|SIYE Time:2:59 on 17th August 2018|
In The House of the Quick and the Hungry
By Laura Laurent
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Category: Post-HBP, Buried Gems
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Other, Ron Weasley
Genres: Angst, Comedy, Drama, Fluff, General, Humor
Story is Complete
Summary: The finer aspects of Ginny Weasley's life, all entwined, in their own way, within the story of how she wound up with Harry Potter.
THIS STORY IS NOW COMPLETE!
Hitcount: Story Total: 43787; Chapter Total: 4005
A/N: And unless you want to be really horrified by this chapter- you'd better read 17 Minutes Till Midnight in Casablanca first.
You are the most important dog in my life.
George Taught Me Well
My heart and my head were pounding as I left the kitchen in daze that night in late December- er… early January as it were. Had I really just done what I thought I’d done?
I nearly jumped out of my skin as a voice spoke out from the dark. It was either Fred or George, I couldn’t tell just then, but whoever it was I was nearly ready to strangle him.
“Merlin, don’t do that!” I hissed as George stepped into the weak light without the company of his twin. “Where’s Fred?” I asked, willing the adrenaline-filled blood to stop pounding in my ears.
He rolled his eyes and said irritably, “We’re not attached at the hip, you know.”
“Could have fooled me,” I muttered, but George either hadn’t heard or he chose to ignore it.
“So Ginny…” he said leaning against the wall, barring my way to my room, “had a little chat with Sirius did you?”
Oh no… I thought quickly, trying to free myself from his implications, which, irrelevantly enough, were correct. Just how much had he witnessed?
“Yeah,” I said noncommittally, “and now I’m going back to bed, goodnight.” But as I turned to leave he grabbed my arm and held me there.
“How did Sirius feel about those shorts?” he asked, glancing down at my admittedly small pajama trousers- er… boxers.
“I don’t think they really affected him on an emotional level,” I said dryly, my voice betraying none of the apprehension that was beginning to creep though me.
“Right,” he said, and in the dim light of the hallway I could see a strange expression on his face. I knew what he was trying to convey–it was that smug, satisfied look he got whenever he felt he had the upper hand, but there was something in his eyes that looked out of place. “So when he got you drunk, called you beautiful–“ he said the word as though it were a cruel joke, “–and kissed you…“
“I kissed him,” I said sharply, unable to bear his cruel attack on a moment of vulnerability, and to my horror, I felt tears welling in my eyes. “…And I’m not drunk,” I faltered, before I recovered myself and steeled my voice. “So what? Bugger off.”
“Oh no,” he said, in a jokingly savage way, but it was a little too convincing for me to believe he was feeling entirely lighthearted. “It’s going to take more than that for me to keep this to myself–I believe I’ve got you properly blackmailed.”
“What do you want?” I asked grudgingly.
“Well I think Fred and I could use a willing and silent test subject…” he said, looking just a bit excited at the prospect, “Or perhaps just a little minion to follow us around and do our bidding–but then again I’m not so sure I want you around that much…”
His words sparked something in my brain. Without warning, my mind’s eye flashed to a night years ago, in a hotel in Egypt, after I had gone to bed.
I quickly closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep as I heard footsteps approaching the door. I sensed the light flooding into the room from behind my eyelids as a voice spoke quietly from the doorway,
I didn’t answer, my eyes still shut tightly in fake sleep.
“Ginny, we got an owl from Harry, he’s enclosed a note for you, I think he wants to wish you a Happy Birthday.”
Hah! Like I was going to fall for that one. George seemed satisfied that I was fully asleep, and he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him.
“I assume Ron, you’re asleep, seeing as how you didn’t jump when I said we’d got a letter.” I could hear him tiptoeing gingerly over to my bed, feeling his way around in the dark. He sat down on the side and seemed to turn himself to look in my general direction, though I doubt he could see anything.
“Hi Ginny,” he said, as though we were just being introduced, “I’m George–I’m a bloody coward, I don’t believe we’ve met.”
I was sure the muscles in my face were contorting rapidly from suppressing a giggle, and I was thankful for the dark. He took a deep breath.
“Anyways. I know none of us have said anything about it, but I know you heard Charlie yelling at us that first night here–now that I think of it, the crazy muggles in Antarctica probably heard it."
A bit of air bubbled up in my cheeks as I suppressed another laugh.
“But moving on… About what Charlie said: okay, I’m not going to lie to you, Fred and I are never going to stop taking the mickey out of you.” He paused, then added in a mumble, “We’re just going to be more careful not to let Charlie hear about it.”
There were pauses between each sentence, like he was nervous, and it seemed he hadn’t come in here with a clear idea of what he was going to say, and was just speaking whatever came to mind, and with every word he said I became more puzzled. He cleared his throat a little.
“Anyways, whether or not we admit it, what Charlie said… it’s made us think, or it least it made me think about- about what happened to you last year. I don’t know- it didn’t seem like we were any more obnoxious than usual, I guess we just figured you could deal with it. Actually, until Charlie screamed at us, it honestly never occurred to us that maybe if we’d have been a bit nicer it wouldn’t have happened the way it did. Honestly though, I don’t think we were really much to blame. Really kid, since when have you cared what we thought of you? You never took us seriously… did you?”
He seemed to have forgotten that I was (supposedly) asleep, because his pauses between sentences were growing longer, as though he were waiting for me to wake up and tell him he could stop–that he’d apologized enough. But whether it was just to make him squirm or because I really wanted to hear it, I stayed as still as stone and let him carry on.
“Ah but Ginny, if you could have seen us–when we found out you were dead, or when they told us you were. It was miserable. I thought Percy was going to jump off Gryffindor Tower, but instead he just went and sent a letter to Mum. Bloody anti-climatic if you ask me. And Ron, in his usual thick-headed way, didn’t seem to think you were really gone. He kept suggesting that he might be able to do something. Well, I guess he sort of did, but that’s not the point.”
He seemed to have found something he considered to be a more interesting tangent, because a touch of his usual liveliness returned to him when he spoke again.
“Ah but we did laugh that day, once–” he couldn’t even finish his sentence before he keeled over away from me and muffled his laughter in the bedcovers, and upon recovering himself, spoke unabashedly,
“I’m sorry Ginny, I know it wasn’t funny, especially not at the time–because we thought you were dead and all, but it really was bloody brilliant! So earlier, Fred and I found this great dead rat behind that old statue of the witch with the hump, and anyways, we put it under Scabbers’s favorite chair in a lifelike position, and so that day, Ron...”
And here he keeled over again in peels of laughter. It really wasn't that funny, but I supposed he was nervous and uncomfortable, so in my head I cut him some slack.
“He picked it up, when he was playing chess with Harry, and he put it in his lap, and he sat there and petted it for like an hour as he played… and he never noticed!”
My rising disappointment that he wasn’t sorry after all was beginning to make me feel fitful and restless, and it took every ounce of restraint I possessed not to roll over or move around or do something. My eyelids were aching with the effort of holding them closed, but I stayed put and waited patiently for him to get up and go have a laugh with Fred back in their room.
But he didn’t leave. He just stayed there a while, as the humor faded from the atmosphere like smoke from a spent fire cracker. I could feel the gravity of the meaning behind his previous words pressing down on us, and just when I thought I might crack, he took a deep breath and spoke,
“Anyway. What I came here to say, is that we’re not sorry for teasing you. It’s just what we do, and you’re going to have to learn to live with it. But I think it’s safe to say… at least on my part, that–“ he stopped and cursed at the difficulty of the words, and then seemed to reconcile himself to a different strategy.
“I don’t think Charlie had any grounds to say that last year was any fault of ours, cause hey, it’s not our fault no one in this family can take a joke,” he made a pause for laughter, purely out of habit, and then continued, with steely deliberation in every word, “but we never wanted to shut you out, and we never... we never, never meant to give you the idea that we didn’t want you around.”
I felt a heavy, metallic sort of pulse somewhere between the roof of my mouth and my ears as his words echoed in my mind. I’ll remember forever the miserable crack in his voice over the words ‘didn’t want you’. The silence seemed to stretch on forever.
“So I’m telling you now because I didn’t trust myself to get it all out while you’re conscious,”
He wasn’t whispering, but his voice was very low and he was mumbling, and I strained my ears to catch every word, not wanting to miss this, the greatest compliment I’d ever received from them. I say ‘them,’ because even though Fred wasn’t there, somehow I knew that he must have felt the same way, somewhere along the line. They were twins, after all.
“I guess I’m just hoping that some of this will seep into your dreams and you’ll know somehow that we don’t hate you. You’re not annoying, you know.”
There was another heavy pause.
“Well, I’ll leave you to your regular dreams–with Harry, and flowers… and little chocolate hearts.”
“Oh but George,” I said, coming back to the present with my victory in sight, “I have it on very good authority that you do want me around… and that you’ve never meant for me to get the idea otherwise."
I watched his face turn from mollified to horrified as my words clunked with something in his brain.
“What?” he said faintly.
“That’s right,” I countered, “all these years you thought I had been asleep that night, but I know–“
George scrambled again for control of the catbird seat. “So? What’s your point?”
“My point is that Mum won’t be too chuffed if she finds out that on the day everyone thought I was dead, you and Fred had a good laugh because a highly distraught Ron was petting a dead rat- that you had intentionally put there. And nobody else will find it funny–because it wasn't–and Charlie I know in particular will never let you live it down when he finds out that you snuck into my room at night to apologize because you were too chicken to do it when I was awake.”
But George wasn’t giving in yet. “Right, let me get this straight: I laughed at an inappropriate time... you got drunk and kissed a man twice your age.”
“No one will believe you,” I argued, “Sirius will never admit it, and you’ve got no proof.”
“Neither do you—”
“So it’s my word against yours, and unlike you, nobody knows how well I can lie when I want to.”
Hah! I had him now.
“It’s too bad your breath reeks of alcohol,” he said, and for a split second I panicked. He wouldn’t wake Mum in the middle of the night just so she could smell it for herself… would he? Just then my eye caught on something brightly colored. I darted across the hall and grabbed a few red and green mints that were sitting in a candy dish on an old, dark wooden side table. I popped them into my mouth before he could stop me, and sucked furiously on them.
“Not anymore,” I said in triumph, as he grasped what had just happened.
“Damn.” he said, looking far more trounced than I had expected him to. “When did you get to be so good at blackmail?”
Suddenly the victory mints tasted bitter in my mouth, and I didn’t want to rub it in anymore, so I told the truth. I reached out and patted him on the arm. “I learned from the best.”
“This isn’t over,” he said with a fake scowl, and he turned and headed down the hall towards his room, casting one last glare over his shoulder at me, but I knew it was more to convince himself. I stood there in the hallway for a while, too stunned to move. I tried to smother the little flares of doubt and remorse as I climbed the stairs to my room, and I willed myself to think of anything other than what had happened to me in the last hour.
But once in bed, it was unavoidable. Once in my life I had seen him let his guard down, once in my life he had said something nice to me, and I had stomped all over it tonight. I had taken one moment of his vulnerability, made him think I had been asleep, and saved it for a time when I could use it against him. When had I become such a Slytherin?
My words from earlier echoed in my head,
“I learned from the best.”
How many of my vulnerable moments had Fred and George taken advantage of? And this one that had taken place tonight had been the most delicate of them all. And what would he have done? He have would blown it a million miles of misunderstanding out of context, held it over my head, and threatened to tell everyone about it.
No one would ever give me a chance to explain if they found out–even if I had the chance, no one would ever–could ever understand. We were just two ships passing in the night, two old souls that knew each other somehow. There was no way to explain that to my mum. My face burned as I imagined what it would have done to Bill if he had found out… or Ron, or, with the most gut-wrenching feeling yet… Harry.
So I wasn’t sorry that I’d done it, that I'd used George's only apology against him. I was only a little sorry that I’d had to–I was only a little sorry that that's the just way the world works. Fred and George used to narrate life in our house as though it were a contest of animalistic greed and survival of the fittest. On the nights when Mum had been too busy that afternoon to make a proper dinner, one of them would invariably announce to the household.
“All right boys–it’s every man for himself tonight!”
And then the scrounging for leftovers would begin….
Let it never be forgotten that there’s plenty of love to go around in our house, but all is fair in love and war, and sometimes you’ve got to fend for yourself. I guess some people can’t live that way; Percy is evidence enough for that. We live in the house of the quick and the hungry–you’ve got to eat fast if you want to eat, and you’ve got to speak up if you want to be heard. Fred and George taught me well.
A later A/N: I'm sick of acting apologetic about this chapter. If you read 17 Minutes Till Midnight in Casablanca ALL the way through, and you still think it's horrifying that Ginny had a glass of gin and kissed Sirius goodnight, well then I'm sorry that you can't relate, but please don't tell me I'm sick or perverted just because you are incapable of giving someone the benefit of the doubt.
In any case, it's not a storyline I'm going to explore further, it was just one night, Ginny and Sirius bonded, and that was it. It's not a major theme or anything, so please keep reading even if you didn't like it.
That said, I want to thank everyone who has read the story past this chapter, regardless of their feelings on the subject matter, I appreciate you more than I could ever express. Really, from the bottom of my heart–thank you!
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