Ginny paced the lobby of the Wizarding Wireless Network headquarters, occasionally stopping to look at the portraits of the on-air talent. Celestina Warbeck, in the manner of a true diva, blew kisses and bowed with a sheaf of red roses in her hand. Zacharias Smith, who proudly billed himself the bully of WWN on his political chat show, repeatedly stabbed his finger at the viewer. The first time she noticed the portrait, Ginny had made a rude gesture back. Now she was tired of looking at his hateful sneer. With growing impatience, she turned to Lee Jordan’s portrait. “Do you know why I’m here?”
“To get to the other side?” he answered with a cheeky grin.
“You’re no help at all,” she grumbled. “I’m a journalist and I don’t know if I’m conducting an interview or giving one.”
“Got to be flexible if you’re going on the wireless,” Lee said. Then his portrait consulted a piece of paper. “No. That’s not right. It’s ‘you need to be prepared to be on the wireless.’ Yeah. That’s it. Prepared.”
Ginny groaned and reached into her robes for her Tweeter Twig. She would, as delicately as possible, ask Allie, her editor at Quidditch Illustrated, for more information. The fact that WWN, September 25 at 10 AM was in her appointment diary showed that she did have business here. But what business? Merlin, she was losing her memory — or her mind — or both.
Then she looked at the slim balsa wood contraption in her hand. Damn. She had picked up James’s Tweeter Twig by mistake.
She looked at it with distaste. A Tweeter splinter more like, it was so thin and light. And she had no idea how to activate it since this new generation of Twigs was so different from hers.
“Try ‘Flipendo’,” Lee suggested. “The new ones don’t use Latin spells.”
“Why? If Latin was good enough for a thousand years then—” She stopped when she realized she sounded exactly like her mother. “Oh, what difference does it make? I suppose they think they’re edgy or something.” Ginny sighed and half-heartedly gave it a go. “Flipendo.”
A blinding light flashed into her eyes and she almost dropped the Twig. A small slip of paper blossomed from the top of the Twig. It was a photo of one startled eye and part of her nose.
“Harry?” Ginny blinked and turned around. “What are you doing here?”
“I dunno. It was in my diary.”
“You checked your diary?”
He smiled. “No. Sherry reminded me.”
“What would you do without Sherry?” Ginny asked absently. Now that Harry was here, the mystery behind the appointment was even murkier. This didn’t have to do with Quidditch—
“Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Potter, come in!” A vaguely familiar looking wizard with golden hair, an orangey tan and dazzling white teeth stood in the doorway. “We’re just setting up in here.”
They exchanged mystified glances. “Sorry, but I don’t believe we’ve met?” Harry said.
“Roy Lockhart,” Lee Jordan’s portrait informed them before the smiling wizard could answer. “He’s Gilderoy Lockhart’s long-lost nephew from Canada, land of game show hosts.”
“Game show hosts?” Harry said.
Ginny could feel the blood drain from her face. “We’re here to be contestants on a game show?”
“Right you are,” Roy said. “But not just any game show and not just any episode. It’s our annual Charity Newlywed Match. The winning couple will have 10,000 Galleons donated to their favourite charity.”
“But we’re not newlyweds.”
“And we didn’t sign up—”
“We at The Newlywed Match were thrilled when your children nominated you in the not-so-newlywed category. We’re certainly going to get a lot of listeners.”
“James,” Harry muttered under his breath.
“Lily,” Ginny muttered under her breath.
Then they looked at each other as they realized who the real culprit was. “Al,” they said together. He was the most civically minded of their three. And cousin Rose had probably egged him on.
“Are Hermione and Ron here yet?” Ginny asked resignedly.
“Sorry? Hermione and Ron?” Roy Lockhart said with a puzzled frown. At least Ginny thought he was trying to frown but his forehead seemed frozen in place. “You opponents are the Malfoys. Draco and Astoria.” He smiled in triumph as if he had just pulled a rabbit from a hat. “I believe you know them?”
Harry sat on a high stool with a Cone of Silence all around him. He could see Ginny and Astoria sitting side-by-side as a quill raced across squares of cardboard recording their answers. In a few minutes he would be released from the Cone of Silence and would be given the same questions they had asked Ginny. Based on how well their answers matched, they would earn points. He shifted on the stool and tried to ignore that cotton-wool-in-his-ears feeling from the Cone by looking around the game show set. The ‘studio audience’ really wasn’t an audience but a gallery full of disembodied white-gloved hands and red mouths.
Astoria must have said something clever — or stupid — because the white gloves started clapping and the red mouths opened wide in laughter. Without sound it looked extra creepy.
Then he noticed Draco watching Astoria attentively — like he was trying to lip read or perform Legilimency or something. While Harry wanted to win, he really didn’t trust his ability to lip-read and he certainly couldn’t claim to read Ginny’s mind. Two decades married and she could still surprise him. But based on how her face was set, with her lips barely moving over her clenched teeth when she spoke, he knew she was hating those intrusive questions as he was going to hate them. Harry wondered suddenly how many laughing mouths Ginny could take out with one incantation.
In his peripheral vision, Draco crooked two fingers toward Astoria. Was that some sort of signal? Harry wondered. Had they been practicing for this?
His mouth tasted sour. It was bad enough they had to hold their marriage up for public scrutiny, but now it occurred to him that they could lose — and to Draco Malfoy of all people. Uh. This must be what every Chudley Cannons player felt mid-way through a match — surrendering points as they surrendered their dignity.
Ginny thought that she would rather sit through a Chudley Cannons match — no, she would rather play and lose for the Cannons — than endure this ridiculous airing of dirty laundry, sly sexual innuendo, and inane banter. Luckily the ‘audience at home’ couldn’t see her face, but her scorn probably was coming out in her answers.
She looked over at Harry in the Cone of Silence. He was looking around and fidgeting, not really focused on her. For that she was grateful. Draco had been mouthing answers and doing weird hand signals for the past five minutes. At one point she had thought he was giving Astoria directions for the Porskoff Ploy, but then she remembered that this wasn’t a Quidditch match, but her new nightmare, The Newlywed Match.
“Now back to you, Mrs. Potter!”
Ginny jerked her attention back to Roy Lockhart.
“We’ve come to our last set of three questions for this round. Question one: which of the following sweets best describes your first kiss? Acid Pops that burn a hole through your tongue? Fizzing Whizzbees that make you levitate? Pepper Imps that allow you to breathe fire? Chocolate that wards off any depressing thought?”
Ginny thought of that wonderful, happy moment when she had jumped into Harry’s arms after winning the match against Ravenclaw. While she loved chocolate, she hadn’t needed any kind of comfort at that moment. She had been happy before they kissed. And then she had been even happier, reaching heights of joy she had never experienced. She smiled at the memory. “Fizzing Whizbees.”
With a rolling hand gesture, Roy Lockhart prompted her to expand her answer. She stopped smiling and maintained a stony silence. Some things were private.
He shrugged and turned to Astoria. “Mrs. Malfoy?”
“Oh, Acid Pops. Our first kiss was so hot. Sizzling hot. All of the tabloid paparazzi were watching us and Draco wanted to make it good.” She pretended to fan her face.
Ginny raised her eyebrows and wondered how holes in your tongue could be considered sexy — or photogenic.
“Ok, Mrs. Potter, question two: what gift from your spouse came as the biggest surprise?”
“James,” Ginny answered promptly and was surprised to hear the mouths laughing. She hadn’t been sarcastic. Harry was rubbish at surprises since he could never keep a secret from her, so that surprise pregnancy had been one of her best gifts ever.
She was dimly aware that Astoria answered, ‘Flock of rainbow Hippogriffs,’ before Roy Lockhart turned back to her.
“Question number three, complete this sentence: ‘my husband is a natural-born ___________.’”
“Hero,” Ginny said without thinking.
“Sex God,” Astoria said with a giggle.
Harry squirmed as he listened to Draco smoothly and correctly explain why his wife was more like a cauldron than a broom or a Tweeter Twig. He, Harry, had blown that one, since Ginny hadn’t answered that she was most like a Tweeter Twig. He still thought his answer was best — there was a lot of intriguing, wonderful magic in the small package of a Tweeter Twig, just like Ginny.
His musings were interrupted yet again by Roy Lockhart. “Right. Mr. Potter, Mr. Malfoy is now ahead by one correct answer going into our second round of questions. So let’s begin. Question number one: which of the following sweets best describes your first kiss? Acid Pops? Fizzing Whizzbees? Pepper Imps? Or chocolate?”
Harry gritted his teeth. Sweets weren’t kisses and to pretend otherwise was ridiculous. But that didn’t help him answer the question. He straightened his shoulders and began to think. He hated Pepper Imps and Acid Pops, so those were out. He loved chocolate, but that warm feeling of contentment that slowly seeped over him really didn’t describe the exhilaration of his first kiss with Ginny. So that left… “Fizzing Whizzbees.”
Harry caught Ginny’s eye across the studio and she smiled. Suddenly the room seemed a little brighter, as if the sun had just come from behind a cloud. Lost in his happy memory, he vaguely heard Draco’s answer.
“No, I’m sorry, Mr. Malfoy—”
“Draco! It’s Acid Pops,” Astoria exploded. “Acid Pops because our first kiss was so hot that we were voted hottest couple of 2000 by Cosmowitch readers.”
“That’s why I said ‘Pepper Imps.’ Breathing fire is hot, isn’t it?” Draco argued with that familiar whine in his voice.
“Breathing fire is for dragons, you imbecile,” Astoria hissed from across the studio.
“Right.” Roy Lockhart cleared his throat. “Let’s move on to the second question. Mr. Potter, what was the best surprise you ever gave your wife?”
Finally, a no-brainer question. “James.”
Harry smiled at Ginny, again sharing the memory of another happy time in their marriage.
Astoria jumped out of her seat. “Scorpius was not a surprise, and you know it, Draco. I resent the implication that I was in any way careless like her.” She jabbed her finger at Ginny. “My baby was planned around swimsuit season and that big modelling contract for Gladrags.”
“No, I’m sorry, Mr. Malfoy. The answer your wife gave was a flock of rainbow Hippogriffs,” Roy Lockhart said as if Astoria’s outburst had never happened.
Draco’s pale complexion was now a mottled pink. Harry almost felt sorry for him, but since he had copied Harry’s answer, it seemed he’d got what he deserved.
“All right, last question. You must get this right to stay in the game, Mr. Malfoy. Mr. Potter, at this point, it’s your game to lose.”
“No pressure then,” Harry said, to mild laughter.
“Question number three: how did your wife complete this sentence? My husband is a natural-born ___________.”
“Uh.” Harry thought frantically. What would Ginny say? That wasn’t the kind of thing she usually talked about. Natural-born what? Like a fault or flaw? She wanted him to communicate more, but he couldn’t think how he could insert that concept into that particular sentence. “Um. Natural-born procrastinator?”
“No, Mr. Potter, your wife said that you were a natural-born hero.”
He almost said, ‘She did?’ until he heard Draco snigger. He could feel the heat creep up his neck, but he was not going to denigrate Ginny’s compliment. “Um.” He looked across the studio at Ginny who was watching him with soft eyes. He didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t done anything heroic in years. He was just an ordinary bloke going to work each day and dozing during the news broadcast before dinner.
From somewhere outside of his thoughts he heard Draco answer ‘Sex God’ to wild applause.
“Oh, this is exciting, ladies and gentlemen! We have a tie! The Cone of Silence will now go around the wives.” He flicked his wand in the direction of Ginny and Astoria. “And the husbands will now complete this sentence: ‘I knew I had found the love of my life when she _______________.’”
Harry suppressed a smile. Ginny would know this one. They had talked about it after their first big argument of their marriage. Well, actually after the make-up sex after their first big argument of their marriage. It had been harrowing to go through at the time, but in hindsight he was grateful that he had been able to convince her so early in their relationship that he loved her because of her fiery temper, not in spite of it.
“I knew I had found the love of my life when she tried to hex me — well, she was trying to hex her brother, Ron, but I was in the way.”
The audience laughed knowingly. Feisty, hexing wives was an old favourite on The Newlywed Match.
“I knew I had found the love of my life when Astoria returned her meal and got the chef sacked because he had forgotten the parsley garnish,” Draco said with a fond smile.
There were no “aws” from the audience, only incredulous silence.
“Er. Right. Sacked the chef.” Roy Lockhart stared at Draco a moment. “Right then. We’ll dissolve the Cone of Silence and see what the ladies have to say. Mrs. Potter, how did your husband complete this sentence? ‘I knew I had found the love of my life when _____.’”
Ginny shot Harry a smiling, sideways glance and answered immediately. “When I tried to hex him — actually, I was aiming for Ron, but Harry got in the way.”
The audience laughed and clapped.
“Correct!” Roy Lockhart said. When the applause died down, he continued, lowering his voice to create a sense of suspense. “Now, Mrs. Malfoy, you can still even this contest with a correct answer.”
Astoria beamed with smug contentment. “I believe I’ll get this right. Draco said, ‘I knew I had found the love of my life when I saw her three-page spread in the swimsuit edition of Quidditch Illustrated.’”
“No, I’m sorry, that is incorrect. Mr. Malfoy mentioned having a chef sacked for not including the parsley garnish, which means—”
“Draco!” Astoria sprang out of her seat and strode toward her chagrined husband. “What were you thinking? You know you fell for me when you saw how beautiful I was in those photographs.”
Draco cringed and held up his hands in appeal. “I was attracted to you then, but I didn’t know you enough to fall in love with you.”
Astoria’s eyes widened. “But I thought you fell in love with me at first sight?”
“I did. I—”
“Then why did you give such a stupid answer, you idiot?” she turned and stalked off toward the exit.
Draco scrambled after her. “Because I fell in love with the whole package at the restaurant. I knew you were beautiful, but until then I didn’t know how ruthless you could be. You know what a turn on that is for me.”
“You want ruthless?” Astoria said, with her hand on the doorknob. “I’ll show you ruthless when it comes to dividing up assets.”
Their voices were cut off when they both exited the studio and the soundproof door swung shut.
“And we’ll edit that part out,” Roy Lockhart said smoothly. Then he picked up where he left off. “Which means our winners are Mr. and Mrs. Harry Potter!”
“This isn’t live?” Harry asked once the applause died down.
“Live? Heavens, no. We’ve been here for two hours and a lot of your answers were boring. That’s why we always record more than we need. With some decent editing, we should have enough to fill a fast-paced hour. Now if you’re done asking questions, I want to record a word from our sponsors.”
“Wait.” Harry held up his hand.
“Do we get to hear the edited version before it airs? I don’t want my words twisted or taken out of context.”
Roy Lockhart raised — or attempted to raise — his eyebrows. “I don’t see why that’s necessary.”
“It is if you want us to sign release forms,” Ginny said, moving to join them on Harry’s side of the studio. “You never got our consent in writing to appear on your show.”
“But your children signed a release.”
He grimaced and the said through gritted teeth, “Yes, all right. I’ll send round a portable Pensieve so you can hear it before it airs. But I can’t guarantee we’ll change the parts you find objectionable.”
“Oh, you’ll change the parts we find objectionable.” Harry stood up, his patience finally ravelling. “We were duped into participating and—”
Roy Lockhart’s eyes opened wide in alarm. “Yes, yes of course you can have final say in the editing process. I misspoke.”
Harry didn’t know why Lockhart had finally relented and he didn’t care. They were going to escape The Newlywed Match with their dignity intact — not a small feat.
He reached for Ginny’s hand and led the way to the door as Roy Lockhart turned and began speaking rapidly into a large microphone suspended from the ceiling. “And now a word from our sponsors, starting with Old World Founder’s Fondue, brewed by witches Chele, Lissa, and Julie, in small cauldrons the old-fashioned way. Try us for lunch. Are you losing your hair? Looking for more than a quick fix with a Mirage Charm? Try Tim’s Tincture of Toenails. Today. What do you have to lose? (Besides more hair.) And if you want to keep that zing in your relationship, listen to Professor Susan’s Agony Hour every Wednesday night on WWN 4. She has a new book out, The Marvellous Guide to a Marvellous Marriage. Look for it where books and scrolls are sold. And finally, The Newlywed Match couldn’t go on without Sherry’s—”
The door closed behind him.
“We did it,” Ginny said smiling.
“Even better. We won — against Malfoy.” It was hard not to gloat.
“I knew we would.” She squeezed his hand.
“Of course. We have the best marriage ever and now the whole world will know.”
Contented warmth spread from his heart all through his body. He had never taken their life together for granted, but it was good to be reminded that, in so many ways, they were in accord. “I hope so. And I hope those edits aren’t ridiculous.”
“They won’t be, not after that death stare you gave Lockhart. I think you forget just how formidable you can be.”
“Me, formidable?” He shook his head.
“And heroic, and a good father, and—”
He stopped and faced her, taking both her hands in his. “And the smartest bloke around because I married you.”
“Do you have to go back to work today?” she asked huskily.
“No. Do you?”
Her eyes darkened. “No.”
“Why don’t we go home?”
“Why don’t we try that fondue place Roy Lockhart was babbling about first?”
He grinned. “Good thinking. We’re going to need our energy this afternoon.”
Three Weeks Later, Gryffindor Common Room
“When I tried to hex him — actually, I was aiming for Ron — but Harry got in the way.”
Lily looked at Rose in horror. “There’s no way a bloke would fall in love with me if I tried to hex him,” Lily whispered. “What was Mum thinking?”
“And why didn’t Uncle Harry care?” Rose whispered back.
They shrugged and returned their attention back to the program in time to hear that Astoria had demanded a chef be sacked for forgetting parsley. Now this scenario made sense to Lily. From her limited experience, it seemed the mean girls always had boys panting after them, but only if they were mean to other people, not to the boys in question.
She shook her head. Even after reading all the advice columns in Cosmowitch and listening to The Newlywed Match, she still didn’t understand how couples got together in the first place or decided to stay together.
“Well, I’m never looking at Fizzing Whizzbees the same way again,” James declared once the show as over.
“How do you think Scorpius feels?” Al said. “His parents sounded psycho.”
“Ours just sounded like they always do,” Lily said slowly. “Like they have an inside life no one else can know.”
“What’s an inside life, Lily?”
“I don’t know.” She squirmed uncomfortably. “It’s the only way I can think of to describe it.”
“Well, at least they won, which means I can collect on my bet with Scorpius,” Al said.
“I hope having your Tweeter Twig confiscated was worth it,” James said. “I just got mine back after a month and you have to go two months without yours.”
“I’ll just borrow Lily’s,” Al said slyly.
“What!” Then she smiled as she caught his expression. Al was only kidding.
“I’m off to bed,” Rose said, standing up. “All I can say, is I’m glad my parents weren’t on that show.”
“But didn’t Hugo tell you?” James said with a grin. “He signed them up for CharityCluedo next month. I can’t wait to hear Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione paired up to solve a mystery.”
“This isn’t happening to me,” Rose moaned.
“I don’t know about you,” Al said, “but I’d rather hear them argue about clues than hear about their first kiss.”
“And no one under eighty listens to Cluedo anyway,” Lily added.
“And they’re sure to win,” James pointed out. “Our parents embarrass us and your parents embarrass you, but they do manage to get the job done.”
“I suppose,” Rose said. “But let’s make a pact. No more signing our parents up for anything. I’d rather they stay in the background from now on.”
“Hear, hear,” James said. “They’ve been hogging the limelight long enough.”
“Actually, I think they’d be just as happy to never to have another word written about them,” Al said.
“Like that’s ever going to happen.” Rose snorted. “People are always going to be interested in Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny.”
“Then I guess the stories will continue,” Lily said with a shrug.
Happy Anniversary, PhoenixSong! May the stories continue!
Author’s note: Thanks to Bel and Sherry for the beta!