|SIYE Time:2:17 on 16th January 2018|
The Space Between
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Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/AB, Post-DH/PM
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Fluff, General, Humor, Tragedy
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mental Abuse, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Rape, Sexual Situations, Spouse/Adult/Child Abuse, Violence, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Harry and Ginny's lives have finally evened out. They've faced trauma, and loss, more than most have, but they've fought hard to find a normal.
If only things could stay that way... Old enemies find new ways to seek revenge.
This story is the sequel to Bound. It would be extremely helpful if you read that first.
Warnings are to be safe. It's probably overkill. Please message me if you have any questions or concerns.
Hitcount: Story Total: 78602; Chapter Total: 4300
Awards: View Trophy Room
There is one more part to the prologue, then we dive in to the main story. These chapters will be longer, so I'll probably go two weeks between posting. It depends on what I get done. This story is not done, but I have done through chapter 6 so I have a great start on it. It's already massive. But, readers, as you know I do not do unfinished stories. It drives me nuts. I want to do this right, I'm going to take the time to do it to the best of my ability, but that's likely to not be weekly updates.
Thank you so much Arnel!!
May 27th, 2005
“It’s okay, James,” Ginny shushed as she rocked her fretful son as he tried desperately to shove his entire fist in his mouth. She was exhausted. She was beyond exhausted and had, in fact, passed into zombie state weeks ago. James had been a demanding baby, although usually a happy one as well. Once his teeth had started coming at the end of February, when he was five months old, James had turned into a colicky mess. He only stopped crying when he was asleep and he didn’t sleep much. He even cried when he nursed because the pain was bothering him so much. Ginny wanted to cry too because the teeth were making nursing excruciating.
They’d tried pain potions, chewing on cold rags, and even an ointment that Audrey had suggested. Nothing worked. He cried much of the night, leaving her so bleary that she went through her days in a stupor. Harry had tried to help, but James only wanted her and he still had work.
“Here,” seven-year-old Teddy said, handing her the ring sling.
“Thank you,” Ginny told him trying to smile. He was staying with them for the week while Andromeda traveled to Scotland to visit a friend who was ill. One handed she threw it over her head like a sash and fitted James down into the pouch. His crying turned instantly into a low keening. Her lip trembled as she looked at the little boy. “This isn’t how I wanted our week together to go.”
“It’s okay,” Teddy told her, patting her elbow.
It wasn’t really okay, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. Harry was working very long hours at the moment. He’d taken over as Head of the Auror office a few weeks before and the work load had tripled in the transition. Ginny was so tired that she felt sick and like she’d been trampled by a dragon. She’d been running on empty for over a month and it was only getting worse. She’d been looking forward to her week with Teddy. Without warning her lip quivered and she hooked an arm around his thin shoulders and pulled him in close. “I’m sorry. I wanted to have so much fun this week. You’ve got to be deaf by now from all the screaming.”
He shrugged as he hugged her. “I don’t mind. Did I cry like this when I was getting teeth?”
She ran a hand through his short hair and shook her head. “You did cry some but not like this.” His blue eyes met hers and taking a deep breath she willed the energy to come. It didn’t, but she would push through anyway. “Let’s go for a walk.”
“Okay,” he agreed and took the hand she held out. They walked out the back and down the lane. Before they were even halfway down the drive James went limp with sleep and Ginny tucked his head more securely in the cloth so it didn’t flop about. The two talked some about the deer they spotted and the squirrels, but mostly they walked in companionable silence.
They wended their way towards the back of the house and over the bridge. Ginny sat heavily on one of the benches, unable to move another step. She closed her eyes and heard Teddy moving somewhere close by.
“Hope Potter,” Teddy said slowly.
Ginny’s eyes snapped open as the dread filled her. She didn’t want to do this right now, and she’d forgotten that he was getting really good at reading.
Teddy’s eyes met her questioningly and her heart lodged itself in her throat. “Who was she?” He asked hesitatingly.
“She,” Ginny licked her lips and tried to will herself to remain calm. “She was our first child. She died.”
Teddy came over and sat, leaning against her as the tears started to rain down her face. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.” His voice was filled with remorse.
“No,” Ginny pulled him in close and kissed the top of his head. “No sweetheart, you didn’t make me cry. I get sad when I think about her and I’m so tired right now that everything is more difficult.”
“She was born the year I was,” Teddy whispered.
“She… she wouldn’t have been,” Ginny explained gently, swiping away the tears. “She died in my belly. It’s called a miscarriage.”
Teddy looked back at the grave and then up at her. “You want to take a nap?”
“No,” she assured him even as a yawn snuck out. “I want to spend time with you.”
“I want to read a book that Grandma got me,” Teddy said with a grin as he stood and tugged her to standing. “I’ll be able to concentrate on it while you both sleep.”
He half dragged her back to the house she went up to put James down in his cot. Thankfully he slept through the transfer. She fell in to bed, fully clothed, and instantly passed into a sleep filled with vivid dreams.
She woke later and turned towards her alarm clock to find a tray waiting with a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of orange juice. Just by how it was put together Ginny knew that Teddy had made it for her. The tears began to flow again. He was the sweetest, most thoughtful child. She didn’t feel like eating; thought there was a good shot that she’d throw up if she did but she wouldn’t risk hurting his feelings for anything.
Ginny dragged herself up and pulled the tray over to slowly eat the sandwich. Amazingly she felt better after the bit of food and the juice. She carried the tray downstairs and went straight over to give Teddy a hug. James began to scream and with a sigh, she went to get the baby from his room.
Harry arrived home looking worn around the edges just in time to say goodnight to Teddy, and to tuck him in with a story. Ginny lay in bed nursing James, who for the moment was nursing contentedly and not pulling off every few seconds in pain. Ginny had to fight her own cries of pain that the new teeth were causing her tender breasts. By the time Harry got into their room, James had fallen off the breast, into a milk coma.
“Come here,” Harry said quietly as he picked up his son and carried him off to his room.
Ginny dragged herself to the bathroom to get ready for bed. She’d seriously considered just ignoring brushing her teeth as she’d done more than once in the last few months, but she really had to pee and that couldn’t wait. She didn’t know how her mum had done this so many times and much of the time she felt like the biggest failure ever.
She opened the door and automatically glanced at the calendar that was tacked to the wall. What day is it… she tried to add in her head but couldn’t.
Harry came through the door and pulled her back against him, kissing her neck. “Rough day?”
“Mmm,” she agreed, wishing she could just lean back and fall asleep. “What day is it?”
“The twenty-seventh,” Harry told her.
She opened one eye and found the date, which was circled in red. “Potion day.” She sighed heavily and reached into the medicine cabinet for the potion bottles. Because she was nursing she could only take the once-a-month contraceptive potion. If she took a bigger dose it would dry up her milk instantly. She uncorked the vial and downed it in one go. She looked at the bottles in the cabinet and tried to count them, but they seemed to go in and out of focus. Did she have more than she should? Try as she might she couldn’t remember how many she was supposed to have left. It didn’t matter. She hadn’t had a cycle since she’d had James, and there was a good chance that him breastfeeding was keeping her from being able to get pregnant. But better safe than sorry, she thought.
“Come on, Gin,” Harry said gently as he steered her back to bed. “I’ll get up with him tonight.”
“No,” Ginny protested. It was her job. “You have to work tomorrow.”
There was a pause and she glanced over to see him looking at her with concern. “Tomorrow is Saturday. I wasn’t going to work.”
“Oh,” she nodded as if she hadn’t forgotten what day of the week it was. She climbed back into bed, still clothed. She was too tired to get changed.
Hands reached for the waistband of her yoga pants that had become her staple after James had been born and he slid them down. Ginny lifted her hips without even opening her eyes.
He got in next to her and pulled her into his arms. She breathed in his scent.
“Are you okay?” He asked gently as he kissed her temple.
“Teddy asked about Hope,” she explained as she relaxed into the comfort of the bed.
Harry sighed heavily. “I was hoping we had more time.”
She shook her head, but couldn’t fight off the exhaustion anymore.
August 23rd 2005
Ginny had to keep busy. If she didn’t keep busy on Hope’s birthday she would brood and fall into a deep hole that would take weeks to pull herself from. She cleaned the kitchen, top to bottom, played with James way more than he wanted to be played with, and cooked several meals to have on hand.
She wore herself out and had hours left in the day. She glanced over at James who was banging on her pots with a wooden spoon and fought back a sob. He didn’t know he had a big sister, as he beat a happy rat-a-tat on the pots. He didn’t know that his mummy was hurting and part of her hoped he never would know it. Ginny wished she could keep the pain from him, even as she knew it wasn’t possible.
Ginny looked around, trying to find something else to do and spotted the jogging stroller that sat near the front door. She scowled at it, but looking down at her shapeless t-shirt and baggy shorts she knew she should go for a run.
She didn’t want to run. She was so tired. Even after James had gotten through the initial round of teething her energy hadn’t come back. He’d gotten into the habit of getting up to nurse several times in the middle of the night and they hadn’t been able to break him of it yet, but he was only eleven months old. They still had time.
Sighing heavily she went to get socks and her trainers. She was a couple pounds heavier now than what she’d been when James was born. She couldn’t stop eating, didn’t want to exercise and the weight was really starting to pack on.
James crawled over to her just as she laced up her shoe and she picked him up and pushing the stroller one handed, she made it out the door to go for a run.
Ginny didn’t even make it half a mile before she had to stop. Her stomach rolled as she bent double and put her hands on her knees, trying to fight off the nausea. She was so tired of feeling sick and tired. James needed to sleep through the night.
Tonight Harry is going to have to get up with him, Ginny thought as she turned the stroller and started to slowly walk back to the house. She didn’t care if he had to work tomorrow. She was beat, and couldn’t take much more.
James had fallen asleep in the stroller by the time they made it back to the house. She left it outside and picked James up gingerly to haul him upstairs and lay him in his bed.
She stared down into his sweet, peaceful face and gently ran a hand over his dark locks. He was worth it. Her heart swelled with love as she watched her sleeping son, and knew she’d do it all over again for him. James sighed and rolled over and she quietly exited the room to go get a shower. She stripped in her room and went to the bathroom. Ginny froze as she looked in the mirror.
Her body was gone. In its place was a lumpy, stretch marked, mass that she barely recognized. It was no wonder she and Harry hadn’t made love in weeks. She was a cow.
Fighting off the tears, she showered quickly and dressed again. Ginny crawled into bed and hugged the pillow. She didn’t want to look like this.
But, a gentle voice whispered in her head, you look like this because of your son.
Ginny bit her lip and stared out the window into the fading light of the afternoon sun. Hope’s grave could be seen if she was standing at the window. She’d have given up anything to keep her daughter alive.
It was really unfair that Harry would not want her when she had gotten dumpy for his son.
She turned scowling to see Harry in the door. “Why are you here?”
His eyebrow raised but he came in and closed the door. “I live here. I wanted to come home early today.” He sat on the edge of the bed looking her. “What’s wrong?”
“You’re a selfish blighter!” Ginny growled feeling so many emotions run straight through that she wouldn’t have been able to separate them to save her life. “I can’t believe you don’t want me anymore!”
His green eyes filled with confusion and wariness. “I do want you.”
“You haven’t touched me in weeks,” she said accusingly, pointing a threatening finger at him. “You can’t just decide you want out just because I got fat! I got fat for you!”
He studied her carefully, like she was a bomb about to go off. “You aren’t fat and you’ve been asleep by nine every night.”
“You’re never home!” Ginny barked out, wanting to sit up but found that her head spun when she tried. “I am so tired and I feel like crap and you’re never here!”
“Yeah,” he said quietly, trying to reach out to her but she smacked his hand away. “I know. It will be finished soon.”
“Just go away,” she breathed out as the tears started to fall. She buried her face into her pillow and sobbed. “I just want this day over with and you’re not helping.”
She heard him get up and start walking to the door. Panic flooded her and she sat enough to chuck a pillow at his retreating back. “Coward!” Ginny shouted at him, glaring at his back. “Can’t even face me crying!”
Harry turned slowly and eyed her speculatively. Something flashed in his gaze, but at that moment James let out a cry. “I’m going to get him.”
“No,” she spit out trying to stand. “He’s my son, it’s my job.”
“You stay there,” Harry said quietly, but with steel threaded through every syllable. Something in his expression kept her in bed. “I’ll be back with him in a minute.”
True to his word he was back a minute later, with James in a fresh nappy and ready for a cuddle and to nurse. She took her son and pulled up her shirt so he could get access as he lay next to her in bed. She had to breathe in deeply as the pain bit deeply into her breast. His latch had been horrible for months; ever since he’d gotten teeth it was painful every time he nursed.
She looked down into his contented face; his cheeks still flushed from sleep and felt more tears come.
Harry stood there silently watching them.
A knocked sounded at the partially opened door. Ginny looked over and blinked at Martha who stood in the doorway. “What-”
Harry didn’t look surprised to see her. “Thanks for coming,” he told the midwife.
Ginny glared at him. He’d called the midwife on her for a bad mood? Did he think she was PMSing? “I don’t need to see you,” she told her, more rudely than she’d meant. “I’m fine.”
Martha came over and ran a hand over James’ sleep tousled hair. “I’m sure you are, but you know it’s best to have a look.” She pulled out her wand and ran in over Ginny who continued to glare at her rotten husband.
Then she muttered a familiar spell and Ginny looked back at the midwife in confusion before her mouth fell open.
Harry watched Martha run her wand over Ginny, fervently hoped that it was pregnancy that was making his wife nuts and that she wasn’t under the Imperious Curse. After Ginny had gone off on him he’d gone to get James and sent a Patronus to the midwife, begging her to come immediately. He edged slowly over to the bed, studiously ignoring his wife’s glare, so he could see better just as she muttered the spell that would show what was going on. His mind froze at what he saw.
The image of a baby, but not a tiny baby, floated above Ginny’s stomach. This one was a lot longer than his hand. He was sleeping, a hand near his face, with his legs curled up. Harry felt his knees go weak as he sank onto the bed.
James popped his head up and stared at the apparition that was floating above his mummy’s belly. He crawled over and waved a fat fist through the hologram, his hand moving harmlessly through the image.
“Well…” Martha said, starting to laugh. “It looks like you’re having a baby.”
“Oh my…” Ginny whimpered. She looked over at Harry and any hurt feelings he may have had fled at the blank look on her face. He scooted over the kissed her lips, feeling her trembling. “Harry… I’m-”
“Ginny,” he whispered as he ran a hand over her cheek. At least this explained her bizarre outburst. He chuckled. “We’re having another baby.”
“In about four and a half months, by the looks of it,” Martha said genially. She scooped James up in her arms and hugged him in. “You’re a big brother, James.”
Harry and Ginny looked at her too dumbfounded to do more than ask than, “How far along?”
“About twenty weeks,” she told them. “You’ll be due in the first part of January.”
James wiggled and she put him down so he could crawl over to the laundry basket and dump it. It was a favorite game of his.
Harry scooted further back on the bed so he could pull Ginny more fully into his arms. He couldn’t believe it. On Hope’s birthday, the day she’d died, they were finding out about another new life coming into their home. His wife burrowed into his arms and he felt her shoulders shake.
“Do you want to know what the baby is?” Martha asked.
“He’s a boy,” Ginny said as she stared at their sleeping child who looked remarkably like James. “It’s really easy to tell.” She looked up into his face. “We’re having another boy. Oh Merlin…” tears began again.
Martha took her hand and Harry watched the concern cover her face. “You are severely run down right now. All of your vitals are weak.”
Harry felt guilt swamp him as the last several months came flooding back to him. How many days had he worked late? How many times had he let Ginny get up with James when he was crying in the middle of the night? How often had he seen her exhausted and yet still moving through the day? He hadn’t done enough to help her. He’d let her take the bulk of the load at home and the result had been that she’d been so drained that she didn’t even realize that she was pregnant.
She should have been taking it easy, sleeping extra… he thought, guiltily, recalling how much care had they put into keeping Hope alive and yet he’d left her this time to-
“I’m putting you on bed rest,” Martha told her firmly. “You’re allowed to go to the loo, and that’s it. Otherwise you’re in bed.”
“I can’t be in bed,” Ginny protested instantly. “I have James to take care of.”
“You’re going to need to bring in help,” Martha said, brooking no argument. “Ginny, you’re health is not good right now. If you don’t take care of yourself you’re going to end up in St. Mungo’s. I’d rather you be allowed to stay here at home.”
“It’s fine,” Harry said instantly. “I’ll take off from work.”
“Good,” Martha said even as Ginny protested. “You can’t!”
Harry shook his head. “No arguments, I’m on holiday.”
“You just became the head of the department!” Ginny told him tearfully as she rubbed at her brow. “Oh… I’m due just a few weeks before Hermione!” Color flooded her face. “How did I miss this? Why didn’t I feel him moving?”
Fear flooded Ginny’s expression but Martha shook her head in reassurance. “There isn’t anything wrong with this little boy. I’m betting he’s not the jumping bean that James is.”
At that moment James knocked over a picture frame and grinned at them happily. “Dada!”
Harry felt an ache in his heart as he went over and picked up his son. He cuddled James close to him as he heard Martha explain that she’d be back the next morning to do a full exam. Soon he’d have another baby and it was relief and joy mixed with remorse for all Ginny had been through. He took James out into the hallway and sent out a second Patronus, asking Molly to come as soon as Audrey picked up her girls from her.
He needed some time with his wife.
Molly arrived about twenty minutes after Martha had left. He met her at the fireplace. Her face was washed in concern. “What’s the matter?”
“Ginny’s pregnant,” Harry told her as he handed over James who was trying to throw himself from Harry’s arms to reach him grandmother.
“Oh, how wonderful!” Molly smiled as she hugged James, but it faltered. “What’s the matter? You look worried. Is something-”
“She’s on bed rest,” Harry said as he ran a hand distractedly through his hair. It was times like this that he desperately missed his old house-elf the most. Kreacher had lived for two years after they’d moved into Ivy Run before passing peacefully in his sleep. He looked into his mother-in-law’s face. “She’s twenty weeks pregnant.”
Molly’s jaw dropped. “But… why didn’t you tell us sooner?”
“We found out forty-five minutes ago,” Harry told her nodding at her dumbfounded look. “Ginny has been too busy running herself into the ground taking care of James to notice, and I haven’t been any help. I’m going to take off work to look after James, but with today being Hope’s birthday… I just need some time with her.”
“Of course,” Molly said, kissing James’ brow. “I’ll keep him happy so you two can talk.”
Harry hugged her hard and murmured thanks as he went back upstairs. Ginny was still where he’d left her and now that he looked closely, he saw the pallor of her skin and the heavy bags under her eyes. She wasn’t watching him, but looking out the window as night fell. Still, she was so beautiful that she took his breath away. “Your mum is here.”
He walked over as sat next to her, taking her hand and lacing their fingers together. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, not meeting his eyes.
“For what?” Harry asked. He was the one who needed to apologize.
“For calling you a coward… and sniping at you,” she turned her bloodshot eyes back to his and he saw that her brown orbs were filled with regret. “I can’t believe I called you a coward!”
Harry couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing. “Honestly, it was refreshing. No one else has the guts to call me a coward.”
A small smile tugged at her lips. “It isn’t true, though.”
He shrugged. In this case it was true, but he didn’t think she was up for the argument. “It doesn’t matter.”
“What made you think to call Martha?” she asked him curiously, as she licked her dry lips.
“Ah,” he hedged. “Well… I was looking at you and it was as if my Ginny was gone, replaced by an imposter. After you called me a coward it occurred to me that maybe you were being influenced by something else. I was hoping it was a baby and that I wasn’t going to have to call in back up Aurors. That would have been embarrassing trying to explain needing protection from my wife. Between Imperiused and hormones, I’ll take the hormones.”
She crossed her arms. “I should hex you for that.”
“You should,” Harry assured her, trying to sound contrite as he reached for her wand that was lying on the bedside table and held it out for her.
She didn’t take it, just continued to glare at him. “You aren’t funny.”
“Luv,” he smiled wryly as he put her wand back and tenderly kissed her cheek. “I’m very funny. Your sense of humor is gone.”
Ginny sighed heavily and let her head fall back against the pillows. “How could I not know that I’m pregnant?”
“You’ve been too exhausted to even think about it,” Harry reminded her gently, cupping her cheek. “Gin, I’m so sorry I’ve left everything to you around here. I knew you were shattered but I let work get in the way. Maybe if I hadn’t been gone so much we’d have figured it out earlier.”
“How did this happen?” Ginny asked him suddenly. “I know I was taking the potion!”
“Martha counted the bottles before she left,” Harry informed her with a grin. “We have one too many, so it looks like you skipped one. At least it’s harmless if you’re already pregnant, since you kept taking it.”
She closed her eyes. “I can’t do anything right.”
“Hey,” he chided her. “Don’t say that! You’re doing a great job.”
“I can’t remember to take the bleeding potion, and I can’t take care of James and the house by myself, and I can’t even figure out that I’m pregnant.” Ginny started to cry in earnest. Harry pulled her into his arms and lay down with her. “Today is Hope’s birthday… I was so miserable, and I just wanted to stay busy. I tried going for a run so I could work off some of this fat-”
“Stop!” Harry said forcefully. “You aren’t fat!”
“I guess I’m not since I’m almost five months pregnant,” she said with a hiccup.
Harry propped himself over her and ran a hand down her side. “Even if you weren’t, you’re not fat.”
“I am…” she said miserably. “I weigh more now than when James was born! I haven’t got any clue how he got in there.” Ginny put her hand on her stomach, which now that Harry was paying attention looked like a pregnant belly.
Harry bent and kissed her neck suggestively. “If you don’t know how he got in there, I’m obviously doing something wrong.”
“Harry…” she said in exasperation. “Why aren’t you upset with me?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Why would I be upset?”
“Because!” She huffed like it should be obvious to him. “Because I got pregnant again without meaning to!”
He shrugged trying not to look too smug. “I helped with that.”
“Well… because I shouted at you…” her lower lip quivered.
“I deserved it,” he said evenly even as his gut twisted with regret. “You snapped because you’re grieving, exhausted, rundown and pregnant. I contributed to all of those except the grief.”
She sighed and shook her head. “You can’t take off of work. You’re the head!”
“What are they going to do?” Harry retorted. “Fire me? I didn’t want the bleeding promotion anyway! We don’t need the money.”
“You love your job,” Ginny reminded him softly. “You enjoy what you do.”
“I love you more,” he replied honestly. “I love James more and…” he bent as he pulled up her shirt and kissed her stomach. Love swamped him as he thought of this new baby. It never failed to amaze his just how fast he could fall in love. “I love this little guy.” He rested his head on her thighs, and kept him hand on her stomach. “I’m…” he beamed goofily up at her. “I’m going to be a dad again. What are we going to name him?”
“Albus,” she answered instantly, love filling her eyes as she really smiled for the first time.
Harry considered it and nodded. It was a good name. “Al for short, yeah?” When she nodded he grinned and kissed her belly. “Alright, Al. You are a really huge surprise.”
She groaned. “My brothers are never going to let me live this down! Halfway through a pregnancy and I didn’t even know!”
“Nah,” Harry lied. “They won’t say anything. They’ll just be happy that Al is coming.” He was going to have a talk with all of them and make sure they didn’t tease her. Most of the time Ginny could hold her own; this wasn’t going to be one of those times. However, he rather thought they were going to have something to say to him… not her. “Hermione had said that she wished we were having a baby right now, remember? She wants to have a playmate for their baby.”
“I guess,” she muttered, and then let out a noise that was a mixture of ‘uhg’ and ‘oh no’. “I’m supposed to mind baby Rose once Hermione goes back to work! How am I going to do that with two babies?”
Harry shrugged. “We’ve got time to work that out. Maybe we’ll hire a house-elf. Neville told me last week that a few were looking to leave Hogwarts.”
“No!” Ginny scowled at him. “I can do it!” Then her face fell. “No, I can’t. I’m useless as a mum.
“You are not!” Harry said, feeling the prickles of anger seep back in. “Gin, you have to stop this. James’ teething was worse than anything your mum had ever seen! He cried constantly, he didn’t sleep which means you didn’t sleep. Four nights out of five you were up all night, and then the next day he just kept crying. You were pregnant, exhausted, and nursing and now you’re taking a well-deserved break. You made it through that worst, and James is back to his happy, mischievous, energetic self. I am so proud of you for how you’ve handled this and pretty damn disgusted with myself for not helping you more. This is my fault more than yours.”
“You had to work-” she began but he shook his head.
“No, I chose to focus on the job because you seemed like you had it under control, and you did for the most part,” he let out a harsh breath and looked away. “I should have done more.”
Ginny was silent for a long time. “You really still want me?”
“More today than ever,” he promised and came up to kiss her again surprised that she had to ask. “I can prove it if you want.”
“With Mum downstairs?” She shook her head. “Later.”
“You’re always asleep later,” he teased and held on to her. “You know, I didn’t expect it to end up this way today.”
“I didn’t either,” she admitted, stroking a hand through his hair. “I thought we’d go down to her grave and have a good cry. I might still have a good cry, just up here.”
Harry kissed her temple. “We can have that cry together.” He cupped her belly. “Then celebrate that we’re having another baby.”
Harry stared at his brothers-in-law, well, most of them anyway. Charlie was still in Romania chasing his dragons, but Harry had sent an owl to him and he expected a Howler at some point.
Every face showed the exact same shock as they gaped at him from his kitchen table at nearly eleven o’clock that evening. He’d sent messages and they’d come, well after both Ginny and James were fast asleep.
He stood at the head of the table, waiting for the explosion that he knew would soon follow.
Ron broke the silence first. “You have to be effing kidding me!”
“Ron,” Percy chided gently, but he too was frowning. “How did you get this far in without noticing?”
“Is that why my sister has looked like hell for months?” Bill asked quietly, his voice menacing.
George didn’t say anything at all; he regarded him with a closed expression that Harry knew wouldn’t last long.
Harry sighed and sat down. “I messed up.”
“Damn right you did!” Ron practically yelled, his face going completely red. “How the ruddy hell do you not notice? Here we thought she was just tired from James not sleeping and you’re telling me-”
His stomach churned from the guilt. “I messed up,” he said again even though he knew there was no excuse for it. “I should have seen it, but-”
“Yes, you should have!” Bill growled, standing up and striding away from the table, fury running through every line of his body. He turned and the rage was just barely below the surface. “You’re supposed to be taking care of her!”
“I know,” Harry swallowed hard at the bile. “I let her down.”
“I should beat you senseless for this,” Bill said darkly and they both knew that Harry would let him. It might make them both feel better for what had happened.
Percy held up a placating hand. “Is the baby okay?”
“Yeah,” Harry nodded, more grateful than he could express that his inattentiveness at home hadn’t caused more damage. “Yeah, he looks great. Ginny wants to name him Albus. He’s…” his throat closed as he remembered looking at his sleeping child’s face. “He’s really cute. He looks a lot like James.”
“Twenty weeks though…” Ron hissed out, clearly not ready to let go of his anger. “Harry, Hermione is eighteen weeks pregnant. I couldn’t have missed that fact. This isn’t even the first time Ginny’s been pregnant!”
Harry gazed at his best friend. “I know, Ron.” He could make excuses all he wanted, but the fact was that he’d let Ginny handle everything at home. James had started teething and he hadn’t wanted Harry. She was so capable at everything that he’d let her get on with it. He’d become complacent and it could have cost him his wife and child. He’d never forgive himself for that and he wasn’t going to ever make that mistake again. He couldn’t let her lose another child.
“How did you finally figure it out?” George asked, breaking his silence.
“She, uh…” Harry shrugged helplessly. “She called me a coward and chucked a pillow at me.”
George’s lip twitched. “Well, she was right on that.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “Yeah, she was. I didn’t know how to help with James’ screaming and I let her deal with it.”
Bill started towards him, but was brought up short when George, who hadn’t moved from his seat, grabbed the back of his shirt. “He’s being honest, Bill. We can’t fault him for that.”
“You were supposed to take care of her!” Bill said again, his scars standing out as pale slashes across his red face. “That’s what you signed up for.”
“I messed up.” Harry said again as his culpability ate at him. “I could have cost my wife and child their lives!” He got up. He couldn’t sit through this anymore and he was thankful that he’d made sure that he’d warded the upper rooms so no one would hear this shouting match. “It’s been seven years today since we lost Hope.” Tears prickled behind his eyes and he made no move to fight them. The enormity of just how badly things could have gone was not lost on him and this time it would have been completely his fault. No one said anything and he slowly turned back to them. “Ginny’s afraid you’re going to tease her about this… for not knowing.”
Again four shocked faces stared at him. “We wouldn’t do that,” Percy said quietly.
“No,” Ron agreed, looking sick at the thought. “I’m hacked off at you. She doesn’t need any more rubbish.”
Bill looked uncomfortably close to tears and he turned away. “Definitely not.”
“This is on you,” George shrugged. “You’re going to catch hell for it, and we’re never going to let you live this down, but Ginny… no. We protect our sister full stop.”
Harry nodded, knowing they’d reached an understanding. “Just… I needed to make sure you understood. She’s on bed rest. She’s not as sick as she was when she was pregnant with Hope, but she’s still pretty damn sick.”
“You’re staying home?” Bill said, finally turning back with his features composed. “You’re going to make sure she takes care of herself?”
“Yes,” Harry told him firmly. “I’m on holiday for a few weeks and then if needed I’ll work from home.” He turned back to Ron. “She’s worried about what will happen after with Rose.”
Ron’s face was blank for a moment before comprehension dawned. “She was going to mind Rose for us.”
“Don’t change that plan yet, at least not with her,” Harry stated flatly. “She’s feeling like she can’t do anything right and if you change things, then it will only make her feel worse, like she’s let you down. We’ll work it out, but right now…” his voice trailed off when Ron nodded his understanding.
“I don’t know about you two,” George said mildly. “But after how well she dealt with James I think she could handle just about anything.”
All of them turned to look at him. “What?” Percy asked, frowning slightly.
“Oh come on,” George started to laugh. “None of us could stand hearing that crying for hours on end! It was unnerving; after even ten minutes I’d start to wish my other ear had been blasted off too. I think Ginny’s a hero for handling it the way she did. Then on top of that she was pregnant. She deserves a medal.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. He knew she’d been upset that James was in pain, but it was almost like she accepted that she couldn’t make it better and went on to be as comforting as she possibly could be. He’d come home, his son would be screaming and helplessness would overwhelm him as he rocked this child that he couldn’t do anything for. It was easy now to look back and see just how he’d slipped in to working longer hours; how he’d let the job eat up more and more time. He’d left her to deal and she’d let him get away with it. Harry glanced up towards the stairs and thought that she should have just hexed him and left him to rot.
“That’s true,” Percy agreed after a moment. “Molly and Lucy never cried like that. I don’t know how I’d have handled it.”
Harry closed his eyes for a moment, feeling much older than his twenty-five years. When he opened them again his brothers were all staring at him. “I really do get it. I made a-”
“Harry?” Ginny’s soft call filtered down and they all froze, looking up to see her at the top of the landing.
Harry gave his wand a small flick, removing the Silencing Charms that kept her from hearing them even as he bolted for the stairs. “You’re supposed to be in bed,” he chided gently as he ran up the stairs two at a time to reach her.
Her tired eyes met his briefly before turning back to look down at her brothers and he saw the trepidation. “I needed to use the loo and you weren’t there.”
“Come on,” he put a hand around her waist and tried to move her back to their room.
She didn’t move. “What’s up?”
“I was telling them about Al,” Harry said, grinning at her. “They’re all really happy for us, like I said they’d be.”
Ginny turned to look at him and several swear words filtered through his brain. She knew better. “Why are they really here?”
“I did tell them about the baby,” Harry answered evasively. “Come on, back to bed.”
She looked once more towards her brothers, who were all standing near the table and then nodded, allowing him to guide her back to their room. He tucked her in, his hand resting on the swell of her belly as remorse gnawed at him even further. “Why are they here?” she asked again, covering his hand with hers over their baby. “Why is everyone upset?”
Harry tried to keep his expression neutral but knew from her face that he was failing. “They’re mad at me.” Before she could say anything, he kissed her and silenced her protest. “Ginny, they have every right to be mad at me. I’m mad at myself.”
“I’m the one they should be mad at,” she whimpered as tears filled her eyes. “I forgot to take the potion.”
“It isn’t about that,” Harry correctly gently. “I’m really glad you forgot to take it. I…” he was too choked up to speak, so he laid his lips on her belly.
“I am too. I’m happy about the baby.”
He nodded and met her weary eyes. “This is a guy thing.”
She let out an impatient huff. “Oh, really?”
“Yes, really,” Harry answered back. “It’s the way it goes. When you’re pregnant, it’s on me to take care of you and I bollixed that up completely. I expect the same from them. I expect Ron to be taking care of Hermione and if he weren’t, there would be hell to pay. I need to pay up.”
Ginny studied him for a long moment, and he let her think. He knew she knew this. She’d lived with six boys for so many years and she knew about the code they held themselves to. She knew that when one fell short, they were going to come in and hold the delinquent accountable. “We didn’t know I was pregnant.”
“We didn’t know because I didn’t know how to deal with James’ crying,” Harry admitted as the shame filled him.
“Oh, Harry,” she sighed exasperatedly. “No one knew how to deal with his crying! He drove me completely round the twist before I gave up and accepted that I couldn’t do anything for him but be there.”
“I wasn’t here,” he said flatly. “I let you do all the work.”
Ginny was quiet for a long moment, her brown eyes intent upon his face. “I let you get away with it.”
“Still, though…” he paused at the hurt in her eyes. “Why did you let me get away with it?”
“I…” Tears flooded her eyes as she covered her face in her hands, sobs shaking her whole body. Harry scrambled up to pull her onto his lap murmuring comfort. Her words were muffled by his shoulder, but the still rang through their bedroom. “I wanted to be enough. I d-didn’t want to fail again.”
“You aren’t failing anything,” Harry chided softly. “You’re a great mum, Ginny.”
“I failed Hope,” Ginny whispered and his heart broke. “I wasn’t enough for her.”
Harry felt his own eyes swim and a small movement made him look up to see Ron’s stricken face illuminated in the door. His brother-in-law backed away silently and Harry ran his hand through Ginny’s thick hair. “You didn’t fail her. You haven’t failed James.”
“I can’t do anything-”
“Stop!” Harry shook his head, interrupting her. He wanted to be frustrated, but knew getting upset with her when she was pregnant was not only counterproductive but also useless. She wasn’t really thinking about any of this rationally. “You are an amazing mum, Ginny. George thinks you deserve a medal for how well you’ve done with James.”
She sniffed and gradually the tears faded into a huge yawn. Harry handed her a glass of water from the bedside table and she drank deeply. He knew they had a long road, and that there were wounds here that hadn’t ever healed; wounds that she hid from him and maybe even from herself. For tonight this was enough. He kissed her brow, loving the feel of her in his arms. He reached down and placed a hand on her belly. The second it settled, a small thump hit him and they laughed, both amazed and relieved.
“I guess he does wiggle about some,” Ginny said, rubbing her stomach happily. “Harry?”
“Yeah?” he asked as he helped her settle back down with her pillows.
Her red-rimmed eyes met his. “Tell my brothers they can’t kill you, okay?”
“Got it,” he said with a gentle kiss to her lips. He left; closing the door behind him and putting the Silencing Charms back up. Slowly he made his way back down to the kitchen and found only Ron still there. He looked around questioningly.
“They left,” Ron explained shortly, “We decided I could deal with you.”
He nodded and slumped into one of the chairs at the table. “Ginny says you can’t kill me.”
Ron sat slowly across from him, his expression devastated. “She’s not doing well.”
“No,” Harry agreed, feeling the ache in his gut. “I don’t think I realized just how bad it was. I’m going to speak to Martha tomorrow about a therapist.”
“I was coming up to reassure her,” Ron said, running a hand through his hair and sitting back. “Bloody hell, I can’t believe she still feels guilty over that.”
Harry shrugged helplessly. “We’ll deal with it.”
“You’re on probation,” Ron said dully, staring at him. “We’ve decided that’s all we can do for now. Especially since Ginny won’t let us kill you.”
Harry had expected that. George had ended up on probation first. He’d gotten Angelina pregnant while they’d still been dating. Ginny wouldn’t ever confirm it, but he had a sneaking suspicion that it had happened during one of their hide-and-go-seek games. George had gotten the notice from the Ministry the day that Angelina figured it out, and instead of manning up George had gone on a week-long bender that required most of Harry’s contacts to track him down. After they’d sobered him up, they’d all sat him down to talk to him and let him cry it out with them, mostly over Fred. Then he’d went to the Ministry and they’d arranged for a wedding a few days later. He’d been on probation for months with his brothers after that until he’d proved he wasn’t going to go off again.
“I deserve it,” Harry said hoarsely. “I deserve worse.”
Ron shook his head and eyed him shrewdly. “Harry, I doubt very much that Ginny’s the only one grieving right now. You both should talk to a therapist.”
He closed his eyes as he felt the hot pricks of tears as his daughter’s birthday slipped away.
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