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SIYE Time:2:59 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
Warnings: None
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 531
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: 43789; Chapter Total: 3915





Author's Notes:
This is two years following chapter 15, if you'd like to see more between then and now, read That Night Over the Moon, and Love Itself Shall Slumber On.




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For Jenna:
Please be in heaven,
Please be giggling.


~*~

One Step Ahead






It did occur to me to consider myself lucky. Some girls, I supposed, didn't even have one strong male figure in their lives to walk them down the aisle, and here I was, listening to my three older brothers bicker with each other over got to do the honors while my father simply rolled his eyes. As I say, it occurred to me. But to be honest, I wasn't really feeling the love radiating off them just then. I hadn't realized that this would be such a problem. When they started fighting at the engagement party three months ago over who got to do what and who got to give a toast, Harry had the rather brilliant idea of holding tryouts: each brother would give Harry and me a copy of what they would say if they gave a speech, and we would choose the one that we liked the most. And here we were, two days before the wedding, and no one had yet followed through. Either they couldn't take it seriously or it simply required more thoughtfulness than they were capable of utilizing. As such, their present obsessive discussion over a stupid ritual only served to irritate me.

“Hang on–so everyone but me is going to be walking her down at least some portion of the aisle? That's not fair.”

I tried not to listen to their conversation, but was of course unsuccessful.

“No, Ron isn't either.”

“Yeah well he's the best man!”

“Charlie–you're not honestly suggesting that five people–”

“I don't see how that's any more ridiculous than four!”

I tried to take a deep breath to calm myself, but it wasn't working.

“Three,” said George.

“Two!” shot Bill.

Quite suddenly, it was simply too much. “That's it! Everyone SHUT UP!” The talking stopped abruptly as they all turned to look at me.

“I've had enough of it,” I said wildly, “None of you is going to walk me down the aisle!”

Their looks of confusion deepened as I realized what I'd just said. Never one to backpedal, I cast about me for someone to come to my rescue, but the only other person present was–

“Hermione. Hermione's going to give me away.”

Hermione, who had been quietly arranging the fairy lights on the trellis behind us, froze, giving me a bewildered glare as everyone's attention shifted to her. And before she could do more than gape and stutter, I marched up to her and dragged her over. Bill was the first to recover.

“Ginny, you're not serious–”

“Oh but I am!” I said savagely. “Now I want all of you to go wait by the altar like normal groomsmen. Go!”

The shock on their faces quickly turned to hurt, which only succeeded in driving me madder. “Well I'm sorry!” I shrieked, “but you see otherwise I'll trip and fall on my arse, because I simply CAN'T SEE through this BILLOWING CLOUD OF TESTOSTERONE!”

There was another stunned silence.

“Ginny, we're sorry.”

“ALTAR–GO–NOW! Don't make me pull out my wand!”

At last they obeyed, slinking away like wounded dogs. As they arranged themselves meekly at Harry's side he determinedly maintained a neutral expression, but when his eyes caught mine I could have sworn they were laughing at me. Hermione, meanwhile, was casting nervous looks in my direction, no doubt fearing that I might start shrieking again if she were to speak.

“Sorry for dragging you into this,” I muttered sheepishly.

“Never mind that,” she said, giving me a searching look. “Ginny, are you sure you really want to do this? I mean–I know they were being horrible pratts about it, but–”

“Isn't there some little girl inside me who still really wants Daddy to give her away?” I said, giving her a wry smile. “Well yes, until I stop and think about it. I don't much fancy being passed from father to brother to husband like a bloddy quaffle, thank you very much.”

She gave me another longish look.

“Of course I'm sure!” I said, turning and facing the altar and straightening the wrinkles in my skirt. “I'd walk it alone, but then I really would fall flat on my face.”

~*~

I sat in the swing on the back porch at the Burrow later that evening, having calmed down some, as I finished the alterations on my gown. When I was at last satisfied, I removed the pins and with a flick of my wand, lazily levitated it out in front of me to give it one more critical appraisal.

Just then there was a loud crack, and Bill materialized in the garden, wearing a set of smart-looking dress robes. Looking around and spotting me through the screen, he dashed up to the porch and beckoned me out of the hammock.

“Come on,” he said, leading me outside into the garden, where he immediately began waving his wand–conjuring one long trestle table with a white linen and several places set with fancy china.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Trying out,” he said, now conjuring chairs and rather crude dummies to sit in them.

“Trying out what?”

He finished with the last dummy, and only then seemed to register my question.

“My speech,” he said, turning to me, and I felt my pajama trousers and t-shirt being Transfigured into something far less comfortable. It was a nondescript, rather ugly wedding gown. I made a few indignant noises of protest but Bill ignored me.

“There,” he said airily, shuffling me over to a seat at the center of the table and instructing, “Just sit down and pretend it's the reception and I'm giving my speech. Here–” He muttered a few things at the dummy sitting next to me, and messy black hair and a scar appeared on its head. “That's Harry for now, you can summarize it for him later when the two of you decide which one you're going to choose.”

I started to tell him that no one else had bothered to come up with a speech to give to Harry and me yet, but he simply powered on through, not distracted in the slightest.

“Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention?” he looked convincingly around the empty garden, as though it were full of his friends and acquaintances.

“For anyone who may not know me, I'm Bill Weasley–I'm Ginny's favorite brother.”

“Oh really?” I said dryly, crossing my arms over my chest, but again, Bill hardly seemed to hear me.

“As such, I'd like to make a speech.”

I sat back in the chair, my curiosity getting the better of me.

“Let me begin by saying that Ginny has always been my favorite sister. In fact, come to think of it, she's my favorite brother, too.” He waved his wand at the bed of day lilies so that a chorus of gnome laughter punctuated his little joke. “When I was going through that troubled stage of adolescence, my 'misunderstood' phase, where I struggled to break free from Mum and Dad; Ginny was my rock. She may not remember this very clearly, she was only about two or three, but when I was feeling resentful she used to help me with my chores, while I ranted and raved about how I hated being responsible for everything, and how ridiculous it was that I was still getting my hair cut by my Mum, and how no one appreciated that I never complained about anything. I used to always say, 'Ginny, you're the only one who understands me. You are so wise.' And then Ginny would smile and say, 'Thweetth?'”

Bill grinned, and discreetly forced more laughs from the gnomes.

“As time went by, and Ginny learned to read, I started writing her letters, and when I read her replies it never ceased to amaze me how much she reminded me of myself. Of course, in recent years, I haven't given it much thought–wars tend to push things like this from your mind, you know. Anyway, through all this Ginny has grown into a woman (much as it unnerves me to say that), and since she's getting married, I've been thinking about it more and more.”

I squinted slightly through the gradually darkening twilight to discern the nuances of his expression, but it was almost unfathomable.

“Do Ginny and I have a lot in common?” He snorted, “Yeah, right. I wish.”

I stopped squinting, his words having taken me literally aback.

There was a thoughtful beat. “She's better than me. She's braver–she actively takes on dark wizards, the arse of humanity, and she's confronted some of the most despicable things, things most people can't even imagine, and she's come out on top.”

He paused. I wasn't really sure what sort of expression to have, or how much of this speech I would allow to go to my head, so I simply sat there, alternating between being reluctantly pleased and mildly embarrassed.

“But then again we've all seen horrors these past few years, her especially, but we've all experienced things we could never imagine. We're all strong enough to survive, but she's more than that, she's strong enough not to hate.”

I couldn't stop the genuinely happy feeling of validation any longer, and so I allowed myself to let it be.

“And she's wiser than me, too. Instead of trying to get a sense of everyone else, instead of trying to sum people up and figure them out, she knows herself. She sympathizes deeply, and yet she understands how much of life can't be understood at all until you've lived it.”

But also within me, there was another inkling rattling around, and that was that despite the sincerity in Bill's words, I could only walk away from this encounter with a fresh understanding of how I'd lied to myself in some way.

“The truth is that everybody likes to think they have a lot in common with Ginny–if she were the the eldest, you might say that all her siblings wanted to be like her, but because she's the youngest we all like to flatter ourselves to think that Ginny takes after us. Which is ridiculous because what we really adore in her is the one part of her that's entirely unique from the rest of us.

“I always thought it would sting, the day that Ginny got married and changed her name. But really, it doesn't change a thing, because she's always been so much more than a Weasley: she's Ginny.”

There was a muffled thud as my chair tipped over onto the grass; I vaulted over the table at him as I cried fiercely, “I am not!”

He laughed as I jumped into his arms, and for a few seconds I dangled a couple feet above the ground and I couldn't say anything at all. I was overwrought, unable to express or even understand how exquisite I felt. It was the kind of elation that feels so wonderful you can't stand it for more than a second. He lowered me back to the ground, and I felt the measure of his words as they settled in somewhere just below my esophagus.

“Do you really think all that about me?” I said, rather mistily.

“Of course.”

My mouth hung open as I faltered. “I–I don't even know what to say.”

He smiled at me. “What, don't you agree?”

“No!” I said, almost scandalized.

“Why not?”

“Bill–I'm not all that–not even close. Because I–I do hate, and I do spend too much energy judging other people, and I don't really know myself...” I trailed off at the exasperated look on his face, and that feeling you get when you realize that you're talking to someone who's one step ahead of you began to creep up on me. “What?”

His head shook in wonder. “When will you ever make up your mind?”

He fixed me with a long, searching stare, and if I knew what he was looking for I would have given it to him in a second, but all I had to show for myself was me–unadulterated me, in my my natural state, without the foggiest idea how I'd got there. Bill relented in his searching then, and smiled a smile that should have been accompanied with a mild rolling of the eyes, but they were too full of an aching fondness.

“Oh Ginny,” he sighed, “when're you going to love you as much as I do?”

It was one of those damnable, mildly annoying times when you manage to come up with a really good, profound response to an eye-opening question, about seven years after you've been asked. I wandered away from the conversation that evening in a dimly-lit state of preemptive amazement.Bill had made a very good, very deep point that I had never thoughtof before that time–I just didn't personally understand what exactly that point was, at the moment...

I wondered if this was what it was like to be Romilda Vane: it's like she could smell something brilliant and remarkable when he walked into the room, but, having no concept of selflessness or true bravery or depth of feeling, she actually had no idea what she was swooning over.

I returned home that night to Harry's flat–hah–after all those months of calling the flat mine, I finally recognized that it was his, and the day after tomorrow it really would be my flat as much as his. I stepped in quietly. The lights were all out, save for a dim lamp in the corner of the sitting room. Harry was sprawled out asleep on the sofa, mouth hanging open and glasses askew. He always had to “wait up” for me. I smiled at him, leaned over, and shook him gently.

“Harry–”

Nothing. I sat down and shook him a little more vigorously.

“Harry!”

He jerked awake, and said automatically, “Whasahmt?”

“I'm home,” I giggled. “Thanks for waiting up.”

“Always,” he slurred as he sat up, oblivious to the fun I was having at his expense. He had this idea that so long as he was not actually in his bed, asleep, with the lights out, it constituted as “waiting up.”

I bit the inside of my lip to keep from laughing. It was very important to Harry that he kept a constant, wary eye out for his girlfriend at all times–remained on guard and conscious of her safety. “I have to be overprotective,” he told me seriously whenever I rolled my eyes at these statements, “Voldemort may be dead, but there're still Deatheaters out there who would love to get revenge, and you being my girlfriend puts a big bullseye on your back.”

He was right, I realized, and for that I endured his over protectiveness without complaint. It was a hardship, certainly, what with all this "waiting up" and such, but I managed all right...

“Well now I'm home, you should go get some sleep,” I crooned sympathetically, scooting closer as I pulled off his glasses and wiped some sleep from the corner of his eye.

“Wha–” he yawned, “t-time is it?”

“Almost midnight.”

“What kept you?”

“Oh, various things–helping Mum with some of her pre-cooking, I finished hemming the dress–oh, and Bill dropped by to show me his speech.”

A slightly affronted expression was germinating on Harry's features. “Really? How come I wasn't invited?”

“Yeah, well sort of,” I said. “He conjured up fake guests and everything, only it was a terrible speech and he knew it.”

“Seriously?” he asked curiously.

“Well no, it was good, it was just–kind of inappropriate for a wedding toast... in that he never really mentioned you.” I laughed at the look on his face. “It was basically just Bill doing something sweet because... I don't know, maybe he feels guilty this afternoon."

“What–oh, the whole aisle-walking fiasco?”

I nodded. “And before you ask, no, I have not changed my mind.”

Harry nodded, as he lumbered up from the couch, stretching and yawning again. I stood as well.

“It's the only fair way, you know,” I said, as I followed him into the bedroom.

“Why don't you just have your Dad do it? I'm sure he'd be tactful about it.”

“Yeah, I know,” I sighed, as I began changing. I couldn't really find the 'but' to finish the sentence, because the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much it made sense. It wasn't about being “handed over,” I realized, so much as a highly symbolic gesture representing a huge transition in my life.

Quite suddenly, I felt gripped in an emotional tug-o-war between a stubborn, childish need to stand by my decision instead of admitting that I had reacted in the heat of the moment and had not been thinking for myself; and the even more childish fear of growing up–of relocating the meaning of “home” and “family” in my mind from the noisy, impassioned House of the Quick and the Hungry, with its creaky floors and infestation of boys; to something I'd have to build myself. Harry flicked off the lights just as my eyes began to well up, and we climbed under the covers. I tried to quell my inner turmoil as I lay there, but my mind was too exhausted to argue with the warring children, and they got their way in reducing me to tears. I sobbed. “I just don't want him to, okay?”

“Ginny–what?” Harry groped around in the dark for a moment, and then lit his wand, turning to me with a worried look on his face.

“I just want Hermione to do it, okay?”

The worried look instantly melted into one of nonplussed amusement. He smiled, sort of. “Okay.”

“Okay,” I echoed, feeling a bit silly. Why was I so emotional lately?

He shrugged, and wrapped his arm about my waist, pulling me closer and kissing the places where I was still tear streaked. “Are you alright?”

“Hmm...Yes–I think so.”

“Can you go to sleep now?”

I smiled facetiously. “Yes, thank you, love.”

“Are you sure?” he said rakishly, hands wandering downward. “Can I do you? –I mean, do anything for you. Sorry about that, Freudian slip...”

...And for years and years, I just assumed that Freud was a muggle famous for the graceless, cheesy lines he used to get into womens' knickers.




A/N: I'm sorry I didn't get this up sooner–I've had a rather crummy time of it lately, death of my first contemporary and all that. And really guys, reviews are all that fuels my soul these days, so thank you, you're the best. (Please leave another one? I'm asking for the moon now)

NOTE: the conspicuous lack of the words 'the end' ? It's cause it's not! Haha! Only one more chapter, I promise.


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