Anyway, on with the story. I tried not to Ginny-bash, but there might be light hints of it. I don't hate her, I just think she's like the least ideal wife possible for poor Harry. (As Sarah avonlea_dreamer and I were saying the other day, she's the Miss Bingley to his Mr. Darcy; Hermione's his Elizabeth.)
Betaing/character suggestions/Brit Picking encouraged and you will be profusely thanked. Only pre-reader was hubby. PG rating.
An Evening at the Burrow
“And someday I'll have your son and we'll name him James, of course,” Ginny gushed.
“I don't think so,” Harry replied quietly. It had been a little over two years since Voldemort's death, and his girlfriend made less-than-subtle hints like this around him often. She was clearly dangling for the Potter engagement ring that she knew full-well was in his vault. Somehow, though, something was holding him back from giving it to her. He supposed it was only a matter of time, though shouldn't that thought make him happier?
“What do you mean? Of course you'd want to name him for your father.” Ginny was clearly surprised and a bit confused.
“I wouldn't actually. For one thing, James is already my middle name and I would not want to name my child
after myself.” Harry was still quiet, but firm and very certain in his pronouncement.
Ginny shook her head. “Why not? Harold is a lovely name and...”
“My name is Harry, Ginevra. Just Harry.” His tone had become sharper than it almost ever was with the red-head.
“Oh, right. But don't you think Harold or Henry is more dignified?”
“No. But it doesn't matter. There's no way I would ever saddle my son with my own name.”
Ginny pouted a bit, but then her eyes brightened. “What about naming a daughter Harriet?”
Harry let out an exasperated sigh. “No way. They'll have enough to bear just being my children; I wouldn't
want them to try to fill the name as well.”
“Well, then I suppose Sirius would be the next logical choice,” Ginny mused.
“I really don't think that's a good idea,” he replied evenly. “No offense, but I would rather give a
child a name with no added significance of a fallen loved one attached. I'd rather them make a name for themselves, not feel like
they have to step into someone else's shoes.” Harry made sure his voice was low. The rest of the Weasley family was in the living room while Harry and Ginny took their turn at dishes duty. To be honest, it was mostly Harry since he preferred to do them Muggle-style. Ginny rolled her eyes at his 'pig-headedness', but deigned to dry them with a conjured dishtowel. Harry did not want to be overheard by Ginny's brother, George, or his wife, Angelina. Their three-month-old was named Fred for George's late twin.
“But of course you'd want to name our daughter Lily,” Ginny wheedled.
Harry sighed. She clearly wasn't getting it. “No, I wouldn't. Maybe I'd follow the Evans family tradition with flower names – I've always thought Rose was pretty for instance – but I would not want to name her after Mum directly.”
“I don't understand,” Ginny said petulantly. “I always thought I'd name your children James and
Lily after your parents.”
“I know you don't.” Harry replied. “I'm not sure how I can make you understand, though. If we tried to name
our children after every fallen hero, we'd have names like James Sirius Remus, Albus Severus Cedric, and Lily Nimphadora Amelia. I think those qualify as cruelty to children.”
Ginny gave him a blank look. He must have used too Muggle a phrase. Again.
“Anyway, as much as I liked and admired them, I think they'd come back and haunt me if I saddled my children with such unwieldy names.” He chuckled, though there was little mirth to it, “For some reason I have a vision of Cedric as an emo guy macking on girls much younger than himself and mocking me for my poor choice in children's names.”
Ginny looked confused and annoyed. “So what sort of names would you like?”
“Well, like I said, I might use floral names like Rose or Daisy for girls. Maybe even plants like Basil or Sage for boys. I also like traditional British names like William and Charles or Elizabeth and Catherine.”
“Those are nice enough, I suppose,” Ginny was clearly trying to be agreeable, but he could still hear a hint of whining in her voice.
“It's not something we need to worry about any time soon anyway,” Harry added, unable to stop himself.
Now the pout was back with a vengeance. “What do you mean?” Ginny complained. “Don't you want to start having children right after we get married?”
“Not particularly,” he replied coolly, even as he knew this was getting out of hand. “Whenever I get married, I want to spend some time enjoying being a couple – just the two of us – and get used to being a family unit before we add kids to the equation.”
“But your parents had you right away,” she argued.
“I. Am. Not. My. Parents.” Harry replied testily.
“We look so much like them, though,” Ginny tried the old argument. She had never realized how much it irritated him when she acted like they were the second coming of James and Lily Potter.
“Not really,” he sniped, “Mum's hair was more auburn. And anyway, looks aren't everything.”
“What's that supposed to mean?” Ginny's voice was rising. He hoped their argument wouldn't attract attention from the other room. Then again, maybe Hermione or someone could help ease the situation.
“It means that I am not my father. And from what I can tell from the letters Remus left me, you're not actually much like my mother.” He kept his voice low, but there was a definite edge to it.
Ginny reeled back as if she'd been slapped. “Oh really? How so?”
Harry calmly ticked things off on his fingers. “Mum was a Muggle-born. You can't survive alone for an hour in Muggle London without calling undo attention to yourself. Mum was at the top of many of her classes. You got Acceptables on most of your OWLs and all of your NEWTs. Mum...”
“Oh, so I'm not smart enough for you, now?” Ginny shrieked. “Well why don't you just dump me and date Hermione, then? She's too smart for her own good and you already said looks weren't everything.”
“Take that back.” Harry's voice had grown even steelier.
“What?” Ginny sniffed.
“That jibe about Hermione's looks. She's beautiful.”
“Oh, please, Harry. She's a mousy bookworm who can only look presentable at public functions with three other witches performing glamour charms on her for hours ahead of time.” Ginny tended to get catty when she was angry or jealous, and she was clearly both.
“She looked lovely at dinner tonight and I know she'd come straight from a ten hour shift at St. Mungos,” Harry replied.
“Maybe you wish you were dating her instead, then,” Ginny mocked. “Oh wait, she's about to get engaged to my brother.”
“Maybe I do.” Harry said, so quietly he almost didn't expect her to hear him.
She did, though. She went white as Molly's starched table-cloth. “You mean that, don't you,” Ginny gasped.
Suddenly Harry realized that he did. He nodded, unable to speak.
Ginny shook her head. “This can't be happening. Witch Weekly already has a layout for our engagement announcement! They have one for a double engagement too, of course, but I couldn't be sure it would happen at the same time. I'd been hinting for Christmas,
“It's not going to happen,” Harry cut her off with quiet finality.
“At Christmas, you mean?” Ginny asked, tears starting to pool in her eyes.
“Ever.” Harry sighed. “I'm sorry, Gin. I should have done this a long time ago. Before you got your hopes up so high and went running to your bosses at that rag, anyway. We're not going to get engaged. In fact... I think we should break up.”
The tears poured over quickly and streamed down her face. She wouldn't use crocodile tears so often if she knew how ugly she was when she cried, but this time he felt guilty because they were very real. He hadn't really learned anything about dealing with crying women since his misadventures with Cho Chang, either. He stood there helplessly as she sobbed. Once she realized he wasn't going to take it all back – or even, apparently, comfort her, she turned on her heel and fled up to her room.
Unfortunately, that meant running through the living room. A few seconds after her feet thundered up the stairs, Harry heard several pairs following them. If he had to guess, he'd wager Molly, Angelina, and Audrey. Fleur and Ginny still didn't get along all that well, so her Gallic sister-in-law would not be much help in calming her down or making her feel better.
Also, as he expected, someone headed his way to see if he was all right.
Hermione Granger's eyes showed her concern as she approached him. “What happened, Harry? Why is Ginny crying? Did you have a fight?”
“You could say that,” he replied, with another mirthless chuckle. “We broke up.”
“Oh no,” she said, clearly shocked. Somehow, though, she didn't look as upset as she might have been. “What happened?”
“It was so stupid, Hermione,” Harry sighed and sat down in one of the kitchen chairs. She sat across from him and took one of his hands. “She started spouting off about what we were going to name our first son.”
“Again?” she asked, unsurprised.
“Again,” he answered flatly. “I finally told her that I didn't want to name my children after my parents or, well, anyone, really. She didn't understand.”
Hermione sighed. “Family names are sort of big around here.”
“I know, and that's fine for them. Nice, even. But it's just...” he broke off and tried to collect his thoughts. Hermione rubbed small circles on the back of his hand. “My children are going to be stuck with the Potter surname. I think it would be nice if they had Christian names that were theirs alone.”
“I understand,” Hermione said quietly. Of course she did. But then, when didn't she? It had always been easier to talk with her about this sort of thing than Ginny. “Did you really break up over your hypothetical children's names, though?”
“Well, not entirely.” Suddenly Harry couldn't meet Hermione's eyes. “I might also have hinted that I should have ended it with her long before she had the engagement announcement mocked up for Witch Weekly”
“She didn't!” Hermione exclaimed.
Harry just raised an eyebrow at her.
“Of course she did,” Hermione amended, shaking her head. “Oh Ginny, you'll never learn.”
“She had one for you guys, too. And a double feature. She was hoping to run it on Boxing Day.” As much as he was still reeling from the changes, Harry was starting to see the humour in the whole mess.
“Divination really is bollocks, isn't it?” Hermione laughed.
Harry looked confused at the apparent non-sequitur. “What do you mean?”
Now Hermione sighed a bit, but still looked faintly pleaded as she told him quietly, “Ron and I just told the rest of the family. We broke up last week.”
It was Harry's turn to look gobsmacked. “You... you did? And you didn't tell me?” He tried not to let any hurt creep into his voice. This was his best friends' lives and relationship. It really had nothing to do with him. “What happened? Did you have another amazing row?”
“No, actually. We had a perfectly civil and rational discussion,” she replied softly.
“With Ron?” Harry looked amazed.
“I was as surprised as you,” she replied ruefully. “When I told him I wanted to apply for a Magical surgery fellowship next term, it finally hit home to him that I was never going to settle down in Ottery St. Catchpole or Hogsmede and have half-a-dozen or so kids like he wanted.”
“I can't believe he ever thought that you would,” Harry said honestly.
“Me neither, but it's Ron.” Hermione sighed. “I love him, but we just want different things from life. It wasn't fair to either of us to try to stay together when we make each other miserable.”
“I know what you mean,” he sighed. “I could never live up to the white knight Ginny had been imagining me as all her life. And she
could never understand the things I still enjoy from the Muggle world.”
“Would never,” Hermione muttered.
Harry acknowledged it. “Because of their Dad, the Weasley kids mostly see Muggles and Muggle ways of doing things as harmless and rather uninteresting oddities.
“I know. It drove me crazy when we went to visit my parents,” Hermione agreed. “Ron could be so condescending to them without even meaning to be. It drove Daddy crazy. But then, he never thought I should have been dating Ron.”
“Why not?” Harry asked, mildly surprised.
“Well, because we fought all the time, our world-views are almost diametrically opposite, and.. um, nothing else.” Hermione trailed off.
Harry's ears perked up. “No, there's something else. You've never been able to lie to me, Hermione, what was it?”
“HethoughtIshouldbedatingsomeoneelse,” Hermione muttered.
“What was that?” Harry asked, though he had a ghost of an idea what she'd said.
“He thought I should be dating someone else, okay?” Hermione said,annoyed that he'd forced her to tell him.
“Anyone in particular?” Harry asked, trying to feign idle curiosity.
Hermione gave him a look that said he knew very well who her father had meant. Roger Granger had become quite fond of Harry when he and Ron accompanied Hermione to Australia to restore her parents' memories. Still, she whispered, “You.”
“Oh. I suppose I should confess something too, then,” Harry said haltingly.
“What is it?” she asked, curiosity tinged with hope in her eyes.
“I told Ginny something else that was really the final straw.” She quirked her eyebrow at him and he continued, “I told her that I
maybe wished I was dating you instead – or, you know, someone like you.”
Hermione's eyes grew wide as Crookshanks'. “Someone like me?”
“No, you. See, I was telling her how she wasn't really like Mum – she'd been banging on about how we looked jut like them again –” Harry and Hermione both rolled their eyes. “I said Mum had been really smart, near the top of her class, and I compared her OWL and NEWTresults...”
“Oh, Harry,” Hermione sighed.
“I know, low blow, but she was driving me mental. Anyway, she whined about me not thinking she was smart enough and said I might as well date you since I wanted a smart girlfriend and I'd told her looks weren't everything.” Hermione drew in her breath quickly, obviously hurt, but let him continue. “I snapped back that you were beautiful and somehow ended up realizing and admitting that I, well, would.”
“Would what?” Hermione asked softly, with a nervous energy infusing the words.
“Would rather be dating you.” Harry smiled for the first time he could remember that evening.
Hermione's thousand-watt smile matched his own. Suddenly, though, she looked around her. “You know? I would too. But I think we should continue this conversation somewhere else.”
“You are the smartest witch of your age, you know that?” he teased as he stood up and headed for the door.
“Thank you,” she said, stopping long enough to scribble a 'Thanks for Dinner' note to Mrs. Weasley, then following him toward the Burrow's Apparation point.
He took her hand in his as they arrived. “I would very much like to kiss you right now.”
She smiled at him in a way he had never seen before. He would almost call it seductive. “I'd like that too, but let's get somewhere a bit less conspicuous first.”
He nodded and wrapped his arms around her, side-along Apparating her back to her London flat with a very slight pop.