Road Not Taken by Mare
Past Featured StorySummary: Ginny’s future stretches on in two different directions. Which path will she choose?
Categories: Long and Completed Characters: Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Molly Weasley
Compliant with: HBP and below
Era: Hogwarts-era
Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance
Warnings: None
Series: None
Chapters: 5 Completed: Yes Word count: 14038 Read: 16485 Published: Oct 28, 2007 Updated: Oct 28, 2007

1. Prologue by Mare

2. Chapter 1: The Yellow Wood by Mare

3. Chapter 2: The Well-Trodden Path by Mare

4. Chapter 3: The Road Less Travelled by Mare

5. Chapter 4: All the Difference by Mare

Prologue by Mare
Author's Notes:
Thank you so much to Immortal Phoenix and elyaeru for their help with this.
Ginevra Molly Weasley was a woman of action. She considered herself fair in rendering judgement, and though she was quick to temper, she was also quick to defend her family and those who could not defend themselves.

She didn’t indulge those who were unduly harsh on helpless people; she was a champion for the helpless. When it came to her own life and relationships, however, she was always second-guessing her choices. That was a holdover from her first year at Hogwarts.

Never again, she promised herself after that year, would she be controlled or made to feel helpless. She made easy, sensible choices; she became what everyone expected her to be. This didn’t make her weak or incapable. She was simply embracing her role in life.

Therefore, in the summer after her fifth year, she squared her shoulders and sequestered herself inside The Burrow while her brothers went off to war. She chose to tend to the garden and help her mum with the laundry rather than put up a fight. It was, after all, the way of things. Just as Harry — dear, sweet, love-of-her-life Harry — asked her to, she waited for him to fulfil his destiny and come back to her.

When Nymphadora Tonks and Remus Lupin announced their impending nuptials, Ginny squealed with delight and latched onto the bride-to-be, much like the Harpy who had sighted its prey. As the weeks went by with no word from the Trio, Ginny desperately needed a task that would keep her fully occupied.

She even found herself tolerating Fleur, much to her own chagrin. They helped the over-worked Auror plan what would be a small but tasteful affair. People came and went to greet the happy bride and groom – mostly familiar faces from the Order. Ginny had gladly accepted the role of Chief Bridesmaid.

“You look smashing, Tonks. Or should I call you ‘Lupin’ now?” Ginny winked at the glowing bride as the guests mingled after the short ceremony. The long, ivory coloured dress was strapless and showed off Tonks’ milky white skin. The dress had belonged to her mother, Andromeda Tonks.

“I couldn’t have done all this without you, Ginny. You’ve been amazing.” Ginny blushed under the words of praise.

“You know I was glad to do it; women stick together and all that.”

She excused herself so that Tonks and Lupin could make their way around the yard, speaking to their assembled well-wishers. Ginny made her way to the edge of the scene, taking a moment to collect her thoughts. Tonks had insisted that the wedding be held in her parents’ garden. It was late October and the leaves were bright colours of orange and red. It only served to remind her that she should be at Hogwarts, worrying about grades and Quidditch.

A slight breeze ruffled the hem of her thin dress, the same one she had worn to Bill and Fleur’s wedding that summer. She would never know which twist of fate made her look up, but just then but her eyes turned upwards towards the house. They gazed up at a window on the second floor, overlooking the garden.

The drapes were pulled back and someone was observing the festivities from inside. She might not have recognised him from so far away, if not for the fact that she had only ever seen one bloodline in the entire wizarding world with that shade of blond hair.

Furious, she forced her eyes back to the ground. Why in the world is he here? Ginny desperately wanted to know.

What was his purpose? Did Andromeda and Ted know that he was inside their house at that very moment? Was it a conscious act to harbour Dumbledore’s murderer or was he sent there to cause trouble for his cousin? All of these questions and more raced through her mind as she tried to decide who she could take this information to.

Very slowly and deliberately she made her way to the direction of the back door, trying not to draw attention to herself. She had almost made it too when she was waylaid by Andromeda Tonks herself, who was blocking the path to the back door.

“Could I help you with something, Ginevra?”

Ginny scrutinised the older woman’s face. Andromeda Tonks was gifted with classical beauty, dark hair and high cheekbones that reminded Ginny painfully of another Black. Andromeda’s stance was rigid and told Ginny enough to know that she was hiding something inside her house that she didn’t want to be discovered.

“You’ve a lovely home, Mrs. Tonks. I don’t mean to impose but I really must find the loo.”

“Of course, I’ll escort you inside.”

Now Ginny was sure that she was hiding something, and even more desperate to get inside unescorted. Andromeda studied her with piercing brown eyes and Ginny forced herself not to fidget.

“Oh no, that won’t be necessary. I don’t want to be any trouble.”

There. Ginny didn’t want to be too forceful but she wouldn’t leave the matter alone until she investigated. She only hoped the older woman was keen enough to deduce the double meaning in her words. She seemed to think on it for a minute before stepping aside with a brief nod.

Once Ginny was inside, she quickly bypassed the loo she knew was on the first floor and headed straight for the stairs. There was only one row of rooms that ran along the backside of the house and Ginny was sure the one she needed was at the end of the short hallway. The door was closed, of course. She took a moment to catch her breath. If she was right, and Draco Malfoy was on the other side of the door, she would need to catch him quickly before he could run or hide.

She needn’t have feared. After a quick Alohamora she pushed open the door, her wand raised, only to discover he was still standing in the same place beside the window. He gave no indication that her presence there bothered him in the least. Still, she was on her guard and watched him for the slightest sign of movement. His back was to her and his arms were crossed casually over his chest. It nearly startled her when he started to speak in little more than a whisper.

“My father raised me to believe that my estranged branch of the family tree were little more than dragon dung on the bottom of his boot.” His voice was toneless and devoid of emotion in a way that frightened her for some reason but she was too caught up in her own anger to think on it for long.

“So you’ve suddenly had a change of heart, have you? Come to wish the bride and groom a happy life together? You’ll have to forgive me if I find that hard to believe, Malfoy.”

He turned to face her then and Ginny couldn’t hold back the gasp that escaped her throat. What she couldn’t have seen from so far away down in the yard was glaringly obvious when standing so close to him. Large yellow and purple bruises covered his once-pale skin. There was a deep gash running the length of the left side of his face, from his hairline to his chin, and it looked freshly healed.

“My father always did have a twisted way of showing his affection.”

Deep mercury pools of pain and anger stared back at her. She found herself at a loss for words. It was a short leap of logic to discern his reason for hiding here. For she was sure now that he was in hiding, and this was in fact not a sinister plot by the Death Eaters to incapacitate so many Order members at once.

“You’re hiding from them.”

It was a statement, not a question, and he didn’t deign to answer it as one. He only continued to stare at her as if he had all day and nothing else to do, which, she guessed, he didn’t, since he was cooped up there and forced to hide from all the guests.

“You won’t tell anyone you found me here.”

Furious, the arm holding her wand, which had become lax upon seeing his mangled features, pointed towards him once more. What unnerved her, even more than his cool demeanour, was the fact that somehow he had known how to read her so completely. He obviously wasn’t a threat and she had no right to be poking around in the Tonks’ private affairs. That didn’t mean she had to like it.

“There are at least a dozen Aurors down there that would love to capture you. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t have them all storm up here right now.”

The whole scene was surreal; him standing there so unaffected at the thought of discovery while she threatened to turn him in. She desperately wanted him to show some sort of emotion, even the usual anger or hatred she equated with their unfortunate meetings. Things were changing so fast in her small little world that involved The Burrow and cooking meals for the Order; she needed just one thing that felt familiar and constant.

Very slowly, like a deadly cat hunting an unsuspecting mouse, he moved to stand in front of her. Mere inches separated them as he stepped so close that her wand pressed hard into his chest. She knew what he was doing; he was daring her to curse him first when he appeared unarmed and defenceless. He brought one of his hands up and gently lowered the arm holding her wand.

“Ginevra,” he whispered, closing his eyes for a moment. Then they were open again and scrutinising her as one would study a fascinating manuscript. “You’re smart enough to recognise a lost cause when you see one.”

For just a moment, Ginny remembered another Slytherin boy who had played on her weaknesses and made her do things against her will. No! They’re not the same, she told herself. Malfoy would accept whatever fate she decided for him. He too had been manipulated by the same evil. Could she really condemn him for making the same mistakes she had?

While she had been attracted by friendship, he had craved power. Both had gotten more than they had bargained for. No, she couldn’t deny that this broken doppelganger of the sneering, aristocratic boy she had once known was not out to cause harm. Whether the Order knew or not, well, she wasn’t exactly allowed to sit in on Order meetings, was she? If she wasn’t valuable enough to be kept informed then they couldn’t need her information too badly.

Suddenly mortified at the thought that she was anything like Draco Malfoy, she quickly left the room without a backward glance. When she entered the back yard once more, the first person she saw was Andromeda Tonks. She gave Ginny a piercing look and then quickly glanced up at the window where Malfoy had been standing. Ginny gave her a curt nod — Your secret is safe with me — and went to mingle with the rest of the wedding guests.

As Christmas and Easter came and went, she pushed Draco Malfoy out of her mind. After ten months with no word from Harry, Ron and Hermione they finally returned, weary but victorious. The whole of the wizarding world celebrated in their victory over evil and survival. She tearfully drew Harry into her embrace and then he kissed her, it was just like they had never parted.

For the entire summer, they lived in a dream world, frolicking in the large pond behind The Burrow and laying about. The three of them never spoke openly to her about what had happened during their long journey but Ginny caught glimpses of the changes in all of them.

It was in the way that Ron and Hermione never seemed to go anywhere without the other. They never had to say it but she could tell that some sort of understanding had passed between the two and they were now closer than ever. She once caught the two sleeping peacefully under the apple trees in the garden, Hermione’s head resting gently on Ron’s chest as his arms embraced her protectively and held her to him.

Harry was quieter than he had ever been and Ginny chose not to press him for details about what had happened. Most of the time they talked of Quidditch or her family and they seemed to easily fall back into the relationship they had started over a year ago.

Hogwarts would be reopened in the upcoming term and classes resumed where they had broken off. When September 1st, came they all found themselves back on the Hogwarts Express. All of the Gryffindors balked at Draco Malfoy’s presence in their midst, but Harry vouched for him and that was the end of that. Talk soon turned to Quidditch and the latest gossip.

She nodded at all the right times and laughed at her friends’ jokes. If she sometimes felt just a tad empty and listless, well, that was just a part of growing up. She floated through her classes and mealtimes. She was surrounded by normality. Her life had become a scripted performance, complete with sappy declarations of love and sickeningly sweet looks of envy from most of the student body.

The only reminder of her misgivings came in the form of smouldering grey eyes. Eyes that followed her progress across the Great Hall, out by the lake, or daydreaming in the library. She could almost fool herself into believing things were normal again until she caught sight of his white blond hair or his haughty, knowing smirk.

He looked at her as if he knew and each time he did, she turned up her freckled nose and looked away, lest the memories assault her again. Evil deeds did not an evil person make. If she kept telling herself that, maybe one day she would believe it. This was her penance, her punishment for losing control. And that would never happen again.
Chapter 1: The Yellow Wood by Mare
There was going to be a Halloween Ball. Because of its late announcement McGonagall had granted the upper years permission to visit Hogsmeade the weekend before. There was sure to be a mad dash to buy dress robes and find willing escorts.

Ginny smiled indulgently as Hermione talked of all the shops they would need to visit.

“And we must stop by the quill shop. I’ve been through two packs of quills already and I won’t let it interfere with my revision,” Hermione prattled on as Ginny dutifully agreed. “Have you got anything to wear to the Ball, Ginny?”

“Yes, Mum’s going to alter the robes I wore to Bill and Fleur’s wedding.” New dress robes were out of the question, of course, and they were rather nice robes. She was in much better shape than Ron. “What about you, Hermione?”

“Me? Oh, well I suppose we could take a quick peak at Gladrags. I hope it’s not too crowded. Lavender and Parvati haven’t stopped talking about finding the perfect dress robes. I’ve been going spare listening to them talk about such nonsense all week.”

“Of course.” Ginny nodded understandingly. “Are Ron and Harry going to meet us there?”

“Yes, they weren’t even awake yet when I came down for breakfast. Honestly, it’s as if they don’t have a care about N.E.W.Ts. If they think I’m going to help them with revising at the last minute this time they’re sorely mistaken.”

Ginny held her tongue and waited until Hermione was ready to leave. They set off with the rest of the early-risers in the direction of Hogsmeade. The weather had generously cleared off and it turned out to be a beautiful Saturday. Ginny closed her eyes and breathed in the smell of Autumn as she walked beside Hermione at a leisurely pace.

The main road was already littered with students eager to get their shopping done early. Ginny followed Hermione from shop to shop, stocking up on necessities before they made their way to Gladrags. They had to push their way through several groups of giggling girls before making it to the back of the shop, where the more affordable robes were located.

“You don’t have to buy new ones, Hermione; I thought the robes you wore to the Yule Ball were rather pretty on you. Mum taught me loads of tailoring charms. I’d be happy to help fix them up for you.”

“Thank you, Ginny, but I really want this year to be special. I have so many great memories at Hogwarts and I want this night to be magical.” Hermione suddenly pulled her into a semi-private corner and looked around furtively before leaning in close to whisper, “Can you keep a secret?” Ginny observed her thoughtfully as Hermione held on tightly to her forearms and was all but bursting on the spot with her need to share some important piece of information.

“Of course,” Ginny assured her, placing her hands over the other girl’s shaking ones.

“I think Ron might ask me to marry him.”

Ginny was flabbergasted; her brother hadn’t said anything to her. “Hermione! I had no idea you two were that serious.”

The other girl shrugged, her cheeks turning rosy. “It’s only a hunch, but we’ve talked about it before.” Ginny was speechless. She was happy for them, of course, but they were both still young yet.

“How can you be sure he’s the one?” Ginny asked, genuinely curious. Hermione had a wistful expression on her face and Ginny got the uncanny impression that she was staring at a stranger.

“We’re in love. I think I’ve known it all along, really. Even when we argue I love the way his ears turn red when he gets so mad he can’t see straight, and when he looks at me as if I’m a complicated chess match - I feel like I’m on fire, like I’m burning up from the inside out.” Ginny had never seen this side of Hermione Granger before. This girl was a bundle of emotions fit to burst with happiness and love not the cool, level-headed bookworm she had come to expect.

“It’s just so sudden, I suppose. Merlin, Hermione! I thought you were the logical one.”

“Love defies logic, Gin. It’s intense and all-consuming. Sometimes I think I’ll quit breathing if I don’t see Ron’s smile or hear his voice. I can’t even remember what life was like before Ron. I feel like I’m going to burst because my heart is filled with so much love for him and then he does something small that maybe no one else notices and I love him even more than I thought I could.”

“Love isn’t filled with passion and fireworks; it’s practical.” Ginny was beginning to feel uncomfortable. She had never experienced the type of love Hermione was describing, not even with Harry, the boy she had dreamed about since she was four.

It didn’t sound like something she wanted to experience either. Hermione wasn’t acting or talking like her normal self. It was almost as if she were possessed by these foreign feelings that had taken up residence in her head. Ginny liked to have control over her life and that included her emotions.

“Oh, Ginny. You don’t really believe that, do you?” Hermione sighed, sensing she would get no answer from the younger girl. She held up the robes draped over her arm. “I’m just going to try these on.”

Ginny nodded, her mood had suddenly gone sour. She absently wandered around the small area by the changing rooms. Ginny didn’t need Hermione’s looks of pity. The girl had obviously gone insane; she should probably get checked over by a Healer just to be safe.

“What are you doing here Weasley? Dreaming about things you can’t afford?”

Ginny spun around and came face-to-face with a smirking Draco Malfoy. His arms were folded proudly over his broad chest, one platinum eyebrow quirked in amusement. The righteous anger she usually felt at his presence was nowhere to be found. Instead she found herself looking back at him with tired ambivalence.

“What do you want, Malfoy?” Her voice lacked the usual rancour he found so amusing. It was unsettling. There was no fun to be had if she didn’t fight back.

“What’s the matter with you, Weasley? Is there trouble in paradise? Has Potter finally realised you aren’t worth the time and effort?” Surely that would do it. Any mention of Potter usually got some sort of rise out of her and her brothers, especially her. As his girlfriend, she was duty-bound to defend Potter’s honour when he wasn’t there.

She’s changed, was the one thing on the forefront of his mind. She looked as if she had aged ten years since the last time he had been so close to her.

He was looking at her again with that knowing gaze. It felt as if she had been stripped bare down to her soul and he was gazing upon her, sizing her up. She had never felt so naked and exposed. Something inside of her sprang to life at his accusation.

“You don’t know anything about me, Malfoy. Just leave me alone.”

“No,” he said, his tone almost soft. “I don’t think I will.” He took a step toward her, as if he was trying to get a closer look, and she found that her feet were unwilling to move away. She watched him warily, not used to such close scrutiny.

One of his hands reached out to tuck a piece of errant hair behind her ear. Her eyes closed of their own accord and she felt gooseflesh rise on her skin when his hand lingered on the spot just below her ear. She was trembling with the effort it took to control her breathing.

Her body was screaming out for his touch even as her brain told her this was not a good idea. His mere presence, so close now that she could smell his expensive cologne, sent her reeling. What was he doing to her that he could spur such foreign emotions in her? With one look and a touch from him she had lost complete control of her self.

Her eyes snapped open as he lowered his mouth to hers. With a jolt she jumped away from him, eyes blazing.

“You don’t know a thing,” she spat, spinning on her heels and practically running to the shop entrance. She needed to put as much distance between them as possible.

So caught up in her escape she didn’t notice where she was running until she ploughed right into something solid. Only a firm grip on her shoulders kept her from falling. She had run right into a tall, older wizard with gray-white hair and twinkling blue eyes that looked familiar. His face was dirty and lined with wrinkles.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry?” he asked kindly.

“I’m sorry,” she apologised, ignoring his question.

He smiled. “Not to worry. Young people these days, always rushing around. Never looking at what’s in front of them.” He released her shoulders and bent down to pick up something off the ground.

“I think you must have dropped this,” he said, holding his palm out.

She looked at the object in his hand. It was a gold amulet hanging from a thin golden chain. In the centre was a bright red ruby. The edges of the rustic setting were carved with runes.

“No.” She shook her head. “I’ve never seen that before. It’s not mine.”

For a moment he just looked at her, his palm still outstretched. “Take it,” he urged gently. Some otherworldly power overtook her and she found herself reaching out to take the object cradled in his palm.

He nodded in satisfaction then turned to walk in the opposite direction. Ginny shook her head, clearing the fog from her mind. The day wasn’t even half over and it was already turning out to be the one of the oddest ones she had ever experienced.

* * *

She should have returned it but to whom? She didn’t even know who it belonged to. Ginny pulled the amulet from inside her school robes, where it had been ever since the stranger had foisted it off on her.

Classes were finished for the day and everyone was getting ready for the Halloween Ball. Instead of getting ready herself she had snuck away, yearning for a quiet walk by the lake. The whole week she had barely heard a word anyone said to her and she studiously avoided Malfoy at all costs.

She hadn’t told anyone about the amulet or Malfoy. She wouldn’t be able to explain it properly anyhow. There was a large oak tree by the lake where she liked to go sometimes when she wasn’t fit for company. It had probably been there long before Hogwarts was built and it was somehow comforting to be in the presence of something that was so old and constant.

The lake was still, free of disturbances. Birds chirped happily from their posts high among the forest foliage. The peaceful environment caused her breathing to even out and her eyes to droop. What harm would there be in having a quick kip before the evening’s festivities? With that thought in mind she welcomed the peaceful sensation of falling into nothingness.

* * *

The sound of crunching leaves startled her from sleep. She looked around her and was fully awake within a second. The lake and the forest had vanished. She jumped to her feet and spun in a complete circle. She was no longer even on the Hogwarts grounds.

She was standing on the edge of a clearing, on a well-travelled path. Yellowed birch trees stood amongst the proud oaks. At the edge of the wood the path diverged into two more roads leading in opposite directions deeper into the forest. Panic seized her.

“My dear girl, there’s no need to be frightened,” a kindly voice said. She whipped around, almost falling over from shock as she stared at the wizard in front of her. He simply smiled knowingly.

“P-professor Dumbledore?” she stuttered disbelievingly. “This isn’t real.” It couldn’t be. Dumbledore was dead.

“I have always believed that Death is but the next great adventure. I am here merely as a guide.”

“Where are we?” she asked, and then a horrible thought struck her. “Am I dead too?”

His eyes twinkled merrily. “Heavens no, you should think of this place as a magical doorway of sorts.” Her brow wrinkled in confusion; this was all too odd.

“Why am I here?”

“You are lost, child. Your future is uncertain at the moment and you have been given a rare gift. At this moment your life might diverge in two very different directions. Should you choose to embark on this journey, you will find out the very real consequence of each choice.”

“Professor, you’re not making any sense.” He smiled down at her sadly with a little less twinkle in his eyes.

“You have been through so much for one so young. It has hardened your outlook on life. Instead of living your life you have become complacent. From my experience, it is always easier to see how our choices have affected us in hindsight. Today you will get the chance to set things right with your life but first, you must choose a path.”

He stood aside and gestured to the juncture between the two paths. One had obviously been travelled more than the other. To the left the path was covered with overgrown weeds and the branches overhead hung low, obscuring the path’s progress not too far into the wood. To the right she could see the path stretch on for a good long way, free of underbrush and covered in short grass.

She looked back at Dumbledore’s kind face, as if it might hold the answers. How was she supposed to choose correctly? The path on the right seemed to be less dangerous. It was certainly well-worn and there would be fewer surprises, as she could clearly see the way stretching on for several feet in front of her.

With one last dubious glance at her old Headmaster, who only smiled that maddeningly knowing smile he always wore, she headed to the right.

As soon as she crossed the barrier between the wood and the clearing, it was as if someone had suddenly snuffed out all the light. She blindly grabbed for her wand before realising she must have left it behind. In the darkness she took a step forward.

Her body was suddenly wracked with pain. Searing, white-hot pain radiated throughout her whole body, roiling in waves from her head all the way down to her toes. She tried to cry out but no sound came from her lips. When it became too much to bear she welcomed the void of unconsciousness that was waiting to take her.
Chapter 2: The Well-Trodden Path by Mare
Ginevra Molly Weasley-Potter woke with a familiar arm around her waist. The morning sun filtered in through their bedchamber’s hand-made draperies. Her first thought was that the children would need to be getting up soon. She eased her husband’s arm from around her and, careful not to wake him, crawled from their bed quietly.

She entered the lavatory and splashed cold water across her face. Her hair, once a vibrant, radiant red had become a dull orange hue. The sparkling cinnamon eyes she once had were now a mottled brown, with dark flecks of almost black swirling at the edges. An old woman stared back at her in the mirror, her harsh gaze accusing.

Ginny quickly turned from the mirror and prepared for her bath. It was a morning ritual, the one time she had a few moments of peace to herself. During this time she gathered her thoughts for the day, preparing herself to be the perfect wife and mother. While the rest of the day was solely devoted to her family, this blissful getaway was completely hers and hers alone.

When she was finished she wrapped herself in a simple cotton dressing gown. Upon entering the room she shared with Harry she noticed the empty bed and made her way downstairs to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. Their cottage was getting a bit crowded, she mused. The second floor was devoted entirely to hers and Harry’s bedroom with four more bedrooms for their children.

Upon entering the kitchen she was jolted from her thoughts by six loud voices.

“SURPRISE!” they yelled, as loud as their little voices could.

She started, taking in the scene and her eyes becoming misty. A large banner with the sloppy, hand-painted words ‘Happy Birthday Mum’ hung from the kitchen rafters. Stacks of Blueberry pancakes littered the table, which was already set with a large breakfast waiting. Harry must have gotten them up while she was in the bath so they could surprise her.

“Thank you, my darlings,” she cried happily, stooping down to give each one of them a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

James, the oldest, would be going off for his second year at Hogwarts in a few weeks’ time. Mia and Jezebel were their twin girls, only two years younger than James. Brian, who was the spitting image of his dad except for her brown eyes, was eight. Michael was the silent brooding type and he was six years old. Lily, their baby girl, was four and just as mischievous as the twins. Harry stood behind them proudly and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

“Happy Birthday, Gin.” He smiled, still completely besotted with her. “After breakfast Hermione’s stopping by. I’m going to watch this lot while the two of you go shopping in Diagon Alley. And then, of course, we’re going to your parents’ for dinner.” He looked very pleased with himself for having planned the whole day around her.

“That sounds lovely, Harry.” A smile, a kiss, and she turned to the smiling faces of her children. “Well, what have you all to say for yourselves?”

They all started talking excitedly at once and she happily immersed herself in their little world. This was why she woke up morning after morning. Six tiny little faces all looked to her as if she held all the answers in the world to every question they wanted to ask. In return she gave them everything she had to offer.

* * *

Hermione Weasley arrived at their door, flustered but smiling happily. Ginny waved at her from the kitchen, where she was helping the children wash up.

“I’ll be just a minute,” she called. Once she was sure all the porridge was gone from Lily’s hair, she made her way into the sitting room. Harry and Hermione were chatting away amicably.

“There you are, Gin. We’ve got to be getting on. Harry, I think Ron might stop by later with the children.” Harry’s emerald eyes sparkled and his whole face lit up with a wide smile.

After one more round of farewells they made a hasty exit, Apparating straight to Diagon Alley.
“I’m so sorry I was late. You know how Ron is; he just wouldn’t let me be this morning.” Ginny’s face scrunched up in disgust. Hermione told her more than she ever wanted to know about her brother’s love life. And it always made her feel envious of the sort of intimacy Ron and Hermione seemed to have.

They passed several tired-looking mothers pushing their children along. Ginny was instantly sympathetic. Her usual talkative mood was nowhere to be found and Hermione, perceptive witch that she was, instantly picked up on it.

“What’s wrong, Gin?”

Hermione looked sincere, but Ginny hesitated. Some times it was hard to tell what she could reveal to Hermione without it getting back to Ron, and therefore Harry. Her sister-in-law was her most trusted confidant, true, but she was first and foremost faithful to Ron and Harry.

“I’m thirty years old today.”

“Yes, I know. You act as if it’s some sort of death sentence.” Ginny smiled then. Her best friend wore her age as a badge of honour on her chest.

“Of course not, I love my life but…” Hermione watched her expectantly but Ginny couldn’t seem to find the words to explain what she was feeling at this milestone in her life.

“You’re living the dream,” Hermione told her. “You have six darling children and a doting husband. What more could a girl ask for in life?” Her tone was almost accusing, as if Ginny had no business being unhappy at all. It was subtle, but Ginny had picked up on many of her friend’s little quirks over the years.

“I just can’t help but feel like there’s something missing. I feel like I’ve just settled for everything that was given to me, like I never really had the chance to get out there and see the rest of the world.”

“You wanted to travel?” Hermione looked honestly perplexed and Ginny rolled her eyes. Hermione may have been the smartest witch in her year, but when it came to common sense Ginny suspected she was sometimes lacking.

“No, well yes, but that’s not the point. Harry and I settled down straight after Hogwarts. With everything he went through, I couldn’t deny him that, but I feel like I’ve lost my own identity somewhere along the way.”

“Don’t be silly, Ginny. You didn’t lose anything, you just grew up and became a different person. You can’t expect everything to stay the same after you’re married and have children. Where is this coming from? You must know that Harry and the children love you.”

“Harry loves me the only way he knows how, just like he loves you and Ron or our children. He loves me as the mother of his brood and his best friend. I don’t begrudge him that. Merlin knows he had a horrible childhood and no real pillars of love to look up to. Never once did I think it would turn out like this. I used to think that I could love him enough for the both of us and that would be enough.”

“What are you saying, Ginny?” Hermione was looking at her with wide, fearful eyes. Ginny wanted to laugh suddenly.

“Don’t worry Hermione, I’m not going to go off and do something stupid. I’m not that kind of woman.”

“You used to be.” Well that wasn’t fair; she had grown out of her Fred-and-George phase, as she liked to call it. She was much more of a Percy now, responsible to a fault.

“Yes well, when I was a child I spoke as a child, but when I became a woman I put away childish things.”

“I didn’t know you read Muggle literature.” Hermione looked startled to only now be discovering something important about someone who was supposed to tell her everything.

“I used to.”

They walked on for a while in a comfortable silence before coming to a stop outside Flourish and Blotts.

“Oh look! Let’s have a quick look in here. I’ve been meaning to pick up that new novel for Jane. Precious girl, she loves to read as much as her mum.” Ginny agreed, knowing instinctively that their conversation was over.

* * *

Diagon Alley was busy, it being so close to September 1st. There was a mad dash to buy the required school materials and Ginny was immensely grateful she had already bought James’s things. Still, it was hard to relax with Hermione pulling her through the tight crowds.

Ginny felt a prickling sensation on the back of her neck and she stopped in the middle of the street to look around. She found steel grey eyes looking back at her.

“What’s the matter, Ginny?” Hermione asked, tugging on her sleeve.

Draco Malfoy was walking towards them now, his royal blue velvet robes dragging the ground. Like from a dream, she had been here before, shocked into immobility.

“Granger, Weasley,” he greeted them. Hermione rolled her eyes.

Malfoy had been civil to them ever since Harry had defeated Voldemort, but they certainly weren’t old school mates. He had married Pansy Parkinson at his mother’s request. They still had money and power, of course, but no one feared the Malfoys quite as much since Lucius Malfoy’s passing in Azkaban.

Ginny shivered as his eyes raked over her from head to toe. She had consciously avoided Malfoy ever since that day in Gladrags so long ago when he almost kissed her. Though sometimes, when Harry was asleep already, she would think about the electrifying sensations that only Malfoy had ever produced in her.

For those few short minutes she had felt more passion and desire than she had felt in the last ten years. Part of her always wondered what would have happened if she had kissed him then. But at the time she had been so afraid. Was he really doing it because he wanted to, or was it just another one of his contrived plans to humiliate her?

“What do you want, Malfoy?” The significance was not lost on either of them. That was exactly the same thing she had said to him so many years before. She had never seen eyes look as sad as they were right at that moment, staring back at her.

“Happy Birthday, Weasley,” he murmured before brushing past them.

She wanted to run after him all of a sudden, to say something, but Hermione was already leading her away again.

“What was all that about?” Hermione asked, looking at her suspiciously.

“What are you talking about? Malfoy? He’s always been a first rate prat.” Did Hermione know how Malfoy affected her? No, there’s no way that she could. Ginny was sure she had schooled her emotions.

“Not to you he hasn’t, at least not since our seventh year. Did something happen between you two?” It was so absurd that Ginny had to laugh.

“Are you insane? Me and Malfoy? You’ve gone spare, Hermione.”

“Of course not. Its only that, well, the way he was looking at you just now…” Hermione trailed off as if Ginny was supposed to guess what she was going to say next. But Ginny had no idea. At least, that’s what she kept telling herself. “Well, it’s the same look that Ron gets right before-”

“All right, Hermione, I get it, but you’re wrong. Nothing ever happened between me and Malfoy. I had Harry.” And that was the end of that.

* * *

Going back to The Burrow was always comforting and a little bit sad for Ginny. It reminded her of a past life where the biggest worries in her day were how to get back at Fred and George for turning her favourite stuffed bunny Chudley Cannons-orange. It was a reminder of how happy she had been when things were simpler.

She ushered all her children into the back door, where they were greeted by her mother. Ginny smiled and kissed her mother’s cheek.

“Harry, why don’t you take the children into the sitting room? I’ll help Mum here in the kitchen.” She kissed his cheek and swatted his backside playfully. They left without a backward glance. Ginny sighed and turned towards her mother. “Sometimes I wonder which of those seven is more grown-up.”

“I understand, dear. Where do you think Fred and George learned all their mischief from? I had to keep your father in line just as much as the rest of you.”

Ginny smiled and began trimming the greens. They worked in a companionable silence for a while.

“How have you been, Ginny?” her mother asked seriously. “You’re all grown up now and we hardly ever hear from you.” Ginny rolled her eyes good-naturedly, where Molly couldn’t see her. She was thirty years old and still her mum liked to coddle her.

“I’m doing just fine, Mum, really.” Molly looked at her for a few moments longer before returning to her task.

“Did I ever tell you that I couldn’t stand your father at Hogwarts?”

“What?” Ginny cried. “You always told us that you and Dad fell in love at Hogwarts.”

“We did, but we didn’t start out that way. It wasn’t until fifth year that I started to take notice of him. Before then I used to think he was so irresponsible; that he didn’t have any real goals in life. That changed when I really got to know him. Sometimes love just sneaks up on you.”

“Right,” was all Ginny could think to say. Why was her mother telling her this now of all times? This was advice she could have used, say, fifteen years ago.

“I never thought you and Harry would end up together either.” Her mum’s revelations just kept on coming. “He was always such a sweet boy and I was afraid that with your temper, well, I was actually afraid he might be a bit intimidated. But look at you now, dear, with a family of your own. I’m so proud of you, Ginny.”

Ginny wanted to be anywhere else at the moment. It seemed like everything was caving in around her and she couldn’t breathe properly. She couldn’t think in this house, she couldn’t deal with everyone’s questions and why couldn’t they all just leave her alone?

She wasn’t supposed to feel trapped in her own life, or to feel on fire in another man’s presence that wasn’t her husband. Just because Harry didn’t make her toes curl when he kissed her or didn’t send her into a wild, passionate frenzy when they touched, that didn’t mean he didn’t love her. She could tell that he did.

So they didn’t have little pet nicknames for each other like her parents did and they didn’t shag like bunnies as much as Ron and Hermione did. That didn’t mean they didn’t love each other. And for a moment, just a tiny moment, Ginny allowed herself to be honest.

It’s not enough, she admitted, if only to herself.

The truth was she had wanted the mind-numbing, toe-curling passion, but she had been too afraid to take her chance. Left with the memories of what she did under Tom Riddle’s control, she had been too afraid to let those strong emotions rule her life and she had ruined the one chance at true happiness she ever had.

Well, there was nothing for it now. She would have to be content. There wasn’t just Harry to worry about anymore; they had a family.

Ginny smiled pleasantly all throughout dinner and laughed with the rest of the family as her children tore the wrapping off her presents. When the children’s eyelids began to droop she dutifully scooped them up and she and Harry took them home and tucked them into bed.

She couldn’t be totally unhappy with her life. Harry had given her six wonderful children. Some people never found the sort of happiness she had. And tomorrow she would be better, it was just her birthday that was making her re-examine her past choices.

As she was getting dressed for bed Harry wrapped his arms around her from behind. She sighed. Harry did make her feel loved and safe. She knew that he would never hurt her, it wasn’t in his nature. She mentally prepared herself as he started placing sloppy wet kisses along her exposed neck.

She never approached Harry for sex. He always came to her and she usually never refused him. When they had first been intimate, after they were married, she wanted to cry. It wasn’t anything like she expected it to be, like the girls in her dorm used to describe it. She hadn’t felt connected to him afterwards, only used. That had made her feel ashamed. After a while Ginny had accepted the fact that she had simply been expecting too much.

She stiffened her shoulders and knew that he would take it as a sign to back off, that she was tired. They climbed into bed and he spooned up behind her.

“Happy Birthday, Gin,” he whispered, nuzzling her neck.

“Thanks Harry,” she whispered, as he drifted off to sleep.

If only she had been able to pluck up the courage that Gryffindors were so famous for, maybe things might have been different. This was the last thought on her mind before she drifted off to sleep.

* * *

There were wind and leaves swirling around her in a fitful frenzy. It felt like she was floating, being lifted off the ground and carried away.

There were tears in her eyes. She had witnessed her future and it had not been at all like what she had always imagined. Her Hogwarts uniform was wrinkled and dirty but she didn’t care. There were too many emotions swirling inside of her at the moment.

Finally the wind stopped and she was crouched on the ground, kneeling on the same path that had started this all. She didn’t have the strength to get up; she was still trying to process everything that she had seen.

It had felt like being inside her own body but she was merely observing as an older version of herself lived her life. And what a horrid life it was. She’d thought she was doing what was best for everyone but now she wasn’t so sure.

“It is not always easy to face the truth,” a kind voice said and she knew without looking up that Dumbledore was standing there again, watching as she sobbed brokenly into her hands.

“Please Professor, what do I do? That can’t be how it ends.”

“That is the beauty of it, Miss Weasley. You now have a choice to make.”

“And what happens if I don’t want to end up with Harry?”

“To find that out you must take another journey.”

When she looked up in askance he was standing with his arm outstretched to the path on the left, the one that was overgrown and had probably not been travelled in some time.

She hesitated. What if this time it was worse than the last? Shouldn’t she go with a sure thing instead of something completely foreign? Then she remembered the last thought on her older self’s mind right before she fell asleep. Ginny stood up on her feet resolutely.

There was only one way to find out what life would be like if she went with her instincts. Her choice made, she walked toward the yellow wood and down the less-travelled path on the left.
Chapter 3: The Road Less Travelled by Mare
Ginevra Molly Weasley-Malfoy woke to an empty bed. She groaned and rolled over, her arm automatically reaching out to where her husband should be. The spot was still warm. She pulled the coverlet over her head and burrowed deeper into the silken sheets.

She wasn’t fooled when the latch on their bedroom door clicked open and four sets of footsteps crept quietly into the room. Ginny smiled, trying to even out her breathing so it would appear she was asleep.

When her three little monsters jumped onto the bed she let out her best surprise-yelp and quickly threw off the coverlet. A rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday Mummy” instantly rained down on her. Draco was standing off to the side, looking much too proud of himself, with a tray full of breakfast in his hands.

“Children, what did I tell you?” he asked sternly, though Ginny could tell that he was trying very hard to contain a smirk.

“That we have to be good while Mummy eats her breakfast,” Emma, their oldest, answered promptly and with a very serious expression. Ginny laughed and moved back on the bed until she was leaning against the headboard. The children crowded around her while he leaned down to give her a lingering kiss on the lips before placing the tray of food on her lap.

“Happy Birthday, Mrs. Malfoy,” he whispered before pulling away. She took in his low-slung pyjama bottoms and quirked an eyebrow, giving him a simpering look.

“Thanks, loves.” She smiled at them all. When she looked down at the tray in her lap she almost laughed. Lumpy pancakes and lopsided muffins were stacked haphazardly on a plate. “Did you give the house elves the morning off?”

“I made the pancakes,” Dylan, aged seven, announced proudly.

“You didn’t make them all by yourself; I helped too,” Dylan’s twin sister Cassiopeia countered. Emma simply gave them what Ginny had dubbed ‘the Malfoy look’ and then turned to smile sweetly at her mother.

“It looks very lovely. Thank you.”

Ginny polished off her breakfast while the twins told her all about their foray into cooking and Emma interjected now and then to tell her how they had made a right mess of things. Draco simply watched from the foot of the bed, catching her eye every now and again and giving her a secretive wink.

When Ginny was finished Draco called a house elf to take the tray to the kitchen and told the children to go visit with their grandmother in the parlour.

“She’s been down there this whole time?” Ginny asked, trying to envision Narcissa Malfoy waiting around in their downstairs parlour for over an hour with no other company.

“Mm,” he answered, crawling towards her on the bed once the door was shut properly and they were alone. “She’s offered to take the children for the day. I have big plans for you, birthday girl.”

Privately, Ginny thought that a little alone time with her gorgeous husband was quite a fine birthday present indeed. They would definitely be hosting a lavish birthday party for her mother-in-law this year.

Ginny sighed contentedly when his full weight came to rest along the length of her body. She was finally able to give him a proper morning kiss. Her hands came to rest on the hem of his pants where they had been longing to be since she saw him come in with that tray in his hands.

“Oh,” she whispered, trying to think with his mouth doing delicious things to her neck. “Do these plans have anything to do with you having your wicked way with me right now?” He pushed a hand under her top and began making small circles on her stomach with his fingers. She began to tremble in anticipation. He knew just what to do to wind her up so quickly.

“No, I’m afraid you will just have to wait.” He pulled away from her reach then, giving her a wicked smile. “If you hadn’t slept until half past ten we might have had a bit more alone time together.”

“Tease,” she scowled. “You’ll regret this Mr. Malfoy.”

“Of course, love. Don’t doubt that I already do, but we have an appointment in half an hour and I’ve already had Minky draw you a bath.” He was standing over her now on the side of the bed and leaned down to kiss her quickly on the temple. “Now you’ll have something to look forward to at the end of the day.”

“I’m still going to get my revenge,” she told him, though she couldn’t help but smile at his thoughtfulness.

“I’m looking forward to it, my Queen.” He gave her a cheeky smile and sprinted out of the bedroom before she could get up and run after him.

Ginny laughed and slowly untangled herself from the bedclothes to make her way to the adjoining lavatory. Between her husband and her three children there was never a dull moment around the Malfoy household.

When she splashed some cold water on her face and looked at herself in the mirror she was pleased with what she saw. Her vibrant red tresses were longer than they were in her school days and there were very faint laugh lines around her mouth. Her chocolate brown eyes had a few golden flecks now that made her eyes seem to sparkle with mirth or secrets from time to time.

Her husband liked to tell her that she was growing more beautiful each day. She would usually slap his arm playfully and tell him he was growing more senile as he got older. But he told her enough and she was willing to believe him as she surveyed herself in the mirror. The young woman staring back winked at her playfully and Ginny laughed to herself before stepping into the aroma-scented bath her own personal house elf had prepared at her husband’s request.

A much more refreshed and relaxed Ginny made her way down to the dining room half an hour later. Draco hadn’t told her where they were going so she dressed in her favourite light summer dress. It was her birthday after all and she could dress however she saw fit. At Hogwarts she used to prefer trousers to skirts and dresses but Draco had insisted he loved to see her in more feminine wear and soon enough she found herself liking beautiful dresses more.

When she entered the foyer off the formal dining room she found her children, her husband and his mother talking over breakfast. She smiled as she watched them silently. They must have made hers before sitting down to eat their own.

“Good morning, Mother.” She bent to place a kiss on one of Narcissa Malfoy’s rosy cheeks. None had been more surprised at Draco’s mother’s acceptance of her than Ginny. The haughty aristocratic woman had melted over the years into a doting grandmother and all-around genial woman.

Narcissa smiled, genuinely pleased to see Ginny. “Good morning Ginevra and congratulations on your birthday.”

“Thank you.” Ginny smiled. Narcissa was not at all bothered by growing old. In fact, Ginny thought she had never looked younger since she started getting to know the woman. Being a grandmother seemed to agree with her.

Soon Draco and Ginny were ready to leave, though he refused to tell her where they were going. He smiled mysteriously at her as she held on to his arm and he Side-Along-Apparated them to their destination. Ginny gasped when she opened her eyes.

“Milan?” she whispered. They had not been there since their whirlwind honeymoon.

“I thought it might bring back some happy memories,” Draco told her. She looked at him then, silent tears of happiness in her eyes. He looked at her with all the love and devotion he had had when they first married. “I’m still thankful every day that you agreed to wed. I felt like the luckiest man in the world. Sometimes I still wonder what you saw in me.”

“Hush, Dragon.” She brushed her fingertips lightly across his lips and smiled lovingly. Ten years with the man in front of her had only made her heart swell with more love than she thought possible. “I didn’t think it was possible to love you more than I did on our wedding day but you keep surprising me, love. Now, what have you planned for us?”

“A man has to keep a few surprises from his wife,” he retorted, affecting a mock-serious tone and grabbing hold of her hand as they made their way down the cobbled street.

* * *

He took her to the café she had so enjoyed on their last visit. Just the fact that he had remembered how she loved it warmed her heart. He always seemed to remember everything she said. She had been afraid, when they first began dating, that he would go running for the hills once he picked up on all her subtle nuances but he seemed to love her all the more for them.

His arms were loaded with packages. She laughed and quickly found an abandoned side street where he could shrink them and fit them into the pocket of his trousers. After lunch and shopping she was quickly growing tired. It was late in the afternoon before they decided to return to Britain.

He insisted that they Apparate just outside the front entrance and Ginny rolled her eyes when he wasn’t looking. She knew that he had planned a surprise party but she played along. She tried to appear properly surprised when they entered the front hall and the lights were suddenly thrown on to reveal all her family and friends standing there with birthday hats and several of Fred and George’s magical noise makers.

The children ran to greet her first and she spent the next half hour being shuffled off to well-wishers around the room. The children told her all about their day riding horses with their grandmother. As Ginny made her way around the room she was suddenly proud of the life they had created.

Never did she think she would see the day when Malfoys, Weasleys, Potters and Zabinis could stand to be under the same roof with each other, and chatting away amiably no less. As she stood off to the side of the room observing their guests a pair of strong arms wrapped around her and she caught a whiff of her husband’s familiar scent.

“Why Mrs. Malfoy, you look lovely this evening.” His breath, hot on her neck, made the fine hairs on her skin stand up on end. “Is there any chance I could convince you to sneak off with me?”

“What kind of woman do you think I am, sir? You should know that I have a very jealous husband.” She loved bantering with him like this - it made her feel as if they were still teenagers.

“I think I could take him if it meant I would get to see you without that lovely dress on.” She laughed then. She could be just as devious as he could.

She pushed him back into a small alcove and kissed him hard on the mouth. Her lips parted eagerly as he explored her mouth thoroughly with his tongue. She ran her hands up and down his toned back, finally tangling her hands in his long blond tresses. Just when he thrust his hips against her lower body she pulled back and smiled sweetly at him.

“Why, Mr. Malfoy, you naughty man, I seem to remember telling you that I would get my revenge. We’ll have to wait to finish this until all of our guests have gone.”

He growled low in his throat but she quickly slipped under the arm trapping her against the wall. “Evil wench,” he muttered. She laughed gaily and went to find one of her brothers; there was no way he would retaliate in their presence.

Ron and Hermione were there with their two children. Hermione was soon expecting a third and she looked radiant in the late stages of her pregnancy. All of her brothers had been able to make it, including Percy, who had reconciled with the family shortly after Voldemort was defeated.

Blaise and Pansy Zabini had no children as of yet, but Blaise was godfather to one of their twins and still Draco’s best friend. Ginny had learned to tolerate the two and actually found herself enjoying Pansy’s wicked sense of humour after the other witch finally accepted Ginny’s marriage to Draco. They stopped by often and Ginny even found herself shopping with Pansy and her friends on a few rare occasions.

Harry had married Luna a few years after Hogwarts. Ginny thought they were just perfect together and she was immensely happy for her two close friends. For a while, after Ginny had broken things off with Harry, it seemed like they would never work out their differences. When he had started dating Luna, one of Ginny’s closest friends, they put their past behind them and were finally able to become good friends.

Draco had gotten along famously with her older brothers, Bill and Charlie. In time they all accepted him in return, even if Ron still liked to rile him up a bit. What had surprised her was his stiff reaction to Percy when they had met. She had just assumed they would get along best because of all the Weasleys, Percy was the most proper.

When she had asked him about it, he had only told her, “A man doesn’t turn his back on his family.”

By then she was used to interpreting the things he often left unsaid. He had despised Percy because even though he himself hated all things Weasley at the time, it was not in Draco’s nature to publicly go against his family. She secretly thought he saw too much of himself in Percy and it reminded him of how he had gone against his own father’s wishes, something he didn’t want to be reminded of.

Soon Draco announced that dinner was ready and they all made their way to the large formal dining room. The house elves had outdone themselves that evening and even Hermione looked appreciatively at the large feast.

“I would like to make a toast,” Draco announced, standing up at the head of the table and commanding everyone’s attention. She was seated next to him and he grabbed her hand, looking down into her eyes. “To my lovely wife on her thirtieth birthday, who is more radiant today than she was the first time I noticed her. To my love, may we have two hundred more birthdays together. You have given me more than I could ever return. I am the luckiest wizard to ever grace the face of this earth.” He kissed her lightly on the cheek to rounds of “Here! Here!” from the other occupants of the room, her brothers being the loudest.

She dabbed at the tears in her eyes with a monogrammed handkerchief his mother had made for her. She longed to show him how much his words had affected her. All throughout dinner she smiled at him with a look that promised she would do just that when they were alone.

Her parents were the last to leave after dinner and afters.

“Oh Ginny, you’ve become such a lovely woman,” her mother told her while her father and Draco went for their cloaks.

“Thanks Mum.” She blushed. Even at thirty, her mother could still make her feel like a little girl. “I was raised pretty well.” It was her mother’s turn to blush and sputter in embarrassment.

“I’m so glad you’re happy, dear. I was worried about you for a bit after your sixth year at Hogwarts. Why, I still remember that summer when you returned looking happier than I’d seen you since your first year and announced you were dating Draco Malfoy. Your father and I about fell over from shock.”

“Yes Mum, I remember.” She had argued with her parents very nearly every day that summer until they accepted the fact that she was old enough to make her own choices.

“Of course you do dear. You were so stubborn and when he came to visit that summer I could see the two of you were so much in love. I’m so proud of you, Ginny.”

“Molly,” her father called, walking up behind the two teary-eyed women.

Draco gave her a questioning glance but she just shook her head to indicate everything was fine and she would tell him everything later. The subtle communication was not lost on her smiling parents, who quickly made their exit after extracting a promise from Ginny and Draco that they would visit The Burrow with the children soon.

“Alone at last,” Draco sighed, leaning against the closed door.

“The children?” she queried. He smiled, catching onto her train of thoughts.

“They fell asleep in the parlour with Jeremy and Melissa. I carried them to their rooms not half an hour ago.” He was walking towards her now but with every step that brought him closer, she backed away from him.

“Well,” she drawled, using his familiar tone, “I suppose you’re too tired to stay awake much longer.”

“Wench,” he growled playfully, closing the distance between them quickly and pulling her fully up against him. She laughed at his apparent eagerness. “Now we can get on with the real celebration.”

“Oh,” she asked innocently, “what did you have in mind?” She could tell, from the way his pupils were dilated and his mercury orbs were practically on fire, exactly what he had in mind.

Just as he leaned forward to capture her lips she threw off his embrace and quickly sprinted up the stairs, taking them two at a time and laughing merrily as he followed after a moment of dazed confusion.

Several hours later, she fell asleep in his loving embrace and decided that growing old was not so bad after all. In fact, she had never felt younger.

* * *

Again, Ginny found herself on the familiar path leading to the yellow wood. Dumbledore was there again too, his eyes twinkling knowingly. Her face began to heat up when she wondered if he too had witnessed her possible future with Draco Malfoy.

She didn’t know what to say and she was afraid that all of this had been a dream and at the same time she was afraid it hadn’t been. She had never been a firm believer in the art of Divination; that one could actually see into the future.

“Professor?” she asked hesitantly, afraid of the answer. “How do I know this was all real? What if I choose and it’s not at all what I expected it to be?”

“That is the beauty of free will and courage,” he told her kindly. “You must be honest with yourself, Miss Weasley. Do not be afraid to live your life. You must embrace it. I know your heart, child. You may not see it now, but if you let the evil from your past rule your future you are only succumbing to the very control you seek to escape from. You must do what is best for you and not everyone else.”

She needed time to think on everything she had seen, to process Dumbledore’s advice. Whatever stroke of Fate had allowed her this opportunity, she was grateful for it.

“Thank you. Will I see you again, Professor?”

“I’m sure you will, Miss Weasley. Hopefully not for a very, very long while yet.” He produced his wand from the inside of his robes and Ginny closed her eyes as she felt the magic engulf her, returning her to the life she had left behind.
Chapter 4: All the Difference by Mare
Ginny’s eyes snapped open and she found herself resting against the familiar oak tree. The peaceful scene in front of her, the still lake and birds chirping in the nearby forest, was just the same as when she had drifted off to sleep.

The sun, high in the sky before, was closer to the horizon than she remembered. A few hours must have already passed. Musical sounds from higher up on the hill drifted down to her ears and she jolted into action. The Ball! She wasn’t even dressed yet.

As fast as her short legs would carry her, she ran at top speed toward Gryffindor Tower, not stopping once until she was panting outside the Fat Lady’s portrait. The woman looked at her scathingly when she demanded entrance after screaming the password.

Once inside the common room she could already see people dressed and waiting on their respective dates. This only caused her pace to quicken as she flew up the stairs to the sixth year girls’ dormitory. Hermione, dressed and waiting impatiently, was sitting on her bed when Ginny entered.

“There you are!” she cried, and Ginny could practically feel a lecture coming. Obviously the older girl had been waiting on her for quite some time. It was only when Hermione took a moment to follow Ginny’s frantic movements that her tone changed from anxious to accusatory. “The Ball starts in half an hour and you’re not even dressed!”

“I know,” Ginny roared, throwing her trunk open and searching wildly for the dress robes her mum had sent earlier in the week. “I lost track of time. I don’t know what I was thinking. Hermione, you have to help me please.”

Hermione took pity on her and Ginny was ready in record time. The dark crimson material was gathered at her narrow waist and flowed out over her hips, the hem resting just above the ground. Hermione fixed her hair in a long braid and then wrapped it around the crown of her head, leaving a few wavy pieces to fall from the front of the design and frame her face.

Ginny hastily fastened the ruby amulet around her neck. She took a quick look in the lone floor-length mirror all of the sixth year girls shared and nodded, satisfied with her appearance. She quickly applied a few light beauty charms to her face, careful not to over-do it; she didn’t want to look like Lavender and Parvati. Just a light gloss on her lips and a faint colouring around her eyes was all she was comfortable with.

“You look beautiful,” Hermione assured her. “Now let’s go. The boys must be thinking the worst.” Ginny rolled her eyes as the other witch dragged her bodily down to the Common Room. Ron and Harry were probably as eager to get to the Ball as she was to eat a Blast-Ended Skrewt.

Harry and Ron were the only ones left in the Common Room when they arrived. Harry was speechless and Ron spluttered when he saw Hermione. They looked entirely too caught up in each other and Harry was staring at her with wide eyes, his mouth hanging open.

“You look dashing, Harry.” She grabbed his hand and barked at the other two Gryffindors. “Come on you two, we’re already late.”

“Whose fault is that?” Hermione scowled, following quickly behind them with Ron on her arm.

Ginny ran as fast as she could in her high heels. Her mum had sent them along with the robes. Fleur had insisted they all wear them to the wedding. Ginny had been smart though and had Hermione cast a Cushioning Charm on hers.

Only when they had made it to the entrance to the Great Hall did Ginny allow herself to relax. The dancing had already started and they were able to easily blend in with those crowded along the walls. When she was able to breathe properly again Ginny was suddenly overwhelmed with her present circumstance.

Harry was tagging along faithfully at her side. She knew that he didn’t like to dance but he would if she asked. She really needed to speak with him soon. In the back of her mind she knew that somewhere between the lake and Gryffindor Tower her decision had already been made.

The hardest part for her was in taking the action to rectify a situation she had created through her own inaction. Ever the gentleman, Harry offered to get them some punch and she agreed. It was so much like the Yule Ball she would have laughed if the situation hadn’t been so serious. She felt about as much affection towards Harry as she had felt towards Neville at the time.

“Weasley?” a shocked voice asked from behind her.

It was barely above a whisper but she heard it. Ginny’s breath hitched and she slowly turned around to face the boy who would become a dashing man.

Draco Malfoy was dressed impeccably. Expensive black velvet robes hung from his tall frame and slick blond hair framed his face. His eyes were wide as they took in her appearance and she warmed at the appreciative glint she recognised from her earlier experience in the yellow wood.

“Good evening, Draco. You look very handsome.”

She didn’t want to fight with him any more. If there was any chance of them having a future together they would have to put away childish rivalries and she decided to take the first step. She hoped he recognised the olive branch she was extending by calling him by his first name.

She noticed that Pansy Parkinson was nowhere around and hope flared up in her chest.

“Save me a dance, won’t you?”

His tone was suddenly very shy and Ginny had the feeling not many people had seen the side of Draco Malfoy she was witnessing now. The air around them seemed alive with magic. Ginny could feel it in her very soul; a change was in the wind.

“Of course,” she said, smiling affectionately, hoping to communicate things that she couldn’t put into words yet. “I just have to take care of something first.”

When she looked to the table of refreshments where Harry was talking with Seamus he followed her gaze. Understanding flashed in his eyes and she saw something she was sure she had never seen outside of the yellow wood. Draco Malfoy grinned.

He stepped closer a fraction of a step and gently lifted one of her hands in his, briefly pressing his lips across the backs of her fingers. Just as quickly, he dropped her hand and melted into the crowd.

* * *

As she approached the refreshment table her stomach was in knots. Ginny knew with every ounce of her being that she was about to do the right thing, but it didn’t make it any easier to do. Most of this was her fault for having led Harry on for so long. She just kept telling herself that it would be better for everyone in the end.

When Harry noticed her he gave her a bright smile and placed his arm possessively around her waist. She stiffened. Some part of herself that she had lost long ago came forth and her resolve strengthened. She was a Gryffindor and a Weasley. She could do this. She turned to Seamus, who was busy ogling her, and gave him a friendly smile.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to steal this one away, Finnegan.”

Without waiting for either of their responses she took Harry’s hand and pulled him out of the Great Hall. There was a deserted alcove just outside the Great Hall. Harry smiled eagerly when she turned to him and her heart broke just a little but her resolve was strong. He probably thought she brought him out there for a quick snog.

She stepped out of his reach and mentally gathered her thoughts into some sort of coherent form. This boy had been all she dreamed about since the minute she could read and now she was going to break his heart.

“Harry,” she began slowly, needing him to understand, “you’re such a great person but I just don’t think we’re right for each other.” It’s best to get it over quickly, she told herself.

She could see it in his eyes as the minute the meaning of her words sunk in. His shoulders seemed to slump and he started back at her in shock.

“You’re breaking up with me, Gin?” He paused. “But - I love you.”

Ginny closed her eyes and willed herself not to cry. She couldn’t afford to show him any weakness at the moment or he wouldn’t take her seriously.

“I love you too, Harry, but I have to be honest: I love you as a friend and nothing more.”

She could see the sadness and realisation transforming into anger. She reached out to touch his arm lightly but he flinched back as if he had been burned.

“Why are you doing this now?”

She had no reasonable explanation really. She couldn’t tell him about the amulet and the yellow wood; maybe in the future but not now. His anger would blind him to understanding the real significance of what had happened to her. So she remained silent, pleading with her eyes for him to accept this.

“Fine,” he said, resigned. “I need some time.”

Then he turned on his heel and walked away from the Great Hall, away from her. Only when he was out of sight did Ginny let the tears she had been holding back fall freely. Harry had been her first love, not just some boy she was passing time with. She didn’t want him to think she was totally unfeeling.

When she felt like she had recovered enough to face the rest of the students she returned to the Great Hall. Hermione and Ron were the first ones to approach her.

“Where’s Harry?” Ron immediately demanded.

She had known she would have to deal with them sooner or later, she was just hoping it could have been later. They were going to be mad at her whether she told them or they found out from Harry.

“He needed some time alone.” She was very proud of herself for keeping the quiver out of her voice. Hermione looked at her shrewdly as if she already knew what had transpired. Ron looked perplexed so she decided to address her brother instead of face Hermione’s knowing gaze. “We’re not together anymore. I broke it off with him.”

While they stood there dumbstruck she hurried into the pressing crowd before they could interrogate her further. Her first impulse was to find Malfoy but she held back for a moment. She couldn’t exactly accost him in front of his Slytherin friends.

Then again, her newfound freedom was giving her a surge of courage that she hadn’t known before. She was making her own choices now; she was controlling her own life. The subservience she had forced herself into was no longer an option.

Armed with courage and her newfound sense of self, she approached the group of glaring seventh year Slytherins until she was standing directly in front of Draco Malfoy. The shoes she was wearing gave her an extra few inches and she was happy to notice they were eye level with each other.

“Malfoy,” she barked, for the sake of the other Slytherins, “you owe me a dance.”

She could see the amusement dancing in his eyes; pools of shimmering moon dust that never strayed from hers.

“What makes you think I would touch you, Weasley?”

They were communicating on a whole other level now. She could read his body language, his mind, his soul. He wasn’t going down in front of the rest of friends without a fight. A little thrill of excitement ran through her at the challenging look in his eyes.

She smiled coyly at him, batting her eyelashes. “You’ll do more than touch me, Draco Malfoy.” She paused to let her words permeate the shocked group behind him. “You’re going to dance with me for the rest of this night. Then you’re going to kiss me goodnight after walking me to back my Tower.”

He shrugged his shoulders as if to tell the rest of the group, how can I refuse? Then he grabbed her by the hand and led her onto the dance floor. As he placed his arms around her waist she could feel the last vestiges of Tom Riddle’s hold on her slipping away. There were still many hurdles for them to overcome.

She didn’t care that the rest of the school still thought she was going out with Harry. Or maybe they assumed she was dancing with Draco Malfoy to make Harry jealous. It didn’t really matter, all that mattered was that she had made a choice that night. Not the easy or most popular choice, but the right choice.


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
- 1 Corinthians 13:11, the Bible (KJV)

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