She struggled to open her eyes and when she did, Harry was running across the floor of Parvati's shop. She sat up and Harry pulled her to her feet, hugging her tightly. She put her arms around him, unable not to cry, and then he was kissing her and all she could think was, He's back, he's back, he's back…
When he let her come up for air she could see that he was crying, too, gazing at her lovingly, as if he'd been away for a minute, not a day. She pulled away long enough to reach into her pocket and take out his wedding ring, putting it back on his finger without speaking as he leaned down to kiss her again. After breaking the kiss, he smiled at her in a way that made her feel that, even though her husband had just travelled back in time and slept with another woman, she was the luckiest woman in the world.
"Thank you," he said softly. "For giving it to me this time and the first time."
She sat on the couch and Harry sat with her. "Did you miss it?" She tried not to ask, "Did you miss me?"
"I don't know," Harry said, frowning, which she supposed was an honest answer.
"Oh, that's right!" she said, remembering. "The memory charm! You didn't remember being married."
"Well, actually, I did. That spell must have worn off after a while. I reckon."
"Well, I—I don't actually remember any of it now."
"Any of what?" She felt very confused.
"Any of the last twenty-four hours, and a bit before that."
"That makes two of us," Parvati said, standing in the doorway of her Reading Room. "Can you tell me exactly what the two of you are doing here, and why I'm not asleep in my bed? Or perhaps I am asleep in my bed and my dreams have become strangely literal."
Ginny went to her and Harry followed. "You look like you need to sit down, Parvati," Ginny said, but when she entered the room she saw that that was no longer possible. The chairs were splintered, lying in pieces on the floor and on the overturned bookcases. Books were strewn all over, broken teacups and saucers littered the floor, and the crystal ball lying beside the upturned table on which it had sat had a large crack running through it.
"What happened in here?" Ginny said, surveying the destruction. She hadn't heard anything in the shop.
"Must have been the Birthday Wish spell," Harry said, bending over to pick up the crystal ball.
"The what?" Parvati asked.
"The spell that allowed Harry to travel back to his sixteenth birthday," Ginny told her, waving her wand to repair a shattered teapot. It leapt onto a dresser, soon followed by its companion cups and saucers.
Parvati stared at both of them as if they were mad. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"But—you're the one who told us about the spell," Ginny said reasonably.
"Wait—when I said I didn't remember the last twenty-four hours, you said, 'That makes two of us.' How did you know it was twenty-four hours?" Harry asked Parvati.
"I looked at my clock," Parvati said, nodding at the carriage clock on her mantle. "Time and date on that one. It now says the first of August. Fortunately, it's not broken, I think. I picked that up first, put it on the mantle, and then heard your voices in the shop. Is it the first of August?"
Ginny waved her wand at the chairs, repairing them, and righted the table again, so they could sit at it. "Yes, it is. Listen," Ginny said, trying not to let her voice shake, "I seem to be the only one who wasn't memory-charmed, so let me try to explain. Last night, you called Harry to say that it was time, Parvati. Time for him to go back to his sixteenth birthday."
"Called? But you two aren't on the Floo network," Parvati said.
"On a mobile."
"On a—where would I have got a mobile?"
"Harry said that you said it was borrowed. Anyway, we came here and you told Harry about the Birthday Wish spell."
"But who told me about that? And once again, why don't I remember?"
Ginny looked helplessly at her. "I have no idea. On both counts. But Harry did go back in time sixteen years."
He nodded. "That's true, even though I don't remember all of the last day."
"Yes, you said, but why don't you remember that? You were only supposed to forget the second half of your life," Ginny said.
Harry shook his head, then told them about waking up in Tilda's lounge and being told about the Birthday Wish spell by her, among other things.
"So—you don't remember doing anything with Tilda?" Ginny said anxiously.
Harry shook his head. "Other than sitting in her kitchen and telling her all about you and the girls—no. I made certain not to mention Teddy, of course. I think it'll be fine, telling her that much of the future. It reassured her. I won't be in contact with her again until Teddy goes to Hogwarts." He opened his eyes wide, having remembered something. "That's why Tilda knew about you when I went to see her after Teddy started school."
Parvati held her head in her hands. "I simply do not understand."
"You should go back to bed, Parvati. Are you going to Draco and Pansy's wedding this afternoon?" Ginny asked.
"No, I wasn't invited."
"Just as well. You can sleep late, and sod it all if people can't get into the shop in the morning."
"Actually, customers could get into the shop if they wanted. They just couldn't take anything out of it. Anti-theft spells on everything. After something's been paid for, the spell lifts. If anyone tries to Apparate away with something they haven't paid for, when they go, it stays behind. Or if they try to walk out without paying, whatever it is disappears from their pockets the moment they're outside and it reappears on its shelf."
Ginny was impressed. "Very neat! I wonder if Fred and George know about that?"
Parvati made a scoffing noise. "Who do you think told me about it?"
Ginny laughed. "All right, you help Parvati upstairs, Harry, I'll finish cleaning in here."
When they had gone, Ginny resumed the repairs on various objects, until the only thing still out of place was a piece of parchment in the corner. She summoned it into her hands and saw that there was writing on it. Parvati appeared to have written herself a note, and for some reason she included the date and time: 31 July, 2012, 11:55 pm. A time that neither Parvati nor Harry now remembered. The note was very terse:
Do everything in your power to ensure that Draco Malfoy gets married.
Ginny frowned, since Parvati had said that she wasn't invited to the wedding, and then, for some reason she couldn't name, she put the parchment in her pocket when she heard Harry's footsteps on the stairs. They returned home soon afterward.
She didn't mention the parchment to him.
Ginny felt very peaceful when she lay down to sleep again in their bed at St Clare's, Harry by her side. When she awoke in the morning she could hear Harry singing in the shower, which made her smile. She rolled over and punched her pillow with the intention of getting a little more sleep, but she couldn't find a cool spot to lay her head, so she decided to turn the pillow over.
Two things met her eye when she picked up the pillow: the faded old portfolio that she knew should be on the upper shelf of her wardrobe, and a fine gold chain. She pulled on the chain and a tiny hourglass emerged from the space between the mattress and headboard. She gazed at it in wonder, no doubt in her mind that it was a Time-Turner, from what she'd heard Hermione say about it. Where did this come from? she wondered. And why is this portfolio under my pillow and not in the wardrobe?
There was only one possible answer: she was meant to find these things. She put the Time-Turner around her neck, tucking the hourglass inside the bodice of her nightgown, and untied the ribbon on the portfolio.
She glanced through the drawings, which were more yellowed than she remembered. Then, when she turned over the drawing Dean had done of her on the bed, something caught her eye—and then made her stare. The entire back of the drawing was covered with writing. All of it was very similar, but the writing at the top was a little firmer, more assured.
My Dearest Ginny,
I'm so sorry, Ginny, I can never say how much. I'm sorry to ever have put you through the pain and uncertainty of wondering whether I wasn't telling the truth about me and Tilda. As far as I know I did not sleep with her on my sixteenth birthday. Except that it turns out I did, as a thirty-two-year-old man. I would do anything to change that but I don't know how to without endangering anyone. When I did it I didn't remember how much I loved you and didn't want to hurt you. I didn't know I was married to you, that you are my wife and the mother of my daughters.
But now the memory charm has worn off and I do remember, I remember it all, and I feel as if my heart is being torn out of my chest, because if this causes me to lose you then my heart should be gone—you are my heart and my love and I don't deserve you and your love and your patience.
Ginny wondered when Harry had been able to write the note, but she remembered Ron and Hermione being convinced that the front door of number twelve, Grimmauld Place had opened and closed. And now he probably doesn't remember writing it, she realised.
I hope that when I return you read this and that there is some hope that you won't leave me. If you do, however, I wouldn't blame you. Any man would be lucky to be married to you. I am the luckiest man, wizard or Muggle, that I know. And that is because of you. I have treasured living and working with you, raising our children, making love to you. Sharing my life with you.
There is still the battle tonight at Tilda's and Mrs Figg's. I think I need to do something important there, to preserve the timeline. If anything happens that prevents me from returning, remember that I have always and will always love you. You are truly my better half.
With all my love,
Harry, aged 32
31 July, 1996
Below this was another scrawled note in very similar but more spidery handwriting, beginning the same way:
My Dearest Ginny,
It is a wonderful gift to see you again as a young woman, to hold you, to make love to you. I must admit, however, that I was not completely honest with you when I said that the Birthday Wish spell split me in half. I have travelled back in time again, half my life. I used a Time-Turner to go back a little farther, to tell Parvati about the spell and lend her a mobile.
Ginny touched the lump of the Time-Turner, under her nightgown, and thought, That's where this and the mobile came from! Her heart thumping excitedly, she continued to read:
Since everyone will remember seeing me yesterday but I won't, you'll have to come up with something to tell me. I know you will. Parvati won't remember anything, however, because I'll be putting a memory charm on her before returning to the future. She'll break it eventually and learn the truth, but the time hasn't yet come for her to know.
One last thing, Ginny—your wish of our someday having a son will come true next year, on Teddy's birthday. We'll name him after Dumbledore. I'm sure you'll work out which of his names sounds best with "Potter". I love you, my dearest Ginny, so very much. Please remember that always, for the rest of your life, however long that may be.
Harry, aged 64
31 July, 2012
Ginny didn't know when she had begun to cry but tears were wetting her nightgown. She heard Harry turn off the water in the shower and she stuffed the portfolio back under her pillow, leaning against it as Harry opened the door to the bath. He immediately spotted that she'd been crying as she hastily wiped the tears from her cheeks.
"Ginny! Are you all right?"
She couldn't stop crying, somehow, thinking of the life growing inside her, the gift Harry had given her for his own sixty-fourth birthday. She stood and wrapped her arms around him, so glad to have her thirty-two-year old husband back, though she hadn't known that it was the sixty-four-year-old Harry with whom she'd shared the previous day. His skin was still damp from the shower, smelling of sandalwood soap. He kissed her soundly and she smiled at him through her tears.
"I'm just glad that you're back," she said finally. "I missed you so, yesterday. I had to put spells on everyone who was here for the party, so they believed you were here, too, rather than cancelling," she improvised quickly. "So if someone mentions the party, just go along, or say it's all a bit of a blur for you or something like that. Oh, and the same for Draco's stag party and coming to pick me up at Pansy's afterward." She started to go into the bathroom but stopped and turned to face him, no longer feeling like crying. She felt very happy—and a little mischievous—instead.
"Have you ever thought about stripping?"
"Wh-what?" Harry choked. "Where did that come from? Hang on—did they actually have strippers at the hen party?"
"Well, not as such. You'll find out someday why I asked you that."
"Oh, someday, will I?" he said, smirking.
"Yes. I have faith in you, Harry." She stopped and scrutinised him as if she'd never seen him before. "You really are quite—resourceful." She laughed at the puzzled expression on his face. "Don't think too much about it. We have something much more important to do today."
"We do? What's that?"
Paraphrasing the note she had tucked into the drawer of her bedside table, she said, "We have to do everything in our power to ensure that Draco Malfoy gets married."
Harry stared at her, puzzled. She went into the bathroom and leaned against the door, closing her eyes as she pictured the Harry with whom she'd spent the previous day. She just knew that he had left her a message about the future by having Parvati write the note before he put the memory charm on her. And if future-Harry thought it was important, she had to trust that. It was important. Probably as important as leaving her with the gift of their son.
Taking out the Time-Turner and holding it in her closed fist, she whispered, "Thank you, Harry."
Harry picked himself off the floor, thinking how much easier it had been to do this sort of thing when he was only half as old. The room wasn't quite as much of a mess as it had been thirty-two years earlier, perhaps because it was only affected by one Birthday Wish spell this time, not two, but it certainly wasn't as Harry had left it. He waved his wand, putting it to rights. He assumed that Parvati was upstairs. They still maintained separate residences, though they rarely slept apart.
He accidentally put a chair down rather hard after repairing it in mid-air, and he heard footsteps overhead, followed by the sound of someone coming down the stairs.
"Bloody hell, Harry. What've you done to my wife's place of business?" Neville stood framed in the doorway in his dressing gown, his wand out. He looked rather tired and had a receding hairline, but it was Neville! He was alive!
"Neville!" Harry cried, throwing his arms around him. Neville grunted in surprise. The new memories came cascading into Harry's mind…
He was sitting with Ginny at the wedding, waiting and waiting for Draco Malfoy, everyone growing very restless, and then Ginny excused herself, coming back a minute later looking very self-satisfied. Draco marched in with his groomsmen to stand with the Ministry clerk and wait for his bride to walk down the aisle.
Luna had still died while attempting to learn how her own mother had died, unfortunately, though it was later and not because she was hoping that what she learned might help the Ministry fight Pansy and the Harpies. Ron was comforted by Ginny and Harry, but mostly by Hermione's friendship. And then one day Hermione had shown up at St Clare's in tears because Neville had gone to the Ministry registry office to file divorce papers. He told her that she'd never really stopped loving Ron and she was the only one who didn't seem to know that. He felt that it was only right to give her her freedom, to let her go.
Evidently, he'd gone to see Parvati for a reading, and after demanding that she tell him the truth about what she saw in the cards, she'd admitted that it appeared that he was holding someone prisoner, someone very dear to him, but who should be given freedom, which would also free him.
After the divorce was final, Neville had asked Parvati to dinner, to thank her for waking him up and to assure her that he didn't resent her for telling him the truth. Soon they were seeing each other, and a year later Ron and Hermione were married and Neville and Parvati were married as well. Near their first anniversary, their first son, Kumar Longbottom, had been born.
And after Brian finished his seventh year at Hogwarts, Harry and Ginny retired from teaching, Teddy took over their old teaching job, and Harry was tapped to be Minister for Magic, in a much more peaceful wizarding world than the one besieged by Pansy and her Harpies.
Neville gasped and Harry released him, laughing, as Parvati appeared behind him, rubbing her eyes sleepily.
"Neville, Parvati," Harry said, grinning at them both, "how are your kids? Your lovely, lovely kids?"
Neville frowned at him and stepped back, as if afraid that Harry might give him another crushing hug. "The kids are grand, Harry. Are you all right?"
"Never better, mate. Never better!"
A familiar voice came from the shop. Harry turned, his heart thumping in his chest as he remembered Ginny at the wedding again, thirty-two years earlier. He burst through the bead curtain and walked around a bookcase. There she was, standing in front of the couch, looking almost as she had thirty-two years earlier, except for having cropped her hair short, so it showed her neck and curled over her head, still vivid ginger, with only a white hair here or there. He ran to her and threw his arms around her, laughing and crying at the same time.
Ginny was also laughing. "Harry, you act as if you hadn't just seen me the day before yesterday!"
Harry pulled back a little and gazed at her dear face. "It feels a lot longer."
After they finished helping Parvati and Neville to clean up, they thanked them again and Apparated back to the graveyard at St Clare's. Harry grasped Ginny's hand as they walked to the house, grinning at each other in the moonlight.
"Can I ask you something, Ginny? Where did you go when we were waiting for Draco and Pansy's wedding to start?"
She stopped and stared at him. "Harry, that was thirty-two years ago!"
"Not for me."
She laughed. He wanted to crush her in a hug again, he'd missed that laugh so much. "You really want to know? You're not the only person who occasionally time-travels." She touched the gold chain she always wore at her throat and withdrew something from inside her robes, hanging on the chain. Harry's jaw dropped when he saw it.
"Where did you get that?"
"You left it in our bed. I don't think you meant to. It was under my pillow with something else I think you did mean for me to find: the portfolio."
"You read it? You never said!"
She smiled at him lovingly. "At any rate, you asked me about the wedding. I slipped out of the marquee and found an inconspicuous cupboard in the house, so I could go back a few hours, using the Time-Turner. Then I tracked down Draco upstairs and gave him a good talking-to. Oh, and I helped him to mend his dress-robes. He'd ripped them on something and was rubbish with mending spells—Pansy's brother, too, who was also there—so I helped him with that. Which seemed to be the main problem, actually. He was a bit surprised that I wanted to make certain he still wanted to marry Pansy. He said, 'Of course I do, don't be daft.' You know how tactful he always is.
"Of course, then I couldn't let him come downstairs until it was nearly the time from which I'd travelled, but Pansy wouldn't have any of that. She came upstairs to find out what was keeping him, and she wanted in. Her brother didn't want to let her. He's very superstitious and kept going on about its being bad luck, but I let her in because I don't hold with superstitious rubbish. She was a bit miffed to find me there, but a bit less miffed when she saw her brother. We explained about the robe-mending. She and Draco made up well enough, but then they really started making up…" She cleared her throat. "Draco suggested to her that they put everyone in a bit of suspense about it all, so her brother and I left them to their own, erm, devices. Parkinson wasn't very happy with me, either, but personally, I think it was good luck for Pansy and Draco to be together before their wedding, not bad. When it was close to time, I watched myself leave the marquee from behind a topiary shrub on the lawn, I walked back into the marquee, and soon after that the wedding began. With a bride in rather wrinkled wedding robes," she added, giving Harry a wink.
She looked very pleased with herself. Harry's jaw dropped. "Are you telling me that the reason he hadn't come downstairs yet was that he couldn't mend his own bleeding robes? And that if her brother had succeeded in keeping Pansy away from Draco—"
Ginny stared at him. "If her brother had succeeded in keeping Pansy away from Draco what?"
"Oh, erm, nothing. Never mind." He couldn't prevent a rather large grin from creeping across his face as they continued to walk to the house. "Everything's just fine. And as it should be."
He wondered for a moment why neither she nor the Longbottoms had questioned his hair not being white, and then remembered that he didn't do that in this timeline. He looked down at their joined hands, surprised to see that his wedding ring was back on, though when he'd left he hadn't been wearing it. All day, at his thirty-second birthday party, Ginny hadn't questioned this, probably because she knew that he'd taken it off before time-travelling back to his sixteenth birthday, and he was a 'copy' of that Harry, so of course he had no ring.
When they entered the quiet house, which Harry knew would later be filled with the happy voices of his children and grandchildren, coming to celebrate his birthday a day late, he couldn't resist taking Ginny in his arms and twirling her around the drawing room in the moonlight streaming through the stained glass windows, singing to her as badly as he ever did while she laughed and gazed lovingly at him and made him feel like the luckiest person who'd ever lived:
"Every summer we can rent a cottage on the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear... We shall scrimp and save. Grandchildren on your knee: Vera, Chuck, and Dave..."
"Those aren't their names," she interjected, laughing. "And—well, anyway, it's Tilda and Severus who go to the Isle of Wight—"
He pictured Tilda and Severus as he'd last seen them, eighty and eighty-four, growing old together, quite happy and content.
"Send me a postcard, drop me a line, stating point of view," Harry continued to sing very badly. "Indicate precisely what you mean to say: Yours Sincerely, Wasting Away. Give me your answer, fill in a form: mine forevermore…"
Finally, Ginny joined in with him at the end, almost laughing too much to manage to get the words out: "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?"
They stopped singing and dancing and laughing, standing in the middle of the drawing room, holding each other tightly, and the look in her bright brown eyes as she leaned up to kiss him told him the answer to the song's question, the answer he'd always known.
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Note: Once again, the song Harry is singing is "When I'm Sixty-Four", credited to Paul McCartney (and often John Lennon, too), copyright 1967, Northern Songs.