She'd been watching him for days, a month actually. Each morning and every evening just after supper, the solitary figure passed her window. It seemed to her nurse's eye that he was walking not for exercise, but with the determination of a man who needed to get his strength back and was pushing himself to the limit to do so. She'd seen that look on so many of her patients' faces and for some reason, it touched her heart and made her wonder what had happened to him. She wondered, too, if he was ex-military. There was something in his posture that spoke of hours of training or standing guard. Had he been injured in Afghanistan or Iraq? He was the right age, maybe twenty-five or twenty-six.
Most often when she watched him, she stood far enough back from the window that she thought he might not notice her following his progress past her flat. The thought that he was oblivious to the fact that she knew when to look for him made her smile; men like him were easily embarrassed when they discovered she could see him leaning on the walking cane he carried. She didn't want him to be embarrassed because of his condition, whatever it was he was recovering from.
Tonight, though, just as he passed, she put a bouquet of freesia, peonies and daisies on the window sill and stood directly in back of it, willing him to look up at her. He did and she smiled at him, wondering if he knew how much she hoped he'd get better soon.
He was tired. The London heat had sapped his energy and made his evening walk almost torture. He would have turned back, but this far into his route it was best if he just kept going. He liked this part of the city with its old Victorian houses, most of which had been converted into multiple flats. There was one he particularly liked; it was built of brick and had a yellow door and a window box full of flowers on the ground floor, the only one on the street. He knew a woman lived in that flat; he'd seen her enter several times and loved the glimpse of vivid red hair she kept in a severe bun at the nape of her neck. The hairstyle reminded him of his favourite teacher at Hogwarts, only this woman was eons younger. He also knew she sometimes watched him walk past. Yesterday morning, he'd seen her sitting in the window, casually sipping her morning tea, a newspaper held just so, so she could look over the top of it at him. The smile she'd given him had kept him going the rest of the day.
He stopped walking to catch his breath while looking at the flat with the window box. As he watched, the woman who lived there appeared and set a bouquet of flowers on the sill. He expected her to step away, but she didn't. Instead, she stood looking out at the street.
Leaning on his walking cane, he took the time think about what she might be saying to him with her unusual choice of blooms. Was she wishing him well? Did she know he needed healing? Did she want to initiate a friendship? Shaking his head, he scoffed at himself; he was reading entirely too much into that innocent bouquet of flowers. Still, the book about flower meanings that he'd read while in hospital had been entertaining enough to take his mind off his pain, but he hadn't taken it seriously. So why would he suddenly want to know if the woman really was trying to send him a message?
He looked up higher in the window and was pleased to see the woman had stayed standing in full view from the street. She smiled at him and he returned it, reaching up with his free hand to wave at her. However, the action was too much for his tired body and pain tore through his midsection with a vengeance. He doubled over, clinging to his cane to stay upright, willing the pain to lessen just enough for him to get home. Why did the after effects of Voldemort's spell have to make themselves known at this exact time?
Ginny felt pleased when her young man noticed the flowers, and even more so when he returned her smile. Her smile turned into an expression of deep concern as she watched him suddenly double over in obvious pain as he tried to wave at her. In an instant, she was out her door and at his side, giving him something to lean on until his pain passed.
Eventually, he relaxed enough to straighten a little, and turned to look at her.
"Thank you," he rasped. "I'm sorry if I alarmed you."
"You need to sit down, I think," Ginny told him in her best matron's tone. "Give yourself a little time to recover. Come inside. Do you need my help?"
The man barely nodded and began to shuffle slowly towards her open door. Ginny kept a firmly supportive grip on her "patient." He was gasping for breath by the time they made it to her sofa and she lowered him gently to the cushions. Only then did he really look at her. His eyes were a brilliant, pain-filled green.
"Thanks," he murmured.
Ginny knelt beside him. "Will you be all right? Do you need to take any meds for your pain?" she asked, concerned.
He nodded and brought out a small vial of bright blue liquid. "I don't do well with pills, so the liquid form is what I take," he explained, and before she could ask what he was taking, he swallowed the contents and lay his head on the back of the sofa, closing his eyes. "May I have some water, please?" he asked weakly.
Ginny smiled even though he couldn't see it and went to get the water. He looked much better when she returned. She handed him the glass. "I've never seen meds work so fast," she commented. "Not even the liquid versions. Can I ask what you're taking?"
"It's experimental," he told her. "I'm part of a case study. By the way, I'm Harry."
At the abrupt change of subject, Ginny realized she wasn't going to get any more information on the mysterious medicine, so she murmured, "I see," and introduced herself.
"Pleased to meet you, although I would have liked it to have been under different circumstances. Did you just get home from work?" he asked.
Ginny glanced down at the smart trouser suit she had worn to work that morning. "I did," she replied. "I work at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital. If you don't mind, I'd like to change. Then I'll make us some dinner, if you'd like to stay."
"I'll be here when you come back," Harry said and closed his eyes again.
She made quick work of changing and returned to her living room to find Harry snoring softly. He must have worn himself out walking so much in this heat, she thought. With great care, she picked up his feet and pushed her pouf under his legs. He sighed in his sleep and she knew she'd done the right thing for him. Then, she turned to her kitchen and began to prepare their dinner.
The smell of chicken soup, warm bread and chocolate eventually woke Harry up and for the first time in a long time, he realized he was hungry. But how could this be? He lived alone; Kreacher, his house-elf, had died several years ago and his friend, Hermione, couldn't make chicken soup or fresh bread if her life depended on it, so she always brought take away when she came to visit. Most evenings, it was all he could do to slap together a sandwich when he came back from his walk.
As he awoke further, he became aware of other clues to his whereabouts. He knew he wasn't on his sofa at home and he wasn't in hospital, either; he was just too comfortable and instead of antiseptic, the room had a floral scent. Finally, Harry opened his eyes to find he was in the lounge of a charming little flat that had a bouquet of flowers in the window. Harry smiled. He knew where he was now, and who owned the flat; her name was Ginny.
Almost as if he'd called her name, Ginny chose that moment to check on him.
"Oh, good! You're awake. The soup's ready and if your meds are like the ones we use at the hospital, you'll need something in your stomach pretty soon. Are you hungry?" she asked.
Harry smiled at her. "Surprisingly, I am," he replied. "Will you help me up?"
Ginny came forward and helped him stand, handing him his cane when he was fully upright. "Go sit at the table by the window," she directed, pointing at a table he hadn't noticed before now. "I'll bring dinner. Would you like water or tea?"
"Tea, please," Harry replied, marvelling at the fact that tea really did sound good.
The meal passed pleasantly, Harry eating every bit of the homemade soup in his bowl. It warmed his insides and relaxed the knotted muscles of his abdomen, the ones so severely damaged by Voldemort's charm. He had a feeling that tonight's meal wouldn't end up in the bowl of the loo. That was progress for certain.
During the meal, they talked about inconsequential things, like the weather and latest news, but Harry found himself enjoying himself more than he had in a long while. He also learned a little about her history and her job at the hospital. He felt a little guilty when he had to avoid her questions on his background, but she didn't seem to mind.
Ginny stood, gathering up the dishes, and asked, "How about some dessert?"
"Was that chocolate I smelled earlier?" he asked, wondering if she had made pudding.
She blushed and said, "Yes, but I'm not sure I should share it, only because I'd have to cut into my co-worker's birthday cake. She turns thirty tomorrow and I promised the floor staff that I'd bring the cake. I do have some vanilla custard, though."
Vanilla custard sounded wonderful and Harry told her so. His serving was ice cold, pleasantly sweet and again, felt like it was also going to stay down.
As he put down his spoon, Harry looked up at Ginny. "I don't know what you've done to this meal, but I feel better than I have in a while," he said gratefully. "Thank you." He glanced at his watch and then out the window at the rapidly falling dusk. A regretful sigh escaped him as he said, "I need to complete my walk home. If I wasn't so slow, I'd stay and chat, if you'd have me."
"Would you like a ride home?" Ginny asked reaching for her car keys.
"No, thanks," Harry said. "I don't live far from here, so I'll be home before it gets too dark. I appreciate the offer, though."
She looked disappointed at his refusal.
"Will you be at your window tomorrow morning?" Harry asked as he slowly clambered to his feet.
"Would you like me to be there?" she countered, sounding hopeful.
"I would," he said. They walked together to her door, and, as he left, he asked, "Until tomorrow morning, then?"
"Until tomorrow, she agreed. As he walked down the street and rounded the corner into the next one, he could feel her eyes on him. It was a very pleasant feeling indeed.
For her part, Ginny felt amazing. She'd made a new friend, she hoped, and simply by sharing a meal with Harry had made herself feel not so lonely. The last sixteen months had not been very enjoyable emotionally for her. Her brother's death had caused a rift in her family, mostly because her other brothers blamed her when he died. But how could she be blamed when he'd become ill with brain cancer? It wasn't her fault that the Fates chose Fred as their unwilling victim. However, it was her brother, Ron's, comment about how horribly she'd treated Fred in his last days that caused her to leave Devon and the hospital she'd been working at and come to London, as far away from her family as she dared. It hadn't taken very long for her to find employment. There was a nursing shortage at several of the big hospitals and she'd had several job offers from which to choose. Ultimately, she chose the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital. She loved her new job assisting the orthopaedic patients in her care and nine evenings out of ten, she came home feeling like she had contributed to their recovery. Still, she spent many a night wondering whether she could have done more for Fred; the guilt was her constant companion.
"Well, Ginny-girl," she said to herself as she closed her front door, "let's hope there's more evenings like this one with Harry in the near future. I could use a little more happiness."