Warnings: Alcohol abuse, non-consensual sex, domestic violence. I've ignored the last chapter of book 7 almost completely - I just wanted to explore where things might have ended if Harry had dealt with the aftermath of his ordeal in a less constructive way. Feedback is welcome.
My reflection in the mirror was pale and sickly. I'd lost weight with worry – the sight of my ribs so prominent against my skin repulsed me. Looking at the photo on the oak dresser beside me, I wondered what had happened to that girl. The girl with the shining eyes who stood straight-backed in her white wedding gown, her veil hovering gently over her thick, glossy red hair. She bore so little resemblance to the drawn, haggard face in the mirror before me.
My eyes drifted to the other occupant of the small photo frame. A tall man stood beside the radiant woman, beaming from ear to ear. His green eyes, behind the lenses of his round spectacles, were fixed lovingly on his new wife. I'd never seen a pair of happier people in my life. They were brimming with hopes and dreams, with love and commitment. Their whole life lay ahead of them, and they relished the thought of the happy days to come.
I wanted to warn them, to yell at them for being so naïve.
It was hard to believe that only a few short years had passed since the golden couple left the church together and embarked on that blissful honeymoon in Paris.
A warm breeze rustling through the boughs of the trees lining the sidewalk. Leaves, in hues of brilliant red and orange, scuttling swiftly across the path. A man and woman, alone on the park bench, despite the steady stream of passers-by.
"Tell me this will last forever."
Simple words, that held so much meaning. A shared glance, intimate, unguarded, completely trusting. Two hearts beating together.
"I promise. Forever."
Forever. What a morbid notion. Before, eternity had always looked so bright. Now, the word sent cold chills down my spine.
I should have realised what our lives would become. I knew he was broken, even then. I guess I was arrogant enough to think I could fix him. I remembered the night I'd found him outside, without a hat or coat, hugging himself like a lost child. He took me in his arms in a bone-crushing hug, clinging to me as if I was a floating buoy in a churning ocean. It took so much persuasion to make him let me go. I took him home and sat with him by the fire, stroking his hair as he trembled and sobbed.
After that, the visions were continuous. Every night he woke up screaming as the images he'd tried so hard to banish floated through his mind. Too much had been placed on his shoulders. When he came back that time, alive after his death and still smarting with the sting of betrayal, I think something in him snapped. He saw things nobody should ever have to see. It's no wonder he's turned out like this; I don't blame him. It's not his fault. Even years after his demise, Voldemort still has his fist around his heart.
Absently, my fingers brushed the bruise on my shoulder. It was a sickly purple, like the potion I brew to help him sleep. Sometimes he even drinks it. Usually, he prefers something stronger.
I'd been out visiting mum, and I'd lost track of time. By the time I got home, he was frantic. He'd thought the Death Eaters had gotten me; there was little use pointing out that the Death Eaters were all caught and jailed a long time ago. I barely felt that bruise amidst the other things he did that night. I don't think there will be many more trips to my mum's from now on.
It's better that way, anyway. She was getting too suspicious.
I felt his return before he could call out. He was drunk, of course. He was always drunk these days. I could hear his heavy footsteps on the staircase; his ragged breathing.
"Ginny!" His voice roared from the landing, harsh and slurred. I wondered if I should get dressed and go out to him, but decided against it. He'd come to me, and he'd have his way with me. I was his wife, after all.
"I'm in here, Harry." I tried to keep my voice even. If he knew how miserable I was tonight, it would only make things worse for both of us.
The door was flung open. The smell of cheap whiskey hit me like one of Harry's blows when he was angry. And he was angry, tonight. I could see it in his eyes. His clothes were torn and dirty. I just hoped he hadn't been fighting at the bar again.
His eyes roamed over me in disgust and he seized my arm, nearly wrenching it out of its socket as he threw me onto the bed.
"What have you done to yourself?" he snarled, his spit hitting my cheek as he leaned in towards me. "You're disgusting. Too skinny."
"I'm sorry," I murmured.
"Like hell you are!" he erupted. "You're so selfish, Ginny. You're my wife, damn it!" He picked up the lamp beside the bed and flung it at the wall. The glass shattered, littering the carpet. It would get stuck in the fibres; it would be hell to clean up tomorrow.
"All I ask is that you fulfil your basic duties." His tongue fumbled over the words; he must be very drunk. "Instead, you let yourself waste away like a worthless gutter whore!" He tightened his grip on my wrist, and I struggled against the urge to wince and pull away. "How could anyone want you, looking like that? You owe me more! You're trying to ruin me!" He tugged at the buckle of his belt, letting his jeans fall to the floor as he climbed on top of me. All I felt was relief. I was safe tonight; he would not punish me. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth as he began to move on top of me, grunting like a wild animal. It didn't hurt so badly once he got properly started. I just prayed for it to be over soon.
When he was done, he lay beside me with his head on my shoulder. At first I thought he was asleep, until I felt the warm water trickling from under his eyelids. He was crying. Even as I realised, he began to sob – a hoarse, grating sound that made me want to clap my hands over my ears and scream. Instead, I turned towards him, stroking his hair like I always did when he cried.
"Shhhh…it's ok," I whispered soothingly. He continued to sob helplessly, gasping for breath.
"I can't…get rid of him…" he choked desperately. "He's in my…Ginny…I'm so sorry. So sorry. Don't leave me." His whole body was trembling now as the tears poured from his eyes. Despite his drunken state, I knew he meant it. Without me, he'd fall to pieces.
"I'm not going anywhere," I muttered. "Sleep, darling." I continued to stroke his hair until he sank into an alcoholic stupor. Then I turned away from him and curled into a tight ball under the sheets, willing myself not to let my own tears escape.
Don't leave me. The words echoed in my mind. How often I dreamed of doing just that; of running away, escaping this violent nightmare and building a new life for myself. A life where I was free; where I didn't have to be afraid of the one who loved me most. But I'd never tried it, and I knew with absolute certainty that I never would. I needed him too much. I knew that in the morning he'd wake and, through his pounding headache, tell me he loved me and apologise. And I knew I'd accept. I'd kiss him, then rush outside to brew him a cure for his hangover. After that, I didn't know what he'd do. I never knew anymore; his mood swings happened too fast. But I'd always be there. Because, hate him as much as I did, a part of me still loved him. And that part of me wasn't ready to quit.