It was raining when Harry Apparated home after two days of “community outreach” meetings at Hogsmeade — not unexpected weather for Devon in November, but he felt unaccountably disappointed at hearing the heavy patter on the windows. The blue and gold autumn days were things of the past. Winter was quickly setting in.
He flicked his wand at the slumbering fire. Orange flames leapt to bathe the kitchen in warmth and light. He sighed with satisfaction and shrugged off his cloak. There was nothing like being in your own home again, even if the weather was foul.
There was the usual pile of post waiting for him on the scrubbed table. In the changing light of the fire, he could see that Ginny had separated out the weekly letters from James and Albus so he could enjoy them before he went to bed.
He plopped into a chair and Summoned a butterbeer. After what he had witnessed today, he felt he should relax and find some perspective before he read James’s letter.
He uncorked the bottle and let the cool, smooth liquid run down his throat. Warmth immediately flooded his veins and his tense shoulders dropped. Once half the bottle was gone, it occurred to him that maybe he was overreacting at seeing James and that girl behind the Three Broomsticks. James was still a boy — an overconfident, exuberant, headstrong boy — but a boy, nonetheless. He wasn’t an adult yet. He still needed his father.
But what if his father was at a total loss about this new stage in his son’s life?
Harry sat up straight. What if this wasn’t a new stage? What if…?
James is only fourteen, Harry reminded himself. This had to be a new stage.
To keep from brooding, he looked at the two envelopes from his two very different sons. Even their handwriting was a study in contrasts. Albus had written their names and the address in small, neat script with no abbreviations. Mr. and Mrs. Harry Potter, Seven Enchantment Lane, Devon, England. James had written Potter Parents, Ench. Ln, Devon in large block letters.
That made Harry smile. In James’s mind, they were here to serve. Forget that ancient news about Harry being savior of the wizarding world. He was simply James’s dad — the man who took him to buy school supplies, grounded him when he talked back and made him get a haircut when they couldn’t see those mischievous brown eyes from underneath his fringe.
But was that enough?
Harry took another steadying swig of butterbeer and reminded himself that he had never really had a father. At least James had a father, no matter how ineffectual that father felt himself to be.
Ginny was dressed for bed in her favorite green velvet dressing gown, but she didn’t look sleepy. Her eyes were shining and her smile was bright as she approached him. When she kissed him on the cheek he could smell soap and warm flesh. “I thought I heard you come in. How were your meetings?”
“Boring.” He caught her hand and pulled her on his lap, wanting to breathe her scent again. “How was home without me for two days?”
“Boring.” She smiled into his eyes and kissed him on the nose. “No socks to pick up.”
He laughed. “You’re just in time for excitement, then. I’m almost ready to strip off the pair I have on.”
“Be still my heart.” She reached for his butterbeer and took a swig. “I think I’ll have one of these for the strip show. Do you want another? ”
She stood up and waved her wand at the pantry door. Two uncorked bottles floated gently to the table. He watched her graceful movements in silence. Her hair had been cut in the two days since he had been gone. It was still past her shoulders, but the sides were tapered so that he could see the lovely line of her jaw. She sat in the chair next to him and turned so that their knees were touching. “So what’s on your mind?”
He didn’t bother to ask how she knew something was on his mind. She always knew. “I saw James today,” he began slowly. “In Hogsmeade.”
“But it’s Tuesday —” Her brow cleared. “Oh, that’s right. Now they’re allowed out on Market Day once a term.”
“Yes, well, there were a lot of Hogwarts students around so at first I wasn’t sure if it was James I was seeing or not.”
“What was he doing?” She crossed her arms in front of herself.
“Nothing against the rules — although I was shocked —”
“Harry, spill it.”
“He was kissing a girl — snogging really — behind the Three Broomsticks.”
“James was kissing a girl?” she asked blankly. “I thought he was allergic to girls —”
“I think he’s building up immunity.”
Ginny stared at him for a second and then laughed. “I don’t know why we’re so shocked. He did just turn fourteen. What’s she like? Did he introduce you to her properly?”
“Er — no.”
She raised her eyebrows and then gave him an indulgent smile. “You didn’t say anything to him, did you?”
“No.” He had felt awkward at the time, but now he felt even more so trying to explain the situation. “I didn’t know what to do. I mean — I wasn’t sure if it was my business or not. I mean, it is my business — I’m his father, but —”
Ginny shook her head, the glow from the fire catching the copper highlights in her hair. “Poor Harry. At least you’re not as bad as Ron.”
“As bad as Ron?”
“Remember my fifth year when I was kissing Dean Thomas in the private corridor, and you and Ron walked in on us?”
Heat rose in his face. The desire and confusion and jealousy of that moment were safely in the past, but he still hadn’t forgotten. “I remember. I wanted to be Dean Thomas — but first I wanted to smash his face in.”
She giggled. “I was so mortified — and angry at Ron.”
“I remember that, too.”
“And then I was angry at myself for losing it in front of you.” She shook her head. “It was just as well you didn’t announce yourself. James didn’t need to be on the defensive like that.”
“Well, no. But…” He frowned. “Do you think it’s our business? I do, in a way. I mean — he does have a perfect right to kiss girls, I suppose. Although I don’t think he’s old enough to be in any sort of a relationship.”
“Relationship?” She sipped her butterbeer. “I thought you said he was just kissing this girl.”
“With his hand up her shirt.”
“His hand up her shirt?” She abruptly put the bottle on the table. “What kind of girl is she? James is too young to be putting his hand up girls’ shirts!”
“That’s what I thought,” Harry retorted. “But then — what is the correct age to put your hand up a girl’s shirt? It’s not like there’s a license for that — like Apparating.”
Ginny let out a long breath and leaned back in the chair. “Merlin, there isn’t, is there?”
Their eyes locked and he felt his stomach drop. Ginny was always so certain — and right — about anything having to do with the children. But in this case, she looked just as bewildered as he felt.
Her eyes flashed as she raised her chin. “You’re just going to have to talk to him, Harry. Find out what he’s thinking and then make sure he knows what you think.”
“What do I think?” he asked stupidly.
“You think sex is a beautiful, wonderful thing, that should be reserved for consenting adults. You think it’s okay to go out with girls and enjoy their company, but the school years should be devoted to getting an education and improving yourself.”
“I think that?”
She flushed. “If you thought about it, I’m sure that’s what you would come up with.” She leaned forward and peered at him with bright eyes. “Have you ever talked to James about girls?”
“Me? Er — no.” He squirmed in his seat. “I did sign the form for that class at Hogwarts.”
She nodded. “I should have reminded you to say something once he turned thirteen.”
“I think that’s an appropriate age for the talk.”
She smiled and patted his knee. “You can practice on James now and then you’ll be ready for Albus when he turns thirteen this summer.”
“Now wait a minute — next you’ll be telling me to talk to Lily about her period.”
“She hasn’t had it yet, but if you want to be the one… ”
He shuddered. “I don’t want to be the one.” He didn’t like Ginny’s mocking smile. “And why do I have to be the one to talk to James and Albus? All Dudley and I ever got from Uncle Vernon was ‘if you get her pregnant, you have to marry her.’” He flushed at the memory. “Actually, he said that to Dudley. To me, he said there wasn’t much chance any woman would look at a skinny freak like me.”
Ginny covered his hand. “Oh, Harry.”
His short laugh was bitter. “Uncle Vernon managed to highlight two big fears about girls. You would either muck it up so badly your life would be ruined or — even worse — no girl would ever give you a chance to muck it up.”
“Is that the way boys think?” she asked, cocking her head in thought. “That they’ll never have a chance with a girl?”
Harry snorted. “That’s to fill in between the sexual thought every fifteen seconds.”
Ginny tilted her head. “ I never really realized how it was for you blokes.”
At her sympathetic tone, he leaned back in his chair and sighed. “I just feel out of my depth here.”
“I’m sure James does, too.”
It was hard to know when James was out of his depth. He was too proud and independent to ask for help and touchy when it was offered. Harry shrugged his shoulders helplessly. “I just wish I had more experience. I mean, I was older the first time I kissed a girl and that didn’t work out.”
“Let’s send him to Roger Davies then,” she said, rolling her eyes. “He’s had lots of experience dating.”
He laughed. “I don’t think he’s the role model we’re looking for.”
“You didn’t do so bad for yourself, Harry.” She touched his thigh and smiled. “You managed to marry me.”
“I did.” It still seemed like a miracle sometimes — this life with Ginny. He leaned forward and kissed her.
“Take him out for a butterbeer and just talk to him, Harry. You’ll find the words.” Her eyes were dark and solemn and full of trust. When James wasn’t moving ninety miles an hour, his eyes looked like that.
He sighed. “Okay. A butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks it is.”
The Three Broomsticks was warm and smelled like cloves and wood smoke. James took an appreciative sniff and tried to brush some of the rain out of his hair, but he only succeeded in sending cold water trickling down his neck. Then he felt a wave of magic and his hair was dry.
Dad smiled at him. “I didn’t realize how hard it was raining until we had to walk to the gates.” Dad had Side-along Apparated him from the gates of Hogwarts to Hogsmeade after he had told the headmaster he was taking James out of school for an hour or so.
“It’s been raining all day.” James didn’t know what else to say. Dad had never “dropped by for a chat” before, and he had certainly never taken James to the Three Broomsticks.
“Mr. Potter!” A pretty waitress in a frilly blouse hurried over to them. “Would you like a table by the fire?”
“Er —no. Somewhere private,” Dad replied.
James’s heart sank. This wasn’t going to be a chat; it was going to be a lecture.
He hastily searched his conscience. He truly couldn’t think of one detention-worthy thing he had done recently — or at least, in the last week. Between Quidditch practices and Violet Smith, he hadn’t had much time to get in trouble.
Once they were settled at a table in a small alcove, Dad turned to the waitress. “Two butterbeers, please.” James started in surprise. He thought for sure Dad would have ordered him a fizzy drink like he was still a little kid, but he hadn’t.
“Er — you like butterbeer, don’t you?” Dad was frowning now that the bottles had arrived at the table.
“I think so,” James answered cautiously. He wasn’t sure if Dad would approve of the butterbeers Uncle Charlie had bought him last summer at the Cannons match.
“Teddy’s dad gave me a butterbeer when I was in my third year,” Dad said with a reminiscent smile. “I had to pretend I had never had one, because then I would have given away that I had left school property without permission.” His green eyes held an unspoken question.
For once, James’s conscience was clear. “I had one at the Cannons match last summer — with Uncle Charlie.”
“So what did Teddy’s dad want to talk to you about?” James blurted before he lost his chance. Dad so rarely volunteered anything about his past.
He smiled. “Not leaving school grounds without permission.”
“And other stuff — about Sirius Black wanting to kill me.”
James sobered and took a drink. Just when he thought that maybe he and his father might have something in common, he was reminded yet again how epic his father’s life had been. He felt a familiar surge of resentment. “So what do you want to talk to me about?”
Dad raised his eyebrows. “I’m getting to that.”
“Sorry.” James was sorry for being rude, but he wasn’t sorry for being resentful. And yet he didn’t want to feel resentful. He just couldn’t seem to help it. Or something. He averted his eyes and slumped in his chair and waited for the lecture.
“I saw you yesterday,” Dad said. “Behind the Three Broomsticks.”
Startled, James looked at his father and then felt the heat rise in his face. “Oh.” He took a deep draught of butterbeer.
“What’s her name?”
“Violet,” he answered before he took another gulp. Why did his father have to see him with her?
“So how long have you been going out with — er — Violet?”
It was beyond strange to hear his father mention Violet’s name. Until now, Violet and her warm mouth and her soft breasts had been newfound secrets to be played over and over again in his mind, not a topic for conversation.
James put the bottle down and stared at it. It was empty. “We’re not really going out.”
James put both hands around the empty bottle and tried to gather his thoughts — thoughts that ranged from the strain of wanting to touch her again to annoyance at having to walk her to class under the knowing stares of her friends. “One afternoon in Hogsmeade isn’t really going out,” he mumbled.
Resentment surged through him. “How can you see, Dad? You have no idea what it’s like to have people pushing you into …” He bit back what he was going to say, not willing to admit what he had got himself into. He glared at his father-the-hero. “It was easy for you. You and Mum got together at Hogwarts. She told me.”
“That’s true, but —”
“And Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione — Mum said —” He couldn’t remember now what Mum had said about his aunt and uncle, but whatever it was, it had been epic, too. “I’m sick of hearing how perfect all of you were!” He pushed the empty butterbeer bottle away from himself and looked away. He had gone too far but he didn’t care.
“Looks like this table could use another round.”
Startled, James looked up to see a smiling older witch dressed in vivid, scarlet robes.
“Rosmerta!” Dad looked genuinely pleased to see this lady. “Yes, two more. One for me and one for my son, James.”
“I knew he must be your son the minute I saw him.” She raised a pair of spectacles that were hanging on a chain around her neck and peered through them at James. “He looks just like you, Harry, but he has his mother’s eyes.”
James reddened. How many times had he heard that since he started at Hogwarts?
“And you named him James.” Madam Rosmerta beamed at James as if he had done something wonderful.
“James Sirius,” Dad added.
“Really?” To James’s horror, tears filled the old lady’s eyes. “What a lovely tribute.” She sniffed and straightened. “I must be getting old, even though I don’t feel it.” She smiled. “To think, this is James Potter’s grandson.”
He squirmed in his seat and stole a look at his father. To his surprise, there was a sympathetic smirk on Dad’s face that quickly disappeared once Madam Rosmerta turned back to him.
James half-listened as Dad and Rosmerta talked about people James didn’t know. He couldn’t believe Dad had given him that look. He had seen that I-feel-your-pain-mate expression when Dad was with Uncle Ron, but it had never been directed at him.
When their waitress brought their drinks, Rosmerta said good-bye to Dad and sighed over James one last time.
Just like his father. Mother’s eyes.
James cringed and took a drink.
“I used to get that all the time,” Dad said.
James lowered the bottle from his lips. “You did?”
“Drove me mad.”
His heart warmed. At least he had one thing in common with his father. He shook his head. “I never know what I’m supposed to say.”
Dad laughed. “Me, neither.”
They sat in companionable silence until Dad spoke up. “You know, James, I can promise you that back at Hogwarts all of us — Ron and Hermione, me and your mum — all of us had no clue what we were doing when it came to boyfriends and girlfriends.” He smiled. “All of us went out with other people first and generally made a mess of things.”
James gaped at him. “You did? Mum, too?”
He nodded and grinned. “Sixth year, your Uncle Ron… “ He shook his head and chuckled. “Never mind.”
James was dying to know what Uncle Ron had done in his sixth year, but he doubted Dad would tell him. Mum might if he caught her in the right mood. “But I thought —”
“I know. It’s hard to imagine any of us being your age.”
That was certainly true. James took another sip of butterbeer and decided that a trip to the Three Broomsticks with Dad wasn’t so bad after all.
“This thing with Violet…”
James sat up straight.
Dad cleared his throat. “I might understand more than you think.”
James frowned at the circle of condensation the bottle had left on the polished table.
“Why don’t you tell me the whole story?”
James stole a glance at his father and was heartened by the interest in his eyes. He really didn’t have anyone else to talk to — maybe Dad would understand. “Violet is the other new Chaser on the team,” he began. “She’s fourteen like me, but because her birthday is in August and mine is in October, we’re in different years. That’s how we started talking — she was trying to put me in my place since she’s a fourth-year and I’m a third-year.”
Dad smiled. “And you don’t like to be put in your place.”
James didn’t smile back. “No, I don’t.” He took another drink and decided that he would just come out and tell Dad the truth, even though it was embarrassing. “Saturday she needled me all through practice. Brian — our captain — finally got tired of us and told us to take our brooms to the shed and sit out the rest of the practice.”
“Once we were off the Pitch and walking to the broom shed, Violet started crying.” This was the first of many things that James didn’t understand. Even Lily didn’t cry about getting in trouble. “She told me that she had never been in trouble before.” He looked up to emphasize his amazement.
Dad was more amused than amazed. “Shocking.”
James ignored the sarcasm. “And she didn’t know what her parents would say if they ever found out that she had been kicked out of Quidditch practice.” He sighed. “Then she cried some more.”
Dad’s lips twitched, but he didn’t smile.
“I didn’t know what to do!” He shuddered at the memory. “I don’t like it when girls cry — even the ones who bug me.”
“I can understand that.”
Heartened, James continued. “So I sort of — um — patted her on the back.” He rotated the butterbeer bottle around, smearing the rings of water. “And then she — I don’t know — launched herself at me.”
“You mean she hit you?”
“No! She — er — hugged me and then she cried harder on to my shirt.” He shifted in his chair. “I sort of hugged her back and she — er — started to…” His face must be beet red by now.
“She started to?”
“Kiss my neck,” he blurted. “And it felt strange at first and then —”
“I get the picture,” Dad interrupted.
Did Dad get it? James certainly didn’t understand how her lips had traveled from his neck to his mouth so quickly, although he had replayed it in his mind so many times. Had she still been crying when their tongues met? She had certainly been trembling — and after awhile so had he…
“So you liked kissing her.”
James nodded, his face on fire.
“But you don’t really like her.”
His shoulders dropped. Dad did understand. “Yeah. I mean, part of it seemed sort of wrong, but part of it… ” Those wonderful soft parts of her, filling his hands, causing the blood to course through his body…
He brought his wayward thoughts back to the conversation. “Yeah?”
“If something is part wrong — don’t you think that’s telling you something?”
The lecture was coming. He began to tear the label on the butterbeer bottle. “Yeah.”
“And what does it tell you?”
He sighed. Dad was going to get his pound of flesh. “That I shouldn’t be kissing girls I really don’t like.”
He frowned. “And what?”
“Don’t you think you should explain things to Violet?”
James stared at his father in horror. “Dad, I can’t talk to her like you talk to Mum. It’s not like that at all. She’ll laugh at me — or hex me — or tell her friends — or —”
“Those are the risks you’re going to have to take.” Dad’s mouth was in that familiar inflexible line. “It will be awkward to break it off at first, but it’s better to get it over with and not let it go on too long.”
Dad noticed the sigh. “Think of it this way: if you stay with the wrong person, then you have no chance of being with the right person.”
James had never thought of it like that before. In the very back of his mind, it had occurred to him that maybe Caroline White might notice him now that he was going out with a fourth-year, but how could he be friends with her if he was going out with someone else? Nothing he had done this past week made any sense whatsoever. He closed his eyes in defeat and leaned back in his chair. “I think I’ll stick to Quidditch from now on.”
Dad laughed. “Your mother would approve.”
He opened his eyes. “Mum knows?” Then he realized how stupid that question was. Of course Mum knew. His parents could simply look at each other over the dinner table and make a joint decision — like the best way to punish James for something Albus or Lily had done.
“Yes, and she seems to think that now is the time to concentrate on your studies and to worry about — er — the rest of it when you’re older.”
Now that he knew his mother had dated someone else, it made him feel better about Violet. Mum was always going on about true love and how she knew Dad was the one from the minute she saw him at King’s Cross when she was ten. It was comforting to know he wasn’t obliged to stick with Violet. And as soon as he ditched Violet, he would have his free time back and his friends would stop teasing him.
“The rest of it?” he asked innocently.
“You know what I mean,” Dad snapped.
He did and he really didn’t want Dad to talk about sex, anyway. Thank Merlin his father wasn’t one of those touchy-feely dads. Sean Brown’s father had told Sean that it was perfectly natural for a boy to wank — like that reassurance would encourage or discourage anyone from doing it. James would have sunk through the floor if his father had suddenly started talking about masturbation. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”
Dad took a deep breath and seemed relieved that James hadn’t pursued the subject — which made James want to tease him a little.
“So in three years I’ll be seventeen and an adult. Think that’s the time for the rest of it, right?”
James laughed. Dad was so serious sometimes. “Kidding.”
“You’d better be. Try finishing Hogwarts and having a job and independence first.”
“Sure, Dad. I’m just winding you up.”
His father gave him a sour look. “I didn’t travel all the way to Hogsmeade to be wound up, thank you very much. I wanted to have a serious conversation with you.” He stood up and put some Galleons on the table.
James leaped to his feet. “Sorry.” He was, too. For a moment they had talked man-to-man and now he had ruined it.
Dad stared at him to test his sincerity and then abruptly nodded. “It’s time I got you back to school.”
James followed him through the pub and out into the dark street. It had stopped raining but the wind was cold. He shivered, but before he could pull his cloak tighter, Dad had put his hand on his arm and Side-Apparated him to the gates of Hogwarts.
James blinked up at the boars that guarded the gates of Hogwarts, really noticing them for the first time. They looked fierce but not scary. They were there to protect.
Dad released his arm. “Er —”
“Thanks for the butterbeer,” James said all in a rush, not wanting the visit to end awkwardly. “I was surprised.”
Dad raised his eyebrows. “You’re growing up.”
It was as good of an explanation as any — for the unexpected outing — for all the mad things he had done this past week. For some reason, it made him feel better about himself. “Guess it will be Firewhisky next time, eh?” he asked cheekily.
Dad laughed. “Don’t push it, James.”
“I always push it,” he said promptly, delighted he had made his father laugh.
Dad smiled down at him. “You do have your mother’s eyes.”
James’s eyes widened and then he sobered. “I still don’t know what to say to that.”
Dad laughed again and pulled him into an abrupt one-armed hug. “It’s a compliment.”
He flushed at the affection in his father’s voice. “Oh.”
“Your nose is cold,” Ginny said after Harry had bent down to kiss her.
“It was freezing in Hogsmeade,” he replied, moving towards the hearth to warm his hands at the fire.
She closed the book she was reading and regarded the brooding line of his back. “So how did it go?”
“All right — I think.”
Just when she thought she was finally learning patience, she was tested by being forced to pry information out of Harry. She gritted her teeth and silently counted to ten.
When she had reached six, he swung around. “Sorry. I was trying to remember everything we talked about.” A smile played on his lips as he noticed her expression. “I drive you mad sometimes, don’t I?”
She laughed at his rueful expression, forgiving him instantly. “You do.”
He sighed and sat next to her on the sofa. “I must do the same thing to James.”
“I never thought about it before — how my personality works with his. I mean, if he thought of us as Potter Parents then I suppose I’ve thought of him as the Potter Son.”
She had no idea what he was talking about. “Why don’t you tell me the whole story?”
He closed his eyes for a moment and then opened them. “The Headmaster didn’t give me any trouble about taking James out of school.”
“I should hope not!” she began and then shut her mouth as he smiled knowingly. She did interrupt a lot when she was eager to hear something.
“So, it was pouring when we walked to the gates. Both of us got soaked. The Three Broomsticks wasn’t very crowded. Must have been the weather.”
Ginny put her arm on the back of the sofa and drummed her fingers, wishing he’d get on with it.
“So we had each had a butterbeer. When I brought up Violet —”
“That’s her name?” Ginny frowned. “I don’t know anyone who named their daughter Violet —”
“When I brought up Violet, James was defensive,” he continued, pointedly ignoring her comment. “And I thought that I had blown it, but then Madam Rosmerta stopped by and cooed over him.”
Ginny laughed at the pained expression on Harry’s face. James’s expression must have been identical.
“She said that James had his mother’s eyes,” he said, turning to her and taking her hand. “And that’s when I realized that James…” He trailed off, looking uncertain.
“Realized what, Harry?”
He played with her fingers. “It took me back.” He shrugged. “Did you know that James thought we only went out with each other at Hogwarts? And Ron and Hermione, too?”
“Really?” She thought James hadn’t paid the slightest bit of attention when she told her stories about Hogwarts to the children. “It’s true, in a way. I mean, I never gave my heart to anyone but you.”
His smile was a caress. “I know. But that’s not an easy distinction to explain to a fourteen-year-old.”
She could imagine the puzzlement in James’s eyes — and the impatience, too. “Oh.”
“Yeah, it wasn’t an easy conversation. But by the end of it, I concluded that, like his mother, James was not unwilling to kiss a few frogs before he found his prince — er — princess.”
“Harry!” She giggled. “So this Violet is not the one.”
“Not even close.” He smirked. “But he liked kissing.”
“Of course he did,” she said. “How could our child not like kissing?”
He sighed. “That’s what worries me.”
“So what was the end result of this conversation?” She wanted to know the whole story before she decided if she needed to worry. “What about Violet?”
“He’s going to break it off.” Harry paused. “Then when he’s seventeen he’s going to go out and have sex.”
“That was his little joke.”
Ginny shook her head. “Poor Harry. To have been a fly on the wall!”
Harry snorted. “I hate to think what Rita Skeeter would have made of that conversation.”
“So James was pushing your buttons?”
“Pretty much.” He smiled. “But this time I realized he was trying to connect with me and that was the only way he knew how.”
She moved closer to him and put her head on his shoulder. Of course James was trying to connect with his father — he loved Harry. “He’s my beautiful boy.”
“Your beautiful, obnoxious boy.” He put his arm around her. “Actually, he’s your beautiful, confused boy, too. He said he’s going to stick with Quidditch.”
“That won’t last long,” she replied, snuggling up next to him. “The witches are going to be chasing him from now on.”
“This Violet did. She’s a fourth-year.”
Because James was ending it and Ginny felt sorry for her, she refrained from judging Violet as a Scarlet Woman. What witch wouldn’t fancy James? He looked just like Harry. “You know, Mum gave me a version of the talk when I was going out with Dean.”
Harry moved so he could look into her face. “She did?”
“She did. During the Christmas holidays my fifth year she told me that a witch in love was like a cauldron.”
She giggled. “A cauldron that, once stirred, would eventually boil over if you didn’t watch it and lower the heat.”
“Was this cauldron stirred by a wand?” They were both laughing now.
“I didn’t laugh at the time,” Ginny admitted. “I was so angry and embarrassed that she assumed I would get carried away and let a boy do anything more than I wanted.”
He pulled her closer. “I seem to recall a time when things got carried away for us.” He nuzzled her neck.
“That was different. We were out of school and committed to each other.” Pleasant shivers rippled through her body as she felt his lips brush that spot near her ear. “You’re distracting me.”
“Deciding whether I should worry about James or not.”
“You should worry about him,” Harry replied in between kisses that moved up her neck to her jaw. “He has his mother’s eyes.”
She started to protest, but he kissed her mouth and then said, “I love those eyes.”
“So you think —”
“I think James is who he is.”
She relaxed. “Right.”
“And if I have to buy him a butterbeer and talk sense into him every week, I will.”
She hugged him. “And you’ll love him and worry about him until the day you die.”
“He’s my beautiful boy, too.”
“James, why weren’t you at homework?”
James cringed and slowly turned around. Talk about poor timing. The first person he had encountered when he returned from the Three Broomsticks was Violet Smith. It had taken him ten seconds to break up with her and ten minutes to listen to her heap scorn on his head. Now that he was almost safely to Gryffindor Tower, the second person he had to meet was Eleanor Scott, Head Girl and Head Busybody. “I had permission from the Headmaster.”
“I know you had permission,” Eleanor said in that fake-concerned way of hers. “I’m asking why your dad took you out of school. Is there trouble at home or something?”
“It’s none of your business.”
“Yes, it is. I’m Head Girl. I’m supposed to look out for you.”
“My dad is looking out for me.” It gave him a warm feeling to say that with such certainty.
“Then tell your brother,” Eleanor snapped. “He’s worried.”
James was about to retort that Albus wasn’t worried — Albus just wanted to revel in James being in trouble — but then he stopped himself. Maybe behind Albus’s tattling and tagging along there might be worry — maybe even grudging affection. After all, Albus did have green eyes like Dad. It was an interesting thought — and one that might prove useful, or at the very least, amusing.
“Primogeniture,” he said to the Fat Lady
“What are you looking so smug about?” the Fat Lady asked suspiciously.
“I’m going to find out what my brother says when I tell him he has his father’s eyes,” James replied with a straight face.
The Fat Lady rolled her eyes and unlatched the portrait door. “Teenagers! I’ll never understand them.”
A/N: Written for catchmysnitch’s May Challenge: butterbeer. Thanks to TDU and Sherylyn for the betas!