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Chapter 72 : Year 8: Fears
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It was July, and the Weasleys had gathered in the flat above Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes for the first of many birthdays in the family over summer—Harry was next, followed by Ginny and Percy in August. Mrs Weasley had set the bar high for the rest of summer with a giant cake topped with strawberries, which Freddie had been struggling to reach since she placed it front of him on the table just a minute or so ago. As the song finished, Angelina pushed the cake stand slightly closer to him as Victoire jumped up from her seat to help her cousin blow out the candles. George sobbed dramatically as he pressed a glittery, golden party hat onto his son’s black curls before bending down to kiss his cheek.
“Two years old,” he sighed. Then he straightened up and placed an arm around Angelina, who was standing next to him. “They do grow up too fast, don’t they?”
Mrs Weasley, who was sitting at the other end of the table in George and Angelina’s kitchen, smiled and shook her head. “Just you wait, George,” she said. “Before you know it he’s going to be in his thirties, with three babies of his own.” She shot an accusing look at Bill, as if she was holding the fact that he was all grown up against him, before returning to beaming at the birthday boy, who was once again reaching for the large cake in front of him, showing off all of his little teeth as he grinned excitedly.
As always, Harry had been surprised to find that all of the Weasleys could somehow fit into George and Angelina’s dining room in the flat above the shop. It was a hot day and despite all the windows being wide open, Percy was just taking off his glasses to wipe the sweat off his face with a folded napkin, and across from him, Dominique was gulping down water as if she had been spending the last few hours in the desert.
Ron and Hermione were sitting next to each other at the end of the table. While the others were scooping cake onto their plates, Ron was eyeing his wife with a concerned look on his face for a few moments before he leaned in and whispered:
“Are you sure you’re feeling okay? Maybe you should go lie on the couch for a bit.”
“Ron, I’ve told you I’m fine,” Hermione sighed. “The Healer did say I could go to the party, remember? I’m just having some cake, not playing a game of Quidditch.”
This made Victoire, who had returned to her seat on Hermione’s other side, drop her silver fork with a loud, clinging voice that caught everyone’s attention as she exclaimed: “Guess what? I’m going to be a Quidditch player!”
“Of course you are, darling,” replied her grandfather as he wiped his glasses clean of the cream that had splashed at him as the fork hit the table-top.
“Yes,” agreed Fleur, “when you are a leetle bit older, love…”
“No, I don’t have to wait, do I, Daddy?” said Victoire, bouncing up and down on her chair as she clapped her hands together.
“No, we haven’t told you this yet, Fleur, but Vic and I had an idea this morning,” explained Bill, smiling at his eldest daughter’s enthusiasm. “We thought we would start a Quidditch team over the summer for the children. Teddy would probably love to join us, and a few of Victoire’s other friends…”
A wrinkle formed on Fleur’s perfectly smooth forehead. “Bill, she is just a leetle girl!” she frowned, and he frowned back at her.
“Really?” he said. “You’re the last person I would expect to tell her she can’t do something because she’s a girl. You never let that stop you from doing anything! You were in the Triwizard Tournament with only boys, for Godric’s sake! Girls can’t play Quidditch? I don’t recall a man securing England’s spot in the World Cup next year, I’m pretty sure it was Ginny!”
“I don’t mean because she’s a girl!” replied Fleur crossly. “I mean because she is leetle. She is only six, remember?”
“We’ll be using toy broomsticks, of course,” said Bill. “Besides, you’ve decided you want to be a Beater when you start Hogwarts, haven’t you, Vic? So we need to start practising!”
“But Bill,” Fleur snapped, “she’s not going to ‘Ogwarts! She’s going to Beauxbatons!”
And thus begun a drawn-out argument about Victoire’s schooling, with the rest of them trying to drown out Bill and Fleur’s irritated voices, and Freddie looking even happier than before, as if a bunch of loud relatives was exactly what he had wished for when he had blown out the candles just minutes ago.
As was always the case in their family, everyone left the party with a feeling that they were not going to need to eat again in the next few weeks. Freddie, who had always been a happy baby and did not seem to be have changed since entering the terrible twos the day before, had a bit of a stomach ache after munching down a big slice of cake, but he whined less than his father did and fell asleep instantly when they tucked him to bed that night. While Angelina headed back into the kitchen to clean up the last signs of the party, George lingered in the nursery. He sat down on the floor in front of Fred’s cot and watched as his tiny chest lifted and sank back down for each breath he took. His hair was getting longer, and the curls that framed his face bigger. He was beginning to talk much more, forming sentences, asking questions (his current favourite was ‘why?’) They had started talking about getting him a bigger bed. George smiled and reached out a hand, pushed his fingers through the wooden bars of the cot and touched his son’s arm, which was soft and warm. Every so often, when he was awake, Freddie’s eyes would light up a certain way, or he would say something special, and George got the funniest feeling that he was watching not his son Fred, but his brother,
Before Fred died, George never thought much of grief. He never spoke to either of his parents about how they had felt when their brothers died, and he himself had never lost anyone before. What he found was that in the first few months after losing his twin, time stopped. Back then he thought that was the hardest time, and that it was only going to get better. But as he looked back on it now, just a little over six years later, he realized that he had had it easy, because though he could have sworn then that he had been bleeding out, that he had been slowly dying too, nothing around him changed at all and that had been the easy part. Then the day came that he had to get out of bed and keep on living without his best friend. Things began changing. A couple of their friends broke up. Bill and Fleur had a baby. George asked Angelina to marry him. And every time something changed, it was a cut into the pit of his stomach, because he couldn’t tell Fred. Every time something changed, the world became a little less like it was when Fred was still in it. The more time that passed, the further away he had seemed.
All of that had changed the very same moment that George held his son Fred in his arms for the first time. His brother was close again, and every time Freddie did something that reminded them of his late uncle, it was as if he was trying to tell them that he had never left.
The week following Freddie’s birthday marked the beginning of the hottest August in years. Ginny, who was sweating enough as it was carrying around all that weight she had finally put on in the last months, stayed inside and complained loudly while Harry brought her cold pumpkin juice and tried his best to keep James from making too much noise—which wasn’t an easy task, as of lately. Harry had a few weeks off from work but was saving most of his holiday for when the new baby was coming in the end of September.
One particularly hot day, Harry had an obligation at the Ministry despite being free from work, and Ginny agreed to let him go only if she and James could come too.
Passing through public places was always a strange experience when it was all three of them. Most people at the Ministry were used to seeing Harry of course, but seeing him together with his superstar Quidditch hero of a wife and their delightful little boy could shake up almost anyone.
They made it to a small chamber on the top floor just as the old security warlock guarding the door raised his wand to shut it. Ginny and James waved goodbye and headed off to see Ron down up the Auror Office while Harry snuck through the door, taking a deep breath as he took in his new surroundings.
The chamber was bright with an enchanted roof that reminded him of the Great Hall at Hogwarts, except this one, he knew, was always a blue sky and that sort of golden afternoon light that created perfect lighting for photographs. There was a small stage with a lectern at the front of the room, and the rest of it was crammed to the very last corner with photographers and reporters, most of them scribbling frantically on their parchments already, even though the press conference had yet to begin.
As Hamish Burke entered the stage and began to speak, Harry remained standing in the back, just by the door. He had debated for weeks whether he should come or not, discussed it with everyone he knew until he thought their ears my crumble up and fall off their heads, and as he stood there and listened now, he was finally sure he had been right to go. Since his conversation with Hamish Burke a few weeks back, he had decided to meet with all the candidates who were running for Minister. There had been Eunice Millais, an older witch who reminded him of a less kind version of professor McGonagall. Not only was she determined to bring the Dementors back to Azkaban, she had also promised to review a whole bunch of the other new reforms at the Ministry—Hermione was deeply concerned for her work in the Department for Magical Law Enforcement, should Millais become their new Minister.
Harry had liked the second candidate, Pippa O’Rorke, better at first glance. She was younger than Millais, and closer to Burke in her political views. She had, however, no political experience, and no concrete suggestions on how to achieve any of the things she was advocating for in her speeches.
So there Harry was now, standing in the back as Burke spoke of financial support for single parents who couldn’t afford to buy their children Hogwarts supplies, and he thought of Mr and Mrs Weasley emptying their vault at Gringotts before each September back when Harry had first met them. And when Burke had finished, Harry himself stepped up on the stage, blinking over and over as all of the cameras in the room began flashing, and then he took a deep breath and began speaking.
The next morning, thousands of owls left the Daily Prophet’s premises with newspapers tied around their legs, taking off into the warm summer air to deliver the paper of the day to Wizarding homes all over Great Britain. Two large photos were taking up most of its front page; one of Harry, under the headline ‘Potter supports Burke’s call for equality,’ and one of Hamish Burke himself smiling and waving from his spot at the centre of the stage in the little chamber. By the time the Daily Prophet landed on Harry and Ginny’s doorstep, however, they had already left home, and blamed the looks they were receiving as they walked through the entrance hall of St. Mungo’s on the fact that people only wanted to get a good look at James, and at Ginny’s baby bump. Or perhaps, Harry thought, it was because Ginny was looking unusually pale and nervous; she had been up all night, worrying. She had finally woken Harry up around 4 a.m. and said something just didn’t feel right, and there they were now, meeting with the same Healer who had delivered James, clutching each other’s hands tightly as she began to examine Ginny with brows furrowed in concentration.
“There he is, now,” said the Healer with a grin as she pointed her wand at Ginny’s stomach and produced a grainy image of a curled up little baby in the air between them. “Everything looks perfectly normal. He’s fattening up a bit in there now, getting ready for life outside the womb…”
Ginny watched with glowing eyes as the baby moved ever-so-slightly. Party of her was desperate to meet her new son, but there was another part of her that wanted to keep him in there forever, to never let him out into the big scary outside world.
“What are you most worried about?” asked Healer Pemperton softly, placing a hand on Ginny’s lower arm. “The labour?”
Ginny’s eyes strayed to James, who was sitting on Harry’s lap, playing with the rubber duck that Mr Weasley had given him for his birthday, and which he refused to leave at home whenever they went anywhere.
“I think I’m a little bit worried I won’t be able to love anyone as much as I love James,” she admitted, and the Healer smiled so that her two gold teeth glittered in the light of the pendant light above their heads.
“That’s what all second-time parents tell me,” she assured Ginny. “That’s what’s amazing about parents, though. Their hearts seem to grow along with their family, so there’s always room for everyone.”
“Yeah, just look at your mum and dad, Gin,” agreed Harry, and Ginny shrugged.
“I guess I’m just a bit crazy at the moment,” she sighed. “It’s just with what happened to Ron and Hermione… I start painting up all the worst scenarios in my head. What if something happens to him? What if he comes out and I just can’t love him?”
“I never knew how much I could love James until he was born,” Harry pointed out. “I would think it’s going to be the same this time around.”
Once the appointment was over, they headed to the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. Once again, people were staring—more so than usual—and Ginny picked out a table in the back and looked around warily while Harry began skimming through the menu. They had only just sat down when Hannah Abbott appeared next to their table, smiling unsurely as she reached down to pat James’ head.
“Hi, Hannah,” said Ginny. “What’s with everyone here today? Have I got something on my face?”
Hannah’s eyes flickered between Harry and Ginny. “Don’t you think it’s what they wrote in the paper,” she said, “about Harry supporting Hamish Burke? I mean, I like him too. I have gathered not everyone are as keen on him, though. He’s probably a little too progressed for some people.”
She took their orders and headed off again, and Ginny turned her eyes to Harry as he placed a warm hand on top of hers.
“Are we still sure about the name?” he wanted to know.
“You mean am I still sure, don’t you?” Ginny smiled.
He shrugged—she was right, of course. She had been very hesitant when he had first suggested it, but the more they had talked about it, the better it had sounded to her. Perhaps it was a lot of pressure naming their son after the man most people considered to be the greatest wizard of the last century. Harry had seen it differently, though. He had said that Dumbledore was the wisest and probably greatest wizard he had known, but he had also made more mistakes than most. And he had made up for them a hundred times, in Harry’s opinion, and deserved to have his name live on even though he was gone.
The middle name had been harder for Ginny to accept.
“Severus?” she had exclaimed. “Harry, I know he loved your mother, but he was awful to you! To everyone, really. Remember how he treated Neville?”
“I agree,” Harry had said calmly. “He was awful. But it was because he was in pain. He couldn’t suppress all of it and he took it out on the wrong people. But if it hadn’t been for him… I wouldn’t have been alive. I wouldn’t have known how to defeat Voldemort, and this baby would have been born into a completely different world. Snape only ever let us see one side of him when he was alive. But there was another side, one that was capable of a love so strong it saved us all. My mother died seventeen years earlier, but the love he had for her kept on living until the moment his heart stopped beating. And I think it could live again in our son.”
Back in the present, at the Leaky Cauldron, Ginny raised an eyebrow at Harry and smiled again.
“I haven’t changed my mind,” she promised him.
Just then, round, smiling face appeared behind Harry, and Ginny lit up as Neville Longbottom rounded the table while directing three plates of food towards them. He was on summer break from Hogwarts and was helping out Hannah at the inn, since the old landlord, Tom, was unwell. While James, ignoring the cutlery, dug his hands into his potato and vegetable mash, his parents stood up to hug their old friend, both of them inviting him to sit down and join them as they sank back down onto their chairs.
“I wish I could,” said Neville. “But it’s so busy in here. I think Hannah needs me.”
Ginny grinned up at him. “What a great boyfriend you are,” she said truthfully, and Neville blushed a little.
“Do you really think so?” he said, and as Ginny nodded, he bended down towards her and lowered his voice. “I’m thinking about asking her to marry me,” he said. “I’m just not sure if she would accept. I’m scared she won’t.”
Harry let out a laugh. “You must be blind, Neville!” he said. “It’s so obvious that she is mad about you.”
“And why wouldn’t she be?” Ginny agreed.
And perhaps she was imagining it, but she could have sworn that Neville had grown at least three or four inches as he headed back to the bar, whistling happily as he poured the newest guests a glass of butterbeer each.
A/N: As always, thank you for reading and reviewing. You don't know how much I appreciate it. I would love to hear your thoughts on this - do you think Harry made the right decision in taking a political stand? What are your thoughts on Albus Severus' name? I was always a bit unsure of it myself.
Oh, and I've already started on the next one but probably won't finish it before Christmas, so to those of you who celebrate it: have a erry Christmas! And happy new year to everyone!! Xx
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