Chapter Fifty–Four

Honeymoon

Harry swept his bride around the dance floor one last time, and when the music ended they stepped off arm in arm to another ovation. They made their goodbyes: Ginny kissed the twins; said a tearful goodbye to her mother and father; received a blessing from Aunt Muriel, who, with a wink, wished her a first–rate honeymoon; hugged all of her other friends who were crowding around; and took her bouquet from Hermione with another hug and kiss. She kissed all of her brothers, their girlfriends, and Fleur, said goodbye to Ginger and Dean, and finally she and Harry walked out of the marquee to a spot under the peach tree.

"Are you ready?" Harry grinned, and Ginny nodded, her eyes gleaming.

"What about the luggage?" she suddenly said. "Who will bring it?"

"It's already there." Harry patted her hand, which was on his arm. "Don't worry, everything's taken care of. Just bring your flowers."

Ginny was tingling all over; Harry had guarded this secret well and for a long time; her anticipation had been growing for weeks. He had promised that she would love their honeymoon spot as much as she loved the inn, and when she remembered how overwhelmed she had been at her first glimpse of it the day after her seventeenth birthday, it was all she could now do to contain herself.

Most of the guests had gathered around them. Ron and Hermione came forward, and Ron embraced Harry. "See you soon, mate. Have a great time. I'll send the brooms tomorrow."

"Thanks," Harry said as he and Ron held each other. "Thanks for everything."

Hermione hugged and kissed Ginny and Harry. "Don't worry about anything. Just have a wonderful time."

They stepped away and Ginny took a firm grip on Harry's elbow. She gathered her gown up and grinned at him. "I'm ready, love. Show me your stuff."

"I plan to." He waved at the crowd, which broke into cheers again. "Here we go."

They felt the crushing weight that pushed the breath out of their chests, but it quickly stopped and cool salty air filled their lungs.

They were standing on a cliff overlooking the sea. The sky above was clear and filled with thousands of stars. Without turning around, but recognizing where they were, Ginny's face slowly broke into a wide smile. She turned and saw the small cottage behind them, the pink shells embedded in the walls just visible in the dim candlelight glowing through the windows; there was also the smell of fresh bread wafting out an open kitchen window. Above it a crescent moon descended toward the western horizon.

"Oh, Harry! Oh my love!" Tears glistened in her eyes as she took his hand. "How could it be better than this?" She looked at Shell Cottage and leaned back against him; they both gazed at the little house.

Ginny looked over her shoulder at him. "So this is why Bill is going to Egypt and Fleur to visit her mum? You planned the whole thing!"

"Not really." He put his arms around her and pulled her against him. "I asked if there was any way we could honeymoon here, and Bill mentioned his trip. He did arrange it so that they'd be away for the next two weeks."

"So we'll be all alone?"

"Yes," Harry said, and cupped her gown over her breast with his hand. "We can run around naked all day. And all night, too."

"Harry!" she smiled at him. "But who's going to cook? You don't expect me to!"

"Winky will come in the mornings and fix all the meals for the day. It smells like she's already been here. We can Summon her whenever we need her, and she and Kreacher will come and do the housework. It was their idea," he added when Ginny looked at him with her eyebrows raised. "Winky said it was her wedding present, besides the cake."

"What about Kreacher? Did he want to do it, too? I don't want either one of them here if it's a chore."

"Well, the place is small enough for Winky to handle by herself, but when I told him that, he actually got upset. He started grumbling about being useless and it was time for his head to be mounted on the wall and stuff like that. So I told him to come whenever Winky did. He seemed happy enough about it."

Ginny turned back to the sea; when Harry started to moved his hand from her breast she put hers on top of it and held it there. "That feels good." She closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sky; she drew in a deep breath of sea air. "Can you keep it there for two weeks?"

Harry nuzzled her neck. "I'll do my best, starting now."

Before she could say another word, he picked her up in his arms and carried her to the cottage. The door opened before them and he carried her across the threshold.

A fire was crackling merrily in the fireplace. Harry set Ginny down; he took her bouquet of red roses and put it in a golden vase that stood ready on the mantel. He went to her and they kissed. "Mrs. Potter," he whispered. "Welcome to your honeymoon." And then a month's worth of abstinence and anticipation suddenly made themselves felt.

He undid the lacing at the back of her gown, and as it fell aside he pushed down the front until her brassiere was exposed. His hands were trembling, but he got it unhooked and threw it onto a chair. He leaned down and began kissing one breast while he fondled the other, rubbing his thumb over her nipple until it was stiff. Ginny put her hands on his head and clutched his hair, pushing his face against her chest. Harry's tongue traveled from one nipple to the other, while his hands kept shoving her gown down. He fell to his knees and pushed the gown to the floor; Ginny stepped out of it and out of her shoes. He carefully picked up the gown and draped it over the chair.

He turned and, as they looked ravenously at each other, he took off his jacket, then his shirt, then his shoes, then his trousers.

Harry walked toward Ginny; in the light of the fire her hair seemed to glow an even deeper red. She held her hands out and the rubies on her ring flashed. Their hands clasped and they crushed themselves against each other. Harry closed his eyes when he felt her breasts against his chest; he pushed his thigh between her legs and she sucked in a sudden breath.

His hands went inside her knickers and around to her cheeks. He ran his hands over them, then moved toward the front and let his thumbs explore. She began to moan; her own hands went inside his briefs and with one she caressed gently while with the other she ran her fingernails up and down his backside. She slowly shoved his shorts until they were around his thighs.

He put his mouth on hers and kissed her deeply while one hand returned to the deep space between her fleshy cheeks. She squealed, then thrust her hips at him. Harry shoved her knickers down her legs; she kicked them off, and he lifted her up and entered her as she wrapped her legs around him. They both started crying out, not caring that the front door was wide open and the curtains on the windows were drawn back. Finally they exploded at the same time, shouting in their ecstasy. Gradually their movements and their breathing slowed, and they sank to the floor in each other's arms.

"Ouch," said Ginny. "This is hard"

"Still?"

"I was talking about the floor," she giggled.

Harry reached to where his wand had fallen, and a deep–pile rug appeared underneath them. He slowly disengaged from her, removed his shorts from their half–staff position, got up, shut the door, and pulled all the curtains closed.

"Bill cast a Fidelius for the two weeks," he said as he lay down on the rug. Ginny snuggled up close and he put his arm under her head; with his other he drew little circles around her nipples. "Only Ron and Hermione know the Secret."

"So we're completely alone for two weeks," Ginny mused. "I'm going to jump your bones every day, you know. This was a good start, but now that we're married, I'm holding you to a higher standard."

"I've always risen to a challenge"

"You'll get plenty of chances to rise, my love."

Harry chuckled, and they lay quietly for a few minutes; he stared at the ceiling, his hand now making idle figure–eights on her chest around her breasts. "We're married," he said.

"Yes," Ginny smiled, "I like it."

"Then I won't stop."

"Silly. You know what I mean."

Harry leaned over and kissed her. "I planned some trips while we're here. On Monday we'll go to Hogwarts to see Professor Dumbledore, on Friday we'll meet Ron and Hermione and spend the day in town, and on Sunday Sagittaria's mother invited us to have tea at that inn she told me about."

"And in between it'll just be you and me."

They listened to the snapping and hissing of the fire. Ginny raised her head and sniffed the air. "What's that smell of bread? Did Winky come here during the wedding? I hope she left."

Harry got up. "She wasn't supposed to come until tomorrow." He walked toward the kitchen, allowing Ginny to admire his slim, lanky form from the rear. He opened the kitchen door and peeked in. "No one," he called. "But she baked a fresh loaf. There's also a tub of butter and a pot of honey. Want some?"

"Later. I'm still full from cake. Come here." She beckoned with a finger. Harry walked back, allowing Ginny to admire his slim, lanky form from the front. He started to sink onto the rug, but she stopped him with a hand on his abdomen. "I want you to carry me upstairs."

"No butter and honey tonight?"

"Not that kind!" Her eyes blazed at him. He reached under her back and her knees and heaved her up. The stairs were narrow and a bit tricky, but he made it without bumping Ginny against the wall, only his own bum and elbows. The door to the room they had always stayed in was open and a single candle burned in a silvery–white candlestick; the window was open, and a cool, pleasant breeze billowed the curtains. The covers on the bed were pulled back and Harry laid his bride gently on the fresh sheets. He bent over her, kissing her lips, his hand moving down her body, massaging her breasts, running down her belly and her hip, then up inside her thigh. He lingered there while their tongues circled together inside their mouths. Ginny's hand reached and she started running her finger across his most sensitive skin.

Harry gave a moan and then he was inside her. This time he was much slower, and Ginny's rapture went on and on before Harry finally joined her. And as their bodies joined, they were also inside each other's minds, completely knowing each other's need and pleasure.

Harry lay on top of her afterward; Ginny's arms around his back held him, not letting him leave her. They fell asleep without moving. Harry reached down once to pull a sheet over himself as the breeze from the window became chillier, but Ginny murmured in her sleep and held him tighter. Early in the morning she awoke briefly and slid out from under him; she grabbed a robe hanging on a hook next to the door and hurried out to the loo; when she came back and slipped under the sheet again, she pulled Harry back on top.

"Keep me warm," she whispered in the dark, and put her arms around him again. Their skin touched from their shoulders to their toes; Harry kissed her and felt himself melting into her.

# # # #

The sun rose on the first day of their marriage. When they awoke and got out of bed they began a routine that they followed for the next two weeks. Harry went downstairs and found Winky and Kreacher in the kitchen preparing breakfast. The elves bowed and Harry greeted them, happy to see them. He took two breakfasts back on a tray. Ginny was propped up in bed and he sat next to her while they ate fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, and slices of the bread Winky had left for them last night.

On alternate days Ginny got breakfast for Harry. After eating, they cleaned up and went downstairs together. On the first day, Ginny noticed that her gown, bra, shoes, and Harry's tuxedo were gone. She asked Kreacher, who bowed low, his bat–ears almost touching the floor. He told her that they had all been returned to the Burrow for cleaning and storing. "Kreacher hopes that meets with Mistress Ginny Potter's approval," he croaked.

Ginny stared at him, suddenly realizing that she now had two house elves. She walked into the kitchen, where Harry was sitting at the table slurping a mug of coffee. Winky was putting food away in a larder.

"Good morning, Winky," she said. "Thanks for breakfast. Kreacher said that my gown was back at the Burrow. How did you get it there?"

"Ginny Potter should not worry about such things," said the elf, "especially on her honeymoon. She should trust Winky and Kreacher, who has both served wizarding families with honor and skill. Her wedding gown is safe and sound." She eyed Ginny for a moment. "Much safer than where Winky found it this morning."

"Okay. Well, thanks for taking care of it." She sat down across from Harry, who was grinning at her. "So what's up for today? Wait!" she said before he could answer. She glanced at Winky, who was clattering plates in a cabinet. "I mean, why don't we take a walk to that little village up the coast?"

"Sure," said Harry. "But I want to wait for the brooms to come. Ron said he'd send them today."

"Okay. Then let's just be lazy. That suits me, too."

Winky finished her clattering and showed them where she had stored their meals for the rest of the day. Kreacher came back into the kitchen after a few minutes, and the elves disappeared with two loud pops.

The newlyweds looked at each other; they were alone in the cottage. "Let's go outside," Harry said. "I want to see Dobby."

They went out back and stood next to the grave; it was well–tended, and a bed of flowers had been planted around it by Bill and Fleur. They stood by it with the morning breeze whipping Ginny's hair around her face, until they heard more pops from inside the cottage.

"The brooms," Harry said. He grabbed her hand and they ran inside. The two Ions were leaning against the wall just inside the door. Harry picked his up and ran his hand over the handle, then down the shaft and around the twigs. He held it up, balancing it on one finger, then mounted it and bent low, as though he was flying across the sky.

"I think I have competition," Ginny giggled. "You look like you're making love to it."

Harry shook his head. "I have one lover for life, but it's been a long time between flights, you know." He grinned. "Let's take them up!"

"Harry, someone will see us. Shouldn't we wait until tonight?"

"I have an idea." He dashed upstairs and came down with two pairs of his briefs. "We'll attach these to the brooms, and then we'll Disillusion ourselves, that way we'll know where the other one is."

Ginny burst into laughter. "We'll fly across the English Channel waving the flag of wizarding Britain, Harry Potter's knickers!"

He grinned sheepishly. "Come on, it'll work."

They went outside and Harry applied a Sticking charm to the tip of each broom and attached a pair of his shorts. They cast the Disillusioning charms, and Harry kicked off; Ginny watched for a moment as white underwear soared into the sky. She followed, and quickly realized that Harry's idea was a good one. They flew out over the water and could look back at the cottage on the cliff and the waves breaking in white lines on the yellow beach. The water below them was dark blue; the sky above was light blue; and the beautiful world was bathed in sunshine.

She flew toward his shorts. "I want to hold your hand," she called. "Stick it out!"

Harry's flag moved closer, and his hand found hers. They gripped tightly, their brooms side by side. "I want to see how fast this can go," he said. "Wait here."

He let her hand go, and she saw a white streak descend, then rise straight up. It headed east over the water, then curved back. She hovered as it rose from underneath her, and then Harry was holding her hand again.

"It's brilliant!" he cried. "It's so much smoother than my old Firebolt. You have to hang on, it accelerates so fast!"

"Let me give it a go."

Harry was right; the first time she bent low, the broom almost shot out from under her. She tried loops, zigzags, climbs, drops, and flat–out, straight–line bursts of speed. She had never felt anything like it.

Exhilarated, she flew back to Harry's shorts. She found his hand and squeezed it; they descended and landed, removed the charms, and Harry kissed her. "I could spend the rest of my life flying with you, especially on these. I'm already in love with being married."

"Mmm." Ginny smiled and put her head on his chest. "The beginning's been everything I dreamed of."

Harry took her left hand and held their wedding bands together; gold flashed in the sunshine. He put them down. "Let's take that walk now."

They put the brooms back in the cottage and spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon on a leisurely stroll along the beach, visiting the fishing village, poking into shops, renewing acquaintances with some of the Muggle shopkeepers. When the proprietor of the grocery store realized that they were married, he gave them a heart–shaped box of chocolates. They walked back to the cottage just as leisurely, then got a blanket and lay on the beach under the cliff until dusk fell.

They ate the dinner that Winky had prepared for them. When it was almost dark out, they took their brooms up again, this time without Disillusioning themselves. They raced low over the water along the beach, past the fishing village until they saw the lights of a larger town ahead. They turned back and arrived at the cottage as the moon, now a slightly larger crescent, hung in the west.

Harry lit a fire and conjured another rug. They lay on it facing the fireplace on their stomachs, talking about nothing and everything, until Harry's hand moved down Ginny's back onto her pretty bottom, which was inside a pair of tight jeans. He pulled her shirt out of her waistband and started rubbing her back. She sighed, and his hand went down inside both her jeans and her knickers, and began massaging, pinching, exploring her wonderful places.

Ginny rolled over and unzipped her pants. Harry's hand remained inside her underwear and did in the front what it had already done in the back. Ginny raised her knees up, allowing access to more of her. Harry took his time, and even after Ginny was groaning and trying to pull him on top, he kept on caressing. His mouth was everywhere and she grabbed his hair.

"What are you doing to me?" she whimpered. "Please!"

"What's the rush? We have two weeks," he whispered in her ear.

"Unh," was all she could say.

Ten minutes later Ginny was moaning and heaving on the rug. "Mercy!" she cried. Finally, he doffed his own clothes, pulled off hers, and they finished with Ginny's bare back on the voluptuous, soft pile of the rug.

Harry conjured a blanket and pillows, and they fell asleep while the fires gradually cooled down.

# # # #

Ginny woke up in the morning when she heard a loud pop. She looked around the sitting room for a moment, then dove under the blanket and pulled it over her head.

"Harry," she poked him. "Harry! Wake up! Winky's here. Get my clothes."

"Huh?" Harry looked around sleepily. The kitchen door was closed but he could hear someone banging around inside. He looked at Ginny and saw only a lump under the blanket. He lifted it up; she was curled in a ball, her arms over her breasts.

"Good morning," he grinned. "It looks like a nice day outside."

"Hey!" She yanked the blanket back over her head. "Gimme my clothes, now!"

Harry chuckled and took her underwear from a pile next to him on the floor. He shoved the articles under the blanket.

"Not these! My pants and shirt!" An arm came out, and Harry retrieved her jeans and tee shirt. He handed her the shirt first, followed by the pants. Ginny finally emerged, pulling her hair back; she jumped up and ran up the stairs.

Harry pulled on his pants, made the rug and blanket disappear, and went into the kitchen. Winky was preparing breakfast and glanced at him.

"Is Harry and Ginny Potter having a restful night?" she said.

"Um, yeah, thanks," Harry muttered. He went back into the sitting room, scooped up the remaining clothes and joined Ginny in their bedroom.

"No more nights on the rug," she said with her back to him; she was in front of the mirror fixing her hair.

"Yeah, sorry," Harry said. He stood behind her and watched her in the mirror. Their eyes met and they stared for a moment, then they both laughed.

"Poor Winky." Ginny sat on the bed and held her hand out for Harry's. "Was she okay?"

"I'm not sure. She asked if our night was restful."

"Did you tell her it was? I wonder if she ever busted in on the Crouches."

"Well, I promise not to take off your clothes downstairs again."

Ginny giggled. "I don't mind that. Just don't finish me off down there, 'cause once that happens I don't feel like moving."

Harry kissed her. 'I promise. Come on, let's get breakfast."

Winky said no more, and left soon after they were done eating. They went out back to Dobby's grave and picked fresh flowers to put on it. They spent the rest of the morning on the beach, and after lunch they prepared for their first trip away from Shell Cottage to see Professor Dumbledore.

Harry had set up a Portkey with the Ministry, including the return trip for which he brought along a rusty garden implement he had found outside the cottage. At one o'clock they appeared in the Headmistress's office at Hogwarts. It was empty except for the usual cats asleep on various chairs and tables. Albus Dumbledore was in his portrait, sitting in his throne–like chair, his eyes twinkling, his hands folded in his lap. Harry and Ginny sat in comfortable chairs that the Headmistress had left for them in front of her desk, and Dumbledore smiled at them.

"Thank you so much for coming to see me," he said. "Minerva has kindly agreed to be elsewhere for a few hours. I so dearly wanted to be at your wedding, but..." He sighed and spread his hands. "I do have my limitations. But that doesn't matter. I really just wanted to have the chance to see you, to talk. How is married life suiting you?"

"It's grand," they both said together, and laughed.

Dumbledore chuckled. "I'm sure others have said this, but you two seem to be an especially well–suited couple. I didn't have as much contact over the years with you, Ginny, as I did with Harry, but there were times when I was paying close attention, particularly after what happened in your first year. I have always admired the way you rallied after that; I can't imagine how painful that year was for you."

"It's in the past, Professor," Ginny said. "And I had lots of help. My whole family was there for me."

"Professor," Harry spoke, "there's something we wanted to ask you, something sort of related to that in a vague way."

Dumbledore's eyebrows rose, and he leaned forward; his expression became more and more interested as Harry told him about the feelings and sensations they had been experiencing for a year: the connection. He sat back at the end, gazing at them.

"I believe Miss Granger is absolutely correct," he said after a few moments of thought. "In each one of you there is a tiny but potent part of the other. I would call it your souls, but no matter; it's remarkable, whatever you want to call it. You say that Miss Delacour has heard of it, but I can tell you that it's brand new to me. It must be something out of veela lore. Amazing."

"So you're not really sure, either?" said Ginny.

Dumbledore shook his head. "No. But if Dark Magic could create a Horcrux, then why shouldn't something as blessed as this be possible?"

"Blessed? What do you mean?"

"Miss Weasley... I mean Mrs. Potter... Ginny, as impossible as it may seem, I too was once your age. You must have read Miss Skeeter's opus in which she described some of the things I did when I was seventeen. And I'm sure that Harry has told you more that was, hopefully, closer to the truth. Now, when we are seventeen, one of the things that we are convinced of is our own immortality. I will not deny that believing myself to be immortal was part of what made me so enthusiastic for questionable ideals." He smiled and spread his hands. "Obviously I was mistaken about my immortality. And you and Harry will discover on a far–off day that you are not going to live forever.

"But..." He paused and looked at their somewhat shocked expressions. "But you, unlike anyone else I have ever known, you will not be alone at that instant when mortality engulfs you. And if I may pass on one piece of unasked for and maybe pretentious wisdom, to be alone is worse than to be dead. Every human being has been alone or will be alone at some time, at least at the moment of their death. But . . . I don't know — I cannot imagine — what it must be like for the both of you, to be not alone. I ask you — no, I beg of you, treasure it! Rejoice in it! Wallow in it! Let it take you over! It's a blessing that maybe no Muggle has ever known and probably precious few magical people."

He chuckled. "Don't let the Department of Mysteries find out. They've been studying love and death for centuries and they don't know much more about either one than when they started. If they hear of this... connection that you have, they'll never leave you alone. They'll want to poke and prod and try to get inside your minds."

He frowned at Harry. "You never did learn Occlumency, did you? What about you?" he pointed his finger at Ginny.

She shook her head, and started to speak, but suddenly Dumbledore laughed and held up his hand to stop her. "Ignore me. Asking Harry to learn it from poor Severus was one of the worst decisions I ever made. That shows you how much my advice is worth. Come now! Tell me about your wedding!"

Ginny started to give a sketchy description of the ceremony, but the Professor wanted to know everything, in great detail: the proposal, the ring, the planning, the preparations, the living marquee, the ceremony, their vows, the cake, the music, the dancing. It took more than an hour; he never interrupted, and at the end he leaned back in his chair and sighed; his eyes seemed shinier than before.

"I am so glad for you," he said, beaming broadly. "No two people deserve being happy more than you. And I trust you are also enjoying your honeymoon?"

Harry grinned and looked at Ginny; they both nodded.

"Splendid! Well, I suppose, based on that wordless response, that you'd like to get back."

"Can you get someone to tell the Ministry we're ready?" Harry asked. "They're supposed to be standing by with a Portkey."

"Ah, yes, one moment." The Headmaster stepped out of his frame but was back in a minute. "It's all arranged. Just use the item you brought with you; it will be scheduled in exactly thirty seconds."

Harry took the old garden trowel from his pocket and placed it on the desk. "Goodbye, Professor, and thanks for everything."

Dumbledore waved his hand; his wistful eyes were the last thing Harry and Ginny saw before they were standing outside the front door of Shell Cottage.

# # # #

Every morning they went out back to Dobby's grave and put fresh flowers on it. Their days were filled with sunbathing and walks on the beach, excursions to the fishing village, flights over the water on their brooms, Winky's delicious meals, and occasional love–making. Evenings saw them down on the beach sitting next to a small fire dug into a pit in the sand, or flying un–Disillusioned in the twilight. Once they flew several miles out to sea and saw ships plying the Channel below them. They looked back and saw a string of lights along the shore, distant houses and villages looking like a string of white pearls against a purple horizon.

Every night they made love. Sometimes their connection grew so strong and their intimacy so intense that they completely lost track of time and place. When they emerged from each other — physically and mentally — they had to lie still for several minutes to find their bearings in the world.

At the same time, their awareness of the other person was growing more detailed, even when they weren't together. There were moments when this became a little awkward.

"Harry," Ginny said one evening as he came downstairs into the sitting room; she was in a chair reading Quidditch World. "Do I really have to know what you're doing in the loo?"

"Huh?" Harry stopped on the last step. "Did I...?" He turned slightly pink.

Ginny nodded. "Maybe we can agree to leave out some things. It's okay if you're brushing your teeth, but..."

Harry grinned sheepishly. "I'm sorry. I guess I didn't even know I was connecting."

"You definitely were," Ginny also grinned.

And it was just as Bill had said to Harry: as soon as they knew what it was, they began to control it. But this caused some other problems. Several times, when one of them had "dropped" the connection, the other wanted to know if anything was wrong. At first neither would admit that they just wanted some privacy, but when Ginny was writing a letter to her mother — which she was going to ask Winky to deliver — and Harry wanted to know why she had disconnected, they had their first tiff as a married couple. They quickly made up, though, and the makeup sex was unbelievable, even by the standards they had already come to enjoy.

After a few incidents like that, they both realized that no matter how intimate they were, no matter how deeply into each other's feelings and thoughts they penetrated, no matter how much joy and pleasure it brought them, they had to have some privacy. They came up with signals, like little warning flags that they could raise whenever they needed to be alone, so that the other would know not to intrude for a few minutes. And since they were so aware of each other's emotional state, including feeling excluded, the moments of being disconnected were always followed by moments of being quite intensely reconnected.

So the first week of their honeymoon passed, and on Friday morning they Apparated to Diagon Alley and spent the day with Ron and Hermione. It was fun, but they decided not to go out after dinner with them because they wanted to get back to Shell Cottage and be alone. On Sunday they met Sagittaria's mother for tea in a small wizarding inn on the outskirts of London. She told them that her sons, the killers of Fenrir Greyback, had already had a quiet trial, had pleaded guilty, and were serving indefinite sentences in the Ministry; they could be released in as little as three years. This was news that Harry and Ginny were glad to hear. They had an enjoyable time for two hours with the gentle Mrs. Wilson, but were glad to get back and, once again, be alone.

During the second week of their honeymoon, they didn't leave the vicinity of the cottage except for trips along the beach. As their connection grew, they couldn't seem to get enough of each other's presence, even when they weren't making love.

They also liked to play. Ginny would bury Harry up to his neck in the sand and proceed to torment him. She became very adept at describing in total detail what she was going to do to him that night in bed, and what she was going to make him do to her. Harry could take it for about fifteen minutes, and then the he would spring up with sand flying everywhere, and chase her down the beach. He didn't run as fast as he could have because the view from behind was so enjoyable: Ginny's slender form in a teensy two–piece bathing suit with her hair streaming behind her. But Ginny also wasn't exactly flat–out sprinting, and eventually she would "trip" and fall and Harry would tumble on top of her. He would then Summon the blankets and they would put one over themselves and make love on the beach.

Their nights were pure passion. They had been intimate for a year before the honeymoon, but every night at Shell Cottage they discovered a new way to become closer, to bring each other more pleasure. They always fell asleep wrapped in each other's arms. One night they decided to take turns waking each other up; they barely slept, and dawn found them lying spread–eagled on the bed, glassy–eyed, sweaty, and exhausted with the covers kicked off. When they heard Winky downstairs, Harry fell out of bed, put on a robe, and stumbled downstairs. He took the breakfast tray — not noticing that Winky's eyes were bulging twice as much as they usually did — and managed to get it upstairs without dumping it. That day they stayed in bed, sleeping until it was time for dinner.

Once, they woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep, so they got dressed and went downstairs. The cottage was dark and very quiet. They went outside into the cool night and walked along the cliff above the beach. The moon was less than half full so they took a chance and lit their wands very low. They could hear insects and frogs, and also the waves breaking on the sand below. They stopped and lay back on the grass, looking up at the stars, counting shooting stars. They held hands tightly and spoke to each other through their hearts.

They returned to the cottage before dawn and went back to bed; they slept until the middle of the morning, and when they awoke they lay in each other's arms, just holding on, feeling their closeness grow.

On Friday, the last day before they returned to the Burrow, they walked to the fishing village again. The sun was out, as it had been for two weeks, and they walked hand–in–hand, barefoot, carrying their trainers and socks. The waves were up and the breeze blew in from the sea.

"I can't believe it's almost over," Harry said. "Going back to the real world is going to be a letdown."

Ginny was silent, but Harry glanced at her. Then she smiled at him and he nodded; their reality was different, it was what happened in the space inside of them, the space that they shared.

"Still," he said, "you have to go to training camp and I'll have to go back to the Ministry. We won't be able to stay up all night."

"Not on weekdays." Ginny moved closer and bumped her hip against him. "But there's still weekends. That'll just make it sweeter."

Harry put his arm around her waist. "I don't know how it could be any sweeter than it is."

It can always be sweeter, was the feeling that was in both of their minds. He looked at her and they kissed as they walked.

People in the village greeted them as they strolled down the street. Curiosity had grown among the Muggles about this mysterious young couple who were honeymooning someplace down the coast, no one could say exactly where. They remembered them from last summer, but they were different now; something about them made other people feel good. On top of that, no one could remember having two weeks in July with not a cloud in the sky.

They went into the grocery and told the owner that they were leaving tomorrow. They bought some candy and he gave them another box of chocolates and wished them well. They wandered down to the docks and watched the gulls and offered some candy to children playing there. Then they walked back to Shell Cottage.

They decided to sleep on the beach that night. Harry brought several blankets and pillows down from the cottage, and created a circle of spells to hide them from any Muggles who might stray onto the beach. They made a fire again. Harry conjured a table next to the fire and they also brought down Fleur's veela candelabra. They brought their dinner down and enjoyed the tenderest roast beef they had ever eaten. There was also fresh bread and a tossed salad. Magic filled the air; when Harry looked across the table at Ginny, sitting in veela candlelight with her hair falling around her shoulders and her veela necklace shimmering on her bosom, he was bewitched.

I'm bewitched, too, he heard in his heart, forever.

That night their passion soared. They started underneath the blanket, but soon they threw it off because they wanted to feel the air on their skin and see the stars. In the sanctuary of the charmed circle they had cast, they lay naked, moving their hands and their mouths over each other for hours, just to make themselves crave each other more. They became enveloped in the smells of love, the magical, flowery fragrance of Ginny, the sweat of Harry. They never slept, but never grew sleepy; their love was too overwhelming, an imperative that would allow nothing else to exist.

It began to grow light out over the far horizon. They sat on the cool sand wrapped in a blanket waiting for sunrise, and as dawn approached, their whole lives became visible. It was going to be like the upcoming day, full of sunshine, maybe a few clouds, always being next to each other, Harry seeing her beautiful face every day, hearing her magical voice saying his name, watching her eyes sparkle, listening to her laughter that would make the sun shine a little brighter. Ginny would feel his protecting presence, his strength, his need for her, see his boyish grin, his emerald eyes like sparks in the night.

At any time, now or for the rest of their lives, they could simply reach out and a hand would be there, a heart would be there. They could peer into brown or green eyes and feel themselves melting together. They could make love and their bodies would merge as that mysterious joining would occur, like the moment at their wedding when they had become one person.

They would continue to grow together; they would continue to learn how to live with each other as partners and as two souls who knew what it was like to actually be one soul, whose very essences were completely known to each other. They would never be able to hide anything from the other, not a thought, not a feeling, not a desire, not a joy, not a fear. It would be interesting to see how that played out as they became closer and closer. They both suspected that there would be problems, but they couldn't imagine how the problems couldn't be resolved.

Dawn was about to burst on the world; the edge of the sun must be just below the horizon. Harry reached out his hand without looking and Ginny's was there. When they touched and their fingers entwined, he saw in his mind every thought and every feeling of hers, and he knew that she now knew every thought and feeling of his. They felt the wind in their faces and saw the sea, the rising sun, and themselves.

Postscript

The honeymoon ended on Harry's nineteenth birthday and they went back to their family, their home, and on with their lives. Ginny began a short but brilliant career as a Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies, leading the league in scoring twice and playing first Chaser for the national team that won the World Cup in 2004. Her flowing red hair became her signature and the terror of Keepers everywhere. She and Ginger Beale were an awesome duo; they led the Harpies to league championships in the last three years that Ginny played.

Ginger continued with the team for four years after Ginny left. She and Dean married a year later and they lived in London, but not in the East End. They had two children and always remained fast friends with the Potters.

Ginny retired after the World Cup to start the family that she and Harry were so eager for. After raising her first three children until they were all off at school, she tried a career as a sports writer for the Prophet but found it limiting; playing Quidditch at the top had spoiled her for any other kind of participation in the game. She and Harry attended as many matches as they could, but Ginny couldn't stand to have a toe in the water without being able to jump all the way in.

She followed her mother's example and became an aide at St. Mungo's. She got as much training as she could there, and planned to study to become a Healer. But she became pregnant for the fourth time, after one passionate night on Harry's fortieth birthday when they both forgot to use the old birth control charm. Nine months later Muriel Molly was born, named after her great–great aunt who had passed away exactly ten years to the day before her birth. There was one more after that, Arthur Fred. He was planned in order to give Muriel a playmate, but in addition to that, Ginny still didn't want her youngest child to be a daughter.

This time Ginny didn't wait until her children were off at school. Andromeda Tonks was now living alone after the marriage of Teddy Lupin and Victoire Weasley. When Arthur was five, she moved into Potter Mansion and became Arthur and Muriel's live–in nanny. Ginny went to Healer's school and became one of Britain's best known Healers, famous for her ability to diagnose and treat emotional troubles; she was known far and wide as the Healer of Hearts.

Harry became Head Auror shortly before the birth of James Sirius, their first son. He kept around him all the members of Dumbledore's Army who had gone through the Auror training program. Ron, who was his Chief Assistant, never aspired to a higher position because that would have meant reporting directly to Hermione.

Under the team of Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley, wizarding Britain became a peaceable kingdom. They worked closely with Hermione — Head of the Office of Magical Law Enforcement — Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Saliyah Ushujaa, who became the first Director of Intermagic, the international wizarding police force, when Harry took over the Auror Department. Now, Dark wizards had no place to hide, and except for a few remote locations in Afghanistan, the Dark powers waned almost to the point of extinction. Dolores Umbridge spent the rest of her life in Azkaban, as did an unrepentant and demented Serpens Lestrange.

Turquoise Southeby returned to York where she had acquaintances, and she was never seen again in Hogsmeade. Long after Harry became Head Auror and was able to find out about these things, he learned that she had married the owner of the inn where she was working and had one child, a daughter.

Pansy Parkinson spent two years in a cell in the Ministry of Magic, then resumed the journey that had been interrupted by her arrest, and left Britain. Harry didn't consider her a danger, but for a few years Ron asked Saliyah to keep an eye on her just to be sure. Eventually they lost track and no one heard from her again.

Keesha Baker made several trips to Africa. She and Neville remained friendly after he married Hannah Abbott, who had moved to Hogsmeade to help her cousin, Madam Rosmerta, run The Three Broomsticks. Hannah had never done well academically, but she discovered that she had a talent for innkeeping. She and Neville bought the Leaky Cauldron when old Tom retired. Harry and Ginny always thought it was a strange marriage with Neville living at Hogwarts and Hannah in London, but they seemed happy enough.

Keesha began traveling around the world with Luna Lovegood to study exotic magical creatures. They often ran into Charlie Weasley whenever they happened to be in Romania, and for a while Ginny thought that Keesha and Charlie might get married. But Charlie was truly in love with dragons, and Keesha returned to Britain alone.

She finally found love again during a Christmas holiday at the Potters', a circumstance that was not infrequent at that happy home. Seamus Finnigan had come over to join the rest of the old Gryffindor class of 1998 to celebrate the season together, as they often did. He and Keesha hit it off, and they were married the following spring. Seamus was the last of Harry's roommates to marry, and it marked the beginning of an attachment between their families — including those of Parvati and Lavender — that lasted their lifetimes.

Emma and Claire Athair did their best to remake Hogwarts; by the end of their last year, most students ate meals with their friends who may or may not have been their Housemates. They were both on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, but their first love was Zonko's, which George and Angelina operated while living in the house where Keesha and Turquoise had been imprisoned. After they left Hogwarts, the twins opened a branch of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes in Dublin and met their future husbands there. But their talent, ambition, and energy soon outgrew the joke business, and they branched out into brooms, cauldrons, clothing, magical jewelry, pets — especially owls — and magical furniture like the expanding table in Harry and Ginny's home.

They also stayed close to their Slytherin friends, Sean, Zoroaster, and Abigail. Those three were often at the Potters'; Harry and Ginny never forgot the risk they had taken to save Harry when they were just children. Later on, Harry gave 12 Grimmauld Place to Zoro and so it passed back to the honorable House of Black.

In a few years the twins were operating a world–wide enterprise, including in America. They traveled widely, but lived in Ireland in adjoining houses. The Potters were their frequent guests and vice versa since it was less than a hundred miles between Dublin and where the Potters ended up living.

After the honeymoon, Harry and Ginny stayed in the Hog's Head Inn a little longer than they first intended; they were both busy with their careers and with each other, and never found time to look for a house. They enjoyed the village and the proximity of Hogwarts; Ginny especially liked to visit Elizabeth Derby's magical fountain. Bailey and McPherson had owlets every year, and soon barn owls became the messenger of choice for students and teachers.

They didn't mind living in only two rooms and a small kitchen; Ginny never stopped wanting to be "as close as possible" to her sweetie. But when they decided, just before the World Cup, to start a family, they realized that they needed more space. After quite a bit of anguish and a few marital rough spots, Harry came to terms with the worst moment in his past — with a great deal of help from Ginny — and agreed with her that they should live in Godric's Hollow. They tore down the house in which Harry's parents had been killed and built on the spot the home that they lived in for the rest of their long lives.

Harry sold the inn to Stan and Harriet Shunpike, who had accumulated a nice pile of gold in the intervening years. Kreacher and Winky took over the care of Potter Mansion, and Kreacher even asked Harry to mount his head on the wall there when he died, and not at 12 Grimmauld Place.

At Potter Mansion there were always children and grandchildren, holidays with family, unconditional hospitality for friends, and a roost for Bailey and McPherson's descendants. But above all, it was where the infinite love of Harry and Ginny was felt by all who entered there. The longer they lived, the stronger it grew, and the more they both knew that it was immortal.

The End


Author's Note

Writing The Hog's Head has been an unexpected adventure. It began a few weeks after publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a response to my own need to discover what Ginny had experienced during the Battle of Hogwarts. It ended by being my own version of "Book Eight."

Along the way I met dozens of wonderful Harry Potter fans who came, I hope, to like the story and maybe to love it as much as I did. Many of you gave me ideas and suggestions that I was only too happy to incorporate into the story. Lots of you posted reviews with the simple sentiment expressed by "kutgw." I loved those reviews, as well as the ones that discussed each chapter and talked about passages or characters or dialogue that you liked. Some of you expressed disagreement with a few things here and there, and I tried to respond to those reviews in the same spirit as the positive ones.

It's both sad and exhilarating to finish the story. It goes without saying that my greatest debt is to J.K. Rowling and her genius. It all begins with JKR. :-) But if The Hog's Head were a publishable book, then I would dedicate it as follows:

To

Candace

for her enthusiasm, editing skills, and love

To

Jim T

for his insights, encouragement, and perspective

To

Pascal

for having English as his second first language

And

to

Emma and Claire

for their love of The Hog's Head