The morning dawned clear and bright as we headed to the Hall for breakfast. We would be heading into the village immediately after eating. Ginny and I had plans to meet early, wanting to avoid her brother.

That didn’t quite work as planned. Ron barged into the Great Hall, stopping in front of the Slytherin table.

“Ginny, how could you turn Harry down? He loves you!”

“No, Ron, he loves the idea of me. Before last year, he hardly even saw me. Then yes, we had a few great weeks, but when it was all over, Harry could barely talk to me. If he loved me, he’d have tried sooner.”

Ginny was calm, but the tips of her ears had turned pink, a sure sign of her temper starting to flare up. It was really quite cute on her. As well as an interesting contrast to Ron, who was nearly purple with fury. She looked up and continued calmly, “Besides, I’m going with a friend.”

“And I suppose Ferret boy here is your idea of a friend? Merlin, Gin, he’s a bloody Death Eater.”

“No, I’m not.” I was quiet when I spoke, pulling up the sleeves of my robes to display my arms and the lack of a dark mark.

“Ronald Weasley! How dare you?! That was completely uncalled for. Even without Harry’s testimony at the trials, you knew everything. I know Harry told you and Hermione everything.”

Her ears were bright red now, and I was half expecting flames to shoot from her eyes. I stood and reached for the cloaks we had laid beside us.

“Come on, Gin, let’s just go.” I really didn’t want to cause more trouble with her family, not after everything. But this was beyond my control.

“You’re not going, Ginny.”

“Ron, back off.” Her wand was out now, and she was fuming. When he opened his mouth to speak again, she cast a bat-bogey hex and turned to me, taking my arm as the tables around, which had slowly filled, broke into applause.

When McGonagall met us outside, she was doing her best to keep a straight face.

“Under ordinary circumstances, Miss Weasley, that would have earned you a detention as well as cost your house points. However, you did not act without provocation, and you did attempt to leave without any trouble. So, you will actually gain five points for your defense of a student from another house. Enjoy your day in Hogsmeade.”

“Yes, Headmistress.”

Ginny looked at me and grinned as the headmistress swept into the Great Hall. We could hear her speaking as she entered, and somehow, it seemed we were meant to.

“Mister Weasley! What ever did you do to provoke your sister into such a temper?” We did not hear his response, but it must not have satisfied McGonagall. “Did you not hear me say that I will not tolerate judging the actions of another? Did you think your role in the Order exempted you from that? Or did you think that you could judge Mr. Malfoy because you are Mr. Potter’s best friend?”

We left the entrance hall then, slowly making our way across the grounds and into the village.

“Gin, you should have seen the look he gave you as we left. I’m worried you’re going to suffer because of me.”

“Stop, Draco. I’ve already owled my other brothers. Bill and Charlie think its admirable how much you’ve tried to grow out of your father’s shadow. Percy is too busy to care who I’m friends with, so long as the Ministry says they’re clear. And the twins, well, they’re so much more reasonable than Ron about this, despite how much they didn’t like you before. They are at least willing to give you a chance. Mum and Dad are much the same, wary but willing to trust my judgement.”

“You’ve talked to them about this?”

“Of course. If I hadn’t, they’d have all taken Ron’s side. Hearing my side as soon as, if not before, they heard his, gives me an advantage. Plus, I am the only girl, I usually get my way.”

“Are you sure you’re really a Gryffindor and not a Slytherin in disguise?”

She laughed and slipped her arm through mine.

“Fred and George are supposed to be opening a store here in the village. I think they said they’d be here this weekend. Would you like to meet them properly?

“They’re the ones who created that swamp, right?”

“Yeah, that’s them. Look, there’s the new location.” She was already dragging me closer to the spot where two red-headed males were attempting to level out a sign.

“Fred! George!”

“Ginny!” The two spoke in unison. I hung back as she ran to hug one and then the other.
“So, it’s true then? You turned Harry down for Malfoy?”

“I see you’ve heard from Ron. He must’ve owled you before I told him off…”

“Actually, we just got an owl from Harry. Said they were staying behind today. Something about Ron having detention after the hex wears off.”

“He tried to forbid me to come with Draco.” She took my hand and pulled me closer to her. “Fred, George, you remember Draco, I’m sure?”

“Naturally. They ever find your father?” I think it was Fred who asked.

“Not a trace. But everything the Ministry hasn’t confiscated is mine now, and I’m no longer considered Lucius’ child. My mother is also legally freed from him, but she’s still in hiding.”

“That’s good to hear, that you’re both safe from him…” This time I think it was George, but it was hard to tell.

“So, you two want to help? And maybe tell us what hex that was, Gin-blossom?”

“Bat-bogey, of course. The only one none of you have figured out a counter to. If Ron had been a bit nicer, you know, not accusing Draco of being a Death Eater, I might have just slapped him. But he crossed a line.”

Both twins looked at her with an eyebrow raised.

“Alright, he started last night. Accusing me of trying to make Harry jealous by spending time with Draco.” They each nodded as she glanced at me. “Not everything in my life revolves around Harry-Bloody-Potter. He’s like another brother to me, for Merlin’s sake. Draco needed a friend and I know what it was like to need a friend and not have one. That’s what drove me to Voldemort’s diary in first year. And I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, especially not on someone who doesn’t know any way other than Lucius Malfoy’s way.”

There were tears in her eyes and I had to wonder what that ache in my chest was before I squeezed her hand.

The twins looked at each other and then at me. I met each gaze and then shifted my arms, sliding the sleeves up to show that I bore no mark. They nodded as Ginny glared at them both, but I understood. They wanted her safe.

We wound up staying to help, earning free merchandise for setting up the store. By the time we needed to head back to school, the twins and I were fast friends, and they were offering to take care of Ron, but Ginny refused, telling them that we could handle it.

We made it back to the castle in time for dinner. Fred and George accompanied us, nearly giving Filch a heart attack. Peeves was dancing in delight as the brothers joined Ginny and I at the Slytherin table.

Ron’s gasp of shock could be heard over the chattering students, but he wisely stayed seated. Fred looked over at the Gryffindor table and waved before he looked at Ginny.

“So, why did you turn Harry down?”

“Because he doesn’t love me. He just thinks he’s supposed to marry me so he’ll really be part of the family. He didn’t think of me at all, other than those few weeks last year, until now, never really talking to me about anything at all before three days ago. He never even knew I spoke at Draco’s trial, though he was there for it. I had to tell him. Ron and Hermione probably know more about his reasons for asking me than I do, but I won’t be second to them.

“If I thought for a second that they’d let me into their little circle, it might be different. But I know better. They are the Trio, first and foremost. And I deserve to be more than an afterthought.”

I smiled at her as her brothers applauded. Then I leaned over and whispered, “I always knew Potter was blind. No wonder I don’t like him.”

She smiled and clasped my hand with hers. The twins took their leave as I escorted Ginny to her common room, bowing over her hand to make her smile.

And that is how Ron Weasley came back to find his sister staring after me as I turned to wink while walking away.

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