Disclaimer: All characters, settings and ideas borrowed from the Harry Potter series belong to JK Rowling. I just play with her ideas.
Note: This was written for the Reviews Lounge Birthday Project, in celebration of our first birthday! A big Thank You to everyone who's participated and helped us grow into a successful forum and community - we'd be nothing without your support. This one's dedicated to you guys.
Motherhood suited Ginny – this was true at least from where Harry stood, concealed in the shadowy doorway watching his wife move slowly about the kitchen. Her hair was pulled back into a careless ponytail, and a number of strands hung free, tumbling down her back. Ginny's face was clear and relaxed, her expression serene, and Harry could hardly imagine she'd ever looked more beautiful.
Certainly it was a far cry from the glamour of their early married life, just a few years earlier, when he, a budding Auror and reluctant poster-boy for the new Ministry and she, a Quidditch superstar and Witch Weekly pinup and were young newly-weds at the forefront of their generation, leading the magical world into a whole new era …
It was a funny thing, really, but Harry could safely say he much preferred obscurity – or at least, the shallow semblance of obscurity that was really the very best he could hope for, being Harry Potter.
Ginny was turning, halfway between the oven and bench top when she froze, wincing. Both hands flew to her stomach and her breathing became more exaggerated, deeply in, and out.
Abandoning all pretenses of not being there, Harry moved quickly to her side, one hand curling around her waist in support while the other moved automatically to her swollen belly. Feeling the baby kick again, Harry pressed his lips to her forehead, smiling in earnest. She relaxed against him with a soft sigh, not betraying even a flicker of surprise. Not for the first time, Harry thought fleetingly of signing her on to train his Aurors, before wistfully pushing that thought aside.
"How long did you know I was there?" he murmured, chuckling.
The baby had settled again, perhaps calmed by the gentle pressure of their wondering hands. Turning to face him, Ginny flashed a sheepish grin.
"How did you know? I was trying to pretend I didn't …"
Harry raised his eyebrows involuntarily, amused. She met his eyes, chuckling too.
"You rely on that Cloak of yours too much, you know," she added teasingly.
Harry hmmmed, and leant over to kiss her softly on the lips.
"I can't help it," he responded humbly, leaning around her to dip his finger into the invitingly full mixing bowl. Ginny was faster; she swatted his hand away playfully with the wooden spoon. Unperturbed, he grinned. "I find you irresistible."
She didn't appear to believe him - that much was obvious. Curiously, though, she didn't seem to mind.
"I do!" he protested as she turned for the baking tray. Quickly, he stole a finger into the bowl before she returned. "Tastes good already."
Ginny set the baking tray down with a soft clang, rolling her eyes. Harry watched her greedily, unable to resist the broad grin spreading across his face. She looked magnificent when she was cross, and there wasn't any danger, because he could see her eyes were dancing affectionately.
"Harry James Potter, get out of the kitchen this instant or so help me, Merlin, I-"
He left readily enough, although not without placing a final, gleeful kiss on her cheek. Ginny did her best to look unmoved.
Harry took the stairs two at a time, not fancying a trip to St Mungos again anytime soon. Instead, he decided that checking on the boys was probably a better use of his time. Pausing by the first door on his right, he peered inside.
Harry and Ginny had chosen the room across the hall from their bedroom for the nursery simply out of convenience. James had been shipped off further down the hallway two-and-a-half years ago, and Ginny had already claimed the nursery for her writing room once Albus was old enough to go the same way. For now, their youngest (although not for long, Harry amended with a smile) was sound asleep in his cot, clearly clueless to the fact he'd officially departed infancy – Harry checked his watch – thirty-two minutes ago.
Harry's eyes were drawn across the room now, taking in the cheerful yellow walls and the lovely arching bay window with white-painted sills. Ginny already had plans to install a window seat there, although this would have to be put on hold for another couple of years or so.
Personally, Harry couldn't see the hurry. After all, their boys seemed to be growing quickly enough as it was…
And speaking of his boys, James was being awfully quiet. Harry was learning to approach this sort of observation with the utmost concern. On more than one occasion already, he and Ginny had been given reason to question the infinite wisdom in bestowing the names of two particularly notorious mischief-makers upon their eldest son. Like his namesakes, a quiet James invariably meant trouble, and upon opening the next door along from the nursery, Harry found his expectations were not disappointed. He sighed, folding his arms.
"Gin? Come up here a moment, will you?"
Her fiery tumble of hair appeared at the foot of the stair.
"Come and see what your son has been up to."
"My son?" She laughed easily but ascended the stairs quickly, making her way towards him with glittering eyes. He felt his breath catch, just a little. She didn't notice.
"How about we call him your son?"
Their gazes locked for an instant. Without missing a beat, Harry turned to frown at the framed photograph hanging on the wall between them, quite prepared to lay blame where blame was due.
"Your grandson," he accused pointedly, but Lily and James simply laughed from the circle of each other's arms, oblivious.
Forgetting himself, Harry swallowed hard, barely registering the warmth of Ginny taking his hand. She squeezed it gently, prompting him back, and he shook his head unconsciously, frowning at the strange sensation burning his eyes.
"So." Ginny's voice was softer now, and full of affection. From the frame beside his parents, a photograph of her siblings circa Christmas 1995 caught his eye. "What has our little terror done now?"
Without the need for preamble, Harry swung the white wooden door open a little further. He heard Ginny's sharp intake of breath and suppressed a chuckle.
"Oh James," she sighed.
On one level, 'our little terror' hardly seemed an apt title. If anything, James Sirius Potter looked entirely angelic curled up in the middle of his bedroom floor, fast asleep. A lock of messy black hair flopped across his forehead – those Potter genes had proved more than a match for the Weasley-red – and his chubby hands were curled into little fists.
On another level, the phrase 'little terror' was entirely appropriate. Surrounding him in an almost perfect arc of destruction were the remnants of what had been several beautifully wrapped gifts. Empty boxes, several toys and books, ribbon and wrapping paper were strewn around him indiscriminately.
Harry suppressed the urge to summon his camera and instead followed Ginny into the room. While she scooped up their precious little rascal and set him on the bed, Harry knelt amongst the scattered presents and made an optimistic attempt to restore them to their former condition. As he'd expected, reparo had very little effect on poor little Albus' birthday presents.
Ginny smoothed James' quilt cover absently, an ironic smile turning the corners of her lips upwards.
"I don't suppose we thought to explain they weren't for him, did we?"
Recalling the general chaos of last Christmas, where James had been invited to open every single present simply for the joy of seeing him gleefully tearing at the wrapping, Harry sighed and shook his head. No, they hadn't thought of that one. He returned Ginny's smile dolefully. They were still learning the ropes with this whole parenting thing, that much was clear.
Ginny sighed again.
"Oh well," she murmured lightly. "It's not as though Al will remember, anyway, I suppose."
"No, probably not," he agreed softly.
Harry loved how easily she bestowed her forgiveness. The children had softened her stubborn streak, certainly. And with namesakes and grandparents and uncles and aunts (and parents) all taken into consideration, Harry really couldn't find it in himself to be too angry with James, either. It seemed that James' problem was genetic – trouble making, that was.
A random thought flitted across Harry's mind, although it was probably triggered by the concept of inheriting genetics, and that whole… general process. He grinned.
"You know, Gin – with the boys both fast asleep and all…"
She raised an eyebrow, doing her best to look coy while he gently pulled her to her feet. They knew each other so well now that it was near useless for her to pretend she hadn't understood him instantly, but he let her pretend anyway. Harry did his best to keep his voice neutral and innocent, drawing his wife from James' room and gently shutting the door.
"Wouldn't want to miss an opportunity, would we?"
Ginny snorted. "Who would have thought that of all things, opportunism would turn out to be the family failing?"
The photographs lining their hallway seemed to confirm his opinion on the matter. Harry pressed his lips to hers, smiling. After all, as family failings went they could probably have done far worse.