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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 51: Year 6: Fred
The first time she had trained with the Holyhead Harpies, Ginny had stumbled home and fallen into bed afterwards, quite sure that she would never be able to use a single one of her muscles ever again. About four years later, those first months in professional Quidditch were mostly a blur to her, snapshots of long ice baths, Apparating up and down the stairs of the Burrow because she was too sore to walk, and checking her watch in the morning only to realize she had slept for eleven hours – again.
Ginny’s first month of properly training with England, it turned out, was very much the same. She never saw Harry in the mornings anymore, because he had gone to work by the time she woke up, and though every time she was on her way home from the National Arena, she thought to herself that she would stretch properly so she wouldn’t be too sore the next day, as soon as she got home, she’d simply fall onto the couch and find herself unable to move a finger until it was time for bed.
It was strange to think, she thought to herself as she tumbled out of her fireplace yet another afternoon, that just a few weeks ago, she had considered herself quite fit. Sure, the pace was quicker and the players better in the national team than in the league, but she hadn’t expected it to be quite so bad. Indeed, it was probably because she had already used up every ounce of energy in her at training, but it seemed wrong that just walking up the stairs could make her so completely exhausted.
The couch, the first thing her eyes fell on as she cleaned the ashes off the floor with a tired, half-hearted flick of her wand, looked glorious – it was the softest, most appealing sight she could have imagined. Any other day, she would have thrown herself onto it and waited for Harry to come home and make dinner, but he had warned her the night before that he’d probably have to work late, and she was already feeling a little lightheaded. Though napping was much more tempting, she knew she needed to have dinner first.
She made it into the kitchen and leaned against the counter, raising her wand to open the fridge with the help of magic – anything to spare her body from more physical strain. Her heart nearly leaped out of her chest when, with a loud boom, the fridge to the door flung open so violently that it almost fell out of its threads. Placing her free hand on her chest, as if to make sure her racing heart stayed in its place, Ginny took a careful step forwards and looked between the wand in her hand and the now wide-open fridge. What had just happened?
Perhaps, she mused as she reached into the fridge to get the food out using her hands instead, she was simply too tired to be able to perform the simplest of spells. Deciding to try again before she settled on that theory, though, she pointed her wand to the stovetop and mumbled an incarnation to heat it up, moving her wrist very cautiously and focusing her full attention on the spell.
Giant flames flared up from the stove and she jumped backwards, shrieking in shock and quickly lowering her wand. Then, realizing she may still need to use it, she pointed it at the fire and shouted:
A stream of water shot out from the tip of her wand, quickly reducing the flames in size, until they were nothing but thick, grey smoke. Ginny, her heart once again speeding away, took a few steps backwards to lean against the counter behind her, breathing heavily as she stared at the mess she had created.
Was she sick? She had never heard of anyone losing control of their magical ability like that before… Admittedly, she had never heard of such a disease either, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t exist nonetheless.
She glanced back into the living room and had just decided to grab a pinch of Floo Powder and head over to the Burrow – both because her parents might be able to tell her what was wrong, and because her mother would most likely be happy to whip some dinner together for her – when the room illuminated in green, and a voice called out:
“Hello? Ginny? Harry?”
Sticking her wand into her back pocket, Ginny headed into the living room to find Percy stepping out of the circular fireplace, brushing ashes off the sleeve of his midnight blue robes.
“Percy!” she exclaimed. “I’m so glad you’re here – I need to ask you–“
“It’s time,” he interrupted, making his sister furrow her eyebrows.
“What do you mean?”
“Angelina and George are at St. Mungo’s!” Percy smiled. “She’s having the baby!”
“Already?” said Ginny. “But it’s not due in another three weeks – is that not dangerous?”
“Mum said it’s perfectly normal,” Percy shrugged. “And Audrey said – this is a quote: ‘Babies don’t pay much attention to due dates, anyway.’”
He grinned, and Ginny giggled, suddenly forgetting all about her wand and its strange behaviour. “Well, what are we doing here, then?” she said excitedly. “Let’s go to St. Mungo’s!”
“Is Harry home?” Percy asked.
“Oh, that’s right – Harry!” Ginny said, as though she was just remembering that she had a husband. “He's working late. I’ll write him a note.”
She scurried off and returned only moments later, this time with a ceramic pot with Floo Powder in her hands. “You go first, and I’ll come after you,” she told her brother. “Oh, I’m so excited! Don’t you think it will be a girl too, Perce?”
They made it to the waiting room, finding that only Ron and Hermione had beat them to it. Ginny joined them in one of the baby blue couches while Percy sank into a puffy chair, grabbing the Daily Prophet from off the table and diving right into it. Meanwhile, Ron eyed Ginny in her muddy red-and-white robes and raised an eyebrow.
“You didn’t bother to shower before coming, then?” he asked.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to miss the birth, like with Dominique!” Ginny argued, crossing her arms over her chest.
Mr and Mrs Weasley arrived a few minutes later, and just then, George entered the room, biting the inside of his cheek as though he was trying hard not to laugh. Everyone flew to their feet, Percy dropped the newspaper and Mrs Weasley grabbed her husband’s arm and squealed in excitement.
“Sorry, everyone,” said George with a grin. “This baby isn't even born yet, and it’s already playing pranks on us… It was a false alarm. No baby today.”
Mrs Weasley’s jaw dropped to the floor and she sank back down into the couch, staring it George as though she couldn’t quite believe it. Mr Weasley chuckled and shook his head, and Ginny sighed in disappointment.
“I suppose it will happen at night,” she said regretfully, “and I’ll be asleep and miss it again.”
George grinned and put an arm around her shoulder. “Don’t worry,” he said comfortingly, “I’ll send you a Howler. That should wake you up, right?” Then, grinning even more widely at the look on his sister’s face, he started walking back towards the door. “I’d better get back to Angelina,” he said. “See you at the Burrow on Sunday!”
During the following weeks, the Weasleys – Ginny especially – waited in anticipation for another message from George and Angelina. Bill and Ron started another bet (Ron put his galleons on a second false alarm, while Bill was sure it would happen for real next time) while Fleur and Hermione took turns rolling their eyes at them. George seemed to become more nervous for every day that passed, and didn’t seem to feel by better by his father’s insistence on retelling all the trials of fatherhood he had experienced (“It's just a bit of advice, from one old father to a new one,” Mr Weasley exclaimed when George complained.) Meanwhile, Ginny was trying to convince Mrs Weasley to start knitting a pink baby sweater, but without success. Ron grinned and shook his head at the silliness: “As if a pink sweater will magically turn him into a girl!” he said, to which she stubbornly replied: “It’s not a ‘him,’ Ron, I can feel it!”
As for Harry, who was officially becoming an uncle for the first time – after all, he hadn’t been married to Ginny when Victoire or Dominique had been born – he still felt the same, the only difference being that he had always been closer to George than to Bill, and for the first time, the parents-to-be were actually his friends. It made him feel rather old.
In the midst of the baby hysteria, Ginny forgot all about her wand and the way she’d lost control of it, and it didn’t repeat its strange behaviour. The following morning, she cooked her porridge without trouble, and since she didn’t think about it again, she never asked anyone for advice either.
The message they were all waiting for came a Thursday almost two weeks later, just as the afternoon sun was disappearing behind the rooftops across the street from Ron and Hermione’s kitchen window. Ron rushed into the kitchen, where he found Hermione seated at the table, going through a bunch of old parchments she had brought home from work. He pulled her to her feet and kissed her forehead, and while he dragged her into the living room and the fireplace, he explained what was going on.
“Why are you so happy, then?” asked Hermione. “I thought you had bet money on another false alarm!”
“I have,” said Ron as he reached up and grabbed the little coffer with Floo Powder they kept on top of one of Hermione’s bookshelves. “But I reckon it’s a win-win situation for me. Either we’ll have another niece or nephew tonight, or Bill will owe me money. Both scenarios sound pretty great to me.”
This time, Ron and Hermione were the last to arrive in the waiting room of the maternity ward, save for Fleur and the girls, who had stayed home.
“The kids were asleep already,” Bill explained, “and they’ll be a nightmare tomorrow if we wake them up. I’ll bring them in tomorrow morning so they can meet their first cousin!”
“If the baby comes today, that is,” Ron pointed out, but no one else seemed to think that George and Angelina would have to return home emptyhanded a second time.
The door to the waiting room opened, and everyone lifted their heads eagerly. It wasn’t George, though, but a short, thin nurse in pink robes.
“Mr Weasley said to let you know the baby is coming for real this time,” she announced, and Bill let out a triumphant Ha! while Ron searched his pockets, found a couple of galleons and frowned before placing them in Bill’s outstretched hands.
“You know, I’ll double this amount when it turns out to be a boy, Gin,” said Bill teasingly as he put the money in the back pocket of his trousers.
Normally, Ginny would have a witty response, but she simply nodded and leaned her head against Harry’s shoulder. “Sure, Bill,” she yawned, rubbing her eyes as though she was struggling to keep them open.
“Are you all right, sweetheart?” asked Mrs Weasley worriedly.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Ginny mumbled. “Just very tired.”
“Well, it is eight thirty,” grinned Harry with a glance at his gold watch. “Way past your bedtime.”
“As of lately, it is,” Ginny admitted.
Everyone had different methods for making time pass while they waited for an update from the delivery room. Bill and Percy started playing Exploding Snap, while Hermione and Ginny discussed the latest, shocking news on Lee Jordan’s love life – two months after their breakup, Katie Bell had told him she was pregnant with his child and Lee had hastily ended things with Madam Rosmerta in the hopes that Katie would take him back. However, according to Ginny, Katie was fully determined to raise the baby on her own. “She says Lee is more than welcome to be involved,” she informed Hermione, “but not as her partner.” Meanwhile, Ron, Harry and Mr Weasley were discussing the Ministry of Magic Quidditch League, which would premier after the summer, and the different teams. (“Did you hear about the team from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes?” said Mr Weasley. “Ironically, their first training was the worst catastrophe they'd seen in weeks, and three players got so badly injured that they vowed to never get on a broomstick again!”) Before long, Ginny’s head dropped onto Harry’s shoulder, and he looked down to realize she had fallen asleep.
He forgot to listen to Ron and Mr Weasley, and stared instead at Ginny’s peaceful facial features, her eyelids which fluttered every now and then, and the one red strand hair that had fallen out from behind her ear and moved slightly every time she exhaled. Sometimes when he looked at her, Harry still couldn’t believe she was his wife; she was just so beautiful.
More than an hour passed before George finally showed up. Harry had started yawning and thinking to himself a nap wouldn’t hurt, when the door opened behind him. Though Ginny leaning against him was keeping him from turning around, he only needed to look at Mrs Weasley to realise that it wasn’t a nurse this time. Only seconds later, George walked into his visual field, grinning mischeavously at the sight of his sleeping sister.
“Well?” said Mrs Weasley, but George ignored her as he walked over to Ginny, leaned forwards, as though he was going to kiss her cheek, and said, very loudly:
“Asleep again, eh? That always seems to be the case whenever one of your brothers is having a baby.”
Ginny stirred and opened her eyes, her mouth stretching into a wide smile, and she jumped up with such a speed that Harry found it hard to believe she had been fast asleep just seconds ago. Once standing, Ginny grabbed George’s arm and raised her eyebrows expectantly.
“Tell us, tell us!”
“Well,” said George nonchalantly, “it seems you’re going to owe Bill some money. It’s a boy. We have a son!”
For the next couple of minutes, the new father was showered in congratulations, hugs and kisses. Every now and then, he’d let out a muffled:
“My Godric, mother, you’re not trying to kill the boy’s father already, are you? I do need to breathe, you know!” Or, when Bill nearly lifted him off the ground with his enthusiastic hug: “As much as I’d like to take credit, I didn’t get to choose between a boy and a girl, Bill.”
A few minutes later, George happily led the way through the corridor to Angelina’s room. He looked as though he’d burst with pride as he opened the door and hurried over to the bed, in which Angelina was sitting up with the little bundle of joy in her arms.
The baby had thick, black hair, his skin had that distinctive, pink colour that seemed mandatory for newborns, and he was wrapped in a thin, white blanket. George bent down next to bed and placed a careful hand on top of his son’s head, as if to capture his attention.
“Hey bud,” he said softly, “this is your family. You’ll find out soon enough that, as mad as they all are, they’re pretty cool too. Family…” He straightened up, took a deep breath and glanced back at the baby. “Meet our son, Fred.”
Mrs Weasley pressed a handkerchief against her mouth, but for once she wasn’t the one letting out a sob. Instead, it was her husband who burst into tears and stumbled forwards to pull George into a hard embrace.
Percy took off his glasses and wiped his eyes with the back of his hands. “What a perfect name,” he said softly, and Bill nodded, hugging Ginny from the side.
“Fred – the first – would have loved it.”
George cleared his throat, and, perhaps needing a distraction, turned to Angelina and bent down, allowing her to place the boy in his arms.
“You’ve got a thing or two to live up to, with that name,” he said, his voice cracking up, but he bit his lip and managed to hold back his tears. “But we’ll have fun driving your mother insane, won’t we? And your Nana – that’s the lady over there – she could use a few more grey hairs, don’t you reckon?”
Tears were streaming down Mrs Weasley’s cheeks as George handed little Fred over to her. She smiled as she stroke her first grandson’s smooth cheeks, and then looked up at the new father, her eyes still flooded as she whispered:
“He looks just like you did, darling. Just like Fred.”
George sniffled and walked back to Angelina, who grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly. Tears were running down her cheeks too, and she moved over to allow her husband to sit next to her on the bed. George placed his head on her chest and cried silently while she rubbed his back, just waiting for him to stop shaking; by the looks of it, she had done the same thing a thousand times before.
Truth was, Angelina had long since accepted that George’s grief would always play a major part in their every day life. Sometimes when she looked at him, his eyes would go glossy, and that was when she knew he was thinking of Fred. He would stop his writing at the workbench in the back of the shop and glance, just for a fraction of a second, towards the spot where a large shelf had replaced the second desk that had stood there when the twins had first opened Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Or, he would drift off from the conversation he was having with an eager, spotty teenager, who was bombarding him with question about the upgraded skiving snacks, and let his eyes roam between the clattered shelves and curious customers inside the shop, as if he was expecting to see a face like a reflection of his own somewhere in there.
Angelina knew it would never be okay, and so she had learned to celebrate the smallest of victories. The biggest of them, she thought, was just being passed on from the crying grandmother's arms to the equally watery-eyed grandfather. After all, there had been a time when George had been unable to speak his late twin’s name, but just one month earlier, he had woken Angelina up in the middle of the night and said:
“Fred. If it’s a boy, we’ll name him Fred.”
A/N: I can't wait to share all I've written for year 6 with you guys! Thanks again for all your amazing support and for sticking with the story, it means so much to me!
Oh, and here's a little tip that I'm not sure if anyone will actually care about, but I'll write it anyway (feel free to ignore it if you want to!): if you ever start to wonder how far away the next chapter will be, I've started doing this thing where write a little update at the top of my author page. Let's say I sit down and work on chapter 52, and I feel like about a third of it is finished - then I'll go and put "Ch. 52 in progress - 30%" up there, to give you an idea of how far I've come.
Thank you again for everything x