Harry supposed it was, although rain wouldn't have been high on his list if anyone asked him what he wanted right now.
"Quiet down there!" Moody's snap came clearly from above.
"Mad-Eye, who do you think is going to hear us up here?!" Tonks, right in front of Harry, sounded more than a little frustrated.
"You never know," he shot back, then zoomed higher, effectively ending the conversation.
Harry huddled closer to his broomstick, trying to keep part of himself dry. The worst part of it was, he was still hot.
"Constant vigilance!" Harry said bitterly.
Tonks giggled. "I wonder if we should give him a scare somehow when we land."
Harry thought it over. "How would we do it safely? If we scare him he might just start cursing everything in sight."
Tonks giggled again. "Well, at the rate we're flying, we got two days, twelve hours and 27 minutes to come up with SOMETHING!"
Hours later, Moody directed them towards the ground. A half-dozen broomsticks grounded on wet grass.
Harry recognized their landing site very clearly. Number 12, Grimmauld Place stood before them. Harry swallowed hard. He hadn't wanted to come here, but he hadn't exactly been given a choice.
He didn't ever seem to get much of a choice. Steal the Philosopher's Stone or let Voldemort get it. Go after Ginny on his own or let her die.
Kill Voldemort or die trying.
Moody rapped sharply on the door to Number 12, then twisted sideways and stood to one side of it, his wand out. Harry wondered if Moody expected an Order member to blast the door apart when they were expecting Harry Potter to show up.
Whatever Moody was expecting, Harry was certainly surprised when the door opened.
"Indeed, Harry Potter, sir! Welcome to Grimmauld Place, sirs and madams! Please come in." Dobby bowed, and Harry's escort trooped in. Harry lingered in the entryway as Dobby shut the door.
"What are you doing here, Dobby? What happened to Kreacher?"
"Kreacher never returned, sir. Albus Dumbledore offered Dobby a new job, sir, as house-elf for the Order of the Phoenix! Dobby is repairing the house, cooking, and doing washing for the Order. Dobby was told of Harry Potter's coming and put special effort into Harry's Potter's room." Dobby looked eager, and Harry rather nervously wondered just what 'special effort' meant and how embarrassing it would be.
"Harry, mate, good to see you!" Ron and Ginny had come into the entry hall.
"You're soaking wet! Come on, get upstairs and change. Can you give us a hand with his trunk, Dobby?" Ginny seemed to be filling in for her mother, though Harry noticed that her eyes were twinkling in amusement. Perhaps it was deliberate.
"Of course, Miss Weasley!" Dobby gestured with his hand, and Harry's trunk began to float up the stairs.
Harry was halfway up the first flight before he stopped and looked back suddenly. The curtains in front of Mrs. Black's portrait were gone. So was the portrait. "What happened to Si...to her?" Harry pointed.
"Lupin," said Ron crisply.
"Disintegration Hex," added Ginny. "I thought he was going to blow a hole through the wall."
"He came back late one night, and, well I think he'd been drinking," said Ron quietly. "And she started in on her usual 'blood traitors, filth' business, and he just drew his wand and BANG! Gone."
Harry nodded. His only regret was that he hadn't been there to see it.
His room turned out not to be embarrassing. It was sparkling clean (except for Ron's bed), and Phineas's portrait seemed to have been moved. Harry breathed a sigh of relief (he'd remembered the 'very Harry Christmas' ornaments), and thanked Dobby. Dobby was ecstatic, then excused himself to finish dinner.
The sharp 'crack' of Dobby's disappearance made Harry flinch. For a moment, he was ducking spells in the Department of Mysteries. "I'd better get changed." Harry started to pull his shirt over his head.
"Um...shouldn't you go, Ginny?"
Harry froze at Ron's comment. His face reddened. He'd forgotten Ginny was there. To be honest, he'd forgotten anyone was there.
"What? Can't a girl enjoy a show?" Ginny grinned at Harry, then shrugged and walked out with a grin on her face.
"I thought she was dating Dean." Harry finished pulling off his shirt, puzzled by Ginny's behavior.
"Nah. She just said that to wind me up. She's been doing that a lot lately," Ron added bitterly.
Harry pulled on a dry shirt and began unpacking. One of the first things to come out was the mirror Sirius had given him. He set it carefully on his bedside table, just as he'd set it next to his bed on Privet Drive. He let his breath out slowly.
"Where did you get that?" Ron asked curiously.
"Sirius," answered Harry quietly, and there was silence for some time.
"Ah, relief from the heat!"
"Arthur, I'm not sure this is a good idea." Molly Weasley sounded like she was sure it wasn't a good idea, but her husband remained confident.
"Molly, the Muggles have been using Conditioned Air for years! It's perfectly safe." Arthur grunted and hoisted the window air conditioner into place.
"Right, mom, when was the last time anything dad tried to install went wrong?" Fred inquired brightly, rooting through a toolbox. The twins had helped their father bring in the heavy window unit and take it up to the second floor. Dobby had eyed it suspiciously and slipped away.
George was eyeing the instruction booklet. "Well, there was The Incident with the washing machine..."
"...but I like having all my clothes the same color," Fred cut in swiftly.
George scratched his chin. "The Problem with the toaster..."
"Carbon is one of the most important parts of a nutritious breakfast!" Fred protested.
"Especially delivered directly to your plate at high velocity," put in Ginny.
"The Unfortunate Episode Best Not Remembered?"
There was a pause. "I think I've forgotten that one."
"Now boys, I've been very careful this time. No magic at all, just ekltricity. Here goes!" Six Weasleys watched the air conditioner with varying degrees of fear as, with great ceremony, Arthur pushed its plug into an electrical outlet.
Harry, however, was looking at the outlet.
"Um, Mr. Weasley?"
"Yes, Harry?" Arthur's eyes never wavered from the window.
"I, ah, think it might work better if the outlet was attached to something."
Six pairs of eyes swiveled to the outlet which Arthur was holding in mid-air.
For his own part, Arthur seemed more interested than disappointed. "Oh, is that how it works? I've often wondered how the ekltricity gets to the outlet."
Five pairs of eyes rolled up in exasperation. Arthur's were still examining the outlet.
"He's been very careful," Fred said to George.
"Yes, he wanted to make sure it wouldn't do anything dangerous..."
"...so he made sure it wouldn't do anything at all."
Ron sighed. "Come on, Harry. Fancy a game of chess?"
Harry shrugged. He didn't really want to, but he didn't want to do anything else, either. "Might as well."
"Ah, relief from the heat!"
"Uh, Ginny, aren't you a bit under-dressed?" said Ron, trying to cover his sister. He looked around, but seemed disappointed by the lack of bedsheets, robes, or large towels in the kitchen. He satisfied himself by standing between her and Harry, who had gone a trifle pink. Ginny was wearing a rather skimpy green bikini.
"Oh, Ron, I'm perfectly decent. It's just a bathing suit."
Harry was puzzled. "Ginny, why are you wearing a bathing suit?"
"Well, if it bothers you, Harry, I could take it off." Ginny reached her arms behind her back.
"No!" Ron looked as if he wanted to carry Ginny out of the room, but wasn't sure where he could safely touch her.
Harry's face flamed as red as Ron's hair. Why does she keep doing things like this to me? What happened to the girl who put her elbow in a butter dish when she saw me?
She was possessed by a 16-year-old Voldemort, nearly died, then got Stunned in the Department of Mysteries trying to fight full-fledged Death Eaters.
"I was up on the roof. The sun's out, so I thought I'd enjoy it for a bit. It's so hot, you could cook a Hippogriff out there, but there's a breeze." Ginny shrugged. "You two could come and join me." She locked her gaze on Harry. "You might enjoy it." She turned and walked out. Harry found himself staring at her back.
Ginny turned in the doorway, noted where Harry was staring, and grinned again. "Harry, does this make my bottom look big?"
Harry's mouth dropped open, and she was gone before he could manage to close it.
Harry looked hopelessly at Ron. Who, Harry realized, was Ginny's big brother. And, for that matter, rather big compared to Harry, too. Ron, however, just shook his head. "Might as well give up, mate. I think she still likes you."
Harry opened his mouth, paused, closed it again, thought for a moment, then shook his head himself. "No, Ron. I can't date her."
"Why not? Don't you like her?" Ron's eyes narrowed, and his voice became dangerous. "Or isn't she good enough?"
"No! It's not that!" Harry's head dropped. "I can't explain it." He stood and walked up to his room. He sat down on his bed and picked up the mirror.
He tilted it, looking at his face. The face of a boy who tried to use an Unforgivable Curse.What would Ginny think of me if she knew? What would Ron and Hermione think? I bet Hermione would die before she'd try to Crucio someone.
The face of a murderer. Or it will be.
What would Sirius think, if after I wouldn't let him kill Pettirgrew, I go kill Voldemort?
Ginny might not care. I did save her life, after all.
But I saved Pettigrew's too, and he doesn't exactly seem to like me. For that matter, my father saved Snape, and Snape still hated my father.
So what happens if I save the world and my friends are all afraid of me because I've used Unforgivables? What if the Ministry calls it Harry Potter Day, and every year they ask me to come speak about the day I lost all my friends? Why would I want to celebrate the memory of the worst day of my life?
"Ah, relief from the heat!"
"How do you take your pumpkin juice?"
"Sweetened, not stirred."
"Sweetened? Should Dobby bring sugar?"
"No, Dobby, that's quite all right. Fred was making a joke," George explained, taking a long swallow of the ice-cold juice.
Fred and George were seated with Ron and Harry in the kitchen. Ron was trying to find out where the twins had been, so far without success.
"You could at least tell me if you were doing something for the Order or not!"
"Sorry, Ron. If we told you we had been doing something for the Order, then next time when we said we hadn't, it would mean something..."
"...And if we denied it now, then next time when we said we had it would mean something."
"I'm your brother! Who am I going to tell? I'm trapped in this house with Harry, Ginny, and Dobby." Ron threw his arms wide, gesturing to the empty house.
"Speaking of which, how is Ginny?" George asked brightly.
Ron scowled. "She's fine."
Fred and George, however, had both fixed their eyes on Harry, who had gone pink.
"Is that a trace of redness I see, brother mine?"
"I think it is! Could it be..."
"...that our little sister..."
"...has made her interest openly known?" Fred raised his eyebrows suggestively.
"And found a receptive audience too, I suspect," George finished, as Harry turned a darker red.
"No," Harry said quietly. "I won't date her. It doesn't matter if she's interested. I can't." He drained his butterbeer, set it on the table, and walked out.
He paused at the foot of the stairs, leaning his head against the banister. Maybe I should just tell them.
Oh, that would be a cheerful conversation. 'Hello, family-in-all-but-blood, did I tell you I used an Unforgivable the other day? No, it didn't work, but I'm going to practice.' Somehow I doubt Ron will volunteer to let me practice on him this time.
"Harry? Are you alright?"
Ginny's voice startled him out of his thoughts.
"Fine," he snapped back, and started to walk upstairs. I just want to be alone.
She put her arm out to block him, and locked her eyes on his. "You're not fine, Harry. Is there anything I can do?"
"You've done plenty," he threw back at her, and ducked under her arm, stomping up the stairs to his room.
He thought he heard a sniff behind him, as if someone was trying not to cry, but he was too angry to care. Don't you see? Don't you see I could never be good enough for you?
"I'll be here, Harry." He froze in his tracks at the soft voice from behind him. He had never heard her use that tone before. Gentle, somehow understanding.
He turned slowly to face her, standing halfway up the stairs with tears on her cheeks. "No matter what happens, no matter how long it takes, I'll be here if you need me. For whatever you need."
Harry swallowed hard. I can't hold this in. I have to tell her. "Ginny, you don't know what I've done..." he started, but she cut him off.
"I set a twenty-foot Basilisk on your best friend, Harry. If she hadn't been the smartest person I've ever met, she'd be dead." Ginny's tone was flat, but Harry could feel the passion under it.
"That wasn't you," he protested.
"No, Harry. Maybe I wasn't the one who set it on Colin or Justin, but I stole the diary back from you. Not Tom Riddle. Me. I knew what it was, and I did it anyway."
"I never blamed you," he whispered. "I couldn't ever blame you. You held him off for a year. You never killed anyone."
"Nor have you, Harry. I know you haven't."
"But I will." He said it so softly that he would have sworn she couldn't hear him, but she did.
"Who are you going to kill, Harry? Bellatrix?" She walked up the stairs towards him.
"No." He dropped his head. She has to know. "I only used the Cruciatus Curse on her."
He heard her sharp intake of breath and flinched when she set a hand on his shoulder. But she spoke softly to him, "Tell me what happened, Harry."
So he did. He told her of chasing Bellatrix through the Ministry, and finally how he had aimed his wand at her, and called out the curse Moody/Crouch had shown them in his fourth year. How she had taunted him afterwards, with his failure.
Throughout, her hand stayed on his shoulder, squeezing gently. When he finished, he squeezed his eyes shut, bracing for the inevitable rejection.
It didn't come. "So you didn't, really."
He blinked. "What?"
"You didn't really perform an Unforgiveable."
"But I did! I told you!"
"No more than I killed Hermione," she said bluntly. "It didn't work, Harry. She said it herself. You didn't mean it." She put a hand to his chest, over his heart. "Not in here."
"There's more," he started, but she put a finger over his lips.
"Enough for now, Harry." She turned his head toward her, and she grinned. "We're only going out - I didn't sign up for a lifetime supply of your problems."
Her smile vanished. "But someday you will tell me the rest, and I'll still be here."
She got up. Harry's eyes followed her, disbelief and confusion in every line of his body. She grinned again, and her eyes twinkled. "Right now, I'm going to take a nice, hot shower. See you later!"
Harry groaned and dropped his head into his cupped hands. At this rate, she's going to kill me!
He didn't think of Voldemort, or the prophecy, or curses for the rest of the day. But he did think about Ginny. In the shower. In some ways, it wasn't much of an improvement.
But in many others, it was.
Author's note: Angst isn't my strong suit. Nor is writing in a purely-Harry POV. Reviews pointing out the good AND bad parts of this story would be extremely nice. Fluffy nice.