A very bleary-eyed and exhausted-looking Pigwidgeon tapped his beak on the living room window of the Potter house late that evening, a sky blue piece of parchment wedged in his beak.
Harry got up from the sofa, lifted open the window, and allowed the little owl entrance.
Pig spat out the piece of parchment and tumbled flat onto the sill.
Ginny’s eyes widened as she rushed to check Pig’s vitals. “Pigwidgeon!” she said. “Speak to me!”
Pig emitted a pathetic, “H-h-hoot” as he waved a wing at her, as if to express that he merely needed to take a breather.
Ginny scooped the little owl into the palm of her hand and brought to him to rest beside Hedwig in the now darkened sunroom.
When she returned, she found Harry reading the blue parchment with a pleased expression on his face.
He handed it over to his wife. Ginny read it aloud:
There's nothing like a baby boy to change the way you see things to make the world a better, brighter place. There's nothing like ten tiny toes, bright eyes and little ears, or the sweet expressions on his little face... Ronald Bilius & Hermione Jane Weasley are pleased to announce the birth of their son, REID HEWITT WEASLEY Born December 22 at 11:46 PM 7 lbs. 7 oz.
Ginny couldn’t help but grin. And she suddenly thought…if he had waited just fourteen minutes more, little Reid would be sharing a birthday with James. She looked at the clock. It was nearly one o’clock in the morning – officially James’ first birthday. Well, not officially…after all, James had been born in the afternoon…
“I imagine a trip to St. Mungo’s is on the agenda for tomorrow,” said Harry, stretching his arms and then yawning. “Do you reckonwe get some rest so we don’t scare the new baby with zombie faces?”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” said Ginny, suppressing a yawn as she did. “We can have James open birthday gifts in the morning, go to St. Mungo’s around noon, and eat the birthday cake in the evening.”
“Brilliant game strategy,” said Harry before opening his mouth into another cavernous yawn.
Of all days to allow his parents a lie-in…the next morning, James slept until the clock read 10:42 AM…quite a sinful thing to do on a day when there was no time to dally. And Ginny had made the mistake of faithfully allowing to her son to be her morning alarm.
“Oh…James’ll have to open his gifts before we do cake this evening!” shouted Ginny as she started the water in the shower. “We just don’t have the time now!”
As it had been for the past three hundred and sixty-four days, today Ginny, Harry and James found themselves speeding along at a rapid pace, so as not to be quite as fashionably late for their destination as they usually were.
“I don’t know how Mum and Dad did it with seven of us!” cried Ginny as Harry dropped her and James off in London, in front of a dilapidated-looking, red brick building that had a sign hanging above an untidy display window, which read Purge and Dowse Ltd. “We’ll meet you inside!” she called to Harry as he pulled off down the broad street, looking for a place to park the car (it was a difficult task since the street was chock-full of desperate, last-minute holiday shoppers).
St. Mungo’s had once simply been a hospital for those witches and wizards who were unfortunate enough to have fallen victim to magical maladies or injuries, but nowadays the hospital offered much more. Reform had come to many areas of the wizarding community (not least of all, the Ministry of Magic, where Harry worked, in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, with a team of highly skilled Aurors), and St. Mungo’s had been on the top of the list for development and improvement.
So now, in addition to offering treatments for magical woes such as dragon pox and unliftable jinxes, St. Mungo’s also offered such things as birthing facilities with highly trained Obstewizards and witches. All changes are usually met with skeptics, however, and when the first Weasley grandchild (Fred’s son, Artie) was born, Molly was incredulous.
“In my day, I gave birth to my babies right in my own bed!” she’d said, clasping a hand over her nose and mouth as she made her way through the corridors of the hospital to Angelina’s birthing suite.
“Ugh,” Fred had responded as he led his mother and other various family members to his wife’s room to view his newborn baby boy. “The visual you just gave me…Mum, please!”
“It’s true!” cried Mrs. Weasley emphatically. “When I think of all of the things that have gone on in this hospital…it’s a wonder these babies aren’t coming home hexed for life!” She had eyed the floor and ceiling ominously, as if something was going to appear out of nowhere, hexing her for life.
But Ginny knew just how old-fashioned her mum could be. It was one of her most endearing qualities. She supposed that her mother wouldn’t be so emphatic about giving birth in a hospital at this point…Reid was her fifth grandchild, after all.
Ginny browsed the map of the hospital in the reception area while she waited for Harry to join them. She amused James with the bell at the reception desk, much to the annoyance of the reception witch, who glared at them. The witch wore a red-and-white striped knit stocking cap with a sprig of holly attached where the base turned up and a green button on her uniform that read, St. Mungo’s Wishes You A Jolly Holiday! Ginny couldn’t help but think that the witch looked anything but jolly.
Finally, after another five minutes of being glared at, Harry joined them.
“What is your destination?” asked the grumpy reception witch as Harry went to lead them away.
Ginny wasn’t sure she was speaking to them at first, but she realized they were the only ones in the lobby at the moment.
“We’re heading up to the Maternity Ward,” said Harry, hoisting James up onto his shoulders. James tugged at his father’s hair, giving it an even more rumpled appearance than it normally had.
“Not with the boy, you’re not,” stated the witch matter-of-factly. “St. Mungo’s has rules, you know…no children under the age of eleven allowed in the birthing area. They may carry…germs.” She said the word “germs” as if she could see microorganisms swarming all over James, anxious to hop off onto the first baby they encountered.
“Well, couldn’t you make an exception…just this once,” said Harry through gritted teeth. “It is Christmas, after all.”
“It’s December 23rd, unless my Appleby Arrows calendar lies…Christmas usually falls on the 25th…and I make it a point never to make exceptions, sir.”
Ginny almost laughed out loud at what Harry did next, but apparently desperate times were calling for desperate measures.
He brushed the fringe from his forehead with one dramatic motion, revealing his scar. Then he said to the witch, “Are you certain about that?”
The witch, looking rather unimpressed, said, “Quite certain, indeed.”
Accepting defeat, Harry took James over to a sofa in the waiting area and told Ginny he’d see her later. Ginny tried to convince him to go up first, but Harry insisted that he’d wait.
“He tried to play his trump card,” announced Ginny as she met her family in the Maternity Ward.
“He didn’t flash her the scar!” laughed George in disbelief. “Bold move!”
“Yeah, well, this witch was having none of it…Harry Potter or not, she wasn’t bending.”
“I’ll go down and sit with James,” offered Alicia pleasantly. “I’ve already been in to see the little darling.”
“Oh, we all know Ronniekins is cute, but I thought I was your little darling,” quipped George.
Alicia ignored George and told Ginny, “See you later!”
Ginny thanked her sister-in-law and followed George into Hermione’s birthing suite. She could barely see the top of Hermione’s head upon entering the room, as a vast crowd of people – Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Fred, Angelina, Percy, Penelope, Charlie, Bill, Fleur, and Hermione’s parents, Drs. Granger and Granger – surrounded her, with Ron right at her side on the bed.
Ginny parted the crowd, conjuring up a bouquet of baby-blue roses as she approached Hermione’s bedside.
“Congratulations!” she said, handing the roses to Ron and peering into the bundle of blankets Hermione was holding.
Hermione beamed proudly at her and asked, “Would you like to hold him?”
“You even have to ask that question?” said Ginny, reaching her arms out to hold the tiny, sleeping newborn.
When she took hold of the baby, she noticed the thin layer of crimson-red down that topped his head. “What a Weasley!” she said affectionately.
“Where’s your husband?” Ron asked Ginny, looking around the room with a disappointed expression on his face.
“He should be here any second now…Alicia went to look after James in the lobby.”
“We should have warned you…no children allowed,” commented Mr. Weasley, who was absentmindedly wiping his glasses clean with an unused nappy. Fred raised an eyebrow at him and George let out a mock cough that sounded an awful lot like “nutter.”
Harry did arrive just seconds later and Ron had the time of his life showing off Reid Hewitt Weasley…and by the time Ginny and Harry made to depart, Ron had already predicted his son being the recipient of the Order of Merlin (first-class) by age ten and becoming a world-class Quidditch player not too long afterwards.
“They seemed overjoyed,” said Ginny on the trip home.
“I’ve never seen either one of them happier,” agreed Harry as he turned the car onto the street leading back to their neighborhood.
When they finally reached the house, Ginny carried a sleeping James inside and whispered to Harry, “You get his birthday things together…I’ll lay him down on the sofa.”
Harry obeyed, fetching a stack of packages swathed in Chudley Cannons gift-wrap from the spare bedroom and arranging them on the coffee table in the living room.
“As if getting a brand-new cousin wasn’t birthday gift enough, he’s got all of this to look forward to,” said Harry, finally setting down the box containing the Junior Nimbus.
“It was a shame he didn’t actually get to meet little Reid,” sighed Ginny.
“He’ll get to see him on Christmas,” said Harry. “And truth be told, I don’t think the little chap knew what he was missing…when I was leaving for the Maternity Ward, he was begging Alicia to take a fake wand out of her handbag, bellowing ‘Wand! Wand!’ at her.” He chuckled at the recollection. “Don’t have a clue why he’d think Mrs. George Weasley would have a fake wand in her bag, though!”
By the time James had torn into all of his birthday presents, an overwhelmed expression had been plastered across the toddler’s little face. His eyes were as big as saucers and a goofy grin played across his mouth as he tried to determine which toy to try out with first.
“I said I’d never do this,” said Harry, watching James reach one hand out for the Hungry the Happy Hippogriff figure (“You can really feed him with these realistic toy ferrets!”), only to snatch it back in reconsideration, reaching out again to grab for the Junior Nimbus, then the Young Wizard’s Anthology of Fairly Exciting Tales: Collector’s Edition.
“Do what?” asked Ginny as she tossed a plastic ferret into Hungry’s beak.
“Spoil my child,” sighed Harry, suddenly looking miserable.
Hungry let out a squawk of glee and James clapped merrily. He grabbed for another ferret and made a clever toss, allowing the toy Hippogriff another snack.
“If you think James will turn into your cousin, you’ve got another think coming!” said Ginny as she sat down beside Harry on the sofa; James continued to play with the Hippogriff.
“Look at all of this stuff…and look at his nursery while you’re at it! All of the things he’s got, and he’s only just a year old…”
“The difference between James and your cousin Dudley is how James is being brought up…your cousin was never taught to appreciate any of his things, so he never did come to appreciate them. Your aunt and uncle never taught Dudley honor or humility, so he grew up to be disrespectful and an arrogant git.”
Harry sat quietly, letting Ginny’s words seep in.
“You, on the other hand, Harry James Potter…” she paused for emphasis here. “You appreciate everything you have. You are honorable, and humble…well, except when you’re trying to get reception witches to allow you to take your child into Maternity Wards…”
Harry’s serious expression cracked at her last comment.
“My point is, we are bringing James up the right way…okay, so we lavish him with a lot of material things sometimes,” Ginny said, her arm around her husband now. “I think that’s due in great part to the fact that we both didn’t have much to call our own as children…”
Harry leaned his head to rest on Ginny’s shoulder.
“You’re right, you know,” he said softly, watching James awkwardly mount his Junior Nimbus. “But is it okay to live vicariously through a child…are we going to hinder him by doing that or help him?”
“My only answer is that we have to give him more than just the material gifts throughout his life…and make sure he knows which ones are most important.”
They reclined together on the sofa, watching James ride his Junior Nimbus as it looped at a cautious pace around the coffee table.
Ginny knew which gifts were most important in her life, and they were right there with her in the living room – one was zooming around the room like a miniature Quidditch-pro on a baby broomstick and the other had his arms wrapped tightly around her, softly whispering the words, “I love you,” into her ear.
Author’s Note: Apparently Ron and Hermione buy their birth announcements at Hallmark! ;-) The verse before the actual announcement was “borrowed” from a Hallmark card I purchased at the birth of my nephew.
And little Reid’s name wasn’t chosen without purpose. The name Reid means “red-headed” and the name Hewitt means “little smart one.” Quite appropriate for the child of Ron and Hermione, don’t you think? And the added bonus is that he’ll have his parents’ initials! Don’t you just love babynames.com?? They make “shopping” for baby names a breeze! *grin*
Some of you may be asking yourselves, “What happened to Christmas?” Well, the simple answer is that Christmas was just too much for this chapter to hold. But, for those of you out there who are fanatics about Christmas, there may be another instance where I’ll be able to work the holiday in. I make no promises, however… ;-)