The following morning, Harry awoke to the sensation of someone
shaking his shoulder. Trying to ignore the interruption to his sleep,
hoping that it would simply go away, Harry snuggled deeper into his
pillow and three words involuntarily escaped his lips: "Not now, Ginny."
shaking stopped for a moment and Harry's hazy brain briefly wondered if
he had dreamt it. Then the shaking returned, but with more vehemence.
came a harsh voice. Had he been more rational, Harry might have
detected the hint of a laugh behind the harshness. "Wake up."
asked Harry, finally opening his eyes to see a blurry form hovering
over him. "Whattimeissit?" He reached blindly for his glasses until he
felt them shoved into his hands.
"It's time to go to work, young man."
his spectacles into place, the face of Remus Lupin appeared in front of
him. Harry sat up, but the muscles in his shoulders and arms protested
at the motion. "Ow," he said as he worked his fingers by opening and
closing his hands. "That smarts."
"As it should," said Remus. "Now get up. You've got five minutes to shower and dress before we leave."
right, all right," said Harry as he stood shakily and shuffled towards
the loo. "Could you get me some clothes to wear while you're here?" he
asked, half-heartedly pulling his dirty shirt over his head and
throwing it at Remus' feet. "These are about done for."
before he disappeared into the loo, he saw Remus pushing his shirt with
the toe of one shoe as the older man muttered, "I'll say."
After a hasty shower and bite of toast, Harry and Remus arrived in the Burrow's garden with a small pop.
Remus pocketed the Portkey and walked quickly up to the kitchen door
while Harry looked around at the grounds, still rubbing his aching
muscles. The sun was just cresting over the trees to the east and the
slight breeze brought a welcome chill to Harry's exposed arms. Looks like rain, thought Harry as he looked at the shed in the distance with a renewed air of accomplishment.
as Harry was beginning to wonder what the day would hold for him, the
door opened again, but instead of Remus Lupin, it was Ginny who
appeared in the doorway. She paused, taking in Harry's stance as he
rubbed his still damp hair, then walked purposefully towards him and
took hold of his arm.
"Let's go," she said softly as she pulled him down the familiar path to the shed.
"Is there something the matter?" he asked as they opened the side door and walked inside. "You seem a little tense."
smell of drying paint mingled with dust and oil assaulted his nose.
Ginny sat on a nearby, overturned bucket and sighed, putting her head
in her hands. "It's...nothing," she said in a strained voice.
smirked and touched his bracelet to check the temperature. It was
neither cold nor hot, so he reckoned he was safe for a bit. Pulling
himself onto a nearby workbench, he pushed the stray bits of wood,
metal and tools off to the side and sat with his elbows on his knees,
ignoring the twinges of pain in his shoulders and back. "If it was
nothing, you wouldn't be bothered by it," he said sagely.
Ginny looked up at him with a start, then her face softened and she smiled. "Since when did you become sensitive?" she asked.
shrugged and looked at the piles of broken appliances, motors, and
electrical plugs that littered the shed's interior. "It's a recent
addition," he muttered, trying to sound casual.
Risking a glance at Ginny, he saw her smirking at him and she said, "Ron's being a git."
"Nothing new there," said Harry smoothly.
but now he's about ready to qualify for the national git team," she
retorted, standing up and walking over to a stack of phonograph records
on the shelf next to Harry's head. Fingering them lightly, she
continued, "It's about Dean. He thinks I'm going out with him and won't
let me have a minute's peace over it."
"Ah," said Harry, trying to mask his face with neutrality. "So, you're not going out with Dean then?"
Ginny gave him a quizzical glance, the curve of her lips never dwindling. "No, Harry. I only told Ron that to watch him squirm."
Harry exhaled, suddenly deprived of oxygen, then blurted, "That's a relief."
"Sorry?" she asked and Harry noticed out of the corner of his eye that she had turned to face him, hands folded in front of her.
Oh, never mind," said Harry quickly, pushing himself off the counter
and walking towards the door. "What chore have I got on my list today,
When Ginny didn't immediately say anything, Harry
turned back around to meet her stare. The light coming through the open
door grew and then alternated with the shadows of the passing clouds.
"Weeds," said Ginny simply, not taking her eyes off
Harry. Her scrutiny was just a little unnerving and Harry had to look
anywhere but at her face. "You've got to weed the flower beds today."
"All right," said Harry, strangely relieved. "Do I need anything special? Tools, gloves...that sort of thing?"
breaking eye contact, Ginny searched around for two buckets that had
several different-sized shovels, gloves and other things in them and
handed them to Harry. "Here."
Harry grabbed the handles and motioned with his head to the door. "Shall we?"
Ginny walked out into the sunlight and led Harry to the largest bed on
the property, scattering two Gnomes who seemed to be playing hide and
seek. The flowers were in various states of bloom and the riot of
colour both assaulted Harry's senses and cheered his weary mind. Bees
buzzed heavily as they flew from the mums and begonias to the hyacinths
and roses. Still, as beautiful as it was, Harry could sense that
something was slightly amiss.
"Don't think Mum's gone all soft
on you, Harry," Ginny said, wading carefully into a patch of
innocent-looking border dressing. "Some of the plants in here can take
a finger off...or worse," she said as a creeping vine started to curl
around her ankle before she batted it away with her wand.
cautiously followed her around the house until they were underneath the
highest section, where Ron's room and the attic protruded out of the
roof at an odd angle, casting a shadow around their feet. There were
several large rose bushes here, climbing a dilapidated trellis. As he
eyed the pinks and reds, one of the blooms jumped into the air and
snatched an insect with a sharp snap.
"Biting rose bushes," explained Ginny. Then, pointing to the base of the plant, said, "See those weeds and clumps of grass?"
Harry nodded, still gripping the handles of the buckets firmly.
"Start with those and then we'll move on to the mums over by the downspout."
placed the buckets on a bare spot of ground and pulled on a large pair
of severe-looking gloves. "I'm glad I wore jeans today," he said to
himself in a low voice, before carefully approaching the roses, shovel
The roses seemed to be ignoring him, taking more nips
at passing insects, so Harry turned his attention to the largest weed.
He sank his small hand shovel into the soil just in front of the
sprawling plant and levered the handle, bringing the whole weed up and
out of the rich earth. Grabbing the top of the plant with his glove, he
knocked the roots against the shovel's blade until the soil fell back
into the hole he had created. Then, he tossed the weed in a shallow arc
until it hit the rim of the empty bucket and fell in.
worked like that for a while, finding a rhythm that allowed him to
spend the least amount of time next to the roses. Soon, the bucket was
full and the sun had crept over the roof, blazing down upon them. Ginny
took the bucket, humming the same tune as she had been yesterday and
came back with it empty; where she had disposed of the weeds, Harry
"Come here," she said, pulling out her wand after setting the bucket down beside him.
Harry raised an eyebrow after straightening up. "You're not going to hex me are you?"
be stupid," she said with a roll of her eyes. "I'd never get away with
it while I'm wearing this blasted bracelet. It's just a sunscreen
charm. See?" She proceeded to wave her wand over her arms and face, a
faint orange glow radiating from its tip.
When she didn't
break out into boils, Harry nodded his head. "All right." Ginny stepped
over to him and muttered the incantation. A pleasantly cool breeze
washed over his skin where her wand was pointed and Harry thought it
might be a good idea to learn that spell, if only to stay cool in the
Ginny stopped after what seemed a long while, but
didn't move away immediately. "Thanks," said Harry quietly. "It was
Harry's bracelet gave a particularly cold twinge and he wondered if it
might be malfunctioning, or if Ginny's sunscreen charm was interacting
with it somehow.
They stared at each other for a second longer
before a large wasp buzzed between them. Ginny yelped and staggered
backwards while Harry leaned back to give it room to fly away, knowing
that trying to shoo it would only aggravate the normally aggressive
insect. Catching her eye again, the strange tension that had been there
was lost and they both broke out into giggles.
With the roses
weeded and Harry blissfully bite-free, he moved over to the downspout
and the much tamer-looking mums. Ginny followed, carrying the empty
bucket, and Harry settled down to start pulling on the grass that was
growing in between the clusters of pink and yellow flowers. Whatever
tune Ginny had been humming was sort of catchy and Harry found himself
humming along with her from time to time.
Ginny stood all of a
sudden and said, "I'm going to go inside for a bit." She backed away
awkwardly and almost tripped on a low shrub, throwing out her hands in
an attempt to catch her balance. "To make lunch," she added hastily
before turning and walking back around the house to the kitchen.
by Ginny's strange behaviour, but unable to dwell on it too long, Harry
pulled off a glove to get better leverage on the stubborn grass and
weeds in the harder earth that dominated this section of the bed and
set to work.
A thousand thoughts and feelings were
flooding Ginny's mind as she slowed her pace on the way back to the
kitchen. Watching Harry work that morning had changed something in her.
It was as if a giant hand held her heart and was squeezing it. Why
hadn't she reacted this way before? What was it about Harry that made
her feel this way? More importantly, what was she going to do about it?
Ginny stepped into the cool kitchen, her mum was busy at the sink with
a whole, boiled chicken, carving it up and setting the de-boned meat
into a large wooden bowl. Ginny sat heavily on a stool by the cooker
and let out a long sigh.
"Something on your mind, dear?" asked Molly as she shoved the bones, skin and fat into the waste bin under the sink.
sighed again, trying to find the words to explain her situation.
Normally, her mum would be the last person she would talk about boys
with. Hermione was much better for that kind of thing because she never
criticized, never became overly emotional and usually had good advice.
Her mum however, had always disapproved of her choices in boys and so
Ginny just stopped coming to her about it.
though, Ginny couldn't help but think that her mum had changed; that
when they had been talking about Harry, her mother had finally shown
the concern and care that Ginny had always wanted and needed.
"It's nothing," said Ginny dramatically.
arched a brow and set the knife to work on the chicken, chopping it
into small squares, then cast a sanitizing charm on her hands. "As long
as 'nothing' means 'Harry Potter', you can be sure that it won't stay
'nothing' for long."
Unable to help it, Ginny smiled. "I
supposed you're right...." Sliding off the stool, Ginny donned an apron
and pulled out a jar of mayonnaise, some fresh celery and a selection
of spices. As she set to work putting lunch together, she looked over
to her mum and said, "It is about Harry, after all."
"Mmm," said her mum noncommittally, as the chicken flew from the cutting board and into a small frying pan and began to sizzle.
mix ready in the bowl, Ginny only had to wait for the chicken to cook.
She wiped her hands on her apron and put the ingredients away, taking
her place back on the stool. As her mum continued to push the chicken
around the pan with a spatula, Ginny's exasperation grew. "Aren't you
going to say anything?"
"Hmm?" Molly said, turning around to look at her daughter.
"I said, it was about Harry."
"Oh," said Molly as she scraped the chicken bits onto a towel covered plate. "Well, what did you want me to say?"
a groan of frustration, Ginny popped her mother in the backside with a
dishrag. "You're horrible! Stop teasing me and tell me what I'm going
"Do?" Molly asked, putting the pan into the sink and with a flick of her wand, set a brush washing it. "You don't have to do anything, except wait for him to come to you. When he's ready, that is."
said Ginny patiently, "I've been waiting for him for four years. I'm
not sure if I can handle these...feelings any more."
took off her apron, folded it into quarters and set it down on the
counter in between the bowl and plate of chicken. "Ginny," she said
placing her hands on Ginny's shoulders. "Harry's having a rough time of
it just now. You can't expect the boy to jump into your arms right
"I suppose you're right," she said with a glance at
the clock on the mantle. It was tough to tell at this distance, but it
seemed that both Harry and Ginny's hands were solidly in the blue
section. "I miss Sirius too."
Her mother cupped her cheek and
pulled Ginny's gaze up to meet her own. "He needs to heal before he can
love. Be there for him through this and then see how things go, all
Ginny nodded and wrapped her arms around her mother's neck. "Thank you, Mum. I really...needed that just now."
They held each other for a while and Ginny was reminded of how tender her mother could be.
get this salad finished and I'll get a pudding for you to take with
you." They broke their embrace and looked at each other for a while,
then finished lunch.
Turning the corner that was
underneath the protruding attic, Ginny spotted Harry squatting in the
mums, looking like he was about finished with the weeds. All at once,
Harry let out an almighty screech and a loud curse word that would have
had her mum howling in indignation. A Gnome flew through the air and
Harry began to stomp and kick at the flowers until a gaggle of the
little potato-headed creatures came bustling out, heading for the
Rushing over to where he was still muttering
expletives under his breath and sucking on his finger, Ginny set the
basket down and put her hand on his shoulder. "Let me see it."
eyed her for a second, anger still bubbling on his face, finger still
jammed in his mouth, then pulled it out with a wet smack and shoved it
at her. It was bleeding pretty heavily but Ginny had seen worse. "It's
not bad," she said as she healed it quickly with her wand.
"Not bad?" he growled, fuming. "It hurt worse than when that git Lockhart removed all the bones in my arm!"
stop being dramatic," she said with a chuckle, still holding his hand
as she made sure the cut wasn't bleeding any more. "I've had much
Harry jerked his hand from hers and stomped over to
the downspout, giving it a look that would wither the stoutest of
Professor Sprout's Mandrakes. He stood there, sulking, until Ginny
started to giggle.
Whirling around, he set his steely glare on
her and for some reason, it made her giggle all the more.
"Stop...laughing!" said Harry in a huff.
And she did,
instantly sobered by the serious tone in his voice. "There's no reason
to get snippy," she said, fixing a neutral expression on her face.
"I wasn't overreacting," he temporized, folding his arms across his chest defensively. "It really did hurt."
resisted the urge to egg him on even more and settled for crossing her
own arms in an attempt to show him how ludicrous he was being. They
faced each other for a while until Ginny got an idea.
"This isn't about the Gnome, is it, Harry?"
question seemed to calm him as his arms loosened across his chest and
the hard expression on his face softened. "I don't know what you mean,"
he said evasively, staring at his shoes.
countered Ginny, putting her hands on her hips and thrusting out one
foot for balance. "Then why didn't you react this way the last time a
Gnome bit you?"
Harry faltered and he sat on the bare earth between the mums and hyacinths. "You were thinking about about him, weren't you?" she pressed.
head shot up and he pinned Ginny with his eyes. She sank slowly down to
the ground just in front of where he was positioned, but was looking
past him where several bees were combing a set of hyacinths for nectar
and then began absently twirling a piece of her flame-red hair. Harry
didn't say anything but had stopped staring at her.
"It's all right to talk about it, you know?" she offered quietly.
"No," he said simply, shaking his head as he pulled at his hair, his gaze fixed on the ground between them.
"No what?" she asked.
"No, it's not all right to talk about it." Harry's voice had grown heavy and Ginny thought she could detect a quiver in it.
"Harry," she said soothingly, "I...I understand something of what you're going through."
He laughed a hollow sort of sound that was devoid of all things normally associated with laughter. "What could you possibly understand about what I'm going through?"
back the sharp retort that sprung into her mind, Ginny kept her voice
even. "You're not the only one that misses him, Harry."
"Yeah, well you've got a mum and a dad and a perfect
life, while I've lost everyone I've ever had that's important to me."
His voice was hard now as he looked at her and part of Ginny was glad
for it; glad that he was letting his emotions come to the surface
because it meant that they were connecting although that thought
scared her too.
"My life's not perfect, Harry...and you know
it," she said, still struggling to keep a reign on her feelings. "No,
it's not as hard as yours...and maybe I can't understand what it means
to be you, but I do know what it's like to be without Sirius."
made a disbelieving noise with his throat and stared at the dirt under
his nails. Ginny let out a long breath and quietly, said, "Did Hermione
or Ron ever tell you what had happened at Grimmauld Place last summer,
before you arrived?"
A look of confusion passed over Harry's face. "Well, I assumed you did a lot of cleaning and eavesdropping on Order meetings."
she said with a small smirk. "That too. But what we mostly did was get
to know Sirius." Ginny suddenly remembered the basket and pulled it
open, taking out the bowl of chicken salad. "Care for a bite?"
nodded, but kept staring at his hands and Ginny took this as a good
sign. She began filling their plates and continued speaking. "Not being
part of your group for the previous three years, I still thought he was
a mass murderer on the run from the Ministry." He chortled a little bit
at that and Ginny handed him a plate of food. "So imagine my surprise
when we show up at his house and he's there telling off Kreacher in the
entryway? Mum had to immobilize me, as I tried to take his head
off with my bare hands." Feeling her cheeks grow warm at the memory and
Ron's subsequent teasing, Ginny ploughed forward with the story,
pouring them each a mug of juice. "Ron and Hermione took me upstairs
and told me the whole story about your adventures in third year, how he
was innocent, and that Scabbers was really a Death Eater."
Shivering involuntarily, Ginny noticed that Harry was no longer hunched
over, but staring at her hungrily as he chewed on his food.
naturally," she said as she resumed twirling the hair attached to her
temple, "I was quite curious about him. I mean, escaped convict...your
Godfather...and the twins seemed to worship the ground he walked on. So
I cornered him one night and got him to tell me everything from his
point of view." Ginny smiled, thinking of how proud he was of Harry for
not killing Pettigrew, for winning the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and for
bringing Cedric's body back after that horrible experience in the
graveyard. "We sort of made it a tradition after that. I would make tea
and scones and he would tell me all about being in the Canary Islands
or in Brazil..."
"I didn't know about that," interrupted Harry
after draining his mug and gesturing for more. "He never told me where
he went with Buckbeak after we saved him..."
Ginny filled his
mug and took a sip from her own. "He was so worried about you, Harry.
He didn't want you to be thinking about him...he just wanted you to be
happy," Ginny explained. Harry didn't react to that however, and so she
continued. "Then when you showed up, he spent most of his time with
you, or giving Snape and Dumbledore an earful about how they've been
treating you badly, about how you shouldn't have to be locked up at the
Dursleys' and a million other things." Ginny paused and swallowing
slowly, touched Harry's knee lightly with her hand. "He really loved
Ginny's bracelet gave a great lurch as Harry's
head sank and he let out a series of sniffs. She absently rubbed at the
slender gold around her wrist, giving Harry a curious look.
"I don't want to talk about this..." he trailed off, still sniffling and rubbing at his eyes with the shoulder of his shirt.
"You need to hear it anyway, Harry," said Ginny firmly.
"I'm not ready!" came his abrupt reply, startling Ginny and causing her to spill her juice.
watched the liquid pool, then seep into the dark earth. "I...I
understand, Harry," said Ginny softly. "Just know that I've got more to
tell you, and when you're ready to hear it, I'll be waiting."
gathered their plates, mugs and paper towels and put them back into the
basket. She pushed off the ground and patted the seat of her trousers
to clean off the dust, then hefted their food. "When you've finished
with the mums," said Ginny clearly, "move on to the front bed and work
around the hedges there."
Harry nodded to make sure she knew he had heard her and Ginny walked solemnly back to the Burrow.
evening, after a subdued dinner, Harry sat on the front porch, watching
a large thunderstorm as it pelted the village of Ottery St. Catchpole
and swept up the lane to the Burrow. Positioned as he was, on the
bottom step, back leaning against an old, wooden column, Harry was
instantly soaked from head to toe by the sheets of warm rain. It felt
Lightning flashed and thunder boomed, but Harry didn't
flinch as water streamed down his sodden hair and into his face. He
thought about Sirius; about how much he missed him and even though he
didn't know him half as well as he should have, Harry couldn't help but
wonder what a difference having him now could have made in his life.
flash of lightning and crash of thunder masked the sound of the opening
door, but the light from the entryway spilled onto the porch, broken
with a long shadow. When it closed, Harry knew it was Remus.
"About done drowning yourself?" asked his escort to Privet Drive.
didn't reply at first, but slowly stood and surveyed the sky as another
flash lit up the distant clouds. He turned and nodded, grateful for the
rain that mingled with and masked his tears.
next day was Saturday, and Harry was able to sleep in later than he had
the past two days. A beam of sunlight hit him in the eyes, waking him
as thoroughly as a bucket of cold water on his face. Turning over to
face the pale white wall, Harry blinked his eyes a few times as he
tried to recall what was happening that day. Ginny was coming over at
ten to study, then they were to break for lunch at noon, followed by
more studying until dinner. Harry wondered briefly what they were going
to eat, as Aunt Petunia wouldn't be too pleased if she would be
expected to feed Harry and Ginny.
Crawling out of bed,
he pulled his arms behind his back to loosen the tight muscles across
his shoulders and chest. A few minutes of stretching was now much less
painful than it had been yesterday and Harry's body felt loads better
After a hot shower, he walked downstairs to get some
breakfast, ignoring the sneer his cousin was giving him. Uncle Vernon
was sitting in the living room, rustling his paper noisily and
muttering under his breath. Harry's aunt was just about to clear off
the dishes when he sat down and it became a race to shovel food onto
his plate before she took the bowls and plates of food to the sink;
Harry barely able to pinch the last rasher of bacon as the plate was
He took his time eating however; as he wasn't
excited by the prospect of waiting in the living room for Ginny to
arrive while his uncle was still occupying the recliner.
Petunia didn't make matters easy, as she had finished washing every
dish in the kitchen but the one he was eating from, having already
taken his fork, knife, and even his juice glass when he set it down for
a second. Finally crunching the last of his toast, Harry relinquished
his plate to his aunt and dabbed at his lips with the small towel she
had been using to wipe the table.
As he was getting up, his
aunt made a hissing noise from where she was washing his plate and
jerked her head as if she had developed a massive tic in her neck. He
looked at her as if she were mad, then walked closer when she waved a
foamy hand frantically at him.
"Remus said that the girl you attacked will be coming here today to study," she said in a whisper.
"Yeah," answered Harry warily.
"Vernon doesn't know," she said, slowly drawing out each syllable.
Harry raised his eyebrows and then shrugged, not understanding why she was telling him all this.
rolled her eyes and jabbed her soap-covered finger towards the living
room, where Uncle Vernon was now loudly lamenting a rise in petrol
prices to no one in particular. "If he finds out that you've got a w
a wi " she clenched her teeth, then in an even softer voice, said, "a
witch...in your room...even I won't be able to calm him down."
Unruffled, Harry said, "So take him out for a drive or something."
"I can't," she said, finally putting the plate back in the sink. "We're to go to a Parish luncheon and he would get suspicious."
"So," said Harry, the wheels turning in his head, "am I to do something, then?"
keep her in your room and stay quiet," she explained. "I'll take him
out to the garden just before she gets here so you can get her upstairs
before we get back."
Harry sized up his aunt and considered
the situation carefully. Having his aunt run interference for him with
his uncle would be helpful, as Harry was always looking for ways to
avoid confrontations with him. Still, it was odd to be having such a
civil conversation with his aunt, let alone be entering into some sort
of truce with her.
Before Harry could
get in another word on the matter, she had wiped her hands on her lace
apron and shoved Harry into the living room.
"Vernon, dear?" Her voice was a high-pitched warble that came across as irritating to Harry's ears.
"What is it, Petunia?" he asked with a sigh, then said, "Sodding Highway Agency has closed off the A3 at Guildford."
"I need your help with the apple tree in the back garden, dear," she said sweetly, ignoring his commentary on the A3.
Still holding the paper in front of his abnormally large face, he said distractedly, "Get the boy to do it."
minder is coming over in a few minutes, Vernon." Her voice had turned
from sugar to venom in the blink of an eye. "I need you in the garden."
hastily and recklessly folded the paper, shoved it into a slot of the
magazine rack and pushed himself heavily from the cushy recliner. "All
right, all right," he said with a puff. "Let's look at the apple tree,
They walked over to the garden door and his uncle sent Harry a withering stare before the door was closed roughly behind them.
two minutes later, the bell rang on the front door and Remus was soon
in his living room, followed closely by Ginny, her bag held tightly in
"Good morning, Harry," said Remus with a bracing
hug. "Ginny's all set. We'll be sending you some food at lunch time, so
expect a Floo call from her mum."
Harry looked at Ginny
awkwardly for a minute before he realized that Remus was halfway out
the door. "You kids have fun and remember...we're keeping an eye on
things, so no rowing."
Still looking at each other, they
waited for the door to shut, then Ginny let a smile slip onto her face.
Harry grinned and took her bag, hefting it onto his shoulder with a
groan. "Welcome to Number Four," he said with a mock bow.
Ginny giggled and slapped at his shoulder playfully. "Stop it," she said. "We're here to study, you know?"
put on a serious face. "Quite right," he said, hooking a thumb into the
strap of Ginny's heavy bag. It was quite a bit heavier than his
normally was. "But I thought I was studying with Ginny today, not
"Ha, ha," she said mockingly, and she made to take her bag back, but Harry dodged to the side.
creak on the stairs spirited Harry into action and he shoved Ginny
behind the sofa. She complained but Harry shushed her, just as Dudley
lumbered down the stairs.
"Who you talking to?" he asked thickly, still wrapped in a dressing gown that would fit Hagrid with ease.
"No one," said Harry as Ginny kicked him in the leg. "Just practicing for a school play."
Dudley looked puzzled for a minute and said, "They have plays at that school you go to?"
the time," said Harry easily. "I'm in one of the best acting troupes."
Another sharp kick from Ginny landed on his shin and he let out a howl
which quickly turned into a shaky rendition of 'If I were a rich man',
from Fiddler on the Roof, the only play Harry had ever seen.
it was the off-key pitch caused by the pain in his leg or that Harry
had convinced his cousin that he was in an acting troupe at Hogwarts,
he didn't know, but Dudley shrugged, turned to the kitchen and opened
As soon as he had his pig-like head behind
the door, Harry reached down and grabbed Ginny by the shoulder, pulling
her up to a standing position. Ignoring her glare, he took her hand and
yanked her to the stairs.
"What's going on, Harry?" she asked in a harsh whisper. "Why did you hide me from your cousin like that?"
"Shh," Harry said as he crept up to the landing. Turning quickly in the hall, he pulled Ginny into his room and shut the door.
turned back to see Ginny staring at him, arms folded across her chest,
hips cocked to one side and eyes boring into his. "What on earth has
gotten into you? Mum said Remus cleared everything with your relatives."
Harry let out a breath and sank heavily onto his bed. "He spoke with my aunt, but she didn't tell anyone else."
"I don't understand," she said, softening her stance a little.
that he was still carrying Ginny's bag, he lifted the strap off his
shoulder and plopped it into his lap. It was pink and green, with
little rainbows and butterflies on the upper half and judging by the
numerous tears and patches, looked like it had been used for a number
"Uncle Vernon hates magical people," he explained
slowly. "He can't even stand it when owls deliver the post, so I don't
think my aunt wanted to tell him about it, just to keep the peace."
Looking up at her now, her arms had dropped to her side as she
contemplated what he was saying, making her appear much less angry.
"Dudley was just a side-effect," he finished. "I reckon that if Dudley
knows, he'll tell his parents straight away, so we've got to be
"As fun as being in your room is, Harry, I'm going to have to use to loo eventually."
nodded his head. "Right. Aunt Petunia said that they would be leaving
for a church something-or-other and so we can leave the room then and
you can...well, use the loo."
Ginny considered this for a
moment and said, "All right." She pulled a chair out from his desk and
plopped down in it, folding her legs so that her dress concealed
everything above her knees. "So...shall we get started, then?"
Harry pulled his eyes away from the freckles on her shins and nodded. "Yeah," he said, handing her bag over to her. "Yeah."
worked on their Charms essays first and Harry was impressed with how
advanced she was in the subject. She had even been able to demonstrate
the wand movements for some of the things that Harry would be seeing in
"Does Hermione know you're this smart?" he asked, amazed.
giggled softly and said, "Of course she does.... But what she doesn't
know is that I beat her Charms exam score for fourth year."
If it was possible for Harry to be any more impressed, he would have been. "You...you beat her score?"
flash of red graced her cheeks and Harry felt a surge of satisfaction
at causing that reaction in her. "It was an easy test, though," she
hedged. "I bet the one you lot took was harder."
continued to stare unabashedly at her and after a while, Ginny started
to rifle through some of the parchment on his desk. "What's this?" she
asked, holding up something that looked like it had been in an accident
involving ink and a fan.
"Oh," said Harry, reaching out for it, "It's just my first attempt at Snape's essay."
didn't relinquish it at once, but seemed to be trying to read in
between the owlprints. "You're off to a good start, but flax seed oil
is highly reactive to crushed Jarvey fang."
"Right," he said, taking the incomplete essay from her and looking down at it. "Right."
Ginny produced two fresh pieces of parchment and handed one over to Harry. "You'll be starting over then?"
"Yeah," said Harry, whose vocabulary seemed to have been reduced to monosyllabic words.
had worked on their separate essays for another hour when they heard
the downstairs door open then close and the sounds of the Dursleys
getting into their car before they drove off. Not long afterwards, the
whumping sound of a Floo connection being activated reached their ears
and Ginny said, "I'll get lunch."
As Ginny left, Harry got up
and stretched, first his arms, then his legs. When he bent over to
touch his toes, he heard the door creak open and Ginny let out a slow
whistle. "I haven't even eaten lunch and here you go giving me dessert."
crept up Harry's face and he instantly straightened. "Sure, you think
it's good now, but what you don't know is that I usually do this in the
Ginny's mouth went slack and a glazed look passed over
her face for a second before she shook her head clear. "You can't tease
me like that, Harry, unless you're going to make good on it."
implications of what she was saying didn't dawn on Harry for a second,
but when they did, the heat in his cheeks spread to his chest and neck.
"We'll see about that."
"You can bet on it, Mr. Potter," she responded cheekily. "Would you like some lunch or shall I just eat it all myself?"
Harry lunged for the now-familiar basket and said, "You'd better give me some of that; I'm starved."
to not risk being caught in the kitchen, in case the Dursleys came home
early, they sat on Harry's bed cross-legged and ate their meat pies,
chips, and pumpkin juice in relative silence.
Once the meal
was put away, they leaned back against the wall and relaxed, stretching
their legs until they dangled off the side of the bed.
knew writing essays could make you so tired," said Ginny after a minute
of quiet rumination. "I wish we could take a nap. I'm just so tired
after eating lunch..."
"Yeah," said Harry, his eyes still
closed as he fought off sleep himself. "That'd go over real well with
your mum. She's already looking for an excuse to hex me for what I did
to you at school."
"She doesn't hate you, Harry. In fact,
she's more angry at me than at you." Ginny's foot was swaying slightly
from side to side and bumped against Harry's foot every other time. He
didn't move it away.
"Hmmph," Harry said with mock concern. "Did she really lay into you?"
felt the bed shaking a little and cracked an eye to look at Ginny. She
was holding in a chuckle, but her body was jerking with the effort.
"Oh, boy, did she ever," she finally said through strained laughter.
only did she tell me off," Ginny continued, "but she threatened to send
me to Beauxbatons if I didn't accept my punishment."
she said triggered a question Harry had been meaning to ask. "So how is
it I'm the one doing all the work and you get the easy job? We did both hex Snape, you know?"
she said with a sigh. "We did. But...I mean, think about it Harry."
Ginny pushed herself up with her hands and leaned forward. Harry kept a
half-closed eye on her. "If it's punishment you're after, then I think
I've got the worst end of it."
"Really?" he asked, now coming fully awake again. "How do you reckon that?"
put yourself in my shoes for a second," she said as she pulled her legs
under her body. "What's the absolute worst thing you could have asked
me right after our fight?"
Harry thought about it for a
second. It would have been horrible for him to be around Ginny at all,
and at first, it was. But the worst would be to have to be her slave
to serve her in every way in abject humility. Harry didn't think he
would have been able to stomach that and suddenly saw the situation in
an entirely different light.
"How did you do it?" he asked
her, still leaning against the wall, hands hooked together behind his
head. "I would have gone barmy having to bring you lunch and stuff."
smiled, revealing straight, white teeth in between a pair of full, pink
lips. "It wasn't easy, but even my hatred for you couldn't compare to
not being at Hogwarts next year."
The sound of a car pulling
into the driveway made it to Harry's room and was soon followed by
Vernon's loud booming voice and the click of the lock on the front
door. They continued to look at each other for a moment when Harry was
suddenly set upon by an indescribable sadness. He pulled himself
forward and hung his head over the edge of the bed, his elbows propped
on his knees and his head in his hands.
Ginny grabbed at her bracelet and said, "What's the matter Harry? Did I say something wrong?"
Harry shook his head and with a quite voice, said, "You're just really lucky is all."
"Why am I lucky?" she asked, confused.
laughed hollowly and said, "Because you've got parents who care enough
about you to tell you off, to threaten you with Beauxbatons..."
"Oh, Harry," she said, sliding up close enough to him to put her hand on his back. "I'm sorry...I..."
Ginny, it's fine. I'm the one who should be apologizing." Her hand was
warm where its rubbing slowly eased away the pain. "I'm sorry for being
so thick about your punishment..." He trailed off, not sure what to say.
"Harry?" she asked gently, still rubbing his back, but now in a different spot and the relief was unbelievable.
"Yeah?" he said, unable to put more than a single word together.
"I..." she paused, took a breath, and continued, "I wanted to finish talking about Sirius. You know...from yesterday?"
frowned, but wasn't sure that she could see it from this angle and said
nothing. She seemed to sense his reluctance to listen, but ploughed on
"You remember the night before your trial at the
Ministry?" she asked tentatively, moving her hand yet again to work the
muscles under his shoulder blade.
"Yes," he whispered. How could he forget?
"Everyone was so worried about you and the trial, even me...that we completely forgot that it was my birthday."
Her hand paused and Harry looked up to face her. "Really?" he asked with sincerity. "I didn't know that was your birthday."
all right, Harry," she said, resuming her ministrations. "It's not
usually a big deal anyway, but what I wanted to say was that Sirius
didn't forget." Her hand stopped again and her fully opened palm
pressed into his spine. "Everyone else did...Mum, Dad, the twins....
But after you went to bed, I went to sit in the drawing room and watch
the fire die and he came in with two cupcakes, each with a candle in
Ginny's voice was getting heavy as she recounted
her experience and Harry felt his own throat constrict with emotion.
"He...he was like that, you know? Always remembering things like that.
I tried to tell him I was too concerned about you to properly celebrate
my birthday, but he insisted.
"So, I blew out the candles and
just before I bit into the cupcake, it exploded in my face." Harry let
out a snort and Ginny chuckled with him. "Then, as if nothing had
happened, he cleaned away the cake and frosting with his wand and
conjured two more."
After Ginny didn't say anything for a
while, Harry risked looking up at her. Her eyes were watery and she
blinked, sending a tear streaming down her face. "He was..." she said,
her voice breaking. "He was a great friend."
restrain it any longer, Harry's own tears fell and he gave one great
shuddering sigh in an attempt to regain his composure. Ginny's arms
snaked around him and pulled his body into her chest, completely
breaking his resolve.
Shaking with silent tears, like he had
when he shared a bed with the spiders under the stairs, Harry let his
emotions run their course. "I miss him, Ginny," he said fiercely,
wiping roughly at his eyes under his glasses.
fingers pulled them off his face and softly, she said, "Me too, Harry."
He felt her hand in his hair and she began to rock with him.
I'd listened to Hermione...or not listened to Kreacher, or learned
stupid Occlumency from Snape..." The words were tumbling out now and
Harry didn't care that Ginny was there to hear him. "I hate that...that
bitch for murdering Sirius. I hate myself for not trusting Dumbledore and I hate Sirius for leaving me!"
didn't try to stop him and didn't interrupt. Harry raged and stormed
some more, blaming himself, Dumbledore and even Snape that Sirius was
gone. Through it all, Harry stayed locked in her arms, as if something
about her embrace helped him to find the right words. Whatever it was,
in the end, when he had finished lashing out at everyone he could think
of, the empty space that had been inside his chest for the past week
seemed to change, ever so slightly.
He found that he was no
longer rocking, but half-lying on Ginny as she leaned against the wall.
Wiping his eyes one final time, knowing that they were completely empty
of tears, he slowly pulled himself off of Ginny and reached for his
"I'm sorry you had to hear that," he said sheepishly, not looking at her.
"Tosh," she said, as she straightened her dress. "You needed to get that out of your system."
Harry nodded half-heartedly and sat back against the wall next to her. "Sorry."
Ginny's hand hit his shoulder with a thwap. "Ow!" he said as he rubbed it gingerly. "What was that for?"
"Stop apologizing about everything," she said simply. "You aren't responsible for everyone, you know."
"I'm so " He had been about to apologize again, but Ginny's raised hand made him think better of it. "Thanks, Ginny."
She smiled and this time, Harry realized that beauty was something that was not made or bought, but existed in the smile of a friend. "Any time, Harry."
and Ginny finished their Potions essays and read from their
Transfiguration books to get ready for next Saturday. They Flooed back
to the Burrow for dinner and Harry was back in his room before nine
As Harry lay on his bed, staring up at the unlit
light on his ceiling, his mind wandered over the events of the day.
Everything about it made Harry happy and for the first time since he
had been in the Department of Mysteries, the hollowness in his chest
seemed to shrink a little and be replaced with a lightness of hope and
a bright surge of joy. With his friends, Harry felt that there wasn't
anything he couldn't accomplish, even if it meant facing Voldemort one