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Chapter 5 : Chapter Five
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Ginny crossed her legs, counting how many seconds of silence she could take before she answered. A tastefully arranged distance stood between her and Bree, who had folded her hands in her lap and appeared to be waiting patiently.
“What do you want to know?” she conceded uncomfortably.
“Are your parents still together? Do you have brothers and sisters?” Bree offered.
Why is she asking? Surely she already knows, Ginny thought. Her family had made the cover of at least one tabloid per month since the war ended. Then again, she supposed the therapist was being extra careful given her prior slip of the tongue. “Yes, and six—I mean five brothers.” She continued, hoping it would distract the therapist from querying her mistake or at least convince her to be polite enough not to bring it up. “I had a happy childhood. We got along pretty well, and we still do.”
“Did you experience anything odd before the incident you described?”
“Yes, any unexplained happenings, or potentially traumatic events—”
“No,” Ginny said abruptly.
“And you said you’ve had dreams after the event.”
“Yes, I…” She paused. “Sometimes it’s like I see things that aren’t there.”
Something subtle in Bree’s expression changed; Ginny wasn’t sure if it was a twitch at the corner of her lips or a slight dilation of her pupils. Either way, it was noticeable. She’d caught the other woman’s interest, perhaps a little too much. Carefully, she backpedaled. “I mean, I’ll see something out of the corner of my eye and turn to look, and it’s not there. Just little things. Not all the time.”
“Well, I suppose that happens from time to time for most people,” Bree said.
Ginny inhaled, taking a victory breath. Still, she didn’t know why she’d bothered to keep the appointment if she didn’t intend to talk about what was really happening.
“It seems like this is an area of your life you’d like to keep private,” Bree added. “What would you rather spend our time today discussing, Ginny?”
“I’m not sure,” Ginny replied. “I thought it would feel good to talk this through, but I suppose I’m not really in the mood today.” She felt bad for wasting Bree’s time, but at the same time, she had told the truth—or close to it—for the first time that day. Perhaps there was something to this therapy business Hermione had advocated.
“That’s all right,” Bree said, settling back into her chair a bit. “You were kind enough to show for today’s session anyway, and that’s good enough for me. I’m going to leave it up to you to call and schedule our next appointment, in order to make sure that you can choose a day when you have more need for my assistance.”
Ginny found this option preferable, and indicated as much with a smile and nod.
As they stood up and approached the door, Bree paused with her hand extended toward the knob. “Ginny, I do hope you’re able to find someone in your life whom you can trust. Perhaps your husband, or even a friend. I would hate for you to go a long while without being able to discuss these matters with someone who will listen. Of course, you know I’ll be here whenever you need me.”
Ginny nodded, but she purposely avoided Bree’s eyes as she exited the room and walked down the corridor toward the reception area. Moments earlier she had wanted nothing but to escape the room with the plush chairs and neutral wallpaper, and now she felt like her hand had been forced toward goodbye. So far, her experiences with Bree had been more stressful than she’d intended, and even if it wasn’t the therapist’s fault, she didn’t know if she’d be contacting Bree again.
Ginny had selected a quaint coffee shop in the middle of London for her meeting with Hillary. Old Black Magic was the sort of place where wizarding folk could hide in plain sight, surrounded by Muggles buying drinks with cheesy names like Witches’ Brew and Love Potion Number Nine. She chose a table outside and sipped on an espresso concoction she hadn’t tried before, a plate of berry-flavored scones sitting untouched in front of her. Food tended to encourage her interviewees to open up.
“Hi,” said a cheery voice behind her. Ginny barely prevented herself from jumping.
A girl came around the table and settled lightly into the chair across from Ginny. She looked nearly as polished as the girl on the magazine covers save for that look of acute determination that marked the height of a good Quidditch match. In person Hillary seemed lighter, freer, like she was made of the sunlight that filtered down onto the street nearby. She wore a peach-colored cardigan and a pair of khaki pants.
“I recognized you because of your red hair,” Hillary admitted, offering her a smile.
Ginny nodded. “Thanks for meeting me. I hope you didn’t have to travel far.”
“No, I actually have a flat two streets over with a couple of other girls from the team. It’s not often that I get to walk places. It’s kind of a nice change.”
Ginny couldn’t disagree more; she’d love to ride a broom again. But she smiled, gesturing to the plate of scones. “I’d like to get started, if that’s all right—but please, help yourself to some breakfast. Can you tell me how you first got into Quidditch?”
“I played for the House team. I’m Muggle-born, so I had some difficulty making friends when I first started at Hogwarts. When I got to third year, I figured out that playing Quidditch might be a good way to meet other people in Ravenclaw. I guess I was lucky, though—imagine if I hadn’t been any good!” Hillary laughed, and Ginny felt envious of her easy tone. It was hard to believe she’d ever been that young.
“Did you start out as a Chaser?”
“Yes—I tried becoming a Beater for one year, but it wasn’t as fun, and it was a bit scarier to have to confront the Bludgers head on with a bat. Chasers can just work on staying out of the way, you know? After that, I stuck with what I knew best.”
As Hillary continued, recalling her first game as a student, Ginny began to notice her heartbeat flooding into her ears. She blinked, momentarily blocking out the sunshine that had gone from friendly to intrusive. A waitress walked over to the table, complimenting Hillary on her sweater and taking her order for a cup of tea. Ginny stared down at the table, her hands shaking in her lap.
“Did you hear me?” Hillary said.
“What?” Ginny looked up.
“I asked why you got into Quidditch. Was it because of your husband?”
“I suppose,” Ginny murmured. “Though I did enjoy playing before I met him.” She tried to stand up, feeling woozy. “Would you excuse me? I need to use the loo.”
She stumbled through the maze of tables into the shop, following the signs to the bathroom. Once inside, she braced herself against the counter, staring into the mirror and ignoring the spots flashing before her eyes. What was wrong with her? Dehydration? Food poisoning? She suddenly felt as weak as a drowned flower.
The racing heartbeat and shortness of breath usually accompanied her encounters with unsavory memories, but she had seen nothing to remind her of him in this place. She had never felt the rush of panic without something there to set it off. Had her anxiety gotten so bad that she was now doomed to live in fear all the time?
No, I worked hard to get this interview. I need to get back out there before she decides that I’m a total freak. She tried to stand up straight and fix her hair, but tears were already forming involuntarily in the corners of her eyes. She just wanted to scream.
She didn’t scream. She clung to her last shred of control and forced a deep breath. Then she exited the room, calmly asking the waitress to tell Hillary that something had come up and she needed to leave but would happily cover the bill. Ginny left the shop through the back door and walked around the corner, stepping into an alley.
Cursing herself for losing a good opportunity for an article, she Disapparated.
Ginny turned up on the sidewalk that led to her door two hours before she was meant to be home. She headed inside quickly, wanting nothing more than to lie down and rest with her eyes closed for a while. She hoped James would be busy playing under the babysitter’s supervision and Albus would be asleep in his crib.
However, it was not her children or her neighbor who greeted her at the door.
“I didn’t expect you home so early,” Harry said, looking at her with concern.
“What are you doing here?” Ginny asked, surprised. She put her bag on the table.
“It’s McGonagall’s birthday, remember? We get half a day off from work.”
Oh, right. How could she have forgotten? Having a new wizarding holiday installed to commemorate their former Head of House had been one of Harry’s first personal missions after he obtained employment at the Ministry. He must have sent the babysitter away when he came home at lunch. Ginny inwardly chided herself for wasting the fee—and for once again making herself look completely incompetent. “Would you like some lunch?” she said, trying to distract him from her mistake.
“No, I ate with Ron,” her husband replied, frowning. “Are you all right, Gin?”
“What do you mean?” She reached for a frying pan anyway, wanting to be busy.
“You look pale. In fact, you haven’t really seemed well at all lately.” He gently took the pan from her and put it down on the counter. “Since you went up to the attic.”
Ginny shook her head. “Really, Harry, I’m fine. I’ve just been stressed out lately.”
“I thought you’d be all right, with you journaling and all. But then you almost drowned at Victoire’s party, and today you come home early from this interview that you’ve been planning for weeks—did something go wrong? Was she rude?”
“What did you say?” Ginny replied suddenly.
“The girl, was she rude to you or something?”
“No, before that.” Ginny frowned. “Journaling?”
“The one in the attic. I thought you had been using it, maybe accidentally took it up there with you when you went to look at the boxes. I thought maybe it was helpful for you to put your thoughts down on paper even after… well, after Voldemort.”
Ginny blinked, leaning against a chair and wanting nothing more than to sink down into it and sob. Part of her had been trying to pretend that the journal wasn’t real. Out of all that had happened to her over the past few weeks, it was the most difficult thing to ignore, to block out, to pretend existed only in her wicked imagination. But Harry had clearly seen it, too; worse, he thought she was the one to put it there.
Had she been? She wracked her brain while trying to keep a straight face.
“Sweetheart, please, just tell me what’s going on in your head,” Harry tried softly.
Perhaps it was the unfailing kindness in his voice, or the way he pleaded for a shred of anything from her, but the next thing Ginny felt were hot, wet tears sliding down the bridge of her nose. “Tom Riddle,” she sputtered. “I can’t get away from him.”
Harry slid heavily into the chair across from her.
Once she began, it was hard to stop, perhaps luckily for her. “I’ve been dreaming about him ever since it happened. Horrible things. Invasive dreams. And now he’s here, in my everyday life, at the grocery store and at Shell Cottage and in the city. And I’m scared—Harry, I’m so frightened—that one day he’s going to get me…”
Harry’s hand moved over top of her own and grasped it lovingly. She was trembling just as she had during the interview, but this time she just let it happen. “I’ll never let him hurt you, Gin,” he murmured. “Not then, and not now. Not ever.”
The firm tone of his words slowed Ginny’s pounding heart. Why did I wait so long?
He embraced her, vowing to help her however she needed and thanking her for being honest with him, but the wheels in his mind were turning much too quickly. It was like he was a detective hunting for Horcruxes again. Why now, Ginny? It’s been years, and you’ve been so strong. Why is all of this happening to you—to us—now?
Harry wasn’t sure he was prepared to find out the answer.
Thanks for stopping by for yet another chapter of This Devilry!
I hope you’re still enjoying the story. Some of you will probably be glad that Ginny finally opened up to Harry about her troubles. What did you think of his reaction? Have your feelings changed about Bree? Let me know in a review! :)
Thanks for all of your support thus far! This story is so much fun to write.
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