It seemed to get darker earlier with each passing day. This coupled with the gray sky when it actually was light out, along with her loneliness, was starting to eat away at her. This winter was unusually bitter, the high winds and the icy rain made her nights alone all the more cold without him there.
It wasn't as though she was really lonely. She had family that were always there for her and plenty of friends who would gladly give her company–and they did. It was just that she missed him terribly at night. She had grown accustomed to feeling his warm weight next to her in bed, the soft rise and fall of his breathing, and his quiet mumbles from dreams. When they were first married, she'd had a very difficult time sharing a bed; being the only girl in a family full of boys kept her in her own room and bed for all the time she had lived there. But now she had trouble sleeping when he wasn't there–even if she didn't have to fight for the covers.
They'd only been married for a little over three years, enough time, some would say, to dampen their ardor for one another, but it was not so. The absence of her husband left her feeling not just lonely, but entirely bereft as though part of her was missing. His business trips hadn't come about until the early summer and initially, they were both very pleased with his bonus in pay as well in title. But neither were really prepared for the amount of time he was required to spend away from home.
They'd started discussing it just last week when he was preparing to leave her once again.
"Gin, I'm sorry, but I've got to go. I can't be late again," he said as he kissed her cheek softly before bending to pick up his bag.
"I know. How long this time?"
"Only four days."
Her eyes twinkled. "It's a good thing too because I don't know if I could get in all the fun I have planned if it were any less."
He smiled his crooked smile and tugged at her hair. "You'll have to cancel the male entertainment, love, because I don't think Hermione or Ange would take part or put in any money."
"I'll miss you," she said, suddenly serious. "It just doesn't seem worth it, does it?"
He shook his head and straightened up to prepare to Apparate. "No, it doesn't. In fact," he said, shifting the bag on his shoulder, "I'd rather have my old job back, but we'll talk more about it when I get back. Love you," he said before he disappeared from her sight.
It was a testament to his dislike for his current position for him to want his old job back. Before, he had worked very odd hours and was on call most weekends which made spending any time together nearly impossible. With her working at the Apothecary days and him at the Ministry at night, they had only seen each other in comings and goings. Some (mostly those with red hair just like her own) said that the reason their marriage was so healthy was because they never spent enough time together to start an argument. But whether or not that was the case, she just knew that she craved Harry and no matter how much time they spent together, it wasn't enough. So, even with his promotion and their increase in time together, she still felt detached from him. Him being promoted to an Auror-Trainer, where he could see a different side of his chosen profession, had sounded the perfect solution to their problems, for he would work the same hours as she and he would only be required to be gone one weekend a month.
Of course now that strange deaths were occurring all over England, he was gone almost every weekend and then some, training all the new recruits that were needed. Then, on top of it all, he told her that he was also needed back in active duty effective ten days ago. This scared her, but more than anything, she was angry. She knew Harry could handle himself, he always had. What made her angry was the fact that all he had ever done was fight. True, he chose his profession, there wasn't anything she could do but support him, but he, above anyone else, had given more than anyone. He deserved to relax and to live a happy, peace-filled life, and when the opportunity finally came for him to teach defense rather than doing the actual fighting, it was taken from him.
She cleared her head of those all too frequent thoughts and focused on tonight. He was coming home sometime soon - within the hour as it were - and she was, to put it mildly, ready for him in more ways than one.
Four days really wasn't all that bad as she had endured longer separations. Perhaps this time it felt so much longer because she had news for him, the type of news that when bottled up for too long might make her explode if she couldn't relieve the coursing excitement that was her constant companion.
She smiled brightly to herself as she placed her palm over her slightly raised stomach. She had found out two days ago that she and Harry were expecting in seven months. How was it that she hadn't known? Looking back it made perfect sense: her morning sickness, her mood swings, and sudden hatred for anything containing pumpkin all added up to this end. She had noticed she'd started to gain some weight, but had shrugged that off as too much stress and too many biscuits.
Harry will be so pleased! She thought as she pulled her curled hair into an elaborate up-do. The curly tresses fell to her bare neck and she looked herself over in the mirror. She had plans tonight -a celebration was in order- a celebration of Harry returning home and for the new addition to their small family. She couldn't wait to tell him that he'd soon be a father.
The lighted candles around their room flickered silently and softly as she dressed herself. Yes, Harry would be pleased with his gift, wrapped up in dark blue satin that fell against her thighs, he would indeed be happy to see her. She enclosed herself in a matching nightdress and moved into the kitchen to light the candles on the dinner table. He would no doubt be hungry but the food would have to come later; she would tell him their news first, start the celebration, then they could eat.
Everything was ready and she stood back to admire her work. The soft ticking of the clock on the kitchen mantle was set in time with her beating heart. It was so quiet that it pressed on her ears and made her suddenly and strangely anxious. It was almost too quiet, she noted, as she moved to the window to see if the rain had indeed stopped. The now slushy ground was just as bleak as it had been earlier, but the bare trees had finally stopped thrashing about from the frigid gusts of wind, making an eerie stillness come over the house. Having grown up in a house that was never quiet, one where she had to fight to get privacy, it was no wonder that silence made her uncomfortable.
To make time go by faster, and to better ignore the stillness and silence surrounding her, she employed herself in writing a return letter to Angelina, George's wife. It took all her will power not to tell her their news. No one but her and the Healer knew she was with child, and she felt Harry should know before the rest of her family or friends.
~ * ~
The letter was finished and sent, her hair was starting to loose its curl, the candles were nearly burnt out, Ginny was slowly giving into the sleepiness that threatened, and Harry was still not home.
She laid down on top of the bed clothes, just to rest her eyes for a moment. A small nap before he arrived would be just what she needed.
~ * ~
All too soon, soft light filtered through the curtained windows and rested against her eyes. She turned over in her sleep, reaching an arm to pull the blankets back to her side that Harry had a habit of stealing, but found nothing but the cool and flat surface of the bed. Her eyes flew open as she realized that she was still on top of her bed, in her negligée, and Harry was still away.
He should be here by now, she thought as concern started to creep its way into her mind. Active duty. Dark Mark. Murders. "Sweet Merlin, let him be alright."
Swallowing the panic that could so easily overcome her, she quickly got dressed and walked steadily to her fire, determined to force away her rising consternation. After putting on a pot of tea and chanting a mantra of he's fine, he's just late, he's fine to herself, she still could not stem the raging flow of worry that was starting to drown out her hopes. Harry had never been late before, always calling her ahead of time to inform her of any schedule changes.
Decided, she rummaged through her kitchen drawers, searching for the piece of paper that contained Harry's work Floo-password and called into the fire, making the Ministry Auror Division office swim into view.
A receptionist's desk sat directly in front of her but it wasn't occupied at the moment. In fact, she couldn't see anyone but she wasn't sure if that was a good sign or bad. Her eyes fell upon a wall clock to the right of the desk and some of her anxiousness left her; it was still early, only a little past seven and the office didn't become fully functional until eight. She comforted herself further with the thought that if anything untoward had happened, the office would be swarming with people. But still, Harry was not home and that was not a comforting thought in the least.
Pacing the kitchen and wringing her hands, she took deep, steadying breaths. She tried again: telling herself that Harry was safe, that he could take care of himself, and if anything had actually happened, she'd be among the first to know; but she still could not stifle the dread that took hold of her heart, making it feel as though it had altogether stopped beating.
Submerged memories from the past spun in her head, a whirlpool of horrid images of what she had seen throughout her not-so-distant past. The war and its casualties, the ever-present promise of death to those she loved, the carnage that she witnessed and even took part in.... Harry was not immune, nor had he ever been, and now it seemed as though it were starting all over again. Her stomach churned with worry and she knew she was going to be sick. She ran to the loo as fast as she could, making it just in time, retching her fear, her anger, and the all consuming worry that filled her.
Gripping the toilet as though it would supply her with some type of comfort, and resting her head against its coolness, she retched again, though there was nothing left to heave out of her system. The spasms of her stomach and the jerking of her body hurt terribly but she was almost used to this morning routine and she welcomed it as a distraction from the pain in her heart.
Her brown eyes, so close to tears, found concerned green ones staring down at her.
"Oh, Harry!" she cried as she reached for him. "Harry, where were you? I was so worried!"
"Are you ill again? What's happened?" he asked, not answering her questions, his brow furrowed in deep worry. "Ginny, come lie down."
He directed her to the bed and kneeled at her side while running a roughened hand down her arm in a soothing manner. "Tell me what's happened. Do you want me to call the Healer?" he asked as he conjured a warm and damp washcloth for her. He watched her wipe her face and mouth, his concern for her evident in every line of his face.
She sat up and hung her legs over the side of the bed, looking down at him. "No, don't call," she said a bit apologetically. "I was mostly just worried. You didn't come home last night and I suppose I panicked a bit."
"You've worried yourself sick?" he said unbelievingly, a trace of bemusement touching his eyes.
"More or less," she said vaguely.
He threw her a confused look but she didn't want to tell him her nausea was related to being pregnant–not this way.
"Well, what was I supposed to think?" she said, suddenly agitated. "It wasn't that long ago that you tell me you've got to go into active duty, there's all these deaths being reported, and then you leave me for a whole four days and don't come home when you said you would." She said this all in quick succession, growing louder with each uttered worry but calmed considerably when he took her hands in his.
"I'm sorry Ginny. I wanted to contact you last night but we were in a magic sensitive area and it would have compromised our location."
"Compromised? What's going on, Harry?" she asked, a warning in her voice. Harry was making it sound as though his business trip wasn't a trip at all, but more like a mission.
He looked at her solemnly and sat down next to her. "You know the Blakeneys? Well, they were killed two days ago and the Dark Mark was left above their home." He ran a hand through his hair and nodded at her stunned expression. "We had a lead and followed it yesterday but it took a bit longer than we expected. Anyway, I couldn't send you a message by owl because I didn't have one, and even if I did, it would have been noticed, and we were nowhere near a fireplace so I couldn't Floo. I'm really sorry, Gin."
She nodded and frowned sadly at this new information. The Blakeneys had been very kind to them and had always seemed like such nice people. True, they didn't really know them all that well, but it was still sad and scary to think that the uncaptured Death Eaters were starting up with their told tricks again.
"Come on," said Harry after a moment of quiet thought. "Let's get you cleaned up."
~ * ~
After a small breakfast, a good tooth brushing, and a shower, Ginny felt much better. She found Harry napping, his arm thrown over his eyes to block out the feeble light that fell over him. She smiled softly as she made her way to him to cuddle up next to his warmth. Feeling immediately content as she found her spot against him, she breathed in his scent, listened to his soothing breathing, and basked in the familiar feel of his body so close to hers. Oh, how she had missed him! And such simple things too, she found, were the things she missed the most. She had tried to memorize the way his coarse hands felt or the way his crooked grin formed a small dimple on his left cheek, so when he did leave, she would remember it perfectly, but when the time came and he was gone, she could never remember well enough.
She remembered the first time he had to leave early in their marriage, for only a few days, but it was still their first time apart overnight and she had cried into her pillow. She had felt so foolish, first because she wasn't one to cry easily, and second, because she was such an independent person that something as trivial as this shouldn't have wreaked so much havoc in her life. Being upset that she had to spend two nights alone, like she had on countless other occasions, seemed so juvenile and simple that she was annoyed with herself but still could not help the way she felt. When he had arrived home, she was happy to see that Harry had missed her just as much. He had walked through the front door, and looking up from her book, she immediately tossed it aside and made for him. He met her half way and when they met with a burning kiss, she knew that without his touch, she just might as well shrivel up and die. She needed him just as he needed her.
Smiling stupidly at the memories, she unconsciously squeezed him with her arms, which had snaked themselves around him.
"Mmmm," he mumbled incoherently as he turned and brought his own arms around her to return the gesture. "Sorry I fell asleep," he said as he tried to stifle a yawn and check his watch. "I wanted to ask you what you did while I was gone. How was work?"
She forced the bright smile that threatened to give away that she was holding a secret off her face and pushed herself up on one elbow. His eyes were always the greenest when he first woke up and without his glasses, they stood out even more.
"Oh, the usual. You know how Cindy gets during this time of year."
"But Christmas isn't for another month!"
"I know, but business usually picks up around now and she has scheduling problems."
"Probably all those anti-depressant potions for the upcoming holidays," said Harry, a small smile bringing out that much-loved dimple.
She smiled back, thinking about how she should bring up what she so desperately wanted to tell him.
"I uh–I went to the Healer a few days ago," she ventured, picking at the bedspread.
"Oh good. I was getting worried about you, as you've been so sick lately. What did you find out?"
"Well," she said, holding the serious expression on her face and looking him in the eye. "It's much more serious than I initially thought."
At this, Harry stopped twirling a strand of her long hair between his fingers, his face suddenly somber. "What do you mean?"
She dipped her head down, hiding her face from view, not for dramatic effect, but because she didn't want him to see the grin breaking through her staid features.
"Ginny, what's wrong? Look at me."
Her bright smile, stretching to its fullest with delight, although still hidden from his view, could not be repressed any longer. "It's certainly not going to just go away...."
He lifted her chin upwards with his hand so he could see her face. Most likely prepared to see the beginnings of tears in his wife's eyes, he was thoroughly confused to see her smile.
She laughed musically at his confusion and hugged him. "Harry, I'm pregnant!"
He stayed motionless for a moment, apparently too blind-sided by this information to register any of it. But after he blinked stupidly a few times, his mouth dropped open in happy surprise.
"What? You're sure? When?" he asked giddily in quick succession, grabbing hold of her upper arms.
"We're two months along!" she said happily, even more excited by Harry's overflowing enthusiasm.
"Oh, Gin!" he said, all but giggling as he pulled her into a hug. "This is…this is so wonderful!" he laughed, his eyes bright. "How long have you known?"
"I found out only two days ago. You would have loved it, Harry," she said as she maneuvered to her knees, Harry following her. "The Healer used this charm so I could hear its heartbeat and it was so fast. You have to come with me next time so you can hear it too."
"You heard its heartbeat?" Harry asked, a bit disappointed that he hadn't been there. "When do you go again?"
"Not for another four weeks. Say you'll come."
"Of course!" he blurted, his wide smile displaying his gaiety. "I wouldn't miss it for the world! Oh, Gin, I'm so happy."
"You should have seen your face!" she said, pointing at him and laughing.
He grabbed her wrist and pulled her to him, reaching his other hand out to tickle her side. She writhed and let out a shriek of laughter at his assault, but couldn't pull away.
"That was a dirty trick you pulled; you scared me half to death!" he said as they collapsed on the bed, Ginny gasping for air between twitters of laughter.
They stayed motionless for a moment, Harry feeling thoroughly delighted. He reckoned he'd probably have a stupid-looking grin plastered to his face for the rest of his life, but he didn't care. They were going to have a baby.
"Next time try not giving me a heart attack." he said after Ginny scooted closer to him, putting her arms around his neck.
She smiled wickedly. "I did have other plans, you know, but they fell through as you didn't show up last night."
"I'm sure they were equally misleading. I swear you're no different from the twins."
"Actually," she said as she ran a suggestive finger down his chin to the neck of his shirt, pulling his loosened tie apart completely. "They were altogether different and had nothing to do with the twins although I could Floo them over if you'd like – though I'm not sure their wives would approve or that they would be up for it."
He smiled and pulled her closer so she was half atop him, kissing her gently. "Ginny, this is so wonderful...."
She didn't let him finish his sentiments as she found his lips again, commencing the celebration that she had so eagerly planned on.
~ * ~
Before she knew it, the day was half gone and her stomach was growling with need of sustenance. Harry's arm that was draped over her withdrew until his worn hand covered their unborn child. He snuggled in closer to his wife, nuzzling her neck.
"We need more time like this," he said against her ear making the fine hairs surrounding it stir and tickle her neck. "I really missed you."
She didn't say anything but simply found his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
"I'm so happy, Gin. I couldn't think of anything better than starting a family with you. I love you so much." He punctuated the last remark with a kiss just below her ear lobe, making her pulse quicken almost instantly.
They lay like that, spooning in silence, for several more moments before Harry's manner changed completely. He flexed his hand over her stomach and pulled her hips closer to his in a possessive, almost protective manner.
"When we were called out of our meeting," he began, "I wanted to tell you but there was no time. They said that a wizarding family had been killed, a whole family, even the wife and kids..." He paused momentarily and squeezed her tighter as though scared she might suddenly disappear. "It reminded me of the war."
She turned then, in his embrace, and faced him. His eyes had lost their sparkle and a sorrowful look had overtaken his countenance. She knew what he was trying to say, she knew that he feared for their small family and worried for the fragile life they were given to protect.
"I don't know what I'd do if you were ever hurt. You or the baby."
Ginny kissed him softly, trying to reassure and calm him. "Harry, we'll be fine. It's not like last time; Voldemort's dead, he can't hurt us."
"Voldemort wasn't the only menace in the world, he wasn't the only one that craved power and destruction."
Stroking his cheek softly, the pricklings of his facial hair rough against her smooth hand, she looked him in the eye. "We'll never be rid of them, love. Not everyone is good and decent. The best we can do is continue living and do the best with what we're given."
He sighed deeply and pulled her to him in a strong hug. "We need to be careful, Ginny. Something is coming...I can feel it."
A/N: Thanks to my wonderful beta, Hollow Godric, for all his support and for all he does! Thanks to Kelly and T'Rell because they listen politely while I ramble on and on about all things Harry Potter. Not only this, but they're dear friends to me who have always been a great support.
I should cite that I shamefully stole the title of this fic from Rupert Brooke's poem The Soldier. Those who know me, know that I have a soft spot for poetry…angsty poetry. It's quite wonderful so I've included it for those who care to read. Found at: http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/LostPoets/Sonnets.html
Oh, and ten points to anyone who knows where the Blakeneys come from!
If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field That is forever England. There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, A body of England's, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away, A pulse in the eternal mind, no less Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.