Ginny sighed wistfully as she watched the Weasley and Potter children zoom about the makeshift Quidditch pitch from the window of her old bedroom at the Burrow. She wanted very much to go out and join them, but knew she needed a few minutes to cool down from her latest argument with her mother. Unfortunately, the only place she could grab some privacy at the Burrow was her old bedroom.
As much as she loved coming back to her childhood home to visit with her family, there was always something disconcerting about being in her old room. She had grown up long ago — far faster than her mother would have wanted, thanks to Tom Riddle — but everything in the room still reminded her of the girl she used to be. It was easy to see that at least part of her mother still wished that her little girl was still here, the one who always did as her mother asked — or at least appeared to do as her mother asked.
She and her mother never really rowed when she was younger. When she took the time to think about it, Ginny was surprised that their innately assertive natures did not clash more often. But she had realized early on that it was useless to take her mother on directly; it was much more effective to recruit her father to her side and use more subtle means of presenting an opposing viewpoint. When she was especially devious, she could even swing her mother to her side and make her think it was her own idea. Ginny would never know if her father was ever aware of her intricate machinations, but the current fact of the matter was that these days he was content to stand aside and let the two women settle their differences without any intervention on his part.
There was no question that Ginny liked the person she had grown up to be, and although she recognized that she owed a lot of that satisfaction to her parents, there were still some aspects of her childhood that she did not enjoy. Therefore, when Ginny and her mother did row, the center of each argument was the same topic: Lily. It was the occasional improvement that Ginny tried to implement in her daughter’s life that often led to disagreements with her mother. Deep down, she knew that no matter how hard she tried, her daughter’s childhood was not going to be perfect, but that was not going to stop her from trying her best to give her what she had once lacked.
As she cast a quick searching glance over the field where the children were playing, Ginny quickly realized that her daughter was not among them. Despite her size, Lily was normally right in the thick of things and Ginny was proud of how she had learned to assert herself at an early age. It was almost unthinkable that Lily would voluntarily miss out on flying with her family. Confused, Ginny turned from the window and began to make her way outside.
As Ginny bounded down the stairs to begin the search for her daughter, she was surprised to find her quarry sitting quietly in front of the fireplace, staring into the flames.
Obviously startled, the little girl spun her head to face the unexpected voice and said in a soft voice, “Oh... Hi, Mum.”
“What are you doing in here? I thought you were out flying with everyone else.”
The little girl shrugged her shoulders but did not say a word.
“Lil’?” Ginny said in confusion, hoping for some hint of what was wrong. But her daughter remained silent and simply turned back to the fire and drew her knees up to her chin, wrapping her arms around her shins.
Ginny became very concerned. She was not used to seeing her little girl so withdrawn. Whatever had caused her to suppress her normally vivacious personality had to be something important.
“Was it something the boys did?”
At least this got the younger redhead to shake her head emphatically in the negative.
“I’m sorry if I’m prying, luv, but normally you’d be out with the others enjoying yourself in this wonderful weather. It’s just not like you to be sulking by yourself. And it’s definitely not like you to be so quiet.”
“I’ve just been... thinking,” said Lily, her voice still barely above a whisper.
Ginny frowned. “Is it a boy?”
Lily’s eyes grew wide in shock. “Mum, I’m only eight!”
“Eight and half,” Ginny corrected. “Just checking...” she continued, pleased that she was able to break the ice with such an obvious ploy.
Lily rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Mum... you know it’s not that. I mean — how old were you when you fell in love with Dad?”
“I meant when you knew it was for real.”
Ginny smirked. “Fifteen.”
“See what I mean! You know it’s not about a boy, so why tease me?”
Ginny merely arched an eyebrow and emphasized her smirk.
“All right... all right... I’m talking now... happy?”
“Yes. Quite. Now then… why are you doing your best impression of your father when he’s thinking about his old life?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know exactly what I mean because you’ve had to drag him out of his fog just as often as I have.”
Lily sighed in resignation. “All right... it’s just... a little hard to say — you won’t get angry, will you?”
“Of course not, luv. I just want to help.”
Lily took a deep breath to gather herself and said, “Mum, why do you treat me just the same as James and Al?”
“Well, you’re one of my children, aren’t you? I love you all just the same, so why shouldn’t I treat you all the same? Don’t you want to be treated the same as them?”
Lily responded with another question. “So, you don’t wish I was a boy?”
Ginny’s jaw dropped in shock. “Oh, Merlin, of course not! Have I ever said or done anything to make you think that?”
“Well, not exactly...”
Ginny’s face fell. Although she could not, for the life of her, remember saying anything of the sort, the mere idea that she may have unintentionally led her daughter to believe something so cruel was devastating. She took a few seconds to collect herself before finding her voice. “Lily, please... what did I say to make you think that?”
Lily suddenly found the floor to be very interesting. She mumbled something that sounded like the word “nothing,” but Ginny could not be sure. She knelt down so she could be eye to eye with her daughter and asked again, “Please, luv, if there’s something wrong, I’d like to fix it. Now what did I say that was so awful?”
“It wasn’t something you said, exactly... it’s just... I heard you and Gran arguing earlier today.”
It was Ginny’s turn to sigh. “Oh... that.”
It was ironic that Lily had hit upon exactly what Ginny had been pondering only a few minutes before — or perhaps it was fitting.
“I like the idea that you want to treat us all fairly, but... but I’m — I’m not really like them, Mum.”
“Have I really been that bad, Lil’?”
“To be honest, I never really noticed it before this summer. It wasn’t until I heard you and Gran talking about it one time at home — and then again earlier today — that I really began to think about it.”
Ginny nodded her head and exhaled in frustration. It appeared that her intentions to keep her little girl from feeling excluded from her siblings had backfired horribly.
“I’ve never really talked about my childhood in great detail with you, have I?”
“I dunno, Mum, you’ve told me lots... how you used to break into the broom shed... the bedtime stories Granddad used to tell you... degnoming the garden...”
“Yes, but I’ve never really talked about how I felt about being the youngest, and about being the only girl.”
Lily tilted her head as she tried to recall everything her mother had ever told her. “No, I guess not.”
“Well, there was a lot about it I didn’t like.”
“Really? I would have thought it was aces. You probably got everything you wanted... You got to learn all sorts of stuff from Gran that no one else knew... and you always got your own room.”
Ginny chuckled as she shook her head. “It wasn’t that simple. Sure, I got spoiled a little just for being the youngest, but because I was the only girl... Well, I didn’t have a choice about learning how to run a household. I was always the one to help your Gran make dinner. I learned how to clean and put away the dishes younger than any of my brothers. And I had to break into the broom shed not only because I was too young, but because I was a girl.”
“Well, when you put it that way...”
“You see, Lil,’ it wasn’t so much that I had to do things differently as much as it was that my mum just assumed I wanted to be just like her.”
“But that’s just it, Mum. You’ve kind of done the same with me. Don’t get me wrong, I love flying and all of the other stuff you’ve taught us... but there are some other things I’d like to learn too.”
Ginny gave her daughter a wan smile. “I can see that now. I just wanted you to know why I’ve done what I’ve done. Are you angry with me?”
Lily’s eyes grew wide again. “What? Of course not... I just... I didn’t know how to tell you what I wanted.”
“I don’t want you to ever hide who you really are — not from anyone, especially me. If I had done that when I was younger, your father and I may never have got together.”
“So you like me the way I am?”
Ginny smiled — really smiled — for the first time that day. “Believe me, I wouldn’t change a thing.”