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and i'll owe it all to you, my little bird

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Ron looks up from his desk as the door to the office opens, and he’s surprised to see not only Harry, but Harry’s four-year-old daughter Christine draped on his shoulder. Ron stands immediately, and takes the bag Harry’s trying to carry as well.

“What’s wrong?” Ron asks, setting the bag down on Harry’s desk, where it sits across the room from Ron’s. Harry sighs heavily as he places Chris in his chair, still sleepy as ever. She whines at the loss of contact, and Harry picks her back up in an instant.

“Noel quit. Said something about Chris driving her insane, or whatnot. I’m not entirely sure, it was a bit of a mess. But I now have no one to watch her, and that’s not good,” Harry rushes to say, his eyes betraying the calm he’s trying to project. Chris is clinging to her father, curly red hair bouncing as Harry leans against the desk, his hand rubbing small circles on her back. Ron holds his tongue on telling Harry that Chris’ shirt is on inside out.

“No notice? I thought things were fine,” Ron looks bewildered, and Harry shrugs.

“Who knows? She always told me that Chris was wonderful, and that things were going swell, and Chris never complained, so how was I to know? Anyway, there’s nothing I can do now, so Chris is going to be with us today and we’ll go from here,” Harry explains in a rush, and Ron stumbles to keep up. He picks a nod as the only way to respond to that statement, and Harry takes it.

Harry eventually coaxes Chris awake enough to sit in the armchair Ron insisted they put in the office and eat her breakfast. She doesn’t sit still or quietly until Ron moves the armchair across the office to right behind Harry’s desk, and then she smiles and eats her fruit happily.

Fred and George arrive later, their eyebrows shooting up at Chris, not accustomed to seeing her anywhere but at Harry’s house. When she sees them, she bursts into a smile and struggles to get out of the armchair and run to them. Ron huffs (“She didn’t react to me like that!” “She was half asleep, Ron,”) and George gloats for far too long. By the time the staff begins to arrive, Chris is wide awake and ready for anything.

Anything includes lots of loud noises and attempts to get her father’s attention.

“Chris, please,” Harry says, fighting a laugh as she climbs into his lap, her face determined. He can’t believe she won the genetic lottery and looks exactly like his mother, but it did help that her mother was a redhead too. Her eyes are wide and green, and Harry knows that someday, she’s going to cause him far too much stress.

For now, she just wants to cuddle into his lap.

“Is Auntie ‘Ermione coming?” she asks as Harry looks over sales sheets. Harry nods, the numbers blurring together.

“Hermione will be here in an hour. Do you think you can behave until then? I’m sure if you behave, Hermione will take you on a walk through the store,” Harry says, and Chris perks up. She mimes zipping her lips and opens the book Harry had packed her that morning, her finger following the lines as she attempts to read as her father has been trying to teach her.

It isn’t an hour, but nearly two, when Hermione finally shows up, looking rather flustered. Ron greets her with a kiss, and Chris waves enthusiastically and scrambles off Harry’s lap to run to Hermione.

“Chrissy, what are you doing here?” Hermione asks, looking at Harry for the answer more than Chris.

“Noel quit,” Harry deadpans at the same time that Chris says, “Reading my books quietly.”

Hermione laughs as she picks up the child, touching a finger to her nose. Chris giggles and it seems to light up the room.

“Noel quit? On such short notice? Certainly she didn’t just walk out,” Hermione asks, and Harry nods solemnly. Chris mimics her father’s movement, and Ron hides a grin behind his hand.

“That’s incredibly unprofessional. I hope she doesn’t think about listing you as a reference, because you’ll certainly be talking about this,” Hermione says, and Harry just shrugs. Noel had given him a long list of reasons why she couldn’t do it anymore, and while it had been very uncomfortable and brief and it still swirled in Harry’s mind, it happened.

Shit happens, or so he’s learned.

“No matter. I just now have to find a new nanny,” Harry says, and Hermione nods as she places Chris in the armchair and plants a kiss on the girl’s head.

“And quick, or you’ll have to rework a couple trips,” Hermione practically whispers, and Harry groans.

The sign out front might say Weasley’s Wheezes, but it was Harry that helped Fred and George get anywhere. He’d won a contest during his last year of secondary school, with a local radio station, and the prize had been five thousand quid. He’d had no need for it though, had only entered the contest with some friends as a joke. So he’d given the money to Fred and George, who had invested it with their own and a few others, to open their first joke shop in a touristy area of London.

That had been six years prior, and the shop had taken off. Fred and George were geniuses, and between the candy and joke products, they were able to hire some people outside the family and expand the shop within a few years. By then, Harry and Ron were halfway through business and public relations focuses, respectively. It had been an easy jump for them to help Fred and George keep the business running.

Part of the growing business expanding the market, and that means another store, and a company in America that’s been sending them emails about featuring some of their products.

“I’m sure mum and dad can watch her when we go to Glasgow, and we’ll see after that. I’m taking this one step at a time,” Harry says, watching as Chris munches on some crisps. Ron claps his hands together gently, capturing the attention of his best friend and fiancée.

“Speaking of the Glasgow trip, we need to go over some details,” he says, and they’re off in business talk while Chris reads (or attempts to).

-----

The next day is Saturday, which has always been one of Harry’s days off. He wakes up late and makes breakfast while singing silly songs to Chris and they laugh as the sun rises into the afternoon. It’s his favorite day of the week, really, and he treasures it.

That’s why he’s so annoyed when Ron shows up, looking worse for wear. Ron knows how important Saturdays are, and Harry’s about to chew him out when Ron holds up a hand and sighs.

“This isn’t about business,” he mumbles, and Harry purses his lips. Chris walks down the foyer to look up at Ron, eyes wide and alert. She’s been running around the kitchen, squealing as Harry threatened to put pancake batter into her hair.

“Uncle Ron! Do you want pancakes too?” Chris asks, and Harry has to laugh softly at that. He lets Ron inside, noticing how Ron’s shoulders are sagging. Chris walks ahead of them, already blabbing about the pancakes and their quality to Ron, but Ron’s not listening like he normally would. There’s something in his eyes that makes Harry feel uneasy.

“Are you going to tell me what’s got your knickers in a twist?” Harry tries to tease, and Ron shakes his head slowly. His mouth flops like a fish, and then he does engage with Chris, reaching down to pick her up and head over to the stove.

“Okay, I can do one shape, and it’s sloppy,” Ron says as he pours batter onto the pan and Chris is laughing loudly.

There’s a stack of pancakes about ten high by the time Ron seems to relax, Chris keeps talking like her life depends on it, and Harry smiles as he sits at the table and watches them interact. Raising Chris was never something he could do alone, and it’s taken a lot over the years to get it right, with help.

Harry picks up the plates when they’re finished and takes them over to the sink, waving Ron off as he offers to help. Chris is explaining something to Ron anyway, and Harry would hate to break her off mid-story and face her wrath.

“Uh-oh!” Chris exclaims suddenly, and Harry turns to look at her as she scurries off down the hall. The bathroom door slams shut, and Harry chuckles.

“She must’ve gotten so wrapped up in her story she didn’t even realize she had to go,” Harry jokes, and Ron laughs too.

They’re quiet for a moment, just the sound of the water running as Harry rinses the dishes. He’s grabbing for the pans when Ron clears his throat.

“Ginny showed up at mine this morning,” Ron comments, his eyes following Harry’s movements as he begins to wash the pan.

It takes a moment for the words to register in Harry’s mind; his stomach twists into knots, his mouth goes dry, and he can hear his heartbeat in his ears.

“Yeah?” Harry practically squeaks, even though he’s trying to seem nonchalant. He can imagine the look on Ron’s face, the look of a man who knows his best friend was once madly in love with his little sister.

“Yeah. Showed up crying, as if she was eleven again. Hermione’s been taking care of her all morning. Won’t say anything, just that she’s got nowhere else to go,” Ron continues, and Harry’s chest tightens.

“She was in France, playing for the league there,” Harry states, as if Ron doesn’t know what his sister has been doing for the past five years. Although, that’s all they know about Ginny’s life, and it’s what troubles them all.

“Hermione texted me earlier, something about Ginny not going back. Something must have happened, something major. She hasn’t set foot in England for anything other than games in five years,” Ron says, his shoulders slumping slightly.

It’s been a long five years without Ginny around. Her original plan had been to stay in England, see which schools would take her for soccer and academia. And then, while Harry had been a couple hours away, Ron had called, and said something had happened, with lots of yelling and slamming of doors which he’d only caught bits and pieces of. Suddenly, Ginny was off to school in France, and Molly didn’t talk about her youngest daughter, and Harry could never seem to get in touch with Ginny, no matter how hard he tried.

His hands are shaking as he tries to dry the pot.

“What are you going to do?” Harry turns to look at Ron, and he sees that Ron is rubbing his eyes. Quickly shutting off the water and drying his hands, Harry moves to sit next to Ron at the table.

“She insisted we not tell too many people, but especially mum and school friends. I asked her how she’d found us, because I don’t ever remember giving her our address, and Hermione said she’d given it to her ages ago. Apparently, get this; they’ve been in contact sporadically over the years.”

That hits Harry in the chest, because he’s tried many times to reach out to Ginny. She’d changed her phone number, and her Facebook was deactivated before Harry could even get on Facebook after he’d gotten the rushed call from Ron, but he still tried her old emails and he never got anything in return.

“Hmm,” is all Harry can say, because it’s a lot to process at once, and he’s feeling very overwhelmed.

“Dad, what’s wrong?” Chris asks as she comes around the corner, and Harry’s unsure of how long she’s been standing there, but he opens his arms to her nonetheless.

“Nothing, love. How about you go pick out a few books and we’ll work on reading?”

At his suggestion, she’s off into the living room to thumb through her books, and Harry looks at Ron.

“I tried to talk to her,” Harry confesses softly, and Ron nods.

“I did too, but I was never able to reach her. Or she deleted anything I ever sent.”

The air hanging over them is dark, and Harry reckons his Saturday might not be one to remember.

-----

“I have a feeling we’re going to have to,” Ron says over the table, looking between Fred and George. There are reports and numbers printed all over the place, and the cups of coffee they’d poured earlier are gone. It’s late in the evening, and they’re strategizing. Hermione watches from the corner, her head leaned over a contract proposal.

“For this one company? Go to America?” Fred asks, his brows knitting together. Harry nods, already pulling up the figures he’s been working on all day.

“We will see massive growth. They have a few select stores that would sell our stuff, and they’re all located in New York’s Time Square. It’s a busy area, mates,” Harry says as Hermione stands and walks over, placing her paperwork in front of them.

“It’s a lot, especially for a small company like we truly are, but… if we work the deal right, we can have them paying for the higher costs that would hinder the deal. And create a clause, so that if we do end up overwhelmed or not making enough, we can back out,” Hermione explains, watching as the four men at the table nod at her.

“We could get them to pay the shipping to America,” Ron says, his eyes lighting up. He smiles up at his fiancée, and it perks Hermione right up.

There’s a sound of agreement around the room, and someone cracks their back. It seems to break the feeling of the room, as everyone looks at their watches and the clock on the wall.

“Is Chris still asleep?” Harry asks Hermione, who looks out of the kitchen towards the living room. She nods, a smile lighting up her face.

“Sound,” she says, and Harry nods. Having after hours business meetings at Harry’s had been the only option in the past week. Chris loves it though, and insists on sitting on laps until she’s about to fall asleep, which is when Harry places here on the couch and heads back to work.

Fred and George begin to pack up their papers, and Harry brings their empty cups to the sink. There’s a subject looming over them as they all act as though they don’t know how to bring it up. As Fred snaps his briefcase shut, he sighs.

“How’s Ginny?” he turns to ask Hermione, because she’s the person who seems to be spending the most time with the youngest Weasley child. Harry holds his breath as he rinses the cups.

“She’s… better,” Hermione chooses her words wisely, and Harry can feel her glance at his back. When he turns around, wiping his hands off on a towel, everyone is glancing at him.

“She still won’t take visitors?” George asks, his voice hopeful and high. Hermione bites her bottom lip.

“She knows we’ve told you lot that she’s here… but I’d still say no,” she explains, and Harry clenches the towel in his hands tightly.

“Has she said anything more, about why she’s home?” Harry moves to the table, the towel still in his hands. Ron reaches up and tugs on it gently, and Harry’s hands ache as he lets the towel fall into Ron’s lap.

“I’m…” Hermione trails off, letting out a sigh. “I don’t think it’s my place to explain.”

That hangs in the air, and Harry can feel his stomach twisting into knots again.

“But she’s told you, then?” George speaks up finally, and Hermione winces slightly.

“Not… in so many words. I’ve… I’ve mostly put things together myself,” she says slowly, as though it’s harder to explain than it probably is.

The news outlets had been going crazy with the news that England’s own Ginny Weasley had up and left the French league, but there’d been no word of why. It hung over conversation in the shop, everyone knew that their favorite joke shop belonged to the family of the famous soccer star. No one was talking, and no one could get in touch with Ginny, and the French press had been extremely unhelpful when Harry had used a browser extension to translate an article on a website.

“What have you put together?” Fred asks, breaking the silence that has allowed Harry’s mind to wander. Hermione shifts, leaning against Ron as he sits in his chair, eyes on his hands.

“I think she may have had a major disagreement with the team, from what she’s told me,” Hermione says, and Harry shifts on the balls of his feet. It brings the rooms attention to him, and he looks down.

“Something to say?” Fred asks, mirth in his voice. Harry swallows thickly.

“Nope,” he says simply, turning on his heels and moving back to the sink. The dishes are clean, he knows that, but he turns on the water anyway and stares at the sink.

It’s quiet for a moment longer, and then he hears someone stand up.

“Anyway,” George says, and Harry looks over his shoulder at them. The twins are standing, looking at Ron and Hermione pointedly.

“We’ll be going now, busy day tomorrow,” Fred finishes, and Harry turns to nod at them as they gather their things again.

“You’ll be at dinner at mum’s, right?” Ron asks, and the twins nod together.

“Always, little brother,” they say in unison as they go to walk out. Harry notices that George lingers in the living room, and when he looks, he’s kissing Chris’ hair gently.

-----

The plan to go to America really comes together when the company they’re in talks with finally reviews their proposal, and they agree. It’s maddening, to think that their market could expand across the pond, and as Harry and Ron stare at the numbers, Fred and George poised behind them, Harry realizes how real this actually is.

They call their parents, their other friends, and they gush and talk and think of ways to make this work. They’ve never actually all been away from the store, together, for more than a day, and it’s daunting to think that they could all be away for a week, maybe more.

“I don’t think I can bring Chris,” Harry mumbles one day as they’re looking at the plane tickets the company has bought, and the price of hotels, and Hermione almost balks before Ron holds up his hand to silence her.

“Why not?” he asks, and Harry thinks for a moment.

“We’ll be in meetings all day, and where will she be? I can’t bring my daughter to a business meeting, as much as I’d like too,” Harry says, shrugging. “And, besides, I’d have to buy the ticker for her myself. The company doesn’t know I have a daughter.”

The statement hangs in the air, and Ron looks at Hermione, as if to tell her off with his eyes. Hermione frowns.

“Who can take her?”

That leaves Harry with an uneasy feeling, and he sighs.

“I don’t know,” he admits, and Ron’s already thinking.

“Maybe she could go between our parents? Spend some time with mum and dad, and then James and Lily?” Ron sounds hopeful, but Harry shakes his head.

“Mum and dad are already going to be out of town. And you know why Chris can’t stay with your mum,” Harry mumbles, and Ron bites his lower lip.

It’s strange, it really is, how Chris can’t and won’t be around Molly for more than a few hours. It had started when she was merely a baby, and it’s lasted well into her childhood. Molly loves the child, dotes on her like it’s her own grandkid, but after awhile, Chris starts to cry or whine or plain refuse to engage, and it takes all of Harry’s willpower now to become a little angry. Molly’s been like a second mother, the Weasley’s a second family, his entire life.

He doesn’t understand why Chris acts like Molly’s hurt her gravely.

“I… have an idea,” Hermione says after awhile, and Ron and Harry look up at her. In the dim light of Harry’s kitchen, she looks slightly tired. They’ve been stressed, with all of the new extensions of the company, and it’s natural that she begins to fade in the wee hours of the night.

“Yes?” Harry prompts, because he’s entirely impatient. He really wants to fall asleep, like his daughter has on the couch.

“What… what about Ginny?”

Harry starts, visibly freezing as he looks up at Hermione. No one’s brought up the subject of Ginny in a number of days, and it’s been a week and a half since she’d randomly returned. Hermione and Ron barely mention her, and Harry has a feeling Ginny’s requested that.

“What… about…” Harry trails off, and Ron looks at him.

“She does have nothing to do. Is looking a bit antsy, to be honest,” Ron says, easily agreeing with his future wife. Hermione either doesn’t notice that it’s deliberate, or she doesn’t care.

“I haven’t even spoken to her since she’s returned,” Harry knows he’s stalling, knows that it’s a perfectly logical thing. Hermione shrugs.

“If it helps, you can just not see her entirely. You can leave and I’ll let her in and everything,” Hermione says it as though it’s a valid option. Harry tries not to balk at her.

“She’s my friend, too,” he says sharply, and Hermione winces at his tone. She always does.

“I’m not saying… I just mean, if it helps with things,” Hermione waves her hands around, and Ron catches them to keep her from hitting him in the head.

“We’ll ask her,” Ron says, and that’s the end of that discussion.

They leave awhile later, after packing up their things and promising to let Harry know. He locks the door behind them, waiting until he hears the sound of their car starting and pulling away to switch off the kitchen light and move into the living room.

Chris is flat against the couch, her cheek smashed against the cushion. She looks to be drooling, and Harry smiles at that. He touches her hair and smiles more, the familiar feeling of warmth spreading through his chest. It’s been just the two of them for years now, and Harry feels a sense of pride wash over him as he realizes how far he’s come as a father.

He lifts her easily, and she barely mumbles as she rests on his shoulder, drool wetting his shirt. It’s entirely endearing, how she grips his shoulders as he walks, clumsily shutting off the lamp to walk down the hallway to her room.

She whines as he enters the room, and he knows she’s not going to stay in her own bed tonight. There are mornings, as rare as they are, when she’ll be awake before he is, and snuggle into his side and wait for him to wake up, patiently and kindly.

They’re always his favorite.

So he shuffles down the hallway to his bedroom, and she lets out a happy sound as he places her on his bed, right in the middle, where she likes to sleep.

-----

Hermione takes Chris one day to meet Ginny. Harry spends the entire time sitting at his desk, hands twitching, legs shaking. Ron eventually sighs heavily and leaves the room, too engrossed in his conversation with the American team to handle Harry’s incessant noise.

When Hermione comes back, Chris is smiling widely, her cheeks dimpled. She is talking so fast Harry barely has a chance to enter the conversation before she finishes.

“I like Ginny,” is all she says, and Hermione simply beams.

Harry still hasn’t talked to Ginny, and it’s that that keeps him up at night.

-----

“I miss Chris.”

It’s quiet in the hotel room, and then Hermione hums at him lightly, her hands coming up to touch his shoulder. It’s late, or early, depending on his perception of time and space, and he’s never been away from his daughter for this long.

“Let’s call her,” Ron says as he walks out of the bathroom, his hair wet from his shower. Each of them took turns showering, having spent most of two days in transit. Harry hadn’t even had a chance to think about his daughter, caught up in the plane flight, and the cars, and the American team waiting for them.

“Okay,” Harry says, and Hermione is already pulling out her laptop. It’s easier than a phone conversation, because Chris is so demonstrative and loud and holding a phone to her ear while retelling a story that involves a lot of hand motions never works.

Harry had left his personal laptop back home, with the password into the account he made for Chris written on a post it. He smiles when he sees that she’s available, and as Hermione begins the call, she gestures to Ron.

“We’ll go talk to the twins for a bit, let you have a moment alone,” Hermione says as the call clicks, and there’s a strange noise before Chris’ face appears on the screen, her eyes bright and happy.

“Daddy!” she nearly screams, and Hermione and Ron are out of the room in an instant. Harry smiles at his daughter, not even noticing.

“Hello love,” he says, and she claps her hands together.

“You’re in America?” she says, tilting her head as if to look around Harry’s surroundings. With a grin, Harry picks up the laptop and walks over to the large windows of their hotel, which overlooks the city below.

“I’m in New York,” he says, and her gasp is enough to tell him that she can see that. Her eyes go wider, and then she’s waving at something off the screen. Harry’s heart leaps into his throat.

“Ginny, look! Dad’s in New York!”

There’s some shifting off camera, and Harry can tell from the little box that he’s barely visible in the view of New York. Chris is still looking off camera, and she gestures for Ginny to come closer.

“I can see that,” he hears a voice say, and he realizes with a start that it’s Ginny, there in his house, with his daughter, and he still hasn’t even fucking spoken to her.

“Dad, show us more!” Chris says, and suddenly there’s a shoulder in his view, and he can tell from the hair that it’s Ginny’s, and he swallows.

“That’s all there really is, love. It’s dark right now, and I’m not even near the biggest buildings,” he explains, causing Chris to frown.

“There are bigger buildings?” she sounds amazed, and Harry hears Ginny chuckle softly. Her hand moves up to touch Chris’ back, and Chris is positively beaming.

“Much,” he says, walking away from the window. When Chris spies the bedroom, she claps her hands together again.

“Show me your room!” she cries, and so Harry does. He moves the laptop slowly, showing Chris the mini fridge that he isn’t going to touch, and the huge television that makes Chris’ eyes pop out of her head. There’s a small couch that faces the window, and Harry shows her the bathroom that’s still a bit damp from showers. Chris stares at it all with wide, excited eyes.

“Dad, is America scary?” Chris asks as Harry sits down on the couch, and sometime during the grand tour, Ginny had moved out of his view, and he tries to hold back how his chest aches a bit.

“Not really, honey. It’s much like London,” he says, though he’s not entirely sure it’s true. He knows London, knows what to expect from the people. Earlier, while walking down a busy street, a man with a cat balanced on his head had yelled something quite obscene at nothing in particular. It had caused a good laugh, and many ‘America is wild’ comments.

“Is it foggy?” Chris breaks Harry from his thoughts, and he frowns.

“It’s sunny, and warm,” Harry decides, and Chris makes a face.

“I like it foggy,” she declares, and Harry hears a familiar laughter in the background. Soon, Ginny places a cup of tea into view and sits down, this time slightly more visible.

“What time is it there?” Chris asks, because he’d explained how she couldn’t call him at certain hours because he’d be asleep or in a meeting. She’d barely grasped the idea, and he’d eventually told her that he was going back in time, which had amused her greatly.

“It’s half four,” he says, and Chris looks up at Ginny, who’s already holding up her fingers.

“We’re five hours more than him,” Ginny begins to explain, “so what’s four plus this many?”

Chris counts on Ginny’s five fingers, slowly, and Harry can feel himself bursting into flames. He can feel the heat swallowing him whole. He accepts it, wholly.

“Nine! Dad, it’s nine here,” Chris says this at him, looking at where he assumes his face is on the screen. Harry smiles at her and at Ginny too, but he keeps his eyes on his daughter.

“Yes it is! Good job, has Ginny been teaching you that?” he says, looking at where Ginny is on the screen, part of her face visible. There’s a slight smile on her face.

“Yes! We were doing reading too,” Chris says, her eyes lighting up as something crosses her mind. She looks uncomfortable, if only for a moment, before holding up her hand.

“Dad, will you wait while I go potty?” she asks, and Harry nods enthusiastically.

“Of course, love. I’ll be right here,” he says, pushing back a yawn. He will not yawn, even though he’s exhausted, beyond exhausted

“Okay!” Chris says before she’s out of her chair and disappearing off the screen, leaving Harry to look at the wall of Chris’, a few pictures in his vision.

The silence that follows the bathroom door shutting is deafening, and Harry can feel it seeping into his bones, even though there are thousands of miles between where he is, and where Ginny is currently sitting, at his house.

Ginny shifts, and then she’s in the seat Chris had been occupying, and Harry moves his laptop so the view of his face is clearer in the light from the bedside lamp. She’s not looking at him, rather above the laptop, something on the wall catching her attention, before she looks at him on the screen.

“Your home is quite lovely,” she says after a moment, and the air of unfamiliarity is enough to make Harry want to cry.

“It’s all because of Chris,” he says, and Ginny smiles at that. Her eyes are soft as she picks up her tea and takes a sip.

“She’s… wonderful,” Ginny says slowly, and Harry already knows this, knows how easily people fall in love with his daughter, but Ginny’s figuring this out for the first time, and it hurts.

“She takes after the twins sometimes though, so watch out,” Harry keeps his tone light, and Ginny laughs at that.

“Or maybe she takes after you. You always kept up with the twins,” she says, and it’s easy to talk about this.

They’re quiet again, and Harry itches to say something, anything, but then Chris comes back in, all curls and happy faces, unaware of what’s happening between Harry and Ginny. Unaware of their past, of the fact that this is the first time they’ve spoken in nearly five years. Chris gets up in Ginny’s lap like it’s the most natural thing in the world, and Harry can’t help but smile.

“Dad, shouldn’t you be asleep?” Chris asks immediately, and Harry chuckles.

“I should, but I wanted to see your face,” he says, and she shakes her head at him.

“Dad,” her voice warns, and Ginny’s smiling again, a warm smile that Harry knows is for when she’s watching something that makes her stomach flutter.

“Alright then, I’ll be going to sleep now,” he says jokingly, and Chris catches on, she always does.

“I’ll have some ice cream for breakfast,” she says, and then she’s gone again, singing some nonsense song as she exits the office.

“No you won’t!” Harry says, laughing, and Ginny’s laughing too.

“She won’t,” Ginny promises, and Harry nods as Chris only sings louder down the hallway.

“Thank you,” Harry blurts it out, hand on the back of his neck. “For… agreeing to watch her. I’m sorry we didn’t… I didn’t get to… talk…”

“You’re welcome, and it’s… it’s okay,” she says, and Harry shakes his head. He doesn’t want this to be okay, he wants this to be fixed. He doesn’t even know why it’s broken in the first place, but he knows he has to try to fix things now, figure out what happened to bring them to this point, strangers who have known each other since they were kids.

“I want to, though. Talk,” he says firmly, and he can see how she squirms in the seat.

“When you get back,” she says finally, and they can hear dishes clanging in the kitchen.

“When I get back,” he promises, and then there’s a rushed goodbye before Ginny runs off to find out what Chris is possibly doing, and Harry’s smiling at the call ends.

When you get back.

When Ron and Hermione return a bit later, they find Harry asleep on the bed.

-----

The trip goes sour in the last two days.

The American team is smart, though they expected that. It’s a larger company than they are, with more lawyers and accountants and men in nice suits than Harry feels comfortable with. But he and Hermione are unchanging, keeping to their original ideas and contract figures.

Hermione is the only woman in the room, and she demands respect with how she sits, in between Ron and Harry, her gaze unwavering. One night, after a very long meeting, she spills a few tears while cuddled in Ron’s lap, says it’s just frustration as how the men are staring at her as though she’s grown twenty heads.

The next day, she’s even more tenacious, and it makes Harry smile at how confused the Americans all really are.

When the talks are finally over, and the deals have been signed, there’s champagne and an expensive lunch, where Fred and George show off their amazing ability to get along with everyone. Ron looks less like he wants to punch people and more relaxed as they sit at the black tie restaurant.

He calls Chris every chance he gets, and he’s always relieved to see she’s still as happy as ever, and her time with Ginny hasn’t become strained. Ron and Hermione talk to her one night, and Chris clamors into Ginny’s lap and stays there, pulling Ginny into the conversation constantly like it’s her duty. At first, Harry can see the discomfort on Ginny’s face, but no one draws any special attention to it, and Chris doesn’t know anything’s wrong, so the discomfort dissipates into ease.

Harry hasn’t forgotten their tentative agreement, the promise to talk, when he gets back, and it’s all he can think about when he sends off a final message to Chris as he boards the plane home.

He has the window seat this time, and he watches the world become brighter as they fly the eight hours back to London. Ron falls asleep on his shoulder, and Hermione is in front of them with a fond look on her face at how Ron snores lightly.

“You excited to be getting home?” Hermione asks between the seats, poking at George as he playfully shushes her.

“I am,” Harry says, unable to hide the smile on his face or in his voice. Hermione’s looking at him expectantly, like she knows, but Harry thinks that’s a bit ridiculous.

“Chrissy is very excited,” Hermione hums, and Harry simply nods.

“She seems as much.”

It’s quiet for a moment longer, and the way Hermione is looking at Harry, he just… she obviously knows something.

“What?” he asks, and she purses her lips.

“Did you talk to Ginny?” she finally says, and Harry could roll his eyes, except he’s tired and that would hurt his head.

“A bit,” Harry tries to keep his answer simple, and hopes that Hermione will just turn back around and go to sleep. Except she doesn’t, and he knew she wouldn’t.

“What did you talk about?” she asks, and he can see George roll his eyes. He’s trying to sleep, except he drew the short straw and got stuck next to Hermione on the flight back.

“Chris,” Harry replies, shutting his eyes slowly. He supposes that pretending to be asleep is a dick move, but he’s exhausted, and it’s just too much, to talk about Ginny right now.

“You’re lucky I’m tired, Harry James Potter,” Hermione says, and then he hears her turn around and she’s quiet, the entire plane is quiet, once again.

When they land, they’re unsurprised to see it’s raining, and Ron mumbles something about it being bloody typical as they walk off into the terminal. They’d parked their cars in the long term parking, and the search to find them takes longer than they care to admit.

The rain makes traffic worse, and when Harry finally pulls up outside of Ron and Hermione’s flat, he can feel the tension in his stomach from lack of sleep ebbing into the rest of his body. He pushes his eyes awake and bids them goodbye, watches until they’re inside the building before navigating to his house.

He knows that Chris is probably bustling around the house, insisting on hanging up signs or making some grand gesture in excitement that he’s home, and that’s the thought he focuses on as he pulls into his driveway. The living room light is on, a soft glow in the haze, and he sees a small head bounce up and then disappear from view. He knows that, if he was outside the car, he could have probably heard Chris scream.

He stumbles out of the car and stands still for a moment, preparing his mind for lots of loud noises. His luggage feels heavier than usual as he drags it up the front stairs, and before he can touch the doorknob, it flies open and there’s a head of curly red hair flying at him.

“DAD!”

He scoops Chris up easily, wrapping both arms around her to hold her tight against his chest. She’s breathing heavily, and he can feel small tears on his neck, and it pulls at his heart.

“I love you, Chris,” he says softly, and she laughs, her mood switching quickly as she pushes on his shoulders so he’ll loosen his grip. She smiles as she looks at his face.

“You look older,” she says, and he laughs finally, his body relaxing as he reaches down for the handle of his luggage. He grasps at empty air, and he looks up to see that his luggage has been pulled inside.

Oh. Right.

“Ginny grabbed it!” Chris says, and she wiggles enough that he lets her down and follows her inside by the firm grip of her hand.

“Look, look!” she says, pointing to the piece of paper that’s taped to the wall in the foyer that reads “WELCOME HOME DAD” in colorful letters. There’s a handful of, what look like, flowers from their garden in a vase on the table, and he can smell tea.

“You did all of this, for me?” he asks, his tone mocking. Chris rolls her eyes at him, pulling him into the kitchen.

“Ginny helped!” she exclaims, and that’s when Harry sees Ginny, and his mouth goes dry.

She’s leaning against the counter, a cup of tea in her own hands. There’s a small smile on her face at Chris’ enthusiasm, or at the look on Harry’s face, and her hair is hanging loosely around her shoulders. She looks older than the last time he’d seen her in person, but he has to remind himself that that was five years ago, and the dim light of a video call doesn’t flatter anyone.

“Only because you are so cute,” Ginny says, looking at Harry hesitantly. He smiles back at her, sitting down at the table and taking the tea cup Chris moves towards him.

“I told Ginny how you like it,” Chris says, proud of herself. She waits for Harry to take a sip before looking impatient, and Harry mulls his thoughts longer than necessary.

“It’s perfect,” he says, and Chris beams. She climbs into his lap, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck.

“I missed you, dad,” she whispers to him, quiet enough that Ginny won’t hear. Harry rubs her back and presses a kiss to her hair.

“I missed you too,” he replies, and he sees Ginny shift on her feet. She looks slightly uncomfortable, and Harry reaches over with his foot to nudge the opposite chair out, an invitation. She pauses before she moves over and sits down. There’s a plate of cookies on the table, and she inclines her head.

“Snicker doodles, your favorite,” Ginny says, and Harry looks at her over Chris’ head. He knows Chris doesn’t know his favorite cookie, as she doesn’t even know her own favorite cookie. He lets it go as Chris looks up at him.

“Daddy, you stink,” she says, and Harry chuckles.

“I was about to say,” Ginny starts, and Harry points at her, his mouth open slightly.

“Picked on, in my own kitchen,” he says, and Chris giggles.

“You also look tired,” Chris pokes his cheek, and he groans.

“I’m very tired,” he says, and that seems to make up Chris’ mind.

“Then, take a bath, and then take a nap,” she says, like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Harry looks at Ginny, and she smiles softly at him.

“I’ll look after her,” she says, and he can hear the “and we can talk later” left off, but there.

He extracts himself from Chris with a nod, the idea of a long, warm bath all too appealing.

-----

Harry wakes up many hours later to the sound of the television, floating into his bedroom from the living room. There’s a pleasant warmth next to him, and when he lifts his head off his pillow, he’s happy to see Chris curled up into his side, her breathing even and deep. With a quick look around the room, he sees that it’s nearly ten, which explains the darkness of the windows and the late night talk show he can hear.

He finds a pair of sweats and pulls them on before leaving the comfort of his room, leaving the door only slightly, incase Chris wakes. He follows the sounds of the kitchen to find Ginny standing at his stove, refilling a mug with hot water.

“Hey,” he says softly, and she jumps slightly at his voice. She sets the kettle down before turning to smile at him, the action closed off.

“Sorry, did I wake you?” she asks, and he shakes his head quickly, walking over to where she stands to pour himself a cup. As he searches through the cabinet for an herbal tea, he sees her shift on the balls of her feet.

“I should probably-“

“Don’t say go,” Harry cuts in quickly, staring down as the color of the hot water changes. He chances a look up, and Ginny is staring at him, her hands clasped tightly around her mug.

“I was told we’d talk, when I got back. I’m back. I want to talk,” Harry says, turning on his heel and walking towards the living room. He doesn’t know where he’s pulling this from, the will to have this conversation, and he knows that if he looks at Ginny too long, it’ll disappear.

Ginny follows and sits carefully on the opposite end of the couch from him, pulling her knees up to her chest.

“Chris is a wonderful child, Harry,” Ginny says after a few moments of silence, and Harry looks at her. She’s smiling at him, a little more open than before, and he takes it.

“It hasn’t always been that way,” he says softly, and she hums.

“Where’s… I mean…” Ginny trails off then, and Harry can see the question in her eyes.

“Dead.”

The answer to the silent question hangs in the air, and then Ginny reaches over to touch Harry’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry,” she says, and it sounds like she means it, but Harry shakes it off.

“It was… we weren’t together, or anything. It was, technically, a mistake, but we figured we’d try, you know? Or at least, be civil,” he explains quietly, taking a sip of his tea. Ginny’s hand falls flat on the sofa between them, and he feels a twinge of regret at shaking her off. Carefully, he reaches over and touches the back of her hand.

“How’d she die?” she asks, turning her hand over so their fingers can slot together, if just a little.

“She was, um,” Harry struggles, even now, four years later, to say the words. “She was walking somewhere and she was hit by a car, a drunk driver. Didn’t even make it to the hospital.”

Ginny’s sharp intake of breath is enough for him to know what her face looks like, so he focuses on his tea and the soft feeling of her fingers with his.

“When?”

“Chris was barely a year old,” Harry says, taking a sip of his tea to give himself something to do. He feels the couch shift, and the soft fingers leave his, and when he looks up, Ginny has moved over to sit closer to him. She brings his hand into her lap, cradling it between both of hers.

“You managed to finish uni with an infant daughter?” her voice is soft, full of wonder and respect, and Harry nods as he takes it all in.

“Ron helped a lot, so did the twins. Mum and dad were spectacular, and it was a group effort really. The twins had their business going before Ron and I graduated, and we were already helping, so I jumped right from uni to the job. Going to America was actually the longest I’ve ever been away from her,” he confesses quietly, and Ginny squeezes his hand.

“Hermione…” Ginny clears her throat, “mentioned you having a daughter, in passing, but I didn’t realize how old she actually was. The first time she ever mentioned a daughter was… two years ago, and I thought that meant she was still a little one.”

Harry nods, seeing his opening.

“How often did you talk to Hermione?” he asks, trying to keep his voice neutral. If Ginny notices, she doesn’t say anything.

“At first?” she reaches up to run a hand trough her hair. “I didn’t talk to her until after a year, around my birthday. And then it was… sporadic, maybe once every few months? Just a quick email, that’s all really. And then in the past two years, it’s been about once a month, maybe.”

Harry hums at this, focusing on her hands holding his gently.

“Why?”

“Why what?” she asks, and he swallows.

“Why only Hermione?”

The question hangs in the air, and she shifts, but she doesn’t remove her hands.

“I… don’t know,” Ginny finally says, and Harry takes in a deep breath.

“Gin,” the nickname slips out, and he doesn’t think to correct it. “What hap-“

“Dad?”

They both jump at the noise, and Ginny drops his hand like they’re on fire. Chris stumbles into the room then, her eyes sleepy as she looks at Harry.

“What’s wrong, love?” he asks, opening his arms as she climbs into his lap. She’s quiet for a moment before letting out a yawn.

“Why’d you leave?” she asks quietly, and Harry kisses the top of her head.

“Came out here to talk to Ginny, is all,” he says, looking over to where Ginny has smashed herself against the opposite arm. The distance between them feels larger than it looks.

“Tired,” Chris says, and Harry smiles.

“That’s because it’s past your bedtime, let’s go back to sleep,” he says, and she hums.

“Sleep with you?” she asks quietly as Harry lifts her up, looking at Ginny as she shuts off the television.

“Yes, you can still sleep in my bed,” Harry says, even though he’s been trying to break her of that habit since they’d moved into the house and each had had their own room.

“I’ll just-“ Ginny begins, but Harry shakes his head at her.

“Stay… please,” he says quietly, swaying slightly to ease Chris back into sleep.

“Harry,” Ginny starts again, and Harry looks at her.

“Look, I’m not going to make you stay. But you can either stay here and sleep in the guest room, or go back to Ron and Hermione’s, and sleep on that old futon they have in the room that’s technically their office. And,” he falters now, swallowing thickly. “I still want to talk.”

She nods slowly, and it looks like there are tears in her eyes, but she pushes them away.

“I still want to talk too.”

She smiles then, and he smiles back, relief flooding his system. She leads the way out of the living room, shutting off lights as she walks, until they’re alone in the dark hallway. Chris is breathing heavily on his shoulder, and the only light in the hallway is coming from under his door.

“Sleep well,” he says, pushing open his door. The light seeps out and her hair catches it, shines back at him.

“You too,” she says, and then she’s slipped into the guest room.

The door clicks shut behind her, and Harry feels a bit lighter.

-----

“I’m just surprised, that’s all mum, but of course you and dad can take Chris out for the day,” Harry says as he moves through the kitchen, phone cradled between his ear and shoulder. He pours himself a cup of tea as he listens to his mother speak.

“You dad felt bad we couldn’t watch her while you were away, but we heard she had an interesting sitter,” Lily’s voice perks up, all too inquisitive, and Harry rolls his eyes.

“Mum,” he warns, and she laughs into the receiver, just loud enough to make Harry wince.

“I won’t say anything, though Molly is a bit miffed that she wasn’t told her youngest daughter was home,” Lily becomes serious, and Harry sighs.

“Weren’t we all,” he says, and Lily hums.

“Anyway love, we’ll be by in less than an hour then?”

“Sounds good, I’m sure Chris will be ecstatic,” Harry says, and Lily hangs up easily.

Harry stares at his phone for a moment before slipping into his pocket, already moving to wake up Chris. She’d been sound asleep when he’d checked on her, but now with barely an hour before his parents are to arrive, he realizes it’s time to wake her.

As he walks to her door, the guest door opens and he pauses, watching as Ginny walks out, her hand covering her mouth. She shakes her head as she finishes yawning, and then she spots Harry watching her.

“Morning,” she mumbles, ducking her head and moving past him towards the kitchen. He waits until he hears the mugs moving around and then shakes himself. He has a four year old to wake.

-----

The resemblance between Chris and Lily is astounding, and Harry smiles as he watches his mother lift Chris off the ground in a sweeping motion, James standing in the doorway with a smile to match his sons. Their entrance is loud, and Harry welcomes it.

“How’s our little Christine?” Lily asks, bouncing Chris on her hip. James finally manages to push his wife inside with a smirk and shuts the door, the sound echoing down the hallway.

“Happy! Why you here? We going somewhere?” Chris directs the questions at Harry, and he smiles.

“Nana and Papa are taking you on an adventure,” Harry says, accepting the hug from his father. James’ eyes crinkle as he smiles.

“We’re going to have brunch, and then maybe go to the park, or the zoo,” James says, and Chris’ eyes light up like fireworks.

“The zoo!?” she practically screeches, and Harry smiles.

“If you keep your voice down,” he says, and she covers her mouth with her hands.

“Is it still chilly outside? I’ll grab her thicker jumper,” Harry says, turning on his heel to walk down the hall. He pauses when he sees that the guest room door is open, and Ginny is watching them carefully. He smiles at her, quickly ducking into Chris’ room to find her puffy jumper. When he walks back out into the hallway, Ginny is still there.

“They’d… they’d love to see you,” he says quietly, and Ginny freezes on the spot, her eyes wide. She swallows thickly, and Harry notices her hands shaking slightly.

“Okay,” she says, and then she’s in the hallway next to Harry, her hands shoved deep into her jumper pockets.

“We’ve packed a blanket,” Lily is saying as Harry tunes back in, and he catches his mother’s eyes widen slightly at the sight of Ginny. “And we’ll sit near the water and maybe feed the birds.”

“I don’t like birds,” Chris says, a frown on her face, and James laughs.

“What have birds ever done to you?” James asks, as though he’s personally offended, and Chris looks at her grandfather accusatorily. Then she sees Ginny, and her expression changes. She starts to shimmy in Lily’s arms.

“Ginny!” Chris says, landing with a thud and running over to where Ginny is standing hesitantly, at the edge of the commotion. James whirls on the spot, eyes soft as he spots her.

“Hi,” Ginny says, mostly to Chris, as she picks her up into a hug. It calms the shaking of her hands, and Harry reaches over to touch Ginny’s shoulder gently.

“It’s so – good to see you,” Lily says softly, and Ginny nods, her bottom lip sucked in between her teeth.

“We watched your matches, all the time! You’re a spectacular players, as always,” James says, and Ginny smile finally, her bottom lip popping out from between her teeth. It’s bright red.

“Thank you,” she says softly, and Lily nearly laughs.

“No need to thank us, we love you dear,” Lily says this quietly as she walks over to stand closer to Ginny, reaching out to touch her elbow where her arms is wrapped around Chris.

“I know,” Ginny’s voice sounds choked, and Harry clears his throat.

“Wouldn’t want to miss brunch,” he says, and James and Lily nearly glare at their son. Chris reaches for James, who takes her, and it’s all the invitation Lily needs to pull Ginny into a motherly hug.

“I’m here, if you need anything,” she whispers, just loud enough for Harry to hear, and Ginny’s eyes are definitely filled with tears now.

“Thank you,” Ginny replies, smiling up at James as well.

It’s a couple more minutes before Harry and Ginny are alone again, Lily waving at them happily from the door as Harry shuts it softly. Ginny hasn’t moved from the spot in the hallway, her hands shoved deep into her pockets again. When Harry turns to look at her, her face is clouded.

“I’m sorry, about that,” he says, and she shakes her head, more tears pushing at her eyes. Harry makes an aborted move to touch her, shoves a hand through his hair instead.

“It’s… fine. Something I needed,” she says, and Harry sighs heavily.

“Have you eaten?” he asks, gesturing towards the kitchen, and she follows him as he crosses the threshold.

“Not yet,” she says, and he jerks his head towards the table.

“Sit, I’ll make us something,” he says, and she sounds like she’s going to protest, but something holds her back. His mind is running, remembering all the times they’d been kids, helping Lily or Molly make breakfast. He’s sure she’s thinking of that now too.

The kitchen is quiet as Harry works, and he doesn’t look over at Ginny until he has the eggs and sausage in pans. She’s looking at the paper that Harry had pulled in off the stoop that morning, her fingers holding it gently. When she feels him looking at her, she smiles.

“I’m not the biggest news in sports anymore,” she mumbles, and Harry holds back a snort.

“I’d suppose players on drugs is a big scandal,” he says, reaching into the cabinet for two mugs. She stands then and walks over to him, picking out her own tea as he pours the water.

“I suppose it is,” she says, leaning on her hip against the counter, looking up at Harry. He’d forgotten how short she actually is, and he tilts his head down to smile at her.

“You were,” she starts, looking down at her mug. “You were about to ask me… what happened, last night? Weren’t you?”

He waits for her to look up before nodding slowly, and she sighs. He moves back over to the stove, stirring the eggs and moving the sausage. She stays where she is, her hands flexing around her cup.

“Where do I even start?” she says, mostly to herself, and Harry winces.

“At the beginning,” he says simply, and she laughs dryly.

“It’s… it’s complicated,” she says, and Harry shrugs.

“I have lots of time,” he replies, and she stares at him steadily for a moment before ducking her head again. She walks over to sit at the table, and he finishes cooking their food. She doesn’t speak again until he’s sitting down across from her, two plates of food steaming between them.

“You were… away, when it first happened,” she says, and he thinks back to the hurried phone call he’d gotten, the shouts in the background, and the way Ron’s voice had choked over the words that Ginny was gone gone gone.

“I remember,” he says, and she looks at him.

“What did you hear?” she asks, and he takes in a sharp breath.

“Ron called me, panicking. This was… right before Alice, Chris’ mum, told me she was pregnant. Like three days before, actually. I could hear lots of shouting, and Ron sounded so… small, and tired and he just said that he’d come home to lots of shouting and that you’d just left,” he picks at his food, thinking about that time.

“He mentioned that you’d gotten into a nasty row with your mum the day before, and they all thought you’d just gone to a friends, but then I guess you’d left a note saying you were going to France,” he says this all quietly, remembering how helpless he’d felt, how useless he’d truly been during that week.

“I did,” she shifts in her seat, “have a nasty row with mum. We’d been having issues for weeks, actually… since a party around graduation.”

Harry waits, picking at his eggs as he watches her face cloud over.

“Have… have you told Hermione any of this?” he asks, and she shakes her head.

“I couldn’t find the right words,” she takes a deep breath, “and… well, I’m not as close to her as I am to you.”

The last part is quiet, and Harry feels his stomach turning in knots. He reaches over and places his hand over hers, squeezing it gently. He doesn’t ask why she didn’t contact him then, why she’d only ever talked to Hermione, why she hadn’t showed up at his house. He holds his tongue, and waits.

“Mum and I… we couldn’t see eye to eye on something. She was so – opposed to the idea of getting an abortion, and I didn’t want to lose my only chance at playing football-“

Ginny stops as Harry’s hand tightens around hers, and she winces slightly. Harry lets go, his face paler than usual.

“You… you were pregnant?” he chokes out, and there are tears in her eyes again.

“I…” she trails off, something in her posture and expression changing. She pulls her hand back, and her knees to her chest, and Harry can already tell the conversations about to end.

“It’s… complicated,” she says quietly, her entire outward demeanor becoming small. Harry feels an ache in his chest.

“Okay,” he says, letting the subject drop. He gestures to the plate of food. “Eat.”

He keeps his voice gentle, and she eventually puts her feet back on the ground and picks up her fork. Harry’s cutting a piece of sausage when she clears her throat.

“I’m sorry,” she says, and Harry balks at her.

“For what?” he asks, his voice incredulous. She sighs.

“I… I should’ve called, back then,” she stumbles over her words, and Harry’s hand twitches.

“I did – try to talk to you,” he confesses quietly, and she nods.

“I know. I saw the emails.”

It hangs between them, and Harry feels something rising in his throat.

“I was… angry,” she mumbles after a few moments, and his eyebrows go into his hairline.

“At who? Me?” he asks, and she purses her lips. She pushes the food around on her plate aimlessly, and he understands the feeling. He’s suddenly not hungry anymore.

“At… everyone,” she waves her hand in the air, and Harry nods.

“For what it’s worth-“

“No,” Ginny snaps suddenly, her eyes widening. “Please don’t apologize. It’ll make it worse.”

Harry nods, though he’s not sure he truly understands what she means. Everything is still foggy, and he wishes it wasn’t.

“I won’t then, as long as you won’t.”

She stares at him, her bottom lip disappearing between her teeth. There are still wet tears on her cheeks, and he fights the urge, the incessant urge, to reach over and wipe them off.

“I’ll… try,” she finally says, and Harry smiles.

-----

Later, when Lily and James return with a very sleepy looking Chris, Ginny pulls Lily aside. Harry and James can’t hear the conversation, but Lily starts crying, and hugs Ginny tightly.

“It’s nice, that she’s home,” James says, and Harry nods, something lodged in his throat.

“Yeah,” is all he manages to say.

-----

“Ron?”

Harry and Ron look up at the sound of one of their longest tenured employees, Alicia, in the doorway. Her eyebrows are knitted together, and she looks a bit worried.

“Yes?” Ron says, because no one ever waits to enter the office, just walks in and starts talking.

“Your… sister, is here, with Chris” Alicia says, and Ron looks over at Harry quickly. Harry recovers first.

“Well, show them back then,” he says, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice. As if the sister of the owners isn’t allowed in the back, honestly…

Alicia disappears, and a moment later Ginny walks in, Chris sitting happily on her hip. Chris wiggles once and Ginny sets her down instantly.

“Daddy!” Chris calls, running over to him and clambering into his lap. Harry laughs as he pulls her into a hug.

“Hello, love. What are you doing here?” he asks, keeping his voice light as he looks at Ginny. She smiles tightly, accepting the hug from Ron when he stands.

“I’ve never seen your shop! I was curious,” Ginny says, and her voice is something Harry remembers. It’s teasing, and light, and directed as Ron, as it always was before.

“Do you want the grand tour? I’m sure Chris could give it to you in her sleep,” Ron jokes, and Chris nods happily.

“A tour!” she insists, small four-year-old hands fisting and pumping into the air. Harry moves his head to avoid being punched.

“Let’s give her the tour,” Ron says, motioning for Chris to join him. She slips off her father’s lap and walks over to Ron, holding her arms up so he’ll lift her. When he does, she waves at Harry.

“You say here, dad,” she says, and Harry nods, pointing to his computer.

“I have work to do,” he says, and she giggles.

“Sure,” she sounds skeptical, and Harry balks.

“Ron’s a bad influence,” Harry says this at Ron, and Ginny laughs then, her eyes bright as she watches them.

“I don’t know,” Ginny starts, smile widening, “It does look like you’re not doing anything.”

Harry balks.

“Traitor,” he says quietly, looking back at his computer. He’s currently going dealing with the payroll for the week, something he ends up putting off until the last minute, always.

“Employees need to be paid,” he says, waving them off. Ron chuckles, hitching Chris up on his side and poking her nose.

“We’ll leave your dad to it then, yeah?” he asks, and Chris giggles. He gestures towards the door with his head at Ginny, and she holds up a finger to him, waving him off. Harry, eyes still glued to the computer, saw this out of his peripheral vision.

“Yes?” he says as the door closes behind Ron and Chris, leaving him and Ginny alone. She sits down at the chair on the opposite side of his desk, her hands reaching up to play with the trinkets there.

“I wanted to say thank you.”

He looks up at her, brows together.

“For?”

“Well,” she smirks, “you were right. I’d much rather sleep in an actual bed than on a futon in a home office. You didn’t have to offer me your guest room, or let me hang out with your daughter all day, but you did. And I appreciate that.”

Harry smiles then, reaching over to touch her hands as they fiddle with a bobble head.

“You’re very welcome, to stay as long as you need, and hang out with my daughter as much as you want. It’s actually saving me from replacing the nanny that up and quit,” he says with a laugh, and Ginny’s eyes light up, resembling the twins, and Harry’s laugh cuts short at the sight.

“So that’s where all of this kindness is coming from then, yeah? Just need a new nanny?” she’s laughing, her body moving with the sound, and Harry laughs too.

“Of course! Chris has every other Weasley wrapped around her finger, it was only a matter of time before she caught you as well,” Harry squeezes her hands, and she smiles at him.

They look at each other for a beat, and then Ginny clears her throat.

“I should go join them, before Ron becomes impatient and turns Chris against me,” she says, standing up. She straightens her shirt, and Harry looks at his computer.

“He could try, but I think she likes you the most.”

Ginny smiles at that, over her shoulder, as she leaves.

-----

Chris walks into the living room, her hands already on her hips. She stares at Harry until he looks up, and he fights a smile.

“Yes?” he asks, and she sighs.

“No big dinner?” she asks, and Harry shakes his head. Ginny, from her spot on the couch, looks between them in confusion.

“Big dinner?” she asks, and Harry sucks on his teeth. Chris walks over and climbs up next to Ginny, snuggling into her side.

“Big dinner! With Bill, and C’arlie, and A’fur, and Molly,” Chris says, waving her hands in front of her face. Ginny stiffens, but Chris is too busy to notice.

“Oh,” Ginny says, and Harry nods.

“Weekly dinner, at your parents. I decided to not go tonight,” he says, ignoring the look Ginny’s shooting him as he stands up and walks into the kitchen. The roast in the oven is nearly finished cooking, and the smell is slowly filling the house.

“Why?” Ginny asks, with Harry in the kitchen. Chris is still in the living room, her attention preoccupied by the television. Harry shrugs.

“I wanted to spend time with just Chris,” he says, and Ginny scoffs.

“Harry, I know when you’re lying. We’ve known each other since we were kids,” she says, and Harry looks over his shoulder at her as he temps the roast.

“Really, it’s not a big deal,” he says, and Ginny crosses her arms.

“I could’ve stayed here alone,” she says, and Harry shakes his head.

“This week has been really crazy, and I wanted to stay home tonight. I don’t work on Saturdays, so I figured Chris and I could stay up and do whatever and then sleep in tomorrow. It’s fine,” he says, hoping that his tone indicates that it’s final. Ginny still looks annoyed, but she uncrosses her arms.

“What can I help with?” she asks, and Harry figures that’s close enough.

Thirty minutes later, the table is set, and there are glasses of wine (and a small glass of apple juice) sitting next to the plates. Chris comes in when Ginny calls, and Harry smiles as she pushes her step stool over to the kitchen sink to wash her hands.

“This smells delicious,” Ginny says softly, and Harry smiles.

“I’ve become quite the gourmand since Chris was born, and especially while living with Ron,” Harry says, and Ginny laughs, her eyes crinkling.

“Did any of your skills rub off on him?” she asks as she helps Chris sit in her booster seat, eyes flickering between the two adults. If Harry didn’t know any better, he would’ve thought she was planning something, Weasley Twin style.

“I think Hermione says he’s very good at making tea,” Harry says as he sits, and Chris laughs on cue, as though she’s been following the conversation the entire time. Harry reaches over and ruffles her hair.

“Dad, no,” Chris swats at him, and Ginny smiles.

Dinner is calm, much calmer than it would’ve been at the Weasley’s. Chris eats tries to talk and eat at the same time, taking up the role as the entertainer easily, telling Harry all about the tour she’d given Ginny of the shop. Harry watched Chris talk, her arms moving around in front of her face, her fork forgotten on the table. It was probably for the better.

After dinner, Ginny insists on cleaning as Harry readies Chris for her bath. As they walk down the hallway to the bathroom, Chris pulls on Harry’s hand.

“Dad?” she asks softly, pushing the bathroom door open. He looks at her, nodding to let her know to continue.

“Who is Ginny?”

The question makes Harry stop as he turns on the taps, Chris already pulling off her shirt. She crosses her arms, obviously thinking the question isn’t as confusing as Harry’s face suggests.

“What do you mean, darling?” he asks, pulling on her hair a bit to undo it from its braid. Chris is still staring at him as if he’s the one asking silly questions.

“Who is she?” Chris steps out of her pants and touches the bath water, nodding at its temperature. She climbs in without preamble, still looking at Harry.

“She’s Ginny?” Harry says, and Chris laughs into the plastic toy shark Fred had given her one birthday.

“I know her name, silly,” Chris says, and Harry rolls his eyes.

“Ginny is a friend, has been for a long time. She’s Ron’s younger sister,” Harry says, and Chris puts things together rather quick for a four year old.

“So she’s A’fur and Molly’s?”

“Yes, sweetheart,” Harry says, sitting on the closed seat of the toilet. She nods slowly.

“Why didn’t she go to big dinner?”

Harry sucks in a sharp breath. He sometimes forgets how blunt children are, and then Chris hits him with a question like that.

“It’s a long story, that I haven’t heard the end of yet,” he says honestly, and she nods.

“Like a bedtime story?” she scoops water up in her hands and pours it over her head. Harry smiles at her smiling face.

“Something like that,” he answers, and she hums.

“Is she staying with us forever?” Chris asks, and Harry’s throat lodges again.

“She’s staying with us for awhile,” he manages to speak, and Chris nods.

“Is she my new nanny?”

“Not really. She’s just a friend who needs somewhere to stay,” Harry answers, and Chris nods again. She looks at Harry critically, for a child, and then reaches for the shampoo.

“I like her,” she says as Harry squirts shampoo into his hand and begins working it through her hair. He hums as he keeps the hair out of her eyes.

“I like her too,” he mumbles quietly, unsure if Chris hears it or not.

Harry’s working conditioner through Chris’ hair when there’s a knock at the door, and Chris calls for Ginny before Harry can reply.

“The kitchen’s all clean,” Ginny says, leaning against the vanity. Harry smiles at her, holding Chris’ head still as she tries to look around his body.

“No soap in your eyes,” Harry says, moving enough so Chris can smile at Ginny.

“She’s a squirmer,” Ginny says, and Chris pouts at her before she schools her face as Harry scoops water up in a cup to rinse her hair.

“Mum says she takes after me quite a bit,” Harry comments, to which Chris smiles.

“I look like Nana!” Chris exclaims, and Harry laughs.

“You sure do,” he replies, pushing away from the tub and sitting back on the toilet seat. Ginny is watching him closely, her hands gripping the countertop.

“How is that?” she asks suddenly, and Harry looks up at her.

“How is what? That she looks like my mum?”

“Yeah,” Ginny says, and Harry squirms on his seat. He looks at Chris, and then at Ginny, and stands up.

“Watch her,” he says to Ginny, walking out of the bathroom. Ginny looks at Chris, who shrugs and continues to play with her toys. By the time Harry walks back in, something clasped in his hands, Chris is beginning to look sleepy.

“Here,” Harry says, handing Ginny what looks like an old photograph. He moves away from her, pulling the drain out of the tub and gently prodding Chris to stand up.

“What is this?” Ginny asks, and Harry looks at her over his shoulder as he grabs for a towel.

“It’s Alice.”

Ginny stares at the picture, her eyes moving over Harry’s face first, younger and a lot less stressed. His arm is slung around a woman with dark red hair, a shy smile, and bright blue eyes. Ginny can see what looks like a party happening in the background, and her eyes linger on the color of the woman’s hair before she looks up at Harry.

“She was beautiful,” she says softly, and Harry shrugs, an already half asleep Chris wrapped up in a towel on his shoulder. He leaves the bathroom and Ginny follows, flicking off the light with ease.

“That is from the night it happened,” Harry says softly as he walks into Chris’ room, the toddler whining as Harry sets her down on her bed.

“Bedtime,” Harry whispers, helping Chris into her pajamas. Ginny stands in the doorway, still staring at the picture. She feels a lump forming in her throat.

“How-“ she stops talking, waiting as Harry places Chris into the bed gently, pressing a soft kiss to her drying hair. Chris mumbles something, and Harry chuckles softly.

“How what?” he says quietly, walking over to where Ginny stands. She moves from the doorway and into the hall, waiting as Harry shut off the light and closes the door.

Nudging her along with a soft hand at her side, Ginny moves into the living room, taking her seat on the couch, Harry plopping down closer to her than usual.

“I thought you were going to stay up and do whatever with Chris,” Ginny asks after a moment, her hand gripping the photo tightly. Harry shrugs, reaching over and taking the photo back from Ginny.

“I’d liked her for a bit, before the party. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, for her to get pregnant, since we both liked each other,” Harry says, thumbing the picture. Ginny has so many questions, sitting on her tongue, but she chooses carefully.

“Do you miss her?” Ginny asks, and Harry sighs heavily.

“Of course. Not a day goes by that I wish Chris had her mother,” Harry says, and Ginny purses her lips.

“Outside of her being Chris’ mum, so you miss her?”

The question stills Harry’s movement as he plays with the picture, and he looks at Ginny carefully.

“Yes. We… we fought a bit, about what to do, but we both had a certain amount of respect for each other…” Harry trails off, letting out a long sigh. Reaching over, Ginny pulls one of his hands into hers, squeezing gently.

“I know we said no apologizing,” they shared a smile, “but I’m very sorry you’ve had to go through this.”

Harry nods, swallowing thickly.

“I have Chris, don’t I? I’m thankful every day that she’s in my life,” he says, and she smiles wider at him. There’s a peaceful feeling settling around them, and she doesn’t want to break it.

“That’s the spirit,” she says honestly, and he shuts his eyes, letting his head fall back against the couch.

“You know,” he muses, his voice low, “on the subject of apologizing…”

He trails off, turning his head slightly to look at Ginny as she plays with his fingers. Her lips are tight.

“Yes?” she says finally, after a few moments of them staring at each other.

“I… I want to finish the conversation, from yesterday.”

“Oh.”

Harry looks at her critically, and she stares back at him if only for a moment. Then she deflates, something he’s still trying to process. Ginny’s never been one to shrink in on herself, and the sight makes Harry wince.

“It’s just-“ he stops, his chest tightening and the uneasy feeling returning to his stomach. She lets go of his hand and he regrets ever opening his mouth.

“I have so many questions,” he mumbles, blindly reaching across the room between them for her hand. She supplies it, and he squeezes it.

“And I can tell… I know you, and I can see that it’s not simple and that it’s upsetting but… Ginny, you’ve been gone five years and I’ve missed you, so much,” he says it all quickly, and as he speaks he hopes the couch opens up and swallows him whole, but he can’t stop.

“And all you’ve told me is that you were pregnant, and something about an abortion, and my minds been running in circles thinking of scenarios and – Ginny,” he turns to look at her, and he finds her face covered in tears, her bottom lip between her teeth again. He scoots over then, releasing her hand to wrap an arm around her shoulder.

“I’m sorry,” she gasps against his shoulder, her arms moving to wrap around his torso, clinging to him tightly.

“No-“

“No. I’m so sorry, for not calling back then, for being gone for five years, for not telling anyone anything, for everything.”

“I’m sure you have nothing to be sorry for,” he says, trying to put her at ease more than anything else.

“If I had just… talked to someone… instead of up and leaving,” she says, and Harry shifts then, pushing her just far enough away to see her face.

“What happened?” he whispers, the curiosity eating him alive. She swallows thickly.

“I…” she starts, and then she pushes her head back against his neck, hiding her face in his skin. He wraps his arms around her again, holding her gently.

It’s quite a long time before she speaks again, her breath soft against his skin. She plays with the back of his shirt, presses her hands to his shoulders, and takes long deep breaths against his neck, before she opens her mouth.

“It was… at a party, after graduation.”

She’s quiet again, and it takes a moment for Harry to realize she might be waiting for him to ask.

“When you got pregnant?”

“Yes,” she takes in a very deep breath, her body expanding in his arms, before she says, “when I was… raped.”

He tenses, his entire body suddenly aware of his surroundings, and he can immediately feel her shrinking in on herself again. He forces himself to relax.

“Okay,” he says softly, rubbing a slow circle on her back. She nods against his neck.

“I didn’t tell anyone… and then I realized I missed a period, and I took a pregnancy test and it came back positive, and that’s when I did tell mum, and she… she didn’t react that positively.”

“To the… first part or the second part?” Harry asks, completely unable to say the word, his mind still grappling with the thought.

“All of it,” Ginny practically sobs, and Harry rubs her back some more, the circles slow and large. She shakes against him, and he presses his cheek to the top of her head.

“Why?” he asks, and she shrugs, and he can feel the anger rising in the tension of her shoulders.

“I don’t know! I still do not know! I first told her I was pregnant and that it wasn’t intentional and then I told her that it was at a party and it was rape and she… she didn’t seem to hear me after ‘unintentional pregnancy’ and then I said I was going to get an abortion and she… I don’t think she could handle the idea that I didn’t want to have a child? That I didn’t want that? And for the entire week before I left, she fought me every second she could,” Ginny spills out, her words fast and mumbled against his skin.

“And the day that Ron called you was the day I got the letter from the school in France, that they’d take me on a full football scholarship, and I realized that I could leave. And I could get an abortion there, and I just… I told her I was taking the scholarship and she became even angrier and we fought for… an hour? And dad was trying, he was trying to talk us down and it just… I just left.”

She lets out a long breath, her body relaxing against his side. It’s a different type of deflation, the tension in her shoulders disappearing, the type from telling a secret you’ve kept for years. Harry bites his bottom lip, the numerous questions filling his brain. He blinks at the tears in his eyes, focusing his energy on rubbing Ginny’s back.

“I…” he trails off, and she pushes back to look at him. He’s sure the look on her face is partially echoed on his.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispers, and she nods, a few tears spilling over as she blinks rapidly. He gives in to impulse and reaches up to brush them off her cheeks.

“It’s not your fault,” she takes in a deep breath, “but thank you. And no talking about what we could’ve, would’ve, or should’ve done, if either of us had called, or emailed back, or anything.”

Harry nods, a couple thoughts he’d almost verbalized disappearing off his tongue. She leans forward then, her arms moving back around his shoulders, and he accepts her into his embrace with a soft sigh. She feels heavier, despite the weight she’s gotten off her chest, and her soft breathing on his neck tells him she’s close to falling asleep.

“Ginny?”

She hums, barely moving her head, so her nose presses against his pulse point.

“Do I know… do I know the person that raped you?”

He only has to wait a moment for the answer.

“Yes.”

He squeezes her sides.

“I would’ve come in a heartbeat,” he thinks as she falls asleep on his shoulder.

-----

Ginny wakes up the next morning in the guest room, still dressed in the clothes she had been wearing the night before. She sits up slowly, her eyes wandering the room. Her eyes settle on her phone, plugged in on her nightstand, and she smiles softly.

The doorknob begins to turn, and she watches as it opens slightly, revealing Chris. She smiles when she sees that Ginny is awake, pushing the door open more and walking inside.

“Dad said I had to wait for you to wake up before I could come in,” Chris says quietly, and Ginny silently thanks Harry for enforcing that rule.

“Come here,” Ginny says, and Chris rushes over to the bed, pulling herself up with a grunt. Ginny opens her arms and Chris falls into them, snuggling into her collarbone with a happy sigh.

“How long are you staying here?” Chris asks suddenly, and Ginny looks down at her with a sly smile.

“Why?” Ginny asks, humor in her voice. Chris picks up in it, smiles at Ginny, but then becomes serious again.

“Dad said awhile, not forever, and that you aren’t my nanny,” Chris explains, and Ginny nods.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be here,” she answers, and Chris nods firmly.

“Then you should get up, because dad making pancakes and they’re really good,” Chris explains matter of fact, and Ginny bites back a laugh, realizing that in Chris’ mind, once Ginny isn’t living there anymore, it means she won’t be able to have pancakes.

“Well, I better get up then, huh?” Ginny asks, pushing Chris gently. The child scrambles to the end of the bed, crossing her legs and watching as Ginny stands up and stretches.

As Ginny reaches for a new shirt and a pair of soft sweats, Chris clears her throat.

“You’re pretty,” Chris says, and Ginny looks at her, her head sticking out of the clean shirt. She slips her arms through the slots and straightens the fabric.

“Thank you?” Ginny says, giving Chris a confused smile. Chris simply shrugs.

“Dad says it,” Chris is speaking in the way only young kids can, and it makes Ginny’s skin warm.

“About you?” she slips off her shorts and pulls on the sweats before Chris replies.

“No, about you silly.”

Ginny quirks her head to the side, the blush on her cheeks intensifying.

“You’re silly,” she replies, as it’s the only coherent thought she can come up with. Chris giggles, shuffles of the bed and lands on the floor with a thump.

“Okay,” she says, reaching up for Ginny’s hand. Ginny lets the child pull her from the room and down the hallway to where Ginny knows Harry is.

“Chris, was she awake?” Harry asks when he sees Ginny standing there, hand clasped around Chris’. Ginny reaches down and picks the child with ease, balancing her on her hip.

“I was, she was very polite,” Ginny says, pressing a soft kiss to Chris’ cheek. Chris giggles, the sound filling the kitchen.

“Pancakes!” Chris exclaims, and Ginny looks over to where Harry has a plate stacked high. She can see what looks like blueberries in some of them.

“I’m very excited now about these pancakes,” Ginny jokes, placing Chris in her seat at the table. Harry laughs as he walks over, placing a few of the smaller ones on Chris’ plate.

“Not with your hands,” Harry says as Chris picks up the top pancake and begins to chew on it. Ginny hides her smile as Chris looks up at her father with a smile.

“It’s good,” she compliments, continuing to eat. Harry sighs heavily and rolls his eyes.

“At least once a week,” he mumbles, disturbing food onto plates for himself and Ginny. She sits carefully, watching him move, the smile on his face unwavering as he places a kiss on Chris’ head.

“Ginny too!” Chris says, bending over, her lips puckered. Ginny leans over and lets Chris press a sloppy kiss to her cheek.

“Very sweet,” Harry comments, and Chris stares at her father for a moment. He stops moving, standing right next to Chris’ chair, eyes narrowed at her. Ginny watches as they stare at each other for a moment before Harry reaches over and gently touches the back of Ginny’s head.

“Christine Elise Potter,” Harry warns, and Chris’ eyes wide for a moment before she bats her eyelashes.

“What is happening?” Ginny asks between laughs, and Harry looks down at her.

“She’s trying to be subtle about getting me to give you a kiss,” he says, laughter on his lips as well. Ginny looks at Chris, all four-years-old and far too clever for her own good, and pulls on Harry’s shirt. He bends down and Ginny bends up, pressing a soft kiss to his cheek.

“Chris says you called me pretty,” she whispers into his ear, and he blinks at her as she settles back in the chair. His cheeks are pink.

“I said pretty tired,” he stutters out, and Chris looks ready to burst.

“You said she looked pretty,” she defends her earlier words, and Harry shakes his head, his cheeks round and rosy, lips tilted up in a wide smile.

“You’re going to be the death of me, aren’t you child?” he ruffles Chris’ hair, and Ginny watches as Chris beams up at her father, face full of love.

“Yes!” she exclaims, and Harry laughs as he sits down, eyes flickering up to meet Ginny’s. She smiles back at him and his smile becomes, if possible, even wider.

------

The backyard is small, and filled with more plants than Ginny had ever expected from Harry Potter, but as she sits on one of the chairs in the rare sunlight, it feels wide open to her. Chris is sitting on the grass nearby, a blanket under her bum as she colors in a book Harry brought her in America. She looks up as Harry walks out the backdoor again, three water bottles slotted between his fingers. He has a blanket slung over his arm and it sways as he pulls the door shut behind him.

“Here,” he says, handing her a bottle and the blanket. She takes them both with a curious expression, wrapping the blanket over her shoulders as he moves to hand Chris a bottle as well. She sits up straighter to twist off the cap and take a drink.

“What’s the blanket for?” she asks, though she’s far from complaining.

“You always used to get so cold, all the time,” Harry says as he sits down in the chair next to hers, looking at her with great amusement. “Don’t tell me that’s changed.”

She shakes her head, tucking the blanket around her arms. The water bottle rolls to rest in the space between her crossed legs.

“I’m still always cold,” she jokes, snuggling her nose into the blanket. Harry watches her with a soft expression before looking away, taking a drink of water.

They’re quiet then, and Ginny watches as the sun shines over the garden, the light reflecting off the morning dew still clinging to some plants. Chris is off in her own world, talking to herself as she colors characters on the page, crayons lying around her on the blanket.

“So,” Harry starts, and Ginny looks at him. “Why are you back this time?”

She’s been waiting for this question, waiting ever since she’d arrived home.

“It happened again.”

Harry’s brows come together, and Ginny can see him thinking.

“You’re… wait, what?” Harry shakes his head, and Ginny sighs as he reaches over to touch her shoulder.

“I wasn’t guaranteed a spot, as a starter this season, and one of the trainers told me that… if I slept with him, he would make sure I got the position. When I refused, he became a bit agitated, and I quickly got out of there. When I went to the head coach, he laughed me off. Implied that saying anything would ruin my career. I spent another month there, with this trainer hounding me, before I snapped and just left,” she states, her eyes not straying from where Chris sits. Harry grips her shoulder a bit tighter before letting go and moving to find her hand under the blanket.

“You couldn’t go to the league?” he asks, and she shrugs, fresh tears in her eyes. He hates how much she’s been crying lately, his desire to make everything go away stronger than usual.

“I was just… so scared, that he’d do something, and I’d be all alone in France with no one to really fall back on. I did finish my degree, but football is my life. I can’t give it up,” she mumbles the last part, and Harry nods.

“So you came home,” he says, and her bottom lip trembles.

“It feels like I ran away,” she confesses, softly against the blanket, and Harry squeezes her hand.

“Hey,” she looks up at him, at his steady face, “if there’s anything in this world I’m sure of, it’s that you’re meant to play football. And it’s not running away, because I’m here, and so is Hermione and Ron, and we’ll help you get everything sorted out, okay?”

“I ran away the first time,” she whispers, and he shakes his head.

“You went off to uni to play the sport you love. I don’t see any part of that as running away.”

“Mum sure saw it as such.”

Harry narrows his eyes at her.

“Did your mum really call it that?” he asks, and she nods slowly, tears clinging to her cheeks. He brushes them off with a quick swipe of his thumb.

“I did read the emails, from everyone,” she answers, and he bites the inside of his cheek.

“You know,” he swallows thickly, “speaking of your mum-“

“I’m not talking to her.”

“No,” Harry holds up a hand, shaking his head. “Not her, but the twins. They actually texted me, asking if they could come over.”

Ginny watches Chris for a moment.

“Okay,” she says, and Harry pulls his phone out of his pocket in an instant.

-----

The doorbell sounding off through the open backdoor makes Chris jump from where she’s sitting, eyes bright.

“I’ll get it!” she yells, her little legs carrying her up the back stairs and into the house. Harry gets up to follow her, leaving Ginny to sit and stare at their retreating forms. With a sigh, she pushes herself up off the chair and heads inside as well.

“Our favorite munchkin!”

“Been sitting outside, have you? All sorts of warm.”

“I was coloring! Wanna see?”

“In a bit, love.”

Ginny follows the sounds of their voices into the foyer, a smile playing on her lips as she sees Fred holding Chris in his arms, their noses close.

“We’re actually,” Fred turns, his eyes landing on Ginny, “here to see that one there.”

“Ginny? You know Ginny?” Chris asks, and George takes Chris from his brother’s arms, bopping her nose as he nods.

“She’s our sister, silly,” he says, and Chris’ mouth opens in a wide ‘o’.

“Ginny!” Chris exclaims, wiggling out of George’s arms defiantly. She skips across the foyer to where Ginny stands hesitantly, pulling at her hand.

“Your brothers?” she asks, and Ginny nods.

“Unfortunately,” she mumbles, and the twins laugh. Harry scoops up Chris then, pointedly walking back out of the house again. Ginny shifts on her feet.

“Gin-gin, come here,” Fred opens his arms, and Ginny smiles against the tears in her eyes as she walks over and into his arms.

“Harry did warn us that you were quite teary,” George whispers as he wraps his arms around her middle, and she sniffles between them.

“I’ll kill him,” she chokes out as her body shakes with sobs, and George chuckles against her hair.

“We’re quite fond of him-“

“So please don’t,” Fred finishes, and Ginny rolls her eyes. She sniffs loudly, burying her nose deeper into Fred’s shirt.

“I missed you two,” she whispers, and George steps back and crouches down, catching her attention with a gentle hand on her face. She keeps her arms locked around Fred but turns her head to look at George.

“We’ve missed you too, sister dearest,” he says, Fred humming in agreement.

“Harry hasn’t divulged any information he may or may not have, and we won’t ask too many questions-“

“Though we may ask a few-“

“-but we’re so happy you’re home.”

Ginny smiles up at George, squeezing Fred’s middle with a sigh.

“I am too,” she whispers, just loud enough for them to hear.

-----

“Come on, Gin! Play some footie with us!”

Ginny crosses her arms and shakes her head as she leans against the chair Harry’s lounging in. He looks up at her and smiles, reaching over to touch her side gently.

“I’m fine,” she says, watching with a smile as Chris attempts to kick the ball, her face pulled tight in concentration. Fred reaches down to steady her as she flails backward.

“You’re going to let us,” George gestures between himself and Fred, “teach young Christine how to play? We haven’t played proper in ages.”

Ginny shakes her head, her lips pursing together. Harry pokes her side again, and she looks down at him.

“Come on,” he says softly, and she blows a long sigh out of her nose.

“Only if you join us,” she replies, and he quirks a smile at her.

“You do remember that I was the only person to ever beat you,” he replies as he moves to stand, and Ginny’s grinning at him, and it’s like they’re young again for a moment.

“And yet, I’m the one who plays professionally,” Ginny pushes her sleeves up, reaching over to poke Harry as he adjusts his glasses.

“Daddy! Let’s play!” Chris yells, and Harry jogs over to her, reaching down to grasp the ball between his hands. Before he can spin it, Ginny grabs it and bounces it on her knees.

“Okay, Chris, let’s play,” she says, and Chris cheers happily.

Harry stands back and watches as Ginny positions Chris in front of the ball, and starts explaining how to properly kick. George and Fred line up across from Chris and link their arms, grins wide.

“Get it past us!” Fred calls, and Chris’ face grows serious. Harry walks over and sits on the steps of the deck, hiding his ever-growing smile behind his hand.

Chris misses on the first attempt, and as Ginny realigns her with the ball, she looks over and waves her small hand at Harry. He waves back, ignoring the way Ginny smiles at him before she turns back to the task at hand.

When Chris kicks again, the ball goes flying away from where Fred and George are standing, towards the back of the yard. Chris slumps immediately, but George runs over and lets the ball roll past him on the ground.

“GOAL!” he shouts loudly, and Chris runs at him, her voice rising as she yells at him for cheating.

Ginny looks over, her body shaking with laughter, and catches Harry already looking at her, the smile on his face soft, and her laughter quiets as she smiles back.

-----

When Fred and George leave later, they corral Ginny into a hug, pulling her tight and pressing kisses to her hair.

“We missed you,” George says, and Ginny smiles at them, a watery smile that reaches her eyes.

“I love you two,” she replies, and Harry shifts a sleepy Chris on his shoulders, her body and mind exhausted from a day of playing footie in the backyard.

“I’m going to put her down,” Harry says to them, and Fred waves him off.  

When Harry walks back into the hallway, Ginny is standing there, the watery smile still on her face. He walks over to her carefully, mindful of her reaction, of the way her shoulders are still shaking.

“Ginny?” he asks, and she looks at him.

“I’m okay,” she says, and he reaches for her, to gently touch her arm. She blinks rapidly, and pushes the tears away from her cheeks.

“Why are you crying then?” he asks, and she shrugs, gesturing around as though she can’t find the words. She steps forward and shrugs again, her arms going out slightly. He recognizes the gesture, and moves to wrap his arms around her tentatively. When she slips her arms around his waist, he squeezes a little tighter.

“I…. I forgot how much – much I missed everyone,” she gasps, and he pulls her in tighter to press a kiss to her hair.

“I mean… I left and I told myself that I wouldn’t miss them, wouldn’t miss you, and I did, so much,” she says into his shoulder, and he nods.

“It’s natural,” he whispers, and he doesn’t know if she hears him.

“I want to go back, but I missed you all so much,” she confesses against his shirt, and he hums softly.

“You can have both,” he says, and she pushes back to look up at him, her eyes red.

“It feels impossible,” she says, and he nods, rubbing his hands up and down her arms.

“We’ll start small,” he says, and she nods, accepting that as the ending of the conversation, and hiding her face back in his shirt.

-----

One Month Later

-----

“I miss Ginny,” Chris says, huffing as she looks up at her father, and he grimaces. Ron gives him a look as he shuffles paperwork on the kitchen table, and Harry reaches down to lift Chris into his lap.

“I do too,” he admits quietly, ignoring the look Ron’s shooting at him.

“When she come back?” Chris asks, sniffing loudly for emphasis. Harry fights off a chuckle, looking at Ron.

“Hermione hadn’t said much,” Ron says, his sour mood at his fiancée’s absence obvious.

“When they’re done in France, they’ll be back,” Harry tells his daughter, and she frowns.

“When they be done?” she asks, and Harry shrugs.

“I’m not sure,” he says, because he isn’t.

Hermione had insisted on going with Ginny, back to France to deal with the mess that she’d created by up and leaving. They’d seen the news, that famous footballer Ginny Weasley had suddenly returned to France after nearly three months of dropping off the map. And then the big news had broken, and a coach had been fired, and the explanation for her sudden disappearance became clear to the fans.

“Have you talked to Ginny?” Ron asks, breaking Harry from his thoughts. He nods, picking his phone up from the table to look at the screen. He has a new email, and a Facebook notification, but below that there’s a text from Ginny. It’s a response to something he said earlier, and he smiles at it.

“Things sound like they’re going well, though she hasn’t said much,” Harry says, and Ron rolls his eyes.

“Of course,” he grumbles, standing up to refill his cup. Chris slides off Harry’s lap and heads back into the living room, the mood of the room getting to her. She glares at them over her shoulder as she goes.

-----

Ginny calls early the next morning, a week since she left. Her voice is soft as Harry answers his phone, bleary eyed and fumbling in the dark for his phone.

“Did I wake you?” she asks, and he shakes his head as he sits up.

“No, no, it’s okay,” he says, rubbing over his face. He grabs his glasses and attempts to not poke his eyes out as he slips them on.

“I’m sorry, I woke you-“

“No, Ginny, it’s fine, I should’ve been up anyway. What’s up?” he cuts her off, and he hears her sigh at his question.

“So, I won’t be staying in France.”

It’s so blunt, to the point, and unexpected that Harry startles, shifting in the sheets.

“You won’t?” he asks, and she hums, holding something back. Harry’s brows come together.

“I will not,” she replies, and he fights the urge to sigh.

“Where will you be going?” he asks, and he hears someone on the other end talking loudly.

“Well, I was hoping the offer to stay at yours still stands,” she begins, and Harry does sigh.

“Ginny, what’s going on?” he asks, and she laughs softly.

“I won’t be playing football in France any longer,” she says, though she sounds happy, and Harry feels on guard.

“Will you be playing at all?” he asks, slowly realizing that this is how it’s going to go.

“I will,” she says, and the excitement in her voice is so obvious it hurts Harry’s ears.

“But you can’t say anything right now?”

“No.”

“Okay then, the offer still stands,” he says, she laughs into his ear.

“I’ll proper explain when I get home,” she says, and then she’s hanging up, and Harry’s still stuck on the word ‘home’.

-----

Ginny’s traded to a team in England, and Harry finds this out the second she steps through his door, her smile too wide and face bright as she jumps into his arms and shouts it against his shoulder. It was a mutually agreed upon decision between the teams and her, something she’d been thinking of doing for awhile, and she explains this all into his shoulder as he holds her tight to his chest, the smile on his face as wide as hers.

-----

“You still haven’t gone home to see mum?”

Ginny looks up at Fred as she sits in Harry’s kitchen, Chris cuddled in her lap. Harry shares a quick look with Hermione as they continue to make dinner.

“I’ve been back from France for two days, and everything with the team is just getting settled. Soon,” Ginny says, and George looks at his sister.

“Yes, but you’ve been back in England now for four months, and mum knows this,” he presses, and Harry turns then, glare already in place at the twins.

“Can you two go check on Ron? I’m sure he’d appreciate the help with the backyard,” Harry says, and the tone has Fred and George up quicker than usual. Harry turns back to the stove and no one speaks until the backdoor shuts and Ron’s greeting can be heard through the hall.

“Harry,” Ginny begins, standing up with Chris still in her arms as she walks over to where he’s standing. He glances at her easily, and she rolls her eyes at him.

“You’ll have to tell them about that part eventually,” Hermione says, and Ginny sighs.

The official story about why the coach was fired, and why Ginny’s coming back to England, is the true story, one that Molly has likely read. But Ginny’s sudden reappearance in England isn’t the issue that looms between her and Molly, it’s her sudden disappearance, and that’s something she hasn’t share with anyone but Harry and Hermione just yet.

“When’s the next family dinner?” she asks, and Harry and Hermione look at each other.

“Well, usually… tonight…” Harry says, and Ginny groans, disturbing Chris as she drifts towards sleep. She whines and Ginny presses a quick kiss to her curls.

“Bill, Charlie, and Percy are all in town, if you want,” Hermione offers, and Ginny looks at them carefully.

“You mean, talk to my brothers about it before I talk to mum?” she says, and Harry nods slowly, placing a lid on a pot of mashed potatoes.

“All they know is that you and Molly had a huge fight, and then you left. I feel like explaining things to them might help formulate the conversation you have with your mum,” Harry offers, and Hermione nods eagerly. Ginny narrows her eyes at them.

“Have you two been discussing this?” she asks, and Hermione tries to look affronted while Harry simply smiles. Hermione notices and scoffs.

“Harry, you’re a terrible liar,” she scolds, and Harry just shrugs, reaching out to gently touch his daughter’s cheek.

“Of course I am,” he mumbles, his eyes picking up on Ginny’s face in his peripheral vision, and when he looks at her, she’s smiling widely at him.

“Call the other then,” she mumbles, and Harry bends down easily to press a kiss to her cheek before he pulls his phone out of his pocket, missing how her face reddens as he turns away.

-----

“I’m hurt.”

“Equally as hurt.”

“I’m mostly confused.”

Bill, Charlie, and Percy walk into Harry’s home with matching sad expressions, and Ginny crosses her arms at them as they shut the door and turn to her.

“Why?” she asks, and Bill speaks up first.

“You’re home for, what, four months? And you only talk to the Wheezes crew? I’m hurt,” he says, but his tone is mocking, and Ginny grins as he steps forward and wraps her in a hug. Charlie follows, and Percy stands aside, reaching over to touch Ginny’s hand gently.

“What, no hug Perce?” she jokes, and he grins rolls his eyes.

“It’s only been five years, you cannot have forgotten my dislike for hugs,” he says, and she breaks away from Bill and Charlie to wrap her arms tightly around Percy. He huffs, if only for a moment, before he’s hugging her back.

“It’s only mild,” Ginny teases, causing Bill and Charlie to laugh as they venture farther into the house, following the smell of dinner to the backyard.

-----

Somehow, after dinner, they all end up in Harry’s living room, sitting on various surfaces and pillows. All six Weasley brothers focus their attention on Ginny when she calls to them, slowly beginning to explain things in a small voice. She somehow ends up sitting right next to Harry, tucked under his arm, and Harry ignores the way Bill’s looking at them as Ginny beings at the beginning, five years ago.

It’s feels like longer than a half hour, and when Ginny’s done explaining, she covers her face with her hands and lets out a long sigh. Harry gently runs his thumb over her shoulder when he feels her shudder against him.

“Gin,” Charlie speaks first, his eyes moving between Ginny, Harry, and Hermione. Hermione has Ron’s hands in hers, and Harry can see them shaking slightly. Ginny looks up at her brothers between her fingers then, her breath coming in shorter spurts. Harry tightens his hold on her shoulders then and turns his head to press his nose to her hair.

“I… I wish you would’ve said something,” Bill chokes out, pushing off from where he’d been leaning against the armchair Charlie’s in and walking closer to the couch Harry and Ginny are sat on.

“Please… please don’t say that,” Ginny mumbles, taking in a deep breath. “Please don’t talk about what we should’ve done, or would’ve done, or should’ve done, please. It haunts me, all the time, how things might have been if I had done something differently. I… please, don’t.”

Six redheads nod, but Bill still looks perplexed.

“When are you going to talk to mum?” he asks, and Ginny sighs heavily.

“I don’t know,” she says honestly, pressing her head a little harder against Harry’s nose. He takes it as a hint and presses his lips to her hair. It’s hidden from the view of her brothers, but he thinks they all know what’s going on.

“We’ll all come with you,” Percy says, the first words he’s spoken since halfway through dinner, and Ginny looks at him, moving her head slightly.

“Yeah, we’ll all be there. I’m sure mum has completely cooled down from the issue by now, but we’ll still be there, like we all should have been five years ago,” Charlie pipes up, his emphasis clear, and despite it being the words Ginny is so adamant about not hearing, she smiles at them, her eyes filling up with tears.

“I love you guys,” she says, and they all smile at her as she pushes off the couch and into Bill’s waiting arms. Soon, all six of them are standing around her, mumbling words Harry and Hermione can barely make out as they stand to the side.

“You’ll both come too, right?” Ron asks, and Hermione nods through what looks like tears. Harry wraps an arm around her and nods as well.

It’s an hour before they all leave, shuffling out with leftovers and promises to organize when they’ll all go and see mum and dad. Harry sits in the living room and listens as they all leave, keeping their voices low as to not wake Chris. When the door finally shuts and Harry sees the front light go off, he only has to wait a moment before Ginny sits down next to him again.

They’re quiet; Harry’s head tilted back against the back of the couch, watching the way the headlights move across the walls as the cars leave. He finally looks down when Ginny takes his head in hers, linking their fingers together.

“Bill said something kinda funny,” she says, and he quirks an eyebrow at her. She nods, scooting closer and squeezing his hand. The room feels warmer than it did a moment ago.

“What was that?” he asks, and she purses her lips.

“He said he hadn’t realized we were together.”

His mouth opens on it’s own, and he stares at her in the dim light of the room, eyes drawn to how she bites her bottom lip.

“Although, he says it makes sense, what with me living at your house, and you once having a major crush on me.”

“I-“ he stutters out, and his face is flushing at the fact that she isn’t kidding, she’s completely serious as she stares up at him, her hand still warm in his.

“I didn’t… really… correct him, either,” she brings her bottom lip back between her teeth, and he finds his voice.

“I’m going to murder him,” Harry mumbles, and Ginny laughs softly at that.

“Don’t, I quite like my brother,” she says, and Harry lets his head fall back against the couch again, eyes shut as he tries to process things.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles, uncertain what else to say, and he follows small fingers as they pull his face back down. He keeps his eyes shut, and Ginny huffs.

“Harry, please look at me,” she says, and he opens his eyes carefully. She’s smiling up at him.

“Did you really once have a major crush on me?” she asks, and he thinks of all the ways he’d always thought of talking to her about this, and how this was never one of them.

“I wouldn’t have called it a major crush,” he says, and her face falls only slightly, the crinkle by her eyes disappearing before he continues.

“It was… it was more like… I was,” he purses his lips, taking in a deep breath through his nose. “More like I was quite besotted with you.”

“Besotted?” she teases his choice of words, and he rolls his eyes.

“I didn’t want to say in love with,” the words slip out before he can stop them, and her face changes entirely. It’s too late to take the words back, and he watches as she seems to sink into the couch.

“Oh,” she says quietly, but she doesn’t remove her hands from his, and he takes that as a good sign.

“Yeah,” he says, leaning his head back again, unable to look at her face as she processes the information he’s given her.

“When?”

The question catches him off guard, but he doesn’t look down at her just yet.

“Year 11,” he says, and he hears her let out a soft breath from next to him.

“That’s… Harry, that’s nearly nine years ago,” she says, and he shrugs.

“I know,” he whispers softly, and she shifts next to him, his hand still clasped tightly in hers.

“Are you…” she trails off, and he finally looks down at her, sees that her eyes are filled with tears for some reason, and he brings his free hand up to touch her face.

“Ginny,” he says, swiping at the moisture falling onto her cheeks, and she shakes her head at him.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” she asks, and she sounds so confused he momentarily forgets the question, his hand dropping to his lap.

“I didn’t… know how,” he answers honestly, and she moves her eyes over his face quickly.

“Any variation of ‘Ginny, I’m in love with you’ would’ve sufficed,” she gently teases, and he groans.

“If you don’t want to hear would’ves, I don’t either,” he says, wincing at how it sounds, but she nods easily.

“Okay, that’s fair,” she says, squeezing his hand again. “But I wish you had.”

He’s staring at her now, eyes snapping to her face at her words, and there’s something shining behind the tears.

“Yeah?” he asks, and she nods as a smile forms on her face.

“I… I wasn’t in love with you, but I definitely had a bit of a crush on you, for years, always in the back of my mind,” she slightly rambles, and he can feel his cheeks start to push up at her words.

“Had a bit of a crush on your older brother’s best friend, did’ja?” he teases slightly, and she lets her head fall against his shoulder as she laughs.

“You had a bit of a crush on your best friends younger sister,” she retorts, and he laughs at that.

“Oh, wow, we’re lame,” he says, and she looks up at him with a smile on her face.

“Absolute tits,” she says, and he laughs again, bringing his hand up to touch her face as she laughs too.

“What about now?” she asks as they quiet down, and he tilts his head at her. She sighs exasperatedly, rolling her eyes.

“Are you… still in love… with me?” she asks slowly, and he fights the grin that’s pushing at his cheeks.

“Do you still have a crush on me?” he asks, and she pretends to think about it for a moment.

“I’m more… besotted, now,” she says, her eyes twinkling up at him in the dim light, and he lets the grin push at his lips.

“Besotted?” he laughs, and her grin must be as wide as his.

“Didn’t want to say in love with,” she says, and he doesn’t think about it as he ducks his head and captures her lips in a kiss, the grins sliding off their faces to slot their lips together.

“Oh,” he says as he pulls back, and she chases his lips to kiss him again.

“Yeah,” she replies as she lets go of his hand and brings her arm around his shoulders, allowing his arms to wrap around her waist. Their lips press together again, and he feels her sigh as his tongue traces her bottom lip.

-----

They fall asleep on the couch, arms wrapped around each other and legs tangled, and that’s how Chris finds them in the morning. She stares at them for a moment before she climbs up onto the sofa, pushing at their arms until Harry wakes up with a start. When he sees Chris there he moves away from Ginny slightly, and Chris slips down in-between them with a happy sigh.

“Is Ginny staying forever?” Chris asks after a few minutes of quiet, and Harry can’t tell if Ginny is awake yet as he goes to answer.

“I hope, love,” he says, shifting to rest his arm back around Ginny’s waist, caging Chris between their chests. Chris simply smiles and shuts her eyes again.

-----

Chris becomes fussy halfway through dinner.

They’re all at the Weasley family house, also lovingly referred to as the Burrow, and it’s been a week since Ginny told all of her brothers what happened. It had been awkward, at first, when Ginny had stepped for into her childhood home for the first time in five years, and the air between her and her mother was filled with unanswered questions and a long overdue conversation.

It had all been going fine, with the family spread out between the downstairs rooms, chatting and talking amongst themselves as Molly and Ginny spoke quietly across the kitchen table, Arthur at his daughters side. Harry found himself a place to sit where he could see them, and no one questions his choice.

Chris had insisted on sitting in Ginny’s lap, and hasn’t moved since, though she does have on a pair of earmuffs at Harry’s insistence. Harry can tell what part Ginny’s at by the look on her face when Chris suddenly jerks in her lap, looking up at her as though she’s heard Ginny’s words. Harry watches as Molly reaches across the table in an attempt to soothe the child, but Chris just reels back and pulls of her earmuffs.

“Daddy!” she calls loudly, and the house goes quiet in an instance. Harry stands up and watches as Ginny looks between Chris and Molly in confusion.

“Chris, what’s wrong?” Ginny asks, taking in her mother’s hurt expression and the thin line of her father’s lips.

“No,” is all Chris says, eyes still locked on Molly’s outstretched hand. Arthur clears his throat as Molly pulls her hand back into her lap.

“Chris has… never really liked Molly,” he says quietly, but Harry’s at the table now, and he hears. He frowns at Ginny’s confused expression.

“What?” she asks, looking at Chris. She’s pulled the earmuffs back over her ears but she’s turned into Ginny’s chest, clinging at her shirt.

“She can’t stand to be around her for long periods of time,” Harry mumbles, reaching down to flick Chris’ hair. She looks up at her father with a glare. He glares right back.

“Why?” Ginny asks, completely forgetting about the conversation she’d been having with her parents. Molly looks at the table, shrugging.

“We just don’t know,” she says, her voice wavering. The emotions in the room are high, and Harry can see the tears in Molly’s eyes. He reaches over and touches her shoulders gently.

“Chris,” Ginny says, pushing the earmuffs off the child’s ears. Chris looks up at Ginny expectantly.

“Why don’t you like my mum?” she asks, and Chris looks at Molly, and then at Ginny, and Harry’s eyes are wide at Ginny’s blunt approach.

“I… don’t know,” Chris says, and it looks as though she actually means it. Ginny sighs heavily.

“You don’t know?” she asks, and Chris shrugs, looking around. She bends up, and Ginny meets her in the middle to let the toddler whisper in her ear. Ginny’s eyebrows come together then, and she whispers something back. The conversation goes on for a couple more seconds, and Harry feels himself becoming impatient, but Ginny simply winks at him.

“Everything’s okay now, though,” Ginny says at normal volume, and Chris looks between the adults around her. Her bright green eyes land on Molly, who’s still blinking at tears, and she sighs.

“I’m sorry,” she says, climbing up onto the table against the protest of her father and over into Molly’s open arms.

“It’s quite alright, dear,” Molly says, holding Chris to her chest. From the other room, Harry can see the other Weasley’s and Hermione staring at the scene as shocked as he is.

“Everything’s okay now,” Chris repeats Ginny’s words, and Ginny shakes her head as everyone looks at her in confusion.

“Later, we have… another conversation to finish.”

The earmuffs go back over Chris’ ear, and she stays in Molly’s lap the rest of the conversation, reaching up and patting her wet cheeks when things get teary. By the time the conversation is over, and Molly, Ginny, and Arthur are crying, Chris has been passed off to Harry so they can all hug, and Harry takes that moment to whisper in his daughters ear.

“What did you say to Ginny?” he asks, and Chris looks at him as if he’s supposed to know.

“I said something was wrong with Molly, but Ginny said it’s okay now,” Chris says, as though that’s an appropriate answer.

Harry supposes, to her, it is.

-----

“Do you think Chris will ever properly be able to explain why she couldn’t stand to be around you mum?” Harry asks two days later as he walks into the guest room, where Ginny sits on the bed, legs crossed. She smiles at him, patting the spot next to her. When he plops down next to her, she pulls his face down for a kiss.

“She told me, as best she could, that something didn’t feel right about mum, that she didn’t feel comfortable. That mum was upset about something, and it bothered her.”

“That’s… oddly perceptive for a four year old,” Harry says, and Ginny laughs as she pulls on his shoulders, guiding them to lie on the bed, face to face.

“I think your daughter is quite gifted, in the brain,” Ginny said, laughing at her own phrasing as Harry screwed up his face in a laugh.

“She’s a terror,” Harry mumbles, and Ginny shakes her head. She leans in and kisses him again, and he reaches up to cup her face and deepens it slightly. When they break apart, her cheeks are flushed.

“You know,” she begins, scooting closer to him on the bed, smiling as he wraps his arms around her torso and pulls them flush. “She asked me, yesterday, if I was staying forever, again.”

“She asked me that too,” Harry replies, pressing a soft kiss to her lips. She’s smiling when he pulls back.

“What did you tell her?” Ginny asks, and Harry thinks back to that morning on the couch, the comfort and happiness he’d felt at Chris nestled between their bodies.

“I told her I hoped so,” he whispers, and Ginny smirks.

“Oh,” she says, but it’s almost teasing. Harry smirks back.

“Yeah,” he replies, and she laughs then, pushing on his shoulders and slinging her leg over his hips, moving to straddle his waist. He stares up at her as she leans forward, her hair falling in a curtain around their faces.

“Is that so?” she asks, and he reaches up to pull her face down, and kiss her softly.

“I’d ask you to move in with me, but you’ve already done that,” he teases, and she blinks at him.

“I mean, I could move all of my stuff into your room, and you can have this lovely guest room back as a guest room,” she says, and he smiles up at her, pulling her down for another kiss.

“So we can have guests over,” he says against her lips, and she huffs out a laugh before he kisses her again.

His hands move from her face to her sides, and she grips her hips as she settles above him, arms bracketing his head as their lips slant together. He tells himself that, eventually, he’ll stop seeing stars behind his eyes when they kiss, but he also hopes it never stops.

-----

Chris’ birthday is two weeks later, and Harry lets Lily and Molly take the lead on the party, decorating the house spectacularly as he is put in charge of cleaning the backyard. The weather is still warm enough to spend time in the grass, which is where Ginny sits with Chris in her lap, a book in Chris’.

He watches them for a moment, and it’s as though Ginny can feel his eyes on them, because she looks up and smiles at him, her finger still pointed to the word Chris is repeating. Chris looks up as well, and Harry’s chest tightens at the sight of them both smiling up at him.

“Come read with us!” Ginny calls, and Harry looks at the deck he’s supposed to be sweeping and shrugs, setting down the broom and walking over to them. He plops down on the grass and leans against Ginny. She pushes back against him and they laugh softly together, Chris staring up at them with what can only be described as heart eyes.

“Read!” she nearly shouts, and Ginny looks back down at the book, finding where they’d stopped. Harry barely listens, is too focused on the jersey that Ginny is wearing, her new one the team had sent to their house.

Their house.

He bends over and presses a kiss to her cheek as she’s reading, and she stops to look at him, mock indignation on her face.

“Excuse me, mister, I’m reading to your child,” she says, and Chris crosses her arms in solidarity. Harry smiles softly.

“I love you,” he whispers to her, and her face changes in an instant, the smile wide and warm.

“I love you, too,” she replies, bending up to kiss him. Chris makes an annoyed noise and reaches up to hit Harry’s arm.

“Dad! Stop kissing Ginny so she can read!” she says, and Harry laughs against Ginny’s lip, the kiss breaking amidst their smiles.

“The birthday girl gets, what the birthday girl wants,” Harry says, pressing one last quick kiss to Ginny’s mouth before settling against Ginny’s side and listening to her narrate the book to Chris once again.

It’s not too long that Lily calls Chris inside, and Harry and Ginny follow with hands clasped together between them. Lily grins at them, the same grin she’s been giving them since she found out they’d gotten together, and pulls them inside too. The house looks incredible, and Hermione and every single Weasley is there, along with most of the people who work the shop, all wearing festive hats.

They all sing as loudly as they can, definitely upsetting Harry’s older neighbors, but it’s all worth it as Chris beams up at everyone. The cake is cut and dispensed as Harry sits down on the floor with Chris in his lap, a pile of presents next to them.

“Here, open this one,” Harry says, recognizing the present Ginny had managed to hide from him. Chris rips at the paper happily, and when a replica jersey rolls onto the floor in front of them, Chris cheers loudly.

“Wow!” she says, unrolling it slowly. Harry notices the number ‘6’ on the back, Ginny’s number, and his last name printed across the back.

“Dad, it says ‘Potter’,” Chris exclaims, and Harry nods, though his mouth has gone dry. His mind has gone into overdrive, thinking of a much larger jersey, on the woman leaning against the doorway with a smirk on her face, with, maybe, the name ‘Potter’ printed on the back of her jersey.

“It sure does,” Harry says, eyes finding Ginny’s, and maybe she can read his mind, because she brings her left hand to her face, fingers resting on her lips.

-----

There’s no would’ves, should’ves, could’ves this time.

He asks, and she says ‘yeah’.