Lilies In Autumn


Story Summary:
Lilies don't just bloom in the spring. Harry and Ginny welcome Lily into their lives.

Chapter 06 - A Kink In the Plans


The alarm began to beep softly, gradually becoming louder until a hand reached out and landed heavily on the snooze button. The hand slowly slid off the alarm clock and disappeared back under the quilt from which it had emerged.

Harry rolled over and fitted his body against Ginny's warmer one. They had seven more minutes until the alarm went off again. His hand drifted up the planes and slopes of Ginny's body until it landed on her neck, and brushed away the hair, so he could nuzzle the silky skin behind her ear. The hand slipped back down her body, skimming over the curve of her hip and their unborn child, nestling her firmly against him, fingertips tracing the skin of her thigh under the hem of her rucked-up nightdress.

'Don't start something you can't finish,' Ginny's voice murmured, husky with sleep.

'We've got at least five minutes...' Harry replied.

'And a toddler with impeccable timing.'

Harry's shoulders slumped. 'Yeah... Damn.'

Ginny rolled over to face Harry. 'We both have to get up and go to work today, as it is anyway,' she told him arching her back in a stretch. 'No time, even if we could manage to find something to distract James for a few minutes.'

'I hate it when you're logical like that,' Harry muttered darkly.

'You want the shower first?'

Harry shook his head. 'No, you go. I don't have to be in until ten or so today. I'll go get the boys up and dressed, if you get breakfast ready.'

'Are you going to drop them off with Mum?'

'I was thinking about it. Zacharias Smith's bloody kid bit Albus last week in the childcare center.'

Ginny stopped mid-stretch. 'Wait. What?'

'Smith's kid bit Albus over some stuffed dragon. He's fine.'

'I see the kid's as bad-tempered as his father,' Ginny mused, resuming her languorous stretch. 'Did you talk to the director?'

'Of course I did.' Harry scrubbed a hand over his face. 'Smith's not allowed to bring his kid back for a while.'

Ginny sat up, pushing her hair out of her face. 'Because...?' she asked suspiciously. Neither of them liked receiving special treatment due to Harry's previous life.

'That was the third time there's been an incident between Matthew Smith and another child there,' Harry assured Ginny. 'I didn't demand anything and the director didn't offer, as per our agreement.'

'Good,' she sighed. 'How's porridge sound?'

'Again...?' Harry began, then saw the beady-eyed look Ginny threw over her shoulder, and hastily corrected himself. 'I mean, I love porridge. Could eat it every morning.' He had, in fact, eaten porridge nearly every morning for the past two weeks. While Ginny insisted she was feeling all right, porridge was the only thing she could handle eating early in the morning like this. It made Harry long for the weekend mornings, when they could sleep a little longer, and Ginny could stomach eggs, bacon, and sausages.

Ginny snorted in amusement. 'Git,' she said with a slight grin. She slid out of the bed and headed for the bathroom.

Harry reluctantly left the warmth of the bed and shuffled out of the bedroom to wake James. Uncharacteristically, James was huddled under his quilt, looking decidedly wan; he normally sprawled across the bed in odd angles. Harry turned on the small lamp on the bureau and bent to shake his son awake. 'Jemmy,' he said softly, gently shaking his shoulder. James whimpered and curled into a tighter ball. Harry frowned down at the child, fingers gently brushing the hair away from his face. Something about the skin around James' eyes made Harry kneel on the floor next to the bed, and attempt to turn James over, so he could see him more clearly.

James was not cooperating with his father's plans, so Harry darted back into the bedroom, plunging his hand under his pillow for his wand, and returned to James' room. 'Lumos!' he exclaimed, fearfully. The delicate skin around James' eyes had a poisonous-looking green tinge to it, and small greenish bumps were erupting across his round cheeks. 'Oh, effing...' Harry took the time to extinguish the light from his wand and pelted into the bedroom once more.

Ginny was in the shower, humming some old Celestina Warbeck song that was regaining popularity, when Harry burst through the bathroom door. Ginny poked her head through the shower curtain. 'Something wrong?'

'What does dragon pox look like?' Harry demanded.

Ginny reached down, and slowly turned the tap off, reaching for the towel on the shelf next to the bathtub. Lather still dotted her body, sliding in snowy mounds down her body to the floor. She wrapped the towel around her, shivering slightly. 'Why?'

Harry shot a Warming charm at her dressing gown and draped it over her shoulders. 'James. He's got green smudges under his eyes, and these bumps over his face. They're green, too.'

Ginny sighed, pushing her arms into the sleeves. 'Yes, that's dragon pox.'

'What do we do?' Harry leaned against the bathroom counter, and worriedly chewed a fraying hangnail.

'Well, I need to leave,' Ginny said wearily. 'I can't be here while he's sick...' She ran a hand over the swell of her abdomen under the dressing gown. 'It could harm the baby. Dragon pox can be really contagious.'

'What about Albus?'

'I'll take him to Mum's as soon as I'm dressed. Not that it would be a bad thing for him to get it now, while he's younger, but I'd rather not risk him getting sick right now.'

'What happens if he has it anyway?'

Ginny sighed, and started to towel her hair dry. 'I don't know,' she confessed. 'We'll just have to cross our fingers and hope he doesn't have it.' She pulled open a drawer and rummaged for a comb. 'I'll stay at the Burrow with Albus. If he does end up coming down with it in the next few days, I guess Mum or Dad can bring him back here.' Ginny thumbed a wet lock of hair away from her eyes. 'If it comes to that, I'll see if Mum can come help you for a few days.'

Harry rolled his wand between his fingers. 'How long does it last?'

Ginny hung up the damp towel. 'About a week.' She began to quickly brush her teeth. 'The contagious period lasts roughly a week. He'll have the spots and greenish skin for a bit longer than that. When the spots get crusty, and he's not running a fever, he's not contagious any more.'


'Welcome to parenthood,' Ginny snorted, spitting out her toothpaste. 'Go check Al for symptoms, while I dress. If he looks okay, just wrap him up and meet me downstairs. We'll sort out clothes and everything else later.'

Harry nodded, and swiftly went into Albus' room. Albus slept peacefully - blissfully unaware of the impending chaos swirling around him. Harry switched on the small light next to the cot and examined Albus' sleep-flushed face. It was rosy with slumber and unblemished. He carefully scooped the sleeping child from the cot and clumsily wrapped the quilt from the cot around him.

Harry turned and began to walk out of the room, shifting Albus into a more comfortable position in order to carry him. He stopped in the doorway of Albus' room. Ginny was standing in the doorway of James' room, her arms crossed over her chest, shoulders tense. 'I really don't want to go, baby,' she whispered. 'But I have to. But your dad will be here, and he's going to take really good care of you. Trust me. He takes excellent care of me, you know...' Ginny's voice cracked and she turned on her heel, and blindly stumbled down the stairs, tears beginning to slip down her cheeks.

Harry hastily stepped back into Albus' room, unwilling to let Ginny know he'd intruded on what was obviously meant to be a private moment, however inadvertently. He waited a few minutes, tactfully allowing Ginny a moment to collect herself, then carried Albus down to the sitting room, where she was waiting, dressed in a jumper and a rather ratty pair of jeans. He transferred Albus to her arms, trying not to wake him, but his efforts were for naught. Albus blinked sleepily and smiled at Harry. 'Dahhhdeee,' he murmured, leaning forward. After a worried glance at Ginny's still-pensive expression, Harry ran his hand over Albus' wildly disordered hair, and planted a kiss on top of his head.

'Better go,' Ginny said reluctantly. 'Before he realizes you're not going with us.' She blinked a few times, trying to stem the tears that sprang to her eyes. She was having unpleasant memories of the weeks Harry had been away before Albus was born. She tried to smile at Harry, but failed miserably, her lips trembling. A tear slid down her cheek, and Harry reached over and gently brushed it away, leaning down to kiss her.

'We'll be fine,' he told her. 'Go on...' He nudged her toward the fireplace, so she could Floo to the Burrow.

'Don't let him scratch the welts,' Ginny said suddenly. 'There's some potion you can get at the apothecary in Diagon Alley for it. Makes the itching a bit better. And keep an eye on his temperature. If it gets too high, you'll need to get a Fever-Reducing potion in him somehow.' James didn't care for potions. They made him gag to the point of nearly vomiting. 'Make sure he drinks plenty of fluids.' Her voice grew tight with anxiety.

'When this one comes down with it,' Harry told her, his hand caressing her abdomen. 'I'll skive off for a week and let your mum spoil me, while you handle it,' he teased gently. 'Go on, then.' He grasped her shoulders and turned her toward the fireplace. 'Let me know when you get back from the game tonight. And I'll call you tomorrow, all right?'

Ginny's shoulders slumped in defeat. She knew she had to go for the safety of the baby, but she absolutely hated to leave James while he was ill. She tightened her arms around Albus, and stepped up to the fireplace. Harry dipped a hand into the flowerpot on the mantle and threw a handful of Floo powder into the flames. 'The Burrow,' he said firmly. The flames roared, sending bright green shadows over Ginny and Albus' faces. Ginny stepped into the flames, and disappeared in a whorl of emerald fire.

She stumbled onto the hearthrug at the Burrow, stomach churning from the dizzying journey. She managed to set Albus on the sofa, sinking onto the cushion next to him, breathing deeply in an attempt not to vomit. Her hair swung forward, curtaining her averted face, as she focused on a leaf in the rug. She glanced up when the kitchen door swung open, and Molly stood on the threshold clad in her worn dressing gown. 'Ginny!' she exclaimed. 'Whatever is the matter?' She hurried over to Ginny and began trying to check her over thoroughly for injuries.

Ginny tried to squirm away from Molly's ministrations. 'Geroff, Mum,' she protested. 'I'm all right.'

Molly began to unwrap Albus from the quilt. 'Is it Albus? James? Harry?' Molly's voice grew increasingly shrill as she continued to question her daughter.

Albus woke up at that moment and gave Molly a smile of heartbreaking sweetness. 'G'ahnmahm!' he sang delightedly. He scrabbled across Ginny's lap and launched himself into Molly's arms.

'It's James,' Ginny said over Albus' soft chattering. 'He's got dragon pox.'

Molly looked at Ginny over the wild array of Albus' hair. 'Why didn't you leave Albus at home?' she asked confusedly. 'Get it over with.'

'If I could stay at home with Harry, I would have,' Ginny sighed. 'But I can't.'

'I could go for the week and help out,' Molly insisted.


'Ginny, it's not going to hurt him to have dragon pox now,' Molly said shrewdly, seeing the slight line appear between Ginny's brows.

'I know, Mum...' Ginny sighed. She massaged her temples against the ache that had begun to blossom behind her eyes. As she watched her mother listening to Albus natter, Ginny knew she wasn't entirely truthful with Molly. Her hand reached over and stroked over Albus' hair. In reality, she was driven by the calendar. When Albus turned two, and for all intents and purposes, "officially" caught up, she could let herself relax and stop obsessing over every sniffle and cough.

Molly nodded, and got to her feet. 'Then I'll just get dressed, and take Albus back home with me. He'll come down with it in a few days, get this out of the way. Then you don't have to worry if the baby gets it in a few years. It's a lot better for them if they get dragon pox while they're young.'

'You don't know that,' Ginny insisted. 'They said two years,' she said stubbornly. 'Two years and he'd be just like the others.' She shook her head. 'I won't risk it.'


'Mum, please...' Ginny's eyes closed against the spinning sitting room. 'Just let me have this...' As irrational as Ginny knew it to be, it was something she could do, in the face of the helplessness she'd felt since had Harry told her James was sick.

Molly's opened her mouth to speak, but the determined set of Ginny's jaw made her change what she was going to say. 'I'll just pop over to your house then, after breakfast, and get Albie here some clothes.' She eyed the frayed jeans Ginny wore. 'And you, too. Can't go to work like that.'

'That's fine, Mum,' Ginny said, already worn out by her day so far. She leaned back against the sofa cushions and stretched her feet out in front of her. 'We can make a list at breakfast...'


Harry watched Ginny and Albus disappear and with a sigh, trudged upstairs to check on James. He laid the back of his hand against James' cheek, and frowned. He wasn't sure if James was running a fever or if he was just warm. He was like Ginny in that his temperature rose a bit when he slept. He pulled his wand from the pocket of his pajama bottoms, and pointed it in the direction of the door. 'Accio .' A small book zoomed into his outstretched hand, and he leafed through it, trying to find the charm that would allow him to check James' temperature.

He came to the section of minor healing spells and ran a finger down the page. 'Fervefacio revelio,' he murmured, practicing the charm. He took a deep breath, and rested the tip of the wand behind James' exposed ear, and whispered the incantation. A bright green number floated in the air briefly over James' head. 'Damn,' Harry whispered. It was well above normal. He went into the bathroom, and grabbed a face cloth, soaking it in cool water. He took it back into James' room and began to run it over James' face. James mewed softly in protest, trying to turn his face away from the invasive cloth. Harry dropped into the armchair in the corner, and let his head fall into his hands. It wasn't as if James had never been sick before. He'd had colds and stomachaches, of course, but this was the first time he'd been seriously ill. It reminded him far too much of the days spent by Albus' cot when he was born. That feeling of choking helplessness welled up, threatening to overtake him.

He gingerly swiped the face cloth over the back of James' neck, wincing as it passed over the new welts beginning to surface on the tender skin. James squirmed away, scooting to the other side of the bed. 'All right, mate,' Harry told him softly. 'I'll be right back in a bit.' He went downstairs found a piece of parchment in the kitchen and scribbled a note to Shacklebolt. Someone would have to take over his trainee class that morning, and to have anything important sent to him by owl. He would have to try and get as much done from home as possible.

Harry glanced around the kitchen, toward the perch in the corner. Ginny's owl Ariel slept on the perch next to his larger snowy owl Dante, who was preening his wing feathers. Harry approached them, the scroll crackling in his tight grip. 'Heya, Dan,' he said, smoothing the feathers of the owl's head. 'I need you to take this to Kingsley for me...' Dante hooted imperiously, then softened it by nibbling Harry's finger affectionately. 'Thanks,' Harry told him, while he tied the letter to Dante's leg. 'I'll have some extra treats for you.' The owl head-butted Harry's arm briefly before he took flight.

Harry watched the owl against the hard, blue March sky for a moment before he turned to the stove and filled the kettle to make a cup of tea. While he waited for the water to boil, his stomach gurgled, reminding him it was past time for his breakfast. He fixed a few pieces of toast, and when his tea was ready, took it and the toast back up to James' room. James was sitting up, slumped against the wall, his face liberally dotted with green spots, and the greenish hue to his skin had spread over his cheeks, in a bizarre kind of blush. 'Don't feel good, Daddy,' James told his father. 'Feel icky.'

'I know, mate,' Harry said sympathetically. 'You don't look so good, either.'

'Where's Mummy?' James asked plaintively.

'She couldn't stay,' Harry said, sitting on the edge of the bed. 'She had to leave so she didn't get sick, too.'

James twisted the edge of the crumpled sheet. 'Can I have juice, Daddy?'

'Sure. Let me take your temperature, all right?' Harry pulled his wand out, and rested the tip behind James' ear. It was still the same as it had been earlier. Harry sighed in relief that it hadn't gone up, and pocketed the wand. 'I'll be right back,' he said. 'Don't go anywhere,' he instructed.

Harry dashed downstairs and poured some orange juice into a small cup for James, and opened a cupboard over the sink. They kept a few common medicinal potions there - painkilling, hangover... Harry peered into the depths of the cupboard. In a back corner, was one lone Fever-Reducing potion. He pulled the small vial out and blew off a layer of accumulated dust. Harry swiped a thumb over the label, and frowned. It had expired a year ago. 'Brilliant.' Harry rubbed a hand over his face. He'd have to try and call the Burrow later. Molly or Arthur could bring him some more.

Harry went up the stairs and handed the juice to James, who gulped it thirstily. 'You're in luck, Jemmy. No potion for you right now.'

James made a moue of distaste. 'Potions are yucky,' he pronounced.

'Yes, they are,' Harry agreed. 'But you'll have to have one later, I'm afraid.'

James held the half-empty glass out to Harry. 'Loo,' he said, sliding to the floor. James trudged to the door, stopping in the doorway, and turned to Harry. 'You stay here,' he commanded. 'Can do it myself.'

'Go right ahead,' Harry murmured, hiding his grin in his cup of tea. He set the cup down on the night table, and left the room, crossing the corridor to Albus' room. He pulled the rocking chair out of the room, and dragged it to James' room.

'You can use magic, you know,' a wry voice told him. 'Makes moving furniture easier, and I know how heavy that rocking chair is,' Arthur said.

Harry grinned deprecatingly. 'Slipped my mind. Forget you can use magic for the mundane.'

Arthur held out a parcel. 'Ginny didn't think you had any potions, so Molly sent me to pick up some for you before I went to work.'

'Oh, fantastic,' Harry breathed. 'We had one Fever-Reducing potion and it's gone off.'

'Molly's going to come round later, and pick up some clothes for Ginny and Albie.'

Harry nodded. 'I'll get some things together in a bit.'

The toilet in the bathroom flushed, and James opened the bathroom door. 'Grandad!' he exclaimed, shuffling to Arthur and hugging him around a leg. 'I'm green.'

Arthur tipped up James' chin a bit more. 'Yes, you are.' He swung James into his arms and headed into James' bedroom.

Harry followed, levitating the rocking chair, and set it down next the bed. James was sitting on the bed, leafing through a copy of The Adventures of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle. He liked to pretend he could read, and often made up rambling, fantastical stories using the pictures, and was pointing out the stranger pictures to Arthur. 'So this is a wizarding disease, eh?' Harry asked.

'Yes.' Arthur glanced up at Harry. 'It rather depends on your blood-status to be honest,' he said with an embarrassed shrug. 'All purebloods get it. Usually between the ages of four and six, although some don't get it until they're ten or so. Sometimes they get it later than that, and it's a bit more dangerous, then.' He rubbed a finger over his eyebrow. 'Muggle-borns never get it. Half-bloods...' Arthur held up a hand and waggled it from side to side. 'Depends. Kind of a coin toss. If one of your parents is Muggle-born, like you, then you're probably not going to get it. If both parents are magic, and you only have one Muggle grandparent, you'll probably get it.' He rubbed his forehead. 'It gets a little complicated with half-bloods,' he added apologetically.

'So I get to look forward to going through this twice more...' Harry gestured to James.

Arthur sat back a little, and his eyes closed, as he visualized the rather intricate family tree that now included Harry and his relatives. 'Absolutely.'

Harry sat in the rocking chair, and swayed a bit, his eyes narrowed as he gazed at James. 'How bad does it get?'

'This is pretty mild so far,' Arthur said. 'It'll probably get worse.' He patted James on the head. 'Look on the bright side. You don't have five of them with it all at once,' he told Harry cheerfully. 'Percy, George, Fred, Ron, and Gin all had it at the same time. When they were feeling better, and back to normal, Molly went to bed and slept for nearly two days.'

'That does not sound good,' Harry mumbled.

'Well, you've only got the wee fiend here,' Arthur snorted. 'But he might as well cause the chaos of at least three.'

'That didn't make me feel better,' Harry huffed.

'It's only bad for a few days,' Arthur assured him. 'They feel like they last for ages, though. Lots of sick child fussiness.' He gestured to the parcel Harry still held in his hands. 'There're enough doses of the Fever-Reducing potion for four days. That's how long the fever lasts. Usually. If it goes on longer than that, then take him in to St. Mungo's.'

Harry nodded. 'And the spots?'

Arthur trailed a finger down the back of James' neck. 'It takes a couple of days after the fever goes down for them to get to that lovely crusty stage,' he said ironically.

'Doesn't sound lovely,' Harry grumbled, an eye on James. He was unusually quiet, preferring to sit quietly among the bedding, looking at the comic book in his lap, listlessly turning the pages. 'Sounds quite disgusting, really.'

Arthur chuckled softly. 'And you can still call anything to do with children disgusting after two of them?' He shook his head incredulously. 'It's lovely because it means he's better.'

Harry leaned forward and snagged his tea from the night table. 'Crusty green spots, however much of a relief that might be, do not sound lovely.' He glanced at James, a smile curling up one corner of his mouth. 'But it'll be nice to have James back to normal.'

Arthur glanced at his watch. 'I need to go to work, but send an owl, Patronus, or what are those Muggle things that light up...? Fleers? No, flares!' he said triumphantly. 'If you need anything at all, son.'

Arthur stood up, and kissed James on top of his head, and went downstairs. Harry looked at James, who was starting to droop a little, feeling slightly unnerved at being left alone while James had a serious illness. 'Why don't you lie back down, mate? Have a lie-in. And maybe later, if you're feeling up to it, we can watch a film together.'

'Okay...' James slid back down into the bed, without even a token argument.

'Right, now I know you're sick,' Harry said ruefully, tucking the quilt around James. He shot a refilling charm at the cup of juice, and conjured a straw for it, and went downstairs to fix something more substantial than toast for breakfast.


Ginny slid into the chair in the press box with a sigh. She hated taking Portkeys, but it was the best way to get to Kenmare. She set her bag at her feet and dug through it, looking for her notebook. 'Ginny!' She looked up, to find Roger Davies sailing into the box.

'Hiya.' Ginny smiled in genuine pleasure. She liked Roger well enough. He didn't yak through the game like some people did, and he was sufficiently knowledgeable enough about Quidditch to write a decent article. 'What are you doing here?'

Roger dropped into the seat next to Ginny. '-Which Broomstick's regular Quidditch writer's out with a cold, so I offered to step in.'

Ginny grinned. 'And what would the Quidditch editor of Which Broomstick be writing about?'

Roger indicated the Kenmare Seeker. 'Theodore Brumley. Just got the new Nimbus 2010.' He sat back, crossing his ankles. 'Writing an article about it.'

Ginny sighed wistfully. 'I miss testing out the new brooms.' Her hand crept up and rested over the swell of her belly.

'Oh my. Ginny Potter...' The ingratiating voice shattered the camaraderie of the press box.

'Romilda.' Ginny felt her smile stretch into a grimace. Romilda Vane worked for Witch Weekly as a photographer.

'Oh, don't you two look positively darling,' Romilda exclaimed sweetly. 'Let me get a picture.' Before Ginny or Roger could protest, Romilda held up a camera, and snapped a photograph. She lowered the camera and gave Ginny a patently false look of surprise. 'Why, Ginny, you sly thing, you. Are you trying to be like your parents, and keep trying until you have a girl?'

Roger's mouth fell open in shock. Ginny, however, smiled congenially. 'Well, actually, Romilda, after that pixie infestation, we're just hoping it's human.' Her smile grew wider, as Roger unsuccessfully tried to mask a laugh as a cough. Ginny's sat back in satisfaction, as Romilda's mouth worked soundlessly like a fish, before she fled the press box.

'Oh, that was brilliant, Ginny,' Roger chuckled approvingly.

'All in a day's work,' Ginny said with a smirk. 'I've never liked her. Been dying to find something to make her shut up.'


Harry jerked away from the bright light that bled through his closed eyelids. He opened them to slits, and saw a large, brightly silver mare standing patiently at the foot of James' bed. He sat up, his back protesting as he straightened up. 'Home,' it said in Ginny's voice. It sounded rough with weariness. Harry rubbed the back of his neck, trying to massage the kinks out of it he'd earned from sleeping in the rocking chair. He'd spent most of the day, sitting next to James' bed in the rocking chair. He heaved himself to his feet, and stumbled into the corridor and fell into his bed. He slowly exhaled and pulled his glasses off, dropping them on the night table.

It wasn't the first night he'd gone to bed without Ginny. There were all those nights when she played professionally when he wasn't able to attend. The nights he'd spent working on cases. The nights when she covered a game for the paper and the game lasted for hours, well into the wee hours of the morning. 'It's only for a week,' he mumbled into his pillow.

It may only have been a week, but it loomed like a year.

He lay on his back, staring at the ceiling, watching the shadows play across the white space over the bed. Cursing under his breath, he threw the quilt back, and got up. Harry lurched into the corridor and scooped James up from his bed, and carried the sleeping child into his and Ginny's bedroom. He tucked James into Ginny's side of the bed, unwilling to spend the night sleeping in the rocking chair, and unable to sleep without keeping watch over James.

Not that he slept much that night.

James tossed and turned, sleeping fitfully, his small hands and feet nudging Harry in the chest and stomach. For his part, Harry kept waking up in order to check James' temperature. At four, he tipped a potion down James' throat, only for James to throw it up all over Harry, the bed, and himself. Harry peeled off James' sticky pajamas, throwing them into the laundry basket in the corner, before pulling an old t-shirt from his wardrobe and tugging it over James' head. He silently wished he had Molly's ability to change bedding with a flick of his wand, as he dragged the bedding off the bed and changed his own clothing. In a few minutes, James was tucked into his own bed, and Harry was sitting at the table, his head propped in his hands, a cup of tea steaming gently in front of him.

The soft tap-tap of the owl that brought the newspaper tore him out of his reverie. Harry got up and trudged to the window, taking it from the owl, and putting a few Knuts into the pouch on its other leg. He opened the paper and it slid slowly from his hands, landing on the floor at his feet with a whisper reminiscent of leaves. He blinked uncomprehendingly at the large photograph of Ginny next to Roger Davies.

It's just a photograph. He works for Which Broomstick. It's nothing.

Harry stooped and picked up the paper. 'Romilda Vane,' he sighed. 'Damn.'


Ginny opened her eyes. Harry's head was in the middle of the fireplace. 'Hi!' she said brightly. 'How's James?' She slid off the sofa and knelt on the hearth rug.

'James is all right. He's thrown up two vials of Fever-Reducing potion all over me, but I finally got one to stay down.'

'Mixed it in his juice?' Ginny guessed.

'Yeah.' Harry rubbed his eyes. 'Should have done that the first time, but it was late. Or early, depending on how you want to look at it. But I wasn't thinking clearly.'

'I probably wouldn't have thought to put it in his juice, either,' Ginny said with a smile.

Harry fidgeted nervously. 'Did you see the paper today?'

'Yeah.' Ginny toyed with the hem of her nightdress. 'She's not worth getting upset about, Harry. The whole thing is not worth getting upset about.'

'I know.'

'It's her way of getting back at me,' Ginny admitted.

'For what?'

'She made some catty remark about you and me trying for a girl.'

'You let that bother you?' Harry shifted on the hearth rug until he was in a more comfortable position.

'No. It was when she insulted Mum and Dad, that I got upset.' Ginny heaved a sigh, and looked at Harry. 'So I said something like you and I were just hoping it was human, due to a nasty pixie infestation.' When Harry didn't reply, Ginny continued, 'It was a joke, Harry.'

'I know.' Harry rolled his head around, making his neck pop. 'It's just rotten timing, what with me being here with James, and you having to be away. Just doesn't look good.'

Stung, Ginny sat up. 'If I didn't have to leave, I wouldn't have.'

'I know, Gin.' Harry rubbed the back of his neck. 'Let's just leave it. For now, all right?'

And with that, he pulled his head from the fireplace, leaving Ginny staring at the glowing coals in the grate.