Background: This is set two years after the Battle, and is compliant with everything except the epilogue of Deathly Hallows.
Warnings: Contains mild coarse language, the occasional sexual reference, and mild implied slash and het side pairings. Specifically: Harry/Draco, Dean/Lavender, and unrequited Luna/Neville.
It was a brilliant afternoon, the kind she'd remember later on, just before she closed her eyes forever. She'd remember it just for its sheer brilliance, its everlasting blue sky - a deep pure blue that made her love the entire world just for a heartbeat.
She had moved to the highest part of the grounds, at the top of an embankment near the lake. She could see everyone from here, the tiny first years jumping around, the seventh-years getting them with Trip Jinxes just for one last laugh.
She could see Ron's flame of red hair, she could see Seamus's sandy locks. She could see Hermione's brown frizziness as she laughed at something McGonagall told her. She could see the sun dazzling off Malfoy's brilliantly blonde hair, and for a moment she could forgive him. She could forgive everyone. Who could hold a grudge, who could feel no warmth under this beautiful sky, on this perfect June afternoon, with all those bright futures milling around below them?
Yes, thought Ginny. All the wonderful things that are yet to happen to all these beautiful people. It was so hard to resent them for going on without her. But she would catch up. One more year, and she would be free too, cast out to sea to find her sails and greet the waves alone.
It was difficult, being the seventh child. Six other bright futures already set out, and now they were looking at her, and she suddenly had no idea...except that she needed to run, somehow. Ginny had always felt the need to run, to race up to catch the horizon. She wanted to run until she left all of it behind.
She leapt up suddenly and laughed, running down the hill, away towards the lake, her eyes half-closed so everything blurred together in a dizzy, wondrous mess – the blazing, pure blue sky, the fragrant grass, the shimmering lake…
She thought she could almost hear someone calling her name, their voice echoing long and lonely across the lake, drawn out and pitiful: Ginny....
But she had disappeared into the blue summer day.
Ginny completed her schooling on the anniversary of Fred's death, on the second of May 1999.
It was funny, the way everyone thought things should have happened. That Ginny and Harry would get a place together, that Hermione and Ron would get a quaint little cottage somewhere and instantly have five children. That Luna and Neville would marry, that Seamus and Dean would at last get together and have a great relationship. Everything in its proper place. All the cards had been played face up for anyone to see.
But Fate had a hidden ace, as Fate always does.
Harry lived with Hermione and Ron in a beautiful house. They split the bills three ways, they had three chairs at their table. There were two cars in the driveway: one was Harry's, one was Hermione's. Ron said he would rather die than set foot in either of them as he had never recovered from the Ford Anglia incident in their second year.
And Ginny – well, she lived by herself in a little flat, with a black cat called Jem. She had a little kitchenette, and on cold mornings, wrapped up in blankets, she'd make a pot of coffee by herself. She was happy.
Luna loved Neville, although it was unrequited. Neville loved Hannah Abbot, because it's a sad fact of life that somewhere, somebody has to suffer in love.
Dean dated Lavender, and they fitted perfectly. Seamus hadn't found anyone yet. That was all right, because he didn't need anyone yet. Perhaps he never would. That was the way life worked.
Ginny liked this arrangement, the separate ways in which everyone went, the paths that drew them together and apart. She liked to think of all the expectations that were never filled. All the precise lives that everybody had laid out for them, but they had turned away to laugh and cry and ruin all of the world's perfect plans with emotions and choices.
Ginny liked a lot of things.
She got up at six a.m, feeling the gritty cold beneath her feet, trying to warm her hands on the little woodstove with the bitter taste of black coffee in her mouth. She went for a run along the beach nearby. It wasn't a particularly nice beach – it was littered and had dark gray waves rather than tranquil blue waters, but bathed in the glow of sunrise it looked beautiful. Everything looked beautiful at sunrise, somehow special and different.
When she arrived back from her run, satisfyingly warm and salty with sweat, she called her parents. It had taken at least three months for Arthur and Ginny to teach Molly not to shout down the phone all the time. She recalled this with a smile, dialing the numbers.
"It's me, Ginny."
"Ginny, dear. Your father was in a terrible state this morning."
"Yes, he accidentally put on one of George's joke ties, and it took him half an hour to get it off again." Molly voice was slightly anxious, but Ginny thought she could detect a tiny note of amusement.
"Oh, dear. . ."
"I really must have a word to George about leaving things around the house." A pause. "Ginny, are you sure you're happy in that little apartment, by yourself?"
"All right. Well, if it ever gets lonely..."
This was a joke between them. They both knew it was only Mrs Weasley who ever suffered loneliness in her rambling house. It was so full of memories and she was alone with them. George lived above the shop now and Ron had moved out. Bill and Charlie rarely visited, and Percy was always busy. Mrs Weasley was left to walk from room to empty room, to tenderly recall the days of motherhood as she smoothed down unused covers and gently cupped cold pillows where silky heads used to lay. She looked forward to Arthur's retirement. She needs somebody in the house, Ginny thought, shaking away thoughts of her now lonely childhood home.
"All right," she said murmured down the receiver. "Thanks, Mum. I'll see you later."
"All right, dear. Give my love to the others," Molly replied. She was referring to Harry, Ron and Hermione, all of whom she considered to be her children.
This was the conversation she had nearly every day with her mother. No matter how rushed or busy Ginny was, she always called her mother at 7:30am on the dot.
She liked her life.
Ginny had had a job, for three months, working as a shop assistant at Flourish and Blotts. One day she walked outside to have her break, and never came back.
She became Ollivander's apprentice instead, which she found much nicer instead of dealing with annoyed customers and books that wouldn't shut up. Now she spent her days watching and learning as Ollivander explained the magical properties of unicorns, of dragons, and the important variations in different types of wood. She liked sitting in the small, musty shop, the smell of sawdust and magic in the air. "I'm getting old," he had told her once. "The war has taken its toll. I'll need someone to take over the business soon." He was often preoccupied or distant.
This morning, however, Ollivander was more cheerful, mentioning neither the war nor his mysterious past. She spent the day learning the art of restoring old wands, and when she finished at the shop she walked down Diagon Alley and popped into Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes for a brief moment, waving at George through the crowd.
"George, Dad found one your ties this morning. Mum's quite annoyed."
George just laughed and threw something at her - a Love Potion kit.
"And what do I need this for?" she asked indignantly. He shrugged and she caught sight of Ron edging out of the storeroom, balancing several boxes and trying to peer around them at the same time. Ron caught her eye and smiled.
"Hey, Ginny! Coming to the Tipsy Hippogriff tonight?"
"Not tonight, Ron."
"Oh, come on, we're one short..."
"Sorry." She was unrepentant, but Ron was not giving up so easily.
"Come on. Last quiz night before Easter!"
"Oh, all right!"
She laughed, shaking her head and battling her way back out the door. She was looking forward to dinner - it would be a mild curry of some sort, she decided, something fragrant. A quiet celebration for another lovely day.
She stirred the sauce, and months later she could remember the moment exactly. It occurred when she was bruising some coriander, enjoying the sweet aroma it left on her fingers. The wizarding wireless was on, the window was open and a warm breeze was floating in along with the noise of the city. Dusk was slowly settling in and she could see the warm glows appearing as people began turning on their lights. The thin lace curtains moved gently over her face as she gazed out at the world, leaning over the chopping board.
And then the owl ghosted out of nowhere, landing gracefully on the sill. Ginny automatically reached out and untied the letter, slightly puzzled but hopeful. News from one of her brothers? An unexpected letter from an old friend?
She opened it and read it slowly.
Beside her, the radio played on. The breeze did not pause. The aroma of coriander did not fade.
The world went on without her.