Disclaimer: I don't own anything even remotely related to Harry Potter, except a little of the merchandise.
Notes: The first chapter of a new story. Yay! This is, of course, a prequel to Seasonal Suffering, which centers on Harry and Ginny (for those of you who missed that). If you're an avid Ron/ Hermione fan (as I am), however, don't be concerned! There will be lots of those unavoidable R/Hr "moments;" it's always fun to embarrass them, and since they're not together yet in this one, I have a lot of room for embarrassment. However, Harry and Ginevra are our main victims-Ahem-characters, I mean, and most of the embarrassment will be theirs. That being said, let us begin.
Chapter One: Wary Waiting
Ginny awoke on the first day of the third week of the summer holiday to the delicious warmth of the sun on her face. It was well into the morning, and the very leisure of waking to the sun was one to be treasured. It was rare. It was relaxing. It was…
Not enough of a distraction.
Truth be told, the only thing Ginny cared to notice about this most beautiful of mornings was that the sun had forced her to wake up to it. She'd rather not think about this day, really. It only made her feel sick.
Swallowing thickly, Ginny stretched and yawned and glared at her window.
"Stupid sunshine," she grumbled, and rebelliously flung an arm across her eyes.
It was summer. A time of sleep, sun and freedom (from homework, among other things). So why didn't Ginny feel free?
Fully awake, despite her best efforts, Ginny sighed and acknowledged the morning. "Stupid sunshine," she repeated, dragging herself upright. Lazily, she pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapped her arms around them, and proceeded to peer out the window.
It wasn't so much that she felt that she wasn't free. She was, right? She had two months to herself, with no homework and as much sleep as she wanted. Her brothers could be fairly annoying, but most of them had moved out. Even Fred and George had left home to be nearer to their shop in Diagon Alley. Ron was the only one still at home, and he pretty much left her alone. Aside from her mother pestering her to eat more at meals, she was as free as a girl could get.
So why did she feel so trapped?
That was really a very stupid question, and one she already knew the answer to. The answer had unruly black hair, (unfairly) bright green eyes, a charming grin that made all the girls (except for Ginny) melt at his feet (not that he knew it), and went by one of two names: Harry Potter.
Just thinking about him made her grit her teeth.
It wasn't that Harry had done anything. No, Harry had always been nice to Ginny… even after the infamous Valentine's Day card in her first year, though that had to have been very embarrassing for him (it certainly had been for her!). Harry was, unfortunately, a sweetheart by nature. He genuinely cared about people; if he asked how you were doing, he really wanted to know. Aside from that, he had a great sense of humor (he would have to in order to be best friends with Ron), was really very intelligent (as his grades would show if he bothered to do his homework more often), and, most of all, he was continually sacrificing his own safety to save the world. He was amazing, there was no denying it. No, the problem wasn't that Harry had done anything to her at all. Unless you counted the fact that he consumed her thoughts. She had no idea why, but she couldn't get the boy out of her mind, and it was driving her crazy.
That was the problem.
She thought about him all the time. She wondered how things were going with his terrible family, and hoped they weren't treating him too badly. She worried about him, wondering if he was really safe enough at his aunt and uncle's house, and if Dumbledore had someone reliable watching him over there. Most of all, she wondered how he was coping with Sirius's death and hoped he wasn't blaming himself. She was constantly thinking of ways she might try to let him know that she was concerned and willing to help, and then discarding them. She worried that he wasn't eating enough, sleeping enough, that he was being forced to grieve alone, that he might do something drastic, and any number of other things she had no business thinking about. Everywhere she turned, there was Harry; no matter how she distracted herself, no matter what she said or did, he was right there with her.
Worst of all, for the last two weeks, the entire duration of the summer thus far, she had been so worried, so concerned for the boy that she had taken to wishing with all her strength that Dumbledore would just let him come home to the Burrow. And now he was coming. Coming here. The boy who had been so irritatingly present in her thoughts would be here, in the flesh, in less than seven hours. And she was terribly nervous; she didn't know what to say, and she was terrified that he'd take one look at her and know.
Know what, she wasn't sure, but there it was.
No doubt about it, the boy had her confused. Really, it wasn't like she was in l-
"No, definitely not," Ginny said out loud, cutting the air with the edge of her hand in a swift, decisive motion before she could even finish the thought. Of course not, that was the silliest idea. She didn't fancy him at all; she'd been over that for years now. In fact, she'd been exchanging owls with Dean Thomas ever since school let out. They had been very close to having something of an understanding between them at the end of the last term, but they had decided to wait until the next school year to make any decisions because summers had unpredictable effects on new relationships—especially those that suddenly became long distance. She liked Dean. She just worried about Harry. Obsessively. But that was reasonable, wasn't it?
Still, it was odd that she thought of him so much, and she was afraid someone might have noticed. Ginny sighed and pulled herself out of bed, knowing that if she didn't make her bid for the bathroom soon, Ron would beat her to it.
At least Hermione was coming over today too, she thought, returning to her previous train of thought. She was arriving early this afternoon, and Ginny couldn't be happier about it. Ron was a good companion when he wasn't being a prat, but Ginny missed normal female interaction, and she really liked Hermione. Not that she had ever disliked her, mind you, but they had never really known each other well before last summer when they'd all been confined to Sirius's house. They'd been forced to stay inside and sent upstairs to their rooms so often that here hadn't been much choice. They'd been good friends ever since, and Ginny now prided herself on being one of the few who bothered to spend enough time with the prefect to know that there was more to the girl than homework and studying. She was a lot of fun, when you could get her to pry her eyes off of Ron that is. Ginny grinned at that thought. Hermione would deny it adamantly, of course, but that didn't mean it wasn't true. No matter what she said, Ginny knew Hermione fancied her brother, and she often wondered when the two of them would just admit it already. Because Ron fancied her too.
Ginny opened her door, toiletries in hand, just in time to see her brother with his hand on the door of the partially opened bathroom. Speak of the devil…
"Er, did you need in here?" he asked, his stance somewhat possessive…if that were possible.
Ginny sighed. "Yes, Ron, but you can go first. I'll help Mum with breakfast. Just please don't use all the hot water this time!" He just grinned and shut the door. Ginny shook her head, dropped her things back on her bed, grabbed a robe and headed downstairs. The other good thing about Hermione visiting was that she made a wonderful ally against the overflow of testosterone that was evident this time of year in the Weasley household. Every one of her brothers, she knew, would show up for Harry's birthday in a couple of weeks, and it could be a little overwhelming at times. Ginny had grown up with boys, so she didn't really mind so much, but it would still be nice to have another girl around. Maybe with Hermione here, her brothers would remember to put the seat down when they were done in the loo.
Right. And maybe Loony Lovegood would find that Crumple-Horned Snorkack she was looking for this summer.
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It was big.
It was red.
It was the most terrifying thing Ginny had ever seen in her life.
Any moment now. It could be any moment…
"Ginny! Will you please stop staring at the door and let me by! I'm hungry!"
With a jolt, Ginny jerked her gaze from the front door and looked guiltily at her brother.
"Sorry Ron," she mumbled. Blushing furiously, the youngest Weasley turned on her heel and resumed her interrupted trek to the kitchen, trying hard to ignore the half amused, half irritated stare she felt her brother focus on her back.
"Honestly," she heard him mutter under his breath, "what's the big deal with her today?"
Ginny frowned. It wasn't like it was her fault anyway, she thought in sudden annoyance. She certainly hadn't set out to block Ron's path (heaven forbid anyone intentionally get between Ron and food). If that git Harry Potter would just stay out of her head and quit terrifying her with thoughts of how he might walk through the front door any minute now, she wouldn't have been frozen in the entryway on her way to lunch. And if the entryway weren't so long and narrow, instead of square, she wouldn't have been blocking the path from the stairs to the kitchen anyway. So none of this could in any way be blamed on her.
Sitting down at the kitchen table, Ginny glowered at her plate while her mother served her, then quickly ate lunch and just as swiftly excused herself. Stomping back through the entryway, Ginny glared at the door balefully, turned her nose to the air and marched purposefully up the stairs. She had gained all of three steps when the door swung open behind her with a gust of warm air and a voice happily called—
"Hi everyone! I'm here!"
Ginny didn't even stop to think. She whirled around suddenly and flew back down the stairs. Rounding the banister, she flung herself into the newcomer's arms with a happy shout. "Hermione! I'm so glad to see you, most wondrous savior of my sanity!"
Hermione laughed, hugging the younger girl back with equal enthusiasm. "That bad, huh?"
"You have no idea."
"What exactly are you trying to say?" said a voice from the doorway.
"That you're a pain the bum, Weasley, what else?" Hermione answered for her. Ron scowled, and Hermione's mischievous grin softened. "It's good to see you, Ron," she told him.
"Says the girl who finds a pain in her bum endearing," Ginny muttered under her breath. Hermione must have heard her, for she reddened a bit and quickly cleared her throat. Before she could say anything though, Molly Weasley came rushing into the room and drew Hermione into a tight hug.
"Hermione, dear, how are you? How was your trip?"
"It was fine, Mrs. Weasley. A couple of aurors escorted me here by portkey. They've only just left." At Mrs. Weasley's worried look, Hermione quickly reassured her. "It was only a precaution, Mrs. Weasley. They just wanted to make sure everything was in top form before they brought Harry in later this afternoon. They're just being careful is all."
Mrs. Weasley, looking relieved, but still a little concerned, ushered Hermione into the house. "Ginny would you—never mind. Ron, take Hermione's trunk upstairs to Ginny's room, would you please? Come along, dear, you must be starving." Ginny shot Ron a triumphant look and gleefully waved him up the stairs as he hefted Hermione's trunk in his arms and started for Ginny's room.
"What has she got in this thing?" he muttered as he began climbing. "Bricks?"
"Books, Ron," Hermione called over her shoulder, her tone one of amused exasperation.
"Yeah, Ron. A whole library of them," Ginny added, causing Ron to shoot her a glare over the top of the trunk. Ginny snickered and turned to follow her mother and friend when she heard the front door open again behind her. Heart clenching in apprehension, Ginny froze. In all the excitement over Hermione's arrival, Ginny had completely forgotten to worry about Harry's. But now that the door was open, and someone was coming inside…
She closed her eyes and nervously mustered her strength, then turned around to face whoever had just come in.
"Um. Hi," she greeted softly, startled.
"That's it?" He shut the door and addressed the ceiling. "We haven't seen each other in weeks and all the girl can say is 'Um. Hi.'" He turned back to face her. "I must say, Gin, I don't feel very welcome." His expression was questioning.
Ginny grinned. "Sorry, Charlie," she replied, then launched herself at him. "I am happy to see you," she told him, when he'd caught her and spun her around. "But we weren't expecting you til next week. You're early."
"Expecting someone else, were you?" He gave her a knowing smirk, and, inexplicably, she blushed.
"What?" Her eyes widened. How did he know about that? How could he know about that, he hadn't even been around to witness her obsession! Maybe he's psychic! Oh, don't be silly Ginny; of course he's not psychic. Well, how else would he know? She thought a moment, and then, Heh, I suppose I may have spent just a tad too much space in my letters on the subject of Harry. Oh, stupid! I should have known better. He always knows what I'm thinking!
As if to prove her point, Charlie glanced discreetly at the door and lowered his voice. "Don't worry, Gin-bug, he'll be here soon." He tossed her a wicked grin (Blushing! Why am I always blushing? She mentally groaned in mortified despair), kissed her nose affectionately and set her down. "In the meantime, your poor injured brother has finally returned home to his loving family and needs his baby sister's undivided attention to nurture him back to health over his extended vacation. And maybe a few dozen of Mum's cookies." She giggled as he took her hand and led her into the living room.
"What you need is a wife," she told him, feeling her blush begin to fade.
"Our little Ginny sounds more and more like Mum every day," Charlie muttered wryly, then pulled her down on the couch with him before she could protest. "Hush, Gin, you know it's true. Now," he shifted on the couch until he was comfortable, "tell me all about your break so far."
And she did. Beginning to end. In great detail. She began with "I woke up the morning after we got home, and got out of bed to take a shower," and wouldn't have ended until, "and now I'm here telling you what I did during my summer so far," except that Charlie cut her off at lunch on the third day.
"That's a little more detail than necessary, Gin, you ornery girl you."
"You asked me to tell you all about it, Charlie," she answered with a cheeky grin, and only then noticed the bandage on his upper arm. "Charlie, what did you do?" she gasped, gently taking hold of the appendage and peering at the bandage intently. She carefully lifted one edge, trying to peek at the burn underneath.
"It's just a little burn, Gin, don't worry about it."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, the medic says it'll heal quickly, I just need a little extra time off."
"Charlie? Is that you? What are you doing home so early?" Mrs. Weasley's voice floated in from the kitchen, followed momentarily by the woman herself, curious and smelling of freshly baked cookies.
Having satisfied herself that her brother really was okay, Ginny felt free to take revenge for the embarrassment of guessing her preoccupation with that git, Harry Potter. Giving him a sly, vengeful glance, Ginny lifted her brother's arm for her mother's inspection and told her loudly, "One of the dragons got him, Mum," and grinned wickedly.
"What? Charlie, let me see." Mrs. Weasley wasted no time hurrying over to examine the wound herself.
"Mum! It's fine!" Charlie protested, shooting Ginny an aggravated look over his mother's bent head, which his sister pretended not to see.
"How did this happen?" their mother continued, waving her wand and summoning a medical kit. Charlie carefully but firmly clamped a hand over the white gauze and shook his head.
"It's fine Mum, really! I just got a little careless. It could have been much worse!"
"Careless? Worse! Charlie, let me see your arm!"
"Mum, it's okay!"
"I have to make sure it's been treated properly, Charlie, now let me see!" The formerly grinning Ginny now snickered as her mother attempted to unwrap the bandage while Charlie clung to it for dear life, protesting wildly.
"Mum! The medic already looked at it, you don't need to—"
"Charlie Weasley! You move that hand this instant, or so help me—"
Still chuckling wickedly, Ginny snuck away from the commotion in the living room and escaped to the kitchen. Hermione and Ron were sitting at the table, Ron lecturing out of a book, and Hermione listening boredly while eating a sandwich.
Wait, that wasn't right.
Half way to the oven, Ginny stopped and did a double take.
"—when the Bludger's coming at you. It's the only way to avoid getting your head smashed in, you see? It was a brilliant move."
Hermione looked on blankly. "I'm sure it was, Ron."
Ginny smirked. Bored though she seemed, Ginny was fairly certain Hermione liked Quidditch. Sure, she acted like she hated the very word "Quidditch," but Ginny suspected her feelings differed quite a bit from her actions. She'd caught a few glimpses of the way Hermione watched the game, and not all of the excited sparkle in her eyes was reserved for the back of Ron's head. Hermione would never tell anyone, especially not Ron because she'd never hear the end of it, but in reality, Ginny was sure Hermione was in love with the game.
Mum's sandwiches and cookies, attention from Ron and a Quidditch lesson all at once; Hermione Granger, this is your lucky day. Pretend to be bored all you like, but I know you're eating this up. Speaking of eating and Mum's cookies…
She turned and eyed the freshly baked batch sitting on the stove. Happily, she picked one up, tossed it from hand to hand until it was cool enough to eat, and took a bite. "Mmmmm!" She ate two more, grabbed one for the road, an extra as an (unnecessary, really!) apology to Charlie, and made her way past the totally oblivious lovebirds to the living room.
Just in time to hear the front door slam.
Ginny's heart skipped a beat.
She caught Charlie's knowing smirk, and reconsidered giving him the cookie. But then her mother tightened the new bandage on his arm just a bit too much, causing Charlie to hiss in pain, and Ginny relented. She put the cookie in his good hand and offered him a kiss on the cheek in apology.
"I want one of those," said a voice from the doorway. "Charlie, what are you doing home so soon? I thought you couldn't get off until next week."
"He's been injured, Arthur," Molly told him, offering a kiss in greeting, which he gladly accepted. Meanwhile, Ginny was slowly knocking her head against her brother's shoulder. This was the third time the front door had almost given her a heart attack. She was sorely tempted to go post a sign outside that said: "for Ginny's mental health, please do not come inside unless you are Harry Potter."
She felt Charlie shake with silent laughter, and groaned in embarrassment. Of all her brothers, Charlie was the most perceptive. He was also the most compassionate, and her second favorite. Usually that meant that he could be trusted with this sort of emotional confusion. On the other hand…
Far be it for him to pass up the opportunity to tease her.
"Poor Gin-bug," he murmured in her ear, hugging her with one arm and gently tugging on a strand of her hair. "We could always just nail the door shut."
She looked up at him hopefully. "Would you?"
He only laughed. "No. The aurors might panic."
"Why might the aurors panic?" Arthur Weasley loomed above them, looking curious.
"No reason, Dad." Ginny leaned up to kiss his cheek. "Where did you go? I thought you were out back in your shed."
"Got called in this morning. Do I smell cookies?"
"Yes, but you're not to eat any until Harry arrives."
"Ginny, you didn't."
"Ron did first!" She absently smacked Charlie's good arm when she felt him laugh at her. "And Charlie's had one too!"
"Traitor," her brother muttered.
"It's all right, Molly," Arthur called from the kitchen. "You made plenty. You always do."
Molly frowned at the odd quality of his voice. "Arthur! You better not be eating those cookies. I mean it!"
"Of course not dear." But his words were distinctly muffled.
"Arthur!" Their mother hurried off towards the kitchen. Seconds later both parents could be heard laughing and teasing one another. Ron was obviously unappreciative.
"Gross! My parents are flirting," he groaned in a disgusted tone.
"Hush Ronald," came Hermione's voice. "It's cute."
"Cute! It's sick-making!"
Ginny snickered and reached for a book from the nearby end-table. Harry Potter may not be here, but Charlie Weasley was, and Charlie Weasley made a very good pillow. Settling against her brother's shoulder and effectively pinning him in place, Ginny made herself comfortable. If she had to wait for Harry to arrive, she would at least pass the time in a pleasant and time consuming manner. Maybe, if she were lucky, she'd even forget to be nervous about his coming.
Butterflies fluttered in her stomach at the thought.
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There it is then! The first chapter to the prequel of Seasonal Suffering. Drop a review and let me know what you think!