A Woman's Choice

In an eccentric-looking, multi-storied house in Devonshire not far from the Ottery River, flame-haired Ginny Weasley sat cross-legged at the top of her bed, a plump throw pillow and her bed pillow behind her back. In her hand she held a black-and-white photograph of a young man in round-lensed spectacles, his dark hair an unruly mess. A grin was spread across his face, enhancing his already-good looks. The locks of hair falling onto his forehead hid one of his two identifying features: a lightening-shaped scar he'd received when just a toddler. His emerald green eyes, the other items that identified him, were muddied by the ink.

Using a Gemino charm, Ginny had duplicated the photo from the front page of a recent edition of the Daily Prophet, the Wizarding World's newspaper. The original photo lit up as a flashbulb went off and the smile became a frown, but she had frozen the photo with another charm so only Harry Potter's smiling face was shown.

Looking at the photograph, she sighed. It's really too bad it's not in color.

Ginny and Harry had been friends for almost a year and a half now. It turned out that Harry was the silent partner of her twin brothers, Fred and George. She, George, Fred, and a number of their very good friends from Hogwarts, the wizarding boarding school, met at least monthly at the Hogs Head Pub in Hogsmeade for dinner and to catch up with each other, and George had invited Harry, who had been homeschooled by his guardian, Sirius Black, to join them. To everyone's surprise, Harry had accepted the invitation, rejoining them each month since then.

And in the months that followed, Ginny fell in love, not just because of his good looks, but his modesty (he had defeated the vile Lord Voldemort in a one-on-one duel and saved the Wizarding World though deflected any praise for that), his snarky sense of humor which was much like her own, and the generosity he tried to hide.

She wished she could say that Harry returned her regard, but, alas, he seemed to hold her, Luna Lovegood, Katie Bell, Angelina Johnson, and Alicia Spinnet in the same regard—that of good friends. He never danced with one more than the others, and when he was partnered in a slow dance, he never held his compan-ion close, instead conversing steadily through the number. Added to that, his conversations never became personal. If he had asked any of the other girls out, no one admitted to it. Of course, Fred and Angelina were pretty tight, and Ginny rather thought they would be getting married.

Married. Damn that fertility curse!

Ginny had first heard of the fertility curse on her eleventh birthday, less than three weeks before boarding the Hogwarts Express for her first year, when her Mum had entered her bedroom and put a Muffliato charm on her door. Back in the Middle Ages, five years or so after Hogwarts had been opened, an epidemic of dragon pox had swept through the magical community, severely decimating the population. The Marriage Law the Ministry of Magic had proposed was roundly rejected. Instead, the Fertility Act was decreed. As soon as a young woman had her fourteenth birthday, an age when many Muggles were marrying, she was required to visit the Ministry. There she was given a potion that would ensure she would conceive the first time she had sexual relations. The potion was potent, effective for a year. The young woman had to return to the Ministry each year, or to the Hogwarts clinic if she was still in school, until she finally conceived. The Fertility Act was in effect for ten years.

The results were three-pronged: hanky-panky among those not wishing to marry was eliminated, and those who married immediately started a family. The third result, which the Ministry maintained they had no intention of causing, was that little girls born since were affected by that potion, too. There was quite an uproar, of course, once it became apparent that the fertility potion was affecting women long after it was supposedly unproductive.

In the ensuing centuries, it became routine for parents to remind school-age children of the Fertility Curse, as it became known, before they headed off to Hogwarts. Dating traditions began to change; by the seventeenth century, women were the ones, by and large, who were proposing marriage.

One myth had sprung up during that time. Couples who really were in love and totally committed were said to be married by magic the first time they kissed.

It was a real quandary for Ginny. She knew she was in love with Harry, but she had no idea how Harry felt about her. If he would just give her a clue, she would lay her heart at his feet. But she wasn't about to let it get trampled.

At one time, she had thought she and Michael Corner might make a go of it. While still at Hogwarts, they'd dated for six months, and Michael began to hint that he was ready for marriage. The hints became heavier, and he was suddenly pressing for total intimacy. She wasn't surprised to discover that she wasn't ready for it, wasn't ready to be a mother. She wasn't even out of Hogwarts, for Merlin's sake, and she knew it would be difficult if not impossible to finish once she had a baby. She wanted to experience more of life before tying herself down with a baby.

Her brother Ron had lost his head and gotten Lavender Brown pregnant their last year at Hogwarts. They married and finished school, but their daughter, Lilac, was born before the end of the school year, and Lavender had to postpone taking her NEWTS. Ron was now working in a low-paying position in the Department of Magical Games and Sports, and Lavender was employed by Gambol and Japes, which wasn't doing well now that Fred and George had opened a store of their Weasley Wizarding Wheezes brand in Hogsmeade.

No, she had not wanted to get married and pregnant at fifteen. Not that every girl who became preg-nant married the father of her baby; sometimes, the father balked at marriage. She had heard a rumor that Michael, despite his words, had not wanted to marry, though she didn't know whether it was true or not. They were still friends, and he was one of those who attended the get-togethers in spite of everything.

She was now nineteen, and she badly wanted to be with Harry in every way—as his wife, his lover, and the mother of his child. She never thought she'd want to be a mother before her mid-twenties, but….

As she reflected on her life and how it was impacted by the Fertility Curse, Ginny was still very much aware of what was going on in the house, tensing whenever someone went up or down the stairs outside her closed door. It wouldn't do for any of her brothers to catch her 'mooning' over the photograph of Harry Potter.

Thus, she was aware when the footsteps coming up now slowed as they reached her bedroom landing, and she hurriedly slipped the picture into the open drawer next to her and grabbed a romance novel Hermione loaned her from the bedside table, hastily opening it mid-way just as a knock sounded on her door.

"Who is it?"


She inhaled deeply before calling, "Come in."

The door opened and Fred, another redhead, stepped in. She was surprised when he pushed the door shut behind him and leaned back against it.

"What's up?" she asked, somehow knowing this was not an idle visit.

"The sun," the older twin replied. She made a face. "Not a good comeback?" Fred asked with a smirk.

Ginny shook her head.

"Ah, well." Fred shook his head, sliding his hands into his trouser pockets before taking a deep breath. "I think… I think Ange is getting ready to, erm, to propose."

She gave him a keen look. "Bragging, are you?" But she somehow didn't think so, and his next words proved her right.

"We have a lot of fun together, I really like her, maybe even love her, but…." He fell silent.

Ginny wanted to groan, partly in frustration because his attitude was just what was keeping her from talking with Harry, and partly in anger because she knew Angelina was in love with the doofus who was her brother. "But you're not ready to get married or have a child," she finished for him.

"Right in one." His gaze was almost beseeching. "She's a great gal, a wonderful woman," he amended at her glare, "and, like I said, we have a lot of fun together. It's just been recently that she's started hinting. At first, I thought she was taking the mickey. I don't know what I've done to make her think there was more to it on my side."

She scowled at her brother, crossing her arms over her chest. "You're an idiot, Fred. The two of you go out apart from the monthly meet up at Hogs Head. You dance almost exclusively with her, have done for the better part of a year now. If she needs help, you're Johnny-on-the-spot. You, alone, not you and George. What else is she supposed to think?" She had wanted to tell him he needed to be more like Harry, who showed no partiality, but was afraid it would expose her own heart.

"She's fun to be with!" Fred repeated.

"You've sent her the wrong signal, then."

He dropped his head toward his chest. "What do I do?"

"Talk with her before she says anything further, you dolt."

"Why are you angry with me?"

Ginny threw up her hands. "I don't know. Maybe because I'm likely to face the same thing at some point with this horrible curse? You blokes don't know just how good you've got it! It may be the woman's choice to propose, but by Godric, it's our hearts…." She ran out of steam and pressed her lips together.

Fred pushed away from the door and crossed over to the bed where she was now sitting facing him. "I'll talk with Angelina tonight." He gave her a half-hearted smile. "As for you—follow your heart. You won't be facing the same thing." He dropped a kiss on her forehead and went back to the door, pulling it open and turning to her again.

Ginny's jaw had dropped open. How does he know….

"Seriously, Ginny." Fred took the remaining two steps out of her room, and then he vanished down the staircase, his footsteps thundering in the stairwell.


In a sprawling, three-story manor in the Scots Highlands, an emerald-eyed young man with unruly ebony hair sat in the manse's library, the Potter family leather-bound Grimoire in his lap. He wasn't reading it, though; he was deep in thought, and the object of his thoughts was a slender young woman with fiery red hair. What good is it to be The Boy Who Lived, he wondered not for the first time, and all the attention that goes with it, if I can't get the girl I want? What, who do you want, Ginny Weasley?

In the first of their infrequent business meetings, Fred had mentioned being part of a large family—six boys and one girl. Their sister, then fourteen, was the youngest, and according to Fred and his twin, George, was a firecracker. Harry was mostly happy that Sirius had homeschooled him; he had known at a young age of the prophecy naming himself as the only one able to end the reign of the despicable Tom Riddle, the erstwhile Lord Voldemort, and he needed to focus on learning everything he could to reach that end.

He'd listened avidly to the few tidbits they'd dropped about her sister. The first was that she was popular at school despite her rocky first year. They hadn't expanded on the cause of it, but they didn't have to.

Havoc had reigned at the school that year; students, a cat, and a ghost had been petrified by an unknown monster. Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster, had not even known how the beast was getting around the school. The culmination of the year was when Ginny had been taken down into the Chamber of Secrets where the monster's lair was located, just after her brother Ron and friend Hermione had figured out where it was. Before they could approach the Headmaster, Hermione had fallen victim to the basilisk, paralyzed by it. Ron had given Dumbledore the information they had, but Dumbledore could not gain access. Only someone who was blessed, or cursed, with the ability to speak Parseltongue could.

Harry had that talent, and Dumbledore knew it. Harry was enlisted to open the entrance to the Chamber. Sirius was going there down with him, but when his godfather and the headmaster continued to discuss what precautions to take, Harry had jumped into the pipe that led to the underground cavern which was the home of the basilisk. Inside the chamber, Harry had found the unconscious, young red-haired girl and one Tom Riddle.

Upon Harry's arrival, Tom had opened the mouth of the statue depicting Salazar Slytherin, one of Hogwarts' four founders, and set the basilisk on Harry. Harry, with the timely help of the Sword of Gryffindor (another of the founders), slew the gigantic serpent. Tom was still haranguing Harry, telling him that he, Tom, would return to full power as soon as Ginny died; she was very close to death then. Just as Sirius joined them, Harry, who was using the hilt of the sword to hold himself up, straightened up on his own and plunged the sword into the little black book that was lying next to Ginny's comatose body. Afterward, he couldn't say what had made him do it; it was just a compulsion, because Tom had bragged that Ginny had written in it, to him, extensively.

Tom's body had jerked with the impact of the sword with the book. Harry repeated his action, and Tom had just… disintegrated.

"What the bloody hell?" Sirius roared.

Harry had never before or since been so happy to see his godfather. Ginny began to rouse, and he and Sirius took her up to the girls' loo by broom to the waiting headmaster. Later, Dumbledore told Sirius that Ginny had been possessed by a soul portion inhabiting a diary, and that soul portion belonged to Tom.

Harry had not seen her, hadn't known her name, until the moment George had mentioned that Ginny had had a miserable first year. He'd connected the dots because he'd already known that all the Weasley siblings, like their parents, were redheads. A year ago, George mentioned the get-together he and Fred were going to at Hogsmeade, and, at Harry's look of interested inquiry, invited him along.

She had been a cute eleven-year-old. She'd grown into a beautiful young woman. Over the past year, Harry discovered Ginny was indeed a firecracker, calling her brothers out whenever one of them did something to displease her. She also had a wicked sense of humor, one that matched his very well. She was smart, earning ten OWLS and seven NEWTS, all while a starting Chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch team three years and its captain her final two years. Apparently, Ginny was talented enough with Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts that she was now an apprentice to their oldest brother, Bill, an accomplished Curse breaker. To top it all off, Ginny had joined in the final fight at Hogwarts and acquitted herself well.

In her final year, Ginny had been named Head Girl, a position earned because one was smart, intuitive, and willing to help others, with lessons, easing a disappointment, or just spending time with someone who was lonely. Smart, talented, funny, beautiful, considerate, all in one package. Gradually he came to realize she was the one he hoped to spend the rest of his life with.

The one thing he did not know about her, though, was how she felt about him, and there was no one he could ask to gain some insight. Fred and George were fiercely protective of her, and, truthfully, Harry couldn't blame them. If he'd been blessed with a younger sister, he'd be the same.

Of course, Harry knew about the Fertility Curse—Sirius had told him about it when he reached school age even though he would not be going to Hogwarts. The knowledge that he would be a father early in any marriage he contracted did not deter him; on the contrary, it was almost an enticement. Losing his parents at such a young age had been excruciating, eased somewhat by the love Sirius and his parents' other friend, Remus Lupin, and Remus' wife, Nymphadora "Call Me Tonks", lavished on him. He always wanted siblings, but it hadn't happened. The Lupins now had a son, Teddy, barely two years old. Harry treated him like a brother, loved him like a brother, but the boy was much too young to fill the role. Yet, anyway.

Harry was well aware that the Fertility Curse had kept his godfather from dating while he was raising Harry. Sirius was now in a relationship with a woman named Emmeline Vance, however, and it appeared to be getting, for lack of a better word, serious between them. If it came to pass, Harry would have another, much younger sibling.

Now, however, he was ready for children of his own, children who could play with Teddy and any offspring Sirius and Emmeline could have. But does Ginny want children? More than one? He just didn't know.

Harry sighed softly, his fingers playing with the edges of the Grimoire's pages. He considered his situation, knowing what he wanted but not what she wanted. Perhaps it's time to let Ginny know I'm interested? And how do I do that? His mind went over their interactions at the Hogs Head. How to show her? He began to formulate a plan in his mind.

It was December, nearing Christmas. The next time they got together would be at the Three Broomsticks, so there would be dancing. Last year, Harry bought Christmas gifts for everyone based on what he knew about them then. He was planning to do this year's Christmas shopping Saturday, and he would try to find a gift for her that would at least hint of his feelings. He had no idea what it would be, but he was sure he'd know it when he saw it.

It would take more than a Christmas gift, though. Fred and Angelina were dating, growing ever closer. Perhaps he could take a leaf from Fred's book.

Harry was the first to show at the Three Broomsticks for the Christmas celebration, Apparating in the three inches of snow outside. It was a warm and welcoming environment at any time, but today it was festooned with large beribboned wreaths on the door and over the huge fireplace, Christmas swags over the windows, festive rings around the candles on the tables, and a good-sized Christmas tree occupying one of the bay windows.

Lester Symonds, lead guitarist for the Howling Hippogryphs, was the lone bandmember on the makeshift stage, tuning up. The Howling Hippogryphs had played at this pub before, and Harry was aware that they played a slow song each set. That worked well for his plan.

He looked around and caught the eye of the proprietress, Madam Rosmerta. She pointed to a row of five tables already pushed together, a decorated topiary on the center table. Harry nodded and went there, pulling out from his jacket's deep pockets the gifts he'd purchased and wrapped for his friends. A wave of his wand and silent Finite Incantatem spell returned each of the gifts to their original size. Then he took off his jacket and draped it over a chair to await his friends.

He didn't have long to wait; within a few minutes the front door opened, admitting George Weasley, Neville Longbottom, and Alicia Spinnet. It was no surprise when George claimed the chair at the top of the line of tables, nor when Alicia sat next to him. Harry knew the only thing between them was a friendship of long standing. Harry greeted each of them, and a lively conversation ensued.

Next to arrive were Lee Jordan, Katie Bell, and Luna Lovegood, who added to the din. Michael Corner joined them within a few minutes. Though Harry welcomed each of the newcomers, his attention, unbeknownst to his friends, was split on them and on the person he most wanted to see come through the door. A blast of cold air swept through the pub, and Harry risked a glance at the entrance. A laughing Hermione Granger was preceding Colin Creevey into the room, both dusting snow off their shoulders.

Neville posed a question to Harry about a possible investment, and he turned away from the door. "I don't know much about Newton's Nurseries, Nev, but I can ask Sirius. If he doesn't know, he can find out for you," he offered. Behind him the bell tinkled as the door opened and another gust of frigid air barged inside.

"Hello, everyone," an alluring voice called, and the monster in Harry's chest came to life. Ginny.

He waited for Neville's eyes to shift before he turned, and his heart almost stopped. She had already divested herself of her cloak and was dressed in a dark green jumper sheath that clung to and enhanced her curves. Her beautiful hair hung in waves over one shoulder and down her back, and her black pumps lifted her two inches over her natural five and a half feet. She wore no jewelry, but she needed none. She was perfect just the way she was.

When the others' greetings died down and she approached, he smiled. "Happy Christmas, Ginny."

"Happy Christmas, Harry," she replied, a smile on her own face. Her hand lit on the back of the chair next to his. "Is this seat taken?"

"Not yet," he answered, trying to keep the hope he felt from coloring his voice.

"It is now," she declared, smiling and hanging her shoulder bag over the top of the chair. Like Harry had done, Ginny emptied her pockets of gifts she had brought for her friends before draping her cloak over her seat, heedless of the small puddles of water that had melted off of her and her friends' shoes.

"How have you been?" Harry inquired, quite chuffed that she'd chosen to sit next to him.

"Not too bad, all in all," she replied. "Bill is working me hard, and Mum is going nuts with Christmas preparations that she's good at roping me into, so free time sometimes is non-existent. I've thought about getting a place of my own, but then I'd be decorating at my own place and at home." She shrugged, but her voice was cheerful and took the edge off her complaint. "How about you?"

"Pretty much the same. I've had to decorate my place, but I've had the help of my elf, Dobby." Lest she get the wrong idea, he stressed, "Dobby works for me."

Ginny tilted her head. "Has Hermione been talking to you?"

Harry grinned. "Only after the fact."

Madam Rosmerta arrived then, levitating plates of hors d' oeuvres in front of her. Each landed gently on the table, and then the proprietress circulated the table, taking drink orders. Harry was the last she asked, and, by the time she took his, the band was striking up and Michael Corner had claimed Ginny's hand for the first dance. The last unattached girl was Katie, and Lee grabbed her before Harry could.

Harry knew that, since at their gatherings the blokes almost always outnumbered the women, the one man left alone sat out the whole set. He did his best to keep from showing his frustration, but it was roiling through him. His attempt to find Ginny was only partially successful as most of the other tables were filled, and most of those couples had entered the dancing fray. Calming himself, he pulled out his chair and started to sit.

The door opened again; realizing that Fred and Angelina had not yet arrived, he remained standing and looked in that direction, expecting to see them.

Two young women walked in, close to the same height. The first had long, curly hair almost as black as Harry's, a rather long, pointed chin, and lips that were painted a bright red. She was wearing a tight, black silk sheath with a v-neckline that revealed a great deal of cleavage, the hem stopping several inches above her knees. Her eyes lit when she saw Harry, who quickly averted his gaze. Her companion's hair was short, to her ear lobes, and brown. She was clad in a full-skirted carmine dress with a boat neckline and was chattering to the first girl, who was paying her no attention.

"Helloooo," the first witch said, dragging out the last syllable as she stopped directly in front of Harry, "tall, dark, and handsome." Her dark eyes caught on the barely-visible scar on his forehead and then roamed from his green eyes slowly down to his feet.

Rather than feeling complimented, Harry was repulsed.

The young woman's eyes drifted back to his. "I'm Romilda Vane." She introduced herself as if Harry should know who she was. She moved even closer to him, her body almost touching him, and she raised her hand toward his face.

Harry grabbed her wrist before she could touch him, moving it away from him and then dropping it, stepping back simultaneously.

Romilda pouted. "We could have such a lovely time together, Harry."

"I'm not interested," he replied bluntly.

"Romy, let's find a table."

Harry looked beyond Romilda to the other witch, hoping she could influence her friend.

"I've found the table I want, Camilla." She shed her cloak and acted if she was going to take a seat at the table reserved for Harry and his friends.

"I'm sorry, but this is a private party."

"But I'm Romilda Vane," she repeated.

You are the vainest woman I've ever come across, Harry thought. "Were you invited?"

George and Alicia were suddenly there at the table. "Romilda," George greeted her shortly. "I believe my friend told you that this is a private party. As I was the one issuing the invitations, I know that you did not receive one." He looked beyond her to Camilla. "Hello, Camilla," he said, his voice more cordial. George's eyes back on Romilda, he added, "Find another table to honor with your presence."

After a short staring match between her and George, Romilda tossed her head, her hair flying around her shoulders. "Come, Camilla. The air here is suddenly very stuffy." She pushed past her companion.

Camilla threw Harry an apologetic glance before following her friend.

"Sorry about that, Harry," George told him. "Lee, Alicia, and I were talking about this gathering at the Leaky last week, and she was in the next booth. She must've overheard us."

"No problem, George."

George and Alicia headed back to the dance floor while Harry sat down at the table and accepted the butterbeer the barmaid delivered. His earlier wish that he'd acted more quickly in finding a partner returned more strongly.

Each of the songs lasted five minutes or so. Since he was unoccupied, he moved all the gifts to a small table, piling them according to receiver, and returned to his chair. After what seemed an interminable time, his friends returned to their seats, and Harry was pleased when Ginny immediately turned to him. "I'm sorry you were the lone man out, but you could have danced with Romilda. No one would've blamed you."

Harry almost recoiled. "I don't even know her," he responded, "and what I know of her now is more than I wanted to know. Who is she, anyway? She seemed to think I should know her."

The smile Ginny gave him was sympathetic. "I'm sorry to say that I do know her. She's a Gryffindor and was a year below me. She's quite … popular … amongst the men." Ginny grimaced. Romilda had no children, so she was obviously untouched; still, the boys at school had seemed to buzz around her.

"So, she's just gotten out of Hogwarts?"

Ginny nodded. "But she's just a couple months younger than me—born the same year but missed the first September cutoff."

"I thought she was much older. Anyway, enough about her. Would you like to dance the next number with me?"

"I'd be delighted," Ginny grinned.

They chatted while the barmaid worked her way around the table, soliciting dinner choices. When Madam Rosmerta finally approached them, Ginny ordered a cup of corn chowder and steak and kidney pie, while Harry chose French onion soup and shepherd's pie. As she had told the other diners, Rosmerta let them know that the meals would not be delivered until the next band break.

Ginny was once again in a conversation with Michael, who was on her left. Harry was disappointed, but Neville Longbottom was sitting across the table from him, so they began to talk. The two young wizards had met for playdates when very young, and it was Neville who mentioned to George the possibility of Harry joining them.

Neville's parents had been victims of a Cruciatus curse applied too long, breaking their sanity. Now, the young man was an herbology apprentice to Professor Sprout at Hogwarts. Harry was in the midst of his potions apprentice to Damocles Belby; as part of that apprenticeship, he was actively searching for a potion that would restore the elder Longbottoms, and others like them, to full lucidity. Neville often suggested plants that he thought might aid Harry in his search. Occasionally, Luna would interject a comment, not always on subject.

Despite his interest in his discussion with Neville, Harry was very aware of Ginny sitting next to him. Unknown to him, she also was very aware of him and resented Michael's conversational gambits. I don't know what you're up to, Michael, but that ship sailed a long time ago. How do I make you understand that?

At last, the Howling Hippogryphs retook the stage. Harry was gratified that the first strains of music indicated they would be playing a slow number. And so, he was finally able to take Ginny into his arms.

Not knowing how she would react if he pulled her close, he was careful to leave space between them. Her hand was warm in his, and she smiled up at him. "I couldn't help overhearing that you're doing a potions apprenticeship. Who are you apprenticing with?"

"Damocles Belby. He's come up with some great new things, not the least important of which was the Wolfsbane Potion."

"And you're working on …?"

"I guess you could call it a Lucidity potion."

She nodded in approval. "For Neville's parents?" At the surprise on Harry's face, for he hadn't realized that many knew of the Longbottoms' ordeal, she clarified, "My Dad was placed in the Janus Thickey Ward for Magical Maladies and Injuries in my fourth year, and we saw Neville there, visiting his parents."

Harry schooled his face to not reveal that he knew about her father's injury; he'd had a vision of the attack on Arthur Weasley, and he and Sirius had notified Albus Dumbledore. As far as Harry knew, none of the Weasleys was aware of his part in Mr. Weasley's rescue.

She went on, "I really hope you can find something to help the Longbottoms. My Dad knew them, and he's often said that they were very good people."

"Sirius and Remus have said the same. They were in the Order of the Phoenix with my parents and the Longbottoms." Harry shook his head, not wishing to say much more. This was supposed to be a Christmas party; talk of the two-pronged war with Tom Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort, would only depress the mood.

Apparently, Ginny was on the same wave-length, because her next question was whether he ever wished he had gone to Hogwarts.

Too soon, at least for Harry, the number ended, and partners were swapped. Harry danced with Alicia next, Katie, Hermione, and then Luna in the rotation.

Luna was very different from the other, admittedly few, young women he knew. She seemed to rotate about her partners, as if she was the moon and they the earth, fluttering her hands above her head. He just smiled broadly at her as he shuffled his feet and moved his arms. As the music faded and other couples deserted the dance floor, Luna laid her hand on Harry's arm. "You would have been a magnificent Gryffindor, Harry," she told him with none of the quirkiness usually evident in her comments. "You have showed much bravery over the years. Now, harness that bravery and go after your heart's desire."

"Wha—what?" he stammered, but Luna was already moving away, weaving through the others still on the floor toward the long table where she and Harry sat.

They took their seats diagonally opposite from each other, eleven appetizers waiting for them. Again, Michael tried to hog Ginny's attention, but she called across the table to her brother, and they traded gibes about each other's dancing styles.

"I challenge you to a dance duel," George dared, and Ginny accepted.

As she dipped her spoon into her chowder, Harry said, "I enjoyed our dance, Ginny. I hope you'll allow me another slow number?"

She turned her bright cinnamon eyes upon him. "Of course, Harry. I'd be glad to."

Harry almost forgot to breathe beneath the force of her brilliant smile. Before he could say anything more, a barmaid came to take their empty bowls, replacing them with entrees.

It was three sets later before another slow number came up. Harry had just finished dancing with Hermione when the guitar strums indicated it was time to pair with Ginny. He knew where she was—she and George had been dancing very well together, entertaining all of their group and a fair few others on the floor.

Harry held his hand out as they neared each other, and she slid hers onto his palm. This time, she surprised him by moving further into his arms, their bodies lightly touching. As they began moving in time to the slow beat, she rested her cheek against his chest. He allowed his chin to barely touch the crown of her head. His hand skimmed her back; he was afraid to stop, afraid he would press her more tightly to him and have her move away. For a few moments he allowed his eyes to close, imagining her pressed fully against him, their arms locked around each other.

Abruptly his eyes flew open, his body reacting to her proximity. His eyes roved the dimly-lit room, and he noticed they were nearing a kissing ball. Subtly, he steered them closer until they were directly beneath it.

Ginny sensed that they had moved off the dance floor and she raised her head, her forehead wrinkling in question. Then her gaze followed his, and she noticed the mistletoe above them. She tilted her head in invitation. Harry slowly bent his head, and Ginny rose onto tiptoes. Their lips met in a light kiss.

Ginny almost groaned in protest when Harry drew away. It was only a moment, however, before his lips covered hers again. Her heart thundered in her chest when again they parted.

"Harry? Can we talk?"

Harry wanted nothing more than to be able to talk without interruption. "Here? Or privately?"

She swallowed. "Privately, please."

He led her back to their table, surprised to see it empty. He couldn't remember which of his mates had been sitting out the set, but at this point he didn't really care. He grabbed both their cloaks. Ginny was busy using the Shrinking charm on both their piles of gifts and loading them into a conjured sack.

He helped her don her cloak, pulled his over his shoulders, and offered his arm to her. "Your place or mine?"

"Yours. I still live at home, remember?" she whispered, tightening her grip on his forearm. Another whisper, too low for Harry to decipher, and a small piece of parchment appeared on the table, tucked beneath Luna's mug, a message from Ginny asking Luna to cover for her and Harry. Luna was the only friend to see them leave, and she smiled from her position inside the circle of George's arms.

He covered Ginny's hand with his and turned on the spot, silently Apparating them to his home.

They landed in the foyer of Stinchcombe Manor. Ginny looked around, liking Christmas wreaths sur-rounding the wall lamps that lit the room and the large wreath on the back wall. She almost jumped when a house elf with bulbous, light-green eyes appeared. "May Dobby take Harry's and friend's cloaks?" he asked.

Harry helped Ginny with hers as he remarked, "Dobby, this is Ginny Weasley." From his position behind Ginny, he shook his head at the elf, warning him not to comment on her name. Dobby's eyes widened but he held his tongue. "Ginny, this is my friend and helper, Dobby."

"Pleased to meet you, Dobby," she said with a smile, offering her his hand.

Dobby shook it, warming to her immediately. "Dobby is pleased to meet Miss Ginny, too."

Still smiling, she shook her head. "Just Ginny, please. I hope we can be friends, too."

"Dobby loves having friends," he squeaked as he accepted the two cloaks. He looked at his first and still best human friend. "Harry will tell Dobby when the cloaks are needed. Does Harry or Ginny want drinks?"

Harry looked at Ginny. "Pumpkin juice?" she suggested.

"No butterbeer?" Harry inquired, aware that she had been drinking it at the Three Broomsticks.

"No, I believe I reached my limit."

"We'll be in the sitting room, Dobby," Harry told the elf and then led Ginny to the specified room. As he led her there, he commented, "I didn't see Fred or Angelina tonight."

Ginny cleared her throat. "They, erm, they had a… misunderstanding, I guess you would call it. I knew Fred wouldn't be there, but I wasn't sure about Angelina." She winced mentally, hoping that what she had to say, to ask, wouldn't result in the same circumstances between her and Harry.

Stalling, she looked around the sitting room. It was also decorated, with a large tree in front of a picture window and a beautiful swag over the fireplace in which a fire was already merrily blazing. A couch sat opposite a love seat and a recliner parallel to each other and perpendicular to the hearth. Ginny perched in the corner of the love seat nearest the fire, and Harry sat next to her. Neither said anything for several moments. Harry sighed. "You wanted to talk?" he encouraged her.

"Yes. First, I love the decorating you and Dobby have done." After a very short pause in which Harry thanked her, she continued, "Michael seemed intent on monopolizing me tonight, and I didn't want that. I'd really like to… well, before I say anything else, I should tell you that I know it was you who rescued me from the Chamber of Secrets."

"You do?" He was gobsmacked; Dumbledore had promised not to reveal his part in her rescue.

"Yes," she confirmed. "It's just been since you started coming round to our dinners and such that I realized." She chuckled. "I could never mistake those eyes for anyone else's."

Harry ducked his head. Great. I'm her hero. I just want to be plain Harry.

She covered his hand with her soft one. "I'd have died if you hadn't come. Thank you."

"I was glad to do it."

Now she sighed. "I'd long thought of you as a knight in shining armor," she confessed, "but this last year plus has shown me that you are more like 'the boy next door.'"

His head shot up. "What?"

"I wouldn't put you in the same category as my brothers, any of the six," she hurried to clarify. "You're just… you're Harry, a good friend. It angers me to see all the sensational articles published in the Daily Prattler."

Harry laughed aloud, delighted that she was ridiculing the newspaper that was the bane of his existence now that Riddle was no longer around. At the same time, he had hoped she would see him as something more than a friend. "So, you don't believe them?"

She actually snorted. "As Mum would, and often does, say, it's all claptrap. You've met my parents, haven't you?"

"A couple times, at Order meetings."

"Invariably polite, serious—not to be mistaken for your godfather Sirius—talented, just a few of her compliments," Ginny related. "I've found her to be correct, except that she's never mentioned how you love a joke or a prank, whether it's on you or your own on someone else. But you've never pranked me. Why is that?"

"I've been warned about your Bat Bogey Hex, and I never want to experience it," he replied with a smile.

"Good idea," she told him. "Usually, I don't react with a Bat Bogey when I've been pranked, though it has happened."

"I've been regaled with tales of a few of your pranks. You're quite inventive."

"That comes from having twin brothers who idolize the Marauders."

He nodded, grinning. "Oh, yes, I've fallen victim to them a time or two."

"You have? The Marauders? You… know them?"

"I was raised by two of them," he disclosed.

"Sirius and Prof—er, Remus Lupin?"

"One, erm, two and the same. How do you know about the Marauders? And Fred and George?"

"They liberated The Marauders Map from Filch their first or second year at Hogwarts," she replied faintly, still processing that she, Fred, George, and Ron had actually been taught by one of the Marauders. "No wonder Remus was so good at DADA!"

He chuckled. "We missed him that year and were so glad to have him back with us. Though we hated why he had to leave the school, we all knew about the jinx and knew that somehow, he wouldn't be returning for a second year."

"All of us were disappointed. He was the best DADA professor I ever had. Even the twins agreed with that." She looked at him. "Do the twins know?"

He shrugged. "Not to the best of my knowledge."

The next couple hours passed quickly. They talked about Ginny's experiences at Hogwarts, how she was the youngest of seven with six older brothers, the first girl in the Weasley family in seven generations, and even that disastrous first year and how she'd recovered from it.

They talked about Quidditch: her favorite team was, of course, the Holyhead Harpies while his was Puddlemere United. He knew that their keeper, Oliver Wood, had been a Gryffindor captain. Dumbledore had once told him that Harry would surely have been a Gryffindor, else the Sword of Gryffindor would not have come to him. He would have loved to play for Oliver during his school years.

"He was a fanatic," Ginny laughed. "I mean, truly. Fred, George, Angelina, and Alicia played for him. Ron was keeper after Oliver left. I don't think he'd have fared well with Oliver as his captain."

They talked about her two-year stint as Gryffindor captain. Then she asked him about his growing up years. His heart sank, thinking she wanted information about his training, but when he stuttered, she clarified, "You must have walked on eggshells, living with two Marauders!"

He laughed and agreed but also said he didn't think Sirius could have been a better father. At her inquiring look, he explained, "I always knew Sirius wasn't my Dad, but he was the next best thing. He told me once that Dumbledore wanted me to live with my Mum's sister and her husband. I think that would've been a disaster since neither of them want anything to do with magic. I've read old letters of my Mum's to Petunia that were returned. I'm so glad Sirius was able and willing to take on an orphan."

He even coaxed her full name, Ginevra Molly Weasley, out of her, and disclosed that his Grandfather Potter's name had been Fleamont. They laughed together over that, even though Harry told her that he'd been called Monty by his contemporaries.

At some point, Dobby arrived with pumpkin juice for both of them.

Silence fell between them. Harry was now sitting right next to her, their arms brushing, and he curled an arm around her shoulders. "Ginny?"

Her fingers were tapping against each other, and she looked up at him as they continued. "Hmm?"

He shifted slightly, his arm retracting enough that his fingers played with the hair at the nape of her neck. Very slowly, his head moved toward her. Her lips met his and then the kiss deepened. Soon the only sounds were heavy breathing. They parted long enough to take several deep breaths and continued snogging. Harry's free arm pulled her closer, and she found herself in his lap. It didn't bother her in the least.

When they had to breathe again, Harry laid his forehead against hers. He wanted so much more, but he had no right to ask. Too, he knew he'd gotten so much more tonight than he had hoped for, and he didn't want to be greedy.

Ginny's fingers played with the buttons on his shirt. "Harry?"

"Hmm?" He echoed her earlier question.

"Do you… like me?"

"Like?" he repeated. "It's such an insipid word, don't you think?" He really wanted to taste her again, but it appeared she had more to say.

"Well, how would you describe it?"

"Describe it? You mean…."

Ginny summoned up her Gryffindor courage. "How do you feel about me? Are we just friends?"

He swallowed. "That seems to be what has characterized our … relationship," he temporized. "But I'd like it, us, to be more. A lot more."

Her eyes seemed to glow with—dare he think it?—hope. "How…?"

"I fancy you, Ginny, have almost since the day I set eyes on you last year. I've thought about you a lot over the years, wondered how you were. You touched something in me that day. Dumbledore told me, through Sirius, that you fought that damned diary most of the school year. I always admired you. Maybe there was a touch more to it, I don't know."

Ginny took in a long, slow breath as hope blossomed. "Would you… would you like to make a baby with me, Harry?"

Harry was stunned. These were the words he'd been wanting to hear from her, the words that had become traditional when a woman chose a man to marry, or infrequently, wanted to just live with. "Ginny?"

She repeated her question.

"Are you… you want to get married, right?" Harry asked, just to be sure.

She nodded solemnly.

Harry's hands held her face tenderly. "I desperately want to make babies with you, Ginevra Weasley."

She frowned. "I don't like that name."

"If we make babies, you'll hear that name often. It's a sexy name for a very sexy woman."

"Really?" She looked shocked at the idea. "You really think so?"

"Yes, the name and the woman are well suited and very sexy."

She grinned, having never thought of herself as 'sexy.' But she wasn't to be distracted any longer. "How many babies?"

"I've always wanted a large family. But I'll defer to you on that."

"We'll decide together, Luv."

Harry and Ginny married a week later, nine days before Christmas, over Molly Weasley's objections—she'd wanted to plan a large, formal wedding, but Harry and Ginny just wanted to be married. The Weasleys' minister, having had many experiences in what often seemed like hasty weddings, was sympathetic with Ginny and Harry and agreed. To him, it was better to do it hastily than wait until the baby made its presence known. The young couple honeymooned at one of Sirius' holdings, a tiny island in the Gulf of Morhiban off the coast of France. When they Apparated back to Stinchcombe on Christmas Eve, Ginny was both secure in Harry's love and positive that she was carrying Harry's baby.

They celebrated Christmas twice, at the Burrow in the early afternoon, where all six of Ginny's brothers individually (except Fred and George, who teamed up) threatened Harry should he ever hurt Ginny. Harry assured each of them that he would never willingly, deliberately do that. All seemed accepting of his words.

Their second celebration was with Sirius, Emmeline, Remus, and Dora at the Lupins. A big surprise of the day was Dora's revelation that Teddy was going to have a sibling in early August. The biggest surprise, though, was the diamond solitaire gracing Emmeline's left hand. Sirius and she were marrying at the beginning of February. Harry told Ginny later that he was surprised Sirius would wait that long. Ginny agreed.

Their son James Sirius was born in the wee hours of September 17th after a rather short labor. Both Ginny and Harry had tears in their eyes the first time they held him.

Harry was instantly fascinated with the son that at one time he had never thought to have. He was very much a hands-on father; the only thing he couldn't do was nurse Jamie. Soiled diapers didn't faze him in the least, and he cheerfully took on that chore when he was home. He had held off beginning the final year of his Potions apprenticeship until Jamie was a month old.

Jamie was a spoiled baby, the Weasleys' fourth grandchild but first grandson—Bill and Fleur were parents of two daughters while Ron and Lavender had one—and was doted upon by all his aunts and uncles.

At seventeen months, Jamie was joined by brother Michael Arthur. Another seventeen months later, twins Liam Gideon and Landon Fabian enlarged the family. Two years passed, and then Mitchell Remus made his debut. Harry wanted to try once more, for a daughter, and Ginny acquiesced. Instead, they had a sixth son nineteen months after Mitchell, Joshua Christopher. Ginny gave Harry a tired smile. "Are you very disappointed?"

"Not at all, Luv, not at all. Are you? I know you were hoping for a daughter."

She looked down at the downy redhead in her arms. "How can I be? He's perfect, just like his brothers." She looked up at her beloved husband. "Thank you."

Harry kissed her tenderly. "I should be thanking you," he returned, "and I do. I never really imagined you would allow me six beautiful sons."

"Don't let Jamie hear you say that," she cautioned him, and Harry chuckled.


Over the years, the Weasley clan continued to grow. Bill and Fleur added a son, Hugh. Percy was the next to marry, a Muggleborn witch named Penelope Clearwater. He and Penelope had dated at Hogwarts, broke up for several years, then reconnected about the same time Jamie was born. They produced two daughters, Molly and Ardith. Katie Bell chose George, to his immense relief. They had two sons, Gideon Fred and Fabian George, and a daughter, Shannon. Charlie succumbed to the wiles of Leanne Tonks, a Muggleborn cousin of Dora Lupin's. Their daughter Elayna and son Charles rounded out their family.

Fred was the last to marry. It had taken him six months to realize that he loved Angelina enough to marry her, but by that time she'd already moved on, marrying Robert Hilliard, a Ravenclaw two years older than she. As a joke, fully expecting to be turned down, Alicia asked Fred if he would like to make a baby with her. He surprised her by gravely answering, "You honor me." Like George and Katie, they had two sons, Alden Miles and Robert Arthur, and a daughter, Katelyn Molly.

Sirius and Emmeline had a son, Steven, and two daughters, Bonnie and Bridgit; he had absolutely refused to name any children after constellations. Besides Teddy, Remus and Dora bore a daughter, Hope, and another son, Lyall.

Among the Potters' friends, Neville and Hannah Abbott made a match and produced five children: sons Frank, Neville, Jr., and Griffin and daughters Alice and Amanda. Hermione waited until her career at the Ministry of Magic (Unspeakables Department) was established before settling on Anthony Goldstein. They bore a daughter Rose and son Tony. Lee married Elin Grant, a kindred spirit who was several years behind Ginny at school. They had three sons, Lee, Branford, and Colby. Luna married Rolf Scamander, grandson of the magizoologist Newt, and she gave birth to twins Lysander and Lorcan. Finally, Michael Corner and Susan Bones married and had a daughter, Mikayla, and two sons, Arnold and Benjamin.

Harry and Ginny were married five years when they heard that Romilda Vane had finally caught a man—Cormac McLaggen. They had a chuckle about it, thinking that the two were evenly matched. The McLaggens had a daughter, Sylvia.

Five years after earning his Potions Mastery, Harry was successful in his quest for the Lucidity Potion. Frank Longbottom, the day after his first dosage, seemed a bit improved, so the healers continued the experimentation, giving him one dose daily. After a week, they began administering the potion to Alice. At the end of six months, the Longbottoms were released from St. Mungo's and moved back to Longbottom Manor with Lady Augusta, and the Lucidity Potion was being given to many others who'd been similarly affected by the Cruciatus Curse. After another eighteen months, there was very little evidence that Frank or Alice had ever been attacked by the Lestranges or Barty Crouch, Jr., and were doting grandparents to their five grandchildren.