In Every Universe: Begging For Tarts
Muggle/bakery AU, Harry/Ginny, Romance/Comedy, PG-13
A/N: For hpshipweeks on Tumblr. Enjoy!
Vic. Dom. Freddie and Roxy.
Check. Check. Double check.
Ginny sighed in relief and shook her long red hair out of her flushed face. She hadn't expected to spend her only day off that week in the company of her mad (albeit adorable) nieces and nephew. Thankfully, her duty as Best Aunt/Sister/Sister-in-law was now coming to an end, and the sense of impending freedom, just within reach, had pure elation blossoming within her. It pushed through bone-deep exhaustion and weariness and hunger (why was she so hungry?) and forced the corners of her lips up in the semblance of a smile. Vowing right then and there to never again leave the house with four children (never mind have four children) or at least start charging a sodding fee for her services, she hitched baby Dominique higher in the adjustable carrier strapped tightly to her torso, took hold of Victoire's small and slightly sticky hand, and pushed the side by side pram containing Fred and Roxanne towards the bakery just ahead.
She had to twist around to push open the swinging glass door with her back and jiggle the wide pushchair over the threshold just to enter the shop, but the sweet, sugar-laced air was a reward in itself for the mild irritation. Ginny inhaled deeply, closing her eyes for a moment as she imagined herself sitting back, kicking up her feet, and stuffing herself with lemon tartlets, raspberry croissants and chocolate éclairs. But then three little voices began to chant, "Biscuits, biscuits, biscuits!" and her daydream popped like a dirty dish soap bubble.
She opened her eyes and faced reality. Queuing up behind an older woman who threw her a rather disdainful look, no doubt from the cacophony the children were making, Ginny quickly squatted before Victoire and the twins. Vic quieted once she caught the look on her face. The twins, however, needed further reprimanding.
"Hey, hey, hey." She caught both of Roxanne's flailing arms in one hand, and grabbed Fred's tiny foot with the other before he accidentally kicked Dominique. "I thought we discussed this in the car. You only get a chocolate biscuit if you behave."
"Biscuits, biscuits, biscuits!" they continued, just a smidge quieter, plump cheeks pink and brown eyes alight with excitement.
She laughed. It was all she could do. Nobody could reign in Freddie and Roxy. Deciding she was doing nothing but wasting her breath, Ginny turned with exaggerated exasperation towards Victoire, who always giggled when she rolled her eyes at the twins' antics, only to find the space she'd been previously occupying empty.
Her lungs quit taking air and her heart seized in her chest, but Ginny still managed to spring up and scream for her eldest niece. This was her worst nightmare come true and the very reason she'd been reluctant to take on more than two children at a time. George had teased her mercilessly just that morning when she'd revealed her fear of losing one of them, asking her repeatedly if she could count to four before she'd shoved him out of her flat.
"Victoire! Victoire!" Her voice had gotten hysterical, and there were tears burning her eyes. She could feel the stares of the half dozen patrons on her, but she ignored them as she continued to search for her niece's strawberry blonde locks and sparkly purple top. "VICTOIRE!"
"Er," said a voice from a slight distance, one she almost didn't hear as Dominique had begun to wail. "Is this your daughter, Miss?"
Ginny whirled around. There, near the front of the queue, was Victoire, holding the hands of a little boy with sandy blond hair. They'd made a ring around a man's long legs with their chubby arms, and were circling him and singing.
She almost ran over the feet of the disgruntled woman before her with the wheels of the pram as she raced forward and around her, and a part of her wished she had as the woman shared (quite loudly) a rather vehement opinion on today's youths and loose women and overpopulation with an uncomfortable looking customer in line.
The tall man with Victoire and the little boy still spinning around him shuffled carefully out of the queue. Ginny dropped to her knees, pulled Victoire into her arms, and buried her embarrassed face in the girl's tiny shoulder.
"Vic, how many times have I told you not to leave my side without telling me first?" she gasped through her tears.
"I'm sorry, Aunt Ginny." Victoire patted her roughly on the head, and Ginny let out a hiccupping laugh. "I found Teddy and had to say hello!"
Ginny pulled away from her niece at the unfamiliar name and became aware of her surroundings again. The din in the bakery was returning to normal again, Dominique was still crying, and- she looked up- she was making quite the fool of herself in front of a rather dishy bloke with bright green eyes and wonderfully windswept hair. Wiping her wet cheeks quickly with her knuckles and carefully pulling Dominique out of her carrier, Ginny stood up with a little help from the lovely fellow, skin tingling where he cupped her forearm, and began to lightly bounce with the baby over her shoulder.
"Blimey," she said in a breath. "Thanks. And, um, sorry. I don't usually…" She fluttered her hand at her face.
"You don't have to apologize," he said, smiling at her in understanding. He gestured towards the small boy that clung to his legs. "Your feelings are completely justified. The first time I lost Teddy, I nearly pissed myself."
"Pissed!" cried Freddie.
"Pissed!" chimed Roxy.
"Oh, no," Ginny said, briefly dropping her head back to gaze up at the ceiling. "Today has been the absolute worst."
"Christ, I'm sorry. I- let me make it up to you." Before she could shake her head and wave away his apology, he turned, gazed at the workers behind the counter, and called abruptly, "Hey, Neville!"
A round-faced man who came ambling out from the back room carrying a tray of scones looked up. "Hey, mate!" He eyed the length of the queue and said pointedly, "What can I get you?"
Ginny bit her lip, feeling the weight of several eyes upon her.
"What do you like?" He was speaking to her again, a crooked smile lighting up his face.
She stared at him, taking in the small scar on his forehead, the dimple on his left cheek, his warm golden skin, all the while still swaying with a softly whimpering Dom. She shook herself after a moment and answered, "Er, anything's fine."
"Come on," he said. "Don't make me beg."
Was he… was he flirting with her?
"What if I want you to beg?"
What did she say? What did she say? She clamped her mouth shut as his eyebrows shot up over the frames of his round specs. Her whole face flared like fire, but she could not tear her gaze away from his, even if she tried. Was she really doing this? Was she honestly flirting back with a stranger she'd just met at the bloody bakery?
"All right." His voice was low and soft, and he took a small step closer to her. "Please, tell me what you like?"
Why was it so hot in here all of a sudden?
"Tarts," she blurted before her brain could process what her mouth was saying.
He looked close to laughter. "Tarts? What kind?"
"Lemon tarts. Tartlets. The little ones. Not the big ones."
"Right then," he said, his smile now a full-blown grin with shining teeth and all. She smiled back. "Two lemon tartlets and… four?" She nodded. "Four chocolate biscuits."
They took up two tables, setting Fred and Roxanne together at one, in highchairs set far apart enough that they could not steal each other's food, along with Teddy and Victoire. At the other table sat Ginny, Dominique in a highchair, and Teddy's… dad, uncle? Ginny wasn't quite sure yet.
After Neville came and went, depositing their sweets along with two steaming coffees, Ginny tilted her head towards the retreating man.
"I know his name but not yours."
He grimaced and stuck out a large hand. She took it and gave it a firm shake. "Harry," he said. "And you're Ginny?"
She nodded as she poured three packets of sugar into her coffee. "Aunt to all four of these hellions."
"Is that why you didn't wallop the old hag?"
She stopped with her hand on the creamer. Old hag? "What're you- oh!" He was talking about the woman from the queue. Ginny searched the bakery, thankful the witch was nowhere in sight. "I probably would have, if Vic hadn't had me so out of sorts."
"I think I would have for you, if you hadn't been so out of sorts."
She blushed. "Sorry about that." She stirred cream into her coffee and took a sip. It needed more sugar, but she didn't want Harry to know she was a bit of a pansy when it came to coffee. When he dumped five packets into his, she grabbed another, biting back a grin.
"Like I said, your reaction was in no way unfounded," he said firmly.
"It's my first time taking all of them out at once," she admitted. She watched Dominique make a mess with the star-shaped baby cereal she'd had given her and reached over to slide the skittering pieces closer to her. "I knew today wouldn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped, but that, earlier, was a complete nightmare."
"But she's all right," he reminded her over the rim of his mug. His glasses fogged up with the steam. Ginny took the opportunity to glance at his left hand- no ring, no tan line- and smiled. "She just wanted to say hi to her friend."
"Friend?" she said playfully. "That's young love, that is!"
Harry's laugh was pleasant to her ears, and the crinkling of his eyes was quite endearing. A kaleidoscope of butterflies swarmed her belly.
"Keep an eye on him now, or you'll be giving your son The Talk sooner rather than later."
It was deliberate, her word choice. Harry looked at her, maybe saw through her, but did not give anything away.
"Godson," he corrected gently. "I have him on weekends."
"Ah," she said, feeling strangely mollified. She hesitated briefly, waging an internal battle, before bravery took the lead. "Must make your romantic life a bit difficult."
A slow smile spread across his face. "I don't know. I think having Teddy with me is rather helpful."
Her heart stuttered a strange beat and a brick-like weight settled in her stomach. What was that supposed to mean? Did he easily pick up women who thought him a handsome single father when he was with Teddy? Or was he referring to this moment? Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Perhaps she should give him the benefit of the doubt? Or was she just being an idiot? She didn't know the man, after all. What if he was just trying to get into her pants? What if she wanted him in her pants?
A vision of the two of them together, quite vivid and in rather high detail, flooded her mind's eye. She blinked the image away as heat flooded her abdomen. It'd been far too long since her last anything. She pressed her thighs together and squirmed in her chair.
"Wait," Harry said after several seconds of tense silence. "That came out wrong."
"Did it?" she asked tersely.
"Er- well, yeah, I didn't- it wasn't- I just meant today, with you." He huffed out a breath. "I'm not good at this," he finished.
She took a shaky breath. "Let's make this quick then, shall we?"
"Are you single?"
"When was your last sexual encounter?"
Harry looked around, wide-eyed, then hissed, "Are you mad? People can hear us!"
"Answer the question."
He mumbled something under his breath.
"What was that?" she said. "Two…?"
"Years, all right. Two years." He'd been going through a longer dry spell that she! Ginny wanted to celebrate, run a victory lap around the bakery, and comfort the poor man at the same time. She just barely resisted the temptation. "And don't look at me like that!"
"Fine." She arranged her smirk into an easy, full-blown smile. "I'm off babysitting duties in half an hour. Want to make a go of it?"
He stared at her for half a minute. Dominique let out a string of babble and knocked over her sippy cup, which Ginny caught with quick reflexes before it could hit the floor.
Finally, rather awestruck, he answered, "Yeah, I do."