Chapter 56 : Year 6: 'Tis the Season
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“Look at her fingers,” Ginny squealed; she had said it after Victoire had been born, and Dominique, and then Freddie, but this time it was with a new flutter in her chest because she knew that in just three short months, she would be gasping over her own baby’s tiny fingers and toes. “She’s so gorgeous, Katie,” she said to the new mother, feeling, to her mortification, her eyes water. The fact that Harry had been trying to stifle his sniffing since Katie had placed the baby in Ginny’s arms made her feel a little better about it, though.
“Can you believe,” Katie said, “that Bryony and your baby are going to be in the same year at Hogwarts?”
“But you can’t grow up and leave for Hogwarts,” Ginny said to the baby. “You are so small and precious that you might have to stay with your mum forever...”
“And her dad,” Katie added, her voice suddenly a little strained.
“What’s going on with that, anyway?” Harry asked tentatively as he sat down next to Ginny. “I mean, George said that Lee was over the moon when he came by the shop to tell him she was born, but he wouldn’t say much more than that.”
“He is the father,” Katie said. “I’m not going to keep her from him. She’ll probably end up switching between our houses when she’s old enough to be away from me. But Lee and I broke up for a reason. Us having a baby together doesn’t change that.”
“Did you know you were going to have a girl?” Ginny asked, stroking Bryony’s soft, pink cheeks with her thumb, and Katie smiled and shook her head.
“No, I kept it a surprise,” she said. “What about you? Do you two know what you’re having?”
“Yes, we found out on the checkup before this one,” Harry said, suddenly unable to stop from grinning widely. “It’s a boy.”
He still remembered that overwhelming feeling when Healer Pemperton had told them. She had been bending over Ginny’s (as of lately) round figure, the tip of her wand touching the stretched skin below the protruding belly button and shooting out a grainy, blueish shape in the air in front of them – the shape of their child, curled up to fit inside the womb, with ten perfect toes and ten perfect fingers, its legs twitching a little bit now and then, and the Healer had straightened up and said:
“He looks perfectly healthy.”
It was as if the whole thing had become real in that moment, because they were not just looking at their baby anymore, but at their son, at an actual person who would keep them up all night with his crying the first years, and perhaps when he was older too, because he would be out in some bar in Diagon Alley and Harry and Ginny would pace between the living room and kitchen until he would finally show up, and maybe Ginny would yell a little because he would smell of alcohol and Harry would hummingly agree but later on, when Ginny was fast asleep, he would go and check on their son again and maybe he would tell him things that he could not talk to his mum about – things like the girls he met and how someone got thrown out of the bar for trying to use magic in a much too drunken state.
But long before that, Harry would take his son to watch Ginny play Quidditch, to buy ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s with Teddy, to see Hagrid at Hogwarts and tell the boy about all the crazy pets he had throughout the years. And though they were not having another Harpy in February, perhaps they would still have a Quidditch player and perhaps he would still want to practice flying with Harry the summer before his second year to get ready for tryouts for his house team…
Harry and Ginny walked out of St. Mungo’s a few minutes after saying goodbye to Katie and Bryony. Back at their house on the countryside, everything was already knee-deep in snow, but the ground in London was still bare. It was chilly, though, and brown leaves turning crisp in the cold crunched under their feet as they walked, Ginny in the grey coat she had had to magically enlarge to fit into anymore, and Harry with his old Gryffindor scarf wrapped tightly around his neck, all the way up to his already blue-tinged lips.
“Can you believe that’s going to be you in just a little over two months?” Harry said as he slid an arm around her shoulder, pulling her a little closer a they carried on through the Muggle quarters, which were already busy with early Christmas shoppers and decorated with twinkling lights. “You’re going to be in a bed just like that one, holding our son…”
Ginny smiled. “Don’t remind me. Katie didn’t even want to talk about what labour was like. Although, I’ll admit that it will be nice to be able to move like I did before. I can’t even walk for five minutes without my feet killing me.”
“Do you want to sit down somewhere?” Harry said. “We don’t have to eat at the Leaky Cauldron – we could just grab something out here, if you’d like…”
“Oh, but Hannah said Neville might be there today!” Ginny said. “It’s all right, I can walk a little further. I haven’t seen him in ages.”
Neville Longbottom was in fact on his way to his girlfriend’s workplace in that same moment, though he was zigzagging between Christmas shoppers in Diagon Alley rather than Muggle Londoners. He had the weekend off, and like on most of his days off lately, he was planning to see Hannah. He enjoyed life at Hogwarts, especially now that a Christmas spirit had crept into the castle and everyone had begun looking forward to the holidays. But as of lately, what he had at Hogwarts was no longer enough for him – not when he knew what, or rather who, was waiting for him right there in London.
He was just passing Twilfit and Tatting’s and nodding at the mother of one of his most pretentious Slytherin sixth years when someone said, “Neville!” and he span around with a grin on his face.
He stepped forward to hug his old friends, who were carrying a few large bags each and, despite the cold, looked a little sweaty in their woollen hats, as though they had been running around between shops all afternoon.
“How are you?” Hermione said. “Oh, it’s been so long!”
“It has, hasn’t it?” Neville agreed. “I’m good, thanks. Just on my way to see Hannah. Are you going there too? She mentioned Harry and Ginny were going to stop by for a bite…”
“I wish we could,” Hermione said, “but Ron just got a message from work, and I have to get all this stuff home. Christmas presents,” she explained, adjusting her grip on the large box she was holding.
“That’s right,” Neville said, raising an eyebrow. “You lot have so many people to buy presents for. So how’s work, Ron? I haven’t seen most of the people from the Auror Office since I quit.”
“It’s good,” Ron said. “My only complaint is I’m stuck working with Jack Marwick on this case, and we can’t seem to get anywhere with it. I should actually get going, though. I hope I’ll see you again soon, Neville?”
“Yes, me too,” Neville said. “I might as well tell you this – McGonagall is planning a reunion for old students, like we talked about once. It will probably be right after New Year’s, before all the students come back. You have to come. I’d really like to be sitting at the Gryffindor table with you again.”
“We’ll be there,” Ron promised, and after stapling another few boxes on top of the one Hermione was already carrying, and sticking two bags under her arms he kissed her forehead, adviced her to move slowly so that she would not walk into anyone on her way back to the fireplaces, and hurried off to meet Marwick.
His partner was waiting in his office at the Ministry and instantly stood up when Ron came rushing in, pointing to the pocketwatch that hung around his neck and raising a thick eyebrow.
“Took you long enough,” he said, and Ron scowled.
“I was in Diagon Alley!” he replied. “I came as soon as I could.”
“We’d better not waste any more time, then,” Marwick said.
“Let’s not. Mind telling me what’s going on?”
“There’s been another murder,” Marwick explained. “Gawain wants us to go, because he reckons it might be connected to Marion Nott’s case.”
“Really?” Ron said. “And why is that?”
“Because the victim that was murdered last night was her uncle.”
“As in Egerton Nott? But he’s in–“
“–Azkaban, yes. The guards found him dead in his cell this morning. I hope you’re up for a boatride, Weasley. We’ve got to pay a visit to prison.”
And so just about half an hour later, Ron found himself climbing into a small rowing boat and sat down next to Marwick, both of them nodding at the prison guard who was taking them out to the island.
“Sometimes I just wish we could use bliming magic to get there and back,” the guard shouted as he started rowing; he had to shout, because the winds were not just so cold that it felt as thought it blew right through their skin and into their very cores – it was also noisy. Ron shuddered; to him, it sounded almost like the wails of the prisoners trapped way out there on that island, one of whom was, of course, not able to produce as much as a sound anymore.
The boatride was far from pleasant, though Marwick certainly seemed much nicer to Ron when he produced a small, floating fire with his wand in between them, its orange flames keeping their fingers and toes from turning to ice. By the time the guard could finally pull the boat up on the shore on the island of Azkaban, both Ron and Marwick’s teeth were still shattering, though, and that was without the presence of Dementors.
Kingsley Shacklebolt had had to campaign quite diligently to win over public opinion on the question of removing the Dementors from Azkaban after the war. Sure, some people had already questioned their reliability, considering they had teamed up with Voldemort and let out his Death Eaters during his short reign, but people also seemed to think that criminals should suffer – and being locked up was not enough, they thought. What some of those people had done to get into Azkaban also meant that they deserved the absolute misory of being constantly surrounded by those awful, life-draining creatures.
But Kingsley had succeded, in the end, and Aurors had taken over the job of guarding Azkaban. Ron had never had any desire to join that certain branch of the Auror Office, but he secretly hoped that Marwick would do just that one day. He would fit right in, Ron thought; he could picture him pacing in the corridor between the cells and spitting snotty comments about how glad he was that he got to leave the island each night and they did not.
“Nott’s cell is on the top floor,” said the guard as they made it up to the high stone building. Ron glanced up towards the higher windows; a few prisoners were glaring down at them between the iron bars that kept them from the outside world, and Ron shivered as he felt their eyes upon him. They might not have been under the influence of Dementors anymore, but their cheeks still looked hollow, and their hair hung dirty and lifeless down the sides of their faces. As Ron, Marwick and the guard walked through the heavy iron door, there was a rattling of chains and someone called out, “That’s Ron Weasley!”
The wind failed to drown out the shrieks and cries that followed, and Ron resisted the urge to cover his ears as they started walking up some very narrow stone steps leading towards the high security cells. Blood traitor… Just wait, one day you’ll be in this cell and I will be the one laughing from outside, Weasley… Is Rookwood seing this? Maybe he’ll unite you with your brother, Weasley, if you ask nicely…
Ron clenched his jaws and continued walking. He tried to focus on the back of Marwick’s head and how riddicolously perfectly each strand of his hair lay, but then they were on the top floor, and he thought he was going to be sick when he saw the figure standing just by the barred door on his left, his black hair tousled and thinning out, making his pale face seem ghostlike in the dim light. It was Antonin Dolohov – the man who had killed Remus Lupin.
Ron tore his eyes away and continued walking, his head now bent down to the floor. He would not look at them, he decided, because if he would actually see Rookwood, he was not so sure that he would be able to keep on breathing.
“Here we are,” said the guard suddenly, and Ron lifted his head again.
Nott was on the floor of his cell, his back against the stone wall and his eyes shut. He looked like he was asleep. Like most other inmates, he was almost skeletal, and very pale.
Ron was very relieved when he set foot on mainland again a few hours later, not only because Marwick left him to head over to Theo Nott’s house and tell him the news about his father. Ron had never been to Azkaban when the Dementors had still been there, but he could not imagine it had felt much different from how it was now. The air of coldness, of misery that would never truly go away, still lingered in the stone walls – and now, it lingered inside Ron’s chest, an awful feeling of knowing that he would never really get over the losses he had suffered or the things that he had seen.
Like winter, Christmas arrived just on time. Harry woke up to find that his backyard was still a winter wonderland, resting under a blanket of glistening, white snow. The little pond down below the bedroom window was frozen, and if he squinted, he could see the shape of isicles hanging from the Quidditch goal posts a bit further away.
“You’re up,” said a voice behind him, and Harry turned around to see that Ginny was awake too, now, curled up under the duvet, her red hair a mess and her eyes tired but happy as she smiled up at him.
“Merry Christmas,” Harry said, sitting down next to her on the bed, and she pushed herself up on her elbows to give him a kiss.
“Merry Christmas. Should we go downstairs and open presents?”
Harry chuckled. “Still acting like a child this time of year, I see.”
Ginny playfully punched him, but he leaned forwards and kissed her again, keeping her from answering back. Instead, he wrapped one arm around her, placed one on her belly and said, his eyes appearing to glow in the morning light:
“Your present is upstairs, actually.”
Ginny raised an eyebrow. “Couldn’t you have put it under the tree last night?”
“It would have been quite hard to move,” Harry grinned, standing up and reaching out a hand to pull her to her feet as well. “Come with me, and I’ll show you why…”
He pulled her out of the bedroom and stopped only by the next door – the nursery. They had grinded the wooden floor and painted the walls white, but there were still lots of things they needed to do with it before February.
That was what Ginny thought, at least, until Harry had pushed the door open and she had stepped over the threshold, gasping as she looked around the barely recognizable room. The softest kind of furry rug was on the floor, tickling her feet as she took a few more steps forwards, her eyes sweeping between the flowy, almost see-through, white curtains, an old rocking chair in the corner with two baby blue pillows, a white dresser by one wall with two picture frames and a little teddy bear on its top… And the cot, on the opposite side of the room, in whitewashed wood and already made with sheets in a pale blue colour and broomstick print on the little pillow. Ginny’s eyes did not water, however, until she saw the mobile hanging above it; little silver stars glittered in the light from the sun outside and cast a shadow pattern on the wall, and Ginny reached our her hand to touch one of the little teddy bears which appeared to be dancing among the stars.
“I can’t believe you kept this,” she said. It was the same mobile that had hung in there the day they had been shown the house for the first time. She had assumed that Harry and Ron had thrown it out when paiting the walls, but apparently not.
Harry walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist – which was not such an easy thing to do anymore – and she smiled as she felt his lips against the side of her forehead.
“I was thinking we could write his name on the wall over the cot,” Harry said. “Once we’ve finally agreed on one, of course.”
“I wanted to talk to you about that,” Ginny said. “I have an idea for a name that I think you’ll really like.”
“Really? Because you said that about Ferris too, Gin. Ferris Potter! The kid would never hear the end of it!”
“Well,” Ginny said, turning around to face him. “I’ll admit that this one beats Ferris. Even though I still think that’s a cute name.”
“So, what is it, then?”
Harry’s face dropped. “James?”
“James – Sirius – Potter.”
Now, it was Ginny’s husband’s turn to get wateryeyed, and she could feel his grip around her tighten as he cleared his throat and said:
“Really? You’d… you’d agree to that?”
“Ever since I thought about it, it’s about the only name I’d agree to,” Ginny confessed. “I just think it would be really nice to name him for your father. And I know how much Sirius meant to you, as well. I mean, I considered the name Remus – but I’d like to think that Teddy might want to name his son after him one day. So what do you think?”
Harry bent down and kissed her very softly, and then regretfully let go of her to wipe away the tears that had started to make their way down his cheeks. “I love it,” he said. “I love you. And James. Can you believe that he’ll really be here by next Christmas?”
The chapter title is taken from the traditional Christmas carol Deck the Halls. The English lyrics were written by Thomas Oliphant, a translation of the original Welsh version.
A/N: As always, thank you. I've been writing this story for years now and all of you are one of the reasons why it's been so incredibly awarding. I wasn't really feeling the Christmas spirit with summer on my doorstep, but I hope you still enjoyed the chapter. Let me know in a review, if you have time xxx
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