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((Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, nor do I wish that I did. I could never have produced the masterpiece that JKR has.))

A/N: I have the best Beta in the world. Her Pen name is Pingo and my story would not be nearly as good with out her. She is the talent, I am just the story teller. I couldn’t write my way out of a paper sack with out her help. Thank you so much Pingo, you’re the best.

Chapter 2: Family Matters Most

Harry sat on the edge of his bed, the two letters he’d just read lay on the bed beside him. He sat there confused and worried. The letters were spoiling what had started out to be a great day. Harry thought to himself, “Why is the Minister removing me from my duties within the Auror Department and placing me on a special assignment?”

Even though the Minister stated in his letter that Harry would be allowed to return to his current position when the special assignment was terminated, Harry was feeling apprehensive about his future at the Ministry. He only knew of one person ever being put on special assignment by the Minister. That had happened four years ago and the person had never returned to his job at the Ministry.

Harry was not looking forward to sharing the letters with Ginny. They contained no explanations, just the dry facts and if he was not able to come up with an explanation as to what was going on, Ginny was likely to think he was holding back information from her again. This was especially troubling to Harry after their conversation earlier about his supposed visit to Hogwarts. One moment he was telling her he had no plans on going to Hogwarts and now obviously he was.

Harry was worried about her reaction “Is she going believe I had no prior knowledge of any of this?” He’d given her reason to doubt him in the past. In a stupid attempts to keep her from worrying he’d hidden things from her and kept her in the dark about the dangers he faced as an Auror. Then six years ago Ron had been seriously injured and almost died. Ginny had been a rock. She’d kept her head and been there for Hermione who had lost it completely. He’d been totally useless, practically paralyzed with grief and fear, feeling as if he’d been hit by the combination of a Confundus Charm and a Jelly-Legs Jinx. It had been a horrible week waiting while Ron teetered on the brink of death. Harry realized then that Ginny was no longer the shy little girl he had first met at the Burrow but was now his wife, the mother of his children and a strong smart capable woman.

Harry came to the decision that he might as well get on with it, so he got up from the bed and left the bedroom. When he entered the living room he spotted Ginny and Lily in the kitchen still putting breakfast together. “Ginny, could you put breakfast on hold for a few and come back to the bedroom, it’s kind of important,”

Ginny gave Harry a funny sly smile misinterpreting his motives, “How important? Ron just used the floo to ask if he, Hermione and Hugo could pop in for breakfast. I was just about to come tell you. Will it wait till later?”
Ron and Hermione coming over for breakfast was not exactly a surprise or unusual as neither of his best friends had the slightest ability in the kitchen and Ron looked for any excuse to poach a meal.

“What did you tell him?” Harry asked stiffly,

“What I always do, yes, we didn’t have plans this morning, did we?” her smile disappeared and a slight look of concern replaced it as Ginny picked up on his mood “Harry is everything alright?”

“It’s just those other letters we received this morning. I wanted you to read them and maybe we could talk about them, just you and me, but I guess they can wait till later,” Harry replied glumly,

Ginny realizing the importance of Harry’s need through his demeanor began waving her wand and turning off the fire she was using to cook with, “Hold on, I can set this aside, it won’t ruin, is half an hour enough time?”

Ginny saw Harry’s expression ease and the nod of his head, “yes,”

“Why don’t you go in and get out of your bed clothes and get dressed for breakfast,” speaking now to her daughter she continued “Lily you do the same ok, get dressed and run a brush through your hair,” as her daughter left the kitchen, heading for her bedroom, Ginny returned her attention back to her husband “I’ll get this stuff off the heat then pop over and tell Ron and Hermione to hold up for about half an hour, as soon as I’m back, I’ll come in the bedroom and we can talk, ok?”

Harry smiled at his wife then retreating toward the bedroom he said “Yeah, that will be great and Ginny, I love you,”

Ginny shouted back as he left the room “I love you too,”

When Ginny came into the bedroom, Harry had finished dressing into his usual weekend attire; worn blue jean trousers, a white T-shirt, white socks and trainers. Ginny came over and gave him a hug “so what is it, that’s got you all worked up?” She asked,

Harry handed her the letters and said “these,”

Ginny sat down on the bed and Harry sat down next to her as she read quietly aloud,

“From the office of Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt

Mr. Harry Potter

I have placed you on special assignment as of this coming Monday for an unspecified term. The head of the Auror Department has been made aware of the conditions of your assignment. While on special assignment you will have no correspondence with me or any person in the Ministry but will be reporting to and taking direction from the Headmistress of Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall. Your current position in the Auror Department will be waiting for you when your return. I regret any inconvenience this may cause you or your family.

Sincerely
Kingsley Shacklebolt Minister of Magic”

Ginny brow slightly knitted with worry looked over at her husband for a second and then she read the second letter aloud,

“Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Dear Harry,

I am assuming that by now you have received a letter from Minister Shacklebolt. I am requesting that you present yourself to me in my office this Monday at 10 A.M. Please be prepared to stay here at the school for a few days as we have a great deal of material to cover.

Minerva McGonagall”

Ginny turned to her husband slightly and gazed into his eyes searching for the truth, “And before this morning you had no inkling about any of this?”

Harry, keeping his eyes fixed on his wife’s replied sincerely “none, I promise.”

She surprised him by initiating a sweet and quick little snogging session then she said “Well then, we’ll worry about this when we have to. Thank you for sharing this with me. Lets enjoy our weekend, ok?” and she kissed him again a little more urgently then sighed, “Why don’t you go finish up breakfast, get Lily to help, while I get myself put together,”

Harry kissed her forehead tenderly, “thank you,” was all he said and he got to his feet and made his way to the kitchen. Lily joined him and together they continued getting breakfast ready. Harry waving his wand, turning the sausages and the frying potatoes when required, Lily was giving the porridge a stir now and then. Every few minutes one of them would check on the sweet rolls in the oven. Ginny was busy in their bedroom getting dressed and doing what ever women, do, in order to be “put together”.

Harry had noticed when he’d opened the bedroom window earlier that the weather this morning was cool and clear and as he looked out of the kitchen window, the day was starting out sunny and beautiful. He figured Ron and Hermione would probably walk the seven blocks from their home enjoying the weather. Hermione preferred to travel in non-magical ways whenever possible when Hugo and Rose were in tow, it gave her children a better understanding of the muggle up bringing she’d experienced.

Ron went along with her on this as he’d inherited a bit of his father’s fascination of muggle ways and enjoyed learning muggle forms of transportation. Ron had mastered to some extent the time honored muggle tradition of automobile operation but his forays as a chauffeur of their family auto usually led to heated arguments with Hermione about his aptitude or lack there of. Harry doubted that for such a short trip Ron would risk the torment of another argument.

He told Lily that he figured their company should be arriving at any moment and she ran and stationed herself at the front door window, waiting impatiently for her Aunt, Uncle and most importantly her cousin Hugo to make their appearance. Lily always enjoyed company but especially Hugo, she and Hugo were best mates.

A few minutes later Ginny emerged into the living room heading toward the kitchen just as Lily squealed, “Here they come!” and she flung open the front door, bouncing with excitement as she urged her Aunt, Uncle and cousin to hurry “Come on, breakfast is about ready and dad’s so hungry he’s about to attack the owl treats!”

Ginny made a detour from her original destination and headed toward the front door, before she got there Hugo rushed in and hugged Lily with one arm, carrying his wizard chess board and a pouch containing the pieces in the other. The two made to get off to Lily’s room when Ginny stopped them saying to Hugo, “Hey, you all right, mate?”

Hugo and Lily bounced up and down, wanting to get away and play. Hugo replied to his Aunt “can't complain,” and he and Lily made a single movement toward her room but their progress again was terminated by Ginny’s words spoken in an exaggerated threatening tone,“You better slow down and give your aunt and uncle a hug, and you my sweet daughter had better get back over to the door and do the same when your Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron come though it,” the kids chuckled not at all intimidated, but they proceeded to follow her directions, Lily returning to the front door and Hugo grudgingly, gave his Aunt a hug.

“Aw, Aunt Ginny cut it out” Hugo moaned escaping Ginny’s grasp as she’d been messing with his bushy head of flaming red hair after giving him a hug. Hugo, finding himself free of his Aunt’s clutches made a beeline for the kitchen and his uncle Harry.

Hermione saw this interaction between her son and her best girl friend and as she bent down to give Lily a hug she yelled at the exuberant little copy of her husband who was running toward the kitchen “you better be nice to your Aunt Ginny or Grandma Weasley might take after you with her broom,” winking at Ginny and hugging Lily she continued but this time to her niece “Good morning sweetie, how’s my Lily?”

“Great! Now that you’ve arrived, thanks,” Lily answered as Ron finally made his way into the entry way.

Ron snatched Lily from her Aunt, grabbing his niece under her arms and lifting her up over his head. He spun her around and around while Lily laughed then he let her down and holding her in a hug he said “Blimey, you’re getting so big, soon you’ll be off to Hogwarts yourself, won’t you? What will your old Uncle Ron do, how will I brightened up my morning when your beautiful face is off to that nasty old school?”

Blushing, Lily pushed her way free of her Uncle and chided “Will you stop, some times Uncle Ron you are so silly,” she looked at her mother and asked, “Now can we go play?”

Ginny replied shaking her head “No, but you two can go wash your hands and set the table, that is as soon as your dad is finished mauling Hugo,” at that everyone’s attention turned to where Harry came walking toward them from the kitchen holding Hugo upside down by the ankles laughing.

Hugo sputtered as he laughed, “Un…cle Ha..rr..y, let meee do..wn,” he squirmed trying to free himself, his face turning a bright crimson as blood rushed to his face forced there by gravity,

Ginny chided her husband “Harry will you put that poor boy right before his head explodes”

Harry responded by gently setting the boy down and letting him go. “I caught him trying to nick a sausage from the kitchen,” as he walked over to welcome Ron and shake his hand, still laughing he added “he looked exactly like you did when I accidentally hit you with that levitation spell from Professor Snape’s old potions book, remember, up in our old dorm room?”

Ron laughing too, shook Harry’s hand and slapped him on the shoulder “Erm, yea I remember, never got you back for that one, did I mate,” he jested.

Harry then went to greet Hermione with a hug but she just brushed past him coldly and followed Ginny who was already headed for the kitchen. He looked to Ron for an explanation of Hermione’s behavior. Ron just shrugged his shoulders.

“She’s not upset with me rough housing with Hugo is she?” Harry inquired, “She’s never gotten upset before,” Ron shook his head giving a negative response to Harry’s question, ”Well she can’t have reacted that way because she’s still going on about the half blood prince thing after twenty two years, is she?”

“I am pretty sure that’s not it either,” replied Ron noncommittally “Why don’t we skip it for now aye, lets help the kids with the table. I sure don’t want breakfast ruined, I am starved. I wouldn’t worry yourself, you know Hermione when she’s ready to let you have it, you’ll get it, whether you want it or not,” and he winced with the thought and poked Harry in the ribs with his elbow.

As the two men entered the dinning room they heard the end of the children’s conversation, Hugo was telling Lily, “my mom and dad have been up most of the night arguing,” this combined with Hermione’s earlier rejection to his attempted greeting was giving Harry a disagreeable feeling in his stomach. He looked over at Ron who was reacting to the kid’s conversation by turning a bit ashen. Ron refused to acknowledge Harry’s glare and proceeded to help the children set the table.

Hugo, having his father’s appetite, was cleaning up his third helping of sausages and fried potatoes while Lily waited patiently for him to finish. Harry had looked up several time during breakfast and discovered Hermione glaring angrily at him. His attempts to start a conversation with her were met with curt short replies. Ron simply ignored or pretended to ignore what was taking place around him, focusing on his food. Ginny however picked up on the hostility being directed at her husband and the tension in the room.

Getting up from the table, Ginny excused the children and directed them to Lily’s bedroom to play, once they left the room she frostily turned her attention to the remaining people at the table, “I’m not sure what is going on here but I am going to the kitchen to fetch the sweet rolls and coffee, when I return we are all going to have a little chat,” All three remaining people at the table went to get up and give her a hand but Ginny stopped them cold snapping “I don’t need any of your help, the three of you just sit there quietly and you’d better not start anything until I get back” and she huffed out of the room.

Harry threw his hands up in exasperation and returned Hermione’s angry glare but heeded his wife’s warning and sat quietly. Mean while, Ron kept his head down and shoveled fork after fork of food into his mouth, eating as much as he could before the battle began. Hermione sat rigid, still glaring at Harry, with her arms crossed over her chest and her legs crossed at the ankles.

After a few minutes Ginny returned levitating two large trays with her wand. On one tray was a large plate stacked with the sweet rolls she’d baked earlier and four small desert plates, on the other tray sat four coffee cups, four saucers, clean silverware and a carafe. She set the trays down on the table and with a flick of her wand the items on the trays traded places with the dirty breakfast dishes and the empty bowls that had contained the sausages, fried potatoes and porridge. The only items left on the table that had been there prior to Ginny’s little piece of domestic magic were the milk pitcher and sugar bowl. She left the dinning room, the trays loaded with the dirty dishes floating along in front of her, not saying a word.

Ron, who no longer had food to shovel into his mouth to keep it busy, said in a whisper, “I think she’s a bit put out with you two,”

Hermione whispered back angrily, “Ron, shut up,”

But he didn’t, he continued still whispering, “I still don’t get why your so ruddy hacked off at Harry, he ain’t got nothing to do with this, it’s me you should be sorting out isn’t it? I am the one said yes. I think you’re a bit off your head, you are.”

Harry sat listening very closely trying to get a heads up on what was going on, but the conversation got no farther because just as Ron finished, Ginny returned to the dinning room. She sat down in her chair and said calmly, “Ok, Hermione, tell me what’s up?” Then looking at Ron and Harry and she said firmly “you two keep your traps shut till she’s finish!”

Hermione stared at Harry again but the anger was gone from her eyes, it was replaced by the intense look Harry had seen so often when she stared down a suspected criminal she was prosecuting in front of the Wizengamot. Harry sat up straight and squirmed a bit under her stare even though he was not aware of being guilty of anything. Hermione began.

“Last night as I was leaving the Ministry, Minister Shacklebolt stopped me in the hall and asked if he could accompany me home. He said he needed to have word with Ron. I agreed of course, he is the Minister after all. When we arrived however he asked Ron to take a walk with him, leaving me alone in the house with Hugo. The Minister never returned but when Ron did he told me he’d agreed to fill in for Harry in the Auror Division while Harry was out. Well you’ve done it Harry, you’ve managed to suck Ron back in it haven’t you?”

Harry looked at Ron who was sitting, head tilted down, looking at his hands that were folded in front of him on the table. Then he looked back at his wife and Hermione who were both now looking at him accusingly, Hermione with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Harry was beginning to understand what Hermione was so upset about. Hermione had spent years trying to get Ron to resign from the Auror Division and take a safe position working for his brother George at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, Ron had flatly refused. Then a little over six years ago Ron, working alone had tracked down and captured six dangerous six escapees from Azkaban prison, three were known former Death Eaters with life sentences and three had come of age after Voldemort’s demise and been charged and convicted for crimes against muggles. He’d produced a Patronus and sent it with instructions, back to the Ministry requesting assistance but while waited for assistance, the escapees become aware of his presence and attacked him. When help, in the form of other Aurors arrived, they found Ron leaning against the wall holding his wand over the six incapacitated escapees their wands at his feet, when the Aurors reached him, he collapsed grievously injured. They had needed to use all their skills to preserve Ron’s life and magically transported him to Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.

Ron spent a week teetering between life and death before he’d started to improve. It had taken an additional six weeks before he’d been released from the hospital. After two months recuperating at home, Ron returned to his job at the Auror Division and had been given a hero’s welcome. Ron was, from that point on the most highly respected Auror in the Division and even Harry was not considered his equal.

Afterward, Hermione had never said another word to Ron about resigning but the stress of her worrying took its toll like it never had before. She was unable to sleep and ate sporadically losing weight. She looked haggard all the time and broke down crying for no reason. Ginny and others tried to help but found there was nothing they could do. Hermione took a leave from her post at the Ministry for health reasons, she and the kids had been spending the day at the Burrow visiting with Ron’s mother when Ron showed up at midday with the news that he’d resigned. Molly Weasley kept her grandchildren with her sending Ron and Hermione off by themselves for a few days. When they returned Hermione was back to her old self and Ron accepted the job that George had been offering him.

The head of the Auror Department and the Minister made several attempts over the following years to get Ron to reconsider and return to his position. Ron had always listened politely and refused but last night Ron had apparently agreed to return and Hermione was, Harry realized, blaming him. “Blimey, she thinks I’ve conspired with the Minister to drag Ron back into a life filled with danger,” Harry thought “no wonder she’s so hacked off with me,”

Ginny cleared her throat, demanding with out words that Harry respond to what Hermione had just said. Harry reached to his back pocket and withdrew the two letters. He held them as he spoke in a shaky somber voice, “Hermione, I have never discussed Ron’s return to the Auror Division with the Minister, although I think Ron is more than capable, he has his reasons why he left and I respect his decision. If he chooses to return, I will respect that decision as well. I’m not going to lie to you Hermione. I missed Ron when he left. You two are my dearest friends, you are family and I love you both. I would never intentionally hurt either of you for any reason. Please believe me. Before I got these letters this morning,” he held out his hand containing the letters, shaking them, “I had no idea I was even leaving my job,” He tossed the letter on the table in front of Hermione, “Read them for yourself,”

Harry sat quietly as the letters were read first by Hermione and then Ron read them as well. When Ron finished he looked at Harry, his shoulders slumped a bit and he said, “So how’d you mess up, mate? I mean you had to mess up some way, right, to get put on special assignment and all?”

Harry looked at Ron, and then he looked at Ginny and Hermione. They sat looking at him silent and expectantly. He didn’t have an answer for Ron’s question.

When Harry didn’t answer, Ron continued his musings out loud, “I mean Percy was put on special assignment four years ago by the Minister, wasn’t he? He has never returned to his position as Assistant to the Minister. As far as any one knows, he’s still on special assignment. We all thought Minister Shacklebolt was grooming him to take his place. So Percy would have to of ballsed up something awfully bad to be sent away by the Minister for this long, wouldn’t he? And I can’t remember anyone else from the Ministry being placed on special assignment,”

Harry still had no answer for any of them. Harry thought about what Ron had said. It was true, most people felt that Percy must have messed up in some major way to have basically disappeared from the Ministry the way he had. It had been a shame, Percy had started off so wrong, he’d been guided by the principals of money and power early in his career at the Ministry and then after Voldemort’s defeat, he resigned. Percy spent the following two years rebuilding his relationship with his family. He stood by his brother George who was grieving over his twin brother, Fred’s death. Percy moved in with George, ran George’s business for awhile and dragged him home drunk on fire whisky when George went through a bad drinking phase. When George finally came around, after almost two years, and could stand on his own, Percy accepted a lowly position back at the Ministry. Percy had worked hard and done good work, eventually gaining the trust and admiration of his fellow workers and the Minister. Percy moved up in the Ministry again, but this time he hadn’t used the backs of others to do it. Ron was right, in the eyes of most people; Percy was perhaps a year, maybe two, away from having Minister Shacklebolt back him as his successor. Then he was gone with no reasons given other than that he was on special assignment for the Minister. He still showed up at family functions, was extremely close to his brother George, he came over to Harry and Ginny’s for dinner from time to time but he never would talk about what had happened and what he was doing.

Finally Harry gave up, shrugging; he said not to any one in particular, “I don’t know. I don’t have a clue. If I have done something wrong, I can’t even guess what it would be. If I am being shunned by the Ministry, punished in some way, I don’t know why but I promise that before this morning I had no idea that I was leaving and that Ron would be asked to take my place,”

Hermione got up from her chair and came over to Harry. She hugged him hard and started blubbering. He could feel her tears splashing down on his t-shirt and he didn’t know what to do, so he hugged her back, looking to Ron and Ginny for some help, but no help came, they just sat there looking bemused. Hermione continued to hug Harry but calmed down enough to apologize “I am s..s..so sorry Harry. I ..I ..I . don’t know what’s… what’s the matter with me, Ron was r.r.right, I might need my head examined. How I could have thought th..that you, and the Min..Minister, I took it all out on you? I’m so s..s..sorry,”

Harry held her and patted her back “I love you Hermione,” was all he said. It was enough. She hugging him for just a second more then she returned to her seat with a happy smile on her face and red puffy eyes.

Harry sat there in a state of concerned bewilderment, Hermione’s out burst was completely unlike his friend and her sudden change of moods a bit scary, he could tell that Ginny was felling the same way by the way she was looking at Hermione. Ron on the other hand was gazing at his wife with total adoration and she was returning his loving gaze. The two just sat there looking into each others eyes. Ginny finally burst their little love bubble “Umm .. Hermione are you ok? Ron, I don’t know about you returning to the Ministry, I don’t want to see her fall apart again,”

“What are you talking about Ginny,” replied Ron, appearing like he just woke up from a dream,

Ginny snapped back “I am talking about the way she was just before you resigned you git, I’m sorry Hermione, but you were having a break down and now your sort of acting the same way. Don’t put her through this again Ron, please,”

Ron’s brow creased a little as he took in Ginny’s words and digested them, “Let’s try and get this all sorted out, ok? Harry has never tried to get me to come back. Sure we talk almost daily about the Auror Department. I know for example that the department is already short handed since Williamson retired. It wasn’t a big problem though because things are rather slow with only a few really old outstanding files still active, mostly paperwork and interoffice information sharing, ain’t that right Harry,” Harry tentatively shook his head affirmatively and Ron continued “it’s so slow I’ll probably never leave the office and if Harry is gone for any extended period of time, Teddy will be finishing up his Auror training in six months, after that I’m gone. I told the Minister last night that he could have me for up to six months and that’s it. It’s not likely that much is going to change in six months, is it? George can spare me for that long.” Ron looked seriously at his wife and continued, “I am not going to let you down, I promise, six months at the most, I’ll be careful. You will know if for any reason I leave the office on a case, otherwise I will be sitting there pushing paper and you’ll have no need to worry, ok?”

Harry and Ginny looked over to Hermione, who was still gazing at her husband lovingly, “I’ll be fine,” she crooned,

Harry was beginning to think some kind of spell had been cast on Hermione and began looking around the dinning room for the culprit.

Ron gazing back at Hermione, that love bubble thing starting to form again, reassuring her “sure you will, and you’ll only be, like what, in your eighth month, when all of this is over, right”

Ginny jumped up and squealed, Harry, still not catching on and thinking something was wrong, reached for his wand and hit the floor tumbling out of his chair. Ron started laughing and Hermione, blushing, whacked Ron on the side of his head, saying “you weren’t suppose to say anything, you git,”

Harry, from the floor, said, “what the!”

Ginny, jumping up and down, squealed, “Is it true, are you pregnant?”

Hermione, now squealing too, came back with, “Yes!”

Ron still laughing got up from his chair and bent over, offering a stunned Harry Potter a hand up.

It was finally dawning on Harry what was going on, he excepted Ron’s help up and shook Ron’s hand smiling, Ginny and Hermione where hugging, Ron picked this moment to utter “I’m kind a still hungry, do you think we can have a go at those sweet rolls now?” this comment caused every one to start laughing.

The mood had definitely changed in the dinning room of #7 Hamptenshire Lane. Everybody settled back down in their chairs, coffee was served by Ginny and the talk between the two girls was all about babies. Much to the delight of Hermione, Ginny informed everybody that she and Harry were trying to get in the family way also.

Ron sat quietly, eating sweet rolls, beaming with pride.

Harry was glad for his friend’s good news. He sat quietly as well, drinking his coffee, eating a sweet roll, enjoying the moment and thinking, “This is what it’s all about, it’s not about letters, it’s not about jobs, it’s about family, family matters most.”

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