Ginny felt something warm trickle over her left eyelid as she slowly drifted back to consciousness. A great weight pressed down on her head and neck. Sleepily, she reached up and swiped at her eye.
"Errg. Fang! Gerroff!"
Waking from a deep sleep with dog drool running over your temple and face was a not a pleasant experience. Ginny struggled to extricate her head and shoulders from beneath the paws and head of the 150-pound Mastiff. She honestly hadn't meant to fall so deeply asleep. However, there was just something so irresistably comfortable about napping on a snowy winter's night. Shoving herself from the bed, she stretched and tried to shake the sluggishness from her mind. She looked down and found a set of brown eyes that nearly matched her own gazing hopefully back at her.
"Well what do you want from me?"
Fang III whined and lifted his paw slightly.
"Oh. I suppose this means you have to go out, does it?"
Fang began the ritual dance around Ginny, signaling the need to take a constitutional. Ginny continued to tease him ("Don't you think it's a bit cold to be out just now? I don't think you need to, not really.") so that by the time the two reached the kitchen door, Fang had worked himself into such a frenzy that he nearly threw himself into the unopened door as Ginny reached for it. Luckily, for both Fang and the door, Ginny was quick and Fang threw himself outside, pushing through the mounds of snow so common to Northern Scotland in winter.
Bemused, Ginny leaned against the open door frame and watched Fang push through the deep snow with the pure happiness that only dogs and kids can seem to muster. She shivered a bit, and gazed up at the stars as a slight smile played at her mouth. It was always beautiful on cold nights with the sky clear of clouds. If she were a younger woman, she might have wished on one of the brighter stars.
As Ginny shut the door glancing at the clock behind her, she nearly changed her mind. Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to try wishing on a bright star. It was nearly ten o'clock and Harry was still not home from work. It appeared that she and Fang would be ringing in the New Year alone yet again. Her mind turned over the idea of attempting to floo him, but she dismissed it. If there were a way he could be home, he would be.
Ginny moved to the window and watched Fang disappear into the woods. He was clearly chasing something.
'Humph. All the men in my life just disappear!'
Ginny smiled and chuckled to herself. Ah, but they always manage to find their way back home sooner or later.
Having the house quiet and all to themselves again was a recent adjustment for Harry and Ginny. Their youngest child, John, had married during the summer and moved to London with his wife Sarah. Their oldest, Catherine, was working with her Uncle Bill in Egypt.
While they were glad to have the quiet, Ginny missed her children. She'd replaced Madame Pomfrey at Hogwarts just after John was sorted into Gryffindor, much to his father's delight. Two years earlier, his sister and the first child of Harry Potter, wound up in Ravenclaw. Ginny'd been secretly pleased that she wouldn't have the crushing legacy to live up to, but Catherine took up the mantle of Ravenclaw House Seeker and with that, Harry was beside himself with parental Quidditch joy.
Ginny was glad that she was able to keep a close eye on her children both at home during holidays and at school. Now the children were safely grown, on their own, and were home only for short times during holidays. They'd done all they could and seen them safely through to adulthood.
Ron and Hermione were glad that she was able to keep an eye on their children as well. Particularly the youngest, Conway, whom Hermione often referred to as, "her little surprise". He was born when Hermione and Ron's other children were near leaving school and the household. From early in his childhood, it was clear that Conway was different. He was a difficult child for Ron and Hermione, and ultimately became the first Weasley ever sorted into Slytherin. Ginny knew that Conway didn't enjoy his notoriety. Both she and Harry sympathized with him for obvious reasons and quite liked Conway as a person beyond being a nephew. Conway was a kid that skated just on the edge of everything - including the darker side of life. Now that he was a teenager at Hogwarts, Ginny hoped that he placed enough trust in her that he would come to her if he were ever in serious trouble.
Ginny sighed and closed the shutter. Fang would scratch at the door when he was ready to come in. She flopped into her favorite overstuffed chair in front of the fire and decided to try something she hadn't done since she was much younger. She closed her eyes and wished her husband home.
Ever since her first year in school, Ginny viewed her life in terms of a series of books. She reckoned it was appropriate as the book of her childhood ended the day Tom Riddle's enchanted book showed up in her cauldron.
Of course, that book came to a rather dramatic end when Harry used the Basilisk's fang to save her life and then promptly forget about her.
At first, she was deadly ashamed over the nearly year long ordeal. She kept mostly to herself during the summer that followed. When they first got to Diagon Alley, she'd hoped that there would be some spark of recognition in Harry's wonderful green eyes, but there'd been none. She was rather surprised, however, with the one person who had remembered. In Hermione, Ginny found a friend. Her growing friendship with Hermione marked another book and saved Ginny from sinking into herself.
The Yule Ball, meeting Michael, and seeing Harry acting the prat with Parvati Patil marked the start of another book. Ginny had long realised that her childhood fantasies of Harry were never to be. Those ended the day she discovered what Tom really was.
The moment that Harry asked her to the Ball as a last resort, she felt almost dizzy as she forced herself to say no to him. Everything came rushing back to her in seconds. But, she'd done it with a minimum of fuss and she was proud of herself.
During the Ball, Neville was a complete gentleman, but her feet took a beating. She found herself looking at Harry (who was completely ignoring Parvati) and thinking how lucky she was to be there with Neville, despite her sore toes. The thought flowed to her so naturally that she gave Neville a huge winning smile. This caused poor Neville to trip and nearly fall. Ginny steadied him, both of them laughing. When she glanced over at Harry again, she found him looking at her. This time, her thoughts of him were easily pushed down, as her eyes quickly flicked up and away from his. Over his shoulder, Ginny spotted a handsome bloke she thought she might like to meet. His name was Michael.
This book in Ginny's life was long and filled with excitement, both bad and good. Tom was back and Ginny knew it.
The battle at the Ministry and the death of Sirius Black marked the end of that one. Seeing Harry's face, seething with hatred and rage, as he ran after Bellatrix Lestrange, and looking quite like the memory of someone she thought long gone from her life, stirred something within her. She knew that nothing could ever be the same after that day. Her life became fogged after that and for several months she knew she behaved normally, but beneath it all, something was writhing and changing within her. She started to have dreams that she didn't understand. They gave her headaches that no healing powder alleviated. Tom flitted about on the edge, laughing at her, showing her pain, death, and power. She walked about with a smile, sometimes even pranking with her brothers, but feeling half dead underneath.
The fog cleared the day Harry found her crying in grief over Sirius. They talked for a long time about Sirius. On edge from lack of sleep and from grief, and unsure of herself around Harry once again, Ginny blurted out the content of her nightly visions. Together, they went to Dumbledore, and together they faced Occlumency and Legilimency with Snape. And so, while Ron and Hermione danced around with the romance of typical sixteen year-olds, she and Harry formed a friendship that was far stronger than the Wizard's Bond from her First Year.
The day that Neville and Voldemort died marked the end of their friendship. Ginny and Harry had saved each other's lives that day as they tried to save Neville's. Their love for each other ultimately defeated Voldemort. It was the day that they realized their relationship was far more than friendship.
The Burrow crackled with intense emotion that summer. Ron and Hermione were there, planning as best they could how their lives could fit together when each had such different goals. Hermione was determined to continue her magical studies in Arithmancy and Transfiguration by apprenticing to a Magical Engineering company in Paris. Ron was determined to use his planning skills in some way, but did not want to leave England. His lack of direction, however, drove Hermione crazy. As usual, their fights were loud, long, and annoying to everyone but them.
Harry and Ginny, on the other hand, knew precisely what was happening to them. Ginny would be going back to Hogwarts in September and Harry to Auror training. Because of that, they clung to every precious moment they had together. Sometimes they felt as if they were drowning in each other. Overwhelmed, the fights they had were quiet and hard on them both.
Ultimately, September came around and Ginny went back to her last year at Hogwarts. One short, but intense book closed, and another began. Ginny was quite clear on what she wanted to do and spent much of her time studying for her NEWTs, and with Madame Pomfrey gaining practical experience for further training at St. Mungos. If Harry were determined to get himself injured, she would be able to patch him up.
Hedwig was a familiar sight at the Gryffindor table during meals. She arrived at breakfast nearly every morning to deliver a letter from Harry, and was usually off before dinner with Ginny's reply.
Although his words were upbeat and tinged with good humor, Ginny saw glimpses of the sadness and hopelessness that she feared Harry would carry with him always. They both carried the nihilistic knowledge in their hearts that evil never dies completely. Ginny did not think that Harry would last long as an Auror. Aurors always saw the dark side of people. They saw magical power abused, and the pain that people inflict on one another. Hadn't they both seen enough of that?
She didn't want that for him. During the summer offers to Seek for various Quidditch teams arrived by owl, but were ultimately turned down in favor of becoming an Auror. When the offer from the Chudley Cannons arrived in August, the biggest fight of the summer erupted between the two of them. Ginny had been tempted to tell Ron about the Cannon's offer, knowing that Ron would be a strong supporter to her side. However, she respected Harry and his privacy too much to do that to him. Ultimately, she had said nothing to Ron and allowed it to stay between the two of them. She had no choice in the matter. Harry would do what Harry wanted to do. She could talk to him and she could encourage and support him, but she couldn't make his choices for him.
In one of her letters to him, she'd made a pointed plea for him to reconsider one of the Quidditch offers. He'd written to her about a particularly rough class in which they were studying historical crimes and he'd come across a particularly grisly one, which had set his teeth on edge. Normally, Ginny would simply support him the best she knew how. This time, she just couldn't. His letter back surprised her.
Instead of closing her off, as was his habit, he had thrown it back to her, questioning her choice of paths. Wouldn't she see the same things? The injuries and the horrors that magic can inflict on humans? Wasn't she doing the same thing as he? Trying to fix what was wrong and broken? Wouldn't she expose herself to dangers? Madness? Contagions? Even though her heart told her it was different somehow, Ginny backed down.
When Christmas holiday came that year, she looked upon a different Harry, but not one she loved less. To Ginny he seemed quiet and exhausted. He was a muted Harry but for one thing. He was far more expressive than he had ever been before. He still had a twinkle in his eyes, there was still joy in his heart when he embraced her, he still laughed at the twins when they pulled their pranks. He still celebrated the holiday with the only real family he'd ever had, but he was different. When Ginny asked why, he said that life was too uncertain not to let people that you love them. Ginny's heart swelled with a love that was hard to express.
On Christmas night, she tiptoed to Percy's old room where Harry was sleeping in fits and starts. After, they held each other close and slept soundly. A new book opened in her life.
His formal training ended around the time that Ginny began her training at St. Mungo's. They took a flat in London together, much to her parents' horror. Ron and Hermione were married around the same time, adding to the never-ending complaints coming from Molly. Neither she nor Harry had an objection to marriage; they simply never saw each other enough for it to be an issue. Ginny's rounds and training took place during the day and Harry, still undergoing practical training, worked and trained mainly at night. It was a hectic time, but it was generally happy. When they saw each other, they indulged themselves in happiness and love. Ginny had never been so happy and she'd never seen Harry so happy.
Harry finished his training around the time Ginny finished her formal training and entered her practical training. They celebrated by taking a holiday together and buying their house. With the pop of the champagne bottle, the new house and holiday marked the beginning of what Ginny thought would be a wonderful new book in her life.
However, she soon realized that the new house came with a price. Molly's complaints about marriage reached a fevered pitch that was difficult to blot out. It was particularly bad after Ron and Hermione began to have children.
They named Harry and Ginny godparents of their first born, Oliver. Ginny watched Harry with Oliver closely. Love and pride for this tiny creature was in every move he made. He seemed awed by Oliver. She also knew he was thinking of Sirius whenever he held Oliver. It was bittersweet, but it seemed to cleanse the last of Harry's misgivings. Harry's guilt from childhood finally began to melt away. Harry finally began to understand.
Marriage came up in conversation often between them, but neither seemed to take it as anything they needed to do right away. Ginny was still doing her rounds at night and was still technically training as a Healer. While she had full privileges, she still needed to take her tests and do her practical exams. Harry, on the other hand, was a full Auror with Tonks as a partner. His hours were long and erratic. They adopted the first Mastiff puppy, dubbed Fang Jr., from a rescue organization. Time flew by.
It all came to a crashing halt one night as Ginny did her rounds on the Emergency Entrance at St. Mungo's. She sorted the incoming patients who were unable to speak for themselves and treated patients who needed immediate care before going to the wards for further treatment. Pulling back the curtain, she was horrified to see Tonks with multiple burn marks covering half of her body. Shaking, she pulled in another Healer to treat her, explaining that Tonks was a friend and she couldn't work on her.
She set off looking for Harry.
His wounds were as bad, if not worse, than Tonks'. He left St. Mungo's far sooner than Tonks, however, when Ginny took leave from the hospital and set up their house to bring him back to health.
There would be no more waiting. The next book opened with Molly a happy woman.
Ginny didn't like to think that fear drove them to get married. She liked to think that a better sense of priorities set in during Harry's recovery.
Time seemed to blend and the books seemed to flip together after that. Ginny was not sure where they ended and began. Things were so busy in the Potter household that there was never enough time for reflection. There was never enough time to separate the pages.
First came their daughter, Catherine and soon after, their son, John. Harry tried desparately to cut back on his hours and spent every available moment at home. Ginny did the same with her rounds at St. Mungo's. The children took up nearly every spare minute and they reveled in being parents. It soon became who they were. It became their identity as a couple and that was all right. Friends and family were doing the same. Ron, Hermione, and their children were frequent guests. Cousins, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, Friends, and the warmth that Harry had never known as a child became central to their lives. Ginny watched as the rest of Harry's troubled past melted away, and their love for each other became the stable focal point of their family. It was what Harry should have had and what he was giving his children.
When the children began primary school, Headmistress McGonagall contacted Ginny and asked if she was interested in working part-time as the Healer for Hogwarts. Ginny snapped at the chance. By the time Catherine and John were both at Hogwarts, Madame Pomfrey retired, Ginny was full time, and a new book opened under the familiar pages of Hogwarts.
She put in many hours away from home, but it seemed all right to her. Harry had been an Auror for many years. He'd risen in the ranks and now trained new Aurors in addition to his usual stints fighting the dark arts whereever it raised its' ugly head. He spent very little time at home when the children were at school.
Ginny began to doubt his love for her. Many times, she'd played a fool, demanding from him, only to find him creeping away from her. She stopped. Things got better. He began to doubt her love for him and crawled inside himself. She yanked him out. Things got better.
Books ended and new ones began. The children left school and went on with their lives without their parents.
One odd weekend with both of them at home, Ginny looked up and saw a stranger sitting in her kitchen eating breakfast. He looked something like her husband of long ago. This man still had intense green eyes, round glasses, and that smile that always knocked her for a loop. Other things were not the same. This man was on the slender side but getting rather skinny with age. He also had loads of both frown and laugh lines - when did that happen? Even the scar on his forehead was different from the one he'd sported as a young man. It had been decades since it was angry and red, so it had faded until it was barely visible. No one noticed it anymore. Ginny walked into the kitchen and kissed the stranger on the top of his head. She ran her fingers through his graying hair as he snaked his arm around her waist and looked up at her. That's when she noticed that he had a small bald patch on the top of his head.
'But, his hair is still adorably messy,' she thought.
"Remember when we couldn't bear to be apart, Harry?"
Green eyes searched her out and connected.
Harry stood and said, "I remember. I miss you too."
Fang was scratching at the door. Ginny stretched and glanced at the clock - it was only a few minutes until midnight. She smirked. It was time to let Fang in so that he could slobber on her at midnight.
As she began to stand, she heard the door open and Fang sprang in, shaking snow as he ran to Ginny. He knocked her back into the chair before she could get to her feet and attempted to lick her face. His breath was foul, indicating he'd caught whatever he'd been chasing in the woods. Ginny pulled a face, quickly pushed him off, jumped up, and ran into the kitchen. She wouldn't have to usher the New Year in with smelly old Fang after all.
She embraced her husband, who was holding a small box.
"I am so glad you're home, Harry! I thought I'd have to hug Fang at midnight. He smells really bad."
Harry chuckled as he returned her embrace and gave her a small peck on the cheek. "I'm glad to see you too. Hang on."
He flung off his cloak and pulled out his wand as they walked to the living room. His grin took on a mischievous look as he motioned to the sofa and both of them sat down. Ginny's curiosity rose with her smile. She could tell by the unmistakable look on his face that he was up to something good. She knew she would be happy with whatever happened next. She was silent, but hopeful, as she sat down with him.
He stared at his watch for a few and when satisfied, tapped the box with his wand. It grew back to what Ginny assumed was its original size. He handed it to her and she pulled open the top.
"Get to the bottom by midnight," was all he said through his broad smile.
Ginny looked at the contents on top; quills, some parchment, a Sneakoscope, a pictures of the children at various ages, a picture of her, the small Pensieve she'd given Harry on their first anniversary. It was the contents of Harry's desk at work.
'No. It couldn't be. That would be too good to be true.'
Ginny pawed her way to the bottom of the box and pulled out the sheet of parchment lying there. It was a letter written on Hogwarts stationary. She read the first lines:
Dear Mr. Potter;
Congratulations on your appointment as the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please report on the Third of January to begin teaching the second term.
Ginny's heart filled with joy just as the clock began to chime midnight. This was a new beginning. Maybe the best yet. This would give them time to be together as they'd never had before.
As she flung her arms around Harry, the Hogwarts letter fluttered to the floor. The middle-aged couple welcomed both the New Year and the first page of a new book with a very familiar kiss.
Author notes: Thank you Tari for such a great beta here at PS! You really sharpened the picture and added just what needed. You are a wonderful resource. This was originally written for the New Year's Kiss Challenge at checkmated.com and published there under my other pseudonym, bloodeemaree. Thanks to the really great people who did all the rush betas for me so my procrastination didn't hurt. You know who you are. *huge snorkles*