|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: 43781; Chapter Total: 3778
A/N: As of 9 o'clock (pm) on February 23rd, 2006 I'm all caught up on responding to every review I've EVER gotten! Go ahead, leave another one, especially if you have any questions!
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For my mom,
Cross ventilation, and the high road
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A little under a quarter of a mile down an old path which begins at the woods that form the western edge of our garden is a modest beach where the River Otter lazily bulges out into a sort of half-pond and the current is barely detectable. We called it a river-lake, or simply the Rake, and when we were little we used to all go swimming there. As summer afternoons faded into dusk we'd beg for our turns as Dad invented new and interesting ways to throw us around in the water, or compete for Mum's attention (she generally sat in a chair on the beach and attempted to read) as we showed off our amazing water acrobatics, or played Fish-House, which was really just regular House, except we were fish–and, for some reason, usually on the run from the government. For a couple of summers I remember we went almost every evening, as soon as Dad got home from work, staying past sunset before heading back to the Burrow through the woods in the blue shadowy twilight for a late supper, usually in our swimming suits.
Those were the days when 'bloody' was the worst curse we knew of and the 'S-word' was 'shut up'; when we reckoned Dad was the very height of cool and Bill was weird for not wanting to hang out with him and Mum all the time. Life then bore little resemblance to the one I now live, and I haven't gone down to the Rake in several years.
But I'm here now, in the dusk, as the first sunny day we've seen in weeks draws to a pink and violet, and ultimately indigo close. Crickets sing about the grass growing dewy, fireflies flash through the trees across the water, and all the other little bugs do their best to make me head inside, but finding the river here tonight has been like finding a pulse in the veins of something I was afraid had died.
The earliest memory I have is of this river. Vague and blurry, I've never told anyone about it, and I know I didn't invent it. I can't have been even three years old–it was in the summer, I remember: Mum was wearing a black bathing suit as she stood in the stream with me in her arms. She was singing–what, I don't remember: I can better recall the thudding of her heartbeat as I clung to her and rested my head against her breast. I felt the weightlessness like a dream, frightening and exciting, as she swayed me gently from side to side, humming softly as the water rushed around us.
This river is the original peace, from which it seems like I was born–the earthly pull descending on us as Mum waded in to shore, and the water trickling down our skin, back to the source... This river to me is the river of life, and as far as I'm concerned my life in this world began when she carried me out of that stream.
I've neglected the Rake for so long–even in thought, and when I began down the path this evening I was I half afraid I wouldn't find it–that it would have changed its course and left an empty bed. But it's here, just like I remembered it, only perhaps a bit smaller.
I wonder what would happen to me if I lost this lifeline somehow. Lately I've been feeling like I'm self-contained–like fate is testing me to see how much, like that poor red runner bean you do experiments on when you're a kid to find out what things plants can live without–I'm that etiolated red runner bean, growing in the cracks between rocks.
But I'm still kicking, aren't I? This week–no, this lifetime disguised as a mere seven days, has been rough, needless to say. I'll bet that tomorrow–Monday morning, I'll wake up feeling better. It's going to take more than the death of a brother, a ruined home, and a stubborn boy to keep me down. I roll with the punches.
But tonight there's no need to keep up with the winds of change, or worry that I've taken this spiritual refuge for granted, because it courses past me just the same... no matter what is carried kicking and screaming with it. This river can give and it take away, and I can also remember a time when I felt this darker side to running water.
I was perhaps about five this time, I was wading in the Rake in the morning sun, looking for gold and mussel shells (having much better luck with the latter) with a pasta strainer I'd stolen from the kitchen, when a snail caught my attention, and then scuttled away somehow. I splashed after it, distracted, and let go of the strainer.
Soon it was too deep and I was too short to be able to touch the bottom with my hands without bobbing away a bit. I stood up and turned back just in time to see the strainer become dislodged from the sand and begin to drift away with the slow, gentle current. I sloshed after it, but was impeded by the water, and so I dove forward and began swimming after it. I remember thinking that I wasn't supposed to be out this deep when Mum and Dad weren't there, but I also wasn't supposed to loose Mum's pasta strainer to the river, and I decided that I'd rather just grab it and then head inside.
So I grabbed the strainer, but had more difficulty enacting the second part of my plan. I was now several feet beyond the point where I could touch, and I was quickly drifting to the other end of the Rake as the current seemed to speed up. I began swimming franticly back towards the beach, but it didn't seem to be getting any closer. I screamed then, hoping against hope that Dad and Charlie were still playing Quidditch in the paddock and could hear me calling their names.
“DAD DAD DAD DAD DAD DAD DAD!”
I yelled with the cadence of an alarm clock, not pausing to listen as the shore grew smaller and I began to round the bend downstream. I kicked harder, as water splashed up around my face and smothered my shouts, and I began to cry, wondering why the adrenaline wasn't enough. I thought I heard a crack somewhere, but no one appeared at the end of the path, and I stopped trying to get their attention, believing it to be in vain and now devoting all my energy to getting back.
But it was no use, for the current had now rapidly picked up speed and I had rounded the bend entirely. I sobbed harder, now feeling with a useless racing in my heart that I just might die today. It was that that allowed the river to get me down. A large wave threw itself in my face and I coughed and spluttered, my head burning as my nose was waterlogged. And then I heard the sound of my father's voice.
“Turn around, Ginny.”
He was on the riverbanks, yards beyond me and was shouting to me, but I remember his words as if angels had whispered them in my ears.
“Ginny, turn around.”
I did as he said, now resigning myself to face the hostile fate that awaited me downstream. But I could see him then, wading out into the river as I quickly floated towards him.
“Now swim towards me!”
I began pumping my legs and waving my arms furiously as I swam to the source of the voice, but soon I found myself battling the current again as it carried me past him. I had almost begun to despair when there was another loud CRACK! and Dad appeared several more yards beyond me and told me once again to swim towards him. This went on three more times before I reached the shore, and when I clambered onto warm, solid–mercifully solid sand I began to cry in earnest.
“Now now,” said Dad benevolently, scooping me off of the ground after a moment and brushing the sand from my bottom and muttering a drying spell on his jeans, which were soaked up to mid-thigh (my rather sensitive skin, however, reacted badly to drying spells, and so I was unfortunately in for a wet journey home).
“Don't cry, don't cry, we'll just head back to the Burrow and have some soup and you'll be as good as new in no time.”
He pushed his way through the thicket of trees to the road which wended its way along the river, carrying me over his shoulder like a cold, wet sack of highly distraught potatoes. He set me down then, and at the simple sensation of the warm, gravely, sunbaked road on my clammy feet I felt a little better. We walked in silence then for a long time, as he stared out ahead with a thoughtful glimmer in his eyes while I hopped along beside him, determinedly dodging the cracks in the asphalt–a customary compulsion.
“So Ginny,” he said at last, “What have we learned today?”
I didn't know just how to answer him, uncertain as to which of my lapses in judgment that morning had been the most wearisome. Was it going down to the Rake by myself? Or taking Mum's pasta strainer? –Which, remarkably enough, I had managed to hang onto throughout, and was now wearing over my head like a helmet. Was it going after the snail, or going after the strainer? Or was it letting go of the strainer in the first place?
“I don't know,” I said, jumping awkwardly over a large network of cracks in the road, causing the metal bowl swivel around on my head–a peculiar sensation, “I'm sorry I took the strainer.” I added quietly.
“Ginny dear,” he reprimanded mildly, “Your safety is far more important than a kitchen utensil. No, what's the most important thing you learned today?”
“...I should have asked Mum before taking it?” I tried, still hung up on the strainer as I took a very large step and picked up my back foot with difficulty.
“If you ever find yourself adrift in the river...” he prompted, “What should you do?”
“Never go to the river without your Mum or Dad!” I piped. He shook his head.
“You already knew that,” he said, a tiny hint of reproach in his voice. He stopped and turned to me, “What you learned today is something much more important than that–I want you to remember it always, do you understand?"
I nodded, a gesture that was exaggerated by the strainer on my head, wobbling up and down as if in fevered agreement.
“If you ever find yourself in the river again, you face down stream. Never mind where it takes you, always swim with the current, never against it.”
I tucked it away in my mental file labeled “Things That Are (Apparently) Very Important,” so it could join such other thoughts as “take the high road,” and “it takes two open windows to tempt a breeze,” and, most prominently, “roll with the punches.”
I understood what he meant, but the advice seemed flat and strangely overstated: wouldn't “don't fall in the river” have been a more efficient motto for the whole ordeal?
“The river is much stronger than you.” He said then, turning back and staring out ahead of him as he began walking, taking naturally deep strides as I kept up with him in leaps and bounds, “You can't necessarily do what's most obvious.” He tapped the side of his head sagely, “You've got to use River Psychology.”
“What's that?” I asked, sidestepping a small patch in the asphalt.
“It's a sort of mind trick that Muggles use,” he said with a dignified fondness that would one day remind me a bit of Percy when he talked about study habits, “It's the art of changing your approach to a problem so that the more difficult it becomes the better it all works out for you in the end.”
I scratched my strainer in confusion, holding it to my head as I squinted up at him.
“A river will go the way it pleases, no matter who you are or where you were lost from.”
I nodded. We crossed a bridge that was familiar to me, and soon I recognized the road as being one that would eventually bring us home.
“Sometimes life's like that, too. Fate, or luck, or sometimes the people in control will be heading in one direction, and instead of fighting against them to try to get your way, you have to settle your expectations a bit. You have to decide which side your principles are on, and you have make your way closer to that side always, no matter what specific opportunities have passed you mustn't look back or you'll be dragged down under. That's why they call it River Psychology.”
I didn't get it, and I expressed as much, which seemed to make him realize that a few more years would have to wait before I would understand the nuances of his analogy, so he merely smiled,
“No matter–the bottom line is the same thing.” He stopped and picked the strainer up to get a better look at me with his affectionate eyes, “Just choose a side, Ducky,” he kissed the top of my head, “and go with the flow.”
Nearly ten years would pass, before a change in me triggered a great unfolding of my self and my abilities, during which I would begin to consciously understand the significance of all those things I tucked away in that file.
I sat in the Great Hall one early evening in December, eating dinner mechanically as I brooded about the cruel irony of agreeing to go to the ball with Neville on the one instance in all of eternity in which I had a real shot at getting Harry to look twice at me.
It was an hour of lead–in which I really hated life and denounced the whole thing as cruel and needlessly bent against me. I looked miserably across the table at Neville–the embodiment of the gray, joyless future now stretching out before me. I just knew I was going to wind up marrying him, staying at home all day and making babies that would be named after ugly plants. Just then he glanced up at me, too, and grinned bashfully, turning a happy shade of red. And I smiled back, not being desperate enough yet to let him know that I loathed and resented him and all that he represented.
Later that evening I caught up with Hermione and informed her in a neutral tone of voice that Neville, upon being rejected by his first choice, had asked me to go with him “just as friends” and that I had agreed unthinkingly, right before turning down the opportunity to go with Harry because I had, as mentioned, already made plans to spend the night having my feet trampled.
“Oh, that's infuriating!” she moaned sympathetically, rolling her eyes and wearing the same despairing expression I did whenever I imitated her. It set me off. My hackles rose around my sense of self as pride reared up and indignantly shook her gloomy perspective off of my back.
“What's infuriating?” I asked convincingly.
“Your luck of course,” she sighed, as though I had dazed off and forgotten what we were talking about, “To think! You finally get a real chance to get Harry's attention and you have to spend the night with Neville!” she rolled her eyes with a disdainful half-smile, missing entirely the look of determined incomprehension I was fixing her with, “Things just don't seem to be going your way, do they?”
“What are you on about?” I laughed, cramming as much emphasis as was believable into the action, “This is my way.”
She cocked her head curiously.
“I'm going to the ball!” I said, beginning to get caught up in the act,
“But what about Harry?”
Ah yes. Harry. There was the rub. I knew even I couldn't pull off pretending to be ignorant of the feelings, or at least the painful history of feelings therein, so I simply decided that this had been part of my plans from the start. I improvised.
“Well I wouldn't want to go to ball with him now,” I said obviously, “How boring would that be? If Harry's going to fall desperately in love and spend the rest of his life happily to me I'd rather like to get around first a bit, if you know what I mean...”
I waggled my eyebrows suggestively, but Hermione still didn't seem convinced that, of all the possible ways the situation could have gone, this was really mine.
“Ginny,” she said seriously, realizing that I must be somehow suppressing my painful feelings of rejection and she placed a kindly hand on my arm, “What are you doing?”
I set my hands on my defiant hips and stuck out my lip, blowing my hair out of my eyes, and I said proudly,
“Rolling with the punches.”
She dropped her hand from my arm and looked confused. I smiled at her and patted her on the back, “It's all River Psychology, friend.”
Actually, I use it quite a lot Hermione–it's saved our friendship on a number of occasions. She's the girl who's stolen my favorite brother's heart, and she's the best friend of the boy I love, and no matter how secure I am in my place in the universe, sometimes I get sucked up in that dangerous jealousy vacuum and I'm afraid I hate her. I don't want to hate her–it's bad for my pride. But sometimes the three of them get to talking and I'm reminded that the world is grateful for the Harry, the Ron, and the Holy Hermione and I feel ten years old again, like an afterthought or a small matter of interest. And in those times River Psychology is all I've got: pretending I don't even like him is all I've got.
I remember the day they left me behind: she stood in the hallway outside my bedroom that morning, desperately trying to apologize for keeping me in the dark like this–she told me it was killing her that I wasn't allowed to know what they were doing, and that she'd explain it all one day, when it was over. Without even knowing, she was doing it again.
“Or don't.” I said evenly.
Hermione was taken aback.
“Just do what you need to do,” I said with a small, natural smile, “And I'll do the same.”
She was more convinced this time than when I tried to convince her I was happy with my Yule Ball date, and I noticed rather smugly that she looked quite impressed. I pulled her in for a hug and said, “I'll see you around.”
Tonks and I watched them go from the window seat at the Burrow, both feeling rather dewy but neither of us actually crying.
“Are you okay?” she asked after a while.
“Well that all depends.” I said.
“On me. And what happens to me.”
“Anything I can do?”
I thought for a moment, considering my options. I didn't care if he did it to protect me: I hated Harry for what he'd done. And that's the part that made me want to cry–I didn't ever want to hate him. He's Harry, for the love of magic! Please don't make me hate him...
It was then that I remembered about River Psychology. I looked away from the fog my breath had left on the pane and fixed her with a proud, pleading gaze.
“Let me go with you.”
She made a throaty noise between disbelief and discomforted amusement, “What, let you join the Order?”
I nodded, begging her silently to understand that there was nothing left for me to do: to understand that when you were loathe to be left behind and too proud to follow where you weren't wanted, the only thing for it was to turn around and swim in the opposite direction like it was what you'd wanted all along.
“I can't.” She said, “You're only sixteen, your Mum would–“
“Then help me do it behind her back.”
Tonks looked extremely uncomfortable. On the one hand, we were close friends and she wanted to empower me... on the other hand, Mum had been so supportive of her all last year... on the other hand, it was doing things for the Order than had kept her from staying in bed every day for the last year and brooding about Remus... I was just beginning to think I might be getting somewhere when I heard a voice from the doorway.
“Behind whose back?”
It was Mum. I kept my horrible cringe of despair inside: if there was one thing that had always tripped up the twins it was that they acted guilty before they'd been caught.
“Hermione's.” I answered instinctively. She was unfooled.
“So you want to join the Order...” she said slowly, in an even voice that seemed to have to have the potential to turn really scary really quickly.
I didn't say anything, and avoided her eyes.
“Do you want to join the Order, Ginny?”
...No sense lying at this point.
“I'm not going to ask you if you know how dangerous it is...” she began. I cut in,
“I don't want to upset you, you know,” I said sharply.
“Good, because that would certainly be a foolish reason to put yourself in danger.”
I kept waiting for the metaphorical roof to cave in, there was no way I wouldn't be in deep trouble for this–conspiring to deceive my mother and put myself out in the thick of the battle, but thus far this was not the conversation I had anticipated.
“Well I'm not in charge of the Order,” she said. I looked up at her in disbelief, “So you'll have to ask your father and Remus if it's all right.”
Tonks looked more shocked even than I did, and she jumped to her feet and pulled her wand out immediately, pointing it at Mum.
“Who are you and what have you done with Molly Weasley?” She demanded.
Mum gave a small smile, “I take it you're remembering my hesitance to let Fred and George involve themselves even when they were of age.”
I snorted, “I think we will all forever remember your–hesitance, did you call it?”
She smiled sadly as she crossed the room and took a seat beside me in the spot Tonks had vacated. She placed a hand absently on my foot as she gazed out the window,
“Oh, my boys,” she said softly, “My Fred and George. My Frederic Fabian... and my George Gideon.”
With the walls in the chambers of my heart seeming to close in I began to understand. I didn't know what to say. I had never lost a brother. I could only imagine how horrible...
“Gideon, Fabian... and Bilius.” She turned and looked at me, “We called your brothers after them to remind us of who those wonderful people were in life. We didn't mean to one day be so haunted by their names.”
I nodded, trying to tell her without words that it was all right, and that she didn't need to explain anything anymore, begging her not to say another word. I didn't want to hear her voice what she was thinking, because I was thinking it, too, and it scared me.
“But they have to do what they will, and I have to roll with the punches," her grief seemed buried beyond the reaches of tears, until she said, in a voice that was quickly becoming overwhelmed with a sort of growing-pain that seemed to live and breathe, "But for you, Ginny..." her sentence faltered, and quickly fell upon a sob, "I know what it's like when your brothers leave you behind!”
Her whole body quaked as I pulled her into a hug, and there she cried on my shoulder, until she could say, with a bit more composure, “And I also know what it's like–to wonder, every day for the rest of your life, if maybe you could have somehow been there to help them then, then they might be here to help you now.”
Her tears were renewed, though not in such torrential quantities, and I strummed my nails in comforting circles on her back, as she had always done for me, until the storm subsided. She pulled away for a moment then, and looked at me with what can only be described as a hard, blazing–if very watery–expression, “You go get 'em, Ducky,” she sniffed with a tearful, sappy smile as she borrowed Dad's pet name, “Show them what you can do. Knock their socks off.”
A pitiful howl was ripped from my insides as my eyes welled up, and we collapsed against each other and cried, half in power and half in pain. A sniffle from a few feet away reminded me that someone else was in the room, and I held an arm open from the hug, “Come on Tonks, you know what this is all about!”
And then we were three.
All of this brings me very far away from the river, where I'm standing now, almost a year from when I joined the Order. I don't how to come full circle again. What does the river have to do with anything? Nothing. ...Or maybe everything. What does the blood that beats in your veins have to do with anything? Everything, and yet nothing. How can something that feels so vital have so little to do with all that matters to me now?
I bet it's just not time for the ends to meet yet. I bet I've got a lot of story left to tell. I bet tomorrow is going to be sunny, too.
Ain't too proud to beg... Pleeeease review
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