Ginny stared at the letter in her hands. Her eyes widened before her mouth dropped open to form an audible gasp. She squeezed the parchment in a tight grasp and was soon racing down the hallway, bursting through the door into the sunlight where Molly Weasley was gardening.
"Ginny, don't screech in my ear," Molly scolded, and turned to face her daughter. She eyed the flushed cheeks and excited brown eyes with misgiving. "What?"
Ginny practically bounced on her feet as she handed the letter to her mother. It was the letter she had been waiting for since she had turned nineteen three days ago; the same that her godmother had promised to write to her when the young redhead reached that specific age.
"Oh, it's from Celia," Molly said with a fond smile.
Celia Adderson was Molly's best friend and also Ginny's godmother. The woman had always been the one to give Ginny the nicest presents, and she had also promised to take Ginny into society, as all pureblood girls did when they reached the age of nineteen, since the Weasleys themselves were unable to afford the expense of it, let alone had the reputation for it. While most people called it the Marriage Mart, where all the young ladies found their prospective husbands, Ginny was more excited about the dances, wearing beautiful dresses, and eating food that only existed in her fantasies.
"She wants you to go stay with her in London to be there for the season," Molly continued, looking up at her daughter with a broad smile. "This is wonderful! You'll get to meet lots of people and go to all the parties and balls." Her smile widened even more as a misty look came to her eyes. "I remember my first season. I met Arthur then, and he whirled me away in a forbidden romance. Of course, my parents were very upset when we eloped, but it was worth it."
"Please, Mum," Ginny said, interrupting the reminiscing mood. "May I write back to her and say that I'm going?"
"Of course!" Molly exclaimed. "We'll have to start packing for you right away. She wants to come pick you up tomorrow." Her face flashed with a truly delighted smile, making her wrinkles stand out even more. "Oh, I'm all a flutter. I did hope Celia would do this for you. The boys can make their own way, but I hated for you to miss out on the greatest tradition a pureblood girl can have. Mind you, Ginny, there is one thing I must warn you about."
"What's that?" Ginny asked, wondering what warning there could possibly be.
"Pureblood society has some different rules. If a wizard asks you to marry him, there's a chance you won't be able to refuse. I find it unlikely that you will get chosen for obvious reasons—"
Ginny nodded, knowing that her lack of inheritance and reputation meant she would not be one of the favoured ones.
"But it's an old tradition that can't be broken," Molly continued. "You will be magically bonded to that person as soon as they choose you. It was made during the days when purebloods were dying out. Everyone feared that blood purity would cease to exist so the leaders of society made a spell to force the young ones to marry. It still holds today, and they've carried on the tradition so just be wary. However, most of the wizards know what girls they are going to marry anyway so I doubt you will have any problems."
Ginny nodded, though she still doubted that any wizard would choose her. She was a Weasley.
"Well, I'm going to go write back," Ginny said.
She practically skipped back to her bedroom where she then pulled out a parchment and quill. She tickled her face with the feather and bit her lip for a moment. Then she started to write:
Dear Mrs Adderson,
Thank you so much for inviting me to stay with you in London. Mum says I can go, so I'll be ready for you whenever you choose to come pick me up tomorrow. I'm very excited to see you again, but I hope I won't be too much of a hassle for you.
She then pulled out more parchment from her stack and started writing letters to all her friends, including Harry and Hermione, telling them all about how she was going to go to London and stay with her godmother. She was so excited that her ink was splashing everywhere and making the writing illegible, but she hoped that they still got the gist of it.
Once she was done, Ginny made her way downstairs and took a seat at the table, wishing that time would go faster so that she could hurry up and go to London. It was driving her insane having to wait when she knew that she would soon be dancing and drinking champagne while acting like a lady. It was going to be so wonderful. She could tell already.
"What are you looking so pleased about?" Ron asked after Apparating into the house.
He had moved into a flat with Harry and was studying to be an Auror, along with Harry, but he still liked to come home for dinner every odd day of the week.
"Celia Adderson has invited me to go to London and stay with her for the season. I get to go to London, Ron!" Ginny exclaimed, practically bouncing up and down on her chair.
"Don't wet yourself," Ron teased, making Ginny's cheeks flush.
"I can't help it. I'm just so excited. We never get anything nice, and now I actually get to go into society. It's every girl's dream!"
"I don't see what's so great about it. All you do is waltz around in those silly dresses while being stuck with silly girls, and you have to talk to idiots like Draco Malfoy. You know it'll just be a bunch of poncy old pansies dressed up like peacocks, all parading around."
"Well, maybe I want to be a peacock," Ginny huffed. "I'm not letting you ruin this for me, Ron, and I doubt Draco Malfoy will talk to me anyway. He'll have plenty of other girls to talk to."
"And what if they're all like him?" Ron asked, quirking an eyebrow as he leaned against the bench.
"They won't be," Ginny said firmly.
She hoped not anyway. She had always dreamed of going to the society balls and meeting a handsome young man who would sweep her off her feet. Of course, he would be rich as well as charming.
"Well, you keep telling yourself that." Ron took a bite of the homemade bread in his hand, then frowned at his sister. "So when are you going anyway?"
"Tomorrow, but I have no idea when. She's promised to take me shopping," Ginny said, giving a childish smile. "I'll actually be able to wear those dresses I used to look at in the old magazines."
"You really will be a peacock then," Ron said with a laugh. "Well, if that's what you like."
"It is," Ginny said firmly. "And I'm going to enjoy every moment of it."
Dinner that night was an odd affair. Ron kept teasing Ginny about her upcoming London season, telling her some crusty old wizard with leery eyes was going to try propose to her, while Molly kept shushing him in between reminiscing about her own season in society. Arthur, alone, seemed to be the only one who was not raving on about the news and was content to eat his dinner quietly. Ginny wondered what was wrong and, once dinner was over, she felt a faint feeling of misgiving when she saw her father beckoning for her to come into the lounge with him.
"Close the door behind you, Ginny," her father said, making Ginny feel even more anxious.
When she turned around, her father was already seated in his favourite chair, watching her through care-worn blue eyes. It had never really occurred to her just how old her father had begun to look.
"Come take a seat next to your old father," he commanded gently, gesturing to the chair beside him.
Ginny sat down, a slight frown forming on her lips. "Is there something you wanted to tell me, Dad?"
Arthur reached out and cupped her face with one hand, his eyes meeting hers. "Ginny, you're my only daughter. You've always been a good girl, if a little on the mischievous side, but you're still a good, dutiful girl."
The girl in question just stared at him, privately wondering where this was going. He wasn't going to stop her from going to London, was he? She inwardly shuddered at the thought. This was her dream, the only thing that she had always wanted, and now was he going to take that away from her?
"You've never been in society so you don't know what it's like," Arthur continued, quite oblivious to his daughter's unhappy thoughts. "The people there—they're not like us. I don't want to see you get hurt."
"Dad, I'm sure my godmother will take care of me. Please don't say that I can't go."
"I wouldn't do that to you, Ginny," Arthur said, smiling kindly at her. "Just promise me that you will be true to yourself no matter what, and be careful of—"
"I know," Ginny interrupted with a small smile. "Be careful of wizards who want to marry me. Dad, I really don't think that anyone will even want to marry me. I'm Ginny Weasley."
She was just the girl who had always worn second-hand clothes at school. The ragbag, as Draco Malfoy had once rudely called her. Her body was nothing extraordinary, and neither was her face, though many people had told her she was pretty. It was her fiery spirit that had made her stand out. In truth, however, Ginny Weasley was no more than a rather plain girl with freckles and red hair: trademarks of her Weasley name.
"Wizards can be unpredictable," her father reminded her. "I don't want to have to give you up to anyone other than someone you love."
"You don't have to worry, Dad. I'll be fine."
"I hope you're right."
Ginny smiled and pulled her father into a hug. "Thank you for caring, Dad, but I really don't think that I'm going to be in any danger."
"I know, I know," Arthur said, chuckling. "But it's a father's right to be worried about his only daughter."
"Well, if that's the case, then it's a daughter's right to tell him that he needs to mind his own business," Ginny responded cheekily. She leaned in and gave him a small kiss on the cheek. "I love you, Dad, but I want to do this. Surely you understand?"
Arthur nodded. "I do, Ginny. I just can't believe my little girl is all grown up and about to go make her début in pureblood society."
Ginny smiled. "Well, I am. I hope you can be happy for me. I won't be able to enjoy myself if you're just fretting away here."
"I am happy for you," he said with his own smile. "Just remember what I said. Be true to yourself, Ginny. No matter what."
Ginny let out a sigh as she lay on her bed later that night. Her gaze travelled around her room, staring at the shadowy outlines of her possessions. She knew that tomorrow she would be leaving all of this. It would be her first time leaving home.
She had been given a lot to think about after her talk with her father. Her excitement was still the same, but she couldn't deny that she was a little worried about how things were actually going to be. Why was he so afraid that she would change? Why was he so afraid anyway? It was just a few balls and parties, but he was acting like it was some life-changing thing that would tempt her to be something she wasn't. Surely he must know that she would never do that. She was always true to herself, and always had been.
"I'm not going to change. I'll still be me."
The words were said defiantly, but her mind was still filled with worry, not to mention she was slightly anxious at the thought that some wizard really might choose her. Her mum had dismissed the idea, but her dad had seemed to think it was a very real possibility. Then again, he could just be making mountains out of molehills.
Ginny sighed and rolled over in her bed. She decided then and there that there was no point worrying about it. She would just go to London and enjoy herself like she had planned. Her father and Ron would soon see that there was no reason to worry. She would be perfectly fine and perfectly single when she came back. Unless, of course, she did meet that handsome, rich, and charming fellow who would sweep her off her feet…
She smiled and closed her eyes again, all worry slipping from her mind as much more pleasing thoughts occupied her brain. Tomorrow all her dreams would come true. She could only consider it a bonus if a handsome man, who would naturally fall in love with her at first sight, was added into the bargain.
Just to establish some things before we get into the real story:
This fanfic is not based in the Regency period. I have used many of the customs, costumes and manners of that period as a way to differentiate pureblood society from normal wizarding society, but the world itself is very much the modern one we are used to reading.
Before you ask, no I did not base this on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. If any books can be said to have inspired me, it was Georgette Heyer's Arabella and The Convenient Marriage, with the latter also inspiring me with the title of this fic. If you have not read Heyer's books before, I highly recommend them.
Note II (31/03/2017)
This is a message to any future readers. This story was written when I was very young. If I wrote it today, I would do many, many things differently. To revise it to how it should be, however, would mean basically re-writing the whole thing. I don't have the time or the patience for that.
In short, this story does have its flaws. I have left it on my profile because many people still seem to enjoy it. If you don't end up finding it to be your cup of tea, keep in mind that it was one of my earliest fanfics and I'm unlikely to go back and rewrite things now, no matter how justified you are in your complaints. ;)