"Ginny, can I have one of those medical kits, please?"
Ginny turned. Her father, pale and worn, gave her a tired smile. There was blood on the sleeve of his sweater. "Are you hurt?" she asked. "Here, Dad—let me help."
"No, no," he said, taking a step back. "I'm all right. Your mother's in Gryffindor Tower, she asked me to fetch one for a student."
Ginny frowned; he was holding his arm oddly, and she had the distinct impression he was not telling the truth. She reached over to the pile of medical supplies that the St. Mungo's teams had brought in during their first visit that morning, and handed him a kit. "Are you sure you're okay?" she asked.
"I'm fine, sweetheart, thank you," he replied gently, kissing the top of her head. He turned and left. Ginny heaved a sigh, watching him head down the rows of cots for the injured, which had replaced the tables, following breakfast. There were fifty or so volunteers—survivors and reinforcements who had joined the battle—milling about, starting to clean up the least of the damage and looking after the injured who still waited to go to St. Mungo's. The hospital was overwhelmed right now.
Barely an hour after Voldemort finally fell, wizards from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had arrived to collect the remaining Death Eaters. A team of Aurors that had conducted a full sweep of the castle and grounds found the Carrows crammed in a broom closet on the seventh floor, and carted them off with Yaxley, Dolohov, Travers, Pius Thicknesse, and a number of others.
Not long after came the Healers and nurses from St. Mungo's, who began bringing the severely wounded to the hospital. Professor Sprout, Ernie Macmillan, and Cho Chang had been among the twenty who had gone with them.
Ginny looked down at her watch; in another ten minutes, the Healers would come back for Firenze, Lavender Brown, and Angelina Johnson. Lavender, in particular, had been impressively tough, and insisted that others go ahead of her. Madam Pomfrey had been tending her carefully by the hour, and at the moment she was resting on a cot a few feet away. Firenze, too, held back because of St. Mungo's lack of preparation for a centaur, lay on a blanket near the wall, sleeping soundly, while Padma Patil changed the bandages on his injured flank.
She looked around to see Hannah, who was walking down the aisle of cots with Neville, their expressions sober. She held out a piece of parchment.
Ginny approached her. "Have you—is that—?"
"Fifty-two," Neville said heavily. Hannah held out the list. "We got all their names."
Ginny stared down at the scroll, feeling tears burn her eyes. She blinked hard, and the names blurred. Fred…Colin…Tonks…Lupin…
"You should—why don't you take this to Professor Flitwick?" she said, clearing her throat. "He and Professor McGonagall will know what to do."
Neville placed a bracing hand on her shoulder, and he and Hannah walked away together. Ginny sniffed and wiped her eyes quickly on the sleeve of her violet jumper. How on earth could the last twenty-four hours have been real? She kept thinking that she was going to wake up, still in Aunt Muriel's spare attic room, and Harry would still be a million miles away…Fred would still be alive…
What felt like a tiny shard of glass shifted in Ginny's heart, and she closed her eyes against her tears. There were many of these pointed little pieces—one for each horror she had witnessed, and each moment of loss. And, at the moment, they were as real as anything. Ginny could feel them draining her strength, bleeding her out. So much of her wanted desperately to just lie on a cot and stay there…
"You look exhausted," said a soft voice.
Ginny sniffed again and opened her eyes. Luna stood before her, pale, her eyes overlarge and protuberant in her thin face. Her blonde hair was badly burned and dirty, just as Ginny knew her own was.
She cocked her head to one side, gazing unblinkingly at Ginny. "Maybe you should take a rest," she began, but Ginny cut her off in a tight hug. Luna was startled for a moment by the contact, but then relaxed and returned the gesture.
"You're alive," Ginny said, choking on her voice. "You're okay."
"Thanks to your brother and his wife," said Luna, with a faint laugh. "They're remarkable people, you know."
Ginny pulled back, shaking her head. "I'm so sorry, Luna—Neville and I—we should've—" she trailed off, unable to speak, but Luna said nothing. "I wanted to find you. I wanted to come and get you the moment I knew where you were."
There was something very far off in Luna's expression, and in a flickering moment, Ginny could see that some infinitesimal part of her had been lost for good. Then, she realized that precisely the same thing was true of her, as well.
"Even if you could have, I would never have asked you to come after me," she said seriously. "I was glad enough knowing that you were both safe—well, close to it, anyway."
Ginny drew a heavy sigh and hugged her again. "You know, you're rather remarkable yourself, Luna."
Luna's pale eyebrows shot up, and she looked genuinely delighted. "Am I?"
Ginny laughed and nodded. "You are." Something over Luna's shoulder caught her eye; Xenophilius Lovegood, dressed in ragged gray robes and escorted by two exhausted-looking Aurors, had just come hurrying into the Great Hall. He was looking around frantically, standing on his tiptoes to see around the room.
Ginny tipped her head towards him. "Look, Luna."
She turned, and her whole body went rigid. "Daddy," she whispered. And, for one of the only times in Ginny's memory, Luna's eyes filled with tears.
"Well, go on," Ginny said, nudging her gently. "Don't keep him waiting any longer."
"Daddy!" Luna cried, and she ran off down the rows of cots, practically flying. Xenophilius looked around just in time to catch her in his arms.
"Luna," he exclaimed, hugging her tightly. "Luna, my Luna…you're here…"
Ginny smiled, folding her arms as a slight lump rose in her throat. She pushed it away and turned her back on the Lovegoods, allowing them their privacy. She really was exhausted, she knew, but sleep meant dreaming, and she didn't want to do any of that just yet. For every good thing that had happened in the course of the night, many worse things had, as well, and Ginny did not feel that she could face them alone. The shards of broken glass in her heart twinged a little, and she shoved the feelings down; she needed to hold onto the strength she still had.
And, at any rate, there was time, now. Time to face these feelings. Time to be with the brothers she still had, time to reunite with Ron, and Hermione, and Neville…and Harry.
Ginny heard a faint whimper of pain and looked around. Lavender, it appeared, had woken up. She hurried over to her cot, picking up a medical kit as she ran. The right half of Lavender's face was covered in bandages, as were her arm and leg. Her eyes were closed tightly, her teeth gritted in pain.
"Lavender?" Ginny asked, gently placing a hand on hers. "Lavender, can I get you something?"
A tear slipped down Lavender's cheek, but she shook her head slightly. "Thanks, Ginny, I—I think I'm all right. I just tried to move. Shouldn't have done that…"
"Can I get you something for the pain?" she asked. "It won't be long till they come back for you, but, Madam Pomfrey'll have my head if you're hurting any more than you should be…"
Lavender gave a little scoff and half a smile. "Thanks."
"Good," Ginny said, and she knelt down, rummaging through the tiny, enchanted box. She was almost elbow-deep in medicines before her hand closed on the bottle she wanted. "Okay, this won't put you to sleep, we're running short on that—"
"S'all right," Lavender murmured, and Ginny nodded, uncorking the vial hurriedly. Then she placed one hand behind Lavender's head and helped her drink the potion. "Oh," Lavender sighed, her face relaxing. "That's a lot better…thanks, Ginny."
"Of course," she said gently. "Can I get you anything else? Water? Or—"
"I think your dad saved my life."
Ginny blinked. "What?"
Lavender closed her eyes, as though she were trying hard to remember. "After I fell…after Greyback brought us both over the balcony, I blacked out. But the next thing I knew, someone was pulling me to safety…I mean, I think it was your dad. He looked like Ron…except with glasses…and less hair…no offense."
Ginny laughed, squeezing her hand. "That sounds like Dad."
Lavender's eyes opened again. "Thank him for me, will you?"
"Of course," she replied.
"Ah—Miss Brown, how are you?" Professor McGonagall stood at the end of Lavender's cot, her expression exhausted and worried.
"N.E.W.T.-standard, Professor," Lavender joked, with a faint smile.
Professor McGonagall was quiet for a moment, and then tore her gaze away from Lavender's many wounds to look at Ginny. "Are the Healers coming back?"
"Any minute," Ginny confirmed, frowning slightly. Professor McGonagall, like her own father, was carrying herself oddly; she held her right arm close to her body and was obviously working hard not to move it. A dark bruise was flourishing up the side of her neck, visible under the collar of the torn, dusty dressing gown she still wore.
"Good, good," she murmured. "I should go to meet them—oh." She had moved her arm and winced.
"Professor?" Ginny asked.
Professor McGonagall drew a breath in through her sharp nostrils, closing her eyes for a moment, and then turned to face her. "Miss Weasley, could I trouble you for some assistance?"
Ginny glanced at Lavender, who looked worried, and rose. "Of course, Professor." She followed Professor McGonagall to an out-of-the-way cluster of cots. "I can get Madam Pomfrey—"
"Madam Pomfrey is quite busy enough at the moment," McGonagall said calmly, settling herself on a cot and adjusting her arm with a wince. "It's a simple enough spell, Miss Weasley, I have every confidence that you will perform it admirably."
Ginny stared at her. "What?"
"There is a handbook of spells with the medical supplies, is there not?" she asked in a businesslike tone.
"Well, yes, but—"
"Fetch a spellbook," McGonagall instructed. "Leave that kit with me, I'll find myself a potion to make it easier for you."
Ginny, a little shell-shocked and rather frightened, hurried to collect a book and returned to face Professor McGonagall. "All right," she said, opening it before her teacher, who began flipping through the pages one-handed.
"There," McGonagall told her, pointing to a page filled with diagrams and figures. Ginny bit her lip anxiously. "It's simpler than it looks, Miss Weasley."
"I—I don't know," Ginny answered. "Maybe Madam Pomfrey—"
"Miss Weasley," McGonagall said, her voice a little sharp, and Ginny could tell that she was in pain, despite the potion she had taken. "I know that you are more than capable of this spell. Do me the courtesy of proving me right."
Ginny swallowed. "O-okay," she said, looking down at the diagrams. "So it's just—a prod, and—Emendo?"
"Exactly, exactly," said Professor McGonagall, closing her eyes and nodding. She adjusted her hold on her arm and took a deep breath.
Ginny took a deep breath and raised her wand, laying a gentle hand on Professor McGonagall's shoulder. "Emendo," she murmured, and a rush of cool air seemed to fly out of her wand. Professor McGonagall's arm was illuminated in blue for a moment, and Ginny held her breath.
"Ah," Professor McGonagall sighed, massaging her shoulder gratefully. She opened her eyes and nodded at Ginny. "Thank you, Miss Weasley, you did very well." Then her eyes seemed to lock on something happening behind Ginny's back. "Oh," she said, surprised. A warm expression filled her face beneath the tired, strained lines.
Ginny knew who it was even as she spun around. Her heart leapt into her throat, wildly beating. "Harry," she said stupidly.
He looked deeply tired; he had obviously not slept long enough, and part of her was exasperated with him for coming downstairs to help when he ought to have been in bed like Ron and Hermione. His eyes—she had forgotten the exact, beautiful shade of green in those eyes—were rimmed with red and ringed by dark circles, and he was so pale that the scar on his forehead seemed to stand out just a bit more than usual.
The moment seemed to Ginny to last an eternity. It was the first real look she had had at him in months. He was filthy, covered in burns, dirt, and blood, his clothing singed, but he was alive, and she wanted to leap into his arms. There came a slight cough, and Ginny was jolted back to reality. So, apparently, was Harry. They both looked around to see Professor McGonagall getting stiffly to her feet. She laid a hand on Ginny's shoulder to pull herself up and looked sharply between them.
"I believe I'm feeling much better," she said briskly, massaging her neck slightly. "Thank you very much, Miss Weasley." And with a nod, she swept off down the table, leaving Ginny alone with Harry. They faced each other. It occurred to Ginny suddenly, randomly, that he had undoubtedly heard Professor McGonagall scream for him. He had heard Ginny scream for him, too, thinking he was dead. And oh, how much he had to explain to her. How much she didn't understand…
"I—er," Harry mumbled. He looked very uncomfortable, and it set her on edge as well. She finally looked away from his face, glancing down the row of cots.
"The, er—the Healers will be here soon. They'll take Firenze and Lavender, and a few others. You don't need the hospital, do you?" she asked suddenly, checking him up and down swiftly.
"No," he answered immediately, "I'm fine. I—I'm really sorry, I shouldn't have left you all on your own—"
Ginny fought to not roll her eyes; he was so, so close, and still he was not there—not truly. "Don't be stupid," she told him gently. "No one blames you. We haven't even started on rebuilding, it's just been a lot of looking after the injured." She could see the question in his face. "We—er, we made a…a list of…people."
Harry nodded, his throat dry. "How's—?" He paused, looking even more uncomfortable, as though he felt he was trespassing. Ginny knew that look all too well.
"Mum's gone up to Gryffindor Tower to rest," she said, trying to be reassuring. "She's…well, she'll be okay. Dad's looking after her."
What would he do if I just kissed him, right now? she wondered wildly. She pushed it away, her eyes roving anywhere but his beautiful, brilliant green ones—the ones she had thought she was never going to see again.
"I'm sorry, Ginny," he said.
"Sorry?" she snapped, startling even herself. She stared at Harry in disbelief. "Sorry you just ended the war? Sorry that millions of people are safe now? That Death Eaters are finally being locked away, that You-Know-Who is finally dead?" Harry gaped at her. She was speaking feverishly, almost without thinking. It was as though everything she had felt in the last night was coming to life on its own. Everything she had ever wanted to say to him was spilling out. "We lost a lot, Harry," she said, and she took a step closer to him. "But we won. And—and I don't think that that is anything to be sorry about at all."
And as Harry stared into her eyes, she felt a pain in her throat; it was a word, a thought, a feeling, one last thing that was stuck inside, that had to be set free. And in that moment, she could see that he felt it too—that he would say it, too.
"Harry?" she whispered. He blinked, and she took another step closer, close enough that if she just reached out a bit, she could hold his hands. He gazed at her as her eyes burned with tears. "I love you."
Harry's jaw dropped. He blinked several times, and for a moment, Ginny's heart stopped—her breath stopped—she ceased to be, for just one moment.
"Yeah," he said softly, unable to tear his eyes from her face. "I—I love you too."
Ginny leapt into his arms, laughing as her tears spilled over. She didn't care that the pieces of glass—Fred, Remus, Tonks, Colin, and so many others—were pricking her heart. She didn't care that people were staring as she, filthy and burned and bloodstained, cried into Harry Potter's filthy, burned, and bloodstained collar. All she wanted for the rest of her time on earth was this feeling as they clung to each other beneath the enchanted ceiling, the brilliant blue sky.
This feeling of life, charged with magic.