It was the color of the sky that blurred all around her as she flew miles and miles around the pitch, dodging Bludgers and clutching the Quaffle protectively against her until the second she hurled it past the Keeper and through one of the hoops.
It was the color of her mother's favorite jumper; Mum had worn it ever since she was a little girl and though the hue had faded from a royal navy to a light periwinkle over the years, Mum still slipped into it whenever she sat down to knit in the evening.
It was the color of her father's eyes. No quilt in the world, woven or conjured from thin air, could ever warm her body the way her heart warmed whenever her father's eyes lit up when he smiled at her.
The jewel of her most prized necklace…the pansies her neighbor grew in the pot from her windowsill…Tonk's hair in the only wedding photograph they had of her…every single solitary stick figure in Victoire's drawings…the rich, fresh blueberries that she had eaten every morning for the past few weeks. They were all the same color.
Ginny Weasley had never taken the time to stop and realize how surrounded she was by the lovely shade in her life, both in memories and the here and now.
Until the moment she stared down into the small cauldron bubbling softly on the counter in her bathroom and realized that her potion had turned that shimmering, shiny indigo. It turned Ginny into something she had never seriously considered she be:
That was what the color blue would always remind her of now. The day she discovered that she was expecting a child.
Slipping down heavily onto the cool onyx tiled floor in a haze, she leaned her forehead against the lip of the spotless porcelain tub and bit back a desperate sob. How could she have let this happen?
It was the blueberries that had been her first clue. She had never had a taste for them growing up, despite her mother's threats and her father's bribes whenever blueberry muffins were all that sat on the breakfast table in the morning. There was a tartness to them that Ginny could not stomach. But one morning, enjoying the lovely weather on a rare day off while strolling a few blocks from her apartment through the farmer's market that had sprung open when the last snow melted, she had spotted the small stand with the wooden buckets overflowing with the tiny fruit. The scent intoxicated her and she was instantly ravenous. Curious, she nonetheless bought three handfuls and went on her way; they were gone thirty minutes later when she reached her front door.
The pattern repeated itself often as May slid into June until one morning, searching in her kitchen through one her mother's old cookbooks for a blueberry tart recipe, she glanced up at her clock. She wasn't due at the Burrow for Sunday lunch for a few more hours and she wanted to surprise her mother with a bit of culinary flair. After all, her kitchen was outfitted with all the latest cooking gadgets, both Muggle and magical. Why not put them to good use? Before she started gathering ingredients, her eye caught the calendar and the day's date. But it wasn't until her hand was on the refrigerator door that some strange synapse in her brain fired and Ginny realized she was missing something else besides her former aversion to blueberries.
Now, an hour later, after sending an owl to her parents feigning a last minute practice session with the Harpies and apologizing for her absence, she knelt down on the floor of her lush bathroom as her thoughts raced across her mind with the speed of a Snitch. There was no rhyme or reason to them, they just swirled into a dizzying cloud of chaos that made her ears ring and her hands tremble:
How will I keep playing Quidditch…Is it a boy or a girl…How could I have forgotten the bloody Contraceptive Charm after all those lectures from Hermione after she had that scare last year…What should I stop eating or start eating…What if its twins or triplets or whatever four babies are…Godric, I'd use an Unforgivable for a pint of Fire Whiskey right now…How many curse words will Mum be able to fit into one breath after I tell her…Should I let her be there for the birth…Do I have to be there for the birth…Why did Fleur say Vic cried almost nonstop those first months…Are my brothers are going to go absolutely mental…Am I going mental…
On and on the carousel of questions went until finally she landed on perhaps the most important question of all. She snapped her head up from the tub so quickly that a wave of dizziness crested over her and she fell onto her back. She laid there and stared up at the intricate patterns of white dots on the midnight black ceiling that the interior decorator had personally charmed to glow softly as flickering stars when the lights were dimmed. Soaking in the tub after a grueling day of practices or snuggled up in the warm bubbles with her boyfriend on one of the rare nights they found themselves able to spend time with each other, Ginny would stare up at those twinkling stars and feel such a wave of contentment wash over her, she would sometimes feel a shiver course through her body. In those instances her life was perfect.
Now the shiver she felt was fear. Fear of telling the man she loved what she had let happen, what her carelessness had caused, and what it meant for the future.
She closed her eyes as the tears spilled down her cheeks.
Look what she had done to them, to him. And after all Lionel Dresden had done for her life.
She could just see his handsome face now. The shock and disbelief. The uncertainty and the panic. The fear.
But most importantly, the disappointment in the fact that their relationship was about to become much more public than he wanted it to be. Not that she begrudged him his privacy. He had so little of it.
Lionel Dresden was a wizard of great power and influence, known through much of the world for his development of the most innovative potions in the world; one drop of any number of his creations could bring a person up to the highest of high joys and another could mire someone into the darkest depths of despair. Aurors, wizarding royals, Quidditch stars, and every Merlin and Mary on the street waited with bated breath to try his latest concoction for the last five years now. And the potions wunderkind that was Lionel Dresden never disappointed the public with his offerings. Or his flashy lifestyle. Or his devilish charm. Or his hypnotic Southern accent. Or his knee knocking, skirt dropping smile.
They had met by pure chance two years ago, when Ginny had played a series of exhibition matches in the States in an attempt to raise their rather meager Quidditch profile before the World Cup. Lionel was attending a banquet held in honor of her and other stars from Wimborne, Kenmare, and Portree. After they were briefly introduced by their host, the spark between them when they shook hands nearly caused Ginny to combust on the spot; the two of them found a secluded a corner and spent much of the night talking and arguing the global popularity of Quidditch compared to the rabid devotion Yanks like Lionel himself had for something called Bockling. It was similar to Quidditch but the players in Bockling wore much more protective gear and took much longer time outs.
"Now tell me this," she had said as she leaned closer to him from across the small table they were sitting at. The dark room was low lit and Ginny could just make out every fleck of gold in his shoulder length blonde hair. "In Bockling, do the players raise their hand to ask for permission to use the loo or do they wear diapers that get changed during one of those forty or so timeouts per game?"
Lionel had chuckled good naturedly, the deep throated laughter rolling past his full lips and straight down to Ginny's toes. "Well my oh my," he said, leaning his head against his fist and staring at her intently, as if she were a meal to be devoured. "We are a feisty one, aren't we Miss Weasley."
"I'm a Quidditch player," she smiled as she slinked back into her chair and curled a lock of her ginger hair lightly around her finger. "I have to be feisty to win in every match I play. It's just who I am."
His brown eyes darkened into pools of liquid chocolate. He took a sip from his tumbler before he asked, "So tell me this: are you this feisty in all aspects of your life or only when you're flying through the air on that broomstick of yours? The one that most men in this world would give up a few limbs to be?"
"Wouldn't you like to now," she said with a saucy grin, her heart fluttering rapidly as her body began to thrum.
"Now darling, you have no idea what I'd give to know the answer to that question."
He didn't have to give much; Ginny had gone up with him to his room only an hour later. Words were few and far between them for the rest of the night.
When they woke the next morning, splayed among the satin sheets, he traced a pattern of freckles on her stomach before he leaned down to brush his lips against hers.
"Very, very feisty. Just as I suspected," he murmured, his mouth a hairs breadth away from her. Ginny simply grinned and ran her fingers through his silky locks before she pulled him down and crushed their lips together. It felt wonderful to be so open and carefree around a man again. The only other person she had ever felt this way with…
Harry is the past, she thought distractedly around the tiny ache in her chest that always blossomed whenever his name or his face came to her mind. Leave him there and enjoy what you have now.
She clutched Lionel even tighter to her. There weren't many words between them that morning either.
Their relationship was delightfully fun and deliciously passionate. They laughed and loved with the ease of breathing, even with the wizarding press constantly on Lionel's trail. There was no wizard in the world the public craved more than Lionel Dresden. He was adored by all but their adoration could become a dangerous frenzy at the drop of the hat. Mobs could swell around him if he left a restaurant or he could be chased through the sky as he left an event. It could be suffocating. Because of this, Lionel insisted that their relationship be kept as secret as possible.
Her friends and family knew about them but had only seen them together a handful of times. Their approval of Lionel and his jet set, lavish lifestyle was grudging, at the very best. Ginny had never even been photographed with him, always leaving or arriving places separately from him. Whenever the press asked either of them about the state of their relationship, they always denied there was one. The strict parameters gave them privacy but with their hectic schedules, it was hard to find time for one another. Lionel traveled the globe to research materials for his potions and promote his growing and profitable empire. He didn't have a permanent address, just a revolving door of hotel rooms and rented houses; Ginny's career was based in Ireland and she wasn't even able to afford a flat of her own on the small stipend of pay that was her Harpies salary. Quidditch players may make millions of Galleons for the teams' owners but they themselves were not entitled to a slice of that lucrative pie. She'd lived in the team dormitory in Holyhead with three teammates. Until last fall when Lionel had offered to rent her an apartment in London.
She resisted. She resisted with every fiber of her being. Despite how far gone she was for him, it wasn't in her nature to be coddled and taken care of. But Lionel battled back against her stubbornness with sweet words and soft caresses in the night: telling her how he hated to see her worry over money; how he wanted to help ease her burden; how he wanted her to focus on her career as a Harpy as opposed to getting a second job during the off season, like a lot of players did. But he could have saved himself the trouble of the words by simply doing what he did six months ago when he surprised Ginny by taking her on what she thought was an afternoon lunch at an exclusive café in London. Instead, Lionel took her to the posh two bedroom apartment. The flat had high ceilings and huge picture windows, a marble fireplace, and an enormous walk-in closet in the master bedroom that Lionel had already filled with garment bags, stacks of shoeboxes, and a brightly wrapped package in the shape of a broom nestled in the corner. The building was a stone's throw away from the Leaky Cauldron so she wouldn't be cut off from the magical world but right in the heart of London so she could enjoy all the city had to offer.
It was perfect. Too perfect to be real.
"Lionel…there's no way I could accept this," Ginny said breathlessly as she walked into the bathroom and caught sight of the oval shaped bathtub. A person could swim laps in it. "This is too much."
"Darling, it isn't but if it makes you feel better, it's not just for you," he said easily, propping himself against the bathroom door jam. "Technically this place is mine but with my schedule, you'll be the one here most of the time. I'm doing more work in Europe than I am in America nowadays. With Voldermort done and gone, people want to enjoy life again. My potions can help them do that. So I'll need a base here; London's as good as Paris or Madrid and it'll mean you and I have more time for each other." He sidled up behind her and pulled her back against his chest, dropping a kiss on her shoulder blade. "Alone." He nipped gently at her neck, her pulse racing against his lips. "Without anyone to bother us or distract us," he whispered into her ear as she let out a small moan of pleasure. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she melted back into him even further.
"It would be nice to Apparate somewhere without worrying about if a reporter is going to catch us," Ginny agreed quietly, her resolve faltering with every kiss. What power he had over her! He could make her give up her deepest held beliefs and principles with just a smile and a few words. If she didn't love him so much, it might frighten her. She felt him grin against the back of her neck at her acquiesce. "I just worry that you'll be sick of me after a month."
"Please," he said turning her to face him. "You'll be kicking my behind out of here after two weeks." His strong hands cupped her bottom and hoisted her up against the tall countertop.
"Nine days," she countered as her fingers worked on the buttons of his shirt and as the often did, the words ended for quite awhile.
"This can't be happening," Ginny said to herself in the present. She didn't know how long she lay there; the window she could see from the corner of her eye showed the sky had darkened considerably but she suddenly jolted upright when she heard the familiar crack of Apparition from the front hallway.
"Ginny! You home, darling?" Lionel called out in his familiar drawl.
"Yeah," she called out feebly as she stood on jellified legs. "I'll…I'll be right out. Give me a moment." She quickly banished the evidence of the pregnancy test and studied herself critically in the mirror.
"You can do this," she whispered to her reflection with as much confidence as she could muster. "He never said he didn't want marriage or children. Just go out there and tell him as soon as you can. Get it over and done with and move on from there." Nodding heavily, she turned on the tap and splashed a bit of cold water on her face to clean herself up. Gripping the bronze doorknob tightly, Ginny sucked in another deep breath and wrenched the door open.
Lionel was standing in the kitchen with his back to her, his robe tossed on a chair. He looked as if was pouring a drink. He turned his head slightly when he heard her approach.
"So how was your fam-"
"I'm pregnant," she exclaimed, in what could charitably be called a shriek. For a moment, all the tension left her body until she took in her first breath. Then her muscles tightened unbearably as she waited for him to respond.
He didn't speak at first but he put down whatever he was pouring. She wanted so badly for him to turn around and look at her, to make a sound of some sort recognition but all he did was stare at the black chrome cabinet in front of him.
Please, please, please don't hate me, she thought desperately as a fresh batch of tears tingled behind her eyes.
Finally, he turned around and seeing the trembling, on-the-brink state she was in, he walked over to her.
"Are you sure?" he asked calmly, putting his hands on her shoulders.
She nodded mutely.
Instead of any of the range of reactions she had imagined from him, his actual one was a shock to her. Lionel smiled gently and pulled her into his arms. He reached up to stroke her long, messy hair and it was wonderful. Like coming up for air after being underwater. She shut her eyes and sagged against him in relief as he rocked them slowly back and forth.
"It's gonna be all right," he whispered coolly into her ear. "There's a healer I know here in London. He's very good and very discreet. We'll have this all taken care of by the end of tomorrow."
Ginny froze. Her eyes snapped open and she blinked against his shoulder. "Taken care of?"
She stared at him in shock as he pulled back and brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes. "Don't you worry, it's perfectly safe," he assured her. "They've got it in a potion form now. One vial of it down the hatch and a few days later, it's like nothing ever happened."
"You…you want me to…" she stuttered. The words couldn't come out, couldn't even form in her mind.
"Why wouldn't you? Why would you want to give up your career right now?" he asked her curiously, the hint of smile playing at his lips. Normally, the look turned Ginny into something akin to a schoolgirl but now the almost smile hit her like ice cold water as the words that went with it processed in her brain. "It makes no sense at all. You're in line to be on the World Cup team in a couple of years. Can't do that if you're getting up five times a night to change diapers and offer nourishment, now can you. And me? Darling, I'm a lot of things in this world but the one thing I am not now nor will I ever be is someone's Daddy. That just ain't gonna happen."
He cupped his hands behind her neck and stared deep into her eyes. Ginny had the most violent urge to pull away from him but she was shocked to the point of numbness. What on Earth was happening? In all the nightmarish scenarios that had run through her head on the bathroom floor, she had never come close to this one.
Before she could open her mouth to try and rebut him, he started speaking again, his tone still light and composed but his eyes were rapidly darkening and not in the way Ginny was used to seeing them.
"Now let's look at this logically, Ginevra. I don't want a child in my life. And even if I did, though it kills me to say this, you would not be my choice for a mother." Her heart lurched and her breath hitched at his words. The tears pooled in her eyes and she saw him lean forward to kiss a few away. It disgusted her but she was frozen in shock. "You're a wonderful lady: gorgeous, smart, funny, and you've got a sexiness to you that can't be bottled and believe me, if it could be, I could do it. But one thing you are not is motherly. You are impatient, you got the temper of a rattlesnake, and you have a tendency to put yourself before anyone else. Does that sound to you like someone who should have a baby?"
Every word was a knife straight to her soul. She wanted to scream at him, strangle him until he couldn't make a sound, and deny every thing that had come out of his mouth. But has he looked at her with raised eyebrows, she thought back hard on his observations of her that he had gleaned from the last couple of years.
Impatient…fine maybe I don't like to sit around and wait for things to get done but a bad temper? Okay so I'm a little free willing with the Bat Bogey hex and the cursing but I'm definitely not selfish…I don't put…Just because I'd rather go to parties than to my parents…I don't pass the Quaffle more because Gina and Greta have no aim…my friends know they can…I've never asked anyone to put me over anything else…
And suddenly, she was thrust back in time. She squeezed her eyes shut and saw it as clearly as it were an hour ago:
Four days before she was to leave for Harpies training camp. Standing at the Burrow gates across from him and his bandaged arm hanging limply at his side. She saw the hurt fill his beautiful, haunted green eyes at her words but plowed ahead even as she felt her own heart wrench into two.
"You can be the most important person in my life," she remembered she had said tightly through her own tears, "or you can be an Auror. But you can't be both, Harry."
He'd chosen being an Auror. Because she asked him to. Because she asked him to put her first over something he had wanted to be for years.
Opening her eyes again, Lionel's handsome blurred grotesquely in her watery vision. For some reason, her mind thought of the ghostly handsome form of Tom Riddle and she shuddered involuntarily.
"Can you be your mother?" she heard him ask as if he were far away. "Can you love like her, with her patience and her devotion? Can you give up everything that makes you who you are for someone else's happiness?"
Yes, she thought without any hesitation. But her doubts and her fears, in the honeyed, cruel tone of the Heir of Slytherin her darkest thoughts had carried for years countered at once.
Are you sure? her fear asked mockingly. Are you positive? You couldn't even see the danger of a simple little book. How do you ever expect to care for and protect a helpless infant? Who knows what you'd let happen to it? Listen to your boyfriend, little girl, he knows what's best. What's safest for everyone involved.
Lionel stared down at her, still cupping her head, a little too tightly for her comfort. His question still lingered in his eyes.
"No," she finally ground out. It felt like acid, that one little word. Like every poison and darkness known to man. But she had said it so it must be true.
No matter how wrong it felt.
Lionel smiled brightly and bent down to kiss her forehead. "I'll send an owl to the healer," he said against her hairline. "He can fit you in tomorrow as a favor to me. And I'll send an owl to the team too, let them now you'll be out sick for a few days." He gave her one more smacking kiss and strode away from her statue-like form to his office, where they kept their owls. "Can you call in for some take-out? I'm starving. I feel like Chinese tonight."
Ginny didn't move. She wasn't capable of it. She could only stare ahead unseeing at the remnants of the bag of blueberries that in her haste this morning, she had left sitting on the sleek island countertop.
Vaguely, she heard an owl hoot as it flew by the open balcony door she stood across from. The sun had fully set and the sounds of people outside on the street laughing and walking by could be heard.
Why are they happy? Ginny thought. The world just stopped. Don't they know that?
Striding across the room, she reached up to slide the door shut. Blinking at it owlishly for a few seconds, she wondered why she couldn't seem to lift her hands to close it. She couldn't find them. She couldn't feel them. She didn't know where they were or what they were doing. Searching widely, tears streaking unabashedly down her cheeks, she finally found them when she looked down.
Both of her hands were ferociously clutching her stomach.
Forgetting the door, she ran back into the bathroom and turned the shower on full blast before she unsteadily stripped off her clothes. Climbing in, she crumbled to the floor as the scalding hot water burned against her back and her sobs unleashed in loud, painful gasps against the tiled walls.
"I'm sorry," she choked out as her hands found her stomach and clutched it again. "I'm so sorry."