My arms dropped to my side, and my heart gave a small lurch in realization, as I watched her run into his waiting arms. She was no longer my responsibility to protect.
It never occurred to me that the day would come when she didn't run to me for comfort. If a vague and random thought did cross my mind, well, that event would take place in the far off future. I would always be the shoulder she would cry on. The person she'd run to when she'd managed to perform a prank on Ron or any number of our brothers, her eyes sparkling and her mouth smirking at them from behind me, her hands at my sides, secure in the knowledge that I wouldn't let them retaliate whatever mischief she'd managed to accomplish. Woe to the brother or anyone else that made her cry. Truth to tell, she'd had me wrapped around her little finger from the moment I set eyes on her - Literally.
It was my first childhood memory, well, my first significant childhood memory. At least I believe it to be. It's one of those stories that fall into family lore where one can never separate the stories from the actual event.
Our mum was from a very traditional wizarding family and, being the old fashioned earth mother type, gave birth to all her children on the same bed in which they were conceived. I shudder at the thought; as far as I'm concerned a mild mannered Hippogriff delivered all the Weasley siblings to our parents’ doorstep and, for the sake of my sanity and overall mental well-being, I'm sticking to that theory. My other half were three at the time, and, other than accidentally turning Percy's hair pink at the breakfast table one morning, nothing really stands out from that time other than the birth of the first female Weasley since perhaps Wendelin the Weird was burned at the stake, fourteen times no less.
Ginny's impending birth wrought an overwhelming sense of excitement in the Weasley household, something Fred and I could sense but not completely understand. The family, with the exception of our dad, talked about the impending arrival of our baby sister constantly, as if her gender was a forgone conclusion, as impossible as that may have been. Our mother had already picked out a silly name. Given family tradition and our dad's penchant for indulging our mum's whimsical nature, our poor baby sister was christened Ginevra Molly Weasley.
Lucky for her neither our father nor her besotted brothers, myself included of course, were of a traditional disposition. She was quickly dubbed Ginny, as well as various and sundry appellations of the affectionate variety.
I remember the first time I held that tiny fragile pink bundle in my arms. How those soulful brown eyes looked into mine so intensely as if pondering the worlds mysteries in my very eyes and the sudden happy gurgling that ensued as she wrapped her delicate little fingers around my own. From that moment on I decided that she would be my responsibility to protect and safeguard.
Well that's how the Weasley family lore tells it anyway. It's a question of which came first the Diricawl or the egg. Did my sense of responsibility spring from family lore or was it an innate sense of duty toward the littlest Weasley that created the tales that entertained my family through the years?
I was barely out of nappies myself for Merlin's sake; I couldn't have understood or chosen such a roll on a cognizant level. I didn't have the words or conscious thoughts to explain my sense of responsibility, but from that moment forward, as the stories go, I could be found by her cradle just watching her as she slept. I'd be the first by her side when she cried. I would even alert our mum when she needed changing or when I thought she was hungry. Now mind I don't remember any of this, but the stories have been recounted so many times that it's somehow been implanted in my psyche as a ghost of a memory.
Our mum's favorite story involves my performing accidental magic by Apparating to Ginny's side as she slept peacefully in her cradle because I thought I’d heard her crying. At the time Ron, Fred and I were chasing the Garden Gnomes for sport in our backyard. The way our mum recounts it, Fred had said; “We were playing and then he went poof mummy”.
And so it came to pass that after one particular incident that I don't recall with any certainty round about the time Ginny was a year old and toddling, walking and out right running all over the Burrow that I was knighted official guardian of the Maiden of Mischief. Garden Gnomes took to chasing a shrieking and terrified Ginny around our yard. Hearing her frightened cries, I came barreling out of the Burrow brandishing my mum's broom and proceeded to whack Gnomes left and right with my trusty wooden broom – uh, sword. Said act of chivalry was sufficiently heroic and self-sacrificing to have me canonized St. George, Patron Saint of one Ginevra Molly Weasley fair and beauteous maiden of the clan Weasley, slayer of Garden Gnomes throughout Britain. Again as family legend would have it, Dad, that is Lord Weasley, took my broom – sword, my noble sword – tapping me on the shoulder and proclaiming to all, “Arise noble knight, henceforth known as Sir George the Dragon Slayer.” Sainthood and knighthood all in a days work. Brilliant!
Family lore traditionally proclaimed how the fair and beauteous Maiden of Mischief was now very much aware of said protector and then proceeded upon all sorts of adventures and mischief secure in the knowledge that her protector would not be far off and that no harm would befall her other than a scraped knee or two. And believe me, it was a full-time job. Who'd have thought that something so small and deceptively innocent could get into so much trouble of both the intentional and unintentional variety.
Oh, I didn't let her get away with murder – much. But she knew if there was something she really wanted and everyone else had turned her down, she could run to me. If it was within my power and it wouldn't harm her in anyway, I'd move the wizarding and Muggle world alike to give it to her.
When she eight Fred and I were off on September 1st on our first train ride to Hogwarts. I remember my mixed feelings of excitement about our impending entry into the renowned wizarding school and my worry over having to leave Ginny behind for the entire school year. She came to our room that morning in the midst of our frantic last minute packing. Standing in the threshold of our room teary eyed, bottom lip quivering in her effort to hold it in. I silently opened my arms and without hesitation she ran to me wrapping her too small arms around my waist and sobbing her eyes out. She'd stuck to me like a Bugbear all the way to Kings Cross Station.
Before boarding the 'Express' and after promises to write and a very tearful goodbye from Ginny, I'd hunkered down to an all too serious Ron's height, reminding him that Ginny was his to protect until I returned from Hogwarts. I held out my much larger hand to my baby brother who solemnly shook it and nodded his head in agreement. It was strange to see my usually jovial and rambunctious brother so serious; he'd taken my directive to heart and swore he'd take care of Ginny in my absence. Much to Ginny’s annoyance, many years later she told me he still didn’t quite grasp the nuances between protective git and overbearing, self-righteous, misguided git!
Even so, it was not a directive that needed to be stated. We called ourselves the Weasley six, when referring to our roles as the protectors of our family's greatest treasure. And she was. I know it sounds barmy and overly sentimental, but she was a gift to us in a way, she was a rarity, a pearl among the swine. Whenever the Weasley siblings could be seen out and about, six rather large rambunctious, rowdy, rough and ready boys jostling about and one diminutive and deceptively fragile and dainty little girl trailing behind, it wasn't difficult to make that type of comparison. She was the baby of the family, the smallest, the most vulnerable; we couldn't help but feel the need to safeguard what we held most dear.
It was a responsibility we took very seriously and yet one we so miserably failed to execute during Ginny's first year at Hogwarts. There was such a shift in her personality that year; she'd become quiet and shy, introverted – stranger still she'd become suddenly mute. Our Ginny who was a regular magpie was suddenly silent. Her crush on Ron's best mate Harry Potter was fodder for our teasing, and we were relentless. Ginny could usually give as good as she got. Growing up Weasley thick skin was imperative, but when it came to her crush she was defenseless. I've often thought if we'd treated Ginny differently that year, less of an annoying baby sister and nuisance and more like the fiery, precious and precocious sister we knew her to be, Harry would have noticed her far sooner than he did. After all he did take his cue from our own conduct towards her that year, although he was never callous towards her, just indifferent.
Four Weasley brothers at Hogwarts and not a single one of us noticed her struggle. I was fourteen that year and finally noticing that, thank Merlin, Hogwarts was co-ed. Fred and I were on the Quidditch team, had a reputation in mischief to keep up, pranks to execute and studies to ignore. Percy was a perfect Prefect and had quite shockingly, in my opinion, acquired a girlfriend. Ron was preoccupied with Harry and Hermione, a broken wand, regurgitating slugs and trying to discover the riddle to the Heir of Slytherin. Ginny was the furthest thing from all our minds.
The signs that something was terribly wrong were all present, but we were all too wrapped up in our own little worlds to see what was right before our eyes. If we’d deigned to look, we would have seen the dark circles under her eyes, her pale skin, and the looseness of her clothes from the drastic weight loss. She wasn’t sleeping. She wasn’t eating, and yet we failed to see. And I her champion, her slayer of Dragons, was the blindest of all.
I’d kept her from eating a caterpillar when she was one, prevented a hundred or so scraped knees during her awkward, clumsy stage, rescued her from her tree house when it was first built, because she could climb up without a problem, but climbing down terrified her. I chased away the Doxy she swore was under her bed and the Vampire that hid in the closet. And yet the one time she needed me, truly needed me, I failed her. We all failed her.
And that is what pains us all to the core. That we let that which was special and precious to us all be touched and violated by evil.
She is the strongest, most powerful witch I know. Size is no guarantee of power, and Ginny is the personification of that particular adage. Wizards far more wizened and powerful than her would have buckled under the onslaught of the pervasive evil she was subjected to her first year. And not only did our Ginny survive, she thrived.
We never spoke of it, not then and not since. There was never a look of recrimination. She didn’t blame me for not protecting her, oh no, she blamed herself; the burden of guilt was placed solely on her shoulders.
Her second year at Hogwarts was not much better than the first. Ginny was finding it hard to adjust and make friends. She was still shy and introverted, kept to herself and tried to be as inconspicuous as possible. It wasn’t until sometime in November that Ginny let her personality shine when Snape made the mistake of making a snide remark about the Chamber of Secrets. Ginny retaliated in kind earning her a weeks worth of detention. She’d stared down the Potions Master with a steely gaze that wizard’s twice her age would have found hard to pull off. The Ginny that would take no guff from her brother’s and from that moment forward she took no guff from her classmates either.
While her first year was unremarkable and marred by the events of the Chamber, her second year was a surprise to her professors. She was top in her class in all except History of Magic which she loathed - she called it ‘Nap Time with Binns,’
She was an exceptional student but not in the way that Hermione or Percy was. Ginny never flaunted or made a fuss about her scores or her standing. She wasn’t pompous like Percy or a walking-Encyclopedia like Hermione. She was never condescending and when asked was more than willing to help others with their coursework. She befriended Colin Creevey and Luna Lovegood that year and, much to my surprise, Neville Longbottom as well.
While the incident in Snape’s class had garnered her a peculiar popularity, Ginny did not in any way utilize it to gain entrance into the popular clique in her year, regardless of their attempts to the contrary. The self-same clique that had shunned her for her brothers’ hand-me-down robes and her tatty textbooks remained distant acquaintances. Ginny was an exceptional judge of character and loyal to the very end. Even when the possibility to attend the Yule Ball with the boy she’d been in love with since nappies presented itself, she remained steadfast in her acceptance of Neville’s invitation and would never have considered otherwise.
That Yule Ball was the bane of the Hogwarts’ Weasley Three. We always thought Ginny was as cute as a baby Unicorn, and we would grudgingly admit that the potential for beauty was always present, but in her Third year our baby sister blossomed and, unfortunately for us, she blossomed in all the right places. How Harry didn’t notice her at this juncture was, quite frankly, a mystery.
It became a full-time job keeping the blokes away. Unfortunately Michael – the git – Corner got to her before we were aware of his attentions, not to mention the little minx managed to keep the relationship from us for most of the second term. It wasn’t until the beginning of her Fourth year that we caught on, and by then it was a bit late. Though we did put the fear of Merlin into the smarmy git, we decided to let the sleeping dragon lie rather than hurt Ginny at that juncture by making him end the relationship. Ginny, Merlin love her, dropped him faster than a Snidget when he threw a petulant fit after her catching the Snitch against Ravenclaw’s Cho Chang. Ginny’s unattached status provided us with the challenge of keeping the more daring blokes away. But who best to rise to that challenge than the Gryffindor Gagster’s? Believe me; Fred and I threw ourselves wholeheartedly to the task. That girl has been the unknown inspiration for many of our best selling Weasley Wizard Wheezes products, bless her little red head.
While our seemingly primary objective was to keep away the hormonal masses, our true goal was the ultimate pairing of our two favorite people – Harry and Ginny. Why you might ask? Because it was what our Ginny wanted, and, while she put on a brave front and told a nosy Hermione that she had given up on Harry, my other half and I knew differently.
No one could ever accuse Fred or me of not enjoying our tenure at Hogwarts because we enjoyed it to the fullest. However, the Year of the Toad was the most challenging of our Hogwarts career, and while we certainly ended it with a bang – literally – we were forced to watch our two favorite people suffer at the hands of that toad faced megalomaniac. Ginny, served as many detentions as Harry that year. She never made mention of it, and Harry of course was totally oblivious to the fact that the detentions were garnered due to her very vocal defense of him during what was perhaps one of the lowest points of his life - and considering his life that was saying something.
This is why when Ginny came to us begging us to create a large enough diversion to allow Harry a brief Floo conversation with Sirius that we jumped on the task like a Niffler to gold. Well that and the fact that we would do almost anything for our little Gollywobbles.
I’d do anything for my Smidgette, and I’d almost lost a best friend over her. I’d noticed how Lee had taken a particular interest in the littlest Weasley and how he’d taken to watching her whenever she walked into a room. I confronted him about it one evening, and we even came to blows. It was entirely my fault, really, because I let my over-protectiveness get the better of me. I’d said some things that were quite frankly unforgiveable; I must have been channeling Ron to have been that completely insensitive. Fred, Lee and I became fast friends as Firsties on the Hogwarts Express, we were inseparable, partners in crime and mischief. During the summer hols Lee spent as much time at the Burrow as Harry did and, as Weasley’s tend to do, we adopted him. I knew his mettle and deep down I knew Lee would never make inappropriate advances towards Ginny, but watching his reaction to her when she came to visit Fed and I in the 7th year boy’s dormitory – well let’s just say that it set my overactive imagination to reeling. Lee for his part admitted his attraction to our sister but was well aware that her heart was otherwise engaged. Added to that was the fact that he didn’t want to jeopardize our friendship and his status as an honorary Weasley.
Ginny never took notice of that sort of thing. She was completely oblivious of her attraction and was always rather surprised when a bloke chatted-her-up. I think that was partly due to the fact that to some extent we treated Ginny like the 7th Weasley brother. Mind we were over-protective gits; we never let her join us in our rough and tumble games or play Quidditch with us. She wasn’t one for frilly doodads or ribbons. She could argue Quidditch stats with Ron like a pro and she could throw a punch like an Irish brawler thanks to Charlie.
The only girlish concession was her room and that was to please our mum. Ginny never exhibited that rebellious ‘my mum’s an idiot’ stage, mostly because she knew how to work our mum. That’s not to say they didn’t have their fair share of rows with our dad running interference. Both were very stubborn, determined witches and no one, not even her own children, could stop Molly Weasley from protecting her cubs. The only time Ginny ever rebelled against our mum was when she tried to keep her baby girl just that, a baby girl.
After the DoM fiasco, our mum was particularly determined to regress Ginny to the age of nappies, and Ginny was having none of that. Second week into the summer hols, Ginny had had enough, and they’d had what was evermore referred to as the ‘Clash of the Titans’ row. I think the Burrow shook with the magical energy that emitted from the enraged witches, their hair blowing around them by an unseen force as their aura seemed to glow red in their rage. I’d never seen anything quite like it, and we, all of us including our dad, ducked for cover. Our mum was determined to protect Ginny from herself and Ginny was determined to do what she had been taught to do, stand up for what she believed in no matter the consequences. Weren’t her parents and her two oldest brother’s members of the Order? Weren’t Fred and I determined to join the very second we turned seventeen? Hadn’t Ron been involved in the fight from the moment he met Harry Potter on the Hogwarts Express that fateful day? She’d even quoted Dumbledore’s speech after the events of the Triwizard Tournament, ‘remember Cedric Diggory,’ and the words that had been embedded in our hearts and minds ever since, ‘to do what was right and not what was easy’.
At this our mum’s knees seemed to give out as she fell back onto a chair and broke down in uncontrollable sobs. She swore that she would not be like Cedric’s mum. No parent should ever have to bury their own child, and she would not lose her baby girl to this cursed war. She wouldn’t be able to live if she lost any of her children; she’d rather be buried with them than to have to endure such a fate. But Merlin help her she would not lose her only daughter. At that point Ginny’s anger was replaced by her own tears as she fell at our mum’s feet, wrapping her arms around her waist as they cried together, each whispering words of consolation.
What was said we don’t know, but whatever was said seemed to have drawn them closer together, forging a bond that only women who must face the consequences of war can. They ended up reconciling over turning Ginny’s room into one fit for the young lady she was becoming. Ginny, was thrilled, and the Weasley coffers were just a tad bit lighter for it, but it was worth it to see Ginny’s beaming face.
Fred and I were no longer attending Hogwarts when Ginny began her Fifth year, but, being the prolific letter writer that she was, we were kept informed of the goings on. When Harry finally took his head out of his proverbial arse and noticed that the 7th Weasley was in fact a girl and a beautiful one at that, we were kept woefully uninformed. It was her beautiful and terrible secret, too precious to share so frivolously and to convey in a letter. She admitted later that the only Weasley she’d told in the form of a letter was Percy and only because she knew the pretentious, puffed-up prat wasn’t answering her letters in return. I learned of the happy union through Ron. So when I witnessed a love-sick, woefully depressed Harry and a puffy-eyed Ginny at King’s Cross Station I was admittedly baffled, not to mention ready to do bodily harm to the boy-who-made-our-sister-cry.
The noble pillock gave her up for her own protection. I couldn’t really fault him for that, but to see my sister in so much pain gave me the desire to inflict like pain. But when I again laid eyes on the boy-who-broke-my-sister’s-heart there was such anguish in his own eyes that I just didn’t have the heart to do what my brotherly instincts demanded. Ginny, acted as if nothing had happened and treated Harry like the 8th Weasley, causing Harry’s already hang-dog expression to elevate to new, heretofore unattainable heights. I’d never seen two people who loved each other more or who deserved to be happy as much as they did.
After Bill and Fluer’s wedding the trio disappeared on the ‘mission’ Dumbledore had set them. What that was exactly no one really knew - not even the Order. I had my suspicions that Ginny knew more than she was letting on. I thought she would be devastated at their departure, but, rather than seeing a depressed and torn up Ginny, we were presented with a determined one. She threw herself into her studies, reestablished the DA, was Quidditch Captain, created a battle trained unit of healers and prepared as much as she was able for a final confrontation that she asserted would take place at Hogwarts.
For our part, we helped her in any way we could. Fred and I, at her insistence, stopped making new products for WWW and started making Weasley’s War Widgets. Being evil geniuses does have its rewards. After the war the Ministry asked us to sell them our Widgets for the Auror department. We made a killing – pun intended. We of course shared our good fortune with our family, but Ginny had the lion's share. It was only fair considering that girl inadvertently made us a fortune.
But here I stand hands at my side and my eyes prickling with – allergies, I have allergies this time of year – as she stood in the circle of the arms of the man-who-stole-her-heart. I should have known all those years ago that her very own knight in shinning armor and slayer of Basilisks would one day usurp my role as the patron saint of the Maiden of Mischief, the fair and beauteous Ginevra Weasley.
All these years I looked out for her, worried about her, did my best to give her the desires of her heart, scared away imaginary monsters, potential boyfriends and an army of hormonal Hogwartians, bandaged scraped knees, soothed away nightmares and even beat up my best friend.
She looked over Harry’s shoulder and gave me a watery smile and then a mischievous conspiratorial wink then walked away arm in arm with her future, her protector, her all. My heart gave another little jump in my chest as I realized that even though she was no longer my responsibility, that the task for Ginny’s safety and happiness lay in the arms of the messy raven haired bespectacled savior of the wizarding world – her Harry – she would always need me, always love me. I’d always be her St. George.
Maybe she’d ask me to save a Kneazle from a tree. Hey it could happen; we patron saints are handy like that.