They had intended to move into the new house on their own, but thankfully the Weasleys, who were in the country at the time, had seen sense and turned up at lunchtime, just when Harry and Ginny were beginning to realise the immensity of the task they had undertaken.
"What are you doing here?" Ginny squawked, half-outraged, half-relieved, as her family appeared with a pop outside the front door.
"We thought you'd need a hand," replied George airily, striding through the open door into the hallway.
"You're not wrong there," Harry told him, overhearing the end of George's sentence as he walked into the kitchen from the living room, looking hot and covered in ashes. "We seem to have accumulated more stuff than we thought."
"I could see that one coming a mile off," said George sagely. "C'mon," he brushed Harry down with his wand and led him outside where Mr and Mrs Weasley were carrying a large hamper of food towards the house.
"Right!" George clapped his hands loudly and everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at him.
"We've got lots of work to do! Mum – get some tea on, we're gonna need it! Ron – get through to Grimmauld Place on the Floo. You can pass the boxes to Harry who can Floo back here, to me. Hermione and Ginny – you're in charge of putting the boxes in the right rooms, as you seem to know where everything needs to go. Dad, Perce, can you start shifting some of the furniture… Wait, Harry, Ginny – where is the furniture?"
"Oh, hang on," Ginny ran in to the house and reappeared a second later with a miniscule cardboard box. She placed it on the ground, warned them all to back away and trained her wand on it. The box grew and grew until it had expanded to the height and width of four meters.
"It's in there," Ginny explained to her gob-smacked family, stowing her wand away again.
"Great," said George unenthusiastically. "Let's get going then!" There was a flurry of movement as everyone got to work.
Several hours later…
Everyone flopped on the grass, utterly exhausted, munching Mrs Weasley's cake, which was left over from lunchtime.
There was silence while everyone ate and sipped thirstily at their juice.
"Well, thanks, everyone," Harry said, breaking the silence.
"Yeah," sighed Ginny, "We couldn't have done it without you! Really!"
Her family smiled happily at her as Harry raised his wand and silently Summoned something.
A bottle of champagne and eight flutes sped out of the back door into the flourishing garden.
Ron cheered as the glasses landed smoothly on the low garden table. Harry poured out the champagne and waved his wand. A glass floated to each person.
"To our new house," said Harry.
"And our new life," added Ginny.
Everyone echoed them and drank.
They lay in the garden until dinnertime, when Molly asked everyone back to The Burrow. Harry and Ginny declined, however, too much in love with their new home to leave right now. Once everyone had left, they wandered through the spotless rooms, happily examining the new furniture and occasionally taking something out of a box and putting it in a cupboard or propping up a photo to see how it would look.
Harry cooked pasta and they sat at their new, oak table and ate.
"It doesn't feel like home yet," Ginny observed.
"No," Harry agreed. "But it will – once we've got our usual clutter surrounding us, it'll feel ten times homier than Grimmauld Place ever did."
"You're right, of course," Ginny smiled and Summoned the rest of the champagne.
By eight o'clock the next morning, with the comforting smell of burnt toast and the sound of a loud argument over the latest Quidditch score in the Prophet seeping through the house, Valley View felt a lot more like home.
One year later…
Harry and Ginny arrived with a pop outside the front door, but before Ginny could get her bearings, Harry had swept her up into his arms, causing her to shriek.
"What are you doing?" she squealed with delight.
"It's tradition," he told her importantly, all pleased with himself, having read up on wedding traditions prior to their marriage.
"Is it?" Ginny asked, gazing up at Harry as he carried her across the yard, her long red hair trailing over his arms, her skin glowing with health and happiness their honeymoon had caused.
"Yes," Harry replied to her sparkly brown eyes, the moment being somewhat ruined when Ginny's flip-flop fell off. Ignoring the fallen sandal, Harry continued. "We're stepping into our new home for the first time as man and wife. It's to protect you from the evil spirits which are lurking under the threshold –"
"Under the doormat?"
"Guess so," Harry replied nonchalantly, unlocked the door awkwardly with a tap of his wand. "And it's considered unlucky if you trip on our way in, so, by carrying you, I'm saving you from both those mishaps," he gave a winning smile.
"Oh," said Ginny, melting towards him. "Muggles are weird."
Harry had never entertained the idea that Wizard traditions would be different to Muggle ones, but he persevered by kissing Ginny gently as he stepped into the house.
Half a minute later, she had twisted around so that she was no longer being carried but had her legs wrapped around Harry's waist, kissing her new husband fiercely. Harry reached behind him and shut the door firmly, before placing his hands back around Ginny, one on her bum, one in her long, sweet hair…
They didn't even make it to the bedroom.
Six months later…
Ginny had never experienced a more painful hangover. Her head felt like it was going to either explode or implode – she couldn't quite decide which – she was so dizzy she could barely stand and she wanted to go to sleep there and then. Unfortunately, that was not an option.
It was Hermione's hen party and, surprisingly, Hermione had felt the need to take herself, Ginny, Luna, Audrey and Hiroko, a friend from work, on a weekend break with lots of alcohol. It was now the end of the 'break' and Ginny wanted to be sick. Preferably soon.
She had intended on Apparating, but then the phrase her mother had drilled in to her for as long as she could remember came to her – Don't drink and Disapparate!
So she decided to Floo instead.
She staggered towards one of the three ornate fireplaces in the reception area of the hotel, glaring at the receptionist who was trying to chivvy her along – apparently a big group was arriving by Floo shortly – and, to add insult to injury, this woman had also just charged Ginny an obscene amount of money for the bar bill which she had – stupidly – agreed to pay.
"Wait, Ginny!" Hermione tripped down the stairs behind her. "You forgot your lippy!"
"Oh, thanks," said Ginny dully, taking the lipstick and slipping it into her jeans pocket. "I have to say, I'm glad the wedding isn't for another week, Hermione. Why do Muggle women have their hen night the night before their wedding? I hurt!"
Hermione shrugged. "So they have an excuse to drug themselves up on paracetamol and therefore forget they're getting married? Anyway, not all Muggle women do that."
Ginny wondered vaguely what that para-thingy was that Hermione had just mentioned, but then found she couldn't remember the name of it and, more importantly, she didn't care.
She gave her friend a final hug.
"Thanks for an – interesting weekend," she said, tried to smile, realised it hurt and stopped.
She checked the tiny bag in her pocket, which contained her clothes and stepped as purposefully as she could into the fireplace, muttering "Valley View".
A moment of whizzing fireplaces later and Ginny tumbled into the sitting room. As she lay on the carpet, she thought she'd got the wrong house, then realised that the upside-down man with black hair and glasses, who was sitting on the upside-down armchair, belonged to her. At the same time she realised the living room carpet was quite comfortable and promptly fell asleep.
Three years later…
Harry had not trusted any magical transport for this fateful journey, so he, Ginny and their son had taken a Muggle taxi.
As soon as it pulled up outside the grey stone house, the front door swung open and Molly Weasley could be seen through the increasingly heavy rain.
"Quick, quick, oh my dears, come in! No, Ginny, I'll get your stuff. Bring little James inside. C'mon, Harry, I'll get that – get in the warm!" she bustled outside, easily lifting their various bags and baby items from them and hurrying them inside. Harry shoved some money through to the driver and ran through the rain after his worn out wife and the bundle of blankets that was his new son.
Soon enough, James had been introduced to his new cot and Ginny, dark circles under her eyes, was sipping tea in the kitchen with her mother, who had been cooking all day. There was now, as Ginny said, enough food to last them a lifetime, but Mrs Weasley insisted that looking after a new baby was hard work and they wouldn't have time to make filling, healthy food. So she had stocked their kitchen during their time at the Newcastle hospital.
Meanwhile, Harry was upstairs in his and Ginny's bedroom, leaning over the cot and gazing at his son, unable to take his eyes off him.
The baby was sleeping, his chest rising and falling gently with each breath, his hand curled around Harry's little finger. Harry's index finger on his other hand traced gentle circle on James' cheek. How could this bundle of adorableness be hard work? He was gorgeous… even at his young age of two days you could see the similarities to his family. His hair was jet black and when Ginny, laughing, had attempted to comb it, it would not lie flat. Harry felt for his son – a lifetime battle had already begun.
When James opened his eyes, his eyelashes fluttering endearingly, his eyes were the almond shape of Harry's and Lily's and the Weasley in him was given away by the smattering of freckles across his nose and cheeks.
Harry was in love.
He was so grateful to Ginny for letting him name their first baby after his father. She had been so understanding – said she'd always loved the name anyway, but Harry felt slightly guilty for commandeering this major choice. Ginny, however, said it didn't matter what he was called, as long as he was happy and healthy and their son. Harry had smiled and written the name James Sirius Potter with a flourish on the certificate. They had decided the middle name of the baby before it was born – Sirius for a boy, Nymphadora for a girl.
He heard footsteps on the stairs and a minute later Ginny stepped inside.
She was wearing a towel and had clearly just showered. Her hair – a darker red now – lay in wet twists down her back.
"Has your mum gone?" Harry asked in a whisper.
"She went ages ago," Ginny said, puzzling at him.
Harry realised he had had no idea how long he'd sat gazing at his son.
While Ginny dried herself, he stared a little longer, taking in the delicious curve of James' neck, the gorgeousness of each sigh, the little noises he made as he slept, innocently oblivious…
By the time Harry stood, his legs were stiff. He stretched and changed, climbing into bed next to Ginny, who looked angelic in a white night gown.
Together, they stared at the form of their sleeping baby before, exhausted, rolled over and fell asleep in each other's arms.
Three months later…
Ginny was still on a high – she Apparated in to the yard and continued spinning into the kitchen, where Harry was eating dinner with James.
Instantly, her husband abandoned his meal and ran to Ginny, sweeping her up and squeezing her tightly.
"Well done, well done, well done!" he said, his voice muffled in her hair as he breathed in her flowery, comforting smell. "I listened – you were amazing!"
She, too, inhaled deeply, savouring the feeling of his strong arms around her waist. She pulled away and put her hands on Harry's cheeks and after looking into his clear green eyes, kissed him deeply.
An unrecognisable gurgle from James distracted them and Ginny slid down Harry, her feet touching the ground for what seemed like the first time since her first goal in France.
She hurried around to her son, bundling him up in her arms and snuggling in to his neck, tossing him this way and that so he giggled with delight.
"Oh, and Harry," Ginny smiled happily at James as she tickled him, then looked up to Harry. She watched him shyly from under her eyelashes and then her face broke in to a radiant smile. "I'm pregnant!"
"What!" Harry dropped the plate he was holding – miraculously, it didn't break. He ran to Ginny and hugged her and James – the happy baby laughed out loud.
"How did you find out? How far along are you? When are you due? Do we need to go to the hospital?"
"Calm down, calm down," Ginny laughed and deposited James in Harry's arms. She waved her wand in a complicated wiggle and two mugs of tea sped towards the table. Harry placed James in his Moses basket on the table and sat down opposite Ginny and looked at her expectantly.
She took a deep breath.
"I had my suspicions, but I didn't want to tell you until I was completely sure, so I did a test when I was away and… Well," she smiled gorgeously again. "I'm three months in – "
"Three months!" squawked Harry. "Really? Wow… We can tell everyone!" His eyes glazed over as he looked down to James who was trying to tug himself to his using Harry's chair leg.
"I'm going to make a hospital appointment for later in the week," Ginny said gently, jerking Harry out of his reverie. "So I can find out my due date and check everything's ok."
"Make it on Saturday, would you?" Harry requested. "I'd like to come."
"Of course," Ginny smiled obligingly. "What do you want?"
Harry, who was gazing at James again, said dazedly, "Another baby…"
"No, silly!" Ginny exclaimed. "A girl or a boy?"
"Well, a little girl would be nice, but so would another boy… I don't really care," he grinned at Ginny and lent over and kissed her softly. "Thank you for our children," he breathed.
Six months later…
The four friends were sitting on the bed in the curtained off area of the ward. Ginny was lying on the covers, her new baby nestled in her arms, while Harry collected their stuff. Hermione was breastfeeding two-day-old Rose and Ron was considering names for his nephew.
"Do you want a new name?" he asked, "Or do you want to name him after someone?"
"Dunno," Harry said, "It's Ginny's choice. I got to name James. Is he all right, by the way?"
The toddler had been staying with Molly and Arthur while Ginny and Harry had been at the hospital.
"He's fine," Ron reassured him. "Wearing Mum and Dad out, but they don't mind. They spoil him."
"I hope he's ok with the new baby," Harry said anxiously.
"He might be a bit jealous at first," Hermione supplied, "but I'm sure he'll get over it."
"Back to names," Ron persisted, abandoning the baby name book he had brought along and considering the black haired baby.
"You could call him Mad-Eye…"
"No." Harry said firmly.
"Anyway, are you saying he's got mad eyes? Cause he hasn't… look." Ginny artfully swivelled the baby round to Ron and two bright blue almond eyes blinked up at him.
"You're right," Ron sighed sadly. "He's no Mad-Eye."
"You could call him Alastor, though," suggested Ron.
"Hmm…" Ginny considered the little boy. "I dunno about Alastor, but I like Al… Any ideas, Harry?"
Harry shrugged helpfully.
"Albus?" Hermione suggested. "You know, after Dumbledore?"
"No! Dumbledore was called Albus?" Ron exclaimed sarcastically.
"Shut up," Hermione punched him gently and disengaged Rose. She handed her daughter to Ron, who immediately started cooing over the young red-head – much preferable to his sarcasm.
Hermione turned her attention back to Ginny, who was contemplating the unnamed baby with an incomprehensible look on her face.
"Albus…" she whispered quietly to the baby.
The little boy gurgled back and blinked.
"I think that's a yes," Ginny said happily, looking up to Harry who was watching his wife with a look of undisguised adoration on his face.
"Albus Potter," Harry said, walking over and sitting next to his wife and son. "Welcome to the family," Harry put out a finger and as baby Albus clasped it happily, Harry became aware that he was probably looking at the exact image his parents had twenty-six years ago. He sent a brief thought heavenwards, hoping that his parents liked Ginny and were proud of himself and his wife for producing two beautiful sons. He hoped they'd have a girl, so he could call her Lily.
"You have very good natured children," Hermione commented, as Rose began to wail.
"Well, poor girl, you can't blame her, having Ron as a father," Ginny laughed.
"Oi!" said Ron, rocking his daughter gently, lulling her to sleep.
"Ok," Hermione stood up. "Now we've done our job and helped name your child, it's time to go home. Come on, Ron. We'll call by in a couple of days," she added to Harry and Ginny.
"Cool. I think we should be off, too." Harry shrunk the various bags and packages and put them in his pocket. He took Albus from Ginny and the small family made their way out of St Mungos, then Apparated home.
One year later…
Harry Apparated home from the Ministry, feeling tired and homesick.
He wanted Ginny's arms, he wanted the boys either side of him, all three heads of hair messy and ruffled, he wanted to be in front of the fire, he wanted to know he would wake up tomorrow in a warm bed…
It was too close to Christmas to be away from home for this long, with two young children and a beautiful wife.
As soon as he arrived in the yard, he couldn't contain himself and ran into the house shouting for his family. They all tumbled out of the living room and Harry was puzzled when there seemed to be more than just the three of them. Then he realised Hermione and Rose were there, too. Next second, Ron appeared at the open front door.
"Merlin, you go home to your wife and child and they're not there!" Ron said, outraged, but then laughed and scooped up Rose and Hermione. The boys had already scrambled up Harry. James was on his shoulders and Al was on his hip, Harry securing his position.
"I'm sorry," Harry said to Ginny, who was leaning against the doorframe, arms folded, eyes flashing dangerously. "I am. I didn't mean for it to last that long. But I got promoted. I'm sorry, I should have… I love you."
"Ever heard of speaking Patronuses, Mr Potter?" Ginny asked, but she unfolded her arms and embraced him. "C'mon – there's a roast in the oven. I and Hermione and the kids will get it ready. You two go and wash."
Harry kissed her quickly on the cheek and the boys slid to the floor. He hugged them and James toddled into the kitchen but Al stayed where he was, looking up at his father with almond-shaped green eyes.
"Da?" he said simply.
"Yes, sweetie, that's me," Harry scooped his son up, feeling suddenly overcome – no doubt a result of the long, taxing mission. Harry breathed in Albus' beautifully soothing baby smell and held him at arms length. His son gurgled happily at him, struggling in his blue pyjamas, and the memories that were still strong in Harry's mind floated to the front of his brain.
… the tall, black-haired man in his glasses, making puffs of coloured smoke erupt from his wand for the amusement of the small black-haired boy in his blue pyjamas. The child was laughing and trying to catch the smoke, to grab it in his small fist…
A door opened and the mother entered, saying words he could not hear, her long, dark red hair falling over her face. Now the father scooped up the son and handed him to the mother.
Harry's eyes filled with tears. "I hope you're proud of me, Mum, Dad," he whispered to the ceiling.
Al looked up at him inquisitively and Harry squatted down in front to him. He pulled out his wand and made puff of coloured smoke erupt from the tip. Albus laughed and tried to catch them. Harry felt a tear slide down his face.
Ginny poked her head into the hall from the kitchen.
"Harry, I –" She stopped at the sight of them, father and son. "Harry, are you all right?"
"Yes," Harry said, not taking his eyes off his son. He picked Albus up. "Did you want something?" he asked, trying to surreptitiously wipe away his tears.
"I just realised that I forgot to tell you that I love you, too."
Harry smiled and handed Albus to her.
He smattered his son and wife in kisses then bounded upstairs to the bathroom.
One year later…
"Harry, are you there?"
Harry and Ginny heard the voice as soon as they stepped through the front door. Puzzled, they hurried through to the living room, to see Ron's face floating in the fireplace,
"Oh, good, your children are mad!" said Ron and disappeared. A second later, a dark figure grew out of the fire and a small, black-haired three-year-old tumbled on to the carpet.
"Yay! Hi, Dad!" James threw himself at Harry. "Where is she?"
Harry sidestepped, revealing Ginny and Lily. James ran towards his mum and little sister just as Ron stepped out of the fire, holding a wriggling Albus.
Ginny had managed to make James wait until she settled herself in the middle of the sofa and now the two boys bounded up, either side of Ginny.
Ron clapped Harry on the back.
"What a handful," he said, "Hermione's just coming." Ron walked around the back of the sofa to look at the baby over Ginny's shoulder and congratulate his little sister.
Sure enough, a pregnant Hermione soon emerged from the fireplace with Rose, who hurried over to see her cousin. Harry greeted Hermione, inquiring after the baby. All was well, apparently, and Hermione and Harry sat with the children, everyone craning for a better look at the baby.
"She's got red hair," commented James, sounding disappointed.
"Like Mum!" said Albus, pointing excitedly.
"It would be better if she had black hair," James said cynically.
"Vit has black hair," said Rose simply – being unable to pronounce her cousin's name, she called Victoire "Vit".
"Lily's more like a Weasley than a Potter," Ginny explained. "Uncle Ron, Rose and I have red hair because we are Weasleys. James and Al, you're like your dad, with your black hair and your eyes, Albus."
"And her eyes are blue like Uncle Ron's," James pointed out.
Ginny nodded encouragingly, while Albus pointed at Ron and yelled "Ron!" as he was in the habit of doing these days.
Harry smiled fondly at his wife and new baby.
"She's gorgeous," Hermione said to Harry.
"Isn't she?" Harry replied absently, still gazing at his wife.
Hermione laughed. "I meant Lily."
"Oh, she's adorable, too," Harry agreed happily, looking to Hermione with bright, excited eyes. "I've got it, Hermione – I've got a family."
"I know," Hermione replied softly, "I know," she put a hand to her stomach. "We're all growing up now," she smiled.
Five and a half years later…
A small blue light appeared in the middle of Valley View's Quidditch Pitch. It grew larger and larger, eventually revealing the spinning Potters and Weasleys, who tumbled to the floor amidst their luggage and children. There was a moment of rest on the wet ground, and then the families began to disengage themselves and collect up their luggage.
The children were – for once – quiet, as they were rather tired, after their month long holiday.
"Would you like to come in for a cuppa?" Ginny asked Ron and Hermione, secretly hoping they would refuse. Thankfully, they did.
"No, thanks," said Hermione, casting a critical eye over her visibly wilting children. "I think we'd better get home. Thanks for the offer though, and a lovely holiday."
"It was great, wasn't it?" Ginny hugged her friend tightly, just as James began to moan. The adults exchanged quick goodbyes and agreed to make contact in a week or two and go out for an adult-only meal.
James, Al and Lily eyed their cousins with dislike – a month together in a foreign country had possibly been too much, Harry reflected, as he clapped hands with Ron, hugged Hermione and kissed the kids quickly, before hustling his own children away across the pitch with their various bags. Ginny followed quickly, a faint pop revealing Ron, Hermione, Rose and Hugo had just Diasapparted.
Ginny unlocked the door with a tap of her wand and they all traipsed into the house. Harry got the heating going and Ginny turned the water back on, then the kids fought over who got to use the toilet first while Harry made them all a cup of tea.
Then they began the mammoth job of unpacking. The washing machine was whizzing away constantly and Harry set up a drying charm over the clothes rack – it was now raining steadily, meaning there was no way the clothes would dry outside.
The house was soon buzzing with noise and activity and was as cosy as it should be mid-January.
Harry had his work cut out for him keeping the children awake, but gave in at five o'clock and tucked them in. The change in time zones from New Zealand to England had thrown them.
However, an hour later Harry found he preferred his bed over dinner and set his alarm – Ginny was only needed at the office for an hour or so tomorrow so he was doing a full day. He wondered vaguely about sending the children to Muggle school now he and Ginny both working full time, but before he had time to contemplate the prospect fully and discuss it with Ginny, he'd fallen asleep.
Four years later…
The train began to move, and Harry walked alongside it, watching his son's thin face, already ablaze with excitement. Harry kept smiling, and waving, even though it was like a little bereavement, watching his son glide away from him…
The last trace of steam evaporated in the autumn air. The train rounded a corner. Harry's hand was still raised in farewell.
"He'll be all right," murmured Ginny.
As Harry looked at her, he lowered his hand absent-mindedly and touched the lightening scare on his forehead.
"I know he will."
Ginny took his hand.
"C'mon, let's go home."
Harry looked around and saw Hugo and Lily racing back down the platform, looking more like twins than cousins. Harry let go of Ginny's hand and bent down, feeling in need of a bit of comfort, and Lily ran in to his arms.
He hoisted her up and groaned.
"Ugh, you're too big for this!"
"No, I'm not!" she giggled. "Dad?"
"Can Hugo come back and play?"
"I guess so. Why don't you go and ask Uncle Ron and Auntie Hermione?"
"Ok," Lily wriggled down and ran across to her cousin's family, running back a moment later with Hugo hot on her heels.
"They say that's fine," the nine-year-olds said breathlessly.
"Ok," Harry grinned, "Ok?" he asked Ginny.
"Fine. Why don't we ask Ron and Hermione over for a meal tonight?"
"Sounds good to me," Harry said, suddenly realising Lily and Hugo had disappeared. He looked around and saw Lily careering around with a trolley in which Hugo was sitting.
"Lily, stop!" he called. "What would you do if you lost control of the trolley and Hugo fell off the edge of the platform and died?"
Ginny rolled her eyes next to him. "Always the jolly one, you."
"Laugh," Lily responded to her father, but she tugged on the trolley til it stopped and helped Hugo down. "Can we go home now, Dad?"
"Hey, Ron – Hermione!" Ginny called after her brother and friend. "Meal at ours tonight?"
"Brill, thanks Gin!" Ron shouted back. "Seven?"
Ginny took Harry and Lily's hands, while he grabbed Hugo's.
"One, two, three…"
One moment of suffocating darkness later and everyone found themselves outside Valley View, the children gasping for breath.
"Can we play Quidditch now, Dad?" asked Lily.
Two years later…
Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione waved madly at the scarlet steam train. It rounded a corner and was gone. All their children were now officially at school and they were officially child-less for the first time in fourteen years.
"Well," said Ron.
"Yeah," replied Hermione and Harry.
"Ours at seven again?" inquired Ginny, for the new school year meal had become tradition.
"Sounds good," said Ron, "See you there." And with that, he grabbed Hermione's hand and Disapparated.
"I wonder what we could do now…" Ginny wondered, tracing her fingers down Harry's arm suggestively and looking up at him innocently, noting as she did that he was still ridiculously hot at thirty-nine.
"Oh, I don't know Mrs Potter… What did you have in mind?" Harry murmured.
"Well… we've got the whole house to ourselves…"
"True, true…" Harry slid his arms around Ginny's waist and they Disapparated home.
They hurried to the bedroom and passed the afternoon pleasurably – happy in the knowledge that no matter how much noise they made, or in what state they wandered around the house in, no child would come inquiring as to what they were doing.
Three years later…
The small-from-the-outside car pulled up at Valley View and as soon as the doors opened, noise spilled out. Music, chatter, bangs and scrapes as trunks were unloaded – the Potter children were home for the summer.
James helpfully levitated his and his siblings' trunks inside – he'd been seventeen for nearly five months and the novelty of being able to do magic hadn't quite worn off yet – and the house, which had been oddly still for the past year, filled up with noise again. The latest tunes on the WWW were soon blaring out of the kitchen radio. The children – well, teenagers – dumped all their stuff in the hall, making getting into the house an obstacle course.
A resounding crash followed by a swear word from James – Al had just dropped a bottle of Butterbeer, Lily rifling through kitchen drawers – "You've moved the cutlery!" an inquiry after the last school term – various moans and 'I don't wanna talk about it'.
Soon, the meticulous bedrooms were messy; teenagers were lying around the place, all loose limbs and messy hair; five owls cluttered assorted rooms; teachers were being abused; dinner was being hinted at and an inter-family Quidditch game was being arranged for the next day.
"Dinner's ready!" Harry called up the stairs, half an hour later.
Thundering footsteps and James, Al and Lily tumbled into the kitchen.
"Glasses and water – James, mats and plates – Lily, knives and forks – Al," Ginny ordered as she shook a tablecloth out across the worn oak table.
"Yes, Mum," chorused the teenagers.
Harry served the roast chicken and vegetables – an unlikely summer meal, but bound to get the kids in a good mood.
"So, how have you been? How were the OWLs, Al? How's the NEWTs work, James? Your letters have petered out a bit during these last months," Ginny scolded them gently.
"Sorry, Mum – I've been really busy though! OWLs were fine… I wish you'd had enough time to teach me to conjure a Patronus, though, Dad." Albus pulled a face. "Rose could do it."
"Yeah, well, Rose can do everything," Lily put in and the boys nodded in solemn agreement.
"And the NEWTs work, James?" Harry asked his eldest son.
"Hard. Boring." He shovelled more food into his mouth and Ginny rolled her eyes at Harry over her wine.
"How's the Quidditch, Lils?" Ginny asked.
"We won, but you know that!"
Ginny sighed exasperatedly.
"Are you lot all right? Can't seem to get anything of interest out of you…"
"Tired," muttered her offspring as one.
"Ooh!" Lily quickly swallowed her chicken and blurted out, "But Rose kissed Scorpius Malfoy at the Quidditch Final!"
Harry choked and Ginny thumped him on the back, then turned her attention back to her daughter.
"She did? When? How? Oh, and speaking of kissing, James, how's Polyxena?" Ginny asked teasingly.
"Fine," muttered James to his plate.
"They split up," Lily insensitively told her parents, allowing them barely a second to gasp and open their mouths to inquire, before plunging on with her Rose and Scorpius story. "Yeah, we won and Scorpius got in a major huff and then snogged Rose and she was all like 'Oh what do I do now?' and then we went back to the common room and we were drinking some Butterbeer – "
"And Lily was flirting with Gabriel!" Al put in helpfully. His younger sister glared at him fiercely and he winked back.
"Yeah, right," Lily said contemptuously. "Anyway, I saw you behind the Gryffindor banner with Meave Murphy!"
Albus flushed and returned to his dinner, and Lily triumphantly switched her attention back to her parents, who were exchanging knowing looks over the table.
"So then Scorpius came to the portrait hole and asked to see Rose and so she went out all shy and she didn't come back til midnight, she told me!" Lily gazed wide-eyed at her parents.
"Shocking," said Ginny seriously, as though she had never done such a thing. Harry snorted into his wine.
They finished the meal and all cleared up together. James, Al and Lily all retired to their rooms soon after, feeling drained from the long train journey and hard year. Harry and Ginny sat in the living room and Harry tried to help Ginny write the Puddlemere-Holyhead Harpies review, but they ended up rolling around on the floor, giggling, until James' arctic fox Patronus bounded into the living room and told them to stop because it was 'gross'.
So they happily went upstairs and bid goodnight to their children.
"It's been a good year," Ginny said later, when they were lying in bed, "but it's nice to have them home again, isn't it?"
"Yes," Harry agreed, listening contentedly to the strong beat pulsing from James' room, the gentle lull of Lily's voice as she Flooed a friend and the soft hooting of Albus' owl, Taupo…
Ginny snuggled down in Harry's arms and soon their breathing became slow and rhythmic as the household slept.