Scene 20.5

The Contract - Chapter 29: Scene 20.5 by Just Desserts

    Chapter number: 
    29

    Scene 20.5

    1 Jul 1992

     

    “They didn’t hex you.”

    Ginny’s voice in the dark room was quite soft, but it carried easily across the few feet that separated their heads.  The L-shaped orientation of the twin beds – heads together, feet away – made conversation trivially easy, while any other contact could be completely avoided.  The only visible indicators of the strange status they shared were the additional wardrobe and a substantial expansion of the closet.

    “Did you think they would?” Harry asked, keeping his eyes on the starry patch of sky visible through the open window. 

    It was a warm night, and the periodic sway of translucent drapes, rippling the pattern of the stars, was the only sign of any breeze.  Harry was in shorts and a tee, the blankets on the floor and the sheet pushed to his waist.  Ginny was similarly situated, though he thought she was still on her side facing him rather than splayed on her back as he was.

    “They’re an odd lot,” she eventually said.  “With Bill and Charlie here for just the two days, I’m surprised you’re still alive, actually.  They’ve always been very . . . protective of me. The others are more likely to treat me like a baby if not a nuisance.”

    Harry gave a “hmm” acknowledgement that he had heard her, but he was thinking about his very short conversation with Seamus through the floo after dinner.  “Seamus was . . . calm about it, I suppose.  I kind of thought he’d be more teasing than anything.  Though I think you’ll want to watch your back around Cat for a while.”

    “Cat?  Teasing?”

    They had been talking off and on since everyone had retired for the evening, short bursts of conversation separated by long periods of monosyllables and silence.  Harry was reminded of that stilted period of forced adjustment during his first weeks in the dormitory room at Hogwarts, when he had not been able to avoid his “new friends” Ron and Dean for very long.  His existing friendship with Neville and Seamus had made it hard to get to know the other two very well, and only time had resolved the problem.  Ginny, however, seemed to be trying desperately to make up for the ten years they had already unknowingly lost.  Harry understood why she was doing it, but he worried that they would someday regret skipping the casual approach that everyone else enjoyed.  Later on, they might desperately need the trust and confidence that time and repeated exposure engendered.

    “Caitlin, who’d rather be Cat, is Seamus’ little sister.  She won’t be at Hogwarts for a couple of years yet, but she’s . . . ,” Harry trailed off, trying to find a way to articulate the complex relationship and emotional aspects of his life with Cat.  In the end, given the nature of his relationship with Ginny, he decided that he might as well try to be candid about it.  “Ehh.  She’s been crushing on me for the past year or so, and it’s bloody annoying, but she’s not . . . she’s not a bad sort, you know?  I like her well enough as a sort of sister, and we used to have a lot of fun – the three of us did – before her crush made her . . . I don’t know what to call it.  Obsessed, or maybe not quite, but really irritating.  Anyway, Seamus said Cat threw a right tantrum, screaming at his folks and spewing accidental magic everywhere.  He suggested that I not leave the two of you alone in a room anytime soon.”

    “You don’t like her . . . like that?” 

    Harry suspected that it was a loaded question.  He was uncertain if her calm tones were genuine, or if she was masking something more.  “Nah,” he replied in the same casual voice.  “I reckon it’d be like how Ron or the twins look at you.  I . . . well, we’ve lived together for our whole lives, so . . .”

    “Oh.  Right.”  She paused and then, to Harry’s surprise, chuckled softly.  “I used to ask about you when I was little.  Everyone knew your story in some manner, even though it was probably all wrong on facts.  But Mum and Dad . . . well, they told all of us you were just another boy, one that had lost your parents, and you probably weren’t so different from us, except maybe more sad.”

    “Really?”  Harry was surprised that her parents had such a mature view of the situation, and that they had apparently pushed their children to be less worshipful toward him.  That probably explained why the twins had been so easy to talk to and why Ron had recovered much faster than others from his initial shock.

    “Yeah.  I’ve been thinking, though, that it was because they knew about what was going to happen.  They were sort of preparing all of us a little bit.”

    Harry chuckled faintly, the idea not entirely surprising even if it was unexpected.  Of course her parents would have influenced their children, all things considered.  “Figures.”

    “So is she the teasing bit you mentioned?”

    Harry groaned, wondering if he really wanted to explain a joke was now sure he would never escape.  “A little bit, but not really,” he said. “It’s more a running joke, that I’ve been married three times already before meeting you.”

    “What?!”

    “Not like that,” he laughed shortly.  “Only once that was real, but I can’t say I remember that one.”

    “I’m sorry.” 

    Once again, someone was apologising, but he felt she was the last person who should ever need to.  “Don’t, Genny,” he said shortly.  “It’s not your fault, nor mine.  It just is.”

    She was quiet for a moment, and then spoke a little too briskly.  “Ginny.  With a G and an I.  Like ‘pinny’ or something.”

    “Oh,” he said, pressing his eyes closed, “sorry.”  He had spent an entire day mispronouncing the name of his own . . .  “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

    Her breath hissed briefly in the darkness.  “We were a little busy with other things, weren’t we?”

    After the silence had become comfortable again, she broke it.  He supposed if that night was any indication, he had a lifetime to get used to her doing exactly that.  “So how did you wind up getting married thrice?”

    “Cat was five, and she had a little birthday party with two of her friends.  She’d been playing ‘dress-up’ constantly, and it was a good excuse to go wild,” Harry explained, trying to keep his tone light and not let on how tired he was of talking about marriage.  “Seamus teased her that she was a princess and just needed a prince to live happily ever after.  She kind of threw a tantrum when Seamus refused to be her prince and marry her.  I guess I felt bad for her, you know . . . it’s her birthday, and she really wanted everything to be just right, so I said I’d be her prince for the day.  She made her parents marry us, but it was just a big joke followed by a peck on the cheek, and that was it.  To be honest, she was far more concerned about the dress and fake jewelry than she was about me or the mock wedding.”

    Ginny was laughing lightly, and he knew it was not with him at all.  “And you did that three times?”

    “With her? No.  But when her friends had their next birthdays, I was the man for the job, apparently.”

    Her laughter became a bit more pronounced, and while he was glad she had something to laugh at for once, he still felt annoyed that she was laughing at him about the same topic they had been dancing around for hours.  “Yeah, yeah, laugh it up.  So Seamus constantly reminds me and everyone nearby about how I’ve been married for years.  Guess the joke’s on him after all.”

    “Harry . . .”  Ginny’s voice held a note of something he could not quite identify.  “Most girls pretend to get married.  The boy, if there is one, isn’t really . . . he’s an accessory.  It’s just an excuse to try to dress like an adult.  I think I married my giant stuffed rabbit during a tea party when I was about five or so.  My Mum is a bit like Seamus, reminding me all the time about that day and how I’m a married woman . . .”

    When her voice trailed off suddenly, Harry understood that she was coming to terms with the lies of omission from her own parents.  Harry had no reason to feel betrayed by Aoife or Darius, but he could understand how she might feel that way about her parents.  He was unsure if he should feel that way, since they had kept the truth from him, too, but given his lack of interaction with them . . . somehow it just did not seem appropriate for him to feel too upset over an omission.  Having problems with their choice, however, was a completely different issue.

    Just then, the door to her room creaked open slightly and a darker patch of midnight crept into the dark room along the floor.  A very faint mewl reached his ears, and he knew PD had arrived, looking for Harry’s bed to sleep on.  Ginny cooed, and he heard her sit up and move.

    “Be careful –” Harry said, but a sharp cry and more movement cut him off.

    “Ow! Your cat bit me!”

    “Yeah, sorry,” Harry sighed.  “I was about to warn you.  Don’t try to make friends with PD.  She’ll come around on her own time, or she won’t do it at all.  She’s . . . peculiar about people.”

    He heard her lay back down and the sheets rustle.  Tired of the conversation and just wanting to escape from the day’s events, Harry rolled onto his side and faced the wall.  “Good night, Ginny.”

    There was a brief pause before she replied, “Good night, Harry.”

    PD jumped onto his side and curled around his hip, kneading him excessively as she settled down.  Harry tried to think of peaceful things to still his mind, idly scratching PD’s chin and ears.  He feared sleep would be a long time in coming.  Based on the noises he heard from Ginny’s bed, he knew he would not lie awake alone.

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    Comments

    What can I say? This story

    What can I say? This story is becoming more and more addictive. I really love that you guys take time to describe scenes like this. When you read the story, you just can't help yourself feeling concerned. I can't wait to read more. Thanks for your work.

    Bundling?

    5

    While I have heard of this custom I thought it was when two "intendeds" where, fully clothed or nightclothed, laid in a single bed and kind of roped together or something, a way to get some sexual contact with being sexual right?

    Does your version of bundling last until marriage? I mean, it might not be embarrassing right now with the two of them as pre-teens, but give it a year or three and there should be all kinds of things that might not want to be shared with the opposite sex eh?
    Well done.

    Have you seen The Patriot?

    In The Patriot starring Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger's character has this done to him. His intended sews him up into a large bag, basically a sleeping bag. This is so he can sleep in the same room with her and the parents don't have to worry about anything inappropriate happening. He is sewn up in the bag with only his head free. Later when her parents are preparing to go to sleep, the girl's father comments that it's fortunate for them that she is much better at sewing than her mother. I assume the purpose is so that any loose stitching in the morning will reveal whether anything untoward has happened. Of course, this doesn't match what has happened in this story. Maybe the custom is different in different regions and different eras?

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    If you strike me down now, I shall become more annoying than you could possibly imagine.

    About Bundling, ages of children living together, and so on

    A few comments about topics raised in this story recently.

    First, regarding bundling, there's a dearth of solid information on the topic. There is a plethora of innuendo and weird assumptions coupled to urban legend, and of course Hollywood does its own thing with only a vague genuflection in the direction of reality, but the amount of tangible and accessible trusted literature (documented history or research) on the topic is hard to find that's worth citing. There are common beliefs that as a practice, it pre-dates the Christian Bible, or it is first documented in the Christian Bible (in "Ruth"), or it is a product of Martin Luther's split from the Church in the 1500's. Despite the controversy over when and how it started, people asking questions ought to read a bit of background to understand more. One example, though over-focused on the North American customs of New England, would be:

    http://threerivershms.com/bundlingartcontents.htm

    In this story, you'll find the concept applied (since it already existed in Muggle Europe) with a twist brought about by magic. Space and duplication of beds are not the prohibitive cost factors that they would be to those practicing this approach in the Muggle world. Therefore, adjustments to convention were made to show what did and did not matter, with an eye toward what would be acceptable in the current age and etiquette of the Weasley parents. They are bundling in the sense of discussions at night and a high level of proximal intimacy, but not in the sense of sharing a single bed -- though it will surprise none should a transition there occur in the (distant, adult) future.

    Going back to a few other topics - the discussion regarding children living together in the same house, not simply playing together as "play mates", and what it does to the imprinting of the mind and romantic potential among those children . . . it has been brought to our attention that some people are misquoting the data we provided in earlier chapters.

    It's great that people are enjoying this story, and even learning something from it. It's not great that the widely reported results we presented are repeated incorrectly and without understanding of why they are what they are. If you aren't going to read the relevant literature and come to a solid foundation of understanding, please don't blindly report out these details as "fact" and flame other authors over their plot devices. Most fanfic authors are not adults, and very few at any age can be bothered to try to construct a degree of "realism" that honors actual human behavior in situations depicted in their stories. (To be fair, it's actually impossible to do so perfectly, given that we lack magic or the associated years of history that go with it. That doesn't excuse many of the plots out there, however.)

    If you feel obligated to point out potential problems such as two children living together since birth winding up in a marriage, mention your concern and provide a pointer to further information rather than getting significant details wrong, leading to further confusion.

    As for Harry's mild brogue, as we noted in an earlier chapter (which was either loved or hated by all) in which we tried to phonetically spell the way he talks . . . yes, he does talk that way. You can imagine him shifting to a milder and milder one with time, eventually picking up on some Devonshire mannerisms, making a truly odd mix for his speech patterns by the time he's, say, an adult.

    Did Harry offend Ginny deeply with his question? Stop for a moment, step aside, and put yourself into the scene as Harry or Ginny at that moment. What would you be feeling before he asked that question? Note the ages as almost-11 and almost-12 children. Did she genuinely have the same question but hesitate to ask? Was she wounded by the question? If she had asked the question and not Harry, how would he feel about it?

    Recall that this story is being written as a collection of 1,000 - 2,000 word "critical scenes", which we'll drop in from time to time. We're never going to fill in all the details, though there are a bunch of "missing" scenes in what's been posted so far that will go online at some point. This story, however, requires readers to use their own imagination about what may be going on in the details not provided. Future scenes will give confirmation or rejection of those assumptions.