Chapter 1 : things fall apart
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Her wedding dress is hideous in its beauty.
The bodice clings to her skin and intricate designs twist up the skirt to wrap themselves around her curves like a ruthless snake about to swallow its prey. It's the type of dress that every bride-to-be pines for - the type of dress that, up until that morning, she had adored.
Now, it is as revolting as the marriage that threatens to devour her.
Her reflection mocks her with its perfection, and she has the sudden desire to smash the mirror and the image that stares back at her: the naive little girl who has been expecting, waiting, hoping for this day to come. Her fingers itch with temptation, but the girl in the mirror destroys herself before she even has a chance.
She sinks to the floor, the skirt of her dress puffing up around her legs like an angry cloud, and cracks. Outside, the wind weeps shamelessly and, soon, she joins it. She weeps for the guests, who fix their clothes and curse the rain and wait for a wedding that will never happen. She weeps for the groom, who smoothes his hair and worries about remembering his vows and gets ready for a wedding that will never happen. But, most of all, she weeps for herself and how selfish she is.
Her mother knocks on the door. "Ginny?" When there's no response, she pokes her head into the room. The sight of tears streaming unabashedly down her daughter's cheeks acts like a magnet, tugging her into the room. She hurriedly shuts the door behind her. "There's no need to be so upset, dear!" she exclaims, her voice coloured with concern as she kneels on the floor. "It's just a little rain; it will clear up soon."
And Ginny doesn't want to tell her that it's not just a little rain. She doesn't want to tell her that her daughter doesn't want to get married anymore. She doesn't want to tell her that they're not going to be one big happy family. She doesn't want to tell her that the Boy-Who-Lived will never be her son-in-law, no matter how much she wants him to be. She's scared to see what will happen if she does.
Sometimes, she thinks her mother would choose Harry over her if she could.
"I can't do it, Mum," she finally bursts out, and the words plummet from her lips like weighty pebbles into a pond. "I can't marry him." She can't look at her as she says it, so she looks down at the blinding white hills of her skirt and the lacy snake that slithers over them and waits to be swallowed.
But what happens is much worse - worse than disapproval or anger or any other emotion. It's the bitter slap of disregard. "You're just getting cold feet," her mother says fondly, reaching over to carefully smooth a wayward curl away from her youngest child's face.
And Ginny wants nothing more than to lean away from her touch, to shake her till she understands, to scream, "No, no, NO!" over and over like she's a little girl again because it's not just cold feet. It's not just about nerves or the rain or remembering her vows; it's about him. It's about the lightning bolt on his forehead and how the first people he told about his promotion were Ron and Hermione and the way everyone in her family always sides with him when they get in an argument. It's about the fact that the majority of the wizarding world would jump through flaming hoops to make him happy, but her legs are tired and she doesn't want to jump anymore.
But she doesn't tell her that. Instead, she shakes her head furiously, and the understanding expression on her mother's face blurs, and she doesn't know if it's because of the motion or the burning tears in her eyes or if, for once, the elderly redheaded woman just doesn't understand.
But she doesn't have time to figure it out because then she's apologizing over and over again and the tears are breaking free and her cheeks are wet with misery and she's glad that she can't see the look of disappointment that her Mum must be wearing.
Because she knows, more than anyone else, that disappointment is a bitter pill to swallow.
But her Mum is not disappointed or resigned; she is determined. She uses her thumb to brush at the stubborn onslaught of tears escaping her daughter's eyes and says confidently, "Ginny, Harry loves you, and you love him. I know you do."
"No," the weeping redhead replies without hesitation, a sudden snap in her voice. "You love him, Ron and Hermione love him, practically the entire wizarding world loves him, but I - I don't know that I do." The musty air swallows the sound of her quivering voice and, for one extremely uncomfortable moment, Molly stares at her daughter in shock and lets the silence reign over them.
And then she laughs, and it's stiff and forced and it lingers in the air around them and pushes against their ears until they can no longer ignore it. "Oh, love, don't be silly!" She exclaims shrilly. "The rain will be gone soon and everyone's downstairs waiting. How can you cancel the wedding now?" And, though she doesn't say it, Ginny can hear what she means, what she really wants to say: "How can you be so selfish? How can you do this to him, after all he's been through?"
She glances out the window - at the drops of rain that cling to the glass, refusing to be swept away by the merciless wind. She wishes she had their strength, but even as she thinks it a breeze strikes the stubborn drops and carries half of them away, and she can feel her resolve crumbling with the same rapidity. She is left with only a weak trace of her former conviction.
Because she knows that if she goes through with this, her mother will never fully forgive her.
She will never give up on the wedding, the son-in-law, the big happy family that almost was. She will make sure that Harry is always there, ignoring her and guilting her and forcing her to wonder, "What if?"
"You're right," she finally says, and the lie tastes bitter on her tongue. "I'm just being silly." And even though her mother can tell that she's not being truthful - even though she knows that this isn't about rain or nerves or cold feet - she doesn't say anything. And that hurts Ginny more than anything else.
The happiness of the Boy-Who-Lived is more important than the happiness of Ginny Weasley.
And she suspects it always will be.
A/N: Huge thank you to Sarah (DemetersChild) for betaing this and listening to me moan about finding the proper title. Please don't hesitate to let me know what you think.