A (Self-Imposed) Trap for a Fool
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter and company.
Summary: From all the inconsequential possibilities, all those little moments that build up in our minds, showing us the truths we like to ignore, there are those insignificant seconds that can make or break it all. To Ginny, it felt like it was just one moment when her whole world imploded in on her. Equally haunted and delighted by the chances of a future playing out in her dreams, she comes to realise that perhaps she loved him more than he would ever love her, but that didn't mean she could just give him up that easily.
Inspiration: This Isn't Everything You Are by Snow Patrol. My initial interpretation of the song was loss of a loved one, but that's not the route I took for this particular story. You'll have to read and find out.
Note: This is un-beta'd, just so you know. Hopefully I'll get it chapterised in the future, but now didn't seem the best of times. So sorry for any inconveniences, though I hope there are few.
A (Self-Imposed) Trap for a Fool
All was well.
Ginny smiled sweetly in relief as Harry made his way back towards her with a much happier Albus beaming excitedly at his side. Her youngest son's gaze was now stuck on the Hogwarts Express, his eyes shining with unadulterated anticipation and rapture, and all traces of anxiety vanished from his countenance. She had been subtly listening in on Harry's pep talk in between drawing out the last hug to her eldest before he pulled away from her to go after his friends and waving over her brother and his family to where they were waiting by the train. But even with only half an ear available for listening, she had felt inexplicable warmth for her husband growing in her chest.
She was so proud of them both, of all of her family really. But Albus had always reminded her of Harry the most, with James being a replica of her own fiery personality, and Lily doing justice to her namesake, as they had been told numerous times by all that were still alive to remember her. As Ginny thought on this, Hermione came up with her two children in tow, Ron lagging several paces behind, to give Ginny a hug and buss her cheek. Hermione had always insisted that Lily, not Al, was the most like Harry, but she was the only one who seemed to see it.
Diverting her attention from the big family gathering for the moment, Ginny smiled down on Al, still standing next to his father, though the boy hadn't yet torn his gaze from the Express. She knew that no matter what house he ended up in, Gryffindor like his older brother James, or Ravenclaw like their godson – or rather, pseudo son in all but blood – Teddy, that he would excel and provide her more than enough material with which to brag about to the other mothers. She could possibly even entice Hermione to descend into the argument of whose child was doing the best.
Hermione would always bow out of such conversations, with Harry rarely far behind her. But just because Hermione was perfect Miss Know-It-All, did not mean that her children followed as solidly in her footsteps as one might expect. Ginny was rather pleased to say that Ron had done his fair share in adding his genes to the personalities and intelligences of his children. She was therefore certain that Albus would beat out Rose this year, even if only by a little.
Ginny gave a brief, self-satisfied smirk, which she hid from her brother and his wife as she bent down to enfold Al tightly in her arms for a final goodbye, trying to remind herself that Christmas would be here before she knew it. The house was going to be so quiet without her two boys to cause mischief every few seconds, tussling in the halls and arguing about the most inane of issues that only children could ever find meaningful. But at least she still had her Lily with her for another year. She could only hope and pray that this year did not pass by as swiftly as the past one had.
Minutes later, when the Express was chugging out of the station, leaving the remaining parents and well-wishers on the platform submerged in the wake of its thick, grey smoke, Ginny let her smile stretch to its fullest, her pride in her family consuming her completely. Beside her, Harry was holding Lily in his arms and telling her how he had taken the entire day off and was amenable to an ice cream in Diagon Alley – at least three scoops – if she felt she had been a good girl today in helping her brothers prepare and pack for Hogwarts.
Lily was, of course, quick to agree and Ron was fast to join in on the fun as well, though Hermione required some further persuading to take another hour or two off from work. Ginny, on the other hand, bowed out to return home and make sure the house was in order after the flurry of activity this morning while the entire family had rushed to make the train on time. Apparently she had passed on a bit of the Weasley tardiness when it came to the first day of school, though Harry thankfully balanced her out so they were never too late, just not particularly early.
Watching her family walk on ahead of her, waiting til they were through the barrier to Apparate home herself, Ginny smiled again. All was indeed well.
Ginny woke up to the early morning rays of sunlight streaming through her open window, onto the scarlet duvet of her bed, and splashed boldly across her closed eyelids. But she refused to open her eyes and surrender to the brightness of the morning, trying instead to keep hold of the vivid dream that had given her feelings of such peaceful contentment, which she was vehemently loathed to part from. Even as she tried, however, to capture the precious moments into solid bits of lasting memory, the final partings of Morpheus' gift continued to vainly slip away from her like tiny wisps of clouds through her fingertips.
Heaving in a great breath, she endeavoured to savour the feeling that had come with the brief experience of being married to Harry Potter. That particular dream had been a new one, but all dreams that contained Harry were usually along the same theme of she and Harry being married with children, raising the next generation of accomplished witches and wizards, and being deliriously happy doing so.
She squeezed her eyes shut all the tighter, trying to will her mind back to that picturesque setting on the platform, but it did no good.
The dream was over.
Rolling over in defeat with a mournful moan, Ginny covered her face with her hands as her hair fell forward in its usual morning mess. She knew she had to be up soon, despite the fact that it was a Saturday and therefore did not require her to be up for work. Her mother, however, had never believed in anything less than greeting the day before seven o'clock struck and she expected nothing less from her children as well, though with six boys it had certainly been a challenge. Nonetheless, as long as Ginny was still stuck living under her mother's roof, if her mother did not hear her footsteps crossing the hall to the bathroom in a couple minutes, the Weasley matron would be up here herself to wake Ginny and pull her out of bed. Ginny couldn't wait til she had saved enough for her own flat, though at the rate she was going, she would probably be married before she could finally move out.
But with her dream still fresh in her mind, Ginny figured that waiting for something like that would certainly be worth it. Recalling Harry's face as he had held their daughter in his arms and made enticing promises of ice cream in the Alley, knowing full well how tightly she had him wrapped around her finger, made Ginny sigh dreamily and grin at the prospect of such a future one day coming true.
Nevertheless, even though Ginny would much rather laze about under her soft blankets and attempt to follow the natural progression of her lovely dream, she pushed herself to her feet and began to take on the day. It was just as she had finished getting dressed and was reaching to open the door to her room and descend the stairs to breakfast that her eye caught a red and gold scripted letter laying face up on her desk.
That was new. She didn't remember putting anything of the kind there last night.
Ginny frowned. Her mother must have left it for her while she was in the shower. Usually the mail came at breakfast, so perhaps it had arrived late last night after she'd gone to bed, or had for some reason come earlier than this morning's post. Intrigued, Ginny picked it up as she went out the door and examined the front of the envelope.
To Miss Ginevra Weasley
She noted that the parchment was thick and expensive looking and that the deep scarlet colour and finely written calligraphy was particularly impressive. It must surely be something fancy. An invitation to a ball, perhaps? Or maybe a request for a date? Dean had been hinting that he was interested in getting back together and he was well known for his skills with a quill. He was also the typical sensitive artist type, likely to do something like this, and he had certainly been the cause for Ginny going weak in the knees several times during their months dating back in Hogwarts. Unfortunately for him, though, her heart was already firmly taken by another, one with messy raven hair and eyes as green as a fresh-pickled toad.
Ginny giggled silently at how ridiculous and childish she had been as a schoolgirl. She no longer let such things embarrass her anymore as they once had. She knew Harry was hers. It was only a matter of time now. And she wouldn't waste time dating anyone else to prove to herself that she was desirable and that she had the confidence to take what she wanted. Her dreams would come true, and very soon, if she had anything to say about it. And she knew she did.
Feeling a flare of excitement burgeoning in her chest as she let her imagination run wild about what she would do the next time she saw Harry, coupled with eager anticipation of what this letter might contain, she slit open the envelope with her finger and pulled the elegant paper out. Opening the three folds of parchment within, she immediately recognised it as an invitation.
You are cordially invited to celebrate the wedding of
Hermione Jane Granger
Harry James Potter
on Saturday, June 2, 2003
at 5 o'clock
The invitation went on to inform her of the place for the wedding and reception, as well as a request to R.S.V.P by a certain date, but the sheet of paper was released from her numb fingers before she could finish reading.
Harry and Hermione. Harry and Hermione. Harry and Hermione.
Harry and Hermione were getting married.
Harry and Hermione.
Harry and Hermione!
Ginny absently felt her head shaking back and forth slowly, her eyes wide and disbelieving, as her feet backed her up against a wall.
How could this possibly have come about without Ginny realising it sooner? Sure Harry had been dating Hermione for the past four years, but Ginny had been confident it was only a matter of time before the couple fully recognised and declared their regard for one another as nothing more than that of best friends, more like siblings, really. They had been bound to break up soon, and had certainly only been continuing this farce of a coupling for this long due to notions of security in the comfortable familiarity of each other's company and apprehension at hurting the other's feelings.
Ginny had been fully prepared to console Harry when that happened and remind him of all the reasons why his perfect match could not possibly be a curly-haired bookworm. She had the entire litany ready of how he would be much more compatible with someone more fun-loving, with a similar interest in Quidditch as him, a finer zest for life, and someone willing to step out of the library every now and then and show him a good time in the wizarding world. Not to mention, someone who had been raised in the proper etiquette of running a wizarding household, even if she did plan on pursuing her career as well while doing so, and who knew all the ins and outs of wizarding society, culture, and proper decorum, all of which Harry still woefully lacked having been raised by those horrendous Muggle relations of his. She would remind him of all the reasons they had made such a great couple while back at Hogwarts and how it could only be better now that they were out of school and the war was over.
They really should have gotten back together the moment Harry had officially brought the wizarding world into the next age of peace, as she had expected him to, but instead Harry had gone to her. At the time Ginny had consoled herself with the assurance that she would eventually win him back. It was just meant to be. She was the one for Harry. She had a perfect plan, after all, to make him hers again.
A plan, it seemed, that was all for naught as he would soon be beyond her reach. All the breath seemed to rush out of her as if she'd been punched in the stomach. She had missed her chance. He was gone. He would never be hers. He was pledging himself to Hermione. And as any purebred witch knew, you didn't mess with someone's fiancé; it was nearly as bad as going after a married man. Nearly, though not quite as bad, but Ginny knew defeat when she saw it. And this was her defeat.
From a pain deep in her chest, a low, keening sound slowly began to push itself from her throat, getting louder and louder as her entire body keeled forward at the top of the steps, and crumpled onto the floor. Turning to curl herself up in as small a ball as possible, pulling her knees tightly to her chest, she collapsed against the old, softened wood of the wall, her scrunched up face pushed forcefully against the smooth surface as though trying to hide her grief from view.
As the slightly muffled and choked wails continued to pour from her mouth, tears escaped from the corners of her eyes, which were tightly closed as they had been this morning while she'd still been lost in the beautiful fantasy of her dreams; dreams of a future that would never be; fantasy is all they would ever remain. And all she could do now was weep at the loss.
Seconds after the sounds of her first cries had reverberated down to the kitchen, her mother had hurried to her side, pounding up the stairs with a wooden spoon still dripping with bits of porridge in one hand and her apron scrunched tightly in the fist of her other, its ties still half caught in tangles of her hair from where she'd pulled it over her head moments ago. As soon as she was capable, Molly Weasley was sitting next to her daughter and pulling her warmly into her arms, rocking her back and forth and caressing her hair soothingly, all the while trying to coax the matter out of her youngest, and getting more and more worried as the seconds passed and Ginny had still not answered. But as it was, Ginny had barely noticed the warm arms encasing her strongly, nor had she heard the concerned voice asking solicitously what was wrong over the sound of her own gasping sobs.
After several fruitless minutes had passed, with Molly becoming more and more frustrated and fretting increasingly by the second, the Weasley matron finally turned around to find the dropped invitation innocently laying on the other side of the step. It was as far away from Ginny as possible, where she had kicked it viciously with the toe of her socked foot before her mother had arrived.
Molly picked up the parchment and smoothed it out with shaking hands. After reading the first couple lines, she heaved out a heavy sigh and seemed to sink in upon herself. "Oh, dear. This is my fault, I fear," she mourned ruefully, returning her other arm to Ginny's shoulders and pulling the girl back in her strong hold. In her arms was the only place she could protect her children anymore and shield them from harm. Unfortunately, as her children got older, the monsters and dangers weren't always as tangible or black and white as they had been in the storybooks. Back then, their fears could be appeased by a wave of her wand under the bed or enchanting a soft toy bear with a Protection Charm. Now...
"Little girls fall in love so easily, and so desperately, without a care, thinking nothing of the world beyond their own back garden. And I was the one who introduced you to the Boy-Who-Lived through all those silly tales," Molly chided herself, her heart breaking further at her own guilt in all this. Shaking her head sadly, she rested her cheek tenderly atop her daughter's crown and then pressed a kiss to her forehead before saying, "I had hoped you'd gotten over the Boy-Who-Lived by now; Harry's such a nice young man and very brave, to be sure, but usually these stories are better left in our imaginations."
Secretly, Mrs Weasley was pleased that Ginny couldn't chase after the young man anymore. Though she did see Harry as one of her sons, the boy did get into an inordinate amount of trouble, even after Voldemort's demise. And while she would continue to want what was best for him, like she did for Charlie with his dragon taming and Bill with his curse breaking, that didn't mean she wanted her Ginny to be married to a man like her brothers. Boys and their thrill seeking; it was all too dangerous, much too dangerous in Mrs Weasley's opinion. And Ginny should settle down with a nice, safe man who could take care of her and provide her with a nice home. Why couldn't her daughter set her sights on someone like that?
Molly's frown deepened as she whispered comfortingly to her daughter, who was still sobbing incoherently into her mother's shoulder.
"Everything will turn out alright, dear. You'll see. Everything will be all right. All will be well soon enough, I promise."
But Ginny didn't hear her mother's words. As it was, she didn't even have the breath to answer.
When had it started being less than perfect?
The house was quiet, with the only sounds coming from the soft ticking of the clock on the mantle. It was late and the shadows from the furniture and knickknacks on the shelves had slowly stretched like thick fingers further and further over the room as the hours passed, until they all converged together to bathe the sole living occupant under the cover of darkness.
Ginny was waiting in their little cottage, back straight and alert atop the sofa in the sitting room, a room that reminded her most of her childhood home in the Burrow. It was set up similarly as her erstwhile lounge, and it was also the room that heralded the most traffic, saw the most excitement and was host to the major events of the Potter family. Normally this was the room Ginny would come into for the purpose of relaxing, entertaining her friends, or spending some quality time with her family. But tonight there was no one sitting beside her to share humorous stories with, and she was certainly far from relaxed.
It was just the beginning of autumn, so all the windows were still open to invite in the last vestiges of summer. Tonight felt surprisingly balmy and calm, with only a slight breeze in the air, and if she weren't so set on waiting rigidly where she sat, Ginny would be out on her broom enjoying the dusky hours of the evening out back.
But she wasn't.
On the other side of the room, an enchanted cold fire was banked in the embers, still crackling feebly for anyone who wished to Floo call them at this hour. Ginny rarely turned it off, just in case her family or their close friends needed to contact them. But tonight it was quiet.
Normally the occasional snapping and popping of the low fire was accompanied by slight groans of the floorboards above from the low footfalls of feet upstairs, and the hushed, whispered arguments of her children right before bed when they thought she and Harry could no longer hear them. But the kids were all at Hogwarts now. Lily was just beginning her first year, and had sent them a letter only this morning, telling them of her first, exciting night in the castle.
Ginny had smiled contentedly after Harry had read the letter aloud over breakfast, knowing her youngest was doing alright so far away from home. She had then turned to her husband to tell him of the wonderful plan she had for them to spend the day together, just the two of them, as a couple, now that they had the house completely to themselves for the first time since the early years of their marriage. But Harry, to her shock and dismay, had been rather quick to decline, as he stood hurriedly from the breakfast table and reached behind to grab his cloak from the back of his chair. Leaning down for a fleeting, perfunctory kiss on her lips, he had distractedly told her that he had already made plans with Hermione for today and wouldn't be back til later. And then he was out the door before she could even open her mouth to wish him farewell or ask him where he was going or for how long.
Ginny hadn't seen him since.
The dinner she had made hours ago had gone cold, untouched and still on the table, before Ginny relocated herself to the sofa in the lounge to sit and wait for her husband's return. Surely he should have at least called by now. What establishment didn't at least have a Floo for patrons to use? It wasn't like Harry could have forgotten about his own wife. And Hermione, for all the times she seemed to steal Ginny's husband for some private time between just the two of them that Harry didn't like to talk about – darkly muttering about the war or laughingly brushing it off as Hermione being the sister he never had – was usually more responsible than this and would make sure Harry at least Floo called home if he was going to be late.
So why hadn't he?
It was just past eleven o'clock at night when Ginny heard the familiar sounds of a flying motor cycle landing on the gravel of the path outside, followed by the engine being turned off, and light footfalls growing louder as they grew closer and closer to the house. Moments later, she was greeted with the click of the door handle being turned and then the swoosh of the door being pushed open slowly along the tiled floor. There was a certain projected hush and dramatic slowness about the entry that let Ginny know that her husband assumed her to be asleep and he was doing his best not to make any sounds that would otherwise rouse her.
She was more than happy to disabuse him of this notion, in the most jolting way possible.
"Where have you been?" Ginny asked tersely in a loud, though slightly disused voice, the moment Harry had closed the door behind him and was turning around to hang up his cloak.
Harry froze with his arms halfway in the act of catching the hook on the coat rack and she could see his back tense quickly in response to her voice by the way his grey shirt tightened across his shoulders. Spinning around to peer through the short hallway into the living room, surprise etched on every facet of his face, he cried her name in a somewhat hushed, strangled whisper.
"Err, sorry to keep you up. You know you didn't have to wait for me," he said, regaining his voice and frowning solicitously as he walked into the room and moved to sit down beside her. Before he could though, Ginny stood up and walked to the other side of the room, placing her back to the mantelpiece.
"Where were you?" she repeated in the same cold tone. Her arms were crossed tightly in front of her chest and she bowed her head marginally, letting her hair fall around her face, to stare down at him, where he hadn't moved from his suspended position on the edge of the cushion, arm still reaching out towards the spot she had been moments before.
Too confused to even know how to remedy the situation, Harry immediately opened his mouth and answered honestly. "I was with Hermione. I told you that this morning."
"For the whole day." It was one of those statements that was as accusatory as it was questioning; it was all in the skill of the tone, a skill which she had perfected over the years, and she knew just how uncomfortable it made Harry too.
As predicted, Harry's hand immediately reached up to comb through his hair in response as his jaw silently dropped and moved around, speechless, confusion and shock still in his eyes. "I, err, I didn't think you'd mind or anything. It was just, uh –"
"Just what?" Ginny interjected before he could stumble his way through another set of useless filler phrases and excuses.
"It, uh, it's the anniversary of when Hermione and I went back to the Forest of Dean, three years after the war ended. We've been doing it for years, you know that; I didn't think –"
"Exactly, Harry," Ginny cut through his words with a sharp exclamation of her own. "You didn't think. You didn't think that your wife just might want to spend the day with you. You didn't think that I just might want to know where you were going!" Her arms had untangled at that point as her voice continued to rise with each statement, and she threw her hands down to her sides for emphasis. "And you didn't think that I would be waiting for you, would make dinner for us as I do every night, and that I wouldn't have any idea of when to expect you! What do you do out there with Hermione anyway?"
Ginny had watched in glee as Harry winced with each accusation she had thrown at him. Good, he deserved to know that there needed to be some serious grovelling in his future if he wanted to possibly make this up to her.
With a tired, defeated sigh, Harry hung his head and his shoulders slumped. "I'm sorry, Gin, I can't tell you. You – you weren't there. It – I just – there's some things I can't share with you. And me and Hermione need to do this every year. It's important. You just wouldn't understand." You weren't there, went unspoken, as it always did because for some reason Harry thought that phrase had more power to hurt her than anything else he said did.
Oh how wrong he was.
With one last sad look towards her, Harry stood up, walked out of the room, and went up the stairs. Seconds later, Ginny heard what she assumed to be one of the kid's doors closing softly behind him. Lily's probably.
Ginny frowned. She didn't understand, but not for the same reasons Harry assumed. That wasn't how Harry was supposed to react. He was supposed to apologise profusely, swear it wouldn't happen again, and then entreat her, desperately, to his side, where he would proceed to take her in his arms and remind her that while he may go out with Hermione for a day, he would always come home to her every time.
But he hadn't. He hadn't done any of that. And she couldn't understand why not. What had she done wrong? What had changed?
With a scared, confused look on her shock-slackened face and her eyes stuck on the corner Harry had disappeared around seconds before, Ginny numbly slid down the rough stones of the fireplace and heavily dropped down to the floor. Hand over her mouth, she choked back a sob that seemed determined to make its way out, and pressed her fingers against her trembling lips, adamant that Harry would not hear her cry no matter what.
When had everything stopped being so perfect?
Ginny abruptly came back to consciousness with a shudder and the realisation that she was clutching her covers to her chest in a death grip, hands shaking imperceptibly above the pulse of her rapidly beating heart. Flashes of her dream, if it could even be called that, burst into her mind with all the finesse of a bucket of water being poured over her.
Her night-time visions, which had once been her escape from the harsh reality of Harry leaving her for good in favour of marrying Hermione, were now starting to haunt her as much as the daylight hours. And she wasn't sure which were worse anymore.
Muffled voices from far down the hallway slowly began to trickle into her brain and she stopped all movement to turn an ear towards the door.
"— won't mind?"
"Nonsense," she could hear her mother chuckle in return. "It's late as it is. She should be up by now. Go right on in."
Footsteps were drawing closer.
Ginny's eyes widened in panic. Trust her mother to let guests into her room at this ungodly hour in the morning. She hurriedly sat up and pushed her covers away to dash to her dresser and hastily throw on a bra and shirt that wasn't as revealing as her pyjama top. She just had time to throw herself back on the bed and pull her hair into a loose ponytail before the door opened and one of the last people she wanted to see at the moment walked in.
"Morning, Ginny," Hermione cried cheerfully, closing the door quietly behind her. "I know you're not exactly a morning person," she winced in apology, "but Molly said it was okay, and I, alright we, needed your help with something today."
"We?" Ginny asked, pulling at her shirt nervously, noticing as she did so that in her haste to get dressed she had grabbed the old white one with all the holes in the sides, the one she had been meaning to throw out. Not that Hermione would care, but she still felt embarrassed nonetheless. "Who else is here?" she asked quickly to divert her attention, all the while doing her minimal best to keep the cold tone that tainted the comments in her head out of her voice. She was speaking to her defeater after all, the reason for her waking nightmares and tainted dreams.
Harry wasn't coming back to her, wouldn't be building a home with her, because of Hermione.
Hermione nodded to the door, none the wiser to Ginny's inner turmoil. "Harry's just outside. He didn't think you'd want him to see you just out of bed. I'm sure you don't have my horrid bedhead, but," she trailed off with a shrug and another apologetic, though amused smile. Ginny self-consciously pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear in response but said nothing. "Harry and I need to keep an appointment at Gringotts, which is supposed to take all day, but Harry forgot he had made an appointment with the bakery by my parents' house the same day." Hermione paused to roll her eyes at the door, the common exasperated sigh of 'men' clearly written on her face, not needing to be said aloud.
Hermione then turned back to Ginny with a sudden excited smile on her face. "You see, this bakery makes these amazing cakes and I've wanted one for my wedding since I was a little girl," Hermione gushed, which surprised Ginny as she didn't think she'd ever seen Hermione gush. Hermione was always no-nonsense, Miss Perfect, in command, and never girly or overly cheerful about things like wedding cake or decorations. It frankly baffled Ginny. She didn't like seeing this side of Hermione as she didn't know whether to feel a sense of camaraderie and enthusiasm, despite herself, or a heightened jealousy and disgust for the other girl for being eager for a wedding that was supposed to be Ginny's.
A knock on the door interrupted her musings.
"Is it safe to come in yet?" Harry's voice asked hesitantly through the door.
Hermione sent a questioning glance at Ginny, who quickly shook her head before even thinking about it. She couldn't let Harry see her like this. Not in this ratty shirt, her hair half done, and her teeth not even brushed!
"Sorry, love; not yet. Just wait in the kitchen and have some of Molly's biscuits and tea while Ginny and I have some girl talk."
There was an audible groan through the wood, followed by a muffled bang of Harry's head making contact, hard, with the door. "Fine," he grounded out a second later, "Just please hurry," he implored. And then Ginny could make out the creaking of the stairs as Harry followed his fiancé's advice, all the while undoubtedly dreading the coddling and stifling interrogation of 20 Questions that awaited him downstairs. Though Ginny loved her mother dearly, she knew all too well how overprotective and repressive the woman's attentions could be.
"Alright," Hermione whipped her head back to look at Ginny. "Now, I know all their cakes are absolutely delicious, and I probably could just order one over the phone or something without worrying, but if you have the time, would you mind popping over there and picking out a good pattern and flavour? I'm not too picky, and I would love to do it myself, it's just that Harry and I both need to be at this meeting with the goblins for them to legally recognise us for a joint account, and especially after all the trouble from, well, you know, we–"
"I'll do it."
Hermione stopped in her long-winded explanation to beam at Ginny. "Thanks, Ginny. You're the best. I'll just head downstairs with Harry and wait for you to get ready. There are a few notes I had put together for the meeting that I'd like you to look over, if you wouldn't mind. Just some preferences and ideas I had," she said, smiling sheepishly over what Ginny was sure was more than just a couple pages of notes, and then happily exited the room for Ginny to get dressed.
Once the door shut behind Hermione, Ginny closed her eyes and let herself fall back onto the bed with a stifled groan. Oh how she hated this. Hermione was her friend, or Ginny had once thought of her as such, yet now Ginny both loathed and was extremely jealous of her at the same time. None of this was fair. Even in her dreams Hermione was taking Harry away from her, and now the genius witch was just shoving that fact further into Ginny's face and then asking for her help to boot. And the worst part of it was that Hermione didn't even know what she was doing. She no doubt thought Ginny long over her obsession with Harry and nothing more than a perfectly willing bridesmaid; a good friend.
A frown pressed itself on her lips. A favour. A favour to pick out a wedding cake that should be Ginny's to choose in the first place. Pfft. Ginny shook her head slowly from side to side, pushing her ponytail further into her pillow until the base of her scalp hurt sharply in response.
Why was she doing this to herself?
Everything was falling apart at the seams, and it seemed no amount of mending could restore what once was.
Ginny crossed her arms and shook her head definitively. "No, Harry, I don't understand why we can't just have a quiet night at home every once in a while. You're always inviting Ron and Hermione over, or going over to their house, or going out with your other friends. Is it so horrible to be with just your own wife for once? Or am I not exciting enough for you!?" Ginny had started firm and furious, but her voice had quickly escalated in the open kitchen until she was shouting at him all the worries and doubts that had been building up over the past few days, months, years even, if she were completely honest with herself. It hadn't been so much of a problem when all the children had been home and it had been good for the two families to spend time together. But now it was just Ginny and Harry, and Ginny thought it wasn't too much to ask that her husband spend time with just her. Alone.
They'd had ten months out of the year to themselves for three years now, and still Ginny hadn't been able to keep her husband close to her long enough to remind him that he was hers.
"It's not like that, Gin, and you know it," Harry protested, pushing his still full plate of now cold eggs away from him, shaking his head and keeping his voice calm and monotone, clearly showing that he didn't see what the issue was in the slightest, nor did he care. That hurt her the most. He didn't seem to care about them at all anymore, and she didn't know what she had done wrong to push him away like this. She had done everything right. Hadn't she?
Harry continued in his apathetic tone, indifferent to the thoughts whirling like knives in her head and piercing poignantly at her heart, "We've always gotten together every Friday night, what's so different this time? We still go see Molly and Arthur every Sunday for brunch. Should we stop that as well, then?" He raised an eyebrow at her mockingly, and Ginny deepened her glare in response. Indignant anger seemed to be the only thing she had left to her defence. But Harry seemed to have cultivated that same anger over the years and no longer had any qualms over throwing it back at her.
She pressed her lips firmly together, crossed her legs, and began jiggling her foot agitatedly in the air under the table. Her sharp nails were pushing painfully into the skin of her arms, but she took no notice as she clenched her jaw and lowered her head, staring evenly at him from beneath her eyelids without saying another word. If he wanted to act like the one in the right by not rising to a temper and staying cool and collected, then she would show him that she could be just as calm.
"Oh Merlin, Gin! Not the silent treatment!" Harry groaned exasperatedly, letting his head fall back tiredly and rolling his eyes as he reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose, where she could see two distinct stress lines beginning to deepen into his skin. He was only just starting to grey along his hairline, but unlike some men his age, his mop of hair was still as thick as when he was a boy. Nonetheless, it was at times like these, when they were arguing, that Ginny thought he looked older than ever and she could no longer see the hero she married anywhere in the countenance of the man sitting across from her. She didn't know this man in front of her; and yet, at the same time she knew him better than she did the hero of her childhood fantasies. This was certainly not the future she had envisioned with him when she had curled up in her bed at night as a little girl, after her mother had finished telling her stories of the Boy-Who-Lived, and wish on stars shining bright in the sky that he would be hers someday.
He was hers now. But not how she had wanted him.
And why did he always look so much younger and more carefree when he was with the kids or hanging out with Ron and Hermione? When the whole family was together everything was fine and he acted like life was perfect. Who would ever know otherwise when the smiles came so easily to his face? In those moments he was the same Harry she had always admired at Hogwarts, the same Harry she had secretly fallen in love with long ago. So who was this man with such a cold face looking at her now, and why did he only come out when it was just the two of them?
Ginny quickly squashed that line of thought before it could bring her down even darker paths. It was possible that it was all in her imagination anyway. Harry always looked at his worse in her eyes when they were arguing after all. It just so happened that they were doing it a lot more frequently than they used to.
A lot more frequently.
Harry had never truly raised his voice to her before, and he still didn't when the kids were around or they had company. But these days, when they were alone…
Harry closed his eyes wearily and pushed a hand through his dark hair distractedly. After a moment, he dropped his arms heavily to cross them in front of his chest and turned his attention to the window, looking out on the bleak winter scene disinterestedly, as though he could gain the upper hand by just ignoring her.
Ginny started absently chewing on the tip of her tongue, a habit she knew that Harry absolutely hated, and decided to wait it out. She wouldn't be the one to say anything more. Whenever she spoke, it only seemed to make everything worse, and the fighting would only escalate from there.
The song of the winter birds called faintly through the closed windows, but otherwise the silence was practically deafening. She could already hear the beginnings of a faint ringing in her ears, and it was only getting louder as the seconds ticked by into nothing.
Finally, blowing out an impatient sigh, Harry caved, as she knew he always would. "Look," he said in frustration, "we've already agreed to go to Hermione and Ron's tonight, we can't back out now. They'll start asking questions, and Hermione's already suspicious." He paused for a moment and Ginny's foot began twitching faster, mutely hitting the underside of the table every few seconds, but Harry pretended like he didn't hear.
"I'll cancel drinks with Ron this week, okay?" Harry shrugged and jerked his hands, palms out, in front of him like he was giving her his best offer and was silently admitting that he didn't know what more she wanted. "We can stay at home and do whatever it is you want then," he said dismissively with a quick shake of his head like he didn't really care one way or another, "but I'm still going out to lunch with Hermione on Monday. We've been doing that for far longer than the four of us have been doing these family gatherings." With an annoyed frown, he added a bit belatedly, "And it's not like I usually come home for lunch anyway. Unless you'd like to dictate how I do my job and where I should eat my lunch as well?"
Ginny could feel her face growing red enough to match her hair as she breathed in deeply, puffing out her chest and cheeks as she straightened in her seat. She didn't know if she was more incensed at his comment that she dictated his life or the fact that the one thing he refused to change, like always, was his time with Hermione, but she guessed it really didn't matter either way. He had said more than enough in his words and his silence.
"So," she hissed dangerously, eyes narrowed to mere slits, "That's how it's going to be then, is it?"
Harry turned his head slightly to look directly at her and kept his face impassive and cold as he answered, "I guess so."
And she knew, without a doubt, that this was the beginning of the end. Or had the end already come and they were just delaying the inevitable now?
Everything was falling apart around her and crashing to the floor in a million pieces that were beyond repair. Could anything be saved anymore, she wondered. And more importantly, did she want it to be? Was it even worth it anymore? What semblance of a normal, happy life could she possibly hope to get back now?
Ginny woke up with a horrid feeling in the pit of her stomach that was quickly morphing into a full-blown sickness. Her once lovely dreams of raising a family with Harry had turned into hateful, spiteful snippets of her and Harry fighting, shouting at one another, or silently disagreeing, and always ending up with them facing away from each other and sleeping on the opposite ends of the bed.
There were no happy moments of familial bliss anymore and she didn't understand why. Her feelings for Harry had not changed as far as she knew – when she was awake and aware, that was – even as the wedding date crept ever close. They were only a week away now, and Hermione's tea shower, which was also acting as her hen party, was today.
Hermione, being who she was, had opted not to do the typical wild night of entertainment –much to Ginny's chagrin – and had instead suggested a small get-together with a few close friends, who had all decided to bring small, appropriate gifts for the bride-to-be as they sat back and chatted about the wedding and honeymoon plans at Hermione's favourite teashop. It certainly wasn't the route Ginny would have gone, but then again, as she was constantly reminded, she wasn't the bride.
Ginny rubbed a hand over her eyes, this time not in an attempt to salvage the remains of a chilling nightmare as she once had tried to do with her sweet, heart-warming dreams, but to stave off the final moments before she had to get ready for the day. The moment she got out of bed she would have to put on a happy face and pretend that everything was all right and that she was more than happy for the lovely couple.
These nightmares though, as she could think of them as nothing else, were becoming more and more frequent as the days passed. She wouldn't admit it aloud, but sometimes she would find herself wondering…
Is he worth all this?
At one point, only several months back, she could have answered with a simple and sure 'yes'. But the fact that she had to even think now, that she had to pause as her mind returned to her latest nightly horror, made her worry. It wracked her with feelings of guilt and uncertainty, and she just wasn't sure what to feel anymore. It was clear by now that Harry didn't love her nearly as much as she loved him, or had – still did! – or he would never be marrying Hermione. He would have realised by now what a horrible mistake it was and who his heart truly belonged to.
Only, it obviously wasn't to Ginny. And if he had chosen her, she could only think of what their future might have held. Were her dreams truly just manifests of her worries, sorrows, and regrets throughout the day, or were they visions of some kind warding her off from a perceived felicity she had only imagined in her head?
A sharp rap on her door was followed by her mother's voice asking if she was up, and telling her to get ready because the party was in a couple hours. Ginny responded by turning to bury her face in her pillow and release a frustrated, muffled groan at the unfairness of it all.
She couldn't do this today.
Her mother, of course, had different ideas, and seconds later without an answer from Ginny, the Weasley matron was barging in without a word of warning, and upon entry, immediately ordered Ginny out of bed and to start preparing for the day. When her directions were further ignored, Ginny pushing her face further into the soft pink fabric of her pillow in a half attempt to bury herself and black out the world around her, Mrs Weasley surged forward and began throwing the blankets off her daughter to muffled cries of surprise.
"Now none of that, Ginny. You need to get ready for Hermione's party," Molly reproached, "especially after you spent so much time and effort putting it together."
By the time Ginny had sat up indignantly, crying out with an irate, shrill groan from the back of her throat while grasping for the blankets at the edge of her bed, Mrs Weasley had already begun rummaging in Ginny's drawers for something presentable. Ignoring her daughter's early morning stroppiness, as she was used to doing, Molly Weasley began to tatter on about what she thought Ginny would look best in today, while reminding her daughter to wish Hermione well from the family, and also to remind Hermione that Mrs Weasley would be making Harry's favourite treacle tart for the reception, so not to let the caterers even put it on their list. The ensuing unending stream of her mother's grunting disapprovals over certain jumpers and skirts she came across, coupled with clucks of her tongue at almost every piece of clothing Ginny owned only served to stoke the fire that was Ginny's growing temper.
"Ginny!" Mrs Weasley finally cried, turning in exasperation towards her daughter. "You are not six years old anymore; get up and get into the shower this instant or you'll be late to Hermione's party, and I will not have you disgracing this family with your own laziness. Now get up," she emphasised again with a resounding clap aimed at Ginny, ironically, which she had last used years ago before Ginny had entered Hogwarts, before returning to dig frantically in the dresser drawers once more.
But instead of following her mother's orders, Ginny glared with enough intensity to burn a hole in her mother's back and sat rigidly still as she felt the anger, indignation, and resentment boil within her, growing hotter and hotter in her chest, spreading up to her neck, across her cheeks, and to the tip of her ears. She was frustrated and mortified with the subjects of her dreams and nightmares, annoyed at Hermione's insistence of having this stupid party, incensed by her own failures with Harry in both the waking and sleeping world, and more than a little aggravated with her mother for barging into her room and dictating what she should wear, what she should say, and when she should get ready when she had no clue how Ginny was feeling! How could the woman be so infuriatingly coddling and bossy at the same time?
Grabbing at her pillow by her thigh, she tensed her muscles and threw it at the half open door with as much force as she could muster, consequently slamming the door closed with a little satisfaction.
"Mum!" she cried in frustration before her mother could even open her mouth to berate her. Teeth clenched and nostrils flaring, she yelled out, "Why can't you just understand that I can't do this right now!?"
Everything was bubbling over at once and her mother had unknowingly set herself up as the prime target in Ginny's sights.
Molly Weasley had her mouth open and her chest heaving with a breath held in, ready to be let loose in a firm reprimanding at Ginny's childish behaviour, when she took one long look at her daughter's desperate, angry face and froze.
Ginny took that as her opportunity to vent and tell her mother exactly what she thought of all her 'helping' and overbearing nature. But when she opened her mouth to shout with all the force of a full-blown Weasley temper...
Nothing came out.
Ginny sat up tense as she held the breath at the back of her throat, waiting for the right words to come to her and let her unleash her righteous anger. No one could possibly understand how much she was hurting right now. How dare they make her go to this, and act all sweet and simpering as Hermione got all nervous and excited for her wedding, and all the girls oohed and awed over the beautifully tasteful ring that had once belonged to Harry's great grandmother on his mother's side. This should be Ginny's wedding and that should have been Ginny's ring.
Yet still the words would not come. Why wouldn't they come? Why was this all caving in on her so spectacularly?
Molly seemed to sense the oncoming tears and swiftly abandoned any thoughts of an oncoming row to go and sit by Ginny's side without a moment's hesitation. "Oh Ginny," she sighed, aging several decades in that moment as all anger evaporated from her body to be replaced by worry and grief for the suffering her daughter was going through. She immediately enveloped the young girl in one of her legendary hugs. And while Ginny put up a short resistance, all too soon she seemed to lose all her previous energy borne from that abrupt anger; her shoulders sagged and her face fell into a look of defeat, and then was quickly smothered into her mother's shoulder as the sobs began to wrack her petite form.
"That's it, my love, let it all out. Come now; take a nice, deep breath. Deep breath. There now, just like that," Molly crooned, rubbing Ginny's back soothingly as she let her daughter cry away all her worries, frustrations, and anger, just as she'd done all those months ago when Ginny had first received the dreaded wedding invitation.
When Ginny's wails had finally begun to subside, Molly stroked her daughter's bedraggled hair and began to speak softly to her, all the while holding Ginny even tighter to her.
"Oh, my dear. I'm afraid I can't make this all go away with a simple spell or potion. You have to get past this on your own," her mother told her in as kind a voice as possible, laden with grief and heartbreak to see her child so lost and distressed.
Her eyes closed tightly against the tears that flooded her eyes and throat, Ginny knew she was giving herself one horrible headache if she kept this up, but she knew she didn't possess the strength to stop. She welcomed her mother's warm embrace, forgetting her earlier irritation in favour of deciding that she'd much rather stay here all day, as they were. She could pretend that she was six years old again, where the world was no bigger than the Burrow and Luna's house, when her problems were nothing that couldn't be fixed with a basic wand movement and incantation. When Harry Potter was still little more than the subject of bedtime stories and no more tangible than an imaginary friend, or husband, who hugged her when she was feeling blue and kissed her goodnight on her forehead before bed like her mother and father did. When she had never heard of Hermione Granger, and when all her stories ended perfectly, with Ginny finding true love with the man of her dreams and living happily ever after because she knew no other ending.
But even as she reminisced and tried to rebuild that childhood naïveté around her from the safety of her mother's arms, the voice of a twenty-year-old woman chided her in the back of her mind, telling her that she was being ridiculous and that she was no longer a child. Childhood wasn't something you could reclaim; once it was over, there was no turning back.
"But you know what?" her mother asked after a moment, breaking into Ginny's depressing thoughts. Not waiting for an answer from Ginny, her mother replied a second later, "You're a strong, brave young woman who I'm proud to call my daughter. And I think you're almost there; you'll be past this sooner than you realise."
Her mother fell silent after that, contending herself with comforting Ginny through consoling gestures and a mother's unspoken love.
Ginny didn't know how long they sat there, but she did know that unlike last time when her mother had tried to calm her after first receiving the dreaded wedding invitation, this time Ginny had heard the words of advice and support. Whether she believed them or not, whether she thought she was strong enough or was even remotely close to getting over Harry, she had still heard the sentiments, the confidence, and felt just a little bit better knowing that her mother was there for her no matter what. Even if she was too old to cry 'monster' and hide under the blankets until someone else fixed the problem for her, her mother was still her strongest advocate and supporter.
Eventually, Ginny knew she needed to get up, and her mum provided the needed nudge by kissing her atop the head and patting her encouragingly on the shoulder before pushing back to look at her from arms' length and smile proudly at her. "It's time to get going," her mother repeated, gently this time. "Go on," Molly said, lightly pushing Ginny up and towards the door. "Have a shower and then come downstairs and I'll have breakfast all ready for you before you head out."
Sighing in defeat, knowing that the time for feeling sorry for herself was over, Ginny trudged towards the bathroom, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand and sniffling lightly against the last of her tears. Even though it was still early in the morning, after all that crying, Ginny felt more tired now than she had when she'd gone to bed last night. And she still had an entire party to attend, put on a happy face for, and act like nothing was out of the ordinary.
She hoped she really was strong enough to get through the day.
Stepping into the bathroom, she started the shower and then began to undress before turning to look into the mirror over the sink at her bleak reflection. She looked pale and peaky, she thought as she scrunched her nose in self-disgust. Her famous Weasley freckles stood out, scattered across her nose like a smudge of dirt on her face that wouldn't go away no matter how many times she rubbed at them. No wonder Harry preferred Hermione to herself. Hermione didn't have unsightly freckles or iconic red hair that would forever label her as a Weasley, the family with too many children than they could afford, the family of blood traitors and war heroes, whichever you liked, the family that would always support the Light and the Greater Good. Maybe Harry just didn't want to be connected to any of that; maybe he wanted a new start at a life with someone who didn't come with so much baggage. Ginny Weasley couldn't give him that, but Hermione Granger could.
The mirror was slowly beginning to fog up and blur her reflection, but Ginny didn't notice as her eyes had already slid out of focus and into her own self-discriminating mindscape. The water was running for several minutes now, the sound of the jetting streams banging against the bottom of the tub soothing her in a mind-numbing sort of way. It blocked out all other noises of her mother still tidying up in her room, her father getting ready downstairs, the ghoul banging against the pipes in the attic, and all other once so comforting noises of home. But she wasn't a child anymore, and they no longer offered the same feelings of comfort they once had.
What good was a home when she could no longer use it as a place to run away from the horrors of the world, or to hide beneath the safety of its sturdy rafters when she didn't get her way? In her nightmares, her home with Harry had become nothing than a house once the children had left. And she knew the next likely progression was an annulment of their marriage, as rare as they were in the wizarding world. Perhaps not that day, or even that year, but the next time she closed her eyes she would be divorced from the Potter name for good.
But who was she then if not the wife of Harry Potter? Where was Ginny Weasley's place in the world? Where was her safe haven? What was she supposed to do now?
The heat from the shower enveloped her skin and wrapped around her like a thin blanket, enticing her to finally step under the spray, but Ginny couldn't bring herself to move. Closing her eyes, she breathed in deeply of the steamy air and concentrated solely on the soothing sounds of running water and her own rapid heart beating in her chest, nothing else, holding it all in for as long as she could as she did her best to clear her mind and keep the tears that threatened to fall at bay.
Everything around her faded into nothing until the world was just white noise and mist.
You're better than this, Ginny, she silently told herself. Don't lose it now. You're better than this. Life isn't a fairytale. Sometimes your dreams don't come true and there's nothing you can do about it. You lost and there's nothing more to it. No do-overs, no second chances.
Harry's gone. He's out of your reach. You have to... have to…
A sob suddenly escaped her throat and her shoulders crumpled as she lost all her breath in one long, stifled whimper. Her body felt like it was folding in on itself and that she would collapse on the floor any second now. Her mother was wrong; she wasn't nearly past this; she wasn't brave and strong. She was just Ginny Weasley.
Head bowed and eyes still closed, she blindly pulled on the shower curtain and stepped under the spray.
She didn't think she was ready to be over him just yet.
"Oh, Ginny, it's beautiful," Hermione praised as she held up the cute, colourfully patterned apron that had been tastefully tailored by Ginny herself. The skirt had a pattern of stripped white and light blue – Hermione's favourite colours – with simple white lace around the trim, beneath the bust was a thin strip of white fabric, almost ribbon-like, and the top was a ruffled white material. Overall, it looked more like it was cut out of a dress pattern than what you would expect from a typical cooking apron, but at the same time, it was still practical and not too girly for Hermione's tastes.
If this were for Hermione's birthday or even Christmas, Ginny would probably have gone with a book, usually recommended to her by Harry, who always seemed to know what was on Hermione's current wish list. But this was a pre-wedding gift and Ginny thought a book would be much too expected and not very theme-festive. So she went with a little home warmer instead that was still stylish and modern for the new couple. And while picking out the fabrics, arranging the patterns, and sewing it all together –with magic, of course – she had tried her very hardest not to think too much of the domestic life Hermione and Harry would be having, which she was basically condoning here with her little gift.
"Of course," Hermione added a moment later with an impish grin as she folded the apron back up and laid it in its box, "Harry will probably end up wearing it more than me. I can't cook very well, but Harry is an absolute whiz in the kitchen." Hermione's smile instantly warmed and brightened as she spoke of her fiancé and future husband. "Though I'll not make any promises to save his manly pride."
Hannah and Susan giggled conspiratorially, while Luna just smiled in that dreamy way of hers and asked that if Harry did end up wearing it would Hermione mind providing pictures. Ginny, for her part, managed to keep a pleasant look of amusement on her face, though inside she felt herself grow cold. That was more information than she wanted to know; though, if it were her that Harry would wear that apron for it would be a different story. He would look so cute in it, and if…
Then again, perhaps not.
The Harry of her current nightmares was still plaguing her thoughts and he certainly wouldn't do anything as ridiculous as wear a girly apron for her. He'd stare her down with a look of disgusted disbelief and then walk away without saying a word.
Hermione's Harry wouldn't do that to her.
For a second time, Ginny asked herself, amidst the sounds of women chattering gleefully, was he worth all this? Why did she continue to do this to herself? Was she that masochistic that she liked reliving the heartbreak, the despair, the hopelessness, the confusion, the loss; the myriad of exhausting emotions that never seemed to end each time she thought of Harry, dreamt of him, saw him, spoke with him. Why couldn't she just forget him and move on?
Even after having her cry in the shower this morning and then some further encouraging words from her mother over breakfast, she was still so confused. Was Harry, in all his manifestations, from the kind-hearted, sweet and loving young man she knew now, to the loving father and family man of her dreams, or even the cold, distant man of her nightmares, was he worth all this? All this heartache, all this stress, all these long nights of hellish nightmares juxtaposing those fantastic dreams of a future Potter family that would never be? Was it worth beating herself up over the handsome Harry James Potter, hero to the wizarding world and personal champion to all her childhood fantasies?
"Harry!" several women shrieked, breaking Ginny from her morose musings with a surprising jolt. "You're not supposed to be here, this is for the bride!"
Ginny looked over to see Harry standing in the doorway to their private room, leaning against the frame with a simple, carefree smile on his face. He had eyes only for Hermione, and though Ginny didn't want to see it, she would have to be completely blind to miss the warmth and love in his gaze.
Swallowing hard, Ginny dug her nails into the skin on her knees under the table as she watched him watching her. Ginny continued to stare at him, against her better judgement, knowing that he wouldn't even know she was there unless Hermione pointed the rest of her guests out to him. He was that besotted with his fiancé, and it made Ginny's heart lurch.
Like every time Ginny saw Harry, her heart began beating painfully in her chest, as if it was trying to pound its way out of her ribcage. At one point it had been intoxicating and heady, but now it just hurt. Only, as she sat there and silently counted every thump, she suddenly realised that it wasn't quite as painful as she last remembered.
She still felt the heat rising up in her cheeks in response to him as always, but even that was subdued and not nearly as noticeable as it usually was. Her heart swelled as always and was beating faster than it had moments before Harry had stepped into the room, she couldn't deny that, but it had definitely slowed. It was softer now, and no longer as demanding of her attention – as if she could ever ignore it anyway.
But perhaps...it seemed...Harry's presence didn't give her the same excitement as it once had
And yet, she still couldn't tear her eyes away from him.
Absently, Ginny watched as Hermione waved off all the cries of the teasing women and stood up to walk over to her fiancé with a knowing smile.
"What do you need, love?" Hermione asked, leaning in to plant a chaste kiss on his lips. Ginny turned her head to examine the floral patterns of the table cloth under her tea cup, her nails digging into her knees further and scraping at the bone, but her ears still picked up the quiet conversation taking place between the couple.
"Just wanted to give you this for later before I left with the lads tonight. Ron's promised something not too over the top, so I think I'll be safe." She could hear the amusement in Harry's voice as he subtly conveyed his little bit of faith in his best man. As said best man was also Ginny's brother, she knew better than Harry to not even trust him that much. But she kept her peace, knowing she wouldn't be welcome in the couple's conversation.
Ginny closed her eyes as she heard a pause and the quiet hum of lips meeting for a prolonged period of time. The other women in the room were quick to coo at and tease the couple, ribbing at Harry that he couldn't even go one day without seeing Hermione.
Continuing to ignore the jibes from the crowd, Hermione told Harry to have a good time tonight and thanked him for bringing the item to her. Pausing for a moment, she then added in a deceptively sweet tone, "Should I expect to come over tomorrow afternoon with a strong hangover potion and some lunch?"
Harry chuckled sheepishly and Ginny imagined him running his hand through his hair in that trademark nervous gesture of his, which only served to make it even messier than humanly possible. Curiosity finally getting too much for her, Ginny turned in time to see Harry bend over to press a kiss on Hermione's forehead and then lean back and answer with a humbled smile, "That would certainly be appreciated, but not necessary."
Hermione smiled in return. "Noon it is then," she said decisively with a nod.
"Err, how about one, or two," Harry suggested hesitantly.
"Fine," Hermione huffed in mock exasperation, rolling her eyes for effect before the warm smile returned to light up her eyes and face. "You better be up and about though by the time I come. Or you won't like how I choose to wake you up," she added with a devious smirk.
Harry quickly stood at attention in response and saluted her with a humourless, austere expression. "One o'clock it is, Miss Granger. I'll be ready," he promised sombrely, his expression cracking a moment later as he let dissolved into silent chuckles and brought Hermione in for another kiss on the lips. "Soon to be Mrs Potter," Harry added quietly under his breath as they broke apart, looking deeply into each other's eyes.
Hermione's reaction was instantaneous. Though she had been smiling before, at the mention of being Mrs Potter her entire face brightened considerably, her smile stretched all the wider, and she seemed to suddenly gain two inches in height.
Ginny swallowed hard, but otherwise kept her face in a pleasant smile as she observed the couple say their final goodbyes. The other women exchanged knowing glances and quietly commented on how sweet Harry was, how lucky Hermione was, and how lovely the wedding would be. Ginny blocked it all out though and remembered a time when she had thought she would one day be Mrs Potter; when Harry had kissed her like that.
Only, now that she really thought about it, he had never kissed her quite like that. Not like he had just kissed Hermione. He had never acted quite as comfortable with her as he did with Hermione, and he never did any of those sweet gestures with her when they'd been dating. How he would casually tuck a strand of flyaway hair behind Hermione's ear in mid conversation, or take Hermione's hand and start playing with her fingers without thought. How he would come up behind Hermione while she was sitting reading a book and begin massaging her shoulders, her back, and hands. Not to mention that simple act of the prolonged chaste kiss on the forehead, as though he were imprinting her with his love and effecting a spell that would protect her all day until she could be in his arms again.
He did all these things without pause, without missing a beat, and so naturally that he didn't even seem to realise what he was doing half the time. It also made him completely oblivious to the impressed remarks he received from the audience viewing his ministrations, mainly because he did them all without thought, just because he loved Hermione; she was his other half. And there was nothing more to it.
It was all staring Ginny right in the face. It was really quite simple, really quite obvious.
Harry had never loved Ginny, not like he loved Hermione.
Ginny silently breathed in slowly through her nose and let the smile drop from her face.
She had to move on, she had to get over Harry, and there was nothing more to it. He wasn't hers anymore. He never truly was. And her future plans of being Mrs Harry Potter should no longer define her in the way she had allowed them to hitherto. They were never going to happen; and they'd never even had a fighting chance in the first place, not as long as Hermione had been in Harry's life.
But even if she recognised that now, and came to terms with her dreams being nothing more than that, having no substantial foundation upon which to grow into any sort of reality, even if her mind understood all that her heart still ached to comprehend, she still didn't think she would be able to get through this wedding without at least a few scars.
So while the attention of the room was still on the radiant couple, Ginny slipped away to use the toilet and freshen up. No one noticed her leave, and it was probably for the best.
Closing the door quietly behind her, she turned to look at her reflection in the small mirror above the sink and realised that nothing had changed since she'd looked at herself this morning, but at the same time, something had changed. She had finally seen, finally opened her eyes and realised what had been obvious to everyone but her. It would always be Harry and Hermione; it would never be Harry and Ginny.
But she was Ginny Weasley. She was strong, and she would learn to be stronger. She didn't need Harry Potter to be content with life, she didn't need Harry Potter to tell her who she was, and her life would not revolve around Harry Potter anymore, she resolved, even as the tears streamed silently down her face. This was a pain she would get through and come out all the better for it.
Ginny Weasley was more than Harry Potter, and she promised herself in that moment that she would be happy. She would find her own happily ever after. And someday, someday…
All would be well.
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the thing you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;
[If, Rudyard Kipling]
A/N: Mmmm….what to say, what to say? Well, I hope you took some kind of pleasure or satisfaction in reading that, or that it touched you in one way or another. Yes, it was an oft done theme of Ginny loses Harry to Hermione but takes awhile to fully come to terms with the fact that she needs to move on. But, meh, even if similar stuff has been done, I felt like writing it, and I needed to get back into writing after a brief lull, so there you have it.
Please share any thoughts you have upon finishing this tale, if you would be so kind. All kinds of criticism are appreciated.