By Musings of Apathy
Here is my attempt at participating in the National Novel Writing Month. You can find more information on that here: NaNoWriMo
My goal will be to write 50,000 words in the month of November. What will be posted here wlll be un-beta'd. Upon completion of reformatting and Beta work, it will be reposted under it's correct sub-heading.
Appologies before hand on the quality of the writing of this story, as it will be written at such speed as to be a stream of conciousness, with little contemplation of each little detail. Correction of mistakes will be taken care of after the NaNoWriMo deadline for reposting as an edited work.
Family Inseparable: Chapter 5
By: Musings of Apathy
With a mouth full of sandwich, Harry asked, "What's up Ginny?"
At Ginny's lack of answer, Harry swallowed what he had in his mouth and put the sandwich down. "Ginny?" he prompted. "You alright?"
Ginny had gone pale behind her freckles. Harry really started to worry what could be wrong in a letter from her grandmum. "Ginny?"
"She knows!" Ginny whispered.
"What?" Harry asked. "What are you..."
"Grandmum knows something's up," Ginny expanded. "She knows I lied."
"Okay, Ginny," Harry said to her as he sat beside her and gathered her in his arms. Ginny let him hug her, but still held the letter in both hands in front of her face. "It's going to be fine. What does she know?"
"We have to tell her," Ginny said with certainty. "She knows whenever we lie. We have to tell her."
"It'll be alright, Ginny," he said. "Just tell me what she knows and we'll sort it out."
"She..." Ginny replied as she reread the short letter. "She knows that something is going on and that mum doesn't know. She wants me to trust her."
"Well..." Harry responded. "We're married now. We're family. Could it hurt if they knew? Is your grandmum going to tell them?"
"I don't know," Ginny told him. "I don't think so. She says that she won't tell if my secret isn't dangerous or anything."
"Then..." Harry began.
"But they can't know yet," Ginny told him, a little wild eyed. "They won't understand."
"You wanna go visit Luna and her parents?" Harry asked. "See if they can help? Some advice or something?"
"Yeah," Ginny said, momentarily subdued. "Oh, but, we can't! I told mum how terribly tired I was. She'll check and see if I'm resting."
"And she certainly would be suspicious if you suddenly wanted to go see Luna," Harry finished her thought.
"Well, can we wait to write her 'till tomorrow?" Harry asked, trying to reason through Ginny's blind panic.
"She said she'd be expecting an answer by Friday," Ginny answered. "That means that I have to post it with Errol by dinner tomorrow for it to be to Grandmum in time."
"Then we can at least visit with Luna and her Father tomorrow," Harry reasoned. "For now, let's rest."
Their nap over, the couple, newly vowed, set about to have a bath before dinner, where, of course, Ginny would eat with her family and her new husband would wait for a more private time. It wasn't anything normal for newlyweds, but Harry and Ginny didn't know enough better to worry about it.
With glee, Ginny poured a bit of the bubble bath that she had left over from a Christmas gift from her eldest brother. A bit was all that was needed, as the bath filled with water and foamy bubbles. They both undressed and sank into the bath, their clothes piled on top of a stool with the cloak draped over so that neither it nor the clothes themselves would be touching the floor if or when water managed to slosh over the rim of the claw foot tub. All that was left visible was the very tips of each stool leg.
With a giggle and a smile, Ginny splashed Harry with the foamy water. He laughed and returned the favor. Soon, the whole bath situation had devolved into a short splashing war, the bare kids sending spray after spray of water, when, in truth, nothing could happen to make them any more soaked than they currently were.
"Ginny," they heard from outside the door. "Are you playing in there?"
Ginny was quiet for a moment before calling back, "Sorry, mum."
They both heard a click from the door and the knob being turned. Quickly, Harry ducked his head below the foam, his nose and mouth sticking above the water and his fuzzy, glassless vision only taking in the underside of the white foam layer of bubbles.
"Mum!" Ginny said, sitting up in the bath to give Harry room under the water line, as her mum entered the bathroom. "What are you doing? I'm taking a bath!"
"And making a mess, I see," her mum chided her. Molly bustled in with her hands full of bathroom products. "I've got some more soap and some hair potion. You should wash your hair, dear, while your in there."
Molly walked over to her daughter in the tub and handed her a new bottle of Sacharissa Tugwood's Original Fabulous Hair Elixir. "And don't make too much of a mess. You'll have to clean up after yourself, young lady."
"Yes, mum," Ginny agreed as her mum finished replenishing the bathroom supplies and exited the loo. She waited a couple of breaths after she heard her mum spell the door latch back to locked before she raised her husband up by his shoulders. "It's safe. She left," Ginny told him.
"Good," Harry said as he squinted to see her. "She didn't see our clothes?" he asked.
Ginny pointed to the place where the stool legs disappeared under the invisibility cloak. They were both glad that they didn't have to explain that sight.
"Here," Harry said, reaching for the bottle of shampoo, "I'll do your hair and then you can do me." He squeezed some out onto his hand and moved to rub it into her hair, but she stopped him before he could.
"What are you doing, Harry?" she asked.
"I was going to shampoo your hair," Harry told her.
"But that's not how you use hair elixir," she told him. She took the bottle from him and showed him the label. "See, it says right here that you drink it and then work the lather into your hair."
Completely confused by yet another strange thing in the magical world, Harry watched as she took a gulp of the viscous elixir from the bottle and swallowed.
The next day Harry and Ginny once again made their way across the meadow to Luna's house. Harry, as usual, removed his cloak at the first chance once out of site of the Burrow. When they arrived, they found Lukasha and Luna in the yard, stalking the shrubbery.
"Hey, Luna," Ginny called out.
"Shhh," Luna shushed back. "You'll spook them!" she whispered in a surprisingly loud voice.
"Wha..." Harry started, but stopped at Ginny's insistence with a hand on his forearm and a shake of her head.
Mr. Lovegood was off to the side of the house, just within sight, sneaking up on what looked like an out of place, but well sculpted boxwood. Luna, however, just about had her hands on a small green and yellow leafed bush with little blue flowers. Harry and Ginny stood back, not wanting to disturb whatever plans the Lovegoods were enacting at the moment.
Lukasha looked just about ready to pounce when a clear bell sounded ten times from within the house, a sound that reminded Harry of the Grandfather clock in Mrs. Figg's house. Harry looked down at his watch, a beat up one that Harry had rescued from Dudley's second bedroom which had no chance of fitting his cousin's pudgy wrist. If he read his watch right, the time was not ten o'clock, but eleven forty-three, and, as he hadn't had any difficulty when they taught how to read a clock in school, he didn't doubt his assessment of the time.
On the tenth ring, both Lukasha and Luna straightened up from their sneaky crouched positions and turned to face their visitors.
"Hello," Mr. Lovegood greeted. "How are you this lovely day?"
"Um..." Harry started eloquently. "Fine. How are you, sir? Sorry for scaring your...the, um...scaring them away, sir."
"Nonsense, dear boy," he dismissed. "You did no such thing. The hunt is over after the strike of ten, after all."
"But it's..." Harry started, looking at his watch, but trailed off when he reconsidered. He'd just have to trust that he would be happier not knowing all of the mysteries of the father and daughter.
The young couple followed the Lovegoods into the house and happily sat down with them for tea and a platter of sandwiches. Harry was amazed at what could be accomplished with a few waves of the wand, at least as Lukasha Lovegood demonstrated with ease. A tea pot in the drainer filled with water from the cast brass sink fixture. After the water in the pot was brought to steam, without even being placed on the stove, Mr. Lovegood spooned five or six good heaping teaspoons of loose tea leaves from a colorful tin. Meanwhile, sandwiches assembled themselves from ingredients around the kitchen that were prepared expeditiously with knives and utensils seemingly of their own volition. The sandwiches came to rest on a platter which was followed to the table by four plates, utensils, napkins and the tea service, now sporting all of the necessary elements.
As Mr. Lovegood sat, Luna was already serving tea, asking how Harry liked it.
Ginny, seeing Harry's dazed look from watching the ballet of magic, answered for him, "Sugar and cream for both of us, please."
Quickly, Harry overcame his awe of magic, at least for that moment, and joined the conversation. Their talk ranged from the inconsequential to the strange, which was to be expected in the Lovegood household.
"...and that's why they can only be caught before the strike of ten," Mr. Lovegood said. "And so rarely at that."
"I assumed..." Harry stammered. "I thought you meant ten o'clock, but it was past half eleven. Didn't know the ten chimes meant something different."
"Why are they so hard to catch?" Ginny asked.
"Well," Mr. Lovegood answered. "Many centuries ago, they existed in great numbers throughout the isles, but their skins held many uses and great value to the trappers, so they were nearly hunted to extinction. In the beginning, the ability to turn invisible was a minor trait of very few of the breeding lines, but after a time, as there were less and less of them, the survivors were the ones that were better able to hide from the trappers and to escape. What was left by the time that they were protected were the ones that could teleport and turn invisible, amongst other protective traits. They developed great amounts of caution, and now don't reveal themselves to humans at all. Their existence, because of that, is now considered myth. Yet another species that relies on the attitude, 'if I can't see it, it's not real.'"
"Daddy," Luna asked out of the blue. "Can I get married, too?"
Harry and Ginny looked at each other in near panic. They hadn't meant for everything to happen like this. What would Mr. Lovegood do?
"No, dear," he said with a responsibility that would surprise anyone that only knew him for his eccentric views and beliefs that were published each month. "As you know, they had exigent circumstances and we both should have seen this coming. Getting married just to be married is wrong."
Ginny sat stunned. "We're..." she choked.
"We're wrong?" Harry completed her shocked thought.
Mr. Lovegood stood from the circular table and rounded it to settle on his knees between the overly young couple. "No, Ginny, Harry," he soothed. "If Luna had sought out a boy and gotten married just to be married without anything more, it would have been wrong. You two love each other, in a way, or the ritual that you used," he pointed to their tattooed wrists, "would have done nothing if you didn't already have a bond of love to reinforce. A handfasting creates a bond between two people based on a preexisting bond of love. Without the love, the handfasting would fail."
Ginny visibly took a breath. She reached out and clasped Harry's hand in hers, entwining their fingers. "You mean, you're not mad?"
"No," he assured them. "Is that what you were worried about?"
They both nodded to him. He drew them into a reassuring hug.
"Is that why you are worried?" he asked. "You're marriage?"
"My grandmum," Ginny said. "She can tell when we lie, even in a letter."
"Ah," he said. He got up from his knees and went back around to his own seat so they could talk proper. "And she has written you to tell you that she knows something is up?"
"Well, your grandmum is a wonderful woman," he said. "She has lost a lot in this life. I met her a few times before my mother-in-law passed. They were friends, you see. I think you would be well thought to trust her."
"We..." Ginny started. "I didn't see any other way. I don't want my mum and dad to know yet."
Lukasha took a swig of his drink before giving her a smile. "That is your choice. I believe that they will surprise you, young lady, but it is still your choice."
Sensing the ease in the conversational tension, Luna asked, "If I can't have a husband, can I have a crumple horn snorkack?"
"No, dear," her father answered automatically, as if it were a common request. "As you know, we have not captured one yet, and when we do, we don't know if they will make good pets."
"If we catch one, will you reconsider?" she asked.
"If we catch one, and it is tame," he told her, "Your mother and I will consider it then."
"Thank you, daddy," she said as she rounded the table and hugged him in as crushing a manner as an eight year old can. "Can we go chase the blascurl nectar beetles in the the back field?"
That evening before dinner, their decision made, Ginny wrote to her grandmum and introduced her husband in letter form. She explained their meeting and friendship. She explained about Harry's arrival and her nursing him back to health. She explained what they had come to understand about family and marriage and how that led them to their current matrimonial state. She expressed how much they both enjoyed the magic of the bonding itself and their desire to do it again. In the end, she asked that her grandmum keep it all in confidence.
Sending the letter that evening sparked an anxious waiting game for her and her husband that would last until they knew her grandmum's reaction. After dinner, she quickly sequestered herself with Harry in her room, hoping that the gig wasn't up.
"Calm down, Gin," he said, pulling her into a tight hug. "Your grandmum sounds like a great person. It'll be okay."
"But..." she argued, stopping and, instead, choosing to trust in Harry's comfort.
They whiled the rest of the evening away until a reasonable bedtime by reading. Still uncomfortable not knowing when or if one of her large family would burst through her door, Harry still spent his time under his cloak beside his wife. At bedtime, they snuggled together, the blankets covering them both from head to toe.
"There she is, Gred," Forge pointed out to his brother.
"Yes, indeed, Forge."
"We shall," Gred agreed as they made their way across the rambled garden to where they could see their little sister sitting against a tree.
Ginny had tried to not let her nervousness show, at least when around her mum, dad and siblings; around her husband, she didn't mind. They shared their nervousness in mutual support that made it alright.
She immediately knew that she hadn't been successful when her twin brothers came up to her without a prank in hand.
"Gin Gin," one said.
"Glad we found you," the other continued.
Ginny stared back and forth between their alternating phrases, trying not to laugh, but finding it hard.
"I've been thinking..."
"That you look unsettled for some reason."
"As the good and caring brothers..."
"That we no doubt are..."
"That something is bothering you..."
"And since Dearest Ickle Ronikins wouldn't have noticed..."
"Even before you used that wonderful hex on him the other day..."
"What was that anyway?"
Ginny stifled her giggle for a second to answer the boys who were trying so to act nearly serious. "Bill taught it to me," she told them. "It's the Bat Bogey Hex."
"You'll have to show us that one!"
"Say you will!" they pleaded.
"No," she answered firmly. "Someday you'll earn a close look, though."
"You know, Gred, I think she's serious."
"You're right! Best us hope that she doesn't have a wand when the time comes."
"Back to the original topic..."
"Ronikins is too busy avoiding your wrath to worry about your current mood..."
"And the elder brothers..."
"Mum's bad with names," Ginny interrupted, "but she didn't name Charlie, Charlemagne. It's just Charles, after great-great-grandfather, or something."
"Have their noses buried in books..."
"So serious lately, those two..."
"School and work and whatnot..."
"Seems to have come down with the Pox..."
"Dragon or some sort..."
"And is therefore not coherent..."
"Seeing all kinds of wonderful things that are not there..."
"Hours of entertainment, that one..."
"Too bad that, while he's sick..."
"And on the couch where mum can keep care of him..."
"She's keeping us clear of the living room."
"So, they've been so busy..."
"That they, our older siblings, have let our dear..."
"Little sister languish in whatever she is worrying about."
"Without asking her..."
"What is wrong..."
"Or barring that..."
"What can we do to make it better?"
By the end, Ginny was laughing outright, joined silently by Harry under his cloak on the far side of the tree. The weight of waiting for her grandmum's response seemed a bit lighter after the twin's performance.
"Won't tell us, then?" Fred asked quietly after he let her laugh for a couple of minutes.
Ginny silently shook her head back and forth through her giggles.
"In that case," George huffed. "You can at least tell us what you would like for your birthday..."
"In just two days..."
"So that we can request of dear Bilius a trip to Wonderful Wizarding London..."
"For whatever it is you desire most in this world..."
"Sky's the limit..."
"Anything you want..."
"Long as it doesn't exceed a galleon two sickles..."
"Or is larger than our floo..."
"Unless you want a pony..."
"We could see about that..."
"Long as Farmer Murphy wouldn't miss one..."
"Without much cost..."
"Save those ski masks and black gloves..."
"But we've been needing those anyway..."
Ginny was back to full tilt laughter, but was reassured deep down that her brothers really do care about her. On the other side of her, Harry was also amused, but was conscious of the bit where it was going to be his wife's birthday in two days, the eleventh. If Ginny's grandmum sent Errol back soon, he'd have to owl one of the stores in Diagon Alley for something for her. He'd love to select a present personally, but there was no way he could just go to Diagon Alley undiscovered. He was sure that there was some owl order catalogs somewhere in the living room that would be useful.
"Come on, Gin Gin," Fred pleaded.
"Think of something," George added.
"We saved money just for you..."
"Didn't even buy that potions book we saw..."
"The one last month with all the prank worthy potions in it."
"What do you want?" they asked together.
"Well," she considered. "Could you see if there are any of those adventure books in the used section? You know, the ones where you pick the story?"
"Hmm," George turned to his twin. "An adventure book."
"Me thinks she's looking for a knight in shining armor type."
"Me agrees. You could be right."
"Of course, she's got the order all wrong, you know."
"Why is that, Fred my brother?" George asked, echoing Ginny's silent question as she watched them bandy back and forth.
"Well, my brother, she seems to have given herself the mark of a handfasted woman," he indicated, pointing to her tattooed wrist, "before she shopped for the husband."
"You could be right, dear twin of mine," George agreed, "but, then again, she has been distant lately..."
"And secretive enough to be after our own hearts..."
"That she could already have a suitor selected."
They both turned to their little sister. "So, what is it?"
"Shopping for the perfect knight..."
"Or has that night already passed?"
Ginny just looked at them in confusion, and not a small amount of amusement. Sometimes she didn't completely understand the conversations of her older brothers, but at least the twins didn't hold back and talk to her like she was a baby. She thought they were referring to her marriage tattoo, thinking it a fake, but asking in their own way.
"Oh, won't talk, will you?" Fred started in an ominous voice. "Well, we'll see about that. I think it's time for some tickle interrogation!"
He started for her, thinking his twin would be right with him, as they always were for each other, but instead felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to George with an inquiring look.
"I am afraid that, for the moment, my dear brother," George answered the look, "Little Ginevra is to be granted clemency if we are to catch Bilius in time to make the Alley on this day."
"Ah, but you are correct, my equal."
"Let us away!"
Ginny was laughing uproariously as they left, and a bit relieved that they were not going to drag the information that they didn't even know was there out of her. The two might have just been able to get her to spill the beans about her husband with the tickle torture.
"Ginny. I think they're completely cracked," Harry whispered to her. "I like 'em!" he concluded enthusiastically.
"Don't we all," she agreed.
"Mum," came a loud call from the living room, where the floo was. "We're back," said the voice that belonged to one of the twins.
"Stop making so much noise," Molly Weasley called back. "You'll disturb your brother!"
Fred and George came into the kitchen, one toting a plain white shopping sack.
"Wouldn't worry, mum," Fred answered.
"Percy's so far gone," George said.
"He probably thought we were personal representatives from the Ministry..."
"With his Order of Merlin..."
"In recognition of his stellar grades and organizational skills."
"Leave your brother alone," Mrs. Weasley admonished the twins. "He's only got another day or so before the pox are burned out of his system. Leave him to heal and he'll be better for Ginny's birthday."
"Okay, mum," they agreed reluctantly.
"Did you thank Bill for taking you to the alley and seeing you into the floo back?" their mum asked.
They shared a look before they answered, "Yes, mum, we thanked him."
"Find everything?" she asked, showing motherly interest.
"Got it covered," they replied in a rather than definite way.
Harry knew from the looks on Fred and George's faces that they had not been completely successful on their shopping trip to the Alley. With a squeeze of Ginny's shoulder, he left her side and silently followed the twins up the stairs to their room. Luckily for him, they were still too young to be altogether cautious of their privacy around the house, so they didn't completely close their door when they entered. Harry simply perched himself where he could hear the twins without them knowing he was even there. His invisibility helped with that a great deal.
"Think she'll like it?" one twin asked. Harry still couldn't tell the difference.
"I think she will," the other answered.
"Bugger we couldn't get the other," the first lamented. "What was that thing, the story book?"
"Yeah," the other agreed. "But, can you imagine? Four galleons for a book?"
"I don't care how magical it is," he ranted. Harry hardly had to strain with the outraged volume of their conversation. "Sure it's a magical story book, but it's still a kid's story book!"
"Maybe next time."
Harry backed away from the door. Now he knew both what his wife wanted, and that her brothers hadn't gotten it for her. The hard part would be buying it in time.
It was the next morning, after their anxious waiting the entire day before, that saw the arrival of Ginny's Grandmum's return letter. Ginny could hardly sit through breakfast after it arrived, she was so anxious to open it, but there was nothing to be done. She couldn't open it in front of her family, for fear of what it would say and one of her brothers reading over her shoulder.
"What do you have there, Ginevra?" her mum asked, seeing that Ginny had received an owl during breakfast.
In her mind, Ginny cursed her luck. Her mum had suddenly taken an interest in the letter in her hand, even though Ginny had hoped that the commotion of the breakfast table would have been enough to distract the housewife. With as much confidence and nonchalance as she could muster, she held the envelope out to her mum and told her, "A letter from Grandmum, mum."
Ginny was confident that her mum would not do more than look at the outside of the envelope and would never open something addressed to her daughter. She was less confident that her mum would not ask to read the letter after Ginny had opened it. Sure enough, her mum made no move to remove the letter from Ginny's hand, much to her relief.
"Aren't you going to open it?" Molly asked.
"Not at the table, mum," she responded. "I'll read it in my room."
"I wonder why she wrote you," Mrs. Weasley pondered to herself. "She'll be here for a time tomorrow for your birthday. Hmm. Well, finish your breakfast first, dear."
Meanwhile, while the bulk of the family was eating breakfast, Percy Weasley was still camped on the couch, having been levitated from his bed in his sleep when his mum came down the stairs to cook that morning. She had experience both from her youth when her twin brothers were down sick with the Dragon Pox and when her son Bill had the same. She knew that today, the third day after the scaly spots formed on her son's face, would be the toughest. His illness would spike today before it broke and he would be showing the strongest symptoms. He'd need fluids and care. Aside from when she was taking care of breakfast for the rest of her family, she'd keep a close eye on her third child.
"Santa?" Percy called from the couch. "Is that you? You can't be Santa."
Harry had figured that, if the twin's description of the dementia was accurate, he could use the fireplace as Mr. Lovegood had told him before and make a call to the book store that he saw in Diagon Alley. Such a strange name, Flourish and Blotts, it stuck with him so he could make the call in the strange green flames. He had a stack of galleons in his hand, hoping Fred was accurate that the book cost four of them.
"You can't be Santa," Percy repeated. "Santa is supposed to be rotund and dressed in red fur. And, besides, it's not December, is it? What month is it? What is the date?"
Unsure if he should answer the redhead that was looking directly at him, despite his cloak and notice-me-not necklace, he didn't.
"You're all small and thin," Percy went on when Harry didn't answer. "So you're not Santa. Are you a fairy? Please tell me, are you a fae? You're all see through and why are you here?"
Giving up on not answering, Harry pulled the cloak from his head and folded it over his arm. "I need to make a call. Do you know how?"
Percy tried to sit up from under the heavy blankets, but found it took too much energy. "Sure," he told Harry. "The floo powder is on the mantle in the pot. You can't be a fae, you don't have any wings, I can see now. Are you an elf?"
Harry looked above the high mantle and saw a clay pot, similar to those that would hold a small plant, but couldn't reach because of the high wizarding mantle, undoubtedly so high so adults could step from the fireplace without braining themselves. He looked around form some way to reach.
Percy pointed him to a stool in front of a red leather wingback chair that had obviously seen many generations. "What's the date?"
Harry paused as he was reaching from the top of the worn stool to reach the powder pot. "Um...August tenth."
"Oh, thanks," the delirious young man offered automatically. "I don't mean a house elf. Are you a high elf? They're supposed to be able to turn invisible and have delicate bodies like yours."
"I don't have a delicate body," Harry answered back as he stepped from the stool with the pot of powder.
"Fine, lanky," Percy conceded.
Harry ignored him, which was easy with his blinking eyes and barely there cognizance.
Harry kneeled on the low hearth and stuck his hand into the pot of powder. With a half hand full thrown into the fire, the green flames told him it was correct, just as he saw at the Lovegood house on their trip to Diagon Alley. With a firm, "Flourish and Blotts," Harry bravely stuck his head in the flames.
The sensation of his head spinning, but his body not, reminded him a bit much of when his cousin had spun him around and around and then shoved him into the sandbox at school. His head spun and his vision tilted and twisted. Finally it all came to a rest as he was looking at a desk stacked with catalogs and parchment. No less than a half dozen feather quills, each more colorful and fancy than the ones he had seen the Weasleys use, were sicking from pots on the desk and overhanging the edges. The room had several stacks of boxes, some open to reveal books of every description. Adding to the boxes were at least a dozen stacks of books, large and small, that would reach anywhere from Harry's knees, had he been standing by them, to over his head.
A second after his head emerged in green flames in the back office of the book store an elderly man entered the office calling, "Coming, coming. Malfrida, mind the counter while I handle the floo."
As the man entered the office fully and Harry could see him, he found it curious. Harry hadn't seen too many people in wizarding robes, but he had gotten used to seeing how the Weasley and Lovegood adults dressed. This man, however, was dressed in what looked like many ornate layers over a white dress shirt with a small bow tie. The man's outer layer was a common rich brown color, but underneath were blue and orange. All quite strange. Around his neck, on a silver chain, was a pair of wire rimmed reading glasses that looked to be very old.
"Hello, young man," the shopkeeper greeted Harry as he rotated the wooden rolling desk chair from the desk and took a seat facing the fireplace. "How can I help you?"
"Oh, um, hi," Harry returned. "Ginny's birthday is tomorrow and she mentioned a type of book that she wanted."
"Well, it seems you came to the right place," the man answered with a grandfatherly grin.
"Good," Harry continued. "She wants a magic adventure book, the type where you pick what happens," Harry told the man as best he could remember from what Ginny had said.
"Ah, I think I know the one's you mean," the man scratched his chin. "Starts off and lets the reader choose the names and some of what happens to the character at points. Really rather a brilliantly charmed invention, that one. A bit pricey because of it, but rather brilliant anyway. Four galleons, they are."
Harry didn't even have to consider the purchase. He already knew as much. "Okay, sounds good."
"Well then," the man bustled about his desk with a quill in hand. He turned back around with a parchment in hand. "And which one would you like? I have four of muggle knights and princesses, two of magic heros fighting to save a village or castle from the dark army and two about a desert prince saving the sultan's daughter from monsters as he returns her to her father's palace."
"Could I have the first of the knight ones?" Harry asked.
"Sure," the shopkeeper summed. "It'll be four galleons. An extra ten knuts for gift wrapping and two for owl post delivery if you want."
"Okay," Harry agreed. The shopkeep could see some movement of Harry's head, but didn't know what the boy was doing. In truth, Harry was reaching blindly for his money, first to his sack to add the necessary knuts to the four galleons that was sitting by his knee, then for the galleons themselves. Although each of the three wizarding coins were different sizes, it was little more than a guess for Harry that he had grabbed the right amount. However, when he tried to put his fist with the money through the fire to the book shop, he found himself reaching to the back of the fireplace rather than through into Flourish and Blotts. "Um...how do I pay you? My arm won't come through the fire."
"Oh, well, yes, that usually is a problem," the man said. "Just tell me who it should be addressed to and then you can pull your head back to your house. Throw another pinch of floo powder in and just stick your arm through with the money and drop them in my hand. It'll all be taken care of."
"Well, her name's Ginny and she lives at the Burrow."
On his return, Harry's luck shined through. While he was conspicuous on his hands and knees, with his head in the green flames of the fire, the Weasley family, minus Percy, went on eating their breakfast, oblivious to both the existence of another spouse in the house and his activities. He managed to end his conversation with the store manager and send his payment along the network without discovery. The shopkeeper promised delivery, by owl, the next morning, much to Harry's satisfaction.
"Mr. Elf?" Harry heard from behind him. On turning, he saw Percy once again bundled in blankets, his head facing the fireplace and his eyes slightly glassy with an out of focus look to them. It was obvious to Harry that the worst of the illness was with the poor boy that morning.
"Can you conjure me a glass of water, please?" Percy asked. "I'm so very thirsty."
Harry recalled that Percy's mum had said that Percy should drink plenty of water, but had no idea what if meant to 'conjure a glass of water'. Assuming that the boy just wanted a glass of water, Harry took a glass from the end table, filled it with the surprisingly cool water in a pitcher beside the glass and handed it to the ill boy.
"Here you go," he said.
Percy sat up a little so as to no spill the cool water down his front. He took a long drag before removing the glass from his lips.
"Thank you," Percy said with sincerity. "You...you look so young, but you can't be. You're too skilled in magic to be so young. You didn't even use a wand to conjure a glass of water."
Confused, Harry answered, "You're welcome."
Before anything else could be said or the situation could get any stranger, Harry donned his cloak and swept from view. He quickly exited back up the stairs to Ginny's room to stow his money bag and wait for her patiently.
At the expected time, Harry heard bustling footsteps ascending the spiral stairs below. He was disappointed that the footfalls didn't sound like his wife's, as she was normally more patient and controlled as she climbed the stairway, but whomever was coming was making all the racket of an elephant with the hurry of a cheetah. When the person came to Ginny's door and burst through, Harry threw himself off the bed to the far side, hoping that he didn't make a great thump, but knowing that there was no way that whichever of Ginny's brothers had burst into their sister's room could not miss the sound of him hitting the floor.
"Harry?" Ginny called.
"Oww," Harry finally let out once he realized that it was Ginny and not one of her brothers. He had managed to hit his shoulder hard on the hard wooden floor, which was painful. Had he rolled off the other side of the bed, he would have been protected slightly by the rug covering the center of the room, but the far side of the bed was just very old, very hard bare wood flooring.
Ginny rushed around her bed to find Harry halfway coming out of his cloak. She removed what was left covering him to find him rubbing his shirt covered shoulder. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "I thought it was one of your brothers coming into your room."
"Why would you think that?" she asked.
"They usually make so much noise, I have no problem hearing them coming," Harry told her. At her scowl, he quickly added, "You're usually so light on your feet, but you must have been excited. Did you get a response from your grandmum? What'd she say?"
"Thanks," Ginny said, her expression softening. "I could hardly sit through breakfast after grandmum's owl arrived. It's right here."
Ginny pulled the parchment envelope from the pocket in her dress and cracked the wax seal. They both settled on the bed to read the response.
Dear Ginny and Harry, the letter started. They both took a second to believe that this was a good omen; her grandmum acknowledging Harry with her granddaughter.
I am pleased that you have trusted me with this secret. First, know that I won't break your trust. Having said that, I hope you will find it in your heart soon to allow your family into this part of your life. Family truly is a witch or wizard's greatest strength, whether you are born into them or gain them later. I recall the many good years with your grandfather's family and how they welcomed me with open arms from the first day. I only wish you had the chance, Ginny, to meet the whole extended Prewett family, but, alas, they did not live to see your birth, for the most part.
Harry, dear, welcome to the family. I look forward to meeting you soon and seeing if my granddaughter selected well. You had better treat her right, or you will have to answer to the entire clan, that is a promise.
Dears, I will be attending the celebration on the morrow earlier than originally planned. I now expect to show before noon to take my granddaughter to lunch, or at least that is what your mum will know. Harry, I expect you to come along so that I may judge your measure.
I look forward to seeing the family tomorrow.
After they read the letter together, Harry and Ginny just sat, stunned. It seemed that she was accepting of the news, but that seemed unsure. At least she had agreed to keep their secret.
"What does she mean," Harry asked, "'judge your measure'?"
Ginny reached past Harry to put the letter on the night stand. She sat quietly for an excruciating period while Harry waited for her response nervously.
"I..." Ginny started, but paused. "I've heard someone say that before. I think it means to see what kind of man you are."
Harry thought about that for a moment. "But I'm not even a man yet," he proclaimed. "How disappointed is she going to be when she finds that I am just a boy?"
"Harry," Ginny reassured him, "you'll be fine. She'll see the kind of person you are and it'll be fine."
"Okay," Harry reluctantly agreed. "If you say so. But I don't think the whole 'becoming a man' thing'll happen for a while yet."
The rest of the day was a bit of torture for Harry. Tomorrow he would be going to lunch with his grandmother-in-law, and his mother-in-law didn't even know that he existed yet. He and Ginny were busy most of the day with cleaning and preparing the house for Ginny's grandmum's visit, much to Molly's surprise; first that her daughter was voluntarily cleaning, and second that she seemed to get so much done for one little girl, when she was left alone. Amongst other things, they did the laundry for the whole family, easily slipping Harry's dirties in the mix and then retrieving them in the sorting. They had thought to do that so Harry would have his best for meeting Grandmum Prewett, wanting to make a good impression.
As Molly was around throughout the day at surprise moments, and they never knew when one of Ginny's brothers would show up to bug their little sister or such, Harry stayed under the invisibility cloak and they didn't talk for fear of being overheard. They were getting good at other interactions, though. Ginny seemed to be getting better at keeping track of where Harry was at any moment when he was near; from the little sounds and scuffs that he made, and the touches that they exchanged that sent as much of a message as a verbal exchange.
As Harry was pointing his wand at a hard done stain on the knee of Bill's trousers, trying to remove the stain with a spell cast through his cloak that Ginny had learned from her mum, Ron rushed into the laundry room while trying to yank his shirt over his head. The boy had been wearing the brightest, loudest orange shirt that Harry had ever seen, with a black cartoonish cannon embroidered on the left breast and a large black number '53' on the back under the name 'Stevens'.
"Ginny," Ron shouted unnecessarily. "Fred tripped me while I was running and got grass stains all over my favorite jersey!"
Harry looked and, indeed, there were green streaks all down the right side of the shirt sleeve and shoulder. The shirt was quickly shed and held out in front of him at his sister.
"So?" Ginny returned.
"So, it's my favorite!" Ron whined. "Mum said you were doing laundry and you were back here. Come on, please? Fix my shirt. It'll be ruined."
Ginny looked at her bother, as pathetic and pleading as he was, and relented. "Okay, but you owe me."
She took the shirt from his hands and spread it out on the cleaning counter next to the laundry tub. She pulled a wand from her dress pocket and pointed it intently at the garment. "Scourgify!" she enchanted loudly. Like magic, the stain faded from view, leaving the cloth the same horrid orange that it was before the accident.
"Hey," Ron complained. "How come you have a wand and I don't?"
"Well, silly," Ginny answered in a teasing voice. "I help mum with the housework, so she gives me a wand while I am so I can do things like remove all the stains from your nasty clothes. You don't get to use a wand because you don't help clean."
"Don't complain," Ginny said. "I saved your precious shirt."
"It's a jersey," Ron corrected. "Can I have it back now?"
"No," she said. "It still has to be washed proper." She reached to the stack of folded clean clothing that would be sorted to Ron's room later and gave him a plain blue shirt with three buttons. "Here, this'll keep you decent."
"No," Ginny insisted, punctuating the point by throwing it in the sudsy wash water that the washboard was magically working on at that moment. "It needs to be washed before you can have it back. Wear it tomorrow or something."
Grumbling a "thank you", Ron trudged off back out the door.
By dinner time Percy's fever had broken and he was back to the real world. He sat with the rest of the family for the first time in several days. Thanks to luck and a few parenting spells that would prevent cross infection, the whole family sat down to a dinner of roast chicken and potatoes from their own garden.
"How are you feeling, Percy?" Bill asked. He was still outfitted in his muggle work suit, as today had been his day at work to interact in person with the muggle banks of London, placing transactions and moving valuables at the request of Gringotts customers.
"Better," he said. "It's great to be back from that. It was the strangest thing."
"What happened?" Bill asked. He shared a look with his parents, each of them remembering his bout with the same illness when he was nine years old.
"Well, this morning while I was sick and you guys were having breakfast, a high elf stopped by and talked with me. Said he wanted to use our floo to make a call. Made two in fact. Nice chap, even conjured me a glass of water when I was thirsty."
"A high elf?" Arthur asked, incredulously. Bill was trying to hide his amused smile. Charlie and the twins were a lot less successful, mostly due to lack of effort. Ron was not paying attention to anything but food, but Ginny was paying close attention, as always. "Are you sure," the father asked.
"Yeah, I think so," Percy answered. "He wouldn't confirm it, but he was small and spindly, delicate, you know? Just like the books say, and he had the brightest, magical green eyes. Could only be an elf. Conjured me a glass of cool water before he left."
"Percy," Molly said. "There was water beside the couch by your head. You must have poured yourself a glass and forgot."
"Yes, Percy," Arthur assured him. "High elves moved on from this realm long ago. Not anything left of their race in this dimension these days. I'm sure it was nothing."
"Really?" Percy scratched his chin. "I could have sworn."
"It was just the illness, dear," Molly coddled her middle child. "You're all better now."
The boys each had a smile to their faces, but were silenced from comment with a look from their parents, effective even on the twins. Missed was the look of worry on Ginny's face at her husband being seen by one of her brothers when he was doing Merlin knows what while they were eating breakfast in the next room. It could have been a disaster.