A/N: Set during the events of HBP Chapter 18: Birthday Surprises
Harry stood outside the Hospital Wing, having been shooed out moments ago by Madam Pomfrey. He suddenly realized that he was sweating all over, and his entire body felt like it was vibrating as blood and adrenaline pounded through his veins.
He swallowed hard, feeling like his heart was in his throat. Now that he was alone, the full impact of the morning’s events hit him like a brick: Ron nearly died today.
Just half an hour ago, Ron had accidentally eaten the Chocolate Cauldrons that Romilda Vane had spiked with love potion, and Harry had taken him to Slughorn for the antidote. Instead, Ron had been inexplicably poisoned when Slughorn had shared a bottle of mead with them.
Harry turned cold at the thought of what would have happened if he had not been able to find a bezoar in Slughorn’s potions kit and shoved it down his throat…
He shook himself, unwilling to think about the possibility any longer. Madam Pomfrey had assured him that Ron would live, but it was unclear at the moment whether there’d be any lasting effects. She needed more time to identify the poison and brew a remedy, so now here he was… waiting outside the Hospital Wing.
Ginny recognized Harry’s voice before she had even lifted her head from Dean’s shoulder. They had been snuggling on the couch near the fire, talking about which movie they were going to watch next.
“Hi, Har–” she started, but her voice died in her throat when she saw his pale and solemn face.
“What happened?” she said seriously, trying to keep the panic out of her voice as her heart started to race. She was sitting bolt upright now, her eyes fixed on Harry. Her mind was racing, imagining horrific events: a Death Eater attack at the Burrow, one of her brothers gravely wounded while on Order business, Tom somehow returning from the diary…
“Ron is in the Hospital Wing,” said Harry slowly. He looked tired, but unharmed.
The bottom dropped out of Ginny’s stomach. Her worst fear was that Tom would somehow hurt her family.
“Is he ok?” she blurted before Harry could say more. Her mouth was dry, and she suddenly felt like she was sweating all over. She felt Dean set his hand on her shoulder, but she automatically recoiled without taking her eyes off of Harry. She didn’t want to be touched right now.
“I think so,” he replied hesitantly. “Madam Pomfrey is with him now, and we’ll know more later. Hermione is waiting outside the Hospital Wing right now.”
Ginny stood immediately. “Right, let’s go,” she said curtly as she moved toward the portrait hole.
“What happened, Harry?” Dean asked, his voice full of concern as he stood too. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Ginny did not want Dean to join her. She desperately wanted to know if Tom was involved, but she did not want to ask Harry in front of Dean. He didn’t know about Tom, and as far as she was concerned, he never would. Besides, right now she needed to just get to Ron, even if Madam Pomfrey wouldn’t let her see him.
Harry had opened his mouth to respond to Dean, but Ginny cut him off. “Dean, I’ll catch up with you later. I really just want to be with my family right now,” she said hastily, giving him what she hoped was a reassuring look.
Dean swiftly moved toward her, enveloping her in a strong hug and dropping a light kiss on the cheek. “Let me know if you need anything.”
Ginny felt slightly comforted for a moment, but then her mind returned to Tom and her heart started to race again. She swallowed hard and nodded to Dean before turning on her heel and bolting for the portrait hole.
She rounded on Harry as soon as they were alone in the corridors and said in a panicked rush, “What happened? Was it Tom? Is he back? How badly is Ron injured? Are you okay? Who else was injured? Do my parents know? Are they here? Does the Order know? Did you have to tell them about Tom and m-me?”
She broke off, blinking back hot tears that were threatening to pour down her face. She was barely holding it together. Her skin crawled at the thought of the memory of Tom roaming the corridors.
Harry cautiously reached out and put his hand on her shoulder, giving her what he must have thought was a reassuring squeeze. She was so distraught that she barely even felt it.
He started to walk, urging her to follow him.
“Voldemort was not involved, and nobody else was hurt,” he said calmly. He quickly explained that Ron had accidentally eaten some Chocolate Cauldrons that Romilda Vane had spiked with love potion, and Harry had taken him to Slughorn for the antidote. Instead, Ron had been inexplicably poisoned when Slughorn had shared a bottle of mead with them.
Ginny’s panic was replaced with both anger and confusion. “Romilda Vane? Why is she giving my brother a love potion?”
“It was meant for me…” said Harry sheepishly, not meeting her eyes as they continued to walk through the corridors.
Ginny rolled her eyes, unable to hide her disgust. It was common knowledge that Romilda had a crush on Harry, but she didn’t know she’d stoop so low as to try to give him a love potion.
They reached the Hospital Wing before Ginny could say more. Hermione was sitting on the floor against the wall opposite the door, hugging her knees and staring blankly ahead. Ginny’s heart ached as she saw a lone tear roll down Hermione’s cheek, and her angry thoughts about Romilda were replaced with her fear for Ron.
She ran to Hermione and dropped to her knees as she threw her arms around her in a tight hug. They held each other for a minute, both of them fighting tears. She could hear Hermione sniffling into her hair.
When they broke apart, Harry was standing awkwardly in front of the door with his hands in his pockets, looking at the ground.
“Sit with us, Harry,” said Ginny gently, reaching out to him. It seemed silly now that she’d avoided him for the last couple of weeks, all because she’d got a little too drunk and embarrassed herself in front of him.
Harry silently sat beside Ginny, leaving a few inches of space between them. Ginny hooked her arm around Hermione’s, staring ahead at the door. Now that she was here, she couldn’t help but imagine Ron lying unconscious in a hospital bed with Madam Pomfrey frantically chanting incantations and giving him potions.
Was Ron lying there silently fighting for his life? Was he conscious? Was he afraid? She wanted to hold his hand and tell him that she was there for him.
She may not always get along with Ron, but she loved him fiercely. He was her best friend before they went to Hogwarts. They’d grown apart a bit since then, but it didn’t change her love for him.
Ginny felt her eyes burning with unshed tears as she imagined her life without Ron. She clutched Hermione’s arm more tightly, wondering what she must be going through.
Ron and Hermione had barely been on speaking terms for almost three months now, all because they didn’t want to admit their feelings for each other. Ginny couldn’t imagine the regret and fear that she must be feeling right now.
Ginny felt a lump forming in her throat. She would be bawling her eyes out soon if she didn’t find something to productive to focus on.
“How long before we can go in?” she said abruptly, her voice strained and her eyes still on the door.
Harry cleared his throat. Ginny wondered if he had been overcome with emotion, too. “Er… Madam Pomfrey didn’t say.”
Ginny nodded, her arm still wrapped around Hermione’s and her throat getting tighter. Without thinking, she put her other hand on Harry’s arm.
“Then we’ll wait here together as long as it takes,” she said with as much strength as she could muster. She squeezed Harry and Hermione’s arms, silently reassuring them that they would get through this.
The three of them sat in front of the doors for the rest of the day, trying to see inside whenever somebody went in or out. At Ginny’s request, Harry recounted again what had happened. She knew he needed something to talk about to distract him from the agony of waiting. The two of them speculated for hours about how Ron had been poisoned, but Hermione merely sat beside them, clench-jawed and frightened-looking.
By nearly eight o’clock, they had exhausted nearly every theory about Slughorn. Desperate to find some other angle, they shifted their focus to Romilda.
“I can’t believe she was so sloppy,” Ginny muttered, infuriated that Romilda’s carelessness could have indirectly killed her brother.
Harry shrugged. “I dunno, it seemed like she concealed it well. I never suspected it.”
“Never mind her wandwork,” said Ginny dismissively. “It was the fact that she gave you an entire box of spiked chocolates. She had to know that you would share them. Did she want all of the sixth year boys in love with her? Did she expect you all to duel each other for her?”
“But I didn’t share them! Ron stole them,” laughed Harry.
“Nobody who really knows you would have guessed that you’d have kept all of those to yourself,” she smirked.
“I think you’re overestimating my selflessness,” chuckled Harry with a sly grin on his face. “So, how would you have done it then?”
Ginny stiffened. Did Harry think she wanted to give him a love potion? Maybe he thought she still had a crush on him and would be targeting him the same way every other girl at Hogwarts seemed to be right now.
“I would never do that to you, Harry,” she said defensively. “How could you think that?”
Harry’s eyes widened, his cheeks flushing pink. “No, of course not! I didn’t mean to imply–er, I just meant, you know...what would have been better?” he stammered, adding, “It didn’t seem like Romilda’s plan was that bad.”
Ginny bit her lip, realizing that she’d completely misread Harry’s intentions. Had he been trying to be playful? She gave him a weak smile, feeling embarrassed.
“Oh, right,” she said lamely. Then, trying to recapture Harry’s playful mood, she added, “Well, isn’t it obvious?”
Harry smiled back at her, picking up on her tone. “Are you trying to get me to tell you how to slip me a love potion?”
Ginny laughed. “No, I don’t need to! I could have you in love with me by tomorrow morning if I wanted to.”
Harry’s ears turned red, and Ginny felt her pulse quicken. Unbidden, the image of Harry professing his unwavering love for her in the middle of the Great Hall floated into her head.
She shook herself, pressing on in spite of Harry’s silence. “I would slip it into your pumpkin juice on Sunday morning,” she said simply, feeling her face heat up.
“How? There’s no way you’d get past me,” insisted Harry, his face no longer red.
“I’d pour it into your juice under the guise of reaching for the Daily Prophet,” she giggled, watching Harry’s face turn to surprise. “You would be too groggy to notice, and Hermione eats breakfast earlier than you do on Sundays, so she wouldn’t be there to look out for you.”
Harry cocked his head, his mouth slightly open. “Huh, that might actually work…” he said thoughtfully.
“That’s why you need to watch your drinks a little more closely,” warned Ginny, only half-joking now. “If I could come up with that on the spot, imagine what a truly committed love-crazy fan could do to you.”
Harry suddenly looked a bit pale and troubled. “Thanks for the tip,” he said weakly.
Moments later, the hospital wing door swung open and Madam Pomfrey beckoned them inside.
Ginny felt warm waves of relief wash over her when she finally saw Ron lying in his hospital bed, pale and unconscious, but alive. She stroked his forehead, which she was pleasantly surprised to find was warm to the touch, grateful that her brother had survived.
They may never find out why Ron was poisoned, but at that moment, Ginny did not care. She was grateful that he had survived. She met Harry’s eyes across the bed, overcome with emotion at the lengths he would go to save her brother.