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Chapter 1 : Lion Hearted Girl
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You wrote a note to yourself on your first night at Hogwarts, in your spidery eleven-year-old handwriting beside the badly-sketched crest of the house you just joined. I must become a lion hearted girl. You stared at it by moonlight after all the other girls had gone to bed, and you wondered if it was even possible.
You grew up with six boys calling you Little Sister. They are men now, all of them, and your soul, bruised by war and loss, is too old for your years – yet they still call you Little Sister and ruffle your hair, and you let them. You know they cling to your innocence like they couldn’t cling to their own, that each of them has chosen – maybe once, maybe twice, maybe many times – to be your protector, your Big Brother. The unspoken truth hangs in the air – that they failed, that they left you to fight alone the year the lines blurred between Hogwarts and Azkaban, and that you all failed him – though you know that while you would have taken that curse for him, that everyone would have taken that curse for him, you never got that chance, and your six Big Brothers became four and a half broken ones. But they can still cling to the fact that they kept you safe, that you’re still around, and you’re left wondering who you were supposed to protect.
You think that’s one of the reasons you understand Harry on the level that you do. And it sounds soppy, because yes you’re seventeen and yes you’ve liked him for a long time in a silly-little-girl way, but you know the burden of survival that sits on his shoulders because it sits on yours too. You remember the moment your mother leapt in front of you in the Great Hall, and you know it was luck and luck alone that prevented her from dying for you. You remember when you heard that Ron had been knocked out on his way to save you in first year (he didn’t tell you until years later, because that rescue had belonged to Harry, and you begin to understand why he always felt so overshadowed.) You remember the bookstore and the confrontation with Lucius Malfoy, and you wonder whether you have ever saved yourself or whether it has always been your role to be the damsel in distress.
You are seventeen and the note to yourself is six years old and crumpled in the bottom of your trunk, and you wonder if you missed your chance to become the lion-hearted girl.
You never think about how you wrenched free from Voldemort himself when you were just eleven years old, how you had taken the soul that had been your only friend and hurled it into a toilet because something wasn’t right. You never think about the fact that you mastered the most advanced defensive spells when you were just fourteen, in an underground organisation that opposed the Ministry. You don’t think about how the victory party you kissed Harry at in your fifth year was the direct result of you winning the Quidditch Cup for Gryffindor, flying Seeker in his place, or that you were invited to the Slug Club – though you hated it – purely on the basis of your magical ability. You don’t think about how you fought Death Eaters at the end of your fourth, fifth and sixth years, or how you revived Dumbledore’s Army right under their noses alongside Neville and Luna. You think of your failures, the handful of times you were an unwitting pawn in the plans of others, the people who saved you, rather than the countless occasions you have stood on your own feet and fought against all odds, throwing caution to the wind.
You are damaged, by war and loss and the scars carved into your agency by Voldemort, but you are not broken. You are seventeen and stronger than ever, and there are children who walk the halls of Hogwarts – twelve years old, thirteen – who were shielded from the worst of the Death Eaters’ reign by you. Your Order of Merlin is tucked safely in your trunk but your classmates look at you as though it is shining proudly on your chest, and your name is on everybody’s lips. Not because of who you are dating or who wants to date you, not even because of who you have lost, but because you and your friends shone the dazzling light of hope in the castle’s darkest days. You are Quidditch Captain, of course, and you find your calling out on the pitch as you lead your team to victory after victory. At Christmas, Ron is raving about how much he enjoys Auror training and suggests you give it a try after Hogwarts, but you decline. You don’t know how to explain that you don’t want the war to define you, that you are so much more than what happened to you and the spells you learnt because of it.
You are eighteen and have seven NEWTs when the Holyhead Harpies get in touch. You beat thirty other applicants for the position of Chaser, and the team finishes top of the league the first season you’re with them. You don’t believe all the sports magazines who attribute their success to you, but when you agree to an interview with the Daily Prophet your chat over coffee turns into a four-hour-long conversation with the reporter – herself a former Harpies player – and by the time she leaves you have decided that once you retire from Quidditch itself – not before playing the World Cup, of course – you will go into journalism, and you marvel at how, two years ago, you weren’t sure you would even be alive to graduate Hogwarts.
You play every game with your note folded carefully inside your bra, and you whisper the words to yourself like an admonition because you are too old and you have seen too much to be nervous about Quidditch.
You are twenty-one when Harry proposes, and you should be surprised except that Hermione told you the night before that he’s been planning it for weeks, and if it was her she would want to know beforehand, to talk it over with someone of course, and would you be saying yes? And it has never occurred to you that there’s any answer other than yes to Harry, because he is your missing puzzle piece and you are his. With this in mind you cut him off before he can get the words out – he has never stammered quite this badly before – and ask him instead, because you are Ginny Weasley and he is Harry Potter and you’ll be damned if you do things the traditional way. You get married barefoot in a knee-length dress, and Hermione worries about bees and Luna spends the ceremony wiggling her toes in the grass.
You have the words from your note tattooed on your back, and when Harry finds it that night he tells you that you have always been a lion-hearted girl. You smile and kiss him and don’t believe him.
You are twenty-two when the Harpies change management, and the new fat, balding manager is a little too eager to have the team posing provocatively on the covers of Quidditch magazines in the interests of publicity, so you resign and take half your teammates with you. You join the Prophet and the first thing you do is slam him in a front-page article. He leaves soon after that, but you have discovered the power of journalism and though you are offered your old position on the team, you stay on at the paper. Your mother keeps telling you how impressed her friends are at the quality of your articles, and Harry likes passing the Prophet around the Auror Office and collecting compliments to pass back to you.
You leave the note at home now, and you do not even notice its absence from your pocket, your bra, your cubicle walls. You no longer whisper the words to yourself, and perhaps it’s because nothing scares you anymore, or perhaps you have finally become the lion-hearted girl.
You take the note from your bookshelf one night and carefully replace must with have in your polished twenty-three year old handwriting. You stare at it by moonlight long after Harry has gone to bed, and you wonder why it took you twelve years to realise that you became a lion-hearted girl the day you were born.
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