The Sugar Quill
Author: Mosylu (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Ginny Weasley and the Chamber of Secrets  Chapter: Chapter One: The Visitor
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Chapter One: The Visitor

Thump.

Ginny Weasley opened her eyes and blinked into the darkness. That ghoul again . . . she bet it was awful in Ron’s room--he was right under it.

She put the pillow over her head. Ruddy ghoul . . .

Thump.

She took the pillow off her head again. That hadn’t come from the attic.

Since she was awake, she reached for her wrapper and crept out into the hall. There was a third muffled thump from downstairs.

When she got to the kitchen, it was empty, and Mum’s clock said, "Should be asleep". At first she wondered if it had been the ghoul after all--but somebody had kicked aside the twins’ wellies, which had been sitting in front of the door when she’d gone to bed. Her eyes narrowed.

She went out onto the front porch and stared around the yard. It was deserted--but only for a moment. The shed door creaked open, and slowly, the old Muggle car that Ginny’s dad had brought home to tinker with wheeled out into the yard.

Not under its own power either, she saw. Ron and George were pushing at the back, huffing and puffing, as Fred sat in the front seat, steering. They were facing away and didn’t see her.

She pulled her wrapper tighter around herself and went down the steps into the yard. "Where’re you going with Dad’s car?" she whispered.

Ron and George gave simultaneous yells of fright and whipped round. "Ginny!" Ron hissed. "What are you doing up?"

She crossed her arms. "You three were thumping and bumping all over the place--you didn’t think anyone slept through that, did you?"

Both her brothers--all three, Fred was now hanging out the window--gave their parents’ window swift glances. But it remained dark, and they relaxed. "Go back to bed, Ginny-Ginny-wee-one," George whispered, tugging the braid that hung over her shoulder. "You shouldn’t be up."

"Neither should you," she retorted, yanking her braid out of his grasp. "And don’t call me that. Where’re you going?"

"None of your business, Miss Nosy," Ron told her.

Her eyes narrowed. "Oh, Ron, look, isn’t that a great hairy spider on your arm?"

He gave his second terrified yelp of the night and slapped at his arm. When he discovered no spider, he gave her a dirty look and pointedly climbed into the car.

Fred, still hanging out of the driver’s-side window, said, "We’re going to get Harry, Ginny-Ginny-wee-one. He hasn’t written back at all."

Ginny’s mouth fell open, and for once she let the baby name slide. "Can I come too?" she begged, grabbing onto the side of the car as if she would physically keep it from leaving. "Can I?"

"Don’t be daft, you’re in your wrapper," George said from the other half of the front seat.

"I can change!"

"There’s not enough room," Ron snarled, obviously still angry about the nonexistent spider.

"There is too, I watched Dad put all that extra space in--"

"Sorry, Gin, he’s right," Fred said. "We’ve got to get Harry and all his things and his owl in here. Unless you want to ride on the roof, there won’t be nearly enough room." He turned the car on and started it rolling forward.

Ginny held on, trotting to keep up. "I don’t take up much space--"

"Huh!" Ron opined.

George leaned over Fred. "Ginny, let go, do. We’ve got to leave now or we won’t be back by dawn."

Finally, reluctantly, she let go. As the car rose off the ground, Ron stuck his head out the window. "And don’t you go blabbing to Mum, Miss Loose-Lips, or I’ll put snakes in your bed!"

"You do and I’ll put a spiders’ nest in your Hogwarts trunk!" Ginny hissed back.

Fred’s arm appeared, waving to her, and the car sailed off into the night.

Scowling ferociously, she stomped back to the porch and sat down with a thump, putting her chin in her hands and resting her elbows on her knees. She never got to do anything fun. Ron and Fred and George got to go flying off to save Harry Potter from his nasty relatives and she had to--had to--

She made a strangled squeaking noise as something dawned on her.

Harry Potter was coming to the Burrow.

He was going to come here--to her home--and he might be staying here until the beginning of the school year--in the same house with her, Ginny--

She made another squeaking sound and clapped her chilled fingers to her burning cheeks.

Her fascination with Harry Potter was a long-standing one. From the first story she’d ever heard of his defeat of You-Know-Who, as a very small child, he’d figured as a knight in shining armor in her fertile imagination, bravely facing down a fire-breathing dragon that had terrorized her people for years and years . . .

Her first sight of him, at King’s Cross nearly a year ago, hadn’t disappointed her. While she hadn’t known just who the soft-spoken, hesitant boy with wild black hair and bright green eyes was, he’d intrigued her, and the moment she’d found out that it was Harry Potter--

It had been a crushing blow when her mother hadn’t allowed her to get on the train to see him. But then Ron had written home that he’d made fast friends with him, and shared a blow-by-blow account of his entire history, she’d started to see other facets to the knight-in-shining-armor figure she’d made of him.

He’d never had a home or a loving family like she had all her life. It was like--it was like living your whole life like she had last year, Ron’s first year, just herself and her parents. No brothers around the house to play with, only three people at the table, just yourself for Mum to pester--it had been the most boring year of Ginny’s entire life.

And it couldn’t really have even been anything like that, because Ron said Harry said his aunt and uncle ignored him and favored their own horrible son, who in his turn bullied Harry mercilessly. Her brothers were horrible to her, of course, but Mum and Dad were always there, and sometimes she managed to be horrible back.

Ginny thought of something else.

How did they think they were going to explain Harry Potter's suddenly turning up? Knowing them, they were going to bound into the kitchen, all joie de vivre and joyful surprise. They'd pull Harry out of the hall, cry in amazement, "Mum, look who popped over for a quick visit in the night!" and expect it to be done there. Really!

"Mum'll know how it was done," she muttered. "She always does."

"I always know what? What are you doing out of bed, Ginny?"

Ginny gave a strangled scream and stood up so fast she tripped over her own slippers. Her mum was standing on the porch, nightgowned and be-wrappered, her hair in two braids much like Ginny's own.

She raised an eyebrow and said, "Well?"

"I--I woke up," Ginny gabbled, trying desperately not to look at the shed door, which was hanging open like a Venus-fly trap. "And--I couldn't sleep. And--I went for a walk." So far the truth, if not the whole truth. She'd used to sleepwalk when she was small, and often walked at night.

Her mum eyed her. "Hm. You're not the only one up."

"Fred and George and Ron went for a walk too, I expect," Ginny burbled. "Be back any minute, no doubt."

"But I didn't say who it was."

Ginny shut her mouth with a click.

Like an Auror rolling up his sleeves prior to blasting a Death Eater into unconsciousness, her mum slowly put her hands on her hips. "Vir-gin-ia. What are you up to?"

"Nothing," Ginny squeaked.

"And the boys?"

Her mouth tried to form the word Nothing, but she couldn't get it out.

Her mother's foot tapped on the boards of the porch. "Where have they gone, Ginny?"

Ginny stared at her feet. "T'ge'Har'Po'er."

"What?"

"To get Harry Potter," she said a little more clearly.

"To--! Well of all the-- We were going to--" Her mother shut her mouth with a snap. "And how?" she said after a moment.

Ginny's eyes darted toward the shed. Her mother followed her gaze, and her eyes narrowed. She marched past Ginny to peer into the shed, and Ginny took the opportunity to make her escape.


* * *

She woke up the next morning with a fuzzy head, blinking and yawning. She wasn't much of a morning person, but she knew that if she didn't get up soon the boys would eat everything in the kitchen. She sat up, rubbing her head. Something--nice was going to happen today--if only she could remember--

She shrugged and swung her feet over the side of her bed, shoving them into her battered slippers. She'd find out soon enough.

Voices echoed from the kitchen up the stairs as Ginny shuffled, yawning, down them. Mum was in a right taking this morning, from the sounds of it, and Ginny wondered hazily what her brothers had done this time. She wandered into the kitchen.

Sitting at the table were Ron, George, Fred, and--

Ginny squealed right out loud, dove back into the corridor, thundered up the stairs, and slammed her bedroom door behind her.

Harry Potter.

She was completely awake now, and she remembered the previous night's events quite well. Why couldn't she have remembered this before?

She caught a glimpse of herself in the little mirror above her chest of drawers and wailed soundlessly. Bits of hair had escaped from her braids and were sticking out in a fuzzy halo. Her nightgown had daisies on it, and her bedraggled slippers had teddy bears! She looked about six!

Her head clonked back against the door.


* * *

Half an hour later, she ventured back downstairs. She'd brushed out her hair--horrid red Weasley hair; why couldn't she have been a golden-blonde--and put on jeans and a rather pretty blouse, white with short lace sleeves. She hadn't dared dress up any more, because she'd never hear the end of it.

The kitchen was deserted except for her mother, who was measuring flour out into a bowl. "Good morning, dear," she said. "You're finally wearing that blouse, I see. I knew it'd be lovely on you."

"Oh? I hadn't--um--noticed," Ginny said casually. "Did the boys go to bed?"

Her mother smiled at the flour, although Ginny couldn't quite figure out why. "Heavens, no," she said with asperity. "I sent them out to de-gnome the garden. Harry went with them to watch. He's never seen one."

Ginny ignored this flabbergasting statement and went to peek out the window. If Harry was watching, maybe she could go out there and sit by him--maybe even talk to him, although that meant she'd have to untie her tongue.

But he was in the thick of it, hurling gnomes right alongside her brothers, and Ginny sank back onto her heels with a sigh. She couldn't possibly go help with the de-gnoming in this shirt, and by the time she changed, it would probably be done.

"Do you want some breakfast, dear?"

"I suppose." She skulked back to the breakfast table and ate six sausages, three slabs of toast, and a fried egg with little enthusiasm.

"Are you feeling well, Ginny? You're not eating much."

Ginny shrugged, toying with her last piece of toast. "Mum? How long is Harry staying?"

"Until you children leave for Hogwarts," her mother replied, heaving the lump of bread dough out of her bowl and onto the befloured counter.

Ginny's head snapped up. "He's not going home?"

"As if I'd send him home to those Muggles--fine sort of person I'd be if I did--" Her mother was plainly indignant, kneading the dough to within an inch of its life. "They had him locked in his room, feeding him on tinned soup, once a day--" She aimed a furious punch at the very center of the dough ball, which was helpless against the onslaught.

Ginny was horrified. Of all the sins possible, starvation was surely the worst for the Weasleys. Food was love, and to feed your own family on nothing more than a tin of soup once a day--

"I suppose he'll have to go home next summer, but we'll ask him to stay as quickly as we can--some people, I don't know--" Thwap went the dough. "I'm making beef stroganoff tonight, dear, so I'll need you to cut me plenty of mushrooms from the garden." A bit calmer now, she glanced at her daughter. "Though not, I think, in that blouse."

"I'll go change." Ginny took one last sausage with her on her way up.

She hesitated over what to wear, but then thought, I'll be mucking about in the garden, and it'll be the devil's own work to keep anything clean. Might as well wear something comfortable and not have to worry. Probably Harry won't even notice, she added grumblingly.

She'd just thrown on a battered t-shirt and started to open up her door, but then she heard someone coming up the stairs, and peeked out. It would be safe to go out if it was Percy, but the twins would be merciless--

She saw the untidy hair, glinting slightly in the morning light, and almost hit herself. Why hadn’t she considered that it could be him?

She couldn’t resist looking, just for a minute, but then he looked up at her door, and she slammed it shut and leaned against it, her cheeks on fire once again. Through the wood, she heard her brother’s voice: "Ginny. You don’t know how weird it is for her to be this shy. She never shuts up normally--"

If Harry replied at all, she didn’t hear it--although why should he be particularly interested in her? She’d made such an idiot of herself!

Definitely not the best of first impressions.

//
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