Welcome, one and all, to "The Alphabet," a belated BIRTHDAY PRESENT (hey at least it's still technically April where you are...) for one of my absolutely most supportive reader/reviewers in the history of my writing, keeptheotherone. Seriously, folks, not only is she a talented storyteller herself, she is wonderfully loyal and helpful to me and the things that I post. She's given me help by beta-ing and just by giving me her thoughts in general! Don't know what I'd do without your help, ktoo! And as if that isn't cool enough, she shares a birthday with Fred and George Weasley. I mean come on.
So, ktoo is a big fan of Harry and Ginny and of Ron and Hermione. She asked for something involving either/both of them, plus maybe some babies thrown in for cute factor. Well, I couldn't settle on a one-shot, and NOW WE HAVE THIS RIGHT HERE. Okay. Hope you like it, ktoo! You're the best. As for all others, ENJOY YOURSELVES AND YOU ROCK TOO.
Okay, time for bed.
"Seriously? Snape…and your mum?" Ginny asked. She stared at Harry as they sat together on the banks of the lake. Ginny didn't really know how to feel at the moment; everything from the last two days was so raw and painful that she couldn't sleep. She'd woken up at five this morning, only to find Harry waiting for her, ready to take a walk across the Hogwarts grounds as the sun rose.
Harry nodded. "It's weird to think about."
"That's an understatement," Ginny scoffed. Then she felt a twinge of guilt and looked at Harry. "I'm grateful for him, though."
"So how does McGonagall like her new goddaughter?" Ginny asked. She held baby Albus as she and Hermione sat on a beach blanket together. Down by the seaside, Ron and Harry were playing with James in the surf.
"You can call her Minerva," Hermione said, bouncing little Rosie, who was decked out fully in sunglasses, a large floral hat, and four different types of Muggle sun cream. "And she's mad about her."
"You're making me jealous, you know. I'm quite eager for a girl of my own. No offense," Ginny added to the baby in her arms.
"Buh," said Albus.
"You're planning things already?" Harry asked as he walked into the kitchen of the Burrow with Ron and Charlie, ready for a Quidditch match.
He was met with two looks of identical brown-eyed ferocity. Ginny folded her arms. "If you want the thirtieth of June to be our date, we need to start now."
"It's barely three days after Christmas!"
Molly tugged her spectacles down her nose. "And you're the one who decided that Christmas was the occasion to spring my only daughter's engagement on me, Harry Potter."
And as Ron and Charlie sneaked out the back door, Harry gulped.
Hermione dropped back on her hospital pillows, stretching her arms behind her head. "Well, that's it, right? Visiting hours are over?"
"With my family?" Ron asked. "Never."
Hermione watched him quietly for a moment; the sun was just going down, illuminating his outline perfectly in the window as he held their newborn daughter. Ron was completely transfixed by Rose's sleeping face.
"Ron," she said, very softly, and he looked up, startled. "My turn." He grinned and brought Rose to Hermione's bed, allowing her to take the baby.
"Let's keep her," he murmured, sitting down beside her.
"Good plan," Hermione agreed.
Rose paced the kitchen frantically. "They should be here, it should've come…"
Hermione looked across the table at Ron, who became suddenly interested in drinking as much of his tea as he could in one gulp.
"Rose, I'm going to eat your scone, okay?" asked Hugo.
"How can you think of your stomach when I'm going mad?"
"Hugo, enough," Hermione said firmly. "Rose, relax."
"Mum, if I don't get an O in Arithmancy—"
"You only need 'Exceeds Expectations' to continue."
Rose groaned and resumed pacing.
"Actually, I know someone else who got worked up about an E…"
"They're asleep," Harry whispered as he tiptoed into their bedroom and quietly shut the door behind him. "It was a hard-won battle, but I managed it. They missed you tucking them in."
"The conquering hero," Ginny whispered back. She was perched cross-legged in the middle of their bed, holding baby Lily, who was a little flushed from her fever; her ears were still steaming faintly after the Pepper-Up.
"How's she doing?" Harry settled in beside them, gently rubbing the top of Lily's little head.
Ginny shook her head. "She's fine. Harry?"
"I really like our family."
"Yeah. Me too."
Hermione woke up and squinted through the darkness. "What's wrong, Hugo?"
"My stomach hurts," he said.
"Oh," Hermione said, moving over and allowing him to crawl in beside her. She kissed his hair gently. "Too much of your Gran's apple tart?"
Hugo didn't answer.
"Sweetheart?" she asked softly.
Slowly, he turned over. "Mum…is Dad really going to kick Rose out if she's not a Gryffindor?"
Hermione closed her eyes for a moment, releasing a slow breath through her nose. Then she reached over and elbowed Ron, who gave a snoring grunt. "Darling, your son has a question for you."
"What is it with me and Ballycastle matches?" Ginny winced as the Harpies' medic bandaged her broken elbow.
"Everyone's got a jinx team," said Joy sagely. "Just rest this weekend, and see me before the Monday practice." She put Ginny's arm in a sling. "Look out, I think your fan club's found you." Ginny looked around.
Lily was scurrying into the infirmary, followed by Harry and the boys, all decked out in Harpy colors. Ginny knelt and grabbed her in a one-armed hug.
"Oh, Lily—don't worry, Mummy's all right—"
"You won, Mum!" Lily cried jubilantly. Harry snorted.
"Leave that garlic bread alone, Potter," Ginny warned, stirring the saucepan.
Harry withdrew his hand from the breadbasket guiltily. "Just one piece?"
"Hey, Mum," said James as he strolled into the kitchen. "Wow, smells great!"
Harry and Ginny shared an amused glance. "Thanks, sunshine."
"How was work, Dad?"
James nodded seriously. "Good, good…hey, listen. I have an…acquaintance…who needs to know exactly how Invisibility Potions work. Thoughts?"
Harry narrowed his eyes shrewdly. "This 'acquaintance' wouldn't happen to have O.W.L. marks arriving at his grandmother's house this week, would he?"
James's eyes widened. "Erm…well, I'm afraid I…can't divulge that information."
"Rosie, sit down! Hugo, no!"
"Ron, have you—? Oh." Hermione stopped on the kitchen threshold.
Ron was trying to restore order to a breakfast table gone mad. Rose was down below, trying to play with a very grumpy Crookshanks. Hugo had upended a jam pot in his hair and was smearing it around for good measure.
Hermione hurried into the fray. "I'm sorry, I took too long—"
"You look beautiful, help me!" Ron was not even close to being dressed for work.
"You take the jam monster, I've got the cat fiend," Hermione said, kissing his lips briefly.
"Weird it's not mine anymore," Harry said.
"Be glad Kreacher isn't here to see you sell it," Ginny told him, shifting Lily to her hip. "It was sweet of you to wait until he was gone."
"Well," Harry shrugged, "the four of us had some pretty good times here, after everything."
Ginny looked up at the chandelier above the entryway. "Yeah, we did."
"Boys!" Harry called down to the kitchen. "Time to go!"
With a thundering of feet, James, Teddy, and Albus charged up the stairs, grinning and exhilarated.
"Do we have to, Dad?" James panted. "We're exploring!"
Ginny had dozed off in one of the visitor's chairs in Lily's hospital room. Harry, who'd spent the better part of this nightmarish evening in a miserable stupor, felt wide-awake.
His brain seemed to be stuck reliving the final moments of the task as he had watched from the stands…how Lily had leapt out of the way only a half-second too late…how Ginny had screamed when they saw what had happened…
Suddenly, Lily stirred, her forehead creasing as though she were in pain. Harry took her hand. "It's all right," he murmured, his voice quaking slightly. "Dad's here…I'm here, Lily…"
Hermione was surprised to find the lights on when she got home late. Ron, Rose, and Hugo were all at the kitchen table. Hermione joined them, taking Ron's hand and tucking Rose close to her side. Hugo was watching her sadly.
"How is she?" Rose asked.
Hermione's chin trembled. "Not very well."
"Is her niece there?" Ron asked.
Hermione nodded. "She'd really like to see all of us."
"Absolutely," said Rose. "Maybe I can—I can take some of the wedding plans."
"Oh, she'd love that," Hermione told her.
Hugo sniffled suddenly and wiped his cheek. Hermione took his hand.
"Hello!" Harry called. He hung his cloak on the rack. "Anyone home?"
"No, no, no!"
Harry frowned and went to the kitchen. Ginny stood at the stove preparing dinner and looking ready to snap. Tentatively, Harry moved to kiss her cheek. "How are you?" he asked warily.
"Your son's learnt a new word," she informed him in a dead sort of voice. "James, are you glad Daddy's home?"
"No!" James shrieked happily from his high chair, throwing his arms in the air for Harry to come and get him. "No, no, no, no, no, nooooooooo!"
"Oh, good," Harry said weakly.
Lily stood in front of the Ollivander's display window, white to the lips and clutching Ginny's hand.
"It's just a wand, Pixie," Ginny said. Lily nodded, but didn't move her feet. "Do you want to wait until Daddy gets back with James and Al?"
"No," she said at once. "They'll just tease me—"
"Why don't you want to go in?" Ginny asked. "I thought you were excited about getting your wand."
"I am," Lily insisted, "But…" She squeezed her eyes shut, looking very embarrassed. "I'm…scared of Mr. Ollivander. He's creepy!" she added defensively.
"Don't worry." Ginny winked. "I agree."
"You look great today," Ron said, grinning at Hermione.
"And you brought me flowers," she replied. "Come here." Ron crossed the hospital room in three strides and kissed her. Hermione beamed. "Oh, Ron, they're beautiful. Thank you."
"Terry told me you'll be released soon," said Ron, sitting down beside her.
She sighed. "Thank goodness. I think I can forget everything—being poisoned, and the trials, the hospital—if I'm home again."
"Did you have another nightmare?" he asked quietly.
Hermione simply gazed at her bouquet, so Ron touched her arm; she took hold of his hand and didn't let go.
"Are there any Ice Mice left?"
"Ice Mice. Are there any left?"
"Doubt it," Harry muttered, burying his face in his pillow again. "I'll get more in the morning."
Ginny drummed her fingers on her large belly. "I would, but your little Quidditch player here doesn't feel like it."
"Go'sleep, baby." He patted her middle.
"You think you're funny, Potter, just wait. Come the first week of December, you'll be the one waking up at all hours…"
"First of all, I know I'm hilarious. Second of all, why don't I check the kitchen for your Ice Mice?"
"If we have a boy, I think he could be called Ronald," Hermione said.
Ron wrinkled his nose. "I dunno, I never liked my name when I was a kid."
"Maybe as a middle name? I'd like to name him after you."
"Is that because I brought you a Honeydukes chocolate bar?"
"…Only in part." She rubbed her belly. "We did appreciate it, though."
Ron snorted and flicked out the lights. "Come on, we can talk about names later…"
Hermione got under the blankets. "What girls' names do you like?"
"Rose. I think it's nice."
"So," said Ginny, sitting down at the kitchen table in Grimmauld Place. She kissed Harry's cheek and grinned at Ron and Hermione. "How did your bets turn out?"
Ron and Harry choked, but Hermione calmly sipped her soup. "I didn't place any bets. Not that I didn't think the Harpies would win—I just don't like gambling. Ask them."
Ginny lifted an eyebrow. "Gentlemen?"
Ron looked very uncomfortable. "Well, see, we didn't know—that you'd be the—the reserve Seeker—um—"
Harry intervened. "We'd never, ever have bet against—if we'd known—erm—it was Ron's idea?"
"Okay, open your eyes," said Ron, lifting his hands away from Hermione's face. She beamed. Their kitchen table was ornately set and decorated with floating candles and an elaborate dinner.
"You cooked," Hermione said, turning around to grin at him. "And you turned out the lights so I won't see the dishes until later. You're so thoughtful."
He shrugged. "Well, apparently it's our anniversary or something."
She kissed him, and he pulled back, producing two glasses of elf-made wine. "Here's to another year," he said. "We're doing okay so far."
Hermione nodded and pulled him back in for another kiss.
"So," Hermione said as Ron climbed into bed. "Guess whose paperwork came across my desk as I was reviewing sentencing appeals today?"
His expression darkened. "Whose?"
"Well, it's someone who's very keen on getting herself out of Azkaban…and technically, I can't rule on the matter, because it's a conflict of interests."
Ron groaned. "She's up for appeal already?"
"It's been fifteen years."
"I don't think that helps someone like her."
Hermione shrugged. "I wouldn't worry. Kingsley's going to rule for me."
"Or," said Ron, "Harry and I can steal her appeal paperwork from your desk, and—"
"Good night, Ron."
Ron looked down. Hermione was standing on the ground, looking up to the roof of the shed, where he was perched. He extended a hand to her and helped her climb up.
"Nice sunset," she sighed, sitting cross-legged beside him. He nodded. "Erm…I think your mum's…um…calmed down, if—if you want to go back inside. Your dad's looking after her."
Ron shook his head.
"Oh, um, Harry and Ginny said they—"
"We won, didn't we?"
Ron sighed heavily. "Doesn't really feel much like a win, honestly."
Hermione took his hand, and they both went quiet.
"So," said Hermione, "How are you feeling?"
Ginny had been stuck in bed since a complication in Lily's arrival had knocked her flat on her back. Now, though, the two newest Weasley-Potter cousins lay in the center of the bed between their mothers, staring at each other curiously.
"Fine," Ginny shrugged. "It came out of nowhere—I didn't even know enough to be worried about myself, at first, and now I'm totally fine."
Lily gave a little grunt, and Ginny reached out to tickle her belly, carefully avoiding Hermione's gaze.
Hermione hugged her close, smiling. "Yeah. Harry was worried too."
"I'm sorry, I don't believe it," Ron scoffed. "There's no way."
"A camera that takes pictures of your bones?" Ginny asked. She and Ron were on one sofa in the Grimmauld Place sitting room; Hermione and Harry occupied the other.
"It's not exactly a camera," Harry put in, taking a sip of firewhisky.
"Come on, you both know Muggles use technology, not diagnostic spells," Hermione said.
"That doesn't sound like technology," said Ginny.
"It sounds mental," Ron agreed.
"Mental, maybe, but it's the truth," Hermione insisted.
"I'm cutting Hermione off," Ginny said, snatching away her drink. Harry snorted, and Hermione elbowed him.
"Harry," Ginny sighed, "I don't want to go to St. Mungo's."
"Your Healer has to know, Gin." He sounded agitated. Ginny rubbed her eyes hard, and for a moment, a few spots of gray appeared, but still she could see nothing.
"He knew this was coming," she said. "Please, I can't go anywhere right now." She pressed her lips together. She would not cry. "I need to be here, in our house…" She felt Harry take her hands; he was right in front of her, she knew he could see her tears. "I need to be here with you. Please?"
Ginny led Harry by the hand out of the Great Hall; they would go to the place they had gone, the very first time he'd kissed her…
Ron and Hermione (who, Ginny noticed, were also holding hands) stood at the foot of the destroyed stairs in the entrance hall. For a moment, all four of them stared at each other.
"Can we join you?" Hermione asked.
Ginny's eyes filled with tears. She looked at Ron and nodded. "Come with us," she said.
And together, they walked out the front door of the ruined castle into the brilliant summer sunlight.
*Let the record show that the ending is not me being lazy; it is what it is - an end.