Have exam tomorrow. Have done no revision. Instead, have written one shot for challenge on gwfans on livejournal. Fabulous.
One shot dedicated to Tracy, who works in my marketing department.
"Have you honestly never been up here?"
Harry Potter coughed as the dust drifting down from the attic above caused him to stop for a moment and try to clear his throat. He was following the youngest Weasley up a ladder that was definitely as rickety as they came whilst simultaneously trying to find his footfalls and not look directly upwards at Ginny. He felt, if he did, that he may forget about the footfalls bit completely and fall clean off the ladder.
"No, never," he replied after a bout of coughing. "I tend to stay out of attics with ghouls in them."
The attic they were ascending to, did in fact belong to the Burrow and Harry had, in fact, never been up there.
The reason he was braving unexplored territories and facing unknown ghosts was that he was following Ginny in search of Christmas decorations. He and Hermione had been invited to stay at the Burrow for Christmas and despite it being their last year at Hogwarts, the friends had decided Christmas at the Burrow, according to Ron and Ginny, was definitely worth going home for.
At one point, Mr Wealsey had strolled to the front door with an absolutely massive Christmas tree as a surprise for the family.
"Goodness, Arthur," exclaimed Mrs Weasley at the sight of the impressive tree being dragged through the door as a collective effort between Arthur, Bill and Charlie. "You might have thought of the size before you bought it."
"Nonsense, dear," puffed her husband. "We'll get it through, never you worry. Besides, we're a big family, so we deserve a big tree!"
Once the tree was successfully set up in the living room, (with its top branches stooping slightly against the ceiling) there had been a call for decorations to put on it and for a while, nobody could remember where they were, until Mrs Weasley recalled putting them in the attic.
"Well, who wants to go then, Fred, George, Bill, Charlie?" Mr Weasley had first asked, shaking pine needles off his scarf.
"No way," Charlie said, taking a small step back.
"Yeah, not on your life," Fred agreed, sharing a worried look with his twin.
"And why ever not?" demanded Mrs Weasley, reaching up to brush needles off Bill's shoulders.
"Well, in case you haven't noticed, mum, we have a ghoul and he's not very friendly," said George.
"Rubbish," his mother declared, "he's perfectly friendly."
"He bangs pipes, Mum," Bill pointed out. "That shows repressed rage if anything does."
"Oh, for the love of wand, I'll go," Ginny said, making for the stairs.
"Wait for me!" called Harry, hurrying after her. He didn't much fancy being left alone with Ginny's brothers. They had been giving him dangerous looks of late, for reasons that may have had something to do with Ginny herself.
This was how Harry came to find himself scurrying after the smallest redhead, puffing up every stair in the house, and clambering up an unsound ladder to the attic while Ginny asked him excitedly if he had ever been up there before.
"It's really not as bad as my brothers say," Ginny told him, twisting around on the ladder to speak to him. "It's just a bit dusty and old and infested with house pests and creepy in the dark, I suppose."
"Well, that makes me feel a lot better, thanks," nodded Harry grimly as Ginny hopped off the top of the ladder and allowed him to poke his head into the attic.
He got the fright of his life at the sound of a great moaning and banging that he very nearly fell off the ladder without an under view of Ginny.
"It's all right, Eurick!" Ginny called into the attic, "it's only me!"
Harry pulled half a face of confusion and half a face of panic as he stepped gingerly into the top floor of the house. Pushing his glasses back up his nose, he frowned at the sight of a silvery figure very much like that of the Hogwarts ghosts, but somehow more solid and smoky. The ghoul also had its feet on the floor, unlike the castle ghosts, who had more of a tendency to glide.
"Eurick?" Harry asked Ginny, raising his eyebrows.
"Eurick," Ginny nodded, waving at the ghoul in a friendly manner. Eurick gave a low moan in greeting, sounding like the hinges of a heavy door moving. He seemed harmless enough to Harry, and indeed, even less harmless when he stalked slowly away towards the opposite end of the attic, disappearing through the wall and banging a smoky pipe on everything within reach on his way.
"Eurick Herish, I looked him," Ginny elaborated. "He's all right, really. He was a lunatic who was locked up in the attic of a house built on this site in the twelth century. Spent his time making furniture out of pipes."
"I see," Harry said slowly, slightly stunned to finally see the ghoul who he had heard some much from and about.
"So! Decorations!" Ginny exclaimed, clapping her small hands together.
Harry surveyed the attic bleakly.
He supposed the space might have been fairly big, but the problem was that there was so much stuff in the space. Most of it was in boxes, but there was also a battered-looking wardrobe and desk, a few chairs of varying sizes and styles and oddly, a lot of muggle appliances. There was an enchanted fridge that had spread icicles to everything within a metre, a toaster with spider webs threading right down into the slots and a record player complete with a dusty record and many dents in the speaker. Harry guessed this was where all the Mr Weasley's acquisitions ended up when they had lost their novelty.
The whole place was like a weird sort of dry, dead rainforest. The plants were all boxes or piles of boxes, the trees were pieces of furniture or lamp stands, and instead of humidity in the air, there was a thick movement of dust, shifting about in currents.
"Did your mum happen to mention whereabouts they were?" asked Harry in a bit of a hopeless tone.
"No, I don't think so," Ginny said, beginning to pick her way through the debris. "Looks like we're going to have to find them ourselves. It's all right, there's isn't that much junk to root through."
Oh well, Harry thought, it could have been worse. For example, he could have been rooting through junk without Ginny.
They agreed to start at one end and work their way over to the other, digging into boxes, peering into bags and rummaging around in drawers while every so often, Eurick provided them with a short background symphony of various things hitting other things.
"Oh, wow!" Ginny exclaimed, upon opening one of the cardboard boxes which, Harry learnt from the lid, had previously held the grandfather clock in the Weasleys' living room. "I remember these!"
The box contained an assortment of small books, their pages made of thick card with brightly printed covers. Ginny picked one out with the title 'Pirro the Puffskein Says Hello' and Harry realised they must have all been books given to the Weasley children when they were very young.
"This," Ginny told him proudly, "may well be the best book ever written."
"Really?" Harry said, amused, taking the book from Ginny a flicking through the stiff pages which illustrated the adventures of a Puffskein called Pirro. "Better not let Hermione know you said that."
"Rubbish!" Ginny dismissed, "I'll lend it to her, then she'll be converted, just you wait."
Having summed up the basic gist of the story, Harry put the book back and followed Ginny to where to she was now riffling through a bag.
"Hey, I remember this too!" she said, pulling out a bundle of pale yellow fabric. "This was a dress that mum made for me. I remember Ron being so jealous because mum never had to make him new clothes, he just got everybody's old ones."
"Yeah, he complains about that a lot," Harry agreed.
"What's in here then?" Ginny wondered, as she and Harry cracked open another box to reveal four dusty toy broomsticks. Ginny gasped. "I don't believe it! Bill, Charlie and the twins used to ride those. Then George lost his up a tree so he stole Fred's, who stole Charlie's who stole Bill's." She ticked them all off on her fingers. "Then Bill tried to get the one in the tree down but he fell off and we had to spend the night in St Mungo's while he got his leg repaired."
Harry only smiled, enjoying being led through the Weasleys' childhoods. He supposed that being part of a large family like this one might make any childhood story common, only one in a thousand, but to him, whose childhood was made up of mainly running away from Dudley and the darkness of his cupboard, stories like this were worth gold dust to him.
All in all, it wasn't nearly as bad as Harry had thought it would be. He actually found himself enjoying their hunt through the depths of the Weasley attic, especially considering that sometimes, when he and Ginny were riffling through boxes, or bags, their hands would brush over each other. Once when Ginny was struggling to open the top drawer of a chest, Harry went over to try and help her when the drawer abruptly gave way and he suddenly had to stop Ginny from falling over. Every time they touched, he felt something happen in his heart that felt like two electrical wires sparking as they came into contact.
When they were about half way across, Eurick made a brief reappearance to retrieve a long pole that looked as though it had once formed some part of a Quidditch goal post. It was around this time that they found the photographs.
A gasp rose up from each of them as they exposed the inside of the box.
"Wow," said Harry quietly. There they were, photo upon photo upon photo, most of them damaged, folded, torn slightly or developed in the wrong potion. All of their images and subjects were moving, shifting and stirring so it looked almost as if they had unearthed a box of tiny animate people. There were people laughing, waving, running, flying, swimming, eating, hugging . . . There were people Harry knew, like the Wealseys themselves, and people Harry had never seen before. There were people who had a close resemblance to the family, like one woman who Harry knew must have had red hair, even though her photograph was black and white, and there were people who didn't look a bit like any of them, like a group of three young men who were having a drink with what must have been a young Molly.
It seemed like even though these photographs were odd colours, even though some parts of the images looked like fun-house mirrors, no one had had the heart to throw them away completely.
Ginny laughed a little as she reached a hand slowly into the box and shifted some of the top layer. Underneath, there were still more photos, more places, more people doing more things.
And Harry, who could have never imagined so many people connected to one family, had to sit down on an old bed side table to cope with the awe that he felt when shown just how many Wealseys there were.
It would be a wonderful thing, he thought, to have a box like this in your attic.
"Haha!" Ginny said suddenly, fishing out a single photo from the box. "Guess who this is!" she told Harry gleefully, presenting him with it.
Harry squinted and adjusted his glasses as he inspected the picture. It contained a boy about three years old and what appeared to be the right leg of someone much taller. The boy was clinging to the leg with one arm (in an attempt to hide behind it, Harry guessed) and a teddy bear almost as large as the boy himself with the other. As he began to recognise the subject, Harry began to laugh.
"Hey! It's Ron!" he cried through his grin.
"It is indeed," Ginny ginned back, "although don't tell him I showed you that, or he'll kill me and I'll have to stay up here with Eurick."
"Is that the bear that got turned into a spider?" asked Harry asked, looking up from the photo.
"Yep," Ginny said, straightening up and dusting her knees off. "That's probably the reason that picture got stuffed up here with the rest. You can take that for blackmail if you like."
"It's all right," Harry said, "if I do that then we'll both be up here, keeping Eurick company."
"Harry, you're too soft-hearted for your own good," Ginny told him teasingly, "you've got to be ruthless to survive in this family."
Harry smiled as he got to his feet.
"It's got to be worth it in the end, though?" he said, wondering if she knew just how lucky she was.
Ginny glanced briefly down at the box of photographs and smiled at him.
"Course," she said confidently. "But you know you're as good a Weasley as anyone, Harry." She winked at him. "So you'd better get used to thinking on your feet."
Harry breathed a laugh.
"All right," he said, feigning surrender. "I'll try and toughen up, then."
They smiled at each other for moment until they realised what they were doing, i.e. nothing other than standing there, smiling at each other.
"So we'd better get a move on to find these decorations," Ginny said, slightly quicker than usual.
"Yeah, let's get on with it," Harry agreed. He turned back to the box and was just about to toss the picture of Ron back in when he spotted someone else he recognised among the photos.
While Ginny made her way over to another box that looked likely to contain decorations, Harry bent down to pick up another picture, putting the one of Ron back as he did so.
The picture unmistakably showed Ginny. Younger than Ron, about two years old, he thought, sat on a picnic rug, surrounded by bowls and plates with a particular bowl in front of her that looked as though it had formerly contained something viscous and made of chocolate.
Amusingly, most of the bowl's contents seemed to have ended up on Ginny's face. Being two however, the small girl wore a huge, toothy grin under the smearings of chocolate that said 'Look at me! I told you I could eat a whole bowl of chocolate mousse!'
"Harry, over here!" Ginny called, bent over a bag near the corner of the attic. "I think these are what we want!"
Harry smiled to himself and picked his way over to her.
"Look what I found," he said cheekily, waving the picture in front of her nose.
"Oh Merlin!" Ginny exclaimed, making a mad grab for the picture, but missing because Harry had jerked it quickly out of her grasp. "Give me that! Come on! Please?"
"I don't know," Harry said contemplatively, "I might just keep this one for blackmail."
Ginny made an affronted face and tried many more grabs for the photograph. Harry was having a lot of fun keeping it out of her grasp.
"Come on? Just gimme the photo!" Ginny pleaded, half smiling.
"What's it worth to you?" she asked, trying to reach behind Harry's back, only to find the picture coming round over her head.
"Quite a lot."
"So help me, Potter, if you don't give me that photo . . ."
And somehow, maybe completely unintentionally or as a result of something else, while Harry was trying to go one way and Ginny was trying to go the other, they collided somewhere in the middle . . .
. . . Or their lips did, at any rate.
Suddenly, getting at her photograph of incrimination didn't seem quite so important to Ginny. Nor did keeping it out of her grasp seem so important to Harry, who simply dropped it out of distraction from other activities. It drifted downwards, swaying as it fell through the hole in the attic floor, while the fingers that had been previously holding it drifted instead towards the place where Ginny's neck met her ear.
Unfortunately, in all the fuss of ending up kissing Harry, Ginny had forgotten to breath. Harry felt her take a deep breath as she pulled back and wondered if it was one out of shock.
Well, he thought, it looked like any friendship he may have previously had with Ginny was as good as gone now. He'd only have that photo to remember her by, but it looked like that had disappeared as well.
"Was that by accident . . . or on purpose?" Ginny asked, looking as confused as they came. Harry searched her face just as hard as he had searched for Christmas decorations, looking for some hint or tiny indication that she was upset or uncomfortable. If she was, he told himself, he would have to lie to her.
He would have to say it was completely by accident.
All he found, however, was the same searching expression he had on his own face. Swallowing, he decided that he had better tell her the truth.
"I don't know," he said quietly, "I think it started by accident, but carried on regardless . . . Does that make any sense at all?"
In the silence that followed, Ginny blinked a few times. Then a smile twitched at the corner of her mouth.
"That's exactly what I was thinking," she said slowly.
Suddenly Harry wanted to seize her hand, hug her, kiss her . . . anything that would make her as happy as he felt then. And he would have done if she hadn't kissed him first.
The bag of Christmas decorations got knocked over by Ginny's foot when she stepped back. A bright blue bobble rolled out and over the edge of the hole.
Harry and Ginny broke apart when they heard this exclamation of pain from down the ladder. Peering cautiously down, they saw Ron, with a hand massaging his head, the blue ornament in his other hand.
"What is going on up there?" he said incredulously.
"Nothing," Ginny said, through a smile.
"We found the decorations," Harry added, trying desperately not to laugh.
"Well, come on, bring them down," Ron said. "Mum was beginning to worry that you'd gotten lost up there. And what's this picture of you covered in chocolate doing down here, Ginny? Fred and George would pay good money for this."
Ginny was right, Harry thought, as he helped her haul the large, jingling bag of decorations down the ladder. You did have to be somewhat prepared to enter the Weasley family.
And he had to say that when Ginny took his hand as they were trudging down the many flights of stairs behind Ron, he was very prepared, which was probably why soon enough, the box in the attic was graced with a great many photographs of him.
P.S. If you can spot the subtle reference to red hair, you get toffee.