-Sometime in 2012-
"Mommy? Will you tell me a story?" asked five-year old Lily Luna Potter as her mother tucked her in.
Ginny Potter smiled at her daughter as she tucked the blankets around the little girl's tiny body. "Of course, sweetie. What would you like to hear a story about?"
"Ummm…." Lily said as she looked around her bedroom for an idea. She squealed as inspiration hit her in the form of the shifting garden scene on her walls. "Tell me a story about a butterfly!"
"Okay then," Ginny replied slowly before taking a few seconds to think. She smiled when she remembered the perfect story. "Once upon a time, there was a girl who was the youngest of seven children…"
*13 Years Before*
-June 30, 1999-
When Ginny Weasley awoke that morning, it was to squeals of excitement. "What's going on?" she asked sleepily as she rubbed her eyes. She didn't know what time it was, but judging by how tired she felt, she guessed that it was too early in the morning for her roommates to be this happy.
"We're graduating today!" shrieked Ginny's roommate, and best friend, Abigail Carlyle. That thought brought Ginny out of bed instantly, and she narrowly avoided bashing heads with Abigail, who was crouching next to Ginny's ear.
"Shit!" Ginny cursed as she began to rush around the room. Her roommates looked at her with worried eyes. They had never seen her act like this before. She was normally the calm and composed one.
"Are you okay?" asked another of Ginny's roommates named Noella Park. She was the 'mother hen' of the dorm. If any of the girls in the dorm were acting crazy, or were crying, or just needed help, Noella was the person they went to.
"He is going to be here today!" Ginny shouted as a way to explain her erratic behavior. She stormed to her wardrobe, where she rapidly looked for some clothes to wear underneath her robe.
"He who?" inquired the fourth seventh-year Gryffindor girl, Tanya Stewart, as she filed her nails. She was the 'girly-girl' of the dorm. When there had been a Christmas ball earlier this school year, Tanya had been consulted on all aspects of her roommate's looks.
"Harry!" Ginny's screech was muffled as she climbed into the wardrobe (which was bigger inside than it appeared), probably to search the second row of clothes. The wardrobe contained all of the girls' clothes, and most of them wore the same sizes, so they often wore each other's clothes, usually without asking permission. It was just another aspect of boarding school life.
"Why are you freaking out?" queried Ginny's final two roommates – twins named Seltabeth and Aschina-Marie Thompson – in unison. The twins really hated their birth names (which had been in their family for generations), and insisted that everyone call them Stella and China (respectively), unless they wanted to suffer the consequences. "You've known him for a long time, haven't you?"
"But I haven't seen him since two months after the Final Battle!" Ginny explained as she climbed out the wardrobe a few minutes later, her arms piled high with clothes that she subsequently dumped on her bed. She began rummaging through the clothes, not even caring that almost the whole pile wasn't hers. They had all been sharing clothes for so long that it was often hard to pack when they went home during breaks, because they couldn't remember what clothes belonged to which girl.
"So?" Noella asked as she picked up the clothes on the ground. As Ginny went through her pile, she threw the rejects behind her. Of course, the rejects weren't landing neatly in one pile, so Noella (in her role of 'mother hen') was putting them into one.
"Soooo….that means that I haven't seen him in…" Ginny stopped to do some calculations, "363 days! I haven't seen him in almost a year!"
"I still don't see the problem," China declared, adding her two cents.
"Nor do I, Twin. Nor do I," Stella chimed in. Ginny glared at them. She wasn't in the mood for their twin antics.
"The problem is that the last time I spoke to him, I tried to get back together with him, and he shot me down!" Ginny cried.
"You never told me that!" Abigail accused.
"I don't like thinking about it," Ginny admitted, falling onto the only bed available: Noella's. She could concentrate on picking out clothes while facing the Spanish Inquisition (a phrase she had learned from her brother's girlfriend, Hermione Granger). Although she wasn't a 'girly-girl' like Tanya, she believed that picking out clothes (especially for important occasions, such as graduation) took all of a girl's concentration.
"Why's he coming anyway?" Noella asked absentmindedly.
"Ron told me in his last letter that Harry would be coming with him and Hermione. He said that Harry wanted to visit the memorial, as well as check on Winky the house-elf. At least, that's what I think he said. I didn't pay too much attention to the letter, 'cause we were cramming for NEWTs."
Ginny sighed as she surveyed the semi-chaotic scene that was the dorm. Her own bed was covered in the clothes she hadn't rejected, and Noella was collecting the rejects and throwing them into a neat pile in the center of the room. The floor was covered in textbooks from when the six girls had been urgently revising for their NEWTs at the last minute.
Stella and China were piled onto China's bed, seemingly reading the latest Witch Weekly. It was more likely that they were focusing on Ginny's troubles but didn't want to show it. Stella's bed was covered in previous editions of Witch Weekly and The Daily Prophet.
Abigail was furiously writing on her lapdesk. She was the Head Girl, and so she'd have to give a speech at graduation along with the Head Boy (her boyfriend, and a Beater for the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, Dylan Michaels). Of course, she had left it for the last minute, and was now scrambling to finish it.
"So what're you gonna do?" Tanya asked absentmindedly from the bathroom as she began to curl her hair with her wand.
"I have no idea!" Ginny moaned, burying her face into Noella's pillow and letting out a loud scream.
"I'll tell you what she's going to do!" Abigail scolded as she began picking through Ginny's pile of clothes, "First, we're going to find her a mega-hot outfit. Then, we're going to do her hair and make-up. Then we're going to go to the feast, then we'll do the whole graduation ceremony, and then, when the after-party starts, we'll re-group!"
It was inevitable that Abigail's plan was going to fail. Life (as a pronoun) wasn't a fan of Ginny, and vice-versa. But Ginny and her friends were foolishly hoping that the plan would work.
Breakfast passed in a blur. It seemed like they had barely started eating when McGonagall told the seventh years to go to the Quidditch pitch. Waiting in line for her name to be called to get her diploma, Ginny was surprised how fast time seemed to fly. She didn't even remember her friends' names being called, but she hoped that she had cheered.
"Ginevra Weasley!" yelled Professor McGonagall. Ginny walked to the stage on autopilot, still worrying about Harry. Stiffly, she accepted her diploma and shook the Headmistress' hand, and then she shook the hands of each teacher as she walked across the stage. When she reached the end, and her feet touched grass once more, she speed-walked to where her friends were sitting.
It seemed as if only seconds passed before McGonagall called for Abigail and Dylan to give their speech. Ginny tuned her friend and her friend's boyfriend out; Abigail had practiced on them before breakfast, and had made them listen to Dylan's speech a week ago. She continued thinking about Harry and what she'd say to him when she saw him at the after-party.
"Thank you, Miss Carlyle and Mr. Michaels, for your lovely words," McGonagall was saying, dismissing Abigail and Dylan back to their seats, when Ginny returned to reality.
"Did I miss anything?" she whispered to Noella, who shook her head quickly, never taking her eyes off the stage. Abigail slid into the seat next to Ginny as the Headmistress opened her mouth once more.
"I know that all of you are anxious for this ceremony to be over," McGonagall announced, causing the seventh years to chuckle, "But hopefully this next speaker, who will be the last, can keep your attention long enough for you all to learn one last thing before you are officially graduates."
Ginny's interest was piqued, but only slightly. She had learned more here than she should have ever had to learn. A few seats down from her, Stella and China were having a rock-paper-scissors tournament. Between them and Noella was Tanya, who was fixing her hair and make-up in the compact that she kept on her at all times. Noella and Abigail, the most studious of the graduating Gryffindor girls, were intently waiting for the final speaker.
Ginny was just getting to relax once more and slip back into her thoughts when McGonagall made the announcement about the speaker. The announcement caused Ginny to sit up instantly, eyes wide in horror, and caused her five friends to look at her, worry on their faces.
"I'd like to introduce…Harry Potter!" There was a roar of applause as McGonagall moved to the back of the stage, and the subject of Ginny's anxiety today walked up to the stage's podium. He waited for the applause to die down (which took a minute or two) before he began to speak.
"There's no need to introduce myself, because, as much as I wish it wasn't true, you all know who I am," Harry began, causing almost everyone to laugh, "Today, you that are graduating will be doing what I never got to. You're finishing your seventh, and final, year of school. I wasn't fortunate enough to even start my seventh year. I had some problems with a 'Dark Lord', but those were pretty easy to fix." There was more laughter as Harry cleared his throat.
"I'm sure Professor McGonagall," Professor McGonagall coughed in an Umbridge-like manner, and Harry chuckled, "I mean Minerva, invited me to speak here because she was hoping that I'd be able to give you an inspiring speech about growing up. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not going to give a speech like that. I grew up every time I encountered Voldemort," there was a collective shudder at the name, but Harry ignored it, "and the Death Eaters. I grew up at a young age, and I entered the world of adulthood in random bursts. So I probably wouldn't give the best advice to all of you.
"Here's what I'm going to tell you. I'm sure that all of you are itching to finish this graduation ceremony, and finally be treated like the adults that you are. You're excited to be living on your own, or to share a flat with some of your mates. You're excited to be independent of your parents, and to start whatever job you'll be starting.
"I'm going to be honest. Being an adult is hard work. Being an adult is scary. That fact that Voldemort is gone makes it a little less scary, but not much. If you make a mistake, your parents or professors can't fix it for you. You have to do your own laundry, make sure that there is food, and make sure that your flat is clean enough to find things. While you're in school, graduating may look like it'll be the best thing that ever happens to you, but it's not. If I could, I'd go back in time and re-do all of school (without Voldemort, of course).
"But today you're all graduating, and no matter what, it's a cause for celebration. You've all, hopefully, passed most of your NEWTs, and many of you will go on to do great things. I, for one, am looking forward to what accomplishments you all can achieve. Almost all of my year-mates never finished Hogwarts, and look what we've accomplished!"
This was met by thunderous applause, and Ginny felt relieved, until she realized that Harry wasn't finished speaking. "I'm almost done with this speech, I promise. I just have something to say to a special person, and I would like for you all to witness it," there was no doubt in Ginny's mind about who he was speaking of, no matter how much she wished it wasn't true, "So can I please ask that Ginny Weasley come here?"
Time seemed to go still as Ginny slowly stood from her seat and walked past Abigail, who patted her friend's back comfortingly. Numbly, she walked up to the stage, oblivious to the applause she was receiving. She climbed the steps, and crossed the stage until she was about two yards away from Harry, where she stopped.
Harry turned to her, a half-smile on his face, and cast a Sonorous charm on himself as he moved towards her until they were about a foot away from each other. Ginny looked at the ground as he approached, but when he stopped, she slowly raised her head until she met his stare. She gasped quietly as she saw the happiness and sadness mixing in his emerald-green eyes. She wondered what he saw in her eyes.
"Ginny Weasley, when I first really met you, you were just a nervous and innocent eleven-year old that put her elbow in a butter dish when she saw me, about to start your first year at Hogwarts." Normally, this would've been met by laughter from the audience and a glare from Ginny, but they were all too swept up in the awe that seemed to fill the stadium.
"And now, here you stand before me, seven years later. You're a beautiful and confident seventeen-year old that's seen more sadness and pain and death than anyone should ever have to see. You're graduating. This may seem cliché, but it seems to me that Hogwarts was your cocoon. You entered as an awkward little caterpillar, and you're leaving as a gorgeous butterfly." Ginny felt tears begin to spring from her eyes, but she did nothing to stop them. She was frozen under Harry's loving gaze.
"We haven't been together in a long time, and I regret the fact that it's my fault," Harry admitted sadly, "But I'm asking you now, would you like to change your future?"
This question was met with a confused look and a cocked head from Ginny. Harry, sighing, got down on one knee in front of her. She gasped with her hands covering her mouth, and her eyes wide in shock. The gathered audience and graduates collectively gasped as well as Harry pulled out a box from a pocket of his dress robes.
"Ginevra Molly Weasley, you are about to officially enter adulthood. You will be starting your life on your own. My question to you is, would you like to enter adulthood as an engaged woman?" More tears sprang from her eyes as Harry flipped open the box. The box contained an 18 karat white-gold engagement ring with a 1 karat princess-cut diamond surrounded by 26 round-cut diamonds that totaled 1/5th karats. "Ginevra Molly Weasley, will you grant me the great honor of becoming my wife?"
At the beginning of today, what she considered to be the end of one life and the start of another, Ginny couldn't wait until graduation (and the after-party) was over, hopefully without her encountering Harry. At the beginning of today, speaking with Harry had been her greatest fear. Now, the day was only half-over, but everything was different. She didn't fear Harry's presence any longer.
"Yes!" she whispered fervently, unconsciously offering her hand to Harry. He quickly slid the ring onto the appropriate finger before jumping up (pocketing the emptying box and the same time). He wrapped his fiancée in a warm embrace while simultaneously beginning to snog her passionately, both of them deaf to the resounding cheers of the audience and Ginny's classmates.
-Back in 2012-
"…and that was when the butterfly broke free of her cocoon," Ginny said, finishing her story. She looked to see the little girl's reaction, and chuckled as she saw that her daughter was fast asleep. "Goodnight, my little angel," she whispered before planting a kiss on the little girl's forehead, and exiting the room.
In the hallway, she met her husband, and he kissed her sweetly on the lips. "What took you so long?" Harry inquired as, holding hands, the two of them walked down the hall to their room.
"Lily wanted a story," Ginny replied, entering the bedroom. Harry closed the door behind him, and they began to prepare themselves for bed.
"What story did she want to hear?" Harry asked as he slid on some pajama pants. He pulled back the covers of the bed and laid down on his side. Ginny emerged from the closet, where she had been choosing some pajamas of her own.
"She wanted to hear a story about a butterfly."
"So what story did you tell her?" Harry persisted as his wife pulled back the covers on her own side, and laid down next to him.
"The story of your proposal," she answered in an off-handed manner as she turned off the lights.
A/N: This one took me a long time to write (about three months), but I'm very proud with how it came out. It's longest one-shot that I've ever written, but I refused to divide it into short chapters. I really hope you enjoyed!
I'm wondering, though, if Harry's speech about adulthood was good. I'm only thirteen, so I don't know much about being an adult. I just tried to think about all the things that my parents and my half-brother, who only graduated a few years ago, have to do as adults.
P.S. 'Papillon' means butterfly in French.