A/N: Written for kateanguapotter in the Changing Season’s Exchange on LiveJournal. Each story is supposed to incorporate the theme of changing seasons — new times and new adventures for Harry and Ginny, combined with a shift in the weather and a reflection of change in the natural landscape. kateanguapotter requested: I want there to be cuddling. And a problem at Ginny's work, her reporting work, not her Quidditch career.
Thanks to tdu000 and Sherylyn for the beta and r_becca for creating this exchange.
Sleet skittered against the windowpanes of the upstairs landing, punctuating the end of a tedious gray Saturday filled with paperwork and fractious Floo conversations. Harry gripped the banister and thought about how he hated these working weekends — definitely the downside of an Auror’s life. He frowned as he noticed the light coming from the bedroom. If he had had a bad day, Ginny’s must have been worse, since she was already in bed at nine o’clock.
She was lying on her side, reading with a scowl on her face.
He shucked his clothes on to a chair and picked up the back issues of Quidditch World that littered his side of the bed.
“I’m done,” he said, getting into bed next to her. “I don’t have to go in tomorrow unless somebody goes crazy.”
“Watch out then,” Ginny said, putting down the current issue of Quidditch World. “That might be me.”
“I need a change, Harry.” She looked at him with solemn brown eyes.
“Now that Lily is at Hogwarts, I need to do something else besides the washing and cooking and —”
“Okay,” he said, hoping to head off a full-fledged rant.
“That’s all you’re going to say?” she demanded. “’Okay’? Don’t you want to know what it is I want to do?”
Since he had no idea what was going on in that head of hers, he decided to let her know what was going in his. “Sex slave?” he asked, running what he hoped was a seductive finger down her arm.
She sat up in agitation. “Yes, Harry. How did you ever guess? I’m going for a fortnight of training at a chateau in France. I hope you don’t mind, but I emptied the vault to buy the requisite leather collar along with the whips and chains.”
He looked up at her. “How will we tell the children we can’t afford to bring them home for the Easter holidays?”
To his relief, she laughed. “The truth, of course. Mummy’s self-actualizing.”
“Some witches take up scrapbooking to self-actualize.” He moved so his head was in her lap.
He felt her hands absently stroking his hair. It felt good. Really, Ginny could joke all she wanted, but sex slave wasn’t a bad idea at all. Or he could be hers; he wasn’t fussy.
“I was thinking more along the lines of reporting.”
He was starting to relax under her calming touch on his temples. “Reports about what?”
“Quidditch. You know, going to matches. Or maybe interviewing players.”
He raised his head and her hands fell away. “A reporter? You want to be a reporter? Like Rita Skeeter? I hate reporters.”
Her face looked a little blurry without his glasses, but her resolve was unmistakable. “Yes, a reporter — but not like Rita Skeeter. I don’t care to muck about in anyone’s private life.” She picked up the magazine she had discarded earlier. “I was just looking through Quidditch World and half the articles are rubbish — like three pages about the new brooms the Chudley Cannons just bought. It was an extended advert — not an objective article about the sport!”
He put his head back down on her thigh. Ginny with a Quick-Quotes Quill. Those poor Quidditch players wouldn’t know what hit them. “What do you have to do to be a Quidditch reporter?”
“That’s the thing,” Ginny said, moving so that his head flopped painfully. “Sorry, darling.” Now she was lying next to him. “Quidditch World is having a contest to attract new writing talent. You have to submit a ten thousand-word profile of a retired Quidditch player. If you win they’ll give you a staff position for a year.”
“What does being a staff writer entail?” Hopefully she wouldn’t be gone day and night like he often was.
“Going to matches and writing up the action. Pre-season speculation. Commentary and analysis. That sort of thing. I could take the children with me to the matches — they’d love it.”
She was sounding more and more excited, and it did sound like the perfect career for her. Ginny knew more about Quidditch than he did — maybe even more than Ron. Not that he would ever tell Ron that. “Sounds good,” he said, trying the seductive finger thing again. “You’ll be brilliant.”
She wriggled closer to him. “You think so? I haven’t written anything except letters since I left school.”
“I do.” He put his arms around her. It always surprised him when she voiced her insecurities. In his eyes, Ginny could do anything. “Unlike Quidditch, you have more than one chance to get it right — and you won’t be showing any of your writing until you feel ready.”
She melted against him and Harry finally thought they could get back to the sex slave conversation.
“I want to interview Silas O’Sullivan for the contest,” she blurted.
“Silas O’Sullivan? S.O.S? The old wizard who was just in the news? He’s gone barmy! The Wizengamot convicted him in absentia of violating the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy for that trick he pulled at the Muggle football game last summer. Now we have to apprehend him.”
“Oh, honestly. He’s harmless,” Ginny scoffed. “It’s the first he’s ever been in trouble. Maybe he’s gone a little around the twist since his wife died, but once a Beater, always a Beater. He couldn’t help it if the thought that Muggle ball was a Bludger.”
“He could help flying over an entire field of Muggle players and spectators,” Harry retorted. “Do you know how long it took to Obliviate everyone?”
“I do,” she snapped. “That was the weekend of Rose’s birthday party, which you missed.”
“At least Ron didn’t miss it.” He rolled on to his back and wondered why everyone had to go crazy on the weekend.
“I know.” She moved so her bright hair spilled over his chest. “You did a good thing by making sure Ron was there for Rose.”
“And Hermione,” she agreed. Now her fingers were doing seductive things to him. He hoped it was deliberate. “Harry?”
“When you do apprehend Silas, do you think I could talk to him? He’s never granted an interview in his life.”
”Ginny!” He tried to look stern, but her hand was too distracting.
The wide-eyed innocence didn’t fool him for a minute. “I can’t make him talk to a reporter. That’s cruel and unusual punishment.”
“I’m not a reporter — yet,” she reminded him. “I’m just your average housewitch who loves Quidditch.” She kissed the end of his nose. “And her husband.”
Her hair smelled so nice, and Ginny smiling and moving against him was stronger persuasion than any argument he could put forth. “I’m not making any promises,” he began.
“Okay.” She kissed the corner of his mouth.
“Okay.” He put his arms around her and rolled her on to her back, not quite sure what he was agreeing to besides a very enjoyable end to his day.
“We got him! Now that’s a way to end a shift.”
Harry’s eyes snapped open. Ron’s Jack Russell Terrier Patronus was standing on his chest, its tail wagging furiously. “We got him!” the Patronus repeated. “S.O.S.! Found him in a pub in Surrey — totally ratted — trying to knock the olives out of a bloke’s martini.”
Harry glanced at Ginny who was lying on her side, apparently still asleep. She had spent the past week in the archives of the Quidditch Museum researching the career of Silas O’Sullivan. Now was his chance to help her out.
He conjured his Patronus. “I’ll be right in, Ron. Don’t transfer him to Azkaban just yet.”
“House arrest?” Ginny asked, staring at the slight, unconscious form of Silas O’Sullivan on their sofa. Her nose wrinkled. “When was the last time he had a bath?”
“Er — when did he retire?” The man did smell overripe.
Ginny threw her hands in the air. “I can’t believe you brought him here.”
“I thought you wanted to interview him!”
“I did — I do! But I don’t want to be his jailer, for Merlin’s sake. Look at him! He looks and smells like a tramp off the street.”
This was not going the way Harry thought it would. “I’m sure he’ll clean up fine,” he said, not really believing it. “With some decent food and fresh air — he’ll be a new man. You’ll see.”
She snorted and crossed her arms in front of herself. “He’s going to have one hell of a hangover when he wakes up. And I don’t imagine he’s going to want to answer questions about the innovations he developed for the modern-day Beater’s bat.”
“You’ll have a whole month to get around to that question,” Harry assured her.
Her eyes widened. “A month? I have to put up with him for a month?”
“That was his sentence.”
“Merlin, Harry, what possessed you —”
“Um.” He gave her his most winning smile. “Happy Anniversary?”
“Happy Anni—” She shook her head and stalked off. “Unbelievable.”
“Ginny.” He followed her into the kitchen. “I just wanted to help you with your new career.”
“Okay.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Okay.”
He was starting to get nervous. Ginny only did that when she was trying not to hex the children.
“I’ll help you,” he said rashly, knowing he had to cover two extra weekends for an Auror who was still out on maternity leave. “I’ll take time off.”
She opened one eye.
“How much trouble can a ninety-year-old wizard be?”
“He hasn’t been any trouble,” Ginny said the next evening when Harry arrived home from work. “And it’s odd, because he wasn’t hungover when he woke up this morning.”
“Must drink a lot then — have a high tolerance or something.”
“I don’t know, but the man doesn’t talk.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean…” She turned from the cauldron she was stirring. Her face was flushed from the heat and her hair was curling from the steam. “He doesn’t talk — at all. It’s creepy.”
“Did you tell him that you want to write an article about him for Quidditch World?”
He swiped a piece of cucumber from the salad on the counter.
Ginny swatted his hand. “That’s for our dinner.” She sighed. “Yes, I told him how I wanted another career after the Harpies. And I told him about the children and how all of them play Quidditch. I showed him snaps of that match we had last summer at the Burrow when James was a Chaser and Albus was the Seeker and Lily and Hugo played Beater. When I ran out of stories about the children, I told him how we renovated this house after Aunt Muriel died and what enchantments we cast to build our own pitch. And for good measure, I told him I was going to clean the broom shed tomorrow and he was going to help me.”
Harry wished he had been home for that much undivided attention from Ginny. “Poor Silas is going to have Stockholm Syndrome by the time the month is up.”
Ginny frowned. “I doubt he’ll be speaking Swedish, but if he does talk in the next thirty days, it will be a miracle.”
“Stockholm Syndrome is when you fall in love or become obsessed with your jailer.”
Ginny rolled her eyes and turned back to the cauldron. “From what little is known about him, it seems he was married forever to an equally quiet witch who never went to any of his matches. I doubt I’m his type.”
He slipped his arms around her waist and put his chin on her shoulder. “You’re my type.”
She leaned against him. “Maybe I should lock you up for thirty days. You’ve been working too much.”
“I know.” He straightened. “But I’ll have the whole summer off when the children are home.”
“I can hardly wait,” she sighed. “We can eat outside and go swimming and take midnight broom rides as a family.”
“Summer’s not that far away,” he said. “It was light when I went to work this morning.”
“I should pay more attention.” She flicked her wand and three bowls filled with soup. “Maybe I’ll take Silas out flying later on this week. I’ll charm the Cleansweep so it stays above our land.”
“Ask him first,” he cautioned. “He’s obviously been traumatized by something in the past few years. And you don’t want him to have a panic attack up on a broom.”
She frowned. “The only thing that has happened to him recently was that his wife died.” A loaf of bread joined the soup on the table.
It was all too easy for Harry to imagine the despair of entering an empty, still house day after day, always hoping, but never seeing the one you loved again. “I think that’s trauma enough,” he said.
“He talked today!” Ginny greeted him at the kitchen door with a smile on her face.
“Oh?” Harry grinned, too. There was always something so infectious about her giggle. “It’s only been a week. Is he in love with you yet?”
“No.” She swatted his arm. “He said I reminded him of his sister, Maggie. She never shut up.”
He laughed. “Now you have to figure out which brother he reminds you of and you’ll be able to figure him out.”
She shook her head. “I don’t think he’s like any of my brothers. Too quiet. Besides, I don’t want to analyze his personality — I just want him to talk about Quidditch. Today all I got was a bunch of memories about the twelve O’Sullivan siblings.”
“I know. Two sets of twins.”
Harry didn’t even try to fathom what that must have been like at the dinner table.
“Do you know he’s the last one living?” She sighed. “It’s not easy getting old.”
She brightened. “But he can still fly with the best of them. I hope I can fly that well when I’m ninety.”
It was hard to imagine Ginny at ninety, since he would have to imagine himself at ninety-one. Although he could see himself following Ginny on a slow-moving broom with extra Cushioning Charms, three feet above the ground. Her long braid would be white instead of red, but her eyes would still sparkle merrily when she turned to tease him for being so slow. “I’d still try to catch you,” he finally said.
She laughed. “You’d better.”
It rained for a week — soft warm rains that soaked into the earth and filled the rivers and ponds up to their muddy banks. The bare tree branches were covered in buds. At the first hint of sunlight and heat, the surrounding forest would be a haze of green. But for now, it was decidedly gloomy. Normally Ginny would have been climbing the walls at being forced indoors for so long, but she seemed to be coping quite well.
She questioned Silas relentlessly about his long Quidditch career. He hadn’t played during the era of celebrity endorsements and gossip magazines, so he had escaped public scrutiny for the most part — until now. He wasn’t used to questions about motivation and goal-setting and personal growth. His statistics spoke for themselves, he told Ginny repeatedly. That’s all he had to say about Quidditch.
Harry really didn’t think she was going to get much more out of him. Once at the dinner table he unbent enough to ask Harry to pass the salt. During the same meal he asked a question about a recent raid on a Knockturn Alley shop that was dispensing hallucinogenic cough drops and cold potions (The Miracle Mirage — an uncommon cure for the common cold), but for the most part he was silent during meals — eating as quickly and as ravenously as Ron.
Harry thought it was a habit from growing up in a large family, something Ginny hadn’t considered. She also hadn’t considered how his father’s philosophy might have influenced his game.
“He said that his father told them when they were little that Bludgers were cursed. So if they hit you, part of your body would fall off in the night.”
“Part of your body?” Harry closed the curtains against the rainy night and got into bed next to Ginny. “I hate to think which part the curse would target first.”
She giggled and jotted something her notebook. “Probably the first part you blokes would worry about.”
He winced. “Probably.”
She leafed through her notes. “He also said his father told him that he must always hit the Bludgers away from his brothers and sisters or else they would be cursed.”
“Talk about pressure.”
She snorted. “What about his brother, Ted, who played Seeker? He was told that the Snitch was explosive and had to be caught before it blew the pitch to smithereens.”
“I wonder what kind of bedtime stories the O’Sullivans listened to?”
“Poor kids. At least we got Cackling Stumps and Fountains of Fortune.”
“Do you think knowing his personal history will help you write that article?”
“I don’t know.” She looked troubled. “The problem is that there’s still no focus — no underlying theme or anything to his career. I mean, he wasn’t obsessed with one particular team, he didn’t have any grudges against other players, he just got out there season after season and played Quidditch.”
“Sort of like a job.”
She smiled at his sarcastic tone. “Silly. Even you have more motivation than that to drag yourself to the office every day.”
“And what’s my motivation?”
“Your ‘saving people thing.’”
He could feel the heat in his face. “I hate that ‘saving people thing.’”
“I know.” She patted his shoulder. “But it’s true. You want the world to be safer for everyone — so you fight the Dark Arts every day. It’s not reckless or grandstanding or idealistic — just you being you.”
“Oh.” He didn’t know what to say to that. She sounded proud of him. “So why do you want to be a Quidditch reporter?”
She opened her mouth and then closed it.
Ginny hated soul searching almost as much as he did. He decided not to press the issue. “If the writing thing doesn’t work out, there’s always sex slave,” he reminded her.
The sun finally came out the next day, and the landscape was lushly green within a week. Ginny started writing the article on Silas, even though she wasn’t sure how she was going to organize the information. But she had to start somewhere; the contest deadline was looming.
Silas’s release was also looming and Harry wondered how the old wizard was going to handle being by himself again. He seemed to enjoy working in the garden with Ginny, although his hay fever was bothering him. Ginny gave him a potion from Bobbin’s Apothecary, but he complained it wasn’t as effective as the cough drops he had bought in Hogsmeade last summer. When Harry heard that innocent remark, the mystery of Silas’s strange behavior at the Muggle football field and later on in the pub was solved.
“They were making it there, Harry,” Ron’s Patronus said. “Hallucinogenic syrup. The only reason they couldn’t sell it straight or put it in candy to appeal to students was that it tasted so bad. Only someone with a cold could have kept that in his mouth.”
Ginny’s eyes were round as she listened to Ron’s field report. “Poor Silas. He stayed out of the news forever and then because he had a bad cold, his reputation was tarnished. I’m guessing he had hallucinations about Bludgers cursing people.”
“So it’s up to you to clear him, isn’t it?”
Her chin went up. “Now I really want to write that article.”
Silas went home after his thirty days of house arrest. He thanked Ginny for taking care of him and helping him face his memories. It was the longest speech Harry had heard him say.
Ginny didn’t have time to get sentimental over Silas because she had to finish the article before the Easter holidays. Harry came home to an empty kitchen and a cold cauldron for two days straight. He knew he shouldn’t mind since Ginny deserved the opportunity to pursue what she wanted to do, but he wasn’t as good of a cook as Ginny.
On the afternoon before the deadline, Ginny was so snappish that Harry decided to clean out the cellar just for the peace and quiet. By evening he had accumulated a pile of rotted boards, old newspapers, and other junk that needed to be burned. Since it was a calm clear night, he decided to have a little bonfire. Once he had a nice blaze going, Ginny joined him.
“Finished?” he asked.
Ginny shivered in the spring twilight. “I think so. I don’t know.”
She sounded so dispirited, that he instantly forgave her for the week of bad moods. “Do you want me to read it now?”
“Somebody will have to.”
“Harry, it’s just so… I don’t know. Boring.”
“You’ve been looking at it too long.”
The fire snapped and crackled merrily. A spark flew up.
She lifted her face and squinted at the first stars appearing in the sky. “Yeah. Maybe. I just feel like I’m missing something.”
Harry still didn’t know why she wanted a career in writing if it was going to make her so miserable. Quidditch never made her miserable — even after they lost. “You know, you loved Quidditch. It didn’t matter if you won or lost or how much extra practice you had to put in, but this writing —”
Her eyes widened. “Harry! That’s it! That’s why Silas never became a legendary Quidditch player.”
Now he was the one missing something. “Er —”
“He played out of fear, and not love.”
“Well, yeah —”
“Don’t you see?” In the shifting light from the fire he could see her eyes glowing. “That’s what makes the difference between a good performance and a great one. You have to love what you do.” She moved toward him and gave him a quick hug. “Now I know what to write.”
When Harry proudly read Ginny’s winning article, published a month later in Quidditch World, he finally understood what she meant. Ginny’s love of the game and what it meant to be a player shone through the entire piece. So did her affection for Silas, a humble man who had never quite defeated the demons from his childhood. It was a heartbreaking article in many ways, but it was also a testimony to the quiet courage Silas had brought to bear every time he flew onto a pitch.
It was obvious Ginny loved writing about Quidditch.
Harry thought he could handle the makeshift meals and the fits of moodiness around a deadline, but he was still mildly disappointed that Ginny didn’t want to pursue sex slave as her next occupation.
“Oh, but I can be a hobbyist,” she said as she took the magazine away from him.
“You know, I think I need a hobby, too.” He smiled.
“Sex slave might be what you’re looking for. It would help you with the stress of work,” Ginny agreed, reaching to undo the clasps of his robes.
“I think so,” he said. “And it’s something we can do as a couple.”
“Like bowling.” She laughed.
“With fewer clothes.”
"Let's start pursing our hobby then." She pulled him toward the bedroom. “Amateur means ‘love of’, after all.”