With the mid-morning sun’s rays creeping in between the curtains and drowning the room with whiteness, Harry stirred in his bed, stretched out his arms, and reached for his bedside clock, which boldly read, “No appointments for today; you can go back to sleep.”
Harry let out a long yawn and put the clock back on his bedside table. He turned to his side and grabbed the pillow that was lying beside him. Then he let his mind wander to the person who had been invading his thoughts since he arrived last week. Her bright red hair was flying in the gentle breeze, framing her face beautifully. She was smiling—and laughing even.
“I was just joking! Of course, I missed you! It’s hard not to miss you, you know,” Ginny whispered with a little smile on her face. “You always made my day.”
Harry smiled in his sleep as those words replayed in his mind. If only she knew how much joy those words brought him.
Images of Ginny floated in his mind—Ginny laughing, Ginny dancing, Ginny in Quidditch robes, Ginny picking flowers at the Burrow, Ginny throwing snowballs, Ginny crying during his farewell party….
“Harry. Harry, wake up,” a voice said, before a rather large pair of hands shook his shoulders.
Harry turned around and squinted. A blur of red was towering beside his bed, shaking him awake.
“About time! Get your bloody arse out of bed, mate!”
Harry groaned loudly and pulled the covers over his head. “Go away, Ron! It’s still bloody early.” Remember to kill this Weasley for ruining my sleep, he mentally noted.
“Get up, you lazy oaf!” Ron said, pulling off Harry’s covers. “It’s half past ten and it’s still early for you?” He picked up a pillow and threw it hard onto his friend’s face, wincing as he caught sight of Harry’s half-naked body. “Get up and put some clothes on!”
Harry grabbed the pillow, which had landed squarely on his face, and threw it back at his so-called best friend. “Fine, fine! I’m getting up,” he muttered irritably as he sat up on his bed, fully opening his eyes. “What do you want?”
“I need you to baby-sit Aya,” Ron said, throwing a pair of trousers he found hanging on a nearby chair at his friend. “Hermione’s working out of town and won’t be back until the weekend.”
“But I thought you’re on leave. Did something happen at the Ministry?” Harry asked while putting on the trousers over the black boxers he had slept in.
“Apparently, yes,” Ron said as he sent Harry’s shirt flying toward him. “But what it is, I don’t know yet. C’mon, mate, you still owe us for not being there during her birth and—”
“All right, all right.” Harry threw up his hands in defeat. “I’ll baby-sit Aya. No need for the guilt trip.”
Ron beamed. “Thanks, mate. I know I could count on you. She’s in the living room with Kingsley’s head on the Floo.” And without another word, Ron Disapparated.
Harry heaved a sigh before padding toward his bathroom, splashing his face with water, and putting on the first set of robes he could get his hands on. He couldn’t deny that he felt a little useless and left out for not being there, whatever it was. He was so used to being at the frontline in every emergency situation, leading his Auror group and being in command. He loved the feel of adrenaline running through his veins during the countless operations. But now, he was stuck at home and baby-sitting his goddaughter. So much for being the Ministry’s so-called premier Auror.
“Aya?” Harry called out as soon as he appeared in Fowlgrove’s living room.
Aya’s mattress was sprawled on the floor, her dozens of toys littering the place, but there was no trace of his goddaughter anywhere. Harry glanced at the fireplace; Kingsley’s head was not there, either.
“Aya?” he called out again, panic slowly creeping into his voice. Where the hell was Kingsley? “Aya? Baby, where are you?”
“Ronald Weasley! Why in the world did you leave your—Harry?”
Harry spun around and saw Ginny, her hands on her hips, standing at the kitchen doorway. Her long red hair was pulled back in a loose bun at the top of her head, with a few stray strands hanging loose at the sides and perfectly framing her face. Her brows were furrowed, and her bright brown eyes were alight with a mix of irritation and surprise. He couldn’t help the small smile that was slowly spreading across his face; she looked like a smaller and younger version of Molly Weasley.
“Oh, hi, Harry,” she greeted back, a smile replacing the surprised look on her face.
“Have you seen Aya?”
“She’s in the kitchen,” Ginny said, her voice suddenly changing from warm to annoyed. “And while we’re at it, do you know why the hell Ron left his daughter alone with only Kingsley’s head on the Floo? Good thing I dropped by. God knows what could have happened if I hadn’t?”
“There’s an emergency at the Ministry and Ron dragged me out of my bed to baby-sit Aya,” Harry said, running a hand over his haphazardly combed hair. He’d bet his life and fortune that it was sticking out at the end. It always stuck out, even if he tried smoothing it down.
“Oh.” Ginny’s expression softened a little. “But he could have still dropped her at the Burrow or at my flat—or even yours rather than leaving her alone here.”
Harry laughed to himself. She sure sounded like Molly reprimanding her misbehaving sons. It was hard not to notice how Ginny’s eyes emanated the same furious glow as her mother’s, how her cheeks flushed into the same shade of faint red that seemed to make her hair brighter and more vibrant than usual. But he must have failed in hiding his laughter because Ginny gave him her infamous death glare.
“What’s with the laugh?” Ginny demanded.
“Oh, no-nothing,” he lied. He was trying his best to hide the laughter that was threatening to escape his throat.
Ginny cocked her eyebrows at Harry. “Is that what New York did to you? You laugh with no reason at all?”
“Well, no. Er—well, I just realized how much you live up to your name,” Harry said, his voice bordering on a teasing tone. “You sounded like your mum back there.”
Harry smirked. “Yes, you did, Ginevra Molly.”
“Shut up, Harry.”
“Why? You have such a nice name,” Harry teased, his lips curling into a mischievous smile. He knew very well that Ginny didn’t like to be called by her full name. “Ginevra—it sounds exotic, you know.”
Ginny threw Aya’s bib at Harry. “Shut it, Potter!”
Harry chuckled, catching the bib before it could hit his face. “I think this is let’s-throw-things-at-Harry’s-face day. First Ron, and now you.” He pretended to sniff the bib and then screwed up his face. “Aya didn’t barf on this, right?”
“No, but I can make her puke on it. Then I’ll throw it at your face again,” she said in a dead serious tone, but her eyes were shining with mischief.
Their eyes met for a second before both of them erupted into gales of laughter. They continued chortling until they heard the sound of silverware crashing to the floor.
“Oops, I better get back to Aya before she messes up the whole kitchen,” Ginny said, taking the bib from Harry. “You can go back home; I’ll do the baby-sitting.”
“Nah, it’s okay. I have nothing to do anyway,” Harry said, smiling a little. “And besides, Ron already ruined my sleep.”
Ginny smiled back. “If you say so. C’mon, I’ll whip you up some breakfast.”
Harry followed her to the kitchen, silently thanking Ron for dragging him out of bed.
* * *
“I miss this,” Harry said as Ginny tapped a particular brick in the wall behind the Leaky Cauldron thrice. At that instant, the wall moved, creating an archway into Diagon Alley. After they had eaten a sumptuous lunch at the pub (Harry had decided to order a little of everything on the menu, and Ginny didn’t mind at all since it was his treat), he had insisted that they stroll around Diagon Alley to waste away the afternoon, and to aid their full stomachs in digesting the great amounts of food they had ingested.
Ginny laughed. “They don’t have a secret entrance thing in America?”
“They do, but this is still different,” Harry said. “Everything here has a homey feel to it, something that wasn’t there.”
An amused smile spread across her features. “You didn’t really forget about London, did you?”
Harry nodded as his eyes darted from left to right in a kind of rapture that reminded Ginny of the way her two nephews’ eyes lit up whenever they paid a visit to Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. “Yes, you really can’t forget about your home, right?
“Of course,” Ginny agreed, watching as both Harry and Aya excitedly surveyed the shops they passed.
Florean Fortescue was serving a group of teenagers outside his ice cream parlor when Ginny and Harry passed by. “Good day, Ginny,” he greeted, slightly tipping his hat.
“Hello, Florean,” Ginny greeted back.
“Hello, Da—” Florean stopped short as his eyes wandered to the man standing beside Ginny and lit up as recognition dawned on his face. “Harry Potter! It’s good to have you back!” He crossed along the tables that lined the outside of his shop to where Harry and Ginny were standing and shook Harry’s hand fervently.
Ginny’s lips curled into a smile as the two engaged in the usual small talk on how Harry had been, why he was here, and how long he would be staying. The conversation even turned into a recollection of one or two memories from when Harry had stayed in the parlor every afternoon, finishing his holiday homework, the summer before his third year. After a few minutes of friendly chatter, they bid their goodbyes and Florean insisted on giving Aya a huge ice cream cone; she had been eyeing the sundaes of the teenagers from a nearby table.
“Always a cheerful chap, Florean,” Harry said, holding the cone as Aya happily licked her ice cream. “And you, little girl, have one awfully huge stomach. You really are a Weasley.”
“Hey!” Ginny exclaimed. “What was that supposed to mean?”
Harry gave her a sideways glance; an impish smile was plastered on his face. “Nothing. I meant that Aya’s got her father’s humongous appetite.”
“Better make that clear.”
Harry let out a chuckle and continued feeding Aya her ice cream. Ginny turned to look at the two and saw the unmistakable glint of mirth in Harry’s eyes. Those eyes would always make her melt under their gaze, but without the glasses framing them, they seemed to be a brighter shade of green than she remembered. They seemed bolder, more naked. It seemed like something was missing. Not that she hadn’t noticed that Harry actually looked good without his glasses on, but she found the old Harry—the bespectacled Harry—more endearing.
“You know what I really miss? Your glasses,” Ginny suddenly blurted out before she could even stop herself from voicing her thoughts.
Harry stopped walking and turned to Ginny, his lips twisted into a small smile. “Really?”
Ginny nodded. “They make you look so… so Harry.”
Confusion replaced the smile on Harry’s face. “So hairy?”
“No, I meant so Harry.”
“Yeah, my Harry. Our Harry.”
Harry’s face flushed into a faint shade of red as he caught her gaze. Their eyes locked and Ginny felt like she was caught in a dreamlike trance. A silly grin was spreading across Harry’s face and she knew that it somehow matched her own. She felt her cheeks heat up at the realization of what she had just said. You and your big mouth! She looked down a little to hide her reddening face, and when she looked back up again, Harry was still gazing at her with that goofy smile on his face.
“’Ore,” Aya chirped, making both Harry and Ginny jump a little and breaking their eye contact.
Ginny leaned over and saw that her goddaughter’s face was smudged with ice cream; chocolate was trickling down from her lips to the front of her favorite pink robes. “Look at that mess you made! Clearly, your godfather doesn’t know how to feed you properly.”
“Hey! I was not the one who was devouring the ice cream like her father!”
“But Harry could still have made sure that you look beautiful,” she cooed, making the little girl giggle. In a simple flick of her wand, all the traces of ice cream on Aya’s face and dress vanished. “There, Aya’s pretty once again.” Ginny turned to Harry and told him off in a mock reprimanding tone: “Now, let her finish her ice cream and don’t mess up her robes again.”
Harry held back a chuckle, nodding like a little boy who had been scolded by his mother. “Yes, Auntie Ginny.”
Ginny winked. “That’s more like it.”
They continued walking in silence as Harry fed their goddaughter her ice cream, making cooing voices every now and then that made Aya’s laughter rang in the air. And Ginny found it so endearing. Being stationed at the children’s ward of St. Mungo’s, she knew that it was hard to find a man who could stand children who were not his own. A perfect example was Percy, who couldn’t stand Bill’s sons once in a while, especially when the two were playing their usual pranks on his twin daughters.
Ginny continued to secretly watch Harry play with Aya in awe; she smiled to herself as she noticed the bond the two were slowly creating. If she hadn’t been there when Hermione was giving birth to Aya (while cursing Ron for the pain she had to go through), she would have thought that they were actually father and daughter just by judging the way they acted around each other. Adoration was evident in their eyes.
“There,” Harry said a few minutes later, “we’re done with our ice cream! And see, Auntie Ginny, Aya is still as pretty as ever.” Harry shifted the little girl in his arms so she could face Ginny.
“That’s good, then,” Ginny said approvingly as the child gave her a huge smile and showed her chocolate-stained teeth. She leaned over and wiped Aya’s lips with her handkerchief, cleaning off the few smudges of ice cream at the corners of her mouth.
“Let me see how beautiful you are,” Harry cooed. He turned Aya around to face him and she gave him another wide smile. Harry chuckled and nuzzled his nose at the crook of her neck, making Aya erupt into high-pitched giggles.
“I think you ought to have a little reward,” he said with a child-like glee in his voice, and Ginny couldn’t help but notice the spark of excitement in his eyes. “How about a new toy? Would you like that?”
Aya nodded excitedly, bouncing up and down in Harry’s arms.
“What do you say, Auntie Ginny?” Harry asked, giving her a sideways glance that made her feel that her heart had stopped beating. It was one of those glances she loved very much.
“Su-sure.” She smiled to hide her stammering. Easy now, Weasley.
At her answer, both Harry and Aya gave an excited squeal and hurried over to the toyshop a few stores away. She took a deep breath before following them, thankful that her heart had started beating normally again. When she reached Rohayna’s Magical Toys for Magical Children, Harry was still standing at the entrance, holding the door open for her. They exchanged silent smiles and Ginny felt her cheeks heat up once again. If Harry had noticed it, he didn’t let it show since he automatically made a beeline for the Quidditch section.
“How about a toy broomstick?” he asked, holding out a smaller-sized replica of a Nimbus Two Thousand and Seven for Ginny’s approval.
“Absolutely not,” Ginny replied; she took the toy from him and put it back on the rack with the other toy broomsticks.
“Why not? Don’t you want your goddaughter to be an excellent flier like you?”
“Your compliments will get you nowhere, Potter,” she said, smiling a little. “And, well, yes, I suppose I want my goddaughter to play Quidditch, too, but Aya’s too young to play with toy broomsticks. And I don’t suppose Hermione would be too happy when she learned that we gave Aya a broomstick this early.”
Ginny walked ahead of him, surveying the rest of the toys. She stopped at the dolls section, and her lips curled into a wicked grin.
“How about we buy her a good, old-fashioned doll? Like this one,” she said, taking a medium-sized doll from the racks and holding it out to Aya. “Do you like it, baby?”
Upon seeing the toy in Ginny’s hands, Harry’s expression changed from exuberant to disgusted in a matter of seconds. She was holding the Harry Potter, The Chosen One doll that had circulated a year after Voldemort’s defeat. His doll self was wearing Hogwarts robes and round glasses, and had an exaggeratedly visible lightning bolt scar on the forehead.
“Absolutely not,” Harry said firmly. “I can’t believe they still have those.” Harry’s face continued to flinch as he grabbed the doll from Ginny and put it back onto the rack.
“No!” Aya suddenly cried. Her little hands grabbed his arms and pointed at the toy.
Ginny laughed when Harry’s face blanched and his jaw dropped an inch. She triumphantly picked the doll up again and gave it to Aya, who squealed at once. Ginny turned to Harry and give him a victorious smile. “See? I told you she’d like it.”
“I can’t believe you,” he muttered, still cringing at the doll.
“Why? Don’t you like it?” Ginny teased. “You actually looked good here, you know.”
Harry shuddered even more and that made Ginny snicker harder. She was still laughing when the owner approached them.
“Good afternoon! May I help you?” she asked with a smile.
Ginny smiled back, trying her best to control her laughter. “It’s okay, we’re just looking at the dolls.”
Rohayna’s raven black eyes fell onto Aya, then shifted to Ginny and back to the little girl again, the smile on her face spreading further. “Oh, your daughter’s so cute,” she gushed, glancing to both Harry and Ginny. “She looks just like her mummy!”
Ginny felt that it was her jaw’s turn to drop an inch as she stared at Rohayna in surprise and disbelief. What? She wasn’t Aya’s mum! She wanted to protest, but it seemed as though the ability to speak had left her and all she could do was to stare at Rohayna incredulously. However, Rohayna was cooing at Aya and didn’t notice Ginny’s reaction. Ginny turned to Harry as if asking him what they should do. He met her gaze and gave her a small smile.
Cuddling the child closer, Harry turned to Rohayna and smiled. “We’d like to buy the doll,” he said. “Could you ring this up for us?”
“Certainly,” she said, beaming.
Rohayna turned around and walked to the back of the shop with a smiling Harry and a giggling Aya behind her, leaving Ginny still rooted on the ground, the thousands of possibilities of what the shopkeeper’s comment might have meant beginning to slowly sink into her.
* * *
Being careful not to step on a loose floorboard, Harry climbed up the stairs to Aya’s bedroom a little over an hour after Ginny had brought her up for her afternoon nap. He had flipped through almost all of Ron’s copies of Quidditch Unlimited while waiting for Ginny to come back down before he had decided to check on them.
The second floor hallway was lined with various portraits of Ron, Hermione, and Aya and one or two photographs of him with his two best friends. Harry smiled as he saw a picture of the three of them during Ron and Hermione’s engagement party. He was standing beside Hermione (with Ron on her other side), and his right arm was wrapped around her while his left was raising his wineglass for a toast. They were beaming; love and bliss were clearly emanating from his best friends’ eyes. Three years hadn’t changed anything at all.
Aya’s bedroom was hard to miss. Colorful letter cutouts spelling her name were charmed to her door together with a picture of a young witch standing behind a cauldron and beside a stack of books. Harry turned the knob slowly and peeked in through the open door. Curled up on the bed were Aya and Ginny, sleeping soundly. Aya’s little frame was pressed closely against Ginny’s, her little hands resting beneath her chin. Harry smiled. They both looked so peaceful, so beautiful. He soundlessly walked into the room and sat on the edge of the bed.
He noticed how Aya looked unmistakably more like a Weasley than a Granger. She had the Weasleys’ vibrant red hair and pale skin, and freckles that decorated her cheeks and nose beautifully—just like Ginny’s. His eyes swept to Ginny; Aya could easily pass as a young Ginny Weasley. In fact, Aya looked more like her aunt than her mother. No wonder they could be mistaken for mother and daughter—just like what had happened that day.
Judging from Ginny’s reaction, Harry knew that she had been taken aback by Rohayna’s comments, just as he had. He already had been anticipating that Rohayna would recognize him—like a lot of other people did—so he hadn’t been expecting what she had said. He hadn’t wanted to embarrass Ginny by agreeing with Rohayna’s impression, but he couldn’t make himself correct Rohayna either. Neither confirming nor denying had seemed to be the best and only recourse he had. He had only smiled politely and paid for the doll, even if he didn’t want to see even a single strand of hair from it.
He knew that anyone thrown into that situation would normally correct the shopkeeper’s impression but neither of them had—at least he couldn’t.
“Your daughter’s really pretty,” Rohayna had said as she put the doll inside a bag. “You and your wife must be proud.”
Again, he had only smiled and thanked her when she handed him their purchase, not saying anything about it for the second time. After one last smile at Rohayna, he had turned around and led the still-speechless Ginny out of the store. She had remained silent until they had arrived at Fowlgrove.
Harry reached over and brushed Aya’s hair off her forehead and leaned over to kiss her. She stirred a little and he let her drift back into a deep sleep. His gaze fell on Ginny, watching her as her chest rose and fell in a rhythm that only suggested a peaceful sleep.
Harry found his mind forming an image of him marrying Ginny. She was walking down the aisle, looking more beautiful than ever in her snow white bridal gown, and Harry stood at the altar mesmerized. As he watched them sleep, he imagined that he was looking down at his wife and daughter—his lovely wife and beautiful daughter. He found himself smiling further at the thought. He knew he would have reacted differently at the toyshop that afternoon if that were the case; he might have told Rohayna how proud and lucky he was for having them in his life, and how blessed he was for being given the chance to spend the rest of his life with them.
Hesitantly, he leaned over and tried to touch Ginny’s face and brush the stray strands of hair off her face, when she suddenly stirred. Harry sat back up as she slowly opened her eyes. She gave him a smile the minute her eyes fell upon him.
“Yes, Harry?” she asked sleepily.
Harry smiled back and shook his head. “I’m just checking on you both. I’ll just be downstairs if you need me.” He leaned over again, gave Aya a kiss, stood up from the bed, and walked out of the room.
Before closing the door, he took another look at Ginny as she cuddled closer to Aya. It made them look even more like mother and child. Harry smiled to himself, imagining how happy and contented he might have felt if only the two beautiful redheads he was looking at were really his wife and daughter.
To be continued…
A/N: Sorry for the long delay of this chapter. RL has taken its toll in our writing. Our greatest thanks to one of the best books in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, for kicking us hard in the head, for bringing our muse back, and for realizing how much we love this story. We can’t promise speedy updates, but at least the interval wouldn’t be as long as this one—we hope.
Thanks to the Girl Genius for making a cameo in this chapter (without her knowledge, of course); we know you wouldn’t mind, anyway. Much of our love goes to the best beta readers two girls can ask for: JennaMae and DailyProphetReporting.