(Un)Happily Ever After – Chapter 1
When I think about it, I can’t help but blame my parents. It’s definitely their fault. Don’t get me wrong – I love my parents. Mum and Dad did the best they could for all of us, but by the time I came along, they were exhausted. Sometimes I think they were exhausted with Ron as well, but because he was the sixth boy they were just going through the motions at that point.
And then there was me. A girl. I was only the third girl born to either a Prewett or a Weasley in four generations. I’m sure there was a magical reason behind it, but there were always boys. In the beginning, Mum and Dad hoped they would have a girl, but by the time the twins were born, they knew their fate was to never have a girl. But then there was me. So despite the fact that they were bloody exhausted, they did the best they could.
When I young, my dad would read Muggle fairy tales to me before bedtime. You know the stories that always have a beautiful princess who is rescued by a handsome prince, and they always lived happily ever after. After a while, I began to resent those stories. I didn’t see myself as beautiful, and there were certainly no handsome princes riding up on their white horses to rescue me. When I turned nine, Dad decided I was too old for the fairy tales and I was relieved when he started bringing Bill’s outdated history books up to read to me. I know it sounds boring, but I loved hearing about the different battles wizard-kind had fought in. In his own way, Dad was preparing me for that fateful day when I would receive my owl from Dumbledore requesting my presence at Hogwarts.
My time at Hogwarts was special, but it wasn’t Earth-shattering. When I meet someone today and mention that I attended school with Harry Potter, they start asking all sorts of questions about him. That would be how I would describe it in general. At Hogwarts, I was so busy with the people around me that I almost forgot to get to know myself. Of course, I didn’t realize this until my sixth and seventh year when Harry, Ron, and Hermione weren’t there. I missed them dearly, but during that time I found out who my real friends were (Luna, Neville, and Colin) and weren’t (Lavender and the Patil twins).
I also got over Harry Potter. Even though I never admitted it, Harry broke my heart during my fifth year when he broke up with me. I know it’s unlikely that people begin dating at Hogwarts and stay together forever, but I thought we’d have more than just a few months together. During the summer, before he left, things were increasingly more awkward between us as he wanted things to go back to how they were. He didn’t seem to understand that I couldn’t go back. I waited for him for a bit, but at the beginning of my sixth year, I knew it was never meant to be. Funny enough, it was Draco Malfoy who helped me realize that. He told me that if “Potter had wanted it badly enough, he would have found a way to make it work.” At the time, I had rolled my eyes at him and stormed off, but his words hit their intended mark. Not long after that I sent Harry an owl telling him I understood why he broke things off and I hoped he found someone who made him happy, because that’s what I was planning to do.
That was then, of course. Eight years ago. I went on to finish Hogwarts as the top student in my year and immediately went to work for the Daily Prophet. By that time, Magical Britain and Voldemort were at war. My mother was fearful that something would happen to me, especially if I was sent to cover the story on the front line so she had my father pull some strings and have me reassigned to Paris. I wasn’t happy about it, but I couldn’t fault my parents. Bill was still recovering from the attack by Fenrir Greyback, Percy was still estranged from the family, and the rest of their children were fighting on a nearly daily basis. They wanted at least one of us to be safe. With tears in my eyes, I packed all of my belongings into a tattered suitcase and used a Portkey to France.
The first year I spent in France was the hardest of my life. I think I cried for my parents and brothers every night. I wanted to go home, but Mum wouldn’t hear of it. She kept me abreast of the situation in Britain, but we both knew I couldn’t come home until it was completely safe. The war raged for seven years and I never saw a battlefield. Two of my brothers (Charlie and Percy) died, and I was not allowed to come home for their funerals. What’s more, my parents expected me to be happy while I was in Paris. They wanted me to travel and enjoy myself, which seemed like an impossible request. My body might have been in France, but my heart and soul were in Britain with the rest of my family.
After the first year, it became easier for me. I resigned myself to the situation I was in and knew I had to make the best of it. I worked hard at the newspaper, and when I wasn’t writing I was studying. I knew from the beginning I didn’t want to be a reporter for the rest of my life – even if I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I studied creative writing, teaching, and business at the local university before I finally settled on law. It was a bit odd, because I had never wanted to be a barrister, but the first time I stepped into a basic law class, I loved it. For the next five years, I worked hard, barely slept or ate, and had no social life. I know I could have done it differently, but I wanted to return to Britain with a way to support myself. What’s more, I wanted to be able to support my parents and I wanted them to be proud of me. I also knew that if I didn’t finish it while the war continued to rage, I never would. Once Voldemort was defeated, there would be little to keep me in France.
That’s not say that I didn’t have any relationships while I was in Paris. There were a few men that I saw more than once; even three or four, I would say I had relationships with. After I’d been there about a year, I met a wizard who was just a year older than me. He had dark eyes and hair and had attended Durmstrang. His name was Jean-Michele and we dated seriously for about six months. At the time, I thought I loved him. With time and distance, I realize that what we felt was more like lust, but I still have good memories of him. He was the man I lost my virginity to, and about that I have no regrets. We remained friends for a long time after we stopped seeing each other, but I stopped writing him not long after I came home.
The owl from Mum arrived on a Thursday afternoon. The bird, which I didn’t recognize, swooped in through my kitchen window and landed on the table. I took the parchment from it and it immediately flew off. I recognized Mum’s handwriting immediately and my hands began to shake. She hadn’t written in months and I was immediately fearful that this letter would bring more bad news about my family. Instead, she simple wrote, Voldemort is dead. Meet us at 12 Grimmauld Place on Saturday.. I couldn’t help it and immediately broke down in tears. For a long time I hadn’t even considered the possibility that I might ever go home again. I was curious about why I was going to the old Black townhouse, but it wasn’t something I could think about at the moment. I was going home!
The two days following were busy. The paper I’d been working for wasn’t happy that I was quitting and giving them no notice, but I reasoned I didn’t need a reference from them anyway. As soon as Monday morning came around, I planned on applying to various barrister firms in Diagon Alley. The rest of the time I was there, I spent packing up my flat. I’d gone to the French Ministry of Magic and requested a Portkey for Saturday afternoon back to Britain, and I needed to get all of my things packed and mailed by then. When it was time for me to leave, I was surprised by how sad I was to go. Even though I had hated being there for the longest time, France had become my home. I hadn’t stepped foot in Britain in over seven years now and didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know anything about my family or friends, I wasn’t even sure if I had a home to go home to.
When I arrived at 12 Grimmauld Place, it looked much worse than the first time I’d been there a decade before. The black paint on the door was chipped and the silver knocker was rusted, but it still worked. I heard footsteps inside almost immediately. When Mum answered the door, I only had a second to study her before her arms enveloped me in a hug. I heard her call for my dad and he came quickly and wrapped his arms around the both of us. I felt Dad press a kiss to the top of my head and felt Mum’s tears against my cheek (or were they my own?). After it felt like Mum might squeeze all of the air from my lungs, she released me and stepped back. “Ginny.”
“Hello, Mum. Dad,” I smiled. My parents both looked like they had aged twenty years since I’d seen them last. Both of them were thinner than I’d ever seen them, but they were smiling.
“Come in, dear. You wouldn’t want to catch cold.” I thought about telling her that it was warm out, but I decided to let her be. Mum hadn’t had the opportunity to mother me for years now, so she had some catching up to do. I looked around the hallway and noticed how different it looked since the last time. There was the clock from the Burrow, and the pictures, and…
“Why is all of our stuff here?” I turned to face her, my eyes searching for answers. “What happened to the Burrow?”
Mum sniffed and I saw tears well in her eyes. “Ginny, love. There’s so much to tell you that I couldn’t tell you in a letter.” She reached out and took my hand, like she did when I was still a little girl, and led me to the kitchen. “Come have a cup a tea, love. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
As I sat in an unfamiliar kitchen filled with all of Mum’s things, I couldn’t help but wonder what else had changed. And how much of I had missed. “Mum?”
She looked up from the stove. “Yes?”
“Where’re Ron and Hermione? What about Harry? Shouldn’t they be here too?” Even though she tried to hide it, I didn’t miss the way she flinched when I said their names. Something had happened to them. I felt myself start to cry. “Please tell me the truth.”
I felt a familiar hand cover mine and I looked up into Dad’s familiar blue eyes. “We’ll tell you everything, Gin. It’s just going to take some time, okay?”
I nodded. “Time is all I have these days.”
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