If I had known when I woke up this morning that I would lose most of my family… well I doubt I would have even gotten out of bed. As it is, I did rise from my soft covers at an ungodly hour to mutter a Silencing Charm on my door to mute out the cries of Will, my nephew, and get up to stretch out the kinks of the night before.
I don’t sleep well and I haven’t in the year since Dumbledore’s death.
I cross to my window, looking out at the dewy grass that surrounds the Burrow and shudder as I see a fog rolling in. Summer days rarely mean sunshine now.
I turn to see my door ajar and my mother’s lined face, “Yes?”
“Can you warm a bottle for Will, dear?”
“I’m not his mother,” I bite out scathingly, tired of having to care for the baby.
This might be something else that I would have done differently, had I know what the day would hold. I might not have snapped at Mum. Instead I could have given her a hug, told her that I loved her and gone to do as she bid.
Hindsight is a bitch.
“March, young lady! Will is only three months old and doesn’t need any of your attitude!”
So I do, grudgingly, ‘march’ down to the kitchen to fix a bottle for Fleur and Bill’s son. I think, as I warm a bottle, that this was another in a long line of stupid acts on Bill’s part, getting Fleur pregnant so soon after they were married.
But I’m not the one who married the part-Veela.
I stomp upstairs, tired and put out, to hand an obviously exhausted Fleur the bottle. I walk to my room and slam the door, falling back into my covers and seething.
This is something else that I might have done differently had I known that this would be my mum’s last morning alive. I might have helped her prepare breakfast, despite how much I hate the chore.
Instead I fall back into a shallow, dreamless sleep only to be awoken again by Mum at the door.
“You need to get up and watch Will for us. Fleur and I have to go to Diagon Alley for supplies,” her voice is brisk and obviously hurt.
I wish now that I had tried to apologize for being an arse but I didn’t. Instead her ire at my lack of helpfulness only fuels my rage and I do the one thing that teenagers are best at; I lash out. “What’s so important that you can’t have Bill bring it home with him?”
I can feel the tension build in the room. It crackles like fire and simmers like cooking meat. I know that she is close to losing her temper with me. So close… and I want to push more, to see how far I can go before she explodes.
I had been looking for a good fight for months, ever since Christmas really.
“Fine!” Mum says, surprising and disappointing me by keeping her temper in check. “If you must know, we have an Order meeting and I expect you to watch your nephew while we are gone! It won’t take more than two hours and I expect you to do your duty to this family, Ginevra!”
Ouch… it always hurt more when they use your full name.
“Just because you have been in a rotten temper for the past six months does not mean that you need to spread it around to us! Harry didn’t-”
“HARRY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS!”
I definitely wouldn’t have lied to Mum if I had known that this would be my last chance to cry on her shoulder. I could have grabbed her, held on with both hands and told her how much his leaving over Christmas had hurt.
Instead I throw on my robe and stomp down the stairs to take my crying nephew from my flustered sister-in-law, ignoring her warnings and cautions and instructions on how to care for him. I thought I knew how to care for him, you see.
I am sure now that I would have listened to her and made her write down everything that I was supposed to do with him.
“Your father won’t be home till late; he can’t get off work for the meeting but should be checking in with you to make sure you are fine. Behave young lady.” My mother’s last words echo loudly in my ears.
If I had known.
They leave and I eventually distract Will enough to get him to stop crying and stare happily at Crookshanks who sits close by him on the floor. I have spread a blanket out so that he can lie there while I forage for what breakfast hasn’t been picked over by my father or brother before they went to work.
Bill and Fleur have lived with us since shortly after Fleur got pregnant. It’s supposedly safer here. Secretly I thought that Fleur simply did not want to care for the baby by herself and because Bill is so involved in the Order, she could not go home to France so that her mother could help. I’m sure my opinion was perfectly clear to both she and Bill.
I wish I’d loved them more freely.
I wish I’d ignored my pain and focused more on my family… less on Harry.
I didn’t want to be here with Will. I wished, once again, that Fleur could have taken him with her to the meeting as she’d done when he was first born and slept all the time.
I’m thankful now that my wish was not fulfilled.
I didn’t want to be left alone with the cooing baby and the cat that could only remind me of how much I was missing out on. I didn’t want to think about Harry out there, possibly hurt. I didn’t want to think about Ron and Hermione being in love and adoring one another. I don’t want to contemplate the memory of walking in on them sitting on our old, battered couch, just staring at each other with love so full in their eyes that it made the room glow. Love so obvious that it made me sick with jealousy.
I don’t want to think about ignoring Harry and his anguish at my coldness towards him. How he eventually stopped trying to speak to me.
It hurt so badly… wanting that kind of love and having the boy… man who could give it to me standing right there, refusing to be what I wanted.
I would go back to Christmas and give him a hug after seeing Ron and Hermione together. I would tell him, ‘someday that will be us,’ and I’d let it go at that.
Even if I were positive that it would have been a lie.
But I would have made sure that he’d left, possibly for the last time I’d have seen him, knowing that I do care about him. He’s in the fight of his life, after all.
He’s in a fight that I hope he will win, but I’m not sure that he can. Not after today anyway.
I find breakfast, change Will’s nappy and his clothes as he’s leaked through and soaked his outfit. I sneer at the embroidered ‘William Jr.’ on his shirt and rock him while he fusses until he falls asleep.
I try to put him in his crib only to have him awaken again instantly, yelling at the top of his lungs.
“Why won’t you sleep!?” I shout impatiently and he startles, looking at me with big, blue eyes and I feel wretched inside.
He didn’t ask to be born and he didn’t ask to be shouted at by his tired, half crazy aunt. “I’m sorry,” I tell him as I kiss his cheek and the top of his curly, red hair before beginning the time consuming, mind numbing dance all over again. This time when he falls to sleep I just sit with him and wait.
I didn’t realize then that they wouldn’t be coming home to relieve me.
At noon I began to worry.
At two I cart Will to the Wizarding Wireless to see if I could find out what was going on. What I heard scared me more than I can tell you.
I went to my mum’s clock and nearly dropped the baby.
Several hands were missing… dropped to the bottom of the clock casing like rubbish.
I tried not to panic but it didn’t work and my agitation set Will off even more and he begins to wail.
At least, I thought that’s what it was.
Now I wonder if he hadn’t realized that his parents are dead.
Dinner rolled around and I make sure that Will is fed. I mechanically give him a bath and get him prepped for bed but I don’t put him down.
I’m stuck alone in this house with no news on my family and I can’t put down this baby who has suddenly become my lifeline.
Then he pees on me and I have to put him down to change him and myself.
“I don’t need a bath, you know,” I assure Will and jump as I hear the door bang open from below.
“Dad!” I snatch up the half dressed baby and rush downstairs, Crookshanks on my heels. I get into the kitchen and come to an abrupt halt.
I’d known since I saw the clock but I didn’t really want to believe it.
My dad’s face told the story though.
“I know,” I tell him softly, pointing towards the clock.
Will lets out a squawk and I hand him over to my dad. Or rather, I try to.
“I can’t now, Ginny. I have to get back to the Ministry. All of Diagon Alley was destroyed and…” for a moment tears form in his eyes and I have to battle down the urge to give in to the tears as well.
I won’t cry… I don’t cry… not since I was eleven.
Dad looks quickly away from us, from Will and clears his throat. “I need you to take care of him. I’m trying to get ahold of Fleur’s parents but the international floo calls have been stopped and the Ministry has shut down the borders. No one is being allowed in or out right now.”
No… “But what about Charlie? He’ll want to come home for the-”
“Ginny…” my dad finally embraces me. “We will have a small remembrance here for… for everyone. There isn’t anything left of… of… I have to go.”
“But I can’t take care of Will!”
My Mum is dead… my brothers are dead… Fleur… I look over at the clock and see only Dad’s, Will’s, Ron’s and my hands still remaining… my family. “What happened to Percy?”
I turn back to see Dad swiping at the tears on his face. “You have to take care of him now, Ginny. I’m counting on you.”
He turns and leaves, the door slamming behind him.
He couldn’t just leave me… my mother is dead! My brothers are…
But his wife is dead… his children are dead and he’s got people counting on him to make things right.
He isn’t given the time to think about the fact that six members of my family died today.
I’m not given that chance.
I put Will on my bed as I move his crib up to my room. I shrink it to move before enlarging it again.
It engulfs my small bedroom.
I pick up Will, who is batting happily at Crookshanks’ face and place him in the crib. I prod the mobile with my wand and watch it spin.
It’s fortunate that the Ministry can’t track my magic anymore, as I won’t be seventeen for another month.
I put out the lights and crawl into my bed, hoping against hope that I will be able to sleep.
Maybe I hope that I’ll wake up to discover that I’d never gotten out of bed at all… that it was just an elaborate nightmare.
A single tear slides down my face as I hear a snuffling from my nephew. His cries grow in intensity before I pick him up and rock him. It takes me nearly forty minutes to get him to sleep. I set him back in his crib and quietly get under my own covers.
I haven’t seen the twins in over a month and now I won’t see them ever again.
I made Bill and Fleur feel unwanted in our house and although I gave up being outright cruel to Fleur, I still resented Bill marrying her.
Mum… several more fat tears slide unseen into my pillow. I want to go back and tell her how sorry I am… how much I love Harry… how much I need her to be there for me.
I turn my head and bite my pillow, silently screaming out my rage and anger at the world.
It doesn’t help but eventually I sleep.
Not for long, of course, because at four a.m. Will wants a bottle.
The days that follow are long, stressful and filled with outbursts. I am exhausted, Will is exhausted and I haven’t seen Dad since. I know he’s been home because he dropped off food and supplies but I haven’t been able to talk to him.
I have no one here for me except a baby that cries, poops and eats. He knows when I’m angry and upset and cries along with me.
“Just stop!” I yell and stomp out of the room, leaving him screaming on the floor.
It’s been over a week and I’m done. I can’t care for him; I can barely care for myself at this point.
I walk out the door and scream at the wind, hating life, hating myself.
He’s just a baby and I have a duty to make sure he stays alive.
I hate my duty.
I resent it with every fiber of my being.
I’m rubbish at being his mum or whatever the hell one would call me.
I’m sixteen years old! I don’t want to be doing this.
Can I hide in my bed now?
For a moment I contemplate simply walking off and forgetting this world… forgetting everything I know. I feel the cool breeze kissing at my face, refreshing me and calming my angry flush. I could just go.
The wind stops and silence falls and I hear a pathetic crying from inside the house and I know that I can’t leave.
With a heavy sigh and an equally heavy heart I trudge back into the living room to see Will’s tear stained face and his eyes swimming. He looks up at me and lets out half a cry.
I kneel down and pick him up, cuddling him against my chest as I whisper soothing words, trying to mean them. I do this until he’s still, and I chance putting him down.
What I see is not his sleeping face but his vibrant blue eyes, gazing up at me in what I can only describe as wonder. I kiss his cheek and tell him, “I’m sorry, Will. I’ll try to get better at this.”
I lay him down and pick up a toy, ready to shake the rattle over his head but his eyes aren’t focused on the toy; they look only at me.
Then I see it… these are Ron’s eyes.
All along I thought it would be Fleur staring up at me when I looked at him but instead I see my youngest brother very clearly and I smile.
Will smiles right back at me.
My heart gives a funny lurch as I watch him, watching me.
I want to say that I was perfect after that first smile. I would love to tell you that I became my own Mum over night but that would be a lie. I was exhausted and cranky still but slowly I learned to control it. I learned not to hate that four a.m. feeding, which eventually turned into five a.m. I even learned not to gag at the foul smells that permeated from his nappy.
Eventually I got to speak with my dad, although it took almost a month before we finally sat down for a heart-to-heart and had our quiet remembrance for our lost family members.
Nearly a thousand people had died during the attack on Diagon Alley, magical and Muggle; Ministry officials and most of the Order… our land was in chaos and I’m sure that somewhere out there, Tom was rejoicing in his victories.
But I wasn’t out there. I had hated that fact for over a year and buried my anger in cynicism and sarcasm. I had robbed myself of the chance to love my family in their last few months on earth and now I was at the Burrow, living my mum’s life.
It wasn’t a picnic by any stretch of the imagination. I was bored often, aggravated sometimes and… well sometimes I was simply amazed.
No one ever told me that I would be proud to watch him sit up for the first time.
No one ever said that it would be amazing to hear him speak, even if it was to say ‘baba’ and to roll over.
Life went on and I kept going.
Dad kept trying to get permits so that Charlie could come home but it was never approved. Because Fleur’s parents are French, not even English citizens, there wasn’t ever a chance that they would be approved to come for Will.
Around my third month of caring for Will, I stopped wanting them to come for him although I refused to examine why just then.
It wasn’t until Will was almost seven months old that I would discuss it with Dad. “Why did you do it?” I study the crackling fire that is warming the living room, keeping out the first early snow of October.
“Have kids when he was so powerful?”
“Haven’t you figured it out yet?”
I look up in surprise, “What do you mean?”
Dad leans forward, his elbows on his knees as he steeples his fingers under his chin. “You are why we had children, Ginny.”
He nods solemnly. “I’ve seen the way you watch Will. You know what I mean, even if you don’t want to see it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s watching him grow and develop. You are shaping who he is becoming and how he will see the world. You love him, care for him and see to his needs.”
An awesome and extremely unsettling thought, at best, “I can’t shape him!”
“Of course you can, Ginny.” Dad gives me a warm, honest smile. It’s a smile I haven’t seen in a long, long time. “Who taught Will to sit up? Who taught him to push the ball back to you? Who is teaching him not to pull on Crookshanks’ tail?”
“But I don’t-”
“Who will teach him to fight for what is right and to never let the bad guys win?” Dad’s eyes are intense.
Then it clicks, “I am… and you, of course. Plus his other family members.”
“What if Harry’s parent’s hadn’t ever had him?”
Now there’s the ultimate question…
“We would have no hope.”
“Right you are,” he tells me. “You children are my hope for the future. You are what I can do to ensure that good will have a fighting chance.”
I give my dad a hug and thank him before turning in early. Will still doesn’t sleep in much.
Christmas arrives and with it, surprisingly enough, Charlie. Dad finally managed to get him a pass back into the country and I revel in my time spent with him. He doesn’t have to work for his short trip so I have someone to talk to during the long, winter days.
Charlie even helps me take Will out to play in the snow.
“He’s such a happy little kid,” Charlie tells me and I feel myself beaming with pride.
Dad’s right, I am a part of that.
Christmas day arrives and with Charlie’s help, I make a small feast for us. It isn’t what Mum would have set on the table, but for my first try, I’m pretty proud of it.
“I can’t believe you didn’t leave home at seventeen,” Charlie comments later that evening.
“I might have, before everything else.” I’m sure I would have if they hadn’t been killed. “But I was needed here, to take care of Will.”
He gives me a big hug and kisses my forehead in a noisy, sloppy kiss. “I’m proud of you Gin-Gin.”
The next morning I find myself downstairs with Will at six thirty a.m., yawning as I put on coffee and heat up rice cereal to feed the nine month old.
“You have to let me get it into you today or your Uncle Charlie is going to know that we’ve had another food fight.” I tickle Will’s belly from his high chair and he lets out an appreciative giggle.
There is a knock at the door and I spin, wand instantly ready to see three very bundled people already entering.
“Put it down, Ginny! It’s us,” a gravely voice that might resemble Ron’s orders me.
I position myself in front of Will and shake my head. “Show yourselves!”
They pull their cloaks off, letting them fall forgotten to the floor as I face them. “It really is us,” Hermione begins, but I shake my head.
“Prove it to me.” I don’t lower my wand.
Surprisingly, and suspiciously, the person who resembles Harry speaks up. “We can’t, Ginny.”
It is the dead emotion in his tone that surprises me. Will lets out a cry of protest.
“Hush baby,” I whisper, reaching around behind me with my free hand and feel his grab for me instantly.
“Is that… is that Bill and Fleur’s baby?” Ron asks me and I see him shudder from head to toe.
“We tried to make it back but couldn’t,” this from Hermione. “We were being followed and didn’t want them to find… well you.”
“Ginny, please, it is us,” Harry assures me. “You… you once told me that my best feature is my heart.”
My jaw drops along with my wand. Harry’s face is red and he looks down at the floor as Ron turns towards him. “Your heart? That’s too sappy! Ginny wouldn’t ever say anything like-”
Will lets out an even more emphatic protest. I glance over at the clock and see that Ron’s hand is now resting on ‘Home’.
“I have to feed Will. If you wait for a few minutes then I’ll fix you something. Otherwise coffee is in the pot and you can help yourselves.”
“Bed,” Ron mutters and tromps off.
“Me too,” Hermione sighs. “Coming Harry?”
“In a minute.”
I sit down, trying to ignore my guilt at how I’ve treated Harry.
I wished so long ago that I could change what I had said. A year has gone by. I’ve gotten out of bed every morning and gone about my life.
I have the chance now to say it right.
First, of course, I need to get Will to eat. “Come on baby,” I coo softly and nearly jump out of my seat when Harry sits next to me.
I spoon another bite into Will’s open mouth and speak the words I’d meant to say long ago. “I’m sorry.”
A long pause, “You’re forgiven.”
“Just like that?”
I spoon another bite into his mouth that he promptly spews back out at me. I laugh and clean him up.
I nod, knowing that he’s correct. I don’t know how I feel about him right now or how I feel about our future, if we still have one, but I do know that I am not the same girl I was a year ago.
Will changed that.
“Are you going to look at me?”
I do and he chuckles gruffly as he swipes at a bit of cereal that has stuck to my nose. “It’s a good look for you.”
“I like it,” I answer hesitantly. “It’s the look I want right now.”
I woke up. I got out of bed and I made some mistakes in life.
I learned from them.
“I grew up,” I finally admit. “I figured out the secret.”
“What secret is that?”
I smile into the bowl I’m holding before spooning another bite into Will’s mouth and giving the baby a wide grin. “The secret to why you were born.”