All during breakfast Dudley tried very hard to avoid Harry after the hugging incident, which was rather difficult in the smallish dining area. Harry laughed out loud when Dudley, in an attempt to move his chair further away from Harry, managed to put his elbow into the butter dish.
‘I seem to have that effect on people,' thought Harry as his aunt and uncle glared at him.
Uncle Vernon smiled thinly. "Well then, since you're so boisterous this morning, you'll have plenty of energy to help Mrs. Figg."
"Yes sir." Harry stopped smiling but really only to appease Uncle Vernon. He didn't mind helping Mrs. Figg as long as the work was outside her smelly house but he didn't want his uncle to realize this. The Dursleys had taken to hiring Harry out to the neighborhood for odd jobs. They kept the money he earned but that didn't bother Harry beyond the principle of the matter. It got him away from the house and its occupants and made the days pass quicker than they would were he locked in his room all the time.
Most of the jobs so far had been for Mrs. Figg. She had an odd habit of hiring professional contractors for the work she wanted done but then insisting that they use Harry as cheap labor. So far he'd helped landscape the front and back yard, repair the greenhouse, and build a small shed. She had mentioned the last time that her roof needed work and he reckoned that's what he'd be helping with today. So far none of the contractors he'd worked with liked her very much. She always seemed to be watching from not too far way and most the workmen took this personally as a lack of trust. Harry, however, was quite sure that she was watching him and him alone. Some of the repair work to the greenhouse had been obviously shoddy but she made no mention of it. It seemed to Harry that the results of the work were unimportant to Mrs. Figg and the main purpose was to keep him occupied and under her eye.
Despite her constant attention, Harry didn't mind her as a boss. On particularly hot or hard days, she would give him extra money for his own pocket which he accepted only to be gracious. After the Aunt Marge incident, he'd taken steps to have a small portion of his wizard fortune converted to Muggle money in case he ever found himself on the street again. He figured the £2000 now hidden in the bottom of his school trunk would be plenty in an emergency.
The work for the day was in fact helping the roofers and they again groused that the "old bat" kept a close eye. They seemed to be even angrier because she refused their professional assessment that the roof didn't require repair. Work was work however and they got on with it while Harry did the fetching.
Harry was bone tired when the light of day began to fade. Carrying shingles, nails, and sealant up a ladder for 10 hours had him aching all over. He smiled weakly as Mrs. Figg handed him a £20 note on top of the money that was meant for the Dursleys.
"Buy something nice for yourself tomorrow, dear." Harry looked up at her, confused as she smiled warmly and closed the door to his face.
He was halfway back to the Dursleys when he realized she might have been referring to his birthday.
‘Did she know? How did she know?' After 4 years in the wizarding world, Harry did not believe in coincidences anymore.
Uncle Vernon was waiting on the front step as Harry approached the house. Without a word, Harry placed the expected money in his uncle's beefy hand and then immediately went to take a shower before dinner. Mercifully, his aunt was doing the cooking this evening as Harry doubted whether he could raise his arms to eat, never mind cook. The shower helped rejuvenate him a bit but he knew he would sleep well tonight and wake up extremely stiff and sore in the morning. Dinner was another wordless affair and after Harry cleared the table and cleaned the dishes, he headed straight for his bedroom.
"It's about time." The voice to his right caused him to jump about a foot. He turned to see a pretty young redheaded girl in a denim skirt and white blouse.
"Ginny?! What are you – How did you get in here?"
"Portkey," she answered as if it were the dumbest question she'd ever heard.
"Well I am happy to see you but it is a surprise. A wonderful surprise though."
Ginny beamed at him. "I volunteered to bring your gifts. There were just too many and some too big for owl post. Happy Birthday, Harry!"
She sidestepped to reveal a small mountain of presents.
"Uh, thanks but it isn't until tomorrow."
She laughed. "We know that but tomorrow happens in about four hours, so here I am. We wanted you to be able to wake up and open your gifts right away. We all wish Dumbledore would let you come to the Burrow at least for your birthday but it doesn't seem like it will happen this year with everything going on."
"No, it doesn't but we'll all be back at school soon enough." Harry finally smiled at Ginny and was struck by how different she seemed. There was a confidence coming from her that was either new or that he had never noticed.
"So, you volunteered? A bit bold of you isn't it? To just pop into a teen aged boy's bedroom? Seems like a lot of teasing to risk at the hands of the twins and Ron just to deliver some presents."
Ginny was suddenly serious. "Well I had another reason too. I really needed to talk to you about something."
"Is everything OK?" he asked quickly and perhaps a bit too loudly. He clapped a hand to his mouth and stared in horror at the open bedroom door. The television downstairs was blaring one of Dudley's favorites as usual but it might not have been loud enough to cover his and Ginny's voices. He quickly closed the door and locked it. He looked doubtfully at the door knob wishing he could charm it but knowing he was still underage.
"Here," Ginny said as she handed him what looked like a pair of old earmuffs. Harry looked at her like she lost her mind.
"Nicked them from Fred. Put them over the door knob. They act as both a Locking and a Silencing Charm. He and George use them get more experiments done under mum's nose. Fred was bragging the other day about how the Ministry wouldn't be able to detect it either. Guess we'll see."
Harry hung the muffs on the door knob.
"Guess we will. So is everything OK?" he stifled a yawn and rubbed his neck as he asked.
"Mostly, though I might ask you the same. You look as if you've had a rough time."
"Been working some odd jobs over the summer. Today was pretty tiring and I already ache. No doubt at all I'll be a ball of pain tomorrow."
"Hmph. I suppose I can give you a rub down while we talk. I do it for dad a lot lately. The Ministry is so crazy these days. His shoulders are just one big knot of muscle when he gets home. Come have a seat," she commanded as she pulled out the desk chair for him.
There was a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach as Harry sat down. It promptly jumped to his throat as she started to rub his shoulders. She began gently at first but the pressure increased. It felt so wonderful he could not stop the quiet moans from escaping his throat. Her fingers seemed to know exactly where to dig and release the pain from his upper back and neck. This continued for several exquisite minutes until Harry became aware of Ginny's body also pressing to the back of his head and shoulders. He smiled and his eyelids drooped despite the excitement he was feeling.
"So," his voice cracked and he cleared his throat to continue. "You needed to talk?"
"Hmm?" she sounded sleepy in her reply from behind him. She continued to massage his shoulders.
"Oh, yes, well you see, I've been having these dreams lately." Harry's eyes popped wide open. "And they've been very, um, vivid. The thing is though, and this will sound strange I know, but they don't feel like they are my dreams."
"Not yours? I don't understand," Harry managed to keep his voice from cracking again but just barely because he was very afraid he did understand.
"You see, I know what it feels like to have someone else inside my head. To have thoughts that aren't mine. It's nothing evil this time though, I'm sure of it. The dreams aren't forcing me to do anything I don't already want to do…" her voice trailed off wistfully.
"So what- what happens in these dreams then?" he asked trying not to sound nervous but failing miserably. She had stopped rubbing his shoulders and there was some indiscriminate movement behind him.
Suddenly her breath was in his left ear and he shivered.
"We do." Her arms snaked around him and she lightly kissed her way down his ear to his neck.
"Ginny," he moaned softly as he reached for her.
But Ginny was gone. His room was dark, he was in his bed, and there was an insistent tapping at the window. He shook his head to clear it and realized he'd collapsed exhausted into his bed after doing the dishes and Ginny had never been here. The tapping is what had woke him up and had robbed him of what promised to be one of the "better" Ginny dreams. He was about to be angry when he realized the tapping was obviously Hedwig and several other owls bearing letters and gifts. It was 12:02 A.M., July 31st.