Birds of a Feather, Chapter 18, Serious Conversations
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter Universe belongs to J. K. Rowling.
A/N: Someone please tell Ron and Lavender to quite usurping my story.
Ginny finally pulled back a little from her mother, the Molly one, and Harry took the opportunity to go hug his own mother. Ginny stood back, hesitant at the idea of thrusting herself into this other new family that she might have. Harry noticed her reluctance and let go of his mother.
"Mum," he said. "This is Ginny. She's my Mate, and-" he blushed slightly, "-and I love her."
Giselle's eyes teared up a bit, so happy at her son having been able to find his Mate so early in life. "Ginny," she hesitated. "May I call you Ginny?" She wasn't quite sure what to do with her daughter now that she'd found her. All she really wanted was to throw her arms around her missing Madeline and hold her forever. But she also saw that the red-headed girl was a little scared, and a lot worried, about what was going to happen next.
Ginny nodded, but the worried and scared look still remained.
"Ginny," Giselle repeated. "I know this must seem a little, um, overwhelming to you. Am I right?" Ginny nodded again, with a small rueful grimace. "Well, I'm sure Harry's told you a little bit about what happened to our Madeline when she was a baby, and we tried everything we could to find her, although ever since we found Harry we've had to let other people head up the search. But we've never stopped hoping and praying for her. For you." She stopped for a moment, and Pierre took his opportunity.
"Hi, Ginny," he said, and stepped forward with his hand outstretched.
Ginny had backed up slightly when Pierre had started talking, but when she saw that he just wanted to shake her hand, she stepped forward and took his in hers. When she did that, she had a small flash of memory, or perhaps it wasn't anything as strong as a memory-maybe just a feeling of comfort, of familiarity. It was as if she remembered his hand, and that made it so that she didn't want to let go. Standing there, holding his hand, she peered up into his face. He was smiling down at her, eyes somewhat teary, but she could tell that he was very happy at this moment.
"Hi, um, Mr. . . ." Ginny's voice trailed off.
Giselle stepped forward and laid a gentle hand on Ginny's shoulder. "Ginny, I think both my husband and I would be happy to have you call us Giselle and Pierre. Of course, you can also call us pere and maman if you prefer. Or even Mum and Dad. Or Mom, I suppose, if you want to adopt the American way." Her small grimace indicated her slight disapproval of that last, and Ginny resolved to never, ever slip into the atrocious American corruption of their language.
Ginny nodded at Giselle, and looked at Harry. She wasn't sure what to do now, and it seemed so very very important to make a good impression on these people whom she apparently possibly belonged to.
Harry caught the look on Ginny's face, and moved forward himself, stepping to her side and putting his arm around her. "It's okay," he whispered to her. "Mum and Dad really just want to get to know you. They're not going to make you give up your life just because they found you."
Ginny turned and looked into Harry's face. "Are you sure?" she whispered back. "I mean, I want to get to know them too, but I don't want to stop being a Weasley either."
Harry kissed her softly. "I'm sure that my parents won't have any problem with that. Really, they just want to know you. And be a part of your life. But that's not any different, is it? I mean, they were going to be your in-laws anyway."
Ginny giggled a little, then straightened up. "I can do this," she whispered to herself. Taking a slight moment to settle her resolve, she turned to Giselle. And just about lost her resolve again. But seeing Giselle's face, and how brightly she was smiling, albeit with teary eyes, she found her courage. She took a small step towards her new, or rather, old, mother and held out her arms. "Can I-" was as far as she got before she found herself caught up in a warm hug. She slowly wrapped her arms around Giselle, and as she did so, she had another memory impression. She recognized the scent of her mother. And that was quite enough to settle her doubts.
Giselle was rather surprised, and very pleased, when her Madeline came to her for a hug. And then, when Madeline (or rather Ginny, she forcibly reminded herself) snuggled in even closer, Giselle broke down into tears. She was finally able to hold her precious daughter again, and she held on as if she'd never let her go. The pain that had been her constant companion over the last 14 years started to diminish, to shrink, and hopefully disappear forever.
Ginny felt the love radiating from her birth mother as a kind of warm smell that washed over her. Unbeknownst even to herself she had carried with her a small worry, a sadness. She knew she had been adopted, and almost all the time she was very happy with her situation. And really, she rarely thought of herself as an adoptee. But every so often she'd wonder why she'd been left, or lost, or stolen from her birth parents. And she'd occasionally wonder what they were like, and whether she'd want to meet them.
But now, being here with them, she finally felt complete. She had both of her families now, and a wonderful Mate. And apparently two sisters.
Molly stood watching, feeling her heart break. She really had only ever wanted the best for her Ginevra, and knew that if her birth parents ever found her and wanted her, that she'd do everything she could to help Ginny be happy with them. But faced with the reality, she found she wasn't as strong as she'd hoped to be. She sniffled, then turned towards Arthur and buried her face in his shoulder.
Ginny heard Molly's sobs, and broke the hug with Giselle. Or rather, she let go with one arm, and started shuffling towards her other parents. Giselle guessed what was happening, and went with her, until finally Ginny was where she felt the best-both of her mothers had an arm around her, and she held onto them as well. Her fathers joined in, and Harry, of course, and they stood there, just enjoying the moment.
"What's all this, then?" came a loud voice, interrupting the happy group, which slowly released their arms, and moved apart a bit, and sniffled and wiped noses and, chiefly the mothers, straightened collars and picked imaginary lint off of shoulders.
Ron hadn't noticed that all the other Weasleys in the castle had disappeared. The experience of having a girlfriend was doing great things to his life. Some of those things were good-he tended to eat with a less-wolfish appetite, for instance. But others, well, the jury was still out on some of the other changes.
It was actually Lavender that noticed the Weasley exodus first. Now, Lavender wasn't stupid. It's impossible to be stupid and still be the nexus of all castle gossip for fourth years. And most of the fifth years. And of course many of the third years. Although Lavender would argue that it wasn't just gossip-there was more to information-gathering than just gossip-mongering after all. She had always been very desirous to know what was going on, and disguising herself as nothing more than a gossip meant that she was constantly under-estimated.
Of course, many people discounted her brains, believing that the box they came in was much more important. But Lavender knew how to work that. Many incredibly interesting pieces of information were found because of people's inability to look beyond her rather impressive figure.
Given all this, it wasn't surprising that Lavender had noticed when the other Weasley brothers were called out of the Great Hall by Tex. Tex looked over towards Ron, but caught Lavender's eye instead. She looked at Tex, who seemed a little unsure about what to do, but when she nodded her head toward Ron, he gave her a tiny shake of the head, and held up two fingers. She nodded slightly, and turned back to her boyfriend, hoping she had understood what the French boy had meant. She could only assume that he had wanted her to wait for a bit before taking Ron to see what was going on.
"Ron," Lavender said, when Ron had eaten enough that she was sure to be able to get his attention.
"Wh-" started Ron. He stopped, chewed, swallowed, and took a quick drink of pumpkin juice. "Excuse me," he said apologetically, "I just forgot a little."
Lavender smiled at her boyfriend. "Very good, Ron, thank you for stopping." She leaned up and gave him a quick kiss.
Ron colored slightly, but kissed her back. He might not consciously understand it, but Lavender's lessons and system of rewards had been the cause of most of his new-found manners.
"So, um, what did you want?" Ron asked, once his slight blush had calmed down.
"Oh, I was just wondering if you wanted to take a walk with me. Maybe we could see what was in that 3rd floor corridor?" Lavender said, with a gleam in her eye.
"What 3rd floor corridor?" Ron asked, bewildered.
There were times when Lavender wondered why she had had to start fancying Ron. He was rather handsome, in his windswept way. But he seemed to be taking awhile to understand certain things which should have been obvious. She sighed. "The one that doesn't have any paintings? And there are no classrooms there? And there's that turn at the very end that leads to a dead end?"
Ron still looked bewildered. "Why would we want to go there if there's nothing around?"
Lavender's look grew a bit sharper. "Don't forget, Ron, that if we were to be in that dead end, nobody would be able to see us."
"But then. . ." The knut finally dropped. And Lavender found herself being pulled along behind Ron as he walked quickly out of the Great Hall.
"Ron!" she said sharply. "Slow down!"
Ron wasn't too stupid as to miss the warning in her voice. "I'm sorry, Lavender, I just. . .um. . ."
"Wanted to snog me?" she asked innocently.
Ron nodded furiously.
Lavender smiled. "That's fine, Ron. I'm looking forward to snogging you too. But maybe we could enjoy the walk also."
Ron looked slightly puzzled, but was beginning to learn that polite suggestions from his girlfriend were not really suggestions. "Well, sure. Let's walk, then."
Lavender knew he was still somewhat puzzled, but at least he was learning how to pick up hints. And now he might even be in the right frame of mind for her to start laying the groundwork for another big surprise in his life. "So, Ron, what do you think about Ginny's boyfriend?"
The snogging had been great, as always. Ron thought again how lucky he was to have such a beautiful girlfriend. And really, the things she asked him to do weren't a chore. It's not like his brothers were fighting for the food here-there always seemed to be enough to go around. So slowing down his eating wasn't too bad. Although he wasn't sure why she didn't want him to talk while he was eating. Wasn't that just good time management?
But now she wanted to find his sister. Why would Lavender want to talk to Ginny? She was just Ginny, right? And Ron was sure that she was fine with all her new friends. But he wasn't feeling obstinate enough to complain. In fact, after the brilliant snogging session, he probably would have been willing to ignore a Slytherin or two.
Until he walked into the Hospital wing and saw Ginny, their parents, that Harry bloke, and his parents, all hugging one another.
"What's all this, then?" he shouted, ready to go into a full-fledge Weasley rage.
"Shut it, Ron!" George hissed, in a rather surprising display of tact.
"But, but, what're Mum and Dad doing here? And why are they hugging that Harry guy? And who are those people?" Ron refused to be cowed by his brothers. That probably also came from having to fight for food at home too.
Lavender reached up and took Ron's face in both hands, wrenching it around to look at her. "Ron!" she said, threateningly. "Shut up!"
The unexpectedness of Lavender's command served to silence Ron for enough time for her to say, "We don't know all that's going on here, and we should find out before we go shouting and carrying on and everything, okay? You don't really believe that your parents are going to let anything happen to Ginny, do you?" Ron wasn't allowed to respond before Lavender spoke again. "And if you go making your whole family angry at you, then I might have to invoke Rule number 3!"
Ron went white at that. None of Lavender's Rules were fun to think about. She didn't have too many, but if she invoked them, then there was sure to be some unpleasantness involved. Rule number 3, rule number 3, Ron thought feverishly to himself. What's rule number 3? Oh, yeah. If I'm mean to others, no kissing for three days. "No, um, Lavender, I'll be quiet, okay? Just, can you find out what's going on?"
Lavender smiled her approval at Ron. "Certainly, Ron. And if you can make it through this without blowing up, it'll give you a Category 2 reward."
A smile blossomed on Ron's face, and grew very wide indeed. He absolutely loved Category 2 rewards.
Satisfied, Lavender turned to Fred. "Any idea what's going on?" she asked softly.
Fred looked at her, then looked at Ron. "Well, okay, remember how we got Ginny?"
Ron frowned, then comprehension broke over his face like a bilious moon slowly arising over the mountains. "She was adopted, right?"
Fred shook his head. "Yeah. I guess you were pretty young to be able to remember everything. Anyway, we found her in the woods next to our house, and took her home. Mum and Dad tried to find out where she belonged, but no one was saying anything about a lost baby. They could have done a Lineage test, but that costs an awful lot, you know?"
Ron nodded his head. Lavender was looking back and forth between Fred and Ron, fascinated. She hadn't known any of this, and, since she was in the business of 'knowing things', it was all wonderful to her. She figured she'd probably never be able to tell anyone else, but that was only a secondary pleasure for her. Just the fact that she knew, and very few others did, made all the difference.
George decided to help out with the story. "And you know how she used to get really mad and set things on fire?"
Ron nodded quickly. "Yeah, I'm still missing at least one of my bears. I'm sure she destroyed it."
"Um, what do you mean, set things on fire?" Lavender interjected.
Ron turned to her, slightly surprised by her presence-he'd been too focused on the mystery of Ginny's past to think too much about his girlfriend. "Oh, well, when she got really really mad she could kind of throw fireballs at things. Mum and Dad had to work really hard to help her control it-we almost lost the Burrow that one time, remember George?"
The twins nodded and took up the story again. "Well, come to find out, Harry's family used to have a little girl. Aside from the two girls you see there," Fred indicated, and Lavender and Ron looked over and noticed that aside from Fleur, whom they had already met (and in Ron's case drooled over), there was another younger girl in Fleur's lap.
"So they had another daughter?" Lavender asked. At the twins' nod, a frown grew on her face. "Then what happened to her?" They weren't given time to respond to Lavender's question as she obviously made the logical conclusion. "Ginny?" she shrieked very quietly.
The twins nodded again, and Lavender looked back over to the families clustered farther down the rows of beds. "How in the world? Even with magic? That's just. . . wow!"
Ron still looked a little confused. "So, then Harry's family lost a little girl and we found one." The look of dawning comprehension on his face was rather comical to the twins, and they burst out laughing.
"Yes, Ron," Lavender said in her finally-my-boyfriend-gets-it-tell-me-again-why-I-like-him-voice-the one that Ron really disliked. "Your family found the Delacours' missing girl, and adopted her. And they just found this out, and are trying to figure out what that means for their family now."
Ron nodded. "Okay. But, I don't see what the problem is. I mean, they take Ginny back with them, right? That's her real family, right?"
It didn't take a very bright person to see that Ron was about to be pounded on by two rather angry older brothers. They exchanged looks and then turned to their youngest, and apparently dumbest, brother.
"Hold it!" Lavender said, stepping between Ron and potential fratricide. "Fred, George, back off! Go on over and welcome the Delacours to the family. It looks like I need to take Ron for a little discussion."
The twins shared another look, looked daggers at Ron, then nodded to Lavender. "We'll leave you to it, then."
"Yeah, thanks, Lavender. Mum might not be pleased at the amount of blood Ron might lose if we were to take it upon ourselves to fix this."
Lavender smiled grimly as the twins marched off down to the rest of the family. Then she turned to Ron, reached up and grabbed an earlobe, and pulled. And it wasn't a gentle tug either.
"Ouch! What are you doing, woman?" Ron complained as he was dragged summarily from the presence of the rest of his family.
Lavender just turned and stared. Which was a pretty good feat, since she was also stalking down the corridor pulling Ron with her.
Ron shut up-he'd seen this face once or twice before, and had rued every time. This looked to be the mother of all blow-ups, though, judging from the speed at which Lavender was stalking while pulling his ear.
Finding an empty classroom, Lavender yanked open the door, pulled Ron's earlobe through, dragging his body willy-nilly behind, and slammed the door.
As romantic as it sounds, moments of exceedingly strong emotion don't necessarily last for very long. Even if it feels like it at times. Eventually, the arms that were holding the group together started to loosen their grip, and there was a general sniff and mumble as the group separated out a bit. But nobody really knew what to do after that.
Until Fred yelled. "Oi! Can we get in on the hugging?" George was right behind him, nodding.
Ginny giggled and waved them over where they wrapped their arms around her. As with anything, the addition of the twins meant that nobody could stay too serious for long. George made extra-careful of that by embarking on a single-handed mission to tell Ginny's new-old parents all the embarrassing things she'd done over the last 13 years. Eventually his tell-all devolved into his promising to get pictures for Harry of the more flamboyant pranks.
Until Ginny casually mentioned that she had her own stash of photos documenting, she claimed, George's amorous efforts towards a rose-bush.
Fred got a look on his face that intimated that maybe Ginny had pictures of him, too, and the noise level diminished a bit.
Eventually the scrum around the newly-christened-by-the-twins Gineleine Weaslecour shook itself out, with the other Delacour daughters taking Ginny to one of the beds so they could get to know their newly-found sister. The Delacour parents were involved with Arthur Weasley, discussing locations and directions for visiting the presumptive in-laws. Ginny's brothers, as usual, had fallen to discussing future business prospects. Which was all fine and dandy, except that this left Harry to the mercies of Molly Weasley.
Harry couldn't seem to see very much of the face of his future-or rather, current-mother-in-law. Her eyes had a way of catching his attention and holding it, much like a bear trap will trap the leg of an innocent coyote. Which was an unfortunate simile at the time.
Before Ron could recover, Lavender had her wand out, and had already cast Expelliarmus, catching Ron's wand neatly in her left hand.
"Now, Ron Weasley. We are going to have a talk. Or rather, I'm going to have a talk, and you are going to have a listen."
Ron was bound tightly in ropes, teetering in place. Lavender watched as he attempted to gain his balance, failed, and landed with a resounding Thud on the dusty floor. Thankfully face up, although Lavender probably wouldn't have minded the other way either.
"Ron, you are going to lie there quietly while I explain some things to you. Do you understand?"
"YES! OR! NO! RONALD! WEASLEY!?" Lavender's voice, which hadn't been any too warm earlier, now hovered down below a typical ice-covered pond.
"I'm waiting for your answer, Ron."
Ron didn't know what to do. He didn't have his wand. He couldn't move more than his head, his left index finger, and the toes on his right foot. Could he sweet-talk his way out of whatever it was Lavender had decided? One look at her already cold and rapidly-approaching-absolute-zero face and he threw that idea out. What were the chances of someone rescuing him?
Ron made the mistake of looking towards the door, and Lavender shot a Colloportus at it, sealing it tightly, then a Silencing Charm, to cover any sounds that Ron might think of making.
Could he play dumb? He went through the probable scenario in his head:
"Hey, Lavender, I'm sorry. I really don't know what I did to make you angry."
"Ronald Bilius Weasley! I know you have a bigger brain than a flobberworm. You've proven that occasionally, although not often enough to show anything more than advanced idiocy in humans. You are lazy, slovenly, and ignorant of anything beyond your food, chess, Quidditch and occasionally ogling females. While a little bit of that is to be expected in any male adolescent, you seem to think that you can coast through life, bumbling your way through things that you don't understand and hoping that someone will come along to help you! Well, that's not going to happen, hear me? In fact, I give up-I wash my hands of you! Go find some other girl to take care of you and comb your hair and wipe your nose. I'm done!"
And that argument would be punctuated by the slamming of the door, and possibly another Colloportus as she left him behind to either be found by someone else, or have the spells dissipate, or. . . or something else that he couldn't think of right then.
And he'd probably miss supper.
No, that wasn't a good scenario.
The problem was, Ron couldn't think of any other way to get out of the doghouse in which he found himself. Although. . .
"Lavender," Ron said quietly.
"Yes, Ronald?" she answered in her willing-to-talk-about-it tone, which, while being only one small step away from glacier, was still a step in the right direction.
"I'm sorry, Lavender. I know I must have said something stupid-I do that often enough, yeah?" he tried, hoping that his self-deprecating humor would help her voice thaw.
"Yes," she said, icily. "You do."
No further guidance was forthcoming.
"But I'm not sure exactly what I said."
"Then let me remind you. You said that Ginny should go back with her real family. Do you remember that?"
Ron's face betrayed his exact feelings. "Yeah, I remember that. But it's true, isn't it? I mean, they want her back and she wasn't really a Weasley to begin with, right?"
Lavender proved her superior self-control at this time by not hauling off and hitting Ron. She merely hexed him with the slug vomiting curse. Then watched sadistically as he was forced to spit up slugs over and over again.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle, I don't know what you're saying." Ginny had repeated that about a hundred times, she figured, but it didn't seem to make any difference to the little girl who had ensconced herself in Ginny's lap, and was now talking a mile a minute telling her all about. . . well, about something important, Ginny assumed. She shot another look at Fleur, who just shook her head slowly.
"Don't worry about it, ma soeur. Gabrielle is just happy to be with you. She'll calm down soon, after she tells you about the horses, and will remember her English."
Ginny looked questioningly at Fleur, who just nodded with a smile. Ginny turned back to the adorable little girl, who apparently had decided that Ginny's lap was permanently hers, and smiled and nodded whenever it seemed appropriate.
"Harry," Molly started out. The boy in question jumped slightly-he'd been rather nervous already-and gulped rather loudly.
Molly shook her head and muttered to herself, "Gently, Molly." She motioned to the bed and asked Harry if he wanted to sit down. Harry shook his head quickly and Molly sighed again.
She moved slowly to the bed and sat down on it herself. "Harry. . . Oh, do you mind if I call you Harry?" she asked, in a much softer tone.
Harry shook his head and, when she motioned again, took a rather careful seat by her. Not too close, though, as he was still somewhat concerned about what she planned on doing to him.
Molly smiled a bit, then took a deep breath. "Thank you, Harry. Now, I just wanted to have a chance to talk to the young man who's stolen my daughter's heart."
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Weasley. I mean, I'm happy that Ginny is my Mate, and I couldn't ever hope for anyone better than she is. She's just perfect. But you probably already know that-"
Molly snorted, but valiantly turned it into a cough.
"-and I know we're too young and all, but I just can't be away from her-she's my life, and, well, I don't want to take her away from you, but I can't see my future without her in it any more, and I didn't really think about what you and Mr. Weasley would think, I just kind of kissed her, you know, and then we talked, and it was so wonderful that she felt the same and-" large breath, "-and she makes me so happy-did you know she flies almost as well as I do? But I don't want to take her away from her friends and family, and I'm sure she'll get to like bouillabaisse if she'd try it, and there are spells that can help her with French-"
Harry trailed off as Molly started chuckling. He looked rather gobsmacked at the sight, but seeing the Weasley matron laugh more and more provoked his giggles too. Eventually Molly had laughed so much that she was crying. And Harry was very happy that his Mate's mother, well, kind of mother-No! he thought to himself. Mrs. Weasley IS her mother. It's just that Maman is too! Anyway, that her Molly Mother was so happy. But then he realized that her tears weren't from laughing anymore, and his heart fell.
"Um, Mrs. Weasley?" he ventured.
Molly looked up at this. Seeing his concerned and slightly fearful expression calmed her down somewhat. At least enough to be able to talk. "I'm sorry, Harry. There's really nothing wrong. . ." She trailed off as she could see the look on Harry's face. "Well, nothing really bad, I guess. And really, it's not necessarily. . . wrong." She sniffed again, and saw Harry's face change from concerned to confused, and sighed. "I'm sorry, Harry. It's just that I haven't really come to grips with the fact that our Ginny is no longer our Ginny. I mean, of course she'll always be part of our family, but not just our family any more." Molly stopped for a moment and sniffed. "You see, Harry, she was just such a blessing to us, when we thought we'd never be able to have a girl. . . And now we have to lose her even sooner. Or, I guess, share her even sooner." She looked at Harry again. "Maybe I need to start at the beginning, so you know just how happy we were to have her in our family. Has Ginny told you everything?"
Harry cast a quick look over at his Mate. She was still occupied by Harry's little sister, so he turned back to Mrs. Weasley. "Yeah, well, some of it, at least," he offered hesitantly.
"Good for her. But if we're going to be family," she essayed a small smile, and Harry smiled back, "then you probably need to know Arthur's and my side too.
"It all started when my boys found a baby in the woods. . ."
It took awhile, but finally the slugs were all out of Ron, although they had stacked up somewhat on his body, since he had no way of shaking them off or encouraging them to slither any faster than slugs do.
It must be noted, however, that Lavender did not vomit at the sight-Ron wondered if she had used this curse enough not to be affected by the sight of the victim, but the truth was that Lavender was a lot tougher than she looked, as she was proving to him at that very moment.
"Ron," Lavender finally said. "I really like you. I've enjoyed spending time with you, and I think we work pretty well together. You like me too, don't you?"
Ron nodded quickly, deciding that every time he spoke he just got into more trouble, so he'd just keep his mouth closed, although he wished he could do some sort of mouth- tasting- better charm, because that slug slime was worse even than vomit- flavored Bertie Botts Beans.
"I'm glad to know that, Ron. I wouldn't want to be taking your attention away from all the other girls in the school just because I'm your girlfriend."
Ron just about smiled, but as he replayed Lavender's words in his head, he realized that this was that sarcasm thing again. It kept biting him when he least expected it, and he had grown to hate it. He opened his mouth to protest, but just in time remembered his previous decision.
Lavender watched as Ron's face showed very clearly his thought process, and upon his closing his mouth, she nodded. Better, she thought to herself.
"But," she continued, "You have a big problem. Do you know what it is?"
Ron thought about nodding, but since he hadn't been doing well in guessing what would upset Lavender, he just lay there.
That proved to be the wrong answer too.
"Ronald, I asked you a question. Are you going to be man enough to answer it?" Her wand was spitting sparks at this point.
"Oh, you do? Then tell me, what is this big problem you have that I very much doubt you understand?"
He opened his mouth, then closed it again. He tried one more time to think of what he could say to lessen Lavender's anger, but couldn't even think of what he might say, since he still didn't have any idea what he'd done wrong.
Lavender smiled victoriously. "Ron, you really have no idea what's going on, do you?"
Ron just frowned and shook his head.
"All right, Ron. They always say that the first step is admitting the problem. So, I'm going to release you and we're going to sit here while I tell you what your main problem is, and then you're going to figure out why you got dragged out of the Hospital Wing. Understand?"
Ron nodded wearily. He was just hoping to be able to move a little, and perhaps clean up the slug slime that now left tracks all over any part of his body that wasn't covered with ropes.
Lavender glared a little bit longer, then nodded sharply. "Finite Incantatem!" She watched as Ron stiffly sat up, then got to his feet. When he started walking toward her, she raised her wand. "Sit down over there, Ron-we still have some serious talking to do."
Ron sighed and took the indicated seat. "Lavender?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, Ron?" Lavender responded. She was a little worried at how downcast he looked, but she couldn't afford to give in yet.
"Could you maybe clean me up a bit? I'm still covered with slug stuff."
Lavender cracked a little grin, but acceded to his request. After all, if things turned out well, then she wanted to get some snogging time in, and having slug slime interfering just wasn't a great idea. Of course, she'd also want to supply him with the clean-mouth charm too.
"Ron, we can do this the quick way, which is more painful, but over faster, like ripping off a scab. Or I can walk you through the things you need to know slowly, helping you come to the right conclusions. It takes longer that way, but isn't as painful. The major downside is that you have to do some serious thinking. On the other hand, the major plus is that if you come to the knowledge naturally, you'll believe it much better than if I were to just tell you. In this, I think you need to make the decision. I won't force you either way."
Ron gave this some thought. He could see some of Lavender's points, but wasn't so sure about others. Finally he said, "Well, I guess I'm not doing a very good job so far. Maybe you could just give it to me straight, yeah? I mean, Gryffindors charge in, don't they? It's just. . ." he trailed off.
"It's just what, Ron?" Lavender asked, gently. She could afford to be gentle with him now, to kind of soften the blows that would be coming sooner than she'd hoped.
"Well, I just want you to stick with me, okay? If you give it to me straight, then it's likely that I'll get angry. I'm a Weasley-it's in my blood. And chances are I'll be angry at you. But I don't want you to leave me because of something I might say while I'm yelling. You know I don't mean half of what I say, right? And I'm just hoping that you'll ignore the bad half of what I say, so that you can help me afterward. Would that be okay?"
Lavender smiled. "Ron, I think that's very smart thinking. And really, that kind of touches on what I need to say to you anyway, so it kind of fits. All right, I promise that I won't take anything you say this afternoon in this room as a personal attack, even if you yell at me. And I know you wouldn't hurt me, so I think we will actually end up stronger for this discussion. But I also want you to promise me something."
Ron nodded his head. "Anything, Lavender, you know that."
Lavender giggled. "You might need to be more careful with your promises, Ron. I might have to take you up on that someday."
Ron looked confusedly at her, then blushed when he caught her meaning. "What.. . That's not what. . .I mean, yeah, someday. . ."
"Stop, Ron. I know we're not ready for anything more than snogging, and I'm fine with that. But maybe, someday, we'll be at a place where that can happen. But back to your promise. Ron, I'm going to say some things that might make you feel bad, might hurt you. But I am not doing them to be cruel. I think it's just time for you to hear them, and I want you to be able to grow into the best person you can be. So please promise that you won't take this as a personal attack. I do like you, Ron, quite a lot, and I don't like seeing you get hurt. So, please, don't let your anger at what I say last past this afternoon. Can you promise me that?"
Ron nodded: it was only fair after all. Now that the pre-discussion discussion was over, Ron was happy to get down to what he hoped would be the last hurdle before his normal happy relationship came back. "Well, you better give it to me straight-although I might not get it all right the first time, okay?"
Lavender agreed, and steeled herself for one of the hardest discussions she hoped to ever have.
Fleur, Ginny, and Gabrielle, who had latched onto Ginny's hand with all the strength her body had, eventually came over to where Harry and Mrs. Weasley were talking. Ginny had been a little worried when her mother-her Molly-mother-had latched onto Harry like that, but she'd been able to sneak a few glances at the pair and it looked like things had been going rather better than expected.
Molly climbed to her feet and pulled Ginny into her famous hug. Gabrielle was sort of involved too. Fleur just managed to escape, and came over to sit next to her brother to see how he was doing, and get, from him, a little more insight into the family that had raised her younger sister.
What followed was perhaps one of the most painful times in Ron's life. Lavender spent almost half an hour showing Ron exactly what he was doing to his friends, enemies and casual acquaintances by speaking without thinking, by reacting without understanding, and by jumping to conclusions with insufficient data.
She brought up the whole mess with Ginny in their second year and why he had made things worse instead of better when she had come to him with her fears.
Lavender also showed a surprisingly insightful mind when discussing why Hermione would only ever be distant friends with him-they really had nothing in common except for the fact that Hermione was Ginny's best friend.
The discussion went on and covered Ron's eating style, his dressing style, and his assumption that anyone not a full-blood wizard or witch was beneath his notice. This part was particularly painful, as Lavender told him exactly how stupid his point of view was, citing the class rankings of their entire year (being the information specialist meant lots of ties to the Ravenclaws, who knew literally EVERYBODY'S standing) and showing that the purebloods averaged at least a full letter grade lower than the muggle-born, with the half-bloods sitting between them. It was also noted that brilliant purebloods, like Ginny and Padma helped boost the drag that the more stupid students (Nott, Goyle and Crabbe, for example) put on their status' rankings.
And finally, Lavender dissected his lazy assumption that everything should be handed to him on a silver platter. Amazing to Ron, she mentioned each of his older brothers in turn, pointing out that they had the same disadvantages as Ron had, lack of money and lack of status, and still had all managed to shine in their own chosen fields. Ron perhaps hated this part the most. He had seen his brothers excel in their fields, and while Fred and George hadn't yet been able to start their dream joke shop, they still were absolutely fabulous at being Beaters in Quidditch. He had subconsciously decided early on that it wouldn't make any difference what he did, because his brothers would always be better than he, so why study so hard?
Lavender drilled into this area mercilessly, knowing that if she didn't, she was really doing a disservice to Ron-he needed to learn these lessons, and if the only way he could learn them was by having them thrown straight into his face, then she'd do it. After that, if he failed, she'd at least know she had done her best, and could then make her own decisions as to what needed to happen in the future.
Predictably, the Weasley twins were the last ones to stop chattering. The rest of the group had all reached natural pauses in their conversations-the kind that are always a precursor to someone saying, "You know, every seven minutes there's a lull. . ."
". . . so all we really need to do is get one of Fleur's hairs, right?"
George's head popped up at the sound of Fleur's outraged huff, and found all the eyes in the room staring at him and his brother. He none-too-subtly elbowed Fred, and uncharacteristically blushed at the attention.
Fred looked around, and cleared his throat. "We were just talking about whether we might be able to make a shampoo that would make someone's hair look like Fleur's." He turned to Fleur. "I mean, surely you know that you have the most beautiful hair in the world, right?" He ignored Ginny's snort of amusement. "If we could kind of copy that look, we'd be, well, it would be like a license to mint galleons."
Molly drew in a deep breath, preparatory to some major league scolding, but didn't get the chance-Fleur got there first.
"Hmmm. Monsieurs Weasley, you have an interesting proposition. Over the years there 'ave been many who 'ave tried to capture some of the mystique of the Veela. In truth, it is what caused the invention of the Amortentia potion-you 'ave 'eard of it, no?"
Fred and George both nodded enthusiastically, but Ginny noticed that they had a rather blank look in their eyes, and she wondered how much they were actually understanding. Deciding to not interfere-after all, she thought to herself maliciously, I wouldn't want to come in-between familial bonding, right?
Harry noticed the blank stares too, and knew exactly what was wrong. But when he went to say something, Ginny caught his arm and pulled him back toward her, shaking her head all the while.
"But Gin," Harry whispered, "they're-"
"I don't rightly care what it is they're doing. Or having done to them," Ginny whispered back. "I think it's about time they got pranked by someone. And if it's my. . . my. . . big sister-" she finally dragged the words out, "then that's all the better!"
Harry shook his head, delighted to get to know a little more about the girl he had fallen in love with, and determined to be on his guard around her-there was no telling when she might decide that he needed to be pranked.
The final discussion focused completely on Ginny. And while the whole lazy-because-why-bother part had hurt a lot, this one was the one where Ron learned the most.
"Ron, do you remember when your family found Ginny? How old were you?"
Ron scratched his head. "I'm not sure. I think I was one or two. And no, I don't remember what happened, although Mum and Dad told me later. The first thing I remember about Ginny was that I shared a birthday with her. I was okay with that to start, since Fred and George shared one. But then I found out that Ginny wasn't my twin!"
"Did you know she had been adopted?"
"No! I found that out at the same time-Mum and Dad explained it to me when I was about five or six. I think they were trying to get me to be nicer to her. But really, the only thing I cared about was that she had stolen my birthday."
Lavender pondered that for a bit. "So you must have been jealous, right?"
Ron snorted. "Yeah, of course. And I was angry that I had to share my birthday with someone who wasn't really even my twin. And to make it even worse, it was with a girl!"
"How do you feel about that now?" Lavender asked quietly.
Ron squirmed a bit at that question. "Oh, well, you know. . . I'm not as jealous, I guess. I mean, I can see that Mum and Dad are trying really hard to treat both of us the same. But, well, it's just. . ." Ron huffed, then put both hands down in front of him, flat on the desk. Probably to keep from making fists. "Look, you know we're not very rich. We always have to get used books for Hogwarts-I mean, my Potions book has gone through all of my brothers. And clothes, too. But for Ginny, there really isn't anyone to hand down clothes. I have to wear Bill's old trousers, and Charlie's shirts. But Ginny gets her clothes from a store. Yeah, obviously they're second-hand, but they're still better than mine.
"And like my Potions book. Well, Ginny's in Ravenclaw, right? So of course she gets a new book for Potions. And for every other class we both have." Ron's frustration was plainly visible on his face.
"She really got new textbooks?" Lavender asked, to clarify.
"Well, no. I mean, they were used too. But they're still in better shape than mine, aren't they?"
"Did you ask your parents about that? That doesn't quite seem fair," Lavender said, wondering if there were some other, more deep-seated issue here.
Ron scuffed the toe of one of his trainers. "Well, um, I guess."
"You guess?" Lavender asked sharply. "Yes or no, Ron, it's not that hard of a question, is it?"
Ron sheepishly looked up. "Yeah, I asked them about it," he admitted reluctantly.
Lavender waited for more, but when Ron didn't continue she slapped a hand on the desk in front of her. "Ron!" Ron looked up, and Lavender glared. "What did they say?" she said, mentally adding another entry to her List of Things She Guessed Correctly About Ron.
"Well, you see. . . Ginny's always reading!" Ron burst out. "Ever since Mum taught her to read, she's always got some kind of book near her. Even when we went swimming she'd bring something to read. Honestly! I think she might even prefer reading to Quidditch!" The look on his face showed his utter contempt for such a possibility.
"So your parents told you that she got newer books because she was always reading?" Lavender asked, trying valiantly to suppress the snarkiness in her voice.
"Well, yeah. I mean, that's not fair. . . Oh. I guess it is, isn't it? But I could learn to like reading, right?" Even Ron didn't believe that statement.
"Can you see how ridiculous that is, Ron? That they were willing to spend a little extra to help Ginny in something that she loves?" Lavender asked.
"Yeah, okay. I can understand that. But how come they never buy me anything like that?" Rom fumed.
"What do you mean they never buy you anything like that? I know that you've got a pretty decent broom, don't you?" Lavender asked, wondering if she had been mis-remembering.
"Well, yeah, it's okay I guess. But it's not even a Nimbus 2000!" Ron expostulated, waving his hands in desperation.
"Ron!" shouted Lavender, getting his attention. "Did your parents buy all brand-new books for Ginny?"
"Well, no," Ron admitted.
"How much do you think your broom cost?" Lavender asked, hoping that Ron could see where she was trying to lead him.
"Probably about 64 galleons. That's the price they're usually listed for in the back of Quidditch Monthly." Ron was proud to be able to bring out that little piece of knowledge-it was so rare that anyone really cared about his fascination with Quidditch.
"How much do used textbooks cost?" Lavender asked innocently, having given up any lingering hope of his jumping to the right conclusions without being led by the hand. Or the ear.
"I don't know, I never really looked at them. Since I've always had them handed down from Bill I haven't really had to notice, have I?" Ron looked a little puzzled at Lavender's line of inquiry. Which shouldn't have surprised her.
"Ron, you know that I don't have the newest books, right?" Although she probably shouldn't expect too much from him regarding anything besides Quidditch. This had been a rather eye-opening experience in seeing just how much growing-up Ron had to do in order to be the person she thought he could be.
Ron looked rather befuddled. "Really? But aren't your parents rich? I mean, you have new clothes and things. I guess I just assumed that. . ." his voice trailed off in embarrassment.
Lavender laughed. "Ron, yes, I have new clothes. But my parents aren't that rich-I just choose to save some money on textbooks so I can spend a little more on clothes." She was almost embarrassed herself about that admission, but then realized that Ron probably wouldn't even think about it past this conversation.
"Either way, I do know more or less what used books cost. And let me tell you, your parents probably spent less than twenty-five galleons, thirty tops, for a complete set of good used textbooks. What did you say your broom probably cost?" Lavender asked.
Ron didn't answer-his face, however, did.
"Do you see now, Ron?" Lavender chanted Please understand over and over while Ron was thinking.
Eventually he sighed and said, "Yeah, okay, I can understand that I wasn't really being fair to Ginny."
"Okay, now we're getting somewhere," Lavender said, her tone much less frosty than before. "Now, let's talk about what would happen if the Delacours took Ginny back to France with them."
"Well, they're her real parents after all, so it'd probably be best all around," Ron concluded with a small smile. Truthfully he would miss Ginny, but then things would be right again. Ron was interrupted in his thinking by a loud slam of Lavender's hand on the desk right in front of him.
"Ron! You utterly mindless cretin!" Lavender shouted. She was almost hopping mad, and had Ron not been completely terrified by the amount of anger coming off of her, he would have appreciated the view much more.
"THEY! ARE! NOT! HER! REAL! PARENTS!" she screamed in his face. "Can't you get that through your incredible thick head?!" she yelled again. She looked about ready to slap Ron, or hex him. Or something.
"What?" Ron asked. He wasn't sure he believed his ears. "Didn't you hear them? They did the test thingy and everything."
Lavender's next scream was both loud enough to hurt Ron's ears, and angry enough to not be understandable by anyone close. Or even moderately far away, for that matter.
Lavender put both hands down on the desk in front of Ron and leaned in very closely. Ron, proving that he really could learn, backed up a bit, rather than go in for a kiss.
"Ronald Bilius Weasley. You are to stay in this classroom until you figure out why I told you that the Delacours weren't Ginny's real parents! I don't want to see you, or hear from you, or hear about you, or smell you until you're ready to come and explain. Is that understood?" she asked, with a glare that would have peeled the wainscoting off the walls of one of the typical Pureblood supremacist's dark manors. "And if you can't figure it out yourself, then consider yourself dumped. I'm not sure I want to go out with someone who can't take the time to think of his sister as anything but a bother! Understand?" She said all this in the coldest voice Ron had yet heard.
"But-" he tried to interrupt.
"UNDERSTAND?" she asked again.
Ron nodded convulsively, and Lavender stood up. "Here's your wand back," she said as she tossed it into a nearby corner-she wasn't quite sure she wanted Ron having a wand while she was still in the room-the temptation to challenge him to a duel might have overpowered her rational mind.
"But-" he tried once more.
"No!" she shouted.
The slamming of the door punctuated Ron's problem. He looked sadly at the door, then slowly got up to retrieve his wand.
He stood there morosely for a moment, and then muttered. "But she said she was going to explain it to me, didn't she?"
It looked like he might be there for awhile. He wondered about his chances of being able to hit the loo before starting his serious contemplation. It was going to be a long evening.
Madam Pomfrey finally evicted the Weasely-Delacour family from the Hospital Wing, declaring that since there was really nothing wrong with anyone, they could go chatter somewhere else and stop messing up her cots.
Once outside the infirmary, there was kind of a general scrum until Molly took matters into her own hands. "All right, boys. Does anyone have any questions that need to be answered right now?"
Fred opened his mouth, but Molly glared him into submission. "No? Good. Then your father and I are going to go for a walk around the lake. We have some things to discuss about the family. Boys, I don't want you pestering Ginny, okay?" After receiving confirming nods, she turned to the Delacours. "Giselle, Pierre, it was wonderful meeting you, and I know we still have a lot to talk about. Perhaps we can have dinner together tonight?"
Harry's parents agreed graciously, and with that Molly and Arthur headed off towards the front doors of the castle.
Fred and George gave one last hug to Ginny, ruffled Harry's hair, tried to ruffle Gabrielle's, and very carefully avoided going too near Fleur, then disappeared down the hall muttering something about "two sickles a bottle."
Ginny looked around and found that she was now the central focus of the remaining group of very beautiful people, and promptly blushed and dropped her head. Her blush set Gabrielle off into a fit of giggles, which in turn started Harry chuckling too.
Giselle and Pierre smiled at each other, then hugged each of their children. "We'll say au revoir also, my dears. I'm somewhat tired and would like to lie down for a bit so I can feel fresh for this evening."
Harry, Ginny, and Gabrielle all nodded and wished her the best, while Fleur just grinned mischievously at her parents. When Giselle saw her grin, she flushed slightly, but held her head high and walked away with her husband.
The other four looked at each other, then started wandering away, following the Weasley parents and chatting about whatever came to mind. Gabrielle even managed to calm down enough to talk in English, and they spent the better part of the afternoon comparing their homes and families and lives, and being astoundingly grateful they'd been able to become a family so quickly.
Neville had the misfortune of seeing Lavender next, thus becoming the first person she could talk to after her long and frustrating amount of time with Ron. The look she sent him terrified him-he barely had the opportunity to blink before she came stalking over to him, face a furious mask of anger and. . . was that sadness? He barely had time to say, "H-" when she burst into tears and threw her arms around him.
Neville wasn't that bad at consoling girls. He had, after all, been friends with Hermione and Ginny, and Luna of course, for the past years. He knew what was expected in this situation, and was willing to do it, but there was no sofa around. So he improvised.
Sliding slowly to the floor of the corridor, bringing Lavender with him, he leaned back against one of the walls and pulled Lavender close. He stroked her hair, and rubbed hopefully-soothing circles on her back. He had also learned what to say in matters like this. Or rather, how to say in matters like this. Because it didn't really matter what he said. Of course, when it was Hermione (for example, on those memorable occasions back in the dark times before they were together) he tried to say things that made some sort of sense.
But Lavender was beyond caring what he said, so he just went into standard girl-comforting prose mode and thought about other things while she cried herself out on his shoulder.
Hermione was going walkabout with Tex and Josette (as Tex called it-Hermione suspected some Australian influence) when they turned a corner and saw a most unexpected sight. The three of them stopped short, and stared. Josette and Tex turned to each other in horror at what they saw. Hermione's boyfriend was almost cuddled up on the floor with some other girl, and they didn't know what to do.
Josette took a deep breath and put her hand on Hermione's arm. "It's probably not what it looks like, Hermione," she said quietly, hoping to stave off the explosion.
Hermione didn't react. She just stayed there, frozen in mid-word.
Josette looked at Tex, which was no help. He didn't have a whole lot of experience in the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing either. He shrugged and motioned that she should keep going.
"Neville certainly wouldn't cheat on you, he's much too nice a person," Josette tried.
That got some reaction. Hermione closed her mouth.
Neville noticed them at that point. He almost gave in to his first impulse, which was to jump to his feet and rush to Hermione's side. But he really had learned how to take care of girls (contrary to most young men his age), and knew that Lavender would come off rather the worse for wear in that scenario.
Instead, he just raised a hand and beckoned frantically to his girlfriend to come over as fast as possible.
Neville's hand waving broke Hermione out of her freeze. His face didn't look guilty, and she really couldn't imagine his doing this to her. She decided to trust him and hurried over to his side. In a hurried whisper he told her exactly what he knew of the situation ("Lavender's upset"), and begged her for help ("Can you find a handkerchief or something? Only her snot's starting to seep through my shirt"), and begged her for more help ("Can't you do something?").
Eventually Lavender calmed down enough to notice whom she was holding onto ("Oh, um, hi, Neville!"), and who was surrounding her ("Merlin, Hermione! I'm sorry-I wasn't trying to do anything with Neville-he was just the first person I saw!"). She let go of Neville and made some futile attempts at fixing her hair. Tex conjured up a red-checked handkerchief and gave it to her, and they all turned politely towards each other while Lavender had a truly impressive session of nose-blowing and sniffling.
When she had finally found her equilibrium again, she told Hermione and Neville what had been going on between her and Ron. Tex and Josette listened too, because even though it felt rather impolite to eavesdrop on something that was obviously very emotional and personal, it felt even worse to walk off.
"And so here I am, not even sure I'm going to have a boyfriend any more. And what makes it even worse is that I'm not sure what would be the best ending. I mean, I knew when I started flirting with him that he'd test my patience, and that he had a long way to go before he'd be good husband material." At Hermione's surprised squeal, Lavender smiled. "No, Hermione, I'm not planning on marrying any time soon, but I will eventually, and I think Ron would do well." Her smile left. "Well, after that whole growing-up thing I was working on. But he's so thick I might do better to just content myself with the little that I've been able to change him-"
"His eating," Neville offered.
Lavender smiled again. "Yes, I'm pretty proud of that. But if he can't even deal maturely with the idea of a family-I mean, I know he's only fourteen, but shouldn't guys have some sort of clue about what it takes to make a family?"
Tex shrugged and shook his head, which didn't endear him to Josette any, but he leaned down and whispered, "I'm hoping that you'll help me learn," which brought her brilliant smile out again.
Neville shook his head too. "Lavender, I honestly can't think of any guy anywhere close to my age who knows that kind of thing. Well," he paused, "maybe Harry. But I know that I'd be a little confused too, if I'd had all that dumped on me, then had to try to understand it quickly. Don't get me wrong," he hastened to say. "I'm not trying to persuade you to go back to Ron-I think that whatever happens between you two is really your business and nobody else's, but you might want to think about the fact that he's never really had any kind of crisis like this happen." Neville paused, then went on, "I'm still not sure he had any clue what happened to Ginny our second year. But it's all been quite a shock to him."
Hermione took over. "Neville's right, Lavender. We wouldn't presume to tell you what to do. But remember also that he's a Weasley, and while they are rather hot-headed, and stubborn, and Quidditch-obsessed, they do have good hearts, and can be your best friend once they get past the other stuff."
Lavender looked at them with a sharp gleam in her eye. "I see what you're doing here; you just don't want to have to deal with Ron yourselves-you want me to go back and be his handler again!"
Hermione gasped in horror. "Oh, NO! Lavender that's not what we're trying to do at all! We just. . ." she trailed off as she saw Lavender trying to contain her smile. "Ooh, that's not nice! See if I ever let you blow snot all over my boyfriend again!"
All the girls burst into laughter, but when the laughter calmed down, Hermione got that look in her eye. "Lavender, what was it exactly that Ron was having a hard time with?"
"Well, it's just that he kept saying that the Delacours were Ginny's real parents, and he just couldn't understand why they weren't!"
Hermione nodded thoughtfully, but Neville looked confused. "Lavender," he finally asked. "Maybe I'm being particularly dense today, but can you maybe tell me why they aren't?"
Lavender took a deep breath-this was sounding too much like Ron for her peace of mind-then let it out slowly. "You really can't see it?" she finally asked.
Neville shook his head, a shameful look coming over his face when Hermione huffed in impatience. But Tex also shook his head. "No, Lavender, I don't really see it."
Hermione looked askance at Neville, but was forced to believe him. Josette seemed to be understanding too. "You mean, you really think that Ginny's real parents are the Delacours?"
The boys exchanged nervous glances, then nodded their heads.
Lavender looked aghast at Hermione. "Do you think-?"
"Yeah, I do. You need to go back and apologize to Ron. Soon!"
"Oh, this is just-I mean, I know he's not the brightest, but I didn't realize. . .! Yeah, okay. Well, I'd better do it soon-wouldn't want him to miss dinner."
And with that, Lavender got up and headed back to rescue Ron from his girlfriend-imposed detention, while the others headed off toward the Great Hall, each girl explaining to her Significant Other just why it was that the Weasleys were still Ginny's Real Parents.