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Chapter Nine: Disarming


The lobby of St. Mungo's was abnormally crowded for a sunny Friday in late September, and as Ginny stepped from the great white-tiled fireplace that allowed visitors to arrive via the Floo Network, she realized that nearly every pair of eyes was looking at her expectantly. Ginny's first thought was that James and Al, who had arrived just seconds prior to her and Lily, had somehow managed to break their own record for how quickly they could get into trouble. However, a quick glance at her two sons let her know that they were just as confused as she was.

“It's not them,” one of the people sitting in the long line of overstuffed waiting chairs, a witch with three arms, groaned. A collective sigh rose from the assembled group, and the woman waved a fist – the one at the end of the arm that rose from the center of her ribcage – in the air, and accosted a harried looking Mediwitch who happened to be hurrying past. “What's it take to get some treatment in this place?” she asked angrily. There were several nods and murmurs of assent from around the large room.

“Mrs.-” the Mediwitch glanced down at a clipboard she was carrying and rifled through the thick stack of papers it held. “Agnit, is it?” She had apparently found the paper she was looking for, and was now tracing her fingers along it. “I'm sure you can understand that we're shorthan-” a glare from Mrs. Agnit cut the Mediwitch off. “Short-staffed then. No one can find the Healers Fitzpatrick or Kline, and-”

“Always with the excuses,” shouted Agnit, cutting across the Mediwitch, who looked as though she secretly wished it was herself who couldn't be found.

“Mrs. Agnit,” she replied huffily, “you're in no fit state to be getting angry, and you know your limbic system can't handle any more stress.”

“If I hadn't been sitting here unattended to for the last three hours, I wouldn't be in this state, would I?” As Ginny watched, Mrs. Agnit's hands – all three of them – began trembling and her face turned a hideous shade of magenta.

“Look out! She's limbering!” called a second Mediwitch that Ginny hadn't noticed previously. The first Mediwitch stepped backwards quickly, attempting to get away from Mrs. Agnit, who's whole body was now shaking. An elderly wizard, a biting teacup clamped tightly down on his nose, who had been seated in the chair next to the spasming witch, seemed to suddenly realize that he was in danger, and he made a move to jump out of his chair.

But it was too late. With a sickening crack, a fourth arm exploded out of Mrs. Agnit's right side, and it landed a solid roundhouse directly to the elderly wizard's face. The teacup shattered and crashed to the floor, but so did its ex-victim. The first Mediwitch hurried to help him up, but he leaped to his feet unassisted with surprising agility.

“Oh thank you!” he cried, and he extended a hand to Mrs. Agnit, but then, looking confused as to just which hand to shake, he thought better of it. “I'd have been here all night otherwise.”

“Well at least one of us got cured,” muttered Mrs. Agnit irritably. “I'll probably be a bloody arachnid before I even so much as see a Healer. Without warning, she began to tremble again, and a wide circle parted around her. This time, however, it was not an arm that sprouted from her left shoulder blade, but a leg.

“Brilliant,” whispered James from his spot beside Ginny. “Can I get another arm?”

“Maybe when you're older,” Ginny replied, and having decided that her impressionable sons had seen enough, led them towards the double doors that would take them from the lobby and to the hospital proper. The uproar behind them continued to swell.

“She's gone bottoms up!”

“I'll run and get the loppers!”

Ginny felt her blood run cold and she shuddered as the doors swung closed behind her. It was not the less than pleasant mental image of the loppers that made her shiver, but the highly grating voice of none other than Cho Chang. The Potters came to a stop in front of the lift to the upper floors, and she pressed the call button. Thankfully the doors opened immediately. Unfortunately, so did the double doors at the end of the sterile white hallway.

“Ginny? Hold the lift!” Cho called out, and her rapid footsteps could be heard echoing down the hall. If the situation had been different, Ginny may very well have turned and started to duel Cho right then and there, but with Lily in her arms, James and Albus at her feet, and a rapidly limbering witch in need of lopping, there was nothing for it but to hold the lift.

“Cho,” she said as amicably as she could, as her oldest rival, looking worried and frazzled in her Mediwitch's uniform, ducked inside the lift. Ginny hoped that her eyes didn't betray her animosity, but Cho wasn't looking at Ginny. Instead she was surveying the three green children.

“I see that Hermione took my advice and brought little Rose over to your house.” Ginny wasn't sure if she was imagining it, but she thought she could see a trace of a smirk on Cho's lips.

“Yep, great idea you had too. Nearly killed Harry. Imagine the headlines... 'Boy-Who-Lived Done In by Ex-Girlfriend's Jealous Plot.' You'd be Rita Skeeter's personal hero.” Ginny took pleasure in the look of horror that came over Cho's face.

“You don't mean!” Ginny nodded, and reached up to brush her hair out of her eyes; a carefully plotted tactic to try and keep a smirk of her own from showing. “But I never intended for that to happen!” cried Cho, who looked very close to tears indeed. James and Albus had inched closer to Ginny throughout the ride on the lift, and now Al ducked behind his mother's legs and out of site. “Please tell me he's all right!”

“He'll be fine, my husband is notoriously tough to kill, you see.” Cho clutched at her chest, and let out a slow sigh of relief. She looked up, the motion of her head causing a single tear to run down her cheek. She quickly reached up and wiped it away with the back of her hand. She avoided looking at Ginny or the other Potters, and instead turned to the door of the lift and put a hand on it for support.

“I was just trying to help you. It's very difficult to have Dragon Pox later in life, and I thought you'd be happy to have it out of the way. I'm really sorry about Harry. Please tell him that I'm sorry.”

“Maybe,” Ginny allowed, suddenly feeling a bit sorry for the Cho who now appeared so diminished before them. Cho inclined her head slightly, and stood up straight. The lift slowed to a halt, and a chime sounded.

“Second Floor, Magical Bugs,” a thoroughly bored sounding voice announced, as the door opened. Ginny held her hand out to Albus, who was still pressed up against the backs of her legs. He took it eagerly, and she led him and James out of the lift.

“Good luck with disarming Mrs. Agnit,” she said to Cho, not unkindly, as they passed her. Cho looked confused momentarily, but then jerked violently.

“Oh!” She punched the door close button on the lift, and Ginny and her children found themselves standing alone in another long white hallway.

“Mum, who was that woman?” asked James, still looking at the closed door of the lift.

“Ms. Chang,” Ginny answered unthinkingly. She was still busy trying to decide if it was all right to continue to hold a grudge against Harry's first – and only – ex-girlfriend.

“I don't like her,” James stated categorically. Ginny felt a tug both at the corners of her lips and at her hand. Albus was giving it a yank, trying to get her to look down at him. She obliged.

“She was scawy,” he whispered.

“I knew there was a reason I liked you two,” Ginny said, feeling a rush of affection for the two boys. Lily babbled from the bundle in her arms, and Ginny bent down to kiss her on the forehead. “What's that? You didn't like her either? Well then it's unanimous. Let's go and find your father.”

After a brief stop at the level's information desk, the Potters set off for the public ward Harry had been placed in, a large room right next to the one he had been in before. However, just two doors away from reaching their ultimate destination, they were waylaid by none other than Gilderoy Lockhart, who was sneaking out of a door to a private room rather guiltily. The handsome wizard was smiling cheekily, his bright white teeth and flowing golden-gray hair reflecting the harsh light fluorescent candlelight. He eyed the Potters inquiringly for a moment, then swooped down on James and grabbed him with both hands.

“A Clabbert!” he cried, turning James this way and that as if to inspect him thoroughly. Ginny let go of Al's hand and moved closer to James and Lockhart so she could intervene if the need arose, but the last time they had met like this, Lockhart had been harmless enough. “Mottled green skin, looks like a monkey, pustules... but no, they're not red and pulsating, I wonder...” Lockhart grabbed a hold of James's hand, and pulled it towards his face. “No, not webbed. What are you!” he demanded.

“A Potter!” answered James proudly, looking curiously at the man before him. “What are you?” Lockhart looked taken aback at the question, and let James go. Ginny bent down and put a reassuring hand on her son's shoulder.

“Good answer,” she whispered in his ear. When she stood back up, she found that Gilderoy had turned around and was now examining his reflection in the glare of the glass of the windowed door he'd been sneaking out of.

“Hmm...” he mused, turning his head first one way and then the other. He used a hand to prod at his facial features, and winced when he stuck a finger in his eye. He turned back around, blinked rapidly several times, and smiled brightly. “I have no idea what I am,” he pronounced, “but I'm gorgeous!” Ginny snorted, and Lockhart noticed her standing there for the first time. His face darkened, and his eyes appeared to be searching her face. “Do I know you?”

“About as well as you know yourself, I'd reckon,” Ginny answered. “You were my professor at one point, and we've met here in St. Mungo's as well, but that was many years ago now.” Lockhart's clouded look brightened instantly, and he withdrew a peacock feather quill from his right sleeve with an over-exaggerated flourish.

“I suppose you've come back for another autograph have you? Can't get enough of the author of such famous books as Voyages with Vampires and Travels with Trolls?”

“Wait,” said Ginny suddenly drawing closer still to James. If Lockhart was regaining his memory, he wasn't as harmless as she had thought. “You actually remember writing those books?” Lockhart laughed heartily.

“Oh Merlin no! I was just meeting with this most delightful woman- Veronica I think her name was.” Lockhart cupped his mouth with his free hand, and leaned towards Ginny. “I think she fancies me,” he whispered softly, his grin widening. Ginny had to keep herself from rolling her eyes. “So, what do you say? Autographs all around? Who should I make them out to then?” Much to Ginny's dismay, James and Albus both seemed keen to get an autograph.

“Not now boys, maybe we can come see Mr. Lockhart again later, but now we need to go see Daddy, all right?”

“Would he like an autograph do you think?” called Gilderoy after Ginny and the children as she dragged them two doors down. When she arrived at the door however, she paused long enough to see through the window in the door that Harry already had company, and looked to be enjoying it, although somewhat uncomfortably.

“You know what, boys? Maybe now's a good time to get an autograph from Mr. Lockhart after all,” she said, looking down at James and Albus. The two of them didn't have to be told twice, and they sprinted down the hallway to where Lockhart had resumed examining himself in the mirror.

“Did you really meet a vampire?” asked James excitedly.

“And twolls?” Lockhart turned around and beamed at the two Potters fawning over him.

“Oho! Couldn't resist the overwhelming charms of Gilderoy Lockhart? Well then, I suppose I shall have to tell you everything I know about these most vile creatures.” He hitched up the front of his plum colored dressing gown, and sank to one knee. James and Albus drew even nearer, and Ginny couldn't help but smile. Professor Lockhart was actually quite sweet – incredibly vain – but sweet. She wondered what awful tragedy had to have befallen him in his earlier years to make him the monster he'd become before losing his memory.

Keeping an eye on the boys, she took an Extendable Ear out of her pocket, and unraveled the bit of flesh colored string, placing one end under the door to the public ward. She knew she had promised Harry that she'd not bring her work home, but it was always good to have an Extendable Ear on hand in case of emergencies. Not that this was an emergency of course, but still. Ginny smirked a bit guiltily as she put the other end of the string in her ear. The conversation Harry was having on the other side of the door became crystal clear, and she watched him gesticulating through the window.

“It was really nothing, Stan!” he insisted, shrugging his shoulders.

“Nothin'? Nothin'! 'e says's i' was nothin', Ern, can you believe 'im?” Stan Shunpike, his pimples now just scars, sat on the edge of the bed, chewing a piece of gum over-enthusiastically. Ginny was certain she'd seen it nearly fall out of his mouth as he spoke.

“Not a word,” replied Ernie Prang lazily.

“You 'ear that 'Arry? We don' believe you. It was a 'uge deal! When's the las' time that England'd won the cup, Ern?”

“Eighty-eight years.”

“Eigh- no, that can' be right Ern, that long?” Ernie nodded glumly, and resumed staring down at his hands through his thick glasses. “Well then,” Stan continued, “firs' Quidditch Worl' Cup in eighty-eigh' years. All thanks ta 'Arry Potter. Don' say that ain't nothin'!”

“It was a team effort,” insisted Harry, but Ginny could see that he was smiling in spite of himself. She knew that his capture of the Snitch in such a fantastic manner had been one of the proudest – and most embarrassing – moments of his life.

“Team!” cried Stan, the piece of gum flopping out of his mouth and down his front. His left hand caught the gum before it had reached the bed, and then Stan popped it back into his mouth without so much as a second thought. He kept right on. “Team ain't nothin'! They didn' take on no Viktor Krum, did they, Ern?” But Ernie didn't respond, and from the slow rise and fall of his shoulders, Ginny thought he'd fallen asleep. “Ern?” Stan tried again, but there was no response. Stan elbowed Ernie in the ribs, and the older wizard awoke with a start.

“That's right Stan, absolutely Stan, Couldn't have said it better myself Stan,” he rambled off. Stan looked mollified, and turned his attention back to Harry.

“Best Seeker battle o' our lifetime! The way you two was flyin', I though' the only way one of you'd catch th' Snitch is if the other'd died!”

“Well Viktor is a very good Seeker,” Harry allowed, his smile growing somewhat. “Were you at the match, then?” he asked, looking at Stan. Stan burst out laughing.

“Sweet Merlin's ov'rgrown beard, no. At the match? D'you 'ear that Ern?” Even Ernie was chuckling slightly. “Fastest sellout in 'ist'ry that was, all the tickets gone in forty-six seconds! Oh no, we was on the Knight Bus at th' time. No chance o' gettin' tickets.” Here, Stan leaned in closer to Harry and whispered loudly, “we watched on the tefflepigeon.”

“You mean television?” asked Harry, his grin becoming ever larger.

“First match ever seen on the Muggle contraption,” Ernie added, looking slightly more interested in the conversation. “Watched it in a bar on Charing Cross Road, we did. Muggles thought we were a bit odd though.”

“Well all they saw was one o' those... wha' d'you call them things... bloke tryin' to sell somethin'.”

“An infomercial?” offered Harry. Stan tapped his nose.

“Though' we were cheerin' the announcemen' of a new feature or somethin' I s'pose. Odd lot, them Muggles. But anyway, we saw th' 'ole match, all eighteen hours, from Quaffle up, ter the brilliant Potter Fall at the end. O'course, it wasn' known as a Potter Fall yet, just a fall, but you still caught the Snitch, eh Ern?” Ernie nodded so vigorously that his glasses slid down his nose.

“That's right, Stan. Brilliant move to fall off your broom like that, how'd you think to do it Harry?” Ernie asked, pushing his glasses back up.

“Believe me when I say that I'd had plenty of practice. Kind of a specialty of mine.” Ginny thought back to the match's spectacular finish, with Harry free-falling through the air towards the Snitch, and shuddered. It had been one of the most frightening moments of her life. But she couldn't stay lost in her recollections for long, as a high-pitched tone sounded down the corridor and a magically amplified voice followed soon thereafter.

“Would the Healers Fitzpatrick and Kline please report to the lobby. Please!

“Hey, Ern?”

“Yes, Stan?”

“Do either of those names sound familiar to you?” Stan asked, and Ginny could see through the window that he was thinking hard. Apparently it was causing him considerable pain, as his eyes were scrunched up. On the whole, Ginny thought it looked like he'd downed an entire bottle of U-No-Poo.

“Sound like regular passengers, they do.” Ernie and Stan looked each other, and in a move so quick that Ginny almost missed it, sprang to their feet and ran for the door. With a yank, Ginny withdrew the Extendable Ear, and backed away from the door. And just in time, as it exploded outward into the hall with great force.

“Sweet Merlin, it's Ginny Weasley!” cried Stan upon seeing Ginny. He screeched to a stop, and reached around to his back pocket and withdrew a battered and overfull dragon skin wallet.

“It's Pot-” Ginny started to correct, but Ernie interrupted her.

“Now's not the time Stan, we've got to go pick up the Healers or we'll be in a load of trouble.” He reached back to grab Stan's arm, but it was shrugged off.

“I've been in loads o' trouble b'fore, and 'Arry always got me off,” Stan insisted, his chest inflating with pride. “And 'sides, this's the two time winner o' Quidditch's Sexiest Witch award. I know I've got a picture o' you in me wallet somewhere that you coul' sign.” Ginny was at once both flattered and revolted. But Ernie had once again grabbed hold of Stan, and was pulling his arm irritably.

“I don't know if Harry would be so keen to get you out of trouble if you keep hitting on his wife,” he hissed. Stan seemed to consider this for a second, then turned and fled with Ernie.

“We'll talk!” he cried over his shoulder as he ran down the hall towards the lift. Ginny shook her head slowly, and waved after them.

“Ginny, is that you?” This voice was Harry's, and Ginny moved into the doorway, completely forgetting that she still had the flesh-colored string from the Extendable Ear trailing away from her free hand. Harry noticed it immediately. “Eavesdropping on someone?” he asked, an eyebrow raised inquisitively. Ginny blushed, and bundled the string up in her hand before stuffing it in a pocket.

“Sorry,” she said softly, “just wanted to know what had you in such a good mood. Should have known it was Quidditch.” Ginny smiled, and Harry did likewise.

“Well, don't just stand out in the hall, come on in!” Harry beckoned his wife and child forward eagerly, and Ginny was only too happy to oblige. “So what brings you to St. Mungo's?” he asked, once he'd given his two favorite females a kiss hello. Ginny could tell already that he was feeling far better than he had been just a few short days ago. “Not that it isn't a charming place,” he added, “I'll be sorry to leave it on Sunday.” The sarcasm dripping from his voice made Ginny smirk.

“We could leave you here then, if that's what you'd like.” Harry's face darkened, and he pointed a finger at his wife.

“You wouldn't dare,” he whispered, “then who would-” he looked down at Lily and broke off suddenly. He leaned forward and whispered something in Ginny's ear that made her turn very red indeed.

“Mmm... I'd quite like that,” she mused, mental images leaping at her unbidden – but not at all unwelcome. “But first,” she said with a shiver – a chill had just ran down her spine, “we need to take care of something.”

“Oh?” Harry looked at his wife with a look that was planted firmly in between desire and curiosity.

“Al has started asking some tough questions-”

“Oh.” Harry looked rather disappointed that what needed taking care of didn't involve Ginny.

“I think it's time that you gave him the talk,” Ginny concluded.

“The t-talk?” Harry spluttered, his face turning bright red. “He's only three for Merlin's sake! And wouldn't you be better at that sort of thing? I've never actually received 'the talk.'” Ginny grinned impishly, and swatted at Harry with her free hand.

“No silly, not that talk,” Harry looked relieved, and Ginny felt sorry for what she knew she had to tell him. Steeling her resolve, she took a deep breath. “It's about your parents. He wants to know why they aren't alive.”

“Oh...” Harry's face fell, and Ginny felt terrible. Life had been full of difficult questions for Harry, and she didn't see it getting any easier. “And where are the boys, at the Burrow?” he asked, quietly.

“No, they're...” Ginny glanced around the room, and gasped. “Oh Merlin,” she groaned, and she jumped off of the bed, placed Lily hurriedly in Harry's arms, and sprinted for the door. “I've only left them with Lockhart,” she called over her shoulder.

“Wait... WHAT!” was Harry's predictable response. Out in the hallway, James and Albus were standing next to the wall as a large security wizard was trying to take Gilderoy away. They were both holding scraps of parchment with big loopy writing on them, and looking a bit frightened of the big wizard, who Ginny now realized was none other than Marcus Flint.

“Mr. Lockhart, you've got to come with me!” insisted Flint, grabbing hold of the sleeve of the older wizard's purple dressing gown, and giving it a yank.

“But I've been having such a nice time with these Potters,” insisted Gilderoy, looking at his two newest fans adoringly. “And then there was Veronica! Oh yes, we mustn't forget her! She's just through the door there,” he added, motioning in the direction of the door he'd snuck out of minutes earlier. “Go on,” insisted Lockhart, pushing Flint towards the door. “She'll tell you all about me! Requested my presence, that's why I'm here. Yes! That's it! Requested my presence she did!” Skeptically, Marcus let go of the ex-professor, and walked over to the door. He opened it slowly, and peered around the door.

“Hello?” he called into the room, but there was no answer. “Mr. Lockhart, I'm afraid that there's nobody there. You're going to have to come with me.” He closed the door softly, and returned to Lockhart and once again took hold of his sleeve.

“But- but she was there just a minute ago,” insisted Lockhart, stubbornly. “She can't have just disappeared!” But the news that his beloved Veronica had vanished seemed to break Gilderoy Lockhart's will. He succumbed to the pressure that his robe was exerting on him, and he walked sullenly after Flint, who was leading him to the elevators.

“Boys, I'm so sorry,” Ginny cried, running to her two sons. She bent over and scooped them both up into a big hug.

“Mo-om...” whined James, trying to squirm away. “What's that for?”

“No reason,” Ginny lied, and she stood up and wiped a tear from her eye. “Let's go talk to Daddy, all right?” She took each boy by the hand and led them into the Public ward. The boys faces lit up when they saw there father, and both ran to give him a giant simultaneous hug. Harry only just managed to lift Lily out of the way in the nick of time.

“It's nice to see you too!” he said, as the hugs died down. “How are you feeling? Still itchy?”

“Only a little,” replied Albus, trying to scratch his arm on the chair he'd sat down in. Harry raised an eyebrow at him, but said nothing.

“Al, why don't you ask Dad the question you asked me earlier?” prodded Ginny. She went over to sit on the bed next to her husband, and she put her arms around him tenderly, willing him to know that he wasn't going to be answering alone. Al looked puzzled.

“What question?” he asked. Ginny chuckled, and nuzzled her chin into Harry's neck; she could feel his heart beating through the skin. Leave it to a three-year-old to forget the entire reason for coming to the hospital in the first place. Though, to be fair, he'd certainly had his fair share of excitement getting to this point.

“Remember? We were in the playroom, and you wanted to know why Rose and Hugo have two grandmothers and two grandfathers?” She nodded at her youngest son encouragingly, and Albus's face turned downcast.

“Oh yeah,” he mumbled, staring at his shoes, which were swinging back and forth as he kicked the legs of the chair. “Why do we onwy have one, Daddy?” Ginny could feel Harry inhale deeply, and the increased pressure against her own body as he did so reassured her greatly.

“Albus,” Harry held out the arm that wasn't holding Lily, and beckoned for Al to join the family up on the bed, “James,” he added, turning to his oldest and making the same motion. Within moments, the entirety of the Potter blood line was being embraced in Harry's arms.

“My mother and father... your grandparents,” began Harry slowly, “were great, great wizards, but even better people.” He paused briefly, and Ginny looked up at him. She saw him looking to her for encouragement, and she was only to happy to oblige with a smile. “They loved- no they still do - they love me very much, and they love the three of you as well,” he added, giving the children a squeeze.

“But why can't we go and visit them?” asked James. Until now, Ginny had thought that perhaps he had already known the answer to Albus's first question, but now she realized that she was mistaken.

“Well,” said Harry with a sigh, “there's something I need you boys to understand. I had hoped that I'd be able to wait forever before telling you this, but I can see that you are far too smart.” He smiled wryly at his sons. “Not every person in this world is good. Most of them are, and so far you have been lucky to have such a great number of people around you who love you very, very much. But one day, hopefully far in the future, someone is going to try and take all of that away from you.”

“But why?” James asked again.

“Because they'll want what it is that you have. They'll just want to be loved.” Harry sniffed, and Ginny could see a lonely tear running down his cheek. She reached up and brushed it away tenderly. “When my parents encountered such a person, they stood up to him. They didn't want to just give up everything that they had worked so hard for. They didn't want to give up on me, on you, on your children, and all those who'll come after. And when I meet such a person I, and your mother, will do precisely the same thing. We will not give up what we love. Not without a fight.”

“What happened to them?” asked Albus, a scared look on his face.

“They were murdered by an evil wizard called Voldemort. They knew that they were going to be, but they fought anyway.”

“But why?” asked James yet again, puzzlement etched on his features. Ginny wondered for a moment if the boys were too young to understand all of this. She'd hate to have to go through it again. “Why would they fight if they knew they were going to die?”

“Because we're Potters,” said Harry simply, and a surge of pride welled within the depths of Ginny's soul. “To die for someone you love is a brave and glorious death. To not fight at all is...”

Not an option,” finished Ginny fiercely.

“So where are they?” Albus had pulled his knees up to his chest, and was hugging them to his body tightly.

“Every time you hear a bird singing outside your window, that's your grandmother saying hello, and when the wind blows through your hair, that's your grandfather wanting to play.” Albus reached a hand up to his head and ran it through his hair slowly. “But if you really want to meet them, I will take you to them once I get home,” added Harry, smiling at Albus and James. “They aren't far away at all.”

“After the party?” James was looking excitedly at his dad, and Ginny rolled her eyes.

“Shhh...” she chided him, putting a finger to her mouth, “that was supposed to be a secret!”

“Wait, what's a secret? Did I miss something?” Harry looked from James to Ginny with a look of consternation on his face, but he winked at his wife, and she felt her heart swell. He was easily the sweetest man she knew.

“Would you tell us a stowy?” asked Albus, also looking much happier than he had just a few moments ago.

“I'd like that very much,” said Harry with a smile. “How'd you like to hear about the Chamber of Secrets?”

“That doesn't sound very interesting,” James mumbled, feigning disinterest.

“Well, it's about how the evil wizard Voldemort, the very same one who killed your grandparents, was defeated by Neville Longbottom.” Harry had been using Neville as a stand-in for himself in stories such as this one for years.

“Neville Longbottom, no way!” shouted James, no longer pretending to have no interest. “The same wizard who found the Philosopher's Stone?”

“And won the Twi-wizard townament?” chimed in Albus, also looking very excited.

“There's no way one person could do all of that!” Both Harry and Ginny burst out laughing at James's statement.

“Oh, but there is!” insisted Harry. “And you've met him, you just didn't realize it at the time.”

“Would you like it if we invited him to the party?” asked Ginny, a wide smile plastered on her face.

“Mum! Shhh! That was supposed to be a secret!” James looked at his mother with wide eyes, and she and Harry broke into laughter once again.

“So sorry,” she finally managed once the laughter had died down. “You have fun with the story boys. Harry, I have to run to Diagon Alley.” She stood up and took the Marauder's Map out of her back pocket, and waved it in front of Harry. “Hogsmeade weekend, you know.”

“Right,” said Harry. “Make sure you tell George to be careful – and to have fun.”

“Come on Harry, this is George we're talking about here,” Ginny replied with a smirk.

“All right, so leave out the bit about having fun then. I'll see you later?”

“Yes, I'll be back to pick up the kids in a bit. Hopefully I'll be back in time to hear the end of the story. I always like to hear about the beautiful princess who-”

“Don't ruin it, Mum!” whispered Albus urgently, pulling on her hand. Ginny bent down, pulled her son into a hug, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. After saying goodbye similarly to her other children, and giving Harry a lingering kiss, she gave a wave and headed for the door as Harry started the story.

“There once was a very beautiful princess, the most beautiful princess in all the world...”

Anyone who saw Ginny as she was leaving St. Mungo's, would have thought she was there to have a cheering charm removed.





A/N:  Oh my goodness, I do hope that you like this chapter.  It is easily my favorite, and I am very proud of it.  The very act of writing it was a huge relief to me, and I am thrilled with how well everything gets pulled together into a tight little package.  I realize that some of you might find this chapter a little long, but I owed it both to myself and the readers after ending the last chapter abruptly.

Once again, I really need to thank the readers of this story, and especially those who review.  I've never had so much fun writing, and that's all down to you.  And honestly, having fun is what is making this story so good.  Each and every one of you are truly special individuals, and if I could give each one of you a big hug, I would.  If you're ever in Syracuse, look me up and I'll be more than happy to pay up.

All right... I know a lot of you won't like to hear this, but the fic is nearing its natural conclusion.  I always have envisioned Harry's homecoming party as the end of this particular story, and we'll probably be upon it in two chapters or so.  This does not mean that I will stop writing this particular time period, or these characters.  I do want to revisit the fight for werewolf equality in its entirety, and that honestly has enough material to possibly write an entire sequel. 

Or, alternatively, I could move backwards in time and write about the immediate aftermath of Voldemort's downfall.  The courtship and weddings of the two couples, Harry and Ginny's adventures in Quidditch, Ron's ascent up the Ministry ladder, Hermione's fight for House elf rights and the story behind Obscurus books...  Both time periods hold a lot of material.  If you have any ideas towards which you'd prefer seeing next, feel free to drop by my author's page in the forums and discuss it.  I of course will have the final say, but your suggestions have obviously helped to make this fic what it is, and so I value them highly.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in your reviews!  I'm a very patient person, and I always give very thorough responses to all of my reviews, often to the point where I spend hours at a time on them.  Don't be afraid to ask, please.

So, to wrap things up... thank you so much for everything that you've done for me, and I do hope that you'll be back for the next chapter, where I will as forever be... your humble author.

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