It was horribly familiar, this darkness. Ginny kept her eyes tightly shut, as though that would prevent her from reliving the nightmare yet again. She cringed when a light flared somewhere to her left because she knew what this meant. Any second now . . .
Right on cue, a hand reached out and touched her arm. Ginny’s eyes snapped open and she sat bolt upright, unable to pull herself out of the bed because she was tangled in the covers.
“Gin, are you -”
“Don’t touch me.” she nearly shrieked, succeeding at last at freeing herself from the bedclothes and sliding out backwards so as not to reveal her nakedness . . . But looking down she saw that she was still clad in the pajamas she’d put on earlier. And what was more, her knees collided with hardwood, not the usual carpet. This discovery, if possible, rattled her even more and she looked up, trying to get her bearings.
She realized now that it was Harry who must have shaken her awake. He was sitting on the other side of the bed, a long piece of parchment in his hand, and staring at her with a mixture of sympathy and anger. He stretched out his hand much more cautiously than he must have done before, and with a little bit of reluctance Ginny took it.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, not looking at him as she regained her seat; She turned her back on him, unable to bear his expression.
“Don’t apologize,” he said, and she felt his hand on her back for a second before he hastily withdrew it. “I understand.”
Ginny nodded mutely. She didn’t doubt what Harry said, having been there on many occasions when he’d had his sleep disturbed by bad memories.
“D’you want to talk about it?” Harry asked quietly.
Shaking her head, Ginny stood and walked over to the window. It had clouded over and started to rain sometime in the afternoon and the storm had only got worse through the evening, with bursts of heavy rain and thunder that rattled the windows. Even as she stood there, a bright flash of lightning lit up the square, revealing the two Death Eaters standing near their post at the broken gate. It gave her a certain sense of relief to know that they hadn’t yet been given reason to abandon their post.
Ginny pressed her head against the cool glass of the rain-streaked window and continued to watch the nearly empty square. She didn’t object when Harry came to stand behind her and, after a moment’s hesitation, put his hands on her shoulders; it sounded like he breathed a sigh of relief when she said nothing. Ginny closed her eyes for a moment, feeling a gnawing sensation somewhere in the region of her abdomen, but she tried to ignore it.
“You don’t have anything to worry about, Gin,” Harry said, misinterpreting her grimace. “Even if Brazill and Schultz don’t get him, everyone here’s keeping a lookout. If he dares to show his face here . . . “As he spoke his hands clenched on her still bruised shoulders and she let out an involuntary hiss of pain. “What is it?”
Ginny bent her knees to duck out from Harry’s grasp, but he had let go the minute sound had escaped her lips. As she turned away, trying to avoid meeting Harry’s eye, she caught a glimpse in the mirror and felt another twinge of discomfort. Whatever had gone on between them in the last few days, weeks and months, she still didn’t like to see the troubled expression on Harry’s face, a mixture of barely contained fury and alarm that he might have done something horribly wrong. There was no way they could keep on like this, she knew.
“Its nothing,” she lied, the words sounding feeble even to her own ears. To avoid looking at Harry she walked over to the bedside cabinet and picked up the tin of liniment Adrasteia had given her hours earlier. She looked at it before forcing a smile and looking back at Harry. “I just regret not using this earlier.”
Harry’s frown became more pronounced, telling Ginny that he wasn’t entirely convinced by her nonchalant attitude. With several quick strides he crossed the room and took Ginny’s hands in his.
“You don’t need to keep doing this, you know,” he said, stroking the back of her hands with his thumbs. “No one expects you to act like nothing happened.”
Harry looked like he was going to say more, but at that very moment the sound of voices just outside the door drew their attention. Letting go of Ginny’s hands, Harry hurriedly snatched his wand from its resting place on the bed and turned it towards the door. Ginny grabbed hers off the nightstand, too, feeling her heart rate start to increase. Could someone have got in here undetected after all? A second later though, she let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. There were two voices, clearly audible now, bickering.
“What are they on about now?” Ginny asked, imitating Harry again in letting her wand fall to her side.
“They probably heard you shout,” Harry said, frowning again. He headed for the door, stowing his wand in his pocket as he did so. The door banged open before he reached it, revealing a furious Ron, and an anxious Hermione.
“We heard Ginny scream,” Hermione said at once. “Is everything all right?”
“Everything’s fine. Really,” Ginny said, hitching another smile onto her face. She took several steps towards Harry and caught his hand. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the surprised look on his face, but he didn’t say anything. Ron and Hermione, however, needed more of an explanation, so Ginny reluctantly told them what caused her to scream.
“Maybe it wasn’t that good an idea, having them stay together,” Ron said, determinedly not looking at Harry.
“Ron, I don’t think –“ Hermione started to say, but Ginny cut her off.
“I might remind you,” she said, walking over to Ron and poking him hard in the chest, “that it was not your decision to make. I’m the one who asked him to stay, remember.”
“Yeah, I do,” said Ron. And I don’t get it, Ginny. None of us do.”
“It is lucky then that its none of your business,” Ginny said, losing her temper. It wasn’t so much the statement as it was the repetitiveness of it. She’d heard the same thing over and over form what felt like everyone in the house throughout the entire day. It was late, she was tired and sore, and not at all in the mood to go through it again. Shoving Ron out of the room she closed the door. Part of her expected him to barge in again and continue firing questions, but when the door remained closed after several seconds she was confident that Ron and Hermione had gone back to the room they were sharing across the hall, Sirius’s brother Regulus’s room.
To forestall Harry’s questions about her treatment of Ron, Ginny looked around the room wondering again why she had let him talk her into staying in Sirius’s old room. It looked much the same as it had always done, bare and abandoned, though perhaps a little cleaner than it had been since Sirius had been alive. The other change was the collection of boxes that now stood near the empty fireplace, transported there over the Floo network from Harry’s old flat just that afternoon.
Quite sure that she would not be able to sleep for some time, Ginny decided to make herself useful and opened the first of these boxes. She had already pulled out a photo album and the first volume of Practical Defensive Magic and Its Uses Against the Dark Arts, when Harry came over to her, pulled both from her hands and threw them back into the box.
“That can wait until morning,” he said and took the tin of liniment from her. He unscrewed the lid, revealing a paste-like substance with a strong odour that made them both cough. At the same time, Ginny felt her muscles tauten. She knew Harry was trying to help, but that didn’t diminish the nerves she was feeling. Something of this must have shown on her face because Harry quickly recapped the tin, saying, “Sorry, old habits.”
“No, it’s OK. I . . . would appreciate the help.” Determined to overcome her capricious reactions of the last few minutes, Ginny put a hand on Harry’s arm to prevent him from walking away. Her fingers fumbled as she started to undo the buttons on her shirt, all the while reminding herself that this was hardly the first time that Harry had seen her topless.
Even as she peeled away her shirt, Ginny saw Harry glance at the door as though he was afraid that it might burst open at any moment. When it stayed firmly closed he let out a breath and uncapped the bottle again.
“I don’t think he’s going to come barging in again. Ron,” Ginny said, trying to ignore the smell of the liniment. It smelled, if anything, worse as it was applied, however the effect was instantaneous. As Harry rubbed it in, she could feel the bruises vanishing.
Harry didn’t speak for such a long stretch that GInny thought he wasn’t going to. But then he said, “He’s not very happy with me right now.”
“He’ll get over it,” she said. Harry make a doubtful noise as he recapped the tin. “You don’t agree?”
Again Harry took an inordinate amount of time before responding, giving Ginny the strong suspicion that he might remain completely silent this time, but she was wrong once more. “He thinks what happened is my fault.”
“What makes you say that?” Ginny asked sharply, pausing in the act of buttoning her top.
“You saw the way he behaved just now,” Harry replied as though that would answer all of her questions. “Anyway, you know he has good reason to.”
“I don’t know any such thing.” Ginny was starting to think that she was going to have to have a talk with her dear brother.
“Come off it,” Harry said, letting out a hollow laugh. “I was there. I saw what he was doing and I . . . I did nothing. I was willing to believe that I could trust him more than I could trust you.”
“Yes, but . . . ” Ginny trailed off, unsure of what to say. She went back to the boxes for something to do and pulled out the two books Harry had tossed in not so long ago. She cast her eyes around for somewhere to put them, and alighted on the mantle.
As she tucked her hair behind her ear, Ginny thought she saw Harry watching her, but next second he had his back to her and was staring out the window. She tried to think of something to say, even went so far as to open her mouth, but she couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t sound trite or ridiculous, so just turned back to what she was doing.
“It’s probably pointless to do that,” Harry said as she emptied the first box. He didn’t turn around. “We might have to leave in a hurry.”
“I know,” she replied, collapsing the box and reaching for another. Unpacking might be pointless, but it felt good to be doing something rather than sitting around and rethinking everything that had happened over the last few days. For a moment Ginny wondered if Harry was going to debate the point further, but he did not. Instead he grabbed another box from it’s position beside the fireplace and opened it.
It had been quite the feat for six people to leave Grimmauld Place without alerting the Death Eaters standing sentinel at the entrance to the square, travel to Harry’s flat, pack up the most important possessions there, and return unharmed. Those who did not go, Ginny among them, spend several long hours practically glued to the windows. It was a relief to see everyone back safe and sound, and the last thing on their minds was where the boxes should go. Therefore they were stacked haphazardly around the house, shoved into corners, and completely blocking the portrait of Mrs. Black.
Ginny knew that it was bordering on madness to fill the hours with the mundane task of unpacking when Bellatrix Lestrange could show up any time and force them to abandon the house. Nevertheless she spent the first few days of their stay at Grimmauld Pace doing just that. By the third day the others had followed suit and moved some of their things into the house as well, giving Ginny plenty to do.
Late in the afternoon on that third day Ginny was traipsing up the stairs to the room she and Harry were still sharing, much to the continued displeasure of more than one of her brothers, with a box containing a jumble of clothes and what felt like several books. She deposited it on the bed and headed over to the window to glance down at the two new Death Eaters who had arrived several hours earlier. They had the same dull, bored look as the two Death Eaters they had replaced, which was the same as the pair before that. It should have made her feel better, to know that Bellatrix and her followers knew about as much of Dudley Dursley’s whereabouts as the Aurors did, but she couldn’t feel relieved.
She knew if she took the time to talk to her mother or Hermione both of them would have said the same thing, that it was perfectly normal she would be worried after everything that had, and was still, happening, but Ginny knew it was more than that. It was hard to explain, even to herself why she had such an irrational fear that something very bad was going to happen, but she had it nonetheless and was soon going to wear a path to every window in the house because of it.