In a corner booth of the Muggle pub, The Seldom Inn, sat two men. No one bothered them, not even to bring them another bottle of whiskey. Not that they needed one; the bottle in the middle of the table never seemed to be empty. To the casual observer, the men poured shot after shot, but the level of the spirit inside the bottle never seemed to go lower than half way. The strangest thing about the bottle was that if one looked away, even for an instant, the bottle would be full again. The barmaid had seen this happen twice and she wondered absently how she was going to charge the men for their whiskey.
The two at the table were watching the barmaid, too, the one in the wheelchair eyeing her over the rim of his glass.
“Erm, Ron, I think we need to cancel the refilling charm,” Harry said without taking his eyes off the woman. “I think the barmaid is becoming suspicious.”
“I’ve refilled the bottle twice, Harry. It’s the equivalent of only one full bottle. We owe her for two. I’ll leave the appropriate amount on the table when we leave,” Ron said.
Harry snorted. “Since when did you become an expert on Muggle money?” he asked. “Do you even know how much a bottle of whiskey costs?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” Ron answered. “This bottle of Johnny Walker retails at £35.90. With the pub’s mark-up I wager we’re paying £40 to £45 per bottle. Five twenty-pound notes should cover the booze and a nice tip for the barmaid.”
“I’m impressed,” Harry conceded. “Where’d you learn about Muggle money?”
Ron shook his head. “Do you have to ask, Harry? Who am I married to? Where do we take the kids most summers? Honestly!” he blustered, making Harry laugh. He refilled their glasses and held his up. “To my wife, the best teacher this side of Hogwarts.”
“Here, here,” Harry said with a shake of his own head. “Ron, I believe you’re beginning to get pissed.”
“Not yet, Harry,” Ron countered. “If I’d wanted to get pissed, we’d be on our fourth bottle instead of our second.” He drained his glass, but did not refill it. Instead, he sat back and ran a hand through his hair, suddenly looking tired. “Bloody hell, Harry, I’m glad it’s over,” he said after a moment. “Can you believe some of the things that woman said?”
Harry was quiet for so long Ron thought his friend had gone to sleep with his eyes open. “Yes, I can,” he replied at length. “If you think about what her motivations were, what her background was, and how quickly she utilized them to try to get her desired results, you’ll realize she’s someone you’d find in one of our old Auror Academy text books. Shirley Gorman was so set on getting what she thought she was due from Payton Stilwell that she went to extreme lengths to get it. So yeah, as hard as it was to listen to, I can believe every bit of what she said.”
Ron was quiet for a bit as he turned this over in his head. Harry was right, of course, he always was. That’s what made him such a good Auror. Finally, Ron asked, “Do you think I’ll be assigned as lead Auror on another case soon? I’d like to be, but I know Robards only let me head the Matron’s case because I asked him for it.”
“I don’t know about Robards,” Harry said, “but I’ll assign another big case to you as soon as we get one. You and your team couldn’t have done a better job, Ron. The six of you identified the suspects, captured them and brought them to trial far faster than I did.”
“But you were working the case as an illicit potions case, not one involving assault or revenge,” Ron countered. “You were the one to identify the problem in the first place.”
“That really doesn’t matter to me, Ron,” Harry said. “What matters is that you took what I started and finished it. You and the others found a way to get Oswald and Morven to talk, you captured Huntley and took Dawson’s statement and memories and through them, found a way to end the dangerous duels for our department and the illegal potions experiments at St Mungo’s. You did that, not me.”
Ron closed his eyes, grateful for everything Harry’s was saying. “I just wish we’d caught Gorman before she hurt so many people,” he said. “Reading her experimental journals made my stomach churn, but they also made me incredibly angry.”
“Every one of her victims was either labelled M for Muggle or V for vagrant. There were no names anywhere, and towards the end she stopped identifying them as anything but numbers. We’ll never know who to notify as next of kin because she was more interested in watching the results of her potions than decently burying the people she poisoned.”
“I don’t suppose we’ll ever have closure to that part of the case, Ron,” Harry said. He reached over and poured himself another shot. “Some things aren’t meant to be, I reckon.”
“What are you going to do with the money you’ve been awarded?” Ron asked after a moment, changing the subject.
“I don’t want it,” Harry said bluntly. “Money wasn’t what I wanted in the first place.”
“What did you want, then?” Ron asked curiously.
“I wanted my attacker behind bars, out of the public so that no one else would be hurt as I’d been hurt,” Harry said.
Ron grinned. “I think you got your wish,” he said.
“I did, but now I’m saddled with fifteen thousand Galleons I really don’t need,” Harry said.
“So what are you going to do with them?” Ron asked.
Harry was silent for a few moments. “Spend it,” he finally said, making Ron raise an eyebrow.
“You’re really going to spend it?” Ron couldn’t believe this was really Harry speaking.
“Hardly. Most likely set up an endowment to the NMI ward for the families of patients who lose a major part of their income because one of the main breadwinners has to stay home to take care of the patient,” Harry corrected himself. “Payton actually gets more cases like that than he can afford to help personally each year, and they’re not just paralysis cases; they’re burn and stabbing and accident victims from all over the UK. I think putting the money to work that way will benefit more people than just letting it sit in my vault accruing more gold.”
Ron chuckled, feeling glad about what they were talking about. “There you go again, Harry,” he said, “saving people who need it most.”
Harry raised his glass. “And for once, I feel really good about the saving people part.”
Shortly thereafter, the barmaid watched the two men exit the pub. When she walked over to the empty table a few moments later, she found a neat pile of twenty-pound notes and a small piece of very heavy paper upon which was written a message telling her the two gentlemen owed her for two bottles of Johnny Walker. She was to keep the remainder of the money as a tip. Mystified, but happy for her good fortune, she rang up the two bottles and extracted what she was due for just watching the table. She hoped the two men would come back soon.
1726 hours, Saturday, 13 March 2021
“Harry, are you still upstairs?” Ginny called from her dressing table in their room at Snidget’s Haven.
“I’m downstairs, love,” Harry called, his amplified voice easily reaching her. “Should I come back up?”
“No need,” she answered. “I’ll get the invitation myself.”
“Don’t bother. I have it in my pocket,” Harry called back.
Ginny smiled. Her husband was always on top of things like this, making sure hours before they left for an event that the car was packed or the children’s trunks were by the fireplace or their tickets were in his wallet. It was the sort of preparedness that spoke of a life on the go, one that wouldn’t let a major setback like becoming paralyzed stop him, one that came from years of habit formed at a young age in a time of great adversity. Harry had learned from Hermione’s organization and had let those lessons become an important part of how he lived each day. Tonight, the one night she was actually nervous, wasn’t any different and this calmed her a little.
With one last glance at the mirror, she grabbed her cloak from where it lay on the bed and exited the room, hoping her attire wasn’t too over the top for this affair. She shouldn’t have worried. Harry’s wolf whistle as she descended to the foyer made her feel all warm and happy inside.
“Ginny,” Harry murmured as she came to a stop before him, “you look lovely.”
She glanced down at the heavily sequined midnight blue dress robes she was wearing and then at her husband’s Muggle tuxedo, which he’d chosen to wear because of his wheelchair. “You look rather dashing yourself,” she said, returning the compliment.
Harry stretched his upper body towards her, a sign she’d learned meant she needed to lean closer. She did and he kissed her tenderly.
“I won’t get to do that the rest of the evening,” he chuckled. “I’m ready. Are you?”
The kiss had put a blush on her cheeks because she knew that at some point in the evening they’d share a glance across the ballroom and inevitably, he’d wink and then point to his watch as if to say he couldn’t wait until they left. The hand gestures, which had grown slightly more elaborate over the years, had started one night early in her Quidditch career at a boring team party. Harry had kissed her so thoroughly in the lift that night that she’d had to find a mirror and fix her hair before they made their appearance at the party. Half way through the party, Harry had caught her eye and gestured to his watch. She’d nodded and smiled, pointed towards the table where Gwenog was trapped talking to an elderly wizard and then over to the door. They’d left shortly thereafter, giggling giddily because they’d managed to get away with leaving together. From then on, the winks and hand gestures had become a tradition between them and tonight, Ginny knew, would be no different.
“Yes, I’m ready,” she answered. “Let’s get this over with.”
With a chuckle, Harry Disapparated with a loud pop, taking Ginny with him.
They arrived in the foyer of Middle Temple in London, which was located on the Embankment side of the Thames. Even though the venue wasn’t a strictly Wizarding location, it wasn’t strictly Muggle either. Ginny had gone to several affairs here during her Quidditch career and when she’d suggested it, Madam Offerman had thought the four hundred-fifty-year-old Hall was a lovely idea and a nice change from the usual venue the hospital rented for the evening.
“Ginny! Harry!” someone cried as they entered the Hall. “Welcome to the auction.”
Ginny glanced towards the voice and smiled. Madam Offerman must have been waiting for her and Harry because the woman’s nervousness seemed to melt from her as she came up to them.
The three exchanged greetings and then Ginny asked, “Has my family arrived yet, Gloria?”
“Yes, I believe they have,” Madam Offerman said as she glanced at a roll of parchment she was holding. “Yes, Ginny, they’re at table fifty-two. One of the chairs has been removed as requested.”
“Thank you, Gloria,” Ginny said. “I’ll be right back,” she added, knowing that the chairwitch wouldn’t calm down completely until they had talked about Ginny’s duties for the evening.
As she and Harry threaded their way between the tables, someone began to clap. The noise spread through the room like Fiendfire and was soon accompanied by cheers and calls of “Bravo, Harry!”
“Did you put them up to this?” Harry asked George as they reached their table where their family had joined the ovation.
“Not this time, mate,” Ginny’s brother answered, “but I think I know who did.” He pointed to a witch dressed in mauve robes, who was making her way over to their table.
“Welcome, Mr and Mrs Potter,” the witch greeted them. She offered her hand to Harry and they shook. “I’m Felicity Nigel, Director of St Mungo’s, and I’m honoured you came with your lovely wife this evening.” She gestured to the elaborately decorated hall and tables. “She’s been instrumental in arranging so many wonderful things for the hospital and this event. I’m just sorry it all started because you are often a patient, especially with what happened during your last stay with us. Will you consent to meeting the healing staff?”
Harry reached for Ginny’s hand. She smiled at him, blinking back a flood of sudden tears, and knowing that eventually, she and Harry would be sitting next to each other during dinner. “I’ve met them already, Harry. I think you met several of the new A and E healers in January when Scorpius and Mary Beth were brought in,” she said.
“I did, and I’d be delighted to talk to them,” Harry said, turning to Madam Nigel.
Ginny took her cue to go back to speak with Gloria Offerman. “Have a good time,” she called as she and Harry went their separate ways.
“Is anything wrong?” Gloria asked a moment later. “You look upset.”
“Not upset, extremely proud,” Ginny answered with a sniff. “The ovation for Harry took me by surprise. It made me realize just how far he’s come since last October.”
Gloria patted her arm. “And with the funds we raise tonight, many more people will heal just as much as he has because the hospital is a better place to heal and work, thanks to your demands, Ginny.”
Embarrassed, Ginny said, “I just hope tonight’s proceeds will be enough to support the new staff.”
“They will, Ginny. I’ve been looking at the silent bids and already we’ll take in ten thousand Galleons and the evening’s just getting started,” Gloria said smiling. “Now let’s go over the plan again. Your Quidditch friends are already circulating through the room…”
Harry was happy to see the relaxed faces of St Mungo’s new healing staff as he followed Madam Nigel over to where they were gathered. Ginny had been correct; he’d met many of them in January, and although there had been a sense of urgency about the A and E that day, he hadn’t felt any of the overwhelming panic the overtaxed healers had exuded on his previous visits. Now, seeing them out of uniform, in elegant evening clothes, he could smile and laugh with them in a way he couldn’t at the hospital.
“You’ll probably see me around,” he told the group as he took his leave. “Criminals are never shy when it comes to cursing their pursuers.”
“We’ll be ready for you,” one of Mary Beth’s healers said, grinning.
Harry bade them a good evening and went off to enjoy the party. Ginny had told him a little about the silent auction items and some of the live auction items and he now headed to the silent auction tables, located on a raised platform at the far end of the room, to see the entire selection.
There were five extended tables set up in an elongated, widely spaced ‘E’ design so that the auction items could be evenly spaced on both sides of the tables for easy viewing. Other guests strolled between them, pausing here and there to quietly discuss the merits of one item over another as well as bend down to add their names to the bid sheets. Harry rolled slowly to a table filled with baskets and discovered one he wanted to bid on almost immediately. The items inside the enormous basket had a Quidditch theme, and knowing his family’s penchant for the game, he added his name to the already long list of bidders.
A few minutes after he bid on the Quidditch basket, Harry looked up to see a friendly face bending over one of the bid sheets. He waited until the wizard was finished and then called out, “Oliver! Great to see you, mate! It’s been ages. How’s the family?”
Oliver Wood strode towards him, his hand out and a broad smile on his face. “We’re good, Harry, very good indeed,” he said as the two shook hands. “My son, Hunter, was the last of my three to go to Hogwarts this year.”
“Should James and Albus expect to see him at try-outs come September?” Harry grinned.
Oliver puffed out his chest. “Absolutely! You should see him fly! My daughters never took to the game, choosing Charms Club instead like their mother, but Hunter…” He trailed off with the glazed look on his face that only a truly enraptured parent could pull off.
The two exchanged a few more pleasantries and then Harry went back to scanning the tables for the perfect gift for Ginny. He spotted it on the last table: a multiple-strand pearl necklace, bracelet and earring set from one of Diagon Alley’s most expensive jewellers. Looking about to make sure Ginny was nowhere in sight, Harry wrote his name on the bid card and tripled the current bid. The amount was now well over five hundred Galleons and Harry knew that if he won the set it would be worth every Knut spent.
“Buying something for Ginny?” a voice asked, making him jump.
Harry turned to find Ron and George grinning down at him.
“As a matter of fact, I am,” he said. “Do you think she’ll like the pearls?”
“Nope, they’re too ostentatious. Reminds me of something Dolores Umbridge might wear,” George deadpanned, startling Harry and causing Ron to roll his eyes.
“George, Umbridge wouldn’t wear them,” Ron corrected his brother, “they aren’t pink!”
“Oh, right,” George said. “My mistake.”
“Harry, we thought you’d want to see this,” Ron said, shoving the list of live auction items at him and pointing to three consecutive items.
“Holiday packages in the Bahamas?” Harry asked as an idea began forming in his mind. “Brilliant! Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Yep. Dad and Mum’s fiftieth anniversary was in January and Ron had the idea that if each of us bid on one, we could take the entire family to the Caribbean for a celebration holiday in August just before school starts again,” George explained.
“Sure, I’ll bid. It sounds like fun,” he said, grinning, “especially since it looks like each villa accommodates up to eight people. We’ll probably have to pay for an extra person or two or have some of the children sleep on conjured camp beds, but this sounds like a blast!”
George grinned. “Glad you want to do this, Harry. Now we just have to let Angelina and Hermione know what we’re planning. You’ll let Ginny know?”
Harry said, “Yes, at dinner” and the three went their separate ways, Harry hovering in the vicinity to make sure no one raised his bid on the pearls.
Across the room, Ginny was busy chatting up the owner of the Balleycastle Bats, trying to get him to make a large donation to St Mungo’s. Like every other former professional Quidditch player, she knew that his seriously injured players ended up there if the team medi-wizards recommended it.
When he finally consented to write the promissory note, she handed him a charmed form and a self-inking quill. At the top of the form, in block letters, was the warning, “This is a binding magical contract.”
The wizard muttered, “I wasn’t going to renege. Not good for business,” and touched the quill to the form. A minute later, Ginny shook his hand, smiling broadly: he’d doubled the amount he’d already agreed to and at the end of the evening would be talking to the goblins about arranging four consecutive payments of five thousand Galleons. Then she began circulating the room again, sometimes handing out the forms and sometimes just encouraging the people she talked with to bid on the bigger ticket items in the live auction.
“Ginny! It’s been so long!” exclaimed Gwenog Jones as the two hugged.
“Thank you for asking Gina and Gracie to come tonight,” Ginny said. “They’ve been surrounded by fans the entire evening.”
“It doesn’t hurt that Gina experienced the new staffing arrangements in the A and E three weeks ago,” Gwenog pointed out. “They diagnosed her concussion and had her skull fracture healed in half the time it took the last time. She’s been singing your praises ever since because you saw the need and did something about it.”
Ginny felt her face grow hot. “The mistakes the healers made with Harry shouldn’t have happened, and I’m glad the changes I demanded made a difference in Gina’s treatment,” she said.
“They did and she wanted me to give you this,” Gwenog said, handing Ginny one of the promissory notes. It was signed by Gina who was pledging five thousand Galleons to the hospital. On the bottom of the parchment she’d written a note that this was her way of thanking the hospital.
“Please thank her for me,” Ginny said as she Banished the note to the goblins’ table.
“I will, and good luck tonight,” her former coach said as they parted.
Ginny headed for the drinks table, but didn’t get that far because the chime for dinner sounded and she went in search of her table.
Dinner was a nice change from the rubber chicken or dried-out roast dishes Harry usually encountered at large dinners like this one; he could tell that Ginny had had a hand in planning the menu. The soup and salad courses were rather predictable with their choices of French Onion or lobster bisque and green or warm spinach salad, but the entrée choices were much tastier: the menu listed salmon almandine, pecan encrusted pork chops, or bacon wrapped steaks as the choices. Harry selected the pork chops and paired them with green beans and a pumpkin soufflé. Ginny and Hermione had chosen the salmon, opting for a small spinach quiche and white rice as their side dishes. Ron, Bill, George and Arthur were their predictable selves, going with the steaks, jacket potatoes and peas and mushrooms.
When his entrée came, Harry nudged his wife. “You’ve outdone yourself with the caterers, Ginny. The food is delicious,” he said. “I hope you and Madam Offerman have engaged this company for the next event.”
Ginny smiled at him. “We have, and from what I’ve been hearing, others agree with you.”
“I think you’ll be raking in the Galleons since everyone seems satisfied with their meals,” he grinned.
“I hope so,” she said, sounding nervous. “I’m grateful that so many have signed pledge contracts, too.”
“Do you know the exact amount yet?” Angelina asked.
“Almost a hundred thousand in contracts and more that two hundred thousand from the silent auction,” she said as her hand floated up to touch the pearl necklace Harry had won. “Thank you, Harry.”
He leaned over and whispered in her ear, “You’re the most beautiful witch in the room, so enjoy yourself.”
“Thank you, Harry,” she whispered back, her face taking on his favourite shade of delicate pink, “the pearls are beautiful.”
“Only for you, my love.”
Across the table, Molly smiled at him as if to let him know she approved of his gift to her daughter.
“Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention?” Madam Offerman’s voice echoed through the ballroom. “It is my pleasure to give you Mrs Ginevra Potter, my co-chairwitch for the evening.”
Ginny stood up, her evening handbag containing her speech clutched in her hand, and strode up to the podium. As she climbed the steps a goblin approached her and handed her a piece of parchment. She thanked him and glanced at the parchment, reading the total amount raised by the silent auction, her jaw nearly hitting the floor.
“Is everything all right?” Madam Nigel inquired.
Ginny handed her the parchment. “It’s better than all right,” she beamed.
“Indeed it is.”
She took her place at the podium and although she was still somewhat nervous, her hands were no longer shaking. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she began in a clear, charmed voice, “I want to personally thank you for coming to this auction tonight. The money we are raising this evening will directly benefit the various hospital departments through increased staffing and new, innovative developments in all areas of healing. Many of you have already experienced the changes implemented last December in the A and E and on several other floors. Madam Nigel and her healers have pledged to continue to strive for excellence in patient care throughout St Mungo’s.
“Additionally, due to the results of a poll taken from visitors and staff alike, the hospital has opened a child care facility for the children of patients and medical staff, something which has long been overdue. Now, at no extra charge, parents can be assured of a safe and engaging place for their little ones to stay while the adults visit or work upstairs. Located just off the main lobby, the child care is open twenty-four hours.” At this announcement, applause thundered through the room. Ginny smiled and waited for the clapping to die down again.
“I also thank you for your generosity so far this evening. Already tonight, the silent auction has made two hundred ninety-seven thousand Galleons for St Mungo’s Hospital. I hope you will enjoy your purchases and continue to bid generously in the live auction.” She turned to the auctioneer. “Let the bidding begin!”
As the brightly dressed wizard took his place at the podium and began the bidding on the first item, a Nimbus racing broom that normally retailed at Quality Quidditch Supplies at one hundred seventy-five Galleons, Ginny made her way back to her seat beside Harry. He was busy circling items on his program and raised his head to smile at her when she sat down. Then, he pointed to item nine.
“A holiday in the Bahamas?” she whispered to him, an eyebrow raised.
“Ron’s idea,” Harry murmured. “Does a fiftieth wedding celebration ring a bell?”
Ginny grinned. “The whole family?”
“Uh huh. How high should I bid?”
Ginny thought a moment and then whispered a suggestion in his ear. Harry nodded. “This is going to be fun,” he said. “You know I out-bid Mr Nigel for your pearls, don’t you?”
Ginny’s eyes grew wide. “Oh Merlin! We’d better not let that get out,” she giggled. “At least not until we get back to The Burrow!”
“My lips are sealed on that subject,” her husband grinned.
Ginny picked up her live auction list and began going through it. Near the end of the list was a family holiday package to Eastbourne. She nudged Harry. “Can we bid on this? It says we have a year to schedule the holiday,” she said.
Harry grinned at her. “I’ll go anywhere with you, my love.”
Ron sat on the edge of his seat ready to light up his wand at the beginning of the bidding on the Chudley Cannons season ticket package. Hermione had said he could bid until he won the tickets after he’d won a diamond and black onyx necklace in the silent auction for her. He’d presented it to her before dinner, just as Harry had given Ginny her pearls, and his wife had been so surprised and pleased that she’d finally relented on her limit of five hundred Galleons he could bid on the tickets.
Now, as the Cannons tickets were announced and the bidding started at fifty Galleons, Ron raised his wand high, signalling that he was bidding on the item. Across the room five other people also raised their wands.
“Looks like there are a few Chudley fans in the room,” he commented to Hermione.
“Looks like it, darling,” she murmured back.
The bids quickly rose to five hundred Galleons, at which point only he and two other people were bidding, the other three having dropped out one by one.
“Do I have six-fifty? Six hundred-fifty Galleons?” asked the auctioneer.
Ron raised his wand, to be beaten by another bidder.
The price went steadily upwards; seven hundred, seven hundred-fifty, eight hundred, nine hundred Galleons, causing ripples of comments to float about the ballroom. At one thousand Galleons the third bidder dropped out, leaving only Ron and the witch on the other side of the room bidding on the tickets.
“Ginny, can you see who I’m bidding against?” Ron asked across the table.
“You’re bidding against Madam Offerman, Ron,” his sister responded without even looking.
“I am? How do you know?” he asked, nearly missing the opportunity to bid one thousand two hundred-fifty Galleons.
“The day I showed her the package she acted like Lily used to when her brothers let her play Quidditch with them,” Ginny replied with a smile.
“Oh dear,” Hermione groaned. “If she was jumping up and down, I wonder how much it’s going to take before she either wins or concedes the tickets to Ron.”
“We’re about to find out,” George commented, as the price topped one thousand five hundred.
Ron nearly won the tickets at two thousand Galleons, but at the last moment, Madam Offerman raised her wand. Ron still won that bid.
Two minutes later, the price was at three thousand Galleons. Ron wavered.
“It’s all right, Ron,” Hermione whispered to him. “No limit, remember?”
Ron smiled at her and raised his wand, indicating that he’d bid the three thousand.
And still the price rose. Three thousand one hundred Galleons. Three thousand five hundred…
Ron looked over at Madam Offerman. Her wand was glowing, but not very brightly. He grinned. Maybe, just maybe, he could win the tickets…
“Three thousand five hundred fifty Galleons. Do I have thirty-five-fifty?”
Ron raised his wand.
Three thousand six hundred went to Madam Offerman.
Three thousand seven hundred. Ron raised his wand confidently, beating Madam Offerman who was beginning to look a little desperate.
“Three thousand seven hundred-fifty Galleons. Do I have thirty-seven-fifty?” cried the auctioneer.
Ron raised his wand and held it high, looking across the room. Madam Offerman stared back at him. The auctioneer asked his question again. Madam Offerman extinguished her wand and put it on her table.
Ron smiled, raising his wand high.
“Going once, going twice, SOLD to Mr Ronald Weasley for three thousand seven hundred-fifty Galleons!” The Weasley/Potter table let out a cheer. “Mr Weasley, would you please go talk to the representatives from Gringotts,” the auctioneer added.
“Who will go to the first match with me?” Ron excitedly asked the table at large.
“I’ll go if they’re playing the Harpies,” Ginny quipped from across the table. “It’ll be fun to cheer for my team.”
Ron glared at her momentarily, but he was feeling too happy to be angry at his sister for that remark for long. As the bidding for a broom ride and a day of Quidditch training with the Tornados Seeker went up for bid, he rose and made his way over to the goblins’ table to sign the papers. Several minutes later, he came back and handed Hermione a small piece of parchment.
“Goblins took the whole amount from our vault,” he told her as he sat down. “They had everything all ready when I walked up. All I had to do was sign my name.”
Hermione nodded. “Thought that’s how they’d do it. May I see the tickets?”
Ron fished in the inner breast pocket of his robes and pulled out a small and very orange envelope. Two rather active cannonballs bounced over its surface. He handed it to Hermione who took it and pulled out two small cards, each in the same garish shade of orange with the picture of the team logo on it, and the words, “Season Ticket Pass,” Ron’s name and “Box 77” inscribed across the top.
“The Cannons will send me an owl in a day or two with the rules and restrictions,” Ron said. He held out his hand for the passes.
Hermione gave them back, murmuring, “lovely, dear” and went back to watching the auction, which had switched to an item identified in the program as five cases of elf-made wine. She raised her wand when a new bid was called.
Arthur gazed contentedly around the table, taking in the sight of five of his six children and their spouses all gathered at the same table. That his sons had rallied behind their sister when she and her very worthwhile cause needed them, gave him a sense of pride that only a father, and perhaps a mother, could feel. Each one of his sons had bid on at least one item in the silent auction and they were now enjoying the excitement of the live auction more than he thought they would. He sat back and watched as first George and then Ron bid on and won holiday packages to a Wizarding resort and wondered vaguely why they had both chosen the same location: the Bahamas.
A few minutes later, Ginny raised her wand and began bidding on something. Arthur glanced down at the item number and did a double-take: his daughter was bidding on the third Bahamian holiday listed. He stole a look at his wife: Molly was deep in conversation with Fleur and not paying attention to the bidding at all. He scratched his head and went back to watching the bidding.
Now Harry took over from Ginny, raising his wand high to get the auctioneer’s attention.
Arthur caught his daughter’s eye. “Having a good evening?” he mouthed.
Ginny beamed, nodded and took over the bidding again. When it ended five minutes later, she had out-bid their opponents and won the holiday package. Something was definitely up, Arthur decided.
The evening continued with various members of his family trying to wrest various items that interested them from other bidders. Sometimes they joined in for the fun of it, while at other times they seriously tried for an item. No matter what, Arthur was enjoying himself because his children and their spouses were.
The last item to be offered was a set of custom made dress robes from Madam Malkin’s. Arthur and Molly had seen this item in the program earlier in the evening and had decided to join the bidding for it after Molly had said very persuasively, “You know, Arthur, I’m going to need dress robes for Victoire and Teddy’s wedding, so why shouldn’t I at least bid on the item?”
Arthur had agreed with his favourite, “Yes, Mollywobbles,” and now was eagerly watching the outcome of this feminine bidding war.
The bids started relatively low with witches at ten tables raising their wands every time a new price was called out. However, the number dwindled sharply once the bids went over one thousand Galleons, Molly still in the thick of it.
She seemed to be enjoying herself and Arthur realized that in the last few years his wife had been slowly regaining some of the fire of her youth. The years they’d spent together raising their family had been good ones, but had been physically draining to the point that by the time the war was over, he and Molly had nearly nothing left to give. Now, with the first of their grandchildren about to get married and his secure financial state allowing them to participate in auctions and other functions like this, he could see the young witch his Mollywobbles had been when she first caught his eye in the Gryffindor common room all those years ago peering out of the mature Molly’s eyes.
His wife’s triumphant squeal alerted him that something very pleasing had just occurred. “Molly, dear, did you win?”
Molly turned her excited eyes on him. “Yes, I did!” she beamed. “I out-bid Ruby Parkinson of all people!”
“Congratulations!” he told her, giving her a one-armed hug. “Are you excited?”
She gave him a look that said “do you have to ask?” and then burst out giggling. Finally, she said, “Come with me to the goblins’ table. I’m shaking too much to sign my name properly.”
“Anything you wish,” he said. He stood and offered his hand to her.
When they slid back into their seats a few minutes later, everyone at the table stopped talking. Arthur found this a little strange, but didn’t say anything; he was too curious to find out what this was all about.
Bill, Ginny, Ron, George, and Percy all stood up.
“Mum, Dad,” Bill began, “I don’t know if you noticed, but Ron, Harry and Ginny, and George all bid on and won holiday packages to a Bahamian resort. We,” he gestured to everyone sitting round the table, “had the idea that if we could win all three holidays, we’d take them altogether and come together as a family to help you celebrate your golden anniversary, even though the real day passed in January.”
Ron, Harry and George now fished inside their dress robe pockets and pulled out the vouchers from the resort.
“We outbid everyone who wanted these holiday packages,” George said, taking up the explanation, “because we want to thank you for being such good parents to us and because the two of you have not travelled as much as we know you have wanted to over the years. Now you can go to a place we know you’ve talked for years about seeing, and if you’re willing, we’ll all tag along and help you celebrate fifty wonderful years together.”
“Happy Anniversary!” everyone round the table chorused.
Arthur was speechless. He’d had no idea his children felt this way and his heart was so full of love for the witches and wizards at the table that the words to express what he was feeling escaped him. Molly, however, knew exactly what to do. In a torrent of happy tears, she grabbed Fleur and Angelina and hugged them tightly, then worked her way round the table until all ten had been properly thanked, and when she returned to his side, she hugged him, too.
“Oh, Arthur, isn’t this wonderful?” she asked tearfully.
“Yes, Mollywobbles, they are,” he said.
Ginny kicked off her shoes and sank her toes into carpet of their bedroom with a contented sigh. The evening had been electrifying, raising more money for St Mungo’s than she could have ever imagined.
“Your auction was certainly a success,” Harry said as he rolled up behind her and pulled her down onto his lap.
“I’m absolutely speechless,” she admitted. “Gloria Offerman is over the moon that we took in a million Galleons just by doing something different, and Madam Nigel personally came up to me when you were getting my cape to tell me how pleased she is.”
Harry nuzzled her neck. “I’m glad, Ginny. It was fun seeing everyone enjoying themselves, especially your parents,” he murmured as he planted a kiss next to the shoulder strap of her robes, making it slip a little. “But do you know what I enjoyed most about this evening?”
“What did you enjoy?” she asked. She pulled on the ends of his bowtie, causing it to unravel, and then unfastened the top two buttons of his shirt, letting her nails gently scrape against his skin.
He grabbed her wrists and looked deeply into her eyes. “Watching you all evening,” he said. He let go and brought his hands to her waist, creating two delightfully warm spots where they rested. “You seemed to glow, Ginny, and that was a powerful turn-on.” He shifted and she was suddenly aware of him—all of him.
Her breath quickened, his attentions making her forget what she wanted to say, so she groaned deep in her throat.
“Mmmmm. I love it when you do that,” Harry whispered. “Can I see you in just the pearls?”
Ginny slid off Harry’s lap and turned her back, inviting him to help her with the zip. Seconds later, their clothes cascaded to the floor. Ginny turned round at the sound of Harry’s appreciative murmur and leaned down to kiss her husband deeply. Then, as they let their magic intertwine, their bedsprings creaked just a bit, and then the only sounds in the room were of two people enjoying what was left of the evening.
A/N: I had so much fun writing this chapter. There’s a sense of relief and quiet victory in the first section because the ordeal of the trial is over and justice has been done. The rest of the chapter reflects several real-life experiences I had a long time ago and I had a lot of fun calling up the memories that went into the various sections. There are also elements which will lend themselves to possible sequels and one-shots. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it.
Many thanks to my pre-beta team of RSS, Mutt N Feathers, RebeccaRipple, Miz636 and Rosina Ferguson. (Rosina is the one responsible for suggesting the location of the auction and I must admit, it’s a better location than the one I originally used.) This was the quickest, least corrected chapter of the story because it seemed to me that all five were reading for pleasure! To Aggiebell, thanks for your caution with the last section so that I didn’t have to write an alternate ending for the under-seventeens.