Follow The Leader
by Judy


Ginny's favourite game was follow the leader. For at five, she had no brilliant ideas like the twins did, or an occasional burst of genius like Ron. Percy was the one who scrunched his thin lips and refused to play unless he was the leader because he was the oldest so there. Sometimes the twins felt sorry for him and let him join the games, other times they taunted him until his ears turned red and mum had to step in to break up the fight. The twins were always the bravest bunch. Ginny followed until she stopped being afraid of heights or dark rooms odd little creatures that lived in the garden. For five was when she was old enough to tag along, and she has not stopped since.

Ginny's favourite game was follow the leader, for she gave and gave and did not ask for anything in return. She allowed each boy, distinct in their own way, to take what they needed from her. They only had to lead, and she willingly went where they gestured. It was a dance of sorts, where they were all waiting for a chance at fulfillment, and she satisfied the wants of each brother, promising she would always be there, with open arms.

In Hogwarts the girls had heroes and pictures hidden in robes. There were quidditch athletes, a handsome wizard who made it into the daily prophet, and even a good-looking muggle would catch a certain girl's eye. Giggles and whispers and secrets, like an elaborate private joke including every single girl but her. For Ginny's heroes were in her family, all with red hair and freckles and a good dollop of Weasley pride. She could tell who was who with a touch, a whisper, a sleeve at the corner of her vision. She could feel them pull away when their hands brushed hers, but slowly, as if bound to her by invisible taffy that stretched and stretched. Tall and thin and one her own height, shoulders broad or shaking with mirth in double time. When she woke up she knew by an arm whichever one held her, who pulled her close in sleep and who was on the far side of a too narrow bed, but fingers gripped hers possessively. The brothers wished she would stay young forever, to wait for them as a sister should, and she wanted to prove to them she was capable of whatever they asked.

Ginny's favourite game was follow the leader because she told everyone what they wanted to hear.

Percy wanted someone to believe in him, someone to tell him he was larger than life, that he was intelligent and charming and handsome. She would keep him close and assure him of his status until he dreamed of wizards and muggles looking up at him in awe.

She was the only one who knew Fred and George had differences. Minor, but they were there. She was the one who could tell one from the other with a blink, without even thinking about it. She knew which pranks were Fred's and which pranks were George's. At times Ginny felt smothered between them since being so close to the two gave the danger of becoming them as well. That was what they needed, someone to remind them that they were apart, that they were two people but would become one soon, maybe.

Bill was far away, as far as a sun in his own solar system, his own galaxy. His orbits crossed hers every thousand years, and he was as constant as sunrise and sunset. He came to her to fulfill the sake of family, to take care of the littlest one and to walk away with puzzlement at who was comforting who. With Ginny, in her nightgown and small contented smile, he allowed himself a break from being apart from the crowd because sometimes, even being an individual can get a bit lonely.

Yes, Ginny knew those four. They were at separate corners of the universe, the intellect, the twofold teasing, the unique, like when you put them together they would become one person. Perhaps someone satirically gifted and eccentric and everything Ginny ever loved about the four. But they were easy to please, not like the other two, one demanding without knowing it, one barely there at all. A contradiction of second brothers, a second oldest, a second last.

The former told her stories of mountains so high they took your breath away. He gave her gifts of jewels and trinkets and lovely things, and she drank in his stories along with the sound of his voice. She whispered the names of exotic places to herself late at night, rolling them through her mouth until it filled her room with visions that taunted her. He was the one who didn't seem to need her at all, whose touches were fleeting. It baffled her and scared her, moments with Charlie who lived in the wastelands, who had no need for cities or her, and it hurt her because she could not explain why and there was no magic to counter his perpetual sadness.

But the truth was she has always been closest to Ron. (Ginny's favourite game was follow the leader, and even though one of the twins stole her first kiss, the first shard of her heart she gave to Ron.)

Ron was herself in male form. He was her companion, her best friend. Their hands mirrored each other's, and even their hair was the closest in shade. She was his shadow, always underfoot. When he went off to Hogwarts, she cried for ages, and when the day finally came to join him, she saw a stranger with Ron's face. The excitement of meeting the Boy Who Lived was marred by the fact that it was he who led Ron away into adulthood and left Ginny behind. She found herself being forced to grow up, to let go of childhoods on the rooftop with the stars, and acknowledge that tagging along with your brother in public was a big no no.

He was her summer, but like all seasons, they came and went as they pleased.



There was no fall the time the darkness came. He had only the sliver of silver on his lapel as a warning, the Prefect badge he wore so proudly. He came in bearing his namesake V a riddle. He called her his clever girl, and made her laugh with his replies in spiked handwriting. He was completely different from her brothers, dark haired with eyes that lied. They were eyes that spoke of life in green, but hid death behind. His kisses burned and froze all at once, a pain that was pleasant and searing. He breathed ice into her veins until she was a snow child, just like him. She stared at Tom with eyes that glittered in half hate, half love, until she could not define the difference between the two. He only laughed until he was hoarse, and said in words like poetry, voice silk and smooth. I was wrong, you are not a rose or a jewel emanating cool fire. You are the flame, outside burning but inside you're a core of blue. He twirled her hair with his finger, and waited for the victory that never came.

When her brother arrived to fight for her just like she said he would, even Ron's summer warmth did not change the coldness of her touch. And winter settled in, heavy and silent, curled around her like a brother's embrace.

Something changed then, carried on the wind, in the space between the pyramids where Ron snuck innocent, closemouthed kisses different from the young man a head taller than her. Tom pursued her in Egypt and his footsteps left prints in the sand for only a blink of an eye. Tom, impatient and fickle and demanding, his sprite clutched her to allow her no moments of peace. His face was there, imprinted onto ancient stone, a constant reminder. 'You'll never forget me...' How could she when Tom was wicked, with a sharp tongue and a taste for finer things, who needed her like nobody needed her before, who shredded a part of her heart just for him to keep, and refused to let go.

Egypt was a contrast to within, a land of endless sand and dead civilizations. The desert tanned her skin where it used to burn. Ron held her hand, but it wasn't the same. She shied away from his touch, sidestepped his reaching arms, and left him hurt and questioning. It served him right for running off with Harry, for looking at Hermione with newfound emotions raw on his face. The price of being the closest was to be able to read him well, like a picture she could not look away from even though it contained devastation. And how Tom laughed, the sound of him echoing off phantom walls, until Ginny paced the edges of the tent like an animal.

Ginny ran, and Tom followed, and she discovered the impurity of the game, the ghost who forgot it was a game. She lost Ron, but gained a shade, a silhouette of a man, an inverse of what used to be. Returning home, the days bled into months, and Ginny tried to sit very still, to act as if nothing ever happened, that she was twelve, before Tom, before Harry, before everything. She touched cracked lips with hands that felt like someone else's. Her throat was parched, stricken by a thirst for an antidote she had no access to, a longing for change. Tom stroked her hair and slept next to her, skin hot and dry and a reminder of Africa. They were adrift together, two twined, pallid skin next to cream, blurring into grey.

Christmas was painful, with the Burrow too cheery and music that made Tom edgy. Her brothers wanted again. Wanted and craved and led her off to murmur worthless praises in her ear. She was growing now, catching up. She could almost hear her bones lengthening at night, features fining into cheekbones and jaw, hair a shade richer than before. She was no longer Ron's mirror, boyish lines and knobbly knees, she was pulling ahead of him, heading for the distance, an escape she had no name for. It might be a place that Charlie spoke of, a hidden locale that needed an initiation before one is allowed into the depths, of a great wizard locked by a bitter witch. She was trapped in her own tower in the air, her punishment was hearing their conversations downstairs. Her solace was a box of muggle tools that left powder on fingers and smudges on robes. Her first picture was of Ron, done in awkward spill of black and crimson and sienna. She hid it behind her dresser, pretending she was able to hide the reality of just as easily.

The following year she floated through classes with Tom. He slipped her answers to tests, some right some wrong, and either way he would dispense them with malicious glee. He delighted in spinning her head around, and a haze settled over her actions, made them dreamy and unreal. There was a fog around her that year, a wavering wall between her and the rest. Tom erected a maze in her mind, with endless pathways and doors that dropped off to nowhere. He played with her as if one would with a toy, kept her to himself and did not allow anybody to touch her. Food tasted like ashes, schoolwork complicated beyond imagination, and Ron was happy - happy, because he had just asked Hermione to the Yule Ball. Mum clucked her tongue and told her to do better next year, Mr. Weasley cleared his throat and promised her a talk that she was still waiting for. The world around her changed all of a sudden, without time for her to adjust, with Bill and Fleur, the joke shop, Junior Assistant and He Who Must Not Named lurking around the corner. Ginny stayed in her maze, half willingly because Tom was unchanging, and there were no exits in sight...while Tom continued to believe he was more than just a memory.



Summer of her fifth year was one where she finally noticed what had been true for a while. Ron stopped his pleading looks, stopped pushing her into corners and asking her questions she had no answers to. He stopped catching the edge of her robe or walking into her room late at night, hair wonderfully tousled. She thought it should have hurt, but it didn't, and wasn't it funny how nobody noticed the frost that appeared in her footsteps, where she placed her hands, or the frigidity that followed her, its chill like perfume.

(Ginny's favourite game was follow the leader, because she needed a way to prove she loved her brothers. She painstakingly copied their movements, wanted to satisfy everyone, and knew their secrets - that Fred belonged to George and Percy to his books and Bill to the task of being the oldest and Charlie to his solitude. And finally, Ron to his triumvirate of three, where Harry and Hermione gave him the balance she couldn't give.)

The only brother left was the one who sat at the family table and said nothing. He had no words for her anymore, no more tales to tell, and watched people go by with a haunted expression that made Ginny wonder if he had someone whispering in his ear as well. His only indication of life was a tiny egg that hatched a dragon, which collapsed back into its shell a week later. Ginny hated it since it reminded her of the time she was unable to turn back, to become another red haired baby in a too large family. She hated it and couldn't bring herself to break the perfectly formed scales, the iridescent shell. So it just sat there, where his large hands placed it, a surprise that made her suffer everything but happiness.

Ginny's stare was attached to his every move even though he was oblivious to her. Tom chortled at the attention she paid him, and beyond him, she thought she could hear the shattering of icicles outside as they dropped onto the pavement. When she went outside, the sun was as bright as it ever was, and there were no fragments of ice on the sidewalk.

'What does he know?' Were Tom's words, scornful of the brother when she searched the ground for remnants of what she heard, if voices were another one of her delusions. 'His job is to play with fire.'

It seemed hearing things was the least of her problems, and Ginny couldn't help but see Tom in every move he made, even though outside they were different, but inside they were the same. They stood alone in every place they went, seeking the farthest reaches of wilderness to only find more questions to the ones they already have. Tom was driven by the pursuit of the mind, and Charlie for the pursuit of adventure. At the end of the summer she was confused about which one she wanted, the man or the ghost boy, and if she even had a choice at all.

Her sixteenth Christmas she spent outside where she fit best. To darken her hair and her skin and become a tree sprite or a bird. She pretended she could float upon the air, become a wisp of smoke, a barely there image. She wished Charlie was not the only one of the Weasley's who seemed not see her as a girl, but as another male relation. He was a stranger to her, familiar, but distant. A brother who was not a brother, a brother who refused to hold her and hug her as other brothers did, only patted her head like she was five years old. When she stopped her movements at the intrusion of the brother she knew not at all, he smiled at her with a growing misery in his eyes that was becoming familiar. You're so thin now. He said, and it was then Ginny realized she had been mistaken all along, he noticed her forming body more than the other boys combined.

For all of Tom's jeers and mockery of Charlie's slow drawl, Ginny awaited the holidays with a thrill that scared her. To chase the spectre of the Prefect away from her mind, she only needed to think of dragons. The feelings grew and grew inside of her, stretched to fill her transforming body, the distant sky. The days passed in glowing hues, and she danced throughout February, made snow angels in the spread of white. She drew too many pictures that were wrong, in angles and descriptions and things made up in mind. She knew what the others thought, that she was mad. She spoke to the air, and tried to move away from invisible demons, attempted to keep one step ahead from Tom, who was always there, always waiting.

She felt his gaze on her even though he thought she wasn't looking. He as just like the brothers in the end, linked to her by shape of mouth and joints and blood and bone. She felt him resist, and she drew pictures upon pictures, breathed her own personalized style of magic into the colours. She posed for him, hair red against sunlight, knew that he ran his eyes down her legs, up an arm. Under his focus, she grew stronger, flourished in the intensity it gave her, the ability to escape the one who held her captive for moments at a time. (Ginny's favourite game as follow the leader, since Tom approved of her webs, her sugar spun lies. What he doesn't know was that the rules of the game still applied, that the leader had the sceptre to make his hold void.)

Charlie was forever distant, aloof, beyond everyone else and caught in his own dream world. He lived in a place of dragons and great beasts, and it was those eyes that probably saw the most. He had a clean face, an honest face that held its own purity. She drew him clean and warm and alive with a hint of coolness. She would always remember him that way as her model, sitting on the window seat, hands clasped around his legs, face turned to the night. When she asked him to take off his shirt for artistic integrity, he didn't object. The shirt settled into a pool on the floor, she drew a sharp involuntary breath. For his body was a sculpture, freckles a sea down his back.

The maze was reaching an end, the walls of the labyrinth not quite so high. They were closer than ever before. Tom's panic, his walls were breaking, his world shaken. His rage made every gasp sound like ice cracking, crystals thrown against solid surfaces. She refused to acknowledge him, denied making him real, for she knew his weakness now. Tom needed somebody to see him.

The pad slid down to the floor to join the shirt, and Ginny closed the distance between them with only the whisper of feet against thick carpet. He didn't say anything when she ran hands down smooth skin and muscles hard from work. He only closed his eyes and looked like he was about to break. (Ginny's favourite game was follow the leader, for Ron already taught her all there was to know about bodies, and guided her hands with the assurance of one who had every right to do it.) He did nothing of the sort, and only allowed her to touch, to roam over his back. She marked every turn, every curve with a sort of reverence akin to worship. The girls could keep their athletes and prefects. She had her own version of an idol. She had Charlie.

(Ginny's favourite game was follow the leader, when a faceless pair of hands joined hers, to draw her palm to meet lips on a too pale face. When the possessor of those hands touched her flesh, to tease and to insult and to ridicule. He was her teacher, her first, and it was in that he took what she had to give.)

When his gaze met hers it sent tingles from the sensitive points of her fingers and towards the tips of her toes. His brown eyes were velvet in the hushed darkness of her room, and she knew he would be very gentle. When she kissed him it was chaste almost. Not at all like Ron's fumbling caresses, Michael's eagerness, Tom's pull to draw your soul out of your body. It was like him, careful, precise, lifeless.

(Ginny's favourite game was follow the leader, but there was a thrill in loving him, in leading, knowing that she was a bit like Charlie and a bit like Tom, that she had her own wildness, her own passion inside of her.)

She was the one who pulled away, but he was the one who raised a hand many times bigger than her own, hands scarred and rough and hovering inches from her face, waiting. She could almost see the gate ahead, to grasp the handle with both hands. (Ginny's favourite game used to be follow the leader, but the key had been inside of her, formed and ready and waiting, and she cast Tom out of her life with a force that left her shivering...)'What do you want from me, Ginny?' His voice was hoarse, and she had a sensation like falling, falling into him, for him to catch her and hold her against the warmth of his chest, and she showed her reply with her lips on skin that burned.


In Romania, where the mountain peaks stretched to lonely distances. In Romania, where snow was as plentiful as brothers back home. In Romania, where the natives did not ask about child brides. There, Ginny shared Charlie with the dragons. The snow drifted down in silent, suffocating layers, created patterns to divert the eyes. The days were always cold and the nights always warm. She loved him like a sister should, with all her focus and mind and being. She had broken some cardinal rule somewhere in there, for she loved one brother above the others, loved the grooves of his hands, the way they played against her hip, the arch of her foot. And Ginny knew he would never lead her into games of follow the leader, to do with her as he willed. Ginny knew because she didn't remember him ever playing games. Ginny knew because of his eyes that took her in like a drowning man would, and she knew because he was her spring, the one she had waited for all along.

Ginny's favourite game was follow the leader, because for you, she would go anywhere.


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