A/N: Nope, no sequel yet. I originally started this for the SIYE challenge, but couldn’t get it finished on time. I kept at it anyway and decided it was okay as just a stand-alone. Hope you enjoy.
Ginny paced anxiously in the kitchen of the Burrow, glancing at the clock for the third time in as many minutes.
“Ron,” she bellowed up the stairs. “If you don’t get down here right now, Harry and Hermione will think we’re not coming and leave without us.”
Ginny and Ron had been expected at the Grangers’ about five minutes ago. Hermione had sent them an owl asking them to come stay with her for the weekend. There was a yearly carnival in her town, and Hermione’s parents thought it might be fun for Hermione to invite some of her friends.
Ginny had never been to a Muggle carnival before, but she had learned about them in her Muggle Studies class and was eagerly anticipating the fun. It had been a difficult summer for all of them, and a weekend away from the stress of ‘Order business’, as her mother referred to it, was just what Ginny needed.
Her mum had asked Professor Dumbledore if Harry could attend, and he’d surprisingly agreed. The fact that it was strictly a Muggle event with no wizarding ties meant it shouldn’t attract the Death Eaters’ attention. Dumbledore thought it would be good for Harry to get away and see his friends. He’d be coming to stay at the Burrow for the rest of the summer afterwards. From what she and Ron had been able to overhear on the Extendable Ears, the Order’s warning to the Muggles Harry lived with had done little good.
Ginny was really worried about Harry. He’d written to all of them saying he was fine, but no one was buying it. The notes were short, and he basically answered everyone’s questions, but asked none of his own, nor offered anything voluntarily. Ginny knew he was anything but “fine” after everything that happened last year. She’d never believe his claims that he was okay, not for a thousand galleons. Tonks, who had taken him out shopping, told Ginny he was really withdrawn and trying to converse with him was painful.
The invitation to join them at the carnival had sparked the first bit of interest they’d seen from Harry since the summer began. They all wanted to show him a good time and help him escape, if just for a little while. Just being out for an evening of enjoyment with friends would help.
Of course, none of that would matter if her brother didn’t hurry up and get down here.
“Ron,” she yelled again as he appeared in the doorway.
“Hang on, don’t get your knickers in a twist,” he replied lazily. His long, gangly arms held a backpack, and he shifted it nervously from hand to hand. He’d recovered nicely from the injuries he’d received on their failed rescue mission to the Ministry of Magic, although faint traces of the scars were still visible.
Ginny smirked, knowing he was nervous about spending the weekend with Hermione’s parents, although he’d never admit the reason why to himself. Throwing a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace, she stepped in and said, “Granger residence.”
She stepped out into an elegantly decorated room. Done in rich honey and sage tones, the couches looked as if no one had ever actually sat on them. Everything was just so, from the knickknacks on the shelves to the magazines neatly organized in a rack. Ginny suddenly felt underdressed in her Muggle jeans and faded green T-shirt. Ron stepped out of the Floo behind her, nearly knocking her over, since she hadn’t stepped away after emerging.
“Blimey, Ginny, move out of the way,” Ron grumbled. He, too, stopped in his tracks and nervously looked around the room.
“Ron! Ginny!” Hermione’s shrill voice greeted them as she ran over and hugged each tightly. Ginny watched in amusement as her brother’s ears turned red.
Hermione pulled back, faltering slightly and unsure where to look. Ginny rolled her eyes at the two of them. Would they ever get a clue? Ron was always dense about this stuff, but Hermione was supposedly the smartest witch in her year. She certainly wasn’t smart when it came to knowing her own heart.
“It’s good to see you, Hermione. Thanks for inviting us,” Ginny said, breaking the awkward silence.
“Oh, it’s going to be so much fun. My parents always took me when I was younger, but I haven’t been for years.”
“Is Harry here yet?” Ron asked.
“No. Professor Moody is taking him to Mrs. Figg’s to use the Floo connection from there. I imagine he’ll be here any minute.”
As if on queue, green flames appeared in the grate, and Harry stumbled out, barely catching himself from sprawling on the floor.
Hermione flung her arms around him, nearly knocking him over again. “Harry, oh, I’m so glad to see you. I’ve been so worried. How are you?”
“I’m fine. It’s good to see you, too. Hi, Ron. Hi, Ginny.”
Harry and Ron shook hands warmly, and Ginny leaned in and gave him a quick hug. She was startled by his appearance. He was much too thin, very pale, and had dark, purplish circles beneath his eyes. His eyes seemed hardened, somehow, and the forced smile on his face never reached them. He was far from “fine”.
“You look thin, Harry. Have they been feeding you?” Hermione asked.
“They’ve been fine.”
Before Hermione could continue questioning him, Mr. and Mrs. Granger entered the room. Ginny noticed Harry’s obvious relief when Hermione was sidetracked.
“Well, we’d better get moving if we don’t want to have to park too far away,” Mr. Granger said and ushered them all out to the fancy car sitting in the drive.
Hermione sat up front with her parents, while Ginny sat in the back between Ron and Harry. Aside from the Ministry car in her second year, the only other car she’d ever been in was her father’s old Ford Anglia, and this was nothing like that. She sank down into the plush leather seats and inhaled deeply. Ron was busy playing with all the buttons on the door of the car, making his window go up and down and locking and unlocking the door. Several minutes into the ride, he was still doing it, and Ginny didn’t know how it could hold his attention for so long. Hermione chatted and pointed out objects of interest as they drove. Finally, she began to yell at Ron for fiddling with the buttons so much.
Ginny tuned them out and glanced over at Harry. He was just staring out the window, a distant, somewhat lost expression on his face. It hurt to look at him.
Reminding herself that her goal was to make certain he at least had a good weekend, she asked him quietly, “Have you ever been to a carnival before, Harry?”
His eyes opened wide, as if he were surprised she was speaking to him. He shook his head. “There was one that came to Surrey a lot when I was younger. The Dursleys always went, but I always stayed home.”
“I’ve never been, either, but I’m looking forward to it.”
“I want some cotton candy,” he said, a little bit wistfully.
“It’s this fluffy pink or blue stuff on a stick that looks like cotton, but it’s actually all sugar. Dudley always had some when he came home. I always wanted to try it.”
Ginny smiled inwardly – so help her, she’d make certain he got to have some. “We’ll have to get you some, then. It sounds good; I think I want to try it, as well.”
“What about you, what do you want to do?”
“I want to go on some of the rides. Do you think it will be anything like flying?”
Harry’s eyes seemed to get slightly brighter. He was quiet for a moment, thinking about it. Ginny didn’t think that idea had occurred to him before. The thought obviously pleased him, because he perked up a bit more and suddenly seemed almost eager to arrive.
“I don’t know…maybe.”
“We’ll have to find out. Do you think Hermione will go on any of the rides?”
Harry’s gaze took in his friend, who was turned around, berating her other best friend. He smiled slightly and lowered his voice. “I don’t know; she really doesn’t like to get on a broomstick.”
Ginny lowered her own voice conspiratorially. “We’ll have to insist.”
Harry grinned. “Ron will like that.”
Ginny’s eyes flew open wide; she hadn’t realized Harry was aware of the currents sparking between her brother and Hermione.
“What?” he demanded, staring back at her. “I may be dense, but I’m not stupid.”
Ginny laughed out loud; she couldn’t help it.
“What?” Ron asked sharply. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” both Harry and Ginny said at the same time, breaking into even more fits of laughter. Ron and Hermione both seemed startled to see Harry laughing, but they were obviously pleased. Ginny saw hope flare in both pairs of their eyes.
They arrived at the carnival and entered with the Grangers. After getting their wristbands at the gate, Mr. and Mrs. Granger headed towards the food stands, while the teens went directly for the rides.
All the lights, bright colors, and sounds amazed Ginny. It was as if a paint pallete had exploded, mixing colors everywhere. It was loud, there were voices everywhere, and loud music blared from all the rides. It was overwhelming and confusing, and Ginny instantly fell in love with it all. It reminded her of the Burrow.
The best part of it all was the smell – heavy and sweet and filled with all the things your mother would try to get you not to eat. Ginny nearly bounced on the balls of her feet as they walked through the gateway.
“Look,” she squealed, pointing to a large circle ride looming right in front of them with little carts full of people swinging back and forth.
“It’s called a Ferris Wheel,” Harry said, laughing at her. Actually laughing — outright — on his own. Ginny tried not to show her surprise or pleasure. Yes, this carnival was just what Harry needed.
“Can we go on it?” she asked hopefully.
Hermione looked skeptical. “I don’t know, Ginny. It was never my favorite. They leave you stuck at the top while they let other riders off and on.”
Ginny’s face fell. She didn’t mind getting stuck at the top; it sounded kind of thrilling.
“I’ll go on with you,” Harry surprised her by volunteering.
“You will? Come on, then.” She grabbed his hand and sprinted towards the ride, leaving Ron and Hermione watching them in amusement. From the corner of her eye, she saw Ron move to follow but Hermione held him back and whispered something. Ginny didn’t know what she said, but the two of them turned and headed towards a concession stand.
Harry and Ginny waited in the line and eventually climbed into their cart. As the Ferris Wheel began to turn, Ginny’s stomach gave a bit of a lurch. This was brilliant. Harry was watching some of the other occupants rocking their seats to and fro. He glanced at Ginny and raised his eyebrow, asking the silent question. Ginny grinned in return, and the two of them began rocking back and forth.
Ginny laughed uproariously, loving the thrill of fear that went up her spine. Harry laughed, as well, and Ginny could almost see that old sparkle in his eyes. They continued to rock until the ticket taker yelled at them and threatened to throw them off. This only made them laugh harder. He scowled at them as he unlatched them, but Ginny just winked as they ran for the gate.
“That was fun. What do you want to break the rules on next?” Harry asked.
Ginny looked around quickly and pointed to another ride. It was called the Matador. It had a bunch of cars connected in a circle, and it sped over bumps at breakneck speed while music blared. As they made their way towards the line, Ron and Hermione joined them.
“How was it?” Hermione asked.
“It was brilliant,” Ginny responded. “You should really give it another try. You can see the whole carnival from up there.”
“Yeah, and you can really get those carts rocking if you both try,” Harry added.
Ginny saw Hermione’s eyes widen in surprise at his enthusiasm. It was good to have the old Harry back. “Well, I’m glad you both liked it,” she said doubtfully.
“We ate some fried dough. That was brilliant,” Ron said. Both Harry and Ginny smiled. Nothing was ever better to Ron than food.
“Do you know this whole carnival is run by a Muggle school? Most of the people working it are actually teachers. Can you see McGonagall in that outfit?” he asked, pointing to a clown in a garish green wig sitting in a dunk tank. All four laughed at the image.
“I’d prefer it if it were Snape in the tank; I’d spend my last galleon just to send him in,” Harry replied with a hint of malice.
Hermione tut-tutted, but Ron and Ginny fervently agreed.
As they reached the front of the line, Ginny climbed in a car, and Harry paused, looking uncertain. Hermione continued walking and sat in the car in front of Ginny, and Ron followed, still expounding on the merits of the fried dough. Harry shrugged, glanced again at Ginny with a slight smile, and sat down with her.
She couldn’t be certain, and figured she must be imagining it, but she thought she detected just a faint tinge of a blush staining his cheeks. She couldn’t imagine what that was all about.
It was just a few minutes after the ride started that she knew she had a problem. The centrifugal force from the speed as the ride went around forced the people riding on the inside to be pushed against the people riding on the outside. Ginny didn’t want to be pushed into Harry, but her arms were nearly breaking with the strain to hold her body from getting too close to his. If she had time to analyze her own feelings, she’d have to admit that she wouldn’t mind it at all, but she knew Harry would be uncomfortable, and she didn’t want him to think she was doing it on purpose.
Holding on was becoming painful. How did she get herself into these things? After a whole year of success in convincing everyone she was over Harry, now she was about to be pressed totally against him, and she knew she’d never be able to control the blushing. Would she never cease to embarrass herself when it came to him? ‘Fred and George are here somewhere, I’m certain of it’, she thought furiously.
Ginny’s arms were shaking with the effort of holding herself off Harry. She noticed Hermione had no such qualms and had just let go. She was smooshed into Ron, and he had a wide grin of pleasure plastered on his face that she was certain had nothing to do with the ride.
‘What the hell,’ she thought; she might never again have this opportunity presented to her. Throwing caution to the wind and taking a deep breath, Ginny just let go. Her petite body slid across the seat and slammed into Harry. She heard him release a slight oomph of breath, but his grin remained in place. His body was warm, and she couldn’t help but notice how nicely she fit against him. How had anyone ever believed she was over him?
“Sorry,” she yelled over the music as they continued to spin. Just as she’d settled into the warmth of being tucked under his arm, the ride slowed. Ginny’s heart sunk, and she couldn’t help the feeling of immense disappointment that tugged at her heart. She should have let go sooner.
The thought was no more out of her head when all of a sudden, the ride picked up speed again, this time going backwards. Ginny squealed as she suddenly felt nauseous. She could feel Harry’s chest rippling with his chuckles.
She was surprised when he moved his arm to pull her more firmly against him. “All right, Ginny?” he asked.
Ginny felt dizzy, but she wasn’t entirely certain it was all from the ride. Not trusting her voice, she merely nodded. Figuring that she might never get the chance to be this close to him again, she buried her face into his chest and relaxed against him. He kept his arm around her, gently caressing her shoulder with the pad of his thumb until the ride finally stopped.
As he gave her his hand to help her from the cart, Ginny knew something had inexplicably changed on that ride. Their eyes caught as she stood, and both stared transfixed for a moment as time rushed past. All the sound and colors seemed to dim and fade, and it was only Harry standing before her now. He was handsome in his new jeans and crisp white T-shirt. Tonks had taken him shopping for some clothes of his own, some which actually fit.
He stared back at her with the same bewildered expression she knew was plastered over her own face. Did he feel as unsure as she did? She watched his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed, uncertainty flickering in his eyes. He did! He felt it, too; she just knew he did.
“Come on, move along already.” Ron finally poked at Harry’s shoulder. Ginny could have cursed her brother into next week.
The four made their way around the carnival, going on as many rides as they could. Somehow, she and Harry just naturally paired up as the night wore on and ended up sitting with each other most of the time. At some point, Harry had taken her hand to help her alight from a ride, and he hadn’t let go since. Ginny knew Ron had raised his eyebrows when he noticed, but he hadn’t said a word. She thought for certain that she saw a smug, satisfied grin cross his face. It wasn’t long after that she noticed he and Hermione were holding hands, as well.
The bumper cars were fun. Hermione was the only one with a Muggle license and the other three took a minute or two to catch on while Hermione launched her car into them repeatedly. Both Harry and Ron bashed into each other, but seemed to treat the girls more gently. Ginny was having none of that and rammed her car into both of them until they finally turned and gave as good as they got. They ended up on the bumper cars two more times before moving onto the next ride.
The next ride was called the Scrambler, and, once again, Ginny sat with Harry. It was fun, but slower than some of the others they’d been on, and it gave them a chance to talk. Ginny told him about changes at the Burrow and some of the Order members she’d seen. She also told him about the additional wards that had been put in place in anticipation of Harry’s arrival.
As she spoke, Ginny saw some of the walls Harry so carefully constructed spring back up in his eyes, and she cursed her stupidity. Just when he had been relaxing, she had to go and bring up everything else. Ginny grew quiet, chewing on her lip and trying to think of a change in subject. All of a sudden, she noticed Harry watching her.
“What?” she asked.
“You were chewing on your lip. Are you hungry?” He grinned when he said it, and she was pleased.
“I’m sorry, Harry. I didn’t mean to be downer. I am hungry, by the way. I’m a Weasley; we’re always hungry.”
He smiled, although it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “You’re not a downer, Ginny. In fact, this is the best time I’ve had in a long time. It hasn’t been the best summer.”
He said the last part quietly, but she still heard him. Surprised he would reveal that much to her, she tread cautiously. “I’d imagine not. Still, you’re coming home with us, and, hopefully, it will get better. You’ll have Mum to feed you endlessly, Dad to grill you on all things Muggle, the twins to keep you in shape while you run from their pranks, and Ron to entertain you while he works out his feelings about Hermione.”
Harry smirked. “What about you? What’s your role?”
Ginny was going to make some joke, but when she caught the hidden hurt within the green orbs staring at her so intently, she whispered, “I’m there for when you need someone to listen.”
Harry’s eyes widened in surprise, and he blinked quickly as he ducked his head.
“Of course,” she continued, “I can also be useful if you need a way to get back at any of my brothers without the use of magic. I’ve got things on all of them and years of experience.”
As they emerged from the ride, Harry once again kept Ginny’s hand in his own, and she gave his a reassuring squeeze. She was delighted when he returned the gesture.
They walked through the gaming section next, where the people running the games tried to talk them into playing and winning something for their “girls.” Hermione warned them it was a scam, but Ron threw some darts at a star and won a tiny little stuffed bear holding a bright red heart. His ears turned red as he tossed it at Hermione. “Here, sleep with that next to your pillow.”
Hermione still wore an ‘I told you so” expression, but both Ginny and Harry noticed that she kept the bear. They shared a knowing look and covered their smiles.
When they were all passing a concession stand, Ginny leaned over to Harry and said, “Let’s get you some of that cotton candy you always wanted.”
His face lit up like a kid at Christmas, and he nodded eagerly. They all got some, although Ron glared at his apprehensively for the longest time. Harry ate his slowly, seeming to savor each bite.
“It just melts in your mouth as soon as you bite it,” Ginny said in wonder.
“It’s really just sugar. My parents will have a fit if they see me eating it,” Hermione said.
Ron finished first, as expected, but Ginny was done not long after. She reached over and pulled some off of Harry’s.
“Hey!” He swatted at her hand indignantly.
“Oh, come on, we’ll be here all night at the rate you’re going with that.”
Harry smirked and continued to savor the cotton candy. Secretly, Ginny was thrilled he was enjoying it so much. She was surprised when he pulled another tuft off his cone and pressed it against her lips. Daringly, she took what was offered and licked his finger slightly as she did. His eyes flew open wide in surprise, but he quickly offered her another piece.
They tried several more of the offerings until they had their fill.
“We have time for one more ride before we need to find my parents. What would you like to go on?” Hermione asked.
Harry grinned slyly, “Want to go on the Matador again?”
Ginny looked at him in surprise, but nodded in agreement. She remembered the blush when they first took their seats; he couldn’t have known what happened when that ride started, could he? No, not Harry. That would be the Slytherin thing to do.
As they all entered once again, he stopped at a cart and waved his arm graciously. “Why don’t you take the inside,” he said with a wink.
Ginny’s eyes flew open wide. He did know! Ginny wasn’t certain what to make of that, but she wasn’t about to argue. Claiming her arms were too tired, she didn’t even try to hold on this time. Harry didn’t seem to mind, at all.
As she sat there, her body pressed close to his while she giggled at the speed, her mind waxed philosophical. Her entire relationship with Harry could be summed up by this ride. A force spinning them in circles around one another, endlessly drawn towards the center, and each other. In her heart, she knew she belonged with Harry, and he with her. This only confirmed it.
She was infinitely glad he was coming back to the Burrow for the rest of the summer. Things had just got very interesting. The second half of the holiday was already looking remarkably better than the first.
A/N: Well, what did you think? Please R/R and let me know!
A special thank you to Mistral, my PhoenixSong beta, who has taught me so much and been so amazingly speedy going through this and all of Power of Emotion. She’s taught me a lot.