Ginny woke up with the prickly feeling that she was being watched. She rose up onto her elbows, squinted at the motionless figure in the bedroom doorway, and then collapsed back down onto the mattress. She rolled over onto her side and burrowed into the sheets.
"Honestly, if you're here to murder me, just do it. I'm too tired to fight you."
She heard Harry snort from his place at her left. The bed shifted slightly.
"Oh, that's nice," Harry scoffed. "And to think I trusted you. You'd leave me alone with the kids?"
It was too early for his dry sense of humor. Ginny grumbled and groped for her pillow. She moved it over her head and began slipping back towards sleep, comforted by Harry's nearby presence, and confident that if the figure in the doorway was a threat that he'd be able to handle it. The crisp sound of book pages turning lulled her back to sleep…
"Mum! Please wake up; I've been waiting for ages!"
The figure in the doorway was her daughter, and in that moment, she slightly wished it'd been an ex-Death Eater. The bed shook as Lily threw herself down upon it with another dramatic groan. Ginny mimicked her and grabbed tightly onto the covers, yanking them over her head. Lily gave them a futile tug.
"Lily," Harry whispered, "be quiet. I told you we aren't leaving until noon. It's six. Go and find something to do for six hours or I'll make you do some of this paperwork."
"I can't. I'm too excited. I want Mum to plait my hair before it dries. I want it to be wavy later."
"Can't you plait your own hair?"
"No! My arms don't reach right and I can't do the spell." The bed shook as Lily clambered up the mattress. She wormed her way underneath the duvet and wedged herself between Harry and Ginny. When Ginny cracked an eye open, her daughter was pouting at her, cocooned inside the blankets right alongside her mother.
"No." Ginny shut her eyes again.
"No. Ask me again at eight."
Lily, unfazed in that moment (and, really, as a character trait), responded by pushing Ginny's wand into her hands. "Please."
"Harry. You're the Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Deal with the intruder."
Lily let out a shrill mixture between an outraged cry and a laugh as Harry attempted to pry her out from underneath the covers. Ginny smiled softly as Lily's laughter filled the room, and after a few moments of unsuccessful cover-tugging and Lily-prodding, Harry gave up.
"Sorry, Gin. I've been defeated."
"You can't crush a silent, peaceful protestor without looking like an arse!" Lily yelled at him, still enveloped by the duvet. Ginny winced.
"There's nothing silent about you, Lulu," Harry pointed out. The usage of Lily's childhood pet name kept the truthful criticism from sounding too harsh. "Here's my offer: if you leave your mum alone, I'll do your hair."
Ginny and Lily gave identical snorts of disbelief into the mattress.
"What? I've seen your mum do the spell a million times. I'm sure I can manage it…"
Ginny rested comfortably on the brink of sleep as Harry attempted to plait their daughter's hair. Judging by their intermingled laughter and Lily's shrieks of horror, it was not going well. She vaguely registered Harry giving up on the spell and declaring that he was going to try it "the Muggle way", and when she finally woke completely a half-hour later, she emerged from her stifling cocoon to find four books opened on the bed, Harry's wand being used as a bookmark, and her daughter's hair in an endearingly inept French plait.
Ginny rubbed her face and squinted at the book closest to her.
"A muggle book about sailing knots?"
"Surprisingly helpful! Look!" Harry gently turned Lily around, showcasing her messy plait. Lily now had a book held so closely to her face that her nose was nearly brushing the pages; she'd neglected to put on her glasses again.
"Global Wizarding Styles of the 1800s?" Ginny questioned.
Lily peeked at her from above the top of the book. Her brown eyes were surprisingly bright, given how early she'd woken, and how late the entire family had been up the night before. "You two thought your generation had it tough growing up, with Voldemort and all. Look what these people had to wear."
She turned the heavy volume around. Ginny appraised the frilly robes.
"Tragic. Nearly as tragic as losing innumerable friends and family members. Oh, wait…"
Lily stuck her tongue out at her mum but bounced over to her a moment later, the book now lying forgotten atop the rumpled blankets. She curled up against Ginny like a cat.
"I missed you," Lily said. Her first yawn that morning spilled from her lips.
Ginny's heart warmed. She gently stroked over Lily's plait, mindful not to make it any messier than it already was. "I didn't go anywhere," she pointed out.
"Yes, you did. People go places when they're asleep. They leave." She looked at her dad. And then, like she hadn't said anything at all before that, said: "Can we go downstairs and make breakfast now?"
Harry yawned. Ginny reached over and patted his knee as he tiredly rubbed between his eyes. He caught her hand as soon as he'd righted his glasses; his thumb caressed along the line of her knuckles.
"Yeah, all right," he relented. "Go wait for me in the kitchen."
Lily scampered towards the door.
"And put those damn glasses on!" Ginny shouted after her.
"And don't wake up Albus or James!" Harry added, a few moments later.
There was a brief pause. "Too late!" Lily called.
Ginny and Harry exchanged tired looks. She knew they only had a couple minutes to spare, but if a couple was all she'd get today, she'd make the best of it. She settled down beside Harry and stretched her legs out, flinging one over his right. She hugged the right side of his body and kissed his shoulder. His arm was quick to wrap around her, holding her closer to him.
"That sodding spell…I accidentally plaited the bed hangings," he admitted.
Ginny laughed. Sure enough, when she looked up at the crimson hangings around their four-poster bed, they'd been magically plaited together. She sat up, grabbed Harry's wand from the book near his hip, and waved it at the hangings. They fell back into their solitary places. She set Harry's wand on his chest and craned her neck up, imploring for a kiss. He obliged immediately.
"Remind me why we haven't installed a dozen locks on our bedroom door?" she yawned.
"Something about emergencies. It was all paranoid rubbish, I'm sure."
"Ah, right." She reached up and pulled her fingers through his hair. It was even untidier than usual. "You did a good job on Lily's hair."
"No, I didn't. But she was pleased, and you were able to sleep, and that's what matters. Who cares if I'm not very good at it?"
"How succinct. How…rational. How…minimalistic. Where's my husband and what did you do with him?"
He rolled over, gently wedging her between him and the mattress. She smiled as his lips pressed to her cheek, her jaw, her neck.
"I've locked him away somewhere he'll never be found. So I can have you all to myself."
"Oh, well, as long as he'll be comfortable. Take me, imposter."
"You're absolutely awful, you know that?"
"Mum! Dad! Lily is out of control! She—AH! Arg!"
The door slammed shut almost as quickly as it'd opened. Ginny sighed.
"I mean, on the whole, the kids were a great idea. But right now, in this narrow, selfish moment…not so much."
Harry rolled off of her. They both took a moment to sigh up towards the ceiling.
"All right. Damage control. I'm getting good at this," Harry said. He rose, quickly changed from his pajamas, and then left the room. "Albus?"
Ginny brushed her teeth, dressed, and then began packing her and Harry's bags. James strolled into the room halfway through the task, absentmindedly tossing a Quaffle up into the air.
"Not in the house," Ginny reminded him, without looking up from her suitcase.
"Fine." He tossed the ball onto the bed and flopped down after it. "What are you doing?"
Ginny looked up from the two opened suitcases and piles of clothing littering the bed. "I'm brewing a Pepper-Up potion. What are you doing?"
"Nothing," he hesitated. He reached forward and grabbed the Quaffle again, but Ginny leaned over and swiped it before he could resume tossing it.
"Not in the house—honestly, was I speaking Gobbledegook?" She paused. She turned fully towards James, inspecting his brown eyes intently. "What's wrong?"
James caved immediately. While she had to pry every fear and concern from Albus, James would fling handfuls of them her way with only the briefest of prods.
"I want you to change your mind about Nora coming along."
If he hadn't seemed so vulnerable, she would've shot back: And I want you to stop nagging me about that, but we all don't get what we want, do we?
Instead, she said:
"What's happened that would warrant me changing my mind?"
James looked uncomfortable. It was not an emotion he wore well—he experienced it so little that he hardly seemed to know what to do with it. He shifted from foot to foot and huffed. His freckled face pursed in a serious grimace.
"Because—because it's not fair that you wouldn't let Nora come with us, but you let Scorpius."
"And don't say it's because Nora is my girlfriend like Dad did! Because even if he's thick when it comes to things like this—you and I aren't."
They exchanged a meaningful look. Ginny quickly shut the door and cast the Muffliato charm. She patted the mattress and sat as James did.
"It's not fair," James summarized. He toed the carpet miserably.
"I understand why you feel that way. But you and Nora are in a committed relationship, whereas Scorpius and Albus are...not even really aware of this themselves. The two don't really compare."
"They do so," James argued. "If you're worried about snogging, those two have just as much—"
"I'm not worried about snogging. I don't care who you lot snog. What I am worried about is my son getting even more swept up when he needs to be focusing on his N.E.W.T.s."
James parted his lips to object, his brow furrowed in indignation, but Ginny held up her hand.
"Yes, I know. You're incredibly clever, you got nine O.W.L.s, Neville was so moved by your terrarium last year that he teared up. I know, Jamie. All your successes make it even more gutting to think of you throwing it all away."
He frowned. "You dated during your O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s." He perked up. "And Dad was with you at the Burrow for nearly every holiday! For your entire school career!" He pointed at her, his eyes wide. "Hypocrite!"
Ginny sighed. She ignored his efforts towards deflection. "You got so many wonderful things from your father. And Merlin knows I love him. But you inherited his tendency towards obsessive behavior to a troubling degree. Nora's been here nearly all summer; you'll be fine spending a week without her."
He sulked. "I will not."
"James. Who got so obsessed with sugar that he gained fifteen pounds, refused to eat much of anything else for an entire summer, started secretly owl-ordering Chocolate Frogs in bulk with stolen money, and began having legitimate mood changes and withdrawals?"
He shuffled his feet awkwardly. He curved his spine forward, so he was staring down at his toes. "Me."
"Right. You," she said. He sniffed. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "My first born son whom I love very much."
He looked up at her, his expression vulnerable, hopeful, searching. And completely fabricated.
"You mean it?" he asked softly, sweetly. "You really love me?" He'd widened his brown eyes innocently. It probably would've worked on anybody else.
"With my entire heart. And you're still not having Nora over. Good try, though."
He stood up and glowered. "Well if you're not going to work with me here, Mum, then fine!"
He snatched the Quaffle and stormed towards the door.
"Bye, love. Good talk," Ginny called.
He slammed it shut behind him.
"Lily! Leave Albus and Scorpius alone!" Ginny shouted. She glowered fiercely towards her daughter until she turned her broom, heading in the opposite direction. She'd been following Albus and Scorpius for their entire (shaky) flight. Ginny shook her head in amused disbelief, turning back to her previous task. She'd just pulled the last article of clothing from the clothesline when Harry flew down beside her. He dropped from his broom and nodded towards James, who was floating listlessly near a tall oak, staring out at the far horizon with an uncharacteristically morose expression.
"What's wrong with James?"
"Oh, he hates me. I'm evil. I won't let Nora come on our holiday. What's wrong with Albus?"
"He hates me. I'm evil. I 'keep flirting with his mum and it's embarrassing'. What's wrong with Lily?"
Ginny heaved a sigh. "She hates me. I'm evil. I won't let her follow Scorpius all day long."
Harry held up his hand. Ginny met his sarcastic high-five.
"Good parenting," he said.
Ginny snorted. She lifted her left hand and checked her wristwatch.
"We'd better make sure they actually packed up after breakfast. We need to head towards the Burrow soon."
"I'll check on James's and Lily's progress," Harry offered.
"Please do. I'm biologically inclined not to hex my own children, but sometimes…"
"Careful. If Rita got a whiff of that statement, you'd be in Azkaban by nightfall."
Ginny blinked innocently. "Just a little silencing charm. That's all I meant."
"Sure," he grinned. He turned and peered towards the spot James was still hovering. "James!" He beckoned him over. "Lily Luna! You too!"
"Al, Scorpius!" Ginny added.
It took five minutes to get them rounded up. Ginny stepped into Albus's room with the two boys, checking over their packing to make sure they hadn't forgotten anything. To her amazement, Scorpius had color-coded his own packed clothes, though it didn't follow any logical sort of shade progression. All the greens were together, then the browns, then the silvers, then the blues…
"It's ordered by what colors make me feel the best!" he explained. "Green's soothing, so green's first. Brown is grounding, you know? And then silver and blue…" he paused. He looked a bit sheepish. "Er…nothing personal that red is last."
Ginny smiled fondly. "No offense taken. I like that method." She glanced over at her own son's packing "method", which pretty much consisted of throwing everything into a giant pile. "And, Al…good…pile-stacking."
"So," Ginny said. She sat down on the edge of Albus's bed. "Are you boys excited?"
Scorpius plopped down beside her. "Yeah!" he paused. "Is it true that the Burrow was originally a pigpen?"
Albus yelped. Scorpius immediately realized he must've said something wrong. Blood pooled beneath the translucent skin of his cheeks.
"Sorry! I—I meant! I just—!" He looked faint. He lowered his voice to a whisper. "Please don't hate me," he begged.
Ginny burst into laughter; she couldn't help it. Without really thinking about it, she reached forward and pulled Scorpius into a tight hug. He melted into it sooner than she'd anticipated, and for a painful second, all she could think about was the fact that he hadn't had a mother's hug in years. She batted the pain back before she lowered her arms.
"As a matter of fact, that's probably one of the only things your dad's told you about the Burrow that's actually true," she admitted. "It began as such a long, long time ago, but my parents gradually built onto it, and now it's got five floors and an attic, an orchard, a sizeable garden, and an ancient ghoul."
Hesitantly, he smiled. He looked up at Albus a second later as if to make sure he wasn't angry. When Albus smiled at him (as Albus always seemed to do whenever he looked Scorpius's way), he beamed back. Clueless, Ginny thought to herself, as she looked at each starry-eyed teen. Absolutely clueless. She gave them three days into the holiday before one of them came to their senses.
"They've got a clock like this, too," Ginny added, bringing her left wrist over in front of Scorpius, showcasing her wristwatch. Scorpius leaned over and stared at the watch face. His interest was not in the numbers running along the very edges of the watch; rather, it was in the multiple watch hands—each made up of a cursive name—and the tiny words surrounding them.
"Brilliant!" he cried, intrigued. He laughed a moment later. "Prison! Oh, I'm glad nobody's hand is pointing there. Albus, home, Lily, home, James, home, Harry, home!"
Ginny beamed. "The best gift my mum ever gave me. Comes in handy. She made it for me after your and Al's little…stunt last year."
Scorpius considered that. "I wonder what it would've said? If you'd had it then. 'Travelling'? 'Lost'? 'Mortal peril'?"
"My mum's got all her grandkids on her clock. She says everybody was stuck at 'mortal peril' for a bit."
Scorpius's blush slowly inched back as he paled. "Oh. Wow."
He and Albus looked slightly guilty. Ginny hurried to change the subject.
"Anyway. Did Harry give you the mirror yet?"
Scorpius nodded. He patted the top pocket of his suitcase. "Yep. Right here!"
"Good. Make sure not to miss any messages from your dad; he'll have our heads." Ginny rose. "Bring your suitcases down and leave them by the fireplace. We're heading to the Burrow in an hour and then Shell Island from a portkey once we're there."
She left the two boys brimming with excitement. The last thing she saw before she shut the door was their eyes locked on each other.
"Wow," Ron commented. He was—like all the adults grouped together—watching Draco Malfoy's son play with a particularly chubby garden gnome. "I haven't seen anybody this enamored with the Burrow since Harry saw it for the first time. And, blimey—I think the gnomes actually like him? He hasn't been bitten once!"
"Can you blame him for loving it here? You remember what Malfoy Manor was like," Hermione said softly. Her eyes were a million miles away. Ginny was glad when Ron reached for his wife's hand.
"It's not like that anymore," Ginny defended. She felt bound by her loyalty to Scorpius. "Albus spent nearly his entire summer there, you know."
"I still can't believe my own sister let my own nephew stay with the Malfoys…"
"Hush, Ron," Hermione scolded. "And I used to wonder where Rose gets her nepotism."
"Mum!" Hugo yelled. They turned as Hugo came bolting over, a muggle football clutched to his chest. He was out of breath. "Mum, tell Lily that there are no bludgers in football! She keeps throwing the other footballs at me!" He noticed Ginny and Harry. "Aunt Ginny! Uncle Harry! Make her stop!"
"Lily!" Harry and Ginny yelled in unison.
From the other edge of the garden, Lily yelled back:
"He was teasing me about Scorpius!"
Hermione kissed Hugo's forehead. "Go and grab the book I gave you. You can prove that there are no bludgers in football. Page ten will be sufficient, I think."
Hugo held Hermione's hand for a moment, his expression deeply fond, and then he nodded and took off into the Burrow's kitchen. Ginny could feel Ron's eyes on her.
"What?" she snapped.
"Why's Hugo teasing Lily about Scorpius, Ginny?" He had a wicked glint in his eyes.
"Oh, don't you even start," Ginny glowered. "It's nothing. Just a tiny crush."
Hermione and Ron exchanged a look that held dozens of (insulting) words. Words like: Ginny's crush on her elder brother's best mate wasn't 'nothing'. It wasn't just a 'tiny crush'. Ron turned on his heel.
"I think I'll go have a chat with my most relatable nephew, Al…"
"No, you won't!" Ginny yelled hurriedly. She could feel Harry's curious eyes on her, but she couldn't worry about that at the current moment. She ran forward and pushed Ron back. "Don't, Ron. He's touchy about Lily's crush on Scorpius. Don't bring it up."
"He'll be even touchier when his best mate marries his little sister and—"
All four adults spun around to face Molly. Ginny relaxed.
"Mum, tell your son not to harass his nephew!"
"Ron, don't harass my grandson. Get in here and help me with the packing."
Ron gaped, astounded. "Me?! Why do I have to—"
"Because I said so! Hurry, we haven't got all day!"
Ron was grumbling as he stamped his way into the house, looking every bit like his seventeen-year-old self for a moment. The fondness that image created gradually stamped out Ginny's animosity. She felt Hermione loop her arm through hers.
"Shall we check on Rose?"
Ginny saw the suggestion for what it really was. "Definitely."
The two women marched up to the room that had been Ginny's. The room they'd spent many summers in together. They walked in and shut the door behind them.
Ginny glanced questioningly at Rose's packed suitcase. She'd been up here fretting over what to bring since the Granger-Weasleys had arrived at the Burrow. She'd unpacked and repacked the suitcase thrice. But she was nowhere to be found now.
"She's with Arthur. They're trying to get all the supplies packed without magic," she explained. She plopped down onto Ginny's childhood bed. "So what's going on with Lily?"
Ginny sat beside her and reclined back. She stared up at her ceiling.
"With Lily? Nothing at all, really. She thinks Scorpius is cute, but that's the extent of it." Ginny hesitated.
Ginny propped herself up on her elbows. "But…I haven't ruled out the possibility that there might be a Malfoy-Potter union in the future."
Hermione was quick on the uptake (as she always was).
"Oh!" she said.
"Oh. How's…they're…?" She seemed at a loss.
"They're in denial, but Hermione, it's the most obvious thing. The way they look at each other…well, you'll know immediately," she hesitated. "Part of me keeps thinking but they're too young to feel that way. But then I remember that I knew about Harry from the start. When did I start doubting the validity of teenagers' feelings?"
"When you stopped being one and you realized how rampant they can be," Hermione supplied. "I do that with Rose, too. I don't mean to. And I usually catch myself. But sometimes when she's upset about something I find myself automatically dismissing it."
"Yeah," Ginny agreed, relieved that Hermione understood.
"So what do you think of it?"
"Scorpius and Albus?"
Ginny gave that question the time it deserved. She closed her eyes and mulled, listening to the far-off sounds of Roxanne and James laughing hysterically (most likely at the expense of Percy's eldest daughter Molly or Bill's son Louis, who were the 'quieter' ones).
"I think that, when they finally come around, it's going to be perfect," she realized. She thought about Scorpius's emotional openness. It was exactly what Albus needed, just like her own boldness had been the perfect foil for Harry's modesty. Together they were better, and she was certain that Scorpius and Albus would be, too.
"Rose told me that Scorpius has been nagging her for a date. Did Albus tell you that?"
Ginny bolted upright. Her heart plummeted.
"What?" she yelped.
"Yeah. Rose is adamant that she doesn't like him, but again, that could be her nepotism. I've been working on making her more accepting all summer, but it doesn't help when Ron says things like come on, Rosie, even ferrets deserve friends." Hermione's lip curled in disgust.
Ron's tactless nature didn't interest Ginny in that moment. "Scorpius asked Rose on a date?"
"Yes. End of last year."
"Bloody hell," Ginny lamented. "Damn. Look. I don't think Albus's heart can take another hit. We've got to do something about this."
"As the Minister for Magic, I'm uncomfortable meddling in our teenage children's love lives—or lack thereof."
"Of course you are. Let me amend that statement. Ron and I have to do something about this. I know he'll be on my side; he'd never be able to sleep at night knowing Rose was dating a Malfoy."
"I think you're panicking prematurely. Rose isn't even interested. Albus just needs to be patient, like you and I were," Hermione reasoned. "And anyway, they're not even sixteen yet. Who's to say they won't grow out of each other?"
Ginny gave Hermione a knowing look. "You'll see. Albus is good for Scorpius and vice versa. Things like that don't just happen."
"Unless they're just meant to be friends."
"Like you and Ron were meant to be friends?" Ginny challenged.
Hermione's cheeks lightly pinked.
"All I ask for is your insight. You're great at reading people and relationships. Just…keep an eye on the situation, all right? Let me know what you think. I'm just…well. I'm trying to do better by Al."
Hermione softened. "Oh, Ginny. You've never done him wrong. Not when he was a colicky baby and not last year, either. You've done a great job. You're a great mum."
She reached over and gave Ginny's hand a squeeze. She smiled in response.
"Thanks, but I did make mistakes. I was too removed from the situation. I thought, for the longest time, that if I sat back and offered quiet support from afar that Albus would figure everything out like I did…but I was wrong. I won't make that mistake again. Where ever there is potential for heartbreak or disappointment, I'll be there preemptively."
Hermione hesitated. "You know, not to criticize your parenting skills, but if you'd just read the parenting book I gave you when you got pregnant with James you would've saved yourself so much…"
Hermione trailed off, her words stifled by Ginny's cool look. Hermione quickly glanced at her watch.
"Oh, we should probably start getting the kids organized for the walk to the portkey."
Before Ginny could even consider hexing her, she'd hurried from the room. Those excellent instincts for self-preservation were what had kept her alive thus far, in Ginny's opinion.
"Roxanne? Roxanne! Fred, where's Roxanne?"
"—and did you check your suitcase for your books, Lucy? We don't want you getting behind because you left them at home…-"
"Dominique, how many times must I tell you— arrêtez!"
In the midst of the chaos, Ginny was finding it difficult to locate her daughter. The boys were easy—they were either there at first glance or they weren't; their dark hair (and Scorpius's white-blonde) made it relatively simple. But Lily blended in with all the other red-haired children.
"Lily!" Ginny called, impatient. She glanced up at Harry. "Is it bad form to accio your own child?"
"You know, I think—oh, there she is!" Harry nudged her, pointing off towards the kitchen, where Lily was walking hand-in-hand with her gran. He scowled a moment later. "Where has that child put her glasses now?"
Grumbling, and on the brink of developing a temper, Harry stormed off to intercede their youngest, before she could make it to the portkey without her glasses. Ginny turned towards the boys.
"All right. Stay with the group. No dawdling. No running off," she commanded.
"Yes, Mum," James and Albus chorused. "Yes, Mrs. Potter!" Scorpius cried.
Ginny paused to get a good look at them. James looked less hacked off at her (thankfully—she didn't know what to do with herself when he wasn't speaking with her, as they usually laughed together for most of the day). Albus was standing closely to Scorpius's side, whispering things underneath his breath to the other boy in what looked like a running commentary, and Scorpius was watching the ground, his face pink with withheld laughter, his fingers millimeters from Albus's. Ginny beamed.
"Right. Well—I'm going to go check in on the Lily drama. Stay together, boys."
She tactfully made herself scarce. She helped Harry locate Lily's glasses, she threatened to attach them to Lily's face with a permanent sticking charm if Lily tried to ditch them again, and then they finally set off towards the portkey. Everything was brilliant until halfway there, when Hermione made a sudden appearance at Ginny's side and dug an elbow into her ribs.
"Look," she commented.
Ginny followed Hermione's gaze. Lily and Rose were crowded around Scorpius as they walked. Albus looked supremely irritated.
"What?" Harry asked Ginny.
"Yeah," Ron pushed through Audrey and Percy and joined them. "What are you two up to? Sneaking off to Ginny's old room to chat—" he blanched. "Oh, Merlin. Are one of you…?"
"No, Ron," Ginny sighed. "Nobody's pregnant."
Ron let out a long breath of air like that was an actual worry that had been relevant for more than three seconds.
She and Hermione exchanged a look. This time, Harry chimed in with panic.
"If nobody's pregnant, why are you giving each other that look?" he questioned, his voice a bit higher than usual. He tightened his hold on Ginny's hand and pulled her closer to him, bending down to whisper in her ear. "I told you we shouldn't have done it without the potion last month, what if—"
"Oi! I can hear you!" Ron cried, horrified.
"Ignore him," George commented, from his place behind their chatting group. "He's just unfamiliar with the concept of sex."
Hermione glanced around and glared spectacularly. For a moment, Ginny feared their leisurely walk would turn into a duel.
"Harry, I'm Minister for Magic—arrest him," Hermione said instead.
Harry snorted. George reached forward and patted Hermione's ever-bushy hair.
"I only meant to tease my little brother, Minister. It's just an unfortunate coincidence that any tease of that nature also implies you."
"Yeah, yeah," Hermione snapped, though she didn't move away from him, so Ginny guessed she wasn't really that annoyed.
"Nobody—," Ginny gave Harry a firm look, "is pregnant. Including me."
"Then what…?" Ron asked, now even more curious.
"Ginny," they looked up as Bill walked through the surrounding family members, coming to walk alongside Ginny. "Will you be in contact with the Prophet this week?"
Ron groaned. "Bill, we were talking—"
"You get to talk to Ginny plenty," Bill said firmly. "Are you?"
"Yeah—I couldn't get all the upcoming pages edited in time because loads of people haven't even completed their articles for the latter part of the week yet. Why?"
"How are you contacting them? There's a situation with the Goblins and I thought it might be good to get the press involved…"
"Goblins? What issue?" Hermione asked sharply. "The St. Mungo's issue? Because I met with them right before we left—"
Bill looked stressed. "Perhaps we should walk and talk, Hermione."
With nothing more than a significant look between the two of them, they hung back, so they could walk at the end of the group. Ron was surly.
"I miss the days when holidays meant no work," He looked at Harry hopefully. "Did you bring any homework with you?"
Harry grinned. "Nope—I finished it all this morning!" He hesitated. "But that doesn't mean something won't come up during the week. In fact, it's probably more likely that it will than won't."
Ron was nearly as sullen as Albus for the rest of the walk.
They arrived at Shell Island late that afternoon. They spent every minute of waning daylight getting tents set up and luggage unpacked; they all moved horrifically slowly without magic, but Ginny's dad was too overjoyed for anybody to complain.
"Look what we did!" he exclaimed, beyond proud. He stood in the middle of their secluded section of the campsite, gesturing at all the clumsily-erected tents. "Without magic!"
Lucy and Little Molly began clapping, joined after a moment by Louis and Hugo. Fred and Roxanne clapped, too, but theirs was slow and exaggerated, clearly put on to make fun of their more eager cousins. Ginny scowled as James and Lily joined in, theirs heavy with sarcasm, too.
"Okay!" Arthur beamed. He clapped his hands together. "Time to get the fire going and make dinner!"
Oh, God. Ginny's stomach gave a distinct rumble, displeased by the realization that they'd only be able to eat what they could make without magic. She glanced around at her brothers and found nearly every one of them looking just as apprehensive.
"Audrey! Harry! Hermione! Rose, Hugo!" Arthur called, sectioning off everybody who'd ever cooked in a Muggle kitchen. "Here's the plan for dinner…"
While Harry got roped into that dismal experience, Ginny scanned the surrounding tents. After a moment, she spotted the upcoming fifth-years, sitting grouped on a particularly large suitcase. As she approached, she saw that Rose was talking nonstop, Scorpius was nodding intently, and Albus was brooding.
"—and I've no doubts that I'll get O's in Transfiguration, Charms, and Herbology. It's Potions I'm worried about. And Care of Magical Creatures could be better, but I think I'll still scrape an O—"
Sweet Scorpius, for his benefit, looked extremely interested. Ginny had a suspicion that he'd heard this spiel a million times (probably because everybody in their family had), but you wouldn't have known it just from glancing at his expression. Albus, on the other hand…
"Yeah, we get it, Rose. You're clever. Can you give it a rest? You're giving me a headache," he snapped.
Rose looked up pointedly. "Oh, hello, Aunt Ginny."
Albus snapped his head up towards her. He lowered his face into his hands with a groan, clearly anticipating a scolding.
"Hello, Rose. Your grandad needs you over near the fire."
Rose sighed. "I cooked at my mum's parents' house once. Once! And now I'm suddenly the expert on how to use a portable BBQ."
Ginny waited until she was out of ear shot. She then took the place Rose had vacated, between Albus and Scorpius. Albus was ripping blades of grass from the earth. Scorpius was sitting with his hands on his knees, watching all the surrounding familial commotion with a fond expression. Ginny reached over and wrapped an arm around Albus, bringing him to her side in a warm hug. It was a testament to how poorly he felt that he didn't pull away. Instead, he pressed his face into her shoulder and let out a nearly-silent sniffle.
"Fifth year," Ginny commented airily. "In my fifth year, I was dating Nora Thomas's dad for nearly the entire year."
Scorpius laughed. "James's girlfriend's dad?"
"The very same," she affirmed. "I was trying to juggle him, Quidditch, and my O.W.L.s."
Albus was regarding her suspiciously. Some part of him probably sensed what she was leading up to, and yet he fell into her trap perfectly.
"I thought you and dad got together your fifth year."
"We did, but not 'til the end. It took a while for us to get there. I dated Michael Corner, then Dean. Your dad dated Cho Chang the year before…or Crescent, now, anyway. Emi Crescent's mum, you know Emi in Lily's year—"
"Emi's on the Gobstones Team," Scorpius provided. "Mrs. Crescent organizes it."
"Does she? How very tragic."
Her dry tone—still somewhat steeped in petty resentment—pulled a reluctant smile from Albus.
"My fourth year wasn't nearly as strange as yours was, but it was strange in its own way. It's difficult, you know, to see the person you fancy with somebody else."
Albus ducked his face. He stared determinedly at his knees.
"Some people are slower to come around than others," she continued, indifferent to Albus's obvious humiliation. "Like your dad, Albus. Merlin, I think everybody in Gryffindor Tower knew before he did."
Scorpius snickered. "That must've been awkward for you. Did you know before he did, too?"
"About how I felt or about how he did? I knew how I felt and had for years. How he felt…well, I had a hunch, but I wouldn't listen to myself."
She wouldn't torture Albus any longer. She stood.
"Well, anyway. Just remember that good things take time, but they'll take even less with proper communication. Stay near the campsite!"
With that, she strolled off to assist her mother.
She was sweating and frustrated.
"Look," she hissed towards her mum, red-faced from the heat emitting from the fire. "Let's just use magic while Dad's back is turned, he'll never know."
Her mum's complexion was also close to that of a tomato. She leaned back and exhaled.
"No," she said stubbornly. "No, this is really important to your dad. We'll do it the Muggle way. Somehow…"
They'd been put in charge of boiling the kettle over the fire. Harry, Hermione, Audrey, Rose, and Arthur were grouped around the malfunctioning portable BBQ. Ginny shot a longing look towards Harry, wishing he'd swoop in and save them from the smoking fire, but he looked stressed out enough on his own.
"I just don't understand why this won't stay," her mum growled. She gave the flimsy campfire spit a cross shake; it collapsed immediately for the tenth time. It couldn't hold up to the pressure of their hands, much less the pressure of the heavy kettle that was supposed to hang from it. "Sodding—portable—Muggle—shite!"
Ginny blinked. She appraised her mother with something akin to pride.
"Wow, Mum. I've never seen you this frustrated," she paused. "Are you frustrated enough to betray your husband yet?"
"No! Ginny, stop trying to convince me to use magic; we're going to do this the right way!"
"Fine, fine…okay…if you like to suffer…"
The sound of a familiar voice made her perk up. She spun around, hardly daring to hope—
"Teddy!" She cried. Sure enough, the blue-haired young man was strolling into the campground, having caught a late portkey with Victoire. He beamed towards Ginny and hurried over, greeting the passing family with affectionate slaps on the back. He stooped down between Ginny and Molly and gave them both brief kisses to the cheek.
"What's going on?"
"We're trying to get this campfire spit—"
While her mum explained the situation to Teddy—her face shining brightly with perspiration and irritation—Ginny used Teddy's sudden appearance to her benefit. While her mum was distracted, she pulled her wand from her pocket, kept it pointed lowly, and whispered an incantation, effectively transforming the flimsy, aluminum spit to a sturdy cast iron one. Teddy turned his attention to it, to attempt some maneuvering fix, and then paused.
"Ginevra Molly Weasley!" her mum screeched.
Ginny felt half a dozen sets of eyes boring into her. She slyly slid her wand up her jumper sleeve.
"Potter, actually." Ginny gestured behind herself blindly. "Oh, look, one of my kids just…suddenly…needs me. Bye!"
She scampered off towards the tent her family was staying in, ducking inside just in time. She heard her mum raging about her to her father, but didn't feel too regretful. She nearly climbed out of her skin in fright though when Harry appeared out of nowhere and pulled her into his arms.
"Arg—don't do that!" she snapped. She pressed her face into his chest and struggled to level her breathing. "Where'd you come from? Weren't you just helping my dad?"
"We figured it out. What'd you do to your mum?"
"I fixed the campfire spit."
"I'm a witch and it was beyond Muggle help."
"Keep repeating that; maybe it'll soothe your conscience."
"My conscience is just fine, thanks." She leaned back in his arms and glanced around. "Wait. Are we…alone?"
"Alone? What's that? I don't know if I've ever experienced that concept."
"We are alone! Listen. I can hear Al, Scorpius, and Hugo talking. Oh! And it sounds like James and Lily are beating Bill's kids at Muggle football."
"Really? Damn. Bill's kids are way older than ours."
"Right. That's true." A beat. "So, is my wife going to tell me about the mysterious secret she's keeping with Hermione?"
"I dunno, go ask her."
He glared, though the corners of his mouth were twitching. Ginny couldn't help the swell of affection she felt for him. She grasped his forearm, tugged, and led him back through the doorway to their temporary bedroom. She pushed him down onto the bed and sat beside him. He tapped his toes with mock impatience.
"Okay, okay. Keep your knickers on."
"Oh—do I have to?" he sounded disappointed. Ginny rolled her eyes and curled up against his side.
"Listen. Scorpius and Albus."
He stared at her, waiting. Five seconds passed.
"Yes? What?" he finally asked.
"Hm? No, that's it. Scorpius and Albus."
She met his befuddled eyes.
"I'm not following," he admitted.
"Okay, let me rephrase: Albus and Scorpius dating. Albus and Scorpius getting engaged. Scorpius Malfoy-Potter. Albus Potter-Malfoy. Albus and Scorpius adopting little babies and—"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa—what?!" Harry was wide-eyed. "What? Like—that? Since when?"
"You really are painfully thick when it comes to feelings, aren't you?"
Harry never had the opportunity to reply. Their brief alone-time was ruptured.
"Ginny, you'd better plan on hiding out here for a while, Mum's in a strop," Ron greeted. "Ginny? Harry? Are you in the—bloody hell. Okay. I AM IN THE TENT. I AM WALKING TOWARDS THE BEDROOM. I AM FIFTEEN STEPS FROM THE DOORWAY. FOURTEEN. THIRTEEN. TWELVE…"
"Oh, shut it, will you? You can come in, we're just talking," Ginny snapped.
Ron stepped in. "Once bitten, twice shy. Do you blame me?"
For somebody who was supposedly wary, he wasted no time throwing himself down upon his sister and brother-in-law's bed. Ginny stared at him pointedly for a full ten seconds until he realized what she was attempting to communicate.
"Oh, were you two having a moment?" he asked.
"I was trying to tell Harry something."
"Yeah? By all means—carry on. It doesn't bother me." He reclined back into a supine position. He exhaled and shut his eyes.
Ginny rolled her eyes up to the ceiling. "For fu—"
"Ron? Ron, are you in here?"
"Back here, Hermione!"
"Look—" Harry began, as Hermione joined them on the bed. "It's not that I don't want you two here— I mostly always want you around. It's just…we were talking about something. You know. Family matters." Ron arched an eyebrow. "Potter family matters," he amended.
Hermione leaned over Harry. "Is this about Al, Ginny?"
Ron perked up. "Al? What about Albus? What's wrong with him now?"
Ginny bristled. "Nothing is wrong with him! You watch your mouth! I may not be able to hex you, but I can still punch you!"
Ron held his hands up defensively. "Okay, okay! Still defensive, wounds are still fresh—got it."
Harry stood up. He inserted himself between Ron and Ginny, obviously foreseeing a brawl. He reached over and gripped Ginny's thigh in a gesture that lived somewhere between comforting and restraining.
"Something is going on, though," Ron pressed, looking from face-to-face. He frowned a second later. "Hang on—everybody here knows but me! You're joking! What sort of rubbish is that?! That's my nephew!"
"There's nothing to tell, Ron…" Hermione tried to say.
Ginny glanced up at Harry. He was peering at her imploringly. With an internal groan (and a brief wish that her brother wasn't best friends with her husband), Ginny nodded.
"But don't you dare speak a word of this to Albus. I won't have you teasing him," she threatened.
Ron nodded immediately. "Okay. I promise. What's happened?"
Everybody looked at her. She sighed again.
"Scorpius and Albus."
Ron furrowed his brow. "I don't—"
"She's being cagey on purpose," Harry sighed. "Ginny says…apparently…they are…together. Like…together."
"They aren't together," Hermione tried to explain, "they're just blatantly taken with each other and—"
"WHAT?!" Ron stood up from the bed. His face was reddening rapidly. "Pardon? What?!"
"Oh, is your hearing going already? Okay. ALBUS – AND – SCORPIUS – FANCY – EACH – OTHER!" Ginny reiterated.
"But…" Ron looked from Ginny, to Harry, to Hermione. "He's a….but he's a…"
He sat down weakly.
"Ron!" Hermione cried, embarrassed. Her cheeks flushed. She looked at the Potters apologetically. "We don't care if Albus is gay. Ron, I thought you were better than that and frankly—"
"What? No—I don't give a damn about that. He's a Malfoy, Hermione! Scorpius! A Malfoy!"
Ron's look of wide-eyed horror punctuated his words quite well. After a brief, stunned silence, everybody burst into laughter (except Ron). He glared at them.
"What?! This isn't funny! Harry—you could end up being related to Draco Malfoy!"
"Well, Scorpius's other crush is Rose. So would you rather be Draco Malfoy's son's uncle? Or Draco Malfoy's son's father-in-law?" Hermione said.
Ron was truly scarlet-faced now. "What?! My—my Rose?! No. No! NO."
Harry blinked. "Blimey, Ron. Tell us how you really feel about it."
Ron squared his shoulders and nodded, an oddly-determined look gracing his features. "Okay. We've got to get Scorpius to recognize his feelings for Albus. It's the top priority on this holiday. For all of us."
Ginny nudged Harry. "And they say Rose gets all her ambition from Hermione…"
"We need jobs! And—and tasks!" Ron continued. He paced in front of them, every bit as serious as he'd probably been when they started their Horcrux hunt. "Get to it, you lot! Harry—start snooping around where you don't belong! Hermione, start planning things excessively! And Ginny…" he stopped. "Oh, well, you sort of just exist in matters like these, don't you? Yeah. Keep on doing that."
Ginny shot her leg out quicker than Ron could blink, catching his kneecap in a surprisingly hard kick. He tripped and went sprawling onto the carpet, groaning and clutching his leg.
"Anyway," Ginny continued, completely ignoring Ron's moans of pain. "What do you think about this, Harry?"
"I…dunno. I mean, things are starting to make sense that I'd never really considered before. I guess…I think…yeah. I think I'm all right with it. Sort of glad, actually."
Ron mumbled something into the carpet that most likely translated into: Glad? Why are you glad?
"He's a great kid," Ginny snapped, right as Harry said: "He's nothing like Draco was, Ron."
"You need to spend time with him before you judge him." The words were climbing up Ginny's throat, raw and defensive. "The kid's been shunned by the entire Wizarding world for his entire life. He's never had a friend before Albus, not really. His mum died and left him to navigate without her. And despite all that, he's the happiest, warmest kid there is. He's happier and warmer than the majority of our kids, who've never had anything more traumatizing than a paper cut happen to them. So back off him, all right?"
Ron forced himself to laugh, but it was uncomfortable and tight. "Wow," he said. "Somebody's defensive about her son-in-law."
Ginny reared her leg back. Hermione hurriedly rose and stood between Ginny and Ron, shielding him.
"Oh, don't kick him again! He doesn't—he just—!" Hermione broke off.
"He's just a prat?" Ginny supplied.
"He's not! And I'll bet Harry's not as accepting about this as he's telling you he is, either! Are you, Harry?" Hermione demanded.
Harry withered, as he always did when he was put on the spot in matters Granger-Weasley v. Ginny Potter.
"I really do like Scorpius," he told Hermione. "And I really don't care if Albus is gay."
"But…?" she pressed fiercely.
"But…I…would not…want…Al to live in Malfoy Manor?" he tried.
"Oh, great job sticking up for your best mate!"
Harry gaped. "I—but—look, that's not fair at all!"
The tent opened. Laughter spilled in.
"Mum! Dad! Are you in here?!"
"Yeah!" Ginny and Harry cried, both equally eager for a subject change. "Back here!"
James, Lily, Albus, and Scorpius stepped in.
"Dinner's ready!" Lily told them. "Except you might still be in timeout, Mum. Gran's mad."
"I'm not in timeout," Ginny said, but then she frowned, suddenly wondering if this was part of her mum's plan all along. Maybe she had been sent to her room with no dinner without even realizing it.
"Dad!" James burst. He'd clearly been sitting on whatever he was about to exclaim since they'd walked in. He—and the rest of the kids, now that Ginny examined them fully—was covered in dirt and grass stains. "Albus is talented."
"Of course he is," Harry said immediately, confused. Ginny wagered nobody noticed it except her, but Albus seemed to inflate at those words.
"No, like…properly, jaw-droppingly talented. At muggle football!" James exclaimed. He looked from adult to adult expectantly, beaming. "He scored fifteen goals! And Hugo says that's a big deal! And Hugo knows all about muggle football; he says he plays at Grandma Granger's house all the time with the muggle kids!"
James threw his arm across Albus's shoulders and drew him proudly to his side. Albus grimaced.
"Applaud him! It was brilliant! Applaud!" He demanded, growing insulted by their silence.
Hermione quickly began clapping, joined at once by Ron. Harry and Ginny chose instead to smile, knowing Albus wouldn't want the applause. Sure enough, Albus looked like he wanted to sink through the floor.
"It's not that big of a deal, I—stop applauding, please!" he pleaded, horrified. Harry quickly batted everybody's hands down.
"It was a big deal," Scorpius piped up. He was looking down at Albus, his face stretched into a wide smile. His eyes were dancing with affection. "It was brilliant! Nobody could keep up with him and he was running and kicking the ball at the same time! Amazing."
Albus was Weasley red now.
"It was just like chasing," he dismissed gruffly. "Only…I didn't have to fly. So that made it easier."
Ginny could tell the attention was grating on him, so she quickly rose. She threw her arms around him and gave him a hug.
"You're welcome for the chasing genes, then," She told him. She stepped back and lifted his mud-and-grass stained hands. "Go wash up before dinner. You too, James and Scorpius. Lily—let me see your hands. Ack! You wash yours twice!"
James and Lily walked off. Scorpius hung back, waiting for Albus to walk out first. Albus hung back, waiting for him. They awkwardly did an identical forward-shuffle, only to stop and then laugh, meeting eyes briefly and then looking away. With perhaps one of the most adorable smiles Ginny had ever seen gracing her son's face (bashful, affectionate, warm, gentle), Albus gave Scorpius a gentle nudge and then grabbed onto his hand, tugging him through the doorway with him. They were already laughing about something else as they headed towards the bathroom, the vague sound of their easy conversation flittering through the tent.
Ginny gestured pointedly at the doorway.
"I feel much better now," Ron said cheerfully. "There's no way he'll date my daughter."
"Is that all you care about? Honestly…" Harry shook his head in disbelief.
"You know, I can't remember the last time Ron looked at me like that," Hermione muttered. Ginny laughed loudly.
"What? I look at you all the time. I'm looking at you right now." Ron peered at her with an intense, probing expression.
"Somehow, I'm not feeling very wooed," Hermione said flatly. She rose. "Shall we go see how the food came out?"
Ron stood. Harry remained at Ginny's side.
"I'll stay here and starve it out with Gin," he said loyally. "Molly would never let me miss a meal."
"Don't be so sure…she was really hacked off. Somehow she equates using magic with not respecting Dad. But personally, I think she was just really angry about the campfire spit and is taking it out on Ginny."
Ginny crossed her arms stubbornly. "I don't regret it and I'm not sorry."
"…if your mum comes in here, let me do the talking," Harry requested.
"You know, this isn't bad at all," Ginny mused. She pressed her finger lightly over the locket-shaped scar on the middle of Harry's chest, watching as the blood briefly blanched from her point of pressure. "What if we skipped one meal every day and just escaped in here for a bit?"
"I'd do it in a heartbeat. But something tells me you'd make it maybe two days and then decide you like the meal more than me."
"Never! Well, that's not entirely true…it depends on what the meal is."
"Fair enough. But, just so we're clear…I'd ditch you for your mum's roast chicken."
"I'd ditch you for her roast chicken. We can rekindle our relationship at the dinner table."
She felt him press his lips against her hair. "Deal."
They enjoyed another moment or two in their bed alone, listening contently to the loud sounds of the rest of their family enjoying dinner, before the door was pushed open.
"You were supposed to bring an ordinary Muggle tent!" Molly greeted.
"Oh, Merlin, Mum! Can we not do this again? I'm sorry, okay. I can't sleep on the actual ground; bad Chaser joints, it's a thing, ask Gonçalo Flores. And I just wanted to help earlier. We weren't getting anywhere without magic," Ginny groaned.
She buried her face into Harry's bare chest. He was slowly and slyly tugging the blanket up over himself as if his bare chest were something extremely scandalous. Molly was unfazed.
"Harry dear, there's no reason for you to spend dinner in here, come and get something to eat."
"There's no reason for Ginny to, either. I'll stick with her."
Ginny couldn't remember the last time she'd been more astounded. She sat up and stared down at Harry, aghast. He had his jaw set.
Her mum was flustered. "Well…I suppose…if Arthur is okay with it…you can both join us…"
Everybody in the room knew that Arthur wasn't (and hadn't) been angry with Ginny. Just like everybody knew Molly had never intended to shun Ginny from dinner; she'd clearly come with the purpose of inviting her back, even if her pride made her go about it in a roundabout way.
"Thanks, Molly," Harry smiled.
Ginny's mum smiled back. "Make sure to hurry out before everybody gets seconds."
Ginny waited until she heard Molly rejoining the dinner party, and then she settled back down against Harry.
"Harry Potter," she said, impressed. "You just played Molly Weasley at her own game. Do you play me like that? I've got to keep an eye on you."
"Nobody can play you, Gin. It's not possible." He reached down, guided her face up, and kissed her. "Come on—let's see if there's any food left."
As if to prove he'd never been angry with her, Arthur coddled Ginny for the majority of the meal, who was quite happy to accept his babying. Sitting there by a warm fire, stuffed with a surprisingly great meal, her cheeks flushed from firewhiskey, surrounded by those she loved most…Ginny couldn't think of a thing she'd change.
That was the sort of mood her children caught her in as they sidled up, sly smiles in place.
"Mum," Albus voiced. She guessed they'd told Albus to ask because she'd always had a difficult time refusing Albus anything, but she didn't much care. She felt incredibly fond of everybody around her, to the point that she could find no faults in them. Let them beguile her if they wanted; they hardly ever got the chance to and it was something all children should get away with at least once.
"Hmm?" She asked. Her head was leaning against Bill's shoulder. Listening to him drone on and on to Charlie and Harry about matters at Gringotts was nearly as nostalgic and comforting as her mother's hugs.
"Can we please go down to the beach? We don't want to wait 'til morning. Teddy is going and so are Victoire, Dominique, Fred, and Roxanne. Please. Scorpius hasn't seen the sea in ages."
Ginny lifted her head from Bill's shoulder and turned, glancing towards Harry. He'd paused his conversation with Bill as Albus approached. He met her eyes in turn, questioning. Ginny gave a tiny nod. Harry smiled.
"All right," Ginny permitted. James let out an excited whoop. Lily clapped her hands together, overjoyed. "Two things first, though. One: let me see everybody's wands."
At once, all four produced them. Ginny wasn't sure whether she was pleased that they were as vigilant as they were, or concerned that they felt there was a need for it.
"Okay. Secondly: name the important three. Incantations and names."
"Disarming charm," Albus began with a sigh. "Expelliarmus."
"Shield charm!" Lily piped up. "Protego!"
"And the tried and true full body-bind curse. Petrificus Totalus."
"And the order is?"
"Shield ourselves, disarm them, bind them, find our parents."
Ginny waved her hand out towards the sea. "Perfect, go on. Have fun."
All four hesitated as if it were too good to be true.
"Seriously. Go on. Bring me back a pretty piece of sea glass or something."
James slapped Albus on the back before they hurried off, clearly impressed by his brother's success. Ginny beamed.
"I think he's happier. Don't you?" she asked Harry.
Harry wrapped his arm around her, pulling her to his side this time. She snuggled against him, breathing in deeply. He was one-third the smell of Amortentia. She felt like she could've happily melded against his side and remained there for the rest of her days.
"I do," he agreed.
Ginny watched her dad laughing from the other side of the fire, burning bright with life and fulfilment. In that moment, she was confident that Albus would be okay. No matter what happened with Scorpius, he'd be all right. Because he had all of them and there was no fiercer love.
Harry leaned down to kiss her briefly; Ginny mumbled her next words against his lips.
"Why do I get the feeling we're going to regret sending them off?"
He kissed her a final time and then pulled back. He grinned at her, his palm cradling her cheek. The broadness of his grin made his glasses sit a bit askew.
"Because they're definitely up to something."
"Ah. So that's what this nagging feeling is. Seems all it takes to muffle my instincts is firewhiskey."
"Let's hope they don't catch onto that; we'll find firewhiskey smuggled into our tea," Harry laughed. He drew her into his embrace. The firewhiskey had affected him, too; he was much more publically affectionate than he usually was. Ginny's brothers had long approved of her relationship with Harry, and they accepted the fact that she was married, but she still caught them grimacing periodically at public displays. However, he didn't seem to mind much now; Ginny allowed herself to be tugged over into his lap, her arms quick to loop around his neck.
"Should we go after them?" Ginny wondered.
"No, leave them be. I trust them to get themselves out of any trouble they may get into. I don't trust them enough to think they'll stay out of trouble…but then again, I never could manage that, either."
"Hey," Ginny realized. She rested her head on Harry's shoulder. "The kids are off somewhere. Nobody's in the tent. We could steal a few minutes alone, maybe even an hour depending on how much trouble the kids get themselves into—"
"Bill! Charlie! Harry! Ginny! Come on, we're playing poker!" Arthur cried.
Ginny deflated against Harry's chest.
"Like I said," he commented sourly. "What is alone?"
She sighed heavily. She grabbed his hand once she'd dropped from his lap, tugging him upright.
"Come on. Let's go see what mad things everybody's going to gamble with."