The next day began cloudy. Harry and Ginny decided to devote some time to their summer homework. They sat at the kitchen table with their books. Ginny tried to concentrate on History of Magic, but instead she found herself glancing over at Harry time and again.
* * * *
Why did it mean so much that he said it?
That's the most stupid question in a long time. He's always been your hero.
I know that. But honestly, what makes him so attractive?
Awww, it's cute, isn't it? So messy, you always want to ruffle it.
What about his eyes?
So mysteriously green. Make you weak just by looking at you.
And everything else?
Well, he was quite scrawny, when I first saw him, but these days he's just the perfect build for a Seeker. And there are some muscles on his shoulders I'd like to have a closer look at.
* * * *
Harry felt Ginny's eyes directed at him several times while trying to do his Potions essay. It was immensely distracting, and he felt a little guilty for what he had been thinking the night before.
Had anybody heard me they must've thought Ginny was just hot, and I was a randy sixteen-year-old. Well, Ginny is hot, of course, and there's no use denying I am sixteen and, well, quite a bit randy.
He looked over to her and saw her turning away quickly, a slight flush of red on her cheeks.
* * * *
By lunchtime the rain clouds had passed and the sun was shining from a blue sky with just a few little white clouds drifting across, and it became quite warm. Ginny suggested going for a swim.
"Is there a public swimming pool in the village?" Harry asked.
"No, we have a private facility," she answered pompously.
Harry frowned unbelievingly, but Ginny just laughed and told him to pack some things to eat in a basket, and made her mum find some swimming trunks for Harry. Half an hour later, they left the house, Harry wearing old trunks of George's under his clothes and carrying a basket with tea and muffins. When they were outside, he looked at Ginny.
She took his free hand and turned towards the forest. For quite a while they didn't say a word, but simply enjoyed holding hands again. Ginny led the way into the woods beyond the Burrow. The Weasleys were not rich, but there had been Weasleys living around this area for a long time, so they had acquired quite a bit of land. After a few moments, Harry heard running water, and they came on a small river they followed to a spot where the water widened to a clear pool. Between the woods and the river was a strip of grass where Ginny stopped.
"This is it."
Harry looked around. It was a really hot summer's day by now and he was feeling sticky from the heat.
Ginny looked at him expectantly. "What d'you think?"
"It's wonderful. Have you been here often?"
She nodded. "Very often. On weekends we used to spend whole days here. The water is very clean."
Harry took off his shoes and then a thought flashed on his mind. This could be funny. What if she doesn't like what she sees? Oh, and remember, Potter: No staring!
He hesitated for a moment and he could feel Ginny's tension. Come on, you can't chicken out now, anyway.
Resolutely, Harry pulled off his t-shirt and dropped his shorts as if he was used to doing that in front of girls. He turned towards Ginny, who had slipped out of her sandals and was just drawing her light, short summer dress over her head revealing a simple black bikini.
Merlin! Ok, ok, no staring!
She could almost feel Harry's gaze on her and she heard a sound like a slight gasp. She avoided smiling too obviously when she dropped her dress, punched Harry playfully and ran towards the water crying, "Last one in's a ghoul!"
Harry was caught by surprise and taken at a disadvantage with his glasses still on, also not knowing if it was safe to jump right in, so when he finally made it into the water, Ginny was already up to her neck, wildly laughing at him.
"You're a ghoul, Harry!"
She laughed off his protest, and he splashed water at her. She splashed back, and they had a wonderful water-fight, leaving them breathless.
"You'll have to pull me out, Harry."
"Oh, will I?"
"Well, a ghoul's good enough for that, I s'pose?"
He reached out both his hands and she grabbed them, letting him pull her towards the bank. They dropped onto a large blanket they had brought and let the sun dry them. Harry had put his glasses back on and dared glancing at Ginny.
Wow, she's beautiful. Very ... promising! Ok, you'd better think about something else now.
He quickly removed his glasses again and stretched on the blanket, and therefore he could not see that Ginny was looking at him interestedly.
Oh, he's so cute. With wet hair he's even more dishy. And he's not scrawny. He actually has quite a lot of muscles. And I like his hands, they're so firm … and still gentle.
Without thinking she slipped her hand into his and saw a smile appear on his face. She could see he lacked sleep; in spite of the good food he was getting, his face still showed some signs of haggardness.
Harry was tired, and he always felt the pain and sorrow that was the loss of Sirius in his stomach these days, but suddenly Ginny touched him. Her small warm hand locked with his and he felt a smile spread across his face that wiped away all darkness. Ginny's heart jumped when she thought that he was smiling because of her.
"This is what I meant by 'exciting'," he said without opening his eyes.
After what seemed quite a while, Harry sighed. Ginny looked at him. "What is it?"
There was a light furrow on his forehead. "It's just ... so peaceful and so relaxed. And then I just remembered what happened, and I asked myself, why can life not always be so ... good?"
Ginny let go of his hand and lightly traced the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. He didn't like people staring at it, but surprisingly enough he didn't mind Ginny touching it.
"Yes," he admitted, "the bastard never leaves me alone."
She withdrew her hand, and Harry reached for his glasses.
"Does he still bother you?"
She flinched a little. "Sometimes."
He sat up. "Don't let him get you. He's not worth your attention."
She propped herself up on her elbows. "You know, we've never talked about what happened in the Chamber."
"But you were there in McGonagall's office when I told everybody."
"Yes, but that was not a very detailed account - not as far as I was concerned."
"I suppose I thought you didn't want to be embarrassed."
"I know. But would you tell me now?"
His green eyes fixed on her face. "Are you sure?"
She nodded. Now or never. It's broad sunlight, and you're here to protect me.
So he told her. "Riddle was not very considerate. Basically, he was making fun of you, while he was drawing his life from you."
"What did he say? Did he call me silly?"
Harry just nodded.
"I was silly. Merlin, I hate him for having done that to me."
Defiantly she turned on her back, and Harry reached for her left hand, gingerly holding it in both of his.
"You were desperate and innocent. And you were powerful. He didn't say so, but you put up quite a fight."
"No, Harry, I was stupid, and you know it."
"No, I don't," he said firmly. "There's one thing Riddle said that stuck with me. He said he had always been able to charm the people he needed. Ginny, we're talking about the most dangerous wizard in the world. He has ensnared so many people, all of whom were so much more experienced than you. You don't have to blame yourself. Actually, I've always admired you for fending him off for a whole year. I don't know if I'd have managed."
"Are you telling me I'm not to blame for the things Voldemort did by using me?"
The expression of her eyes became intent, and Harry started to be afraid he had said something wrong. But then she innocently replied, "Then will you stop blaming yourself for Sirius's death?"
"Isn't that just a little different?"
"'Course it is." Oh, good. "Not as far as the essentials are concerned, though." Damn!
"Harry, it was not your fault Sirius died."
Now he looked obstinate.
"There were so many things that cumulated. After Voldemort found out that you could feel him, he charmed you into coming to London, but if Fudge wasn't such a terrible git, Dumbledore would've been at Hogwarts and would've been able to help. If Marietta hadn't told on us, Umbridge wouldn't have replaced Dumbledore. If Snape had helped with Umbridge, if he had put more effort in teaching you Occlumency, if ... there are too many 'ifs', Harry."
He looked down and she sat up to force him to look at her with her free hand. She smiled and he felt his heart warm.
"Let's make a deal," she suggested. "You will remind me that it was not my fault the Chamber was opened, and I will kick you when you think that it was your fault Sirius died."
"I'm not sure the deal's feasible. You'll have to be kicking me night and day, and I suppose your parents wouldn't approve of your staying in my room at night." He grinned roguishly.
She blushed and retorted, "Well, Potter, at night you'll have to remind yourself of my wise words. Deal?"
* * * *
Arthur Weasley to Albus Dumbledore:
It is working. Ginny and Harry have stopped fighting. It took some time, but at the moment they seem to be perfectly at ease with each other's company. In fact, it seems that the plan is working much better than I had anticipated. According to Molly the two of them start holding hands as soon as they think they are alone. It does not seem to be much more than that at the moment, but I cannot avoid feeling some concern. After all, as Ginny's father, I will always think of her as my baby girl. Sorry to mention it, I am quite certain you have had your share of over-anxious parents....
* * * *
The weather continued to be hot, and so Ginny and Harry made it a rule of doing homework or helping Mrs Weasley in the morning when it was cooler and make it off for swimming by lunchtime. Those were the most enjoyable days of Harry's life. They talked about everything, even about the one thing Harry had nobody told about so far. They had been talking about the war, the Order and Voldemort, and Harry had said he and Voldemort would meet eventually to decide who was the stronger wizard. Ginny had asked if he could not avoid doing so, but Harry had answered with a note of finality in his voice: it seemed unavoidable.
Ginny raised her head to look at him. "What do you mean 'unavoidable'?"
Harry knew he had said more than he had intented to. Then again, wouldn't it be good to tell someone at least?
"Have you wondered, occasionally, what the prophecy in the Department of Mysteries said?"
"Occasionally, but it was destroyed, wasn't it?"
"It was, but that doesn't mean nobody knows what it said ..."
She grabbed his shoulder, understanding what he meant immediately. "Who told you?"
"Dumbledore. The prophecy was made by Trelawney. That's the reason he took her to Hogwarts."
"So it basically says it's down to either him or me." He recited the exact words.
Ginny did not say anything. Then, finally, "Not much of a surprise, is it?"
"Not scary in any way?"
"Oh, definitely scary, but not really surprising."
"Care to elaborate?"
Ginny smiled at him. "Well, Voldemort failed to do you in when you were a baby. Instead he nearly got himself killed. It's not that far fetched that he's got to finish what he started, isn't it?"
"And since nobody can expect you to just hold still and let him cast the killing curse at you, it's a question of who get's the other one first."
"Guess so." He sounded moody all of a sudden, and Ginny stood up. "There is, however, no question about who'll be in the water first and who's a ghoul once again."
Laughing, she stormed away with Harry hard on her heels.
The next day was Saturday, and one by one the elder Weasley sons arrived for the weekend until the Burrow was bursting with people once again. Bill had brought Fleur with him, and on Sunday it was decided to revive a family tradition and spend the whole day in the forest clearing by the little stream. Food and blankets were soon packed up, and they all left the house together. Harry opened the door for Ginny and Mrs Weasley, and Ginny lightly brushed his hand with hers when she passed him, reminding him of what they would normally do. It was a very nice and relaxed day they were having. Not as intimate by far as their usual afternoons out, but still very good.
Ginny was sitting with her mother when it happened. Mrs Weasley was planning some changes in the garden surrounding the Burrow, and she wanted Ginny's advice because she was clever with plants and flowers. Ginny listened to her, but basically looked over to where Harry was sitting with the twins. Their shop was developing so successfully that they were actually planning to expand. They were carefully explaining their new ideas to Harry, and he seemed to be listening intently.
* * * *
He looks better now. Not so haggard anymore. I like those shoulder muscles - and his hair of course. It would be nice to run my hand through it ...
You better stop there, Weasley, or your mum will know somethin's wrong. She smells it.
Easier said than done. At least Harry's not looking over.
That's what you think, Weasley.
* * * *
Harry's green eyes were, indeed, gazing intently at her, and then he flashed her a smile. She knew she was staring, but she just could not look away. She smiled back at him, and then she turned the infamous Weasley red. Heat was rising from her stomach to her face, and she was near exploding. Her heart began to pound madly, and so it was in public and in bright sunshine that she realised. It's official: I'm in love with Harry Potter. And there was no way to hide it. All of a sudden it became awfully clear to her that she had not been listening to a word her mother had said during the last five minutes, and that she was eyeing her suspiciously.
* * * *
Harry had let his eyes roam over to where Ginny was sitting. Her left arm was supporting her body, her legs were drawn slightly towards her. It was a graceful and easy posture, and she was looking at him intently. Suddenly her amber eyes focused and she noticed him looking at her.
* * * *
Oh oh. What do I do?
What about smiling, you dunce?
Ok. Good idea, nothing wrong with smiling ... She's smiling back, thank heavens ... But what? Whoa! She's blushing like hell, why ...?
Well, maybe because you're rude enough to stare at her?
Oh, shit, I hope not.
* * * *
And so it was in full daylight and with people around, who seemed to be disturbing all of a sudden, that Harry Potter found out that he was hopelessly in love with Ginny Weasley. He was not paying attention to anything the twins were telling him and therefore he also did not see how they exchanged knowing looks.
(A/N: Thanks to Jenadamson for betaing. Look at my profile for a disclaimer.)