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Chapter 6: Pulling through.
6. Pulling through.
Harry remained quiet for much of the trip back to number twelve Grimmauld Place. He, Ron, Hermione, Luna and Neville took several buses to return to the former Black family residence. Ron raced ahead when they got off the last bus to make sure there was no-one in front of the house. Hermione led them in through the front door, before heading down to the kitchen to find Kreacher.
Luna helped Harry into a chair before he collapsed on the floor. He suddenly felt really tired. More tired than he had felt after facing Tom Riddle. Barely noticing his eyes closing, he entered a realm of dreams.
His spirit soared out of his body. He looked back at the shell he had left. He realised he was not alone. Turning his head, he saw Fawkes. He heard the phoenix song just as he had the night Dumbledore died. If this is death, he thought, it’s not that bad. The phoenix led him away from his body, away from the house. He sped over streets he had passed along only moments before.
A foolish realisation came to him. HE had been dead once. He had faced that end, not with fear in his heart, but love. He had come back, stronger than his enemy, safe in the knowledge that what lay beyond should not be feared, but, when the time is right, welcomed.
He flew on with the firebird. They soared down into the hospital ward. Fawkes landed on the end of the bed, Harry stopped in the middle of the room. He was shaking once more. Tears would not come this time, he had none. He took in the sight before him, as though trying to commit every detail to memory.
The once-shining, lively red hair now lay dull and flat. The once-bright face now tinged with grey. Where once there had been a radiant smile, a death mask was worn. He refused to look away. He felt the ring pulsing on her finger, as though marking her own hearts beats.
Her pain was his to bear. He knew he was not to blame for her condition, but he shouldered the responsibility nonetheless. He had left her behind once, of his own choice. Now he was going to lose her, and all the pain he had suffered before counted as nothing to the pain he felt now.
He went to her. Lay on the bed beside her, and slept. The phoenix kept watch.
* * * * *
Ginny rushed at Harry with a blazing look in her eyes. He had only meant to hug her. What he got was more than he had ever dreamed for. After all those years of hoping he’d notice her, she had him.
She’d grown up with tales about the boy-who-lived. Over time, she hoped to meet the boy she’d heard of for so many years, and claim him. For a child to think of such things had earned her ridicule from her brothers, but she had not cared at the time. All that changed on that day in September, when her youngest brother went to school. She had finally seen the boy-who-lived, and barely noticed who he was. He was far skinnier than she had imagined, and the scar was not as prominent as she had led herself to believe. Her heart had leapt when she had heard he was on the train. She had wanted to see him for so long, and he was getting away from her. She had sulked most of the next months, cursing her luck. She had read all of the letters from her brothers to see if any news about him was to be found. So much news and so much danger. Her heart had swelled each time she read of some new danger he’d escaped, and when she read about Voldemort trying to kill him, again, she had cried.
When her brothers came home from school, she’d insisted on being at the station, on the platform to greet them. Not them. HIM. And as soon as he was there, he was gone.
The next years seemed to blur into one drawn out period of agony. She’d asked, perhaps looking back a little too much, about Harry Potter. She’d built up her fantasy of meeting him. Making everything perfect for him. She failed. The incidents with the diary and the Chamber; his godfather; the Tri-wizard tournament. Everything in fact had shown her that he could never be truly happy, while some crazed lunatic was loose.
And while he was not happy, so too, she was not.
And, yet. Despite the odds. In spite of the dangers yet to be faced, they had come together. She had finally managed to get him to genuinely smile in a way he only ever reserved for his two closest friends. It was the most perfect day of her young life.
Then disaster struck, and the next year was spent in fear for loved ones.
And when he came to her, her heart had soared clean out of her chest. She was whole, again. She knew they’d never be parted. Ever.
Until the day in Diagon Alley, she had never felt fear quite like it. She felt the spell slash at her back. She felt the blood pour from the wound. She tasted the granite of the setts in the road. It was all cold. Yet the fear she felt, numbed all of that. It helped to pass out. Keep the pain of her injury at bay. It could not keep the fear out, though. She set her defences and retreated behind them, away from the world of excruciating agony and fear.
Harry now stood before those defences. Wandless, but not powerless. He raised his hand, holding the ring before him. Her walls crumbled before him. Her beasts turned tail and fled from his own protector. He raised his head, and the phoenix searched the citadel. She heard the cries of her name, and could not, would not, believe what they meant. She saw the phoenix and called him to her. Harry found her as the bird settled on the window ledge. He ran to her. Swept her off of her feet and kissed her. They both looked at the bird, and touched its head.
Harry woke with his hands in Ginnys. She smiled weakly at him, unsure about whether to believe what her own eyes were showing her. She ran her fingers through his hair. She looked deep into his emerald eyes, and knew with utmost certainty he was real. They were really together. She tried to laugh, but stopped when pain shot through her back. She winced an apology to him. He understood. He kissed her lightly, and rested his cheek against her head. They looked around at the side of the bed. Fleur was asleep in one of the chairs at the side. Bills travelling cloak lay over her. George and Angelina were sharing another chair, also asleep.
Ginny smiled once more, then fell asleep again. Harry remained awake. Trying to figure out how he’d got there. He watched Bill tiptoe back into the ward with a cup of coffee; watched him adjust the cloak over his wife, attempting to keep her warm. He watched him look down at her with same look in his eyes he always had when he looked at her.
“I don’t deserve you all as family,” Harry finally spoke.
“Don’t talk such nonsense,” Bill looked at him, as though knowing he’d been watching. “It’s us who don’t deserve you. Is she okay?” He nodded at his sister.
“A little sore, but she’s back with us.” Harry managed a small smile. He looked down at their rings. “These came in very handy.”
“I’m sure they did, just don’t tell mum, or dad, what you saw in there, okay?”
“I won’t,” he knew it would be more than his life was worth. “Is Fawkes here?”
“How...? Why...?” Bills words failed him. He simply pointed over to the window.
Harry fell asleep watching the bird watching him.
When Ginny awoke next, it was to find herself still in the arms of the man of her dreams. She knew they’d shared her recurring nightmare, and that he’d broken through to her. She also knew he’d seen her at her most vulnerable. There would be no secrets now about her past feelings towards him. She’d shown him everything.
She looked over towards the gathered members of her family. Bill now sat in the chair with the cloak over him, while Fleur kept vigil. George was awake and talking to Angelina about the shop.
Ron was in deep conversation with Luna, who for once was not referring to anything she’d heard from her father. She had a most serious expression on her face that was unnerving to those who were used to seeing her normal look.
“How do you feel?” Hermione was sat at the other side of the bed, her face brightening as she spoke, but she still looked like she hadn’t slept in days.
“Lousy.” A strengthening smile creased her face. “Thank you for these.” She held up the rings. “How long…?”
“Better part of four days.” Hermione reached for a glass of water. “Here, just small sips. He’s been out of it most of that time.” She nodded at the sleeping Harry. “Gave us all quite a turn, back at the house. Then Fawkes turned up and it was a mess. We got a message to bring him here. That was yesterday. He’d been asleep since he got back.”
Ginny smiled at her friend, wanting to explain what had happened between them, but at the same time not wanting to say too much. Hermione seemed to gain some idea of it from the silence, for she blushed madly and looked away.
“Welcome back, Ginny.” Fleur hugged her over Harrys body. “You just missed your parents, but they will be back soon enough.” Her English had just a trace of accent that suited her. “Now to wake up my ‘usband.” She gave Bill a sharp tap on the arm.
“Hmm, what…? Oh, thank Merlin.” He knocked Harry as he hugged her, but did not wake him. “Fawkes, would you mind signalling mum and dad for us, please.” The firebird nodded once, and vanished in a ball of fire.
“When did he return?” Ginny tried to sit up, but the deadweight kept her down. A good thing too, as a lance of pain passed up her back.
“Not sure. Best ask him when he wakes up next,” Bill sat on the edge of the bed alongside Harry. “You’ve both given us quite a few turns this week, stop it.” He playfully tapped her shoulder.
* * * * *
When Ginny and Harry both got out of the Ministry vehicle outside of the Burrow, it was to find the whole place decked out in streamers and balloons. A wide banner proclaimed ‘Welcome Home’. Quite who it referred to neither could guess.
A large marquee had been erected on the front garden with a pair of golden lions standing guard either side of the entrance. They could hear frantic preparations going on inside, but did not venture to look.
Despite the extra day in St Mungos, Ginny still leant heavily on Harry for support. Emotionally, as well as physically, she would not be back to her old self for sometime. Harry, better than any other, understood this. He always seemed to find the spot just under her armpits where she was most comfortable for him to hold her. Each time she felt a twinge of pain, their rings would glow and he would ask her where it hurt most, and apply a soothing charm.
Mrs Weasley saw them first from the kitchen window. She dashed out and greeted them. She took their bags and carried them into the house. When she came back out, she was trailed by the entire Weasley clan, including Aunt Muriel. She looked at Harry down her nose, then walked slowly around him, noting where his hands were, the positioning of his feet and his posture despite him virtually holding Ginny upright.
“Scrawny bugger, just like his father.” She walked around him again. “Still, very attentive isn’t he. You’d do well to learn by his example, Ronald.”
Harry hadn’t seen Ron blush that particular shade before, but was glad he was smiling, shifting his own hold on Hermione to mimic Harry. She looked at him curiously, then smiled as to why he’d done it. She broke free and hugged Ginny gently, whispering in her ear and looking at Aunt Muriel.
Ginny smiled sweetly at Hermione and motioned to Harry that she wanted to go inside. He led the way through the crowd to the front steps, where he picked her up and carried her into the living room. Without using his wand, he summoned all the cushions in the room onto the sofa, and placed Ginny softly on top of them. Kissing her gently on the forehead he turned back into the kitchen.
“What did the Healers say?” Arthur Weasley pulled him to one side as soon as he entered the room.
“She’ll be in pain for the next week or so,” Harry relaxed his stance just long enough to show his own pain. “but it’s nothing to how she could have ended up. The spell hit bone, missing her spine by about a quarter of an inch.” He held up his fingers to show the distance to Bill who’d joined them. “She needs rest, and plenty of it. We’ll have to bring our lessons here, if she wants to carry on with them, that is.”
“I’m alright with that, and Luna won’t have too far to travel in that case,” Arthur waved to George, who promptly ducked out of view. “Mollys putting you in with Ginny.” Harry was about to open his mouth to protest about how uncomfortable this would make them. “Don’t argue. She’s already made her mind up about it.”
“We’ll keep the noise down then,” Harry joked. Bill had been taking a swig of firewhisky, but decided it best to spray it all over his father. With a sheepish grin he cleared the mess and hurried out of the room.
Harry looked in on Ginny and found her in deep conversation with Fleur and Hermione. He saw Ron looking lost, but still in talks with Angelina and Charlie. Percy, for all Harry could see, must have been in the marquee.
Deciding not to intrude on any of the conversations Harry quietly settled into one of the comfortable chintz chairs in the living room. He had barely sat down before his head lolled to one side and he was asleep.
Ginny looked at him carefully. She had never felt so utterly dependant on one person before, it frightened her. She’d always been so strong, magically and, more recently, emotionally. Yet, she could not express how useless her back injury had made her feel. She adored Harry for the way he helped her. She had listened to the Healers telling her to rest, and not do anything strenuous for about a week, but she needed to get back on track with her schoolwork and her fitness.
“Anyway, your mum reckons that we could do both weddings together,” Hermione was telling her. “Thinks it’ll be a great idea.”
“Ah, but of course, you will need only the one set of dresses for starters,” Fleur injected. “Have you decided on who is to be bridesmaids?”
“Given everything, I thought about you and Luna, but it’s Ginny we need to ask.”
“Hmm?” She turned her head slightly, keeping her back absolutely rigid. “What do I need to think about now?”
“Luna for one. And if you don’t mind, Fleur.” She smiled at her sister-in-law. “You don’t think we’re rushing this do you?” She looked down at the ring, then at Hermione.
“I don’t think it. I know we could put it off for years, but we’d always kick ourselves if anything happened,” she looked at her own fingers, missing the token of love. “I know I love Ron, and that he loves me. I know you love Harry, and he loves you. There are ways of formalising the bond, without going through the ceremony, or having it forced on you.” Fleur frowned at the mention of the magic in the rings.
“I know there are,” she grinned remembering back to her ten-year-olds fantasies of getting the boy-who-lived.
“And I know your mum has been itching to get started planning it all, so it’ll only be a matter of time before she asks you,” Hermione looked at the sleeping Harry. “Where’s Fawkes? And what was your aunt on about?”
“Wish I knew, on both questions.” Ginny rested her head back against the cushions, a twinge of pain shot through her back. Harry waved his hands sleepily and the pain was gone.
“How does he do that?” Hermione looked shocked.
“For that answer, you’ll have to ask himself,” Ginny closed her eyes and joined her loves dreams.
Molly Weasley walked through from the kitchen, clutching a pair of blindfolds. Carefully, she wrapped each one around the sleeping pair and levitated them out of the seats. Winking for Fleur and Hermione to follow, she took them out of the house and into the marquee. Once inside, she placed them in Hagrids arms, lifted the blindfolds off and woke them.
“SURPRISE!” The couple were instantly alert. Harry sat bolt upright in Hagrids left arm, while Ginny flinched in his right. They both stared at each other then at the assembled guests.
Friends from all over the Wizarding world were gathered before them. Hogwarts old guard mixed with remnants of the Order of the Phoenix. Dumbledores Army headed by Neville and Luna surrounded the edges of the assembly. The Wizarding band, The Weird Sisters, were set up on a platform at the far end of the marquee.
Harry struggled to take it in as he dropped down out of Hagrids arm and helped Ginny down. Hagrid knelt down so her feet touched the floor before Harry lifted and hugged her, sending spasms shooting up her back. She did not notice them however, he had already applied the soothing charm to last for the rest of the day.
Ginny looked at her mother, mouth wide open, questions struggling to surface. Harry slipped his arm around her and kissed her quickly. Loud whoops and applause broke out.
George stepped forwards, two glasses of firewhisky in his hands. “We knew you didn’t want anything flashy for your own birthday, and seeing as my sisters’ is just around the corner, we thought we’d throw a combined party.” He handed over the drinks before either could say anything. “Don’t worry, the family won’t be handing out presents until next week,” he added quietly for only Ginny to hear.
“Three cheers for the happy couple,” Luna stepped onto the platform, everyone looked surprised to see her there. “Hip, hip.”
“Nice one, Luna.” Rons voice sounded over the cheers.
“And another three for that happy couple too, though I must say they took their time about it,” Luna stuck her tongue out as Rons ears turned pink, and his face the same colour as his hair. Hermione kissed him quickly as more cheers sounded.
Arthur Weasley, with Molly, got up next. “Harry,” he started, “last year was the sixth anniversary of your meeting Hagrid and finding out you were a wizard.”
“And not that bad of one either.” George teased.
“Quite, quite. This year, today in fact, is the sixth anniversary of your being taken in by our family,” Arthur hugged his wife. “If we’d known then, as we do now, how much you’d alter our lives, we’d have still done it. Molly once said that you were as good as our son. Seeing what you both carry on your fingers, and the way you look out for everyone around you, I am proud to call you ‘son’.” He dabbed his eyes, signalling for Harry to stand with him.
Looking at Ginny, then Ron and Hermione, he stood still, unsure about what to do. Finally, Bill and Charlie picked them both up onto their shoulders and carried them over, landing them in front of Molly and Arthur. Ginny unwrapped herself from Harry as her father grabbed him into a great hug. Her mother followed with a similar hug and a kiss on the cheeks.
Dazed and more than a little confused about the whole situation, Harry nearly fell off the platform, had it not been for Ginny grabbing hold of him before he reached the edge. He turned and smiled at her, kissed her hard on the lips and they rejoined the crowd, searching out their oldest friends and best allies.
Ron and Hermione both clapped as they approached, though they looked ill at ease themselves.
A song could be heard over the voices of the crowd, but the band were silent. It grew louder, until the source appeared through the entrance. Fawkes the phoenix had joined them, but he had two small objects in his talons. Hovering over Hermione and Ron, he dropped their rings into her hands, then landed on Harrys shoulder on the opposite side to Ginny. Hermione looked quizzically at the firebird, understanding coming with each second she gazed and put the ring on. Ron did the same. They stood looking first at Fawkes, then at their rings. They felt more at ease with every second that passed, smiling more at each other, then at Harry and Ginny.
* * * * *
The celebrations lasted well into the night. By the end only the Weasleys, with Harry and Hermione, remained, their glasses seemed to refill automatically when they appeared empty. They thanked the band and watched as they departed for their next gig. Feeling quite content as quiet descended the group retreated back to the house.
Ron and Hermione were the first to depart for bed, holding each others hands as they climbed the stairs. Arthur and Molly looked first at their son and his fiancée, then at each other before laughing to themselves. Angelina and George headed back to the shop, a little worse for the alcohol consumed. Percy headed back to his own flat near the Ministry.
Ginny led Harry up the stairs to her room. She opened the door and blinked. She watched herself enter, breathing hard. Her hands ran over her body. She stumbled, feeling the effects of the entire bottle of firewhisky. Harry reached out for her, picked her up and carried her over to her bed. He stared longingly down at her.
He undressed her gently. Slipping her nightgown over her, he kissed her softly. Changing into his own nightclothes, he pulled a spare blanket out of the wardrobe and settled into the chair at the desk. He tapped it with his wand, and it became far more luxurious. Pulling the blanket tight around himself he looked at her desk, picked up one of the books Hermione and Ron had given him for his birthday and began to read. He stopped, turned the cover to look at the title, smiled and turned back to the content he had read already.
‘The matter of the shape of the patronus when made corporeal is down to the emotional state of the individual. The larger the form, the greater the emotion used to generate it.’ Harry read that one passage over and over. He flicked a few pages. ‘On the subject of multiple forms, it is normal practise for the individuals own form to multiply. Rare occurrences of differing forms have been reported, however, involving far more powerful emotions than those used to produce individual forms.’
Considering that passage, Harry looked at the sleeping woman. He remembered what she had said about the incident on the Express. He ran it over and over in his head, falling asleep with the image of the stag, the mare and the phoenix racing through his thoughts.
* * * * *
The stag, the mare, the phoenix exploded from the end of the wand. Fear and despair were pushed back from the carriage. Then a new kind of terror replaces it, an assault of sound and pressure. The scene went black.
The Chamber of Secrets. The cloaked figure stood over the girl once more. A third joined the scene, sword in hand, firebird on his shoulder. The cloak melted away, as before the scarred man laughs evilly.
“Why did you come?” He turns to face the new figure, his wand now inches from the girls throat. “Was it because they made you? Was it because you feel some unspoken allegiance to them?” He sneered.
“Why?” Breathing faltering, the girl struggles to get the words out.
The figure smiles. The same cute smile that sends her heart fluttering everytime he uses it on her. “Because I can.” He swings the sword and the scarred man falls.
The girl begins breathing normally. The victor kneels down to help her up, she accepts his hand.
“Why?” The same question.
“Because I’d never let anything harm you.” He looked deep into her chocolate eyes. “I’d lay down my life for you.”
They aged rapidly. Ginny kept Harry before her, watching him. She held his hands, felt the rings appear on their fingers and smiled in the knowledge that he would be true to his word. She felt the pain in her back, and he held on tighter, pulling her in to a tighter hug. He looked at her, smiling.
Harry woke from his slumber, his vision blurred, but he could see Ginny sat up in bed, her eyes sparkling with tears of pain and joy.
“You okay?” Harry got up and went to her. He held her as she buried her face into his chest. “Stupid question.”
“I…” she began. Her door burst open. Ron charged in with Hermione. “I was about to say never better, but…” She scowled at her brother.
“Well I’m glad to see you’re not writhing around like last time,” he looked ashamed. “Really need to watch these through to the end, but that would be rude.”
“Nearly as rude as bursting into someones room,” Ginny shot at him.
“Point taken,” Hermione said by way of an apology. “You two getting up? Kingsley is here. He’s not really eager to do today, but he wants to get it over with.”
“We’ll be down in about ten minutes,” Harry assured them, as they took their leave and headed out of the door and back down the stairs.
“What time is it?” Ginny slid herself out of bed and slipped her nightgown over her head. She slid a t-shirt over herself and reached for her drawers.
“About nine in the morning,” he reached over to the desk where he had put Fabian Prewetts watch, trying not to brush Ginny as she searched for clean panties and jeans. He got dressed quickly, reaching for Ginnys hairbrush he started to sort her hair into a ponytail. “You sure you’re good? You don’t have to do this today.”
“I am going, regardless of how I feel,” Ginny was defiant.