Vacation ends in a surprising fashion. But before they leave for home Harry and Ginny take the time to finish the last bottles of their anniversary gift. So join them as they complete the journey started twenty-nine bottles ago.
Bottles Eight and One
The warm spray of the shower cascaded down across Harry's shoulders warming his back and filling the marble tiled shower with billowing clouds of steam. While the shower warmed his back, Ginny's body warmed his front. Their co-mingling in the shower capped off a lovely afternoon spent alone in the beach house, sans clothing.
Harry finished massaging the floral scented shampoo into her gloriously red hair, letting the lather build as he worked it down her long red tresses. Ginny let the shampoo settle, keeping her eyes closed, and then lifted her hands to begin washing the suds from her head. Harry dropped his hands to her waist as she rinsed, and the light touch of his fingers made her giggle.
"Stop it," she chuckled.
"Earlier you told me never to stop," he countered.
"That was before, and I didn't want it to end, but now we're in the shower and if we stay in here we'll end up looking like prunes." Ginny bent at the waist, shaking her hair out gently and letting the last of the shampoo wash out.
"Fine, fine," Harry huffed in mock despair.
Ginny finished the rinse and stood up facing her husband. "And stop the pouting." She tapped his nose with her index finger, pretending to scold him.
He flashed her the crooked half-smile he knew she adored, and used a wandless, non-verbal summoning charm to bring their towels from the racks. Ginny grabbed her towel from where it floated just out of the shower spray. Harry turned off the shower and grasped his own towel. Ginny, now wrapped in her towel, stepped out of the shower carefully, but screamed in shock.
"Arrgghhh!" She yelped.
"What!" Harry stepped out of the shower. "Accio wand!" his holly and phoenix-feather wand snapped to his hand from where he'd left it on the nightstand.
Perched on the towel rack near the frosted window, a large, bright green, rose-throated parrot waited patiently with a neatly folded parchment in its pale yellow beak. Harry tossed his wand to the counter, and began to dry his hair.
"Mail…mail is here," the parrot called out in a scratchy impersonation of a female voice.
"Thank you," Ginny replied taking the note from the bird. The green parrot released his hold on the letter, but continued to wait patiently on the towel bar.
"Oh my lord…Harry, guess what?"
"What?" Harry replied, drying his back.
"Percy is getting married! Tomorrow morning!"
"Percy? Mister I-never-do-anything-without-the-proper-authorization-and-forms Weasley, is getting married? Just like that?" Harry asked incredulously.
"Evidently so, according to Mum. I guess working with George has changed him…Her name is Audrey, and they met…no! Harry they only met two nights ago," Ginny said excitedly.
Harry, curiosity peaked, read the brief note over Ginny's shoulder. "They met at a hearing at the Ministry, where he was called as a witness to one of George's pranks gone awry." he read.
"She was the solicitor on the case…" Ginny read.
"They settled…George won, and he asked her out in the hallway outside the chambers…" Harry continued.
"They spent the next two days together, he asked and she said 'yes' to him." Ginny's slim finger traced the lines on the page, keeping their place. "Tomorrow is the earliest they can do it, Kingsley will officiate, in his office. Nine in the morning tomorrow…"
"Well I'll be…" Harry muttered. "Who knew ol' Percy had it in him?"
"We'll have to leave tonight instead of in the morning so we can wake up at home and have a night to adjust to the time change." Ginny said. "We need to start packing." She tossed her towel across the shower rod to dry. Harry's joined hers moments later. Both made their way into the bedroom and dressed hastily in comfortable house clothes.
"Why don't we do the last two bottles and finish our vacation, then we'll apparate back to the loft later tonight?"
"Sounds like a good plan to me." Ginny smiled, holding out her hand to her husband. Once he intertwined his fingers with hers she led him back to the kitchen and the pensieve.
"So, there are only two left," Harry offered as he lifted the last two unviewed bottles of memories from the red velvet lined wooden box. He turned the first in his fingers, "Eight." he read.
Ginny pulled the other bottle from his fingers. "And, one."
Harry twisted the glass stopper from his bottle, tilted the bottle over the small stone bowl and let the silken strand of memory fall gracefully into the swirling silvery mist of the pensieve.
The couple touched their noses to the mist and fell headlong into the next memory.
Harry landed first, with Ginny landing just a second later to his left. The landings deposited the couple on the lush green lawns of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Up the hill a ways to their left stood the grand old castle, tall and proud. To their right another hundred feet or so down the gently sloping hill lay the Black Lake. Students roamed casually about singly or in groups, a few couples walked along holding hands. Hagrid, with Fang right beside him, ambled slowly along, a large canvas bag slung over his shoulder.
"Hey Hagrid!" Neville called out where he was standing knee deep in the lake, pulling various waterborne plants up for examination.
"H'lo there Neville. Did'ya find them Mantallo roots by me cottage?"
"Yes, thanks for keeping a lookout for them."
"Glad ter help." The half giant smiled at the sixth year student. Fang, lifted his nose, tracking a faint scent in the air and then bounded over a small hill to a more secluded bit of the lakeshore.
"Eeek!" a girl's voice squeaked in surprise.
"Fang, Hiya! Where's Hagrid, huh? You know he'll be looking for you." Harry's voice spilled into the memory. Hagrid caught up to the errant beast of a dog and found Ginny petting the thick fur on its chest. Fang rolled to lay on his back, exposing his soft stomach to the young witch.
"Ginny, 'Arry, nice ter see ya. Come here Fang, ya ruddy beast, leave the students alone so they ca…" He paused, and Fang made no move to imply he was done receiving a belly rub from Ginny. Hagrid studied the two students; Harry with his back against the large elm tree, Ginny curled up in Harry's lap. "What 'xactly are the two of yer up to anyway?" He cast a suspicious look at his friends. "Yer sup'osed to be studyin'," he said warningly.
"We are," Harry defended their actions.
"She's in yer lap 'Arry, Don't look like studying."
"Hagrid, he's helping me study for my owls, watch." She turned to Harry "Go ahead, Harry."
Real Ginny giggled. "You did have your own way of helping me study."
"Hey, you were a very willing student, and if I remember right you did quite well on your O.W.L.s."
"I did, so your methods must have worked." Ginny laughed.
Harry pulled Ginny's copy of 'The Monster Book of Monsters' from beside her bag, rubbed its spine and opened to the middle. "Ok Gin, How many fingers does a Bowtruckle have?"
"Easy two on each hand, four total," she answered confidently.
"Well done," Harry replied. "And your reward." He leaned forward and kissed her. "For extra credit, what could you use to distract a Bowtruckle?"
Ginny bit her lip, and then answered, "Wood lice?" but it sounded as if it were more of a question than her answer.
"Right again." Harry kissed her a second time, and then faced Hagrid. "See I'm helping her study, every time she gets a right answer, she gets a kiss. It's the rewards system, kind of like training Fang here. When he does something good, you toss him some steak, right?"
"Ya…I ca' see that." Hagrid beamed at the happy couple. "Well then, good luck on the trainin." He patted his thick thigh loudly, "Come on Fang, leave em ter it."
Harry's voice carried over, "Name a magical beast, native to Fiji, that has a jeweled shell?"
Ginny answered quickly, "A fire crab."
Hagrid turned to see the couple in a passionate kiss. "Studyin' my moldy boots," he muttered. "And you, ya lazy sack o' bones," He glared at Fang. "Sellin' out for a belly rub. Wha's got inter ya about that? You ain't let anyone near yer belly since you was a pup, and that was…" Hagrid's normally rough voice softened and faded, never finishing the sentence.
White mist swirled quickly and a new scene formed. A young couple, wrapped in each other lay stretched out in the shade of the same elm tree. A dark haired boy and his redheaded girlfriend lay side by side, kissing enthusiastically. Hagrid, walking along, carried a much smaller Fang over his shoulder. The pup squirmed to get down, and Hagrid bent to let the dog off. The small dog quickly ran for the snogging couple.
"Now Fang, come here. Fang I said come here!" The eager puppy raced to the couple and plowed between them, happily wagging his tail and licking James' face.
"Arrrghhh!" complained a very mussy-haired James Potter. "Padfoo…hey now, you're not Padfoot." James sat up.
"Oh…Gin, that's my Mum and Dad…" Harry watching the scene blurted out.
"It is…Wow, I wasn't expecting this…they look so young even though they're just a few years younger than us."
"Lily? Lily Evans?" Hagrid questioned.
"Hello Hagrid," Lily answered. Fang settled down between Lily and James. "Oh he's adorable Hagrid, did you just get him?" The large puppy rolled onto his back and Lily began to make long slow strokes across his soft tummy. Fang let his mouth fall open, and his tongue lolled out the side, leaving a trail of slobber on James' robe sleeve.
"Ya, he's only abou' seven weeks…what're you two up ter?" he cast a suspicious gaze at James. "And where's the rest of yer pals Potter?"
"Hey, we're studying," James said righteously.
"Studyin' what? Don't see no books…" Hagrid squinted at the couple. Lily blushed prettily.
"It's more of an…an oral exam," James said proudly.
"James!" Lily punched him in the bicep and sat up, but still rubbed on Fang's belly.
"Lily, and yer Head Girl too. You ought to be settin' er better 'xample."
"Hey, he's Head Boy." She elbowed James.
"Ow, why are you so violent today?" he complained.
"Yeah, he is, but most the perfessers 'ave given him up as a los' cause," Hagrid said to Lily in reply.
"Hey, I'm right here," James pouted.
"He's my special project. I'm trying to see if I can teach him some manners." Lily smirked. Fang snorted, squirming under Lily's soft touch.
"Stupid dog's getting more love than I am." James picked at a few stems of grass.
"He's better behaved than you are." Lily said, never missing a beat.
Hagrid laughed. "Ya know Lily, you migh' be the only one at ter school tha can 'andle James 'ere." He looked around. "Where's the rest o them?"
"Who?" James asked.
"Yer band o misfits, Lupin, Black and Pett-grew?"
Sirius dropped down out of the tree limbs, landing right next to Hagrid and startling both James and Lily. He was young and carefree, his long black hair framing his rather handsome face. "So glad you called good man. Why we're right here, making sure Lily doesn't compromise our friend's moral code."
"His whaa?" Hargid muttered.
"Hello Hagrid," Remus Lupin strolled into the memory quietly. His thin build seemed to suit him more at seventeen than it had in his later years. His face did not show the lines of stress and fatigue that Harry had become so familiar with. "And Peter is here somewhere."
"Hello," Peter peeked out from behind a large mulberry bush.
"What are all of you doing here?" Lily demanded. "Were you spying on us?"
"Guys, just go okay?" James said urgently. "Please?"
"Sorry," Sirius chimed in. "I think our esteemed friend Mr. Hagrid is correct. We need to protect you from Lily's ample feminine wiles."
"No you don't." James retorted.
"Fermintin wiles?" Hagrid asked in confusion.
"Sirius Orion Black." Lily called his name in warning.
"Oh fine, we don't really worry about Lily corrupting our James. We're more interested in his technique. See over the years he's gone out with quite a few birds, many of them quite attractive." Sirius saw Lily reach for her wand. "Of course none as attractive as our fair Lily blossom here, right Remus?"
"I'm staying away from this. You're digging this hole on your own." Remus smiled.
"Thanks, Moony, thanks a lot. But as I was saying, James here has snogged half the girls in the school, and all of the pretty ones at one time or another." Lily twitched her wand in anticipation, causing Sirius to hurry his speech. "But he saved the prettiest for last! And…what we were wondering is…did his snogging technique improve over time? How else can we explain that our lowly prankster was able to land the prettiest, smartest…" Lily raised her wand. "Most compassionate, sweetest girl in the school."
Remus cottoned on to where this was going and joined in. "Exactly, so we had to see for ourselves." Lily turned to face him.
Lily spoke up, "Remus…what are, or were, you and Sirius up to?"
Sirius picked up the conversation, "We've been critiquing your, or should I say, James' style."
"Please, Merlin, no." James rubbed his hand through his hair, mussing it more than it already was.
"At first, I think the snogging was about a seven of ten," Sirius began.
"Well I had them a little higher, as he was using his off hand to stroke her leg, which to me, was worth another half point, for a seven point five." Moony cheekily added.
"Peter?" Sirius asked, the quietest person in the memory.
"I dunno, looked good to me, I'd give him ten." Peter said softly.
"Good man!" James crowed.
"But he's never kissed anyone, so his scores may not be reliable." Sirius pointed out.
"Have too," Peter grumbled.
"Well my score should be reliable," Lily said with a smile. "I'd say about a five…five and a half tops."
"What?" James pouted.
"Well, you tried too much tongue too fast. And they were kind of long, so I had to hold my breath so much I noticed it. You did gain points with the leg rub, but you left open the opportunity to run your fingers through my hair, which you know I like. So, about a five."
"But…" James looked crestfallen.
"Come to think of it, any of the boys I've kissed since fourth year have all been at least sixes. So this has been rather disappointing.
"But!" Sirius raised his hand. "Just before our Hogwarts Gamekeeper came by, the kissing was a touch more…what's the word I need Moony?"
"Yes, any of those. By then our subject, that's you James, had progressed from a simple kiss to more of a snog, which in all fairness should be rated separately."
"Of course," Remus agreed.
"I agree," Lily added. "Who am I to go against convention?"
Hagrid looked from one friend to another, not sure exactly what to do or say, so he simply stayed quiet.
"No…" James muttered.
"So I noticed that his lip work was much improved from the simple kisses earlier. He varied pressure between his upper and lower lips, and his move to kiss along her jaw line was a stroke of genius. The ear licking, sucking thing I wasn't a fan of, so I docked him a half point. He escalated the leg rubbing which I thought was a plus, and placing his hand on her bum was easily worth a full point. Overall I give it an eight."
"I agree on most counts, but not entirely," Remus began his spiel. "Yes, the lip work was good. I too took half a point for the ear thing. Please James, grow out of it. You were spot on with the leg, but Sirius, you missed his left hand, the one not on her bum, twirling her hair, which she sighed for. So I added a point for that. The depth of kiss was good, enough to feel passion, but not overly done. So I'm just a half point over you again at eight and a half to nine."
"I…I think it all looked like a ten." Peter said quickly.
"Yeah, we know, but as we noted before, your vote is skewed due to lack of personal history." James said.
"Hey, that isn't fair I kissed Emily Broadbent when we were dating." Peter said defiantly.
"That was fifth year, doesn't count." Sirius grinned.
"Yes it does. I got more kisses than either of you combined fifth year, because all the girls hated that you made their hair green when that prank went wrong."
"He's got a point," Remus said in his quiet friend's defense.
"Well, I'd agree his lip work was pretty good. "Lily stated. "Not too firm or soft, kissing along my jaw was nice. I gave him a full point for the ear thing, because it was unexpected, and he didn't slobber, it was a gentle tug, which I thought felt very affectionate. His leg rubbing felt off, I'm not a dog that needs to be humped. Hand on the bum was nice, but the hold could have been firmer, so I could feel it instead of it just feeling like dead weight. The hand in the hair we already know I like, so he got a full point for that. I'd give him a seven and a half."
"Seven and a half!" James shook his head. "I'm better than that?" He hung is head.
"Evidently not Prongs," Sirius laughed.
"I kinda think the 'ole lot of ya is barmy…" Hagrid muttered.
Lily's voice could be heard above the sniggering from the Marauders. "Awww, James don't pout. Think of it this way, we're going to have to do a lot of studying to get those marks up." She flashed him a sneaky smile.
"Ugghhh," the three friends groaned at the couple.
"I can't let myself love a bloke who's substandard in the kissing department," she teased.
"Substandard!" he groused. But then his brow lifted and he gave her a very roguish smile. "You just said you loved me."
Lily turned beet red. "I..I di…I…I did not…" she stuttered.
"Please," Sirius deadpanned. "Like we haven't all figured it out by now. You love him, he loves you. You'll get married and pop out a whole quidditch team, finding a way to look great in the process."
"Oh really? And what about the rest of you?" she challenged.
Sirius continued. "Well if you must know, Remus here will end up marrying a witch half his age, but he won't know it because he'll be so old he won't be able to remember it. Peter will end up devoting his entire life to the first witch he actually gets some off of. I'll probably end up bedding hundreds of women, as it should be, and die at the ripe old age of forty, probably finding a way to kill myself on my motorbike."
"What about Hagrid?" she then asked.
"Hagrid, simple. He becomes the most beloved professor at Hogwarts."
With that everyone in the memory laughed heartily, only letting up when Hagrid spoke. "The lot of ya need to be getting' back up ter the castle. It's on about time for yer dinner." He patted his hip, calling "Come here Fang, come 'ere. Lets get ba' to me hut and get some food."
The puppy raced to him. He picked up the small dog and walked away from the four Marauders and Lily. The memory morphed though a bank of pale white mist, settling again at the lakeside.
Hagrid was now looking at Harry and Ginny kissing under the tree, as they had been in the original scene. He watched for a few moments and chuckled.
"Good on ya Harry…And I'd give yer about a seven…" The last segment of Hagrid's memory melted away through the curling fog.
Ginny held Harry tightly, his whole body shaking in emotion. He clutched to her as if she gave life itself, burrowing his nose into the crook of her neck. She could feel the warm, wet tears sliding along her neck as he succumbed. She held him, letting him alternate between sniffs of love and chuckles of soft laughter.
When he raised his head, red, blotchy eyes met her understanding chocolate brown orbs. She kissed his forehead. "Okay Love?"
"I've never heard their voices before…In the nightmares all I ever heard was her screaming. In Snape's pensive it all sounded kind of fuzzy. When I heard them in the forest and in the graveyard, they sounded…I dunno, like they were far away…the voices kind of echoed…They weren't clear like this was." He paused and wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hands. "I…now I know how her laugh sounded…How my dad's laugh, and…" he put his head back on Ginny's shoulder.
Ginny cooed softly to him. "I know Harry, I'm so happy you got to hear their voices. And since we have the memory now, you can listen any time you want."
He lifted his head and nodded. "They were happy weren't they? All of them…"
"Oh yes, they were. And I can tell how much your parents loved each other, how they all loved each other." Ginny then chuckled. "Your Mum sure could handle the Marauders couldn't she?"
"Yeah, she did." Harry smiled fully. "She just gave all their bunk right back to them."
"I'm…I feel very fortunate to even have this little glimpse into their lives. " Ginny hugged Harry. "I can see where you get your humor, and spirit."
"So do I measure up in the snogging department?" he asked playfully.
"Well, Hagrid thought you deserved a seven...Back then you were about a four and a half, five tops." Ginny's eyes twinkled.
"Four and a half or five? No way, I was at least a seven, like Hagrid said."
"Not back then you weren't. You didn't get over seven until the summer after the war, at the Burrow." She said directly.
"And now? I think I'm way above a seven, don't forget I can do the leg thing."
"Leg thing doesn't count, that's for shagging, not snogging." She brushed his comment off with a back-handed wave.
"Nope, but you do hold my bum firmly, which I like."
"Like this?" He pulled her into his arms and cupped her rear with his right hand, through her soft flannel house pants. "And I do the hair thing too, right?" he twirled a thick lock of red hair in his fingers.
Ginny swallowed thickly. "Uhh huhh." she couldn't say much more because he was now kissing her fervently. He nipped her lips gently and then varied the pressure of his lips on hers. After a long sensuous kiss he slipped his tongue across her lips.
"See, now tha's worth a p-nt," he mumbled before she parted her lips, letting him deepen the kiss.
"Point," Ginny mumbled.
His right hand slipped up from her bum and under the baggy sweatshirt she wore, massaging her lower back. In response, she pressed her body to his more tightly.
"An-uuuzzer p-nt," Ginny sighed into the kisses.
Harry slowly worked his way down her jaw, kissing the length of it and then nuzzled and kissed the little spot behind her ear.
"Po-int," she gasped, clenching him even tighter, pressing herself against him. Ginny lowered her lips to his neck where she sucked on his pulse point enough to leave a small raised welt.
"Better than seven?" he asked in a low voice.
"Uhhh, 'bout a four…" she whispered.
"Four?" Harry said in question.
"Hmm-mmm, four…four…teen…" She murmured into the next round of kissing.
"That's better." Harry said proudly.
Ginny giggled, "But we should still practice."
"Yeah, we should…" he replied with a crooked grin.
After a few minutes of practice, the happy couple's attention focused on the pensieve and the last small glass bottle, yet to be opened.
Ginny tugged the stopper free and poured the last memory into the small stone bowl. "Ready?" she asked with a smile.
"Sure, I can't believe we're on the last one."
"We did kind of tear right through them didn't we?"
"Yes, and even with the ones we struggled with counted in, I've loved every second of it." Harry remarked honestly.
Ginny smiled at her husband, "Well, let's get on with it." And together, the couple dropped into the last memory, number one.
Harry and Ginny tumbled down, letting the fog surround them. After a short time the duo landed gracefully, yet the mist had yet to subside, so they could not see the scene being offered.
Molly Weasley's soft voice spoke. "Ginevra, Harry, I am beyond happy. I am so proud of the young woman and man that stood up today to be married. I do not know the words to describe just how much I love each of you."
The white fluffy clouds washed around and very subtly began to shift from shapeless vapors to finite shapes. Molly's warm voice continued. "Ginny dear, My greatest joy, up until today was the day the healers presented me with a pink blanket and slipped my beautiful baby girl into my arms for the first time. Today was better, because I could see the pure joy in your eyes. I know the first time you met Harry was on the platform, but it seems like you've known him forever, long before you met. So for you, my precious daughter, I give you my earliest memory of you caring about Harry."
Her memory solidified around them, the Burrow's kitchen. Molly stood at the sink, using a drying charm on the last of the morning's freshly cleaned dishes and flatware. A young Ginny, maybe five or six years old stood next to her mother on a large stepstool, drying bowls by hand.
"Do you recognize it?" Harry questioned Ginny.
"From just this? No, do you have any idea how many times Mum and I washed dishes together?" Ginny replied.
"Err, right…sorry." He smiled sheepishly.
"Now then, Ron is going to be at Aunt Muriel's till after lunch, so we have the morning to ourselves as just girl time." Molly said happily.
"Mum, can I ask a question?"
"Well…It's about Harry Potter."
"Ginny, I've read that story to you every night for the last two weeks. What more could you possibly need to know?" Her mother said looking down at her daughter.
"Ummm, well, it's about the ending."
"Are you worried about You-Know-Who coming back?" Molly cast a reassuring expression to her daughter.
"No, cause Harry made him go away." Little Ginny swallowed nervously. "What I wanted to know was, what happened?"
"Well dear, nobody really knows. All we know is that he lived through the killing curse."
"No Mum, I mean what happened to Harry…" She sniffed. "Cause his Mummy and Daddy both died." She stopped and cried for a second or two before regaining her composure. "Who…who takes care of him now? Where'd he go?"
Molly dried her hands and picked up her small girl to give her a big hug. "Oh, Ginny. You are such a sweet little girl."
"Mum, I'm not little. I'm six." Ginny pouted. "And you didn't answer the question."
"Okay dear, you're not little." Molly sighed. "As for Harry…He went to live with some muggle relatives."
"Can we go visit him? If he's all alone does he have friends?" Ginny twirled a lock of red hair in her fingers nervously. "He doesn't have brothers or sisters, so I'm scared that he's all alone."
"Ginny, I'm sure he's being taken care of just fine. I don't think you need to worry about it." Molly patted Ginny's back to comfort her.
Ginny squirmed to get down, clearly not happy with her mother. She then stood to face her mother and put both hands on her hips. "Mum," she said directly. "How do we know? I want to know, who's taking care of Harry?"
"Ginny, I told you. His relatives are taking care of him." Molly reiterated sternly.
"Well, I…" Her defiance washed away. "I just wanna know he's not lonely."
"I know dear," Molly responded softly.
"Mum, do ya' think I could write him?" Ginny gazed up at her Mum hopefully.
"Well, I don't exactly know…but I don't see why not. Get your things and write to him if you want to." The words barely left her mouth when Ginny ran to the sideboard and grabbed a quill and parchment from her home school supplies.
She sat quickly, opened her ink carefully and then began to write.
Live Harry watched as the younger Ginny bit her lower lip. "You still do that."
"Do what?" Ginny questioned.
"Bite your lip when you're thinking hard. And it's adorable." Harry smiled.
"Yes, like it or not you have a couple of very endearing little mannerisms. One of which is the lip thing, another is twirling that lock of hair that falls loose all the time." Harry ran his fingers up her cheek and tucked the same loose strands of hair behind her ear again.
Ginny smiled. "You know I do remember this a little now."
Little Ginny in the memory finished her letter and brought it to her mother to check over. "Is this okay?"
Dear Harry Potter,
My name is Ginny Weasley. Mum reads me your story all the time. I like it a lot. I am happy you won. I am sorry about your Mum and Dad. I wanted to know if you had a friend or not? I want to be your friend if you want me to be. I am six and you are seven, so I think we could play together good. So if you need a friend please write back.
Your new friend,
"I think that's a wonderful letter Ginny. Fold it up and I'll give it to Errol to deliver." Molly instructed.
"Errol?" Ginny questioned? "Are you sure Mum? He's a little off isn't he? And he can't deliver to muggles." She folded her note and put it in an envelope, addressing it as 'To Harry Potter'.
"Errol is fine, and you're correct. He can't deliver to a muggle house. But he can go to the person who can mail it the muggle way to Harry."
Molly took Ginny's envelope and deposited it in a larger envelope, addressing it to Albus Dumbledore and enclosing her own short note. She then tied the letter to Errol's talon and the bird flew haphazardly from the kitchen, bouncing off the window frame as he left.
Ginny watched as the owl disappeared over the horizon. "Mum, do you think Harry Potter will go to Hogwarts? And if he does and we meet, do you think we might get to be friends?"
"Anything is possible Ginny." Molly smiled down at her daughter. "And he'd be lucky to have a friend like you."
"And if he does and we do, then maybe we'll be in love and I'll marry him." Ginny's sparkling brown eyes blinked up to see her mother's reaction.
"Well…" Molly grinned. "I think you may be planning this all out a little early."
"But maybe, right? D'ya think someone like Harry Potter would love a person like me?"
"Ginny, whoever you marry will be a lucky man indeed." Her mother promised. The kitchen of the Burrow began to fade away, melting into the clouds of fog rolling around the couple.
"Yes," Harry answered emphatically. "Yes, I could love a girl like you." Ginny faced him, blushing furiously from the tips of her ears, to her neck and even across her exposed shoulder. He pulled her into a hug to reassure her.
"I think that was the first time I ever brought up the whole me-marrying-Harry-Potter thing." Ginny offered quietly, wrapping her arms around Harry's waist.
"I see." Harry tightened the hug a bit more.
"It was just mine and Mum's secret for about a year, then one day Fred overheard us in the kitchen, and he told George…who told everyone…and…"
"From then on none of those gits would leave it be?" Harry said with an angry edge to his voice.
"Uh-huh," Ginny murmured into his chest.
Harry traced her jaw line with his fingers and lifted her face to his. "Well you were right. We did become friends, and I did fall in love with you, and we got married. It's kind of the ultimate 'I-told-you-so' isn't it?"
"Love you." Ginny kissed him.
"You were so cute back then." Harry chuckled.
"Just then Harry? Am I not cute now?" She raised an eyebrow at him, daring him to come up with a suitable answer.
"Well back then you were child-cute, now you're sexy-cute," he replied with a shrug, not having to think about his answer at all.
"Sexy-cute?" Ginny asked, curiously.
"Oh yeah," he said. When he realized she was waiting for more of an explanation he continued. "What are you wearing now?"
"Sweatshirt, house pants, slippers…" Ginny replied nonchalantly, looking over her very casual outfit.
"Exactly. One of my old Cannons sweatshirts that's much too big on you, so it falls off your shoulder all the time. Which exposes the string to the tank top you have on underneath, which in my mind says you aren't wearing a bra. And you're wearing your ducky pants." he pointed to her grey flannel house pants with little yellow rubber duckies printed all over.
"My ducky pants are sexy?" she winced.
"No they're the cute part. The whole bare shoulder, no bra, tank top look is the sexy part." Harry said. Her top had once again slipped off to expose a freckled shoulder and he tipped the thin strap with his fingers, willing her to understand. "And even the ducky pants, are a size too big on you, so you roll down the waistband, and they kind of hang low on your hips…"
"So?" Ginny answered. She lifted the sweatshirt a little, exposing her taut stomach. The waistband was indeed rolled up, and as Harry had pointed out, the pants hung a little low on her slim hips. "What?" she said.
"Well, when they hang down like that, I can see a bit of your knickers." He used his fingers to deftly trace the bit of exposed satin on each hip. "So a little sexy there too."
"I had no idea you paid so much attention to my ducky pants." Ginny smirked.
"You've no idea…" Harry mumbled to himself.
The misty white vapors holding the next memory continued to swirl about the pair until both focused on the memory. Molly's voice flooded the memory. "Harry dear, my seventh son. I know I'm not your birth mother, but I did my best to give you the love you needed and deserved. From the very first time you set foot in the Burrow I promised myself that I'd be the one to look out for you. I had no idea then how many nights I'd lay awake thrilled, scared, excited or worried to death for you. You have given me more grey hair than all my other children combined, and I wear those grey hairs proudly, because I will always love you."
The mist evaporated leaving Harry and Ginny in the most familiar setting of all, the back yard of the Burrow. The twins, Ron and Harry shuffled ahead, looking thoroughly defeated. Molly marched along behind them muttering under her breath. "The blasted car…flying…could have been seen…poor muggles…"
"But Mum," Fred wailed. "We had to do it…"
"No, you certainly did not!" she responded shortly.
"Yeah we did…Mum they had locks on his door, and had all his school stuff locked away…"
"You stole the car George! In-ex-cus-a-ble. If the ministry finds out…I shudder to think of the reprimand your father might get!" She stopped walking and placed her hands on her hips and faced the three redheaded boys in the memory. "Now the three of you will degnome the garden, and so help me…if I find even one gnome after you're done…"
"Muuuuum, it was for Harry's own…" Ron tried to explain.
"I don't want to hear it! Now, get to work." she commanded.
Fred couldn't help with one last try to get out of doing chores. "Mum, they hadn't even let him out to use the loo!"
Molly spun in shock at her son's statement. She re-schooled her features and her face once again showed her extreme displeasure. "W…well…" she stammered. "The punishment is for taking the car, not for getting Harry. And Harry dear," her voice softened. "I don't expect you to help, come back inside."
"Ummm, if it's okay, I'll just stay out here. I've never seen a degnoming of a garden before." Harry said.
"Suit yourself…Harry, was what the boys said true?" Molly asked kindly.
"Yes Ma'am," Harry replied cautiously.
Molly's face flushed in anger, but she kept her smile in place. "Well then, go on and help the boys." She turned and her face slid from the forced smile to furious scowl.
Molly stormed back into the Burrow. "Arthur!" she bellowed, entering the ramshackle old house.
Mr. Weasley hurried from the study. "Molly?"
"Did you see him Arthur?" Molly fumed. "Skin and bones…and those rags he was dressed in!" Molly stomped across the room to grab her shawl. "Unforgivable. Allowing a child to live like that?"
"Now Molly, settle down please. He's fine, maybe a little…"
Molly spun to face her husband. ".. His clothing doesn't fit, and he's probably fifteen pounds too thin. He deserves better, and I'm going to make sure that happens right now."
"Dear…Mollywobbles," Arthur carefully approached his furious wife, breaking one of his three rules to live by.
"Don't Mollywobbles me. Albus has some explaining to do. I want answers and I'm going to get them. I don't care if he's the greatest wizard on earth. That boy deserves more and I intend to see to it that he gets it!" She punctuated her rant with a jab of her wand. A small spray of yellow sparks flew from the tip.
"I'm going to Hogwarts." With that last statement she strode to the fireplace. She shoved her hand into the pot of floo powder, grabbing a handful about twice the size needed and threw the bunch of it into the fire. The flames roared green and rose till they nearly escaped the firebox. Molly yelled "Dumbledore's Office!" and was gone in a flash of green fire.
In the background Arthur's voice could be heard, "Merlin help you Albus, you'll need it."
The memory morphed from solid to a furiously spiraling mist with green and yellow tinted flames throughout. Live Harry and Ginny clutched each other as the swirling spun them faster and faster, until neither could tell up from down or right from left. And then, in an instant, the memory reappeared, and solidified throwing the couple from the fireplace.
Live Ginny stepped into the room, but Harry couldn't right himself in time and he fell to the floor, sliding out of the fireplace in Dumbledore's office.
"Most powerful wizard in the world and he can't even floo decently, tsk, tsk," Ginny said with feigned pity.
"Stuff it," Harry grumbled good-naturedly.
The next scene bean to play out in the massive, yet cluttered, office of Albus Dumbledore. Molly's voice could be heard easily. "Albus! Albus Dumbledore! I need to have a word with you!"
"Molly?" Professor Dumbledore walked briskly into the main office from his library off to the side. "To what do I owe…"
"Put a sock in it Albus. Do you know what I saw today!" She answered her own question before he was able to venture a guess. "I saw a boy, all skin and bones, dressed in rags…Scared to death of being hit as punishment!"
"Well, that is disturbing Molly, but it's not generally an affair of the headmaster to intervene in something outside the school. You are not, I hope, suggesting that I intervene in an attempt to right the wrongs of others?"
"Of course not! Because then YOU would be in the position of having to hex YOURSELF!" Molly was past angry now; each time she made a hand gesture sparks of various colors spewed righteously from the tip of her wand. Albus stood erect and sidled over behind his desk looking for a safe way to put space between himself and the livid redheaded woman before him.
"Molly, you know I have no children," he protested calmly, but his normally sure voice quivered just a touch.
"That's right! You don't. But I do and I know mistreatment when I see it…And if you don't find a way to fix this I'll have your head on…" Molly stepped around to the side of the desk.
"Please Molly. I find myself at a disadvantage, not knowing exactly what we are talking about." He very slyly slipped his wand from his sleeve in case he needed it for defense, which he was beginning to think might be the case very soon. Noticing her change in position he, stepped back a few paces and stood behind his chair, making sure the bulky piece of furniture lay directly between him and his antagonist.
"You don't even know! How dare you!" Molly pointed her wand, and without uttering a word, a blast of yellow sparks shot forward, singing the parchments lying on the massive, wooden, headmaster's desk.
Dumbledore sighed. "Molly, please be more careful, I was just finishing up those recommendations and…"
"Recommendations! I'll give you a recommendation. I want the boy to live with us! I know we don't have much money, and the Burrow is crowded, but we have love. We have love in abundance! You should have heard Fred and George's story when they got home this morning…" She advanced another step towards the confused and worried headmaster.
"You want the boy to live with you…I understand…What is the boy's name?" He asked, taking two steps from behind the chair, and moving to a spot sheltered on one side by a massive bookcase filled with thick tomes.
"His name! Harry of course. Harry Potter!"
"Oh," Dumbledore's face finally registered his understanding. "I see, well I don't think we can do that…"
"Albus Dumbledore…" Molly glowered.
"Please can we discuss this rationally? I seldom do my best work when backed up against a bookcase." he offered calmly. For the first time in several minutes his voice sounded sure.
"I'm not so sure I can be rational Albus." Molly sighed
"I'm sorry Molly, but he has to remain with his relatives during the summer months."
His calm statement did not have the intended effect. Instead of calming the red haired witch, the words incensed Molly and her fury once again raged. "NOT GOOD ENOUGH!"
"Molly, as a friend I need to point out that…"
"Let me point something out!" She poked her wand towards the headmaster. Her magic, barely contained, slipped and a flash of white light shot out, singeing the corner of Fawkes' perch. Fawkes rapidly vacated the area, flying up and settling on a tall bookshelf across the room, well away from the arguing couple. "That boy is not to go back to those awful muggles! They're the worst sort."
"But he must, the wards are based on old magic and blood protection."
"They may be blood, but they don't treat him like family!" She countered vehemently.
"I know they do not treat Harry as they treat their own son, but…"
"NO BUTS!" They don't feed the boy, they work him like a dog. Fred and George said when they got to him, the first thing he did was rush to the loo…Albus, please…They weren't even letting the boy relieve himself." Molly's face fell and her voice softened.
"True it is not the best situation, but I cannot change his residence. The only way to keep him protected is by having him return to Privet Drive every summer to recharge the wards and blood protections." Dumbledore explained, pleading with her to understand why Harry could not simply move to the Burrow.
"What good is it to be alive, and protected from evil, if the life you have isn't happy?" Molly questioned sternly.
"Molly it can't be that bad. If you'll let…"
"Not that bad! When was the last time you visited that…that…PLACE! I can't even call it a home." There were bars on his windows. The boys had to break him out with that damn car of Arthurs!"
"It flew?" Dumbledore queried.
"ALBUS! Forget the bloody car. They were feeding him through a cat-flap! A cat-flap for Merlin's sake." She stalked around the far end of the desk. Dumbledore quickly crossed in front of the desk keeping the giant expanse of mahogany as a buffer zone between himself and Molly Weasley. She pointed her wand at him again. ".Sat-is-fac-tion. That boy will stay with us, where he's wanted."
"But the protections…They have to stand, or else Voldemort can get to him," the headmaster implored.
"Albus," Molly's voice had changed from angry to smooth and sure. "You are a smart man, fix this."
"My hands are tied…" He began to say, but Molly's stare cut him right to the bone. Dumbledore held up his hands. "Well…it might work…Molly please…What if he stays at Privet Drive every summer until his birthday. Then, he can visit with your family at the Burrow. That gives you half the summer. And I think I can adjust the wards enough to recharge in that amount of time."
Molly's voice finally held no more anger when she spoke. "Is that really all we can do Albus. He's just a boy…he needs love."
The professor sighed. "I believe it is. But as an added insurance I may send over Mad-Eye, Lupin and some other Order members to help the Dursleys understand that they should take better care of Harry."
"Very well then. I…I apologize for my behavior. It wasn't very ladylike." Molly said gently.
"I understand Molly. Now why don't you floo home and take care of that brood of yours?" He stepped from behind the desk and for the first time since Molly arrived stepped towards her, ushering her to the floo.
Molly nodded. "Yes, it is about lunch time. I'll need to whip something up." Albus offered her the pot of floo powder and she tossed in a pinch, calling out "The Burrow."
The floo activated and the memory again swirled unceremoniously, pitching Harry and Ginny, ensconced in the memory, to and fro. One last comment could be heard from the memory as the green flames softened to white mist
Albus spoke reverently, "You are a brave man Arthur Weasley."
"Wheewww," Harry gave a low whistle. "Your Mum took on Dumbledore," he said with reverence.
Ginny smiled and whispered. "No, your Mum took on Dumbledore. I think from the moment she heard the twins' story she adopted you."
"So she took on Dumbledore and Bellatrix…is there anything she's afraid of?" Harry marveled.
"Just something happening to one of her kids…it wasn't till Bellatrix went after me that she pulled her wand in the war. Up until then she spent her time healing others."
"Too true." Harry agreed.
Molly's calm words flowed through the mist. "So you see Harry, from the very first day, I thought of you as a son. And I know this isn't the sweet, romantic memory you may have been expecting, but it was the best memory that illustrated what I wanted to share. You have been, and always will be, my seventh son. A son I will stand up for and fight for. A son that has time and again proven he has more character, bravery and love than any mother could ever dare to wish for.
I am probably breaking tradition, but being the sentimental witch that I am, I couldn't let this moment go by without one last memory of the two of you as a couple. As her words came to an end, the wisps of white vapor swirled slowly, and then calmed, leaving Harry and Ginny in the kitchen of the Burrow. Arthur stood at the window, looking serenely out over the side yard and the gravel road running past the Weasley's property.
Molly flooed into the room gracefully and set her packages down on the counter near the sink. "Hello dear."
"Good trip to the market then?" Mr. Weasley asked, not moving his gaze from the window.
"Yes, Diagon Alley is beginning to come back to normal. Fortescue's is still closed but the apothecary is open again and the crowds were a little larger than the other day. The joke shop was full, as always. George is doing a little better. Having Lee there is helping I think." She noticed her husband's absent-minded behavior and questioned him. "What is so interesting outside that you don't greet me properly?"
"Come see for yourself." He stepped to the side so his wife could peer out the window too. He gave her a swift kiss on the cheek when she reached him. The memory then shifted perspective and was now showing the yard, gravel lane, and the giant willow tree in the distance. Under the tree, in the shade of the flowing branches Harry and Ginny sat on a bench, talking.
"They're talking?" Molly questioned in relief.
Arthur nodded. "Yes, finally."
"But how…" She faced her husband of many years. "You told them a story didn't you?"
"I had to help…This morning at breakfast they sat at the table, and I could tell both of them wanted to talk to the other. But neither of them knew how to start it off. I asked Harry to help me in the work shed, and we talked." he spoke evenly, shifting to look back out at the young couple under the tree.
Harry and Ginny sat cross-legged, facing each other. In her hands, Ginny held a small brown leather book, she was reading, moving her lips a little as she did so. Harry was listening intently to whatever it was she was saying, hands in his lap.
Arthur picked his tale back up. "I got him to talk…to me at least, and I told him about crashing Sirius' motorcycle…"
"You use that story for lots of lessons don't you?" Molly interrupted.
"I do, because it taught me so many different lessons." he replied. "Today it was about how the tree healed, even though it was never fixed…"
"How time heals all wounds?" Molly answered, now looking out the window again as well.
"Yes, that's the point I was going for, that if they just let each other have some time they'd be fine." He chuckled. "Harry took it a bit differently…He rushed from the shop, tearing into the house screaming for Ginny…about five minutes later the two of them come out here, with her diary…I didn't know she had one…"
"Nor did I," Molly agreed.
"They walked down there." He motioned to the willow tree. "She conjured a bench and they've been reading from her diary ever since." Under the tree, Harry was now rubbing Ginny's knee through her jeans to comfort her. From the way their heads bowed it was obvious both were crying.
"So instead of waiting for time to heal their relationship, they went back in time, so to speak, in order to relive it?" she said in puzzlement.
"With each other." Arthur smiled. "Well, Harry doesn't do things the conventional way does he? But for them, it appears to be working. To rid themselves of the separation, they're going back over it all together. Quite a brilliant idea really."
"And this happened after breakfast?"
"A little after, because Harry came out to the shed with me, but it's been at least half nine since they began talking." Mr. Weasley watched as Ginny palmed Harry's jaw and brushed her thumb across his face, wiping a tear from Harry's cheek.
"Oh my…" Mrs. Weasley commented in surprise. "That's over four hours ago…"
"I know dear." He answered, "I hope she'll open up to him…She never did with us. I still don't know exactly what was going on up at that school, how she got those scars…I doubt Harry will ever tell us about his either."
"I don't think she'll ever tell me…But maybe if she can tell Harry…Do you think she really loves him?"
"I think we're kidding ourselves if we think otherwise. When Hagrid brought his body up to the castle…" Arthur's voice faded out.
"Hers wasn't a scream of fright. It was the scream of a woman who'd lost her love." Molly finished her husband's thoughts.
Out under the tree, Harry leaned forward and rested his forehead to Ginny's, wrapping an arm around her as her body trembled. In reaction, Ginny shifted closer, letting Harry wrap her even tighter in the hug of compassion. In her hands, the diary lay forgotten while the two teens comforted each other.
"Well, I don't suppose we should be eavesdropping should we?" Molly said, sniffing away a tear and taking a step back from the window. "Oh Arthur, they're going to be okay. They'll be together…"
"Careful Molly. We don't know, can't assume they'll be able to work all this out." Arthur cautioned.
"But even if not, the two of them will be okay. They have a chance to be together, a chance to fall in love." Molly sniffed again, watching the young couple under the tree. Harry in the memory shifted so he was leaning on the backrest of the bench. Ginny dropped her diary on the bench and crawled into Harry's lap. She wrapped both arms around his neck, clinging to him. Harry in turn enveloped the thin girl protectively as if defending her from the world.
The willow tree, bench and fields soon fell away into a swirling white fog signaling the end of the last memory. To cap it off Molly's voice returned. "Harry, Ginny, I'm sorry we eavesdropped, but we simply couldn't deny ourselves watching the two of you begin to heal each other. It was the first time after the war that I felt as though everything would be alright. The first time I had real hope that you and Ginny would have a chance to fall in love. A chance you took hold of with all your might, and fought for. A chance that culminated in marriage between two of my children. I love you both so very, very much."
Harry's soft voice followed the last strains of Molly's voice. "I love you too Mum, more than I can say."
Ginny wrapped her arms around Harry's neck and pulled herself into his strong arms. Instinctively he let his hands fall to her waist, and hugged her back. "She's the best Mum in the world," Ginny proclaimed, whispering in Harry's ear.
He nodded his agreement. "So we've seen them all, all thirty-one of them."
Ginny released the hug, but still stood close by her husband. He began to lift the last memory from the pensieve and deftly used his wand to slide the silvery thread back into its small glass vial for safe-keeping.
"Yeah, we did." She paused. "Not all of them were things we were expecting. I'm surprised at some of them, like Mum's, Ron's, Mrs. Figg."
"I didn't expect Parvati's, Gwenog's really got to me, Neville's, and Hagrid's with my Mum and Dad."
I wasn't expecting the memories to be so vivid, either," Ginny added.
"Yeah, I kept reacting to the scenes as though they were happening live. I also feel blessed to be able to have shared them with you Gin. Just in the short few days we've spent viewing them, I…we're closer emotionally now than…"
"We've ever been?" Ginny finished his sentence for him.
He smiled at her. "Yeah, I was gonna say that."
"It's half two now, so it's half seven at home, right?" Ginny asked.
"Yes, we're five hours different."
"Harry, why don't we get all packed, have some dinner, and enjoy one last stroll along the beach before we apparate home?"
"Perfect idea Gin." Harry replied, looking over the calm waters of Little Sound visible through the large windows.
The couple packed up and made sure to wrap all the trinkets, shells and gifts for the trip home. Both changed from their casual house clothes to those appropriate for going out in public.
Ginny packed away her ducky pants in favor of a pair of muggle jeans, noticing that Harry watched the entire time she was removing her ducky pants. The sweatshirt stayed, but she did put on a bra before pulling on a t-shirt and then Harry's oversize sweatshirt. Harry dressed similarly, in jeans, a t-shirt and a training jacket.
Dinner, at a small oceanside restaurant, flew by in a breeze of good food, quick witted banter and loving conversation. After paying the bill Harry led Ginny to the beach for the short walk back to the beach house. He clasped her hand in his, once again marveling at just how perfectly her hand fit in his.
Ginny squeezed his hand when she saw him looking down. "They do fit together rather nicely don't they?"
Harry bobbed his head, but didn't say anything. He simply looked out over the water to the sunset forming on the far horizon. The clouds, ablaze in vibrant hues of oranges, yellows and purples, hovered low. The sun, shining through from behind lit the remaining sky with soft yellow light, fading to a deep blue further up in the sky.
Harry switched his gaze from the horizon, to his left. The last rays of light brought out all the subtle colors within Ginny's hair. Colors even more pronounced than normal due to the extra sunshine and exposure to salt water during their swimming and diving. Streaks of lighter red, deep gold and auburn highlighted her silky hair and Harry couldn't help but touch it. He stopped walking and she turned into his embrace. He kissed her forehead and gave in to the impulse to stroke her hair with his fingers.
Ginny gave a contented sigh, letting her husband hold her and run his fingers through her thick mane of hair. "Love you Harry Potter."
He kissed her forehead, then the tip of her nose, and finished with a slow gentle kiss on her lips. "Love you Ginevra Potter."
"Forever," the couple said in unison.
A/N- So there it is, we've finished all thirty-one bottles. But more importantly I managed to finish a second story, proving that I can do it. I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of reviews for the story. I didn't think it would get this much response, but I'm flattered that it did. As always I want to thank everyone who read the story, marked it as a favorite or reviewed it. I appreciate you taking time from your lives to read.
Have a great day,