The Sugar Quill
Author: zzzFF Shylah  Story: It's Tradition  Chapter: Default
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            “I assure you Ginny, Ron had to do it too,” George said, sounding very much like a used car salesman ready to drop a lemon on an unsuspecting customer. 

“In fact, we’ve all done it; its practically tradition!” Added Fred dutifully, suppressing a snigger that was threatening to crop up and ruin the night’s fun.

Ginny looked her older brothers up and down, searching for any signs of untruthfulness.  It was pointless.  Fred and George were notorious for their dishonesty and epic practical jokes, and had become so skilled in trouble-making that it would be impossible for her to tell whether or not they were lying. Unless…

She hopped of the red armchair in an avalanche of parchment, and made her way toward the corner where Ron sat in a hushed conversation with Harry and Hermione.  Fred and George exchanged the same fearful, wide-eyed look and followed their sister whom they had just underestimated.

“Ron!” whispered Ginny, tugging on her brother’s sleeve.  “Ron, I really need to talk to—” The fourteen-year-old turned around with all the ferocity of a raging bull.  Through the hole created by Ron’s shift in position, Ginny could see the Golden Egg Harry had captured in the first task, a small mountain of ancient looking spell books, and a doodle of what appeared to be a stick-figure Harry complete with scar being skewered by an angry looking merperson.

“WHAT?”

“Well-er-” Ginny began still gazing at the contents of the table.  Ron, following his sister’s gaze, leaned so that his shoulder was now delicately touching Hermione’s, closing the gap. Ginny cleared her throat. “Is it true-” Fred and George shifted nervously behind her. She gave them a disapproving look and leaned closer to Ron, whispering. “Is it true that when a Weasley reaches third year she has to go into the Forbidden Forrest?” 

“Why of all the rubbish I’ve ever-” He looked reproachfully at his older brothers, both of whom mouthed the same word: please.  After a moment’s pause, Ron had considered the situation. “Of all the rubbish I’ve ever heard!  Of course we go into the Forest! It’s- it’s practically tradition!” Behind Ginny the twins erupted into a fit of silent giggles.  Encouraged, Ron shot Harry and Hermione a look of distrust, and whispered urgently to Ginny. “Look, I can see why you would hesitate.  I mean hearing it from Fred and George and all, but this is the real deal. I was supposed to tell you, but I’ve gotten so caught up with Harry’s Triwizard thing that I just haven’t had the time.  They must have thought I’d forgotten, but I’d never do that to you, Ginny.” 

“Do what to me?” Ginny asked, a note of fear-induced tension in her voice.

“Well, when we say tradition, we mean it.  This isn’t some thing Fred and George thought up. Dad’s done it.  I mean it goes all the way back to our Great-great-great-great Granddad or something.  It wards off some kind of curse placed on us ages ago.  See if even one Weasley fails this test of bravery, the whole family will-“ He stopped at a loss for words. “Well, it’s so awful I can’t bear to tell you even.”  Ginny gasped, her eyes wide, and whirled around to where Fred and George had assumed an unconvincing stance of innocence. 

 “I’ll do it,” she croaked; and, tripping on her robes, she ran towards the twins and squeezed them tightly round the middle. “I’m sorry I doubted you two,” she continued, a tear now rolling down her cheek. “I’ll go. Tonight.”

 

*     *     *

            It had taken the better part of fifteen minutes for Ginny to travel from the Gryffindor common room to the edge of the Forbidden Forest.  Twice she had heard footsteps, but there had been no sign of Filch, or of anyone else for that matter.

            “Lumos,” she whispered to her wand, and immediately a thin jet of light illuminated the dense mass of trees ahead of her.  Somewhere to her left a loud bang erupted, and, judging by the small fire now burning, Hagrid’s Blast-Ended Skrewts were very awake. Unconsciously, she moved stepped backward, away from the Skrewts, past the border trees and into the forest. 

            It was like being in a separate world.  With only the pinprick of light issuing from the tip of her wand, the dark of the wood loomed close, embracing her, and causing an involuntary shiver to claim her body.  Ginny took a deep breath.  In and out was the plan.  Fred had made it clear that all she had to do was burn her initials into an inner tree so to appease the curse, and book it back to the castle.  That would be easy enough.

            CRACK!

            The sound of a large twig snapping in two froze the thirteen-year-old in her tracks. “Nox,” she whispered breathlessly and the wand’s light faded leaving her in total darkness.  She stood excruciatingly still for what seemed like hours, but there was no sound except for the ramped beating of her heart which sounded so loud in her ears that she wondered why Hagrid wasn’t up out of his bed searching for the nutter with a kettle drum.

            Finally deciding it was safe to continue, her heartbeat had slowed from a near buzz back to normal, Ginny felt for the nearest tree.  She held the tip of her wand to the rough bark, but as the first few sparks emitted contacted the tree, she was enveloped in a hail of twigs, which proceeded to bite her mercilessly.  She had forgotten about the tree-guardians: Bowtruckles.

            Ginny fell to the ground, furiously swatting at the twig-like insects, and uttering curses under her breath.

            CRACK! CRACK!

            She had been making too much noise.  Something, or maybe a couple of something’s, was approaching from somewhere behind her.  Still flailing one arm at the mad Bowtruckles, she cast the other, wand gripped tightly in fist, over her shoulder.

            “Tarantallegra!

            She heard an oddly familiar yelp.  Beating off the last of the Bowtruckles, she turned to see Fred desperately clutching to a tree as his feet danced uncontrollably while George looked on with a look of surprise mingled with amusement.

 

*     *     *

 

            “Well, it was a pretty good trick, sending me out there,” Ginny admitted as she wrapped her bleeding hand with a bandage. 

            Fred, whose legs were still shaking feebly from Ginny’s hex, smiled.

            “We really couldn’t have done it without Ron.”

            “Yeah,” George grinned. “Who knew Ickle-Ronnie had such a nasty streak in him?”

“Maybe he’ll do us proud after all, eh? Of course, this one shining moment won’t exempt him from a couple of Canary Crèmes in his breakfast. What do you say, Gin?”

Ginny just smiled.  Fred and George had better learn to watch their backs, she thought. That hex wasn’t half bad, and I’ve got my own store of Canary Crèmes I nicked from them last summer…

//
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