Woot! Here comes Round 13, the final round of QLFC! Ahhh! My team is probably going to the finals too, I'm so stoked y'all. :D Anywho, the prompt this round was to do whatever we wanted (hoorayyyy) and I had these optional prompts:
1. No spells can be cast or mentioned in the story
3. 'Photograph' by Ed Sheeran.
:D Love you guys! I'm off to bury myself in Great Deeds, now. I'm...uh...a bit behind.
Loving can hurt sometimes
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive
We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
And time's forever frozen still
16 May 1998
The clock on her bedside table showed half past two in the morning, but Ginny wasn't tired. She couldn't even bring herself to close her eyes, which, for the last two weeks, had afforded her nothing but heart-pounding panic and jarring pictures in her mind's eye. Her gaze wandered across her darkened bedroom to the tiny window. Outside, she could see rainwater dripping from the eaves; the storm had passed over quickly, and she'd been awake for all of it. Everyone else would wake up tomorrow surprised that there had been any rainfall at all.
There was a faint rustling noise from the shelf below the window; Arnold the Pygmy Puff was a bit restless too, it seemed.
Suddenly, Ginny felt far too warm; she rolled onto her back and kicked off her blankets down to the end of her bed and lay still for a long moment. She rested one hand on her stomach, twisting the end of a strand of her long hair around her fingertip as she stared up at the dark ceiling.
Slowly, without her really noticing at first, the soft, steady ticking of the clock began to seep into the corners of her consciousness, and she began to count the ticks. One… two…three…five…ten….thirty…
Her mind began to divide the ticking that was now echoing in her brain into segments of a clock face, which she could almost see hovering above her bed; she turned these into minutes and hours and stacked them one on top of the other, and she found herself thinking about how many minutes had passed since Fleur had pulled her away from Tonks' still, unmoving body, half-buried in rubble. How many seconds had it been since she had held up her wand and helped her brothers move the freshly dug pile of earth to cover Fred's coffin?
Now Ginny couldn't stop counting. She realized abruptly that she was now twirling her hair rhythmically to the ticking of the clock, and she couldn't bear it for a second longer. She sat up and wiped away the tears that had slid from the corners of her eyes into her hair, deciding that she had to do something other than lie alone in the dark.
There came a doleful squeak from Arnold's cage, but Ginny ignored him, starting to pace back and forth. She wiped at her nose and used her Holyhead Harpies shirt to dry her eyes, sniffling miserably.
"Come on, come on," she murmured to herself, twisting her hands painfully together, trying to force her brain to focus on anything but the deafening ticking of her clock, which was now, she believed, beginning to drive her mad. Ginny froze on the spot, staring at the clock for a moment—and then in a single motion, she leapt at it and flung it to the floor.
The clock gave a satisfying sound of metallic gears and springs snapping apart, and then it was quiet. Ginny closed her eyes and dug the heels of her palms against them, pressing as hard as she could without making herself black out.
"Okay," she muttered, sniffling, after nearly a full minute—which felt like an hour. She opened her bedroom door, thinking that if nothing else, she could get a glass of water and try to calm down. She brushed the back of her wrist roughly underneath her eyes again and walked quietly out onto the landing, heading for the stairs.
She was halfway across the living room when she heard a rustle, and her own reflexes caught her off guard; she had dropped to the ground and covered her head before she finally realized that the noise was only Hermione, who was now talking to her.
"Ginny—Ginny, I'm sorry," she whispered. "I didn't mean to scare you!"
Shaking violently, Ginny allowed Hermione to help her get up. "Y-you're lucky I didn't have my wand," she gasped as Hermione brought her over to the sofa.
Hermione's recently cut hair (it had been badly burned) was tied up and away from her face, which was still as thin and pale as it had been two weeks ago, when Ginny had seen her for the first time in months. Her eyes were ringed with dark circles, and she was biting her lip anxiously. "I really didn't mean to frighten you," she said. "I'm sorry…"
"I'm fine," Ginny said, smiling at her and hoping that only she could hear the way her heart was pounding. "Really. No problem. I just didn't think anyone was awake." Hermione looked skeptical, but Ginny ignored her. "What are you doing up?"
Hermione didn't respond right away, but sat back against the sofa and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "I…I must not be used to having a room to myself, after all this time," she said after a few moments. She looked sideways at Ginny. "It was too quiet in Bill's room."
Ginny nodded, drawing her knees up to her chest. "It was too loud in mine," she mumbled into her kneecaps.
"I heard a noise…are you all right?" Hermione asked. She reached out and put her hand on top of Ginny's head.
Ginny nodded. "Mhmm." She cleared her throat. "I knocked over my clock."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Hermione nod. "All right."
"All right what?" Ginny snapped, suddenly irritable.
Hermione turned to face her, her expression even. "All right, I believe you," she said calmly.
Ginny sighed, allowing her head to fall back against the sofa, her anger fading into fatigue as quickly as it had bubbled up. She let out a slow breath as she stared at the sitting room ceiling.
She looked sideways; Hermione had closed her eyes. "You should go back to bed," she said.
"I'm not tired," Hermione replied. "I'm thinking."
"Yes you are," Ginny told her, half-teasing. "You haven't got a book down here with you."
"I don't feel like reading," said Hermione softly.
Ginny's heart sank. She tried to think of something clever—something that would make Hermione smile, and might even lighten her own mood—but nothing came to her except the expression on George's face when she had noticed him quietly leaving Fred's burial, and her stomach lurched unpleasantly.
"What are you thinking about, Hermione?" she asked shortly, adjusting the way she sat on the couch.
Hermione gave a long sigh. "I don't know, really."
It felt as though, in this moment, there were a million different things they could say to each other. Ginny racked her brain for the right words to tell Hermione how grateful she was to her for bringing both Harry and Ron back; how much she appreciated the way Hermione was now trying to shoulder some of the work around the Burrow in order to give Mum, who could barely get out of bed, some time and space to grieve.
She wanted to talk about Fred, and Tonks, and Remus, and all those people they both loved so much; she wanted to talk about her mother, and what was going to happen to their family now. She wanted to know all that had happened in the time between Bill's wedding and their arrival at Hogwarts. Ginny had so many questions, and so many things she needed to know, that it felt as though they were all trying to escape at once, rendering her completely speechless.
She had never before felt so imprisoned by her own mind. Ginny looked away, wishing she could give voice to the weight in her chest and the flashes of memory that wouldn't stop cropping up in the back of her mind.
"You know, I have this image in my head," Hermione said, her voice suddenly breaking through the cloud of Ginny's thoughts. "And—I just can't shake it—after today."
Ginny turned her head to look at her, but didn't say anything. Hermione's brown eyes were full of tears; she glanced at Ginny and then focused her gaze firmly on the mantel.
"It's like a photograph, or something," Hermione said. "Like someone snapped a picture, and put it in the back of my mind. Do you remember when…" she smiled sadly. "Do you remember when my prefect badge came? And Ron's?"
Ginny thought for a moment. "Of course I do. You went mental."
"Do you remember what your mum did that night?" Hermione asked. "There was a party, and—everyone was there." Her chin trembled; Ginny couldn't look her in the eye, but watched her pick absently at a bitten-down hangnail, which was bleeding a bit.
"You, and your brothers—and Harry, and your parents, and Sirius—and—Tonks," said Hermione, her voice cracking only slightly. She took a shaky breath to steady herself. "And R-Remus, and everyone—in Grimmauld Place. In that awful kitchen," she said, wiping away a tear that slipped down her cheek.
"I remember," Ginny said softly.
Hermione shook her head. Her voice was very high when she said, "I can't make that picture go away. I can't stop seeing all of us, together like that." She sniffled and rubbed the sleeve of her bathrobe under her nose. "And today I realized—God, this sounds so stupid—but the kitchen would be so empty now."
Ginny stared down into space, her face pressed against her knees, which she still held tight against her chest. "Yeah," she murmured. "It would." She shut her eyes, and, for the first time in two weeks, she saw something different. That night—it was just a few days after her fourteenth birthday—Tonks had turned her hair red to match Ginny's.
Hermione sniffled. "I can't make it go away," she said again.
"Why would you want to?" Ginny asked. She opened her eyes and looked at Hermione.
Hermione swallowed, staring up at the ceiling, and shook her head. "I don't know."
"I mean, at least you've got all of them there," said Ginny, her fists clenching. "There are worse things to have stuck in your brain, to have to look at again and again…"
"What do you mean?"
"The picture in my head is nothing like yours." Ginny pushed her fingers through her hair. "I've been playing Fred's funeral over and over in my mind, along with every other horrible thing that's happened, between Hogwarts, and the three of you missing, and…" She broke off, feeling ashamed. "I'm sorry, it's not—I know you weren't off lounging on a beach somewhere, I know that—I just mean—until the three of you left, Hermione, I had never felt alone like that—and now it seems like it's all I can feel."
"Oh," said Hermione softly. "I never thought of it that way," she confessed. She looked at Ginny, her eyes sparkling with tears. "You know…it seems like all I can feel…is that I've missed something important."
Ginny felt something catch in her throat, and looked away hastily. "Bloody hell, Hermione," she muttered.
Hermione gave her a small smile. "So we're miserable and losing our grips…but at least we're going mad together, right?"
And suddenly, there were tears on Ginny's cheeks. She flung her arms around Hermione's shoulders, feeling overwhelmed by emotion—but in spite of how much there was to say to her best friend, she couldn't help but be grateful that, if nothing else, she wasn't alone anymore. "I missed you," she said quietly.