A/N: I wrote this because I KNOW I can't be the only one upset with how there was no Harry and Ginny action toward the end of DH. And if I am alone on that, well, I'm okay with that. This was a lot of fun to write.
The Affectionate Bet
Harry and Ginny had a good reason for not showing any sign of their love when they dropped off their boys at the Hogwarts Express. They had just wanted to win their daughter a little money. After all, she was the only one who believed that they'd be able to keep their hands off of each other for two days. And what a fiasco that was.
In my defense, I'd like to say that I don't normally eavesdrop on my childrens' conversations. My wife Ginny and I had decided that we'd go rouse the kids up for our last family Quidditch game before James went back to Hogwarts and Albus started. There had been a lot of tension in the house for the past month or so, right when James decided to tell Albus that he, like the namesake for his middle name, would probably be in Slytherin. Alone, since none of his cousins were there, nor was James. Thus begun several arguments that had given everyone headaches and foul tempers. Even sweet, little Lily got so angry one night that she threw down the treat she was feeding James' owl and walked away in a huff, angrily muttering about 'stupid boys'. Ginny had followed her, completely amused.
Ginny and I were both pretty happy that the boys only had two more days of fighting until we actually found out what house Albus would be in. Many times we've told him that it didn't matter and each time he shook his head in disappointment, eventually telling me that he wanted to be just like me- a Gryffindor, brave at heart, noble, and courageous. I had looked down at my youngest son with new eyes, remembering the time he had drawn a scar like mine down his forehead and proudly exclaimed that he now looked exactly like me. Something in me had burst right then, not anger, but sadness. I had sat him down, he had only been five or six, and told him the story of how I got that scar. He never said he wanted to be like me again, until right then. When he looked up at me with his green eyes like mine, I felt love radiating off every pore in my body. I gave him a hug and told him not to let James get to him for the third time that month.
That night I had turned to Ginny in bed, loving the way her pale skin looked in the moonlight and how her eyes always caught me staring at her in amazement. She had smiled softly at me and grabbed my hand under the covers, moving closer to me so that she was close in my embrace. I thought she had fallen asleep almost immediately. I had watched her like I did nearly every night, thanking whoever was out there for my amazing wife and three beautiful, healthy children. When I started to think about dozing off, Ginny had shocked me by speaking up.
"As much as I love you looking at me like the wanker you are, I wanted to say that Albus has always wanted to be like you. He didn't stop from the time he was five until now. He just thought that you didn't want him to be like you anymore," I had looked into her sleepy brown eyes and kissed her forehead. "Really?" I had whispered back, combing my fingers through her red hair lightly. She had nodded tiredly and snuggled closer to me. I had fallen asleep with a grin on my face.
Enough about my bloody gorgeous wife. We wanted to get the boys and Lily ready for a Quidditch match, but figured they'd still be arguing, so we quietly approached the den, where they were supposed to be playing Exploding Snap. It was to our utmost surprise at what we heard.
"-always snogging! You'd think at their age they'd have gotten out of their system by now," James was telling Lily and Albus in exasperation, exaggerating as he always does when he's trying to prove a point. The other two nodded in agreement.
Ginny grabbed my hand and pulled me toward her. Before I could make a snide comment on how indecent it was in front of our children, she mumbled that they were talking about us. I shook my head at her, saying that we don't snog all the time. She gave me a knowing smirk. I could only wink back before we heard the next part of our oldest child's rant.
"Mum and Dad couldn't go a day without showing affection to each other," James was saying. Lily giggled and made a comment about how cute it was. James' face scrunched up in disgust as he stuck his tongue out. Eleven year old Albus arched an eyebrow.
"Wanna bet on it?" James nodded at his younger brother, eyes widening as large as the Galleons he desired. "Five Galleons." James drooled momentarily at the thought before sobering up.
"That's all my savings. And all yours," he stated and Albus smiled, shaking his head at his older brother.
Sometimes, my youngest son reminded me too much of his uncles. "It's all or nothing, dear brother." James got ready to retort but was interrupted by our little Lily.
"What about me?" she piped up. The boys both stared at her, stunned. They looked at each other, then back at her. They nodded.
"I bet a day. They won't last until tomorrow morning." James said, rubbing his hands together with a smirk. "I'm as sure about this as I am about you going into Slytherin." He directed the jab to Albus, who frowned and thought for a moment.
"I bet from tomorrow morning until when we leave for Hogwarts." challenged Albus, raising his eyes at Lily.
"I bet that they can hold out until you're both on the train." Her brothers looked a bit sad. "What?"
"We really don't want to take your money, Lil," James said honestly. Albus agreed.
Lily stood and, looking very much like her grandmother, placed her hands on her hips. "If I lose, I'll pay. But if I win, you both owe me." Both boys shrugged at her.
"It starts as soon as we see them both. I bet you they'll be holding hands," laughed James. Ginny and I exchanged a glance and she gestured to our daughter. I nodded, a little down. Two days without any kind of affection? A horror struck me. But what about-
"What about when they're in bed?" Albus asked James, who mimed vomiting. Lily looked puzzled and started to ask a question before James cut in saying, "One of us will have to have nightmares tonight, one of us tomorrow night." I crossed my arms with a pout. Ginny nudged me as the kids agreed to divvy up. All fell silent.
We took that as our cue. With a frown, I dropped Ginny's hand and put space in between us. The left side of my body felt a little cold as my heart drooped. Ginny walked in the room. "Ready for some Quidditch?" I watched James. He looked a little crestfallen to see our distance but quickly recovered.
The first day was hard. Especially in Quidditch. It was always Ginny and I against the boys and Lily and we always won. I had once asked them if they wanted to split me and Ginny onto different sides but they didn't think it was fun. They called us Quaffle hogs. So after Ginny and I won, three times, mind you, we cheered each other from afar. It was as much as a mental challenge as a physical one and I thought about letting James win many times. I saw little Lily, trying to show up her older brothers and thought of Ginny when she was younger, always being told she was too young for this, too little for that. So, I made a vow with myself not to let the boys win. Even if it killed me.
Which I knew it eventually would.
James grew frustrated as late afternoon advanced closer to supper. He'd throw out subtle hints as Ginny made tarts with Lily and I read out a book to Albus.
"Isn't Dad handsome, Mum?" That was the first thing put out there.
Ginny didn't even look up as she gave Lily a bowl to stir by hand. "Of course." James huffed a little.
I decided to have my fun too. "Yes, dear, aren't I?" This made Ginny glance over, a glint in her eye as she scrutinized me.
"You could use a shave and a haircut," she said finally, turning back to her baking. A bit downtrodden, I continued to read to Albus, who had watched the exchange with an amused expression.
"Dad, isn't Mum the prettiest lady you ever met?" There went his second punch. Ginny looked up at me as it was my turn to make the remark. My whole family was staring at me, waiting for my answer. James expression was slightly manic. I paused for dramatic effect, as if I was actually considering it.
"Always was, always will be," James pretended to gag, but I could see from his eyes that he was waiting for his mother's response. She said nothing, taking the bowl of mixture and spreading it into her tarts. I saw the pink tinge in her cheeks. Pleased, I turned back to James, who was silently fuming now. I continued with the book now, a bit preoccupied by Ginny. I kept throwing her sidelong glances which made James grin widely and throw knowing looks at Lily and Albus, who didn't pay any attention to him.
As we seated ourselves to dinner, the taunts began.
"You're gonna lose," hissed Albus to James, who flushed in anger.
James hesitated for a moment, lost at what to say. "Well, you're going to be a snake!" At Albus' fallen face, Ginny sprang into action.
"Enough, both of you!" she said sharply, at least enough to make both boys wince and Lily smile in satisfaction.
Dinnertime drew to an end as each child took a shower. James was so frustrated now, not knowing why Ginny and I weren't touching. There had been a few almost touches that James had watched with bated breath. As I passed the potatoes, I nearly squeezed Ginny's hand, which is something I always do. When I didn't do it, our oldest looked alarmed. Lily looked pleased as she dug into her meal. When I took my wand out to move the dishes to the sink and start the sponges on scrubbing them, I didn't prod Ginny in the side with my wand to make her jump and threaten me. It took a lot of restraint, but I didn't hug Ginny from behind or rest my chin on her shoulder, like I do to be close to her.
I could see the lack of affection getting to Ginny also. We didn't throw each other secretive smiles and she didn't kick me under the table. She didn't make any comments about my hair or crooked glasses or anything, really. I think it was a rather dull day, to be completely honest with you.
After tucking each child in, we headed back to our room, Ginny sighing quietly. Climbing into bed and pulling the duvet back, I reached out my hand to Ginny. She looked surprised as she glanced around for little hidden eyes. She placed it a few inches from mine, looking into my eyes.
'I miss you,' she mouthed, a small frown on her face. I returned the words with a muffled groan.
But at least I could still stare at the love of my life. Tonight, she stared back. Keeping her hand three inches away from me, she traced my face, the outline of my eyes, the shape of my lips. Trying to overcome the urge to kiss her palm, I squeezed my eyes shut. It was all about endurance, I reminded myself sadly. I've never felt this alone, at least not when I was so close to someone I loved. Biting back a scream of frustration, I opened my eyes.
"Stop, please," I told her quietly, turning over so I didn't have to face her. Knowing this would upset her greatly, I waited for the burst of something-anger, sadness. Nothing came.
"Sorry," came the soft reply of my red headed wife. There was rustling and a change in the weight on the mattress. She had turned the other way. I laid there for ten minutes, eventually rolling on my back to ponder the ceiling. An idea struck me and I reached for my wand on the bed stand next to me. Muttering a quick spell, I pointed my wand at the ceiling where bright stars now spelt out both our names with a fancy sign for 'and' connecting them both. There were hearts by it. There was also the day we got together in our sixth year, the day we got back together after the war, and our wedding date below that. I smiled at my handiwork and whispered for Ginny. She didn't move. Thinking she was still upset and wanting to explain myself, I nudged her. She was still, only her chest rising and falling with each breath. I sighed as I got out of bed, thinking my wife was fake sleeping. Kneeling by her face, I whispered in her ear.
"I'm the one that's sorry. It's bloody torture not to be able to hold you or snog you at any time. Come look at the ceiling, love." She didn't move and right then I knew she had fallen asleep.
Stunned, I moved back onto my side of the bed, waving away the ceiling's words with an angry flourish of my wand. I must've stayed awake until at least one or two in the morning with only one thought racing through my mind.
In our fifteen years of marriage, even when dealing with pregnancy, death, and co-workers, neither one of us has ever fallen asleep angry or upset with the other. It was our unspoken rule. And tonight, it had been broken.
Everything was hazy for a while until I was awoken by a gaggle of voices that were trying to be quiet, but were failing at it miserably.
"You didn't go in there last night?"
Then came the girlish wail of, "I'm sorry. I fell asleep!"
"What's it matter anyway, James? They're on opposite sides of the bed."
James let out a breath and fumed. "Where is their affection? They're so bloody boring without it. Maybe.."
"No. We're not calling the bet off," Albus interrupted quietly with an edge of anger. "In two hours, they're on my time."
James snorted and there was a creak of the stairs as the three children headed down the breakfast. I heard Ginny's sharp intake of breath as she woke up. Wondering what she'd do if I slept longer than her, I kept myself the way I slept, sprawled everywhere. It was another unspoken rule that I made the morning meal for the kids. Today, I let myself breathe easily. I could feel her eyes on me. There was an angry sigh as my wife finally got up and threw a robe on, heading out the door of our bedroom.
I groaned, turning over and stuffing my face in a pillow.
Our last full day was even worse than the first. Now, instead of the foolish flitting around like yesterday, we were actually trying to avoid each other because we didn't want to cross paths. There have been times when Ginny was mad at me, but it was nothing like this. I could feel her anger and I could do nothing about it but let it build. I winced as she sent the bowls to the sink after breakfast. They all crashed into each other in their haste to reach the water, making three out of five break. She repaired them with venom as our children could only watch in shock; none of them had ever seen Ginny so upset before. When the kids went out to play, I cornered her.
"You fell asleep last night." As soon as it left my lips, I knew she'd take it as an accusation. Instead she nodded and adverted her eyes to the floor. "Ginny," I said softly, wanting nothing more than to sweep her into a hug and smell her hair. She looked up and we locked eyes. When I was met with her big brown eyes filled with tears, I swept a glance around the kitchen before taking her into my arms and letting her sob on my shoulder. "What's wrong?" She wiped at her eyes angrily and backed out of my embrace as she, too, looked around the room. "It's nothing, Harry," she nearly spat.
And that's when everything took a turn for the worse. "That's a lie and you know it, Ginny. I apologized quite nicely to your sleeping form last night and I had a light show and everything!" My anger dissipated at Gin's smile.
"I'm sorry," we both said at the same time. We both laughed and then it became serious.
"I love you," I said, and she agreed with me, leaning back against the counter, her body displayed quite nicely toward me. "Stop," I growled and she could only chuckle at me and change her pose to something much worse than the first. "What you do to me, woman," I puffed, getting ready to plan an attack as the children came back in. It was one of those times I was not glad to see them. I resisted the urge to tell them so and took a different approach. "James, Albus, are you both packed?" Albus nodded; he had been packed ever since we had come back from Diagon Alley two weeks ago. James pondered for a moment and shook his head.
"Where are my socks, Mum?" James scratched his head in thought.
"Your dresser," Ginny said suspiciously. I noticed her pose was now a tad more child friendly. With a scared look, James raced up the stairs. I looked at Ginny, who shrugged in confusion.
Albus glanced at the clock on the mantle. "Eleven. Excellent." He smiled up at us both with a little too much innocence. "Can we hear a story before lunch?" I went to go pick up the book discarded from yesterday's reading. Albus shook his head. "No, I want Mum to tell one of her stories." I know Ginny had to resist sticking her tongue out at me.
Ginny plopped into an armchair and turned toward Albus and Lily, who sat on the carpet in front of her. I decided to take the couch and I sat down carefully. I was not a plopper, unlike my wife. "What story?" she asked.
"One about you and Dad?" Albus asked innocently, with a sly edge to his voice. Ginny shrugged at him. "If you'd like," she said, unconcerned. "Pick a story."
"How about...your first kiss." Ginny laughed at Albus' statement. "Your father could tell that much better than me; I didn't expect that one." Albus shook his head and Lily copied him. "You tell it, Mum!" Ginny sighed, rolling her eyes. Wiht a deep breath, which made Lily, Albus and I lean in closer, she began.
"In my fifth year of school, I was finally friends with Harry. I hadn't completely gotten over my crush on him, but I wasn't that shy, silly girl who couldn't even meet his eyes without blushing." There was a giggle from Lily, who covered her mouth with her hand to muffle it. "Your father knew that this boy, Malfoy, was up to something at school, but nobody believed him. One day, right before our last match of the season, in which Harry was Captain, he finds the boy and they end up throwing spells at each other. Harry uses a spell that he found out of an old Potions book; the curse, however, is a dark spell and leaves gashes on Malfoy's chest. Eventually, your father gets detention every Saturdays for the rest of the term, which means he can't make the Quidditch game. On the day of, I had to play Seeker. We won the game and raced back to the Common Room. The whole team was celebrating and waiting to tell our Captain the good news. So Harry walks in slowly, looking for something. Everybody's yelling that we won and I run to give him a hug. Instead, he kisses me in front of the whole common room." Even though they had already heard this story, the kids were open mouthed at the end of it. Both looked at me and smiled. Lily winked.
James took that time to come back in the room in a frantic rush. "Mum, were they on top of my dresser or under it?" Ginny rolled her eyes and Summoned them. James grinned cheekily as they flew into his arms. "Thanks, Mum." He finally looked around the room. "What's happening?" Albus smiled like an angel and explained that both Ginny and I were going to replay our first kiss. Dumbfounded, Ginny and I snuck a look at each other. She had the same expression that I believe I was wearing at the time. Lily caught the look and became suspicious, but she didn't say anything.
"I don't think we agreed to that," I told Albus, who gave me a pout. It struck me at how much he looked like me, especially when I was eleven. Albus, however, didn't not look underfed and skinny. He had an air of being well cared for and a bright personality, even if it was shy at times. It didn't matter how much he looked like me- he had his mother's temper and ability to stick up for himself. Lily was more docile, but still feisty, which is something I'm glad about; my little girl should never get pushed around. James was a mixture of Ginny and I. He had his outbursts of anger, but was mostly calm. His outlet was for jokes.
Ginny nodded her head in agreement. "You don't want to see that. You're always saying you hate it." A little put off, Albus, Lily, and James, after putting his socks in his trunk, went to eat lunch.
"Less than a day," I grumbled to myself, stomping after them. I pretended not to hear Ginny's snicker.
Albus didn't try anything all afternoon. While I was reading that night to him and his brother, he looked thoughtful. "What attracted you to Mum?" I stopped mid-sentence to stare. Ginny and Lily had gone out to Diagon Alley, so I knew that Albus was asking from the heart, and even if he wasn't, I couldn't show affection to someone who wasn't there, could I? I pondered a minute or two on his question. Both boys stared at me.
"The monster in me," I grinned at them ruefully. Both boys looked a little taken aback; Albus was staring at my chest as if waiting for something to erupt. "I saw her kissing her boyfriend-" "Mum had a boyfriend before you?" "-and something in me snapped." I finished, glaring a little at James' interruption. "And, yes, your mother had two boyfriends before me."
"Two?" Both boys were shocked, to say in the least. "How many girlfriends did you have, Dad?"
I shrugged. "One, kind of. I was too busy for that."
James looked outraged. "Too busy to snog?" Albus giggled as Ginny took that moment to come in, having just arrived by Floo with Lily.
"Whose too busy to snog?" I blushed a little, embarrassed about being caught talking about snogging with our sons, and mumbled something to the floor. Ginny raised an eyebrow, but didn't ask any other questions. Albus gleefully headed upstairs to shower.
The house was silent earlier than usual. Albus had retired early, looking green around the edges from his nervousness. Lily followed soon after, mumbling something about having to pack for Hugo's. As always, James was last, challenging me to a game of chess, in which I won, before reluctantly following his mother and I up to bed.
Ginny didn't say anything as we climbed into bed. She turned on her side, away from me. I sighed and looked up at the ceiling, my hands behind my head. After a few minutes of this I turned over, watching Ginny's back. If she won't let me see her face, at least I'd get this. I leaned into her hair and inhaled the sweet scent.
"I love you," I whispered, to no reply. Wounded, I closed my eyes and drifted, never really falling asleep.
"Dad." I was being shaken. Groggily, I asked who was there. I opened my eyes to see the blurred outline of my youngest son. I groped for my glasses on the bedside stand and hastily shoved them on.
"Albus? What's the matter?" He scuffed his toe on the ground and looked into my eyes, looking scared. "I'm nervous about tomorrow, Dad."
I glanced at the clock and smiled. "Today," I corrected him gently. He looked even more frightened. I patted the bed, the cold space in between Ginny and I. Albus smiled gratefully and climbed in, softly, as to not wake his Mum. There were a few minutes of quiet as Albus looked up at the ceiling as I had before.
"You'll be our son no matter what house you're in," I spoke to his thoughts. He looked surprised, but nodded, his black hair reflecting in the moonlight. In a few minutes, he was out like a light. With that I fell into another restless sleep, muddled with my thoughts.
Breakfast was a quiet affair. It was while we were loading the trunks in the car when James resumed where he had left off on Albus, teasing him once more, erasing the insight I had given him last night.
At the platform, Lily clung to me, asking why they wouldn't let her go to Hogwarts two years earlier. Albus searched for his cousin Rose and when he found her, he visibly relaxed. Everything passed in a blur as I gave Albus one last talk and a hug before he climbed in after James, whose goodbye was shorter than last year's.
The train took off and my hand was still in air, raised in farewell. I felt my sons drift a little further away from me, off on their own journey now.
"He'll be all right," Ginny said, the first thing she had said to me since yesterday. I answered her honestly, rubbing my painless scar. With those few words, everything that had happened in the past two days melted away and I hugged her to me.
Lily arrived then, smiling a little. She had already been invited to Ron and Hermione's for a sleepover with her cousin Hugo. I knew they'd talk obsessively about Hogwarts all night. She ran over to give us both hugs goodbye and I kissed her forehead before both Ginny and I knelt to her level. Lily scrunched her brown eyes up in confusion.
"Looks like you'll be getting ten Galleons," I told her. Her eyes grew wide and a grin split her face. "You both knew?" she asked. We both nodded and she squealed, hugging us both, one arm around each of our necks. We both stood up. "Now, go have fun," Ginny told her, smiling as the wind whipped her hair around her face. Lily went to go run off but first looked up at us.
"I'm sorry if it was hard for you," she told us sincerely before Hugo called her away and she adapted a quick pace, reaching him in seconds. "Hugo, guess what? I get ten Galleons. I know! TEN!" Her voice carried over the Apparating parents and loud talking. I turned to my wife and rolled my eyes upward. She giggled. Ginny and I Apparated on the spot as soon as Ron and Hermione waved goodbye.
We had barely made it through the door before we both exploded. Articles of clothing were strewn everywhere as I kissed Ginny on the neck, on her shoulders, her cheeks, her forehead.
"Merlin, did I miss you," I told her hungrily, my lips never leaving her skin as I picked her up and carried her up the stairs to our bedroom, taking off her socks and trainers as I did so. I wanted to catch up on every missed moment of the last two days. Ginny didn't seem to disagree as I kissed her earlobe and down the side of her neck. No part of her face was left untouched by my lips. We entered the bedroom very scantily clad and Ginny kicked the door closed. And then, well..
That is a completely different story.
One that will stay between me, my brilliant wife, our bed, and six other spots in our bedroom that were used throughout the afternoon.
A/N: I must say that I am quite glad to have finished this before I lost all hope in romance. Reviews would be beautifully appreciated. And boy, do I need a smile.