"Gin, can I, er, talk to you?" Ron asked, fidgeting.
Ginny snorted. "Isn't that what you're doing right now?" she retorted innocently, then grinned.
"I'm serious, Ginny. We need to talk. Now." Taken aback by Ron's unusual bout of solemnity, Ginny nodded quickly, and stood, following him up to his dorm.
"Ron," she said nervously as her brother checked to make sure they were alone, then locked the door so they couldn't be interrupted. "Has something happened? Are Mum and Dad okay?"
"Oh, they're fine. Nothing's happened - nothing like you're thinking, at least," Ron reassured her, and motioned for her to have a seat next to him on his bed.
She complied, all the while giving her brother a prompting and curious look. "Then what's all this about?"
"Listen, Gin. I've already given Harry the 'don't you dare hurt my sister' speech, but we both know -" he continued calmly, despite his sister's flustered sputtering, "that that speech is likely highly unnecessary. But I still gave it. And now it's your turn."
"My turn for what, Ronald?" Ginny demanded furiously. Ron looked baffled by her incomprehension.
"Your turn to hear the speech."
"What speech, Ron?!" yelled Ginny, her ears taking on a reddish hue.
"The 'don't you dare hurt my brother speech,' Ginny." When Ron received no response other than a frozen look of shock on his sister's face, he continued.
"Now, I know you've liked Harry for a good, long time -"
"You've been talking to Hermione, I see," Ginny interrupted wryly. Ron blushed.
"As I was saying," he continued in a mockingly pompous manner, "Harry's…not like the other guys you've dated. He's not like Michael or Dean or Colin."
"Back to stating the obvious, are we?"
Ron huffed. "Well, he's not, and for more than one reason. For one, he's part of the family, so if you hurt him, there's no escaping it. And I can't guarantee we'd all take your side, either."
"Ron, what could I possibly be capable of that would hurt Harry?" Ginny butted in, her exasperation clear.
"Lots of things," Ron retorted sharply. "And most of them can be accomplished inadvertently, which is why we're having this talk in the first place. He's amazingly strong in most cases, but in some…in some cases, Harry's really…fragile."
Ginny's eyes locked onto Ron's, and she frowned. "Go on."
Ron sighed, the red receding from his ears a bit. "I don't know how much you know about Harry's childhood -"
"Not much. Only what you've told me, really."
"Yeah, well…he doesn't like to talk about it much. It was horrible, Gin. I don't think I'll ever take our family for granted again. Made me realize that money doesn't buy the important things." Ron's face was suddenly pale and drawn, and Ginny's eyes narrowed as a bad feeling niggled at the back of her mind.
"What did those muggles do to him, Ron?" she asked slowly, her voice admirably steady, in her opinion.
"His bedroom was the cupboard under the stairs until he got his letter. They…didn't give him much food, even though he was pretty much their house elf. They never call him by his name, it's always 'boy,' or 'freak'. And…" Ron hesitated, then ploughed on, a determined look on his face. "And I'm not entirely sure they don't beat him."
When Ginny's only response was a tightening around the mouth, Ron continued. "I only found all this out by accident, of course. You know Harry. He kept telling us that it was a long time ago, and it doesn't matter. I think he actually expected us to buy it, too, after he threw about a dozen versions of 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' at us."
Ginny was slowly, but surely, turning a dark red, her freckles standing out starkly in her fury. "It's times like these," she said lowly, "that make me wonder if Tom doesn't have the right of it. Merlin, but I want to curse those foul muggles!"
"So you see, Gin," Ron went on as though he hadn't heard her exclamation, "there are a lot of ways you can hurt Harry in the end. Sometimes, he'll get really quiet, and you'll need to let him be until he works his way through that. Sometimes, he'll shrug you off when you try to touch him, or ask him a personal question that digs too deep, and you'll just have to back off. Sometimes, all you'll have to do is be there…and listen. Or talk, when he doesn't feel up to it.
"You can hurt him the worst by hanging all over him. I know you think you know him inside and out, but nobody does, really, besides himself. So…give him a chance, yeah? Before releasing that famous Weasley temper when he does something stupid. He's still learning how to love."
"Ron," Ginny breathed, wide-eyed at the sudden note of fierce protectiveness in her brother's voice.
"Don't hurt him. I'm serious. Because if you do, I'm not sure I'll forgive you, even if he does."
Ginny leaned in and hugged him, without any warning.
"Ron, you're the best brother ever. I haven't said it in a while, but it's true." Ron snorted as he hugged her tightly back.
"Nah. I'm too thick by far…but thanks for saying it anyway, Gin. Now go on down and find your new boyfriend. He'll be looking for you, I'm sure." Ginny smiled, gave him a peck on the cheek, and skipped away, humming under her breath.
Ron shook his head in amusement, smiling slightly. This speech hasn't really been necessary either, but, hey…
It was the principle of the thing.