A girl's sixteenth birthday is supposed to be perfect. In the middle of a war, it's anything but.
This was her sixteenth birthday. It was supposed to be perfect, dammit. And of all the scenarios she could've imagined for her birthday, this was the least perfect one.
It just wasn't /fair/. Everyone wasn't supposed to be leaving - not yet, not before she'd grown up. Harry was going off to 'face his destiny' or some tripe (she snorted bitterly) - and dragging Ron along with him, what's more. Bill was heading off for his 'wonderful new life' with Fleur; Percy still wasn't talking to any of them; Fred and George felt like they were miles away, even though they were just in London - they were always going on about some new experiment in their letters; and Charlie...
No one had heard from Charlie in at least two months. It was tearing her mum up inside, that much was obvious. "I'm sure it's just the war affecting the post," she'd say, wearing a pasted-on smile; though whether it was for Ginny's benefit or her own, Ginny couldn't say. She just tried to avoid the topic whenever mum was around.
Dad was constantly away at work, doing Merlin only knew what for the Ministry. It wasn't odd at all to go for days at a time without even a glimpse of him. She wondered if mum ever slept nowadays; every time she came down in the morning or went up for bed, mum was always sitting in the same chair, directly across from the clock, as if expecting any of the seven hands to move from "mortal peril," something that Ginny had given up on long ago. She thought she would go crazy if she worried half as much as her mum did.
Still, Ginny wondered if she'd ever felt so alone in her entire life. Every day was the same thing. Routine as usual, but there was always the underlying knowledge that today could be the day. The day that they got the owl, the one that everyone nowadays dreaded. They'd been lucky to avoid it so far, but their luck couldn't last forever, and Ginny knew it.
If only they could be together again - if only things would go back to the way they used to be. Before /him/. She knew it wouldn't happen, that there was no going back, but that didn't keep her from hoping. Ginny tossed her spoon into the bowl of porridge in front of her, not feeling much like eating at the moment.
She was disappointed to note that not a single birthday greeting came with the post. It wasn't anger, really, though at any other time, she would have been furious - everyone was too busy to remember something so trivial as a birthday, she knew that - it was more of a bitter sadness. Even mum had forgotten; Ginny couldn't remember a time when her mum had forgotten anyone's birthday, much less that of one of her own children. But things had changed.
She crammed a few tired-looking birthday candles into her biscuit. "Happy birthday to me," she began in a slow, sad tone.
"Ginny," interrupted her mother's voice, before she could continue. Ginny sighed heavily. Perhaps it just wasn't meant to be. "Someone's here to see you."
Ginny was still recovering from the surprise of a visitor when Neville walked into the kitchen, holding a package out in front of him. Ginny smiled, despite herself; leave it to Neville to make her smile, even during a time such as this.
"Happy birthday, Gin," he said, smiling back at her. Ginny stepped back a few paces when the package jumped towards her. "I knew he couldn't keep still for long enough," Neville muttered, waving his wand to release...whatever it was inside the package.
A large, magestic eagle owl swooped up, circling the kitchen a few times before landing deftly on one of the chairs, hooting indignantly as it preened its feathers.
"Oh, Neville," Ginny gushed, feeling a wide grin sweep over her face. "Where did you get it?"
Neville blushed, shuffling his feet around for a few moments before he responded. "'S no big deal," he insisted. "We have some cousins who breed owls for a living. I figured you might need...erm...to stay in touch, especially nowadays..."
"That's...really thoughtful of you, Neville."
"Well, if anyone tries to intercept your messages, at least you have a bird that can fight back," he said, the corners of his mouth twitching upward. "I've been promised that this is one of the more ferocious ones in the bunch. I told 'em you could handle it. Have you heard from Harry?"
At the mention of Harry, her face fell. "....not recently."
"Oh," Neville responded nervously. "Well, I'm sure he's just too b--" He didn't finish, thinking that it didn't sound too comforting. There was an awkward silence for a few moments, in which there was much shuffling of feet and barely-contained sighs.
Neville reddened a little when he noticed that he'd interrupted. "Sorry," he muttered. "Don't worry about it," she responded, wondering why she felt so tense all of a sudden. Neville was normally one of the people she was most comfortable around, but now she felt like she was walking on pins and needles for some reason.
She opened her mouth to continue, but Neville beat her to the punch. "Erm...I've got to go," he said, in an oddly hollow voice. "Gran's waiting and--well, I've just got to go. I'll see you at school, right?"
Ginny felt like saying something--anything--that would make him stay. She hadn't noticed how much she'd missed /company/--whether in general or only Neville's, she wasn't sure--until just now. But she could do nothing more than nod dumbly, giving a little wave as he disappeared around the corner.
The next day, she found out that he'd died a few hours later in a Death Eater attack. In that moment, she decided that she couldn't have hated herself more.