1. Ginny: Present
After the War, everything was different.
Her flat was on a corner, in a building which was once a warehouse but had been converted. She'd decorated it by hand, no charms, and her lack of money showed. Sometimes she wished for the small balls of light that were easy to conjure and could be scattered around the flat to give it a soft even glow; she bought lamps instead and let them cast their harsh pools of light on her cheap furniture.
Her wand was in a long, thin wooden box. The lid was lined with copper and her wand was wrapped in velvet. She wore the key that opened it around her neck. She hadn't touched the wand in two years.
She hadn't touched it since the War ended.
She worked in a secondhand bookshop a quarter kilometer from her flat, and she walked there and back every day. In a blizzard she'd hail a tram, but there was more rain than snow and she had a wide umbrella. The store was a tiny place, with shelves full of dusty books that reminded her of Hogwarts. The owner didn't know she was a witch.
Her life was just a routine now; work, eat, read, sleep. Without a car she didn't travel, and the trams were just too expensive for that. She didn't dare Apparate, not anymore. Even though no one who she would Apparate to see would turn her in to the authorities, she didn't want to risk it.
There were people who would have risked it for her, but she didn't want visitors. The last spell she had cast was the one that made it impossible for anyone to find her.
2. Ron: Present
On the corner where the roads meet, a shop. Something to get him out of the rain, just for a while. Until the downpour slows. He doesn't mind a light drizzle.
The bell above the door is sharp and clear as he walks in. His nose and mouth are full of the smell of old paper, that scent that seems to combine mold with crispness. The floorboards creak, just a little, and he's reminded of the house in the Burrow.
The woman behind the counter has her back to him, speaking with another customer over a tall stack of used books. He browses the shelves and pretends not to hear the conversation. He can't help but listen when the store girl's voice seems so familiar.
There's a large history section, everything there published well before the War. He looks at the worn covers and thinks that it's all fake. He picks one up, skims the table of contents, puts it back. Nothing here for him, not these half-truths put down on paper and believed. He moves to another section and finds a different volume.
The sound of a register, and then the tinkle of the bell again. He hears footsteps behind him, then "I'm sorry, we're just about to close up for the night - " and he turns.
The store girl gasps, and her pale hand flies up to cover her mouth.
"Ginny," he whispers, and the book he was paging through falls from his hands.
3. Ginny: Present
"How did you find me?" are the first words out of her mouth.
"I wasn't looking for you," Ron replies, shrugging slightly. "I wasn't, honestly."
She doesn't believe him. The words sound as fake as the light from her lamps. She swallows hard, and tries to collect herself. "I can't leave," she says before he can ask.
"I was just trying to get out of the rain, it's a bloody _flood_ out there, if you haven't noticed!" He gestures frantically at the window. "I didn't know you were here. And why _are_ you here?"
"I'm trying to lead a normal life," she replies, her steps not quite sure as she walks to the window and turns the sign to 'closed'. "A normal, quiet life."
"A Muggle life," he says, and she nods. "Why?"
"Because I don't want to be put in prison, I don't want to be lynched in the street, I don't want some... some crazy person just shooting me out of nowhere because I'm a witch!"
Ron looks bewildered. "But. There's spells that can protect you, Ginny, it's how the rest of us survive."
"It's not how I survive."
"You're just giving in by doing this," he says quietly. "Our magic is stronger than anything they try and force us to do." He reaches out and slips his fingers through hers. "I'd have figured you for the last witch on the planet to listen to what someone else told her to do."
"I'm not that girl anymore," she whispers, and pulls her hands away.
4. Ginny: Past
There's champagne in the glasses, real Muggle champagne, and it's the first time she's had it. It fizzes underneath her nose and she tries not to cough, she already looks so out of place.
The dress cost more than anything she's ever owned before, but the Ministry paid for it and she's never been one to turn down something that's free.
Her assignment couldn't be simpler: watch, listen, learn. Don't get in too deep, don't go anywhere with any of them. They probably suspect you already, Virginia Weasley.
So she hugs the wall and drinks her champagne in tiny, measured sips, watching all the while the Death Eaters that mingle throughout the crowd.
"Red hair... but that dress is a hundred percent new," says a voice behind her, and a hand lands on her shoulder. "Don't turn around, Weasley."
One of those voices she'd know anywhere. It had floated after her in the halls of Hogwarts often enough. Her hand shakes, we all play our part. "Draco," and it's cool and calm and she's never heard her voice like that before.
His hand slips down her back, left bare by the dress. "Enjoying the party?"
"It's all right," she manages, wondering why he's making it a point to touch her.
"Perhaps I can guess where you got the invitation."
She turns now; he's impeccably dressed, with a drink in the hand that wasn't on her skin. Sharp eyes focused on hers. He thinks she's someone's aide, the foreign Wizard she charmed in the foyer and walked in with. "Really. You think I didn't come by it myself."
"You, Weasley?" Draco laughs, and it's not a nice sound. His gaze lingers on her neck, her collarbone, her naked shoulders. "It was rather shocking to see you here."
"My father being who he is, you mean?" Her hand has stopped shaking finally. Listen, watch, learn. Even if you're learning from Draco Malfoy.
"And my father being who he is," he says.
She sees Lucius across the room, speaking with that same foreign Wizard. She leans toward Draco, puts her lips near his ear. "Did you know, there isn't a single Muggle in my family, except for that idiot my mother's cousin married."
Draco's lips curve into a smile, and his arm curves around her waist. "Would you like to see the grounds? The rose garden is quite fantastic."
She knows there is no rose garden at Malfoy Manor. "Lead the way."
5. Ron: Present
He goes with Ginny to her flat, unwilling and unable to leave her side after just finding her again. "Why didn't you want us to find you?" he asks softly, shedding his wet trenchcoat and hanging it on one of the hooks next to her door. Her umbrella gets propped against the wall, dripping, leaving a puddle on the floor.
"Because I didn't want to hear the things you said in the shop." Ginny walks to the stove and turns the kettle on.
"Are you happy like this?" He steps up behind her. "Are you happy without us?"
"It was wrong," she says softly, staring down at her hands.
"So you abandon us, and magic."
"Just because I can do those things doesn't mean I have to," Ginny counters.
"And you don't feel guilty about it?" he presses, needing to know.
She moves away, towards the table. "Sometimes."
It's a half-truth, just like the books, and he hears it. "Ginny - "
"What do you want from me, Ron? I swore an oath that I wouldn't do any more magic - "
"We all took them!" he shouts, and it echoes slightly in the sparse apartment. "We all took them, and we all knew we'd break them. Why should every witch and wizard in England be punished for what You-Know-Who did?"
"You could leave."
"It's my home!" He stops, breathes carefully. "At least I knew it was until you left us."
6. Ginny: Present
The kettle whistles, and she jumps. Ron's making her nervous. He never used to. She hurries to the stove.
"You left right when Harry and I needed you most," he says quietly, behind her at the table. "You know he almost died, and then you left, and. It really messed him up."
"We were already messed up." She takes two cups and saucers from the cabinet. One is slightly dusty, and she rinses it in the sink. It clinks against the basin, her hand is shaking.
"You never thought there was anything wrong with it before then."
"There must have been something wrong with it if we always had to pretend it was just Harry and I, and you were just his best friend," she replies, and sets the cups on the table. "Black or herb?"
"Black." Ron looks up at her, his eyes wide and clear. "We love you, Ginny."
"I'm not going back," she says, sharper than she intended. She sets the box of teabags down in front of him. "I don't. I don't know why I let you walk me home."
His hand catches her wrist. "Tell me you don't miss us."
She can't. She does miss them, so much it hurts, and she misses how her wand felt in her hand. "I..." she starts, and stops altogether.
"Come back," he pleads. "Our bed feels empty without you there, I feel empty, and I know Harry does. Two years... too long to feel that way."
"You should have forgotten about me." She frees her arm from his grasp, not wanting to, but doing it anyway.
"You should be with us, and you know it in your heart." Ron stands. "I can't argue this with you all night. I've got to get home. It's past seven, we - "
"Eat at eight," she finishes for him, remembering. "I know."
"Sure you won't come? Just to see Harry for a moment?" His eyes are hopeful, and she swears she can feel her heart breaking just a little bit more.
7. Ron: Present
He knows that if he can just get her there, get her to the house, she won't be able to walk out on them again. He can see it in her eyes. "Ginny."
"I have a life here," she replies, her voice low.
"Yes, it is. It's mine. I make my own bed, I do my own laundry."
He reaches out for her and she moves back. "What about the life you had with us, huh? It had to have been better than working in a shop for half what you made at the Ministry."
"It doesn't exist," she says dully.
He can see her resolve is weakening. "Is your oath so important to you that you'd leave love behind?"
"It was a promise, Ron."
"And we were _forced_ to make it, or be thrown in prison. 's not giving your word, that's being... being blackmailed into something! Ginny, we love you. If you don't want to use magic, neither Harry nor I is going to force you. But we want you home, with us."
"That still doesn't change what we did," Ginny murmurs like it's the last defense she has, hesitating between words.
He's on his knees now, his hands wrapped around hers. "We were fine before the War," he says, confused by what she's telling him. "I don't see how you can change your mind about that. Were you trying to give yourself another reason for leaving us? That what it is?"
"Fuck the law," he breathes. "Stop worrying about getting caught. Our house is bloody _Unplottable_, Gin. Everyone has to Floo or Apparate in, so that rules out some official walking in on us."
"Unless Mom were to Apparate in while we were in bed," she replies. "Do you really want to have to pretend again?"
He's shaking his head, he thinks Molly might know already. "You don't know that we'll have to. At least see Harry for a few minutes before you decide." He thinks briefly about taking her there anyway, except he knows she's got no Floo powder.
"I'm scared, Ron," she whispers, and her voice breaks. Her hands flex in his grasp. "How can you be sure that there won't be some sort of raid or something and all the Wizards caught using magic will be hauled off to some prison even more horrible than Azkaban?"
"Because we have an advantage over anyone who might try to stop us. We have magic. Even if one of those government fools did catch you, you could Obliviate them. No one would ever know."
8. Ginny: Past
She packs before she goes to register, to take the oath. There will be no coming back once this is done. She wonders for a brief moment if she's not being hasty. If maybe she should wait and talk to Ron and Harry - but that would mean telling the truth, all of it. Explaining why she was forced to register versus simply swearing the oath.
This house is her home, the bed she shares with them is her haven, the tiome they spend together the only time she feels truly alive. It hurts so much to leave it all behind, but she's scared. Scared if she stays with them that using magic will be too easy. The letter she got said constant surveillance, her and a hundred other people, the ones who were not dead.
It does not matter, the letter said, that your lover is the man who caught and killed Voldemort. It does not matter because there are still those who follow his teachings, and you associated with one of those men, Miss Weasley.
She'd done it to serve her country, and look where it had gotten her.
Draco is not dead as she'd first heard, after Harry had defeated Voldemort. His father is, but Draco was rumoured to have fled to Ireland. She has not seen him since the night of the party.
She could leave as well, escape this new lifestyle that is being forced upon her. But there are things that bind her to England, more ties than she wishes to untangle. She's undoing enough knots by leaving this house.
She tells herself she's doing what's right. She doesn't want to break Harry anymore than he is already by telling him how she got the information from Draco, and Ron -
She's afraid Ron will never touch her again if he knows where her hands had been.
9. Ginny: Present
"I don't think you understand," she says finally, pulling completely away. "It's not just the oath. I had to register."
He looks at her in shock, his jaw dropping. "What? Why?"
"I did some undercover work for the Ministry."
"But the registration - only those who had close contact with Voldemort and his inner circle - "
"I had it," she replies, "with Draco." She closes her eyes briefly, her hands straying towards Ron. She pulls them back, slips them in her pockets. "It wasn't worth what it cost me."
"You - you and Malfoy - "
"It was business, Ron," she whispers, and slides her fingers through his, hoping he won't run.
"So because of that bastard you can't practice any magic at all," Ron growls. "Why did you keep it such a secret?"
She looks out the tiny window. Her chest hurts. "I would have had to tell you what happened with Draco. I didn't want to hurt you. It was easier to just leave and start a Muggle life."
"We would have understood," he murmurs. "You could have stayed."
She shakes her head, and strands of hair get caught against her lips. Carefully, Ron brushes them away. Her breath hitches. "It was too soon after the end, can't you just trust me when I say it was better that I go?"
"How could it be better when we love you?" he asks, and she shakes her head again. He doesn't understand. He doesn't see that if she'd stayed, she would have slipped up, she would have used magic and they would have arrested her. So she'd built a web of lies and false emotions, and trapped herself in it; surrendering to the sticky, shimmering threads.
"Not strong enough," she whispers.
His hands clutch her shoulders suddenly, tightly. "You are."
10. Ron: Present
"Come home," he pleads, smoothing a thumb over her throat. He can feel her shiver under his touch. She's still his Ginny, no matter what she did in the past. "Please. I can't tell you enough that we need you, can't ask you enough times to come back."
"It doesn't. Doesn't bother you?"
He meets her gaze. "People do strange things in times of war. You said it was just a job, Gin, and I believe you. All there is to it."
Ginny chokes back a sob. "You make it sound so simple," she hiccups, and he wraps his arms around her.
He nuzzles her hair, breathing her in, and truth strikes. "You made yourself believe about being arrested and hating what you had with me, just so you wouldn't have to tell us about Malfoy?"
"I failed you," she mumbles against his chest. "I feel so stupid."
"You didn't fail anyone, baby," he whispers, stroking her back.
Something between a chuckle and a sob catches itself in her throat. "I don't think I remember any magic."
He wants to tell her that she'll remember it the moment she picks up her wand. He kisses her temple instead, then her jaw, then her mouth. "I love you," he whispers against her lips, hoping it's enough to bring her back.
She takes the kiss, returns it. "I missed you."
"Yes," he breathes, "missed you too."
From beneath her shirt she pulls a chain. A silver key is strung upon it. "My wand."
"Where is it?"
"In the drawer beside my bed."
He fetches the slim box, the wood smooth against his palms, and carries it back to where she stands near the window. Sunlight flashes off the key in her trembling hand, blinding him as he holds the box for her to open.