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Chapter 1 : The Wedding
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"Silence spread outward in cold ripples from the place where the Patronus had landed. Then somebody screamed." ~ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, U.S. Hardcover edition: A Place to Hide, pg. 160
Molly Weasley had not taken her eyes off Harry, Ron, and Hermione throughout the reception—Ginny knew because she'd been watching the disguised Harry as well, though for completely different reasons. Luckily for Molly the three had chosen to sit at a table together, making it easier to keep track of them; but then Ron and Hermione had split off to dance and Harry had wandered away towards Elphias Doge, forcing Mrs. Weasley to swivel back and forth between them like a frenzied spectator at the Quidditch World Cup.
Her mother had been trying to force details out of Ron and Hermione for weeks, even starting in on Harry over the last few days. The other Order members had recognized a lost cause instantly; Ron and the others had the power of Dumbledore's orders to support them, and Ginny knew firsthand how reluctant Harry was to involve anyone besides himself in what he seemed to consider his personal mission against the Dark Lord.
She'd been jealous at first, seeing him turn to Ron and Hermione for help, knowing that even if she wasn't underage and didn't still have the Trace on her, she still wouldn't have been included. Those three had been through so much together that she was only just beginning to understand, knowing Harry's stories could never fully do justice to events that often seemed more like storybook tales than a real life. There was an unbreakable bond created by saving one another's life, and while she and Harry were linked by single threads, he and Ron and Hermione had woven a complex tapestry of friendship and loyalty and even fear, strong enough to support them through whatever was to come.
But kissing Harry yesterday she'd realized that she had to stay away from the battle, because that was her role to play. He needed someone safe to return to, whose eyes wouldn't hold the shadows of the deaths they'd just witnessed together. Someone who could be a momentary haven in the darkness rather than a reminder of how far there was left to go. The others needed it too, her family and the members of the Order who didn't have families of their own to fight for, who looked at her as a daughter to protect and shield from the truth. And she was willing to do it, because she loved Harry and understood that it was what he needed, maybe even more so than Ron and Hermione; they would be his confidants, his coconspirators, the ones who fought at his back, but she would always be his sun, blazing light and the memory of what the world could be into the most hopeless of moments.
It took a tremendous courage to fight back against someone like Voldemort, who seemed undefeatable, not bound by the rules of life and death that confined other mere mortals. But only Ginny knew how much it cost to be the one left behind, the symbol of the better future that all the others were fighting for.
Her mother thought she was doing the right thing; she thought she was protecting her son and his friends, little more than children in her mind despite everything they'd accomplished, everything they'd seen. Molly knew they were leaving and knew she wouldn't let them, despite what the other members of the Order believed and regardless of Dumbledore's last requests. She thought that they were foolhardy, taking on something bigger than themselves, bigger than they could handle, but she hadn't seen the look in Harry's eyes when he had let it slip that he really was going after Voldemort. Ginny had, and she knew that this ran deeper than all of them; it hadn't been the glitter of fierce determination or stubborn acceptance that convinced her in the end, but the flash of understanding. Harry's mind had gone somewhere that she couldn't follow, somewhere dark and deep until she couldn't recognize him anymore, only the deaths and evil and a knowledge so powerful and frightening that it took her breath away.
Molly thought that this was a war that would be won by the Order. But she was wrong, and Ginny knew it.
Now the wedding was over. They'd waited this long out of respect for Bill and Fleur, and perhaps to have one more happy memory to keep with them, lighting their way. But Ginny could tell as she watched the three of them, from their fidgets and sharp glances, that the time for waiting was over. She might wake up tomorrow and find them gone, or the next day, or the next, but it wouldn't be long. Provided her mother didn't stop them, as Molly so clearly intended to.
It was instant chaos when Kingsley's Patronus appeared suddenly in the form of a silver lynx. The world seemed suspended for a single moment, and as Ginny hurried to raise her wand against an unseen enemy she caught the look that shot between Harry and Hermione. It cut through the panic, a look just as charged as the silence that had fallen over the stunned guests. This was the moment, when the world had gone from bad to worse and suddenly even the Ministry was no protection; they needed to leave. But Molly was there, just over Hermione's shoulder, her wand pointed not at the sky awaiting the inevitable masked enemies but straight at Harry.
Ginny could picture it in her mind—the body-bind curse on Molly's lips, the hand reaching out to Disapparate him to safety, to Aunt Muriel's maybe, or the new house that had been prepared for Bill and Fleur. Safety in her mind, somewhere he couldn't leave from. Her mother knew enough to realize that it was Harry she needed to stop; Ron and Hermione would follow. Most wouldn't have seen what was about to happen, or believed that Molly would go through with it, but Ginny had grown up knowing the limitless power of her mother's concern for the family's well-being, sometimes so strong that it became overpowering, blurring all her other senses. Harry had long since become part of the family, and Mrs. Weasley would consider this the ultimate act of love.
The ultimate act of love might destroy all their hopes for the future. If Harry and the others didn't get away now, they might never have another chance. Molly was determined, and convinced without a doubt that she was right; there was no telling how far she'd go to keep them safe, even against their will, driven on by this unwavering belief.
It was in that single moment of charged stillness that Ginny made her choice. She hated always being the baby of the family, shadowed by overprotective brothers and her mother's constant worrying, the one who was forever being saved. All she'd accomplished over the last few years made her proud—fighting with the D.A., dueling alongside members of the Order; some of her family, at least, was beginning to recognize that she could defend herself like the rest of them when need be. What she was about to do would take away everything that she'd been working so hard to prove. Back to being left safely at home while the others fought, back to sleepless nights of wondering and praying, unable to assist. But Ginny knew what sacrifice was, and she was brave enough to sentence herself once more to not knowing, if only to give the others a chance. This was their war, just as it had always been, but that didn't mean that she couldn't fight, and when you're underage you have to fight dirty.
Ginny lowered her wand and screamed until her lungs gave out and her throat burned with dry fire.
It was enough. Molly had spun around quickly at the first sign of trouble, her maternal instinct overriding her head as she lost sight of her target to protect her daughter. Harry and Hermione disappeared into the crowd, darting and weaving between the rush of bodies; it seemed as if the scream had broken a spell of sorts, and everyone was spurred to sudden action, racing for safety or raising wands to fight.
Then the masked figures appeared and it was all that she could do to avoid the spells that streaked the air; Fred was at her back, shielding her so she didn't have to risk using magic, then George was there, and Charlie, blocking her view.
Finally it was over and the air was clear, though the light of the flying spells seemed burned forever into her memory, flaming across the darkness when she closed her eyes. Maybe that was the reason that her vision was slightly clouded by the sting of unshed tears. Their family was safe, and Hagrid and Tonks and Lupin and the others, already beginning to clear away the wreckage of the tent; and Ginny allowed herself a small smile, because Ron, Hermione, and Harry were nowhere to be seen.
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