|SIYE Time:4:16 on 23rd June 2018|
The Weight of the After
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Category: Post-HBP, Post-DH/AB
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance
Warnings: Mild Language, Violence
Summary: As the trials against those complicit in Voldemort's regime begin, Ginny Weasley must come to terms with the worst year of her life- on record. But not every war story should be told.
Hitcount: Story Total: 1773; Chapter Total: 411
Awards: View Trophy Room
It's been three million years, but I'm finally reposting the story that is taking me my whole life to write. A lot has been rewritten, so start from the top. Thanks for reading! If you like, please consider reviewing and/or reblogging on tumblr. xx
Chapter 1: Is A Reluctant Request Really a Request?
August 12, 1998
For the first time in his life, Kingsley Shacklebolt is successfully running late. It’s quite the accomplishment, really; he is an intensely punctual man out of nature and necessity, and yet for the better part of the day, he has triumphantly managed to drag his feet and twiddle his thumbs and push the Dreaded Task of August 12th, as he has come to call it, down and down his to-do list. Of course, he understands the gravity of what he has been (unfortunately, begrudgingly) saddled with. He has been told more than once that such painful things are necessary for the sake of creating a better world with a better government, even though the kind of government he dreams of would prohibit the favor he has been sent to ask. But what Kingsley Shacklebolt has inherited is not a good government. Not yet.
Inherited? No– too optimistic. “Been damned with...” now that hits the target dead center.
Eventually, after three coffee breaks, a two-hour lunch, and a conversation he purposefully initiated with Gabbing Gabby from the Department of Magical Games and Sports, he can no longer kid himself. Kingsley Shacklebolt has always been loyal to law and order, and despite his reluctance to drag the battle-weary back into the fray, he knows that a good government will not arise without help from the citizens that nearly gave their lives for it. And it is for this reason, and this reason alone, that he finally picks up his feet and trudges through the tall grass of the Southern English countryside, towards a mismatched old house he has come to know quite well.
Pushing past the eight pairs of wellington boots strewn across the front stoop, he knocks a code on the chipped wooden door; short, short, long, short, long, short, long.
(War is a careful business.)
But his safety measures– double safety measures; the wards around the property won’t let just anyone pass– do nothing to quell the fears of those on the other side of the door. It flies open, creaking on its hinges with the force, and within seconds, Kingsley is on the other end of five wands.
(War is an untrustworthy business)
The front-most wand trembles in the hand Molly Weasley, her other arm stretched out in Mother Position, urging the owners of the four other wands back behind her. Her eyes scan her surroundings rapidly, but the panic shrouding her face brightens into recognition then relief, and before Kingsley even opens his mouth, he’s engulfed in one of her trademark hugs.
“Afternoon Molly,” he says in his deep, soothing tones, as he bends to embrace her. “Terribly sorry to have startled you, I should have sent word,” he adds, patting her back apologetically. The house takes a collective calming breath, and the atmosphere returns to the resting state it has been in for months–quiet, consuming grief.
Over Molly’s cloud of ginger hair, Kingsley nods at the wound-tight forms of Bill, Percy, Harry and Ron as they return to their seats at the kitchen table. They all nod back except for Ron, who merely grunts in greeting, entirely focused on journeying back to his beans on toast.
"Oh Kingsley, how lovely to see you! How lovely,” Molly gasps, relinquishing her tight grip on him to smooth the creases in his purple robes, then cupping her hands to her pallid cheeks. “I'm just knocking up some dinner right now, but I'm sure we have enough for one more. Will you be staying? Although, I haven't the faintest..." she pauses, her brow furrowing in barely-contained nervous energy. "Arthur didn't tell me you were coming ‘round, are you here to speak to him? Or– or to Harry?"
"Actually, I'm here to speak to Ginny."
Molly’s eyes widen. "Ginny?" she repeats, puzzled and apprehensive. "Why would you–,” she draws back warily, “why?" Over at the table, the boys trade confused glances.
Surprise flashes across Kingsley’s face before he can stop it, but he quickly replaces it with his most reassuring– and most deflecting– smile. He responds, gently, "Nothing to worry about, I just have a few questions for her. Won't take long. Where can I find her?"
Molly eyes him hesitantly for a beat, then another, then says, "She’s out flying in the paddock,"
Kingsley manages to uncoil some of the tension in her shoulders with a well-timed wink, and sweeps off towards the Burrow's massive backyard. The door creaks closed behind him, but not before Kingsley hears Ron whisper to his brothers and Harry, "what d’you reckon that's about?" to which Percy quickly responds, “regardless of the intentions of his business, we shouldn’t intrude– no, don’t intrude, Ron,” over the sounds of two chairs scraping on tiles.
Shaking his head, Kingsley treks through the tangled weeds on the edge of the field towards Ginny. She soars overhead, at least a hundred metres in the air, doing rapid loops on her broom. When she catches sight of Kingsley, she halts mid-trick, her plait swaying with displaced force.
Kingsley does not wave; he has been repeatedly reminded of the delicacy and formality of this situation, and according to several stiff mustaches, waving is firmly filed under informal, comma, fun. He does, however, draw his fingers to his palm once, beckoning her to come down.
"Kingsley," she greets him after she lands (hard, and by the look of it, deliberately carelessly), brushing windswept hair from her face.
He nods. "You don't look surprised to see me here."
She gestures to him from head to toe, still catching her breath. Then she says matter-of-factly, “If I were the kind of person that couldn’t figure out why you were here, you wouldn’t be here in the first place.” She gives him a dim, knowing smile. “I mean, if I’m wrong and the world is suddenly a very different place than I remember, I’ll take my birthday present now, before my unicorn-themed surprise party.”
The invitation to banter is out of place, and certainly all for show. But Kingsley is as well-versed in this craft as Ginny, and so he plays along and takes his turn: a standard chuckle, with three ha’s and corresponding shoulder shakes. Still, a heavy silence works its way in afterward, stretching taut between them, until Kingsley says, as quietly as if he were placating an injured animal, "we need you to come in, Ginny."
Her eyes quickly dart away, as if she’s processing what he said, but no one has ever mistaken Ginny Weasley as slow to the uptake and Kingsley won’t start now. Abruptly, she cocks her head to the side. "Hang on, wait– wait,” she says sternly. “Don't say anything else." She draws her wand from her robes and quietly mutters "muffliato," towards the shrubbery where Ron and Harry are undoubtedly attempting to eavesdrop. One of them mutters, “ah shite,” and Kingsley chuckles for real this time. Ginny stows her wand, apparently satisfied with her spells, and motions for him to continue.
"I know you've been expecting this. Everyone we've talked to so far has named you as the leader; has said you and Neville Longbottom were at the front of the action the whole time and took… the brunt of the punishment."
Ginny nods, still looking anywhere but him. "Well, that's because it's mostly true," she says vaguely, scuffing her shoes against the ground. “Am I going to be brought in for questioning?”
Concern washes over Kingsley. “This isn’t the regime forcing you to talk upon penalty of death. You’re not the one being put on trial.” He sighs and drags his hand down his face; bureaucracy is exhausting. “There are proper channels, official protocols for situations like these, and I want you to know that we would be following them if we had the time– or the infrastructure. The last thing I’d ever want to be is here on official orders.”
She shrugs, but there’s a curious look of resignation on her face that Kingsley has no frame of reference for. He goes on cautiously. “...We just want you to give us a clear picture. We’ve pieced some things together, but the line that connects all the stories is ‘talk to Ginny; if you want to get the truth right, talk to Ginny.’”
Her mouth thins grimly. “Yeah,” she concedes, “but the truth isn’t always what people want to get right though, is it?” Before Kingsley can pick that apart, she heaves a loud, frustrated grunt. "I know I have to, I know. It's just…" she shrugs, "it's not the sort of thing you want to talk about. Ever."
“You haven’t told them?” he guesses, not bothering to define who “them” is. Ginny begins chewing on her lip, still avoiding his gaze, and shakes her head. Kingsley reaches a comforting hand towards her, hesitates, and then places it on her shoulder. "This is far from an ideal situation, I understand. But talking about it could make the difference between a 20-year sentence and a life sentence."
Ginny's eyes flash, finally meeting his. "They're considering 20 years? Only 20 bloody years for what they've done?" she exclaims.
"That's why we need you to testify. You can give us more than anyone else. You can make sure they never see the light of day again."
Ginny juts out her jaw, a typical stubborn Weasley look. "Of course I'll testify. I was going to anyway."
Kingsley smiles, uncharacteristic relief etched on his face. "Brilliant. The hearing's on the eighteenth."
The smile she responds with, the kind of real brilliance only seen on someone stripped raw of feeling, is gone as quick as it came, replaced with a sense of urgency. "I appreciate it, you asking for my help now, instead of...," she trails off. "But let's do this as quiet as possible, and keep Mum away from the courtrooms as well, yeah? There's no way to stop those gits," she gestures towards the Burrow, "and it's bound to come out eventually anyway, but for now, please, Kingsley," she asks beseechingly, "after everything, she doesn't need this."
Kingsley nods, but sighs. "The hearing won't be a full court, but it'll be open to the public, including the press. There's nothing I'd like more than to ban anyone nonessential from attending, but we can't inhibit freedom of press when we've just got it back."
Ginny growls, but it’s more in acceptance than anything else. "It's a shame, really. I didn't want to deal with them finding out until a good while later. Like two years from now, under the influence of firewhiskey and mincemeat pies."
He frowns at her curiously. "How have you kept it hidden from everyone? Surely–”
Ginny cuts him off. "Makeup these days is bloody brilliant, don’t you know?” Her mouth twitches briefly, but then she shakes her head. “Mum's too out of her mind with grief to see anything anyway. Everyone’s preoccupied, and I've ..." she pauses, choosing her words carefully, "I've been in the air more than I've been on the ground lately."
Hours later, after Kingsley has been plied with food and has bid them goodbye, Ginny sits on her bedroom windowsill, staring hard at the sun sinking below the hills. Quite suddenly, she draws her wand and gives it a decisive flick. A silver horse emerges from its tip, triumphantly trotting around until it stops mid-air, gazing at her expectantly.
She leans towards it, and says in a clear, low voice, “It happened. We need to do it now.” The patronus bows its head and gallops into the distance.
August 18, 1998, 6:30 AM
Ginny huffs and punches her pillow, trying for the fifth time to go back to sleep since she laid down seven hours earlier, when her mother practically pushed her into bed, insisting that she’d need sleep to get through the “war records interview” the next day (it’s only a little lie, she keeps telling herself. Enough misdirection to prevent her mother’s fears about her from being realised). But her brain is her worst enemy on nights like these.
Her senses are on high alert; her ears pick up every sound, her eyes catch every little movement in her dark room, and so there's no point even trying to fall back into her subconsciousness. The trial is in less than four hours, and apparently she’ll add to the full effect by showing up in her wartime state: overtired and hyper-aware.
Giving up, she rolls onto her back and stares at her ceiling. She’s nervous; she’ll admit that now, in the confines of her own space. She’s not the one on trial– Kingsley did his best to convince her of that- but the seconds tick away like a time bomb, a countdown to questions that she is not prepared to answer. The nerves are obvious and reliable; they’ve always manifested as physically as they do mentally. But everything else is prickly to the touch and foggy to the eye. It isn't a new phenomenon; most emotions were luxuries last year at Hogwarts, and frankly, the numbness is an old, reliable friend that she’d have trouble parting with. It’s more fascinating than anything, really, in the grotesque way that everything is now. Even when faced with the funerals of her friends and her brother, Ginny hasn’t cried.
Her fingers subconsciously swipe under her dry eyes. Maybe there’s something wrong with her. Of course there’s something wrong with her.
She groans, thumping her fists on her bedspread; she wishes she could talk to someone. Well, (if there isn’t going to be sleep there might as well be honesty) she wishes she would talk to someone. It has always been easy to talk to Hermione, forced companionship in her second year making them sisters before they ever became friends. But even if she could settle the dispute between her wants and her refuse-to-dos, no one deserves the beast that clings to her back, not her family, not Hermione, not Luna, not Harry… not Harry...
(“Ginny?” Harry calls through a tin can, as she tears out weed after weed in the garden. But she doesn’t have time to respond. She needs to get them all out now.)
(“Hey, Ginny,” Harry mouths, interrupting her count of the cracks in the kitchen table. She sighs. Now she has to start all over.)
(“Ginny. Ginny. Ginny.” Her head snaps up, and Harry frowns at her from his perch in Hagrid’s arms, his legs swinging limply with every wracking sob from the half-giant’s body, her brother’s agonizing yells deafening her left ear–
“I–, um,” he stutters, as he draws back his outstretched hand, “we saved you a slice of treacle tart if you want it.”)
She pinches the bridge of her nose, hard, digging her nails in. Harry is complicated. She laughs out loud at her own understatement. Everything is complicated.
The thing is, the war is over and people are dead, and when things like that happen, the living sink their teeth into each other; they claw at each other’s arms in desperate attempts to hold onto something, and she and Harry were no exception. But the world stitched up its fractured pieces faster than she could do for her own miserable, jagged wreck, and so the plan she’s made is to stick herself together with glue and follow in its tracks, no matter how much her bones rattle around in their fragile casing. She doesn’t know how a journey like that is supposed to go, but she thinks it isn’t one that supports the company of others.
At least, this is the overdramatic soliloquy she’s been reciting.
She lays there for another half hour before giving in to the onset of hunger pangs. When she pads downstairs, it’s just her luck to find her mother, father and– she closes her eyes; of course– Harry, all seated at the kitchen table. As soon as her mother glares at her with her eyes narrowed, Daily Prophet in hand, Ginny’s stomach sinks. She’s caught. She curses under her breath; she was relying on her mother's nearly three years of dedicated avoidance of that blasted paper to help keep her secret, but of course she's back to reading it now.
"Ah good, you're up for your big interview!" she says, putting on the falsely cheery voice she adopts when sniffing out lies. "Funny, I didn't see any mention of it in the paper. But there is a hearing against the Carrows today. Do you know anything about that?" She enunciates her last word by slapping the Prophet on the table.
Ginny bites her lip, searching for a way out, but the lightbulb in her brain specifically used for lying to her mum pitifully sputters on and off with every aborted idea that flies through her mind. She has less than half a plan, but then again, lying has never been easier for her. So she starts by edging a cautionary hand towards her mother, subconsciously using the rules for approaching a hippogriff.
"Fine, yes I’m testifying. But mum, listen, before you go bonkers–”
“Before I go– I can’t believe you! Who put you up to this? Was it Kingsley?”
“What was going through your head when you agreed?”
“Why didn't you tell me?” Her mum is all rapid-fire, dramatically throwing her hands up in the air and then landing them on her hips in a familiar, dangerous position that means that Ginny better work fast. If only she could get a word in edgewise.
“Because, because– mum, listen to me!” she insists as her mother continues to mutter angrily. She halts mid-word and glares at Ginny, waiting for an explanation.
“Because,” she begins again, “it has nothing to do with me. I am just a witness, barely even a– a bystander to…” War is war and hell is hell. It’s a goddamn mantra.
She has to recalibrate. She heaves her best overwhelmed sigh, slowly transitioning her demeanor into something that she hopes looks like Standard Grief™, the only type that people seem to find acceptable. “It’s about what I saw. The students who were mistreated during the year, and the ones who died,” she says, but then she panics because that’s too much information. “In the battle,” she adds hastily.
Her mother isn’t convinced, naturally. Her frozen facade doesn’t even melt a degree. "You actually expect me to believe that this has nothing to do with you? That there isn't anything you're not telling me?" Her voice has reached a frantically high pitch.
“How could there be?” she snaps. Suddenly, pretending is too hard to do. Ginny is angry. “I did nothing but watch my friends charge forward and fight and die for what they believed in. You made quite sure of that.”
The last part comes out in an intoxicating and triumphant bite, like it’s part of an old, well-worn argument, the kind you bring up on Christmases and birthday dinners for an adrenaline fix. But any satisfaction quickly disappears as her mum’s face falls, her breath hitching in the quiet way that it does whenever her children truly hurt her. Out of the corner of her eye, she can see her father’s disapproving gaze. Ginny has to remember which version of herself she is supposed to be here.
She takes a slow, calming breath. "I’m not trying to start a fight,” she says. “But I’ve told you a thousand times, I am a pureblood. They weren't the least bit interested in hurting me beyond reprimands." Liar, liar, liar, the nasty voice in her head chants. She grits her teeth. "I'm just– I’m giving the friends I lost the chance to get justice, Mum. It'll be boring, honestly. There’s no need to worry."
"No need to worry?" her mother repeats incredulously. "Well, I may just go to this hearing–”
"No!" Ginny interrupts desperately. "No," she tries again, attempting to regain the casual air she had before. "Mum," she puts her hand on her mum's shoulder in what is supposed to be a placating manner, "honestly, I'll be fine. There's no reason for you to go all the way to the ministry to hear me speak about other people. Besides, isn't Andromeda coming round with Teddy later? No sense in missing that little midget and his party tricks." She’s reaching, but it’s better than nothing. It’s better than anything else.
Her mother opens her mouth to argue once more when her father interjects.
"Molly," he says firmly, "Ginny knows what she's doing, and if she says not to worry, we shouldn't worry."
Her mother gives her one more look of mingled worry and consideration. "Okay, fine,” she says finally, then adds, pointedly, “I trust you."
I trust you, the parent’s most lethal weapon. I trust you, a phrase made of a labyrinth in a hall of mirrors. I trust you, a scheme designed to make shame eat children from the inside out. Ginny navigates the maze by heart now, but it doesn’t lessen the sting.
She swallows thickly and musters up a strained smile in response, darting her gaze away from her parents as quickly as possible without raising more suspicion. Deciding a piece of toast would be a good contender to throttle the guilt dancing in her stomach, she goes to sit across from Harry. He stayed surprisingly silent throughout her conversation with her mother, but he’s looking at her with an expression that she doesn’t like. You like all of his expressions, she thinks before she can stop herself, and, dammit, are all inner voices as treacherous as hers?
Twenty minutes of sleepy silence later, her father refolds his newspaper. "Well, I'm off everyone, see you later tonight."
"When will you be back?" her mother asks casually, or at least tries to; the line of her spine is noticeably tense, and she’s struggling not to glance up from the pan of bacon she’s frying. Concealing emotions has never been any Weasley’s strongest suit. Her father smiles fondly at the back of her mother’s head.
"Not until late,” he replies. “We're still bringing in hundreds of cursed objects every day, and it doesn't look like it'll be stopping soon, with all the Death Eaters we haven't rounded up waging bloody guerrilla warfare.” He kisses his wife, bids Harry and Ginny goodbye, and disapparates.
"Harry, shouldn't you be heading off as well?" her mum asks, waving a spatula in his direction.
"Yeah Mrs. Weasley, I’ll be off soon." He casts a glance at the ceiling, "I'm just waiting for Ron to greet the land of the living so we can go in together."
Her mum rolls her eyes, "oh that boy, he'd sleep for eternity if I wasn't there to wallop him out of bed," and she heads upstairs to do just that. The minute she’s out of sight, Harry rounds on Ginny, who, idly spreading jam on her piece of toast, jerks her head towards the stairs her mother just disappeared up and says, "Subtle."
He ignores her. "You're lying," he says knowingly.
Ginny extends her time to answer by cramming the entire piece of toast in her mouth. She chews slowly and takes a long, slow sip of tea, but the thing nobody thinks about is how much effort charades take, and how long a person can keep one up is entirely dependent on how much patience said person has.
"Yeah,” she admits, nodding. She draws out the word into a vocal fry; a long, gravelly “ahh”.
Ginny rolls her eyes so hard she probably looks half-possessed. "Okay, right, this is already too dramatic for me, so here’s the bottom bloody line," she grabs Harry's hand and makes him look her straight in the eye. "I am going to be saying things at this hearing that mum shouldn't hear. I don't care if you and the idiots do, bugger it all" she says, once again referring to all her brothers in one fell swoop. But then the reality of what she just said crashes onto her, and she frowns. "Well, I do care, but the last person who needs this is mum. So I'm really trying to make sure she doesn't get wind of anything, do you understand?"
She’s expecting a protest of some sort, so it’s rather alarming when worried determination crosses his features instead. "Get wind of what? What are you going to be testifying about? What is it– what is it you're not saying?"
"It's nothing to throw a fit about. Just the thrill of democracy in action," she says sarcastically.
"Ginny–” he repeats, sidestepping her joke.
“Why do you keep saying my name?” she grumbles, accidentally saying it out loud. For the love of Merlin, she groans internally. But no– miraculously, it actually trips him up. He stops in his tracks, cheeks growing red.
"I– what? I don’t– what? No, Gi– look,” he says, shaking his head irritably, like a wet dog. Ginny almost bites her lip to keep from laughing, but then he says, “what I’m saying is, you can tell me. You can tell me what’s going on with you.”
If he actually thinks that she’ll just grab onto that offer like a helping hand, he has another think coming. She raises her eyebrows in exasperation and purses her lips in a tight, thin line. At this, naturally, he becomes even more determined than before, and on his second attempt, he goes right for the jugular.
“Something is wrong. Something is still wrong.” It's a statement, not a question. It barely scratches the surface, but it's enough that the walls start to close in around her, enough that her breathing rhythm goes from waltz to foxtrot. Her heartbeat thumps in her ears, stifling everything else, but when he leans forward, his focus on her sharp and blinding like sunlight on broken glass, his voice is unnaturally loud and clear. “What happened? What happened to y–”
"Don't," she gasps out. "Just… don't."
There is an excruciatingly long silence, a battle of wills that she did not ask to be a part of, and then, in a rare defeat, Harry falls back in his chair. “Okay,” he says, and he lets out a resigned sigh. “I won’t.”
He’s still looking at her though.
His gaze is so earnest, so ready to aid, and if she closed her eyes and just… stopped for a moment, they could be sitting under a willow tree on the edge of the lake, pressed close against the early summer wind, battling it out over who could tell the worst joke. But no, no they’re not; they are here at the other side of the end of the world, and a jar of blackcurrant preserves is the only thing cushioning the suffocating space between them.
“Look, I don’t know what you think you know, but there’s nothing to tell. Everything is fine,” she tells him. “I’m fine,” she throws in at the last second, and with it goes any hope of convincing him to back off.
He gives her a disbelieving look. "Oh, well now that you say you’re fine, I can just forget all about it, right?" he deadpans, a match point against her earlier sarcasm. She glares at him, then heaves a heavy sigh at her own lack of foresight; after this spectacular display, he’s probably more likely to go than before. He might even make a grand entrance just to prove a point. How he keeps up his nobility act, she’ll never understand, because it sure as hell seems exhausting from her end.
Harry works his jaw in what looks to be an almost painful way, then tries and fails to say something twice. He grunts in frustration and finally says, "Just… are you alright?"
An astonished snort punches out of Ginny before she can stop it, and then she’s shaking through giggles, clutching her chest to catch her breath. It isn’t the reaction Harry expected, given the increasingly concerned look on his face. Once she manages to contain herself, she chokes down one more laugh and smiles at him, ruefully. "Don’t ask a question if you don’t really want the answer."
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