[A/N: This takes place on Halloween 1998, six months after the Final Battle. It is set in the same universe as The Errand, so read that one first. Thanks to JunoMagic, who returned this plot bunny to sender and encouraged me to do something with it. I own nothing, I'm not JKR. -BuckeyeBelle
THE FEAST OF SAMHAIN
SPOILERS: MAJOR for Deathly Hallows
Pairings: HGRW HPGW MWAW PWPC BWFW CWOC
On Samhain Night, it was raining in Ottery St. Catchpole. Ginny Weasley thought that was appropriate. When she had been a little kid, there had been parties and games, running around in the dark scaring each other. Then at Hogwarts there had been feasts. Of course, last year had been the exception in a lot of ways. She didn't want to know what the Carrows' idea of a feast would have been, so she was just as happy there hadn't been one.
This year, Hogwarts had planned plenty of activities for the whole weekend to keep the kids occupied. But since the holiday came on a weekend, Professor McGonagall had allowed students who wanted to be with their families to go home Friday evening and be back by the time classes started on Monday. She and Ron had, of course, come home.
This year...George and her parents had found comfort in the old ways after Fred died. They were having a traditional Samhain Feast, like her mother remembered from when she had been a girl. Hermione had come to the Burrow with Ron, so Ginny had brought Harry as well. He'd had some idea of staying alone at #12 Grimmauld Place, which wasn't even completely repaired yet from the shambles that the Death Eaters had left. She shuddered at the thought of him being alone in that old ruin with nothing but memories to keep him company. He hadn't been too hard to persuade to come here instead.
Her Dad came in with Percy and Penelope. They looked nervous and as if they weren't sure they belonged here. Ginny set down the bowl of apples she was getting ready to put in a pie shell, and ran over to hug her brother and sister-in-law. They'd proven themselves to the rest of the family at the Battle of Hogwarts. But they hadn't proven anything to themselves, apparently.
She let go of Percy so that Penny could guide him into the sitting room. His sight would never fully recover and he still walked with a limp, but he was so much better than the last time she'd seen him, right before school started.
Molly cast a drying spell on Arthur and took his cloak, offering the cuaich, the traditional two-handled cup of firewhiskey. He sipped, then put his arms around her and kissed her. Ever since she had dueled Bellatrix, ever since he and their sons had fought like demons and left a dozen of Voldemort's followers lying in their own blood outside the Great Hall, they never met or parted without a kiss and a quick exchange of I-love-you's. Life was short and uncertain. Love was eternal.
Seeing the passion in her parents' briefest kiss might have embarrassed Ginny, before she had promised herself to Harry. She was glad that he, Ron, and Hermione had decided to accept McGonagall's offer to the class of 1998 and return to Hogwarts for the seventh year they'd missed. Failing a year of school was no big deal, in the grand scheme of things, and she didn't want to be parted any further from him than the distance between the girls' and boys' dorms in Gryffindor tower.
With Percy and Penny settled, she went back to her baking and put her pie in the oven.
George brought Angelina, who had been Fred's girlfriend. After the battle, they had comforted each other, and Ginny wondered how long they would stay in mourning before they got together. Molly had given everyone strict orders not do say one word to either of them about it, on pain of death. As usual, her mother was right about things like that. Let them come to their own conclusions in their own good time.
Bill and Fleur came in from Shell Cottage. Bill shepherded his wife carefully up the wet walk, his arm safely around her. Even in her robes, her rounded figure was apparent now. They had decided on Victor for a boy, Victoire for a girl. Molly hugged them both, offering the cuaich. Because she was pregnant, she took only a tiny token sip from the cup before passing it on to her husband. Bill kissed his mother then put a casserole dish on the sideboard with all the other offerings. "Smells great, Mum."
She smiled. "I was just finishing setting the table. Go on in and say hello to your Dad and your brothers. Gin, have you got the silverware?"
"I will have in a minute, Mum," Ginny smiled, hugging her eldest brother in passing.
Molly counted places and extended the table with a wave of her wand, while Ginny transformed a few extra chairs.
For as long as she could remember, Molly had sat at the foot of the family table, with Fred and George on either side of her, where she could keep a close eye on them. She set Fred's place for the last time.
Ginny watched her mother age twenty years before her eyes as the grief she had been holding back for all these months finally overcame her. She left the silverware and sent a quick patronus to her father. He came immediately, crossed the dining room in two long strides and gathered his wife close. "Oh, Mollikins, oh, Mollywobbles. Go ahead and cry, love. You know he hasn't gone far."
Ginny's throat seized with so much pain she thought she would choke. She tiptoed out to give her parents a little privacy.
Harry had brought some pictures, but his parents and Sirius were the only ones whose pictures weren't already on the altar. Remus and Tonks, Dumbledore, Moody, so many others-many of them small school pictures on the wall behind. He put one of Hedwig's white feathers near a locket of Hermione's that contained a lock of Crookshanks' fur. Ginny walked over to join him. "She was a hell of an owl," she whispered softly. "I miss her too."
Harry put his arm around her and drew her tightly against his side for a moment, but his eyes were on Fred's picture. "I'm glad you brought me here, Gin. It would have been awful in Grimmauld Place."
"Next year, when it's all fixed up, we'll do something for Christmas there and have the whole crowd in. Make some new memories for a new household."
He smiled. "I'll just be a lowly Auror Trainee then, so let's hope I have a night off sometime around the holidays."
Ginny smiled back, a little.
The family gathered after Molly dried her tears, remembering and starting to catch up on all the news since they'd last been together. Hermione and Harry discovered that there was a ritual involved, bringing the food before the gods, then honoring their departed loved ones. Molly picked up Fred's picture and watched his image wave at her from the silver frame, forever young, forever laughing, and she prayed he was like that in the afterlife as well.
They gathered round the table, and talk soon turned as much to the future as reminiscing about the past. Ron was helping George at the joke shop after school and on weekends, and business was picking up. They wanted to buy Zonko's and expand into Hogsmeade. Ron had been so sure he would join Harry in Auror's training, or that Harry would join him in trying out for professional quidditch, but the two of them had come to the silent agreement that George would need him for the foreseeable future. A bereaved magical twin could not be left alone for too long, and Ron had to step up. Really, he was the only one who could.
Everyone wanted to get to know Radu. He was a Durmstrang graduate, sensitive and caring under a dark, quiet, and mysterious exterior, very much Charlie's opposite. He read and wrote English much better than he spoke it. The two young men shared a passionate determination to save the dragons, who were just as threatened as any other large carnivore by the Muggles' overpopulation and disregard for the ecology. Molly and Arthur had been bemused that they had produced a gay son, but if Charlie had been convinced they'd throw him out, he'd been mistaken. His announcement had been met with confusion, not condemnation, and his shy, gentle partner had quickly charmed his boisterous family.
Ginny sat between Charlie and Harry. Hermione sat between Harry and Ron. Ginny looked over at her friends and she realized that, of course, Hermione would marry Ron. It was the only way she and her mates could stay the Trio in the adult world-well, kind of the Trio plus one, including her. But she and Harry were romantically In Love. Ron and Hermione were Friends. They would always be that. Ginny suddenly understood that they might not always stay married. It was what they all needed now.
She looked past Harry and thought she saw a glimmer of silver in the empty chair between Ron and her mother. Or had it been candlelight refracting through tears?
Fleur asked her what she was going to do after she sat her NEWTs. She told the rumor she'd heard about the Wimbledon Wasps scouting her. Molly and Arthur were excited over that. George told her, "Fred would be damn proud of you, kiddo. Always knew one of us would make the big leagues!"
"Well, I'm not even sure it's true." She didn't want to get everyone's hopes up then disappoint them.
Arthur said, "I'd be surprised if it isn't, Ginny-girl. You're on top of your game this year. But it isn't important whether there are scouts in the stands or not. What you need to do now is focus on your flying and let the scouts take care of themselves. If they do make an offer, don't feel like you have to sign the first contract they offer you. Wait until after you graduate to make a decision."
Ginny nodded seriously. "Yes, sir. I'd never sign anything without talking it over with you and Mum and Harry first. I know how to fly and I know how to fight, but contracts and things like that-"
Bill said, "Don't worry, Gin, I know some good contract lawyers from working at Gringott's. We won't let you get conned."
Harry chimed in with his solid support. "You're good, a better chaser than I am a seeker. Trust me, you're going to do fine."
The conversation then turned to Fleur and Bill's baby. By the end of April, Molly and Arthur would be grandparents. Ginny wondered whether she or Hermione or Angie or Penny would be the first to provide the new addition with a cousin. Five of them...well, six, if Charlie decided to adopt...could fill this place up with dozens of cousins. Molly would like that, she thought. An empty nest at last, but not too empty.
After pudding, everyone was too stuffed to move, but they took the leftovers outside for the spirits. Ginny heard Ron and Harry snorting over how it was more likely for the garden gnomes and the neighborhood cats.
Molly just said peacefully, "They're part of nature too. Let's get back indoors before we freeze."
Ron and Hermione cleared the table while Ginny transformed the extra chairs back to whatever they had been before and Ron restored the table back to its usual size.
Molly sorted through the pictures, ritually thanking each spirit for his or her presence as she did so. At last she came to the last one and..."GEORGE WEASLEY!"
He jumped like a shot and came over. "Mum? What's wrong?"
"This is what's wrong! How dare you put your picture here instead of your brother's!"
He looked again. Sure enough, it was his picture. "Mum, I swear, I didn't do it."
She gave him a skeptical look, and he elaborated, "Upon my life and magic, I swear it wasn't me."
She was looking around at her brood to try to settle on the next most likely culprit, when a chill wind ruffled their hair and the room rang with ghostly laughter. For the first time since the battle, George grinned.