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Smoke by Embellished
Smoke by Embellished
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.
A/N: This is a little piece I wrote to distract me from another story I have been struggling with. It is my first attempt at writing in the first-person, so please let me know how well it works (or doesn’t work!). A very small part of this was inspired by Greg Brown’s song “Spring and All.” I hope you enjoy it!
WARNING: This story contains HBP spoilers. Please do not read it if you have not yet read HBP.
Everyone in my family is a packrat in one way or another. I suppose that if you get used to not having much, it is natural to cling to what you do have.
Percy loves books. He’ll read anything he can get his hands on, and he wants to own everything he reads. Fred and George once accidentally set fire to our old copy of The Velveteen Rabbit, and Percy immediately bought a new one even though he hadn’t read the story in years. Ron and Charlie refuse to throw away a single back-issue of Quidditch Quarterly, even though they have all of the ancient stats memorized. For Dad, the attraction is his Muggle gadgets. I never could figure out what they are for, besides collecting dust, but he can study them contentedly for hours. Fred and George keep souvenirs of all their pranks. Their old room is full of bits of string and dried spitballs, and if I try to throw something away, they will invariably say, “No! Not that! That’s from when we tied Percy to the scarecrow!” or some such thing. For Bill, the impulse is slightly different. He doesn’t collect objects, but curses. He has scrapbooks full of all the little gems he has run across over the years.
But Mum is the worst of us all. She collects memories, in all shapes and sizes. Every paper from every lesson she gave us before we went to Hogwarts, every picture any of us ever drew, every odd lump of clay we ever shaped, is packed lovingly away in the attic. It’s a wonder that the ghoul still has room to breathe, with all the boxes up there.
I take after Mum. I have reminders of everything that was important in my life, tucked away in my childhood room. Even the room itself reminds me, with its pink walls, lacy curtains, and tiny bed. I can’t bring myself to change it, even though I outgrew it years ago. It has always been a comfort to me, tying me to a childhood that seemed so far distant after my troubles in the Chamber of Secrets. Now that I am leaving home for good, I am sure my room will stay this way forever. Mum will preserve it as she has Ron’s Cannons posters and Fred and George’s bits of string. When she thinks she is alone in the afternoon, she will go there and sit on the bed, remembering.
I am happy to be leaving home; I am going to be married, after all. And yet it is hard for me as well. I have never called another place “home.” And now “home” will be a great drafty manor house where I always seem to get lost, and the Burrow will be a place I merely visit. Though it isn’t quite that simple for my brothers, and I don’t suppose it will be for me either. When they walk in the door, I can actually see them relax. They are all grown, with families of their own, but here, they are children again. Here, there are old habits, old memories.
In the last few years, since my brothers moved out, I have several times caught Mum coming down from the attic, wiping tears away. She constantly sorts through all of our old things, reliving the past. Despite saving things in the same way she does, I never understood why she would want to look at them so often. For me, having them was always enough. But now, as I prepare to move on to a new life, I have found that I want to look at my old memories too.
Draco suggested that I just pack up all of my things with a charm, and move them to the Manor, that there is plenty of room in the attic, even for the contents of my magically expanded wardrobe. And I know that he is right. That would be much faster and easier, and considering that I have never even set foot in the east wing of the Manor, I am sure that space is not a concern for the Malfoys. But for some reason, I feel a need to sort through everything, to decide what is essential to take with me, and what I can leave behind.
I started with the clothing. As the youngest child and only girl, I never had to pass anything on to another sibling. So, as far as I could tell, it was all there in the wardrobe, every last thing I ever wore. I found the dress I wore for my naming ceremony, all of its lace crisply preserved. I found my favorite pair of purple pants from when I was five, the ones I refused to take off for months, even to sleep. There was a worn blue bikini from the trip we took to Brighton when I was eight, and an old pair of trainers, grass-stained from when I fell off Ron’s broom when teaching myself to fly. There were my first Hogwarts robes (which had once been Fred’s) and the dress robes I had worn to the Yule Ball during the Triwizard Tournament. Inexplicably, I found a broken pair of horn-rimmed glasses that could only have been Percy’s. I kept a few of the most memorable things to take with me, and packed up anything else that seemed to be in reasonable shape to send to Bill and Fleur, whose daughter will eventually grow into it all. It did occur to me that after my marriage, I will be able to afford to buy a new wardrobe for her, but I packed the clothes up anyway. Some habits die hard.
Next, I dealt with all of the old toys. I put most of them neatly on the shelf in the wardrobe in the hope that my nieces and nephews (or perhaps my own children, eventually) will find them. My oldest teddy bear, however, will come to the Manor with me. I can just imagine Draco’s reaction when he sees her missing eye and the places where her fur has worn away, but she was my best friend for years and I refuse to go without her. If I thought he would believe me even for a second, I would pretend that I will still want to sleep with her after we are married. But he knows me too well for that to work, which is somehow comforting.
Finally, I turned to my desk and all of the papers inside. I found an old diary. Not the diary. Draco assures me that that one has been disposed of permanently. I shudder to think of what it would be like to run across it in the Manor’s library. No, the diary I found had been a birthday gift from Bill when I turned eight. In it, I recorded important data such as what I had for lunch every day, and weighty opinions like “Ron is a git.” After Tom, I could never bring myself to keep another diary, but that didn’t stop me from writing. I was a teenage girl, after all. And thus I found reams of highly embarrassing parchment. There were sheets of paper where I had practiced the signature “Mrs. Ginny Potter” in a looping girlish script. There were poems that now make me cringe, but that I had at one time thought to be the deepest, most beautiful pieces ever written. And then there were the letters.
I kept every letter I received until I turned seventeen. When I was young, the letters were mostly from my grandmother Weasley. Then from my brothers, as they went off to Hogwarts. Once I had gone to Hogwarts myself, there were letters from friends, including quite a stack from Colin Creevey. I even kept all the notes we passed in class. One in particular had a nasty orange stain that makes me think I had been unwise enough to pass it in Potions. I found letters from Michael Corner and Dean Thomas, awkwardly written with clumsy endearments making it clear that teenage boys have no idea what to write to a girlfriend. And in the desk’s “secret” drawer, which never was much of a secret, but was where I used to keep my most treasured possessions, I found my letters from Harry.
My hand shook as I pulled the bundle of Harry’s letters from the drawer. When I started my sorting, I had known that I would come to this moment eventually. And I admit, that this moment was in some sense the reason I had begun the project. Harry is the part of the past that I most need to face up to. But knowing that didn’t make it any easier. I stared at the letters for several minutes before untying the ribbon (green, of course) and beginning to read.
The first few letters were utterly boring. “Ginny, I hope you are having a good summer. From Harry.” The kind of thing a boy would write to his best friend’s sister out of a sense of duty, but I had wanted to think they meant the world. I believed then that I loved him, and that he loved me, too, but just didn’t realize it. Looking back, I see that both ideas were absurd. I know now what love really feels like, and what I felt for Harry was not love. And anyone who wasn’t in the throes of a monumental crush could read Harry’s earliest letters and know that, beyond a doubt, he had no interest in me at all.
The next batch of letters was from the summer after my fifth year, when Harry and I had finally dated. I had thought all my dreams had come true during the month or two we were together. When he ended it, I put on a brave Gryffindor face, but inside I was devastated. I had lived for Harry’s letters then, confident that once he defeated Voldemort, he would come back to me. But his letters had gotten shorter and shorter, and less and less personal, and eventually had stopped coming at all.
I had only three other letters from Harry, from after the war, full of empty justification for why he didn’t come for me. They were nearly illegible from my ancient tears and constant handling. For weeks, I had stayed huddled in my bed, clutching the parchment to me. Even Mum’s apple pie had not been able to lure me out until I had fully mourned him. And as I reread those last letters, I relived what it had been like the first time, the betrayal and sadness welling up in me again, even after so much time. But then Mum dropped something downstairs and I realized that I am not the girl I was then. Harry can’t truly hurt me, not anymore. I set the letters aside and pulled out a fresh piece of parchment and a quill to pen a quick letter to Harry.
This morning, my owl brought Harry’s response—a packet of all the letters I had written to him. Would he have sent them back if he had known what I wanted them for? I doubt it. As I doubt that anyone has told him that I am to be married tomorrow. My family is quite varied in personality, but in some ways we are alike. We all know that Mum is the best cook in the world. We are all packrats. And we all look out for Harry Potter as if he was one of us. And none of us would want to be the one to break the news. Yes, his guilt would be assuaged to know that I am no longer pining for him, but that I have found happiness in the arms of someone he hates would tear him apart. No, he would not have sent the letters if he had known.
When the letters arrived, I didn’t bother to read them. Instead, I gathered them, along with the letters Michael, Dean, and Harry had written to me, the practice signatures, the old diary, and the rotten poetry, and came out here to the paddock in the orchard, where I once taught myself to fly. I sit amidst the grass, tall now and dotted with wildflowers from disuse, in front of a considerable bonfire, watching the evidence of my youthful indignities go up in smoke.
I try to pick out shapes in the smoke, like I would with clouds. There is a cat, the same lanky shape as Bertha, who died when I was still young. And that looks like Hogwarts, a fortress upon a hill. And there—there is a shape that is almost the same as Harry’s scar. But the shapes change quickly, and when the wisp of smoke catches the light just so, it is almost exactly the same shade as Draco’s eyes.
I stand up and extinguish the fire. It is time for me to go back to the house. I know Draco will be there, awkwardly drinking tea with my mother. And he will take me, and the memories I have chosen to take with me, to our new home.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.