"No, not pixie dust, Justine. It's too unstable for a flying potion—but what has you interested in one of those?" Severus asked his adopted daughter, as she, standing next to him on a stool in front of the kitchen sink, helped him with the post-prandial washing up.
"Russel wants to fly, Daddy."
"That's what I just said."
"Justine," Severus replied, a reproving tone coloring his voice.
"But I said—"
"Do you wish to attend the hill-rolling with Russel and Uncle Percy?"
"Then what must you do?" Severus asked, rinsing a plate and handing it to the seven-year-old to dry.
Justine sighed dramatically, drying and stacking the plate before replying, "I mustn't take tones with you."
Severus smirked. "And?"
"I'm sorry for taking a tone with you, Daddy—and I love you," Justine said, smiling up at him in her impish, manipulative manner. "Can I go? Please?"
"Of course you may go."
Justine's sudden grin of triumph flew from her face almost as soon as it had formed, and she frowned. "How come you never tell Mummy when she's wrong?"
Severus affected a scandalized expression and then leaned down to whisper, "Because I know better."
"I heard that," Harry called, from the next room.
"How can she hear so well?"
"She eats all her veg," Severus said, pointedly.
Justine wrinkled her nose. "I don't like courgettes. They smell bad."
"Even so. Now, as we're finished here, why don't you get cleaned up while I speak to your mother. We'll talk about flying potions another time."
"You always say that," Justine replied, pouting.
"Stop biting your lower lip," Severus remonstrated. "You wouldn't want to bite it off by accident, would you?"
"I'd never do that!" Justine exclaimed, scrambling off the stool and skipping up the back kitchen stairs.
"She's right, you know."
Severus turned to find Harry standing in the doorway. "About?"
"You always put her off when you think she wants to do something dangerous."
"Seven is too young for flying."
Harry grinned. "You know very well that Ginny and Millicent keep a broomstick for her."
"I do not know that," Severus replied, closing the distance between himself and his wife and pulling her into an embrace. "I refuse . . . to know . . . anything . . . about it," he continued, in between placing light kisses on Harry's face.
Harry leaned into Severus' body and whispered, "I wish Uncle Percy would hurry himself up. I'm in the mood to do a little 'rolling', myself."
"There is nothing 'little' about our rolling."
Harry laughed. "No, not in the second trimester, there isn't."
"You're beautiful," Severus told Harry, sliding a hand down to rest it lightly on the swell of her belly.
"I never would have pegged you as a fetishist."
Lightly biting a trail up Harry's neck, Severus replied, "You might . . . not want to . . . talk about 'pegging' . . . until Justine leaves. Her hearing's . . . almost as sharp . . . as yours."
"Mmm, you're right, but I doubt it matters. I'm too far along for that sort of—"
At the sound of Justine clattering down the stairs, Harry and Severus broke apart.
"I'm all ready now, and Uncle Percy's here!"
"Hey!" Harry called, as Justine flew from the room. "Aren't you going to kiss me goodbye?"
Justine raced back into the room, skidded to a stop in front of her mother, kissed Harry's belly before Harry could bend down to kiss her, and then turned to Severus expectantly.
Justine saluted back, saying, "I'llbegoodandlistentoUnclePercyandeatmy
"Hello, Percy!" Severus called, as the sound of his friend's voice rose in the other room.
Harry poked her head out of the kitchen. "Goodbye, Percy."
"I'll have her back by bedtime," Percy said, waving with one hand as Justine grabbed the other.
"Wait for it," Harry told Severus, as the door could be heard to open again.
"She's not," Severus said, turning to smile at Harry.
"Of course she isn't," Harry agreed, holding out her hands for Severus'.
"So, where were we, Professor Snape?"
Right where I always wanted to be.
Percy stood at the bottom of the hill and watched in concern as Justine and Russel came barreling down it at a higher rate of speed than he felt was strictly safe, thinking, I was never so reckless when I was their age!
"Watch out, I'm coming down!" Neville yelled, throwing himself down the hill after the children.
"I wish he wouldn't encourage them like that. Does he have to roll head first?"
"Percy," Luna said, handing him a glass of pumpkin juice, "you worry too much. You know I set cushioning charms into the hill. Nothing's going to happen to them."
"If you say so."
"Oh, it's not just me—look."
Percy followed Luna's gaze to a window set into the third storey of the house that she and Neville had built over the ruins of the Shrieking Shack. "You can see them, too?" he asked, as he watched the faint, smiling figures regarding the activities of the children with interest. "I haven't just been imagining things?"
"I can see them. Hermione and Ron don't want to intrude on our lives, you know. They're content to build up the phantom wing—and Ron flies a good bit, at night."
They stayed for Justine, didn't they? Percy thought, smiling slowly. "I never thought they'd—wait. Did you say they're building? But how? I don't see any 'phantom wing'—and ghosts can't . . . alter their environments, can they?"
"'Unimaginative ghosts' can't," Luna said, "at least, that's what Hermione tells me."
"Can you see their . . . improvements?" Percy asked, feeling a bit better to know that he had not been imagining his sightings of Ron and Hermione.
"Only on Halloween, actually."
"I come here all the time. Why have they been hiding from—"
Luna stopped Percy from speaking by laying a hand on his arm. "They don't want to interfere, like I said. Well, Hermione doesn't. Ron just seems to like his privacy."
"He always did."
"And Hermione's always thought that it would be rather bad for Harry to know, so . . . ."
"Don't worry. I won't say anything. But if you were keeping Hermione and Ron's secret, why tell me about it, now?"
"I thought you were ready, now, what with recent developments."
"When will you be bringing Daphne for a visit?" Luna asked, pushing herself up with some difficulty.
"Oh. Here," Percy said, rising to his feet and reaching for Luna's outstretched hands.
"I don't . . . I mean, I haven't wanted to—"
"It's all right. I think she'd understand," Luna said softly, brushing out her skirt. "Penelope was a very practical witch. She wouldn't have liked to know that you were unhappy for so long."
"No. Unhappiness isn't practical, is it?" Percy said distractedly, watching Neville "fly" Justine around in higher and higher circles. "You're sure the cushioning charms will work?"
"I know they will. Severus taught me the spell, himself," Luna replied, slowly walking away from Percy and up the hill toward the house.
"Wait!" Percy called, flushing a bit as he realized where Luna was most likely going. "There's no reason for you to walk so far," he continued, drawing his wand and conjuring a small structure.
Luna grinned and clapped her hands. "Oh! I never even thought of that—thank you, Percy—you always know what to do!"
As Luna entered the outhouse, Percy walked a discreet distance away, feeling uncertain about the witch's estimation of him. Suddenly, he felt as though he were being watched and looked up at the window to find his brother and sister-in-law waving at him. He waved back.
"Please tell me Fleur didn't saddle my nephew with 'Bilius'," Ron said then, from just behind Percy. "Luna won't ever say. She thinks it's a lark to tease me about it."
"She's just protecting you, little brother."
"What? No! That's hideous!"
"Shush, Ron," Hermione admonished.
"H—hello," Percy said, almost shyly.
Hermione instantly looked worried. "It's all right, isn't it? We can go."
"No! No, don't. I'm . . . I'm glad. I've missed you—you might have said something."
"Percy," Ron said, "you came every day there, for a while, before Luna and Nev started building. We didn't want to make it harder for you."
"Oh, but thank you for bringing Justine," Hermione interjected. "She's so beautiful."
"She's Justine Penelope, you know," Percy told her, finding it surprisingly easy to be having a conversation with a ghost and wondering what Daphne would think about it.
"Is she? That's lovely."
"Justine Penelope Granger-Weasley," Percy added.
"Fine, you were right," Ron answered Hermione, looking mildly vexed. "But what did Fleur and Bill actually name their son?" he continued, turning to Percy again and favoring him with a pleading look.
Percy laughed. "Russel Ronald, actually."
"Yeah?" Ron asked, grinning. "That's a great na—"
Ron and Hermione vanished then as Justine and Russel, being chased by Neville, came racing toward Percy.
"Come on, Uncle Percy!" shouted Justine, weaving to avoid being captured by Neville.
Percy, laughing, gave chase.
"Mummy?" Justine asked, as Harry was tucking her in later that night.
"That's my name," Harry replied, leaning down to press a kiss to her daughter's forehead.
"Uncle Percy can talk to them, now. I saw him. The ghosts mani— mani—"
"Manifested. Really? When?"
"Manifested," Justine said, trying out the word a few more times before replying, "Uncle Neville almost chased us right through them!"
"Well, that's exciting," Harry said, feeling a pang of worry.
Justine had been talking about "Uncle Neville and Aunt Luna's ghosts" since she was four-years-old, but only to Harry, it seemed, and Harry was not certain that Justine had figured out who, exactly, the ghosts were.
"So, does it bother you that you've never talked to them?"
"No. They watch me all the time. I know they like me. I think they're just shy—Russel and I can be very rowdy."
"Well, that's good then," Harry said, feeling relieved. "Did you have fun today?"
"Ye—es. I like going there, Mummy. Maybe you can go next time, too."
"We'll talk more about that later. Goodnight, sweetheart. I love you."
"Love you, Mummy," Justine murmured sleepily, thinking, you always say that.
Justine, however, understood her mother's reluctance to visit the place where her friends had died. She also knew, because she was a big girl, that Aunt Luna and Uncle Neville's ghosts were the ghosts of her parents. She had seen their pictures, and she was not stupid.
Chester had been rather proud of her when she had figured that out.
"You're quite correct, Chester," Justine said to her stuffed Crumple-Horned Snorkack and recalling one of their old discussions, "Mummy and Daddy might be scared if they knew I knew about my ghost parents. They might think it meant I didn't want to live here, at home, and that just wouldn't do."
Chester, of course, gazed at Justine in his usual, wisely silent manner, and she was pleased; Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, after all, were difficult to impress—no matter what Russel had to say about it.
Justine loved her cousin, but she sometimes thought he was a bit slow. He had never seen her parent ghosts.
Anyway, Justine told herself, as she dropped off to sleep, a big girl can't live with ghosts. That would just be silly.