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.
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