‘What?’ I shout excitedly. I can’t believe my ears, and I stand so quickly that I tip over my chair. It clatters onto the stone flagged kitchen floor, making Ginny raise a scolding eyebrow. So I lower my voice and try to stay calm. ‘Is there a test? How can we be sure? What happens now?’
‘I said that I’m a few days late, Harry,’ Ginny informs me quietly. ‘It’s nothing to get excited about.’
‘But … you … we … baby,’ I burble enthusiastically, forgetting my breakfast.
‘Harry.’ Ginny slowly puts her toast on her plate and deliberately replaces the spoon in the strawberry jam. She leans back in her chair, folds her arms, and looks very serious. She is trying to calm me down. ‘You’ll only be disappointed. The chance of me getting pregnant within the first couple of months after stopping contraception is—unlikely. Look at Ron and Hermione, they tried for months. It’s lucky in a way that they—that she—didn’t get pregnant, because when she moved Department in the summer they decided that they could put her career first for a year. I’m fairly sure that they didn’t go rushing off to St Mungo’s for a pregnancy test whenever Hermione was a couple of days…’
‘But,’ I interrupt my wife, which is always a dangerous thing to do. ‘Hermione has a boring office job; she isn’t playing professional Quidditch, she’s not going training, flying, taking Bludger hits. Please?’
Ginny glances at the kitchen clock.
‘Even if we left now, I’ll be late for training, Harry. I’ll be fined a day’s wages.’
‘We can afford it.’
‘And you’ll be late for work, too, Deputy Head Auror Potter.’
‘I don’t care.’
‘You’ve been in the job a month, Harry. What did you tell me on your first day … “Robards will be seventy in less than three years but I’m not guaranteed to get his job when he retires.”’
My wife does a good and word-for-word perfect, impersonation of my earnest entreaty. ‘So,’ she continues, you need to be at work on time. And I need to go to the Harpies training ground, now.’
‘I was late on my first day, anyway,’ I protest.
She grins. When she tried to persuade me to be late for work on my first day as Deputy Head Auror, my first day in the office after the New Year, she succeeded. She’d only been wearing a vest at the time and for that reason the task had been very easy for her.
I look into her eyes and realise that I will not be able to change her mind. I sigh, reach down and right my chair, then sit and resume eating my toast.
A few more days won’t make any difference, will it? I’m not certain ... I realise that I really don’t know. I don’t know enough about the biology of pregnancy. I don’t know anything … I should find out … I should ask Hermione ... I could ask Ginny I suppose, but not now, not when she’s wearing that stubborn look.
Ginny finishes her coffee. For the past few days she’s been drinking more coffee and less tea. On Sunday, she complained that the milk was off; it wasn’t, but she wouldn’t be convinced. Now she simply drinks black coffee at breakfast instead.
She walks round the table to kiss me goodbye, giving my cheek a teasing, perfunctory, peck before turning and striding towards the fire. I stand, give chase, and grab her around the waist from behind. She struggles half-heartedly. I use my nose to part her hair, find the back of her neck and kiss it. She doesn’t complain so I slide my hands up from her waist.
‘Ouch,’ she says, pulling away.
‘Sorry, did I hurt you?’ I ask, concerned. ‘What did I do?’
‘I’m just a bit tender there,’ she tells me, touching the underside of her breasts. She looks a little surprised.
‘It’s probably just a muscle.’ She smiles reassuringly. ‘I’ll get it looked at when I get to the training ground. See you tonight, Harry. Bye.’ She kisses me with strawberry jam flavoured lips, throws some Floo powder into the fire and vanishes into the green flames.
Sighing, I straighten my tie, pick up my black uniform coat and leave for the Ministry.
When I step out of the fire at the Harpies’ training ground, the foyer is empty. Thank Merlin for that! What should I do? I probably should not have left Harry.
I can’t be pregnant. It just doesn’t happen straight away. I expected to finish the season, and possibly even get some more international matches over the summer.
But my boobs were tender when Harry grabbed me; they still are. I simply can’t face drinking tea in the morning and I’ve been drinking tea since I was seven.
So—I’m late, I can’t drink tea, I have unaccountably sore breasts—and my mouth tastes a little strange. It’s not much but—I need to know. I should go back home and collect Harry, but he’s probably left. Besides, I tell myself, it the Potters both arrive at St Mungo’s the press will find out immediately. I turn back to the fireplace I’ve just stepped out of, throw some Floo powder onto the fire, say “St Mungo’s” and leave the training ground within seconds of arriving.
I arrive in the hospital reception area and join the queue at the reception desk. There are only two people in front of me. If the queue was longer I would leave, forget about it. I am being a silly little girl. I curse Harry and his stupid excited shout and his dopey hopeful smile. If it weren’t for Harry, I wouldn’t be here.
I realise how true that is in so many different ways, and smile to myself. I can blame Harry, and his smile, and his eyes, for everything.
The queue shuffles forwards and, finally, I reach the desk. ‘How do I get a pregnancy test?’ I ask.
The reception witch barely glances at me. ‘Do you have an appointment?’ she asks.
The witch exhales a frustrated hiss. ‘You’ll need to wait, then!’ She gloats. ‘It may be some time. Name?’
‘Potter,’ I say quietly, trying to sound contrite.
She looks up startled, and finally recognises me; her jaw drops, and I smile my sweetest and most sincere smile.
‘I’m in a bit of a hurry,’ I tell her apologetically. Harry hates it when I use “the Potter factor” to jump queues or get preferential treatment. I don’t do it often, especially not when he’s with me. I glance pointedly at the clock on the wall behind the witch. ‘I should be in Holyhead now,’ I explain.
‘I’ll see if someone can fit you in immediately, Mrs Potter.’ The woman smiles; her changed attitude is annoyingly blatant.
‘Thank you.’ I continue to smile.
I haven’t even managed to find a seat in the waiting area when I’m called to see a Healer. I’m asked a few very personal questions and I give a sample of urine.
‘Do you intend to wait for the results?’ the young Healer asks me.
‘How long will it take?’ My heart quickens. Will I find out now?
‘We should be able to tell you in about an hour,’ she replies.
I tell her that I should be at the training ground now, and ask her what the alternative is.
‘We’ll send the results to you by owl,’ she informs me.
‘Today?’ I ask her.
‘That will be fine,’ I tell her.
I fill in a form, giving the hospital our secure forwarding address, and take the Floo back to Holyhead. I’m only fifteen minutes late for training and I’ll be home a couple of hours after noon, long before Harry arrives. When the results turn out to be negative, as I’m sure they will, he won’t even need to know that I’ve been for a test.
I am walking through the main Auror Office to my own private office when the call comes in.
‘All Auror alert! All Auror alert!’ the Auror Identity Card in my wallet announces loudly. The voice is female, clipped, calm and professional, and it echoes around the office as every card in every wallet says the same thing. Everyone stops what they’re doing.
I know where my staff should be and what they are doing. I also know that the office has no mission alerts scheduled, which means that this “triple A” is a call for immediate assistance. Somewhere, an Auror is in trouble. We all prepare, pulling on coats, readying wands and grabbing our Identity Cards.
‘All available Aurors prepare for emergency Portkey activation in thirty seconds,’ my card tells me. We all know the drill. When it adds, ‘Available Aurors, respond,’ we simultaneously call out our names.
I look around the office trying to work out who is currently in the field—who made the call? Lavender spots me and realises what I’m doing.
‘Polly, Terry and Trudi,’ she calls. She’s a busybody, but that means she knows where everyone is.
The card speaks again. ‘Fifteen Aurors and Healer Rathod responding. Ranking Auror is Potter. Emergency Portkey activation in five, four, three, two, one…’
My card glows blue; it will take me to within yards of the card which gave the alert. There is a jerk, and suddenly I am standing in a huge greenhouse alongside everyone else who has responded.
‘It’s a tentacula/willow crossbreed,’ a female voice shouts. I recognise dark haired, tattooed, Polly Protheroe. She is down; it looks like her leg is broken. She’s lying prone on top of another figure; trainee Auror Trudi Pepperell lies supine and still. Is she unconscious or …?
Polly is shielding the trainee from the lashing tentacles. A few feet away from the tree stands big, burly, Terry Boot. He is only just out of reach of the battering branches. His left arm hangs loose and useless by his side, and his hand is bleeding, but his Shield Charm is working. He too is deflecting the flailing, thorny branches from his colleagues.
I take one look at the wildly flailing poisonous plant and wish that Neville was still working with us. He would know whether the Whomping Willow is unique, and probably where it was bred.
‘Stunning it won’t work,’ Terry shouts. Everyone looks to me for orders. I examine the tree closely and I see it; there’s a familiar-looking knot near the largest root mass. I levitate a pebble from the floor and press it hard against the knot. To my relief, it works.
When the tree stops moving I see another figure, bloody and broken, motionless under the now still branches. I carefully move forward.
‘Who’s this?’ I ask as I examine the green-tinged corpse of an elderly, balding wizard.
‘His name’s Flowerdew,’ Terry says, ‘He’s the owner of these greenhouses. He was trying to persuade us that this damn thing was harmless.’
Our Healer dashes over to examine the fallen trainee.
‘How’s Trudi?’ I ask Parvati Rathod.
‘It looks like she’s been stung, Harry,’ Parvati says. She looks worried. ‘She needs to go to St Mungo’s. Now! Terry and Polly should go, too.’
‘I’m fine,’ Terry protests, but he looks a little green.
‘Is there anyone else here?’ I ask.
‘No,’ Polly tells me as Parvati crouches under the tree and mends the Lead Auror’s broken leg. ‘We were acting on a tip off, reports about Dark Magic, but it seems that it’s only illegal plant-breeding.’ Polly explains as she pulls herself from beneath the lethal plant.
‘Only!’ Terry curses. ‘I survive Death Eaters and then almost get killed by a bloody tree!’ His eyes suddenly roll backwards and he collapses, falling face down into the mulch. Parvati dashes to his side.
‘Poison,’ she shouts anxiously, as she passes her wand over our friend Terry’s huge frame. His homely features look worryingly peaceful and still.
‘Polly, take your team to St Mungo’s. Parvati, Dennis, I want you two to go with them,’ I order. It takes both Parvati and Dennis to lift Terry and Disapparate.
I notice that Senior Auror Phillipa Fortescue is watching me carefully; I’m Deputy Head Auror, I remember. I am no longer a field agent. She’s not going to tell me to leave, not in front of the others, but I should not be here; not when I have another, even more difficult duty to perform.
‘I’ll leave you to check this place out,’ I tell Phillipa. ‘Fenella will want to go and see Terry, so I’ll arrange a back-up photographer for you. I don’t need to tell you what to do.’
I know that I don’t, Phillipa co-wrote the new crime scene protocols for me. We’ll need to photograph the crime scene. I can rely on Phillipa. As soon as she’s satisfied that the place is safe, she will call in a photographer from our Imaging Section, but it won’t be Terry’s fiancée.
I look around at the assembled Aurors. Most are experienced, but three are trainees; one, Anne White is a first year trainee, fresh from Hogwarts seven months ago. I seek her out.
‘Anne,’ I say, beckoning her to my side. ‘The tree will remain motionless so long as there is pressure on that knot. Take over from me.’ Once I’m sure that she knows what to do, I release the pebble. The tree stirs for a second, but she soon regains control and it stops. She doesn’t look happy with the job I’ve given her.
‘I know it’s a boring job, but you’ll need to concentrate on it, because you’re keeping everyone else safe.’ I tell the young dark-haired trainee.
‘Get used to it. That’s pretty much the Auror job description,’ says Lavender sardonically. Even Phillipa chuckles at the truth of Lavender’s observation.
Lavender then casts a Patronus spell. ‘I’m asking Professor Longbottom if he can spare us a few minutes,’ she announces. Sometimes I think that she’s as good at reading my mind as Ginny is.
‘Senior Auror Fortescue,’ I say formally, ‘you’re in charge. I’ll go and break the news to Terry’s and Trudi’s parents and Polly’s bloke.’
‘Polly and Joe split up last month,’ says Lavender. ‘He’s flown back to New Zealand, she’s got no one.’ Lavender knows almost everything about everyone’s personal lives, another surprisingly useful talent for an Auror, so I know that there’s no need to check that she’s correct.
I Apparate back to the Ministry and arrange for Imager Biggs to cover for Fenella, then I tell our Senior Imager that her fiancé is in hospital. It’s only five weeks since we celebrated their engagement. Terry astonished us all by publicly proposing to her at our New Year’s Eve party.
As I expected, Fenella panics at the news, bursts into tears, and leaves immediately. I, too, leave. I go to carry out the hardest part of my job. I break the news to two sets of suddenly worried parents. Once that task is done, I follow them to St Mungo’s.
I am walking towards the hospital wondering what I’ll find when Parvati contacts me. Terry was unlucky; a single drop of the poison hit his hand. The healers have slowed his heart rate to reduce the spread, and they hope to be able to save his arm.
Trudi Pepperell was extremely lucky. The sting would have killed her instantly had it hit flesh. Fortunately the new Auror coats include an anti-puncture charm in addition to the other magical protections. The thorn drove her coat into her chest, broke a rib and did some internal damage, but thankfully the poison didn’t penetrate the coat.
When I arrive at St Mungo’s, the reception area is quiet. I walk up to the counter, simply intending to let the receptionist know that I’m going to visit my injured colleagues on the third floor. That is the moment when my already unusual day turns completely topsy-turvy.
‘Hello Mr Potter,’ the receptionist smiles. ‘I was just about to post this. Did your wife send you to collect it?’
She hands me an envelope. It bears Ginny’s name, and our secure forwarding address. I try to keep my face calm and neutral.
‘Yes,’ I lie. ‘Did Ginny…?’ I stop mid-sentence, hoping that the receptionist will answer the question she thinks I’m about to ask. That’s a useful trick I learned from Philippa during training.
‘She arrived without an appointment for her pregnancy test,’ the receptionist smiles at me. ‘But I managed to fit her in, for you,’ she simpers.
‘And?’ I ask. If the envelope contains what I think it does, then this obviously interested receptionist will have made it her business to know.
‘I’m not supposed to know,’ she confides. ‘But may I be the first to congratulate you?’ The receptionist is positively fawning, little annoys me more, but despite her obsequiousness this woman has just told me that I’m going to become a father. Normally, I’d be irritated by her attitude, but this time I simply beam happily at her.
‘Thank you,’ I say. I am breathing rapidly. I am suddenly bewildered, awash with too many emotions. I’m going to be a father! We’re having a baby! Bloody hell!
I try to stay calm. I need to think. The secret is already out. If the receptionist knows, then the gossip will start soon and the press will find out very quickly.
Why didn’t Ginny tell me she was going? Either she didn’t want me to get excited, or she wanted to surprise me with the news. Either is possible, both are possible. I walk over to the lift and open Ginny’s letter. I feel no guilt, she took the test without telling me, so I can read the letter without telling her.
“Dear Mrs Potter,” I read as I step into the lift. “The tests carried out on the sample you provided this morning confirm that you are pregnant. Based upon the information you supplied, your expected delivery date is 3rd October 2004. Please contact me to arrange an initial antenatal appointment. Yours, Healer Milbourn”
We really are having a baby! Bloody hell! What do I do know?
I cheer loudly. Fortunately, I am the sole occupant of the lift, so I dance happily. It isn’t until the lift doors open that I remember why I’m really here. I am on my way to meet three colleagues injured in the line of duty. I’m brought down to earth with a bump.
Parvati updates me as I walk onto the ward. Polly has had three broken ribs repaired, she’s fine, but is cursing, and blaming herself for her team’s injuries. I order Polly and Parvati back to the crime scene. Polly needs to be kept busy, and Parvati may be needed.
Trudi is having her wounds treated. I’m unable to see her. Her worried parents ask me what went wrong and I’m forced to admit that I don’t know. I tell them that I’ll hold a mission debrief and investigate how the injuries occurred. This isn’t the first injured Auror I’ve seen, and it won’t be the last, but I reassure them that we haven’t lost an Auror since the Battle.
Terry is unconscious and his left arm is very green. The healer who is treating Terry looks very worried. He lets me know that he’s been contacted by Professors Longbottom and Byers. Both men are in the greenhouse, and are examining the tree. They will help the St Mungo’s poisons and stings team work on an antidote.
Edmund Byers is a retired Auror who is now the Hogwarts potions master. I have every confidence that Terry will be fine, with two former Aurors, both experts in their field, helping to work on a cure. I reassure his worried parents and fiancée as best I can.
I leave my injured colleagues and their worried parents and walk back to the lift. As I descend, I wonder what my child will grow up to do and I suddenly see parental concern in an entirely new way. I’m somewhat shaken by the experience.
I’m going to be a parent! I need to talk to Ginny. I need to discuss the future, I need to surprise her, to treat her, but I also need to teach her not to try to keep secrets from me.
Every player is in the air. We’re split into two full teams, playing a practice match under the watchful eye of our coach, former Captain Gwenog Jones.
I see movement in the stands, it’s Harry; his unexpected presence distracts me. My fellow Chasers are Gillian and Tegan, but I pass to Demelza instead. She’s on the other team, she readily accepts my gift, scores, and I get a rollicking from Gwenog.
‘Dammit, Potter, you’ve been married almost a year and you’ve been shagging him forever,’ she shouts. ‘Haven’t you learned how to ignore him yet?’
The girls laugh at me, but I don’t pay them any attention. Why is he here? Has something happened? Is someone hurt?
‘He should be at work,’ I say. Gwenog looks at my face, scowls, nods, and allows me fly across and talk to him.
‘I’ve taken the rest of the day off,’ he tells me. ‘What time will you be finished?’
‘What’s wrong?’ I ask.
‘Nothing … well, we had a “triple-A” this morning, but everyone is going to be okay.’ He quickly tells me the details. Terry is being dosed with an anti-venom prepared by Neville and Byers and, after the initial scare, he is now expected to regain full use of his arm.
‘I took the afternoon off. I want to continue this morning’s discussion,’ Harry tells me. He’s smiling, but there’s a hint of something (worry or mischief, I can’t decide – could it be both?) in his eyes. ‘I know that we decided to try for a baby, but I’ve never really thought about what that means,’ he says seriously.
I’m not certain what he’s trying to tell me. I’m about to ask when he nods over my shoulder. ‘Your coach wants you back in the air.’
I go, but my mind is not on the practice session. Is Harry having second thoughts? If he’s decided that he doesn’t want children, will that affect our marriage? If he has, what if the test results are positive?
‘Potter, you might as well not have been here,’ Gwenog tells me when we finally land. ‘You were absolutely bloody useless. I told you last year, marriage and Quidditch don’t mix. I don’t know what the hell’s going on, but sort it out. If you’re no better in tomorrow’s practice, you’ll be off the team for Saturday.’
I don’t argue. I know that I played badly. Part of me wants to blame Harry’s arrival, which didn’t help, but I know that I was off my game even before he arrived. I need to get those test results.
I’m first into the changing rooms and I shower quickly, ignoring my team mates’ anxious questions. I hurriedly get dressed and rush out to meet my husband.
He smiles and lifts a basket. ‘I’ve brought a picnic,’ he announces. ‘I thought that we could go to Aberffraw.’
‘Harry, it’s the beginning of February! Do you seriously want us to sit on Aberffraw Beach in February? It was snowing when we started our practice game, the beach will be cold and miserable.’
He smiles and his eyes sparkle, I recognise that look; he’s planning something for me. I look into his excited face and his twinkling eyes, and my protestations come to a halt.
‘I’ve brought hot chocolate,’ he tells me, ‘Honeydukes Finest Drinking Chocolate. You always say that a good cup of hot chocolate makes everything better.’
Abberffraw Beach isn’t far from the training ground, no more than a half hour walk at a brisk pace. He takes my hand and we set off.
‘What’s this all about?’ I ask.
‘I’ll tell you when we get there,’ he says. We walk hand in hand in companionable silence. Being with Harry has taught me patience and silence, so I simply observe him. He’s excited, thoughtful, and a little apprehensive.
As we approach the beach, he tells me more details about his morning.
‘As Deputy Head Auror, in Robard’s absence it’s my job to inform the relatives,’ he begins. ‘I told Trudi’s parents and Terry’s parents that their children had been injured. I saw their faces when I told them. I watched them worrying at St. Mungo’s.’ He stops and turns to face me.
‘I hadn’t really thought about it, Ginny,’ he admits anxiously. ‘Having children isn’t just about babies and toddlers and changing nappies and treating grazed knees and ... whatever. The things I’ve done with Teddy … they are just a tiny part, aren’t they? Terry is my age, but he might as well have been a baby the way his parents reacted ... I thought about your parents … about us … this is a lifelong commitment, Ginny.’ He stops, and turns to face me. ‘Once a parent, always a parent, even after they’ve grown up and left home.’
‘I know, Harry,’ I assure him. ‘Bill’s in his thirties, but he’ll always be Mum’s “big boy”.’
Now I know why Harry is worried. His early family life was anything but loving. He does well with his nieces and nephews and with Teddy, but they aren’t blood relatives. There is a difference.
‘Harry,’ I try to reassure him, ‘I grew up watching my brothers growing older and going to school. I watched Mum worry about Bill’s inappropriate girlfriends, about Charlie deciding to work with dangerous dragons, about the twins’ life-threatening pranks, and Ron’s constant hospitalisations. She used to say that Perce was the only one she didn’t need to worry about. Perfect Prefect Percy didn’t cause any problems, and then he left school…’ I stop—I don’t need to say more about Percy.
Harry nods and leads me onto the beach. He is leading me towards a large pile of driftwood which has been stacked to make a fire. He’s already been here and prepared a picnic site for us. My husband, the man who is worried that he’s unprepared for parenthood, has planned and prepared a surprise beach picnic. I squeeze his hand and tell him, ‘You’re a great godfather; you’ll be a great dad, too.’
‘I hope so.’
‘Hoping so will be enough, Harry,’ I reassure him as he erects a windbreak, pulls out a rug, lights the driftwood fire, and motions me to sit.
A cold wind sweeps across the beach from the Irish Sea, blowing salt smells, sand and the warming flickering flames towards us. I look out at the foaming grey-blue waves. In summer, this is a pleasant, though busy, beach. Now it is bleak and deserted. It has a strange, wild, and empty beauty which is missing in the holiday season. The wind rises momentarily and whips stinging grains of sand into our faces.
I watch the wind-held grains shimmer and dance above the beach and I slip my arm around my husband’s waist and pull myself in close to him. He opens the basket and we feast on granary rolls filled with cold beef and horseradish while sipping scalding hot chocolate.
‘If you can organise this,’ I assure him, laughing, ‘you can cope with a family.’ He smiles and reaches back into the picnic basket. He’s brought a box of my favourite Honeydukes chocolates, too.
‘It’s still more than a week to Valentine’s Day,’ I tell him.
‘At Christmas, you told me not to buy you any chocolates for Valentine’s Day,’ he reminds me. ‘So I haven’t. I’ve bought them for today.’
‘With that attitude, fatherhood won’t be a problem,’ I laugh.
‘Fatherhood...’ he repeats the word as though he’s never heard it before. ‘It’s forever, isn’t it?’ he muses.
‘Yes,’ I tell him. ‘You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.’ I lower my voice, puff out my cheeks, and do my best impersonation of Vernon. ‘You should know that, you stupid boy.’
He laughs. We kiss. I lie back on the rug and watch him think, he’ll speak when he’s ready.
‘Names,’ he says. ‘We haven’t even discussed names.’
‘James,’ I tell him, ‘or Lily.’
He looks at me in surprise.
‘I’ve been thinking about it, even if you haven’t, Harry. Perce has already bagged Molly and he’s staked a claim on Arthur, too, if they have a boy.’
‘What about Fabian, or Gideon, or Ginevra?’
I’m touched by the first two names, but snort dismissively at the last. ‘I’m the only Ginny Potter, and you’re the only Harry, creating more would be a cruel thing to do to a child.’
Harry gives me one of his thoughtful smiles, and nods in agreement. ‘I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’re right, I don’t think that I could cope with two Ginnys. What do you think of Fabian or Gideon for boys’ names?’
‘No,’ I tell him, ‘they are traditional Prewett names. Our children’s names have to be about us, our family, our friends.’
‘Ron and Hermione Potter?’ he says immediately. I punch him gently in the ribs.
‘Never, ever suggest those names again,’ I say.
‘Not even tonight?’ he asks.
I grin. It’s Wednesday, and tonight we have our regular fortnightly meal with Ron and Hermione. Tonight we will be meeting them at Antonio’s in Soho as usual.
‘That would be a good wind up,’ I admit. ‘But I think it’s cruel. Ron would be honoured, then devastated.’
‘I was serious when I made the suggestion,’ he tells me.
I look at him carefully, and decide that he’s probably teasing me, but I reply anyway.
‘They’re too close to us, Harry. You know what Ron’s like. If we have a Ron Potter there’s a good chance they’d have a Harry Weasley. He’d want to return the honour.’
‘I’d love to use my parents’ names, Ginny,’ Harry says. ‘But that’s all about me, have you thought of any alternatives?’
‘Neville, Sirius, Albus, Percival – no, not Percival,’ I correct myself when Harry looks shocked, ‘Wulfric, Brian,’
‘Not Wulfric—or Brian, either,’ Harry says forcefully. ‘I knew a Brian at Junior School.’
‘Severus,’ I suggest. Harry raises an eyebrow. ‘Remus, John,’ I try.
‘That’s lots of boys’ names, but no girls,’ he observes.
‘We don’t have to choose today you know, it might not happen for years,’ I remind him. Harry laughs.
‘You’re late,’ he points out, smiling. There is something in his eyes, and I almost tell him what I’ve done. But I don’t. He’s excited enough, stupidly excited. I don’t want to raise his hopes.
‘As we haven’t come up with any more girls’ names, it must be Lily for a girl. Okay?’ I ask.
Harry nods. ‘Lily Potter,’ he announces.
‘She’d be so happy.’ I smile. ‘So, the girl’s name was easy, but what happens if we have two girls?’
I watch Harry’s face contort in shock and burst out laughing at his expression.
‘Twins?’ he asks.
‘Or two girls,’ I tease.
Harry looks confused.
‘Oh, were you thinking of stopping at one?’ I ask, my heart sinking—he’s an only child.
Harry ponders my words for a minute and shakes his head. ‘No, I simply hadn’t thought beyond the first,’ he admits. ‘One of each would be great.’
‘But what if we get two girls?’ I tease. ‘Do we keep going? Six girls before we finally get you a boy?’
Harry looks like he’s been hit by a Bludger. ‘Seven!’ he mumbles. ‘More!’ He shakes his head, ‘What do you think?’
‘I asked first,’ I insist. ‘You tell me.’ I want him to think about this. I have, and I know what I think, but I don’t want his opinion to be influenced by mine.
‘I … I don’t really want seven,’ he apologises. He thinks that I do; understandable, I suppose. I let him suffer. I wait and watch him silently chewing his lower lip as he considers.
‘One of each,’ he decides, ‘or three of one.’
That was my thoughts, too. I announce my agreement by pulling him down onto the blanket and kissing him. I again wonder whether to tell him about the test, but again I decide against it. If it’s positive, I’ll tell him immediately, if it isn’t, there is no need for him to know.
‘So, would you prefer all girls, or all boys?’ I ask.
‘I would love a daughter, but I don’t want to be the last of the Potters,’ he admits thoughtfully.
‘At the current rate, my brothers might be the last of our branch of the Weasleys,’ I remind him. ‘Victoire, Dominique and Molly; three Weasley’s and all of them girls. We’ll have to wait and see what Angelina and Fleur produce. But don’t avoid my question, Harry, boys or girls?’
‘Children,’ he announces, relishing the plural. ‘I’ll be happy with whatever you make for us.’ That answer deserves another kiss; so it gets one.
We spend the remainder of the afternoon on the beach discussing bedrooms and colours, and the mysteries of parenthood. We come to the conclusion that we will be creating joy for ourselves, and that we will also be creating laughter and smiles and pride and tears and worry and heartbreak and pain.
How can I get the letter without Harry knowing? I was not planning on him arriving in Holyhead. I need to get back home before he does, somehow, but I can’t.
It is after dusk when we walk back to the training ground. I make the easiest of excuses, nip to the loo, and contact Hermione.
‘Can you call round to Grimmauld Place, now,’ I hiss. ‘There should be a letter for me, from St. Mungo’s.’
‘A letter?’ Hermione asks.
‘I’ll explain later. Just grab it and bring it to Antonio’s tonight, please,’ I beg, ‘and don’t tell Ron.’
‘Okay,’ Hermione says. She doesn’t ask me any questions; that’s unusual for Hermione, but I’m grateful. I can get the letter at the restaurant without Harry seeing it and tell him later, if I need to. When I rejoin Harry he’s waiting next to the fire in the foyer, ready to Floo home.
I need to give Hermione some time. I have to delay our departure.
Harry is easily diverted. The rest of the team have been gone for hours. The changing rooms are deserted and there is something about Quidditch changing rooms. The first time Harry and I ever “did it” was in a Quidditch changing room. It’s the combined scents of me and broom polish; it does it for Harry every time. In fact, our last changing room event was only a couple of weeks ago, after the Magpies game … Just over two weeks … I wonder…
As we approach the restaurant, I am amazed that Ginny hasn’t cottoned on yet. She appears to be completely unsuspecting. I wasn’t sure what would have happened had she confessed to me on the beach. I thought for a moment that she was going to, but she didn’t. Everything is organised, my plan is falling into place.
As we agreed this morning, Ron contacted me at six o’clock. He still thinks that Ginny will kill me, and Hermione concurs with him; they say that’s the only reason they’re going along with my plan. The good news is that they have managed to arrange everything for me.
Ron also told me that Ginny asked Hermione to collect the letter. I suspect that’s why my wife delayed our departure from the training ground. I’m not complaining about the delay, but now I’m worried about what we did.
Last Sunday, at the Burrow, I walked in on a conversation between Bill and George. Angelina is six months pregnant, Fleur is four. The guys were discussing the mechanics of sex with a pregnant wife. Now, I wish that I hadn’t fled the room. That’s one more thing to add to the already long list of questions I have.
Ristorante Antonio is in darkness as we approach the door. Our usual waiter, Beppe, opens the door as we approach, a torch in his hand.
‘Signor, Signora,’ he says sadly. ‘We have no lights; there has been a power cut. You will not object to dinner by candlelight, I hope; so much more romantic, no?’
Ginny smiles at me and nods. Astonishingly, even now she is not suspicious. Beppe lights the stairs up to the restaurant with his torch, Ginny follows and I take the rear, picking up the dozen red roses Ron has placed behind the door before I follow. Ginny is busily concentrating on the torch lit stairs.
Beppe opens the door to the restaurant and keeps the torch pointed to the floor. The room is in complete darkness.
‘Where are the candles?’ Ginny asks. Finally, she is suspicious and from her tone of voice she’s beginning to get angry.
I spent the first two hours after I left the office arranging this party, before going to see Ginny in Holyhead. Ron thinks that I’m mad to trust the surprise to a five-year-old, but Teddy is almost six and ‘Dromeda will keep him right.
‘Surprise!’ Teddy shouts excitedly; he switches on the lights.
Ginny is left blinking in the sudden light. I was expecting it, I look around the room. There is one long table with four vacant seats, mine, Ginny’s, Teddy’s and ‘Dromeda’s. Our family are all there, even Charlie. I asked Molly to try to get him here; she obviously succeeded.
Everyone cheers, but the noise is too much for “little Molly”. She is only nine months old and she bursts into tears. Audrey tries to shush her.
‘What the hell!’ Ginny rounds on me. I parry her assault with the roses. She looks at them in astonishment.
‘What’s going on, Harry?’ she asks through gritted teeth.
She is seething and I’m very glad that her entire family are here. The press, and our friends, think that we’re a perfect couple. We aren’t, but we keep our disagreements private and resolve them before we sleep. She won’t scold me in public, and by the time we get home she won’t want to. I hope.
‘You might want to read the wrapping paper,’ I say, handing her the roses. I have wrapped the flowers in the St Mungo’s letter, after casting an Impervius Charm on it. She sees the crossed wand and bone and looks at me in amazement.
I lean forward and whisper in her ear. ‘I’ll tell you how I got it later,’ I promise. ‘You’re having my baby.’
Ginny stands, dumbfounded, parchment crumpled in one hand, roses forgotten and almost falling from the other.
‘You look silly, Ginny,’ Teddy observes. ‘Why are we having a party?’
Ginny regains her composure, wipes away a tear and turns to face her family.
‘We’re having a baby,’ Ginny tells everyone. Ron and Hermione knew, and I’m sure that Molly (and probably Arthur), suspected, but everyone cheers again and Beppe brings out the champagne.