"Do you want to tell me what happened?"
Harry hissed as the ointment she'd coated her fingertips with came into contact with his bruised and scraped knuckles. "Not especially, no."
"Mm-hm. And why not?"
"Well, what does it really matter, anyway? You already know the most important part, that I got into a fight. The rest - it's all just extra unnecessary detail."
Ginny looked up from where she'd been blowing across his skin, helping the ointment to dry. "I don't think it's an extra unnecessary detail that you and my brother, both of you wearing your Auror's robes, got into a brawl at my first professional Quidditch match."
"It wasn't a brawl!" he protested. "It was more like a - a --"
"Mêlée? Scrum? Scuffle?" she offered. "A mob of grown men acting like complete knobs?"
"You're blowing things way out of proportion."
Her ministrations complete, Ginny dropped his hand and reached for a towel to wipe her fingers with. "I'd hardly call it blowing things out of proportion when you and Ron got yourselves thrown out of the stadium and assigned to weekend detail for the next three months because of your behavior. Never mind that you were both in your Auror's robes at the time."
"You said that bit already."
"I'm going to say it again and again until you tell me what the bloody hell happened."
"Fine," he snapped, then backed down at the look on her face, slouching in his seat and combing his fingers through his hair. "Fine. All right. We got into a fight with some of the other spectators. There. Happy?"
She sighed. "Harry, I already know that."
"Then what are you on about?"
"I want to know why you got into a fight."
"Ron, I can understand. But you? It's not like you to call attention to yourself that way."
He looked down at his hands. The ointment had already begun to work, and his skin tingled as the abrasions across his knuckles began to heal. "Yeah, I suppose it isn't," he said glumly.
Ginny bent over and unlaced her boots, sliding her feet out of them with a groan, then peeled off her socks and lifted her legs to drape them across Harry's lap. "Well?"
Harry instinctively began to massage her feet. It was a habit they'd got into shortly after Ginny began training with the Harpies; the regulation footwear she wore as part of her uniform, while perfect for the sort of mid-air acrobatics she was expected to perform as a Chaser, were not designed for walking, and it'd been a while since the match ended. Harry was careful not to aggravate the enormous blister that had emerged on her left heel as his thumb dug into her instep.
"Some blokes were being rude," he finally said, knowing Ginny wasn't going to let him off the hook until he'd come clean.
"They were saying things I didn't like hearing."
He sighed. "One of them said - he said you had - that you have really great... Oh, bugger," he groaned. "He said that you have really great tits."
"Oh," she said, and the tone of her voice made him look up just in time to see her glance down at her chest, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
"And then his mate said that you have a nice arse."
Her eyebrows went up. "I see."
"But then another one said, 'A great pair of tits and a pretty rump don't count for nothing when you can't play worth a toss.'" He felt the back of his neck grow hot at the memory of the indignation he'd felt. "So then I said, 'Put a sock in it, mate. That's my wife you're slagging off.'"
Ginny leaned forward to rest her hand over his. "What happened next?" she asked softly.
He gave her an imploring look. "Do I have to go on?"
"Please, Harry. What did he say after you told him I was your wife?"
Harry pulled one hand out from under hers to gnaw on his ragged thumbnail; the other was held fast when she intertwined her fingers with his. "His friend gave me this look, y'see, and I knew the moment he recognized me. 'Cause then he said, 'That explains how a duffer like her made it past tryouts.'"
"Oh, Harry," she sighed, squeezing his hand. "You know - people have been saying things like that about me for years."
"They have?" She nodded. "That - that's bollocks. It's stupid, and it's wrong, and there's not a bloody bit of truth to it."
"I know that. That's why I've never let it get to me." She dropped her feet to the floor and slid over to sit on his lap, draping her arms loosely around his neck. "Is that what all this was about, because some wanker had a go at me?"
Harry pressed his face into her chest. His voice muffled by her uniform jumper, he said, "He also said that I ought to send you to him, so he could show you the proper way to mount a broomstick." He pulled back to look up at her. "That's when me and Ron jumped him."
That wasn't entirely true, but he wasn't ashamed of altering a detail or two. In fact, Ron had been the first to act, vaulting over the seats while Harry had stood frozen, gobsmacked by what the man had said. He'd actually reacted to Ron more than anything else, and had only become directly involved when one of the man's companions got him with a glancing blow to the solar plexus.
At that point he forgot every lesson he'd learned in Auror training, and even that he was a more-than-competent wizard with a wand at his disposal. Instead he found satisfaction in the crunch of a nose breaking beneath his fist or the sharp pain of a tooth digging into his skin as he belted someone in the mouth. True, his knuckles had paid the price, and his midsection hurt like hell, but in the short-term it had been worth it.
He and Ron had been fortunate that the others had been equally disinclined to go for their wands until the very end, just before a platoon of plods from MLES had waded in to break things up. Ron and one of the other guys had been taken to St. Mungo's for treatment of hex burns while the rest of them were hustled to holding pens beneath the stadium; apparently fights like this were not uncommon. About an hour later Kingsley Shacklebolt, who'd mentored Harry throughout his training, showed up to read him the riot act for embarrassing not only himself, but the entire Auror Department.
Then Mairéad Donnelly, head of the Auror Department, arrived to rub salt in Harry's wounds, informing him of the penalty for his misconduct. "It's bad enough that you and Weasley were brawling like a couple of Muggle football hooligans," she'd said. "As Aurors, you're expected to be above that sort of behavior. But next time, would you at least do me and the rest of the department the courtesy of leaving your robes behind?" She followed this with a lengthy, expletive-filled diatribe about what the Daily Prophet was likely to make of the whole sordid affair and a sardonic hope that Harry was proud of himself.
Actually, he felt about three inches tall. What upset him the most was that not only had he missed most of Ginny's first professional match, but with mandatory weekend duty for the next three months he'd miss nearly a dozen more. In defending her honor, he'd sacrificed the chance to be her biggest supporter, to wish her luck as she left to get kitted up, to cheer for her after every goal she scored, to curse at the other team or whenever the referees made a bad call, and to be there at the end to tell her how brilliantly she'd played and how proud he was of her. Instead he'd have to do that from his desk at Auror Headquarters with nothing but the wireless and Ron to share his exultation and his disappointment.
The blokes who'd started everything with their rude comments about Ginny were released a little while later, with nothing more than a three-month ban from the stadium premises, but Harry stayed behind and brooded until the match had ended. He could hear the commentator, at least, and knew Ginny'd scored at least six goals (and cheered silently for her after each one) and that the Harpies had won, 210-160, but he could have learned that much just from listening to the match on the wireless or reading about it in the Prophet.
He waited another half-hour or so after the commentator announced the final score before Ginny came to fetch him. She'd obviously come straight from the match wrap-up: she was still in her uniform, looking thoroughly and becomingly flushed and windswept. As she drew nearer, Harry could smell the sweat drying on her skin. Neither of them said anything; she opened the cage and he followed her home in miserable silence, where she proceeded to tend to his injuries before bothering with a bath and a change of clothes.
Harry reached up to brush Ginny's hair away from her face. "Have people really been saying that you only made the team because of me?"
"The team is the latest thing they're harping on, but, yeah. But it's okay, Harry, really. It doesn't bother me at all."
"It bothers me. I happen to think--no, I know--that you're a brilliant Chaser."
She blushed. "Thanks."
"I mean it. I'm not saying that just 'cause I'm married to you, I'm saying it 'cause it's true."
"Well," she said, her eyes sparkling, "I do know my way around a broomstick."
He laughed. "Yes, you do." His smile faded, but he didn't break away from her gaze. "I'm sorry I made such a cock-up of things. Today was supposed to be your big day, and I - I'm really sorry. I acted like a complete sod."
Her smile faded as well. "You did act like a sod, Harry."
"I said I'm sorry."
"I'd been looking forward to today for weeks," she continued, as though he hadn't said anything. "Did you see me play at all?"
"A little bit at the beginning, maybe about ten or fifteen minutes."
"So you didn't even see me make my first goal." He hung his head in shame. "Bloody hell, Harry, what am I to do with you?" Hearing the tremor in her voice, he couldn't bring himself to look at her. "How could you do something so stupid?"
"I said --"
"Something so stupid, and so... so... so adorable at the same time?"
He looked up. "Huh?"
Her eyes were swimming with unshed tears, but the look on her face was one of love, not anger. "Harry, I swear, you're the only man in the world who's a match for Ron when it comes to doing the wrong thing for the right reasons."
"Er... thanks? I think?" He peered at her, not quite sure what to make of the situation. "So... you're not angry at me?"
"Oh, no, I'm angry all right. I was really counting on you to be there to support me --"
"I was --"
"-- not to go beating up anyone who gets shirty about me."
"Well, they oughtn't've been saying those things."
"No, but you being a brute isn't going to make them stop. Rather, you being you will probably just encourage them. Then they can brag to all their mates down at the pub about how they took the piss out of Harry Potter."
"What'm I supposed to do then, pretend I'm someone else? Take Polyjuice Potion, use Concealment and Disguise Charms?"
She smiled and shook her head. "No, you silly, wonderful dolt. Just... the next time someone has a go at me, ignore it."
"So anytime I hear someone making a crack that you only made the team because you've got great tits or you're shagging me, I should ignore it."
"It's really that simple, Harry. If I can do it, so can you."
"I still think you shouldn't have to put up with it at all."
"In an ideal world, I wouldn't. We don't live in an ideal world."
After a moment's reflection, he slumped back in disillusionment and defeat. "I suppose not. Doesn't mean I have to like it, though. Doesn't mean I'm going to just stand by and not say or do anything whenever some knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing twit slanders my wife."
He grinned at her. "I'll just be sure not to get in trouble for it."
"You'd better not," she said in a tone of mock seriousness. As she leaned in to kiss him, her voice lowered to a husky purr. "Otherwise weekend duty and a temporary ban from the stadium will be the least of your problems."
When he pulled back a few minutes later, his lips tingling, his hands well up under her jumper, he said, "There is one thing I have to give those blokes credit for getting right."
His perspective, already somewhat hazy, lost focus as she gently removed his glasses to nuzzle at his ear. "Yeah? What's that?"
"For noticing that you've got fantastic tits."