gone was any trace of you
An accident at work left Harry with a mysterious case of amnesia and a wife he couldn't remember.
(tags: Harry/Ginny, Amnesia, Auror!Harry, QuidditchBAMF!Ginny, Established Relationship, drama, all the tropes, secret santa fic for morphin3, the potters have potty mouths, Ron is a true and good friend, Ginny will end anyone who tries to mess with her people, Harry has more emotions than he knows what to do with, this got way longer than intended, i honestly can't believe I finished it on time)
As he opened his eyes, two facts pushed to the front of his consciousness. One, his head felt absolutely awful, like two dragons were having it out in his brain. Two, he had no idea where he was.
The first was annoying and would probably have to be dealt with, but the second was far more immediately alarming. Squinting, he could just make out nondescript beige walls surrounding the bed he was reclined on. It smelled sharply of potions and something far more astringent, and was nearly silent other than the hiss and pop of the potion station nearby and the soft sweep of newspaper pages being turned. There were half a dozen other beds and potion stations throughout the large room, but at the moment it appeared empty as far as he could tell. In fact, there was only one other person in the room, a tall ginger wizard, leaning back in a chair with his feet kicked up on the edge of the bed as he read a newspaper.
The obvious ease of the wizard's pose did nothing for the buzz of panic starting to swell in his brain because everything might seem rather calm, but another fact was pushing horrifically to the forefront.
He didn't know who this wizard was—but more pressingly, he had no idea who he was.
How was that possible? How could he not even know his own name?
The ginger's feet hit the ground with a thump. "Finally awake, are we? I thought you were gonna laze away the entire bloody day. You could just take a day of vacation once in a while. Far less dramatic."
He was saved from having to come up with some answer to that by the door to the ward slamming open. A witch swept into the room, dressed in some sort of sporting gear. A ginger too. Was he to be completely overrun by gingers?
"Ron," the woman said, addressing the wizard. "What's happened—"
Her eyes landed on him in the bed, something like relief washing over her face before she crossed straight for him.
"Merlin, Harry," she said, shooing the other guy out of the chair and taking it herself. She grabbed his hand in a firm grip. "What have you done to yourself this time?" She leaned forward, like maybe she was going to kiss him or something, and he reeled back in alarm.
She definitely noticed, her hand tightening around his as she frowned. "Harry?"
Was that his name then? Harry?
It didn't sound familiar.
The first bloke, Ron, she'd called him, started rattling off. "He just got knocked out, Gin. All the tests came back clear. No need to make a fuss."
She ignored Ron, her brown eyes still intently studying his face. "Harry?" she asked, voice more gentle.
He pulled his hand free of hers, looking between the two of them, eyes squinting.
She handed him a pair of glasses. He took them, putting them on, and the room came into focus. Much better. But he still had no idea who these people were, or what the hell was going on.
"Do you know who I am?" she asked.
He considered lying, but didn't think he'd pull that off for long. "Should I?"
Her entire face seemed to shutter as she back away from him.
"Harry, mate," Ron said. "Stop messing about."
"He isn't messing about," she said, her arms wrapping around her waist. "Are you?"
"No," he admitted, pushing himself up, not exactly interested in lying prone while surrounded by strangers. "I'm not even sure who I am, to be honest."
"What?" Ron said.
"Where is the healer?" the woman demanded, voice low and frankly dangerous. It spiked his already roiling panic. He found himself reaching for his wand, heart jolting in his chest when he couldn't find it.
"I'll go get one," Ron said, giving him a confused glance before disappearing out the door.
"In the drawer," she said.
It wasn't immediately clear that she was talking to him. "What?" he asked.
"Your wand," she said, pointing at a small bedside table.
He didn't bother wondering how she knew, just swung his legs over the edge of the bed and reached for the small drawer despite the pulse of pain in his head. Sure enough, a wand sat inside. It didn't look familiar, but when he picked it up, he felt a soft hum of recognition in his fingers. A huge wave of relief washed over him. He still might not have any idea what the hell was going on, but he could at least protect himself now. Or at least he thought he could.
He looked at a piece of paper sitting on a nearby table. For the life of him, the spell to make it cross the room couldn't come to his mind. In frustration, he just moved his wand without thinking, words rising in his mind, and it flew over to land in his free hand.
He let out a breath. At least there was that.
He jumped a bit when someone touched his shoulder.
He looked over at the woman, having rather forgotten she was there.
She pulled her hand back, clearly feeling how he tensed under the touch. "I know it's hard to believe right now, but you're safe here."
"I hope you won't be offended if I don't take your word for that."
Her lips pressed together, and it was clear that she was offended. She looked away a moment, taking a deep breath. "Are you in pain?"
"I'm fine," he said, despite the sharp staccato in his brain.
She sighed in exasperation like she knew perfectly well that was a lie. "My name is Ginny."
"Okay," he said.
Someone in long lime green robes bustled in, Ron in his wake. A healer, Harry could only suppose.
"Oh, good, you're awake," the healer said. He came to a stop, looking at him in alarm, only to turn to Ginny. "You let him have his wand? Was that wise?"
"It's his wand," she said, voice clipped.
The healer cleared his throat, clearly unwilling to argue that. He turned back to him. "So you are able to use magic?"
"I think so," Harry hedged, not wanting to completely give away any advantage he might have.
The woman slid him a look like she knew exactly what he was doing.
"But you just have no memory of who you are."
"Or who these people are," he said, gesturing at the two gingers.
"Interesting," the healer said, writing down a note on his clipboard.
Harry felt himself bristle at what felt like a cavalier dismissal.
"It isn't bloody interesting," the woman—Ginny—snapped. "He's been here how many hours? And you hadn't even picked up on anything? There could be something seriously wrong!"
"Now, Mrs. Potter," the healer said, looking a little frightened. Harry didn't blame him, really.
She pushed to her feet. She wasn't particularly tall, but still managed to radiate a rather menacing energy. "Don't Mrs. Potter me. Just figure out what is wrong with my—" She broke off, giving him a wary glance. "With Harry. Figure out what is wrong with Harry."
"We will do our best," the healer said.
The woman moved aside to give the healer more room, but not before he distinctly heard her mumble something under her breath about their best being bloody insufficient. He couldn't help but agree.
He found himself swarmed by mediwitches and healers, all of them taking scans. He didn't let them take his wand, watching them closely. He honestly didn't feel all that threatened at the moment, but his body still buzzed with adrenaline.
The two gingers stood to one side of the room, the bloke seeming to try to comfort the woman. She just hissed back at him in words he couldn't make out, dragging a hand over her face.
"Ouch," he said, jumping at a pinch in his arm.
"Just a small blood sample, Mr. Potter. Nothing to worry about."
Harry rubbed at the spot with a scowl. "Are you finished?"
"Yes, quite," the healer said, nodding for the mediwizards and witches to leave.
"Now what?" the woman demanded, back at his bedside.
"We'll get these scans and samples analyzed and let you know what we come up with." The healer gave them what was probably supposed to be a comforting, confident smile, but just came off as annoyingly artificial.
The witch retook the seat by his bed, while Ron continued to pace back and forth.
He watched Ginny out of the corner of his eye. She was probably more than aware of it, but was allowing it. Her fingers were gripped together in her lap as they waited, and with a jolt he realized she was twisting a set of rings on her finger back and forth.
Mr. Potter. Wasn't that what they called him?
He let his thumb cautiously slide up across his own palm, bumping up against a ring on his finger.
"Yeah," she said, still looking straight ahead, like he couldn't do anything without her seeing it.
It answered the question though. She was his wife. Supposedly. Shouldn't he remember his bloody wife? He looked at her again, taking in the details—her rich copper hair, the pale smattering of freckles across her thin nose—but none of them meant anything to him. She was a complete stranger. He vacillated between assuming this was some sort of trick, some angle they were playing, and panicking that he couldn't remember. Was something seriously wrong with him?
"It'll be okay," she said, giving him a fierce look that somehow made him almost believe her. "No matter what this is."
He nodded, leaning back in the bed and closing his eyes just to escape the confusion of looking at her. He didn't sleep, just sat and listened very closely, the pain in his head still pounding away as he ran through plans and tried to make bloody sense of it all. Tried to remember anything at all. It only ended up making his head hurt worse.
They didn't have long to wait. The sheepish looking healer reappeared, a long parchment clutched in his hands.
"It's a neurotoxin," he announced. "It didn't show up in the initial scans."
"And why didn't it?" Ginny said, arms crossed over her chest.
"Mrs. Potter," the man practically whined, brushing at a bead of sweat on his forehead. "There really is no need to take such a tone with me."
"I think you should be more concerned with your bloody job than my tone."
"What toxin is it?" Ron asked, clearly trying to intervene.
The healer gave Ginny a wary look. "It's actually not one we've seen before."
She made a sound of annoyance, pacing away.
"We'll take the blood sample and have an antidote brewed. It shouldn't be a problem."
Even Harry could tell she was being patronized.
"Could we speak outside for a moment?" she asked in clipped tones. The healer gave her a wary nod. She turned to the other bloke. "You stay with Harry."
She gave him a fleeting smile and then led the healer out of the room.
Ron settled back down in the seat, cursing under his breath. "I'm sorry."
"Why?" he asked, not entirely sure of the source of this apology.
"I'm your partner. I should have been there."
"What exactly happened?" Harry asked, thankful for a chance to get some actual answers instead of just listening to people talk over him and about him.
He looked around like he wasn't sure if he was supposed to tell, but still didn't hesitate to. "I'm actually not sure. We were out helping with a search. A little girl went missing out in Sussex. Fairly magically active area, so the parents were understandably worried."
Harry frowned. "Did they find her?"
Ron smiled. "Yeah, mate. Not to worry. She slipped past a boundary into an old enchanted weir. Befriended a couple old knuckers who were only too happy to adopt her. In the end she got off with nothing worse than a little hypothermia and some tall tales to share with her friends."
"Good," Harry said. At least that was one less thing to worry about.
Ron chuckled. "You know, we weren't even supposed to be out there. But you have a thing about cases when they're about kids. Robards is going to have a field day with you."
"So how did I end up here?" Harry pressed.
"Oh, right. Well, we split up to widen the search, which was a bloody stupid idea now I look back. You were gone for hours. When I finally tracked you down by an old mill, you were unconscious. It was clear there'd been some sort of scuffle, but I thought you'd just been stunned. It would hardly be the first time."
It sounded like they had a rather exciting job. "But instead they did something to me to make me forget," he surmised.
Ron shrugged. "Apparently. Makes me wonder what you stumbled into."
"Something important enough to make me forget, but not enough to just kill me?" he asked, rubbing at his forehead. He wished it would stop throbbing so damn much. He was sure he'd be able to think more clearly if it did.
"Well, thank Merlin for that. Though, yeah, that is weird."
"Everything is weird," he muttered.
He let out a huff. "I can only imagine. I'm Ron, by the way. If you didn't already pick up on that."
"Yeah. And I'm Harry, right?"
"Yeah," he confirmed.
"So can you tell me anything else about the place you—" Harry started to press, only to break off at the sound of raised voices echoing in from the hall.
He could just make out, "bloody incompetent" and "out of your fucking mind" above the general din.
His wife apparently had a bit of a temper.
The guy chuckled, not seeming particularly alarmed. "I don't envy him right now. You've always brought out Ginny's inner mama troll."
Ginny came back into the room a few minutes later, her voice soft even as she looked rather flushed and ready to hex someone. "I've convinced them to give you a private room. It's apparently going to take overnight at least for them to pull their heads out of their arses."
"Quite the complex procedure," Harry muttered.
She let out a weak laugh, dragging a hand through her hair only to pull away with annoyance when it got tangled in the rather messy, tangled braid. She had a dirt streak down one side of her face.
"Gin," Ron said. "Why don't you go home and get changed? Grab some food? I'll stay with Harry."
"I'm not leaving," she said, like the very idea was barmy.
"Merlin, Gin," Ron pressed. "You ran out in the middle of practice. Do us a damn favor and take a shower."
He looked at Harry, as if hoping for moral support.
"She's pretty ripe, isn't she?" he pressed.
"Um," was all Harry managed, not particularly wanting to get shouted at for telling his apparently tempestuous wife that she stank.
"Oh, stuff it," she said rather congenially to Ron. Maybe she preferred to she save all her venom for incompetent medical staff. "I'll just run quickly home. But you will send a patronus if anything at all changes."
"I promise," Ron said.
She turned to look at Harry. "Is that okay?"
"Sure," he said, not bothering to point out that he still didn't really know who she was, so her leaving wouldn't be much of an issue. That might be overly rude given the situation.
She sighed. "Just…consider taking some of the pain potion, will you? I know it makes you fuzzy. But it's not like you're really that sharp when you're in pain either. Just think about it."
She leaned forward like she might kiss him again, only to catch herself when he flinched back.
"Right," she said quietly. After giving him one more worried look, she turned and walked out of the room.
Harry bit down on a completely ridiculous impulse to call her back. He supposed there were worse things than having a mama troll on your side when you weren't quite sure what the hell was happening.
Ginny was only gone about an hour, but by the time she got back, he'd been moved to the promised private room. It had a window looking out over a completely boring alleyway, but that still somehow made him feel less trapped.
"Here she is," Ron said as the door pushed open. "I couldn't even smell you coming."
He turned to see his wife in the doorway, now wearing trousers and a jumper, her red hair down around her shoulders in soft waves. She was currently making a rude gesture at Ron with casual indifference. Harry couldn't help but notice that she was rather beautiful, from a completely objective point of view.
"How's everything here?" she asked.
"Harry still doesn't remember that he owes me 30 galleons, unfortunately."
Ron's relaxed good humor had gone a long way to easing some of Harry's anxiety. He was pretty easy to like. "I'll be sure to pay you as soon as I remember how exactly I lost that bet."
"Ugh," Ron complained. "No one likes a welcher, Harry."
Ginny shook her head. "Well, if you're quite done trying to fleece your best mate while he's incapacitated, I brought some pasties." She held up a paper bag.
"Thank Merlin," Ron moaned. "I'm half-starved."
She handed them around, the two of them perched in chairs near his bed. Harry didn't do much more than pick at the crust on his. He honestly wasn't that hungry, with the pounding still in his head making his stomach queasy. Despite his wife's request, he'd still refused to ask for more pain potion. He didn't fancy the idea of being even further weakened.
"I promise she isn't trying to poison you," Ron said.
"What?" Harry asked, looking up.
"Here," Ron said, leaning over and taking a large bite of his pasty. "There. Now we're both doomed." He pretended to gag, rolling back in the chair.
Ginny kicked him in the leg. "That isn't funny."
"It's not my fault you didn't bring enough," he said with a shrug. He tried to swipe at her food, getting a stinging hex on his hand for his trouble.
"Maniac," Ron complained, sticking his hand in his mouth.
"Didn't realize I was getting dinner and a show," Harry said, taking a small bite of what was left of his pasty, wondering a bit at the easy camaraderie between his best mate and his wife.
"Little sisters," Ron said with a shrug. "What can you do?"
Harry tried not to look like that was a connection he hadn't already made. They were siblings. He watched them, noting similarities in their features.
Ron eventually stood, brushing the crumbs off his lap. "Okay. I have to go give my report before Robards has my head. See what the search of the area turned up. I'll be back in the morning."
"You tell Robards I'm going to have his head if they don't get this figured out," Ginny said.
Apparently ignoring her, Ron smiled at Harry, clapping him on the shoulder. "Hopefully it will all be back by morning. But by then you will owe me 40 galleons instead. Last chance."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I think I'll take my chances, thanks."
Ginny walked her brother to the door, the two of them sharing a long hug as Ron whispered something to her. She nodded, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek before shoving him out the door.
Harry swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He was tired as hell of lying in one spot. Getting to his feet, he swayed slightly, his head swimming. He leaned his hand on the bed, still gripped tight around his wand. He hadn't put it down yet and had no intention of starting now.
"Harry?" Ginny asked.
"I'm fine," he said. "Just stood up too fast."
When he could, he looked over at her. She'd come to a stop halfway across the room, hands fisted by her side like it was taking a lot for her to stay there.
She gestured to a small holdall sitting by the chair. "I brought you some clothes and other things from home."
"Those gowns can be scratchy."
He lifted an eyebrow at her, because now that she mentioned it, it definitely was itchy.
She shrugged. "We spend more time here than normal people," she admitted. "They should probably name a bloody ward after us."
She held the bag out to him, and he hesitated to take it, for some reason feeling really awkward around her, like accidentally touching her hand would be too weird to deal with. He fleetingly wished Ron was still here.
"Right," she said, putting the bag on the bed and retreating back towards the door to sit in a chair against the wall.
Harry bit back an apology. "Thanks," he said instead.
She didn't look up at him. "Sure."
Taking the bag, he went into the small en-suite bathroom, closing the door behind him with something like relief. He dropped the bag to the floor, carefully placing his wand on the back of the sink. He leaned forward on it, his eyes slowly dragging up to the mirror to take in the details of the face reflected back to him. Dark hair, green eyes, light brown skin that seemed slightly sallow in the overly bright light. He had shadows under his eyes, rough scruff darkening his jaw.
"Harry," he said into the mirror. "Harry Potter."
His face didn't feel any more familiar than the words.
Dragging a hand through his rather unruly hair, he noticed a faint scar on his forehead. He squinted at it for a moment, but it didn't hurt or mean anything in particular to him, so he ignored it. Instead he turned to the bag, digging through it to find a small toiletries bag with soap and shampoo and other assorted things.
Pulling off the wretched hospital gown, he stepped into the shower. In there, he found more scars, one on his chest, a more serious looking one near his hip, and a few pale ones on his arms. He seemed to have had a rather rough life. Or a charmed life, considering he was still alive. When he reached for a bar of soap, he paused, flexing his hand and squinting down at what looked like words scratched into the back of his hand.
I must not tell lies.
It was like a pile of tiny clues to a puzzle he'd never even bloody seen. Leaning into the spray, he turned the water hotter as his head continued to pound away. He stayed in there as long as he dared, long enough that there was a knock on the door.
"Everything okay in there?" Ginny called out.
He swallowed hard, reaching out and twisting off the spray. "Yeah," he called back. "Almost done."
"Okay," she said.
Wrapping a towel around his waist, he shaved carefully in the mirror, the movements methodical and familiar even if the face wasn't. He thought it was a small miracle he didn't nick himself. This body probably didn't need more abuse at this point.
Christ, it felt weird to think of it like that. As something foreign to himself.
Digging back through the bag, he pulled out a pair of soft jogging bottoms and a warm Henley. They fit perfectly of course. He paused as he piled his toiletries back in, noticing a small scrap of paper in the bottom. Reaching in, he pulled it out, realizing it was a photo.
There were four people in the picture, all of them smiling. Harry was right in the middle, his arm around Ginny's waist as he laughed at something Ron was saying. Another woman was on Ron's other side, her arm looped through his as she grinned at Harry. As he watched, photo-Harry leaned over and pressed a kiss to Ginny's forehead.
He didn't think it was an accident, that picture being in there. He imagined his wife putting it in there as she packed his things. Like she needed him to know who they were.
I know it's hard to believe right now, but you're safe here.
He hadn't felt safe. Not since he woke, really. A photo was hardly proof of anything, but it at least made this all feel real. Made it feel less mad to trust that voice at the back of his head telling him Ginny wasn't lying to him. That she and Ron were someone to him.
Tucking the photo back in the bag, he scooped up his wand and went back out.
Ginny was curled up in an armchair, staring off at nothing as her head rested against the back of the chair.
She looked up at him. "Feel better?"
"Yeah," he said. "And at least now I know what I look like."
She tried to smile at the tactless joke, but ended up looking more pained than anything.
Well done, Potter, he thought.
It occurred to him how late it was, how tired she looked.
"You really don't need to stay," he said, forcing himself to put his wand down on the small table within easy reach of the bed.
"Oh," she said. "Of course."
He turned to see her gathering her things.
She gave him a tight smile. "I'll be out in the hall if you need anything."
He frowned. "No, that's not what I—"
She came to a stop with her hand still on the door handle.
He thought of the woman in the photo. The rings on her fingers. "You're going to stay either way, aren't you," he surmised.
"Yes," she said, chin lifting and eyes defiant.
He nodded, turning to look at the upholstered armchair she just vacated. Picking up his wand, he thought about what he wanted to happen. For a long moment, he didn't think anything was going to happen, but then the chair slowly transfigured into a camp bed of sorts.
She looked at him and he shrugged. "You might as well be comfortable," he said, and climbed back into his own bed. He tossed her one of his pillows, and she caught it, placing it at the head.
She spent a while in the bathroom herself before they both settled down, dimming the lights.
It wasn't exactly a restful night, noises filtering in from the rest of the hospital, mediwitches coming in every couple hours to re-take scans. But it was nice not to be alone.
He dozed at some point in the early hours of the morning, waking with a start when the door pushed open. He scrambled for his wand and glasses.
"Good morning," a mediwitch said cheerily as she backed in with a tray.
Harry's head still didn't feel all that great and he didn't remember anything, so he wasn't sure what could be labeled good about it.
"Do you remember who that is?" she asked, pointing to his similarly grumpy-looking wife.
"Uh. No," he said. "I mean, her name is Ginny?"
"Yes, it is," the mediwitch said, giving him a smile. "That's good."
"Is it?" he asked.
"It means that you are still able to retain information. The toxin isn't keeping you from making new memories. That's certainly a good thing, isn't it?"
"I suppose," he said. Waking up a blank slate over and over again did sound rather horrifying. You know, more horrifying.
His wife disappeared into the loo while the mediwitch took yet another series of scans.
"Any word on an antidote?" he asked.
She smiled, patting him on the knee. "These things take time."
For some reason, Harry didn't think he was particularly known for his patience.
The mediwitch left the tray, dubious smells emanating from the food. Ginny came over, giving it a wary look.
"Good morning, Potters!" Ron said, sweeping into the room and looking much better rested.
"Is it?" Ginny asked, dropping down on the chair next to the bed.
Ron looked between them. "I take it you haven't remembered anything."
"No," Harry said.
"Well," Ron said bracingly, squeezing his sister's shoulder comfortingly. "We'll just have to wait for the potion then. What have you got there?" He gestured at the tray.
Harry lifted the cover, revealing a rather congealed mess of porridge and stewed fruit.
Ron scowled. "Hell, no. No mate of mine is eating that slop." He pulled out a container of food. "Besides, Mum insisted."
As it smelled far better than the hospital food, Harry didn't complain.
"Bless you, Ron," Ginny said. "I take back everything mean I've ever said about you. From the last 24 hours at least."
"Brat," he accused, and started setting out food.
Ron stayed a few hours, but then had to get back to work. Harry thought to ask Ginny if she needed to get to work, but he had a feeling it wouldn't matter one way or the other, to judge from the mulish look on her face the night before when he suggested she didn't have to stay.
The most she'd been willing to concede was leaving the room to make a few calls.
He took advantage of her absence to climb out of bed and look out the small window. It was a lovely view of a completely dreary alley.
He sighed, leaning his forehead against the glass. His headache was finally fading, his stomach was full of good food, and he no longer felt dizzy at all. He felt bloody fine. Other than the not being able to remember anything.
He longed to sit down and really focus on the problem, to figure it out, but he didn't have anything to work with. And it wasn't like he was going to be able to fill anything in, being stuck here. It was a hopeless task.
God, he really didn't want to be here anymore.
"You're starting to lose your mind a bit, aren't you."
He spun around, so caught up in his thoughts he hadn't heard Ginny's return. "I'm sorry?"
"Being here," she said. "It's starting to get to you."
He scrubbed his hand up the back of his head. "Oh, uh. Yeah."
"You hate hospitals."
He thought that pretty much tracked with what he was feeling. But realizing she knew him better than he remembered himself only made this more frustrating.
"Would you like to leave?" she asked.
He sighed. "Would they let me?"
She gave him an intense look. "Just tell me if that is what you want, and I will make it happen."
He considered her a long moment, wondering if he could take her at her word. To judge from the last 24 hours, he didn't doubt her abilities. "It is."
"Okay then," she said, and walked back out of the room.
It wasn't long until the healer appeared, his wife a few steps behind. "Mr. Potter. I hear you think you're ready to leave us."
"Yeah," Harry said. "I am."
The healer gave him a prim look. "I definitely would not recommend that."
"Why not?" he asked.
"Because we still don't know how or why this neurotoxin is doing what it is doing. You could get worse."
"It's been, what, nearly 36 hours?" Ginny broke in. "Well past the window of unexpected side effects."
He gave her an unimpressed look. "It's an unusual toxin."
"And if someone remained with him? Could he sit around and stare at walls somewhere else instead?"
The healer was clearly not pleased.
Ginny looked down at her hands, casually picking at her nails. "Keep in mind that if he stays here, I do too."
The healer's eyes widened, apparently taking that for as much of a threat as Harry had no doubt she intended. "He'd have to come in each day for a diagnostic scan."
Ginny looked at Harry, as if seeing if those terms worked for him.
"Yeah," he said. "That's fine." He'd come in three times a day if it meant not spending another night here.
"Then I suppose I'll get started on your release papers, Mr. Potter. But they will be against medical advice."
"Certainly wouldn't be the first time," Ginny muttered.
The healer swept out, looking like he might be secretly thankful to see the back of them.
"Well, then," Ginny said, hands on her hips. "Now you have some options of where to go. You can come home with me. Or go with Ron. My parents would also be happy to have you."
He noticed that she kept doing this, giving him clear choices, even if she doubtless had her own preferences. It certainly made him feel like he was more in control, and he wondered if that was her aim.
"Don't I have a family?" he asked.
She looked away, but not before he saw the pain flash across her face. "We are your family," she said softly.
"I didn't mean…"
"I know." She cleared her throat, her posture straightening. "Your parents, they died when you were young. And your only other blood relatives…" Her expression hardened. "Let's just say that the only way they are going to get within 100 kilometers of you is over my dead body."
His eyebrows popped up at the vehemence in her voice. "So that's probably not an option then," he said.
She let out a huff of air.
He considered his options. Going home with Ginny was the obvious choice. At least it was probably what he was supposed to do; she was his wife, after all. He was still halfway tempted to pick Ron's place instead. He liked Ron. He felt comfortable around him. Not to say he didn't like Ginny perfectly well, she just felt…so much more complicated.
He looked up at her, and he found he couldn't do that to her. It seemed almost cruel.
"Would it be weird, having me there? At your home?" he asked her.
"It's your flat, Harry. Even before I moved in."
"Right. Okay. Then I'd like to go there," he decided. Maybe something would look familiar. And besides, he at least knew her a little bit at this point. It probably wouldn't be that uncomfortable.
He thought she looked a little relieved. "We can Floo or I can Apparate us."
He frowned, not liking either option really, as both required him to step into a rather unknown situation.
She was watching his expression. "It's kind of far, but we could also walk."
"Yeah," he said, letting out a breath. "That."
It would give him a chance to get the lay of the land, stretch his legs, get some bloody open air.
"You're up for it?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said.
"Okay," she said, apparently taking him at his word. "I'll send our bags back by Floo while they do the paperwork."
It only took about an hour all together, during which time Harry tried not to pace. Now that escape was near, it only felt more unbearable to wait.
"Okay," Ginny said, reappearing. "We're free. Ready?"
"Definitely," he said, following her out into the hall.
"We should go out the back."
He frowned, but didn't ask why, too intent on getting out of this building. They exited out into the small back alleyway he'd been able to see from his room. Fresh brisk air hit his face and he couldn't help but sigh with relief.
"This way," she said, leading him to the right.
He followed her out into a small street. They walked in silence, Harry looking about trying to find anything remotely familiar.
He kept thinking people were staring at him, but he thought that was probably paranoia. Sure enough, as they got further from the hospital he didn't notice anyone at all looking, so he figured that was just his imagination.
He glanced at Ginny. She had her hands shoved into her pockets, staring straight ahead as she walked. He felt like he should say something, but didn't have a clue what.
"Are you hungry?" she asked much later.
"Yeah," he admitted, his stomach grumbling at the reminder. The breakfast from Ron's mum had been a long while back.
"We're getting close. We'll grab some takeaway. Okay?"
"Sure," he said.
A few blocks later, he followed her into a Thai place.
Did he like Thai? He didn't even know, looking up at the menu. He could read the words, some of them even conjuring an image in his head, but he didn't know how he felt about any of it. Did he like spicy food? Did he like chicken or pork?
He was so caught up in his panic that he didn't hear Ginny order, just realized the cashier was staring at him expectantly.
"Um," he said.
"He'll have the green curry with chicken. Mild." Ginny glanced at him. "You're a bit of a wimp."
She gave him a fond smile, touching his arm. He couldn't help but tense under it.
She immediately removed her hand, mumbling an apology before paying the man with Muggle currency.
He offered to carry the food, just wanting to do something and she let him. She turned into a building only a few more blocks away, heading up a stairwell above what looked like a rather boisterous Muggle dance club.
"Here we are," she said, tapping her wand to the door. Turning the handle, she pushed it open, gesturing for him to go in first.
He stepped inside, just far enough to get out of her way. She went into a kitchen just to the right of the door.
He glanced around the flat. It wasn't huge, but had a nice large common area with a bank of windows looking out over a wintry park on the other side of the busy street. None of the outside noise seemed to reach the space. Probably rather carefully warded. Might be unlivable otherwise.
Ginny set the food on a table, opening cupboards and pulling out plates.
"What?" she asked, as he continued to stare around the apartment.
He shook his head. "I just thought it might…"
He gave her a tight smile, feeling stupid. "Yeah."
"I did too," she admitted, setting the plates down on the table.
The air felt heavy between them, and Harry belatedly realized that being in close quarters with her in a sterile hospital room was something else entirely. This felt far more…intimate.
"Um," he said, clearing his throat. "Where is the—"
"First door on the left," she said, pointing down the hall.
He excused himself, wandering off in the direction indicated. There were two other doors in addition to the small half-bath, one of them slightly ajar to reveal a bedroom.
He visited the loo, washing up for dinner, lingering a moment staring at himself in the mirror, poking around the cupboards. Realizing he was stalling, he went out and joined his wife at the table.
"Smells good," he said.
She gave him a fleeting smile.
The two of them tucked in, Ginny not so covertly watching him for most of the meal. She didn't push, though, or pester him with questions or platitudes, which he appreciated.
"How is it?" she asked, gesturing at his plate.
"Good," he said. "I like it."
She nodded, going back to her food.
The long night with no sleep seemed to be catching up with both of them. Not to mention the long walk.
"Why don't we get you set up," she said, clearing the half-eaten plates. "I'll deal with this later."
He wanted to offer to help, but knew he'd be more of a hindrance than a help. She led him into the bedroom he'd glimpsed earlier. It was a comfortable-looking room, with a large, quilt-covered double bed.
"That's yours," she said, pointing at a chest of drawers. "Your night things are in the second drawer."
Crossing over to a closet, she lifted up on her toes to pull things off a top shelf. She set a silvery cloak on the bed. "This is your invisibility cloak." She put a leather case down next to it. "And your emergency stash."
"Why are you…" he asked, not sure why she was giving this all to him.
"I want you to feel safe," she said. "I know that means feeling like you can leave if you want. You can. I just hope you'll choose to stay. Or that you'll at least come back."
"You wouldn't worry?" he asked, biting down the immediate impulse to sweep everything up and take off just to prove he could.
"Like crazy," she admitted, letting out a weak laugh. "But I know you probably won't sleep without them."
She pulled some clothes out of a dresser and collected a few things from the attached bath.
"I'll be in the next room," she said.
"I don't mean to put you out," he said. "I can take the other room."
"It's your bedroom, Harry."
"Ours," he blurted. "Isn't it?"
Her lips pressed together. "Yes. You're still recovering. I want you to be able to rest without…worrying. Maybe it will help, being in a familiar place."
He didn't have anything to counter that, knowing he couldn't very well ask her to stay. Sharing a bed would just be too weird.
"Feel free to poke around as much as you like," she said. "Goodnight, Harry."
"Goodnight, uh, Ginny."
She winced a bit at him stumbling over her name, and he felt like an arse for that.
The door closed after her, and Harry glanced around the space.
"Right," he said to himself and set about checking what exactly he had in his stash.
It was a rather thorough collection of potions, various types of money, a couple of charmed identity papers. A moleskin pouch. Various small notebooks filled with careful notes. And tucked away all the way in the bottom, a scant collection of letters and photographs.
He eventually settled down on the bed to rest, but still didn't sleep particularly well despite his exhaustion. He tried to ignore the thought that maybe he just wasn't used to sleeping alone.
After a strained breakfast, they took the Floo back to St. Mungo's. Harry was scanned and prodded, and he confirmed that he hadn't miraculously remembered anything.
When he and Ginny asked about the antidote, he just got another gentle pat on the knee and was told to be patient. It made him feel anything but.
Back in the apartment and facing a long afternoon of just sitting around, Harry picked up his cloak and his wand and set out for a walk around the neighborhood.
"Do you want some company?" Ginny asked.
"No. Thanks," he said, just needing some room to think.
She nodded. "Sure."
He came back an hour later feeling no less in control of anything, but at least slightly less liable to start yelling. He found Ginny sitting stiffly in a chair.
She jumped to her feet when she caught sight of him. "Oh. Hi," she said, smoothing her hands down her shirt. "Have a nice time?" Her voice sounded tight, like she was working very hard to appear calm.
"Uh, yeah," he said, shrugging his coat off and hanging it by the door.
"Good," she said. "Good."
"I'm going to go lie down for a bit if that's okay."
"Sure. Of course."
He retreated to his room, coming out a few hours later to find Ginny banging about in the kitchen.
"Bugger, bugger, bloody buggering hell!" she was complaining as something smoldered on the hob.
She spun on her heel, cheeks flushing. "I'm sorry," she said. "I don't usually…"
He wanted her to stop apologizing. "So I do most of it then?" he asked. "The cooking?"
"You're a much better at it than I am. I never had the patience for it." With a sigh, she charmed the pot clear.
"Takeaway?" he suggested.
She let out a soft huff. "Yeah."
They walked together to a chip shop, bringing it back to the flat.
"So what do you do?" he asked, thinking that maybe if he knew more about her if this would be less awkward.
"I play Quidditch. A sport played on brooms."
She lifted a shoulder. "Some days more than others."
"Tell me about it. What it's like to play."
"Okay," she agreed.
The rest of the meal was filled with talk of strategies and greatest moments, liberally sprinkled with self-deprecating anecdotes as well. She was interesting to listen to, he noted.
After dinner they watched a movie on the small television, and it felt a lot like they were just filling time, waiting for this to resolve.
They retreated to their separate rooms again, Harry drifting off to sleep rather easily.
He woke with a start a few hours later, his heart thundering away in his chest and panic buzzing his ears. He reached his arm out and it thumped against the empty pillow on the other half of the bed. For some reason, that only made the panic worse.
He grabbed his wand. "Lumos," he said, light flooding the room.
He glanced around, but everything seemed calm and quiet. Rubbing at his face, his fingers came away slicked with sweat. Just a bad dream.
He breathed out. He couldn't remember any of the particulars, just the lingering feeling of panic and gut-wrenching fear of things being horribly wrong.
Part of his brain was demanding that he check on Ginny, but there was no way he was going to bother her this late, let alone let anyone see him like this.
"Nox," he said, setting his wand down and lying back on the bed.
He rolled over, pressing his face into the other pillow, refusing to acknowledge that the faint scent clinging to the fabric made breathing just a little easier.
Sleep was slow to return.
They went in to St. Mungo's again the next morning, where Harry submitted to a barrage of tests just to have it confirmed that the neurotoxin levels were steady, showing no dip at all. They then listened to a mediwitch deliver a stuttering report that the antidote was taking longer than expected. It was demoralizing and slightly crazy-making.
Ginny seemed similarly on edge. He suspected neither of them were used to sitting around and just waiting for something to be fixed.
Ron showed up at the flat just after they got back.
"We thought you might like to come spend the day with us," Ron said to Harry. "Just to get a change of scenery, yeah?"
At this point Harry was pleased by the thought of anything new at all. He glanced at Ginny, and she looked just as eager to escape. He didn't blame her for that at all.
Besides, if Ron worked with him, he might be able to get more answers about what happened.
"Mum said she wants to see you," Ron said to Ginny.
She looked at Harry. "Are you okay if you go on your own?"
He could tell that if he asked she would come along. But she also looked exhausted and had been watching him for three days straight. She deserved a break.
"No problem," he said, and told himself he definitely wasn't a bit worried about being separated. She was the only person he'd ever spent real time with, after all. It made sense that he'd get a bit attached, he supposed.
She made an aborted movement towards him, like she was yet again stopping herself from touching him. Kissing him goodbye maybe.
He opened his mouth, not sure what to say. "I'll see you later?" he settled on.
"Yeah," she said. "Of course."
She gave him a strained smile and disappeared in a flash of Floo powder.
"Come on, mate," Ron said, patting him on the shoulder and guiding him towards the fireplace for their own trip.
There was a witch waiting for them on the other side. One he recognized only from the photograph.
"This is my wife Hermione," Ron said.
Harry smiled at her. "Nice to meet you."
She smiled back, but it was clearly strained.
Ron looped an arm around her waist, giving her a squeeze. "The three of us have been best mates since we were eleven."
"Oh," Harry said, wincing. "Sorry."
She shook her head. "Not your fault, Harry." She hugged him tight, and he awkwardly patted her shoulder. "I'm glad you're okay."
"Thanks," he said.
"I am curious how this works," she said, pulling him over to a sofa and sitting him down.
"Of course you are," Ron said, smiling fondly as he took a seat on her other side.
Hermione leaned forward, giving Harry a calculating look. "I mean, you must remember some things, or you wouldn't even be able to walk or do any basic tasks. I mean, do you know what two plus two equals?"
"I'm not sure Harry ever knew that," Ron laughed.
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm probably perfectly average at maths, thank you very much."
"Can you read?"
"Yes," he said.
"What about magic?" she asked.
"What I've tried so far, yeah. But it's difficult."
"So you know you're a wizard."
"Of course," he said. How would he not know that?
"It's strange," she said.
"Honestly," Harry said, "I don't care what it is, I just want it fixed."
For some reason, that made her smile brightly at him. "Even your personality is the same. It's a good sign."
"It all points to your memories still being there. You just can't access them. Or they're being suppressed. But they're still there, in your subconscious. Influencing your abilities and your personality."
He considered that. "Ginny mentioned that I've always hated hospitals. I don't know why, but I really did hate being there."
"What about your apartment?" she asked.
"Better," he admitted. Much better really, even if he still struggled at night. Maybe it was knowing he could come and go as he pleased.
"Safer? Comfortable?" she pressed.
He nodded, not sure what she was getting at.
"Memories of living there, maybe."
"Maybe," Harry said.
"Or…" she prompted, something shrewd in her gaze.
"Or?" Harry asked.
Hermione smiled. "Ginny. She makes you feel safe even if you don't know why."
Inexplicably, he felt his cheeks warm. "I'm not sure—"
Ron let out a laugh. "Don't worry, meddling is Hermione's base state. You find it charming and annoying all at the same time."
"Ronald," she scolded, swatting him on the arm.
He beamed at her, squeezing her shoulders and pressing a kiss to her forehead. For some reason their easy affection made Harry's stomach twist.
Hermione shifted up to her feet. "Well, I'll leave you boys to it. I'll bring back dinner."
"Thanks, love," Ron said.
She gave Harry another hug before disappearing out the door.
"So," Ron said, clapping his hands together. "Ready to know how you lost all that gold to me?"
He pulled out a battered old chessboard, spending the next hour re-teaching Harry the game.
"You were never very good at this," Ron assured him as he lost yet another match.
"Then why do I play?" Harry wondered.
Ron frowned. "Honestly? I'm not sure."
Harry considered it might have more to do with Ron's company than the game itself.
"How about we see if we can jog those memories of yours?" Ron offered.
They spent the rest of the afternoon looking at photos, Ron gleefully telling him some hilarious stories of their school days hijinks.
"I'm surprised we didn't get expelled."
"So am I," Ron admitted. "It was pretty close once or twice."
"Do you think you could tell me about that day again? The day I got hurt?"
Ron went over everything he remembered from that day again, patiently answering Harry's endless questions. "We searched the mill, but there was nothing there. And the last few spells cast by your wand were not unusual for being in a scuffle. There was a homenum revelio, an alohomora, a handful of stunning and disarming spells, a protection spell."
"Not that it helped," Harry noted.
"No," Ron said, smiling. "Apparently not. But it tells us you probably snuck up on whoever was in that building. And that there was probably more than one of them."
"How do you know that?"
"You're far too skilled a duelist to have used that many spells and not gotten someone ."
Harry's hand restlessly tapped against his leg as he tried to wrap his mind around all of the details.
"Here, mate," Ron said, rifling through a nearby desk and coming back with a small notebook and a stubby pencil. "You prefer to write it all down."
It did feel much better to jot it all down, to see it all carefully delineated. It made him think of similar looking notebooks he found in his stash.
"Did I have a notebook on me at the time?" Harry asked, not remembering there being one with his things at the hospital.
Ron shrugged. "If you had, you didn't have it on you by the time I found you."
Harry frowned. "But I usually have a notebook on me?"
"Always," Ron said.
"So they probably took it." He jotted down a note. Missing notebook?
"I think we have to assume so," Ron agreed. "That's weird."
Harry nodded, resolving to look through his stuff again back at the flat, just to be sure.
Hermione arrived soon after that with dinner for them all.
Harry pushed the food around his plate, wondering if Ginny was eating alone at their flat or if she'd stayed with her parents. He'd had a nice day. It'd been really good to get away, to think about something else. But it still felt weird, not having her here.
He looked down at the ring on his finger, twisting it around with his thumb.
"Can I ask…I mean, I don't want to make Ginny anymore uncomfortable by asking, but how long have we been married?"
"About four years now," Ron says, looking at Hermione as if in confirmation. "But you were gaga over each other since you were kids. It was obnoxious, let me tell you."
He smiled faintly. "That must have been uncomfortable, your best mate getting together with your sister."
Ron laughed. "I wasn't too pleased at first, but if you can't trust your best mate with your sister, who can you?"
"How is she doing?" he asked. "Ginny, I mean. With all this." He waved vaguely at his head.
"She's tough," Ron says. "Always has been. Tougher than we gave her credit really. But this is a lot. And you two are sort of…"
"A world unto yourselves," Hermione supplied.
"Yeah," Ron said. "That."
Harry felt something heavy settle in his stomach. "So this visit isn't just about giving me a change in scenery."
"No," Ron admitted. "We though she might need a little breathing room."
Harry nodded. "Do you think you could show it to me?"
"What?" Ron asked.
"Your memory of it. Our wedding. I assume you were there."
Harry nodded. "Would you mind?"
"Of course not, mate."
He popped over to the auror office to borrow a pensieve, carefully extracting the memory and dropping it into the bowl.
Harry leaned over, placing his face in the liquid, tipping forward into the memory.
He glanced around at the space. Some sort of a tent with tasteful flowers winding up the walls. It looked nice. Small. Intimate.
He didn't bother paying attention to all the people in the crowd, knowing he would have no hope of recognizing them. Instead, he looked at the front of the tent, finding himself. Ron stood next to him with another man he didn't know.
Harry walked forward, coming to a stop in front of himself.
He looked nervous, but also stupidly ecstatic. Ron nudged the Harry in the memory, both of them looking expectantly towards the back of the tent.
Hermione and another blonde witch walked up the aisle, and a moment later, Ginny appeared. She wore a simple white gown that clung to her body, but he was more interested in the expression on her face. She was…radiant, her eyes fixed on the Harry standing at the altar.
Halfway down the aisle, she gave him a saucy wink, the two of them nearly dissolving into laughter.
Harry stepped back as she passed, feeling like the worst kind of interloper. He pulled his head up and out, not wanting to see the rest.
"Did that help?" Ron asked.
"Yeah," Harry lied. "Thanks."
It was like watching strangers. He still didn't remember it, didn't know what it felt like. But he knew it was real. He wasn't sure if that was better or not.
The next morning, Harry was digging through the stash of notebooks he'd found in the closet when Ginny knocked on the door.
"Just a minute!" he said, shoving them back in the box and crossing over to the door. He pulled it open to find her dressed in workout clothes.
"Hey," he said.
"I'm going to lose my mind if I don't get a run in. You wanna come along?"
The thought of a run actually sounded great. He'd seen a worn pair of trainers in the closet, so he supposed running was something he made a habit of.
"Yeah," he said. "Just let me change."
Once he was ready, she led him outside and over to the park. They started down the path at a jog.
It felt really good to stretch his legs. Comfortable. He glanced at her, wondering if this slow pace was her choice. He sped up and she easily kept up, and it was then he realized she was holding back.
"I'm an amnesiac, not an invalid," he said.
She gave him an arch look. "So noted."
And then she took off.
Christ, she was fast, but there was no way he was going to let her beat him.
Bloody professional athletes, he thought as he huffed and puffed to get ahead of her.
It was childish and stupid and really, really fun. They kept pushing the pace faster, just to see if the other could keep up.
By the time they stopped, he was nearly gasping, leaning against a tree.
She laughed, having the decency to at least appear sweaty and winded even as she looked up at him with a bright, wide grin. Harry felt his heart take an erratic thump that had nothing to do with their run.
She straightened as if remembering herself, her expression sobering. She turned away, leaning down to stretch her legs, but not before he saw the flash of pain across her face.
Harry bit back yet another apology.
They walked back to the apartment in silence to find an owl waiting for them.
Ginny read the note. "They're ready for you," she said, handing it off.
He skimmed it, feeling his adrenaline spike. The antidote was finally done. He looked at Ginny, wanting to thank her or reassure her, he wasn't sure. Maybe wanting to be reassured himself.
"Okay," was all he managed.
"Mind if I take a shower first?" she asked.
"No," he said, impatient to get there and strangely reluctant all at the same time. He supposed that had to do with his hatred of hospitals.
Once they were both showered and changed, they Flooed to St. Mungo's. They were ushered into an exam room, the two of them waiting in terse silence.
The healer arrived with another witch in tow.
"This is Potions Matron Bowen," he said, gesturing towards the lavender-garbed witch. "She personally oversaw the preparations."
"Mr. Potter," she said, reaching out to shake his hand. "It's an honor to meet you." She held his gaze for a long beat, her hand tight around his.
"Uh, nice to meet you too," he said, confused why meeting him would be an honor.
She didn't immediately let go of his hand, eyes studying his face. Harry gently tugged his hand back away.
She let go. "Let's see if we can clear this all up for you then. Okay, Mr. Potter?"
"Yeah," Harry said, feeling anxious and unsettled.
Stepping into the next room, the Matron returned with a bubbling cup that smelled faintly of burnt toast. She handed it to Harry. "Best all in one go, Mr. Potter."
"Sure," he said. He glanced at Ginny standing next to him. He lifted it to her in a small salute. "Here goes nothing." He downed it in three disgusting gulps.
His first thought was that it tasted bloody awful, the second that nothing at all seemed to be happening.
And then something did.
Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. His body stiffened, breath catching in his throat, his eyes rolling towards Ginny.
"Harry?" she asked, face paling. She reached for him. "Harry!"
He felt his body start to convulse, and then darkness swept in from all sides, wiping everything away.
Harry groaned as he came to, his entire body aching, his head pounding in a way that was becoming annoyingly familiar.
He cracked his eyes open only to wince against the painfully bright light.
He heard someone murmur an incantation, the ambient light dimming. He risked opening his eyes again, peering up at Ginny sitting next to his bed.
Déjà vu, he thought.
"Everything still in there?" she asked, clearly terrified under the horrible attempt at humor.
"You're my sister Clarabelle, right?" he said.
For a moment she looked absolutely horrified and Harry couldn't keep his lips from twitching.
"Fuck, Harry," she said, hand pressed to her chest. "Don't do that to me."
He smiled, closing his eyes against the ridiculous riot of pain in his head. "Sorry. Couldn't resist."
He shook his head. "I still don't remember anything from before the hospital. The first time."
"Oh, well," she said, trying and failing to cover up her disappointment. "Just so long as they haven't scrambled your brain any worse."
"What happened?" he asked. "I assume I wasn't actually sat on by a giant."
"You had a seizure," she said, her hand sliding across his forehead. "It went on forever."
Her skin was cool against his and he closed his eyes, leaning into the touch. "Fuck," he muttered. "I feel awful."
"Will you take some pain potion?" she asked.
He peered up at her. "You're staying?"
"Of course," she said, like she was gearing herself up for a fight.
"Then I'll take it," he agreed.
"Okay," she said, smiling weakly.
He stayed the next day for observation, but most of it passed in a haze of pain potions. He woke late the next afternoon feeling slightly more human. Ginny, for her part, looked exhausted and he felt guilty for making her stay.
At least she'd consented to lie down on a neighboring bed for a rest. She'd no more than dozed off when the Potions Matron reappeared.
"Mr. and Mrs. Potter," she said.
Ginny swung her feet back to the floor, glaring at the Matron. "Have you figured out what happened?"
"I have triple checked the potion. No mistake was made."
"Clearly one was!" Ginny snapped.
"Mrs. Potter. The brain is not a simple organ. It's not like waving a wand about and mending a broken bone!"
Ginny's mouth opened in outrage and Harry reached out, grabbing her sleeve.
"Ginny," he said.
She looked at him, shifting closer to the bed and taking a deep breath.
"So what's next?" he asked.
"To be frank, Mr. Potter, I don't feel comfortable making another attempt."
"So that's it?" Ginny asked. "You're giving up?"
The Matron regarded her with a cool gaze. "There is always a chance that the levels will drop on their own. Eventually."
"Let me ask you something, Mrs. Potter. Is it worth getting your husband's memories back if it means his life?"
Ginny reeled back, and for a moment, Harry had the distinct impression that she might strike the Matron.
Instead, she turned abruptly on her heel and strode out of the room, the door slamming behind her.
In the ensuing silence, the Matron casually touched her hair as if checking that argument hadn't disrupted her pristine appearance. "Please let me know if you have any more questions, Mr. Potter."
He shook his head, leaning back in the bed and dragging his hands over his face.
Ginny came back a half hour later, sitting by his bed. "Sorry," she mumbles. "I just had to…"
He nodded. "It's fine."
"How are you?" she asked, clearly not wanting to talk about what happened earlier.
He'd spent the last half hour trying to catalog what he was feeling. Frustrated. Afraid. Trying hard not to give into this spiral of hopelessness building in his chest, because he kind of wanted to run around and scream this isn't bloody fucking fair. Waiting for a potion was one thing, sitting around and just hoping his brain fixed itself on its own was agonizing.
"My head feels better," he settled for saying.
"Good," she said.
They sat in silence.
They kept him another day, finally discharging him late in the afternoon. By this point he was more than ready to leave, the two of them having a quick bite with Ron and Hermione at their flat.
"I'm so glad you're okay," Hermione said.
Harry smiled at her, squeezing her hand.
They didn't talk about what they were going to do now that an antidote was no longer an option, Ron very carefully keeping them all entertained despite Ginny refusing to be dragged into their usual sibling hijinks.
She was quiet that evening when they finally got home.
"I'm really tired," she said. "Do you mind if I just…" She gestured back towards her room.
"No, not at all." He knew she'd had even less sleep than he had the last two days.
She gave him a strained smile. "Goodnight."
Harry found he couldn't sleep. Instead he wandered the flat. Part of him kept hoping that he would find an object or see something that would trigger a memory. That it might all just rush back in at any moment.
With a sigh, he poked around in search of more notebooks. There was a small closet at the end of the hall he'd never looked in.
As he passed in front of Ginny's door, he felt his ears buzz, just the gentlest sensation, but enough for him to realize she'd cast a muffling charm. Why would she do that?
He considered that there were probably a million reasons for her to cast that charm. A lot that had absolutely nothing to do with him. It didn't stop him from pushing open the door, peering inside.
It wasn't a bedroom like he always assumed. It was a study of sorts, with a desk and a sparring dummy and some other sports equipment. There was a sofa under the window that was transfigured to be slightly wider than normal.
He was horrified to realize she'd been sleeping on a sofa this whole time no matter the modifications, but that concern was pushed to the side by the sight that waited for him. Ginny sat in the middle of the sofa, her legs drawn up into her chest, face lowered to her knees. Her shoulders were shaking with deep, wrenching sobs as she wept into her hands.
She looked desolate and heartbroken and completely alone. He didn't consider that she clearly wanted to be alone, just stepped towards her. "Ginny."
Her head lifted with a jerk. "Oh, Christ," she said, looking up at him in horror. "Did I fuck up the charm?"
He shook his head. "No. I could tell there was a charm, and I just…I guess I needed to know..."
"Of course you did," she said, voice wry as if she would never expect any less of him.
"I'm sorry," he said, feeling like an arse for barging in like this.
She shook her head, clearly trying to pull herself back together, wiping her sleeves across her face. Somehow her wretchedness was even more horrible to face than his own anger and frustration.
"I wish I could make this better," he confessed.
She gave him a rather miserable smile that still managed to be fond. "I know you do. And it's not your fault. I just…"
He took a step closer and then another, sitting down on the edge of the sofa before he could talk himself out of it. "You just what?"
"What if it never comes back?" she burst out like she could no longer hold the words back. "What if you never remember me? I keep telling myself that we could make it work. That if this is real…" She shook her head. "And it's not like aren't things that I'd really rather you never have to remember. But I just… Maybe I'm selfish. I want you to remember us. I want you to remember me ."
She buried her face in her hands again, sucking in deep breaths, and he thought she was hiding her tears as much as her embarrassment at her outburst.
"I'm sorry," he said again, meaning it, but also knowing it didn't fix anything. He hesitantly reached out, touching her back.
She looked up at him, eyes determined. "I would still take you healthy and safe and not remembering me at all over the alternative any day. Even if it means…" Her jaw tightened. "Even then."
Even if he never wanted to be with her.
"Ginny," he said, struggling to wrap his mind around it, someone caring about him that much.
"What?" she asked.
He shook his head. "I just…can't imagine someone feeling that way about me."
She reached out and touched his knee. "I'm hardly the only one who feels that way about you, Harry. You have people. Even if it doesn't feel like it right now. You have so many people who would do anything for you."
"And you?" he asked. "You have people like that too. Don't you?"
"Of course," she said, but not before he saw her wince.
Because he was her person. She didn't even have to say it.
He remembered her face in Ron's memory of their wedding day, the way she smiled up at him, like he was the center of her world. He imagined having that ripped away. Having someone he loved that much not even remember who he was.
On instinct, he pressed his fingers into her back, urging her towards him, and she slid up against him, her face burying in his chest with a ragged sigh of what sounded like relief. Wrapping his arms around her felt like the most natural thing in the world.
He might not remember them, who they were to each other, but he could be here for her right now. He could do that at the very least.
She started to cry again, soft sniffles that she seemed to be trying very hard to hide. He just rubbed at her back and held on.
"It probably doesn't help," he said, "but I barely know you and I already think you're amazing."
She let out a wet-sounding laugh, her arms tightening around him. "If you tell anyone I cried, I'll hex you."
He had no doubt she would. "It'll be our secret," he promised.
He held her for a long while, strangely reluctant to let go.
At breakfast the next morning, Ginny was clearly embarrassed, so Harry thought it best not to mention it. But by the afternoon, he felt like he couldn't avoid it anymore, wanting to do something to make this actually better.
"We have people, you said. Where are they?"
"Oh," she said. "I asked them to stay away. We didn't want to overwhelm you with new people."
"And you?" he asked.
"What about me?"
"Haven't you needed them?"
He felt awful for only realizing now how much she'd isolated herself to care for him. To protect him. It was long past time he returned the favor.
She shook her head. "I'm fine."
"We should go see them. I want to go see them." He was willing to be overwhelmed if it meant she felt a little less alone.
She regarded him as if judging his sincerity. "We usually go to my parents' house for dinner on Sundays. The whole family. It's total bedlam."
"Sounds perfect," he said, forcing down any misgivings. He had two days to prepare himself.
"Teddy will be there."
"Teddy?" he asked.
"Oh," he said. He had a godson? That seemed improbable. What did he know about babies?
"You see him pretty often. He's been asking about you."
Not a baby then, if he's talking. "Has he?"
"You don't have to—" she started to say.
"I want to," he insisted. "As long as you don't think I would upset him."
"Honestly," she said, "I think not seeing you upsets him more."
"It's decided then. We're going."
"Okay," she said, and Harry thought it was testament to how much she really wanted to go that she didn't fight him on it further.
The two days passed very quickly, leaving him feeling no less prepared.
"Are you sure you're up for this?" Ginny asked, giving him one last chance to escape.
He nodded. "Who knows?" he said. "Maybe something there will trigger a memory. Maybe one of the people will feel familiar."
Only he didn't actually believe that. Mostly because if Ginny didn't feel familiar, he doubted anyone else ever could.
He smiled at her. "Let's go see your family."
She side-along Apparated him, and that was almost worse than traveling by Floo. He was anxious enough without the added tumult of an unsettled stomach. Blowing out a breath, he straightened, getting his first look at Ginny's family home.
It was easily the strangest house he'd ever seen, or so he thought. It was crooked and ramshackle and even from outside the fence, he could already hear the hum of noise.
"Ready?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said. Now or never, he supposed.
They walked up the path, Ginny tugging him off to the side through a small overgrown garden with a back porch. She led him up into the house this way, into a worn, homey kitchen that was absolutely packed with people.
A dozen voices called out their names in greeting, and Harry couldn't help but take a step back in response. Ginny shot him a wary glance and he forced himself to suck it up. He could handle this.
He hefted a smile onto his face.
It actually ended up being fine. No one seemed to expect too much of him. They all came up and were careful to introduce themselves, saying it was nice to see him again, explaining their connection to him. More often than not it was through Ginny, and he was beginning to realize that a lot of his people were actually her family.
"Don't worry," one of Ginny's brothers told him, "if your memories never come back, I will personally detail every humiliating experience you've ever had."
"Er, thanks," Harry said.
"No problem," he said, slapping him on the shoulder and retreating.
He eventually retreated to the quietest part of the room he could find, leaning back against a wall. People gave him space for the most part, leaving him content to just watch. His eyes constantly sought out Ginny. At first mostly to have something familiar to anchor himself too, but later because she seemed to be acting a lot different than she did around him. He watched the way she touched people, constantly getting hugged and kissed by her various brothers and sisters-in-law and nieces. Noticed the way she was so much more open with everyone here. Joking, touching.
"Hey, mate," Ron said, handing him an ale and leaning back against the wall next to him. "Surviving?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "So far."
Harry glanced at him. "Is she usually like this?" he asked, gesturing his glass at Ginny.
"Gin?" he asked. "What do you mean?"
"You know…" He struggled to find a word and realized he wanted to say happy.
It was only then he understood that the reserved, quiet woman he'd been living with was not actually at all characteristic of her.
"I make her sad," he said.
"Harry, no," Ron said. "You don't make her sad. You make her annoyingly happy. Honestly. It's gross. This is all just...hard for her. To be around you and not push you or make you feel uncomfortable."
"To not have me be what she expects. What she wants."
What she deserves, he couldn't help but think.
"This is gonna get fixed, mate. And everything will go back to normal. You'll see."
Harry tried to let Ron's certainly rub off on him, but watching Ginny, he just couldn't muster it.
Ron eventually wandered off, Ginny making her way back to his side.
"You alright?" Ginny asked, her hand lifting to touch him, only to fall back away.
"Yeah," he said. "Your family is…"
"A lot, I know."
He nodded. "But kind of great, too."
"Yeah," she said, smile fond.
A new chorus of greetings marked the arrival of yet another round of people. An older woman walked in with a boy of about eight, his hair an impressive shade of blue.
"Teddy!" someone cried.
"Is Uncle Harry here?" the boy asked, looking around animatedly.
Harry took a breath. "Now or never, I suppose." He really wasn't looking forward to making yet another person who was close to him sad.
"It'll be okay," Ginny said. "Just don't try to bullshit him. He's a smart kid. And he knows you very well."
He nodded. "Okay," he said. Pausing, he considered her before nudging her arm with his. "Hey."
She looked at him. "Yeah?"
"Sure," she said, voice soft.
Walking out into the sitting room, Teddy looked up at him with a cry of delight. The kid flung himself at Harry, and he let out a little oof of surprise before carefully squeezing the boy back.
"You've been gone so long!" he said. "They said you were in hospital again."
"Yeah," Harry said, kneeling down next to him.
Teddy looked him over critically. "Are you hurt?"
"No, I'm okay. I just…" He blew out a breath. Don't bullshit him. "Honestly, I'm having a bit of hard time remembering things."
Teddy frowned. "Like your name?"
Harry smiled. "I think I've got that one finally. It's Simpson, right?"
Teddy shook his head. "No!"
Teddy was laughing now. "Harry!"
"Oh, right," he said, snapping his fingers. "That's it."
Teddy considered him for a long moment. "Are you having a hard time remembering me?"
"Yeah," Harry admitted, wincing when the kid looked down at his feet in confusion and hurt.
"And Ginny?" he asked, voice small.
He frowned. "But it's not because you want to, right?"
He touched the boy's shoulder. "No, Teddy. If I could choose to remember people, I'm pretty sure you'd be right near the top of my list."
"Right after Ginny," he said.
Harry smiled. "Right after Ginny."
He nodded. "She'd be mad otherwise."
Harry laughed, having no doubt she would be. "So tell me, what's important to remember about you?"
"Well," he said, clearly giving it some serious thought. "I live with my gran, and you take care of me a lot, and I'm great at flying, and you always let me stay up an hour past bedtime and give me seconds of desserts."
"Are you trying to trick me?" Harry asked, eyes narrowing.
Teddy gave him a wide-eyed look. "I'd never do that, Uncle Harry."
Five minutes with the kid told Harry otherwise.
"Also, I can do this!" he said, and his blue hair suddenly switched to a bright rainbow, his nose lengthening.
"Wow. That's amazing. Show me something else."
It was late by the time Harry and Ginny walked out of the Burrow to a chorus of goodnights. Teddy had already fallen asleep on the couch only to be carried home by his grandmother.
"So that seemed to go okay," Ginny said as they neared the gate.
"Yeah," he said.
He shoved his hands in his pockets. "It was easy, being around him. Just like…"
He stopped, turning to look at her. "Being around you." He figured at the very least, she deserved to know that.
He could just barely make out her expression in a shaft of light slanting out from the brilliantly lit up Burrow. She was looking at him that way she did sometimes, when she didn't think he was paying attention, or just forgot herself. Full of the same warmth and affection she'd shown everyone back in there.
The moment seemed to stretch impossibly long, and he wondered how many times he'd stood with her out here. If he'd brought her home and kissed her on the doorstep.
She looked away, breaking the moment. "I'm glad you had a good time."
He followed her out to the Apparition point, telling himself he didn't wish she were still looking at him like that.
They settled into a quiet pattern over the next couple days. It still felt like a strange holding pattern only instead of waiting for an antidote, now they seemed to be waiting for a miracle. He woke each morning to the disappointment of nothing changing. Even the healer conceded that there was no reason for Harry to come in more often than every other day at this point. The levels never changed.
So they went for runs and he spent afternoons with Ron when he could and they visited family. He even convinced Ron to take him out to the old mill where he was found after his memories were wiped, but as Ron had said, there was nothing of note there, and seeing it didn't miraculously bring anything back. Harry scribbled away in his notebook, only to fill it with more questions than answers.
He also took up the cooking, which was nowhere near as disastrous as he would have expected. It was a small accomplishment really, going to the store, making a meal, watching Ginny eat it with pleasure. It felt like at least one thing he could control.
Ginny always insisted on doing the dishes, it being only fair in exchange. Harry usually stayed to help. He'd been trying to stop avoiding her, knowing it wasn't fair to her.
Of course, his cleaning spells were not the most reliable. At least that's his excuse for the pot slipping, splashing back down into the water-filled sink. Suds flew everywhere, splattering Harry's face.
He cursed, Ginny dissolving into laughter somewhere nearby.
Taking off his glasses, he wiped at them, glaring at his still chuckling wife.
"You look ridiculous," she admitted.
"I'm glad you find this so amusing," he grumbled.
She smiled, reaching out to wipe at the bubbles still clinging to his cheek. Her fingers lingered as she stood there looking up at him like he was still that man she knew. He'd only caught snippets of that look, but it was enough to make him almost jealous, as stupid as that sounded.
"Ginny," he said, feeling so overwhelmed by the rush of feeling that he couldn't help but lean back.
The laughter on her face dimmed, eyes left looking bruised.
She turned to walk away, but he grabbed her arm.
She paused, taking a deep breath before turning back to look at him. "What?"
He just wanted her to be happy. To make her stop looking that way. Without giving it much thought, he leaned in and kissed her.
She stiffened, clearly caught off guard, and he was about to pull back and apologize when she let out a soft sound, leaning into the kiss. He hadn't really thought past kissing her, just a little simple press of his lips to hers, only this was anything but.
His hand cupped her jaw, her lips parting as she deepened the kiss, her fingers curling into the front of his shirt. It felt way more right and familiar than he was prepared for, leaving him out of breath and flustered as he pulled back from her.
"Harry," she said, voice wavering slightly.
Everything in his head was reeling.
"I just wanted to know," he blurted, only to immediately regret the thoughtless words, the way he made it sound like an experiment rather than an impulse he couldn't control. Rather than admit that he wanted to kiss her again and again.
"I see," she said. "And did that miraculously bring everything back?"
He shook his head.
She gave him a tight smile, stepping back away from him. "Well, then. Now you know."
She disappeared back into her room, leaving him to finish the dishes on his own.
Ginny was arguing with someone in the kitchen, voice loud and indignant enough to pull Harry out of his room.
Things were tense between them. She'd been painfully polite to him the last few days, and he knew that was about that sodding kiss he'd cocked up entirely. He wished he had never been rash enough to do it, or that he hadn't freaked out so terribly afterwards. How hard was it to admit that he wanted to kiss her? She was his bloody wife. Right?
He just didn't think he could be enough, that he could ever do anything more than disappoint her and hurt her. How could he? She might be his wife, but he wasn't her husband. Not really.
Ginny's voice echoed down the hall. It was almost a relief to hear her angry.
"Gwenog—" Ginny was sputtering to a head in the fire when he got out into the kitchen, clearly getting herself in quite a temper.
"I know you've got a rough time of it right now, but we need you back here, Ginny. You can't be on bloody leave forever."
Ginny's shoulders bunched, and Harry was fairly certain she was about two seconds away from telling what he suspected was her boss to do something rather anatomically impossible.
"She'll be there," he said before she could explode.
Both women turned to look at him. Gwenog gave him a quick assessing look, before darting a glance at Ginny.
"Okay," Gwenog said, and made a brilliant strategic retreat. "See you at two." Her head disappeared from the fire.
Only then did Harry dare look at Ginny, and sure enough, she was regarding him with all the heated rage he hadn't let her take out on Gwenog.
"She'll be there ?" she snarled.
Harry took a breath, trying not to let his own temper to spike. "You can't babysit me in this flat forever."
"Oh, I can't?" she asked, pushing to her feet.
Harry threw his arms up. "How much longer can you put your career on hold? I figure one of us should actually be employable!"
She jabbed him in the chest. "You don't even bloody remember who I am! What gives you the right to tell me what to do? What gives you the right to do anything?"
He really, really wanted to yell back, but he knew how hard this was on her as well. He knew how much she'd done for him. Not to mention the suspicion that she was actually pissed at him for an entirely different reason.
"I don't," he conceded. "I know I don't have any right."
Wasn't that the problem?
She paced away to the sink, leaning on the edge of it. "So that's it, is it? I just go back to work? We just accept this?"
He crossed the kitchen, leaning on the counter next to her. "It doesn't mean we're giving up, Ginny. It just means…we try to carry on as best we can, okay?"
Her shoulders dropped. He wanted to reach out and touch her, to pull her against him, but she was right, he didn't have any right.
"I don't know what else there is for us to do," he admitted. He clearly just made her miserable, but maybe at least her job could bring her joy.
"Ginny," he insisted when she was still silent.
"I'm sorry," she said. He was pretty sure she meant for far more than yelling, to judge from how defeated she sounded.
"I'm sorry too," he said.
She turned, giving him a tense smile.
"Do you think I could I come with you?" he asked. "I'd really like to see you play."
"Okay," she agreed.
In their room, Harry sat on the edge of the bed and watched her pack her practice things.
"There's something you should know before we go," she said.
"Okay," he said, trying not to feel a pang of foreboding.
"The thing is…there might be press there."
He smiled. "Right. My wife is a big-deal Quidditch player."
"No," she said. Her chin lifted. "Well, yes. I am. But…you're a bigger deal."
She blew out a breath. "You're very famous, Harry. Probably the most famous person since Merlin, really."
He frowned, because that didn't make any sense at all. There was nothing special about him. "Why?"
She definitely looked uncomfortable, shifting a bit on her feet, and Harry had the bizarre impulse not to know.
It's not like aren't things that I'd really rather you never have to remember.
She reached out, fingers barely touching his forehead before she pulled back away. "It has a lot to do with that," she said, and he realized she meant that weird scar.
"Does it?" he asked, scrubbing his fingers over it.
She backed away. "Look, basically, when we were younger, there was a war. And you saved a lot of people's lives by ending it."
"I ended a war?" he asked.
She nodded. "At great cost to yourself. But you still did it." She said it like she admired the hell out of him for it.
"Who wouldn't do that if they could?" he wondered.
She let out a fond huff, smiling at him. "And that is the real reason you're special. Most people are too stupid to get that, though."
That urge to kiss her was rising again. She looked away from him, kneeling down to dig through her bag.
"So what do I do if someone tries to ask me questions?"
"Honestly, you telling the press to stuff it would be pretty in character," she admitted.
"Okay," he said. Brusque and uncommunicative he could do. Apparently it was one of his greatest strengths.
And so Ginny went back to work, leaving Harry in the flat on his own.
She was happier. And he was happier that she was happier. But he could only watch her practice so many times, no matter how amazing she was. He was starting to lose his mind.
Ron tried to come by when he could, but he was busy with work. So was Hermione. Everyone was moving on with their lives. Everyone but Harry.
It was frustrating as hell.
"Alright," Ron said one afternoon after they finished sharing lunch, clasping his shoulder. "I've got to go in. Got a shift."
"Can I help?" he asked Ron.
He was officially on leave while his superiors figured out what to do with him apparently.
Ron sighed. "I'd love you to, mate, but how much use do you think you'd be, really? And with your magic the way it is right now, we can't risk you in the field."
Harry leaned back in his chair, dragging his hands over his face. He didn't know how to explain that being locked in this fucking flat was beginning to feel like prison.
"How about this," Ron said, opening his case. "I'll leave my files here. Bloody forgetful of me."
"Thank you," Harry said in a rush, looking at the briefs with something like longing.
"Anything for you, mate," he said. "Though I must say I'd never thought I'd see the day when you'd like paperwork."
Harry spent the afternoon reading through the files, their most recent cases, both solved and unsolved, some in his own handwriting. Unfortunately it was all meaningless facts without context and it ended up only making Harry more frustrated.
He also read through a set of basic defensive texts he'd found in the study, trying out spells, but it was pretty hit or miss. He tried again and again, fumbling to memorize incantations, to connect instinctual feelings to rational decisions. He had some success, but it never felt like enough.
He made a particularly disastrous mess of a spell one day, knocking over an entire bookshelf. Books scattered everywhere with an enormous crash. He cursed, hunkering down to pick up the first book, but his hands closed around it and then next thing he knew, he was chucking it at the wall. And another and another.
Throwing a fit like a fucking toddler, and it didn't make him feel any better. At least he managed to get it all cleared away before Ginny got back.
He sat on the couch, staring at the widow. The expulsion of energy left him listless, like it had burned it all out of him, and now all he really wanted to do was sit and stare at a wall, because what was the fucking point of any of it?
"Hi, Harry," Ginny called as she appeared back in the flat.
He sighed, and heaved himself to his feet.
His days took on an empty, lethargic quality after that. He told Ron not to bother dropping by if he was too busy, the energy of having to face his old partner too much to muster. He didn't want to think about the job he used to have, the place where he used to belong, the wife he used to have. Instead he watched the spotty old television, letting the hours slide by.
He went to bed early and slept in late, because it wasn't like he fucking knew how to do anything around Ginny. How to act and not just make things worse. How to deal with her truncated gestures and bit-back words and continual disappointment. He didn't know how to sort out what he was supposed to feel and what he did feel and what was rational and what didn't fucking make sense.
So he didn't try.
He was left in peace for almost three days.
After a brisk knock on the door, Ginny walked into the bedroom, apparently uncaring that he was still sleeping.
He blearily looked up at her, taking in the athletic clothes she was wearing. She looked wide-awake and put together and far too beautiful for first thing in the morning. Or afternoon, he realized, glancing at the clock. Whatever.
"I'm not in the mood for a run," he said, laying his arm across his face.
"You aren't in the mood for anything," she corrected. "Luckily I don't give a shite."
She threw something at him, and instinctively he reached out to grab the broom before it smacked him in the face.
"We leave in five, Potter."
Her long ponytail whipped about as she turned on her heel, leaving him staring after her. He wanted to roll back over in bed and go back to sleep, but he had a feeling Ginny would never let him get away with it.
Grumbling under his breath, he dragged on some clothes. He would do a half hour of whatever the hell she wanted, just to get her out of his hair. Then he could get back to…whatever the hell he was doing.
Ginny looked distinctly unimpressed when he finally wandered out into the kitchen. She lit a fire, pushing him in before dropping a handful of powder and shouting, "The Burrow!"
Harry stumbled out on the other side, coughing through the cloud of ash as he nearly tripped over the broom he was still clutching. Luckily there was no one in the kitchen to observe his graceless arrival.
Ginny appeared a moment later, stepping carefully free of the fireplace.
"Hey, Mum!" she called up the stairs. "We're going to be out in the pasture, okay?"
"Okay, dear!" Molly called back down. "Have fun!"
Ginny grabbed a little fruit tartlet out of the larder, pressing it into his hand before leading him back out onto the porch.
Harry nibbled listlessly at the food while Ginny disappeared into a small shed, not feeling particularly hungry, but not wanting to fight about it either. By the time he was done, Ginny reappeared with another broom and a small chest. She wordlessly led him out across the yard and past a pond.
As they approached what appeared to be a large flat space surrounded by tall trees, Harry began to wish he'd refused to eat—to leave the apartment, really.
Ginny leaned her broom against the fence. "Okay," she said. "Up you get."
He stared down at the broom in his hand, his stomach roiling. "I don't know how," he said, shame spiking his anger.
Ginny was unmoved. "You were born knowing how to be on a broom. So stop complaining and get on it and just go."
His hand tightened on the broom, tightness building in his chest.
She let out a breath. "Harry," she said, crossing over to him and taking the broom from his hand. She set it on the ground near his feet.
Turning him around, she stepped up behind him, crowding up against his back. He felt a jolt of something burn up his spine. She slid her hand up the inside of his arm, lifting it so his palm was open towards the ground.
"It's like your spells, Harry," she said, voice firm but not patronizing. "Don't think about it, just do it."
How he was supposed to think about anything with her standing up against him like that, he didn't know.
"Tell it what you want it to do," she said, fingers gripping tight. "Just do it."
"Up," he mumbled, the broom barely rattling.
"Again," Ginny said. "Only this time, fucking mean it."
"Up," he very nearly growled, and the broom smacked up into his palm. He could feel the wood humming under his fingers.
She smiled at him. "Now get your arse up on that broom."
He gingerly climbed up, relieved when Ginny turned her back to fiddle with her own broom. He'd rather not have an audience for how much of a fool he was sure to make of himself.
Taking a breath, he pulled the handle of the broom upward and it lifted him up off the ground. So far so good. Closing his eyes briefly, he dared to lean forward, the broom starting forward. He did a careful loop of the space, only to immediately do it again, this time faster.
Fuck, he could do this. He could.
Ginny was watching when he made it back after his third lap. She nodded as if in approval. "Now for a little friendly competition."
"What are we going to do?" he asked, eyeing the rings at either end of the space. "See who scores the most goals?" He wasn't sure he was ready for balancing a Quaffle too, but really kind of wanted to try.
She laughed. "That would hardly be fair to you, me being a professional and all. I have something else in mind."
She kneeled down, opening the small case. He leaned over and could see a tiny golden ball, its fluttering wings fighting against the small strap holding it in place.
"Let's see who can get it first, shall we?" She flicked her finger against the latch and the ball shot up into the air.
Scooping up her broom, she jumped on it and tore after it, not waiting to see if he was following.
Harry cursed and zoomed after her as fast as he could. It was somehow easier when he had a task to focus on. He found this felt almost familiar, or more like his body knew what to do so long as he didn't let his brain get in the way of it.
A flash of gold caught his eye and he shot after it.
He was nearly there when his broom shuddered, listing backwards, and it was only as Ginny zipped past him to grab the Snitch from under his nose that he realized she'd pulled his broomtail.
"What was that?" he sputtered.
"It's all about winning," she said unapologetically, letting the ball go with an insouciant flick of her fingers. She gave him a wink. "Best two out of three?"
After that, all bets were off and they were flinging through the air, bumping each other, taking intense dives, insulting each other, and laughing hard enough to nearly fall off their brooms.
It was glorious, and he never wanted to stop. Never wanted to go back to that dreary apartment or the terse silences. He shook his head, trying not to think about it, but the damage seemed to have been done, the anger and hopelessness creeping relentlessly back in.
He focused back on the Snitch, spotting it hovering near the very base of the rings. He shot off towards it. It was very close to the ground, at a strange angle. But he could do it. Couldn't he?
The dive was tough, the tight turn nearly impossible. The broom beneath him bucked, dropping away from under him like it could sense his moment of doubt.
He crashed, tumbling into the grass in a tangle of broom and limbs.
"Harry!" Ginny shouted, feet hitting the ground just near him. "Are you okay?"
He shoved his glasses straight on his face. "I'm fine. I'm fucking fantastic."
Everything seemed to rush back in with gravity, and he hated it. He hated all of it so fucking much.
"I'm sorry," she said, hands gentle on his shoulders. "I shouldn't have pushed so hard."
He shrugged her off. "I don't give a shite about the bloody game, Ginny!"
She backed away. "Harry—"
He jumped to his feet, brushing off the dirt and grass on his clothes. "Fuck. Just look at me! I'm like a toddler! Some fucking auror I'll make!"
He paced away from her. He tried to calm down, but now that he had started yelling, he didn't think he could stop. "I feel like I've lost everything! What good am I ever going to be to anyone? I can't even be trusted to leave the house or walk down the street or do spells properly. I'm fucking useless!"
He wanted to rip at his hair, curse something, start running and never look back. He just wanted to fucking do .
"Christ, why anyone would put up with me, I have no fucking clue. You should just put me out and get your own life back at least. Or I should save you the bloody trouble and just…disappear just like my fucking memories! No doubt we would all be better off if that mission had been the end of it!"
He was completely unprepared to be shoved from behind, nearly stumbling face-first into the dirt again. He spun around, and Ginny was standing there, face fairly glowing with anger.
"How dare you," she hissed.
He blinked at her, so wrapped up in this endless rage that he almost forgot about her.
"How dare you," she said, each word clipped and hard. She shoved him again for good measure.
"Ginny," he said with annoyance, fending her off.
She apparently couldn't care less. "I know this is hard for you, Harry. And far be it from me to stop you on your downward spiral of self-loathing, but please do me the fucking courtesy of remembering that I am your wife ." Her eyes sparkled with what seemed to be tears of rage. "I'm your bloody wife, you selfish prick."
With that, she turned on her heel, storming off back towards the house.
"As if I could fucking forget!" he hollered after her in a fit of complete childishness.
She flipped him off back over her shoulder.
He was left feeling stung and confused and somehow even more livid. Snatching up the broom, he took off, flying across the pasture and then winding through the trees in the orchard at ridiculous, reckless speed.
It took all his concentration just to stay in the air, pushing everything else away but the hum of the broom under his hands, the way it fought him and he made it fucking obey. Bend to his will.
But under the rage something else was building, something that made it harder and harder to breathe or think.
What did you do? What did you do?
He nearly plowed straight into a tree, and forced himself back to the ground out of self-preservation. Ginny probably wouldn't forgive him for breaking his damn neck.
I am your wife.
His wife. Who loved him, or the man he was. Who stood by him and cried over him never remembering her again. And he'd done what? Basically told her he thought he'd be better off dead?
"Fuck," he said, slapping a hand to his face. He was a selfish prick.
By the time he trudged the entire way back on foot, he had identified each and every way he had cocked this up. All the reasons she should just be done with him.
The problem was, he couldn't imagine it. His life without her. She was everything, and not just because she was one of the few people he knew anymore. It was long past time to admit it was so much more than that, no matter how much it made him feel like he had no control over anything.
He tromped up onto the back porch, taking a moment to collect himself, to wonder how the hell he was going to fix this. If he even could.
He opened the back door to the kitchen, and Ginny was there, sitting at the table with a cup of tea between her hands, Molly sitting next to her with a hand on her shoulder. They seemed to be talking quietly to one another.
"I'm sorry," he blurted, not sure how this worked. If they fought often, or this was something new. How much he had messed everything up.
She looked up at him, her expression worn with exhaustion. She just looked…done.
His heartbeat spiked. "I'm sorry and I'm an arse and I don't—" He broke off, because his throat closed and he couldn't get any more words out. He had no idea why, but he was utterly, completely terrified that she was about to leave him. Every cell in his body seemed to scream it.
He reached for the counter next to him, the room swimming and swaying around him.
Ginny was up on her feet and crossing the room before he knew what was happening. "Harry, just breathe," she said, hand rubbing his back.
He tried to listen to her, but it wasn't helping, spots swimming in his vision.
"Have I ruined it all?" he asked, voice faltering, and he felt like a small child begging to be told that everything was going to be okay.
"Merlin, Harry," she said, stepping into his line of sight, her expression fierce. "Look at me. I'm not going anywhere. I'd never."
She folded him into a tight hug, like she yet again somehow knew what he needed, what he needed to hear her say even when he didn't know.
He hugged her back, trying so hard not to squeeze her too much, despite the buzzing panic in his ears.
"I shouldn't have lost my temper," she said.
"You should have decked me."
"You should be more afraid of my hexes," she told him.
"I'd deserve it. That and more."
She shook her head, pulling back to look at him. "You may not remember it, but we promised for better or worse, Potter. This is just a little bit of worse at the moment. That's all. We don't leave over things like that. Or give up. That's the whole bloody point."
He might not remember making that promise, but he had. He'd made it to her. She was his wife, and she deserved the same from him. Not him falling apart and threatening to disappear.
He cupped her face with his hands, feeling so fucking full of feelings for this woman he supposedly barely knew. And it terrified him, but he was more terrified to lose it.
He kissed her, not caring that Molly was standing a few feet away, that he was pretty sure more of her family had arrived. It didn't matter who was watching.
Ginny made a small sound of distress, pulling away from him. "Harry," she said, sounding sad and wounded. Like she thought he was just playing at something to make her feel better.
He didn't let her back away. "I didn't kiss you because it was a test or out of pity, or whatever it is you've convinced yourself," he said, fingers on her face. "I kissed you because I…don't know how not to."
"Harry," she said, voice strangled.
He rested his forehead against hers. "You feel like everything, Ginny."
The only familiar thing in this whole ridiculous world.
She hugged him tight, her face pressing into his chest. "Okay," she said. "Okay."
Harry woke with a shout, his arm reaching out. Searching.
"Ginny," he said, breath heaving in his chest.
There was a knock on the door, but he could barely hear it over the pounding of the blood in his ears.
"Harry?" Ginny asked. "Are you okay?"
He looked up, and she was hovering in the doorway. He blew out a breath. "Ginny."
Her eyes traveled over his face. "Nightmare?" she asked, voice soft with understanding.
He pulled his knees up, resting his elbows on them and scrubbing his face with his hands. "I take it this is normal," he guessed, to judge from how unsurprised she looked.
"It doesn't happen that often," she hedged, taking a few steps closer to the bed. "But they tend to get worse when you're stressed or worried about something."
He blew out a breath. "That certainly explains it."
She was standing near the bed now, looking hesitant, like she was resisting doing the things she might usually do in this situation. He reached for her and she settled on the bed next to him, her legs folded up under her, filling that painfully empty spot.
He couldn't believe how much easier just having her sitting there made things.
"Want to tell me about it?" she asked.
He shook his head. "I don't even know what they're about. The nightmares. It's just…images. Feelings. I can't even tell if they're real things that happened."
She made a soft sound. "They probably are," she said. "But I can imagine it's only more terrifying this way."
"It is," he admitted. "But even more than that, I'm just…I'm more left…"
He looked at her, sitting there in shorts and an oversized shirt he suspected might be his. It hung off one shoulder, revealing a light dusting of freckles along the pale skin of her collarbone.
He reached out, fingers brushing along her shoulder.
She let out an unsteady breath. "Harry."
"I always wake up terrified that you aren't okay," he said. He held her gaze, needing her to make sense of that for him.
She reached out, fingers against his jaw. "I'm right here, Harry."
She was. So close and warm and rumpled from sleep and right there. He was leaning into her before he was even completely aware of the impulse. She didn't hesitate to fold him in close, his face pressing into the curve of her neck.
He closed his eyes, breathing her in. She felt like a safe harbor, and he knew every time he woke in the middle of the night reaching for the empty side of the bed, this was what he was looking for.
"Do you think you could…stay?" he asked.
Her fingers tightened. "Yeah?"
"I haven't been sleeping all that well," he admitted. "I think maybe having you here…"
"I haven't either," she admitted.
He pulled back to look at her, his chest tight with how beautiful she was.
"I miss you," she said. "So much."
He'd gone to bed shirtless, and she trailed one of her hands down over his chest. He sucked in a breath, his hands tightening on her waist. "Ginny."
Her hands slid up into his hair, pulling his mouth down to hers. This was not at all what he meant when he asked her to stay. That hardly mattered though, not when she was kissing him like this, like she needed him as badly as he needed her.
She pulled herself up onto his lap, pressing close.
He groaned. "God, Ginny. Are you sure?"
"Yes," she said. "Are you?"
"Yes." He couldn't imagine ever wanting something more than he wanted this. Than he wanted her.
His hands fumbled, clumsy in his uncertainty. He wanted to touch her so badly, but didn't know what she liked, what it was like between them.
"Stop worrying," she said. "Just do what feels right."
He wasn't sure how easy that would be, but fortunately she clearly knew exactly what to do to make him forget himself.
It was all he could do to keep up, his hands and mouth and body seeming to know what to do even if his mind didn't have a clue. Just like with his spells and his broom. He let it take over, instinct or muscle memory, he didn't know, just knew being with her felt effortless.
Like this was exactly where he belonged.
He woke the next morning, not needing to reach for an empty spot, because his wife was already curled up against him, her legs tangled in his.
She looked up at him, eyes searching his face. "I suppose if this were some children's tale, you would wake up remembering everything after a spectacular shag."
He could tell she was trying to make light of it, that she still wasn't quite sure what to make of this. Or what he would.
Pulling himself up, he rolled so his body was angled over hers.
"I remember you, Ginny," he said, hand sliding up the smooth skin of her side.
She let out an unsteady breath, fingers pressing into his back.
He leaned into her, mouth near hers. "You're all I remember. You make up all of my memories."
She pulled him down against her, her mouth finding his.
He set about learning her all over again.
Harry wasn't sure why he deserved the personal attendance of the hospital Potions Matron for a simple check, but assumed it had something to do with his supposed fame. Either way, it added another layer of tension to his usually unpleasant visits.
Ginny sat next to him on the bed, her shoulder firm against his, and that was by far the most pleasant part of this entire trip.
The Potions Matron occasionally gave Ginny a wary glance, and Harry couldn't help but bite back a smile.
"I'll just check the sample," she said, pacing away to a potions station.
Harry swung his legs a bit in impatience.
"Have somewhere to be, Potter?" Ginny asked, giving him a sly look.
He felt his heartbeat leap. "Not in particular. Got any suggestions?"
She smiled, her foot nudging his before sliding up the back of his calf. "Oh, one or two."
Christ. He glanced back at the Matron, wondering what was taking so bloody long. The checks never took this long.
"Everything okay?" he called out.
The Matron looked over at him, startling a bit. He frowned, finding it worrisome that she looked a little…unsettled. A moment later her expression cleared and he assumed he'd imagined it.
"The levels are still holding, Mr. Potter," she announced, crossing back over to the bed. "As we expected."
At this point, it was stupid to expect anything different. Still, it was hard not to hope.
Ginny reached out, grabbing his hand. He squeezed her fingers, giving her a bracing smile.
He looked at the Matron to find her regarding him.
"How are you feeling, Mr. Potter?" she asked, looking down at her clipboard.
He shrugged. "Fine. Good. Pretty much the same."
Her lips curved into an emotionless smile. "Well then. I don't think we'll need to see you again until next week. Alright?"
That would be a relief, not having to come here again for a while, if it didn't also make it sound like from the Healers' point of view, his memory loss was going to be permanent.
He glanced at Ginny and could tell she'd made a similar connection. He squeezed her hand, running his thumb over the ring on her finger.
"Okay," Harry said.
As Harry moved through the kitchen making dinner, he watched Ginny out of the corner of his eye. When she'd come back from practice today, there was something different about her. Something fierce and focused that was honestly an enormous turn-on.
Then again, she was basically a huge turn-on no matter her expression. She pretty much even made breathing look enticing.
She didn't seem overly interested in him at the moment though, just absently leaning against the counter, tapping her fingers against the edge while she stared into the fireplace.
"What we need," she announced, "is a plan."
"Do we," Harry said.
She turned and looked at him. "Yes."
"Okay. Should we Floo Hermione?"
She rolled her eyes, walking over to stand in front of him, resting her hands against his chest.
"I mean, we already kind of had plans. Just shite ones. Plan A was some potion fixing you. Plan B seems to be sitting around and waiting for some miraculous recovery."
"So Plan C?
She looked up from fiddling with the buttons on his shirt. "I think maybe we need to accept that they aren't coming back."
He covered her hands with his. "Meaning?"
She nibbled on her lower lip. "What would you want to do, if they never come back?"
"Stay here with you," he said immediately.
"Yeah?" she asked.
He cupped her face with both of his hands. "Yes." It didn't matter if he never got it back. He wanted to be with her.
She kissed him, lifting up on her toes, but pulled back before they could get derailed.
"Okay," she said. "And what else?"
"That's not enough?" he asked.
She smiled. "Would you want to be an auror?"
He shook his head. "I don't think they're going to let me—"
"No, Harry," she said, poking him in the chest. "This isn't about what they let us do. We're not waiting around for someone to give us back our lives. We make our lives what we want them to be."
Harry stared back at his fierce, unapologetic wife and felt like he might burst with admiration.
"Do you want to be an auror?" she pressed.
"Yes," he admitted.
"Okay," she said, nodding like that was the beginning and the end of it.
"How exactly do I do that?"
Her head tilted to the side. "What did you do last time?"
"I don't remember ," he reminded her. "Or are you starting to get amnesia too? Is it contagious? Transmitted by sex?"
She laughed, rolling her eyes at him. "You studied and you learned and you practiced. You did it once, you can do it again. You show them how bloody competent and amazing and brilliant you are. And you don't stop doing that until they let you back in. Or they beg you to come back. And even then you should probably play hard to get for a while, those arseholes."
He switched their positions, crowding her back against the counter. "Have I ever told you that you're amazing?"
"Maybe once or twice," she said, looping her arms around his neck.
He leaned down, dragging his lips across the skin just below her ear. "Only once or twice? A huge oversight."
Her fingers slid into his hair. "You've always been better at showing me how you feel than saying it."
"Have I," he said, and set about doing just that.
Dinner was burned irredeemably, but neither of them particularly cared.
The next morning, Harry went into the Auror Office to talk to Robards about his options. He ended up swallowing back any indignation or embarrassment and agreed to spend a few weeks back in the training halls with the new recruits, just to see what he could and couldn't do.
For Harry, at least it felt like doing. Like taking some control over his life.
"How did it go?" Ginny asked when he and Ron got back from his first foray into the training halls.
"He kicked their arses, of course," Ron said, slapping him on the shoulder. "And not just because half of them were dumbstruck with hero worship."
Harry shook his head. "I still can't get used to that."
"Yeah, well, you never did, even with all your memories. So I wouldn't hold your breath either way."
"Well," Ginny said. "Just don't forget who your number-one fan is." She leaned up, giving him a kiss.
He eagerly kissed her back, even if he felt a little weird doing it in front of Ron. Other than making a gagging noise, he didn't comment on it.
"I'm off for practice," she said, and swept out of the apartment.
Ron and Harry scavenged through the fridge, pulling together plates of lunch.
"I've been thinking about the neurotoxin," Harry said, handing Ron a butterbeer and sitting across from him.
"Yeah?" Ron asked around a mouthful of sandwich.
"Well, I was thinking about why someone would do that to me."
"You mean instead of just killing you, if what you saw was so important."
"Yeah," Harry said.
"Well, you are notoriously difficult to kill," Ron said. "So maybe they didn't see the point."
Harry laughed, thinking of the scars all over his body. He'd started asking Ginny about them, but they'd barely managed to get through half of them so far. "Am I?"
"For a while you actually were. Not so much now. Much more weak and mortal. But I'm not sure the public at large understands the distinction. Man Who Survived Twice, and all that rot."
Harry frowned, knowing there was a much bigger story there he would have to ask about some day. For now he'd rather leave it be. "Let's assume it's not that."
"Okay," Ron said. "So they chose to make you forget instead of die."
"Because they didn't need me out of the way forever? Just for a certain amount of time?"
Ron gave him a wary glance. "But it could be permanent, couldn't it?"
"Yes," Harry said. "But they couldn't very well bank on that, could they? I mean, it's an unknown toxin, according to St. Mungo's. But for how long?"
Ron nodded. "Because they would definitely use all of the resources of the entire Ministry to find a solution. To fix the Chosen One. No. You're right. This couldn't have been about getting rid of you long-term."
"Which means what I saw is only dangerous for a certain amount of time."
"Okay," Ron agreed. "How does that help us?"
"I have no idea," Harry said, rubbing his fingers up under his glasses.
"Anything in the files ring a bell?"
Harry picked at the edge of his sandwich. "Only one," he said, handing Ron the file.
"Smugglers?" he asked, thumbing through the report documenting the illegal transfer of dark materials into the country.
"I can't explain it, but I swear the answer is in there somewhere."
Ron gave him a speculative look. "Know it is? Or feel?"
He shook his head. "The toxin levels haven't budged." There was no way he knew anything in particular.
"So a feeling then. An intuition."
"I know," Harry said, slouching back in his chair. "That's meaningless."
"Not necessarily," Ron said.
Harry gave him an incredulous look.
"You may not remember how many times your instincts have saved my arse, but I certainly do."
"Really?" Harry asked, feeling a traitorous spark of hope.
"Yeah, mate. I wouldn't discount it." He tapped his chin. "Tell you what. I'll dig about a bit. Look for any overlap between that area of Sussex and smuggling cases. Okay?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "Thanks."
By that evening, Harry felt tired. A good tired. Tired from doing things and working hard and practice and progress . His body ached, the kind that wasn't from being sick, but from getting stronger. Better.
He laid back in bed, tucking his hands up behind his head, feeling superbly content as he watched Ginny brush her teeth. He wondered how many times he'd done this. If it had started to get old or mundane or if he still watched her with this feeling of…wonder pressing in his chest.
"Maybe I'm lucky," he blurted.
She pulled her toothbrush out of her mouth, giving him a look in question.
"Getting amnesia," he clarified.
The sink ran, Ginny finishing up her last bedtime rituals, and then she settled next to him on the bed.
"How's that?" she asked.
"Getting to fall in love with you twice."
It wasn't the most elegant way to say it, but they were the words he had, and he wanted her to know. To know how much she'd become the center of this new world he was building.
Her lips parted on an unsteady breath. She looked like she didn't know if she wanted to tease him or ask him if he really meant it or just burst into tears.
She settled for climbing closer and winding her arms around his neck. "You stupid git," she said, voice thick.
He wrapped his arms around her, lowering his face to her hair.
"I'm not crying," she said.
He nodded in agreement. "You don't cry."
"That's right." She leaned back to look at him. "And if I maybe get a little misty sometimes, that's totally your fault."
He slid his hand into her hair, twisting into the heavy weight of it. "For saying ridiculous things."
"Yes," she agreed. "Your stupid, sweet, ridiculous words."
He brushed the tears from her face, following with his lips, kissing his way down her cheeks and over her jaw.
Sleep could wait.
When Harry got back from his afternoon training session, Hermione was already at their flat with Ginny. They were sitting on the sofa together, glasses of wine in hand. The aroma of chili permeated the flat.
"Smells good," he called out as he entered, stowing his bag out of the way.
"Well," Ginny said, getting to her feet. "It should. You made it."
He grinned at her. "And you managed to keep it from burning. So a victory on all sides."
She shook her head at him, smacking his arm lightly in retaliation.
Unrepentant, Harry leaned in and pressed a kiss to her lips. "Hi," he said, thumb brushing her jaw.
"Hi," she said, giving him that warm look that felt more and more like his own.
"Yes, I'm here too, thank you very much," Hermione said, sounding cross.
But when he leaned around Ginny to see her, she was smiling rather fondly at them both.
"Yes, hello, Hermione," he said, crossing over and giving her a brief hug.
She was practically beaming at him by the time he pulled back.
"What?" he asked.
Hermione shook her head. "It's just nice, seeing you two like this again."
His cheeks warmed. "It's nice to be like this." He glanced back at Ginny and she gave him a wink.
"So things are good?" she asked, as if she and Ginny hadn't probably already spent the last few hours talking about this.
"Yeah," he said.
"Well," she said, patting his cheek. "If there is one thing I know about Harry Potter, it's how quickly he falls face-first in love with Ginny Weasley."
He laughed. "I don't doubt it."
Ron arrived a short while later, taking an ale from Harry and settling across from him at the table.
"Sure enough," Ron said, slapping a file down in front of him. "Look what I found."
Harry eagerly pulled it towards him, skimming the details. It was a case file for a shipment of banned enchanted-creature products intercepted four years earlier. Very, very near the mill where Harry was found.
"Rogier Masters and Jobel Bartock," Harry read. The names almost felt like they meant something, but he was probably imagining it.
Ron gestured his bottle towards the papers. "They paid a fine and were given five years of probation."
"Five years?" Harry asked, leaning forward.
Ron nodded. "Meaning that their every move is being monitored and they risk going to Azkaban if caught doing anything else illegal."
"How much time is left on their probation?"
Harry sat back. "Not going to Azkaban would be reason enough to wipe my memories, I suppose."
"Only if you never remembered," Ron pointed out.
Harry rubbed his hand across his mouth. "Or if I didn't remember long enough for their probation to end and their tracking to be removed. Might make it bloody hard to find them after that."
"Well fortunately at the moment they're still being tracked. Won't be hard at all to get our hands on them."
Harry nodded, but couldn't shake the feeling that there was still something missing. Something more than maybe stumbling upon an illicit exchange by two known smugglers.
"Why a neurotoxin? I mean, unless that's what they were smuggling."
"I dunno. It's certainly worth at least bringing them in for questioning."
"Yeah," Harry agreed.
"But for now," Hermione said, leaning over them both, "it's time for dinner and paying attention to your lovely wives."
Ron grinned at her. "Of course, love." He looked at Harry. "Time for the true hero work—setting the table."
Harry laughed, and getting to his feet, followed Ron into the kitchen.
Harry frowned down over the reports. There was something here. He was certain of it. Somewhere in this tangle of facts and details and careful notes. He just had to find it.
"I'm off," Ginny said. "Be back at six."
He was so engrossed that he barely registered her words or the kiss she pressed to the top of his head until she'd already walked away.
He'd make it up to her later. After the mission.
Shaking his head to clear it, he made a wild grab for her hand before she could get too far.
"I'm sorry," he said, pulling her back. "I didn't mean to ignore you. I was just…"
She smiled, perching on the arm of the chair. "It's fine. Nice to see you so focused on something again."
He gave her a fleeting smile, something nagging at the back of his head.
"What is it?" she asked.
It's bloody important, okay?
"Am I a workaholic?"
Her eyebrows lifted. "We both are, really. You haven't seen me during playoffs yet. I'll ignore you tons, I promise."
That wasn't a denial so much as an excuse, Harry noticed. "Does it make you feel ignored?"
"Harry," she said, touching his cheek. "You're very dedicated. And if sometimes that makes you a little inattentive…" She shook her head like it didn't matter.
But it did matter. And despite her words, he thought it did bother her from time to time. He tugged her hand, bringing her face down close enough to kiss her very thoroughly.
"I'd rather be focused on you," he said.
She smiled, something brilliant that made his chest ache. "Yeah?"
To prove it, he pulled her down into his lap, the files and papers crinkling and scattering.
"Your reports," she protested.
"Forget them," he said, much more intent on kissing his wife.
What started as a goodbye kiss rapidly escalated, both of their shirts ending up on the floor.
"Are you going to be late to practice?" he asked, voice rough.
"Who cares," she said, reaching for his belt.
Who was he to argue with that?
It was only much later after Ginny finally made it off to practice that he knelt down to clear up the rather spectacular mess. Pages were scattered everywhere, all mixed together, and he smiled stupidly as he tried to sort them all out.
A few pages from the smuggling file had ended up in a magical maladies statistical report—overdoses and illegal potions damage—and with a sigh he moved to sort them out only to stop.
Magical maladies. That meant something.
He scooped up the files and Flooed to the Ministry.
Ron looked up as he came into his cubicle. "Harry, mate. I was just going to send you a message. You won't believe what's happened with Masters and Bartock."
"What?" Harry asked eagerly, perching on the edge of his desk.
Ron leaned back in his chair. "Found 'em in a ward out in Cornwall."
Ron nodded. "A hospital ward. Mysteriously, both of them have had their memories erased and no one knows how or why."
"Christ," Harry said. "Clearly we're on the right track."
"Clearly," Ron agreed, chair snapping forward as he reached for a report on his mess of a desk. "Your mysterious third-party player, we have to suppose. And now neither git is going to be of any help at all."
Harry frowned. "How long ago?"
He consulted his notes. "Five days."
Harry crossed his arms over his chest. "That doesn't make sense. Why now? Why almost four weeks after me? What's changed?" They hadn't made any real progress on the case at that point. Poisoning their two conspirators was either an act or desperation or an act of clean up.
"Well, if they're smugglers, maybe they already made the handoff. Became liabilities."
"Look," Harry said, putting down the magical maladies file still tucked under his arm. "The toxin is the outlier. That's where we should be focusing. Masters and Bartock were mostly into low-level supplies, not volatile potions. We need the person they were trading with."
"Agreed," Ron said. "We just need to figure out where to start."
"Was it the exact same toxin?"
"Uh," Ron said, shifting around the stacks on his desk until he pulled a piece of parchment out. "Actually, no. There were some minute differences between the one you were dosed with and the one they got."
"Modified? Like they'd been testing it? Evolving it?"
"So we have three cases of poisoning," Ron said. "But no other known cases ever. That tells us that at the very least it's obscure."
"Or maybe it's new," Harry said.
"Maybe. But like you said, that seems like a lot to risk on something you're just testing out. Even George uses thorough prototyping."
Harry felt something clench in his stomach. "And he always watches the results personally."
Ron turned to him with wide eyes. "You're thinking someone from the hospital?"
Harry rubbed at his forehead. "I don't know," he bit out. It felt like it was all just there, right out of reach.
"Mate, you alright?"
"Just a headache," he said.
Ron frowned. "Didn't you have one yesterday too?"
He shrugged, sweat breaking out on his forehead.
"Really, you look like crap," Ron insisted, guiding Harry down into his chair.
Harry sucked in a breath, his stomach lurching. "Ron," he managed, listing forward to grab his arms. "Something's not—"
"Harry!" Ron exclaimed as he caught him.
Everything went black.
"Ginny," he said, even before his eyes completely opened.
Sure enough, she was right by the bed, like she'd been so many times before. And doubtlessly would be again. They really should have their name on one of these wards. Just like Pomfrey always threatened to do back at Hogwarts.
He sucked in a breath, the room swimming, his hand fumbling for Ginny's.
"Harry?" she asked, fingers firm around his. The room seemed to right itself.
A healer burst in. "I've just gotten the toxicology report—"
"And the neurotoxin levels are zero," Harry said, using his free hand to push himself up in the bed.
"Mr. Potter! You're awake." He blinked down at the parchment in his hand. "And yes. About the levels. How did you—"
Ginny made a small sound, her fingers tightening around his. He turned to look at her, eyes traveling over her familiar, beloved face.
"Hey, Gin," he said, giving her a sheepish grin.
"Really?" she asked.
He tugged her onto the bed, wanting her close.
"Really," he said, wrapping his arm around her.
"You remember everything?" the healer asked.
Harry ignored the stupid question—how could he possibly know if he remembered everything ?—looking instead at Ron. "I was right. Masters and Bartock. They were a bit surprised to see me. And they weren't the ones who doused me with the spray."
"Who?" Ron asked.
"The Potions Matron?" Ginny asked, voice incredulous.
Harry nodded. "The very same potions matron who has been overseeing the antidote for my tricky, totally unfamiliar neurotoxin."
"Son of a bitch," Ron said. "That antidote very nearly killed you!"
Which was probably the point, to keep them from even trying to cure him. Or maybe she simply took it as a chance to monitor his condition.
Harry turned on the healer. "Where is she?"
He looked pale with shock. "She-she-she took leave! Six days ago."
Almost as if she was perfectly aware of when the toxin would wear off. Or she had seen for herself that it was finally dropping. He cursed under his breath. "Right after she told me not to bother coming in for another week."
"She'll have quite the head start on us," Ron said.
Harry nodded. An entire sodding month to prepare, to get everything in order.
"I'll go tell Robards," Ron said. But before he left, he slapped a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Good to have you back, mate."
Harry smiled, not bothering to point out that he'd been here the whole time. He knew what Ron meant. "Be careful."
He had a feeling Bowen was long gone, but either way, she'd already proven herself to be dangerous.
"Sure thing, kettle," he said, giving him a wink.
The healer was still staring down at the results in seeming shock. Or maybe still trying to wrap his brain around the betrayal of a colleague. They'd all have to be interviewed at some point. The entire department investigated for more transgressions, just what role illegal potions supplies had been playing at the hospital. Who knew how far this really went?
Harry sighed, already mentally building a list. People to contact, meetings to call. Robards was going to have a field day.
"The bloody Potions Matron?" Ginny grumbled. "You should have let me punch her in her sanctimonious face while I had the chance, that frumpy, gormless twat."
Harry refocused on her, all of the plans and details seeming to fade away. Clearing his throat, he looked at the healer.
"Would you mind giving us a minute?" He carefully made it sound not at all like a request.
"What?" the healer asked, clearly still lost in wonder over things Harry couldn't care less about at the moment.
"Leave," Harry clarified.
The healer blinked. "Oh. Yes. Of course. I'll come back…"
"Later," Harry agreed. "Much later."
The healer scurried out.
"I love it when you're take charge," Ginny said, turning her face into his shoulder.
"Except when I try to get that way with you," he countered.
"There's a time and a place for even that, Potter."
He laughed, arm tightening around her, face lowering to her hair. "I'll try to remember that."
She leaned back to look at him, her expression stern. "If you ever do that again," she threatened, poking him in the chest.
He caught her fingers. "You'll be just as amazing as you were this time."
She shook her head. "I was a mess."
He brushed the hair back from her face. "I can't believe how patient you were."
"I screamed," she admitted. "A lot."
He considered her. "Muffiliato in the bathroom?"
"You know me well."
"I do," he said, leaning forward to rest his forehead against hers. "I do."
He wished, as always, that he was better at this, that he could find words to explain this painful swell in his heart. How much everything she did meant to him. No matter how shitty it all got. She stayed.
He felt like he might explode with it.
She touched his cheek, her eyes intent on him. "It's okay," she said, as always knowing how he struggled, letting him know that she understood anyway. Knowing him better than he knew himself.
He covered her hand with his, turning his face to press his lips to her palm, like he could pour it all straight through her skin.
"I suppose there's no real way to if know it's all back in there," she said, fingers running comfortingly through his hair. Changing the subject to give him a chance to pull himself together, more than likely.
"His eyes are as green as fresh pickled—" he started to recite.
Her elbow connected with his stomach. "I'm going to go find some of that sodding toxin and dose you myself if you don't stop."
He laughed. "Admit it, that's what you really meant when you said there were some things you'd rather I didn't remember."
She gave him a knowing look. "Yes, exactly."
The weight of all of those unremembered things was definitely back, and it was hard, knowing what it was like to live with the losses—his parents, everyone else he's ever lost. The dark memories.
"You were right," he said, stumbling over it, but wanting it said. "I think we would have been okay."
"I think we would have," she agreed.
It meant a lot, knowing that. Knowing they are so much more than their history. But this way he got to remember. The first time he kissed her. Their wedding day. Their fights and their make-ups and the quiet, boring times too. All the times he'd royally cocked something up and she'd forgiven him.
He slid his hand up to cradle her cheek. "Even if it meant getting to forget the shite times, I still wouldn't want to. My memories of you make it all…worth it."
Her jaw tightened, fingers twisting in the fabric of his gown. Leaning into him, she said, "What do you say we escape this place and go make some new memories?"
Heat swept up his body at the familiar look on her face. "I say, 'where's my bloody wand'?"
Rolling off the bed, she fished it out of the drawer, handing it to him. "You don't need to rush off and deal with this?"
"Sod them," he said, flipping the sheets back. "I'll deal with them later." The healer and his stupid tests too. He looked around for his clothes.
"Well," she said, "don't I feel special."
He turned to look at her, something just a bit off in her voice. She gave him a cheeky smile, but he could see it, the exhaustion and worry.
He remembered with sudden ferocity the last time he saw her before the mission that left him with amnesia. The stupid fight. His distraction. He'd let her leave without even saying goodbye. The work had seemed so bloody important at the moment. He knew it wasn't. Nothing was as important.
Ignoring his ridiculous flapping gown, he rounded the bed, dragging her up against him. "You are," he said, voice fierce. "You are." Feeling flustered and not a little stupid, he covered by kissing her very thoroughly.
Her face was a bit pink by the time he pulled back, her eyes dark with what promised to make this a particularly enjoyable afternoon with his wife.
"Let's go home, Harry," she said.
And so they did.