Now And Forever
Many thanks to my brilliant Brit-picker, Kelpie, and my fabulous betas, Alexander, Asad, Iris and Rich! Thanks too to Mark Anders Harrison for help with a Latin incantation, and Mike McKean for his help with a sports question!
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"Rats," Harry muttered a short time later. He threw down his quill and dug through his bag looking for a book.
Ginny looked up from her parchment. "What’s wrong?"
Harry sighed and dropped his bag back to the floor. "Nothing."
"Not nothing. What’s the problem?"
"I left a book at home that I should have brought with me."
Ginny leaned toward him, her elbow on the table, her chin in her hand. "Harry?"
"Mmm?" He was still distracted, trying to think of another way to get the information he needed for this essay.
"Let’s go home."
That got his attention. "Huh? Why? Aren’t you enjoying yourself?"
"I love it here, but we both have assignments to finish, studying to do, and it’s just so beautiful here, it’s hard to concentrate. We’ve had ten days here. Let’s go back to Grimmauld Place and not tell anyone we’re home. We can continue our honeymoon there and get our work done at the same time." She hesitated a moment, then continued. "And everything’s so expensive hereâ€”"
Harry reached across the small table and took her hands in his. "Money is not now, nor will it ever be a problem for us, love. You don’t need to worry about that. But if you really want to go home, we can do that."
She grinned. "I think it will be fun to be in our own house for a few days with nobody knowing we’re there."
"Then that’s what we’ll do."
* * * * *
Harry miniaturized the bags containing the things they’d purchased and stuffed them into his backpack, then helped Ginny put it on from the front. They’d
checked out of their hotel, turned in the red convertible, and were now on the hillside where they’d arrived ten days ago.
"Ready?" Harry said as he fastened the strap across her back securing his backpack to her.
"Keep your eyes closed this time, OK?"
She laughed. "Don’t worry, I will!"
Harry changed into a phoenix, grabbed the straps lying across her shoulders and flashed. They arrived in the entry hall of Number 12 Grimmauld Place a short time later. Harry changed back into himself, helped her remove the backpacks and sat on the steps to catch his breath.
"Harry Potter, sir! Miss Ginny!" Dobby said in shock. "You is home early!"
"Hi, Dobby!" Ginny said with a smile. "We decided to finish our honeymoon here. How are you and Winky?"
"We is fine. We needs to get food to prepare for you. We wasn’t expecting you so soon."
"Don’t worry about us today, Dobby," Harry said. "We’ll be sleeping off the time-change until tomorrow, I expect."
"Yes, Harry Potter, sir! Welcome home!"
* * * * *
More alert now, Harry tried to remember what had awakened him. There it was again! Someone was downstairs, someone much heavier than Dobby. Harry slipped out of bed, put on his glasses and grabbed his wand, pulling on his dressing gown as he crossed the room to the door. He opened the door slowly and listened as hard as he could, then remembered Ginny’s ever-present store of Extendable Ears. He glanced around the room, trying to remember where she’d put them, then saw she was already up and coming toward him, two Extendable Ears in hand.
"What’s going on?" she murmured.
"Someone’s downstairs besides the elves." He took the Ear and pushed it into the hallway, feeding out the line until the Ear was at the edge of the stairs.
"We just want to decorate the house for a welcome home party," Harry heard Hermione say.
"You is very kind, Miss Hermione," Dobby said, "but my masterâ€”"
"I thought Harry didn’t let you call him â€˜master’," Hermione said.
"Dobby calls him â€˜Harry Potter, sir,’ but Harry Potter, sir, is Dobby’s master."
"We won’t be long," Ron said.
"You don’t need to do anything, Dobby," Hermione added. "We’ll take care of everything."
Harry looked at Ginny, his eyebrows raised in question. "What should we do?"
Ginny giggled. "Hide?"
"Works for me. I hate to leave Dobby having to cover for us, though."
Harry looked at Ginny. "It’s just Ron and Hermione."
She shrugged. "OK."
Their decision made, they moved to the head of the stairs. "Hi," Harry said.
Ron dropped the box he was holding, which made a shattering sound when it hit the floor. "What the bloody hell are you two doing home?"
Harry shrugged and grinned at his best friends. "We live here."
"Yeah, I know, butâ€”"
"Welcome home!" Hermione was blushing furiously. "We’re so sorry! We didn’t mean to intrude. We just wanted to bring your wedding gifts over." She looked at the box Ron had dropped, then pointed her wand at it and said, "Reparo!" Once the box was back in its previous shape, she looked up at Harry and Ginny again. "Ron’s parents brought all the presents from the wedding over the day after the ceremony, but once the wedding story hit the papers, more presents came in. That’s what we’re bringing now. The Aurors have checked them, so they’re all safe."
"What were you telling Dobby about decorating?" Ginny said, starting down the stairs.
"What happened to you two?" Ron exclaimed when the hall light hit Harry and Ginny’s faces.
Harry glanced at Ginny, then back at Ron. "What do you mean?"
Hermione was laughing now. "They have suntans, Ron! They went someplace warm and sunny for their honeymoon."
"Yeah, we did!" Ginny said, beaming at them. "It was brilliant!"
"So tell us everything," Hermione said eagerly.
"We’ll tell the whole family everything at once, how’s that?" Harry said. "We want everyone to come to dinner two nights from now. You’ll get an owl about it tomorrow."
"Hermione," Ginny prompted, "decorating? What were you talking about?"
"Oh, we were going to hang a â€˜Welcome Home’ banner and do a few other things, but I guess we won’t now. We’ll just leave these presents and get out of your hair."
Harry and Ginny helped Ron and Hermione carry the presents into the living room. Harry stopped and gasped at the huge pile of beautifully wrapped boxes. "What is all this stuff?"
"Wedding presents," Hermione said, setting her load down carefully.
"But so many!" Harry said, shaking his head. "And you’re sure they’re safe?"
"Yes, they’ve all been checked thoroughly. You’re getting some pretty nice stuff!" Ron told him.
"It’s like Christmas and a birthday and a bunch of other holidays all rolled up together!" Ginny said, kneeling by a huge box with a big glittery silver bow on top. "This one’s from Minister Bones! And there’s a note here, addressed to you, Harry." She handed him the note.
Harry opened the envelope while Ginny unwrapped the present. He shook his head and smiled, then handed the letter to Hermione. "I think you’ll like this."
"What is it?" she said, then started to read, then burst into tears.
"’Mione! What’s wrong?" Ron said, pulling her into his arms.
Hermione was laughing and crying at the same time now. She pushed against Ron’s arms. "I’m fine, really. It’s just such a surprise!"
"What?" Ron said, totally flummoxed.
Hermione turned to Harry, waving the letter excitedly. "Harry, this is brilliant! However did you do it?"
"Do what?" Ron said, sounding more impatient.
"Listen to this," Hermione said, then began reading aloud.
It took some doing, but I’ve managed it. House-elves belonging to the Ministry of Magic may now marry and have children if they choose, and those in the breeding-stock program may leave the program and marry if they wish to do so. I think you’re right - this new policy will result in happier house-elves. I wish someone had thought to question the system before. We’re still working on how to deal with the children of the house-elves from the breeding-stock program, some of whom were bred to a variety of partners, so the children’s custody is a difficult matter to settle. But we’re working on it.
As for freeing the house-elves, I have discussed this with several of them, and they were horrified at the idea. So I’m working on a policy that will allow them to choose if they want to be free or want to remain enslaved. Those who want to be free will be given a salary, as you suggested. Your Dobby is an excellent example of how successful a free house-elf can be at finding and keeping a job.
Speaking of Dobby, I have looked into his conviction, and I’m sorry to say, I can’t commute his sentence. He will have to remain enslaved as his punishment for killing the house-elf Kreacher. But I agree, his children being born free is a good idea. I am adding this idea to the one of freeing the house-elves mentioned above in the policy changes I’m attempting to push through.
You need to understand that changing the marriage and breeding policies in the Ministry was quite difficult. It is going to be even more difficult to get actual laws passed that will give house-elves their choices about freedom, marriage and breeding throughout the wizarding world. But I think your idea is both kind and sound, and I will pursue it to the best of my ability.
Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. If you have other concerns, please know that my door is always open to you.
With my very kindest regards,
Amelia Bones, Minister of Magic
Order of Merlin First Class, etc., etc.
"Harry! You did it!" Hermione squealed, then threw herself at him, hugging him fiercely. "You’re brilliant!"
"Whoa, Harry, that’s amazing," Ron said. "Too bad about Dobby, though."
"What does you mean, Master Ron?" Dobby said, entering the room with a tray filled with drinks.
Ron’s ears flamed. "Uh, nothing, Dobby."
"Not nothing, Dobby," Harry said, squatting in front of his house elf. He held his hand out to Hermione, who gave him the letter. Harry handed it to Dobby. "You should read this."
Dobby read the letter, his eyes getting wider and wider as he read. When he finished, he gazed at Harry with pure adoration in his eyes. "Harry Potter tries to free Dobby again! Harry Potter is too good, too kind!"
"But I didn’t succeed, Dobby. I’m sorry."
"Harry Potter helps the Ministry house-elves," Dobby said, his huge eyes glowing, his hands clasped tightly as he nearly vibrated with joy. "Harry Potter gets Ministry to consider freeing house-elves! Harry Potter is a great success!"
"But I didn’t get you freed," Harry said. Failing at that was a huge disappointment to Harry. He thought he’d managed it. At least the Ministry’s elves would have improved lives now. And he’d make sure Dobby and Winky had the happiest lives he could manage.
Dobby stood straight and tall, his ears fully erect, his eyes quite serious. "Dobby is proud to work for Harry Potter. Harry Potter is kind and good. Dobby is happy here, even if Dobby isn’t free!"
Relieved by the elf’s acceptance of the situation, Harry patted Dobby on the shoulder. "Thanks."
"No, thank you, Harry Potter, sir!"
When Harry stood up, Ginny wrapped her arms around him and hugged him, then leaned back against his arms and smiled. "You never cease to amaze me."
He chuckled. "That’s a good thing, right?"
* * * * *
When Harry closed the door after Ron and Hermione left, he sighed. "I’m going to set different wards on the house."
"What kind of wards?" Ginny said.
"I don’t want people just coming in whenever they feel like it. I want us to have our privacy. I’ve talked to Grandfather about this to some extent already. I think you’ll like the changes." He pulled out his wand and aimed it at the door while deciding which spell to start with.
"So who can get in, once you’re finished?" Ginny said.
"You, me and the elves. That’s all."
"Are we going to be Secret-Keepers or something?"
He nodded. "Or something."
Harry proceeded to cast several spells on the house while Ginny and the elves watched. When he was satisfied, he turned to them and smiled. "That should do it."
"What did you do? I’ve never heard of most of those spells."
"For one thing, our house is hidden between the neighbouring houses again. It won’t show up for anyone but us unless we tell it to. Paparazzi, fan girls, nosy neighbours, intrusive relativesâ€”none of them will hang around if the house can’t be seen."
Ginny clapped her hands in glee. "Privacy at last!"
"Yeah! Also, nobody can unlock those locks but the four of us. I’ll write down the counter-spells and give a sealed copy to Ron, Remus and Grandfather, in case of emergency, but they should never need to use them."
"That sounds great, Harry. Well done!"
He pulled her into his arms. "I’m glad you approve! Now, then, wife, it seems to me we were asleep when Ron and Hermione’s arrival woke us."
"Yeah, we were." A spark of mischief was in her eyes.
Harry grinned at her, then looked at Dobby. "We’ll be in our room. We’ll come out for lunch later." With that, he picked up his wife and carried the giggling woman back up the stairs.