Through a lot of persuasion and extra shifts, Ginny was able to get weekends off; this meant that she could spend whole weekends with Lily, Ron and Hermione, and any other family members who were handy. Today, Sunday, was the end of her short weekend.
It was a normal morning; she was wide awake before the alarm clock, then she showered. Lily was still sleeping, so Ginny woke her gently on the way past, telling her to get changed and go down the stairs for breakfast; in the kitchen, she prepared the toast and Pumpkin Juice. It was too early for Ginny’s mind to work: she was in a stupor, running on automatic. In a flash of red and tartan pyjamas, Lily bounced into the room, full of energy and the prospect of a new day.
Reaching up towards the potion cabinet, Ginny muttered the spell that opened it. Picking out the Energy Potion, she summoned her drink, measuring exactly five drops into it. Sighing, Ginny locked the cabinet before turning around, taking a drink. She immediately felt revived, energized, ready to act. Her heart skipped a beat and her senses grew more aware; glancing towards Lily, she noticed that she wasn’t eating her breakfast, but staring off into space, a concerned, concentrated look upon her face.
“Lily? What’s wrong?”
Lily didn’t answer at once, but blinked, her emerald eyes worried, “Who’s that?” she asked, pointing out the window.
A flash of anger raged through Ginny’s new energy; damn paparazzi, damn journalists, damn media. Can’t even open her curtains for breakfast without –
Her glass slipped from her hand as she gasped in shock, shattering into a thousand pieces, the contents splashing everywhere. A man – a horrible looking, distorted, shattered man – was staggering in the garden. He fell over roughly, hitting the ground with a hard thud. He was so wild looking, in so much agony, Ginny expected him to just lay still; but his hands clawed at the ground, trying to push himself back up. He looked like a wolf – a black wolf that had been beaten and starved and laughed at and poked behind bars… his muscles shifted in the same, paranoid way, never keeping still, he jumped when there was nothing to be jumped at, he staggered and snarled and stumbled…
“Lily – stay here - ” Ginny choked, panicked. Energy turning into fear, she stumbled out of the kitchen, running through the garden; the grass was cold with morning dew under her bare feet, and morning spring air fresh.
“Merlin – are you okay? Here – oh, god - ”
The man was even worse up close, more inhuman than human. His skin was pale, waxy, covered in cuts and bruises; he was deathly thin, dirty, ripped, blood stained robes hanging off of his bones – his right arm hung too low, his left leg twisted. His raven hair was tangled, messy, falling past his shoulders in a mane, his dark lidded eyes closed under broken glasses that were twisted and shattered and bent…
His eyes snapped open at her voice, hands pushing himself off of the ground.
“No, don’t - ”
His voice was as broken as his body, but she recognized it – his head looked up, bloodshot emerald eyes locking with her own –
- No, it was impossible, it was just coincidence, just her mind jumping to conclusions –
“Th-Thank God… th-thank…” the hands grasping Ginny’s cardigan relaxed, falling heavily, his whole body going limp, the emerald eyes disappearing too soon. Petrified, her mind spinning and spinning, Ginny magicked stretcher, hastily levitating Ha – no, no it wasn’t Harry, it was just a man, a strange, wounded man…
Lily was standing in the doorway, toast held in her hand, staring mutely. Her face was twisted into the emotion of confusion and worry, her emerald eyes wide.
Her eyes were the same – same shape – same colour – the same – same -
It was as though she was standing by, watching the scene; she didn’t know what to do, she didn’t have control. She could feel her mouth moving but she didn’t know what she was saying. She could tell that her brain was thinking but she didn’t know what thoughts were flying around. She could feel her arms moving, but they felt like someone else’s.
“Lily – fly Hedwig to Uncle Ron – tell him to come over here - ” Ginny shouted, deaf to the noise she was making, brain whirring and whirring as she levitated the stretcher into the house and into the living room. Lily hurried towards the conservatory where Hedwig stayed, dropping the toast on the carpet.
With a flick of her hand the sofa spread out into the size of a king size bed; lying the stretcher on it, Ginny took a deep breath. This was not Harry, it was a patient who needed her help.
And so, pushing her personal matters and her electrified emotions to the back of her mind, she Healed.
“Ginny, it can’t be Harry - ”
“I know! I know it’s impossible, it’s ridiculous, it’s stupid, it’s - ...!”
She stopped, biting her lip, the untouched Firewhiskey by her elbow sparking slightly.
Ron had come via Floo Powder as soon as he received Lily’s letter. It was still clutched in his hand; Hermione, James and Halie were walking (well, probably running) – being pregnant limited travelling methods. He had stumbled into the living room, ash covering him and his pyjama bottoms, a robe pulled on the wrong way round, inside out. The sight of Ginny sitting on the floor, crying, leaning against a bed, a distorted, painful stranger lying unconscious on it, met his eyes; quickly, awkwardly, he pulled Ginny into the kitchen, making a cup of tea like his mum always did before stopping and deciding Firewhiskey may be more fitting.
“It… Merlin, Ginny, I don’t know,” he muttered, taking a large drink, mouth steaming slightly as he did so, “He… he can’t be Harry…”
Ginny furiously wiped her eyes, frustrated as they seemed to be leaking. Not knowing how to respond, what to say, her blurred eyes fell upon Lily’s letter.
Theres a strange man in the garden and mummys being weird. she keep saying ‘harry’. She told me to owl you and tell you to come over. I dont know whats going on.
“He called me Gin.”
Ron was quiet, but he shifted weight, avoiding her eye contact, taking another large drink.
Silence engulfed them.
“Only Harry called me Gin,” she muttered, a fresh wave of tears sweeping her eyes, “He… only Harry…”
“Dammit, Ginny, it can’t be him!” Ron swore loudly, getting to his feet and throwing his now empty glass carelessly into the sink, “It – it’s ridiculous you’re – we’re – we’re… you’re jumping to conclusions, you’re not thinking this through – how can it be Harry?” he ended with a mutter, running his hand through his hair before crossing his arms. He didn’t sound sure. He sounded like he was trying to convince himself, not Ginny; uncrossing his arms, his glass zoomed back into his hand from the sink and the Firewhiskey bottle following suit. Shakily, he poured himself another full glass, “It’s morning, we’re overreacting, we’re not thinking straight. Let’s – just – er… is he okay?”
Ginny laughed humourlessly, shaking hands picking up her untouched glass and taking a drink. The contents burned her insides, but did not fill her with any courage – in fact, it just made her more irritable, “Does he look okay?”
Ron swore, dropping the bottle of Firewhiskey onto the table, “Health wise! Like, does he need to go to Mungo’s?” he snapped, taking another drink. It seemed to make him more irritable too.
“Yes, he should, but it might be dangerous moving him… his - his right arm was dislocated, his left broken; his left leg’s broken too, and he’s malnourished and battered and bruised and… and fuck Ron, how does he look to you?”
She dropped her glass on the table, the Firewhiskey splashing and spilling onto the table. She barely swore because of Lily, but no other words came to her mind. Swear words weren’t the most elegant, most appreciated of words, but sometimes they just fitted into a situation, into a sentence.
God, this was too much. She didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t Heal him again – she couldn’t emotionally remove herself again. She couldn’t – she couldn’t, she couldn’t, she couldn’t…
“God, Ron, what’s happening?” she whispered, putting her head in her hands. Ron didn’t know what to do. He was always terribly awkward with emotional women, especially if it was his little sister. Because Ginny never broke down. Well, never in front of people. There were times during the last five years were she would excuse herself to go to the bathroom, and return half an hour later clenching her fists with bloodshot eyes. And never, when they were growing up, did she cry. And whilst Hermione could be very emotional from time to time, he was always useless, and she accepted that and usually just told him to hold her or make her some tea. Awkwardly, he sat down beside her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. He could feel her shaking as she tried to control herself.
“It’s – just… just don’t…” he bit his lip, “Just cry, Ginny… you don’t have to be perfect,” he muttered, willing her to stop trying to be so wonderful and happy all of the freaking time.
Ginny suddenly turned in her chair, throwing her arms around Ron’s neck and burrowing her head into his chest. Stunned, he awkwardly put his glass on the table, wrapping his own arms around her in a hug.
It wasn’t easy. Being heavily pregnant, walking for half a mile, in the morning, with two children screaming around her. But she wasn’t about to risk Floo Powder or Apparation, she didn’t trust brooms and she needed to understand what was going on. She didn’t get to read Lily’s letter – Hedwig flew in through the window during breakfast and Ron, yawning, untied the letter. He opened it carelessly and read it; then, suddenly, the blood flushed out of his face and into his ears and he darted towards the fireplace, shouting something about Harry, Ginny and impossibilities. Hermione was left, alone and pregnant, to gather up their children and walk to the house. Halie was too young for Floo Powder, and Hermione didn’t really trust the fireplace with James yet, ever since that fire in the living room.
She was pissed off at Ron, and even though she would have done the same thing if she had a little sister, if not maybe a little less recklessly, it only lessened her anger a little bit.
“James! Please don’t fly ahead!” Hermione shouted, frowning as he weaved in and out of what little postboxes lined the street. James refused to leave the house when it was so early in the morning without reason, so Hermione had to bribe him with a broomstick, much to her own distaste.
“Mummy, can I go on the broom?” Halie asked, tugging on her hand.
“No, Halie, not yet, you’re too – James, don’t go so high!” she shrieked as James started spinning around chimneys. His scowl was audible from the ground as he swooped down beside his mum.
“Relax, Mum!” he said, spinning circles around Halie and Hermione, “I haven’t fallen off in a year,”
“You fell off last week - nearly broke your wrist!”
His ears grew pink. “That was Lily’s fault, she dive-bombed me!”
Hermione forgot the argument as they reached Ginny’s house; James flew right up to the doorstep where Lily was sitting, a piece of toast clutched in her hand. When she didn’t jump up and welcome James, Hermione knew that something was very wrong.
“Lily!” she called, hurrying up to a light jog, Halie running along beside her. James was pretending to dive-bomb Lily, who may have well been blind to him.
“Auntie Hermy!” Lily shrieked, running up to her Aunt before throwing her small arms around Hermione’s legs, hugging them tight. The toast in her hand was stone cold, “I don’t know what’s happening, Auntie Hermy, Mummy’s acting strange and she’s crying and there’s a stranger and I’m scared, Auntie Hermy…!”
Picking up Lily, she balanced the young girl on her hip, trying to calm her down, “It’s okay, Lily, everything’s going to be okay…”
Hugging her tight, Lily buried her head into Hermione’s shoulder; biting her lip, Hermione hesitantly entered the house, telling James and Halie to wait in the living room. James was about to fly before Hermione snatched the broom off of him, banishing it to the very top of one of the cabinets. Scowling, James skulked into the living room after Lily.
Hermione had started for the kitchen, where she could hear clinks of glasses and a murmur or two, when suddenly there was a sharp pull on the back of her robes; Halie was standing behind her, white and looking quite scared.
“Mummy, there’s a scary man in there,” she whispered in a small voice, casting a worried glance over her shoulder.
Swiftly, curiously, fearfully, Hermione changed direction, holding Lily tight in her arms and peering into the living room.
She made to scream, but found no voice; instead her mouth fell open in a dead shout, her eyes wide at the sight. There was a man – a grotesque, misshapen, animalistic looking man lying, unconscious, on a large bed where the sofa usually was. James was standing at the foot of the bed, staring into the man’s face.
“James – James, quickly, go into the kitchen - ” Hermione stammered, gesturing for her son to come, “Don’t – James, quickly - ”
“He has a scar,” James said, fascinated. He was leaning over the end of the bed before he walked over to beside the man’s torso, peering at his forehead, “It’s like a lightening bolt…”
Hermione froze, heartbeat in her ears.
“Did – did Uncle Harry not have that scar?”
Lily suddenly scrambled down from Hermione’s arms; Hermione didn’t notice. She reached for something to support her as the world started spinning and spinning. How could – this was – Harry? For once in her life she couldn’t think straight, nothing made sense, everything was illogical. This was a dream, a nightmare, a wonderful, horrible nightmare…
A pair of arms caught her as she fell backwards, and she briefly saw Ron’s shocked face before she was drowning in blackness.
“Ginny please, tell me the baby’s alright, she’s already thrown up twice this morning and – just tell me he’s alright, he has to be alright, he can’t be not alright, Hermione’s fine, he has to be okay, right?”
“He seems fine. You’ll need to check in the hospital – I’m not specialized in children, so I can’t say anything for sure... but he seems fine.”
Her voice was much quieter than usual.
“Thank Merlin… thank you Ginny, thank you…”
There was no response. They sat in silence for several minutes, staring in different directions. Ron refused to look at the man on the bed, staring instead down at Hermione. Her head was resting in his lap as she lay on the sofa, eyes closed, her hand held limply in his. Halie and James and Lily were all in Lily’s room, playing Exploding Snap half heartedly, as a distraction to the grown up situation down the stairs, glancing at the door every so often. Ginny was sitting opposite the bed, hugging her knees, unable to tear her eyes away from his face. If she looked past the scraggly, unhealthy hair and beard, past the cuts and bruises and split lip, if she righted his nose and fixed his glasses and filled out his cheeks… he had the scar. Harry’s scar.
Neither of them wanted to talk. Neither of them could talk.
Suddenly, the bed creaked.
Ginny jumped like she had been cursed, stumbling to her feet and kneeling beside the bed; Ron was slower, gently resting Hermione’s head on the armrest before rushing to Ginny’s side.
The bed creaked again, the man’s right arm moved, the fingers cracking slightly as they slowly flexed. They watched in complete silence as his eyes blinked once and twice, then again. The emerald green flashed, darting across the room; his eyebrows furrowed, his muscles tensed; he looked for something, for someone. The surroundings confused him. This wasn’t – why was his left arm in a sling, why was his right arm perfect? His right leg was fine, his left pinned to the bed; he panicked, unable to move his leg – where was he? Why – why were his glasses fixed? Why didn’t he feel pain? Where -
He panicked at the stranger’s faces, immediately twisting away from them. They were strangers, they were foreign – and yet –
“R-Ron? Gin?” he croaked, reaching for her face. Her skin was soft under his rough, broken fingers. Tears filled her bright brown eyes. He could feel her. He could feel her.
He went to grab her shoulder, grab her hand; she grasped his hand in hers. She was real. He could feel her.
His eyes burned, his body shook. He was home. He was safe. He was free.
She was real. Her skin was as softer than he remembered, her hair longer, redder, wavier. Her beautiful, bright, bothered brown eyes were real. Her hand, so gentle yet fierce, clutched his and he held onto her. It was real. She was real.
Tears burned his eyes, threatening to overcome him.
“Gin…” he muttered, voice hoarse and agony to talk, his other hand grabbing for her. Their hands were clasped together into a tight ball, tears rapidly filling both of their eyes.
She was real. He was real. This was real, together. He was there. She was there. They were there, together. He was free. She was free. They were free, together. Free.
The tears started falling thick and fast; his body shook as he lost control. He was free. She was real. He couldn’t understand it, he couldn’t believe it. There had been times where he had hallucinated, only to grab for her hand and for her to disappear under his broken fingers. There had been times where he wondered if she was a dream, a figment of his imagination that he made up for escape. There had been times where he doubted her existence.
She was real.
He started sobbing, clutching her hands as though for life, as though she would just disappear into the air like she had done so many times before… tears began to fall from her eyes… he tried to brush them away, make them stop, but he couldn’t lift his arms… she climbed onto the bed beside him, grabbing his shoulders, his face, his chest, his hair, carefully, softly, becoming more frantic and definite, making sure he was real. He had no desire to prove that she was really real, he had no desire to hold her hand. All he wanted, all he desired was her in his arms, his arms around her, her weight on his, his face in her hair. His thin arms shook as they hugged her, wrapping around her torso; she was so warm, so soft and perfect. He buried his hair in her shoulder, smelling her, breathing her…
He was rough in her arms, his skin cold and harsh, but she didn’t notice nor care. Her hands clutched around his shoulders as his grasped around her back and they held each other, crying, feeling real at last. They didn’t notice Ron pick Hermione up in his arms, or the soft click as the door locked behind them. They were only aware of each other, living, breathing, feeling.
They were physical opposites. Her hair was soft, was clean and thick and beautiful as his was coarse, braided with blood and dirt, long and rough. Her body was healthy, supple and pale, splattered with freckles, soft and smooth and delicate as his was unhealthy, crude and rough, splattered with blood and dirt and bruises and bumps and cuts, emaciated and painful. But both of their hearts were beating, both of their hearts felt complete for the first time. They felt love, they felt compassion, they felt hope. Blinding, shaking, tearful, terrifyingly wholesome hope.
They don’t know how long they cried for. They don’t know how long they held the other in their arms. Not long enough.
But they couldn’t cry forever. Their tears ran out, until they were just shaking. And their bodies couldn’t shake forever. Their shakes ran out, until they were just holding each other.
She was sitting in his bony lap, his back against the wall, their heads on each others shoulders. She made to move away from him, to not crush him with her weight - feeling her move away he panicked, holding her closer, tighter -
- “N-no! Don’t - ”
“I don’t want to hurt you…”
“You a-aren’t…” he moved her legs slowly so that they were on either side of him and she was more comfortable before clutching her hands in hers. She leaned forwards, pressing her forehead to his, closing her eyes.
“Please tell me that you aren’t a dream,” she whispered, her breath hot on his face. She had had dreams before. Nightmares. Emotional, traumatic nightmares and dreams and – but never had they been this emotional, this scarring, this hopeful, this real.
“I was going to ask y-you the same question…” he muttered, leaning lightly against her.
She opened her eyes, his repaired glasses digging into her face. She didn’t move. Then, slowly, softly, she brushed her lips against his.
She could taste his tears, taste his dry blood. His lips were cracked - bruising and sore against her own. But it was wonderful. He kissed her harder, letting go of her hands and wrapping his arms around her waist, pulling her closer, he needed her warmth, he needed her; she could taste more tears drip down his face, his glasses askew.
The kiss was full of passion, of longing and of pain and of dreams. They both had dreamed, both wished, about this moment, but now that they were living it, it was impossible to imagine. Even the most colourful, the most vibrant and emotional and honest dream couldn’t give the kiss justice. They felt dependant upon the other, felt the other, held the other. In the dreams, the tears weren’t there. There was no blood, no bruises, no awkward glasses or split lips and bony, broken fingers. In the dreams, they were both whole, both complete, both perfect. But reality was so much better than dreams. The tears made the moment, the blood and bruises and awkward glasses making the kiss more real, more painful. The rough fingers made it softer. They were both broken, both bruised. No single human could dream up or imagine or capture the kiss, the emotions, the moment.
The world spun as he kissed her. The dancing emotions were too much. He felt light headed, faint; but he couldn’t allow it to stop. He couldn’t stop kissing her. It was too painful, too perfect…
Slowly, achingly, Ginny pulled away, one of her hands slipping from his shoulders to his pale face. She couldn’t define it. She couldn’t define what she was feeling. She couldn’t define the feeling of being in his arms.
His head rested on her shoulder, his harsh lips softly kissing her neck. The world was still spinning.
“H-Harry?” she whispered. When he didn’t respond, she pushed him upright, leaning him against the wall behind him, panic flooding through her. His face was deathly pale, body still shaking, “Pl-please, Harry - ”
“A minute,” he whispered hoarsely, one of his hands weakly brushing the hair away from her face, “I just… just f-feel a bit…”
“I’ll get a – an Energy Potion, it’ll – it - ”
“No!” he shouted as she moved away from him; the shout hurt his throat, making him more coarse. He grabbed her again, pleading her, “D-Don’t – ! Please d-don’t leave…”
Her heart ached. Her brain argued.
His shoulders fell a little, his shaking hands still around her waist as he moved forwards, leaning his head against her shoulder. “Pl-please, stay with m-me…”
“Ron… Ron!” Ginny shouted, her own voice hoarse like his, her arms wrapped tightly around his small back, hands clutching his dirty robes, “R-Ron!”
The door opened with a bang; Ron, a glass of bubbling Firewhiskey in his hands, looking very tense, appeared in the doorway. A look of awkwardness shot across his face.
“Er - ”
“Ron, get the E-Energy Potion from the Potions cabinet, and some water,” Ginny said quickly, lessening her grip on Harry as he struggled upright, “Harry - ”
“Ron,” Harry croaked, a faint smile on his bruised lips as his gaze focused on his best friend. One of his hands left Ginny, slowly, and reached out; Ron, smiling lopsidedly, his eyes bloodshot, a faint, laughing sigh escaping his lips, stepped forwards, grasping Harry’s hand in his.
“Merlin it’s good to see you,” Ron breathed, smile growing a little bigger. If he could he would’ve given Harry a long, overdue hug - but he didn’t want to hurt him.
“Good to see you t-too…” Harry smiled weakly.
“Um – Energy Potion, then?” Ron repeated awkwardly, glancing at Ginny. He didn’t really know how to react or just act. He was overjoyed, ecstatic that Harry was back – but he hadn’t really realized that this person in front of him was Harry, and that he was real. He was still in a state of ignorance.
“And water, please…”
Wordlessly, with a smile, Ron left the room, leaving the door open. They could hear voices and glasses from the kitchen.
Harry turned back to Ginny, gently placing his hand on her neck. He opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. Ginny urged him on, shifting her weight and dropping her hands to his waist, clutching his robes in her hands. He smiled faintly, pain flickering across his eyes as he did so, reaching forwards and brushing his hand through her hair.
“You’re so beautiful…”
Ginny flushed, her cheeks growing pink. Harry swayed under her hands, his eyelids growing heavy, his limbs numb.
“I’m so… I’m s-so…”
“It’s okay, Harry,” she whispered, “You can rest, you don’t have do to anything - ”
“No, I - ” he paused, finding his words. Closing his eyes briefly, he blinked them open before kissing her again, “I’m so sorry…” he murmured, tears lacing his heavy words, voice breaking.
“No - ”
“I… I’m s-sorry… no, please l-let me talk… I have no idea wh…what you’ve been through… I don’t – but, b-but I know you l-looked… they told me, told me ev-everything that they s-saw, that they r-read… about every…everything. And I c-can’t believe that y-you went through i-it and you’re this… th-this strong, this beautiful… and… and I’m so sorry – s-so, so sorry th-that they took me, th-that they… I’m sorry.” he whispered, tears falling silently down his scarred face. Ginny threw her arms around his beaten shoulders, kissing him before burrowing her head on his shoulders.
She could think of no words, no sentences, no sayings. All she could do was hold him, and let him hold her, and finally allow the tears to creep down her face.
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