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SIYE Time:14:43 on 17th August 2018


The Seventh Horcrux
By melindaleo

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Category: Post-HBP, Buried Gems
Characters:All
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Fluff
Warnings: Death, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 860
Summary: The hunt for the Horcruxes begins. Harry has to decide who to trust as he moves closer to fulfilling his destiny. Will he be able to find and destroy all the Horcruxes? And at what price? Will he be able to find the strength within himself "the Power the Dark Lord Knows Not" in order to succeed in vanquishing Voldemort? And, can he do it and still get the girl? Join Harry and his faithful friends on their quest to finally defeat a Dark Lord.
Hitcount: Story Total: 200867; Chapter Total: 7653
Awards: View Trophy Room






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Disclaimer: I own nothing; it all belongs to J.K.Rowling. I’m just borrowing the characters to play with for a while. This is for pleasure only, no profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.



Chapter Thirty-One


Survivors



Ginny stared out the window of the double room in St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, watching the sun rise gloriously over the just-awakening city streets. There wasn’t a single cloud marring the sky. She could see birds fluttering around the trees in a park at the corner, and even the smog from the morning rush of Muggle traffic appeared absent this day. It was as if nature itself was rejoicing over Voldemort’s fall the previous evening.


The bright sunlight and vibrant colors contrasted starkly with the somber mood inside the room where Ginny sat. Throughout the rest of the hospital, Healers had been rushing to and fro nearly non-stop since she had arrived. Even with the vast number of injuries they were treating, the Healers could barely contain their jubilance. Those injured who were still conscious waited for hours, celebrating in the corridors and chatting with strangers and acquaintances alike over the defeat of the Dark Lord. From her hidden spot, Ginny overheard the story of Voldemort’s defeat growing taller each time it was retold.


The only exception to this euphoria was inside the sterile, antiseptic room where Harry lay, still unconscious. A serious, nearly awed reverence fell upon anyone entering the room, and the Healers checked his vital signs with wide-eyed astonishment. If Harry were awake, Ginny was certain he’d hate every minute of it. She tried to assuage her increasing worry by telling herself that he was only staying asleep to avoid the hero-worship.


When his eyes had rolled back and he’d lost consciousness at the Ministry, Ginny had felt a brief, heart-stopping moment of panic. She’d truly thought she’d lost him. His body had gone limp, and his presence – that same powerful aura around him that had always attracted her – seemed to just fade away.


Hermione had insisted that his heart was still beating, but Ginny hadn’t been convinced. When Ministry workers, led by a witch called Leticia Warbanks had stormed into the Department of Mysteries and taken control, they’d assured Ginny of the same thing. Harry’s heart was, indeed, still beating. It had been Leticia Warbanks, a stern-looking witch with black hair streaked with gray and smile crinkles around her eyes, who had immediately decided to transport Harry to St. Mungo’s.


Hermione and Ginny had protested, fearing the Death Eaters still in charge at the hospital might further harm him in retaliation for killing their Dark Lord. Leticia insisted that there were people at the hospital who could be trusted. She said that once the news of Voldemort’s defeat began to spread, there would be a bunch of volunteers lining up to protect Harry from any wayward Death Eaters.


She’d been right, too. As the news of Voldemort’s fall traveled from the bowels of the Ministry up through the building and onto the streets, the Wizarding world that had long been held oppressed began to turn on their tormenters. A mob mentality overcame them, and many of the Death Eaters who hadn’t been involved in the attack on Hogwarts were hunted down and slain in the streets.


They had been executed within the Ministry, in their homes, even in the corridors of St. Mungo’s by the Healers sworn to preserve life. The general consensus appeared to be that they would never allow this to happen again.


There were parties and fireworks and loud celebrations in the streets all across Britain. Harry’s name was toasted in pubs and on the streets to anyone who would listen. Ginny couldn’t even imagine what the Muggles must be thinking about it all.


Leticia Warbanks had been the only Ministry worker who hadn’t completely panicked over the sight of Voldemort’s dead body, and she simply radiated authority. She and a small handful of Ministry employees had tried to maintain order and speak reason with the rampaging mobs of celebrating people to no avail. Instead, they’d focused their energy on restoring the hospital in order to treat the wounded and to assist in the battle at Hogwarts.


As in other places, the Death Eaters who had been attacking the school had turned on one another. Some tried to bargain and give up the names of their cohorts to save themselves, but most of them simply battled their own confusion, refusing to believe that Voldemort could really be gone.


Several of the captured Death Eaters had claimed to be under the Imperius curse, but their claims were met with deaf ears, and they were either slain or packed off to holding facilities before they could be sent to Azkaban.


Ginny had yet to see anyone from her family, and she waited on tenterhooks for any news. She and her group had all been treated when they’d first arrived, but only Ron and Harry had been admitted. The curse that had struck Ron had done a large amount of internal damage. The Healers had patched him up and repaired his broken wrist, but they’d insisted he needed to stay in bed for a couple days. Everyone had agreed that it would be best to keep the boys in one room. This way, the Ministry could monitor their visitors, and Hermione and Ginny could keep an eye on both of them. Hermione had curled up in a chair by Ron’s bed, and they’d both been sleeping peacefully for hours.


Ginny wished she could do the same. She’d managed to drift off at one point during the night, but her uneasy sleep had been plagued by strange dreams. Professor Dumbledore had appeared and told her it was down to her to save Harry. She supposed it was simply her anxiety playing havoc on her mind, but she still couldn’t shake the dream.


She wrung her hands, staring at Harry’s pale and bruised face. The Healers insisted that it wasn’t the injuries that he’d received during the battle that kept him unconscious – although they were many and vast – it was the Draught of Living Death that he’d ingested that was keeping him from regaining consciousness. His vital signs all showed that he was alive, but none of their scans had picked up any brainwave activity.


They said it was a unique case, and they weren’t entirely certain how long it would take him to wake up. Ginny suspected that unique case meant they just didn’t know. The side effects of the antidote they’d given him were nausea and fever. The potion forced his body to fight in order to expel the poisons, so even after he’d regained consciousness, Harry was in for a rough recovery. Ginny couldn’t even bring herself to think about what the lack of brain activity could mean. It was simply more than she could bear at the moment.


The Healers still didn’t know anything about the Horcrux that had resided within Harry’s soul. Ginny had nearly blurted everything when they’d begun examining him, but Hermione held her back, insisting it was better not to reveal anything about the Horcruxes lest any other Dark Lord wanna-be’s got any ideas. Ginny knew she had a point but would only agree to remain silent unless it looked as if they couldn’t treat Harry. Hermione readily accepted this condition.


Although she’d known what was supposed to happen when Harry caught that Snitch and uttered the Killing Curse, Ginny had been completely unprepared for the sheer agony that Harry underwent. His scar, which had been extremely red and hot to the touch, literally burst as the dark piece of Tom’s soul was expelled. It had bled profusely, but he hadn’t even appeared to notice. And then Snape…


Ginny scowled as she remembered how her former Potions master had attempted to curse Harry when he was too weak to defend himself. Leticia had promised that Snape would be transported directly to Azkaban, but without the Dementors there, Ginny thought that was too good for him.


Her face softened as she glanced over the bed and watched Harry sleep. She was still having a hard time believing it was really over. She picked up his limp hand and brushed her lips across his bruised knuckles. His long, slender fingers seemed almost delicate despite his calloused skin. They suited Harry – something soft and vulnerable beneath a tough outer shell.


She sank into the chair beside his bed once again, resting her head in her hands. A soft voice sounding from the doorway startled her.


"Am I intruding?"


Ginny looked up quickly to see a tired and drawn Leticia Warbanks. Stray wisps of peppered hair had pulled loose from the bun she wore at the nape of her neck. Something told Ginny that it was very rare for anyone to see Leticia in this disheveled state.


"No, Mrs. Warbanks. Come in," Ginny said, smiling tiredly. She sat up straight, suddenly feeling very awkward.


"My dear, I told you to call me Leticia," the elder woman said, smiling kindly as she tiptoed past Hermione and took the chair on the other side of Harry’s bed.


Ginny smiled uncomfortably, causing Leticia to laugh outright.


"In all fairness, I should be the one offering you the salutation of respect," she said, raising a perfectly arched eyebrow. "After all, it was you young people who freed us all from this tyranny."


"It was Harry," Ginny replied, her gaze flicking back to the sleeping figure on the bed.


"Has there been any change?" Leticia asked quietly, careful not to wake Ron or Hermione.


"No," Ginny whispered, blinking the moisture from her eyes.


Leticia nodded, pursing her lips. "I’ve placed a guard outside this room and given him the list of names you approved for entrance."


Ginny’s eyes widened in alarm. "Has there been an attempt already?"


"No, not at all. I suspect it will take some time for the scattered remains of the Death Eaters to regroup, if they ever do," Leticia replied. "I’m more worried about the press. They’ve reorganized and are growing desperate for a statement."


Ginny let out an exasperated breath, blowing her fringe in the air. "He couldn’t give a statement even if that’s what he wanted to do!"


"No. And as soon as they realize that, it will be you, your brother, and Miss Granger whom they’ll be seeking," Leticia said.


"Better us than him," Ginny mumbled.


A gentle smile lit Leticia’s stern face, softening it. "You’re very protective of him. I hope he appreciates it."


Ginny shrugged. "He’s been through a lot."


The smile slipped from Leticia’s face, and she nodded gravely. "I’ll handle the reporters as best I can until he’s stronger. He will have to give a statement eventually if he ever hopes to have any peace."


"Is there any news from Hogwarts?" Ginny asked, not particularly caring what the reporters wanted at the moment.


"The Death Eaters have been contained, and some of the wounded are beginning to arrive. I’m sorry I don’t have anything more specific for you," Leticia replied.


Ginny’s shoulders slumped. She desperately wanted some news about her family and had to blink repeatedly to keep her eyes from filling. For the first time, she understood her mother’s obsessive need for that family clock. She nearly jumped out of her skin when the door burst open again. She grasped her wand and waved in frantically at the intruder.


"Mum!" she said, flabbergasted.


"Ginny," her mother cried, stopping short when she saw Leticia sitting in the chair opposite Ginny. Hermione shifted in her sleep, but she didn’t wake.


"Hello, Molly," Leticia said softly. "Ginny was just filling me in on some of the details."


"Oh, Ginny! You’re all right," her mother said, collecting her wits and rushing into the room to gather Ginny into her arms.


Ginny buried her face into her mum’s shoulder and breathed deeply. Even after a battle, her mother still managed to smell of warm bread. Ginny suddenly missed the Burrow more than she had at anytime during the entire war. She wanted to go home.


"What happened?" she and her mother both asked simultaneously.


Laughing and crying at the same time, her mum swiped at Ginny’s tears and led her back to her chair between the two beds. "Are you hurt?" she asked, touching the red skin on Ginny’s shoulder that was revealed when her shirt pulled back as they hugged.


"It’s just a cut. The Healers already mended it," Ginny said. "What happened at Hogwarts?"


"What about Ron?" her mother asked, still not answering Ginny’s question. Her gaze swept the sleeping figure of her son, looking for signs of damage.


"Here, take my chair," Leticia said, rising. "I’ve got other things to check on, and you have catching up to do."


"Thank you, Leticia," her mother said as the other woman bid them farewell.


"Ron’s all right," Ginny replied. "He had some injuries, but nothing they couldn’t fix. He has this scar on his chest right underneath his armpit, and he told the Healers he wanted to keep it."


"He what?" her mother shrieked, causing Hermione to shift and turn her head to the other side before she resettled once again.


Her mum had visibly paled when Ginny had mentioned Ron’s injuries, but her temper was getting the better of her. "What is he thinking? Why would he want to keep such a thing?" she asked huffily.


"Since Harry and I already have scars, he wasn’t going to be left out," Ginny said, chuckling at the memory. "He said his isn’t as fancy as a lightening bolt, but Weasleys are used to being frugal."


Her mother frowned and folded her arms. "You and Hermione are all right, though?" she asked, her head turning as she inspected the two girls.


"The Healers took care of us, Mum. Don’t worry," Ginny replied, knowing it was the same as asking the other woman not to breathe.


"What about Harry?" her mother asked, flinching when she looked at his unnaturally still form.


"They don’t know yet," Ginny whispered, her eyes filling again. "He hasn’t regained consciousness since it all happened."


Her mother jumped up and once again gathered Ginny in her arms. "There, there. It’s all right. Not to worry – he’ll be fine," she said soothingly.


Ginny shifted in her chair, allowing her mother to sit beside her. The chair really wasn’t made for two people, but at the moment, Ginny really didn’t mind the close quarters.


"He ripped Harry apart, Mum," she said, shuddering as she remembered the battle at the Ministry.


"They said…I mean…the rumor is," her mother said, faltering.


"Harry killed Tom," Ginny said flatly, a single tear slowly dripping from her cheek. She’d frozen in place when Voldemort’s body had transformed back into the face she’d once known. She’d only managed to shake off the trance when Harry collapsed. Even now, thinking about Tom Riddle caused her to want to run and hide.


"I was told they dueled right in the Atrium at the Ministry," her mother said.


Ginny forcibly shook off the memories trying to claim her. "Not exactly. It was in the Department of Mysteries. Tom followed Harry there, and they…I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s dead and good riddance, only he did his damn utmost to take Harry with him."


"But it’s over now, and we’ll all be certain to help Harry recover. He can really live now, Ginny. We all can," her mother said, bristling.


They fell silent as a Healer entered the room. She was a middle-aged witch with light brown hair and a pear-shaped figure. She hovered by Ron’s side momentarily, waving her wand over his sleeping form. She appeared pleased with the results, for she nodded in a self-satisfied way before moving toward Harry.


She waved her wand over him the same way she had done to Ron, only this time the results made her frown.


"Is everything all right?" her mother asked, voicing Ginny’s concern.


"Your son is mending nicely, Mrs. Weasley," the Healer replied. "There’s still no change in Mr. Potter, although it is time for another Restorative Potion."


She slid her sturdy arm beneath Harry’s shoulders and lifted him slightly. His head lolled to the side, but with a practiced hand, the Healer took a phial from her tray and poured it down his throat. He made choking sounds and some of the thick purple fluid dribbled down his chin, but she quickly uttered an Anti-Gagging Spell, and the rest of the potion slid down Harry’s throat.


Ginny waited for the Healer to leave, keeping a close watch on Harry and barely daring to breathe. She’d give anything to see his bright green eyes looking back at her at the moment, but he remained still.


"What happened at Hogwarts, Mum?" she asked, sighing. "Why won’t you tell me?"


"I’m not hiding anything from you, Ginny," her mother said, pulling her tight. "I simply don’t know much myself, and I’m trying not to think about it."


Breathing very hard, her mother ran her hand on Ginny’s hair, patting her with a shaky hand. "Hermione’s message reached us in the common room at about the same time we heard the wards come down. Most everyone went outside, but I went up to the hospital wing with Poppy to prepare to treat the injuries."


Ginny sniffled, searching her mother’s face.


"After it was all over, I left Poppy back at Hogwarts and came here with George," her mother said, her lower lip trembling.


"George?" Ginny asked, rasping, a leaden feeling consuming her stomach.


Her mother swiped a tear from her eye. "Both he and Shannon were badly Cursed. George was the worst, so Poppy sent him ahead while she tried to tend Shannon," she said.


"Why didn’t she just send both of them?" Ginny asked, finding it hard to take a breath.


"The hospital still isn’t running at full strength, Ginny, and there are a lot of injuries. I know a large number of the Aurors were also hurt, not to mention the townspeople in Hogsmeade," her mother said, sighing.


"What about Dad?" Ginny asked, biting her lip.


"I don’t know. I couldn’t find him, so I know he never came up to the hospital wing, but-" her mum broke off with a sniffle, burying her face in her hands.


"He’s all right, Mum," Ginny said, wrapping her arm around her mother’s back and patting it gently. She felt slightly disconcerted by this sudden role reversal.


"What’s wrong with George?" she asked, trying to distract both herself and her mother from dark thoughts about her dad.


"The Healers are working on him now. They said they’d come and get me here when I could see him," her mum said, wiping her nose. Her eyes were very red, and Ginny could see the effort it took to pull herself together. "Anastasia Parkinson saved both George and Shannon."


"Mrs. Parkinson?" Ginny asked, nonplussed.


"She was frantic when Dudley told us that Harry and Pansy were missing. Do you know what happened to Pansy?" her mum asked.


"She’s dead," Ginny replied flatly.


"Oh!" her mother gasped, putting her hand on her chest. "Poor Anastasia."


"Pansy betrayed Harry and gave him to Voldemort," Ginny said, gritting her teeth. No matter the circumstances, she could find no compassion for Pansy Parkinson at the moment.


"She what?" her mother asked, stunned. Two high points of color rose on her cheeks.


"She was trying to save Draco, but Voldemort, of course, reneged on their deal. I don’t know the whole story. There wasn’t enough time for Harry to tell us," Ginny said.


"How did Harry get away?" her mother asked.


"It’s a long story, and it doesn’t really matter now. You said Mrs. Parkinson saved George?" Ginny asked, sagging back against the chair. She could feel her exhaustion catching up with her as she rested her head on her mother’s shoulder.


"Anastasia ran outside with everyone else, determined to find Pansy. When she saw the Death Eater attacking the children, she turned her own wand on him – and she knew who he was, but she killed him, anyway. She said she wouldn’t allow another mother to feel what she was feeling," her mother said with watery eyes. "Oh, she’ll be devastated."


Ginny couldn’t help the grin that pulled at the corner of her mouth as her mother referred to her of-age brothers as ‘children’. Some things would never change, and she found she was glad for it.


"What about Iris? Is she okay?" Ginny asked.


"I don’t know. She was told to stay inside, but she doesn’t listen any better than my children do," her mother said, frowning.


Ginny snorted, unabashed.


"I can’t believe it’s finally over," her mum whispered.


"I know," Ginny replied. "I’ve been thinking the same thing all night."


"When it ended the last time – during the first war, I’d already lost my brothers by the end, and you kids were all babies. We celebrated when we heard the news like everyone else, but it wasn’t quite the same sort of…anxious relief," her mother said, smiling wistfully. Her gaze roamed to Harry’s heavily bruised face sleeping on the pillow next to their chair. "Harry was just a larger-than-life storybook hero. After it was over, I never really considered the true implications for him. Now that I’m sitting here worrying about the rest of my family, I can see the other side of the story."


Ginny sniffled. "The other side?"


"That while we all celebrated and praised his victory over evil, he was a little boy who was left all alone. That’s happening now. People are out cavorting in the streets, while there are many families just like ours holding their breath and waiting for news," her mother said softly, dabbing her eye with a handkerchief.


She and her mother sat together in that lumpy chair, their heads each resting on the other until they’d nearly drifted to sleep. When the door to Harry’s room opened, they both turned with a start and were relieved to see her dad and Charlie stroll inside. Charlie was limping, and the clothes he wore were singed, while her dad had a bandage above his left eye and his arm was in a sling.


"Arthur!" her mother shouted, her voice cracking. She jumped from the chair and rushed into his arms.


He grabbed her and kissed her hard, causing both Ginny and Charlie to look away, grimacing. Charlie scooped up Ginny, nearly squeezing the life out of her.


"Are you all right?" she asked, noticing him wince as he put her down.


"Yeah," he said gruffly. "I’ve just left one wound unhealed, and you managed to touch it."


"Why is it unhealed?" her mother asked, finally releasing their father and turning her owl-sharp gaze upon them.


"So he could keep the scar," her father said excitedly, pulling up his own sleeve. "Look!"


He showed them a long, thin, jagged scar running from his hand all the way up to his elbow.


"The Healers downstairs told us about Ron keeping his, and we couldn’t let him nick all the glory," Charlie said, conjuring several more chairs. Ginny knew that had it been a normal situation, this many visitors would never have been allowed in the hospital room. Today was anything but normal, however.


Charlie glanced over at a sleeping Ron proudly, beaming at his unconscious younger brother.


"Honestly, Arthur," her mother scolded in a hushed voice. "I was planning to have a talk with Ron about this ridiculous idea. He doesn’t need you encouraging him."


"It’s not ridiculous, Mum," Ginny whispered, smiling brightly at her father. "I think it’s brilliant, and I know Harry will be touched."


Her mother’s eyes drifted warily to Harry’s sleeping face, and she visibly deflated. How could anyone deny him anything right now?


"All right, Ginny?" her dad asked, pulling her into a hug. His fingers lightly traced the scar on Ginny’s hairline.


"I’m fine, just tired," she replied.


"George is still with the Healers," her mother said. "Do you know anything about Fred, Bill or Fleur?"


"I haven’t seen them," her dad said, his face sobering. "We arrived with Shannon and Hagrid."


"Hagrid?" Ginny asked, gasping. "Is he okay?"


"He’s really in bad shape. Those Death Eaters gave him a thrashing before we realized what was happening. It was Grawp who saved him," Charlie said.


"You know about Grawp?" Ginny asked blankly.


"Contrary to popular belief," her mother said, rolling her eyes, "some of the adults are aware of what goes on at that school, young lady. Yes, Hagrid kept the Order well informed about Grawp."


"When Grawp saw them hurting Hagrid, he went wild," her father said, shuddering. "He’d decimated half the Death Eaters before the rest of us even got out there."


"Even then we didn’t have to do much. They had already begun turning on each other," Charlie said.


"What do you mean?" Ginny asked.


"It started with Narcissa Malfoy," Charlie replied. "She threw a wobbly when she heard Draco had gone after Pansy with you lot. She tore out of the castle and fled toward the Death Eaters."


"Toward them?" Ginny asked incredulously.


"Yeah. It was as if she thought Draco and Pansy would be with them," Charlie said, scratching his head.


"I wonder if she knew," Ginny muttered, speaking more to herself.


"Knew what?" her father asked.


"Pansy sold Harry out and delivered him to Voldemort," Ginny replied.


"What?" both Charlie and her dad shouted, glancing at Harry as if to confirm he was really there.


"D’you think Mrs. Malfoy knew?" Ginny asked. "Because Draco didn’t."


"I don’t know, and it’s likely we never will," her dad said, sighing. "She and that mad sister of hers started talking – shouting at each other, really – and then Fenrir Greyback appeared out of nowhere and killed Narcissa without a word."


"What?" Ginny asked, shocked.


"Bellatrix Lestrange went ballistic. She turned and started hurling Unforgiveables at Greyback. I couldn’t believe it! I thought they were going to take each other out before we even had to get involved," Charlie said.


"Certainly none of us rushed to either of their defense," her dad said, slightly amused. "Of course, no one from their own side did, either."


"So, what happened?" Ginny asked.


"Greyback won. He killed her and then the fighting really began in earnest. I lost sight of Greyback in the crowd after that," Charlie said grimly.


"Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange are both dead," Ginny said, trying to wrap her mind around it. It certainly wasn’t the way she’d expected them to go. "Someone will have to tell Neville. He’ll want to know."


"I’ll take care of it," her father said, nodding. "Neville was there today."


"What?" Ginny asked, stunned.


"After news about the siege at Hogwarts spread, witches and wizards began Apparating to Hogsmeade from all over the country. They all said the same thing – that they’d attended Hogwarts and didn’t want to see it fall," her dad replied. "Neville arrived with a group of your DA members."


"Is he okay?" Ginny asked, feeling extraordinarily proud of her friend.


"Yeah, he was fine. I saw him with a blonde girl. I think she might have been hurt, though. She looked very confused," Charlie said.


"No, that’s Luna," Ginny said, giggling. "She always looks that way."


"All the DA really performed splendidly," her dad said.


"Someone will have to tell Draco about his mother," Ginny said, feeling uncomfortable. She was surprised to find she actually felt bad for Draco. "If he survives, that is. He was hurt really badly."


Hermione’s compassion and quick-thinking had saved Draco’s life. By Petrifying him, she’d kept his entrails from being entirely expelled, and the Healers were able to patch him back together. Vaguely, Ginny wondered how the Slytherin would feel about owing his life to Hermione.


"Since when do you care what happens to Draco Malfoy?" Charlie asked incredulously.


"Since he helped Harry beat Voldemort," Ginny replied, shrugging.


"He helped, you say?" her father asked, his eyes opening so wide that his glasses slipped down his nose.


"Yeah, he did. He was upset that Voldemort killed Pansy, so he offered to help. It was a good thing too, because Harry couldn’t have done it alone, particularly not in the condition he was in at the time," Ginny said.


"He killed Pansy?" her father asked, wincing. Although her dad had grown accustomed to all of them actually saying Voldemort’s name, and he no longer winced when he heard it, he still couldn’t bring himself to actually say it.


"What do you mean?" Charlie asked. "What happened, anyway? I heard Harry killed him with his bare hands."


"He killed him with a wand," Ginny said, rolling her eyes.


She met her father’s eyes over Harry’s bed and knew he understood what that meant and which curse Harry used. She hadn’t really thought about it at the time, but she couldn’t imagine Harry would get in trouble for it since everyone knew Voldemort had to be stopped. Besides, it wasn’t as if there even was a Ministry to enforce the rules at the moment. Her dad blinked and waited for her to continue. He obviously wasn’t going to make a fuss about it.


"Pansy tricked him into disarming her, and her wand was a Portkey. Voldemort was waiting at the other end," Ginny said, wondering if she should just wait for all her family to be together so she wouldn’t have to keep repeating this story. Then she thought that if it meant that the rest of her family could all survive, she’d gladly repeat it every time. "Harry got away, but not before Snape poured a phial of the Draught of Living Death down his throat."


"What?" her family shouted together, causing Hermione to sit up straight, blinking groggily. She stared in confusion at the mass of Weasleys who had infiltrated the hospital room while she slept.


"There was no time to get the full story. Harry said he spit it out, but he was obviously unwell. He couldn’t sit still or the effects became worse," Ginny said, shuddering as she remembered how pale and sickly Harry had looked when he first appeared in the Death Room. "That’s why he’s still covered in bruises. The Healers said they won’t disappear until the potion is completely out of his system."


"Sweet Merlin," her mother said, raising her hand to her throat. She jumped from her chair and proceeded to unnecessarily straighten the blankets covering Harry.


"Mr. and Mrs. Weasley," Hermione said, finally awake. "You’re all right! Ron will be so happy to see you all here and safe. He was so worried."


The door swung open again, and Bill poked his head inside. Relief washed over his face as he counted the number of redheads in the room. Fleur kicked the door open the rest of the way with her foot and helped Bill inside. Although he was covered in new cuts and obviously in pain, Ginny noticed that he seemed far more concerned with Fleur’s well-being. She didn’t appear injured and instead tried to steer Bill to an empty chair.


"Bill! Fleur!" her mother shouted, causing Ron to stir. He sat up quickly, blinking and turning his head from side to side. Hermione got up and took his hand, reassuring him.


"I’m all right, Mum," Bill said, grunting and dragging his leg behind him. "No. You take it, Fleur." He nodded toward the chair where Fleur was trying to get him to sit.


Rolling her eyes and tossing her head in the air, Fleur sat down, muttering, "Zo stubborn."


It was only once she was seated that Ginny realized how pale and tired Fleur looked. A lot of her vitality appeared to be missing, and Ginny became uneasy with the odd glances that kept passing between Bill and his wife.


"All right, son?" Mr. Weasley asked, his eyes flickering to Fleur speculatively.


"I’m brilliant, Dad," Bill replied, his appearance denying his words.


"Where’s Fred?" Ron asked, rubbing his eyes. He and Hermione had been whispering, and Ginny surmised that Hermione had been filling him in about everyone else.


"Haven’t seen him," Bill said uneasily.


"What happened to you?" Charlie asked.


"Ran into an old foe," Bill replied, clenching his jaw. "Fenrir Greyback."


Her mother gasped, her hand reaching out to touch the fresh wounds on Bill’s face.


"It’s all right, Mum. Again, it wasn’t a full moon, and he didn’t get nearly the chance to do as much damage as he did the last time," Bill replied.


"You killed him?" Charlie asked.


"Non," Fleur said, raising her chin. "I did."


Everyone in the room save Bill gaped at her. He beamed proudly at his defiant bride. "She was amazing. If she only has a quarter Veela blood, I never want to cross a real one."


Fleur blushed and kissed Bill’s hand.


"What happened?" Ginny asked, glancing back and forth between them.


"I don’t know exactly. Fleur came over the hill and saw us fighting and she….she sort of transformed. She looked like some kind of bird of prey, and she just attacked him. She ripped him apart, and then she said the most amazing thing," Bill said, staring with adoration at his wife, who murmured something softly.


"What was that?" her dad asked, his eyes twinkling oddly.


"I said zat no one is going to take away ze fazer of my bebe," Fleur replied, her nose in the air.


It was as if her mother knew what Fleur was going to say. She leaped from her chair and wrapped both Bill and Fleur in a crushing embrace before Ginny had even comprehended what Fleur’s words meant. Her father and Charlie slapped a beaming Bill on the back, while her mother hovered over Fleur.


"Congratulations," Hermione said, smiling softly.


Ginny found she suddenly had to blink her eyes to dispel the moisture. She was going to be an aunt. Something good and beautiful was already emerging from all the darkness that had plagued their lives for so long. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Fleur’s news filled Ginny’s heart with hope for the future.


"I’m so happy for you," she choked, throwing her arms around her eldest brother. Despite his injuries, Bill lifted her in the air and squeezed her tightly. "Thanks, Squirt," he said, gruffly.


"Wait…you mean…you’re having his baby?" Ron asked, staring blankly at Fleur. It was as if his groggy mind simply couldn’t wrap itself around the fact.


Bill and Charlie laughed heartily.


"Dad did give you the talk about the birds and bees, didn’t he, Ron? Or in Dad’s case, the one about plugs and batteries?" Charlie asked, laughing.


Ron’s ears colored brilliantly. "Shut it, you," he said, frowning.


Ginny eased herself towards Fleur and threw her arms around her sister-in-law. She may have taken awhile to warm up to this woman who had pushed her way into Ginny’s family, but as far as Ginny was concerned, Fleur had irrevocably won her place in all of their hearts.


"Congratulations, Fleur," she said, her eyes dropping to examine Fleur’s flat stomach.


"Zank you, Ginny. My zon weel need zome cousins to keep him company, zo you all have zome catching up to do," Fleur replied.


Both Hermione and Ginny colored brightly, and her mother cleared her throat. "There’s plenty of time for more weddings now that the war is over. Let’s just take the time to enjoy this first grandbaby," she said firmly.


Ginny saw her father start coughing, turning an alarming shade of red.


"So, what’s this I hear about Harry?" Bill asked, his eyes glancing at Harry’s still figure. "One of the attendants said he battled Voldemort atop one of the dragons from Gringotts."


"Oh, he did not!" Ginny exclaimed, exasperated.


Before she had time to clarify, the hospital door swung open, and a male Healer entered. He stopped short, surprised by the number of people inside the room. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but the protective stance all of the Weasleys took around Ron’s and Harry’s beds must have dissuaded him.


"I’m just going to see how you’re doing," he said, clearing his throat and waving his wand over Ron. "Everything looks good, but you’ll still have to stay in that bed."


Ron scowled, and Ginny suspected the Healer was merely trying to reassert his control rather than any real need for Ron to stay in bed. When the Healer checked Harry, he frowned in the same way the other Healers had done. As he picked a phial off his tray, Ginny hurried over and gently slipped her arm beneath Harry’s shoulders, raising him slightly.


The Healer’s eyes widened in surprise, but he nodded, accepting Ginny’s help. She felt her family’s eyes upon her as she gently supported Harry’s head as the Healer administered his potion and cast the Anti-Gagging Charm.


She lowered Harry back onto his pillow, gently swiping some of the potion from the corner of his mouth. Harry didn’t show any response.


Her father cleared his throat and gently squeezed Ginny’s shoulder. She turned and leaned against him, letting his strength fill her once more.


"Hey, Ron," Bill said, pulling up a trouser leg and pointing at a large and ugly arrow-shaped gash. "Check out my scar."


Charlie laughed. "Here’s mine," he said, raising his shirt to show a round wound on his chest.


"Mine’s on my arm," her dad said, pulling up his sleeve again.


"Honestly!" her mother huffed.


Ron stared at them all, perplexed.


"We couldn’t let you and Ginny be the only ones," Charlie replied, grinning.


"All ze Weasleys have them," Fleur said, pulling back her hair to show a jagged wound beneath her ear. Ginny was doubly impressed that she’d left it on her face – the same face that she’d always taken such pride in.


"You all kept scars?" Hermione asked, staring at them blankly.


"This is getting ridiculous," her mother huffed.


"No, it’s not," Ron said, beaming. "It’s a way to remember. Everyone is saying that we’ll never let anything like this happen again, but time will pass, and it will fade. This is a way to keep the memory alive. You can’t push it aside if there is a reminder staring you in the face everyday."


Hermione stared at Ron with tears shining in her eyes. "I don’t have one," she whispered.


"Don’t worry, Hermione. When Ronnie here finally gets his act together and asks you to marry him, we’ll just have to take you out and Curse you," Charlie said, grinning.


Hermione’s eyes widened in alarm before Ginny burst into giggles.


"Charlie!" her mum said, slapping his arm although her eyes were twinkling.


"And you do have your own sort of scar, Hermione," Ginny said. "Your hair is different."


Hermione pulled at her less-bushy curls. "That is true," she said, smiling happily.


Her dad patted her mum on the hand, smiling fondly. "Now, if Fred would just walk through that door, and George and Harry would hurry and wake, we’ll truly have something to celebrate," he said.


"Does anyone know where Fred was during all the fighting?" Hermione asked.


"George would’ve," Charlie said quietly, and a somber mood fell across the inhabitants of the room.


"Maybe he finally worked up the balls to kiss Iris, and she Hexed him," Bill said, attempting to lighten the mood.


"Bill!" her mum said, scowling.


"Iris wouldn’t Hex him," Fleur said, smiling knowingly. "Eets more likely she was ze one to jump him. You Weasley boys take too much time to take action in matters of ze heart."


All the Weasleys in the room stared pointedly at Ron, even her mum.


"What?" Ron said indignantly, his ears burning.


Her mother sniffled, rose from her chair and threw her arms around Ron. "Oh, my baby boy," she cried.


Ron shifted uncomfortably but patted her back nonetheless. "I’m fine, Mum," he said.


The door swung open and the final missing Weasley appeared, looking pale and grave and far too serious for Ginny’s liking. It wasn’t right to see Fred without a mischievous twinkle in his eye.


"Fred!" her dad said, rising quickly but freezing on the spot as he caught a good look at Fred’s face. "What is it, son?"


"Katie Bell is working here; I saw her when I arrived. She said to tell you that you could see George now. They’re just waiting for him to wake up," Fred said, his voice deadened. He had a long gash on the side of his face, and his arm was also in a sling.


"What aren’t you saying, Fred?" her mother asked, holding her breath.


"They couldn’t save his leg," Fred replied. "They had to remove it below the knee."


A chorus of gasps and startled exclamations sounded across the hospital room. Her father’s loud clear voice rang out, silencing them all.


"But he’s alive. We all are, which is far more than we expected earlier this morning. George is going to survive, and he has all of us around him to help him cope. Molly, let’s go see our son."


Her mother nodded and grasped her father’s hand. The two of them left the room in silence, their heads held high. Ginny took a deep breath. Her dad was right. The remainder of her family had survived the war, and that was reason for celebration. George could be fitted with an artificial leg that Muggles would be hard pressed to identify as a replacement.


She shook her head. She’d grown too accustomed to Mad-Eye’s wooden peg leg. Her dad had told her that he only used that because he liked the effect. No, George would survive this, and they’d all help him adapt. Just like Harry would survive it. He had to – it wouldn’t be right otherwise.


Staring across the room at the faces of all her siblings plus Hermione and Fleur, Ginny met their dazed stares with one of her own. It was over. It was truly over.



**--**--



Ginny released an exasperated breath, blowing her hair out of her face. She glanced through the large, heavily-draped window at the approaching storm clouds. It wouldn’t be long before the rain began to fall. She thought the dismal gray skies better suited her mood than the bright sunshine of the past few days.


It had been nearly a week since Voldemort’s defeat, and the Wizarding world was still celebrating, although its savior remained unconscious. The hospital staff and administrators had regained organizational control and had moved Harry to the Minister’s suite. Apparently, when Cornelius Fudge had been in office, he’d had regular treatments for a recurring boil on his foot, and he’d arranged for the elaborate room during his stays.


Ginny knew it was something Harry would hate when he realized it, but she had to agree with everyone else that it was safer to keep him away from the public. The reporters had been relentless, and even the staff and general public had tired to sneak in to steal glances at him.


While she waited, Ginny was sitting for her end-of-term exams. Hagrid was acting as her sponsor, although he was currently asleep and snoring loudly on the red velvet couch in front of Harry’s bed. He’d had nearly every bone in his body broken, but he insisted he was too tough to be kept down for long. He was being released from the hospital in one more day, and Ginny knew she’d miss his optimistic presence terribly.


Her eyes roamed the elaborate room, finally resting on the Soul Balance that Hermione had brought from Hogwarts. The strange silver instrument rested on the table beside Harry’s bed. Hermione insisted it would make Harry feel better to see the proof that Voldemort was really gone from his soul. Professor Dumbledore’s portrait had explained how to use it, but Hermione hadn’t got any readings when she’d used it on Harry. It was as if there was no soul inside him at all. Hermione planned on trying it again after he awoke.


Ginny shuddered and looked away, blocking the thought from her mind. She just wanted him to open his eyes and smile that magnificent smile, but she was beginning to fear it wouldn’t happen.


She finished the last of her exams and pushed the parchment away from her with a sigh. Her mum would be happy, anyway. Hagrid, Draco, and Harry were the last of their party still in hospital. George had gone back to the Burrow two days ago. Ginny had never been so happy as the day she’d moved home with her family. The wards at the Burrow had been reset, checked, and double-checked and since there had been no sign of any renegade Death Eater activity, her parents had decided it was time to go home.


She’d been Flooing to St. Mungo’s each day to sit with Harry. Ron and Hermione had been there, too, although they had more freedom to come and go since they could Apparate. Hermione had moved back home with her parents for the first time since before her sixth year.


George was adjusting remarkably well to the loss of his leg. He had an appointment scheduled to be fitted with an artificial replacement, but he had to wait until the tissue healed completely. He kept joking that it was much better than if he’d lost a hand. This way, he could still keep working and other people had to bring his stuff to him.


It was the rest of the family that was having a harder time with it. Ginny had noticed how they all – herself included – walked on eggshells around him, uncertain what to do or say. It was Fred who had adapted the quickest. At first, he’d made a great show of bending to George’s every whim and demand, but soon had given up on that and told George to do for himself.


Her mum had been scandalized, shouting at Fred for his insensitivity. Somehow, however, Ginny suspected that it was exactly what George had been waiting for. He still enjoyed taking the mickey out of them on occasion and seeing how far he could push their patience, but for the most part, he was already becoming self-sufficient even without the artificial limb.


Everyone knew how remarkably similar Fred and George were, but Ginny knew there were also some distinct differences. She supposed that if one of them had to lose his leg, it was better that it was George.


She flushed, feeling horrible for the thought, even if it were true. Fred was always, by far, the more exuberant of the pair. He simply couldn’t sit still. Fred was the idea man, while George could make things happen. Fred would think up a product or some silly new invention, and George was the one who could make it work. They were quite a team, her brothers.


Although Shannon had moved home, she was a frequent visitor at the Burrow and still worked at the twins’ shop. Diagon Alley was getting ready for a grand re-opening in another week, and the shop needed to be restocked. In fact, Ginny wouldn’t be surprised if George was the next one to announce his engagement.


Ginny hadn’t seen as much of Iris. Mrs. Parkinson had taken Pansy’s death very badly, and Iris was trying to help her cope. The two of them had returned to their own family home, but Fred told Ginny that Mrs. Parkinson was planning on selling it and starting over somewhere else. That, at least, let Ginny know that Fred was still in contact with Iris.


Draco Malfoy was also still hospitalized. Although the Healers had managed to save him, they said it would take some time for his insides to function properly again. After he’d regained consciousness, he’d become extremely sullen and bitter over the loss of his mother. Ginny had visited him once, but he made it clear that she wasn’t welcome, and she hadn’t tried to go back.


She’d seen Dudley visiting his room several times. The Dursleys had returned to Surry, but Dudley was obviously keeping his ties with the Wizarding world. Dudley had even stopped by to check on Harry once, but his outright fascination with the spells used during the battle and how Harry had gained the power to defeat Tom unnerved her. There was something about pudgy Dudley Dursley that made her very uncomfortable.


Ginny glanced up as the first drops of rain spattered against the window. She watched as tiny rivulets began to trickle down the pane, lulled by the calming sound. Allowing some of her tension to ease, she wasn’t quite aware when Harry began to move. A slight moan finally caught her attention, causing her eyes to widen as she became fully alert.


She watched his eyelids began to flutter – something that hadn’t happened at all over the past week.


Barely able to breathe, she reached out to run her fingers through his hair. "Harry," she whispered.


His head moved slightly. "Mum," he moaned.


Ginny pulled back, her heart racing. Mum? Harry didn’t even know his mum, poor thing. It seemed odd that he would be calling for her. Her heart began to race, the fear of what damage might have been caused to his brain bubbling to the surface. She prayed he was only dreaming. Her heart lurched, and she wanted to choke on her grief over the idea that Harry was dreaming of his dead mum. Her helplessness was overpowering.


"Harry, can you hear me?" she gasped, sinking to the floor beside his bed because her legs refused to support her. "Open your eyes, love."


His eyes fluttered once again before slowly blinking open. He squinted and shut them against the brightness of the room.


"Nox," Ginny whispered tearfully, and the voice-activated overhead lights dimmed.


Harry slowly opened his eyes once again. The usually vivid green orbs were dull and clouded with pain. He furrowed his brow as he fought the confusion that was overwhelming him.


"It’s all right, Harry. We’re at St. Mungo’s," she whispered.


He was still covered in a mass of deep purple bruises. The Healers said that the Draught of Living Death had simply slowed down all his internal organs, hindering his ability to heal. Now that he was awake, things would finally improve.


His eyes rolled back slightly, but he blinked and tried to focus. A thin sheen of sweat broke out on his forehead and upper lip as he struggled to gain his bearings.


"Relax, Harry. Everything’s going to be okay," Ginny said soothingly.


His breathing became increasingly labored, and his eyes grew wide with panic. She could feel his body trembling slightly, although he was still too weak to put up much of a struggle. His lips looked dry and cracked, and he tried repeatedly to wet them.


"Hagrid!" she hissed, waking the sleeping half-giant.


"What? Wha’s goin’ on?" he mumbled sleepily.


"Hagrid, Harry’s awake," Ginny said, trying to convey her urgency to him without alarming Harry. "Go get one of the Healers, please. Hurry."


"’Arry?" Hagrid boomed, jumping from the couch and lumbering toward them. "Blimey, ‘arry! It’s good ter see ya again."


Hagrid’s appearance seemed to alarm Harry more than comfort him, and he began gasping for breath.


"Go now, Hagrid," Ginny said, taking both Harry’s hands in her own. "It’s all right, Harry. Everything is okay. You’re here with me, and you’re going to be fine. Ron and Hermione are fine, too," she said, hoping that would calm him.


He gripped her hand tightly with his right hand, but his left remained slack and unmoving in her hand. His left arm had been the one to receive the deep Slicing Hex, and the Healers had been worried about nerve damage.


"Just look at me, Harry. Look into my eyes and breathe with me," she said, locking her eyes on his panicked green ones. "I’m not going to leave you. I’m right here."


She wasn’t even certain if he could hear her, but his body relaxed slightly, never breaking eye contact with her. She could see her own face reflected in his wide, trusting eyes.


A team of Healers burst into the room, pushing her out of the way and converging around his bed. As soon as she was pushed back, she could hear his breathing grow labored again.


The lead Healer waved her wand over him while two others tried to calm him.


"No," he gasped, weakly attempting to push the wand away.


A fourth Healer gathered several potions and began trying to pour them down Harry’s throat. He spit out the first one, his head thrashing from side to side. His voice was hoarse and scratchy, and she couldn’t understand his words.


"You’re frightening him!" Ginny snarled, pushing her way between them and re-claiming her place by Harry’s side. Taking his good hand in hers, she clutched it to her face.


"Please move aside, Miss. We need to tend to his injuries," a young Healer said arrogantly.


"Yeah, you’re doing a really good job of that," she said sarcastically. "The last thing he remembers is fighting Voldemort for his life. Before that, he was being held prisoner and had a potion that would relatively render him a zombie poured down his throat. Of course he’s fighting you! He’ll calm down if you let him know you don’t mean him any harm."


All four of the Healers gasped when she said ‘Voldemort’. One of them even took a step back, raising her hands protectively in front of her face. Ginny was livid.


"Oh, for Merlin’s sake, he’s dead!" she snapped. She furiously spun away from the Healers, instead turning her attention back to Harry. "Listen to me, Harry. It’s okay. They’re here to help you."


His eyes moved around the room wildly. She kept a grip on his good hand, while using her other to stroke the side of his face. She whispered calm, soothing words, and he began to regain control of his breathing.


He looked up at her – desperate and bewildered – and her throat tightened, wanting this to end for him. She knew her presence was calming him, but he still hadn’t shown any sign that he actually recognized her. She desperately wanted to ask him if he knew her, but understood that would sound shallow and vain in front of all the other possible health concerns he was facing. She couldn’t help the feeling, however.


She wanted him back – and she wanted him with her.


Harry calmed enough to allow the Healers to administer their potions. He took them meekly, although never letting go of Ginny’s hand. The Healers cleared out of the room, several of them lingering unnecessarily. They said that the Healing potions would finally begin to work now that he was conscious, but he was obviously exhausted.


His eyes began to droop heavily. She watched, amused, as he attempted to fight the sleep that was trying to claim him.


"Shut your eyes and rest, Harry," she whispered, brushing her lips across his damp forehead. "I’ll be here when you wake."


She’d brought her bear, Snot, from home. Originally, she’d hoped it might bring Harry some comfort, but she’d found herself using it while she waited for him to wake. She rested the bear on the pillow beside him, pleading with her old faithful friend to watch over him.


Harry turned his head toward her and quickly drifted off to sleep with his face resting on Snot. Ginny continued to stroke his hair, feeling lighter than she had in days. She still had the nagging worry about his mind, but there was one thing that brightened her thoughts. Every other year of Harry’s schooling, they’d sent him home battered to recover under the questionable care of the Dursleys. This year – this time – it would be different. Harry would come home to the Burrow, and all of them would see to it that he finally got all the positive attention he so deserved.



A/N: Thanks so much for all the great responses last chapter. I’m so glad most of you enjoyed it. I always think Harry deserves an opportunity like that. I really appreciate the encouragement to try something original. I went to a Children’s Authors Bootcamp over the weekend, gearing myself up to try just that. I was amazed by how much of the stuff they covered that I’d already learned in some way from writing fanfiction. This has been a wonderful experience.


There are still three chapters left, and as always, thanks to my wonderful beta, Sherylyn for being so wonderfully encouraging and catching those pesky Britishisms for me. Thanks also to KEDme, Dianne, and GhostWriters for their great support and feedback.


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