Disclaimer: I don't own any of J.K.R.'s intellectual property, and hold no delusions that I do. Won't make any money from this.
Author's Note: Initially posted on SH, but discontinued there as my later chapters aren't up to their current standards. Chapters 0-4 have been beta-d by Kate H and other friends who would rather not be named. A huge thanks to everyone who has - or will - point out any errors I've made. I adore nitpicking, and only wish I had nastier betas for this fic than I've had so far.
I felt my knees hit the floor, wincing at the dull and distant pain in my knees. I thought about premature arthritis, and all of the punishment that I'd put them through in my life. Kneeling in the library, or in the forest during that last year.
On the move, and the run, and here again. Like in that battle, ducking down.
My head spun, and my stomach heaved. I didn't notice falling and blacking out until I'd woken up again. Lying on warm wooden floorboards, sticky with something unseen, I remembered with odd clarity the sharp pain of the wood on my head.
I could hear somebody retching, somewhere. Directions were confusing and upsetting, because I was still feeling upside-down. I could feel my arm had bruised where my unconscious body had rested on it, and the painful headache that claimed my consciousness again.
There was blood in my nose. I could smell it, taste it. A red hazy fug of distress. I had to focus on the moment, in case whatever it was that had hit us was still around.
I blinked with unseeing eyes, and winced at the crust that jammed my eyes shut. There was an us, of course. We'd been at the table. Breakfast?
What had I had for breakfast?
I knew that I usually knew simple things like this, and the sudden blank slate my mind had become was infuriating. I wanted to kick something, or break someone. Perhaps both. I settled for slamming my left hand down onto the wood floor.
Sticky and warm still. A drop on the back of my hand.
"Shit, she's bleeding!"
Oh. That was me. There was a dragging sound, then a rough cloth was shoved into my face. It scratched, and hurt. Pushing up into my nose, it hurt. But with every second my mind felt clearer, and I knew I had a blood nose. A very serious one, because it felt like my eyes had been sealed shut by clotted blood, sticky like syrup around the edges. Probably why I had fainted, in the end.
I might have cut my head when I fell, but it was more likely that it was just my nose. Had I been pushing myself too hard recently? Too many Pepper-up potions?
I felt very dizzy.
Also, confused. If it was just me, being my usual self, then why was someone else retching still? Why were there shuffled, subdued footsteps, and a muffled curse as somebody stubbed their toe?
Oh, stupid Ron.
He put a basin of water down beside me, so clumsily that it slopped cold all over my legs. Whoever had been trying to stem my bleeding barked out sharply that there was a first-aid supply kit under the sink.
Ron complained that he knew, and Harry spoke quietly, faint from across the room.
"You're going to be fine, Ginny."
Words and thoughts were mixed up in my head. There was a deep voice, murmuring and soft, before my face. He swapped the cloth for a fresher, softer one. A real handkerchief, and he wiped a damp, cold face-washer over my forehead.
Ron came back, and opened up the first aid kit. Following instructions, he loaded up a teat pipette and fed something bitter and sour into the side of my mouth.
Swallow, wince against the pain, and swallow again. Things began to clear again, like a camera lens. Slowly focusing in increments. Frustratingly slow increments.
Snape rinsed, dampened, and wiped the washer over my face again before I realised that I had finally recognised his voice. He had been talking to me all along, about taking the potion and how he would have everything clear soon, and that he couldn't see any cuts on my head yet, but...
Ron was helping Harry give Ginny some anti-nausea potions. My eyes were free, but stung.
I looked down at my clothes, and wished I hadn't. I had, though I don't know how, had a massive, bloody, spurting geyser of a nose. Had fainted in it, and caused a lot of worry.
Snape told me to stop it, and I wondered how he knew I'd been embarrassed, before he forced a Replenishing Potion down my throat.
Tidier and certainly more stable, we gathered around the kitchen table that was in the middle of the room. There was a foul-smelling pile of vomit in the corner, my puddle of blood, and a suspicious stain. The scent of urine soaked through it all.
None of us felt very good at all about our circumstances. We stared balefully at each other across the table, while Harry called Kreacher to make sure that he was alright, and ask for tea. Which we had been about to have, before whatever had happened. Because, I recalled, we were living here together, at Grimmauld place. Harry and Ginny in their room, Ron in his. Me in mine. Snape on a camp-bed in the study, until we checked the master bedroom for curses. Then Harry and Ginny would take that room, I would take their old room, and Snape would move into my current room.
So, my memory was less affected than I had dreaded. I could feel incidental knowledge settling back into place, like a messy pile of books pressed back against the shelf into a tidy row.
I let the heat from my teacup seep into my hands, then scratched a hand through my hair nervously.
"So," I began, "I was worst hit for some reason, but by what?"
I opened my mouth to continue, to prompt our recollection faster, but my hand was stuck in my hair.
Ginny helped me untangle my hair from around something small and sharp. A ring. My left hand had a ring on it. Silently, I lowered my hand to the table.
A solitaire diamond ring on my left hand, on the ring finger. I looked up at Ron with disbelief. He knew we weren't really in it for forever. We weren't even really in it for the sex, just for mutual comfort after a very messy wartime experience. Emotional healing. A stepping-stone to feeling sanity amongst the heartbreak.
It was why we didn't share rooms.
My memory appeared to have been affected far more than I had thought.
But, then, from my right, Snape swore abruptly and fiercely. He slammed a velvet jewellery box down upon the kitchen table, and then stormed from the room.
I let out a noise. It was a gasp, or a gulp, or a laugh, or a bark of cynical hate. I don't think I'll ever know what it was. I felt light and numb and confused. Ron looked as if he'd been snapped in two, and Harry looked more stunned than I had ever seen him before.
I sipped at my tea to have something to do, and then closed my eyes against the world. Whatever had happened to us, why I was wearing an engagement ring, could wait until the ground felt steady beneath my feet.