this is more a collection of oddly connected moments than anything else. there's plot, if you stretch it, but i happen to like things that're written this way. so we'll see if you all do, too. :)
this also went through a lot of changes, many more changes than anything i've ever written. at its height, it was twelve pages long. now it's about 3 and 1/2.
i also sort of skimped on the antiques. sorry 'bout that, winston. ;)
roughly 1,000 words.
title from the song by elliott smith, "needle in the hay" (download it)
Susan Bones sat up and noticed it had begun to rain. She decided to paint her toenails. She would paint them silver and would charm them to turn bright pink in the sunlight. As she reached for the bottle on her birch nightstand, her pale knuckles brushed over the well-worn snap of Zacharias and herself. He was in his Quidditch uniform, his curls matted to his head and his sleeves bunched up at the elbows. He held his broom loosely in the hand that sat upon Susan’s left shoulder. His other, dirty hand was on the back of his neck. Susan was wearing her normal school clothes, but her hair was done into twin plaits with yellow and black ribbons woven in. Zacharias had later joked about getting Susan to show him how to weave ribbons into his own mess of a blond mane. In the picture, he wore a tired smile.
Susan shook up the bottle of polish and set to work.
Harry looked out the back door and saw that it was raining. He turned to face Ron and shook his head. Ron threw his broom down and stomped out of the room. Harry winced as the broom hit the floor and only let out his breath once he was positive nothing was scratched. Ron and him were planning to spend the day flying, and Harry had let Ron use his Firebolt.
It was the summer going into their seventh year, and Dumbledore had let Harry skip the Dursleys completely and sent him straight home with Ron and Ginny. It’d been tough, but Harry held fast to the fact that the Dementors had come to Privet Drive; they’d never been to the Burrow, and Mr Weasley worked for the Ministry. It was a weak point, but repeating it enough times filled it out and eventually drove it home.
Harry propped the Firebolt against the wall and followed Ron up to his room, his mind already running through the stories he would tell Ron to cheer him up. Today was definitely a Draco-level day. Perhaps he’d use the Buckbeak attack.
Zacharias’s mother called up the stairs to him; she mentioned going antiquing with friends and let him know it was still raining. He yelled a distracted “Whatever!” through his closed bedroom door.
He flopped down onto his mattress and fixed the rim of his boxers, which had slipped down his hips through the course of the morning (eating breakfast, watching some Muggle telly with his equally Muggle father, and listening to his mum complain about his traipsing around in just boxers when all the curtains were open). He unrolled the letter from Susan as her owl pecked at a sugar biscuit.
I’m terribly sick. Come and tend to a fellow Hufflepuff?
Zacharias sighed and pulled on a pair of denims.
There were several reasons Harry wanted to spend his last Hogwarts summer at the Burrow. One was, obviously, Ron. All right, and Ginny, too. There was also the wonderful lack of anything remotely Privet as far as the eye could see. That Zacharias lived a fifteen minute broom ride away (if he took his time) was a surprising bonus. That Susan Bones lived five houses down the street from Zacharias was not. Neither was having to make up excuses to Ron for disappearing all day.
“When are you planning on telling him?” Zacharias had asked over breakfast last Sunday morning.
Harry had bit into his toast and wiped the crumbs from his light blue tee, which was technically Zacharias’s, but they weren’t saying anything. “Soon.” He looked at a tiny, white bird pecking through a dead patch of grass for bugs. “Maybe before summer’s over.”
“Maybe?” Zacharias looked up from his funnies.
“I’m not sure how he’d take it—‘m probably worrying over nothing, really, but still—I don’t want to risk things with him. He could kick me out or something.”
Zacharias exhaled loudly. “You could always stay here, you know. We have an extra bedroom, with its own bathroom, even.” He scanned his own backyard. The grass was dead in patches from underground pests. They had a swimming pool, but the swimming pool had ducks—angry, chlorine inhaling ducks—so no one really used it much. Or cleaned it. In the far right corner was an apple tree, most of its branches hanging over the fence into the next yard. Their neighbors stole most of their apples to make their prize-winning apple pie. They charged the Smiths a pound and a half instead of the normal two. Rosebushes lined the rest of the fence, and in the far left corner was a dilapidated, grey tent. “Or we have that tent there, Harry, if you feel like roughing it.” Zacharias winked and motioned for Harry to give him the jam. He took the knife out of the jar and licked it clean. Most of Zacharias’s thoughts came to him when he had something in his mouth, and this was no different. “Why don’t you want to stay here?” he asked, dipping the knife back into the dark red spread.
“Zacharias? Your father said you were back he—oh, hello Harry.” Susan closed the screen door leading inside the house. She had on white shorts and a blue tee, much like Harry’s. A white, floppy hat covered her eyes.
“That’s why,” Harry had muttered.
They sat in the grey tent until the rain stopped, Zacharias trying to finish an Herbology essay and Harry poking through an antique French chocolate box made of tin and filled with notes.
“She sends me those all the time,” Zacharias said around the quill in his mouth. “A bit of a loon, that one. She’ll come up with any excuse to get me down there.”
“’Zacharias, I think my toe is falling off.’” Harry laughed. “Is she serious?”
Harry paused. “Her toe didn’t fall off, did it?”
Zacharias hit Harry’s side with a book. “No, you tit. All ten of her toes are perfectly attached.”
“Listen to this one! ‘Zacharias, I’m finding it very hard to commit to my schoolwork. I can’t think about anything but a certain blond boy. I fear I may be dying. Dying of lonliness. I’ve never felt so…” Harry trailed off. Rain pelted on the tent, and it sounded as though a good shake of thunder would collapse it. “Kiss me.”
Zacharias looked up, the quill still in his mouth.
“Please?” Harry asked, lying down next to him. Zacharias shrugged and kissed him, reassuring Harry with his lips and turning him on with his tongue. Thunder rolled, and sure enough, the tent fell in.
Silence, and then hoots of laughter. Through a hole where one of the poles fell out, bits of their hair escaped into the grass: a few yellow ribbons woven around a single black. A needle in the hay.
spectacular 's next five keywords: "I just swallowed a bug.", gagging (which cannot have anything to do with the bug swallowing AT ALL), the scummiest shower in the Hufflepuff bathroom, cleaning a mess with pages ripped from a book, and it must be rated AT LEAST R.