Harry couldn’t help feeling that Monday, August 11 was perhaps not the longest, but certainly one of the slowest passing days at Hogwarts that he could remember having. The hours of potions lessons crept by as he did his best to keep his mind on what he was doing rather than the thought of Ginny’s birthday that evening. By the end of the day Harry had successfully brewed six new potions, finished two essays, and received praises from Slughorn on all of it, but he couldn’t wait to finish and be gone. At the end of the day, Harry shed his Hogwarts robes in his dormitory and waited for Neville in the common room wearing his muggle clothes.
“Are you ready Neville?” Harry called when the tall lanky youth finally made his appearance.
“Yeah Harry. I’m ready,” Neville said mildly. “Do you think I look alright?”
“You look fine Neville,” Harry said without really glancing at him. “Let’s go.”
Neville was hard pressed to keep up with Harry as he went down the stairs at full speed. Neville trotted after him as Harry walked quickly through the grounds, leaning on the gate with a stitch in his side as Harry paused to open it.
“What up Harry, give me a second, okay?” the other young man said panting.
“Sure. Sorry,” Harry said. “She asked me to try to be early if I could. I guess I should have said.”
“You and Ginny still seeing each other then?” Neville asked.
“Yeah, we are,” Harry said wondering why he was annoyed that Neville hadn’t known that. But then why would he? They’d hardly seen him since the day of the last battle, and it certainly wasn’t clear then that he and Ginny would be together.
Harry looked up and Neville was grinning at him. “That’s great Harry! I always though you two should be together. Sorta like Hannah and I.”
“Hannah?” Harry asked in surprise. “Hannah Abbott?”
“Yeah, well we sorta started seeing each other after the war, and well…we’re together,” he finished self-consciously.
“Really?” Harry asked as Neville grinned happily. “That’s great Neville! Really, I’m happy for you.”
“Thanks Harry,” He said straightening and following Harry through the gate. “I think I’m ready now. Which arm?”
Harry held out his left arm. Neville took it and he spun on the spot.
When Harry materialized in front of the Burrow he’d hoped Ginny would be there to greet him. She wasn’t, but Harry wasn’t disappointed for long, as when he and Neville made their way to the back yard, they found Ginny skimming over the yard and the orchard on her broom. Spying Harry she dive bombed him, grabbing his shoulders. If she hadn’t also been pulling up hard on her broom she would have knocked him to the ground, but as it was she simply landed beside him in a firey, passionate kiss. After a moment or two they broke apart.
“Happy birthday,” Harry told her.
Ginny grinned, throwing him and Neville brooms. “Catch!” she said and she was off.
Harry threw his leg across his broom and went after her. Neville took a bit longer, but soon they were flying across the orchard the Weasley family used as a make shift Quidditch pitch. Magical lanterns had been set up to allow them to play after dark, and all the rest of the guests were already there, mounted on their brooms and wearing colored numbers to show they’d taken sides. Harry was going to play seeker opposite Ginny, while Charlie was her keeper. Ron would be keeping for Harry, Percy was his one beater, while Dean and Hermione played chasers. George played beater for Ginny while Luna and Neville were her chasers. They were only one each short of a full Quidditch team. A now subtly but visibly pregnant Fleur, Bill, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley watched as spectators from a magically prepared box on the side lines. This is what Ginny had wanted for her birthday, a real Quidditch match to be held in their own back yard.
The play was fast and aggressive, with some excellent players balanced out by some that were weaker. Harry and Ginny chased each other round the pitch, actively looking for the little golden snitch, bumping into one another occasionally as a distraction as well as for fun. Dean scored well and Harry thought he could almost forgive Ginny for inviting him, when Ginny and he spotted the snitch at nearly the same time. They both raced for it near a hoop above the orchard, with Ginny slightly ahead of Harry. Harry thought if he’d been on his old Firebolt he would have gotten it easily, but they were playing on the old Weasley family Cleansweeps which were significantly slower and Ginny with her lighter weight beat him to it, waving the little golden ball triumphantly in the air as spectators and players alike broke out into cheers, even the opposing team. It seemed somehow appropriate for the birthday girl to have gotten the snitch and won the game for her team.
“Good game Ginny!” Harry beamed at her as they both landed on the soft grass and started collecting the brooms from their team members to put them away.
“I beat you Potter,” she said with a grin.
“I know you did. And you do know I was trying, don’t you?” he added.
“Yeah, well. I was the one who gave you the Cleansweep 5 to ride instead of Fred’s Cleansweep 7, so I did give myself a slight advantage,” she said grinning deviously at him.
“You weren’t sure then that you could win against me?” he teased.
“Not with you playing seeker Harry,” Ginny said seriously. “Now if you were beater or chaser, then yes. But I could never play seeker up to your standards.”
Harry smiled hugging her. “I think you did great Gin,” he whispered into her ear.
“Dinner!” Mrs. Weasley called from across the field.
Harry, Ginny, and the rest of them walked back through the orchard to the back yard where several long tables had been set up end to end, with white tablecloths over them. They creaked under the weight of the food Mrs. Weasley had been preparing all day, and enough chairs for all magically appeared surrounding it. Everyone sat down with Harry and Ginny towards the middle, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley at one end. Glasses of mead where poured all around and Mr. Weasley began the dinner portion of their celebration with a speech.
“I’d like to genuinely welcome all of you here this evening to help us celebrate this special day for our daughter. Ginervra Molly Weasley, our youngest child and our only daughter becomes a young adult today. She has brought talent, bravery, love, beauty, and shall we say a certain penchant for the bat-bogy hex, into our lives,”
Everyone laughed at that.
“She has also demonstrated a passion for Quidditch, and shall we say a temperament equal to that of her mother, a woman I love dearly but whom has taught me the value of learning when to duck!”
More laughter at that.
“More than that though, are the people she has brought into our lives. Each of you who do not have the last name of Weasley have touched our daughter’s life, and though her, ours as well. You are classmates,” he nodded towards Luna, “housemates,” he nodded towards Hermione, “teammates”, he nodded towards Dean, “fellow DA members and very loyal friends,” he nodded to Neville and each of them again with the exception of Harry. “I’d like to thank you all for that.”
Harry was more than aware of his exclusion from any of these recognitions, though he would have qualified for several, and he could feel himself warming a bit around the neck as he wondered what Mr. Weasley had in mind. He wasn’t ready to make a public announcement about himself and Ginny, and he was beginning to wonder at the wisdom of having told Mr. Weasley some of his thoughts around that.
“Which brings us to Harry,” Mr. Weasley said focusing his attention now on Harry and smiling down on him. Harry smiled back, trying not to squirm as his discomfort about what might be coming grew.
“Harry of course first came to us as a friend of the family through Ron. Ron and Harry along with of course Hermione have been fast friends throughout their school years and ever since. More recently though it seems that the focus of Harry’s attention in our household has shifted to Ginny, something that became apparent to me while Ron was assisting Hermione in Australia. After living more than a month this summer with only my wife and I, Ginny and Harry in the house, I feel I am right in saying that although Harry Potter has touched the lives of everyone in the wizarding world in some way, he has also in a very unique way touched my daughter. Perhaps more importantly as today is about recognizing Ginny, she has been able to connect in a very special way with him. I’m not going to say anything more about this, because I don’t’ feel it’s my place, and I think I’ve already made both of them uncomfortable enough as it is.”
Harry turned to Ginny to see that her face looked as red as his felt. She flashed him a nervous smile then looked down at her plate as her father went on.
“And so a toast to Ginny,” he said raising his glass. “Happy seventeenth birthday!”
They all raised their glasses repeating Mr. Weasley’s toast as they clinked the glasses of those who were nearest, and drank to Ginny. Harry did this too but he felt that quite a number of eyes were focused on him rather than on his girlfriend.
“Now, shall we eat?” Mr. Weasley invited sitting down again.
They all dug in to one of Mrs. Weasley’s wonderful meals, talking by the light of the stars and the magical lanterns over head that had followed them from the Quidditch field. Mrs. Weasley had baked a cake in the shape of a mare for the occasion. They all sang to Ginny when the time came for dessert, and she blew out the candles amidst applause.
“Oh look, it’s like your patronus Ginny,” Luna observed.
Ginny smiled and handed Luna a piece as they cut the cake.
With the cake being served, Ginny began to open her gifts. Harry had one, but the box was so small he didn’t add it to the pile in fear that it might get lost. And so it was that she’d opened all the others without receiving one from Harry. She ooed and awed about each of them appropriately, then turned looking expectantly at him.
“I know you didn’t forget,” she told him.
“No I didn’t,” Harry told her with everyone looking on. “But I didn’t want it to get lost either.”
He put his hand in his pocket and withdrew a tiny midnight blue velvet box.
“Happy birthday Ginny,” Harry said handing it to her. “Sorry I didn’t get the chance to wrap it.”
“That’s okay Harry,” she said her hands trembling as she took the box.
A collective breath was held around the table as she opened the box and Mrs. Weasley looked as though she might faint. Inside on a bit of mid-night blue satin lay an oval, open wrought golden pendant on a delicate chain. Ginny withdrew the pendant from the box, letting it dangle from her fingers as she looked closely at the figures within. The oval was made from a wreath of golden flowers reminiscent of the kind Harry could smell in her hair. In the center were the figures of a mare and a stag, also made of gold with space between them, but entwined with one another in an artistic and gently affectionate way. The eye of the stag was a tiny ruby, the birthstone for July, while the eye of the mare was an equally tiny peridot, Ginny’s birthstone.
“Do you like it?” Harry asked a bit anxiously. “I had it made for you in London. I picked it up last Saturday when we were there.”
“That’s why you wouldn’t let me come!” Ginny exclaimed, and she hugged him, the necklace still hanging from her fingers.
“It’s wonderful Harry,” Ginny said. “Can you put it on for me?”
“Can we see it first?” Hermione asked.
“Well okay,” Ginny said and she returned it to the box so it could be easily passed round.
Everyone exclaimed and admired the piece, though Harry head whispers that some thought it might have been a ring. He did his best to ignore this however as the box came back them, and Ginny drew up her hair so he could place it around her, fastening the clasp behind her neck.
That seemed to be the signal for the party to end as people stood up getting ready to go, while Mrs. Weasley began carrying the dishes to the kitchen. Harry and Ginny stood up too. Mrs. Weasley motioned to Ginny to follow her into the kitchen while Harry got ready to leave. He really didn’t want to. He had thoroughly enjoyed the evening with so many of their friends and seemed reluctant for it to end. He had to though and went looking for Ginny when she didn’t come back right away. He was just about to follow her into the kitchen when Ginny came through the door pushing him out again.
“What was that all about?” Harry asked.
“I’ll tell you later. Mum wants to have a ‘talk’ with me,” she told him in a low voice.
Harry arched his brow in surprise.
“I’m of age now,” Ginny explained with a meaningful look at him. “It’s traditional.”
Harry grinned. “That’s what Remus said. That’s when he was going to give the book to me.”
Ginny grinned too. She remembered reading that note to Harry and thought about what might have happened if he’d actually have received it then. Harry seemed be following her thoughts and was just about to say something more about it when Ginny pushed him back out towards the rest of their guests who where just beginning to gather for goodbyes before moving away.
“Harry,” she said as he leaned in to kiss her. “I think Neville’s waiting for you. Maybe you should go?”
“Do you want me to go?” he asked in surprise.
“No, but …I’ll see you on Thursday, right?” she asked. “We can talk more about Mum’s talk then.”
Harry nodded. “Okay. Walk with me to the apparition point?”
Ginny nodded and he slipped an arm about her waist, walking as far behind those who were preparing to leave as possible without being completely rude. He stopped when they came to the front gate, allowing the others to pull a head.
“Ginny,” he said in a low tone, drawing her nearer to him. She turned towards him and he fingered the new pendant where it lay on her chest. “Are you disappointed?” he asked. “Are you sorry it wasn’t a ring?”
“Ignore my brothers Harry. When it comes to things like this they are all gits. I don’t know how Hermione can stand Ron when it comes to things like this.”
“Yeah, well, Ron’s social practices aside,” Harry said.
“No, I wasn’t disappointed. Actually I was relieved. With that noble streak you have and the way things are going between us…I thought it might be. I’m not ready for a ring Harry, at least not yet. This is perfect.”
Harry exhaled, feeling his worry about this leave him. “Neither am I,” he told her.
He kissed her and when they broke apart, Harry went to stand near Neville.
“See you on Thursday Gin,” he called. Then to Neville he said “Ready?”
Neville nodded and took Harry’s offered arm. Harry turned on the spot leaving the Burrow behind.
It was near midnight before Harry and Neville arrived back at the castle. Mr. Filch was on the prowl and they barely escaped him as they dashed up the stairs to Gryffindor Tower.
“Ginny sure likes to play Quidditch,” Neville commented as they arrived in their dormitory and got ready for bed.
“Yeah, she really, really does,” Harry said. “I hope the Gryffindor Quidditch Team does well this year.”
“Do you think she’ll let Ron on it?” Neville asked.
“I don’t think Ron’s coming back to school Neville.”
“He said he was,” Neville told Harry. “He said I’d see him on the Hogwarts express coming back to school.”
“He did?” Harry asked in surprise. “But you won’t be on that train will you?” Harry asked.
“No, I’ll already be here. But I am coming back to school this fall I want to finish my seventh year.”
“You don’t have that much to do, do you?” Harry asked. “I mean you attended two thirds of your classes.”
“Well yes, but Hannah is coming back too. And I could use the extra study for my exams Harry. You know I’m rubbish under pressure.”
“Nonsense,” Harry told him firmly. “You stood up to Voldemort.”
“You did too,” Neville told him.
“Yes but I had reason to believe I would win. You didn’t. That took a lot more nerve than what I did.”
“Do you mean that Harry?” Neville asked.
“Of course I do. In many ways what you lot went through here last year was just as bad if not worse than what I went through. I can’t imagine attending classes like what you told me about here last year,” Harry said.
“It will be different this year Harry. Not normal exactly, but better than last year,” Neville assured him.
Harry smiled at his friend as he climbed into bed. “Good night Neville.”
“Good night Harry.”
Harry thought he’d prepared in advance for the evening he’d taken off from studying to attend Ginny’s party, but by nine the next morning it was already becoming clear he’d been wrong. Slughorn wasn’t taking it easy on him at all; in fact he’d increased the work load from the previous week. Harry spent hour after hour brewing mixing and analyzing potions, stumbling down into the Great Hall for meals, then back to the potions classroom again. Slughorn didn’t stay with him the whole time though. Actually for much of the day Harry was working alone. He found there was an advantage to this as it allowed him to concentrate much better on what he was doing than he could when there were other people in the room. This turned out to affect his work to the point where his potion making was substantially improving. Slughorn had even started comparing his work to Lily’s once again, something that made Harry cringe ever so slightly, but this time at least he felt he had earned the praise.
Homework and essays until well after midnight got to be routine, so that when it came time to return to the Burrow on Thursday he had so much work to do, Harry began to wonder if he really should leave. It was harder to concentrate at the Burrow with all the activity going on around him, activities he’d much rather be participating in rather than studying. But his wish to see Ginny overpowered his awareness that he should probably stay and he apparated back to the Burrow from the front gates at Hogwarts in time for breakfast that morning.
“Oh good morning Harry,” Mrs. Weasley greeted him with a kiss on the cheek as he walked in. “Good to have you home again.”
“Thank you Mrs. Weasley.” Harry smiled as he joined she and Mr. Weasley at the breakfast table and began to pull the breakfast foods towards him.
“Things still going well with potions?” Mr. Weasley asked.
“Yeah, they’re going great actually,” Harry said. “But I still have loads to do. Slughorn sent me back with four times the work I had with me last week when I was here.”
“But you can do it Harry,” Mrs. Weasley said encouragingly. “Just shut yourself in the front room like you did before, and I’m sure everyone will try hard not to disturb you.”
“Thanks,” Harry said appreciatively.
“So why are you eating is such hurry Harry?” Mr. Weasley asked.
Harry shrugged. “I guess it’s become a habit. I don’t get much time for meals these days and there is always so much to do, I just sort of speed through it so I can get back. There’s usually a potion I’ve left brewing somewhere. And this morning there’s an essay I’d like to get done before the others come down.”
“Well I’ll let you get right to it then,” Mrs. Weasley said with a warm smile as Harry hurriedly finished. “I’ll bring you your tea in there, shall I?” she asked.
“Thanks, that’d be great Mrs. Weasley,” Harry said. And he hurried with his bag to the front room where he settled himself on his favorite chair, pulled the small table towards himself and set to work.
Harry had known that it was going to be harder to concentrate on working at the Burrow than it was at school. It started out well enough, but he couldn’t help notice as the others got up and tiptoed past the door to look in on him. Clearly Mrs. Weasley had told them about all the work and they were doing their best not to disturb him. In Ron and Hermione’s case this was fairly simple and consisted of one minute apiece of them staring at him through the open door. Harry did his best to ignore them, not looking up even though he was well aware they were there. For Ginny though, it was obviously much harder. She didn’t stand and stare through the doorway as the others had done, but rather had taken to peeking around it at him periodically in a way Harry found far more distracting. The first time she did it all he noticed was her hair, red shiny and long, swinging gently around her face as she leaned round the doorframe to look at him. The second time he caught a glimpse of her smile, making it increasingly harder to not smile back, much less look up. The third time she lingered a bit longer and Harry saw she was wearing the necklace he’d given her around her neck. He decided it looked very pretty on her, a thought that had absolutely nothing to do with potions, just like the thoughts that immediately followed that. The fourth time she did it Harry gave up, looked up from his essay and smirked ever so slightly at the anxious look on her face. She hadn’t wanted to disturb him but she couldn’t stay away.
“Ginny come here,” Harry said.
“Oh…no Mum told me you’re working.”
“Yeah well, maybe it’s time for a break,” Harry said.
He finished the word he was in the middle of writing, crossed a ‘T’, added a period and stood up stretching. Ginny hurried to him wrapping her arms around him before he could even return his arms to his side.
“Hello,” he said, looking down on her.
Ginny didn’t answer except to reach up to his mouth on her tip toes and kiss him. Harry gasped as she pulled away.
“What are trying to do? Make me forget everything I learned this week about potions?” he teased.
“No. I just didn’t want you to forget about me.”
“Not a chance Gin, not a chance,” Harry told her. He lifted the necklace from her chest with his fingers, studying the figures in it.
Ginny looked down following his fingers. “This is us, isn’t it?” she asked fingering the figures of the stag and the mare. “Our patronuses.”
Harry nodded. “Something to make you think of me when we’re apart,” he said. “I’m afraid it’s going to be like that a lot this year.”
“Hum. Maybe,” Ginny said. “Are you planning to work on Grimmauld Place this weekend?”
“I’d planned on it, why?” Harry asked.
“Well you know how we said last week that it needs furniture?” Ginny asked.
“The rooms aren’t done Gin,” Harry said.
“No but the kitchen is ready to paint, and then come the cabinets. Two of the bedrooms are papered and just need curtains and trim. The front hall is finished. One of the bathrooms is completely finished, paper and paint and trim and everything. The thing it’s starting to need most is furniture. So I started looking at the stuff in the shed.”
“The stuff from the attic you mean?” Harry asked.
“Yes. Mum’s been helping me restore some of the pieces, but there is one I’ve transfigured a bit that I’d like you to see…when you’re finished for the day, or you really need a break.”
Harry looked at her curiously, then glanced back at his half finished essay on the table. “You know, I’m not going to be able to concentrate properly again until I see it. Show me.”
“Are you sure? We can do it later. I mean it’s not like it’s going anywhere.”
“Show me!” Harry insisted.
“Okay,” Ginny smiled demurely as she took him by the hand and led him out through the yard to the shed. She unlocked it, and pushed the door open. Harry followed.
Inside the magically enlarged shed furniture was piled nearly to the ceiling. There were two chests off to one side that were clearly in the midst of refinishing, but towards the back was the piece Ginny was leading him to. There stood a four-poster bed frame, similar to the ones they had at Hogwarts, but wider. There had been a four-poster bed among the furniture that had originally stood at Grimmauld Place, but this piece had been transfigured to be less ornate, considerably lighter in its look and stain than the original had been. And instead of the Black family crest above the head board, there was a stylized design that very strongly resembled the pendant of Ginny’s necklace carved into the wood. It was an oval wreath of flowers enclosing a stag and a mare in a very affectionate pose.
“Ginny…it’s wonderful!” Harry exclaimed in a soft voice. He looked at her in astonishment. “Is it….is it….”
“It is for us…eventually,” she said. “But for the time being it is for you. I have this,” she said fingering the necklace. “But you’ll be living at Grimmauld Place without me, so…I wanted you to have this.” She smiled shyly. “I never really gave you what I wanted to for your birthday.”
Harry had no idea what to say, so he simply hugged her, holding her tight to him, burying his face in her hair.
“Mum and I are working on the two chests. We are trying to adjust the stain and pattern to match. It’s giving us a bit more trouble though,” and she showed him the work she’d been doing to try to transform pieces of the old furniture into something that still had the richness and permanence of the original, but was more of the style that both she and Harry preferred. When she was done which ever bedroom they chose to eventually be theirs would be fully furnished.
Harry looked at everything thoroughly, then went back to the four-poster bed, sitting down on its edge. “The bed frame is great Gin, but I think it needs a new mattress. Do you mind if I order one?”
“Do you think it would come by Saturday?” Ginny asked.
“Why? What happens on Saturday?” Harry asked.
“Well, I just thought…if we’re going to stay late again, we might find out how this looks in the room,” she said evasively.
Harry looked at her thoughtfully. “I might be able to arrange that. I’d probably have to go today to get it ordered though.”
“Oh no Harry, that would take too much time away from your studying,” Ginny said.
“Actually Gin I’ve been thinking about that. I’m wondering if I might not be better off studying at the kitchen table at Grimmauld Place rather than here. It would be quieter, and you all wouldn’t have to go round on tip toe so much. I could still have meals with you here – you lot could just call me in the fire so I’d know it was time. And I’d still come here to sleep.”
“But I like having you here!”
“I know, but if I can get more of it done quicker, I’ll actually have more time to spend with you than I will if I keep trying to do it here.”
“What about Saturday then?” she asked.
“Same as always. I’m working on the house and you lot can help me. And, you can stay with me and wait for the deliveries,” Harry told her.
Ginny turned away, looking towards the floor, trying to hide her bitter disappointment. Harry leaned over trying to see her face.
“Wouldn’t that be better than having me here and trying to ignore me?” he asked.
“I suppose,” she said in a defeated tone. “That’s just the way it’s going to be this year isn’t it?” she asked.
“For awhile,” Harry agreed. “But we know where we are going Gin. We know when it will end. Isn’t that better than it was before?”
“Yes Harry, I’m sorry. It’s just that I do miss you…so much when you’re away.”
“Me too Gin, me too.”
Ginny wasn’t the only one to object to Harry’s plan. His decision to spend Thursdays and Fridays off on his own studying and away from the family at Grimmauld Place was greeted with outright disapproval by Mrs. Weasley.
“Harry, there is absolutely no reason you can not study here,” Mrs. Weasley said. “We’ll all stay outside if we have to so you can concentrate.”
“But that just doesn’t make sense Mrs. Weasley,” Harry told her. “The kitchen is the perfect place for me to study. I’ll be right by the fire so you can call if you need me. With the new windows it’s actually quite nice in the daytime now, not dark and everything, so I’ll be able to see quite well. And that table is enormous.”
“Like the ones in the common room,” Hermione agreed.
“Thanks Hermione,” Harry said appreciatively. She at least seemed to recognize the problems associated with trying to study at the Burrow. “That’s exactly what I meant. It’s perfect.”
“But what about your meals?” Mrs. Weasley objected.
“I’ll come back for meals,” Harry promised. “It’s easier than going back and forth from Hogwarts.”
“Oh yes, I suppose that is true. But you are going to sleep here, aren’t you?” Mrs. Weasley asked worriedly.
“I’ll come back to sleep too, at least until the bedrooms are ready,” Harry told her.
“Oh, alright then. If you think that’s best.” Mrs. Weasley finally gave in.
Harry patted her on the shoulder, gathering his school things. “Call me for lunch, okay?” he asked, and he stepped out to the apparition point and spun away.
As he’d expected Grimmauld Place was a much quieter place to study. All their charms practice had greatly reduced the number of rats, so that for most part Harry thought he was the only living thing in the kitchen most of the time. He lit the fire as promised so that they could communicate with him, then set out his parchment, quills and books and returned to his potions. As had been the case at Hogwarts, except for the short breaks he took for meals at the Burrow, and the one he took to order a new mattress for the bed, he had enough to keep him steadily busy until well after mid-night. When finally he closed his books, he stepped out the front door and apparated back to the Burrow, then crept upstairs to sleep in the cot bed beside Ron’s. Ron was already snoring loudly when Harry lay down, and he was still asleep when he woke up, dressed, and breakfasted with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. He was back before eight the next morning, and Harry began to wonder what the logic was in going back to the Burrow to sleep. The mattress he’d just ordered was bound to be more comfortable than the cot, and he found he was beginning to consider spending the nights at Grimmauld place as well. That was until Harry dragged himself back to the Burrow just about midnight on Friday night.
Harry appeared at the apparition point with a pop, and softly pushed open the kitchen door to let himself in.
“Ginny!” he exclaimed with surprise.
“Hi Harry,” she said with a bright, though sleepy smile.
“You didn’t have to wait up for me.”
“I was afraid that if I didn’t, I’d never get to see you,” she said rising from the table to meet him. She wrapped her arms around him and he leaned tiredly into her.
“You feel wonderful,” he murmured. “Just the right amount of soft and warm.”
“Like your new bed?” she teased.
“I hope so,” Harry said and he began to tell her about the mattress he’d choose. “Do you think the bed frame will be ready to move tomorrow?”
“It’s ready now. I finished setting the charms on it this morning,” Ginny said.
Harry pulled slightly away looking at her speculatively.
“I don’t suppose you wanted to help me try it out …tomorrow?” he asked.
“Are you bringing Chinese in again?” Ginny asked.
“Or…we could go out. There’s that place we saw around the corner when we went to Dudley’s party remember? That looked good.”
“Are we still working on the house?” she asked. “Or is this going to be like a date?”
“Well…a bit of both I think. I mean it wouldn’t be a fancy date or anything, just dinner alone with me. Then we could go back to the house afterwards, finish moving stuff I ordered, maybe have more time alone?” he asked hopefully.
“To try out the bed,” Ginny repeated. She arched her eyebrow at him “Possibly. I’ll bring a dress along to wear for dinner… then we could see how it goes?”
“An excellent suggestion,” Harry said. “May I escort you upstairs? Something tells me I’m going to need my rest to be ready for tomorrow.”
Ginny giggled and allowed him to escort her upstairs to the door of her room. He kissed her there and wished her good night, waiting until she’d closed the door before he went back down to Ron’s room.
The kind of work they were doing on Grimmauld Place was changing each time they went. While at first it had qualified as heavy construction, by mid August it had become considerably lighter, consisting largely of papering, painting, and other finishing work. Harry had gotten the electrical system connected to power, but it still didn’t work with all of them there, so generally they had to rely on the oil lamps either early in the morning or closer to evening or in parts of the house where the natural lighting was still dim. On this particular weekend though, Harry was focusing their attention on the kitchen. The cabinets that had come the Saturday before were still only half in.
As was his habit, on this particular day, Harry was the first one
to come from the Burrow. He fussed about the kitchen, trying to make tea, and clearing his school things off the table while waiting for the others to arrive. Mr. Weasley was next, followed closely by Ron who announced that George had just sent an owl. Lee needed help in the Hogsmeade store today, trying to get it ready to open in September and so he’d sent his regrets saying he wouldn’t be able to help today. Similarly Bill had sent word by flue that Fleur wanted him to help her at Shell Cottage today, planning the new nursery she wanted him to create.
“Sorry we are so few Harry,” Mr. Weasley said. “Percy should be here though, along with the girls.”
“Where are they?” Harry asked. Ginny was usually the first after himself to arrive.
“Ginny said something to Mum about a date,” Ron said. “Mum was fussing a bit, and Ginny was trying to decide what to wear…I mean why do you have even think about it to paint?”
“I think she meant for afterwards Ron,” Harry said.
“What do ya mean afterwards? We’re having dinner at the Burrow, right?” Ron said.
“Actually I’m taking Ginny out tonight,” Harry explained. He shrugged just a bit “It seemed a better use of the time than just bringing in Chinese and waiting until it gets dark enough to move everything.”
“You’re taking her out to dinner in London?” Ron asked.
“That is what I just said Ron,” Harry pointed out.
“Blimey, Hermione’s been after me forever to do something like that.”
“Well why don’t you join us next week end then? We can make it a double.” Harry suggested.
“Next weekend?” Ron asked. “What’s wrong with tonight?”
“We have plans Ron. I promised it’d be just us tonight.”
Ron narrowed his eyes at Harry suspiciously. Harry returned his gaze evenly, not challenging him but not backing away either.
“Harry….” Ron began in a low tone.
Harry felt his temperature start to rise as he faced Ron, but to his astonishment it was Mr. Weasley who stepped in. Placing a hand on his son’s shoulder he stopped him mid sentence.
“I believe that as hard as Harry is working, if he’d like to have an evening out alone with his girl, we should let him,” Mr. Weasley told Ron.
“Yeah, but Dad!” Ron protested.
“You had six weeks in Australia with Hermione, if I recall?” Mr. Weasley pointed out.
At that Ron turned bright red. He turned back to Harry still not quite willing to give up.
“You’re not going to… I mean…you and Ginny aren’t …”
“We’re going out to dinner Ron. That’s all,” Harry said. “We’re taking an hour or two from working around here and we’re going to go out and enjoy ourselves. Now if you object to that, I’m sorry, but I’m not changing our plans.”
Ron looked suitably abashed at that. “Yeah, sorry. Okay Harry.”
“So do you want to go with us next week?” Harry offered.
“That’d be great!” Ron said. “Hermione will so pleased.”
Just then a form unfolded itself from the fire and Hermione stepped out wearing old clothes and carrying a clothes bag.
“What will I be pleased about?” she asked Ron.
“Dinner in London, next week with Harry and Ginny?” Ron suggested.
“Was this your idea?” Hermione asked with a raised brow.
“Well…not exactly. Harry’s taking Ginny out tonight and invited us to go with them next Saturday,” Ron explained.
Hermione turned to Harry. “That was really very nice of you Harry. Where can I hang this?”
“What is it?” Harry asked.
“It’s my dress,” Ginny said as she unfolded herself from the fire carrying a small case in her hand. Harry looked at the case questioningly. “I wanted to do my hair before we go out,”
“Oh. Right. Well the closet in Regulus’s room is done. I’ve checked the paint, it’s dry so how about in there?” Harry said. “The room on the right of the second floor stairs?”
“Thanks Harry,” Ginny said and she took the bag from Hermione and went up stairs just as Mrs. Weasley stepped out of the fire.
“It sounds like you two have big plans for tonight,” Mrs. Weasley said. “Dinner in London, how exciting.”
“Molly, are you suggesting that you might like to do that sometime?” Mr. Weasley asked.
“Why yes Arthur, I’d be delighted. I’m so glad you had that idea,” she said looking sweetly up at her husband.
Ron and Harry just looked at each other and started to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Hermione demanded.
“Well first Harry and Ginny were going out alone. Then we decided we wanted to come, Now Mum and Dad are doing it too,” Ron explained.
“Well why can’t they?” Hermione demanded. “Why don’t we all go out to dinner together next weekend?”
“Or, we could all go out, but go separately,” Mrs. Weasley suggested with a bit of a sappy look at her husband. “Would that be alright with you Harry?” Mrs. Weasley asked.
Harry looked startled to have been asked such a thing.
“Er…ah yes, I guess,” he stammered.
“We could get dressed here Arthur so we don’t mess up our good clothes with the flue,” Mrs. Weasley suggested.
“But dear that would put us so late getting home,” Mr. Weasley pointed out.
“Well we could stay here,” Mrs. Weasley suggested. “We’re almost done with the bedrooms and I’m sure Harry wouldn’t mind, would you dear?”
Harry shrugged. What else could he say? But he and Ron just stood staring at one another, their anticipated night of romance dissipating before their eyes. Ron turned to Hermione with a look of despair on his face just as Ginny came back in. She looked at all their faces, her mum with a glowing excited smile on her face, her dad looking a bit embarrassed, Ron looking like he’d just been hit on the head with a bludger, Hermione looking like she was about to cry, and Harry looking amused but also a bit confused.
“What did I miss?” she asked.
“Your mum and dad are coming here Saturday to go out on a date?” Hermione explained with an unnaturally high voice. “And they’re going to spend the night here afterwards.”
Ginny rounded on Harry. “Saturday! You promised me…”
“Next Saturday Ginny, not tonight,” Harry interrupted her explosion. “Once everyone heard what we’re doing, they all thought it was such a good idea, they all want to do it too,”
Ginny stared at him. “Mum and Dad…are going on a date? The same night as us?”
“Not to the same place dear. Your father and I need some time alone,” Mrs. Weasley said with a bit of a flirtatious glance towards her husband.
Ron, Hermione, Harry and Ginny all just stared at one another. Apparently each couple had had the exact same thought and need, though all of the young people were utterly astonished that this could be the case between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.
Harry cleared his throat. “Well if we’re all going to sleep here in a week we’d better get this place finished.
Harry couldn’t help but be amazed at how motivated they all were. Percy showed up about mid-morning to help, but even with the much smaller than normal crew working, they accomplished nearly as much as they normally did with everyone there. Kitchen cabinets were magiced into place, along with the sink and the counter, overseen by Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Percy. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley turned their attention to painting and papering under Harry’s direction two of the extra rooms. One would be a study eventually, while the other a guest bedroom, a plan Mr. Weasley heartily agreed with, while Harry took on the preparations for the master bedroom himself.
Harry found as he worked that he had very specific ideas for how he wanted this room. He and Ginny had chosen the wallpaper together, a misty subtle sea-green and cream floral pattern, arranged in stripes. Harry arranged it up on the wall, just as they’d discussed, but the rest of the room he did according to his own plan. Keeping in mind the bed Ginny had created for them, Harry re-finished the hardwood floor so it shone rich and deep and varnished it so it was smooth under foot. Atop this he conjured a rug in greens and creams, with soft pink flowers at its corners in a pattern that complemented the walls. He added molding and trim to the windows, along the floor and crown molding near the ceiling, before bringing the bed here – minus a mattress -and arranging it and the pieces Ginny had refurbished around the wall, with the bed centered atop the rug. He added coordinated bed curtains, soft cream colored drapes at the windows, and lamps and pleasant artwork and the room was complete. He opened the doorway to the hall, and was standing back to admire the effect just as Mrs. Weasley came up the stairs looking for him.
“Oh my, how lovely,” she exclaimed as Mr. Weasley came up behind her. “I am certainly going to enjoy sleeping there.”
Harry’s head snapped round in a state of shock as he stared at her. This was supposed to be his bedroom – the room he’d planned for himself and Ginny. Never in his wildest imaginings had he ever considered Mr. and Mrs. Weasley sleeping there. Mr. Weasley at least seemed to realize this. He placed his hand on his wife’s shoulder and said.
“Now Molly you know this is Harry’s house. This is the master bedroom so certainly he should be the one to sleep here.”
“What?” Mrs. Weasley said. “But Arthur, this room is clearly set up for two.”
“Well there will be two, eventually,” Harry told her. “Someday I plan to share it with Ginny.”
“You plan to share what with me?” Ginny asked over hearing them as she came up the stairs.
“This room,” Harry said as he stepped out of the doorway so she could see what he’d done.
Ginny stepped into room her mouth open just a bit.
“Oh Harry, it’s beautiful!”
“You picked out the paper,” he reminded her.
“But look what you’ve done with it! This is really, really special!”
Harry stepped into the room behind her, wrapping his arms around her from behind.
“Do you really like it?” he asked. “Even the curtains round the bed?”
“Oh yes Harry. That is exactly what I had in mind.”
“You see?” Mr. Weasley told his wife.
“You knew about this?” Mrs. Weasley demanded.
“I’ve know for some time Molly that Harry has aspirations in that direction,” Mr. Weasley said.
“And you approve do you?” she snapped.
“Molly…. Please come with me,” Mr. Weasley said. “Downstairs,” he said firmly.
It wasn’t common that Mr. Weasley took a firm stance when it came to his wife, but when he did, she could rarely ignore what he said. She wasn’t exactly happy about it but she did follow him down the stairs.
Ginny turned around still in Harry’s arms.
“Harry, what exactly did you tell my dad?” she asked.
“Pretty much what I’ve told you. That I want you to be a part of my life always. That my plans for the future all include you. That eventually we will be together…I hope.”
Ginny turned back around to look at the room. It was just another step along the journey they were taking together.
“Mum’s going spare about this, isn’t she?”
“Apparently,” Harry agreed.
“I don’t know why she’s so worried though,” Ginny said. “She gave me the talk so she knows I’m ready. And besides, there’s no mattress on that bed.”
Harry grinned as he took her hand and she led him down to the kitchen to see what had been happening there.
That evening when it came time for the Weasley’s minus Ginny to all go home, Ron regarded Harry with a bit of a shifty smile, Hermione seemed a bit flustered and almost burnt her hand in the fire, and Mr. Weasley made sure he was the last to go. Hesitating before he stepped into the fire he regarded Harry steadily.
“May I have a word Harry? Without my daughter if you don’t mind before I go?”
“Dad!” Ginny objected stepping in front of Harry as though to argue the point with her father. But Harry held her back, taking her hand.
“Ginny, its okay. I’d like to have a word too. Look why don’t you go up stairs, start getting ready? Our reservations are for seven, only an hour from now.”
“Oh, okay.” She glared at her father, before turning to go up the stairs.
Mr. Weasley waited until she was gone and they could both hear her footsteps on the upper set of stairs. Harry waited. He’d expected this, and he thought he knew what Mr. Weasley would say, but he’d decided in advance to hear him out before saying anything.
“I was going to tell the both of you to have a good time tonight,” Mr. Weasley began. “But I have a feeling that if I said that within hearing range of my wife I would be sleeping on the sofa downstairs tonight.”
Harry smiled and sniggered at that.
“You know how I feel about this…”
Harry stopped him. “Mr. Weasley, I do know. But I think you also know how I feel about Ginny. I would never do anything to hurt her. Also, if it makes you feel any better, that necklace I gave her for her birthday? I seriously considered making it a ring…but we’re not ready for marriage, neither of us. It’s impractical to think of while Ginny is in school.”
“But you are thinking of it?” Mr. Weasley asked.
“Yes of course. I want to do right by Ginny, always. But if I were to bring it up now, ask her I mean, I doubt I could also convince her to go back in September, much less finish school,” Harry pointed out.
“You are probably right about that,” Mr. Weasley agreed.
“And I think that’s important,” Harry said. “I don’t want her doing what it looks like Ron is choosing to do.”
“I quite agree,” Mr. Weasley said.
“So I think the best I can do about that now is to make her a part of my life where I can, let her see that what I’m planning for my future has a place for her in it,” Harry explained.
“Including that bedroom upstairs,” Mr. Weasley said. “If that doesn’t give her a clear picture of what you have in mind, I don’t think anything will.”
“That is exactly what I was thinking when I asked her to help me with it.”
Mr. Weasley regarded Harry thoughtfully.
“Very well Harry. Will we see you in the morning? For breakfast?”
“Yes, definitely. Don’t wait up though,” he cautioned.
“We won’t,” Mr. Weasley assured him and he stepped into the fire and spun away.
Harry watched until well after the flames had resumed their normal appearance. Apparently all of the Weasleys expected that this would be the night. Harry couldn’t help wondering if they were right.