The Holiday Visitors
A shout of laughter was the first thing that woke Ginny the next morning. She blinked, bleary-eyed, and looked around her bedroom. Snow was falling outside her window, and Arnold was rolling around impatiently in his cage and squeaking, undoubtedly waiting for her to get up. She picked up her watch from the bedside table; it was nearly eleven in the morning. She sat up and rubbed her back. Then she heard the voices in the kitchen below again, hopped out of bed, and dressed quickly before giving Arnold his breakfast. She pulled out her violet Christmas sweater and tugged it on, then settled him on her shoulder and hurried downstairs. Ginny stopped in the sitting room when she realized that the voices did not belong to her brothers at all. She crept a bit closer to the doorway, listening.
“—Wouldn’t tell us a thing,” her mother was saying. “We both think that it has to do with that defense group that they all started. What if she’s decided to carry it on?”
“Well, I have a hard time believing that Ginny would really vandalize anything, even if she did get in trouble for it,” said another familiar voice. Ginny smiled as Lupin went on, “Snape could very easily have caught her doing something else. He’s manipulative and intelligent, Molly, he knows that the way to get Ginny to behave is to get you and Arthur involved.”
“You make it sound as though she ought to be causing trouble!” Mum said in a shocked tone. “You haven’t seen her, Remus, she looks ill! I almost thought she was going to faint right in my arms last night, she was so pale.”
“I only think that Ginny is perfectly able to assess a situation and act accordingly,” said Lupin calmly. “It’s a trait she’s picked up not only from her friends and brothers, but from her parents. And as for her appearance, her friend was kidnapped right in front of her. She’s been through a great deal in the last few days.” There were a few beats of silence. “Molly, if you’re sure that something is seriously wrong and want to know what’s happened to her, why don’t you ask?”
There was a snort of laughter, and Ginny stifled a gasp.
“Remus, I hope we have a daughter so you can learn exactly how sixteen-year-old girls act when their parents try to question them,” Tonks chuckled. “Advanced Interrogation Systems performed by highly-trained Aurors wouldn’t get a thing out of Ginny. Ouch—”
“Drink your tea,” Mum said. She sounded as though she had gotten up and walked away from the table. “It helps, really.”
“You sound like my mother,” Tonks teased.
“You should eat something,” Lupin told her in a low voice. Ginny frowned, confused by his solicitous tone. “You don’t look well.”
“I’m fine,” Tonks insisted.
Mum’s voice sounded from the far side of the kitchen, near the scullery. “Remus, have you got that wolfsbane? It’s ready…”
It was Tonks who answered. “I’ve got it, I’m coming, Molly.” There was the scrape of a chair and the sound of Tonks’ departure.
It seemed that they were done discussing her, so Ginny straightened up and walked into the kitchen. Lupin sat at the far end of the table, perusing a newspaper with a breakfast plate in front of him. Two more places sat around him, each with just a cup of tea. He looked up when Ginny walked in. “Well, good morning,” he said cheerfully. He was grayer and thinner than ever, and his robes were practically worn through in places, but he was smiling as he got up and hugged her.
“Morning,” she said, smiling. “When did you get here?”
“Tonks and I are coming for Christmas, and so is her mother,” Lupin explained. “Your m—well, we wanted to settle in a bit early.” Ginny frowned, but at that moment, Mum walked in, carrying a mug of something that was steaming and giving off a terrible smell.
“Oh, thank you, Molly,” Lupin said, taking it from her. He took a large swig, grimaced, and looked at Ginny. “Wolfsbane Potion,” he explained. “It’s the full moon. I’m afraid I won’t be staying here tonight. Er—Molly, where’s—?”
“The smell didn’t agree with Tonks’s stomach,” Mum said lightly, kissing Ginny’s cheek and steering her into a chair. A shadow of something—sadness?—fluttered across Lupin’s face for a moment. Then he sat down, pushing the newspaper towards Ginny.
“I don’t expect you’ve seen many of those recently?” he asked, taking a sip of his potion.
Ginny grinned. “How did you know?”
“Professor McGonagall,” Lupin said. “I’ve been bringing her news, when I can.”
“You’ve been around Hogwarts?” Ginny asked. “I—I didn’t know that.”
“Well, I could hardly contact you,” he told her, and she nodded. “Minerva says Snape has you all under lock and key. I could feel the dementors at the edge of Hogsmeade.”
Ginny shrugged as her mother placed a heaping plate of bacon and eggs in front of her. “It’s not so bad,” she lied, taking a bite. Mum and Lupin were both watching her closely, but she was determinedly avoiding their eyes as she fed Arnold a bit of egg. “So you’re staying for Christmas?” she asked Lupin. He smiled slightly and nodded.
“Andromeda—that’s Tonks’s mother, we’ve been staying with her—will be up tomorrow with your brothers, as I understand it,” he said, looking to Mum, who nodded. There were a few moments of silence, during which he frowned in the direction of the sitting room. “Perhaps I ought to go look after her…”
“Look after—Tonks?” Ginny repeated. “What’s wrong? She’s all right, isn’t she?”
“I’m fine, Remus, what have you two been telling her?” Ginny turned. Tonks, sporting her favorite bright pink hair and faint dark circles beneath her eyes, leaned in the doorway, beaming.
And she was pregnant.
“Tonks! Merlin’s pants!” Ginny cried.
She laughed again. “Wotcher, you,” she said, holding out one arm.
Ginny hurried to hug her. “Look at you!” she gasped. Tonks grinned, rubbing her very round belly. Lupin had gotten to his feet as well and approached her, saying, “Your tea’s getting cold. Are you all right?” Tonks made a face at him but settled herself into a chair and took a gulp of tea.
“This is so exciting,” Ginny exclaimed, sitting down again. “When are you having the baby?”
“April,” said Tonks, picking up Lupin’s hand. “We’re thrilled.”
“Maybe you’ll have a bit more success in getting her to take it easy than I’ve had,” Lupin said pointedly, though he too was smiling.
“How are you, Ginny?” Tonks asked, ignoring him.
“I’m okay,” she shrugged. “How are things here? How’s the Order?” Mum shared a significant glance with Lupin and Tonks. “What?”
“Nothing,” Tonks said. “It’s just that…well, we’re struggling a bit.” Mum pursed her lips, but Ginny ignored her.
“It’s difficult, with so few members,” Lupin explained. “Tonks here can’t do much—” Tonks whacked his arm— “I’m being watched closely by Greyback’s pack…your family has to tread carefully. And with Kingsley gone—”
Ginny choked. “Kingsley?” she spluttered. “What—what happened? Did Vol—”
And all at once, Tonks clapped a hand over Ginny’s mouth, Mum shrieked, and Lupin roared, “NO!”
Ginny stared up at him, eyes wide and heart hammering. Tonks’s hand was still clamped firmly over her mouth. Arnold had tumbled down behind Ginny’s back and was wriggling around with muffled squeaks. Mum had upset her tea as she leapt up with her wand drawn, just like Lupin’s. They all seemed to be waiting for something. Seconds stretched into minutes, and when nothing happened, Tonks released her.
“You cannot say that name, Ginny,” she said weakly, massaging her heart as she sank back in her chair.
Mum looked sharply at Lupin, who was just sitting down. He waved his wand, clearing up the spilled tea. “I think that’s quite enough of all that.”
“Why not?” Ginny asked Tonks, patting Arnold’s fur as he squeaked in fear.
“It’s had a Taboo placed on it,” Tonks explained. She looked very white, but leaned across the table at took Ginny’s hand. “Kingsley is fine, but he’s on the run. That’s how they got him. We didn’t know they put the Taboo down until Death Eaters turned up in his flat.”
Ginny nodded. “Sorry,” she said, feeling very frightened. “I didn’t know.”
“It’s all right,” Lupin assured her. He drank the last of his potion and grimaced, then stood up. “Well, Molly, you said you had some chores I could help you with.”
Mum smiled. “Would you bring in our tree? It’s just outside. And I think there are some boxes I need from the attic. I’ll go and find them.” She stopped, putting a hand on Ginny’s shoulder. “No more Order talk, all right? Make sure you clear your plate, sweetheart, and then I’ll need your help decorating,” she added, kissing Ginny’s head.
And Ginny and Tonks were alone. Tonks sighed, leaning back, and smiled at her. “Had a good term?” Ginny frowned, arching one eyebrow, and Tonks snorted. “Well, at least you get to start Apparition next one.” Ginny gave a noncommittal shrug. She had the distinct impression that she was being subjected to one of Tonks’s thoroughly disconcerting observational interrogations. She had once told Ginny that she could draw more information out of an unwilling source by simply staring at them for a few minutes than they could tell her in an hour.
“Look,” Ginny said at last, when she could stand no more of her scrutiny, “Can you tell Mum not to be so worried about me? What’s happening at school…happens. No one can do anything about it, and I just really want to enjoy being home, you know? I don’t want to spend every waking minute talking it over and over.”
“I thought you might’ve been listening to us,” Tonks said shrewdly.
“Will you tell her?” Ginny pressed. “She’ll listen to you.”
Tonks leaned her elbows on the table. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that.” Ginny scooped Arnold off her shoulder and letting him scamper around her palms. She did not look up for several minutes. Then Tonks sighed. “You know, Ginny, you and I are quite a bit alike,” she said. “And so are our mothers, in some ways. You’re only going to make her more anxious by bottling up whatever’s hurting you so badly right now, because I know something is—and so does she.”
She started. “Coming, Mum! I—er—I’m going to go help.”
Tonks nodded. “I’ll be along in a minute.”
For the rest of the day, Ginny made sure that she was as upbeat and busy as she could possibly be. She volunteered for every task her mother brought up. Lupin and Tonks strung garlands of golden crystal bubbles all across the house, illuminating every corner with a soft, glowing light. Smells of mince pies and baking tarts wafted through the house as her mother started her cooking. Ginny tied mistletoe and holly wreaths along the stairs, wrapped and labeled Christmas presents, and even put up the tree with Lupin’s help. Her mother turned on the Wizarding Wireless Network and music played through the whole house. Ginny could feel her spirits lifting as she, Lupin, and Tonks laughed and chatted, festooning the house with copious amounts of red, gold, and green.
It was a wonderful day, but Lupin left around the time it started getting dark, and Ginny immediately noticed Tonks beginning to slow down. At half-past seven, Ginny was standing on the second floor landing, attaching golden baubles to the rail, when she looked down to the sitting room below and saw Tonks suddenly sink onto the couch, as though her knees had given out.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
Tonks nodded quickly. “I’m fine,” she mumbled. “I think I moved too fast.”
At that moment, Mum came into the sitting room. “Ginny, your father’s staying late at work and says we should eat without him. Tonks, dear, come and have some dinner.”
“I don’t think I can eat anything right now, Molly, thanks,” Tonks said, resting one hand on her belly. “I’ll just—I think I’ll go lie down. You can eat without me.”
“Are you sure?” Mum asked.
“I’m fine, Molly, I promise,” she insisted, getting to her feet and heading for the stairs. “I’ll feel better if I sleep.”
Mum looked worried nonetheless. “Up one, dear, the last door.” When Tonks had disappeared, she sighed. “Come on, Ginny. Dinner.” She gave one backward glance at Tonks’s bedroom as she hurried downstairs, but followed her mother obediently into the kitchen and sat down. For one of only a few times in Ginny’s memory, she and Mum were the only people at the table. The sight of so many unfilled places gave her a rather empty feeling inside, but she had no time to dwell on it; her mother was serving her a large plate of her favorite meal, chicken and ham pie.
“Thanks, Mum,” she said happily.
“You look like you haven’t eaten properly in weeks,” her mother answered, laying a napkin in her own lap. “Does Neville look as hungry as you?”
Ginny smiled, albeit a bit tightly. “We’re fine,” she promised. “Just a busy term, you know how it is.”
Mum dropped her fork with a clatter. “No, Ginny, I’m afraid I don’t.” Ginny stared at her, startled at her harsh tone. Mum seemed to silently struggle with herself for a moment. Then she spoke calmly. “You’ve been avoiding my eyes and everyone else’s since you arrived home. You jump at the smallest noises, and you’re putting on a very brave show for the rest of us, but you don’t have me convinced.”
“I know that there’s not much I can do for you when you’re at school,” she continued. “And I’m sorry about Luna, but you have to tell me if you’re hurt, sweetheart, because I can’t stand not knowing what’s wrong with—with my—” Suddenly, she stood and walked over to the stove and set the teakettle to boil. Ginny watched her, unable to speak. Then she came to sit down again, and when she spoke her voice was much more controlled. “I’m sorry, sweet pea. Your father and I…all we ever want to do is protect you. You know that, don’t you?”
Ginny nodded. “You and Dad have to know that if I thought you could somehow fix everything for me, I would let you. But you can’t do anything, so you have to just trust me.”
Mum stroked her hair. “I can’t stand seeing you like this.” She pulled Ginny into a hug.
“It—it’ll all be over soon,” Ginny said quietly, swallowing a lump in her throat. “It has to be. Everything will be okay again.”
“Of course it will,” her mother whispered. She gave a great sniff and released Ginny, turning back to her plate. “Eat your dinner, sweetheart.”
The kitchen was silent for several minutes, but for the sounds of scraping cutlery. “So…erm…is Tonks all right?” Ginny asked at last.
Mum nodded, seeming grateful for the change of topic. “She’ll be all right. She’s having a difficult time of it, but that just happens, sometimes,” she said. “We’re all trying to help her, but…she’s like you,” she said, patting Ginny’s hand. “She likes to take care of herself.”
Ginny blinked, staring at the tabletop. She understood at last; her mother wanted someone to worry about. With Ron missing, and Percy still refusing to speak to their family, all Mum wanted was a good reason to fuss over somebody, and for some reason, Ginny couldn’t quite repress a grin. So, after a couple of minutes, she spoke. “You know, Mum, I…uh….I hurt my back,” she said softly.
“I hurt my back,” Ginny repeated, her voice a bit stronger. “I don’t quite know how, but…it’s been bothering me for a couple of weeks. I was wondering if…I don’t know, maybe you knew something that would help?”
Mum actually smiled just a bit, and Ginny’s heart lightened as she said, “I’ll see what I can do for you.” There was a sudden knock at the kitchen door, and Mum got up, approaching the kitchen door with her wand in hand. “Who is it?”
“It’s Arthur,” said Dad’s tired voice from the other side. He must have had a stressful day, for he was being a bit sarcastic, “And I have no greater desire on this wide earth than to find out what makes airplanes stay up. I’d also really like a plate of whatever you’ve made that smells so good, Molly.” Ginny snorted as Mum opened the door and Dad staggered inside. He looked exhausted, and dropped into the other chair beside Ginny’s.
“Hi, Gin,” he mumbled, patting her head like a dog as Mum served him a plate. “Had a good day?”
She smiled. “It was fine. We decorated the house.”
Dad nodded. “I saw Fred and George—they’re coming home tomorrow morning, Molly, with Charlie, and they’ve agreed to pick up Andromeda, as well.”
“Oh, not with your mouth full, Arthur,” Mum chided, and Ginny giggled, getting up. “Where are you going, miss?”
“Reckon I’ll hang up the last of the decorations and go to sleep early. I’m sort of tired out,” she said. “Night, Dad—Mum.”
“I’ll bring you some hot chocolate,” Mum promised, and Ginny gave a brief wave to indicate that she had understood before hurrying through the sitting room and up the stairs to her bedroom. She paused on the landing; Bill’s door, the room that Tonks and Remus were sharing, was propped open slightly.
Ginny went quietly to the room and peered in. Tonks lay curled on her side atop the blankets on the bed, holding her belly protectively. She appeared to be asleep, so Ginny made to shut the door.
“It’s just me,” Ginny answered. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t wake me,” Tonks said, shaking her head. “What’s wrong? Are you all right?”
She nodded. “I just wanted to see how you were. D’you want…tea…or something?”
Tonks gave a faint chuckle. “I’m fine, thanks. Come and sit with me for a minute.”
Ginny did so, perching herself on the bed, and Tonks sat up with some difficulty against the headboard—she seemed to be a bit dizzy. “You know, the idea of having a baby is really brilliant,” she observed sleepily. “But I’m not sold on the part where you’re waiting for it to arrive.”
Ginny smiled. “Well, speaking as someone who has absolutely zero experience with babies, I think you’re going to be just fine.”
“Ah, that’s right, you’re the youngest,” Tonks said, shaking her head. “No good. I should be talking to Bill about this.”
“Well, he’ll never steer you wrong,” Ginny snorted.
Tonks was quiet for a moment, gently rubbing her belly. “You know, I’m sorry about earlier,” she said quietly. “I shouldn’t have tried to guilt you into telling us what’s going on at Hogwarts. It’s just that I don’t think I’ve ever seen you unhappy before.”
Ginny rubbed the back of her neck. “I know I’m not myself…but the rest of you aren’t normal, either,” she said. “And I understand why, really I do. Things are absolutely mad right now. There’s a part of me that doesn’t even want to ask about everything that’s happened while I’ve been gone. I…I just wish that…you could all see that a lot has happened to me, too. It’s complicated,” she sighed heavily.
“And just because you’re younger than us doesn’t mean you should be treated like a child,” Tonks agreed. “You’d rather we let your troubles alone, not fix them for you.”
“I’d appreciate that, yeah,” Ginny chuckled.
“Oh, there’s a real smile,” Tonks answered. “I’ve been looking for one. I was ready to pull out my pig’s snout for you.” She paused for a moment. “I don’t know how much you heard of what your mum said this morning, Ginny, but it all comes from a place of love. Dumbledore used to say, ‘actions born of love rarely do us harm.’” Ginny nodded, looking down at the floor. “You know,” Tonks said slowly, after a long stretch of silence. “I know a thing or two about this, so I feel comfortable saying it.”
Ginny frowned. “What?”
“You’ve got a badly broken heart,” said Tonks, watching her. “I couldn’t put my finger on it right away, but…I think that’s it.”
“I—I don’t think—that’s not—” Ginny stammered, but Tonks shook her head.
“It’s all right,” she promised. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t miss Harry. But the two of you were different. Am I right?”
“I miss Ron and Hermione, too,” Ginny mumbled. “Not just him.” Her chin trembled, but she forced herself to regain control. “Ever since Luna…it’s just really difficult to—to keep wanting to fight back, knowing that there’s a good chance I might not see her, or Harry, or Ron, Hermione—any of them—again. Any of my brothers, my parents…I mean, what if this is my last Christmas with them? I can’t keep doing this forever, I can’t keep trying to stay on my feet and just hope that everything is okay when I know that it probably won’t be.”
Tonks smiled, though she was blinking rapidly. “It’s all right to feel that way,” she promised, taking Ginny’s hand. “But I need you to listen to me for a moment, Ginny, and listen carefully, because I had to learn this the hard way. Whatever you’re doing at school, whatever you’ve done that’s got Snape so scared that he’s trying to frighten you out of doing it, then you need to keep going, no matter what. Miss Harry all you want, ask every ‘what if’ question in the world if you have to, but so help me, I will—” she gave a broken laugh, “—I will come up to that school myself if I even get wind of the idea that you might just give up.”
Ginny stared at her.
“What counts most right now is that we hold onto the things that have made us happy and that keep us moving forward. Even if those things are gone, we still have to find ways to keep going. For me and Remus, the baby is our proof that life is going to go on.” Tonks sighed. “You saw your friend get kidnapped, and I can’t blame you for being frightened. Hogwarts is…well, it’s almost gone, and I can’t blame you for wanting to be home, either, where you can be sure your family is safe, just for a little while. But I think Harry would be unbelievably proud of what you’ve weathered in the last few months, and what you’re still going to fight through. Because whatever he’s doing, wherever he’s gone, it’s for all of us, and that needs to be what keeps you going. Do you understand me?”
Slowly, Ginny nodded, and Tonks smiled faintly. She brought Ginny’s hand to rest on the side of her belly.
“Merlin’s pants,” Ginny whispered. She felt a sudden, overwhelming rush of love for the little flutter that kicked and stirred beneath her fingers.
“See? The baby wants to let you know that you’re going to be okay,” said Tonks, smiling. “You will, you know. You’ll be all right,” she said. “I promise. Oof—” She laughed as Ginny suddenly hugged her, and pulled back, smiling sheepishly as she rubbed her round belly. “Trust me, you don’t want me to be sick on you.”
“That’s absolutely disgusting,” Ginny told her helpfully, and Tonks laughed again.
“I’d better get some sleep,” she sighed, leaning back on her pillows. “It’ll be my mum’s turn to fuss over me tomorrow, it’s been almost a full day since she last saw me.”
Ginny snorted. “G’night, then.”
“’Night, you,” Tonks beamed, pulling up her blankets. “Don’t let me sleep too late, all right?”
“Excuse you, I’ll be getting my own beauty sleep,” Ginny answered loftily, turning her nose in the air. Then she paused at the door, looking back at the shadowy form curled in the bed, illuminated only by cold, grayish moonlight streaming through the window. “Er—thanks, Tonks.”
She smiled. “Go to bed, Ginny.”
“Oh, spoken like a true mother,” Ginny teased, and she ducked, shutting the door just as Tonks flung a pillow at her head. On the landing, she ran into her mother, who was carrying a steaming mug of hot chocolate and looked as though she were on her way up to get ready for bed.
“Oh! Here, darling, I was just bringing this to you,” Mum said. “I put a little something in it to help you relax, it should make your back feel a bit better if it’s hurting you. I use it all the time. If it doesn’t work, you come and wake me straightaway, I’ll find something else.”Ginny smiled, knowing that she would do no such thing. “Thanks, Mummy,” she said, kissing her cheek. “Good night.” Her mother looked a little bemused as Ginny, humming slightly, took her chocolate and slipped into her bedroom.