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When they arrived at St. Mungo’s Mrs. Weasley was indeed waiting for them along with Fleur, Angelina Johnson, and a handful of Aurors for security. The hosptial staff flurried around them when they got inside. They rushed them into a private room where Healers examined them all. Ginny reluctantly let go of Harry after a brief struggle with the Healers and Harry’s reassurances that it was okay and they took her behind a set of curtains.

Harry barely acknowledged the Healer assigned to him or the fact that she was leading him to his own exam bed behind another set of curtains; he was listening intently to hear Ginny, her Healer and Mrs. Weasley who had gone behind the privacy curtain with her. His Healer made him strip off his singed and bloodstained clothes, sit down on the exam table, he covered his lap with a sterile cotton sheet and went back to listening. He couldn’t hear if Ginny was talking or not but he could hear Mrs. Weasley saying comforting things and the Healer ’hmm‘-ing and ‘uh huh‘-ing occasionally. Harry’s intense listening concentration was broken when his own Healer got to the wound on his leg. The stinging pain was excruciating when the Healer began to clean the wound but she healed it pretty quickly. Harry noticed that the nurse assisting his Healer was blushing profusely and was shyly avoiding eye contact with him when he looked at her but was gawking at him when he was not. Harry ignored her and tried to concentrate on listening again.

“Harry?” Mr. Weasley asked before coming behind the curtain.

“Yes? Oh, I take it you got everyone into custody okay, then?” Harry asked kindly but winced at a prod form the Healer’s wand at a cut on his head he wasn’t entirely aware was there before.

“Yeah, we got them all escorted to the Ministry all right. Kingsley let me leave early on account of…well family matters. I’ll file my report later.”

“Er, right, I’ll write mine up as soon as things calm down here. How is Ginny?” Harry didn’t really care about work right now, the thought of having to write a report had slipped his mind until the mention of it. Right now, though, he just wanted to know if Ginny was okay.

“Molly said she’s in shock, the Healer is still with her.”

“Ron? Hermione?” Harry enquired.

“Hermione’s fine, she’s with Luna. Ron is-”

“Right here," Ron said cutting off his father’s statement and joining them behind the curtain. He looked tired and worried but all his wounds had been tended to. Ron was rotating his arm to flex and stretch his shoulder muscles on the arm that had been injured. “Hermione wanted me to see how you were doing as she can’t check for herself.”

“M’all right,” Harry shrugged. “How much longer?” he asked the Healer a little impatiently.

“You’ve a lot of flesh wounds, a lot of them from debris, Mr. Potter, it takes time to heal them all. If I don’t they could become infected. Just a few more and then you can go.”

“I’ll go let Hermione know you’re still in one piece,” Ron said with a smirk as he backed out of the curtained area.

Harry had hoped that he would find out more on Ginny’s condition when he joined the others in the waiting room but that did not happen. They knew no more than he did. The solemn group sat in silence waiting for word from Mr. or Mrs. Weasley but they were still in the exam room with Ginny. Fleur was eyeing Luna curiously, Angelina was sitting on the edge of her seat after having asked several times if George was all right and had been answered repeatedly that he was fine and was at the Ministry, Neville had shown up when Luna did and he was now inspecting the Healer portraits on the wall. Harry had taken to pacing the room rather than watch Ron and Hermione snuggling as close as they could get upon the chairs provided. Harry wished he could offer a similar comfort to Ginny.

When Arthur finally came out to them he suggested they all go to the Burrow and get some rest. It was a suggestion that was shot down by all and they stayed and continued to wait, Mr. Weasley joining them. Mr. Weasley collapsed wearily into a chair and rubbed his face tiredly with his hands.

After what seemed like ages Mrs. Weasley finally came out with Ginny by her side. Ginny didn’t say anything and she stared at the floor. Mrs. Weasley gave an encouraging smile. Ginny seemed to be in some sort of trance; Harry wondered if perhaps she had been given some kind of sedative to sooth her nerves.

They took the Floo back to the Burrow. George, Bill and Percy came home shortly after they did. Mrs. Weasley fixed sandwiches for a late lunch. Harry still couldn’t find his appetite, not when he could see the turmoil Ginny was still going through written plainly on her face. She wasn’t eating either, methodically she picked the crust off of her sandwich. Ron had already finished his first sandwich and was starting on his second. Hermione looked like she was about to fall asleep and use her sandwich as an accidental face cushion. The tea Mrs. Weasley provided was soothing and Harry accepted it.

When Mrs. Weasley noticed Ginny was not eating she walked her up to her room and twenty minutes later, when she returned downstairs she looked very careworn and sighed tiredly as she sat down at the table. Fleur poured her a cup of tea.

“Thank you, dear.”

“How is she?” asked Ron the question on everyone’s minds.

“She’s finally asleep. The Healers say she will be all right physically. We have to watch for any muscle spasming as a result of Cruciatus,” Molly shuddered, her children’s pain was her own. “Really the hard part of this is going to be the emotional aspects of everything that happened.”

“What…er, what exactly did they do to her?” Bill tried to ask as delicately as he could one of the major issues worrying Harry and probably everyone else at the table.

“No…no, thank Merlin they didn’t assault her sexually. You know Ginny, she’d never let them….she’d never stop fighting…” Molly trailed off and started sniffling.

“You’re right, though, Mum,” Ron said in a hushed serious tone, “when we got there Lestrange was howling ‘cause Ginny’d bitten him.”

“That’s our Ginny, little hellcat,” George said trying, but not entirely succeeding, to sound light-hearted.

A silence fell across the room where no one spoke and the only noises to be heard were the clinking of teacups on saucers and people sipping.

“I should write out my report,” Mr. Weasley said to the room in general as he left to retrieve his favourite quill and ink.

“We should write up ours as well,” Hermione suggested as she picked her head up off of Ron’s shoulder and tried to supress a yawn.

And so they sat at the table, four quills scratching on parchment, writing up their official reports for the Ministry. Mr. Weasley finished first as he was used to the process of writing reports and having had less to report on. Ron finished his shorty after his father, writing never was one of his strong points, and he asked if Hermione would be willing to give it a read through when she was done with her own report. Harry tried to remember to stick to the facts instead of emotions in his own report, a task that wasn’t easy. Hermione was, of course, the last to finish as she no doubt added every last minute detail of the investigation of Potter cottage and the subsequent battle. She twirled a hank of her bushy brown hair as she read over Ron and Harry’s reports. She handed them back, spelling and grammar errors fixed, and they signed off on them. Mr. Weasley offered to take them to Kingsley in the morning.

“No, that’s all right,” Harry murmured as he sat down on the worn carpet of the sitting room, “I’ll take mine in with me when I go in to work tomorrow.”

“Ah, well, Harry, about that,” Mr. Weasley said leaning forward in his favourite armchair, “Kingsley was quite adament that you take his suggestion of a few days off. He had a feeling you’d refuse the offer so he told me to tell you to consider the time off an order.” Mr. Weasley said all of this very kindly and Harry knew Kingsley was only trying to be nice but still it rankled him. Harry felt like part of the problem, part of the reason the Weasleys were in danger was his presence in their lives. Lestrange was still loose and free; sitting still and doing nothing about it didn’t sit well with Harry. He wanted to get out there and do something about it.

“Fine,” Harry said curtly then sighed in defeat, “whatever.”

Mr. Weasley nodded his head knowing Harry would obey then he left to retire to his room. Hermione had fallen asleep leaning on Ron as they sat on the couch. After a few minutes of silence Ron’s head tipped to rest on the back of the couch and he began to snore. Harry got up from the floor as quietly as he could.

It seemed that everyone in the house was sleeping except Harry. He took one last parting look at his friends sleeping peacefully in each other’s arms and turned to walk away. Harry crept through the house and out the door closing it behind him as quietly as possible. He walked through the yard slowly, remembering moments with Ginny in the field. She would be cross with him, he knew, and he would be hurting her but how could he have been so stupid to believe it was safe to love her? He couldn’t put her in further danger. She had been lucky to have survived this time but what about the next time? Harry didn’t want there to be a next time, not because someone was trying to get to him. Ginny deserved to live and love without fear. His heart breaking more and more with each step he took away from the Burrow, away from the house that held so many fond memories and was the home to the people he loved most.

He was just a few paces away from the barrier that he had to get past to Dissapparate when a loud slam sounded behind him. Instinct and recent memories of battle made him quick to draw his wand and spin to face the source of the noise. He immediately lowered his wand when he saw that it was Ginny coming out of the house; she must have let the door slam behind her as she hastened toward him. Her red hair flew out behind her like crimson flames as she ran toward him. She had a blazing look in her eyes but this time Harry was sure she was angry; for a split second he nearly raised his wand again to protect himself from her wrath.

“Where are you going, Harry?”

“You should be back inside resting,” Harry said gently. Apparently it was the wrong thing to say because it made Ginny even angrier.

“I’ve had enough of people telling me what to do today! You’re evading my question, where are you going?”

“I, er, I was going home.”

“Now? Why?” Ginny narrowed her eyes and Harry knew she could read him like an open book, even if she didn’t know Legilimency.

“It’s not safe, Ginny, I thought it was but-”

“When is it ever going to be? There’ll always be some danger, someone who thinks they can continue what Voldemort started. We can’t stop living our lives because Dark Wizards threaten us, Harry!”

“And I can’t just pretend that they’re not out there!”

“I’m not saying that, why would you have joined the Aurors if there weren’t more Dark Wizards. I’m just saying we can’t let them control our lives with fear.”

“But I’ll always be their main target, Ginny. They’ll always try to find my weakness and they’ll exploit you and your family to get to me.”

“What are you saying, Harry?” Ginny demanded, tears streaming down her face.

“I’m leaving, I’ve caused you and your family enough heartache already. I should have cut ties a long time ago, but I wasn’t strong enough to do it, if I had maybe Fred would still be alive. Your family would never have been put in that kind of danger if it wasn’t for me.”

“No, Harry, we’d all be dead if not for you! Mum and dad were in the Order long before you ever befriended this family, we would have been targets anyway because we all made the decision to stand up for what was right. What happened is not your fault!”

“If it wasn’t for me Lestrange would never have gone after you!”

“You’re wrong, Harry!” Ginny shouted back vehemently. “Lestrange came after me for what I did. He came after me because what mum and I did to Bellatrix; your connections to me were just and added bonus to him. He meant to punish me and cause mum pain. He meant her to feel the pain of losing me like he felt when he lost Bellatrix.”

“Why you? Why, specifically, you, Ginny? Why not George or Bill or Percy?”

“It had to be me, because of what I’d done!” Ginny said stricken with grief. She sank to the grass and Harry paused before kneeling beside her.

“What? What did you do, Ginny?” Harry gently asked, feeling now more than ever was the most fragile he’d ever seen her.

“I started it,” she said staring off to some unknown point in the distance.

“Started what? I don’t understand.”

“That night,” Ginny wiped at her eyes and nose with the back of her hand. Harry conjured a tissue for her. “That night Tonks and I were watching the battle from above and she saw Remus dueling Dolohov. She ran after him and joined the fight. When I caught up to her she was dueling Bellatrix. Bella had gone after her on purpose, she was cackling and spitting like a Banshee going on about cutting off the bad seeds to her Pure-Blood family. She told Tonks she’d find and kill Teddy. It was enough of a distraction and one minute Tonks was alive and the next…the next…”

“So it was Bellatrix that killed Tonks?”

“Yeah,” Ginny sniffed.

“That still doesn’t explain what you meant by ‘you’ starting it? Clearly Bellatrix did.”

“When they pulled back, the Death Eaters, we regrouped in the Great hall, I found out about Fred when I brought in Tonks, and I saw Remus too. I went back out to help others. There was a moment, you know, when I thought you were there. I looked up but I didn’t see you, but I just knew. Then they had Hagrid carry your body out from the forest and I thought you were dead, we all thought you were dead!” More tears spilled down her cheeks. Harry rubbed her back and she continued on.

“In the sudden rush of battle, after Neville pulled the sword from the Sorting Hat and beheaded the snake, Bellatrix and I crossed paths again. She kept taunting. She taunted me about Fred and Tonks and Lupin and you and she laughed, Harry, she laughed. I thought I had lost you, I thought you were dead and I didn’t care any more if I lived or died but I knew someone had to stand up to Bellatrix so I did. I started the duel with her. I didn’t even think about the consequences; I used the Cruciatus, Harry. What kind of a monster does that make me? Even if I didn’t hold it on her for long I used it! I dueled her one on one for I don’t know how long until Hermione and Luna joined me, but it was my fight, I started it. Then I had a close call and mum…and she…but it was my fault, it was my fight to win or lose, my fight to end and now mum has to live with the guilt of killing her and I never meant for it to happen that way. Don’t you see, Harry? Don’t you see that Lestrange coming after me was my fault?!”

“Ginny, no, Ginny, listen to me!” Harry held her arm for she was trying to get up. “Listen, Ginny, this was not your fault. The only one to blame here is Rodolphus Lestrange. You are not to blame for defending yourself and others. Bellatrix, she killed and tortured and she took sick twisted pleasure from it. If you hadn’t have dueled her she probably would have killed you and who knows how many others. What you did, going after her like that, it was very brave.”

“But I used the Cruciatus, Harry, how does that make me any better than her?”

“You feel remorse and regret for doing it, even on someone as loathsome as Bellatrix, who had not ever regretted it in her life. It’s the ability to feel these things that sets us apart from them. They didn’t feel remorse or regret. I’ve used Unforgivables too, you know? But it‘s not like I took joy in it like they did, I regretted using them. It doesn’t make us bad people, Ginny, only a little misguided because of what they did to us and the situations they put us in.”

“Still, Harry-”

“No, Ginny, none of what happened was your fault.”

“Lestrange told me it was, when he tortured me. He used the Cruciatus on me. I could hear him laughing just as loud as my screams. He told me when he was finished with me he’d dump my body somewhere someone was sure to find me so mum and you would know what happened.”

“Come here,” Harry pulled Ginny into his arms as she finally released what she couldn’t before when she had still been in shock. She clung to him as she cried.

“Promise you won’t leave me, Harry?”

“I…” Harry hesitated.

“Promise me you’ll stay. If it’s not my fault then it is certainly not yours. I need you, Harry. Please tell me you’ll stay.”

“I promise, Ginny, I promise,” Harry told her and he knew he would stay, his resolve to leave had already crumbled. He wouldn’t break his promise to her. He had to push his fears away. She needed him here, he could see that very clearly. He embraced her tightly and kissed her silken hair. “I love you, Ginny,” he whispered and she held him tighter. He held her until her tears had subsided and longer still until she fell asleep in his arms.

Very carefully he lifted her and carried her into the house. Ron was still sound asleep on the couch but Hermione was awake. She gave a weak smile at the sight of Harry.

“Is she okay?” Hermione whispered.

“She will be,” Harry responded just as quietly with an answer he hoped would soon be true. “Did Ron see any of that?”

“He slept through it, even the door slamming,” Hermione rolled her eyes playfully then smiled. She looked at Ron with a funny expression of adoration. She looked back to Harry and blushed. “You okay, Harry?”

“Yeah, m’all right, I guess. I’m going to bring her up to her room,” Harry told Hermione. Ginny’s athletic form was starting to feel heavy.

“Okay,” Hermione yawned then snuggled up to Ron again. Her eyes were closed before Harry could traverse the room to the staircase.

Harry tucked Ginny into her bed and she continued to sleep soundly. He made sure her bedroom door was open wide, no need to anger Ron or any of the other Weasleys by making them think something inappropriate had happened between himself and Ginny. He knelt on the rug beside her bed and watched her sleep for a while, holding her hand. Exhaustion took over his body and he rested his arms and head on the bed still holding her hand, needing some kind of physical contact for comfort on both their parts, and he dozed off to sleep.

Harry couldn’t be sure what time of day it was when Mrs. Weasley woke him gently. “Harry, dear, you’ll regret sleeping like this later.”

“Huh?” he answered groggily.

“Here,” she handed him a pillow then set him up a nice bedroll on the floor by Ginny’s bed. “Kip on this.” Mrs. Weasley looked over Ginny as Harry removed his shoes and crawled under the blankets of his makeshift bed. Sleep was reclaiming him when he felt her gentle hands remove his glasses carefully and lightly brush the fringe of bangs on his forehead.

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