Harry lay on the bed that had been made up for him in Ron's room. He couldn't understand what had happened. He had been able to face Ginny before, even after the events of the Ministry. What had changed in the few weeks he had been at Privet Drive? Why was it that just the sight of Ginny had locked him into the nightmare-memory of being possessed by Voldemort? How did she trigger the memory that he had worked hardest to repress? Then it hit him. He remembered what Ginny had reminded him of back at the Black house during the Christmas holidays.
"Well, that was a bit stupid of you,' said Ginny angrily, 'seeing as you don't know anyone but me who's been possessed by You-Know-Who, and I can tell you how it feels."
Ginny reminded him of being possessed by Voldemort because she had been through a similar experience herself. Except, Harry thought, that she had described being possessed as having blank gaps in her memory when she didn't know what she had been doing. Harry remembered quite clearly his own experience. He remembered the pain, the fear, the lack of self control he had gone through as Voldemort had taken him over. He could remember Voldemort taking control of his, Harry's, voice … using it to try to goad Dumbledore into killing Harry. He could remember just wanting it all to end; wanting to die.
Harry lay as still as he could trying to push the memories back again, and after half an hour, felt that he could once more face the Weasleys, although he wasn't so sure about Ginny.
For all its air of barely organised chaos, breakfast was a much more relaxed affair than dinner had been the night before. At dinner, the Weasleys had watched him like hawks, although by some common consensus none had mentioned what had happened earlier that afternoon. Now, as Harry sat down to his first breakfast at the Weasley's, they seemed to have forgotten that it had ever happened. If it wasn't for the initial concerned look that Mrs Weasley had given him as he chose his seat, Harry would have believed that he had imagined the looks he had been given the night before. Still he was pleased that at least one thing last night had gone right. By forcing himself to look at and talk to Ginny after preparing himself carefully, he had been able to exercise some control over the memories she had stirred up. It had taken a few attempts before he could look at her without going white and worrying the Weasleys.
Harry couldn't help but feel the happiest that he had been in a long while. Ron had explained the situation to him on the Knight bus when they were travelling to the Burrow with Mr Weasley. For some unknown reason, Dumbledore had decided that Harry had spent enough time at number four Privet Drive to satisfy the requirements of the ancient protective spell which kept Harry safe from Voldemort while he was away from Hogwarts. Harry reckoned that this was also an effort to make up for his treatment of Harry over the last year; he had actually allowed Harry to stay at the Burrow from the last week of July. He suspected also that this was an important reason behind Bill's and Charlie's presence, inconspicuous Order backup to the phenomenal amount of protective spells that had been cast so that he could come.
Luckily none of the spells seemed to be inconveniencing the family for the moment. The only reason he was sure they were there was that the twins had not Apparated once since he had come, and just the summer before they had done so for even the most flimsy of reasons. As seemed to have been happening a lot lately, since being surprised at the door by Ron and his father, a great sense of relief swept over Harry. Judging by what Dumbledore had said and his own behaviour during the last few days of semester, Harry had thought that it was extremely unlikely that he would be allowed to leave the Dursleys at all this summer. It was good to be proved wrong.
As he looked around, soaking in the warmth and liveliness that filled the Weasleys house to the brim, he grinned as he noted those who were present. Ron, sitting next to him was wolfing his food down with his usual gusto and filling Harry in on the latest information on the Chudley Cannons for the upcoming season – they had recently signed a new Chaser and this was, or so Ron said, the beginning of a winning season. He was also surreptitiously checking his watch with amusing regularity. The time checking, Harry was sure, was because Hermione was due to arrive by Floo powder at ten o'clock that morning; a 'hole' had been made in the magical protection for a couple of minutes, just enough for Hermione to get through.
Mrs Weasley was bustling back and forth carrying more buttered toast and bacon and other breakfast necessities over to the table in her usual manner. Mr Weasley could only be seen on short occasions when he turned the pages of some papers that he was reading with a distracted air, while munching on a piece of toast. Harry wondered what the papers were about, but he was fairly certain that they were to do with the Order of the Phoenix. He couldn't say for sure though, as they were all were obscured by some sort of spell that prevented him from reading them. An aside to Ron, revealed that neither he, Ginny nor the twins could read them, and that they didn't think that Percy could either. Not knowing what they said worried Harry; for a moment he felt his resentment from the previous year building up again, but he remembered his resolutions and, knowing that there was nothing he could do about it for this moment, he turned away so he could continue his study of the table's occupants.
Percy, who had reconciled with his family since the events at the Ministry of Magic, was scribbling madly away at a piece of parchment while, like his father, eating toast. Glancing at the family clock Harry was forced to choke back a laugh. He nudged Ron with an elbow and pointed out Percy's hand which was wavering back and forth between 'work' and 'home.' Ron had a little less self control and let out a loud guffaw which had everyone looking at him, with the interesting result that Percy's arrow resolutely pointed to 'home.'
Fred and George seemed to have finished their breakfast very quickly and were headed towards the stairs while talking intently in lowered voices. Harry guessed that their conversation was the reason for them leaving so fast, and was undoubtedly connected to Weasleys Wizard Wheezes (their business that was finally up and running in the new premises at number ninety-three Diagon Alley). He decided that he was definitely right when one of them, Fred he thought, looked back at him and gave him a conspiratorial wink. They weren't going into the shop today. They had been telling Harry the night before that Lee Jordan, who they had hired as soon as he had graduated, could handle the store for the day easily enough. And they had further explained that although they had enough room on the premises for development of new Wheezes, why not take this golden opportunity to work at home, in the place where they had invented so many before? Especially while their competitors had no chance of spying on them, thanks to the protective spells. Harry grinned back at them, looking forward to that night when the twins had promised to give him a preview on what they were working on, as well as talk over some ideas the three of them had been discussing in their letters, before he checked himself suddenly. He looked quickly back at Ron, who, he was relieved to notice, was currently wrapped up in yet another futile attempt to force time to speed up by staring at his watch as intently as possible.
His sudden movement did however reveal someone watching. Harry caught sight of Ginny, who was sitting opposite him, looking back and forth between him and the retreating backs of the twins while the expression on her face went from one of curiosity to suspicion to dawning realisation. A thought stirred in his mind, but was quickly quashed. When she noticed him looking and turned back to her bacon, Harry made a mental note to let the twins know about this new development before snagging some bacon for himself and beginning to eat.
At five minutes to ten, Harry glanced up from his nest of books and parchment and quills to Ron whose pacing seemed to have reached a fevered pitch, with the new addition of muttering to the floor-show. The regular letters that he had received from Ron while he was still staying at Privet Drive - a welcome change from the last summer - in combination with Ron's behaviour during the last couple of years told Harry the reason for this, even though Ron seemed to still be oblivious to his own growing feelings for their bushy-haired friend. His favourite topic seemed to be Viktor Krum, who had taken Hermione to the Yule Ball in their fourth year, invited her to visit him in Bulgaria (Harry still hadn't heard whether she had gone or not) and, horror of horrors, exchanged letters with her during the past year. In his own letters to Harry, Ron had agonised over whether or not Hermione was still exchanging letters with 'Vicky' in Bulgaria, and waxed lyrical on the dangers presented by Voldemort and the Death Eaters, as well as foreigners… how they couldn't be trusted and last, but most certainly not least, Ron's suspicions about Krum. Harry mused that now would probably be a good time for him to make himself scarce for a couple of hours.
Catching Hermione's name in the midst of the rest of Ron's muttering, Harry was convinced that the course of action he had been contemplating was the right way to go. He started to gather all of his things together before standing up, the sudden movement grabbing Ron's attention.
"Hey! Where are you going, Harry? Hermione's going to be here anytime now."
"Sorry Ron. Look, I just can't concentrate on this in here," Harry said indicating the potions essay he had been working on. "You know I need to get all these assignments done; McGonagall put herself on the line for me and I'm not going to let her down, so I'm doing all this extra study for Transfiguration, Charms, Herbology and Potions, in addition to the essays they wanted all the 'hopefuls' to write for holiday homework. I hope our OWL results get here soon so I can find out whether or not I'm wasting my time here," he said waving the partially written Potions Essay. "I really hope I got an 'O' in Potions, I need to be in that class." Harry groaned and would have run his hand through his messy black hair if he had had a hand free before he continued, "Argh! I sound like Hermione!" He sighed, "I'm going to go outside to see if I can get any more work done there. Say 'hi' to Hermione for me and tell her I'll see her later. I've got an idea I want to run past the two of you."
Ron looked intrigued by Harry's last comment. "What is it?" he asked, before adding quickly "Alright… but don't forget to tell me later." He watched Harry finish gathering his work and start to leave. "You know, I think you might be right Harry, you are beginning to sound a bit like Hermione, not to mention act like her, I don't think I've seen anyone other than Hermione so motivated by homework… and that includes Percy. Hurry up and get it done so you can go back to being Harry, alright? See you later."
Harry chuckled and headed through the kitchen, out the door and down into the yard, selecting a shady spot under a willow tree after checking carefully for gnomes. He sat down and for a short time, closed his eyes and just relaxed, revelling in the calm of the moment - a rare commodity in Harry's life - listening to the birds, the ever-present insect orchestra and the slight breeze rustling the leaves, feeling its cool contrast to the steadily warming morning.
Without warning a loud bang issued from behind him, shattering the peace. Looking back over his shoulder, with his wand at the ready, Harry rapidly identified the sound as having come from the twins' room. Large clouds of indigo smoke billowed out of the open window and one of the twins, Harry was unable to identify which, hung from the frame. The twin's hair was standing up, patches of it matching the colour of the smoke. Harry watched as the other twin leaned out the window and dragged his brother back in. Harry smiled slightly, before remembering the main reason he had come outside in the first place. He set up his gear again, glanced at the subject for his essay and with a long-suffering sigh, set back to work.
Some time later the sound of someone clearing their throat brought Harry out of his studious state with a start. He looked up and was met by a pair of warm brown eyes. His breath caught in his throat as a flicker of memory entered his mind, but with less of an effort than before, he forced it back down.
To cover the moment he took to respond, Harry attempted a grin. "Ginny, you startled me."
"Sorry, I thought you would have heard me coming…" She trailed off for a second and looked at him carefully as if unsure about something for a moment before rallying. "Mum sent me to find you. It's lunch time."
"Oh, OK. Just give me a minute to measure this and I'll be right with you." Harry grabbed his ruler from where he had placed it within easy reach of his left hand while spreading out his parchment with his right. After double checking his measurements, Harry shook his head in disbelief. "Six inches over! Ron'll never let me live this down if he finds out. Come to think about it, Hermione had better not hear about this either." Seeing Ginny look askance at him Harry elaborated, "she'll get expectations."
Ginny laughed. "Come on, Mum'll send out more people if we don't hurry back, and then you won't have a chance of keeping this from Ron and Hermione." She hesitated slightly, then, indicating Harry's carefully arranged things continued. "Do you need a hand getting that stuff inside?"
Harry looked up at the blue sky. A few wispy white clouds were scattered in its expanse, moving slowly in response to the remnants of the morning breeze which was still causing the trees in the vicinity to sway lazily. All in all the weather was perfect and promised to remain so. "Nah, it's alright. I'll just leave it here. I mean, I'll take in my potion stuff but I'll leave the rest and come back out after lunch to do some more."
Shall I shut up now?
A/N: The Quote from OotP comes from page 441 of the Australian edition.