Now I’ve grown beyond the walls to where I’ve never been And it’s still winter in my wonderland I’m waiting for the world to fall, I’m waiting for the scene to change I’m waiting for when the colours come, I’m waiting to let my world come undone
-- “Waiting for the World to Fall” by Jars of Clay
Ginny pulled her Weasley sweater over her head and shivered as she rose silently from the four-poster bed in the seventh-year girls’ dormitory at Hogwarts. One of the other Gryffindor girls had left the window open and Ginny winced as her toes hit the cold stone floor, but she walked over to the window anyway to shove it into place and keep the wintry mix of rain and ice out of the room. She crept back over to her trunk and found a pair of slippers as well as her Defence Against the Dark Arts homework and went down to the Common Room.
She curled up in a large chair by the fire and set about rereading her notes and beginning her essay, Describe the characteristics of Dementors, Inferi, and werewolves, and describe how each were used by Lord Voldemort. Discuss common methods of defending oneself against each. Please use Lord Voldemort’s full name.
It was just the sort of essay the new Defence teacher, Jacob Doge, would assign: multi-faceted, research-driven, and focused on ridding his students of their fears. His great uncle, Elphias Doge, had recommended him for the job after Professor Doge performed well at the Battle of Hogwarts, and the students had taken to him quickly.
Perhaps too quickly… Ginny thought to herself.
It was not that she disliked Professor Doge, just that he was not much older than his students and he was quite attractive. Ginny had a hard time concentrating in class because the other girls’ whispering was so distracting. She thought that recent events would have made them realise that the subject was of extra importance, but apparently not everyone was a slave to their memories. Professor Doge, for his part, generally ignored his flirtatious charges and made an effort to stay on topic.
The class itself was large because two forms had been condensed into one, her own and the class ahead of her, many of whom had not returned to school the previous year. Some students, like Neville Longbottom, had chosen to come back for an eighth year because they felt that a final year under Lord Voldemort’s rule wasn’t exactly what one would consider a year of adequate schooling.
Professor Doge occasionally asked Harry, Ron, and Hermione to visit and help teach the class. Ron turned up at least once every fortnight since he could find the time to get away from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes much more than Hermione could get away from the Ministry or Harry could get away from his Auror training. Harry often caused quite a sensation when he was able to get to Hogwarts, and Ginny noted with a giggle that this was the other source of her distraction. She had to admit that she could sympathise with her love-stricken peers. Just not over the same person, and not every day.
She sat by the fireplace for a good hour before any hint of life came from the dormitories, and even then she was surprised when she was tickled suddenly from behind …
“Got you!” the unknown assailant cried as he covered her sides with tickles and went for her most vulnerable spot as well, her knees. She doubled over with laughter and struggled to free herself from his clutches.
“Harry!” she gasped as she bent her neck back to look into his emerald eyes, “Stop!”
He laughed and paused for a moment to let her catch her breath, hands trailing across her shoulders, before he started poking her most ticklish spots in rapid succession, “Stop?!? When I have you exactly where I want you?”
She giggled again and glared up at him. “You will stop or I’ll get you for it later.”
He shrugged and yielded, plopping down in a chair next to her. “I don’t know about that, Gin. You never seem to be able to get me. I always get you first.”
Ginny growled, “Well maybe that’s because you have an Invisibility Cloak.”
Harry’s jaw dropped. “Does it look like I have the Cloak here right now? I don’t think so, lass. This is all due to pure skill.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh, come off it Harry. I’m still going to get you first, one of these days. Anyway, why are you up so early? You’re supposed to be on holiday.”
“I should be asking you the same question,” he noted. “It’s Saturday, it’s not a Hogsmeade weekend, and you don’t have another Quidditch match until after the Christmas holidays.”
“I’m working on my Defence homework,” she explained.
Harry furrowed a brow and pushed, “Gin, it’s Saturday, and I know for a fact that the Defence essay isn’t due until Tuesday. What in the name of Merlin are you doing up?”
She shrugged and glanced at the fire. “Well, it’s hard to concentrate in that class and so I find I need to spend extra time reading the chapter in order to get the gist of what we are studying, that’s all.”
“Hard to concentrate? Why? Because your boyfriend is teaching it?” Harry chortled.
“Perhaps,” Ginny replied with a sly smile. “Professor Doge isn’t so bad himself.”
“Knife to the heart!” Harry yelped, clutching his chest and bending over his knees in a mock heart attack. He looked up from his slumped position.
“Surely she doesn’t mean it.”
Ginny reached over and brushed his hand. He clamped on to it and smiled back at her as he sat up again. They sat for a few moments regarding each other and listening to the crackle of the fire.
“I like the solitude of the morning. I used to get up early when I was little and go sit in the garden, before my brothers got up,” Ginny said quietly. “This is almost like that, except the air isn’t quite as fresh.”
Harry smiled and rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb. “I didn’t know you liked the quiet so much. Me too, though I guess that’s from trying to avoid Dudley when I was little.”
She laughed. “I like to have time to think, just me, all by myself. That can be hard here at Hogwarts, especially now that everyone expects great things from all of us.”
Harry nodded. They sat in companionable silence for a few more minutes before he spoke again.
“Want to meet me for breakfast in a bit? I have a meeting with Professor McGonagall on some Auror business, but it shouldn’t take too long,” he offered.
“I’d love to. I’ll wash up and see you in the Great Hall in a half hour, is that fine?” Ginny asked.
Harry nodded, gave her a wink, and said, “I’ll see you later.”
Ginny watched him exit through the portrait hole and stared at her half-written essay for several moments, a small grin creeping across her features. She was still getting used to having Harry around on a regular basis. Ron, Hermione, and he had been given special dispensation to stay in Gryffindor Tower whenever they wished to visit.
It’s the least they could do, Ginny thought dryly. They had each had a busy summer and early fall, but their schedules had slowed down by mid-November, and they had finally found time for all three of them to visit at the same time for an extended weekend. Ginny was glad for their company; readjusting to school hadn’t been easy because she still felt alone. Even though Lord Voldemort was gone, she still did not have her brother, best friend, or boyfriend with her every day, but it seemed that Harry was determined to make up for lost time, in any way possible.
A shower, quick braiding of hair, and half an hour later, and Ginny found herself walking down to the Common Room again, much warmer this time.
“Good morning,” she said brightly when she saw Hermione reading in the same comfy chair by the fire. “Waiting for Ron?”
Hermione stretched and nodded. “We’re going down to breakfast and then I’m dragging him over to the library. He has some research to do for a Defence lesson, and I’ve got to find some information for a new bill that I’m drawing up for the Department, though I expect that it’ll be much harder to concentrate if this rain turns to snow like it’s supposed to.”
Ginny looked out the window again and saw that the rain was falling harder than it had been earlier, and hoped inwardly that it would turn to snow, even if that would ruin Hermione’s plans.
“Snow would be nice,” Ginny said. “We weren’t allowed to play in the snow last year. It’s not exactly an activity Voldemort would have condoned.”
“I suppose not,” Hermione acknowledged quietly. “Harry, Ron, and I didn’t do much playing in the snow either. We did do a fair bit of shivering, though. I suppose we have been working a lot lately, and we’re supposed to be on holiday. Taking a break would be enjoyable.”
“Yeah, if it turns to snow and starts sticking,” Ginny reminded her.
“What’s all this about snow?” Ron questioned as he bounded down the stairs from the boys’ dormitory with a yawn. “Sounds like rain to me.”
“Yes, but we’re hoping it will turn to snow sometime today,” Hermione replied as Ron sat down on the arm of her chair.
“Yeah, that would be nice,” he said wistfully.
“Do you want to join Harry and me for breakfast? I’m supposed to meet him down there in a few minutes,” Ginny offered.
“Yeah, sure, we were just heading down anyway,” Ron said. “I’m starving. Let’s go.”
Harry had already started on a plate of bangers, eggs, and scones when the trio joined him at the Gryffindor table.
“How was your meeting?” Ginny asked.
“It went relatively well,” Harry replied as he poured Ginny a glass of pumpkin juice. “We’re going to work harder to coordinate my Auror schedule with Professor Doge’s class so that I can be here more often. Professor McGonagall overtly hinted that it would be nice to have me at Hogwarts for the Gryffindor Quidditch games. I really don’t think I have much of a choice anymore, even if I didn’t want to go. It’s strange that Quidditch is one of the biggest things on my mind right now.”
“Strangely wonderful, you mean,” Ron noted as he slathered a scone with clotted cream.
Harry laughed. “Yeah, hey, it’s supposed to get colder outside and all that icy mess should turn into snow by noon. I was thinking it might be nice to take advantage of our holiday.”
“We were just discussing that before we came down,” Hermione said. “I think we’re all in agreement about it.”
Other students trickled down as the sun rose higher in the sky, and the quartet continued to eat and joke their way through the morning hours. Ginny thought it was a comfortable, but odd feeling. The room held so many memories, both good and bad. Memories of countless meals, of dancing, of reunions, of laughter, of the post, of fear, of death …
The year had been busy and Ginny had been happy, and she knew that she shouldn’t feel guilty for that. She had to move on. Fred, Colin, Lupin, and Tonks wouldn’t fault her for that. They had known what they were getting into; they had fought bravely, and it was easier to believe that when she was busy completing assignments and fitting activities into her schedule. The past weeks had been filled with Quidditch practices leading up to their big win over Hufflepuff the previous weekend, and consequently she had had much more to think about than realising how different things really were.
“Brilliant! Check out those flurries!” Harry exclaimed, nudging Ginny’s elbow. Ginny looked up. Sure enough, the iced droplets had taken solid form and were swirling toward the earth in clusters of pure, white powder.
Ginny brightened. “This promises a good afternoon. Should we get some work done and wait a while, for the best snow possible?”
“Yeah, the sooner we start, the sooner we can finish,” Ron agreed. Ginny saw Hermione’s eyes sparkle at these words and marvelled at the change in her brother.
Being out of contact with him for a year had been horrible. They had been physically separated for a length of time only when he had turned eleven and gone to Hogwarts for his first year, but even then, he remained in constant communication with her mum and dad, and she knew that he was safe; he was often in trouble, but not in danger. While the trio had been traipsing across Britain, Ginny had been alone, worried sick about their safety, not even sure if they were alive.
But then they were back and they were so different, but then again, so was she. Ginny recalled those first moments that she saw Harry, Ron, and Hermione after the battle as the four walked from the Great Hall back to Gryffindor Tower. Harry was filthy, but amazing. His speech and defeat of Voldemort had brought tears to Ginny’s eyes. He did not seek her out immediately after the battle was over, but it did not take long for them to reunite, and a few weeks later they were back together again. Harry remained true to his sacrificial nature through the end, and once the world was finally removed from his shoulders he was able to do everything he wanted to do.
Hermione was still calculating and careful, but much more powerful and confident. She confessed to Ginny, blushing and looking everywhere but at Ginny’s eyes, that she had been the first to make a move with Ron. The confession did not surprise Ginny, but it was not something she would have predicted. Despite Ron’s silence, she had known for years that he fancied his other best friend. Ron and Ginny were more alike than most people realised, she noted smugly as she saw Ron’s hand stroking Hermione’s arm while they walked. Others may not have seen his true feelings, but she could.
The change in Ron had been the hardest for Ginny to accept. She could remember most of his major transformations because they were so close in age, but the single year that mattered the most had been robbed from her. Her brother was becoming a man in every sense of the word. He was thoughtful and compassionate toward Hermione, his mother, and herself, and offered his help wherever it was needed. He was strong and usually hardworking; at the least, he complained much less about doing his work than he had in the past. Ron had always been intensely loyal to those he held dear, but after that year it seemed that no one could tear him away from his family, Hermione, or Harry. He was no longer afraid to show his true feelings, and he provided unwavering support.
The four settled back into the Common Room cushions and began working silently, Hermione sitting in the chair from that morning with Ron leaning against her legs, occasionally whispering a question accompanied by the gentle brushing of his fingers on her small feet, and Harry sprawled on the opposite couch with a book and Ginny leaning against his chest, propped up on an elbow to finish her Defence essay.
As Harry absently played with her hair, Ginny remembered the moments when he finally realised how much she, too, had changed over the course of a year. Being a student at Hogwarts School had not protected Ginny from pain; on the contrary, she had suffered wounds of her own from questioning on his whereabouts and general baiting from the Death Eaters and their minions, namely, Draco Malfoy. She had felt alone, abandoned, and helpless, and she had watched as her allies seemed to slip away as the year pressed on, until she, too, did not return to school after the Easter holidays.
But she made it through, and she was better for it. Ginny had something worth fighting for, and she knew that she was protecting the three people she cared about most through her actions. In the end, that was all that mattered. Harry had wanted to keep her safe, but he couldn’t protect her from everything. The year was not something they talked about much, but something that they acknowledged silently. Some scars did not heal as quickly as others, and Ginny felt a pang in her chest as she thought of the look Harry gave her when he accidentally brought up a subject that reminded her of the past.
The thought crossed her mind that that single moment was a miracle, the fact that the four of them were sitting together, huddled, absolutely oblivious to the world beyond the castle grounds.
She glanced out the window again and felt the expectations within her rise at the sight of the swirling flakes tumbling down to the earth, a perfect picture of unity within chaos, individuality within conformity. Each flake was unique, but part of the whole, draping the world in a thick blanket waiting to be disturbed. Each one made a contribution, creating a special wonder to be enjoyed.
Ginny set the essay aside and twisted to look at Harry.
“How’s the reading coming?”
He lowered the arm holding the book toward the floor.
“Eh, it’s all right. Some of these spells are actually quite useful,” he noted. “Have you given up on the essay?”
“For now. I was thinking it may be time for some fun,” she suggested.
Harry nodded. “I agree. Meet you back here in five minutes.”
They raced up the stairs and changed into warmer clothing. Ron and Hermione followed suit and soon they were exiting the castle onto the school grounds. Other students had already begun playing in the snow, building snowmen, and engaging in snowball fights. Hermione and Ron walked a little in front of Harry and Ginny, talking quietly and kicking snow at one another occasionally.
Harry picked up a handful of snow and moulded it slowly in his gloved hands, trying to knead it surreptitiously into a snowball without Ginny noticing. But she did.
“What’s that you’ve got there?” she said sweetly. “A treat for me perhaps?”
Harry hid the snowball behind his back. “What? I haven’t got anything. You’re making it up.”
“Oh really?” she asked, reaching around his side. “What’s this cold stuff in your hand then?”
Harry feigned surprise. “How did that get there? You’re bewitching me, you are. I bet you did it. There’ll need to be retribution for that.”
He whipped his arm out and chucked the snow at her, but she ducked down to the ground and formed a snowball of her own quickly, avoiding his throw. She threw her snowball with a laugh and it hit him squarely in the chest.
“Good shot,” he mumbled. He bent down again and dashed a hand on the powdered ground, sending a cloud of flakes toward her.
“It’s not any worse than your attack,” Harry retorted, grabbing another handful of snow and packing it with his hands.
Ginny stepped back out of his throwing range and bent down to grab some snow for herself.
“A face-off, I see,” Harry said. “No matter. I’ll still get you first.”
Ginny hurled her snowball at him. “I don’t think so, Potter!”
He dodged it and grinned. “Feeling bad for the snowball you threw earlier? Is that why you’re not hitting me now?”
“Unlucky throw,” Ginny muttered.
They laughed and continued walking toward the lake, now much farther behind Ron and Hermione.
“I love this,” Ginny said suddenly.
“This, just walking, throwing snowballs, listening to everyone else at Hogwarts playing in the snow,” Ginny explained. “It’s just so … normal.”
“We’ve never really been normal before,” Harry said. “But we’ve certainly tried.”
They walked silently for a few more minutes.
“Fred was always really good at snowball fights,” Ginny said.
Harry smiled. “I bet he and George teamed up against the rest of you.”
Ginny shook her head. “Actually, no. Snowball fights were the only things that Fred and George didn’t do together. They wanted to know who was more proficient, you see, so invariably one of them would grab me and the other would grab Ron and we’d spend an hour or so building embankments in the garden, often with some magical help from Charlie or Bill if they were around, and then we’d stay outside for hours lobbing snowballs at each other until we were soaked through.”
“Hence the good arm,” Harry noted.
“Exactly,” Ginny confirmed. “Fred lived for those days when we were kids. He would wait by the window whenever it was supposed to snow until it began to flurry, and then he asked Mum every ten or fifteen minutes if there was enough snow outside to play.”
They stopped walking and Harry put an arm around Ginny’s shoulder. She felt a knot growing in her stomach.
“Mum was always very creative at distracting him until just the right moment,” Ginny continued. “She’d send him upstairs to check on all of our snow toys or to find a scarf for me, or she’d have him help her make hot chocolate. George would tag along, of course, but he never had the same wonder that Fred did.”
“I always thought of them as an unbeatable unit,” Harry noted. “They’d finish each other’s sentences and always seemed to anticipate what the other would do, especially in Quidditch.”
Ginny nodded and looked down at the ground. “Yes, but they had their differences.”
A single tear flowed down Ginny’s cheek, then another. She took a few deep breaths and tried to keep Harry from noticing. But he did.
“Oh Gin,” he said softly and pulled her closer. She swallowed again and sniffed.
“I’m sorry, it’s the little things, you know?” she explained muffled into his chest. “It’s not something I’m thinking about all the time, but I just can’t ever remember playing in the snow without Fred.”
She felt Harry’s chin hit her head as he nodded. “I know, I do. Teddy went through a hair-changing phase this summer, you know, he changed his hair colour every few minutes. All I could think about for the longest time was Tonks changing noses for Hermione and you at the dinner table a few summers ago. And, well, I don’t get the nightmares anymore, but I used to remember my Mum dying. Whenever I get accosted by photographers all I can think about is Colin.”
Ginny laughed and pulled away a bit to look up at Harry’s face. “Oh Merlin, that camera. I thought he would be my undoing, you know, when he was so fascinated with you. He knew that I liked you, and I was afraid that he would blabber it all over”
Harry grinned. “Yeah, I thought he would be my undoing, too.”
He took her hand and they kept walking toward Ron and Hermione, now engaged in a snowball fight with other seventh-years by the lake.
Ginny settled into a regular breathing pattern and continued, “I guess, I feel wrong, sometimes, you know, enjoying life when they can’t. But at the same time I know that they would want me to and that they knew what they were getting into, and that I should enjoy the freedom that I have because of them, and even though I know that I should be moving into a world that’s free from fear, sometimes I feel like I can’t.”
“I know,” Harry agreed. “Trust me, I know. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve second guessed myself and thought of ways that I could have done things differently, and berated myself for living when I could have saved them, and for things that I said that I shouldn’t have.”
“But in the end, what’s done is done, and I know that I won’t get over it all today, and maybe I won’t ever be completely all right, but I know that it’s getting better a little bit every day. Until then, all I can do is wait, and remember.”
Ginny bit her lip and nodded. “Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday.”
“It can hurt to remember, but it can be really good, too,” Ginny offered.
“Yeah, it certainly can,” Harry agreed. She studied him for a moment and then whipped her free hand around to tackle his ribs.
“Ginny Weasley!” he gasped. “Not that kind of memory!”
“Told you I would get you first,” she quipped, trying to free her other hand but failing miserably as he clamped down on it and pulled her arm behind his back.
“Oh, no you don’t,” Harry said. “No way. You don’t get to win this one fully.”
Ginny shook her head and tried to free her fingers from his grasp. “I won that fair and square. Fred was the first to teach me the art of sneak attacks. They only work if they’re absolutely unexpected. That’s something worth remembering.”
Harry laughed and grabbed her other free hand in his own. “The success of the attack doesn’t matter?”
She glared at him. “I still think that was successful.”
“But you can’t free your hands.”
“Do you want me to free my hands?” she asked.
Harry shook his head. “Not particularly. I honestly like them right where they are.”
“You can’t throw any snowballs at me,” Ginny noted.
“Neither can you,” Harry countered. “And you can’t tickle me.”
“Oy! You lot! We’re setting up embankments for a snowball war. Are you in?” Ron called from across the snow-covered ground.
“You up to it?” Harry asked.
Ginny nodded. “I think I can manage, you’d better watch yourself though, Potter.”
“Hey! I thought we’d be on a team together,” Harry protested as he freed her right hand and they started walking toward the others.
“Well, then we’d never know who’s the better of the two of us, officially,” Ginny explained.
“Indeed, that does present a problem,” Harry agreed. “We’ll just have to play opposite one another.”
Ginny laughed. “I guess so.”
They kept walking and Ginny smiled as they grew closer and she saw Ron instructing Seamus and Dean on the proper method of embankment construction.
“Thanks for helping me remember,” she said.
He nodded. “You, too. It’ll be okay.”
“Yeah,” she said. “It will.”
Author’s Note: Thanks to my beta, Arnel, for her excellent editing and content skills. Thanks also to everyone who helps me remember those loved and lost.