disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to best friend. she is the Hermione to my Ginny. sort of.
notes: i really like this pairing & it is 7AM & i haven't slept. NO JUDGEMENT OKAY.

title: star parade
summary: Magic has to be passed on, or it dies. — Harry/Ginny.

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Ginevra Weasley was a gorgeous girl.

Of that, there was no doubt. She felt the way people watched her when she moved; she knew they watched her. But with hair burning russet in the summer sun, Ginny was perfectly content to wait out the summer as most nineteen year olds were wont to do, regardless of whether people watched her or not.

She fell back on the grass next to Hermione with her arms around her stomach, laughing until her cheeks hurt. Hermione's impressions of Ron at his most gormless had them both in fits of helpless giggles, shaking with mirth.

The summer sun dripped hot and hazy across their fronts, and Ginny stared at the deep-blue July sky and drew pictures in the clouds. The two girls looked at each other, bursts of random giggles escaping them both until they lay there, laughed out and happily exhausted.

It was times like this that Ginny knew why Hermione was her best friend.

"Hermy—"

"Don't call me that, it's degrading," Hermione interjected.

Ginny grinned with her teeth, and ignored the bushy-haired girl entirely. "Hermy. What's being in love like?"

Hermione shrugged, and looked away. "I don't know, Gin. I'm the wrong person to ask."

Ginny shifted on to her side, and rested he head against her hand, propped up by her elbow. Red hair fell into her eyes, and she brushed it away, impatient. "What, don't you love Ron?"

Hermione stayed very silent.

It was funny, actually; Ginny had been expecting something like this. Ron was an insensitive git at the best of times, and Ginny would never understand what he'd done to get Hermione to date him in the first place.

(They didn't talk about The Final Battle of Hogwarts.

Ever.

Ever.)

Ginny sighed. "When are you going to tell him?"

"He asked me to marry him," Hermione replied. She looked tired and sad and Ginny wondered if that was what falling out of love looked like.

"Don't."

"Pardon?"

"Don't say yes," Ginny replied, shaking her head emphatically. "I know you. You'll just end up resenting him, Hermy. It'll tear you apart, especially if—"

Hermione tilted her head. "If what?"

"If you add children to the mix," Ginny murmured.

Hermione nodded, jaw taught. Ginny could see the way her forehead wrinkled up as she thought—that was Hermione's trademark. And twenty was too young, Ginny thought, to tie oneself down to one person. Twenty was so young.

And maybe that was why she still couldn't look Harry in the eye. It hurt too much. Love wasn't supposed to be like this. Love wasn't supposed to rip your insides out and dump them on the floor for all to see. Love wasn't supposed to hurt so much.

Maybe.

Ginny stretched her arms as high as she could; arms both freckled and ghostly pale in the summer sun, she was pretty sure that anyone who saw them thought that they were too different to be friends.

But The War had changed them both—it had changed them all, and friends became family. Enemies became friends, even, out of necessity; Ginny still remembered when Draco Malfoy had showed up on the doorstep to Grimmauld Place—she still remembered the way he'd looked at—

Ginny had a very profound moment of realization.

"It's Malfoy, isn't it?"

Hermione started, and Ginny watched the colour rise to her cheeks. Oh, it was Malfoy all over. "What? Ginny, don't be mad!"

"I'm not mad! You fancy Draco Malfoy! Merlin, why didn't you say anything?"

Hermione just stared at her, brown eyes meeting brown eyes, and suddenly, Ginny understood. Ron. It was always Ron. It was Ron and years of friendship and Harry. And Ginny understood that losing those things might not have been worth it, to Hermione.

"Oh, Hermy," Ginny breathed, and reached over to hug her. Hermione just shook her head, chestnut curls bouncing everywhere, smiling in that sad way she had ever since the end of The War.

(Ginny still mentally capitalized it because it was still too big. Still too raw. Still hurt too much.)

The two girls clung to each other for a moment, both grieving something that never ought to have existed.

They collapsed back to the ground, all laughter gone.

"It's not fair. It's not fair at all," Ginny whispered.

Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny watched Hermione incline her head. She reached over, and laced her fingers through the other girl's. She felt Hermione smile.

Because sometimes, just having another person there was important.

Ginny understood that.

Together, they lay on the grass and listened to the sound of the earth breathe as they watched the late July sky fly by.

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It was so hot.

The moon was bright that night. Ginny was something of a night owl, and sitting outside on the roof was better than having the sweat pool in the hollow of her throat as she lay in bed. The breeze was cool and her skin turned to gooseflesh as she sat there, bathed in moonlight and night air.

The Burrow slumbered, but Ginny found that she just couldn't.

It was late July, and it was almost Harry's birthday, and—

Harry, Harry, Harry.

It always came back to Harry.

Sometimes, Ginny thought that she was going crazy. Crazy because in the end, she couldn't see herself giving up on him. Crazy because he was always in her head. Crazy because he was the saviour of the Wizarding World, and she was just his best mate's younger sister.

Or maybe just crazy. Ginny could never really tell.

She sighed, a great exhalation of breath, a whisper in the night. She sat with her knees up to her chest, and counted the scars—the funny little one on her hip from the first time she fell off a broom; the one shaped like a hat on her elbow; the one on her knee from when Fred and George and Charlie—

Ginny stopped there, because thinking about Charlie still hurt.

(Would always hurt.)

There were other things that hurt less to think about.

Harry wasn't one of them, but Ginny couldn't help herself. She sat on the roof and thought about the way his hair would never lie flat and the way he sometimes grinned at her like even though the world was ending, he wasn't and she wasn't and that was what mattered. She couldn't help herself from wondering if he was going to show up for his birthday—her mother still made him a cake, even when he wasn't there.

Probably not.

He was still saving the world; hunting down the last of You-Kno—Voldemort's supporters. He would always be saving the world. Ginny didn't know if he would ever have the time to save her.

Not that Ginny needed saving.

But the gesture would have been nice.

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Ginny braided flowers into Hermione's hair. They were sitting in their secret place; a little bluff Ginny had long claimed as her own and had decided to share with Hermione as some sort of best friend's club.

Hermione's eyes were red. "It was awful, Gin."

Ginny pursed her lips as she tried to decide between a daisy and a sprig of snapdragons. The daisy won out without much fuss, and Ginny wove it into the wild curls. "Ron's a git. He'll come 'round once he realizes how much better you're both off single."

Hermione shook her head, and leaned back against Ginny. "I don't know, Gin…"

Ginny scoffed, and tossed her hair over her shoulder. "Hermione Jean Granger! Don't you give me that! We both know you'll both be happier like this."

"What about you?"

Ginny froze. What about her? What did she have to do with anything? "What're you on about? Me?"

"Ginevra Weasley, don't you give me that! Have you talked to Harry at all?"

For a very long moment, Ginny said nothing, her hands moving rhythmically as she continued to braid Hermione's hair.

Harry, Harry, Harry.

It always came back to Harry.

"No," Ginny said slowly. "I haven't. But he's got… well. He's busy, right? He's working with the Aurors—"

Hermione smiled like a minx and said, voice teasing, "He promised he'd come for his birthday…!"

Ginny coloured violently and flicked the back of Hermione's head. "Don't you start. He's got other things on his mind."

"But you don't!" Hermione continued to tease. It was so out of character that Ginny couldn't help but laugh along with her; a little awkward, a little sad, but mostly relieved to be alive.

They all laughed like that, all of the ones who'd been old enough to understand what was going on in the Wizarding World during The War. They all had the same laugh. It was a half-laugh, always a little awkward, always a little sad, but always relieved to be alive. Always, always relieved to be alive.

But Ginny didn't want to think of that.

"When's he going to be here?" Ginny couldn't help but ask. Because he was Harry. And, okay, maybe she was a little obsessive, but he was—he was different.

"Tonight," Hermione said, frank. "I haven't seen him since Ron and I—" She stopped and winced, and Ginny instinctually looped her arms around Hermione's neck from behind.

"Oh, Gin, what's he going to say?" Hermione asked in a desperate whisper. There was something broken in her voice. There was something sad and broken and Ginny thought that perhaps Hermione was worried that Harry would be forced to choose between her and Ron.

(But Harry would never do that, and Ginny privately thought that he would choose Hermione, anyway.)

She smiled. "He's Harry, Hermy. He won't say anything."

Ginny felt Hermione's breath leave her in the most broken-hearted sigh she'd had ever had the misfortune to hear, and wondered if she'd always be outside of the Golden Trio. She always had been, but she'd thought they'd past that when Ron and Hermione had started dating but—

But they weren't dating anymore.

Ginny wondered if anything was ever going to be okay.

"C'mon," she told Hermione as she stood up. "Let's go home. I'll knock Ron's teeth down his throat if he looks at you wrong."

"Promise?" Hermione asked, looking up at her.

"Promise," Ginny grinned in reply. She reached down to help Hermione up.

They left the bluff together, wandering in the same direction in that vague way that old friends managed to do without saying a word, linked arm in arm. The two girls chatted quietly; Hermione got progressively more and more morose with every step they took closer to the Burrow.

Ginny said nothing, only to whisper in suggestively Hermione's ear "If it gets bad, go find Malfoy. I'm sure he'll make you feel better."

Hermione turned a violent bright red and threatened a beating with her least favourite Arithmancy tome.

Ginny just laughed.

They walked through the Burrow's front gate in the happy midst of nattering at each other when Ginny caught sight of a pinfully familiar head of black hair. Her breath caught in her throat and she stood, frozen, to the spot. Hermione let out a shriek, and launched herself on him.

But Ginny could only stand there and stare.

Oh, Harry.

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The next few days at the Burrow were a mix of exorbitant celebration and extreme melancholy. It was the first time Harry had been back at the Burrow for his birthday since before the end of The War; the house was more lively than it had been in months. And yet, Ron and Hermione could not be in the same room without one of them leaving; Ron would leave and slam doors, and Hermione would leave with tears in her eyes. Ginny thought her mother thought that they were both being ridiculous; Ginny simply thought that they needed to re-learn how to be friends.

(They'd had a huge fight the night Harry came home. The Burrow had shook with the combined rage of two temperamental people, and had only given Ginny more reason to tuck Hermione into her room for safety.

Ron was such a git.)

Harry and Ginny were caught in the middle, grimacing at each other as they each tried to simply stay out of it.

It wasn't easy, but they managed.

(Sort of.)

The night before Harry's birthday found Ginny sitting in the kitchen, poking at a bowlful of milk-soggy cereal in her pyjamas.

Nighttime again, and, again, so hot that Ginny couldn't sleep. She had her hair bundled in a thick bun high on the back of her head, off her neck, and she bent over the table as she spooned the soggy cornflakes into her mouth and read yesterday's Daily Prophet.

At the clatter of cutlery against sink, Ginny's head jerked up.

Harry was standing there, wincing. "Sorry, I wasn't—"

"Oh!" said Ginny. "It's, er, it's fine. Sit down?"

Harry grinned rather sheepishly. He sat down across from her. He watched her peruse the Prophet.

Ginny glanced up at him and smiled. She asked "Did you really just get back from peace talks with the giants?"

"Er. Yes," said Harry. "How did you—?"

Ginny held up the Prophet. "You're still all over the place. They love you."

And they did.

Everyone loved Harry.

Ginny was one of many.

And that hurt.

"Yes. Look, Ginny—" said Harry, looking a little desperate.

Ginny held up a hand. She looked at the back of it, both sickly pale and freckled from the summer sun. It was better than looking at Harry—anything was better than looking at Harry, at this point, because what she was going to say next was going to give him some peace of mind and break her heart and it wasn't fair.

"It's okay, Harry. I get it. I'm not—yeah. It's okay," she said.

Only it wasn't okay, but she wasn't going to say that.

Harry stared at her, a mixture of surprise and—something that Ginny couldn't put her finger on. It didn't look like relief. Just maybe acceptance.

"I think I'm—going to bed. Goodnight, Harry." She smiled a little weakly as she picked up her still-full bowl and spoon, and brought them to the sink.

Ginny would not cry.

She ascended the stairs to her bedroom, and did not cry.

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The next day was a surreal experience. Harry Potter's twenty-first birthday was a big, homey affair, with lavish food and decorations. Ginny thought that it would probably always be big thing—sometimes she was surprised the Ministry hadn't designated his birthday a national holiday.

Ginny played with multicoloured lights, and watched them grow into large, luminescent balloons. They hovered eight feet above ground, higher than most heads reached, and glimmered tauntingly. She nodded resolutely at her handiwork, and spiralled miniature long-lasting fireworks, wand a perfect swirl as she set them in place. The outdoor tent was the same one they'd used at Bill and Fleur's wedding, but different; hung with different colours and less symbols for good health and happiness, it looked like a different place entirely. Ginny had to say that she rather liked it, glowing and colourful as it was. It was less painful to look at then she'd thought it would be.

Ginny had never been the type to dwell on a boy that didn't properly like her.

The guests began to arrive.

Hagrid, looking wild and huge, clapped Ginny on the shoulder and lumbered off to find Harry. Bill and Fleur and little Victoire were next—Victoire was Ginny's goddaughter, and at two-and-a-half years old, was already the most demanding little thing she'd ever met. Ginny loved Victoire. She was blonde and freckled and yowled fiercely when her mother tried to bring her inside. Fleur rolled her eyes, and left Victoire in Ginny's care.

Ginny grinned, and began introducing the rest of the guests. Victoire seemed pleased.

Kingsley Shacklebolt and Ginny's father arrived at the same time. The Minister for Magic smiled at Ginny in that slow, reassuring way of his, and Ginny's father pressed a kiss to her forehead.

Neville was next, Hannah and Luna and Dean in tow.

Andromeda was last, carrying almost-four Teddy. The little boy clapped and giggled, and Ginny grinned and hugged him. She set him down next to Victoire. The two children eyeballed each other dangerously, both clinging to each of Ginny's legs, glaring at each other in the space between. Victoire seemed particularly offended by Teddy's teal hair.

Ginny was staring down at them both, snickering as she took step after step and made the children shriek with high-pitched laughter.

"What's all this, then?"

Ginny whipped her head up and blinked at Harry. Teddy shrieked "Hawwy!" and tore himself away from Ginny's leg to launch himself on Harry. Victoire, not to be outdone, ordered "Up, Gin, up!"

Ginny laughed, and reached down to whisk Victoire into the air. She settled the girl on her hip, and went to rescue Harry from Teddy's attack—Teddy had managed to bowl Harry over.

"Come on, Teddy! Let Harry breathe!" laughed Ginny.

Harry sat up, hair forever wild and glasses askew. He grinned up at Ginny. Ginny felt her stomach flip and she had to squash it as she reached down to help him up.

And she realized that this—not loving him anymore—was going to be the hardest thing she'd ever tried to achieve.

Ginny smiled a little, and hoisted Victoire up. "Sir Harry, are you alright? The fell beast attacked you!"

"Ah, Lady Ginny, I managed to survive. But the beast lives still!" said Harry.

"I'm not a beast!" cried Teddy, looking thoroughly alarmed.

Harry and Ginny laughed together and Harry swooped down to scoop Teddy off the ground. "'Course you aren't, mate."

Teddy looked mollified and was reduced to tugging on Harry's shirt. Ginny watched the way Harry murmured to the little boy, gentle and understanding. She thought he would make a good father, one day.

Harry looked over. "Want to go inside?"

"Sure," Ginny replied, and quashed the urge to straighten his glasses.

She wasn't allowed to do things like that.

Not now, not ever.

The four of them went inside and Ginny crooned nonsense to Teddy and Victoire. They both laughed, and Harry seemed amused. For a few, shining moments, Ginny allowed herself to pretend that this was the future—that Teddy and Victoire were their children, that they were walking into a house that was theirs, that this was possible, even.

But then reality came crashing in, in the form of Hermione grinning widely in front of them. Her eyes were still red, but there a glint in them that definitely did not make Ginny feel good. Ginny jerked her head the tiniest amount. No, Hermy, please not now, please, please, please not now, Ginny silently begged.

But Hermione was not telepathic, and even if she was, Ginny had a sneaking suspicion that Hermione was far craftier than anyone gave her credit for.

"You two look cozy," smirked Hermione.

Ginny mentally Avada'ed her arse to the next century.

Harry turned an awkward shade of red. Ginny continued to silently curse Hermione into oblivion. Shouldn't she be grieving over Ron, or something?

But no. There she was, smirking all smug like she owned the world. Ginny quietly cursed her some more. "Don't be silly, Hermy," Ginny said aloud, "Come on, Victoire, let's go see Gran."

Victoire nodded imperiously.

As Ginny walked past Hermione, she shot the bushy-haired woman the evilest glare she could manage on such short notice. Hermione seemed completely immune, and Ginny contemplated a well-placed Bat Bogey Hex.

It was rather a nice mental image.

And then Ginny turned the corner into the kitchen and was gone, long red hair dancing behind her.

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Harry's birthday festivities went on long into the night. The elf-made wine flowed freely and the laughter was merry, over food and a happy sort of nostalgia.

And someone had been watching Ginny all night. Not surprising, really.

Also not surprisingly, she found herself outside of it all, unable to enjoy the wine or the dusk, or even the veritable feast her mother had cooked up. Victoire was curled up on her lap (the little girl had nearly fallen asleep in her soup twice before Ginny had plucked her from her booster seat and settled her comfortably her in Ginny's own lap), and she simply sat there quietly and listened as the babble of conversation grew steadily more and more quiet as the night went on.

Near midnight, Fleur stood and reached for her daughter. "Merci, Ginevra. Eet is far past zis leetle one's bedtime. I am sure she 'as 'ad a wonderful evening but I feel zat eet is time to return 'ome. Oui?"

Ginny managed a strained smile. On occasion, Fleur still thoroughly bothered her, but it was getting less and less so as time went on. She passed the still-slumbering Victoire to Fleur, carefully avoiding the possibility of jostling and waking her.

As she did so, the feeling of eyes on the back of her neck strengthened. Ginny shivered, looked up, and caught Harry's gaze. He was staring at her, eyes intense.

Ginny blinked at him, and he crooked his head in the universal gesture for come here.

Well, this is going to be awkward, thought Ginny. In the scuffle of Bill and Fleur's leaving, she went to pick up Harry's plate; it was both an excuse to get close to him, and, need be, to get away.

"I need to talk to you," muttered Harry.

A curtain of long red hair obscured her face from the world. "After everyone is asleep. Can you get away?"

"Yeah, I think."

"Meet me out front, then," whispered Ginny.

And with that, she smoothly moved away. No one was the wiser to the conversation, not even Hermione, who seemed to be deep in conversation with Shacklebolt. Ginny grinned to herself.

She might just be able to pull this thing off.

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The waiting was going to kill her.

Ginny hated waiting. It was a complete waste of time.

First she had to wait for everyone to leave. Then she had to wait until her mother had finished cleaning up. Then she had to wait for Hermione to shut up and fall asleep. Then she had to wait outside, shivering in the cold night air, for Harry Potter to get his stupid arse out of the house.

Thankfully, she didn't have to wait long for the last one, because he seemed to hate waiting as much as she did.

Ginny tugged her jumper close around her body as she watched him approach. "Hello, Harry."

"Ginny."

"Look, I know you wanted to talk, but can we walk? It's cold," said Ginny.

Harry nodded, and fell in step beside her. Ginny had no idea where her feet were taking them, and Harry seemed to be following her lead (that probably wasn't a good thing, not that Ginny was going to tell anyone that. Her sense of direction might have been a little off).

"What did you want to talk about?" asked Ginny.

Harry looked marginally uncomfortable.

"Look," Ginny started, "if it's about Ron and Hermione, then I think you need to let them be. I mean—"

"It's not about Ron and Hermione," interjected Harry.

"So what is it about, then?" asked Ginny again.

Slowly, where they were walking was dawning on her. Ginny mentally panicked; the only person she'd shared that secret place with was Hermione, and part of her hadn't even wanted to do that much. Ginny's secret place was her secret place, and—

"What I said earlier."

"Oh," said Ginny.

They lapsed into silence.

Ginny glanced at Harry out of the corner of her eye. It was dark and therefore hard to tell, but Ginny thought that he'd turned red again. Oh, Harry, she thought, sad. Merlin, why do you do this to me?

"Gin, where are we going?" asked Harry, cautiously.

(Ginny thought she could hear years of war screaming through his voice.

It made her sad.)

"I want to show you something," Ginny heard herself say. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Ginny through she ought to simply kill herself. If she didn't have control over her own mouth, what was even the point in staying alive? Was there ever even a point?

But Harry was nodding, and so Ginny led him through the bushes into a very small clearing.

Her secret place.

The little spring bubbled cheerfully in greeting. Even painted in the colours of the night, Ginny thought it felt safe; removed from her family and everyone else, ever, she'd always thought that this funny little clearing was out of the influence of the rest of the world. The rest of the world could end, but the spring and the brook and the trees would remain the same. It gave Ginny comfort.

"Look, Harry! Fireflies!" Ginny exclaimed in a whisper, happy. She walked to the edge of the spring, and turned back to look at him. She had no idea what he thought of her, then, standing there with fireflies whiling around her head. She probably looked like some sort of mad solar system, but Ginny still didn't have time to care about a boy who didn't care about her back.

For a very long minute, Harry simply stared at her, dumbfounded.

And then he was striding towards her, green eyes burning, and Ginny was reminded of that time when she was fifteen-almost-sixteen and they'd just won the Quidditch Cup and—

Oh.

Ginny couldn't remember the last time she'd been kissed the way Harry was kissing her. It was broiling hot and desperate, shiver-inducing; crushed to his chest, when Ginny finally did pull away, she could barely breathe. Harry leaned his forehead against hers, silently gulping for air. Ginny had never heard him breathe like that, before. It sent shudders down her spine.

"You're the only real thing, Gin. It's all you," said Harry.

Ginny didn't even know what to say.

"Just thought you ought to know."

And then he was kissing her again, and Ginny didn't really think anymore.

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fin.
notes2: please don't Favourite without leaving a review. i hope you liked it! :)