Author's Note: Oh my gosh, guys! Last chapter! I really want to thank everyone who took a chance on my story. I really truly appreciate all the reads. The reviews make my day, and I try to respond to as many as I can. I am so flattered by all of the follows and favorites, and again, I just want to say thank you! Keep your eyes peeled – a new story is coming up as well.
"You'll never catch me!" (Albus)
"Sirius! Get back here, you git!" (Hugo)
"Faster, Albus, faster!" (Sirius)
"Rose, we can't let them beat us!" (Anomallie)
"Hugo, you have long legs! Run!" (Lily)
"Move your arse, James! The girls are winning!" (Fred)
"Freddie! You sodding bastard! You did that on purpose!" (Rose)
"Rose Jean Weasley! Watch your mouth!" (Hermione)
"August! You're gonna kill her! Slow down!" (Luna)
"VICTORY! WE WON! WE- AAAAUUUGGHHH!" (James)
The sound of trunks falling, luggage trolleys colliding, and bodies landing on a hard cement floor sounded just ahead of the Weasley and Potter families. Ginny grimaced, her eyes closing briefly.
"Why do they have to chose today of all days to wreak havoc?"
Harry sighed but smiled as he looked at his brother-in-laws. "How much you want to bet they've either broken a trolley or the ticket inspector's stand?"
George grinned. "I'm not taking that bet. Knowing them, they've probably broken both. And given some poor muggle a heart attack."
Ginny, Harry, Ron, and George finally caught up with all of the kids and two very exasperated mothers.
"Honestly, you all should know better! Not only in a muggle train station, but on the one day that it is packed to bursting? What were you thinking?" hissed Hermione.
George surveyed the scene in front of him. Fred, Sirius, Anomallie, Rose, and Lily were sprawled on the ground, having been flung off the trolleys when they had crashed. Hugo, James, and Albus were red in the face, leaning heavily on the handles of the trolley, having tried (unsuccessfully) to prevent the collision. Oddly, the only two who looked thoroughly unaffected were August and Aurora, who was surveying the scene from her perch in her brother's arms. Luna, wide-eyed and red-faced, was pulling the trolleys away in order to get to the bruised and moaning heap. Hermione was picking up fallen trunks, trying to clear up as quickly as possible, as the crash had attracted quite a crowd. George burst out laughing before joining to help everyone up. Once everyone was up and dusted off, Ginny demanded an explanation, looking so much like an angered Molly Weasley that no one tried to joke around.
"Well, we were racing-" began Sirius.
"-and everything was going fine-" continued James.
"-until Fred had to go and trip me as I was passing! Because he's a b-" said Rose, angrily.
"You liar! You're just a clumsy-" interjected Fred.
"You arse! I saw you stick your hand out and grab her leg! Don't you even try to-" started Anomallie, getting up and impatiently pushing hair out of her face.
"SO…" shouted Hugo, silencing everyone. "So, Rose fell and her trolley shot off target and flung Mallie off. The trolley crashed into Albus' trolley which flung Sirius off, which crashed into my trolley which flung Lily off, which crashed into James' trolley, which threw Fred off, and August's trolley…" He halted, looking over at August. "I actually have no idea how those two didn't get hurt." Everyone looked over at August, who was watching bemusedly.
"I pulled Aurora off and let go of the trolley," said August simply.
There was a beat of silence followed by Ron laughing heartily. "Well done, Gus. Your quidditch reflexes kicking in?" He ruffled August's hair.
"Now that we're all up and no one's seriously hurt, can we all proceed to the barrier like dignified human beings rather than a bumbling band of baboons?" asked Hermione.
"Yes," they all replied, thoroughly shamed.
Their ears filled with sound as they crossed through Platform 9 ¾. Owls hooted, cats yowled, students shouted, and parents said goodbyes as their children boarded the train. They were soon joined by Molly, Bill, Fleur, Victoire, and Teddy Lupin. Hugs were exchanged all around, though Luna looked as if she didn't want to let Aurora out of her arms, let alone her sight. Sirius and Albus teased as Molly fussed over pinning Hugo's new prefect badge, which he had been polishing since it arrived.
"Hey, where did Teddy go?" asked James, who considered Teddy to be an older brother.
"Probably saying goodbye to Victoire privately," said Rose, an evil grin spreading across her face.
Fred's face broke into an identical grin. "Yeah mate. Saying a long goodbye, if you know what I mean."
"Freddie…" warned George.
"Sorry Dad," said Fred quickly, ducking his head.
As the families broke apart a bit to say last goodbyes, Hermione and George turned to their son and daughter.
"Now, I would tell you to be safe and don't get into trouble, but after four years, I know that would be optimistic to the point of foolishness. So, instead, don't injure yourselves or others, try not to blow anything up this year, and make sure to help Aurora with getting used to the castle."
"And keep an eye on Sirius and Albus," added George. "Merlin knows they can't go a month without at least one detention."
"And no sending home another Hogwarts toilet seat," added Hermione. "I know you think you're terribly clever and such, but now that Aurora's there, I'm sure we don't need any so-called 'memorabilia' being sent home."
George grinned over his wife's head at his son and daughter, having told them how he and Fred had tried to do the same thing for Ginny when she had been ten. They smiled and Freddie winked at his father when he knew Hermione couldn't see.
"I love you, Mum," said Fred, hugging Hermione. She wrapped her arms around him and held on tight, forcing him to let her kiss his forehead. "Mum! Honestly!" he said, looking around quickly to make sure none of his mates had seen his mother kiss him. She grinned at him, then turned to her daughter as Fred went to hug his father.
"Take care of yourself this year. And take care of your sister."
"I will, Dad. I always do." Fred smiled and hugged his father.
"Don't be too good this year." George winked at his son, whose face cracked into a mischievous smile.
"I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good." And with a wave, Fred ran off to find his friends on the train.
"Be safe, okay?" said Hermione, pushing a stray curl behind Rose's ear. "I'm counting on you to look out for everybody. Well, you and James." She switched to a whisper as she said in her daughter's ear, "Hugo's going to be a bit of a pain in the arse this year. I know. I was when I first became a prefect." Rose laughed and wrapped her arms around her mother's waist.
"I'm gonna miss you, Mum," she said, trying to keep her voice steady. She buried her face into her mother's shoulder. She always got a little homesick the first week or so, no matter how old she got.
"I know, angel," said Hermione, smiling down at the top of Rose's head. "Don't worry, though. You can always write me, and when the Hogsmeade weekends start, I can come up and meet you for lunch. Just our little thing. Sound good?"
Rose looked up and smiled. "I'd like that. Thanks Mommy," she said quietly.
Hermione kissed her on the cheek and gave her an extra hug. "Now say goodbye to your dad, the train's going to leave soon."
Rose wrapped her arms tightly about George's waist and buried her face into his chest, trying not to cry. George smiled, a little dewy-eyed, and stroked his daughter's hair. This had always been the hardest for him, saying goodbye to his little girl for basically nine and a half months at a time. He knew Fred would be fine, and would write him if anything was amiss, but he felt extremely protective over his daughter. He now truly understood how Mr. Granger had felt at the wedding. He never wanted to let her go. He wanted to go and protect her from any pain and cruelty that came her way. He wanted to protect her heart from stupid teenage boys and mean teenage girls. He knew he couldn't; that harsh reality hit him the first time he let her go off to Hogwarts. Hermione had had to use side-along apparition just to keep him from getting on the train with the kids. As he looked down at the top of his daughter's curly head, he smiled, knowing he would miss her, knowing it would hurt, and knowing there was nothing he could do about it. She had to grow up; he couldn't protect her from that.
"I love you, Daddy," Rose said shakily into his chest.
"I love you too, princess. More than you'll ever know." He took a deep breath, steadying himself. "You be safe this year, alright? Take care of everyone. Take care of yourself. And let me know if any of those stupid boys upset you or hurt you in any way, okay? There's a lot of land behind the Burrow. No one would ever find the body."
Rose chuckled. "I will, Daddy. I'll make sure you're the first to know if any boy is horrible. No promises it won't be family, though."
George hugged her tightly before letting her go. After hugging her mother one more time, she headed off to the train, whose whistle was starting, warning everyone to get aboard. She waved, and in a second, her curly hair had whipped out of sight. Hermione wrapped her arms around George's waist as she stood next to him, watching the scarlet steam engine slowly start to move. He wrapped his left arm around her shoulders and waved with his right.
"It never gets easier," said George wistfully.
"No. It never does," said Hermione quietly.
"We've come a long way," murmured George as he watched the train moving out of the station.
Hermione smiled. "War to marriage law to falling in love to today. With so much in craziness in between."
George smiled as the train made its way around a turn and disappeared from sight. There had been a lot of craziness. Almost twenty years of craziness. And he wouldn't have changed a thing.
All was well.