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Chapter 2 : Recovering.
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She awoke the next morning feeling more refreshed than she'd done in months.
"How are you feeling?" a soft voice asked.
Despite its gentleness, the unexpected sound made Demelza jump and she sprang up into a seated position, taking a few deep breaths to try and restore her previous equilibrium.
Ginny was sitting by her bed.
"What are you doing here?" Demelza asked somewhat shakily.
"I just wanted to see how you were. You've slept quite a long time. Madame Pomfrey says you haven't woken since yesterday."
"What time is it now?" She furrowed her brow. It had to be late if Ginny wasn't in class, unless of course she'd a free class. Seventh years had quite a few of those, she knew.
"Just gone six o'clock."
"In the evening?"
"So I've been asleep for..." She tried to remember.
"Over twenty-four hours," Ginny put in. "How are you feeling? You seem a little jumpy still."
Demelza shrugged, not quite sure how to answer that question. She did feel a bit better than she'd done for quite a while, mostly because the long sleep had refreshed her. She hadn't quite realised just how exhausted she'd been.
But it didn't really change anything. The things she'd done, the person she was - those were far more than a night's sleep or a few potions could change. A calming draught might dim the horrors for a while, but in the end, she'd have to live with what she'd done for the rest of her life. And there was nothing that could really change that.
"Why do you even care?" she asked finally, "knowing what I've done."
Ginny reached out and took Demelza's hand in hers. "Probably because I've been there. I know what it's like to be used as a tool of evil, to be used to hurt others. It gets inside you somehow, makes you feel..." She paused for a moment, as if trying to think of the right description. "...tainted. I'm not sure if it's something you ever fully get over, but you can come to terms with it. It does get easier, Demelza. You just have to find a way to forgive yourself, to accept that you may have made mistakes, but everybody does and that the evil you were used for is the fault of those who used you and not yours."
Demelza bit her lip and turned her face away. She wasn't entirely sure she could accept that, not when she knew just what her so-called mistakes had revealed about her, a cowardice, which allowed her hurt others, solely in order to protect herself.
"Budithinki'ddoitagin," she mumbled into her pillow, pulling her hand out of Ginny's.
She lifted her head slightly.
"I think I'd do it again," she repeated, still in a rush. "Even though I know it was wrong, even though I know it hurt people, I still don't think I'd have the courage to resist the Carrows, if they returned tomorrow. A mistake is something you regret and take care not to repeat, something you did when you didn't know any better, not something you'd still do, even knowing the consequences." She paused and took a deep breath. "Now, do you hate me?"
Demelza glanced up, almost hopefully. The thought somebody understood, even sympathised, was more than she could ever have hoped for.
But she still couldn't understand why? How could Ginny Weasley, who'd resisted the Carrows and their regime so courageously, whose own brother had died at the hands of the same evil to which she'd so completely surrendered, feel anything but utter contempt for what she'd done?
"They were terrorising us, Demelza," Ginny's voice continued softly. "Far older and more powerful people than you found themselves unable to resist them." She reached forward and touched Demelza's cheek, gently turning the younger girl's face towards her. "And if you were a truly cruel and selfish person, you wouldn't be feeling the way you do right now. People like the Carrows take pleasure in hurting others; they don't beat themselves up about it or punish themselves. And that's what you've been doing, isn't it, Demelza? Punishing yourself?"
She nodded slowly, tears beginning to run down her cheek, but these tears were different from those she'd so often cried over the previous months, calmer and less frenzied.
"You're not a bad person," Ginny repeated. "If you hurt people, it was because you were terrified and felt you'd no choice, not because you wanted to. You may have made mistakes, done things you regret, but you didn't intend to hurt anybody and now you need to forgive yourself and move on. It's not going to be easy; I know that better than anyone, but continuing to punish yourself doesn't help anyone. It just means there's another person the Carrows have hurt."
Demelza buried her face in her pillow again, as the tears continued to fall. She wanted so badly to believe Ginny was right, that she wasn't a bad person, that her actions had been understandable, forgivable, but she wasn't sure that they were. The fact remained that she'd inflicted pain on others, for no reason other than to protect herself.
Before she could ponder the matter any longer, she heard footsteps approaching her bed.
"You need to go now, Ginny," Madame Pomfrey's voice said. "Demelza needs to rest."
"I hope I haven't upset her." Ginny sounded worried. "I was trying to help."
"I know. And she does need to talk about whatever's bothering her. Potions can only do so much; she can't depend on them forever. Eventually, she'll need to come to terms with things and that means talking about them openly." Madame Pomfrey sighed. "If she's spoken to you..."
"Then I think you're helping her, but she has a lot to figure out and it isn't going to be easy, so just a little at a time. I think that's enough for one day. Tomorrow, she might be ready to talk some more. Demelza?" she added gently.
Wiping her cheeks with her hands, Demelza raised her head slightly and Madame Pomfrey handed her a goblet.
"Drink this. It will help you rest."
She remained in the hospital wing for almost a week, the worst of her terrors eased by the potions Madame Pomfrey gave her. It felt good to be able to sleep without nightmares and to be free of the sudden panics which had plagued her for so long, but there was a part of her that still felt she'd no right to such relief, no right to avoid the punishment she'd brought on herself.
Ginny's visits continued to confuse her. Even after everything she'd admitted, the older girl continued to visit daily and treat her with nothing but kindness. Even though she now felt a good deal calmer, she still struggled to convince herself she deserved that.
"You don't have to keep coming," she eventually told her.
"I want to," Ginny replied. "And once you're well enough to get out of here, I want you back on the Quidditch team."
Demelza's stomach jumped. "I...can't."
The mere thought of facing her teammates, of facing anybody, other than Madame Pomfrey, Ginny and the small select group of people she'd seen since entering the hospital wing, was a terrifying one. She realised she'd become used to the hospital wing, comfortable with only seeing those who chose to visit her, those who clearly didn't hate her.
There was no way she could go back to the Quidditch team.
It was the first time in days she felt panic engulf her.
"Demelza, Demelza, calm down, all right." Ginny's voice was soothing. "I'm going to get Madame Pomfrey, OK?"
She didn't wait for an answer, but hurried away, returning a few moments later with Madame Pomfrey, who pressed a calming draught into Demelza's hands.
The panic began to abate as she sipped it.
"Feeling better now?" Ginny asked once she'd finished.
She nodded. "But I can't return to the team; I'm sorry Ginny, you've been so kind to me, but I just...can't."
Ginny placed a hand on her arm. "Maybe we shouldn't discuss this now. You're clearly not ready."
Demelza looked away. She wasn't sure she'd ever be ready to face the people she'd so horribly betrayed.
"But Demelza," Ginny continued gently, "it can't be good for you to drop everything you used to enjoy. You did enjoy Quidditch, didn't you?"
Reluctantly, she nodded.
"Then I think you should start playing again. When you're ready, that is. You need to stop punishing yourself."
"It isn't that." Although it sort of was. But it wasn't just that.
"I just...I can't face them. I'm sorry, but I don't think I can do it."
"I think you can. I know it won't be easy; it will take a lot of courage, but you are a Gryffindor, Demelza. Don't forget that."
She froze. All along, she'd felt Ginny knew exactly how she was feeling, but now, suddenly, it seemedd she knew nothing at all. Demelza wasn't courageous. If she were, she wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.
"I can't," she insisted, desperately. "Haven't I already proven what a coward I am?"
"And now it's time to disprove it," Ginny said calmly. "I do know how hard it'll be, I understand that better than you might realise, but you can do it. The Sorting Hat doesn't make mistakes; it looked inside your head and saw so much courage in there, it placed you in Gryffindor. But Demelza, there are many ways of showing courage. Facing up to everything you've been through might take just as much courage as standing up to the Carrows would, but you are so much stronger than you realise. And you're not going to have to face it alone. I'll do everything I can to support you."
"I don't know."
She felt so ungrateful. After everything Ginny had done for her and everything she was promising to do in the future, she could at least promise to attempt the one thing Ginny was asking of her.
But she wasn't sure she could even bring herself to thinking about it. The world outside the hospital wing was scary and right then, she just wanted to remain safe within her little cocoon where the outside world and all its memories didn't bother her.
"You don't have to worry about it yet," Ginny reassured her. "Madame Pomfrey won't let you leave the hospital wing until you're ready to face things again. It still won't be easy, but it won't seem as impossible as it does right now."
Demelza wasn't sure she believed her. Madame Pomfrey was already talking about letting her leave the hospital wing in a couple of days and possibly return to classes the following week. She couldn't believe a few days would change her whole outlook, allowing her to do things that now seemed impossible.
And despite what she'd said about not having to face things she wasn't ready to, the following day, Ginny arrived to see her, accompanied by Hermione Granger.
Demelza glanced up in alarm. She could think of few people she'd feel less comfortable facing. Not only had Hermione shown all the courage she'd failed to, risking her life to rid Britain of the threat Voldemort posed, but she was also a Muggleborn, one of those the Death Eaters hated simply for existing. And then there were the rumours she'd been tortured. How could she ever forgive Demelza for torturing others?
A cold sweat ran down her back. Did Hermione know what she'd done? She hadn't been at Hogwarts the previous year, of course. Was it possible she didn't, that Ginny hadn't told her, that nobody'd told her? Oh God, she hoped so.
"Demelza, are you all right?" Ginny asked worriedly.
"Yes," she whispered, aware just how unconvincing she sounded.
Hermione reached out and touched her arm gently. "Ginny told me you've been through a pretty rough time lately."
She took a deep breath. How could she agree? She'd absolutely no right. The knowledge she'd no right to feel bad hit her more forcibly that it had for some time. While Hermione'd been going through experiences she couldn't even imagine, she'd been safe at Hogwarts. And yet, Hermione wasn't lying around in the hospital wing; she was getting on with her life. The last thing she deserved was Hermione's sympathy.
"I haven't really," she said quietly. "Not compared with what you must have been through."
All she could see were the scars that marked the other girl's skin.
To her horror, Hermione seemed to realise that.
"You mean these?" she said matter-of-factly.
"Do you know what happened?" Hermione asked.
She shook her head, quite certain she didn't want to know, but aware she couldn't say so. If Hermione wanted to tell her, she'd just have to listen, whether she wanted to or not.
"It was Bellatrix," Hermione began, still sounding as if she were speaking of something perfectly mundane, something every-day. "They took us captive. I'm not going to say it was anything other than absolutely terrifying. I really think it was the most frightening part of the entire war, even more so than the battle here, because at least during the battle, I wasn't alone."
Demelza buried her head in the pillow, horrified by the thought of what had taken place, what she had failed to stand up to.
"I'm sorry," she said. "Sorry I never tried to stand up against it, to support..." She trailed off, as tears began to flow down her face.
"There was nothing you could have done." Hermione's voice was as reassuring as Ginny's had always been.
"I could have tried. Other people did. I hardly even thought...what things must have been like for Muggleborns..." She broke off, incoherently.
"I'm sure you had enough to deal with. Things weren't any picnic here either. In some ways, I think it must have been harder. What happened to me happened in a strange place, a place I really hope I'll never have to set foot in ever again, whereas you've had to return to the place the nightmares took place and carry on as if nothing had happened. I've been able to keep much of my sense of this as a safe place intact; somehow I can't imagine you have."
She glanced at Ginny, who nodded.
"But still..." Demelza began.
"I'm fine, Demelza. It was a horrible experience, but I'm dealing with it and putting it behind me, more easily than you seem to be doing."
Shame coursed through Demelza.
"I know I've no excuse to be so unhappy. I haven't been through anything compared with so many others and..."
"That isn't how it works, Demelza. I've been reading up on trauma, since so many of us are affected by it to one degree or another, and one thing the books all stress is that you can't dictate how anybody 'should' react to any given event. There are so many factors that influence our responses and what affects one person might not affect another and it doesn't mean the latter is stronger - it's not that simple."
Ginny let out a sigh of exasperation.
"All right, Hermione, we don't need a lecture on psychology."
Hermione smiled. "It's something that's valuable to understand now," she insisted.
"Thanks, Hermione," Demelza said.
She wasn't sure she understood everything Hermione'd said or that she fully believed it anyway, but what she did grasp was that Hermione didn't despise her for her weakness, didn't think her reactions self-indulgent or selfish. Although she still wasn't sure just how much Hermione knew of what she'd done, it was still some consolation to feel there were people other than Ginny who didn't judge her, people willing to forgive her cowardice and cruelty.
It was something she forced herself to keep in mind two days later, when Madame Pomfrey pronounced her fit to leave the hospital wing.
"You'll need to keep taking your calming potion each morning," she told her, "and I want you to come and see me every evening for at least a week and I'll give you something to help you sleep. After that, we'll see."
"Yes, Madame Pomfrey."
She was already feeling slightly shaky, despite the calming draught she'd just taken. Leaving the hospital wing felt like stepping out into a hostile world, one she was far from sure she was ready to face.
Her initial return to Gryffindor tower, however, was far easier than it might have been. With the exception of a handful of sixth and seventh years, who presumably had a free class and were far too busy studying to pay the slightest attention to her, the common room was empty.
She settled down by the fire, still feeling slightly on edge. Before the day was out, she knew she'd have to face people again. And that on Monday, she'd have to return to classes. That, however, was something she wasn't going to think about just yet. Imagining the crowds of students returning after class was bad enough.
The thought of it, however, was far less frightening than the reality and as the other Gryffindors began to fill the room, it became increasingly claustrophobic.
"Hey, Demelza," one of her classmates called.
Demelza pretended she hadn't heard her and retreated to her dormitory, where she sank down on her bed, her heart pounding and her breath shallow.
Only minutes passed before the door opened. Oh God, were they following her?
"Are you all right?"
To her relief, it was Ginny who'd entered the room.
"Honestly? I don't know. The room just felt so crowded. I...I don't think I can keep doing this."
It occurred to her she was going to have to enter that common room over and over again for the next two and a half years. She wasn't sure she could face it; in fact she was pretty certain she couldn't.
"Take it easy." Ginny sat down beside her and slipped an arm around her. "It might not feel that way, but you've made a really good start. You've done the hardest part."
"Have I?" She probably sounded as unconvinced as she felt.
Ginny nodded. "The first time is always the hardest. Just being out of the hospital wing must be difficult enough. Nobody's expecting you to be able to deal with everything right away. You're here, aren't you? Dealing with things, even if you've had a bit of a shock. Take some time to calm down now and if you're able for it, we might go down to the common room later on."
"I'll have to pass through it to get to the hospital wing anyway," she realised. "I have to get a sleeping draught from Madame Pomfrey this evening."
"We'll leave it until then, in that case. Just deal with passing through the common room today and then tomorrow, maybe you'll be able to face remaining there a little longer."
Demelza nodded, though she wasn't entirely convinced.
Ginny remained with her for the afternoon, completing her homework in the dormitory, while Demelza watched, feeling a little guilty. This probably wasn't how Ginny would have chosen to spend her evening.
But, selfish as it might be, Demelza was glad she was there. She didn't particularly want to be alone, but she didn't exactly want to face everybody either.
Just leaving the dormitory to get her sleeping draught was frightening enough.
"Don't worry," Ginny reassured her, as Demelza clutched her arm. "We'll only be in the common room a moment and I'll be with you. You'll be fine."
She was. More or less anyway. Everybody in the common room seemed busy with their own undertakings and nobody as much as looked up when she entered, but the common room still felt oppressive, too full and she was glad when they made it out of Gryffindor tower into the quieter corridors.
The sleeping draught protected her from facing many of her dormmates that evening, but when she woke the next morning, there was no avoiding people. It was Saturday which meant everybody'd be hanging around. Demelza took a few deep breaths, wondering how she was going to face them.
She glanced around the dormitory. The other girls had already left. If she waited a few more minutes, most people would be at breakfast. It would, she decided, be easier to face people in the structured setting of the Great Hall than in the commotion of the common room.
While not easy, the weekend was manageable and on Monday, she returned to class. To her surprise, that was easier than the weekend had been. At least in class, nobody asked where she'd been or what was wrong with her.
On the whole, she felt she was managing tolerably well, when on Friday, Ginny asked if she felt ready to attend Quidditch practice the following day.
Her heart jumped.
"I don't know."
Most of her teammates had spoken to her at some point over the week, but facing them all together and for a lengthy period rather than just greeting them in passing? She wasn't sure she could face it.
"Nobody's going to judge you," Ginny promised her. "We've instituted a new rule, you know." Her tone was playful.
"Anybody having a difficult time gets support, not judgement. Lots of us have been through stuff, you know."
"I know," she mumbled. She must seem so focussed on herself. Other people had been through so much worse and hadn't reacted as she was doing. She bit her lip. "I'll come."
Ginny laid a hand on her arm. "And don't worry. You don't have to do anything you don't want to. Just watch from the stands, if you like. Get a feel for how things have changed."
It was a good thing she wasn't expected to play, Demelza decided as she entered the pitch the following afternoon. Just the thought of returning to the team and worse, of facing her teammates, left her shaking and she wasn't at all sure she'd trust herself on a broom.
"Are you all right?" Ginny asked.
She nodded, unwilling to complain. Ginny had enough to do, running practice. She didn't need to have to worry about Demelza.
"OK, I'll get back to you when I've the opportunity."
To Demelza's relief, she corralled the team out onto the pitch before they'd the opportunity to question her and she settled down to watch the practice from the stands. It was a far cry from her early days on the team, when she'd played with Harry, Ron and Ginny. There were certainly good players, most notably Ginny herself, but it lacked the magic which had made Gryffindor such a force to be reckoned with in previous years.
"You see why we need you back?" Ginny appeared beside her.
"I suppose," she admitted.
She'd forgotten how much she loved Quidditch. Just watching the practice now, she realised how much she wanted to be a part of it, wanted to help return the team to victory. They could still do it, she thought.
"I really want to win this year," Ginny said quietly, "and then throw the biggest party Hogwarts has seen in its entire thousand year history. I think Fred would like that."
For a moment, a shiver ran down Demelza's spine, as the events of the war once more imposed themselves on the most ordinary of moments.
She took a deep breath, feeling this was her turn to say something sympathetic or supportive. Ginny had been so kind to her; she couldn't just ignore the tragedy Ginny had experienced.
"I never actually knew Fred," she said quietly, "but from what I remember of him, I think he'd just throw the party anyway, win or lose. We all admired his escape from Umbridge so much." She couldn't help feeling her words were disconnected, that they didn't really express what she'd wanted to say, but she'd had to say something.
She paused awkwardly, hoping it had been sympathetic and not even more hurtful.
"You're right." Ginny smiled sadly. "So we're going to party one way or the other once the Quidditch Cup is over, right? In Fred's memory."
"I'd still like us to win it though."
"We'll give it our best shot," Demelza promised.
Ginny glanced up. "Does that mean you're ready to come back to us?"
"I guess so." She bit her lip.
She didn't expect it to be easy - facing her teammates, moving on, any of it - but the idea of winning the Quidditch Cup, for Fred, for Harry, for everybody who'd been through so much and deserved something to finally celebrate, seemed like something worth aiming for. It was the first time in months she'd allowed herself look to the future rather than the past, the first time the future seemed to contain something other than desolation.
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