Harry had never expected to get to fifty. There had been several times in his life when everything had pointed to his death, long before this birthday, but here he was in the back garden of the small cottage that he shared with Ginny, at his birthday party, indeed getting older as he reached the half-century mark.
Today he was well aware that he had reached his fiftieth birthday. And it wasn't just the grey hairs, occasionally aching limbs and his teasing children that were making him aware that he was reaching this milestone. If it was, he doubted that he would be dreading it like he was.
There had been more than a week long build-up in the wizarding world. His photograph had been plastered across the Daily Prophet in this morning's edition and he suspected that Ginny's influence there had stopped it going much further than showing his picture. Both her fame and her passionate temperament often saw that she got her own way at work when she wanted to push her points.
Unfortunately, his wife had no such influence at Witch Weekly, which had even gone so far as to print several long articles that had been running for the last ten days all about his life, both professional and private. And Witch Weekly tended to focus their time on that latter too, with several rather colourful and not particularly accurate reports on his private life. His family had barely been able to walk down the street without some reporter popping up with questions.
It had not just been the press, either. Kingsley Shacklebolt, now one of the longest serving Ministers for magic in wizarding history, had tried to persuade him to allow him to throw some kind of ball in his honour. Harry had, finally, after weeks of discussion (or rather arguments) and Ginny's words that the wizarding public would not let this drop, agreed as long as he had a final veto over the guest list and that all the money raised would go to charity.
That was going to happen next week, and he was already dreading it.
Tonight, however, it was just a small dinner with only family and close friends.
Actually, it was not that small, considering how big his family had become, a fact that still amazed him. He had once been an orphan living underneath the stairs and now his family had grown to the extent that they barely fitted into the garden without bumping into each other.
"You ready?" Ginny whispered from behind him, breathing right into his ear as she slipped her arms around his waist.
He smiled as he pulled her round to face him. "Not as ready as I am for you to give me my birthday present."
She grinned back at him, with the smile that extended to that mischievous twinkle in her eyes, that, despite it being many years since she was the teenager he fell in love with, she had never lost. "We have guests, Harry."
"Why did I agree to this again?" he pouted.
"Because your wife and children love you and want to celebrate your birthday," she let out a small laugh, "and my mother would kill me if she wasn't invited too, which means that the whole family would come as well. So we might as well be the ones that planned it."
And he knew she was right, too. Molly Weasley's children may all be grown up and have children of their own, but none of them objected seriously to their mother's requests. Although 'demands' may have been a more appropriate choice of words, and with good reason too. The Weasley matriarch, now into her late seventies, was still a very forceful character who would be very unwise to cross at times.
"Well, we might as well get it over with," he sighed as he slipped his hand into hers. "Don't want to keep your mother waiting."
"Still scared of her, Harry?"
"Always," he said with a nervous laugh; he had seen Molly Weasley's temper strike enough times to know not to cross it. "You're the only person who can come close to rivalling her when you chose to."
She shook her head softly; they had had this conversation many, many times before. "And you're the hero of the wizarding world."
"Mothers are very scary. I never want to do anything that would put me on the wrong side of her wand; I've seen what can happen to those who are." He squeezed her hand as he looked back out to their garden. "I just hope that Leighton is as scared of you."
"He's a good kid, Harry," she said in a familiar tone that she had adopted in response to this conversation several times before as she led him outside with her hand tucked in his just as she had done many, many times over the years. Their bodies still fitted together so well. "So just you remember. We like him."
"I'm not too sure about that," he murmured.
"Harry, behave," Ginny fixed him with a glare, a fierce glare that he knew after many years of experience that he shouldn't argue with. Just like it was not a wise idea to go up against Molly Weasley, neither was it her daughter. He often wondered if Ginny recognised the similarities between them that everyone else saw. "If Ron can deal with his daughter dating a Slytherin, you can deal with your daughter dating one of your friend's sons."
His best friend had actually taken to that news very badly when Rose had finally broken the news to her dad just over a year ago, especially when he found out that they had been dating for well over a year before Rose had told him. While Harry had changed his mind about Slytherins as he got older, his best friend still held onto several old grudges and had come into the Auror Department asking permission to curse his daughter's boyfriend.
"Ron doesn't deal too well with that," Harry muttered, unable to stop himself.
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "Do you really want me to kick you into shape on your birthday?"
Harry grinned softly; he loved this side of Ginny. She may be grown up, now into her late forties herself, an adult with children of her own, but just as her sense of mischief was still there, so was her passion and, for lack of a better word, temper. There were some parts of her that were exactly the same as the fifteen-year-old that he fell in love with and that was exactly what made their days exciting, fun and full of the same passion that they'd had as teenagers, even years later.
Indeed, life in the Potter household was rarely what could be seen as boring and, as Ginny so often put it, "Who would want a boring life anyway, when there were ways of going about it that were much more enjoyable?"
"I'll drop it," he promised.
The garden had been overtaken by the Weasley family and assorted friends. Even though Ginny may have glared at him and told him that after three children in three years, he would not be getting his own Quidditch team, let alone the twelve that Trelawney had predicted. "Enough is enough", she'd said just hours after Lily's birth, when he had unwisely dared to mention that prediction; that hadn't affected the garden being taken over by children. Ginny may not have had twelve children herself but with the help of her brothers, her parents had been provided with twelve children, their partners and even, in the case of Victorie and Teddy, their own children, and now these children had taken over the garden.
Of course, several close friends including both Neville and Luna and their families had been allowed through the wards that had been placed by Bill and Charlie as well as some of George's defences that booby-trapped the grounds to would-be reporters. And naturally, Teddy and Andromeda were now all but considered to be family, so both were here.
Harry scanned the masses of red (both in terms of hair and decoration – the Gryffindor colours had naturally been picked) that had invaded his home, looking for his children. His attention found his youngest son first; as one of the few non-redheads there, Albus was actually easier to spot than many. Al was currently talking to Teddy, no doubt continuing the friendly argument that had started a few weeks ago about the rights of time-travel and the banter had been going on between the pair of them at every opportunity since. Lily and Roxanne were laughing over something and James had just emerged from the broom shed with calls for a game of Quidditch. His oldest son, who had inherited all his family's skill on the pitch, never missed the chance to practice or show off (depending on who you asked – Lily was often very vocal in the term that it was showing off) the skills that had earned him a contract with the Montrose Magpies as one of their starting Chasers.
"Miss going out for all that?" Ron asked, with a nod to the mass exiting of the younger generation.
"Not as much as Ginny does, but I think we could take them. You can never put a price on experience," Harry grinned.
"Or old retired bones," Ron laughed.
It was a laugh that Harry echoed. "Don't say that to Ginny. Anyway, how are you?"
"Pretty good. Can't wait to get away to France with Hermione in a few days. One of the advantages to the kids being grown up, eh?" Ron grinned. "How about you? Enjoying the celebrations?"
"More than I will that ball."
Ron laughed again. "Well, we could do what we used to before balls."
"Go to the pub for a couple first and stay until we're drunk?" he said with a grin. "I doubt Ginny's or Hermione's reactions will have changed to that."
Ron rubbed his arm. "Yeah, that never used to be that good an idea the next day. Guess you'll just have to man up, then."
The pair of them flopped down into seats and, with the help of a bottle of elf-made wine, started reminiscing over the last fifty years. Ten minutes later, they were helped with the bottle by Neville, and after another bottle was required all together when Hermione, Luna and Ginny came to join them. It was easy for the six of them just to slip into old times and fall back into conversations that had been started thirty years ago. Theirs was certainly a friendship that had stood the test of time, just as so many friendships in the D.A. had. He guessed that the hard test of their teenage years had stopped drifting apart; after all they had been through, they were not going to let distance or even the odd disagreement get in their way.
It was getting dark when the younger generation made its way back into the garden, James' hand in the air as he sang in celebration with Fred and Louis. Ginny was instantly on her feet when they got back; she did miss the game much more than he did. Not that she said that she ever regretted her decision to retire; he knew that there were some 'if onlys' there. Ginny had been the Harpies' top goal scorer, breaking several of their records and a firm favourite of the fans both at club and international level when the surprise of James had changed things.
And he knew how hard that had been for her as well, especially when she decided that the birth of their first child was not going to result in a career break but a complete change. A few female players had made it back to the league after taking a break to have children, but they never really made it back to the top with the demanding nature of the job, and Ginny had claimed she would prefer to just retire instead of trying to do two jobs not that well.
It was almost like when he had decided to become head of the Auror department. At 27, he knew that he would have plenty of time to take the top job later, and if he'd wanted to he could have stayed in the field, but he had a growing young family. It was the same realisation that had hit Ginny, some dreams were more important than others, and being there to raise his children had been his priority.
And it still was.
As the dinner plates that had been out all evening had been cleared, and the music stirred up, he looked over towards the dancers. He still had a certain level of disdain for dancing and only did it when Ginny asked him, since she normally made it worth his while afterwards. As expected, there was a flash of long, vibrant red hair on the dance floor as a figure was twirled around, but this time it was not Ginny's.
Leighton twirled Lily around on the spot and just for a second she lost balance in a fit of giggles. Before Harry knew what was happening, Leighton had caught her and she had flung her arms around his neck. He swept her off her feet and Lily kissed him, much more passionately than should be shown in public, in his opinion too. It still took all his willpower to stop himself going over and breaking them up; Lily would kill him if he did, and no doubt her mother would help her, but it was just so hard to see her so grown up and acting so grown up.
Harry was well aware that his little girl was not that little anymore. He knew that she had been dating Leighton since her fifth year at Hogwarts, so he should expect them to show a little affection to each other. He also knew that she had left Hogwarts and had been working at St Mungo's for nearly four years now, having claimed that she had inflicted so many curses that it was about time she cured some. And it wasn't just her ever growing list of achievements, she looked much older too. Older and prettier with every day that passed as she turned into someone who looked even more like her mother. Not just with her long vibrant red hair, her mischievous brown eyes and even her figure. No, it was her whole aura. There was no doubting that she was Ginny's daughter.
Ginny slipped her hand in his. "Having fun?" she whispered.
"Stop staring at her." She smiled at him and said, "Come and dance with me."
He followed her out to the other dancing couples. "He's going to propose."
"Quite possibly," Ginny replied, before pausing as she let Harry twirl her. "I'd actually be more surprised if he didn't. I think he is just waiting for the right time."
Harry pouted, despite himself. "She's too young."
Ginny just smiled. "She's three years older than I was. In fact, when I was her age, I was pregnant with James."
"Don't! I'm not ready to be a granddad yet," he protested. "I don't even feel fifty, I'm far too young."
"Oh, Harry," she said softly and innocently, but there was that familiar twinkle of mischief alive in her eyes, "age is never going to stop us getting any older. It's just a number. Now if you relax a little, behave yourself and dance with me a little longer, I promise your birthday present will be well worth the wait."
"Ginny," he started as he pulled her towards him.
Before he knew it, she was up on her tiptoes and playing a soft kiss on his lips, pulling away leaving him wanting so much more as she whispered into his ears, "Shhh."
It had been a long long time since he had let Ginny get away with one of those kisses, a kiss that stirred him and left him wanting so much more. Even if it meant that the kiss would last for minutes, he would pull her back to him which was probably what Ginny had intended anyway.
All thoughts of age and the prospect of his daughter dating or her inappropriate kisses in public were lost as his own inappropriate public kiss began. He was seventeen again. His hands were tracing down her back and Ginny's hands were in his hair. They only broke apart briefly for Ginny to gasp in his ear and send further shivers down his spine as Ginny continued to kiss him as she used to do when she was sixteen.
Ginny really did give the best birthday presents that only seemed to get better with age.