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Harry felt a bit bad for snapping at Ginny, but he wasn’t feeling like himself, and he didn’t like that she’d tried to slip him a sleeping potion. She was only trying to help. His subconscious argued with him.

Harry looked up as Madame Pomfrey slipped into the room, and set her kit on the desk.

“Let’s have a look then, Mr. Potter.” She said, pulling out her wand.

“It’s just the old cut split open.” Harry mumbled, setting his arm on the desk where she could see it.

If Poppy Pomfrey hadn’t been a healer for years, she would have gasped at the sight of the young mans arm. The cuts were deep, and had Miss Weasley not found him when she had, he probably would have passed out and succumbed to blood loss.

“Miss Weasley seems to have done a good job, the wounds are clean, she just didn’t have the proper potion to knit up a cut this deep. Wand work can only go so far.” She said, drawing a potion out of her kit.

“What is it?” Harry asked.

“Just a regrowth potion.” Madame Pomfrey said, “A bit like Skelegrow, but for muscle tissue. You don’t have to drink this one, though it may sting a bit.”

Harry hissed, but didn’t move as she poured the potion into his arm. After a few moments, he saw his skin smooth over until the only remaining traces of the cuts were thin white scars.

Madame Pomfrey then wrapped his arm tightly in a cloth bandage, and pinned it into place. “You need to keep it wrapped for about a week, it’s healed mostly on the surface. If you knock it about it could open back up.”

Harry mumbled his agreement, and gave her a dirty look when she passed him a sling for his arm.

“Three days, then you can be rid of it.” She said, “It’s just meant to slow you down and stop you trying to use that hand.”

Harry nodded and slipped his arm into the sling. He had to admit, it did feel better that way.

“Now.” Madame Pomfrey said, “Let’s sort out what’s going on with you.”

Harry started to object, but Poppy silenced him with a raise of her hand. “I just want to know what you were thinking when you did this.”

“I wasn’t really thinking anything.” Harry sighed. “It just kind of happened.”

“And you tried to stop the bleeding once you realized what you’d done?” She asked.

“Yeah, I felt like an idiot.” Harry admitted, eyes on the floor. “I was so embarrassed when Ginny found me.”

“Very good Mr. Potter.” Madame Pomfrey said, as Harry’s surprised face popped up to meet her gaze.

“Beg pardon?” He asked, completely confused.

“Well that shows that you just had a moment of weakness, brought on by depression.” Poppy explained. “Obviously it’s not something you should repeat, we need to find you a better outlet for your emotions, but you weren’t trying to kill yourself.”

“No! I really wasn’t!” Harry cried, relieved that someone truly believed him. “It’s just, I didn’t realize how much the pain was distracting me from my own thoughts.”

“Well, what else helps distract you?” Poppy asked.

“Transfiguration.” Harry admitted. “I found some books that have different spells in them.”

“Yes, that’s a good outlet. And a useful one too, if you want it to be.” Madame Pomfrey smiled. “You need to talk to someone too. I’m sure your friends would listen.”

“They all have so much to deal with on their own, I don’t want to stress them more.” Harry mumbled.

“Well you know you can always come talk to me if you need to.” Poppy smiled. “Ordinarily I’d recommend a mind healer, but you Mr. Potter, are a special case. I don’t think there’s a mind healer on the planet who would truly know what to do with you, and the last thing you need is someone mucking about in your head who doesn't really know what they’re doing.”

Harry laughed slightly. “Thanks.”

“Now Mr. Potter, let’s talk about my real concern.” Poppy said, picking up her wand again. “How did you wake up from that potion?

Ginny ran through the fields, straying as far as she dared from the house. She came to a stop next to a gate, but rather than opening it, she climbed it and sat on the wide beam that held it up. She was so confused. She’d waited a long time for Harry to come home, but the man who returned wasn’t the boy she remembered.

You’ve changed too though. She thought, absentmindedly running her hand down the scar on her neck. You know you’re not the same person you were before. You’ve seen too much. She thought of Neville and their midnight raids at Hogwarts. Done too much.

Ginny wasn’t sure how long she sat there, but twilight was creeping up on the paddock she was watching when Hermione climbed up on the fence and joined her.

The two girls just sat there, watching the grass wave in the wind. A few kangaroos came out of the trees to graze in the field.

“Hermione, what happened to you out there?” Ginny asked. “I mean, Harry told us about the battle and the horcruxes, but what about everything else?”

Hermione sighed. “No more than happened to anyone else. Running, hiding, fighting.” She twitched and nearly fell off the fence, righting herself with her right hand, but continuing to shake.

“Right. You just did a big flinch because of fighting.” Ginny said, “No, I went through the battle same as you. I’ve been watching you Hermione, you were tortured weren’t you? Someone used crucio on you.”

At the word crucio Hermione did fall off the fence. She stumbled and fell into a patch of grass spooking the kangaroos. She watched as they hopped away and then whispered, “How’d you know?”

“The cruciatis curse was a favorite of the Carrows’ before they found more... visible methods of torture.” Ginny explained, hopping off the fence and showing Hermione the scars on her arms. “No one wanted to complain, but eventually you could just tell who’d gotten the worst of it. A person can only take so much before they begin to shut down.” 

Hermione shivered, pushing the memories of Malfoy Manor out of her mind. “It sounds as though you had it a lot worse than we did.” She said.

“Well I suppose it depends on how you look at it.” Ginny said. “Yes, there was a lot of torture going on at Hogwarts, but that was spread across hundreds of students. And we had safety in numbers. I only got hit with the crucio twice, and it was only for short bits of time.”

Hermione was visibly shaking at this point, her limbs seemed beyond her control. “I only ever got it that one time.” She pointed out.

“Sure, but for how long? And who was doing it?” Ginny asked, “That makes a big difference. I think the Carrows’ were really a bit inept at magic. I think that’s why they switched to muggle types of torture.”

Hermione whispered something and looked at the ground.

“Pardon?” Ginny asked gently.

“It was Bellatrix.” Hermione said again.

Ginny looked horrified, taking Hermione’s head in her hands and forcing her to look her in the eye. “How long?”

“I’m not sure.” Hermione whispered.

Ginny cursed and picked up her wand. “Raise your arms.” She said.

Hermione was surprised by the request, but held her shaking arms out for Ginny, who muttered an incantation and moved her wand over them. The wand glowed green and Ginny cursed again.

“Put your legs out.” She said, pushing Hermione’s knees down, and waving her wand about again, again the wand glowed green.

“Bloody hell” Ginny said, on the verge of panic as she scrambled around behind Hermione and tested her back, the wand glowed a blue-green this time and Ginny muttered “Thank Merlin”.

Hermione was confused as Ginny started barking orders at her.

“Lie down flat.” Ginny demanded, conjuring a stretcher and hovering Hermione onto it. “Keep still.”

Ginny hovered the stretcher up so she could stand and then began testing Hermione’s whole body with the same charm. When she finished she started hovering Hermione towards the house.

Hermione started to argue and try to sit up, but Ginny petrified her from the neck down so she couldn’t move. “Can you still feel pain from the curse?”

“No.” Hermione said, not telling the whole truth.

“Fine, and when did you lose the feeling in your limbs?” Ginny asked, quickening her pace.

Hermione’s face went white, “I didn’t lose all feeling, just a bit.”

“When?” Ginny demanded.

“Before we left Hogwarts.” Hermione admitted. “But the Cruciatis works in the mind. It couldn’t be doing real damage?”

“Oh it’s doing real damage all right.” Ginny said, now practically at a run. “The brain is the most important part of the body, and it will defend itself if needed. Right now your brain is cutting off connection to your nerves in an attempt to protect itself.”

Hermione’s eyes bugged out and tears began to flow.

The reached the house and Ginny started screaming for help, George was the first to hear her and came running out the kitchen door with a bang. “What is it?! What’s wrong?” He cried, helping move the stretcher into the kitchen.

“Is Poppy still here?” Ginny asked, in a eerily calm voice.

“No, she left after she patched up Harry.” George said.

“Fetch my kit, and mum, then go and fetch Madame Pomfrey and Neville if you can find him.” Ginny said, in the same calm voice.

Hermione was crying harder now, turning her head about trying to see what was going on. “Where’s Ron?” She sobbed.

“Hermione, I need you to be calm. I will get Ron as soon as I can, but right now I have to fix you up.” Ginny said.

George banged back into the room, tossing Ginny’s healer kit on the table next to Hermione, and sprinting out the door again.

Ginny rummaged through the bag until she found a potion and turned to Hermione. “I need to put you to sleep, it’s the only way your mind will be pliable enough for us to reverse this. Okay?”

At Hermione’s nod, Ginny tipped her head up, and helped her swallow the potion with a charm. After she was sure Hermione was asleep, Ginny removed the body bind and Hermione’s arms relaxed onto the stretcher. She began muttering charms and testing various points on Hermione’s appendages.

After a few minutes Molly Weasley came hurrying into the house the way George had gone. “Merlin, what’s happened?” She cried, fumbling her wand out of her apron pocket.

“Cruciatis Poisoning.” Ginny said, and continued her incantations. “Do you know the charms?”

Molly shook her head, “No, I never learned those. Stupid of me after what happened to the Longbottom’s. How bad is she?”

“Bad.” Ginny said, muttering another charm. “She’s going to start having paralyzation soon, she’s already lost the feeling in her limbs.”

Molly surveyed the scene in front of her and realized, not for the first time in the past year that her daughter had become a very different person. Ginny was doing the difficult healers incantations with a practiced hand, which made her wonder just how much she didn’t know about her daughter’s time at Hogwarts the past year.

“How can I help?”

“Keep everyone away from me so I can work. George is getting Poppy.” Ginny replied.

As if on cue, Harry and Ron came pounding into the kitchen.

“Hermione!” Ron shrieked, running to Hermione’s side.

Molly put both hands on her son and bodily pushed him back from the table. “Ron, you need to let Ginny help her. Back up. Help me Harry!”

Harry stared at Hermione for a moment, his face pale, and then moved to help Mrs. Weasley. After they’d gotten Ron to sit down out of the way, Harry asked, “What happened?”

“Cruciatis Poisoning.” Molly said, her face grim.

“Oh God.” Ron whispered, while Harry asked “What’s that?”.

“It’s what happened to my parents.” Came Neville’s voice, as he emerged from the floo. Madame Pomfrey was hard on his heels, followed by George.

Neville and Poppy joined Ginny, taking up positions on either side of Hermione. The three of them began to work in perfect unison, occasionally saying something like “push it back” or “let it go”.

Ron, Harry, George, and Molly all watched silently. It was nearly an hour before Poppy shrieked, “Clear!” pulling her wand back from Hermione with a crackle.

The spectators, now joined by everyone else in the house, jumped at the exclamation.

“Ok, go Neville.” Ginny said. Neville rested the tip of his wand on the top of Hermione’s head and muttered a charm that made Hermione begin to flail about slightly on the table.

Ginny hovered her wand over Hermione’s twitching arms and legs. “Left leg Neville.” she asked.

Neville changed his spell and Hermione’s body relaxed, save her left leg which twitched slightly every few moments.

“Damn.” Ginny said.

“It’s below the hip.” Neville said. “She could retain use.”

“I’ve seen worse.” Poppy said. “When was she cursed?”

Ginny looked over at Harry and Ron. Ron had tears running down his cheeks. Harry, not quite understanding what was happening said, “a few days before the battle.”

“Well, she’s in bad sorts. We’ve managed to reverse the affects of the curse before they destroyed her nerves, and she’s lucky she wasn’t tortured long enough to be driven into insanity, but the damage was too far gone in her left leg. She could recover naturally, or she could lose the use of it. Only time will tell.” Madame Pomfrey explained, as she packed up her kit.

Ginny sat down hard in a kitchen chair looking pale, Neville came over to check on her asking, “You ok? You did a lot by yourself before we arrived.”

“I’m fine, I’m just tired.” She explained. “I think I’ll just pop upstairs and lie down.”

“I’ll sort Hermione out.” Neville assured, he gave Ginny a hug and she slipped upstairs.

Neville turned back to the rest of the family and said, “We should probably move her off the kitchen table before we wake her up.”

“Right, of course.” Harry said, moving to help with the stretcher.

Before anyone could do anything, Ron cut them off. “I’ll take her upstairs. I should be the one to explain to her anyway. It’s my fault.”

“Ron, it’s not your fault!” Harry cried, “It’s Bellatrix’s fault!”

“No,” Ron said quietly, “I should have been able to stop it.” With that, he lifted Hermione off the table, and carried her up the stairs in his arms.

“Merlin.” Muttered Bill.

“Too bloody right.” George agreed.

“Will someone please explain this to me?” Harry cried, “Because some of us were raised Muggle, and don’t have any bloody idea what Cruciatis Poisoning is!”

Arthur Weasley started to explain, “Well Harry, you’ve been hit with the Cruciatis right?”

Harry nodded.

“Ok, and when the curse stopped, what did you feel?” Arthur continued.

“Relief, I guess.” Harry shrugged, “Tingling when it was Voldemort.”

“Yes, well, that would be an example of a very strong cruciatis. Your mind lingers with the effects, even after the curse has stopped.” Arthur said. “In Hermione’s case, the curse went on so long, it never fully left her mind. Her body started to shut itself down, cutting off her nerve endings to try and stop the pain.”

“But I thought the cruciatis only affected your mind?” Harry said, confused.

“Yes, but eventually the line between real and imaginary begins to blur.” Neville cut in. “If you’re in constant pain, eventually your subconscious mind gives up separating fake pain from real and just tries to stop it all. The effects on Hermione are a few grades short of being driven insane.”

Harry didn’t say anything for a long while, thinking of Neville’s parents and Malfoy Manor and Hermione. Finally he said coldly, “Bellatrix is bloody luck she’s already dead.”

Everyone stared at Harry as the lights in the room dimmed and brightened with his accidental magic.

“You should probably make an appointment to see Carl’s Grandmum.” Came Ron’s voice from the stairs.

“Yeah.” Harry muttered. “Is she awake?”

“Yeah, she wants to see you.” Ron said.

Harry lept to his feet and headed for the stairs.

Ron started back up with him. “She can’t move her leg.” He whispered.

“Shit.” Harry spat. “How’s she taking it?”

“She cried a bit.” Ron said, looking at the stairs as he climbed. “Asked for some books, cos’ she doesn’t understand.”

“Blimey.” Harry muttered.

The reached Hermione and Ginny’s room, Ginny was no where to be seen, but Hermione was sitting on her bed, book propped open on her good knee.

“Oh, Hermione!” Harry said, rushing to give her a hug. “I’m so sorry!”

“Oh, don’t you start that too.” She said, “There isn’t anything either of you could have done. It’s my own fault for not saying something when the pain carried on.”

Harry gave her a sad smile. “Guess we’re just a bunch of martyrs.”

“It’s always going to be like this, isn’t it?” Ron asked, sitting on the bed and taking Hermione’s hand. “We’re never going to just get to be normal. There will always be something.”

The three friends looked at each other and suddenly, inexplicably burst out laughing.

They carried on like that for a few minutes, until with tears streaming down her cheeks, Hermione said, “They’re going to have the lot of us committed.”

“I’m not certain they’d be too far off the mark.” Harry laughed.

“Well, I guess laughing is better than crying.” Ron said, wiping his eyes.

“You two really should have just got into another compartment first year.” Harry said.

“No mate, they were all full, it was fate.” Ron reminded him.

“Besides, if you’ll remember, I wasn’t in your car that day.” Hermione laughed. “And here I am anyway, bloody crippled.”

“Neville said you might get the use of your leg back.” Harry pointed out.

“Yes, but I don’t want to get my hopes up.” Hermione said. “I’m quite certain I’ll be able to walk with crutches though, so that’s something to work with.”

“You think?” Harry asked, hating to think that Hermione might be confined to a wheelchair because she was helping him on the hunt.

“Yes, particularly with a brace on my leg to stabilize it.” Hermione said. “I can still move my quadricep a bit, not lots, but enough I think.”

“Well, we’ll help you!” Ron said, sliding closer to Hermione on the bed.

Harry smiled to himself, thinking he’d leave the two of them alone now that Ron clearly had his courage up. “I’d better go find Bill, he wanted to see me about the wards.”

Harry headed back downstairs feeling overwhelmed. The rest of the family were sitting at the big scrubbed table quietly chatting to Neville, who was the first to notice Harry and asked, “How’s she taking it?”

“Better than the rest of us I think.” Harry shrugged. “You know Hermione, she already had a book open and everything planned out. She reckons she’ll be able to walk with crutches.”

“You’ll have to get them from a muggle medical supply. There isn’t a good Wizarding supplier.” Neville said.

Everyone looked at Neville with curiosity, and Molly asked, “Neville, what happened at Hogwarts last year?”

“What didn’t?” Neville replied grimly, getting up from the table. “It was a war, Mrs. Weasley. It effected us all.”

He walked over to the fireplace, picked up a scoop of floo powder and said to Harry, “I’ll be at Gran’s if you need me. Tell Ginny.” And he slipped into the fire.

The next morning dawned sunny, but with a bit of frost on the window. Harry rolled over, careful not to disturb his bandaged arm to look at the clock. 6:00 am. He considered rolling over and trying to sleep some more, but reconsidered and climbed out of bed. Pulling on some of the clothes he found in the wardrobe, Harry slipped out the door and down the stairs.

When he reached the kitchen, it appeared that he was the only one up.

No surprise. Harry thought. Yesterday was hell.

He moved over to the hearth and lit the fire to begin warming the chilly room. Then he made tea and toast, and sat at the end of the big table listening to the silence.

After a bit the toast was gone and Harry poured another cup of tea before moving out onto the porch. It was cold, but Harry didn’t mind. He slipped his feet into his Wellington boots and made his way to the chairs that were on the porch.

Harry wasn’t sure how long he sat there, but he was startled out of his thoughts by a pair of loud birds with blue wings.
As he watched them flit around the clearing near the house, Harry decided that he really didn’t want to return to England. He would speak to Carl about getting the farm going again.

Harry was thinking of things that he needed to do that day, when he heard the door creak open, and Ginny appeared.

“Sorry,” she said, looking flustered, “I thought it was George out here.”

As she turned to go back into the house, Harry called out, “Ginny wait!”

She paused, and looked at him curiously. “Yes?”

“Ginny, I’m really sorry for what I said yesterday.” Harry said quietly. “I was mad at myself, and I took it out on you.”

Ginny moved closer, and leaned against the porch railing opposite Harry.

“I know you were upset Harry, but think about it from my perspective.” Ginny said. “I found you bleeding on the floor. Harry, there was blood everywhere, and we’ve all got Post Traumatic Stress. I wasn’t in proper shape to help you.”

“I understand Ginny, I really do.” Harry said, looking at the weathered wooden planks of the floor.

They sat in silence for a while, before Harry spoke up, “Ginny, I’m not the same person I was. At Hogwarts I mean.” When we were together.

Ginny looked at Harry, as though considering him, “None of us are Harry, but where does that leave us?”

“I don’t know Ginny.” Harry sighed, he got up and walked a short way down the porch, looking out over the yard. “You know, the whole time we were running around the country, sleeping in that godforsaken tent, the only think that kept me from packing it in was the thought of seeing you again.”

Ginny held her breath, not sure what she was hoping for, “And now?”

“To be perfectly honest,” Harry said, “I hoped we could just pick up where we left off.”

Harry laughed bitterly at himself, “I guess I’m just a fool.”

“I don’t think you’re a fool Harry.” Ginny said. “I do think you need help.”

“Yeah, I know.” Harry said, “Carl knows someone who can help.”

“So what about you and me?” Ginny gently prodded.

“You don’t want to be with a nutter like me.” Harry sighed. “I don’t even understand myself.”

“We’re all nutters.” Ginny said. “Let’s just see what happens. Maybe we can get to know each other again.”

Harry smiled for the first time in the conversation, “Alright.”

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