Harry looked up. Great black clouds were moving quickly in the sky, shielding the sun from view completely, and throwing the dirt path in an eerie light. Branches were creaking and the tall grass blowing in the strong wind. Harry quickened his pace, shivered, and pulled his thick cloak more tightly around him, bending his head against the cold.
He hoped to get home before the storm broke, as being caught in a storm like this (even if it was in May, which was unusual) wasn't recommended.
To top it all off, apparition had been suspended for the time being, due to severe splinching problems that were raining down upon the Apparition center, and whose reasons were yet unknown.
Smiling slightly at the thought of the happy family waiting for him at home, Harry turned a corner in the road, and saw the familiarly warm lights shining brightly in the darkness, coming from a cozy looking house surrounded by tall trees, a trail of smoke issuing from its chimney.
A bolt of lightning broke the darkness as Harry stepped over the threshold, closely followed by a loud rumble of thunder which was muffled quickly as he closed the front door with a snap.
Sighing in relief at the welcome shelter of the walls and the heat that had already started enveloping him, he removed his cloak and had barely hung it up when a small red-headed figure came hurtling through the corridor, and jumped in his arms with a force the took the wind out of him. Laughing, he squeezed his little daughter until she pulled back her head and looked up at him, grinning. He looked back, and saw a tiny replica of Ginny, with the same shiny bright red hair, twinkling brown eyes. In fact, Lily would have resembled Ginny exactly if not for the mouth and nose, which were more like Harry's. Harry gave Lily a big kiss on her forehead and put her back on the floor. She laughed as he tickled her, and ran back to the sitting room. Harry followed her, stopping in the doorway to survey the scene, happiness obvious on his face.
In a large room bathed by the flickering light of a merrily crackling fire , with cozy chintz armchairs and welcoming sofas scattered everywhere, the top of a red head was visible over the back of an armchair, which Harry headed for. However, no sooner had he started walking that he heard a loud 'weee!' from his right, looked around quickly and ducked.
'James!' came Ginny's voice from the armchair Harry had been heading for. 'How many times have I told you, NO FLYING IN THE HOUSE!' standing up and turning around, she caught sight of Harry, who was getting up gingerly, fighting a smile. She gave him a kiss, muttering 'God, I hate this. I sound like my mother 30 years ago…'.
Meanwhile, a blue-eyed boy with very ruffled brown hair, dripping with water and mud, was dismounting from a broomstick, a mischievous grin playing at the corners of his mouth. 'Hi Dad!' James called happily.
'Nice welcome!' Harry retorted, grinning. 'Will getting practically beheaded become a routine when I come home now?'
James laughed. 'Yeah, sorry about that, I was flying when the storm broke. Lucky you put that penetrable charm on the back door, I had to get in quick or I would have been roasted alive!'
'Well that's not exactly what the charm was intended for!' Ginny said, trying to sound angry and failing. 'next time just get down from the broom as soon as you're in the house so we don't feel our safety depends on your flying abilities ok?'
James, already halfway up the stairs with his broomstick in his hand, turned his head and said 'sure mum!' in a tone that left them in no doubt that he hadn't heard a word of it.
'Well, no wonder he practically goes around with his broomstick stuck to his hand' Ginny said. 'look at the genes he inherited from both sides!'
'Now it only remains to be seen if he is the second youngest seeker in a century, or if he goes more for beater or chaser.' Harry added.
Ginny laughed, a little sadly. She still couldn't get over the fact of Fred dying, even after so long, and on some days every little thing reminded her of him. To her, it had always been Fred and George, and it was as if one half of the person was missing. Every time she saw George, she half expected to see Fred walking through the door after him, making everyone laugh about some thing or another. She had stopped crying about it after a while, but the memory was still painful, as she had always been attached to all her brothers, no matter how much they had teased her (and Fred and George had done so quite a lot).
'Where's Albus?' Harry asked, bringing her back to reality. 'He's the only one I haven't seen yet.'
'He's in his room' Ginny answered. 'Hermione lent him a book on basic charms and he's been poring over it for the last couple of hours.' She said, laughing. 'I must say, he does remind me of her on our first year, reading every book she could get her hands on. Well, actually she's still like that.'
Harry grinned. 'It does drive Ron crazy to have her answer 'what?' three times in a row when he talks to her while she's reading. I think Rose got that side of her. She's more of the serious type, like Albus. Speaking of which, I'll go up to check on him now.'
'OK' Ginny said, heading for the kitchen. 'Dinner in half an hour!'
'Don't worry; we wouldn't miss it for the world!' Harry called over his shoulder, mounting the stairs.
Hugo and Rose were Ron and Hermione's children. Rose was more mature and serious for her age, like Albus, and she too would be starting Hogwarts at the start of the school year after next. Hugo was almost 8 years old, like Lily, and as they both inherited more of the Weasley side, they got along very well with their good sense of humor and vivacious personalities. James, who would be going off to Hogwarts in September, was a mixture of both sides, both in looks and personality.
When he arrived at Albus's door, Harry pushed it open silently. Albus was sitting cross legged on the floor, a big book in his lap, reading under his breath. Harry crept in quietly behind him, lowered himself to his height and, very quietly, said: 'Boo.'
Albus started, looked around quickly and laughed when he saw his Dad. 'Hey Dad!' he said, and returned to his book. Too used to this behavior to be offended, Harry settled down next to him and watched him for awhile.
Albus was reading with intense concentration, muttering charms and enchantments that he would probably learn in his first year, every once in awhile folding down the corner of a page on a particularly interesting charm. Once or twice when he muttered more loudly than before, an object in the room would twitch or move.
About 15 minutes later, he seemed to acknowledge his father's presence and turned around with a longing expression on his face.
'What's wrong?' asked Harry, concerned at this sudden change of attitude.
'It's just… I'd like a wand so much!' Albus said sadly.
'But you know, even if you did have a wand, you couldn't use it at all since you're underage!' Harry said. 'And believe me, having a wand and not being able to use it is much worst than not having one at all. And besides, in about a year you'll have your own wand and you'll be able to use it all year long at Hogwarts!'
'Yeah… I guess.' Albus said, obviously not convinced. 'But I still wish I could go to Hogwarts this year with James. And he doesn't really help by rubbing it in all the time either.'
Harry laughed. 'Well that, my friend, is part of the package when you have brothers. You can ask Mum, she knows all about it. Anyway, I think I have something that could cheer you up a bit…' Harry said mysteriously.
Albus looked doubtful, but nevertheless said 'What?'
'A special parcel I picked up at uncle George's this morning.' Harry said innocently, and watched Albus's face brighten at once, almost as if a light bulb had been turned on. Albus leapt to his feet and sprinted downstairs.
'What about your book?' Harry called after him jokingly.
'I think I'm finished for today!' Albus called back, already downstairs.
Harry chuckled. He had come to learn that no matter how serious and mature Albus could be at times, a paper bag full of sweets (especially if they were from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes) always had the same effect on kids.
Downstairs, two impatient faces were waiting for him, and one (James's) pretending it was too old to care about such small things as sweets. Albus had obviously wasted no time in telling the others about the candy.
Harry headed for the kitchen, from which delicious odors were wafting. Ginny was making dinner inside, and everything was moving. A knife was chopping potatoes in midair, while the already thin slices were floating to the frying pan, where a spatula turned them over every once in awhile.
At the same time, a broom was rounding up the potato peels, a pair of plastic gloves throwing them into the trashcan, which was belching loudly. It was really a sight. In the middle of all this, Ginny was standing by the stove, humming to herself and stirring a thick soup in a pot with her wand.
She looked around when Harry entered and said 'can you guess what it is?'
Harry came closer, and took an exaggerated sniff.
'Molly Weasley's Famous Onion Soup!' Harry said, grinning.
'I am honored to announce that I have finally been trusted with this precious recipe.' Ginny said in a pompous voice, which quite resembled Ernie McMillan's, and gave a little bow. 'I have been waiting for this my whole life, as I am sure you know.' She added jokingly.
Impatient, hushed voices were coming from the sitting room and a distinct whisper was heard, saying 'What do you think Dad's doing?'
Harry called back loudly: 'Dad is wondering whether he should go ahead and give you the candy or let you wait a bit, since it's so nice to have some quiet!'
He and Ginny grinned at each other. They both knew very well that they couldn't stand more than an hour or two without the usual young babble.
'Oh, common Dad! Please!' James and Albus shouted together.
'Pleeaasssee!' Lily piped up.
'Well… okay then…' Harry sighed loudly.
Harry went to get his cloak from the coat hanger, which tried to wrestle it from him, protesting that it had not finished cleaning it in a voice quite like Molly Weasley's.
Extracting (finally) three bulging purple paper bags from his pocket, he went to the sitting room which Ginny had now joined, and was now playing with their kitten, one of Crookshanks's descendants which they had named Padfoot.
James, Albus and Lily fell silent as soon as Harry entered, and he laughed aloud at their obvious impatience.
He handed them each a paper bag, which they proceeded to tear open, laughing and shouting happily, and with good reason.
Harry had gotten them each 3 Super Long-Lasting Sugar quills, a pack of the usual chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans (which now belonged to the Weasleys, who had developed a few more rather interesting flavors), and a personalized bag for each one.
For James, a box of Super Sweet Suckable Snitches, who flew around in your stomach until you managed to poke them.
For Albus, a bag of Jelly Bookworms, which you could either eat or stick onto your book, upon which they immediately started reading it aloud, or both.
He had also gotten Lily a Deluxe Princess Accessories Kit, ('Usable and Eatable!') including a singing tiara and a pink plastic wand that sent pink and gold sparks.
They made so much noise that Harry put his hands over his ears and cried 'I should have gotten you all Tongue-Tying Toffees instead of all this!' , upon which James and Albus hurled themselves at him for a wrestling match.