|SIYE Time:2:58 on 17th August 2018|
In The House of the Quick and the Hungry
By Laura Laurent
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Category: Post-HBP, Buried Gems
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Other, Ron Weasley
Genres: Angst, Comedy, Drama, Fluff, General, Humor
Story is Complete
Summary: The finer aspects of Ginny Weasley's life, all entwined, in their own way, within the story of how she wound up with Harry Potter.
THIS STORY IS NOW COMPLETE!
Hitcount: Story Total: 43773; Chapter Total: 3818
Happy Halloween! The beginning has a touch of spookiness in the spirit of the season, but in the end it works out fine. I promise.
The Ugly Duckling Manifesto
Who agrees that most people are really much wiser than your average person.
For days and weeks (and ultimately months) after Percy died I lived my life as an emotional fugitive: on the go, always on the run from that idle time in which I might be able to think about things. Things. Most of which were between Percy and me–my anger with him for leaving the family and thinking he could rectify that mistake by simply killing himself, with my simultaneous inability to feel anything but emptiness and regret that he was really dead, all jumbled in with the complicated question of whether or not I would change what happened that night by the garden wall if I had the chance–every time I smiled or laughed or felt some good emotion come back to me it was ruined by wondering if my small happiness was worth my brother’s life.
But that was all to be expected. Anyone with any imagination at all would understand the pressures of those things. What was harder–nigh impossible to know–was that until the moment when Percy jumped in front of me, I had forgotten completely that he was even there with me, because my mind was racing with the things I’d overheard. That was a more gruesome egg of knowledge I was hiding from view.
I told Lupin of course, who was one of those chosen to run the Order after Dumbledore died, and he took the intelligence with a solemn nod of his head and a small word of thanks, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell my family–not even Fred. That first morning, after Harry had told us the bad news–that Voldemort was still alive and probably regrouping, I knew that the thought on all of their minds was the same: so all we’d lost that night had been for nothing.
Why? They must have wondered. What had been the purpose? Little did they know that I knew exactly what the battle had been for, but for as painful and gut-wrenching as their questions were, I knew the reasons why were somehow much worse. The Deatheaters had come to make a cloud of battle smoke and confusion, and in that cloud they planned to steal away with a single person, and with any luck for them by the time we noticed Ginny’s absence it would have been too late.
That plan, thankfully, had not come to fruit, except in my dreams, where it was muddled in the muck of all that pertained to Percy.
I walked across an empty field where just minutes ago a massive battle had been raging. Small fires smoldered in the ruins around me, but I was in a hurry. I had to find Percy, I had to help him... he was going to die alone if I didn’t get there soon.
I found him at last in our garden between the dahlias and the tomato bushes, but he was already dead. He was cold–already rotting, his skin was waxy and white and for some reason his hair was green; I knelt beside him and my insides burned with rage and guilt. And then he asked for Ginny.
The bottom of my stomach suddenly seemed to have fallen out. I panicked–how could I have forgotten to find Ginny? I stood up as fast as possible, partly to get away from the awful smell of him... I ran off and searched everywhere I could think of but she wasn’t anywhere. All these people would appear for single moments around me–I’d ask them if they’d seen her; they’d all shake their heads and then be gone.
Finally I began looking through the house, checking all the cupboards, cabinets, and even the drawers. I looked in every room what felt like more than once, and I was back to search the kitchen again when I heard something scratching at the backdoor. I jumped–I think I felt my heart hit the back of my mouth: Percy’s face peered in through the window in the door, still rotting and waxy.
"Where’s Ginny?" he called.
The blood was pounding in my ears so hard it hurt, my voice shook as I answered, turning my back to him,
"She’s right here," I called, "Just a second!"
I didn’t lose her–I swear I didn’t lose her.
"Where is she?" he called again, and I heard the handle on the door slowly turn,
"No!" I whirled around to face him and magically locked the door in my panic, "Just hold on a second, she’s–"
But the words were dead before I’d said them as I spied something red swaying vaguely off in the distance behind Percy’s cold shoulder. Every vessel in my body seemed to dilate wider in horror and I prayed that Percy wouldn’t turn around and see it: just beyond the garden wall from a dirty rope hung in the giant elm where we built our treehouse, Ginny swinging.
Percy’s head turned around painfully slow and back again, but his hair had vanished completely and his eyes were red, as he said with this cruel grin pulled taut across his face, until the skin began to split and he bled,
"There she is!"
I screamed until I found myself on a makeshift bed with hoarse lungs in the dark. Someone flicked on the lights and blinded me again as they grabbed my hand and tried to wake me,
It was Ginny.
She was alive. It was a dream. I took a breath as if the whole time I’d been underwater and I opened my eyes, hugging her fiercely as I began to cry–partly because I was deeply upset, but I don’t think there would have been tears if it weren’t for the bloody lights.
"Shhh..." she wriggled a moment, situated herself, and then settled, running her fingers in comforting circles on my back. I felt a bit absurd, being twenty years old and crying on my baby sister’s shoulder, but then again just a few days ago Percy had died to save me , and just this afternoon I’d given his eulogy: so stranger things than crying had happened.
As the tears began to stop I wondered if Ginny had heard me say her name in my sleep, if that’s why she was here. Because if so, I would be forced to tell her what I’d been avoiding telling anyone for the past four days.
Even if she hadn’t heard me I knew I should tell her–that it was the decent thing to do. Fred told me that afternoon what I’d been guessing since the battle at the Burrow–that Ginny and Harry already had a bit of a history going, and that Harry had been avoiding her all year in desperate hopes of making people believe he had no feelings.
And now, in her distress and his renewed vigor in the mission, she was beginning to believe that she had imagined the entire thing. Fred said she was being ridiculous, but it was the sort of ‘ridiculous’ he used when he was only mostly certain himself. And I held the missing piece of the puzzle, but I didn’t want to share it. When I thought of how guilty I’d been feeling lately, the nightmares I’d been having... I just didn’t want her to have anything to do with it.
I sat up and looked around me: I was camped on the couch in the living room in the only house that had space left for people who’d lost their homes–Harry’s, in Godric’s Hollow. Harry had been making himself scarce around the place for the past few days, but we got the feeling, judging from the neatness, that this was none too unusual.
Ginny was watching me with real concern in her eyes, and I cracked a sheepish smile. "That was embarrassing. You’ve now got official dirt on me for life."
She looked pained, and shook her head. "No, I’d never do that–"
I arched an eyebrow skeptically.
"Are you alright?" she asked, changing the subject a bit.
"Oh well, I will be."
She looked unconvinced.
"I reckon none of us are ‘alright’ at the moment, are we?"
She bit her lip and looked off in thought. "No, I don’t suppose so."
"How are you holding up?" I asked, beginning to feel a titch worried by the troubled expression that was now pervading her features.
"Oh–I’ve been better," she said humbly, wrapping the afghan tighter around her shoulders. She never did beat around the bush much when it came to telling how she felt. There was a long pause in which I grew exponentially more curious. To be honest I was probably looking for a calm, easy place to tell her what I knew I had to eventually, and I wasn’t really that concerned with how she was. Sounds harsh, but it’s just the truth.
"Knut for your thoughts?" I asked casually.
She looked at me. "I was about to ask you the same thing."
This was it, here was my chance...
"I’ll make you a deal: I’ll tell you what I know, if you’ll tell me... what I already know but haven’t had confirmed yet."
She looked at me quizzically.
"What’s the deal with you and Harry?"
She rolled her eyes and groaned, "Oh for the love of sorcery! I’ll just type it up and smack it on a brochure, shall I?"
"If you think it’ll help..."
"We went out in his sixth year, for a couple of weeks, towards the end–we didn’t tell you lot because... well Harry said it was because he didn’t want the letter to be intercepted, but I think he was probably more worried that Hedwig would reach the Burrow safely, if you get my drift..."
I shrugged. "Yeah, well, the guy’s had crazier ideas."
She started to make a sarcastic retort but stopped herself mid-word, "You’re joking, right? I know you like grilling me about my boyfriends and making threatening gestures at them but...you wouldn’t be all vigilante on me if I actually liked the bloke, would you?"
Ginny seemed to realize the implications of her words at the same time I did, but though her face turned a little pink and she looked slightly embarrassed she didn’t backpedal.
"You mean you didn’t like Dean or Mitchell? Despite the fact that you went out with them for months and snogged them in corridors?"
"No!" she said sullenly, "I didn’t use Dean or Michael if that’s what you’re getting at..."
There was a pause. She looked thoughtfully at a water ring on the coffee table, "But I really did like Harry the whole time, you know."
"No, that’s–news to me."
"Well I did, but pining after him was just getting me down so I decided I wasn’t going to wait around anymore hoping he’d get new glasses and suddenly think I was pretty or something, and so I got a boyfriend. And–I have to tell you–it does wonders for the self-esteem."
"Thanks for the tip. I’ll keep that in mind."
She snickered, "Do."
"But you were saying..."
"I don’t know... It’s just nice, when you’re a hormonal, touchy adolescent to have a— shallow boyfriend to help you deal with all your shallow insecurities because, you know, few people look their best at fifteen." She said this with the tone used when stating the obvious.
"Actually," I said, suddenly feeling very truthful, "You are pretty."
She gave me a pleasant smile that said she was taking the compliment with a grain of salt.
"No really–you might not think so because no one ever says anything about how you look anymore, and everybody used to tell you all the time that you were really beautiful, when you were small, but that’s because back then you were actually really ugly–we felt a bit bad for you," I gave a small pause in case she wanted to hit me, but she didn’t. I sighed,
"But now you’ve grown up, and you’re so pretty–altogether too pretty, and now none of your family would be caught dead saying you look nice because we’re afraid it’ll go to your head, or worse: everyone else’s."
Her eyes widened for a long moment, and then she burst out into the giggles,
"You’re mad," she laughed.
I smiled and shrugged, "Yeah, well, there you have it."
"Was I really homely?" she asked gleefully, clutching at my arm.
"You know that pet name Dad used to call you?"
"What? You mean Ducky?"
"Yeah, well it was actually short for Ugly-"
"-Duckling! No way!" she laughed even harder, throwing her head back against the couch mirthfully. It took her a few moments to settle back down. She scooted up next to me and leaned on my shoulder, "Tell me more." She said happily as we stared across at the cold, darkened hearth as if it were glowing with fire-breathing salamanders.
"Well, what do you want to know?"
"About how ugly you were way back when or about what a hot little item you are right now?"
I felt her cheeks form a smile against my shoulder, "Whichever you have more to say on..."
"Well there’s not much to say about you being ugly–you were well nigh hideous, actually–mostly I guess it was just because you didn’t take very good care of yourself: you were always burnt to a tomato, your hair was long and stringy, you were missing most of your teeth, you sort of looked like you’d been raised by wolves, all told."
" Everyone fancies you."
"What?" she said skeptically, "How would you even know?"
"Well okay, last time we checked, everyone fancied you."
She sat up and gave me a penetrating stare, "Like who?"
"You mean besides the slew that you went out with?"
"No no George–" she said with a small smile, as if I had mispronounced a foreign term, "Not ‘slew’: two ."
"Poh-tay-toe, poh-tah-toe," I drawled emphatically.
She crossed her arms in front of her,"Well fine, who else then?"
"Let’s see, there was of course that little Lee Jordan fiasco, and let’s see... oh! you remember that incident right before the holidays–when Corner and that Zabini kid got into that brawl in the corridor–and Filch had to shoulder-check Corner into the wall?" I stopped to smile a little wistfully at the memory.
Ginny rolled her eyes, "How could I forget?"
"I heard some rather interesting tidbits on the subject just recently: apparently Zabini was jealous and made some lewd remarks about you–"
She made an irritated sound and flopped back against the couch and said incredulously, "Please, that is such a load of piss!"
"Hey- don’t kill the messenger."
"Michael hates Blaise Zabini with a burning passion, and Zabini just loves to see Michael suffer, it had nothing to do with me."
"If you say so..."
"Mm. I do."
"Well fine, but there were more... Harper, Stephen Cornfoot, those two useless pipsqueaks we had for beaters that year, Dennis Creevey"–she made a face at this–"the Hufflepuff keeper, the Slytherin keeper–you know that’s why you were able to score so many times, right? Oh, and, of course: Zacharias Smith."
"WHAT?" Ginny’s eyes looked to be in danger of falling out of her head.
"Oh come on, Ginny–think about it: he hates everyone in the DA, and doesn’t seem all that excited about the cause, and yet he comes to every single meeting? because who was the one spreading the word in his year? He pays you so much attention that you should be able to buy a better broom with it by now, Ginny."
Her mouth hung open. "But I hated him! He hated me!"
I shook my head. "Unless ‘hate’ means ‘is totally and completely whipped for’..."
The poor girl looked at the room around her as if it was coated in moon dust. "I don’t get it, how do you know all this?"
"Come now, we make it our business to know these things."
"No, you make it your business to joke about these things."
"Except where our only little sister is concerned. What kind of brothers would we be if we didn’t keep an eye out? If we didn’t protect our sister’s–"
Ginny's eyes flashed at me. "Finish that sentence, I dare you."
She didn’t scare me.
"Well don’t say you don’t need it," I snapped, suddenly feeling rather uncomfortable.
"I don’t need it."
"Yes you do, Ginny," I said loudly, "You do need it. You can’t just pull off a Bat-Bogey Hex and expect us to believe you can actually take care of yourself when you’re completely stupid about men and how they think."
She sputtered incoherently.
"You’re either oblivious to how people react to you or you’re shite at interpreting it, because you’re always caught completely off guard when you find out someone fancies you, no matter how obvious it might have been, and you don’t ever stop to think about what you’re doing or what message you’re sending."
I was getting more worked up by the minute. "You can’t just go around thinking that just because you’re not planning on taking things too far that blokes aren’t, or that they’ll just back off and respect your wishes once they’ve got you holed up in a broom closet with their tongue down your throat. I don’t know if you do it on purpose but you put yourself out there with this little-spunky-tough-girl attitude and it just makes sickos and perverts want to break you."
There was a furious pause.
"Don’t talk to me about sickos and perverts and breaking little girls," she spat venomously,
The response I fired back was instinctive. "Fine, I’ll talk to you about wild, impulsive, half-mad thirty-six-year-old fugitives, shall I? Or about how you apparently were the one who came onto Sirius Black!"
I couldn’t believe I’d said that. Her face was expressionless. I had once promised myself I’d never think about that night again–never mention it again. She blinked. I couldn’t believe I’d just said that... She blinked some more as her eyes began to grow watery.
"Believe me," I croaked, misinterpreting her tears. "No one wants to forget that night ever happened more than me, but it did, so you can’t look me in the eye and tell me you can take care of yourself."
That's when I noticed she was looking angrier than I’d ever seen her in her life.
"Shut up." She blinked the tears furiously away, "Shut up. Just because you think the worst about people all the time and just because you’re fixated with sex doesn’t mean everyone else is. Believe me, I’m pretty bloody aware of manipulation at this point and that’s not what it was."
"Oh what was it then? Real love?"
"No," she said loudly, "it's a little thing called empathy, ever heard of it?"
I couldn't say anything to this, and I merely sat there as the bitterness in her tone died away.
"I was feeling sad and depressed and so was he, and we just–related. He just understood how I felt, and I understood him, in the weirdest way–it was almost like I’d been there before.”
She gazed almost unseeingly at me for a moment with these wide sorry eyes that, no matter how certain I was that I was right, made it hard to disregard what she was saying. It gave me an odd sensation that cut through to my bones–I had that eerie feeling you get just before something important happens, like tiny springs all through your insides are being coiled by the atmosphere. The watery lonesomeness hardened into a diamond shine and her gaze became a glare.
“And I felt better when the conversation was over, so I kissed him goodnight. I’m not completely sure why I did it, but in retrospect maybe it was just to spite you."
I swallowed, my jaw clenching and unclenching. Sometimes, when you spend your life being unflinchingly trenchant, you forget about certain things–like apologizing, and sometimes it just doesn't occur to me to say I'm sorry. She must have thought that I wasn't listening, because she tried again.
"You can’t stop thinking about me like this eleven-year-old, star-struck little girl, but believe it or not I know I’ve made mistakes and, unlike some people, I’ve put them behind me. You still feel guilty, don’t you? For having ever let it happen in the first place?"
The expression in her voice was softening again.
"I love you, you miserable jerk! I never thought you failed me for a second, but you just keep insisting that I’m not alright, and you need to stop, because it’s ruining everything! You’re just hurting everyone more when you take on all this blame–and it’s made so much worse because you don’t let anyone see it. You just laugh it off, but I can tell, you’ve got this stupid chip on your shoulder, and now you're moping around, thinking you’re the only one who knows that Voldemort’s after me, and that you have to protect me somehow from the truth and the Deatheaters. Don’t you see how ridiculous that is?"
She ran out of steam at last. I stared at her a moment, grappling with this feeling that I was falling apart, and yet nothing was breaking. It was almost relief–like pieces of a person that were sick of being stuck together were just falling away and heading in a new direction.
"Shh!" she hissed, enveloping me in a hug.
"Please George,” she said quietly. “No matter how positively you look at things right now they totally suck. Please don't make them suck more than they already do."
I smiled a little, still feeling rather confused at what had just happened. It would be a long time before I came to see the truth and began to trust in what Ginny had said, but the slow unraveling of my ball of inner turmoil began that night on the sofa in Harry’s house, and the one thing I knew even then was that tomorrow wouldn’t be so bad as today had been.
I did the only thing that came to mind. I hugged her back, and said "I love you." Just because I do. It wasn't to prove a point or to make up for something I’d said or to explain something I’d done, it was just because I do.
A/N: Well, it's different, what do you think? Please review!
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