WOGW: Chapter Twelve: Of The Essence

Someone was trying to shake her awake, but Ginny kept her eyes shut. It was probably just Fred or George trying to wake her for Sunday breakfast. She started to wave them away muttering about how she needed more sleep to calm the pounding in her head, but her arms felt like they weighed a ton and she couldn’t move them. It was exhaustion and her throbbing head that made them feel that way, she reasoned, nothing that sleep wouldn’t cure, but she needed to find a more comfortable position because it felt like she was sleeping on rocks.

But she couldn’t move the rest of her body either. A sense of panic started to overwhelm her as she thrashed about as best she could trying to wake, but the drowsiness wouldn’t lift. She tried forcing her eyelids to pop open, but they wouldn’t, at least until she heard a sound that pierced her very soul: the petrified cry of a baby.

James!

Almost before her eyes were open, Ginny was trying to push herself up, but her arms still weren’t cooperating. They were as immobile as they had been a moment earlier. She tried to move them but felt horribly weak and her right arm was extremely heavy. She didn’t succeed in much more than wiggling her fingers. The pounding in her head increased with the effort of her struggle, and it started to spin as her panic filled her with horrible thoughts about what could be happening to James. That panic increased tenfold when hands seized her under the arms and started dragging her backwards. Ginny tried to prevent it, hitting her captor with her right arm as soon as she felt the weight lift from it. The minute she made contact a sharp pain made her cry out. A hand covered her mouth, stifling the sound.

“They can’t see us in this. Let’s not give away our location.”

In normal circumstances it would have been a relief to hear Hugh’s voice, but his words, and the note of panic in his tone made Ginny’s mind ground into action, catching up with what had happened, and bringing understanding to what she was seeing. The courtyard was one big cloud of dust and smoke through which they could just make out flashes of spells and the flickering light of fire – the cedars were aflame.

“I’ve been trying to get you to come round for some time.” Hugh’s panic was only slightly diminished.

“James,” Ginny said, pushing him away. She could hear a baby’s muted cry quite close by, but the shrill, petrified sound lingered, making her shiver. If Hugh was right and she had been unconscious for longer than a few seconds, there was no telling what could have happened to her son. He could be anywhere and she would have a hell of a time finding him in the cloud. She struggled to get to her knees and promptly vomited.

“He’s fine.” Hugh removed his hand from her shoulder and groped in the air behind him for a moment. Wiping her mouth on her sleeve, Ginny watched. There was something very familiar and important about what she was witnessing that her addled brain was missing. When the invisibility cloak flew off and revealed James, looking quite unhurt, her uneasy feeling was overwhelmed by relief and she stretched out her arms for him. Hugh picked James up but didn’t hand him over, he was looking past Ginny, a troubled expression on his face.

“He needs a doctor.” He turned Ginny round slowly to show her what he’d been looking at.

It felt for the briefest moment as though the previous evening hadn’t happened, and she was seeing Harry for the first time since his disappearance. Ginny stretched out her hand to touch Harry’s hair (more grey than black because of the dust) to make sure he was really real. Then the rest of the pieces slid into place: the Invisibility cloak! Harry had told her to stay hidden beneath it and she had ignored him. James’s petrified cry had given them away and as they rushed to save him a spell had flown at them. The spell must have hit Harry, it was the only explanation for the large wound in his abdomen through which blood was pouring. . . The smoky air wavered and she could see blackness at the edges of her vision. This couldn’t be happening. Not now!

“He needs a doctor,” Hugh repeated, breaking Ginny from her own immobility. “We need to find a way out of here.”

He was right. The duellers were getting closer, but if they Disapparated now, before she did something with his wound, Harry might not make it.

“Where’s my bag?” Trying to push the blackness away, Ginny began running her hands along the stoop like a blind person. She gritted her teeth against the pain from her right arm and leant heavily on her left, breathing deeply all the time to avoid being sick again. She pushed on by thinking only of what must be done. Harry had already lost a lot of blood – he was coated in it, as was her arm, and a sizeable pool had already gathered on the stoop. He was growing paler by the second. She knew their only hope was dittany.

Thankfully Hugh didn’t question her. He was the one to locate her bag and thrust it into her waiting hands. With no time to waste she retrieved her wand from the pool of blood and used it to summon the bottle of dittany from the capacious depths of her bag.

“This will help and then we’ll get you to Adrasteia,” Ginny said to Harry, unstoppering the bottle. “You just have to hold -”

Something flew into her with the force of many speeding Bludgers, throwing her forward onto Harry. The bottle flew out of her hand and smashed on the ground several feet away. Potion sailed in every direction with the glass shards.

“NO!”

The heavy weight momentarily prevented Ginny from moving, but it was quickly lifted. Peripherally she saw something pink fly past her, hitting the only cedar not in flames. Someone grabbed her by the hair before she could investigate, pulling her up, off of Harry.

“We’ve got to go. Now,” Tougas barked, holding a clump of her hair tightly in his fist. He sounded almost panicked. “Hold onto Potter. I’ve got the others.”

He barely waited for Ginny to fling her uninjured arm around Harry before he turned and enveloped them in darkness. They landed hard and for a moment her kneecaps felt like they had been shattered. Before Ginny could give the matter much thought, Tougas was on the move again.

“We need to get him inside,” he said, peering round them with his wand raised, as though he expected a Death Eater to jump out and start firing spells. “Weasley, you take the kid. You there -” Hugh jumped. “You’ll help me with Potter. Move!”

James was still partly covered in the invisibility cloak when Ginny took him. She pulled it off and stuffed it in her pocket, only then taking the opportunity to look around. They had arrived at the Burrow, where Harry had told them to go. How did Tougas know that?

The air was cleaner here and made it easier to think, but Ginny was still off balance. It had been hard enough keeping her head from spinning when she’d been kneeling on the ground, but as Ginny started to cross the back garden it felt like the world was tilted on a diagonal plane, and more than once she stumbled and nearly fell. The house seemed to get farther and farther away the longer she walked, so much so that when the back door burst open and her parents came out they seemed like tiny dots off in the distance. She fell to her knees, unable to walk any farther without falling on her face and hurting James.

“Ginny?”

“Ginny?”

“What hap – Harry?”

“We need to get them inside. You can ask questions when we’ve done so,” Tougas barked, just as Arthur reached Ginny and James and pulled her to her feet. For but a second he looked like he might ignore Tougas and go on with his question, but seemed to think better of it when he saw Ginny and Harry close-to.

“Of – of course.”

Ginny was anxious to follow after her mother who was leading Tougas and Hugh into the house, but remained still for several seconds when her father offered to take James. She was overwhelmed by a fear that letting go of would bring him harm. It was the same irrational sort of fear that had goaded her into ignoring Harry’s advice to stay out of sight. Feeling sickened at how that had turned out, and having no desire to repeat it with her son, she handed James over and clung tightly to her dad’s arm as they headed for the house.

“What happened?” he asked when they were feet away from the back door. “Where did Harry come from? It look like you’ve both been -”

“Death Eaters, dad,” Ginny interrupted, pulling the door open. She needed to get inside, not get dragged into a conversation about what had happened. He nodded grimly as though he had expected that much, and looked ready to ask another question. Ginny hurried away before he could, using the walls and furniture for support as she made her way unsteadily to the sitting room.

Molly was rummaging through a dresser in the corner, filling the room with the faint tinkling of glass bottles. Tougas was kneeling in front of the sofa, looking nearly as pale as Harry. Hugh seemed to be avoiding looking at Harry at all, instead starting around the house as though he’d never seen one before. Ginny pushed past him and knelt beside Tougas. Her stomach did a flip flop to see that Harry had grown even paler, and his breathing was so shallow that it was hard to tell if he was breathing at all.

“Here it is,” Molly said at last. One final tinkle sounded and then the drawer slid shut. She crossed the room quickly. Ginny held out her hand for the bottle.

“Maybe you should let me, dear -” When her mum touched her right arm a stab of pain made Ginny let out an involuntary hiss. She wished she hadn’t when she saw the look of concern on her mum’s face. Molly was more likely than her husband to mount an argument, thereby wasting valuable time. Ginny kept her hand out, wearing her most determined expression. She had been the one to cause this, she had to be the one to fix it, if she could. Her mum hesitated for a second longer, as though she was indeed considering whether or not to protest, but obviously decided against it because she handed the bottle over.

Holding it so tightly she was more likely to crush it than drop it, Ginny was at last able to apply the much needed essence of dittany to the ugly wound in Harry’s abdomen. Then she held her breath, praying to Merlin that this would work. Dittany hadn’t worked on Harry’s scar when it had started bleeding all those months ago. What if this was another of that type? Her blood turned cold at the thought.

After a few seconds where nothing at all happened, Ginny was able to let out the breath she was holding. The dittany was doing it’s job. The bleeding slowed and then stopped as the wound started to close. The sight brought a small relief, but that wasn’t the end of it. The potion would save Harry from losing more blood, but couldn’t bring back what he’d already lost. Her mum didn’t have Blood Replenishing potion in her dresser drawer, that was restricted to healers.

“We need Adrasteia,” Ginny said, not looking away from Harry.

Tougas might have nodded, but he said nothing as he stood and left the house. The sounds of his departure had long since faded before anyone felt safe to move again. For several minutes it was as if the sitting room itself was holding it’s breath, waiting for the next storm to hit. At last, though, someone crossed the room quietly and gently laid a hand on Ginny’s shoulder.

“He won’t be too long in returning, I expect,” Molly spoke in a soothing tone, sounding a little hesitant. “I’ll stay with Harry if you want to get cleaned up.”

The glare Ginny mustered made her mother recoil. She knew the offer was well-intentioned, but resented it nonetheless. Until Adrasteia arrived and set everything to rights, she couldn’t leave Harry. She was prepared to defend her position against her mother if necessary, but it turned out not to be, because Molly seemed to understand it. She patted Ginny’s shoulder in a comforting way before ushering the others out of the room. Hugh seemed most reluctant to leave, moving slowly and casting many glances back at Ginny, but eventually he disappeared round the corner, too.

The room became deathly silent once more. Nursing her broken arm and praying her mother was right about Adrasteia’s arrival being short in coming, Ginny took Harry’s hand in hers. His skin was cold to the touch, making her shiver. The dittany could only do so much, and if he didn’t get more blood soon . . . She shuddered again, and tried to gather her strength.

“Mum’s right, Harry. Tougas knows all Adrasteia’s haunts. They’ll be back any minute. She’ll have you up in a flash. Then you can spend all the time you want with James, OK?”

No reaction. Ginny tried to convince herself that she hadn’t expected one, but the sinking feeling in her stomach betrayed her self-deceit.

The silence was broken by the scraping of chairs in the kitchen. Someone said something in a low murmur, and after a second someone else started speaking, equally as quiet but with more hesitation. She was sure that either her mum or dad had just asked Hugh to tell them what happened and it sounded as if he had complied. He might not understand everything that happened, but he should be able to give them the gist, which was all they needed for now. There would be time later for full and detailed explanations.

After some time Ginny stopped trying to listen to the conversation in the kitchen. Seconds started to feel like hours and she remained as immobile as Harry, repeating her mantra: “A few more minutes. Just a little longer, Harry.” She tried to focus only on that one small hope that would sustain them until Adrasteia arrived, but it became harder to stave off the horrible thoughts: maybe this was part of the Ministry’s master plan. Harry had failed. No, worse, he had disobeyed a direct order. He wasn’t supposed to reveal his true identity to her. Was this his punishment?

More than wild conspiracies though, she couldn’t stop the continual replay of what had happened. One minute she was worrying about what Harry and Hugh might possibly say to each other and the next they were fleeing the flat for their lives. Instead of doing the smart thing and listening to Harry, the most experienced person she knew when it came to Dark Magic, she instead listened to some stupid voice inside her head, nearly getting all of them – including the two people she loved most in the world – killed. And Tonks . . .

Two loud bangs sounded in rapid succession. Ginny jumped to her feet, and moved in front of the sofa holding her wand awkwardly in her left hand, doing her best to shield Harry from view. In the kitchen something hit the floor with a loud crash, making James let out a cry. Hurried footsteps crossed the room, almost but not completely drowning out the raised voices of two people who were quickly approaching the house. Ginny lowered her wand slightly and uncertainly. Death Eaters generally didn’t announce their arrival by shouting.

The back door banged open and Ginny raised her wand again. When something white streaked through the door she was ready to release a spell, but didn’t have time and was glad for that, because the streak of white light turned out to be Adrasteia, her blond hair flying behind her. She barely came to a full stop before bestowing a huge hug on Ginny, sending another shooting pain down her arm. Her cringe earned nothing more than a questioning look, because a second later Adrasteia was kneeling beside the sofa, performing complicated wand movements with one hand while she dug in her bag with the other. Ginny stood back, watching her as a knot formed and then tightened in her stomach. What if, after all this, it was still too late?

Renewed shouting captured Ginny’s attention. It was easier to hear now because the back door was still open. She could hear Tougas shouting at someone who sounded an awful lot like Ron. She also thought she could hear her dad trying to act as mediator between the two. What on earth would Tougas and Ron have to argue about? They barely knew each other. Unless . . . Did Ron and Hermione know about Harry? Is that why they felt safe leaving James last night?

Ron and Tougas were too fired up to notice much around them. Ron even ignored Hermione when she tugged on his arm, having spotted Ginny standing in front of the sofa.

“I could care less about what you want,” Ron said, shaking Hermione off. “We were there and saw the state of my sister’s flat. We know Tonks is dead. Where are the answers, Tougas.”

“Ron,” Hermione tried again.

“What?” he asked angrily, spinning to look at Hermione and not even noticing Ginny until she fell to her knees.

The fact that Tonks hadn’t been moving was only a passing worry. She’d been injured before and survived. She was an Auror, someone trained to fight dark wizards. She had a young son, and Remus . . . She wasn’t supposed to die, not now, not like this. If she didn’t make it . . . Ron must be mistaken, he had to be.

In reality, however, she knew that he was not.

“Ginny?” Ron ran over, and stooped so he could pull Ginny into a hug that she did not return. “Are you OK? We didn’t know what to think when we got to your flat and saw -” He stopped talking abruptly and a second later had regained his full height, relief replaced by disbelief.

“Harry?”

“What is it?” Hermione asked, joining Ron. When her eyes landed on the sofa, her mouth fell open. “Harry? What – Where – How did he get -”

Hermione eventually gave up trying to formulate a coherent question, but she appeared to have connected the dots. Before she or Ron could give voice to their newfound insight, however, Adrasteia attracted Ginny’s attention and held up a phial of bright red potion. Ginny nodded in understanding and turn round to hold Harry’s head up.

“He’s going to need more. A lot more,” Adrasteia said seconds later, frowning at the empty phial. “I thought I had more in my bag, but I don’t. Bredan and I were in such a rush to leave that I didn’t have time to check.”

“Will he be OK?” Ginny asked, barely able to get the words out because her throat had gone dry. Adrasteia sighed and continued to frown as she watched Harry. Her silence seemed almost accusatory. Ginny unstuck her throat, feeling the need to explain. “I had the dittany in by bag. I keep it with me all the time, like you said, but before I could – Tonks . . She – “

“Sssh.” Adrasteia stood and embraced Ginny again, stroking her hair. “Sssh . . . Bredan told me what happened. You did everything you could.”

Ginny shook her head, feeling a lump rise in her throat. She started to explain how she had been delayed in applying the dittany in the first place, but Adrasteia, now holding her broken arm in front of her, shook her head.

“I don’t know that it would have made much of a difference, Ginny. He hadn’t fully recovered from the injuries he sustained in the Auror’s last duel with Death Eaters. His reactions would have been more sluggish because of it, which is why I didn’t think he was ready to leave, but he insisted that a fortnight was long enough. I only let him go because I knew how desperately he wanted to get back to you and James. And Bredan was supposed to keep him away from duels.” Adrasteia frowned, obviously displeased with Tougas. She pointed her wand at Ginny’s arm and healed the broken bone, making the pain vanish almost instantly. She and Ginny shared a look of understanding, knowing that they each knew the truth of where Harry had been. “He has a photo of you and James, you know. Never out of his sight, that thing.

“Now, Bredan believes you hit your head when you fell. Is that true?”

“Yes.” It was not Ginny who answered, but Hugh. “She was out for at least a couple of minutes and I couldn’t bring her round.”

“It’s nothing,” Ginny protested. She was more worried about Harry than about an injury that wasn’t bothering her very much at the moment. Adrasteia silenced her with a look and started making complicated wand movements in front of Ginny’s face, slowly moving to stand behind her.

“Will someone please tell me what the bloody hell is going on here?” Ron demanded, ignoring Hermione’s pleas to be quiet. “The courtyard outside Ginny’s flat looks like a war zone and we know at least one person died there. Tougas tells us to come here and then doesn’t want to let us in. And now Harry’s mysteriously materialized. We deserve some answers, don’t you think?”

“Not now,” Hermione said in a shaky voice. She had her hand over her mouth as though she was about to be sick.

“It was Death Eaters.” Ginny repeated the same words she’d used to placate her father; It didn’t quite answer Ron’s question, but she didn’t feel up to a long conversation, not when Adrasteia’s examination of her head was making her feel as though she might vomit again. The pain seemed to get worse, almost past endurance. At the point when blackness started to appear at the edges of her vision again, Adrasteia gave a quick jab with her wand and everything lifted, leaving only a slightly dizzy feeling.

“You should try and get some rest,” Adrasteia said, sounding like Molly. She picked up her bag and headed for the exit. With one foot on the threshold to the kitchen she turned back. “Both of you should. Try not to jostle Harry too much when you move him though. I’ll be back soon as I can.”

Ginny wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of moving Harry and briefly considered not doing it. She wasn’t sure that they would be able to pull it off without bringing him more harm. She was about to say that they should wait for Adrasteia to return when Ron reminded them that it was Sunday and the rest of the family would be arriving in only hours. She didn’t like the idea of everyone gawping at Harry. And there were the children to consider. Riley and Simon might do more harm in their rambunctiousness. It was the lesser of two evils and so Ginny didn’t protest when Hermione conjured a stretcher and she magicked Harry onto it.

“Where to?” Ron asked, watching Hugh’s opened mouthed awe warily.

“My old room,” Ginny said without hesitation. It only made sense, really, since she still used it when she was here.

It was tricky going because they had to wind their way up three sets of narrow staircases, but eventually they made it. Ginny was able to breathe much easier once Harry was lying in the bed and the stretcher had been vanished. She immediately resumed her former position, kneeling on the floor beside the bed, taking his hand in hers. Ron and Hermione hung back a moment, watching her brush the hair off Harry’s forehead.

“Now will you tell us what happened?” Ron asked as he and Hermione knelt on the opposite side of the bed.

“I told you,” Ginny replied, removing Harry’s glasses and placing them on the bedside cabinet. “Death -”

“Yes, yes, but there’s more to it than that.” Ron waved his hand impatiently. “Where’s he been all this time? And what did Adrasteia mean about him wanting to get back to you? How long have you known the truth?”

Ginny didn’t say anything for a minute as she weighed her words. At some point they would have to be told the full story, but she didn’t know if she was up to recounting it now, not when everything was so fresh in her mind. And the truth most definitely didn’t paint Harry in a good light. It might even be better to not say anything, to wait until he could explain himself. Ron’s questions did answer one of her own, though.

“I guess you didn’t know it was him,” she said under her breath. When she saw both Ron and Hermione exchange confused looks, she asked a question of her own. “Why did you two leave last night when you were supposed to be watching James?”

If she had meant the question solely as a diversion from matters she didn’t want to discuss, it almost worked. They sat up straighter and shared a guilty look that told her clearly they had been expecting the question and dreading the time when they would have to answer it.

“Something important came up,” Ron said.

“Not so important that we would just abandon James,” Hermione added. “It’s just . . . We had to leave and . . . We didn’t want to worry you by taking him with us. We didn’t really want to take him with us anyway because we know important it is to you to maintain his privacy and we didn’t think we could do that.”

“And mum said she’s had that Mr. Thomas bloke round for tea and he was good with James,” Ron continued, the two of them talking more quickly out of nerves. “We knew he couldn’t be any kind of dark wizard or anything because the Aurors are still checking for that sort of thing. Anyway, he seems to be fine, James, doesn’t he?”

“More than fine,” Ginny replied. “But I wouldn’t expect anything else since you left him with Harry.”

“What? No, Gin, I just told you we left him with -” Ron stopped talking as he comprehended what Ginny was truly saying.

“Polyjuice?” Hermione asked, her brow knitted.

“Yeah,” Ginny replied.

“Just last night, or -”

“The entire time. He told me last night. The potion had worn off by the time I got home and I found him and James asleep on the sofa.” She recalled that moment perfectly, how she’d thought at first that it was Ron only to discover that it was Harry, and how she’d been paralyzed by the sight for several minutes. It was hard not to recall, too, the terror, joy, absolute fury and finally confusion that had followed in rapid succession.

“Ginny?”

“Huh?”

“I asked you if Harry explained where he’s been all these months?” Ron said. “And how did this battle happen. Was it because he was there, or -”

“I don’t know about that,” Ginny said truthfully. “They just showed up this morning and -”

She stopped talking, not because of the surprised looks on Ron and Hermione’s faces, but because the lump was returning to her throat as she was reminded again about how her own stupidity brought about one of the worst possible outcomes.

“D’you think they knew he was there? Or was it just a random attack?” Ron asked, sounding skeptical.

“Random? We saw what they did. That doesn’t look to be the work of random thugs, Ron. They were after someone, or something. And I think they found it,” Hermione finished in a weak voice, close to tears. “Tonks and Harry.”

“Yeah, but that could just be . . . I mean we’ve been hearing for months about these break-ins, right? Maybe they just got lucky – I mean, not lucky,” Ron backtracked when Ginny and Hermione glared at him, “but maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe some Death Eaters have gone rogue or something, and Lestrange has nothing to do with these break-ins at all.”

“Tougas agrees with you,” Ginny said. “He told me last night that it didn’t seem like her work. I didn’t see her this morning, but I can’t be sure she wasn’t there because it happened too fast.”

“She’s mental and all,” Ron said, nodding, “but I think she wouldn’t have let this happen. She needs Harry alive, doesn’t she?”

No one answered his question. They sat in silence for several minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. Ginny knew that Ron and Hermione were right to question the timing of this attack. Something about it didn’t sit right with her either. The spell that had come their way hadn’t been fired at random, but Ron was right, it had almost killed Harry. It still might, she thought, her stomach turning, and if it did Lestrange couldn’t put into place whatever lunatic plan she thought would resurrect Voldemort.

The more she thought about it, Ginny supposed the spell could have been meant for her, or James. Her stomach turned over again as she remembered the Death Eater shouting, “Hey, it’s the kid.” He’d seemed excited about that. Did they have some plan for James, maybe the failsafe of abducting him to get Harry – the very reason Harry had stayed away? Or was their plan more simple, to kill him to satisfy their sadistic need to see his parents suffer? Was that Lestrange’s plan, telling her minions to kill Ginny and James, but not to harm Harry? Had he fouled it up by taking a curse meant for one of them? Her head started spinning again.

“Did he tell you where he’s been all this time?” Ron asked, breaking the minutes long silence and stopping Ginny’s sickening train of thought.

“Ron, maybe now’s not the time,” Hermione said.

“We have a right to know,” he replied shortly.

“Yes, but -”

“It’s OK, Hermione,” Ginny said quietly. She understood their need for answers, and though she had initially considered waiting to be a better choice, she wanted to do something that would prevent her from being sucked into her own mind. She would tell them what she knew.

Taking a deep breath, she launched into the tale, telling it as it had happened from the minute she had walked into her flat the previous evening, speaking with a certain detachment, as though she was telling someone else’s story. It was easier this way, much easier than she thought it would be. Ron and Hermione listened raptly, and though she could tell by their expressions that what she said wasn’t at all to their liking, they didn’t interrupt. She spoke for a long time, skipping only the part about what happened at Dimentichi’s, the one thing most difficult for her to accept. As though he sensed there was something she had left out, Ron jumped right on the topic when Ginny stopped talking.

“He seemed to have been everywhere else, was he at the restaurant that night, too?”

He gleaned the answer without Ginny having to say anything. She hadn’t expected Ron to even remember this, and her mouth fell open in shock. He wasn’t done surprising her with his uncharacteristically perceptive insight, either.

“It wasn’t a dream you had, was it?”

Ginny closed her mouth trying to think of something to say, but nothing came. She couldn’t lie, though, and had to shake her head. Ron’s expression darkened so much that for a moment both Ginny and Hermione were of a like mind in worrying that he might attack Harry. When he moved, crouching for a moment on the balls of his feet they tensed, because he looked poised to strike.

“It might have been better for all of us if he and Tonks had exchanged places,” he muttered eventually, before standing up and holding out his hand for Hermione. Pulling her to her feet he wasted no time in heading for the door. Ginny waited for the sound of the slamming door, but it didn’t come. She looked up and had a momentary glimpse of Ron standing in the doorway, an unreadable expression on his face. It could have been disgust or regret, she couldn’t tell. When he saw her watching, he grimaced and hurried away, taking Hermione with him.

Much as she wanted to be angry with Ron for what he said, Ginny understood where it had come from, betrayal, anger and a certain amount of disgust. Even she, having had time to digest what Harry had told her, and now filled with dread that he might be snatched by death at any second, she couldn’t say she had completely forgiven him. If she couldn’t, how could she expect Ron not to be angry?

Unable to sit idle any longer, Ginny could think of nothing to do but take her mother’s advice. She found some old forgotten clothes in the closet along with one of her mum’s thick hand-knitted blankets. After closing the bedroom door she stripped off her dirty, blood soaked clothes and lobbed them into the hamper by the window before pulling on the old jeans and jumper. The latter snagged on something as she pulled it over her head: the ring.

Pulling the chain out from under the jumper, Ginny slipped the ring over her index finger and stared at it. She hadn’t precisely forgotten that it was there, but she had become so used to it’s presence, resting there between her breasts that it was somewhat of a shock to see it. She spent some time wrestling with a tidal wave of conflicting thoughts. The part of her that was still angry wanted to throw it in the rubbish bin, but another voice was telling her that the right thing to do was to put it back in it’s proper place on her finger. She had another urge to tuck it away again. Each point had it’s merits, but no one outweighed the other to any great extent and she finally gave up trying to decide now, and let the ring fall, not bothering to tuck the chain away. It hung in plain sight as she carefully removed Harry’s dirty clothes and covered him with the blanket.

She could see the corner of a piece of parchment sticking out of the pocket of his trousers, and pulled it out, but as Ginny got closer to the window she peered outside instead, to see if Adrasteia had returned yet. She’d now been gone close to an hour. Aside from the obvious danger it posed to Harry, Ginny felt uneasy. Even if Adrasteia had chosen to use the Floo network it shouldn’t have taken her more than a few minutes to make the trip.

All she could see was Tougas pacing, every once in a while stopping and casting some sort of spell. Ron and Hermione were outside, too, standing at the edge of the paddock that the family used when they played Quidditch. Ron was leaning his head against a tree, and Hermione had placed her hand on his arm. It was hard to tell from this distance, but it didn’t look like they were in the middle of a blazing row, not like the last time she’d seen them together in the back garden. Ron nodded in agreement with whatever Hermione said, they embraced, and started back toward the house, arm in arm.

Ginny’s heart felt a little lighter at seeing this. Having no interest in watching Tougas patrol, she unfolded the parchment she’d pulled from Harry’s pocket. It was the photo Adrasteia had mentioned that morning, and that Harry had shown her the previous night, except now it was covered in red splotches that she was only partly able to remove with a cleaning spell. She watched James fuss in his blankets, finding it difficult to remember him ever being that tiny. He’d grown alarmingly.

Looking at Harry over the top of the photo, Ginny felt a new appreciation for the entire situation. She had been lied to repeatedly, and put through her own hell, but until last night she’d been missing a big piece of the puzzle. Harry, on the other hand, knew everything, probably even had a good idea of what she was going through thanks to Tougas. And while she at least had James, he had nothing but this photo. She still didn’t agree with how he’d handled it, but she could understand that he was essentially doing what he thought was right. She could only imagine what it must have been like, constantly fighting to get out, only to be pulled back. In her mind’s eye she could see quite clearly his bouts of despondency, spending hours staring at this photo, thinking about everything he was missing. And when it became too much, he would do stupid things – like disguising himself as some loathsome Daily Prophet reporter and following her around. She’d started to act out of desperation, too, until Kingsley and Tougas had put a stop to it. If they hadn’t though, she might have ended up doing things just as desperate.

She was diverted from her memorization of the photo by movement which she caught from the corner of her eye. It was barely a twitch, but Harry was definitely moving. Hurrying over, Ginny dropped the photo and her wand on the bedside cabinet and sank to her knees, taking Harry’s hand in hers again. He seemed agitated.

“Harry,” she said, gently touching his face. “It’s OK, Harry.”

He struggled for a moment and then slowly opened his eyes. He blinked several times, and looked around in confusion before finally seeing her. He stared unblinkingly, unbelieving for several seconds before trying to say anything. Then, with difficulty, his voice ragged, he managed to ask, “Where?”

“At the Burrow, like you said,” she replied.

Harry nodded his head very slightly in acknowledgement, and started looking around the room again, though she knew he wouldn’t be able to see much without his glasses. He was starting to get agitated again, and when he worked up to voicing his next concern it was in barely more than a whisper, “James?”

“Downstairs with mum and dad. He’s safe.”

Harry nodded again as his eyelids started to droop, but opened again when he caught sight of the ring. His eyes moved back to hers and he tightened his grip on her hand. She saw his lips move but no sound came out. It didn’t matter, she knew what he’d said.

“I love you, too, Harry.”

The corners of his mouth were upturned as he drifted off again.

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