Muggle life was killing her. Or at least it was making her incredibly irritable.
Ginny Weasley slammed her foot hard onto the brake pedal of the freakishly small automobile she had just learned to drive a fortnight ago. A van with the words Speed Demon's Plumbing thundered through the intersection, running right through a red light and nearly running Ginny into an early grave. She mumbled a few choice words under her breath, eased her foot off the brake and pressed it to the gas pedal. The little car putt-putted through the intersection, driving on towards the dilapidated-looking grey house that sat at the end of an otherwise deserted cul-de-sac.
"What I wouldn't give to be able to Apparate home from work," Ginny muttered as she pulled the tiny coupé onto the cracked concrete of the driveway. The car door gave a piteous squeeeak as she pushed it opened and she tripped as she tried to catch her footing on a large piece of stone that had become completely separated from the rest of the drive just that morning. In the process, her bag spilled onto the grass beside the pavement, showering the weed-ridden lawn with a heap and a half of paperwork from the office she was employed at. Or at least the office she used to be employed at before having dumped dozens of important documents into the grubby garden. When her boss got a load of the muck on Mr. Dewitt's depositions tomorrow morning…
"I'm toast," acknowledged Ginny, picking up the thirteenth page in a row that was soiled. "Maybe I can explain what happened and he'll understand," she said to herself.
She held up page fourteen and fifteen of the Dewitt deposition. They were both sopping from the mud puddle they had landed in moments before. Ginny sighed.
"Yeah, and maybe pigs'll fly out of Dewitt's…"
"Ginny!" a voice called from the front door of the little grey house. It was one of her six brothers – her eldest – Bill. She sprang up from the grass, leaving the rest of the papers to collect more grime. She hadn't expected to see Bill for at least another three days… he had written a week ago that he'd planned a short visit with her over the weekend.
"Oooh, I am so glad to see you!" sighed Ginny as she tightly wrapped her arms around her big brother's neck. "You wouldn't believe me if tried to explain how glad!"
Bill chortled. "Oh, I wouldn't, eh?" he said, rubbing his neck and pulling away so he could get a good look at her. "You look smashing, Gin – dead tired – but smashing, nonetheless." He tousled her hair. "Did you do something different?"
"Just had it cut is all … the Muggle beautician added some layers. You think it looks okay?"
"Yeah, it suits you. Makes you look – Mum would kill me if she heard me say this – more mature."
"Oh, Merlin … not that," said Ginny sarcastically, with a smirk. "Anything but that." She and Bill laughed. Molly Weasley still couldn't look at her twenty-one-year-old daughter and think of her as anything in the world but a wee baby girl.
Ginny urged Bill inside the house, temporarily forgetting about the mess in the front garden. "Come in, take a load off," she said to her brother, dumping the papers she had retrieved along with the empty bag in the entry hall. "Tell me all the news I've missed by being cut off from the real world," she said enviously. "How's Fleur?"
Bill collapsed in an overstuffed purple recliner. "Oh, she's ready to explode any day now, but I think the baby has other plans," he said with a proud grin. "Mum swears she won't go until Christmas, which'll make for an eventful day, won't it?"
Ginny got a glazed look in her eyes. "I can't wait until Christmas," she said with a sigh. "I miss everyone so much."
"I gathered as much from the strangling you gave me when you arrived," he said with a wink. "But don't worry … only six more weeks to go."
"Might as well be six years," grumbled Ginny, kicking off the high-heeled pumps she'd worn to work that day – a requirement of the office dress code. Her feet throbbed in pain.
"Is the internship going that badly?" inquired Bill with a look of deep concern crossing his face.
Ginny thought before she spoke. To be entirely sincere with her brother, she should have told him that the internship with the Head Muggle Liaison was like a death sentence. And the trial period where she had to live completely and utterly as a Muggle – twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week – was misery. But she didn't feel like being entirely sincere this evening. She was more in the mood for Bill to give her more news of home.
"No, it's not that bad," lied Ginny. "You just caught me having an awful moment … oh, damn!" she said, remembering the mess in the garden.
Bill headed her off at the door. "I can take care of it faster than you can. Just sit down and relax." He disappeared to the front garden and was back again – grungy papers in hand – before Ginny even had a chance to prop her feet up on the coffee table.
"Thanks," she said as Bill added the papers to the stack in the entry hall. "So, are you in the mood for dinner? I have these mostly tasteless things you can heat up in that little box over there." Ginny gestured to the microwave oven on the counter next to the fridge.
"As tempting as that sounds, I thought I'd take you somewhere for a bite to eat this evening … my treat," said Bill, looking suspiciously at the microwave.
"I won't say no to that," said Ginny, smiling at the prospect of eating something that wasn't frozen one second and zapped the next. "But you do have Muggle money, don't you?"
"Do I work for Gringotts or don't I?" asked Bill, reaching into the back pocket of his trousers for his wallet.
The meal was exceptional, second only to the cooking of her mother. Some Muggles really know what to do with cuisine, Ginny thought. And leave it to Bill to find the best eatery in a five-mile radius. Must be a Weasley trait, she thought as she took the last bite of her pudding.
"So, Fleur's ready to deliver a month early," said Ginny, reviewing the reports Bill had already given her on the family, " … Charlie's confirmed case of bachelorhood is driving Mum mad … Fred and George are celebrating the grand opening of another branch of Weasley Wizard Wheezes next weekend in Hogsmeade … but you've yet to tell me about Ron."
Bill took a swig of water from his glass and look at Ginny seriously. "I think he's ready to take the plunge," he said solemnly.
"The plunge?" said Ginny, her mouth starting to gape slightly. "You don't mean … he's finally going to do it? He's finally going to ask her?"
"That's the word on the street," he said, picking up his glass to take another drink.
"Word on the street?" asked Ginny, confused.
"Harry told me," Bill said matter-of-factly.
Ginny felt her face start to warm. Over a decade later and the mere mention of his name still made her blush. You're pathetic, Weasley, she thought.
"He just came out and told you Ron was ready to pop the question to Hermione?" Ginny said is disbelief as she gathered her composure again.
"I have ways of making people talk," said Bill, scrunching his face up to look quite goblin-like.
Ginny laughed. "I know you do," she said with a wide grin. "I remember that time you thought Ron had borrowed your wand … I was only four and Ron was only five … but you gave him a look that was just like Mum!"
They both erupted with laughter.
"And I used to be able to do her voice with that clever charm…"
"Until Mum fixed it so you'd be hexed if you even thought the incantation!"
They laughed again, this time so loudly the waiter came to see if anything was the matter. Through snorts of laughter, Ginny assured him they were both fine. The waiter raised an eyebrow as if to convey he thought the exact opposite were true.
And the fact that Bill was currently raising his own eyebrow in ridicule at the waiter didn't help matters.
"There's that look!" said Ginny before giving in to another fit of giggles. "Just like Mum!"
"Good to know I haven't lost my touch," said Bill, thoroughly amused with himself.
He wiped the tears from his eyes before telling the baffled attendant, "Check, please."