Disclaimer: No, I don't own Harry Potter. But the real disclaimer here is this is Harry's advice about sex, not mine.
"Dad, can I ask you something?"
"It's about—er, well . . . it's about witches."
Harry paused in the act of flinging sodden leaves into a levitated bin bag, but James was looking anywhere except at him. It was the first weekend of summer holiday, and Ginny was on a cleaning streak. Al and Lily were helping her clear out the attic while he and James were cleaning the gutters, hovering on broomsticks three stories in the air. Harry directed his glob of leaves into the bag with his wand and considered how to respond. James filled in the silence.
"This would be a lot faster if we could use Scourgify. Or Evanesco, or—"
"I know, but your grandmother wants compost for her vegetable garden." If there was anything Harry had learned in a lifetime of fighting dark magic, it was that ignoring unpleasant things didn't make them go away. He decided to cut to the chase.
"So is this a question about witches or about sex?" Please say witches, please say witches, please say . . . .
James was giving his complete attention to a truly disgusting mass that looked something like a dead squirrel in a rotten bird's nest. "Both, I guess."
Well, if he had to do this, he might as well have some fun with it. Harry put on his impassive Auror face. "I'm not sure how much help I can give you considering the only reason I ever slept with your mother was to conceive a child, and your sister is fourteen." That got him to look up. He was glaring, but at least he was looking at him. "Counting our wedding night, that's a grand total of four—no, five times your mother and I have had sex. You didn't take on the first try." Harry smirked and dodged the stinking mass of muck. He and Ginny kept their private life private, but they were too affectionate with each other for any of their children to buy that line, much as they may have wanted to.
"I'm serious." James Scourgified the mass from where it had splattered on the side of the house. "If you're just going to take the mickey, I'll ask Uncle George."
"Merlin, no, don't do that!"
They turned the corner and began working on the east side of the house. It was cooler here, shaded from the afternoon sun by the house itself.
"I'll do my best to answer you, James. What did you want to ask me?"
They were halfway along before James answered, not with a question, but with a statement. "You and Mum were, er, together before you got married."
Oh, hell. If there was anything he wanted to talk about with his son even less than sex in general, it was sex in specifics. But he had been the one who brought up Ginny, hadn't he? Harry glanced around the empty garden.
"Not a word of this conversation to your mother." James looked horrified. "Or any of your uncles, either." He shook his head.
"It was the day after her seventeenth birthday."
"Really?" The leaves fell back into the gutter with a plop. James had turned seventeen in May.
"Uh-huh. I took her into Muggle London for dinner and a movie, and we spent the night in a hotel."
"What did you tell Gran and Granddad?"
Harry still felt guilty about this part. "I told your granddad I was taking her out, but not when we would be back. Charlie had come home for Ginny's seventeenth, and Ron and Hermione were back from Australia, and it had only been a few months since Fred died. We relied on the chaos of busyness and grief to keep them preoccupied. Neither of your grandparents paid much attention to what went on at the Burrow that summer."
James frowned. He had conjured a pair of gloves and was removing the mess by hand now, slowly. "Mum was gone overnight, and no one noticed? Then why did you have to go away?"
"Oh, they noticed, they just didn't say anything to your grandparents. We went away because your mother has five older brothers, and if they were going to kill me for sleeping with her, I wanted it to be after, not during."
A faint smile flitted across James's face, and they turned the corner again. Harry tied off his bag, lowered it to the ground, and Summoned a new one.
"How did you know? I mean, when you—when you took her to London, did you know you were going to marry her?"
Harry heard the question behind the question. "Did I know I was going to marry her when I decided to sleep with her? I knew I was in love with her. I knew I was never happier than when I was with her. I knew I couldn't imagine not being with her and was dreading September first. But I wasn't thinking about marriage, not then. I was still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that I had survived, and I could choose what to do with my life."
James guided his own full bag down to the ground but didn't replace it. He just sat there, hovering on his broomstick and picking paint off the gutter.
"So how did you know you wanted to sleep with her?"
Harry raised his eyebrows and James flushed.
"I don't mean that, I know I want her like that, I'm just—it's not—it's complicated."
"Well, now you're out of luck. I don't know anything about living a complicated life."
James scowled at him, then returned to picking paint. "What about Uncle Ron?"
"What about him?" They obviously weren't going to be cleaning any more gutters for a while, and broomsticks were not all that comfortable for chatting. Harry cast a muffling spell on the roof and stepped up.
James looked rather longingly at the ground below, then joined him. "Did he ever give you a hard time about Mum?"
Harry laughed. "Ron still gives me a hard time about your mother."
"But did he ever, I don't know, say you couldn't go out with her?"
"James, you've met your mother. What do you think?"
He gave an unrestrained grin for the first time. "I think she would've Bat Bogey'd him if he'd even suggested it." The grin faded all too quickly. "But just say that he did, what would you have done?"
"I spent nearly my entire sixth year pondering that very question. I think the answer's obvious."
James did not seem reassured.
"Look, the only time Ron—or any of your uncles—got in my face about Ginny was when I was being an arse. The summer we broke up, the first few weeks after she joined the Harpies, shortly after Al was born, to name a few. In short, as long as Ginny's happy, they're happy."
Merlin, it was hot up here. Harry Summoned milk, glasses, forks, and last night's dessert. James took a drink and a fork but still didn't say anything.
"James, what's really bothering you?"
"There's this girl . . . ."
Harry rolled his eyes. Thankfully, James was digging into the apple crumble and didn't notice.
"And I like her, I really do," he swallowed and scooped up another bite, "but I'm not sure I like her enough for sex. And—" he paused for a minimal amount of chewing—"she and I are friends, and—and her brother and I are friends—" if he had said the boy's name, maybe Harry would know who it was—"and I don't want to ruin any of that, you know?"
Harry scooped up his own bite of crumble. "What does she have to say about it?"
"Ce—she? I—I don't know." James stuffed another bite in his mouth, probably to keep himself from revealing anything else, but Harry had a sneaking suspicion who "this girl" was. He took a drink of milk.
"Well, I can tell you this—if the two of you can't talk about sex, you're not ready to have it."
James frowned, and Harry choked back a laugh. His son might be confused, but he did not like the idea of abstinence.
"What do you mean?"
"Even more than what I think, it matters what this girl thinks. The two of you need to talk about what you're comfortable with, physically. It doesn't have to be all or nothing."
"You mean like—no, no, no!" James sat bolt upright, grasped his head with both hands, and shook it vigorously. "No, do not tell me that you and Mum—" He shuddered, and Harry couldn't help it. He laughed. Hard.
"It's not funny," James said, his hands over his eyes now. "I can't get that picture out of my head!"
Harry had difficulty composing himself to speak. "Like I love the image of you and little Cecilia Longbottom."
James dropped his hands and his mouth fell open. Harry tapped his left upper arm where his Auror tattoo was hidden by his sleeve.
James looked resigned. "She's not that little."
Harry considered whether he was going too far and decided he was having too much fun to stop now. "She's, what, two years older than Lily?"
"Dad, eww!" James made a reflexive backwards movement and nearly fell off the roof.
Harry just laughed, and the dirty look his son gave him as he rolled back to safety only made it funnier.
"Mum and Lily, that's just—that's just wrong." James used his fork to loosen crumble from the edges of the pan.
"That's probably how Frank feels."
James licked his fork and sighed. "Yeah, I reckon. Maybe we could lock Lily up, homeschool her for the last couple of years. That way nobody could corrupt her."
"Like you're thinking of corrupting CeCe?"
James turned red but didn't argue. "So, how did you get rid of Uncle Ron?"
Harry's grin widened. "That's easy. I dangled your aunt Hermione in front of him."
"Bloody hell, Dad!"
a/n: This was a plot bunny that hopped into my brain with the line "Counting our wedding night, that's a grand total of four—no, five times your mother and I have had sex." Said plot bunny also kept trying to put Harry and James under the hood of a car, which obviously wouldn't do, so I wracked my brains to come up with some type of wizarding man-chore, which is how they ended up cleaning gutters on broomsticks. Thanks to vancabreuniter for the beta, and especially for insisting James was too good-looking to scowl all the time :)