Chapter Fifteen – Having a Future
The issue of the Daily Prophet, lying in a thin shaft of sunlight, was blazing with the story of the successful raid at St. Mungos and the capture of a large group of Death Eaters. The Prophet reported that the Minister of Magic himself had led the raid, directing the Aurors once they entered the wizard hospital. By-standers commented on the bravery and commanding presence of Ludo Bagman. He was, however, not available for comment, according to the reporter. This paper had been rushed to press the Monday morning following the raid on St. Mungo's hospital.
Of course the headlines the next day were many times more spectacular and over-shadowed all else. A fresh copy of that paper too, was lying with the first on the bedside table. It announced Lord Voldemort's demise and the victory of 'The Boy Who Lived'. The entire issue had been dedicated to that one subject. Harry's picture was emblazoned on the front cover. It was an old picture showing Harry when he was about fifteen.
The bedside table held a number of other items that had overrun the area of the tabletop and were now, stacked on the floor. There was a beautiful, black velvet box, which held an Order of Merlin–First Class and a proclamation sent by the Minister of Magic. The Dark Order Defense League had sent a delegation with their highest possible award that reposed in an elegant, leather-bound case. There were several engraved cups in gold, or platinum. There were any number of scrolls tied with ribbons and done up with impressive wax seals. Owls had delivered so much mail that a room had been set aside next to the Great Hall to hold it all.
There were many requests for interviews and a small tent city had sprung up overnight, just outside the gates of Hogwarts castle, as the public waited anxiously for news. Dumbledore had the gates locked and guarded, which did not endear him to the press. There was even a brisk business in Chocolate Frog Cards that now contained a "Harry Potter" card. People lucky enough to find one were being offered five galleons or more to sell.
The overflowing nightstand received yet another item that morning. The Wizengamot had sent a velvet-tasseled certificate, adding Harry as a member of their prestigious ranks. The note that came with it said Harry could attend any time he chose to, assuming he lived. None of this mattered a wit at the moment. Harry Potter, who was lying in a bed in the curtained room, next to all the awards and honorariums, had not yet moved.
"They are hanging around the gates like vultures!" spat Professor McGonagall. "It's a disgrace, if you ask me. And that Rita Skeeter…I think I can spot her outlandish outfit from here." Minerva McGonagall was standing near a window with her arms crossed and her face set in a very stern way.
"Now, now, Minerva… did you really expect anything else," said Dumbledore in a tired voice. He levered himself up slowly from a cushy arm chair and reached for his cane with a shaky hand, his midnight blue dressing gown sweeping the floor.
"Albus!" she said tartly. "Let me help you!" and she hurried to his side, grasping his elbow, and guiding him toward his bed.
Once he had been settled under the covers, he patted her hand. "Thank you Minerva, for bearing with an old man."
"Don't be foolish, Albus," she said. "A little rest…a short vacation…you'll be good as new."
Dumbledore chuckled. "Never as good as new, I fear. I mean to relinquish the job of headmaster to you, at the end of the term. I do need a rest, but a good long one."
Professor McGonagall's eye's filled with tears. "But…"
"No arguments," Dumbledore said. "I had to see Harry through his battle. Of course I'd like to see him restored to full health too…but alas, I have done all in my power, in that regard."
The darkness lifted a little and Harry felt for the hundredth time that he was swimming… swimming…swimming up through a heavy fog. Occasionally he found he could hear voices and sounds as though they were coming from a badly tuned radio. Occasionally he found he could discern light and darkness. It took a great effort. It was so much easier to sink back into blackness and quiet. This time was different somehow. This time without warning, Harry gasped and opened his eyes.
The room was blessedly darkened, with all the curtains pulled closed. Even so, Harry's eyes were struck by the sudden brightness of daytime. It caused him to blink and squint. He tried to turn his head. It took a supreme effort to do it. His muscles were stiff and sore. Still… he had to admit, it was a surprise to be alive. He worked the fingers of his wand hand and then groped on the bedside table for his glasses. They were there, thankfully, and he pulled them to him.
"Harry?" asked a tentative voice. "Harry! You're awake! Oh Harry!" and with those words, arms encircled him and a warm face pressed against his.
The hands helped him fit on his glasses and the room became clear. He recognized where he was. It was the hospital wing of Hogwarts; the smell of potions and bandages was rather comforting. He had spent many nights in this ward over the past seven years.
He took a shaky breath and felt his head with a weak and trembling hand. At the side of the bed, someone took his arm gently and laid it back on the covers. Ginny now came into focus. "You're awake," she said again, sounding profoundly relieved. Harry opened his mouth but was not able to make sound come forth. He tried to pull himself together, to figure out what had happened. His brain was very sluggish; his body felt limp and heavy.
The day of his fight with Voldemort was a bit of a blur. Harry lay back on his pillows and he tried to put the whole jumble back in order. Ginny brought a cup of cool water to his dry lips and he sighed as the liquid relieved the soreness in his throat. He looked up at her and she broke into a smile. Ginny…Ginny was where the day had started.
He remembered how he had awoken in the pre-dawn hours with Ginny in his arms. Pulling away from her in the darkness and going out to face Voldemort, was one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do. Nothing less than avenging his parent's deaths could have made him leave her there.
Watching the lake and waiting was the worst of it. The black robed Death Eaters apparating, their cloaks billowing and their white masked faces as cold as the white icy surface they would battle upon. Then Voldemort coming to the fore, moving more snake-like than ever, as he glided forward. The scene in blacks and whites was disturbed by the glowing red eyes that never left Harry as he and Ron had approached.
"Vol…Voldemort…" he managed to whisper hoarsely.
Ginny nodded at him, "Dead…He's dead Harry. You did it."
Harry closed his eyes and breathed easier.
Forcing himself back to the present he managed to ask in a dry whisper, "What day is it?"
"It's a Saturday," she said quietly. "Here, take some more water." The cool liquid was sweet and wonderful. He wanted to drink and drink.
"Saturday," he repeated, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, and forcing himself to think. "So...it's been a whole week I've been out?" He exhaled raggedly. "That's a record for me."
Ginny looked at him hesitantly, "Harry, it's been nearly five weeks. Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey insisted that you stay asleep for the first three. Dumbledore said that the Elixir of Life he gave you was only just enough to keep you from… leaving us. He only had a little, and he hoped it would be enough. We've all been desperately worried. Then Dumbledore seemed to feel you had turned the corner last week, and said you'd wake in your own good time."
"So it's what…March..."
"It's the second of April, actually," she said softly and she brushed his hair from his forehead.
"And I had the Elixir of Life…from the Sorcerer's Stone?" He wanted to continue but his throat was very sore. He swallowed then continued, croakily, "I wondered what he'd given me. But…Dumbledore destroyed the stone."
Ginny tipped some more water into his mouth. "Dumbledore did destroy the stone, but he kept a vial of the elixir that he didn't tell anyone about. When I went to him…when they brought you back from the lake…" began Ginny.
"He gave me some in the Great Hall," said Harry. Ginny looked at him questioningly. "I…saw it. I was there… and I wasn't… if you know what I mean. I think I might have been sort of dead for a moment or two."
Ginny nodded. "Everyone thought you were dead."
"And you went for Dumbledore," said Harry with a weak smile. "You saved my life."
"Then the score is evened up a bit," she replied, "Would you like to sit up a little?" she asked arranging pillows behind him.
Harry rolled to his side and pushed himself up on his elbow with difficulty. "I should get up," he said. With effort, he slid himself into a sitting position.
"Just stay, Harry. You should be resting," said Ginny but she did not restrain him. He liked that about her. She didn't treat him like an invalid.
Harry felt very dizzy. His head felt as though is must be spinning on his neck, but in a moment the sensation stopped. "So we did it," he said. "I guess I lost consciousness at some point."
Ginny, nodded at him. "Yes, you did it, Harry. Your air spell was fabulous. I saw part of it from the dormitory. Hermione says she thinks you must have done a bit of a water spell too, by accident. I guess the ice on the lake reacted just before the lightening struck Voldemort."
He was glad to have confirmation that the nightmare was over. His spell had been strong enough after all. "Yeah," he said with effort. "At the end, I didn't have a lot of control over it. We had to give the spell so much power." He and Ron had managed it, then. He could go on with his life now, free to do what ever he wanted.
"Ron!" he said suddenly, causing a brief fit of dry coughing. "Is he ok?"
Ginny nodded and helped him to more water. "And Hermione too. In fact, there were no deaths among the Order. Three Aurors died in the fight and about six Death Eaters, but the rest were caught and sent to prison, or else are on the run."
"Wait," said Harry, "Hermione? Wasn't she in the castle?"
"No, she was under Moody's invisibility cloak. She pulled you and Ron out of the way after you both collapsed. Moody said it was the best use that cloak had ever been put to."
"Really?" he replied, a bit astonished.
"Yes, I wish I'd have thought of it," said Ginny. "But of course, I couldn't have helped." Her words hung in air.
Harry sighed, and reached for her hand.
"I'm sorry I locked you in. I mean, I'm not sorry I did it, but I hope you'll forgive me." Harry had to stop and get a breath. He really did feel very feeble. "That night, before..." he said to her. "I had to lock you in, you know." Harry tried to pull his thoughts together. "It all happened so fast, though. I mean…are you really sure you want to be with me?" he asked.
"Oh Harry," she said incredulously, "I've wanted that as long as I can remember. Do you regret it?"
"What? Me? No!" exclaimed Harry, color rising to his cheeks. "I was never so happy. Do you think we're really... married?" he asked, lowering his voice. "I mean, is it official and everything?"
Ginny looked at him wisely, "It is to me."
He felt a warm and satisfied feeling spread through every part of him and he sank back on his pillows. It was perfect. Voldemort was gone, Ron and Hermione were all right and best of all, Ginny was really his. Then he sat back up again with a start, which caused a stabbing pain in his head. "Ginny..."
She seemed to know what he was going to ask and simply nodded her head.
"You mean..." he began.
"Madam Pomfrey says it will happen around the end of November."
"Wow," Harry said in awe. He couldn't believe it. He leaned over toward her, feeling very dizzy again, and he put a hesitant hand on her stomach.
"Silly," she said. "It's too soon to feel anything."
"Still," he said, beaming at her, "this is just…fantastic."
Ginny pushed him gently back against his pillows and he must have dropped off for a moment. Pleasant thoughts flowed freely through his brain, he felt satisfied and happy. Then something not so wonderful crept into his head. He had not thought about this before. He had not even considered it. Of course, there hadn't really been any time. Still, how could he have been so stupid? His eyes snapped open again. "Ginny, who knows about this? About us?"
"Only Madam Pomfrey, and she knows very little. She said she'd not tell anyone, but she was rather scandalized," grinned Ginny. "She made me promise to tell Professor Dumbledore, but I haven't done it yet."
Harry's brain whirled. Even though there had been no time beforehand, he was certainly honor bound to set things straight, and as soon as possible. After all, it had now been five weeks, according to Ginny. Harry swung his legs heavily over the side of the bed and began to slide his feet to the floor.
"Whatever do you think you're doing?" said Ginny, standing up and putting her arm around him to support him and to stop him toppling over. "You haven't been out of bed for month. You need to build up some strength."
"I think I can manage," said Harry, freeing himself from her and waiting for the spinning of the room to stop. "There," he said in a moment. "I'm quite all right."
Ginny gave him a hard look.
Harry felt his stomach roil as a fresh wave of dizziness swept over him. In a few moments, the sensation passed. I'm ok, he thought to himself. It was an amazing feeling to have his bare feet touch the cold floor. It felt good even though his legs were like rubber. He had to hang on the headboard for support. Still, he was standing.
"Oh Dear! Oh My!" came a scream from the far end of the room. Madam Pomfrey came scurrying forward. "Potter! Stay in that bed! Gracious! You should not be up!"
Harry regarded her with a faint smile. "But I'm feeling fine," he began, as she arrived at his bedside and easily pushed him back down onto the bed.
"You are far from fine, but I am mightily glad you are awake," she said, rearranging his pillows and blankets. She quickly poured a small cup of some potion from a bottle on the bedside table and pushed it into his hand. "Drink," she demanded.
Harry knew better than to argue when Madam Pomfrey was in such a mood. He drank. The liquid was soothing on his dry throat and seemed to send warmth and vitality to his extremities. "Thanks," he said.
"I'm getting you some proper food, Potter. I think some soup. Do not move!" she said as she bustled off.
Harry let his head drop back and watched her go. "Ginny, can you send Hedwig to your family with a note? I think we should go visit them today, if they'll see us. Or use the floo network…whatever you think. Ron and Hermione should come too. If nothing else, I need to talk to your dad."
"Harry," said Ginny, who seemed to understand what he was planning, "It can wait a week or so… until you feel better."
"No Ginny, it's not right. I should have...well… asked for your hand, or something like that," said Harry, seriously. "I have to try and put it right." Then he looked up at her and gasped, "How is Mac?"
Ginny sighed and shook her head. "Calm down Harry, and I'll tell you everything…but only if you lay back and relax."
"Just for a minute then," he said. But lying back on the pillows felt very good. "I want you to contact your Dad, ok?"
"Harry, he could come here," said Ginny trying to dissuade him.
"No Ginny, I should go see him, and I need to do it right away."
Ginny looked at him in an appeasing sort of way and sighed. "Let's see then," she began. "Lupin is fine. So are all my family. Charlie had some minor injuries, but nothing to worry about. Tonks was hit by a curse, but she's recovered. A lot of the Death Eaters fled once Voldemort was gone. The Ministry caught most of them immediately and is trying to round up the rest. Most of their names are known. The captured Death Eaters were quite eager to talk and make deals."
Harry scowled. "The Ministry…"
"…is now being run by Amelia Bones. She's Minister now. Dumbledore was able to prove Bagman was a Death Eater to the Wizengamot. Once the entire story came out, Bagman was sent to Azkaban."
Ginny continued, "Emmeline Vance is in a bad way. They've got her in the spell damage department at St. Mungos. Remember that Auror, Dawlish? He was killed by a Death Eater. Oh, and Theodore Nott was a big help. He kept Moody from being killed at one point during the battle."
"And Mac?" asked Harry.
"Mac recovered. He turned the corner about two days after the battle. Madam Pomfrey says she'd never seen anything like it. He's still weak, but he says you can't keep an old battle horse down… or something like that. I've actually spent a good bit of time with him, while you were unconscious. He was just in the next room until two weeks ago. We'd play wizard chess together to pass the time. He comes over all gruff, but I really like him. He claims he's leaving Hogwarts, though. Wants a quieter life he says."
Harry nodded, taking it all in. "And Dumbledore, how is he?"
"He seems to have good days and bad days. He'd been here to check on you quite often, but Professor McGonagall told me he's been down in bed a good bit too."
So it was really all right, thought Harry. He almost expected to wake and find it was all a dream, and that he had yet to face Voldemort, but it seemed it was really…really over.
Harry steeled himself, and again slid out of bed. There was no excuse; he had to go see the Weasleys today.
Ginny looked at him reluctantly and seemed to sense that he wouldn't be deterred, but she made one last attempt to get him to stay in bed, before helping him dress in jeans and a sweater. She handed him his wand, which he stuck in his pocket, then she laced his trainers for him, for which he was grateful. Bending over had made him nearly black out.
"Let's go then, shall we," said Harry, pushing away from the bed. This time he wobbled much less. Ginny took hold of his arm, walking slowly with him towards the door to the hospital wing.
Madam Pomfrey came flying from her office at the site of Harry out of bed. The matron tried to bar his path. "I forbid you to leave this ward, Potter!"
"Madam Pomfrey, this is something important…something I have to do now," said Harry weakly.
She nearly roared at him, "You did the important thing. Now You Need Rest!"
Finally, Harry promised he would return in a few hours and get right back into bed, but he insisted that he was leaving in any case. They could hear her sputtering that she was going to report this breech of hospital protocol to the headmaster, as they made a slow progress together down the corridor and toward Gryffindor tower.
Ron and Hermione were playing a desultory game of wizard chess at a table near the window in the Gryffindor common room. Ron was so distracted that he had completely missed the fact that he had Hermione's king in check. His pieces were lobbing insults at him for not paying closer attention. Hermione was staring glumly toward the partially opened window, listening to the voices from down at the gates, drifting up to them.
"Can you believe that!" asked Hermione annoyed.
"They all want to know if he's alright, I guess," said Ron.
"They want to make money off him," she said angrily.
"Ya. I went down to the Quidditch pitch to have a little fly, and they shouted at me to come closer to the gate. They took loads of pictures and I even though I told them there was no change, I could barely get away," said Ron, moving and knight, then moving it back.
"Oh Ron, how could you even talk to those…those vultures?" scolded Hermione, "with Harry lying in the hospital wing?"
His expression saddened, "I don't know, I just wanted to do something… I'm worried too."
She glanced up at him and her fingers entwined in his. The noise of the opening portrait hole made both of them jump.
"Hi," Harry said a bit croakily.
"Harry!" they shouted, jumping up. Hermione wasted no time in throwing her arms around him. Harry winced. He hurt all over, and she backed off quickly.
"How did you get out of the hospital wing?" asked Hermione. "You look really pale."
Harry clasped Ron's arm and Ron grinned at him, then said, "No more air spells for me, mate." Then he said, "Glad you decided to join us again. We were worried."
"Thanks, Ron," said Harry. They looked at each other and did not need to say anything more.
Harry sank gratefully into a nearby chair. He kept hold of Ginny's hand and said, "You'll contact them then?" She nodded resignedly, and left at once.
"Contact who?" asked Ron, "Who do you need to contact?"
"Harry, if it's the press, they're all stationed down at the gates. Dumbledore won't let them inside and they're completely raving. Someone has to go down everyday and give an update on your condition," explained Hermione.
"Ya, the entire wizarding world wants to talk to you, give you awards and offer you jobs," said Ron. "I've been flooded with owls asking for interviews, but I said I wouldn't talk till we could do it together."
"I don't care about them," said Harry, flatly. "Can you two come along to the Burrow with Ginny and me today?" He had to remain focused on the single most important task in front of him. Nothing else was so important as this, and his ability to concentrate was seriously hampered right now.
"The Burrow?" asked Hermione and she looked at a dumbstruck Ron, "Well of course, if you like Harry, but are you feeling well enough for that?"
Harry could tell she thought his head was still a bit off. He nodded.
"Why do you want to go there?" asked Ron.
Harry pretended not to hear the question. "Hermione, Ginny told me how you saved us out there."
Hermione went pink. "Me? I just pulled you out of the way is all. You…and Ron did the rest," she exclaimed. "You were brilliant!"
Ron and Hermione took it in turns to give Harry a blow-by-blow description of everything they had seen during the duel.
"…and then Voldemort sort of turned into this great dirty snake. Then he just shriveled up," said Ron with gusto.
"Oh Ron, you were passed out on the ice by then," said Hermione with a laugh.
"Well, Charlie told me all about it," said Ron, recovering. Then in a more serious voice, "Did you hear about Malfoy?"
"No," said Harry. "Ginny filled me in a little, but I suspect there's loads I haven't heard."
Ron and Hermione exchanged looks.
"Well it has to do with that Slytherin, Theodore Nott," said Hermione
"What about them?" asked Harry. Nott had stayed to fight on the side of the Order. Harry had spoke with him briefly on the morning of the battle, but had forgotten about him, owing to being knocked out for a month.
"Nott helped our side… did you know that?" asked Ron. Harry nodded and Ron continued, "Well anyway, the next day, he went into Hogsmeade. Hagrid was bringing Draco out of the Hog's Head. I guess Draco was being sent home to his Mum. Dumbledore refused to allow him back at school after everything he's done. My dad said Dumbledore only kept him this whole time so he wouldn't have a chance to join the Death Eaters. Anyway, he saw Nott in the street and got free from Hagrid. He tried to curse Nott. Hagrid knocked him over the head, just as he tried to do the Avada curse. He missed, luckily, and they've sent him to Azkaban."
"Good," said Harry. "I hope they give him a nice long stay."
"Speaking of long stays, you look like you should have a good long lie down," chided Hermione.
They were both looking at him as though he were made of glass. In truth, he felt terrible, and moving about was not helping. Just then, Ginny came back through the portrait hole. "I've done it, Harry… but really…"
"Thanks," he said to Ginny, giving her a warm smile. She perched on the edge of Harry's chair. Harry steeled himself to get up, and travel to the Burrow.
"C'mon, let's go then," he said, pushing himself to a standing position. Now that he had it in his head, he was keen to do it, and right away, before he lost his nerve. Ginny took his hand and Ron and Hermione followed him. Harry paused when they reached the corridor. "You say the gate is mobbed?"
Ron nodded, "Reporters everywhere."
"Ok," said Harry, "I know another way."
He led them to Mac's old classroom and through into the deserted office. He instructed them to take the floo to the workroom. He wasn't sure they could use this particular fireplace to get to the Burrow and his brain was not working very clearly yet. He was simply plowing ahead the best he could.
As they each stepped into the fire, Harry steadied himself on the mantle. He was very light-headed. When they were all assembled in the workroom, he said, "We can apparate from here." Ginny asked him if he was up to it and he nodded, rather unconvincingly. Ron told him to go first and they would follow, probably suspecting the possibility of a splinching accident, or something worse.
Harry managed the apparition, but once he landed, he stumbled and landed flat on the ground, as his legs gave out. He took several deep breaths and pushed himself painfully back up to his feet. He was standing outside the Burrow and Ginny had just appeared. She looked worried as he climbed to his feet.
"Harry, let's just go back to the castle. Trust me, you're not well enough for this yet."
In answer, he took her hand once again. Two popping noises behind him told him that Ron and Hermione had arrived too.
As they started toward the house, the front door was flung open and Molly Weasley burst out, waving her arms and exclaiming their names. Mr. Weasley emerged with a broad smile and beckoned them all inside. In the kitchen, Harry found not only Bill and the twins, but also Charlie, and Lupin. Remus was looking better than Harry could ever remember seeing him. Charlie had a small bandage over his right temple, but other than that, appeared fine.
The entire Weasley clan gave Harry a round of applause and the twins catcalled as he entered. Harry felt his face go red.
Hugs, kisses and handshakes were dispensed liberally. Questions about Harry's health were shouted from all corners, or else congratulations on his and Ron's accomplishment. Harry felt dazed and distracted as the racket continued. Mr. Weasley was pouring mead into glasses and handing them around in preparation for a toast.
Clearing his throat, and raising his glass, Mr.Weasley said, "To Harry… The Boy Who Lived… grateful thanks for all you've done for us. You've saved the wizarding world from the darkest threat of our time. And to Ron who risked his life to help Harry. We owe you more than we can say!" All the Weasleys assented as one. Harry felt the flush in his face deepen even more.
"So, Harry, you called us here, didn't you. What can we do for the hero of the millennium?" asked Fred brightly. "George and I are happy to provide you with a lifetime supply of fine joke items at a very deep discount."
Everyone was laughing and smiling. Ginny stood much more quietly than usual next to Harry, gripping his hand. Now he was here and the moment had arrived, he wondered what had possessed him to attempt such a public announcement. Why hadn't he just taken Mr. Weasley aside, alone, and gotten his thrashing out of the way before taking on the entire Weasley family. What if they were all angry? There were a lot of them, as he scanned the sea of expectant faces. Harry gulped and cleared his throat.
"Everyone!" he said, attempting to get their attention. His voice was a bit gravelly yet, and he couldn't make himself heard over the general celebratory din. Ginny put two fingers in her mouth and whistled. The room fell silent as they faced him with interest.
"Thanks, everyone," he began with a grateful look at Ginny. "I really appreciate all this," he said. "I...Uhhh...well actually we… that is to say, Ginny and I, have an announcement. So I'm glad you're all here."
His planned speech had floated out of his head and he felt panic replacing it. "I hope you all know how I feel about Ginny," he said pulling her near him. "I...love her very much, is the thing, and she's in love with me. Although I don't know that I deserve it. We...Ummm...talked the night before the duel, and we decided we should be married," said Harry, taking a breath. "When Ginny agreed, she made me the happiest person alive."
The Weasleys must have thought this was the entire announcement and began to jabber all at once. He heard someone in the room whisper the word 'engagement'. Congratulations flowed freely while Mr. Weasley beamed at them and Mrs. Weasley wiped fat tears from the corners of her eyes.
"A nice long engagement. How romantic! And it will give us plenty of time to plan the wedding," said Mrs. Weasley in a rapturous voice, albeit soggy voice.
"When is the big day?" shouted George over all the talking.
"Not for over a year, I should think," scoffed Mrs. Weasley in George's direction, "Ginny has school to finish, and lots of plans will have to be made..."
"Well," said Harry, who was beginning to think this might be easier then he imagined since they all seemed to like the idea. "It's already done."
Stunned silence followed his remark. Confused looks met his gaze and mouths hung open. "What are you saying Harry?" asked Bill carefully.
Harry felt wrong-footed as well as light-headed again. This was not, after all, going to be easy. "Yes, well you see, the night before we fought Voldemort, Ginny and I… got together...in my room. And we… talked… about how we wanted to be together no matter what happened," Harry registered that the smiles were a bit warier than before. "She stayed the night…in my room…and all...and…" A sort of frigid feeling filled the small, usually warm kitchen, as the formerly happy faces suddenly turned flat and tense.
Feeling as though blackness was closing in, Harry wobbled a bit then he steadied himself on a chair back. He was fighting faintness mixed with nausea and he could tell he had broken out in a cold sweat. Perhaps he should have waited at least one more day. Had he mentioned that he and Ginny were in love, and what they'd said to each other? He couldn't exactly remember. Judging by the looks on the faces in front of him, he must be doing this very badly. He decided to simply soldier on. "So… Ginny and I agreed we'd always be together… and we're having a baby, you see."
"You…what!" cried Bill. "My little sister…spent the night..."
"Uhh...yes," said Harry bracingly, trying desperately to think of something to say to put it all right. Charlie appeared to be trying to calm Bill down and the twins were whispering together. Ron just stood there, open-mouthed. Meanwhile, Mr. Weasley's face was turning progressively redder, as Mrs.Weasley's turned white.
"So that's why you locked..." began Fred with interest, but a general din of questions rose up, drowning out his remark.
Harry's head was swimming. He was sure he had not explained the entire thing properly.
Ginny who had stood silently thus far, moved forward, whistled once again for silence, then spoke up. "Harry is trying to spare everyone's feelings, and I love him for it. But, as I'm the Weasley here, I'm going to tell you exactly what happened. Before I do, I want you to know that a good part of this is completely my doing."
Harry interrupted her, "No, Ginny, you know I wanted it too."
"Just spit it out, one of you, please!" said Bill, in a very irritated voice.
"Poor Harry here is fresh from a COMA, after killing LORD VOLDEMORT, and barely able to stand as far as I can tell… yet, he's attempting to act the gentleman," scolded Ginny as she glared at her family. "So here's what really happened. Once I knew that Harry had challenged Voldemort, I gave our situation a lot of thought. On the night in question, I waited until I thought Harry had drunk the sleeping draught that Dumbledore sent him. Then, once his room was all quiet, I came in, and got into his bed." Mrs. Weasley gasped in dismay. "Oh, mother, really!" said Ginny.
"I knew he'd never consent to leave me with a child unless he was in a more...relaxed state," she squeezed his hand, as the family looked on, completely dumb-founded.
"Harry and I were, and are, very much in love. If he lived, I knew we would be together. We would have wanted to be married. But what if he didn't live? I wanted to give him a legacy of some kind, whatever the outcome of the battle. He has done so much for our family and the entire wizarding world, and what have we given back to him? He saved my life in the Chamber of Secrets when I would have died; say nothing about this summer and the mark. At the very least, I wanted for his name and bloodline to go on. I loved him and I wanted to give him that. I knew he'd never agree, but the potion rather softened him up."
"Softened?" whispered Fred incredulously to George.
Ginny shot him a filthy look and continued, "Still, Harry, being Harry, had only taken half of the stuff, and when he realized what I was up to he argued with me," she paused.
All eyes shifted to Harry, but it was hard to read the looks they held. Mr. Weasley's jaw muscle was moving nervously. Harry decided to take over.
"When Ginny told me what she wanted to do, well...I didn't see how I could let her, but she was determined and I...wanted a real family so much..." he broke off as a large lump in his throat made it impossible to for him to continue.
"When he saw that I wouldn't be refused, he did the most wonderful and romantic thing I've ever heard of," said Ginny, taking hold of both his hands and raising them to her heart. "He knelt and took my hands and promised to love me forever. Then I did the same." She paused again, smiling affectionately at him.
Harry felt warmth surge through him, as Mrs. Weasley let out another gasp into the silence.
Mr. Weasley coughed, "Did anything...happen...then? When you two made this promise?"
"Yes," said Harry. "This sort of sparkly red mist swirled around us when I made my promise to Ginny, and then it turned to gold when she gave hers to me."
In an awed voice, Mrs. Weasley exclaimed, "Then you're…you're definitely meant for each other." Her voice almost squeaking now, as more tears rolled down her cheeks. She took Mr. Weasley's hand and said, "Oh, Arthur!"
Ginny was not done, although Harry thought it not a bad spot to stop. "So we did as I had planned, then. Our son will be born in November, according to Madam Pomfrey," explained Ginny and she looked around the room waiting for the reaction.
It would have been a brilliant time for them to disapparate, and Harry cursed himself for not planning such a signal before they started. Hermione was the first to catch her breath. "A baby? You're actually expecting a baby? But Ginny, you could have used the spell for…" Ginny shot her a look that silenced Hermione.
"The whole point was to have Harry's baby, Hermione," replied Ginny firmly.
"But a baby...Ginny..." said Mrs. Weasley as Mr. Weasley pushed a large glass of mead into her hand, "You're so young, you're not done school, there hasn't been a proper ceremony with guests and…flowers…and…and a cake..." She rounded on her husband, "How will she complete school, Arthur? Where will they live?"
"Mrs. Weasley," said Harry, "I have a house. Well actually, I guess I have about three of them. We'll live at Godric's Hollow if it's all right with Ginny. And I can afford a tutor if she wants one, or she can go to Hogwarts, or whatever she wants to do."
"Mum," said Ginny calmly, "You were married right out of school."
"Well, that was different. I was at least a year older than you and..."
She was stopped in her discourse by Mr. Weasley, who stepped forward. "Harry, we couldn't ask for a finer person to marry our daughter. You two are very, very young, but you're clearly meant for each other. You've both been through more than any wizards will ever have to deal with, and as you've entered into a magical contract, I think we should all be content and happy that everything will work itself out. I propose a toast," he said, lifting his glass. "To Harry and Ginny, may they live a long and happy life together." The family drank to them and then surged forward in a pack to pat Harry on the back and hug Ginny.
Ron approached him with look that was hard to read.
"You and my sister in the dormitory," Ron said flatly.
"She's very persuasive, you know," Harry said, apologetically.
Ron stuck out his hand. Harry took it. "Welcome to the family."
It was as if the tension of minutes before had simply vanished. Mrs. Weasley and Hermione were now in full flow, telling Ginny that they still must have a wedding ceremony as soon as school was done. Mrs. Weasley was detailing any number to family heirlooms that should pass to Ginny as the only girl. Then they pulled her off, up the stairs so Mrs. Weasley could show her baby clothes she had kept stored.
All the Weasley men congratulated Harry in turn. Bill whispered that he guessed if his baby sister was to fall for someone, Harry was, after all, the perfect choice. Finally, Remus stepped up and shook Harry's hand. "When we talked last year about women, I didn't think you'd move quite this fast. What part of the lesson did I miss giving you?" he asked with a sly smile.
"You did just fine," said Harry grinning at him.
Harry heard the twins yell, "HIP- HIP- HOORAY!" while raising their glasses for another toast. The sound began to become muffled in Harry's head as noisy complements continued to be sent in his direction.
The whole thing finally got the best of him, and he swayed as his knees buckled, causing him to sink to the floor. Voices shouted around him, but they sounded very distant as though coming from down a very long corridor.
When Harry awoke, he was in his old four-poster in his dormitory room at Hogwarts. There was an argument in progress. He opened his eyes and retrieved his glasses from the bedside cabinet. Candles burned in the room and the sky outside the windows was now inky black.
"He'll be happier here…and I'll watch over him."
"He belongs in the hospital wing. Not out gallivanting around the countryside. He needs a lot of rest, no matter how he thinks he feels."
"Harry will want to be here and I promise to keep him down…and you can visit him. But I know Harry and he won't want to be tied to a hospital bed." The speaker was Ginny. Madam Pomfrey was standing in front of her with her arms crossed and a sour expression on her face.
Harry was just about to make it known that he was awake, when Professor McGonagall entered the room.
"Good! Minerva," said Madam Pomfrey. "We need to get a few things straight."
"Wait a moment Poppy, Professor Dumbledore is joining us. He's had a conversation with Arthur Weasley."
Madam Pomfrey did not seem to think that any conversation with Arthur Weasley was likely to change her mind about her patient, but the three of them stood silently looking at the door and waiting.
Dumbledore arrived within seconds, leaning on his cane, and sounding out of breath. "Chair, if you please," he wheezed. Professor McGonagall, Madam Pomfrey and Ginny all rushed forward to assist him. McGonagall produced the requested chair with a flick of her wand, and Madam Pomfrey helped him into it. Ginny took his cane and leaned it against the wall.
"Thank you, all," said Dumbledore with a heavy sigh.
"You didn't have to come all the way up…" began Professor McGonagall.
"But I think I did," said Dumbledore. "It's easier this way, as all the key players are assembled here, and it appears we need to get a few points straightened out. I would prefer to do it immediately to avoid confusion and misunderstandings."
Harry cleared his throat, and they all looked over at him.
"Harry!" exclaimed the headmaster. "So good to see you awake. Excellent!" He smiled warmly at Harry. "Well, I believe I will begin."
Dumbledore straightened slightly in his seat and then surveyed them all. "First, Harry. You were nothing short of magnificent against Voldemort! Simply magnificent. I was more proud than I could say. Very clever of you to figure out that your friend Ron could help you boost the power of your Elemental spell. May I ask how you learned it?"
Harry flushed. He had kept this information secret from even Dumbledore. "I…read something my mum wrote in a journal. She didn't really understand it herself I think. I tried it with Ron and it did seem to help the spell."
"It most certainly did, and of course it answers the question of why the two of you went off on your own to practice," said Dumbledore comfortably. "Again, congratulations!"
"Not to diminish your accomplishment in any way, Harry, but I think we'll get to the business at hand. We can compare notes later," said Dumbledore brightly. Harry nodded, smiling. Then Dumbledore looked at the others in the room.
"It seems that we have a problem at the moment. Harry, you require rest, and a several potions to be taken every few hours. Is that correct Madam Pomfrey?" She nodded curtly. "We can hardly afford to lose you to poor medical care after you killed the greatest dark wizard of the age, and lived through it."
"Ms. Weasley and those who brought you back to school felt you would want to recuperate here, in your dormitory room. Ms. Weasley has been insisting upon it, in fact." Ginny nodded seriously. "Arthur Weasley was among those who returned you to school. He has provided me with certain information to help me understand the entire situation," said Dumbledore.
Harry was sure he knew what Mr. Weasley had told the headmaster and he felt, as he had done before, that he was honor bound to explain it himself. "Sir, I'm sure he told you about me and Ginny."
Madam Pomfrey gasped. "So it was Potter?" she asked rounding on Ginny. "And you hadn't told Professor Dumbledore as you said you would," she said sternly.
Ginny looked at the floor.
"It's not her fault Madam Pomfrey. She wanted to tell me first, I think," said Harry. Ginny turned to him and grinned.
Professor McGonagall looked lost. "What ever are you talking about?" she asked.
"The baby is Potter's," said Madam Pomfrey in explanation.
"The….what?" said McGonagall sharply.
"Ginny and I are having a baby," replied Harry.
Professor McGonagall's thin face went very white. She sunk on to a nearby bed clutching at her heart. "A baby! How….where…? Never mind," she said weakly.
"I agree, the…a…details are unimportant," said Dumbledore, delicately. "I understand though, that Harry and Ginny made a binding magical contract before hand, in which they agreed to be bound together for life."
"They are… married?" asked Madam Pomfrey softly.
"I believe, based on Arthur's description, that there was red and gold mist too. Is that correct?" asked Dumbledore interestedly.
Harry and Ginny both said "Yes," simultaneously, smiling at each other.
The expression of everyone in the room softened, and both older women smiled in spite of themselves.
"So young, though," said Madam Pomfrey, who sniffed and pulled handkerchief from her pocket.
"Yes," said McGonagall, snapping out of her wistful reverie. "Young, and still in school. What's to be done, Albus?"
"I suggest we allow Miss Weasley..."
Harry cut across him, "Uhh…That's Mrs. Potter, sir," he said looking Dumbledore in the eye.
"Just as you say Harry," replied Dumbledore in amusement. "I think we can allow the Potter's," and he gestured to both of them, "to share this room for the remainder of term, or until Harry is well, and chooses to leave school. There are few students here to know, or care about the arrangement."
"But now that Voldemort is gone, we may have more students returning. We've already got back some of the ones we sent home before the battle," said McGonagall.
"I think we can manage, Minerva, regardless of how many return," said Dumbledore, with a finality that ended any further discussion of the matter.
He turned to Ginny. "Have you considered what you intend to do about your remaining year my dear?"
"I haven't given it much thought," she said. "But I'd want to finish my NEWTs, I guess."
"Well, do give it some thought," said Dumbledore, rising from his chair. "It would be lovely to have you back next year if you can manage it."
"But Albus, a pregnant student?" asked McGonagall.
"Yes! It should excite all sorts of interesting owls from parents. I can not wait." He winked at Ginny and patted her shoulder warmly, whispering, "Congratulations." Then he left the room, helped by Professor McGonagall.
Madam Pomfrey stayed back a moment. She waved her wand and half dozen potions appeared on the bedside cabinet. She looked uncertain. "He'll need to keep taking those," she said. "I'll be in to check on him in the morning. And….he'll need complete rest." She emphasized the last word and looked significantly at Ginny. Then she turned with a sly smile on her lips, and left the room.
Ginny closed the door and leaned against it, looking over at Harry.
"Lock it, why don't you," he said.
Harry chafed at being kept in bed by the three women now watching over his recovery. Professor McGonagall had taken to visiting him once a day and testing his ability to perform magic. He had been very weak at first and even the simplest spells had drained him. McGonagall was surprised he had managed apparition the day he came to, given his inability to transfigure even the smallest mouse into a coin purse.
Madam Pomfrey came and went at various times during the day, checking his potion supply and asking him always, if he'd taken all the doses she had prescribed.
Ginny, who was trying feverishly to finish all her sixth year work, was absent during the day, but comfortably wrapped around him each night.
Ginny came bursting into the dormitory room a week after Harry had awakened. "Mac has agreed to finish any lessons I need to complete my NEWTs," she explained. "He says he can do it anywhere I like. He said he could get me through anything but Arithmancy, which he hates. We've had several long talks, and you know, I really like him."
"He might as well come stay at Godric's Hollow then. If that's right?" asked Harry. He was not entirely sure what was appropriate.
"Oh! Could we ask him? I'd love to have him!" Ginny cried, hugging Harry. "I think he needs company and looking after."
So it was that Mac took up residence in the suite of rooms on the ground floor where Aunt Petunia had stayed. Harry had a study added to the house facing out on the back garden where Mac could sit and work as he pleased. Fred and George had found a contractor to make the addition, using magic, and then had helped Mac move in. It was all accomplished in a few days time.
Just before he left for Godric's Hollow, Mac visited Harry in his dormitory room and handed him a Hogwarts completion certificate, signed by all his teachers. None of them seemed to feel exams were needed.
"But, what about my NEWTs?" Harry asked.
"Harry, you have an amazing number of very good job offers I hear…If that's what you are worried about. If you sit the exams, I'm certain the examiners will all give you "O"s just for showing up, but really, what is the point?" Mac smiled at him. "You are Harry Potter, a legend, a prodigy. No one is likely to question your abilities, boy." He doffed his hat and grinned as he left the room. "See you soon," he whispered.
The now nearly rabid reporters stationed at the gates were calling more loudly each day for a word of any kind from Harry, and he finally consented to an interview, including Ron, in hopes they would get their fill and leave him alone. When Rita Skeeter, a secretary, and three photographers turned up for the interview, Harry was not sure it had been such a good idea. Ron, however, was in fine form, and once started, could not be stopped from chatting on and on. He told them nearly everything, with many embellishments. He and Harry's pictures rated the front page of the Prophet, for days and days afterwards.
Ginny had finished all the schoolwork to complete her sixth year, including exams, before the month was finished. The small number of students made this very easy. So as April turned to May, it was time to go home to Godric's Hollow.
Life tried to find a normal pace. Mac spent each morning working with Ginny and in no time, he had her ready for her first NEWT exam. Dobby bustled about the place, cleaning and singing to himself. Harry, who felt stronger with each passing day, decided to set his mothers papers in order and add to her research notes on Elemental Magic.
Then of course, there was the pending birth. "She's a fine healthy girl and in good shape. This should go easily enough for her," Madam Pomfrey had proclaimed after examining Ginny in early June.
Harry harbored a strong dislike for St. Mungos, having nearly been killed there by Voldemort. Everyone from Dumbledore to Mrs. Weasley to Hermione had told him that the hospital had been completely purged of Death Eaters. Still, the place held very bad memories for Harry. The thought of his baby being born there did not give him comfort.
When Madam Pomfrey insisted that she and she alone would handle the delivery, he was noticeably relieved. In her, Harry had supreme confidence, although as she pointed out, he was never a very good patient. The matron, looking as strict as usual, but clearly pleased, had given Harry instructions on how to reach her, and what to do when the time came. Ginny simply smiled at him, both grateful for his involvement and amused by his intensity.
They had settled on the name James Arthur Harold Potter. Madam Pomfrey reminded Ginny that the sex of the child was not certain. Ginny, however, was positive. She had set out to give Harry a son and she knew the baby would be a boy. There was no doubt of it.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Weasley had not been dissuaded from having what she referred to as 'a real' wedding. As June drew to an end, the wedding plans were taking over everything. Ginny had remained very calm and viewed the entire thing with amusement. Her mother, on the other hand….
It was nearly eleven in the morning and the ceremony was set to start at eleven-thirty. Hagrid was keeping watch at the gate to Godric's Hollow, and admitting only those on the invited guest list. The bright July day was warm and the air was filled with the smell of flowers in bloom. The garden had been set with small white chairs in rows, and the ivy-covered arbor had been festooned with white ribbons that fluttered and floated on the warm breeze.
Harry was nervously pacing the bedroom at the end of the hall, on the second floor, where he had been banished the previous night. Mrs. Weasley, succumbing to every imaginable superstition concerning weddings, had insisted that Harry not see the bride until the ceremony, which seemed to include the sleeping arrangements the night before hand. Harry who had become used to sleeping curled up with Ginny, found an empty bed to be surprisingly uninviting.
Ron was going to be the official witness, along with Hermione, who was nervous as a cat. The two of them had gone off to talk to Amelia Bones, Minister of Magic, who had insisted on presiding over the ceremony once she heard about it from Mr. Weasley.
Harry paced the room again. He really wanted to see Ginny. A garden full of guests was waiting for them and he felt butterflies in his stomach. It was silly really. They were already married as far as wizard custom went. Harry decided he'd risk the potential destruction of the known universe in favor of a few calming words from the women he loved.
He walked quietly down the hall to the room they normally shared. He rapped on the door, making sure no one was watching from the hallway below. "Come in," called Ginny. Harry slipped inside and was glad to see the room was empty but for her. She was seated, very straight-backed, on a pouf in front of a small dressing table with a large oval mirror. She was holding her hair atop her head and was pinning it up with her other hand. Her dress was long and straight and made of some white filmy, floaty material that seemed to shimmer. The buttons in the back were undone and open to the waist, revealing a sliver of skin that made Harry's mouth go dry.
Ginny smiled at him from the mirror. "You look very handsome," she said. Harry was wearing a black tuxedo, instead of dress robes. Ron had one on too. Hermione had decided that they would look smart in them. Ron thought his vest felt too tight and he kept shifting around uncomfortably until Hermione had given him a dirty look
"Thanks," said Harry. "You look...magnificent."
She laughed. "With my hair half done and my dress open in back? You're sweet," she said. Harry, however, was suppressing a strong urge to pick her up and put her down on the bed where removing the dress and mussing her hair would be the first order of business. "Do me up?" she asked. It was a credit to Harry's will power that he managed this operation with only the briefest kiss on the back of her neck.
She finished her hair and lifted a flower-covered circlet from the dressing table, placing it carefully on her head. Then she rose and smoothed down the front of her dress. Turning sideways to the mirror, "Do I show?" she asked.
"No," he grinned taking her hand. At such moments, he found her utterly irresistible.
In a few minutes, they were walking together into the garden where their friends and family were seated. Everyone rose and turned to look at them with bright smiling faces as they walked together up the center aisle to stand before the Minister, who would record their union.
Harry breathed in deeply of the pleasant summer air, and tried to walk very slowly up the aisle as Hermione had instructed. Ginny's dress rustled the grass as she walked next to him and he squeezed her fingers lightly as he smiled and nodded to the people he passed. The buzz of bees emanated from the flower garden off to his right. The patch of blooms with their white, yellow and purple heads, were adding their own sweet fragrances to the subtle current of air that wafted over the entire proceeding. A small rabbit stuck its head out from under a leafy bed and then streaked away to a less crowded part of the lawn. Harry relaxed, entwined his fingers with Ginny's, and thought to himself how very wonderful life was.
Ginny stood at the window of the bedroom on the second floor looking out over the back lawn. Ron had come over with his broomstick and he and Harry were chasing each other around, taking turns playing Chaser and Keeper. They were laughing and taunting each other as they looped and twisted in mid-air.
Ginny smiled. It was good to see Harry enjoying life, after everything he had been through in the years since his birth. It was amazing, really, that he hadn't turned out a criminal or a complete nutter. She did wish he'd pick up his socks from the floor, but then that was hardly in the same category, was it.
A scout from the Chudley Canons was coming tomorrow to have a look at both Ron and Harry for the team. Ron was wild with excitement. This was his life's dream. Even Hermione, who never had understood Quidditch properly, was excited for him. Harry said he'd really like to play Quidditch professionally if they'd have him. Ginny knew they'd both be taken on. The Canon's needed new talent, and Ginny knew enough about Quidditch to realize Harry, at least, was an excellent find. The pair of them, given their 'star' status, would be a huge draw for fans who wanted to see the now famous duo. Ginny suspected that the Canons were keen enough to have them both that they'd even change their colors from flaming orange if Harry or Ron asked.
Of course, Harry could walk into the Ministry and be hired on the spot as an Auror. She thought he might actually do that some day…some day when he'd had his fill of not having the fate of the world in his hands. For now, let him play games and have fun, she thought. He, above anyone else, had earned it. She stroked her swelling stomach. Harry seemed so content nowadays with his home and pending family and the prospect of just playing some Quidditch.
Ron and Harry were back down on the ground again and getting ready to release another Quaffle. As they kicked off into the air, the baby kicked too. Madam Pomfrey was predicting two more weeks. Ginny smiled and whispered, "Soon, little one, soon." Her mother was literally dying to get her hands on her new grandchild. Between Harry, Hermione and Mac, she'd have to get in line.
Harry still awoke in a cold sweat some nights with lingering nightmares, although these events were becoming far fewer. She was always able to calm him with a soothing word or a gentle kiss. It had been over a month since the last bad dream and Ginny expected they would soon disappear for good.
Harry and Ron whooshed past the windows of the upper floor. Harry grinned cheekily at her as he passed. She smiled back at him and waved, then stepped away from the window and laid some folded sheets into the bureau. It wouldn't be long, thought Ginny to herself…it wouldn't be long until little James arrived. It wouldn't be long until the only lingering reminder of the horror that had been Voldemort, was Harry's now fading, lightening bolt scar.
Thank you for reading and for your reviews. It really does provide motivation to continue. I expect to be writing a series of Fred and George stories next. Look for them in the coming months.