Chapter 9: Slim Chances
Nat felt as if she were floating. A flimsy cloud floating along on a warm summer’s day. Well that couldn’t be right, seeing as it was the middle of winter. But she wasn’t cold at all. In fact, she felt down right comfortable. She was encased in softness.
There was white everywhere. Not the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. And she wondered if this was the end. Had she been hit by a stray spell? Did she just drop dead of her own accord? It seemed as if she was wrapped tightly in a white sheet.
Then she felt a pinch in her lower abdomen and grimaced. That hurt! she thought. It happened again, the pain significantly worse, and her mouth fell open in a silent scream. Just as the pain would fade, the pinching sensation would come back until she couldn’t take it anymore.
If this was heaven, she couldn’t imagine what hell was like.
Then, the whiteness started to fade, becoming darker and darker, and she hastily thought, I didn’t mean it. I like heaven!
Then a familiar voice said, “Come on, Nel, wake up,” and she knew she had to fight to get back to him.
Slowly she blinked, her eyes adjusting to a dimly lit room she recognized as the room she’d been with Rose in earlier. She felt pressure on her hand and found Albus sitting in a chair next to her, as she reclined on the bed, clutching her hand. She squeezed his hand, a small movement of her fingers, and Albus’s green eyes met her blues.
“Oh thank Merlin,” he leaned over and pressed his lips to hers, obviously not caring if anyone else was in the room. And as he pulled back, she saw that there was. Ginny and Harry Potter stood at the end of the bed watching the young couple. Ginny’s face was sad, her eyes tired. Harry looked stressed, exhausted.
She tried to sit up, but her lower abdomen seized and she slumped against the bed, wincing in pain. In an instant Ginny was by her side, brushing her hair off her forehead.
“Don’t try to sit up,” Ginny commanded in a soft, motherly tone and Nat felt Albus squeeze her fingers. “Victoire’s contacted your Mediwitch. She’ll be here soon.”
“It hurts,” Nat whispered in a small, vulnerable voice. Much to her amazement Ginny cracked a smile, her hand never stilling over Nat’s forehead, and told her, “I know,” in a sympathetic voice.
There was a knock on the door and it swung open unceremoniously. Rose was on the other side, and her brown eyes immediately sought Nat. Their gazes locked and Rose let out a breath.
“Thank Merlin!” she cried, but did not enter the already-crammed-with-only-four-people room.
“That seems to be the consensus,” Nat muttered, grinding her teeth in pain near the end as another pinch sent her nerve endings screaming.
“Oh right,” Rose seemed to remember her purpose for being there. “Darlene Christenson is downstairs. She would like to talk to you,” she looked to Albus.
“She needs to check out Nat!” he cried in outrage. Harry placed a gentle hand on his son’s shoulder but didn’t say anything.
“She’s got to know what happened first and there’s a shit-ton of people down there trying to tell her all at once. She wants to hear it from you. She can’t do anything for Nat until she knows what happened.”
Rose turned on her heel and left. Albus was close behind her. Nat watched as Ginny shot Harry a pointed look and Harry left the room, shutting the door quietly behind him. Ginny turned her gaze to Nat, who’s face was scrunched in pain.
Ginny’s long dress twirled about her legs as she sat down on the bed next to Nat. She took a deep breath, her eyes cast downward at her hands. She looked contemplative, as she mentally conversed with herself.
After moments of Ginny staring at her hands while Nat stared at her, Ginny began speaking. “I’d like to – ”
But her words were cut off when the door was thrown open and Albus and Darlene Christenson charged in. Harry followed closely after, and before the door closed behind him Nat caught a glimpse of Rose, Scorpius, Lily, and a few other redheads in the hall on the other side of the door.
Darlene didn’t say a word. Ginny moved out of the way, joining Harry at the foot of the bed, while the mediwitch took out her wand and did a series of spells over Nat’s abdomen. Albus held her hand the whole time the examination took place, only once did her abdomen clinch, and the spasm was observed and timed by Darlene, who’s brow seemed permanently furrowed.
“You’re dehydrated,” Darlene concluded a few minutes later, enlarging a case she’d been carrying and arranging a row of vials of potions on the bureau behind her. “Dehydration can induce labour, even after only eight weeks, so you must be sure to keep hydrated.” She handed Nat a vial of pink potion, and she drank it down quickly. It tasted very floral and sweet. “That should stop the labour for now,” Darlene continued.
“Thank you so mu – ” Ginny started, but the mediwitch cut her off.
“You are Albus’s mother, I presume?”
“Ginny Potter.” They shook hands and then Ginny introduced Harry.
“Well,” Darlene said, turning back towards Nat, “I noticed an abnormality in the sonogram from yesterday, and since I’m here, I thought I might be able to take a look?” Nat nodded, her eyes wide and worried and Darlene turned to Ginny.
“I wouldn’t want to intrude on your Christmas Eve plans, Mrs. Potter.”
“Wait, what?” Albus burst out. “There’s something wrong? Please tell me there’s nothing wrong.”
“I just want to take a look, Mr. Potter. Just a quick little check and then I’ll be on my way.”
“It’s okay, Alby,” Nat squeezed his fingers. Albus nodded and Darlene went to her kit and began pulling out instruments.
“I’m sorry, Natalya, but we are going to have to do this the old fashioned way. Mr. and Mrs. Potter, if you could please step outside…”
Harry and Ginny left with little protest, taking Albus along and assuring him that he did not want to experience that. Albus did not go easily, and it took Nat to convince him to leave.
The door shut behind him and Nat turned tired eyes onto the mediwitch. “Okay, Natalya,” Darlene said as she snapped on an intimidating rubber glove. “Feet apart, bend your knees to the ceiling…”
Jennifer Marie Smith-Potter sat perched on the edge of an ottoman in the sitting room of the Burrow, watching the flurry of activity around her. Someone had passed out, that was for sure. But who, she didn’t know. It had to have been important to have interrupted their announcement.
She smoothed the skirt of her dress over her thighs, and then bunched it around her waist so more of her legs were showing. She had magnificent legs, if she did say so herself, thin but shapely from years of spending hours in the gym. Her brown eyes locked on her husband’s from across the room and she did a little finger wave to get his attention.
He was talking to some redheaded girl, who looked to be near hysterics. Jennifer scowled. This was supposed to be her night. There were too many redheads to keep straight and she wasn’t sure if the girl was a sibling – he has a sister, right? – or a cousin. Then she grew angry again at the interruption.
She crossed her legs at the knee and balanced a glass of water, which she knew she wouldn’t drink because of the chip on the rim, on her hands, her hazel eyes taking in her surroundings. There were Christmas lights strung up everywhere, charmed to blink and bedazzle. There was a tall tree in one corner, surrounded by gifts. The furniture was old and worn, lived, rather than sleek, polished, and new like she was used to.
Her lip curled in disgust at a stain on the burgundy carpet and wondered if these people had ever heard of scourigifying charms. A tall redheaded boy bounded up to her, so quickly she leaned back so she wouldn’t be knocked over, and then he fell to the floor at her feet.
“So,” he said, glancing down at her legs and then back at her. “How long have you and James been married?”
She grimaced at his impoliteness and then a quick remembrance of her surroundings told her that this was as much she could expect from a family of…heathens. Jennifer decided James was the only normal one in the family.
“Two weeks,” she said with an air of finality and dismissal. She looked away, picking a spot on the wall to stare at, hoping he’d leave her alone. He obviously didn’t get the hint, and continued talking.
“I’m Fred. Fred Weasley. James is my cousin so I guess that makes us cousins, too.” She glanced over at him and noticed his gaze was locked on her legs. Oh boy!
“Listen, freak,” she started angrily, but was cut off when there was banging in the hall and then a woman with red hair and tired eyes Jennifer recognized as James’s mum walked in, gazed around the room, locked eyes with James, and marched over to him.
James had never envisioned a Christmas like this in his life, let alone thought he’d be right smack in the middle of it. He ran a hand through his messy black hair and tried to concentrate on what Lily was saying, tears streaming down her face.
“…gonna die. And you’re married? And you didn’t tell us?”
My sentiments exactly. Wait, what?
“Who’s gonna die, Lil?” He missed that vital piece of information.
“Nat!” she cried shrilly, wiping her nose with the sleeve of her black jumper. “She was so still and lifeless.” Lily stared down at the floor near his shoes. “It’s so strange to see her like that because she’s usually so fun and…full of life. This is a bad situation,” then she turned her gaze sharply back to James. “Part of this is your fault! How dare you go out and get married?”
“Lil, you don’t understand,” James reached up and swiped the pad of his thumb under her eye. She was starting to get raccoon eyes. Note to self, waterproof mascara for Lils. Ask Jennifer.
Like that’d work.
“Make me understand,” she said desperately, clinging to his arm as he tried to pull his hand away.
He was about to reply when there were loud noises on the stairs and he groaned inwardly. He saw her before she saw him and was silently thankful. But then she spotted him, followed closely by Harry. Albus ambled into the room after them, hands shoved into his pockets. A group of family members that had been using the upstairs hall as a waiting room gathered outside the archway door.
His mum marched up to him, stood toe to toe, and glared at him. He shrunk back, feeling like he was eight years old and had gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar instead of nineteen.
His mum huffed, as if trying to keep her composure in front of family and his new wife. Speaking of, she walked confidently up to him, laced her fingers with his, and began a staring competition with Ginny.
Harry clenched his jaw but didn’t say anything. James’s grip on Jennifer’s fingers tightened as if to tell her to knock it off. His eyes wandered towards the ceiling, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks from all of the attention.
Any other day and he’d be happy for the attention, but right then he wished everyone would just go away. None of this would be happening if Albus’s pregnant girlfriend hadn’t fainted and ruined his plan.
He’d thought making the announcement in front of everyone would give his mother the opportunity to stew and think about it and get over it before he’d have to be alone with her. Then Nat had to go collapse on everyone and push his mum’s already frazzled psyche to the brink.
Apparently the staring competition had ended because both women were looking at him expectantly.
“Er – what?”
Jennifer rolled her eyes. Ginny glared.
“I said,” Ginny uttered through clenched teeth, “you got married?”
Jennifer held out her princess cut diamond that she’d insisted on for his mother to see. Ginny gazed at it for a long minute before locking eyes with James. She arched her eyebrow, sceptically.
Then, as if realizing something, her face slowly fell. She looked between James and Jennifer multiple times. So many times, James was getting dizzy just watching her. Then she took a step back away from then, right into Harry.
“Omigod,” she sighed. James cracked a smile at her use of his own term, but it faded quickly with a quick, barely noticeable shake of the head from his brother.
Then, Ginny’s gaze fell on Jennifer, or rather a certain part of Jennifer and James knew exactly what conclusion his mother had jumped to. Before he could even deny it, the words were out of her mouth.
“You’re pregnant, aren’t you?”
Jennifer’s mouth fell open in indignation, as if that were the only reason James would marry her. But she wasn’t so quick to protest.
“Of course not!” James glared at Jennifer. What the hell is she doing? he thought. “She is NOT pregnant!”
His mum looked as if she didn’t believe him. “I cannot handle any more surprises,” she told everyone in the room, making big sweeping gestures with her arms. “So if you’ve got any more surprises, say ‘em now and get them over with!”
Nobody spoke for a moment, until James reiterated, “She isn’t pregnant, mum, honest!”
“I hope not, James,” Ginny said tiredly, her hand pressed to her forehead. “I’m barely grasping the concept of one baby. I don’t think I could handle two.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Mrs. Weasley,” Darlene said from behind the group. Everyone in the room turned to face her, watching the drama unfold. “Because I’ve just come to the conclusion that Natalya is expecting twins.” Her eyes zeroed in on Albus, who had just gone from pink-cheeked from the heat of compacted bodies to stark white. “Congratulations, Albus.”
Twins. Twins. Two of them. Two babies. Two mini-Albus’. Two mini-Nats. Two mini-Albus-and-Nats. She couldn’t believe it. TWO!
Ginny’s eyes watered uncontrollably and she spent a few seconds brushing her hands underneath her eyes, trying unsuccessfully to dry her face and look presentable. Instead, her eye liner smudged, her eyes were red and bloodshot, and her cheeks were wet.
She rung her hands and bit her lip. Harry shuffled his feet beside her in the hall in front of the bedroom they’d taken Nat to after she’d collapsed. She felt her husband slip his arm around her shoulder and slumped against him. “Twins,” she whispered, her eyes locked on the door Albus had entered a few minutes before.
Ginny’d had every intention of following Albus inside, but Harry had held her back. Seems her husband thought the expecting couple could use a few minutes alone to talk. Surprisingly, the rest of her meddling family had stayed downstairs. From the sounds of dishes clunking on the table, they were beginning their Christmas Eve dinner after the nearly hour delay. There was no talking, just dishes being passes around, utensils scraping, but no conversation.
“Shh,” Harry whispered against her hair, and only then did Ginny realize she’d been quietly sobbing into her husband’s chest. She put a tad of space between them, enough to look up into his beautiful green eyes. Green eyes that Albus had inherited. Green eyes that could possibly appear on the faces of her grandchildren in seven months. Grandchildren.
“Two babies, Harry,” she whispered. Her tear flow had stopped, but her eyes still glistened with unshed tears. “We have to help them…they have to come back…we can raise them…it’ll be like – ”
“Stop it, Ginny,” Harry whispered harshly, causing Ginny to cut off her excited chatter and glare at her husband.
“What the hell, Harry? This is it! This is our chance – ”
“No!” Harry stepped farther away from his wife and pushed a shaking hand through his unruly black hair. He took a shaky breath and fixed his eyes on Ginny’s. “This is not our chance,” he swung his arms, gesturing between them. “This is not our choice. This is Albus’s choice. Albus and Nat. We have to be supportive if we want to be grandparents. That’s it. Nothing more.”
Ginny’s lower lip trembled and her vision clouded as more tears surfaced. Next thing she knew, her face was pressed against Harry’s green jumper as her body shook with tears.
Minutes past with Ginny in his arms, her face smashed against his chest, her tears soaking into his jumper. She moved away, wiping her nose with the back of her hand like she’d admonished her children for for eighteen years.
“Use a tissue,” Harry commanded lightly, a small smile breaking his features. Ginny smiled sadly, wiping her tears once more. Then she blinked up at Harry. “I have to tell them.”
Harry nodded in agreement. “An apology to Nat would probably be a good thing, too.”
Ginny stepped out of his embrace and to the door. She knocked softly and then turned the knob, sticking her head through the crack she’d made in the door.
Albus and Nat were curled up together on the bed, Albus on top of the quilt, Nat underneath it. They lay on their sides. Albus had pulled Nat against his chest, his arm flung loosely over her waist, his legs tucked behind hers, his chin resting against the top of her head. Nat’s hand had come to rest on top of his, over her abdomen.
They were both sound asleep.
Ginny stepped back out into the hall, shutting the door softly behind her, her eyes glazing over once more. “Oh Harry,” she groaned, leaning against the wall and sliding down it into a sitting position. “How could I have been so stupid? I’ve ruined everything.”
Harry looked away, sadly.
James’s jaw clinched tightly as he watched his wife across the table pick at her food. How dare she try to start shit with his family? And before he even had the chance to explain the whole situation to them! He should have known better than to introduce her to the collective family, but he thought it was a good idea at the time.
But then he changed his mind. Fred was glaring daggers at Jennifer, and she sat there, smiling as if nothing had happened. Oh but wait. She was going to be a bitch? Oh it’s on.
Dishes were cleared rather quickly, with Rose and Scorpius volunteering to do the wash, the rest of the family headed off into the sitting room for tea. James grabbed Jennifer’s hand as she was following the crowd and dragged her out the kitchen door, into the garden, and then apparated them back to their room at the Leaky Cauldron.
“Ouch,” Jennifer cried as they landed on the hard floor of the same room Albus and Nat had occupied just days before. “You’re hurting me.”
James immediately let go of her wrist and she rubbed the red, tender skin. “Sorry,” he muttered absently, running his hands through his hair.
“What’s your problem?” She spat, marching over to her luggage and pulling out short shorts and a teeny tiny top that she used as pyjamas.
“My problem? My problem? What’s my problem?”
“That’s what I asked!” Without modesty, she unzipped her dress and allowed it to puddle at her feet in a whisper of fabric. James was caught off guard and just stared at her for a minute.
Yes, she was fabulous looking. She’d have to be, with her job.
“M-my problem,” James tore his eyes away from her so he could form coherent sentences. “My problem is you!” There, that’s it. Breathe. Don’t look, just talk. You’re angry, remember?
Parts of him did. Other parts of him didn’t care.
“What did I do?” She cried as she finished pulling on her shorts and top and then started running a brush through her dark blonde curls.
“Oh, gee, I don’t know,” he shouted, finally able to think now that she had clothes on again. “How about the fact that you were rude to my cousin!”
“Um, was I?”
“Fred. You talked to him, called him a freak…”
“Freakishly tall red head with about a bazillion freckles? Sorry, it’s so hard to tell those red heads apart.” The she cracked a sickly sweet smile. “Besides, he was ogling me, James. Ogling.”
“Oh knock off the woo-is-me routine, Jen. You like the attention. You always have.”
Jennifer rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “Besides,” she said with an air of arrogance, as if what he had said went through one ear and out the other. Probably knocking around in that empty head of hers, James thought. “I was going to call him Freakishly tall boy, but your mother interrupted us.”
James didn’t look too convinced, and narrowed his eyes at her. He finally sighed, running his hands through his hair again. He slumped onto his side of the bed and leaned back against the pillows. “Okay, how about alluding to the fact that you might be pregnant. My mum’s under enough stress as it is with Nat being pregnant, and then us being married…she didn’t need that.”
“Well,” Jennifer climbed onto the bed and crawled to him on her knees. “There may be some truth in that statement.”
James went stiff. He blinked once, and then turned his head towards his wife. “What?” he croaked.
“Well, I’ve been waking up nauseous and any food I look at makes me want to throw up.” She shrugged, leaning over onto her hands, giving James a tantalising view of her mostly covered cleavage.
“Is that it?” He nearly breathed a sigh of relief, but had a feeling he wouldn’t be getting off so easily. “Food always makes you nauseous. That’s why you hardly eat, right?”
“Besides,” Jennifer clenched her jaw, “I’m late.”
James took a deep breath. “What are you saying, Jennifer?”
“What I’m saying is…well…I might be pregnant, too.”
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