Chapter 5 : Interesting Conversations
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“How convenient! Now we can save Mum the time and energy she’d need to send owls to all of them describing how we had treated her so poorly and kept this vital secret for so long,” Ginny said sarcastically as she prepared to leave. “Are we popping over to get Teddy, Harry? It is his weekend with us, you know. I think we must be very careful in how we tell him about the baby. I’d hate for him to feel left out or pushed aside, as much as he idolizes you. Maybe we could include him in the announcement. What do you think? Harry?”
Harry sat at the window watching the sinking sun paint golden streaks in Ginny’s hair as she moved about the room gathering up the cards from her teammates. They’d arrived that afternoon, filled with congratulations celebrating the reason for her recent resignation. The glow from the morning’s visit with Astoria still shone in her face, and Harry seemed unable to keep his eyes from her. At the sound of his name, he jumped with the realization that he’d not been listening to her at all.
“What? Oh, I guess so. Ted and I will manage just fine, Gin. That’s one kid who’ll never need to worry about where he fits in.”
The ferocity of his voice took Ginny by surprise, and she looked at him. The dark cloud that passed over Harry’s handsome features assured Ginny that his own childhood of loneliness and feelings of being unwanted had flitted through his mind. Never knowing where he belonged, or having anyone that cared for him, left a scar that time and love slowly eroded. But truly, it would never completely disappear. Living with the Dursleys sometimes seemed to have done more damage to Harry than battling Voldemort. At least he was supposed to hate Harry. His aunt had been his mother’s sister. Wasn’t family meant to love you? Petunia never once placed a single shred of affection into Harry’s dismal childhood. Shaking his head, Harry turned his thoughts to other matters. It went back to George’s words again. The past deserved no more. It had stolen enough. Harry turned back to watch Ginny getting Teddy’s pajamas and camp bed ready.
“We don’t have to get him this time, Gin. Andromeda is allowing him to Floo all by himself for the first time! He should get here in about five minutes. We might need to get our wands ready to clean up the soot; I imagine he’ll show up a bit excited.” Harry pictured the wild state the boy would arrive in after being allowed to travel through the fireplace without an adult. There was no telling in what color his hair would show up.
Ginny needn’t have worried over Teddy’s reaction to their news. His hair streaking purple and orange like a strobe light, the child ran around the room screeching, “I’m going to be a god brother! Yahoo! This is brilliant! Whoopee!”
Harry cocked his eyebrow at Ginny and whispered, “Yeah, I think it’s killing him with insecurity, the poor kid. We should let him whirl through the Burrow just like this. It would definitely get out the message!”
And so, they did. At first, Molly and Arthur Weasley watched the rainbow-tressed boy streak around their kitchen in utter incomprehension. Slowly, his words sunk in, and Arthur grabbed Ginny in a ferocious hug. Molly stood there, dazed for a moment, and then joined Teddy’s shrieks with her own. The pans she’d been holding clattered to the floor in with a resonant gong, alerting the entire world to the announcement.
“A baby? Oh, Ginny dear, you’re going to be a mother! How wonderful! I’ve been waiting for this day, it seems like forever! My baby is having a baby!” She nearly jerked Ginny’s arm from its socket as she wrenched her from Arthur’s grasp, and smothered her in tears and kisses. Fleur and Audrey stood waiting for their turn to hug and cry, and Ginny found herself swept off to the table to receive the third degree about her symptoms.
“Ah, Harry! Fatherhood awaits, m’boy!” Arthur greeted him with a hearty handshake, then gave it up as a bad job and just grabbed him in a fatherly embrace. Together, they left the ladies in the kitchen and made their way into the family room where Bill and Percy sat minding their little ones.
“Cheers, Harry! Welcome to the club, mate.” Bill lifted his glass of butterbeer in a toast as he balanced little Dominique on his knee. Victoire raced off after Teddy, sloshing the drink down her father’s shirt. “Never a dull moment, I promise,” he sighed as he set down the glass and siphoned off the liquid with his wand.
Percy shook his head, and chortled to himself. “That’s what you get for trying to drink and diaper at the same time. One must be exclusive of the other, dear brother.” He set little Molly’s basket on the floor by his feet, tucking a blanket gently around her tiny form. Then he retrieved his own butterbeer, raised it to his brother with a superior twinkle in his eye, and drank it down.
Settling himself in the squashy armchair nearest Bill, Harry eyed the tiny form bouncing on his brother-in-law’s knee. Dominique was about ten months old now, but she seemed so little! How did one go about handling one so fragile? Sure, he’d cuddled Teddy years ago, but he’d never been completely responsible for him. Glancing over at Percy’s eight week old daughter lying in a basket on the floor, he suddenly witnessed what he thought to be a terrible emergency.
“Perce! Molly’s sick! She’s choking up all this white stuff! Should we call St. Mungo’s? Do I need to get Audrey?” Panic gripped Harry, until he heard the men all laughing at his hysterical reaction. Percy simply reached down and scooped Molly up, patted her back, and wiped up the offensive white ooze with a rag. Seemingly unharmed, the baby burped loudly, and Percy replaced her in the basket.
“Harry, that’s called ‘spit-up’. Learn it now, so it doesn’t freak you out later. You’ll be seeing a lot of it, I’m afraid. Molly’s tummy got a little icky, so she spit up the milk that bothered her. That’s all. Keep your hair on, mate.” Percy smirked at Harry’s dumbfounded expression.
Suddenly, Harry found himself drowning in a tidal wave of all he DIDN”T know about babies. He’d been so excited about the prospect of becoming a father; he’d forgotten that he was totally clueless as to what that entailed. The panic returned, bringing a few friends with it, such as hyperventilation and tremors. The look on his pale face sent the Weasley men into fits of laughter.
Harry didn’t find any of it funny in the least. Eyes wide, he stuttered, “I…I don’t...how do you…what in God’s name do I do with a baby?”
Harry struggled to get a grip on the idea of being a father. Ginny certainly had plenty of opportunities to learn how to be a mum, watching Molly Weasley all these years. He had no doubt that she would be brilliant at it. With a pang, he thought of the fatherly figures he’d known in his life. Vernon Dursley didn’t count; nothing remotely paternal ever came from his mouth. Sirius might have become someone to which Harry could have turned, but he’d lost him so soon. Dumbledore left the most lasting impression, and yet even he had used Harry for greater and nobler purposes. Not exactly the unconditional love and protection of a parent. James Potter gave his life for his son, but left no words of guidance.
Looking around the room, Harry’s eyes took in the three Weasley men. Here lay the answer to his problem. Or, so he thought.
“You lot are all dads,” Harry stated. “What am I in for? Is there some shred of advice you think a new father should know?”
Percy sat up straighter, seemingly excited about giving his expert advice, but Bill cut across him before he could utter the words.
“Ask your mum.” Bill said.
“What? My mum? But she’s...” Harry replied, uncomprehending.
“No, Harry. That’s what you need to learn. Any time your child asks you for anything or to do anything, it’s what you say. ‘Ask your mum.’ It saves your own hide in case you have a tendency to inadvertently give permission for them to, say… paint the neighbor’s cat with stars and spots. This way, you don’t have to wonder if you’ve done the right thing. Their mum will handle it.” Winking at him, Bill shifted Dominique to his other knee.
Percy apparently caught on to the reality of the conversation. Raising his eyebrows and leaning forward to make sure Audrey couldn’t hear him, he turned to Harry.
“Get used to not being the center of Ginny’s attention any longer. At first, you may think she doesn’t even remember that you still exist. It’s like they’ve fallen in love with someone else, and it occupies all their time. She’ll be too tired to cook your meals. She’ll be too busy with the baby to make sure you’ve got clean socks or trousers. At the end of the day, she’ll fall asleep in the chair instead of listening to you tell about your day. The center of her universe will shift, and you, dear Harry, will not be Ginevra’s shining sun. This baby will. It’s a hard adjustment.”
Bill nodded his agreement, and added his own perception of the situation.
“The romance part of marriage goes on holiday for a while, Harry. Sheer exhaustion forces you to sneak sleep when you can get it, instead of other activities you used to enjoy in bed. It’s quite a shame, too. The, um, ‘toys’ get bigger, but they are no longer yours to enjoy. Fleur didn’t let me near her chest for months, and by then the fun was over.” Bill grumbled the last bit, letting Harry know that this was still a topic that hit a little too close to home for him.
Harry considered that carefully. As for him not getting clean trousers or cooked meals, there was nothing new there. With both of them working, Harry did just as much household charm work as Ginny. That, he could handle. But Ginny always actively enjoyed their sex life, and he couldn’t imagine her becoming less than enthusiastic about it. The thought sent a bit of anxiety through him.
“Actually, Harry, that part of marriage may not interest you for awhile anyway,” Percy went on in a conspiratorial voice. “It takes a toll on the feminine physique, you know. That slim waist and shapely hips go through hell, to be frank. Audrey still complains that she’s got about twenty-five extra pounds hanging around after Molly. And stretch marks? Don’t get me started. By the way, if you repeat any of this within hearing range of my wife, I’ll kill you.” Harry realized Percy half meant that threat as he glanced toward his wife in the kitchen yet again.
Bill snorted, but Harry grew tenser. He adored Ginny’s body, every inch of it, and while he would love her no matter how she looked, he didn’t look forward to anything Percy just described.
Bill’s eyes flicked toward the kitchen again, and continued the torturous conversation.
“Lots of nappies and bottles are in your future, Harry. We go through at least ten a day, it’s never ending. What they don’t poop out, they spit up on you. Fleur almost broke down and asked for a house elf to help handle all the laundry. Prepare for lots of crying, too. Between Fleur and Victoire, someone was always wailing at Shell Cottage for the first six months of her life. Fortunately, baby Dominique here doesn’t make much fuss, do you dumpling?”
The infant kicked and giggled as Bill wiggled the fingers that held her around the ribcage. The smile that lit her small face caused Harry to return one of his own before facing them with a worried expression. They sniggered at him, exchanging knowing looks.
Arthur took one look at his son-in-law, and let out a loud guffaw. “Honestly Harry! You look like we’ve cursed your dog, son!” Percy and Bill chuckled at the frightened expression Harry offered them.
Harry looked desperately from Arthur to the brothers, and swallowed hard. Maybe they were pulling his leg. How could Ginny go from being his beautiful, strong, confident wife to the moody, unattractive woman they described? It didn’t seem possible. And they made a baby seem like a parasite, sucking all the life from a marriage and leaving nothing but a mess behind. Could it be that bad? Harry forced himself to take a deep breath, and turned to Arthur.
“Is all of that true, sir?” Fingers crossed, breath held, he waited for the answer.
The smile that lit Arthur’s face glowed with nostalgia, and he shifted in his seat so that Molly came into his line of view. Without ever taking his eyes from her, he answered Harry.
“Yes, Harry, what the boys say is all true. But it’s not forever. What they neglected to tell you is that there are moments so beautiful that they will take your breath away. Those moments are worth everything, son. Believe me.” The softness of his voice as he watched his wife through the open door did more to reassure Harry than the words he spoke.
“Besides, Harry, I had seven children. If it was all that bad, do you think I would have put myself through it again and again?” Arthur gave him a wink. Harry felt slightly better.
The voices in the kitchen suddenly rose, and Harry saw Molly jump out of her seat. She turned and glared at him from beside Ginny.
“Harry James Potter,” she screeched, using his full name as she did her own children when they’d crossed some boundary, “get in this kitchen right now!”
All of the Weasley men’s eyebrows shot up, and they gave Harry a look of surprise mingled with the relief that it was not their names she yelled. Suddenly, Harry knew what set her off. The owl sat on the window ledge, and Mrs. Weasley held several letters of parchment in her hand that she’d obviously been about to send off. Ginny had told her that Ron and George’s weren’t necessary. Standing a little uncertainly, he walked to the kitchen like a man to the gallows.
When Arthur ushered Harry in to visit with her brothers, Ginny found herself shuttled to the kitchen table to endure endless questions about her pregnancy.
“So, dear, tell me how you are? Feeling a bit peaky yet? I always got so ill when I was expecting,” said Molly as she patted Ginny’s hand and beamed with motherly pride.
Fleur shook her head knowingly. “Yes, I waz always so seek wiz ze babies. ‘ow are you feeling?”
Ginny glanced at her mother, and shrugged. “I did spend a bit of time in the loo, but it seems to have passed, thank God.”
Audrey brought the chairs up to the table with her wand and took a seat on Ginny’s other side. She looked tired, and there were spots of some unknown origin on her robes. Usually, Audrey sparkled with perfection and neatness. Ginny always thought that was part of what drew Percy to her. Little Molly must be throwing a monkey wrench into that uptight couple. Surely she and Harry would handle it with more ease? The first hint of worry rose in her as she watched Audrey lean her head into her hands and produce an enormous, gaping yawn. When Audrey caught her watching, an evil glint came into her eyes.
“Try to stock up on your sleep now, Ginny. I don’t think I’ve had more than three hours at a time since the baby came. Percy tries to help, but honestly, it’s easier when he doesn’t. That man couldn’t find his arse with two hands and a lighted torch, I swear. Sorry, Mum, but it’s true. He tells me to go lay down, he’ll handle everything. Then two seconds later he’s back, asking where the nappies and powder are. I promise, there have been times he’s been lucky I didn’t have my wand handy. I’ve come to the conclusion that men are useless when it comes to babies,” Audrey finished, a scowl on her face, and a careful eye on Ginny’s reaction.
Ginny’s eyebrows shot up. Percy certainly didn’t have quite the handle on fatherhood that he thought he did. Would she feel the same about Harry after the baby came? Her eyes sought him out in the other room. Leaning toward Bill, his back facing the kitchen, Harry seemed intent on their conversation. She could not imagine him being useless at anything.
Not one to be left out of the conversation, Fleur rolled her eyes and sniggered. “At least ‘e iz not wanting to do uzzer things all ze time. Bill could not keep ‘iz ‘ands off me, and I was so tired. Zat was the last thing on my mind, to be quite ‘onest. Ze thought of zat just did not appeal to me at all!” She lowered her voice and whispered, “What wiz my breasts so sore and ‘aving so much trouble feeding ze baby, I could barely ‘andle ze clothes touching me, much less ‘im!”
Now a true anxiety flooded Ginny as she listened to the two ladies discuss the trials and tribulations of motherhood. The young mothers volleyed back and forth, feeding off each other’s comments, like a tennis match. Ginny’s brain could hardly keep up.
Audrey’s mouth flew open. “You too? I’m so relieved! I thought it was just me! It’s only been in the last week that I could wear a bra without crying. And baby Molly sucked until I have a blister on my left…well anyway, I’m glad to know I’m not alone in that department. Breastfeeding never seemed so difficult until I tried it. Believe me, Ginny, that picture of the serene mother with a child held gently at her breast is a joke. Latching on hurts like hell for the first three weeks, at least. Then you’ve got the sores and cracks, which the potions do NOT help, thank you very much. I’ve almost given up and turned to bottles about a million times. Percy thinks this is more natural. I’d like to see him try it.”
Ginny’s head swam with the descriptions her sisters –in-law gave her. They made their husbands seem like bumbling idiots. She could envision it of her brothers, but her mind could not force Harry into that role, no matter how she looked at it. A baby could not reduce her strong, intelligent, loving husband into a fumbling, sex-crazed, clueless moron. Could it?
Molly Weasley clucked her tongue at her daughters-in-law, and shook her head. Ginny used that break in the conversation to catch her breath.
“Now girls, don’t get Ginny worried over nothing. That all passes, right Fleur? Anyway, I want to hear more about you, love. Have you decided where you want to deliver? Most witches give birth at home with a midwife, but St. Mungo’s does have that all new birthing facility. I don’t know what that would be like. I did so enjoy having my own place and things about me while delivering my children.”
Ginny considered telling her mother about Astoria Malfoy, then thought better of it. “I did go look at St. Mungo’s. The birthing rooms are lovely. Harry and I think we may deliver there. We haven’t decided yet.”
“Just as long as you have a really good midwife,” said Audrey. “Mine kept holding back on the pain charms, and I thought I might rip in half. He didn’t have a clue about pain management, the old codger.”
“Yes, delivery is quite painful,” agreed Fleur. “My midwife did not believe in pain charms, and I ‘ad such trouble getting Dominique out into ze world. She did not want to go! Twenty ‘ours of labor is very ‘ard on ze body. It took three spells to repair ze damage after ‘er birth.”
That caused Ginny’s eyes to widen considerably, especially when Audrey piped up with her two cents worth. “Twenty hours? I labored for twenty-five with baby Molly. If my midwife had not believed in pain charms, someone would have died! Contractions hurt like hell. The Cruciatus couldn’t be much worse than that!”
Now Ginny felt herself beginning to panic. What had she done to herself? Playing Quidditch left her with injuries many times, but nothing that she could compare to torture curses. Should she ask Astoria about pain charms next visit? Would everyone think she was a big sissy if she used them during labor? She imagined Harry’s face when she told him the pain was too much. Would he think any less of her? Somehow, this conversation had not come out the way she planned. Frantically, she focused on her mother’s warm, brown eyes.
“Mum? What have I done? Why would any woman put herself through pain and exhaustion, only to have her husband turn into the world’s biggest prat?” Her hands trembled, and Molly reached out and held them in her own.
“Oh, Ginny. Don’t listen to them. It’s true that labor can be unpleasant, and your father often got in the way more than he helped. But I would go through every second over again, knowing what miracles you and your brothers are, dear. Breastfeeding started out as a difficulty with Bill, but after a few weeks I rocked him and sang while I fed him. Such a sweet time, really. A bond is forged there that is never broken. Not one moment of my pregnancies or births would I trade for anything in the world. They brought me you.” Smiling, her eyes misted over. Ginny felt that with her mum beside her, she could bear anything.
“So, dear,” Molly straightened up, wiping her eyes and reaching for her stationary, “what shall we tell your brothers? I’ll get the owl ready to visit Charlie, George, and Ron. They will be so excited for you!”
Ginny shrank down into her seat. She’d been dreading this moment. While she did not have the fear of Molly Weasley that her brothers did, incurring the woman’s wrath did not top her list of ‘Favorite Things to Do’. She debated just letting her send the owl, and ignoring it completely, but if her mother found out later it would only be worse. Taking a deep breath, Ginny prepared for the blast that would come.
“Mum, wait. You don’t need that much parchment. Only one letter needs to be sent.” Her voice sounded slightly higher than normal, and it irritated her that she felt nervous. Wasn’t she a grown woman?
Molly stopped, her brows furrowed, and looked quizzically at Ginny. “I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t I need to send all of your brothers an owl, dear. Don’t you want them to share this happy news?”
“Yes, but two of them already know. George helped Harry come up with a great way to tell Ron and Hermione two weeks ago. We waited until after my visit with the midwife to tell you and dad.” Ginny knew she was in trouble the minute the words left her mouth. Molly’s face turned slightly pink, but her ears were scarlet. Ginny had a moment to wonder whether her child would inherit that trait, or turn deathly pale like Harry, when it got angry. Then the shit hit the proverbial fan.
“You mean that your father and I are the last to know?” Molly’s trademark screech resounded through the kitchen. “Ginevra Molly Weasley Potter! Do we matter so little to you that you would keep this from us until the rest of the world knew? I never would have thought that my only daughter would treat me so poorly!”
Her chest heaving, Molly focused that blazing glare at Ginny, who continued to shrink down in her chair. Usually, Ginny blasted back at her temperamental mother with fire of her own. This time, she just couldn’t find the strength. The whole discussion with Audrey and Fleur sapped all the fight right out of her. What she wanted most was her mother to reassure her that it would all be okay. She did not think she would get that tonight.
“I’m sorry mum, really. We wanted to be really sure, so we waited until we’d seen a professional and gotten a complete healthy check-up. It went quite well. I’m three months along, and next time we get to find out what gender it is.” Ginny hoped that giving her mother more information might throw her off the rant, but it only fueled her anger.
“Three months! You’ve been pregnant three months and I’m just now finding out? Does all of England know already? And who is this midwife you’ve chosen? You didn’t even consult me at all before choosing? I know Fletchley retired and you’ve had to find someone entirely new! Who is it then?”
Fleur and Audrey moved back from their fuming mother-in-law, trying not to draw any unwanted attention to themselves. They moved like prey backing away from a wild beast, where the slightest movement would cause them to pounce. Ginny saw them looking sorry for her over her mother’s shoulder. Steeling herself for the attack, she forged ahead. The whirlwind had already begun. It was better to face it all at once.
“I’ve chosen Astoria Malfoy. She’s really the best at St. Mungo’s, and Harry agrees with me.” Ginny rushed, hoping that she’d be wrong about her mother’s reaction. She wasn’t.
Molly turned absolutely purple. Jumping out of her chair, she turned toward the room where the men quietly visited, and screamed.
“Harry James Potter! Get in this kitchen right now!”
Harry approached, his face white, as all the Weasley men leaned forward with wide eyes. For the next half hour, they endured the ravings of Molly Weasley, while Arthur tried to calm her down. Thankfully, Fleur slid her wand out of sight the moment she’d turned to summon Harry to the kitchen, or who knows what havoc she would have wreaked. She was, after all, Ginny’s mother.
After suffering innumerable guilt trips and making multiple promises, Harry and Ginny finally bade them goodnight as Arthur herded Molly off to her room to regain her control. Turning to Harry and Ginny before they left, he said, “Please know that we are extremely pleased about your news. Your mother may have strong fits of temper, but she loves just as fiercely, you know. When she’s calmed down, I’m sure it will tickle her to be a grandmum again, no matter what Healer delivers the child. Travel safe!” With that, he’d disappeared into the bedroom with a glass of butterbeer and a soft word for his wife.
After arriving back at the little cottage, Harry and Ginny helped Teddy dress for bed and tucked him in. Each played the conversations they’d had at the Burrow over in their heads. Harry could not help thinking about the comments Bill and Percy made about how difficult life would become. Ginny kept hearing the painful delivery stories of her sisters-in-law. Standing next to Teddy’s little bed, they watched him snuggle up under his blanket and let out a contented sigh. Ginny leaned down and kissed his cheek while Harry ruffled his hair, and they walked together down the hall to their bedroom in unusual silence.
“Harry?” Ginny sat on the bed, and motioned for him to join her. He sat down and took her hand, slowly rubbing circles across the back of her knuckles.
Looking shyly at her husband, she admitted, “I’m scared, Harry.”
Relief flooded over him. “I know. I am, too, Gin. I have no idea how to be a dad. Not having one myself, you know. What if I’m rotten at it?”
Ginny shook her head. “Nonsense, love. You’ll be spectacular at it. I’m scared about having the baby. What if I can’t handle the pain?”
Raising an eyebrow, Harry looked at her. “You, not handle something? That’s unheard of. You’ll be great. Besides, you’ve got Astoria.”
Laughing, they sat beside each other in silence for a moment. Harry turned to her suddenly, face sober, and looked at her with pleading eyes.
“Do you really think I can do this, Gin? I’m terrified of failing. The only father figure I ever knew locked me in a cupboard and starved me half to death. How am I supposed to know how a real dad acts? What if this baby doesn’t like me? What if we fall apart? What if I screw up?” The desperation in his voice melted Ginny’s heart. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him soundly.
“Do you love me, Harry Potter?” She asked quietly.
“With everything that I am,” his whispered reply came softly back to her.
“Will you love this baby?” She pushed further.
“More than life itself. I already do, I think, and it’s not even here yet.”
Ginny crawled up into the bed and held out her arms to her husband. He slid in next to her, and she held him close.
“That’s all there is to know, then love. We’ll be fine.” She murmured. And feeling the peace that always came when he found himself in Ginny’s arms, Harry agreed.
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