Harry watched Ginny disappear up the path to the gates of Hogwarts. He pushed his hands deeper into the pockets of his cloak and sighed rather wistfully as he turned back toward Hogsmeade, absent-mindedly kicking a rock along in front of him. He didn't really have any particular reason to go back to Hogsmeade, but he really wasn't in a hurry to go back to The Burrow yet, either.
He was rather glad of the darkening sky, since it helped to hide the grin on his face that he was certain would appear rather daft-looking to anyone who happened to see him. He couldn't help it, though.
She said yes!
They'd spent the rest of the day together, enjoying the knowledge that, for the time being, they shared a happiness into which no one else could intrude. They'd wandered for a bit through the shops of Hogsmeade – Ginny had a few things she needed to pick up while she had the chance – until, by unspoken agreement, they'd arrived at the quiet clearing that they both had come to think of as their Special Place. With a grin, Harry set a series of charms around the clearing before Transfiguring the large boulder into a comfortable settee, and they spent quite some time expressing their affection and their happiness over the day's events.
Eventually, they'd ended up in their favourite position – Harry's head in Ginny's lap, and Ginny leaning against the corner of the settee while they talked. They discussed the plans for New Zealand, the sorts of things they both wanted to experience together, how Ginny's lessons were going, more about Harry's Auror training. In short, they talked about anything and everything and nothing until it was time to go back to the village.
They'd decided that Harry would talk to Ginny's parents about their plans during dinner that evening, when they would have a chance to talk without the rest of the family being around for awhile. And then… he'd be able to tell her brothers at Sunday lunch the following day.
Harry swallowed nervously at the thought. Ginny had assured him that her parents would be thrilled, but he couldn't quite picture how they were going to be delighted at the news that their youngest child – and only daughter! – was going so far away shortly after she finished school.
Now, Harry walked back toward the village alone, mulling over the events of the day as he did so. When his feet led him to the Three Broomsticks, he shrugged to himself and entered. He was a bit thirsty, and maybe a drink would help him relax a bit.
Madam Rosmerta's eyes raked over him knowingly. "Well, now, Harry. What can I do for you this evening?" she asked cheerfully as he eased into a chair at a small table near the back of the bar. At least there wasn't much of a crowd here now.
She nodded and turned to the hand pumps.
"Wait. Um. Do you have anything from New Zealand?"
Her eyes widened and then she pursed her lips in thought. "I'll have to look in the cellar."
She returned shortly with two different bottles. "Well, then. I have this one called DB Draught." The label had a double-headed dragon breathing fire, and the fine print said, Dragon Beer Draught – Putting Fire in Beer for 97 years. "And I have this Three Star Beer." This label was in shades of blue and orange and had three simple stars in a row with the slogan, Wise Men Will Always Follow The Stars.
Harry liked the sound of that. "I'll take the Three Star."
She eyed him again, then smiled. "Well, you don't look as if you're here to drink away your troubles, so I reckon you're celebrating?"
He felt a blush creeping up his face, but nodded. "It's been a nice day," he answered noncommittally.
She laughed, obviously knowing he wasn't going to say any more, and set the bottle in front of him. She then tapped it with her wand to take the top off it as Harry reached toward his pocket for his gold, but she shook her head at him. "Not this time, Harry. My treat. Whatever you're celebrating, it looks like it agrees with you." She winked at him and walked away.
He couldn't suppress a grin in reply as he picked up the bottle. He sat for awhile as he sipped his drink, still remembering his time with Ginny. Things hadn't gone exactly the way he'd intended, initially, but the day had all turned out so well that he really couldn't be bothered anyway.
He finished his beer and glanced at his watch. Mrs Weasley would probably have dinner ready soon. He supposed he should be getting home, especially if he intended to eat before heading off to play midnight Quidditch for the Weasleys" Wizard Wheezes team. Besides, he had something he needed time to talk about with Mr and Mrs Weasley while The Burrow would be relatively quiet. He pushed back from the table, grabbed his cloak and headed toward the door with a last wave of thanks at Madam Rosmerta. Outside, he closed his eyes for a heartbeat in concentration, then Apparated home.
He appeared in the back garden, letting the wards recognize him before he moved toward the door, picking his way amongst the Wellingtons piled nearby. He opened the door and stepped inside, turning to hang his cloak on a nearby peg as he did so.
"Harry, is that you?" Mrs Weasley's voice called.
"Yes, Mrs Weasley." He stepped into the kitchen and inhaled deeply. "Wow, something smells good," he added, grinning as the scent of roasted chicken greeted him.
"Are you hungry, dear?" Mrs Weasley asked as she straightened up and shut the oven door, turning to smile at him warmly. "Dinner will be ready in just a bit. Why don't you go wash your hands? Arthur's in the living room."
"Okay. Can I help with anything?"
"Not a thing. It's all just about done. Go on, off with you now." She flicked a tea towel in his direction, and he scurried up the stairs.
He quickly washed in the bathroom upstairs, then made his way back down just as Mr Weasley appeared in the doorway leading into the kitchen. "Hello there. Had a good day in Hogsmeade then?" Mr Weasley asked, smiling widely as Harry waved a hand to indicate that the older man should precede him into the kitchen.
"Yes, thanks, we had an excellent day, actually," Harry answered, trying his best to hide his anxiousness over the topic of the day's meeting with Ginny.
Mrs Weasley was just settling the last of the pots and pans of food onto the table as they took their seats.
"Looks delicious, Molly, as usual," Mr Weasley proclaimed as he filled his plate from the myriad dishes of vegetables and roast chicken. "So it's just the three of us for dinner then? How did we manage that?"
Mrs Weasley chuckled. "Ron decided to stay in London a while longer tonight, so yes, it's just the three of us." She glanced at Harry as she added, "Ron said he would meet you at the pitch later this evening." She then frowned as she looked down at Harry's plate. "Harry, dear, don't you want some more potatoes?" she asked, adding an extra spoonful to his plate before he could protest. "I know you're working much too hard in this training. You need extra energy for it all."
Harry chuckled, but managed to dodge her adding anything further to his plate. "I'll make up for it with seconds, Mrs Weasley, honestly."
"So how is Ginny, dear? Has she completely recovered from the Dragon Pox? I know Poppy said she was well, but I don't want her to relapse while she's revising for her NEWTs."
Harry swallowed his chicken as quickly as he could. "She's quite fine, Mrs Weasley. Um… definitely recovered, I think."
"Oh, good, good. I can hardly believe she's so near to finishing school. It seems like just yesterday that all of you were trying to get onto the Express for the first time." Mrs Weasley sighed, looking down at her plate rather woefully.
"Now, Molly, don't go getting all worked up. We've got a fine family, and soon it'll be growing all over again," Mr Weasley cajoled, giving Harry a surreptitious wink as he did so.
"Oh, I know, I know," Mrs Weasley replied, smiling up at both of them. "Fleur's Healer says that the baby is growing well, did I tell you?"
And with that, Mrs Weasley was off – filling Arthur in on all the bits of news about the family that she either hadn't told him yet, or didn't remember that she'd told him.
Harry listened with only half an ear as the conversation progressed. His nervousness was increasing rapidly, and he found himself wishing for a polite way to break into their discussion. Periodically, he sneaked glances at his watch. He wanted to be sure he had plenty of time to talk to Ginny's parents before he had to leave for the Quidditch match. His stomach was beginning to turn into a butterfly hatchery again. The prospect of talking to Mr and Mrs Weasley was nerve-wracking, but not quite so bad as to make him forget the wonder of the moment when Ginny had said "yes" earlier in the day. Ginny had fairly well convinced him that her parents would be happy for them, so he wasn't too worried.
Well, actually, he was, but he was trying to convince himself that he wasn't.
When there was a slight lull in the conversation, Mr Weasley turned to Harry again. "So, Harry, who are you lot playing tonight?"
"Oh. Um… the team that Lee used to work with – the Starlight Sweeps. They're a good team."
Mr Weasley chuckled. "Yes, I expect they would be – they're on brooms most of the time for their work, aren't they?"
"Yes, so they're always good competition," Harry agreed.
"Where are you playing tonight, dear?" Mrs Weasley asked as she pushed the food toward him again. "More chicken, Harry? You'll need plenty of energy for flying."
Harry had to swallow quickly again. "Um, Exmoor, and uh, yes, thanks." He helped himself to some more chicken and potatoes while Mrs Weasley beamed at him.
"I'm sure you will all have a great time," Mr Weasley commented. He was just about finished eating, Harry noted, and he knew Mrs Weasley would be serving pudding soon.
Mentally taking a firm grip of his courage, Harry said, "Can I talk to you two about something? Something important?"
Mr and Mrs Weasley exchanged glances, and Mrs Weasley – who had been half-way out of her chair, about to refill their tea cups – set the teapot down again and looked at him expectantly, as Mr Weasley said, "Of course, Harry. What's on your mind?"
"Well, I – it's just that…" He stopped and took a deep breath, forcing himself to meet their concerned gazes. "Today, I – I asked Ginny to marry me. And she said yes."
Mrs Weasley's hands flew up to cover her mouth as she gave a gasp of surprise. Mr Weasley's eyes opened wide for a moment, but then he leaned back in his chair to give Harry an appraising look. "That's… that's quite some news, Harry," he said after a moment. "Are you two sure that you know what you're doing?"
Harry nodded in assurance. "Yes, sir. I-I know we're still young, but we've been through so much. And we – we don't want to be apart any longer. I know that Ginny – Ginny's everything I've ever wanted. I just want to make her happy. I – we would really like to have your blessings, though. Both of you," he amended, as he looked at Mrs Weasley as well.
"Oh, Harry!" Mrs Weasley cried, and then she hurried around the table to wrap her arms around him and hug him fiercely. He returned the hug warmly, feeling the happiness of earlier in the day return in full force.
"So that's what that Cheshire-cat grin on your face all evening has been about," Mr Weasley chuckled.
Harry blushed slightly as Mrs Weasley released him but he couldn't keep help grinning again anyway. "I suppose so. She's definitely made me very happy," he answered as Mrs Weasley dabbed at her eyes with her apron as she picked up the teapot again and began re-filling their cups.
Mr Weasley stared into his cup for a few moments. "Well, in one sense, I can't say I'm surprised that you two want to be together. It's certainly been obvious enough how much you two care about each other. I suppose I am a bit surprised that you've both decided to do this now, though, rather than waiting a few years. What about your training? And Ginny's been planning to work at St. Mungo's – have you thought about how you're going to manage to do those things?"
"Yes, sir, we have, actually," Harry began, trying not to sound as nervous as he felt. "We've got it all worked out, actually," he hedged, not certain if he was quite ready to launch their plans for New Zealand on Ginny's parents yet.
"Have you decided when you want to get married, then?" Mrs Weasley asked, wiping her eyes again with her apron. "I can't get over it. I knew you two…" She trailed off for a moment, then looked up again and fixed Harry with a warm but deliberate gaze. "I want you to understand, Harry. I'm as happy for you as I am for Ginny. I just want what's best for both of you."
Harry felt his face heat at the warmth in her voice. "Thank you," he murmured, his throat tightening. "And, yes, we want to get married in August. We spent the day talking, and I really think we've got things worked out."
"Harry, I agree with Molly completely. We're as concerned about you as we are about Ginny. But I wouldn't feel that I was being a good father to Ginny or to you if I didn't ask about your plans, and try to make sure you both understand the seriousness of what you're doing."
Harry nodded, meeting Mr Weasley's eyes unflinchingly. "I understand, and I appreciate that – more than I can tell you both. It's just that…" He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Well, we've both decided to do something a bit different than what we'd been thinking of before, and… well, let me show you." He pulled his wand from his back pocket and silently Summoned the pamphlet from the pocket of his cloak.
He swallowed anxiously as he handed the pamphlet to Mr Weasley. "I'm finding that Auror training isn't quite what I want to do anymore, but I still want to do something that matters, something that will help people. And I found this. And Ginny and I want to do it together."
Mr Weasley turned the pamphlet so that he and Mrs Weasley could look at it together. "New Zealand?" Mrs Weasley gasped. "You want to go to New Zealand?"
"Yes," Harry answered quietly. "We both do." At the concerned looks on both elder Weasleys' faces, he hurriedly added, "It's only for a year. We can visit – you can visit us. But we want to do this. It's what's right for both of us."
"But it's so far…!" Mrs Weasley protested, as Mr Weasley opened the pamphlet further, and they both looked at it again.
"Well, yes, but… well, it's not that bad, is it? I mean, Bill and Charlie both moved far away when they left school, didn't they? And we're only going to be gone a year. We're only going there for our training."
Mrs Weasley sighed rather forlornly. "Yes, I suppose that's true. It just seems different, I suppose, because you and Ginny are the youngest."
Harry felt his heart swell at being included with Ginny in that category, even though he was certain Ginny would have bristled at that "youngest" comment from her mum.
Before he could reply, though, Mr Weasley asked, "What about the cost, won't it be expensive?" as he looked up from the colourful pages.
"I have the money," Harry said quietly. "You know I have money still that my parents left me. And I have what Sirius left me. I – we'll be fine in that regard. We just – we just really want your blessing," he finished, his voice even softer as he stared into his tea cup, not able to meet their eyes just then.
There was silence around the table for a moment before he felt a warm hand on his arm. He looked up to meet Mr Weasley's gaze. "You don't even have to ask for our blessing, Harry. There's no one in the world that we'd rather have for our little girl than you. And there's no one in the world we'd rather have for you than our Ginny," he said earnestly, his eyes suspiciously bright. "You've been a member of this family for years. I think it's about time we make it official." He smiled warmly, and Mrs Weasley beamed at Harry across the table.
"Exactly, Harry," Mrs Weasley added, rising from her chair and flicking her wand to send the dirty dishes floating toward the sink. "If I ever wanted to add another boy to this family, it would have been you," she smiled, giving him another quick hug around the shoulders.
"Thank you," he managed, his throat tight with emotion. "I can't – thank you," he repeated, at a loss for words.
Mr Weasley squeezed his arm reassuringly, then chuckled lightly at Harry's obvious relief. "Not an easy thing to ask for, is it, son?"
Harry laughed, his nerves lessening quickly as he wiped his sweaty palms against his jeans. "No, it's not!"
"There's just one stipulation…" Mr Weasley began, his manner suddenly quite sombre, as Mrs Weasley began dishing up pudding for all of them. Mr Weasley glanced up quickly toward his wife, who nodded, as though in agreement, then resumed her task.
Harry looked up, his heart thumping again at the words. Oh, no… what now? he thought desperately.
"I have a request, and I must really insist that you abide by our wishes on this," Mr Weasley continued, in his most severe voice. Harry had only heard him take that tone on rare occasions when the twins had caused some near-calamity.
"Yes, sir?" Harry's voice squeaked slightly, and the butterflies in his stomach now seemed to be turning into hippogriffs. He could only hope that the stipulation was something he could agree to without making Ginny want to murder him instead.
"This is actually something Molly and I have been wanting to discuss with you for a while now, and we wish for you to make a sincere effort in correcting this behaviour, understand?"
"Sir?" Another squeak. Damn!
"You've known us a large portion of your life now, haven't you? You've stayed with us repeatedly over those years, right?"
"You're living here now, at least on weekends, and yet you persist in this behaviour, and we really must insist that you stop."
"I-I'm s-sorry, I—what have I done?" Harry asked, wracking his brain for what possible thing he might have done to receive this sort of talk from Mr Weasley, who was usually the most amiable of men. He knew he wasn't the neatest person in the world, but Mrs Weasley had never seemed to mind the things he left scattered around the room he occupied, so what…?
His musings were interrupted by Mrs Weasley. "Yes, Harry, Arthur is quite correct. You really must stop this, you know." She had brought their pudding to the table, but she was still standing, looking every bit as stern as her husband.
"Harry, we really must insist…" Mr Weasley reiterated, "it's really quite time, you know. A young man like yourself – it's just not proper for this to continue."
Harry looked blankly from one serious face to the other, totally baffled. They'd been unhappy with him for quite some time, and this was the first he'd heard of it…?
"I-I'm sorry..." he began again, but Mr Weasley waved him off.
"None of that, none of that. Just be sure you correct yourself in future, all right?"
"Um…" Brilliant, Potter!
"Yes, Harry dear, you really must make an effort at this. It's really quite important. After all, you're going to be an official member of the family now… it really won't do at all for you to continue this," Mrs Weasley chimed in.
"I'll be glad to—" He was beginning to feel a bit like a Bludger, bouncing back and forth between two Beaters.
"Good. Glad that's settled. Now, no more of this, and we won't have to talk about it again." Mr Weasley turned to his wife. "Molly, that smells amazing."
Mrs Weasley smiled happily and began passing around the treacle tart.
"But…Mr Weasley, I—" Harry began.
Mr Weasley looked up sharply. "Harry. I thought we'd just agreed that you were going to stop this nonsense."
"I – what?" Harry turned to Mrs Weasley in complete confusion. "Mrs Weasley, I—"
"Harry James Potter. I don't want to hear that again!" she exclaimed, looking both angry and appalled.
"What? I – what did I do?" Harry blurted, his nerves finally getting the better of him as he looked back and forth between the two of them, completely bewildered.
To his utter amazement, both Mr and Mrs Weasley burst out laughing. Mrs Weasley sank onto her chair as she shook with mirth, and Mr Weasley wiped his eyes with his napkin. Harry was suddenly, strongly reminded of the twins' typical reaction to having caught someone in a prank. His nervousness had kept him from remembering – until too late – that the twins came by their sense of humour quite honestly. He found himself blushing, knowing he'd been caught, but still not quite sure what they'd actually meant by all that.
Finally drawing a deep breath, Mr Weasley looked at Harry with a measure of sanity in his eyes again, and, still chuckling, told him. "When I asked for Molly's hand in marriage, her parents did almost the same thing to me as we just did to you. Over the years, I always told Molly that when some young man asked for Ginny's hand in marriage, I was going to do the same to him." He laughed again, obviously still enjoying Harry's complete confusion.
Before he could go on, Mrs Weasley reached across the table to lay her hand on top of Harry's. "We were serious about you changing one thing, Harry, but not because we're displeased with you. It's simply that it's time for you to change your habit." She smiled at him happily. "You've known us most of your life, Harry, and you're planning to marry our daughter. Don't you think it's time you called us Molly and Arthur?"
A/N: There may be some things in this and subsequent chapters (both in this fic and in St. Margaret'sThe New Zealand Chronicles) that resemble some things in the Muggle world. Rest assured though, we're only talking about the Wizarding equivalents ;-) Oh, and I almost forgot– theNZ brands of beer that Madam Rosmerta offers are specifically St. Margaret's creation.
Many, many thanks as always to St. Margaret's for letting me play in the world she's created, and put so much thought and effort into, and also to Parakletos for helping me not sound toooo American (well, at least, no more than necessary ;-)), and to Allie Kiwi for all her wonderful help in betaing – she's a gem!
Chapter 3 (from me) will deal with the latter part of St. Margaret's Chapter 2 – it'll be coming before too long, I hope!
Thanks also to all of you who've read and reviewed the previous chapter. I'm having a blast doing this, and it's especially rewarding to not only do something I enjoy, but to have some real response to show that I'm not the only one enjoying it :-D