There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.
3 May 1998
Ginny hated this waiting around. She’d waited up all night for Harry to come back. Despite Ron and Hermione’s insistences that he had stayed behind at Hogwarts to “recollect his thoughts” and “spend some time alone after all that had happened,” Ginny knew better. The git had gone off on his own to do Merlin-knows-what that would most likely be dangerous and stupid.
She sat in the chair between the front door and the fireplace so she would be close enough to hex him whether he walked in or came by Floo. She hadn’t expected to be staring at the mantel, then the door knob, then the firewood, then the window for hours and hours. But dinner had come and gone, everyone else was in bed, and the sun was rising. She hadn’t planned to sleep at all, but she grabbed a blanket to drape her shoulders just in case. Turned out she didn’t need it after all. She should have known. With Fred’s funeral coming closer and closer, she needed the extra hours to pretend everything was still okay.
When she heard footsteps on the stairs, she laid her head against her arms on the table and closed her eyes, not wanting to be seen as too obsessive and acting like her first year self again.
She waited for whoever it was to hit the squeaky floorboard at the entrance of the kitchen before popping her head up. “Oh, morning, Mum.” She stretched up her arms and squeezed out a yawn while her mother gave her a sad, pitying look. She despised that look, and it sent a rush of anger from her brain to the tips of her toes.
“Ginny, have you been down here all night?” Mum asked, shaking her head in displeasure since she already knew the answer. “I’ll put on some tea. It might help you get a couple of hours sleep. It’s only six.”
And the funeral was at nine. For Mum to say that, though, would be for her to admit someone was dead, and that that someone was Fred, and everyone in the family was careful not to voice that out loud.
Mum set the cup in front of her too fast for her to not have used magic, which was strange, but she’d put the tea in Ginny’s favorite mug – simple, white, with a blue silhouette of a horse – and sat in her normal spot, which Ginny happened to be sitting diagonal from. Ginny couldn’t understand why her mother was giving her a look that said, “Are you okay?” Both of them knew neither of them were okay, or ever would be again. The world would forever be split into the time before Fred’s death and after.
Ginny couldn’t understand why, out of seven siblings, Death had taken one of the twins.
Mum stared down at her tea while Ginny contemplated saying something other than the thing that was on both their minds. What did they used to talk about before Fred died? Ginny couldn’t remember.
“If you don’t want to go today,” her mother said before Ginny could think of anything, “I would understand.”
“What’re you talking about?” Ginny couldn’t believe her mother was really saying what she thought she was saying.
Mum hesitated. “When my brothers died, I didn’t attend the funeral.” She kept her eyes on her tea as she talked. “You were expected to be born any day when it happened, but it was no excuse. In all honesty, I just couldn’t bear to be there. They were the strongest men I had ever known, and if they could be killed, I felt that none of us were safe. I didn’t let the boys out of the house for months afterwards, even after Voldemort disappeared. I had convinced myself that it was more important that I stay home and take care of the boys than to go to my own brothers’ funeral. Which is why I wouldn’t be disappointed in any of you if you decided not to come.”
“Maybe you wouldn’t, but I’d be pissed,” Ginny said, standing from the table. “I’ll be there and everyone else better be too.”
Mum sighed. “Please don’t be upset with George if he doesn’t show up today.”
“Not show up? Did he say he wasn’t coming?”
“He didn't say that he was.” Mum’s voice was completely defeated, but Ginny only felt angrier. Would George really skip out on Fred’s funeral? Sure, he’d been acting strange and distant and not at all his usual self since they got home – he’d even stayed in his old room instead of going back to his flat – but to just not show up at all to the funeral?
“I’m feeling tired,” she muttered, not wanting to discuss the matter anymore. She felt guilty arguing with her mother on the day of Fred’s funeral, but how could she be so accepting of one of her kids completely avoiding the fact that he was dead?
When she got to her room, the idea of lying in bed was unbearable. Instead, she spent the time unpacking her trunk, a task she normally put off for weeks. She even organized her last quills and bits of parchment on her unused desk. Then she set on the task of picking out clothes for the day.
What was appropriate to wear to a brother’s funeral? Something black, right? But as her eyes searched the clothes in her closet, she realized she owned nothing in that color besides a ratty jumper. How dressed up was she supposed to be anyways? Her only dress robes were the ones she wore to the Yule Ball, and they were much too colorful and bright for today. Plenty of sundresses caught her eyes, but they were all pink and green and blue, nothing dull, nothing colorless.
Who made up the stupid rule that one had to wear black to a funeral anyways? Hadn’t Fred always said he wanted his funeral to be fun, with fireworks and dancing and fun?
Had anyone planned that stuff?
Ginny thought back to last night when they set up the tent and sent out invitations. Her mother had planned a quiet brunch, nothing more. No band. No games. No fun. She would have hoped George had secret plans to crash the gathering, but she also hoped that if he had plans, he would have involved her in them.
She yanked off a dress that hung in the very back of her closet. It was a hideously conservative white garment that Great Aunt Muriel had brought her after she finished her O.W.L.’s last year. She’d never worn the ugly thing with its puffy cap sleeves and lace collar, and she had thought about taking a pair of scissors to it on more than one occasion. Now she was glad she didn’t.
She pulled it over her head and tugged the fabric down, groaning when it hung off her frame too loosely. What size did Muriel think she was?
But then the fabric tightened around her shoulders and waist, so by the time Ginny made it to her mirror, the dress fit perfectly. Or almost perfectly. It was one of those one-size-fits-all dresses that Ginny hated because the hems were always cut too long and yet were the only part of the dress that didn’t tailor itself to the wearer. The end of the dress hit her in the center of her calves, making her appear even shorter than she already was. On a normal day, she would have burned the garment, but today, she didn’t feel like returning to her closet for a second try.
She still had plenty of time to kill, so she dared to wander back downstairs, thankful not to run into anyone. It was close enough to nine that everyone else was probably in their rooms getting ready.
In the kitchen, her tea still sat on the table, steaming from a Warming Charm. She decided not to let it go to waste and downed the whole thing before a flash of green caused her to spit most of it back up in surprise.
Harry stepped out of the chimney.
“Where have you been?” she shouted, standing up and missing the table as she set the cup down so it shattered on the floor.
Her gaze must have conveyed her anger because Harry looked ready to step back into the fireplace and disappear. “I’ve, uh, been around… places…”
Ginny rolled her eyes, but then she caught the sight of blood dripping from his left temple. “And you’re bleeding. Brilliant.” She grabbed a dish towel from the sink as she stormed over to him, then placed the towel against the cut. She was surprised that he let her.
She knew what he could be like when he got self-righteous and rash &ndasd; memories of the Department of Mysterious came to mind – but he wasn’t acting like that person right now. He was the exact opposite: calm, composed, content.
“What happened to you out there?” she asked.
He shrugged, not looking at her and keeping his hands deep in his pockets. “Turns out finding Death Eaters isn’t all that easy.”
“Which is why we have Aurors.” She finished dabbing at the side of his face, the cut revealed to be minuscule now that it wasn’t covered in blood. “And they want your help. So why go out alone?”
“I needed to do something,” he said, taking a step away from her. “I don’t know how to explain, but my… destiny, the reason my parents and Sirius and Snape and Dumbledore and everyone died, was done, over with, and it just didn’t feel like enough. You’d think going after Voldemort for over three years would be more than enough, but it felt too easy.”
“You’re completely mad, you know that, right?” Ginny took a seat, the rush of adrenaline from Harry’s surprise entrance waning. “What made you come back?”
Harry stayed standing, his back half turned on her. “After I realized I wasn’t going to find any Death Eaters just wandering about, I blasted a couple rocks until one came back at me.” He gestured to the cut on his temple. “I guess I feel… better.” He made a face as he said the word, like it tasted wrong on his lips. “I’ll be trying to make it up to everyone who died for me for the rest of my life, but I realized that I could either stay out there and find a Death Eater and probably get killed, or I could come back, accept Kingsley’s offer, and do some good for the world.”
“Don’t sound wise or anything,” Ginny muttered. “You’re making the rest of us look bad.”
“Sorry.” He rubbed the back of his neck, a habit Ginny recognized as Ron’s. She decided she needed to separate them once in a while before Harry started sprouting red hair and freckles.
She stood up, putting on the tea kettle before asking if he wanted any. As the water boiled, she bent to pick up the pieces of her mug, but Harry mumbled something and the cup repaired itself and the tea disappeared. She looked over to see his wand out. “I can clean up my messes myself, thank you,” she snapped.
“I’d ask what was wrong, but I already know.”
“Do you?” she growled, turning to face him. “Because you seem unable to understand that other people can feel loss and guilt too. You’re not special.”
Harry took a step back as if she had slapped him. Merlin, was she going to have a venomous tongue all day?
She rubbed her face with her hands, trying to stop herself from spitting out something else rude and insulting. “I don’t know why I keep doing that. I yelled at Mum this morning. Now you. What’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing,” he said, taking a step closing but still keeping the table between them. “It’s okay.”
“It’s not okay.” She threw her hands up. “If I’m sitting still, I’m fine. I feel okay. But then I start doing things or go near someone, and it’s like something inside me just… argh!” She bent her fingers like claws over a sphere, trying to express how it felt when that surge of energy gripped her chest so she acted like an animal with a thorn in its foot. “Then all I want to do is punch something.”
“Sounds about right,” Harry said, which was far from what Ginny expected.
“Right?” she asked incredulously.
“Do you remember Dumbledore’s office?”
She clenched her jaw at the tangent and resisted the urge to hex him. “Yes,” she hissed through her teeth.
He seemed to sense the dangerous ground he was walking on and hurried to make his point. “I may have broken a fair few of those little machines and objects he had in there after Sirius died. “
Ginny blinked at him, not yet willing to admit that he was right, that was exactly what she felt like doing. Smashing a lot of precious magical objects? That’d make her feel loads better.
Without prompting, he kept going. “I felt so guilty leading everyone into that trap, leading Sirius to his death. It was a useless battle, nothing good came out of it. It was a bad decision on my part, and I take full responsibility for it. But I can’t be angry forever. Nothing can change what happened, but the guilt’s still there.”
That word hit Ginny hard. “That’s what it is. Guilt.”
Harry nodded. “Survivor’s guilt.”
“No.” She cut him off as something clicked in her mind that hadn’t before. A fresh wave of guilt-turned-anger washed over her as she said, “It’s more than that. It’s guilt for getting someone you loved killed.”
“Ginny,” Harry said, stepping around the table so nothing stood between them. “You didn’t get Fred killed.”
“Yes, I did.” It was her turn to turn her back to him, unable to watch his reaction. “After I left the Room of Requirement, I jumped into the first fight I could find. I thought I could handle it, but this Death Eater disarmed and cornered me in two seconds. I would have been killed if Fred hadn’t thrown a Stinging Hex at him and drew him away. I didn’t think anything of it, I just got back up, found my wand, and went looking for another duel. And then I heard the wall collapse in the direction he went…” Her voice broke on the last sentence, surprising her. Since when was she a crying girl? “If I had only just stayed in the Room like you told me.”
His hand reached for her arm, but she pulled away. “Fred died because of me,” she mumbled, feeling tears in her eyes but refusing to let them slip out. “He would have been somewhere else if he hadn’t stopped to save me.”
She heard Harry sigh behind her, probably looking for something to say but nothing he could say would erase the fact that she got her brother killed.
What happened to her plans to romance him as soon as he showed up, to make him still want her? Those plans had gone to the hippogriffs. She felt Harry step closer to her, watched his shadow grow larger, and he said, “Ginny–“
“You should go change,” she stated, remembering that the funeral would be happening soon and that Harry wouldn’t dare miss it.
He nodded and left the room, leaving Ginny to collapse into her chair. The tea kettle whistled, making her jump. She’d forgotten about the boiling water. She quickly shut it off when she heard someone walk into the room. “Mind pouring me one?” Charlie asked.
“Do it yourself.” She marched out of the kitchen and into the back garden, making sure to keep her back to Charlie. She needed to be alone. Who knew what else she’d say?
A warm breeze blew through the bushes, but instead of comforting Ginny, it only pissed her off more. What right did the day have to be sunny and bright? It was supposed to be gray and raining. It was not a day for sunshine.
After only a few minutes, large white carriages pulled by winged horses arrived in the garden as her family trickled out of the house, every last one of them wearing black. When Bill and Fleur arrived, Ginny was glad to see Fleur wearing silver robes, the first time she could recall being happy to see her sister-in-law. She chose to ride in their carriage. Charlie made to follow but seemed to think better of it and went into Ron, Harry, and Hermione’s instead.
George did not emerge from the house with the rest of the family, and the carriages only waited a few minutes before taking off without him.
The ride to the cemetery took minutes, and the carriages landed with a thump a few minutes later in a clearing that was bordered on three sides by trees. The fourth side held a tall silver fence with a gate decorated with phoenixes, some bursting into flames and others hatching. The doors creaked open when they approached.
Ginny couldn’t help but stare at the gravestones as they walked passed them, keeping to the end of the group so she could walk as slow as she liked. Each family stone was grander than the last, from moving etchings to shape-shifting statues. Some seemed to have grown upwards in the years while other moved outwards. The most unnerving part were the surnames.
Prewett. Abbott. Longbottom. Black. They were all old pure-blood family names as far as Ginny could see. There was even a white marble Malfoy monument. Did every old Wizarding family bury their dead here? In this little town where the closest pure-blood family was the blood-traitor Weasleys? How had that happened?
Ginny thought back to her conversation with Mum, wondering if perhaps she had chosen to build the Burrow here to be close to her brothers.
The other gravestones dwarfed the Weasleys', which was half a meter in height and lined the fence. No glamour or charms, just name after name after name, the dates of each person’s birth and death underneath that. No one even had an epitaph.
They crowded around the end of the long stone to the place where Fred’s name and dates were now etched. The coffin had already been set into the ground and buried, new grass sprouting up on the fresh dirt. The wizard who officiated Dumbledore’s funeral and Bill’s wedding stood next to it. Merlin, did the Wizarding world only have one official?
Ginny didn’t listen to him, standing far enough away to be able to ignore his words but still give the appearance she cared to hear them. As she concentrated on listening to the wind and the birds, anything but the official, her vision blurred at the edges and she couldn’t focus on one thing for long before everything went fuzzy. She felt like she’d stuck her head into a Floo fire so that her mind was somewhere far away while the rest of her body stood at the fireplace. Sweat beaded along her forehead and her pulse pounded in her ears. She thought she might vomit and, if she didn’t, faint.
Time seemed to stop and speed up at the same time, making her feel like she’d be stuck in that moment of almost consciousness forever until Bill put an arm around her shoulders and guided her back through the cemetery, feeling like the funeral had only lasted a second. She didn’t think she’d be able to walk, but her feet barely faltered on the smooth tiled path.
As they piled back into the carriages, she overheard Bill mention they had very little time before guests would start arriving for the brunch. Had the funeral really lasted an hour? Now that she had snapped out of whatever that… trance had been, it felt like they’d only just arrived at the cemetery and were already leaving. She tried not to let the thought of losing time bother her.
Instead, she concentrated on watching the tops of the trees as they flew back home, then busied herself with bringing out the dishes that her mother had cooked the night before. When the buffet table was set, she glanced around for another task to keep herself busy, seeing Hermione and Fleur decorating with fairy lights, Ron and Harry in a deep discussion that most likely revolved around his disappearance yesterday, her brothers casting Warming Charms on the food so it smelt fresh again… but not all her brothers were there.
“Where’s George?” she asked her dad, who’d been filling mugs with coffee and tea.
“He said he’d be back soon,” he said, pouring out the last bit from his pot.
“He’s gone? When did he leave? Before the funeral?”
Dad hesitated long enough for Ginny to realize he didn’t know when George had left. “He promised to be back.” Dad patted her shoulder but worry glinted in his eyes.
She didn’t have time to ask how George had promised when no one had been there when he disappeared because that’s when the crowds arrived.
Her father’s face fell as the herd of people walked into the back garden, chatting amongst themselves. Some of them looked to be genuine, clad in black and carrying gifts, but most were carrying less welcoming things: parchment, quills, cameras, Prophets. A lot of younger kids hurried to crowd around Harry and Ron. They were quickly followed by a group of reporters.
“This isn’t good,” Dad muttered, taking a moment to gather himself before marching towards the crowd, but more stopped him, begging for a statement.
Ginny couldn’t even think about helping her father before a wave of reporters overwhelmed her and cornered her against a table. They were rattling off questions too fast for her to catch the entirety of any one.
“I don’t have comments for any of you, so sod off,” she growled, trying to push through them. Either they didn’t hear her or didn’t care, because they packed together tighter so she had no hopes for leaving and continued chattering at her.
She felt her cheeks turn red with rage, the fight-or-flight response that she recognized from battle heightening her senses so she could hear the next question as clear as if the reporter had yelled it in her ear: “What is your current relationship with Harry Potter?”
“My brother just died and you want to know about my bloody love life?” She grabbed her wand from her pocket and, before she knew it, the reporter was shouting as he tried to stop the bats flying out of his nose. Merlin, it felt good to hex somebody.
She’d just raised her wand to jinx the next reporter when someone behind her snatched the wand from her hand. “Ginevra, what do you think you are doing?” Mum yelled. She grabbed Ginny’s arm and pushed their way through the sea of reporters, most of them stepping out of the way at the sight of Mum’s face. “Doing magic outside of school, hexing strangers at your brother’s brunch. I’d like to curse whoever taught you that horrid bogey spell.”
“It was Fred, and if you care to curse him, you know where he’s buried.”
She regretted the words as soon as she heard them come out her mouth.
Mum halted in her storming walk, going completely still as if someone had used a Freezing Charm on her. Her grip on Ginny’a arm didn’t loosen or else she would have run for it. Ginny expected the worst. She waited for her mother to lock her in her room for eternity or send her away to Muriel’s for the summer or snap her wand in half.
Instead, Mum let go of Ginny’s arm, dropped the wand, and walked away. It was worse.
Ginny cursed under her breath, thinking that if there was ever a time to apologize it was now, but what was she supposed to say sorry for? Sorry for not being happy to publicly celebrate Fred’s death? Sorry for being upset every time his name came up? Sorry that she would never be okay that he was gone like everyone else seemed to be?
There were shouts and grumbles from behind her, so she turned to see Kingsley Shacklebolt along with Bill, Charlie, and Percy, ushering all the reporters and autograph-seekers out of the garden, her father placing charms around the perimeter to keep anyone else unwanted out. The rest of the guests shook their heads and muttered amongst themselves, showing disgust, but as Ginny got closer, she heard all of them talking about Harry anyway. Merlin, she hated his famous arse at times.
But at least the event calmed down. People collected food and sat around, though they seemed to be taking turns talking to the famous trio. After a while, she noticed them disappearing, first Ron then Hermione, then Harry. She saw him sneak into the Burrow when no one else was watching.
Mum never reappeared.
Ginny sat on the ground away from the tent, averting her eyes from the dozens of pictures of the twins. With George who-knows-where, it felt like a mourning for both of them.
Until George announced his arrival with a bang, one so loud and unexpected that it had Ginny on her feet with her wand out in a second.
Fireworks flew into the garden at the same time everything went black. It must have been some version of Peruvian Instant Darkness powder since Ginny could see nothing but the fireworks.
A pair of winged horses led the herd of sparkling animals. Foxes and otters played around the shadowy legs of the guests. Ginny heard the laughter as the little mammals tumbled over each other and begged with big yellow eyes. She barely noticed the dozen or so lions emerging from the border of the garden until one stood beside her, the thousands of shimmering lights creating a perfect picture of sleek fur and smart eyes.
Swans soared down from what Ginny thought was the roof of the Burrow, shooing away the otters and foxes. The lions took off for the center of the garden as the flying horses and swans collided in a giant explosion of white and red and yellow light, leaving behind an image of Fred. He smiled down at the guests and, perhaps she imagined it, looked straight at her and winked before his face split into a laugh as the lions roared the image away.
The darkness lifted with loud applause to reveal George standing on a table in front of the crowd, bowing dramatically. Ginny couldn’t be sure, but she thought she saw an expertly hidden bottle behind his back. She only saw it for a moment before he jumped down from the table and, with a flick of his wand, a radio that hadn’t been in the tent before the show blasted an up-beat Hippe and Daughters song that Ginny would have loved to dance to if she weren’t shaking so horribly. She sprinted to the side of the house to get out of sight.
The same feeling of panic that had come over her at the grave sight poured over her again, weakening her knees until she gave in and sat back on the ground, gulping for air. On the grass, her head cleared itself and her chest untightened, so it wasn’t long before she could breath again.
She stayed in the shadows of the house, not willing to see anyone, not guests, not family, not Harry. Ginny hoped she could wait the party out, but then a pair of legs nearly stumbled over her.
“Oi!” George called as he tripped, catching himself at the last moment. His stance was wobbly and Ginny wondered just how plastered he was. “Now there’s m’favorite sister. Didya enjoy the show?” He clumsily took a seat next to her, no longer hiding his bottle but offering it to her.
She ignored his question and took the Butterbeer bottle, sniffing at it since she highly suspected the contents weren’t Butterbeer. It felt like she’d shoved an ice cube up her nose. “What is that?” she asked with disgust.
“Black Ice Vodka, and if it disgusts you so much, I’ll take it back.” He snatched it back and took a long swallow of the substance.
Ginny studied him a moment. He had on his favorite dragon hide suit, but the fabric was ruffled and his shirt untucked and he smelt so strongly of the vodka she was surprised his sweat wasn’t black. “You seem better,” she muttered.
“Nah, just drunker.” He grinned at her crookedly. “Turns out alcohol helps with this sort of thing.”
“Well it was good of you to do it anyway,” she said grumpily, not yet ready for her brother to sell her on the joys of drinking away sorrows. “Fr-… he would’ve appreciated you crashing in and making this an actual party.”
“I didn’t do it for that son of a bitch.” Ginny jumped at his words. No one had said a bad thing about Fred since he died. It was one of those unspoken rules. “I don’t owe anything to that git. He’s the one who up and died on me. I did this so those people out there remember that I’m still here.” He pointed towards the tent, eyeing the few people that he could see around the corner with a threatening glare. Ginny craned her neck to look as well, noticing that George had been burnt out of every picture hanging around the tent. “Those bastards are gonna know I’m still alive.”
George shoved himself off the ground and sauntered back towards the tent, hooking his arm through Angelina Johnson’s as he went. Ginny watched him spin her around in time with the bagpipes and guitars, feeling calmer than she had all day. At least she wasn’t the only one pissed at Fred.
And she was mad at him. Forget feeling guilty, he’d been the idiot who taunted that Death Eater into following him down the corridor instead of Stunning him.
The wind blew against her face again, stronger than it had been this morning. Her hair whipped over her face and tangled itself in the splintered edges of the wall. But this time, it felt more like an earnest apology.
“Okay, fine, you’re forgiven,” she said.
The breeze picked up more forcefully this time, violently whipping her hair into her face. She cursed herself for thinking that her brother was communicating her with the wind, but when she turned her head to gain control of her mane of hair, she saw Mum bustling about the tables. Ginny wondered if her disappearance had brought about Mum’s reappearance, but then the wind blew fiercely again. “Alright, alright, I’m going,” she said, standing up and brushing the dirt from her dress. She’d accepted one apology, but now, she had to offer up her own.
Chapter Endnotes: This was my favorite chapter to write, and I hope you liked it! Another big thank you to Vicki for being a wonderful beta!