|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: 43776; Chapter Total: 4108
For the mythic Bob Nygren
Little Ginny's Little Vigil
It was a hot, humid summer night at the Burrow as Ginny sat on the ancient wicker bench on the porch reading a lengthy-looking letter by candlelight.
“Who’s the novel from?” I asked, taking a seat with my glass of Firewhiskey in the equally antique armchair beside the bench.
“Michael,” she said.
I nearly choke and dribbled Firewhiskey down my chin–which would have hurt, because I still had a scar there that hadn't healed yet. “Michael? Merlin Ginny, how long have you been seeing him?”
“Ooh, I’m not seeing him,” she said unquestionably. “He wrote this one to me years ago.”
I nodded, contemplating how strange it was that my baby sister was old enough to have a love letter that was ‘years’ old, even if it was only two. She folded up the letter and placed it in a plain cardboard box that had been laminated with cuttings from Witch Weekly and Teen Charm and withdrew another one.
“Now–is this just what kids do on Saturday nights nowadays? Peruse old love letters in their pyjamas?”
Ginny made a throaty noise of irritation. “Well, as I’m not allowed to leave the house and I have no homework until I get my OWLs back, and I’ve already finished picking out all of my split ends this is really the only thing left to do.”
But a moment later she quickly folded the letter back up and stuffed it back into the box, muttering a string of things that sounded like ‘…self-absorbed ingratiating wank.’ She extinguished all the tapers around her save for one and crossed her arms over her chest, staring out at the bright, moonlit sky.
“So…” I prodded, “what sort of owl are we waiting for?”
“A white–“ she started, before she seemed to think better of it. I simply nodded again as I sipped my Firewhiskey, and waited for her to launch into an explanation. But after several minutes of silence, I began to wonder at how much quieter Ginny had gotten lately. In fact, I could hardly remember the last time I had listened to her ramble my ears off about things like how gross she thought mayonnaise was or why X was the most pointless letter ever.
“Why so quiet?” I asked, snapping her from her reverie.
“Why are you so quiet?” I tried again, louder.
Ginny furrowed her brow at me. “I’m not any quieter than usual.”
“Oh. Right,” I said, still not believing her one bit, though I had learned long ago to simply keep my mouth shut and pretend to take her word for it when she said things like that. She stared back out the window, looking old and melancholy. When had she gotten so grown up? How could she be almost sixteen when it seemed like only yesterday that we didn’t even have a baby girl?
The road to Ginny was a long, hard one and I suppose I remember better than anyone else besides Mum and Dad. The classic family legend dictates that the first time Dad asked Mum to marry him, she said no, because there hadn’t been a female Weasley in six generations, and she was adamant about having a girl. So the story goes that Dad told her that they’d just have to make history–and promised her they’d have twenty-three kids if it took that long. If you think about it that way, I suppose I should count myself lucky that it only took half a dozen tries before I could stop babysitting.
“So who has the white owl?” I asked, polishing off the glass.
“Harry,” she said simply.
Oh that’s right. I guess I’d known that.
I have to give it to her–Mum never, ever seemed disappointed with all of us boys. She loves us like crazy, and she always has, but in the year and a half between Ron and Ginny, things got a bit rocky. That summer she was cranky and irascible, and she cried a lot, and none of us could understand why. In retrospect, I’m surprised she didn’t go round the twist completely: Dad was away at work a lot, the twins were in their terrible twos, Percy wasn’t old enough to help, and, I’m ashamed to admit it, Charlie and I were little more than two big energy vacuums ourselves. So it was just her, with six boys and no female companions within a mile, with news coming every day of more deaths and more terrible things happening at the bidding of You-Know-Who.
“He said he’d write to you, did he?”
Ginny nodded once.
I went away to school in the fall, and Mum’s letters to me sounded so horribly lonely and listless that I became as worried as it was possible to be at while living at Hogwarts. Christmas that year was normal on the surface, but everyone could sense her depression and, looking back on it, it was downright dismal. Things brightened some when she found out she was pregnant–I remember when she and Dad sat us all down a few days after the New Year and told us with glowing faces that they had some good news.
But soon she became so sick that she swore she didn’t care anymore–this was the last one, girl or no. That scared me, that she could be so sick that she didn’t care, and from that moment until Ginny was born, every penny I threw into a well, every time I saw a shooting star, and every time I caught my wristwatch at 11:11, I secretly used my wishes on a baby girl, because that was the only way I could see Mum ever being truly happy again.
“Do you still fancy him?” I asked reflexively, as I had done countless times over the years when I ran out of things to say. The subject of Harry had always been a surefire way to get her to fill the silences with some kind of talk.
Ginny rolled her eyes.
“Couldn’t resist, could you?” She pulled her upper lip between her teeth for a moment before she answered. “No.”
I nodded again, in secret incredulity.
Tragedy struck that March, not long after Ron’s first birthday. You-Know-Who was near the zenith of his power then, and one fateful day–the same day that Uncle Gideon and Uncle Fabian were killed–Evan Rosier broke into the house and placed Mum under the Imperius Curse. Mum, having heard the intruder before she went down to confront him, had locked Percy, the twins, and Ron in the attic, given Percy the key, and told them not to move or make a sound until she came to get them. So while Mum was under his spell, he made her search the house looking for the boys, and if he had only told her to knock on the attic door before Dad and Moody arrived… It still makes me sick to imagine it–a mother, forced to kill her own children.
“What do you see in him, anyways?” I asked lightly, forgetting that she ‘didn’t fancy him’. She turned sharply to me, and seemed ready to tersely deny me when she paused with her mouth half open.
“I trust him.”
Mum was distraught. I came home for Easter that Spring to find her much altered. She was a shaky mess most of the time, and she wouldn’t let any of us out of her sight–not even me, until I was safely on the train back to Hogwarts. Their marriage suffered as a result of her extreme instability, and by late May we got news that Mum had moved in with a neighbor, while she and Dad ‘worked some things out.’ She was home again by the time school ended, but they were both withdrawn and rather sad, and I got the impression that she felt obligated to come home for our sake.
“Don’t look so blasé,” Ginny said indignantly, displeased that I wasn't paying the usual amount of attention to her.
The rest of the hot, sticky summer passed at a snail’s pace. The Burrow had always been someplace that was truly Mum’s domain; she’d known its every quirk and cranny for as long as I could remember, and she’d always cleaned and cared for it as though it were an extension of her being. That summer, as she passed the hours in a neurotic, barely lucid puddle of sweat and tears, her house seemed to follow suit. Gnomes took total control of the garden–the whole place fell into dirty disrepair, and the very floorboards moaned and whined under the weight of even little Ron’s footsteps as sweat formed and trickled down the miserable walls. The chimney crumbled as the magic used to keep it erect began to falter, and that mad ghoul in the attic ranted and raged in more tortured delirium than ever before.
“You're right," I said, almost absently, "I’m sorry.”
Then there was the long, hard delivery, which had come almost a month too soon. There were quite a few complications as I remember–but I’ve never really asked to hear all the gory details. I watched the sunset that day from the hallway outside her room as I listened to all the worried voices and all her whimpers and moans and screams, and I remember knowing that it couldn’t possibly get any worse than that. That was, without a doubt, our darkest hour.
Ginny bristled further. “It means a lot to me. There are only two blokes in the entire world that I trust completely and he’s one of them.”
When Ginny was finally born, it was as if a ray of sunlight had burst forth from the birth canal instead of a slimy little red thing with an umbilical chord tangled around its neck. The tension broke, and I’ll remember forever the feeble whinny of sheer joy from Mum when the midwife told her it was a girl.
“Who’s the other one?” I asked.
Things got progressively better from the day she was born, and by the end of the summer Mum was going outside again. And though she was still paranoid and a bit mad, there was an aura of hope prevalent throughout the house. When Charlie and I came home the day before Christmas six months later everything was Camelot. Mum was jubilant and overflowing with energy: You-Know-Who had been defeated, Dad had taken two whole weeks of vacation off–we were all together and home for the holidays, and Ginny was going through a small fit of separation anxiety in which no one but Mum could hold her without having their ears assaulted with wailing and shrieking. Under normal circumstances, one might have considered this an inconvenience, but so positive was Mum that she merely beamed and hugged her closer.
“She knows–“ she said as we sat gathered around the tree on Christmas Eve, “In her own way she knows, and she’s just acknowledging the fact that I’m the one who needed her the most.”
She was currently giving me a long, hard glare.
“Ron,” she said, cramming emphasis into the single syllable before looking back out of the window. And that's when it managed to cut through my reverie.
“You mean, beside me and Dad?”
She continued staring resolutely out the window. “No.”
I knew she was doing it to hurt me. And it worked. I was so thrown I hadn’t the speech capabilities to utter even a faint, ‘what?’. Subtle signs of repentence began to appear, but she had never been one to back down before and I didn't suppose she was going to start now.
“It’s nothing you’ve done," she said, "it’s just that, after Tom–“
“Tom?” I asked in an incredulous exhale, “What, so if you can’t trust You-Know-Who you can’t trust your brothers?”
“I trusted Tom more than I’d ever trusted any of my brothers,” she said heatedly, “Tom never teased me, he said nice things to me, and he listened–carefully.”
There was another unbelieving silence as she sat up and faced forward.
“Tom was with me everywhere I went, he never told on me, and I was all he had in return–he needed me. When I found out what he needed me for, when I found out he was You-Know-Who and I was going to die in the chamber of secrets, Ron was the brother who came through–and Harry...”
She took a withering breath as her eyes fell on the box of letters at her feet beside the bench.
“I mean, there was Dean, and Michael, but I don’t even want to pretend anymore–that I could really like someone else. If there’s something I learned from them it’s that there’s no such thing as a meaningless distraction, and I’d rather wait around on Harry than settle for someone else.”
I’ll never understand why it hit me at that exact moment, instead of the morning after, or years ago when it should have. But seeing her there in the dim light of her candle, without a smile or a frown or a smirk or a grimace or a giggle on her face to squint her eyes and make them the bright brown little stars I’d always known them to be, I felt as though... as though I’d spied a Boggart all alone.
Her face, which I’d always known to be little and round and dimpled had grown elliptical and graceful in the absence of her usual animated expressions, with big, swirling eyes above her cheeks, which were high-boned–but not the plump little cherries I’d always thought they were. I was seized with an indescribable pang of mingled sadness and wonder to see how wise she had grown, and to realize that her wisdom had come with a price.
I know that Ginny can’t be a kid forever. I’ve known that all along. I also know the ordeal she suffered in her first year, but in all honesty I never really believed it. Ginny’s just a little girl-- and if there was ever a shadow cast over her life it’s gone now, and I felt it had been understood that we could all just forget it ever happened. I’m sure that’s what she’d like–because she never meant for any of it to happen in the first place. Yes I know that she was possessed by a Horcrux of a young You-Know-Who, but in my heart of hearts I never believed for a moment that evil could have found a vacant space to hold in my baby sister’s bright eyes.
But Ginny had grown deeper than I could see, and more complicated than I could understand. I'd always thought the little baby girl who had answered our thirteen-year vigil for a complete family was destined simply to be loved and adored by the world around her, but somewhere along the line that destiny had been rewritten. There sat the answer to our prayers before me, holding a candle in a vigil of her own–waiting for a letter from a boy who needed the depth and complications that no one else could even comprehend.
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