Ginny walked down the path to the Burrow, Harry and Mum on either side of her. Ginny, however, barely noticed – she was too busy thinking about being home.
Nothing was different, despite Ginny's feeling that it might be. Henny the Hen was clucking at the front, joined by her new chicks. The small flowerbed Fleur and Mum had worked on was showing signs of a soon-to-come bloom, appropriate as it was the first week of spring. But her house looked quiet, and she could hear no noise.
"Where is everyone?" Ginny asked her mother.
Mum sighed. "Oh, dear. I thought I told you – everyone either had to work tonight or had other plans."
"Yeah," Harry said. "They sent their regrets."
"Oh," Ginny said. Of course – that made perfect sense. The world couldn't stop simply because she'd come home for the first time in six months. Still, Ginny had hoped that her dad, Ron and Hermione might be there, at the very least.
Ginny opened the door, and turned on the lights.
"You scoundrel, Harry Potter," Ginny muttered.
If they had sent regrets, it must have been regrets that they'd have to all cram into tiny hiding spaces, for several of Ginny's family and friends stood there. Ron, Hermione, Luna and Neville had stood up from behind a chair, Ron laughing. Fleur, Victoire and Dominique had taken off Harry's invisibility cloak, standing in the middle of the room. Dad and Bill were in the fireplace, emerging from either side. Andromeda had come from behind their clock, next to Teddy. George and Lee Jordan had been behind the couch. Ginny vaguely noted that Percy wasn't present, but could not muster any disappointment.
The first thing Ginny noticed was that Domonique was standing with the help of her mother – it made sense, of course; Domonique was a little over a year old now. Her hair was still an ash blonde, just like her mother's (Victoire had bright red Weasley hair, which was held by pigtails). Four year old Teddy was getting taller, and assuming he hadn't changed his features today, looked like a perfect combination of Lupin and Tonks, having Tonks's heart shaped face, and Lupin's nose and brown eyes. His hair was mousy brown. Andromeda's hair was shorter, but she looked much happier than Ginny had seen her last.
"Auntie Ginny!" Victoire flew towards Ginny; Ginny scooped up her niece, hugging her.
"Auntie Ginny, I missed you!" Victoire said.
"Not nearly as much as I missed you, I bet!" Ginny returned.
Teddy was also rushing over, and Ginny hugged him tightly.
"What, you're not going to hug me?" George demanded as he walked over.
Ginny playfully punched her brother. "I was until now! How are you?"
"Good," George said.
"I've been keeping track of the Harpies," Bill said as he took his turn in greeting her. "It sounds like you've been the star!"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "It hasn't been just me, everyone's–"
"Been the fastest Chaser on the team?" Bill joked.
Ginny's heart sunk a little. "I'm not, really Bill."
"Are the other Chasers really bad?" George asked. "I'm not surprised about Cho Chang–"
This had been what Ginny had dreaded the most, and it had come up sooner than she'd thought it would.
Fortunately, Mum came out from the kitchen. "The food is ready."
"Yay! I'm hungry!" Teddy exclaimed.
"Teddy," Andromeda warned.
Teddy cleared his throat. "I mean, thank you very much, Mrs. Weasley."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Ron grinned. "Let's eat!"
Ginny let everyone pass, and to her relief, Harry followed suit.
"I hope you don't mind the party," he said.
"It's great," Ginny said. "Although I hope they don't plan on staying late. I'm tired."
Harry kissed her. "If worst comes to worst, I can take care of it."
"You could always tell Mum you got a paper cut," Ginny suggested.
Harry laughed. "Why would it not surprise me if that worked?"
"Did you tell any of them?" Ginny asked suddenly.
Harry shook his head. "No."
Ginny sighed. "Good. I thought maybe you'd let it slip to Ron, or Mum would."
"It's safe with us, although you might want to tell them tonight," Harry said. "It's easier while everyone's here."
Ginny cringed. "I hadn't even prepared my speech."
"Speech?" A smile played at Harry's lips.
Ginny swatted him playfully. "It's not funny, Harry! Mum and Dad will be concerned when they realize I have no actual plans, just ideas, and you know Victoire–"
"You're worried about what a three-year- old thinks?"
Ginny gave him a look. "A three-year-old who–"
George poked his head out the door. "Can you two snog later? We're waiting."
"George!" Ginny and Harry cried together.
The kitchen was also no different than it had been when Ginny had seen it last; small but welcoming. Mum had set down a meal of chicken and potatoes on the table.
"This chicken eez good," Fleur said.
"About time," Ginny heard Hermione mutter on the other side of her.
"So, Ginny, tell us about the past Quidditch season," Dad said.
"Yeah," Ron said. "Tell me, has Cho started crying during Quidditch yet?"
"Ron! That's not funny!" Hermione chastised.
"Have you forgotten why Cho was crying in our fifth year?" Hermione said in exasperation.
"It wasn't about Cedric, she was crying because Ginny got the Snitch," Ron said.
Hermione shook her head. "Men."
"Cho's moved on," Ginny said. "She's different now."
This was not completely true – there was still a part of Cho that overreacted a lot, a part of Cho that could be very high maintenance and overly sensitive if you pushed the wrong button at the wrong time. But Ginny had managed to learn to quickly get out of Cho's way, and had begun to enjoy her far better than she had ever imagined.
"I always liked Cho," Fleur said. "I even invited her to zee wedding, but she would not come because she knew Ginny and 'Arry would be zere."
And Fleur's her usual tactful self, Ginny thought.
They ate, and Ginny listened to everyone's news. Ron was still helping George with the shop, and oddly enough, so was Andromeda, who explained she needed "something to do"; Hermione was still with the Department of Magical Creatures, working on helping some of the children who had been living under Greyback; Victoire had lost her first baby tooth, and the "tooth Veela" had left her two knuts; Harry and Ron had caught another Death Eater; Andromeda was now talking to her sister, Narcissa, although she still refused to speak to Lucius Malfoy (Ginny wasn't too disappointed); Percy had a new girlfriend who was apparently a "bludger short of a Quidditch match" as Ron put it; and Hagrid was, according to Harry, now breeding creatures he called "Enticores."
"But enough about us," Luna said. "You're the one who has been away."
Ginny hesitated. "Well…"
Ginny had always found it was hard to lie to Luna. As much as she believed in the extraordinary, she had often been able to know when someone was not being honest. Especially Ginny, who Luna had been able to read in a discomforting fashion since their
first year at Hogwarts.
"The truth is," Ginny began, "I do have news."
"You're leaving Harry for a really muscular Quidditch player?" George suggested.
"No!" Victoire squealed. "Uncle Harry and Auntie Ginny forever!"
Everyone burst out laughing.
"Victoire, when did you start talking like that?" Ginny asked.
Victoire shrugged. "When Tante Gabrielle came."
"My sister 'ad a new boyfriend, and she talked in her sleep one day when she was taking a nap on zee sofa," Fleur explained. "But ah, Victoire, Je ne pense que Tante Gabrielle apprécierait que tu dises cela à tout le monde."
"Oh," Victoire said.
Ginny smiled. "Well, Victoire, don't worry – I won't be leaving Harry anytime soon. In fact…"
"In fact?" Ron's eyebrows raised.
"I'm going to be here – a lot more," Ginny said.
She looked at Harry, then back at her family.
"I've decided to leave the team," Ginny told them.
There was a pause.
"You're leaving the team?" Victoire gasped.
Bill frowned. "But you loved it!"
"It's time to move on," Ginny said. "Broaden my horizons. Get on the ship of truth and sail towards destiny."
The only person who wasn't now staring at her blankly was Luna, who nodded in apparent understanding. Ginny wished the floor would open and swallow her.
"But why?" George asked. "I thought you were happy there!"
"You are my favorite player," Victoire said sadly.
"It's just a decision I've made," Ginny said. "When I joined the team after the… w-a-r, I needed a way to get out some of my frustration. I'm ready to settle now."
"I think you're barking mad," Ron said bluntly. "You're saying no to being on a Quidditch team?"
"It wasn't easy, Ron, but yes," Ginny told him. She knew he'd be shocked.
"Do you know what you're going to do now?" Mum asked.
Ginny bit her lip. While her mother had been very supportive of her leaving, that had been her one concern. Ginny had so far managed to avoid talking about it.
Dad cleared his throat. "Sweetheart – are you happy?"
"Yes," Ginny replied. "I'm glad to be home."
"Then that's all that matters – that you're home, and happy," Dad said.
Ginny smiled as her family and friends toasted, and then carried on their usual way of talking about many things at once.
It was good to be back.
A/N I would like to thank my beta readers, Katieay and Starbuckx!