This was written as a (very belated) response to a challenge set by cupid-painted-blind at the Reviews Lounge forum last August. The first line had to be "Is it real?"
I know both "Birthdays" and "Weasely Weddings" are overdue. But this is what wanted to be written today!
"Is it real?" Ginny demanded, looking at the object in the palm of her hand.
"No, I bought it from Zonko's." Bill's tone was exasperated. "Of course it's real, Gin. Five thousand years old, and if anyone finds out I nicked it, I'll get the sack."
Ginny's lips twitched. "Older than Auntie Muriel then. Why would they sack you over a beetle?"
Bill grinned, and sat back against the headboard of Ginny's bed. "Matter of principle. 'Objects and artefacts shall not be removed by any employee for anything other than Gringotts business from any tomb or site without written permission of a superior.' Rule 2, paragraph 3. Or something."
"I thought you were the one who kept the rules."
"That's what I let everybody think. Especially Mum."
She laughed. "I wish you weren't going back, Bill."
He reached out a hand and pulled her over so that she was half-lying against him, his arm round her shoulders. "It won't make any difference to you where I am." He pointed out. "You'll be off to school in less than a fortnight."
"What's that supposed to mean? Aren't you the person who's been nagging Mum and Dad about when you were going to Hogwarts since you were three?"
"Yes, but… Now it's real. It's really going to happen. What if…? What if I hate it, Bill? What if no one likes me? What if I end up in Hufflepuff?"
He stifled a laugh. "Then Hufflepuff would be well and truly shaken up, I should think. That's the last place you'll end up, Ginny. You're much more Slytherin than Hufflepuff."
"Bill! You don't really mean that? I'm not Slytherin, I'm not!" She sat up, and turned a look of mingled horror and indignation on him.
"Keep your hair on! It was a joke. You'll be in Gryffindor. Why should you break the family tradition?"
"What if I do, though?" she asked in a small voice. "What if I end up on my own?"
Bill pulled her close again, ruffling her hair. For all her toughness, Ginny was barely eleven years old, and sometimes – and usually only to him, or very occasionally their father – she let that fact show.
"You'll be okay, Ginny," he reassured her softly. "You'll be fine. And if you end up anywhere other than Gryffindor, I'll steal you more than a scarab beetle from the next tomb I'm in."
"I rather fancy one of those jars they put their innards in. Will you get me one of them?"
"If you end up in a different house, I will. And then start looking for a new job. But I think I'm pretty safe there. You're pure Gryffindor, little sister."
"Really. More so than any of us, I reckon. It'll be okay, Ginny. And you've got four big brothers at school to look after you, remember. More than I had. I was on my own when I went."
She looked at the blue-green beetle in her hand rather than meet his eye. "They won't, though. Percy will boss me about. Fred and George will laugh at me. Ron will ignore me."
"And so will Harry Potter."
She didn't say it out loud, but Bill knew what she was thinking all the same. Her obsession with The Boy Who Lived had gone on since she was four, and was a family joke. It was a bit awkward though when The Boy Who Lived was suddenly Your Brother's Best Friend.
He sighed. This nervous, needing-reassurance Ginny was new, and he wasn't entirely sure he knew how to cope with her. "Percy will boss you about," he conceded. "But he does that to everyone, it won't be special treatment for you. It's what he does. And the twins might tease you, but you know darn well they'd flatten anyone who hurt their baby sister. And if Ron does ignore you, it won't matter. You'll make friends in your own year soon enough."
"Cheer up, Ginny. You'll be fine once you get there. Everyone's scared before they go, but all the first years are in the same boat – literally, when you get off the train. And think how much worse it is for the Muggleborns, who didn't even know they were witches or wizards and never even heard of Hogwarts till a couple of weeks ago."
"Yeah. That would be scary," Ginny agreed reluctantly. "I guess I'll be okay, really."
"Sure you will." He smiled at her. "Howabout we go to Diagon Alley and get that thing mounted on a chain to wear round your neck for luck? No one else at Hogwarts will have a five thousand year old scarab as a necklace."
"Will you buy me an ice cream at Fortescue's?"
"You push your luck, don't you? How much d'you think Gringotts pays me?"
"Enough to let you spoil your little sister," she retorted. "It's what big brothers do."
He grinned, and took her hand. "Is it indeed? Come on then, we'd better tell Mum where we're going."
(Bill was right of course. She ended up in Gryffindor. She made friends. Percy bossed her about. The twins looked out for her, without letting on that they were doing so. Even Ron kept a brotherly eye on her when he thought no one was looking. And she was definitely the only student in the school with an ancient Egyptian beetle round her neck.)