A present for Potsim, who is always a-hankering me for some fluff to warm her belly.
Dedicated to FrighteninglyObsessed, who threatened to cry.
"Welcome!" Fred declared proudly, "to the premier outlet in the forthcoming Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes chain!"
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny looked around. After a moment, it was Hermione who stated the obvious.
"Where's all your merchandise?"
Granted, the place was big, in Diagon Alley, and across from Florean Fortescue's . . . but it was decidedly empty.
"Yes, well," George said, "that's sort of a little bit incorporated into the reason why you lot are here."
"Wot?" demanded Ron, his eyes snapping towards the twins with alarming speed. Harry was surprised he hadn't hurt himself.
"Look, don't loose your head, Ronnie. That fact is we need your help," George elaborated.
"Then again, maybe loosing his head would be preferable?" suggested Fred, "doesn't seem to be doing much for him, does it?"
"It's the summer holidays!" Ron cried, "in fact, after this holiday, it'll be NEWTs all the way over the horizon! This is the light at the beginning of the tunnel! And I, for one, am not doing any work!"
"Alright, calm down, Ron," Harry said, "Fred and George haven't even told us what they need yet."
"I think I can guess," Ron said, pointing. On the floor at the front of the shop, near the counter, was a massive pile of rather large cardboard boxes all marked with the characteristic mini-explosion that the twins had adopted as their logo for the shop.
"Ron, a bit of stacking won't kill you," Ginny said, rolling her eyes.
"It's easy for you to say," Ron grumbled, "you've got two summers left."
"Well I'm in," Harry said.
"Ah, Mr Potter," Fred gave a heartfelt sniff. "Sponsorship, advice, support . . . and now free slave labour."
"He's done so much for us, Fred!" George gasped tearfully.
"Me too," nodded Hermione.
"Moi aussi," grinned Ginny. The group turned to scrutinize Ron. Hermione looked as if she were about to raise her voice, then thought better of it and said instead,
"Come on, Ron, be a sport."
Harry watched his best friend's stubbornness snap like a frozen sugar quill.
"You two owe me some free merchandise," he said, shaking his head.
"Smashing," grinned George, clapping his hands together. "Right, this is how it works:"
"The product names are written on the side of the boxes," Fred told them. "Whatever you do, do not turn the boxes upside-down!"
"Anything other than that is fine," George said dismissively, "feel free to shake them, kick them, stand on them, sleep on them, scratch your back on them, but, on no account are you to turn them upside-down, savvy?"
"Aye ay, C'pn!" Ginny replied smartly, saluting.
"Apart from that, even Ronnie should be able to handle it," Fred said. "Just pick up a box, read the name, go to the aisle for the corresponding product and start stacking. Best to do it in pairs, I should think, stops you getting back ache."
"Right," said Ginny, stretching out her hands, "come on Hermione."
"Nonononono . . ." Fred said, clamping onto her arm and leading her back to the group, like a naughty toddler who had escaped from their perambulator. "A pair needs both a tall person and a short person, so you, my lovely, need a tall person."
"I am not short!" Ginny said haughtily, "and I would prefer the term 'vertically challenged', thank you very much."
"You are very vertically challenged," Harry said, purposefully looming over her with a smile on his face. She chucked a punch at his stomach and a small scuffle began to break out.
"Well, bagsie I don't get Ron!" Hermione said. "He won't do any work."
"Well, I don't want him either!" argued Ginny. "He's your friend, you have him."
"He's your brother!" Hermione countered, "You've known him for longer."
Ron curled a lip as Harry sniggered at him.
"I'm still in the sodding shop," he muttered.
"Fine," Hermione relented, starting a quick stride towards the pile of boxes, "but you had better work, Ronald, or else I won't talk to you for the entire expanse of NEWTs!"
"Oh, what an insufferable horror that would be," Ron said sarcastically, trailing after her, helping her pick up the first box.
"Well, I don't like the look of you much either," Ginny said, teasingly turning her nose up at Harry.
"The feeling's mutual," Harry grinned, "come on then."
The first box they picked up took them to the third aisle, according to the title of the box that said it was full off 'Gas Gobstoppers'. Then and there, Harry decided that he would be having lunch somewhere outsidethe shop.
Gratefully, they set the box down and Harry stripped off the magical tape that held it closed. He would have used magic to carry and open it, but the twins had picked the explosion logo for a reason and if any magic got close enough to some of their products, there was no telling what would happen. Queerly shaped packages, sat innocently in neat rows, and Ginny picked one out from its fellows.
"I think that business is definitely going to boom," she said with a grin, and put the first package on the shelf.
Harry sat on the floor so he wouldn't have to keep bending down, and began passing the packages up to Ginny, who lined them up quickly in rows.
"The faster we do this, the faster I can get out of here and get myself an ice cream," she said, taking a package from Harry.
"Mind if I join you?" he asked, reaching for another.
"Not at all," she said. "I am not eating anything in here, that's for sure; I may end up in hospital."
"Too true," Harry agreed, "and then who would I have to help me with this lot?" he asked cheekily. Ginny huffed dramatically.
As he felt around for the next pack, Harry stumbled on the thought that she was . . . charming, that is. Everyone thought so, professors at Hogwarts, Hermione's parents, Moody, Remus, fellow students . . . particularly boys. They all thought the youngest Weasley was perfectly charming.
Then there was that whole Bat Bogie Hex-flinging side of her that he wasn't sure many of the above people knew about. All Harry knew was that he liked that side. He liked the charming side too. He liked every side of her, all her sides, angles, corners, colours, curves . . .
When he had arrived at the Burrow a little over two weeks ago, he had decided that the summer fashions of the wizarding world were a very interesting thing to behold.
He hit reality with a jolt and became conscious of the fact that he was simply staring at her with his hand resting on the bottom of a now empty box.
"I don't think you're gonna find anything in there," she said, amused, "we need to get another box."
Harry scrambled to his feet.
"Right," he said vaguely, "right."
"You OK?" she asked, narrowing her eyes at him on their way back to the pile of boxes.
"Fine, fine," he dismissed.
"Getting well into the habit of saying everything twice, aren't you?"
"Sorry," he said.
". . . Sorry," Ginny prompted him with a grin, making him elbow her in the ribs. She elbowed him back and soon, another scuffle was breaking out.
"OI!" a shout came from the front of the shop, where the counter was. "No fighting in my shop!" George hollered. "Back to work!"
Fred was next to him, fiddling about with the aerial of an old and thoroughly battered Wizards' Wireless. When satisfied, he flicked the switch and the contraption crackled into life with much twiddling of the knob in search of a clear sound. Static disappeared and a man's voice came out across the shop as Harry and Ginny heaved up the box between them.
"Travel news now. If you're planning to apparate between Manchester and Brighton today, the simple advice is: don't. There has been a massively high number of Splinchings this morning due to sheer volume of traffic as holiday-makers flock to the coast. That said, the Floo network is fully functional around Brighton, but not in Liverpool, where there have been many deflective journeys due to sparks on the routes . . .
"It's half past eleven on June sixteenth, and here's the new singles from a band called Muriel and the Doxies, rumoured by many to be the new Gertrude and the Pixies. To be released on Monday."
Music began as Harry and Ginny navigated their way to the aisle marked: 'Explosives'.
"I love this song!" Harry heard Ron exclaim from the next aisle over.
"Ba-e-i-beh, here I am, and for you I'll sing this song," Ginny sang, sitting on the floor to pass the fireworks up to Harry, who was tall enough to put them on the top shelf. "You took my hand, held it tight and you charmed me without a wand . . ." From the next aisle, Ron joined in, and he and his sister belted out the words of the tune.
"Ba-e-i-beh, here I am, and I'll hum this melody,
There ain't no fire that could give that heat you send to me."
During the next verse, Ron and Hermione were directed to the aisle where Harry and Ginny were stacking fireworks. A little way down the shelves, they began pouring Exploding Mucus Pellets into one of the pick 'n' mix containers, next to Bile Bullets, Sludge Balls and a strange, sickly green powder, labelled: 'Instant Swamp Algae! Just add water!'
The chorus arrived with a bang, and Ron grabbed Ginny's hand, firework and all, and began to swing her round the aisle, grinning as the two of them fell into the step of a bizarre dance that obviously had something to do with Fred's dancing technique. Harry and Hermione looked on amusedly as, during a particularly enthusiastic spin, Ron tripped on his own feet and landing in a box of Wheezes, while Ginny flew in the opposite direction, straight into Harry.
"Oof! Sorry!" she said cheerily, while Ron looked disgustedly at his hand, coated in sticky mucus from where he'd stuck it in the box. Harry held out a (clean) hand to Ginny.
"Carry on?" he asked. Needless to say, none of his dancing experiences had been all that fruitful so far, but he'd never danced with Ginny before, and she and Ron looked like they were having fun. The music made her grin and take his hand, pulling him away from the box whilst he smiled straight back and spun her in a circle with his arm above her head. He tried to fit in with her movements, knowing full well he was a tad crap, but not really caring, to tell you the truth.
"OI!" came the sound of Fred's voice, from the end of the aisle, "No dancing in my shop! Back to work!"
Harry reluctantly let go of Ginny and ran a hand through his hair, sighing. Oh well, it had been fun while it had lasted. He picked up the empty fireworks' box and he and Ginny went to the front of the shop to get another one. The song on the wireless had changed to a calmer, smoother, and altogether quieter song, featuring a rather whiney wizard singer, who was asking some witch to join him for a ride on his broomstick by moonlight.
In aisle five, Harry began to pass Ginny some spherical packets, which claimed to contain the magical illusion of a swarm of bees.
"So, er . . ." Harry began, trying his utmost best to sound nonchalant, "who are you with, now? Isn't it what's-his-face from Hufflepuff?"
"Nope," Ginny said brightly, "what's-his-face from Hufflepuff is no more."
"Oh, right," Harry said, glad she wasn't paying attention to him, because he was finding it hard not to smile. "Why was that then?" Ginny sighed in thought as she took a sphere from him.
"He was a bit whiny to tell you the truth," she said.
"Really?" Harry asked, wanting, on some level, to gloat.
"Yeah, it was all, 'Oh, no! Hufflepuff have lost at Quidditch!' or 'Oh, Merlin! I'll never pass this potions' OWL!' or 'Oh, woe is me! That second year took the last sausage!' I mean, after two weeks of this I just wanted to scream at him 'In heaven's name! Be a man!'"
Harry laughed. Ginny smiled faintly and continued. "I mean, I know some people . . . a lot of people who have so many more problems, of a much more serious nature . . ." Harry picked up something in her voice, "and they don't do half as much complaining." She took the sphere from him without looking him in the eye. "In fact, they don't do any complaining. The trick is actually getting them to complain . . ." He breathed a laugh.
"Alright, Ginny, you've dropped enough hints," he said. She smiled and he had to admit that he hated complaining. It made him feel spoilt. There was also the fact that, since Ginny had become his friend, he found it increasingly difficult to find anything to complain about. There was a small silence, after which Ginny spoke.
"Plus, I could never remember the poor bugger's name," she grinned.
"Well, now you don't have to," he said, getting up because the box had emptied.
"Hear, hear!" she grinned. The radio grew louder as they neared the counter and the pile of boxes.
"And here are today's headlines: The members of the Kent Kingfishers have been required to pay compensation to a fan after he injured himself trying to reconstruct one of their matches with the help of a few comrades. One of the team's Beaters, Lauren Speil, had this to say: 'It is completely ridiculous us having to cough up dosh just because some moron had one pint too many, and then got on a broom on the advice of his terminally daft mates.' . . ."
"What are you doing?" Ginny asked Fred, who was writing a letter on the counter.
"Ordering an inbox for any customer complaints we may get," he replied, looking up a moment, "i.e. a shredder."
"Nice one," Ginny winked at him. She and Harry found four boxes with the same label and picked up two each, since they were fairly light. The boxes took them to the first aisle, because they were marked 'water products' but had no other title apart from that. Opening one of the boxes, Harry and Ginny found only a supply of white gloves. From the looks of them, they were all for the right hand.
"What the hoo-har are these?" Ginny asked, gazing down at the contents of the box.
"Not a clue," shrugged Harry. Ginny shot a fugitive look behind her and then bent down to pick up one of the gloves and inspect it. There was a selection of small switches on the back of the hand. Ginny flicked one and the glove immediately swapped it symmetry, converting to left-handed glove.
"Are you only supposed to buy one, then?" asked Harry.
"Dunno," Ginny replied, while flicking the switch back to right and fitting it onto her hand. She had just tugged all the fingers on properly, when the slightly over-sized glove shrunk to fit her hand, and with a small sound characteristic of a stream, a squeegee ball appeared in the palm of Ginny's hand.
Harry poked it curiously. It rippled slightly and made a faint, watery noise.
"It's a water-balloon dispenser!" Ginny exclaimed. Harry felt a smile grow on his face as he took the water-filled globe from her gloved hand. He tossed it up and down and caused a tense silence to spread between them. Ginny narrowed her eyes at him.
"You wouldn't," she said confidently.
"You think so?" he replied, challengingly.
"Yes, because you wouldn't," she decided. "I dare you."
"Do you, now?" he said, with feigned surprise, and tossed the ball up in the air again.
"I dare you," she repeated, "because you wouldn't."
Before she could move, he's chucked it at her. It exploded onto her stomach and showered her entire figure with water as she stood there with her face screwed up and her eyes shut.
"You amaze me, Potter," she said at last, as Harry struggled not to laugh. Next second, another water-balloon had materialised in her glove and had hit him in the chest.
Harry gaped as he raised his arm to inspect his soaking T shirt.
"Well, I should have seen that one coming."
"Damn straight," she said, and pelted him again. Water burst over his head and soaked glasses. He blew water out of his nose and said,
"Hey! That's not fair!" Ginny only laughed at him. Another balloon appeared in her palm and exploded on Harry's shoulder as he lunged forward and grabbed her hand. Ginny squealed and squashed a balloon against the side of his face with her hand. Feeling cold water run down the side of his neck, Harry grinned and clamped an arm around her shoulders, pinning her arm down and seizing the gloved hand.
He laughed and Ginny shrieked as a new balloon emerged in her hand, which Harry used to make Ginny hit herself on the head, bursting the balloon and drenching her hair.
There was then a fight for power of the glove as Ginny struggled against Harry's sopping chest, getting a few balloons over his head in the process while he got the majority over hers.
Suddenly, probably as a result of the soaking floor, Ginny fought too hard against Harry's imprisonment and slipped on the floor stones.
"Whoa!" cried Harry, releasing her hand to grab the other side of her shoulders and support her against falling over.
There was a pause, filled only with the sound of dripping water while Ginny looked up slowly from her hands curled against his chest to his face. Harry was sure that the water was evaporating from his cheeks with the amount of heat that was rushing there.
Thankfully, the awkward moment was shattered as Harry found a balloon crashing down on top of his head, spraying both him and Ginny with water. Ginny laughed as he yelled, struggling for control over the glove again.
"OI!" Harry and Ginny jumped apart faster that you could say 'caught in the act'. "No testing the merchandise in my shop!" George shouted from the end of the aisle, "back to work!"
Harry and Ginny glanced at each other before Harry coughed and Ginny pointed to their clothes.
"Would you be able to . . . er . . . dry . . .?"
"Oh! Yeah! Hold on," Harry said, tugging his wand out of his back pocket and reeling off a drying spell.
Soon, Ginny was sitting on one of the unopened boxes, handing gloves up to Harry, who was standing on another box and hanging them on the hooks above the shelves. To the background of the Wizards' Wireless Ginny was wondering aloud where she would like to go for lunch.
"There's the vegetarian place were all the waiters all dress up as turnips, it may be quite amusing to eat there. On the other hand, Luna told me that the café next to Dervish and Bangs does a very nice lemon meringue pie. Apparently she could feel her lips from the sourness for ages . . ."
"Ginny?" Harry interrupted.
"Would you . . . er . . . let me buy you lunch?" Harry held his breath while Ginny went on handing his gloves, oblivious.
"Well, you can pay if you really want to, Harry, but it's lunch time now and Ron probably won't be having any of it . . ." She looked up when he wouldn't take the glove she was holding out to him.
"No, I mean . . ." Harry began, sucking breath back in for a second attempt, "not now, unless you want to, but . . . sometime in the summer, when I can get away from the Dursleys, I really like to take you out . . . if you don't mind . . ."
It was then that he decided to shut up.
"Wow," Ginny said, after a moment. The offered glove had sunk down onto her lap.
"I know," Harry agreed, looking at his feet, still stood on the box.
"I never thought you'd ask me that," Ginny said honestly.
"Me neither," agreed Harry, "even I didn't know I was that brave. Your bothers are going to kill me."
Ginny gave a half smirk and stood up, abandoning the glove back in the open box and standing up on the closed one until she was a bit nearer his height.
"Not if I have anything to say about it," she declared. Then she leaned over the gap between the boxes, and kissed him.
"OI!" Came a yell from somewhere behind them, which Harry and Ginny promptly ignored. "No snogging in my shop! Back to work!"