The Burrow is bursting; Ginny hasn’t seen so many people under this roof in years. Her brothers are all here (most with girlfriends); Charlie even came in from Romania.
“CONGRATULATIONS GINNY!” is plastered on a banner hanging round the kitchen, enchanted with little quaffles, bludgers and snitches to fly around the letters.
“We thought Charlie would play for England,” George says seriously, clinking his glass of Firewhisky against Ginny’s.
“I wasn’t going to play Quidditch professionally, I wasn’t nearly good enough,” Charlie counters crossly, arm around Ginny’s shoulders.
“Lucky for you all then that I’m better than the load of you put together,” Ginny says brightly, taking a sip.
“Cheers,” Angelina grins, forcing her way to George’s side. “No one else in this family is a starter for the Holyhead Harpies.”
It’s one of the best nights Ginny’s had in ages. Hermione is talking enthusiastically to Audrey about magical law, the two of them picking at a crumble; Ron is engaged in conversation with Bill and Fleur, bouncing Victoire while she makes grabbing motions at his hair. The associated feeling of safety when all of her family are under one roof has never quite worn off.
“Look who I found on the way in,” Neville says jubilantly, opening the door and ushering Luna and Hannah inside. “Collecting specimens on the walk over.”
Smiling, Hannah puts Luna’s specimen basket down near the door. Ginny welcomes her friends into hugs, getting slapped on the back, the congratulations wafting over her until she comes face-to-face with Neville.
“He’s on his way,” Neville reassures her. “He won’t miss this. He’s just filing some paperwork-”
“Paperwork?” Ginny frowns.
“Long story,” Neville rushes. “He was getting ready to leave when I left, it’s-”
“I’m here,” Harry says too loudly, the door banging open as he bursts inside. “I haven’t missed it all?”
“No, we’re just about to bring out the cake,” Molly says, sweeping Harry in for a hug. “Everyone go sit, sit!”
Knowing this does not include her, Ginny migrates to the kitchen, picking up discarded glasses and bottles of butterbeer along the way to dump in the sink.
“Ginny,” Angelina’s voice says, and Ginny jumps at the other woman crowding into the kitchen with her. “A word?”
Thinking this is about either Quidditch or her brother, Ginny nods and the two of them shuffle a few feet further away from the crowd.
“You didn’t hear this from me,” Angelina starts. So it is about her brother. Ginny braces herself. “George reckons Harry’s too caught up in work these days-”
“The Death Eaters are all gone, I agree,” Ginny says, folding her arms.
“So he’s done…well, he’s gone and decided to make most of your food taste like soap,” Angelina says with a wince. “As if you’re washing. All foam, bubbles, he nearly killed Verity in the shop the other day when he enchanted her tea-”
Ginny roars with laughter. Angelina starts, looking for spectators, but everyone is having such a good time that no one notices the lady of the hour’s laughing fit. She’s wiping away tears of mirth when Angelina continues, “I don’t know how he’s done it, but you’re guinea pigs for a new product, beats me. I do know-”
“Did you say both of us?” Ginny asks.
“That’s what I’m trying to say,” Angelina rolls her eyes. “The boys can have this their way, but I don’t want you choking on soap bubbles at practice.”
The wheels in Ginny’s head are turning. “How do you counteract the charm?” Ginny asks eventually, all mirth gone.
“You can’t,” Angelina says. “Scourgify, water, finite, evanesco – everything makes it worse. Except for this.” She palms her a potion.
“Understood,” Ginny says with a short nod. She hugs her sister-in-law, and with linked arms they head back to the party.
What Angelina failed to mention, however, was that the potion, while nullifying the effect of the magical suds, is not able to nullify the taste.
Within a few days, George expected one or both of them to make a scene – at the Burrow, when they’d all be having dinner together; nothing.
Somehow, Harry and Ginny are onto him. His best guess is that Harry’s Auror training has inspired him to check his food for poison in the vein of Mad-Eye, but George is sure there’s a way to slip him something at the Burrow that he can’t have checked. Ginny, on the other hand –
George brings her lunch at the pitch. She blithely eats her sandwiches and drinks her pop, thanks him with a big, wet kiss on the cheek, and hops back on her broom. He watches when she cooks. He observes her face while seated three down from him at Sunday dinner.
Maybe there’s actually a problem with his product? Two heads were always better than one, but Ron is no magical inventor. George examines more closely.
It’s well into summer when the first shot in the silent war between George Weasley and his little sister and her husband finally connects.
It’s a picnic; Ron and Hermione begged off to go do a “them” day, but Percy and Audrey are there as well as George, Angelina, Harry, and Ginny. George makes sure to cast the spell twice.
Ginny’s poker face is flawless, but Harry chokes on his fish and chips – food he probably thought safe, as they bought it off a vendor.
“Babe?” Ginny asks, her eyes wide.
Harry waves her off, and if George isn’t mistaken, there’s a hint of foam at his mouth. Whatever they’ve been doing to counteract the magic clearly isn’t up for a double dose.
So it is working.
George just needs to make it work better.
“Ginny,” Harry says wearily, clearing the plates after dinner, “I’m really tired of all my meals tasting like soap.”
“What do you want me to do about it?” Ginny asks innocently, casting cooling charms on the leftovers and placing them in the cupboard.
“Can we-” Harry asks, but Ginny whips around to glare at him. “I was going to say, can we ask Hermione to brew a stronger potion? George clearly knows that we know he’s slipping us something; I’m just sick of the taste.”
“Don’t you dare get Hermione involved,” Ginny snaps. “This is between me and my brother.”
“I thought this was about me working too much,” Harry says, bemused.
“He’s not affecting my career because he wants to lower your stress levels,” Ginny mutters angrily. “I can lower your stress levels well enough on my own, thanks.”
“D’you reckon something is going on with George and Ginny?” Ron asks Hermione quietly one Sunday in August.
Hermione looks up from the book on her lap to examine the situation. “Why?”
“Something’s funny,” Ron frowns. “Do you notice at mealtimes, Harry and Ginny won’t look at him, but all he does is look at them?”
Hermione actually places a bookmark in to watch at tea, and has to admit that Ron’s right. Harry and Ginny deliberately make conversation with everyone around them, eating mechanically, while George studies them with great interest from the other end of the table.
“Don’t get involved,” Hermione advises, and returns to her reading.
“Neville, don’t-!” Harry says, grabbing for the pasty that’s already in Neville’s mouth. Grabbing his arm, Harry forces Neville into the nearest washroom, where Neville gags on pink, round bubbles.
“Don’t go for the sink, mate,” Harry says, blocking it off. “I’ve been trying to find a way to counteract the charm for months now, but all I’ve got is this potion.”
After Neville stops retching long enough for Harry to pour a little of the potion in his mouth, the two of them lean against the wall in the loo, breathing heavily.
“George,” Neville says.
“I don’t know how he’s doing it,” Harry says, frustrated. “I keep sweeping for magic. Our kitchen is clean, but then it’ll happen at the Burrow, or when we’re out in Diagon Alley. I even got rid of all our pots and dishes and got new ones, it hasn’t made a difference-”
“Your brother-in-law has been poisoning your food for months,” Neville says slowly, “and you’ve been trying to stop him, while enduring the taste of soap with nearly all the food you eat, instead of letting him have his laugh and getting on with it?”
Harry shakes his head. “Mad, isn’t it? I can’t even remember what a chip tastes like. Gin almost went mad when I tried to ask her if we should give up, but I reckon she’s right, we’ve got to stand our ground.” Looking into the middle distance, Harry says thoughtfully, “I wonder whether I could get clearance to have a curse-breaker examine the house-”
“Didn’t Bill work as a curse-breaker for years?” Neville asks, confused.
“Don’t say a word to anyone in the family,” Harry says firmly. “We’re not getting anyone in there involved.”
The tension finally comes to a head in mid-September, on a beautiful fall day. Ginny’s just neatly won another match for the Harpies, and the Weasleys have quickly given up trying to celebrate every one of Ginny’s wins with an extra event; instead, Sunday dinners have quickly become a place of merriment for wins and commiseration for losses.
Ginny’s flitting around the kitchen, helping her mum with a treacle tart (Harry’s just wrapped up a long case as well) while the rest of the family lingers in the quiet between dinner and dessert. She’s taking a sip of the antidote Angelina gave them those months ago (that Ginny and Harry have been quietly replicating all this time) when her mum reaches a fork over and takes a bite.
“Mum, no-” Ginny reaches out, but it’s too late; her mum’s mum instinct to make sure her children’s food is all right has finally come in handy as well as bitten her in the ass.
Her mouth is foaming; Molly’s eyes grow wide with rage. “GEORGE WEASLEY!” she screams, bubbles spraying across the whole kitchen. Where they land, they multiply, until the whole place is slippery and popping with soap.
The whole family skids in to see what’s going on, and that’s when the chaos really starts.
“Really, George,” her father shouts, while Hermione and Angelina fall to their knees to help Molly to a chair. Hermione’s face is tight with concentration; with each silent spell she casts, the bubbles only increase.
“You can’t,” Angelina says, almost hysterical at the veins popping in Molly’s forehead. “Those kinds of spells only make it worse, I dunno how he’s been doing it for so long, but-”
“Here’s the antidote,” Harry says loudly, pushing through the throng. Percy is squawking at George something about that’s our mother, you prat and Bill is trying to get close enough to see, his wand tracing a pattern in the air.
“Thank you, Harry,” Fleur says gratefully, switching the baby for the potion.
“Just give it to her,” George says from where he’s being pushed out of the room by Ron.
“I will,” Ginny shrieks back, “When she can breathe!”
“You’re breathing, Molly,” Harry says, on his knees before her mum. “If you can, this is the antidote, we got it from Angelina, it’s how we’ve been surviving-”
With shaking hands, her mum manages two sips before the bubbles start to go away.
“You can rinse now,” George says weakly.
“I AM GOING TO-” her mum starts to yell, then bursts into tears.
“Mum, Mum-” Ginny says, suddenly horror-struck. Every scene of her mum yelling at the twins together flashes through her in that moment. “Mum, it’s alright, it’s just George, you’re alright-”
“I’ve been trying to figure out how you’ve been negating the jinx’s effect for months,” George says at Harry, his eyes straying to Molly. “Mum, I – I didn’t mean -”
Her mum rocks her, stroking her hair. “You’re all right,” Ginny whispers while Hermione holds Molly’s hand, even though none of them are really all right.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how you’ve been poisoning us for just as long,” Harry says back, shifting away from the women at the table. “I threw out the cookware, I’ve been buying food in Muggle shops – Ginny and I have nearly gone mad, the potion Angelina gave us didn’t do a thing for the taste, mate-”
Her mum is still crying, but the tears are slowing. “I’m not used – to just George,” she says, her voice watery.
“It’s a jinx attached to you, not the food, not the kitchen,” George explains, a miniscule smile breaking across his face for the first time – only a shadow of the delight he and Fred had used to display while giving a similar lecture. “I’d cast it every time I saw either of you. It’s in your watches.”
Both Harry and Ginny start and stare down at their wrists. Harry in particular looks as though he’s been personally betrayed by his timepiece.
To the surprise of everyone, Percy starts to laugh. Half the family turns to look. “It’s very clever,” Percy says defensively. “They’ve been associating it with food, not knowing they were carrying the spell the entire time-”
“Harry’s a bloody Auror and couldn’t figure this out!” Ron exclaims.
“Why do you think I’ve been so frustrated lately?” Harry says, defeatedly. “There’s only so many months a bloke can go pretending the food he’s eating is really food.”
“We thought you were going to go mad trying to catch us out,” Ginny gasps, suddenly in fits of laughter.
“I nearly did!” George says. “I thought I hadn’t developed the spell properly, I have been testing it, you know, but then I thought Harry was screening for poisons-”
“Have done,” Harry interrupts irritably.
“Perhaps you shouldn’t be testing products on family?” Hermione interjects loudly. “Someone could get hurt-”
“That’s why we have to do the tests-”
Indeed, Molly is still wiping tears from her eyes. But then she’s getting up from her chair, bustling round the kitchen (forcing the spectators back, assuring Arthur she is perfectly all right, and promising George swift comeuppance as soon as she gets the kitchen cleaned), and Ginny definitely notices a hint of a smile.
“Well, Weasley’s Stunning Soap is going to make a lot of kids crazy at Hogwarts this year,” Ginny says with a sigh as she finally excuses herself to the yard. Harry’s already there, looking parts both beleaguered and amused.
“I’ll have to remind Ron to put in a note about the name,” Harry says, shaking his head.
“Either way, George is gonna make a mint,” Ginny says, sitting on the steps. Harry joins her, and she leans her head against his shoulder. “You were such a trooper, love,” Ginny continues, snickering.
“This was the most effort I’ve ever put in to defy someone who wasn’t trying to kill me,” Harry frowns.
“Ah, now you’ve got a taste of what it’s like to have older brothers,” Ginny sighs. “Surrender and you’ll never hear the end of it. Look at Percy, he’s an easy mark.”
“So’s Ron,” Harry points out.
“Ah, but I am not,” Ginny says, almost glowing with happiness. “Teaches him to try and pull one over on the Potters, yeah? My husband’s the Chosen One, we’re not going down over some soap.”
Harry rolls his eyes. “I’ve gotta get George in the Ministry sometime to go over one of the cold cases where a witch was poisoned with belladonna, but I can’t figure out how-”
“All right, Auror Potter, but that’s for the work week,” Ginny says, holding her hand over his mouth. “For now, we just sit and watch the sunset and think about a midnight snack that we’re going to have-”
“There’s an ice cream parlor by a crime scene Neville and I went to last week,” Harry says enthusiastically –
“Fortescue’s,” Ginny interrupts, shaking her head. “If it’s going to be ice cream, it’s going to be Fortescue’s.”
For a few more moments they breathe together, hand in hand on the steps of the Burrow. Harry’s already disenchanted both of their watches.
“I can’t appreciate the sunset at all,” Harry says after just a minute. “Let’s go.”
Ginny stands up immediately, grabbing onto Harry’s arm. “Thank God. I’m starving and I’ve been craving chocolate for like three months.”
Between the sun setting on the orchard and their family still loudly debating the ethics of familial product testing, Harry and Ginny turn on the spot and disappear.