WOGW: Prologue: A Promise

August, 2002

The Daily Prophet had taken full advantage of Bellatrix Lestrange’s escape; the morning’s headlines screamed about ineptitudes in the Auror office. After such a report Ginny fully expected to find the Ministry of Magic overflowing with angry people. She was counting on it, in fact, because it was always much easier to keep a low profile when surrounded by a crowd, and after everything that had happened in the last few days, anonymity was exactly what she wanted.

As the booth descended into the atrium it was clear that her wish hadn’t been granted. No more than three-dozen people were milling about the place and they looked up as she stepped out of the booth. Several people obviously recognized her. They immediately started whispering to their neighbours, nodding their heads in her direction. This simple reaction was enough to make her consider leaving and returning another time.

Ginny was on the verge of turning around when she came to her senses. Before leaving the Burrow several hours ago she had decided that she would find Harry today and tell him about the baby, no matter what it took. She had been to his flat. When he wasn’t there she checked at Ron and Hermione’s, Lupin’s and Grimmauld Place. The Ministry was the last obvious place that he could be, and it would be stupid and a waste of time to leave without first checking that he was there. Pulling her sweater closer, she forced herself to smile, and headed into the Ministry.

Much as she tried, she couldn’t stop fidgeting the entire time it took to register her wand, and it only got worse once she joined the queue for the lifts. Her inability to stop was attracting the sort of attention that she wanted to avoid, but the nerves that had been plaguing her for weeks were increasing exponentially and she was consumed with worrisome questions like whether she would chicken out again, and how Harry would react if she didn’t.

Trapped in the lifts as they made their way up to the second floor at a snail’s pace, Ginny was plunged back into memories of their conversation from twenty-four hours earlier. She could see clearly the look of absolute betrayal that Harry had given her, feel the sting of his accusations as though he had just uttered them. She had to remind herself that he hadn’t known the truth when he had ostensibly called her a whore. Trying to see things logically, she wondered if she would have reacted similarly if their roles had been reversed? But if logic was being applied to that situation, then Harry should have known that something was wrong. He should have realized that she would never, ever let a skeeve like Dudley Dursley touch her willingly.

Ginny was grateful that her arrival wasn’t expected because she needed to take a moment to collect herself before she set off to find out if Harry was there. Leaning against the wall and closing her eyes, she let the voices of office workers wash over her like waves from the sea, allowing her heart beat to slow and her breathing to return to normal. It was easy to relax when she was surrounded by such a state of normality, or it was until someone touched her arm, making her jump. She opened her eyes to see that she was standing face to face with Romeo De Rossi, one of the Aurors Harry had trained with, and right now he was fixing her with a lecherous smile that was all-too familiar.

“What do you want?” she demanded, backing away several steps, tightening the grip on her wand and pointing it at him.

“I startled you?” he asked, watching her wand in amusement for a moment, but the smile fell from his face when Ginny didn’t lower it. When he delayed in answering her question, Ginny twitched her wand, telling him to get a move on with his explanation.

“Blimey, Weasley. I was just saying hello,” Rossi said indignantly. “That’s no reason to point your wand at me.”

“It would be more polite to have said hello,” Ginny said angrily. She lowered her wand slowly, more frustrated with herself than she was with Rossi. Had he really looked at her in the same way as Harry’s cousin had on occasion, or had she just imagined that because of what she had been thinking while in the lift?

“I’ll keep that in mind for future,” he said, walking backwards, like he was scared to turn his back on her. He wasn’t paying attention to what was going on behind him and as a result he walked straight into Briony Wright and knocked an envelope out of her hand.

“I’m so sorry,” she said to Rossi bending down to pick it up. It was when she straightened up that she noticed Ginny and a look of deepest disgust came over her face. “What are you doing here?”

“I might ask you the same question,” Ginny replied. The very last person she’d expected to see here after the events at Malfoy Manor the previous evening, was Briony, especially after Lestrange revealed her as the one leaking Ministry secrets. Even with Lestrange’s admission that Briony had been bewitched; shouldn’t there have been some sort of investigation, some administrative leave perhaps? But no, it looked like everything had returned to business as usual.

“I’ll leave you two to discuss . . . ” Rossi trailed off, backing away even before he started talking. It was only after he had disappeared down a row of cubicles that Briony spoke again.

“I will let Harry know you’re here.” She held up the envelope and said, “This is a matter of some urgency, excuse me.”

At the news that Harry was definitely here it felt like Ginny’s heart had risen into her throat. She backed into the opposite wall as Briony knocked on a door to her right. Someone called out for her to enter, which she did, leaving the door ajar and allowing the tail end of what had obviously been a heated conversation waft into the corridor.

Kingsley was standing at the front of the room. It was to him that Briony handed the envelope. She jerked her head in Ginny’s direction, obviously telling him she was there. Kingsley frowned as he glanced at her. Ginny tried to smile, but her nerves got the better of her when several other people leaned over in their chairs to look out the door. One of those people was Harry, and looked as pleased to see her as Briony had.

“That’ll be all for now,” Kingsley said. He started reading the letter and didn’t look up as he spoke.

Chairs scraped the floor as they were pushed back from the table, and the sound of rustling parchment got louder as people started to leave the room. Several of them smiled or said hello as they passed. Ginny tried to return their greetings, but most of her smiles came out as grimaces, she was sure. Briony and Tougas were among the last to leave. While Briony avoided looking at Ginny, Tougas didn’t. He was wearing a strange expression. For a moment Ginny thought it might have been sympathy, and her stomach clenched, wondering exactly how much Briony had told him about what happened. Kingsley came out last.

“You can go in. He’s waiting for you,” he said, putting a hand on her shoulder. He withdrew it quickly when she flinched.

“Sorry,” she mumbled, crossing her arms over her chest protectively.

“Don’t apologize, Ginny.” He smiled weakly before walking away. Ginny stared after him for a moment. Something in his look reminded her of the one Tougas had given her. Had she been seeing things?

Ginny waited for each person to disappear down his or her respective row before she took a deep breath and slowly walked into the room. Harry was staring out of the lone window in the room and had his back to her. He didn’t speak until she closed the door.

“What are you doing here?” he asked angrily, without turning around. “I thought that you understood this morning that we can’t keep doing this.”

“You didn’t exactly give me time to say anything this morning,” she replied, having to remind herself that not all his anger was directed at her. It had sounded like all the members of the task force were hacked off before she got there.

“And I haven’t changed it,” he said, turning around. “You’ve wasted a trip.”

“You might want to hear what I have to say before you rush to that judgment, Harry.” She was able to keep her voice even, but her nerves already had her on edge, and his attitude wasn’t helping. With the idea of getting the news out as soon as possible, but still wanting to prepare him, she said, “Do you remember that there was something I wanted to talk to you about that night?” Ginny knew from the way his face contorted that Harry knew exactly which night she was talking about.

“Yeah. It couldn’t have waited?” he asked impatiently.

“No, it couldn’t,” she snapped. And then before she could offer any more preparatory statements the words fell out of her mouth. I’m pregnant.”

It was like a silencing charm had been cast. The only thing Ginny could hear was the beating of her heart, and each breath she took. She watched Harry closely for some sort of reaction, but for several long seconds there was nothing, and then finally,

“Wh – what?”

“I’m pregnant.” She paused, and in that moment a horrible question occurred to her: What if he thought that this was a result of what happened that night? Swallowing the bubble of vomit that rose in her throat, she added: “I’ve known since the last Quidditch game.”

“This isn’t amusing, Ginny.” Harry said flatly. He came close enough to touch her, though he didn’t, and said, “Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. And I’m not laughing, am I?” Ginny placed one hand on the back of a chair for support while the one still holding her wand went automatically to her abdomen. Another full minute passed in silence, with Harry alternating between pacing around the room, and staring at the hand she had resting on her abdomen. Ginny wanted to say something, but her throat felt like it had closed up. In any case, she had never been able to think past what would happen after she finally confessed the truth, and she was quite willing to follow his lead.

“Great,” he said at last, sounding angry again. He ignored her request for explanation and walked straight past her with only the most cursory glance. At the door he paused, said, “Wait here. I’ll be back.” And then he was gone, muttering curses.

Such was her frustration with this reaction that Ginny said “To hell with this” and started to leave. She had her hand on the doorknob when she changed her mind and turned around. Instead, she imitated Harry and took a turn about the room, thinking. If she left they still wouldn’t have anything sorted out, and given how much time had passed already, she decided that she would be better off to stay.

On her third or fourth go round, Ginny looked up, straight into the face of one of her best friends: Colin Creevey. She stepped right up close and examined the photo. It had been taken on the day he graduated from Hogwarts, a day filled with the promise of exciting future. To have it all end so soon, and for such a stupid, pointless, self-serving reason as Lestrange’s . . .

It was the click of the latch that announced Harry’s return. Ginny turned her head away from the photo at last, cringing because she wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But she needn’t have worried. Harry covered the distance between them in several long strides, took her hands in his and pulled her over to the table again, where they both sat down.

“You’re absolutely sure?” he asked, watching her closely.

“I am.”

Harry sighed heavily, let go of her hands and rubbed his eyes.

“How is it possible?” he asked at last.

“You don’t really need me to answer that, do you?” She smiled wanly.

Harry’s smile was equally weak. Then he asked the question Ginny had been dreading for weeks. “If you’ve known for so long, why are you only telling me about this now?”

Ginny hesitated. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to answer, but she knew how feeble her reasons were.

“Because . . . “ She said slowly, still thinking of some way to explain her decisions, but there really wasn’t any, and at last Ginny decided to speak plainly and let things sort themselves out. She stood up and started following the path she’d taken earlier.

“When Ikey told me I thought it was another one of her jokes. You know, the ones she thinks are funny, but really aren’t.”

Harry sat up straighter in his chair and nodded. For a moment it looked like he was going to say something, but then he waved his hand dismissing his thought and inviting her to continue.

“Do you remember when we got back to the Burrow after the game? I almost told you then. I think I wanted someone to agree with me that Ikey was mad. But I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want it hanging over your head when you were headed straight back to work. I wish I had said something,” she muttered bitterly, folding her arms across her chest.

“So do I,” Harry replied. He stood and started following her as she made circles around the table. It was as they passed the window for the third time that he spoke again. “What’s done is done. Now what do we do?”

“We?” Ginny stopped so suddenly that Harry walked into her. Ignoring his apology, she said, “This morning you couldn’t leave fast enough.“

“I know I did, but . . . ” Harry said, scratching the back of his neck uncomfortably.

“I didn’t tell you about the baby to get you to change your mind about us, you know.” She felt it was important to explain this.

“Ah. And so you expected me to do what, then? Say congratulations, have a nice life?”

“No. I — I don’t know what I expected,” she said truthfully, walking to the window and staring out. Today Magical Maintenance had decided to have it act like a real window. Ginny watched an aeroplane fly overhead before she continued. “After you left this morning I really didn’t know what to expect, I just thought you had a right to know.” She put her hand to her abdomen again. Harry came to stand behind her, close enough that she could feel the warmth of his breath on her neck.

“Thank you,” he said, softly, and started to put his hands on her shoulders but Ginny gasped and he backed away, apologizing.

For the first time today, she wasn’t cringing from someone’s touch, though. She could feel a fluttery, sort of queasy feeling in her abdomen. It had been happening on and off all day, but until this moment she hadn’t recognized it for what it was.

“What’s wrong, Gin?” he asked when she didn’t respond immediately.

“I think he’s moving. Here.” Ginny turned around, took Harry’s hand and placed it on the barely perceptible bump, and then watched Harry closely for his reaction. He continued to look confused and she started to think he wasn’t able to feel anything, but then his eyes widened in shock.

“It’s — that’s the baby?” he asked, his voice hoarse.

“Yeah, I think so. It feels like what Fleur described when she was pregnant with the twins,” she replied, pressing her hand harder to her stomach in awe.

For weeks and weeks all the baby had been to her was a laundry list of problems. How could this have happened? How would it affect Quidditch? How would Harry react, and so forth. She hadn’t taken the time to think about what was at the end of all this worry: a life, a tiny little boy or girl who would need to be loved and cared for, A child who might end up with her ginger hair, or bright green eyes like Harry’s.

It was strange how things could change so quickly. Twenty or thirty minutes earlier Ginny had been almost sick with nerves about telling Harry, and now she was as close to happiness as she’d been in a long time. She might have stood there for hours, lost in thoughts about their baby if Harry didn’t run his finger lightly over her cheek.

“I’ve really buggered things up, haven’t I?”

“You could have handled them better,” she admitted, speaking quietly. She had just realized how close they were standing, and he still had a hand on her abdomen. She reached up and touched his cheek, feeling the scratchiness of a few days’ stubble.

“Should have been, you mean,” he corrected, self-disgust in his voice. Then he took her hands in his again. “Listen, Gin, the point I’m trying to make is that I don’t really have any right to ask, but I will make it up to you, if you’ll let me.”

She hesitated very briefly before nodding. Some people would call her crazy for agreeing so readily after everything that had happened, but she just knew that things were different this time.

“I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

“I know,” she said.

And then she kissed him.

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