Molly Weasley welcomed her guest with a warm smile. He had just arrived and was in the process vanishing the dust from his bright lilac robes. Molly had been surprised when he had flooed and requested to come through. After all, with the term starting the next day, she hadn’t thought the headmaster would be making house calls.
“Ah, Molly.” Albus Dumbledore had his trademark twinkle in his eyes as he surveyed the Weasleys’ abode. “So good to see you. Thank you for allowing me to visit.”
‘You are welcome anytime, Albus,” Molly replied. “Would you care for a spot of tea?”
“Thank you for your kind offer.” Albus gave a pleased smile. “However, I must confess I’m here to indulge in curiosity, not refreshment. Minerva tells me that you have been so kind as to look after three special students at her request. I find that I must interview them before the term, just a bit of a precaution.”
“Precaution?” Molly scrunched her nose slightly. “Is there something amiss?”
“I think not,” Albus stroked his beard thoughtfully, “but still, an examination is in order.”
Molly studied the old man for a few seconds. “The children are all out flying at the orchard,” she finally said.
“Shall we then?” Albus gestured for Molly to lead, and they then made their way in the direction of the orchard. Well before they reached their destination, they spied one of the children flying preposterous patterns high in the air. A few seconds of observation showed purple hair, the color Minerva had said the winged pony had possessed. Dumbledore realized he could not allow her to be part of her house’s quidditch team, whichever house that may be.
Molly frowned at the seemingly reckless display.
“Most impressive.” Albus commented, “Her natural talent is shining through and I see young Percy is most vigilant, prepared to catch her if she falls.”
Soon, they came into the orchard and beheld the remaining children shouting words of encouragement as they circled Apple Bloom, who was unintentionally demonstrating the ability to fly upside down.
“Children!” Molly called. “Come on down! Professor Dumbledore would like a word!”
In ones and twos, the children obeyed. Soon they were gathered in front of the two adults.
Before the CMC was the oldest human they had met as of yet. Their first thought was that with his beard, he could easily have the title “the bearded”. Their second was that he was wearing an outrageously colorful dress. Yes, the humans called them robes, but the girls knew a dress when they saw one, even if it weren’t a proper pony dress.
“Ron. Ginevra. Apple Bloom. Sweetie Belle. Scootaloo.” Molly gestured to each child in turn. “This is Professor Dumbledore. He will be your headmaster at Hogwarts. And, of course, Professor, you know Percy and the twins already.”
Percy led a round of greetings.
“I thought you said Ginny wasn’t going to Hogwarts with us?” Sweetie Belle asked, catching the reference that this was to be Ginny’s headmaster also.
“She’s a year too young to be ready this year,” Molly corrected. “She’ll be joining you next year.”
“There’s an age limit?” Apple Bloom tilted her head slightly at the news.
“Indeed,” Albus agreed, as he discreetly observed the reactions of the ponies, “although it has more to do with one’s magical core being mature enough to handle training than one’s physical age.”
“So, she could go earlier if she matures her core?” Scootaloo continued the inquisition.
Dumbledore was intrigued. It had been less than two days, yet these ponies had seemingly accepted young Ginevra fully into their confidence. Or perhaps “herd” would be a better description. He chose his next words carefully.
“From what I have observed from her flying abilities, her core is already mature enough.” There was a hint of grandfatherly pride in his voice. “With signed permission, I see no reason why she could not start tomorrow with her brother.”
“Albus!” Molly was aghast, as well as proud of her daughter. “While I’m flattered you think Ginny could be schooled early, it’s simply not in our budget this year.”
At the insight, the crusaders quickly huddled together for a conference. Rapidly they exchanged hushed whispers and quickly came to an agreement.
Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle rushed to stand next to the two grownups at such an angle that it forced them to look away from the rest of the children.
“We’ll cover Ginny’s tuition so she can go early,” Apple Bloom announced.
Molly was rendered speechless for all of a minute. Dumbledore, however, continued his observations. Either these children didn’t realize the value of a galleon or they had access to resources beyond what he had guessed. Regardless, they were inclined to use their money for the benefit of one they had known for a very short time. Even though he was concentrating on the two in front of him, he did not miss perceiving Scootaloo as she grabbed Percy and Ginny and then dragged them toward the Burrow.
Gradually, Molly regained her composure and smoothed the front of her dress. “That’s very generous of you girls, but I don’t think you understand how much an education costs. We simply could not accept such charity.”
“It’s not charity,” Sweetie Belle insisted. “Discord gave us those gems for tuition and supplies. We got what we needed for the year, so there’s more tuition and supplies to go around.”
Apple Bloom nodded her head. “Besides, the best way to spend money is on friends an’ family.”
Though flustered, Molly was having none of it. “I’m sure Discord only had you in mind when he gave you tuition money. I’m sure he didn’t envision paying for every student in the school.”
“Actually. . .” Sweetie Belle rubbed her chin with her hand, a gesture that she did subconsciously. “It’s kinda hard to tell with him. One thing’s for sure; if it’s surprising and unexpected, he’d defiantly be all for it.”
Molly’s hands found her hips. “Girls, you’ve known us less than a week. I can’t have you spending that kind of money so haphazardly.”
Sweetie Belle shrugged. “It’s just some gems; my sister has loads more. Heck, we got ten more just sitting in the vault.”
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow at this comment. The casual dismissal of gems spoke volumes. Either these three came from extremely wealthy families or he was going to have to explain supply and demand to them -- that, and implore them to limit the number of gems they introduce into the economy. He rather suspected it was the second option.
Molly was flabbergasted. These girls simply didn’t grasp the immensity of what they were offering. Just because they had the funds to throw around for a bunch of expensive brooms didn’t mean they should just squander money on someone they had just met the day before. Instinctively, Molly realized it wasn’t pity that motivated the girls; they honestly just wanted Ginny to join them, but it was an offer she couldn’t morally accept.
“Ginny will be with you at Hogwarts next year,” Molly stated firmly. “She can wait until then.”
“Waiting a year while everypony else goes off to school is no fun.” Sweetie Belle pouted, displaying a devastating pair of puppy eyes.
“’Sides,” Apple Bloom advised pointing behind the adults, “Scootaloo has already taken her to get her supplies. Thar’s no reason to make her wait a year to use ‘em.”
Taken aback and missing the “everypony” comment, Molly pivoted on the spot for confirmation. Sure enough, there were children missing from where she had last seen them. She parted her lips to protest but was interrupted.
“Well now,” Albus Dumbledore chuckled and brandished his wand. “Now that that’s settled. Expecto Patronum.” Promptly, there was a bright figure before him. “Message to Minerva,” Dumbledore talked directly to his conjuration, “if you would, please prepare the paperwork for early admissions. It would appear that the youngest Weasley shall be joining us this year.”
All of the remaining Weasley boys and the two remaining ponies leaned in for a closer look.
“Aw, it looks like Philomena,” Sweetie Belle cooed just before the bird of light vanished.
Clearly satisfied, Dumbledore turned to Mrs. Weasley and said, “I do believe tea would be welcome after all. That is, if the offer is still open.”
Molly absently nodded her head, stunned into acceptance. “I should head to Diagon Alley to keep an eye on them.”
“I am sure Percy has the situation well in hand,” Dumbledore responded with warmth as he guided Molly in the direction of her own house. “He will be a prefect this year, after all.”
Dumbledore was feeling smug. Much enlightenment had been gained in a short amount of time. Most importantly, it seemed Sweetie Belle had indeed run from Minerva’s patronus because it was a cat and not due to the nature of the spell itself. This, coupled with them recognizing the form of a phoenix and being familiar enough to name one personally, spoke volumes toward their acceptability at Hogwarts, as did their swift and thorough inclusion of young Miss Weasley. Such a happenstance was much too favorable to be put at risk by making the girl wait until next year before coming to Hogwarts. Exceptions could easily be made.
Yes, much enlightenment had been gained in a short amount of time, all of it good.
Percy stood in the Leaky Cauldron’s courtyard with Scootaloo and his sister. He wasn’t sure why he had let Scootaloo drag him back through the floo system.
“Here.” Scootaloo took his hand and poured money from her purse into it. “You get her books and supplies, we’ll get her trunk, robes and wand.”
“I’m not sure,” Percy began.
“We don’t have time for you not to be sure.” Scootaloo stamped a foot as she tapped her wand on the bricks to access the alley. “We only have one afternoon to make this happen.”
“Scootaloo, we can’t possibly accept,” Percy began again only to realize he was talking to empty air. Sighing, he entered the alley for the second time in as many days, on the whim of the small purple-haired girl. “Mum is not going to like this,” he thought.
Meanwhile, Scootaloo was dragging Ginny down the street. She skidded to a stop in front of the trunk store and rushed in.
Dylan looked up in time to see one of his new favorite customers make her appearance with what appeared to be a young Weasley in tow. “Did you come to get your kitchen fixed as well?” he asked merrily.
Scootaloo stopped in her tracks and a look of dismay crossed her features. “You fixed Sweetie Belle’s kitchen?”
Dylan nodded. “Did she really do that with orange juice?”
Scootaloo’s face met her palm and she said, “You should see her try and boil eggs.”
Dylan contemplated this while Scootaloo regained her composure and the Weasley looked on in shock. “I’d pay good money to see how Professor Snape reacts to her being in his class,” he said.
“You’re the second to say that.” Scootaloo breathed in. “Anyway we need another trunk like ours in a hurry because school starts tomorrow so if you could get one ready we’ll pick it up in a bit but we have a lot of other things to get first fast so we’ll be back okay bye.”
Dylan blinked as the girls hurried out of his shop. Scootaloo’s words had come so fast that he could not keep up. He was pretty sure he just got one last trunk order for the school year.
Ginny was still following Scootaloo in a daze when they entered Ollivander’s shop.
“Ah, Miss Aloo, back so soon?” Ollivander appeared from the back of his shop. “I sincerely hope there’s nothing wrong with your wand.” He adjusted his gaze. “And a Weasley. I was expecting another one this year, but it seems I have the youngest before me instead.”
“Ron didn’t get his wand yet?” Scootaloo asked in confusion.
“He has to use Charlie’s old wand,” Ginny supplied.
“12 inches ash with a unicorn hair, I see. A good and proper wand, but having young Ronald use it, that is not a good thing.” Ollivander frowned as he circled Ginny examining her. “Every wizard should have his or her own wand. Your brother will not be getting the best results from a hand me down.”
“Ginny here is going to school early,” Scootaloo interrupted as she schemed on getting Ron in the wand shop before school started. “She needs her wand.”
“I see.” A tape measure put in an appearance and began to accost Ginny. “Shall we get started then?”
In short order, the two girls left the shop with Ginny in possession of a new yew wand and a holster.
“All that’s left is boring robes and we’re done,” Scootaloo all but cheered.
“Why are you doing this?” Ginny asked, pulling Scootaloo short. She was finding her luck too good to be true, and even though she was young, she was starting to worry over the other shoe.
“Doing what?” Scootaloo tugged on Ginny to get her to hurry, but the Weasley stood firm.
“Buying all this for me. Paying for my school.”
Scootaloo hopped from one foot to the other in impatience. “It’s what friends do for each other. Besides, Discord, provided the way for us to go to school; it would be selfish of us not to share.”
Friends? Ginny wasn’t aware that you made friends that quickly.
With another tug, they were off again to Madam Malkin’s, where they found they were the only customers. Everyone else had finished their shopping much earlier.
Ginny was in the middle of being measured when Percy entered. He didn’t appear to be carrying anything, so Scootaloo eyed him suspiciously.
Percy started handing her the change and said, “The shopkeepers where happy to shrink the parcels for me. Saved me the trouble of lugging them all around.”
Scootaloo accepted the explanation and went back to being bored watching the clothing expert.
Percy waited in silence a few minutes before asking, “Are you sure about this?”
Scootaloo looked at him questioningly.
“This is a lot of kindness and generosity toward strangers,” Percy prompted.
“You’re not strangers anymore,” Scootaloo explained. “Besides, Sweetie Belle’s older sister is the Element of Generosity. It kind of runs in the family.”
Percy was perplexed by this answer, but Scootaloo wasn’t finished.
“Besides,” she said, “I’m sure this will earn us side quest points.”
Percy decided to keep quiet. Brooms one day, school supplies for his sister the next, all without any sense of “I’m giving you charity”, it felt more like a friend offering to buy the next round of butterbeer. Confused, he watched his sister receive her robes.
After adults had left, the remaining children congregated under a tree. They were going to fly more, but there were things to be discussed first.
“Just like that, you're gonna pay for Ginny’s school?” Ron had the least tact and the biggest mouth.
“Yeah.” Apple Bloom agreed. “You don’t want to make her wait when she don’t have ta, do you?”
“I think, what our dear brother is trying to say,” George clarified.
“Is that even though we are incredibly grateful,” Fred continued.
“You have been throwing around money.”
“As if it were less valuable.”
“Than water,” they finished together.
“It’s not our fault that the bank was willing to give us a whole lot of bits for a few gems.” Sweetie Belle shrugged. “We’ve got more than we can use, so why not share?”
Apple Bloom nodded in agreement as she absently plucked a wildflower, popping it in her mouth to chew on. “Bleah!” She spat out her snack. “Hehe, got a rotten one.”
“They look delicious enough.” Sweetie Belle sampled one herself. “Bleah” was heard once more.
“If you’re going for inconspicuous,” one twin noted.
“You’re failing miserably.” the other concurred.
“Who in their right mind eats flowers?” Ron tactfully added.
“Um, everyday normal humans?” Sweetie suggested.
The twins shared a quick look. “So, you’re not human.”
“We’re cool with that.”
“But we strenuously recommend.”
“You don’t get sorted into Slytherin.”
“Awesome! What are you?” Ron excitedly demanded.
Apple Bloom shrugged, not even considering she shouldn’t answer. “We’re ponies.”
“Right. Go on and pull the other one.” Ron lost his excitement.
She didn’t understand what Ron had just said, but she understood the intended message. Nopony was going to call her a liar! Apple Bloom narrowed her eyes and removed her pendant.
Arthur Weasley came home to an unusual sight. His wife was sitting on the couch, watching the floo, a look of worry dominating her face. He could detect the smells of dinner from the kitchen and could hear the shouts of children at play from the direction of the orchard. Whatever was bothering Molly was enough for her to delay supper, but not enough to have her call the children in.
Arthur removed his hat and sat next to his wife. She silently reached out and took his hand in her own. “I’m just being silly,” she answered his unasked question. “Percy is looking after Ginny and Scootaloo over at Diagon Alley. I know he’s a responsible boy, but it’s all I can do not to go and check up on them.”
Arthur chuckled slightly as he hugged his wife. “Did she forget something she desperately needed for school?” He was surprised that Molly had let Ginny tag along, but had been married long enough not to give voice to that surprise.
“They went to get school supplies for Ginny. Professor Dumbledore has approved her early entry.”
Arthur was of two minds over the news. “That’s wonderful,” said his pride as a father. “How are we going to pay for it?” said his annoying practical side.
“The girls have offered to pay her tuition,” Molly stated. “They were very interested in our daughter joining them at Hogwarts this year.”
Arthur wasn’t as prideful as his wife, but he couldn’t just accept such generosity so readily. Once again, his wife answered before he spoke. “Dumbledore said it would be best to accept. He said the girls were a type of ambassador, and we should not risk offending them by refusing their kind offer.”
Now Arthur understood why Molly was conflicted. She wasn’t known for disagreeing with Albus Dumbledore.
Without warning, the floo flared and Ginny made her appearance. She quickly moved to the side to avoid the next traveler.
Scootaloo followed; she was getting good at tucking and rolling. The half second of airtime kind of made it necessary.
Molly was already hugging her little girl when Percy arrived.
Arthur addressed Percy. “Were there any difficulties?” After a shaken head in response, Arthur said, “Good, now go get everyone from the orchard; it’s time to eat and then pack for school tomorrow.”
Supper then passed without much hassle. None of the girls had any hesitation with the meat that evening, seeing how it was a pork roast. The only oddities were the analytical looks Ron keep giving the guests, while the twins carried on as if nothing had changed.
In due time, Ginny and the fillies were in her room once more, this time packing for Ginny. There was a knock on the door followed by the twins entering.
Without small talk, they got directly to the point. “While we respect your right to keep secrets.”
“We were thinking.”
“It might be a good idea.”
“If you would share your secret with Ginny.”
“We can vouch . . .”
“. . . that she can keep quiet.”
“Secret?” Sweetie Belle stared at the twins wide eyed. “What secret?”
The twins looked at each other then back at Sweetie. “If you could . . .”
“. . . please remove. . .”
“. . . your pendant, Sweetie Belle?”
“Okay?” and she did.
Ginny sucked in a deep surprised breath. “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHE’S SO CUTE!”
Scootaloo turned to the twins and deadpanned, “Sure, she can definitely keep quiet.” The twins had enough decency to look sheepish.
The scream had brought the elder Weasleys running. Wands drawn, they came upon the scene of their daughter hugging a little stuffed white animal.
“Ginny!” the stuffed animal gasped in Sweetie Belle’s voice. “I need to breathe!”
“Sorry.” Ginny relaxed her grip but didn’t let the small bundle of cuteness go. “But I just have to hug you.”
Molly put her wand away. “Sweetie Belle?” she asked what appeared to be a small white unicorn filly with Sweetie Belle’s eyes and a mane and tail the same shades as the child’s hair.
“Oh. Hi, Mrs. Weasley,” the little unicorn waved a hoof in greeting. “Sorry about the screaming. I think I startled Ginny.”
“Aren’t you a bit young to be an animagus?” Arthur asked, also putting away his wand.
“Maybe?” Sweetie Belle answered honestly.
“That is truly amazing.” Arthur patted her on her head. “Just remember, after you receive your owls, you’ll have to register your alternate form.” He looked at her for a few seconds more. “But, enough playing around. You leave on the express tomorrow and there is packing to be done.” He turned to the twins. “This means you.”
Once again it was just the girls in Ginny’s room. Ginny turned her gaze to the other two girls in wonder.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Apple Bloom shook her head. “Ah ain’t takin’ off mah pendant.”
“Me neither,” Scootaloo echoed.
“Awwww.” And the pouting commenced.
“Ginny? Could you let me go now please?” said the not so stuffed pony.
A trunk was packed, baths were taken and four girls laid down to sleep for the night.
The next morning, Molly woke the children well before first light. She then proceeded to make sure they were fed and had completed packing. The feeding was easy enough, but the Weasley children all had things that they realized they had forgotten, and there was much running up and down the stairs. Amused, the fillies sat on the couch and watched the show.
Percy appeared to have a new owl that his parents had apparently bought as a gift for becoming prefect. Ron produced a rat. He then preceded to have minor fit when Sweetie Belle asked if rats were good to eat. Apparently, they were not, and the rat seemed relieved when the fillies appeared to understand that.
“You may be taking to the whole notion of eating meat a little too well,” Apple Bloom told Sweetie.
Sweetie Belle gave a sullen look and muttered. “I’ll bet he’d go good with gravy.”
This caused Scootaloo to wonder if this meant Sweetie Belle might take it into her head to try to cook meat. The resulting image had more levels of wrongness than she was willing to contemplate.
The children were then herded out to a strange metal carriage. There was a compartment in the back where boys’ trunks where placed. It didn’t look like it should have room for one, let alone all four. However, the girls weren’t going to complain; they each literally had a small apartment in their pockets.
The seating on the inside was more spacious than what seemed possible from the outside appearance. When they were all seated, Arthur joined them. He took the front seat that had a strange valve like object situated in front of it. Was there steam involved here somehow? Molly took the front seat beside his.
After Arthur asked everyone if they were ready, the carriage started to move. It moved without anypony pulling it. It was a ponyless carriage! Well, it was if you didn’t count the ponies riding in it.
They passed many more carriages of all shapes and sizes, and eventually entered a more populated area. There were taller buildings, and humans swarmed everywhere. Soon, the carriage found a spot to stop, and the children filed out. While the boys loaded their luggage on some convenient carts, Arthur took the time to hug each of his children and tell them that he would miss them. He took extra time with Ginny; his youngest was going off to school a year earlier than he had planned.
Soon, he departed in the carriage, having to return it to "the Ministry". Molly then hustled the children down into a below-ground train station, the likes of which the fillies had never seen nor heard of before. True, they had trains in Equestria, but they all ran above ground. Besides, the air down here both smelled and tasted funny.
Molly shook her head and said, “Won’t you look at all the muggles walking around.” Then, to give either Ron or Ginny a chance to shine, “Which platform was it again?” After all, it wasn’t Molly’s first time to the platform, and was, in fact, the only magical platform in the station.
“Platform 9¾,” Ginny obediently chirped up, proud of her ability to answer the question.
“Right, then, off we go.” Molly nodded and started driving her small mob onward. She hadn’t taken a step herself when a young boy came hurrying up, pushing a cart of his own.
“Excuse me,” he asked politely with a hopeful voice. “Did you say 'Platform 9¾'?” He was a scrawny looking boy, and he wore ill-fitting, worn clothing. When he ran his hand through his messy black hair, Scootaloo caught a quick glimpse, just a glimpse, but more than enough for her eyes to notice. On the boy’s forehead was a scar; it was in the shape of a lightning bolt.