Hello, my fabulous readers! I am back from Malta, all tanned and healthy from eating too much fruit. Bags have been unpacked, presents have been distributed, and things are slowly getting back to normal. Anyhausen, it's good to be back online and in contact with civilisation, so here is a present for all of you that I wrote on the beach, in some purple sunglasses and blue bikini.
I must get those photos developed.
Sharing the Blame
Harry Potter whistled as he strolled through the dank corridors of the dungeons. Being on his way to detention, he wasn't one to be cheerful, but it brightened the atmosphere somewhat.
Snape had told him to be in Potions room five at exactly eight o'clock in the evening or else he'd be losing even more points, so Harry had taken considerable note in being punctual because Head Boys were, in theory, not supposed to lose their house any points at all.
His tuneless whistle trailed off as he located Potions room five. Sighing, he pushed open the door and wrinkled his nose at the familiar damp and grot as turned to shut the door.
"I don't believe it!" came a voice from behind him. Harry's heart seemed to take a flying leap and land between his ears at the sound of that voice. Half a smile grew on his face as he turned to see Ginny Weasley perched on a Potions' bench in the middle of the room.
"Hi, Ginny," he said, ambling over to her.
"Head Boy in detention," Ginny said admiringly. "I never thought I'd see the day."
"Yep, well," Harry shrugged, "here I am."
"What did you do to get landed in here with me, then?" she asked, crossing her ankles.
"I. . . er. . . cursed Malfoy," Harry told her, pushing his glasses up his nose and shoving his hands in his pockets.
"You didn't!" Ginny grinned excitedly
"I did," nodded Harry, rather proud. "He now has a rather attractive pair of dragon wings and a snout to match."
Ginny burst in laughter, giggling so hard, Harry thought she would fall off the bench.
"Ah, smashing," she declared, shaking her head, "that story was well worth getting a detention for." Harry chuckled slightly. "And what does Hermione think about all this?"
"She doesn't," said Harry, averting his gaze. "Obviously she'd be a bit narked, which is why I sort of conveniently forgot to mention it to her. She thinks I'm at Quidditch practice."
"Good course of action," Ginny nodded.
"What are you in for?"
"Dungbombs, History of Magic," Ginny said simply.
"Ah," nodded Harry understandingly.
"Yep, I'd had just about enough of the attack of Asian Harpies in whatever magic-forsaken year it was," Ginny said, "thought the atmosphere could do with a little entertainment. Didn't plan on getting caught."
"Who does?" asked Harry.
"Anyway, Snape just left," Ginny told, "complaining about you being late as usual or something like that. He left us these fabulous gifts."
She gestured to the three cauldrons of unidentifiable green, beige and yellow liquid. They bubbled thickly in the candlelight and every so often, something would float to the surface that looked somewhat like a mutated prawn.
"How kind of him," he said.
"Indeed," Ginny replied dryly. "Apparently we need to put three ladles of each into these jars and screw the tops on quick. He didn't say why, though, but I bet they start to smell bad of something and he doesn't want us to stink up his dungeons."
"Is that with prawns or without?" asked Harry, feeling like a waiter.
"I don't know and I don't care," Ginny shrugged. "But if we cock up, we can say it's his fault by claiming insufficient instructions. Deal?"
"Deal, so that's our story, then," nodded Harry. Something sparked inside him at sharing something with Ginny, even if it was just a plea of ignorance in the event of disaster.
He found the same thing had been happening at lot over the past two years. He had felt the same spark between his lungs when he had come in late from Quidditch Practice after being driven to the point of exhaustion by Ron, and Ginny had kindly shared the last baked potato with him. To be fair, it had been quite a big potato and they had put quite a lot of cream cheese, baked beans and tuna on top so that it filled them both up no problem, but it didn't change the warm feeling Harry was struck by when she handed him a fork.
Actually, Harry thought, as Ginny picked up three ladles from the bench and glanced furtively at the cauldrons, it happened when they shared anything. It could be either food, or bottles of ink, like that time in the library just before Ginny's OWLs. It could be one of Mrs Weasley's home-made scarves, like that time in Hogsmeade last Halloween, when Harry wrapped the end of his very long scarf around Ginny's neck because she had begun to cough slightly.
It didn't even have to be material things. It could be looks of exasperation when Ron and Hermione launched into one of their infamously regular spats, it could be smirks when Neville and Luna tried to sneak off inconspicuously, it could even be laughs at the rubbish Ginny still had to invent to satisfy Professor Trelawny.
Sometimes it was sideways glances of horror at the headlines of the Daily Prophet, or friendly embraces when spiny memories pricked at the mind with their thorns.
Harry quickly found, that when he shared something with Ginny, it either became less painful, or more special.
"Merlin above," said Ginny, pulling a revolted face, "what in the powers of magic is that appalling smell?"
"Urg," Harry agreed, "that is plain nasty."
It seemed that when the liquid in the cauldrons was disturbed, it released a terribly foul-smelling fume that reminded Harry faintly of the public toilets in a supermarket.
"So much for not stinking up the dungeons," he said, averting his nose as he ladled some of the substance from the first two cauldrons into a jar.
"What I would not give right now for a bottle of Miss Skower's Magical Odour Disperser," said Ginny, taking the jar and ladling the next liquid.
Once she had finished, she hurriedly abandoned the ladle and snapped a lid on the jar, screwing it on tight and setting the jar down on the bench.
"Next," she said briskly, and Harry shared her enthusiasm at the notion of getting it over with as quickly as possible.
"So, er . . ." he began, wondering if this would be a good time to ask, "I heard you ended it with that Shaw bloke from Slytherin?"
"Hah, you and the entire school," Ginny said wryly.
"So the rumours are true?" asked Harry, bending over slightly so he could catch her eye and regretting it slightly when the smell in his nose strengthened.
"Only of they're saying that I punched him," Ginny shrugged.
"At dinner, in front of everybody?" prompted Harry.
"At dinner, in front of everybody." Ginny affirmed.
"Merlin," Harry pouted in wonder, "I wouldn't wish that on anyone. No one deserves to be dumped with a punch, in front of everyone, by Ginny Weasley."
"Yes, he did!" Ginny said indignantly, "he was snogging Francesca Hays in the broom shed." Harry tilted his head to the side.
"Alright, maybe he did deserve it then."
"You're bloody right he did," grumbled Ginny, but she was smiling. All in all, Harry didn't think she was much bothered by the fact that her boyfriend was getting off with someone else. This sort of casual unconcern was very endearing.
"So what did old Draco say to get you to curse him, then?" Ginny asked. They were ladling potion and screwing on lids with a nice rhythm by now. "I bet it was something about Ron and Hermione."
Harry squirmed. He had hoped to avoid these dangerous waters.
"No, not quite," he said cautiously.
"Something about you, then," Ginny guessed again, "I bet it was your hair!"
"No," said Harry, mildly indignantly, his hand drifting towards his head.
"Someone in the Order?" asked Ginny, running out of ideas.
"Nope," Harry shook his head.
Ginny tightened the latest lid with a frustrated tisk.
"Well, what else could it have been then?"
"Erm . . ." Harry dithered. He had stopped ladling and had started sort of stirring the mixture absently. "It was . . . erm . . . actually a comment about you."
The pitch of his voice had dropped more steeply than the drop off a cliff, as if it were hoping to hide behind a sofa.
Ginny stared at him for a moment, looking a bit unsure about what to think. Finally, she rolled her eyes.
"You silly twat," she said hopelessly, shaking her head, "whatever it was, it was no use getting worked up over."
Harry turned back to the cauldron and picked up another jar, grateful that he had escaped.
"Probably . . . maybe . . ." he shrugged, "I dunno."
"The least you could have done was tell me, so I could have had a go at cursing him," Ginny smiled, taking the jar from Harry.
"True," nodded Harry, catching the smile.
"What did he say then?"
"He said . . . that you'd gotten even uglier over the summer, and that I'd gotten crazier over the summer because I fancied you."
Ginny burst out laughing.
"What was the point of cursing him for that?" she demanded, in hysterics. Harry tried to accept his impending doom with a gung-ho attitude.
"I think I cursed him because it was true."
Ginny's laughter trailed off and left a terrible silence. The jar she had just filled with the last potion floated down onto the bench in her fingers.
"I mean," Harry amended quickly, "not the part about you getting uglier, that's the complete opposite. I mean the other part."
The look she gave him was so sharp, you could have chiselled the paint off a door with it.
"You're making this up," she said after a moment.
"No!" Harry said, a bit too quickly. "Honestly, that . . ." he sighed, "that is how it is."
"That's it, is it?" Ginny asked. She was smiling absently, and her eyes had a slightly glazed look, as if she were doing a very complicated sum in her head. The jar sat, forgotten on the bench.
"Pretty much," Harry nodded, apologetic. Ginny pouted to the side in thought. Sighing silently, Harry turned back to the old cauldron full of potion. At least there was no danger of you ruining your friendship with them when you told them you fancied them.
"You know," Ginny said at last, causing Harry to freeze, "in the light of this recent development, maybe it's not that bad that you cursed Malfoy."
Harry suddenly realised that she was a lot closer to him that she'd been five seconds ago.
"In fact, I think it's quite sweet."
Harry's jaw dropped and he couldn't think of anything to say or do except raise his eyebrows in surprise.
"And I think you deserve a kiss."
The ladle clanged against the edge of the cauldron as it fell from Harry's numb fingers. He was sure he looked very stupid with his mouth hanging open like it was, but there was nothing that could be done about that now. Every sensory signal in his body had suddenly seemed to rush straight for his brain and he suspected there had been a road accident that was backing up the traffic of coherent thoughts.
The only thing that somehow managed to get through was the command to lean forward as Ginny tilted up her head.
Unfortunately, along with Harry forgetting that there was such a thing as thinking, Ginny had forgotten about the jar lying lid-less on the bench and the explicit instruction from Snape about sealing the jars quick.
Neither of them expected the almighty Bang that reverberated through the dungeons. The force of the explosion made dust shower down from the cracks in the ceiling and, worst of all, it also impelled out the entire contents of the jar.
Harry felt slimy. When he opened his eyes, he couldn't see anything but a disgusting brown colour and he realised that the potion must have splattered the whole of his glasses.
There was a congealed shape of a prawn on his left lens.
Cringing, he gingerly raised his hands to remove his glasses and flipped them slowly over. Sure enough, there was the brown goo, and there was the prawn. Ginny's face had largely escaped the blast direction, because she had been facing away from the jar, but now she was inspecting her hair with a revolted expression.
"You alright?" asked Harry, sympathetically, and Ginny's eyes flicked up to him. Slowly a smile grew on her face and then she began to laugh again.
"What?" Harry asked, confused, but Ginny was giggling too hard to reply. Frowning, Harry picked up an empty jar that was relatively clean and scrutinised his faint reflection in the glass. His entire face was covered in potion, except for two circles around his eyes where his glasses had been.
It was the funniest thing he'd seen in years. He began to laugh as well.
"Do I have something on my face?" he asked Ginny between chuckles, and she laughed harder, leaning on the slimy bench for support.
Both of them stopped abruptly when the door flew opened to reveal a rather irate looking Snape. The professor took one step into the room, and retracted his foot sharply at the squelching sound his boot made on the splattered flagstones.
"I should have known," he said coldly, "Potter and Weasley can't even follow the very simplest of instructions. I was actually surprised not to have heard anything before now."
Glaring at them in repugnance, Snape pulled out his wand and performed a cleaning spell, ridding the whole dungeon of slime, but benevolently neglecting to charm either Harry or Ginny.
"Thanks," Ginny said when Harry 'scourgify'ed her.
There was no mention of what had happened before, or what had almost happened. Or rather, there couldn't be, because Snape was now stalking over to the desk at the front of the classroom and sitting in the chair.
"Why must you always need constant supervision, Potter?" he said callously. "I think you must do it on purpose to irritate me."
Harry said nothing; he only sat down on the bench behind the cauldrons, not having the heart to stand any more. Ginny sat beside him, and they quickly resumed their work under the professor's steely gaze.
The work was so monotonous, that Harry leaned back with one hand on the bench, setting up rows of jars and ladling one-handed. Ginny did the same, ladling and twisting on lids using only her right hand with the other in her lap.
Harry kept glancing at her, though he didn't know quite why.
"Potter, stop staring at Weasley and concentrate on your detention!"
Sighing, Harry turned back to his cauldrons when he suddenly felt a pressure on the hand he was leaning on. Glancing down, he found that Ginny had put her hand on his, although her face showed no expression other than maybe the very faintest smile.
Biting his lip hard to stop himself from grinning, Harry stealthily shifted so their fingers mingled.
Settling back into a rhythm, Harry still retained that when he shared something with Ginny, it either became less painful, or more special.
It amazed him that her power even extended to an evening of disgusting detention, because sharing this with her had turned it decidedly into one of the best evenings he'd ever experienced.
So when you are given a present, it's good to say what you thought of it. However, this time I don't want any of that 'it's the thought that counts' crap. Tell me what you really think! Press the purple button down there.
Cheers my dears, and have a good school year!