Written for the Summer Lovin' Teenage Angst 2004 contest at Phoenix Song.
"We've got two days, twelve hours and 27 minutes to come up with SOMETHING!"
Molly turned around from the sink to look at Arthur. "Why is that? I thought we had longer!"
Arthur finished his pumpkin juice. "Dumbledore moved up the time a bit. He figures Voldemort has gone back into hiding, so it's safe enough to bring Harry back now. He's arranged for Harry's Aunt and Uncle to be out of the house, and the portkey he sent Harry will go off in two days, twelve hours and... 26 minutes."
"Well, the children are languishing in this heat, and Harry will be here less than three days now. We're supposed to be watching out for Harry's well being, and I can't imagine being able to pull him out of his melancholy if we can't find a way to cool ourselves off!"
"I know, Molly, I know... It's just that I want to find a way to beat this heat and have something fun for the kids at the same time!"
"Well, perhaps we're going about this all wrong. You're familiar with muggles, what do muggles do?"
Arthur only had to shift his perception briefly before the idea hit him.
"Molly, you're a genius! Oh, but we'll only just have enough time. I need to go Diagon Alley to find an instruction manual. You're the best, my love!" A kiss on the cheek and a handful of floo powder later, he was off.
* * * * *
"There you two are, I was beginning to wonder," Ron said as Ginny and Hermione came downstairs.
"We're ready, what's the temperature like outside?" Ginny asked.
"It's so hot, you could cook a Hippogriff out there," Ron answered. Hermione winced.
"Could you find some other way to express yourself? Surely that wasn't necessary."
Ron shrugged. "What?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Oh, nothing. Let's go before he gets here."
The three of them filed out the back door and walked towards the new swimming pool Arthur had finished up the previous day. It was somewhat oval in shape and blended in well with the landscaping, yet was big enough that you could actually swim in it. They had all been very excited when Arthur told them he was building one, and soon they were going to get to try it out.
"Pumpkin juice for everyone!" voice called from the direction of the house. Molly was coming out from the house with a tray of drinks.
"Fantastic! Thanks mum!" Ron exclaimed.
"I thought it might be nice to greet him with refreshments," Molly said, turning to Hermione. "How do you take your pumpkin juice, dear?"
Hermione smiled slyly and turned to look at Ron. "Sweetened, not stirred."
Curious, Ron looked at Hermione, then looked away again and turned red as he noticed how she was looking at him. Ginny stifled a giggle.
"So, mum, how long before Harry gets here?" Ginny asked.
Molly looked at her watch. "Three seconds," she said matter-of-factly.
"Three seconds?" Ron, Hermoine and Ginny said in unison.
There was a loud POP from the direction of the house. There was Harry sitting on his trunk next to Hedwig's cage, broom in one hand and an old, tattered book in the other.
"Harry!" they all said together, and walked over to meet him. Ginny grabbed an extra pumpkin juice from Molly as she went. Harry shook hands with Ron, then gave Molly and Hermione a hug.
"Welcome back, Harry," Ginny said, handing him a pumpkin juice.
"Thanks, Ginny,' Harry replied taking the glass. He then gave her a friendly hug. Ginny tried hard not to blush, but didn't succeed.
"A toast to Harry!" Ron said suddenly.
"To Harry!" Everyone else but Harry said, then took drink of their juice.
"What are we celebrating?" Harry asked, confused.
"Well, the defeat of Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic, of course." Ron answered. Molly smiled uncomfortably. Ginny and Hermione winced.
Harry's expression went from confusion to barely contained anger. "Why would I want to celebrate the memory of the worst day of my life?" Before anyone could say anything he turned and went into the house, leaving everything but his pumpkin juice.
Nobody moved. Hermione glared at Ron. Ron hung is head, now fully aware of the mistake he had made. Molly sighed and shook her head.
Ginny was fuming.
"I guess Harry's going to need some more time," Molly said.
"That was completely unworthy of him," Ginny said angrily.
"I guess I should go apologize," Ron sighed.
"Nope, not this time Ron," Ginny said firmly. "He wants to brood? Fine. We're going to let him."
"What on earth are you getting on about?" Ron asked.
"We're supposed to be trying to cheer him up, Ginny, not make him feel worse," Hermoine said. "You are the last person I'd expect to want him to stay upset."
Ginny crossed her arms. "I don't want him to be upset, but it's obvious he wants stay depressed for now, and going after him would only give him the chance to lash out at us some more."
"So what do we do?" Ron asked.
"We wait," Ginny said definitively. "I will give him until tomorrow evening. If he doesn't come around by then, I will confront him."
"You? Why you?" Hermione asked.
"Because he knows if he's mean to me, he'll have six Weasley brothers and mum and dad to contend with."
Hermione smiled. "You have a point."
"Now, enough of Harry's problems. Let's go swim and enjoy ourselves."
"What about Harry's things?" Ron asked.
"What are we, his servants? Harry is perfectly capable of moving his own things himself," Ginny commented as she let Hedwig out of her cage. Ginny then marched back into the house. Hermione looked at Ron and shrugged. Ron shrugged back, and they too returned to the house.
* * * * *
It just wasn't fair.
Harry had been looking forward to getting away from the Dursleys and back to the Burrow and his friends. Surely they would understand what he was going through. They would give him just a little room, then they would suggest games of exploding snap, or wizards chess, or Quidditch practice in the field behind the Burrow.
Boy was he wrong. He had been back only a few seconds when Ron had felt it necessary to help him recall the worst day of his life.
All the feelings fled back in, and suddenly being back at the Burrow was almost worse than being at the Dursleys. Now he was reminded of the injuries Ron, Hermione and Ginny had suffered at the Ministry. Thinking of that reminded him of the members of the Order who got hurt. Thinking of the Order reminded him, unavoidably, of Sirius.
He waited in his room (Fred and George's old room) until Ron, Ginny and Hermione had finished swimming before going down to retrieve his trunk, broom and owl cage. Ginny had let Hedwig out before returning to the house to change. Ron and Hermione had followed her, then the three of them spent all afternoon in the pool. At last, they had given him some room. They'd come up and talk to him later, or perhaps tomorrow. At least Mrs. Weasely understood. She brought him up some snacks just after the incident with Ron, then brought him his dinner later that night. He spent his first day back putting his things away in his new room as slowly and as carefully as he could.
That night, he dreamed of Cho and Ginny again. He had been dreaming about them for weeks. Each scene would start with Cho, then Ginny would fade in, offering a counterpoint. One scene that played out was when the D.A. had first tried to come up with a name for the group.
"The Defense Association? The D.A. for short," Cho had said.
"Yeah, the D.A.'s good, only let's make it stand for Dumbledore's Army," Ginny offered back.
He also dreamed of the game he missed where Ginny had caught the snitch right out from under Cho.
This time there was a new twist. He was walking by the lake with Cho, and they were talking about the Prophesy. Harry was trying to convince Cho his destiny couldn't be changed.
"I can't deny my destiny, Cho. The last time Trelawney spoke in that voice, everything she said came true. I just need to know that you'll be by my side in all of this. I don't think I can do this alone."
Cho started to tear up. "We're only going out - I didn't sign up for a lifetime supply of your problems. I'm sorry Harry, but I can't be the girl you want me to be."
Suddenly Cho morphed into Ginny.
"You can't change your destiny, Harry. Beside, I'll be by your side, no matter what..." She leaned in to kiss him...
Harry woke with a start. The sun was beating down on him from outside and the room was blazing hot. Harry got up and opened the window to some cooler air into the room. Harry sat down by the window in his pajamas and stared out at the swimming pool. So that was it, then. It had been Ginny all along, not Cho that he should have been with. And now, of course, it was too late. Game over. She had given up on him and was seeing other people.
Harry sat and let the reality of this sink in. He had been so close to true happiness all this time, and now it was a year too late. She had dated Michael all last year, and now was dating Dean. She had decided it was up to her to find happiness, and she apparently done it. Good for her.
Harry didn't realize what time it was until Mrs. Weasley brought up his lunch. He had slept through breakfast. Mrs. Weasley never pressed him. She'd just knock, wait for his invitation to enter, then say "Good afternoon, Harry, here's your lunch," then set his lunch on the table and leave. Harry was grateful for this.
As Harry ate, he noticed how hot it was getting in his room. It occurred to him that he could not recall any spell that would help cool his room down. Once he'd finished his lunch, he opened his door and, seeing that hallway was empty, made his way downstairs and out to the pool.
Harry had to admit he was impressed. Whoever had built it (he suspected Mr. Weasley) had done an excellent job making the pool area blend in with the surrounding environment. The air around the pool was much cooler than the house, and the trees placed strategically here and there provided shaded areas to sit. Harry sat on one of the tables in the shaded areas back away from the pool and looked out at the countryside.
It wasn't long before Ron, Hermione and Ginny came out to swim. That was fine with Harry; he would see if they would press him or not. Somewhat to his astonishment, they seemed to completely ignore the fact that he was there. Good. It was only a matter of time.
The next thing Harry realized is that, for some odd reason, he could clearly hear everything they were saying. It was as if the sound coming from the pool echoed in just the right way that it ended up right where he was sitting. Somewhat curious, he turned just slightly so he could see them.
"Uh, Ginny, aren't you a bit under-dressed?" said Ron, trying to cover his sister with his own towel. She was wearing a two-piece boy-short style suit. "What happened to the once piece you were wearing yesterday?"
"Oh come off it Ron. It's just us. Besides, I'm not a kid anymore."
"But...," Ron said, glancing in Harry's direction, "Harry's right over there! He might see you!"
Ginny gave Ron a sly grin. "Yeah, and?"
Ron and Ginny just stared at each other for a moment before Hermione broke in.
"Ginny, does this make my bottom look big?"
Ron blinked and looked over at Hermione involuntarily. Her back was to Ron, and all Harry could see was the string tying her top around her back and a piece of material that passed for the back of her bikini bottom. Harry noticed Ron's ears getting very red.
"Not at all, Hermione, I think it makes you look stunning," Ginny said.
Hermione turned around, and Harry watched as Ron got a full view of her suit. There was barely enough there to cover her private parts; the top was basically a couple of triangles of material, and the bottom dipped at least two inches below her belly button.
"I think he likes it, Hermione," Ginny said.
Ron blinked and rounded on Ginny. "Oh come off it, Ginny." He turned and tossed his towel onto the chair. Ginny looked at Hermione, winked, and dove into the pool. She came back up for air quickly.
"Ah, relief from the heat! Finally!" she said triumphantly.
Ron turned to follow Ginny into the pool, but Hermione stopped him by putting a hand on his shoulder.
"So, you don't like my suit?" Hermione asked.
Ron swallowed hard and with some effort, making a point not to look at Hermione. "I didn't say that."
"So, you do like my suit," Hermione said.
"Yeah, I think it looks great."
"How sweet of you to say. So why are you so tense?"
"I'm not tense!"
"Look me in the eye and tell me you're not tense, Ron."
Ron turned to look Hermione in the eye, but his gaze was again drawn to Hermione's suit. He was now a half-step from her, and obviously getting a better view of Hermione than he ever had.
"I... I'm... I... I'm not... I'm not tense..." he stammered quickly.
"Erm, Ron, those aren't my eyes."
Ron quickly looked back up to Hermione's eyes. His whole face was red.
"You know Ron, it's ok to be attracted to me."
"What do you mean? I'm not attracted to you! I mean, I AM, but I'm not... not, uh, you know..."
"Hrm?" Hermione asked, obviously amused.
"We're friends, for Merlin's sake! I can't be attracted to you!"
Hermione rolled her eyes. She took her hand of Ron's shoulder and poked him on the nose with her finger.
"Why not?" she said, sounding somewhat disappointed. Before Ron could answer, she turned towards the pool.
"What?" Ron asked, but Hermione ignored him and joined Ginny in the pool.
"Girls! Mental, the lot of them," Ron said.
Ron walked around to the far side of the pool entered using the steps. He eased in slowly, then spent some time swimming circles in the far end of the pool, avoiding Ginny and Hermione in the process.
This whole scene was more than Harry could bear. Hermione was flirting with Ron, and Ron, though obviously uncomfortable with a girl as capable as Hermione flirting with him, was enjoying the experience. Not only that, Ginny was obviously over him and completely unconcerned how something like a well-cut boy-short swimsuit on her nicely-developing body might affect him. He got up and took the long route around the pool, going into the front door and up to his room. He sat by the window and watched them at the pool out of the range of their voices.
Harry heaved a great sigh. His friends were moving on. Soon Ron and Hermione would be dating, and with Ginny exploring the waters elsewhere, he would soon be an extra leg. But hey, there was always Quidditch. Harry retrieved his Firebolt from the closet but just as quickly as he had it, the desire to ride it left him. Instead he pulled out his servicing kit and spent the rest of the afternoon working on his Firebolt.
Mrs. Weasley brought him his dinner soon after. Once he'd finished he pulled out his photo album and went from picture to picture, examining each one carefully. Sufficiently frustrated, he grabbed his glass of pumpkin juice, walked out of his room, down the stairs and out the front door, not bothering to say hi to anyone as he passed.
* * * * *
"That's it. I'm going to talk to him," Ginny said, leaving the couch and heading for the door. She had been sitting in the family room along with Ron and Hermione when Harry had walked out.
"Go easy on him!" Hermione said after her.
"Easy my foot," Ginny mumbled to herself. "He'll be lucky if he doesn't end up with a few dozen bats flying out of his nose."
Ginny found Harry sitting under a tree in the garden. He was looking out at the garden and sipping his pumpkin juice. Ginny decided to take a somewhat gentle approach first.
"It's good to see you again, Harry."
Harry looked up from his cup, then back down to it. "I thought coming back would lift my spirits. I guess I was wrong."
"You shouldn't be so hard on Ron. He was only trying to cheer you up. You know how dense he can be sometimes. He really meant well."
"Dense is an understatement," Harry said angrily.
"He IS your friend, Harry. And he WAS trying to help."
"Yeah? Well maybe he should think next time before he tries to help me."
This was too much for Ginny to ignore. "What is your problem Potter? Just because you're wallowing in your own self-pity means we all have to adhere to your standards of acceptable behavior? What gives you the right?"
Harry stared at Ginny. "I walked into a trap set my Voldemort like a witless child, and because of my stupidity Sirius is dead! Do you really think I need Ron reminding me of this fact?"
"So that's it: you're still on about that! How could you have known Voldemort was using you? You may be a wizard, Potter, but your time in divination should be enough to convince you that you're no seer. Contrary to what you may believe, nobody's perfect, and nobody expects you to be."
Harry sipped his pumpkin juice. "Maybe, maybe not. Sirius is still dead just the same. And thank you very much for driving the point home."
That was the last straw. Ginny ran towards Harry. "Damn you Potter!"
As she stopped in him she slapped the glass of pumpkin juice out of his hand.
"Will you get over yourself? Did it ever occur to you that other people cared about Sirius too? Huh? Don't you think we all miss him? No, I guess you never thought of that, did you? Poor Harry Potter is the only one in the world with feelings. The world revolves around Harry Potter, and woe be to the world when something bad happens to him! And don't you dare try to cheer him up, or build a swimming pool to try to help him recover, or greet him at his portkey spot with pumpkin juice, because he just doesn't care about anyone but himself! Never mind that his friends have missed him, and have been waiting for weeks just to spend time with him again. Well, if that's the way you're going to be Harry, then you can just sit out here in the garden and rot! See if we care!"
Her diatribe done, Ginny turned around and marched back into the house in a huff.
* * * * *
Now he'd done it. He'd angered Ginny. Ginny wasn't supposed to be angry, he was. What was going on? Had they actually been waiting around for him to come to them? They were supposed to be his friends, and they were supposed to come to him. Harry, you idiot, she did come to you, and you just shoved it back in her face. Way to go, Harry. She might not be interested in you any more, but she didn't deserve that. Now what was he going to do? He stood up and went to retrieve his glass, then turned to walk back to the house but stopped when he saw Ron storming up to him, rolling up his sleeves as he did.
"What... did... you... do... to... GINNY?" Ron yelled as he approached Harry.
"Woah, Ron, take it easy, Ginny just got through telling me off!"
"Yeah? So why is she in her room crying while you're out here enjoying the night air?" Ron had his hands balled into fists, and Harry had no doubt he was ready to strike.
"She's crying? Why is she crying?"
"I don't know. You were arguing with her, you tell me. What did you say to her?"
"Nothing! I mean, I guess I was just being stupid, and she was telling me how stupid I was being."
"You sure you didn't tell HER she was stupid? She's pretty broken up, Harry."
"I'm telling you Ron, she was telling me off, not the other way around."
Ron lowered his fists. "You have a real attitude problem, you know that Harry? I was just trying to cheer you up. Ok, so I'm a little thick, but I was just trying to help, you know. There was no need to take it out on Ginny. You must have been really horrible to her for her to be as upset as she is."
"I wasn't all that horrible," Harry said. "Well, at least I don't think I was."
Ron shook his head. "Sweet Merlin Harry, don't you get it? She still likes you."
Harry dropped his cup.
"She still likes you Harry. She may have had a crush on you when she was younger, but she got over it. She had hoped you would like her once you got to know her, but you completely ignored her, so she moved on. She started dating Michael and then Dean, but deep inside she still couldn't help liking you, and becoming your friend only made it worse. She discovered what Hermione and I had been telling her was true, that you were a brave and caring person. She fell for you all over again, Harry, and now when she came over to try to cheer you up, you were horrible to her, weren't you?"
Harry cursed under his breath. "What have I done?"
"I'll tell you what you've done, you've taken the heart of a girl who's done nothing but be nice to you and shredded it to pieces, that's what."
Harry closed his eyes. "I am a complete git, and utterly pitiful excuse of a worthless prat."
"Yes you are, Harry. Now, are you going to go up and apologize or am I going to have to get rough?"
"There's no need to get violent Ron..." Ron put up his fists again. "Ok, ok, I'm going, I'm going..."
Ron followed Harry upstairs. Harry knocked on the door. A few seconds later Hermione opened the door a quarter of the way. Her expression changed to anger, but she didn't say anything when she saw Ron behind Harry. Harry could hear Ginny sobbing. He swallowed.
"You'd better be here to apologize," Hermione said coolly. Harry nodded.
Hermione opened the door all the way and turned back to Ginny. "Ron and I will be right outside the door, Ginny." Ginny nodded and Hermione left the room, closing the door behind her.
"I hate you," Ginny said immediately.
Harry sighed and settled in for a long fight. "I figured as much. I deserve that."
"All ever did was try to help you, and all you can do is be mean to me. I thought we were friends. I guess I was wrong."
"No Ginny, you were right. And I was horrible to you. And I'm sorry. I let my anger get the better of me, and you got the worst of it. I deserved everything you gave me. You did nothing wrong."
Ginny wiped her eyes. "Sit down, Harry." Harry sat down.
"I want you to tell me right now, while you're calm and in control of yourself, exactly what's bothering you, and why you were so mean to me."
Harry took a deep breath and gathered his thoughts. "I'm angry Sirius had to die. I'm angry that you, Hermione, Ron, Neville and Luna got hurt, and that members of the Order got hurt. I'm angry Voldemort got the best of me. I'm angry you've given up on me. It just seemed like everything fell in on me at once, and every time someone tries to cheer me up, I end up getting reminded how angry I am instead. It's totally unfair, but I can't seem to help how I feel. And these last two days it seemed that nobody cared how I felt, and nobody came to cheer me up. And then when someone did... well, you know what happened."
"Harry, we all care about you. But when you react like you did after one little mistake, how are we supposed to know how to approach you? Why won't you let us get close to you?"
Harry paused. "Because everyone who gets close to me ends up getting hurt. And now someone has died, and I don't want it to happen again."
"You can't live our lives for us, Harry. We get to make our own decisions, you know? Yes, I got hurt at the Ministry, but I fought for what I thought was right when I demanded to go. I made that choice myself. And given the chance, I would go again."
There was a long silence then.
"Why are you angry that I gave up on you?" Ginny asked.
"I shouldn't have said that."
"But you did Harry, now answer the question."
"I don't think I should."
"Because you won't believe me, and you're angry enough with me as it is."
Ginny turned around and looked at Harry. Her face was red, as were her eyes, and her face was wet with tears.
"Try me, Harry. For once, just be open and completely honest. If you really consider me your friend, you'll do this for me."
Harry tried to swallow the lump in his throat as best he could.
"You changed this year, Ginny. I really got to know you better, and I realized after I arrived here yesterday that..." Harry trailed off.
"What, Harry? What did you realize? Tell me."
"I realized that Cho just can't hold a candle to you."
Ginny blinked. "What does that mean?"
"To be honest, Ginny, I've always liked you and all, but the first year you were at school I couldn't help thinking of you as Ron's little sister. I didn't know you well at all. But now that I do, I can't help... well, liking you a lot. And now you've given up on me, and you're dating other guys, and I know I had a chance to be with you and I've lost it for good, even though there's nobody else I'd rather be with. Now every time I see you I have to be reminded of what might have been."
Ginny said nothing. She just sat there staring at Harry.
Harry looked away. "See, I told you you wouldn't believe me."
Ginny threw herself at Harry, knocking him flat on the floor and sitting on his stomach. She started hitting him on the chest with her fists.
"You are so stupid, Harry. I like you and I hate you at the same time. You are so stupid, and so wonderful and so aggravating. You are the most wonderful, handsome, caring, frustrating and stupid prat of a wizard I have ever known."
Harry tried desperately to grab her arms to stop her from doing any serious damage, but she was surprising strong. Finally she let up, and Harry was able to restrain her.
"Ginny, I'm so sorry. I wanted to tell you, but on the train you said you were dating Dean, and I just wanted you to be happy."
"Harry, if you don't want me to call Ron back in here to beat you to a pulp, you'd better kiss me right now."
Harry hesitated. Ginny wouldn't have it. She grabbed his collar with both hands and pulled him into her, stealing the kiss she had always wanted. Harry let her take as much of it as she desired, giving in to her every wish, letting her explore his mouth with her tongue and even returning the favor. Once she had her fill she let him go and curled up on his chest.
She slapped him on the shoulder hard. "I can NOT believe you made me wait for that."
"Better late than never though, right?"
Ginny looked up and stared him in the eye. "I'd better not hear one more complaint out of you, Potter. Just one step into your pool of pity, and I'll bat-bogey hex you so bad..."
"Ok, ok, I promise, no more complaints."
Satisfied, Ginny put her head back on Harry's chest.
"What are you going to tell Dean?"
"I'll just have to tell him the truth. Besides, you've done enough brooding already. He can take his turn."