A/N: I have tried my best to depict Alzheimer's realistically. Any suggestions to improve my depiction would be welcome.
Harry hurried through the corridors of St. Mungo’s, the heels of his dragon skin boots echoing in the stark passageways (His wife’s clear voice invaded his head for a split second: Dress for the part). Rare splashes of colour that attempted to lighten the mournful atmosphere blurred in the corners of his vision as he spotted his destination.
The information kiosk was curved, hugging the corner farthest from the entrance. A blonde witch had her back to him, filing papers in the immense cabinet that stretched across the wall. She turned quickly as the click clack of his feet reached her ears.
“Lord Potter!” Her eyes were wide and her smile widened as she recognized him. Harry reached inside his robes to pull out the sheath filled with papers he had filled in the evening prior.
“I’m here to accompany Ginevra Weasley to my home. The Healers have already informed me of the risks associated with her removal from the hospital and have provided me with a strict set of rules to follow.” His words were as formal as his robes. The witch’s smile did not dim and her hands were eager to assist him. They fluttered quickly, taking the papers from his hands and gesturing to the lift.
“I’m sure everything is in order. You’ll need to visit the Business Center on the fifth floor to ensure that Ms. Weasley’s treatment has been paid for, after which you can proceed to the sixth floor where Ms. Weasley’s room is located. Is that everything?” At Harry’s nod she continued, “Have a nice day!”
Less than twenty minutes later Harry was being led by the chief Healer of the Aging Ailments ward to Ginny’s room. The Healer himself was pleasant enough, energetic and bright-faced, but Harry had grown to thoroughly dislike all manner of hospitals during his life (perhaps because of the fact that almost each time he was in a hospital, it was due to some life-threatening incident).
“I’ll warn you now, Lord Potter, that she is currently less aware of her surroundings. It’s just a few minutes past her dosing time, as I’m sure you’re well aware, and due to the reactions between two of her medications, her mental activity is temporarily reduced.”
“Isn’t there a way to remove this side effect? Her brain’s already deteriorating and to have her brain shut down, no matter how short a time period, can’t be helping.”
“I can assure you that there’s no danger. Within the next twenty minutes Ms. Weasley’s brain activity will be back to the standard it was before the most recent dosage. We would never do anything to endanger one of our patients.”
“There’s no need to apologize, Lord Potter. If I had a sickle for every time I’ve listened to a family member worry about their loved one, well, I’d be richer than you!” The Healer’s eyes were bright with laughter at his own joke. Harry smiled weakly.
They stopped in front of a door and the Healer waved his wand in front of the doorknob, muttering Alohomora. Harry raised an eyebrow at this, but quickly remembered the Healers saying that Ginny was locked in her room for her own safety. He would have to do this soon… His stomach clenched at the realization.
“Now, I’ll go in first and introduce you. We don’t want to frighten her, and she may not remember you.” At Harry’s nod, he opened the door and Harry got his first glimpse of Ginny in her medicated state.
Though he’d been visiting her as often as possible, his visits hadn’t been as regular as he would have liked. He’d been extremely busy during the past week or so, trying to clear everything up at the office before he quit for an undetermined amount of time.
Ginny was sitting in a well-padded chair near the window. As he watched her, she fidgeted in the chair, trying to find a comfortable position, though her gaze never left the frozen landscape outside. Her shoulders were hunched as though she was frightened and her fingers were picking at the fraying edges of her hospital robes.
“Ginevra, dear, there’s someone here to see you,” the Healer said softly, gesturing to Harry.
Her head snapped towards the door, her eyes wide and startled. Though the grey streaks in her hair reminded him of her age, Harry thought she looked more like a child in that moment.
“Do you remember him? His name is Harry Potter and he’s a very good friend to you and your family. He’s been visiting you.” Ginny was shaking her head, but she had calmed down.
“He’s here to take you home.” Now her denial had grown stronger.
“I don’t want him to.”
Harry stepped forward into the room, noticing for the first time just how bare it was. Aside from a bed poorly made, the chair Ginny was sitting on and a desk with some papers and books piled messily on it, the room was empty. Ginny’s medical information was placed neatly in a pocket on the door. The only colour was the red of her hair. It was still as fiery as it had been twenty-five years ago, the day they decided mutually to remain friends, save for a few strands of grey hair.
“Why not?” This time it was Harry who spoke.
“I don’t want to go. I like it here.”
The Healer and Harry exchanged glances, before they both left the room.
“We’ll be right back Ginny.” She turned to look out the window, ignoring their departure.
In the hallway Harry brought his hand up to run it through his hair in frustration but just as quickly let it drop. His wife had recently taken it upon herself to tame his hair and he didn’t want to ruin her work. Instead he glanced at the Healer who was replacing the lock on the door.
“What now? I can’t take her home against her will.”
The Healer didn’t seem at all frustrated or annoyed when he answered Harry. “You’ll visit with her. It is highly likely that once the medication is fully absorbed into her blood stream and her brain activity returns to normal that she will be willing, and perhaps even eager, to leave with you. After all, you have already obtained her agreement. She’s just forgotten.”
“Then why didn’t you just have me wait before?”
“There was no harm in approaching Ms. Weasley at this time. There was just as much of a chance of her agreeing to leave with you as not.”
So Harry unlocked the door and sat on the bed near Ginny, staring at the frozen tableau that captivated her.
It wasn’t until Daphne got home that night that any real argument exploded.
Harry heard the sound of her cloak being hung in the closet (they didn’t own house elves out of respect for Hermione) and then her voice calling out, “Harry, where are you?”
Ginny had looked up from studying her hands at the sound of Daphne’s voice and her eyes glanced sharply between the doorway to the hall and Harry.
When Daphne appeared, light from behind framing her grass green business robes, her eyes immediately made contact with Harry, who flicked his eyes over to Ginny’s form, which looked ready to spring from her chair like an enraged lioness.
Harry watched as the last of Daphne’s public face faded away as she looked at Ginny, a soft smile spreading across her features.
Ginny ignored her, choosing to look instead at Harry.
“You didn’t tell me we were having visitors.” Her tone was accusing. Harry didn’t know what he had done wrong.
“She’s not a visitor. She lives here, with me. With you now, too.”
“What do you mean ‘lives here with you’?”
“Exactly what it sounds like. She’s my wife.”
Ginny did leap up at that and her face was thunderous.
“You, Harry Potter, are my husband, not hers. Mine.”
“We’re divorced, Ginny. We’re just friends.” But Harry could already see Ginny shaking her head. Daphne had long since crept away silently to change her clothes, giving them some privacy.
“No, no we’re not. I would know. This is wrong, all wrong.”
Harry didn’t know what to say. He thought that Ginny would have remembered that they’d been divorced for twenty-five years, mutually deciding to separate after their love had faded. The Weasley had been supportive of the change, accepting that it was best for them to divorce before one of them began to feel trapped.
Ginny had been a great friend throughout his new relationships, just as he was with hers. She, along with the rest of the Weasley family, had supported his decision to leave the Aurors and enter the political ring to help Hermione change the Wizarding World for the better. It was one of the best decisions he’d ever made, for he had been getting bored of the constant physical danger and paperwork and politics eased his hero complex in a way no other line of work could. It worked on a larger scale than law defense.
It was also where he first noticed Daphne, trailing after the newest Prime Minister, Marissa Capsworth, and managing the many reporters who attempted to stop them.
And eight years ago, when Harry had announced his engagement to Daphne Greengrass, Ginny had been one of the first to give them her blessing. There had never been any jealousy between Daphne and Ginny.
Ginny had never changed her emergency contacts and when the Healers had asked if he was willing and able to care for after her diagnosis, he hadn’t hesitated beyond discussing it with Daphne to agree.
“Are you lying to me? Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out, locked up in a hospital like I was?” Ginny’s voice was rising, growing hysterical. “Are you having an affair?”
“What? No! No,” Harry denied, then, more softly, “Ginny, is it possible you’ve forgotten?”
“Forgotten what?” Her tone was harsh, but her voice was quieter now.
“Forgotten that we’ve been divorced for over two decades? Forgotten that you used to like Daphne? Forgotten that you were one of her bridesmaids at our wedding?”
Ginny was still shaking her head, but her voice was soft, defeated, trembling. “Maybe.”
Harry wasn’t quite sure what to do now. He approached her, almost giving her a hug before he noticed her tense form. He settled instead for patting her shoulder, before he left her alone, heading to the kitchen to prepare dinner.
Sometimes, when he watched Ginny mutter to herself, lost in her own world, or in the dark of the night when he couldn’t sleep, and just lay there listening to Daphne breathing, he hated himself.
Ginny’s health was worsening—this wasn’t a battle he could fight. Her medication only slowed the degeneration of her brain cells, not stopped. She couldn’t be cured. The only enemy was time, a relentless, inescapable force.
But the doubts still ate at him, whispering what-ifs. What if he had been paying closer attention to her increasingly odd tendencies? What if he had noticed the warning signs? What if he had insisted she see a Healer sooner? Would anything have changed? Would Ginny still be able to make her own decisions? Would she stop demanding that they switch plates at the dinner table? Stop distrusting him?
Who was he kidding (himself, the voice whispered)? The hints had been there but he’d foolishly assumed that wizards didn’t suffer from the same illnesses as Muggles, that the concept of Alzheimer’s was alien to them (Alien, he snorted, if there are wizards, why would the concept of aliens still be strange for him?). In short, he’d been stupid.
And now Ginny, his Ginny, his childhood sweetheart and close friend, was paying for that stupidity.
But he couldn’t place all the blame on his shoulders, as Daphne repeatedly told him. Why hadn’t Hermione seen that the death of many of Ginny’s teacups due to her weakening grip wasn’t just a normal part of aging? Why hadn’t Lily dragged her mum to the hospital instead of taking insult and stubbornly avoiding Ginny for weeks after Ginny hadn’t known who Lily was when she visited and yelled at her to go away? She certainly was capable of it—she certainly was her mother’s daughter in that regard.
There were other signs too, ones that anyone who knew her should have been concerned about: the loss of her wand only to find it hours later in her underwear drawer, the refusal to attend the annual Weasley family Yule celebration (they’d assumed she was just feeling under the weather; Luna had stayed with her), her confusion and mix-ups with their names… It was only after the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad had brought Ginny to the hospital after she’d splinched herself going nowhere that they’d had a Healer check her over.
Apparently, her injuries during the war and her Quidditch career had put her at a higher risk. And they hadn’t known. She hadn’t known.
Ginny was the strong one.
The days passed, turning into weeks, which turned into months. They’d settled into a routine, a comfortable one that provided stability in a life where Ginny’s moods and state of mind was ever-changing.
There were the monthly visits to the Healer, who monitored her condition and then there were the more mundane, everyday tasks.
Harry tried to engage Ginny on multiple levels, arranging for social visits from family members and friends who were more than eager (often bringing baked goods à la Molly Weasley) and encouraging Ginny to pursue interesting activities, such as attending a reunion concert for the Weird Sisters.
Politics were still very much a part of his life and he tried to share his passion with Ginny, who had once gotten so frustrated by the delicate dances and backward maneuvers that were an essential part of the game. It was a frequent dinner topic, when Daphne shared her day’s work and funny stories about her inept co-workers. Ginny seemed to find some of Daphne’s imitations extremely funny, which always made Harry smile. It was nice to see them becoming friends again.
There were painful moments too; ones that made his heart clench and eyes blink furiously to keep tears from falling. Moments that came out of nowhere, sudden reminders of what she no longer was.
Those were the bad days.
“Harry, where’s Albus?” Her voice carried a concerned undertone, as if she already knew that she wouldn’t like the news.
“Where is he?”
Harry couldn’t answer her. The wound was still sore, even after all these years. His hands clenched the counter and Ginny caught the motion.
“Why won’t you answer me?” Her voice was getting stronger, and Harry was once more reminded of the powerful witch he had fallen in love with all those years ago. The witch who was stubborn to a fault and fiery and had wielded deadly curses during the Battle of Hogwarts. The witch who was now gone, lost forever, irrevocably damaged.
“He’s dead, Ginny. He’s been dead for twenty years.”
It was Daphne who had answered, and Harry had never been more grateful to his wife.
“Oh… right…” Her voice was softer now and her cheeks were tinged pink. “Uh… I remember now. I can’t believe… can’t believe I forgot. How could I forget my son’s death? H-he was an auror and he’d been gone on one… one of those long missions, just like you used to do.”
Harry turned to stare at her now, and her eyes were wide and pleading. Her hands, once so powerful and strong, were now being used to twist the fabric of her dress. “It was aw-awful when the news came.”
“Yes Ginny, yes it was.” And it had been, even though the news had not come in the form of a letter from the Minister of Magic or a visit from the Head of the Aurors.
He gathered her in his arms—she seemed so tiny, so fragile—and comforted her.
They stayed like that, fingers clenching fabric tensely, frantically, for a long time.
Daphne stayed silent and unmoving, observing the image so eerily reminiscent of their husband and wife relationship from years ago. The silence in the kitchen was heavy with sorrow and anticipation until Harry broke it.
“Ginny, honey, it’s late. We’d best be going to sleep.” He took her hand and led her gently from the kitchen and up the stairs to her room. Daphne didn’t move from her position in the corner, aware that Harry would return once Ginny was settled for the night. They needed to talk. He needed to talk.
Harry’s face when he crept slowly down the stairs a short time later appeared to have aged ten years, looking haggard.
“How could she have forgotten Albus to such an extent?” The words spilled from his mouth.
Daphne was silent. They had known that this would happen, Merlin, it had already happened, but this was the first major sign of the illness that had taken over their lives. When she spoke, she worded her comfort carefully so as to not further upset Harry.
“Harry, we knew this would happen. The Healers informed us of this long ago. It’s not her fault, nor is it yours or anyone’s. It’s just a natural progression of the illness.”
Harry’s eyes were shiny with tears he refused to shed. “I know, I know.” His voice was angry. “But Albus didn’t die on an Auror mission. He wasn’t even an Auror! He was an Unspeakable who died after an experimental potion he was working on exploded. She wasn’t even close to the truth! How do you talk to her when she forgets? Do you remind her? Do you let her just forget her entire life, all she’s worked for and accomplished? This isn’t fair. Ginny doesn’t deserve this.”
“No she doesn’t. But you can’t stop this, Harry. This is beyond your control. All you—we—can do is help her. Keep her company.” Daphne moved closer and grabbed Harry’s chin, forcing his attention on her. “She’s still there, Harry. She may be different now, but she’s still Ginny. Remember what the Healer said. You have to focus on the here and now. The present. She won’t remember the past and you shouldn’t distress her by trying to force her to.
“Life isn’t fair. If it was, you wouldn’t have had to face a Dark Lord at seventeen.”
Harry gave her a small smile. “Thanks. You always were very sensible, a quality Merlin knows I need.”
“That’s why you have me.” Daphne smiled and released her grip on Harry’s chin, using the free fingers to run her hand through Harry’s tangled mop of hair. “Now let’s go to bed.”
“Hey Ginny. You do still remember me, don’t you?” Ron had recently begun starting his visits like this, ever since Ginny had forgotten his name, calling him Fred.
“Ron!” Hermione was scandalized. “What did we talk about?”
“But Hermione,” Ron turned to look pleadingly at his wife, “what if she’s forgotten me? What good would it do to visit her then?”
“Excuse me,” Hermione said and dragged Ron out of the room. From the hallway Harry could hear brief bursts of noise, mostly in Hermione’s voice: “She’s still Ginny!” and “Honestly Ron, one would think you’d have matured since Hogwarts!”
Harry winced. It seemed as though Hermione was about to go into full lecture mode… It had been over seventy-five years since Hogwarts and Hermione was still the same.
When they both finally returned to the sitting room, their faces were red with exertion. Hermione nudged Ron perhaps a little harder than was necessary.
“I’m sorry. I- I just didn’t expect- You’re so different!”
Harry had to agree: ever since Ginny had moved into his home, her deterioration had become more apparent. It was the hippogriff in the room; no one wanted to notice Ginny’s inability to brush her own teeth or discuss her odd ramblings or acknowledge her ever changing moods.
Ginny’s hands had begun to twist the ends of her robes with random, jerky movements.
“Ron!” Hermione hissed. “Sorry, Ginny. He can really put his foot in his mouth sometimes.”
“Y- yeah,” Ginny said.
Hermione’s face lit up.
Ron decided to participate more actively in the conversation (perhaps he was trying to get back into Hermione’s good graces) and latched onto the first thing he could think of. “Do you remember when we were younger? Mum always gave us that horrid task of de-gnoming the garden—well, us boys at least. She always kept you inside to teach you how to cook (not that it worked)—” Ginny reached over to slap Ron, who didn’t move away from her hand. The slap was light, and it barely brushed his kneecap, but Ron still winced. “—and anyways, Fred and George decided to create a spell that would do the work for us. They were only in their first year of Hogwarts, so I bet you can guess it didn’t go over so well… Instead of getting rid of them, the spell acted like one of those homing beacons Dad was always talking about, and our gnome population tripled within the day. Mum wasn’t pleased- whacked them a few times with her wooden spoon—remember that?—and had them de-gnome the garden by themselves. Gave us a nice break.”
Ginny was smiling now, nodding her head as Ron talked.
There was a sudden muffled boom in the hallway and lilac-coloured smoke started to creep through the doorway. Ron, startled, said, “It wasn’t me, it wasn’t me! I swear it wasn’t! I was over here!”
Harry was on his feet in an instant, his Auror training still instinctual, and gestured for Ron to shut up. He was using his wand to siphon away the smoke while Ron stood guard and Hermione calmed Ginny, who had been ready to charge in head first, regardless of the potential danger and her trouble rising from her position in the chair.
The situation they saw when the smoke cleared, however, was far from dangerous.
Ron’s winter cloak was a vibrant pink with little chickens dancing on the edges. A few of them paused to stick their tongues out at him, then went back to their dance. Ron flushed a beet red and turned to look back at Hermione.
“Hermione? We’re going to need to visit George on the way back.”
Harry started to laugh and the tension drained away.
“It was Hugo, wasn’t it?”
“Yep,” Ron confirmed,” and just when I was least expecting it. Sneaky bugger.” Then, as an afterthought, he added, “Sorry Ginny.”
Ginny’s eyes were twinkling. “Are you… you kidding me? This was the funniest thing to h- happen in a very… very… very long time.”
They didn’t have dinner anymore. Or lunch or breakfast. Instead they ate whenever Ginny was awake and in a good mood.
Her mood changes were sudden and inexplicable more and more often. She would cry when Harry tried to tell jokes to lighten the mood (he wasn’t that bad, was he?) or laugh when she forgot things. Harry had walked into her room one evening to try to convince her to eat and had stood in the doorway for minutes listening to her talk to her mother, who had been dead for years.
“But Quidditch, I wanna!”
Their conversations had become practically one-sided as her sentences became illogical and repetitive and her babbling increased.
Harry continued to care for Ginny, his responsibilities ever increasing. He brushed her teeth, combed her hair (now he could see why some women preferred short hair) and helped her to dress. She needed the reminders, the daily help, but Ginny was still Ginny, still the same stubborn, brave woman he had fallen in love with all those years ago, and sometimes she refused to have him near her. Yelled at him (with incomprehensible words), glaring and trying to swat his hands away.
At those times, Harry would back away and give her some time alone, setting a monitoring charm on the room so he could rest safe knowing that Ginny wasn’t harming herself. They both needed breathers, time away from each other, as Daphne would comfort him. She was right.
He could not kid himself. He could not forget. Each day, each hour, one mantra persisted in his thoughts:
Ginny’s time was running out.
She threw the toothbrush, but it landed only a short distance away. Ginny just looked at it before she slowly shook her head.
“I can’t… can’t…” Her body seemed to shiver with the intensity of her frustration. Harry took a step forward.
“Can’t what, Ginny?”
“Can’t do this!” she yelled.
Her eyes, when she looked at Harry, were wide and panicked. Her hands had found the tube of toothpaste from where it had been left near the sink and were fumbling with the cap. There was a long pause as they both watched the failed attempts, each one shakier and more frantic than the last.
“Ginny, let me do that.”
“No!” She jerked her hands back and the cap fell to the floor. Harry watched as she bent slowly to pick it up.
“Ginny—,” Harry seemed to struggle internally before he sighed and continued, “Alright. I’ll be right down the hall if you want me.”
Daphne looked up as Harry entered their bedroom, adjusting her position on the bed to make room for Harry. He sat down with a soft thump and Daphne pulled him down beside her, her arms reaching around his shoulders.
“Honey? I can stay up if you’re too tired.” Harry looked up at his wife and gave her a soft smile as his eyes drooped.
“Thanks,” he muttered and then he was asleep, or at least halfway to sleep, Daphne running her fingers through his hair and reading her novel.
Ginny was lost, unable to recognize Harry or any of her family. She was bedridden, unable to move, speak or smile. She slept more and when she was awake, she hallucinated.
The good days weren’t so good any more.
The Healers recommended she be brought into the hospital for fulltime care, but Harry refused. He was going to see this through, to the very end. He was capable.
It was the least Ginny deserved.
Visitors around the house became a frequent sight. Bill and Fleur returned from France and Charlie from Romania.
It was George who was there now, though, sitting beside the reclining chair Harry had brought out for Ginny to lie on, hoping the sunny day would cheer her up.
They ignored the sounds of the children, their grandchildren, playing in the background. They weren’t really talking, but the silence wasn’t tense.
“She’s not getting any better, is she?” George asked, watching Harry carefully spoon-feed Ginny soup. He was going slowly, the spoon hovering in the air as he watched Ginny swallow.
Harry looked at George. “No.”
There was a silence before “I tried, you know, to invent something to help. I tried really hard.”
“I know” was all Harry said and they sat in silence, watching their family.
There was nothing more to say.
Harry admitted Ginny to the hospital once she stopped eating. All her living brothers were following him into her room, and she was never once left alone, even after visiting hours were over.
“Quality of life” was all the Healers said when Hermione pressed them about the rule violation. None of the others wanted to press their luck and Hermione kept her mouth shut after that.
Everyone was looking for one last moment with her, one last touch, one last sight.
It was Harry who was there when she died.
She passed in her sleep, without a sound. The silence in the room became even more deafening when the spell monitoring her heart stopped beeping.
Harry rose slowly to his feet and leaned over the hospital bed. Her hair was the only colour in the bed, the brightest colour in the room. He threaded his hand through her hair one last time, marveling at the fieriness of it, even in death.
One strand twisted around his finger and Harry took his hand away.
The Healers would be here soon, but they wouldn’t rush. They had known this would be happening for a long time and there wasn’t anything they could do for her after death.
Ginny’s eyes were closed, her face peaceful. She looked like she had years ago, before the disease had changed her irrevocably.
She looked like she had after she had pulled away from him in the Gryffindor common room over seventy-five years ago. She looked like she had after playing her first professional Quidditch game just under seventy years ago. She looked like she had after the birth of each of their children.