This was written for the hpgwficafest on Live Journal. My prompt was Dudley's bedroom and it had to take place sometime before Ginny finished school. I was pleased with the way it turned out so hopefully you will all like it as well.

A Very Satisfactory Situation

Harry was fairly used to hearing Uncle Vernon yelling and for the most part was able to ignore it, but these last few days everything had been on edge. His early arrival at the Dursley's had been a nasty-enough shock for his aunt and uncle, but the fact he was accompanied by two other "freaks" was enough to practically send them into fits. However, since Harry and his friends refused to leave, there was not much to be done except allow them in to the house and then avoid them as much as possible. So Harry and Hermione had purchased groceries for the three of them and all of them ate at odd times of day to spare themselves vicious stares over meals. In fact, Harry hadn't actually seen Vernon for three days and had only glimpsed Petunia once yesterday. What could he be yelling about?

"I better go down and see what has gotten him so upset. Could be anything, I suppose, but I'm quite sure it has to do with me. There's a certain tone his voice takes on. . ." Harry let the sentence drift off unfinished and Ron grinned up at him.

"I've noticed that. It's almost musical, really. Lovely. Let me know if you want him stunned, silenced, or turned into a toad."

Hermione tutted behind her book and Harry grinned back at Ron with a knowing raise of the eyebrows. "Ah, Hermione. He's only kidding. He knows you'd have to do the toad thing. He's rubbish at Transfiguration." Another tut, and Harry opened the door. The yelling was a lot louder in the hall without a door to block the volume.

"I've already got three of you . . . freaks here! I will not tolerate . . ."

There was a reply that Harry could not hear and then he was far enough down the steps to see who was standing at the door and his heart gave a strange little wiggle as it both tried to soar and sink at the same time. She was standing there, righteous anger practically radiating off her. Harry realized that Vernon must be quite agitated to even attempt to stand up to her. She had her wand out, pointed right at him. Her stance was militant and she was physically inside the door, obviously in the process of shoving Vernon aside.


"Boy –"

"Don't start, Uncle Vernon. Let her in."

"I'm already in." Ginny pocketed her wand and smiled up at Harry. "Hi."

Vernon, however, didn't seem to have gotten the message. He grabbed her arm. "I told you that I will not have her here!"

"Let go of her, now!" Harry's wand was now pointed directly between his uncle's eyes.

"You don't scare me, boy! I know you aren't allowed to use your . . . abnormality outside of that freakish school of yours! Put it away."

"It would be so worth the warning to blast you through that door. Let go of her arm." Harry's voice was deadly quiet and this time, Uncle Vernon seemed to understand. He dropped Ginny's arm. "If you ever touch her again, no, if you ever so much as look at her with anything but respect, I can promise you will regret it." Ginny pulled her wand out, too, now that her wand arm was freed from Vernon's sweaty grip.

"Let me hex him, Harry. Just once. A good Bat-Bogey and he'll know the meaning of the word respect."

Harry laughed and stuck his wand back in his pocket. "Better not, Ginny. Not that I'm not tempted to let you."

"No, you're right. It's probably not worth it." She kept her wand out, though, not lowering it even an inch from its aim at Vernon's purple face.

Vernon stood staring at the two of them and Harry couldn't tell exactly what was going through his mind. Nor did he particularly care. "Unfortunately, Petunia and I have to leave now to get Dudley from the train. But I'm warning you, boy, that this house had better be in spotless condition when we get home. Or I don't care how many sticks you threaten me with, you will regret it, and that goes for the three other freaks here as well."

"Don't hurry back on my account, Uncle Vernon. Please." Vernon grimaced but left the hall and Harry looked at Ginny, unsure exactly how to react to her presence. "Ginny," he said again.

"Yep, it's me all right." She climbed up the steps until she was standing one step below him. "Surprise."

Harry blinked.

"What's going on, Harry?" Ron's voice came from the top of the steps and Harry turned to see him standing, wand drawn.

"Oh, well, see . . ."

Petunia's shriek of outrage echoed up the steps and Harry turned back around. His aunt was standing at the foot of the steps, arms akimbo, dark eyes glaring up at the three of them. "I will not have it. Not at all. Dudley is coming home from school in just a couple of hours and she" her bony arm pointed up at Ginny "will not be here! I have been forced to agree to have you three, I will not have her here as well! Who knows what the four of you will be up to when we go to pick Duddiekins up from the station!"

"Who is she talking about?" Ron asked and Harry realized that Ron still had not seen Ginny because he blocked her from his view.

"Me, Ron!" Ginny said loudly, over the continued ranting of Aunt Petunia.


"We won't be up to anything, Aunt Petunia. Ginny is just here for a quick visit. She will be leaving in a minute."

"I will not!"

"Don't worry, Uncle Vernon has already-" Harry was trying to calm his shrieking aunt, but was not having much success. Ron had also been joined by Hermione, and both of their yelling from the top of the steps was just adding to the chaos.

"And I've got a kitchen full of Dudley's favorite foods! I know exactly how much is there so don't even think about taking anything to eat for yourselves!"

"We don't want to eat anything of Dudley's, Aunt Petunia. We –"

"Just leave them, Harry! Come on up here!" That was Hermione's voice and Harry realized she was right. Retreat in this case was definitely the best option. He turned once again to face Ron and grabbed Ginny firmly by her left arm, trying hard to ignore how soft her skin was under his hand. He climbed the stairs quickly and Ginny didn't protest as she was pulled up behind him. They retreated into his room, slammed the door, and Hermione did an efficient sealing and silencing charm on it. The sudden silence was almost deafening after the constant shrieking from his aunt.

"Okay, that was . . . bad." Ginny said. "Is it always like this?"

"No. Generally, we don't see them and they conveniently pretend we don't exist." Hermione glared at Ginny. "What are you doing here?"

"I came for a visit. I missed . . . all of you." Harry closed his eyes. Even the sound of her voice was torturous to his nerves. He dreamed about her every night. To have her here was pushing him quickly to the breaking point.

"A visit?" Ron asked. "And Mum knows you're here?"

"Of course not. I've been under virtual lock and key since King's Cross. But today I managed to get away."

Hermione looked scandalized. "You got away? She'll know where you are, Ginny. How long do you think it will take before she turns up here?"

"Officially, I am with the twins. She had an Order meeting, so she pawned me off on them and they conveniently turned their back for a minute."

"So they're coming? That's just what Dudley needs to see! They fed him that Ton-Tongue Toffee." Personally, Harry thought the reunion between Fred, George, and Dudley would be very amusing to watch, but he had to think about his tenuous position in this house and the fact that his aunt and uncle could throw all three of them out at any minute.

"No! They know I'm here and they wanted me to come."

"What makes you think that?" Hermione's eyes were narrowed and she was looking at her friend suspiciously.

"There was Muggle money on the desk along with a map of the Underground and directions to find this place. They put me in the office with the desk and then both went on a shopping expedition in Diagon Alley, telling me to restock the inventory while they were away. I got the message."

Ron laughed. "You know, sometimes –- when you least expect it -- those two really come through."

"As soon as the coast is clear out there though, Ginny, you're leaving!" Harry folded his arms and stared at her.

"No, I'm not. I figure I'm good for several hours. I'll be back at the shop in time for closing."


"You're safe here, right, due to some sort of protective charm? All three of you are safe here?" The three friends nodded. "Then I'm safe here, too. And I'm staying. It was a lot of work to get here and I'm not leaving sooner than I'm ready to." Ginny ignored both Harry's and Hermione's glares. "So, do I get a tour?"

Ron snorted. "There's not much to see. This is basically our little world." The room was quite small and Ginny wondered how they all even slept here. Then she noticed two camp beds folded in one corner, taking up some of what little floor space there was. The room was made even smaller by the piles of what looked like dusty junk in every available space.

"What is all this stuff?" Ginny picked up a piece of some type of plastic that had wires poking out of it. "Are you trying to build some sort of weapon?"

"This is all Dudley's old stuff. Before I moved up here, he used it to store what he didn't want or didn't use. When it's just me, it's not so bad, but with all three of us, it's pretty close quarters." Harry watched her hungrily as she looked around. She walked with a barely controlled energy, like she wanted to burst out of her skin. He wasn't sure what that meant in her case. As for him, his heart was also trying to pound out of his chest and he knew what caused it: the overwhelming need to be near her, to touch her.

"I've tried shrinking some of it, but it doesn't seem to make any difference, so we just ignore it mostly." Hermione scrunched her nose up and brushed her hand over a dusty looking box. "I should probably clean it off, though. No one else seems inclined to help." She looked pointedly at Ron, who pretended he didn't notice.

"What about the rest of the house? You don't all stay in here all the time, do you?"

"Well, we do use the loo." Ron said. "And we eat in the kitchen. At strange times, but we eat there. And we go outside a lot." For a minute, they just looked at each other and then Ginny shrugged.

"Do you think your charming aunt and uncle have left to go pick up your cousin yet, Harry?" He started and it took a minute to process what she had said. He dragged his gaze away from her mouth and looked at Hermione.

"Don't know. Why don't we try to open the door? Hermione, if you would do the honors."

She waved her wand and the door unsealed. Harry turned the knob and all four of them kept completely silent for a moment. "The yelling has stopped. I'll go down and see if the car is still here. If not, we'll have at least a couple hours before they get back. That would be nice." Harry slipped quietly down the steps. He wasn't afraid of either Vernon or Petunia. He was used to them. He just didn't want any more unpleasantness for Ginny. Harry glanced out the window and verified that the car was indeed gone. He took a deep breath and turned one more time to head back up to his bedroom and tell the news to his friends. Ginny was right there behind him.

"Hi." Her bright eyes were shining, her mouth soft and moist, and her hair curling around her face. She looked absolutely enchanting. "They know that if we don't come up, your lovely aunt and uncle have gone. I still want that tour."

Harry's mouth was completely dry. "I, uh, a tour?" All he could think about was how wonderful it would be to kiss her, how good she would feel in his arms, and how sweet her hair would smell if he buried his face in it.

"Of the house. Where you lived for ten years of your life."

"Not much to see, really." He couldn't help it. His hand came up and touched her hair. He closed his eyes. It was as soft and smooth as he had known it would be. He bent a little closer and opened his eyes to see her smiling.

"I missed you, Harry. I really came to see you, not anyone else." His eyes met hers and he desperately wanted to lose himself in their depths.

"You shouldn't be here. It's not safe."

Her eyes blazed. "Safe for me or safe for you?"

"Safe for you, of course!" He felt like shaking her, but he was afraid that if he actually laid his hands on her, he may not be strong enough to let her go again. "It's you I'm worried about, Ginny! All of this, everything. I did it for you."

"I don't want . . . ." She took a deep breath, as if regrouping her thoughts. Then she smiled, and spoke again. "Harry, show me the rest of the house, please. I'm curious. And Dad will kill me if I don't give him a full report. Well, once he finds out I was here, of course." He felt like shaking his head to clear it. She had sounded like she was working up to a full rant, but now her voice sounded light and happy, like they were discussing nothing more serious than the weather.

"All right. If you really want to see it. This is the entry hall and the stairs to the first floor."

"Thanks. I, uh, couldn't tell." She smirked.

"Well, you're the one who asked." He grinned and pointed to his left. "That's the living room. Feel free to look in."

She did so, almost nervously, and then she laughed. "It's the cleanest place I've ever seen."

"Only because you haven't seen the kitchen yet." Her low chuckle sent shivers down his spine and he took a deep breath, following her through the door.

"Is this your cousin?" She looked at several pictures on the wall and mantle.

"Yeah. That's him."

"He's, um, . . ."

"Huge? Ugly? Looking like a pig in a wig?"

Ginny laughed again. "Right on all points, Potter. No pictures of you here, I gather?"


"Pity. You take a much better picture." She looked at him mischievously. "We should replace a few of these with some pictures of you, Ron, and Hermione from school. It would brighten up the room."

"Sure. Then I'd get thrown out on my ear."

"Hmm. The rest of the house, then, please?" They looked in at the kitchen (full of all sorts of junk food), the dining room, and the downstairs toilet. "I can't say I'm too impressed, Harry. I mean, it all looks nice enough, but it's got no personality. It's almost . . . sterile."

"Exactly. The Burrow is much nicer if you ask me." She snorted and Harry wasn't sure whether she agreed or not.

"This is it?"

"Pretty much. Let's go upstairs, huh? I bet Ron and Hermione are wondering what happened to us."

"I doubt it." She smiled at him and he felt his heart accelerate. He'd seen that look before and it usually meant that they were going to go somewhere for a quick snog. "They said to take all the time we want."

"Oh, well, there's not much left of the place. Just the bedrooms." Her eyes narrowed.

"Still, I'd like to see them."

"This is my aunt and uncle's bedroom. It's locked, though." She tried the doorknob, proving he was right.

"Why do they lock it?"

He laughed. "I'm not sure. If they were different people, I'd think maybe Vernon had dirty magazines in there, but I'm pretty sure that's not it."


"I'm serious. I don't even know how they ever got together to have Dudley." He coughed at the thought. Ick. He remembered vaguely the first time he had learned about where babies come from and how the idea of his aunt and uncle doing anything like that had made him almost physically ill.

"Everyone thinks that about adults. I mean I know my parents . . . Ugh, let's not even go there."

"But they have passion, for each other and for other things. I mean, aside from Hermione and Ron, of course, they are the most passionate people I know."

"Ooh, Harry. Please! Have you thought about this very much?"

"A bit."

"Well, keep your thoughts to yourself. Still, though, if it's not dirty magazines or your aunt's unmentionables, why do they lock their door?" She was leaning against the wall looking up at him.

"To keep me out. They were always thinking I was going to blow something up or destroy things."

"Really? That's . . . strange."

"Maybe I did when I was smaller. Or maybe they just figured I would eventually. I don't know. Don't really care, either."

"We could have Hermione open it so you could get a look."

"No! They'd know. I don't know how, but they'd know."

"All right, sorry I suggested it. The other bedrooms?"

"Right. This is the other toilet. And this is the guest room. Did I ever tell you about Aunt Marge?" At her nod, he continued. "Well, this is where she always stays. It's open."

"Nice room, I guess. Like the rest of the house."

"Pretty much. And this is Dudley's room."

"It's huge, compared to yours."

"Mmm. Yeah. And here's my room again. I'm surprised Ron and Hermione haven't come out. I thought we could eat before the Dursleys get back. It's going to take Dudley hours to eat through that stash downstairs so we should get our meal in while we have a chance." He turned the knob, looked in, and then shut the door a second later and faced her with an embarrassed "Never mind. I, um, I'll go down and start cooking something."

"Are they kissing?" Ginny asked with a sly grin.


"Good. It's about time."

"I didn't . . . ."

"Let's leave them to it." She took him by the hand and led him into Dudley's room. "We can talk in here."

"Lunch. I should go make lunch."

"Silly. They don't want to eat right now and truthfully, neither do I. Come on, Harry. Let's talk."

"We don't have anything to talk about."

"Wrong. We have so many things to talk about that I'm not even sure where to start." Ginny leaned against Dudley's desk (which Harry was sure had never been used for studying) and looked him square in the face. "Do you want to go first, or shall I?"

"I . . . I told you, I don't have anything to talk to you about." He couldn't look her in the eyes anymore so he crossed the room and stared out the window down into the back garden.

"Okay, I'll start. First, I want to know what you three are doing here. I don't mean today, I mean what is your plan? Where are you going? Why?"

Harry whirled to glare at her. "I'm not telling you any of that, Ginny! That's why I . . ."

"What? Broke up with me? That's bollocks, Harry! I don't accept the breakup!"

"What does that mean?"

"It means that as far as I am concerned, we're still together."

"Are you mental? You can't just refuse to break up!"

"According to whom?"

"Well, well, uh, . . . well, everybody!"

"Well, bollocks to everybody. I'm talking about us. I love you, Harry. And I think you love me, too."

He turned away from her, staring down unseeingly at the rosebushes under the window. "I . . . I don't." He tried to sound firm, but he knew his voice had cracked a bit.

"Look me in the eye and tell me that." Harry swallowed hard. She had said she loved him once before, at school, one night when they were curled up together in a chair, supposedly studying, but really they were exploring all the ways they could touch each other before they went mutually insane. At the time, his heart had felt like it was swelling so huge that it would explode in his chest. Now, he heard her announcement with dread. She couldn't love him. It was too dangerous.

"I don't need to, Ginny. I . . . don't love you. I never told you I did, did I?"

"No. You didn't."

"Maybe there's a reason for that! Did you ever consider that?" He felt a huge lump growing in his throat as he tried to force the cruel words past it.

"I did. But I remembered how you touched me and how you kissed me and I knew it wasn't true. You may not have been able to say the words. But you felt the feeling, Harry. I know it."

"You're wrong, Ginny." There was silence and after a minute he dared glance back where she had been standing. She wasn't there! His heart sunk, but then immediately started beating again when she spoke. She was sitting on Dudley's bed, looking at him with the most stricken expression he had seen on her face in several years.

"Harry, look at me. Please. I need to see your eyes." He reluctantly looked more fully at her and their gazes automatically locked. "I understand why you broke up with me. I understand why you have to go away. Why you have to fight Tom. It's not easy, but I understand it. But, please, please, don't . . . leave me like this. I could live through it, if I just knew . . . knew you were coming back to me." The sheen of tears in her eyes was almost his undoing. He hated the idea of her crying.

He swallowed, trying to banish the still-huge lump in his throat. "I'm not going to promise that. I can't." She crossed to where he was standing and refused to drop her gaze so that he had an excuse to look away from her again.

"I love you, Harry. I love you enough for both of us, if you can't love me."

"You're 15, Ginny! You don't know anything about love, and neither do I!"

"Now you're the one who's wrong, Harry." Her tiny hand slipped up to his shoulder and she stroked his shirt. He caught his breath. Then her hand cupped his cheek. "I know what I feel for you. I know what I've always felt for you." She rose on her tiptoes and pressed her lips against his. Harry knew that he should pull away, but the familiar taste of her lips and the feel of her body pressed up against him were too potent to resist. He tilted his head slightly and their kiss turned into something deeper and more intimate. His arms wrapped around her slender waist and he groaned as he opened his mouth over hers.

She fit in his arms perfectly, as he knew she did, and the hesitant dance of her tongue against his was familiar and new at the same time. They had barely reached this point at school and he had wondered since then if he had imagined how fantastic she tasted. He hadn't. He groaned again and she responded by pressing even closer to him. He pulled away reluctantly. "Ginny, . . . we have to stop."

"Why? I like kissing you." This was something she had said to him a few times in the past and every time it shot white heat through him and made all his blood rush to one specific point in his body. His knees felt weak and he sat down hard on the sill of Dudley's window.

"Don't say that. We can't."

"You like kissing me, too. I can tell."

"Of course I do." He closed his eyes. He should not have said that.

"Well, then I don't know why we have to stop." With her standing there, looking so beautifully rumpled, he couldn't think of any reason why either.

"Because . . . ." and then her mouth covered his again and as she wiggled firmly against him, telling him without words that she was just as aroused as he was, he gave up the fight. They seemed to kiss for hours, soft little nibbles of each other's lips, deep passionate kisses where they explored the unmapped territory of each other's mouths, tiny pecks between words of wonder and welcome, and tender presses over eyes and noses and chins and scar. Finally, they separated, though their hands were still clasped together.

"Let's sit down." She sat down on the bed, as did he, and she looked him fully in the face. "I love you." When he opened his mouth to protest, she pressed her finger over his lips. "Just listen for a minute, okay?" He nodded and she gave him a small smile. "I don't care if you feel like you can love me back right now or not. But . . . I will happily lie to anyone who asks and tell them that we broke up and that you are the biggest prat on the face of this planet and that I never want to speak to you again. I will lie, I will swear, I will cry, I will rip up every picture of you I own, I will draw targets on articles about you in the Daily Prophet and laugh maliciously as I shoot fire from my wand at them. I will write nasty letters about you to all my friends, curse your name in all the Order meetings, do anything else you want me to do. I can do it and I will do it. If you just do one thing for me. Just tell me the truth, Harry, about how you feel about me. Even if I'm the only one who ever knows. You owe me the truth."

He looked at her for a long minute. She was right. He did owe her that much, at least. "I . . . think that I love you, Ginny. I do."

"Good." She crawled into his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?" But before he could answer, they were kissing again. This new position meant that he could feel even more of her curves pressed against him and his body responded with a passion he thought he had managed to quell when he had left her sitting in her chair at Dumbledore's funeral. It was getting more obvious by the second that he was wrong. His hands slipped under her T-shirt and felt how smooth the skin of her back was. He should stop, he told himself, but then she pulled back from him and reached for the hem of his T-shirt. She pulled it quickly up and he lifted his arms to allow her to take it off completely. Then she settled back down on his lap. "That's better. I love the feel of you against me." He felt another shaft of white-hot heat shoot through his body right to his groin and he suddenly wanted to take her top off so that he could feel her completely against him.

"Don't say things like that."

"I'm just being honest. We can be honest with each other, can't we, Harry?"

"We can, but maybe we shouldn't. Not about things like that."

"Too bad. I love feeling you against me. I love knowing you get turned on by holding me. I love being able to kiss you anywhere." And to prove her point, she bent down and placed a soft kiss right in the middle of his chest, over his heart. "See, you like that. I can hear your heart beating faster." Harry thought that if his heart beat any faster, it might just collapse from exhaustion. Ginny turned her head and placed her ear where she had just kissed, listening for a moment. "Do you want to hear my heartbeat, Harry?"

Visions of his kissing Ginny above her heart and placing his head against her so that her heart was beating in his ear exploded across his brain. "Oh, God, Ginny! Are you trying to kill me?"

She smiled enigmatically at him. "What do you mean? You can feel it right here." She pointed at her neck and tilted her head invitingly. Harry's mouth fastened on the indicated spot and he felt her heartbeat, strong and rapid, against his tongue. She made a little whimper in her throat and he was so involved in the feel of her tender skin under his teeth that he almost missed the knock on the door.

"Harry, Ginny? Are you in there?" Ron. "I'm coming in. You better not be doing anything obscene . . . with . . . My God! What are you two doing in here!" Harry thought that was a rather stupid question, considering they were wrapped tightly up against each other and his shirt was off and Ginny had a very obvious red mark on her neck, right above her collar bone.

"Uh, well, see . . ." Harry started, hesitantly.

Ginny interrupted him. "We're kissing, obviously. So if you don't mind?"

"I don't mind the idea of kissing, but that doesn't mean I want to see it!"

Ginny's eyes widened and she pursed her mouth. "That's rich, Won-Won! Harry and I and poor Hermione were forced to watch you and Lav-Lav flop around like . . . like . . ."

"Eels," Harry supplied, remembering her earlier description (which he secretly had found very accurate).

"Yeah, eels. For months. It was sickening. And Hermione cried every night she witnessed it! But here we are, in the privacy of a quiet room, the two of us together, in love, and you have the gall to lecture us about being discreet! Get out! Now!"

Ron stared at her as if she had just grown another head. "I will not. You two are supposedly broken up. And Mum would not want you . . ." Harry thought Ron should get out, for his own sake. He could feel Ginny's breathing quicken and her skin warm, and he thought that her right arm was twitching as she prepared to reach for her wand.

"Get out, Ron." Her voice was deceptively calm and Harry hugged her a little tighter, telling her silently that hexing her brother was probably not a good idea.

"Will not. It's been over an hour since the Muggles left and I, at least, want to eat while they are out of the house. So come downstairs. Hermione is already down there fixing lunch."

"Has it been that long already?" Harry hoped that Ron would laugh and say it had really only been ten minutes, but he knew that wouldn't be the truth.


Harry felt like swearing but restrained himself, mostly for Ginny's sake, because he could feel her deflate slightly in his arms as she laid her forehead against his still-bare shoulder. He looked over at Ron, who was definitely looking anywhere but at the two of them. "We'll be down in a minute. Thanks for the warning."

Ron, however, was not hurrying out the door to give them a few more moments of privacy. "So, this is Big D's room, huh? Not much to look at, really. Do you think he has anything interesting in any of his drawers?" And he pulled out the top drawer of the dresser to start investigating. "Some rather gray-looking pants. I swear Harry – my mum could wear knickers smaller than this!" And Ron held up a pair of extremely large underwear. He was right, of course, and Harry burst into near-hysterical laughter. Ginny was still cuddled against him, but he had to say that the sight of Ron holding Dudley's underwear was enough to completely deflate his libido. "Oh, and look here! Tut, tut, Dudders. I bet Mummy does not know what her sweet boy hides in his underwear drawer."

"She puts away his clothes . . ."

"These were in a box. She wouldn't have noticed. I knew what I was looking for, though. Hiding them like that is the oldest trick in the book. I think Charlie -"

"Ron, please." Ginny said quietly. "Harry does not want to contemplate what his nasty whale of a cousin does with anything that has to be hidden in an underwear drawer. Get out. We'll be downstairs in a minute."

Ron ignored her, however, and opened some of the other drawers, making rude comments about what was in every one of them. "He's got stuff stashed in every single drawer, Harry. I think you might be wrong about your aunt putting his clothes away. What are these things?" Harry, who had almost completely given up the idea of their getting any privacy again, looked up.

"Oh, God. He smokes pot." His laugh was bitter. "And they, of course, never notice the smell."


"Look, Ron. I want you out of here in five seconds. Or I will hex your bits off. And don't think I'm kidding." Ginny laughed quietly as Harry reached for his wand. "One, two."

"Okay, I'm going, I'm going. But if you're not down in five minutes, I'm sending Hermione up. And she has no bits to hex." The door slammed behind him and both of them laughed quietly.

"Does he know that from personal experience, do you think?" Ginny said against his mouth.

"Oh, please, Ginny. Don't make me think about that. I'm going to be stuck with them, in very close quarters, for possibly months."

"All right. Think about this instead." And her mouth opened over his.

Five minutes passed much too quickly and they hurried downstairs before Hermione had to come up and get them. Lunch was rushed, all the more so because Ron kept trying to sample the various goodies set out for "Duddiekins' homecoming." Harry knew, though, that Aunt Petunia had not been exaggerating about knowing exactly how much of everything she had and he dared not allow Ron even a nibble. If the Dursleys even suspected that Harry was "taking food out of Dudley's mouth," the resulting scene would not be pretty. Again, he wasn't afraid of them; he just wanted to stay as long as he needed to, and it was too soon to be chucked out. Maybe two weeks. He felt like if the three of them could just stay for two more weeks, he would have done what Dumbledore wanted, and that would be adequate.

As they were finishing up lunch and hastily washing the dishes, all of them keeping a close eye on the clock, Ginny suddenly looked at Harry closely, a questioning look in her eye. He wondered what she was thinking. He could practically see the wheels turning in her head. He swallowed.

"Harry, did you show me the whole house?"

"Yeah. Except for the master bedroom. That's everything."

"So, there's no other room down here?"

"No." He was trying to think ahead of her, trying to figure out where this line of questioning was going, but he couldn't follow her thinking.

She walked closer to him and took her wand out of her pocket, pushing him away from the sink and against the wall. He glanced nervously down at it and swallowed. "Tell me the truth, Harry. Where's the fifth bedroom?"

Harry was completely flummoxed. "What?"

"The fifth bedroom. Your old one." He suddenly realized what she meant and his heart sank into his shoes.

"What are you on about, Ginny? Have you lost your mind? There's no fifth bedroom. If there was, believe me, we'd be in it," Ron snorted. "I thought we could use the spare, but bloody Aunt Petunia –" Ginny glared at him and his sentence quickly petered out. Hermione, however, made no comment at all. Harry, who had seen her work out difficult problems before, could see the wheels spinning in her brain as well. He was doomed.

"Harry specifically said, and I'll quote, 'Before I moved up here, Dudley used it to store what he didn't want or didn't use.' Now, that tells me that Harry has not been in that bedroom forever. It was a recent move, wasn't it, Harry? Not when you were a baby." She glared at him again and pushed the tip of her wand even more firmly against his chest. "Now, if you moved 'up' to that room, you slept down here somewhere. Am I right?" She glanced around at her brother and friend. "Do you two know?"

Both Ron and Hermione stared back at her silently and Harry swallowed, experimentally pushing away the tip of Ginny's wand, but she didn't move it. "We just assumed . . . well, he never said anything about another place." Hermione's voice was quiet.

"Is there a cellar here?" Harry shook his head. "A tent, outside?" Ron laughed but at the look on Ginny's face, he stopped abruptly. "I'll be back shortly. I'm going exploring for a minute. You, sit. Don't even think of moving out of that chair." She pointed Harry toward a chair with her wand, and he obeyed her. Not that he had much choice. He shrugged and both Hermione and Ron sat down at the table with him, awaiting Ginny's return.

It took Ginny exactly 45 seconds to find what she was looking for. Her scream of outrage echoed through the house and Harry blinked in shock. She sounded almost exactly like a mermaid out of water. Ron jumped to his feet, grabbing his wand instinctively. Hermione rushed out the kitchen door to see what horror had befallen her dearest girl friend. "Bloody hell, Harry! What's she screaming about?"

"I believe she found it." Ron looked at him questioningly before following Hermione out into the hall.

The screaming only increased in volume and Harry waited for his friends to return to the kitchen. He stared out the window and tried to think about the snogging session upstairs. It was an infinitely happier thought than wondering what was going to be said when they came back in to him.

"They kept you in a broom cupboard! A broom cupboard! I swear, I am going to turn them all into pincushions! I've never . . ." Ginny's eyes were wide with anger and tension as she strode back into the kitchen. "And they locked you in there!" She glared at Harry as if it was all his fault. "You never said anything about this to anyone!"

"What was I supposed to say? Look, Ginny, I appreciate your concern, but I managed to survive and-" The slamming of a car door right outside the house startled all four of them. The Dursleys were home. "Let's all go upstairs, okay? You can yell at me some more up there."

They went, with both Ron and Hermione pushing and pulling a very angry Ginny (who wanted to confront them on the spot) but they didn't go quickly enough. Petunia glared angrily at Harry as he followed the other three up the steps. "What were you doing down here? Did you eat anything of Dudley's?"

"No, Aunt Petunia. We were just grabbing a quick bite of our own food. Honestly." He heard the sound of Dudley's heavy footsteps crossing the hall toward the kitchen as Uncle Vernon struggled through the door with his school trunk.

She threw him one more glare and then chased after her darling boy, calling out to him about all the yummy goodies "Mummy has made for her Diddiekins." Harry made gagging noises in his throat and climbed the last few steps. It had been a lovely morning, but Ginny would need to be going back to Diagon Alley soon. It was hard enough with three of them crowded in there, even with magic. Four would be . . . well, too many.

They shut the door against the noises outside and all three of his friends took turns reaming him about the closet under the stairs. Harry didn't respond. He knew they weren't really mad at him. Just mad. And truthfully, he appreciated their outrage on his behalf. Keeping a growing boy in a dark closet meant for storing muddy boots and old mops had been inhumane and cruel and unnecessary. He knew that. He just also knew that nothing he could do could change the past and so he was willing to accept that and move on. They, too, would come around -- once they had had time to think about it.

"I've got to use the toilet," Hermione announced when the three of them had finished the first round of yelling. "I'll be back in just a minute." She slipped out the door.

"I do, too." Ginny went to follow her and Harry looked at her strangely.

"Uh, maybe you should wait until she's done?"

"No. Don't you know girls always use the toilet together? We like the companionship." She laughed softly and left.

"Okay. That was sort of strange. I knew that at school . . . but in a private . . . I mean there's only one . . . Companionship!"

"Don't ask me, mate. I couldn't tell you what goes on in girls' minds. I can barely figure out my own." Ron stood up and rubbed his stomach. "I could have used some more lunch. I think we better head back to the store tomorrow."

Harry laughed and threw himself back on his bed. "Right. Good thing you're watching your girlish figure. Otherwise, you'd be eating us right out of here." Ron threw a pillow at his head and Harry threw it back.

"Very funny, Potter," Ron laughed as he batted it aside. He crossed to the small window and stared outside. "I really wish we could fly here."

"We can't, obviously. Not in this neighborhood."

"I know. It's just that, well, I'd like to go outside and do something. Maybe we should go for a walk around the block and then get Ginny back on the blasted Underground. That way we'd know she at least made it that far safely."

"That's a great idea, Ron. We'll suggest it when they get back." They sat in comfortable silence for a long while and Harry was starting to wonder what had happened. He was just about to go in search of the two girls when the door opened and they both walked in, looking decidedly pink-cheeked and happy.

"What have you two been up to?" Harry asked, his suspicions immediately aroused. "Snogging each other in the loo?" He knew that wasn't what had been going on, but they had definitely been doing something that did not involve strictly bodily functions.

"Gross, Harry!" Ron muttered and both Hermione and Ginny burst out laughing.

"No. Something better. How much longer do you think you're going to need to stay here?" Ginny was grinning from ear to ear and she hugged him tightly, kissing his cheek as his arm snaked around her waist.

"A fortnight, I guess. The wedding's in three weeks and I thought that we'd want to help out a bit, you know, beforehand."

"Well, if you need to come back home sooner, should things get a little . . . messy around here, you can. You know you're always welcome. I better go. It'll take me a bit to find my way back to the store, and I've got to be there before Mum notices I'm gone." The slightly manic energy she had exuded when she first arrived was back and Harry felt a stab of annoyance in his chest. He had assumed that barely-leashed energy had been because she was so happy to see him again. But now she was happy about something else entirely. And she was willingly leaving him.

"But, Ginny," He didn't finish his sentence because her mouth fastened firmly over his.

"I'm looking forward to seeing you again soon, you big prat. Don't be concerned about any nasty letters or articles about you in the Prophet, okay? I'm just following through on our bargain." Her face lost it's giddiness for a moment. "I meant everything I said, Harry." She smiled faintly.

"Me, too."

"Good. Don't forget it." Her voice was quiet.

"I won't. I promise." And then she slipped out the door and was gone. Through his small window, he watched her exit the house a few moments later. She turned and waved his direction, although he imagined that she couldn't really see him. Then she turned the corner and was out of his sight. Two weeks stretched ahead of him like an eternity, and he mentally went over the numbers again in his head. Maybe they could get away with just ten days rather than the full fifteen.

He turned back to Ron and Hermione to get their opinion. Ron was reading through a well-worn copy of Quidditch through the Ages that he had adopted as his own and seemed intent on memorizing. Hermione had her nose buried in a thick textbook whose title he could not even read. She was whistling, though, under her breath and Harry stared at her. She had never done that before that he could remember. Her color was still high.

The real yelling started about thirty minutes later. A lot of it was directed at them, naturally. When it got to be too much, they simply put a silencing charm on the door. A lot of it, though, was this time also directed at Dudley, which was something completely new. Sometimes Harry thought it was probably worth his own sore eardrums just to hear his cousin getting screamed at. True, they knew that Dudley's bed was a mess that afternoon because Harry and "that nasty girl" had been doing "unspeakable filthy acts" on it. (Everything on the bed was laundered in hot water three times that afternoon!) But Dudley couldn't really explain away the dirty magazines and condoms, the alcohol, the marijuana joints, the stolen money, and the fake identification cards that seemed to refuse to stay tucked away in their respective hiding places in his chest of drawers.

Petunia at first refused to believe her precious baby could even know such things existed, but considering that his name was all over the mailing labels of the "men's magazines" (with Piers Polkiss's address) and the IDs were all for fake names with his picture featured prominently on each one, she in the end really had no choice. And to make matters worse, every time Petunia managed to get rid of it all, the stuff seemed to find its way back up the stairs and onto Dudley's desk, where it sat, as if glued, and resisted all efforts to be hidden back in the drawers for a day or two. Hermione refused to ever tell Harry or Ron what charm she and Ginny had cast on Dudley's room that afternoon, stating that it was better they not know. She giggled when she said it, though, and Harry planned on using some powerful persuasion with Ginny when he did eventually get to the Burrow.

Another thing he had noticed, although he had not asked Hermione about it, was the strange behavior of the various items kept in the cupboard under the stairs. It took Petunia and Vernon a while to notice, really, because of the chaos elsewhere in the house. But Harry saw them start to look with growing concern at it frequently about three days after Ginny's visit. The things in there rattled, hit the door from the inside, moved around, groaned, and then, just when they had seemingly quieted down, the door would fly open and something would be ejected forcefully out, hitting the wall or whomever happened to be there at the moment. Sometimes it was a mop. Or a broom. Once it was a big spider just as Vernon was walking by. He screamed like a girl. Ron had even laughed at that, after he got over his revulsion at the size of the spiders Harry had slept with for ten years of his life. Strangely, locking the door from the outside seemed to make no difference.

All in all, those last two weeks at the Dursleys' house were the most satisfactory Harry had ever spent there. Every time he walked by Dudley's door as he made his way to the toilet, he smiled and remembered the feel of Ginny in his arms, on the bed, there in Dudley's bedroom.


Thanks to prometheanalchemist for sticking with me until we were able to get this beta'ed and up on the site. It was more trouble than it was worth, but I appreciate his work.