It was Tuesday, October 1st, 2021.
Ginny narrowed her eyes in determination as she decided to continue the ever-going battle between herself and her house: cleaning.
"You're going to be spotless," she told the kitchen at large.
The kitchen didn't reply.
"You won't know what hit you!" she threatened, waving her bottle of Scourgify! Clean Your House With No Hassle!
The kitchen stared blankly back.
Deciding that she rather liked the lack of inanimate objects talking to her, Ginny nodded her head in resolve and set to work, singing the Weird Sisters' latest song, Imperio, You're in Love with Me, under her breath.
Al held up a thin sliver of wood, smaller than his pinky. A match. His eyes were dancing with mischief as he showed his companions.
"Oh, dear Merlin," Rose muttered. "What are you doing now?"
Scorpius looked from Al to Rose in confusion. "What?"
Rose rolled her eyes. "He's got something up his sleeve."
"How do you know?" Scorpius asked, still looking confused.
"Besides the fact that he is an immature, troublemaking fifteen-year-old boy on a boring Tuesday? I've known him since birth, Scorp. We grew up together. I know when he's going to cause mass pandemonium."
"Relax, Rose," Al said, rolling his eyes.
"Funny how that had the exact opposite effect," Rose said dryly. She shrugged, shifting her bag to her other shoulder. Her eyes suddenly took on some of Al's twinkle. "Alright, are you going to tell us? Can I help?"
Scorpius looked at Rose in shock. "What just happened to responsible, law-abiding Rose?"
"Shut up. Or I'll release my inner irresponsible, non-law-abiding Rose."
Al shot a sideways glance at Scorpius. "That doesn't end well, mate."
"Your family's so weird," Scorpius muttered.
Al clapped his hands together. "Speaking of family. James and I decided that we needed a Potter-Weasley clan prank."
"That's, like, a billion kids," Rose told him skeptically. "And they're all in?"
"Nine kids, not counting the ones that have already graduated. Ten if Scorpius joins our ranks. Then there's the Scamanders, so that would be twelve…Basically, not a billion. And yes, they're all in," Al said, ticking them off on his fingers. "Louis, Lucy, James, Fred, me, you, Lily, Hugo, Roxanne."
"Lysander and Lorcan," Rose contributed.
"And me!" Scorpius added.
"This is going to brilliant!" Al whispered mischievously.
James was having a similar conversation with the older children at Hogwarts.
"A what?" Louis asked, torn between looking amused and frightened.
"A Potter-Weasley clan prank. Al helped me plan it."
Lucy raised her eyebrows. "You and Al had a civilized conversation?"
"Well, no one got hurt, if that's what you're asking," James said with a shrug.
"Yet," Louis muttered darkly.
"Are you corrupting Al?" Lucy asked accusingly.
"He was corrupted long before I came into the mix. He was the one that came up with the prank. If anything, you should be blaming him for corrupting me!"
"Corrupting you, my arse," Lucy muttered.
Fred grinned. "If Al came up with it, it must be good." Then, seeing James's scandalized face, he quickly added, "Nothing on you, though."
"We're not really sure what the prank's going to be, yet," James admitted. "We know it involves blue hair, though. Possibly flying purple pigs."
"Psh. That's child's play. Flying purple pigs? Unoriginal," Louis informed him. "The blue hair bit's good, though."
"The pig was my idea!" James said defensively.
"And you're wondering why it's unoriginal?"
Lucy grinned wickedly. "The blue hair was Al's idea, right?"
"Yes," James admitted.
"For such a seemingly innocent human being, Al is really vicious," Fred commented.
James scowled. "Oh, blue hair. How vicious. Let's all bow down to him and his viciousness!"
"Is viciousness a word?" Lucy asked.
"Shut up, Rose," James muttered.
"Viciousness is actually a word," Louis told them.
"No one cares if viciousness is a word or not!" James exclaimed.
"At least two of us do," Louis said.
"Ooh! Me! I care!" Fred interrupted excitedly.
"Make that three."
James growled. "Everybody shut up and help me plan a prank!"
Fred put a comforting arm on his cousin's shoulder. "James, relax. We have the whole Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes at our disposal. It will be unforgettable."
Sometimes, Teddy hated being an Auror.
Teddy sat behind his desk in the Auror department. Or, at least he hoped it was his desk. He couldn't actually see it due to the insane amount of paperwork covering the top of it.
Teddy stared blankly at the top layer of paper. I should probably get this done, he thought to himself. However, he couldn't bring himself to lift his quill or find some ink under the mess of papers.
Teddy jumped and looked up. Leaning against the entrance to his cubicle was Victoire, her long blonde hair neatly pinned away from her face. She looked calm and composed in her required Magical Law Enforcement robes. In her hand was a medium-sized, brown paper bag.
"Is that food?" Teddy asked hopefully, eyes on the bag.
"'Hello, Victoire! You look nice today. How are you?'" Victoire suggested dryly. "Oh, thank you Teddy. I'm great!"
Teddy smiled sheepishly, and, before he could do any more damage, got up and kissed her on the cheek. "You do look good today."
Victoire smiled, pulled his chin down to her height, and kissed him deeply. "That's better."
Victoire studied to the mess on his desk. "Busy?"
"Just a bit," Teddy said sarcastically. "You never answered my question," he told her, eyes once again trained on the bag clutched in her perfectly manicured fingers.
"All boys care about is food," Victoire scoffed. She dropped the bag on his desk with a dramatic thud. "Us girls are always second best. Food is always at the top of the hierarchy of priorities." She contemplated going on. Finally, she rolled her eyes and added, "And yes, it is food."
"Victoire, you're the best," Teddy said reverently, as he pulled out a sandwich.
"I do try," she replied dryly.
Teddy sunk his teeth into the turkey and cheese sandwich.
Victoire studied the papers that had consolidated on his desk. "This looks pretty strenuous."
"Oh yes. It's great fun."
Victoire studied some of Teddy's scrawling handwriting. "Why do you have so much work?"
"Have you heard of Harry's mission?" At Victoire's nod, he continued. "Not surprised. For a top secret mission, everyone knows about it." He took another bite. "It's Harry and four other blokes. Catching some of Greyback's descendents. It's extremely dangerous, and only the best are going. The rest of the department's really tense. They refuse to send out new missions until Harry's comes back. If they come back," Teddy added darkly.
"They'll come back," Victoire said confidently. "Merlin knows Harry's good enough."
Teddy set down his sandwich, appetite gone. "Vic, I'm scared for him."
Victoire's brow furrowed. "Well, of course you are. He's your godfather, and he's out fighting dangerous men. It's only natural. I'm just saying that Harry is more than capable of handling them. He's got something to fight for. The bad guys, however, do not."
"You don't understand. He's my only family tie left. And it's not even a blood one."
"You know what Harry told me a long time ago?" Victoire asked, suddenly very serious. "I had asked him about your parents. Why they were dead. He said that they had loved you so much, that they were willing to give up their lives to protect you."
"He told me that, too," Teddy told her in confusion.
"I didn't understand it fully. It was some abstract concept that I accepted, but didn't question, and therefore, didn't comprehend," Victoire continued. "I mean, I had heard about Harry's mother's sacrifice, but it didn't seem real to me. And I had heard about Sirius, but it didn't happen directly to me. Why should I care? I know that sounds horrible…I mean, I felt terrible for Harry. He lost all his family ties, not unlike you. But then, whether it be the results if growing up and maturing, or one too many heart-to-hearts like this, I began to understand. Love isn't understandable. It's something so deep, so indescribable. Words can't express it. Family isn't blood. Family is love, and whoever loves you enough to call you family. And, Merlin, I'm sounding like a sap."
"Not a sap," Teddy corrected, looking at Victoire with awe. "But Merlin, I love you."
"Welcome, fellow Weasleys!" Fred began in his dramatic ways.
"And Potters!" James added, shooting Fred a dirty look, which he blatantly ignored.
"Yes, yes, yes," Rose snapped. "Cut to the chase. I have to tutor in thirty minutes."
James smirked. "Ah, Rose. The lone scholar out of us rebels."
"Nerd, more like," Fred sniggered.
Rose got to her feet, cheeks flushed from anger. "Say that again, Weasley, and I'll—"
"Everybody shut up!" Al yelled.
"Vicious," Fred whispered not-so-quietly, causing Louis and Lucy to snort and James to shove him into a desk.
They were meeting in an abandoned classroom on the fourth floor. This particular classroom had been the place of many Weasley excursions, from snogging to prank-planning such as this. It was only befitting to plan the pinnacle of Weasley pranks at this particular location.
"But really, guys, hurry it up," Roxanne interrupted.
James saluted her. "Yes, ma'am! Don't worry. It will be wrapped up in fifteen minutes, max."
"We're planning a master prank," Al said, never one to beat around the bush. "If someone missed that memo."
"Al, you're a dork," James said simply.
"Charming," Al muttered. "But a bit rich, coming from you."
"Vicious," Lucy, Fred, and Louis whispered in unison.
Rose banged her head down on a desk. "I live with a bunch of idiots."
Scorpius patted her back. "There, there."
"Don't touch my sister!" Hugo growled.
"What are you, dad's spy?" Rose spat. "Honestly."
"The Wobbledegooks do tend to descend through family members," Lysander observed.
Lorcan shook his head. "It's the Huffpingers, not Wobbledegooks. Remember? 'Huffpingers through the family go/Watch out kids, or you'll meet your doom.'"
"But that doesn't rhyme," Lily countered. "It should be, 'Huffpingers through the family descend/Watch out kids, or you'll meet your end.' Or something like that."
"Neither are right because it's the Wobbledegooks, not the Huffpingers!" Lysander adamantly insisted.
"Idiots, I tell you," Rose groaned. "Idiots!"
Hermione was having an uncharacteristically slow day.
Part of it had to do with Ron's absence. He was on an Auror mission with Harry. Being pretty high up there in the Ministry, Hermione knew all about the potential danger of the mission, even though Harry and Ron had made a point of not disclosing a lot of the more worrying information to her. She tried not to think about it, though. Just another mission. They'd be back and eating all her food in less than a week. Harry was no stranger to surviving impossible tasks, and Ron was his right-hand man. He wouldn't leave Harry.
Of course, another part of the slow day had to do with the throbbing headache she had acquired that morning. It felt like drunken dragons were running relay races through her brain.
"Must be the barometric pressure, or something," Hermione muttered to herself as she flopped back onto her pillows and giving up on ever getting out of her bed. "A storm must be coming."
Ginny dumped her stack of cookbooks onto the newly-scrubbed kitchen table.
"It's about time I organized these," she muttered to herself.
She picked Cooking for the Family Cheap! by its front and back covers, letting the pages hang in the center. Then, she shook it viciously.
A cascade of loose papers and recipes that had been stuck in between the pages in the haste of cleaning up at some point in time fluttered down and accumulated on the wooden tabletop.
"This is so cathartic," Ginny sighed.
Suddenly, there was a bright flash of white light. In surprise, Ginny dropped the cookbook with a thud and shielded her eyes from the bright light. When it had dimmed a bit, Ginny lowered her hand to see what the source was.
It was a Patronus.
Even more, it was a terrier.
A terrier that just so happened to belong to Ron.
Teddy and Victoire were in the middle of a particularly heated snogging session.
The piles of paperwork were forgotten. Teddy's half-eaten turkey and cheese sandwich was forgotten. The fact that they were in the middle of the Auror department, and so consequently, there were Aurors lounging about that could walk by at that exact moment was forgotten.
Everything was forgotten. It was just Teddy and Victoire. Nothing and no one else.
And the terrier.
Don't forget the terrier.
Hermione cradled her cup of tea in her hands, eyes shut tight against the throbbing of her head. Those drunken, relay-racing dragons had suddenly started breathing fire.
"Sweet Merlin, this is going to be a terrible storm!" Hermione hissed through clenched teeth.
Then she saw the terrier, and knew the storm was indeed going to be catastrophic.
"Then, Al lights it with a match," James told the room at large. "Louis and Roxanne are going to cast the Engorgement Charm. Rose, Fred, and Lucy will pull the ropes on the dye. Lily, Lysander, Hugo, and Lorcan, will throw the Instant Darkness Powder on the seventh floor corridor, and then cut the ropes, dropping the goo. Scorpius and I will release the charmed chickens into the Entrance Hall."
Al nodded and pocketed the match that he had showed to Scorpius and Rose earlier. Lily, Hugo, Lorcan, and Lysander each took a packet of Instant Darkness Powder, and Lily also grabbed James's pocket knife, which he was "graciously lending her, and if she dulls or snaps the blade, he would promptly kill her."
"What if I accidently stab myself?" Lily asked curiously, examining the pocketknife.
"If that ruins the knife, then I will kill you," James reiterated, like Lily was being an idiot.
"It's refreshing to know you value your family so much," Lily said in disgust. She tossed James the knife back. "Take it. I'll use Al's."
James scoffed. "Al's too wimpy to carry around a pocketknife."
Al smirked and showed James a silver blade. "You were saying?"
James looked from Al, to Lily, to Al's blade in disbelief. "How did Lily know?"
"Oh, please. Al and I have been partners-in-crime for, like, ever," Lily scoffed. "Call it younger child syndrome."
"That's so unfair," James said. "You guys have pranked people without me?"
"Oh yeah," Lily said. "Tons."
"And do you remember on that fateful day in July of 2017? The breakfast incident?" Al asked. "Yeah, that was us."
"You really didn't suspect them at all?" Louis asked. "Wow. I know of maybe thirty-five pranks they have pulled on you."
"I resent that," James said crossly. "I'm cutting all ties from the Potter-Weasley family. I'm never talking to you lot again. Starting now."
There was a moment of silence where all the cousins looked anywhere but each other. They knew that if they caught the eye of someone else, they would burst out laughing. If, Merlin forbid, that should happen, it would take a whole lot more to get James to forgive and forget.
"Oh, my God," James suddenly whispered.
"What? I thought you weren't speaking to us ever again?" Fred teased.
James shoved him roughly into the desk, all traces of teasing gone. "Shut up!"
"What the hell, James?" Lucy snapped, helping Fred up from where he fell on the floor.
"No," Al murmured suddenly.
"What has gotten into you guys?" Rose demanded.
James looked at Al, and his worst fears were confirmed.
Al nodded slightly. Then, he lifted a shaking finger to point out the terrier.
"Ran into trouble. Harry's in St. Mungo's. Hurry there. Fast."
Victoire pushed herself off of Teddy in fright. "Oh, my God, Teddy. Teddy? Teddy, are you okay? Teddy, answer me. It will be okay. Let's get there quickly."
Crack! The mug slipped from Hermione's fingers and shattered on the floor, tea splashing everywhere, a graveyard of sharp, ceramic pieces.
Ginny always prided herself on quick instincts.
When she heard what Ron said, she had arrived at St. Mungo's three seconds later.
"McGonagall's office," Lucy said immediately, grabbing Lily, James, and Al by their arms and shoving them through the door.
Teddy felt himself being pushed up by Victoire. He dimly registered her worried tone. He saw the blur of questioning faces as Victoire steered them both to the Apparation point.
He mentally shook himself. This was pathetic. He called himself an Auror? Getting to Harry required a fully-functioning mind.
"Turn left," Teddy told Victoire, snapping out of his trance.
"Apparation point is over here," Victoire said crossly.
Teddy tugged on her arm, and they turned left. "Always busy this time of day. Easier to just leave the Ministry with the Floo. We can go directly to St. Mungo's, too."
"That takes time that we don't have!" Victoire snapped.
"Trust me on this!" Teddy exclaimed. "Arguing won't do any good!"
They tumbled into the elevators, startling some of their coworkers.
"What are you two young ones doing?" a man named Graves asked. His eyes took in Teddy's crooked clothing and Victoire's hair, which was falling out of the pins holding it back.
No, it was not from their snogging. It was from the run to the elevator.
"We need to get to St. Mungo's," Teddy snapped, not liking what the man was implying.
"His godfather ran into a bit of trouble," Victoire added. Teddy could tell she was trying to stay positive.
Victoire reached up and smoothed Teddy's mussed up hair. She took in its somber black coloring. "Worried?"
"Why on earth would I be feeling worried?" Teddy muttered sarcastically.
"Don't go off on me," Victoire said, suddenly verging on angry. "This isn't my fault."
Teddy stared at his feet, slightly embarrassed.
Luckily, the elevator reached their floor, and they had an excuse to not talk. That excuse being sprinting across the Atrium and into the first fireplace they saw, yelling out, "St. Mungo's!" and swirling away amongst the ash and flame.
"Wand, wand, wand! Where's my bloody wand?" Hermione tore off the top cushions of her couch and plunged her hand into the gap. She felt around hurriedly. She came up with a pencil stub, three sweet wrappers, and her lost pearl earring, but no wand.
"Never mind!" she screamed in frustration. She stumbled to the fireplace and plunged her hand into the clay vase Rose had brought home on her first day of kindergarten. To her dismay, her nails scraped the bottom.
"Damn it, Ron!" Hermione yelled. "You were supposed to get more Floo powder!"
She stared around their living room in dismay, at a loss of what to do. Her eyes landed on the coffee table.
Oh. There was her wand.
Ginny tore through the halls of St. Mungo's, sprinting toward her husband. She nearly plowed down a Healer as she whipped around a corner.
"Where's Harry Potter?" Ginny demanded.
The Healer was young, barely twenty. She had obviously never experienced anything like a distraught Weasley before. The Healer shot a furtive glance at a closed door to her right before turning back to address the slightly wild-eyed Ginny Potter. "He is not able to have visitors at the moment."
That young Healer was about to experience the Weasley Wrath.
"Dad," Lily whispered hoarsely.
Al had donned a stony face, while James had dropped his tough-guy façade altogether and was just trying not to cry.
The rest of the Weasleys, plus Lorcan, Lysander, and Scorpius, dogged in Lucy's brisk footsteps.
Lucy was the only one who seemed altogether unworried. She had adopted the leader position, and was steering the Potter children through the halls while every now and then shooting obscene hand gestures at the passersby that stared at the small parade winding its way through the castle.
"Damn. I don't know the password," Lucy cursed, when they came to the stone gargoyle.
"Spark Plugs," James muttered. "Muggle themed month, remember?"
"Ah, yes," Lucy said. She repeated the password to the statue, and ushered everyone through when it leaped aside.
"McGonagall!" Louis shouted, pounding his fist against the door.
"Mr. Weasley!" McGonagall admonished, swinging the door open on his seventh knock, narrowly avoiding Louis's flailing fist. "You have to—What's wrong with them?" She scrutinized the Potters very carefully. "They look as if they've seen a ghost!"
Fred's forehead wrinkled. "Well, that's kind of inevitable, isn't it? Seeing as we go to a magical school with ghosts in it. Though, say, didn't we see Nearly Headless Nick on the way—?"
"It's a Muggle saying," Rose said wearily.
"It's Uncle Harry," Roxanne interrupted somberly. "He's in St. Mungo's."
"That boy," McGonagall sighed. "Always in the hospital."
Louis looked away. "He was on a dangerous mission, though. Like, really dangerous. The whole Auror department is practically shut down. And normally, Ginny comes to get us, because Ron Floos to tell her, but this time, he sent a Patronus to all of us. And Ginny isn't here. That means it's really bad."
McGonagall's eyes suddenly widened a bit. "That mission? The one everyone's been talking about?"
"Yeah," Rose confirmed. "That one."
McGonagall straightened, no doubt accustomed to being calm and collected in situations like these. "Well, let's get you to St. Mungo's," McGonagall said briskly, ushering James, Al, Lily, and the rest of the Weasleys into the giant fireplace. "Sorry, Lorcan and Lysander. Potters and Weasleys only. Same goes for you, Mr. Malfoy."
As the Scorpius and the Scamander twins moved away from the fireplace, looking a bit put out, McGonagall held out a little jeweled box full of Floo powder. James took a small handful.
Before he threw it into the flame, McGonagall touched his arm. "Send your father my best wishes."
James nodded, and they Flooed away.
"Ginny!" Hermione called in relief, spotting her friend standing across from Harry's usual room in a St. Mungo's hallway.
"Let me in, damn it!" Ginny was shouting at a young Healer that was cowering slightly under her ferocious gaze.
"I can't!" the Healer fairly wailed.
"Ginny, take a deep breath," Hermione said in a placating voice. She laid her hand on Ginny's shoulder.
Ginny spun on her heel and swung at her friend. "Shut up, Hermione!"
Hermione caught Ginny's clenched fist before it made contact with her face. She turned to address the Healer while still struggling with Ginny. "What's the situation?"
"She wants to see Mr. Potter, who is currently under intense care and unable to have visitors at the moment," the Healer informed Hermione in a slightly shaky voice. She straightened her glasses and brushed off some invisible dust from the front of her robes, grabbing at what little dignity she had left. "They will inform you when you can see him."
"That's my husband!" Ginny spat. "I'm Ginny Potter!"
"Doesn't change anything. I will send out the lead Healer in a minute, but right now, the Healers need to work completely undisturbed. You have to understand Mr. Potter's critical condition," she replied diplomatically. "Coffee?"
Ginny was thrown off guard at the abrupt change in topic. "I—What?"
"Coffee. We also have orange lemonade."
"I thought it was pink lemonade?"
"Not when it's orange."
"Oh. I need to try some of that, then."
Teddy and Victoire tumbled out of the Floo. Pausing only to get their bearings, the couple fairly ran across the St. Mungo's lobby, ignoring the Healer at the front desk's plea for them to walk.
"Fourth Floor," Teddy muttered, all too accustomed to St. Mungo's floor plans.
They sped through the halls, nearly tipping over a patient in a wheelchair.
Finally, they spotted Ginny and Hermione.
"Ginny!" they both called at the same time.
Ginny turned at the sound of her own name. She tried to offer a smile when she saw who it was, but her lips were caught in a permanent frown for the time being.
Teddy hugged Ginny when they reached her, and he could feel her trembling, trying not to cry on his shoulder.
"Are you okay?" he asked her.
He could feel her lips twist into a sardonic grin. "Oh, as well as one can be expected to be in situations like these."
"You should have seen her earlier," Hermione said from her position leaning against one of the white walls. "Nearly took a Healer's head off."
Ginny let go of Teddy and hugged Victoire. "Don't exaggerate, Hermione."
"Who's exaggerating?" Hermione asked. "If that Healer hadn't given you your orange lemonade, she would be dead. At your hands."
"Orange lemonade?" Victoire asked.
Ginny showed them a disposable plastic cup. "It works wonders."
Dominique had been in the middle of training with the Ballycastle Bats when her Uncle Ron's Patronus arrived. She didn't hear the message, because the Patronus had landed on the field, and Dominique was hovering midair by the goal hoops (she was a Keeper), but she knew that something bad must have happened. Ron never sent his Patronus to the kids of the Weasley family unless it was something very, very bad. Luckily, such a situation had only happened once before, referred to as simply the Incident of '09.
She landed immediately, hopped off her broom, and Apparated out of there, to the immense confusion of her teammates.
She charged into the St. Mungo's lobby (still in her full Quidditch attire), and hopped over patients, chairs, and any other obstacles that got in her way. She finally skidded to a stop in front of Harry's room. Her sister, her sister's boyfriend, and two aunts regarded her with little interest, as they were plenty used to Dominique's antics.
She spit a long strand of fiery red hair out of her mouth, and straightened herself out. Her sister stared at her bemusedly.
"So, what'd I miss?"
Victoire raised an eyebrow. "You sure know how to make an entrance."
"It's a talent, what can I say?" Dominique shrugged.
"Orange lemonade?" Teddy asked, holding out a pitcher.
"Oh, I'd love some!"
Young Molly arrived soon after that, a quill and scroll of parchment still in her hand, and her parents, Percy and Audrey, not too long after that.
Bill and Fleur showed up, the latter holding a large container of cookies.
"Chocolate chip," Fleur informed them solemnly. Everyone took one.
George, Angelina, older Molly, and Arthur all showed up.
Everyone sat in silence. Waiting.
"Bloody hell, Roxy, that's my knee!"
"Shut up, Hugo, I couldn't move if I wanted to. Because someone's sitting on me!"
"It's not my fault!"
"James, it's always your fault."
"No one asked you, Al!"
"LOUIS, GET OFF OF ME!"
"Child, you're louder than Hagrid."
"Stop being a jerk, Lucy."
"Me? A jerk? The child's not only loud, but dreadfully deluded."
"That child is not only thirteen years old, but perfectly capable of hearing every word you're saying!"
"You're the baby of the Potter family. That makes you a child."
"Fred, get your bloody arse out of my face!"
The nine kids got themselves straightened out from where they were tangled in a heap in front of St. Mungo's fireplace.
A woman with teapots as hands started yelling at them in a mix of German and Swedish, hot water pouring out of her teapot-hands and pooling on the floor.
Lily unconsciously moved closer to Al, who put his hand on her lower back.
"Where's Uncle Harry's room?" Roxanne asked. She was twirling her dark hair around her fingers, a habit she did whenever she was nervous.
"Fourth Floor," James told her.
Roxanne's eyes widened. "Spell Damage?" she read from a sign.
"He's an Auror, Rox. These kinds of things are inevitable," Fred told her, uncharacteristically gloomy.
"Stop the chit-chat. We've got to go," Lucy reminded them, giving them all a push towards the lift.
"Is Dad going to be okay?" Lily asked quietly.
James and Al shared a look.
The silence continued.
Lily's question hung in the air, taking up the space in the elevator like a gigantic beast. It filled their ears with its substance. Those six words.
When the lift clanged to a stop, the kids piled out into the fourth floor hallway.
"Mum!" Lily shouted.
Ginny turned to the sound of her youngest child's voice.
"McGonagall's a softie at heart," Fred explained. "She sent us through her Floo."
"Any word on Dad?" James asked.
Ginny glanced at the door to her right. "No. The Healers are keeping it under wraps."
"But we're family!" Lucy protested.
"Believe me, I've been trying to tell them that for almost half an hour," Ginny sighed. "We just have to wait."
And wait they did.
Ginny slid down the wall in defeat, resting her head in the crook of her elbows.
James and Al sat cross-legged next to each other.
They stared at each other in trepidation.
James arm found its way around Al's shoulder.
"You told me he'd be okay."
It was barely more than a whisper, but Victoire heard it as clearly as if Teddy had shouted it from the top of the Astronomy Tower.
Victoire laid her head on his shoulder, the tears that had been gathering in her eyes giving up the struggle and tracking down her face.
"Mrs. Potter," a middle-aged Healer said.
Ginny's head shot up from where it was resting on Bill's shoulder. "Yes?"
The Healer beckoned her over.
"What is it? Is he okay?" Ginny demanded.
The Healer looked down at her official-looking clipboard. Choosing not to answer Ginny's questions, she said, "Mr. Potter is in critical condition."
"Yes, of course," Ginny retorted. "That much I've gathered. But no one is telling me what's wrong with him!"
"I don't know the whole story. You're brother—" she examined the board again "—Mr. Ronald Weasley can tell you the story after the Healers release him. I just have gathered what I could from your husband's injuries.
"To start, I suspect a long period of contact with the Cruciatus Curse, which is what most of the problem is. His arm and a couple of ribs are broken, his ankle sprained, and his leg fractured."
"That's simple to fix. If I brought my children here every time they broke a bone, you would have a room reserved especially for us," Ginny pointed out.
"While that may be true for normal cases, Mr. Potter's mind is in a fragile state. Performing magic on him is risky. It could even be deadly."
"But that's okay, right? Broken bones aren't life-threatening. Just fix it the Muggle way."
"There are other things to take into account, too. Like the blood loss."
Ginny's head was spinning. "Is it bad?"
"Enough to be concerned," the Healer said evasively.
Ginny fell back against the wall, her knees no longer supporting her weight.
"But he is no longer on the brink of death," the Healer said dryly. "On which I'm sure he's been many times before."
Ginny exhaled slowly. "Can I see him?"
The Healer scrutinized Ginny for a long time. "He's not allowed to have visitors," she said finally.
Ginny's head dropped in defeat.
The Healer's gaze softened slightly. "But I think we can make an exception," she amended.
Ginny met the Healer's steady gaze. "Thank you."
Al had fallen asleep against the wall, James's arm still around his shoulder. James studied his brother's sleeping form and wished that he too could slip into unconsciousness, if only to forget the current circumstances for a little while.
His mother was conversing rapidly with a Healer around the corner. James couldn't make out the words, but he could hear the desperation in his mum's voice. Sometimes, her voice rose to a near shout. James tried not to think of what they could possibly be talking about that would make his mother sound like that.
Across the hall, right next to his father's door, Lucy was trying to distract Lily, Hugo, and Roxanne with a deck of Exploding Snap cards, which she had produced out of her uniform pocket. Disregarding, of course, in typical Weasley fashion, the school rule of "No games in class."
Lucy looked up and met James's eye, offering a weak smile of comfort before returning to her game.
James turned his head the other way and saw Victoire all snuggled up against Teddy. Normally, James would have wolf-whistled, or called them out on it, or any number of immature things, but these were not normal circumstances. James turned his head away without acknowledging their lovey-dovey position.
James returned his gaze back to the wall blocking his view of his mother and the middle-aged Healer that she was talking to.
Suddenly, the very person of his musings, his mother, appeared.
"We can go see him," she announced.
James scrambled to his feet, accidently letting Al's head to crack against the wall. Effectively waking his brother up.
"Wha'?" Al mumbled, disoriented from his rude awakening.
"Dad," James informed him simply.
That set Al straight right away. Shooting to his feet, he followed James over to the door to their father's room.
Ginny took hold of the door handle, and with grim determination, thrust it open.
"Dear Merlin," someone gasped.
The sight in front of them was certainly a "Dear Merlin"-worthy moment. Even Hermione, who was almost used to her best friend's constant injuries, sucked in a breath.
"Bloody hell, Harry," Bill breathed.
The object of everyone's undivided attention was, of course, Harry. But this Harry was battered and bruised. This Harry's face was so bloodied, it was barely recognizable. This Harry was not, by any means, the normal Harry.
Roxanne burst into tears. "U-u-uncle Harry!" she wailed.
"Shh," a nearby Healer shushed them irritably. Roxanne was so surprised, she quieted immediately. The scowling Healer shot them all dirty looks before gathering up some charts, double-checking an IV attached to Harry, and stalking out the door.
"Harry," Ginny whimpered, sinking to her knees next to her husband. She clutched at his hand, careful not to jostle any of the tubes and wires connected to him.
Hermione put her hand over her mouth, her eyes filling up with tears.
"What are the tubes and stuff?" George asked, eyeing the IV bag with trepidation.
"Muggle stuff," Percy explained. His face was questioning as he tried to work out answers. "But why—?"
"He was hit with the Cruciatus," Ginny managed to say through her tears. She suddenly turned livid. "The bastards hit him with the Cruciatus!" She dissolved into heartbroken sobs.
Hermione knelt down next to Ginny, and without question, Ginny turned her head and collapsed into Hermione's shoulder. Hugging her heartbroken friend, Hermione tried to explain. "When the mind has affected with too much magical influence, it proves to be incapable of accepting anymore. It shuts down completely, effectively killing the afflicted patient."
"What?" Fred asked nervously.
"Harry was under the Cruciatus for so long, any more magic will hurt him," Percy clarified quietly. "Even kill him."
"Merlin, Percy!" Audrey whimpered. "Don't!"
"It's the truth," Percy whispered.
Eventually, everyone squeezed Harry's hand, gave Ginny a sympathetic look, and slipped back out the door, taking their children with them.
"If you need me…" Fred trailed off, gave James a meaningful look, and scurried after his parents, who were taking their leave.
Soon only the Potters and Hermione were left, after a brief fight with Rose and Hugo about staying with Percy and Audrey for a bit.
"Merlin, what if he doesn't get better?" Ginny whispered to Hermione. James, Al, and Lily had fallen asleep in the two chairs by the bed. Lily was curled up in Al's lap.
"The Healers said he would be fine," Hermione said diplomatically.
"They also said Great-great Uncle Aldo would be fine, but look where that got him!"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "He was one hundred and fifty-three, Ginny."
Choosing to ignore Hermione's statement, Ginny squeezed her husband's hand. "Hermione, I never forgave him."
"What are you talking about? Forgave him for what?"
"Not letting me bail on studying."
"What the—Ginny, you're talking nonsense!"
"You forced us to study one day in my sixth year, and I snogged him, and he said that that didn't get me out of studying, so I said I would never forgive him, and it's been going on for years, and oh, Hermione I've been perfectly horrible!" Ginny broke down sobbing again.
Hermione sat frozen, eyebrows up somewhere under her hairline. "Uh, why?"
"What do you mean?" Ginny sniffled, wiping her nose on her sleeve.
"Merlin, you're thick sometimes," Hermione said under her breath.
Ginny became indignant. "Am not! I'm just too stubborn!"
"There is a really simple remedy to this," Hermione said. "Forgive and forget."
"Well, of course I forgive him. I really forgave him years ago. But what if he had died? What if this was a lot worse, and he died, Hermione? I would never forgive myself."
"You're making way too big a deal out of this," Hermione said. "He's not dead, he's perfectly fine. When he wakes up, you'll forgive him, and everything's back to normal. It's really simple, Ginny."
"What would I do without a brainiac friend like you?" Ginny sniffled.
"Hermione! Ginny!" Ron burst into the room.
He looked like he had met a rabid cat in a dark alley. Every visible part of his body was covered in scratches. Not deep, but enough to hurt. His arm was anchored to his chest in a sling.
"Ron!" Hermione jumped up and immediately started fussing over him. "You need to tell us everything that happened. Everything! I knew I shouldn't have let you go on that mission! Just think of—"
"Later, Hermione," Ron said.
He turned to look at Harry. "God. I didn't know it was this bad."
He lifted one of Harry's limp hands, examined it, then laid it gently back on the bed. He turned to the two women in the room, who were regarding him with a worried expression. "We ran into Dolofony."
Hermione gasped in recognition, but Ginny furrowed her brow. "Who's that?"
"He's a werewolf," Ron said darkly. "One of the worst I've ever encountered. I think he was bitten by Greyback pretty early on in the war. Whenever he was bitten, he was bitten pretty young. I can tell he's been a werewolf for a while."
"And he's—he's who did this to Harry?" Ginny asked softly.
"Not all of it," Ron said. He pointed out a particularly nasty gash on Harry's arm. "That was more or less the fault of Moore."
"Moore? But I thought he was on your team?" Hermione asked.
"Yeah, but he causes more problems than he solves," Ron said, shaking his head. "Harry was all for choosing someone else in his place, but no one could argue that Moore had been there longer than almost everyone else. They out ruled Harry at the meeting before we left."
"He's the Head Auror! He's in charge!" Ginny said indignantly.
"But he only has so much power over a majority. Harry figured he'd give him a chance," Ron said. "Moore set off a trap immediately when we got there. A werewolf would've gotten him if Harry hadn't stepped in. Got a couple scratches."
"But the Healers said he had had long periods of contact with the Cruciatus," Ginny remembered. "When did that happen?"
"Well, after we got away from the ambush, we retreated a bit. Set up camp. Started to think," Ron told them. "We had to create a new plan. Our other one was ruined the second Moore alerted them to our presence.
"We stayed for a couple days, and no werewolves came at us. Harry decided to have us surround the wolves and attack."
"What happened?" Hermione asked when Ron paused.
"I'm getting there, Hermione, relax!" Ron said irritably. "So we surrounded the wolves, but Moore set off another trap."
"Oh, for goodness sake!" Hermione exclaimed.
"And Harry doubled back to help out while the rest of us went on. But when we got to the wolves' site, no one was there. It was a trick. They all went after Harry and Moore."
Ron looked down at Harry again. "We ran back as fast as we could. We had an encounter with a couple of wolves, but Auxley is a brilliant dueler, and he took them out it about three seconds."
"Thank goodness someone's worth something on that team," Hermione said.
"When we got there, Moore was unconscious and Harry looked like this." He gestured to Harry's still form. "But he was still on his feet, still dueling, and with Dolofony, too. It's a wonder he didn't get killed."
"But the Cruciatus?" Ginny asked.
"I'm getting there, I said," Ron said crossly. "Auxley started dueling this one wolf, and got knocked out pretty fast. Took the werewolf down, too, bless him.
"The other bloke on our team, Morrison, dragged Moore and Auxley away. Apparated them here, I think. He came back a few minutes later, took down a couple wolves, and then was dragged away by one of them."
"Oh, how awful!" Hermione exclaimed.
"I think he got away, though. I heard a crack after a few minutes. I might have been the sound of Apparation."
Ron scuffed the toe of his trainer on the floor.
"The wolf I was fighting got me pinned down after a bit. That's when Dolofony started on the Cruciatus," Ron said softly. "It was terrible. The look on Harry's face." Ron looked away. "I tried to get at him, but I couldn't. He was screaming…"
Ginny tapped her fingers against the nightstand. "It's not your fault."
"I just feel like it could be helped," Ron said dejectedly. "That I could help."
"And you yet you make fun of me?"
All three of them jumped. They looked down at the source of the voice, and met two familiar green eyes.
Ginny let out a breath. "Don't ever do that to me again. God, Harry."
"We got here, and you were unconscious, and looked like that—" Hermione covered her mouth with her hands again.
"I'm guessing I look pretty good, then?"
"You've seen better days, mate," Ron said.
"Did Moore, Auxley, and Morrison get away?"
"Moore and Auxley were brought here. They got released pretty quickly. I don't know about Morrison, though. He might have Apparated away, but I'm not sure."
"I hope he got away. He's an okay bloke."
Suddenly, the room was flooded with Healers. Harry looked positively alarmed. Hermione, Ginny, and Ron were shunted to the side.
"What's going on?" Lily asked, woken up by all of the commotion.
"Seriously. I fall asleep for five minutes…" James shook his head.
"Your dad's awake," Ginny told them.
Lily jumped up. "Really?"
"We have to let the Healers do their job. You can see him later," Hermione said.
The family watched the Healers for awhile.
Very soon, James grew restless. He looked at the Healers, to Al, to his mother, then back to Al. A moment passed.
Then he reached out and whapped him on the head.
"James Sirius!" their mum admonished.
"What was that for?" Al yelled.
"I haven't hit you enough lately. I have to reach a certain quota," James replied defensively.
"So you just reach out and hit me?" Al sputtered.
James shrugged, half apologetic. "Yeah, that's pretty much how it works."
"Does that mean I can hit Al, too?" Lily asked, warming to this idea.
"No, you bloody well can't!" Al snapped.
"No hitting!" Ginny said loudly.
"I said no."
James pouted and crossed his arms. Ron and Hermione tried not to laugh.
"He's making a nice recovery," a Healer told Ginny as he passed, folding up some papers.
Ginny just smiled.
"Thanks again for taking the kids, Hermione," Ginny told her friend as they hugged at the door.
"What, I don't get acknowledgement?" Ron asked.
"We both know that you don't do anything," Ginny retorted.
Harry snorted from his spot back on the bed, eating a piece of toast.
Ron pointed at him as he shrugged on his coat. "That's enough out of you."
Hermione rolled her eyes and started out the door, taking hold of Lily's hand. "Call us in the morning. Tell us how he's doing."
"I'm fine," Harry said for the umpteenth time.
"And look it, too," Ron snorted.
"Ah, shut up, Weasley," Harry replied.
The Ron, Hermione, James, Al, and Lily waved one final time and disappeared around the corner.
"So." Ginny sat down next to Harry.
Harry struggled into a better position. "So. Hermione said you might have something to tell me."
"What would that be?"
Ginny sighed. "It sounded so much easier in theory."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Okay…?"
"I forgive you," Ginny said primly.
Harry's face broke into a grin. "Well, it's about time."
"Don't rub it in, or anything," Ginny said sarcastically.
"You're taking this well, I see."
"I lose leverage against you! Of course I'm not taking this well!"
"If it helps," Harry offered, "I could refuse to give you a bite of this toast. And then you could overreact and claim that you'll never forgive me."
Ginny wrinkled her nose. "I don't want your toast."
"But it's white bread. With pre-packaged butter!"
"Tempting, but no."
Harry shrugged and shoved the rest of the bread in his mouth. "Delicious."
Ginny smiled, but it melted off her face as she picked at the hem of Harry's blanket.
Harry sighed. "What's wrong?"
"It was such a silly thing," Ginny said with a humorless laugh. "And then you almost died. What if you had? And I know it isn't a big deal, but you were so set on making me forgive you. What if you had died and I hadn't forgiven you? I couldn't have lived with myself."
"I honestly would not have been all that torn up about it, Ginny," Harry said. "I mean, sure, it was fun, trying to get you to crack, but it wasn't that big of a deal."
"Easy for you to say," Ginny said. "You'd be dead."
"Ginny, just eat the toast," Harry said, handing her a piece.
Ginny took the toast with a smile. "Toast. The great equalizer."
"Works wonders, it does," Harry agreed.
Together, they clanked their glasses of orange lemonade and talked late into the night.
And Ginny realized that as long as she had her husband, everything was okay, running joke or no.
And that was how it ended.
A/N: Wow, can you say terrible Spiderwoman? How long has it been? 2 months? More? This chapter was extremely long and I wanted the finale to be extra-good. I hope you guys didn't think it was ending last chapter. Some of the reviews had me thinking you guys thought it was ending. My fault entirely, sorry guys.
So, yeah, it's ending! This is the last chapter! You guys who read and review and favorite and alert and stuff…you are unbelievably amazing. I know it sounds cliché and stuff, but really, it is so nice to know my work is appreciated. I don't share my work with anyone because I'm a bit insecure, and I always freak out a bit when I post a new story on here, but you guys have me feeling great. I didn't get one negative review for this. The constructive criticism was wonderful, and you were just generally the sweetest people on the planet. Thank you so, so, so much. Wow, that doesn't even START to cover the gratitude I feel to you guys. Love you all.
Please leave me one last review to tell me how I did. Like the ending? Hate it? It just takes a couple minutes, if that.
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