Lilies In Autumn


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

Chapter 07 - Half Measures


Charlie took his seat at the table in the Burrow's kitchen, across from where Harry and Ginny normally sat. Except this Sunday, Harry was conspicuously absent from the table. Remembering the furor he'd ignited a couple of years ago asking after Harry's whereabouts, Charlie caught Ginny's eye, and flicked his dark blue eyes to the empty chair next to hers, inclining his head in inquiry. Ginny bit her lip and sighed, taking a spoonful of peas from the nearby bowl and adding them to the small plate placed in front of Albus' high chair. 'James has dragon pox,' she said in an undertone. She looked down at Albus, carefully using a thumb and index finger to deposit a pea in his spoon. 'We're here for the week.'

'Ah.' Charlie picked up a slice of the joint of beef that passed his way. 'Um, so that photograph in the paper yesterday?'

'It was completely innocent,' Ginny huffed, tired of feeling like she had to defend herself in this way.

'I know that,' Charlie said. 'I was just wondering when did the Prophet become such a gossip rag? They haven't printed anything remotely like that in nearly ten years.'

Ginny laughed bitterly. 'You'd think I'd know not to basically tell what amounts to a features writer to piss off by now. Roger and I were just chatting before the game started, and Romilda Vane made a comment that didn't sit well with me. I let her know in no uncertain terms to keep her comments to herself.'

'So she's making up rubbish as payback, eh?' Charlie tore a bread roll in half and buttered it thoughtfully.

Ron fork clattered to his plate in surprise. 'Wait... Isn't that the same Romilda Vane from school who spiked a box of Chocolate Cauldrons with a love potion...?'

'Daddy, what's a love potion?' Victoire asked.

Bill closed his eyes briefly, thinking of what lay ahead for him, wondering if Molly and Arthur hadn't had it easier by having boys for the most part. 'Something you and your sister are never going to need,' he told her. Godric help me...

'Why?' Maddie asked confusedly.

'Because you two are definitely your mother's daughters,' Bill sighed.

Fleur wiped Alexander's mouth off with a towel, before indignantly retorting, 'Would you prefer zat our bébés were ugly?'

Bill nudged a carrot closer to Nicholas, contemplating the faces of his sons. 'No,' he said. 'But I think I'll let you wait until the boys are old enough to be interested in girls before I explain it to you...'

'Yes, Ron,' Ginny said, picking up the loose thread of conversation. 'Same one.'

'I thought she worked for Witch Weekly...' George said bemused. 'Not the Prophet.'

'She does,' muttered Katie. 'She's horrid.' Katie's face scrunched distastefully. 'If she's not running to the editor with some perceived slight against her, she's telling everyone how much better she does this or that, or trolls the corridors for information about people to put in her "column".' Katie's fingers made exaggerated motions in the air, drawing quotes around the word. 'You should see the employee lounge when she comes in. Goes silent faster than a class of first years when McGonagall walked into a room.'

'That's impressive,' Hermione commented.

'Yeah, well, nobody wants to see what they said in the magazine.' Katie reached between Fred and Jacob and snatched the spoon they were loading with mashed potatoes, preparatory to flinging them at Isabella who was across the table from them. 'Don't even think about it, you two,' she warned darkly. Jacob's lower lip thrust forward in an impressive pout, while Fred's round eyes filled with tears. 'Haven't you learned yet that doesn't work on me?' she idly asked her sons. 'Try your father, though,' Katie added cheerfully.

'Katherine Patricia Weasley! That's not true!' George cried.

'It most certainly is, George.' Katie seemed unperturbed by George's use of her full name. 'You know you can't resist them when they pout.'

'Uh-oh. Someone's going to be in trouble,' sang Percy softly.

'Shut up, Percy,' George growled irritably.

'Anyway,' Katie said pointedly. 'The point is, Romilda Vane is a vindictive bi - witch,' she finished smoothly.

'Nice save,' Bronwyn murmured.

'Thank you,' Katie said, beaming at Bronwyn.

Ginny nodded, but kept her gaze on her plate, moving the food around listlessly. Ron glanced down the table at her. If he knew Harry as well as he thought he did, the photograph with its insinuating blurb had roused Harry's deep-seated suspicion of most of the press with a vengeance. Ron had seen the photograph yesterday himself. Ginny and Roger sat side-by-side, a little stiffly, smiling uneasily, trying not to look directly into the camera. Ron knew Ginny well enough to know the whole thing had upset her far more than she let on. Ron always considered Harry to be far more tolerant than he could have been with Ginny's profession. When she'd played, even though the Harpies were an all-female team, professional Quidditch was still somewhat of a male-dominated sport. As were the people who wrote about it. Harry wasn't nearly the jealous type that Ron was, but Ron knew the allegations in the blurb must have hit Harry below the belt, despite the byline that accompanied it.

He finished his lunch without tasting it and began to help Molly clear the table, intending to slip out in a bit and pay a visit to his brother-in-law. He saw a perfect opportunity arise when Molly began to load a plate with food and cover it with a tea towel. 'Is that for Harry?' Ron asked, indicating the plate.

'Yes. I was going to have your father take it over later.'

Ron picked up the plate and hefted it in one hand. 'That's rather a lot of food,' he commented. 'Do you think he's going to starve?'

'He needs a good meal,' Molly said setting the dishes to scrub.

'Harry does know how to cook, Mum.' Ron set the plate on the section of the table he'd just wiped.

'He's hardly in a position to worry about cooking,' Molly sniffed. 'Caring for a sick child.'

Ron eyed the plate for a moment. 'When were you going to have Dad take this over?'

Molly contemplated the food thoughtfully. 'In a little while.'

'I'll take it,' Ron volunteered, seeing the opening he needed. 'In fact, I'll go right now.' He picked up the plate and went out into the chilly garden to Apparate to Harry's house.


Harry looked up from his book when he heard the back door open. He set the book down, glancing at James, who was sleeping in his bed. He got to his feet, and pulled his wand from his pocket in one smooth motion. He crept down the first few stairs, his back flat to wall, his wand held loosely in his hand. Harry lightly descended the stairs and whispered, 'Homenum revelio.' The kitchen door glowed red briefly, then faded.

'Harry?' Ron's voice called though the door. 'I've brought some food.'

Harry sighed, his shoulders slumping, and pushed the door open. 'Thanks,' he said tiredly. 'Doubt I could be bothered to open a tin of soup right now.'

Ron laughed to himself. 'That's what Mum thought.'

Harry dropped into a chair and peeled the towel from the plate, Summoning a fork from the drawer. 'Tell her thank you for me?'

'Sure.' Ron gestured to the ceiling. 'How is it, then?'

Harry scooped a forkful of peas, shrugging. 'All right, I guess. I don't have much experience with dragon pox. When Teddy had it I was working on a case and wasn't here for it.' He slowly chewed the peas and swallowed them before continuing. 'The only good thing I can say is that Jemmy sleeps a lot, so he's not able to scratch the spots very much.'

'You look like something Crookshanks dragged in from the garden,' Ron told Harry bluntly.

The corner of Harry's mouth tipped up. 'Thanks, mate.' He shrugged nonchalantly. 'Haven't slept much. Keeping waking up to check his temperature or coax him into taking a potion.' Harry stole a glance at Ron. 'How's Ginny?' he asked with studied casualness.

'The usual. Trying to pretend it's not bothering her.'

Harry ate a few bites, nodding. 'Yeah, she was pretty upset at having to leave the other day.'

Ron rubbed his nose. 'That, too,' he agreed. 'She's really upset about the paper.'

'Yeah...' Harry dropped the fork. 'I kind of overreacted a bit.' He slowly exhaled. 'Just too many memories of dealing with people like that...' He picked up his fork once more and resumed his meal. 'It wasn't the photograph so much as what Romilda Vane wrote with it.' He shook his head. 'I've worked too hard to give my children something that resembles a normal life and I don't want mine and Ginny's private life splashed all over the front of the paper, damn it.' He threw the fork on the table. 'And when somebody finds out Ginny's not here, people are going to make all sorts of assumptions about us, based on that bloody photograph! And it's just going to get worse, and those kinds of fools will spend the next several months harassing us, and following us around every time we step foot in Diagon Alley.' Harry pushed the plate to the center of the table. 'I tried to say that last night, just didn't come out that way...'

'Obviously,' Ron snorted. 'Let me guess - you saw that photo first thing in the morning, stewed about it all day, then called Ginny last night when both of you were too tired to deal with it properly.'

Harry leaned back in his chair, balancing it on its back legs, crossing his arms over his chest. 'Maybe.'

'There's no "maybe" about it,' Ron laughed. 'I know you. You fumed over that bloody gossip all day, then called Gin, and I'm sure she worried about it all day.' Ron's hands spread apart in an encompassing gesture. 'Perfect storm.'

'Yeah, that's about it,' Harry admitted.

Ron tilted his head toward the door. 'Go talk to her. I'll stay here and keep an eye on James.'

Harry frowned doubtfully. 'I don't know...'

'We'll be fine,' Ron insisted. 'Go do it now, while both of you aren't completely worn out.'

'Why are you going on so much about me talking to Gin?'

'And people say I'm thick,' Ron sighed. 'If you wait until tonight to talk to her, both of you will be tired, and say something you don't mean,' he explained patiently.

Harry stared at Ron for several moments. 'When did you get to be so smart about this sort of thing?' he said finally.

'Lots of practice,' Ron chuckled. 'I reckon all those years of pulling one foot out of my mouth, only to cram the other one in finally taught me a thing or two.'

Harry lifted his coat from its hook by the door. 'Thanks, Ron.' He started to open the door, but stopped. 'Are you sure you'll be all right with James?'

'Yeah.' Ron made shooing motions with his hand. 'Go.'

Harry stepped through the door. 'I owe you one, mate.' He trudged through the garden gate, and Apparated to the Burrow.


Ginny escaped the crowded sitting room with a gasp of relief. It was insanely hot and stuffy in there. She wasn't sure how Hermione could stand it, given that she was nearly eight months pregnant. Ginny jabbed her wand at one of the kitchen windows, making it fly upward, sighing in bliss as the chilly March wind wafted through the window. She went into the deserted scullery and hoisted herself up to the sturdy table just inside the door, sliding back until her back rested against the wall. Ginny's eyes closed and she sat quietly, just taking a moment to breathe without feeling small hands tugging at the hem of her jumper, or clinging to her leg. Between James and Albus, she often had company no matter what she did, from needing to use the toilet to taking a shower, or while she tried to finish an article for the paper or one of her freelance pieces from home.

Not that she would trade anything about her life for anything, but occasionally, Ginny just wanted to do something as basic as go to the loo by herself. Without an audience.

I should get back to the others, she thought guiltily. Sighing with no small amount of regret, Ginny's eyes fluttered open, and she was met with the sight of Harry standing in front of the scullery windows. She sat upright, wheezing as she bit back a startled yelp.

Ginny scooted off the table and opened the back door. 'What are you doing here?' Is it James?' she asked fearfully.

'No, James is fine. Ron's watching him.' When Ginny's eyebrow rose, Harry added, 'He brought some food over.' Harry gestured to the muddy garden. 'Can you come out for a bit? To talk?'

Ginny glanced over her shoulder toward the sitting room, and darted out the back door without another thought. They trudged down to the stone wall that separated the paddock from the garden, neither of them wanting to say anything until they were well away from the prying eyes and ears of the family. 'I didn't think she was going to insinuate that you and I were having problems,' Ginny said as she perched on the edge of the wall.

Harry sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck. 'I mean, the people who really matter know she's just talking rubbish, right?'

'Yeah...' Ginny ran her hands through her hair. 'I didn't think there could be someone else who could approach the level of foulness that Skeeter did. It appears I was wrong.' She squeezed her eyes shut. 'I'm sorry... I shouldn't have risen to her bait.'

'That makes two of us,' Harry said quietly. 'Although, given that she's demonstrated she's not above being sneaky and underhanded before...'

'How did she get Sorted into Gryffindor?' Ginny asked exasperatedly. 'She ought to have been a bloody Slytherin.'

'She's got balls, that's for sure.' Harry smiled grimly. 'I'll have a word with Peter Manderly, though; about turning the Prophet into something I'm not sure I'd want my owl to relieve himself on.'

'It is a society column,' Ginny pointed out. 'And whether or not we like it, you and I are society news.'

'Look, Gin, I believe newspapers ought to be able to report and comment on what's happening in the world. I really don't want the Prophet to go back to being a Ministry-controlled rag, but that crossed the line. Manderly printed it with no proof, other than Vane's bloody photograph. If anybody even bothers to look at the damn thing, it's obvious neither of you wanted to be photographed.'

'Some might argue that just means we were caught.'

'I suppose.' Harry stood up. 'And people are going to believe what they want, too, regardless of the facts in front of them.'

'That's just human nature.' Ginny stretched tiredly and joined Harry in standing. 'Look at it this way. Next week, it'll be someone else.'

'I hope you're right,' Harry muttered. 'I'll walk you back up to the apple tree.' He took Ginny's hand and led her back to the house.

'How's James?' Ginny asked.

'Oh, he's sleeping a lot. That fever potion puts him to sleep in no time.'

'Still putting it in his juice?'

'Nope. Milk. He was starting to notice the juice was a little thicker than it should be. If you add it to milk, it doesn't change the texture as much. Drinks it right down.'

Ginny's fingers glided over Harry's face. 'You don't look like you've slept much.'

'I'm all right,' Harry stated. 'It'll be over in a few more days.'

'I should be there,' Ginny sighed.


'I know... I can't.'

Harry stopped behind the towering apple tree, and tipped Ginny's face up. 'I'll call you tomorrow, all right?' At Ginny's nod, Harry wrapped his arms around her. 'I'm sorry if I upset you last night...'

'Me, too.' Ginny buried her face in the front of Harry's coat.

Harry let his face rest on top of Ginny's head for a moment. 'Better go back in before they realize you've gone.'

Reluctantly, Ginny released Harry and turned and walked back into the house.


Ginny held the small lamp over the cot, peering at Albus' flushed cheeks. She ran a fingertip over his face, checking for the welts that might signify dragon pox. If Albus was still healthy tomorrow, she wouldn't have to worry about it. If he was going to come down with it, it would happen a few days after James. So far, his skin was still smooth and cool to the touch. Ginny exhaled slowly and lowered herself into the small rocking chair next to the cot.

'Is he all right?' Molly asked.

Ginny nodded. She began to rock, watching Albus sleep. 'I remember the night James was born and they put him in my arms, and in that instant everything I ever believed changed.' Ginny looked up at Molly and smiled crookedly. 'I never understood quite what you meant when you said you would do whatever it took to protect us, even kill,' she said quietly. 'And when I held James the first time, I knew I'd do the same thing, if it kept him safe.'

'You can't protect them from everything,' Molly chided gently. She conjured a chair for herself and sat down. 'It's frustrating to watch them get sick, isn't it?'

'Unbelievably,' Ginny replied.

'It was the only time I ever felt helpless as a mother,' Molly said. 'Fighting Dark wizards at least let me do something.'

Ginny slouched in the chair. 'Yeah. And with this, all I can do is watch. That's not exactly protecting him, is it?'

Molly indicated Ginny's rounded belly. 'You're protecting that one. And Albus.'

Ginny's hand spread over her abdomen. 'I keep wondering if there was something I could have done to prevent it...'

Molly shook her head. 'Sometimes, you can do everything you think you can do. But it's not enough,' she said pensively.

Ginny opened her mouth to ask what her mother was talking about, but then closed it, turning her attention to Albus to cover her expression. She knew that Molly was speaking of Fred.

Molly shook herself briskly. 'Right, then. I'm going to bed. Let me know if you need anything.'

'I will.' Ginny accepted her mother's kiss and watched her leave the bedroom. She turned to the cot and slipped her hand through the slats, stroking Albus' hair. 'I hope you never have to do something like that,' she whispered. 'Any of you.'

I know that JKR has George with Angelina, but in my head I kept hearing, 'That's not how your brother did it...' Um, yeah...