SIX YEARS AND SEVEN MONTHS AFTER THE BATTLE
“Could we just... not mention it?” Harry asked, for what felt like the hundredth time that morning. Ron could see him working himself up into a panic over it, which meant he had about two minutes to step in and head off the panic attack before Harry got to the point of no return. “I mean, it's Christmas – ”
“Which makes it practically a Weasley family tradition,” Ron said, calmly, pulling his husband close and pressing a loving kiss to his temple. It practically was; so far there had been four such announcements at Christmas dinner over the past six years. “Do you trust me?” he asked, looking down at Harry's worried expression.
His eyes met the bright green of Harry's and he smiled reassuringly. “Do you trust me?” he asked again, softer this time. Harry nodded, his wide eyes still fixed on Ron's. So far, so good. “Okay, just breathe with me?” He gently moved Harry's hand to rest on his chest so that he could feel the even, steady breaths; he breathed deeply and slowly the way Harry's mind-healer had shown him so that Harry could easily copy him.
As Harry's breathing slowed to match Ron's, the tension melted from his back and shoulders and he leaned closer to rest his head on Ron's chest. Ron ran soothing fingers through the dark curls and smiled when he saw Harry's eyes drift closed.
“That's it,” Ron murmured as he brushed his lips to the top of Harry's head. “You're doing so well. I'm proud of you.” And he was. He was so proud his heart ached and twisted and burst with the strength of the emotion.
About a year after the war, Harry's mental health had taken a turn for the worse. His mind-healer believed he'd been so busy fighting Voldemort from the moment he joined Hogwarts that he'd never processed the trauma of his childhood with the Dursleys. Add to that the trauma of being the focus point of an entire war and losing so many people you loved... It was unfathomable to Ron how his husband had coped as well as he had all those years.
Ron had taken a leave of absence from the Aurors, and it was only by virtue of knowing the Minister of Magic personally that he hadn't lost his job entirely. He'd spent nearly a whole year as Harry's primary carer, and he didn't regret one minute of it. There had been whole weeks where they barely managed five hours of sleep between them. Months where Harry was practically non-verbal for days at a time. Hours upon innumerable hours spent at St. Mungo's and The Ariana Institute seeing mind-healers and trauma specialists and therapists and counsellors. For that whole year, his recovery had been uncertain. But Harry was the strongest person Ron had ever met. He surpassed all expectations. He improved, and he kept improving. He was weaned off his potions, one at a time. Ron went back to work, and he came home to dinner on the table and a smile, not a sobbing husband and rooms destroyed by accidental magic.
Two and a half years ago, Harry had done the impossible, and returned to Hogwarts as an apprentice. Six months ago, in June, he had graduated with a Mastery in Defence and a speciality in Magical Education. Ron had cried that day, all the way through the ceremony. His red, tear-stained face had been plastered all over the Prophet and he hadn't cared one bit.
In September, Harry had taken up the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts for students in Years One through Three, and he'd loved it. He'd come home every day brimming with stories to regale Ron with over dinner. He'd delighted in reading out bits of essays as he marked them. When his first student had mastered a Patronus under his guidance, he'd come home and cried with joy.
And then, in mid-October, something had gone wrong. Ron had been dragged into Robards' office to be met with a worried Headmistress and an order to take the rest of the day off. Something had triggered Harry in the middle of teaching a class, and he'd had a flashback. Three whole years after last seeing Mind-Healer Lairmore, Ron found himself back at her office holding his terrified husband in his arms and begging her for answers. He'd been better. He'd been so much better. He'd been happy .
Ron had been ready to fight. To rail against anything that could cause his husband this kind of pain. To do anything and everything in his power to end whatever it was that had caused this setback.
When M.H. Lairmore had explained the cause, he'd been totally blind-sided.
They both had been.
The clock above the fireplace – a wedding gift from his parents, with hands for Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Teddy – chimed midday, and Ron slowly pulled back from his much calmer husband.
“You ready to go now, love?” he asked, and he knew Harry recognised it as a genuine question. If he said no, then they wouldn't go. They could go later. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Christmas Day at the Burrow was important, but nothing was more important to Ron than Harry.
A hesitant smile pulled at the edges of Harry's lips and he nodded. “Hold my hand?” he asked, quietly, almost shyly.
Ron grinned. “Anytime.”
He gathered up the presents and shrank them down with a wave of his wand, tucking them into the pockets of his robes. “Ready?”
Harry nodded. “Ready.”
They stepped into the Floo together and, as promised, Ron did not let go of his hand.
The Burrow was a scene of total mayhem. This Christmas, there would be a total of twenty-six for Christmas dinner: fourteen Weasleys, one Tonks, one Lupin, two Malfoys, three Granger-Notts, two Zabinis, two Potters, and a Wood. Mum, as usual, was cooking up a storm with the help of a handful of house-elves. From their uniforms, Ron guessed they were Hermione and Theo's elves, and they were in their absolute element as they bounced around the kitchen, ingredients and cutlery and whole turkeys flying everywhere.
“Mum!” Ron yelled, ducking and pulling Harry down with him as a large mixing bowl flew over their heads. His mum spun around, smiling widely, and rushed over to pull him into a hug. Thankfully, she only patted Harry on the arm, having long since learned of his discomfort with physical affection. Harry smiled and gently kissed her on the cheek.
“Hi, Mum,” he said, making his mum beam even brighter. Not all of her children-in-law called her Mum, but she loved it when they did. That said, she loved being called Grandma even more, and the number of little Weasleys and honorary little Weasleys doing that was growing on a regular basis.
“Right, out of the kitchen, you two!” she said, flapping her arms. “Shoo! I'll call you when it's ready!”
In the living room, they were set upon by their godchildren: Teddy – who was 'nearly seven' and therefore 'almost an adult' – and Rose – who was eighteen months and starting to sound just like her mother, Godric help them all. Harry sat down on the sofa at Teddy's urging to hear all about the new Junior Firebolt broom he wanted for his birthday, completely unaware that the broom in question was being resized and placed under the tree as he spoke. Just as Ron was putting the last of the presents under the tree, he felt a sharp tug on his trouser leg and looked down. Grinning toothily, all big, blue eyes and wild, brown curls, was his god-daughter.
He feigned a look of surprise as he swung the little girl up into his arms. “Little Miss Rosalind!” he gasped. “How did you get so big?”
The toddler giggled. “Rose big!” she squealed, waving her pale, chubby arms excitedly, uncaring that they repeatedly walloped him around the head. “Unca Ron, go!” she demanded, imperiously, pointing one tiny finger to where her mum and dad were sitting talking to Charlie and Draco. “Go mum!”
This was his life now, he realised. Being ordered around by tiny dictators and actually feeling happy about it.
“Hi, Mione. Theo. Misters Malfoy,” he greeted them. Hermione still glared at him every time he shorted her name, but she no longer bothered to threaten him with violence, so he took it as a win. It was still weird to think of his older brother as 'Mister Malfoy' but he grinned like a lovesick loon every time someone did it and, hey, it was Christmas. He could consider it part of his gift.
Draco curled his lip disdainfully. “Weasel,” he drawled, “I see you've kidnapped my god-daughter.”
Ron hefted Rose over his shoulder so she hung down his back upside down. “Have I?” he replied, absently. “Where?”
“Heeeeereeee, Unca Ron! Rosie here!” the toddler shrieked, wiggling madly and kicking him in the jaw. Draco snorted at that, and Ron flipped him the bird while everyone was paying attention to Rose.
“ Where ?” Ron asked, dramatically. “I can hear a Rosie, but I can't see a Rosie!”
She squirmed even more wildly, her whole body seeming to contort with the flexibility and strength of a large eel. Hermione looked faintly alarmed that Ron might drop her only child on her head, but Theo looked more amused than concerned.
“Unca Ron!” Rose screamed, and everyone in the room flinched at the volume and pitch the young girl was capable of. “Rosie here ! Save Rosie, Unca Dwagon!”
At that point, Ron nearly did drop his god-daughter. “Uncle Dragon?” he spluttered, staring disbelievingly at Draco. “She calls you 'Uncle Dragon'?”
Draco sniffed haughtily. “Much better than Weasel.”
“Whatever you say, Ferret .”
Charlie's jaw twitched at that, and Ron had to bite back another laugh. The man was ridiculously protective of his husband, as if he weren't a fully grown wizard who could fend for himself.
Ron turned around, Rose still dangling down his back, and gasped loudly. “Where did she go? I was sure she was behind me!”
Rose's peals of laughter reached an ear-splitting volume as her 'Uncle Dragon' snatched her from Ron's hands and began to tickle her mercilessly. Ron sank into an armchair to watch the proceedings. Draco's hair was a mess, his cheeks were red, and he was laughing his head off right alongside Rose. He was none of the things Ron had thought he was in school, no matter how much he sometimes played at being snobby Pureblood.
Charlie was watching, too, but his face was soft and wistful as he watched his husband of over a year interact with the toddler. Apparently, Draco was still staying strong on his demand not to have any children before thirty, though somehow, Ron doubted that would last. Charlie would give Draco the moon on a stick if he asked for it, but if Charlie wanted something, he could be mighty persuasive. He'd convinced Mum to let him go to the Romanian Dragon Reserve straight out of school. If he could do that, he could convince Draco to have a child before he turned thirty.
Dinner was a loud, raucous affair as it always was. The children were getting slowly more excited as the time to open presents drew nearer, and the adults had to shout over them to trade gossip and news as they caught up with one another. Harry kept himself pressed close to Ron's side, but he chatted happily with anyone in shouting distance. The anxiety that had overwhelmed him earlier seemed long gone, and Ron was grateful for it. This should be a happy thing; he wanted it to be a happy thing.
As dessert was served, the usual rounds of announcements started.
Fleur announced that baby Louis had his first tooth.
Sophie then announced that she had lost her first tooth and opened her mouth – still full of food – to show the whole table. Angelina had levelled her with a stern look at that, though Fred was muffling laughter behind his hand.
Oliver stood up and told everyone that he was retiring from professional Quidditch, but that he'd secured a coaching position with the Harpies which he would start in the new year.
That led to Ginny divulging that she'd been shortlisted for the English National team, and that if all went well, she should be playing in the World Cup in 2006. That proclamation was met with a roar of applause and well-wishes from everyone at the table.
And then Ron stood up.
“Are you Head Auror?” George heckled, playfully, knowing full well he wasn't.
“Let me guess,” Blaise drawled, “you're gay.”
Harry threw a whole potato at him, much to Mum's obvious disappointment.
“Harry James – ” she started to say, but fell silent when Harry stood up, too.
He shifted nervously beside Ron, and Ron knew he was looking around at the table full of almost everyone they loved and cared about, everyone they considered family. Ron squeezed his hand gently, and Harry seemed to gather his courage.
“Mum,” he said, looking directly at the cautiously-hopeful, greying matriarch at the head of the table. “I know you've already got a few... but I was hoping you'd have room for another.” His mum looked baffled, but Harry was grinning. He rested his his hand on his stomach, and her mouth dropped open. “Ron and I are having a baby.”