After the War, Ginny found herself spending an increasing amount of time in the Muggle Underground. It was easier breathing down there. It smelled awful most days, like sweat and weed and paint, but she didn’t mind the stench. It reminded her in a weird way of the Burrow and her brothers. When she moved in with Harry, she learned very quickly he did not like any odors in the flat. He would light candles, open windows, use Muggle air fresheners; anything to rid the small space of the smell. One time she walked in on him trembling and nearly in tears when she had accidentally left her unclean Quidditch gear out.
The clean smell of the flat didn’t bother Ginny so much, but sometimes it became too much. It reminded her too harshly of St Mungo’s and the time her dad spent there, of dresses washed and starched time and time again for funerals, of bedrooms cleared of belongings and personality. So she fled to the Underground, which Hermione had introduced to her. It was frightening at first. A train under the ground? What if it collapsed? But Hermione took her down there, showed her how to get to the platforms, when to step through the sliding doors so she wouldn’t cause a back up, and what to grab when the train lurched forward. The sweat slicked handles, the sticky plastic seats, the odd graffiti on adverts decades old; all of it provided her a small comfort. In this small portion of the world, Voldemort didn’t exist. He hadn’t stolen life from people too young; he hadn’t sucked the soul out of naive little girls.
Hermione got her an Oyster card for her birthday. She showed her how to exchange her Galleons for pounds and how to transfer it to her card. She explained her how to check her balance. Harry didn’t understand why Ginny would even need one, let alone want it. “Why can’t you just Apparate where you need to go?” he asked her, frowning down at the brand new card. Ginny couldn’t figure out a way to explain to him that she loved the noise of the place, she loved the smell, and the people she encountered there. She didn’t tell him that sometimes she bought Muggle newspapers and rode the trains for hours, just reading and watching people.
“I think it’s interesting,” she said nonchalantly and tucked the card in her wallet.
The next day she used her brand new Oyster card to access the Underground and got on a train headed towards West London. She sat across from an older man with scarce white hair and wrinkles that cast deep shadows across his face. He was reading a newspaper and whistling to himself. She nearly passed him off as just like any other man getting where he needed to be until a glint of metal caught her eye. Just below his knee on his right leg was a prosthetic leg. She looked at the man closely and noticed a long, pink scar extending from his eyebrow down to his chin. It cut right across his eye and Ginny realized he was partially blind.
For the longest time, Ginny thought that war hadn’t touched the Muggle world in centuries. She learned of the American Revolution in History of Magic, of wizards that were enlisted to fight and saved soldiers through “miracles.” She knew of the Seven Years’ War, the French Revolution, and the War of 1812, but nothing more recent. She knew nothing of the Boxer Rebellion, the Great Wars, the Afghani and Iraqi Wars, or the Gulf War. When she was supposed to be learning about Wizards’ positions during the twentieth century wars, the Death Eaters were occupying Hogwarts and she didn’t have much time for learning.
The old man must have caught her staring because he smiled warmly at her and explained, “Lost it in the War, I did.”
She blinked. Oh, she thought, he must be a wizard. “The First or Second?” she asked.
“Second, dearie. Got drafted in ‘41 and lost my leg in early ‘44, few weeks before D-Day.”
“The Second War was only a few years ago, though,” she said, eyebrows furrowing together. Was the old man a little forgetful? And what was D-Day?
“A few years ago? It was almost fifty years ago!” He frowned at her. “Were you not taught about it in school?”
She should have said yes, but Ginny shook her head.
The man mumbled something about the new generation, then stood up and sat next to her. “Let me tell you all about the World Wars. The first started in 1914, you see…” He told her all about the Clutch Plague, Hitler’s rise to power, the Holocaust, D-Day, concentration camps. She listened raptly and when he finished his tale, she realized she was crying. “It’s alright, honey,” he soothed. “It was an awful war, truly. I can’t believe you never learned about it.”
He introduced himself as Henry Taylor. “My friends and family call me Hank.”
“Everyone calls me Ginny,” she told him after she told him her full name.
“You don’t mind if I call you Ginevra, do you? It’s a very beautiful name.”
“I don’t mind at all, Hank.”
He ended up giving her his P.O. box number and asked her to write to him. “I don’t care much for phones,” he told her and she agreed.
Other times when she went down to the Underground, she would just sit on a bench and watch as people drifted by. Sometimes street performers would encroach on her territory, but she never minded much. After Albus was born, she would take him sometimes to watch the performers. He would watch with a pensive look on his face and always insist upon giving some change to them. But that was ages away.
The Underground reminded her fiercely of her brothers. After the War, after Fred’s death, they had all spread out. Bill went back to Shell Cottage; Charlie to Romania; Percy to working his way up through the Ministry rankings; George to a joke shop that felt like it was missing a piece; and Ron back to Auror training and later the joke shop. She threw herself into Quidditch after earning her N.E.W.T.s and traveled all over the UK. She ached for her brothers when she wasn’t playing or traveling.
Ginny remembered when she was seven and Bill was eighteen, getting ready to begin training to be a curse breaker. His hair was just starting to grow out and it was curling at the nape of his neck. He would let her braid his hair when it got longer and never complained when she pulled too hard. During the summer before he went off for training, he pierced her ears for her. He had just gotten one of his pierced and she loved his earring.
“Be quiet now,” he told her when he locked them in the bathroom upstairs. “We don’t want Mum to hear.”
“What are we doing?” she whispered excitedly. Though she and Bill had never been close, with eleven years between them, he always made time for her and she always looked forward to it.
“I’m piercing your ears,” he said and pulled out his wand.
He did it perfectly and when Molly spotted the miniature fangs in her ears, she turned beet red and chewed Bill out. After she ripped Bill a new one, she demanded the three of them go out and find Ginny more appropriate earrings. “Those will get caught on brambles when you play outside. Don’t want you ripping your ear open.”
So they bought butterfly earrings, little dragon ones, sparkly fake diamonds, and bright, colorful studs. Bill sent her ones from Egypt with runes engraved in them. “For good luck, wisdom, love,” he would write in scratchy, rushed letters.
Ginny would be the one to get Victoire’s ears pierced and later Louis’. Bill would come home from work and see earrings he had gifted to Ginny so many years ago glinting in his daughter’s ears and would laugh. He would sweep Victoire up in his arms and kiss her cheeks. He would be the one to take Lily Luna to get her ears pierced. Ginny would tell her daughter to be careful when she was rough housing. She wouldn’t want to rip a hole in her ear.
When Ginny took James Sirius shopping in Diagon Alley for his first year at Hogwarts, they would go into Flourish and Botts to buy books. She would browse the shelves with Albus, looking for a particular book, while Harry tried to pull Lily and James away from the Quidditch books. She would spot it, the dark green cover printed to look like dragon scales, and pull it down from the shelf. “This is Uncle Charlie’s book on dragons,” she would tell Albus. The title gleamed on the cover in gold: Dragons: The Coolest Creatures Ever and Here’s Why.
Later that night, all three of her kids would gather around her on the couch and listen to her read from her brother’s book. Harry would listen from the kitchen table, a scented candle lit in front of him. She would follow the words with her finger as Charlie did when he read to her. He was the one who taught her to read. She would sit on his lap when she was three years old and he would read to her. He read about dragons often, but sometimes he would let her pick the book. Sometimes she snatched Percy’s copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard or Charlie’s own copy of Quidditch Through the Ages . When she went off to Hogwarts and was feeling homesick, Ginny would go to the library and check out books on dragons. More often than not, Charlie’s name was scribbled on the back of the front cover, with stamps declaring the book overdue. Ginny’s would be several lines beneath him, also with an overdue stamp next to it.
After the War, Charlie started sending photographs and news clippings about dragons to Lily, who loved dragons almost as much as he did. She would spend a week in Romania with her Uncle Charlie, much to Harry’s discomfort (“What if she’s burnt to death?” he said, to which Ginny snappily replied as she packed Lily’s bag, “Harry, shut up. You fought a dragon when you were fourteen and Lily’s my daughter, too. The dragon should know better than to pick on a Potter-Weasley.”) and would return home with burns on her arms, sun kissed skin, and the biggest smile Ginny had ever seen.
Sometimes when Ginny went to the Underground, she would imagine Percy with her and giggle to herself. Percy would hate the place. He would hate the noise, the hustle of everyone and everything, and especially the sweaty handles and sticky seats. She could recall when they were younger, when their house was loud and messy and filled with toys and uncontrolled magic; Percy would turn his nose up at the sticky table, at the garden filled with weeds and flowers alike. Percy and Ginny would accompany their dad to the Ministry some days. Percy would always insist on sitting next to Arthur at his desk. He would seal letters for him and fold the paper airplane memos. His eyes would light up when Arthur charmed them to take flight. Ginny preferred to wander the floor when Arthur wasn’t paying attention. On chubby toddler legs or thin eight-year-old legs, Ginny would duck out of her father’s small cubicle and wander around the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She knew which Aurors would let her read old case files that had been closed decades ago. She learned which drawer the Head Investigator kept her Chocolate Frogs in and which Wizengamot administrators wouldn’t notice a few Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans missing. If a certain hit wizard was giving a briefing on a dark wizard, Ginny would know if they would notice her slip into the room. She also knew which ones would see her and give her a wink before continuing. Young interns always insisted on dragging her back to her dad, but she learned the last names of the Heads of the offices and told them she was their daughter or niece or cousin or whatever. Sometimes, Percy would join her and in hushed tones she would teach him everything she knew about Level 2 of the Ministry of Magic.
It was during their little adventures that Percy would allow himself to be a child. He would be the one to risk ducking under a chair or two to hear a briefing on a dark wizard. He would tell interns they were the grandchildren of the Head Investigator. He could get his hands on open case files without Aurors noticing. When Ginny accidentally got stuck in an elevator and got lost, Percy was the one to find her and bring her back to Arthur, who was too engrossed in a charmed rubber duck to notice their absence.
Later on, it would be Percy who was Ginny’s first choice as a babysitter. He would gladly take all three of her kids, plus his two girls, and let them wander the Ministry. He would tell his girls who had the best candy and who wouldn’t mind if they played hide-and-seek in their office. It was James who took an interest in his uncle Percy’s work, but only after he nicked a chocolate frog from a receptionist on Level 3, three floors below Percy’s office. James would come back from the Ministry when he was seven and attempt to Apparate after learning the three D’s of Apparition. Percy insisted on paying the hospital bill after his nephew splinched himself.
The night after James left for Hogwarts, Ginny woke up sweating and panting with the sheets twisted around her ankles. Harry turned over to her groggily and whispered, “Are you okay?”
She waited for her heart to stop pounding before answering, “I will be.”
“Can I do anything for you?”
“No. Just go back to sleep, Harry.”
“Are you sure?”
She waited until his breaths evened out again and then slid out of bed and pulled on some clothes. She stuffed her wand in her back pocket and then Apparated to an alley by an Underground entrance. She didn’t get on the tube, just found a place to sit and watched the midnight travelers pass by her without a second glance. A homeless man limped by and she gave him a few pounds.
Ginny wished Hogwarts had a phone, then she could call and see if James was alright. When she closed her eyes, all she could see was her little boy, all auburn hair and hazel eyes, staring down Amycus Carrow’s wand with Alecto Carrow grinning gleefully behind him. It had been seventeen years since the Battle and the Death Eaters’ occupation of Hogwarts and she hadn’t thought of her dreadful sixth year in over a decade. After seeing James off at Kings Cross, however, and seeing his excited but petrified face pressed against the train window, the memories hit her full force.
She had been able to repress the thought of it while she covered a Quidditch game, but with her defenses lowered in sleep, there was nothing stopping the horrid picture of James being tortured. So she fled to the one of the only places that reminded her of a time before war: the Underground. The cleanliness of her cottage with Harry, the sterile smell of a place meant to be home, reminded her strongly of the times she spent in the hospital wing with Madame Pomfrey, whether it was her laying in the bed or Neville or Luna or a first year who had gotten on the wrong end of one of the Carrows’ wands. She could recall the strong stench of healing spells that lingered even after Pomfrey left. It was a particular scent, like blood and vomit and whatever else covered up with the smell of flowers or fresh grass. It’s what their cottage smelled like; like Harry was trying desperately to cover up some smell no one else noticed. She had brought it up to him once, when he came back from shopping with plug in air fresheners for every room.
“Harry, why do we need all of these?” she had asked, cautiously poking the metal prongs. He had told her they could electrocute her.
He took the one she was holding from her and plugged it into an outlet by the kitchen sink. “So the house smells good.”
“Does it smell… bad?”
He wrinkled his nose. “Can’t you smell it? Like BO, or- or I don’t know, burnt grass or rotten fruit.”
“Not really, no.”
“Oh.” He frowned down at the bag of air fresheners in his hands. “I- I guess it’s just me then. Um, I’ll take these back to the store.”
She grabbed his wrist, rubbed her thumb over the scar on the back of his hand, I must not tell lies. “Why does the smell bother you?”
“It’s- I dunno. It reminds me of that last year, hunting for the Horcruxes. And I think- I read somewhere that scents trigger memories the best and I thought if I- if I filled the house with these air things that-”
She pressed a kiss to the side of his mouth. “It’s okay. Want me to help you plug these in?”
That night, when the house smelled like lilies, she took out her unwashed Quidditch gear and buried her face in it, inhaling the scent of something lived in, something familiar. She would do that after James was born, press her face into his thick, red hair and just breathe. He was living; he was real. She used to do the same thing after Fred and George went off to Hogwarts. She was especially close to the two of them, sharing the same love for mischief but preferring to watch from the sidelines rather than participate. When they left for Hogwarts, she lost two brothers at the same time.
She went with their mum to see them off at Kings Cross with Percy. They had their hand-me-down robes and used books, wands from dead aunts twice removed, and eyes alight with mischief. Ron grumbled as they loading their trunks onto the train, kicking up dirt with his shoes. “Do you guys gotta go?” he asked, finally looking up from the ground.
“Don’t worry, Ronnie,” George said, looping his arm around Ron’s shoulders. The twins weren’t easily told apart, especially when they were younger, but George had a small scar on his chin from falling on a rock and Fred didn’t. Ginny was sure she was the only one who noticed; she doubted George even noticed it. “You’ll be with us in two years, and by then we’ll know all of Hogwarts’ secrets!”
“What about me?” Ginny asked, bouncing up and down next to Fred.
“Obviously we’ll tell you everything, too!” Fred said. “You gotta carry on our legacy once we leave.”
“Do you planning on leaving a good legacy, boys?” Molly asked, pulling Ron out of the way of a trolley.
Fred and George looked at each other and then laughed. “Gotta go, Mum! People to meet and friends to make and all that,” Fred said, hugging Molly once more. “We’ll send you Snape’s wig, Gin!”
“Fred!” Molly chastised, but the twins were already boarding the train, laughter following them the whole way.
When they wrote to her, she didn’t receive two letters, one from each, but rather one with different handwriting scrawled on the parchment. George’s handwriting was small and he wrote in all-caps. Fred’s was large and pointed. They told her that Snape’s hair was real. “Can you believe it?” Fred wrote, his handwriting overlapping with George’s from the line above. “We were so positive it was a wig!”
“He’s gotta be, what? Like one hundred years old?” George teased.
“Older than Dumbledore I bet!” Fred said.
They told her about the Gryffindor Quidditch team and how the Beaters were graduating the next year, so they were going to try out. She asked them what kind of brooms Hogwarts had, which team was the best, who they thought the best players on all four teams were. Fred told her about the Marauder’s Map. “Don’t tell Mum. She’ll make us give it back.”
“It even shows Mrs Norris,” George wrote, “Filch’s cat.”
When they came home that summer, they taught her how to pick locks. “Our friend Lee taught us. He’s a Halfblood. We hadn’t learnt Alohomora yet so we needed some way to unlock doors. It’s real easy. Do you have a bobby pin?”
Once they showed her how to pick locks, she began using it to open the broom shed in the backyard. Usually she just used her dad’s keys, but he was always misplacing them and she didn’t have the patience to look for them. Sometimes if she was really desperate, she would use a surge of magic, but that was iffy. Knowing how to pick the lock on the shed, she could access the brooms whenever.
Ginny listened to Potterwatch religiously during the War, hoping to hear Fred’s voice. She would hug the wireless close to her chest at night and feel the vibrations of his voice. It was almost like she was hugging him. When the Order went on missions, it was always George who somehow managed to convince her to stay behind. He would turn to her, place his hand on her shoulder, and say, “Please, Gin? Mum and Dad are already worried about Ron and you’re their only daughter, our only sister. We could never forgive ourselves if something happened to you.”
He was taller than her; he always had been, but it was when he spoke like that, with undertones of responsibility and fear and love that he seemed biggest. She would hug him tightly and he would ruffle her hair. When they came back from the mission, she would have tea waiting for them and healing potions brewed.
Before she committed herself to Quidditch, Ginny had considered being a Healer. She always felt like she had helped in some way when she fixed up her boys after missions. But during the Battle, when the injured, dying, and dead were all laid out in the Great Hall and Fred was there, still warm with body heat, she realized she couldn’t help him. She saw Remus and Tonks. She had figured out on her own that Remus was a werewolf in her second year. She remembered Tonks laughing at the dinner table, changing her nose, or tripping over umbrella stands. She saw Colin Creevey, only sixteen years old, splayed out on the stone floor. Lavender Brown had long, bleeding cuts across her face and neck. The spot where George’s ear used to be was bleeding. Seamus was covered in soot, like he usually was, but he wasn’t laughing. Dean was beside him, clothes torn and burnt. Luna was wandering through the crowds with her light as a feather footsteps, but her head was downcast, her wand held limp in her hand. She looked down at Fred again, the ghost of a smile still on his face. Ron stood across from her, clutching Hermione’s hand desperately. Ginny couldn’t fix them. She couldn’t brew up a quick healing potion and fix them all. She couldn’t bring Fred back or Colin or Remus or Tonks or Mad Eye or Ted or anyone at all.
Harry came out of the woods, limp in Hagrid’s arms, glasses askew and broken. Voldemort’s whiny voice declared him dead; the Death Eaters laughed; Ginny felt something inside her curl up and die. She felt like she had been punched in the gut, like she had been dunked in cold water. Neville stepped forward, Voldemort laughed, asked if he was as weak as his parents. Harry stopped playing dead. Fighting broke out again and then suddenly, Tom Riddle’s body hit the ground.
Ginny stepped onto a train and stood in the middle, hand gripping the grimy metal bar. She was pregnant, had just come back from an appointment with her Healer. Two months along, he told her. She would be due in August. She lurched forward as the train chugged onward. An older woman, early sixties at most, tapped her shoulder. “Sit down, honey. You’re with child.”
Ginny glanced down at her stomach. She wasn’t even showing yet. “How do you know?” She took the woman’s seat and looked up at her.
“It was the way you stood,” explained the woman. She had long gray hair tied back in a low ponytail. Her long skirt ghosted over the ground. “You had your left hand resting right here.” She touched her right hip. “It’s how I always stood when I was pregnant.”
Ginny beamed at her. “How many kids do you have?”
“Five. Never should have let them outnumber me and my husband, but they’ve given me so many gorgeous grandchildren.” She smiled and patted Ginny’s stomach. “It’s a boy. I can feel it.” The train shuddered to a stop. “This is me. Good luck on your son.”
When James was old enough, Ginny would try taking him down to the Underground. He hated it. “It’s gonna fall on us, Mummy!” he cried at five years old, twisting his hands into her shirt. She should have known. James was just like his namesake. He hated being closed in, hated being confined. She Apparated them to Diagon Alley and bought them ice cream. She never took him back.
Ginny, Harry, Ron, and Hermione had date nights at least once a month. They would drop their kids off with their grandparents or uncles and then go to a Muggle restaurant. The war had been won almost a decade ago, but people still approached Harry, Ron, and Hermione to thank them for everything they had done. When they went to Muggle places, no one bothered them because they were nobodies. They could eat and talk in peace.
Harry and Ron joked like they were kids again. Ginny and Hermione would roll their eyes at their husbands but giggle with them. They talked about their work, about Hermione’s latest promotion, Ron’s latest invention, Harry’s recent arrest, or Ginny’s headlining article on Quidditch in the Prophet . Sometimes they talked about their kids, how James had started going by Jimmy; how Rose had managed to avoid bathtime by making the water Vanish with her uncontrolled magic; how Albus preferred Muggle clothing over starched robes; how Hugo loved to tag along with Hermione to the Ministry, but only because he liked to see how far away he could get before she noticed his absence; how Lily was giving Harry a run for his money on a broom and she was only four.
Sometimes the four of them talked about their time at Hogwarts, mostly about that small sliver of peacefulness during Ginny’s fifth year when she and Harry got together and Hermione and Ron were talking again after his breakup with Lavender. “I felt like all of Hogwarts knew you two liked each other before even you guys did,” Ginny laughed, nodding at her brother and Hermione.
“Seriously?” Harry asked. “For me it felt like it had come out of left field.”
“That’s because you’re oblivious,” Ginny pointed out.
“Seamus told me they had betting pools on which of us would end up together,” Ron said. “Apparently he had put all his money on Harry and Hermione and lost quite badly to Dean, who supposedly knew we were ‘meant to be’ since second year.”
“I guess it was kinda obvious with how jealous you were after the Yule Ball,” said Harry.
“I wasn’t jealous!”
“Oh, yes you were,” Hermione and Harry said simultaneously.
“You were fraternizing with the enemy!”
Hermione rolled her eyes and pecked Ron on the cheek. “It’s okay, babe. Viktor was pretty fit, but I still love you.”
“Was?” Harry asked with a quirk of his eyebrow.
“Yeah, okay, that’s true,” Ron chuckled.
Other times the conversation turned to the War. They would swap stories about Remus or Tonks or Fred. Ginny told them how she figured out Remus was a werewolf. “I mean, it was pretty obvious wasn’t it?” she asked. “Always disappearing around the time of the full moon, the scarring. Are you telling me you guys didn’t notice?”
“We were a little preoccupied with a supposed murderer going after Harry,” Ron said.
“Can you believe his Animagus form was a black dog?” Hermione giggled. “I mean, his name was Sirius Black. Sirius is the Dog Star.”
“Are you serious?” Harry asked, then laughed at his unintentional pun.
They would leave the restaurant around that time and head to a nearby bar where they could drunk on stuff stronger than wine. They talked about their childhoods, with Ron and Ginny telling hilarious stories of their older brothers. Ron talked about the times Bill and Charlie managed to sneak off to the nearby Muggle and do magic tricks for money. “Bill said they found a book on Muggle magic tricks in Dad’s shed and that’s how they got the idea. Mum put a lock on the shed after that.”
Ginny told them about the multitude of pranks the twins had played on Percy, who was an easy and fun target because of how flustered he got. She told them she cried when she realized she didn’t have parts like the rest of her brothers, who would streak through the halls after showers. Molly had to explain to her the difference between girls and guys when Ginny was four. Ron told them one time Fred and George got him stuck in an apple tree and he wasn’t found until dusk.
Hermione talked about growing up in the Muggle world. She told them she loved going to the cinema with her parents and they always made sure she brushed her teeth. She realized she was magic after reading Matilda . She explained that the main character could move things with her mind, so she tried it and it worked. She said growing up as an only child was lonely sometimes, especially since a lot of kids her age were intimidated by her intelligence; at least that’s what her parents told her.
Harry never talked much about his childhood, but he told the three of them he had always been very good at sports even though he was always picked last. He said that when his class played football, he always found a way to trip Dudley and embarrass him.
Once the four of them were ranging from tipsy to drunk, with Hermione being the most sober and Ginny being the least, they would head their separate ways. Ginny and Harry would stumble into their clean smelling home with toys strewn across the floor and collapse into bed.
Harry was always soft and gentle, always considerate of Ginny’s feelings and what she liked. He liked to run his hands over her body, lingering on her shoulders, waist, and hips. He would press soft kisses all over her skin, sometimes sucking harshly to leave a mark. Ginny liked to run her fingers over his scars. She would press light kisses to the lightning shaped one on his forehead, soothe her tongue over the burn on his chest from the locket, and rub her cheek against the words etched onto the back of his hand. She liked to play with the fine hairs at the nape of his neck which were so, so soft.
Harry liked to hold them upright, him kneeling and Ginny with her legs wrapped around him. He would wind his strong arms around his waist, pressing them together from shoulder to hip. Sometimes they would lie down and Ginny would drag her nails lightly over the skin on his lower back and bum, causing him to shiver. When she was on top, she would make sure he laid back and she would sit on his lap, running her hands over his abdomen, over scars earned from years as an Auror. His eyes were always so green and bright and so full of love. Sometimes Ginny would find herself crying from an overload of emotion and look at Harry to see with damp eyelashes as well.
When all was said and done, she would curl into his chest and press kisses there, his fingers playing with her hair. Their legs would tangle under the blankets, toes seeking out warmth only the other could provide. “I love you,” Harry whispered, lips brushing over her hair.
“I love you, too,” she whispered back, pulling him closer to her.
In the morning they would shower together, washing each other’s hair and throwing bubbles at the other when they were tickled. They would make breakfast together, eggs and toast, and eat at the table, their feet tapping each other beneath it. Together they would go to get their kids from whatever relative they were staying with, pinkies linked together if they drove in a car, or hugging each other if they Apparated.
Ginny and Harry’s kids would make disgusted faces when they saw their parents like that. “That’s gross!” Jimmy would exclaim, covering his eyes.
“Stop it, Jimmy!” Lily shouted, punching his shoulder. “You only think it’s gross because no girl would touch you with a ten foot pole.”
Harry laughed out loud at that, much to Jimmy’s displeasure, then promised to help him find an article for their competition to appease his son.
Jimmy, Al, and Lily liked to scour the wizard gossip magazines for fake news about their parents’ impending divorce or something like that. As they grew older, it became a competition to see who could find the most ridiculous. Al won the first year when he found one saying Ginny and Harry were splitting up because Harry had been caught kissing Ron. Lily won another year with an article saying Ginny was actually Harry’s mum from the past and the shocking news lead to a divorce. Even Harry and Ginny began to play along. Harry found one that said Harry was actually Voldemort and Ginny was Grindelwald reincarnated and the two of them were planning to create the most powerful dark wizard. That one earned a spot on the fridge. Ginny’s favorite was one that said Harry had two penises. James pretended to throw up when Ginny gleefully showed them her find.
“So that’s why Jimmy has no dick,” Al teased and was tackled to the ground by his older brother.
But their marriage wasn’t always perfect. They fought a lot, both of them strong-willed and stubborn. Harry and Ginny never fought about money, as they and their kids were set for life with Harry’s inheritance. Sometimes it was about how they raised their kids. Harry was more likely to have mercy and let them off, but Ginny preferred a strong hand like Molly had. Other times it was about how many hours the other worked. Sometimes Harry complained Ginny spent too much of her free time with Hermione or Luna or Angelina and Ginny pointed out he spent too much time with Ron or Neville or George.
It was during a particularly gnarly fight soon after Lily left for Hogwarts that Ginny Apparated away in anger to the Underground. She stormed down the stairs and swiped her Oyster card angrily, only to find she didn’t have enough money on it to access the trains. She beat her fist against the machine, as if that would fix her problem, and swore loudly.
She walked up the stairs gloomily and noticed with distaste that it had started to rain. Ginny could have easily Conjured an umbrella once she had ducked into a back alley, but she let the rain pour over her as she walked down the streets of London. She stuffed her hands in her pockets and kicked at pebbles as she walked down the pavement.
The fight had been about their kids and if they were ready to hear about their parents’ role in the Second Wizarding War. They knew Harry was the Boy Who Lived, the only person to ever survive the Killing Curse and they knew he had defeated Voldemort when he was seventeen during the Battle of Hogwarts, but nothing much beyond that. James was a fifth year and the unit on the War would be coming up after Christmas break. Harry and Ginny wanted him to hear everything from them first and not from Professor Binns, who often gave the lecture with an air of boredom and disassociation.
Sometimes McGonagall had Harry come speak in different classes and Ginny would go along for moral support. He would tell them about his time at Hogwarts, from Quirrell in his first year to the Death Eaters infiltrating Hogwarts during his sixth year. He would talk about his time spent hiding in the English wilderness with Ron and Hermione and their hunt for the Horcruxes. He would talk briefly about what happened in the Forbidden Forest, but never mentioned that he had actually died. Only the Weasleys, Hermione, Andromeda, and a few professors knew that. Once he finished his tale, he would open the floor to questions. Ginny noticed that the most frequently asked question was, “Why did you never use to Killing Curse?”
Ginny, who had never asked Harry that, feeling it was too intimate a question, listened to his answer raptly. “Er, I always felt… I don’t know. It’s always felt dirty, sort of, thinking of casting it. In the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, I had tried to cast the Cruciatus Curse on Bellatrix Lestrange, but it didn’t work, because I didn’t truly want to hurt her. I think- I think you have to really feel it to cast a Killing Curse. You have to really want the person to die.” He sighed and pulled his glasses off his face to rub his eyes. “Even after everything Voldemort had taken from me, my parents, my godfather, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Ted and Nymphadora Tonks, Mad-Eye Moody, by brother-in-law, Fred, and so many friends and classmates, I don’t think I could have found the strength in me to mean the curse, you know? I think that if you cast the Killing Curse and it works, it plants something… evil, I think, in your soul. Like, a dark mark sort of, ‘cause once you kill someone, you can’t bring them back, ever. Does that make sense?”
The kids, and really they were kids even though they weren’t much younger than Harry was when he killed Voldemort, nodded slowly. A few even appeared to be crying. Ginny reached out and squeezed Harry’s hand. Later, she would hug him tight outside the wards of Hogwarts when he was trembling with the trauma of reliving some of the worst parts of his life.
Even though Harry gave lectures on the War, their children knew very little. Ginny said they should tell them all at the same time, that way Al and Lily wouldn’t hear it from Jimmy, who had a tendency to exaggerate things. Harry argued that while Al might be mature enough to hear it, Lily certainly wasn’t at only eleven years old.
“She’s eleven, Gin! There’s no way I’m burdening her with all of this!” Harry protested.
Ginny replied, “You wouldn’t be burdening her! You would be telling her about you and how you fought so she could have a better life. And you know age has nothing to do with mental and emotional maturity. You were eleven when you first faced Voldemort, granted he had no body, and I was eleven when I was possessed by him.”
Harry tugged at his hair, making it messier than usual. “The point of the whole damn War was so they would never have to go through anything like that! We never should have!”
“Harry, listen. I grew up with siblings and we- we tell each other everything. So, if we just sit Jimmy down and tell only him, he’ll go and tell Al and Lily once they’re alone. And, well, younger siblings tend to mature faster than the older ones, at least from what I’ve noticed. And we have to tell them before some of the older years you talked to get to them.”
“I told the older years not to tell any of the youngers what we discussed and I am not telling Albus and Lily.”
“They deserve to know!”
“Al’s not even fourteen yet! And Lily turned eleven March!”
Ginny crossed her arms over her chest. “How old was Teddy when you first told him everything?”
He rubbed the back of his neck. “I… haven’t.”
“I figured Dromeda would tell him!”
“Merlin, Harry!” Ginny yelled. “We can’t just keep these kinds of secrets from our children!”
“They don’t deserve to know!”
“Fuck, Harry! You’re saying our kids don’t deserve to know why our house always smells like no one lives here? Why we sometimes we wake up screaming? Why their uncle Ron pulls his wand on people who jump him from behind still? Why Hermione can’t stand being touched by strangers, because they remind her of Bellatrix holding her down? Why I cried every night for a week after each kid left for school because I’m afraid people like the Carrows will harm them again? They don’t deserve to know? Do you hear what you’re saying?” she screeched.
“I know what I’m saying otherwise I wouldn’t be saying it! Dumbledore kept things from me and everything turned out fine!”
“You call what you went through ‘fine’? He knew all along you would have to die and he never told you! He took you to find that locket knowing you would probably have to watch him suffer! He knew Snape was on our side and never told you! Snape had to die so you could know everything! You call that fine?” Ginny spat, face red with exertion. “He manipulated you! And we named our goddamned son after two people who did!”
“It’s my life, Ginny, and I get to decide who knows what happened!” he roared.
“Are you saying I didn’t live through this shit, too? Fucking hell, Harry! I never knew if Ron or Hermione or you were safe! I had to suffer through the Carrows! I watched my brother die! You’re not the only one who lost people! Just because you’re the bloody Chosen One doesn’t mean your feelings matter more! Mine matter just as much!”
“I never said they didn’t! Stop twisting my words! They’re my children and I don’t want them knowing until they are older!”
“They’re my children, too!” Ginny exploded.
Harry pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes and groaned loudly. “I can’t do this right now. I’m going to Ron and Hermione’s.”
“Are you serious? You’re just walking out? That’s not how we fix this, Harry!”
“I’m done for tonight!” he shouted as he yanked on his coat. “I’ll see you after work tomorrow.”
“Don’t you dare leave this house, Harry Potter!” she demanded, following them into their backyard where he kept Sirius’ old motorbike. “Don’t you fucking dare!”
Harry didn’t respond, just kicked the engine to life and enabled the Disillusionment field. She heard the engine roar and then the sound faded as he flew into the night. She screamed herself hoarse in the backyard before Apparating to the Underground.
She was soaked to the bone by the time she had recounted their argument several times. She cast a nonverbal drying spell as best she could and then ducked into a coffee shop. It was late, almost midnight according to the clock behind the cashier. She ordered a single coffee with four sugars and four creamers. “Bit of a sweet tooth, eh?” asked the cashier who looked to be in her early twenties.
Ginny shrugged. “You could say that.”
Once she got her coffee, she wandered back outside, this time using a repelling charm to keep dry. She finished her coffee as she continued meandering around London, chucking the cup in an overflowing bin. Ginny found an abandoned alley and stepped into it to Apparate home. The cottage was empty and cold, the windowsill in the kitchen damp from the rain because of the open window. She closed it and then leaned against the counter, staring at the space around her. There was a candle on the kitchen table, the wick charred. Harry lit one after every meal. There were dishes in the sink, but she couldn’t be bothered to clean them, by hand or with magic.
Ginny pushed herself from the counter and walked into the living room. The Daily Prophet lay open on the table, next to a Quidditch magazine she had written a piece for. Their Muggle TV was on mute, the weatherman gesticulating wildly on screen. She switched it off and swept the paper and magazine into a basket. She thought about Flooing to Ron and Hermione’s to collect Harry, but decided against it. The kids’ bedrooms upstairs were empty and the doors locked. They wouldn’t be open until December. A family portrait hung between Jimmy and Al’s rooms. It was a magic one and they were waving at her excitedly. Harry had his arms crossed over his chest and refused to look at her. She sighed and went to bed.
Ginny woke up a few hours later, the stars still twinkling in the sky. The bed dipped behind her and she felt Harry slip under the covers. There was a moment’s pause before he curled himself around her. “I’m sorry, Gin,” he whispered, kissing below her ear.
“I’m sorry, too,” she mumbled and turned over to face him. “I shouldn’t have shouted.”
“And I shouldn’t have implied your feelings don’t matter.”
“You didn’t, Harry, I was just-”
He interrupted, “No, you were right. It’s your life, too, and you’re a part of mine and… we should tell them all together. That way they don’t have to process the information alone.”
She bit her lip. “I’m sure. Now go to sleep. I’ll wake you up in the morning. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
When the kids came home for Christmas in a flutter of robes and Quidditch gear and gifts bought from Hogsmeade, which Lily had snuck into using Jimmy’s Invisibility Cloak and Al’s Marauder’s Map (“Dad told me he did it his third year!” she protested when Ginny chewed her out.), they greeted their parents with quick hugs and then piled into the car.
“That’s because your dad’s an idiot, and you’re not,” Ginny told her.
The five of them went to the Burrow on Christmas. The lopsided house was filled with kids and gifts and food. All of Ginny’s brothers were there, with all their kids, which made a total of twelve grandkids for Arthur and Molly, with the addition of Teddy who was an honorary Weasley just like his godfather. Andromeda brought her famous double chocolate cookie sandwiches. Neville showed up with Hannah and a mandrake to show to Hugo who loved Herbology almost as much as he loved his mum. Augusta Longbottom made an appearance with her atrocious hat, which still creeped Jimmy out majorly. Luna and Rolf had just come back from Japan where they had been studying magical creatures. The twins, Lorcan and Lysander, shadowed Percy, much to his annoyance as he couldn’t tell them apart. (They kept switching their names anytime he asked.)
Molly prepared a feast fit for a king’s army, with the help of Harry, Fleur, Andromeda, and Audrey. The Burrow was filled with a total of thirty two people. People shouted across the table and the kids threw food to their cousins and friends. Ron and Jimmy teased Teddy and Victoire when they kissed chastely and Percy talked to a considerate Rolf about his work in Magical Transportation, even though he talked about stuff like the fineness of Floo powder. Neville talked to Al, his godson, and Hugo about his lesson plans for after hols. Hannah talked with Ginny about the Leaky Cauldron, which she had taken ownership of after Tom retired, and how she was thinking of remodeling the rooms upstairs. George used his new trick candy on Lucy, Percy’s youngest, and Molly II slipped a piece of it in George’s mashed potatoes for revenge.
They ended the night with gift exchanging, which always included a few minor explosions courtesy of George, Ron, James, Molly II, and sometimes Rose, depending on her mood. Harry and Ginny got each other the exact same thing: the newest broom. They agreed to stop giving each other gifts after that. Jimmy got a Wizard’s chess set where the pieces squirted water on the loser from Ron. Lily got a (thankfully fossilized) dragon’s egg from Charlie, which Rolf examined and told her the exact breed and which gender it would have been based on shell color. Al got a Weasley sweater from Molly in dark green with silver lettering that said, ‘I’m a Potter-Weasley and a Slytherin. Run.’ He wore it for a month.
Jimmy, Al, and Lily had all pooled their pocket money and with some help from their grandparents, Uncle Ron, and Aunt Hermione and gotten Harry and Ginny a reservation at a new wizard’s resort in Brazil. Ginny planned on using it as soon as possible.
The Potters left the Burrow a little after one in the morning after Lily had fallen asleep and fell into Charlie’s glass of firewhiskey. Ginny and Harry fell asleep on the couch in the living room with a fire going tucked under the new blanket Molly had knitted for them.
A few days after the New Year, when the kids were due to return to Hogwarts soon, Ginny and Harry sat the kids down in the living room and told them about the War, everything about the War. Harry even told him about his childhood with the Dursleys and Ginny about her possession her first year. Harry told them about the Philosopher’s Stone and Ginny about Slytherin’s Chamber. He told them about his godfather, Sirius, and the Triwizard Tournament. He touched briefly on Cedric’s death and had to leave to get a drink of water after that. He moved on to Umbridge and Dumbledore’s Army, then to Draco Malfoy’s horrific sixth year.
“Scorpius told me about that our first year,” Al told them. “But Mr Malfoy has changed a lot since then. I know because he writes to Scorp at least once a week and always sends him sweets and pocket money for Hogsmeade. Sometimes he sends me sweets, too.”
Ginny told them about the Carrows and Harry about the Horcruxes.
“So, he actually split his soul?” Lily asked. “Why?”
“It would make him somewhat immortal,” Harry explained, “but creating a Horcrux is extremely difficult. You have to kill somebody to make one. And Voldemort split his soul seven times.”
“He killed seven people?” Jimmy whispered.
“More than, but we think he created his first Horcrux when he was sixteen,” he answered.
Harry told them about the Battle. He told them how their uncle Fred died, with a smile on his face. He told them about Remus and Tonks, who had died in a fight so their infant son could have a better life. He touched on Colin Creevey, so young when he died, but not weak, never weak. Ginny talked about her brief battle with Bellatrix before Molly stepped in and killed her.
“She really yelled that?” Lily asked.
“Never mess with your Grandma,” Ginny said in response. Lily gulped.
Harry told them about the Forest.
“This is- This is gonna be hard for you kids to hear, harder than anything else. No one but our close friends and family know this, so you can’t go around announcing it. Do you understand?”
He waited for them all to nod and then continued. “Voldemort gave me an hour to make my decision. I could either meet him in the Forest and face him on my own, or fighting would resume and more of my friends and classmates would suffer and die. Of course, I made my choice right away. I would have to face him, but Ron, Hermione, your mum, everyone told me I couldn’t. So, as they mourned over Fred, over others they had lost, I went to Dumbledore’s office and watched Snape’s memories. He had known my mum before Hogwarts. He had loved her. He was the one who told Voldemort about the Prophecy, who sent their Patronus to guide me to Gryffindor’s Sword, who died because Voldemort thought he was the Master of the Elder Wand. His memories helped me piece together the final puzzle. I was a Horcrux.”
“ What? ” Al shouted, jumping to his feet.
“When he tried killing me on Halloween, his spell backfired because of my mum’s love for me. He unknowingly created an eighth Horcrux and it lived inside me. It’s why I could speak Parseltongue and why our wands shared the same core. It’s why I could see into his mind through dreams and he could see mine.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Jimmy said, shaking his head. “That means, to destroy the Horcrux, you would have to…”
“Die,” Harry finished. “I would have to die.”
His kids stared at him with their mouths agape. Lily was the first to speak. “So… Voldemort could come back.”
“I died in the Forbidden Forest on May second. I walked into the woods and he hit me with the Killing Curse. His last Horcrux was destroyed and he was the destroyer. Voldemort didn’t kill me, he killed the part of himself that lived inside me. I was still alive. Narcissa Malfoy, Scorpius’ grandmother, checked to see if I was dead. She bent over me and found my pulse. She knew I was alive and awake. She asked me if her son was still alive and I said yes. She stood up and told Voldemort I was dead.”
Harry told them about Hagrid carrying him back to the castle, about Neville killing Nagini, and Tom Riddle finally becoming a mortal man. He told them which curse he cast and why he didn’t use the Killing Curse. He told them what became of the Elder Wand and the Resurrection Stone. And then he was done.
His kids stared at him, eyes wide, all of them crying. “Dad…” Lily whimpered, voice wavering, and launched herself at him. He hugged her tightly and kissed the top of her head. Al joined in next, then Jimmy, and finally Ginny. The five of them held each other for a long time. They slept on the couch together that night, all on top of each other. It was uncomfortable, but none of them could bring themselves to move.
Ginny made breakfast the next morning, blueberry pancakes. Jimmy kicked Lily under the table and Al stole a pancake from Jimmy’s plate. Harry leaned against the counter, a mug of coffee in his hand, and Ginny leaned against him, arm around his waist. “We did good,” she said as Lily threatened Jimmy with her fork.
“Yeah,” Harry agreed, pulling her closer. “We did.”
Ginny swiped her Oyster card and walked to the tube. It smelled like piss and weed and drying paint. The seats were sticky and the metal bars were grimy and covered in fingerprints. She tossed a few pounds into a performer’s guitar case.
She stepped onto the train just as the doors slid closed and leaned her head against the window. It rattled her brain, but she didn’t mind much. She was getting married tomorrow and she should have been at home, getting rest or whatever it was brides did the day before a wedding. She twisted the engagement ring around on her finger. It was a silver band with a single diamond on it. “Simple,” Harry had told her, “because I know you hate extravagant things.”
There was an engraving on the inside. It read ‘Always.’
Ginny smiled and closed her eyes.