Chapter 4 : Keeping Appointments
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Harry left for his office with a promise to meet her after getting the day started at work. He found it physically difficult to leave and allow her to travel on her own to St. Mungo’s. Letting her out of his sight had become harder and harder to achieve lately. Only the stern glint in her eyes finally drove him to the fireplace to Floo to the Ministry of Magic. Even then, he’d kept one eye on the clock and the other on the window, just in case Hercules appeared. He would never admit it to Ginny, but he had begun to doubt that his nerves would make it through this pregnancy. Being this close to finding the happiness that had been stolen from him as a child made him nervous, as if something waited to snatch it from him at any moment.
Ron growled a surly reply when Harry reminded him of the appointment. He still believed using a Malfoy as a Healer was just wrong on so many levels. The fact that Astoria was a Malfoy only by marriage didn’t seem to make any difference. Hardly blaming him for that particular opinion, Harry had struggled to keep his snide comments to himself, as well. He’d agreed to the appointment to keep the peace, but he’d never said he’d decided to like it. It seemed easier to just avoid the subject altogether at the Potters’ cottage. Instead, he and Ron took turns abusing Malfoy each time an opportunity presented itself. Knowing the intense hatred Ron carried for Draco for Hermione’s mistreatment at Malfoy manor years ago, it seemed an easy subject to turn him toward.
“I still can’t believe you allowed Ginny to keep the appointment with that evil git’s wife! You really think she’s the best at St. Mungo’s?” Ron asked, chewing the enormous mouthful of breakfast sandwich he’d just taken. Although he’d already eaten at home, he always brought out a brown paper sack around nine o’clock each morning, to ‘keep up his strength’.
“Ron! C’mon, mate. Think about what you just said,” Harry snorted. “I don’t think Ginny ever waited for permission for anything in her life. Allow Ginny? You’re kidding, right? And yeah, I’ve done the research. Astoria Malfoy has won all sorts of awards and stuff, so I couldn’t find any reason to deter your stubborn sister. Believe me, I tried.” He sighed, trying not to stare at the amount of food Ron consumed as they talked. He’d gotten used to it at school, but they were no longer teenagers. He sincerely hoped the man’s metabolism never betrayed him. He wouldn’t fit through the door.
“Yeah, well, if it was my wife I’d have stopped her.” Ron mumbled through a mouth of croissant and bacon.
Harry nearly doubled over in laughter. “Ron! You’re marrying Hermione! Please, I beg you, if you ever decide to forbid her from something, call me first! I really don’t want to miss that! Besides, you’ll need me there to put you back together.”
Ron’s ears turned red, but he didn’t disagree. Clearing his second breakfast of the day from his desk, he pulled out a stack of paperwork and bent over it, pretending to get to work.
Finally, the clock chugged toward 9:30, a time permissible for Harry to leave without beating Ginny to the hospital and warranting a speech about being overprotective. Ignoring the steady stream of disgruntled mutterings coming from Ron, Harry dismissed himself from the Aurors’ Department and met an anxious-looking Ginny in the hospital lobby with only a little time to spare.
The Potters entered the reception area on the maternity floor, letting the witch at the desk know they had arrived to see Healer Malfoy. Staring avidly at Harry’s forehead before writing the name on her parchment, she handed them a pamphlet written on pink paper. All of the details of St. Mungo’s Maternity Department could be found there, from signs of labor to the methods in which to contact emergency Healers. After perusing the article, Harry had escorted Ginny to sit in the small, pastel painted room. An array of witches sat in the waiting room, in varying degrees of pregnancy. Each cast curious glances at Harry and Ginny as they sat in the far corner of the room. Now immune to that type of attention, Harry struggled to keep from staring at the different woman as they waddled around the waiting room. One witch’s size brought an audible gasp from him, and Ginny elbowed him firmly in the ribs. He glanced at his slim, fit wife and then back at the witch who resembled nothing more than Aunt Marge after Harry’s unfortunate accident during which he’d blown her up. Would Ginny look like that before this was all through?
“Holy cricket, Gin! If you get that big, I won’t fit in the bed with you. I’d better learn to like the sofa!” He grinned as he teased Ginny, but she didn’t share in his amusement.
“That is so not funny, Potter. If I get that big, just curse me. Please. How does she move? There must be at least three in there! Stop laughing, she’ll hear you!”
Upon hearing his wife call him ‘Potter’, Harry’s suppressed laughter subsided. Lately, that had been one of the few clues that she was preparing to go mental on him again. It was like walking on eggshells at times. In the last week she’d fussed at him for not doing the laundry, doing the laundry wrong, and having Kreacher do the laundry. Harry finally decided to give up on laundry completely, and sent it out by owl to be washed, folded, and returned to drawers before Ginny knew it had been gone. She’d also gone into a tizzy when he’d taken Teddy Lupin out for a fly on his broom last Saturday evening. He hadn’t let him go off on his own, his godson was only eight, but she’d still ranted for half an hour about him endangering a child. Harry still wasn’t sure how much danger floating three feet from the ground could possibly be for a child Teddy’s size, but there you are. He learned rapidly that there was no arguing with a pregnant woman. Finally, he understood why Mr. Weasley always just smiled and nodded at his wife, only punctuating it with the occasional “yes, dear”. It was a trick he would have to learn, for the sake of self-preservation alone.
Shortly, a plump blonde witch opened a door and called for Ginny. Following behind, Harry entered a hallway where Ginny’s weight and height were measured, blood pressure taken, and chart created. After getting Ginny’s autograph (go Harpies!), the medi-witch handed Ginny a cup, and it made her think back to the cup on the bathroom counter a few weeks ago. She smirked at Harry.
“No fainting, all right love?” She teased. Harry turned slightly pink, and he shook his head. There would be no living that one down, he knew.
As they’d continued on to an examining room, Harry rounded a corner and found himself face to face with Draco Malfoy. Still haughty looking, with his slicked blonde hair and pointed chin, the gray eyes perused him and Ginny carefully. The familiar malice present, the look was also one of slight anxiety. His eyes darted sideways, and Harry followed his line of vision down the hall to where a willowy, dark haired witch was walking their way. When she stopped and spoke to the assistant, who had not realized the Potters were no longer behind her, Harry studied her. She was quite lovely, with dark blue eyes and smooth, olive skin. But then, Malfoy only ever accepted the best in anything. Why would he be any different with his choice in women? Turning back to face his old adversary, he wrestled with himself to keep from pulling his wand just on general principle. Ginny nudged him slightly, and he grudgingly twitched his hand away from his wand. She had made him promise to behave. However, he did keep the end sticking handily out of his back pocket.
“Malfoy.” Harry greeted him with his hand outstretched, only to cover the movement of his hand near his wand, battling to keep the disdain from his greeting. The startled expression Draco favored him with as he looked at his extended hand almost wrung a laugh from him. Visibly relieved that Harry didn’t seem prone to hex him on sight, the tense manner in which he’d been holding himself relaxed. Immediately, the self-important smirk appeared, and he reached out and took Harry’s proffered hand. Each man squeezed considerably more than was necessary, and then dropped the handshake like they’d been bitten.
“Potter. I expect congratulations are in order,” he said in a voice that held anything but congratulations, looking Ginny over coolly. It was a forced pleasantry, and it really didn’t suit him. In Harry’s mind, a Malfoy trying to be nice was a reason to worry. Kind of like the Venus flytrap, luring you in with sweetness before sucking you down to die. In the past, a meeting with Malfoy always spurred him to some defensive action. Now, was there anything left to prevent? Why did Malfoy show his face here today? Surely he didn’t always accompany his wife to work. It worried Harry not to know the reason for his appearance.
Draco glanced quickly to the spot where Astoria still stood, reading a chart the assistant handed her. Seizing his chance, he stepped close. Speaking quickly, his voice was dangerously quiet.
“If you so much as look at her funny, Potter, I will curse you into a puddle of slime. I don’t know what you are playing at coming here, but I warn you now. Do not fuck with my wife!”
“Ah, there’s the Malfoy we all know and love,” Harry sneered. “And here I thought marriage might have softened you up a bit.” Instead of shrinking back from the fiery look in Malfoy’s eyes, Harry stepped closer. Ginny grabbed his hand, pulling him back. She stepped slightly between the two, knowing that if looks alone could kill she’d be a dead woman.
“That’s enough of that. Malfoy, we’re here because your wife is good at what she does. I can’t help it if she’s married to a foul git. You both,” and she narrowed her eyes and glanced between the two men, “will behave as if you are mature adults and not the idiotic adolescent boys you seem bent on becoming.”
“I don’t think you want to finish that sentence, Malfoy.” Harry’s wand pressed a little deeper into Draco’s pale skin. “You see, you really don’t want to fuck with my wife either, you arrogant prat!”
“Harry! Put that away! I really don’t need you to get all chivalrous on me right now! Stop it!” Ginny hissed, tugging on his sleeve. Harry never took his eyes, or wand, from Malfoy.
Malfoy’s own wand suddenly appeared in his hand, but Harry never gave him the opportunity to use it. Nobody could stand that closely to Ginny, pull his wand, and get away with it. In a frenzy of motion Ginny couldn’t even follow, Harry disarmed Draco and petrified him. Bending over to retrieve the wand lying beside a stiff and angry Malfoy, Harry straightened up to find himself face to face with Astoria. She did not look happy.
Not knowing what she was capable of, Harry did not re-pocket his wand. She glanced from one man to the other, feeling the tension crawl over her skin like a swarm of ants. Harry lowered his wand slightly, preparing for the inevitable verbal assault that was sure to come. Astoria, however, turned an accusatory glare on her husband, lying stiff on the floor and fixing Harry with a look of utter loathing.
A small crowd had begun to gather, but when Astoria turned to glare at them they dispersed to their various assignments. She exuded control and power in this place, and few were liable to argue with her. With an irritable jerk of her wand, Malfoy’s body bind released. Instantly, he jumped to his feet and turned on Harry.
“You’re completely mental, just like when you were in school, Potter! What kind of idiot jinxes someone in a hospital?” He sputtered, fingers twitching for a wand that sat in Harry’s hand.
“Actually, Draco, I was wondering what kind of idiot provokes the Junior Head Auror in the middle of a maternity ward,” Astoria grumbled quietly.
Draco’s eyes widened, taking in the dark look on his wife’s face. He opened his mouth in protest, and then seemed to think better of it. Apparently, her air of authority applied to her husband as well. Harry stood speechless. Astoria turned her stare on Harry, but living with Ginny made him resistant to that type of intimidation. Harry simply stared back.
“Mr. Potter, I’ll take that wand if you don’t mind. I don’t believe anyone will be causing further problems here. And I would appreciate it if you didn’t jinx Draco again in the middle of my hallway. This is a place of healing, not a dueling club! Draco, I need for you to leave now!” She reached out and took the wand from Harry, returning it to her husband. Harry tensed, but as he watched the wand disappear into a jacket pocket, he relaxed.
Astoria sighed, and her stern expression melted into one of weary exasperation. “Draco, you promised!”
“He jinxed me! I never touched him!” Malfoy complained, looking annoyed. Astoria must have known her husband well, because she cocked her eyebrow and surveyed him with a distinct look of doubt.
“Yes, dear, but you started it. Don’t try to deny it, I was watching. Besides, when it comes to Harry Potter, I know you don’t really think rationally. You should not have come, and now you need to leave.”
Turning to his wife, Draco spoke in a much softer tone than Harry had ever heard him use. “I'm sorry, Astoria. You are right, as usual. I’ll be waiting for you out in the reception area. We can get a bite to eat when you’ve finished.”
He took his wife’s hand and kissed it, and the look in his eyes shocked Harry. Draco’s face betrayed his deep and powerful love for Astoria. That Draco could harbor such strong emotion for anyone other than himself seemed impossible, but seeing his expression as he released Astoria’s hand confirmed it. Harry thought the same look probably graced his own features when he looked at Ginny. That type of love persuaded a man to give up many things he’d once considered as necessary as breathing for the sake of the woman to whom he’d given his heart. Straightening back up, Draco nodded curtly at the Potters and then stepped past them in the direction in which the plump blonde witch had gone. Now, Harry mused, he had seen everything.
Before reaching the door, Malfoy stopped. Glancing back over his shoulder, he called out, “Potter, would you mind putting your wand away? It makes me nervous when incompetent morons begin waving weapons around innocent people.” And having gotten the last word, he strutted through the open doorway into the waiting room.
The raven haired wife of Draco Malfoy faced them with a look of irritation on her face, but her eyes still affectionately followed the retreating form of her husband. Clearly, she loved that blonde ferret. That baffled Harry the most. Extending her hand to Ginny, who was still standing with her mouth hanging open, she introduced herself.
“Well, THAT was an interesting way to begin our appointment, I must say. I’m Astoria Malfoy. You probably don’t remember me from school, but my sister Daphne was in your year, Harry. Tell me, do you make it a habit to jinx people in the middle of public places?” She gave him a wry, not altogether unfriendly, look.
He shrugged. “Actually, I tend to think a little irrationally myself when it comes to your husband. We have never been what you would call friendly. I’m sorry for any disruption I’ve caused.” He decided he would not go into detail about what a despicable rat he thought Draco was.
“I do apologize for his behavior. He wouldn’t allow me to come in alone today, knowing you were on my appointment book. His past still haunts him, you know. I think he projects his guilt onto others, expecting punishment from those from whom he feels he deserves it. Most of those people don’t disappoint him. We do weather our fair share of insults and foul treatment. Consequences he was bound to face, I know, but I can’t help but feel pity for him after he has worked so diligently to made amends to those he’s hurt. I assured him that nothing was going to happen today just because you were coming, but he insisted. As if you would set up an appointment to come attack me or something. Now, if you’ll follow me into this room we’ll get you sorted out, Ginny.” She spoke with an air that dismissed the affair entirely, and Harry was relieved. If she held a grudge or refused to see Ginny, he’d never hear the end of it.
Casting a wary look her way, the heat that emanated from his wife let him know that this wasn’t over. Ginny took after Ron, meaning that she flushed a bright crimson when faced with a rush of emotion. Taking in the bright color spreading to her ears, Harry knew trouble was coming.
Ginny cast Harry a pointed look, knowing that he had carried the same thoughts that Draco had. The both feared each had come only to hurt the other. Both of them believed that the grudge they held for each other might somehow spill over onto the women that they loved, and they’d both come prepared to fight for them. Relaxing as the reason for Malfoy’s presence was explained, Harry wondered what Draco would believe ‘making amends to those he’d hurt’ consisted of. Probably something to do with money, he thought as he followed after his wife. Git.
Astoria Malfoy exuded professionalism. She was as straightforward in her assessment of Ginny’s condition as she was of her husband. Obviously, Draco had met his match in this strong-willed, plain spoken woman. Of course, marrying a Malfoy these days took a certain amount of steely grit. Not only did one have the popular opinion of the public to contend with, but imagine having Lucius and Narcissa as in-laws! People usually have the evil in-law jokes, but in this case? At least Lucius remained in Azkaban, unable to hurt anyone for at least another two years. That probably made married life a little easier for her.
Astoria went through the usual measuring and prodding. Always gentle, she laid Ginny back and performed the perfunctory exam that sent Harry to the opposite end of the room. His only relief was that Ginny had chosen a female healer. Watching a man poke around in places Harry imagined only he was meant to see would have put him right over. The wry grins of both women only served to make him more embarrassed. Ginny rolled her eyes, and she and Astoria both chuckled at the obvious discomfort Harry displayed.
Finally, she called Harry over and motioned to a stool beside the exam table. He sat as she turned back to Ginny and placed the tip of her wand against Ginny’s freckled belly. Astoria whispered, “Infantuli cordis.” Sliding the wand around to different places on Ginny’s abdomen, she suddenly discovered what she was looking for. A soft but rapid thudding sound could be heard, beating out a rhythmic pattern. Harry’s eyes widened and locked on Ginny’s, all thoughts of Draco Malfoy evaporating from both their minds. The heartbeat of their child filled the room, and the beauty of that sound was almost unbearable to him. Tears clouded his vision for a moment, and he took Ginny’s hand and pressed it to his lips in a tender act of appreciation. Astoria stepped away, allowing the expecting parents their moment. The new father reached out and placed his hand on his wife’s belly, tears falling unnoticed upon the table’s paper covering.
She put her wand away, the melody of their baby’s life faded from the air, and Astoria helped Ginny to a sitting position. Harry stumbled back awkwardly, wiping hastily at his eyes. Ginny took his hand in hers, not wanting to let that moment of intimacy end. Astoria picked up a chart and wrote, giving them time to gather themselves again. Finally, Ginny moved to put her gown in the laundry basket and redress herself.
“Okay then, Ginny. I believe you are about 12 weeks along. Only twenty-eight to go! That dreadful nausea we discussed should be easing up soon. If it doesn’t, that potion you cleverly discovered should continue to do the trick. You saved me the trouble of brewing it up for you. Most women do find that they feel better during their second trimester, which you are about to enter. Do either of you have any questions for me?”
Harry had come to stand beside Ginny after she’d redressed. Grateful that everything looked good, he listened as Ginny asked about the small pains she’d had in her abdomen and the strange rush of emotions that were so unlike her. Harry struggled to keep an innocent face on that question, but he did not miss the grin Astoria shot him as she assured that all of it was normal. Then she’d given Ginny a book filled with information that she could use to answer questions that might come up between visits. All in all, Harry left extremely pleased, and Ginny was exultant. Astoria promised that the next visit would include a gender revealing spell, if they chose to use it. Her mouth moving a mile a minute, Ginny debated the pros and cons of discovering the baby’s gender all the way back down to the lobby. Harry could not seem to stop smiling as the memory of the percussion of an infant’s heart remained in his mind. That one little fluttering beat, as swift and light as a butterfly’s flight, had made the whole idea of a child incredibly real to him. As they entered into the bright, sunlit afternoon, he realized he had not heard a word Ginny was saying.
“Mostly, knowing if we have a boy or girl coming would help in designing the nursery, don’t you think? I mean, we could always have a Quidditch themed room regardless of which it is, but it might be nice to know. What do you think, Harry?”
Harry looked at her, still grinning like the Cheshire cat, and found an equally large smile on her face, as well. Reaching out, he grabbed her hand and stopped her as they reached the sidewalk in front of the hospital entrance.
“Ginny, that was our baby’s heartbeat! It’s really in there! A little person has actually taken up residence inside you! I’ve never really given much thought to the phrase ‘the miracle of childbirth’ before, but it really is, isn’t it? It’s absolutely amazing that you now carry a little piece of me around inside you.”
Ginny’s heart melted in the expression of wonder that filled Harry’s face as he reached out and placed his hand on her stomach. Covering his hand with her own, she went up on her toes and kissed him gently.
“I’ve carried a piece of you with me since before you walked into that forest almost seven years ago, Harry. I always have a part of you in my heart, love.”
Sheer joy overwhelmed him, and Harry wrapped his arms around her. Arm in arm, they began walking down the sidewalk. As they turned down the side street that led them toward Diagon Alley, they spotted the Malfoys walking further ahead of them. Draco held Astoria’s hand and was leaning his pale blond head toward her dark hair, listening very intently to whatever she was saying. The contrast of her dark beauty with his pale features stood out starkly, making them easy to spot. Harry’s Auror-trained eyes followed them discreetly, but his wife wasn’t fooled. Ginny got a playful look in her eyes as she watched them, and turned to Harry.
“We could go get some lunch if you don’t have to return to work right away. Why don’t we join Astoria and Draco for a bite?” Ginny nodded toward the couple, and Harry’s head jerked around.
“Now, wait a minute, Gin! Have you gone mental? I may have to turn you around and march you right back into that hospital. I said I didn’t have a problem with Astoria, but you saw how Malfoy acted when….Oh!” Harry noticed the sly smile playing at the corners of Ginny’s mouth, and shook his head. Having a smart-ass wife was so much fun.
“You are so amusing, love. My gut may burst with laughter. Ha.” He entwined her fingers in his and started walking again.
“By the way, your performance upstairs was brilliant.” The sarcastic tone in her voice cause Harry to duck his head a little, reminding him of Malfoy’s reaction to his own wife’s anger. He stood up straighter.
‘You have to admit, he asked for it, Gin. But,” he added quickly as she raised both eyebrows and opened her mouth, “I am sorry that I did it. I really shouldn’t let him get to me as much as he does. Anyway, I’ll have to fill out loads of paperwork about why I jinxed a civilian when I was off duty, so that should be punishment enough. Now, you know where we really need to go?” He changed the subject before she could get too wound up about it. Thankfully, the rest of the appointment had softened her anger and embarrassment to the point where she really couldn’t find it in herself to yell at him.
“Yes, I do. I believe a visit to the Burrow is now in order. We’ll be lucky she doesn’t skin us alive for waiting so long.” Ginny gave Harry big eyes, widened in mock fear. Molly Weasley could intimidate many people, Harry included, but not her daughter.
Harry shook his head. “Joke all you want, Gin. When she hears that Ron AND George both knew before she did, we’re toast. So, just for the record, I have enjoyed being your husband this long. Too bad it couldn’t have lasted longer. Our kid would’ve been cute, I think.”
Ginny shrugged and pulled Harry’s arm around her waist as they passed through the Leaky Cauldron. Ginny waved at Hannah Longbottom before rolling her eyes at Harry. “I am not afraid of my mother, Harry. All of my brothers may be, with the exception of Bill, I think he’s more scared of Fleur, but I am definitely not.”
“That’s because you can fight fire with fire, hon. The rest of us are so woefully unarmed in that battle. Shall we send an owl and invite ourselves to dinner, then, Mum?”Harry rubbed her belly again, teasing.
“If you can restrain yourself from jinxing people long enough, Daddy, I think we shall.” Ginny replied coyly, poking Harry playfully in the ribs. “To tell you the truth though Harry, if you hadn’t done it, I might have. He’s such a disgusting creep, even if he did marry way above himself. I don’t know how he landed her.”
Harry looked thoughtfully at his fiery tempered wife, imagining her standing over Draco Malfoy with her wand up his nose, and shook his head. That had been the whole reason he’d cast his spell first. If he’d let Ginny get to Draco, there might not be anything left. The paperwork associated with that gave him a headache just thinking about it.
“You do know, Ginny, that I am well aware of the fact that you can protect yourself, right?” Harry asked, looking serious for a moment. “I just have this…. need….. to keep you and the baby safe. Can you forgive me if I do behave a little irrationally sometimes?” He smiled at her, and stroked the top of her hand with his thumb. Any remaining irritation left inside her disappeared.
“If you feel the desire to be the big, strong, man, Harry, go ahead.” She grinned. “Just don’t get too used to it!”
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