In Every Universe: All in One Piece
AU one-shot, post HBP, Harry/Ginny, Drama/Romance, Rated R
He took her for the first time against the dresser in her parents' room.
It was frantic, messy, mad, fast. It didn't hurt like she thought it would, but it wasn't comfortable either. Still, she wouldn't have changed a thing. He was sweet with her, just like she knew he would be. He moaned in her ear how much he loved her, loved her, loved her, and she gasped back that she was his, always and forever.
They were very nearly caught. The Burrow was full to bursting with guests for the wedding, and someone was bound to come up and use the small loo attached to the master. They only had seconds to straighten their clothes and catch their breaths before the door flew open, and the bride floated in, the hem of her voluminous bridal robes held loosely in her manicured fingers.
Her perfectly shaped eyebrows rose when she noticed them.
"I 'ope I am not interrupting," she said slowly.
"Of course not." Ginny tried to quell the blush rising to her cheeks and gestured to the bathroom. "Would you like some help?"
She looked back at Harry over her shoulder as she bent down and scooped the short train of Fleur's dress. He was lowering his flask of Polyjuice, the ends of his hair already starting to turn ginger. He met her eyes briefly before he turned away.
It would be the last she saw of him for months.
The wand pressed into her throat by none other than Severus Snape did not dissuade her lying tongue.
"I told you," she steadily replied, sweat trickling down her temple and into her tangled hair. "I don't know where he is."
"And yet… you would not tell me if you did, is that correct?" he drawled.
Ginny did not answer him, only jutted her chin further up in defiance.
"Very well," he said. His pupils dilated, and Ginny knew what he was going to do before she could even attempt to close her mind. Her heart sank to her feet. "Legilimens."
She left her brain momentarily behind to descend into a space that was nothing but white haze. When she came to- seconds, minutes, perhaps hours later- she was back in the kitchen of the Burrow and gazing into Snape's black eyes.
"She tells the truth."
Ginny tried not to show her confusion. Had she blocked his probing mind with her own? Had his spell not worked?
"We are wasting our time here," he continued, his face as unreadable as ever.
He turned on his heel and was gone in a swirl of black robes, his goons following without prompting. Mum, Dad and Charlie ran to her side before the door shut behind him.
"Ginny, are you all right?"
"Oh, my baby!"
"Did he get anything out of you?"
She rubbed her head and took a shaky breath. "I'm fine. He… he didn't do anything." She looked up at their quizzical faces. "He didn't do anything to me at all."
Ginny opened her eyes, rolled over in bed and threw up so violently, she almost fell into her own puddle of sick.
It was the morning of August 31st, she was packed and ready for her trip to Hogwarts tomorrow, and apparently, coming down with some sort of stomach bug.
Luck was not on her side.
Mum was in the room less than a minute later. Ginny wondered if she had to have some sort of sixth sense about these kind of things; she wasn't vomiting so loudly that her mother could hear her three floors up, was she? She asked her this aloud as she took the handkerchief her mother offered her and wiped her mouth.
"Don't be ridiculous, Ginny," Mum responded, vanishing the puddle of sick and casting a powerful Scourgify. "I was in the stairwell when I heard you."
The entire floor gleamed, the heavy scent of lemons like a slap to the face. Ginny coughed on the citrusy air, stomach heaving, and pressed the handkerchief more firmly to her mouth. She bolted out of the room, almost losing it when she took a corner too fast, and barely made it to the toilet in time to retch again.
When Ginny felt her mother's cool hands collecting the hair from the nape of her clammy neck, a wave of love and gratitude washed over her. The two of them butted heads more often than not, but Ginny wouldn't trade her mother for anyone else.
"Thanks, Mum," Ginny croaked, spitting into the bowl and flushing.
Her mother sat beside her, staring, face pale and terrified. "That always set me off," she whispered.
She gazed at her quizzically.
"The smell of lemons," Mum continued. "Every pregnancy, without fail."
The minute her mother's words registered, Ginny's heart began to hammer hard at her ribcage, and her head spun like a brand new Sneakoscope. The insinuation that she might be… that she might be…. No, no. She wracked her dizzy brain, trying to remember every second of the few minutes she'd shared alone with Harry just four weeks ago.
Try as she might, she could not recall having used a charm, enchantment, potion, anything to ward against… to prevent….
"Mum," she breathed. "Mum, I…."
Taking Ginny's stunned face into her hands, Mum whispered, "Was it Harry? Were you with Harry?"
She did not trust herself to speak. She barely managed a nod.
Mum took a shuddering breath. "Oh, Merlin. Ginny."
The look she received from her father across the dining table was unreadable. Instead of searching his face further, no doubt to find disappointment, Ginny gazed down at her lightly buttered toast and tea as her mother prepared a pregnancy test in the cauldron over the fire with ease.
"How much longer, Molly?" Dad said.
Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny saw him consult his watch. She clenched her trembling fingers in her lap.
"Two to three minutes," Mum replied. "I still had the base from the Apothecary. Thankfully, it was a long-lasting one; the label marked an expiration date for the end of this year."
When Ginny was presented with a small cup containing a foamy, mint green elixir, she studied it anxiously. This was it. This moment. Her whole life could change with the results of this drink.
"Go on." Her mother smiled at her in encouragement, but her eyes were wide with fright.
Still, she did not drink. It was not until her father snapped, "Now, Ginny," that she jumped, tilted the little cup back, and swallowed hard.
Ginny stared at her palms as they flooded a telling scarlet, bolted up the stairs to her bedroom, and collapsed onto her bed, petrified and silent.
In the blink of an eye she'd gone from an underage witch with no responsibilities and a rather clear path forward, to a woman dealt a hand with an uncertain, murky future.
Mum was in the doorway minutes after her flight up to her room, asking her what she wanted to do. She had decisions to make. Important ones. Life-altering ones. And she only had half an hour to decide.
"But… I can't… that's not enough time."
"I know," Mum said. "But that's all the time you have."
"Tell me what to do." Her whisper sounded desperate, and rightly so. She wasn't ready for this. "Please, Mum, you have to tell me what to do."
Her mother shook her head. "I'm sorry, darling. I can't. It has to be you."
Ginny knew the easy route: get rid of it. It was nothing… nothing yet but a parasite, something strange and foreign in her body, something that could easily consume her if she let it. For a moment, she thought of him. Not Harry, no, her first thought was not of him. (Merlin knew it should have been, and by god she wished it was.) Her first thought was of Tom. He'd taken over her, drained her of her strength and pureness, bowled her over, beat her down until she was ripped apart and dead inside. Surely this would be the same.
But no, no, this was different, vastly so. Ginny rested her bright red hands against her flat stomach, her heart stumbling, stuttering, stampeding in her chest. This was lightness. This was love. This was right. This was a piece of her and a piece of Harry. This was goodness and brilliance and hope, a beacon of light through thick and inky darkness.
Her mother saw the answer in her eyes. She smiled at Ginny, just a little, and patted her clumsily on the cheek.
"I love you, Mummy."
"I love you more."
Bill and Fleur came around that night under the pretense of dinner, but they were really there to help them pack their belongings into expensive trunks (borrowed from the Delacours) with undetectable extension charms built in. Not having seen them since the wedding, Ginny hugged her eldest brother hard, tried not to let the strange expression on his face bother her as she dug her head into his shoulder, before letting go and moving into the welcoming arms of her new sister-in-law.
Fleur kissed both of her cheeks and held her close. "Do not let anyone put you down for zese," she said firmly into her ear. "You are ze bravest person I know."
Ginny and her parents fled to Auntie Muriel's in the dead of the night and were received by no less than half a dozen house-elves. Ginny gazed around at the old-fashioned furnishings with a frown. Catching the look on her face, her mother assured her once again, out of earshot of the Auntie Muriel's servants, that no one besides the two of them, Dad, Bill and Fleur, knew about her current situation.
"And if someone were to ask why we're in hiding?" Mum prompted.
"I'll tell them that you refused to let me attend Hogwarts, and that I tried to change your mind to no avail."
Mum nodded in satisfaction.
The news of the Ministry break-in reached Harefield House the very night it had happened by way of Fred and George Weasley. They arrived, conveniently, right before supper, and were invited to stay by nosy Auntie Muriel herself.
Ginny did not finish dinner that night. She tried, knowing fully that what she put in her body was no longer just for her benefit, but every time she brought her food close to her mouth, her stomach would turn and clench, and it was rather a surprise that she didn't spew what she'd managed to put away right then and there.
Harry had broken into the Ministry. Harry had broken into the Ministry. For what? Mad-Eye's eye? It was the only thing that had been reported missing. Ginny knew Harry better than anyone; he wouldn't risk his life, his friends' lives, just for an eye. The idea that perhaps he was making a statement- that he could get in anywhere he wanted, could do anything he wanted- crossed her mind, but she knew him better than that, and simply put, it wasn't Harry's style.
She frowned over her dessert. She didn't even touch her tea when they all retired to the drawing room. It was close to eleven when Auntie Muriel finally left them, bidding them all a slightly drunken goodnight.
As soon as the door shut after the last bowing house-elf, Fred and George turned to her with inquiring stares.
Before they could even open their mouths, Ginny said, "I'm pregnant."
Fred's mouth dropped open. George slopped tea all over his front.
"What?" they said together.
Mum placed her cup and saucer on the side table, and Dad sighed wearily when his sons' heads swiveled around at him for confirmation. "It's why we left, and why Ginny's not at Hogwarts."
"No one outside of this room knows, save for Bill and Fleur," Mum added. "We need to keep it that way. Understood?"
The twins nodded dumbly, gazing at Ginny like they'd never seen her before.
She ran the night's conversation through her head, and then posed, "You never said… you never said if they got out all right. Did they?"
Fred and George shared a look.
"It's Harry's, isn't it?" George said softly.
"So what if it is?" she said, voice beginning to shake in fury, in dread. "Don't! Don't sugar coat it- tell me what happened. Tell me the truth."
The muscle in Fred's jaw ticked. "Fine," he said. "Yaxley got a hold of them."
Mum gasped and Dad groaned. Ginny felt the color drain out of her face.
"They'd been hiding at Grimmauld," George said. "Harry, Ron and Hermione Disapparated there with Yaxley. They let him into the Fidelius Charm."
"They gave him the slip somehow," Fred continued. Ginny felt a whoosh of air stream into her lungs. "Where they are now, we're not sure, but The Order's on high alert in case they make contact."
Ginny was standing before she even realized it. She excused herself, remarking on the lateness of the hour and feigning a yawn. Her harried footsteps echoed in the old halls, the paintings on the walls watched her keenly. When she reached her bedroom, she raced into the adjoining water closet and heaved into the toilet.
Though rather ancient, Auntie Muriel was quite perceptive. Under her roof, they were subjected to her rules, and were forced to eat every meal in the formal dining room at an allotted time, as well as tea in the drawing room at ten and two daily. On the days Ginny could not contain her nausea and skipped breakfast, and sometimes tea, altogether, her aunt watched her with hawk-eyes that raked over her pale face and down her figure. She would often times mutter beneath her breath when Ginny grimaced over steak that was too pink for her liking, or requested something different to the head house-elf, like a soothing chicken soup… or a deep-fried anything.
It was sometime around the beginning of November when Ginny could no longer button her trousers. The extension charm Mum put on them was no longer holding, and while she could still easily hide her growing belly under loose jumpers and flowy tops and billowy robes, the only bottoms she could fit into were stretchy, unflattering skirts she absolutely abhorred.
She put one on for dinner that night, and Auntie Muriel zoned in on her ever expanding waistline with her thin eyebrows jumping up her forehead. "Well, what a womanly look!" She tossed a glance over at Mum, whose back was stiff and straight. "She looks like you did at seventeen, wouldn't you agree?"
Seventeen. When Mum was pregnant with Bill.
Until that very moment, Ginny had yet to believe that this was real, that this was happening to her, that this was dangerous, that she was pregnant with the baby of the most wanted man in all of magical England. The urge to leave and never come back was the only thought after Muriel's scathing comment.
It was only when Muriel departed the dining room sometime later, and the house-elves were all gone, that Ginny succumbed to tears for the first time in months.
"We can't stay here, Arthur," Mum said at once, as if reading Ginny's very mind.
Ginny heard a chair scrape back, then felt her mother's arms envelope her. She burrowed her face into her neck and sobbed.
"I figured we'd have to go eventually, I just hoped it was later rather than sooner." Dad sounded resigned. "I didn't want to impose on Bill, but… he did offer to house us."
"As he should!"
They left the old house before dawn the next day and touched down in the soft sands of Shell Cottage just as the sun was rising over the sea. Ginny inhaled the salty air, feeling strangely emotional. She let her hand stray over the spot she assumed the baby- her baby- lay, and smiled.
The knock on the front door came in the dead of night. Ginny bolted out of bed with her wand in hand, a blast of icy fear billowing within her, and sank to her knees, crawling beneath the windowsill towards the shadowy corner. She trained her wand tip at her bedroom door and waited with bated breath.
Mum rushed in, her eyes alight with terror when she caught sight of the empty bed. Fleur followed behind her, wand clasped tightly in her hand.
"I'm here," Ginny murmured from her position on the cold floor.
Her mother's eyes snapped towards her and a look of relief washed over her features. She shut the door quickly and began casting several locking charms and defensive enchantments to it. Fleur dashed towards her.
"Are you all right?"
Ginny nodded. "Who's here?"
"I do not know."
"Dad and Bill have gone down?"
Fleur squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. "Yes."
Ginny nodded again, reached out to hold her sister-in-law's quivering hands, and let her head loll back against the wall. She sent several silent prayers for the safety and wellbeing of her family.
Minutes later, the three women sprang to attention when Bill's voice carried into the room.
"Mum, Fleur, you can come out now."
Mum frowned, and Fleur looked at Ginny.
"What about your seester?"
The silence was deafening. Ginny sucked in a breath, knowing whatever was immediately to come was not going to be pleasant. She thought of the worst possible situation, felt her insides freeze, and clutched at her rounded stomach.
"Is it Harry?" she choked out, her eyes beginning to burn. "Is he-"
"No," said another voice, slightly strangled but utterly familiar. Ginny's eyes widened, and Mum began to furiously remove the wards. "No, but-"
Mum flung the door open, effectively cutting Ron off as she threw her arms around him and began to weep. His blue eyes looked haunted as they stared at her over Mum's shoulder. Fleur swooped in and kissed both of Ron's cheeks as he was released. Ginny, however, did not move.
"Where is he?" she said, her lips barely moving. Her hands were shaking at her sides. "Where's Harry?"
Ron grimaced. "I'm sorry. I… I tried to go back."
It took a second for his words to sink in, then she launched herself at him, the blows she landed on his gaunt frame not enough to stop her already splintered heart from cracking and breaking and shattering. He didn't even defend himself. He let her push him against the wall, slap him, punch him, kick at him until Bill wrapped her in his long arms and pulled her away.
"Traitor! Coward! You're worthless! Worthless!" she railed, twisting in Bill's grip, trying but failing to have at him again. Tears were pouring down her face. "I hate you, I hate you!"
"Ginny," Dad reprimanded lowly. "That's enough."
"No!" She squirmed harder, clawing at Bill's arms, elbowing him in the stomach, stomping on his feet, but still he remained steadfast. "Don't you see what he's done? He left him, he left him!"
"You have to calm down, Ginny!" Fleur implored. "Eet is not good for ze bébé!"
"I don't care! I don't care anymore!" she said through her hysterics.
But she did care.
She ceased struggling, going boneless in her brother's arms with a wail of despair.
She didn't look at him for days. She refused to eat meals with him. Anytime she stepped into a room he occupied, she'd turn and noisily walk back out. It was annoying, and dead boring, keeping to her room, but she found comfort in closing her eyes and pretending it was Harry's hands running over her swelling stomach and not her own.
It was a little less than a week before Christmas when Ron approached her favorite spot in the frozen garden. So engrossed in her sixth year Transfiguration textbook, she did not notice his presence until he was almost on top of her. She glared down at his trainers, ignoring his pointed throat clearing, and hoped he would leave her be.
"How far along are you?"
Her head snapped up. She had not been expecting that question from him. He gazed down at her, still as pale as he'd been the night he'd shown up, though his cheeks were no longer hollow, and his hair had gotten a decent shearing from Mum. In his hands he grappled a thick cloak, which he twisted around his wrists and wove between his fingers, a nervous gesture if Ginny ever saw one.
"Why do you care?" The words left her mouth before she could stop them. She'd meant to say nothing until he got fed up and left.
He frowned. "You're my sister. That's my niece or nephew. It's my best mate's baby." He shrugged one shoulder. "Pick one."
She searched his eyes, tried to catch insincerity in them, and found none. "Twenty weeks today."
His brows furrowed. "So…?" He paused for a moment, and then his face cleared. "Bill and Fleur's wedding." She turned back to her book, her face flushing red. "How'd you manage that?"
"Does it matter?" she snapped, flicking a page of the text so roughly she almost tore it out.
"I'm going to leave soon, try and find Harry and Hermione again. Do you want me to tell him?"
She pressed her lips together. Her throat felt impossibly tight.
"Or maybe you could write him a letter? And we can send a picture along? He'd like that. He misses you."
Through watery eyes she looked up at him, nodded and whispered a strangled, "Thank you."
He slung the cloak over her shoulders and settled down beside her, and she let him.
She heard him step into the room, and the door shut with a snick. Grasping the worn material of her dressing gown into fists, Ginny swallowed a mouthful of air and pressed herself more firmly against the side of the wardrobe.
"Ginny?" His voice was just above a whisper, but her ears rung as if he'd played her a symphony, and her blood buzzed through her veins.
She wanted to call out to him, wanted him to take her into his arms and hold her as if their lives depended on it. But so much had changed, and she was scared- of what he'd say, of how'd he react. She knew, without a single doubt, that he cared deeply for her, but she- they- were no longer the same people they'd been eight months ago.
"Ginny?" Harry called again, this time with a note of confusion.
He was looking for her, and she was hiding, hiding in the corner like an idiot.
With a breath she hadn't realized she was holding, she said, "I'm here. But don't! Don't come any closer!"
His hastened footsteps paused so near to her that she could hear him breathe.
"I- it's really me," he said, "if that's what you're worried about."
"I know it's you. The wards wouldn't let an imposter through."
"Then why are you-"
"Because!" she cried. "Because I'm different. We're different." She swallowed the sudden lump in her throat. Her voice sounded rough when she spoke again. "And I want… I want you to still… still…"
Head hotter than fire from suppressing her tears, Ginny finally broke, a sob ripping its way from behind her traitorous lips.
The floorboards creaked under his shifting feet.
"Don't!" she gasped. "Please, don't. Not yet."
"Ginny, babe…" The note of distress in his voice almost unraveled her completely.
The wardrobe shifted against her back. She saw a flash of movement from the corner of her eye and started. Harry's hand came into view, palm up.
"Take my hand," he said.
She bit her lip, hesitated briefly, then slid her hand into his. It was warm and more calloused than she remembered, and Ginny allowed herself to reminisce about last year, when the fingertips that curled around her hand fingered her hair, traced her lips, and flittered with slight trepidation underneath her school robes.
"I missed you," he said, sounding choked. "I thought about you every day."
Me, too, she wanted to say, but instead, she whispered, "You're just saying that-"
"No," he interjected at once. "No, I'm not." He stroked the knuckles of her left hand in soothing circles with the pad of his thumb. "I checked the Map every night for months. I went mad wondering why you weren't at Hogwarts. I thought something had happened to you."
"Something did," she said, squeezing his hand and shutting her eyes briefly, the last of her tears dripping down her cheeks.
She heard him inhale sharply. "Yeah," he said. "I… I got you letter. And the picture. Ginny-"
Unable to resist asking him, having wondered every other second since she'd made her decision what exactly he'd think of it, she cut across, "Are you angry with me?"
"Angry? What for?"
"I didn't know what to do," she hurriedly explained. "I didn't know what you'd want. I… I had to decide for us."
"I want what you want," he said. "I want whatever makes you happy. Are you happy?"
She rested her free hand on her stomach and felt the baby kick against it. Warmth spilled over her like sunlight. "Yes."
Chin trembling and heart racing, Ginny knew what she had to do now. Harry had proven himself to her time and time again, without her even asking him to. A part of her was still worried, a part of her still wondered if he'd look at her the same way, feel the same way about her, but she would never find out unless she just did it. She was wasting precious time. Voldemort was still alive, and inevitably, Harry would leave again. She couldn't wade into this. She had to jump in head first.
"Close your eyes."
"Okay." He didn't question her, and her smile nearly split her face in two.
"Are they closed? D'you promise?"
He let out a huff of laughter. "Yes, I promise."
Forcing her feet to move out of her hiding spot, Ginny slid out from beside the wardrobe and stared up at Harry, her lips instantly falling as she took in his appearance. His eyes were shut and smudged purple behind crooked glasses, his face was thinner than she'd ever seen. His hair was shaggy and almost shoulder-length, thick stubble lined his jaw and neck. His clothes were filthy, covered in sand and dirt, stained with- she inhaled sharply- blood? She tilted her belly away from him to get closer, and reached out to cup his face.
He nuzzled her hand, and the expression of pure bliss on his face had her heart leaping in her chest and her eyes glistening yet again.
She tiptoed up and kissed him, and Harry let out something between a moan and a sob into her mouth. His lips were chapped and rough and eager. He tugged at her hand, still wrapped securely in his, while his other hand drifted up to tangle in her hair. They froze simultaneously as her enormous stomach pressed against him.
Their lips parted gently, their foreheads coming to rest together. Ginny looked at him, wanting to gauge his reaction, but his eyes were still shut, and his eyebrows were knitted together.
"Can I…?" He seemed incapable of speech, for he swallowed hard and became silent.
She took hold of both of his hands and led them to her pregnant belly, smoothing his hands out flat and roving them around until she found just the right spot.
Harry's vivid green eyes fluttered open as their baby kicked against his palms. He scanned her face ardently, adoringly.
"You are," he said with feeling, sliding his hands up her body to frame her face, "the most amazing woman."
They fell into a fit of laughter, the strange and uneasy spell that had been cast over them shattering into hundreds of invisible shards. Harry held her out at arm's length after they'd collected themselves, his gaze roaming over her form, a grin of epic proportions lighting up his entire face, and happiness like she'd never experienced before blossomed in her heart. He wanted to know everything, and she answered his every inquiry; when she'd found out, how she'd found out, how she was feeling, and with a trace of worry in his voice, who knew about it.
His eyes darkened, even when she assured him that only some, not all, of her immediate family was aware of her current condition, and she changed the subject promptly to pacify him. She told him the expected due date and how the baby was developing, her mum's suspicions on the sex of it, and Ginny's theories of how excellent of a Quidditch player she was incubating.
"With our genes combined, Jamie will be the best flier England's ever seen."
They lay on the bed horizontally, on their sides, facing each other. Harry's eyes widened behind his specs.
"Jamie?" he said in surprise, his hand stopping its gentle caress along the curve of her tummy.
She nodded against her bent arm and worried her bottom lip between her teeth. "I didn't like calling the baby It, so I thought… maybe we could honor your parents, name the baby after them?"
"Jamie?" he repeated, his lips twitching up into a crooked smile.
She nodded again. "James for a boy, Jamie for a girl." She paused, searching his eyes. "Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind. Lily James Potter sounds pretty for a girl, wouldn't you agree?"
Harry blinked his eyes several times. "You're brilliant."
"I know," she said through a laugh.
Harry gave her a goofy grin and pressed it against her mouth. "So modest, too, my Ginny."
"All yours," she breathed back before deepening the kiss.
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
They made love for the second time the night before her due date, the night before he left. He did not tell her where he was going when he kissed her goodbye early that morning, only that he promised to come back as soon as he was able. The minute she heard him, along with Ron, Hermione and the goblin, Disapparate, she felt a strange twinge in her abdomen.
She remained still in her rumpled bed for a time, her throat closing up in panic, hoping that what she and Harry had done had not affected the baby. The twinge came again when she was pulling her underwear on beneath her extra-large nightgown.
Without another thought, she cried out for her mother.
Mum hurried into the room and collected her weeping form into her arms.
"It's all right," she said when Ginny explained through tears what had happened. She stroked the hair away from her face, wiped her cheeks and smiled at her in reassurance. "You've nothing to worry about. This is completely natural. You probably won't go into labor for another week."
"But… today's my due date, and-"
"Prodromal labor," Mum said swiftly. "Most women deliver late the first time around."
Ginny nibbled at her bottom lip guiltily. "Harry and I, we… he was leaving and…" she trailed off, hoping her mother would understand what she was saying without having to spell it out. Mum's smile immediately fell, and Ginny's heart dropped. "Does it hurt the baby? Mum? I- the book you had me look over didn't say-"
"No," she said. "No, it doesn't hurt the baby, but it could… help things progress, encourage the onset of labor."
Ginny thought it possible that, after doing it her entire life, she'd forgotten how to breathe. "Oh."
"You'll know when you go into labor. We all will, I reckon. For now, let's just go about the day like normal," Mum said after searching Ginny's face and reading nothing but apprehension on her features. "We'll go for a little walk after breakfast, then we can go through the baby's things again. I know how much you like to rearrange everything. How does that sound?"
Ginny nodded her approval mutely. Keeping herself occupied seemed like a very good idea, what with Harry, Ron and Hermione no longer there to entertain her, and the terrifying, forthcoming arrival of Jamie.
Mum and Fleur helped her to the loo, and Ginny took a shower while listening to them whisper about her right outside the door.
They all kept a close eye on her, and she was never left alone for more than a minute at a time. She ate very little of the bacon and eggs her mother set out for her and only forced down a bite of toast at her insistence. Dad and Bill joined them on their walk along the shoreline, just an arm's length away at any given moment.
"I don't think we'll have time, Mum," Ginny said, a little breathless as she waddled up the path back to Shell Cottage with her family.
"Time? For what, darling?"
"I don't think we'll have time to go through Jamie's things." She felt the spasm-like cramp she'd been hiding for the last hour begin again, stronger than the last one. "I think… I think I'm…"
She let out a strangled sort of sound as a wave of pain engulfed her for a few, rather long, seconds. It stopped abruptly, and she only just accomplished a sigh of relief when something wet trickled down her thighs.
"Well," Mum said through sparkling eyes as Dad and Bill helped her into the house, and Fleur ran ahead to open the door, "it seems Jamie likes to be on time!"
"What time is it?" she asked again, falling back into her pillows after a lengthy contraction.
Fleur moped at Ginny's sweaty brow with a cool, damp flannel. Mum glanced at the clock on the nightstand, lines of worry deepening at the corners of her eyes. "It's… it's a little after midnight."
"Why… why isn't he back yet? And Ron and Hermione? And where are Dad and Bill? They left hours ago. They-" The realization that they might not come back hit her full force, and dread the weight of a hippogriff settled on her chest. "What's going on? Why aren't they here? You know something! You know something's going on! Why won't you tell me?"
"We did not want to upset you," Fleur said gently. "Please calm down, Ginny. Eet is not good-"
"Yes, I know! I know it's not good for the baby! But please, please, tell-"
Ginny turned indignantly towards her mother, her sharp tongue ready to lash out. But Mum was not looking at her, she was staring at the bedroom door, her eyes as wide as saucers.
A frantic knock on the door of the cottage echoed up the stairs, and all three of them jumped.
"Fleur-" Mum started, half-rising from her position at the end of the bed.
"Non!" Ginny's sister-in-law squeezed her hand and passed the washcloth she held out to Mum. "Zese is my house. I will answer ze door. Besides," she added, "eef somezing 'appens to Ginny, you are the only one who knows what to do." Then, rather forcefully, she said, "Ward ze door after me."
Ginny watched as Fleur exited the room with a swish of her hair, wand held aloft, face set in determination, before succumbing to another contraction. Mum had not even finished casting her third protective enchantment at the door when Ginny collapsed back into the cushions, gasping for breath, and a mewling noise that pulled at her heartstrings flittered into the room.
"What… what's that sound?" she asked weakly, her fingers shaking as she released the sheets she'd balled into fists, chest aching like never before.
"It sounds like… like a baby."
"Andromeda… Andromeda left Teddy 'ere," came Fleur's stifled voice through the door. "She 'as gone to look for Tonks and Remus."
Mum disabled the wards on the door easily. Fleur swept into the room with a bundle of blankets in her arms. One tiny hand poked out from the swaddling.
Pushing herself into more of a sitting position, Ginny held out her arms expectantly. "Can I hold him? Just for a moment? I have another five minutes before the next contraction."
Mum frowned as Fleur settled baby Teddy into her arms. Ginny barely heard her Mum tell her she would have to start pushing shortly, she was so enthralled with Harry's godson's canary yellow hair. She nodded absentmindedly at her, running her fingertip over Teddy's soft cheeks and button nose.
"He's beautiful," she said, feeling very weepy indeed.
"'E is very beautiful," Fleur agreed, smiling. "And 'e will have a little friend to play with very soon!"
They cooed over Teddy until the vice-like pressure in her abdomen started up again. She passed him back to Fleur and bit back a shriek as her body stiffened up in pain.
Harry. Jamie. Harry. Jamie.
The thought of them kept her sane as an hour came and went, then another, and another. When she began to push, and the pain became unbearable, she pictured them in her head, and she swore the agony lessened just enough to keep her going.
The sky was just beginning to lighten outside when Ginny turned onto her side, exhaustion settling into her very bones, and cried in earnest.
"I can't. I can't anymore."
Every part of her hurt. Her hips felt like they'd fallen off of her body, the base of her spine was blazing like fire, and she felt like she'd been split apart and sewn back together a thousand times over.
"I know, I know," Mum said. She looked almost as tired as Ginny felt. "But you have to. You're almost there."
"I want Harry." It was not the first time she'd said it, and she had a feeling it would not be the last. "Please, just… find him, bring him here." He should be here. He should be here for this. "Jamie can wait."
"No," Mum said gently, rubbing Ginny's legs. "Jamie can't wait. Turn onto your back, sweetheart."
"No! No, I won't! Not until-"
"Yes," Mum said in a tone that brooked no argument, "you will. If you keep stalling, something might happen to Jamie, and how will you feel then? Hm?"
Panting and weeping, Ginny did as she was told, mustering all the strength she had left within her, and let out a bloodcurdling scream as she pushed through her next contraction. She did not hear the stampede of footsteps on the staircase, did not even hear him fall to his knees beside the bed, but the minute she felt his hand gripping hers and his lips in her hair, her sobs turned into ones of relief.
"You made it," she said faintly. She looked into Harry's bright green eyes and felt as if she'd been doused in cold water upon noting that they shone with nothing but raw pain and torment.
His hand tightened around hers. "I am." He brought her hand up to his mouth and kissed her knuckles. "I'm sorry it took so long."
"You're here now." The sun peeked through the trees and into the bedroom. "That's all that matters."
James Sirius Potter made his appearance at ten after six in the morning, howling at the top of his little lungs. Ginny wept buckets, equal parts overwhelmed with joy and relief as she scooped the flailing baby into her arms. Harry looked absolutely thunderstruck as Mum, with tears coursing down her cheeks, instructed his were to sever the cord.
"Congratulations, Harry," Ginny said tiredly, a smile on her face so wide she was sure her cheeks were going to split.
Harry looked at her with wild eyes, face pale beyond belief, and fell apart.
The sound of the sobs that wracked Harry's body rung over and over in Ginny's ears. She bowed her head over her suckling son, who took to her breast with a voracious appetite, and rocked her upper body backwards and forwards on the bed, shutting her eyes tightly. Just minutes ago, Harry had been bodily removed from the room by Dad and Ron. Her mind conjured the scene, and she forced her eyes open, unable to watch it play again behind her eyelids. The vision of James's serene little features melted away her every anxiety.
"He's beautiful," said Hermione.
She looked up at her friend, saw the burns on her body and the cuts on her face and the dust in her hair, and asked, "Is it over?"
Hermione turned her head to look out of the window. "Yes."
Ginny saw Hermione's eyes fill with tears. "Perhaps now is not the best time to-"
An earsplitting scream cracked the very air. Ginny and Hermione jumped, and James pulled away from her with a start. It came naturally to her, getting her son back to his meal, fusing with his white knitted cap, tucking him more deeply into his blankets. Only when she got the baby calm again did she become aware of her mother's cries once more, echoing down the hall and into her room.
She looked back up at Hermione, whose face broke. "I'm so sorry, Ginny."
She left James with Hermione with the excuse of needing the loo, descended the empty stairwell as quietly as possible, crossed the hall, stepped out into the garden, and took a deep breath of briny air. It didn't do much to dissipate the buzzing in her brain and the lead in her lungs, so on she continued.
The trek to the shoreline was exhausting. She felt as if her body had been beaten by several Bludgers; her legs trembled with every step, the muscles of her thighs and abdomen twitched in protest, swift and sharp flashes of pain flew up her spine. But then she was at the water's edge, and the waves lapped at her bare feet, icy cold and needle sharp.
This would numb her. This would be enough for now.
Without much thought she plodded into the bitter ocean, her whole body shivering, teeth chattering, mind freezing as it welcomed her in. Nightgown billowed around her, Ginny drew in a shuddering breath and submerged herself, the tears that stained her cheeks washing easily away.
Her brain seized up at once, and the presence of Fred and Remus and Tonks and Colin, who weighed so heavily upon her, instantly floated away as her body screamed and screamed get out, get out right now! It was only moments later when a gentle, warm pressure wrapped around her wrist and pulled. She did not protest, breaking the surface of the water spluttering, sobbing.
Fred and Remus and Tonks and Colin waltzed straight back into her throbbing head.
"I know," came Harry's voice, as anguished as the crashing waves. He gathered her close, and she curled into him, her nails digging into his shoulders as she struggled to breathe. "I know."
He held her tightly as he carried her back to dry land.
The dead were all buried with the week of the Battle, and Ginny attended as many of the ceremonies as possible, sometimes with James, sometimes without, always at Harry's side. Security was heavier anytime the three of them made an appearance, and the whispers and stares that followed them were mostly harmless and therefore ignored.
James was exactly forty-two days old when Harry registered his birth with the Ministry of Magic, the Burrow by that point as safe and secure as ever before.
"You were right," Harry said, toeing off his trainers and climbing into their double bed. He leaned over and kissed her, then stretched his arms out for James. "The press were a nightmare."
She carefully handed James over, who jerked his arms and legs and gurgled at the sight of his dad. She smiled. "I thought so. Reckon we'll be on the front page of the Prophet tomorrow morning."
Ginny wiggled down under the bright white duvet, watching Harry make faces at James. She breathed out a sigh, a mix of contentment and exhaustion, and felt her eyelids begin to droop.
"Feed him in half an hour? Yeah, 'course I will."
"And you know-?"
"That the milk is on the door of the icebox?"
She could no longer form coherent speech, and responded with a short, "Mmhm."
Ginny heard Harry's rumbling laugh and felt him sift his fingers gently through her hair. "Mummy is so silly, isn't she? We'll be right here when she wakes up, all in one piece. Right, Jamie?"
The cooing of her son and the soft humming of his father lulled her into the sweetest sleep.
A/N: I did not intend for this one-shot to be so damn long, but every time I went about editing, I added something else instead! And still, there are so many things I had to scrap (for instance, I really wanted to mention that it was Andromeda who killed Bellatrix, but the scene just didn't fit anywhere). Anyway, I loved writing this, and I could probably go on and on with it, to be honest. Maybe I will in the future, or maybe I won't. For now, though, this story is complete, and I'm happy with that. Thanks to every reader, follower and reviewer! I hope you enjoyed it!