A/N: This missing moment was originally written as a gift for the lovely Bring and Fly. A special thanks to both Hyacinth Girl and Ara Kane for their beta-reading skills. Any further mistakes are my own.
Disclaimer: I profit nothing by this but my own amusement.
"Any owls from Harry, Ron?" Dad asked at dinner. He looked well rested, and was already dressed in his Muggle clothes, ready to go to work for the Ministry of Magic.
"No," Ginny said, swinging her legs as she scooped potatoes onto her plate. "Ron says that Errol probably passed out again. Do you remember when he did that that one time, when we were so anxious about Charlie and thought that he got killed by dragons because he didn't write back to Mum?"
"Hey, he asked me, not you!" Ron shouted. She responded by throwing a piece of potato at his head the instant both of her parents looked elsewhere. It landed squarely between his eyes.
"Mum! Ginny -"
"Never mind that," Mum said brusquely, clearly thinking that Ron was just repeating complaints. "Ginny, please pass the potatoes."
Ginny gave Ron her widest, most cheerful smile and passed the potatoes to George. "Yes, Mum," she said politely.
"No letter, eh?" Dad asked around a mouthful of cabbage. Ginny tried not to giggle - he ate like Ron sometimes. Dad swallowed before continuing. "We ought to do something about that."
Ginny felt a something like magic flutter through her chest. Mum and Dad do something about Harry?
"We should have him stay here," Mum said, which made the fluttering feeling pass again. She reached across Fred to dump a heap of boiled runner beans onto Ginny's plate. "A boy too busy to write needs a good stay with friends in the country."
"He doesn't write because of the Muggles," Ron said, though his words were barely understandable with his mouth full of food.
"They shut him up in a cupboard," Ginny cut in, proud that Ron's friend had survived so long in a cupboard without turning up lost, or getting strangled by one of Dad's inventions, or worse. Bill was always going on about the odd things that Egyptians had left behind in their cupboards - gold, food, and little sisters who tattled.
"Yes, Ginny, we know." Mum's voice hitched as she spoke. Everyone grew quiet as a tear dripped from her eye and dribbled down to her chin, where it then wobbled like a dizzy garden gnome.
Ginny knew what she was thinking about; they all did. Mum was imagining her children being shut up in the cupboards of their Muggle accountant relative's home and then forced to subsist on typewiper ink and boxes of disused, numbered buttons from old arithmanculators. The year before Ginny was born, Mum had lost many of her cousins and siblings to You-Know-Who, and so she sometimes imagined morbid things like that.
"Don't worry, dear," Dad said, patting Mum's shoulder. "If we don't hear from Harry by Friday, we'll fetch him ourselves."
When she saw the grateful expression on her mother's face, Ginny quickly looked to her plate and scooped half of the green beans into her mouth even before she had swallowed the first forkful. There were similarly busy eating sounds from her brothers. George caught Ginny's eye and winked just before Fred nudged her elbow on the other side and whispered, "You'll be able to get that picture you brought to King's Cross autographed after all."
Her mouth was too full to respond, and Mum's vacant stare was turned their direction, so Ginny was forced to glower in silence.
Later that night, after Mum went to bed, Ginny snuck up to Ron's room, and the two of them snuck across the hall, to where the twins had blown up things all summer. Ginny wrinkled her nose when she opened their door, as she always did. Their room smelled like fouled-up potions, unwashed socks, unwashed boys, and gunpowder.
She looked up. There were singe marks along the ceiling, from the places where their firecrackers had spun out of control. Ginny had seen them spinning one night, booming, waking up the household while she herself was flying out to the orchard. One of the firecrackers had twirled and fizzed out the window, spun its way across the yard, and drilled a signed hole through the roof of the chicken shed before it finally hissed into the pond and died. Mum had been furious.
"What's this?" Ginny asked, poking her finger towards a potion. Fred knocked Ron to the ground on his way to prevent her from touching it.
"Ouch!" Ron shouted.
"Don't touch that!"
"I wasn't going to!" she lied.
"Will you lot shut up?" Ron said sullenly, getting up to sit on George's bed. "We have to think about Harry."
"Poor kid," George said. "But Mum and Dad already said that they'd fetch Harry if he doesn't write."
"He could be dead by then," Ron said glumly. He looked pale and, for a moment, as careworn as Mum, as though he believed his words. Ginny felt a sudden fear - reaching beyond things like Harry never noticing her or Dad losing his job. Would Muggles truly lock children in cupboards and let them die?
Fred rolled his eyes. "Idiot. You spend too much time listening to that ghoul."
But George looked sympathetic. "We'll think of something."
"What - like some exploding dust that transports us clear across England?" Ron asked.
Fred looked interested. There was mischief in his distant expression.
"Anything's possible," George said.
"Yeah, that's what you said when Charlie's letter went missing and Mum thought he'd been attacked by werewolves, and I think we remember how that one went." Ginny donned Mum's saber-toothed-tiger face and said, "George Weasley!"
"Ginny, shut up!" her brothers said.
And Ginny did, even though she was about to tell them about Dad's newest experiment. She let them flounder about for a long time, determined not to say anything about what she knew until they spoke to her again, but they never did. Meanwhile, she listened to their useless ideas (riding across the country on brooms so worn out they rattled when accelerating?) and imagined poor Harry as a small boy, alone in his cupboard, and she felt sad. Maybe Harry didn't live in a cupboard anymore, but his Muggles didn't take care of him.
"Been in Dad's shed lately?" she asked.
Ron and George stopped bickering about whose broom was worse and all three of her brothers turned to stare at her. For a moment, Ginny thought that maybe Fred had transfigured her nose into Scabbers's tail. She gave her nose a surreptitious swipe.
"What's in Dad's shed?" Fred asked.
The interest in Fred's face faded. He knew about the car, though he didn't know what Ginny knew. "They run on some Muggle fuel, and we'd have no way to buy it - and Mum would notice we were gone before we could return."
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Idiot, Dad's been working on it. It flies."
"Yeah." She had caught it hovering in the shed one day, when she took Dad his lunch. Mum had been off in town, shopping for dinner. Dad had tried to explain it away, to claim that some other wizard had already enchanted it, but Ginny knew better.
"Anything's possible." Ron grinned.
"If you've got the nerve," George agreed. He stared up at one of the singe marks on the ceiling for a while. "We'll get him," he said. "This'll work."
"I'm coming too," Ginny said, standing.
Ron sneered at her. "Of course you're not, it's too dangerous."
"Yeah, well, it was my idea!"
"She just wants to come because she wants to get that autograph from Harry," Fred teased.
"I do not!" Ginny shrieked, and suddenly she was tackling Fred, and Ron and George were trying to tear them from each other. They were loud, the four of them, far louder than they had intended. It wasn't long before Mum's louder voice hollered over all of them:
"WHAT'S GOING ON? IT'S THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT! YOU SHOULD ALL BE IN YOUR BEDS, ASLEEP!"
Ginny ran out of the room.
Mum slipped into Ginny's room and perched on the edge of her bed. By that time, Ginny had already soaked her pillow through with tears.
"Were they teasing you about Harry, dear?"
"I don't want his autograph," Ginny sobbed.
"Poor dear," Mum said in the voice that she'd lately reserved for Harry, and wrapped her arms around Ginny while she let the last few tears out. When she had finished, Mum had Ginny change into her nightgown, and then sat behind Ginny on the bed with a brush in hand. It had been years since Mum had brushed her hair.
"I don't want his autograph," Ginny repeated, calmer this time.
"I know, dear." Mum sighed. "Neither do I."
Ginny lay in bed a while after Mum had gone, but when she heard Mum's door click shut, she got up and opened her wardrobe. She dragged a jumper over her long nightdress and padded barefoot down to the kitchen. Sock-less, she donned her Wellingtons and slipped outside. After a squelching walk across the yard and a nip into the broom shed, Ginny was on George's broom and far beyond the house where everyone drove her mad. She tried to think about Harry, and the fact that he would probably be here, at the Burrow, soon.
The smell of sausage and greasy eggs woke her. Ginny was still half-asleep when she stumbled down the stairs and into the kitchen. She was surprised to see Fred and George already awake, but was even more surprised to see Ron up and sitting next to the handsomest, most rumpled looking skinny boy she had ever seen. Ron just wasn't that handsome.
He was watching Mum butter bread as though no one had ever buttered his bread.
Ginny didn't know what to feel: mortification because Harry saw her in her nightgown was foremost, but beneath that was anger that her brothers had fetched him without telling her, and sadness that no one had woken her up when they arrived.
She raced upstairs, unable to look at any of them. All day, she sat in her room while the others laughed in the yard. She didn't mean to watch them, but she couldn't help it. That boy, that handsome boy who made her skin tingle, had defeated You-Know-Who when she was just a few months old. Now he stood in the garden and spun garden gnomes over his head. He had eaten sausages and eggs in her chair, and had looked at her mother while seeming to believe, as Ginny did, that Mum was the best mum in the world.
"YOUR SONS FLEW THE CAR-" Mum shouted from below. Ginny opened her door to eavesdrop. When Dad asked if all had gone well, she cringed. Lies had to be kept up with Mum or never started; Ginny had learned that over time. But a new voice caught her ear: Ron standing at the end of the kitchen passageway, saying that he would show Harry his room.
Ginny tried to withdraw; she meant to. She meant to wait just until she saw the top of Harry's hair, or saw his and Ron's shadows on the stairwell walls, but she didn't. Instead, she met his gaze for the first time, and chose that moment to slam the door shut. Ginny crouched where she was, still seeing Harry's bright green eyes while Ron incriminated her further by saying that she usually never shut up.
She could already tell: it was going to be a long school year.