Title: Coming Home, Chapter 6, Hot Summer Memories
Summary: Now that the Final Battle is over, Harry wants to pick up the pieces of the life he left behind, starting with Ginny.
Author's Notes: A plot bunny that refuses to stop. The history of this chapter is interesting (to me, at least). My one-shot "An Abiding Warmth" was written for a specific challenge on LiveJournal. It was actually the second thing I'd written to fill that challenge. The first thing I wrote was what makes up the majority of this chapter. When I finished, though, I realized it was far enough away from the strictures of the other challenge, that it wouldn't work. So I kept it, and integrated it into Coming Home. Which is why it's a "memory" chapter. Extra special thanks to my betas rosiekatriona, and sassyfrass. Constructive criticism cheerfully accepted. Praise greatly enjoyed. Flames haughtily ignored.
Everybody turned to look at Ron, who was still resting on the floor where he had fallen. Hermione quickly knelt down beside him to help him sit up.
Nobody seemed to know quite what to say, as they sat there staring. Harry was still rather worried at Ron's possible reaction to Harry's having married Ginny in secret, so he tried not to draw any attention to himself.
Ginny, on the other hand, seemed to have no such reservations. It was she who finally broke the silence. "Well, Ronald, Harry and I were just coming down from his bed, and you all were waiting for us. So we decided to sit down as a family and discuss some changes that will need to be made when we go back home."
Ron looked intently at his sister, then peered at Harry over her shoulder. His forehead creased for a moment, then he looked up at Hermione. "So, they're back together, then?"
Hermione smiled down at her boyfriend. "Yes, Ronald. Although, it's probably more proper to say-"
"-we were never apart," Ginny interrupted, wanting to be the one to tell her brother.
Ron looked surprised for a bit, then glanced at his parents. They didn't seem too surprised, themselves, so he looked at his other brothers. When they gave the appearance of being perfectly-well, not perfectly, but maybe adequately-accepting of the situation, he turned his attention back to Ginny. "Okay, tell me the whole story. And Mum," he added, looking back at his mother, "please don't stun me again-I get an awful headache every time." At the look in her eyes, he quickly added, "I promise I won't do anything rash, okay?"
Molly looked at her youngest boy consideringly. "Okay, Ronald. I promise I won't stun you any more. But I'll want your promise to not act before hearing the whole story, okay?"
Ron agreed, then turned his attention to his little sister and her apparent boyfriend.
Ginny exchanged glances with Harry, and then told their tale yet again.
Ron seemed to take the news that he had a new brother fairly well. Harry had expected more than a few outbursts and some necessary calming gestures from Hermione. But surprisingly to all, Ron just nodded at the right times, asked relevant questions, and smiled when the story wound down with the revelation that Ginny and Harry had spent the last long while in bed together, cementing their relationship.
"Well, Harry," he said, when Ginny and Harry had finished their story. "Welcome to the family. And I'm right chuffed I don't have to pound you for sleeping with my sister."
Harry smiled, finally, at his friend. "Thanks, Ron, I'm glad to be an official part of the Weasleys."
Ron chuckled a bit, then looked pensive.
"What's the matter, Ron?" asked his father, noticing the abrupt mood change.
"Oh, I was just thinking. When Harry and Ginny supposedly broke up last year, Harry didn't seem very sad or anything. I was rather worried about that-I thought that they had been so perfect together, and I was afraid Harry would do something stupid. But he wasn't depressed afterward, and I worried that he had just been playing her."
At Harry's disgusted snort Ron hurried to explain. "I'm sorry, Harry. I believed you wouldn't do that to Ginny. But I didn't know what else to think. And if you remember, you never really answered my questions about it when I asked what was going on."
Harry grimaced. "Well, I mean, I couldn't really-"
'I know, Harry. I see that now. But at the time I was really worried, you know? Although. . ." he trailed off and a huge grin split his face.
At Hermione's insistent "Ronald!" he explained.
"Well, there was this one time last year, you know, when we were getting ready for Bill's and Fleur's wedding, and it was so hot that Mum let us sleep outside. . ."
Harry and Ginny blushed, but refused to say anything more.
"Well, anyway, the twins and I were up by the creek, you know, the one that feeds into the pond? George asked where Ginny was, and I told him that she was swimming in the pond. We decided to sneak up on her to, you know, surprise her. But when we got to the pond, we saw Harry and Ginny walking away from there, like they knew we were coming, or something. I wondered why Harry's hair was so much messier—I guess you and Ginny had been, um, enjoying the quiet, eh?"
Harry blushed even more and nodded.
Molly smiled to herself in pleasure; it was always nice when a plan worked well.
Ginny just snuggled into Harry's chest more, and the pair of them thought back to that wonderful day.
Hot, thought Harry, doesn't really cover it. The middle of July in Devon was like something dragged from the depths of the Amazonian jungle. At least, it seemed that way from what Harry knew, never having been able to visit the jungle in question. And it wasn't some type of mythical dry heat, that people always touted as being better, as if being roasted alive and dehydrated at the same time was any less bad than being steamed to death. No, the heat was stifling, stultifying, and had a curiously soporific effect on everyone.
One would think that with only two days to go before Bill's and Fleur's wedding, there would be a sort of frantic hum in the air. Certainly Mrs. Weasley had never before shown anything less than total dedication to getting the necessary things done ahead of time, and, if pushed, getting many of the un-necessary things done then too.
But even the matriarch of the Weasley clan, all of whom had come back to Ottery St. Catchpole for the occasion, as if some huge bell had tolled, signaling a convocation of redheads, was moving languorously. Her voice had even lost a lot of its brisk tone, as if the wetness in the air served to dull its edge as well as dulling the thoughts of the rest of her family. Just now, she was coming down the stairs, each footfall landing slowly, deliberately, as she descended from the attic bedroom.
"I declare, Harry. I don't see how you can stand to sleep up there. I was only there for less than a minute, and I'm wrung out like a rag."
"Oh, it's not that bad, Mrs. Weasley," Harry offered. "It's not nearly as hot as my cup- as my bedroom was at Privet Drive." And that was the truth. During the summers, if he had done something that the Dursleys saw as particularly vile, he would get locked up in the cupboard throughout the whole day. And there were no cooling charms, or open doors, or human consideration to be had. Yes, Harry was used to putting up with heat. And cold. And wind. And rain. The elements really didn't bother him-product of his upbringing, most likely. If no-one ever listens when you say you're cold, you eventually stop saying it. And even more eventually, you stop noticing it.
Molly Weasley frowned at Harry's statement. Over the years that Harry had been an honorary Weasley, she had gotten some hints about his so-called life at Privet Drive. They painted a rather bleak, and very heartstring-tugging, picture of a boy growing up in an-well, she'd call it abusive-environment. All the more reason for her to make sure her black-haired boy ate enough and to spare, and was hugged enough and to spare, and kissed-well, she'd leave that topic alone, and hope for the best. And, judging from the looks she'd intercepted more than once between said black-haired boy and her own daughter, the best was probably already happening.
"Well," Molly continued, "I don't think anyone needs to sleep in the house tonight. We'll open all the doors and let the place air out, and have a sleepout." She paused. "Is that what they're called? I can never remember."
Harry grinned. "Um, I think they're called campouts, Mrs. Weasley."
The witch glared a little-not too much, lest he think she was really angry, and sharpened her tone a bit. "Harry, what did I tell you about calling me Mrs. Weasley?"
Harry blushed a bit, lowered his head, and mumbled, "To not to."
Molly reached out a finger and tilted Harry's head back up. "Harry, Arthur and I love you like family. You're as good as a son to me." She noticed his smile increase, and smiled to herself. "But if you don't feel comfortable calling us Molly and Arthur, you don't have to." Harry smiled tentatively, and she continued. "If you'd really rather, you can go back to calling us Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. We've already told you that Molly and Arthur would be just fine. And if you got around to calling us Mum and Dad, we'd love that even more. We don't want to pressure you, Harry dear, and we won't be offended at whatever you choose. Okay?"
Harry nodded, bit his lip, and leaned over to Mrs. Weasley. For the first time in their relationship, Harry initiated a hug-and it wasn't just a little awkward squeeze, either. Molly sniffed a bit, but refused to draw attention to either his hug or her tears.
And then Harry said something that made her forget everything else. "Thanks, Mum. I'll try."
Molly's arms tightened for a moment around the black-haired boy, and then she let him go, understanding that he was still not one hundred percent ready to move into that close of a relationship with her, but that he wanted to. And besides, it was just too hot to do much embracing.
"Well, anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes, we're going to have a campout tonight. So can you find the rest of the kids and let them know?"
Harry smiled and nodded. "Of course. Do you have any idea where they went?"
"I think Ginny and the twins went to the pond. I'd start there and see if they know anything else. I bet Bill and Fleur are off canoodling somewhere. I declare, if they act like this before they're married, I am NEVER flooing into their house without a signed invitation with a specific arrival time."
Harry immediately blushed bright red at the thought, and turned and bolted. . . well, sauntered rapidly. . . out of the kitchen door towards the pond.
Molly watched him go with a fond smile on her face. She wondered, for a moment, whether she should have told him that only Ginny was at the pond. And that she was wearing the two-piece swimsuit she had gotten on sale at the end of last year. But deep in her heart, she knew that her innocent little trap would do no harm, and might help in the whole Boy-Who-Never-Knew-Love situation.
She watched Harry until he went out of sight, then, from habit, turned and checked the clock. Ginny's hand, as were all of them, was on Mortal Peril. But she already knew that. What she was really checking was the gradual growth of Harry's hand. She had first noticed it the previous summer, and it had stayed rather quiescent during the school year. But now, in the space of the meager two days that Harry had been there, it had almost doubled in length, and if you peered really carefully, you could just make out a head of black hair starting to appear. She smiled, and marveled yet again at the magic in the clock.
But then, shaking herself, she started preparations for a meal that could be eaten outside, and at whatever time was convenient. Rolls, shrimp-macaroni salad, lots of juices: pumpkin, of course, but also apple, orange, and passionfruit. The latter one had engendered quite the discussion between the twins, until they found out that the plant had absolutely nothing to do with love potions. It had tasted rather good, though, so it made its way onto the table at semi-regular intervals.
Of course, she'd also heard rumors that Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes was selling Passion Juice ("Turn any meal into an adventure!"), but preferred not to think too hard about it.
Harry was both relieved and a little bit wistful at the ending of the conversation with Ginny's Mum. It had taken him quite a long time to realize that the Weasleys never, never, never used their hands in anger. He'd managed to stifle the flinching that he'd had for such a long time, and which had made Ginny so sad for him. But the idea that hands and arms could dole out such huge bushels of love and support and caring was something with which he was just now coming to terms.
Ginny, of course, had been the biggest influence on him, but Mrs. Weasley, and Hermione, and. . . well. . . Luna, probably, had all helped in their own ways. Ginny. There was the thought that only seldom left his mind. The time he'd spent with her at Hogwarts this spring ranked up with, and higher than, any other pleasurable experience in his life.
And, as always, thinking about Ginny made Harry think of that horrible, horrible conversation they'd had after Dumbledore's funeral. The look on her face when he had told her that they'd need to break up would always haunt him-worse than just about anything he'd had to suffer.
But, thankfully, they had been able to salvage the situation, and decide on what they considered to be the best course of action. And here at the Burrow, while a little bit awkward (not knowing how to treat her around her family was just the tip of the iceberg) both he and she had been able to enjoy their time out of school.
Harry's pace slowed as the hot, humid summer day washed over him. Even the birds seemed to be taking a break from their normal pursuits, for the air was still, silent, as if waiting for some momentous event.
Harry topped the rise and started heading down to where the pond was. He could see the end of the dock, poking its old and weathered wooden tongue out into the cool water. He could also see a few small ripples, lapping desultorily against the posts of the dock. Evidently someone, or someones, were in the water. Harry had been expecting something like the all-out water war they'd had last summer-it had never really ended; it would start up again any time more than two people were in the water. But it looked as if laziness reigned supreme here, too.
Harry finally left the cover of the trees and stepped out onto the shore. He looked around, searching, but only found one head of red hair. Ginny was the only one in sight, and she just barely. She was standing peacefully in the exact center of the pool, its deepest part. Only the top half of her (glorious) head was in view. She had her eyes closed, and was gently rocking back and forth, causing the ripples that Harry had seen.
Harry slowly sat down, picking a shady spot where he had a great view of the top half of Ginny's head. She looked so peaceful out there, as if they were still back in school, and they'd never heard of Death Eaters attacking through a Vanishing Cabinet, or a treacherous Potions Professor murdering their Headmaster. Harry figured that the smile that he was sure she had on her face would match any that he'd ever seen before.
As he watched, Ginny started to slowly move towards him. Her head was rising as she walked out of the deep spot and directly toward Harry. She still hadn't opened her eyes, but it was rather obvious that she didn't need to. Harry supposed that in her almost-sixteen years she'd grown to know and appreciate all the vagaries of the pool's depths, and could probably tell exactly where she was at all times.
Her head was now visible, as was her neck. Harry found himself shivering a bit-if Ginny kept walking the way she was, he'd get to see her in her swimming costume. Last year, when they had spent so much time in the pond, he had pretty much memorized the look of her body, showcased in the deep blue one-piece. It was one of his most treasured mental images, even if he hadn't appreciated it fully at the time. He cursed himself quietly for not having taken the time to really appreciate the view, and promised himself that he'd not be that blind again.
More and more of Ginny's smooth white skin appeared-shoulders now, and no dark blue straps. Harry spent a frantic moment wondering if, first, Ginny's blue swimming costume had had straps, and second, if she'd gone skinny-dipping. If she really had gone swimming au naturel, Harry decided, then he'd do the gentlemanly thing and look away, much as he'd rather ogle appreciatively.
But as his hormones fueled his thoughts, sending his imagination (and his sweat glands) into overdrive, Ginny came forward even farther, and Harry could see material on her. . . her. . . upper half was what he finally decided to call it. He was extremely relieved, and more than a bit disappointed. But, he figured, it was probably better that he not get his first glimpse of Ginny's upper half when she wasn't even aware he was doing it. And, truth be told, the fact that she was wearing a bikini was possibly even more tantalizing than bare skin would have been.
When the gloriously delectable upper half of Ginny was fully in view, Harry realized that there was still the lower half to deal with. The level of the water had lowered much slower, and, at the same time, much faster than Harry had thought he'd wanted, and now he could see just how incredibly shapely Ginny's waist was. The beautiful width of her shoulders, which fit perfectly under his arm as they wandered the school grounds, narrowed perfectly to the slender waist, which fit just as perfectly in his arms as he held her close to him.
And now, as she walked closer to where he sat panting, the slim waist widened to the perfect swell of hips, which Harry absently noticed were perfectly showcased by the deep emerald green of her bikini. The color seemed somehow significant, but in his addled state, he couldn't figure out why emerald green would be such a perfect color for her.
Now, Harry was not an expert ogler. Sure, he had noticed that girls were different than boys (thankfully, much earlier than Ron-Harry had known since second year that Hermione was a girl), but he didn't participate in the discussions that Seamus and Dean had every night, about which Hufflepuff was the most shapely, or which Slytherin looked the best while sneering. As such, he had been rather happy to realize how incredibly beautiful Ginny was.
Not that he was surprised-he'd always thought she was cute, even that first time on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. And as the years had passed he'd noticed as she grew in height. And he'd even noticed that she had started getting a figure back when he was in fifth year. And then, last summer, when he'd seen her in that blue swimming costume he had been appropriately impressed with her.
But now, now that he had the right to stare, he thanked all his lucky stars that she was his. The stunningly gorgeous figure of the girl he loved, and whom he planned on spending the rest of his life with, was beyond anything he'd ever even thought possible. Of course he knew that she had a good figure-witness the previous opportunities to appreciate her shoulders and waist. But that incandescently perfect upper- and lower-half-Harry was in awe. All in all, he just about failed to remember to breathe after she had come far enough out of the water.
In fact, he was so far into his admiration of her (heavenly, celestial, divine, fabulous, marvelous) body that he completely forgot to watch her eyes to see if she was looking at him.
Which she was.
"Like what you see, Mr. Potter?" she purred as she came up onto the shore.
Harry blinked, then blinked again.
Ginny waited a moment, then chuckled softly. "I take it that my bikini meets with your approval?"
Harry blinked again. Then yet again. Somewhere deep in his head some spark of sentience poked its head up and said, "Hey, stupid! She's talking to you!"
Eventually that little message made it out to the part of his brain that controlled his ears. The aural memory of her question was replayed, and then the little sentient part had the gigantic task of deciphering the words, and formulating a coherent response.
Finally, Harry moved his mouth. He swallowed, then said, "Green."
Ginny burst into laughter. Whole-hearted laughter. Genuine, gut-busting merriment. And laughing like that made some amazingly beautiful parts of her move in even-more-amazingly-beautiful ways, and Harry was lost again.
Finally Ginny realized the problem, and moved to sit beside Harry, taking some of the visual stimulation (and most of the beauty) from in front of him.
Harry automatically raised his arm, and Ginny snuggled into his side. Harry didn't notice the wetness of the pond soaking his side, or rather, he noticed it, but it didn't seem to be very important at that moment. What was most important in all his world was the warm, living, breathing girl next to him, and he pulled her even closer.
Ginny sighed and laid her head on Harry's shoulder, and closed her eyes. Moments like this had become increasingly rare of late, and Ginny hated the necessity of keeping up the façade. Those weeks (forever, and yet over in a second) at school when they could flaunt their relationship in public seemed so far away. And although they had a better relationship now, it had to remain a secret, and it was the hardest thing Ginny had ever done. It was even harder than throwing away Tom Riddle's diary back in her first year.
Harry's brain finally caught up to his situation (but only by shunting the images of his wife in an emerald green bikini into the area of his brain labeled Beautiful Things and shutting the mental door), and he stiffened. "Ginny, what if someone-"
"Relax, Harry. I cast a notification ward around the pond. I'll know when anyone comes within fifty feet of here."
Harry relaxed, then sat bolt upright again. "What? I mean-but it must not be working, 'cause I was able to sneak up and watch you as you came out of the water!"
Ginny poked him in the ribs. "And just what were you doing staring at me without telling me you were here, explain that, Mr. Potter!"
Harry gaped. "But. . . I just. . . . That's not the point!"
Ginny laid one finger over his mouth, silencing him as effectively as ever a Silencio charm could. "Harry, the ward works just fine-I knew you were there the whole time. Do you think I just casually decided, at that exact moment, to walk out straight towards you?"
"But. . . uh. . . "
"Oh, Harry. I know you. And I knew you were here. And I know that we have to keep this hidden. But, Harry, I also know we're alone, and I'll know if anyone comes. So please, please let us just be together, okay?"
Harry smiled at the fiery speech, and pressed a kiss to her still-damp hair. "You're right, Gin, I should trust your wardings." A thought hit him, then. "But what about the Office of Underage Magic? Or does our being married make a difference?"
Ginny chuckled a bit. "Well, since we haven't really told anyone we're married, the Ministry certainly can't upgrade our status to adults. But that doesn't matter this close to the Burrow. There're so many wizards and witches around that there's no way they can suss out one simple warding spell."
Harry looked worried still, so Ginny squeezed him closer. "Don't worry, Harry, okay? Trust me."
Harry looked down at his wife and smiled. "I do, Gin, I'm just-"
"Worried, I know. But right here, right now, let's just forget all those worries and concerns. We won't have much time before Bill and Charlie come back to get me, and I want to spend as much time as possible snogging my husband." She stopped, then grinned wickedly up at him. "Unless you think we have time to. . ." The waggling of her eyebrows conveyed exactly what she wanted them to, and Harry turned bright red.
Harry stuttered and stammered, but finally managed to answer her. "Oh, Gin, it's not that I don't want to. . . want to. . . well, you know. . . but I want our first time to be perfect, and I can't imagine that here is the best place for it. And I'm not quite sure enough of our hitherto untested abilities to try it out in the pond." He stopped, then adopted the same wicked grin. "Knowing our luck, your wards would trip right at the wrong moment, and you wouldn't even notice them."
Ginny laughed, then poked Harry again. "Oh, so you think you're going to make it so wonderful that I'm going to forget everything else?"
Harry chuckled, then sobered. "I don't know, Gin. It's not like I've ever had anyone to explain to me what happens with . . . with sex and stuff. I'll probably just stuff it up and make it horrible for us."
Ginny smiled at her husband. "Oh, Harry. I don't think we really need to worry. We both know the basics, right?"
Harry nodded slightly, then shook his head. "No. Aunt Petunia would never sign the permission slip for me to go to those classes in school. She always said that the last thing she wanted was for me to have kids." He ducked his head a bit at this unwelcome reminder of his previous family, and Ginny frowned.
"Harry James Potter, you stop that right now. Your never-to-be-sufficiently-accursed Aunt was wrong. You hear me?"
Ginny turned to face Harry more, and took his head in her hands so he couldn't look away. "You are a wonderful person, and you deserve to be happy, okay? I love you, my family loves you, Hermione loves you. There are a lot of people that think you're wonderful, and it just doesn't matter what that sour, bitter, skinny, ugly, screeching old harridan says!"
Harry nodded sheepishly, then, seeing that Ginny still had a fierce glare in her eyes, he leaned forward and kissed her. "I know, sweetheart, I just forget, sometimes. I mean, everything will be going along just fine, and then her screeching pops into my head to ruin things. But please, don't stop reminding me, okay?"
Ginny's face softened. "I promise, Harry. I will tell you as often as you need me to, okay? I love you. I love you. I love you. I want to be with you in all ways possible, Harry, as soon as we can. And until then, I want you to remember that this body, which you seemed to really appreciate, is yours, and only yours. When I married you, I did so with the firm desire to share everything with you, and you will survive this war and we will spend the rest of our lives kissing, and holding, and touching, and making love. I will not allow any other outcome, okay? And as far as the mechanics goes, it's not that difficult." Her face turned slightly red, but she didn't stop. "I can share with you what I know, and we'll learn the rest together, yeah? The most important part is that it's you and me-together we can conquer anything, even sex."
Harry leaned in to kiss her, and Ginny met him halfway. The kiss became rather heated, and Ginny moved to sit on Harry's lap, facing him and wrapping her arms and legs around him.
Locked in her embrace, Harry felt like he was home; like he could be happy anywhere as long as Ginny was with him. And he started to think that he could win the fight against Voldemort, that somehow, through some mystical power that women had always had, he would gain the courage and desire necessary to finish the fight, and return to her arms, to her body, and to her heart.