Fandom: Harry Potter
Warnings: Mentions of violence and character deaths. Some swearing and drinking.
Prompt: 95. But the beginnings of things, of the world especially, are necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such a beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult! --Kate Chopin.
Summary: “That’s what I remember, the white of the snow and how it darkened and melted red.” The wizarding world claims to remember what happened during the war, but Ginny’s memories are different.
My thanks go to yamapea for the speedy beta!
The ghosts appeared only in candlelight, and when the flames flickered and were about to die they came closer. Ginny knew that they weren’t real ghosts. They didn’t talk, for one thing. (But the way they looked at her, their sorrowful or accusing gazes were worse than words could be.) She did her best to convince herself that they were figments of her imagination, absolutely no magic involved.
She got herself an apartment in Muggle London, with electricity, and plenty of lights. Ginny turned all of them on at once, or left them all off. She tried to avoid shadows as much as she could, because the shapes they could take were too disconcerting.
She had gone to the graveyard once to put flowers on the graves. She’d heard that it was what you did. Maybe it could help, even though she didn’t understand why. It wasn’t as though anyone who mattered would notice.
The Weasley family plot had a mossy stone beneath an old oak, in a plain graveyard with few trees and many sloping stones. Ginny knelt and started picking at the grass that nearly covered it, when she heard a scraping sound from above. She looked up and found that there were two feet dangling in front of her eyes, and Ginny supposed that she should have expected to find Loony Lovegood here. She was still smiling that enervating serene smile of hers, peeking down between the branches. They looked almost like prison bars, and Ginny couldn’t help but think that maybe a closed ward would be the best place for Luna nowadays.
“What on earth are you doing up in that tree?” Ginny was proud over the calm tone of voice she managed.
“This is the only place I can see them all at once,” replied Luna. “You should try, there’s room for both of us.”
“We’re not children anymore, Lovegood,” Ginny said. “Can’t you get that?”
As she left the graveyard, she heard a small tinkling laugh. She didn’t bother to turn back when she realised that she had left her jumper by the grave.
The first minister after the war invented the National Wizarding Memorial Days. Ginny did go to the first one, because she thought that her mother would have said that it was the proper thing to do.
Back then she still lived in the Wizarding district, in a small run-down apartment on Gnostic Alley. The government had never repaired the spell damage in that area after the war, because it was considered a bit dodgy from the start. It simply wasn’t deemed worth bothering with when there still was help to be given to the honourable citizens. In Ginny’s apartment it was the ceiling that was damaged, blackened by smoke from candles and other (unidentifiable) things.
The first Memorial Day was held in Diagon Alley, where streetlights had been replaced and empty shops covered up with draperies to make a better impression. A podium had been built in the end of the street, by the white marble front of Gringott’s. There the Minister and his underlings played their parts in a carefully crafted show.
“We are here today to honour those who became victims in the civil war that plagued our society, an utterly meaningless war over petty differences of opinion, which claimed the lives of far too many upstanding and well-liked citizens. Today, we honour among others the Bones family, the Zabinis, the Boots, the Malfoys…”
Ginny elbowed her way out of the crowd and left. That was the only memorial service she ever attended, and she left the Wizarding district shortly afterwards.
Ginny thought that living in Muggle London definitely had its perks. She could stand to give up wearing robes, conveniently shrinking her shopping bags, and performing rain proofing-charms in the open when she was surprised by a thunderstorm. It was all worth it, if only for the relief of not having to read the stories from the Prophet, and not having to see the parades. When she moved out of Gnostic Alley, she had sworn that she would live completely without magic, if only that meant that she would never have to explain herself again. “Yes, I’m Ginny Weasley. Yes, one of those Weasleys.” And when she came home, the ghosts would always be there. Their faces always told her that she hadn’t said enough, hadn’t done enough, and how could she let the world remember them this way?
Fortunately, she had her little apartment to herself, and though it had a lot of Muggle appliances that took her some time to figure out, nothing was disturbed by a few bouts of magic now and then.
The first few weeks on Edmonton Street she paid her rent to the landlady with money transfigured from scraps of paper. But when she noticed how threadbare the old woman’s clothes were, and how rarely she seemed to buy anything but food, Ginny couldn’t stand it anymore. She got a job in the coffee shop at the corner of the street. Her luck was probably due to the fact that the old man who hired her only had eyes for her hair and her breasts, which caused him to forget to ask for her papers and references.
She told the manager that she had been living abroad far to long, because her level of unfamiliarity with the money system was admittedly suspicious. The manager, a middle-aged woman named Margaret with a very chubby face, quickly formed an opinion about her new apprentice. Ginny deduced from overhearing her conversations with the regular customers that they considered her kind, but shy and a bit behind. Apparently her lack of understanding of everyday Muggle occurrences was too obvious. There were just to many things about Muggles and their habits she couldn’t quite grasp. But when she finally managed to figure out all the funny little coins, it mostly worked out all right. Well, she could pay the rent with real pounds at least, but not much else.
Come October a year after she broke contact with the Wizarding world, Ginny had been living an undisturbed life for several months. Her sleepless nights were fewer, and the most upsetting event took place one Monday when she dropped a scalding hot cup of coffee in a customers lap. Margaret told her in very controlled tones to wipe up the mess on the floor, and then go home so that the situation could be dealt with in a smoother manner. Ginny obeyed, mostly because it had been a long and cold day which made her back ache. A warm bath seemed a lot more tempting than a wet and angry businessman.
The moment she stepped inside her door, she knew that something was not quite the same. There was an enormous white owl sitting on her kitchen table, clutching a letter in its talons. She took the letter away from him with shaking hands, and dropped it on the table. The owl kept glaring at her as she opened a window to let him out. He didn’t leave until he had managed to give her a long scratch across her palm, as though he wanted to leave a mark behind to force her to acknowledge his visit.
Ginny downed a glass of whiskey from the bottle hidden underneath her sink, the one that she wouldn’t admit she even possessed. It burnt her throat and made her eyes water, and then she could carry the letter, dangling from her fingertips, into her bedroom. The creamy paper almost blended into her sheets, and she left the envelope lying there for some time longer before she finally ripped it open.
I am writing to ask for you participation in a project that I believe is vital to the battle for making our world into a place that is possible to live in.
The current Ministry spread all kinds of falsehoods, and they are trusted endlessly. I don’t know how much of what is currently going on you are aware of, but I am attaching some articles from the New Prophet just in case.
I want to tell a true story about the war. We need as many of them as possible. I am asking you to share you memories. Please, Ginny, consider it. For your family’s sake. For Hermione’s. For all of us.
I will send Aero back to you in a few days. Please tell me then what you have decided. I’m usually at the old Quibbler’s office, if you want to reach me earlier.
I hope you will reply to this,
Your friend Luna Lovegood.
Ginny closed her eyes hard to block out the shadows in her bedroom, because they were looming higher than ever, twisting and ever-changing when the lights from the city played over her walls. But the darkness behind her eyelids did not help; it turned into images, into red fireworks of blood, to eyes that unrelentingly seek contact, then to suffocating darkness closing in on her. She turned to lie on her stomach and wrapped herself in her duvet, but it didn’t stop her from feeling the sticky dirt on her skin. She put her pillow over her head, but it did not muffle the screams she heard (remembered).
At three o’clock in the morning Ginny turned on all the lights, running from one switch to another, not stopping to look at anything before she was done. Write a letter; that was what she was going to do. It should’ve been a Howler, but she didn’t remember the charm and couldn’t stand to think about it for too long. She wrote with her hand shaking, the letters leaning in different directions and the lines sloping over the paper, but she wrote fast and purposefully.
You have no right to do this, to ask that of me! I’m not going to listen to you, I don’t owe anyone anything. How dare you try to tell me what I should do, Lovegood, you know what happened already and if you want to try to tell someone go right ahead. And don’t drag me into anything, don’t you dare!
Why did you have to owl me, no owl should be able to find me here, you shouldn’t have an owl with a knack for finding people in wrong places, why the fuck do you have a white owl!
Couldn’t you just let Hedwig be and find some other kind of owl, one that hasn’t brought damn and love hurt and ruin and ended up splattered all over,
You just stay away don’t dig in me don’t dare how do you dare you loony
When Ginny woke up she had ink all over her hands and on her cheek, and a crick in her neck. Shaky all over, she crumpled up the paper and threw in the wastepaper basket. She managed to scrub most of the black off her face, drank a glass of water and then went to work.
Margaret stopped tinkering behind the counter the moment Ginny stepped through the door.
“But Ginny!” She said, and hastily put down the coffee she’d been handling. “What ever is the matter? You look like death warmed over!”
Ginny could hardly get the words out, mumbled something about sleeping badly and went into the back room to get changed.
When she came home again that evening she saw the apartment only by the faint light from the dusk through the windows. Sitting on her desk by a block of lined paper, was a shimmering translucent form. Hermione turned her gaze on Ginny and tapped the paper with on see-through hand. On her face among the silvery red gashes, was a faint shadow of a smile. The lights from a passing car streamed through the window, Hermione flickered and disappeared, and Ginny sagged against the door.
She sat by the desk, the bottle of whiskey by her elbow and an empty paper by her right hand. In her left Ginny held a glass half-filled with golden liquid, and she was swirling it around, letting the light shine through it and make patterns on the paper, and then she drank. With her mind numbed by intoxication, lack of sleep and the thought of a ghostly smile, she began to write.
It was winter when the Death Eaters came the second time. That’s what I remember, the white of the snow and how it darkened and melted red. And I remember their laughs, the green light and the laughs, and the professors forced us away through the fireplaces. And they came too, McGonagall, Pomfrey, Sprout and Pince but I know they saw through the windows, the small crumpled bodies in the courtyard bleeding the snow away.
Aero, the owl, came back the next day, and Ginny gave him the papers without reading them first. “Fly along then,” she said. “You’ve got what you wanted, now take it back to Lovegood.”
Luna didn’t send a reply, but Ginny kept writing. Late at night with a glass in one hand to give her courage, she wrote until she almost fell asleep in her chair. At first she had all the lights turned on, but she turned one switch less each night until she had only enough light to see what she wrote. That’s when Ron appeared, taking shape on top of her notebook where she had written about Dean Thomas, how nice he was, really, before everything, and how he died in a damp alley. Ron’s face stretched into a grin, showing off his missing teeth, and he dangled his one leg off the edge of the table. He reached out, as though to pat her shoulder, and then Ginny turned on the light.
Luna sent no more letters, but Aero kept coming back every three days. When Ginny got fired for repeatedly being late and not doing her job properly, he started coming every day. There were only a few times that Ginny had no papers to send with him.
My last memory is of Harry, when we thought it all was over. They had him in a bed in the hospital, and I remember looking at him, his dark hair against his face and the lightening scar no longer possible to distinguish entirely from the rest. And his eyes, how he wouldn’t look at me, just mumbled there was nothing to be afraid of now, so just go.
When he left no one seemed to care because he was just a murderer anyway. But so are all of us who lived through this, even though we won’t admit it.
The sun was blinding against the white houses and the sea, as Ginny stepped out on the porch, and the stone was chilly beneath her bare feet, not burning like in the height of summer. The tourists were leaving now, and everything in the little village moved in a calmer fashion. Ginny herself only wanted to buy some fruit and then watch the waves breaking against the shore for the rest of the day. But it would have to wait, because a great white owl had landed on the stone wall that surrounded the cottage.
“Hello there, Aero,” Ginny said. “I’ll get you some water, it’ll just be a moment.”
She read the letter while Aero drank water out of a glass and nibbled on the small piece of ham she’d found in a cupboard in the kitchen.
I am doing well, and so is the book. Well, it has been banned again, but it seems to be good for business. Promoting interest, rather than anything else. The Minister is not pleased, but I am and I think you should be too.
As you can understand, the storm is still raging quite violently back here. I believe you might be better off with an even longer holiday. I can send more money if you need it, but contact me and not Gringotts, because they have too close ties to the current Ministry. If nothing else, I’m sure that Greece has a very interesting wildlife. Please tell me if you see any Chimaeras or other interesting things!
A short stay in the sun is probably good for Aero as well, so maybe you can let him rest at your place for a while. Just send him back when you tire of his company.
Aero caught up to Ginny when she was walking down the road to the village and landed on her shoulder. Oh well, the fruit could wait, she thought and took the path that led directly to a secluded part of the beach. The rest of the day, she watched the sea tumble against the sand and saw the sun wander over the sky. Once in a while she heard the owl hooting from a wind pined tree, and it felt like peace, in a way.