The redheaded boy snickered as he reached for Pigwidgeon, who fluttered excitedly above his perch. He opened the letter one last time, reviewing the contents with a satisfied nod of his head. Tying the letter to the owl’s leg, he said, “Take this to Fred and George.”
Pigwidgeon took off, happy in his work. Across the countryside he flew, finally reaching Diagon Alley, and then a particular shop. He paused on the windowsill, peering inside as though looking for something. He hooted several times, and if an owl could be said to hoot nervously, then this owl definitely qualified.
Fred Weasley looked up from his work, smiling up at the window. “It’s all right, Pig. Come on down.”
The owl, apparently satisfied, flew down to the worktable containing a variety of odd objects and a line of smoking cauldrons over green licking flames. Fred untied the note from Pigwidgeon’s leg, read the parchment and then looked incredulously at the owl. After giving him a treat, he turned to the door of the workshop.
“George! You have to see this,” Fred called out. As his brother walked in, Fred waved the letter at him with a grin on his face. George quickly scanned the note as well:
The time has come for drastic measures. I believe we’ve been patient long enough.
Harry is too tense these days, and is going to crack soon. Not only that, but our dear sister is getting too many letters from Dean. Something needs to be devised to get them together sooner rather than later. Harry needs a girl to keep his mind off his problems, and we know that Ginny is perfect for him. We just need to make Harry realize it.
You blokes are just the men for the job. Let me know how I can help.
The twins looked at each other for a long moment, as an identical grin spread across George’s face.
“Ron’s right, you know,” said Fred.
“Indeed he is,” said George, nodding. “Which may be a first for our dear little brother.”
“It really should have happened by now,” said Fred.
“It may be time to take matters into our own hands,” replied George.
“Harry can’t save the world if he’s cracked.”
“We’re agreed, then… romance for Harrykins and Ginnykins,” nodded George.
“And I think I have an idea,” Fred said with relish. “I think they just need a little together time… close together time…”
“Very close,” George finished, rubbing his hands together gleefully. “Tell me.”
“You’re taking this much too seriously,” Ron said peevishly as Hermione gestured pointedly toward a stack of loose paper clutched in her hand.
“Ron! It’s in the script! You have to follow the script!” she replied hotly.
“I will! But I don’t see why we have to do every gesture right now. It’s only our first reading. Let’s just say the lines and get on with it.”
They were all sitting at the Weasley’s kitchen table, each with a copy of a script for a summer play of Rapunzel. Harry hid his face behind his copy, pretending to read it closely, but couldn’t help sneaking a grin toward Ginny over Ron and Hermione’s bickering, which had been going on for a good five minutes. She smiled back at him.
“I’m the director for the play, and I don’t want it to end up a mess,” Hermione replied loftily. “You’ll look awfully foolish if you’re just standing up on stage, without proper practice.”
“You’re letting this play go to your head already,” Ron said, his voice rising. “Admit it – you enjoy being in charge!”
“That’s it, Ron Weasley!” Hermione snapped. “You just practice by yourself, and see if I care if you make a fool of yourself on stage!” With that, she stormed out of the kitchen and up the stairs to Ginny’s room.
“Fine!” Ron shouted after her. “We’ll just see who’s prepared!” And Ron stormed out the back door of the Burrow.
Harry and Ginny looked at each other with dropped jaws. “Er – what just happened?” Harry asked.
“Um, I think that means we’re on our own today for rehearsal,” Ginny said, snickering. “Tell you what… there’s too much tension around here.” She suddenly cocked her head, as though a thought occurred to her. “In fact, I know just the place to do this right.”
“Where’s that?” Harry asked curiously.
“You’ll see,” she replied, grinning. “I’ll pack up a lunch, and we can take it with us.”
Sometime later they started down a path from the Burrow, Ginny carrying a wicker basket full of food. Harry glanced over at her; she was wearing her hair longer these days, below the middle of her back, and he had to admit that he liked it. It reflected the bright sunshine, giving it a particularly fiery glint.
“How did I let all of you talk me into this?” Harry grumbled as they walked along.
“Oh, Harry. It’ll be fun! You’ll see,” Ginny said, fighting an urge to laugh at him.
Harry sighed, his stress level climbing by the minute. Dumbledore had finally allowed him to leave the Dursley’s three weeks ago, to his great relief. He’d been having a nice, relaxing summer at the Burrow, and spending time with Ron, Hermione and Ginny had helped to distract him from his grief over Sirius, and his anxiety over the prophecy.
Last week, however, Ginny had asked them all to come with her to an audition for a summer play. A youth group was putting on a performance of Rapunzel, and Ginny decided to try out for the lead role. Apparently there was a shortage of people to play roles, because as soon as the producer saw the four of them, they were immediately asked to participate.
Hermione and Ron were game; she was quickly put into the role of director, and Ron was to play the king. As soon as the producer had eyed Harry, however, she had immediately eyed him like a shark eyes its prey. She asked Harry to accept the lead role of the Prince.
He had instantly balked, but Ron and Ginny had questioned his Gryffindor courage, and in a fit of madness, he had finally agreed. It didn’t take long for him to have huge second thoughts on the whole matter.
Harry sighed, feeling like he had completely lost his marbles for agreeing to be in this play. “Yeah, fun,” Harry replied glumly, picturing himself in front a large group of people.
“I know the perfect place to rehearse and try out the hair growth potion. We’re almost there,” Ginny said.
Laughing, she abruptly took his hand and pulled him into the trees, running along a hidden path that he hadn’t seen before. They finally broke out into a small clearing with a tree house about twenty feet up.
“Bill made this for me a long time ago. You’re supposed to climb up my hair in the play, so this will be a good place to practice,” she said.
Harry sighed again, feeling resigned to the whole thing, as Ginny spread out a blanket on the grass and unpacked the food. They ate lunch and chatted, Harry feeling a bit more relaxed. The day was sunny and warm, and the trees provided a shady canopy for the area.
“All ready? If you’re cooperative, I might have something special for dessert,” Ginny said teasingly.
“What?” Harry asked, intrigued.
“Well, we’ll just see how you do. Rehearsal first,” Ginny said, grinning at him.
Harry grinned back. “All right. Remember your promise.”
“Let’s read our lines first, then we’ll try the full thing,” Ginny said, pulling out the script.
Harry flipped the pages of his script, skimming the text. As he came to the last page, his heart skipped a beat – he was supposed to kiss her at the end. “Erm,” he said, a betraying blush coming to his face, wondering if they were going to rehearse that.
“What?” Ginny asked. Peering over, she saw what page Harry was on and flipped open her own script. She then chewed her lip, looking a bit embarrassed herself. “Oh. Well, it’s just for the play. We’re going to have to do it on stage, so we should probably do… er, the whole scene.”
Harry nodded miserably, his stomach doing a few nervous flip-flops.
“Tell you what, why don’t we rehearse the climbing bit first,” Ginny said, folding and unfolding her script nervously. “Right then. I’ll go up in the tree house and use the potion, then you try and climb up. It’s supposed to make my hair really strong, and then if I hold it in a certain way, it doesn’t pull me down with it.”
“All right,” Harry replied, feeling relieved to do something else, at least temporarily.
She climbed up a ladder into the tree house, carrying the picnic basket. Harry could see her pull a bottle out of the basket and apply the potion to her hair. It began growing, longer and longer. Ginny giggled as it filled the tree house.
“I think I’m ready,” Ginny called down.
“Okay,” Harry called back. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!”
Ginny lowered her hair down, a cascade of fiery red. Harry found himself thinking that it looked quite pretty like that. He reached out and touched it, and her hair felt very soft. Without thinking, he stroked it, feeling the silky texture. Realizing what he was doing, he felt some color coming to his cheeks and hoped that Ginny didn’t see what he’d done.
Taking a deep breath, he put his foot against the tree and began climbing. As he ascended the tree, he idly noticed that her hair smelled quite nice as well. Finally pulling himself through the window, Harry looked around the tree house at large piles of hair.
“I think I used a little too much of the potion,” Ginny said, giggling and pulling her hair back in hand-over-hand.
Harry felt himself growing a bit short of breath. He had always liked her hair, and somehow having so much of it in one place was extremely distracting. Pulling his script out his pocket, he started to suggest they start reading the lines, but then remembered what was at the end. He fingered the paper anxiously.
“Er, right, then. Suppose we should read our lines,” Ginny said, looking down at her script and carefully not looking at Harry.
They began reading the play, slowly moving through the lines until the dreaded part came, nearly at the end of the play. They looked at each other for a long moment, then touched their lips together very quickly. Ginny looked a combination of embarrassed and amused.
“Oh, Harry. Is it that bad kissing me?” she said teasingly, trying to release some of the tension in the room.
Harry laughed, but didn’t say anything. Actually, it hadn’t been so bad at all, he thought…
“Let’s read through it again,” Ginny said.
They read their lines again, once again reaching the kiss. This time, they kissed much longer, causing Harry’s heart to thump in his chest. He noticed that Ginny seemed a little out of breath.
“Erm, maybe one more time,” she said distractedly.
As they ran through their lines once more, Harry noticed that they seemed to be reading them quite a bit faster than before. Finally coming up to the part with the kiss once again, they looked into each other’s eyes. Harry was suddenly very aware that he was alone with her in the tree house, with a pile of very sexy hair strewn about and they were about to kiss.
They came together, the kiss having a sense of urgency this time. Harry’s arms seemed to move of their own accord as they wrapped themselves around her, burying themselves in all the hair as he pulled her to him tightly. Ginny wrapped her arms around him as well and kissed back passionately, as they stood kissing for several minutes.
Finally breaking apart, Harry’s brain felt completely frozen, and Ginny was looking at him with a dropped jaw.
“Um, Harry…” she started.
“Ginny, I…” Harry replied.
She stumbled toward the picnic basket, pulling great piles of hair behind her. Harry watched the process with mesmerized fascination. Part of him wanted to reach out and touch it again before he held himself back.
Ginny looked dazed as she sat down on the floor of the tree house, fumbling with the basket door. “Um… dessert. Right then…”
Harry nodded dumbly. He wasn’t sure he could take another reading of the lines.
“Look! Chocolate Chances,” she said a bit too loudly and brightly, pulling out a bowl with round chocolates in it.
“What are those?” Harry asked, forcing his attention to the sweets.
“They’re excellent. They’re chocolate, but with a surprise sweet fruit in the middle, kind of like a Bertie Bott’s fruity center,” she said, handing him one.
Harry took one of the chocolates and bit into it, and a delicious flavor filled his mouth. “Strawberry!”
Ginny bit into her own chocolate and sighed. “Mmm, guava.”
They continued eating, a silent tension surrounding them. Harry tried to keep his mind on his dessert, but the combination of the chocolate, the kissing, the long hair, and the knowledge that they were alone in the tree house was proving to be more than he could handle. He couldn’t help but watch her carefully bite into her dessert.
Her hair looked very, very pretty and he had an urge to touch it again. Ginny noticed him looking at her. With a small smile and a cock of her head, she reached over and took a chocolate, sensuously biting into it and licking the excess off her fingers. Harry stared at her… the chocolate, the long hair… the whole thing was driving him mad.
He rose off the floor, feeling like he needed some air. He walked over to the window of the tree house, trying to get hold of himself. Harry heard Ginny get up off the floor.
He turned around, his eyes automatically drawn to the hair flowing down her body like a river of fire. Ginny gave him an odd look, following his eyes toward her hair in the room. Harry felt his breathing growing very labored.
“What do you think?” she asked playfully. “Is it long enough now?”
"Erm," Harry said, unable to look directly at her and feeling a lot of heat on his neck.
A smile grew across Ginny's face. “You like it like this, don't you, Mr. Potter?” she said in a low voice, taking a step forward.
Harry swallowed, unable to speak. Her hair looked incredibly alluring, cascading down her body, onto the floor....
Ginny pulled a large swath of hair and slowly stroked Harry's cheek with it. Harry's heart was pounding in his chest. He wasn't certain how much more of this he could take....
"You like that, don't you?" she whispered, standing very close.
She wrapped the hair around his neck, pulling it around. The feeling was driving Harry mad. He had to take action. He pulled her to him, kissing her, burying his hands deeply into all the hair. Ginny kissed him back aggressively. They fell to the floor, all the hair wrapping around them...
“Here they come,” Ron whispered from the Burrow window, gesturing to Hermione. “It’s about bloody time!”
“Ron, we shouldn’t spy on them,” she replied haughtily from across the room, though she focused her eyes through the window.
“They’re holding hannnnds…” Ron said in a singsong voice, grinning.
Dropping all pretense, Hermione ran over to the window, peeking out. They watched Harry and Ginny walking at the top of the hill leading to the Burrow. Suddenly Ginny pulled Harry aside, kissing him passionately. Ron and Hermione looked at each other, snickering.
“Come on!” Ron said, grabbing Hermione’s hand, who put up only token resistance as they ran out the door.
When Harry and Ginny saw Ron and Hermione walking toward them, they suddenly broke apart, blushing madly.
“And what’s going on here?” Ron asked accusingly, crossing his arms.
“Erm, well, you see, mate…” Harry began nervously.
Ron’s face cracked as he began laughing riotously, while Hermione giggled next to him. “Aw, I can’t hold it in. Can’t wait to tell Fred and George that it worked.”
There was a pregnant pause, then Ginny said dangerously, “What worked?”
Ron’s face fell, realizing he’d said too much. “Oh, er, uh… oh, blast it. Fred and George had this idea… uh, if you two spent time together, uh… they sort of arranged the play…”
“Fred and George arranged the play? Did you know about this?” Harry asked Hermione accusingly.
“Well, now, Harry, don’t get upset…” Hermione started nervously. “We just thought if we had an argument and left you two alone… things would happen naturally…”
“Wait, your argument this morning… that was faked?” Harry asked incredulously.
“Well… yes,” Ron said, grinning at Hermione.
Harry suddenly looked relieved. “You mean, I don’t have to do the play?” he asked excitedly.
“Yes, you do! I’m not giving up my starring role, just because Fred and George are behind it!” Ginny said, her eyes flashing.
“And I’m certainly not giving up my director job!” Hermione added.
Harry looked helplessly at Ron for support, who held up a hand. “Don’t look at me, mate! Weasley is your King, remember?”
The whole thing was so absurd that Harry had to laugh. “Well, I suppose I’m outvoted.”
“You’re not angry?” Hermione asked worriedly. “You know, I think this could be good for you.”
Harry smiled, looking at Ginny, who smiled back at him. “I think you’re right, Hermione.”