Disclaimer: Although I have tried bribing my doctor to mutate my genes to match J.K. Rowling's, the plan hasn't fallen through yet, as, according to my beloved physician, "There's no chance at all that could work. But if I said there was, would you give me some more of that chocolate?"
Also, I stole the name Lhiannon from Marion Zimmer Bradley in her book "The Forest House".
A/N: Much different tone than my other stories, but I like this quite alot, and I hope you do too. Much thanks to Black is the New Pink for beta-ing this for me- go read her story. Anyways, here it is.
Oh, one last thing. REVIEW REVIEW REVIEW REVIEW REVIEW! Double chocolate brownies to anyone who does. They're really, really good...
Sometimes, she still wakes in the night screaming and crying and she rolls over, expecting his arms to fold around her and protect her. It is at these times that it returns with the most startling clarity.
He is gone.
And she will spend the rest of the night, all the way until dawn, wondering why it had to be him. And despairing because life without him is barely worth living at all. The only reason she can go on is that he would have wanted her to. But this knowledge is poor comfort during the lonely days and frightening nights.
Sometimes, when she gets through the whole night dreamless, in the morning she will go to the now empty bedroom just down the hall. And when she sees the bare walls and neatly made-up bed it hurts more than anything else. Every time, her heart is torn from her body through her mouth and she claws out her hair, the red locks falling to the floor a momentary distraction from a life of pain.
When the pain recedes, all she is left with is hatred. These are the only times she hopes there is a God, so that Voldemort and all his minions can burn in hell for eternity, for no one deserves it more than they. But even that wouldn't be enough revenge, not for what they did to her.
Every year on the winter solstice she sits in the empty room and smells the sheets, wishing she hadn't burned all but those. She had been a fool to think she could erase that part of her life. She could never forget Lhiannon, their beautiful baby girl. And she could never forgive herself for not dying while the other two had. It should have been her, not Lhiannon. Five years was not enough.
On Christmas, her parents and brothers try to get her to celebrate. But she cannot see the point. More than that though, she cannot bear to see them with their own small families perfectly intact while hers has been shattered into a thousand million shiny pieces that make her every move like swimming through broken glass.
So she always makes a different excuse: she is sick, she has work, she promised friends to spend Christmas with them. Everyone knows it is a lie, but no one has the courage to confront her.
Then the snow melts and the flowers bloom. And she can smell him in the air, drifting on the breezes. She can almost feel him pressing against her, his lips smashing into her neck, his fingers pulling through her hair and digging into her scalp.
More often she thinks she sees her baby playing out on the lawn, swinging on the tire that hangs from the old oak. She drops everything and runs outside, crying with joy because the past three years have just been a horrible, horrible nightmare. But without fail it is an illusion, the shadows and wind playing games with her mind. And she hates herself for getting her hopes up once again, but she is used to having such things crushed by now.
As the weather warms and the grass grows greener she remembers them together, all three of them. At the ocean, where Lhiannon loved the waves so much that she begged to be taken back every day for the rest of the summer, and they did, because they couldn't help but dote on her. The picnic lunches in the backyard, when Lhiannon would get them to join her make-believe games and for a little while even Harry could forget the darkness hanging above them. Catching fireflies at night in little glass jam jars. Tossing around and old baseball. Hide and go seek. Flying kites. Tag. The sound of laughter tinkling about in her mind long after Lhiannon had fallen asleep of exhaustion.
Remembering hurts, but it is a good pain. Just like the knife that was such a close friend to her in the first few months.
On the last day of July she bakes two birthday cakes, one for each on the two people she loves most. She frosts and decorates them, tiny gold snitches on his, fuzzy calico kittens on hers. Their favorite things. Then she puts the cakes in a beat-up muggle car and drives to the ocean, to their secret beach that no one else can find. She places the food by the water's edge and watches the tide come in. Every wave eats at the beautiful cakes, taking a little bit back out to sea. And she cries, because each time she comes back here it takes a little bit out of her too. Yet it is good nonetheless, because she can imagine all three of them floating above the sea together, all the lost pieces found.
The leaves turn, and she is young and old and not at all, all at the same time. She is an empty shell, a reminder of what once was. The trees become naked, and she finds a perverse joy in that. It smells like rot and death; the scent she ties so strongly to her very being.
She wonders if it is possible that she is already dead; she doesn't feel anything. This scares her. It would mean that she could never see them again. She doesn't want to be a ghost, yet she convinces herself that she is. What other explanation is there? She tries to evaporate, to let go of herself. Once when she did this she hurt herself trying to walk through a wall. When they found her they tried to put her into counseling, but she ran away. Another time she managed to break into the Department of Mysteries and got lost trying to find the veil. She knew Lhiannon and Harry were just on the other side, but before she could get to them some officials caught her. That was when she lost her job, not that she cared.
Eventually she collapses, crying, because it is no use. None of it is. And though she tries with all her might to reconcile herself with this fact it doesn't work.
So she gets out the photo albums. Page after page after page, everyone happy. Their wedding, Lhiannon's birth, her first birthday party. She sees a laughing woman with red hair and wonders who it is. The woman is vaguely familiar, an old friend forgotten all these many years. As she flips through the pictures, she begins to realize that this bright woman is in an incredible amount of them. She is in Harry's arms and holding a baby. Only after seeing the mystery woman in her wedding dress, a floaty, silky white thing that she could never forget, does she figure it out. The woman is her.
She throws the books at a wall and huddles in a corner. When did she lose herself? The answer is always the same: When they died. And she is desperately angry at them for leaving her like this. And she is desperately guilty for being angry.
When snow finally begins to cover the landscape, she remembers the blizzard of so many years ago. She has lost count by now, but the snow was late that year.
That night, they were lying in bed together as always. They loved the closeness; Harry had always been slightly anxious about physical contact, but he had seemed to loosen up after their marriage. He had moved toward her, kissing her neck and caressing her, his errant hands wandering freely. But she had stopped him before the passion became too overwhelming. He had pulled back questioningly, wondering what was wrong. She had stuttered, only to be shushed quietly. Quickly, she got the words out in a single breath, nervous for his reaction. "I think I'm pregnant." Harry had been stunned for a moment, but then a look of pure ecstasy passed over his face and she knew she would do anything for him to look like that more often. There had been conversation after that, but she remembered only that Harry had sworn to die to protect their child's life. And, how in the end he had, though it hadn't been enough. No one could have brought their baby back from the dead.
The winter solstice comes again, and once more she finds herself in Lhiannon's old room. The strength of memories is nearly palpable, hanging in the air thickly. She sobs into the sheets, wishing it would all end. Wishing that she even had the strength to end it herself, the strength to stand up to Harry's memory and take her own life. But she doesn't. Not after how it came to a close.
She walked into the house, disturbed to find it so quiet. Usually when she arrived home Lhiannon and Harry were screaming and playing and generally making a mess of things. Smiling fondly, she couldn't help the cold trickle of fear playing down her spine. Voldemort may have been gone these past eight years, but they had recently received reports of Death Eater uprisings. Tossing her stack of paperwork on the counter, she dashed up the stairs.
The door to Lhiannon's room was open. She stormed in and collapsed when she registered what she was seeing. Sobs racked her body as she crawled over to Lhiannon's lifeless form, clutched in Harry's equally lifeless arms. It wasn't happening. It couldn't be. She had become delusional. But it was real, and in her heart she knew it.
When a voice raised itself above her cries, she was sure that she was imagining things. But she glanced up anyways, quieting herself. Harry took a single harsh gasp and exhaled a single sentence. "Ginny," he breathed, his voice music to her ears. "I love you."