Authors' Notes: I'm uploading this all by myself because Teri is writing an 8-10 page paper. Can we have a moment of silence to pray for her soul?
Thank you for your support during this difficult time.
Now, onto other things. It's Dresswithoutsleeves and Opalish here, bringing you the funny side of – well, you know. Death and war and brutal murder. All that stuff. It's sort of a companion to Opalish's Hero's Welcome.
So with no further ado, we present:
The Twelve Step-Program: A Guide to Being a Better Boyfriend
(And Defeating Evil War Lords!)
Chapter One: Bacon, Weddings, and - - - - -
It was hot. It was miserable. And Harry Potter was angsting it out over some seriously undercooked bacon.
"This is kind of gross," Hermione said, poking at her own portion with a fork. Blood oozed out.
Ron made a face, carefully prodding the bloody mass on his plate. "Well - it's better than - uhm – "
"Like Ginny's hair," Harry murmured wistfully. Ron and Hermione exchanged an exasperated look.
"Harry, you're the one who ended it," Hermione pointed out. "If you really regret it that much, just owl her."
"Though I'd leave out the bit about you comparing her head to a butchered pig," Ron added helpfully.
Harry glared at his best friends, angrily stabbing at his plate - and consequently being splattered with pig's ... something. "Ron, you should be on my side about this," he snapped. "I - want - Ginny - to - be - safe."
Was it just him, or was that physically hard to say?
"Of course I want her safe," Ron snapped, the tips of his ears going red. "But l want her happy, too, and she's miserable."
Harry scowled at the mangled bacon, wishing that his aunt wasn't such a vindictive woman. Calling him names and sneering at his friends was one thing. Serving them undercooked meat? That was a new low.
"So this is the sort of life that'll make her happy?" he demanded, nodding to the bloody food. "Because this is the sort of thing I have to deal with all the time, Ron."
Hermione watched the two boys bicker over their bacon? (She decided that maybe it was better not to refer to it as 'bacon', because they couldn't be entirely sure that was actually what it was, but 'bacon?' – because that was probably more accurate.) and rolled her eyes at the stupidity of men. "I'm sure Ginny could tough out a little undercooked meat," she interjected, and then shrugged. "But in any case, can we bring the angst upstairs and pack it in our trunks so that we can get a move on? Because I don't know about you two, but we have a whole week until Bill's wedding and after being forced to eat bacon? for a month, I'm done putting up with listening to the pair of you squabble."
Harry eyed her oddly, wondering why she said 'bacon' like it was a question, then shrugged. He had more important things to worry about.
Like what Ginny would do to him when he saw her at the wedding.
He glanced down at his plate and prayed to God that wasn't what his intestines looked like – after all, Bill and Fleur deserved to have good cuisine.
Not … bacon?
"I, er, I'm not very hungry," he said, a touch faintly. "I think I'll go pack."
Hermione agreed quickly. She'd been too polite to say no to the bacon? when it had been offered by Harry's horrible aunt, but she couldn't bring herself to actually eat it.
Ron was a little slower in agreeing - he had a healthy teenaged appetite, after all - but the sight of blood leaking out of the meat when he poked it didn't appeal to him. "What should we do with the...bacon?" he asked as they stood, eying it warily.
Harry tossed a horrified glance at the bacon? and shuddered. He didn't want to touch that bacon? with a seven-foot-gnome.
And then Harry Potter had an idea. A wonderful, terrible, awful idea.
"Leave it for the Dursleys to clean up." Ron and Hermione blinked. Hermione looked doubtful, but a grin spread across Ron's freckled face. "Dudley'll probably scarf it down, anyway," Harry added. Hermione shuddered. Ron snickered. Harry took one last look at the Weasley-red meat, then smiled grimly. "You know, I just realized. That was my last meal here."
Hermione put a gentle hand on her friend's arm, but Ron just laughed. "And what a meal it was," he said with a smirk. "There's nothing like butchered, undercooked bacon? to ease the effects of goodbye."
"What good-bye?" Harry snorted. "'Breakfast. Eat up. You'll be gone by the time we get back,'" he mimicked the terse greeting he'd gotten from his aunt a half hour before.
"Some people aren't good at expressing their emotions," Hermione piped up, her words weak even to her own ears.
"And some people need to have their noses shoved up their – " Hermione clapped a hand over Ron's mouth and sent him a full-throttle, finish-that-sentence-and-I'll-send-you-into-the-deepest-bloodiest-bowels-of-Hell-but-only-after-I-skin-you-alive-with-my-bare-hands, Weasley glare.
What would you have done when faced with a sight as terrifying as that?
"Arses," he finished, the word muffled by Hermione's hand.
Hermione went red with rage. Harry laughed.
"Let's go pack," he suggested, before his best friends could get into another one of their legendary spats. "Remus is coming to pick us up in less than an hour."
Automatically, they all grinned. The last time they'd seen Remus, he'd been hiding from Tonks, who was determined to snare herself a werewolf.
"It's not that I don't care for her," Remus had told them. "But she wants to get married. She wants us to pick out curtains. She wants children." The poor man was too much a confirmed bachelor not to panic.
Hermione smiled fondly. "They'll have gorgeous children," she declared wistfully. "Remus' eyes – Tonks' humor …"
Ron frowned. "What's so great about Lupin's eyes?" He asked defensively. "They're just gray and boring. You know," he added hopefully, "Lavender used to tell me that I have lovely eyes."
Harry rolled his eyes and began trudging up the steps as Hermione snapped, "Well, the whole world doesn't revolve around what Lavender Brown thinks, Won-Won!"
"What, so I don't have lovely eyes?"
"That's not the point!"
"So you're saying I do!"
"No I'm not!"
"Then I don't?"
"You're – so – exasperating!"
"Don't deny the allure of my eyes, Hermione. They are calling to you, in all their loveli – ow! No need to get violent!"
Harry tried not to let the image of Ron's eyes serenading a swooning Hermione get to him. He failed spectacularly.
"Can we not argue?" he pleaded, cursing his traitorous brain. Ron and Hermione both shot him irritated glares. Harry sighed - he'd forgotten that the two of them actually enjoyed hurling insults at each other.
There was something abnormal about his two best friends.
"We aren't arguing," Hermione and Ron said at the same time, and then added, "Stop copying me! You're copying me! Stop! You're doing that on purpose!" There was a long pause, until Hermione shouted, "SPLEEN!" at the same time as Ron bellowed, "GALL-BLADDER PIE!"
…Something, seriously, seriously abnormal.
Hermione and Ron glared at each other suspiciously. Harry felt the beginning of a migraine coming on.
"You two aren't going to act like this the entire summer, are you?" he asked wearily.
"Like what?" Ron demanded defensively. "We're not acting like anything."
"Well, I'm not," Hermione slipped in snidely, glaring at him and folding her arms over her chest. "But acting like a complete prat seems to be an inextricable feature with Ron." Harry rolled his eyes as Ron leapt to his own defense and fell with a huff onto his bed.
He had a headache, and a stomachache, and a heartache.
No, seriously. He'd always gotten mild cases of heart burn, but this was worse. Was it the raw meat he had just been forced to eat?
"Don't call me a prat!"
"You started it!"
"Oh, nice comeback, Won-Won."
"Bringing up Lavender again, are you? Really, Hermione, I should think you'd understand how she felt!"
"What does that even mean?"
"It means – Ginny!"
Harry groaned, burying his head in his hands. "For the love of Merlin, Ron, are you going to keep bringing her up? I don't want to talk about it!"
Someone coughed, and a horridly familiar voice answered him, "Well, I'm glad everyone is so happy to see me."
Silence fell upon the room the way it does when the one person you're trying desperately to avoid or have been talking about corners you in your room with no where to go and a whole week to endure praying and hoping that she won't skin you alive or start making out with some other guy because if she did that, you might have to start crying.
Harry leapt off his bed, knocking over his bedside lamp and hitting his groin on the bedside table as he did so. "Uhm," he managed through the pain that was suddenly burning throughout his body, "Hey, Ginny."
She arched a cool eyebrow at him and casually didn't reply. "Ron, Hermione, are you all packed? Remus is downstairs. He thought it would be best if I came up and got you; you know, in case some of you haven't looked at or spoken to me in the past, say, week or so – give or take a few days."
Harry blushed. Ron smirked. Hermione burst into tears.
"What's wrong?" Ginny asked, alarmed. "What did I say?"
Ron glared hatefully at his sister and muttered, "Brilliant, Ginny, really clever of you," while rubbing gentle circles on his future wife – er, that is, best friend's back. "Shh, Hermione. It's all right. What did my idiot sister sa – ow!" He rubbed his head where Ginny had smacked him, but Hermione kept blubbering.
Finally she managed, "It's j-just that I'm s-so glad to b-be l-l-l-leaving this h-h-house!" She wept, heaving. "I d-don't think I c-c-c-could h-handle any more b-bacon? I'm s-sorry, H-Harry!"
Harry blinked awkwardly. "Er … I forgive you?" he asked, unsure of the answer Hermione was looking for.
Hermione forced out a few more tears, hoping this would work. "And your relatives, Harry," she sobbed, "they're terrible. I'm so sorry, but the way they treated us - I don't see how you survived as a child." She sneaked a glance at Ginny, whose stony face had softened somewhat at the reminder of Harry's sad and angstiful upbringing.
Harry shifted uncomfortably. "Er. Um."
Hermione nudged Ron's foot pointedly with her own. He stared at her blankly before enlightenment dawned. "Oh, right. Ginny, you wouldn't believe how absolutely awful it's been," he said woodenly. "Really, really...bad. Um. No good at all. The food is disgusting," he added with sudden animation borne of an unfilled tummy.
Hermione stifled a groan - Ginny had seen right through Ron's attempt to ease her attitude towards Harry. "Right," the redheaded girl said coolly. "I'll be outside with Lupin if you ever get your acts - oh, sorry, I meant packs - together." She flounced out, scowling.
"Never," Harry said gloomily to his friends after the door shut behind his ex, "help me again. Ever."
Hermione growled. "It's his fault," she snapped, pointing at Ron. "She bought it from me." Ron rolled his eyes defensively.
"Yes, well, if I'd known there was a plan in the first place - "
"Haven't you ever heard of improvisation?"
"Hey, give me spiders, give me O.W.L.s, and I can make up all the stuff I need. Give me crying girls and I haven't got a chance!"
"You don't have to tell me that!"
Harry stared helplessly at his two best friends and suddenly snapped. He pulled out his wand and muttered, "Silencio!" Then, without a word, he shoved his clothing into his suitcase and strolled from the room whistling, leaving a gaping Hermione and Ron in his wake.
Hermione slowly went red and scowled. " - - - - " she snarled.
Ron shook his head, glowering at the door. " - - - - - - " he grumbled, gesturing rudely at his retreating best friend.
Hermione scowled at him, obviously displeased with his uncouth behavior. " - - - - - - " she scolded him.
" - - - - - - " Ron protested, ears going red. Again.
Hermione sniffed and crossed her arms over her chest. " - - - - - - " Ron didn't even pretend to try and interpret that, as his girlf - er, best friend's current position did some rather nice and exciting things to her chest area.
Hermione glanced at Ron and followed his eyes down to her chest. She dropped her hands immediately, flushing red and hissing, "- - - - - - !" She smacked the back of his head and grabbed her trunk in a huff. "- - - - - ! - - - - -! - - - - -!" She screamed, storming from the room and slamming the door behind her.
"- - - - -" Ron muttered ruefully, rubbing the back of his head and dutifully following her out.
Harry, who was chatting amiably with Lupin, was a bit surprised when both of his friends came storming down the stairs. He'd expected them to be angry with him, sure, but they didn't even seem to notice he was there. Ron was sneaking sheepish but defiant glances at Hermione, who outright glared at the redheaded boy.
"- - - - - - !" she told them, pointing at Ron. "- - - - - - !"
" - - - - - - - !" Ron defended himself.
Harry felt his headache returning. He should've guessed silence wouldn't stop them. Remus just shook his head. "I don't want to know."
"Can we just go?" Harry begged, carefully avoiding an amused Ginny's gaze. "Anything to make those two shut up." He paused. "Er ... "
"- - - - - !" Ron and Hermione shouted at once, both going red. "- - - - - !" Ron nodded feverishly and Hermione looked smug. "- - - - - -" they added, for good measure.
Harry banged his head on the wall. "Make me a bird so I can fly far, far away," he prayed.
"Sorry," Remus said, lips twitching, "but becoming an Animagus takes months, if not years."
Harry's first reaction, which would have either been homicide or suicide, was thankfully quelled. Instead, he ground his teeth and glared death at everyone in the room – except Ginny. Her glares outclassed his easily, and he wasn't about to get into a contest he knew he'd lose. Not with her, at least. He fancied his chances with the Horcruxes and Voldemort better. He allowed Remus to escort him to the car, silently wishing for death as Ginny joined in the Ron-Hermione 'debate'.
"- - - - - - - -" she pointed out, smirking in Ron's direction. "- - - - - - ?"
"- - - - - - !" Hermione agreed, laughing.
Harry frowned at Remus. "How do they know what they're saying?" He asked from the side of his mouth as Ron stared stonily ahead, his ears red at the apparent insults being tossed in front of him.
Remus winked in Harry's direction. "The infinite mysteries of women," he said with a shrug. "Poor Ron."
"- - - - - - - -?" Hermione asked, eyebrow raised. She stuck her head in between the two seats and turned to Remus. "- - - -, - -? - - - - - - - - - - - - - ?"
The old werewolf paled. "She told you that?" He asked meekly. Hermione nodded smugly.
"- - - - - - -" She added, loudly. Ginny snickered into her hand, and Ron bit his lip to keep from smirking. "- - - - - - - - - !"
"Don't spread it around!" Remus cried desperately. "Keep your voice down!"
Harry blinked. "The world has gone mad," he said to himself, staring at the scene in front of him. He banged his head on the dashboard and contemplated all possible meanings of 'death by tossing oneself from a moving car'. "Completely and totally mad."
Ron snickered from the back seat and pushed Hermione out of the way. "- - - - - - -, - - - - -?"
"Oh, - - - - - - - " Harry muttered, pulling his jacket over his eyes and pushing the ... er, silence of the car from his mind.
This was going to be the week from hell.