It is Christmas. Charlie is sitting at the kitchen table, writing to Hagrid. Strange music is emanating from the radio, and I suddenly have a bizarre desire to hear Celestina Warbeck's high-pitched, horrible voice. I glance over at my mother, who is waving her wand in short motions as a strange vegetable disengages itself into tiny cubes. She is crying.
"Onion," she explains, laughing slightly, when she realizes that I'm watching her. I pretend to believe her, but the smell of garlic is thick in the air.
A year ago today, I sat next to this boy at our kitchen table. He has black hair and a lightning bolt scar on his forehead. I haven't seen this boy in months. He might be dead. There's nothing that proves he isn't. But I don't think he is. I know he's alive out there, doing what he does best. Saving everybody. Saving me.
My brother is with him, and I know he is okay. He is with the boy with the lightning bolt scar.
"Ginny," my mother whispers, wiping her eye with her sleeve, "Would you go out to the garden and pick some thyme?" Charlie stands up abruptly, pulling on his jacket as if he was ready to leave the house at a second's notice. I remind myself that he is ready to leave the house at a second's notice; we all are.
"I'll go," he mutters, flicking his wand and illuminating the garden. "It's cold outside."
"I need some air," I assure him abruptly, and something in my voice puts him back in his seat.
Neither my mother nor brother protest as I venture outside without my jacket. I am wearing two Weasley sweaters, one with my 'G' and one with an 'R' for my brother who will not get a sweater this year.
The cold air pinches at my moonlit skin, and I feel more like a ghost than ever before. I wonder if ghosts feel the cold. I wonder if ghosts feel a hole in the stomach. They are lifeless, in a sense. I am lifeless in another sense.
It is snowing. The garden is half-frozen, and it takes me a minute to remember why I came outside. Thyme, I remind myself. Thyme.
Luna is not home. Ron is not home. Some of my brothers will not be home for ages, some never again. I long for last Christmas. I want to hear my blonde sister-in-law mocking my mother's favorite singer. I want to hear Remus discussing current affairs with Tonks. I want to throw Wizard Chess pieces at Ron and laugh with Fred and George as the knights feebly attack his face.
I long for the boy with the lightning bolt scar. He is probably content for the night, I remind myself. Images of him exchanging exotic holiday gifts with my brother and Hermione flood my mind. He is in a cozy tent somewhere, most likely, having a night cap and taking a break from whatever he is doing to reign in the Christmas spirits.
I stumble over some frozen ice and grab the trellis for support. It creaks with my weight, but it does not break.
And then it occurs to me that they are not exchanging any presents tonight. They are most likely recovering from battle wounds of the night before, or receiving new battle wounds at this very moment. I shudder at the thought. I want to be there. I want to shove them aside and take the curses in their place. I want to comfort them as blood is spilled.
My mother has her face pressed against the window, watching me anxiously. With more ferocity than necessary, I tear the thyme out of the frosty ground.
I slip several times as I hurry inside.
His lightning bolt scar might disappear under a sea of other wounds and his emerald eyes might have seen things that nobody should see, but I don't mind. There's a part of me that will always love a part of him.