Harry almost sprinted across the lawn of the Burrow, trying to get as far away as he could from the house and his two arguing friends. He had been spending the past week with the Weasleys, so far enjoying himself. Anywhere that wasn’t the Dursleys’ would have been acceptable to him, but he always felt secure being at the Burrow, which allowed him to finally relax.
He was already feeling the heat from the blazing sun and increased temperature outside, and his T-shirt clung almost completely to his wiry frame. Beads of sweat ran down his face and neck, soaking into the shirt. There wasn’t even the slightest hint of a breeze in the air, which added to the general discomfort of the heat. He walked toward the shade of the trees and slowed his gait, not quite thinking of anything.
After a few minutes, he considered whether to take his shirt off or not. He had always been a little self-conscious of his lanky body and felt the need to be properly attired when out in public. However, on a day like today, there was no other option; his shirt was sticking to him like glue, and it only served to make the heat more unbearable.
He walked for a few minutes longer to assure his seclusion before peeling his shirt off. He looked down at himself and let out a dejected sigh. One thing was for certain – he was going to ask Dumbledore if he could do some strength training in the next year. Automatically, his features darkened with the thought of the headmaster and the events of the past few months.
Considering everything that had happened, Harry thought he was dealing with it quite well. He still had nightmares, of course, but what else was new? After leaving King’s Cross with the Dursleys at the end of his fifth year, he had done nothing else but think of the new revelations concerning himself and Voldemort. He pondered over it until he couldn’t think anymore, and even then, his brain would not stop turning with all of his thoughts. He had gone over and over in his mind the Department of Mysteries, his godfather’s passing through the veil, the battle with Voldemort, and his conversation with Dumbledore at Hogwarts afterward.
The only word he could find to describe what he was feeling was overwhelmed. Even though a month and a half had already passed, the feeling plagued him constantly. He still had not told his best friends of the prophecy. He knew that he needed to, and soon, but there was never a good time to bring it up, especially when everyone was having a relaxing summer holiday. He wondered if telling someone else would relieve the pressure that had been escalating inside of him since Dumbledore told him, but he didn’t exactly know how to do it. Harry had spent his whole life looking after himself – the notion that he had to fight his own battles, whether they be internal or external, was a belief that had been instilled in him ever since he could remember.
Harry looked at his surroundings, having not paid attention to where he was going for the past few minutes. He had traveled along the line of trees that led into a small forest. One thing that he liked most about the Burrow was its isolation from the rest of the world. Here, he did not have to worry about getting stared at or becoming the subject of whispered conversations. This was the only place he felt like he had privacy, and he would always be grateful to the Weasleys for providing him with a warm, comforting environment.
Up ahead, he spotted what looked like a stream, and he immediately gravitated toward it as though it were an oasis in the middle of the desert. A hint of a smile crossed his face as he came closer to the water; the soft rushing of it moving downstream gave the promise of sweet relief from the sweltering sun. He kneeled at the edge and just stared into the clear water, soon getting lost in his musings. He reached his hand in and swished it around in the cool water while listening to the sounds of birds chirping overhead. His shirt, which he had dropped a couple yards back, lay completely forgotten.
Ginny had left the house that morning and had not gone back since. She felt as though she needed time to herself and had quite enjoyed it so far. She had filled a large knapsack with books, her journal, and some food in case she was going to be gone too long. She spent most of the morning sitting underneath the shade of a large oak tree, reading in silence and listening to the sounds of nature around her. She had come to make a habit of coming here; it was one of the few things that brought peace to her. As the sun rose higher in the sky, she began to feel a little too hot and had taken off clothes until she was clad in just shorts and a white tank top with a lace collar.
One good thing about being outside so much was that her skin, instead of being the normal shade of pale from the Weasley gene, was now a light bronze color. She made sure to have her mum perform a moderate sun-blocking charm on her so that she wouldn’t burn, but she was happy with what the sun was doing to her complexion.
Her mind unconsciously moved to Harry as it did more and more these days. She was happy, of course, that he had come to stay with them at the Burrow that summer; no one needed the misfortune of having to stay with those awful Muggles. They were a disgrace. Harry was a puzzle that she had been trying to piece together ever since she laid eyes on him. With everything that had happened the previous year at Hogwarts, it left her feeling even more confused about her feelings toward Harry.
Even though she now felt confident when she was around him, she still found herself acutely aware of him when in his presence. She had never met anyone in her life that intrigued her more than he; he was just a normal teenager, but at the same time, a force to be reckoned with. With all of the moments Ginny had silently observed him, she knew that he didn’t hold much confidence in himself, which was something she desperately wished he had. He was an exceptional person and wizard, and she swore that she would do everything she could to convince him of it.
Ginny felt she’d had enough of the intense heat, and so she gathered her things and made toward the house. She knew it wasn’t much better inside, but she was resourceful and would find ways to keep cool. She made sure to stroll within the shade of the trees, fanning herself with the bookmark she had in one of her books. With her mind on other things, she almost missed movement out of the corner of her eye.
She turned her head and almost stumbled over herself at the sight. Harry was crouching down beside the stream that ran near the Burrow, seeming to be in a trance. His posture was still but relaxed, and he was staring into the water. She started to walk toward him, making sure her steps were silent so that she didn’t startle him. At first her eyes were on his raven hair, then they traveled down to his bare back where her gaze seemed to want to go in the first place. Her heart began to pound of its own accord, and her breathing became a bit irregular.
“Uh…” Ginny blurted unconsciously, feeling her cheeks turn red.
Harry jumped up and swung around until he was facing Ginny. His arms immediately came up and crossed over his chest, and his eyes searched the ground for his T-shirt.
“Er… hi, Ginny, where’d you come from?” He spotted his shirt on the grass behind Ginny and started to inch his way over to it.
“I was, uh… over there.” She pointed toward the direction she had just come from, but her eyes were now surreptitiously trained on his chest. She noticed that he was a little on the thin side and idly thought that she would have to make certain he was well fed this coming year. “What’re you doing outside? I thought you’d want to be inside listening to Ron and Hermione’s bickering,” she said, smiling.
She narrowed her eyes when she noticed Harry moving stealthily toward her, eyeing something behind her. She turned around and saw his shirt, then looked back and noticed just how uncomfortable he looked. “It’s okay, Harry, you don’t have to put your shirt back on just for me; I was only passing by. Stay out here as long as you want.”
With that, Ginny smiled and turned to leave but Harry stopped her. “Wait…” he said quickly.
Ginny turned back around, curious as to why he didn’t let her continue on her way. “Yes?” She had noticed Harry still going for his shirt, and she felt exasperated that he felt that awkward about being shirtless. “Harry, really, it’s not like I haven’t seen naked male torsos before; have you seen how many brothers I have? It’s sweltering out here, you don’t need to put on your shirt on my account.”
He paused and gave her a long glance, still looking a bit apprehensive. He slowly lowered his arms, but felt a little heat grow into his face. “Um – sorry, I guess I’m just not used to…”
Harry’s voice trailed off but Ginny understood perfectly what he meant. She stood a little awkwardly with a bulk in her arms, which seemed to become heavier as time passed. Harry was staring at her with an unreadable expression, and she wondered if he was waiting for her to say something.
“Erm… I see you found the stream. Playing in it was one of our most favorite pastimes when we were younger.” She stepped forward, passing him on her way to the edge of the water. “I suppose it’s a good day for that today.”
Harry watched her silently as she bent over and put her things on the ground. She sat down cross-legged, beckoning him over by patting the grass next to her. He walked slowly over to her and sat down near her, putting his feet into the water. He breathed a sigh of relief at the coolness of it and dug his toes into the sand.
“If the other summers were as unbearable as today, I can see why it was,” he said. The image of himself as a child laughing and playing with the Weasleys on a hot summer day entered his mind and he sighed. He had always wondered what a normal childhood felt like.
“What’re you thinking about?” Ginny asked softly. “You’ve had that deep, concentrated look on your face since you came here.”
Harry shrugged, thinking how weird it would be discussing with her all the thoughts that had been running through his head all day. “Was just thinking how… normal things have been since I came to stay here.”
Ginny flashed him a smile. “I imagine it’s something you don’t experience often, huh?” She reached for her sack, and a moment later her hand came out of it holding a small basket. “I packed some food before I left this morning. I just realized that I haven’t even touched it.” She opened it up and brought it up to his face with a grin.
Harry immediately felt a cool draft from the confines of the basket, noticing different types of food within. “How does that stay cold?”
“I had Mum put a charm on it this morning – too bad she forgot the rest of the house. Oh! I almost forgot…” Ginny reached into the basket and came out with something encased in a small box. “I took the last one; I knew it would come in handy today. I’ll share it with you; something tells me you’ll appreciate it.”
Harry gave her a puzzled look. “What is it exactly?”
“You’ll see,” Ginny said with a sly smile. She opened the box and picked up what looked like an overgrown ice cube. It immediately started emitting cracking sounds, and Harry was certain it was going to break apart in her hands. “This was actually Ron’s but he forgot about it, so we’ll just keep it as a little secret between us.”
“This isn’t one of Fred and George’s inventions, is it?” He looked at it cautiously.
“Harry, would I ever do something like that to you? I promise you, it’s one hundred percent safe, and you will not turn into any sort of creature or grow any extra body parts. Now, close your eyes. Go on!”
Harry sighed and gave Ginny one last look before letting his eyes flutter shut. He wasn’t certain what she was doing, but he had to trust that he would still be in one piece afterward. “Ok, they’re closed, now what?”
“I want you to think of your most favorite dessert ever. Don’t hold back, now; this is important. I’m going to close my eyes and do the same. Concentrate really hard on it for a few seconds and then open your eyes.”
Harry thought hard about his favorite dessert. Since it was so hot out, he thought about a huge bowl of Rocky Road ice cream with chocolate syrup and whipped cream on top. After concentrating a few more seconds, he opened his eyes and saw that Ginny still had hers closed. His eyes traveled to her fiery red hair, and he had a fleeting thought of how pretty it looked on her. It was one of many disconcerting thoughts he had found himself thinking of Ginny since he came to stay at the Burrow. He watched her face as it screwed up in concentration, and he smiled, wondering if that’s what he had looked like.
“Okay… do you have a dessert in mind?” said Ginny, opening her eyes back up and looking at Harry.
“Yeah. Er – why did I just do that?” Harry asked curiously.
Ginny didn’t answer him, but placed half of the treat into his hand. “On the count of three, we both take a bite of it. Ready? One… two…” Ginny held up her treat as if making a toast.
Harry smiled and held his up as well, not too concerned anymore with what they were doing. “Three… cheers!” he said. He brought the mysterious food to his mouth and took a generous bite. Immediately, an icy cold feeling permeated his body as though an air conditioner was just turned on inside him full blast.
“Mmm…” muttered Ginny as she devoured her half. “Delicious.”
As Harry began to chew, it was as though he was eating a bowl of the dessert he had just concentrated on. The distinct flavor of chocolate, nuts, and marshmallows invaded his taste buds, and he closed his eyes at the sheer pleasure of it. He tasted the whipped cream and syrup as well, and the whole effect was a welcome reprieve from the stifling humidity.
“Wow,” was all Harry could say as he swallowed the last bite of the treat. “I don’t feel hot anymore! What was that?”
“It’s called an Icy Delight. It turns into whatever sweet you want and makes you feel as though you’ve stepped into an Igloo. It’s not permanent, though; it should only last for a couple of hours. The initial freezing cold goes away after a few minutes, and then you’ll feel comfortable.”
“What treat did you pick?” asked Harry.
“A brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup,” Ginny said, licking her lips with relish. “I almost feel bad that I didn’t share with Ron and Hermione, but I think you’ll agree with me when I say they could stand a little heat. Maybe they’ll finally stop arguing and start snogging.”
“Ginny!” exclaimed Harry incredulously. He laughed out loud and gave her an appraising look. “They have been bickering more than usual.”
Ginny laughed right along with him. “I think it’s definitely about time. I’m amazed you haven’t put a silencing charm on them yet. Or better yet, locked them in my dad’s car; it’s in the back shed, you know.”
Harry laughed even harder. “That’s starting to sound more appealing to me as the days pass. I say we put a flying spell on it and not let them down until they admit their feelings!”
“Yeah… imagine the Muggle headlines… ‘Snogging Teenagers Spotted in Flying Car Over Ottery St. Catchpole!’” Ginny said, rolling on the ground in fits.
Soon, their laughter died down and they just lay back in comfortable silence. “Thanks, Ginny,” Harry finally said quietly.
“I didn’t do anything, but you’re welcome,” she replied, smiling.
“I haven’t laughed like that in a long time.” Admitting it out loud, Harry felt the familiar pressure inside, but forced it down. He wasn’t going to allow anything to ruin the day for him. He turned to Ginny and saw her staring at him with a searching look.
“Well then, I’ll make it my personal mission next year to make you laugh like that more often,” replied Ginny with a small smile. She looked away and up into the vast blue of the sky.
“I look forward to it,” said Harry softly. He smiled at her and lay back on the grass again, his arms crossed under his head. He didn’t say anything more, but there seemed to be a silent understanding between them that they would see each other a lot more from now on.