A/N: This story was written for kerosinkanister, who loves Ron stories.
"Harry? James? Albus?" Ginny called as she rushed through the back door. She couldn't wait to tell them what she had discovered in the Enchanted Wood. "Harry?" she shouted.
The house was silent.
She brushed a lock of hair out of her face and focused on the clock hands. Her eyes were still adjusting to dimness of the kitchen after the dazzling afternoon sunlight, but she finally made out that James and Albus were still 'with Dad' and Lily was still at 'The Burrow.'
Green flames flared in the fireplace and Ginny eagerly hurried to the hearth.
"Ginny?" Ron's head was floating in the fireplace.
"Oh, Ron!" Now that she saw her brother, she realized he was the perfect person to tell.
"Guess what I just found?"
"A Galleon in your shoe? I don't know." He scowled and shoved a jacket at her. "Hermione thought this belonged to James or Albus."
Ginny took the jacket. "What's eating you?"
"I'm supposed to be sleeping!" Even through the green flames Ginny could tell his face was starting to flush with temper. "I worked last night. Hermione took the kids to her parents for the day so I could have some peace and quiet, but that damned Kneazle woke me up!"
"Go back to sleep then!"
"Can't." He scowled again. "Too angry."
"Then come over." She tugged at his arm. "I can't wait to show someone what I found in the woods!"
"Fine. I'll put the kettle on."
While Ron staggered out of the Floo, Ginny flicked her wand at the kettle and then moved to the sink to rinse out the teapot.
"Don't throw that out. I'll drink it."
"It's been sitting since this morning." She shook her head and spooned tealeaves into the bottom of the clean pot. "You're turning into Uncle Bilius he'd drink boiled wood chips if it saved him a Sickle."
"I'm not entirely like Uncle Bilius," he said, sitting at the table. "I don't have hair growing out of my ears."
Ron surreptitiously ran a finger around his ear.
She laughed and poured hot, fragrant tea into a mug and handed it to him. "There that took all of a minute and it's fresh."
"Thanks." He took the mug and looked at her expectantly.
She frowned. "You don't take sugar do you?"
"Ah." She knew that look. "You're hungry."
"No, I'm never hungry after I wake up."
She waved her wand and a wheel of cheese zoomed to the table. "You're never sarcastic, either." A loaf of bread joined the cheese.
"Thanks." Ron tore off a hunk of bread. "So what is it you want to show me?"
"Oh!" She watched him cut a wide wedge of cheese. "Well, if it's what I think it is " Now that she had to describe what she saw, she was starting to doubt she was right.
"Treasure?" He grinned. "Fountain of Youth?"
It was gentle teasing. Ron might be skeptical, but if it turned out she was wrong, he wouldn't bring it up for the next forty years. She used to tell him all of her secrets before she went to Hogwarts. "I think I found a Cackling Stump," she blurted. "In the woods. It didn't do anything when I nudged it, but from what I can tell, it's been compressed, not cut."
Instead of hooting with derision, Ron's eyes narrowed in thought. "I had no idea that giant got this far south."
"You mean that one you lot caught in Wales last winter?"
"Yeah." He cut off another wedge of cheese. "I mean, that's how Cackling Stumps are made, right? A giant has to step on a magical tree in just the right way "
"Ron, you should see this one! It's about three feet high and has two really long limbs left."
"Anything surrounding it? Other trees? Plants?"
She frowned in thought. "No. It's in the middle of clearing. And Oh! I get it. Those limbs have brushed everything else out of its way."
He nodded, his mouth full.
"I can't wait to see what it does." She bounced out of her chair and took the cheese away.
Ron started to protest, but he shrugged and swallowed what was in his mouth. "Remember the time Fred and George 'made' one in the orchard?"
She giggled. "They had it spew milk instead of sap. Mum was furious when she found all the jugs empty in the larder."
"I think Percy believed it for about five seconds."
"It was worth it to Fred and George for those five seconds."
"Nah." Ron stood up. "They didn't do it to wind up Percy. Fred and George were jealous of Barney and Betty."
"We were all jealous of Barney and Betty," Ginny snorted. "Not only did they have a fun Cackling Stump that would fling them around any time they wanted, they each got new brooms every year and a trip to Blackpool in the summer."
"Yeah." Ron held open the door for her. "Too bad they weren't as good-looking as their Weasley cousins."
"Or as smart."
"Or as athletic."
"Or as humble." They both laughed at the punch line. They had done that after every visit. It made it easier to accept that they were the poor relations. Ginny sighed. It seemed so long ago, and yet she could still feel the bitter envy that took her weeks to shake after visiting her cousins.
"And just think now you have a Cackling Stump," Ron said as they walked across the garden to the Enchanted Wood.
"And you go to Blackpool every summer."
He grinned. "Sometimes twice but only Hugo will go with me now. Once in a lifetime is enough for Hermione."
Ginny laughed and then pulled him on to the path that led to the heart of the Enchanted Wood. "It's about twenty meters past this boulder."
When Ron saw it in the middle of the clearing, he gave a long, low whistle. "Wow. It is a Cackling Stump. See how the twigs at the end of each limb are shaped like hands? They must have grown over the spring. You have to watch those."
"Is it Dark Magic?" she asked, suddenly worried that this Stump might be more dangerous than the one they used to play with.
"Nah." He bent down and scooped up a rock. "Just a wonder of nature. Let's wake it up." He threw the rock, but it landed harmlessly on the flat top of the Stump.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "The Keeper throws. Where's the best spot to hit it?"
"Try right below the knot on the left."
She weighed a stone in her hand. "Hard or soft? I can't remember how we did it."
"Betty and Barney had their Stump trained. They poked it with a stick. Throw it hard."
She took careful aim and then fired the small stone at the rough bark. As it struck, a jet of blue sap shot out, hitting Ginny in the face.
"Argh!" Ron was laughing, the git. "You knew it would do that!" she accused.
"No, I didn't."
She licked her lips. The sap was watery and faintly sweet just as she remembered. Then she grabbed the front of his robes and wiped her face.
"Guess you didn't know I was going to do that."
"How would I know what you're going to do?" he said, not at all concerned about the state of his robes. "Let's find a stick. I want to see what else it will do."
"I've heard that some of them talk." She moved to the edge of the clearing and found a thin branch on the ground.
"They don't talk, they cackle," Ron said, taking the limb from her and snapping off the small twigs. "This Stump is so new, I don't know if it will."
"Let's find out."
Ginny stood behind Ron as he poked the knothole with the long stick. She didn't want another face full of sap. Neither did Ron, since he ducked just as the Stump squirted out more blue liquid missing him, and hitting Ginny in the face.
"You did it again!" She blindly pushed him so he fell on to his hands and knees.
"Did not." He was laughing so hard; he barely got out the rest of his sentence. "The Stump did it."
"Oh!" Her sticky, wet hair whipped around as she half-leaned, half-knelt on his back to grind his face in the ground. He retaliated by standing up, so she had no choice but to hold on to his neck in a death grip.
"Let go," he choked.
She couldn't decide whether to brush sap into his hair before letting go or to give him a hard push once she was on the ground again. Unfortunately, the decision was taken out of her hands because the Cackling Stump grabbed her by the back of her robes and held her in the air.
"Don't worry, I'll put down Cushioning Charms." He took out his wand and the clearing was filled with white and gold light.
She was starting to get uncomfortable her robes were stretched tightly across her chest and stomach. "Ron! Forget about that! Get me down!"
"You can't use a wand against trees or plant life unless you're in danger, remember? It will toss you when it's ready."
She had forgotten about the wait.
"Move your legs so it knows you want to be thrown."
She had forgotten that part, too pumping your legs while you waited and feeling the branch bend and sway. There was a delicious anticipation in knowing that soon you were going to be free falling in the air for a few wonderful seconds. She laughed as she noticed the branch start to move as she moved. Hopefully Ron's Cushioning Charms were thick ones.
The branch started to arc back and her stomach flipped in anticipation. She held her breath as she found herself facing the high, white clouds of the blue sky, and then she whooped as she went soaring through the air.
Ron's Cushioning Charms were much softer than the pile of hay they used to drop into, but she was still breathless after she landed.
"That was a good one!" Ron said, holding out his hand.
She took it and he hauled her to her feet. "That was so much fun!" She couldn't stop giggling. "Now it's your turn."
For the rest of the afternoon, they put the Stump through its paces. Now that they were old enough to do magic, they could land comfortably and not worry about bumps and bruises. One new problem arose, however. Ron was now too tall and heavy for one branch of the Stump to throw him any great distance. But they soon discovered that if he stood on top of the Stump, it would use both branches to toss him away.
Ginny found herself saying stupid things like I'm "Marvin the Muggle, see me fly." Or Ron would pretend to jump a sea of sharks riding a flying motorcycle like the Fez had done in that episode of Happy Times, their favorite childhood show on the Wireless. It was just like old times, and like then, the time passed all too quickly.
"We should go," Ginny said. Their shadows were long. Harry would be home by now.
Ron looked at his watch. "Yeah. Hermione will wonder where I've got to." He waved his wand and cried, "Finite Incantatum."
"Bye, Cackling Stump!" she called as they started down the path.
"Maybe I should have left the Cushioning Charms if the children are going to play there," Ron said thoughtfully.
"No way! We didn't have Cushioning Charms."
"And we had to figure out everything Dad wasn't out there telling us how to get a Cackling Stump to throw us around." Ginny rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, but we had Percy and Fred and George who knew all kinds of stuff."
"Rosie knows all kinds of stuff from books and James knows all kinds of stuff that isn't in the books. I think they'll be fine."
"The only problem is that the Stump is in the Enchanted Wood and the Ministry owns it. I imagine they know about it and they'll dig it up as soon as someone signs the paperwork."
Ginny snorted. "That will take years."
He laughed. "Yeah. Probably."
They walked in companionable silence until they reached the garden where their families had gathered. James and Albus and Rosie and Hugo were playing a game of tag on brooms. Harry and Hermione were sitting on lawn chairs, talking and occasionally shading their eyes to check on the children.
"What happened to you two?" Hermione gasped. She stood up and touched Ron's soiled robes. "You're both covered in blue " She sniffed. "Is that sugar or something?"
"Sap," Ron said. "From a Cackling Stump."
Hermione frowned. "A Cackling Stump? Like in the fairy tale?"
Ginny laughed. "Not exactly."
"Cackling Stumps are caused by giants," Ron explained.
Hermione raised her eyebrows.
"The story of Babbity Rabbity was written when Britain was overrun with giants," Ginny said, trying to remember her History of Magic. "There must have been a lot of compressed trees at one time a real hazard."
"But now that there are hardly any giants left, no one remembers what a real Cackling Stump is like," Ron added.
Harry's eyes lit up. "What is a real Cackling Stump like?"
Hermione was still interested in the fairy tale version. "So someone in the establishment wrote an anti-Muggle fairy tale to hide the fact that no one could protect witches and wizards from giants?" She crossed her arms in front of herself. "Well, isn't that just " She was so outraged she couldn't find the words.
Ron put his arm around her. "I really think it was more to keep kids away from strange trees and other weird stuff in the forest."
"Ron! The moral of the story is about how Muggles want to take power away from witches and wizards!"
"Well, every kid knows that can't happen."
Hermione's mouth dropped open at that logic. "Ron! That's "
"Look when you're a little kid with no control of your magic, you don't think you'll ever manage to make a broom go or cast a charm or hex your older brother who's tormenting you. It's a comforting story. The right people have the magic."
Hermione was silent for a moment, absorbing his words. Then she nodded. "I'll have to think about it."
While Ron and Hermione were talking about the meaning of fairytales, Harry moved closer to Ginny and nuzzled her cheek. "You taste good," he said in a low voice.
She giggled. "I must look a mess."
"I like when your hair is messy."
"What were you and Ron doing?" Hermione asked, this time looking at Ginny. "What exactly do you do with a Cackling Stump?"
Ginny looked at Ron and smiled. It was going to take all his ingenuity to convince Hermione that being flung through the air by a semi-sentient being was a good thing.
"I'll tell you later," Ron said, smiling back at Ginny. "I have to get this sap out of my hair before it hardens."
Once Ron and Hermione left with their children, Harry volunteered to collect Lily at the Burrow. Ginny couldn't go anywhere covered in blue sap.
She took a moment to watch James and Albus on their brooms. Their carefree faces reminded her of how she had felt this afternoon like everything was right in the world. It wasn't a feeling she had very often and she was grateful for it now.
Ron was right. Those fairy tales were comforting and so were her memories of a time when the right people had the magic. Mum and Dad her brothers the mythical Harry Potter who had defeated You-Know-Who as a baby.
She sighed and admired the sun setting over the Enchanted Wood. Now that she knew more about how magic and power really worked she had to accept how vulnerable they all were. But those happy childhood memories when it was safe to be reckless were equally true and shouldn't be denied, either.
She fingered her sticky, stiff hair and turned to go into the house. She would find a way to slip some information about Cackling Stumps to Albus. It would be good for him to have a little more insight than the others. He would tell Lily everything, of course, just like Ron used to do with her. And Lily would listen, just like she had listened to Ron.