Admin/Beta note: This story will premiere as our Story of the Week for the week of July 9th, 2007. St Margarets wrote this fic as an entry to our Summer 2007 Writing Challenge, but we unfortunately weren't able to allow it in the competition because it was a bit too easy to tell she was the author. For anyone who has ever read ANY of her fantastic work, you'll recognize her style quite easily. And if you're especially fond (as I am, obviously!) of her New Zealand Chronicles, this story is a wonderful addition to her universe. You may not be able to "offically vote" for this story in the contest, but please "vote" by reviewing -- you won't regret it! ~Sherylyn, for the Admin Team of PhoenixSong.net
We have two days left – two days to finish the remodel of Harry and Ginny's house before they return from their year abroad. I look up at Ron as he's painstakingly fitting the last piece of the replacement molding around the ceiling in the entrance hall. His hair is full of plaster dust and his neck is sunburned. I can't see his face, but I can tell from his quick, sure movements that he is confident in the job he is doing.
I feel a rush of affection for him. He's so excited Harry and Ginny are finally returning after a year away. And he's excited and proud to be finishing his first job as a master builder. He should be proud – the entire house has been transformed and it's all his doing. Ron has never considered the possibility, but what if Harry or Ginny don't like it? It would crush him.
I wish I could talk to Harry before he sees the house – let him know what this means to Ron.
Who am I kidding? I wish I could talk to Harry so I could tell him what this means to me. No one else but Harry would understand why I've been handling the payroll and following up with suppliers and scheduling sub-contractors. Ron is finally doing what he should be doing and I'm so proud of him.
"We're a good team, Hermione," Ron says from his perch on the ladder. The molding I ordered matches perfectly and his blue eyes are lit with satisfaction. My stomach flips happily and I smile back at him. It's not the first time he has told me this – he says it whenever materials arrive or another part of the job is finished.
I wander to the kitchen and stand in front of the massive fireplace. Every brick has been chiseled out and re-stacked. Hearths and fireplaces are important, Ron says. It's the first thing a visitor using the Floo notices. I wonder what Harry and Ginny will notice.
I run my finger along the oak mantelpiece. The grain is straight and the wood is golden. Harry is going to be so happy here.
Home. Harry's never had a real home.
I can't wait to see the look in his eyes when he's finally home.
Harry loves treacle tart, but it's too early to make it. Their Portkey isn't supposed to activate until tomorrow afternoon, so there's plenty of time to prepare the tarts in the morning. Ginny will want chicken, I'm sure of that. I should roast four birds since the whole family will be here except for Charlie and Kathleen and little Leo.
Charlie. I sigh when I think of him and his little family. Arthur says it's a sign of good parenting that our children are independent. But I never feel like a good parent when he reminds me of that. I just want them all close by – I want them here.
Seeing Ginny and Harry at Christmas got me through this long year. But now, even though it's only one more day until they arrive, I find I can't think of anything else but hearing Ginny's bright chatter and seeing Harry's contented smile. I sigh and pick up my knitting, trying to distract myself before I can't stand it any longer.
I goggle at Hermione. It's the first time I've ever known her to be speechless with doubt about anything. Of course Harry and Ginny will like the house. And of course they'll like the taps she picked out for the kitchen sink. That is, if they notice the kitchen sink. There are so many other details we're agonizing over at this last moment– like how much insulation they really want in the attic and if Harry agrees that it was worth it to spend the extra Galleons on the lion-head newel post rather than the wall sconces.
We'll know this afternoon, I tell Hermione for the hundredth time.
As we walk around the empty, expectant house for the final checklist, I proudly remind her of all the unexpected features that Harry and Ginny don't know about yet – like the paneled walls we uncovered behind all that chintz in the dining room.
I can't wait to see Ginny's face when I show her Great-Aunt Muriel's china cupboard without the shrunken head collection. It's solid mahogany and the glass in the doors is Florentine-fairy. She won't run away when she sees it now.
Hermione and I arrange Ginny's blue and white wedding dishes in the china cupboard. I'm not quite sure how I got this duty, but Percy is happy that his mum is including me in these homecoming preparations. We're here to unpack all of Harry and Ginny's lovely wedding gifts and now we're almost done. The linen cupboard is full of towels and sheets and blankets. The kitchen is well stocked with every convenience – from self-stirring cauldrons to pans that screech the minute the contents starts to burn.
We laugh as we come across unfamiliar gadgets. We're the Muggle-born witches who had to learn the hard way all the laundry and cooking charms Hogwarts never bothered to teach us. Thank goodness Molly taught her boys to be self-sufficient.
"Ginny will know what to do with all of these things," Hermione says as she gingerly puts a pair of biting tongs in a drawer. "She's been running her own house for a whole year now."
I wonder if Molly will try to butt in or if she will just enjoy having Ginny and Harry close by. As we Vanish the packing boxes, I decide that Molly won't interfere, since she sent Fleur, who is the true domestic goddess of this generation, to supervise us.
I stand back and survey the empty dining room. It is a well-proportioned room, paneled in some mellow, expensive wood. The long windows look out at the smooth green lawn and the distant forest that surrounds their land. Harry and Ginny will have to acquire curtains and a rug and a table and chairs, but already the room belongs to them with the dishes in the cabinet. I think of the future and how many important meals and gatherings and holidays will take place here.
The first gathering will be later on tonight when Harry and Ginny see their house for the first time. I can't wait.
It is a good thing Molly sent me to supervise the unpacking, otherwise Hermione and Penelope would have left the tongs in the same drawer with the meat mallet and that would never do since they are natural enemies.
Ginny will know these things, of course, since she has been chatelaine of her house for a year now. I remember 'one year' because they were married the day before the birth of our Philippe. It is too bad that Ginny had to miss his infant year. She could have learned all about babies before she had one of her own.
I think Ginny should have a baby soon, but Bill thinks she is too young. We do not often disagree, but in this I am right. For Harry to feel chez soi, he must have his own family – not just the Weasleys. When Ginny has a baby, there will be one more Potter in the world.
One look at Philippe with his beautiful blue eyes and swirls of red hair will convince Ginny that she needs to have a baby. For this, I can't wait.
I am in charge of Philippe whilst Molly prepares the homecoming dinner and Fleur finishes at Muriel's – I mean, Harry and Ginny's – house.
"No problem," I say. "Philippe is a very easy baby."
"We're the grandparents." Molly laughs. She means that we don't see the late nights or the fretful evenings or the rocky mornings. That may be true, but I'm convinced that my grandson is magical in more ways than one.
For instance, when I am with him, he slows down time. An hour will pass by unnoticed as I watch him play. Philippe reminds me that even the smallest crumb on the floor can be interesting enough to grasp and study and put in your mouth…
I take the crumb away from him and let him pull all of the tissues out of the box. I remember that Ginny used to love to do that, too, but we would scold her for it and take them away.
Now she's coming home – with Harry. My heart lifts as I imagine her giggles at seeing Philippe gleefully sitting in a nest of tissues – aided and abetted by me. But she's not here yet – Philippe has slowed down time so that it feels like forever until I hear the laughter of my daughter again.
Ginny is the only daughter so it makes sense that Mum and Dad are fussing over her, but we don't want to forget Harry – our first benefactor. He and Ginny will be eager to see their new house and Mum will be eager to keep them at the Burrow. That's why George is distracting Mum with a torn cloak and I am in the kitchen sending all the prepared food through the Floo to Harry and Ginny's house.
We always have an escape plan – I just never thought we would use it for roasted chickens.
"What do you mean, you lost it?" Those are the first words I say to my mother after being away for a year. It isn't what I was planning to say, but it's the only logical response to being told that dinner has vanished.
"One minute the chickens were turning on the spits and the next minute, they're gone," Mum says, wringing her hands. "I should have put Locking Charms on all of them."
Harry finds the whole situation amusing. "I don't think that's what Moody meant by 'constant vigilance.'" Then he says to Mum what he says to me when I've had a bad day. "Let's just go out."
Mum's jaw drops and my stomach growls hungrily. "But it's your homecoming dinner! We can't just go out!"
"Maybe their homecoming should be at their actual house," Fred says, stepping out of the Floo.
"You!" Mum is red in the face. "You and George took the chickens –"
"To Harry and Ginny's, yes," Fred says calmly. "George has put the word out and everyone is meeting us there."
My stomach lurches and not from hunger. We're going to our house. It's the first time I'm going to see it! My heart starts pounding in excitement and I take Harry's hand. All those questions Ron has been asking us – Brass hinges or iron? Slate or thatch roof? Wood or tile in the kitchen? – will now finally be answered.
I squeeze Harry's hand in anticipation. I can hardly wait to step through the Floo.
The first thing I notice about our new house is how straight the bricks are in the fireplace. After whirling in the Floo (which I hate), those straight lines of mortar and brick are comforting. The second thing I notice is that there are many people (mostly Weasleys) in our kitchen. It's not crowded, so our kitchen must be quite large.
Like the gatherings at the Burrow, this one is noisy and chaotic, especially since Mrs. Weasley has to shout over the excited din to scold Fred and George for stealing her chickens. I am kissed and hugged and exclaimed over. It's all so pleasant and familiar and fun – just like the Burrow. But it's not the Burrow. I catch Ginny's eye and smile.
It's our house.
After hugging all of her brothers, Ginny takes my hand again. "Ron and Hermione want to take us on a tour."
Hermione is biting her lip and Ron blushes as the attention turns to him. Of course I want a tour. "I can't wait," I say.
It's everything Hermione described in her Scrapbooking Parchment. The rooms downstairs are airy and full of light. The lion-head newel post purrs when I tickle it behind the ears and roars when I push its nose. I love its funny wooden face. Ron's smile is absurdly wide as he shows us everything he has done to Aunt Muriel's house.
The rooms upstairs are cozier, with lots of odd ceiling angles and windows in unexpected places. There is a bed in the largest room, already made up with our wedding linens. Fleur and Penelope and Hermione are behind it all. I'm so glad we can stay here tonight and I tell them so.
The room next to ours will be perfect for a nursery. The plaster walls haven't been papered or painted so we can decorate it the way we want.
We'll have plenty of time – thirty-eight weeks, to be exact. I thought on the night of our anniversary that I might be pregnant, but yesterday was the first day I could do the test and find out for sure. I haven't told Harry yet.
I feel a flutter of excitement. I'll tell him tonight in our own bed in our own beautiful house. It's the best souvenir from a trip that I can think of.
We end up on conjured chairs in the dining room with our plates on our laps. Mrs. Weasley's – I mean, Molly's – cooking is as good as ever. I don't try to join the various conversations, since it's just as interesting to listen. Arthur and Bill are explaining to Hermione that Aunt Muriel's shrunken heads were talking souvenirs from her travels – not poisoned Muggles like Ron and Ginny thought. Bill reminisces about the one from Niagara Falls and the tall tale it told about going over the falls in a cauldron.
Ron and Percy are complaining about Isobel, the Ministry witch who practically invented red tape. Fred and George offer Ron the helpful advice to just ignore the permits and the inspectors. "Better to apologize than ask permission," Fred says. Percy tuts and shakes his head in disgust. Ron just shrugs and helps himself to more chicken.
Fleur is extolling the virtues of the lion-head newel post, since it has already warned her twice that Philippe was attempting to climb the stairs. For some reason, Ginny's eyes glow with suppressed excitement at this information.
Why is Ginny hanging on to every word Fleur says about babies?
I glance at Molly and notice that she is studying Ginny's happy, flushed face as well. Then Ginny looks at me, and our eyes lock, and I know.
My heart is pounding from the first shock, and if I am smiling as broadly as I think I am, then everyone is going to know before the evening is out.
"Really?" I whisper.
"Really," she confirms in a husky voice.
The conversation around us falters. I tear myself away from our intense discussion and see that every Weasley is watching us. Fleur's expression is knowing. Hermione looks from Ginny to Molly to me, and then her whole face lights up as she realizes what must be happening. Molly clutches at Arthur like a lifeline and starts to sniffle. "Oh, my goodness – Ginny and Harry…"
"What?" Ron asks irritably. "What's going on now?"
Hermione looks to Ginny and then to me as if to ask for permission. I nod, since I don't trust my voice.
"I think –" she begins.
But Ginny interrupts. "The bedroom next to ours needs to be finished sooner, rather than later, Ron."
He frowns. "But that's supposed to be a nursery…" Then his eyes widen and he grins. "Oh. Wow."
Everyone starts talking excitedly at once.
I Vanish our plates and take Ginny's hand. On top of being home and seeing our house, I find out Ginny is going to have a baby. It just can't get better than this.