Hello again! This is part one of my series of Harry prequel one-shots from the Seeking the Truth universe. These stories will all be labeled Preparing for the Game (trying to keep with my Quidditch theme), and are meant to explain my version of the history between Harry and Ginny, and how Harry came to love her. This story hasn't been beta'd because I'm trying to get all of my 6th year stories out before HBP, and I was running out of time. Expect three more before HBP, one of which will be written by my good friend wvchemteach. So please forgive any mistakes... when I can get this beta'd I'll replace this copy with the better one.
Preparing forthe Game: Recovery
Harry Potter rolled over in bed struggling to get comfortable to no avail. He glanced down at his watch and saw that it was one in the morning; it was his sixteenth birthday. He couldn't bring himself to feel happy about it, not when there was so much still going on in his life. Sirius's death was still so fresh in his mind that he couldn't imagine celebrating without him. Even the knowledge that he was away from the Dursley's for the first birthday he could remember didn't help.
The camp bed Harry was sleeping on creaked when he rolled over again. He glanced over at Ron, but it didn't look like the noise had disturbed him any. Tonight, even the cushioning charm Mrs. Weasley had put on his bed didn't help Harry get to sleep. Finally accepting his fate, he rolled out of bed and threw on his dressing gown before heading downstairs. The house was dark and empty, and a quick glance at the Weasley clock showed Harry that everyone was sleeping.
Even if he wasn't quite through with his mourning, Harry was grateful for all the Weasleys had done for him. As soon as he had been brought to the Burrow they had done everything in their power to try and help him with the loss of Sirius. Mrs. Weasley was preparing his favorite foods for every meal, Mr. Weasley was constantly asking him about muggle things, Fred and George had shown up almost every day after work to play Quidditch, and Ron had just quietly told him that if he ever needed to talk, he was there. Ginny Weasley, however, was a completely different story.
While the other Weasleys were trying their hardest not to set Harry off, Ginny had taken the exact opposite approach. Harry could admit that he wasn't exactly pleasant to be around for most of his fifth year, and that attitude seemed to follow him to the Burrow that summer. He kept up a good appearance in front of Mrs. Weasley, but he was snapping at Ron practically every time he was spoken to. It had only taken a day of that behavior before Ginny had snapped. She accused him of shutting everyone else out, being self-centered and a selfish prat. After her initial rant, she calmed down a great deal and informed Harry that they were all mourning Sirius and it would be much easier for him if he didn't shut everyone else out. Harry hadn't known what exactly to make of her speech. It made him realize he really didn't know Ginny Weasley at all.
Oddly enough, Ginny's ranting seemed to snap him out of the daze he had been living in. While he didn't think he'd been that bad, after all, he'd only been there a day, he saw that there was some truth in what she had said. He had been shutting everyone out. Harry made it his goal to try and be a little bit better about opening up. He wasn't quite ready to open up about everything yet, however.
The prophecy weighed heavily on Harry's mind. If he was honest with himself he hadn't quite dealt with it yet; he had to take one thing at a time, and right now dealing with Sirius's death was more important. He would tell the people closest to him about it when he was ready.
Harry looked down at his watch again. Two o'clock. He wondered when someone else would get up. Harry considered fixing a pot of tea, but he was worried that the noise would wake someone up, and he didn't want to be a burden. He walked into the sitting room and sat down at the couch, just staring into the darkness. It struck Harry that he felt cold and alone in a house that was full of love and warmth. He wasn't sure if that meant there was something wrong with him or not.
"Oi Harry! Were you so excited about your birthday you thought you'd wait down here for the rest of us?" Ron asked laughing. Harry sleepily opened his eyes and tried to figure out where he was. "Happy birthday, mate!"
"Ron, leave Harry alone!" Mrs. Weasley said, walking into the room. "I'm sorry Harry, I tried to let you sleep as long as possible but Ron refused to stay away."
"Well, it's his birthday," Ron insisted. "What fun is it to sleep your whole birthday away?"
"It's alright, Mrs. Weasley. I didn't mean to fall asleep down here anyway," Harry assured her.
"Well, breakfast is ready, so why don't you two go get cleaned up and then come back downstairs." Mrs. Weasley looked at them in a way they told them it wasn't a suggestion. Harry and Ron ran all the way up the stairs to Ron's bedroom.
"Hermione's coming this afternoon," Ron told Harry as he threw on an old t-shirt. "I think the whole family's going to be here for dinner tonight to celebrate… Well, not including Percy of course."
"That sounds brilliant," Harry said, trying to sound as enthusiastic as possible. He didn't want to insult the Weasleys, but he really didn't feel like celebrating. It reminded him too much of Sirius.
"You ready?" Ron called as he was already half way out the door. Harry nodded and together they ran back downstairs. When they arrived, Ginny was helping her mum set the table, while Fred and George were sitting down whispering to each other. The twins looked up when Harry entered the room.
"Happy birthday Harry!" Fred said.
"How does it feel to be sixteen?" George added.
"About the same as fifteen," Harry replied laughing. He and Ron sat down at the table right as Mrs. Weasley and Ginny brought the last of the food over.
"Happy birthday, Harry," Ginny said quietly before sitting down next to George. Harry smiled and nodded at her, unsure of how to act around the girl. He had a newfound respect for her since her earlier rant that reminded Harry a great deal of her mother, but he hadn't yet decided what to do with that respect. He figured trying to treat her like Ron and Hermione was as good of a place to start as any.
Conversation was soon forgotten as the battle for food began. Even with the amount of food Molly had prepared they cleaned almost every plate between the six of them. It felt like Mrs. Weasley was shooing them out of the kitchen only minutes after they had sat down. Harry found himself sitting outside with Ron and Ginny, not sure of what they were going to do.
"So, Harry, what do you want to do today?" Ron asked. "Maybe some Quidditch? I worked on some plays for you and Ginny to try, if you want to give chasing another go."
"I'm an awful chaser, Ron. Besides, we'll probably play more with Fred, George, and Lee later," Harry replied with a shrug.
"Well you and I could just go flying," Ron said, shooting a glance at Ginny.
"If you want me to leave just say so," Ginny said huffily.
"No, stay," Harry said. He was trying to make a real effort to learn more about the youngest Weasley… she intrigued him.
"We could go swimming," Ron suggested.
"That is a good idea," Ginny replied. "Surely it wasn't yours, Ron."
"Shut up, Ginny!"
Harry didn't really like the sound of going swimming. He didn't want to admit that he'd never learned how. But, he could sense an epic sibling battle coming on, and figured agreeing would cut it off before it could start. He'd just have to try and fake it by staying in shallow water.
"Swimming is sounds good. Let's go change." Harry stood up and quickly dragged Ron away from Ginny and into the house.
A few minutes later the three of them were back outside, walking down to the lake. Harry and Ron were both wearing t-shirts with their swim trunks, and Ginny had on an oversized t-shirt that looked like it probably belonged to one of her brothers. They reached the lake and Ron quickly threw off his shirt and ran right into the water. Harry held back as Ginny removed her t-shirt to reveal a modest blue bathing suit and joined Ron in the water. Ginny looked back at him expectantly, and Harry suddenly felt very self-conscious. He wasn't as scrawny as he had once been, but the sudden knowledge that Ginny was a girl made him start worry about his appearance.
"Harry, are you coming in or not?" Ron called, motioning for Harry to join them. Harry reluctantly pulled off his shirt and hurried into the water. He tried to get deep enough so that everything below his shoulders was beneath the water.
"This is so nice on a hot day like this," Ginny said, swimming over to where Ron and Harry were standing.
"Yeah, it is nice," Harry added dumbly.
"Hey, I'll race you two to the other side of the lake," Ron said. He turned and looked at Harry. "I've always been faster than Ginny," he explained.
Ginny shouted out in indignation and splashed water towards Ron's face. "Your body's almost twice as long as mine!" she exclaimed.
"She just can't handle losing to me every time we compete," Ron said.
"You're on," Ginny replied. "Are you going to help me show my brother how it's done?" she asked Harry.
"Umm, no," Harry said awkwardly. "I think I'll just let you two fight this one out."
"Alright then, Ginny. First one to the other side and back wins," Ron said. "Harry, you count us off."
As Ron and Ginny got ready to go, Harry could have sworn that Ginny winked at him. He was a little confused, but decided to ignore it. "One, two, three, GO!" Ron and Ginny both took off swimming as fast as they could. It was soon obvious that Ron was going to beat Ginny with ease, but as soon as he had counted her out he understood why she had winked. While Ron was still swimming for the other side, Ginny turned around at the middle of the lake. She reached Harry as Ron was reaching the other side of the lake.
"Please don't tell him," she said as she tried to catch her breath.
"I won't," Harry said with a grin. It would be fun to see Ron's reaction at thinking his little sister beat him.
When Ron reached Harry he was so confident he started celebrating as soon as he emerged from the water. "I told you I was faster than her!"
"Um, Ron," Ginny said, smiling. Ron turned around, looking appalled. He stood gaping at her, unsure of what had happened.
"I hate to say it mate, but she beat you," Harry said, pretending to be sympathetic.
"Fine," Ron grumbled. "Ginny beat me."
"And your body's even twice as long as mine," Ginny added with a smirk, flipping her hair off her shoulder.
"Hey you guys!" The three of them turned around to see Hermione standing at the edge of the lake looking at them. "Happy birthday, Harry," she added.
"Thanks," Harry said.
"When'd you get here?" Ron asked.
"Obviously a few minutes ago," Ginny replied.
Ron glared at Ginny. "Hermione, why don't you go change so you can join us," Ron suggested.
"Didn't bring my suit," Hermione answered with a shrug. "I'll just go back inside and read."
"We'll all come," Harry said quickly.
"No, no, no. It looks like you're all having a brilliant time and I don't want to ruin it," Hermione insisted.
"I'll come with you," Ron said. "I'm tired of swimming." He climbed out of the lake and said good bye to Harry and Ginny before heading back to the house with Hermione. Harry wasn't sure if he was entirely comfortable being alone with Ginny. He wanted to get to know her better, but he also wanted the support of Ron or Hermione when he did so.
Harry turned around to see where Ginny was but realized he couldn't find her. He looked around frantically; starting to wonder what he would do if something had happened to her. Just as he was about to run for help he felt someone grab his shoulders and push him under the water. He was so surprised he almost choked on the water. He began thrashing about, trying to get back to the surface. When he finally reemerged and could see through his glasses again he found himself face to face with a mortified looking Ginny.
"I'm so sorry," she said. "I didn't know you couldn't swim."
"I can swim!" Harry insisted, but Ginny looked at him skeptically. "Okay, maybe I never really learned, but how hard could it be?"
"It's not hard at all," Ginny replied smiling. "In fact, I bet I could teach you right now."
"I don't know," Harry said. He wasn't sure if he wanted to put himself in such a vulnerable position with Ginny yet.
"Oh, come on! We can go slowly; work on it for the rest of the summer! I still remember everything that Bill taught me."
Harry could see the determination in her eyes and figured she wasn't going to give up. "Okay," he said reluctantly.
Ginny smiled excitedly. "Alright, the first thing you need to do is learn how to float on your back," she explained, walking towards him. Harry looked at her like she was insane. "I won't let you sink, I promise. You can trust me." Harry took a deep breath and began to lie back on the water. When he felt Ginny's small hands on his back jumped so much that he somehow ended up being cradled in Ginny's arms like a small child. She started laughing and released him so he was standing up again. "I'm going to have to touch you," she said through her laughter.
Harry was now more determined than ever to be able to float on his back. He started to lie back again and resisted the urge to jump when he felt Ginny's hands again. Soon he was on top of the water with only Ginny's hands for support. It was a strangely freeing feeling, floating on top of the water. In fact he felt more relaxed than he had since Sirius had died. He turned his head to thank Ginny when he found himself face to face with her chest. He was so startled that he jumped up so he was on his feet.
"You were doing it," Ginny said proudly. Harry was grateful she didn't seem to know the reason he had stopped floating.
"You're a good teacher," he replied.
Ginny shook her head. "I haven't actually taught you anything yet."
"I think I'm about ready to get out," Harry said.
"Me too," she replied. "I'm starting to get all pruney." They both climbed out of the water and sat down in the sun to dry off. Harry was surprised when Ginny lay down in the grass and put her hands behind her head.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked curiously.
"Looking at the clouds," Ginny replied. She patted the ground next to her. "Come here." Harry obediently lay down next to her. Ginny extended a hand in the air and pointed to a bunch of clouds. "Those looks like a boat. And those over there look like a unicorn."
Harry smiled. He could see the shapes floating across the sky. "There's a cat," he pointed out.
"There's a dog," Ginny added. Harry looked at the dog and the smile disappeared from his face. It looked like Snuffles. Sensing the change in his mood, Ginny stopped pointing the shapes out to Harry and resumed looking at them silently.
After several minutes of brooding, Harry tried to think of something to say to Ginny. He finally settled on something basic. "How was your summer before I got here?"
"It was fine. I've been doing a lot of work around the house with Mum, and I've worked with the twins in their shop a few times. I met Dean for lunch one day in Diagon Alley while I was working, so that was nice," Ginny said.
Harry frowned. Ron hadn't mentioned anything about seeing Dean Thomas over the summer. It dawned on him that Ginny had mentioned that she was seeing Dean on the train ride home. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to say when a female friend mentioned spending time with her boyfriend; it wasn't a situation he had found himself in before.
"Dean's a good bloke," he finally said, feeling somewhat lame.
"Well, I enjoy his letters, but I don't know him all that well yet. I guess our timing was pretty bad, getting together right before the summer vacation and all," Ginny replied.
"We'll be back before you know it."
"It gets harder for Mum to let us go back every year," Ginny commented.
Harry sat straight up and looked at Ginny. His stomach suddenly felt like it was filled with lead. "Why?" he asked, not sure he actually wanted to know the answer.
Ginny sat up and crossed her arms over her chest, looking Harry directly in the eyes. "Because she hates to think that we're growing up. She hates knowing that soon she'll have an empty nest."
"Oh." Harry felt guilty for automatically jumping to the worst possible conclusion. He knew that the Weasleys knew as well as anyone that Hogwarts was the safest place to be.
Ginny lay back down in the grass and focused her attention back to the clouds. "You shouldn't do that, you know."
"Do what?" Harry asked, lying down beside her again.
"Always assume the worst. Everything isn't always bad, and it definitely isn't always about you."
Harry's jaw dropped. How had she known exactly what he had been thinking? Again Harry felt guilty. Hadn't Ginny just accused him of being self-absorbed a few days ago? He liked to think he cared about his friends, but it was easy to get caught up in his own problems.
"I'll help you with your chasing, if you want," Ginny spoke up suddenly. "It'd be nice to get a real game going, and I need to practice if I want to make the house team again this year."
Harry was surprised at the offer. He didn't think Ginny would want to spend anymore time with him than she had to, considering what she apparently thought of him. "Only if it's not any trouble for you."
"None at all," Ginny replied. "Besides, I want to see what these plays are that Ron concocted, and we can't do them if you can't even handle a simple pass."
Harry was about to protest when he noticed that Ginny's eyes had a mischievous twinkle to them. He started to laugh and soon Ginny joined him.
"Let's go inside, I think we're dry enough," Ginny said, standing up from the grass. "Besides, if we leave Ron and Hermione alone for too long they'll probably get into another fight and won't be on speaking terms for the rest of your birthday." Harry nodded his consent and stood up before throwing his t-shirt back on.
They walked back to the house in silence, but Harry was too consumed with his thoughts to really notice. He didn't know how he had expected Ginny to act, but it definitely wasn't like she did. She was like a combination of the twins and Ron, with a little bit of Mrs. Weasley thrown into the mix. He wondered if she had always been like that and he'd just never noticed before, or if this was a recent development. They reached the house, and Ginny said a quick goodbye to Harry before heading up to her room to change. Harry set up the stairs to Ron's room, still trying to figure out the mysterious Ginny Weasley the entire way.
Later that night, Harry sat outside with the Weasleys after finishing his delicious birthday dinner. Bill and Charlie had both come home for the occasion, and Remus Lupin had stopped by as well. Harry could tell that Lupin had been having a tough time of it, and made a mental note to try and talk to him before he left that night.
"Harry, why don't you open your presents?" Mrs. Weasleys cheerful voice snapped Harry out of his reprieve. He was going to suggest that he do it later, after everyone had left, but seeing the hopeful expression on her face he simply nodded.
Several defense books, lots of sweets, a Chudley Cannons shirt, a new penknife, and a sampler box from Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes later, Harry's guests began to leave. He noticed Lupin sitting by himself, looking quite depressed. Harry excused himself from Fred and George, with whom he had been talking, and walked over to sit down beside Lupin.
"Hello, Professor," Harry said quietly. "How are you doing?"
Lupin chuckled lightly. "You can call me Remus now, Harry. I'm not your professor."
"It feels a little strange to call you Remus," Harry admitted.
"Well, you could try Moony," Lupin suggested.
Harry felt a lump form in his throat and he fought to keep the tears out of his eyes. "I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet, either."
"Understandable," Lupin replied softly. "It's been hard for me as well."
"I miss him."
"As do I." They sat together in silence, something Harry was grateful for. He didn't know if he could continue to talk with Lupin about Sirius without breaking down. It looked like Lupin was having similar thoughts. After a few moments, Lupin spoke up. "Harry, you know that I'm here for you, right? If you ever need anything, you just have to ask. I know I'm not Sirius, or your father, but I'd like it if you would come to me with your problems."
Harry was touched by the gesture. Lupin was his last connection with his parents and Sirius, and it meant a lot to him to know that he was there. "Thank you. I'd like that very much," he replied quietly. They continued to sit in silence until Lupin broke into laughter. "What?" Harry asked, feeling quite perplexed to be left out of the joke.
"Harry, did you eat anything Fred and George gave you by any chance?"
Harry thought about it for a moment. He knew he had been sitting with them talking, but couldn't remember them specifically giving him anything to eat. "I don't think so… why?"
Lupin continued to chuckle. "Your skin is green."
"What!" Harry exclaimed. He looked down at his arms, and sure enough they were a disgusting looking pea green. "Fred! George! What did you do to me?" he shouted.
"Ah," Fred said with a grin. "You ate the Dragon flavored Pigmentation pop. The color's not quite what we wanted."
"But the effect is good enough for now," George finished.
"Boys! What did you do to poor Harry on his birthday?" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed, walking over.
"It'll wear off in an hour or so," George insisted.
"We think," Fred added under his breath.
"Its fine, Mrs. Weasley, really," Harry insisted, not wanting to be the cause of anyone getting in trouble.
"Yeah, Mum, Harry doesn't mind at all," George said. Based on the look Mrs. Weasley was still giving the twins, Harry had a feeling that she still didn't think it was fine. Fred and George exchanged a quick look before apparating away from the Burrow.
"They'll be spending the night in their shop," Ron informed Harry and Hermione.
"They stay there at least once a week these days," Ginny added.
"I really don't mind," Harry repeated, examining his green skin.
"You should, you look absolutely dreadful," Ron said laughing.
"Ron!" Hermione and Ginny exclaimed at the same time.
Ron ignored them and looked at Harry carefully. "I wonder if they could do one in orange. I could use it to support the Cannons if I ever go to a match."
"They could make a killing," Harry said with a grin. "Can you imagine looking down from your broom at Hogwarts and seeing the entire Gryffindor section completely scarlet?"
"That'd be brilliant," Ginny said, obviously no longer thinking the prank was so bad.
"They could make a killing," Hermione added. "Muggles paint their skin to support their favorite teams all the time."
"I wonder if they'd give me a portion of the profits for suggesting it," Ron wondered, getting a dazed look in his eyes.
"Ron's going to have gallons for eyes if we're not careful," Ginny said laughing.
Harry's skin was still green when he went to bed that night. He could hear Ron's snores, but couldn't find sleep himself. He got out of bed and put on his dressing gown. He quietly snuck out of Ron's bedroom and headed back to the living room. He plopped down on the couch and closed his eyes.
For once, his thoughts at night weren't absorbed with Sirius. Instead, his mind was still trying to wrap itself around the red haired witch he spent most of his birthday with. Ginny had always been around, but for whatever reason she'd never registered as more than Ron's little sister to Harry.
She was funny, that much was for sure. She could definitely pull one over on Ron when she wanted to. But at the same time, she seemed to be able to tell what he was thinking. And while she wasn't afraid to yell at him, she also seemed to know when to stop so she didn't upset him.
Ginny Weasley was a mystery all right. Harry didn't know how she seemed to know so much about him when he knew next to nothing about her. He thought about the freeing feeling of floating on the water under Ginny's instruction, and he couldn't wait for the next swim lesson. Yes, getting to know Ginny better was definitely going to make the year more interesting.
Well, I hope you all enjoyed this short piece. Again, I apologize for any mistakes. Hopefully I'll be able to replace it with a beta'd version soon. The next story will be about the Halloween when Ginny's relationship with Dean turns sour, and will be written by wvchemteach. When it is posted I will put it under my favorite stories, and I will post the third piece soon afterwards. I can't wait for HBP, and I hope you all enjoy it as well!