Hello, my friends! After a rather long delay, I am back with the sequel to Evanescence! Voldemort is dead, the world is joyful and celebrating... life appears to be going back to normal, and our heroes have paused in the good fight to deal with the life that is happening around them. However, the peace will be short-lived. Harry and Ron know that there are Death Eaters still to be dealt with; two in particular who are, perhaps, capable of creating more trouble than even our heroes are aware.
I will warn you all, there is plenty of fluff in this. It is, I believe, merited. It has been proven throughout history that in times of war and soon after, marriage rates and population growth both increase. That is one of the many things that is happening in the Wizarding world as we rejoin our characters. For those of you who don't read my stuff for the fluff, all I can say is there is plenty more – it's just that everyone has just sighed a huge breath of relief – and no one really wants to think about fighting the Dark right away. It is there, of course... and will rear it's ugly head soon enough.
In any case, here it is. I hope you enjoy! For all my loyal readers, I'm giving you fair warning that I won't be updating QUITE as quickly as I have in past. I've taken on a new contract and will be spending some major time on that, not to mention the possibility of a relocation in the not too distant future. Expect updates about twice a week or so!
As always, I own none of this – it's all JKR's, I'm just playing in her sandbox for a while!
Life, or Something Like It
Chapter One: Coming Together
Ginny Weasley watched as her brother, older by seventeen months, danced his brand new wife around the makeshift dance floor that Bill and Charlie had charmed into existence in the back yard of Potter Manor that morning.
There were tears in her eyes, and she didn't know why. She was happy for them... she couldn't be happier for them, actually. Ron and Hermione had finally gotten what they wanted: each other. She wasn't unhappy, actually. She was just... melancholy. She watched as Hermione looked up into Ron's eyes, her face glowing. Hermione had a beautiful smile, and Ron was putty in her hands when she turned it on him.
They had decided on a small ceremony, no guests beyond the Weasley and Granger families and a few members of the Order, but that was before Molly got hold of their plans.
Molly. Mum. Wow.
That had been a sight to behold. Ginny shivered as she remembered her mother's reaction to the news. Ron and Hermione had sat Molly and Arthur down in the lounge upon their return from the hospital the day that Harry and Ginny had been released. After the crowds of reporters, the comments asked for by everyone... for publication, of course... on how the final confrontation with Voldemort had played out, it had been almost peaceful at Harry's house. At first.
"Mum, Dad..." Ron had swallowed nervously. "Hermione and I..."
"You're engaged!" Molly was bouncing, unable to wait for their news.
"Well, yes," Ron looked at Hermione, confused for a moment. "But..."
"Oh, I knew it! I knew it! We'll plan a lovely wedding for next June after you graduate! You can live with us until..."
"Molly," Arthur tried to interrupt. He could tell that that wasn't all from the looks on their faces.
"And Bill and Fleur will have had the baby by then, and..."
"Oh, it will be a lovely wedding. I do hope your mother won't mind my helping, Hermione..."
"Mrs Weasley! I'm pregnant!" Hermione spoke firmly, clearly. Loudly.
Molly stopped dead. Her face was pale, her eyes wide. One eyebrow began to edge higher.
"Hermione and I are going to have a baby, Mum," Ron said.
From where he and Ginny sat on the sofa, Harry flinched. This wasn't going to be good.
"I... you're..." Molly swallowed. "Ronald Weasley, you...!"
Ron stiffened, waiting for the full blast of his mother's temper.
"Mrs. Weasley, it takes two people to make a baby," Hermione said softly. "Ron didn't do this alone. If you're going to shout at him, you'll have to shout at me, as well."
Molly seemed speechless for a moment.
"It wasn't planned, but..." Hermione looked up at her fiance, her eyes glowing. "But it's very, very welcome."
"You... he..." Molly flushed. "I knew you shouldn't have been allowed to go without an adult..."
"Mum, we are adults," Ron said.
"Well, you aren' t acting very adult, are you? An unplanned pregnancy? How many times did you father speak to you about... about... precautions?"
Arthur cleared his throat uncomfortably, and Molly whirled on him.
"Arthur! You did speak to him about precautions? I hope?"
"Dad spoke to all of us, Mum. It wasn't that. It's just..."
"Molly," Arthur spoke. "'Precautions' didn't always work for us, either, dear."
"Arthur!" Molly's cheeks were pink.
Molly turned on Harry and Ginny, sitting side by side on the sofa, and glared at them. "And I suppose you two have been at it, as well, then? Any more news for me? Is my daughter going to be presenting me with a grandchild within months, as well, Harry?"
Harry flushed, then paled.
"No, Mrs Weasley. Not to my knowledge. However, if she were..." Harry looked down at her. "It wouldn't make me love her any less than I do, and it wouldn't change... well, I would hope it wouldn't change how you viewed her. I, for one, am happy for Ron and Hermione. They'll make wonderful parents, so far as I'm able to judge."
Molly looked at him, horrified, for a moment. "Oh, Harry... I'm sorry... I..."
"Mum," Ron touched her shoulder. "Hermione and I are happy about this. We want to be together. We didn't exactly plan it to happen so soon, but that doesn't mean it's unwelcome news. At least, not to us."
"I thought we'd have a small ceremony. Just the family," Hermione said, obviously thinking it might be better to move on. "As some... most... of the guests will be magical, I rather thought it would be better to have it here than at my parent's home, but..."
"Of course you'll be married here!" Molly turned tearful eyes on her. "Oh, Hermione... I'm so sorry..."
Molly pulled Hermione to her, against her ample chest, and hugged her tightly. Hermione, her own eyes watering, hugged her back.
"I'm sorry, Mrs Weasley... for disappointing you. But I can't be sorry about our baby. I can't."
"Oh, love, of course you can't!" Molly pulled back, looking into the younger woman's eyes. "All babies are blessings, Hermione. All of them. No matter when they come, or how many there are."
After that, plans had gotten completely out of Hermione's control. Two weeks later, she'd thrown up her hands, tossed her day-planner aside, and given in to Molly. Mrs Granger had laughingly told them that Mr Granger's mother had done much the same thing, and let Molly get on with it, acknowledging that Molly was by far the better organizer between the two of them.
And here they were. Married. Hermione wore soft, cream colored robes that were gathered under her breasts, hiding the slight rounding of her belly that had become obvious only in the last week. Ginny smiled as she remembered the early morning... the very early morning, that Hermione had bounced into her room, her pajama top raised, as she showed Ginny what she'd discovered, the tiny bump that she and Ron had made.
"Hey," Ginny felt someone come to stand beside her. Glancing over, she saw the bright green eyes she loved.
"They look happy."
"I love you."
"What have you been into?" Ginny turned to look at him suspiciously. She sniffed. "You've been drinking. What did the twins give you?"
"What, I can't tell you I love you without you suspecting firewhiskey?"
"Firewhiskey, was it?"
"Um," Harry flushed. "Yes. Fred."
"I see," she snorted. "Does Mum know?"
Harry looked at her, horrified at the thought.
"I'll take that as a no," Ginny laughed. "Right. I love you, too, Harry."
"That wasn't just the firewhiskey talking, you know."
"I know," Ginny nodded. "It could have had something to do with the fact that Mum has you sleeping as far away from my room as is possible in this place, too."
"It's okay, Harry," she slid her hand into his. "I should have known that Mum would get super-vigilant after Ron and Hermione's news... but..."
"But I miss sleeping next to you. Think we could disappear with that tent for a couple of weeks?"
Harry's cheeks flushed ever so slightly.
"Come on," Ginny grinned. "Dance with me."
The fairy lights that were sparkling in the trees were the only light beyond that on the back terrace of the house. Harry looked over Ginny's head as they danced at the large brick home.
It was his. Potter Manor. He could hardly believe he owned this... and most of the land for a mile in any direction.
"It's beautiful," Ginny said softly.
"Your home. It's beautiful."
Harry looked down into her eyes and smiled. Perhaps it was time...
Fred and George rolled up to them, obviously the worse for their consumption of the firewhiskey they'd brought along. Fred had his arm slung around Angelina Johnson, who was beginning to look decidedly impatient.
"Fred, George," Harry guided Ginny to the edge of the dance floor, followed by the twins.
Ginny was about to do a quiet sobering charm on them before their mother caught sight of them, but Angelina stopped her. Katie, George's date, stood a couple feet away, an openly disgruntled look on her face.
"Don't!" Angelina hissed. "Do not sober them up!"
"What?" Ginny looked at her.
"If you do, they'll just drink some more. Remus, Tonks, Hermione and Charlie have all done sobering charms on them so far, and the minute they find themselves sober again, they're back with another bottle. I have no idea where they're getting it from, but, please... don't."
"Let her!" Angelina said, almost desperately. "At this point, I think it's precisely what they need!"
"You haven't ever been witness to a Molly-moment, have you, Angelina?" Harry asked dryly.
"Fred and George Weasley!"
"But she's about to be," Ginny muttered, turning to see her mother striding towards them with an empty firewhiskey bottle in each hand.
"Mum!" Fred crowed happily. "We didn't know you liked firewhiskey! We would have brought you a bottle!"
"Fred!" Molly stopped in front of him.
"I'm George," Fred leaned against Angelina. "He's Fred, I think..."
"How could you? And at your brother's wedding, of all places? What will the Delacour's think..."
"Mrs Weasley," Harry interrupted. "Why don't you let me... quietly... take them upstairs? I'm sure we don't need to make everyone aware of what they've done?"
"Yes," Molly nodded, her eyes still snapping. "Good idea, Harry. Take them upstairs, let them sleep it off. I'll deal with them in the morning."
"Good," Harry said, pulling George's arm around his neck to help him inside.
"And the first person to give them either a sobering charm or a hangover potion will answer directly to me, am I making myself clear?" she asked the group.
"Yes," Angelina nodded, glancing at Katie, who followed silently. George was in for it twice tomorrow, from what Harry could see.
Harry led them all, supporting George, with Ginny on the other side, in through the conservatory doors and across the tiled floor into the lounge and through, across the tiled foyer and up the stairs towards the back wing of rooms, which had remained empty even after everyone returned. Harry still was unsure of how many bedrooms there were, but there were enough for the Weasley family, the Grangers, and several others. In all, Ron and Hermione's wedding had had over a hundred guests, large for a wizarding wedding, according to Ginny.
Harry led them into a suite of rooms at the back, overlooking the gardens and the celebration going on. There were three bedrooms, a lounge, floo and a private bath, and Harry thought the four of them would be more than comfortable here.
"If you need to floo-call anyone, the floo in here is hooked up for calls but not travel. If you need to leave you'll have to use the main floo downstairs," Harry said as he let George down onto the sofa. "Anything you need, just call for Dobby."
"Dobby?" Angelina asked.
"House elf," Harry explained. "And a friend."
"Harry, could you...?" Angelina indicated towards one of the doors. "I don't think I'd be able to get either of them into bed tonight."
"You underestimate your charms, my dear," Fred muttered.
Harry flushed, and helped Fred to his feet, guiding him towards a bedroom and a bed, where he managed to get him lying down on top of the covers. Fred didn't appear bothered. He was snoring before Harry made it to the door.
He helped Ginny pull George into another room, where they only managed to get him lying sideways across the bed before he passed out.
"Leave him," Katie sighed. "He'll manage. Angelina and I will share the other room so they're not alone, and watch that they don't go wandering in the night. I'll floo my mum and tell her not to expect me."
With this, the disgruntled blonde Chaser turned and headed back to the lounge and the floo. Harry smiled.
"Poor George?" Ginny looked up at him.
"Can you imagine what his life is going to be like tomorrow after your Mum and Katie are through with him, with no hangover potion to help?"
Ginny giggled. "Perhaps a word to Dobby?"
"It would be the humane thing to do, wouldn't it?" Harry smiled.
After ensuring that Angelina and Katie didn't need anything further, they headed back to the party. On the way, Harry stopped in the kitchen to find Dobby organizing what seemed to be an army of houseelves who were busy arranging the midnight buffet.
"Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby glowed.
"Dobby, Fred and George are in the first suite in the back wing. Both are feeling rather..."
"Under the weather, Harry Potter, sir?" Dobby smiled knowingly.
"Rather. Now, Mrs Weasley has ordered that they get no sobering charms, or hangover potions, but..."
"Oh, houseelves do not brew potions, Harry Potter sir. I'm sure that what Dobby takes them couldn't be called a potion. Special house elf tea, that's all Dobby will take them."
"Great, Dobby. Thank you."
"Thank you, Harry Potter, sir!"
And with that, they returned to the party outside.
"Wake up, sleepyhead."
Ginny surface to see Harry's bright green eyes looking down at her. For a moment she thought...
"She's downstairs, starting breakfast. You've got fifteen minutes, or I'm leaving without you."
"Shopping?" Ginny grimaced.
"Come on. We both need some things, Gin."
Ginny grumbled as she quickly showered, dressed, and raced out of her room and down the stairs. She knew Harry wouldn't leave without her, but she planned on eating before going anywhere, and she didn't want to keep him waiting.
Harry was seated at the table, tucking into a plate of sausage and egg, next to Fleur who was looking ill at the sight of food.
"Fleur, you okay?" Ginny asked.
"I am..." Fleur looked away. "I must have kept the baby awake too long last night. Perhaps I am just... tired."
"Perhaps you should go back to bed and rest, dear?" Molly brought a plate of toast and fruit for Ginny.
"Thanks, Mum," Ginny smiled.
"Non," Fleur said, flushing. "No. Thank you, Maman. I am just..."
"Love, you're due in a little over a week. Your body will demand rest."
"I shall nap this afternoon, right now, I must make some preparations in the... pépinière...the nursery."
Standing, the tall slim woman looked, to Harry's eyes, ready to topple over. Her belly was swollen to easily three times the size he was sure it should be. She looked unbalanced.
"Would you like me to help you...?" Harry stood.
Fleur turned soft blue eyes on him, an expression of fondness in them. Fleur had had a soft spot for Harry ever since that business with her sister and the mer people. "Non, merci, 'Arry. I will be fine. Maman, perhaps Dobby could bring me a cup of tea shortly?"
"Off you go, love. Sit in that lovely rocking chair and I'll send Dobby up with a pot in a bit."
When Fleur had gone, Harry glanced at Molly who was still gazing distractedly at the door, a concerned expression on her face.
"Oh... I'm sorry, Harry. Can I get you something more?"
"No, thank you," he glanced down at his plate. "Is Fleur okay?"
"Fleur?" Molly smiled, glancing at the door again. "She'll be right as rain in no time, love."
"The baby?" Harry glanced towards the hall where Bill's wife had disappeared. "It's okay?"
"I'm sure it's just fine."
"She just seemed... tired."
"Of course she's tired, Harry," Ginny finished her tea. "She's carrying an extra forty pounds around."
"Forty?" Harry was surprised. Fleur looked... well, the pregnancy was obviously showing hugely on her slim frame, but forty pounds?
"She's carrying high, too," Molly mused. "With her being so tall and thin, it's going to be hard on her back."
"High?" Harry glanced between the two women. They both had rather odd looks on their faces. What was it about pregnancy that turned women...
"A boy, then, Mum?"
"Oh, I'm certain of it," Molly said, pouring herself a cup of tea and sitting down. "Her complexion is glowing..."
"Yes, I noticed," Ginny said dryly. "I just figured, the Veela thing..."
Harry looked at the two of them, wondering what on earth they were talking about. Did women have some sort of secret knowledge? Some sort of code they began to speak in at a time like this?
Molly smiled, glancing at him as he watched them closely. "What is it, Harry?"
"How... what are you two talking about?"
Ginny grinned. "You can sometimes tell..."
"Just old witches tale talk, Harry," Molly interrupted with a small smile. "Now, what have you two got planned for today?"
"London," Harry said, turning back to his plate.
"London?" Molly looked at Ginny, then back to Harry, worriedly. "Are you sure...?"
"Mrs Weasley, we've been wandering about Europe for the better part of a year... we faced Voldemort a month ago. We'll be fine in London."
"Of course you will, I was just..."
"I know," Harry stood, leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. "But we'll be fine."
"Do you need anything, Mum?" Ginny asked, collecting their dishes and placing them neatly in the sink.
Molly threw a distracted rinsing charm at them. "No, love. Dobby has been doing all the marketing. He's a wonder, really."
"Then we'll be off. See you later."
"All day, I would expect," Harry said as he took Ginny's hand and moved towards the floo. "Don't worry, we'll be fine."
Molly sighed and watched them go.
They flooed through to the Leaky Cauldron, and headed quickly out the door into muggle London before anyone more than Tom, the barkeeper, recognized them. Harry quickly hailed a cab and had them on their way to Harrods before Ginny knew it.
An hour later, Harry had all he felt he needed. New everything from the skin out, and a pile of toiletries that had Ginny raising her eyebrows at him.
"Aftershave, Ginny. Not perfume... aftershave."
"Perfume," she scoffed, teasingly.
"Hey, you try shaving without it."
"I don't see why you don't just shave the wizard way."
"What?" Harry looked at her, curious.
"What do you mean, the wizard way?"
"I mean, the wizard way. Don't tell me that no one has shown you the shaving charm?"
"What?" She looked at him, confused. No one had shown him how to shave?
Harry stared hard at her. The sum total of Harry's shaving education had come from Uncle Vernon tossing a packet of disposable razors at him and telling him to clean himself up.
"You mean...?" Ginny looked oddly at him for a moment. "I would have thought Ron would have... haven't you ever seen anyone, Dean or the others, doing the shaving charm?"
"They're always done by the time I see them."
"No doubt. It only takes about three seconds."
"Oh, Harry..." Ginny looked at him sadly. "I didn't... I thought you shaved the muggle way by choice..."
"Ginny, no bloke in his right mind shaves this way by choice. Trust me."
"Put that stuff back, love," Ginny pointed at the pile of shaving supplies. "You won't be needing any of it any longer."
Harry put the shaving things back, took the piles of clothes and other things and headed to the cashier, feeling slightly upset. Apparently, his girlfriend was going to teach him how to shave. How sad was that?
Once Harry's purchases were paid for and bagged, Ginny began walking back towards the escalator.
"Where are you going?" Harry asked, pulling her back by her hand.
"No, we're not even half done. Come on."
The following two hours were more fun than Ginny could ever remember having shopping for clothes. Molly generally had a list, a budget, and a very clear idea of what 'wore well'. Harry bought her silk blouses, absolutely frivolous tshirts with naughty sayings on them, and jeans that fit.
He blushed and stammered his way through her lingerie selections. He nearly choked when she chose a lacey nightgown with a matching robe, and his eyes widened noticeably when she selected swimwear. He only entered his comfort zone again when she began to choose socks. Socks, he could handle.
Until he noticed the several pairs of silk stockings she was considering. That's when he went to sit down.
On their way out, Harry directed her to the shoe department and bought her new trainers and a pair of leather dress shoes, while getting a couple new pair for himself. He hesitated over a pair of strappy heels, glancing at her with flushed cheeks, and sighed when she began to laugh herself silly.
"Not on your life, Potter. A woman needs a death wish to go with those things!"
They exited the store, hailed another taxi, and headed back to Charing Cross Road and the Leaky Cauldron.
"Thank you," Ginny sighed, slouching back in the seat and casting a loving look at Harry.
"Hey, we're only halfway there."
"We still have shopping to do in the Alley."
"We both need some things from Madam Malkins, Gin."
"Harry, I can't," she protested, her eyes begging him to understand.
"Yes, you can. At any rate, you're going to."
"Harry! Mum will go spare!"
"Then she'll have to go spare," Harry said, helping her from the taxi before leaning in to pay the driver.
"You won't be the one on the receiving end of her 'nice girls don't accept such expensive gifts' speech," Ginny grumbled darkly.
"Ah," Harry flushed. "Perhaps not. Why don't you just leave your Mum to me, hmm?"
"Easy for you to say. She didn't give birth to you, so she doesn't feel right giving you her in-person version of a howler."
They made short work of their errands at Madam Malkins. Despite her objections, Harry insisted that Ginny get two new sets of everyday robes, and a set of dress robes. She drew the line at buying new school robes, though.
"Harry, we don't even know for sure that school will go back in this year, and I'm certainly not decided on whether I'm going back even if it does."
"If I do decide to go back, there will be plenty of time. It's only May, Harry."
"Don't be angry with me."
"I'm not. But it's important that you get your NEWTs, Gin."
"Who says I won't?"
Harry blinked at her.
"Harry, after everything that has happened this past year, I don't know if I can go back there and be happy. After the freedom we've had, the things we've done..."
"My dorm mates are going to seem pretty juvenile, Harry," Ginny snorted. "Who am I kidding? They were juvenile before. I always hung out with Hermione and Lavender and Parvati. And none of them are going to be there."
"How do you know?"
"Hermione and Ron are married, and Lavender and Dean are about to be."
"Where did you...?" He looked oddly at her. Where did she find out these things?
"Lavender told me at the wedding," Ginny explained with a dismissive wave of her hand.
"Well, Parvati..." Harry started, not wanted to really get into how Ginny might feel about Dean getting married.
"Parvati and Padma went to their aunt in Canada to attend the Canadian wizarding school in Toronto this past year. They're done."
"Lives in another house. Besides, she's been working at the Quibbler. I don't think she's going back."
"Harry, a lot has changed. Hogwarts will have changed, as well," Ginny said in a gentle voice as they walked along, her hand squeezing his.
Harry remained silent as they reentered the Leaky Cauldron, but he was thinking. Yes, many things had changed. Hogwarts would not have escaped the fate that the rest of the wizarding world had suffered. Voldemort might be gone, but at what cost? And it still isn't over... there are still others out there. Others who might just take it into their heads to start this all over again if I don't do something about it. Just... how?