The Sugar Quill
Author: Mosylu (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Home of Shifting Sand  Chapter: Part One
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

(A/N) Special thanks to "mdelaur", the Quiller who first nudged me to get the thing all the way done, then to take the last steps in editing and posting.

"Bill!"

Bill shook off the dust of the tomb and shaded his eyes. The sight of the pretty dark-haired woman made his heart leap, which he was just about used to now. "Ellie? How's Rania doing?"

"She's going to be all right. There's people here for you."

"Who?"

She grinned. "One of them's got red hair. They stayed back in the camp."

Family, then--but who? Bill broke into a jog--couldn't rush about too much in this sun--still wondering.

Two figures, wearing black robes instead of the white ones more practical for this climate, stood in the shade of one of the canopies. One, tall with pale splotches dotting his dark hair, stood leaning against a support pole, staring out at the pyramids. The other, much smaller, sat at a table, her brilliant hair spilling down over her shoulders. Bill stopped short. "Ginny!?"

The red-head looked up. "Bill!" She leapt to her feet and hurled herself into his arms as she had when she was very small.

He hugged her back, but said, "Ginny, what are you doing here?" Her hug had been harder than usual, and although he could have attributed that to not seeing him for awhile, he could also feel the tension that strung her slim body tight as a violin section. The big brother in him reared up. What was wrong?

"Fine sort of greeting that is," she scolded, and kissed him on the cheek. "We were in the area, and I talked Harry into running up here to see you."

Bill knew for a fact that the young man who moved to greet him was only twenty-one, but the white streaks in his black hair and the expression in his brilliant green eyes made him seem much more than a year Ginny's senior. "Hiya, Harry," he said, shaking his hand. "How are you?"

"Fine, thanks. Bit warmish."

Bill laughed out loud. It was hot enough to boil a teakettle in the sand. "Water bottles and salt tablets are stored over there," he said, pointing to a chest sitting under one of the tables. "Get used to 'em. They're your best friends." He started to open the chest.

"We're fine for that," Harry said. "We came prepared." He opened up his backpack and produced two bottles that radiated cold. "Ginny, you've got the--"

"Oh, yes." She patted her pockets and found a flat tin box. "Here."

Bill took out a water bottle for himself, anyway. "How are you?" he asked, taking a drink.

"Lovely. We've just come from--where were we, Harry?"

"Johannesburg," Harry said.

"South Africa," Bill said doubtfully. "That's in the area?"

Ginny shrugged. "It's on the same continent."

"Did you bring me anything?" he teased.

She giggled. As a little girl, she'd ask him that whenever he returned to the Burrow, whether he'd come from Hogwarts, Egypt, or Ottery St. Catchpole. "Greedy," she said, taking his part. "No."

"Have you got a place where we can drop our things?" Harry asked.

"Oh, yeah. How long do you reckon you'll be hanging about?"

They looked at each other. "Don't rightly know," Ginny said. "For as long as you'll have us?"

"That long, eh?" Bill led them toward two tents, sitting just east of a pyramid's shadow. "Harry, that one on the right is the men's tent. Should be an empty bunk around in there somewhere. Ginny, the other one is the women's."

"No guest tents?" Ginny asked.

He pinched her cheek. "You're my baby sister--d'you really think I'd scare up a cozy one-bedroom for the pair of you?"

"It's fine," Harry said. "Might be better this way."

Ginny glanced at him and frowned. Then the frown cleared away. "Yeah," she said. "I'll get me some girl time, for once."

"Why don't we wash clothes while we've got the time?" Harry suggested. He turned to Bill. "Can you show me where the laundry tub is? We're probably going to be a bit ripe. We’ve got our own soap, that’s no problem."

"I can lend you some of my robes," Bill offered, but Harry shook his head.

"We're probably not the same size. Anyway, I'll have to do it sometime."

"We should," Ginny said. "I'll bring mine out." She turned to Bill. "When do we get to meet everybody?"

"Dinner's in an hour. Bring your stomach pump--Yves is on duty tonight."

"French food?"

"Er . . . French, anyway."

Ginny waved at them before ducking into the women's tent, and Bill accompanied Harry into the men's. He felt as if he'd missed half the conversation out there on the sand. Something was going on between the two of them, something he couldn't understand. He could ask Ginny about it, but not, somehow, Harry.

"Here we are," he said brightly. "A bunk all ready."

Harry dropped his bag. "Thanks for having us," he said. "I know it's a surprise."

"Oh, we're always getting visitors, it's nothing. And it's family, after all."

Harry, rooting in his bag, paused and looked over his shoulder. "Yeah," he said after a moment, and pulled out a bundle of robes, both black and white.

"You about ready to take her home?" Bill asked.

Harry's hands paused in the act of sorting the black robes out from the white. "What?"

"Just wondered if you were going to take her home anytime soon."

He started sorting again. "I'll take her home when she chooses to go."

"Oh come on!" Bill burst out. "Don't you think this has gone on long enough? She's had her adventure. You've been around the world five or six times by now."

"Only once or twice."

"What I mean is, enough already. Isn't she getting tired of this? Doesn't she miss home?"

At that, he paused again. "Yes. To both questions. But she doesn't want to go home. Not yet." He hesitated and finally said, "When she wants to go home, she'll tell me." He looked down at his left hand. "She promised me she would."

"Are you sure of that? She's not made for adventure, Ginny. Just because you feel like jaunting about, she'll swallow anything and follow you. She's like that, and you're taking advantage of it."

"She's not following me," Harry said. "She's with me. There's a difference."

Bill said, "Harry--"

Harry's eyes, when he looked up, were flat and cool. "D'you think any of this lecture is new to me? The first letter I got from Ron after we left for Paris was the longest rant ever set to parchment."

"We're her brothers," Bill said, feeling stupidly like Percy. "It's our job to look after her."

"It's more of a habit, I should think," Harry said quietly. "One you’d do well to break. She doesn't need anyone looking after her."

"Except you, I suppose?"

"Especially not me." Harry picked up his two piles, balancing them in his hands. His face was politely unreadable. "Tell Ginny I'll be out in a minute, would you?"

//
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