Chapter 20 – Waking Dream

The wind whipped Ginny's hair into long flaming ribbons as she nosed the broomstick downwards, urging it to pick up speed more quickly. Dimly visible against the dark grass below the tiny flicker darted away, rapidly escaping…

Still huddled on top of Harry and Ginny's silent forms, Bill Weasley's anguished cry shattered the calm peace of St Mungo's. "Help me – I need help here!" His heart thudded relentlessly in his throat, and the tears slipped down his bloodied face as he cradled their bodies in his arms. "For the love of God, help me – anyone!" His hitching, sobbing voice rendered the last words almost unintelligible as he rocked Harry and Ginny back and forth in desperation, willing them to hold on…

Skimming so low over the ground that her knees parted the blades of grass, Ginny plastered her body against the handle, fixated on the distant gleam of the tiny ball. Every fibre of her being screamed at her to reach it, to catch it before it was too late…

Lost in his agony, Bill was dimly aware of hands trying to prise him away from their bodies. Lashing out without thought, his fist connected with something soft. With an explosive exhalation, the hands fell away, only to be replaced with others. Soft, urgent voices spoke soothingly to him, urging him to let go, to let others take care of them. Bill shook his head stubbornly, whispering, "Help me," over and over, heedless of their reply…

Cresting the brow of a low hill at breakneck speed, Ginny yanked the broom into a vertical climb to avoid a large willow tree. Branches snagged her clothes, reaching out eagerly to slow her down. Gritting her teeth she pulled back harder, and rocketed high into the darkening sky…

A familiar voice dragged at the corner of Bill's conscious mind. He tried to block it out, but the voice was insistent – stubborn. Lifting his head unwillingly, his vision, blurred by tears, settled onto the outline of a beautiful young woman, long silvery-blond hair cascading downwards. Her lips were moving quickly, and Bill focused on them, willing the words to make sense…

Rapidly gaining altitude, Ginny slammed the broom hard over into a half-roll, pulling back savagely to tighten the angle of climb until the broom slowed, staggered in the air, then plummeted towards the ground. Fighting to regain control, Ginny watched helplessly as the grass rushed towards her. The broom was bucking, trying to throw her off, but she clung on grimly and pulled up with all her strength, desperate to pull out of the dive in time…

Bill was aware of a warm arm draped over his shoulders, pulling him into an embrace with surprising strength. Head down, he stared uncomprehendingly at the dark splotches that stained his jeans, tracing a pattern between them with one finger. A hand rubbed gently at the back of his neck and he straightened up, realising that he was now sat in a chair, and that Harry and Ginny were gone…

Arms aching with the effort, Ginny let out an involuntary whoop as the broom finally submitted to her control, levelling out with inches to spare. As the broom lumbered back into the sky, she turned into a wide figure of eight pattern, eyes darting around, desperate to catch sight of the precious golden ball…

Bill staggered to his feet, aware that the person at his side had gone with him, never letting go. "Wha-" he began, then stopped, startled by the hoarse, cracked sound. A cool glass of water was pressed into his hand and he drank greedily, relishing the soothing sensation on his parched throat. "T-Thanks," he managed, finally looking round at his comforter. Fleur's soulful, expressive eyes looked back at him, red-rimmed and full of pain. Bill's heart lurched. "How are they?" he croaked, not sure if he wanted to hear the answer…

The light was fading fast, and Ginny knew that her time was running out. If she didn't catch sight of it now, all would be lost. She could not – would not, let that happen. A streak of movement caught her attention and her heart leapt. There! Flying in aimless circles towards the forest, the tiny speck of gold was in danger of becoming lost amongst the trees. Kicking the tired broom into motion, Ginny sped after it…

Bill pressed his forehead against the cool glass partition, eyes roving unseeingly over the two still bodies lying on separate beds. Even after all this time, it didn't seem right to his numbed brain that they would be divided like this, when they refused to be in life. Glancing around at the darkened corridor, he took in the slumped figures of his family fitfully sleeping on lumpy chairs. Pushing the door open, he silently entered the room, drawing his wand…

The wind roared deafeningly as the broom, pushed beyond its wildest imaginings, rocketed through the air at suicidal speeds. Ginny felt tears streaming from her face, unsure if they were due to the wind or the desperate fear she felt at losing this race. A sudden burst of acceleration rocked her backwards and she felt a wave of exhilaration wash over her as she finally began to gain on her target…

The faintest smile of satisfaction curled the corner of Bill's lips into the lopsided grimace that was the legacy of the injuries he had sustained at the claws of the werewolf. Fleur's strong hand slipped into his, and she stood at his side as they surveyed the results of his work. Where there had been two beds, one large four-poster bed took up most of the available space. Lying immobile under the sheets, Harry and Ginny looked even more like they were merely sleeping, and Bill felt his throat tightening at the sight…

The open grass was rapidly giving way to small clumps of bushes and shrubs, and Ginny dodged them at high speed, her whole attention focused on the nimble object in front of her. Now that she was closer, she could tell that it was a Golden Snitch, its feathery wings blurred with motion as it strove to evade her grasp. Ginny's lips drew back, exposing her teeth in a wild, feral grin as she felt a growing sense of certainty that this tiny ball would be hers…

A low, throaty voice whispered tenderly in Bill's ear, the soft breath raising the hairs on his neck. "Let me do something, my love," murmured Fleur, squeezing his hand before letting it go. Stepping gracefully towards the bed, she moved round to stand next to Ginny, brushing the red hair away from the pale face lying silent and still on the pillow. Moving to stand beside her, Bill watched as Fleur slid onto the bed, slowly lifting Ginny's unresisting arm and looping one arm under her limp body…

A warm, comforting sensation enveloped Ginny, making her gasp out loud. She felt invigorated and more determined than ever not to give up. She found herself muttering inarticulate words of encouragement to the battered broom, and felt it respond like a racehorse, surging forward with renewed vigour. For a moment, she felt sure that the contest was won, before she looked ahead to see the tall trees of the forest looming up ahead. She was out of time…

"We should have done this weeks ago," muttered Bill, angry with himself for his inaction. Fleur said nothing, but carefully turned Ginny's body towards Harry's, bringing them closer together. From the other side of the bed, Bill managed to push Harry's heavier weight towards the centre, closing the gap between their limp bodies…

The Snitch was cutting in and out of sight between the outlying trees of the forest. If it got into the deep forest, she would never find it. And yet – and yet – she had the strangest sensation of being able to feel where it was emanating from within her chest. An invisible cord seemed to connect her with the tiny Snitch, tugging at her heart. This way, through this stand of trees, cutting the distance in half, anticipating each move before it was made – her heart whispered quiet instructions, and she obeyed unhesitatingly…

"There," grunted Bill in satisfaction as the younger couple lay more naturally, Ginny's head resting on Harry's shoulder, her body turned towards his. Fleur cocked her head on one side, regarding the pose critically. "Not quite," she muttered. "Something is not quite right…" Her voice trailed off, and Bill looked at her in puzzlement. Fleur's head snapped up, and her eyes sparkled. "Got it!" she crowed, leaning across Ginny again. Taking Ginny's tiny hand in hers, she pulled it across the small witch's body, sliding it over Harry's chest until it rested over his heart…

Ginny's whole body strained forward, her hand reaching out, desperately seeking purchase on the Snitch which danced just out of reach. She was so close, so very close…

Arm tucked round her waist, Bill stood silently with Fleur for a long moment before tugging at her body, aware of the lateness of the hour. Reluctantly, they moved to the door. Fleur looked over her shoulder, eyes glistening, and whispered, "Good night, brave Harry. Sleep well, sweet Ginny." Burying her head in Bill's chest, they hurried down the dark corridor, careful not to wake their sleeping family.

The door shut firmly behind them, sending faint vibrations through the heavy wooden bed. Ginny's hand, carefully placed on Harry's chest, was shifted slightly by the motion, the fingers slipping between the buttons of his pyjamas and coming into contact with his bare skin…

The feathery wings beat frantically against Ginny's closing fingers, desperately trying to escape, even at the last. As her hand gripped more firmly, the wings, seeming to recognise her touch, fell still, and the tiny Snitch fell captive in her warm fist…

In the dark corridor, Molly Weasley's sleeping face was momentarily illuminated by a brief, intense blaze of light. She stirred uneasily, but subsided into a troubled sleep again, fitful dreams of love and loss plaguing her subconscious mind…

Spiralling into the sky, evading the clutches of the dark forest beneath, Ginny was overwhelmed with a sense of completion. Memories flooded back to her, and she loosened her grip to gaze in wonderment at the object within. A tiny, glowing ball of energy was nestled within, and she gasped in recognition.

Clutching it tightly to her chest, she rose higher into the sky, aiming for a break in the clouds where a bright beam of light speared through. Bathed in the soft light, she spoke for the first time. "I'm coming for you, sweetheart." She looked down again at the precious cargo gently held in her grasp. "I'll always come for you." With a final burst of speed, she lifted the broom higher, piercing the clouds and becoming one with the light…

Harry's body shot up, a low, choking sound rattling through his chest as his lungs greedily sucked in air. His eyes flicked open, disorientated at the unfamiliar surroundings. His hands scrabbled at his chest, ripping the buttons open to check the skin beneath. Feeling the rapid thumping of his heart, his body sagged with relief, a quiet sob escaping from his lips.

A soft murmured response from beside him galvanised his attention. Gazing down uncomprehendingly, he looked into Ginny's warm, brown eyes as if he were drawing life from them. Ginny curled closer to him, her voice furred with sleep. "S'okay, Harry," she muttered drowsily. "Just a dream, tha's all." Willingly giving in to her clinging embrace, Harry sank into her arms, a long-overdue desire for natural, rejuvenating sleep overtaking him. He let his confused thoughts drift away as he inhaled the heady, familiar scent of Ginny's hair and felt her arms tightening protectively around him as they fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Bill's footsteps echoed dully on the highly polished marble as he made the now familiar journey towards the private ward at St Mungo's. He didn't need to look where he was going – his feet had long since memorised the route. On the distant shores of his consciousness, he was dimly aware of people staring and whispering as he strode past. They didn't count, so he ignored them. Not much counted nowadays, it seemed. To have come so far, paid the full cost of war with the blood of his kin only to lose the two youngest family members at the last had ripped the heart out of the Weasley clan. They still functioned, still dutifully carried out the charade of daily existence, but they were the mindless actions of Inferi. In most ways that counted, none of them had really survived the war.

In his darkest moments, there were times when he envied those who had actually died.

The echoing of his steady footsteps was muffled as he turned the last corner and onto the carpeted floor of the private ward. The guard at the door snapped to attention and held the door open for him. Bill managed to acknowledge the man with a jerky nod, then his gaze shifted to the two chairs that faced the glass partition he had grown to hate. As he closed the distance to the lone figure sat watching him approach, the harsh lines of his face softened somewhat. Even in the midst of the barren landscape their lives had become, there were still a few oases of hope to shelter in.

Fleur Weasley regarded him steadily, her eyes, still beautiful, fixed on his. He sat down beside her heavily, passing over the cooling tea and taking a sip from his own paper cup. He winced, looking down wearily at the contents of the cup.

"As good as ever," Fleur said softly, placing the cup down on the low table at her side. Bill shrugged, but said nothing. She didn't need him to. They both knew that he could have easily conjured up a drink without leaving his seat, but it gave him something to do, and she was grateful for that.

He drained the cup, ignoring the bitter taste, and crumpled the cup in his hand. Without looking, he flung it away from him, hearing it fall neatly in the bin to his right. Leaning forward, he gazed at the dim outline of his reflection in the glass partition, and spoke quietly.

"How was Mum?"

Fleur turned her head towards him and sighed, her warm breath tickling his ear. "The same. Worse. I don't know." She rubbed his back gently, leaning closer to him. "She claimed to have slept well, but-" Her voice trailed off, and her hand clasped over his shoulder.

Bill grunted, and reached up to momentarily cover her hand with his own, before stretching his long legs and getting to his feet. Crossing to the hated window, he cupped a hand over his eyes, peering into the dimly lit room. He could make out the twin shadows of Harry and Ginny's bodies, just visible in the early dawn light. Harry's larger form was easier to make out, as he lay curled around-

He frowned. "Fleur," he said curiously, "Why did you move them again?"

Fleur, lost in her own thoughts, looked startled as he turned to her. "What do you mean?"

He looked back through the glass, his forehead pressed against the cool barrier as he strained to make out more details. Without turning, he replied. "You moved them again this morning, right? Why bother again so soon?"

There was a short scrape as she pushed the chair back, joining him at the window. "I didn't Bill, what are you talking-" Her voice cut off abruptly. She met his puzzled gaze, their eyes widening.

In all the time they had lain there, Harry and Ginny had never moved.

Bill pushed himself away from the glass, still staring at her. His heart began to beat harder, but he ignored it. "Mum must have done it," he said flatly, his voice careful to betray no emotion.

Fleur looked at him dazedly. "She never goes in there. She can't. You know that."

He nodded absently. "Right."

There was a moment of silence, then they bolted for the door as one. He flung it open and Fleur, ducking under his arm, darted past. They skidded to a halt by the large bed they had Transfigured only last night, staring in disbelief.

Their positions almost reversed from the careful tableau Fleur had created, Harry lay curled behind Ginny, one arm tight around her waist. Her face was hidden from view behind the thick mass of her tousled hair. Bill stared dumbly. Tousled. But that was impossible. Ginny didn't move. Neither of them moved.

His hand shook wildly as he reached out tentatively towards his sister's shoulder. He stopped and drew back his hand. "No," he said hoarsely, his red-rrimmed eyes brimming over. "No."

Fleur captured his rough hand in her own, much smaller one, pushing it gently to one side. She took a tiny step towards the bed, followed by another. With Bill watching on, not daring to breathe, she leaned over and softly shook Ginny's shoulder.

Nothing.

She tried again, slightly harder.

Nothing.

Bill's shoulder's shook as he exhaled explosively, the sobs building deep in his throat. He began to back away, crumpling in on himself.

He stopped. Stared. Looked away, blinking hard, then back again. It couldn't be true, he thought distantly. It just could not be true.

The mass of red hair shifted, then lifted, one pale hand irritably pushing it back. Her head turning, Ginny glared up groggily at Fleur, whose hand seemed to be incapable of leaving her shoulder.

"Wha – what time d'you call this?"

His legs buckling, Bill Weasley slid gracelessly to the floor, silent tears staining his face as he gazed, without speaking, at the sleepy and grumpy face of his little sister. Behind her, Harry stirred, mumbling inarticulately.

Fleur, her own eyes overflowing, flung her arms around the younger girl, clutching at her desperately

"G'd to see you too, Fleur," Ginny mumbled, sleepily patting her sister-in-law's back.

As Bill sobbed quietly on the floor, still unable to utter a word, Harry's head popped up, his eyes blinking owlishly as he gazed blearily. 'Was' going on?" he asked querulously, no more than half-awake.

"Dunno," replied Ginny, yawning widely. She snuggled deeper into the pillows, one arm still looped around Fleur's shaking body.

Harry snorted sleepily. "Mental, your family are." His arm tightened around Ginny's waist, and his eyes slid shut.

From his position on the floor, Bill began to laugh.

He didn't think he would ever stop.