Crunching through snow or sloshing through puddles were both satisfying activities, but as far as sounds went Ginny Weasley found nothing more satisfying than scooting through large piles of fallen leaves. They scratched her ankles a bit and only a handful made that satisfying sort of crunching noise, but autumn was absolutely the best time for outdoor noisemaking. She bent her head, focusing on the brown and red and gold leaves, stepping carefully on the crispest-looking ones.
“Ginny, stop it,” Fred groaned irritably, shouldering his broom and shooting his little sister a look that could have Stunned a troll. “If you’re coming to watch us play Quidditch, then you’ve got to learn to not be such a pain in the neck now and again.”
“Watch?” she suddenly squawked indignantly, head shooting up so fast that her entire head momentarily seemed on fire from the quick blur of her long orange hair. “You told Mum I could play with you!” She stopped dead in the middle of the lawn, hands planted indignantly on her hips.
This always seemed to happen to her. Being the only girl in a family of seven children, and the youngest to boot, Ginny was constantly overlooked, ignored, teased, taunted, and bemoaned by her older brothers, especially where Quidditch was concerned. It didn’t matter that she’d read just as many books and periodicals on the sport as the rest of them – she’d never been allowed into an orchard game. Fred, George, and Ron would rotate one-on-one before letting her in, and often did.
“I want to play,” Ginny continued staunchly, narrowing her eyes and causing the freckles on her nose to wrinkle. “You told Mum I could –“
“Yeah, well, we wanted to go out,” said Ron, trying to put his broom on his shoulder like Fred and coming very close to whacking George in the face with it. “And we knew that she wouldn’t have let us unless we agreed to take you.”
“Besides,” George added, having successfully ducked the tail end of the broom, “we only have three brooms. Fred’s, and mine, and Charlie’s old one. When Fred and I go off to Hogwarts next year, you can fly as much as you like.” Fred looked relieved that this point had been made, but Ginny wasn’t satisfied.
“I want to play now,” she repeated, but her brothers had already resumed walking in the direction of the distant pasture fence. She ran to catch up, taking hold of the end of Fred’s broom and giving it a mighty tug. He stumbled and slipped, face-planting on the grass, and she couldn’t help but giggle; next to her, Ron joined in.
“Go – home – now,” Fred said through gritted teeth, picking himself up and trying to maintain a shred of dignity. “Or I’ll tell Mum that it was you who ate that loaf of pumpkin bread she was saving for Luna’s mum,” he added as an afterthought.
“But that wasn’t me! You gave it to the cat!” she screeched, now making swipes at George’s broom; he held it high over her head out of reach.
“You’re too little,” Ron said firmly, which she found to be quite rude, as he was only a year older than she was. She stuck out her tongue at him, and watched angrily as the boys walked off. It was true – there wasn’t a broom for her – but still, they could have taken turns.
“I’ll show them,” she muttered under her breath, eyes still narrowed against the bright, pale blue of the autumn afternoon sky. “I’m going to be just as good as them.” Plunking down on the leaves, she could just see the three small figures, who had now reached the pasture and were preparing to kick off into the sky.
Ginny watched as the smallest – it had to be Ron – fell off his broom while it was still only a few feet above the ground. “And I’ll be better than him,” she added internally.
Mrs. Weasley looked surprised to see her daughter entering through the back door into the kitchen. “I thought you had gone to play Quidditch with your brothers?” she asked, looking up from winding the old Weasley family clock. Ginny gave a sort of morose shrug and sat down at the table.
“Not enough brooms,” she muttered, dropping her chin into her hand. “Mum, do you think I’d be any good at Quidditch?”
Molly seemed to consider the question, stepping carefully off her chair and dusting her hands on the apron tied around her waist. “You read enough books on it,” she smiled, sitting down across from her. “What’s your team again?”
“The Harpies!” Ginny piped, perking up at once. “An all-girl Quidditch team,” she added, although she knew her mother was aware of that. “Because girls are just as good at Quidditch as boys are.” She didn’t understand why her mother laughed; she was very serious about that. A picture of Gwenog Jones was the first picture that had ever gone up on the wall of her bedroom.
“Well, I think that anyone can do almost anything when they put their mind to it,” Mrs. Weasley said, getting up and pointing her wand at the sink, where a pot instantly filled with water and soap. “If you want to play Quidditch, Ginny, then go on and play Quidditch.”
Ginny didn’t suppose that her mother knew exactly in what context her words would be taken – she couldn’t know that Fred and George and Ron had tried to literally stop her from playing Quidditch, as Ginny wasn’t going to snitch about it – but that was as good as a legal contract to her seven-year-old mind. She hopped up from the chair and pattered upstairs at once.
George’s old toy broomstick – nearly seven years old at this point, and falling apart almost to the point of disuse – was still stuffed under his bed, collecting dust. Ginny entered the twins’ room cautiously, although she knew they were still outside. She still couldn’t get used to having only three brothers at home, and not having to worry about being caught by Bill or Charlie or Percy, as would have happened during the summer.
She got down on her stomach and, by reaching, was able to grasp the broom’s handle and tug it out. It was a lot smaller than she’d remembered it being the last time she saw it, but that had been several years back. Luckily she was small herself, and the broom would support her weight. Now all she needed was a Quaffle to practice with, and she’d be set at showing the boys just how good she’d be on a broom. She’d only flown a handful of times before, but that didn’t matter too much to her.
But where was she going to get something to use as a Quaffle? Her mother might not take too kindly to her using balls of yarn for practice – she hadn’t liked that too much the last time Ginny had tried playing with them, she’d been picking burrs out of the yellow wool for weeks – and anyway, they weren’t quite heavy enough for the task. She frowned, momentarily deterred, still sitting on the twins’ floor clutching the toy broomstick. The answer came to her almost at once, and she hopped up and ran to her parents' bedroom.
There was a comforting sort of smell in her parent's room – it was much too clean, but there was a pleasant combination of smells. She recognized her mother's favorite lavender soap, mingling with her father's aftershave. But, not allowing herself to be distracted by this, Ginny forged on, heading for the wardrobe tucked in the corner. She wrenched open the doors and saw, sitting on the top shelf in a dejected sort of state, Ron’s old teddy bear, Mr. Stuffing.
According to Fred and George – who liked to recount the story every Christmas as a sort of tradition, especially if Percy was within earshot – Ron hadn’t touched the bear since Fred had accidentally turned it into a spider, many years earlier, and Mr. Weasley had been forced to place it here in the hopes he'd one day forget about the incident. Ginny had been too little to remember, which she was a bit sad about; it was something she would have liked to have seen. He was now sitting with his nose pointing at the general area of the slightly discolored white fur on his stomach, and one of his ears seemed to be hanging slightly lopsided, as though some of the threads had come loose somewhere through the years, and simply hadn’t been repaired. He was a bit sorry-looking, but appearances weren’t really the issue here.
Ginny seized the stuffed animal around its middle, hefting its weight in her hands and thinking. It would probably do, just for today’s purposes of tossing around something while riding a broom. Nothing official. And after they’d seen how great she was playing with a teddy bear, Fred and George and Ron would let her play with the apples they used from the ground in the old Weasley orchard. She tucked him snugly under the arm opposite from where she still clutched George’s toy broom, glanced around to make sure that she’d left the room exactly as it had been when she’d entered, and tiptoed back out onto the stairwell.
She peeked out the window looking out onto the garden, watching to see if the boys were still gallivanting about the orchard on their brooms. No one was in sight, which she took to be a good thing; their games usually lasted a long time, which would give her plenty of time to hone her skills. She crunched outside into a pile of the golden-brown leaves and wrinkled her nose again, this time in happiness, at the musty sort of smell they emitted.
Right. The first thing to do, she decided, was to figure out how to get on the broom. It was a toy broom, and she wasn’t sure if they worked in the same way. Tossing Mr. Stuffing under a nearby tree and only feeling slightly bad that the bear landed on his head, she swung one leg over the handle and waited.
Ginny frowned, giving a weird sort of hop and hoping the broom might catch a little bit of a draft and go lifting up into the air. But again, her feet remained rather firmly on the ground, solid as it had ever been. She gave an impatient sort of huff that momentarily lifted her fringe away from her forehead.
Clearly, she wasn’t doing something right. Ginny wondered if it was the fact that it was only a toy broomstick that was the issue, and gave it an experimental sort of shake, but it just stayed put where it was, immobile as ever. She sighed heavily again and cast her eyes about, sweeping the garden for something that might assist her.
Her eyes fell on the long stretch of ground leading away from her, heading in the direction of the pond; it was one of the best places for foot races, which the Weasleys had a lot in the summer. It was one of the benefits of having so many brothers; they always had enough people to play just about any game they wanted. Now Ginny looked back down at the broom in her right hand, wondering if it wouldn’t be right to serve her current purposes… Maybe she just needed a running start…
Well, it was as good a plan as any. She hurried over to the tree where Mr. Stuffing lay discarded, his feet having fallen over his head now. She tucked the teddy bear securely under her left arm as she has seen Gwenog Jones, captain of the Holyhead Harpies, do in all the Daily Prophet photos and Quidditch magazines covers.
She took a deep breath, narrowing her eyes and trying to gauge how far she’d have to run. Then, having no other course of action in front of her and not wanting to wait any longer to get into the air, Ginny took off at a full sprint down the grassy lane, bear under her left arm and broom between her legs, ready to carry her once it began to rise in the air. The yellowing grass, speckled with autumn leaves, became blurred on either side of her. Her brow lowered in concentration – she was nearly there – the pond was getting closer –
And at that exact moment, her foot caught a rock that was protruding out of the hard ground. Totally unprepared for it, and momentum quickly catching up with her, Ginny went soaring through the air, broomstick left behind and Mr. Stuffing still somehow in her arms. The ground replaced the sky, and then righted itself again, as she tumbled head over heels, over and over, until –
With a tremendous noise, Ginny landed smack in the Weasley garden pond, and promptly remembered why she hated it; besides being muddy in general, it was profusely covered in some sort of lime-green algae, and smelled absolutely foul. And now the disgusting water was everywhere, leaking out of her ears and filling her nostrils and dripping from her long red hair.
Ginny struggled to get up and found that she’d become momentarily stuck on the thick, squelchy mud on the pond’s bottom. Her clothes were stained beyond recognition, and she smelled absolutely horrendous. And now it occurred to her than she’d never seen a Quidditch player take a running start to get on a broom.
Of course she remembered that now.
Thunderous footsteps could be heard coming in two directions at that moment, and Mrs. Weasley’s face appeared just as Fred, George, and Ron came hurtling towards her from the other direction. The same expression of shock and confusion was on each violently freckled face as they came upon the sight of the youngest Weasley, still sitting in the pond.
“What are you doing, Ginny?” Molly asked, a bit hesitantly, hurrying over and extending her arms toward her daughter with a slight grimace. Ginny grasped her mother’s forearms and struggled to her feet, the mud suctioning the bottoms of her shoes, the stinking water dripping off of her in little streams.
“Is that my toy broomstick?” George blurted out in an incredulous voice, running over and picking it up from where it had come to rest a little ways away, still lying by the rock Ginny had tripped over. He picked it up and looked at her – he didn’t seem mad, but just puzzled as to what it was doing there.
“I was trying to show you guys I could fly,” she admitted sullenly, wringing out her hair and coughing at the smell it emitted. “Since you wouldn’t let me play with you.” Mrs. Weasley’s nostrils flared at hearing this accusation from her daughter’s mouth.
“I told you lot to include your little sister!” she snapped, removing her wand from the pocket of the apron she still wore and running it over Ginny’s hair, drying it instantly, although the smell didn’t disappear so easily. “Was something unclear about that? Fred?” She looked sternly at the boy in question, whose mouth dropped open.
“It wasn’t just me –“
“All of you,” their mother said firmly, “will include Ginny the next time you play Quidditch. Understand?” Ginny smirked as her brothers nodded mutely, in sync, completely submissive to the imperious gaze Mrs. Weasley was currently bestowing them.
“Serves you right,” she said haughtily, and Ron stuck his tongue out at her.
“I guess, if you were trying that hard… it’s okay,” he said grudgingly, picking at a stray thread on the sleeve of his T-shirt. From Ron, this was as good as extending a hand of friendship, and so Ginny patted his arm in what she thought was a kind gesture. Her brother merely looked bemused, however.
Mrs. Weasley came over to her children now, clutching something soggy and brown, her eyebrows raised in perplexity, although there was a mixed expression on her face; it was a cross between exasperation and tenderness. “Ginny, would you care to tell me why Ron’s old teddy bear found his way into the pond with you?” Ron whipped his head around so fast his neck popped and he let out a shuddery gasp; unconsciously he moved to stand behind George, whimpering slightly. This amused the twins greatly.
“He was the Quaffle,” Ginny said simply, clasping her hands behind her back and beaming up at her mother. Molly looked as though she might have tried to get to the bottom of that rationale at one point in time, but that moment was not now. She merely sighed and placed the sodden bear in her apron pocket.
“Now you, my dear, need to march straight up to the bathtub and scrub yourself good with strong soap,” she said, pointing a stern finger back in the direction of the Burrow. Ginny complied at once, feeling rather happy despite the foul smell radiating from her clothes and skin.
Getting to play Quidditch was worth smelling like pond water any day.
A/N: I cannot believe there is only one chapter left of this to write -- that's a bit surreal! The eighth and final chapter will be an epilogue of sorts, told from Molly's point of view. I'm really excited to write it, and I think you guys will like it. And I hoped you liked this chapter, too! Ginny was a challenge for me to write, but once I knew where I was going, she came out on the page so easily -- there's a lot of spunk and sass here, and it was a lot more fun to write than I'd anticipated.
As always, reviews are very much appreciated. Thank you for reading, and hope to see you back for the next (and final) chapter!
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