Ginny finished buttoning James into his coat. 'Stay right there,' she told him, 'Mummy just needs to find her boots…' Ginny's voice trailed off as she gazed around the kitchen. Her boots weren't by the door, where they should have been. Now was not the time to mislay anything. She really didn't feel well. She had a cold or the flu, or something, she just couldn't shake. She wasn't madly running around the British Isles lately, as she was only covering the Harpies these days, and most of the places they went were on the Floo. But she just felt done in all the time. Ginny blew a strand of hair out of her face in frustration. She had to hurry. James was being unusually patient, but she knew it wouldn't last very long. Think, Weasley, she thought to herself. Where was the last place you saw the bloody things? Ginny mentally retraced her steps from yesterday evening. She Flooed to the Prophet office from Holyhead, left her story with her editor, Apparated to the front garden, walked in the front door… Ginny strode into the hallway and saw her boots lying next to the front door. She sighed in annoyance at herself. She picked up the shoes and headed back for the kitchen quickly. James could get into mischief almost as fast as the twins.
To her relief, James was standing quietly by the window, nose pressed to the glass, watching as fat flakes of snow drifted to the ground. She shoved her feet into the boots and tied the laces. After checking that her wand was in her coat pocket, she picked up James. 'Are you ready to go see Auntie Hermione and Grandmum?' she asked him. At dinner Sunday, Hermione and Mum offered to take James for the day Saturday, after taking in Ginny's wan appearance.
'Yes!' James' face lit up. Grandmum meant chocolate biscuits.
Ginny made her way to the kitchen's fireplace and threw a handful of Floo powder in the flames. 'The Burrow,' she said. James began to giggle as they spun through the flames.
Stepping out of the fireplace, Ginny's nose was assaulted by the aromas of roasting chicken, apple pie, bread, and vegetable soup. She dropped James on the sitting room floor, and bolted for the bathroom. She heard James begin to work his way up to a good wail, but she just couldn't care right now. She slammed the door closed and leaned over the sink, retching. 'Ginny?' Molly knocked on the door. 'Are you all right, dear?'
'Yes, Mum. I'll be out in a minute.' Ginny splashed some water on her face and opened the door. Molly stood in the hallway, in her flowered apron, wand sticking out of the pocket, James snuffling in her arms.
'Let's get you some tea, dear,' Molly said mildly. Molly was a bit worried about Ginny lately. Ginny headed back down the stairs, hoping she didn't give Mum a repeat performance. Molly gestured to the sitting room. 'Go sit down. I'm going to let your father spend some quality time with the wee heathen.'
Ginny sank on the sofa, leaned back, and closed her eyes with a sigh. Nothing tasted good, or even stayed down. She was still exhausted, even after sleeping for twelve hours last night. She cracked open an eyelid when she heard the clink of a tray of tea and toast. 'Eat this,' Molly handed her a slice of dry toast, and a cup of tea. 'Ginny, I know you're a grown woman, and I don't mean to pry,' – Ginny snorted – 'but is there something you need to tell me?' Ginny stared at her mother blankly. Molly sighed. Generally Ginny wasn't this obtuse. That was Ron's area. 'Are you pregnant?' Molly asked bluntly. Ginny paled. She had thought about it, briefly a couple of weeks ago, and dismissed the idea.
'I… Uh…' Frantically, Ginny began to count backwards. 'Damn,' she whispered. 'Mum, I need to go.' She stood suddenly and Apparated to London.
Ginny checked her pocket for Muggle money. She was in the neighborhood where she and Harry first lived after the war. There was a chemist just down the street. She stood outside the door and took a deep breath. Standing out in the snow wasn't going to make this any easier. She pushed the door open, and almost furtively made her way to the correct aisle. She gazed at the selection in bewilderment. Harry had bought the last round. Ginny found the box that looked like the one she had used with James. She paid for it, tucked the bag into her coat pocket, and Apparated home.
Ginny appeared at the back door of the house and went inside. She toed her boots off at the door, and tore upstairs to the master bedroom. She laid her coat over the foot of the bed, and took the bag out of the pocket, carrying it into the bathroom like it would explode if she jarred it. She placed the box on the counter and hands shaking opened the box.
Five minutes later, Ginny had stuffed the box and paper bag into the rubbish bin, and went to sit in her favorite armchair in the corner of the bedroom. They had not planned this. Not having another one so soon. She picked up a photograph that sat on the small table next to the chair. It was a picture of Harry, James, and her right after James' birth. She traced the curve of James' head with a fingertip. Ginny steeled herself for the onslaught of questions, picked up her coat, and went back to the Burrow. And her mum.
'Mum?' Ginny called as she walked through the door.
'In the kitchen, dear.'
Ginny slid into the chair she had used as a child and propped her head on a hand. 'Mum? '
'Can I ask you something?'
'Of course, dear.'
'How did you do it?'
'Us. All together like you did.' Ginny's voice trembled.
'Oh.' Molly sat in the chair next to Ginny's. 'It wasn't easy. Not at first. I wasn't much older than you were when you were married. And,' she added dryly, 'I'm sure you can count.' A faint pink tinge stole over Molly's cheeks. Ginny pretended to have suddenly gained great interest in her fingernails. Molly cleared her throat and continued, 'We had Bill, then Charlie. By the time Percy came along, those two were old enough to do enough for themselves. By the time you were a year old, Bill was at school.' Molly shrugged. 'My mum was still alive when Bill and Charlie were born, so she helped out some. I definitely did not do it all on my own.
'Honestly, if I had to do it over again, I'd do it in a heartbeat.'
'I'm not sure I can live up to that,' Ginny mumbled, tracing the pattern made by the wood grain of the tabletop.
'Who would expect you to?' Ginny just shrugged in reply and resumed her tracing the tabletop. Molly got up to fetch a pitcher of pumpkin juice, and pushed a glass to Ginny. 'Ginny, look at me.' Ginny's eyes remained resolutely fixed on the table's scrubbed surface. 'Ginevra Potter, look at me,' Molly said, with a hint of command that only a mother could provide. Ginny met Molly's gaze and felt tears well up before she could stop them.
'What if I mess up?' Ginny whispered, before her throat closed with the tension of trying to keep from sobbing all over her mother's shoulder.
'Gin, we all make mistakes with our children.' Molly thumbed some of the tears from Ginny's cheeks.
'You didn't,' Ginny choked. Molly began to laugh.
'Yes, I did,' she gasped, between whoops of laughter. It took Molly a good several minutes to calm down enough to elaborate. 'I've never told you, have I?'
'Told me what?' Ginny asked warily.
'When Bill was two, and Charlie was only a couple of weeks old, we went to Diagon Alley to go Christmas shopping. It was probably the most insane thing I've ever done as a mother,' she reflected meditatively. 'I had stopped in a shop to purchase some wool for your father's jumper, and took a long time to decide on a color. I paid for the skein and Flooed back home. Without Bill.
'I didn't realize Bill wasn't with me until I put Charlie down in the cradle for a nap. I owled your father in hysterics. To this day, I'm not sure he could actually read the note. I snatched up Charlie, who was sound asleep at that point, and did not appreciate being awakened like that, and let me know. I Flooed back to Diagon Alley, Charlie howling at the top of his lungs, and retraced every step in every shop I'd been in that morning.
'I found Bill curled up in a corner of the fabric shop, sound asleep.' Molly chuckled quietly. 'I'm not sure who was more upset. Charlie or me. Bill didn't seem to realize anything had happened. I was convinced I was the worst mother, ever.
'Then there was the time Percy, the twins, Ron, and you all had dragon pox at the same time.' Molly shuddered at the memory. 'But that's a story for another time,' she added hastily, catching sight of the alarm on Ginny's face.
'Do you think it's wrong of me? To...' Ginny trailed off.
'To?' Molly prompted.
'Not stay home with James?' The tabletop was fascinating once again. Molly studied the tense set of Ginny's shoulders.
'Ginny, do you think I disapprove?' Ginny only nodded. 'Because I stayed home with you lot?' Again, the wordless nod. 'Why would I disapprove of your working?' This time, Molly received a shrug as a reply. 'Ginny, it's what I wanted to do. You are doing what you want to do with your life.' Ginny gave a half-shrug. 'Ginny? Would you be happy staying home with James full time?' Ginny looked at Molly, tears trickling down her face again.
'No,' she whispered. 'Does that make me a bad mother?' she asked, stricken.
'It doesn't make Katie a bad mother. It won't make Hermione a bad mother. And it doesn't make you a bad mother. There have always been witches who were working mothers. You are not the first and you will not be the last.' Molly pulled Ginny into an embrace. 'So, is this the only thing bothering you?'
'No. Yes. No. Oh, I don't know!' Ginny's eyes were drawn to the kitchen window. She could see her father using magic to sculpt a snowman for James. James' giggles floated back to the house. Hermione had just Apparated outside the garden gate and began to help with the snowman by conjuring a hat and scarf for him. 'Can James stay with you tonight?' she asked, without thinking. 'Harry and I will pick him up at lunch tomorrow.'
'Of course. Your father will be delighted to have another boy around for the night. If you're not careful, James will be going home with a few of your father's plugs in his pockets,' Molly sighed.
'Thanks Mum. I'll be back with some of his things.'
'Don't bother, we've got plenty here. I think George and Katie might have left a few things of Fred and Jacob's last week. Those two might give their father a run for his money. Just go home and get some rest. You look like you could use it.' Molly gave Ginny a look that made her want to squirm. She had this knack of being able to see through them.
Ginny rose from the table. 'I'm going to go tell James goodbye, then head home.' Ginny wrapped her arms around her mother. 'Thanks, Mum,' she said.
Harry opened the back door of the house and slipped his scarf from his neck and draped it over one of the hooks by the door. 'Ginny?' he called, as he unbuttoned his coat. Nothing answered him but the echoes of the empty, silent house. Harry spied the folded sheet of parchment sitting on the kitchen table, with his name on the front. Harry, I took James to Mum and Dad's. I'll be back before dinner. G.
Just as well she's not here, Harry thought to himself. He'd spent the morning and early afternoon with Teddy, teaching him how to fly and as a result smelled rather like a wet dog. He needed a shower.
Harry slowly walked up the stairs to the second floor, peeling his jumper off. He entered Ginny's and his bedroom, and sat on the foot of the bed to unlace his boots. Something was eating at Ginny. She'd been far too quiet lately. Barefoot and clad only in his boxers, Harry padded into the bathroom. He turned on the hot water tap, and waited with only a bit of impatience for the water to heat up. Harry glanced around the bathroom. The rubbish bin was usually on the other side of the toilet. He bent to nudge it back to its proper location, when he saw the tip of a brightly colored cardboard box peeping from a brown paper bag stuffed into the bin. Frowning, he pulled the box out so he could examine it. He hadn't done much more than pull the bag off the box before his eyes widened in something akin to shock and all the air left his chest with an audible whoosh. His hands were shaking with anticipation as he searched for the evidence. She had crammed it back into the box. Harry's mouth dropped open in a perfect 'O'.
Hearing the distinct buzz of Ginny's signal as the house's Apparition detector recognized her; Harry swiftly stuffed the bag back into the bin, and jumped into the shower. He yelped a bit, because by now, the water was scalding, and he hadn't turned on the cold tap to bring the temperature down to something less dangerous. Harry stood under the spray for a long time, trying to figure out how to get Ginny to confess, before smacking himself in the forehead. The problem with working with Dark wizards is that you start to believe everyone needs to be coerced and manipulated into confessions, Potter, he told himself sternly. The best way to deal with Ginny was to be honest. He twisted the taps off and slid the towel off the bar. Harry dried the skin behind his ears, between his fingers and toes, and even that bit behind his knees he usually just glanced over. He even used the now-damp towel to vigorously dry his hair. He was a master procrastinator when he wanted to be.
Harry hung the towel over the bar behind the tub and crossed into the bedroom. He wasn't planning on going anywhere, so he pulled on a pair of worn pajama bottoms and a Harpies t-shirt from when Ginny still played for them. He went back down to the kitchen. It had been a long while since lunch, and he was hungry. Playing with nine-year old godsons had that effect on a person. Ginny was sitting at the table, scowling at the wall calendar. 'Mind if I have a snack?' Harry asked mildly. Ginny shook her head, still scowling at the offending calendar. Harry looked over her shoulder to see what she was scowling at, and saw she had turned it to August. 'Planning your birthday party already?' Ginny jumped.
'Not yet,' she replied absently. Harry picked up an apple from the bowl on the counter and took it back to the table. He took a bite and offered it to Ginny. She took it from his hand, and looked at it, suddenly ravenous. She bit into the crisp flesh of the apple, the sweet-tart juice filling her mouth and passed it back to Harry.
They passed the apple back and forth in companionable silence until nothing but the core remained. Harry lightly tossed it into the rubbish bin, without looking, grinning when it sailed neatly into it. 'Clown,' Ginny murmured, momentarily distracted from her thoughts.
'We need to talk,' he said abruptly. Ginny's head snapped up and even though she was already pale, what little color drained from her face. Great, Potter, scare the woman off, Harry grumbled to himself.
'Not now, Harry. Please?' Ginny pushed her chair away from the table and nervously left the kitchen. Harry followed her, determined to have it out of her before dinner.
'Yes, Ginny. Now.' Ginny was halfway up the stairs. 'We need to talk about that package that's in the rubbish bin in our bathroom.' She stopped and dropped to a riser halfway up the staircase.
'You saw it?' she asked weakly.
'Yeah. And I don't understand why you didn't feel you could tell me something like that!' he shouted.
'I didn't know myself until one-thirty this afternoon, you prat!' she yelled down the stairs at him.
'Oh.' Speechless, Harry found himself striding up the stairs to his wife. He crouched next to her and when she didn't push him away for being an insensitive git, he put an arm around her shoulders. 'How long have you even thought you might be…?' He let the rest of the question spiral off into the silence. Ginny sighed and leaned into his chest.
'Two weeks ago, I thought maybe, but it didn't feel like it did with James, so I thought I wasn't and that it was a flu I couldn't shake.' Ginny shrugged helplessly. 'But when I took him over to Mum after lunch, I barely had time to put him down before I threw up in the bathroom sink. Mum actually sort of pushed me into finding out.'
'Wait, where is James?' Harry looked for the miniature whirlwind. 'It's too damn quiet in here.'
'I left him with Mum and Dad. Mum thought you and I should do this without getting interrupted every three seconds.'
'Oh, okay.' Harry settled back against the staircase. 'So?' he prompted.
'So… I went that chemist near our first flat and, well… you saw it.' Harry just nodded. 'Do you really think we can do this?' she asked in a small voice, an echo of what she had said when they found out she was pregnant with James.
'Yes,' he said firmly, 'I do.' He pulled her closer. 'Look at it this way,' Harry said conversationally, 'the closer they are in age, the sooner they all go to Hogwarts, and the sooner we get the house to ourselves again.' Ginny was silent. Harry knew that pensive look that came over her face every so often. 'Hey,' he said, gently tugging a lock of her hair, 'what's going on in there?'
'When did I become this weepy uncertain girl?' Ginny wasn't sure what scandalized her more – being weepy and uncertain, or being such a girl.
'Oh, please. You were this weepy and girlie when you were carrying James, Gin,' Harry smirked, dodging a punch from Ginny. 'That should have been your first clue.'
Ginny stood and stretched, and chose to ignore Harry's comment. 'I'm going to go have a nap before dinner.' She held out her hand to Harry. 'Come with me?' Harry hauled himself to his feet and took Ginny's small hand in his larger one. He allowed her to lead him into their bed and he automatically spooned her out of long habit. Ginny was asleep in minutes, worn out by her day. Harry stayed awake much longer, his hand spread over Ginny's stomach. Do you want kids? she had asked him so long ago. Yes, Ginevra, I do, he thought.
Harry didn't sleep very long. He never did in the afternoons. It made him groggy for the rest of the day. He quietly slipped out of bed, and went back to the kitchen. He stared into the depths of the refrigerator, unsure of what to cook for dinner, as Ginny's eating habits had become somewhat erratic. He frowned as the memory of what she did eat when she was pregnant with James crossed his mind. Something simple, then, he thought. Reminding himself to thank Molly for teaching him how to cook with magic the summer after the war, Harry added vegetables to one of their larger pots, and set it to simmer. The soup would be ready when Ginny woke up.
He went into the sitting room. A night without James meant a night where he and Ginny could actually spend some time together without trying to corral the tiny fiend. Harry shook his head. He hoped Hogwarts would still be standing after James and his cousins got through with it. Fred and Jacob would be bad enough, but it seemed James was going to live up to his grandfather's legacy. Harry loved his son more than his own life, and would throw himself in front of a Killing curse to save him, but it was nice to have a few hours without James.
Harry ran a finger down the spines of the shiny DVD cases. Ginny had embraced his love of old films and cherished the time they could spend together watching them. Breakfast at Tiffany's or Roman Holiday? Ginny loved both of them. Her choice, then. He put them both of the coffee table. He looked up at the ceiling, as he heard a thump come from the upper floor.
Ginny woke up and stretched. Feeling rested, and restless, she swung her legs from under the quilt and stood up. It was halfway through January. She had just about seven months left. Sitting in here isn't going to get anything ready, she thought. She walked down the hallway, passing James' room. The next closest room was across the hall, the door just past James'. She pushed the door open, and went to stand in the middle of the room, the only light drifting in through the uncurtained windows.
She ran her fingertips over the dust that lay on the curves of the rocking chair that sat in the middle of the room. They had moved it out of James' room a few months ago. The last time Ginny had tried to rock him to sleep; he pushed himself off her shoulder, looked at her with his big dark brown eyes, and said, 'No, Mummy. No rock.' Ginny had stared at him in open-mouthed shock, before rising from the chair. She kissed him and deposited him into his cot, handed him his favorite stuffed dragon, and dragged the rocker into the room across the hall. Looking around the room, Ginny began to visualize what it might look like. She hurried into the bedroom to retrieve her wand, and went back into what would be the new baby's room.
Ginny mulled over what color the walls would be. James' were the same soft butter-yellow shade from the other bedroom in their old flat. She waved her wand at one of the walls. Green. The color of new grass in the paddock behind the Burrow in the spring. Ginny nodded in satisfaction, and changed the remaining three walls to match the first. She turned in a small circle, searching for the perfect location for the rocker. There, in the corner by one of the windows. She levitated the rocker to its corner and let it fall with a muffled thump.
Harry burst into the room. He stopped in the doorway, taking in the color of the walls before he turned his stern gaze to Ginny. 'I thought you were sleeping,' he said. Ginny just raised an eyebrow at him in response.
'I just didn't want to leave things to the last minute.' She waved a hand at the walls. 'Do you like them?' Harry came to stand behind her, and wrapped his arms around her waist. He thoughtfully examined the color.
'Yeah. I do.' He sounded surprised.
'Gee. It's nice to know you have faith in my ability to choose a paint color.'
'I do! Just why green?' he asked curiously.
'Think I'm going to turn our kid into a Slytherin?' she scoffed.
'No! There's nothing wrong with being a Slytherin, anyway. And stop answering my questions with a question.'
Ginny sighed. 'Truthfully?'
Ginny held up a lock of her own flaming red hair. 'Green is one of the few colors that don't clash horribly with red hair.' She let the strands fall back over her shoulder. 'And it's not pink or blue.' Ginny mock-shuddered in revulsion at the traditional colors for babies.
'I like the chair over there,' Harry commented. 'You can see out into the back garden.'
'I know,' Ginny replied smugly.
A thought suddenly occurred to Harry. 'When?' he asked simply.
'August, I think. Between your birthday and mine.'
'You know, if we keep going at this rate, your mum will have to start having one big birthday bash.' Harry started counting off. 'You, me, James, Hermione, Percy, the new baby. Am I missing anyone?'
'I don't think so.'
The scent of vegetable soup wafted up the stairs. As with the apple she had shared with Harry earlier, Ginny was suddenly ravenous. 'Please tell me that's dinner,' she begged.
'Why? Are you hungry or something?'
'You know, Harry, the sofa is quite comfortable,' Ginny said idly. Harry just rolled his eyes. He knew from the single time Ginny had made him sleep on the sofa, she ended up joining him with the excuse she couldn't sleep without him anymore.
'Maybe it's dinner. Or maybe it's a snack for you. I dunno.' Harry squinted at her. 'Are you going to eat like you did with James? If it's not nailed to the table and all that?'
Ginny flushed. 'I'll nail you to the table,' she muttered darkly, as she flounced out of the room and down the stairs. Harry's shout of laughter followed her down the stairs.
'You know you love me, Ginny!'
A/N: I mentioned at the end of ch. 6 of Questions and Answers that I was going to do Al and Lily's births. I've had this chapter collecting dust in my hard drive for ages.
This one isn't going to be nearly as fluffy as Firewhisky Advice, even though there's a fair amount of fluff in this bit. It will probably fall between Burning Down the House and Firewhisky Advice in terms of tone.