Seven Ways
By Vendie

Author's note: All characters and related items are property of J.K. Rowling and I am making no profit from this story. If you are so inclined, please leave a review to let me know if you enjoyed the story, and if not, why. I deeply appreciate all feedback and always take it under consideration when I write again. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the story!

. . . . . . . . . .

"He felt a strange twinge of annoyance as she walked away, her long red hair dancing behind her; he had become so used to her presence over the summer that he had almost forgotten that Ginny did not hang around with him, Ron, and Hermione while at school."

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Chapter 7.

. . . . . . . . . .

I.

"Budge up, Potter," Ginny said as she edged into the loveseat next to him, causing Harry to lose the page in the Quidditch book he'd been reading.

He cast Ginny a fleeting, incredulous, glance as he straightened his glasses for no apparent reason. She paid him no mind, her own eyes fixed on the latest volume of The Holyhead Harpie's fan magazine. He tried very hard not to notice the flowery smell of her shampoo as he flipped back to his page.

II.

Playing two-a-side Quidditch had been routine until Ginny had flipped off her broom by accident. Harry was at her side in seconds, tossing his own broom aside with reckless abandon.

"Are you okay?" He asked, leaning over and helping her up gingerly.

"I'm fine," Ginny replied, sounding a little winded. Harry's eyes darted across her as he held her there, searching for scratches, torn fabric, or blood. "Really, Harry," Ginny said again as he lifted her chin with his index finger and thumb, "I'm okay."

Their eyes met, locked on each other, and the world seemed still.

"Oi!" Ron's impatient cry rent the air, "We're playing a game, yeah?"

"Er—sorry," Harry said suddenly, letting her go.

III.

It had been one of those nights, with one of those nightmares, which had drawn him outside to sit in the Weasley's garden and absently watch the gnomes toddle past him. Harry wasn't sure how long he'd been sitting there when he suddenly heard the door behind him creak open. He turned to and prepared to apologize to either Mr. or Mrs. Weasley, but was surprised to see Ginny there with two mugs of what appeared to be tea.

"Here," she said, offering him a cup, "Everything okay?" she asked.

"Thanks – yeah, in a manner of speaking, I guess," was his noncommittal response as he accepted the tea. He watched her scrutinize his face before she responded. It was enough time for him to wonder why she always complained about her freckles; the way they graced her face was oddly attractive.

"Fine or no, I'll stay until you're ready to head back in." She finally said, scooting closer to him. Knowing that protesting would get him nowhere, he just smiled and returned his gaze to the gnomes.

"Thanks," he said. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her smile as she rested her head on his shoulder. Harry couldn't understand why his face suddenly felt hot.

IV.

Harry had made a well-intentioned request to do the dishes (the Muggle way, no less) that night and Mrs. Weasley, with much hesitation, had said yes.

It had all gone awry when Ginny chipped in.

Somehow, the whole ordeal had ended up in many soap bubbles and much laughter. Harry couldn't quite remember what he'd said to make Ginny to take up a handful of suds and smash it up his nose, but that was hardly the issue now as they lobbed wads of soap bubbles at each other.

Harry knew they should stop before someone walked in and saw the mess they'd created, but he found himself craving the brilliance of Ginny's smile and her musical laughter. He grabbed a large helping of bubbles and poured them over her head, evoking a squeal.

"You're going to regret that, Potter!" She laughed.

"Oh yeah?" He challenged, picking up another fistful.

The coy and dangerous look she flashed at him was enough to make him falter and slip in a small puddle on the floor. Ginny moved forward to help him up only to be rewarded for her efforts by a yank towards the floor herself. She landed on top of him, eliciting a yelp from Ginny and a laugh from Harry.

He noticed, without lingering on the thought too long, that her lips were close enough to kiss.

V.

"Right foul git," Ron said in a moment of heavy silence.

The topic of conversation had fallen on Percy, somehow, which was always awkward.

Harry cast a glance at Ginny, who was concerning herself over Mrs. Weasley's crumpling expression. The elder witch hastily excused herself from the room, and Harry watched as Ginny followed her mother out of the room. He was vaguely aware that the conversation between Ron and Bill continued on, but Harry was straining to hear the exchange between Ginny and Mrs. Weasley that was being carried out in hushed, angry, tones one room over.

After a few moments, he could tell that Mrs. Weasley had retreated upstairs, leaving Ginny standing in the kitchen. He slipped into the kitchen and found her standing over the counter, rolling an orange between her hands for no reason.

"Everything alright?" He asked.

"Fine." Ginny replied flatly. Everything was not fine.

"Ginny," Harry started and tentatively reached out to touch her shoulder.

"I'm being stupid," she said. It was apparent she was crying, even if Harry couldn't see her face. He didn't think he'd ever seen her cry before.

"Ginny, no, you're not," he said, gently squeezing her shoulder now, "and it's okay," he reassured her.

After a few moments she finally turned to face him and he was surprised at the glassy look of her eyes and just how red her cheeks were. He hated seeing her like this, and was unable to stop himself from pulling her into his arms to hold her tightly.

"The whole thing is just bullocks," she said, "I hate him but I still want him to come back." He noticed that she was slowly returning his embrace; she bowed her head into the crook of his neck and wrapped her arms around his sides, pulling him closer.

They seemed to fit together like that, he thought.

VI.

Harry was on his way up to Ron's room when he heard Ginny and Hermione talking in the Weasley's sitting room. He peered through the open door and saw them sitting on the couch, talking while Ginny braided Hermione's hair.

He hadn't heard what Hermione had said to make Ginny throw back her head in laughter, all he was aware of in that moment was the way time seemed to slow as he continued past the open door. Infected with her laughter, a smile crossed his face as he turned away.

VII.

Trunks were packed, owls were stowed, and the Weasley house was unusually quiet the night before they were to meet the Hogwarts Express at King's Cross. Hermione had prudently gone to bed early, and Ron was up in his room making sure he hadn't forgotten anything. Mrs. Weasley was in the kitchen seeing that leftovers were properly set out for Mr. Weasley, who was working late again.

Harry and Ginny, being the night-owls of the bunch, had feigned going to bed early to sit out on the roof just outside Ginny's bedroom window and soak up their last moments of freedom.

They had been discussing their return to Hogwarts; what they were looking forward to, what they were dreading, who they were excited to see and what they wanted to eat at the feast…

"I just can't wait to play Quidditch again," Harry said, gazing up at the sky with a wide smile on his face, remembering with glee that his lifetime ban had lifted and he had been appointed captain of the Gryffindor team.

"Hmm, me too," Ginny said, turning her face skyward as well, "I'm still planning on going out for Chaser."

"You'd make a great Chaser!" He replied honestly.

"I can skip try-outs, then?" She joshed.

"Ha – we'll see," He joked back, smiling at her. Ginny didn't reply, but smirked, leaned over and bumped into him with a snort.

Quiet fell between them, as the two slipped into their own quiet, happy thoughts about quaffles, snitches, flying, and brooms…

Harry suddenly thought of his Firebolt, Sirius' gift to him, and a wave of cold washed over him. He tried to push away the memories of his godfather, but was unsuccessful. It was Harry's general experience that after one thought of Sirius followed many others that he could not stop despite the best distractions. He sighed.

"Harry?" Ginny's gaze was no longer skyward, but resting on him.

"Hmm?" He looked at her, making his face as blank as possible.

"This isn't going to be one of those times you shove what's worrying you inside because you're afraid no one will understand, is it?" She asked him. Harry wanted to shrink back a little, remembering her cutting response to him last year when he thought he'd been possessed by Voldemort. He sighed again, looked away from her and scratched his head, trying to force himself to talk.

"I just… I miss Sirius." He said as plainly as possible. He swallowed thickly and began to blink rapidly, surprised by the sudden wetness in his eyes.

I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry. This is ridiculous! I will not cry!

Before he could really comprehend how she had moved without him noticing, Ginny was at his side with her hand resting on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Harry, I didn't mean –"

"No, its okay," Harry spoke over her, "You're right. Sometimes I think it's easier to not talk about it, even though it never ends up that way." He said, smiling in spite of himself.

Ginny's expression was unreadable; she was frowning with one eyebrow quirked at him as though angry, but he could tell by the softness of her eyes that she wasn't.

"I'll be okay," he assured her, "I just remember him sometimes, randomly, and I miss him." He explained.

"Just as long as you don't forget that you have friends who want to help you," Ginny replied.

"I won't." He said, still smiling. The feeling Harry got from the smile that Ginny returned to him reminded him of how it felt to tell Ron and Hermione about the prophecy; as though he was lighter and happier. Simultaneously, they looked away from each other and returned to stargazing. A comfortable quiet settled over them again.

Harry couldn't have thought of a way he would have rather spent his last night before returning to Hogwarts.