Remus Lupin was slouched back in his chair, one arm slung over his face, hovering between slumber and waking. As usual, his nightmares began before he slept. The image of Harry, bloodied, battered and fighting to survive Voldemort's attack on his mind and soul was burned into Remus' psyche.
A mirthless smile crossed his face. When he was old and drooling, he'd be able to sketch that picture out in full detail. That picture, as well as the picture of Harry in St. Mungo's, silent, still and in a coma. Remus had lost count of how many hours he'd sat, representing Harry's parents and godfather, waiting for the least sign of improvement.
A futile mission, something even the most optimistic Healers had agreed upon. There had never been this type of injury before, so there could be no agreed-upon treatment. As always, damn him, Harry defied the rules.
Remus felt the familiar weight pressing on his chest, the sign that it wouldn't be long before either rage or tears would claim him. Harry didn't deserve this. Once again, he'd sacrificed so much to benefit so many, and thus far, he was the only one alive unable to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
The fact was the entire Wizarding World had changed in the three weeks since Voldemort's death. Almost the entire Ministry had been put to death, including nearly all the loyal Aurors, leaving an enormous hole in the fabric of the political realm. Of course, there was no shortage of witches and wizards to fill the positions, but the public was nervous.
After that horrible night when the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts had been breached and all the captives taken to Hell Manor, the public had been difficult to reassure. In a way, it had been surprising to see Bill Weasley take the reins. His name was known to people as his father's son, and as a friend of Harry's, as were all the Weasleys. Perhaps things might have been different if Percy and Fred hadn't been lost, and if Molly wasn't prostrate with grief, but as it was, Arthur, as the sole surviving member of the Ministry, was in no shape to capitalize on the need for public figures. When asked by his father, Bill stepped up. His charm and ease in front of people great or small, his great love for Harry, the enormity of his family's losses and his involvement in the rescue at Hell Manor all put him forward, and he was asked more and more often to speak to the public on the Ministry's behalf. As heartbroken as he was, Bill was one of those people who could put personal pain aside and do what must be done. Now, there were rumors he would be asked to run as the next Minister of Magic.
Strange days. Bill Weasley, Minister of Magic.
Strange days, indeed. Strange just to be sitting here, post-Voldemort, knowing the bastard would never be able to come back, knowing that Bellatrix Lestrange, Lucius Malfoy and most of the Death Eaters were dead as well. It was a new dawn for the Wizarding World, and its hero couldn't even blink his eyes.
Clenching a fist, Remus sat up and looked down the hall to where Ginny Weasley and her Mum were sitting outside Harry's room. That was unusual. At first, when the Healers asked them to leave, they got an earful of angry Weasley women—which was daunting, to say the least. But today, he hadn't heard a raised word from either of them as they were shown the door.
They knew time was running out.
Remus leaned his head back against the wall. If only George would give up this vendetta . . .
But no, that wasn't fair. Being a werewolf was one thing, but a vampire . . .
Fred was as good as dead unless the vampire who bit him was found and staked. Charlie and George had been gone nearly two weeks now, chasing lead after lead, killing vampires that had helped Voldemort's cause. So far, they had destroyed eight while sustaining only minor injuries themselves. None of them had been the correct vampire.
Now there had been no word for two days from them, and all the Weasleys were on pins and needles. Especially Fred, who was detained on the west wing of the first floor, in the Life-Threatening Creature-Induced Injury Ward of the hospital. Ron was trying to keep him occupied and positive, but then he was only out of the hospital bed for hours at a time himself.
That bond was the difficulty, still draining Magical energy from Ron, and yet it was now the only hope they had for Harry now. Harry wasn't recovering. His wounds had been extremely slow to heal, and the Healers could only point to the link that was forged between the Weasleys and himself, the Fraterdum Singletus.
"But that should help him recover," Ginny had insisted. "He can take whatever he needs from us!"
"Yes, he should," agreed the Healer, an older woman with sad eyes who caressed Harry's forehead as though he was her own child. "And I'm sure it is what has kept him alive this far. But even though he can take the magical energy from you to survive, I think he's fighting it. I don't understand why."
Ginny had started sobbing and Arthur had pulled her into his arms, teary-eyed himself.
Ron, sitting, exhausted and pale, said, "He is taking some. I can feel it. He'll be all right, Ginny."
Harry was in a coma, but he was still Harry. It made sense that he would fight it. Just after that, Ginny had come up with an idea to get around Harry. Perhaps if they could all get together—all the brothers and Ginny who shared that bond with Harry, and somehow communicate to him that they were all right, that they had energy to spare—oh, it was a long shot, as no one knew how much Harry could hear or understand what was happening around him—but it just might work.
If only George would come home . . .
Remus' thoughts strayed to Hogwarts, now closed and dark. The battle there had been fierce, and . . . surprising. Voldemort had sent the Dementors to swarm the castle, while most of the Order was still fighting House Elves and Aurors inside. Only a few desperate Order members were able to get outside to use their Patronuses and hold them off.
They had been trying to get to Hagrid, who had unexpectedly charged off on his own, angrily waving his umbrella at the intruders. The Dementors were drawn to him. Remus, whose eagle Patronus was on its way, watched in horror as they swarmed in a dark halo over the half-giant, circling so tightly that Hagrid was hidden from view.
Then something totally miraculous happened, something that could not be rationally explained. Flowing onto the field scurried hundreds of spiders, from smaller ones that could barely be seen to larger ones that made Remus pull back in disgust. They were all heading straight for Hagrid.
And a dark shadow, or what Remus thought was a shadow, crawled onto the Pitch. It was gargantuan, moving at a speed that defied its size. Over its head, it held an enormous, limp corpse. And it was headed right for Hagrid.
Alarmed, Remus began to run down the path, and he arrived just in time to see the enormous spider laid a Manticore corpse at unconscious Hagrid's feet. Then Hagrid was picked up bodily by the large spider, which used four legs to wave up at the Dementors in impotent rage. The smaller spiders were swaying in place all over the stands, giving the entire arena the illusion of movement.
Remus was horrified, contemplating attack, and it was a few moments more before his stunned mind could realize that the creature had actually saved Hagrid from the Dementors. And saved everyone, possibly, from the Manticore as well. Hagrid had always had an unusual bond with large creatures. Could this creature be repaying his friendship now?
Then, there was the sound of hoofbeats and Remus swung around to see something else his mind deemed impossible—Centaurs heading for the castle. Shouting in surprise, Remus started to follow, then stopped, remembering Hagrid. When he turned around, the enormous spider was crawling off with his large, unmoving burden and the Dementors had pulled back up into the sky.
Remus, fighting himself for just a moment to trust something as monstrous as that spider, sprinted for the castle. The Centaurs parted to let him through, then turned to stand guard. Amazingly enough, after that, the Dementors couldn't get past them .
Remus had stood in awe as the Dementors came forward time after time, only to pull away as soon as the Centaurs moved in their direction. Centaurs and spiders—one of them a towering wreck of a spider—had come from the forest to Hagrid's rescue. Could it be that Hagrid had recruited them for the fight against Voldemort, or had they come out of some sense of loyalty to the friendly half-giant?
Either way, as a result, the castle had been protected.
Hours later, to the amazement of all, the Dementors had frozen in midair and their bodies dissolved into dark mist. In under a minute, all traces of the dark beings had been driven away by a gentle wind. Rejoicing from behind their barricade, the Order members had gathered themselves and set out to clear the castle. They were soon joined by the Centaurs, who then proved to be invaluable in routing out bad House Elves and evil Aurors, and freeing Harry's very worried friends on the third floor who had been trapped in a room, defending themselves from occasional attacks.
Remus had been there to rescue them, had seen the devastation on their faces as they recounted how Harry had been taken from them. Remus had been at a loss to understand why the castle had betrayed them so badly. There followed a mass exodus down to the dungeon, where they had found a pile of ash next to the smoldering remains of Lucius Malfoy's wand. Draco had turned white at the sight before wandering away, putting up a hand to stop Hermione from following.
Harry had not been found. Ginny had been enraged, inconsolable. The rest had tried to comfort each other but tears ran freely. It was hours before word reached them of what Severus had done, and where Harry had been taken—Hell Manor. Snape hadn't betrayed them after all.
An attack had been mounted, the most diverse in Wizarding history—every able-bodied witch and wizard of age the Order could scrounge up, as well as some younger who refused to be left behind. As this fight was for Harry as well as the freedom of the Wizarding World, the young ones were allowed to come, accompanied by Grawp, whose anger at the sight of unconscious Hagrid made him an ideal attacker, House Elves who had proved themselves loyal, and a few goblins that Bill Weasley had befriended in his work as a cursebreaker.
Unfortunately, the Wizarding Wireless broadcast had reached them as they traveled, and . . . it was impossible to describe the horror and rage as they listened to Voldemort torture and kill their friends and loved ones. Harry had been unfailingly brave and his terrible pain; his tears had fueled the ensuing battle.
That battle at Hell Manor, had been something—raw, bloody and fierce. Sirius would have loved it. Remus smiled a smile that quickly faded. The element of surprise had gained them far more than would have been expected, even though Voldemort's forces were called in quickly. In the end, they had formed a deadly arrowhead that moved slowly forward to the entrance of Hell Manor, no matter what creatures stood in their way. It had been a bloody, merciless march, though they had tried to contain the kids far to the inside, as back-up for those spearheading the attack. Their strategy moved from defensive to violent offensive the closer they had gotten to the entrance. Many had fallen and been Apparated out, but the middle of the pack had survived and run inside, ahead of those still battling.
That was the reason Remus had been so late, had only gotten to Harry after Voldemort had possessed him. It wasn't right. Here he sat, old, used-up and past his prime, while Harry lay dying. How could he face Sirius after—
Footsteps came echoing down the hall, multiple footsteps—determined footsteps. Remus sat up expectantly and, as the first Weasley came around the corner, lurched to his feet.
It was Charlie, followed by Fred helping a weak-looking George. "Oi! Remus!" Charlie called to him, "Let's get the Boy-Who-Lived back on his feet, eh?"
Remus smiled as he saw Fred's face—no longer haggard and deeply shadowed. The redhead had gotten his natural color back and was smiling. Though George was injured—a bandage wound around his right arm and his walk favoring his left leg—the slight, relaxed smile on his face crowed his success.
Remus shook Charlie's hand enthusiastically. "Good to see you, Charlie! Of course, but where's—"
"Bill's here," called Bill good-naturedly as he came around the corner, "and so's Itsy," he said as he ruffled Ron's hair beside him.
"Cut it out," Ron grouched. "I'm taller than you now."
Ginny, down the hall, was shrieking out to them, "Fred! George—you did it!"
Mrs. Weasley, overwhelmed, just cried and held her arms out for someone to fill them.
Fred picked Ginny up and swung her around. "Yes, he did it, the stubborn old goat."
George grinned and thumped Fred on the ear. "Didn't want a vampire bat in the family. We're batty enough as it is."
"He did have a little help, you know," Charlie put in, over top of his mum's head. She was held tight in his arms, sniffing and resting against his chest as though this was food for her soul.
"Little being the operative word there," George said with bated breath as Fred helped lower him to the bench by Harry's room.
"Good show, George," Remus reached out to put a hand on his shoulder. "I didn't like your chances out there, alone or not, but you did a man's work. Your family has much to thank you for."
George, clearly taken aback by Remus words, turned positively scarlet and fiddled with the bandage on his arm. Charlie grinned.
"Oh, come on, Remus," Bill groaned, "don't you know better than to directly praise one of the twins? It'll go straight to his head."
"As it should," Fred said staunchly, giving George a nudge.
"Oh, just shut up about him and let's get inside," Ginny urged. "Harry needs us."
Mrs. Weasley reached out to grab Ginny's hand. "Of course, dear." The brothers exchanged grim, determined looks.
Bill opened the door for the others. "After you," he said gallantly.
Remus filed in the room with the others, surprised to see that even with this many people, Harry's room still appeared far too large for one young man in one bed. It was a nice room, the nicest St. Mungo's had to offer—soft, buttercream-colored walls, dark-rose wooden floors, carved-ivory lamps hung around the room, and a glowing sky-light overhead.
Then Remus forced his eyes upon the occupant in the bed, noticing as he did so, that he wasn't the only one uncomfortable doing so. The Weasley brothers were shifting a lot as they stood by Harry's bed, listening to him take breath after labored breath, looking at him before glancing away.
With good reason.
Harry looked terrible. He'd been cleaned up, but his skin still held a ghastly gray pallor that no Healer had been able to correct. Most of him was under cover of blankets, but Remus knew more than he could see. Harry's broken finger hadn't healed—it remained swollen and had to be spelled clean of blood collecting there every day, as well as the injury to his left knee. His back was still raw and he necessarily hovered over his bed instead of lying snugly against the sheets, a desperate measure to get his back to heal. Small things, but of major concern since no one knew why he wasn't healing or what psychic or Magical injuries Harry had sustained on the inside. If Harry did not heal soon, then the toll on his body would be too great. He would die.
"So," Ron spoke up and then cleared his throat, "what do have to do? All hold hands or . . . what?"
Ginny nodded. "Do we all know what to do?"
"Yes," Remus nodded, and waited for them to get into position.
Tense looks went around the circle as the Weasleys stepped forward around Harry's bed and grabbed hands.
Looking around, Remus set the scene in his mind. They were all holding hands—Bill at the head of the bed, beside Ginny, who was holding Charlie's hand. Next came George, wincing already at the pull on his injured arm and then Fred, who was gripping Ron's hand. Bill and Ron very gently took Harry's hands.
Remus stepped up behind Ron and focused briefly on Harry, who, up close, looked even more fragile than the last time Remus had seen him. "Is everyone ready?"
The Weasleys, with determined looks on their faces, nodded. Remus raised his wand and whispered, "Procclumens!"
Into Harry's mind, he placed the image of the Weasleys around him, their concern and love for Harry palpable. "They are well now, Harry. You protected them as long as you could. Now you must let them help you. They would rather give part of themselves to you than to have you leave them forever. They love you, Harry. As do I. If I could give you what I have left, I would. Take what I can't give, Harry. Take what they can. Please."
Surely Harry wouldn't continue to ignore the bond. Surely . . .
A whisper of wind blew through the room. Ginny looked around with bright eyes, then focused back on Harry. "That's right. Come on, Harry. Let us help you!"
A silver glow suddenly bathed Bill's face. He looked down at his hand in shock where it held Harry's—the silver glow came from inside his grip. "That's it," he whispered, "go on, Harry." Then he threw his head back in sudden, swift agony and fell to his knees.
Shocked, everyone stared. "I'm okay," Bill said, voice tight. "But hold on. Get ready."
The light was suddenly in Ginny's hand where hers clasped Bill's. "Oh." She took several deep breaths and then gasped. Her eyes grew wide and she slowly sank to the floor by Bill.
"Ginny!" Mrs. Weasley cried. "Are you—oh my. Oh . . ."
Charlie, though he stayed on his feet, leaned on the bed heavily as the silver light traveled through him and out of his other hand. Fred, then George quickly received the same jolt and gripped each other's hand tightly as they fought the pain.
Ron, pale as a ghost by this time was, nonetheless, determined and steady as it came his turn. "That's right, Harry, do it—do it! I'm ready!" he whispered through gritted teeth. The light seemed to glow the brightest as it traveled his body, and, from Ron's violent response, it seemed to hurt him the most. He went to his knees, his back arching, his body shaking—but he did not let go of Harry's hand or of George's. Now a complete circuit was made and Remus watched in stunned amazement—and a little concern—as the Weasleys fought to breathe, to stay upright and to be faithful to provide for Harry's needs.
It was ten minutes later at least when Ron finally dropped Harry's hand and fell back in a slump. Remus caught him and helped him back to collapse on a chair.
"Are you all right, Ron?"
"Fine, just . . . just gonna' . . . half a mo'," he said groggily. Mrs. Weasley scurried over to him, touching and patting him, kissing his hair and murmuring motherly things, tears in her eyes.
George relaxed next and sat down abruptly on the floor, eyes wide and blinking. Fred moved more slowly, grasping the bed on his way down.
"Anyone catch the name of that bus?"
"Wha' bus?" George said vaguely, catching himself on his good arm as he swayed.
"The one that just hit me."
"A bus hit you?" George asked, looking confused.
"Didn't it hit you?"
"Oh." He looked at his injured arm and smiled vaguely. "Yeah, I think it did."
"Oh, you two," Mrs. Weasley chided as she touched both of them. "Are you all right?" They both nodded, but seemed glad to lean on her.
Charlie released Ginny's hand and started walking it off, limping and working his hands as though they had cramped badly. "Bloody hell," he muttered.
Ginny, once released, pulled herself up by the bedrails. Pale as Harry now, she stared down at him intently, looking for a sign of change.
Mrs. Weasley stood and curried over to her, hands out wide. "Ginevra, are you all right?"
Ginny nodded, her gaze fixed on Harry.
Bill, the last one to be freed, stood still as Harry's hand dropped from his, weaving a bit back and forth on his feet. He walked over on shaky legs and sat in the nearest chair. "At least we know now why he wasn't doing it. That might have killed someone if they tried to take it on all at once." Shaking his head in wonder, he said, "Did we—did we do it?"
"I don't know," Ginny said, sounding tearful. "He looks the same to me." She sat down abruptly on the bed. "Does he to you?"
Remus leaned forward to see Harry more clearly. "Perhaps. But I don't doubt that what you just sacrificed will do him some good, Ginny. Give it time." Remus looked around at the Weasleys splayed about the room. "Many people will thank you for what you did today. I know I do."
The light in the room darkened slowly as the day faded, and the Weasleys didn't stir. Remus left reluctantly after a few hours, feeling the need to check on several Aurors who were still recovering as well.
Ginny, who had figured on staying indefinitely, saying something vague to herself about until the bloody boy wakes up, was surprised to find the room still so crowded. Someone had brought in more chairs, and Hermione brought in a platter of food, but Ginny didn't want to sit or eat. She just watched Harry. Was it her imagination, or was he less pale now?
After dark, a Healer came in to give Harry a Potion for sustenance and general healing. Despair fought to take Ginny as she watched the Healer wave her wand and Harry's limp body respond as directed. But then, Ginny gasped.
Harry's hand, the left one—the un-bandaged one—had twitched. Leaning forward, Ginny watched his fingers, emotion gathering strength like a forest catching on fire.
Heads around the room perked up. "What is it, Ginny?" Charlie said, jumping to his feet.
"He . . . he moved, I think."
Slowly, the family gathered around the bed, forcing the Healer to squeeze between them to escape. "I'd better get the Head Healer," she called out, a bit alarmed by the tension and intensity on their faces.
The Weasleys and Hermione stood, staring at Harry, willing him to move, to wake.
"C'mon, Harry. C'mon," Ron whispered, tears filling his eyes. Hermione gripped his hand, but said nothing.
And then, there it was. A flutter of eyelashes, a grimace, and Harry gave a soft moan.
The room erupted in cheers.
"He's awake! He's awake!"
"Harry's all right!"
"We did it! We did it!"
Harry opened his eyes to find Ginny beside him, in happy tears, and the rest of the Weasleys alternating between hugging each other vigorously, slapping each other on the back and doing a silly jig around the room.
"Mad," he pronounced in a croaking voice. "Starkers, the whole lot of you." But they hardly stopped, preferring to celebrate after three long weeks of worry.
"Mad about you," Ginny whispered as she leaned down. "Are you all right?"
He tried to smile. "You mean, besides the racking pain?"
"Yes," she laughed through her tears, "besides that."
"I dunno . . . I just . . ." and then tears came, swallowing him whole, despite his fiercest efforts to hold them back. Neville was dead. Dumbledore was dead . . . McGonagall, Percy. Snape had died to protect him . . . and . . . and . . .
Harry sobbed into his damaged hands, fierce grief ripping into him. After a minute, he realized that the room was emptying itself, and the cacophony of somewhat quieter voices went down the hallway. But Harry could hear more celebrations already beginning.
"He is awake?" Cheers came echoing back.
"Harry Potter is awake!"
Footsteps came running, approaching the door in a mad rush and Harry turned away. He couldn't face them—not now. Ginny stood briefly and the door slammed shut, locking with a firm click. Someone was trying to force the door, then trying to spell it open. "Open this door! Open it right now, I say!"
"Sorry," Ginny called out in a sweet voice. "Come back later. He's resting."
"Young lady, we need to get in to see Harry Potter!"
"This is of grave medical concern!"
"I'm sure it is," Ginny snapped back, "but you won't be getting in for a while yet. He's fine!"
Harry tried to smile, but tears kept getting in the way. He turned his head aside into Ginny's thigh and let them come. It was miserable, horrible—the sobs wrenched at his chest and there was no end in sight. His head hurt, his back, his leg, his hand as well as his heart. But he couldn't stop. Eventually, he became aware of Ginny holding him, kissing his hair, murmuring words of love and comfort ceaselessly. A few of her tears dropped on his arm and he suddenly found himself shuddering to a stop.
Ginny wiped his face with a tissue gently, and he took it from her with his good—well better—hand. He blew his nose weakly and felt the bottom suddenly drop out from under him. He could barely keep his eyes open. Ginny started combing her fingers through his hair and he soon found himself drifting.
"I . . . I wanted . . ."
"Shhhh, Harry. Sleep."
"All . . . alright."
With a hurting but lighter heart, he slept.
When Harry awoke, the room was still quiet and vacant, though he had the sense that some time had passed.
"Harry!" She was by his side in an instant, handing him his glasses, which had apparently survived even Hell Manor. As Ginny came into sharp focus, he could see the relief on her face.
"Were you worried?"
"It was just that you were so still and . . . it was like you'd never woken up."
"How long?" he croaked.
"Just two hours. Feel better?"
Harry checked himself, then nodded. He did feel better, though strange.
Ginny smiled so happily that her dimple came out of hiding. "I let a few of them in, to give you a Potion for pain especially, but I kicked them back out as soon as they were done."
Harry finally thought to put into words something he'd been wondering ever since he woke up. "Why am I floating?"
"Because of your back, of course. It was a bloody mess."
Harry, his eyes lost in the familiar beauty of Ginny's face, reached out to take her hand. He smiled, probably a bit too big. "I love you."
"Oh. I love you, too." She teared up, leaned over and kissed his hand, pressing her cheek against his skin. "I especially love you on pain medicine. You're so funny."
Harry grinned, finding himself funny as well. "And all I'm doing is lying here. Imagine how funny I'll be when I get up."
"I'm still just glad you're awake. I didn't think you'd ever wake up."
"Neither did I." Harry turned his thoughts to the subject of being dead, which he almost had been. It seemed a fascinating thing, suddenly. "You know, I was ready to go, to be with my parents again, and Sirius. But then, when I saw Sirius, I promised him I'd try harder to stay and to fight. So I did."
Ginny stared at him a moment, then caressed his face with a gentle hand, smiling. "Does this mean I get to keep you?"
This seemed a strange question to Harry. "What?"
"Will you marry me?"
Harry blinked several times, mouth slightly agape, shocked beyond thought. "You mean you want to . . . marry? Me?"
"Of course I do! Do you think I'd do all this, go to Hell Manor and fight Death Eaters, hold you dying in my lap while sending you memories, then sit around for three weeks while you lie dead to the world, then give up half my magical energy just to let you go off and marry some manky Veela or half-witted Beauxbatons witch who doesn't know anything about you?"
Harry was reaching for Ginny, greatly concerned because she, by the end of her rant was standing up, shouting at him. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Of course I'll marry you. I love you. I don't want any monkey veela or half-baton girl or any other girl. I want you, Ginny. Of course I do. Please . . . sit back down."
Ginny wiped away a few tears and sat, taking Harry's hand. "Sorry. It's been . . . hard."
They sat in silence for some moments before identical warm smiles started sprouting on their faces. Harry was slowly rubbing her hands with his, the truth slowly dawning on him. He'd done it. He'd killed Voldemort. The world was an open place to him now. He and Ginny could marry—would marry.
And if they got married, then there would be a lot more kissing. And other things. Harry felt his face flame.
"You know," Ginny ventured, "it's going to be difficult to get married without the entire Wizarding World barging in and taking over."
"Really?" Harry said quickly, trying to get his mind off the very exciting train it had been on. "Er . . . why's that?" he wondered aloud.
"The whole Wizarding World had tuned into that broadcast. They didn't want to, of course, but it was too important to miss. So, they all heard you defy Voldemort and how brave you were."
Harry shifted in the bed, feeling his happiness deflate like a punctured balloon. "Then you heard it, too?"
"I'm sorry about Percy. Terribly sorry."
She nodded again and took a deep breath. "It's been hardest on Mum. But let's not think about that right now." She looked at him with a sweet smile. "Are you ready for the Healers now?"
"Er . . . sure," he lied.
Ginny unlocked the door and a rush of Healers came in, lecturing and chiding as they headed for Harry. It was a bit overwhelming, as Harry was unbundled, medicated, cleaned and ultimately, made more comfortable.
Hermione and Ron came in grinning at some point after Harry was redressed.
"You look great, mate," Ron said, looking pale and weak.
"You look terrible," Harry replied, hating that he had once again drained Ron.
"Worth it. Still look better than you did earlier," Ron returned.
Hermione stood at the head of his bed, smoothing back Harry's hair tentatively. She bent over and whispered to him, "You are an amazing wizard, Harry Potter. Now, no more worry."
As she straightened up, Harry was amazed to see how much older and mature she looked. Ron came to stand beside her, his arm loped over her shoulders. "Stop whispering sweet nothings to him, Hermione. Ginny's got that covered already."
"Oh, you've nothing to worry about," Hermione waved a hand at him vaguely. "I love Harry like you love Ginny."
Ron made a face. "Eugh."
"Well, maybe not exactly," Hermione laughed, "but you get the point."
"How's Draco?" Harry suddenly thought to ask.
"He wanted to come, but . . . felt odd. He can't hear your thoughts anymore."
"That's a relief," Harry and Ginny said at the same time, then laughed.
"Yes. I'm not sure what he'll do now. He's lost his whole family and all of his friends," Hermione said pensively.
"No, he hasn't lost all of his friends," Harry said firmly. "Keep an eye on him for him, will you, until I get out of here?"
Ron grumbled, but Hermione nodded. "Of course."
Ginny leaned over and gave Harry a kiss.
"What's that for?"
"For being so you," she said with a smile.
"You're looking much better, Mr. Potter," the Head Healer beamed as she walked back over to the bed and lowered him down so that he was finally resting on the bed. "Even your back is healing nicely now. It's a miracle."
"It was love," he said back softly, looking at Ron, who promptly flushed, and Ginny, who grasped his hand, smiling.
"Oh now, isn't that sweet," the Healer cooed.
Ginny glared at her, and the witch backed off. "I'll just go . . . tidy up a bit outside. Call us if you need anything, anything at all."
But Harry, laying there, his friends nearby, looking at the love of his life, couldn't think of a thing he needed.
Author's note: Here I am, all sniffly at the end after all. Thanks so much to all my readers, without whom I never would have finished this. Thanks for your constant encouragement and patience. And for those of you who found the story wanting in so many ways, my deepest apologies. I am still learning. Thanks to JK Rowling, without whom none of this would have been conceived. What a great world for us to play in! Thanks to Melindaleo, without whom I never would have written any of this. You're such a great friend! And to Chele, my dear beta without whom this story would have been so much less than it was. It's been a great four years. Great.