The young woman slowly lifted her eyelids. Her brain felt as if it was engulfed in a haze, and she shook her head slightly to wake herself properly, succeeding in causing a dull throb to spread across the back of her head.
She moaned softly, squeezing her eyes shut.
"She's in pain."
"George, go fetch the Mediwitch. Ginny dear, can you hear me?"
The young woman's eyes flew open as a hand rested on her brow. She looked up into the eyes of a slightly plump woman with red hair and blue eyes. She was older; the deep creases on her face and the dark shadows under her eyes betraying her years. The eyes themselves were full of concern, and a sadness that was unnerving.
"Ginny? What is it?"
She was confused. Glancing around the room, she saw faces she didn't recognize. Three men with bright red hair stood around her, staring intently. The room, she observed, was stark white. There were flowers in the room. A great deal of flowers.
She pushed herself into the pillow behind her, away from the redheaded woman's reach. She searched her mind, trying to remember why she was here, and who the people were who were so intent on staring, but came up blank. Her heart began to beat erratically in her state of confusion. Her breathing became labored as she struggled to rationalize her situation.
The elder woman reached for her again, then stopped as the young woman visibly cringed.
She looked into the older woman's eyes once again, her brow furrowing. "Who are you?" she demanded. "And who's Ginny?"
She saw the look before it was quickly concealed. It was an expression of hurt, and anger, and it perplexed the young woman. Glances passed between the men in the room as they continued to gaze at her. None of them seemed to want to speak, and the woman standing above her backed away slightly, appearing to be at a loss for words.
The silence was broken as the door burst open and two more redheads entered the now crowded room.
"Twins," she murmured quietly, glancing back and forth between the two identical men. One of them smiled weakly at her as an elderly woman in a white uniform bustled in and headed directly for the bed.
"Ah, she's awake. How are you feeling dear? How is your head?"
"I'm—I don't understand. Who are you?" The more she tried to comprehend the odd situation she found herself in, the more intense the throbbing in her head became. "Why is everyone staring?" she asked, the words coming out in a croaked whisper.
"Well now, I'm Madame Saluse, the Matron of this wing of St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. You've given your family quite a scare over the last two days. I dare say they're all quite relieved, and a little concerned."
"Yes dear." The Matron's eyes were filled with sympathy as she smoothed the blankets around the bed.
"I don't—" The young woman tried again to recall what brought her to St. Mungo's. Her memory was like a dark void.
She couldn't remember her own name.
"I don't know what happened to me. I can't—I don't know you! Who are you all? Who am I?" she sobbed. "What's happening?"
"You really must try to stay calm, dear. We'll start with you. Your name is Ginevra Weasley, but I've been informed that everyone you know calls you Ginny."
"Ginny?" The woman recited the name slowly, but no recognition came. "Why can't I remember?" she whispered.
"It was that slimy bastard Malfoy! I'm going to kill him!" The tallest of the men began pacing the room, the fury evident on his face.
"If anyone gets a shot at Malfoy, it'll be me!" This came from a shorter, stockier man.
The men all at once began to shout and argue, and the young woman paled visibly at the sight of such anger. Sensing her fear, the Matron sent them all a steely glare and the room was once again quiet.
The woman once again recited the name given to her. "Ginny Weasley," she muttered. "You're sure?"
"Yes dear, I'm quite sure."
"Ginny?" She turned away from the Matron to see the plump woman standing beside her again. "It's me—your Mum. I—You really don't remember? Anything?"
Her mother? This woman, whom she had no memory of was her mother? How was that possible? She shook her head slowly. "I'm sorry. I don't—"
Her words were cut off as the older woman engulfed her in a tender embrace. She stiffened automatically, then, feeling guilty, forced herself to relax. "It's not your fault," the woman sobbed.
She didn't know what to do, didn't know what to make of this situation. Something had happened to her. Maybe she was dreaming, and any moment now she was going to awake to her life … whatever that was.
Ginny Weasley. Why did that name mean nothing to her, if it was her own? Surely that wasn't right.
The throbbing intensified, now spreading to the base of her neck and shoulders. It was too much. All she wanted to do was leave this nightmare, and return to her normal life. As she was released, the young woman gave the Matron a pleading look. Sensing her distress, Madame Saluse began herding everyone to the door.
"I'm sorry, but Miss Weasley needs to get some rest. I know," she said as the complaints started, "I know that you have questions and concerns, but she really needs some quiet. This has been a traumatic experience for the poor dear, and you'll be able to see her again later."
It took some effort, but everyone was eventually pushed out the door.
The Matron smiled kindly. "They'll be back. Now, you get some rest. Try to push the questions from your mind and relax. I'll be back shortly to check on you."
With that, the Matron left the room, closing the door with a quiet click.
The young woman lay back against the pillows, squeezing her eyes shut against the pain and the fear.
Try to push the questions from your mind and relax.
She didn't want to do that. Her mind was blank—questions were all she had.
A/N – Thanks to Katie and Tari for being wonderful betas and friends. Also, thanks to those who read the prologue, and my deepest appreciation to those who reviewed. Comments are always welcome!