Author's Note: Sorry for the long delay, everyone! Here's the next installment.
A Chat Between Two Old Friends
"Ginny?" Hermione Weasley called warily from just inside the door. "We need to talk." Her voice carried up the stairs, alerted the portrait in the front hall (who promptly started screaming) and nearly woke little James Sirius Potter.
Ginny, having just laid him down for a nap, was understandably irritated. She frowned, and hurried noiselessly from the room. The solid wood floor felt cold under her stockinged feet, and, not for the first time, she wished they had a good carpet upstairs.
Ginny silenced Mrs. Black's portrait with a vicious slash of her wand, grabbed Hermione's arm, and dragged her down to the kitchen—the most friendly room in the entire house, in her opinion. Reflexively, Ginny began preparations for tea with another swipe of her wand, and slumped into a chair drawn a little way away from the table, stretching one leg to dangle over the armrest. She crossed her arms, looked at Hermione, and waited. If Hermione planned to critique her housekeeping, that was just too bad, Ginny thought angrily. Just because she was such a perfectionist…of course, Harry was the same way, which was why everything remained so spic and span.
It was Sunday, Ginny's one day off from Quidditch practice. She was spending it with James, and if Harry had any sense of what was due to his family (other than financial support, cooking, and cleaning) he would be there with them, instead of at the office, tracking some new villain selling dangerous combination potions (like Twenty-Four-Hour Kiss, a mix of lowered inhibitions and short-term memory loss) in Knockturn Alley. Couldn't he possibly coordinate bad-guy-catching with her practices, so there would be one day a week the two of them could spend with their infant son, together, as a family? Sometimes Harry could be so inconsiderate of others.
"What?" Ginny asked finally, tired of Hermione's fixed, thoughtful regard.
Hermione blinked. "Like I told you, we need to talk. You and Harry—"
"I don't see how my relationship with my husband is any of your concern," Ginny snapped peevishly.
"Just hear me out, okay?" Hermione insisted. She sat perched on the very edge of a chair directly across from Ginny's. "When have I ever given you bad advice about your relationship with Harry before?"
There was a small silence as both women thought back to Hermione's advice to "open up a bit around Harry. Be yourself more," in the early stages of Ginny's crush; "he's only doing this because he cares about you. Also, you know you can't come with us while you still have the Trace," during the summer after Ginny's fifth year, when Harry had broken up with her "for her own good"; and, of course, "he loves you so much—he's really hurting. Just talk to him," after the Battle of Hogwarts, when Harry had abandoned Ginny for a year to fight the forces of darkness. Not to mention the more light-hearted marital advice that was like a constant stream of commentary these days. A person might think, Ginny reflected bitterly, that Hermione and Ron's relationship was picture-perfect, to hear the former talk. Unless, of course, they spent a half-an-hour in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Ron Weasley.
"Go ahead," Ginny sighed. Another Hermione lecture. This was not how she'd imagined her Sunday.
Hermione, secure in the knowledge of an at least semi-captive audience, launched in immediately. "You see, Ginny, you and Harry really need to talk about who is going to be doing what to raise James. It's fine if you want one person to be the primary caregiver while the other is responsible for the finances, or if you want the work divided up more equally. The important thing is for the two of you to agree on something. Now, ever since you went back to the Harpies, and even before that, sometimes, I've noticed a definite increase in how much stress Harry seems to be under. Personally, I think he's doing too much—working for the greater good of the Wizarding world of course, and also arranging baby-sitters for James, and being a good godfather to Teddy, and in general trying to make the world a better place. You know, he actually talks civilly with Draco Malfoy when they meet at Mrs. Tonks's." Hermione looked quite awed. "The things Harry's willing to do for peace…"
"So, what are you saying?" Ginny began, but at that moment the tea kettle whistled, and she got up to see to that. She could have done it from where she sat, but things like Levitation Charms were much easier if you could see the object you were levitating. Otherwise, she might end up breaking the tea set, which would be a pity.
"I'm saying," Hermione called from the table, "that maybe you should cut back on your practice time, so you can be here for Harry and James, instead of thinking about yourself all the time. I know Harry could really use your help."
Ginny counted to ten in her head, but in spite of her efforts, the tea tray was starting to shake in her hands. The torches flickered, and the cupboard doors swung open and shut. Ginny breathed deeply, trying to calm down. She really had no idea why she resented her friend's words so much. After all, wasn't she living the life she'd always dreamed of? And Harry probably didn't actually think she was being selfish to want a career of her own—Hermione didn't always clear her assumptions with everyone involved, and besides, Harry always believed the best of people.
Gradually, Ginny's immediate environment calmed down. She took the tea in to Hermione, set it down, and poured with shaking hands.
"So," she said at length, in a normal voice, "What else is new? Apart from my selfish desire to have a life of my own—pass any interesting legislation lately?"
"Well, I am working on a new House-Elf Liberation Act—" Hermione began enthusiastically. Then she paused. "Are you all right, Ginny?"
"Me?" Ginny asked innocently. "I'm fine. Don't worry about me, Hermione. Just go on saving the world, one house-elf at a time."
Hermione gave her a strange look, sipped her tea and changed the subject again. "So, apparently Neville's seeing someone—Hannah Abbott."
"Really?" Ginny asked, interested. She was glad for Neville, she told herself. After all he'd been through—he was so brave, leading Dumbledore's Army into battle against the Carrows and Snape, who, whatever Harry said, had certainly seemed evil enough that year...And, of course, Neville had slain You-Know-Who's snake, after bravely standing up to him…Frankly, Ginny would never have recognized him as the same boy who'd taken her to the Yule Ball and stepped on her feet. Neville Longbottom truly was a hero. In fact, Ginny wasn't sure Hannah Abbott, a Hufflepuff a year above herself, was good enough for him.
"Really," Hermione corroborated, and launched into a detailed description of how they'd found each other again after school, their first date, and, of course, how they were so exactly suited to each other in every way and would be desperately happy together for many years to come. Ginny resisted the urge to snort in disbelief. The truth was, Hermione was a closet romantic.
"And," Hermione continued, once she'd discussed the probable names of Neville and Hannah's children—for some reason 'Daisy Alice Longbottom' was top of the list—"guess who else is dating again?"
"Lavender?" Ginny hazarded. Last she'd heard, Lavender Brown had started dating Anthony Goldstein after her tragic break-up with Seamus Finnigan, who'd been two-timing her with Daphne Greengrass.
"No," Hermione replied, frowning a bit, as she always did when Lavender's name was mentioned. She hadn't forgiven her dormmate for dating Ron for most of Ginny's fifth year. "No—Luna!"
"What? When did she tell you this?" Ginny demanded. She wasn't surprised, just a little jealous that Luna had told Hermione before her.
Hermione shrugged. "I came by the other day while she was babysitting James. Apparently, his name's Rolf Scamander, grandson of the famous Newt Scamander—the one who wrote Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them. She says he's interested in rare and presumably mythical creatures too, so of course they've got a lot in common. Plus, he's apparently very sensitive to Nerremirh Vibrations, whatever those are; he's only nineteen, which is a year younger than her; he has blue eyes and an adorable dimple in his left cheek. It didn't sound like they've kissed yet."
"Wow," was all Ginny could find to say to this.
"I know," agreed Hermione. She sighed. "Isn't it just so romantic? They care about the same things, and you can just see them going off to look for ridiculous creatures like Crumple-Horned Snorkacks together and having one or two kids who'll grow up with the Potter-Weasley clan…I'm sure we'll all like Rolf tremendously."
"Yeah," agreed Ginny, privately vowing to meet this paragon of Luna's (and discover what Nurremirh Vibrations were) before Hermione got the chance. "Great."
Hermione stayed for only a few more minutes (as always, she had to rush off somewhere. It really was lucky, Ginny thought, that she and Ron had their own library in the little cottage in Ottery St. Catchpoole. Hermione needed books the way most people needed oxygen).
Ginny tried to relax after she'd gone, but somehow it seemed harder than usual. She felt annoyed, even angry—and annoyed with herself for being annoyed when Hermione was only trying to help. It was just—Ginny was tired of accepting help. Tired of people offering it, too. It was one thing if you asked, but the way people assumed she needed assistance in every little thing…Ginny couldn't decide if it was because she was the youngest of seven children, or that thing with Tom Riddle controlling her for most of her first year, or the fact that she was Mrs. Harry Potter—Mrs. Chosen One, Mrs. Boy Who Lived, Died, and Lived Again. Or did something about her, herself, scream, "helpless victim of circumstance, damsel in distress crying out for help and assistance"?
Was she an idiot to be this bothered?