Harry pushed open the living room door with a bump of his backside, each hand clutching two mugs of tea as he backed into the room. He'd never quite mastered the art of Levitating things containing liquids – he had a terrible tendency to wobble, and that, in combination with hot tea, was a bad idea.
He managed to place the mugs on the coffee table without sloshing the contents all over the place, and then handed them around – milk, three sugars for Ron, black, no sugar for Hermione, and just milk for Ginny and himself.
'Ta, mate,' Ron said, blowing on the surface of his tea before taking a sip. 'Don't suppose you've got any biscuits, have you?'
Harry rolled his eyes and summoned the biscuit tin from the kitchen, directing it to land in front of Ron, who pulled out a handful of digestives.
Hermione tutted as she watched her husband cram a whole, tea-soaked biscuit into his mouth. 'Ron, really?' she scolded. 'Have some manners.'
'What?' he said. 'They're family, they don't care.'
Harry shared a grin with Ginny as Hermione slapped at Ron's thigh. 'Cheers Ron, I'm so glad being family means I get to look at half-chewed biscuit.'
Ron winked at him as he shoved in another digestive. 'Y'w'com'Hawee,' he mumbled, then swallowed. 'So, what's so important that it can't wait until we see you later at Mum and Dad's?'
Harry looked over at Ginny, and she nodded, taking his hand. 'Um – well – Ginny's pregnant. We're having a baby.'
Hermione burst into uncharacteristic tears and flung herself at Harry, wrapping her arms around him. 'Oh, Harry!' she wept. 'I'm so happy for you both.' She extended an arm and pulled Ginny into the hug.
Harry hooked his free hand over Hermione's shoulder to push her hair out of his face. 'Thanks, Hermione,' he said, patting her on the back as she pulled out of their embrace.
Ron looked completely and utterly gobsmacked. 'A baby?' he said. 'You're having a baby?'
'I'm going to be a dad,' Harry confirmed, and there was nothing he could do to prevent the stupid grin creeping across his face, the same stupid grin that had appeared the very moment the Healer had smiled and said "Congratulations, you're having a baby." He placed his arm around Ginny's shoulder and she cuddled up against him.
'We told Mum and Dad earlier, but we wanted you to be the next to know,' Ginny said. 'You were both Harry's family long before it was official, and besides, we'd like you to be the baby's Godparents.'
Hermione wiped the tears from her face. 'We'd be honoured, wouldn't we, Ron? Ron!' She elbowed Ron in the side and he started.
'Um – what? Yeah. I mean … you're going to be parents! I'm going to be an uncle again!' The news had obviously sunk in, because Ron stood and pulled first Ginny, then Harry into a hug, slapping him on the back with enthusiasm. 'Nice one, mate.'
Excitement over, they settled back into their seats, Ginny tucking herself against Harry's side once more. He couldn't help but place his hand on her stomach; though she wasn't visibly pregnant yet, he was familiar enough with the curves of her body to feel a change.
'How many weeks are you, Ginny?' Hermione asked, curling her legs beneath her and leaning into Ron's circling arm. 'I didn't even know you were planning a baby, especially so soon after the wedding.'
Ron glared at that, his eyes narrowing. 'Unless that's why you got married. Potter, you'd better not have knocked my sister up before you got married, or …'
'Or what, Ron?' Ginny snorted. 'We planned the wedding for a year – just how long do you think women are pregnant for? I'm not an erumpent.' With a final glare, she answered Hermione's question. 'I'm twelve weeks. We only found out this morning – I've not been right for a while, and I hadn't noticed that I hadn't had a period because they're all over the place anyway, so I just assumed I'd picked up a stomach bug.'
'We weren't planning a baby so soon,' Harry continued, 'but, um, we got a little carried away on the Honeymoon, and, well … we'll have a Potter baby at the end of September.'
'What are you going to do about work, Gin?' said Ron. 'How long can you play for?'
She shrugged. 'To be honest, I haven't really thought about work yet. It's such a male-dominated game that there's no official guidance for pregnant players, so I think it'll be up to me. I'd like to be able to take my place on the England squad, I know that much.'
In all the excitement, Harry had forgotten all about Ginny flying Chaser for England in the Quidditch International Tournament. She'd been so excited when the announcement had been made - with so few female professional players, it was rare for a woman to make the national team. Ginny was the first since Gwenog Jones, and she was hopeful that she'd be able to play in the 2006 World Cup.
'Sorry, Gin,' he said. 'I hadn't even thought about the squad.'
'It's not a problem,' she assured him. 'I can finish the season, then play for the national squad in June and July, and then have two months off before the baby arrives. If I want to play again, and Mum'll help us out when the baby arrives, I should be able to start training in November, ready for the start of the season in January.'
'We'll help too,' Hermione said. 'There's enough of us in the family that we'll be able to help out, and it's not as though it'll be all day, every day.'
Harry smiled his thanks at his oldest and best friends as Ron nodded in agreement with his wife. Ron and Hermione, along with the rest of the Weasleys, had been his family by choice long before they had been his family by marriage. They'd showed him what it meant to love and be loved, and for that he would be forever grateful.
'Come up into the attic, dears. I've saved all sorts of things from when you were all small, ready for when you all had little ones of your own.' Molly took Harry and Ginny by the hand, and led them upstairs, stopping outside Ron's old room and pointing her wand at the ceiling to open the hatch to the attic.
Harry let Molly and Ginny go first, then followed them up the ladder into the cool, dark attic. Even though the ghoul had died two years previously, the faint whiff of drains still tainted the air.
Kneeling on the floor, Molly tapped her wand against a trunk and it opened, its paper-wrapped contents drifting out to hang in the air, bobbing gently up and down in front of them. Another gesture from her wand, and the packages began to unwrap themselves, shedding their delicate tissue paper.
Molly closed her fingers around a square of fabric and reversed the shrinking charm. The fabric expanded into a beautiful baby quilt in shades of muted yellows and greens, and when Harry smoothed his hand across it, it was soft and silky to the touch.
'This was Ginny's,' Molly said, casting freshening charms on the blanket before folding it into a square and wrapping it back up, 'and Ron's before that. My brother Gideon bought it for me when we found out that we were expecting Ron.'
She handed the parcel to Ginny, who took it and clutched it to her chest. 'Mum, are you sure? I know you don't have much from Uncle Gideon …'
Molly touched Ginny's face, cupping her cheek. 'Of course I'm sure, my sweet girl. I've always intended to give this to either you or Ron. Gideon would love nothing more than to see his blanket wrapped around another member of the Prewett family tree.'
All manner of things were unwrapped and handed to Harry and Ginny, from a battered but well-loved toy pygmy puff, to a child-sized knife, fork and spoon. Every single item had a story, and in some cases, a wealth of history, having been handed down throughout the generations. Molly gave them a rocking chair that had passed down the Prewett line for over two hundred years. Dozens of babies had been nursed, cuddled and rocked to sleep in that chair, and Harry was a little overwhelmed by the weight of generations of Ginny's ancestors. For all Ron had moaned about his hand-me-down clothes, toys and pets during their school days, Harry thought the family history was really rather wonderful.
Once everything had been packed away, or placed in a basket for Harry and Ginny to take home, the three of them went back downstairs to join the rest of the family. Stuffed full of Molly's excellent Sunday roast, nobody seemed at all inclined to make a move for home, and the living room was full of dozing Weasleys by birth and by marriage.
Ginny settled herself into an armchair and Harry perched on the arm next to her. She had a gentle, contented smile on her face, and her hand kept straying to finger the contents of the basket. Harry watched her, and a strange feeling of inadequacy came over him.
'Can I have a word, Harry?'
Harry looked up to see Arthur standing next to him. 'Of course. Back in a minute, Gin.' He leaned down to kiss her, then stood and followed his father-in-law out of the living room, through the kitchen, and out into the garden. They ended up in the shed, perched on upturned beer crates.
'How are you, son?' Arthur asked. 'I know you and Ginny weren't planning to have a baby quite so soon, so I imagine you're feeling a little shocked.'
'I was at first,' Harry admitted. 'But to be honest with you, I'm really excited. It's scary, knowing I'm going to be a dad, but brilliant.' The excitement was clear in his voice, and he grinned at Arthur. 'I'm going to be a dad. I can't really believe it.'
Arthur returned his grin. 'And you're going to be an excellent father, I'm sure of it. There's nothing like it, Harry. You'll have to make some huge sacrifices, but believe me when I say it's worth it. Your life will change for the better.' He paused, suddenly serious. 'You were very quiet when you came back down from the attic. In fact, you looked a little upset.'
Harry fidgeted, suddenly uncomfortable. 'It's just me being stupid, that's all,' he admitted. At Arthur's encouraging gesture, he continued, 'Molly's given me and Ginny all these lovely things for the baby, and everything has a story behind it, from Molly's family and your family. Ginny has – I don't know, a – a history, and stories she can pass on. I don't have anything like that. A few books and a school trunk, but nothing that has a story, or any meaning. I don't even know what my grandparents were called. That's never bothered me before, but now …'
Arthur clasped Harry's shoulder. 'The prospect of becoming a parent tends to make you look backwards as well as forwards,' he said. 'A man naturally looks to his forebears for some kind of clue about family life, or a hint of what your child will look like. I imagine your children will inherit the Potter hair, the Evans eyes, the Prewett freckles, and the Weasley stubbornness.'
Harry smiled at that. 'I can't wait to see our baby. With Ginny as its mum, it's going to be beautiful.' He ruffled his hair, trying to order his thoughts. 'I feel bad, Arthur. I want the baby to have something that's … well, me.'
'Well, have you considered Transfiguration?' Arthur said. 'You could take something of special significance to you and turn it into something useful for a baby. When we had the twins, we needed two rocking chairs, so I transfigured my old Hogwarts trunk into one. Excellent bit of work, if I do say so myself – Minerva helped me with the charms to fix the Transfiguration so that Molly or I wouldn't suddenly find ourselves falling bottom-first into a trunk.'
'Actually, that's a really good idea,' Harry said, mentally cataloguing the contents of his school trunk. 'I know just the thing.'
When Harry arrived at the Headmistress's office, he had to pause and compose himself before knocking on the door. The last time he had stepped foot in the room had been almost six years ago, when he'd sought out Dumbledore's portrait following Voldemort's defeat, and the sudden rush of emotions made him momentarily falter.
He'd just raised his hand to knock, when a hand touched his shoulder. He turned to see Minerva smiling at him, having stepped off the staircase.
She embraced him before stepping back to look at him. 'You look distinctly peaky, Harry. Are you quite alright?'
'Just … the last time I was here …'
'Ah,' she said. 'Of course, and completely understandable. But on to what I hope is a much pleasanter subject – to what do I owe the pleasure of your unexpected visit?' Minerva opened the office door and gestured him inside ahead of her, following and closing the door behind them. 'Take a seat, Harry.'
He sat down in a pleasantly plump and shabby chair, noting the changes that had been made to the room. Gone were the many delicate, silvery instruments and solid cabinets, though the intricately carved bookcases remained, crammed with volumes that were ages old. Tartan curtains hung at the window, bringing warmth to the aged, grey stone, and a tea service stood on a slender-legged table by the desk.
Minerva's ice-breaker was shortbread biscuits, kept in a scratched and dented tin painted with thistles that swayed in an unfelt wind; much more palatable than Dumbledore's lemon sherbets. Harry accepted a piece of shortbread and a cup of tea, feeling a little more at ease.
Over the past six years, he'd grown accustomed to calling Minerva by her first name, but back in the setting of Hogwarts, the instinct to call her 'Professor McGonagall' was almost overwhelming. 'Pro … I mean, Minerva, I'd like your help on something, please.'
'I'd be honoured to assist in whatever manner I can,' Minerva said. 'Please, go on.'
He bit into the shortbread in an effort to settle the little bubble of joy that threatened to burst out of him at the thought of the baby. 'Ginny's pregnant. The baby is due in September.'
Minerva smiled, and for a moment, Harry could have sworn he saw her eyes well up. 'Congratulations, Harry, you'll be wonderful parents,' she said, reaching across the table to briefly press his hand. 'You do know that the Hogwarts Register updates automatically upon the birth of a magical child? There was no need for you to make the journey here, as lovely as it is to see you.'
'Hermione told me,' he acknowledged. 'I think she feels like she's a failure because me and Ron still haven't readHogwarts: A History. I've told her I'll read it when she writes the revised edition.' A sip of tea, and he was ready to continue. 'Actually, I need your help to make something for the baby. The idea is …'
When Harry left Hogwarts three hours later, the magical theory behind his plan was sound; all that was left to do was carrying it out.
Five months later.
Harry put the plates in the cupboard, wiped down the sink, and hung the tea-towel on its hook. Satisfied that the kitchen was neat and tidy after lunch, he went back to the living room.
He paused in the doorway, looking at his wife, who had never looked more beautiful. She sat in Molly's rocking chair in front of the window, and the soft, early afternoon light gave her red hair burnished highlights and made her appear flawless.
The picture of near-ethereal perfection faded a little when he stepped close enough to see the shadowy smudges below her eyes, and the smear of milky sick on her shoulder, but she was still gorgeous, despite her evident tiredness.
She smiled at him. 'Thanks for tidying up,' she whispered, shifting the bundle in her arms. 'Little man is finally asleep.'
Harry leaned over the back of the rocking chair to place a kiss on the top of Ginny's head and look at their son, who was now sleeping peacefully. James Sirius was less than a day old, but Harry already couldn't imagine life without him.
'I still can't believe he's here,' Ginny said. 'This time yesterday, he was still a bump.'
Harry glanced around the living room, which looked like the aftermath of an explosion in Mothercare. James had been home for two hours, but already had more belongings than Harry and Ginny put together. 'He didn't take long to make his mark, did he?'
Ginny chuckled, shifting awkwardly in the chair. 'Thank goodness for shrinking charms is all I can say, otherwise I'd have to carry a suitcase with all his stuff in whenever we left the house.'
Harry saw her badly-hidden wince. 'Gin, let me take James upstairs and settle him down in our room. You must be knackered.'
Ginny let Harry take James, even as she protested it. 'But what if he starts crying, or needs a nappy change? Or he gets hungry?'
James whined, and Harry automatically began to sway on the spot, patting his son's little nappy-padded bottom. 'Then the charms will let us know, and I'll go and get him and give him a cuddle, or change his bum, or bring him to you for a feed. You need to rest, Healer's and husband's orders.' With James tucked securely into the cradle of one arm, Harry helped Ginny to her feet and led her over to the settee. 'Get comfy, and I'll make us a drink when I come back down. The books all say you should rest when the baby is asleep.'
'But there's the washing to do, and the grass needs cutting …'
Harry shushed her with a kiss. 'The washing is already on, and I'll cut the grass later. It's fine.'
Ginny finally gave in and curled up on the settee. 'Thank you.'
Harry draped a blanket over her, and then carried James out of the room and upstairs. Holding and handling James came easily to him – changing his nappy and picking him up felt surprisingly natural, despite his fears that he would be cack-handed and drop his son. Ginny had been the one to struggle – she'd been at school for much of Teddy's first year of life, and had missed out on the steep learning curve Harry had embarked on when he'd first taken care of his godson. She'd held her nieces, but never away from the safety of an armchair.
James's crib was against the wall next to Ginny's side of the bed, and Harry carefully placed James inside it, gently stroking the wisp of Weasley-red hair that stuck up, with typical Potter obstinacy, from his son's head. James made a funny little face, opening his mouth and squeezing his eyes tightly shut, before relaxing back into sleep.
A tap of Harry's wand activated the rocking charm, and the crib began to gently move from side to side. He drew his wand along the head of the crib, setting the monitoring charm that was tied to him and Ginny. Both worked perfectly, much to his satisfaction.
The sight of his sleeping son was utterly captivating, and Harry sat down on the bed and just looked at James, watching the rise and fall of his chest, and the way his little hand repeatedly opened and closed into a tiny fist. James was Harry's and Ginny's and he was perfect.
The bedroom door opened, and Arthur stepped into the room. 'Afternoon, Harry. Molly and I dropped by to see how you were settling in with James, and Ginny sent me up here – she said you had something to show me?'
Harry nodded, and gestured for Arthur to come closer. 'Do you remember me talking to you about how I didn't have anything of mine to hand on to my children?' he said quietly.
'I do. I also seem to recall that you'd had an idea?'
Harry put his hand on the end of the crib, near the name that was carved into the top bar. 'I did.'
Arthur leaned forward to read the carving. '"Nimbus 2000",' he said, tracing his fingers along the gold-inlaid letters. 'Harry, is this …'
'My old broomstick?' Harry finished for him. 'Yeah. It was the only thing I could think of that had any kind of significance for me. Minerva told me how to do the transfiguration and fix the shape, and Filius walked me through removing the original broomstick charms and adding rocking and monitoring charms.'
It had been an incredibly painstaking task – the wood, despite being splintered and broken, had held tenaciously on to its original charms, and when Harry had cast Reparo on it, it had fallen back into splinters a dozen times before Filius had suggested blending it with extra wood for strength and additional mass. It worked beautifully, and Harry was able to transfigure the broom into a crib, the golden lettering of the broom's name the only indication that the crib had ever been anything else. Something that had once meant the world to Harry was now being used to cradle his child, and the importance of what it had once been paled into significance compared to what it was now.
'It's lovely,' Arthur said, as he finished examining Harry's work. 'If you take care of it and renew the fixing charms regularly, this will last for generations of Potters to come.'
It suddenly struck Harry that he was no longer the last of the Potter line. As much as he had felt somehow inadequate when he compared his dearth of family heirlooms to Ginny's wealth, he rather liked the idea of being responsible for a new Potter hand-me-down.