"LATEST BATTLE TAKES TOLL
"On April 25th, 2004 He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named attacked both Diagon Alley and the Ministry of Magic. The wizarding world, panicked by the news of Harry Potter's apparent death (for more on this story and the attack on the Daily Prophet itself, turn to page 4), flocked to Diagon Alley, where most of the fatalities took place. Nearly 300 lost their lives in this attack. Healers at St. Mungo's have been working overtime to care for all the injured. (full story and list of known dead, page 5)
"Despite this, the Dark Lord was not victorious. Due to the preparation of the Ministry of Magic and the Minister of Magic, Arthur Weasley, our side met the Dark Lord's attack with equal force. The giants in the service of You-Know-Who were slaughtered by Aurors or otherwise captured alive. The dementors have been driven back to their island at sea and guards have been placed on them once again. Measures are being put into place making sure they cannot break free again. (full story, page 6)
"The Dark Lord himself was not captured in the battle. He managed to slip free with a large group of his Death Eaters in the last moments when he realized he was outnumbered. His last known whereabouts, a small village called Little Hangleton has been thoroughly searched, but there is no sign of his return. Ministry officials think it is likely he is in hiding for the time being, but we should not let our guard down.
"The Daily Prophet salutes all of the brave witches and wizards who fought for our freedom in this battle and thank them for their unwavering dedication to perserving our freedom. We will survive, come what may. --Luna Lovegood, editor-in-chief."
Hermione finished reading the short article and looked up at the assembled group before her. Ron was sitting to her left holding one of her hands. Fred and George were sitting at the foot of Tonks' bed and Remus was sitting next to her on it. She was still looking horrible from the fight, but her smile was genuine. She held Remus's hand tightly in her own.
On the bed next to Hermione lay Harry Potter. He was propped up on several pillows, his face starkly pale against the linens. His bruises were still spectacular, but he looked slightly better than he had when they'd first pulled him out of the wreckage of the Riddle House.
It had been a week since that night, the night of the battle and the tiny skirmish in the Riddle House. A lot of things had happened in that time.
Marietta Edgecombe was in Azkaban, which had long ago been liberated from the dementors. It still was not a pleasant place to be and Hermione had heard she'd cried for hours after being entombed there. Bellatrix Lestrange was nowhere to be found, though everyone suspected she had joined up with Lord Voldemort after he fled the scene of the battle with several of his Death Eaters in tow.
The Minister of Magic was still cleaning up from the battle. Many Muggles had witnessed the fight and all able-bodied Ministry officials were modifying memories. The Minister was often in meetings with the Queen and the Muggle Prime Minister for hours. Slowly, very slowly, the damage was being repaired.
Everything it seemed, but one thing.
Harry had been in St. Mungo's for a week, but Ginny Weasley had not come near him since that night in the Riddle House. She had asked to be moved from the ward Harry was currently in and was now two wards over. She refused to see anyone, even her family. And after several attempts to engage her, her family had backed off and given her space.
"Do you want me to read the article about you, Harry?" Hermione asked, her voice strangely loud in the sterile room that was reserved for injured Aurors only.
Harry shook his head. His expression was far away. He looked tired again.
"You look knackered, mate," Ron said. "Why don't you get some rest?"
"I'm fine," Harry answered shortly. He turned his head to look at his two best friends. "How is she?"
Hermione and Ron exchanged glances. Hermione looked back at Harry and reached out a hand to touch his arm. "She's...she's fine, Harry."
Harry's clear green gaze bore into hers. "Don't lie to me Hermione. You're horrible at it."
Hermione bit her lip. "She won't see any of us. She's two wards over and...and...Harry she's..."
But she couldn't find the words to say it. She knew the whole story of what had happened--it was one of the few things they'd been able to get out of her before she'd hidden herself away. Hermione knew Ginny blamed herself for what had happened to Harry.
"She blames herself for giving you up, Harry," Fred said bluntly. "She's being an idiot about it."
"Very stubborn, that one," George said, shaking his head. "If Mum hadn't told us to give her some space I'd be over there right now trying to make her see sense..."
Harry nodded his head. His gaze was far away again. He looked exhausted once more. Slowly his eyelids drooped and he seemed asleep. Fred and George, seeing this, stood up and, with a wave at Ron and Hermione, left the ward. Remus pulled the dividing curtain between Harry and Tonks' bed closed, leaving Ron and Hermione alone with Harry.
"We should go, Ron," Hermione said softly as she folded up the newspaper. Ron nodded, his large brown eyes filled with sadness. He'd been unusually quiet since that night. The sadness never left his eyes anymore. He seemed to have something on his mind.
"Yeah...let him get some rest," he said as he stood. Just as he did so, Harry turned his head to face them again, his eyes opening and fixing them both in his gaze.
"Thank you," he said simply. Hermione furrowed her brow in confusion.
"For what, Harry?" she asked, sitting back down and taking Harry's hand.
"For not giving up on me," he said. "You came for me. And Ginny."
Ron circled the bed and sat down on his other side. Awkwardly, he took Harry's other hand, resting his elbow on the bed.
"Harry...we..." Ron started. He seemed to be too choked to say anything. But he cleared his throat and said clearly, "We thought you were dead. Those three days you were gone...we thought you were dead."
"No you didn't," Harry said, shaking his head.
Hermione leaned forward and pulled Harry's hand to her chest, clasping both hands around it. "We did, Harry. I thought...I thought I'd never seen you again. I gave up on you. I'm sorry."
"I know you Hermione. I know both of you. You never gave up on me," Harry said staunchly. A ghost of a smile graced his lips and Hermione's heart was lifted by it. "You're both too thick to give up on me properly and you know it."
Hermione surprised herself by laughing, tears welling in her eyes. "Maybe I was hoping...secretly...but all the facts said you were dead."
Harry's smile widened. "You and your facts," he said fondly. "You wouldn't be Hermione if you didn't believe them. But I know what's in your heart, Granger. You never gave up on me and that's what...that's part of what kept me going, knowing that. Same goes for you, Weasley."
The sad look in Ron's eyes lessened slightly. "I wanted you to be alive Harry. I can't...I can't imagine life without you. Either of you."
He looked slightly embarrassed, but Harry merely clasped his hand harder. "I love you both," he said, his voice shaking with emotion.
"I love you too, Harry," Hermione said, leaning forward and kissing him full on the lips. She pulled away a moment later and Harry turned toward Ron.
"I love you, but I'm not kissing you," Ron said firmly in a flat voice. Harry and Hermione laughed and the sound echoed off the walls. It was a relief to hear it for all three of them.
"That's good. I might get jealous!" Hermione laughed. Ron went red in the face.
"You jealous! Who is the one kissing whom here?" he said, mouth turning up. Harry laughed and clutched at his side. "Trying to steal my girl mate?"
"Not on your life," Harry gasped, lying back against the pillows. He was smiling widely. "My heart belongs elsewhere."
Hermione's smile faded as Harry's eyes immediately darkened. She met Ron's eyes and she saw him frown. Harry's face became downcast immediately and he sighed.
"Harry...she'll come around," Ron said. "Weasley's are just...stubborn."
"I know," Harry said softly. The life seemed to leave him a bit and he sank his head back against the pillows. He looked away from both of them and Hermione sensed that he wanted to be alone.
"Ron?" Hermione said, gesturing with raised eyebrows at the door. Ron took the hint and stood, letting go of Harry's hand. He looked up at both of them.
"Going?" Harry asked.
"Yeah...you look tired," Hermione said, putting his hand back on the coverlet and standing. Harry nodded. "We'll come back tomorrow."
"Okay," he said, closing his eyes. He opened them a moment later. "Thank you again."
"Always mate," Ron said, taking Hermione's hand and leading her from the ward. They passed Tonks' bed and waved at Remus and Tonks, though both of them were too busy to notice them much. "When did they...?"
Hermione smiled as they walked softly past the kissing couple. "I guess he talked to her after all," she said. Ron shot her a peculiar, curious look.
"What are you on about?" he asked as they left the ward and entered the hallway. Hermione stopped and turned to face him. She had the sudden urge to kiss him.
Wrapping her arms around his neck, she stood on tiptoe and did just that. He kissed her back, pulling her against him, his hands wrapping around her waist. After several long moments, they both pulled back. Hermione stared into his soft brown eyes for several long moments, a soft smile on her lips.
"I love you, you know," she said.
"I love you too, Hermione," he said, kissing her again. He pulled back and looked at her. "What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking that I want everything to be okay again," she said suddenly, thinking of Harry and of Ginny. "I want them to be as happy as we are."
"Maybe they will be. You never know," Ron said softly. The sad light was back in his hound eyes.
"It seems like there's a scar now. A big scar between them," Hermione said, mouth turning down. She couldn't quite explain herself, but she knew she didn't have to. Everyone felt it.
"It'll heal," Ron said in a sure voice, though his eyes told Hermione differently. "They just both have to...have to help it along."
"What if they don't?" she asked. Ron sighed and bent his head, his forehead touching hers.
"I don't know," he said sincerely. Hermione leaned into him and closed her eyes. Ron's familiar scent invaded her senses and she allowed herself a moment in his arms, knowing she was the lucky one.
She didn't know what would happen either. And she wanted to cry. For Harry. For Ginny. For the world.
Harry waited; his eyes squeezed shut, pretending to be asleep, until he heard Remus leave Tonks' bedside. The dark ward was soon silent but for the sound of the many patients sleeping. Tonks shifted in the bed beside his, but was otherwise still.
Slowly and as quietly as possible, Harry got out of his hospital bed, swinging his legs over the edge and taking to his feet. His knees nearly buckled, but he managed to keep upright, though the blood rushed to his head.
The healers had managed to heal his wounds, broken ribs and dislocated shoulder, but he was still weak. He was taking as many as twelve potions to undo the internal damage the Cruciatus Curse had caused and to replenish his blood from losing so much. He'd been near death and so fevered he had been in a coma for two days.
He still remembered, as if it were an old memory and not a recent one, Ginny telling him he was real in the basement of the Riddle House.
He'd been so confused, so scared and wracked with fever that he didn't know if she was really there or if he'd just wanted her there so much that she'd appeared. His heart ached at the memory and of the tears he could still picture on her lovely, bruised face. He hadn't seen her since and the separation was tearing him in two.
He knew the whole story now. Ron and Hermione had told him what Ginny had told them and the bits and pieces they had picked up since that night.
Marietta had been in the service of the Dark Lord for nearly a year, feeding them information. Eager to impress, when Ginny had come to the Portkey Office for a Portkey, Marietta had delivered this information to Draco Malfoy, her contact to the Dark Lord. Malfoy, who had wanted Ginny for some time, had jumped at the chance to capture her. He had gone to her flat, kidnapped her and taken her back to Little Hangleton, where Voldemort had set up his headquarters. They had tortured her for hours until finally, desperate to make it stop, she told them what she thought they had wanted to hear. She had given up Harry's location.
Harry knew very little of what had happened to Ginny after that, such as how she came to be in the basement with him. He needed answers and he was tired of waiting for her to come to him. He needed to see her, at least. He didn't think he could stand another day without seeing her face.
His legs shook as he padded barefoot through the ward, grabbing hold of things to support himself. He slipped through the double doors and turned down the hallway. Hermione had told him where she was earlier and he had no trouble finding it.
He slipped through the doors of the darkened ward, making as little noise as possible as he walked down the row, peering into the beds. It didn't take him long to find her and he wasn't surprised to see she was awake. Her eyes glistened in the candlelight throwing gold shadows across her bed.
She saw him immediately and she seemed to wince, her mouth opening. If she had intended to say something to him, she couldn't seem to get it out. Her lower lip trembled and she pulled the blankets up to her breasts, her eyes huge.
"Don't look at me like that, Ginny," Harry said sadly. "Please..."
"How am I supposed to look at you?" she asked softly as he drew near, teetering on his feet. He gripped the metal footrest of her bed for support and she drew her legs up, not in an invitation to sit, but in order to get away from him.
"Like you used to," he said wearily. "Like you love me."
Ginny trembled in her bed and tears welled in her eyes. "I do love you, Harry."
"Then why have you been avoiding me? Why won't you come near me? Why won't you talk to me?" he demanded, gripping the metal bars of her bed hard. A sob escaped Ginny and she buried her face in her hands, her red hair spilling forward. "Answer me, Ginny..."
Ginny lifted her gaze to his and he saw tears glistening on her cheeks. "I was your Secret-Keeper, Harry. I betrayed you. Like Peter Pettigrew betrayed your parents."
Harry shook his head. "No...no its nothing like that! Pettigrew was evil. You're not evil Ginny!"
"I still betrayed you!" she choked, her chocolate brown eyes on his. "Look at me and tell me I didn't!"
Harry looked at her, drinking in the sight of her face, a sight he had sorely missed all week. Slowly, he spoke. "Ginny, they tortured you. Hermione told me what you told her. They tortured you for a whole day before you told them where I was. You held out for a day! That's...that's amazing!"
"How can you say that? They didn't even know I was your Secret-Keeper! They were just torturing me for the fun of it!" she said.
"That doesn't matter. You knew what they wanted. You're only human. You wanted them to stop hurting you. I know. Bellatrix Lestrange tortured me too. She made me scream for hours on end and by the end of it, I would have given anything to make it stop. I would have told her anything she wanted to know and a few things she'd never ask me. That's why they call it torture Ginny. You can't blame yourself for what they did to you."
Ginny looked at him hard, tears coursing down her cheeks. "I want to believe you. I want to stop hurting whenever I think of what I did, but the feelings won't go away. They could have killed you, Harry. Because of me!"
"Because of both of us. It was stupid making you my Secret-Keeper," he said and continued before she got the wrong idea. "It was stupid, because it would have got out eventually that I was arse over elbow in love with you and they would have come after you in a heartbeat. I was stupid for allowing that to happen. There was no way I could keep my feelings for you secret for much longer--not when I was ready at any instant to shout it from the rooftops!"
Ginny looked away and stared down at her hands, which were worrying the edges of the blankets. "Hermione told me what Bellatrix did to you. What she told you. About me."
"She said you had turned on me and betrayed me like Pettigrew," he said bluntly.
"Did you believe it?" Ginny asked softly.
Harry wanted to scream "NO!" at her as loudly as he could, but he knew that would be a lie. "Yes. For a while, I did believe it. But I didn't want to. I knew you loved me too much to do that to me. My head--you know, the part that sounds like Hermione--was telling me the facts all pointed to yes. But my heart was telling me no. And I followed my heart. I followed my heart back to you, Ginny."
"Ginny, I don't care what happened. I don't care about why I was captured. I'm safe. You're safe. We're both whole and healthy and we'll heal. I want to heal together. Please don't push me away. I don't blame you. I love you," Harry said, cutting her off. "Please say you love me."
Ginny took a deep breath. "I love you but--"
"No! No buts. Just..." he swayed on his feet again and Ginny sat up, reaching for him. He sat down on the bed, feeling weary. "Sorry 'bout that. I'm still kind of tired."
"You shouldn't have come here..."
"I couldn't wait any longer. I needed to see you," Harry said, taking her hand before she could pull away. Her skin was soft and warm and he reveled in the feel of it against his callused fingers. "I don't want to be apart from you ever again."
Ginny looked up and their gazes locked. There was an odd look he couldn't interpret on her face. She seemed to be contemplating something. Tears continued to course down her cheeks.
"Harry...there's something I need to tell you. I have to tell you. No one else knows," she said slowly.
"What is it?" he asked, leaning closer and squeezing her hand. "Whatever it is, you can tell me."
"I..." she started. She looked away from him and back down at the blankets. Shame was in her eyes. "Harry, Voldemort gave Malfoy a reward for capturing me."
"And what was his reward?" he asked, confused.
"Me," she whispered, her voice breaking. She looked back up at him. "He gave me to Malfoy. And Malfoy...he...he..."
Harry stared at her in confusion. Then realization hit him like a speeding train. He shook his head in disbelief. "No. No he wouldn't...he couldn't..."
Ginny pulled her hand from his. "I...I screamed and he didn't stop and...and he just wouldn't stop." She started rocking back and forth in place, tears running thickly down her face. She closed her eyes, her chin trembling. "He wouldn't stop Harry."
Horror bloomed in Harry's chest as he stared at her. Hatred so deep he thought there could be no end to it filled him. He wanted to kill Draco Malfoy. He wanted to tear him into bits and burn the bits to ash.
But Ginny had already taken care of that problem.
"Ginny...Ginny I'm so sorry..." he said, stumbling for words. He didn't know what to say. Ginny's raw eyes turned back to his and she shook her head.
"He said...he said I'd disgust you. He said you'd hate me because he'd touched me. He ruined me for you," Ginny sobbed, still rocking. She drew her arms up and wrapped them around her chest, her entire body shivering.
Tears welled up in Harry's eyes as he looked at her. "No! No Ginny. No, I could never hate you for what he did. That bastard. That fucking bastard hurt you and now..." He shook his head in disgust and grabbed her shoulders, shaking her slightly. "Ginny look at me!"
Her gaze was locked with his. He didn't flinch away from the pain there, the sorrow and the guilt. "Harry..."
"Ginny Weasley, I love you. Nothing will ever make me stop loving you. Nothing!" he said fiercely. "I wish I could kill him again. I wish I could do it with my bare hands! I'd kill him just for looking at you. Just for thinking about you!"
She flinched at the raw anger in his voice. "I killed him."
"I know. Ron told me," he said gently.
"I killed two people Harry," she said numbly.
"I know," he said. "That doesn't make you a horrible person. I've killed many more than that. You did what you had to do."
She nodded and looked down at her hands again. "I nearly killed three."
"Who else?" he asked. She didn't look up as her body gave another violent shudder.
"Myself. I nearly killed myself," she said dully.
Harry inhaled a sharp breath, shock overcoming him. "Why? Why did you almost kill yourself? Look at me Ginny. Why?"
"I didn't want to live. I thought you were dead. After I got free, I decided to go to the Riddle House and blow it up. I wanted to kill Lord Voldemort and all the Death Eaters. I wanted to do something good for everyone. Malfoy had just..." she trailed off and then swallowed hard. "I didn't want to live. But it all went wrong."
"What did?" he asked softly.
"Voldemort left. And Malfoy...he wanted to show me something. I was too scared to do anything but let him drag me along. He took me to the basement."
"And I was there."
"Yes," she said, but she still wouldn't meet his gaze. "I saw you and what I did to you. I couldn't blow up the house with you in it. But I didn't want to...want to live after seeing...seeing what I'd done."
"What happened, Ginny?"
"Nothing. Before I could...Malfoy was going to attack you. So I killed him instead. And then Ron and Hermione and the others found us. I didn't..." she stopped, closing her eyes. "I didn't do it."
"Are you still thinking of doing it?" he asked in a low voice. She didn't look up. "Look at me Ginny. Answer me. Are you still thinking of doing it?"
She looked up and he saw the pain in her eyes. "Every day I think I might go mad feeling everything I'm feeling. And I think...ending it will be better than feeling so much pain. But I...I don't have the courage."
"Suicide isn't an act of courage, Ginny," Harry said angrily, vision blurred by tears. "Suicide is an act of cowardice. You are no coward. You kept on going after what Malfoy did to you! You fought back! You saved me!"
"I damned you," she said.
Harry had had enough. He grabbed her shoulders and shook her. "STOP IT! Stop it right now, Ginny! Do. Not. Blame. Yourself! I don't hate you. No one hates you. We all love you! I love you more than I could ever tell you! I want to love you until the day I die and I want you to be there. Have you thought about what will happen to everyone in your life if you hurt yourself? HAVE YOU?"
"Your parents were sick with worthy when you were taken. How do you think they'll be if you killed yourself? Mum and Dad--er…Mr. and Mrs. Weasley--would be a wreck. Your brothers would never get over it. Hermione would lose one of her best friends. I would lose the woman I love! Have you thought about that? Or have you been so selfish you haven't looked past what you're feeling to think of anyone else?"
Ginny looked shocked at the way he was speaking to her, but Harry didn't care. He wanted to knock sense into her. He didn't ever want to see the look of despair in her eyes again. It hurt him to see her hurting so much.
"I'm not trying to be selfish," she said. "I just don't want it to hurt any more."
"I know how much it hurts, Ginny. You think I didn't want to die in that house? I hurt so much I just wanted to close my eyes and let go--but something kept stopping me. I had hope that my friends would find me. I had hope that you were alive," Harry said.
"I can't find any hope Harry," she said softly.
"Then let me help you find it," he said, letting go of his anger. He let go of her shoulders and took her hands. Emotion overcame him. "Let me help you heal Ginny. It doesn't have to hurt if you let me in."
"I don't know if I can, Harry. It ihurts/i so bloody much. Every time I close my eyes I see Malfoy. I keep having nightmares about it. I'm afraid to close my eyes when it gets dark. I'm scared," she said. "I'm scared to let anyone in. I'm not good enough for you anymore."
"Don't you ever think that," Harry said. "You're...you're...oh, Ginny. You're everything I ever wanted. What he did to you can't change that. It's only physical, what he did." He lifted a hand and placed it over her heart. "He could never touch you here. That's where I belong and there's no room inside for him."
"I feel so...dirty inside," she said, clasping her hand over his. He could feel the steady thump-thump of her heart beneath his palm.
"That'll fade with time, Ginny. You have to let it go. You have to let the people who love you back in. Dealing with it by yourself won't make the problem go away."
"I know," Ginny said. "I know. I want..."
"What do you want?"
She took a deep breath and looked at him with want in her eyes.
"I want all the scars to heal. I want things to be like they were. I want to be that little girl at King's Cross who saw a scared little boy asking my mum how to get on Platform 9 and 3/4. I want you to be happy. I want this war to be over. I want...I want everything," she said simply.
"I want all those things too, Ginny," Harry said, squeezing her hand. "Let me want them with you, please? Don't push me away. Please?"
Ginny looked up at him, her lip trembling. Her tears had stopped. Harry thought she'd never looked so beautiful in all her life. She smiled then. A sad, small ghost of a smile that made his heart break and soar at the same time.
"I couldn't push you away if I tried, I guess. Look at you. You shouldn't be out of bed and you just had to come and find me. Its a wonder you can even walk," she said with a teasing hint in her voice. His heart was lifted slightly.
"I could never stay away from you. And I've never been one to stand bed rest for very long. Used to give Madam Pomfrey strokes all over the place back at Hogwarts, you know," he said, matching her tone. The air felt lighter somehow, though the sense of something deeper between them was still there, he had a feeling it was starting to heal.
She laughed, though it wasn't as heartfelt as her usual peal of girlish giggles. He liked hearing it just the same.
"I missed you," she said earnestly.
"I missed you too," he responded immediately. "In case I haven't said it a million times--I love you."
She smiled and it was full and without a hint of sadness. "I think you might have mentioned that once or twice."
"Well get used to it. I think I might do it once or twice for the rest of your life if you let me," he said with a grin.
"Spoil me, why don't you?" she said leaning back against her pillows. Harry suddenly felt very tired. He shifted on the bed and started to crawl beneath her covers. "What are you doing?"
"I'm tired. And this bed is plenty big enough for the both of us," he responded as he crawled in beside her. He stopped when he saw the look of fear in her eyes. "Um...if...if you don't want to...I understand."
She seemed to be contemplating what he'd said. A moment later though, she reached for him and pulled him down onto the hospital bed beside her. "Please stay. I want you to."
Harry nodded and they adjusted position so that they were curled up next to each other. His arms went around her and he held her close. She rubbed his arms with the tips of her fingers and sighed against him, their foreheads touching. His breath mingled with hers and he felt suddenly warm and content for the moment, despite the pain he knew would come from healing.
"I love you," she said, breath stirring against his lips. "Kiss me."
He did as he was told, kissing her mouth gently. He pulled away quickly. He didn't want to push her and he knew from the stiff way she pulled back that she had a long, hard road ahead of her. They both did. He was more than ready to go down it with her.
Her eyes fluttered closed and she relaxed against him slightly. Harry buried one hand in her hair and rubbed at the back of her neck. Their hearts beat together and he was soon lost in the slow, steady rhythm. He felt sleep overcoming him and he didn't fight it.
As they both sank into slumber, he thought her heard her speak.
"Never leave me."
"Never," he answered softly. "Never."
cicatrix -- noun. (plural: cicatrices or cicatixes); a scar.