It was high summer,
and the Burrow was in a fever of excitement. Fred was finally marrying
Angelina, and Weasleys and Johnsons were pouring in from every corner
of England. Since, like the Weasleys, the Johnsons scorned the idea of
a nuclear family with less than five members, the Burrow was bursting
at the seams.
One person, however, had not yet showed up to claim his bed in Ron’s
"I’d’ve thought Harry would’ve come back for this, at least," Ron mumbled, so morose he almost forgot to swipe a fingerful of the icing
Ginny was stirring in a bowl. "We sent him--ow!--an invitation." He sucked his knuckles where she had whacked him with the spoon.
"Maybe Pig got lost," George suggested.
Ron sent him a killing look. "My owl doesn’t get lost," he said. "He’s a bit stupid about what he does when he gets there,
but he does not bloody get lost."
Ginny was able to laugh at this. It was so like Ron--he could complain
all he wanted about Pig, but let anyone else so much as utter a bad word
and Ron was flaring up in defense.
But she sat that night on the back porch, watching Percy and Charlie
going at it hammer and tongs over the arrangement of the yard--"Look,
if you do it that way, the sun’s going to be all in everyone’s eyes--" "But this way, it’s easier to move the chairs for the dancing!"--she
couldn’t help but be worried. While his letters had become a little more
frequent, they hadn’t heard from Harry since Ron had sent the invitation
a month earlier. What if he’d never recieved it? At Christmas,
when Fred had told him, he’d said he wouldn’t miss it--and Harry kept
his word on things like that, usually. What if he was somewhere in great
danger and couldn’t even get word to them, much less come to a wedding?
She shook herself. Harry was a strong, smart, capable man. He’d been
wandering for nearly a year now, and by his own admission he’d run across
some rather strange things in that time. He could probably handle himself.
But she still had to worry.
And worse yet--what if he was perfectly fine? What if he just didn’t
want to come back because of her?
She finally got up and went into the house, leaving the argument
* * *
Morning came, with no Harry. Ron’s face was even longer than Hermione’s.
Even Mrs. Weasley, as involved as she was in preparation, was worried,
but there was very little time to discuss it. All was chaos.
Ginny came downstairs to tell her mother where the bridesmaids’ shoes
were (a box in the hall closet) and was promptly drafted to hold little
Amos as Penny, who had a dab hand with decoration charms, put the finishing
touches on the mountainous cake. She took her nephew willingly. "Hello,
darling boy," she cooed, propping him on her hip. "D’you want
to walk about with Auntie Ginny for a time?"
Taking that as a "yes", she carried him out of the tumult
of the kitchen and into the yard, which was no less tumultuous. Charlie
and Percy had reached an accord on the placement of the chairs, but they
still had to be all set up. Bill was helping them with it, with the result
that at least three chairs were in the air at any given time, and usually
more. Ginny stayed out of the way.
Amos recognized his father and started to babble loudly, reaching
out his hands. Percy came over and Ginny passed the baby to him. "It
looks nice, Percy," she said.
"Charlie saw reason," Percy said smugly. "Ouch! Amos,
stop it--" Amos had a chunk of his father’s hair in a tight grasp.
Percy’s son seemed to like hair, especially Weasley hair.
Percy’s son--how strange to think that her big brother, whom
she had seen on his first day of school, and fighting with her other brothers,
and in his awkward teenage gangliness, was married and had a child of
his own. As he sighed and smiled at the same time at Amos’s stubborness,
Ginny was swamped with a wave of envy.
Percy was right where he wanted to be. He had the job he wanted,
he had the mate he wanted, and he had the first of the children he wanted.
Charlie and Bill, although lacking the second two parts, were happy
with their lives. Fred and George, with their joke shop and their fiancèes
(one of whom would be a wife soon) were happy too. Even Ron, low on the
totem pole as he was at MLES, was ecstatic to have it, along with Hermione
and their . . . whatever. All her brothers had found what they were looking
And where was she?
Still waiting for her life to begin.
Bill and Charlie had come over to pass the baby around between them.
As the first baby of the new generation, Amos was thoroughly spoiled and
loving it. At the moment, he was gnawing on the base of Charlie’s wand.
Percy was frowning. "Don’t let him eat that, Charlie--"
"Oh, lighten up, Perce," Charlie said. "The worst
he can do is make sparks."
Percy took the wand away and handed Amos back to Ginny before he
could start bellowing at the loss of his toy. "I think you’d better
take him to the front yard," he said. "We’ve got to finish setting
up before people get here."
Charlie, wiping his drooled-upon wand on his robes, gave Ginny a
grin. "We’ll be fine, Perce," he said, and to Ginny, "I’ll
be around front to play with him once we’re done. I don’t get to see him
enough. He’ll forget I exist."
"That’s because you never come home," Ginny said, and bore
She was lying on her stomach in the grass, tickling his nose with
a few blades to make him giggle, when he looked up over her head. She
looked up too, expecting to see Charlie or Bill, or both.
It was Harry.
"You came," she said inanely, squinting up at him. The
sun was directly behind him, blinding her.
"I did promise," he said.
"I know, but--"
"You didn’t write."
"I know. I’m sorry." He set his bag and broom down on the
grass and crouched, touching one long finger to Amos’s bright hair.
"Percy and Penny’s son," Ginny explained. She couldn’t
stop looking at him, now that she could without the sun interfering. His
hair was longer, curling gently around the nape of his neck and falling
untidily into his eyes. One of the white tufts was in the middle of his
fringe, standing out brightly. Three, four, five . . . There were no more
of them, thank goodness. He was more tanned than he had been at Christmastime,
and his robes were a little more ragged.
He looked wonderful.
"Amos," Harry said. "Ron wrote."
Ginny said gently, "We were hoping you’d come back for
the christening." She couldn’t help herself--she’d wished so hard
. . .
"I got the invitation," Harry said, withdrawing his hand
from Amos’s little head. "I was in South Africa, and I was . . .
in the middle of something. I wanted to come, but I couldn’t."
He looked up at her, and some of the doubt must have showed in her
eyes, for he said, "I--really. I couldn’t leave."
Ginny felt at a disadvantage, lying down while Harry crouched, so
she pushed herself to a sitting position and held her arms out to Amos.
Always willing to be carried, he held up his own arms, and she picked
him up and settled him before rising to her feet.
Harry got to his feet too. "Seems odd--you being an aunt--"
Ginny’s mouth quirked up. "Why? The only wonder is that it hasn’t
Harry smiled a little, at himself. "I know, but I can’t imagine
it for myself, and you’re so much younger than I am . . ."
Her brows drew together. "I’m not so young as all that, Harry
Potter. I’ve left Hogwarts."
He looked at her sharply. Had he forgotten? "You’re sixteen."
"Seventeen." Did she look sixteen? She’d always
been a year and three months younger than he. It wasn’t something that
was likely to have changed.
"Still--I’m nineteen," he said.
"I’ll be eighteen in October," she said, her voice a little
sharper than she’d meant it to be. "I’m not a child."
He looked at her until her stomach started to jump. Then
he said in a soft voice, "It’d be easier if you were."
He remembered, all right, she realized suddenly. Oh, yes, he remembered--but
he didn’t want to, for some reason, acknowledge that she was as
grown as he was. He would’ve preferred her to be a child still.
Now this was a pretty pickle.
Fortunately, Amos chose that uncomfortable moment to grab her hair.
"Oh! Amos--let go--"
"I’ve got it--" Harry gently disentangled her hair from
the chubby, clutching fngers.
"Thank you," she said, shifting Amos slightly. The baby
had latched onto Harry’s finger and was gumming the very tip of it. Harry
was watching, fascinated.
Ginny realized that, quite apart from her own extensive experience
with cousins and neighbors, Harry had probably never had much contact
with babies. "Would you like to hold him?" she offered.
He instinctively drew back. "But I’ve--never--"
"You’d better learn, then, " she said, holding Amos out
so that Harry had no choice but to take him. "Especially if you’re
going to be associated with this family. There--set him on your hip--one
arm under his bum--there. That wasn’t so hard, was it?"
Like the natural athlete he was, Harry had instinctively adjusted
the curve of his spine to balance out the weight of the baby, and Amos
looked perfectly comfortable. Harry looked dazed, and then fascinated
again by the tiny piece of life he held in his arms.
The baby reached out, and Ginny winced. But instead of grabbing for
Harry’s hair, or earlobe, or even his glasses, Amos patted Harry very
softly on the face with his tiny hands.
Harry blinked several times--he must have been braced for a grab,
as well. Then he smiled his slow sweet smile and said, "What d’you
think? Do I rate?" to the baby.
Ginny was surprised into a giggling sort of snort. Ron made horrible
fun of her for talking to the baby as if he could talk back, and here
was Harry doing the exact same thing--
"She’s laughing at us," Harry told the baby indignantly.
"Listen to that."
* * *
After Ginny had given into good manners, taken Amos back, and sent
Harry inside to deposit himself in Ron’s room, she barely got a chance
to see him. She had to be bundled away for the necessary brushing and
lacquering and female things that accompanied a bridesmaid’s duties.
She was distracted throughout the process, wondering if Harry remembered
his promise at New Year’s, wondering if he’d thought of her, wondering
. . . just wondering.
She looked up. "Sorry, Mum, what?"
Her mother half-laughed at her. "Nervous, dear?"
"No," she answered honestly. "Distracted."
"Well, stand up and let’s have a look at you."
Ginny stood obediently, and gave a little twirl. She knew what she
looked like--she’d seen herself in the full-length mirror. Her silky robes
were a lovely blue-green color and fell rippling to the floor. Hermione
had pulled her hair sleekly back from her face, so it shone like polished
copper, and had firmly vetoed the idea of putting on more than absolutely
minimal makeup. Ginny had argued this, until she’d realized with the sleek
hair and the simple robes, too much makeup would just look ridiculous.
Her mother looked at her for so long, however, that Ginny began to
get nervous. "Mum?"’
"Oh--Ginny--" Her mother’s voice was choked. "When
did this happen?"
Alarmed, all Ginny could say was, "What?"
"When did you go and grow up on me?" Her mother gave a
great sniff and wiped away tears.
"Oh, Mum . . ."
Her mum flapped a hand at her. "Sit down, dear, I need to give
Ginny sat again, starting to get a little teary-eyed herself. Her
mother reached in a pocket of her dress robes and brought out a tiny box,
which she opened to reveal a pearl pendent on a thin gold chain.
"Your gran gave this to me when I left Hogwarts," she said,
her voice steady again. "My own gran had given it to her when she
was the same age. It’s been passed down to the eldest daughters for hundreds
of years." She undid the clasp and slipped the chain around Ginny’s
throat. "I didn’t know quite when to give it to you," she went
on, fumbling with fastening the clasp, "but I think--now is the time."
It settled into place, the pearl resting just below the hollow of
her throat. Ginny lifted a trembling hand to touch it, this ornament of
womanhood. "Mum . . ."
Her mother had to wipe her eyes again. "It’s so hard to believe
you’re already done with school," she said in a voice as wobbly as
Ginny’s own. "I remember what I was like at your age. I felt as if
I could change the world, or at least own it--but you know--when it came
right down to it--" She sighed. "When it came right down to
it, all I really wanted was your father. It was terribly old-fashioned
for those days, and the way things are these days, well--I--I don’t
expect you to understand that, but--"
"No," Ginny said. "I do. I understand perfectly,
Their eyes met in the mirror, the same shade of brown. Her mum started
to say something, but at that moment, the door bounced open.
"Come on, you two," George bellowed, "everyone’s waiting--"
And the moment was lost.