up the dishes when Hope took a nap. He sighed. He couldn’t help but wonder why it was that he could conjure up a great Patronus, but he couldn’t manage to clean a kitchen and tend to a baby at the same time. He wondered how in the world Molly Weasley appeared to still be sane after having raised seven children. Then he couldn’t help but grin in spite of himself – Especially those seven kids!
He shook his head at himself as he lifted Hope from the high chair. He carried her into the living room and set her in her playpen. “Sweetheart, you’re going to have to play a bit while Daddy gets the laundry started. If I don’t, none of us are going to presentable!” He gave her some of her favorite toys and books, and then hurried out of the room before she could get upset with him. Harry quickly gathered up the laundry, noticing how ironic it was that Hope had more laundry than he and Ginny combined, even though her clothes were so much smaller than theirs. He shook his head as he carried the clothes toward the laundry room. I wonder what Malfoy would think of me now? “The Great Harry Potter” spending his days doing laundry and cleaning house. Not that I’m complaining… I wouldn’t trade Ginny and Hope for anything.
He started the laundry, then went back to check on Hope. She was playing with her toys when he walked in, but as soon as she saw him, she reached for him and started fussing. Harry sighed, but went to pick her up. “I guess I left you alone long enough, didn’t I?” he murmured, kissing her. He might be tired of laundry and cleaning, but he wasn’t tired of his daughter. He glanced at his watch. “I think it’s about time for someone to take a nap,” he announced, and started to head to the kitchen for a bottle, but then… “Oh great…” he muttered, and instead turned and headed for Hope’s room.
“I should have known it’d be time for you to need changing,” he sighed as he undressed her, “Oh perfect. Of course your clothes have to be changed, too.” Hope smiled at him, and he couldn’t resist smiling back. “Do you do this to me on purpose, you little imp?” he asked, and grinned again as she laughed. He had to grab her quickly to keep her from wiggling away, but he had definitely become much better at doing six things at once, and he was able to get her changed without making an even bigger mess.
When he was finished, Harry picked up Hope in one hand and the new pile of dirty clothes in the other and carried them all to the laundry room. He added the clothes to the other piles, then went to the kitchen and prepared a bottle for Hope. He carried her back to her bedroom and sank into the rocking chair with her. He was right about nap time, and it wasn’t long before she was sound asleep. Harry took the empty bottle back to the kitchen, and added it to the pile of dirty dishes.
He remembered he needed to prepare more bottles, but decided he’d best wash the dirty ones first. He started the spell for washing the dishes, then went to check on the laundry. He was mid-way between changing the loads of laundry when he heard a crash from the kitchen. He hurried back and saw several broken dishes on the floor. He growled in frustration. Molly had shown him that charm a dozen times, and he still had trouble making it finish the job before the dishes dropped to the floor. “Reparo,” he growled at the broken dishes. At least he could do that one right. He re-did the washing-up charm, then went back to the laundry, sighing again in exasperation.
It took Harry the rest of the time that Hope was asleep to finish cleaning the kitchen, fill Hope’s bottles and make himself some lunch. He was just finishing eating when he heard Hope fussing to be picked up. He hurriedly put his dishes in the sink (More dishes!) and then went to get her. He changed her again, then took her into the living room with him. He sat down on the sofa and picked up one of her books. She always wanted to cuddle awhile when she woke up from a nap, and he had to admit that this was one of the nicest parts of the day.
He snuggled onto the sofa with her in his arms and gently rocked her back and forth as they looked at the book for the 30,000th time (it seemed). After awhile, Hope was awake enough that he set her in her playpen and went to check on the laundry again. He brought the clean clothes into the living room and sat on the sofa while he waved his wand to fold everything and then send it floating to the appropriate rooms. When everything had been sent to the bedrooms, he went upstairs to put it all in the proper drawers and cupboards. He’d just headed into the kitchen to fix Hope some lunch when he heard a slight pop in the fireplace behind him, and he turned around, wondering if Ginny… but it wasn’t Ginny. It was Ron.
“Harry?” Ron’s head asked.
“Hey, Ron. Yeah, I’m here.” Harry went to stand in front of the fire.
“How’s my niece?” Ron asked, grinning.
Harry shook his head, grinning back. “She’s fine. Still teething, so she’s not sleeping well again. What’s up?”
“I just wanted to see if you and Ginny might be free to get together this Saturday? Hermione and I thought we might come up to Hogsmeade for the day.”
Harry nodded. “As best I know, that’s fine. We don’t have any real plans that I know of. Ginny’s been studying so much… but certainly she can take off for a little while.”
“Okay. We’ll just come over Saturday morning, and then we can decide what else we want to do.”
“I reckon that’ll be fine. It’ll give me time to get things done around here by then.”
Ron laughed. “Oh, Harry, you don’t have to clean house for Hermione and me.” He was grinning wickedly.
Harry shook his head. “Not for you, you git. If it’s not clean, and you show up, Ginny’ll be trying to do it all herself at the last minute. It’ll be better for all of us if I get it done before then.” Ron was laughing even harder, and didn’t seem to be able to answer right then. “Oh shut it, Ron,” Harry grumbled.
Ron made a valiant attempt to quit laughing. “I’m trying, but… I keep remembering how well you could do those spells Mum showed you.” He started laughing again, but managed to sputter, “Can you get the dishes washed yet?”
Harry frowned. “Most of the time,” he answered, certainly not going to give Ron any more ammunition about that. Ron’s expression showed that he didn’t believe Harry at all.
“Of course you do,” Ron choked.
Harry just shook his head at his best friend. “Don’t you have to get back to work?”
Ron chuckled again. “Yeah, I probably should. I’ll see you Saturday morning, okay? Give Hope a kiss for me.”
“Yeah, right,” Harry answered automatically. Ron was still chuckling as he disappeared from the fireplace. Harry went back to making lunch, then went to get Hope from the living room. He managed to feed her lunch without her dumping anything this time, but she still hated being cleaned up afterward. Harry let her play in the high chair while he cleaned up the kitchen again, then he put her in the playpen while he tended to the laundry again. As he put away the laundry, he glanced out the bedroom window. It was a beautiful day, especially for February. He made a sudden decision, and grabbed Hope’s blankets and cloak, then went to get her from the living room. “C’mon sweetheart. Let’s go get some groceries. It’s a nice day for getting outside.” He bundled her up in her pram, grabbed his own cloak, then set off down the street toward the shops.
It was a couple of hours later when they finally returned. Hope was getting cranky and sleepy again, and Harry knew he’d better not push his luck too much on keeping her out for too long. He quickly put up some of the groceries, then he settled onto the sofa again to get her to sleep. But Hope wasn’t quite ready for sleep. She drank her bottle, she cuddled, she wiggled, she squirmed, she fussed… Harry rocked, jiggled, sang, read… before finally he managed to get her to take her dummy, cuddle on her blanket and lie down against his chest. He slid down on the sofa, and in no time she was sound asleep, lying on his chest… and by that time, Harry was as sound asleep as she was.
He awoke suddenly awhile later, wondering… “Oh no…” he groaned. “Not again!” Hope barely moved as he slowly, carefully sat up, shifting her in his arms. He stood cautiously, and carried her to her cot, then quietly closed the door and went to change his shirt, muttering to himself as he did so. “You’d think I’d remember to change her, after this morning!” he groused, pulling on another shirt. He thought about trying to change Hope but knew he’d most likely wake her, and then he’d never get anything done. ”Oh, the laundry!” he remembered again. He hurried into the laundry room, tossing his damp shirt onto another pile of clothes. He was just starting another load when it suddenly occurred to him.
“Where are my socks in this mess?” He glanced around in the other piles, but only spotted a couple of pairs of his own socks. He knew he’d already put quite a few clothes away, but he most certainly had not put away any of his socks. “Ginny!” he groaned. He didn’t mind her stealing his socks, really, but if she didn’t at least put them with the other dirty clothes, they were both going to be sock-less. In February.
“Arrgghh!” he growled, and stalked off to the bedroom to hunt again. He looked in every drawer, behind and under every piece of furniture, and even in the bathroom cupboards. No socks. He was becoming more and more frustrated, when it suddenly dawned on him. He had a sudden vision of being half-drowned by socks on the lawn of Hogwarts… “Accio talaris totalis!” he cried, waving his wand. And suddenly… it happened again. Every sock in the house flew at him, even the ones that had been in the wash… dripping wet. He laughed as he spotted the ones that Hope had been wearing, and he now caught them out of the air. He was still chuckling when he heard a voice from the living room.
“Gin? I’m in here.” He laughed again, imagining her expression… and she was there, in the doorway, one eyebrow climbing into her hairline. She started laughing even harder than he was.
“Do I want to know?” she finally asked, her eyes sparkling mischievously.
Harry waved his hands helplessly. “I – I was trying to do the laundry –” he chuckled.
“Harry, even when you mess up the charms for doing the laundry, it doesn’t happen this way!” she laughed, trying to move toward him through the mountain of socks on the floor around him.
He laughed again. “Hey, I’ll have you know that my laundry charms are working fine… most of the time.” He grinned.
“So, then, dear husband, how did this happen?” she grinned wickedly at him, finally reaching him, and sliding her arms around him. He wrapped his arms around her and grinned back just as wickedly.
“Well, dear wife, if you must know… this is entirely your fault,” he teased.
“Oh, of course. That’s so obvious. Would you like to explain how I accomplished this?”
“Oh, all right. I was doing the laundry and realized none of my socks were there,” he paused and couldn’t resist a chuckle. “Can’t imagine how that happened.” She giggled. “So I looked everywhere… and finally I remembered Fred and George’s ‘gift’ to you… and now I’ve found them all.” He dangled the tiny pink socks in his hand. “Even Hope’s.” She laughed again, and then nuzzled his neck.
“Oh, bad Daddy,” she murmured, kissing his jaw. He wrapped his arms around her more tightly, turning his head to return her kisses.
“She’s asleep, she won’t know…” he whispered, knowing Gin would realize he wasn’t just talking about the socks.
“That, Mr. Potter, is called ‘perfect timing’ by Mrs. Potter,” she whispered into his ear, sending hot shivers through him.
“Gin…” he groaned softly, finally kissing her mouth, feeling the warmth spread through his whole body as he pulled her closer to him, and somehow they managed to slide toward the bed without either of them breaking their necks by tripping over the socks on the floor…
Harry sighed contentedly and looked down at Ginny’s head on his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her more tightly, kissing the top of her head. “Gin?” he whispered, not certain that she hadn’t fallen asleep.
“I’m glad you were able to come home.”
She raised up and looked at him. “And just what do you mean by that?”
“Nothing really. Just – I know how hard you’re working and all, but I miss you. That’s all.”
She reached up and kissed him. “I know you do. And I miss you. And Hope. I finally decided this afternoon that I wanted to be here too much to study very well anyway, so I just picked up some books from the library and came home. I reckoned I could study later this evening for a while.”
He slid his hands through her wondrous hair again, kissed her on the forehead. “I’m really glad you did.”
Ginny grinned at him wickedly. “I could tell.”
“Oh? How so?” he asked innocently, but his eyes were dancing as wickedly as hers.
“Let me show you…” she whispered suddenly, kissing him again in a way that was guaranteed to leave him senseless.
“Gin…” he whispered after several moments, already a bit breathless again at her actions.
She grinned at him. “What? You’re young, you’re healthy, you’re still in good shape… don’t think you can get out of this, Mr. Potter.” He laughed again, wrapping his arms around her.
“Mrs. Potter, be careful what you ask for…” he whispered, as he kissed her deeply, savoring every moment of being with her. They were just working up to fulfilling what Ginny had asked for when they both heard Hope, plainly awake and plainly wanting attention. Harry groaned and started to get up, but Ginny chuckled at him, then pushed him back and shook her head.
“My turn,” she grinned at him, and rolled off the bed, grabbing her dressing gown from a chair. He laughed as he watched her picking her way through the pile of socks on the floor, then lay back on the pillows and listened to her talking to Hope. After a few moments, she called, “Harry? When was the last time she was changed?”
He groaned inwardly, and answered, “Um… this afternoon.” He rolled off the bed and looked around for … oh there they are… he grabbed his tartan boxers off the bedpost and pulled them on, then grabbed his dressing gown too, and went into Hope’s room. Ginny cocked an eyebrow at him.
“This afternoon?” she repeated.
“Um, yeah.” He glanced back at Hope and saw why Ginny was asking. It wasn’t just Hope’s outfit that was damp anymore – so were the sheets and blankets. “Looks like another flood, huh?” he muttered, reaching past Ginny at the changing table and grabbing a clean set of sheets. “I’ll do the bed.”
She grinned at him as he started stripping off the sheet. “More laundry, huh?”
Ginny turned to him a minute later, handing Hope to him. “Go to Daddy a minute while Mummy finds you some clothes and some socks.” She grinned wickedly at him as he laughed in surprise.
“Hope, dear… when you grow up… I hope you’re not as wicked as your mum is,” he chuckled.
Ginny turned around from the wardrobe and answered, “Hope, your husband will most likely want you to be every bit as ‘wicked’ as your mum is.”
Harry turned scarlet. “Ginny!”
Ginny laughed at him. “Harry, it’s not like she understands what we’re talking about!”
“I don’t even want to think about what she… nevermind,” he said hastily, grabbing the clothes out of Ginny’s hand and starting to dress Hope himself. Ginny walked out of the room, laughing at him, as she went to their room to find some socks for Hope… and herself.
The same thought had just occurred to Harry. “Ginny, don’t you dare make those socks disappear before I at least get to wash some of them! You and I are both about to be sock-less if you don’t let me –“ He didn’t even finish the sentence. He grabbed Hope from the table – half-dressed – and hurried into the other bedroom. Ginny looked up from the sock pile on the floor, surprised, then realized what he was thinking, and burst out laughing again.
“It’s okay, Harry, I promise I’ll let you do the laundry before they disappear,” she managed to gasp, then just rolled backward onto the floor, laughing too hard to even sit up. He chuckled, but didn’t seem to find the situation nearly as funny as she did. He sat down on the floor near her and started trying to find two socks that matched, for both himself and Hope, since Ginny obviously wasn’t making much progress on finding some for Hope.
After he’d found Hope’s socks, he took her back to her room to finish dressing her, then carried her back to Ginny. “Hey, since you’re home now… can you watch her while I have a shower? I fell asleep with her this afternoon, and…” Ginny silenced him with a quick kiss.
“Of course, dear. I’ll even start the socks through the laundry for you,” she giggled.
Harry rolled his eyes. “Just make certain I can find some of them, please?” he then begged, his expression all wounded innocence.
Ginny giggled again. “Hey, you’re getting good at that, you know.”
He chuckled, and kissed her cheek. “I’m learning from the master, you know.” She laughed before aiming a swat at him, but he ducked just in time.
“Oh go on…” she ordered. He laughed again and hurried into the bath, still clutching the socks he’d located, hoping he’d still be able to find them when he was through with his shower.
A few minutes later, he knew he wasn’t going to have that kind of luck.
He wrapped a towel around his waist and jerked the door open. “GINNY!” he hollered, stepping into the hallway, still dripping. He heard her in the kitchen, laughing. He stomped into the kitchen, and froze.
“M-Molly?” he squeaked.
Harry didn’t know when he’d ever been more embarrassed (Although certainly something worse has happened before – maybe Myrtle – No, not that!). Molly Weasley looked up from playing with Hope, just in time to see her son-in-law turn beetroot red. Ginny glanced at him, then burst out laughing when she saw his expression. “Harry? What are you doing?” she finally gasped, as he stood there, trying to get his voice to work. Molly quickly looked back down at Hope, and Harry had to try repeatedly to get the words out.
“I – I was looking for – my socks,” he finally stammered.
“Don’t you think you should dry off before you put your socks on?” Ginny giggled, enjoying his predicament far too much. Harry just groaned and then turned around and went back to the bathroom without another word, but couldn’t help hearing Ginny and Molly laughing the whole time. He quickly shaved and dressed, but – just as he’d expected –- there wasn’t a sock to be seen in the bedroom. He put on his slippers and then forced himself to head back into the kitchen. Molly was there, giving Hope a bottle. She looked up and smiled at him and he came over to give her a hug, which she returned with one hand while balancing Hope and the bottle with the other.
“Hello, Harry, dear. How are you?” she asked warmly, as he turned to pour himself a cup of tea from the pot.
He felt himself redden again, but managed to answer, “Fine, I guess. I’m sorry about –” He shook his head slightly at himself. He’d felt rather awkward about calling Molly and Arthur by their first names when they’d first insisted on it, but that was nothing compared to this!
“Oh, don’t think twice about it. I didn’t raise six boys for nothing, not to mention having you around quite a bit these last few years.” She smiled at him as he sat down across from her. “And besides which,” she continued, “I know quite well how annoying Ginny’s sock stealing can become.”
He snorted, then answered, “Did she tell you she had them all this time?”
Molly chuckled. “Yes. She said you were quite innovative in finding them all, though.” Harry shook his head.
“I really don’t mind… but I would like some to wear, too, occasionally.” He grinned, then looked around.
“Where is she, anyway?”
“Checking on the laundry, I believe.”
“Oh great. I’m not certain that’s a safe thing for her to do,” he chuckled.
“Probably not in this case, right, Hope?” Molly grinned as Hope finished her bottle and Molly sat her on the table in front of them. Hope just laughed at them, and Harry handed her a spoon to play with. She grinned again and promptly smacked him on the nose with it.
“This has not been my day!” Harry laughed, tickling her, just as Ginny re-entered the kitchen.
“Oh, I don’t know about that…” Ginny answered mischievously.
Harry glanced at her and blushed again as he realized she was still wearing her dressing gown. He then said quickly, “Yeah, well… other than you being home earlier than I expected, it’s been a mess!”
Molly laughed, and Harry had the distinct impression that she probably knew quite well what he wasn’t saying, but she only said, “Well, then, maybe what I brought will help out a bit.” Harry looked at her hopefully. “I brought you a few things to save you from cooking dinner for the next few days, dear.”
“Really? Molly, you’re a lifesaver!” Harry fairly glowed with gratitude.
“You’re telling me,” Ginny cut in. “At least Mum knows how to cook!” she grinned at him wickedly.
“Hey! I’m not bad! I just don’t do it nearly as well as your mum does!” he answered defensively.
“Harry’s right, Gin. He does fine for the amount of time he’s been at it.” Molly smiled at them both. “I just remember very well what it’s like to try to get anything done while you’re tending to a little one, so I thought I’d pop over with some help while I was here to see the twins. Arthur is working late again tonight, so would you two mind if I fixed you some dinner and then kidnapped Hope for a couple of hours? I know Fred and George would love to see her – AND – ” She smiled before either of them could interrupt her “ – I promise I’ll make certain they don’t ‘practice’ anything on her while she’s there.”
Harry glanced at Ginny, and she smiled back at him. “Mum, you don’t have to do this, but … thanks!’
Molly beamed. “You know quite well that I take any chance I can get to see my granddaughter. You two are just a bonus!” They all laughed, and Molly handed Hope to Harry as she got up to make dinner. “Okay, you may leave Hope here if you want, but otherwise, you two out! I’m taking over this kitchen!” Harry and Ginny laughed again, and Ginny took Hope from him.
“Well, since you’re going to take Hope for awhile, I’ll take her now. I’ve hardly seen her today anyway! C’mon, Hope… let’s go find Mummy some clothes now.” Ginny headed toward the bedroom, carrying Hope, and Harry stood slowly.
“Molly, are you certain I can’t – help or something? You could probably teach me how to do some things – ” he began, but she smiled and shook her head.
“I’ll be glad to show you some things, Harry, but not tonight. I know you’ve been trying very hard around here. Everyone deserves a night off every once in awhile. Go do something you enjoy.” She squeezed his arm affectionately, and he smiled at her just as warmly, and impulsively gave her a quick hug.
“Thanks, Molly. I really appreciate it.” He went into the living room and sank onto the sofa as Ginny entered, then sat on the floor and played with their daughter. They both laughed delightedly as Hope tried to grab Ginny’s hair. Hope’s hair had turned a darker shade of red since she was born, and it was beginning to have wispy curls; her eyes were still just as green as her father’s. Harry sat almost silently for awhile, just enjoying the wonderful warmth of being there with his own family. He laughed as Ginny sat Hope down on the hearthrug while she tried to pry Hope’s fingers off her hair.
“She’s really getting good at grabbing things, isn’t she?” Ginny asked, chuckling as Hope squealed happily.
Harry laughed. “Yeah… probably developing her Seeker reflexes,” he grinned back at her.
“Oh right!” Ginny chuckled. “You sound like Ron!” she snorted.
“And what’s wrong with that?”
“Harry, she is a bit young to play Quidditch, you know!” she answered, patronizingly.
“I’m quite aware of that, Gin. But hey, you’ve got to start sometime!”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Somehow, I don’t think ‘sometime’ should be when she’s barely seven months old.”
“I reckoned you’d say that,” Harry answered, sighing melodramatically. Ginny giggled at him, as he slid off the sofa and planted a quick kiss on both Hope’s and Ginny’s heads. “I’ll be back in a bit,” he announced and went into the laundry room to fold the clothes and put in another load of laundry. After he finished, he crept back into the kitchen. Molly turned around and said quickly, “Now, Harry…”
“Shhh! Molly, it’s not about dinner. I need to ask you something,” he whispered, motioning for her not to let Ginny hear.
Molly smiled. “Okay, dear, what?”
Harry couldn’t help himself. “Wow, it smells good in here!” he grinned, looking toward the stove. Molly flicked a dishtowel at him.
“Either ask me or leave!” she answered threateningly.
He laughed softly. “Sorry, I couldn’t help but notice!” He grinned apologetically, and she motioned him closer, as she turned back to the stove and resumed stirring several different pots. He all but tiptoed across the room, hoping Ginny wouldn’t notice that he was in here. “I remembered that next week is Valentine’s Day, and – well, I’d like to do something special, but – I’m not certain what, to be honest.” He noticed the expression on Molly’s face and felt himself redden again. “Er… I suppose Ginny told you about last Valentine’s Day?” She smiled wickedly at him and nodded, apparently trying not to laugh. “Well, obviously, I don’t want a repeat. But at least this time I haven’t forgotten!” He couldn’t help but smile himself, remembering.
Molly glanced sideways at him. “How about some flowers?” she asked quietly, and Harry almost choked, until he saw the look in her eyes.
“Molly, you’re terrible! Now I know where Gin gets it!” he sputtered, trying valiantly not to laugh, but neither of them could keep a straight face. His heart about stopped, though, when Ginny poked her head in a minute later.
“Harry? I wondered where you were. How’d you get Mum to let you back in here?”
“Um –” he looked around wildly for just a moment, but Molly answered her daughter quite calmly.
“He was just about to make us a pot of tea, dear. Would you like some?”
Ginny gave Harry a rather quizzical look, but only said, “That sounds nice. Thanks.”
Harry quickly replied, “I’ll bring you a cup as soon as it’s done.”
Ginny grinned at him. “Thanks. I’m going to get started on some homework while Hope’s playing.” She retreated to the living room, and Harry let his breath out in a slow “whoosh.”
He smirked at Molly as he turned to make the tea. “Thanks! You did that well!”
She laughed again. “I’ve had plenty of practice. Now… what were you saying about Valentine’s Day?”
“Well… I want to do something special, obviously, but you know how well things have gone when I’ve tried to cook for something special before…” He shook his head at the memories. Molly smiled but didn’t allow herself to comment. “So… I don’t know. Do you think Ginny would like it if I took her to a restaurant or something? And I don’t know what to do about Hope. Ginny doesn’t get to spend enough time with her as it is… would she want me to send Hope home with you? I just – I know Ginny so well, and yet – I don’t know what she’d like most, you know?”
Molly patted his arm in understanding. “I know what you mean, dear. I think what she’d like most is knowing how much you’re wanting to do something for her, no matter what it turns out to be.” Harry looked at her skeptically, and she smiled at him again. “Think about it, dear. After all, what would you most like her to do for Valentine’s Day?”
Harry shook his head. “I honestly don’t know. I’m just so grateful every day that we’re here, together, and all… she wouldn’t have to do a thing, as far as I’m concerned.”
“Well, I think in a lot of ways, Ginny feels the same way.” She smiled at the look on his face, and continued. “I know that doesn’t help you a lot, but I still think it’s the truth.”
Harry smiled at her as he poured the tea. “I know you’re probably right, but –” he sighed. “I just want to do something…”
“I know you do, dear. I’m certain you’ll think of the perfect idea.” Harry shrugged, lost in thought, as he picked up a cup to take to Ginny. A few moments later, he was back, grinning widely.
“Molly, how long will it be till dinner’s ready?” he whispered.
“Oh, at least another half-hour or so.” She caught his expression and smiled. “What have you thought of?”
“I need to go to Hogwarts for a couple of minutes. I don’t want to go while she’s there, or while she can see me leave…”
“I know what you’re thinking. Go on. I’ll think of something to tell her.”
“Thanks, Molly. You’re the best!” He hurried off, and returned a minute later with his Invisibility Cloak tucked under his arm. He stepped out of the kitchen door and Disapparated to the gates of Hogwarts.
Harry tugged his Cloak over himself as he hurried toward the doors of Hogwarts. He had the Marauder’s Map with him, but he wasn’t quite certain yet where he should enter the castle. After consulting the map, he decided it was safe to enter the main entryway; no one was near enough to see the doors opening. He crept indoors, still watching the map carefully. He ducked into a quiet alcove and pulled a piece of parchment from a pocket of his Cloak. He hurriedly wrote a few lines, pausing occasionally to think. He then crept over to his destination and dropped the parchment into a box in the entry way. He hurried quietly outside to the gates, and then Apparated home.
Ginny stepped into the kitchen just a few moments after Harry had left. “Mum? Have you seen Harry?”
Molly looked up from her cooking. “Hmm? Oh, yes, dear. He volunteered to run out and get a couple of things I needed for dinner. He’ll be back in just a few minutes, I’m certain.”
“Oh. Well, actually, that’s good, I guess. I wanted to ask you about something…? Oh, hang on, let me get Hope…” Ginny went back to the living room and returned with Hope in her arms. She set Hope in the high chair and put a handful of cereal on the tray in front of her. “Mum, you know, Valentine’s Day is next week,” Ginny began.
Molly was glad that the cooking gave her an excuse to keep her back turned to Ginny. This is priceless, she grinned to herself. Aloud, she said, “Oh, yes, dear?”
“Well, I’ve been trying to work out what to do for Harry for Valentine’s Day. I’m certain he’s going to try to outdo himself, especially after last year.” Ginny couldn’t help but chuckle at the memory. “I wrote him a poem last year, but… I dunno, I don’t want to do something like that again. Do you have any ideas?”
Molly smiled as she turned around to face her daughter and granddaughter. “I don’t know, Ginny. Let me think about it a bit. Have you come up with any ideas yet?”
Ginny shook her head thoughtfully. “I don’t know, Mum. I mean – I know Harry so well, but I just don’t know exactly what to do about something like this. There are lots of things, but – I just don’t know how to figure out the best thing for him, you know?”
Molly smiled again as she turned away from Ginny. She tried hard to keep the laughter out of her voice as she said quietly, “I think that what Harry would like best is knowing how much you’re wanting to do something special for him, no matter what you chose.” Now where have I heard that before? She thought, biting her lip to keep from laughing aloud.
“I know, but –” Ginny sighed. “I just want to do something.”
“I know, dear. But really… what would you most like him to do for you for Valentine’s Day?”
Ginny had to laugh. “For him to not forget it!”
Molly chuckled too. “Harry’s clever enough that I doubt he’ll make that mistake again, especially not anytime soon!”
Ginny laughed. “I should hope not! But really… I don’t know. In one sense, I don’t think he needs to do anything. I’m just really thankful for us to be together.” Molly squeezed Ginny’s shoulder from behind, thankful that Ginny was now playing with Hope and couldn’t see how hard her mother was trying not to laugh.
“Well, I’m certain he’d probably say about the same thing. That may not help you much, but it’s still a wonderful thought.”
Ginny grinned at Hope, then at her mum. “Yeah, it is. I’ll think about it some more. Thanks, Mum.”
Molly smiled. “Anytime, dear. But right now, why don’t you go check the laundry or something while I finish up this cooking?”
“Okay. Let me know if you want me to help,” Ginny grinned again, and left the room.
Molly made certain the door was indeed closed, and then made certain that Harry hadn’t appeared on the back porch before she allowed herself to lean against the cupboard and laugh silently into a dishtowel, wondering what on earth would be happening in this house on Valentine’s Day!
Harry arrived back at the kitchen door a few minutes later, and whipped off the Invisibility Cloak as he stepped through the door. Molly looked up at him and smiled again. “Where’s Ginny?” he whispered.
“I think she’s in the living room. I told her you’d run out for a couple of things,” Molly whispered back. Harry grinned and hurried to put away the Cloak. He could just see Ginny through the doorway of the living room, and he was fairly certain she hadn’t noticed him sneaking through the hall. He slipped back into the kitchen to warm himself at the fire, and Molly turned again to smile at him. “So… are you going to tell me what you just did?” she asked.
Harry grinned. “Well… let’s just say that turn about is fair play.”
Molly laughed. “I don’t think I want to know, now.” Harry laughed, too, and then went to check the laundry before rejoining Ginny and Hope in the living room.
A little while later, Molly called them to dinner, and they all talked and laughed and had a great time. Molly tried to clean up after the meal, but Harry insisted on doing the wash-up, at least, and Ginny pointed out that if Molly wanted to spend time with Hope, she’d better go on, or Hope would want to go to bed before too long. Molly finally agreed, and bundled Hope in her cloak and blankets before setting off to visit Fred and George on the other side of town.
When she’d gone, Harry insisted that Ginny start on her schoolwork while he cleaned the kitchen and started on some of the other housework. She finally gave in, on the condition that she work at the kitchen table so she could be near him. “There’s no point in us having an evening together if we’re not together!” she declared, kissing him soundly to settle the matter.
He laughed and gave her a quick hug, then kissed her more slowly, more deliberately. When they finally parted, he whispered, “You’d better get busy with schoolwork, or I may be too tempted to distract you.”
She laughed. “What? Again?”
He blushed crimson, but said, “I can’t help it. I love you too much.”
She kissed him quickly and answered, “I know. I love you, too.”
He leaned his forehead against hers. “Okay, Mrs. Potter. You’d better get busy on that schoolwork. I’ll try to be good till you’re done.”
She laughed at him. “Professor McGonagall would never believe you just said that!”
He laughed, too, even as he turned to clear the dishes from the table. “Hey, she was the one who always wanted to make certain we learned the practical applications of method!”
Ginny laughed again and swatted at him, and began to spread her books and notes on the table as he cleared it. “I think that we have already proven that we’ve mastered most of that,” she grinned at him, before sitting down to work.
Harry chuckled again. “Yes, but even McGonagall would agree that practice makes perfect.”
Ginny buried her face in her hands, giggling. “You have got to stop, or I’ll never get anything done, and then we’ll have wasted this time without Hope.”
Harry considered pointing out that they would scarcely be “wasting” time, but decided that Ginny was right, and besides, he’d promised to behave. He grinned at Ginny, letting her know he could easily have kept this going. The grin she gave him was every bit as meaningful, and he turned back to the sink to keep from laughing out loud. He started the dishes to washing as he quickly put up the food and cleaned up, then slipped out of the kitchen to get some of the other cleaning done while he had the chance. He remembered as he did so that he hadn’t yet told Ginny about Ron and Hermione visiting on Saturday, but decided to wait until she took a break to tell her.
The evening passed quickly, quietly. Molly returned with Hope awhile later, and insisted on putting her to bed, since she didn’t get to do it very often. “And besides,” she argued to Harry, “from what you’ve been telling me, I’d be willing to bet you’ll get to put her down again before the night’s over, anyway.” Harry had to agree with her there, and he’d long since learned when not to argue with Molly. Harry had managed to get most of the housework done while Molly had been gone, and Ginny had made good progress (finally!) on her homework, so once Hope was in bed, and Molly had said goodnight and Apparated back to the Burrow, he and Ginny finally curled up together on the sofa in front of the fireplace.
Harry leaned back against the arm of the sofa, holding Ginny in his arms, and sighed contentedly. She turned slightly, smiling up at him. “A Knut for your thoughts,” she murmured.
He smiled at her and kissed the top of her head. “Hmmm? Oh, I’m actually not thinking much of anything, just – I guess I’m just enjoying being here with you.”
“Are you certain? You looked like you were a million miles away.”
He shook his head. “Not really. I do keep thinking about everything that’s happened, sometimes, but –” he sighed quietly. “I guess I’m rather tired.” He chuckled softly. “Can’t imagine why… not like taking care of a baby and doing housework all day should tire anyone out.”
Ginny chuckled as she lifted their entwined hands and kissed his. “Yeah, and not like you didn’t do anything else today, either.”
He grinned. “Don’t get me started.”
She laughed softly. “Me, either.”
Harry wrapped his arms more snugly around her, kissed her hair again. “Oh! Gin… I just remembered… Ron popped in earlier to ask if we could get together with him and Hermione on Saturday. I told him I thought so… is that okay with you?”
“Umm… yeah, I think I can do that. I’ll just have to get some stuff done for school before Saturday, I guess.”
“Good. You’d think those two had some sort of connection to our daughter, or something. Ron didn’t ask once if you and I were okay. The first words out of his mouth were ‘How’s my niece?’”
Ginny giggled. “Yeah, kinda like how Mum thinks we’re just the ‘bonus’ she gets when she comes to see her granddaughter.” Harry chuckled, but it quickly turned into a yawn. Ginny turned around in his arms and looked at him more closely. “I think maybe I better tuck Daddy into bed, now that the baby’s asleep.”
Harry grinned but didn’t disagree. Ginny got up and took his hands to pull him off the sofa. “C’mon, Mr. Potter. Time for Daddy to go night-night.” Harry chuckled as she waved her wand, extinguishing the lights and lowering the fire, and then she led him to the bedroom…