Ghost of You
I never, said I'd lie and wait forever,
If I died, we'd be together now,
I can't always just forget her,
But she could try.
Ghost of You by My Chemical Romance
There were anxious and elated shouts echoing up the broken hallways as she stumbled toward the Great Hall. She could hear footsteps echoing towards her, and glanced over her shoulder Charlie was there. Within a heartbeat he had one arm wrapped around her shoulders, crushing her to his strong chest. He continued to hold her against him as words rushed out of his mouth like loud whispers. She let the warm arm hang in a familiar fashion around her as Charlie's words continued to muffle and warp in her brain. Suddenly the arm was gone. She tried to look down and her head swam with the effort. Her hand automatically shot out and braced herself up against the doorframe of the Great Hall. Charlie's face appeared before her then, pale, drawn, and worried. Her body wasn't moving at the normal speed, everything was like fighting through sand.
His face was still full of worry when someone suddenly appeared in the hallway, covered in blood. Everything sped up to almost double time. Charlie grabbed the person, who immediately fell limp in his arms as he hurried through the open doors into the Great Hall. A pounding started in the back of her head and Ginny realized it was footsteps. She snapped back around to see Hermione and Ron coming down the hallway towards her. Ron had a tight arm around Hermione's waist; they were talking lowly to each other, and then gave a glance back to Harry who was five steps behind. The hallway spun with alarming speed. With a gasp of breath she pushed through the threshold and let her head swim.
The chaos of the makeshift triage almost pulsated around her. Blood slicked the floor, people were shouting and yelling, families were sobbing over bodies, nurses and mediwizards were apparating right into the Great Hall and jumping into the fray. The fact that everything was still moving quickly made her slightly queasy and she looked down at the floor, trying to shake the out of body experience. That was when Harry's bloodstained sneakers appeared.
Harry touched her around the arms; she tore her eyes away from the floor and looked up at his face. She realized he was talking to her, and then he had paused, searching her face for an answer to a question she never heard. Before she could command her body to respond he was pulling her close to him for a hug. The angle that he had pulled her in revealed the table she had been trying to avoid, the mediwizard's parted and she saw a flash of red hair. The breath escaped from her chest like someone had punched her. He pulled back and brilliant green eyes filled her mind. She tried to suck any air into her lungs, but her body had stopped taking her commands. Slowly she felt the darkness start to form at the back of her head. She struggled to take a breath and his voice cut through strong and true, like so many other times in her life, when she was in trouble,
She felt her body slump against him, and then the darkness took her.
"Harry let her go! Harry just let go!" Hermione's shrill voice broke through the darkness, but she still could not open her eyes. She couldn't feel anything; just hear the voices echo in her head.
"Is she okay?" Harry's voice was right at her ear, echoing loudly in her empty mind.
"She's fine. Just let her go so I can check her." A calm voice ordered. "He's in shock."
"Is she okay?" His panicked voice was further away now.
"Harry everything will be fine." Her father's voice was at her ear now, tumbling over all the other voices around her. "Just let her go, son."
"Shock? What?" Ron barked out, there was a rustling of clothes.
"You," the voice ordered, "make a chair, and put him in it. Becky, we got another one."
"Here is your ticket, keep it on your wrist, this one is on her wrist, it links the two of you. Grab her and Apparate to St. Mungo's. The triage is already there."
"Of course." Her father's voice sounded faint and far away. Everything swirled again. The last things she heard were,
"Harry," Ron's voice sounded like he was struggling, "calm down. We're safe now. She'll be fine."
"Harry, please just calm down." Hermione pleaded.
"Fine, I'm fine. Is Ginny okay?"
"Pull that curtain, Paul."
"Ribs, fever, check out the leg, large cuts on the right arm, and the left leg."
"Why is she unconscious?"
"She passed out."
"Do we know why?"
"Shock, apparently she just shut off, there is a threat of a coma. Let's just treat immediate injuries first."
Her mind swirled shut again.
Her eyes still refused to open, her mind continued to keep her in its black suffocating arms. The darkness wrapped around her thoughts and pushed any and everything that had happened back into a corner that she rarely revisited. She heard muffled sobs, and tried to make her ears pick up who it was. If her eyes were going to refuse to work, she was going to need her ears. The sobs remained unidentified.
"Fever won't break, can we do something about those ribs?"
"We treated them, her body just doesn't want to heal."
"Must have something to do with the coma."
"Let's send her up to the room. There's nothing left for us to do."
"Grab one of the family."
"Which one is her family?"
"Any of the ones with red hair."
"Is that Harry Potter in the waiting room?"
She heard her bed start to move, and the paralyzing arms of darkness beckoned her back.
"I got here as soon as I could."
"Thanks, Neville." Ron roughly cleared his throat.
"How is she doing?"
"They said she's fine, she is just in a coma. Some of the nurses think she can hear us."
"What do you think?" Neville's voice was soft.
"I think she can hear us." Ron cleared his throat again, and then roughly added, "I'll be right back."
"Ginny?" Neville's voice filled her head. She tried to open her eyes, but her body hadn't responded to her commands in a long time now. He had been the first one to speak to her and not about her.
"I know you can hear me Ginny. You're safe now. The war is over. We won. Wake up."
Someone entered the room, but didn't say a word.
"I know you are stronger then this Ginny, you were the glue that held us together at Hogwarts. Wake up." He stopped and his voice seemed suddenly far away, "Alright, mate?"
The addition didn't answer, but her door clicked shut and for the first time since the darkness had claimed her, she felt something. Someone grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze. The person sighed and left with Neville, and the silence crushed her into submission.
"Oh I'm sorry. I didn't mean to intrude. I was just here to check in on my parents."
"It's alright Neville, I needed to get some dinner anyway." Hermione yawned.
"Well go ahead, I'll wait until you come back."
She heard the door click shut again and Neville whispered,
"I know you can hear. Can't you just open your eyes?"
She struggled against the darkness still paralyzing her to the bed. Her fingers twitched in concentration, but her eyelids remained shut. She took a breath in to try again and Neville gasped at her fingers,
"No way! Ginny? Ginny can you hear me?"
His footsteps exploded in her skull, "Someone get in here! She's waking up!" The room erupted with noise; it was a loud cacophony of steps, shouts, and fluttering, whirling devices.
"Please back up from the bed. Give her some room." A nurse ordered. She had no way of knowing how many voices were in the room, or how many hands were fluttering around her head now. She tried to focus on her fingers and was able to make them twitch again. This time cost her, though. The exhaustion pulsed into her, making her head swim in an all too familiar way. She held in a breath, attempting to keep control over the single moment of clarity she'd had since arriving here. She wasn't able to talk, but at least she could move. At least she could twitch against the dreamless slumber that had seemed to turn her to stone. Someone was pinching her toes; another hand was pulling her blankets down, yet another was taking something off her head.
"Ginerva, can you hear us?"
The swimming darkness spread its wide arms again, trying to trap her. She concentrated on her pinky finger, and forced it to twitch.
"Ginerva can you open your eyes?"
"Give her the potion."
"What potion?" An anxious voice called out.
"She's been sedated for a while now, this might help her wake up."
A silence filled her busy room, and then she felt white-hot pain. She knew she should be twisting around in agony, but her body refused to move. Her mind had never even registered the potion entering her mouth. It shot through her veins, cramped her muscles, and forced her eyes to pop open. The room gasped, her eyes saw nothing but white, bright, blinding light. With one shuddering, sweaty groan the darkness pulled at the back of her mind.
"Ginny? Ginny can you hear me?" Neville's voice shot through the blinding pain. Her fingers trembled with the effort of trying to force a scream through her silent lips. The darkness pulled at the front of her mind, she lost the ability to see the blinding lights.
"She's going under again."
Her body gave another painful sweaty groan, and she welcomed the darkness back. It was ebbing the pain away; it was forcing her back into the quiet submission where she didn't feel anything, where she didn't see anything like his face, or the Great Hall.
"Is she crying? What is going on?" Neville anxiously shot out.
"It's common, don't worry, she is not in pain."
She let go of the hold she had on the brief moment of consciousness and let the darkness envelop her into its silent, painless arms. She fell slowly back into the sea of night, the pain, the tremors, and the sweat all melting away back into numbness.
"Neville, what's going on?" Harry's anxious voice echoed in her mind.
"Neville?" Hermione's voice was almost a squeal.
"She woke up, for a second she woke up." Neville's voice was excited; it bounced with optimism. The darkness pulled all the way to the front of her mind, Harry's quiet voice filled the darkness,
"She woke up?"
"Let her sleep." The nurse pushed the voices from the room they spilled into the hallway.
Her room was silent. The darkness had lifted from her mind, now to the point that she could see light through her eyelids. She yelled into her mind to open her eyes, and to her frightened pleasure they popped up. The room shifted and blurred into focus, the light from the open window was making her wince. In those first few moments of consciousness she realized she still couldn't move her body, but her eyes darted around the room. She could not make out much detail; her mind was focusing enough on just being awake. The window let in a slight breeze when she heard the door crack open. She shifted her eyes to the sound and before she could even focus on the object in the door she heard a splash hit the ground. Her blurry vision made out black hair, not the dramatic red her heart could not bare to see; she knew it had to be Harry. Slowly her eyes zeroed in on him, blue jeans, a black jacket, and his hand still held out in the air, his fingers curled around the empty space where his cup used to be. His boot crushed the cup flat as he moved towards her bed.
She blinked a few times at his voice, it caused him to rush to the bed, and his sudden movements made her lose her focus. Slowly her mind erased the blur of colors and turned it into Harry's face. She plunged into the past.
She could feel the cold, wet slime over the stone floor. She was so cold, so cold, and it was so dark. She could hear labored breathing and looked around. An enormous dead snake twisted and coiled along the shallow pool of the dungeon. She glanced at her left and saw that he was holding onto himself and bleeding. In that silent moment his eyes searched her face and then he winced in pain. It was the green of his eyes at that moment, the exact color of green that would haunt her dreams for years after.
Harry's warm hand snapped her back to the present. He grabbed hers into his own, his lips were pressed tight, his brow creased with concentration, he still looked shocked. She tried to look past his face, but the brooding green made Riddle's laugh echo lightly in her ears. "Ginny? Can you hear me?"
She managed to look at him once, the laugh intensified, and she looked away. It seemed to be enough for him so he squeezed her hand.
"I'll go get the nurse." He whispered and let go. The loss of the warmth of his hand made her lungs contract, she forced her eyes shut, and tried to block out the memories. If the welcomed darkness wasn't going to be around to keep her sane, she was going to have to fall back on her fog. The fog that had protected her during that terror filled summer after the Chamber, the fog had made being around Harry easier in her second year. The fog would erase it all; she let the memories mist and then disappear into the gray emptiness.
"She was awake, just a moment ago."
"It's actually pretty common. People experience it several different ways. I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't have some kind of meltdown out of Harry soon."
"He has been quite huffy, eh? I thought he would be the first, you know, with all he went through."
"Ginny has faced Voldemort in similar ways as well." Hermione almost whispered.
"Yeah, I know." Ron darkly added.
"Where is Harry anyway?" She heard Hermione's shoes click away on the hard floor, and then there was only Ron's slow sighs. She pushed the fog out of her mind, it seemed like nothing was immediately threatening to break through. She cracked open an eye and for the first time was painfully aware of the cuts and bruises all over her body. Her hospital gown was covered in sweat, her hair was sticking to her forehead, and her throat was almost dried out. She struggled to open her other eye, and then turned her head to look at Ron. He was tapping his fingers on his knee and looking at the open door, where Hermione had just left. His head slowly moved toward her and he gave her the once over before he realized she was awake,
"Oh thank Merlin!" He sighed and jumped up out of bed to stand over her.
She gave out a dry cough and tried to dampen her mouth.
"You're at St. Mungo's. We've been here for about six days now; you've been in and out of it. They said you had a bit of a mental breakdown. Nothing lasting, post-traumatic something."
She tried to speak again, and when her voice cut out, nodded her head towards the glass of water on the side table. Ron grabbed it and placed it in her shaky hands. Little droplets of water splashed on her gown as she sucked down the water. She closed her eyes again savoring the flood of it across her parched throat.
"You gave us a bit of scare, Harry worst of all. He's hardly left the hospital; we keep bringing him clothes and stuff. He just paces a lot. Don't really blame him, no one can really leave, reporters everywhere, they want to interview us all, but they definitely want to get a hold of him." Ron took the cup back and gave her a soft look, "glad you're back, Ginny."
"Ginny?" Her mother's voice entered the room and she looked at her mother, now starting to grey at the temples of her hair, her face white and taught with the weight of what had happened to her family. "Oh my sweet, sweet girl." She grabbed Ginny in a giant hug and started to prop up her pillows. Her room immediately filled up with her family, each giving her a tired, but relieved smile. She searched the faces and noticed one missing, and the weight of the truth sat on her chest, her eyes filled with tears and she held out her hand to George. He sat on the edge of her bed and held onto her hand tight,
"Thought we lost you there for a moment." His voice was quiet, the usual humor lost, he stared at their hands and let out a shaky breath. The tears rolled down her face, fast and hot. She had time to wipe away some of them when Hermione and Harry came bursting into the room. They swept up to the bed, everyone parted slightly to let Harry in, and he stopped short at her bedside, George still holding onto her hand.
"Hi," he gave her a small smile. His fingers fluttered against the side of the bed, and then rested onto the mattress.
She managed a nod back. She felt her family's eyes trying not to watch every move made between them; even George had glanced over at Harry. After a breath he snatched his hands back up and crossed them over his chest.
"Nice to see you're awake, will everyone please leave the room? We have some tests we need to run." The nurse started to move the blankets around and Harry gave her one last fleeting look before she was all alone.
She held very still as the machines buzzed and whirled around her. There was the loud ever-present scratching of a quill against parchment next to her head, marking every breath she took. The nurses poked and prodded around her. She glanced at the two who were frowning over her, looking as war weary as she felt. The onslaught of her family, and then the sudden removal of them had exhausted her. In the exhaustion her mind was starting to wander again, she tried to focus on the fog, tried to imagine her mind blank and empty, tried to push anything that came across her thoughts deep into her chest. The loss of her darkness, or coma as everyone seemed to have called it, brought into acute awareness just how many injuries she had sustained. Her bones ached at being awake. She let out a hiss as the dark haired nurse poked a little too hard at one of her ribs.
"It should be healing, I don't know why it's still so tender." The nurse frowned at her ribs, and then walked away to get some more potions and ointments. The light haired nurse pulled out a small strip from the drawer next to her bed. Her cold fingers pressed it to Ginny's burning forehead,
"Oh dear. What could it be fighting?" She whispered and pulled the strip away. Ginny noticed that the small silver strip had turned to a dark red color once it was taken from her head. The nurse casually tossed it towards the trash, and as it fluttered to the ground Ginny glanced at the nurses' sneakers. They looked like Harry's, minus the blood and gore. She snapped her eyes shut to try to block the oncoming image in her brain, but it flooded into her senses.
There, on the wooden table, a table where she had once eaten and laughed, laid Fred. Stiff as a board, his face white, one hand hanging off the table, fingers spread out and slightly curled. A whimper escaped from her throat as she tried to push the memory back, it only made it worse. She saw his face, the small smile still haunting his features. Her father had closed his eyes. She felt the tears on her gown before she realized they were streaming down her numb face. Another whimper escaped and she felt the nurse stir next to her. Fred's wild hair, sticking out at all different angles was the next image to assault her, it still had bits of castle dust and grim stuck to it. His long legs were stock straight, his feet falling out from each other, mud and bits of gravel stuck inside the ridges of his boots. She struggled to take a breath, the thickness in her throat, the stuffiness of her nose, and the stream of tears made it sound like a gasp.
"Get the sleeping potion."
"But she already has a dose in her."
"It's not enough. She's not ready to be awake."
"We need to be careful, Jenna, she just woke up from a coma!"
"Her body is not healing. Whatever is haunting her is stalling it. She needs to be asleep."
"She's getting hysterical."
"Give me the bottle. I'm not going to make her suffer any longer."
Ginny felt a cold hand grab her chin, felt a rubber tube being shoved between her clenching teeth as she continued to sob. Next she felt the bitter liquid spill down her throat. Once it hit her stomach her eyes managed to focus blearily through the tears at the light haired nurse, Jenna, slowly pulling the tube out of her mouth.
"Sleep." She commanded. Ginny closed her eyes, clenching her teeth back into their now familiar position, ignored the tears still spilling down her face, and saw Fred's lifeless body one more time before darkness closed in on her again.
"They said that she will be in and out of it for a while. They have her on a double sleeping draught."
"Double?" Harry whispered incredulously. He was near her bed, maybe even standing next to it. She didn't know because she wasn't going to open her eyes. She had been awake for a few hours, once the potion had worn off, but every time someone came into the room she snapped her eyes shut and curled back into herself. She didn't have the energy to talk to anyone, no matter how much she'd been sleeping.
"I guess her body doesn't want to heal."
"Wait, what? How is that even possible?"
"Sometimes the mind just shuts off Harry, to preserve itself. Ginny has gone through so much. Her mind can't focus on dealing with all that has happened and healing itself. It can only do one thing at a time."
The white noise of the quill and machines filled back into her private room. Any time she had a moment of clarity, regardless of wither or not she opened her eyes, the machines and quill would furiously scribble and flap about taking in all her vital signs and calculating how soon she would be better. She could hear the birds chirping outside her open window. Even her closed eyes could tell that it was wide open to let all the sunlight in.
Once the first dose of sleeping potion had worn off a nurse came in. Ginny had ignored her chatter and humming. She had looked at the sun for only a few minutes before she turned to the nurse and nodded towards the curtains,
Ginny remembered the nurse had blanched at her face for a moment and then quickly shuffled over towards the window and with a flourish sent the room into darkness. Her family kept opening the blinds, and she kept ordering the nurses to close them. It was usually on her Mother's shift that they were opened.
"Go home Hermione." Harry's low voice rumbled in his chest. "It's my shift."
"Why are we even calling it shifts, like it's a job? I want to be here, I want her to get better. Sometimes," Hermione lowered her voice. "I swear that she's awake. I want to talk to her, no one can seem to get her to say more then two words."
"Hum," he mumbled. She felt something shift against the bed. He must be leaning against it, she deduced.
"How is Mrs. Weasley? Is she alright? Ron won't talk about anyone."
"She's managing, I guess. Everyone just keeps to themselves mostly. We eat dinner together; we sit in the living room after. I don't know Hermione."
"Do you think she'll be awake by Saturday?"
She felt the bed shift again. Hermione's silence confirmed that Harry had shrugged.
"Are we supposed to wear black, or colors? I can't remember."
"Wear whatever you want. That's what I remember hearing from Ron."
She heard Hermione sniffle then, the bed shifted again and she heard a small step. Her ears picked up some rustling of sweaters and a few more sniffles. Harry's voice was further away,
"I'm going to go."
"I'll see you later."
Hermione's shoes squeaked across the polished floors and the door clicked shut behind her. She fought the temptation to open an eye. If she did, Harry would see, and she might have to talk to him. The nurses had been talking about Saturday for a while now. Maybe it was only in a few days, or hours, she couldn't tell anymore in the dark cave her world had become. Between forcing the light from the room, and the constant welcomed dark of her dreamless sleep time had stopped mattering.
It was no use saying the words of what Saturday was going to be. She knew, everyone knew, but no one wanted to say the words. She didn't know if her lips knew how to form words anymore anyway. The darkness kept her calm, it kept her tired, and it kept her silent. Any time she tried to open her mouth to even ask for a glass of water memories and waking nightmares would push to the forefront of her mind, and she would be gagging against the tube of sleeping potion soon after. Hysterical, that's what they had called it. She was hysterical, and needed more rest.
Harry pulled the chair, very noisily, across the floor and up against her bed. She heard a rustling in a cupboard next to her and Harry was back in the chair. She felt something hit the bed, and within a few minutes of labored sighs he started to snore. It was only then that she ever attempted to open her eyes. She had quickly learned that a sleeping Harry was the only member of her family that she could stomach. The trademark red hair of any Weasley would bring her back to...him. She refused to say his name; it would only cause a scene.
Harry's jet-black hair was safe. It was still long, trying to touch his shoulders. He had started tucking it behind his ears, out of his face. Her eyes roamed over the room, and away from Harry's sleeping face. There was a small lamp lit next to her hospital bed. It gave off a soft, slightly pink glow to the room. She didn't think it was possible for the room to look any more pink, but with the rust color blanket that was covering Harry, the peach colored walls, and the fuchsia colored blankets that covered her, she had fallen into pink hell. She was sure it was clashing wonderfully with her hair. She felt a bitter smile form internally, she never smiled on the outside anymore, it took too much effort.
There was yellow in the room as well. Yellow roses, marigolds, sunflowers, light yellow snapdragons, poppies, even giant hibiscus petals filled the table attached to her bed at her feet. Every single one was in a beautiful crystal vase, no cards. She felt the urge to kick them off for a shattering end. Her family knew she loved yellow; this would have been their doing. Their physical manifestations of love and hope made a flash of anger rip through her delicate stomach. They reminded her that she was still ill, and that she was ill because she couldn't let go of...him, and then that he was dead.
Before her mind could snap into a flashback of the Great Hall she pressed the nurse button on her bed and gently started pulling herself out of the mass of pink. She didn't trust her legs, but she did have to pee. Within an instant the door softly opened, spilling industrial bright light into her dark cave. The blonde nurse, Jenna, she remembered, didn't even bother to ask what she needed. She silently stepped around Harry's long legs, and with a strong arm offered her silent support to the bathroom inside her bedroom.
Jenna turned her back towards Ginny as she fumbled around with her hospital gown, and sat on the toilet.
"So am I ever left alone?"
Jenna turned around, surprised. Ginny couldn't help the bitterness that had exited with her voice. To be honest she was surprised that her thought actually made it past her lips.
"Oh." She had used up her quota for the day now.
"If there is always someone here, you will never feel alone. It helps with the healing process." Jenna turned back around as she finished up and flushed the toilet. They fell back into their practiced silence as Jenna offered a strong arm out of the bathroom. Just as she had feared, once the door had opened, Harry's eyes swept towards her analyzing her face with a dark intensity. His pink blanket was on the floor; his chair was turned back around to face her bed now. He silently followed their slow shuffle back towards her bed.
Jenna settled the blankets back around her, and Ginny let her head fall back onto the pillows, now exhausted. She had never thought ten steps to the bathroom would feel like a marathon, but here she was panting. Jenna stuck a silver strip to her forehead and swished her wand around to fluff and organize the mountain of blankets around her bed. She started checking the rolls and rolls of parchment next to her bed, the quill continued to mark her every move. Harry kept silent and darted his green to every movement the nurse made.
"Much, much better." Jenna smiled as she took the silver slip off her forehead and showed her the dark green color it had turned. It matched Harry's eyes, Ginny closed her own.
"What's good?" It almost sounded like he was demanding an answer rather then asking.
"She's healing, her fever broke, so that means that her body is responding to the sleep. Once the slip turns blue she can go home."
"Does that mean she'll be better when it's blue?" He had kept his voice low, almost as if he was afraid there was someone else listening in on their private room.
"No, silver is an indication of fully healed. But blue is good enough to leave." Jenna had paused and Ginny opened her eyes to see why. She was swishing her wand up and down her body, murmuring to herself. Then she pulled out a vile from her pocket and set it down on the table by her feet, between the roses and the sunflowers.
"When she's ready to go back to sleep, you can give her this." She directed the order to Harry. His face paled slightly,
"What if she," he turned away from her and whispered, "has another…"
Jenna pursed her lips together, gave Ginny a knowing look, and then finished,
Ginny snuggled deeper into her bed. Jenna had more faith in her then Harry it seemed. She wished for a moment that she had bothered to look in a mirror when she was in the bathroom, she must look frightening to have Harry be scared. Perhaps Harry had a reason to be scared. The fog settled back around the corners of her mind and she realized that Jenna had left and Harry was looking at her, waiting for an answer. She hadn't heard him speak.
"How do you feel, Ginny?" He asked again. His words had been slow, careful, and cautious. She shrugged her shoulders.
"Do you want some food?" He moved down towards a bag at his feet, she hadn't realized he brought anything with him. He pulled out a box of crackers and a chocolate bar; apparently he wasn't prepared for her to actually be awake. It seemed like an afterthought he had thrown into his bag. She shook her head no.
"Thirsty?" He moved towards the water pitcher and glasses by her lamp. She shook her head no again. His shoulders slumped with defeat; she watched a flash of frustration cross his mouth. The fog refused to let her feel bad, the fog refused to let her feel anything, actually. That's why she had kept it around. She had tried a few blinding days of clarity, in the timeless time she had spent in her pink hell. She re-lived, with achingly painful detail, those horrible days at Hogwarts before Easter break, that dark night at the castle, and him. They had flashed across her eyes, ripped into her lungs, and curled her up into a ball, clutching at her now healed, but still mentally bruised ribs. The fog stopped all that. It kept her anxious, she would see flashes of the pain, but if she felt nothing, she wouldn't have to feel the pain.
"Okay," he conceded and sat back down in his chair. His eyes had never left her face. Now he just stared at her, and she knew that he was detailing this moment in his mind. He used to do that when they were both at Hogwarts, together. She would notice dark green eyes pouring over every single detail of seemingly unimportant moments.
They would be sitting on a couch in the Common Room, or on the Pitch during moments of rare free time. She had asked one bright day, as they were doing homework by the lake,
"What are you doing?"
Ginny remembered she had laughed, when her question had shook him from his examining. The thought of laughing now made her stomach turn.
"Oh, nothing." He looked down at his homework.
"Are you studying me?"
"Something like that." He had mumbled and closed his book with a snap. She had laughed again. She forced down the rising dry heave. There was never enough food in her stomach to actually throw up. Her tiny shift to choke back the vomit had Harry on his feet,
"Are you okay?"
She waved her hand at him, and turned her face away towards the curtained window. She couldn't take his eyes anymore. Before they had been a source of reassurance in her dreams, comfort on the longer days, but now they reminded her of all the things she had tried to forget in her life. Most of the darkest memories involved him in some way. Her exhaustion was making it harder and harder for the fog to hang around. It was pulling back, slowly, and she had a flash of her Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, the dark walls, and her wand twitching in her shaking hand, as she waited her turn to...she turned her head back to Harry for the distraction. His face had not moved.
"Ready?" He asked with a sad smile. She nodded, grateful that she wouldn't have to say the words, grateful that Harry could understand her moods just by looking at her face, grateful that she wouldn't have to look at him for much longer. She swallowed the bottle with one breath and closed her eyes in anticipation of the welcome darkness.
"Do you feel alright, dear?"
"Just tired." She lowered her eyes and closed them, thinking it would make her leave.
"Do you know how long you have been here Ginevra?"
Ginny opened her eyes and glared at the nurse. It appeared that Jenna had the day off. She was in no mood to talk, not when this exhaustion made it difficult to even summon the will to speak.
"A few days?"
"No, almost two weeks dear."
"Two weeks?" She looked toward the closed blinds, hoping she would take the hint, but the nurse continued to flutter around the bed. "What day is it?"
"Saturday." The nurse quietly said and set down some actual clothes and not another hospital gown. Ginny looked down at the clothes as the words sank in, a black skirt and a bright yellow top. Surprisingly, it was the yellow shirt that made her gag. Black she could have dealt with; black was the color she felt. Black was what she had become. An empty, black shell of who she used to be. The tremor of sickness shot through her body, she immediately broke out in a fast, slick sweat. She turned back towards the curtain and became sick all over the floor.
"That's okay, dear. It's okay." Her kind voice seemed to be all around her as her head swam. A bowl appeared below her face as her stomach lurched again and she spit out the dry heave. The nurse had already cleaned up the mess and was rubbing a soft hand along her sweaty back. "It's okay."
"It's not okay." Gritted out between her teeth, and she felt the hysteria filter through the fog. The whirling machines started to fly around the room at an alarming rate. The quill was moving so quick it was smoking. The vomit had distracted her hold on her thoughts, her body started to shake in anticipation of the building scream. It started first in the bottom of her stomach, the trembling. She felt like someone was physically shaking her, her already tender stomach ached as it rolled and twitched with the coming storm. Her lungs were next, the deep rattle made her teeth start to chatter against themselves. She tried to clamp her mouth shut, at least she could save them from chipping each other. By the time her lungs were shaking she had already lost control; she curled around the metal guards holding her into the bed. The low moaning scream started at the back of her throat. She sputtered and tried to take in a breath before the flood.
"Ginerva, stay with me." The nurse commanded. She placed her cold hands around Ginny's arms, but she had already lost feeling in her body. The moaning, screaming tears exploded out of her throat, the saltwater opened like a river down her face. Her body convulsed into itself, trying to keep something together as everything was falling apart. Her stomach lurched again and she threw up the bile that had formed. It splattered all over her sheets, and made a sick slopping noise as it hit the ground. Hysteria kicked into high gear.
"Send someone in," the nurse said into an orb that floated at the end of her wand and with a flick it shot through the closed door. She waved her wand over the vomit sprayed sheets and floor, and then banished the bowl.
Her body trembled again and she started hyperventilating to get some air back into her lungs. The nurse pushed Ginny up against her pillows and stuck a silver strip to her head. She was grabbing her jaw in preparation for the rubber tube when the door exploded open. Ginny didn't even attempt to crack open her eyes to see who it was. Even if she had managed to open them her vision would be clouded by the tears. A pitiful moan wretched from her throat, and the nurse put a stronger hold on her shoulder to keep her from shaking around.
The pain of the hysteria ripped through her body, she begged her mind for anything. She would take fog, she would take darkness, she would take numbness, but her mind refused to succumb. Each sob gave her a shudder of pain; each tear caused the hole in her chest to widen, until she finally just let go. She gave into the hysteria, not caring if it would drive her mad. Not caring if she would never stop crying. She just couldn't hold the pain in anymore, she could not let it linger this time, and hope that it would be pushed aside like it had with Riddle. Her yellow shirt flashed in the forefront of her mind and another rack of sobs broke through.
Suddenly there were hands all over her. Two pinning her to the bed, one on her jaw, one prying her teeth open, one pressing the blankets tight against her legs. The tube shoved in between her teeth and she started gagging on the bitter medicine. With a giant cough it sprayed all over everyone.
"John, get another vile, it's in my pocket." A calm voice ordered over her cries of pain. She felt the nurse on her legs shift and then one of them shouted out,
"NO! Get out of the room!"
"Oh no! Ginny!" She could pick out Hermione's panicked shout.
"Out!" The voice bellowed. The door slammed shut and Hermione's voice echoed in her head as the second attempt at the sleeping potion sped down her throat.
"Don't go in. No, don't go in. No one needs to see her like this, not today."
"Lock the door John." The calm voice filled the room. She didn't even have time to contemplate vomiting up this batch of sleeping medication. It was so much more potent then the others before it that when it hit her stomach her body slumped limp, and her brain greedily soaked up the forming black, she felt herself free falling into it.
"I really appreciate this Neville. She shouldn't be left alone."
"Harry," there was a long pause. "All you ever have to do is ask."
"I would stay, it is just supposed to be family, but Hermione is all shook up from the incident, and Ron..."
"Harry you are family." Neville's voice was quiet.
"Yeah." Was all Harry offered. He cleared his throat and then in a thick voice managed, "If she wakes up," he broke off.
"She'll be fine. The fact that she is reacting in any way is a great sign. If she had just laid there...well that would have been a different story."
"Right, I should go." He cleared his throat again.
"I'm so sorry Harry, Fred was an incredible wizard."
She heard some rustling of clothes and a few pats. With a few loudly exhaled breaths the room emptied to Neville. She let the final few moments of haze from the potion linger around in her skull. Her last hysterical fit had made her throat raw and her stomach tender, but there wasn't much need for the fog. Her mind had taken all the white-hot memories of pain and pushed them further into her chest cavity. Any ping of memory, even the faintest flash of trauma, now shot through her chest like buckshot. It sprayed out in all directions, being swallowed by the ever present, ever growing, ever darker void where her chest used to be.
She had a quick flash of her yellow shirt again and felt it spray right below her heart. She wanted the darkness back. But now, as the haze of drugs was lifting, she was aware of Neville sitting in the chair.
She felt his hand on her own and he squeezed it tightly. "I know you can hear me, and I know that you are scared, but your family needs you, Harry needs you, I need you."
She felt the hot tear roll down her face and Neville's hand squeezed her tighter. His other hand cupped around their linked ones. "I promise I won't get the nurse this time. Just open your eyes."
His warm hands continued to give her an encouraging squeeze. The tears were still spilling from her eyes, she didn't trust them yet, so she tried to squeeze his hand back. She felt her fingers tremble, and then finally faintly wrap around his.
"Good enough. Good enough Ginny. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. It's my turn to take care of you. Don't think I've forgotten what happened at Hogwarts. We need to stick together." He started rubbing his thumb along the lines of her wrist. "Would you like me to distract you?" She squeezed back a yes.
"Well there is this wonderful rumor bouncing around the hospital that Harry Potter is hiding out within its walls. Ron and Hermione are getting their fair amount of unwanted press when they manage to get outside. But Harry has taken to transformation and charms, and even some polyjuice potion I believe to try to stay undetected. It's created quite a stir. Much needed, mind you, because of the low morale. The emergency nurses have several bets going. Of course your nurses know he's here."
The initial explosion of pain at the mention of the three quietly folded into the void. She tried to focus on the sound of his voice, the slight humor it was reflecting, but not the words. He continued to rub a pattern across her wrist.
"The best part is that there is such tight security on your room that everyone has figured out that he must be in your room. It's confusing all the patients on the floor. They aren't used to so many people visiting them, not too many make it up to the psych ward. The Prophet has been running theories so far off from the truth that Gran and I have turned to the Quibbler instead. Everyone wants to know." Neville sighed. "It can't be easy for him, but I'm sure Harry is used to it by now. That must be why no one has been able to catch him yet." He paused for a second, and then changed direction with his pattern. "Think you could open your eyes?"
She slacked her hold on his hand. She didn't even want to try. She was still just focusing on his voice, trying to spell each word out of his mouth just to distract herself. She hoped he would have something else to talk about, other then the handful of people that brought the shots of pain through her.
"I'll take that as a no. Well no matter, there are already stores and pubs popping up all over the country. It only took people long enough to clear the rubble to throw something up. I guess it's a good thing. I would think we'd wait a little bit longer to mourn the loss of...everything. But it's nice to know that people are excited to start the rebuilding so soon. My Gran said that it took a lot longer in the first war. People weren't quite ready to move on, she said it was much more personal. I don't even know what she meant by that, it seemed to be a strange thing to say. But she's been through both now, so maybe she knows something I don't. It was personal to me." Her door slid open and Neville slowly let go of her hand.
"Is she awake?"
"No, I'm just talking to her. It helped with my parents."
"Well if she does, lets try to get her to eat something." She heard the plunk of plastic hit one of the tables in her room.
"Let's prop her up a little, help me with these pillows."
She was slowly moving from laying down to sitting up, hands fluttered around her blankets and pillows until she felt stable.
"Let us know if you need anything Neville."
"Alright, thanks, Monica." Neville answered back and the room filled with his presence. "If you don't mind, I'm going to have your breadstick, I'm starving. If you don't want me to...well...do anything." She heard his feet moving before she could even make her fingers twitch. With all the effort of moving the last few drudges of potion lifted from her brain and her eyes slowly cracked open. Neville was moving back towards her bed, a cup of Jello in his hands.
"You caught me, I wasn't stealing your breadstick." He shoved the metal spoon into the red Jello. "I guess this means you want some." He smiled at her, and she gave him a few slow blinks. "They do have the best Jello here." He spooned out a jiggling red blob and moved it towards Ginny's face. She focused on opening her mouth, and it obediently complied to take in the Jello. The sugary, mushy, strawberry flavored scoop smashed against her tongue. The pieces slid down her sore throat and she closed her eyes for a moment as it hit her empty stomach. To actually have food in her stomach ebbed away some of the pain along the edges of her black holed chest.
"It's good, right?" He spooned another cube into her mouth. "I'm partial to the green Jello, but this strawberry one is a usual favorite. Thirsty?" He leaned over and grabbed a glass of water. He did not even wait for an answer. The water spilled down her throat quickly and coolly.
"They never send enough of this stuff up." He gave her a smile and then reached across her bed to push the nurse button. Someone appeared in the doorway immediately.
"Could we have some more strawberry Jello?"
The nurse locked her confused gaze on Ginny for a long moment before muttering, as she backed out of the room, "Of course."
Neville just turned back to her, not fazed by the reaction of the nurse and spooned another spoonful into her mouth. "Orange is good as well, and my Gran loves pineapple."
Two cups of Jello later, Neville was ripping the top off another one, recanting tales of his Herbology experiments,
"The problem really is a proper greenhouse." He swooped a spoonful into her mouth. "If you don't have the proper filtration of light it can create the strangest crossbreeds. The things I have seen in my greenhouse!" He let out a tiny laugh and prepared another spoonful of Jello. As the sugar had settled into her stomach her body absorbed its power. Her blood was pumping through her veins, and the added bonus of food she wasn't immediately throwing up had kept her awake for over an hour. Neville's bright voice and somewhat boring stories had kept her in rapture. If it had been anything more entertaining she was afraid she might have slipped. But he had seemed to know that, and steered clear of any topic that might upset her.
She knew it had a lot to do with their time together in the underground. He was able to read her so quickly that unspoken understandings and plans were a commonplace thing for them. He had avoided talking about the underground as well. For that she was very grateful.
"I've been thinking of taking on some Weeping Roses. They are quite rare, and hard to get, but the benefits would outweigh the price." He swooped the spoon towards her mouth. As her tongue rolled the Jello around in her mouth the door quietly opened. "To be able to harness their ability to heal burns would be reason enough."
Ginny's eyes, now clear and bright, landed on Harry. Neville's banter continued as Harry held onto the doorframe and watched the two of them,
"One bite left. Do you want me to get some more? Monica does like me, I'm sure she'd steal a few more for us."
Ginny shook her head no, and never lost eye contact with Harry. She looked at him, really looked at him for what felt like the first time in a year. He still had some scrapes and a few perfectly round blisters on his exposed forearms. His arms were crossing over his now broad chest, the scars lighting up against the black button up shirt he was wearing. He seemed taller, maybe it was the khakis, but he seemed larger somehow. She ventured up to his face, his long hair pulled back from his strong jaw line. It was clamped tight; she could see the muscles moving with his frown as he looked from the empty cups and back to Neville a few times. When he'd had enough he looked up at Ginny, his eyes almost black they were so dark green.
"Maybe we should move on to real food," Neville smiled and then stopped. He looked from her face and then slowly turned around to Harry.
"Hey, Neville." His voice came out slow and tired. She watched his agitated jaw loosen, his body responded as well. He slumped against the doorframe.
"So," Neville started quietly. "You're back?"
"It's over." Harry quickly answered. He let out a tired breath of air and moved toward her bed. With a few steps he was sitting on her fuchsia blankets, his arms still across his chest.
"Well Ginny and I have been eating some Jello. You hungry?" He offered up the last few bites of strawberry Jello. Harry eyed it, and then shook his head no. Neville shrugged his shoulders and looked back at her. "What about you? Sure you don't want it?"
She cleared her throat, thinking that maybe she could at least try out a few words today, but the act of thinking about talking formed a flash of panic in the hole, and she clamped her mouth shut. She shook her head no again. For a long moment the three just stared at their own hands, and not each other.
"Did you call the nurses in about Ginny being awake?" Harry broke the silence.
"Monica knows she's awake, they've let her be. Maybe we should get all your vitals checked out Ginny." Neville offered and stood. Ginny instantly felt the mood in the room shift. Neville's presence was comforting to her; he had never expected anything out of her. She felt like her family, and Harry, all watched over her like she was about to break again. Neville was just there, almost like they were back at school. His face never showed that he was concerned about how thin she had become, or that she was up in the psych ward, or that she hadn't said anything, or that she was slowly going mad. Harry's face was always concerned, always scouring her body and collecting information on her moods, and when her family could bare to look at her it was nothing but despair in their eyes. She instantly regretted Neville leaving, her hand shot out towards his leaving arm and wrapped around it.
Harry and Neville froze. She saw Harry's fists ball up into tight, white circles, and then he let out a long breath and released his hands.
"Don't worry," he was moving slowly out of the room. "I'll go."
Neville and Ginny watched the door click shut behind him, and then Neville let out a slow breath. They waited for another moment, thinking a nurse would be in at any minute, but as the ticking clock started to fill the silence they realized that no nurse would be coming.
"I should go find him." Neville started and looked back at Ginny. "Do you want me to stay until you fall asleep?"
She was torn, the black hole in her chest screamed yes. But a peculiar feeling had started to spread across what used to be her heart. She realized it must be an emotion, she was so used to nothing she wasn't prepared for something tangible to fill her chest. Her brain focused through the pain and remembered what it was. Worry. She was worried about Harry. His white, balled fists passed over her thoughts for another moment as she continued to hold onto Neville's arm. Within the few seconds before she was going to make a decision the door swung open again and Monica stepped through. She was carrying a large tray in her hands, and Neville's shoulders tensed up for a moment. Jello, it was an enormous tray of strawberry Jello.
"He said you were awake, and that you would like more Jello. Strawberry to be exact." Monica set the tray of Jello on her bed, there had to be about twenty of them. Ginny dropped her hold on his arm as a new feeling flooding her black-holed chest. Neville glanced around Monica but no one was in the doorway. He turned back to look at her as Monica placed a strip across her forehead.
"Did he say anything else?" Neville quietly asked. Monica looked up at him with a smile still across her lips.
"Just that. Why do you ask?" All three of their eyes glanced towards the door as Hermione stepped hesitantly into the room. Guilt exploded through her body, causing her to wince into herself.
"Dark blue, that's wonderful! You might be able to go next week." Monica continued to smile through the awkwardly thick emotions filling the room. Ginny nodded her head, hoping it make her leave faster.
"Harry owled me." Hermione started quietly. She looked overdressed to be at the hospital. A long black skirt that floated gracefully down to her calves, a deep red sweater set, and shiny black shoes. Her hair was swept up away from her face; her eyes red around the edges, and her cheeks slightly blushed. Monica brushed past her, and Neville quickly moved away from the bed.
"What did he say?" His voice cracked a little with worry.
"Just that he was tired, and wondered if I could come help out for a couple hours." Hermione smoothed her hands down her skirt. "He didn't say you were awake Ginny." She smiled carefully at her.
"I can stay Ginny, if you'd like." Neville offered. She looked up at him, confusion, worry, anxiety, and something else were clear across his face. Hermione and Neville both stayed silent and still as she continued to look at him. She hadn't even really considered his question. The door quickly opened,
"Neville? Your mother is looking for you." Monica smiled at the group and then shut the door behind her.
"I'll come back tomorrow if you'd like." Ginny nodded a yes.
For one long second Hermione and Neville just looked at each other, and then Hermione threw her arms around his neck. They hugged each other for a long moment, Hermione's breath labored and sniffily. Ginny looked away towards the curtains, light attempting to break through the holes and edges. It filtered into the cracks and made the dust circling about her room sparkle. She was concentrating so hard on the dust she never heard Neville leave, Hermione cleared her throat and Ginny allowed her tired eyes to look at her again.
"This is a lot of Jello," she tried to joke. A flash of pity shot through Ginny, of course Hermione wouldn't have had any idea what the Jello meant, the guilty Jello that Harry had left in his wake. These tears were going to frighten her. Pity continued to flood through her as she slowly felt herself losing control again. The tears started to run down her face, her hands started to shake, and Hermione let out an anxious noise in the back of her throat.
"I'm sorry, ah," Hermione moved towards the bed and grabbed Ginny's hand. She was surprised at how strong the hold on her hand was and it distracted her. The cold comfort of her fingers was a new experience. Ginny sniffled again and let the tears continue to flow, but focused on the cold. Everyone else's hands were warm, and usually a little bit limp in their attempt to bring her comfort. Hermione's icy grip snapped the panic right out of her. "Has anyone told you about Quidditch lately?"
Ginny lifted her watery gaze to Hermione. Even in her current state she would have never guessed Hermione would bring Quidditch up. A memory of what humor used to feel like filled the empty void in her chest, and for one moment she thought she could remember what normal felt like. But it was quickly over, and she let the tears continue to roll. Hermione started to stutter and fumble all over herself,
"Well the Cannon's are gearing up to….there's some sort of exhibition game going on. I don't think it's a proper match. And you like another team, don't you? What was it called," her free hand ran along her blankets as she tried to remember. "Harpies, yes the Harpies. I believe they are doing an exhibition game as well. Well all of the teams are. It's some sort of gimmick to get everyone back into the stadium. Not gimmick…that's too harsh…they are free games…I…" Hermione looked down at Ginny and gave her a pathetic smile.
Ginny knew she was trying, very hard as a matter of fact, so she managed to give her fingers a slight squeeze and relief filled her face. They stayed silent for another moment, and then Hermione leaned against the bed.
"I'm glad you are feeling better Ginny. I really, really am." Hermione squeezed her hand, the cold moving up her arm. "Is there anything in particular you'd like to hear about? I'm sorry, but that's all the Quidditch I know."
Ginny shook her head no. It seemed that Hermione was ready to talk about anything, but Ginny knew she was only ready to hear specific, safe, things. She continued to stare at the wall behind Hermione's head when she felt her other hand gripped in cold comfort. She let the cold numbness fill her up; it traveled up her arms, past her shoulders, and into her chest. It was quickly sucked into the void, but her mind was clear, and calm, and the tears had finally stopped.
"I'm not going to leave Ginny. I am here for you, even if you just need me to be silent. I can do that. I can stay the whole night, well until Harry comes, but I will sit with you until then." Hermione's voice was quiet and strong, her hands flexed on certain words, trying to punctuate her feelings. Ginny looked into her face for a moment before the words drifted past her protective barrier of numbness….Harry. Flashes of black hair, green eyes, and of all things, strawberry Jello bombarded her and she winced. Hermione tightened her grip; Ginny felt the blood in her fingers pump hard against the restriction.
"I'm sorry, what did I say wrong?" Her voice was pleading.
"Harry," the word whispered off her lips. She was just as surprised as Hermione, but for different reasons.
"Why Ha…never mind. Sorry. I won't mention him again." She released the vice grip on her fingers a little and the blood surged into the tips.
"S'okay." She mumbled again, and then looked around the room in surprise. Was it someone else who was talking? How were her thoughts making it past her lips today? How was she able to have a conversation with Hermione?
"He is here too often. I bet you're sick of him." Hermione absently answered. She caught Ginny's eyes and finished, "In the beginning he was the only person you didn't start sobbing at. It was very hard on everyone, especially since you were rarely awake, but he was the only one…" She dropped off at something that had crossed Ginny's eyes. Her chest registered the buckshot of pity, and then the shot of pain at the roundabout mention of her family. Flashes of Neville and Jello shot through her mind and she felt the tears pick up again.
She shook her head and tried to blink back the tears. She shouldn't be crying about Jello. Right? Beyond confused, the tears gently hit her blanket again. Her body slumped with a wave of exhaustion, and she leaned further into her pillows.
"Should I tell him not to come back?" Hermione whispered. She leaned forward to wait for any response from Ginny. She didn't need to think about her answer. Even though she didn't remember sobbing at the sight of her family she knew she needed Harry there. His eyes would try to dissect her again, but in the end he was always a comfort, had always been a comfort, even when he didn't know he was.
Her mind flashed back to her first summer home from Hogwarts. Her room was full of bright sunshine and a summer breeze. She was curled up under several quilts and blankets, hiding from it all. Her was face sallow, her eyes sunken in, with enormous purple bags under them. In the memory her mother entered the room,
"Ginny, love. Won't you come and eat anything?"
She had remained under the covers, shook her head no, and pulled them up over her head, blocking out the bright happiness that should have been her first summer back from Hogwarts.
"Well I better go prepare your brother's room, Harry should be here soon."
She remembered waiting for her mother to leave when she threw the blankets off. It had only taken the mention of his name.
Her mind snapped back to the present, she pried a hand out of Hermione's grasp, wiped away her tears, and for the first time since her timeless time in the hospital felt a surge of hope fill her chest. She looked squarely at Hermione,
"No. He should come."
I just want to thank my wonderful editor's, Casca and Courtney, as well as my good friend Sara for all their help with this. I would have stopped a long time ago if not for your interest and support. Thanks again!