Harry was distracted as he made his way through the Ministry of Magic to the apparation point. He was anxious to get home and check on Ginny; so anxious that he had skived off work an hour early just to see her. He was worried about her. She had been a bit off the last few days, ever since that blasted article showed up in The Daily Prophet.
Merlin knew it took a special witch to deal with everything that accompanied being married to Harry Potter. It wasn't conceit or ego that made Harry think so. It was just a fact of life. The Potters were subjected to an unseemly lack of privacy. Even the smallest detail of their lives was fodder for the press and when the paparazzi's stalking didn't turn up anything interesting, they were happy to make things up, the more scandalous the better. Fortunately for Harry, his witch was more than up to the challenge.
Over the years, Ginny had learned to handle the press with great aplomb. Aside from an occasional bat-bogey hex, she rarely let her frustration show and had developed her own unique way of dealing with things. She kept every bit of news about her and Harry in a scrapbook, actually several scrapbooks by now. Everything went in the scrapbook, from the articles that insinuated that she was a gold-digging, scarlet woman that had duped Harry into marriage, to the reports of her and Harry having torrid affairs with everyone from all the members of the Weird Sisters to any Quidditch player under the age of fifty.
Ginny once explained to him that the process of cutting the article out of the paper the muggle way, sticking it on a page and then closing the book was her way of putting the rubbish behind her. That's why Harry was concerned that the editorial questioning her loyalty to England and her commitment to witches' rights that appeared after she declined an invitation to train with England's World Cup team had hit a little too close to home. It was three days old and had still been sitting intact on the kitchen counter when he left for work this morning. Clearly something in the article was nagging at Ginny.
It had come as no surprise to Harry, or anyone with any Quidditch savvy, that Ginny had been called up to the National Team despite her absence from Quidditch this season due to the birth of James Sirius Potter, now two months old. Ginny had worked out religiously right up until James was born and had picked back up shortly after. The World Cup was still six months away, so fitness would not be an issue and Ginny's value to the team was irrefutable. She was a proven goal scorer at both the league and international levels. Despite England's loss in the quarterfinals, she'd been awarded the Silver Quaffle as the second-highest scorer in the last World Cup. Equally impressive was her ability to read the game quickly and help her team adjust tactics during a match. It was like having a coach in the air at all times which was invaluable in such a fast-paced game. Once the players took flight, the coaches on the ground could not easily make changes in response to their opponent's maneuvers. Having someone like Ginny who could guide the team during a match was a tremendous asset.
When Gwenog Jones was named National Team coach, it was a given that Ginny would receive an official invitation to camp. Ginny met with the coaching staff out of respect for her former coach and captain, although Gwenog of all people was well aware of Ginny's decision to retire from Quidditch after James was born. She was involved in the negotiations when Ginny elected not to renew her contract with the Holyhead Harpies and, as an on-again, off-again flame of Charlie's, she had sat around the table at the Burrow where Ginny's retirement had been discussed ad nauseum amongst the brothers Weasley.
Ginny had thanked the staff for the invitation and let them know that she was honored before she politely declined. Had it been any other player, the news would have rated modest coverage in the Quidditch section, but since it was Ginny Potter, wife of Harry Potter, it was front-page news and earned a scathing editorial from none other than Romilda Vane. Why Romilda Vane was writing about Quidditch was anyone's guess, as what she knew about Quidditch would barely fill a thimble. Harry suspected she did it just to needle Ginny.
Harry arrived at the apparation point, and in the blink of an eye he found himself on the pathway leading to their home in Godric's Hollow. He couldn't keep from smiling as he admired the fieldstone house with the slate roof. They had only been in it for a few months, but it was already starting to get that warm and inviting feel that he equated with the Burrow.
These last few months with Ginny, and now James, in their new home were the happiest he could remember. He loved having Ginny home all the time, but her pensive mood over the last few days had him worried that she was having second thoughts about giving up Quidditch. The idea of being away from her and James for the better part of six months while she trained with the World Cup team almost made him physically ill, but if she really wanted to play, he knew what he had to do.
He entered the house through the side door that led to the kitchen. He was a bit surprised to find the house dark save the late afternoon sunlight peeking through the windows.
The kitchen was empty and there was no sign of Ginny or James anywhere. As he removed his bag from his shoulder and made to set it on the kitchen table, he noticed the absence of The Daily Prophet and the dreaded article. That gave Harry an idea as to where he might find his wife.
He quickly made his way through the darkened house to the small room off the library that Ginny had taken to calling the Hardware Room. Harry was nearly blinded when he turned the corner and entered the room as the setting sun reflected off the multitude of silver and gold awards (or hardware as Ginny liked to call it) that the two of them had collected over the years and which now filled the shelves along with a host of family pictures in metallic frames. His Order of Merlin and Special Service to the School Awards were displayed alongside Ginny's Silver Quaffle, Rookie of the Year Award and two League MVP Trophies. It was an impressive collection, but one that only he and Ginny shared, as this was not a part of the house where they entertained guests.
As expected, he found Ginny there. She was stretched out along the window seat that overlooked the Quidditch pitch, sound asleep. One arm was wrapped around James who was snuggled up and asleep on her chest, the other clutched what looked to be a photo from their wedding in a silver frame to her side.
Harry stood silently and watched Ginny for a moment. The light was dancing through the highlights in her hair. It almost looked like it was on fire. She had a look of absolute peace and contentment on her face. Merlin, she was gorgeous.
He crossed the room to his family and almost tripped over Ginny's muggle shears that were situated on top of a closed scrapbook bursting with newspaper articles.
He bent down at the window seat and ran a hand through James' messy auburn locks, then brushed back some hair that had fallen across Ginny's face and kissed her forehead. She gingerly opened one eye and then the other.
"Hi," she said softly.
"Hi," he said as he peeled James off her chest and helped pull her up so he could sit beside her. James stretched for a moment and then burrowed deep into his father's chest without waking.
"I've been thinking," Harry said as he put his arm around her and brought her in close. "If you really want to play again, I think you should."
"No," he interrupted. "I can't be away from you again or from James, but I could take a leave of absence from work. I could take care of James while you train and we could all be together."
"You can't be away from work for six or seven months. You're a team leader now and…"
He shrugged. "I think I could."
"You'd play the Harry Potter card?" she asked. "You'd play the Harry Potter card to be my manny while I play Quidditch?"
"But you hate playing the Harry Potter card."
"But I would, if it makes you happy."
"Always so noble, Harry," Ginny said while reaching out and caressing his cheek. "I won't lie and say there isn't a tiny part of me that would like nothing more than to prove to the world that a mum can light up the sky at the World Cup just as well as a bloke or a single witch."
"Well, then I'll talk to Kingsley…"
"I said a tiny part of me," Ginny interrupted. "I'm happy Harry, ecstatically, deliriously happy here with you and James. I won't give that up for Quidditch or England or even witches' rights."
"Absolutely," she said emphatically. "And next time you are in trouble with me for doing something completely and utterly prattish, remind me of this moment and I'll let you off the hook, no questions asked."
"Fair enough." He sighed with relief and gestured to the scrapbook on the floor. "Looks like you'll be needing a new scrapbook soon."
"Actually, James and I picked one up while we were in London this afternoon."
"You were in London today?"
"It took a bit more than the scrapbook to put this one behind me, I'm afraid. We hand-delivered my response to the editorial to The Prophet."
"What did you say?"
"I just reminded Romilda and her ilk that the Potters and Weasleys have sacrificed more than our fair share for England and wizard kind. I also reminded them that equal rights for witches is about having choices, not having someone else's choice forced upon you. I made my choice and I'm delighted with it."
"The editor thought so. We have an appointment next week to talk about my working as a correspondent during the World Cup."
"Brilliant!" Harry said again. "And what of Romilda?"
"What do you mean?" Ginny asked feigning innocence.
"Don't play coy with me Ginny Potter," Harry said. "I know my witch and there is no way that bloody Romilda Vane takes a nasty shot like that and lives to tell about it."
"All right." She tried to sound defeated but the growing grin gave her away. "James and I may have paid George a visit on our way to The Prophet."
"Corrupting the next generation already, I see. And?"
"And, we may have arranged a special delivery to Romilda of one of George's latest creations."
"The Pie Assassin."
"It's a clever piece of magic really. Same concept as the Howler, but instead of screaming at the recipient, it conjures a cream pie and delivers it right to their kisser."
"Brilliant," Harry said. "I wish I could be there when it's delivered."
"I expect there will be pictures."
"Because I'm having it delivered to her at the Annual Correspondents' Dinner at the Wizengamot this evening."
"Witch!" Harry howled with laughter.
"And proud of it, Potter."