Disclaimer – Of course all of the characters belong to the great J. K. Rowling. I’ve just borrowed them for a bit and promise to return them as good as new.
When Harry woke on his last day at the Dursleys, he breathed the deepest sigh of relief and happiness. He knew by the day’s end he would leave this hateful, horrid place forever. Even the worry of seeing Ginny again barely registered in the brutal confines of his mind. When the bell finally rang at a quarter past six in the evening, Harry ran to the door, nearly tripping over himself as he went. He was surprised to see both Mr. Weasley and Mad-Eye Moody there to collect him. Hoping he could get his belongings out of the house before his uncle noticed, Harry engaged them in a quick, whispered discussion of how they were traveling.
Much to his dismay, Moody insisted on checking the house before they left which meant several more minutes of time to wait. The seconds crept by. When Moody finally returned from Harry’s room, he gave them a toothy grin and handed Harry his shrunken belongings. Harry promptly pocketed them and headed for the door.
On the very last step a voice called out from behind him.
“Well, well, well, it’s finally time. Petunia, get the cake!” Uncle Vernon glared nastily at Harry, clearly hoping he would think they were finally doing something nice for him. Harry decided not to give them the pleasure and turned to walk out the door. As he reached back to pull it closed he felt a quiet spell brush past his shoulder. He glanced one more time at the people he had reluctantly called family for so many years. They were shouting and screaming like loons as his aunt held the cake far out in front of her. The last thing he saw was what looked like large drops of dung falling from it onto the clean white floor.
“Nice shot, Moody,” he said quietly. The old Auror winked back at him with his one good eye.
They walked quickly to Mrs. Figg’s house where they were to Apparate from and Harry suddenly felt a wave of fear and memories wash over him.
“Er, Mr. Weasley, please don’t take offense to this, but before I go anywhere with you, I need you to tell me… the nickname you used for Mrs. Weasley last summer.”
The red-haired man blushed to the roots of his few hairs and whispered in Harry’s ear.
“Sorry,” said Harry, “I didn’t quite catch that. Could you say it louder?”
Clearly dismayed, Mr. Weasley stepped back and said, “Mollywobbles.”
“Well, that’s a new one for the Order to hear about, eh, Harry?” laughed Moody, who then turned and Apparated away.
Harry grinned and apologized to Mr. Weasley. The red-haired man chuckled and motioned for Harry to grab his arm. Together they Apparated to the Burrow.
On first appearing in the kitchen Harry couldn’t help but let a broad smile come over his face. For so long this place had been more of a home to him than anywhere and he loved coming back. Mrs. Weasley appeared from nowhere and gave him a hug, saying how happy she was that he had come for the wedding and would he please help them set up tomorrow.
He nodded quickly, still smiling, and asked Mr. Weasley to expand his things back to their normal size. As the spell was completed he hefted the large trunk onto his back and started making his way up the stairs. Assuming he would be staying in Ron’s room, he carried his trunk all the way to the top of the house, bumping and clunking all the way.
When he reached Ron’s room, he peered in, but didn’t find anyone. He suddenly realized that, other than Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, he hadn’t seen another soul yet. He screwed up his face wondering where they might be and went back downstairs.
“Er, Mrs. Weasley, have you seen Ron?” he asked when he reached the kitchen.
“Oh yes, dear. He was outside weeding the garden earlier. Why don’t you see if you can find him out there?”
Harry nodded and went out the door, holding it so it wouldn’t slam shut behind him. He walked out into the garden, listening closely for familiar voices. Farther and farther he went into the overgrown walks and just as he was about to reach the end of the stone wall, he nearly fell as he tripped over a kneeling red-headed figure.
“Oi, watch where you’re going,” Ron said, looking around. “Harry! Bloody hell, you’re here. Bugger, I thought you weren’t going to be here ‘til tonight. Dad must’ve left work early today.”
“Well thanks for the friendly greeting, mate. It’s good to see you, too.” Harry was slightly affronted by Ron’s strange behavior and stood back a few steps.
“Seen Ginny yet?” Ron asked rather hotly.
“Er, no. Actually there was nobody inside when I got here except your mum and dad.”
Ron gave him a short look and then bent over to retrieve his tools from the dark earth. As he did, a stiff breeze came up, cooling the air so suddenly Harry swore it was by magic.
When Ron stood up he held a strange tool in his hand. Harry didn’t recognize it from anything he’d used in the Dursleys’ garden. He did, however, notice its rather sharp edges and pointed tip, which was aimed directly at him.
“Ron, what’s going on?” he asked carefully. He unconsciously put a finger out in front of him and pulled it back as if he’d been pricked.
“I should ask you the same thing. When you first broke up with Ginny I thought ‘give ‘em a week and they’ll be back together’. It’s been a month, Harry, a month, and you still haven’t talked to her. Then you didn’t want us to come to your uncle’s house. What’s going on, mate?”
Harry just stared. He hadn’t seen Ron this upset since… well, he couldn’t ever remember seeing Ron this upset. He held up his hands defensively.
“Look, other than the fact that she’s your sister, I don’t see how this is any of your business!” He instantly realized that hadn’t helped and changed gears.
“Okay, that’s not what I meant. I just don’t want her to get hurt. If Voldemort found out that I… that we were, you know.” He paused for a moment and began again in a lower voice. “I mean, if she were to go with us, she’d be in so much danger. What if she got hurt? It would be my fault for letting her come and… I don’t think I could live with that. I can’t deal with another person I l- like getting hurt.” He finished with such a low voice that Ron had to lean forward to hear properly.
Harry looked at Ron for a moment and then they both sat down on the ground. He found a convenient spot on the wall to lean against and rested his arms on his knees. Across from him, Ron picked at the ground with the strange tool, digging small holes and dragging ruts in the hard-packed earth.
Harry gazed at his friend, still unsure of his temper. “How are things with Hermione? Is she here yet?”
Ron looked up quickly but then recovered and tried to act casual. “Yeah, she’s here.” He rolled his eyes, fighting back a smile. “Ginny grabbed her the minute she came through the door and hauled her off to her room.” He swooped his hand in an upward arc through the air and laughed. “She looked surprised, but now they’re probably talking about girl stuff and don’t want us around.”
“Girl stuff? Like what?” Harry looked genuinely confused.
“Like what?” Ron laughed. “You don’t know? They’re up there talking about us, mate.”
Harry’s eyes went wide. “About u-us? But what’s there to talk about?”
“Plenty, I’m sure. Mostly about how daft we are.”
Harry breathed out through his mouth, leaning back against the hard stone wall. He could hear Ron picking at the ground again and somewhere nearby the sound of trickling water lent a little peace to the garden.
“Ron,” Harry said slowly, “you know I’m not very good at this stuff. Did I really muck things up bad with Ginny?”
Ron stared at him for a moment, taking a deep breath and dropping his gaze to the ground. “I was going to hurt you earlier. You know that, right?” Harry nodded and Ron continued, “We talked last night. She’s hurt and when I realized how bad, I got all defensive and then…” He broke off, jamming the sharp tool down into the dirt and looking up at Harry.
“And then I realized how much I had cocked things up the last few years. I guess… I guess seeing her hurt by someone she thought she could trust made me realize how I’d done the same thing. You and Hermione and I, we were always off doing something. We always sat together, we always ate together. Just seeing the look on her face because of what you did, it made me realize I should to make it up to her… I told her I’d start by talking to you today.”
“What I did,” Harry muttered darkly to himself. “She’s probably better off without me anyway.”
Ron grunted noncommittally. They sat in silence for a few more minutes before Mrs. Weasley called them to dinner. It was just as well because the light was beginning to fade and the shadows were growing very long. The orange light of the setting sun shone on the side of the house, illuminating the dust and bugs floating through the air. Harry took a few deep breaths and stood up, brushing himself off in the process.
“So, that’s it?” Harry asked.
“Well, we’re both blokes, what more is there? I’m supposed to get angry with you, you’re supposed to realize you’ve been a right git and then you apologize to Ginny and it’s all over.”
“Ron, look, I don’t know what’s going to happen with her. I miss her, but everything is just so buggered up right now. I don’t know what to do.”
“Well,” said Ron, “you can start by talking to her. You owe her that much at least. And remember, I’m still her big brother and I promised I’d take care of her. If that means pounding you, then so be it.”
Harry couldn’t help but grin. “I’d like to see you try.”
“Don’t tempt me. I’m not through with you until I see the two of you work things out. I hate seeing her this way and I hate knowing my best mate is why she looks so hurt.”
Harry didn’t say anything more as they turned toward the house. Winding their way back through the garden, he tried in vain to slow his beating heart. He was about to see Ginny again.