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Two Can Keep a Secret

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2 May 2008

The grass is wet as Ginny trudges up the cemetery hill, leaving glistening streaks along the sides of her good shoes. The sky above her is blank white from horizon to horizon, like a painting someone forgot to finish. Squinting against it, she can make out the little figures of Mum and Dad and the others up at the crest of the hill, waiting.

She hears Harry's voice behind her, anxiously coaxing the boys to come along. They're late, but Ginny isn't concerned. She has been a parent to young children long enough that she's accepted being late for everything.

As the ground levels out and they get close enough to see the family's sombre faces, Al lets out a delighted yelp and races past her. He collides joyously with George and throws his arms round his legs, making him stagger. Everyone smiles, barely.

"Oof," George says, and scoops up his nephew, bouncing him gently. "Look at how big you are now."

Jamie does not run; he keeps pace with his parents, more subdued than usual. At age five, he knows now why they come here each spring. He knows that he had an uncle he never knew, and that the people buried in the cemetery do not come back.

 

1993

After the diary, Fred was the only one who talked to her about it. He didn't help, of course, just joked around. ("What was old You Know Who doing in the girls' toilet anyway?" — waggling his eyebrows.) But it was so stupid that it made her laugh and lifted some of the weight of it.

He paid more attention to her that summer than he ever had before, whispering to her about his pranks before he did them and letting her fly his broomstick (she only had a toy one, still). She thought maybe it was because she was at school with them all, now — older and more mature. What a proud day it was, during their holiday in Egypt, when she turned twelve, which to her sounded vastly more grown-up than eleven.

"I got you something, birthday girl," said Fred, furtively peeking out into the hallway and then shutting the hotel room door behind him. "But I don't know." He gave her a dubious, appraising look from head to toe. "You might be too young."

Those were magic words with Ginny. "No, I'm not!" she protested, jumping up from the bed. "What is it? Give it here!"

Fred chuckled. "Well, if you insist."

He drew it out from his pocket and unrolled it. It was a magazine, worn and dog-eared, with lettering that made it look a decade or two old.

There was a smiling, naked girl on the cover, her hands barely concealing her nipples. Stunned into silence, Ginny could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks.

"You know, since you're growing up and all, I thought you could use a little... education." Fred winked at her, grinning.

Ginny only knew what sex was in a vague way gleaned from jokes and whispers. She was curious, but she'd had no idea exactly how curious she was until she was faced with this object, this burning promise of every forbidden question answered, every grown-up secret revealed.

Her hand was trembling as she moved to take the magazine from him. Fred pulled it away, holding it up and out of her reach.

"You won't rat me out, will you?" he asked, a warning gleam in his eyes.

Her gaze stayed on it, drawn up like she was a marionette to which Fred held the strings. "Of course not!" she said, indignant at the very idea.

Fred laughed. "All right, here you go," he said, and tossed it onto the bed as if it were nothing at all. And as he slipped out the door, he added slyly, "Enjoy."

That night, the light from her wand-tip shone off the glossy pages of the magazine as she writhed on the fluffy hotel bed with her hand between her legs. She saw breasts, mouths, private parts, and people doing things she could never have imagined. It was overwhelming, yet she couldn't look away. That wasn't the first time she touched herself, but it was the first time she came, staring agog at the grown-up lessons that Fred wanted to teach her.

On a day not long after that, when they'd come home to the Burrow, she and Fred were wrestling in her room — she loved it when he wrestled with her, like she was one of the boys — and she felt something against her leg.

Something inside Fred's trousers, hard and hot.

Ginny froze. He was on top of her, holding her shoulders against the floor and smirking down at her. She was suddenly very aware of his weight on her, how much bigger he was, how little of his strength was needed to pin her down.

"Erm," she said, her heart beating fast. She let out a nervous laugh, though nothing was funny.

After a moment that felt eternal, he rolled off of her, and chuckled. "Reckon you're getting too pretty to wrestle with anymore," he said, and dropped a kiss on her cheek before walking out of the room.

 

2 May 2008

This annual gathering has grown over the years. Now a dozen adults and as many children stand gathered round Fred's grave on a dull spring afternoon. Everyone shuffles about awkwardly as people greet each other; some of them rarely see one another except for this day and Christmas. Ginny hugs Mum and Fleur and Hermione and Angelina and Audrey, and does not really look at their faces.

The usual pleasantries take time, and Ginny sees out of the corner of her eye that Al is looking fussy and sullen in George's arms. He is too young to know why they have to stand out in a damp field with grey stones and nothing to play with. George is speaking to him gently, neck craned down and a quizzical look on his face.

George has changed a great deal with the years, and it is easy to see him now as the good twin, the innocent one. Of course, he has grown up; Fred never did.

 

1994

At school, it was as though nothing had ever happened. Fred hung out with George and Lee, and he took no more notice of Ginny than of any other second-year. The magazine was at home, well hidden inside Ginny's mattress, though she thought about it a lot. She hoped, on the train ride home, that he might pay attention to her again, the way he did last summer... though, then again, maybe not exactly that way. She shifted in her seat as she gazed out at the bright countryside rolling past the window, feeling an odd tension in her chest.

That summer, he was wonderful to her. They'd go out on broomsticks in the garden and practice scoring and blocking until it was nearly dark, and Mum had to come out and shout at them.

They lay side by side on her bed. Her legs were sore from riding, and the feeling of wind was still in her hair.

Fred said, "You're lucky, you know."

"How's that?"

"Being the only girl, so you get your own room. Some of us poor blokes can't even have a wank in private."

Ginny's throat tightened, as it always did when he said things like that. "Yeah, I guess," she said, staring up at the peeling blue paint of the ceiling.

"I always kind of wondered how girls do it," he went on, as though they were just talking about sport or something. "I mean, do you just..." Grinning lopsidedly, he made a gesture of his finger penetrating his other, cupped hand.

Ginny tittered slightly, her breath going shallow. "Erm, I wouldn't say that. I mean— I wouldn't know."

"Right, right, say no more." He brought a finger conspiratorially to his lips, and then he touched her leg.

All of Ginny's brothers had touched her a thousand times — hugging, poking, shoving — but this was not like that. His fingertips were slowly, gently caressing her bare thigh, below her shorts. She shivered, getting gooseflesh.

"Don't tickle," she said, pulling away from him, though she knew all too well that if Fred wanted to tickle her, she could not stop him.

"I'm not," he said, following her movements and continuing to touch her, tracing the seams of her shorts. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see that he was smiling the sort of smile that usually meant he'd come up with a good prank. "You want to have a little fun?" And when he said the word fun, he drew his fingers down the seam that went between her legs.

No hand but her own had ever touched there, and her body responded just as if it were her own hand, as though expecting another bout of rubbing herself to the pictures in the magazine. She sucked in a shaky breath.

As he stroked her up and down, breathing raggedly into her neck, she did not know whether she wanted him to stop or not. It was wrong, surely, but somehow in that moment the idea of wrong seemed very slippery and abstract, dancing away from her when she tried to think about it. Fred's touch felt good, and a sudden fear gripped her that if she asked him to stop now, no boy would ever touch her like this again. A tiny moan escaped her lips.

"I figured you'd like this," he said, unbuttoning her shorts. He never said why he figured that, but the squirmy shame of it made her face burn even as she spread her legs for him, her thighs quivering with tension.

As his hand slid into her knickers, she closed her eyes, trying to think only about the sensations, not about why this was happening, or whether it was real, or why it felt good. But then he said her name, calling her to attention:

"Ginny."

She looked at him, and she could see in his eyes — brown eyes just like hers — that he wanted her to be looking at him, to know exactly who was touching her. His mouth was half-open and his face was intensely serious. This was not a joke, and that scared her more than anything. But she felt somehow mesmerised and unable to look away from him, unable to do anything other than feel what he wanted her to feel and see what he wanted her to see.

His fingers quickly learnt from her sounds and her movements just how her body wanted to be touched, and when at last she came, it was not like when she did it to herself: it was both greater and more terrible. In fact, she understood, then, how it could be said that a man like Voldemort was both terrible and great. Her eyes rolled and her hips jerked in greater pleasure than she'd ever felt, and she felt more enslaved by it than she had even by the diary.

When it was over, she felt like she had swallowed a brick — heavy and ill. Fred smiled at her, smugly triumphant.

"Knew you'd like it."

 

2 May 2008

When the greetings and subdued small talk begin to trail off, Dad glances at his wristwatch and coughs into his fist. Everyone moves half-reluctantly into a loose semicircle around the grave, some children in arms and some holding their parents' or uncles' hands.

"Thanks," Dad says with a nod and a tight, grim smile. "I'd like to invite everyone, now, to take just a few moments to remember Fred."

Feet shuffle and heads bow. Ginny looks out of the corner of her eye at the row of hands clasped in front of people — some pink and freckled, some pale, some brown and thin. Ten years on, this ritual has begun to go stale, more out of loyalty to Mum and Dad than active grief. She wonders how many are really remembering, out of those old enough to remember at all. Perhaps they are actually thinking of how their good shoes pinch their toes, or what's for dinner tonight, or how horrible the weather's been.

Though it's cold out here, she feels overheated. She wants to shrug off her coat, to let the wind chill her. She has had years of practice of not thinking about Fred, but the longer she has to stand here, still and sombre, the stronger grows the urge to leap out in front of all of them and jump on his grave yelling I fucked him, I fucked him! and stomp in all the puddles, splashing mud on her mother's dress and on Hermione's grey pea coat. The thought begins to seem hysterically funny in her head, and she has to bite down hard on her tongue to keep from laughing.

She jumps at the pain, and perhaps Harry perceives it as a sob, because he tentatively puts his arm round her shoulders and squeezes. His hand is hot. She tenses, wanting to shrug him off, but not wanting the hurt-puppy face that would come with that.

Tiny pinpricks of threatened rain touch the back of Ginny's neck, making her suppress a shudder.

 

1995

Fred never touched her at school. She never asked why, though she vaguely thought it might be because he had a girlfriend. (He'd told Ginny before, laughing, that her cunt was tighter than Angelina's.)

But when they got home. Well.

"I'm a little tired," she said, faking a yawn.

He chuckled, his hand moving from her thigh to her crotch, over her cloud-patterned pyjamas. "Oh, come on," he said dismissively, and then murmured in her ear, "I'll do that thing you really like... with my mouth."

Her body leapt to attention, abruptly desiring, betraying her. Because the shame of it was that he was right: she liked it.

She liked it when her legs were hanging off the bed, toes brushing the floor, Fred's tongue holding her captive with pleasure. She could feel the adolescent stubble of his cheeks against her inner thighs, his hot breath on her cunt every time he came up for air. She could hear the rhythmic slap of his hand pumping his prick as he licked her, sounding loud in the quiet darkness of the house at night.

He took her close to the edge, and then drew away, leaving her gasping.

"Do you want me to stop?" he asked her in a teasing half-whisper.

yes yes yes yes stop please stop

"No," she breathed, and he didn't stop, and helplessly she came.

Each night he made her come, it damned her, proving over and over again that she wanted it. Must have. Couldn't possibly have not.

She waited for him in her room each warm summer night, heart pounding in fear of the inevitable creak of the door, in the devastating certainty that this would never be over. Her ears beating hotly, she touched her cunt, already slick for him, and shivered in pleasure as a tear escaped the corner of her eye.

Then, in the weeks between her fourteenth birthday and the start of school, he stopped.

It wasn't sudden. He stopped coming every night, and when he was there, he didn't seem as excited anymore. During the day, he treated her differently too: not practising flying with her anymore, and asking strange questions like what boys she'd been going around with. (None, was the answer.) Then, at last, he never came back at all.

As she lay alone in the darkness, feeling empty and peculiar, she thought about the day Fred told her she was pretty, and wondered if it wasn't true anymore.

 

2 May 2008

"Thank you," Dad says, and breaths are let out, children wriggle away from being held.

Though they usually all stay longer than this, the faint drizzle is turning to real rain, and the excuses come out: the kids are getting hungry, really got to get going. Ginny takes Al from George's arms with a flat, fake smile. The family disperses with perfunctory hugs and mumbled promises to get together soon, and everyone walks down the hill with rain pouring down the sides of oily-iridescent umbrella charms.

At home, Ginny moves heavily, like an automaton, going through the motions of giving the boys dinner and putting them to bed. The sky out the window is just as oppressively white as it was at the cemetery, and it's a relief when the sun goes down.

In bed, she listens to Harry's slow breaths hissing in and out through his nose. The house is very quiet, and she detects a slight creak from Jamie's room, but not more than him just turning over in sleep. She was never sure if she could be a proper mother, but the senses for it seemed to have been miraculously gifted to her when the boys were born.

She runs her palm over the four-month bulge in her abdomen. At night it is hard to keep her thoughts from drifting. She imagines one of the boys, in a few years, seducing the daughter within her. She feels a twinge of revulsion, but immediately questions whether she is repelled enough by the image, or if that part of her has been broken, the part that knows right from wrong in the heart, and not in the mind.

Fred raped me. Not for the first time, she tries the thought on for size, tentatively allowing it to take shape in her mind. What would it be like to think of it that way?

As soon as she lets herself consider it, she feels guilty. Not the ordinary kind of guilt like when you hurt someone's feelings or wash a spider down the plughole, but the kind she feels only when she thinks of Fred and when she thinks of Tom: a guilt that is almost alive, creeping up from the pit of her stomach, slimy and black.

She pictures Harry's face if she told him. Concerned, sympathetic. Or disgusted, horrified, doubting. She's not sure which would be harder to bear.

It would be kinder to Harry not to tell, wouldn't it? And better — safer — for those summer nights to live only in the cramped and muffled recesses of her mind. Locked within her, under her control. Two can so easily keep a secret when one is dead.

Deep within the foundation of the house, something settles, making a low, almost bell-like sound that reverberates in the silence.

Ginny puts her hand on Harry's shoulder and shakes him. Not hard, but firmly. He awakens with a sharp inbreath, his eyes blinking and then focusing on her, groggily. His brow knits in puzzled concern.

"What is it?" he asks.

With a sense of both utter panic and perfect calm, like stepping off a precipice while believing she will not fall, she draws a breath to answer him.