Disclaimer: These are JKR's characters. I'm just nicer to them!
Thanks to Faelaern for inviting me to archive here. This is the first story in the "Wallpaper" trilogy.
"Cheers," chorused jovial voices.
Sunlight spilled through the green leaves.
Liquid splashed in a glass.
A shrill sound broke through the scene. It demanded…
The phone! Harry realized as he finally shook off the last remnants of his dream. He barreled down the stairs.
"Hello?" he panted.
"What took you so long, boy?" It was Uncle Vernon calling from Majorca. While they did not trust Harry to stay alone, the Dursleys could not pass up a free holiday.
"Why aren't you at work? I pulled a lot of strings to get you that job."
And broke a few laws as well, Harry thought.
"If you mucked up that job –"
Harry looked out the window. Water poured down the panes in sheets.
"Then do something from the list."
Aunt Petunia had a list of projects for Harry to fit around his work schedule. It had taken him three late nights to paper and paint the dining room. The living room is going to take twice as long, he thought despairingly.
"Harry?" It was Aunt Petunia. "Make sure the beige diamonds go in the dining room and the beige swirls go in the living room."
Wouldn't that be rich if I messed them up? Harry thought, rolling his eyes.
"OK," he answered.
He heard Uncle Vernon say, "Ring off, Petunia! This is costing a bloody fortune!"
With an abrupt click, the line went dead.
Harry shivered in the morning chill. He wished he could turn on the electric fire or do a Heating Charm. Even though it was unusually cold for July, the Dursleys would forbid the fire and the Ministry would forbid the magic.
July, Harry thought. It was his sixteenth birthday today. No wonder Hedwig isn't back yet.
As he made the bed and got dressed, he thanked his lucky stars that the Dursleys were still on holiday. It was the first birthday he could remember without them. The best gift of all.
Glad that he was starting this project in the morning instead of after a full day's work, Harry set up the ladder in the living room. The furniture was piled away from the bare, stained walls recently stripped of their coverings. The only illumination was from the single bulb in the center of the ceiling. He wondered how the beige swirls were going improve such a dingy and depressing room.
The doorbell interrupted his thoughts. Harry couldn't imagine who would be calling at nine o'clock in the morning in such awful weather.
He opened the door and received a face full of rain. He could see a small figure in a yellow slicker, carrying a bulky bundle wrapped in plastic.
"Happy Birthday!" cried a familiar voice.
"Ginny?" Harry asked, as he pulled her in through the doorway.
"Here." She thrust the bundle at him as she began to take off her dripping coat. Her vivid hair shone in the lamplight. The hallway seemed full of color as she giggled and explained, "I wanted to spare the owls, so I Flooed over to Mrs. Figg's and walked the rest of the way. She loaned me her coat."
"Spare the owls? Ginny, you're soaked through. I can't believe your mum let you come out in this."
"Harry, don't fuss. It wasn't raining when Ron and I left the Burrow to meet Fred and George. They were supposed to come along too, but they received a message to meet Mundungus somewhere. They said their financial backer would understand."
He grinned. "So where's Ron?"
"Watching the shop," she said, studying him intently.
"What's with you?" he asked. "Do I have dirt on my nose or something?"
"No." She laughed. "What have you been doing? You look like Charlie somehow, like you've been outside a lot."
"Uncle Vernon wrangled a job for me with one of the builders who has contracts with his company. I've been tiling roofs for the past five weeks."
"Um… making Muggle roofs waterproof is the best way to describe it. I have the job of carrying the bundles of tiles up the ladder. Then I help fasten each little rectangle."
"That sounds awful!"
"No, it's OK." It was difficult to put into words how much he enjoyed being high above the streets, working with his hands, and seeing a project completed.
Ginny looked skeptical – and bedraggled.
"Ginny, you should get out of those wet things. How long can you stay? I can put them in the dryer for you if you like?"
"Dryer?" she asked, puzzled, craning her neck to look around at the Dursleys' house.
"Have you ever been in a Muggle house?"
She shook her head and then shivered.
"I'll give you the tour after you change." Harry took her to his room and pointed out his bureau. "The smaller stuff I've outgrown is in the bottom drawer. I'll leave you to it."
It gave Harry a funny feeling to have Ginny in the Dursleys' house, to have Ginny in his room. That feeling intensified when she appeared in the kitchen wearing a pair of faded jeans, the cuffs rolled up several times, and Harry's Weasley jumper from fourth year, the green one with the dragon. "I'm going to nick this jumper from you," she announced.
"Are you?" He smiled. "What makes you think I'll let you have it?"
"You will," Ginny said confidently. "It will be in good hands, and besides, you can't fit it over those shoulders of yours anymore."
Harry laughed but didn't say anything, since he had suddenly realized that he couldn't deny her his jumper. In fact he was pleased she wanted it. Why? He didn't have time consider this because she was still talking.
"I've discovered some very interesting things about you."
"Like you are a sentimental packrat. You still have your Weasley jumper from your first year. I saw it in the drawer and I recognized it, because I went with Mum to pick out the yarn."
"I still like it."
"Even though it doesn't fit?"
"Even though it doesn't fit," he affirmed.
She smiled. "See, you are sentimental."
He interrupted her before she could find anything else to analyze. "How long can you stay? Do you have time for me to put these things in the dryer?"
"I can stay all day. That is, if you want me to."
"Really? Great!" The day suddenly seemed brighter. But then another thought struck.
"What do you want to do?" Harry was at a loss as to how he was going to entertain Ginny all day during a driving rainstorm, with no Muggle money and no means of transportation.
"What were you planning to do?" She asked.
"Wallpaper the living room."
"I'll help," Ginny said immediately.
"I don't know if that is such a good idea. It's not a lot of fun," Harry warned.
"I'll try anything once," she said airily. "Besides, won't it go faster if the two of us work together?"
"Ginny, I feel like the biggest prat."
"It's your birthday, if you want to hang wallpaper, so be it. You're king for the day!" She laughed.
"Lucky me, so many walls, so little time."
They quickly established a working routine. In fact, Harry was astonished to find that she had quite a knack for hanging wallpaper. "How did you know to do it that way?" he asked when she showed him an easier way to measure the roll.
"Just a natural," she gloated from the top rung of the ladder.
"A real wallpaper prodigy." He handed her the sopping wet length of paper.
She expertly lined up the top corners at the ceiling. "Call me the goddess of home improvement!"
He laughed as he smoothed the rest of the sheet down to the floor with a large brush.
To his surprise, Harry found himself telling her about his dream he had had that very morning. He described how he saw a large black dog running on a white, sandy beach, chasing the turquoise waves. But then the dog disappeared. Suddenly, there was Sirius, happy, laughing, and fit, sitting at a table in the middle of a garden. Feasting with Sirius was the strangest assortment of people Harry had ever seen.
"Who were they?" Ginny prompted from the top of the ladder.
"It was a dream, so it sounds kind of strange…You know how dreams are. It was people from the portraits at Hogwarts. Like, you know, Sir Cadogan."
"Was he wearing his armor?" She giggled.
"He was, and he was trying to cut an apple with his sword, not too successfully." Harry smiled.
"So, who else?"
"Well, er… you know that picture on the way to the astronomy tower, the one with the lady in the red dress and…"
"The one with the cleavage?" Ginny smirked. "Yes, I know her! Colin Creevey made a point to walk by it about twenty times a day our first year. She is enough to give any girl an inferiority complex."
"She is? I mean, er, I hadn't noticed."
Ginny snorted at that.
"Anyway, she was there sitting on Sirius's lap, and he looked very happy."
"I can imagine," Ginny said dryly.
"That was it," he concluded, and then opened his mouth as if to say something else.
She climbed down the ladder and stood in front of him. "What else?"
Harry glanced at her and then studied the wide wallpaper brush he was holding. "At the end of term I talked to Luna about the Veil. You know, the one we saw in the Department of Mysteries?" Harry looked at her for confirmation of this. When he saw her nod he looked down at the brush again, running his fingers over the bristles.
"She said…" He sighed. "She said that she could hear voices beyond the Veil, and that someday we would see our dead again. Do you think that could be true?"
Ginny wrapped her arm through the rung of the ladder and leaned against it. "I do