For some reason, writing seemed to define Ginny.
It was the familiar tapping, the sounds of keys against her fingers. It was the feeling of those fingers beating against the keys, tracing the little bumps on them where the letters were. It was the soft movement of her hair as it swooshed back and forth, tickling her back as she moved her head from side to side frantically, eyes out for typos. And it was that breathless feeling she experienced every time she pulled back from the muggle computer, as though she had just run a mile instead of spent a half an hour typing as fast as she could. As she leaned back from her writing, the familiar sense of exhilaration swept over her body, and her eyes tiredly roamed the page. This was why she did it manually instead of using a charm like most Daily Prophet writers did. This job was Ginny's "me" time, and the feeling it gave her when she pulled back was on her list of her top favorite things to feel. Smiling peacefully, Ginny scrolled to the top of the page and typed in her name. Article by Ginny Potter. It was so nice to see those words there, staring at her, standing proud. She was a loved and acclaimed sports writer, renowned for her perfect feminine touch to a boys' world. Ginny honestly wouldn't have had it any other way.
Hitting the save button, she pushed her chair back and stood up, breathing in happily. Like always (it was almost a tradition), Ginny reached out and flicked off the light while she opened the door, paused, then shut it tight once she was out. Immediately, the sound of screeching and squealing hit her ears. Of course. No matter how long she was in that room for, she always came back to the exact same thing she had left. Ginny emerged into the living room to see Harry being chased by James, Al, and Lily around the room. His face was lit up with laughter as he held the candy bowl high above the reach of his three children. Einstein lunged at him first, but ended up tripping over the pirate, who was pushing back the fairy princess with one hand and reaching for his father with the other. Ginny grinned as she watched the comic scene that unfolded before her. As James lunged forward, Harry's foot hit Lily's doll house. He fell to the ground, candy bowl falling from his hands, and tripped onto the floor, where the colorful contents appeared in a cheerful arrangement of wrappers. The three children scrambled forward to get to their winnings. Ginny, meanwhile, began to clap sarcastically, mocking Harry.
"Nice job," she said. From the floor, her husband smirked at her, knowing that she was merely teasing him.
"What can I say," Harry shrugged. "They're devious and I am weak."
"Don't let Robards hear you say that," Ginny laughed, reaching out a hand to help Harry up. He accepted and kissed it quickly before letting go to pay attention to the three wide-eyed children that were watching the playful banter between their parents.
"Good round, you lot," He said, reaching down to pick up his hat. This year, his costume was a tribute to Westley from The Princess Bride, a movie that Ginny had loved ever since Hermione had shown it to her when they were younger. Needless to say, Ginny had all but jumped Harry the first time she'd seen him in the costume.
Halloween in the Potter house was an event, to say the least. Harry had never really participated in the holiday as a young boy, though he had always craved a proper Halloween experience. That said, the second James was old enough to start trick or treating, Harry had been all over it. He was buoyant and overenthusiastic every single year without fail, and Ginny loved him for it. She rather thought that this was a bigger deal for Harry than it was for any of his children. Through James, Albus, and Lily, Harry was able to experience a proper childhood. It was maybe this that made him such a wonderful father- he was willing to do anything for his children because he wanted them to have everything. He gave into every single whim of the kids, and that made them love him ever more. But on Halloween, Harry was even worse than usual. Ginny wasn't exactly sure why this holiday was the one he chose to obsess over, though she figured it was because throwing himself into the evening made him forget that it was the anniversary of his parents' death. Ginny hoped so, anyways, because she never liked seeing Harry depressed like he was when he thought of his parents, and furthermore the kids became completely unsettled on evenings when their father wasn't in the mood to rough house with them. It only took little things at work to get him to come home completely morose and downtrodden, seeming to have had his face stomped on by life.
"They're even more riled up tonight than they usually are Halloween," Ginny noted as she and Harry walked over to the kitchen. Harry smiled.
"I know. I love it."
"Only you," Ginny laughed, and he winked at her before reaching into the cupboard to grab some plates.
"I don't suppose it would be too much to ask them to eat their dinner tonight, would it?" he asked, hesitating, and Ginny shook her head.
"They've still got an hour to kill before trick or treat, I'm sure eating would be a fabulous distraction from the overwhelming excitement."
"Good point," Harry agreed, and he took three more plates down from the cupboard.
Dinner was a hectic affair that evening. It seemed that none of the children had been intending to eat food with a semblance of nutrition in it for the entire night. When Ginny ordered James to eat his vegetables, he'd actually seemed phased by the idea of eating anything other than candy. The war that was waged following this concluded with a grumpy James stuffing spinach into his mouth and a smug Ginny flying her internal victory flag while praising whoever invented blackmail. One simple "if you don't eat your vegetables, no trick or treating!' and the greenery had mysteriously vanished from three plates, plus Harry's.
"You'd never follow through on that, would you?" he whispered hurriedly as they brought their plates over to the sink, and Ginny rolled her eyes and kissed him on the lips. At that point, Harry seemed to forget what the original question was.
Seven o'clock came without further incident, and Ginny grabbed her camera to snap one last picture before sending her family off, as was their tradition. Lily smiled sweetly while James gave Al bunny ears over his poofy white cloud of hair. The Halloween picture was their Christmas Card every year, and while Ginny was aware of the fact that she would later scold James for his belligerence, for now she thought it was a perfect reflection of the emotion of the evening and the place her family was in that year.
"Ready to go, everyone?" Ginny asked, and all three children lined up and nodded enthusiastically.
This Halloween had been the most complicated yet, costume wise. James had begged his mother to let him pierce his ear for the pirate part. She had not allowed this, and as a result James had been positively furious. He'd aimed his frustrations at Albus, per usual, who had spent the month leading up to Halloween agonizing over whether he should dress up as Einstein or Darwin. Through countless numbers of research sessions with Aunt Hermione to ensure that he picked the right scientist, James had been the least supportive out of anybody. Then, when Al had finally decided, the research sessions continued, because the costume simply had to be historically accurate. Hermione had been wonderfully good natured about the whole thing. James, however, hadn't. The teasing was relentless and rigorous. Al, though, had always been secure in who he was, and it was largely due to this that he was dressed as Einstein for Halloween. He had fared much better than Lily, at least. She'd had an identity crisis midway through the costume selection process. Lily had been trying on a lovely pink Princess dress when it had suddenly seemed to hit her that, as a ginger, pink was not her best color. Harry had come home from work in the middle of the tantrum that followed to see his sweet, innocent little daughter sobbing hysterically and tearing every pink shirt she had into tiny little pieces. Ginny, who had just spent the better part of an hour trying to comfort her, was seated in the corner watching indifferently and really just trying not to laugh. She'd fixed the shirts later on that evening, and with the combination of that and Harry telling Lily that he thought pink was her very best color, everything had been back to normal by dinner that night.
And now, dressed in their Halloween finery, Ginny's family members were all staring at the clock, fixated. It struck seven very suddenly, and there was a gleeful cheer from the kids before they made a break for the door, screaming loudly. Harry kissed Ginny quickly and rushed out after them.
"BYE!" he shouted as he was closing the door, face flushed with excitement, glasses eschew. "See you later!"
"I'll be here," Ginny lied, and she waved him off with a cheery smile befitting of the Queen.
It was their tradition that Harry went off with the kids and Ginny stayed home to pass out candy. But she had another tradition that she never told them about, the reason that she liked them to go off on their own and leave her at home. First, she went over to the closet and grabbed her warmed cloak. Next, she placed the large, never ending cauldron of candy outside and flicked the twinkling porch light on. Finally, she headed back inside of the house, squeezed her eyes shut, and turned. The familiar sensation of apparation consumed her, and she heard laughing childrens' voices as she was tugged away at will. Then, suddenly, her covered feet hit dewy grass, and the strong smell of the outdoors took over. Ginny slowly opened her eyes, taking in her surroundings. And she began to walk.
The pathway was familiar, a road crunched many times by her very feet on this very night of the year. An odd sense of nervousness seemed to overcome her- after all, this tradition was the only one that was hers and hers alone. All month, while the children wigged out over costume choices and the prospect of candy, Ginny's mind was on this moment. This repetitive, familiar moment, with her hands shaking slightly and her mind buzzing and her will not to cry crumbling just at this sight. The walk, of course, was the best part- the anticipation of it all. She'd go over her speech in her head, remember last minute things, do everything she could to make this part of her evening perfect. And when she finally reached the grave, she dropped to her knees before it, fingers trailing lightly over the delicately carved words on the stone. Tracing the first names, then the dates, and then her own surname, more dear to her than any possession that she had.
It was only after this that she chose to suck in deep, cold breath and say,
"Hi, Lily. Hi, James. It's me again."
As always, she paused, as though expecting an answer. For some reason, she felt that not doing so would be rude.
"Lots has changed since last year. Lily junior is getting so big- I can't believe how fast she's growing up. She saw a picture of you, Lily, and has now resolved to grow her hair just as long as yours. Mine used to be that length and it was a nightmare, so we'll see how that goes. Of course, she also claims that she's going to get better grades than Aunt Hermione, so you can't always believe everything she says. At least she's got some good dreams in her. She's actually got quite the imagination. This Halloween she's dressed as a fairy tale princess, and she's just an adorable poof of pink. More girly than I ever was, but Harry eats it up. Oh, merlin, you should have seen them the other day! I came home from grocery shopping to see Harry and Lily sitting at Lily's tiny little tea table and making small talk while drinking with their pinkies sticking out. Thank merlin James and Al weren't home- they would have teased Harry something awful. They're such bullies sometimes, especially James, but Lily knows how to stand up to them. She's quite good at handling them, really- reminds me of myself as a little girl more often than not. Just... way pinker. It suits her, though. I think you'd be proud to be her namesake. Like I said, she's absolutely marvelous."
Ginny paused for a moment, allowing the words to linger in the air. Across the cemetery, she could see little children dashing down driveways and streaking up streets, clutching protectively to candy bags in one hand and holding onto their parents' hands with the other.
"Now, your namesake, James," Ginny went on. "He's just... well, he's just like Sirius, so I suppose he's just like you. But oh my god, it's getting worse! We never should have exposed him to George- he's starting to get into practical jokes. I'm used to it, what with Fred and George, and I know how to sniff out a trap very easily. Harry, though... well, with him everything about our children is a learning experience. It frustrates him sometimes, because he doesn't know how fantastic a father he is. Even when I tell him... and getting tricked by James doesn't help. Now, it doesn't happen all that often. But every once in a while Harry will let his guard down and BAM! James is just ruthless. I think he's going to be an auror just like his daddy. Because he's smart too, James and Lily, really smart. Maybe not as smart as Al is shaping up to be, but still... smart. He knows how to turn the charm on and off- one minute he's screaming to get his way, the next he's flashing his best smile. And you just know that he's going to be a heart breaker when he becomes a teenager and there's just nothing you can do about... well, that's not true, is it? He has to find the Lily to his James, doesn't he? Not his little sister, but the person that will be able to change him like that. Oh, and I suppose him getting older might help. Age, experience... well, it helped you, James. Didn't it? Anyways, I wouldn't change him one bit, but I am being forced to resign myself to turning into my mum. She'd get letters about George and Fred once a week... it's going to be the same with James. Fred would be proud."
She smiled wistfully for a moment, knotting grass around her fingers in an attempt not to cry. Her nails dug into her palms, and she pictured the faces of her husband and children, allowing the melancholy smile to become wider.
"So now there's Albus. James, Lily... he is the sweetest thing. So kind and quiet and adorable. He's the only one who's got Lily's eyes, which I apologize for, Lily. I feel like I failed you there. He's going to be the smartest of all three. He's Einstein this Halloween. I mean, we couldn't have pegged it better when we named him Albus Severus. He's just as brilliant as they were... though I honestly don't know where it comes from. Goodness knows neither Harry nor I are as smart as Albus is going to turn out to be. Just a lucky fluke, I suppose. For his birthday, Albus asked us to redecorate his room. It's gorgeous now. Spacecrafts and stars and planets moving all around on the ceiling, dark blue walls, a rocket ship bed. I know he's going to grow out of it in a few years, but Harry and I imply couldn't resist. I mean, come on! A rocket ship bed! It's so, so cute. He's actually so opposite of James that I sometimes wonder how both of them are mine and Harry's. If it wasn't for their looks, I'd be getting DNA tests, making sure they weren't switched at birth. I think Lily is like me, James is like you, James, and Albus is like Harry. Just like Harry, really. When I look at him I see the eleven year old Harry that I met at King's Cross. We'll see how Albus turns out to be at eleven... and I know he'll be just as wonderful as his father. We raised him that way. I'm not worried about him. Well, I'm a little worried about him. He does get teased quite a lot, mostly by his cousins, and he needs to develop a thicker skin. I think age and experience will help him with that too, though. Time can change anything. Actually, no. Time can change most things. Because I swear to god I am just as in love with Harry as I was the day I married him."
She laughed quietly to herself, emotion rising up as it always did when she got to this part of her talks with James and Lily. For a second, Ginny simply concentrated on the thump of her heart, on the feeling of love and gratitude that filled her up. This was the part that she spent 364 days rehearsing, the part that she felt was the most important to get out.
"I love him so much... it still takes my breath away a little. It seems like we got closer with every child, and it's kind of shocking. I always thought love and affection would peter out as we got older and had kids and just had less time for romance. But your son... he is amazing. Everything he is, everything he's given me... simply amazing. I honestly wouldn't be able to live without him. So thank you. Thank you for everything. I owe my entire life to the sacrifices you made for your beautiful son, and I am so grateful. I can't even express my gratitude to you. Without you, my entire life would be different, and it wouldn't be nearly as perfect. I am so happy with the way everything turned out and I owe it all to the two of you. Thank you for making such a wonderful person, thank you for giving up your lives for him, thank you for loving him as much as you do. You led him through a year of his life and somehow that year helped shape who he is- I know it did. Rest assured, though, that Hermione did an excellent job raising him."
Here she laughed, because as serious as she was it was still quite absurd, the idea that Hermione had raised Harry. Yet she had.
"I hope you're satisfied with having me as a daughter-in-law, because I am so honored to have you and my mother-in-law and my father-in-law. I wish so much that I would have been able to know you two. I feel like we would have gotten on brilliantly. Lily, you could have taught me so much about being a wife and a woman. And James, you could have told me how to get revenge on my brother when he drives me up the walls with his incessant pranking. Though I suppose I shouldn't complain... he doesn't do it as much since Fred died, and anytime we can get him to laugh is precious. Anyways... just know that I'm aware that I can never replace you, Lily, but I am doing my best to give Harry all the love he deserves. I hope I'm raising my children right, hope you're happy with how it's all unfolding. I feel like we're doing a good job- Harry makes up for lost time by rough housing with the boys, having huge birthday parties and playing Weasley-Potter Quidditch games once a month. God does Hermione hate those... Ron loves them, though. He gets so bossy. It's like they switch roles."
She laughed again, having just come to this realization now. She made a mental note to tell her sister-in-law and her brother before moving on.
"Well... that's all I have to say. Please watch over Harry on his auror missions, and I'll see you when the family stops by at Christmas. Tell Fred, Remus, Tonks, and Colin that I'm going to visit next week. And, once again, thanks."
Waving her wand in a circle, she produced a single tiger lily, then lay it gently against the grave. After touching her finger to her lips and pressing it against the stone, she abruptly stood up and made her way to a thick group of trees. Upon reaching them, she glanced around cautiously before turning on her heel. In a second, she was back in her warm, welcoming home. Quickly, she hung her coat in the closet, then tugged the door open to grab the refilling candy bucket. A few minutes later the door burst open to show Harry, Lily, James, and Albus, all laughing crazily and bounding into the house one after another. The sugar high had most definitely kicked in.
"Hey there," Ginny said warmly, and Harry kissed her deeply, somehow seeming to know how much she needed it.
"Hi!" he replied brightly, his tone not at all matching the seriousness of his kiss. Ginny's eyebrows raised, but when he opened his mouth to speak more she leaned in and kissed him again. Harry pulled back, frowning. "Are you alright, Gin?"
Her eyebrows raised in surprise.
"Your cheeks are red, you smell like outside, and your lips are cold."
She laughed airily.
"I was outside passing candy out, of course!" then she spun around. "James! Al! Lily! Did you have fun?"
What she didn't notice was the secret smile that crossed Harry's face when she wasn't looking.
The soft crunch of leaves alerted animals to the arrival of a human being. They scurried behind rocks and vanished into three trees, wary of the newcomer, but the dark haired man was not concerned with the quiet animals. His concentration was on only one thing- weaving his way down the path to reach his destination. He proceeded quietly, then sat down with his knees pulled up to his chest, allowing his bright eyes to follow the delicately carved letters in the stone. The green found a lone lily lying there, and Harry Potter let a soft smile cross his face.
"Hi, mum. Hi, dad. I see Ginny's already been here. I hope you guys enjoyed her talk... I know she loves coming. She doesn't know that I know, but I think there's something about going to you and thanking you on the day you set my destiny... well, humor her. I think she just wishes- we both wish- that you two would be able to be here. Watch us get married, watch your grandkids grow up, make cakes, meet my best friends... take part in these little traditions and familiarities that we love so much. She wants that so badly for all of us, but she feels helpless because it's not something she can give. But it's fine. I love her so much, and every time she comes here I love her a little bit more, and she makes me really, really happy. I hope I make her half as happy as she makes me, because Gin and the kids are... they're everything. So... I guess just... thank you. Thank you for giving me the chance to create this amazing life and live it with such an amazing group of people. Thank you so much for all that you did for me."
He didn't usually get emotional at sad things, but it was the image of his parents in the forest that really got him as he reached up and wiped a tear from the corner of his eye.
"Well, mum... well, dad... everything's good here. Yeah. All is well."