Chapter 1

As she had rushed from one ward, one room, to another, the bright sunshine bursting through any uncovered window had the redhead yearning for the end of the day, to be outdoors smelling the crisp fragrances of fall. The past four days had only given London such dark grey skies that street lights were never fully extinguished.

When the young healer finally exited St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries that was housed in an abandoned department store, therefore, she noticeably wilted with the truth of the day: the sun though bright was weak and the wind brisk enough to carry any autumn aroma eastward to the Channel. She shivered and pulled the cloak more tightly around her lithe body, one hand tugging the hood up to cover her coppery head of hair. Her steps quickened to almost a trot while she wove in and out of other pedestrians; her last work day of the week was just about as raw as the previous four. The best thing she could say of the day was that the wind was at her back.

The pace she set brought her to the shadowed entrance of the Leaky Cauldron in less than fifteen minutes, and it was a relief to pull open the door and duck inside. The pub smelled as smoky as ever with darkened wood timbers making up the scarred bar and holding up the steps leading to the rooms for overnight guests. Old Tom, the tall, bald innkeeper, stood behind the bar top, wiping the surface with a wet, rather grungy-looking rag whilst chatting with a wizard customer. Tom bobbed his head at her as she hurried by.

Diagon Alley played the role of a wind tunnel this Friday, and she shivered again when she stepped through the brick entrance and started down the cobblestone lane. Another time she might have stopped to peer inside the windows of Quality Quidditch Supplies or Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions as both had new, eye-catching merchandise displayed prominently. Today her destination was a small restaurant close to the other end of the alley; it was right across the street from Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, her twin brothers' joke shop, on a side alley where she lived, and she was meeting George for dinner there. She had begun the habit of joining him or his twin, Fred, on Fridays after her shift was over since starting to work at St. Mungo's two years previously, and had come to look forward to it.

Glancing through the windows of the joke shop, she could tell that George would be delayed – the store was packed. Oh, well, I can have a cuppa and rest my feet. Her hand closed around the knob of the door to Brews and Stews, and pushing in she smelled the wonderful aroma of hearty beef stew. Her hunched shoulders relaxed as she sniffed appreciatively. The dinner rush hadn't started quite yet, so she had her pick of tables and headed to a booth on the far right. She shrugged off her cloak and hung it on a hook next to the padded bench seat which she slid onto.

Slumping against the back of the booth, she allowed her head to fall against the cushioning and toed her shoes off, wriggling her toes in relief. No sooner was she seated than the owner, a middle-aged, paunch-bellied, balding wizard, hustled over to take her order. She asked for a hot chocolate, not the tea she originally considered, and said she would order her meal when her brother arrived. Jerrold made a notation on his pad and hurried off.

With a sigh she closed her eyes and let the stresses of the day melt off her shoulders. Several minutes later she heard the clink heralding the arrival of her hot cocoa and blindly reached out to wrap her still-cold fingers around the mug. The door to the restaurant opened and closed numerous times but she paid it no mind until George's voice pulled her from the edge of succumbing to the lure of sleep.

"Oi, Ginny, I haven't made you wait that long!" Her ginger-haired brother slid into the booth opposite her, and Jerrold was right there to take his drink order. Unlike his sister, George opted for something with a bit of a kick to it. "I'll have some Old Ogden's."

Ginny gaped at her brother. "Hard day?"

"Not the whole day," he replied easily and fell into a detailed and harrowing narrative of a display that had been knocked over twice, the second time coming five minutes after he reset it.

She smiled sympathetically at him; having spent the summer before beginning Healer training working for the twins, she had reset many a display that had been knocked over by rambunctious kids.

Jerrold arrived with George's firewhiskey just as his story was ending, and George accepted the glass and took a long pull from it. Steam came out of his ears after he swallowed i. Ginny took the opportunity to order a bowl of stew. George decided to have the mutton chop special. Thanking them for their orders, Jerrold swept up the menus and went off.

Ginny asked about George's girlfriend, Angelina Johnson, he responded with a short, almost indifferent answer, and they began to exchange 'war stories' of their week, laughing together about many of them. Ginny laughed the hardest when he recounted testing a recipe for a new addition to the twins' Skiving Snack Box that turned Fred's skin a lurid green and his finger and toe nails cherry red.

"That would do well closer to Christmas," she giggled and George pretended to consider it.

"Ginny? George?" A new but familiar voice broke into their merriment.

Ginny steeled herself before looking up at the lanky young man who stood at their table, messy black hair covered by a baseball cap. She let George greet the newcomer.

"Harry Potter! By Godric, it's good to see you! Where've you been keeping yourself?"

"Oh, here and there," their bespectacled friend replied casually. "Do you mind if I join you? I hate eating alone." Harry looked at Ginny before either could invite him to sit. "Budge over."

Bemused, Ginny did as he requested. What in the world is he doing in here? she wondered. Since the murder of his wife by an escaped Death Eater eighteen months before, Harry had seemed to drop off the face of the earth. None of the Weasleys, and there were nine gingers and two in-laws, not to mention three girlfriends, had heard from him since Cho's funeral. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had always thought of Harry as another son, and his absence hurt and bewildered them.

"Mum keeps asking if anyone has seen you," Ginny commented mildly.

Harry had the grace to look abashed. "It's just been hard, you know?" He glanced across the table at George, obviously wanting to change the subject. "How's business?"

"Going well," George told his silent partner. "The branch we opened in Hogsmeade before school began last year is raking in the money. Even during the summer hols business there is pretty brisk."

One of Jerrold's waiters came by to take Harry's drink and food order and left, only returning to unobtrusively deliver the butterbeer Harry asked for and then again to serve all three meals. After he and George discussed Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes in a bit more detail, Harry quizzed Ginny rather thoroughly about her job and how long she envisioned doing it. Ginny thought that a strange question and had no real answer for him other than "a long time, I guess."

The threesome continued to talk through dinner as Harry caught up with what the host of Weasleys were doing and asked about friends they had in common.

When George excused himself to return to the shop, Harry rose halfway in his seat to shake George's hand and say, "Pleasure seeing you again, George! Maybe we can schedule one of these meetings instead of waiting to run into each other."

"Say the word, Harry," George answered with a smile. He leaned across Harry to plant a kiss on his sister's forehead since Harry didn't seem disposed to allow her out of the seat. He left with a smirk on his face.

Harry turned to Ginny. "Am I keeping you from anything?"

"Just a hot soaking bath to soothe my aching feet," she confessed, tilting her head and resting her jaw in her hand.

Harry nodded. "Are you still at the Burrow, or have you gotten a flat?"

"I 'share' a flat with Hermione." She put quote marks around 'share' with her fingers. "She and Ron were supposed to leave around lunchtime to spend the weekend with her parents. Her cousin is getting married tomorrow afternoon. Not that she's around all that much anyway." This time she rested her chin on her curled fist.

"I'd really like to talk with you somewhere that's a little more … private. Would you mind if we went back to your place to do that?"

Ginny searched his eyes. "As long as that's all you're looking for."

He dropped enough money for the bill, minus George's meal, and a tip on the table. "That's up to you," he shocked her by saying as he smoothly slid from the bench and held her cloak out for her.

Ginny had no idea how to respond to his comment so she closed her mouth, pushed her feet back into her shoes, and glided across the leather until she could stand. As they approached the door she gathered her cloak around her; Harry reached past her and held the door open. Once on the cobbled lane, she led Harry to the left and further down the narrow road until they came to a brownstone row house with balconies that advertised a flat to let. "We have the third floor flat," she told him, going through the central doorway. "The balcony is especially nice during the summer. Hermione and I moved in almost a year ago." She chattered on as they climbed the flights of stairs, unaccountably nervous.

They entered a large lounge furnished with a comfortable-looking navy blue sofa, small embroidered pillows in one corner and a Gryffindor-themed afghan draped across the other arm, and two overstuffed, golden armchairs, set at the edges of a grey sculptured rug over hardwood floors. The furniture faced a large stone fireplace. One wall of the lounge opened up to the kitchen; a round wood table with four chairs comfortably centered. To Harry's right was a small doorway which he assumed led to the two bedrooms and the loo.

Ginny hung her cloak on the coat rack. "Make yourself at home, Harry. I want to get out of this uniform." She made a beeline for the doorway Harry had noticed. "I'll only be a moment."

It was actually five minutes before she rejoined him, clad in a pair of jeans and a blue jumper her Mum had made her for Christmas, her hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. On her feet were fluffy yellow slippers. "Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?" she offered as she went through the parlor.

Harry was standing at the French doors to the balcony, looking out over Diagon Alley. "Tea, please, Earl Grey if you have it," he replied over his shoulder.

Ginny busied herself preparing the tea, and when both cups had been poured she put them on a tray with a small pitcher of cream and took it into the lounge.

He heard her set the tray on the small trunk the girls used as a tea table and turned to her, adding a little cream to one of the cups. After he lifted the cup and saucer, he sat in the corner where the afghan was; he noted without comment that she had settled into one of the armchairs. Ginny raised her cup and blew on it. It's his party even if it's in my flat. Let him start the conversation.

Harry took a sip and cleared his throat. "When, erm, when Cho died I felt like my whole world ended. She had miscarried several months before, and we had just found out that she was pregnant again."

Ginny squirmed inwardly, not at all comfortable with the topic he chose. God knows she never wanted the witch dead, but she never liked her, either. If she was truthful with herself, she had been jealous of Cho, and to find out that the girl had been carrying Harry's baby…. She looked down at her cup, hoping he couldn't see any of this on her face.

She would have been relieved to know that Harry wasn't looking at her. "I don't … don't want to put myself through that again. I don't think I can ever love another woman." He looked at Ginny now. "But I … I want a family, children of my own."

And what's that got to do with me? But she didn't say that, just, "I … see."

"Ginny, I'm a wealthy man, as you know. A lot of witches come on to me, even did while Cho and I were together. They just wanted to be able to say they'd been with 'the Chosen One.'"

"Like Romilda Vane."

"And too many others to name," he agreed. Silence overtook them again. Finally he cleared his throat once more. "Which brings me to why I wanted to talk with you."

"You want me to suggest the names of some witches who would want you for you," she supplied flatly.

"No. I'd like you to be the mother of my children."

Ginny's jaw dropped. "I beg your pardon."

"I want you to be the mother of my children. In a marriage of … well, the Muggles call it a marriage of convenience. We would only share a bed when, erm, when we need to make a baby. Otherwise I'll leave you alone. You'll have the protection of my name, access to my money, and never have to work again. All I'll ask is that you remain faithful to me and help me raise the children."

"Are you barmy?" she asked weakly. He must be! "Harry, you're young yet! You've got plenty of time to find someone you could love, maybe not like you loved Cho, but you could love again."

Harry was shaking his head stubbornly. "I'm not going to allow myself to get hurt like that again."

Ginny had a good idea what was prompting this: Harry's parents had been killed by Tom Riddle when he was just a baby. Over the years he had irrationally taken responsibility for other deaths: his godfather, Sirius Black, was murdered by Bellatrix Lestrange at the end of his fifth year at Hogwarts. He had seen a fellow student, Cedric Diggory, killed at the end of his fourth year, and their Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, at the end of his sixth. Remus Lupin, who stepped into Sirius' position, and his wife Tonks were killed at the final battle, along with her good friend Luna Lovegood, Colin Creevey, Lavender Brown, Mandy Brocklehurst, and the Ancient Runes professor, Bathsheda Babbling. George's twin, Fred, was grievously injured at the battle and almost died, his recuperation taking close to a year. Other members of the Order of the Phoenix were murdered before the final battle took place. He felt all of those deaths keenly, but to lose your spouse…. "Harry," she began again in soothing tones only to be cut off.

"No." His voice was flat with finality. "If you don't want to do it, I'll just have to look … elsewhere. I mean, not that I'd want to. We're friends, after all, and we know each other pretty well."

Well, we used to know each other pretty well, at any rate, floated through Ginny's brain even as she tried to stay focused on what Harry was saying.

"I know I haven't been around much –"

Or at all, Ginny wanted to say but didn't.

"– since Cho and I …. Anyway, even without being in love with each other, I think we could rub along together."

Ginny's hands started shaking so hard that the teacup was rattling and she quickly put it down. Being Harry's wife was something she'd dreamed of growing up and at school, and she had been unutterably hurt when his marriage to the girl who she always considered her rival for Harry's affection was announced very shortly after the battle. No one she knew even heard that they were seeing each other, much less engaged. Cho had returned the favor, showing only contempt for Ginny, and as his wife she had pulled him away from the Weasleys rather quickly. For the first month or so they were seen in public frequently, Cho always dressed in the latest, most expensive clothing, and scuttlebutt had them living in an opulent castle-like home.

Ginny blinked and shoved the hurtful memories aside. "I … I just don't know what to say, Harry."

Harry set his half-drank cup on the tray next to hers and stood. "Why don't you take a day or so and think it over? We can talk Sunday."

"Monday. Give me until Monday." Even as she said it she wondered why she didn't just tell him 'no.' She never wanted that kind of marriage to him.

"All right. Dinner Monday evening?"

"Ye-yes," she stuttered. "Okay."

"What time shall I pick you up?"

"Six will give me time to get out of my scrubs." She stood up when Harry did and started for the front door.

"I'll just Disapparate, if you don't mind."

"That's fine," she replied absently, her mind still reeling from his proposition.

He didn't kiss her, not even on the forehead or cheek, nor did he give her the slightest hug, only turning on the spot. That, even more than his previous words, brought home the fact that he would never look at her with eyes full of love. Though it was early yet, Ginny blew out the gas lamps and trudged into the loo where she made her evening ablutions and then to her bedroom to change for bed. She crawled under the covers but lay awake in the dark for hours that crawled by, dismayed by his adamancy that he would never love again and unnerved by the reason he wanted her to marry him.

What am I going to do about Harry? He's all I've ever wanted, but it's hardly flattering to be offered a marriage of – what was it he called it? A marriage of –," she wracked her memory, rejecting convention and conformance until she finally came up with marriage of convenience! Really, it's just legalized shagging. He'll never love me. But never is a very long time. Could I, should I hope he comes to love me as much as I love him? Harry had flirted lightly with her during her fifth, his sixth year at Hogwarts, but only when Ron wasn't around. It had never gone anywhere, never gotten as far as a kiss even though she dreamed about it. She'd never known if he was even half-way serious or just practicing flirting, seeing her, as Ron's sister, safe. She hadn't thought he'd known she still harbored strong feelings for him, but maybe he had.

And what about my job? It doesn't sound like he'll want me to work once the children come. If she was truthful with herself, and she was seldom anything but, she hadn't expected to find herself so tired at the end of each day, the end of each week. Whilst taking classes she'd had enough time to do homework and still have a social life. Since she'd begun the practical part of her training, however, she'd been too fatigued to consider dating even when her hours allowed it. With Hermione living with Ron more than Ginny, she found herself lonelier than she'd ever been, and that included her disastrous first year when she was under the influence of Tom Riddle's diary.

Divorce is not an option – will that be a good thing or bad?

At last, her overloaded, overwhelmed mind turned itself off and she slept, no closer to a decision than when Harry left.

The sun was fully risen when she awoke Saturday morning, her head pounding, her thoughts tangled. Her friend Darcy from St. Mungo's Floo-called to invite her to go shopping, and she declined. Ginny seldom turned down a chance to go shopping, and Darcy was so surprised by it that she told Ginny she needed to get to St. Mungo's to make sure she wasn't coming down with anything. She didn't even change into street clothes, instead sipping on hot cocoa with a dash of peppermint. Mid-afternoon she drifted into the kitchen to reheat some tomato bisque left from Wednesday when she'd made it for dinner.

The only difference the next day was dressing late in the afternoon to go to the Burrow for Sunday dinner. She considered Floo-calling her Mum and claiming illness was keeping her from being there, but decided she needed the hubbub of the Burrow and her family to take her mind off Harry and his ridiculous idea. It is ridiculous, right? she asked herself and had no answer for the question.

The family dinner wasn't the respite she had hoped for. Instead, she was so distracted that, like Darcy, her Mum and oldest brother, Bill, asked if she had caught some illness at the hospital. She gave fatigue as the excuse, saying that she had worked long shifts, which she had, and hadn't slept well, which she hadn't, but she knew they weren't the reasons for her distraction.

Monday she returned to work and found she was assigned to the second floor and its Magical Bugs and Illnesses ward. The one other time she worked there had been a long day as there were few patients. However, shortly after she reported for duty a whole family suffering from dragon pox was admitted, and she was kept hopping the rest of the day. She was thankful for it because she was too busy to think about Harry.

She Flooed home at the end of her shift and slowly changed. Harry Floo-called right at six and asked her to take the Floo to Twelve Grimmauld Place. The address startled her enough that she blurted, "I thought you were living in a castle."

He didn't refute that, only saying, "I'm not living here—it's being renovated. Kreacher fixed us dinner."

"I'll be right through."

She Flooed into the first floor parlor of the home once owned by the Black family and was amazed by the differences she saw from her last visit there six years prior. The wallpaper that had once adorned the room's walls was no longer there; instead light green paint covered the walls. Cheerful yellow drapes framed the windows, and the windows themselves were spotless, allowing sunlight to flood the room. The furniture was the same, she was disappointed to realize. Harry seemed to read her mind because as they exited the parlor he mentioned that he had not replaced the furnishings because he was undecided whether he would keep the house once it was finished or put it on the market.

She followed him downstairs to the basement kitchen where places for two were set on the long table where Harry and her family had eaten when her Dad was in St. Mungo's over Christmas in her fourth year. A simple dinner of roasted chicken breasts, smashed potatoes, asparagus, and a small tossed salad was laid out. Neither Harry nor Ginny seemed inclined to bring up the reason she was there, so dinner was a quiet affair.

On their way back to the first-floor lounge Ginny noticed the obnoxious portrait of Mrs. Black that once hung on the ground floor walls was missing. When she asked him about it he replied sheepishly, "I spilled some paint remover on it and found a spot in one of the corners was bare. So I kept pour—I mean, spilling, paint remover on the bloody thing, and soon she wasn't there anymore."

"You don't say!" A smile, rare since running into Harry Friday evening, flitted across her face. "Too bad we didn't know that back then."

Their conversation about the ignoble Mrs. Black carried them into the lounge where Ginny became quiet. She took a seat in a button-tufted wing chair and Harry claimed its twin. She sat primly, her feet together, whilst he laid the ankle of his right leg atop his left knee. They looked at each other.

"Have you thought about my proposition?" Harry finally broke the silence.

"I've done little else," she replied almost bitterly. "Until this moment I had no idea what my answer would be."


She sighed and looked down at her hands. "Before I answer I have a couple questions."

He raised an eyebrow.

"How many children would you want?"

"Five or six. Maybe more. I haven't fully decided."

She took a deep breath, having expected a much lower number. "That really would be a convenient marriage," she muttered.

"Yes, well, you know my background. I made no secret of wanting a family whilst at Hogwarts."

She tilted her head. "Not being one of your inner circle of friends I don't believe I ever heard."

"Perhaps not," he acknowledged. "What were your other questions?"

"You caught me off guard," she admitted, frowning, and thought a moment. "How soon would you want to marry and then how soon to start your family?"

"As soon as possible for both."

"Do you want me to stay home with the children, and if so, when would you expect me to quit working?"

"Of course you'll quit working. How can you be a full-time mother if you don't? And make no mistake, I want a full-time mother for my children. As for when, before the first child arrives."

"You stipulated that I must be faithful to you. I would never go into a marriage otherwise. But what about you? Would you return that faithfulness to me?"

Harry didn't need to think about it. "As long as you keep up your end of the bargain."

Ginny winced. Bargain. Is that all this is?

She thought a bit longer, her head shaking from time to time. Harry allowed her all the time she wanted, and when she finally looked up at him, he asked, "Have you decided?"

"I … I can't … I'm … yes. Yes, I'll marry you and be the mother of your children."

"You will?" It seemed to Ginny that he had expected her to turn him down.

She blinked. She had expected to turn him down, too. "I … yes." What am I doing? she wondered in alarm but didn't back out. "Church or elope?"

"I assume you want a church wedding." He didn't give her time to reply before adding, "It would have to be small, just family, and soon. No longer than a month."

"Hmm. So you don't care if people think we have to get married?"

"I don't give a bloody damn if people count the months to make sure we were wed before any baby was conceived," he responded rather roughly.

In for a Knut, in for a Galleon, she thought. Mum is going to go spare. "Saturday at the Burrow." She checked the time and knew both her parents would be at home. "Let's Floo call them now." From the look on Harry's face she knew he hadn't expected to have to take part in telling her parents.

"All right. Let's do it now and get it over with." He went to the hearth and took a small copper pot from the mantle. Dipping his hand in, he removed a scant handful of Floo powder and waited for her to join him. "You make the call, and I'll be beside you."

Ginny nodded her agreement. As soon as the green flames burst upward they leaned forward and she called out, "The Burrow! Mum, Dad, are either of you there?"

Footsteps quickly approached the Burrow fireplace. "Ginny?" Mrs. Weasley asked, stooping down to more easily see Ginny's face. She did a double take when she saw Harry's head next to her daughter's. "Harry? Is that you, Harry?"

"Yes, Mrs. Weasley. How are you?"

"Stunned," she replied truthfully. "Where have you been, young man? We have been worried sick about you!"

"Mum, how 'bout we leave that for a few minutes? You can light into him afterward. Where's Dad?"

"Arthur?" Molly craned her neck toward where Harry knew their lounge was. "Arthur, come in here, please."

Heavier steps were heard. "It's Ginny, Arthur, and Harry."

"Harry Potter? My word!" Arthur knelt beside his wife and was astounded to find that Harry's head was indeed in their fire. "How have you been, Harry? It's very good to see you!"

"Thank you, sir. It's good to see you, too."

"Mum," Ginny said, impatient to get this over with, "Harry and I want to get married at the Burrow on Saturday. Do you know a priest who will come on such short notice? We just want a small ceremony, just the family."

Molly and Arthur Weasley looked at each other in shock. "What—what did you say?"

Harry answered her. "Ginny has agreed to be my wife, and we don't want to wait. We'd like to marry at the Burrow on Saturday with the family around us, but we need to make sure we can get a priest. We'd like to keep it as quiet as possible until afterward so your home isn't inundated with onlookers or the press."

Arthur gazed at his wife and shrugged; Ginny knew he was telling her Mum that they would talk after the call was over. "One of the Unspeakables at work is an ordained minister. He may be available. I can ask him at work tomorrow. What time?"

Ginny and Harry exchanged a look. "One o'clock?"

Ginny nodded. "One o'clock. Try to get him first thing, Daddy, if you can't ask him tonight. Then you can just send me an owl at St. Mungo's and let me know. We don't have much time."

"Really?" Molly asked in obvious irritation. "I hadn't realized. Is there a bun in the oven?" she questioned further.

"No, Mum, I'm as pure as the driven snow," Ginny replied impatiently and rolled her eyes for good measure.

Arthur wasn't sure, but he thought Harry's lips might have twitched. "Mr. Croaker does not accept Floo calls at his home," he told the young couple. "I'll go in a little early to see if I can catch him before he goes into the Department of Mysteries.

"Thank you, Daddy."

"Yes, thank you, Mr. Weasley."

Realizing that her daughter was ready to end the call, Molly said firmly, "I want you to call me after Harry leaves so we can talk about the reception."

"Yes, Mum," Ginny responded, fully aware that the reception would not be the only topic of conversation. She didn't bother telling her Mum that she was at Harry's. "We'll be going, then."

Harry pulled his head out of the fire first, and before Ginny removed hers she heard her father say, "Well, Molly, I guess she's not giving him what he wants and he wants it bad enough to push for an early wedding."

Ginny was blushing when she stood and turned to Harry. "What?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said quickly.

Harry nodded; he knew there was something that caused her to blush but he wasn't curious enough to push. "I'll get the rings tomorrow."

"I'll buy a dress," she mused in return. She looked at him sharply. "Mum will want to know what to serve. Do you have any requests?"

"She doesn't need to bother as far as I'm concerned." Recognizing that Ginny was reaching the end of her tether, he capitulated. "Your Mum's cooking is fantastic. I'm sure I'll enjoy whatever she decides to make."

"Good answer," Ginny approved sarcastically. Her decision made and her parents told, fatigue suddenly swamped her. "I think I'm going to go home and turn in."

"We'll meet tomorrow night to discuss what we've accomplished."

She raised an eyebrow at his autocratic manner.

"We don't have much time, Ginny."

"Whose fault is that?" she demanded.

"You obviously think it's mine."

"You said 'as soon as possible'."

"I did," he agreed, "but I didn't really expect you'd be able to get a wedding together in less than a week. Eager for the marriage bed, perhaps?"

If it hadn't been for the sardonic tone of his voice she would have thought he was teasing her. Since she was sure he wasn't she said only, "In your dreams, Potter." Quickly dipping into the Floo pot, she threw a handful of powder into the fireplace, stepped in, called out, "45 FisickAlley," and was swiftly gone.

She waited half an hour before calling her mother, who told her she was coming through. Before Ginny could tell her not to, her Mum was standing in her flat.

As expected, Molly demanded to know why she and Harry were in such a hurry to get married. "I didn't even know you were seeing Harry!"

"We met again recently," she didn't bother saying how recently as she knew George would volunteer that information at some point, "and we just … clicked."

"You just … clicked? Ginevra Molly Weasley, do you know what you're doing?"

"Probably not," she confessed faintly. "But I really want to do this, Mum. I've always … cared … for Harry. You know that. He … needs me."

Molly laid a hand at the top of each of Ginny's arms, gazing steadily at her. A minute later she sighed and pulled her daughter into her embrace. "Marriage is hard, Ginny," she said. "I'm going to worry about the two of you. This is just so sudden!"

"I know, Mum, but we are committed to this, to each other." She hoped this was true; while he had demanded faithfulness from her he had not offered the same thing to her.

Eventually Molly sighed and pulled Ginny down to sit on the sofa. "All right. I can't change your mind, obviously." Abruptly she added, "You've got to get a dress."

"I know. I'm going after work tomorrow to begin looking at Madam Malkin's. If she doesn't have anything I'll go to Twilfitt and Tatting's."

"Good luck," her Mum retorted doubtfully. "You're sure you want to invite just the family?"

"Yes. All of you are the most important to me. We don't have time to plan a big wedding. Maybe later we can have a proper reception, invite more people."

"What about flowers? Witnesses?"

Ginny looked blankly at her mother. "I, erm, I hadn't thought."

"There's a lot you haven't thought about," was her mother's tart rejoinder.

"Mum, please. I know you're unhappy about this but I'm stressed enough as it is." Saying it made Ginny realize just how stressed she was feeling.

"All right, all right. Food."

"What do you suggest?"

"Well, you've always loved beef Wellington…."

"Mum, we're getting married at one o'clock. We don't need a heavy meal. A cake, some finger foods. Something to toast with. Treacle something-or-other for Harry. Just, let's keep it simple."

"You're breaking my heart, Ginevra," Molly said mournfully. "I always thought when my daughter, my only daughter, married we would have a year to plan, a sit-down dinner and dancing, there at the Burrow, and you'd wear custom-made robes and have half a dozen attendants. Your father would walk you down the aisle and dance with you after you and your groom had your first dance." Her face was becoming wistful. Mother and daughter sat in silence briefly before Mrs. Weasley clapped her hands onto her knees and said briskly, "It is what it is. We'll do what we can."

"Mum, we really do want this to be as quiet as possible. You know what a circus the press will make of it if they get wind of our plans."

"Yes, dear. I'll make your cake – it won't need to be a towering confection, after all – and we'll have finger foods and Harry will get his treacle tart to take on your honeymoon. Daddy will pick up some Old Ogden's, we'll get a bottle of elvish wine for you and Harry to toast each other with. I assume Hermione and Ron will be your attendants?"

Ginny poked her bottom lip out as she pondered. "Hermione will certainly be mine, but I can't speak for Harry."

"Well, who else would he choose?"

"Well, I don't know, Mum, but there's always the possibility. He just keeps surprising me." Shocking me is more like it.

"That's not a bad thing in a marriage. It keeps one from becoming complacent." She switched the subject back to the wedding. "Do you have a color scheme?"

"Red and gold," Ginny promptly answered. "We're both Gryffindors, after all." She yawned suddenly.

"I think that's all we need to talk about tonight, Ginny. I'll let you know tomorrow night what food we'll have for the reception. Decide what flowers you want so we can get them ordered. Tell Harry he's supposed to pick up the cost of your bouquet." After tossing out these instructions she rose and gave her youngest child a long, constricting hug. "I'm sure you and Harry will be very happy."

"Thanks, Mum."

"I love you, Ginny, and I'm happy for you. It's just…."

"I know. I love you, too."

Molly was in front of the fireplace now. Clutching a handful of powder, she entered the floo and dropped the powder. "The Burrow," she said clearly, and whirled away.