July 2006 – Eight years after the fall of Voldemort
Harry stood back, bemused, as he watched his wife sob in her mother's arms. He felt a twinge of regret for having separated them for so many years. He knew how much she missed her family over the years, but the two of them hadn't felt it was safe to reconnect with them.
It was quite some time before everyone sat down. Bill and Fleur were delighted to be included and Mrs Weasley seemed as though she never wanted to let go of her daughter. Finally, everyone was seated in the sitting room with a cup of tea and a tray of shortbread biscuits was on the table. Harry and Ginny sat together in an armchair that looked as though it might have been slightly enlarged. Molly and Arthur sat on the loveseat closest to the Potters while Kingsley was in the armchair matching the Potters. Bill, Fleur, and Seamus were seated on a long couch.
Everyone's eyes turned to Harry. Clearing his throat a little, he said, "Mr and Mrs Weasley, I want to say I am so glad you have recovered. Ginny and I hated leaving whilst you were still in hospital, but we didn't feel we had a choice."
"Arthur explained your conversation, Harry dear," Molly said soothingly. "I hate that the two of you felt so alone. I don't remember a lot of my time in St Mungo's, but I do recall hearing Ginny's voice reading to me. Arthur's told me how you saved his life and how you visited both of us. I am very thankful for that."
Harry ducked his head, blushing slightly as he still had a tendency to do when complimented. Ginny laughed and kissed him on the cheek.
Taking over she said, "We were so glad when we saw a small article in the paper when you were released from St Mungo's. Our family's increased fame after the war made it a bit easier to keep track of everyone. We heard when Bill and Fleur's babies were born and we read about George's and Percy's marriages. They each have children, right?"
Molly nodded proudly. "George and Angelina have Freddie, who is two. Percy and Audrey have Molly who is almost four and Lucy who is one."
Glancing at his wife, Harry steered the conversation away from children for the moment. "Seamus asked what happened. Based on everything that was happening with Robards, I'd thought about quitting the Auror program, but the thought of leaving the country came once I thought they might arrest me. I made tentative plans and made sure Ginny and I had appropriate documentation just in case. The night of the ball, we knew we had to leave. Hermione was making her claims and Robards and Percy were probing into my background. No one seemed to be listening to us. When Hermione managed to convince three of Ginny's brothers she was using a love potion, I knew she'd be able to convince more people. I've been through enough bad press and I know how people talk. We had to leave.
"We took the ferry to Amsterdam and stayed a few weeks there so Ginny could learn about the Muggle world and feel a bit more comfortable. Ginny was amazing," he said proudly. "She picked up everything so quickly."
It was Ginny's turn to blush. She smiled at her husband. "I had a great teacher. I had to learn a whole new world. It was a bit scary at first. As Harry said, we'd made tentative plans, but it was scary being on our own."
Harry nodded. "That first Christmas was awful. We were cut off from everyone and…felt really alone. I felt so badly for Ginny and was really second guessing our decisions."
Linking her hand with her husband's, Ginny squeezed his hand in support. "We talked about going back, but…there were too many unknowns. Were they going to arrest me? Were they going to arrest him? What were they going to try to force him to do next? The wizarding world always seems to expect something of Harry. While we were by ourselves, we weren't in the paper all the time. We could be anonymous. It was nice."
Smiling at her father, she said, "I really wanted to share everything with you. I knew you would be thrilled. We have some amazing photo albums."
"Ginny put in a lot of work on those albums," Harry put in. "She wrote a lot about where we were and what we were doing when the pictures were taken. She wanted to remember everything so that someday we could share it all with you."
Arthur beamed proudly at his daughter. "I will be thrilled to look at those with you."
Setting down his tea cup, Harry said, "During the spring and early summer we spent our time basically learning to live in the Muggle world. I may have grown up in the Muggle world, but I never was allowed to experience it. During that time we travelled a lot, we figured people would be looking for us so we didn't want to stay in one place for too long."
Pulling his wand, Harry summoned a framed picture from across the room. "We married in Germany in August 1999."
Molly teared up as she looked at her daughter's wedding picture. "You look beautiful, love."
"Thank you," Ginny said with a smile. "It was a bittersweet day. I was marrying the man I love. We were and are so happy together, but we wished you all could have been there."
Molly couldn't restrain herself; she jumped up and pulled her daughter and son-in-law in a big hug. After kissing each of them on the cheek, she said, "I wish things had been different, but I am so glad you had each other." Looking down at the framed picture she still held, she said, "I can see how happy you are together."
Once Bill finally got to look at the picture, he gasped. "Ginny, you look so beautiful. Mum's right. You look very happy as well."
"Oui, it eez good you 'ad each ozzer," Fleur said. Her accent was always more pronounced when she was feeling emotional.
"Where did you go after Germany?" Seamus asked. "We had a hard time tracking you."
Harry laughed. "Good. You were supposed to have trouble. We decided to treat our first year as basically a gap year. We spent three months in Africa – Morocco, Ghana, and Tanzania. It was amazing. We learned so much there – we got to work with people who really had nothing. We helped dig wells, build buildings, and we even got to teach some basic skills to children there."
"It was brilliant," Ginny concurred. "The people we met were wonderful and they taught us so much. Going there we thought we were helping them, but they taught us as much as we taught them."
"After our time in Africa we spent some time in France. We took some classes and tried to figure out what we wanted to do. Whilst we were there we worked with Doctors without Borders," Harry explained.
"Médecins Sans Frontières?" Fleur asked in surprise.
Ginny nodded. "We kind of stumbled onto it. We worked with them for a year as general logisticians. We were support staff basically. Most people don't realize that they have a small wizarding component and that is who we worked with. It was very difficult, but amazing. During our gap year we met some wizards who worked with the Doctors without Borders and they really encouraged us to apply."
"It was brilliant being able to help and being part of a team," Harry said. "I never really felt part of a team before."
"After we left Doctors without Borders, we worked with the wizarding arm of the International Red Cross," Ginny said. "We've mostly helped in Africa, but we went wherever we were needed. One of our first assignments was traveling to New York after the attacks there in 2001. We spent two months in New York helping with the clean-up and searching for any magical artefacts to ensure they weren't discovered by Muggles. We went to Thailand after the Tsunami in 2004."
"We've slowed down a lot in the past few years," Harry said. "After we bought this house we took some house restoration and conservation courses."
"Your home is beautiful," Kingsley said. "I understand you redid this house."
Harry nodded. "We did. We realized that we really enjoyed the conservation and restoration of old homes. It was something we could do together and not travel so much."
"How long have you been here?" Bill asked.
"We bought this house five years ago," Harry said.
As Ginny excused herself, Harry talked about some of the progress they'd made in the house. When Ginny came back downstairs she gave Harry a slight nod missed by most of their guests. Bill and Seamus both noticed, but weren't sure of the significance. Ginny showed them around her kitchen. Her father delighted in the melding of the Muggle and wizarding finishes.
A knock sounded at the door. Ginny smiled. "Excuse me."
Harry kept the others in the kitchen while Ginny answered the door. Just a few moments later she re-appeared in the doorway leading Jamie by the hand and carrying Lily. Molly gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. Smiles soon replaced the shocked looks on everyone's faces.
Harry walked over to his family and lifted Jamie in his arms. "This is James Arthur Potter. He was my best birthday present ever. Jamie was born on my twenty-third birthday."
Kissing Jamie on the cheek he said, "Can you say 'hi'?"
Initially the black haired tot buried his face in his father's shoulder, but he soon peaked over at the group of people in his kitchen. He waved before turning back into his father's shoulder.
"Good boy," Harry said as he cuddled his son. "It's been a big day for him."
Ginny stepped forward with a now wide awake baby in her arms. "This is Lily Danielle."
"Ginny, they are beautiful," Molly said with tears in her eyes. She walked over to Ginny and smiled at her granddaughter. "She looks so much like you, but those eyes."
"I know," Ginny said with a smile. "Both my babies have their daddy's beautiful eyes."
After glancing at her husband and receiving a smile, she looked back at her mother and said, "I hope this one does too."
Molly's eyes widened as she glanced as her daughter's waist. Ginny laughed and nodded. "I'm pregnant. Lily is eight months old now. I'm only six weeks along. We just found out last week. I'm due in March."
"Congratulations," Bill said emotionally as he swept his sister and niece into a hug.
"I agree, congratulations," Kingsley said. "Harry, I am very pleased you and Ginny are well. Seamus and I will leave you with your family. I would like to speak to you at some other time."
Harry nodded as his father-in-law enticed Jamie away. Shaking Kingsley's hand and sharing a hug with Seamus, he said, "Thank you. I've been a bit uneasy not knowing when someone was going to catch up with us. I'd appreciate if you let us decide who to contact."
"Certainly," Kingsley said. "We owe you more than you can imagine."
"If it is okay with you, I'd like to tell my partner, Terry," Seamus said. "He's been working with me to try and find you. It would look very odd if I suddenly shut down the investigation without finding you. I will talk to Neville and Hannah, but I know they won't say anything."
Harry nodded. "I trust you to keep things quiet. If there is someone who's been helping you, I don't have a problem with them knowing you found me. I'd rather no one knows where we are until Ginny and I have a chance to talk."
Both men agreed and took their leave. While Harry had been talking to Kingsley and Seamus, the others had returned to the sitting room. Ginny spread a blanket on the floor and soon they were all on the floor playing with the children. The evening was spent sharing stories and catching up.
Harry exited Kings Cross Station with a feeling of nostalgia. He'd not been in this part of London in many years. He could have easily Apparated, but he wanted to think about what he was going to say, so he took the train to London and travelled by tube from the Liverpool Street Station to Kings Cross. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he ambled towards Grimmauld Place. A smile crossed his face as he recalled Sirius scaring cats and chasing pigeons on their way to Kings Cross before his fifth year. If their new baby was a boy, Harry and Ginny were planning to name him Sirius. They hadn't decided on a middle name, but they both agreed on Sirius.
Turning onto Grimmauld Square, he could see it had improved much with time. The centre of the square was lush with green grass and planters with flowers. The wrought iron fence was new and the streetlights had been replaced as well. When Harry had first visited Grimmauld Place almost ten years earlier, it had been rundown and dirty. Now it had obviously been rejuvenated, many of the houses had new facades. There were no broken windows in this square. Out of curiosity, Harry walked down the street to the alley behind the houses.
In the parking spot for number twelve, there was a nice Vauxhall Corsa. He smirked; this was definitely Hermione's pick – a nice sensible car. Harry's first car had been a Jaguar. He'd always wanted one and Ginny hadn't objected. Of course with the children, now the Jag spent more time in the garage in favour of the Range Rover. A quick spell showed the house was empty. Harry wasn't sure if he should be relieved or disappointed. His feelings about Ron and Hermione were so jumbled. They'd been his first friends, but in the end they'd worked against him.
With a wave of his wand, Harry unlocked the door and entered the gleaming kitchen. He headed up the steps to ground floor. He stopped in surprise as he surveyed the changes to the main floor. Instead of the long gloomy hallway, it was now open. From the basement stairs he could see clear to the front door. The portrait of Mrs Black was now gone.
Harry explored the house. The dining room was no longer a separate room, but rather an eating area close to the kitchen stairs. The Black china and silverware still held of place of honour in beautiful, new china cabinet. It flowed into a sitting area in the front of the house. He made a face at the boring cream and beige colours on the walls and furniture. The Dursleys' house was full of such colour schemes. He was more in favour of bold colours.
He was surprised to find that even the front stairs had been re-done. Ignoring them for the moment, he explored the rest of the ground floor. The study and library were not open, but the doors looked like they'd been restored. He noticed that Hermione seemed to have cleared out the library and was staring to repopulate it. It was all tastefully done; there wasn't a snake decoration in sight. The troll-leg umbrella stand and elf heads were not missed.
Heading upstairs, he saw the restoration had continued upstairs. Everything looked cleaner and fresher. The drawing room on the first floor was nicely if a bit safely decorated. The Black family tapestry was long gone. The bedroom Hermione and Ginny had shared so many years ago appeared to be a guest room. He glanced in the rooms on the second floor, which all looked refreshed. On the third floor he peaked into the room Ron and Hermione must be using, he didn't look around, but headed for the top floor. He felt the wards, but as the owner of the house nothing could keep him out. He felt a surge of irritation and disappointment that nothing had been done to Sirius' and Regulus' rooms. He supposed Hermione had just kept it as it was.
Honestly, he'd been a bit surprised to discover that Ron and Hermione were still living in Grimmauld Place. He'd assumed they would have purchased their own home, but he could see staying in a rent free home would appeal to both of them. He couldn't quite decide if he was upset or not.
A noise sounded from below and Harry descended to the ground floor to find Hermione berating Ron about his manners. It appeared that they'd been visiting her parents and Hermione found his manners lacking. Ruefully, he shook his head. Somethings never changed.
He was halfway down the stairs when they noticed him. Hermione had just hung up her jacket when she turned and saw him.
Ron whirled around. For a moment the three stood there awkwardly, unsure of what they should do. Harry slowly continued down the stairs.
"You weren't home. I wanted to see what had happened to the place," Harry explained awkwardly.
Once he reached the ground floor, Hermione threw her arms around him. "Harry, I am so sorry. I didn't mean to make you leave."
Gently smoothing her bushy hair away from his face, he briefly hugged her back. "Hermione, I believe that you never intended for me to leave, but that doesn't change the fact that you hurt me deeply."
Hermione stepped back, tears shining in her eyes.
"I came here today to talk to the two of you," Harry said.
Nodding, Hermione led the way to the library.
"I was looking over the house," Harry said. "You guys have done a lot of work. It looks nice."
"How did you get in?" Hermione asked curiously. "I warded the doors myself and I didn't get any warning you were here. You shouldn't have been able to get in."
"It's my house," Harry said simply. "You can't keep me out, you can't ward against me here. I won't ask for eight years of back rent, but I will ask that you make several large donations to charity."
"What?!" Ron looked outraged at the thought.
"I invited you to live with me," Harry said. "I charged a modest rent, but a place like this in this neighbourhood – mate, you'd owe me almost 50,000 Galleons. I'm not asking for nearly that much, but I've had to buy and pay for a house of my own instead of living rent free in this one. It's only fair."
Hermione's face fell slightly, but she nodded. Ron looked between the two of them. He looked as though he wanted to say something, but he didn't know exactly what he wanted to say.
Once they were all seated, Harry looked at his two oldest friends feeling a bit at a loss now that he was actually facing them.
"Why did you leave?" Hermione asked. "If I was wrong about Ginny, why didn't you prove it to me?"
"Prove it to you? Why the hell should I have to prove to you that I'm not under a love potion?"
Hermione reared back as if struck. Harry shook his head. "Why were the two of you against Ginny so much? Why couldn't you be happy for me?"
"I…I just didn't think she was right for you," Hermione said. "I thought she had a crush on the Boy Who Lived."
"She may have at one point," Harry agreed, "but trust me that was a long time ago." Looking at Ron, he said, "She is your sister. How could you treat her so badly?"
"I was wrong," Ron admitted as he voice cracked on the last word. He took a moment to compose himself. "I am so sorry."
Harry stared at his oldest friend, surprised. He couldn't remember Ron ever apologizing.
Ron continued, "I was jealous. I know it sounds stupid and petty. I didn't even realize it. I always thought of Ginny as an annoying tag-along. I was angry that I got stuck with a sister instead of a brother. Bill and Charlie had each other, Fred and George had each other, and I had a girl."
He dropped his gaze to the floor. "We got on okay if no one else was around, but as soon as I had a chance to make other friends I did. That's how Ginny's first year happened. I ignored her and tried to get the two of you to ignore her as well. I didn't want her stealing my friends."
"I can understand in a way," Harry admitted, "but I love your sister. I have since I was sixteen years old. I hoped the two of you would accept her, but you wouldn't even give her a chance."
"Is that why you left?" Hermione asked, disbelief colouring her voice.
"It played a part," Harry said. "I thought once Voldemort was gone I'd be able to live my life. All I wanted to do was to become an Auror and date Ginny – I don't think those goals were unreasonable. I died so that everyone could live – I literally died and I didn't want medals or balls. I only wanted to be able to live my life and that wasn't allowed. Hermione was telling me lies about Ginny and Ron was getting Percy to cancel my days off so I couldn't go see Ginny."
Shaking his head he looked at his two friends. "Less than eight months after I defeated Voldemort I was worried that my girlfriend was going to be arrested on a bogus love potion charge and that I was going to be arrested for using Dark Arts."
"They weren't going to arrest you," Hermione huffed.
"I couldn't trust that," Harry replied evenly. He shrugged. "I was tired of dealing with all of the scrutiny. I was tired of being either the savoir of the wizarding world or the next Dark Lord. I did everything anyone asked of me – I rescued the Philosopher's Stone, I rescued Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets, I saved my godfather, I participated in the Triwizard Tournament…" he trailed off. "I did everything thinking that I would be allowed to live my life, but I wasn't allowed."
Looking directly at Hermione, he said, "How would you feel if I kept insisting that Lavender was really the one for Ron?" To Ron he said, "How would you feel if I thought Hermione was really in love with Cormac because she went to Slughorn's party with him?"
"I am sorry," Ron said emotionally. "I underestimated your feelings for her." Glancing over at his girlfriend, he added, "I think Hermione and I…we…I listened to her complaints and she listened to mine and neither of us gave Ginny a chance. Bill really made me think about my actions."
Subdued, Hermione nodded. "I am sorry. I didn't see…I didn't allow myself to see your feelings for her." She looked up and Harry could see the tears on her face. "I was wrong. I didn't mean to push you away."
Looking between his two oldest friends, he said, "I appreciate that you realize you were wrong, but I can't just forgive and forget. We were chased away from our home and family. It will take time. I wanted to come today because we will be seeing each other at the Burrow this weekend."
"How angry is Ginny?" Ron asked anxiously.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "I don't know that angry is the right word. Don't get me wrong, we've both had bouts of anger, but we didn't want to hold onto that anger. It could have been a lot worse – Ginny and I were together and free. We just hoped that someday we would be able to come home again."
Standing he looked at Ron and Hermione in turn and made a decision. "Would the two of your like to come over for tea? We would like to see the two of you before the rest of the family."
Harry sent a Patronus message to Ginny letting her know they were coming. He Side-Along Apparated both Ron and Hermione back to his house where they arrived in the back garden.
As he led them over to the gazebo, the back door opened and Ginny stood highlighted in the doorway. Harry smiled as he watched his wife come over to join them. As usual, he thought she looked amazingly beautiful. He knew she'd been struggling with her emotions towards both Ron and Hermione, especially over the past week. It had been her idea to have them over if Harry thought they might be open to some sort of reconciliation.
Glancing over at his companions, he could see Ron watching his sister with a great deal of trepidation while Hermione was much harder to read. At least the look of disdain that he associated with Hermione's past association with Ginny was gone. Ginny reached the gazebo and hesitated for a minute before going to her brother and wrapping her arms around him.
Ron hesitated for a moment before returning the gestured. "I am so sorry," he said as his voice broke.
As Harry watched, both siblings broke down. Gesturing to Hermione, he led her along the path towards the pond. "Let's give them some time."
"This is beautiful," Hermione breathed as she took in the house and garden. "The two of you did this all yourselves?"
Harry nodded proudly. "We've had help, but we designed and oversaw everything. We did a good bit of the work ourselves, but we've had electricians and plumbers in and we've had some historical experts come out as well."
"It's amazing," Hermione said. She sighed as they arrived at the pond. "Over the past few weeks I've been taking a hard look at my actions and I really am sorry. Ron didn't really like Ginny, so I figured he must have had a good reason for it. I held everything about the Chamber of Secrets against her without even thinking that she was merely a pawn in a much larger plot."
Sneaking a glance over at him, she realized he was listening intently. "My mother made me take a good hard look at my behaviour. I never gave Ginny a chance and I was furious that you did." Blushing, she added, "I think I was a bit jealous as well. It seemed as though I was losing my place in your life."
Shaking his head, Harry said, "Hermione, for many years you were like the sister I never had. You pushed and prodded and honestly, you made me a much better person. You helped me in so many ways. I felt so torn. You and Ron were my first friends and my best friends, we'd been through so much together, but Ginny…Ginny is my world. I couldn't give her up, not even for the two of you. I wish you hadn't asked me to."
"I didn't realize what I was asking of you," Hermione said as she took the handkerchief Harry proffered. "I am sorry I didn't take your feelings more seriously."
He nodded stiffly, but Hermione could really see for the first time how much she had actually hurt him. "Where do we go from here?"
"We're family now," Harry said. "I say we take it slowly and see what happens."
Looking over at the gazebo, Harry saw Ginny gesturing for him to return. They walked back to the others.
Ginny gazed coolly at Hermione. "Hermione."
"I don't want apologies from you," Ginny interrupted. "I would quite honestly prefer to have nothing to do with you, but as we will likely be family at some point I don't see a way around it. I want to make one thing perfectly clear. This is my home. I will not be lectured or belittled in my own house. If you cannot abide by that, you will be asked to leave."
Brought up short, Hermione stared at the younger girl. "I understand."
Nodding, Ginny reached for Harry's hand. He leaned in and kissed her briefly. "Let's go inside."
As they entered, Ginny looked up at Harry. "I need to go check…"
He nodded as she trailed off. "Of course, love."
Ron and Hermione followed him into the house. Hermione's curiosity got the better of her. "How old is this house?"
"Some parts of the house date back to the thirteenth century," Harry said. "It's obviously been added to over the years. We've discovered some records, but we're still trying to discover more of the history. It was used as the priory for centuries, but it had fallen into a state of disrepair."
"It's beautiful," Hermione breathed as she took in the timbered ceiling and walls.
Harry nodded proudly. "A lot of the wood is hand carved, we were lucky to find a local craftsman who helped us restore some of the damaged portions. We had to replace part of one of the staircases. It is a Grade I listed building so we had to work with our local planning authority and the historical officers to ensure that we weren't damaging the historical integrity of the house."
"Grade I?" Ron asked.
"It's a designation of a listed historical building," Harry explained. "Our house is on the National Heritage List for England which means it is a protected home. We couldn't come in and tear it down or change it radically. There are three different grades of historic homes. Grade I is the rarest type, it means the building is of exceptional interest. Lavenham is a very old town and there are over two hundred listed buildings here. That was actually one of the things that attracted us to the town – the pride of history here."
"I never realized you were interested in such things," Hermione said as Harry gestured them to sit down.
"I don't know that I ever realized that," Harry admitted wryly. "When I was in school, I never had time to wonder about the history or age of a place and Binns certainly didn't help instil any love for history in me. I think when Ginny and I started traveling is when I realized how interesting it could be. We travelled about the Netherlands, France and Germany. It was very eye opening."
The clacking of nails on the floor heralded the arrival of Gryffin who had been sleeping upstairs in the nursery. Harry smiled and petting the dog on the head. "Hello, boy. Have you come to greet our guests?"
The dog barked sharply before settling at Harry's feet. "This is Gryffin."
Ginny returned and sat down next to her husband. He smiled at her as he took her hand. "I was just telling them of our European travels."
She smiled. "It was amazing. I'd been to Romania and Egypt, but I'd never really seen much of the continent. We did a lot of sightseeing. It was a great way for me to learn to blend into the Muggle world. If I did or said anything odd, it was chalked up to me being a foreigner."
Harry sat back and let the others talk. He knew how difficult this was for Ginny and he truly hoped that Ron and Hermione would honestly try to give her a chance. Ron was certainly trying as he was asking about their adventures. Hermione wasn't asking as many questions as she normally did; Harry wasn't entirely sure what to make of that development.
A charm sounded indicating at least one of their children was awake. Harry stood up before Ginny could. "I'll go."
Ginny nodded a bit uncertainly, but resumed her conversation with her brother. Ron was actually not only talking to her, but listening as well. It was a nice change, if a bit unnerving. She wasn't at all sure about Hermione. Quite honestly if she'd had a choice, she wouldn't have invited the woman to her house, but given that Ron and Hermione were a couple she didn't feel she could avoid her forever.
It was rather nice to not feel left out of conversations. That was one of the things she'd always hated when she was in school. Harry would talk to Ron and Hermione and she would get cut out of the conversation. She didn't fool herself that their problems were all behind them, but she was hopeful that they could at least be civil around each other. Her parents deserved that much.
Hermione gasped as Harry returned with a toddler and an infant. Standing, Ginny took Lily from him while Jamie clung to his daddy's hand.
Smiling at his son, Harry turned to Ron and Hermione. "This is Jamie and that beautiful baby is Lily."
"You named them after your parents," Hermione said as she blinked away tears.
Harry nodded as Jamie peered up at their guests. Picking up the boy, he walked over towards Ron who had also stood up. "Jamie, this is your Uncle Ron."
"Hi, Jamie," Ron said a bit unsteadily.
Jamie scrutinized him for a minute before grinning. "Hello."
He easily went into his uncle's arms, but just for a minute before he squirmed and was set down. Once the adults sat down, Jamie climbed into his father's lap.
Ron kept staring at his nephew. "He looks so much like you, mate."
Harry laughed. "I know."
"How old is he?" Hermione asked.
Looking down at his son, Harry asked, "How old are you?"
Jamie looked down at his fingers and hesitantly held up three fingers, sneaking a look at his dad to make sure he'd done it right.
Harry nodded proudly. "Jamie will be three on Friday."
"You have the same birthday?" Hermione said in amazement.
"We do," Harry confirmed. Looking over at his daughter, he said, "Lily is eight months old."
"They'll have a lot of fun at the Burrow," Ron laughed. "I'm sure you know that Bill and Fleur have three kids, Percy has two and George has one. It's noisier than ever at the Burrow these days."
"Mum mentioned that," Ginny said as she summoned a blanket from across the room and covered both herself and the baby. Ron paled slightly and looked away as he realized that she was undoing her shirt to feed the baby. Ginny simply laughed at her brother. "Once I finish feeding Lily, I'll get tea ready."
Jamie climbed off his father's lap and began digging into a toy box that had been tucked away in the corner. He came up with a stuffed dragon and brought it over to show his new uncle. "Dragon."
"I see," Ron said as he admired the dragon. "It's a Hungarian Horntail."
Nodding solemnly, Jamie said, "Horntail."
He ran around the low coffee table holding the toy aloft as if it were flying. After a few minutes, he stopped in front of Ron and Hermione. Looking between the two of them, Jamie asked, "Who's her?"
Grinning, Ron started to say, "Aunt H-"
"That is Miss Granger," Ginny broke in firmly.
"Ginny," Ron protested.
"She is not his aunt," Ginny pointed out calmly. "She certainly has not earned the right to be his honorary aunt."
Ron looked at Harry as though he was going to appeal to him, but the look on Harry's face made him reconsider.
Ginny handed Lily to Harry who started patting her on the back. Turning her back to her company, Ginny quickly fastened her shirt and turned back. Looking at Hermione, she said, "I don't trust you. I will not have you around my children unsupervised nor will I have you acting like family when you are not."
"You're being ridiculous!" Ron yelled. "She wouldn't do anything to hurt your children."
"I never said she would hurt them, but I won't have either of you denigrating me in front of my children," Ginny said icily. "I've heard enough of her snide comments about me."
"For which you won't let me apologize," Hermione said as Harry tried to calm Lily who'd started crying at the raised voices. Jamie had scurried to his father's side when Ron yelled.
Ginny shrugged. "You've upset my children. If you can calm down, you may stay, but I will not have you yelling and scaring them."
Hermione backed down slightly, but Ron was still glaring at his sister. "You're really going to milk this for everything you can, aren't you? Making Hermione out to be a bad person and punishing her because you left. You made the decision to leave. No one made you."
"That's enough," Harry said firmly. "You will have to go."
Glaring at the other couple, Ron stormed out of the house followed by an obviously torn Hermione.
Ginny sat heavily on the sofa cuddling her daughter. "Was I too hard on them?"
Coming over to her side, Harry kissed her on top of the head. "No, I'm sorry. I thought they were ready."
"Ron and I had a great conversation," Ginny said blinking back tears. "I thought maybe we had a chance to start over."
"It will happen eventually," Harry comforted her. "He's so protective of Hermione, I don't think he realizes how much she hurt you over the years."
"I hope you're right," Ginny replied.
May 2, 2008 – Ten years after the fall of Voldemort
Pasting a smile on his face, Harry held an arm out to his wife as they walked down the red carpet to the Victory Ball. Of all of the things imported from the Muggle world, Harry really wished that the paparazzi weren't one of them. The staggering number of flashes from the cameras was a bit disorienting.
He didn't really blame them for wanting a picture of Ginny. She looked amazing in her form fitting gold gown that accentuated her curves. Fleur had done something with Ginny's hair and it was dotted with diamonds as it flowed down her back.
Harry smiled proudly as he watched his beautiful wife enter the ball. It had taken almost ten years, but Kingsley was insisting on throwing another ball in his honour. Ginny was thrilled to finally be able to attend a ball with him and for Harry that made it worth it.
With a sigh of relief, Harry was glad they'd reached the relative safety of the ballroom. There were only a handful of photographers allowed in the ball itself. A quick survey of the room showed that none of the other Weasleys seemed to have arrived yet. He spotted Seamus and Demelza standing with Neville and Hannah.
Seamus and Demelza had become closer when they'd kept running into each other at the Potter's house and had recently become engaged. After greetings, hugs, and kisses on the cheek with exchanged, Harry stood with his arm around his wife.
"I see Kingsley finally managed to get you to attend one of these things," Seamus teased.
Rolling his eyes, Harry replied, "Trust me I've been hearing that all week."
While neither Harry nor Ginny had chosen to take a job in the wizarding world, Harry had agreed to take his place on the Wizengamot. Due to familial obligations, he found that he controlled five seats. He'd been a bit reluctant at first, but he'd discovered that with Kingsley in charge of the Ministry, it was much less corrupt than it had been in his youth. Of course it was still not perfect, but it was nice to see a relaxing of the pureblood mania and allowing Muggle-borns into positions of authority.
"Are Ron and Hermione back?" Neville asked.
Ginny nodded. "I'm not sure if they are planning to come tonight, but my mum told me they arrived home two nights ago."
Seamus chuckled. "I can't believe it took him ten years to get married. It took him seven to work up the nerve to ask her out, I never thought it would be longer for them to get married."
"You know Hermione," Harry said, "She had a plan and she wanted to stick to it."
While the relationship between the two couples was still a bit strained, it was getting better. Ron and Harry had established a solid friendship and would go out together and had gone to some Quidditch matches. Likewise Ron and Ginny had gone a long way towards re-establishing their relationship.
Being Weasleys, they both tended to be quick to anger and there had been a few huge fights at the Burrow, but they were much closer than they had been. Hermione's relationship with Harry had taken some time, but they had lunch occasionally when Harry was in London.
Ginny's relationship with Hermione had taken a lot of work to get past the years of unfounded accusations and hurt feelings. They had a cordial friendship, but it wasn't a close relationship.
"I'm surprised with all of the Weasleys having kids that Ron didn't want in on that," Neville said. "He's great with kids."
Ginny laughed. "That's because he's just a big kid himself. Jamie thinks Uncle Ron can do no wrong." She shrugged. "Hermione has this idea that she shouldn't have kids until she's at least thirty."
Liberating two glasses of wine from a passing waiter, Harry handed one to Ginny and kept one for himself.
"That will cause a lot of gossip," Demelza laughed.
"What do you mean?" Ginny asked.
"There was a rumour you were pregnant last week when you and Harry went to the Harpies match and you didn't drink."
Ginny rolled her eyes. "For Merlin's sake, the match lasted thirty minutes. How much drinking was I supposed to do? The wizarding press is ridiculous. If I don't smile, I'm fighting with Harry. If I do smile, I'm covering my pain."
"So the fact that Potter switched your wine for water doesn't mean anything?" Terry asked as he arrived at the group.
Startled everyone looked at Terry for a moment before returning their look to Harry and Ginny who were looking rather sheepish.
"Good eye," Seamus complimented his partner. "I didn't see that."
"I think I was at the right angle," Terry replied modestly.
Ginny leaned in. "Please don't say anything. We haven't told my parents yet. After Audrey's miscarriage, I didn't want to say anything right away."
As everyone agreed, Seamus said, "I heard she's running the Lupin Wolfsbane Initiative."
Harry nodded. "She's really good at potions. When she heard about Percy's part in everything, she actually threatened to leave him. They left the country for a while and I know they went to therapy. He's much more relaxed than he used to be."
"He can still be a stuck up prat," Ginny added, "but he's my brother and he's really shown that he's sorry."
"Did you hear that Dawlish was arrested?" Seamus asked gleefully.
"What?!" Neville and Hannah looked astonished.
Seamus nodded. "He was arrested in France for performing magic in front of a Muggle. We haven't heard the whole story yet."
Harry smiled with a wicked gleam in his eye. "We heard that he performed magic in front of a group of Muggles."
"How did you hear that?" Terry asked.
Sliding his arm around Ginny, he laughed. "Ginny and I lived in France for a while and still have a lot of friends there. Dawlish made the mistake of crossing one of our good friends in Paris. Danielle was a woman we worked with while we were there – that's were Lily got her middle name.
"When Danielle realized who he was, she arranged a test for him. She asked him to unload a lorry. That's something that Ginny and I have done many times, but he was lazy and tried to use magic to speed it up."
"Couldn't have happened to a nicer person," Ginny said with satisfaction as everyone started laughing.
Eyeing the couples already on the dance floor, Ginny turned to Harry. "I've waited long enough to dance with you at a Victory Ball."
Smiling, he set their glasses down and held out his hand. "May I have the honour of this dance?"
Ginny happily moved out onto the dance floor in the arms of her husband. They were finally back in the wizarding world, but they also had their little oasis in Lavenham with James, Lily, and Sirius. She couldn't imagine anything better – except of course when baby number four joined them towards the end of the year.
A/N: Thank you for the wonderful response to this story. Thanks again to my betas Arnel, StephanieO, and seekers_destiny as well as my Brit picker Mark.