Holiday at the Burrow
Harry stared at the sun's reflection on the upper windows of the Burrow. Flat on his back on the grass, he lounged in the shade of the Weasley's overgrown garden. Beside him lay his neglected book bag holding summer holiday homework he had been attempting to work on with Ron before his best mate had been called inside by Mrs. Weasley. The air was muggy and thick with an accumulation of darkening clouds moving on the horizon carrying the threat of rain. However, over the Burrow the sun was still strong and penetrating, and beads of perspiration lined Harry's hairline.
Closing his eyes, he slipped into a lazy doze while shading his face with the crook of his arm. It was the last few days of vacation and, with all that had been going on since Harry had left Privet Drive, he needed a few minutes of quiet. More importantly, a moment where he didn't have to act like everything was fine, like he hadn't lost the most important person in his world.
With the squeak of hinges on the kitchen door, the soft padding of bare feet approached on parched, trodden grass. A shadow fell over Harry where he lay.
"I'll finish it later, Hermione," he muttered without opening his eyes.
"Procrastination never gets you anywhere, Potter."
Harry looked up at the sound of, not Hermione, but of Ginny and her best Professor McGonagall impression. She stood over him with a smirk, a bowl of fresh cherries in one hand and a cold glass of pumpkin juice in the other.
"Hungry?" she asked, plopping down cross-legged beside him. "Mum thought you might be."
Harry turned on his side, propped himself up on an elbow, and dug into the fresh fruit gratefully. "Where's Ron?" he asked.
Ginny shrugged carelessly and helped herself to a cherry. "
Ready for O.W.L's this year?" Harry made conversation.
With a sarcastic grunt, Ginny spit a cherry pit into the hedge. "Were you?" she countered. "I am ready for Quidditch though. Think you can manage to keep your broom out of the dungeons this year?" She gave Harry a mocking side-long glance.
"Dunno...think you can catch the snitch in time for Christmas Holidays?" He got a cherry pit in the face for his remark, a well-aimed shot to the forehead which left a smudge.
"All right wiseass, but I won't be catching any snitches this year. That's your job. When you're not in the hospital wing. I'm a fair better seeker than Malfoy at least."
They continued to rail on Malfoy, the Slytherins, and all poor Quidditch players in general while depleting the bowl of cherries. A competition arose on who could flick the most pits into a garden gnome hole under a nearby shrub. Five points if they made it in, ten if they hit the occupant inside. The perturbed gnome popped out periodically to shake his angry fist at them, tossing the offending pits out of its hole with a flourish.
"Okay big shot," Ginny challenged before finishing off the last of Harry's pumpkin juice and getting to her feet. "We know how well you can catch a snitch."
"Don't forget my excellent pit chucking skills."
"Yes, but can you Keep against my Quaffles?"
"Can you throw a Quaffle?"
"Shut up and get your broom." Ginny led the way to the shed, and after some digging, they procured their brooms and a well-worn rubber ball the Weasley's used for practice. As Ginny reemerged into the sunlight, shaking spiders from her hair, Harry smiled. He was instantly reminded of Dumbledore and their spidery conversation in the shed on the day he arrived at the Burrow.
"What?" Ginny looked at his amused expression warily.
"Nothing, let's go." He took off on his Firebolt and fought the temptation to push it to top speed. Harry relished the freedom to fly as much as he wanted while staying at the Burrow. After several months of banishment followed by weeks of living in muggle constraints at the Dursly's, it was a welcome change.
Once on the practice field, Harry turned in the air and tossed Ginny the ball. "Let's see what you can do."
They flew back and forth, playing catch with the Quaffle. Ginny aimed at make-believe goals on either side of Harry, and he found himself chasing the ball a lot more than he had expected. Ginny was an excellent chaser.
"Oi! You couldn't wait for me to play?" Ron suddenly appeared through the trees on his new Cleansweep.
"What happened to you?" Harry asked.
"Mum," he explained with a scowl. "She cornered me, said I needed a trim." He ran a hand through his unruly red hair. "How's it look?" he asked warily.
"Dashing," Ginny cut in. "Let's play. Ron take Harry's spot as Keeper. Harry, you and I can take turns tossing. That is if you can get it." She flew down field with the ball as Ron took his place, ready to prevent her from scoring. As they each took their shots, Ron would retrieve it and throw it back to the center of the field where Harry and Ginny fought to be the first to catch it and score.
"It's raining," Harry observed, looking up at the darkening sky as the first drops began to fall. The glance lost him the ball as Ginny flew near and deftly dislodged it from his loose grip.
"So," she shrugged. "You've played in worse."
They kept on as the rain grew heavier, drenching their light clothing to the skin. Harry regretted being underage, he could have used a little magic to help him keep the water off of his glasses. Ginny was out-scoring him two-to-one.
Ron had the Quaffle, ready to make a toss. Harry and Ginny converged in the middle of the soggy field, their eyes on the ball. With the throw they surged upward to meet it in the air. The rubber was slick with rain and hard to hold on to. Harry touched it first but couldn't get a good grip. Ginny grappled for it, elbowing Harry out of the way and tucking it securely under her arm. Harry rammed into her from the side, attempting to dislodge the ball from her grasp. Losing altitude, they fought over possession, coming within only a few feet to the ground before Harry was knocked off his broom into the mud. He held on and dragged Ginny down with him.
"Harry James!" She shrieked with a face full of splattered mud. "Whatever happened to being a gentleman?"
"Hey!" Ron flew down, dismounting from his broom and slipping in the muck before falling on his back with a splash. The two drenched Chasers looked up as he fell, ceasing their competitive brawl to laugh at Ron's expense. The sight of the three of them looking like half-drowned rats in a sewer brought the game to an end with exhausted amusement.
They trudged back to the broom shed and put away their brooms before returning to the house. A low rumble of distant thunder followed them as they stepped into the cool kitchen.
"Ginevra!" Mrs. Weasley arrived from the sitting room. "I just washed this floor! What have you been doing?"
"There are muddy footprints all over. Ronald you're dripping on the rug."
"Ooh, what iz zat 'orrible smell?" Fleur appeared on the stairs holding her delicate nose.
"Maybe it's all the phlegm," Ginny muttered.
"Move, all of you," Mrs. Weasley commanded shrilly. "Boys, go clean up in the mud room. Ginny, upstairs with me for a bath."
"Mum, I can handle that myself, thanks." Ginny gritted her teeth and stomped up the stairs to the second floor followed by Molly cleaning the dirty footprints off the floor with her wand.
"French girlz would never get so dirty."
Ron and Harry hurried off to the mud room to avoid a lesson in French etiquette from Fleur. With difficulty, Harry removed his soggy trainers and peeled off his dripping socks. Lightning flashed through the lone window above the basin, filling the low-lit room with an electric glow.
"'Spose it's good practice tho', playing in the rain," Ron commented while running warm water in the sink and adding soap. "We'll get plenty wet in it at this year's matches. If I get on the team again," he added despondently.
"You will," Harry muttered, struggling to pull off his wet t-shirt and knocking his glasses askew.
"Mum cut it too short on the sides again." Ron frowned into the cracked mirror hanging beside the coat rack. "You sure it looks okay? Do my ears stick out?"
"Don't they always?"
The door swung open and Hermione walked in carrying a pile of clean clothes.
"Sorry, Harry," she said. "Ron, your Mom told me to bring you both these." She handed over the fresh clothes. "You two are more of a mess than Ginny. What were you doing? I thought you were working on homework?"
Harry swore suddenly, running out of the room and back into the sopping yard to where the book bags still lay in the garden soaked with rain.
The sitting room was littered with open textbooks and parchment set out to dry. Mrs. Weasley went around with her wand using a drying spell on the worst of it. Harry watched her work, feeling slightly guilty for his negligence.
"Checkmate," Ron pointed out triumphantly.
Harry looked back at the game board and his injured and groaning chess pieces. He hadn't really been concentrating on strategy so was not too upset at the loss. Conceding defeat, he excused himself to go into the kitchen. Rain continued to patter against the windows. The Burrow was full of chatter with the Weasleys, Harry, Hermione, and Fleur all there. Fred and George were even home from London for the evening. Since the next day was the last of the summer holidays, they had joined the rest of the family to enjoy a late meal one last time before the start of school.
"Seems strange, us not going to meet the train with you lot," George commented from the table where Bill and Fleur were deep into wedding plans with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.
"Yeah, bet ol' Filtchy won't know what to do without us," Fred grinned.
"I bet your presence will be known quite enough with all the merchandise you've sold to so many Hogwarts students." Mrs. Weasley gave her sons a disapproving lift of the eyebrows.
"Speaking of which," Fred turned to Harry. "We've been working on something new, care to advertise?"
"What?" Harry asked warily.
"It's a bone mender. Strictly for small sprains and such, not quite up to St. Mungos standards but tastes a great deal better than Skelegrow. I'm sure you'll agree. If you could just take a swig the next time you come in contact with a rogue bludger—"
"Or a dementor—"
"Or any such troubles on the Quidditch pitch—"
"We'd greatly appreciate the publicity."
"It's nice to see you put some energy into something useful," Mrs. Weasley said approvingly.
"Dead useful." George nodded.
"No more detentions for between-lesson duels gone awry," Fred agreed.
Harry returned to the sitting room and took a comfortable chair by the window. The air was sticky and dense with humidity. The patter of rain on the sill of the partially open window lifted the heat in the small room. Ginny sat opposite, curled in a chair writing a letter.
"I'd like to know how they tested it," she said without looking up. Harry looked at her confused until she explained. "Fred and George, they always test new product on themselves. I'd like to know who sprained whose bones to try and mend them."
"Oh," Harry laughed, "yeah, me too."
"Why not?" Ron argued from the couch, attempting to reach for a writing tablet in Hermione held out of his reach.
"No, Ronald," she insisted while growing red in the face.
"Come on, why can't I read it?"
"Don't be so nosy, Ron," Ginny snapped. "Hermione can write to whoever she wants."
"It's not a letter, it's— it's nothing," Hermione stammered.
"Then why can't I read it?"
Her jaw stiffened as she grew defiant with embarrassment. "Because it's personal." She jumped up from the couch and ran for the stairs.
"Personal," Ron snorted.
"You're such a prat." Ginny scowled at him.
"What's she got to be personal about?"
"A great deal more than you do," she snapped before returning to her letter.
Ron mumbled something about just being curious and stalked into the kitchen going off about over-sensitive females.
"Thank you, Harry," Ginny said fiercely.
"Thank you for knowing how to be a gentleman, unlike some people."
Harry smiled faintly. "I thought I wasn't a gentleman."
"That was before." Ginny thought about it, placing her quill to her chin. "It's okay not to be a gentleman playing Quidditch."
Harry raised his eyebrows in amusement.
"Unless I'm losing," she added.
Hermione returned downstairs free of her writing tablet. She sat down in a huff on the other side of Harry.
She brushed her frizzy hair out of her face in frustration. "Ginny, I hid my tablet in your underwear drawer. I would hope Ron won't go looking in there."
"He better not."
Harry eyed Hermione curiously.
"It's nothing." She crossed her arms defiantly.
Chairs scrapped the floorboards in the kitchen as the twins got ready to leave for London. The family converged in the sitting room to bid them goodnight.
"Take care, Harry." Fred shook his hand. "Don't forget, if you break any bones…"
"We'll send you a sample just in case," George nodded.
They disappeared into the rainy mist before apparating some distance from the house.
"Well, I'm beat." Arthur Weasley yawned. "I think I'll turn in. Molly?"
"Don't know that any of us will sleep much in this heat."
"Well, it's like I've been telling you, dear. If you would only let me try a few spells I think I can get that muggle contraption I've got out in the shed to work. It's called an air-cold-ditioner. Isn't that right, Harry?"
"It'll cool the whole house down like it was Christmas in the summer!"
"No Arthur, not another word about it," Molly snapped at her husband then turned to the others. "Don't stay up too late now, busy day tomorrow. Good night!"
Dreaming, Harry found himself in the garden at the Burrow. It was raining, not drops of water but cherry pits which fell with a musical ping on the ground, reverberating against the hollow insides of unused flower pots and dented tin water pails. Harry stood in the middle of the garden getting hit with the falling pellets when he realized that they weren't falling from the sky but were being thrown over the hedge by dozens of angry garden gnomes. Harry picked up a handful of pits and prepared to throw them back in defense when Ginny appeared beside him.
"Don't be a prat, Harry," she said. "Hermione can write to garden gnomes if she wants to. Now get your broom, we're going to London."
"What's in London?" Harry heard himself ask, but Ginny was already in the air flying away into the clouds. Looking down he realized that his broom was in his hand and next thing he knew he was flying over the night-lit buildings of London. Ginny was nowhere in sight. Landing on a deserted muggle street, Harry found himself in front of the Leaky Cauldron as a dark, cloaked figure passed through the door.
"Sirius?" Harry's heart pounded. Hurrying after his godfather, Harry pushed open the door and stepped into a dimly-lit room with stone steps dropping away before him. There in the center was the raised dias. Sirius stood before the archway with his back to Harry. Harry tried to call out to him, tried to stop him from going through to the other side, but no sound would escape his throat. Running, he reached out a desperate hand and touched only air as Sirius stepped through and was gone.
Harry awoke with a start. His forehead was damp with cold sweat. Looking around, he realized it was daylight. There were voices and footsteps on the stairs outside the room.
"Harry?" Hermione knocked before opening his door and sticking her head in. "If you want breakfast you better get up." Then she was gone again, down the stairs followed by Ginny's voice calling to Mrs. Weasley on the landing. Harry lay a moment staring at the back of the door as the last misty traces of his dream faded away. He had dreamed of Sirius many times over the summer, but each time felt like the first and wrenched him to the core. A painful pang of guilt hit him like a blow from a well-aimed bludger. It was supposed to be getting easier, not harder.
"Hey!" Ron hit Harry's door with his fist on his way past. "Food, mate, let's go."
Rolling out of bed, Harry rubbed his tired eyes, found his glasses and reached for his clothes. Forget about Sirius, he told himself. Just…just forget about everything.
In the kitchen Harry found everyone already seated and digging in to Mrs. Weasley's excellent spread of sausage and eggs.
"Tuck in Harry." Mr. Weasley grinned at him from the head of the table. "We've just started. Beautiful day for your last of holiday. The weather has cleared nicely and the rain cooled things down considerably."
Harry glanced up to see Mrs. Weasley looking at him with a searching gaze.
"Feeling all right, Harry?" she asked. "You look pale."
"I'm fine," he insisted, "just tired."
"Well eat up, you'll feel better after a full breakfast."
The food was delicious but it did little to lighten his mood. A sharp headache was building in Harry's temples, and the thought of spending the day packing and cleaning was not appealing. As the table was being cleared away, the mail arrived with an exhausted Errol and a younger, smaller owl; an owl that had been seen often at the Burrow that summer.
"Another letter from Dean, Ginny."
"What could he possibly have to talk about?" Ron scoffed. "You'll see him on the train tomorrow."
"Never you mind." Ginny snatched away her letter and got up from the table. "Don't send off Dean's owl 'til I give him my letter." She dashed upstairs to her room to retrieve it.
Suddenly wanting to be alone, Harry excused himself from the table and also walked upstairs. Passing Ginny's room, he stopped short as she rushed by him on her way back to the kitchen.
"Sorry, Harry." She touched his arm to keep them from colliding before slipping along the wall and disappearing down the staircase. Harry stood outside the open door of her room, standing in the warm ray of light filtering from the opposite window. The glare of the sun fell upon a mirror over her dresser, drawing Harry's eye to a photograph sticking out from the frame. Moving into the room, Harry went for a closer look. It was a comfortable space, clean but not orderly, except for the spare bed where Hermione had been sleeping the past few weeks. That of course was prim and organized from the quilt on the bed to the carefully packed trunk at the foot.
Ginny's bed was unmade, there were clothes hanging on the posts, and a subtle scent of flowers mixed with fresh air and rain. On the walls were tacked little mementos in Gryffindor colors, photos of Ginny and her fellow fifth years, and magazine cut-outs in bright lettering. Arnold the Pygmy Puff lay asleep in a patch of sun on the window sill.
There were several photos attached to the mirror, but the one that caught Harry's attention was one taken at the Quidditch World Cup. It was inside the tent after the match, during the celebration for the winning Irish team. Harry didn't recall the picture ever having been taken, but there he was, standing in the smelly, old tent in front of the bunks with Ron and Hermione on one side of him and Ginny on the other. They had all squeezed in tight to fit in the picture, nearly falling in their attempt to stay on their feet. Harry had his arm draped around Ginny and from the movement in the magical photo they were all laughing.
Harry jumped, turning as Ginny bounded back into the room. "Hey, ah I was just…" Harry stammered blushing and pointing at the picture.
Ginny smiled and sat down at her writing desk under the window. "Do you remember that?"
"Not really," Harry admitted.
"I suppose not." Ginny began opening her letter from Dean. "It was a busy night."
"Yeah." Harry slipped from the room and left her to read in privacy. He returned to Fred and George's room to begin sorting through his trunk but once he got there all he managed to do was toss a few clothes in a pile and slump back on the bed to stare at the ceiling.
He should be happy, he knew. He was going back to school tomorrow. The reign of Umbridge was long past; it would be a better year than the last at least. His lifelong Quidditch ban had been suspended. He had made Captain of the team, he should be thrilled. But the broken record in his mind; the memory of the words replaying over and over: Neither can live while the other survives…The Chosen One, the Chosen One to kill or be killed. It continued to haunt him to distraction. But there was the promise of extra lessons with Dumbledore to look forward to. What he would teach Harry was anyone's guess, but there was hope in a plan.
And then there was Malfoy. He not usually someone Harry cared to give much thought to, but since the trip to Diagon Alley and Malfoy's suspicious actions, Harry kept coming back to it. Part of him just wanted to keep on where he was, to stay at the Burrow and enjoy a continuous summer of lazy afternoons filled with Quidditch matches with Ron and Ginny…
Hedwig flew in the open window and landed on the bed beside Harry, back from a night of hunting. Harry greeted her with an affectionate scratch under the feathers. She hooted dolefully, ready for a long nap. A small, fuzzy bouncy ball careened through the window behind her before hitting the wall and zooming around the ceiling. Hedwig gave Harry a look of disapproval and a desperate plea to rid her of this nuisance. Harry got up and opened the door to the hall.
"Out, Pig," he commanded. "Ron's downstairs."
The tiny, overexcited owl whizzed into the stairwell and disappeared with an excited twitter. Harry looked around the room at his scattered, disheveled possessions and sighed. He might as well get started. "Procrastination never got you anywhere, Potter," he muttered and dropped several books into his open trunk.