At that moment, in that place, Harry couldn't really think of a nicer way of spending the day, propped up against a tree root, arms behind his head, one ankle resting on the other knee and nicely in the shade. The sun beat down from overhead, as it had done every day since he'd arrived at The Burrow, and just as he had done on every day since then, Harry had made his way out to the old ash tree that stood beside the stream to lay down. It gave him time to think, which was what he really enjoyed. He thought about Sirius, and about the Department of Mysteries. He thought about Dolores Umbridge, and the Prophecy that tied him to Voldemort. He even thought about how much he'd like to hex Dumbledore the next time that he saw him. A keen sense of self-preservation made sure that he'd never actually do anything, but it was nice to dream a little.
What Harry mainly thought about, though, was shortness.
Beside the stream was a path used by anyone and everyone to get to and from Ottery St. Catchpole. And, with it being summer, and with the house being full and Mrs. Weasley entirely occupied by household chores, it meant that once a day she'd send someone out on an errand to the village. Usually - because she didn't trust the twins to shop sensibly, and because Ron lost all track of time when set free anywhere there was a Quidditch shop - this meant that Hermione, or Ginny, or both would go and do the shopping.
Which is where Harry had become interested in shortness.
Ginny was short - compact, really. But the shortness that had really caught Harry's eye was the shortness of her shorts, cut-down jeans that seemed to end a considerable distance above her knees. The rest of her, he'd decided, was great to look at too, but his eyes kept following the lines of her shorts.
Hermione was not short - but in her case the shortness that had caught Harry's eye was the shortness of the skirts and dresses that she'd brought with her to the Burrow. Although Harry had seen shorter on girls in Little Whinging, the idea that Hermione would wear anything so revealing was intriguing, at the least. His ears seemed to perk up at the swish-swish of the material against her legs as she walked around.
And then there was Luna, who came by every now and then. Not for her a bare leg - far from it. But she had an interesting array of cropped tops that revealed expanses of bare, flat stomach, as well as other features not emphasised by her Hogwarts uniform.
The summer, Harry had decided, was his gift for enduring such a horrible year. He rather thought that Sirius would have approved of him spending his days enjoying the sight of attractive girls in mildly revealing clothing, rather than worrying about Voldemort or anything like that.
So Harry sat, and watched, and thought about shortness.
That is, until his thought process was rudely interrupted by a heavy weight landing on his stomach, making him whuff upright and clutch at the offending object. He picked it up.
He turned around, and peered up at Ron, who was also looking at the girls walking along the path from the village.
"Mind if I join you?" he asked, not looking away.
Harry shuffled along somewhat, and Ron sat down next to him. Unlike Harry, he seemed to prefer to have his back against the trunk of the tree, and his legs spread out wide in front of him. He took the bag of sweets from Harry and tore it open, dropping it in his lap as he filched two of the sugary confections from the bag. Handing one to Harry, he tossed the other one up in the air and caught it expertly in his mouth.
They chewed in silence, watching the three girls cross the footbridge and come up the driveway. They waved absently to the boys, laughing and chatting as they passed.
Harry and Ron watched them until they disappeared into the house.
"Lisa Turpin," Ron said, breaking the silence.
"Lisa Turpin," Ron repeated. "Ravenclaw. Our year. She's in our Defence class and, er, Magical Creatures as well, I think."
The image of a tall brunette girl came slowly to Harry's mind.
"What about her?"
"Great legs," Ron said. "Really, really great legs. She runs, you know. For fun," Ron added, as though this part were truly unbelievable. "She used to come by the Quidditch pitch sometimes when we were practising, and we'd do warm-down exercises together."
They ate another Jelly Slug each.
"Hannah Abbott," Harry said at last.
"Yeah? What about her?"
"When she came along to the DA," Ron said, his gaze losing focus as he looked backward in time. "In those, what d'you call them--"
"--tracksuit bottoms," they said together.
"Yeah. Very tight," Ron said, with a nod. He swallowed another Slug.
They sat in silence for a little longer.
"You know, Luna's, well..." Harry tailed off. Ron nodded thoughtfully.
"Yeah, I noticed that too. You never really know what's under those robes they make us wear, do you?"
Harry shook his head.
"You know - and if Hermione ever hears about this I'll kill you, right?"
"Last year, after the Hufflepuff match, I walked in on Alicia and Angelina getting changed. Bloody hell," Ron said, a little wistfully.
"How'd you manage that?"
"Dunno. Just wasn't paying much attention, I reckon. Just got the wrong door."
"Didn't see much, really. Good job, I suppose."
"Probably. I wouldn't want to get on Angelina's bad side."
"Oh no," Ron said, with a grin. There was a pause. "Wouldn't mind getting on her good side, though."
The two friends shared a smile.
"What d'you reckon Malfoy sees in Pansy Parkinson?"
"Dunno. She's probably not too fussy if she's with him. Maybe he can't do any better?"
"Yeah, probably," Ron said. A thought occurred to him. "Do you reckon it's true that he insists on showering alone?"
Harry smirked. "Yeah, I reckon so."
The girls came back out of the house and walked back down the driveway. They threw the occasional glance in Harry and Ron's direction, but chatted amongst themselves until they'd crossed the bridge again and disappeared from sight.
"D'you..." Ron paused, as though turning a thought over in his head.
"D'you remember not noticing?"
Harry took another Slug and chewed on it thoughtfully.
"I remember there not being anything to notice," he said after a while.
"Yeah!" Ron said, nodding. "Yeah, that's it. Now they're all... and there's... and all those..."
Harry nodded, understanding.
"So, Lisa Turpin, eh?"
"Well, no. But great legs. What about you?"
"No-one," Harry said.
"Were you looking at the same thing that I was just now?"
"One of them was your sister--"
"Even with that," Ron said. "You're telling me you can look at Hermione and Luna and not even be slightly interested?"
Harry took another Slug and chewed on it quietly.
"Me either," Ron said, sighing. "Great legs," he added, although he didn't seem to be talking about Lisa this time.
"Great everything," Harry muttered. If Ron heard him, he didn't say anything.
"Probably shouldn't eat too many of these," Ron said eventually, taking another slug and tearing off half of it in one bite. "Mum's always on at me to eat more vegetables."
"I could do with less vegetables," Harry said absently as a girl around their age strolled along the path. She was wearing a light dress much like one of Hermione's, and it wasn't until she was past that Ron turned to him.
Harry sighed. "Vegetables, and... Orange juice and stuff."
Ron looked at him blankly. "You're objecting to orange juice?"
"Yes," Harry said.
"Because it's... healthy."
Ron scratched the back of his head.
"Isn't that a good thing?"
"I just feel... Look, ever since the Ministry, I've been reading hidden messages into everything, right?"
Ron stiffened, and nodded. Harry didn't mention the Ministry lightly.
"So, whenever I get vegetables, or orange juice, or anything healthy, I just think, 'Is Dumbledore telling your mum what I have to eat? Is he trying to make sure that I don't get fat before I fight Voldemort?' Sometimes I just want to end up like Dudley."
Ron grimaced, and his shoulders began to shake. Although he appeared to be fighting it, he cracked up and began to laugh. Eventually he calmed down and picked up the bag of Slugs, which he tossed onto Harry's stomach again.
"You finish them, then," he said. "You need sugar for energy anyway, right?"
"Pumpkins," Ron said.
"What about them?" Harry asked.
"Can't stand them. I mean really. They make me want to puke. Just smelling them is bad enough."
"I didn't know that."
"I didn't know that you objected to brussel sprouts."
"I thought that everyone objected to brussel sprouts."
"Yeah, true, I guess."
"So," Harry said, a thoughtful look on his face. "How do you cope in school? There's pumpkins everywhere."
"I know," Ron said, sighing. "And Hermione loves the bloody things, have you noticed? If I ever snog her..."
He tailed off. Harry smirked.
"Chewing gum," he said.
"You object to chewing gum as well?"
"No. If you ever have to snog Hermione, get her to use some. It'll take the taste away."
"Oh, yeah. Daft of me. 'Excuse me, Hermione, but as we're caught up in the throes of passion, would you mind popping some of Drooble's finest in your gob before I snog you? Nothing personal, it's just your breath smells of pumpkins.'"
"Yeah, I guess. Have you told her?" Harry asked.
"Have you told Mum you don't want any more vegetables?"
"Well, then," Ron said, as though this settled the matter.
"But I want your mum to keep feeding me, at least until I learn to cook myself."
"Why would you learn to cook yourself? Isn't that cannibalism?" Ron smirked.
"Anyway, I wouldn't mind if Hermione wanted to snog me. It'll never happen, but that doesn't mean I'm going to blow any chance by telling her that her breath stinks. Besides, it doesn't. She always brushes after every meal."
"So you just have to make sure you don't snog her during the main course?"
"Right. But it'll never happen, anyway."
"Great legs, though," Ron said, wistfully. Harry rolled his eyes.
"What about you and Luna?" Ron said, pulling himself together.
"What about it?"
"Well, you know, if she's..."
"Well yeah, but no..."
"Why not? She's alright, you know."
"You ask her out then. We know you like smart girls," Harry said, with a smirk.
"Har har," Ron said. "Seriously, what's wrong with her?"
"She's just... I guess I prefer other things."
"Anyone I know?"
"Well, I'm guessing you don't mean Hermione, or you'd have said something before now."
Ron waved that comment away as though it were unimportant.
"And if Luna isn't your type, then that only leaves one girl."
"There's more than three girls at Hogwarts, Weasley. Dunno if you noticed."
"But they're the only three you've spent all summer eyeing up, Potter," Ron said, with a smirk. He took another Slug and bit into it.
"Fine. Ron. You want to have this conversation? Your sister's got great legs, a nice arse and the rest of her's pretty nice as well, okay?"
Ron had started choking on the Slug half-way through 'legs' and looked rather green as he set the uneaten part of it down on the ground.
"You're right," he said. "I didn't want to hear that."
"Well, then," Harry said, moodily.
There was a moment's heavy silence, punctured by Harry reaching for another Slug. The rustle of the bag seemed awfully loud.
"Susan Bones," Ron said at last. "Nice hair."
Harry glanced up at Ron. His friend was rather red, and Harry didn't think that it was sunburn.
"Yeah, I suppose," he said. "You know who's got nice hair? Parvati. I was behind her in History of Magic and I kept thinking how shiny it was."
"Don't suppose you'll get too many compliments on your hair," Ron said, with a grin.
"Better messy than orange," Harry replied. "Carrot top."
Harry tried to think of another insult, but gave up.
"What about Fleur?"
"What about her?"
"Did you ever really think she was pretty, or d'you reckon it's just the Veela thing?"
"Dunno. Bill seems pretty happy."
"Yeah, I s'pose."
"Think you could ever go out with someone like that?" Ron asked. "You wouldn't know if you fancied her, or if it was her magic."
"Sounds like what it's like to be me," Harry said, turning a Slug over in his fingers.
"S'pose," Ron said. "Shame you keep falling for girls who don't go for it, right?"
"Maybe that's why," Harry said. "Cho and Ginny..."
"Oh, sod off," Harry said. "Or I'll tell Hermione about her breath."
Ron grinned, and fell silent. He looked at the bag.
"One each," he said, taking one and holding up the bag for Ron. Ron took it and fished out the last Slug.
"What d'you reckon the girls are talking about?" he said, peering in the direction that they'd gone.
"Quidditch?" Harry suggested. "I dunno. Probably school or the war or something."
"Probably boys," Ron said.
"Oh yeah," he said. "Almost certainly. That's all girls do, you know. Gossip about boys, and which ones they fancy."
"Boring," Harry said. He took a bite from his Slug, and paused.
"Yep," Ron agreed. He tossed his Slug up in the air, and then missed it on the way back down. It landed on his shirt, leaving a big stain as it slithered downwards. Ron was intent on the path, and the three girls walking along it, as was Harry.