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SIYE Time:3:18 on 24th February 2018


Albus' Dilemma
By sanidad

- Text Size +

Category: Alternate Universe, Twin Travel Challenge (2008-3)
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Hermione Granger, James Potter, James Potter, Lily Potter, Lily Potter, Ron Weasley, Ron Weasley
Genres: Angst, Drama, Fluff, General
Warnings: None
Story is Complete
Rating: G
Reviews: 28
Summary: When two young children arrive from the future, Harry and Ginny are overwhelmed by the implications of their presence. Can they find the strength to deal with it together?
Hitcount: Story Total: 6770



Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights J.K.Rowling. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story is subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work. Any similarities between original characters, places or objects found in this story and real-life couterparts are purely coincidental.



Author's Notes:
As always, generous thanks to my Betas for their time, patience and energy. They know how much I went through to get this done.




ChapterPrinter


20 August 1995

Harry Potter couldn’t breathe. There was a painful ache in his gut. Tears were crawling down his cheeks. And he was having the time of his life.

“And then Lee said to us…” said Fred, while somehow managing to hold back his own mirth.

“‘You definitely know what this means, don’t you?’” said George.

“And I said ‘Yeah,’” continued Fred, “‘if those are the biscuits…’”

“‘… where are the dried leeches?’” finished George.

The table erupted in laughter. Mrs. Weasley was giggling into the palm of her hand, in an attempt to keep up the appearance that she didn’t approve of their experiments. But everyone else was whooping it up, especially Ginny and Bill. Even the normally strait-laced Hermione could not stop herself from joining in the revelry and was leaning on Ron to hold herself up. If the twins weren’t laughing so hard, they would have probably noticed the innocent gesture of affection and taken the mickey out of their younger brother. As it was, Harry was the only one to notice, and the sight of his two best friends like that was a welcome sight. It gave Harry hope that the world was not in fact crumbling around him.

This summer was probably the most unusual one he could remember, and that was saying something. Following the return of Voldemort, the Darkest Sorcerer in history, he had been forced to return to Surrey with his only living relatives, the Dursleys, for the beginning of the summer holiday. Weeks of isolation from the Wizarding world nearly drove him to his breaking point, and part of him was almost relieved at being forced to stave off a couple of Dementors who had attacked him and his cousin, Dudley. Unfortunately, his feat of bravery was followed by a notice that he was to be tried for breaking the Statute of Underage Magic.

He had awaited his hearing in London, in the house of Sirius Black, his godfather. Sirius was unable to help calm Harry’s nerves as he was preoccupied awaiting his own trial–the trial he had never been granted fourteen years ago for the alleged murder of twelve Muggles. Their shared torture finally ended with the clearing of charges for Harry and Sirius on the same day. His godfather’s new availability to the Order of the Phoenix for missions to hinder Voldemort’s return to power had resulted in the move back to the Burrow for the remainder of the summer so as to keep them from being underfoot.

Despite his participation in both trials, Professor Dumbledore had been unusually distant, but Harry gave it little thought. With Voldemort’s return, the Headmaster obviously had many things on his mind. He just wished he had gotten a chance to thank the man for being allowed to return to the Burrow for a while before returning to Hogwarts.

The atmosphere here had been very conducive to recovering from the traumatic events of the beginning of the summer. He was thoroughly enjoying himself in de-gnoming the garden, playing mock games of Quidditch, losing spectacularly in chess, and even doing a little (very little) studying at Hermione’s insistence. But the best part of the past few weeks had been a growing sense of belonging. Although he had always felt welcome with the Weasleys, his comfort level had risen noticeably in a short amount of time and had helped in defusing the anger he had built up during his time with the Dursleys. Ginny wasn’t acting nervous around him anymore, and he was even taking on chores without being asked, the most recent being his assistance in cooking this evening’s dinner. As it was the Sunday family gathering, it was a larger task than usual, and Mrs. Weasley offered only token resistance to his help.

Harry had just stood up to begin clearing some dishes when a loud pop was heard from the sitting room. Everyone looked confusedly at one another.

“Arthur,” said Mrs. Weasley fearfully, “are we expecting anyone tonight?”

With a grim face, Mr. Weasley responded, “No, Molly. We’re not.” He then drew his wand with one hand while signaling the twins with the other. Without another word, they slipped out the back door with their wands out, and began circling around to the front of the house in both directions.

Bill, Charlie, and not surprisingly, Harry, had also drawn their wands, but one look from Hermione forced Harry to put his away again. Despite his gnawing need to hex the next Death Eater he saw, he was also not keen on the idea of another trial in front of the entire Wizengamot so soon. Just as Mr. Weasley nodded to his sons to follow him, they heard another unexpected sound from the sitting room… children’s voices.

“What do you mean it didn’t work right?” said an annoyed yet adorable voice that was obviously from a young girl.

“Look around. I don’t think we’re supposed to be here, do you?” replied a young boy.

Although he was only mostly sure that there was no danger, Mr. Weasley poked his head into the doorway.

“Granddad!” shouted the two voices in unison.

Despite the shock of their pronouncement, Arthur Weasley took a few tentative steps forward. The girl continued to address him. “James did it. I was just watching to see what would happen.”

The boy responded, “Lily told me to! I didn’t think it was working.”

By this time, everyone else had begun to enter the sitting room. Mrs. Weasley was actually the second one to arrive. Upon hearing a child’s voice address her husband as “Granddad,” she had pushed her way through the small crowd in front of her, leaving the rest of the family behind like so many ninepins. She took one look at the children and nearly fainted, putting a hand on her husband’s shoulder for support. When Harry and Ginny finally got to the sitting room, it didn’t take them long to see why.

“Dad!” shouted the little boy, as he rushed to Harry and threw his arms around his waist. “It wasn’t my fault! It just started glowing purple and then we were here!”

“Mum!” shouted the little girl, as she bounded across the room to Ginny. “It wasn’t me! I don’t even know where James found it!”

Not knowing what else to do, Harry wrapped his arms around the boy and stroked his back comfortingly. He turned his head to face Ginny with very wide eyes and found that she was mirroring his actions, a look of incredulity evident on her face as well. Just then, the front door opened.

Everyone held their breath as two wands slowly appeared from behind the door… eventually followed by the worried faces of Fred and George. As they swung the door fully open, they were surprised to see Harry with his arms around a miniature version of himself, except for the fact that the boy had brown eyes… very familiar brown eyes. Ginny had her arms around a girl who bore a strong resemblance to her as well. But again, the difference was in the eyes; the little girl had Harry’s eyes.

“Boo,” said the little girl.

George let out a breath in relief. “Whew!”

“For minute there…” began Fred.

“…I thought we missed something important,” finished George.

*


Eventua lly, Mrs. Weasley regained her senses enough to herd everyone back to the dinner table, where she promptly sat their two unusual visitors onto the seats previously occupied by Ron and Hermione, put two clean plates in front of them and began serving them healthy portions of dinner.

“If you eat well enough, you can have some pudding,” she told them.

“Yes, Gran,” they said in unison. Harry was a little surprised that Mrs. Weasley took their term of endearment so casually.

He couldn’t find it in him to ask any of the questions that were on his mind, so he was actually quite grateful (and not the least bit surprised) when Hermione began the inquiry. “I know the answer to this question seems obvious to you,” she said, “but would you mind telling us who you are?”

“Cripes, at least let them finish their dinner,” interrupted Ron.

“S’okay,” said James through a mouthful of food.

“Manners, James,” said Ginny, who was immediately surprised at what came out of her mouth. She didn’t notice her mother arching an eyebrow knowingly at her.

“Really, it’s okay,” said Lily. “We’re used to Aunt Hermione by now.”

Everyone turned from the children to look up at Ron, who was leaning against the jamb of the doorway. His face was a brilliant shade of crimson.

“What are you all looking at me for?” bellowed Ron. In response they all focused their attention on Hermione instead.

Knowing what their looks were implying, she blurted out, “It’s not uncommon to address a close friend of the family as ‘Aunt’ or ‘Auntie.’”

“But you are fam–” began Lily.

“Lil’,” interrupted James.

“What?” she said crossly.

“I think we need to watch what we say.”

“Why?”

“Something’s really wrong. Look at how much younger everyone looks.”

Lily opened her mouth to say something else, but looked at the faces around the table instead. She appeared to come to a realization when her eyes grew wide. “Uh-oh…”

Satisfied that Lily was not going to say anything else for the moment, James turned back to Hermione and said, “We’re James and Lily Potter.”

Hermione nodded as she said, “I thought you were going to say that, and I agree with you that something is wrong. Do you have any idea how you got here?”

“I think so… we were looking around the attic of our home when we found this in Dad’s old school trunk.” James opened his palm to reveal a Galleon coin.

“Harry, what’s so special about that Galleon?” asked Ron.

“I don’t know,” he replied. His curiosity piqued, he leaned over to James and asked, “May I?”

“Sure,” answered the young boy, letting his “father” take the coin.

Harry took a moment to inspect the coin, but found nothing overtly unusual about it.

“Well, Harry?” asked Hermione.

“Looks like a normal Galleon to me,” he said. “Bill, you work for Gringotts. Can you make anything out of this?”

The eldest Weasley sibling accepted the coin and examined it carefully. He then took out his wand and whispered a few incantations as he cast what Harry assumed were curse-breaking spells. Everyone sat silently in anticipation of his verdict.

“Sorry,” he finally said after several minutes of work. There was a collective sigh of disappointment. “The only noteworthy thing I can find about this coin is the serial number.”

“Oh?” said Hermione.

“If you take the first set of numbers, they seem to spell out today’s date.”

“And the other numbers?” asked Mr. Weasley.

“A set of six numbers. If we assume it’s a time to go with the date… then that time passed several minutes ago. I think we can assume the time coincides with the children’s arrival.”

Everyone sat for a few minutes, pondering the latest revelation. Unable to come up with a solution to the mystery, Harry looked up from the coin and happened to catch a look at Ginny. Unlike everyone else, she was looking at Lily, and she had a disconcerting frown on her face. Finally, she looked up and matched Harry’s stare.

“We need to talk,” she mouthed to him silently.

He nodded once and pushed his chair away from the table as Ginny did the same. “If everyone will excuse us, we’ll be back in a bit.”

As they exited the back door, neither saw the looks of apprehension on the children’s faces.

*


After several paces, Harry thought they were well out of earshot of the house, but Ginny continued to walk until they were nearly at the hedge that bordered the paddock. When she finally stopped and turned to him, he said nothing, but she could tell what was on his mind anyway.

“Extendable Ears, remember?” she said to his unasked question.

“Oh, right.”

“This is as far as we can go and still be within the protection of the wards.”

Harry nodded, and waited for Ginny to begin talking about the children, but she seemed to be as confused about the situation as he was. They stood for a couple minutes, neither one quite sure how to address the issue at hand. Finally, Harry thought he’d start with what drew his attention to her in the first place.

“You didn’t look very happy in there.”

“And exactly what part of all of this would make me happy?” she snapped.

Her temper seemed to ignite something within him and he shot back, “Oh, I don’t know… how about knowing you’re going to live long enough to have children?”

Something in Ginny’s mind clicked when she heard Harry’s words. She took a deeper look into his eyes, and was scared when she saw the hope in them. She realized just then how utterly honest Harry was when he had spoken. After Harry had lived through a fourth encounter with the Dark Lord, she had begun to take his ability to survive for granted. He obviously did not.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I guess I didn’t think of it that way.”

Harry turned away slightly before replying. “I know… I just… I know what’s going on isn’t exactly convenient–especially since we’re supposed to be leaving for school in less than two weeks–but I think they’re going to need us to get through this.”

Ginny turned until she was looking off into the distance like Harry. She took a few steps away from him, letting the silence linger while she collected her thoughts.

“I don’t know how to handle this, Harry. I... I’ve got–”

“It’s not like you have to go through this alone.”

Ginny looked skyward and took a deep breath, not because she was letting Harry’s words sink in, but because she didn’t know how to say what was on her mind.

“But what if they’re here for a while?” she finally said. “What if we can’t send them back to where they belong?”

“I don’t care… look, I’m not asking you to marry me or anything. I’m just saying that we need to do this… for them. No child deserves to feel unwanted.”

Ginny knew he was right, and she almost hated him for it. She exhaled in frustration and shook her head. She had known all along it would come to this, but she needed to vent her frustration, and quite frankly, she still hadn’t had much of a chance to do it properly. She looked back to Harry, and instead of anger, his eyes were pleading with her. As she turned away again, she caught a glimpse of part of the garage that used to house her father’s Ford Anglia. Her thoughts drifted to the summer before her first year, when she had listened to her brothers’ account of Harry’s rescue from those damned Dursleys. If there was one thing Weasleys were good at, it was taking care of children who needed it.

“Let’s head back,” she finally said, although her mind was still quite unsettled. “We’ll sort this all out in the morning.”

*


It was well past midnight and try as she might, Ginny could not stop thinking about the evening’s shocking events. Of course, it didn’t help that Lily was lying right beside her, snoring quietly. Between that, the healthy appetite she had shown at the dinner table and her distinctive hair color, there was no doubt that she had some Weasley blood in her. This realization did little to calm Ginny’s nerves–if anything, it only agitated the unease in her stomach.

At the ripe old age of fourteen, she was being forced to play the role of parent with a former (okay, maybe not so former) childhood crush that only thought of her as his best mate’s sister, for two mysterious children who claimed to be their offspring. And her only role model for motherhood was… Molly Weasley.

She was not ready for this. She couldn’t cook like her mum. She couldn’t sew like her mum. She couldn’t perform the most basic healing spells. She hadn’t even passed her O.W.L.’s yet! And bloody hell… how was she going to tell her boyfriend, Michael?! How would Harry take it once she told him about Michael? She would have to talk to Hermione first thing in the morning. This was definitely something that Harry needed to hear from her. She had been wondering if she shouldn’t have just told Ron and Harry outright when she and Michael had started dating last term, but there never seemed to be a good time to bring it up. And now…

The child seemed to sense her unease and instinctively snuggled backward against her so that Ginny was spooning her. As Ginny looked the child over, she noticed Lily’s furrowed brow and threw an arm over the child protectively. Lily immediately relaxed and something stirred inside Ginny. She could not help herself from tilting her head downward to kiss the top of Lily’s head. She breathed in as she did so and caught the scent of wildflowers, as if the child regularly spent a lot of time outdoors.

In her mind, Ginny was instantly transported to a summer’s day many years ago. She was running barefoot through the garden behind the Burrow, and enjoying the freedom of having finished all of her chores. For once, she was not in search of her brothers to entertain her, and she ran in circles until she finally wore herself out and flopped unceremoniously onto a soft patch of grass. She hadn’t even realized she had fallen asleep until Ron woke her about an hour later. Later that night, as she was kissing her father at bedtime, he bent his head down to kiss the top of her head, inhaling as he did so.

“Why do you do that?” she had asked him.

There was swirl of different emotions in his eyes, too many for her to decipher. And all he said was “You’re a breath of heaven, luv.”

He continued the simple ritual every night he could after that–even after (or was it because of) the horrible incident with Tom’s accursed diary her first year. It was one of the few things that helped her recover from the ordeal because it convinced her that Tom’s taint had not lingered within her. She wondered if maybe it had helped to reassure her father as well.

Coming back to the present, Ginny bent down to take in another breath of heaven. She was asleep before long.

*


Despite what he had said to Ginny earlier that day, Harry was lying awake, staring at the ceiling and wondering what he had gotten himself into. He was a dad. At fifteen. With Ginny. Would he never have a regular life?

“Dad?” said James’ voice out of the darkness.

“Er… yes?” Harry was still not used to being called that.

“It’s bad that we’re here, isn’t it?” The child’s voice sounded forlorn.

“What makes you say that?” Harry answered casually, not wanting to alarm the boy.

“Well, you and Mum didn’t look too happy when you left the house to talk outside.”

“We just had to… discuss the situation… just the two of us. You can imagine we were a little surprised to meet you and your sister, seeing as we’re not married yet or anything.”

“Do we have to leave?”

“What? Of course not. Where would you even go?”

“Um… well… we could stay at Grimmauld Place.”

“Absolutely not. Your place is here with me and your mother.”

“Oh.” There was an obvious smile in James’ voice that made Harry feel warm inside, knowing that he was the cause of it. He wasn’t expecting his next emotion to be anger, but it was the inevitable consequence of realizing that it didn’t take much to brighten a child’s day, and the Dursleys regularly denied him such consideration even now. Luckily, he was soon shaken from his growing temper by James’ voice.

“Dad?”

Harry faked clearing his throat before replying so as to prevent the boy from detecting the anger he was trying to suppress. “Yes?”

“Can we at least send Lily to Grimmauld Place?”

Harry wanted to laugh, but knew he shouldn’t. He was very thankful that the James could not see his mischievous grin. “Go to sleep or I’ll tell Ginny and Lily you said that.”

All he heard in response was a muffled squeak followed by deep breathing.



The next morning, Harry was picking at his breakfast, wondering why Ginny looked so refreshed while he felt like a pumpkin was growing inside of his head and pressing against his skull. Mr. Weasley and Bill had already gone to work, and Charlie was having a lie-in because he was returning to Romania later that day. Everyone else was digging into one of Mrs. Weasley’s delicious fry-ups.

“So, how old are you?” asked George with his mouth full of eggs.

“Eight,” replied James.

“And you?” Hermione asked Lily.

“Eight.”

“You’re twins?” asked Ron.

“Why so surprised?” asked James.

“It’s not like we’re the only ones in the family,” said Lily.

“Wicked,” said Fred.

“Bit titchy for eight, aren’t you?” said Ron.

Lily scowled at him. “You’ve been saying that for years.”

“I have?”

“Yes. And if you call us ‘midgets’ again, I’ll tell Mum.”

Ron snorted. “And what’s that going to do?”

“Three words…” Lily began.

“Bat…” said James.

“Bogey–”

“All right, all right,” said Ron, and he resumed eating his breakfast.



“Can I have another look at the coin?” asked Hermione.

“Eager to send us back?” said James as he fished the coin out of his pocket.

“Not necessarily,” said Harry in his most reassuring manner. “But you realized yourself yesterday that there’s something wrong with your presence here. The sooner you can go home, the safer for everyone, I think.”

James nodded his head as he continued to eat.

“Mum?” said Lily meekly.

“Yes?” answered Ginny.

“Can we go flying?”

“I don’t think so,” said Mrs. Weasley, much to Ginny’s annoyance. “You’re a bit young for that still.”

“But we’ve been getting flying lessons since we were five,” protested James.

“Yeah,” said Lily. “Uncle Ron said if we didn’t make the Gryffindor Quidditch team we’d be disowned.” Hermione and Mrs. Weasley shot death glares at Ron. Oddly enough, no one else at the table even flinched.

“So he’s been giving you flying lessons?” asked Ginny.

“No, you have. You said you didn’t want us to have to sneak into the broomshed like you used to when you were six.”

“She what?” shrieked Mrs. Weasley.

Ginny bowed her head and covered her eyes with one hand. Fred and George were obviously tickled pink by the revelation. Ron’s face flickered between expressions of jealousy and pride.

“Lil’!” said James in a loud whisper.

“What?”

“You can’t say stuff like that!”

“Why not?”

“You can stop with the whispering,” said Harry with a smirk on his face. “We can hear you.”

Ginny still had not uncovered her eyes. “Fred, George, would you mind taking the kids outside for a bit? We need to discuss some things with as little distraction as possible.”

She had no sooner said the last word, when James and Lily were out of their seats and opening the back door.

“I get Dad’s Firebolt!” said James.

“Then I get Mum’s Nimbus 3000!”

“Lily!”

“What?”

As the children’s voices died away, Fred and George strolled leisurely through the back door.

“Can you believe…”

“… we’ve been relegated to baby-sitters?”

“And don’t interrogate Lily about the future,” warned Ginny, but Fred and George were already gone.

“Nimbus 3000?” said Ron greedily as everyone brought their attention back to the table.

“We have to ignore anything they say about the future,” Hermione said pointedly. “The sooner we can figure out a way to get them back to their own time, the better.”

“What’s the rush?” Ron countered. “It wouldn’t hurt to have a leg up on You Know Who.”

“Dumbledore told me all about the dangers of interfering with time when he lent me the Time-Turner our third year. If you know something is supposed to happen, trying to take action to make sure it happens or doesn’t happen can have disastrous consequences.”

“Like what?”

“Well, for one… there’s no guarantee now that Harry and Ginny will get together.”

“Why not?” asked Mrs. Weasley worriedly. Everyone had forgotten she was still in the kitchen.

“Well… knowing that they’re supposed to be together, they may try to force the issue, rather than letting things develop naturally, which could ruin everything. Or, one of them may decide that they don’t want to believe that Fate has already written their future, and will resist the relationship out of spite.”

During Hermione’s lecture, Harry and Ginny were squirming noticeably in their seats. Harry knew why he was uncomfortable with the current topic of conversation, but he was a little curious as to why Ginny was distressed as well. He had assumed she would be thrilled at the idea that they were destined to be together, but now he didn’t know what to think. He felt irritated and he wasn’t exactly sure why.

“Besides,” continued Hermione, “we’re still not sure that they are who they say they are.”

“I almost forgot,” said Mrs. Weasley with a sigh, “Professor Dumbledore stopped by last night while you were asleep. He cast a few spells over the children, but the best he could determine was that each of them had both Potter and Weasley blood.”

I could have told you that,” said Ron.

“Did he say anything else, Mrs. Weasley?” asked Harry.

“Only that he’ll try to return in a week or so to discuss what to do with them.”

Harry deflated a bit. He knew the headmaster was busy, but wasn’t this problem worthy of his attention? What was keeping him away?

“He wouldn’t… he wouldn’t try to take them away, would he?” asked Ginny worriedly.

Without thinking about what he was doing, Harry grabbed her hand, looked into her eyes and said, “Don’t worry, no one is taking them away from us.”

Ginny was comforted by his touch, but as she stared at their joined hands, a frown developed on her face. Harry was a little surprised when she pulled her hand away, and was disappointed when she would not meet his eyes. Hermione and Ron saw everything and shared a silent look with raised eyebrows.

The lull was interrupted by James’ sudden return.

“Dad! I tried to stop her, but she wouldn’t listen and now half the orchard has lost its branches.”

Lily entered just as James finished his announcement, but before she could say anything, Harry said, “Lily, you need to be more careful. I think you owe your Gran an apology.”

“Harry, that’s really not the best way to settle these types of things.”

Harry turned to face Ginny, confusion clearly written on his face. “What? Did I do something wrong?”

“You can’t just take James’ side because he got to you first,” she said with a tone usually reserved for a small child. “Otherwise, it becomes a race instead of trusting that what’s fair and right will win out in the end.”

“That’s not how things were settled when I was growing up.”

“Do I actually have to remind you about where you were raised? That’s how Mum and Dad handled things here at the Burrow and that’s how we’re doing things with these two.”

Lacking a suitable argument, and realizing that he shouldn’t be looking for one, Harry shrugged his shoulders and nodded in agreement. He caught Ginny’s gaze and would have made a comment at her smirk, but was too caught up by the look in her eyes. There was a warmth in them that he hadn’t seen in a long time, but it was gone as quickly as it came. If he was confused before, he had absolutely no clue what to make of her now.

Ginny turned to the twins and said, “Now then… I want to hear both sides of this. Lily, you go first.”

As Lily began her explanation of her failed Sloth Grip Roll, James reluctantly slipped her a Sickle behind their backs, so that the “adults” could not see it. When he cast a sideways glance at his sister, he wasn’t surprised to find a familiar smirk on her face.

*


Later that evening, Harry was sitting in the kitchen nursing a cup of tea, contemplating his first day as a “parent.” The flying incident from this morning was only the first in a series of events that often ended with Harry receiving parenting tips from Ginny or Mrs. Weasley, and even Hermione. Needless to say, he was in a foul mood and was thankful he had managed to find some time away from everyone else.

“All right, Harry?”

Harry looked up to find Ginny regarding him with curiosity. He shook his head before responding.

“Are they asleep?” he asked.

“No, but they will be soon.”

When Harry returned to staring at his hands, Ginny asked, “Knut for your thoughts?” Harry did not answer and exhaled loudly instead. Whether it was in frustration or depression, she couldn’t tell.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” he finally said. “I can’t do this. What made me think I could be a father?”

When he looked back up at Ginny, he was surprised to find the infamous Weasley temper building up instead of sympathy.

“So that’s it? One bad day and you’re giving up? Going to leave me to deal with them by myself, are you?”

“N-no… that’s not what I’m–”

“I can’t believe this! You face down You-Know-Who four–FOUR–bloody times, but you run from a pair of eight-year olds?”

“I’m not running!” said Harry, his voice rising in volume.

“Prove it!”

“I don’t want to leave, I just need to be better at this! I don’t…” His voice suddenly faltered, but Ginny would not back down.

“What? You don’t want them? Is that it? I’ll remind you that no one asked me either!”

Harry stared at his hands for only a few seconds, but it felt like hours. When he looked back up at Ginny, the emotion in his eyes caused her to hold the back of a chair for support.

“I don’t want them to be like me.” His voice was soft and trembling.

Ginny slowly–very slowly–took a seat next to Harry. “Why… why would you say such a thing?”

“I’m a wreck, Ginny. No one in their right minds would want me as their father if they could help it.”

“Rubbish.”

Harry ignored her comment. “All day, I had no idea what I was doing. Everything I did was wrong.”

“Considering where you grew up, it’s not that surprising. I wouldn’t take it so hard. Even my mum and dad made mistakes at first.”

“But when things got tough, I had to get away… from them. What kind of father doesn’t want to be with his children? It’s… too easy for me to… to be angry. Children should be with someone who can love them.”

“And you don’t think you can do that for them?”

Harry said nothing, and merely shrugged his shoulders. Ginny thought it was uncanny how much he resembled the lost eleven-year old she saw at King’s Cross Station four years ago.

“I know how you feel,” she said after a few minutes.

“You do?”

“I still have nightmares…” Her voice trailed off.

“… about Tom.”

“Yes… I’ve thought a lot about why it was so easy for him to use me. I second-guessed everything I did for a long time.”

“But it wasn’t easy for him!” said Harry. “You fought him off for a whole year! That’s what I’m talking about. Your parents taught you how to love, and that helped you fight him. Not just anyone could have done that–but you did!”

“Just like not anyone could have had enough love in them to stop Quirrell from getting the Philosopher’s Stone?”

Harry’s retort never left his lips. He frowned at her and said, “I know what you’re trying to do.”

“Is it working?” A smile was tugging at the corners of her mouth.

Harry blew a puff of air upwards at the hair covering his scar. Her message bounced in his head for a few moments, and then he said, “You really think I can do this?”

“I think we can do this.”

Ginny’s smile was in full bloom now. When Harry took her hands this time, she didn’t pull them away.



Despite the difficult mystery looming over the household, it did not take long for the inhabitants of the Burrow, old and new, to settle into a routine. James and Lily played Quidditch in the morning, and in the afternoons they spent some time with Molly, while the Trio and Ginny researched time travel using books retrieved from the Hogwarts library. The evenings were spent reliving family anecdotes in front of the fire. The twins were especially eager to hear about Harry’s adventures.

The first Friday after the twins’ appearance, the four researchers were holed up in Ron’s room, engrossed in their books.

“I give up!” said Ron as he tossed his book aside.

“We can’t give up,” said Hermione. “This is a very serious problem.”

“Then why isn’t Dumbledore helping us out?”

“How do we know he isn’t?”

“We don’t know, because he won’t spend more than five minutes here,” said Harry bitterly.

“Dad?” said James tentatively. No one had heard the twins coming up the stairs.

Harry looked up, startled. “Yes, James?” Although he had become somewhat accustomed to being called “Dad,” he still could not bring himself to call James “son.”

“Can we… talk… to you and Mum?”

From the looks on their faces, even Ron could tell that something was troubling the children. Harry could practically feel his heart sinking. Had he done something wrong again?

“Of course,” Ginny said softly. “Would you like to go to my room?”

The twins only nodded, and turned to go back down the stairs without another word.

“What do you think?” Ginny asked as she made eye contact with Harry.

He shook his head. “I’m not sure… but we’ll take care of it, yeah?”

“Yeah,” she said warmly. She jumped up from the bed and offered her hand. Harry smiled as he grabbed it, and let himself get pulled briskly out of the room. The gesture did not go unnoticed.

*


When Harry and Ginny entered the bedroom, they found Lily sitting on the bed she shared with Ginny, her arms wrapped around her shins and her chin on her knees. James was sitting on Hermione’s camp bed, looking out the window.

Harry gave Ginny’s hand a small squeeze as he let go to sit next to James. Ginny immediately went to Lily and put an arm around her shoulders.

“So, what’s on your mind?” said Harry. He tried to keep the worry out of his voice, but was not very successful.

“We…” began Lily, but her voice soon died out.

When she didn’t recover, James spoke up. “We were wondering what’s going to happen to us after September first.” He never turned from looking out the window.

Harry and Ginny looked at each other. Neither one could hide the frowns on their faces. They had been hoping to delay having this conversation until later. It was Lily who broke the silence.

“You already know, don’t you?”

Harry sighed, and then nodded. “We’ve spoken with your grandparents and Professor Dumbledore… briefly…” The last word slipped out, although he tried to rein it in.

“And…” prodded James.

“You will remain here at the Burrow while we’re at school.”

Lily started to cry softly.

“So there’s no way we can go with you then?” James’s voice was almost too soft to be heard.

“I’m sorry,” said Harry. “Professor Dumbledore was quite adamant about not bringing you to Hogwarts. There’s just no way to bring you with us without raising suspicion. The last thing we want is for word to get out that you’re here.”

“Are you ashamed of us?” asked Lily tearfully.

“Not at all, luv,” Ginny answered quickly.

“It’s for your own safety,” Harry added. “If you were to show up at Hogwarts, it wouldn’t take long for Voldemort to learn that you’re here. Even if he couldn’t figure out exactly who you are and where you’re from, you’d become targets just because we love you.”

“Y-you love us?” asked Lily.

“Can’t you tell?” replied Ginny as she tightened her hold on the little girl.

“I guess so… but if you care about us why don’t you take us with you?”

“We want to! Really, we do…” Ginny paused to kiss the top of Lily’s head. “But if something were to happen to you because we were being selfish…”

“… we wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves,” finished Harry.

After a few moments, James finally turned from his window vigil and said, “It’s not easy being parents, is it?”

Harry looked out the window and said, “It’s never easy leaving the ones you love behind.”

James and Lily shared a look while Ginny lifted her face from Lily’s head to look at Harry.

“Harry?” said Ginny.

“Hm?” His gaze never left the window.

“We’re not talking about the twins anymore, are we?”

Harry turned his head to face her, a grim smile on his lips. When he noticed that the twins’ eyes were locked on him, he said, “Your grandparents were amazing people… I wish you could have met them.”

Few words were said for a long time. None were needed.

*


As had become her custom for the past few nights, Ginny was the last one in the house still awake. Sitting on the loveseat in front of a dying fire with half a cup of cold tea, she had just decided to go to bed when she heard a voice behind her.

“You haven’t told him yet, have you?”

Ginny jumped to her feet and turned to face her unexpected companion.

“Hermione! I didn’t hear you come down.”

“Have you told Harry yet… about Michael?”

Ginny’s eyes turned cold. “Leave it alone.”

“But you grabbed his hand when you left earlier. You can’t string him along like that.”

“I’m not stringing him along,” Ginny said evenly.

“So you’ve broken it off with Michael then?”

Ginny broke eye contact before answering the older witch. “No.”

“Ginny!”

“Look, it’s not exactly the type of thing I should do by owl, is it?” she countered sharply. “If I do it…”

Hermione could not believe what she was hearing. She wanted to launch into a tirade on Harry’s behalf, but the pained look on Ginny’s face changed her mind. “I just thought…”

“What? That I would break things off with Michael because of the twins? It could be years before things develop between me and Harry.”

“But–”

“You of all people should know how much I’ve wanted something to happen, but–”

“Can’t you see? This is the perfect opportunity!”

“For what? For me to get my heart broken the first time he sees Cho Chang at school?”

“You mean he hasn’t… said anything… about…”

Ginny scoffed. “No, he hasn’t even hinted at getting together. As far as he’s concerned we’re just doing this for the children.”

Hermione looked forlorn. “I really thought this was going to help you two get started.”

“But you said yourself that there’s no guarantee that we’ll get together. Why should I end things with Michael because of what might happen in the future?”

Hermione could not refute her earlier statement. “I… I just don’t want to see Harry hurt…”

“And you think I do?”

“Of course not! I–”

“Please, Hermione. I just… I just need some time… okay?”

Hermione exhaled in frustration. As difficult as it was for her to just stand by when she could be trying to spare Harry more pain, it was almost as difficult to see Ginny in such a state. Realizing that she had said more than enough to get her point across, she gave Ginny a brief and awkward hug.

“What I said before goes for you too. I don’t want to see you hurt either.”

Ginny nodded silently.

As Hermione climbed the stairs, Ginny sat back down to stare at the fire. She was not going to be sleeping any time soon.



The Hogwarts Express was scheduled to leave King’s Cross Station in two days. As the summer drew to a close, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had become more lenient with bedtimes, as everyone tried to squeeze every last minute out of the summer holiday that they could. This was especially true of Harry and Ginny, who were spending as much time with the twins as possible before the unavoidable forced separation of the school year.

The Burrow’s other inhabitants had already turned in for the night, but the makeshift family was sitting together on the couch facing the fire. There wasn’t quite room for all of them, forcing Lily to sit on Harry’s lap with her face snuggled into the crook of his neck with his arms wrapped around her waist. She obviously found the position comfortable as she had been dozing in and out of consciousness for the past fifteen minutes. Ginny sat between Harry and James, her arm around the young boy’s shoulders. He had his arms around her waist and appeared to be on the verge of being lost for the night also, when Lily’s voice interrupted the cozy silence.

“Dad?”

“Yes, luv?”

“Can you tell us about the time you and Mum first got together?”

“Lil’…” said James.

“Shh… it’s okay,” said Ginny, giving James a little squeeze. “I want to hear this too.” She was teasing Harry and was making no effort to hide it.

“Er… right…” said Harry, obviously stalling for time.

“Was it Valentine’s Day?” asked Lily before a yawn. “Did you surprise her with flowers or candy or poetry?”

Ginny coughed, while Harry smirked. “Sorry, poetry isn’t really our style.” Ginny’s ears perked up at the word “our.”

“I bet it was Christmas,” said James. “Did you surprise her with an expensive gift?”

“Like jewellery?” added Lily.

“Or a broom?” finished James.

“Oh, very romantic,” said Lily sarcastically.

“Have you met Mum?”

“Sorry,” said Harry. “It didn’t happen over Christmas either.”

“So when did it happen?” asked Ginny playfully.

For a moment, it seemed as if Ginny’s teasing was starting to annoy Harry, but then his face relaxed. He turned to look into the fire, while everyone else waited anxiously for his next words.

“It was actually summer…” he began, his eyes fixed on the dancing flames. “It was a warm August night…”

“Kind of like tonight?” asked Lily.

“Yes,” said Harry softly. “Just like tonight…” The tenderness in his voice was setting off alarm bells in her mind, but Ginny kept her gaze on the top of James’ head. She didn’t want to hope…

“That summer, your mum and I spent a lot more time together than we normally did. We were given a… project to do together, and in doing so, I learned…” His voice became even softer here, and Ginny had to strain to hear the rest. “I learned… how great she really is… how she’s everything I would want in someone I could open my heart to.”

“So you told her how you loved her, and then you got married?” asked Lily. She yawned again.

The corners of Harry’s mouth turned up slightly. “Not right away, no… I was scared.”

“Of what?” The words were out of Ginny’s mouth before she could stop herself.

“Of admitting how I feel.” Harry’s change in tense was not lost on Ginny. “I didn’t know if you would believe me if I said it.”

“But you told her anyway?” asked James sleepily.

“As best as I could,” admitted Harry.

“And that’s how you got together?” said Lily as she closed her eyes for the last time that night.

“That was the start of it,” said Ginny. She leaned over slightly to kiss Lily’s head, and then bent down to do the same for James. Then she took one of Harry’s hands into her own, and rested her head on his shoulder. She closed her eyes as she felt the comforting weight of his cheek on her head.

When she was sure both children were asleep, Ginny spoke. “Harry?”

“Hmm?”

“The train ride to Hogwarts…”

“What about it?”

“I… I need to talk with someone.”

“Okay…”

“But I’ll find you as soon as I can, all right?”

She lifted her head to look at him. He did not look hurt… or angry… or suspicious… He just looked like… Harry.

“I promise, I’ll make it as quick as I can so we can be together,” she added.

He squeezed her hand affectionately. “No problem. I’ll be waiting.”



Despite the imminent departure of their “parents,” Lily and James were in good spirits the last evening of summer hols. James was sitting on one side of the settee with Fred and George sitting on the floor in front of him, regaling him with tales of Hogwarts Quidditch.

“So I said to Wood,” said George.

“‘You know, we really should thank Malfoy,’” continued Fred.

“‘If it wasn’t for him…”

“‘…this team would be a Seeker short of the Quidditch Cup.’”

James didn’t speak, but continued to listen with his mouth agape. On the other side of the sofa, Lily was holding court with Harry and Ginny, who were passing on their knowledge of Hogwarts’ various passageways.

“And if you ever get hungry,” said Ginny, “there’s a corridor just off the entrance hall with a painting of a bowl of fruit. Just tickle the pear and a door handle should appear.”

“That will take you to the kitchens,” continued Harry. “The house-elves will take care of you.” His last sentence was whispered.

“I’ll have your Invisibility Cloak to help me, right?”

“You know about that already?” said Harry. Ginny smirked at the surprise on his face.

“You mean you weren’t going to lend it to us?” said Lily.

“Well, of course I was…” sputtered Harry, “I just… you’re only eight!”

“We found it right before we found the coin.”

“Oh.”

“Next to the map.”

“Oh.”

“And a homemade pair of socks. We think they’re supposed to match, but one’s green with Snitches and the other’s red with broomsticks. You’re not very good at knitting, are you, Dad?”

Ginny couldn’t hold back any more and buried her laughter into Harry’s shoulder. Her joy was infectious and before long the three of them were chuckling merrily. James and the Weasley twins had to pause their conversation because their delight was infectious.

When Lily had caught her breath, she said, “Hogwarts sounds amazing! Some of the passages remind me of our house, like the one behind the–”

Suddenly, James whipped around and grabbed Lily by the arm.

“Lily! When are you going to stop saying stuff like that! You might as well tell them about–”

Suddenly, there was a loud pop and the two children disappeared from sight. There was only a brief moment of silence before Ginny’s screams filled the room.

“WHAT HAPPENED? WHERE ARE THEY?”

Harry immediately turned to the twins and said, “Fred! George! Check outside!”

In a near re-enactment of the children’s appearance nearly a fortnight earlier, Fred and George immediately jumped out the back door to circle the building, while Arthur and Harry drew their wands to defend against a potential attack. When none came, they carefully stowed their wands. Ginny stumbled into Harry’s arms and began to cry into his chest.

“Ginny, we don’t even know if they were really your children,” said Mrs. Weasley as she tried to soothe her daughter’s distress.

Harry’s soft voice unexpectedly cut off Ginny’s angry reply. “It doesn’t matter what we think.” He looked down into Ginny’s wet eyes even though his words were still directed at Mrs. Weasley. “They believed it… and while they were here, we gave them the family they needed.”

Ginny said nothing, but he saw the grief in her eyes and the slight tremor in her lips and knew that there was no one else in the room who knew what they were feeling at that very moment. He crossed the room with his arms around her shoulders and gently coaxed her into the loveseat in front of the fireplace. With only the two of them, it felt almost cavernous compared to the other evening when James and Lily had fallen asleep in their arms, especially now that the twins had disappeared. As they held each other and stared at the fire, they found solace not in the comfort of each other’s arms but in the knowledge that with time and patience, their family would eventually be whole again.



31 August 2108

Albus Severus Potter waited patiently in the sitting room of his home in Godric’s Hollow. For the hundredth time in the past five minutes, he debated the wisdom of his actions. Temporal Portkeys were complicated magic and not meant to be toyed with for a mere whim. But there was more than a whim riding on this mission… much more.

He got up from the settee, shuffled over to the fireplace and swung the painting above the mantle aside. He placed his palm on the panel behind it and whispered an incantation. When he heard a click, he opened the small door to reveal a small, glowing glass ball. It rested on a wooden stand made for holding spherical objects. There was an inscription carved into the stand that read:

C.L.S. to A.S.P.
Dark Twins (?)P.M. and H.M.
and Light Twins (?)J.P. and L.P.


He reached for the sphere, but suddenly there was a loud pop behind him. He quickly shut the door and returned the painting to its place. When he turned around, he could see the backs of his great-grandchildren. To him they had only been gone a few minutes, but to them they had been gone nearly two weeks. Once they had gotten their bearings, they turned around and smiled at his familiar face.

“Well, how did it go?” he asked them with a reassuring smile.

“Brilliant!” answered Lily enthusiastically.

“It was just like you said,” said James with a wry grin. “When I felt the coin get warm, I made sure we were both touching it before it went off.”

“Excellent! Now if you don’t mind…” Albus held out his aged hand.

“Oh, right!” said James, and he took a coin out of his pocket and placed it in his great-grandfather’s hand, along with the one he had pressed against his sister’s arm.

“Only two?”

“Sorry, we couldn’t get the first one back from Great-Aunt Hermione.”

“Quite all right. It served its purpose.”

“I wish we could’ve used the other one instead,” said Lily with a pout.

Albus smiled gently at her. “I did warn you beforehand there was only a slim possibility you would be allowed to accompany them to Hogwarts.”

“I know… I was just enjoying them so much!”

“Yes… they did have that effect on people.” The old wizard’s eyes grew distant as he said this.

“Sorry, Great-Grandfather.”

Lily’s words startled him from his reverie. “For what, dear?”

“For making you sad. I know you miss them.”

“It’s quite all right,” he replied, and ushered them to sit on the sofa with him.

“Great-Grandfather?”

“Yes, James?”

“I still don’t understand why we had to go visit them. Couldn’t you have told us about them yourself?”

“Yeah,” said Lily, “I hated lying to them.”

“A necessary evil, my dear,” Albus began. “I believe there is a darkness coming, the likes of which have not been seen in many years. In order for your generation to defeat it, I thought it would be helpful if someone had actually spent time with the greatest champions of Light in recent memory.”

“That can’t be true,” said James. “I heard you were the greatest Auror of your time.”

His great-grandfather smiled serenely at him. “My accomplishments were made much easier because of the actions of those who came before me. That is why I sent you to them. Now then, back to the task at hand… Did they not show you deep affection, despite the dark shadow looming over them?”

“Yes,” said Lily.

“And did they not draw strength from each other like no else you have ever met?”

“Yes, sir,” said James.

“As I told you they would… for now, just trust an old man’s instincts. These lessons will be more useful to you before long.”

“Sir?” said James with a furrowed brow.

“Yes?”

“There are just a few more things I don’t understand.”

“Oh?”

“Won’t they be kind of surprised when Great-Uncle James is born alone?”

“Yes, I imagine that will be a mild shock,” he replied with mirth in his voice, “but my sister and I will join them soon enough. What else is troubling you?”

“Well, there is one other thing…” said James hesitantly.

“Go on.”

“You said the Temporal Portkey was supposed to take us to Grimmauld Place, but when we got there, we were in the Burrow.”

Albus stiffened at the revelation, and then sighed as he shook his head.

“D-did we do something wrong?” Lily’s voice was trembling slightly with worry.

The old wizard took a deep breath before answering. “No, my dear, you did everything just as you were supposed to,” he reassured her with a squeeze. “Luckily, the love of Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter is something that knows no bounds.”

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