Harry Potter had certainly lived an interesting life thus far, but he had not found his summer holiday to be one of his more thrilling experiences. He'd never really had very thrilling summer holidays; at least not the type most would suspect with holiday trips and fun. The excitement in his summer holidays only came with some sort of danger involving magic. He couldn't remember a time since he'd found out that he was a wizard that his summer hadn't turned upside down. This year however, seemed to be the exception. In truth, time seemed to have stood still for the majority of the summer holidays thus far. The most interesting thing that had occurred was when his cousin had accidentally set fire to the small semi-detached garage while filling the lawnmower with petrol. Harry very much suspected that Dudley had done so on purpose in an attempt to get out of having to the mow the small garden. Surprisingly, Dudley did not get his way and was required to finish the task after the flames had been quenched. It was a pretty sad state of affairs when the best moment of Harry's summer involved choking on acrid smoke as he laughed. The holidays here were finally waning though, and Harry sat in his small bedroom at number four, Privet Drive, scribbling on a piece of parchment. Perhaps it had been through Hermione's influence in getting him to think more before he acted, but he paused to consider his previous words before he continued on.
Downstairs, the sounds from the house could be heard. His uncle was going on about some political situation and, although Harry was barely paying attention, he overheard as his Uncle Vernon confused facts over and over again until they lost all meaning. His Aunt Petunia could be heard agreeing with her husband no matter how ludicrous his statements were. The lack of Dudley's whining made it seem that he was not present, and all Harry could hope was that whatever resident of the neighbourhood Dudley was targeting today would emerge relatively unscathed. This was how his summers usually were: stuck inside the stuffy house with his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon while his cousin Dudley ran about doing whatever he liked nearly all of the time. Though the past years had been tough on Harry, it seemed that his relatives were being less cruel this year, or perhaps they had at least realised that there was an undeniable wisdom in treating him fairly well. No, that didn't really suit either. Really, they just seemed to leave him alone most of the time. Dudley seemed to struggle the most with this change. Used to being the darling of the household, he had been unable to comprehend why it was that his orphaned, freakish cousin was allowed to skip chores that had once been his responsibility. But of course, that may have been due to the threats that had been stated quite firmly by Harry's friends. In fact, there was no question about it. The Dursleys had never been kind to him before, and it was obvious that their only motivation now was fear. They were still as strict as ever with him, but refrained from making their usual comments towards him and his kind.
It was getting close to the middle of the summer, and Harry was waiting anxiously for someone to arrive to retrieve him from Privet Drive. It was the only time during the summer that he looked forward to. Dumbledore had written to him to let him know that someone would be arriving with a particular password that evening to take him for the rest of the summer. He secretly hoped that it would be the Weasleys, so he could return to The Burrow and play a game or two of pick-up Quidditch with the Weasley boys. Though they did hang around number twelve, Grimmauld Place when Harry went to the Order's Headquarters, there just wasn't any suitable place to play Quidditch there, and they were still having trouble getting the portrait of Mrs. Black off the wall. Harry didn't particularly like going there for those reasons, and because the place always reminded him of his late godfather, Sirius Black.
Harry looked up from the letter he was writing to Ron, his best friend, and stared out at the blackened sky. The sky seemed devoid of all stars with even the moon seeming to have disappeared under the veil of black. His thin t-shirt was not proving to be adequately warm as the room had an unseasonable chill in it. It had after all been a summer of a nearly constant downpour. The result being that Harry had to rub his arms to try and rid them of gooseflesh. Though that kept him warm enough for a few minutes, he decided that it would be best to put on a long-sleeved shirt to shield his skin from the cold. He walked slowly towards his wardrobe and pulled the door open. Inside rested the items he most cared about; the things that reminded him of the only real home he had ever known, Hogwarts. Thinking of Hogwarts immediately brought thoughts of his two best friends in the world, Ron and Hermione. He didn't have a single happy memory that didn't include them in some way. They were the most important things in his life and he was glad to have them. He didn't know what his life would have been like without the two people who kept him grounded and reminded him of who he really was.
Harry turned away from the wardrobe as he pulled on the shirt he had selected and started to button it up as he walked back towards his small desk. Harry sighed softly before his eyes drifted to a photograph of his parents, Lily and James Potter. They looked so happy together, like they didn't have a care in the world. Picking up the picture frame, he stared longingly at the photograph. He wished that he could have had the chance to be with them, as they were, and have memories of it all. He always hated never knowing his parents. He would grasp at any piece of information people would give him about them. They were Head Boy and Girl at Hogwarts, they loved each other dearly, they had been happy together, and most of all, they had loved their son, Harry, very much.
Harry was suddenly brought out of his reverie by a loud bang and shouting coming from downstairs. Normally, Harry wouldn't have even bothered to go look, but he was sure that he heard a pop: the sound of someone Apparating. He set the picture frame down on the empty bedside table and set out to investigate, trying to make his way through the messy room. He took the stairs two by two with his wand in his hand, anxious to find out who it was that had arrived. The first glimpse he caught was of Dudley trying to hide behind his mother, which was quite the challenge, seeing as Dudley was almost four times the size of Petunia. It was apparent that he still had not got over the incident with Hagrid on Harry's eleventh birthday. Next, he saw a white faced Petunia, standing behind a very purple Vernon, who was sputtering incoherently at the arrival of a stranger in his home. When Harry turned the corner into the living room, he was met with the sight of a ragged-looking Remus Lupin trying to apologize to the Dursleys for his sudden appearance. Harry noticed as he watched the small group that Remus looked much thinner and more tired since the last time Harry had seen him.
"I apologize if I frightened any of you... Ah, Harry. There you are." Remus smiled softly when he spotted Harry standing just to the side of his relatives. "Professor Dumbledore's sent me to pick you up so hurry and get your things packed up. Oh, and I'm supposed to tell you that sherbet lemons are good for the soul."
Harry didn't need to be told twice. He smiled and immediately turned around to run back up the stairs. Once in his room, he pulled his trunk out of the closet and started throwing his things into it. Clothes, books, robes, his invisibility cloak, Firebolt, quills, parchment, potion supplies, and everything else he could carry. He grabbed the photograph from the bedside table and set it on top of everything. He made sure the trunk was closed and grabbed Hedwig's cage. She shrieked loudly when Harry almost knocked her cage into the doorframe. He apologised before he bounded down the stairs with his things, his large trunk thudding down each stair behind him. He knew he should have already been packed and ready to leave, but he didn't want to get his hopes up in the event that plans had to change at the last minute.
The Dursleys stood in silence as Remus smiled again at Harry before he waved his wand at Harry's belongings. The spot where his trunk and Hedwig in her cage had once stood was now empty. "I've sent them along ahead of us. We'll be travelling by Side-Along Apparation. I don't have the Advance Guard with me, so flying is not an option this time." Remus then pulled out his pocket watch to check the time. He seemed to be awaiting something but Harry couldn't figure out just what it could possibly be. "So, Harry, how has your summer been?"
"All right, I suppose. Not much to talk about really." Harry felt a bit awkward talking about his summer in front of the Dursleys. He never really enjoyed their company, and he didn't really want them to know he had been doing magical homework under their roof. Though, he had to admit, there wasn't much to talk about anyway. His summer had been relatively quiet for once.
"Ah, yes, I understand. Did you get all of your coursework done?" Harry suppressed a laugh at Remus' question. Trust a former teacher to ask about assignments.
"Nearly all of it." Harry glanced back at the Dursleys and saw Petunia's face twitch slightly but she didn't say anything. It couldn't make her feel comfortable to know he'd been working on magical homework. "That Euphoria Charm of Professor Flitwick's is difficult though. I think I've got the hang of the wand motion now."
"Ah, yes." Remus remembered with a smile, gazing wistfully up at the ceiling as he remembered a time when things were far simpler in his life. "The motion is difficult to master."
"Well that and the pronunciation," Harry answered, thinking of how ill tempered Hedwig had been after his first failed attempt. It wasn't Harry's fault though. She was the only thing he had to practice upon, not that he really could do much practicing seeing as he was unable to really perform magic outside of Hogwarts until he came of age.
"Indeed." Remus grimaced slightly. "Had a bit of trouble with it myself, made James sick as a dog the first time I tried it."
"Really?" Harry tried not to laugh as he pictured the Marauders on the fields of Hogwarts, practicing charms and spells.
Remus nodded as he recalled the misfired charm. It had been the very devil to clean up too. Somehow, Remus had managed to turn James blue instead. Even being the smartest student in their year, he'd still had a bit of trouble now and then with some of the more complicated charms. Remus checked his watch again as he continued on with conversation. "You've certainly grown since I saw you last." Harry shifted uncomfortably under Remus' penetrating gaze. "Have you started shaving?"
Harry was saved from having to answer when Remus' pocket watch chimed once. "Ah. Time to go. Take hold of my arm and hold on tightly." Remus held out his arm for Harry. He took Remus' arm without hesitation, knowing full well that the other inhabitants of Privet Drive would be unnerved by their sudden disappearance. However, Harry was used to seeing witches and wizards popping about randomly after staying with the Weasleys the summer after Percy had received his Apparation license. As Remus raised his wand, he and Harry turned on the spot, and suddenly, Harry felt as if there was something pressing at him from all directions, and he was unable to see a thing. It was a very unpleasant feeling, and he found that he could not breathe. The last thing he heard was the high pitched scream of his Aunt Petunia.
Almost as quickly as it had started, the feeling was gone, and Harry could feel the cool wind penetrating through the long-sleeved shirt he was wearing. The chill of the night seemed to sweep through him as he looked around at his surroundings. It appeared as though they were standing in the middle of a vast, empty field. Confusion and concern was etched into Harry's face as he glanced around. Could it have been possible that someone was impersonating Remus Lupin and had somehow gotten a hold of the password? He wasn't sure how else to explain the fact that they were standing in the middle of an empty valley with no other being or building in sight.
"Harry, you need to look a little closer to see it." Remus guided Harry down a rock path before he stopped suddenly and smiled. "Right there... Wandsworth Manor..."
As the name of the place entered into his ear, a large and beautiful house appeared only metres away. The building was truly a sight to behold and nearly took Harry's breath away. From what Harry could tell in the dark, it was a redbrick structure with corners and window frames in a golden brick. Off to the right-hand side was a conservatory that was dark at that time of night. The roof was a slate grey colour with trimmings and overhangs in white, and he could make out three separate chimneys. Remus guided Harry to the front porch and opened the front door to let him in.
Harry noticed that the front hall was sparsely decorated with a few wizard paintings of scenery here and there, but nothing specific, and one small table off to the side for setting things down when someone came in the door. The walls and ceiling were white and there was a large chandelier hanging above them. A grand staircase led up to the second floor with a beige coloured carpet. The place looked as though it was a museum rather than a house. The homes he had been used to were nothing like the one he was standing in that very moment. The Dursleys' place was small and had photographs of Dudley all over the place, the Weasleys' house was a jumbled tower of rooms with a cosy atmosphere and the aroma of Mrs. Weasley's cooking wafting from the kitchen, and Grimmauld Place was large, dark, and very dirty. Remus moved towards the staircase, beckoning Harry to follow him. As they walked along the hallways, Harry noticed they didn't look much different from the front hall: plain, boring, and sterile. He started to wonder about the witch or wizard who owned such a place. It seemed to have no character and even Grimmauld Place, with its gloomy and dark hallways and rooms had its own character. Wandsworth Manor could have been owned by anyone, given the lack of personalization the house had been given.
"Ah, here we are," Remus' voice suddenly sounded as he came to a halt in front of a door halfway along the hallway. Harry nearly ran straight into Remus when he had stopped. He'd been so caught up in his thoughts that he hadn't noticed until the last moment. "This is your room, Harry."
The door was pushed open to reveal another disappointingly plain room, but at least this one had colour. Instead of the white walls and beige carpet, it had light brown walls with a dark green carpet. The bed had sheets that matched the walls in colour and were plain and striped. It looked almost similar to the room he had used during his stay at the Leaky Cauldron just before his third year. Glancing to the end of the bed, Harry spotted his trunk, upon which Hedwig's cage was perched. She sat atop of the cage and fluttered her wings. She gave a welcoming hoot before she took off out of the open window on her nightly hunt, obviously waiting to make sure Harry had arrived all right.
"Ron and Hermione have rooms just down the hall. Ron's is next to yours, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley are in the hallway around the corner to the left, as are Tonks and myself. I'm sure Ron will be up to get you shortly so I shall leave you to unpack some of your things. We will be going to Diagon Alley to get your school supplies as soon as the letters arrive." Remus smiled before he left the room.
Harry sighed softly before he sat himself down beside his trunk at the end of the bed. This wasn't exactly what he had been hoping for this summer. He had desperately wanted to go to the Weasleys' so that they could play a couple games of Quidditch, and even de-gnome the garden. He had been looking forward to some normalcy, at least when it came to wizardry. Now, it seemed as though he was going to be stuck inside a stuffy house all summer, just like last year. All he could say was that at least this house didn't need the cleaning that Grimmauld Place had. He only wondered what Mrs. Weasley would come up for them to do while they were there.
It wasn't long before Harry heard the running, thudding footsteps of someone coming up the stairs, followed by a pair of lighter footsteps, which Harry assumed to be Hermione. He stood up quickly as the bedroom door flew open to reveal Ron's bright, smiling face. "Harry!"
Hermione was right behind Ron, not looking very pleased with him at the moment. She shook her head, scolding Ron a bit for being so loud. "Your sister is across the hallway, and you know she isn't feeling all that well."
"Rubbish. She's just been hiding in there, writing letters to Dean all summer. It's rather sick-making." Ron scrunched up his nose, showing obvious dislike that his sister was dating one of his mates from school. Truth was, Ron wasn't really keen on his sister dating anyone, but at least another Gryffindor was better than anyone else apparently.
Hermione sniffed a bit, not liking Ron's attitude at the moment. "Well, actually, Ronald, Ginny told me that she and Dean are going through a rough patch at the moment. It was something about his behaviour regarding her getting into danger all of the time with the three of us. Really, it's a bit stupid because she's only gone off with us once and her first year could hardly be counted since it could have happen even without us. Now, enough about your sister's love life. How has your summer been, Harry?"
"Err... It's been all right, I guess. Not very eventful. Got some coursework done..." Harry had been caught a bit off guard at the mention that Ginny's room was right across the hallway. It wasn't that it really mattered. He just hadn't thought, for some reason or another that Ginny would be there. It wasn't as if she had anywhere else to go while her family was here, but to be right across the hall... It seemed odd to him somehow. He supposed it had to do with all the times he had stayed with the Weasleys. She'd always been in a room on another floor.
"So mate, feeling up for a game of Quidditch tomorrow? There's a Quidditch pitch out back, and this place is far enough away from Muggles for us to play without being caught. Of course, it's also unplottable too." As soon as Ron mentioned the word Quidditch, Harry immediately felt better about staying at a place he had never been before. It seemed as though his plans for the summer were coming together better than he had imagined they would.
For the rest of the night, Harry, Ron, and Hermione stayed up and talked about Harry's favourite subject: Quidditch. Mostly it was Ron and Harry talking while Hermione flipped through one of Harry's old textbooks, interjecting occasionally with a question or a comment. It was close to eleven when Hermione left the two boys and headed off to bed. The two boys continued talking late into the night.
Early the very next morning, there was a loud knock on Harry's bedroom door. He and Ron had fallen asleep while talking. Ron seemed to have curled up at the end of the bed with the comforter bunched up as a pillow and was snoring away. Harry pulled himself off the bed, careful not to wake Ron, and wandered over to the door. He was still drowsy from sleep with his glasses slightly askew as he pulled the door open. Standing there in a pair of red shorts and a white t-shirt was Ron's youngest and only sister, Ginny. She smiled brightly at him.
"Hello, Harry. Glad to see you made it here all right last night. Sorry I didn't welcome you last night. I wasn't really feeling well and went to bed early." Ginny smiled softly. "Up for a game of Quidditch? Fred and George are already at the pitch batting around a Bludger. Charlie just arrived this morning, and I know he'd love to play as Seeker against you. Ron wasn't in his room so I figured he'd be in here. We thought that a good game of Quidditch would work up an appetite for breakfast. You know how much Mum always cooks." It was then that Harry noticed she had a broom in her hand.
He smiled a bit before he nodded. It would be best to get out and play at least one good round of Quidditch. He was sure that it would take his mind off things he had been dwelling on all summer. Ginny nodded and told him she would meet him and Ron out back at the pitch. Harry glanced over at Ron once Ginny had left, then walked over to his trunk. He rummaged through the quickly and poorly packed items held within it before he found his broom and pulled it out. He glanced back into the trunk, thinking that maybe it would be a good idea to tidy it up a bit later. It wouldn't do to have things falling over and breaking inside.
Harry quickly woke Ron up and they both changed for the game. Harry went bounding down the stairs, heading for the back of the large manor. It felt good to look forward to something positive for once that summer. He really hadn't been looking forward to school, though it was the only thing that would get him away from the Dursleys. He was sure that everyone had heard of his adventures the previous year, and he didn't want to face the questions that might come his way once people learned of the events that happened at the Ministry. Harry immediately shook off the negative thoughts when Ginny came into view. She had waited for him in the backyard, knowing how long it took Ron to get up and out of the door in the mornings. They walked silently together until the pitch came into view.
"Oy! Harry! Good to see you," Fred shouted as he hit the Bludger with a solid blow.
"Have a good summer?" George asked as he dived to avoid the Bludger that headed towards him. It never ceased to amaze him how much the twins were in sync with each other.
Harry didn't get the chance to answer as he heard Ron and Hermione jogging towards them, followed by Bill and Charlie. Ron, Hermione, Bill and Charlie all had broomsticks in their hands. Hermione was the only one who looked a bit unsure about playing anything on a broom. Flying was one of the very few things she never seemed to excel at, no matter how hard she tried.
"Glad to see you're up for a game, Harry. I hear you're quite the Seeker for Gryffindor. I was once a good Seeker myself." Charlie beamed proudly. Harry had heard that he had been the best Seeker that Gryffindor had ever had, until Harry arrived that is.
Once everyone had arrived, they split off into teams. Fred, Bill, Harry, and Ron played on one team; Charlie, Hermione, Ginny, and George played on the other. Bill took up the position of Chaser for his team and Hermione bravely tried to play as Keeper. Though Ron tried his best, Ginny was just a great Chaser, seeming to anticipate Ron's moves before he made them and easily kept her team in the lead, even with Hermione's horrible attempts at playing the game. If Harry's team were to win, he knew he'd have to catch the Snitch.
Suddenly, he spotted it and started into a steep dive. The wind rushed past Harry's ears as he sped towards the ground, realising he'd spotted the Snitch before Charlie. This was where he felt most at home: soaring and diving through the air on his Firebolt. Harry reached forward and felt his hand grasp around the tiny metal ball before he pulled up on his broom. The other players clapped from their brooms as they landed. Charlie was especially impressed with Harry's skills. Quidditch was a great release, and Harry was thankful for the distraction.
"Well done. I see exactly why McGonagall put you on the team in your first year," Charlie commended him. "I think I'm getting a bit too old to do those dives anymore."
"No, it's probably just because you spend all your time with dragons rather than on a broomstick, Charlie." Ginny grinned softly as she looked up at her brother. Charlie ruffled Ginny's hair as she made a face at him, showing that she was annoyed with the sign of brotherly affection.
"So, Gin Gin, how are things? Mum told me you've been ill, but Ronniekins seems to think you're up to something." Charlie wrapped one of his arms around Ginny's shoulder and pulled her to him as she started to turn a bit pink with embarrassment.
"Well, Ron also seems to think that I'm still eleven years old, and even if I was up to something, you know I wouldn't tell." Ginny laughed as Charlie let her go, trying to act offended that his own sister wouldn't trust him with information.
Harry glanced around while Charlie continued to pretend to be hurt and noticed that Hermione and Ron had disappeared somewhere. "Umm... where are Ron and Hermione?"
"Oh. Darned if I know. Those two have been sneaking off together since we all arrived here... and Ron wonders why I stick to myself. I really don't want to end up walking in on them snogging, or something equally as gross." Ginny made a disgusted face at the thought of her brother snogging... well, anyone. Charlie made his way over to the eldest Weasley brother, Bill, as Ginny spoke with Harry.
"Snogging? Ron and Hermione?" The thought had never crossed Harry's mind. Could it be possible that his two best friends had become a couple while he had been stuck at Privet Drive? He wasn't sure why, but he found the idea slightly unsettling. He had never really thought of Hermione in that way and had been pretty sure Ron hadn't either. She may have been a girl, but she was their friend. It left an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach to think of them being even slightly more than friends. He couldn't quite put his finger on what it was he was feeling, but he wondered for a moment if it was jealousy.
"I wouldn't be too surprised if they were. Ron was going on about her all summer before she arrived. Only after I threatened to mention his constant blather to Hermione herself did he shut up. Why don't we head in? I'm sure Mum's already got breakfast on the table. It's possible Ron and Hermione just went on ahead of us." Ginny smiled slightly.
Harry nodded in response and led the way back towards the manor. He still couldn't get the unsettling feeling out of the pit of his stomach. He couldn't really understand why he felt the way he did, and he tried to think of every option. The only conclusion he could come up with was that he was jealous, but of what, he wasn't sure. He wondered to himself if he was jealous that Ron and Hermione had become a couple while he was away, or whether it was because it was Ron who was with Hermione rather than himself. He couldn't understand where the feeling was coming from. He'd never looked at Hermione as more than a friend, but now that Ron seemed interested, he was feeling uneasy about it.
The moment Harry stepped into the kitchen of Wandsworth Manor, he could smell the aroma of a freshly cooked breakfast of crumpets, bacon, eggs, toast, hash browns, and sausages. The scent brought a welcome smile to his lips and distracted his thoughts almost instantly. Mrs. Weasley always out did herself, preparing breakfast for her large family. Every morning, without fail, Mrs. Weasley would be in the kitchen, cooking up a feast to feed her seven children, her husband, any guests, and herself. It was one of the many things Harry always looked forward to when he stayed with the Weasleys. Having grown up in a not so loving household, Harry had never had the chance to experience a pleasant family meal. Harry barely noticed when Ginny brushed past him to get into the kitchen. He stood silently as he watched her set her broom by the door and wash up so she could help Mrs. Weasley with breakfast. Mrs. Weasley placed dish after dish on the large dining table, each overflowing with delectable home cooking. Ginny was busy adding the cutlery to the plates already set on the table. Harry came to the assumption that Ginny often helped her mother in the kitchen, as they never managed to bump into each other even once while setting the table.
"Ginny, dear, go call your brothers for breakfast. They should be well washed up by now," Molly chimed as Arthur walked slowly into the kitchen, yawning in response to the early hour. When Ginny had called him for Quidditch, he hadn't even looked at a clock, but now realized that it must have been quite early as he noticed the clock now read nine o'clock in the morning. Ginny disappeared out of the kitchen door just as Ron and Hermione walked in through the back. Harry glanced at them for a moment before he sat down at the table in an empty seat. Hermione and Ron quickly moved and sat across from him at the table. They didn't seem to be acting strangely, but Harry knew that didn't mean they weren't up to something.
Harry was interrupted from his thoughts as Charlie and Ginny arrived in the kitchen, followed by Bill, Fred and George. When Remus finally joined the table, they were allowed to start their meal. "So sorry for being late, Molly. Tonks wanted me to tell you that she wouldn't be down for breakfast. Dumbledore needed her early, and she didn't have time to stay." Remus spoke as he passed the crumpets to Arthur.
"Err… what did he need Tonks for?" Harry stared at Remus, awaiting an answer, but Remus simply smiled at him.
"Just a little something that the Ministry is planning that Dumbledore is a part of. Don't worry about it. You'll find out soon enough." Harry's eyes fell on Charlie as he spoke with a knowing grin. It was slightly irritating and reminded him a bit of his fourth year when the Triwizard Tournament had happened. The tournament had been rather secretive too.
From that moment on, breakfast returned to its normal course of events with the twins teasing Ron about something ridiculous and Molly fussing over how thin Harry was while trying to serve him up a third helping of eggs. This was what Harry had missed most in the world while he was staying at Privet Drive. He never got to experience a loving family environment like he did with the Weasleys, and he was glad to be a part of it, even if it was only unofficially. They had welcomed him into their family with open arms and no questions asked. He couldn't have asked for anything better. Whenever he was around the Weasleys, he always felt like he was at home. Harry loved watching the Weasleys interact with each other. It was not hard to tell how much they cared for each other, even when they were teasing or yelling.
As Harry looked over each of the Weasleys, his eyes fell on Hermione and Ginny. They had their heads together and were whispering in hushed, quick words. His thoughts immediately returned to their earlier reflections. He was now sure that something was going on. He hadn't even known Hermione and Ginny to be close before. He watched silently with a calculating gaze as the two girls continued to whisper to each other. Suddenly, Hermione looked up at Harry and smiled slightly before she turned back to Ginny. Their conversation ended only seconds later. He wasn't sure if he was being paranoid, or if they really were up to something. He supposed his feelings could have been attributed to the fact that nothing odd or exciting had happened to him so far during the summer months.
Breakfast finished up quickly, owing to the fact that many of the Weasley men had jobs to attend to and Mrs. Weasley wanted to get a head start on the daily chores. While Mrs. Weasley collected the breakfast dishes from the table with the help of Ron and Ginny, Hermione took Harry by the arm and led him outside to the back porch. They sat down on the lounge chairs while they waited for Ron and Ginny to finish up. Harry glanced over at Hermione as he contemplated asking her what was going on. It didn't take him long to decide what to do.
"Hermione, what is going on around here? You and Ron are always disappearing together, and then at breakfast, you and Ginny were whispering to each other." Hermione looked at Harry, surprised. He tried to decipher whether she was surprised that he asked, or surprised at the question itself.
"Well, Harry, Ron and I are simply getting along for once and spending time together... You only just got here last night so it's not like we've been disappearing together all the time. We went to this spot in the woods we found after Quidditch and that was it. We were planning to take you there later today. And as for whispering with Ginny, we've become friends, and well... that's what girls do." Hermione didn't sound very convincing, and Harry wasn't entirely sure he believed her. "I didn't realize it all seemed odd to you. I suppose being cooped up in here while you've been with your family... Well, with Ginny being the only girl here... we just sort of bonded, and Ron's been the only other person to hang around with... You know that I don't really get on well with the twins and their constant need to bend and break rules… Everyone else is really a bit too old… I suppose if Percy was on speaking terms with his family and he were here, we'd have interesting conversation..."
Harry smiled gently and nodded. He wasn't sure if it explained everything, but he wasn't sure he really wanted to know why Ron and Hermione had snuck off together that morning. There were just some things that were better left unknown. He glanced over at Hermione for a moment and watched her as she gazed out at the field behind the manor. He had to admit to himself that she really was rather pretty. He wondered silently why he had never noticed before.