Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling
Please read my notes at the bottom, this is obviously not DH complaint...needed Fred for this one.
While She Sleeps
"Happy Birthday Luna" George Weasley smiled and twisted the little silver key, cueing the sweet tinkling music to rise from the little plastic birthday cake. It's seventeen candles came to life atop the yellow plastic frosting with its delicate sunflowers. He sighed softly as the music stopped, then set the cake on the table next to him.
"I'll buy you a real cake, with loads of bright yellow sunflowers, like the sort you wore in your hair to Bill and Fleur's wedding last summer." He picked up her hand and held it tightly. "But you need to wake up first."
She lay silent, her eyelids stubbornly closed. They had been closed for two weeks now, since that day…the horrible day that George couldn't bear to remember…the day he couldn't stop himself from remembering.
He'd been so angry with her; he could still feel the magazine rolled tightly in his hand, as if clenching it was the only way he would be able to stop himself from clenching them around her arms and shaking her. Xenophilius Lovegood had said a lot of silly things in The Quibbler…but to say that Dragon piss was the main ingredient in their Puking Pastilles…that was over the line.
He realized now what he should have then, what Fred had tried to tell him just before he apparated from the shop. If he had only waited until they could close, they could have gone together…they could have shown her how they made them…she would have printed a retraction. Instead, he had gone off hack-cocked, gone off to yell at her, to demand that she write one and take it to the Daily Prophet for the late edition.
How senseless that he had gone to yell at her…she hadn't even written the article. Her father was gone now, lost among the victims of a final hour killing spree in Azkaban….Lord Voldemort had given orders that not a single traitor to his cause be left behind. Luna had been determined to move on. She'd printed her fathers final issue as a memorial to him, then had the rubble of her childhood home cleared away. By mid-June, they were putting the final touches on her new house. It would be ready for her to move in on her seventeenth birthday.
But she wasn't…and that was his fault.
She'd been lost in thought when he found her, high up in a tree and staring at the sky dreamily. The men had left for the day, it was near sunset and she had looked so serene. How he wished now that he had left her to her solitude.
But no, he'd yelled at her, said she had some 'fucking explaining to do' Luna was startled, slid off her branch, and then fell to the ground.
George couldn't stop hearing her scream…but even worse than the scream was the abrupt and horrible silence. He'd run to her…hoping…praying that she had just been dazed. Instead, she lay on her side, bloody hair covering her face…her head resting on a blood splattered rock, a growing pool around her shoulders and back.
The rest happened in slow motion; like he was an observer to the horror…a nightmare from which he couldn't awake. Sending a patronus to St. Mungo's…the trauma workers arriving, securing her on a board and then taking her away…waiting hours and hours while she was examined and scanned and a million other things that they had explained, but didn't made a damned bit of sense.
The only thing that broke through the fog was that she was in a coma, and that they didn't know when she would come out of it…or if… she would come out of it.
And if she did…if she would ever be the same girl again.
Luna had been only six weeks from being seventeen when her father was killed, so the ministry had given her early adulthood. After the accident, his father had talked Kingsley into giving his parents guardianship…someone would need to make medical decisions for her. Better them than some stranger who had never even known her. If not for that…George wouldn't have even been allowed in to see her…the critical care unit was family only.
And he had to be here.
He needed to be by her side; to look upon her sleeping face and bandaged head; her long dirty blond hair all shaved away so they could treat her wound. At her side was his place now, taking a daily inventory of the tubes and wires and pumps and beeping machines that ran in and around her body. This was the price he had to pay for being responsible for Luna Lovegood barely hanging onto the fringes of life. He belonged here in this sterile white room; listening endlessly to the beat of her heart on the monitor, watching the bags fill that released her bodily functions and the machine that helped her breathe. It was only fitting that he sat here for hours on end while they changed her bandages and cleaned the skin around the tube that nourished her.
He was the reason she was here instead of eating a birthday cake with bright yellow sunflowers, it was only right that he be here with her.
"Luna" George smiled and leaned over to kiss her forehead. "Look what I've brought for you. Ginny told me you love these things."
He tied the yellow and blue balloons to the table next to her bed so they drifted over her plastic birthday cake, and then he sank down into the now familiar chair, his eyes on Luna's face. The bandages were gone now and her hair had grown out about an inch…it looked a bit like pixie hair, short and curling just above the ears.
"Hello George." A young healers assistant stepped into the room, then picked up Luna's chart. She smiled softly at him, a great deal of awe in her eyes. Most of Luna Lovegood's visitors had stopped coming after the first few weeks…but George Weasley still came every night at six and stayed until visiting hours ended at ten.
"Hey Carlotta." He smiled up at the woman. "How's our girl been today?"
"Did your mother talk to you?"
"Yes." He nodded nervously "I'm not sure I like the idea much."
"It will be okay George." She tucked the chart back into the holder at the end of Luna's bed. "She's showing signs that she is ready."
"Won't it be nice to see some of the tubes gone?"
George couldn't help thinking that it would be nicer to see all of the tubes gone, preferably with her eyes open…but for now, he would take what he could get. "I guess I'm just worried that we'll find out that she isn't ready after all."
Carlotta moved to the side of Luna's bed to check her IV, patting George on the shoulder as she moved behind him.
"These are nice." She tugged on a blue balloon. "I think she would like these."
"I brought them from Harry's birthday party, since she can't be there tonight…I thought I would bring part of it to her."
"Try not to worry, I'm sure everything will go just fine." Carlotta moved past him again, then gave him another warm smile before closing the door. George leaned over and whispered into her ear.
"Hey you…" He picked up her hand and held it to his cheek. "Don't you think it's time to wake up?"
"Hey Beautiful. I brought you a surprise."
George turned the chair around and sat next to Luna, taking her hand in his.
"Katie and I spent the weekend in Majorca and I found this."
He reached into the little bag and pulled out a conch shell.
"Look…" He brushed a finger over the edge "See all those colors inside? When I found this, I saw them and it made me think of you. Harry and Ginny told me that you've always liked a lot of color around you."
George forced the Majorca trip out of his mind, it hadn't ended well. Katie Bell and he had been engaged since the spring, just a few weeks before Luna's accident. In the early day's Katie had sat here with him sometimes…now, she became angry when he came every night. She didn't understand his need to be here and had demanded that they go away for the weekend…and George had tried…he had really, really tried. He made it through the weekend, but just barely. Every night at six o'clock, the feeling of guilt came over him, strangling him until he could barely breathe…and Katie had noticed.
They'd ended up spending most of the weekend fighting and she'd been furious when he came here straight off when they returned.
He forced Katie out of his mind and lay the shell on the table next to the cake and deflated balloons. He considered the balloon's for a moment, thinking for the millionth time that he should toss them in the bin. He turned away instead, he knew he would never toss them…if she…when she woke, he wanted her to know that he had brought them for her.
"Ginny is in quite a dither, school starts next week…she's not looking forward to being away from Harry." George laughed, one of the few real laughs he had had in weeks. "He came to me and Fred last week and asked us how to break into Hogwarts…can you believe that?" He took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, then picked up her hand and kissed the soft, pale fingers.
"She would really like it if you could go with her."
George felt the tears threaten as he looked at Luna's pale face. Her hair was past her ears now, much lighter blonde and thicker than it had been before. One of the healers assistants had told him that was quite normal when patients had had to have their hair shaved off.
Most of the tubes were gone now, she was breathing on her own, only the wires that monitored her heart, her IV, the feeding tube and the tube that removed her waste remained…being here was much less scary…yet no less painful. This day his feelings were confused…he know didn't which emotion was running more strongly through him…the ever present sadness and guilt or his anger.
It was his fault that Luna was like this, his fault that she wasn't at Hogwarts learning Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was him who had startled her…his angry words…his temper…his…
"Luna Lovegood…you have some fucking explaining to do!"
…his fault that she had fallen from the tree to the rock below.
In the beginning she had understood his need to be here, but even though he was making an effort, Katie was demanding that he stop coming to see her. He had cut back, stopped staying until visiting hours were over, stopped coming on Saturday nights. Yet it wasn't enough for her.
She said he was cheating on her, had referred to Luna as 'the other woman'. George had laughed at that…it was nothing short of ridiculous. Luna and he had been barely friends before the accident. What he couldn't tell Katie was that he did feel something more for her now; a strange sort of bond that he couldn't begin to explain, even to himself. It was the sort of thing he knew he wouldn't likely wouldn't be able to understand unless…until…she woke.
When he laughed, Katie had taken on that look, the look he hated that meant he had hurt her. Then, she told him that he had to decide between her and Luna…because he couldn't have them both. She wasn't willing to share him with a woman who was as good as dead.
That had been the breaker, the rage had risen up within him and he told her to get the hell out. Luna wasn't dead, and she wasn't going to die. One day, she was going to open her eyes…and on that day she would forgive him and he would be free from the guilt that ruled him.
Before she left, Katie had given him seventy-two hours to decide and a part of him was torn. He loved Katie, but he was bound to Luna…bound by responsibility, bound by guilt, and as he looked into her pale sleeping face he realized, he was bound by friendship too.
Luna Lovegood was his friend...and she needed him.
"Hey." He smiled and kissed her cheek. "I brought you something…" He reached into his pocket and pulled out a thin, tall plastic sheath. "…it's a quill. You Ravenclaws like quills I hear. Mr. Mobley told me this is from the wing of an eagle, their very strongest feathers, and it's honed to the sharpest point you could imagine…best Flourish and Blotts has to offer. You'll be all ready when you wake up to go back to school.
"We have a date, you and I." He forced back the twinge of pain when the thought about what Katie would have thought if she had heard him say that. George forced a smile and reached up to tease a curl that lay next to her ear. "I'm all ready, waiting to take you shopping for your school books…you'll need to get your bum out of that bed first though."
The sadness, anger and guilt clenched in his chest again. How could Katie not understand…he needed to be here…she needed him here. He couldn't leave her alone. He couldn't be like the others; the people who had claimed to be her friends. The ones like Dean Thomas, Susan Bones and even Neville Longbottom…all the people who had come in the beginning but hadn't been here in weeks…the ones who didn't even so much as send cards anymore.
The ones who had given up on her.
"I'm not going anywhere Luna." His voice was barely a whisper of breath over his lips. "I'm staying right here."
George stared out the window watching the rain fall, trying to drown out the bustle around him. They were moving her today; it was a good thing, but it was scary too.
Luna was no longer in critical condition, she was stable enough to be moved off the critical care unit…but it meant being moved to long term residential care…and George didn't like the sound of that. To him, it sounded as if they were giving up hope … like they were expecting that she would spend the rest of her life a sleeping shell of the girl she was meant to be.
The girl he had never really known.
In the days since Katie had left, he had become obsessed with Luna…at least, that was what Ginny and Fred told him the others said behind his back. Ron and Hermione had been Luna's friend's, yet they never came anymore. His other brothers had been there in the first week…but they hadn't known Luna, they had only been there to lie and try to convince him that what had happened wasn't his fault.
That was what was so comforting about Fred, Ginny and Harry. They never blamed him…yet they didn't try to force that upon him. They and his parents didn't come everyday either…but everyday at least one of them came. They were the ones who had never forgotten that Luna Lovegood was a person; who didn't see her as an empty shell. They were the ones who held onto their hope…who helped George hold onto his hope…that Luna was going to wake.
Harry was Luna's most frequent visitor besides himself. He'd told George that he owed Luna a debt, she had helped him in the days after Sirius had been killed…so, now, he wanted to be here for her. He sat with George for hours, telling him stories about Luna…and through him, George was coming to know the girl he had never known.
Luna loved to laugh, she liked scary stories, and she had a single dimple just off the corner of the right side her mouth when she smiled. She had a kind compassionate heart, a deep soul and wisdom beyond her years. She always tied her shoes in double bows because she had tripped on them as a child and knocked out her front teeth and she loved to blow the fluff off of dandelions. Spring was her favorite season...though summer came a close second, she loved fireflies, surprises, sunflowers and the color yellow.
Then, there were the things George found they had in common. Strawberry- Rhubarb pie, fireworks, and fudge mint ice-cream. Dumbledore was her favorite Chocolate Frog wizard card, and her favorite Bertie Bott's flavor was cheese.
And… Luna loved sunrises…but not nearly as much as sunsets.
Sunset…just the thought of sunset brought tears to his eyes. He hadn't been able to stand to watch one since the day Luna fell from the tree.
George turned from the window and took the familiar seat by her bed, his throat tight. Soon, they would be moving her…but for now…he would relax in the familiar.
"Hey, I brought you something." He smiled and brushed the hair out of her eyes. Her bangs were starting to get a bit long now and the week before he had had to stop a healers assistant from cutting them shorter just to get them out of the way. He'd been a bit angry to be honest, in fact...he had thrown her out.
From his pocket he pulled a ceramic jack-o-lantern. "I would have brought the real thing, but they said they aren't allowed. This is almost as good….watch."
He clicked a little switch on the bottom and the face came alive with bright yellow light.
"I'll just keep this safe till you get settled in your new room." He settled the jack-o-lantern in the box with his other gifts. He'd brought an old shoe box, thinking it would be plenty big…but it all barely fit. He tried not to think about it, how quickly the little gifts were adding up. He set the box on the table and turned back to Luna, forcing a smile to his face as he tugged on a honey colored curl.
"I wouldn't have to do this if you would just wake up you know." He leaned over and kissed her cheek. "If you were awake, we could carve a pumpkin from Hagrid's pumpkin patch."
He sighed and brushed a finger over her cheek.
"Well, maybe next year."
George trembled as he slid into the chair at Luna's bedside.
He leaned over her and picked up her hand, then held it to his heart as he slumped over, his face buried in her blankets. The morning had worn heavily on him and he had come to realize that he felt a considerable amount of peace when he was here with her. Much more peace that he found when he was any place else.
It was Percy's fault he was upset, his idiot former bighead-boy-traitor-to-the-family-fucking-git of a brother and his asinine suggestions.
How dare he…how fucking dare he even suggest that they remove Luna's feeding tube so she could die?
'Oh right', George thought bitterly 'he didn't call it that...letting her go...that's what it was'.
And of course...fucking Hermione Granger, Miss I-am-prefect...just had to agree, and since Ron always agreed with Hermione...
After knocking Percy on his ass, George had sworn that if anyone ever suggested such a thing again, they would be dead to him. Then, just before leaving, he made it clear to his parents that if they entertained such an idea, he would fight them in front of the Wizengamot.
That, George knew, was a battle they would never win. The Wizengamot was very much against euthanasia, even though the law left it in the hands of the family…or in this case, the guardians.
"George?" He lifted his face from the blankets and turned his head. His mother stood in the doorway, her face worried and compassionate…yet it didn't set his mind at ease. She hadn't said a thing to Percy about his suggestion…but then, George hadn't really given her a chance. He sat back in the chair, his face hard and determined.
"If you've come to tell me your considering what Percy suggested…"
"Oh no." Molly rushed into the room and put her arms around his shoulders. "No, Georgie, of course not…your father and I would never agree to such a thing. You know what the healers all say."
George nodded, he had heard all of this countless times…they had been saying for months that Luna was showing brain activity. But if that was true…why was she still asleep? Why wasn't she opening her eyes?
"If that's true…then why isn't she waking up?" George looked at her pleadingly, his hands clenching Luna's tightly between his. "It's been five months."
"Nobody knows dear." Molly brushed her fingers soothingly through his hair. "Maybe she just needs more time to heal. Maybe, after the war, after losing her father and all she went through, her poor body just got tired out and she needs a nice long rest."
"It's all my fault mum." George let Luna's hand go, and buried his head in his hands…a position that had become all to familiar over the past five months. "I'm so sorry…" he gasped "I am just so...damned …sorry!"
"I know you are dear." She bent and kissed the top of his head. "I know…and, I think Luna knows too."
"You think it's like the healer says? That she can hear me talking to her?"
"Oh, I know so." Molly smiled and turned towards Luna. "I've seen it, when Luna hears your voice; I don't know…she just seems…happier somehow."
George smiled…they were a mothers words, meant to comfort, not to give truth. Luna's expression hadn't changed, not for a single instant, in five months. Yet hearing the words brought him comfort…the first comfort he had felt since Percy's terrible words that morning.
She reached into her bag and pulled out a little paper wrapped cone. "I've brought you this, you ran off so fast you left it behind."
"Thanks mum." He smiled up at her, amazed at how much better…how much lighter, he felt. "You didn't have to come all the way over here."
"Well, I've been wanting to come by anyway…and besides…," She turned and brushed her fingers over the little table besides Luna's bed. She sighed sadly and sent up a prayer that George wouldn't be buying many more things for the little collection. "..I know how much Luna love's your little gifts."
She bent over and kissed Luna's forehead, then turned and walked to the door. "I know your very angry with your brother George. But he's just worried about you. They're all worried about you."
In his heart he knew she was telling the truth. His family was worried about him. But being here…being by her side…felt right. Like it was where he was supposed to be. It only made Percy's suggestion all the more terrible.
"He had a sick way of showing it."
"I know." Molly let loose a deep sigh, then she smiled at George. "All the more reason for our girl to wake up and prove them all wrong. So, you just keep on trying to talk her into waking up, someone needs to put that brother of yours in his place."
George smiled and watched his mother walk out the door, then he turned back to Luna.
"You hear that Luna?" He nodded towards the door. "Mum's starting to get irritated with Percy…you've got to be awake for that, it will be worth the price of admission."
He smiled widely, reached into a bag and pulled out a ceramic vase covered in bright fall leaves.
"Ready for your present?" He bent down, fussed with the paper wrapped cone for a moment, then he lifted it in his hands. He had filled the vase with a handful of short tree branches, covered in bright orange and red fall leaves.
"Taa-daa!" He stood and skirted the bed, set the vase down on the table between the little birthday cake and the jack-o-lantern. He resettled the quill in front of it, then moved the balloons to it's side and then sat down on the side of her bed and picked up her hand.
Luna's hair was almost to her shoulders now, laying in soft ringlets against her neck. It was much thicker now than it had been before, and a lovely honey blonde. With his free hand, George reached up to tease a curl.
"I knew you'd like the leaves." he smiled and kissed her palm. "I owled Ginny to ask her what your favorite fall flowers were and she told me that you preferred the leaves in the fall. That's so like you Luna, to be out of the ordinary…marching to the beat of your own drummer. It's what makes you such a lovely person….the kind of person I want to get to know better."
George leaned down and kissed her cheek…
…and for the first time ever, Luna's hand clenched around his
George looked at her with wide eyes.
Ginny giggled while she watched George wrestle the tiny Christmas tree into it's stand. For such a little tree, he was having an awfully difficult time. No matter how tight he screwed the screws, it kept flopping over.
"Would you like some help George?" Harry offered, moving to George's side.
"See if you can't get the screw to tighten on the other side."
Harry leaned over and twisted the screw, and then he and George backed off cautiously. At last, the tree held in place.
"Good job you two." Ginny smiled and went back to hanging snowflakes in the ceiling above Luna's bed. Harry put his arm around her and kissed her cheek.
"Your turn now." Harry handed her the small box of decorations that Molly had given them from her own much larger collection so they could share a bit of their Christmas with Luna.
Ginny took the box and began hanging ornaments, it didn't take long…the tree was only three feet high…the largest the hospital would allow.
The tree decorated, she smiled happily, then reached for a small jar at the bottom of the box. "Luna always told me this is her favorite part."
She twisted the lid off the jar, then held it to the tree. The scent of the pine woke the hibernating fairies and their wings sparkled to life in an array of bright happy colors. They flew from the jar, then swarmed to cover the branches of the tree.
"It's beautiful Ginny, I know Luna would love it." George reached over for Luna's hand, holding it tightly in his. Harry picked up a camera from the table, then snapped a picture of the Christmas tree. He waved his wand over the camera and the picture slid out of the side, then he handed the picture to George. He slid it into a brightly colored picture frame, then put it next to the vase of dried fall leaves.
"I know you'll be awake in time to see this for yourself Luna." He leaned over, taking her hand again. Her hand convulsed around his, causing his heart to leap a little in his chest. The healer had told him they really didn't know why she did it,…it could be anything from a response to the sound of his voice to muscle spasms.
Ginny and Harry exchanged smiles when George lifted her hand to his lips, gently brushing his lips over her fingers, then they turned to leave them alone. Whether Luna was awake or not…the moment seemed to call for privacy.
"It's been snowing like mad you know, the pond isn't completely frozen over yet...but dad thinks it will be soon. Probably in another week if the cold keeps up…just in time for Christmas.
"Ginny told me you love skating, so when I was shopping last week for something for mum, I found something that made me think of you."
He picked up a box from the table and pulled off the lid, from within it, he pulled out a figurine. In the middle of an ice covered pond, was a small Christmas tree, and on the pond was a penguin wearing ice skates. He flicked a finger over the bottom, and the penguin came to life, twirling and dipping…skating over the pond to the tune of 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies'
George set the figurine on the table next to the conch shell, then held her hand to his cheek again, watching the penguin skate around the ice. His free hand moved to her face, brushing over the soft curls that rested on her shoulder.
"Merry Christmas Luna."
He turned his head and kissed the pale fingers.
George stared stonily out the window, unable to bring himself to look at the girl who slept behind him. Instead, he watched the snow fall outside. It was supposed to be a happy night. A night that normally a young man would be thrilled to find himself alone with a pretty girl…but the more he thought about the New Year…the worse he felt.
It had been easier, being able to think of time in terms of weeks…even months. But the shifting to a brand new year made him realize the cold and terrifying truth…Luna had been in a coma for half a year now…
And always that same horrible truth rose up again…
…it was his fault.
He'd been sitting in his all too familiar chair, yammering on about New Years resolutions…when his eyes went to the table …the table that bore his gifts. There was one from every month…
A yellow birthday cake, a bunch of yellow and blue balloons, a conch shell, a quill, a jack-o-lantern, a bunch of fall leaves, a skating penguin..
…and each marked something that she had missed.
She'd spent her birthday here, and Harry's. She'd missed her last ride on the Hogwarts Express, the Halloween feast and the fall leaves that she loved so much…and Christmas…she had even missed Christmas…
Now, she was about to miss New Years too.
Next month, she would miss Valentines Day, and then Easter. Spring would come and she would miss the budding trees and the first flowers.
Then…summer would come again and she would turn eighteen…and she would miss that too.
With each and every one of these occasions…her table would fill. When the table was full…what then? Would he bring another table…more room to fill with each passing month? How many tables could one room hold?
George pressed his forehead against the cold glass, hot tears pouring over his cheeks while the terrible memory came to him again.
'You have some fucking explaining to do.'
Her scream…the silence…the blood...so much blood.
There had been so damned much blood.
"George." He felt a hand on his shoulder and he realized then how violently his body was trembling.
"I should have listened to you." He whispered and looked up at Fred's reflection in the glass. "You told me not to go."
He turned to face his brother, his face the most miserable Fred had seen it since the days just after the accident. "She wasn't even the one who wrote the article…but I didn't care…I just ran off…I just…
"God Fred…" He shook his head as tears flowed freely down his cheeks; he didn't even try to hold them back. "Why didn't I listen to you?"
"When have you ever listened to me?" Fred smiled sadly and leaned in to hug his brother. "George, you startled her…that much is true…but, it's not your fault that the rock was there. It's not your fault that Luna landed in the one spot that was rock and not grass."
"I know…" George pulled away, wiping at his face. "I know all of that. But it doesn't change anything!"
"Of course it does. Georgie, if it's true…if you really know all of that, then you need to let go of some of this guilt. It's eating at you, it's killing you…and that's wrong." Fred looked at George his eyes burning with his need to make his brother understand. To see what he, someone who barely even knew Luna Lovegood, knew about her.
"I don't know Luna well, but, I know her well enough to know that she would hate how this is tearing you up. Ginny and Harry tell me that Luna is sweet and forgiving and she would want you to let the guilt go."
George knew that Fred was right…but the transition from his mind to his heart…at the moment it seemed impossible.
Fred punched George on the shoulder lightly. This was a wound that only Luna Lovegood could heal, he'd known it all along. He sighed as he looked at the sleeping girl he had never really known. "It's too bad I never knew her… I'll have to fix that when she wakes."
George felt he had known Luna his entire life, he knew her stories, all the things she liked, the things she didn't like. He knew so much about her now that it was almost like watching his best friend in that bed. Yet, he felt he had barely scratched the surface of who Luna Lovegood really was.
He looked over at Fred and smiled sadly. "We both will."
Fred kissed Luna's forehead, then with a final hug, he turned and left. George realized that he did feel better…if only a little. Fred might not have been able to ease his guilt…but he had restored his hope, and that that was why Fred had come by the hospital. His brother knew him far too well, Fred had known that George had been down all day, that he was suffering again…that the guilt was eating him alive.
George stepped the the side of the bed again, the sat down at Luna's side. A healers assistant had pinned a soft blue bow in Luna's curls …they had been teasing him all day about their 'hot date' tonight. George smiled and pulled the corsage out of the little pink box, slid it onto Luna's wrist, and then held her hand to his cheek.
"You look beautiful." And he realized as he said it, just how true it was. Even though she was frighteningly thin, she was still beautiful…if only to him.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out the plastic champagne glasses he had brought and the little bottle of champagne, then set them on her table next to the figurine of the skating penguin. He sat quietly, watching her sleep while the last two hours of the old year ticked away, then he held her hand to his lips while he watched his watch tick away the final seconds.
He counted them down silently, then…ignoring the noise from the healers station down the hall, he leaned over her and brushed his lips over hers as the midnight hour tolled in the new year.
"Happy New Year Beautiful."
He sighed, then kissed her forehead. "When you wake up, we have a bottle of champagne to share."
George paced Luna's room, trying not to stare at the empty bed. Around him, the room was filled with pink and white roses, and bouquets of pink, red and white balloons.
He reckoned he had gone a little overboard…but it was Valentines Day.
"George!" Harry exclaimed as he rushed in, Fred on his heels. "We got your message and rushed right over…What's happened?"
"She moved her eyes." George looked at him. "The healer said it was…quick…no, rapid eye movement. Like people do when they dream."
"That's good!" Fred smiled widely.
"It's very good." Harry agreed.
"George!" Molly rushed in and hugged him, her face flushed with excitement. "Oh George!"
"Wonderful news George." His father said as he caught up at last.
George sighed and threw himself into a chair. The atmosphere in the room was so happy it was like someone had cast a cheering charm over the lot of them, yet George was afraid of getting his hopes up. She had squeezed her fingers around his hand once too…and that had turned out to be nothing. "She's not awake though."
"But this is a very good sign." Molly patted him on the shoulder. "The healers assistant said so."
"Yeah, that's what they said…" he nodded. "But then they rushed her out of here for more scans. What if this is like her hand mum? She's been doing that for months…"
They all fell silent, the room horribly crushing.
Molly pulled a chair to sit in front of him, then she smiled and took his hands. "This isn't like that George, even the healer said this is a major sign that she has had improvement. It means that she is dreaming…it means that her brain is working."
"Now," Molly gave his hands a gentle tug. "I'll have no more of that negativity young man. I know you have reason to worry, it's been a long time and you've been through ever so much…but I'll not have you being down…not when the news is so wonderful."
George nodded and tried to work up a smile, but despite his mothers encouraging words…it died before it reached his lips.
"Oi…" Fred looked around, a devilish grin on his face. "Georgie, have you forgotten what today is?"
"It's Tuesday." He shrugged.
"No, It's Valentine's Day." Fred corrected with a smirk.
"Your point is?"
"Don't you think you should have gotten Luna some flowers or something?"
George looked up at his brother and finally, the smile came.
George slammed the door open at the top of the stairs, then slumped against the wall, struggling to catch his breath. Of all the times for it to happen…of course it would happen when he wasn't there.
He waited only until he was able to breathe again before he set off down the hallway. Healers assistants patted him on the back as he crossed their path, smiling at him in their excitement.
'It's so wonderful George!'
'Brilliant George…just brilliant!'
'Isn't it just amazing!'
Everyone he passed wanted to share in the celebration…they had all shared in his misery…had been with him during the darkest days…now they wanted to share in his joy.
And he was happy. He couldn't remember ever having felt so happy. Not on the day they opened the shop, not on the day Katie agreed to marry him, not even on the day Harry had destroyed Voldemort.
George Weasley had never felt this kind of joy in his life.
Luna was awake…after all this time, she had awoken. And better, she was going to be fine. She was awake, she was talking, she remembered people and faces and dates and places. She would remember him…she would remember…
Finally, he could ask for her forgiveness, he could be set free from his guilt. But the more he thought about it, the closer he got to her room…the harder it became to move. His steps began to slow…and then he stopped.
Luna had lost eight months of her life because of him. There were so many things she had missed…so many things she could never, ever have back. So how,...how could he possibly expect her to forgive him; how could he dare to even ask?
He leaned against the wall, his shoulders slumped in defeat as the worst guilt he had ever felt…even after all these months…came over him. He didn't have a right to her forgiveness…none,…none at all.
George closed his eyes for a moment, then turned back towards the stairwell. Her waking changed everything. His mother had told him that her room was already being flooded with flowers and cards. The others, the ones who had stopped coming, would come again...she need not know that they had given up on her. Luna wouldn't be alone, she wouldn't need him here anymore, and considering what he had done, certainly she wouldn't want him here.
"George!" Luna's healer stepped from her room and rushed down the hall towards him. He smiled at George warmly…the two had become quite good friends in the months since Luna was transferred here from the critical care unit. "It's about time you get here…she's been waiting to see you."
She wanted to see him? But how did she know…
"Does she remember?" His voice froze in his throat.
"No, no I'm afraid not…she doesn't remember the accident at all, but that's normal after a head injury. She's awake, and alert and she has total recall of everything else. Her motor function seems just fine, though we can't be sure of course, not until she is out of bed, which won't happen for a little while yet."
"So she's going to be okay?"
"Oh yes, it seems so." He smiled "She will need a few weeks of physical therapy to regain strength in her muscles and to get her digestive system back to normal before she can be released…but, I think she's going to be just fine."
He patted George on the back, then ordered him to get in and see her. He stood nervously staring at the closed door to Luna's room, she wanted to see him…she shouldn't…but she did…as long as she wanted him there, he couldn't leave. Nervously, he reached out and pushed the door open.
He nearly gasped when he saw her, the shock of seeing her for the first time with her eyes wide open, the smile on her face showing him the single dimple for the first time. Some color had returned, her complexion had shifted from pale to ivory with a little pink at her cheeks.
"George..." She said softly, her voice hoarse from lack of use. "I'm so happy you've come."
George stood frozen in the doorway, biting his lip in a futile effort to hold back the tears.
She looked at him questioningly, confused by the emotion on his face. "George?"
"Luna…" He crossed the room and slid into the oh so familiar chair, and out of habit, he picked her hand up from the bed and held it to his cheek. She attempted to shift towards him, but her muscles were far to weak to allow it, so he rose from the chair and sat on the edge of the bed so he could look into her eyes. She showed no surprise at his familiarity…it was almost as if she had expected it.
"I'm sorry." he blurted out, despite the healers telling him she didn't remember the accident. "I'm so sorry ….All of this…your being hurt, being in a coma…I know you don't remember…but it was my fault, all of it."
"It was?" Her eyes widened and her hand jerked slightly in his. He lay it down then slid from the bed, of course she didn't want him near her.
"I don't remember George." Luna looked at him with pleading eyes. "Could you tell me; what happened?"
George closed his eyes, then he took a deep breath and opened them again. He told her about the article, about how he had come to yell at her, to demand that she print a retraction…and then, he told her the most terrible part.
"I saw you, sitting in the tree…and I yelled something terrible at you. You were startled and you fell." He took a deep breath again, the tears were too close now, there was no fighting them anymore….and a part of him knew she deserved to see them, it was the only way she could ever know how truly sorry he was.
"You hit your head on a rock when you fell…and you've been asleep since."
He picked her hand up again and held it tightly against his cheek, his eyes pleading with hers.
"You've lost eight months because of me, eight months you can't have back…birthdays and holidays and seasons and your last year at Hogwarts…all gone and if I could, I would give you all of mine for the rest of my life to make it up to you…but I can't." He lowered his head and wiped his face on the blankets. "Luna...I know it's doesn't bring them back...but I'm sorry, so very sorry."
"Your mum told me that you've been with me this whole time." Luna tightened her hand in his. "That all these things are from you, all these pretty things and the Valentine's balloons and flowers."
George looked up and nodded. "Yes."
"She said that you were here every holiday too, and that you've been here everyday and you only work part time now so you can be here with me."
"I couldn't leave you alone." He shrugged.
"So, all these months while I've been asleep…you've been here, not thinking about yourself, or what you were giving up…so I wouldn't be alone." She smiled, her eyes soft and watery. "It seems to me George, that I'm not the only one who's lost eight months of their life, birthdays and holidays and occasions…you can't get those things back either."
"I wanted to be here…I had to. I couldn't leave you all alone…not after…"
"No, if anyone is to blame it's me." She shook her head "I don't remember the accident, but I remember the article on Wizard Candy. I didn't even read the stories my father had written …if I had known he mentioned you, I would have edited that out."
"But that doesn't change the fact that I yelled at you…and you fell." He was close to sobbing now…knowing that it could have all been avoided so easily if only he had listened to his brother, if only he had approached her rationally…if he had waited until after sunset. Her being so willing to take the blame onto herself only made it worse.
"I have no right to ask, I know…" He whispered. "But can you ever forgive me?"
She looked at him earnestly. "Can you forgive me for printing that article?"
"Of course I can, I did…a long time ago."
"Then I forgive you."
And he could tell … she meant it. From the bottom of her heart, Luna meant every word.
"I know you've been here out of guilt George. I want you to be free now. To go on, to live your own life."
"What about you? You have to do therapy, and it will be a long time before you'll be able to do things for yourself…"
"I'll be fine." She smiled "I am going to get better and then start studying to take my NEWTS when I get out of here and…then we'll see from there."
"No buts." Luna shook her head. "I know what you've given up to be here, and I know why you've done it. Please…it will make me happy, to know that you have your life back, just like I do. I'm done sleeping now…it's time for you to stop sleeping too George. It's time for you to be free."
And as she said the words, he did feel free. Free from the guilt, free from the overwhelming need to do the right thing… free from the chains that had bound him to this place. He was truly free now...free in mind, free in body and free in spirit.
After all this time, Luna had finally set him free.
"Can I still come to see you?" He smiled "Often?"
"Of course you can." She smiled and let go of his hand. "I would really like it if you did. But for now go away, I need my rest."
George smiled and pulled her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers. Then he stood and kissed her forehead before turning for the door.
"Bye Luna." He smiled "And thanks."
Luna smiled, flashing that single dimple. "Bye George."
He stepped through the door, then began down the hallway…his heart lighter than a feather. He hadn't felt this good since that June afternoon … before reading the article in the Quibbler that had changed everything. He had been free then, looking forward to his future with Katie, to the new life to be had now that the war was over.
Now he was free again, Katie had moved on…but there were others out there. He was free to begin again.
He reached out for the knob on the door to the stairwell, then turned for a look around. His last four months had been largely spent here…it felt odd now, leaving it behind. In a strange way, it was like it was a part of him.
But as he took his first step into the stair well he realized…It wasn't this place that had become a part of him.
It was her.
He didn't want to leave her, he wanted to stay by her side, to be with her while she went through therapy and got strong again. He wanted to keep bringing her silly little gifts on special occasions, to hold her hand while he got to know her better, to kiss her fingers and touch her soft curls.
He was still bound to Luna Lovegood, but what held him here wasn't guilt…it hadn't been for a long, long time.
What held him here now was his heart.
What held him here…was love.
Whether it was the love one felt for a friend, or the love a man felt for a woman, he didn't know….but now that she was awake, he had all the time in the world to figure it out.
They could get to know each other in a normal way, they could move on to the future together.
George turned and made his way back down the hall to her room, pushed open the door and then smiled before leaning down to kiss her forehead.
"Sorry, I don't go away that easily."
She blinked up at him, her eyes filling with tears. "When I woke, I remembered someone being here and talking to me, the sweetest voice...so kind and reassuring when I was lost in the dark and afraid. When they told me you had always been here, I knew it was your voice that I had heard. I wanted to go on hearing your voice forever…even after I woke."
"If you wanted me here, why did you send me away?"
"I had to. I had to know if you really wanted to be here." She sniffled "I didn't want you to be here just because you felt guilty. So, I had to set you free…like in the poem…"
'If you love something, set it free
If it comes back to you; it's yours
If it doesn't; It never was.'
George reached down for her hand, but as he picked it up, he found that she was holding the little birthday cake. He took it from her, turned the little key and set it on the table, then, he lit the pumpkin, and turned the key on the penguin so it skated around the pond.
"We have a lot of catching up to do." He brushed the curls away from her cheek.
"So you'll stay with me?" She whispered "Even though I'm not sleeping anymore?"
"I'll stay with you..." He smiled and leaned down to kiss her softly.
"Particularly since you're not sleeping anymore."
George shifted uncomfortably, trying desperately to pretend that he was sitting anywhere but where he was. He hated this place, particularly at this time of day. Problem was, it was Luna's favorite place in the world and he couldn't deny Luna anything…even sitting under the tree at sunset.
"Are you okay George?" She asked as she reached for his hand where it sat clenched on his knee. "I know you don't like being here."
"I'm fine." He lied and pulled her closer, forcing a smile to his face that didn't reach his eyes.
"You're lying." Luna giggled and brushed her hand over his cheek "I'm sorry you're uncomfortable, but, I refuse to be afraid of this place...it's too pretty."
George sighed and buried his face in her hair. It was long enough now that it fell in thick honey blonde ringlets against her shoulder blades. Luna had been quite annoyed to find that they had shaved her head, but she had gotten quite a giggle over learning how protective George had been over it, particularly when Harry told her that he had actually kicked a healers assistant out of her room for trying to cut her hair away in front.
"We should be going soon." He murmured, filling his nose with the lovely brown sugar and vanilla scent of her shampoo. "Mum will be waiting dinner on us."
"I know." Luna snuggled against him. "In a minute, the sunset is almost over."
George gave himself up to the inevitable. It was physically impossible for him to deny Luna Lovegood anything. On the other hand, it was quite easy for her to deny him. He had tried to cut down this tree for example, but she hadn't let him... He had tried to wrestle a promise from her that she would never climb it again too, but she had conceded only that he could remove the rock from the bottom.
But climbing trees wasn't something Luna would be doing anytime soon. Even with her therapy completed, signs of the accident remained. Luna still needed a cane, she walked with a limp and had diminished use of her left arm. She sometimes had dizzy spells and occasionally, she would have short term memory loss. Her healer said that only time would tell if these things would be permanent, but compared with what could have happened…Luna was incredibly fortunate.
The guilt had never left George completely, he knew it never would. There had been moments where it had been nearly as raw as in the early days while he watched Luna struggle to relearn how to walk and eat. But that was no where near as bad as how his anger flared every time he had to put up with someone coming to see her that he knew had given up on her, though he went to great lengths to keep it from her. He was barely speaking to Percy, Ron and Hermione, though he knew Percy felt a bit of guilt of his own every time he looked at her for suggesting that he 'let her go.'
And Percy had to look at her often. Luna had been staying at the Burrow since her release from the hospital. But today,…today she had finally moved into her new house. It was a year late, but Luna was finally home.
George let Luna go and then reached over for a box that sat next to him on the blanket.
Luna smiled up at him. "You're finally going to let me see my surprise are you?"
"Yes." he leaned over and kissed the tip of her nose. "I am, now close your eyes."
Luna clapped her hands as she complied. There was the sound of rustling paper, then a slight sparkling sound.
"Okay." George kissed her softly. "You can open them now."
Luna opened her eyes, then a huge smile curved her lips.
"Oh George." She sighed as she took in the little yellow sunflower covered birthday cake, eighteen candles glowing on top. "It's just like my little one."
"I know." He smiled and looked deep into her silver eyes. He had made a lot of promises to Luna over the eight months while she was sleeping…this was only the first that he planned to keep.
"Happy Birthday Luna."
He was going to keep every single one of them.
Just want to make clear before I get any flames, that this story is not intended to be a commentary on euthanasia. I feel that each case, and each family is different and should be allowed to make that decision for themselves. Just for the sake of argument though, in this situation, ...I would have kicked Percy's ass, and I probably would have smacked the shit out of Hermione too...but, I am a female so I could have gotten away with it. :P
I tossed George's engagement to Katie in there because I felt I needed to show him giving something major up to show that he was making a true sacrifice to be there for Luna, not because I really think they are a viable pairing. Though I do think she would be better than Angelina. Of course, Bathilda Bagshot would be better than Angelina in my opinion. :P
Please review...please! I worked really, really hard on this!