Author's Note: I can't believe it's over. That's all I'm thinking. If you wouldn't mind bearing through a few more words from me, I have some people to thank before I can let you get to the end of my personal Yellow Brick Road:
Jason, you have been with me since pretty much the first chapter and your encouragement and enthusiasm for this story got it to where it is right now. Somehow, you were always able to form my passages full of missing words and ill-placed commas into something presentable for the masses every single time with the speed of a NASCAR pit crew member. Thank you for being my biggest cheerleader and thank you even more for the times you questioned where I was going on my path.
Carol, you are my reality ally in this fantasy world. Our conversations at work made the time go by faster and helped to bring about some of the great moments in this story. You pushed me every day for new bits and pieces and my fear of the look on your face when I would tell you I didn't have anything that day for you was all the motivation I needed at times. Thank you for all your encouragement and I hope you know that you're in my heart at this time.
Sara, our epic email chains helped me to settle all the kinks out of the plot and let me get to know what made Harry and Ginny really tick here. You were also one of the first on board with me naming the baby James and a little because of your egging me on, there's going to be a sequel out of this thing. Thank you so much and I hope to see more of your work up here soon.
Readers, this story wouldn't have continued without your very enthusiastic, sometimes very vocal support. I only hope that by reading this, you guys got a taste of the rush I got by writing it.
It was the color of the sky that shone down on Harry and Ginny as they recited their vows to one another, their family and friends gathered around them.
It was the color of the dresses her mother had chosen for the bridesmaids. Ginny hadn't cared either way, not when there were more important things to care about.
It was the color of her father's eyes, shining with happiness as he walked her slowly towards her husband; the only tear that had slipped from those eyes had been when he put her hand in Harry's.
The jewels of the sapphire bracelet Harry had sent to her room just before the ceremony…the color the Arcus Violets had been when she handed her bouquet to the maid of honor…Teddy's spikey hair as he smiled at her from his spot among Harry's groomsmen…the delicate ribbons Victorie had used to help make the aisle…the blueberry-flavored frosting from the cake they had just cut, which her son had smeared all over his face. It was all the same color.
Ginny Potter was surrounded by it that day and nothing could make her happier.
At the same time, it was so surreal. A part of her couldn't believe it had all happened. Though it was rare, she still woke up some nights from horrible nightmares; ones where Harry had left her in the graveyard of Godric's Hollow; left her behind forever in that moment she tried to find the words to make him stay. In those dreams, it didn't matter what she said. He always left.
In life, however, he stayed. He stayed with her through all the hardships and strife that came at them to become her husband. The gold wedding band on her finger was proof of that. She studied the other ring on her hand. Her beautiful Persem diamond winked back at her and she smiled at it, rubbing her thumb across it, Harry's love just as powerful now as it was in the beginning.
Her smile grew as she remembered the day he had finally slipped the ring onto to her finger…
Ginny marched slowly up and down the waiting room in St. Mungo's, the chain that held her ring clutched tightly in her hand, the ring itself at her lips. It had been forty-eight minutes since the healer had come out to give them any news; he had promised to be no more than thirty. She did her best not to dwell on numbers, but the ticking clock was making it impossible.
A hand took her shoulder, slowing her movements. "Do you want me to go get you something to eat?" she heard Ron ask her.
She wanted to smack him. For one awful second, she really did. She wanted to rage and scream that if Ron was still an Auror, looking out for Harry and watching his back instead of selling tricks and candy with George, then none of them would be here now, waiting for some nameless healer to come find them and say their world could start turning again.
Just in time, she was able to reel herself in.
"No, thank you," Ginny told him. "I'm not hungry."
"He's going to be okay. The trainee he had with him, Daubach, said it was a clean fall. Harry didn't land on anything sharp, just-"
"Took a Stunner straight to his chest," Ginny said under her breath, mindful of how young some of the ears around them were. Ron pulled her more to the side before she really got going. "What was Harry thinking? He knew the suspect was armed with…with all those potions and explosives and he still went after him! How could he do such a thing?!"
"That suspect was on our most-wanted lists back before Harry and I even finished our training. This was the first real shot anyone's had at him in over six years. Harry didn't have any other choice but to chase him."
"Of course he did! He could have waited for back-up or taken his time to assess the situation before-"
"Before a wizard who had threatened to blow up a dozen buildings got into the Tube with an Imperiused civilian wearing a jacket lined with dynamite? You know very well Harry couldn't stand by doing nothing."
"Well he can't risk his own life anymore at the drop of a hat. It's not just himself he has to worry about now, Ronald."
Her brother's eyes followed hers to the other side of the room, where Teddy was trying to teach two-and-half-year-old James how to make different noses. The older boy could grow a narrow stick nearly eight inches in front of his face while the toddler favored snouts that let him stuff Bernie Bott's Beans into the nostrils, his black hair springing out wildly from his head as he giggled. He could make it any color he wanted now at will, but he kept it black for the most part. Whenever someone who knew of his abilities asked her why he never changed his hair, Ginny only smiled.
"He likes looking like his Daddy," she would tell them.
She liked it, too. She loved nothing more than to watch Harry with their son. Ever since they had moved back in together, nine months after they had almost lost each other for good, she got her fill of the sight nearly every day, a just reward for all the effort they put into rebuilding their relationship.
It hadn't been easy. She and Harry had known that going in. Neither of them realized exactly how difficult until they began sitting down with a counselor in London who specialized in therapy with magical couples. It was hard to look at each other after some sessions and even harder to not want to throttle one another. When Harry confessed in one session that a part of him was still waiting for her to leave in the night with James, she had to leave the room for fear of saying something she'd regret. Again. He seemed to have felt the same way when she had told him in another session of how mad it drove her when Harry didn't want to discipline their son out of fear of the boy hating him because such reluctance made her feel that Harry wanted James to hate her instead.
They kept on talking though. Every day they said a little more and every day it became a little easier to remember all the reasons they wanted to be together. That was never an issue when they were cuddling with James, watching as he began to crawl and toddle everywhere. Surprisingly, the real challenges arose when they first began spending time alone. Their first few "dates" were awkward, to say the least, punctuated by long silences once anecdotes about the baby ran out; that is until they remembered that they had been a couple before James came into their lives, bonded by love for each other instead of a child. Stories about the baby gave way to talk of work and their interests. When the weather was clear, they flew together and their first summer together was filled with warm days spent by the lake. (And even warmer nights spent together in it) By the time their goddaughter, Sophie Leia Nixon, arrived in the fall, Ginny and James had moved back into the lake house with Harry, where they all remained to this day, happy and whole.
Well, not completely whole. Her engagement ring was still around her neck after all.
It didn't bother her, living together while not being married, (although her mum had kittens about it whenever the subject came up), and it didn't seem to bother Harry either. It had been so important to her in the beginning for everything to be defined between the two of them that she would have married him the same night she named James. That wasn't the case lately. What was important to them now was making sure they were both ready before making such a commitment. In the midst of trying to balance their work, their extended family, and most of all, their son's needs, marriage—even the formality of an engagement—seemed like something that would upset an already teetering applecart.
Until today. Until a lack of title prevented her from being with the man she loved.
The Floo call from the Ministry had sent her into a panic. In her haste to leave for the hospital, she had nearly forgotten James in his crib. Dozens of scenarios, each more dire than the last, ran through her she finally made it to St. Mungo's, a kind nurse had explained that while Harry appeared to have only broken three ribs and suffered a concussion, he would need further testing by the healers to be certain, given his proximity to some of the dangerous potions he had come in contact with.
"What room is he in?" Ginny had asked her, struggling not to wake James. "I want to see him."
The nurse nodded sympathetically. "He's being well taken care of, Ms. Weasley, I assure you. Unfortunately, I can't allow you to see him until he's been cleared by the healers. Our new hospital administrator has put strict limits on access to patients undergoing examinations, unless the visitor is family."
"But I am family! I-I'm the mother of his son, of course I'm his family!"
"Are you married?"
"We…We live together. Have for over a year."
"Do you have legal documents listing you as his next-of-kin?"
James stirred in her arms as Ginny searched for the words to make this woman understand.
"I need to see him," she finally said slowly. "I need to know he's going to be okay."
"You will be notified as soon as we have any news, Ms. Weasley," the nurse said gently. "The waiting room is just down the hall and I'd be happy to contact anyone you think needs to be here. There's even a playroom for children where I can take your-"
The first wave of Weasleys, including Ron, Hermione, and George, had burst onto the ward, cutting her off. For the next hour or so, as more family and friends trickled in and out, everyone made an effort to get Ginny behind the ominous-looking double doors, but even a personal appeal from Kingsley Shacklebolt wouldn't change the new administrator's precious little mind. In his antiquated view, a shared home and child did not make Ginny Harry's family, leaving Ginny to wander aimlessly around the room. She put on the best face she could for her son's sake, but as the hour became two hours and the second hour slowly approached a third, all she could think of was the other time she had waited in a hospital for news about Harry. The waiting then had nearly killed her, filling her with fear; when he had awoken, the fear was compounded with uncertainty for him and whether a future with her was in his best interest.
Today was different. There was no urge to run away from the enormity of her feelings for him, from the way it consumed every part of her.
There was a new urge in its place.
"Excuse me, ma'am?" The healer, in his green robes, looked and sounded barely old enough to be out of Hogwarts, but he had Ginny's (and the room's) full attention when he entered. "Mr. Potter is awake. He's suffered no permanent ill-effects from his injuries or his exposure. He should be able to leave in the morning, after a full course of treatment to repair his broken bones."
As soon as the words "awake" left the healer's mouth, Ginny walked over and held out her hands for James and Teddy. She walked out of the room with both of them and headed straight towards the double doors.
"Ms. Weasley? Excuse me, Ms. Weasley? You can't go back there," the young man tried to say.
"What room is he in?" she asked the nurse at the desk.
"709," the other woman replied with an approving smile.
"B-But Administrator Dullvin-"
"Will not like how his face looks afterwards if I should have to speak to him myself," Ginny shot off, whirling around to face the shaking healer.
"He won't," Teddy said solemnly. "She gave one of my Quidditch teammate's dads a tiny willy on his forehead after he yelled at me during a match last week. Said it probably matched his other one."
"Mummy mad!" James chimed in, beaming up at his mother.
"L-Last door on the left," the healer said, backing away.
"Thank you," she said sweetly. "Boys, let go." She led them through the doors and down the hallway, shushing them as they tried to race ahead. When they reached the closed door that said 709, she picked up James and knocked quietly.
"Come in." Harry's voice sounded much too rough for her liking, but she almost cried at just the sound of it.
He was safe and alive for her once again.
"HARRY!" Teddy was already in the room, taking a running leap for the foot of the bed before Ginny got her bearings back.
"Sweetheart, don't!" she chastised, wincing at how pale Harry looked amidst the white hospital linens. "Harry doesn't feel well enough to…" He held a hand up to stop her as Teddy's brows furrowed.
"I'm fine, Cub," he told the boy, sitting up slowly to give Teddy a deep hug. "Just a little sore, that's all. Nothing a great big cuddle wouldn't fix." Harry held out his other arm for James.
"Daddy!" The boy reached for his father, but Ginny kept a tight hold on him.
"Harry, are you sure you should-?"
"Ginevra," he implored her, "give me my son right this instant." When he finally had both boys in his arms, he gave them each a kiss on their heads. Teddy pulled back after a minute but James clung to his father.
"Did you catch the bad man you were chasing, Harry?"
"I did. He won't hurt anyone any-Ow! Easy there, mate." He flinched a little as James burrowed further into his side, but wouldn't relinquish his hold on the toddler when Ginny went to pick him up.
"I taught James a new trick. Do you want to see?" Teddy asked proudly.
"More than anything."
"Okay, James." He waited until he had the little boy's attention. "Now, just like me, alright?" Slowly, Teddy's face began sprouting purple spots all over it; after a moment, James's did as well, only his were fewer and larger.
"That's great! You are a wonderful teacher, Cub. Isn't he, Ginny?"
"He is." She smiled at him and kissed James when he leaned his head back to peek at her. "Though I have a sinking suspicion that these two are going to try and come down with Dragon's Pox once a week during the school year."
"No, they won't. They'll save it for important things like Potions exams or tickets in the top box at the World Cup. Right, Mr. Lupin?"
"Right, Mr. Potter?" James nodded his entire head in agreement and snorted with laughter as his spots faded. Harry smiled tenderly at both of them. "I love you little monsters so much." He winked up at Ginny. "I don't mind having you around, either."
"Always the charmer," she teased before settling her mouth into a thin line. They had business to settle and she wouldn't wait a moment longer to get it done. "Teddy, can you take James into the corner to play while I talk with Harry?"
Ginny helped them both off the bed, trying to avoid jostling Harry as much as possible. She pulled a bag of building blocks from her purse and handed it to Teddy, along with another kiss.
Harry waited until the boys were occupied before he slowly eased himself upright, bringing his legs to the floor with a grunt. He pulled Ginny in between them and wrapped his arms around her.
"I'm sorry," he whispered into her stomach.
"You scared me," she replied, burying her face in his hair. "If I wasn't even more terrified of my mother's reaction, I'd kill you right now."
"Does it help if I said I knew how stupid it was to follow the cock-?"
"Uh-uh. Children present."
"Sorry." He glanced back at the boys. "Does it help if I said I knew how stupid it was to follow the C alone?"
"No, because you still did it and now I want to shove a very pointy wand up your A, you P." She pulled him close again, soaking in his heart beating against her body. "They wouldn't let me see you."
"I burst into this hospital, not knowing if you were alive or dead and they wouldn't let me see you with my own eyes." Even in his arms, it was still hard to stop trembling at the thought.
"Every time I woke up," Harry said,"I asked for you. Someone just kept telling me it was against policy to allow non-family members in the room during assessment. I wanted to kill the smug P and even thinking of Molly's reaction wasn't scaring me. You are my family. You're my whole life and we're never going to let anyone question it again."
He pushed himself to his feet, leaning heavily into Ginny for support, and reached behind for her neck.
"What are you doing?" The clasp of her chain was undone and her ring fell into Harry's hand. "Harry, what are you-?"
"Marry me, Ginny." With unsteady hands, he slipped the ring onto her finger. "I know why we waited. We were being careful because we have too much to lose if this all went to hell, but it didn't and then we just got comfortable not doing anything. It made us lazy. It made us forget how precious what we have is. Unfortunately, it took something like today to shake me out of it." He kissed her knuckles. "I know what we have and I want everyone else in the world to know, too. So say yes. Preferably soon because my legs are about to give out."
"Then sit down," she laughed through her tears. She waited until he was sitting again before taking his face in her hands. "Yes," she whispered. "I'll marry you."
His eyes washed over her reverently. "I love you," he told her. "The fact that you've already given me such a wonderful child just makes everything that much sweeter."
"I love you, too." She held her now-fiancée to her again, rocking them back and forth, watching as their son piled block on top of block with the help of her godson. Her whole family was with her in this building and she could only think of one thing to complete the day. "Harry?"
"Are you going to fall asleep anytime soon? Like, say in the next ten to fifteen minutes?"
"That's extremely specific. I might just make it. Why do you ask?"
"Because I'm going to go and find a wizard to marry us right now. I'd be ever so pleased if you could stay awake for the vows."
"What the…Ginny, no." Harry leaned back and tried to stand until Ginny gently forced him down. "We can't do this now!"
"Why not? Truly, why not? Bear in mind if you say anything about me being in a pretty white dress, I will hex you far worse than that W at Teddy's game."
"Your mum will have a fit."
"My mum has a fit every time I wear a skirt hemmed over my knees. I love her dearly, but I'm a grown woman."
"The press will find out about it five minutes after we're pronounced husband and wife if we do it here. They'll make our lives miserable for the next two months, trying to get a picture of us or James whenever we go out in public."
"Then we'll camp out at home for the next two months. We have the money to take a bit of a sabbatical if we want to." She gave him a quick peck on the lips. "Well, you have the money. Hopefully in about a half hour it'll be my money, too."
"Fine, keep your money. Just make an honest woman out of me, why don't you?"
"It should be a celebration," he said simply. "We should stand out under the open sky and promise our futures to each other while everyone we love watches. There should be a dozen courses at the reception and a cake two stories high. People should dance until the sun comes up, drinking the finest wine and champagne. I know I'm risking my forehead, but you should wear a pretty white dress so everyone can tell you how beautiful you look and have every flower in Great Britain all around you, enhancing that beauty. It took everything we had to get here, Ginny. Let's mark it accordingly."
"That's maybe the sweetest thing you've ever said to me, Harry Potter," she said, stroking her thumbs across his cheeks.
"So we'll wait."
"No, we won't."
"Why don't you want-?"
"I went to bed last night and I wasn't your wife," Ginny cut him off calmly. "That was one of the stupidest things I've ever done. Please don't make me do it again. That ceremony and party you described sounds amazing and we'll do that someday. Just not today. Today, all I want, all I need to is to go bed tonight with the same last name as my son and his father."
Harry was silent for a long moment until he pulled her left hand to his and examined her ring. "I suppose that Fate's going to start getting short with us if we keep spitting in her face," he finally said with a small smile.
"Yeah. Besides, the sooner we get married, the sooner we can start work on making James into a big brother."
"Remember our deal, sir: That one," she prompted her chin at her happy son, "gets potty-trained before I start giving room and board in my body to another one." She let her tongue gently caress Harry's in a long kiss, giggling when his hands drifted down to her rear.
"You embody the stereotype of a witch sometimes," he said.
"And you're marrying me."
"Damn right I am. So let's go find ourselves a wizard, get this over with, and go home to honeymoon with a toddler who'll climb into bed with us."
"I was wrong before." She smiled cheekily. "That right there was the sweetest thing you've ever said to me…"
"Ginny? Are you alright? Everyone's looking for you at the party."
She smiled at the sound of Hermione's voice cutting into her memories and finished touching up her make-up in the bathroom mirror. The reflection that gazed back at her made her feel desperately old some days, but not today.
Even if it was her and Harry's twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.
"What took so long?" Hermione had aged gracefully, Ron only giving her a few gray hairs thus far into their thirtieth year together. They walked arm-in-arm through the house until they went outside to where the giant marque stood near the edge of the lake. "I hope your sons didn't find a way to have their own fun with the food before it was served."
"My darling little hell demons? Hermione, what on Earth are you talking about?" They laughed for a moment before Hermione stepped away to talk to her daughter. Rose (named for her great-grandmother and, very briefly, her own father) had surprised the entire family by joining Luna Lovegood in the latter's exploration of the strange and wild while Hugo had joined Ron as a purveyor of joke wands and candy that made people sick in all the right ways.
Ginny took the time to stand on the outskirts of the party to look over her guests. The entire celebration, from the ceremony a few hours earlier to now, had been the work of her children, a surprise anniversary gift for their parents. Harry and Ginny's wedding at St. Mungo's had become legend among the Weasleys and Potters and the children wanted the two of them to have the wedding that Harry had described to her. They had spared no expense, gathering every member of their large family and as many friends as they could find; which was a fair amount. To top it all off, every citizen of their beloved adopted home had given over their monthly visiting privileges to one wedding guest, thereby opening up Hastom to everyone Ginny loved all at the same time.
It was a wonderful thing to be blessed with such goodness in one's life. Ginny knew that firsthand and would never take it for granted.
Her eldest son—still as much her baby as when she'd first held him—caught her attention, his arms wrapped around Sophie's round stomach as they chatted happily with Nell and Bart. It would be their third child and as hard it was to believe that she was a grandmother at times, it was even harder to believe that her little James Sirius was grown enough to be someone's husband, let alone a father to Neve and Benjamin. She wondered if her own parents still felt that way about her after all these years.
She suspected they did.
As much as James had embraced the notion of parenthood from a relatively young age, Al and Lily seemed to find the prospect something to be considered for far, far into the future, which suited their mother just fine. She wanted them to have their own lives and to live them in whatever ways made them happy.
For Lily, that meant touring the globe, designing couture robes for the magical rich and famous. With the help of her grandmother, Lily had made all of the dresses for the wedding party, including the delicate, one-shouldered beige bridal robes Ginny was wearing now. Gone was the rambunctious tomboy that had jumped into every mud puddle along with her big brothers and in her place was a woman of such elegance and sophistication that Ginny, at times, expected her to speak with a thick French accent like her Aunt Fleur. She still made her own mischief, just in her own uniquely Lily Luna way. That way usually involved her best friend, Bart and Nell's youngest child, Gigi. Ginny could only imagine the trouble they were conjuring up together now as they spoke in whispered voices at their table. It was a minor miracle both their fathers had lasted as long as they had in raising them.
Whereas Lily and James had lived up to the Weasley side of their genes during childhood, Albus had always been the quiet balance between them. She knew it was common for the middle child to be the shy, introverted one, but that had been Al long before Lily came into the mix. Al hardly caused his mother any worry as a baby (which actually did worry Ginny to the point where she'd bring him in to Nell once a week to be checked out when he didn't seem to be crying enough) but as an adult, it was different. Sometimes Al reminded her so much of Harry as young man. Back then, Harry had the excuse of being the Chosen One to not let people into his life. Al only had his own fears to blame. She and Harry had done everything they could to boost his self-esteem growing up, to help him realize what a remarkable person he was. While he came to life around his family and the few close friends he had, the outside world hadn't been given much of a chance to know Albus Severus Potter.
He had gotten better in recent years, though. During his travels abroad as an expert in the study of Transfiguration, he had met a lovely witch in Brazil named Lucia. She wore the flimsiest scraps of clothing, drank every man she met under the table, and couldn't cook even if the whole world was depending on her to feed them. Most importantly, to Ginny, she loved Albus fiercely and her love brightened him in a way nothing else ever had. He held her close to him as they moved together to the music and Ginny knew that there'd be another wedding in their family before too long.
Al and Lucia's romantic moment was broken up by two streaking flashes of black holding sparklers in their hands. Even as Lucia jumped back, Al still managed to get a hand on his younger brothers, yanking each of them under his arms as they squealed with laughter for escape.
Gavin Fredrick and Finnick George (for some reason, Ginny was told she had insisted on that for his first name just after his birth) were the late arrivals in the Potter household, making their grand entrance only six years ago, but they had more than made up for that delay by staking their claims as the wildest ones yet. It seemed every day they found new ways to send their parents into an early grave. They were much craftier about it than their older siblings had ever been. Gavin would be the sweetest, most delightful child in the world as a distraction while Finn would sneak the fast brooms out of the shed and the next day, they'd switch roles entirely. However, they both knew that all they'd ever need to do to gain Mummy's forgiveness was to lay their heads in her lap as they drifted off to sleep. They could drive her around every twist and bend, but for every near heart attack they gave her, the joy she received from watching them laugh and play paid it off in spades.
The twins were the tiebreakers she and Harry had once joked about, but their arrival was not the accident that many thought it was. In fact, their birth had been planned precisely because of their actual accident, though her parents never called her that.
They called her Iris. Iris Molly Potter, to be exact.
She was just as Ginny had imagined her to be in her dreams from over two decades ago. A tiny wisp of a thing, she was all her mother until one looked in her eyes and saw her father staring back at them. Ginny smiled to herself as she watched Harry and Iris dance together, the little girl perched on her father's toes as he spun them enough to make her blue dress flutter in the night breeze. Iris was only nine and she already knew a smile could make her Daddy do whatever she pleased. Her big sister had taught her well. She only used her power sparingly, every once in a while asking for an extra scoop of ice cream or a private fly with him after the boys were in bed or now, a special father-daughter dance for the two of them.
Harry glanced up and saw her staring at them. He had shed his formal robes some time ago and now wore just his white Oxford and dress pants, looking every bit as handsome (and downright sexy) to her as he had in their youth. He motioned his head for her to join them, but she shook her own in denial. It was enough for her now to look on as her family celebrated their marriage.
Iris noticed her father's attention was elsewhere and looked over to her mother, smiling shyly. Ginny blew her a kiss in return, marveling once again at her youngest daughter.
Each of her children was unique to her in their own way:
James had helped create the family they all had now. Albus had joined them by blood. Lily had been their first baby girl. Gavin and Finn had finally completed their brood and Iris…
Well, that was another story entirely.