22 May 1998

Ginny sighed, pushing open the back door of the Burrow. She clutched a handful of flowers from the garden; she'd been outside visiting Fred, and thought that a few wildflowers would do the kitchen some good. Colors…colors were missing from their home. She felt as though every shade of beauty and loveliness had somehow been sucked from the world in the last three years—not to mention the last three weeks.

It was a beautiful summer day, Ginny thought as she gazed out the window, filling a vase at the sink. Outside the Burrow, there were colors coming to life everywhere. Yellows, purples, greens, wonderful blues—Ginny sought the colors out, did her best to bring them inside, cultivate them, and watch them grow.

Dad and Mum were the only ones home with her today; Harry, Ron, and Hermione had gone to Hogwarts to help with some of the reconstruction. Normally, Ginny would have wanted to go with them, but—

"Oh—hi, sweet pea," said Dad's voice behind her. Ginny turned and smiled at him. He looked tired, perhaps a little thinner than Ginny was used to seeing him, but he was still very much Dad. The only difference was that his colors were still faded, as well—only browns and grays in his clothes today, his skin pale. Even his thinning hair didn't look quite as red as she was used to seeing.

"Hi," Ginny said. She lifted the vase. "Brought these in, for the table."

"Ah, very nice," Dad said with a smile. "She'll be glad to see them."

"Oh—she's awake?" asked Ginny, and Dad nodded. "Does she want breakfast?" she asked hopefully.

"Nothing right now," Dad told her, and Ginny's heart sank.

"Since when does right now add up to ten days?" she mumbled, and Dad sighed exasperatedly, sinking down at the table. "Sorry," Ginny told him. Dad shook his head.

"I know, sweetheart," he said. As if looking for something simply to do, he reached for the Daily Prophet, which lay on the table.

Ginny came and sat down beside him, setting the vase of wildflowers in the middle of the table. They stood awkwardly, bright splashes of violet and red in a washed-away room. Dad was staring blankly at the headline, plainly having forgotten that he had read the paper cover to cover when he and Ginny had risen at dawn to see off Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

Ginny reached out and touched his arm. Slowly, Dad lowered the paper and removed his glasses, squeezing his eyes shut. Ginny scooted her chair closer to his, cuddling close, and felt Dad put a warm, comforting arm around her.

"She'll be okay, Daddy," she said softly, and Dad drew a breath that Ginny felt catch in his chest.

"Of course she will," he said quietly, and Ginny could tell from his voice that if she tried to look him in the eyes right now, she would start crying. They stayed still like that for several minutes, as Ginny tried to time her breathing with Dad's, listening to his heart beating comfortingly against her ear. Then Dad patted her back. "I'm going to go out to shed for a bit," he said, and Ginny sat up.

"Okay," she told him, knowing where he would stop first before retreating into the gardening shed for several hours to clear his head. Ginny did not begrudge him the time; everyone needed space and time to themselves, especially after these last few weeks.

Dad got up and kissed Ginny's hair as she stood.

"Call if she needs me," he said, heading for the door. "Or if you do."

Ginny nodded, smiling as he shut the kitchen door behind him. She sighed, feeling herself deflate slightly, then turned to the kettle. The best thing about being back at the Burrow, she realized, was being able to use her wand completely freely; at Auntie Muriel's, her Trace had been a threat to everyone's safety. Things were different now.

She drew her wand and pointed it at the fireplace, where the teakettle hung. The fire sprang to life, but the flames that seemed to start off a brilliant orange faded into a toneless yellow. Ginny sighed as she heard the sound of the water starting to bubble. Keeping a watchful eye on the pot, so that the whistle wouldn't disturb Mum, Ginny turned to the cupboards and pulled out two old, chipped blue mugs that had been in the house for longer than she could remember. Color, she told herself firmly.

She set them on the tea tray with a stack of napkins—toast, she remembered suddenly, and waved her wand. The homemade bread from Augusta Longbottom began slicing itself with the large knife that lay nearby, and Ginny flicked her wand again. Several pieces flew onto a plate, which she sent to the hearth to toast.

Fifteen minutes or so later, laden down with a full tea service, Ginny made her way up the rickety stairs to Mum and Dad's bedroom. Balancing the tray on her hip, Ginny knocked gently. There was no answer, and Ginny raised her hand to knock again—

"Come in," said a very soft voice. Ginny opened the door. The little blue-painted room, which was usually very brightly lit by the large windows on the southeast wall, was dark. Heavy drapes hung over the windows, and Ginny had to squint slightly to find the little table beside Mum's armchair where she could set the tea tray. She moved to the drapes and dragged them open.

"Leave them, sweetheart," said Mum from the bed behind her. Ginny shook her head.

"Not today, Mummy," she said, as kindly as she could. "A bit of sun'll feel nice." Ginny opened the drapes on the other two windows, and turned around.

Mum was sitting up in bed—a good sign, despite her pale skin and air of worn tiredness. She, too, had been leached of color. There was no pink in her cheeks, no bright brown in her eyes, no color to her pale nightgown. Even her hair, held back in a knot, seemed to Ginny to contain more white than she remembered. Mum was resting on several pillows, and watching Ginny without lifting her head. Ginny smiled, trying to make Mum do the same, and for a half-second, she succeeded.

"Morning," she said, and Mum nodded slightly. "I brought tea and toast."

Mum sat up a bit. "Oh, thank you, dear," she said. "I'm not very hungry, though. Why don't you come sit with me, though, and have yours?" She patted the empty space beside her on the bed, and Ginny smiled again. She turned to the tea service, and when she climbed onto the bed, she did so with two mugs in her hands.

Mum frowned as Ginny set one on her nightstand, but Ginny pretended not to notice, instead cuddling close against her mother's side, cradling her own mug in her hands. She rested her head on Mum's shoulder, taking a sip of her tea, and immediately felt Mum's fingers run through her hair.

These 'visits' had been the custom for them nearly every day since Fred's funeral. Mum wasn't hurt, or ill, exactly, but…she wasn't all right, either. At least, that was the way Ginny had described it to Bill, when he'd asked. Being with Mum now was like watching someone fade away; she was losing weight and much too pale. A strand of Ginny's hair fell in her face, and the brilliance of the red startled her, creating too sharp a contrast from the worn-out view of the bedroom.

All the evidence suggested that Mum, who had been so constantly, madly, furiously concentrated on reconstruction, and nursing, and everything else, was simply taking the time and space she needed to recover, just like Dad with his mad Muggle distractions; how long that would take was another matter entirely.

Ginny sighed, and Mum patted her back, kissing the top of her head. "Where's your father?" she asked.

"In the shed," Ginny told her, taking another sip of tea.

"Harry and Ron?"

"At school, with Hermione. I think they said that they were doing the greenhouses today," said Ginny. She felt Mum heave a sigh, and hugged her tightly.

"You should go with them," said Mum. "You're still underage, but I would give you permission to help, if you stayed with a teacher," she added. Ginny shook her head.

"There's enough going on here," she said, sitting up and meeting Mum's eyes.

Mum gave a halfhearted chuckle. "Don't tell me you've taken a fancy to de-gnoming and chickens now," she said. Ginny took Mum's hand, gazing down at their interlocked fingers, and shook her head.

"Oh," Mum said, reaching up her free hand to stroke Ginny's cheek. "Ginny. I'm fine," she said. "I'm just fine."

Very slowly and deliberately, Ginny reached to set her mug on Mum's nightstand. Then she sat back on the mattress at Mum's hip, facing her.

"You haven't been acting fine," she said softly, and Mum blinked. "I know we all need time to get better, but we—we also need to help each other with…with all of this," Ginny said. "If we don't…" she sighed, closing her eyes. Her lower lip trembled. "If we don't, we'll really lose everything." She opened her eyes again, to see Mum blinking back tears.

"Don't cry, Mum," Ginny said. She wrapped her arms around her mother, and Ginny felt Mum embrace her tightly in return, giving a little sob. "Just let us help you," she said, fighting tears from her own voice. "Please let us. Let me."

Mum began to shake with silent sobs, and Ginny squeezed her even more tightly. "My girl," Mum moaned softly. "My little girl…" Ginny looked up into Mum's tearstained face. "When did you get so grown-up?" Mum asked, sobbing as she smoothed Ginny's hair back from her face.

Ginny buried her face in Mum's shoulder, as they hugged each other tighter still. It was a long while before Ginny was able to swallow her tears, and longer still before either of them spoke. At long last, Mum drew a breath, and Ginny opened her eyes, staring out the windows.

"You know," said Mum, "when I was pregnant with you, I was so sick."

Ginny gave a little laugh. "Thanks so much, Mum," she said, and Mum swatted her.

"Your brothers were absolute nervous wrecks," she continued. "Probably because Daddy started making their breakfasts, since I couldn't be near food before teatime." Ginny laughed again. "But one day…mmm…around this time of year, I think. Maybe midsummer…I was really pregnant," she said, jostling Ginny in her arms.

Ginny shook her head. "I know, I know," she grumbled good-naturedly. "I was the world's biggest baby." Mum chuckled and kissed the top of her head.

"Well, I think I was probably stuck in the rocking chair," Mum carried on, taking another deep breath. "Knitting, maybe, and Ron was napping on the sofa, I think, with Percy…when all of a sudden, Georgie and—" she faltered only slightly, "—and Freddie came running in."

Ginny looked up into Mum's eyes; she was smiling, but she looked a little watery. It was one of the few times she had said Fred's name since his funeral, but she seemed unwilling to stop and dwell on it.

"They were all worked up, because—" she broke off, laughing, and had to wipe away a tear. "Charlie, or Bill, I think, had told them that because we were having a new baby, and it was a boy—we didn't know it was you, then—but they'd told the twins that Daddy and I were going to send one of them back. Fred was just—just positive it was going to be him, and George was so upset—" she made a sound that was halfway between a sob and a laugh, and had to pause to reach for a hanky in the drawer of her end table.

Ginny laughed, fighting back her own tears. "What did you tell them?" she asked, swallowing a lump in her throat.

Mum took a shaky breath, wiping her cheeks. "That we'd never do that, in a million years, and that Bill and Charlie were more full of jokes than a package of Droobles' Gum. And—and Fred looked up at me—" her chin quivered, and she hugged Ginny tighter. "Just like you're doing now, and he said—'Well…I hope the baby's a girl, Mummy, just in case.'"

Ginny's mouth fell open slightly, as fresh tears spilled from Mum's eyes. She covered her face with her hanky, shaking as she cried and laughed simultaneously.

"He was—so—happy—when—I had—you," she wailed in a muffled voice, sobbing. "I've never—I couldn't—believe—how happy he was—to have a baby sister—"

And finally, Ginny dissolved into tears, sobbing into Mum's nightgown—it hurt too much, it was all too much—she wept unashamedly as she had not done even on that terrible night three weeks ago; everything was different now, she was only with Mum. She didn't have to be brave, she didn't have to fight, or put on a face for the sympathetic visitors—she could be Mum's little girl, who was aching badly for her brother.

"You made him so proud," Mum said softly, trying to catch her breath. "There were times when I—hic—I'd put you d-down for a n-nap, and…I'd come back, and y-you'd be g-g-gone. And then I—I'd find you with him, s-sound asleep in his arms." Ginny gave a rather strangled laugh, freeing her face just enough to wipe her cheeks. Mum closed her eyes, slowing down her breathing, as Ginny sat up.

Slowly, Mum opened her eyes. She gave Ginny a watery smile, and pulled herself up on the bed. Ginny took her hands.

"I love you, Ginevra," said Mum softly, looking earnestly into her eyes. "You know that. I love you and your brothers more than anything—anything."

Ginny nodded. "We love you, too," she said, her voice cracking. "So much, Mum."

Mum smiled sadly and put a hand to Ginny's cheek. Then she took a deep breath. "I think," she said slowly, "that it's time to get out of bed."

Ginny raised her eyebrows. "Really?" she asked.

Mum nodded, and with a tiny thrill, Ginny saw in her eyes a flicker of her old determination. "It's time. There's work to do. I'll bet there are going to be some hungry people arriving for dinner," she said, throwing her blankets back. Ginny scrambled off the bed and hurried to grab Mum's old green dressing gown and yellow slippers. Mum managed to get up from bed largely on her own, but nearly stumbled when she tried to walk.

"Careful," Ginny said, catching her by the elbows. "You haven't eaten in ages—come on, let's go downstairs—I'll make you something—"

Mum smiled, her eyes shut as she held a hand to her forehead. "Something to eat would be wonderful," she said slowly, taking a breath. She put on the green robe, and Ginny smiled; her hair was red again—her eyes brilliant and brown. Mum saw her looking and chuckled, and Ginny grinned even more.

With Ginny's help, Mum made it down the stairs to the kitchen, sinking down in her customary chair.

Ginny kissed her hair and hurried over to the loaf of bread, which she sliced by hand (she wasn't sure Mum would take very kindly to her newfound domestic skills just yet) and buttered. She rooted through the fruit basket to find a few brilliantly red apples from the orchard and cut them up, laying them on a plate. When she turned around, she saw Mum staring out of the window in the back door, a smile spreading across her face.

Laying the plate of bread and apples on the table, Ginny stood behind her, following her gaze. Dad—positively glowing in the sunlight—was trotting towards the house, grinning. Ginny hurried forward and opened the door as Dad ran in, eyes only for Mum.

"Are you—" he began, but Mum interrupted.

"I'm fine, Arthur," she said, and Dad gave a rather hysterical little laugh, sitting down beside her and taking her hands. Mum leaned forward, pressing their foreheads together, and they shared a soft kiss.

Ginny stood a few feet away, her hand over her heart and her lip trembling as she smiled. She turned quickly away and quietly left the kitchen, walking into the parlor. She gazed around. The sofa was flowered and drab, once again—the walls were orange, with many spots and stains—pictures on the walls shuddered to life. Ginny beamed. Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she drew her wand.

"Expecto patronum," she murmured. A beautiful silvery mare appeared, watching her with large, dark eyes. "She's up. Tell Ron and Harry. Come home for dinner." With a toss of its mane, the horse cantered off to find Hermione, dissolving into silver mist.

Ginny wrapped her arms around herself, turning back to the kitchen doorway. Mum and Dad, their backs to Ginny, had moved their chairs closer together; he had his arm around her.

She watched her parents silently for several minutes. Neither of them moved nor spoke, but in her mind's eye, Ginny could see a kind of aura glowing around them.

It was a beautiful rainbow, seven colors. Closest to them was a soft purple shade—magical, warm, a constant shield…then came a very dark blue; dark, but learning to glow again…a brighter blue, the color of Dad's eyes when he laughed…a lime green, cool, a little less bright than the other shades at the moment; it was braided with the bright yellow beside it, which bled into orange, fiery and exciting…and finally, red, the color of love and fiercely loyal protection.

As Ginny watched, the yellow ribbon of light, looping back and forth with the green beside it, seemed to suddenly illuminate, brighter than all the others, and she smiled.

Somehow, this felt amazing to write. Whew. I'm so sorry I've disappeared. Allow me to explain why: I FINISHED LILY POTTER AND THE TRIWIZARD TOURNAMENT! And now my amazingly wonderful awesome spectacular fantasmagoric beta reader, LVB, is looking it over, and I'll be putting it up soon!

School's officially re-started for me...so I'm going to try to do only one or two one-shots per week, in addition to working on a couple projects I've had in mind. Don't worry, I'm still here.

Wishing you brilliant colors in your life, all day and always,