The Holyhead Harpies’ locker room was empty except for one exhausted red-headed witch. Ginny Potter exhaled audibly as she bowed her head once more under the stream of hot water from the showerhead. Rubbing her hands over her face, she smiled as she recalled seeing her brother’s face in the stands cheering her on. As long as they were not playing against his beloved Chudley Cannons, Ron was the Harpies’ biggest fan (though he would never admit it), and she loved him for it. Thinking of the youngest Weasley brother naturally led her train of thought to Hermione Granger, her sister-in-law-to-be. Ever the intellectual, the bushy-haired witch sometimes wondered aloud if the wizarding world’s obsession with Quidditch was unhealthy. Today was probably the first time Ginny could ever remember admitting to herself that she just might agree with her friend on that topic.
She would not have minded in the least if this afternoon’s match had been called off, but nothing short of a natural disaster could cancel a professional Quidditch match. This one had been particularly brutal – not because of the Beaters’ skill with the Bludgers, but because of the weather conditions. The rain had been coming down steadily since an hour before the balls were released and was as cold as rain could be without turning to sleet. The worst of it began fifteen minutes into the match when the wind began swirling about the pitch, ensuring that all the players were soaked and chilled to the bone. So Ginny remained in the shower, long after the rest of the team had left, preferring the steam to another dose of Pepper-Up Potion.
As she finished washing her hair her thoughts inevitably strayed to the love of her life, Harry Potter. Ginny had not seen him in almost two weeks because of his latest Auror mission and she was trying her best not to worry. Before leaving, he had estimated returning either yesterday or today, but his guesses were usually fairly conservative and she was disappointed that he had not returned early enough to attend the match. At worst she hoped that he would return within the next three or four days – and not just to soothe her concerns for his safety. Valentine’s Day was a week away and she did not fancy having to cancel all of the preparations she had made for the holiday. The last time they had spent any significant time together without one of their careers getting in the way had been Christmas, and their lack of time as a couple since that joyful holiday frustrated her to no end.
Satisfied that her body had finally thawed enough to get dressed, Ginny shut off the water and grabbed one towel to wrap around her torso and another with which to dry herself. Glancing at the clock on the wall, she decided to hasten the process by casting a drying charm on her hair when Charlotte Perkins, the team nurse, entered the deserted dressing area.
“Hullo, Ginny. Need any more Pepper-up Potion?”
“Thanks, Charlotte, but I’m fine now. Are you all done fixing up Gwenog, then?”
“Yes. I’ve just come back to grab my things before heading home. Just between you and me, I’m hoping that one of these days she’ll listen to reason and retire.”
“But, she’s not even thirty-five yet.”
“Technically, that’s true. But she’s accumulated more than her fair share of injuries. She spends hours in the locker room with me before each match to prepare her body for the punishment it’s about to endure. Considering how much Skele-Gro she’s had to take over the years, her post-Quidditch life could be quite painful.”
Ginny nodded knowingly, although her lingering injuries were few in comparison. She began thinking about her own life after Quidditch and quickly realized that she had hardly ever thought about it before. She knew that someday she wanted to start a family, but other than that she had no idea what else her life would entail. She could just imagine Hermione scolding her for not thinking ahead and rolled her eyes at the imaginary lecture.
Charlotte gave a quick wave goodbye before heading out the door and left Ginny to return to the chore of getting dry. A few seconds after the door closed, Ginny heard an unexpected voice behind her – and it was definitely not Charlotte’s.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen you more beaut–”
In one swift motion Ginny dove to her right and grabbed her wand from her rucksack. As she landed on her already sore shoulder she aimed her wand at the source of the voice and fired her infamous Bat-Bogey hex. Sliding into a row of lockers, she watched the yellow-green streak from her spell dissipate around a shimmering white aura that was protecting her husband’s disembodied head.
“Same old Ginny… hex first and ask questions later. Excellent aim, as always, though…” he said as he approached her.
“Harry?” she said, as she propped herself up on one arm.
“You were expecting someone else?”
“I wasn’t expecting anyone, you bloody berk – least of all you! How could you just surprise me like that? I haven’t even had a chance to dr—”
“You are my wife. Aren’t I allowed to–”
“That’s not the point and you know it. Now take off the rest of the Invisibility Cloak so I can–”
But whatever she wanted to do was lost in the most wonderful kiss she had received in several weeks. His lips were rough from exposure to the elements and his scent was a mixture of smoke and fauna, as if he had been living outside for days, but the whole experience was still unmistakably Harry. She could not help but close her eyes and immerse her senses in the moment, capturing the memory for one of those future lonely nights without him.
He shifted his weight slightly, rousing her from her reverie. Reluctantly, she broke the kiss and did not even try to hide the goofy smile on her face.
“You haven’t been doing that enough lately, Mr. Potter,” she said.
“I can remedy that, Mrs. Potter…” he said as he leaned in for another kiss, but she pulled away.
“Wait,” she said. Harry recoiled slightly as Ginny’s expression suddenly bore an eerie resemblance to her mother.
“Where have you been?” she continued. “I thought you were going to be back yesterday morning.”
“I said I hoped to be back by yesterday, but–” Harry stopped short when he realized what he was about to say.
Ginny should have known better than to expect her husband to actually finish his sentence, but tried leading him to do so anyway. “But what?”
“Sorry, Love. You know I can’t talk about my cases.”
Ginny scowled in frustration. “I hate it when you do that.” She proceeded to pick herself up from the floor and moved back towards her locker.
“Where are you going?”
“I’ve got to get dressed and attend the post-match press conference.”
“I thought you hated those things.”
“I do, but Gwenog’s already yelled at me once for skiving off one of them this season.”
Harry got up and wrapped his arms around his wife’s waist. “I’ve been gone for two weeks. Surely Gwenog would understand the need for some…family time.” He gave her a loving kiss on the lips and proceeded to trail more kisses slowly and deliberately down her neck.
Ginny was not sure how she did it, but she found the will to push him away again. “Harry, I’m already late and the press conference is out by the far end of the pitch.”
“You do realize it’s still freezing outside… and it’s warm in here,” he said as he ran his fingers up her bare arm, “with me…”
Ginny could feel the goose pimples on her skin and she barely suppressed a shudder. It was not often that Harry could so easily manipulate her towards his will… which made her wonder if it was really his will she was resisting.
“...besides, your teammates are quite adept at talking to the reporters. And while they’re out there no one will bother us in here.”
Ginny stifled a giggle at his persistence but stayed strong.
“You know, it wouldn’t hurt for you to make an appearance at my side when I deal with those reporters.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, somebody was spreading rumors in the Daily Prophet about our marriage already being on the rocks.”
“Was this ‘somebody’ Romilda Vane?”
Ginny nodded knowingly before she responded. “Well, you have to admit, we haven’t spent much time together in weeks – especially not in public. I don’t think she’s ever got over losing you to me.”
Harry could not repress the smirk on his lips. “Not that I was ever hers to lose in the first place.”
“Too damn right.”
He kissed her more fully this time and continued his efforts to weaken her resolve. Rekindling their passion for one another had never been a problem. It had always been a question of finding the time and privacy to enjoy it. Several seconds later she was surprised that Harry had stopped their snogging, and was even more surprised to find that Harry’s cloak and shirt had come off. When did that happen? she thought to herself.
“Crumbling marriage, my arse,” he said in a voice like a low growl.
This time she did giggle. “I really do have to go, dear. I promise it won’t take long, and afterwards you can have me all to yourself.”
“I have you all to myself right now,” he countered as he put on a mischievous grin. “Whatever happened to that fiery little witch I fell in love with? You know… the one who had the nerve to do anything?”
Ginny’s eyes narrowed at his less than subtle attempt to manipulate her. “What about the boy I fell in love with? The one who wouldn’t be caught dead using such Slytherin methods to get what he wanted?”
Harry’s grin vanished. “Fine. I’ll just be on my way then…”
Realizing that the conversation had taken a wrong turn, Ginny put her arms around his neck and tried to compromise. “Can’t we just pick this up later after dinner at the Burrow?”
“Can’t you be fashionably late to dinner? Doesn’t being the family Quidditch star come with any privileges?”
“Harry, you know how my mum worries…”
“I’m sure the clock will reassure her–”
“Wait – just now, you said ‘you’ not ‘we.’”
“Ah… well, about that… I forgot to mention one little thing. I’ve got a Portkey ready to activate in two hours for my next mission.”
“What? Already?” She could feel her face beginning to flush as her anger began to build. “Valentine’s Day is in a week and you promised–”
“…which is why I volunteered for this particular mission,” Harry interrupted. “It should only take a couple days, maybe four, in a worst case scenario. And that still leaves another two or three days just in case things go horribly wrong. With this mission under my belt, I didn’t have any problems informing Kingsley of my intent to take a two week vacation upon its completion.”
Temporarily mollified, Ginny pondered in silence with a pout on her face. She began to say, “If you ever change your mind about leaving… leaving me behind –”
"Sorry, Gin, but I've never been in the habit of putting you in harm's way. I know that you can take care of yourself… but the thought of possibly losing you when I’m so close to finally fixing this world… You know why it has to be me... Can't we just enjoy this stolen piece of time for what it is?"
She sighed in resignation, but was finding it difficult to come up with an excuse to counter Harry’s latest comments. What is wrong with me? Ginny thought to herself. Most sane women would not be looking for excuses to hold off their husband’s ardor – especially when he’s one of the most desirable wizards in England. She was shaken from her inner debate by Harry’s voice.
“Do you mind if I take a shower before we meet those reporters? It’s been days since I’ve been remotely presentable. Maybe you could help me wash my back?”
Looking up, she saw that Harry was already halfway to the shower and had Transfigured his trousers into a towel. The rest of his clothes formed a messy pile next to her rucksack.
Now he’s just fighting dirty. How can I resist an opportunity like that?
“I don’t know,” she teased. “I’ve already had my shower and my fingers still look like prunes.”
“It’s not your fingers I’ll be concerned with.”
At last, Ginny conceded to the twinkle in his eye and began to draw nearer to him. Her mother had always warned her, “There’s nothing more dangerous than a boy with charm.” And at that moment, there was nothing more appealing than losing herself in his affection… and his touch… and his desire.
“Well, I suppose I could tell the team later that I fell asleep.”
“In here? On one of the benches?”
“All right then…how about ‘I needed to massage some aches out of my legs.’”
A wolfish smile appeared on Harry’s lips. “I suppose I can help you make that a partial truth.”
When she reached him, he gathered her into his arms and into a long kiss, which was followed by several more... and much caressing. Despite the limited time they had together, they took their time, determined to draw out every moment. It was a slow-burning heat, but no less intense than their first experiments with intimacy years ago. It was a passion born of patience, from a love born of trust. When they finally found themselves together under a hot stream of water, all thoughts of the missed press conference were gone from Ginny's mind. The only thing that mattered was Harry and wishing he did not have to go.
“You know…Hermione’s going to figure out why I’m late when I finally arrive for dinner tonight.”
“Yeah, doesn’t miss much, that one.”
Ginny wrapped her arms around her husband’s waist and pressed her head against his chest. She closed her eyes and secured another memory for his impending absence – one filled with the warmth of his body against her own and the safety she felt in his arms.
“As much as I love spending time at the Burrow, being with them is not the same without you there.”
“I’m so sorry, Gin. I never thought I would still be away from you so much.”
She rubbed her cheek against his chest as she said, “Don’t apologize, Love. When we got married, I didn’t promise to be yours only during the good times.”
They turned their heads to face each other and Ginny could not tell if his eyes were wet from the shower or from her words.
“I don’t think I’ll ever figure out what I did to deserve you… I love you… even when I can’t be here to show you.”
“I know. And I’ve always loved you… but for now, just be here and love me… today.”
Two hours later, Ginny was staring outside the window of the Burrow’s sitting room, her thoughts a mixture of sadness and of ecstasy. She did not notice that Ron had come up behind her or that his eyes were unsteady with concern.
“Everything all right, Ginny?”
She turned to face her brother and half-forced a smile for his benefit.
“Yeah… fine… everything’s fine.”
“Hell of a match today… I still don’t know how you did it.”
“Play in that weather, of course! The lot of us in the stands made do with some warming charms, but you… you must have been freezing!”
Ginny turned back to the window with a slight smirk on her face. “Was it cold? I hadn’t noticed.”