Chapter 32 : Chapter 32: Understanding and Baby Fingers
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The old man sat down heavily at the kitchen table. “I don’t know.”
“What?” Harry demanded.
“He has been missing since the day after your wedding. He was summoned and he never came back. I have been making inquiries quietly but I have not been able to find any trace of him and no body has surfaced.” Dumbledore let out a long breath. “I did not want to alert Voldemort to the fact that I was looking for Severus in case he is with him. It could get him killed.”
Harry sat down across from him and several things fell into place. Susan had given birth the day after their wedding… he had fought Death Eaters… he didn’t know who he had sent to Azkaban. “Damn.” Harry muttered before facing Dumbledore. “I think I sent him to Azkaban when Susan Finch-Fletchley gave birth.”
Dumbledore gave a sigh of relief. “Well that at least means he is alive and probably safe but we have lost our spy.”
Harry looked up as Ginny came into the room carrying Tyler and leading Nicole by one finger. Nicole toddled over to him and he swung her up onto his lap. “Did you have a nice nap?” He asked her. Nicole looked solemnly at him before pointing at his nose and sticking her finger in her mouth and cuddling up to him. Harry looked over at Ginny who had sat next to him.
“They are freshly changed and will want to eat soon, I expect.” Ginny said quietly. Her eyes were looking haunted and were still red from her tears.
“I’ll get something started then.” Harry told her. He went to put Nicole in the chair but she whimpered in protest. “Do I need to hold you?” He asked her and in response she threw her arms around his neck and held on. “All right then.” He got up and moved over to the pantry to grab a bottle for Tyler that he warmed with his wand before handing it over to Ginny. “What should I give her to eat?”
“Probably some bread, meat and fruit cut into little pieces that she could pick up and feed herself with. For tonight that will be fine.”
Harry got out a plate and put a slice of bread on it. He then grabbed a slice of ham and some grapes. It was a challenge loading the plate with the girl on his hip but when he finally managed, he brought it all to the table and sat down with her. He turned her so that she was facing the food, which he broke into smaller bits. She started to pick up the pieces and stick them into her mouth. He looked over at his wife and saw that she was feeding the baby his bottle but she was gazing at the clock. Harry followed her gaze and saw that most of the hands were now on ‘traveling’.
“I think they are finally coming home.” Ginny whispered. The clock hands moved to ‘home’ as the fireplace came to life and people came stumbling out of it. Harry watched as Fred, George, Ron, Hermione, Remus, Mr. Weasley, Mrs. Weasley and finally Bill came into the kitchen. Not one of them spoke. Harry looked at Bill who looked like he was about ready to drop from exhaustion. His eyes held such pain and sorrow that Harry felt himself start to tear up again.
Mrs. Weasley took Bill’s arm gently. “Come on love; let’s get you up to bed.”
Bill shook his head and whispered his son’s name. “Tyler.” Ginny stood up awkwardly as she was still feeding him the bottle and walked over to her brother. Bill ran a finger along his son’s cheek and he gently took his baby out of Ginny’s arms. She held onto the bottle until Bill had him firmly and could take it from her.
“If you need to look after him for a bit, then I will.” She told him quietly.
“No.” He croaked out and tears streamed down his face. “I need to look after him. It is what she would want me to do.” He looked down into his sister’s face before turning and leaving the room with Mrs. Weasley close behind him.
Everyone sat and Ginny went to sit with Harry. Nicole had hidden her face in Harry’s should. She seemed to be intimidated by the large people but no one seemed to have noticed her.
“We need…” Hermione started but her voice broke. “We will need to arrange a funeral.” She finally managed to get it out but she turned to Ron as she started to cry again.
“I will take care of the arrangements.” Dumbledore said quietly.
“Thank you.” Mr. Weasley told him. “We appreciate it Albus.”
“It is no trouble.” He replied quietly.
“I’ll start some supper if you take Nicole.” Harry told Ginny quietly.
“No. She seems to prefer you when she is scared so it’s best not to try and move her right now.” Ginny told him. “I’ll make some sandwiches or something else that is light.”
Harry ran a hand over Nicole’s short, brown hair. “Come on little one, you need to eat some more.” She looked up at him before gazing around at everyone else. Harry looked up too and saw that they were staring at him. She turned back into him.
“Is that the baby you saved?” Fred asked him.
“Yes. Lansing was going to send her to a muggle orphanage so I told him that we would keep her until her family could be located.” Harry explained to Fred who nodded in understanding.
“What is her name?” Remus asked him.
“Nicole.” Ginny replied for him.
“Do you know how old she is?” Mr. Weasley asked.
“I’m guessing about sixteen months old but we aren’t entirely sure.” Ginny told her father.
Mrs. Weasley walked back in and walked straight over to help Ginny make the food. Everyone sat in silence while the two women worked. Eventually Harry was able to quietly coax Nicole into taking a few more bites of ham and one grape.
“Eat up.” Mrs. Weasley ordered with a catch in her voice. Everyone took a sandwich but the only person to finish it was Ron and Hermione did not eat at all.
“I will arrange for a service tomorrow evening.” The Headmaster informed them. “I will be here at four with a portkey for us. It would be best if someone were to stay behind with the children in case there is an attack at the gravesite.” He arose from his seat and moved towards the fireplace.
“Thank you Albus.” Mrs. Weasley said as she moved over to him and took his hand. “I know that there are so many who… well we thank you.”
“Molly, I understand.” He squeezed her hand before moving to the fireplace. He lit a fire, took a pinch of Floo powder and threw it in causing the fire to turn green. “Hogwarts, Headmaster’s Office.” He stepped in and was gone.
“We should probably just head to bed.” Mrs. Weasley told the family. “Remus, I’m sure you’ll want to wait up for Pru but the rest of us…”
“Is Pru all right?” Harry asked Remus.
“Yes, she is fine. She is on patrol in Diagon Alley right now but should be done within an hour.” Remus explained. “She sent me an owl about two hours ago to let me know that she was okay.”
Harry nodded and looked down at Nicole. “Are you done eating?” She nodded and he stood with her in his arms.
“Who?” Mrs. Weasley seemed to have just noticed her.
“Nicole.” Harry explained. “She was orphaned today so Ginny and I are watching her until the Ministry locates some family.”
Mrs. Weasley looked at the tiny girl who was peering over at the matron. “Hello Nicole.” She said with a small smile.
“Lo.” Nicole replied softy.
Harry grinned down at her. “That’s the first time she’s spoken.” He informed his mother-in-law.
Mrs. Weasley held out her arms and the little girl went into them. “You can call me Nana alright?” She told her and Nicole nodded before sticking a finger back into her mouth. “Well let’s go up and get a bed set up for you.”
Ginny showed Harry where they had stored the nursery furniture and Harry moved the crib into the small room that was right off of theirs. Ginny found bedding for it and got out one of her shirts to put on the child. “It’s too big. We’ll need to get clothes for her tomorrow.” Ginny told him. “It will do for tonight though.” Ginny tucked the girl in and found one of her old stuffed animals for the baby to hold. Nicole looked up at them sleepily for several long minutes before she drifted off.
“Should we leave the door open?” Harry asked Ginny quietly.
“Yes. We could set up a Monitoring Charm but I think we’ll worry about that tomorrow.” Ginny changed into a nightshirt and Harry changed into long pajama pants. “We should get some sleep. She’ll probably cry sometime tonight since she is unfamiliar with where she is.”
Harry pulled his wife into his arms and kissed her softly. “I love you.”
“I love you too. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.” He told her. He held onto her and slowly felt her relax in his arms as her breathing deepened. The stress of the day must have finally caught up with her and she sought relief in sleep. Harry could not seem to make his mind stop. Images of Bill and Fleur kept flowing through his head. The way she had kissed Tyler goodbye that morning, her battered and bleeding body in Bill’s arms, the look in Bill’s face as he came to grips with the loss of his wife and the mother of his child. Harry could not even begin to comprehend what sort of pain that would inflict. His mind flashed back to his parents and their deaths. They at least had died together but that left him alone and if he had been older then it would have been extremely painful for him to lose his parents. He was Nicole’s age when they died. Nicole. That little baby had lost her father and then her mother and now she had no one to care for her but them. If they found relatives that were willing to take her would they be as horrible as the Dursleys? No. He would not let that happen to her.
Ginny stirred and woke. “Harry I know you are worried about her but it will be fine. Try and sleep love.”
She knew him so well. “I will.” Harry told her as he kissed her neck. He forced his mind to become blank and fell into a dreamless sleep.
Nicole managed to sleep through the night but woke up at five screaming. Harry was out of bed and into her room in a matter of seconds. “It’s okay baby!” He said scooping the crying child into his arms. “I have you; no one is going to hurt you.” He shushed her and rocked her back and forth until she calmed and there was only an occasional sob. She clung to him, her tear stained face pressed against his bare shoulder. “I’m here Nicole.” He reassured her.
“Harry?” Ginny called sleepily. “Bring her in here and she might go back to sleep.”
Harry walked back into their bedroom and over to the bed. Ginny had moved into the middle and had pulled back the covers. He set Nicole on the bed and she crawled into Ginny’s open arms. The toddler was still whimpering when Harry moved around the bed to get in behind Ginny. He propped himself up and looked down at his wife and the exhausted baby. Ginny was holding her in her arms and running a hand up and down her back. She murmured comforting words to her and calmly talked until Nicole fell back to sleep.
Ginny looked up at him. “Are you going back to sleep?” She asked softly.
“Probably not.” He replied just as quietly.
“Are you going to watch me sleep?” She inquired.
“It’s an amazing thing Gin. I don’t want to miss it.”
“Watching me sleep?” She asked dubiously.
“Watching you both sleep.” He told her. She nodded, closed her eyes and within minutes she was asleep again. Harry continued to watch them sleep completely fascinated with the look of them. Although they did not look alike he almost felt like he was looking at a mother cradling her child. She was so helpless, not more than a baby and she was depending on them for her needs. Ginny moved a little and her red hair fell more across her pillow. Ginny’s red hair that so fascinated him and was the trademark of every Weasley except Tyler, who had his mother’s blonde hair. But then again Remus was part of the family. Mrs. Weasley had even added him to the family clock and then Pru when they had married. Harry had always been a part of their family. Harry shook his head, trying to clear it. Today was going to be a difficult day.
Wizards had funerals much like muggles did but in these uncertain times the funerals were generally smaller and private to ensure the safety of the mourners. Only two memorial services had been interrupted by Death Eaters but one had been Charlie’s. If Dumbledore and most of the Order had not been there then it would have been disastrous. The thought of it still made him angry but he was not the same Harry that had been shunted aside when they arrived. He would keep his family safe this time. He looked at Ginny and Nicole and his heart skipped a beat. Ginny was his family and as long as Nicole was with them, she was as well.
“Scourgify!” Ginny called as she pointed her wand at Nicole’s clothes. “Well they are clean but she really needs more. You’ll have to go to a muggle shop and buy some.”
Harry’s eyes went wide as he finished fastening the new nappy on the baby. He took the tiny shirt from Ginny and slipped it over her head as he spoke. “How do I buy baby clothes?” He took the bottoms and pulled them on.
“I’ll make a list of what you are to get. You’ll just need to hand it to the clerk.”
“I wish you could come with me.” Harry told her glumly.
“I know Harry but I really need to stay here and help Mum get things ready for tonight.” Her eyes misted.
“I’m sorry I’m being selfish. I know you need to stay here. Maybe Hermione will come with me.” Harry told her bracingly as he put a sock on a small, wiggling foot.
“Hermione knows less about baby clothes than you do.” Ginny informed him with a small smile has she finished putting the shoes on a squirming Nicole.
“Right, well I best go by myself anyway. It will be safer that way.” Harry picked Nicole up and turned to kiss Ginny. “Will you have that list for me soon? I’d really like to get it over with this morning.”
“I will do it right now. Go on down and Mum will help you get her breakfast.” Ginny said as she ushered him towards the door.
Harry walked down the stairs with his mind full of the day’s tasks. He felt a wet finger on his cheek and he turned his head and grinned at Nicole. “Are you hungry?” He asked her and she nodded her head vigorously. “What would you like to eat?” He asked her.
Her brow furrowed in concentration and she wrinkled her nose slightly as she tried to think of the word she wanted. “Poage,” is what she finally said.
“Poage?” Harry repeated skeptically. He pushed open the door to the kitchen and walked in. “What is poage?” He asked her but having spotted the large family, Nicole became shy again and hid her face in his shoulder.
“She means porridge, dear.” Mrs. Weasley informed him. Now that Mrs. Weasley had said it, Harry could understand. He supposed that having seven children made you fluent in baby talk. “Sit down with her and I’ll get her some.” She set a bowl with porridge in front of Harry and Nicole and gave Harry the spoon. “She might want to try and feed herself but if you can feed her it would be best.”
Harry spooned a large quantity onto the spoon and held it up to her mouth, which she dutifully opened. He tried to feed her but lost most of the porridge down her front and all over her face. “Right not so much on the spoon then.” He told himself. He got a smaller amount and tried again with more success. He spoon was too big for her small mouth but she cooperated with him so it was not too bad.
“What would you like Harry?” Mrs. Weasley asked him.
Harry looked around and saw that most of the family was not eating. Bill was feeding Tyler but a piece of uneaten toast sat in front of him. Harry saw that his eyes were puffy and bloodshot. “A piece of toast would be great, thank you.” She nodded and busied herself with it.
Harry was finished feeding Nicole and had cleaned her up by the time Ginny joined them with a list. “If you see any toys she might like get them but don’t spoil her. Ask the clerk for help.” Ginny bent down and picked her up from Harry’s lap. “I’ve included her measurements and weight. They should be able to find her size from that. This is the address where you will need to go. It’s just down from the place we got furniture at so you can Apparate to that same alley and walk to it.”
Harry stuffed his last bit of toast in his mouth and stood up. “Well I’m off then.” He kissed Ginny. “I love you.” He kissed Nicole’s cheek and she giggled. “I’ll be back soon.”
“I know. I love you too.”
Harry arrived at the store Ginny had sent him to and saw that it was completely devoted to babies. He took a calming breath and walked in. He looked around and spotted a woman behind a counter. “May I help you?” She asked him politely.
“Yes.” Harry said thrusting the list at her. “I need the stuff on this list.”
She took the parchment from him and looked it over. Her eyes widened in surprise. “You want all of this?” She asked in disbelief before giving him a sympathetic smile. “I want to warn you that this will not come cheap.”
“Money is no problem.” He reassured her quickly.
She grinned at him. “Well let’s get started then, shall we?” She came out from the counter and started to move towards the clothing section. “Do you have a color preference for her clothes?”
“Uh… no, not really.” Harry told her blankly.
“What’s your daughter’s name?” She asked him kindly.
Harry almost corrected her but stopped himself. “Nicole.” He told her with a smile.
“Well, let’s pick out some things for Nicole.”
Two hours later Harry Apparated to Nicole’s nursery with seven huge bags full of clothes, nappies, toys, and various other things that were required to keep a baby. He also had a large box that contained a high chair that he fervently hoped Hermione would be able to help him put together. He set the packages down and made his way downstairs to locate the rest of the family. He went to the library first but found it empty so he moved onto the drawing room that had once housed the Black Family Tree. Harry had been happy to rip it off the wall and burn it in the large fireplace. Sirius had hated his family and they had never been kind to him. It had been a joy to destroy it.
“Harry?” Ginny said from his right. He had been gazing at the blank wall where the old tapestry had been. “Is everything all right love?”
He turned and gave her a small smile. “I’m fine, just thinking.” He turned and saw that Ron, Hermione and Bill were sitting on the floor with Nicole and Tyler who was sitting in his father’s lap. There were a few blocks scattered around. When Nicole saw him she got up and tottered over to him to be picked up. “Hello Nicole.”
She grinned at him and gave him a kiss. “‘Lo.” Harry walked over to the others and sat down. Nicole climbed off his lap and crawled over to her blocks. She picked one up and moved over towards Bill and Tyler and showed the block to Tyler who studied to block intently. “Beebee.” She whispered and pointed at Tyler before looking over at Ginny.
“That’s right sweetheart, Tyler is a baby.” Ginny told her smiling. Nicole nodded and went back to building towers from the blocks before knocking them down and giggling. Ginny rested against Harry chest. “I’m staying here with the children tonight.”
Harry was surprised; he was sure she would want to attend. “I can stay with them.”
“No, I want you to go and make sure nothing happens.” She told him quietly. Harry looked around and saw that Ron, Hermione and Bill were looking at them intently.
“I want you at the service Harry.” Bill told him in a hoarse voice. “You can make sure that no one else is… hurt.”
“I offered to stay but… I really don’t know much about babies.” Hermione told him sympathetically.
Harry acquiesced. “I understand. I’ll make sure that nothing else happens today.”
“I appreciate it Harry.” Bill told him quietly.
“She’s asleep.” Ginny said before walking into their room from the nursery and closing the door. He was sitting on the couch and she moved over to sit in his lap. He put his arms around her and pulled her in close. “She’s an amazing little girl.”
“Yeah.” Harry gulped as he felt tears come to his eyes.
“Do you want to tell me what was keeping you up last night?” Ginny asked him quietly.
“I didn’t even think about Bill or Fleur being hurt when Gringotts was attacked.” Harry told her as he buried his head in her neck, breathing in her scent. “I just kept seeing them in my head last night and thinking that I was not able to save her.”
“Mum told me this morning that she was killed instantly when a part of the ceiling collapsed on her. You wouldn’t have been able to do anything for her and you couldn’t have known that the Death Eaters would try and get into Gringotts. It is like jumping into a dragon’s nest, it’s suicide.”
“They got away.” Harry retorted harshly.
“You sent many to Azkaban and Pru told me that they captured several and found, well pieces of Crabbe.” Ginny shuddered but kissed his cheek. “Is that all that is bothering you?”
“No,” Harry sighed. “I’m worried about what will happen to Nicole and what will happen if they don’t any family for her.”
Ginny gaped at him. “You are really worried about that?”
Harry looked indignantly at her. “Of course I’m worried about that! I care about her!”
Ginny pulled him into a kiss. “I have not worried about that at all. If she has no one else then she will always have us.”
“I…” Harry realized belatedly that he had not put enough faith in his wife. “I’m sorry Ginny. I should have known that you would want to take care of her if it was necessary.”
“I forgive you. It’s been a stressful time and you have not had the giving and loving family that I have had.” She sighed as she snuggled up to him. “You need to get one more thing off your chest.”
Harry contemplated what she had said and knew she was right. “I don’t know exactly how to say what I’m feeling. I looked at Bill and he is heartbroken. I don’t know how he is going on. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have you anymore.”
“We talked about this before we got married.” Ginny reminded him gently. “I’m thankful that I have had this time with you and I would never regret a minute of it. I am thankful that I am married to such a wonderful and caring man.”
“I know Ginny and I feel the same way but my parents…” He felt tears well up in his eyes. “They married and had me and they were killed and left me with the Dursleys but I think… I think maybe they were happier to have died together.”
Ginny looked into his eyes deeply. “No Harry, they would not be happier that they died together because that meant they still did not have you.”
“They loved each other.” He tried to argue.
“They loved you more.” She told him firmly.
“No… why would they love me more?” Harry asked in disbelief.
“Harry! I…” Ginny looked horrified but she paused and then got a determined look in her eyes. “I want you to make a choice right now.”
“I want you to choose between your life or Nicole’s.” She told him.
“You mean, if I had a choice, who would I choose to live?” At his question Ginny nodded firmly. “I’d choose her, of course. But I don’t see…”
“I would choose her over me as well.” Ginny told him firmly. “And if it came down to it I would choose for you to live instead of me and I know you would want me to live and you sacrifice yourself.”
“I still don’t see what this has to do with my parents not wanting to die together.” Harry told her.
“We have known Nicole for less than a day but we would die for her Harry. Give us another week and we won’t know what our lives were like without her.”
“But…” he was still confused.
“Harry I love you with my entire being but if I had to choose between you and her, I would choose her.” Ginny told him quietly.
Harry sucked in a breath. He could see Nicole’s small face, with her beautiful little smile and the way she stuck one finger in her mouth and he knew with every fiber of his being that he would do that same. She as just a baby and she deserved a chance to live. “Fleur would want Bill here with Tyler because Tyler needs him.”
“Bill would not have wanted to die with Fleur because that would mean not being with Tyler even though he loves Fleur.” He reasoned. “He is Tyler’s father and he loves him so much that he would die for him and put him before everything else, including Fleur.”
“Yes and Fleur would want Bill to put Tyler first, before her.”
“My dad would have wanted me to live rather than my mum.”
“Absolutely.” Ginny told him as she cupped his cheek. “Your dad would rather you have the chance to live more than anything else. That is what a loving parent is like but if they had had the choice, I know that your parents would have wanted to be with you… or at least for you to have someone to love them like a parent should. They would not have wanted you to be with the Dursleys. I hope that Nicole’s mum is looking down on us and that she is happy that Nicole has us to love her. I already love her Harry.”
Harry felt tears slide down his face. “I love her too.” He felt his breath hitch. “So you don’t think Bill would take back being married to Fleur?”
“No, he wouldn’t. Fleur was an amazing and brilliant woman and he was blessed to have been with her. But most of all, he wouldn’t have Tyler and Bill loves Tyler with everything that he has.” Ginny kissed his lips gently. “Maybe if Bill didn’t have Tyler then he would have wanted to die too but with Tyler there is no choice for him.”
“I think I understand.” Harry told her and pulled her closer to him. “Something that has bothered me… Nicole seems to be doing fine without her Mum. Does she not miss her?”
Ginny thought about it for a moment. “Right now she remembers her mum’s face but her mum was mostly the person who made her feel good and made sure that all of her needs were taken care of. Babies don’t really see their parents as people separate from them. She probably has not reached the point where she realizes that she won’t see her mum again. In time she’ll forget what her mum looked like, just like you did. Death is often easiest on babies because they are so resilient. She would be worse off if she weren’t being taken care of right now. I imagine that you were extremely upset when your parents died because suddenly no one loved you.”
“I see. So is her mum more of a feeling then?” Harry asked.
“Yes.” Ginny replied. “Her mum was a sense of comfort, strength and love. She had a face that was familiar but as long as Nicole is receiving love then she will heal. I think we will see her cry a few times for her mum but she is so young that she will recover quickly with enough love and plenty of hugs.”
As if she heard them talking about her, Nicole began to cry. Harry and Ginny were up and in her room in a second. “Maaaaaamaaaaaa!” She wailed as she stood at the crib.
Harry plucked her up quickly and began to sooth her. “Shhhhh, it’s okay baby. We know you miss your mum.” She continued to cry.
Ginny rubbed her back. “I was expecting this.” She told him and he heard the concern and pain in her voice.
“Maaaamaaaa!” Nicole cried and she turned to Ginny and lunged for her.
Ginny wrapped her arms securely around the toddler. “I’ve got you love. I won’t let go baby, I promise.” She told her soothingly.
Nicole started to calm after a few minutes until her tears were just hiccups. She pulled back and studied Ginny. “Mumma!” She told Ginny as if trying to demand that her mother should be there.
Ginny had tears flowing down her cheeks. “I know you want her Nicole and I would give her back to you if I could.” Ginny kissed the baby’s cheek and pulled her into her arms. “We love you Nicole. I wish I could take the pain from you.” Ginny started to cry in earnest. “It really hurts to lose those you love and I wish you didn’t know what that felt like.”
Harry felt helpless as he looked down on his fiercely protective wife and this small bundle who was rapidly becoming a huge part of his life and he wished fervently that he could make both of their hurts go away.
Nicole pulled back again and Harry saw that she had her finger back in her mouth. She slowly removed it and touched Ginny’s cheek. “Mumma?” She gazed at Ginny imploringly as if asking if Ginny would be there for her.
“Yes love, right now I’m your Mum.” Ginny told her gently.
Nicole turned to Harry and then she looked back at Ginny before turning to face him again as if trying to figure something out. Her brow furrowed at it had this morning and she wrinkled her nose. She pointed her small, damp finger at him. “Dada?” She turned back to Ginny looking for confirmation but all Harry heard was a roaring in his ears. His heart was soaring and a smile had lit his face.
“Yes sweetheart, he’s Dada.” Ginny reassured her firmly.
Nicole seemed to have been waiting for that. She turned and put her arms out for Harry to take her. He pulled her into his arms and held her securely against him; he felt tears in his eyes again. She pulled back and gazed at him before she took her finger and put it on his cheek. “Dada.” She told him before she hugged him tightly. Harry held on to her and kissed the top of her head and he knew that, for the second time in his life, he was firmly wrapped around another very small finger.
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