Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the works by JK Rowling. I, like so many others, am merely borrowing them as a basis for my own work of fanfiction.
Chapter One – The Aftermath
October 31, 2001, 11:30pm at the Burrow
"No! Stay away from me!" The young woman thrashed on her bed as she cried out in her sleep.
"Why are you doing this to me! I thought you loved me!"
"Why, Harry, why are you hurting me, I love you!"
"Please, Harry, stop ... don't do this!"
Molly Weasley sighed as she stood in the door of her daughter's bedroom, watching her thrashing in her sleep. She had been like this almost every night for the past two years. She didn't sleep much more than an hour or two every night.
Molly hated watching her daughter suffer, knowing there wasn't a thing she could do to help. They had tried everything they could think of, St. Mungo's, healers, counselors, muggle psychiatrists and psychologists. Nothing had helped.
Most of the time Ginny was just fine, normal even. But then something would trigger an episode, as they had started to call them. During these episodes, Ginny would change. Sometimes she would cower in fear, other times she would lash out in rage and anger, still other times she would physically or magically attack people. It had gotten to the point where they could not allow Ginny to go out on her own, someone would always go with Ginny – either Molly, Arthur, one of their sons, or Hermione. They couldn't even let her have her wand when she went out for fear that she would curse someone.
Molly's heart was breaking in her chest. It was so unfair, what had happened. Ginny had gotten together with the man of her dreams in her sixth year at Hogwarts. Even with the ongoing war, and the tensions that came with being the girlfriend of the Boy-who-lived, their relationship had blossomed. They had gotten engaged after she graduated from Hogwarts, but had put off their wedding until after he was done with Auror training and she was done with her training as a medi-witch.
For several years, she watched them build their relationship and get closer to one another. Through all of the separations that their training programs had forced upon them, they kept getting closer. Long letters kept their owls busy as the Boy-who-lived poured out his heart and soul to the Girl-who-survived, and she poured hers back. When they were able to get together on the rare occasions that their schedules allowed, the love they shared was an almost visible thing, shining in the air around them.
Molly shook off her reminiscing and walked to her daughter's bedside. She sat down on the bed next to her and gently rubbed her back, whispering soothingly in an attempt to ease her nightmare.
Ginny woke with a startled scream and sat up gasping for air. When she saw her mother sitting next to her, she grabbed her in a hug and sobbed.
"Why did he do this to me, Mum? What did I ever do to him?"
"Shh, sweetie, he's not here ... he's not here ... you're safe." As she said this, Molly's sad thoughts turned to the other player in this little drama, her almost seventh son, Harry Potter. After the events of two years ago, Harry had been unable to get near Ginny, and as a result had been forced to stay away from most of the family as well. She missed her almost son, and prayed every day that somehow things could all be set right.
Sometimes it almost seemed as though Ginny were getting better. Days could go by without episodes, weeks sometimes, but something always happened. Today had been one of the worst in a long time. She had been so normal for so long, and they had all let their guards down. Then, just a few hours ago, a young child had come to the door trick-or-treating in the latest Boy-who-lived costume.
Ginny had gone on a rampage and they had barely been able to keep her from attacking the young, terrified, boy. Eventually they had to force-feed her a calming potion to get her to settle down and come to bed. Now, the nightmares were back in full force, and it looked as though it would be another long night.
Eventually, her daughter's sobs quieted and she was able to ease her back onto her bed. She gently brushed her daughter's long red hair away from her face and studied her in her repose.
Molly honestly did not know how much longer this could all go on. Even in sleep, her daughter looked taut with fear, her face showing the ravages of almost two years of interrupted sleep and nightmares. Her body was gaunt, displaying the effect of not eating properly for the same length of time. Once again, Molly sent her prayers out, hoping that this time they would be answered.November 1, 2001, 10:00am The Great Wizarding Library of Jerusalem
The hush in the Great Wizarding Library of Jerusalem was almost complete. The only sounds were the hushed whispers of the researchers, the scratch of quills against parchment, and the rustling of parchment pages being turned. Charmed crystals glowed over each of the study tables, providing unobtrusive light without the risk torches or candles would pose to the thousands of years of knowledge stored in the scrolls and books that packed the dusty shelves. The cool, dry air was scented with dust, old parchment, jasmine, and lavender.
A thin young man with unruly black hair sat at a study table that held several piles of books and scrolls. His companion was a young woman with long brown hair that was braided into a single plait hanging halfway down her back. The two read mostly in silence with only the occasional hushed sentence or two being exchanged between them.
"Molly said she is getting worse again," Hermione told her best friend gloomily as they worked together trying to find something that would help Ginny get better.
"It is that time of year, you know," Harry answered in a voice so tired that it almost seemed dead. "It's been two years since she was taken ... since I failed to protect her ... since I let her down."
"It wasn't your fault, Harry, you know that!" Hermione said sympathetically, thinking back to the events of two years ago.
Two years ago marked the most violent night since the second war began, and, coincidentally, the beginning of the end for Voldemort. His forces staged massive raids on that Halloween night, raiding Hogsmeade, Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, the Ministry, several Orphanages and shopping malls, neighborhoods, and St. Mungo's.
The Aurors, Hit Wizards, and Order members were stretched to the breaking point trying to beat back the Death Eaters. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Luna, and many others were pressed into service even though they were still in training. Ginny had been at St. Mungo's helping with the steady stream of wounded. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Luna had all been there as well, called out to reinforce security around the hospital.
In a daring raid, Death Eaters had attacked creating a scene from hell as they fought with the Aurors on duty and with the trainees. Their group of trainees had been tasked to protect a group of injured and the medical personnel assisting them, one of which was Ginny. A Death Eater in disguise had been brought into the hospital as one of the wounded and had kidnapped Ginny right out from under their noses.
Something snapped in Harry that night. Upon learning of her disappearance, he had turned into a death-dealing machine and had almost single-handedly disabled or killed all of the attacking Death Eaters at St. Mungo's.
Following that, Harry had vanished for over 24 hours, finally reappearing at home where Hermione and Ron were waiting for him. When he had come home, at last, his robes were even more tattered and dirty than they had been at St. Mungo's, and he had several fresh wounds that were still bleeding freely. Hermione had never been so scared for her friend than when she had looked into his eyes when he first came home and seen the very depths of hell reflected therein.
She and Ron had helped him heal his injuries, and she had slipped a dreamless sleep potion in with the other healing and restorative potions she fed him. While he slept, she and Ron had contacted Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, and Fred, George, Charlie, and Bill Weasley.
In the days that followed, Harry had continued his rampage against the DeathEaters, this time with she, Ron, Neville, Luna and the other four Weasley sons by his side. Without even the slightest consideration of the risks or danger, Harry would throw himself into combat situations and create such havoc that they and the other fighters summoned to the conflict were able to win easily, triumphing over many times their number of dark wizards.
All the time he was fighting, Harry was searching for some sign of where Ginny had been taken, some clue as to her location.
It was only after the final battle with Voldemort himself that they had found out where she was. Harry had been amazing in that battle, she could both see and feel the magic coming off of him in waves as he had worked his way through the last of the surviving Death Eaters and confronted Voldemort.
In an almost anti-climactic battle, he defeated Voldemort in a one-on-one duel, locking his spirit away forever in an imprisonment crystal.
She and Ron had captured Peter Pettigrew, Wormtail, during that fight. Under the influence of Veritaserum he revealed that it had been Draco Malfoy that had kidnapped Ginny, and that she was being held at a secret Malfoy property in Wales.
With hardly a pause for rest, Harry and the rest of them had stormed the castle's location. Harry left them behind in his eagerness to rescue his beloved Ginny, and when she and Ron caught up with him deep in the bowels of the dungeon, they were confronted with a sight that they never expected to see.
There before them were two Harry Potters. One of them in robes filthy from the long battle that had just been fought, and the other in pristine robes, both of them attacking each other with curses and spells.
Chained to a table in the small dungeon room, she found an unconscious Ginny, her nude body displaying clear evidence of the torture and abuse that she had been subjected to for the past days. A few minutes after she and Ron had found Ginny, Harry ended the duel in spectacular fashion, blasting his doppelganger completely through a thick, stone dungeon wall with a Reducto curse.
Ginny roused just after that, and to their shock and horror attacked Harry in a rage. It was only after Ron stunned her that calm was restored.
After several days in St. Mungo's having her numerous injuries treated, Ginny awoke to find Harry, Ron, and Hermione by her side. Evidently not seeing Harry at first, Ginny hugged both she and Ron, thanking them for rescuing her and asking how the battle had gone. This calm lasted only until she spied Harry, standing behind her brother with a loving smile on his face.
Happy, grateful Ginny changed before their eyes into a vengeful furious Ginny. Screaming obscenities, the new Ginny tried to claw her way through her brother to attack the startled Harry. Bleeding from several scratches, Ron was able to restrain Ginny long enough for the attending medi-witch to calm her down with a potion.
This same cycle of events kept recurring every time Ginny saw Harry. Each and every time she saw him she would attack him with everything she had.
After talking with her for extensive periods, the healers at St. Mungo's found out that she believed firmly that she had been kidnapped, tortured, and raped by none other than Harry Potter. Nothing Ron or his family could say to her made any difference in her behavior. No matter what was said about the fight in the dungeon, and that Draco was using polyjuice potion to imitate Harry made any difference. In Ginny's mind, Harry was the one who had done unforgivable things to her.
After a period of time, Harry decided to stay away from Ginny, hoping that she would eventually recover and realize that it had not been him.
"There is something here ... maybe." Harry's musing voice interrupted her remembrance of those dramatic days.
"Hmm?" she said distractedly.
"Let me study this for a while, Mione, I'll let you know in a little while."
Hermione was once again lost in her thoughts of those days almost two years ago.
As long as Ginny did not see Harry, or was reminded of Harry she was fine. If someone mentioned him in conversation, she would erupt in curses and extremely graphic descriptions of what she would do to him if she ever saw him.
She was eventually released from St. Mungo's after the wizarding medical community decided that there just wasn't any more that could be done. Harry generously funded other approaches, even to the extent of having Ginny taken to see muggle doctors. Nothing they tried, however, yielded any positive results.
Eventually everyone had given up on finding a "cure" for Ginny, and just learned to live with her "episodes" and other odd behaviors, one of which was insisting on being called "Ginevra," which was her first name, instead of by her lifelong nickname of "Ginny." As long as she was not exposed to any mention of Harry Potter – in print, conversation, evoked memory, or anything else – she was absolutely normal, if a trifle meek and placid. Once her "Harry Potter" trigger was tripped, however, she transformed into a raving lunatic that usually attacked whatever or whoever triggered the "episode."
Her family soon learned, when they were with her, to keep one hand very close to their wand so that they could quickly Stupefy her before she could damage something or someone.
The greatest tragedy of this was that Harry had not been able to see his fiancé, the woman he loved more than anything in the world, his passion, his everything, in almost two years.
Two long years that, once they had resigned themselves to not finding a "normal" cure, he had devoted to researching other avenues.
Which is why Harry was currently digging through this library, after having exhausted the resources of other libraries. And why Hermione was spending her vacation time with him, even though she loved him dearly, she had to admit he was pretty hopeless when it came to proper research.
As he sat at the book and scroll covered table next to one of his two best friends, Harry thought over the information that he had just read. The ritual, if he could do his part, held great promise to be able to restore Ginny to her normal self. The downside was that Ginny was not restored, she would be free to kill him ... and there would be nothing he could do to stop her. And so he sat and thought ... was he willing to risk everything to help her?
As Harry mulled this over, his thoughts drifted back in time to when he and Ginny first got together.
Over the summer after his fifth year they had started writing letters, and she had slowly helped him get over his feelings of guilt, and to work his way through his grief and pain. Of all of his friends, she was the one who did not tell him that the pain would soon fade, that it would get better soon. Showing an understanding far beyond her years, of everything he was feeling, she told him over and over that he should not blame himself for Sirius' death, that he had been tricked by Voldemort, and that Sirius wouldn't want him to wallow in self pity and not move on. She also listened to him as he poured out his grief and pain, and she poured back support and love.
Over his sixth year, he and Ginny grew closer first as friends, then as best friends. Throughout that year, they made time to get together and talk. Harry, mostly out of a need for a companion who was not a friend, and out of fear of losing the friendship that he had built with Ginny, dated a few different girls that year. Well over the crush he had on Cho Chang, he went to the Halloween dance with Susan Bones, took Padma Patil to Hogsmeade a couple of times, escorted Parvati to the Valentine's Day dance, and even asked Susan Bones on a picnic.
Ginny, not wanting to be alone either, dated a few boys casually, continuing for a few months the relationship she had started with Dean Thomas at the end of her fourth year, going on a few dates with Zacharias Smith (ending disastrously when she dumped a mug of butterbeer on his head when he tried to feel her up in the Three Broomsticks), and a few more with Colin Creevy. Throughout the year, and in spite of their casual dating, Harry and Ginny continued to get together and study, talk, practice Quidditch, go for walks around the grounds, or simply sit together somewhere around the school enjoying the presence of the other.
Ginny, like Hermione at the end of Harry's fourth year, kissed Harry for the first time at Kings Cross station as he was about to leave following his uncle. A bemused Harry felt the warmth of her lips on his cheek for the entire ride home, and puzzled his so-called family by the smile that never left his face even when being dressed down for one trumped up excuse or another. Hedwig and Nike (Ginny's gray owl, a present from Harry for her fifteenth birthday) got lots of exercise delivering letters back and forth between Little Whinging, Ottery St. Catchpole, and Grimmald Place. When Harry turned 17, on July 31, 1997, he left the Dursley's forever and moved to 12 Grimmauld Place. The Weasley's had taken up residence there earlier in the year, when Severus Snape had uncovered a plan to attack the Burrow and kill them. For the rest of the summer, he and Ginny had danced around one another, kind of like a moth will dance around a flame ... spiraling closer and then moving away when the heat gets too intense, only to spiral closer once again.
It was on the train ride back to Hogwarts on September 1 that the two of them had crashed into the realization that they wanted more from each other than friendship. Ironically, it was due to Malfoy and his bookends that it happened then. Ron and Hermione were off at the Prefect's meeting, and Luna had dragged Neville off to look for Nifflers in the baggage car. He and Ginny had been sitting alone in their compartment, reading and sharing the companionable silence that had become one of the treasured hallmarks of their relationship when the silence was broken by the unwelcome intrusion of Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle.
Malfoy, who was still a Slytherin Prefrect, had started in on his usual taunts about the Great Potty. Harry had ignored him until he turned his foul mouth in Ginny's direction, and started making comments about the state of her worn clothing, intimating that he would be willing to finance a wardrobe upgrade in exchange for certain favors. The look of pain and shame in Ginny's eyes was the last thing Harry remembered seeing before his vision went red. When he could see once more, the first things he saw were the unconscious bodies of Crabbe and Goyle lying on top of Draco in the passageway outside of the compartment, and the shocked faces of some of his fellow students peering out of their compartments. When he turned around after closing and locking the compartment door, he was swept into a tight hug by a crying Ginny. His rage ebbing as fast as it had risen, Harry simply hugged her back until she stopped crying, and then sat down next to her on the seat. Harry never forgot the conversation that followed, especially the part where he and Ginny finally told each other what their hearts had known for a long time.
"... he isn't worth it, Harry. You know he only says things like that to get a rise out of you ... to keep you off balance." Ginny's voice was soft and sincere, with only a hint of trembling left to remind them of the emotional storm that had just passed.
Harry sighed in response. "You're right, Gin. He isn't worth it ... but you are ... and you always will be." His voice grew firmer and more certain as he continued on. "And I don't care if I spend the rest of this year in detention for what I did, I will never ... ever ... allow him to get away with insulting you or treating you with anything but the utmost respect."
Ginny's eyes were wide as they peered into his, searching his soul for some hint that there was meaning beyond what he was saying. "I ... I don't understand, Harry ... he never seemed to bother you too much before."
"I don't care what he says about me, Gin. But he hurt you today ... and I will not let anyone hurt you ever again."
"Harry ... it's not worth it ... it's just words ... they didn't really hurt me."
Harry's heart ached in his chest at the thought that Ginny didn't think herself worthy of defense. Struggling to find the right words to tell her how he felt, Harry remembered how he had felt when taunted by Dudley and his gang of bullies, and how much their lies and slander had wounded him. "Words can hurt more than anything else, Gin ... his words may not have left a mark on your body ... but they wounded your heart ... your beautiful heart that is so kind ... and giving ... and loving ... and precious ... and I ... I ..." His throat closing with an upwelling of emotion, Harry's voice trailed off before he could get the final words out.
"You what, Harry?" Ginny's quiet voice was questioning, yet there was an underlying current of hope that he had been about to say something very important.
Forcing down the constriction in his throat, and holding firmly to his rapidly faltering courage, Harry drew in a deep breath before continuing on. "I ... love ... you, Ginny ... I love you ... and when I saw the hurt on your face and in your eyes ... I ... I had to protect you ... and I will continue to protect you from the likes of him as long as I still breathe." A sudden rush of relief flooded through Harry as the words he had longed to say but had always been afraid to speak came out.
Ginny's eyes opened wide in amazement and shock, and her mouth dropped open a little. Her soft, hesitant voice barely reached his ears. "Harry ... I ... don't ..."
His heart quivered in pain as his fevered mind filled in the blanks in what Ginny had started to say ... she didn't love him ... she didn't want him ... they were finished. Disappointment flooding his chest with its burning acid, Harry tried to make the best of what had just happened, praying that he could somehow save their friendship from joining his shipwrecked love. "It's okay, Gin. You don't have to love me back ... it's just something that I will have to deal with on my own ... I'll do my best not to --"
Ginny's fingers on his lips stopped him mid-sentence. Her eyes glowed fiercely as they bore into his, and her voice was firm, yet loving and gentle at the same time. "Stop, Harry! You didn't let me finish what I was saying. I wasn't going to say that I don't love you ... I was going to say that I don't know what to do now ... now that I know how you feel ... now that I know that you love me like I love you."
"You ... love ... me?" Now it was Harry's turn to stare at her in stunned amazement as the roaring flames of happiness that burst through him consumed the despair he had just felt.
Ginny's voice was full of laughter as she confirmed what she had just said. "Yes, you prat! I love you!"
Harry would never remember how she came to be in his arms in that moment. All he remembered was locking on her limpid, depthless pools of chocolate brown. Harry felt himself moving closer to her with almost infinite slowness. Her eyelids fluttered closed, shuttering her loving gaze, and he felt her warm breath against his lips as he closed on his target. An electric thrill was running down his spine as he felt the first brush of her warm lips against his, when a sudden banging on the locked door of their compartment caused them to jump apart in shock.
Reluctantly, Harry let go of Ginny and stepped to the door of the compartment. Drawing his wand, and steeling himself, he unlocked the door and slid it open along its track. As the door slid open, a laughing Ron and a stern Hermione were revealed. Without any preamble at all, Hermione pointed to the three Slytherin's still lying in the corridor, and snapped, "Did you have anything to do with this?"
Harry didn't say anything, but his downcast eyes and guilty expression said it all.
"Harry, you cannot just curse Malfoy and his goons whenever you --"
The beginning of Hermione's tirade was abruptly cut off as Ginny interrupted her. "Harry didn't curse them. He punched them ... or something ... it happened really fast."
Harry stood mutely as Hermione modified her rant in response to what Ginny had said. "Harry, you can't just punch them either. It's against the rules, and now you will get into trouble when we get to Hogwarts."
Sounding irritated, probably by the interruption that had aborted their first kiss, and also because of the immediate chastisement of Harry without first getting an accounting of the events, Ginny broke in once again. "Look, Hermione, you weren't here so don't go throwing around rules. Harry and I were reading quietly in the compartment when Blond Bimbo, Dumb, and Dumber barged in and began belittling us."
Casting an apologetic look in his direction, Ginny continued. "Harry didn't even react to them at first, he just kept reading. Then Malfoy started on me, but it was like he was waiting for Harry to react, 'cause I noticed he and his thugs were fingering their wands and watching Harry closely. I tried not to react, but he said some very hurtful things and I guess Harry saw that I was hurt and then he stood up in front of me. I tried to stand but there wasn't room, and then Malfoy and the other two had their wands pointed at Harry, who was just standing there looking at them. Malfoy started to say the furnunculus curse when Harry ... moved ... and the next thing I knew, the three of them were on the floor in the corridor, Harry was closing and locking the door, and their wands were on the bench by the door."
Pointing to the wands as evidence of the truth of her words, she resumed her story. "Harry never drew his wand ... he didn't even use magic ... he just ... disarmed them ... and then they were in the corridor ... like that."
When she finished speaking, Harry saw Ginny look from Hermione to Ron, and then to him. He had stood there calmly throughout her recitation of events, but when he saw the emotion written in her expression ... her pride in what he had done ... her fear for him ... her trust that he would protect her ... and her love that he only now recognized for what it was, he had to beam at her in response. Harry had resolved to himself that he would always be there to protect Ginny ... not because she was helpless, indeed she was far from that, but because in that moment when he admitted he loved her, he also recognized that she was the most important thing in his life and he would die before willingly allowing harm to come to her.
Addressing himself to one point that Ginny had gotten wrong in her recitation, Harry spoke for the first time since Ron and Hermione entered the compartment past the three unconscious Slytherin's. "Two things, Hermione, before you dock house points. First, it is not, in fact, against the rules to use physical force against a fellow student on the Express, especially in a self-defense situation against more than one attacker. If you read the rules very carefully, as I did this summer, you will find that they only cover the use of magic against fellow students ... which means that Malfoy and his groupies are the ones who were breaking the rules."
Harry's lips twitched a little at Hermione's shocked gasp as he revealed this tidbit of knowledge, knowing that she was going to speak. "Two wrongs don't make a right, Harry ... besides, the furnunculus curse isn't dangerous so you could hardly call it self-defense."
"Thank you, Hermione, for leading me to my second point. It wasn't the furnunculus curse that Malfoy was going to use ... the color that was gathering for the spell was wrong. I think it was the infurnacio curse. Of course, only he would be so stupidly arrogant as to use that curse in an enclosed space like this one."
Hermione's face paled when Harry told her what curse he thought Malfoy was going to use. She stood there, not speaking and with her mouth opening and closing until Ron broke the silence. "Umm ... not to sound ignorant myself, but what is the infurnacio curse?"
"The infurnacio curse is similar to the incendio curse in the way that a muggle flame-thrower is similar to a muggle cigarette lighter." Harry's dry tone of voice brought a flush of color to Hermione's cheeks as she was reminded, once again, of the differences between Harry and the rest of them.
"I don't think I get that yet, Harry."
"Me either, Harry," came Ginny's quiet voice, "could you explain more?"
"If Malfoy had been able to complete that curse, this entire compartment and maybe this entire car would have been incinerated in an instant. That curse is supposed to be used to burn large quantities of debris or trash, and only outdoors ... it is not supposed to be used indoors, or especially on people."
When Hermione finished with her explanation, Harry saw Ginny's face whiten in shock and stepped to her side to guide her onto the bench as her legs buckled under her.
Coming back to himself in the musty library, Harry knew that he would take the chance ... that no risk was too great to keep him from trying to help her. With that decision made, he turned his attention back to the tattered scroll in his hands, and continued to study.