Sweet Days of Summer
By: Lady Lithe
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Naru-chan: I hope you enjoy this moment before the last book comes out.
Chapter Four: An Unrealized Epiphany
I was born to tell you I love you…
And I am torn to do what I have to,
To make you mine
Stay with me tonight.
-Secondhand Serenade, Your Call
"It's hotttttttttt," Ron moaned pitifully, his face planted against the cool kitchen table. Large beads of sweat rolled down his forehead as his right hand weakly fanned his flushed cheeks.
"Gee, Ron, we didn't notice," Ginny retorted sarcastically. She was leaning back against a kitchen chair, her long legs exposed from her shorts and her hand tugging furtively at her sweaty T-shirt. Harry, who was seated in front of her, snorted with laughter. The heat, apparently, did not get along with her temperament. She flashed him a grin as she wiped away the sweat on her red face.
"Fighting won't help," Hermione said primly. Harry propped his face against his palm as he looked at the brunette, who sat beside Ron. He didn't understand how she could still concentrate on the heavy book in her hand in this heat. She was, however, wearing a T-shirt and skirt, so she wasn't totally unaffected by the weather.
"Ah, we should do something to get our minds off of the heat," Harry suggested, pulling at his sticky green shirt that clung to his skin.
"What can we do?" moaned Ron from his facedown position.
Then suddenly Ginny, Harry, and Ron looked at each other and spoke at the same time.
"No!" Hermione said immediately, pulling her nose out of her book for once.
"Why not?" Ginny protested. "You have to play!"
"We can't play if there's only three of us." Harry had thought that Hermione was good at arithmetic too!
"I don't understand how playing a sport under the scorching hot sun will cool you down," Hermione snapped logically, shoving away several locks of bushy chestnut hair that had escaped from the tight bun she had knotted at the nape of her neck.
"But it's Quidditch," Harry reasoned. "It defies all logic."
"And I can't play very well, you all know that!" she continued, a bit desperately now under the three pleading gazes she received. "I'm terrible at flying!"
"Aw, c'mon Hermione, you're really not that bad," Ron whined, actually lifting his face from the now warm wood. "Please?"
Suddenly, under Ron's blue gaze, her face became even redder than before. Harry and Ginny secretly exchanged looks and laughed to themselves.
"Fine," Hermione sighed, giving in.
"Brilliant!" Ron cheered, throwing an arm over the intelligent girl. Hermione looked so red by now, Harry wondered if they needed to check her temperature to make sure she could play.
Quickly, Ron, Ginny, and Hermione went outside to the broom shed while Harry marched up the stairs to retrieve his FireBolt. He had planned to simply run upstairs, grab his broom, and hurry back to the others when he found himself pausing by the window. Peering through the glass pane, he realized that he was directly above his friends. He could see them clearly; Hermione and Ron were arguing once more, but Ginny stood slightly apart from the other two. Harry watched as she placed a long, olive green ribbon into her mouth. She slowly lifted her hands, collected all of her shimmering crimson hair, and carefully took the green ribbon from her lips and tied a firm knot around her hair.
And then, out of nowhere, she looked up and her brown eyes pierced his emerald gaze. For a split second, he couldn't breathe. Suddenly her lips curled into a welcoming smile and he could breathe once more. He quickly flashed her a smile of his own before rushing down the stairs.
It had been a week after that night when the two of them fell asleep on the couch. He had been lying on it, but when he had awakened, her face had been pressed against the edge of the couch, by his face. It had somehow become a habit for them to be in that position. He hadn't had another strange dream since. Still, Mrs. Weasley tended to catch them before they fell asleep and shoo them off to bed.
As he skipped the stairs, two at a time, he could barely contain the grin that grew on his face. He didn't know why exactly, but he seemed to be smiling a lot. Maybe it was the weather. He liked the sunshine almost as much as he liked the rain.
"What took you so long?" Ron asked irritably when Harry jogged toward them.
"Sorry," Harry apologized, a bit winded. "Got a little distracted."
"Let's just start, shall we?" Ginny interrupted when Ron opened his mouth. The two ends of the silky ribbon floated around her as a small, warm breeze passed. She squinted upward into the sky. "The heat's gone down a little bit and hopefully it'll stay that way for a while."
The four of them split up, with Ron and Ginny on one side, and Harry and Hermione on the other. Hermione was having a bit of trouble with her broom, and Ron hid a smile while he helped her. This was one of the few areas in which his skill exceeded hers. He wrapped his fingers over hers to show her the proper way to hold a broom, and soon her face was redder than Ron's hair. Not that she was complaining. Harry hid a smile of his own as he averted his gaze, which landed on Ginny. He watched as she easily threw one leg over her broom, and with a quick tug, she was off in the air. Her olive green ribbon whipped in the air with her hair. There was a look of sheer joy and thrill on her face that made his smile widen. She loved flying just as much, if not more, than he did, and he hadn't lied the week before about her build — she really was fast and nimble.
And pretty, a small voice in the back of his head whispered.
She looked down at him, her eyes grinning at him and her rosy lips twisted upward in a half smile and half smirk. She called, "What are you waiting for?"
He returned the smirk as he mounted his broom and launched into the air after her. Indeed, what was he waiting for?
The game ended three hours later, all four of them drenched in sweat. It was a good game, and neither side kept score. Since they had forced her to play, Hermione took a shower first, then Ginny, then Ron, and last Harry. Even though night had fallen, the heat persisted, and everybody refrained from moving unnecessarily. During dinner, the table was almost as loud as a street in Diagon Alley. Bill and Fleur were there (the latter much to Mrs. Weasley's, Ginny's, and Hermione's displeasure). Fred and George stopped by — they had moved out of the Burrow a month ago. Everyone seemed to be talking at once and a part of every single conversation. It was amazing, Harry realized, how easily he had become accustomed to the large family. He smiled at Ginny, who say beside him, as he accepted the plate of chicken she handed to him. He followed the conversations so naturally now.
"And so Lee said, 'Sorry, Professor, but that's not Pumpkin Juice!'" George said. The listeners burst into laughter.
"Wat, wyit," Ron swallowed the huge helping of potatoes he had in his mouth before snickering. "Tell the one about when you ambushed Malfoy and stuck him up a tree, Ginny! I've actually never heard the whole story."
"You didn't!" Harry gasped. "How come I never heard of this?"
"Well, you were a bit busy," Hermione explained. "The D.A. and all."
"Plus Umbridge," Ginny spat the word, jabbing her fork into her potato viciously, "the old hag —"
"Ginny!" Mrs. Weasley scolded. "Language please!"
"But she was, Mum!" Ginny groused. "She banned Harry from playing Quidditch! You should have seen the way she treated him!"
Harry swallowed hard and his fingers subconsciously traced over the words engraved into his flesh. "Don't worry about it, Ginny."
Hermione cleared her throat. "Why don't you tell what happened, Ginny? What Malfoy did that is."
"Well, the idiot as always," Ginny began, rolling her eyes, "started off by making the horrible remarks he always did. But when I ignored him because all he really wanted was to provoke me so that he could deduct more points for no apparent reason, he starts doing the strangest and most disgusting thing ever."
"What did he do?" Harry asked, his curiosity overcoming his hunger.
"He…" she paused dramatically, thinking of the right word to say, "I'm not sure this fits – and I'm positive it's not what it sounds like, but he…in his bizarre, revolting, Malfoy-like way –"
"Anything Malfoy-like is automatically bizarre and revolting," Ron cut in.
"Yes, but what did he do?" Harry urged.
"He…" A frown formed on her face as she cautiously glanced at her brothers. "I think he flirted with me."
A roar of disgust erupted around the table. George and Fred both choked on their drinks while Hermione and Fleur had to physically restrain Ron and Bill from rising. Harry, however, simply stared at the redheaded girl, his mouth agape and his stomach twisting into knots. He must not have heard right. Malfoy and flirting in the same sentence? He hadn't realized that it was possible for Malfoy to flirt! And…and to Ginny?
The churning in his stomach was almost unbearable.
"What did the arse say?" demanded Ron, no humor in his face anymore.
"Oh, just…repulsive things as he always says," she evaded, but a smirk formed on her face. "Anyway, I put him in his place all right! Froze and tied him to a tree with invisible bonds. Looked like he was just relaxing there. Of course, he couldn't speak, so no one could help him. If I remember correctly, he was stuck up there all night and the morning after."
"Serves him right," Fred said smugly. While Harry agreed, a nagging feeling insisted that the punishment was too lax. Soon the conversation switched to another topic and everyone was being loud once again, but Harry quietly poked at his food. He had been so hungry during the afternoon, but now his appetite was completely gone.
"Ha! What about that time when you and Charlie tried to get back at us for dying both of your hair green?" George loudly accused Bill.
"Ah, but you two deserved it," Bill shot back easily. The table was loud once again, but Harry had no wish to listen to the chatter anymore.
"You okay there, Harry?" Ginny asked, glancing over at him.
"Fine," he answered, clearing his throat and setting his fork down. "I'm stuffed is all."
"But you barely touched your food," she said. It was funny how only she noticed the smallest things about him.
"Yes I did," he lied.
"No, you didn't."
"I think I know if I ate or not, thanks," he said with a bit more bitterness than he had intended.
"Don't lie to me," she said, an unreadable look in her narrowed eyes. Then she turned away and began to talk to Hermione.
Staring at the back of her head, Harry felt ten times worse.
Harry let out a loud sigh. He had propped his head up with his arms, and the dark room was quiet aside from Ron's occasional snoring. However, it wasn't his best friend emitting loud noises that had Harry's stomach all twisted in a knot. He shifted restlessly, sweat idly trickling down his cheek. Even though night had fallen, the heat was relentless. Kicking what was left of his blankets off of him, he sighed once more as he raked both of his hands through his messy black hair.
Why did he feel bad? He had lied many times to Ginny before…right? Well, not really, but…in a sense he had. Every time he needed to speak of Hermione and Ron alone, they had excluded her. Whenever they disappeared somewhere, she would know that whatever excuses or fibs they gave later were not true. This thought had never occurred to him and now he couldn't stop tossing and turning — both mentally and physically.
He flipped around and shoved his face into his pillow, taking a deep breath. It smelled like soap…but it didn't comfort him one bit. Since when had he wanted to comfort himself with a smell?
Flowers would be nice…the same small voice he had heard earlier whispered in his head.
Shoving these thoughts and himself off his bed, he groaned and rubbed the back of his neck. He stared down at his dark green boxers blankly. Really…how many times had he lied to her? And left her out? How many times had the three of them — Hermione, Ron, and himself — walked by her in the hallways of Hogwarts, too busy in their own little world to care about the quiet little redhead? How many times had he easily dismissed her or forgot her in his mind? A wave of guilt crashed down on him, and he unconsciously squeezed his gray T-shirt into a ball right over his heart. He suddenly felt nauseous. Last year…he even forgot that Voldemort had possessed her…and all he could think about was how he might have been possessed. How could she forgive him for that? How could she still want to be friends with him?
Harry quietly walked over to the open window, where a little warm breeze was flowing through. What would he do if she didn't want to be friends with him anymore? He didn't want to just let it happen, but he didn't want to force her into anything either. So then he would be stuck once again between the fighting Ron and Hermione… He would spend nights playing chess not with Ginny, but with Ron, who he didn't stand a chance against. He would no longer fall asleep on the couch with her comforting presence beside him. He would never doze off, listening to her soothing voice.
His stomach abruptly emitted such a loud growl that it shocked him. He felt his cheeks burn, even though no one else had heard the noise. Then he let out a shaky laugh while pushing away a stray lock of hair from his flushed cheeks.
"I can't believe it," he mumbled to himself. He was so troubled and upset, but he was still hungry. He had not, in fact, eaten much at dinner.
Grudgingly, he trudged down the stairs in the dark as he pulled on his robe. For a moment, he paused in front of Ginny's room. Slowly, not quite sure what he was doing, he traced his fingertips against the cool, yet warm wood. She was sleeping behind this door, surely… He could see her now, her smooth cheek pressed against her pillow, her scarlet tresses surrounding her like a halo… He had the sudden urge to open the door and really see this scene, but he resisted. She was sleeping…he didn't want to bother her… Besides, what would he say to her? "Hello, I just thought I'd stalk you in the middle of the night?"
Even more reluctant than before, he forced his legs to move down the rest of the stairs. Mending things would have to wait until the morning, apparently. He felt a jolt of surprise to see light glowing from the lower opening of the kitchen door. That was strange…who could be up at this hour? Hesitating and listening for the sound of voices, he gently opened the door.
Harry stopped in his tracks, took off his glasses and rubbed them clean, and placed them onto the bridge of his nose once again. But the sight before him didn't change. Indeed, Ginny Weasley remained seated on the kitchen table, her head buried in her arms on the table. His heart skipped a beat as he struggled to walk toward her. She was sleeping, he realized as he gazed at her serene face. Her eyes were closed, her long eyelashes fanning over her pale skin; her breathing came in slow and steady breaths with her shoulders rising and lowering ever so slightly.
Flowers, he idly thought. Ginny was like flowers. Flowers in the cool rain that washed away all impurities. Even when the rain beat hard on her, she remained unharmed, standing tall and blooming despite all odds.
Harry didn't know what he was doing, but he slowly reached out and smoothed away a soft lock of hair on her brow. If only he could lean over…and…
"BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!"
He instantly jumped away, his heart ramming against his chest. Had he done something terribly wrong? Was the Burrow going to spontaneously combust because he had touched Ginny?
Her eyelashes fluttered open. Her brown eyes stared at him, dazed and confused momentarily. Then she croaked, "Harry?"
"G-Ginny, I swear I didn't mean to do anything! I don't k-know what's happening! I just came down here and then suddenly there's this beeping!" Harry stammered quickly, his face flushed a guilty red.
Now hearing the incessant racket, she rose to her feet, and Harry watched numbly as she opened the oven, causing the noise to stop. She turned, carrying a tray in her gloved hands. A sudden strong waft of molasses caused Harry's stomach to growl greedily once more. He quickly covered his abdomen in embarrassment, but Ginny simply laughed lightly.
"Treacle tarts?" he whispered incredulously, his mouth already watering.
"I thought you might be hungry later so I decided to bake you some," she said, her eyes on the sweet pastries. "They are your favorite, right?"
"Yeah…" Harry said, not believing that she knew that, or that she was talking to him at all.
"Good…at least I know one or two things about you…" she said softly to herself.
His green eyes darted to her worriedly. "Ginny….you do know me. You might be…one of the few persons who actually do. You know I'm not anything people have made me up to be from fairy tales or textbooks or newspapers… You know I'm just…just…"
"Harry," she finished for him quietly.
"E-Exactly," he licked his lips nervously.
She seemed to take in these words as she watched him, but it wasn't a look of anger or bitterness. It was almost as if she were deciding whether or not he really meant those words. And oddly enough, he really did.
Under her gaze, he had to clear his suddenly dry throat before he could speak again. "Are you…mad at me?"
Ginny paused for a moment before she shook her head. "No. I don't want to force anything out of you, Harry. There are some things that you…" She trailed off before looking up. Her brown eyes locking with his and his breath caught in his throat as a beautiful smile blossomed on her lips. "If you don't want to tell me something…well, I'll just have to wait until you want to. I'll wait for you, Harry."
A feeling overwhelmed him and suddenly he was holding onto her. His arms were around her small body, and his face was buried into her hair. He couldn't help it. He was so happy that she still wanted to be his friend…after all those years of ignoring her existence, of leaving her out…she was still willing to forgive and accept him.
"Harry…?" she whispered quietly, though she made no move to push him away.
"Oh, I'm s-sorry, I just…!" He quickly pulled away, but stopped, finding himself mesmerized by her eyes. They were searching his, looking for something. Or maybe he was searching hers…
"I…I just," he began, swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat. Was speaking always this difficult? Surely not with Ginny… "I just want you to know how much you mean to me. I don't want anything stupid I do to ever mess up our friendship."
Something flickered in her eyes, but in a flash it was gone, and he was sure that he had imagined it.
"Yeah, Harry. Our…friendship means a lot to me too," she smiled a bit half-heartedly. "Come on, eat, before that stomach of yours starts rumbling again."
He laughed, partially from her joke, and partially out of relief. He reached up and ruffled her red hair affectionately.
"I love you, Ginny."
She looked up at him sharply as he took a bite out of a treacle tart. He relished the sweet flavor in his mouth. She quickly looked away.
"I'm going to go to bed now," Ginny said, yawning a bit. Harry nodded as she slowly crossed the room. She paused at the door and smiled softly at him. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Ginny," he said with a returning smile. As she disappeared, he sat alone at the kitchen table.
And he thought. He thought about everything and nothing for a long, long time. Mostly about why even though he kept on eating, he was left empty and unsatisfied.
Naru-chan: I hope you liked it! And...one more day, my friends. The wait is finally drawing to an end. No matter what happens, I know I'll be crying at the end. But I know that I will not stop writing H/G. I hope you'll continue to read afterwards. Thank you so much for reading my story. A review is always nice and always appreciated.