It was a Saturday afternoon on the holidays, and I was lying on my bed, innocently staring up at the ceiling counting the cracks- I don't think there's any other way to stare at cracks, really

Counting the Cracks

It was a Saturday afternoon on the holidays, and I was lying on my bed, innocently staring up at the ceiling counting the cracks- I don't think there's any other way to stare at cracks, really. I was busily calculating how many more cracks it would need before the ceiling collapsed on top of me, just coming to the conclusion that I really needed a life, when there was a knock and my big dopey brother Ron came in.

Nobody in my family seems to understand the concept of the knock. They might as well just barge on in, but no, they knock and then they barge on in. My theory is that they just knock to ease their conscience. Take Ron for an example, he's not stupid- oh, wait, he is. So Percy, he's not stupid at all (though he is a bit of loser, but that can't be helped). And yet even he seems to think that if you knock first, then you can walk on in. You don't have to wait or anything. Since I have nothing better to do, maybe I should hold a crash course in common courtesy. Sounds like a c-sentence from Sesame Street. (I love that show. Dad brought home a telewizzer or whatever they are when I was little. Big bird is my hero.)

Anyway. Ron burst in, and I glared at him in true sisterly fashion. 'What?' I said icily.

Ron didn't seem to care that I was glaring at him furiously. Although, I guess I wouldn't care if someone more than a head shorter than me was glaring at me furiously. I'd probably just laugh.

'Me and Harry were just wondering if you wanted to come to Diagon Alley with us.' I realised why he hadn't noticed I was glaring at him. He was staring at the floor, kicking the carpet. I almost defended the carpet- I mean, it hadn't done anything wrong, had it? Mum was probably making him ask, but the carpet had nothing to do with that, did it?

'Why would you want me to go with you?'

Then I caught on to what he'd actually said.

'Harry's here?'

Ron nodded dully. 'I don't want you to come,' he said crossly. I guess mum was making him ask.

'Well, too bad. I'm coming.' Anything to annoy dear Ron.

'We have to go by floo powder,' he said, hopefully, as though hoping I'd be put off. It was almost insulting. I'm not a baby. I can handle floo powder.

'So what?'

I walked out the door coolly, feeling quite pleased with my whole sisterly act. I bumped into another taller person in my doorway. I was about to yell at them, until I looked up and saw Harry Potter, his glasses askew.

One day I will curse dad for giving me genes that make my ears go red. I will. I bet he did it just to spite us.

'Um…hi.'

My sisterly act went down the drain. Or maybe it trickled through the floorboards, as no drains were about at the time.

He smiled, pushed his hair off his forehead with an annoyed expression, and then Ron grabbed his arm and pulled him away. I could hear them talking about Quidditch, discussing which brooms were the best and a whole lot of other boring rot. I have nothing against Quidditch, of course. I love Quidditch. I'd join the team if I could ride a broom, but as I can't ride a broom (I have this horrible fear of heights, apparently George almost dropped me off the roof once. I think it had drastic after effects) I'm really not that interested in broomsticks.

Fred brushed past me, giving me an odd look. 'What's wrong with you? Coming to Diagon Alley?'

I nodded.

George followed him and grinned at me. I hurried down the stairs, as I get scared whenever one of the twins grin at me. It's disturbing. I never know if they're going to turn me into a cockroach or just make my hair go blue. As neither plan is very appealing, I generally escape as quickly as possible. They're bad enough at school, but at home they're twice as much trouble. (This is weird, because Mum is much scarier than Professor McGonagall is.) If my ceiling ever does collapse on me and crush me to death, it'll be all their fault and I hope they feel guilty about it.

In the kitchen Harry and Ron were still going on about brooms, Mum was reading a magazine or something, muttering to herself, Dad was still at work and so was Percy. Fred and George reckon his hair will start going grey from overwork. They're waiting for the day this happens with glee, I suspect they already have a photographer lined up. I almost feel sorry for Percy. He's never done anything to me. In fact, he's been quite a nice big brother, if you put the other imbeciles I live with into the picture.

I have to admit though, Ron does have good taste in friends. Hermione's nice (I personally think Ron likes her. He just gets mad at her because he's so dim witted he can't express his feelings in any other way. I tried to tell him this, and he sort of gaped at me and then he told mum I was sick.) It does get a bit boring, listening to them bicker about the stupidest things. Honestly, I don't see why Ron even cared about stupid Scabbers. He was just a rodent. Not to mention a dumb and lazy rodent, I never was fond of him. I did feel sorry for Ron when we thought Crookshanks had devoured him, but Scabbers was never high on my list of people- or creatures- I liked, so it was really just Ron I pitied. Okay, so Scabbers turned out to be working for You-Know-Who. And it was dumb of Ron not to notice anything suspicious. But really, it would have been nice of Peter Pettigrew to not get Ron so worked up, he can get very loud, not to mention violent.

Anyway. By now Harry and Ron had left for Diagon Alley, Fred and George were getting ready to leave- mum was checking them all over, making sure nothing was in their pockets or anything- if they weren't going to become fully qualified wizards this year I'd laugh at them but by the end of next year they'll be free to use their wands whenever they want. I think Mum's quite anxious about this. I overheard her and dad talking, they're trying to make the house even stronger before the twins graduate. Maybe they'll finally get round to fixing the cracks in my ceiling, it's hard to sleep at night with images of plaster pinning you down.

Mum finally decided they were safe, and they jumped into the fireplace, Fred first, George right behind.

Mum smiled at me. There are advantages in being the only girl in the family. It takes several years to find out exactly what the advantages are, and when your brothers are morons like mine (I am fond of them, but that doesn't stop them being morons) these advantages are even better hidden.

I sprinkled some floo powder into the fireplace, opened my mouth to yell Diagon Alley, and promptly swallowed a mouthful of ash. I guess the fireplace mistook my choking for something else, because the next thing I knew I was being spun around and around and when the whirling stopped and I fell out of a fireplace, I knew that I definitely was not in Diagon Alley. That is, unless Diagon Alley had had changed quite bit and was now by the beach.

I'd never done this before. I was an experienced floo powder traveller, I'd never so much as inhaled a little bit of ash before. Fred must have done something to my lungs.

The strangest thing about this place that I was now in was that it was a little, itsy bitsy cottage with a huge fireplace and a beach outside. Nothing else. Except, perhaps, large ferocious spiders hiding under the table licking their lips (if spiders have lips) waiting to pounce. But I hadn't encountered any of them yet.

I looked up at the ceiling. Not even one little crack to count.

I sighed, slumped down onto the floor and gazed into the empty fireplace. Maybe mum would be able to translate my chokes and come rescue me. Or maybe not. Maybe I'd be trapped forever and ever in an itty-bitty cottage full of spiders-, which I was hoping were harmless, they didn't look as though they had fangs on them- and I'd have to pull their legs off and nibble on them for dinner. The thought made me feel rather sick.

I was beginning to feel incredibly depressed. I had just decided to find a poisonous spider to ask it (politely, of course) to bite me so I could be put out of my misery, when the door swung open and someone walked in. I was getting tired of this. It appeared that even on some tropical island people didn't knock.

Then I remembered this wasn't even my house.

The person stared at me. I felt my ears turn red, and I stared back at them, hoping I didn't look too much like a robber.

'Who are you?' He asked me.

'I'm…um…Ginny,' I said lamely. 'Weasley,' I added, wondering if this would ring a bell. But it probably wouldn't, as most people who knew of my family recognised me straight away. When I grow up I plan on dying my hair black, maybe add some purple streaks. Or maybe even before that. Next week sometimes, perhaps.

'And what are you doing in my house, Ginny Weasley?'

The person was oddly familiar.

'Um. I'm sitting.'

'Would you mind telling me why you're sitting?' They had a little smirk on their face, as if they found it funny. I didn't.

I almost said no, until I realised this could be some insane murderer who might be a little cross. I didn't want to provoke him or anything, so I said 'I, um, came here by floo powder. By accident!' I added hastily.

The man looked a bit puzzled. His hair was very dirty and matted, and I decided that if he wasn't insane I might recommend some shampoo brands, it looked as though he desperately needed advice.

'Strange,' he muttered. 'I thought I'd made it impossible for anyone to get here…what did you say?'

'I- er- kind of choked.' Darn Fred. Thanks to him I was somewhere in- well, I wasn't exactly sure of the location, but hopefully it was on earth.

'Ah. That explains it.'

'It does?' It didn't explain much to me. The man raised his eyebrows and I shut up.

'I take it you don't remember me, Ginny,' he said, picking up a piece of fruit. He bit into it loudly and I felt my stomach rumble. I hadn't had any breakfast because George had done something to the toast (Ron had bat ears all morning) and I hadn't been sure which slices were safe. If any.

'Uh, no.'

The man muttered something to himself. 'So, where were you off to today? Not here, I take it.'

'Diagon Alley.'

'School books?'

I nodded silently. I had a sudden vision of my first year when Tom Riddle leapt out of a diary. Shivers ran down my spine- this person didn't seem much like a murderer, but neither had he at first. I bit my lip and tried to look tough.

Either he thought I looked funny or he remembered a hilarious joke, but either way, the man burst out laughing.

I felt quite insulted.

'What?' I said, dropping the tough look. If it was ever tough in the first place.

'Nothing,' he giggled.

I stared at him. 'Nothing?' He was having hysterics because of nothing? Maybe he was insane after all. I eyed the fireplace- perhaps I'd be able to talk him into lighting a fire and letting me go find my mum, who was probably sobbing in the leaky cauldron against some unknown witch's shoulder, or out in Diagon Alley screaming my name. How embarrassing.

'Well, not nothing exactly.'

'You aren't you to kill me, are you?' I said nervously.

He laughed harder. I wasn't sure if this was because he found the idea of killing someone hilarious or if he was cackling in delight. I wasn't even sure which one of these I wanted- definitely not him cackling in delight, that would be bad, but finding killing someone hilarious wouldn't exactly be delightful either.

Maybe he thought I was just being stupid.

I started to edge towards the fireplace- I really have no idea why exactly, it's not like the fireplace would miraculously gobble me up and save me from that mad man. Then I remembered that I was 14 years old and that I most definitely should not be crawling. It was hurting my pride, not to mention my knees.

'Um. You're aren't going to, um, kill me, are you?' I said, standing up, attempting to look dignified.

He stopped laughing. I waited for him to get out a knife and chop me up, feeling unusually calm.

Then I came to my senses, and burst all the glass in the cottage apart with an ear-splitting, glass shattering scream.

But there might not have been any glass there in the first place, which would explain the lack of it after I'd shut up.

The man winced, covered his ears, and raised his eyebrows at me. I'm not sure if I stopped screaming there. It might have just been an echo for the next few seconds, but either way, he didn't lift his hands off his ears until it was well and truly silent.

He breathed a sigh of relief and let his hands drop to his side.

'What'd you do that for?' He asked, rotating one finger around the inside of his ear. It looked as though he was testing to see if he'd gone deaf.

'Oh, I -er…' I tried to look nonchalant. 'I just thought you were going to kill me,' I said, like it was the most normal thing in the world to think.

He snorted. 'No. Want something to eat?'

My stomach jumped about excitedly. 'Yeah! Oh- my mum,' I faltered. 'She doesn't know I'm here.' My stomach dropped sadly.

'Look. I'll ring your mum and tell her your fine-'

'She might be beyond the point of just ringing,' I said, imagining her trying to strangle this stranger. It wasn't his fault but if I told her that I doubted she'd listen. 'She might -erm- try to kill you or something…'

He laughed again. 'Molly? Kill someone? I doubt it.'

I didn't think to ask how he knew her name. 'What would you know?' I said grumpily. 'My mum could yell until you jumped off a bridge.'

He sat down, still chuckling. 'Know from experience, do you?'

'I am an angel,' I said. 'But Fred and George wear ear-plugs sometimes…'

'You remind me of someone I once knew…she was an angel as well.' His dark eyes had gone almost dream-like. 'Anyway- we'd better get you home, hadn't we?'

I nodded, thanking my lucky stars he wasn't a child-napper. I was just standing in the fireplace, emerald green flames licking at my ankles. 'Hey- how'd you know my mother's name was Molly?'

'I'm a seer.'

I blinked. He didn't look much like Trelawney to me. 'You are not,' I said, my voice doubtful.

'I am too!' He argued, obviously enjoying himself thoroughly.

'How come you don't wear long skirts then, huh?' I think the afternoons events were taking their toll on me, I'm sure I wouldn't have asked such a dumb question if I'd been with it.

One of his dark eyebrows was raised, and he was looking at me with a bemused expression his face. 'I'm a male?' He suggested.

'Oh, yeah…well, I have to go. Bye!'

I yelled 'Diagon Alley' and a few seconds later, mum was cradling me in her arms while I choked, wishing Ron wasn't laughing so hard so he could rescue me.

'Mum! Get off!'

She released me, wiped her eyes and then went into lecture mode. 'Where have you been? I've been worried sick! I thought someone had abducted you! Ginny, you know I don't want you wondering around by yourself these days, where on earth have you been?' She was beginning to repeat herself. 'I thought someone was going to kill you!'

'Me too,' I said truthfully.

It didn't stopper her flood of tears. Instead she wept into my t-shirt. I sighed. I'd been quite fond of that shirt, too.

'Mum,' I whined. 'I need to get my stuff.'

'Oh, right. Yes.' She blew her nose loudly. 'Off you go then.'

And off I went.

I went to Flourish and Blots, looking for all my new schoolbooks. My mind kept wandering back to the strange hut, though, and I decided to find out who the man was. I couldn't believe I'd never thought to ask his name. I bought my books in a hurry, shoved them into a bag, and then ran off to find mum.

I think there's some kind of magnet that makes me run into Harry whenever he'd within crashing distance. Of course, it's only ever me that runs into him. He never runs into me or anything. Life can really be unfair sometimes, especially as I don't know that spell to fix glasses. It could really come in handy sometime.

Harry smiled at me, held his glasses together, and then walked into The Magical Menagerie, dirt on his knees. Such beautiful knees…

But back to the strange stranger in the little cottage.

My plan was to go back to our fireplace at home, and sneeze to see where it would carry me. If that didn't work I could try swallowing ash. I wasn't sure if all chokes and splutters sounded the same, but it stood to reason that they weren't completely different.

It was a comforting theory.

Mum was sitting in the Leaky Cauldron, chatting cheerfully to Tom the bartender.

'Ginny!' He said, waving at me with a dishtowel. I waved back, trying to look ill. 'You okay, love?' He asked, his expression changing to concern. Mum swung around on her stool.

'Sweetheart, what'd wrong?'

I groaned loudly. 'My tummy hurts.' I hadn't aimed to sound like a five-year-old, but it did the trick. They believed me. And if they didn't they were humouring me, but I didn't care either way. 'Can I go home?

Mum felt my forehead. 'Are you sure you want to do that, Ginny? Maybe Tom should get you a bed here…'

So she was humouring me. It's not fair, having six older brothers; mum knows all the tricks. Even the pathetic, lame ones.

'Uh- no. I'd really like to go home, if that's okay. I'll just lie down. Please, mum?'

She looked at me suspiciously. Then Ron and Harry raced in, their hair all over the place. 'Mum!' Ron was yelling. 'Quick, come see!'

Harry was laughing hysterically, his glasses hanging off his ear, taped together with spellotape. Mum, sensing trouble (I swear, she has a radar for it, even dad gets scared when she's on the warpath) dashed out the pub, Ron and Harry, who were clutching their sides, following as fast as they could without falling over.

I ran to the large fireplace in the pub, sprinkled some floo powder into the roaring flames, jumped in, and sneezed.

Tom was watching me but by the time he'd made it over to the grate I was spinning off somewhere. I was very dizzy, and as I spun around and around, my elbows knocking into bricks and other very hard and painful objects, I thought of something Percy could design at work. Safe non-spinning floo powder. Excellent for people who get seasick (or chimney sick.)

I tumbled out into a pretty, warm, furnished house. The two people in the room stared at me, and immediately I felt self-conscious. My red hair was sooty; I'd seen it in the reflection at the bookshop and nearly fainted. My cheeks were singed black and my skirt was ripped. The little girl seated on the couch (who was about four or five) screamed and hid her face in her older brother's shirt, her blonde hair fanned out over his shirt.

'Sorry.' I stammered.

Her brother stared at me, and I saw that he was cute. Very cute. His hair was scruffily messed up, his eyes were hazel and they seemed to sparkle in the firelight.

This was not how I wanted to meet cute boys.

'Hi.' I said, smiling at him as I backed away. 'Well, I guess I got the wrong address, so I'll just be going now.' I stepped into the fire, coughed, and the poor, frightened little girl and her adorable big brother disappeared from view.

The fireplace in the next house was extremely fancy, it was made of gold and there were little silver statues sitting on the mantelpiece. I felt a little out of place.

'Roger!' A woman shrieked, spotting me as she entered the room. 'Quick, Roger! A robber!'

I leapt back into the fireplace. 'So sorry. Here, want a lolly?' I handed her a jellybean I'd found earlier that day in my pocket. Hopefully it wasn't grass flavoured. 'Here you go!'

The woman screamed again.

I tried to remember what we'd learnt at school about this. I racked my brains, but nothing came to light. In the end I curtsied, wobbled, and then inhaled a huge cloud of ash. I didn't need to pretend to choke this time.

It had been the right address- although it was very strange, the way all these people had coughs for their fireplace addresses. Very odd. I stepped out into the cottage, which was again empty. Outside, however, I could hear someone whistling off-tune. I winced and opened the door.

'Professor Lupin?' I said in disbelief.

My day was getting more and more confusing. Standing outside the little house was my old defence against the dark arts professor, collecting firewood. I didn't see why he didn't just use magic.

'Ginny! Sirius told me you'd visited him earlier today,' he said cheerfully.

'He did? Sirius?'

'Mm- your father's working with us at the moment, actually. You look a lot like him.'

'I knew I'd seen him somewhere before,' I muttered, ignoring the comment about my dad. Everyone knows we all look the same.

'Ah, the wanderer returns!'

I spun around and saw Sirius Black leaning up against the door. 'Did your mother kill you?'

'No. She got distracted…I just came back to find out who you were…'

'Sirius Black, at your service.' He bowed.

'Yeah, I know. Anyway. I have to go now.'

'Say hi to your dad for me,' he called, as I walked back inside, feeling a little disappointed. It would have been far more interesting if the mysterious stranger had been a famous wizard or something. Well, Sirius Black was famous but I mean, come on; he works with my dad now. He's Harry's Godfather. Nothing interesting at all.

'The burrow,' I yelled clearly, sick of coughing.

Back at home I walked around listlessly. Fred and Georges room would have been very exciting to explore, but it was sure to be booby-trapped. Ron's room was boring, Percy's room could put anyone to sleep, my room had had every single crack counted, and I knew every inch of floorboard…

Maybe the attic? The attic could be good to explore, as long as the ghoul wasn't in a grumpy mood. Mum had descended from the attic once covered from head to toe in eggs. Scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, fried eggs, gooey eggs, omelettes…we had been very curious to find out how the ghoul had found the eggs- not to mention how he'd made omelettes with them.

I bounced up the stairs to the attic, kicking aside all the junk lying about on the steps. I was considerably happier now that I had a mission. Well, something to do. There had to be something interesting in the attic. Even if it was only photos of my brothers in nappies.

I took the stairs three at a time- if I found photos of Fred and George in nappies they'd never hex me again. I'd be their queen. Their ruler. They'd never hex me again.

I came to the end of the stairs and turned the handle energetically.

The door was stuck- one of the hinges were broken. I stared at it helplessly. Then I kicked it, and as I was hopping around on the spot a voice said knock down the door!

'The door?' I said dubiously. 'I don't know…wouldn't that be painful?'

Pain? Who cares about pain?

'Not you, obviously.'

I looked at Alexia (she's like a ghost. An invisible type ghost, you know? I mean, I only I can see her. She thinks my brothers are mindless fools. Many do. Fred and George think she's a figment of my imagination but that's impossible because she's pinched me before and it hurt.)

So ram it down, why don't you?

'Okay, okay.' I took a deep breath, ran straight at the door and smashed into the wood.

It hurt.

My arm would never be the same again.

But the door crashed down onto the floor with a bang, and I lay there for a few minutes, waiting for the throbbing in my arm to die down.

Are you alive? Do you have a pulse?

Alexia's not a very smart ghost. She lives in the cellar, with all the little ratties for company and rats aren't the smartest creatures on the planet. Don't get me wrong, they aren't stupid or anything. They're smarter than Ron. But that's not saying much, so Alexia doesn't have intelligent conversations very often.

'I'm alive,' I groaned. 'Hey, Pigwidgeon!' Ron's tiny little owl fluttered over to me. 'What's that? A letter for me? Why, thankyou Piggy!" I stroked his cute little feathers absentmindedly as I opened the envelope, Alexia looking over my shoulder.

Dear Ginny,

How are you? Gran wants to know if you'd like to come over some time, if you want. Is Ron there? Tell him I said hi, and Harry too, if he's there.

From Neville.

The parchment was covered with little crosses out and smudges- Neville wasn't great with ink, Dad reckons we should introduce pens for people who can't control quills. He was campaigning for something like that before he started working with Dumbledore and Professor Lupin and all them. He's been at work overtime for weeks- Percy's been over the moon, he can stay at his beloved office until the moon is high up in the sky and the stars are twinkling. Mum thinks he's going to collapse from exhaustion so she's been feeding him chicken soup every night when he gets home to build up his strength.

Neville's very sweet. He's not the brightest person and I'm glad I'm not in his year; I wouldn't want to be partnered with him in Transfiguration or Potions- definitely not potions, but he's a nice person and all. Okay, so he isn't cute. But he has a big heart. I think. It might be a small heart, actually, I've never asked and I doubt he'd know anyway, but he wouldn't hurt a fly. Not a nice fly. So I wanted to go over to his house, he'd be much better company that Percy.

My attention was drawn back to the attic. Alexia had given up on me, and was probably back in her cellar conferring with Mr Fluffers (the head rat). There were boxes everywhere, some with sheets draped over them and lots of little dust bunnies floating about. There was furniture I'd never seen before (mainly because most of it looked like it would collapse the moment so much as an ant seated itself on it) and toys galore.

It looked as though my stuffed toy collection would have some new additions joining them very soon.

For the next few hours I sat on the floor on a space I cleared of dust and boxes and junk, emptying some of the boxes of their contents, playing and naming some of the toys. I hadn't actually played with stuffed toys for a long time, but this seemed different- all toys deserve a name, in my opinion.

Soon sitting in front of me was Mariel, the rag doll, whose hair was a bit matted and dirty- I decided to take her to Hogwarts to I could fix it with my wand (or if I stayed bored all holidays I could hand wash it, but last doll I'd done that to had met a sorry end…I missed Alice.) Then there was Victoria, a doll with long black curls and china skin and hands, her mouth painted red in a smile. There was a funny little lizard with jewels all along her back called Maria, the jewels sparkling whenever it was in the sunlight. Sarah Michelle was a teddy wearing a little hat, her fur fuzzy and soft- I remembered her from Fred's room ages ago (I'd think she'd once been called Teddy, Fred being a real creative name person). Besides them was Annamuffin, another bear, who had a cute smirk and little chubby cheeks, Eve, Lucinda, Cassie, Kim, Hope -who were sparkly fairies- and Patrick (a little elf with a very long nose.)

I had just finished brushing the dirt off Eve when a tiny little box made of wood caught my eye. It was completely plain, except for the little clasp on one side made of a shimmery stone that twinkled when the sun caught it.

I placed the little fairy doll on the ground and crawled over to the box. It was very light- often wizard objects were enchanted so you could carry them around without breaking any bones, but this seemed genuinely feather like.

I opened it carefully, my fingers fumbling on the clasp, partly because I couldn't see it very well in the half-light and partly because I was nervous it would blow up in my face. When you live in a house where things blow up on a regular basis you can't help being suspicious. It just becomes part of your nature. You don't necessarily drink only from a private hip flask, but you don't go opening strange boxes without feeling a little bit wary. Diaries don't count. I find it incredibly unfair that I can't even have a diary without almost being killed. Sometimes being a witch sucks.

Sometimes.

The rest of the time it is pretty cool. (Except for when you have to turn a toad into a guinea pig. I can't handle transfiguration. Besides, what's the point? When will I ever need to turn a toad into a guinea pig? My point exactly.)

Anyway, I finally got the lid open. I was all excited, thinking it might be something really cool, like treasure or spells no one had ever heard of before.

It was empty.

I felt disappointment flood through me. What was the point in finding a really cool box if it was empty? Feeling put out, I tipped a box out onto the floor, recruited yet another teddy (Brigitte) and then packed all the stuff I'd found into it, careful not to break Victoria, who looked like she might fall apart at any moment.

I picked it up, wished I could use my magic on holidays because I wasn't sure my back would make it to my room, and then remembered there was no door left.

Dad wouldn't be pleased.

I put the heavy box down on the landing outside the attic, looking at the door with distaste. I knew from experience it was a very heavy door. I could always blame it on Ron…but Harry had been with Ron all day, he'd tell mum Ron couldn't possibly have done it. Unless I told mum Harry was lying.

Seeing as I couldn't tell mum that, I tried pushing the door back in the doorframe- it took forever, but in the end it was standing upright, looking like a proper door. Then I realised it was dark.

I was on the wrong side of the door.

Sometimes I think stupidity is genetic.

I couldn't be bothered knocking it down again. It could've broken all the toys, for one thing. Or me. I was deciding to yell for help (I don't know why but it seemed like a good idea at the time) when I saw the little window in the roof blow open. Must have been the ghoul going out. I didn't stop to think- if I'd stayed in there any longer I'd have gone insane- I pulled a couple of boxes on top of a chair and pulled myself out of the attic.

The dizziness hit me as soon as I stood up on top of the tiled roof. Why do I have to have the same amount of brainpower as Ron in emergency situations? I can be smart. Just not in life or death emergencies, I guess.

I looked about. Everything looked a bit different- either because I'd never been on the roof before or because everything was a bit out of focus. Or both.

Trees. I need trees. Trees you can climb. Why doesn't mum like trees? Doesn't she know one of her kids will end up on the roof one day? Doesn't she know we don't carry around parachutes?

I sighed and sat down on the tiles. A few came loose and toppled down to the ground. I heard the smash from where I was. It wasn't fair. I was stuck on the roof. I was a witch. And I couldn't even use my magic. I tried to remember Percy's lectures. He knew the entire rulebook off by heart, he'd be sure to know the loopholes as well.

Then again, he'd probably been fighting the minister of magic to ban all loopholes. Percy's so stupid sometimes. If I didn't get off the roof because of him and his stupid rules I'd haunt him.

Loopholes, loopholes. There has to be one…didn't Dad once say we could only use our magic in emergencies? Well, if this isn't an emergency I don't know what is…now what is that spell?

I pulled my wand out my pocket- it was soothing just to have it with me- and stared at it for a few minutes, hoping for inspiration. Nothing came to mind, the brain doesn't work as well under stress. Or terror.

In the end I remembered a herbology lesson in which Professor Sprout had babbled on for hours about making plants grow. I peered over the side of the gutter, wishing we had an aerial I could hold on to. Of course, it would probably snap, but as we didn't have one in the first place I don't suppose it matters. I could see the flowerbed a billion miles beneath me; little flecks of colour all jumbled up. Feeling even dizzier, I let go of the roof with one hand to get my wand.

'Engorgia!' I yelled, flicking my wand and pointing it at the little plant. It grew very rapidly and I was reminded of Jake and The Beanstalk. Or was it Joe? Either way, I hoped the flower wouldn't grow up to the clouds. That might be a little hard to explain to the muggle airlines, dad was always going on about that kind of stuff whenever Fred and George tried to go out flying.

It stopped growing a few metres below the roof, the huge green leaves swaying about dangerously towards the bathroom window. I winced as the glass smashed.

'Uh oh.'

The middle of the flower looked pretty soft. Kind of fluffy almost, like a big sponge cake. It was jump or stay up on the roof until mum got home and I was grounded. Needless to say, I jumped, the flower catching me safely. It bobbed about for a moment- I almost brought up everything in my stomach- so I scrambled down as fast as I could, the leaves making good foot rests, until I reached solid ground. I almost kissed the grass I was so happy, until I remembered all the dirt and other gross stuff that could hidden under the little leaves. Ants. Caterpillars. Big hairy spiders. All of which are icky.

It was a big relief. I shrunk the plant, shoved the broken tiles into the bin, vowed to do something about getting a really tall tree in our backyard and then rushed up to the attic before someone claimed my toys. I don't see why any of my brother would want them- it's not that they weren't lovely toys it was just that I couldn't imagine Ron or Percy looking after Victoria. Unless they were exploring their feminine side. But Percy's feminine side would probably just be brushing his hair over and over again (him being the perfectionist he is) and Ron would- actually; I don't know what Ron would do.

I'm not sure I want to know.

So even though no one would steal my lovely toys, I raced up the stairs to save them and hide them in my room. Dad had told me back in my first year not to trust anything that could think for itself but you couldn't see their brain- or something similar to that, I was a bit hysterical at the time- but none of these dolls were talking. At the moment. Besides, dolls are different to diaries. Diaries aren't supposed to talk or write back to you. (Although they should, it's pretty cool. Unless the person talking turns out to be the most evil wizard who ever lived, that's not quite so cool.)

Back in my room, I layed all of them out on the floor, talking to them. It sounds crazy but I'd been cooped up at home (Mum's been a bit- well, very- over protective lately so she hasn't let any of us go out) and I hadn't talked to anyone with half a brain cell for at least a month, so these dolls were like a breath of fresh air. I could make them talk about normal things.

Sarah Michelle wasn't very fond of beans, but she liked Charms and when Patrick (the little elf guy) said that she was crazy she threatened to charm him. I left them to argue between themselves while I looked in the little box again. I was thinking that there might be some gold hidden in it somewhere. I can't help liking gold. You'd like gold if you grew up in a house stuck together with magic and had to buy all your robes in the second hand shop in Diagon Alley. The stupid Slytherins in my potions classes always tease me about them. One day I'll make stupid little Dylan grow a long tail with fluffy bits sticking out like his hair. He thinks it looks cool, but I know better. He looks like an echidna.

I tried to find secret little drawers, a secret bottom or anything. I shook it, tipped it out, scolded it and even offered to make it some cake. But it was just an ordinary box. The clasp was nice but the rest of it was just a box.

I glared at it.

It sat there.

I'd almost been expecting it to glare back at me, but when it didn't I gave up and flopped down onto my bed. I couldn't be bothered waiting up for mum or my brothers or even Harry. I was exhausted. But as I fell asleep, with Mariel the rag doll by my side and Milky Way (my most prized teddy) tucked under my arm, I felt quite content. It had been a pretty interesting day. I'd been to the beach (and been terrified, but that's besides the point), I'd found an empty box (with a pretty clasp, please note), I'd rescued lots of cute toys and given them a home and I'd be escaping my family sometime very soon. Hopefully Neville wouldn't mind if I turned up on his doorstep in the morning.

I rolled over his bed, snuggling up under the covers, one more thing coming to mind.

The ceiling hadn't caved in on me. How delightful.

Okay. Now, I am aware that was a little strange. Well, more than a little, and I KNOW somebody will say 'um, where's Lily Angel?' Lily Angel is currently sitting in my computer half-written, waiting patiently for me to finish. ::sweatdrop:: Ideas? Somebody? My mind has blocked off all access to Lily Angel…

I'm very bored, so, you know, some reviews would be nice…