Author's Notes: Written for dukebrymin for the 2010 Summer exchange at hg_seasonsfest on Livejournal. He asked for Harry to lay aside his burdens to enjoy time with Ginny. Be warned, though—you'll need to be sure to bring a toothbrush to counteract the fluff.
Thanks a million to my beta team. They're stars, all of them.
It was ridiculous. That's all there was to it. Actually, he mused, it had gone beyond ridiculous, bypassed preposterous, and headed straight into the absurd.
Harry let his head hit the table as yet another owl brought him yet another copy of yet another tabloid. They were lining up at The Burrow's kitchen window—had been for the past hour already—and there was no end in sight.
He'd received the Daily Prophet (which was not technically a tabloid, but it might as well have been, given the stories it ran) first. It was followed quickly by a pile ofthe latest Witch Weekly, four copies of this month's Wizard Magazine, two Wizard Beats, one copy of The Quibbler,and, at last count, twenty-seven copies of PlayWitch. He felt his face flush at that. He still had no idea how someone had managed to take a photograph of him while he was showering—while he was in the Aurors' changing rooms in the Ministry of Magic, no less. He'd even received copies of Hogwarts Hotties, for Merlin's sake.
And every last one of them—including the PlayWitch and its photograph, which he really didn't want to think about—had some sort of speculation regarding his life. How his training was going (fine, thanks). What his favourite food was (treacle tart, followed closely by Mrs Weasley's delicious shepherd's pie). What his love life was like (amazing, largely due to Ginny). Whether he wore boxers or briefs (boxers, not that it was anyone's business but his own...and possibly Ginny's).
He'd tried ignoring them; that just made them more persistent. He'd tried talking to them; that just made them more eager. He'd tried threatening them. That just made them even sneakier (as evidenced by that damn photograph).
It wasn't only the tabloids, either, although they were definitely a problem. No, his "fans" (if that's what you could call them) were a part of the problem, too. Because, really, he didn't need (or want) five copies of Hogwarts Hotties with its list of the hottest boys to ever set foot on Hogwarts' grounds, even though he was listed as number one. He'd never have even known about it, if his fanclub hadn't sent them to him in the first place. And that would've been fine with him.
Was it too much to ask for just a little privacy? He didn't think so, but it certainly seemed that way; most days he felt like he couldn't even go to the gents without someone spying on him.
Okay, yes, he was Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived, The Man Who Defeated Voldemort, and whatever other ridiculous title they'd bestowed on him this week. But really, who cared? He still put his trousers on one leg at a time, just like every other bloke on the planet.
And the tabloids and gossip rags and papers weren't even all of his problems. Half of his fellow classmates in his Auror training class were absolutely certain he already knew everything and shouldn't be there because he was over-qualified. The other half were sure he shouldn't be there because he was just some kid who'd got lucky…that he was only allowed into the program in the first place because he was the Famous Harry Potter. None of them, save Ron, could be convinced otherwise.
Then there were the publicity stunts the Ministry kept trying to trap him into. Statue dedications, ribbon cuttings for the newest business, award ceremonies, political fundraisers… It all got to be too much at times.
He sighed and stared at the ever-growing pile of parchment in front of him. Here he was, at one of his most favourite places in the whole world (his home, really), and this…this rubbish was ruining it for him,
He really needed to get away from it all.
"He's brooding again," Ginny said, pulling away from the crack in the door she'd been peering through.
"'Course he is." Ron was sitting on the sofa, his nose buried in the Quidditch section of the Prophet. "He's Harry, isn't he? Brooding's what he does."
"You could sound a little more concerned," Hermione chastised.
Ron pulled the paper down and looked at Hermione over the top of it. "I could," he said, "but there's no reason to. He'll pull himself up by the bootstraps in a day or two and everything will be fine, just like always."
"Still," Hermione said, her voice rising a bit in anger, "you're supposed to be his friend."
"I am his friend," Ron shot back. "I just know what he needs."
"Oh, do you now?" Hermione said. "And I don't?"
"I didn't say that."
"You implied it."
"If the shoe fits."
"Would you two please stop?" Ginny interrupted wearily. "Your bickering isn't helping Harry. You are, however, doing a bang-up job at annoying me." She turned back to the door and started to push it open.
"Wait," Ron said, "what are you doing? I thought we decided we were going to leave him alone for a while."
"No, Ron," Hermione said, "you decided we should leave him alone. The rest of us—"
Ginny sighed and interrupted their discussion again. "I'm not going to just let him sit there and wallow," she said. "We'll see you two later."
"What do you mean, you'll see us later?" Hermione asked. "Where are you going?"
"Out," Ginny said simply before slipping through the door.
She shook her head in amazement at the scene that greeted her. The stacks of tabloids and parchments had grown another few inches, just in the few minutes she'd been talking to Ron and Hermione. Looking at them—and at the despair on Harry's face—she reaffirmed her decision and drew her wand. She was halfway through the incantation for the Banishing Charm before he even knew she was in the room.
She smiled in satisfaction when the stacks vanished. "Now that's been taken care of," she said, grabbing his hand, "let's go!"
"Ginny," Harry said, "what are you doing?"
"You look like you need a break," she said, "so I'm taking you out for one."
"No buts, Harry," she said. "Why don't you go change into your swimming trunks?"
He perked up a bit at that. "Swimming? With you?"
She winked at him. "Among other things."
"I'll be right back!" he said, a small smile forming on his lips before he rushed up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
By the time Harry came back down, Ginny had changed into her own swimming costume and was putting the finishing touches on a picnic lunch. "Sorry," he said, "couldn't find my trunks at first. They were buried under a pile of Ron's dirty clothes."
"That's all right," she said, looking into the basket one last time. "I think we've got everything. Are you ready?" she asked.
"Absolutely," he said. He walked over to grab the basket, but she beat him to it. "Here, let me," he told her.
"I can get it."
"I know you can, Ginny," he said. "I just thought I'd be, you know…"
"Gentlemanly?" she asked, grinning. "That's a first."
"I can be a gentleman."
She smiled again. He was actually quite good at being a gentleman. "I know you can. But I want to take care of you this time, not the other way round. Besides, I was just going to have it float along beside us."
"If you're sure…"
She rolled her eyes and picked up the basket, waving her wand and causing the basket to rise beside her. "I'm sure. Now let's go. We need to get out of here before Ron and Hermione stop fighting and try to join us."
"Where are we going?" he asked once they got outside.
"To the pond."
He raised his eyebrows. "Won't they see us there?"
"Harry, Harry, Harry," she said, pitching her voice to sound like Lockhart at his smarmiest, "haven't you learned anything? There are wards for those sorts of things. We won't be interrupted. I promise." She waggled her eyebrows at him and grinned when he blushed—his cheeks were just a little red, but it was enough for her to see.
"I know about the wards," he said, "I just wasn't sure you did. We used something similar that year…"
"Yeah." She paused, thinking about her sixth year. They'd both had reasons to learn those particular protective spells that year. "But we're only keeping Ron and Hermione out this time. Shouldn't be too difficult."
"We just need to set the Confundus to make them start arguing again," Harry suggested. "That'll keep them busy."
"You're awful," she said. "I was just going to make them think they needed to go somewhere and snog."
"That would work, too. Ron would prefer the second option, I bet."
Ginny snorted. "Of course he would. He's male."
"Oi," Harry said, "just because we're men doesn't mean we're only about…you know…snogging and shagging."
"And what's wrong with snogging and shagging?"
"Nothing," he exclaimed. "You're twisting my words. You're the one who made it sound like there was…and then you blamed it on me."
She batted her eyelashes at him and put her hand on her heart, looking offended. "Me? Sweet, innocent Ginny Weasley? Would I ever do something like that?"
He stared at her and she grinned until he started laughing. "Cheeky witch," he said, draping his arm over her shoulders and pulling her in closer for a hug.
"And you love me for it."
"More than you'll ever know," he said, his voice suddenly serious.
"Harry." She could feel her face heat up and she looked away, embarrassed. She knew he loved her—he'd told her more than once, but something about the way he'd just said it… She hated to say it made her melt (it was such a romance novel cliché), but it seemed to be the best description at the moment.
He turned her toward him and tilted her head up until she was looking him in the eye. "It's true," he said, looking a bit embarrassed himself.
"I know it is," she said softly, placing one hand on his chest and the other on his cheek.
He turned his head and placed a kiss in the centre of her palm, then brought his hand up to capture hers, twining their fingers together as he brought their hands down between their bodies. "C'mon," he said, "Not that I mind talking to you here, but I think we still might be visible from the house."
Hand in hand, they crested the small hill leading to the pond and walked down to the water's edge. She squeezed his hand before letting it go so she could cancel the levitation charm on the basket and extract a large blanket. "What do you want to do first," she asked, "swim or eat?"
He shrugged noncommittally. "Either's fine with me."
She eyed him up and down, smiled mischievously, and reached down to pull her shirt off. "Swimming it is, then." Her shirt landed on the ground, followed soon after by her shorts, and she felt a surge of satisfaction at the way his eyes bugged out when he saw her swimming costume. It wasn't immodest in any way, but it did a good job of showing off her figure to its every advantage. "Coming?" she asked, grinning slightly as she turned and ran toward the water.
He kicked off his shoes and pulled his t-shirt over his head, dropping it and his glasses onto the blanket before running after her. She was three steps from the pond when he caught her, picked her up and twirled her around before dropping her into the water and diving in after her. They surfaced together, her sputtering and him grinning from ear to ear.
"You know," she said conversationally, "that probably wasn't the smartest thing to do. I'm not known as the champion splasher of the Weasley family for nothing."
"Is that so?" he said. He looked for all the world as if he didn't believe a word she'd just said.
"It is so," she said, then drew her arm back and skidded it across the top of the water, catching as much of it as she could. He never knew what hit him; the wall of water completely drenched him and left him looking bedraggled. She burst out laughing at the look on his face, then turned and swam as fast as she could, squealing as he chased her.
Some time later, after he'd caught her and punished her (although, really, how anyone could call spending time kissing your boyfriend in the water a punishment was beyond her) and the sun was beginning to sink in the sky, they left the water.
"I look like a gnome," she said and wiggled her waterlogged fingers. "Look at how wrinkly I am."
"You're much prettier than a gnome," he said, pulling the picnic basket onto the blanket between them. "Are you hungry?"
She reached over to unpack the basket, but he playfully slapped her hand away and said, "Let me. I want to see what we have."
He pulled item after item out of the basket, the look on his face growing more and more comical with each item he put on the blanket. "How much did you pack?" he asked incredulously. "This looks like it's enough to feed everyone from Dumbledore's Army."
"I might have got a little carried away," she said, looking at the still-growing pile.
"A little?" he teased.
"I don't have to share, you know," she said.
"So you say," he said, "but I wonder what your mother would say if she knew you had this prime opportunity to fatten me up and just let it slip through your fingers."
She shook her head. "You wouldn't."
"About time you admitted it, Potter. I'm always right. Remember that."
He pelted her with a strawberry before serving some of the food on a plate for them to share.
He leaned back against a tree with Ginny's head in his lap and gazed up into the sky. The stars were starting to appear, and he stared at them, searching for familiar constellations. "Thanks for this," he said. He hadn't felt this relaxed in ages. "I really needed to get away from all that." He looked down to see a small smile on her face.
"You're welcome." She shivered a bit in the cool breeze blowing off the water.
"Cold?" he asked her.
"Where's my wand?" he asked, patting the ground beside them. "I'll cast a warming charm. I'm really not ready to go back yet."
"I'm not either," she admitted. He found his wand on the corner of the blanket and reached his hand out to grab it. "Wait!" she said, sitting up so quickly that he barely missed getting hit in the chin by her head. "I've got a better idea."
"Yeah." She grinned and pulled out her own wand and pointed it at The Burrow. "Accio tabloids."
A few minutes later, Harry ducked as a huge stack of magazines and parchments flew toward them and landed in a messy pile beside the blanket.
He looked suspiciously at them. "What are we going to do with those?"
"Burn them, of course," she said. She got up and began arranging the magazines and tabloids into a large mound away from the blanket.
"Yeah," she said, "it's very cathartic. Trust me." She stepped back to survey the pile and nodded in satisfaction. "Come here. No, wait…get your wand first."
He grabbed it and went to stand beside her. "Now what?"
"Are you a wizard or not, Harry? Light them on fire. You know the incantation, right? Incendio? See, you take your wand in your right hand, and you swirl it counter-clockwise in a small circle and follow that with a sharp jab—"
"Shut it, you," he said, bumping her shoulder with his. He raised his wand to say the incantation but got distracted by her laughing eyes and cheeky grin, so he leaned forward and gave her a quick kiss on the lips.
"What was that for?"
He shrugged. "Just because. D'you mind?"
"Mind? Are you taking the mickey? The only thing I mind is that it was too short."
"We were going to light a fire," he reminded her.
"We were, weren't we?" she said, grinning and stepping back from him. "We can do it together, if you want." They raised their wands and pointed them at the pile of tabloids on the ground. "On three, then?"
"On three," he agreed. "One, two, three—"
"Incendio," they said together, watching as the tabloids, magazines, and parchments all went up in flames.
He watched in fascination as the parchment started to curl in the intense heat, until he caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of his eye. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were glimmering with excitement and she looked beautiful. The air between them seemed to evaporate in an instant but before he had a chance to act, she leaned up and kissed him.
Everything around them seemed to slow down. It might've been moments or hours that passed – time had no meaning when he was holding Ginny. When they finally broke apart, he leaned his forehead against hers as he caught his breath.
"Wow," he said. "That was…"
"Yeah." She clung to him, and he was pleased to note she was still a bit breathless too.
The stars twinkled above them, and they stood still for a while, just holding each other, while their breathing returned to normal.
Harry took a step back from her to sit back down on the blanket, moving so his back was leaning against a tree. "You coming?" he asked, patting the empty spot beside him.
He slung his arm over her shoulder and pulled her close, and she leaned into him as they watched the flames lick at the pieces of parchment in the fire; every once in a while, they would change colour, turning a brilliant blue or purple. "There. That's it for this batch, at least. Not like it makes a dent in what's out there, but it does get rid of the ones delivered to me today. Thanks, Ginny."
She fidgeted beside him and started chewing on her lower lip.
"What's the matter?
"Nothing. It's nothing, Harry. Don't worry about it."
"It's not nothing," he said. "You're clearly worried about something. They are all gone, aren't they?"
"Most of them are," she answered, hesitating a bit, "but I might have…sort of…kept one."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Sort of?"
"Well, I did. Keep one, I mean."
"Ginny, you know what I think of this rubbish. Which one was it?" She looked guilty and shook her head. "You're not going to tell me, are you?"
She shook her head again.
"Fine," he said, grabbing his wand. "Accio Ginny's magazine." It took a few moments for it to get to them, but when it did, he found a PlayWitch sitting in the palm of his hand.
He raised his eyebrows. "PlayWitch? Ginny Weasley, I'm ashamed of you," he teased. "What would your mother say?"
She gave him a calculating look and grinned wickedly. "If she was looking at that photo? She'd say, 'Merlin help me, that boy is fit.'"
"Ergh. Ginny," he said, shuddering, "did you have to say that? Now I'm never going to be able to look your mum in the eye again."
"I live to serve."
"Thanks, Ginny" Harry said, "thanks so much." He paused for a moment, "You know you don't need that magazine, right?" he said as he tightened his grip around her waist.
"Hmph. Where else am I going to get a photo of you starkers?"
He leaned over, and using his arm to break their fall, toppled them both to the ground.
"Who says you need a photo?"
A/N 2: It wasn't until after this had posted at the exchange and hgrhfan35 commented that I realized I'd unintentionally appropriated the Hogwarts Hotties title from cwarbeck's wonderful and hilarious story bearing the same name. *headdesk* cwarbeck is a master of H/G fluff and humor, so if you haven't read her stuff yet, you should hurry over and do so right away. Her work is archived at SIYE.