The late August sunshine broke through the bay window, lighting up the large kitchen of the country cottage. The kitchen was central to life in the Potter family house. With the large fireplace and its connection to the floo network, there was a frequent flow of family and friends who used the spacious room as a network station the easiest access to the rest of the house.
Harry stared out the window over the Aga in which he was currently frying bacon in a pan. Carefully, he flipped the strips of bacon over as he stared out to a small Quidditch pitch that filled the far end of the garden. They had had so much fun there, for so many years. Along with the help of Ginny's brothers they had built the pitch in the month following them moving into the cottage after the wedding, twenty years ago. Then the house had been far too big and the pitch had just been used for one on one sessions, as Ginny honed her skills and he left the stresses of work firmly on the ground. Over the last fifteen years the pitch had been used for family fun as first the kids were taught to fly and then it was used for short sided matches.
If he closed his eyes, he could see the three of them out there. Each had been able to control a broomstick before they could even walk. Lily had scored her first goal, supported on her mother's broomstick before her second birthday. He could still see Albus diving after the apples that had been thrown for him to catch and James slamming his new Beater's bat against the goal posts, almost breaking his eighth birthday present seconds after receiving it, to his mother's displeasure. But that was nearly ten years ago now. They were all growing up so fast and now they were heading back to Hogwarts again, James for his final year.
Carefully, he placed the bacon on the buttered bread as he reached for the small basket of eggs that Molly Weasley had sent over yesterday afternoon. Soon there would be three growing teenagers demanding breakfast and with the appetite that both he and Ginny had worked up last night, he knew his wife would be eager for her sandwiches as well. Smiling he pulled a couple of eggs out of the basket and used his wand to boil the kettle.
Harry felt a hand slip around his waist as he cracked an egg into the frying pan for the now traditional bacon and egg baps. Seven years ago, on the night before they had gone to buy James' wand and Hogwarts gear, both he and Ginny had found themselves staying up until the early hours of the morning drinking elf-made wine. The following morning had seen Harry grilling bacon and Ginny making a headache potion, so that they could make it through Diagon Alley with their rabble of children. And while there had not been a need for the headache potion, on the morning of the Diagon Alley shopping trip, again, the greasy sandwiches had stayed and become somewhat of a tradition, meaning each year since Harry had spent the first hour of the Hogwarts shop day at the Aga.
"Morning," Ginny whispered in his ear, before placing a soft kiss on his cheek.
"Morning," he replied with a small grin, as he twirled her in front of him, "you were wonderful, last night."
"You were pretty magnificent yourself," she said as she let him slip his hands round her waist, "when do the kids leave for Hogwarts, again."
"Not soon enough," he whispered as he softly moved her hair over to one side of her neck and dropped kisses down the other side.
"Well, I have to go to the England match away in Serbia on Wednesday. I was just going to Apparate over for the day," she smiled at him, a smile that lit up her entire face and gave a mischievous twinkle to her eyes, making her look half her age. It always amazed him, that while he was getting older, despite her arguments, Ginny still looked like the fifteen year old he fell in love with. "But if you could get a couple of days off, you said yourself that there were no big cases at the moment and I'm sure they can manage without you for forty-eight hours." She leaned her head back against his chest and looked straight up into his eyes. "It could be just like it was when the kids were small and they went to Mum's."
"Leaving our three alone…," he spun her round to face him, "As tempting as it sounds, where would we live when we came back to a blown up house?"
Ginny smiled back at him, "I think there are a lot of things we have to expect now they are getting older," she took his hand and gave it squeeze, "I don't think blowing up the house is on that list of things and we've got to trust them now to make the right choices."
"Like we trusted them to get up this morning."
"That's a bit different," she replied softly, "besides, getting teenagers up in the morning is never easy."
"Especially, if those teenagers have thrown a party the night before."
"Like Mum would let them get away with throwing a party," Ginny pushed her advantage, "She'll be checking each hour the second we leave."
Harry studied his wife's face for a second as he thought about the possibility, positive that Ginny was right about Molly Weasley's skills at stopping any parties from taking place. "I'm still not sure."
"Think about it," she said as she placed a soft kiss on his lips, pulling away quickly, leaving him wanting so much more, "Serbia?"
"Serbia," he agreed.
"Morning," Albus emerged in the kitchen, his black hair was even messier than normal, looking like he had just got up and thrown on the nearest t-shirt and yesterday's jeans. "Are you two going away somewhere?" he asked as he stifled a small yawn.
"I need to go over for the Serbia, game." Ginny replied.
"Mum," James said as he walked into the kitchen, ruffling his dark red hair, making it look windswept, "you have the best job in the world." He grinned, "You going too, Dad?"
Harry looked at his son, all his doubts about leaving the three of them coming back. He was positive that James was already plotting something in his mind right now. His oldest son was far too similar to his Uncles Fred and George for his liking at times as shown by the number of letters they got from Hogwarts. He was sure that Fred, looking down on them from wherever he was, was very proud of his nephew.
"I'm thinking about it." Harry told James, carefully studying his face for the reaction.
"Excellent," James grin grew as he looked at his brother.
"James," Harry raised his voice.
"Don't worry Dad, I'll look after Al and Lily," he had the same twinkle of mischief in his brown eyes that could often be seen in Ginny's, "since I'm of age and all."
"That's exactly what I am worried about," he caught Ginny's eye.
"We could just hold the Beater's bat hostage," Ginny said with a small smile. "As well as locking away the Firewhiskey."
"Mum," James moaned.
"As long as you behave yourself, you have nothing worry about," Ginny told her son, "maybe we should take Al and Lily's gloves as well."
"Now that's an idea," Harry agreed, brown meeting green as their eyes locked for a moment, before he turned his attention back to his sons. "Where is your sister, anyway?"
"Dunno," James replied with a small shrug, "still asleep."
"Still in bed, less than an hour before we have to leave," Ginny teased Harry as her eyes twinkled, "I wonder who she might take after."
"Flaming red hair, bright brown eyes, quick temper," he smiled back at his wife, "she's all you."
"Hmm," Ginny's eyes narrowed, "Al, can you go and get her please. And tell her if she's not down in ten minutes then her Harpies tickets for Sunday will disappear."
Half an hour later and all five Potters were in the kitchen sitting round the large circular oak table. The bacon and egg baps were disappearing alarmingly quickly and the day had really begun in earnest. James had once again brought up the subject of his eighteenth birthday next month and the new broom that he had his eyes on. Albus was busily reading a letter that had just arrived with a small smile on his face and Lily was absorbed in the sports pages of the Daily Prophet.
Part of Harry would really miss this when they all went back to school. This, his small family, was everything that he had ever wanted and he could not help but be captivated by them at times like this. Part of him wished that time could be frozen and the three of them would never get any older. As soon as they left for Hogwarts, he knew another year would disappear in no time and before he knew it they would be leaving home. Yet another part of him could hardly wait until the first of September.
"Mum, I can't believe you wrote that," Lily said, throwing the morning's copy of the Daily Prophet down on the table.
"I can," her seventeen year old brother replied, taking a large bite from his sandwich and letting egg drip onto his plate before gulping it down and continuing, "I mean just because you idolise Carney doesn't change the facts: she hasn't scored in three matches now and the Harpies are falling down the league as a result. The Falcons are odds on for the championship now."
"But, she's just come back from injury," Lily protested, "and it's more than that, you support the Harpies, used to play for them, yet you have backed that bunch of…"
"Lily," Ginny interrupted her daughter, in a warning tone as if she could guess what words where about to come out of the fourteen year old's mouth, "and if you read that article again you'll find I predict that the Falcons will win," she smiled at her husband, sharing an understanding that their children were not privileged to, "not that I want them to."
Ginny's brown eyes caught his and he could see a twinkle of mischief, that showed him that she was thinking about the same thing that he was. The last time the Holyhead Harpies and Falmouth Falcons had fought for the league championship was in Ginny's second year as a professional. The last game in the season had seen a dramatic turn around that saw the Harpies overturning a 560 point difference, leading to a party that had gone on into the early hours of the morning.
"Well, I'm with Lily then," Harry grinned, "I hope the Harpies repeat the 'miracle' of 2001 and the same result it had"
"Good, 'cause no one with their right mind can back that bunch of cheats," Lily smiled.
"Cheats?" James questioned with a wicked grin on his face, "like you always intended to say cheats."
"Shut it," she said as she grabbed an egg coated tissue off the table and threw it at her oldest brother, hitting him squarely in the face.
"Such a lady," his grin grew as he studied Lily's face, "what Leighton Jordon sees in you is beyond me," James teased his sister.
"Lee's son?" Harry questioned, turning his sole attention to his daughter. "I thought he was in Al's year."
She glared at James for a second, looking like she wanted to shoot daggers at him, before turning away from her oldest brother. "He is and he's just a friend, Dad," Lily spoke quickly, managing just to keep her face straight. However her cheeks gave her emotions away as they flushed with a bright red colour matching her hair. On realising this she turned to her other brother, and sending him an appealing smile asked, "What do you think, Al? Harpies or Falcons?"
"I'm still backing Puddlemere," he said in a serious tone, as he placed down the letter he had been reading, causing both of his siblings to explode with laugher.
"If the Harpies need a miracle, then Puddlemere need several." James told his brother in a smug tone.
"Well, at least they have more chance than the Cannons," Harry smiled at his son.
"An under 12s team have more chance than the Cannons," Lily spluttered with laugher.
"Well," Harry said, looking at his daughter, this is how he wanted her to stay forever, more concerned about Quidditch scores than boys. He gave a smile, which she returned as he spoke, "that may be true but don't let your Uncle Ron hear you say that," he glanced at his watch. "Now we better be going."
Ginny reached for a pot above the fireplace containing floo power for both Albus and Lily who both protested that they were too old to be slide along Apparated now, "No diversions; you arrive at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes or you're on my arm on the trip to King's Cross next week."
"Mum," James started. "You wouldn't."
"Are you willing to risk it?" Ginny smiled at her son.
Harry could not help but smile himself at Ginny's words and at the horrified look on James' face. He was sure that his son was remembering the one time he had chosen to test his mother's words. Just before the start of his third year, James had decided to floo himself to Knockturn Alley instead of Diagon Alley, resulting in him holding his mother's hand from car to train just a week later.
"See you at the shop." James replied before Disapparating.
Albus threw the powder into the fire, "Number 93 Diagon Alley," he said clearly.
The fire turned green and engulfed Albus before Lily did the same.
Harry smiled at Ginny, before taking her hand, preparing to Apparate. He felt Ginny give his hand a quick squeeze. Her eyes were alive again and he saw them glance back at the stairway. The last thing she had on her mind was Apparation and seeing that look in her eyes, he could not help but put the Hogwarts shop to the back of his mind as well.
"What's going on in that mind of yours, Mrs Potter?"
"That we have a quiet house." She stood on her tiptoes, wrapping her arms around the back of his head as she kissed him, "and they won't dare leave that shop."
He smiled at her, "We took the risk with your parents, not to mention all your brothers watching us." His smile grew as he thought of the end of their teenage years and how they would attempt to hide from the very protective Weasley family. "That broom shed never saw as much action."
Ginny grinned, "I miss those days."
"Maybe we should be spending some more time in our own broom shed." Harry looked over to the broom shed that could be seen in the distance out the large kitchen window. "It feels like we have been neglecting it, especially since we used to spend so much time in there."
"I like that idea," she tightened her grip around his neck.
Harry's hands fell down her back, pulling her closer to him. He kept her in a tight hold that would take a reasonable amount of force to break. For a second time in just a matter of minutes, their lips met again. This time Ginny deepened the kiss as her hands worked their way through his hair only breaking apart when Harry's watch scolded them about their time keeping.
"Let's go," he said as he shot a glance at the stairs before looking back at his watch.
"We'll make up for lost time in two days," she spoke softly as she took his hand, ready to Disapparate.
Within seconds the messy kitchen disappeared and was replaced by the back room of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Ginny broke from his hand as she strode over to her brother and wrapped her arms tightly round George. He returned the hug for a few minutes before letting her go.
"You two took your time." George observed, with a smug smile glowing on his face. "Do I even want to know why?"
"You didn't like the answer the last time you asked that question." Ginny said in her most innocent tone. "So, how have you been corrupting my children over the last five minutes?"
"They get along just fine without my influence — take after their mother," he winked at her, "but I did tell James he could pick out anything he wants for his birthday."
She hit him softly on the arm, "You know I am going to kill you."
"If you didn't when I gave him that swamp," George's grin grew, "I think I'm safe."
"I'm still waiting for the perfect timing." She said with a sweet smile. "Come on, Harry, let's get going as I do believe that Lily has someone to meet in an hour."
"What?" He spluttered. "Not that Leighton kid?"
All sense of fun had disappeared. The enjoyment of watching Ginny's banter with her brother had evaporated as his thoughts turned to his little girl. He could feel his face flush at the idea that Lily was spending time with any boy in a way that was more than friends.
At the back of his mind he had known it would happen, sooner rather than later, but he wasn't quite ready for her to be dating, yet.
Lily was growing to look more like her mother with each passing day and as he could remember only too well, Ginny had not been able to walk down a corridor without heads turning at Hogwarts. It was only a matter of time before Lily did the same thing.
Maybe he should write to Neville and get him to put Leighton Jordan in detention until he had lost interest in his little girl. But then that did not stop other boys showing an interest in his daughter and he highly doubted that Neville could place all the boys in the school between fourth and seventh year in detention for the rest of the year.
"Well she is fourteen," Ginny said taking his hand. "I was thirteen when I started dating Michael."
"Don't remind me." Harry turned to George, who just smiled at him. "You're lucky you just have the two boys."
Harry strode out of the back room and into the shop itself. He really did not want to think of Michael Corner, nor George's rather smug grin and not least the issue of his little girl growing up and dating. He could hardly believe that the other two did not seem to think this topic was serious.
Did they not remember what teenage boys got up to, let alone the thoughts that ran through their minds?
Ginny followed him out quickly, despite the fact that the shop was packed, she quickly found him in seconds, "it will be okay," she reassured him with a small whisper in his ear.
"Mum," Albus said as soon as they had emerged from the back room of the joke shop. "Mind if we get everything by ourselves? We know where to go now."
"I don't see why not," Ginny said as she handed her son three moneybags.
"And Lily?" Harry questioned.
"Would you stop worrying! We have lots to get ourselves including
James' birthday present." She gave his hand a small squeeze, "Don't youwant to spend some time alone with me?"
He knew what she was doing, clearly. Over twenty years of marriage he had quickly learnt Ginny's distraction tricks and he was not sure that he wanted to be distracted at the moment but as soon as he looked into those deep brown eyes, all his willpower and thoughts of what went on in the minds of teenage boys started to ebb away. He wanted to get lost in his wife's plans. After all, they had always led to very interesting and fun outcomes. Besides, he had had no issue with the boys having girlfriends and Lily was far too young for anything other than talking with any boys.
"Behave yourself, watch over your sister and be at Flourish and Blots in two hours." Harry told his son.
He watched as Albus told his brother and sister the good news. With a small wave Lily sped out the shop, not giving her brothers an option to follow her had they wanted to. James hadn't even clapped his hand on the back of one of his friends before the door to the shop slammed shut. The seventeen year old offered his parent a quick shrug, clearly stating in his opinion that it was pointless to run after his little sister. James left Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes with a large group of friends, just second later. Albus was the last to leave the shop, smiling at his parents before heading into Diagon Alley with Julia Goldstein.
"They are growing up too fast." Ginny said softly.
"I thought that you were the one that wanted to let them leave."
"I did, but it doesn't mean I don't miss shopping with them."
"They will be fine," he reassured her, before dropping his voice to a whisper, "Now what did you have in mind, Mrs Potter?"
"I was wondering whether Tom had our old room available."
"Now that is a good idea, do you want to go for James' new broom first or after."
"First, then we don't have to worry about running out of time."
Harry led his wife down the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes to Quality Quidditch Supplies. He would not be surprised if they had kept Britain's best Quidditch shop in business over the last few years. With all three of his children making the Gryffindor Quidditch teams, requests for new broomsticks, Beater's bats, gloves and pads were given for each birthday and Christmas.
He looked into the window of one his favourite shops; the affection that had grown since he had seen the Firebolt here all those years ago had never died away. This year the new Firefly Six that James had been talking about since Easter was in one of the windows, while the other had a set of fine red England replica robes for sale in it, similar to the ones that Ginny had used to wear. It was easy with these displays to see why the shop was as busy as Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
They pushed open the door and made their way in. There was barely room to breath, let alone move, yet despite all this and all the noise, he could clearly make out one very familiar voice from the other side of a row of replica professional robes.
"You need these gloves," he heard his daughter's voice, "they're the basic requirement for any half-decent Keeper and you're more than decent."
"And here was I thinking after June that you'd filled all my Quidditch requirements," a male voice replied.
Harry could feel cold fury emerging from nowhere to fill his insides as his mind quickly returned to the kinds of things sixteen year old boys thought about. All the hopes that he had briefly had that all Lily had done with Leighton Jordan disappeared. It was painfully obvious that his daughter had lied to him less than an hour ago, as they sat eating breakfast, about Leighton just being her friend. And if she had lied about that, what else wasn't she telling him?
Was Lily spending her Sunday afternoons away from teacher supervision and down at Hogwarts lake — just like he and Ginny had done?
Right now asking Neville to put Lee Jordan's son into detention was not enough.
"Harry," Ginny dropped her voice to a whisper, "let's go; we'll get the broom later."
She caught his hand, "You're not turning that corner."
"But she's my baby."
"I was thirteen when I started dating Michael." She reminded him for the second time that day as she gave his hand a small pull, "let her enjoy herself; they aren't going to do anything in the middle of a shop. Besides, Leighton is a good kid."
"So, I'm not allowed to worry."
She smiled softly at him, "You're allowed to worry, just not to interfere." He frowned at her words. "You said it earlier; she's like me and you know how I would have reacted if I thought my family were interfering with us."
"So we just leave?"
"We just leave, and don't over-think things as you meet this former Quidditch player's requirements."