The bedroom lightened gradually with the rising sun, and Harry glared at the ceiling overhead, unwilling to close his burning eyes. He'd hardly slept the night before, and what sleep he did manage was fitful at best. The more he had allowed himself to think about Ginny's reaction to his offer for her to live with him, the more infuriated he became. Harry flung the quilt back and shuffled into the other bedroom. Teddy was awake, watching the antics of the stag, dog, and wolf drawn on the walls of the nursery. Satisfied Teddy would be able to keep himself entertained for a few minutes, Harry trudged toward the kitchen so he could at least give Teddy breakfast. As for himself, Harry didn't fancy eating at the moment. He caught sight of the drawer he'd left in the middle of the sofa when he'd gone to bed last night. He drew his wand from the pocket of his pajama bottoms, and pointed it at the drawer, desiring nothing more than to pulverize the bloody thing. Instead, it sailed through the air and drifted into Harry's bedroom, settling almost lazily into the empty space of his bureau.

He quickly prepared a small bowl of porridge for Teddy, then strode into the nursery. As he bent over the cot and scooped the toddler into his arms, Teddy whimpered and struggled to slide down Harry's body so he could crawl or walk on his own power to the kitchen. Sighing, Harry let the boy walk, Teddy's hands gripping his index fingers. It was a slow procession. Once in the kitchen, it took a herculean effort just to persuade Teddy to sit in his high chair. Teddy wailed and grunted, shaking his head, clinging monkey-like to Harry's arms. 'Oh, all right,' Harry snapped, dropping into a chair, and arranging Teddy in his lap. He picked up the spoon, and scooped up a bite of the porridge, and blew gently across it, then offered it to Teddy. Teddy squirmed in Harry's lap, whining to be let down. 'You have to eat, Teddy,' Harry told him, rubbing Teddy's lower lip with the edge of the spoon. Teddy's mouth opened, and Harry quickly pushed the spoon inside. Almost immediately, Teddy spat it out, dribbling porridge over his chin. Harry doggedly scraped it off Teddy's face, and offered him the bite once more. Teddy shook his head, hands pushing the spoon away. The porridge clumped between his fingers, and he smeared it into his hair. With far more patience than he actually felt, Harry swabbed the porridge from Teddy's hair with a damp tea towel, and doggedly scooped more porridge in the spoon. Holding it high in the air, Harry intoned in a sing-song trill, 'Open up for the aeroplane!' Teddy's head turned to the side. 'Firebolt?' Harry tried. Teddy's head turned the other way. Harry called on every tactic he'd learned from either Molly or Andromeda, but Teddy stubbornly evaded each one.

Defeated, Harry pushed the bowl away, and soberly regarded his godson. 'You need a bath,' he said.

'Ba!' Teddy repeated. 'Baaaabbbbbbbssss.'

Harry pushed himself to his feet. 'No, no bubbles today, mate,' he said with no apology. He carried Teddy into the bathroom and tapped the taps of the bathtub with his wand. As the water cascaded into the bathtub, Harry stripped off Teddy's sleepsuit and nappy, then wiped the remains of the porridge from his face and hair. Once the water had reached a depth of a few inches, Harry set Teddy into the warm water, and tossed in a few toys from a basket he kept next to the bathtub. Teddy giggled and splashed gleefully while Harry slid to the floor. He regarded Teddy for a moment, then shrugged. What did he have to lose by confiding to the baby? It wasn't as if Teddy would say anything. 'It wasn't a bad idea,' he began. 'I'll admit the timing wasn't the best.'

Teddy upended a small cup full of water over his head.

'You don't have to rub it in, mate,' Harry grumbled. 'This isn't the type of thing I can talk to Ron about. One, it's his sister, and this isn't really something that I think he'd want to hear. Two, how much do I know about Gin? Or she about me?'

Teddy held out a small rubber duck, and banged it on the edge of the bathtub.

'Well, there's that, too,' Harry admitted. 'Ron's known about Hermione since fourth year, at the very least. Not that he would admit it to himself for two more years. But still… They knew each other. Very well. Ron might be a git about some things, but I think by now he'd know enough about Hermione to not cram his foot so far into his mouth. Or at least word it differently.'

Teddy blew a raspberry at his godfather.

'I could have worded it differently. Told her it was to keep a few things here. She's got a point, doesn't she? Even with being able to use magic, I don't think I'd want to go back and forth from London to Holyhead, either. And, yeah, I'm doing exactly what she wants to do, and there's nothing wrong with that…'

'Dadadadada.'

'Exactly,' Harry grunted, feeling his ire rise anew. 'She had no reason to lash out at me like that! None.' He Summoned a clean face cloth, and vigorously lathered it, then began to wash Teddy.

XxXxXxX

Ron escaped from the kitchen, and collapsed on the bench outside the door. It wasn't that hot inside, but he felt closed in. The truth of the matter was, he still enjoyed helping Molly cook the weekly family lunch. It was a time reserved for just the two of them – a newfound experience he wasn't willing to give up. Hermione would be along later for lunch, and then that evening the two of them would join her parents for tea. What he really wanted just now, was to spend some time with Harry. Just the two of them. They hadn't had much time lately, and with Harry moving out into his own flat, they seemed to only see each other on Sundays and the couple Saturdays a month Harry put a hand in at the shop.

The garden gate squealed, ricocheting violently off the fence. Harry stalked through and headed directly for Ron. 'Watch him for me,' he said, not bothering to pose it as a request. Harry deposited Teddy in Ron's lap and went into the house.

Ron regarded Teddy for a moment, then swiveled his head to glance into the house. 'Blimey,' he said mildly. 'What's gotten into him?' Teddy had no reply for Ron. He slithered his way to the grass and sped off on his hands and knees. 'Aw, Teddy, don't go in there!' Ron chased the toddler, who was heading directly for the tool shed.

XxXxXxX

Harry paused in the kitchen long enough to ask Molly, 'Is Ginny upstairs?'

'Why… Yes…' Molly gestured with a wooden spoon toward the stairs.

'Brilliant,' Harry muttered, stomping up the staircase. He barged into Ginny's bedroom without knocking. Ginny squeaked in surprise, holding a shirt to her chest. Harry quietly closed the door and advanced on her. 'I don't know what was going on with you last night, but I did not deserve that kind of response!' he hissed.

'Harry…'

Harry's hand slashed through the air. 'I really don't want to hear what you have to say right now,' he continued. 'I heard enough last night.' He began to pace a little in the small room. 'I do love you, Ginny,' he began in a low voice. 'But that does not give you the right to take a bad day out on me. You want to complain about it? Fine. But don't turn it against me. You just don't do that to the person you love.' He paused and dragged a hand through his hair. 'I think I've been rather patient,' he told Ginny. 'I've waited for you to sort yourself out and figure out what you want, and I've not asked for anything in return. Well, now I'm asking!' The quiet sibilant whispers shocked Ginny into silence. Harry didn't raise his voice, but the fury was unmistakable. 'The only thing I want from you is the same respect I've shown you. Do you hear?'

Ginny's mouth opened and closed. She nodded slightly. Harry's head jerked once in acknowledgment, then he spun on one heel and reached for the door. He yanked the door open, then just as suddenly, slammed it shut and stalked back to Ginny. He thrust his face close to hers, nose hovering a hairsbreadth over her own. 'And for the record, I do not want to take care of you!' he snarled. 'Not in the way you believe. And I can't believe you would for one moment think that of me.' With that, he left, leaving Ginny standing with her hands hanging limply at her sides, shirt dangling forgotten from her fingers.

XxXxXxX

Ron looked up from his meal and elbowed Hermione lightly in the ribs. When she turned to him, he used the handle of his fork to gesture toward Harry and Ginny. They sat next to each other, as they always did, but they weren't speaking – an eddy of uncomfortable silence in the noisy kitchen. They wordlessly passed dishes to each other, but neither of them was really eating what was on their plates. Ginny cleared her throat nervously and asked, 'Could you please pass the salt?' Harry grunted something unintelligible, but picked up the salt and set it down next to her elbow. Ginny dashed a bit of salt over her potatoes, then picked up the butter dish. 'Butter?' She held it out toward him with a slightly hopeful expression on her face. It was a well-known family joke about how she'd put her elbow in the butter one morning during the first summer he stayed with them.

'No, thank you,' Harry said with polite stiltedness.

Hermione's brows drew together a little and she glanced at Ron, who shrugged.

Charlie leaned closer to Ginny. 'When do you have to be in Holyhead?'

'Try-out starts on Tuesday,' she murmured.

'Hmmm.' Charlie picked up his water glass. 'Want to come home with me later?'

Ginny pushed a roasted carrot into a puddle of gravy. Harry was unlikely to talk to her anytime soon. 'Yeah, that would be great.'

Molly brought a treacle tart to the table and began cutting it into slices. She passed plates of it around the table and Harry held up a hand. 'None for me, Molly.'

'Trying to watch your girlish figure, then, eh, Harry?' George chortled. It was telling that no one laughed at something that would have usually elicited a response.

'But… it's your favorite,' Molly protested, pressing the plate into Harry's hands. Resigned, Harry accepted the plate, but the mingled aromas of Ginny's hair and the treacle tart made his stomach roil. Two of his favorite things in the world, and he had no desire to be near either of them. In order to appease Molly, however, he managed to choke down a bite or two, then mashed the rest of it into crumbs.

He reluctantly joined the others in the paddock for a game of Quidditch, his broom held loosely in his hands, hanging back with Hermione a little. 'Oi! Harry!' Bill called. 'Are you playing?'

Harry shook his head. 'Not today.' He contemplated the broom in his hand. 'I think I might head home in a bit,' he added in an undertone.

'Are you feeling all right, Harry?' Hermione inquired worriedly.

'I'm fine,' he said shortly, and turned to replace his broom in the broom shed. 'I'll see you later, Hermione,' he said, then walked back into the house to collect Teddy and take him home.

XxXxXxX

Harry stood in his bathroom, naked, contemplating his bathtub. It was filled with an unholy amount of bubbles and hot water. Truthfully, it made him feel a bit self-conscious to loll in such a luxurious bath. Nonetheless, he gingerly lowered one foot into the steaming water, followed by the other. He folded himself into the bath with a prolonged sigh, then leaned back closing his eyes. He slid lower into the water until his chin just barely touched the bubbles. His earlier rant to Ginny notwithstanding, he could still feel simmering resentment under the aloof exterior he'd displayed at the Burrow. It was more than a little disturbing. While what he'd admitted to Ginny last summer was true – his emotional equilibrium had balanced a great deal since Voldemort died – the lingering umbrage was unsettling. It had been months since he felt this way.

He wasn't certain what had angered him more: the way Ginny had lashed out at him or her accusation that he lacked faith in her ability to look after herself. It was starting to make his head ache.

XxXxXxX

'Would your parents mind if we skipped tea with them tonight?' Ron asked Hermione, as he dropped to the grass next to her. He swiped a forearm across his face and leaned back on his elbows.

She closed the book in her lap and delicately pulled a leaf from his hair and dropped it, watching it fall to the turf between them. 'Not especially,' she replied with a shrug. 'We'll just have to stop at the telephone box in the village and ring them to let them know we've got other plans.' She adopted an inquiring expression. 'So are you going to let me in on those plans?'

'We ought to go talk to Harry.'

'Oh, Ron, I don't think that's a very good idea,' Hermione murmured. 'You know what Harry's like when he's in a mood,' she added.

'Oh, come off it, Hermione,' Ron scoffed. 'You're the one that always wants to talk about things.'

'Think about it logically, Ron,' she replied patiently. 'It's obviously something to do with Ginny, and I highly doubt he wants to talk about it with either of us.'

'How do you know that, eh?'

'Don't you think he would have sought either of us out?' Hermione said.

'Maybe he's waiting for us to come talk to him,' Ron said hopefully.

'You're not going to rest until you've rabbited it out of him, are you?' Hermione asked, resigned.

'Well, why shouldn't he talk to us? Ron shot back indignantly. 'We're his best friends.'

Hermione studied Ron for a moment, then brushed a lock of his hair from his eyes. 'It bothers you, doesn't it? That he's not come to you with this problem…'

Ron looked down at his hands, and said nothing, but nodded a few times. 'He always did before…'

Hermione reached for her bag, and stuffed the book inside. 'I still don't think it's a good idea,' she stated, 'but it he and Ginny were behaving a bit oddly.'

'And we're not going to get to talk to Gin for a few days, at least,' Ron told her. He directed Hermione's attention to the lane outside the garden gate. Ginny held Charlie's arm, a bag slung over one shoulder, her broom clutched tightly in her free hand. The broom shimmered a little in the afternoon sunlight and Ron's face split into a grin. 'She's put every Cushioning charm known to wizardkind on that broom…'

Hermione snorted. 'I don't know much about Quidditch, but even I know that if her broom were to break or possibly Splinch during Apparition, it would put quite a damper on her try-out.' She got to her feet and dusted the seat of her jeans off. 'Come on, then,' she sighed. 'You won't rest until we go to London…'

XxXxXxX

Ron knocked firmly on Harry's door, waited exactly ten seconds, then unleashed another barrage on the locked door.

'I still don't think we ought to be here,' Hermione whispered.

'We're his friends, Hermione,' Ron insisted. 'It's what we do.'

Hermione's eyes closed briefly, and she tentatively knocked on the door.

Inside the flat, Harry's eyes flew open at the sounds of insistent knocking. When they didn't immediately resume, he settled back into his bath, and was just on the verge of slipping back into the half doze he'd been in for some time when a series of timid knocks broke the silence.

'He obviously doesn't want company, Ron,' Hermione said quickly, swinging around to face Ron. 'And have you ever known Harry to refuse pudding and leave before the Quidditch game ended? He didn't play, either.'

'All the more reason for us to be here.'

The door swung open. Harry stood on the other side, damp hair sticking out, a towel wrapped around his hips, skin flecked with daubs of foam. 'What?' he barked.

'Oh...' Hermione turned to Ron. 'I told you we shouldn't have come.'

'D'you always have to be right?' Ron asked huffily.

'If the two of you are going to bicker, I'm going to put some clothes on. I don't fancy standing here in naught but a towel listening to the two of you have the same argument that you've had since we started school, while I drip on my floor.' Harry spun on his bare heel and strode to his bedroom. Of all the people that had to show up, those two were the last ones he wanted to see right now. As much as they disagreed with each other and bickered, they usually acted as something resembling a single unit – the benefit of a long and thoroughly comfortable relationship.

And after his row with Ginny, it was enough to make him want to be sick.

Harry yanked on a pair of clean pajama bottoms and jerked a t-shirt over his head, then ungraciously stomped back into the sitting room. 'Right. You're here, so you might as well give me what lecture you've got planned so you can go home and leave me be.' He flopped onto the sofa, sprawling on the edge. 'Get on with it.' He glowered at his friends, staring at him in astonishment.

'Things seemed a bit… tense… between you and Ginny,' Hermione began.

'So?' Harry challenged. 'It's quite all right for the two of you to bicker like it's nothing, but I can't have a disagreement with Ginny?'

Hermione fiddled with the edge of a small throw pillow. 'You don't normally ignore her like that,' she told him quietly.

'It's just a fight, Hermione,' Harry sighed wearily.

'What did you fight about?' Ron asked curiously.

Harry let his head fall back. 'You don't want to know.'

'We do,' Ron responded. 'So I can decide what hex or jinx to cast.'

Harry inhaled slowly. 'I asked her to live with me…'

Ron stared at him in open-mouthed shock. 'Did you talk to Gin first?' Harry shook his head. 'Have you lost your bleeding mind?' he spluttered, feeling a bit of pride for feeling out how Hermione felt about the matter before attempting to cajole George into letting him have the flat.

Harry's head turned slowly on the sofa, and he regarded Ron thoughtfully. 'It appears I have,' he said mildly.

'I take it Ginny didn't accept?' Hermione asked delicately.

'No,' Harry muttered. 'She told me I was trying to take care of her.'

'Are you?' retorted Ron.

Harry shot him a quelling look, but added, 'Said I was denying her the opportunity to have what I do.'

Ron looked down at his hands. Things didn't quite add up. There were times when he thought Harry was quite out of his tree in regards to Ginny. Harry was far more tolerant of her moods that Ron had been, but he attributed that to the fact Harry wanted to be with Ginny, whereas he was her older brother and was forced to bear with her because they were siblings. But he understood doubt and uncertainty, especially when framed with such a seismic shift as Harry and Ginny were about to have. 'You're afraid she's not coming back,' he stated softly.

'I am not,' Harry scoffed. 'I know what I want, and after years of living for other people, I think I deserve to live for myself.'

'You're afraid she'll go out, live her life, and figure out she doesn't want to be with you,'

Ron told him.

Harry glowered at Ron, feeling his ears burn. 'Stop.'

'Stop what?' Ron asked cluelessly.

'I really want people to stop telling me what I mean and how I feel, damn it,' Harry growled. He lurched forward from the sofa and snatched a film from a precarious pile next to his television and brandished it like a shield in front of him. 'Now that you've said what you came to say, you can leave, or you'll watch this with me,' he snapped.

Hermione leaned forward, eyes narrowed, as she read the case. 'Oh, God,' she muttered, paling slightly. 'Not Mr. Creosote…' she said fearfully. 'Let's go.' She grabbed Ron's hand and all but pulled him to the door. 'Good-bye, Harry. We'll see you later…'

'I don't understand,' Ron complained. 'What's so bad about that film thing he's waving at us?'

They disappeared down the stairs, and Harry sagged on the sofa with a sigh of relief. The Meaning of Life, he mused. 'Just what I need just now…'

XxXxXxX

Ginny followed Charlie into his spare cabin and dropped her bag next to the sofa, then propped her broom in the corner. Charlie rolled his eyes and snagged it in one hand. 'You're sleeping in the bed,' he told her, striding toward his bedroom.

'The sofa's fine,' Ginny protested. 'I can't take your bed from you…'

Charlie reappeared in the sitting room, and aimed a light kick at the sofa. 'No, you won't be fine on the sofa.' His expression softened a little, and he tugged at Ginny's ponytail. 'One of my regrets is not at least giving it go with the English team, and I'll be damned if you cock this up because you had to sleep on that bloody excuse for a sofa.' Ginny blinked in response. For Charlie, that was nearly a speech. Charlie brushed her hair from her eyes. 'I've got nights in the hatchery this week, so by the time I'm going to work, it'll be time for you to go to bed, and when I get home, you'll be ready to head to the pitch.'

'I suppose…'

'Brilliant.' Charlie patted her back. 'Right then. I'm going for a kip. Shift starts at eleven, and I don't fancy tackling hatchlings without a few winks.' He bent to unlace his boots and indicated the door. 'Go out. See the village. Golden Talon's the best pub. You can have a nice stroll through the reservation if you like. Places you can't go are marked and charmed.'

Ginny nodded, eyes swiveling toward her broom. 'Thanks, Charlie.'

'No worries, eh? Just give 'em hell at the trial, yeah?' Charlie grinned crookedly at her, then disappeared into the bedroom.

Ginny grabbed her broom, and darted out of the cabin. She threw a leg over the handle and kicked off, swooping in an expansive arc toward the Harpies' stadium, tucked into a valley. She flew around the goal posts and came to a stop, hovering over the middle of the pitch, staring at the village that might become her home for however long she chose.

Freshening wind off the Irish Sea blew strands of hair across her face, but she ignored them.

If she cared to admit it to herself – which she didn't – Ginny was terrified. She finally had the chance to be Ginny Weasley on her terms, and not someone's sister or girlfriend. She just hoped she didn't make a complete disaster of it.