A/N: Ginny taking a stroll down memory lane. Set in the summer after GoF.
Where am I today? I wish that I knew
'Cause looking around, there's no sign of you
I don't remember one jump or one leap
Just quiet steps away from your lead
—Nickel Creek, Reasons Why
It was a rare moment in the Burrow: I was alone. Mum took Fred, George, and Ron to Diagon Alley. Dad and Percy were at work. I found myself drifting from room to room.
The silence was getting to me. I turned on the radio in the kitchen, then another in Percy's room. Better. Two different stations, Percy's oldies music and Mum's talk station. (Coming up next, Living a Lie, with Gilderoy Lockhart.) Now it sounded a little more like home
I wandered into the living room, looking for something to do. On a shelf was the beautiful leather photo album Mum's parents had given her at her wedding. It had been a while since I'd looked through it, so I decided to pull it down.
The very first picture was Mum and Dad on their wedding day. You know in your head that your parents were young once, but it's still kind of weird to see. So I turned to pictures of us kids—familiar territory
Individual pictures first. All of us as babies, wiggling and yawning. Charlie really was the cutest of us. I looked so out of place, in frills and pink—I was bald until I was two, so I could wear pink back then—with all those boys around me.
I turned the page and laughed. Toddler Bill "helping" Charlie to eat some chocolate cake on his first birthday. Strange how frosting wound up all over him, while Charlie was almost completely clean.
Then a page of Mum's three golden boys. I took out a family favorite to get a closer look. Percy was, what, three? Pretending to read a book to babies Fred and George while Charlie played with a toy dragon and Bill sat back, supervising.
Next were the two not-so-golden boys. Fred and George were holding Percy's books, Charlie's broomstick, and Bill's Hogwarts robes for ransom—a Chocolate Frog apiece, if I remember correctly. They had taken my playpen and used it as a sort of cage.
To me and Ron. Amazing. Ron dragged me everywhere—everywhere I didn't follow him to first, that is. Mud pies in the garden. "Reading" each other stories. Pretending to play chess. I pulled out an especially cute one. I was on the floor asleep and Ron was tucking his own blanket around me.
Then Bill and Charlie were at Hogwarts, so they were only in holiday and summer pictures. Charlie triumphantly holding up his broomstick and Bill with his prefect badge. Percy was looking at it with something very much resembling jealousy, I realized for the first time.
We were all aging with every page I turned. Bill's hair was growing out. Charlie was getting more muscular. Percy started wearing glasses. Fred and George were playing some sort of joke on someone in every picture (Mum despaired of ever getting a "nice" picture of them). Ron was getting taller and taller.
Despite that, Ron and I were still always next to each other. Fred tripped me in one and Ron was glaring at him. George pushed Ron down in the next one.
Now Percy was grouped with Fred and George and I winced. Most of these pictures featured Percy on the ground, on fire, searching for his glasses...I briefly wondered why Mum was taking pictures while Percy was on fire, then remembered Ron had taken that one. Laughing hysterically, as I recall.
Then Percy was gone and we were in two groups: Fred and George, Ron and Ginny. The four of us were together sometimes, but there was not one picture of only three of us. Two and two always.
It was easier for Fred and George with only the two of us around. Fred tortured Ron and George distracted me. I flinched when I reached the one of Fred levitating Ron. I was pounding on his chest and George was trying to pull me off. I believe the camera was on a timer there. It must have been; no way Mum would just calmly take a picture of that. But she put it in the album. I couldn't help grinning a little—no one could accuse my mother of lacking realism in her portrayal of us.
And the time came when Fred and George were accepted to Hogwarts and left. I was eight, Ron was nine. And now there were no individual pictures. We were together in all of them. I remembered the plans we'd made for when we finally went to Hogwarts.
Mum received owls everyday about the twins. Ron and I, we decided, would be just as "bad," but we wouldn't get caught, because who wanted a Howler? Ron promised he would wait for me, though. "Nothing awful until you get there, Gin," he assured me. "I'll have to look around, so I know where stuff is, but..." And he would nod wisely and I would nod back.
Ron and I waved and smiled in every picture. Well, in the chess ones, Ron was too busy concentrating, but I waved. I know there must have been some unhappy times (it was two years, and I was never sad?) but I really can't remember any. I just remember Ron and I...being friends.
That sounds so lame. But you can see it in the pictures. We're hanging out together—and enjoying it. My personal favorite was next. Ron and I dancing in the kitchen. The funny thing is that I can't remember the song that was playing or anything like that. I just remember that we were bored and Ron turned on the radio. He took my hands and we whirled around.
It was actually the very next day that he got his owl, his acceptance letter. Pictures of that, too, of course. Ron ripping open his letter, over and over. And he hugged me first.
But the rest of that summer, I felt uneasy. Everyone came home and congratulated Ron. I congratulated him. I was happy for him. But he was leaving. I would be...alone? As a member of a big family, I still don't truly understand the word. I still smile in the pictures, but you can see the anxiety there.
"You won't leave me behind, Ron?" I asked him one time as we de-gnomed our garden.
He dropped his gnome and punched my arm. "Don't be stupid. Of course not. My first year will be terrible without you there."
No, I don't mean that. I really don't. Harry and Hermione are wonderful people. I'm glad he met them. I'm glad he has friends besides me. I truly am.
But he did leave me behind. My first year...I want to forget it. A big blank spot in my memory would be better than those memories. And I don't just mean the Riddle ones. There are other ones, too.
When Ron wouldn't eat lunch with me.
And when he stopped playing chess with me.
And when I couldn't ask him for help with my homework.
The worst was when he didn't watch me get Sorted. I know that wasn't his fault; I don't blame him. But it still hurts. I can still remember how my stomach twisted when I sat on the stool and looked out and saw Percy and Fred and George, but no Ron.
I know that's one of the reasons Riddle got me so easily. I was so alone. And Ron didn't notice—but I guess I can't blame him too much. We'd been apart for a whole year—we'd never been apart before—and Ron had other friends besides me for the first time. Then I was so distant…he must have assumed I was making new friends, just like he did his first year.
The door slammed, startling me and bringing me back to reality, and Ron stuck his head in the living room.
I glanced at the clock. Ron's hand was the only one that had moved. "What are you doing back?" I asked.
"All I really needed were my schoolbooks, and Hermione so enjoys picking those out for me—who am I to rob her of her fun? Mum told me I could come home if I wanted. So what have you been doing?"
"Just looking at some old pictures." I looked down and realized I was on the last page. There was one final picture, a Christmas one of Charlie and me, from the year that Ron had gone.
He sat down next to me and began laughing. "Percy on fire, Fred levitating me...I can't believe we all survived."
I turned back a page, to the baby pictures of Ron and me. "Look," I said.
Ron looked and then jumped up and ran up to Percy's room. He emerged with the radio in his hand. "Ginny, listen." He turned it up and I stared. It was the song—the song we "danced" to.
I looked down, at the picture, then back at him.
He took my hands just like he had that day and began twirling me. When the song ended, we were both too dizzy to do anything but lie down.
When the room had stopped spinning, I looked over at him and grinned. "That was fun."
Ron was still holding his head. "Yeah, well, only once every four years, okay?" But he grinned back at me.
Maybe he didn't leave me as far behind as I thought. "Deal."