The sun shone very brightly upon Ginny Potter's head as she sat on the lawn at her parent's home, watching her nephews, brothers, sister-in-law, children and husband playing Quidditch high above her. She had been watching for half an hour, and was tired of squinting at the sun, so she retreated into the shade of a large umbrella that had been set up for Mrs. Weasley and her entourage.
Molly, Hermione, and Fleur reclined in their respective chaise lounges, sipping cold pumpkin juice and chatting happily. At their feet roamed two small children: Fleur's daughter Giselle and Hermione's third son, Theodore. They were similar in ages and were the youngest Weasley grandchildren at five years.
Fleur was talking to Hermione about French laws regarding broomstick travel, which were somewhat deviant from England's laws. Mrs. Weasley gazed at a pair of low-flying feet as they grazed the tips of the grass blades.
The younger children squabbled and pinched each other until they saw Mr. Weasley stroll down the lawn and under the shade. As quickly as his knees and back would allow him, he lowered himself to the ground to play with Giselle and Teddy. Ginny watched him point his wand toward the house and, after a moment, heard Charlie's old toy broomstick whizzing into his hands.
"Here, kids. Let's see if it can hold both of you. Otherwise, you'll have to take turns."
"Take turns?" said Fleur with an eyebrow raised.
Teddy seized the broom and straddled it, only to be knocked off in fifteen seconds by Giselle, who was a bit taller and heavier than he was. Teddy wasn't offended by this, and simply clambered back onto the broom. After several minutes of attempting to cohabit the broom, the two launched, as it were, off the ground and hovered for a few seconds, after which the broom quit and they fell on their behinds.
As the small children struggled with the toy broom, Ginny's son James, now eight, landed near the shaded area and scurried over to his mother, swinging his broom round his legs as he moved. When he was level with her chaise, he thrust his hand out.
"Bertram beat a rock at me when we were flying," he whimpered. Ginny saw an ugly scrape on the back of his hand. She pulled out her wand, healed it, and kissed James on the forehead. He didn't go back to the game, but lay on the grass next to his grandmother, listening to her tell stories about herself as a child.
Within the hour, all the players had landed except Harry and Alba, who were throwing a Quaffle back and forth, about fifteen feet off the ground. Ginny could hear the punch line of a stupid joke Harry was telling and Alba's immediate laughter.
As Weasleys had dropped out of the game, the umbrella on the lawn had grown, so that it was now the size of a circus tent and there were fifteen chairs fixed underneath it.
Ginny looked around at the assembled family: Percy, Penelope, Corinthus and Bertram; Ron, Hermione, and their three sons; George and Katie; Fred (a bachelor at the age of 38- though Angelina was still occasionally seen with him); Bill, Fleur, and Giselle; her parents, with gray hair and rheumatisms; and her own children and husband.
She reviewed her life for a moment, as she often did. She thought back to that day, so many years ago, when Harry had asked her on a first date. She thought about how she was so shocked, and how she hadn't felt the same way at the time. Ginny remembered the day she married him, the day her children were born…she viewed a mental list of accomplishments and checked to see that she'd done what she'd wanted to so far. She'd written a successful book, for one. Raised a family? She was in the process right now. Had a good time? Mostly. Yes. She was doing well.
As she was deep in these introspective thoughts, Harry and Alba landed right next to her. She looked up into her husband's face. She'd known him forever. She remembered the startled-looking, skinny little boy, the angry and confused adolescent, the dignified and proud adult. His scar had faded over the years. It would never go away completely, but as Harry aged, it became smaller and softer and one's eyes were not so drawn to it.
He smiled at her as Alba climbed onto her chair and stretched out as best she could.
"When are we going to eat? I'm starving. Absolutely starving. Gran, when are we going to eat?" Alba had sprung off Ginny's chair and was approaching Mrs. Weasley.
Ginny thought that quite probably, Alba wasn't really hungry, but that the whole family lying around not doing anything was making her uncomfortable.
Mrs. Weasley told Alba to go start peeling potatoes. As she couldn't do this alone, she prodded James, trying to make him help her. He wouldn't, so she tried all the other cousins until she finally forced Teddy, the youngest, to come up to the house with her.
Ginny moved her head so she inconspicuously peer at James and Nick, who were comparing Wizard Cards. She often checked up on him to make sure he wasn't being taken advantage of, even by his cousins. Her eyes shifted from the boys on the ground to Corinthus, who also seemed to be monitoring their trade. He was a large boy now, almost a man. He had graduated from Hogwarts that June with full honors, and truly seemed his father's son. He caught Ginny's eyes and came to sit next to her and Harry.
"Hello, Auntie," he crooned as he crouched on the grass next to her. He loved to call her Auntie, even though he was eighteen and about to move into his own flat. Ginny and Corinthus had a special bond: he was more like brother to her than a nephew. The difference in age between his cousins and him was large enough that he had many memories of the time when he was the only grandchild, when only his father and Ron had married, before his twin uncles were as wildly successful as they now were, and when his granddad had red hair, rather than gray.
"You still haven't given us your address, Cor," said Harry. "How will we spy on you if we can't find you?"
Corinthus gave a nervous laugh. He seemed, for an instant, not to understand that Harry was screwing with him.
"Only joking, Cor. As long as you come to Sunday dinner, we won't bother you."
In an attempt to keep her huge family cohesive, Mrs. Weasley had instituted a biweekly Sunday dinner. That is to say: if one didn't come up for dinner every other week, one wouldn't be getting many Christmas presents. As such, even Fred showed up nearly every time, though it was certainly more for the food than the company.
Harry, Ginny and Corinthus chatted for a long time, as most of the other Weasleys traipsed into the house to prepare for dinner in the garden. Harry watched the empty chairs fold and stack themselves and he suddenly felt the sinking sun in his eyes as the umbrella rolled itself up and plopped down next to the chairs.
Taking a hint, the Potters and their nephew collected their things and made their own way up to the house.
Inside, as usual, it was bedlam.
No less than six children were running about madly, playing some bizarre game which involved kitchen utensils. 'At least they're playing together,' thought Ginny. At that moment, she heard her own daughter give a macabre shriek and fall to the ground, fountains of blood grotesquely squirting from her ears as she giggled and rolled on the floor.
"FRED! THAT'S DISGUSTING! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU? DO NOT GIVE THOSE HORRIBLE THINGS TO THE CHILDREN!" Mrs. Weasley had no problem disciplining her sons, even if the eldest was forty-four.
George chuckled and pulled out his wand to clean up the fake blood and scooped up Alba.
The girl was completely spoiled. As the first granddaughter, she had been cherished (or worshiped, if you will) by Mrs. Weasley and everybody else. Even though she wasn't the only girl, she had precedence over Giselle. It is unfortunate when one child is the favorite, because it usually means that the rest are somewhat ignored. This was the case with Alba. The boys were viewed as messy, smelly and a little stupid, but she was seen as intelligent, beautiful, and very sweet, and as such, she grew into this ideal. She was now entirely deserving of everyone's affection, because she really was an extraordinarily kind and funny person, if she did have a wild streak.
Her evident perfection had always been a source of resentment for James, who, besides being the only grandchild without red hair, felt completely insignificant in the family scheme. Though everyone loved him very much, just as they loved all their nephews and nieces, he was shy and, most felt, rather too sullen for an eight-year-old. He didn't like Quidditch very much, and hated playing with Bertram, who was several years older and was rough with him.
Harry was in the unusual predicament of being a father who identified more strongly with his daughter than with his son. He hoped that it was simply a phase, and that he hadn't permanently damaged James, making him incapable of enjoying himself. Because, in Harry's opinion, the boy didn't smile nearly enough. Only much later would Harry absorb the fact that his son was an exact replica of himself at the same age. He had been sullen, withdrawn, and hadn't had anything to smile about.
That evening, as he sat in the parlor after dinner with his son asleep in his arms, he worried about his life. He felt the magnitude of the family around him. So many marriages, births…so much love. He couldn't comprehend how so many wonderful people came to be in the same family, when in his own experience, he had been the only non-horrible member of his immediate family.
Over the years, he had occasionally entertained the notion that he had fallen in love with, and then married, Ginny in a subconscious attempt to become a Weasley. Perhaps this was true, but Harry happened to know for a fact that he was deeply in love with his wife. It wasn't the same kind of love they had experienced when they were young and just married. That had been very physical, and he supposed, somewhat shallow. Now, he felt like he had a spiritual partner in his wife…He was suddenly disgusted with the banality of his thoughts and tried to think of something less profound.
The weight of his son's drooling head on his shoulder drew his thoughts again to his children. It seemed that ever since the day Ginny told him they could expect to have a baby, he couldn't think long on anything else. Always, he worried about one child or the other: about their school work, their health, their future Quidditch careers. Now he imagined them leaving for Hogwarts and he felt a lump form in his chest.
Since Dumbledore died, thinking of Hogwarts was doubly painful. Now, completely reluctantly, Harry recalled his funeral. It seemed like half of the Wizarding world showed up in support. It had been outdoors to account for all the people, and Harry remembered how it had been such a beautiful day. The fluffy white clouds had reminded him painfully of Dumbledore's beard. McGonagall had asked Harry to give a eulogy, and he had given a short and controversial speech in which, after recollecting that Dumbledore had been like a father to him, he simply stated, "Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!" The Prophet had alternately called him a lunatic and completely inappropriate and disrespectful, but Harry couldn't think of anything more appropriate. In the end, people put it down as an inside joke and Harry was allowed his private grief, however bizarre it seemed to others.
After nine o'clock, the family units began dispersing. Percy's family was the first to go, then Bill and Fleur with their small daughter. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley went up to bed, allowing the others to show themselves out. Fred entertained the children for as long as they could stay awake, but after Julius (going into his fifth year at Hogwarts) dropped off, Fred Disapparated and George and Katie followed suit. It was finally just the four old friends alone in the room, their assorted children sleeping on the floor or the sofa. They conversed for hours about their separate problems and interests until Teddy woke up at a particularly loud guffaw by Ron and they all decided to go home. Ginny was the last one to step into the fireplace to travel home. She glanced around the room at her parent's artifacts and her old schoolbooks, and she was filled with sincere longing to be just like her parents when she was older: surrounded by loving family and great friends. 'Well', she thought, 'I'm on the right track.'