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SIYE Time:22:28 on 21st September 2017


These Cuts I Have
By melindaleo

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Category: Post-DH/AB
Characters:All
Genres: Drama
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 475
Summary: The war has been won, yet the aftershocks continue. The scattered survivors are left to pick up the pieces and find ways to move on. Join the various members of the extended Weasley family as they struggle to rebuild and cope with the consequences. And of course there are still Death Eaters left to find.
Hitcount: Story Total: 84839; Chapter Total: 3832
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Many thanks to my awesome beta, Sherylyn, for fitting this in during her hectic schedule of getting her kid off to college. I’ll be doing that next year, and trust me, the thought is terrifying.

Thanks also to all the SIYE readers who have nominated this story for a Dumbledore’s Trinket Award. I’m humbly honored.

My oldest son – the one who’s off to college next year – told me he’s embarrassed his mom writes fanfiction. Punk. I told him to back off, I was the geek before he was!




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Chapter Ten
Time Stands Still



For the first time in two days, Harry awoke alone at St. Mungo’s. Blearily, he looked around the sparse room, tamping down on a growing sense of unease. He had to pull himself together. Shame bubbled up inside him as he thought of going to pieces in front of Mr. Weasley and the Minister. The Minister! How could Kingsley have confidence he was capable of being an Auror after seeing that?

He needed to find something else on which to focus. Once he did that, these memories, or flashbacks, or whatever they were, would begin to fade. He staunchly ignored the nagging thought that it was getting worse rather than better.

Taking mental note of his condition, Harry noticed for the first time that he had awakened without a tearing pain along his side. He tentatively pulled himself to a seated position, and was pleased that it only caused a brief twinge of pain. Maybe he could get out of here now.

Maybe he could get up and have a shower.

The Healers had steadfastly ignored his requests the previous day, insisting he needed to stay off his feet to let the wound heal. Cleansing Charms, however, weren’t the same. Harry wanted the hot spray and the strong smell of soap.

Perhaps if he moved quickly enough, he could get into the washroom before anyone noticed.

No sooner had the thought crossed his mind, than the heavy outer door swung open and a Mediwitch bustled in. “Good morning, Mr. Potter.”

“Morning,” Harry grumbled.

She did the customary sweep with her wand, a pleased smile crossing her stern features. “You’re feeling much better today, I see.”

“So I can leave?” he asked.

She quirked an eyebrow at his tone. “I believe they want to keep you another day. Healer Larkin wants to develop a plan to treat that bruise on your chest.”

Harry involuntarily began rubbing the mark.

“A Potions Master has recommended a stronger balm. He also suggested there could be some psychological factors involved,” the Mediwitch said, watching him closely.

“What do you mean?” Harry asked, startled.

“The wound was inflicted during the war. I imagine having someone casting a Killing Curse at you would be rather traumatic. Some wounds have shown a propensity for lingering until the trauma is resolved,” she said.

Harry’s heart began thumping wildly. “So you think I’m a nutter now?” he demanded hotly.

“No,” she replied slowly, “but I think you’ve been through a lot.”

Harry looked away, unable to meet her eyes. Why did everyone always want him to talk about his feelings? What good would talking do? It wouldn’t change anything. He’d spent the beginning of his life being told not to ask questions and to make himself invisible. Now everyone constantly wanted him to spill his guts. It was confusing.

Except, there was that time after the Third Task that Professor Dumbledore had made him talk, and that had made him feel… if not better, at least less awful. Perhaps once he finally got up the nerve to tell Ginny everything, the bruise would heal on its own. He hoped so, anyway.

“This stays between us,” he said quietly.

He thought the Mediwitch appeared rather sad. “As you wish,” she said.

“Are any of the Weasleys here?” he asked sullenly.

“No. I sent them home last night to get some rest. There was no need to watch you sleeping. Your guard is still outside, however,” the witch replied, pouring a glass of water from the pitcher and taking the cover off his breakfast on the bedside table.

“Guard?” Harry asked, his temper rising. “No one told me there was a guard out there.”

“Well, there is,” she replied, dismissing his temper.

Harry clenched his teeth. He’d told them he wasn’t going back into hiding. He could take care of himself without some guard under an Invisibility Cloak hovering around. It’s not like they were ever there when he’d actually needed them, anyway.

“I want to talk with the Minister,” he said sourly.

“He isn’t here at the moment, but it’s early,” she replied blithely. “Would you like to use the loo on your own, or shall I cast a spell?”

“I can get up?” Harry asked, his anger deflating somewhat.

“If you’d like. The wound is healing nicely. No shower yet, but you can get up and move around briefly,” she said as if knowing where Harry’s thoughts had gone.

“Why can’t I have a shower?” he asked.

“You need another day of healing before getting it wet. Besides, you’ve been in this bed for quite some time, I don’t want you getting lightheaded if you’re in there alone. Charming as you are, I don’t want to see you here any longer than need be, Mr. Potter,” she said flippantly.

Abashed, Harry lowered his eyes.

“Are you up for the loo, then?” she asked, her tone gentle once again.

Harry nodded and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He stood up and the room tilted alarmingly. Small explosions of light flashed in his eyes. The Mediwitch grasped his arm, steadying him.

“Easy. You’ll need to move a bit slower than that to start,” she said.

Harry kept his eyes shut until the floor righted itself. He shuffled his feet across the room, extremely irritated by the weakness he felt creeping through his body from doing something as simple as walking across the floor.

When he got to the door of the loo, he panicked when he thought the Mediwitch was going to follow him inside.

She must have read his thoughts, because she smirked slightly and said, “I’ll be right outside the door if you need assistance.”

Harry relieved himself and splashed some cold water on his face as quickly as he could. By the time he was back in bed, he was decidedly winded and felt his eyes drooping. It put him in an even fouler mood.

The Mediwitch left him to sulk while he ate some of his breakfast.


He woke to the sound of a baby’s cries. Squinting, he automatically reached for his glasses on the bedside table. Andromeda Tonks sat in one of the chairs by his bed, patting Teddy’s back and trying to quiet him.

“Teddy!” Harry said, a wide smile spreading across his face as he pulled himself to a sitting position. Forgetting all about his earlier annoyance, he was delighted to see his visitors.

“Sorry, Harry,” Andromeda said, smiling weakly. “He’s been a bit fussy today. I probably shouldn’t have attempted to take him out.”

“I’m glad you did,” said Harry sincerely, reaching out his arms for the baby.

Andromeda looked warily at Harry’s still-bandaged side. “Are you certain? He’s getting heavier.”

“I want to hold him,” Harry said, pleased as she handed him the squirming bundle.
Teddy’s hair was still blue and his face was red from crying. He settled as soon as Harry rested him on his lap, curious about the new surroundings. His little blue eyes studied Harry carefully, reaching up a chubby hand to try and grab his glasses.

“Hello there, Teddy,” Harry said, still smiling. Something about this small baby made his insides feel warm. “What seems to be the problem, huh?”

Teddy smiled at the sound of Harry’s voice and his hair darkened to a jet black. Harry’s eyes widened in surprise. That was a seriously cool trick.

“Oh, thank Merlin,” Andromeda said, relieved. “I was growing weary of the blue.”

“How have things been going, Mrs. Tonks? Are you and Kreacher getting along all right?” Harry asked. He’d been slightly worried that Kreacher would balk at helping Andromeda since she’d been disowned by the Black family.

“Honestly, Harry. If we’re going to raise this child together, we’ll need to be less formal. If Andromeda is too much, why don’t you try Andi,” she scolded lightly.

At that moment, Harry was reminded not of Bellatrix, but of Sirius. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “Andi it is.”

“Kreacher has been wonderful. I can’t thank you enough,” Andromeda said.
“Your troubles are always easier to handle on a full night’s sleep. You’re looking more rested than the last time I saw you, as well.”

“Nothing but the best for my godson,” Harry said, smiling down at Teddy and ignoring her comment. He had been sleeping much better while in hospital. He vaguely wondered if the pain potion they had been giving him had some Dreamless Sleep Potion hidden in it.

“How are you feeling? I can’t believe there are some fools still carrying on with this nonsense,” Andromeda scowled.

“I’m all right,” Harry sighed. “We’ll get them eventually.”

“I understand my sister’s husband is one of the Death Eaters still on the loose,” Andi said.

“Yeah, amongst others,” Harry sighed, beginning to feel glum again. He didn’t want to think about the missing Death Eaters and their agenda, whatever that might be.

“Be careful of Rodolphus, Harry. He’s a dangerous man. He and his brother both, but especially Rodolphus. Rabastan will follow his lead, but Rodolphus is the brains of the two. He can be both volatile and vengeful,” Andromeda said seriously, grasping Harry’s arm tightly. Her fierce blue eyes bore into his.

“I’ll be on guard,” Harry promised.

“You’d best be,” Andromeda said, her eyes filling with unshed tears. “Teddy can’t lose anyone else.”

Harry nodded solemnly. She was right, this little boy had lost far too much already.

*****

Ginny took one last look around her brother’s bright orange bedroom, pleased with her effort. She didn’t think Ron’s room had been this clean since he’d returned to The Burrow. Harry would be coming home within the next day or two, and she wanted everything to be ready for him. She planned on going to the hospital for a visit shortly.

As she was hurrying down the stairs, she stopped when she heard a noise coming from the twi-… George’s room. She put her ear to the door for a moment, but she didn’t hear it again. George had gone into the shop this morning for the first time since the attack, so his room should be empty.

Ginny drew her wand and cautiously opened the door.

She wasn’t completely surprised to find George there, just disappointed. He sat on his bed with his legs drawn up to his chest. His eyes were red rimmed, and he had a drink in his hand. That was another thing she’d noticed about George. He’d been hitting the Fire Whiskey more and more during the day.

“Hey, George,” she said, entering the room and sitting on the end of his bed. “I thought you went into the shop.”

George shrugged listlessly.

“You can’t continue like this, or you might not have anything to go back to,” she said gently.

“I don’t know if I want to go back,” he said.

“Then maybe we should start thinking about what else you’d like to do.”

George scowled. “I don’t want to do anything else. I’m good at inventing jokes.”

“You’re very good at it,” Ginny agreed. “You’ve got the whole summer before the next Hogwarts’ year starts. I bet you could come up with some great ways to welcome back the proper staff. I think everyone will be in the mood for a few hijinks.”

George was still hesitant. His face screwed up in misery. “What if I can’t? It’s always been a team effort. When I look into the mirror, I don’t even know who I’m seeing any more. My reflection is him. I don’t know how to be just George.”

“Well, you’re just going to have to be,” she said, startling him.

He looked at her with narrowed eyes. Ginny knew she was being harsh, but coddling him hadn’t worked at all, and if someone didn’t drag him out of this spiral, she just might lose another brother.

And that was something she couldn’t bear.

“You lived, George. You survived. You’re not honoring his memory by stopping. After my First Year, weren’t you the one who told me I had to pick myself up and defiantly stare life right back in the face? Show it that it didn’t break me? You have to do that now,” she said beseechingly, taking the drink from his unresisting hand and placing it on the floor.

“I was rather eloquent, wasn’t I?” he said, attempting a smile.

“You were right, and you helped me, as did Bill, and Ron, and even Percy in his own way. You have to let the rest of us help you now,” Ginny implored. “You’re not alone.”

George sniffed. “I know. Lee sent me an owl that he wants to help out, too. He’s supposedly coming by the shop later today.”

“So let him help. He’s hurting, too. We all loved Fred,” Ginny said, her own eyes filling.

George opened his arms wide and Ginny flung herself into his embrace. They held each other while they cried, but the tears felt more healing than they had in the past, for both of them. When they finally pulled apart, George wiped his eyes.

“I suppose I should think about moving back to the flat,” he said.

That took Ginny by surprise. “You don’t have to rush to move out, just move on,” she said.

“I know, but I think I need to get my legs under me to do that. Besides, you’ll be going back to school in September, and Ron’ll probably elope with Hermione in Australia.”

Ginny giggled. “Hermione’s smarter than that.”

“I don’t know how intelligent she can be; she does fancy Ron,” George replied.

Ginny snorted. “I suppose she’s bright, but daft.”

“How do you feel about going back to Hogwarts?” George asked.

Ginny stiffened. “I don’t know. It’s going to be hard. I spoke with Siobhan at Anna’s funeral, and she’s returning. Neither of us have heard from Liz,” she said, thinking about her roommates. It would be so strange to be in the dormitory without Anna’s smiling face. She’d been the first one who befriended Ginny after the Chamber, and she’d gradually pulled Ginny in with the other girls. Anna and Colin had been loyal friends, and now they were both gone.

“Were you all there last year?” George asked.

“Yeah. Colin was the only Muggle-born in our year, but the rest of us were there, and we all watched out for one another. Liz has an older brother who is married to a Muggle-born. She was one of the first ones to be called to face the Muggle-born Registration Committee, and they sent to her Azkaban. I still don’t know if she survived.”

“I want to go when Dolores Umbridge has her trial,” George said viciously.

“Me, too,” Ginny agreed. “The old toad. Things were bad at Hogwarts, but Siobhan said they got worse after the Easter hols. That was when Luna got pulled off the train, and we all went into hiding. Mum and Dad didn’t want me to go back to Hogwarts.”

“Good call on their part, judging by the condition of some of the students we saw,” George replied darkly.

Ginny nodded. “Neville and Seamus were always causing trouble and making waves.”

“Reckless Gryffindors,” George said, smirking.

“Yeah. The Carrows hated the Gryffindors. I feel like I abandoned them,” Ginny whispered the agonized thought.

“You didn’t, and I’m glad you didn’t go back,” George said solemnly.

“I wish I knew how Anna died. I mean, obviously she got cursed, but I don’t know how or where,” Ginny said.

“Would it make a difference?” George asked sadly. “I know exactly what happened to Fred since Ron and Percy were there, but it doesn’t make the hurt any less. Makes me feel guilty I wasn’t there. I’d gone after Dad.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Ginny said, sighing. She leaned into George again.

“I usually am,” George said cheekily.

Ginny elbowed him in the ribs causing him to emit a small, “Oomph.”

“So, what are you going to do?” she asked.

“I suppose I’m going to go into the shop and meet Lee,” George said thoughtfully.

Ginny nodded, pleased. “I’m going to St. Mungo’s to visit Harry.”

“He’ll like that. He seems a little lost without Ron and Hermione,” George replied.

“How do you think those two are getting on?” Ginny asked.

“They’re rowing. They’re always rowing,” George said, making Ginny laugh. “If I’ve taught my younger brother anything, he’d better have at least tried a few moves.”

“George!”

“What?”

“Why haven’t you taught me any moves?” she asked, pouting.

“Let’s not go there, Ginny,” George said. “I like Harry, and I don’t want to have to hex his bits.”

Ginny laughed. “I can take care of myself without any interference from you,” she said firmly.

“I know you can,” George said.

Ginny smiled, pleased.

“I know I’m your favorite, too,” he said before hopping off the bed and heading toward the door.

“You are today,” Ginny called as he hurried down the stairs.

*****

Ginny arrived for a visit after Harry finished his dinner. He’d been in a pensive mood since Teddy and Andromeda had left. Teddy didn’t really even know him yet, but he couldn’t help being reminded of how he’d felt when he lost Sirius. He’d never want to put Teddy through that.

The Healer had reduced the strength of Harry’s pain reliever, and although the new one made him relaxed and drowsy, it didn’t put him to sleep. He was much happier with it. He’d be even happier when he could just leave. He was tired of this room.

“So they really might let you come home tomorrow, then?” Ginny asked.

“That’s what she said,” Harry replied, rubbing his chest.

Ginny took his hand in her own and stilled it. “D’you want to talk some more about how you got this?” she asked, glancing at his chest.

Harry could think of a lot of things he’d rather do, but he supposed there was nothing for it. He looked around the hospital room. He was leery of talking in here because he wasn’t certain if anyone else was listening.

“You could always cast a Muffliato spell,” Ginny suggested as if reading his thoughts. She frequently seemed able to do that.

Harry drew his wand and mumbled, “Muffliato.”

Ginny perched on the edge of his bed and nudged him with her hip, “Budge over.”

Harry grinned and complied. The fit was tight, but neither appeared to mind as they settled back against Harry’s pillows. The overhead light caused Ginny’s eyes to sparkle with flecks of amber.

“Where did we leave off?” Harry asked, distracted by her close proximity.

“Ron the Prat had just returned, and you’d destroyed the locket,” Ginny answered promptly. That fact alone clued Harry in to how much she was waiting for the rest of his story.

“Right,” he said, before launching in and explaining the symbol that had kept popping up, which led them to Xenophilius Lovegood, and his retelling of the Deathly Hallows.

“So that’s where the Hallows came into it,” Ginny said. “I’d wondered after you and Tom went on about the Elder Wand.”

“Yeah. He was obsessed with finding it since our wands didn’t work properly against one another,” Harry said.

“But your wand was broken,” Ginny said.

“He didn’t know that,” Harry replied. “I could see into his mind, but the connection didn’t work the other way,” Harry said, his palms suddenly very sweaty. He knew Voldemort had purposely sent him the fake image of Sirius to lure him to the Ministry, but he never did learn why Voldemort couldn’t look through Harry’s eyes to see what he was doing. Perhaps because the Horcrux inside his head didn’t have its own eyes. Harry shuddered, shutting that thought down and pushing it to a corner of his mind.

He continued with the story about how Xenophilius betrayed them, their escape and run-in with the Snatchers. His breathing grew labored as he told her about their time at Malfoy Manor. His felt winded by the time he told her about Hermione getting tortured. He reached for a glass of water, and his hands were shaking.

“No wonder Ron panics when he can’t see you or Hermione right in front of him,” Ginny said. “Hermione didn’t mention any of this.”

“Ron was beside himself listening to her scream. He couldn’t even function. I hated hearing it, too, but one of us had to think. If it had been you, I wouldn’t have been able to function, either,” Harry whispered.

“Then you’d have to count on the rest of us, like they counted on you,” Ginny replied. “I would’ve felt the same if it were you. I remember when Umbridge was going to use the Cruciatus on you. My heart nearly stopped,” Ginny said.

“I’m sorry,” Harry apologized automatically.

“You need to stop apologizing for things that are out of your control.”

Sor… er… -” Harry caught himself apologizing.

Ginny took a deep breath, staring at him intently. She appeared to be gathering her thoughts and gearing up for something, and he felt a wave of apprehension run through him.

“I won’t be made to sit on a shelf ever again, Harry,” she said solemnly.

“I know,” he replied.

She squeezed his hand tightly, her brown eyes searching his for any sign of duplicity. She must have been satisfied, for she snuggled back down beside him.

“Here’s hoping neither of us are ever in that kind of situation again,” she whispered.

They both knew that, with Harry planning on becoming an Auror, it probably wouldn’t be the case. It was nice to hope just the same.

“So how did you get out of Malfoy Manor?” Ginny asked.

“Dobby. Dobby rescued us.”

He went on to explain the fight and rescue, carefully emphasizing the fist fight with Draco Malfoy. He told her about Dobby’s sacrifice, and burying the elf at Shell Cottage. He kept talking all the way through going to Gringotts with Griphook.

“You promised him the sword? How could you destroy the Horcrux if you didn’t have the sword? But wait, Neville had the sword at the battle. He pulled it out of the Sorting Hat. I saw him,” Ginny said.

He could practically see her mind grappling with all the facts he was telling her along with her own memories of the battle. He suspected she and Hermione would have a long talk once his friends returned.

“The sword will always present itself to a Gryffindor in need,” Harry said.

“I wish I could have seen Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix,” Ginny said, her eyes faraway.

“She almost blew the whole thing when she wished someone a good morning,” Harry said, chuckling at the memory. In hindsight, it wasn’t nearly as frightening as it was at the time.

Ginny giggled. “I can’t imagine Bellatrix wanting anyone to have a good anything,” Ginny scoffed.

“She nearly killed you,” Harry said, sobering.

“But she didn’t.”

“She could’ve. I was under the Invisibility Cloak on my way to confront Voldemort when I saw it and changed direction. Your mum got there first,” he said, admitting this for the first time. He hadn’t even told Ron and Hermione that part of the story.

“You did?” Ginny gasped, her eyes widening to large circles in her small face.

“I had to,” he said hotly.

Ginny appeared very troubled. “Harry, everything depended on you destroying Tom.”

“I know… but I couldn’t help it,” he said. “My heart overtook my head.”

She kissed him softly but her eyes looked sad. Harry didn’t want her to look that way. He reached for her chin, and gently tilted her face toward him. Leaning over, he softly took her face in both hands and kissed her, pouring all the things he couldn’t say into the kiss. His hands moved toward her hair, threading his fingers through the fiery locks he liked so much. Ginny leaned into him, deepening the kiss.

He would’ve gone on forever, but she eventually pulled back, staring into his eyes with a soft tenderness he couldn’t place. He smiled at her, exceedingly glad she came to visit. Before he could kiss her again, however, she straightened herself up beside him.

“You haven’t told me about how you got to Hogwarts,” she said, prompting him to finish the story.

As the hour drew late, Harry continued to explain everything up to the point he dumped Snape’s memories into the Pensieve.

“What did they show?” Ginny whispered fearfully. She was clutching his hand so tightly he was sure there would be marks.

Harry swallowed heavily, fear and dread churning in his stomach and making him feel ill. His mind displayed the image of Snape’s dying face when he demanded Harry look at him. “He knew my mum, knew her from when they were children. My Aunt Petunia, too. He was in love with my mum, but I don’t think she felt the same. They were friends until he got too close to the Dark Arts, and she fell in love with my dad. He hated my dad.”

“So every time he looked at you, he was reminded that she chose your dad because he could see both of them in you,” Ginny said softly. Her grip on his hand had loosened, and she was gently rubbing her thumb along the side of his hand. He began to caress her hand in the same way.

“I suppose. He sacrificed the rest of his life to her memory. He promised to protect me as homage to her,” he said. He wondered if his dad knew that Snape fancied his mum. He bet it would’ve annoyed him if he did. It certainly would’ve annoyed Harry if he thought Malfoy had a crush on Ginny. He shuddered at the thought.

Ginny must have thought he was upset about Snape because her voice sounded bitter.

“He was still petty and vindictive. You never even had the chance to know your parents, so holding you responsible for any of their actions is simply ridiculous.”

Although he knew she was right, he still felt the need to defend. She hadn’t seen Snape dying on the floor of the Shrieking Shack. “He was on the Light side all along.”

“But he was never a nice man. I can respect what he did without liking him as a person, you know. My brother Charlie once had a thing for Tonks. Would you be okay with him treating Teddy the way Snape treated you?”

Harry frowned, not liking the analogy at all. It was different. Teddy was an innocent. Harry vowed that his godson would never feel that there was nowhere to turn if someone was giving him a hard time. He’d never have to feel alone because Harry would be at the school moving hell and earth to ensure his happiness. Teddy had resources. He had Harry and his grandmother looking out for him. He wasn’t going to be on his own.

“Were there any other memories in there?” Ginny asked after the silence stretched.

Harry wanted to tell her what Dumbledore’s plan had been all along. He wanted to tell her everything. He tried, but he couldn’t get his tongue to work properly. The truth was stuck in his throat. He felt like a coward, but he couldn’t force himself to do it. He felt as if he were choking on the words.

“Just the fact he was a spy. I came downstairs and saw everyone gathering the dead,” he said instead, his voice very raw. “I knew Voldemort was waiting for me, and I had to go. I saw Neville outside and told him to kill the snake. Then I went into the forest to meet him.”

He skipped the part about seeing her on his interminable walk to the forest. He didn’t want her to feel she could’ve stopped him since she didn’t know that he hadn’t had a choice. He skipped the Resurrection Stone, too, beginning to feel panic overwhelming him. He began talking very fast.

“He used a Killing Curse, but it didn’t work.”

His mind flashed on the angry green light rushing toward him and waking up in that white room. He remembered that hideous baby-like thing that was gasping on the floor, and he started to tremble. He couldn’t stop the tremors as his vision tunneled once again, and he was back in that white room staring at the creature.

Dumbledore had said it was the piece of soul that had resided within Harry. That ugly thing had lived inside him, had been part of him. Harry felt ill. He imagined the creature turning to face him accusingly, its features morphing into that of Voldemort. He could hear eerie, high-pitched laughter that made his skin crawl.

“Harry! Harry!”

Suddenly he was back in his hospital room and Ginny was kneeling on the bed, shaking his shoulders.

He was going to be sick.

Pushing her back and leaping from the bed, Harry rushed to the loo, barely getting there in time. He retched until there was nothing left inside him, but the vision wouldn’t leave his mind. He knelt, trembling on the floor, trying to catch his breath.

Ginny followed him into the bathroom and gently rubbed circles on his back. She handed him a flannel to wipe his mouth and led him back to his bed.

Her brow furrowed in worry, and he could tell she was bursting with questions, but to her credit, she held her tongue.

Harry was not only embarrassed, but he hated himself for leaving out the crucial piece. What was wrong with him? He’d never been one to go to pieces like this. He hated to appear weak; he always had. Why couldn’t he suppress these feelings as he always had before?

Ginny didn’t climb back onto the bed but instead sat in the chair beside it, running her fingers through his hair. Harry found the motion soothing and he leaned into her touch.

“I can’t believe the entire fate of the Wizarding world was decided upon by a tussle between two teenage boys,” she said.

Harry knew she was trying to lighten the mood to help him relax.

“It was his mother, Draco’s mother, who told Voldemort that I was dead. She wanted to get back into the castle to rescue her son,” he whispered, struggling to keep his eyes open.

“Seems a lot of parents did that, that day,” Ginny mumbled.

Harry nodded, feeling thoroughly miserable. He was so impossibly drained. He couldn’t even raise the energy to move his arm to take off his glasses. Ginny deserved better.

“It’s all right, Harry,” she said, kissing him on the forehead. “Everything is going to be okay.”

He shut his eyes because he couldn’t bear to look at her. He’d promised he’d be honest. No more secrets. She’d asked for no more secrets. He was risking the one thing that made him happier than anything else in his entire life. What was wrong with him? Why couldn’t he force the words out? He was being ridiculous.

Ginny sat there silently, continuing to run her fingers in his hair. She even removed his glasses for him.

She deserved better.


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