Chapter 7 : Feathers and Mudpies
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Forgetting my troubles came easily enough at The Burrow. (I now knew that as the name of this little estate.) The Weasley's were the most inviting people I had ever had the pleasure of being unwillingly stuck in a house with.
Ginny seemed to take great pleasure in playing dress-up with me every morning, combining this with that until she found the style she thought looked the best. She also took it upon herself to use my morphing abilities to her delight, dictating my hair color and length for each outfit, coloring my nails instead of painting them, and even changing my eye color. I felt a bit like a doll. But a sentient one who was just having too much fun to remember she could say no.
She also filled me in on any gossip she managed to hear or be privy to, including the suspicion that Tonks was depressed because Sirius Black was her cousin and died and that Phlegm (her 'pet name' for Fleur) was engaged to her brother, Bill.
One morning while deciding between a pair of black wide leg shorts and a flowing red skirt, she turned to me with a devious smile. "I wonder which one Ron would like," she teased.
I rolled my eyes. "Ginny," I said firmly, "it was a slip of the tongue, an innocent mistake, and I won't remind you again that I am actually seeing someone." I rolled my eyes. "Besides, even if it mattered to me, you know well enough it doesn't to him. He's only got eyes for Hermione..." I frowned. "And apparently Morgan."
I took the items from her and began comparing them in a mirror. They both looked great with the white blouse she had already fitted on me so I could see why she had trouble deciding.
She walked over and took the skirt from me, silently letting me know that she had decided on the shorts after all. "He can't stand Morgan," she said matter-of-factly.
I laughed. "Well, that can't be true. I heard him call her 'the cute one,' first morning here." I pulled on the shorts. They fit so much more comfortably than most of her jeans. A lot of Ginny's clothes were hand-me-downs and some were too big or too small on even her.
"He doesn't like any Slytherin. Not too mention her association with Malfoy." Ginny shrugged. "Did he specifically say that Morgan was cute?"
"Well... I mean... He asked if I was the cute one and said that one was a little more..." I made the universal hand signs for a curvy woman. "That's obviously Morgan. Everyone knows she's more..." Hand signs.
Ginny looked surprised. "He actually did that?"
"I mean... I guess I didn't actually see him do it," I admitted. "I was under a blanket. But Hermione scolded him, so, doesn't it make sense?"
"Oh, goodness, that does make sense," Ginny said with a laugh. "When I got into the room after you stormed out, he had been saying, 'I don't know why she's so upset- I was talking about her.'"
"Oh, he was not!" I said, shaking my head at her. "Now you're just trying to play match maker. Well I've been matched. Play with Ron and Hermione."
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Whatever, Stone," she said, hands up in defeat. "Now, about your hair today..."
And we never spoke of it again- but it stayed in the back of my mind, nagging. I really needed to go home, I kept telling myself. I needed another Terry visit. My heart sank when I remembered that he was supposed to come visit again soon and it didn't look like I was going to be there.
Degnoming took my mind off that. They taught me how to pull the little buggers out of the garden and swing them over the wall. At least I could go home with that story, and the proof from all the bites! If you could describe any activity as both fun and terrible, degnoming was the one.
About a week into my stay, every underage wizard in the house went out to degnome the garden on a particularly muddy day. The rains had come down pretty hard the night before, but the morning had brought rare sunshine to the country side.
Taking the messiness into consideration, Ginny's Human Doll (me) was properly attired in leggings, a cropped flannel shirt, and an old pair of over sized boots I suspected belonged to one of the twins. (The toes had been stuffed with Fainting Fancies.) My hair had been directed to be short with an 'earthy shade of red.' (Do you understand how long it takes to go through shades of red until Ginny Weasley is happy with it?)
The five of us approached the garden looking much like warriors preparing for battle. The key was, however, to wait. You have to wait for the first one to show itself and then capture it. The noises of a gnome being extridited from a garden, rather than warn the other gnomes to stay away, actually piqued their interest to the point of poking their heads up and getting caught themselves.
Ginny darted into the low foliage without warning, ducking down and emerging with her prey. She swung it around and over the wall, it's squealing setting off the hunt.
One by one the ugly little heads began to pop up. There was one right in front of me, just inside the garden's edge. I dove toward it, effectively catching it and sullying myself at the same time. I stood and swung, going for a low underhand toss in the hope of greater distance. Mud stained down my left side.
"Oh!" Ginny cried, putting a hand up to shade her eyes as she watched the gnome fly. "Good forty feet at least! Good arm!"
"But not good balance," Ron snickered.
"Oh, sorry, I thought we were going for a score- who can get the most. And the farthest," I replied. A few steps further and I snatched up another gnome. I tried a lasso swing this time. "Unless you don't think you can keep up." Releasing the poor creature, he sailed through the air with a squeal.
Suddenly gnomes were flying through the air with an urgency and speed probably never before seen in Mrs. Weasley's garden. Within minutes, we were done with our task and the other four reflected my dirtied appearance. The final tallies had Ginny in the lead with twelve gnomes, me with nine, Ron at eight, Harry at six, and Hermione with two. (She hadn't been able to really bring herself to 'hurt' them.) However, Harry had the greatest distance at an estimated fifty-five feet.
Ron grumbled as we cleared the garden's edge and set off across the yard. "I don't really think Gin's first one should count, since it started it all. And Piper's first two shouldn't count, since I didn't know we were competing." He huffed and crossed his arms.
Harry laughed at him. "Ron, with the exception of Hermione, we're all Quidditch players. Everything's a competition." He gave him a slap on the back, but it didn't seem to do much to lighten his friend's mood.
"No, Harry, fair's fair. I'll relinquish two of mine and let Ron have second," I told him, waving the whole thing off.
"What do you mean 'let' me have it?" Ron demanded.
"Oh, Merlin." I sighed. "No pleasing you, then?" He had been an odd mix of cross and amused with me since that first morning. I suppose I wasn't much better.
"I don't need a handicap, Stone."
Suddenly, Ron's face was caked in mud and Ginny was laughing hysterically. We all stopped, staring at her while Ron wiped it off. "If you don't want a handicap, maybe a nice mudpie will soften you up!"
Next thing I knew, Ginny had even more mud splattered over her already dirty clothes. She paused for just a second before laughing again.
There was a silent moment between the remaining four of us, eyeing each other suspiciously. Almost in unison, we dove for the ground. Soon the air was as full of flying mud as it had been of gnomes minutes ago.
I got Hermione in the hair while Harry managed to get some down my shirt. Ginny and Ron seemed very intent on working out their sibling rivalry by firing shot after shot of mud balls at each other.
Somehow I ended up with both Harry and Hermione ganging up on me, making it difficult to grab my own ammunition. Finally managing to do so, I lobbed one at each of them. I hit Hermione in the leg, of all places, and it was enough to make her lose her balance. Harry's went too far to the side and knocked off a gnome trying to climb back over the garden wall. Harry turned his efforts to getting Hermione off the ground.
That was when Ginny abandoned her side war and jumped on his back.
"For the girls!" she cried, one fist in the air.
"What? Since when- are there sides?!" Harry was laughing so hard, he could hardly articulate his bewilderment.
I was laughing so much at the sight of them that when Harry stumbled my way under her weight, I fell over like a feather. Ron was behind me, apparently for a sneak attack, and he went down with me. I couldn't spare the breath to apologize. Ginny finally wore Harry down so much between the burden and his laughing that he sank to his knees in defeat.
Ginny thrust her fists into the air. "Champion of the Garden!"
"Yay!" rang our voices in a chorus before devoloving into giggles and snorts.
I laid back on the lumpy ground, too dirty to care about more mud getting into my hair. The ground shook and I realized my head was on Ron's leg. He trickled muddy water into my hair.
"Am I not dirty enough?" I queried.
"Oh, no, you're disgusting. That was just for starting this mess," he answered.
"Starting it? Ginny threw the first sling of mud!"
"She wouldn't have if you hadn't been trying to give me a handicap."
"Oh!" I tried to get angry, but began laughing again instead. "Oh, just shut up." I could do little more than smile at him.
Reluctantly, he smiled back. "So... Are you done being mad at me? About the other day? I promise, once you get to know me, you'll have so many other things to yell at me about."
I giggled once and then again before shaking my head. "I suppose I can't be mad forever. Merlin knows how long I'll be here. I wanted to apologize, actually. I really shouldn't have screamed at you. I was already upset."
"It's alright," he assured me. "Find a few more reasons to scream and you can join Hermione's 'Ron Makes Me Mad' club. Ginny's already a member." He frowned, concentrating. "And I think Padma Patil."
The five of us sat out there for a while just talking and laughing. It was nice. I didn't spend many summers like this since I really only had Terry and Luna and I never got to see them on holiday. What was more was that I really felt included, not like being dragged along to one of Morgan's hang outs where I desperately wished for a book.
Eventually, the sun went away. The air chilled and the oppressive fog of mating dementors crept back over the horizon. Strangely, though, the gloom couldn't bring me down. I felt like I had access to a never ending supply of chocolate to make me feel better.
We pulled ourselves and each other up (our clothes were pretty heavy with mud and balance was a bit of an issue) and trudged back to the house. Mrs. Weasley was waiting for us at the door with a Scourgify for everyone as we crossed the threshold.
"Blimey, Hermione," Ron said as soon as we were all clean and indoors. "I forgot you looked like a panda under all that mud!"
It was not at all hard to believe that Hermione might actually have a Ron Makes Me Mad Club.
Since we were now on civil terms, whole new avenues for social interaction cropped up at the Burrow. No longer was Ginny my sole source of companionship when Ron and I were both in the same room.
We started playing two-on-two Quidditch with Hermione as an alternate, me and Ginny against Ron and Harry. I wasn't used to not being a beater, but I made it work. Sort of. Ginny picked up a lot of the slack.
At every meal, I watched in awe as Harry ate three plates, bowls, or glasses of anything Mrs. Weasley made. I thought I could eat, but apparently one didn't know what hunger was until one spent any amount of time with the Dursleys. Every night, we all stayed up until the last one dropped just talking and talking. When we finally did retire to bed, Harry and I still slept in Fred and George's room. We didn't mind and it made it easier on Mrs. Weasley to not have to set up beds for us elsewhere.
On one such night (the night before Harry's birthday, actually), Ron and I were the last "men" standing. Harry was snoring softly in his bed, glasses askew because he had crashed mid sentence. Ginny and Hermione had long since left to their own room. The two of us sat in the space between the two beds, leaning against mine.
"That was worth staying up to see." He snickered as his best friend shifted in his sleep, practically sideways on the mattress with an arm hanging off one side and a leg off the other.
"You're supposed to be nice," I whispered. "He's your friend." But it was amusing. Carefully, because I didn't want to wake him, I reached over and gingerly removed Harry's glasses, placing them on the night stand that separated the beds.
"Friends poke fun at one another," he protested. "You've never cracked a joke at Loony's expense?"
I shot him a sharp glance. "I've certainly never called her Loony, if that's what you're asking. I actually like my friends, thank you. Have you ever said 'Potter Stinks' because you found Malfoy's humor amusing as so many others did at the Triwizard Tournament?"
"'Course not," Ron said, a little put off. "Besides, I hate Malfoy. The only funny thing he ever did was become a ferret." He grinned. "And when Hermione hit him."
"Would you still call Luna 'Loony' if Malfoy had come up with the nickname?"
"Well... No. I mean, yes? But, wait-!"
"Ah-ah!" I silenced him with a finger. "It's not mean just because Malfoy comes up with it. It's just plain mean. You know, I may not act like Luna, but I believe every article written in The Quibbler. Her father works hard and puts in a lot of research time before making his publications. And you can't talk too ill about it either since it was through Luna and The Quibbler that Harry's story first saw the light of day while your more, how shall I say, legitimate news source, The Daily Prophet, called Harry a quack! Now, the next words out of your mouth had better be an apology or a promise to apologize to Luna or you can just leave and I'll go to sleep."
Ron seemed stunned and a bit flustered. "Oh, yeah? Well, you know what? I... You... It's-! ..." He stared hard at me and I waited patiently for whatever retort he was working up to. "I..."
"You said that."
"Well, I'm getting there!" he snapped.
"I am not! I just can't get my mouth to say the words, but they're on the tip of my tongue."
I put a hand gently on his arm. "Is that because your heart is telling your mouth that your head is wrong?" I asked sincerely. "And that the correct words are 'you're right, Piper?'"
"If I say you're right, can we talk about something else?" he grumbled.
"Only if you mean it."
He heaved the greatest sigh I had ever heard and his eyes turned toward the ceiling. "You are right. I'm sorry. I will apologize to Luna as soon as I see her next."
I contemplated making him look me in the eye and repeat it, but I figured I would just remember and nag him about it at school if I could, since I was sure he was going to forget. "I'll accept that for now. What else did you want to talk about? I think I'm getting my second wind!"
No sooner were the words out of my mouth than a yawn slipped out. I covered my mouth with a hand, eyes wide. Ron snickered at me.
"Looks like I win tonight!" He placed his hands behind his head, looking pretty satisfied with himself.
"Not so fast, Weasley!" I stifled a second yawn. "My head hasn't hit the pillow yet!"
"Well, let me fix that."
The next thing I knew, there was a pillow in my face. I heard Ron snickering next to me. The pillow dropped into my lap and I gave him a sideways glance. "Think you're a regular Fred and George, don't you?"
"Oh, come on, it was-"
I hit him with the pillow, effectively cutting him off. I giggled. "You're right. That is funny."
Ron frowned and proceeded to hit me again. "Hilarious," he remarked.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Careful, Weasley," I warned. "You don't want to start something you can't finish." I hit him once more. "Now we're even."
It happened in a flurry of movements. I saw him move to hit me again and I pushed myself up, stretching across my mattress for the other pillow. Then it began. I took a blow to the stomach while he took one to his crown. He got to his feet and I took the opprotunity to catch him in the hip. I couldn't get up from the position I had put myself in to get the pillow, which put him in the undeniably favorable position of power over me. Literally.
Our pillows collided. I tried to scoot back, to get a better angle on the situation, but he was bearing down on me, relentless. He planted one knee on the bed and began swinging. It was all I could do to fend him off, my weapon now turned shield. He pulled back for a hard blow and I tried to take the chance to strike back. My swing went a bit too far, though, and I hit the night stand, sending Harry's glasses clattering to the floor.
I froze. Ron also stopped, but lost his balance and caught himself with his hands on the bed. We both stared at Harry.
His eyes half opened and then immediately closed. He rolled over on the bed, righting himself from his original haphazard position. "Ron, get the shessah hasst... 'Mione's in the sneess hasha with Grawp..."
He rolled over once more and was silent.
We both breathed a sigh of relief and laughed quietly. I looked up and realized Ron was right there, looking down at me.
"Harry, er, talks in his sleep." He grinned.
"Apparently. What did he say?"
"Something, something, parseltongue. It was pretty creepy when I first heard it. Laying in the dark and suddenly you hear hissing noises in the next bed?"
"You screamed like a little girl, didn't you?" I teased.
"I did not!" He gave me an indignant look. "I was too scared to scream..."
I giggled. And then yawned. Again.
"I guess I should let you sleep," he said quietly.
"That means you win. I don't know if I'm okay with that," I replied.
"We'll call it a draw," he offered. He stared at me for a long, silent moment, eyes flickering across my face, my mouth.
My heart sped up. I couldn't look away from his oh so blue eyes, his red hair just barely brushing his lashes, the freckles on the bridge of his nose. I used to think about a moment like this all the time. What would it be like to kiss Ronald Weasley? My eyes dropped to his lips, wondering if they were as soft as they looked.
Our eyes locked. Suddenly his lips were moving against mine. His mere touch sent tingles through my body like an explosion. This. This is what the books preached about. This was everything I had ever imagined. Not like Terry.
"Terry." We broke apart.
In a flash, we were both on opposite sides of the bed, Ron scratching his head and me with my arms wrapped around myself.
"I should probably-" he began.
"Yeah, I really need to-" I added.
"See you in the morning," we said in unison.
He left quickly, the door closing a little too loudy. Harry stirred in his sleep again and then all was still. I flopped down on the bed and covered my face with my hands. What the bloody hell was that?
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