Ginny sat in the chair nearest the bed and looked down at the head resting on the pillow. Despite everything, she smiled. After five years in a comatose-like state, his hair was still, well, the only word to describe it was 'untidy'.
Taking a deep breath, she gently reached out to grasp his hand and desperately tried to find the courage to say his name.
“H-Harry?” she said quietly as she wiped a tear off her cheek. She waited what seemed like an eternity for a change in him but he still seemed catatonic. Panic set in. What if he hadn’t recovered? What if nothing had changed?
“Harry?” Ginny reiterated, giving his hand a warm squeeze.
She suddenly heard the sharp intake of breath generally made by someone who is startled awake. Her eyes widened as she spoke again.
“Harry, it’s me, Ginny. I’m here, Harry.”
Harry’s eyes struggled to open and his breathing became panicked, erratic, scared. “Ginny?” he whispered in a hoarse voice.
More tears fell while Ginny nodded and brought Harry’s hand up to her lips. “Yes, love, it’s me. Does anything hurt; can I get you anything?” She kissed his knuckles and caressed his hand with her wet cheek.
He sputtered and coughed slightly, still trying to find his voice. “No, I, er think I’m OK.” He paused, trying to make sense of his hazy world without his glasses. “I am OK, aren’t I?”
Emotion caught in Ginny’s throat as she moved to sit next to Harry on the bed, taking him into her arms. “Yes, love, you’re just fine.” She retrieved his glasses off the nearby table and handed them over to him.
He’s awake. He’s awake. Oh Merlin, I’ve waited 5 years for this, Ginny thought, smoothing the unruly hair off his forehead. She covered her mouth with one of her hands, trying carefully to keep her composure, so as not to scare Harry. But she had the feeling that he had no idea how long he’d been asleep, or how life had gone on around him. How everyone waited as long as they could. She desperately wanted to just squeeze him tight, cry uncontrollably, and take his face between her small hands and smoother him with kisses.
Ginny could see the wheels beginning to turn behind those beautiful, newly opened green eyes, he was trying to grasp what was going on around him. In his world, the last thing he’d seen was Voldemort, a battlefield at dawn, his schoolmates dead around him, and his fallen mentor. Maybe he wouldn’t even remember a thing, but he was trying.
It had been 5 years since Ginny had seen those amazing eyes, and she noticed the tears welling up in them.
“I-Is, he gone, Ginny? V-Voldemort?” His voice was broken, scratchy, and the raw emotion was bubbling so close to the surface.
Ginny nodded. “Yes, love, you fought so hard, so bravely. You did it. You did it all by yourself.”
Harry took several slow, deep breaths, making a hard attempt to keep his sentiment in check. Holding Ginny tighter and tighter with each breath, he looked scared as hell.
“The rest of them?” he whispered. “What happened to the rest of them?”
This is where Ginny needed to be careful. Scaring him back into repression was the last thing she wanted to do. She wanted him to move forward, to get on with his life, and to be normal and not live in fear.
“Well,” she began hesitantly, caressing his soft face, savouring the feeling of his skin against hers, wanting too much to hear his voice again, to feel it reverberate against her own chest. The feelings she’d pushed deep down inside her soul were clawing to find their way out. It was like a great volcano just waiting to erupt. “The Ministry took 1 or 2 years to round up the remaining Death Eaters but-”
“One or two years?” he rasped in an incredulous voice, trying hard to sit up and look into her face for some sign of joking or mistake.
“One or two years?” he asked again, this time the tears spilling over the edges of his eyes. “Ginny, how long have I been here? I’m not even sure where here is!”
Ginny tried to nod sympathetically; she couldn’t imagine waking up after feeling like she’d only slept overnight to find out that 5 years had passed. To anyone else, she might have lied but not to Harry. If anyone deserved truth in this world, it was him.
She took a deep breath and wiped away a few tears. “You’re at St. Mungo’s. Today is May 31, 2002. Your 23rd birthday is in 2 months.”
Ginny watched the shock register on Harry’s face, but shock quickly faded to despair. He squeezed her hand firmly and covered his face with his other hand.
“Five years?” he cried in a muffled, raspy voice, shaking his head back and forth in disbelief.
Ginny tried to say something, anything, but Harry’s brain seemed to be working faster and faster every minute. “Ron… Hermione?” he choked out.
His eyes were darting around the room, gathering information about his new location. Everything was white; white walls, white linens, white and blue pyjamas. Harry found it instantly nauseating. There was one small window but looking out, Harry could only see darkness. The dim light that the window on the door provided was not significant. There was a stupid table with a water pitcher and glasses. It looked empty, lonely, and overly clean.
Ginny tried calming him by continuing to smooth her hand over his forehead and keeping her voice calm when she spoke. “They’re fine, Harry. Ron is waiting outside right now, and Hermione is on her way.”
She felt a little guilty, knowing that everyone had moved on with their own lives. There were plenty of things to tell him, but not all the stories were hers to tell. Then again, some of them were.
“Remus? Your family? Ginny, please?” His lips trembled, and his eyes were unnaturally wide and fearful.
Ginny continued to sweep the fringe away from Harry’s eyes, reminding herself it was not her turn to cry and carry on. “Remus is, er, slightly indisposed tonight,” she answered with a wink and a sly smile. “And the Weasley family is just fine. We’re a little larger than we were 5 years ago, but we’re all healthy.”
He let out a contented sob, releasing some of the pent up frustration he’d experienced in these few minutes of his new rebirth. Harry let go of Ginny’s hand to raise his own hands to his head, squeezing the sides of it. “Merlin, I just can’t fathom all of this.”
“Oh, Harry, I know. I’ve got so much to tell you, but we have time enough for that. You should rest now.”
“Ha,” he replied sarcastically. “I’ve been resting for 5 years.” Harry appeared to be thinking about Ginny’s words. “I am tired, but I don’t want you to go.” He reluctantly agreed to wait for the time being, laying back down on the bed and taking her hands up in his to rest them on his chest.
“Ron is out in the hallway going mad. Hopefully Hermione is here now. Harry, I know they’re dying to see you. I promise I’ll come back in as soon as Ron leaves.”
Harry forced a slight smile—the first one Ginny had seen in years. “OK, send Ron and Hermione in.”
Ginny sniffled, slowing easing her way off Harry’s bed. Truth be told, she wasn’t keen on leaving him, either. “All right, I’ll be back soon.”
When Ginny stepped out of Harry’s room, Ron was waiting expectantly outside the door.
“Well?” he demanded, grabbing Ginny’s arms, pinning them to her body.
Ginny tried to smile; her few minutes with Harry had been emotionally taxing. “He’s asking for you and Hermione. Go.”
Ron passed her in a rush, hastily casting her aside, not waiting for Hermione. It was at that moment, when Ron crashed into Harry’s room, that the full breadth of the situation hit Ginny like a ton of bricks. She stood in view of her family, who’d only just arrived and had been briefed by Ron, and felt their eyes all piercing her with their stares. In dismay, she sunk to her knees on the floor, sobbing loudly.
For an instant, no one moved. Hermione was nearest to Ginny, and finally she moved hesitantly to comfort her sister-in-law.
“Ginny, it’ll be OK. Harry is so strong. Look at how much he’s already been through.”
Molly Weasley stepped forward and interrupted, “Hermione, dear, you go ahead and see Harry; we’ll take care of Ginny.”
Hermione sighed and put on a smile as she rested her hands on her very pregnant belly. Ginny sat with her back to the wall and her knees drawn up to her chest, crying into her own hands. Hermione swallowed with difficulty, trying to hide her own emotions, and pushed open the door to Harry’s room.
The antiseptic smell did nothing to settle her stomach, and fresh tears stung her eyes. She and Ron had also received notice of Harry’s awakening by way of an early morning Floo call. They had not been able to comprehend the amazing news and lay in bed for nearly half an hour comforting each other through their tears.
Now, here she was, once again in the presence of her best friend—the boy she’d met on the Hogwarts Express; the young man she’d grown up with and seen defeat Voldemort; and now this man, who’d not been at her wedding, not known how many times she’d asked him to be the godfather of her own sons or daughters.
“Harry?” she asked hesitantly, stepping out of the dim shadow of the door.
Harry’s eyes shifted from Ron to the woman crossing the room to stand at his bedside. “H-Hermione, you’re-”
She laughed. “Yeah, pregnant. Didn’t you tell him, Ron?” She looked over her shoulder at her husband, but reached out for Harry’s hand.
Ron blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I was getting to that.” He vacated the chair at Harry’s left for Hermione.
Before sitting, Hermione carefully leaned over Harry’s bed and placed a kiss on his forehead. “Oh, Harry, we have missed you so much. We were here nearly every day, hoping to find you’d recovered.”
“When is your baby due?”
Hermione’s grin widened. “Your god-children are due July 11.”
“Twins?” Harry asked in disbelief, watching Ron blush all over again.
“Damn those Weasley’s,” Hermione teased, reaching over her shoulder to find Ron’s hand.
Hermione swore! Since when did Hermione swear? Now I know things have changed, Harry thought, watching her move to sit on the edge of his bed, making herself as comfortable as possible.
“Give me your hand.” It wasn’t really a request, so he hurried to reach out to her.
Harry felt the warmth of his friend’s hand enveloping his as she pressed it to her swollen belly. “Here, now, just wait a minute or two. They’re rather active when I first wake up,” she informed him, moving her hand ever so slightly, anticipating exactly where one of the babies would kick or squirm.
Harry felt rather foolish with his palm pressed low on Hermione’s abdomen. Strangely enough, Ron didn’t seem to be fuming or jealous. That was a welcome change.
“Oh!” Hermione gasped, beaming proudly. “There it is. Did you feel it, Harry?”
Hermione waited for his response, but she was met with only silence. Worried, she looked down at Harry’s face.
He was glowing.
“That—is—amazing,” he declared, punctuating each word carefully. His eyes moved to Ron, who nodded happily. Harry’s hand stayed in its place. “I’ve never known anyone who was, er, expecting.”
The two friends noticed that he was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion, tears welling up into his emerald green eyes. His voice was achy with hoarseness, scratching un-mercilessly. He’d tried to raise the volume of his voice, but it wasn’t possible after not speaking for 5 years.
“Look at the two of you,” Harry sobbed, his shoulders shaking with each breath. “Married, and happily expecting the arrival of your children. Your lives have gone on; you’ve got jobs, a home, but what have I got? Nothing!”
Ron and Hermione exchanged uncomfortable, guilty glances as they watched their friend sob openly into his own hands.
Hermione tried several times to speak, but only opened and closed her mouth several times. What could she possibly say that would be comforting?
“Oh, Harry. It’s been really awful without you. Our lives haven’t held the same meaning without our best friend to share it all with.” Hermione watched as Ron began pacing in the dimly lit room. A wife knew when her husband was trying to keep his emotions under control.
“We waited three years for you, Harry. Ron completed his Auror training; I helped restore the wards and charms at Hogwarts for the first 2 years, and now I’m an author and book editor.” Hermione gave Harry a few moments to begin to grasp everything she'd said. “We only got married two years ago. I suffered some lingering damage from one of the curses that hit me at the final battle. The Healers were afraid I wouldn’t be able to have a baby so—”
Harry felt the awkward silence and looked up. It was Hermione who was crying now. Ron’s jaw was clenched, and his eyes looked rather moist. Through her tears, she finally began speaking again.
“Ron refused to have a best man at the wedding, Harry! It was the happiest day of our lives, and our best friend wasn’t there! We vowed to each other on that day that when you awakened, we’d renew our commitment to each other in your presence.”
Ron moved to stand next to his wife, trying his best to comfort her from her crying. “We were here nearly every day, Harry,” he offered, his voice shaking with emotion. “Mum, Dad, Bill… Oh yeah, Bill married Fleur Delacour… Charlie, Percy and Penny and their son Peyton, the twins, along with Angelina and Katie—they’re both engaged, by the way.” He made flip-flopping gestures with his hands. “Remus, Neville, Luna, Parvati, Seamus and Lavender, and Dean.” Ron paused briefly, swallowing hard. “And Ginny, Harry. Ginny was here every day.”
Harry exhaled slowly. “I guess I’ve missed a lot.”
Hermione corrected him. “No, Harry, you were missed a lot.”
Harry extended a hand toward Ron and grabbed Hermione’s hand, too. He felt as though he’d let them down. His best friends… “I’m so sorry,” he began, squeezing their hands in his own. “I know I haven’t been here for all of you, but I will be. And I want to know every single thing I’ve missed. I’m happy for you, and I’m glad you’ve made a life for yourselves.”
They were interrupted by the sound of the door opening and Mrs. Weasley rushing in.
She was the most dishevelled that Harry had ever seen her. It clearly confirmed that everyone had been awakened in the middle of the night. Her red hair was gathered into a short, loose ponytail. Her blouse was mis-buttoned, and she carried a large carpetbag on her arm.
“Harry, dear!” she cried, clutching her heart with emotion. “I just couldn’t wait any longer to see my boy!”
Harry quickly found himself separated from Ron and Hermione and wrapped in Mrs. Weasley’s arms. “Oh, dear, oh, dear,” she murmured, brushing the fringe off his forehead.
“Hello, Mrs. Weasley,” he replied with a smile.
“How are you, dear? We were so happy to hear the news, Harry. Arthur and I have prayed for this everyday.”
“Fine, Mrs. Weasley, just a little tired, but I’m feeling all right.”
“Of course you are, dear,” she cooed, smothering him with hugs.
Mr. Weasley had slipped in quietly and was now standing at Harry’s bedside, extending a hand out. “Good to see you, Harry.”
“Thank you. You, too, Mr. Weasley,” Harry declared, gingerly taking his hand.
He settled back into Mrs. Weasley’s grasp, her bosom pressing maternally on Harry’s chest. It was a feeling only now that he realized he had missed.
“Oy! When are we going to see Sleeping Beauty?”
Harry smiled upon recognition of the voice and, subsequently, its complement.
“Yeah, Rip Van Winkle! You think we've got all night?”
Harry grinned from ear to ear at the sound of the identical voices. “Fred, George, it’s great to see you both. I understand congratulations are in order.”
The duo made their way further into the room and stood with the rest of their family. Both of them feigned shyness, touching a hand to their cheeks. “Come now, Harry, there’ll be no fuss over us today,” George offered humbly.
“Right you are, George,” Fred interjected with a wink. “Today, it’s all about you, Harry.”
Harry laughed, bringing a smile to the faces of those in the hospital room to see him as he used to be. The truth was, Fred and George had just always seemed to get him. No fussing. No extra attention. Just normal, or as normal as Fred and George treated anybody.
“We got an owl from Percy, Mum. Penny and the baby are sick; he didn’t think it… what was the word, George?”
“…Prudent,” George answered daintily, extending a hand as if he were holding a teacup.
“Yes, 'prudent', to leave them home alone,” Fred informed them. “But he’ll visit soon.”
Harry nodded appreciatively, but wasn’t comfortable with all the fuss being made over him. The room was now fairly full, but Ginny still hadn’t returned. Everyone watched him take notice of her absence as he turned his gaze toward the door. The twins quickly distracted him.
“Business is booming, Harry!” George exclaimed excitedly, nudging his twin. “A year after war’s end, we bought out Zonko’s in Hogsmeade, and then 2 years ago, we bought out the Diagon Alley shop. We’ve started shops in Edinburgh and Dublin, as well.”
“Yeah,” Fred intervened. “We’ve got more than enough to pay you back your 1000 Galleons, plus interest. Your stock in the company has been appreciating since you—”
“Left?” Harry laughed an empty laugh. “Well, I suppose I do owe St. Mungo’s quite a tidy sum by now—5 years rent.”
No one really knew what to say until Ron spoke, “Oh, come off it, Harry. You think the Ministry hasn’t picked up the tab for your hospital stay? You’re a hero, Harry.” His tone was light and teasing, but wasn’t taken as such.
“Hero? Ha! That’s bullocks. If I could’ve sat by and watched it all pass by, I would have!” His voice was high and barely audible. Fresh, hot tears stung his eyes once again. “This has to stop. Why won’t they just leave me alone? It’s all I’ve ever wanted—to just be normal. I’m not entirely sure I know what normal is.”
He pulled his hair in frustration and agony, sobbing loudly once again. The awkward silence in the room was frustrating and agonizing, too. Hermione and Mrs. Weasley moved to comfort Harry as the men in the room quickly cast their eyes downward, but Ginny’s voice cut through the echoing sound of Harry’s sobbing.
“I think Harry needs his rest.”
Her voice was strict but still showed her concern. It was not unlike Professor McGonagall's. Harry had been thankful for the family’s presence, but he was also thankful that they were packing up to leave.
Ginny stood staunchly with her hands on her hips and her eyes flashing a warning to anyone who might disagree with her. Her lips almost trembled.
Hermione swept a hand over Harry’s forehead before she left. “We’ll see you in the morning, Harry. Sleep well.” The tears dotted her eyes once again.
“It’s great to have you back, mate,” Ron offered sincerely, patting Harry’s shoulder and trying to look in his friend’s eyes.
“Yeah, see you tomorrow,” Harry mumbled, taking no notice.
Thankfully the rest of them left quietly, and he was alone with Ginny once again.
“Where’d you go?” Harry asked in a sullen, agitated voice.
“To speak to the Healers and to send an owl or two,” Ginny answered matter-of-factly from where she stood by the door.
She hesitated for what Harry thought was just a few seconds too long and crossed the room to look out the window. Her back was to Harry and he couldn’t read her expression. “Oh, er, just some friends. And a certain werewolf, who I’m sure will be making an appearance when the moon sets.” Ginny removed her wand from her pocket and flicked it, dimming the lights in the room, leaving only shadows on the wall.
She spun around to face him with a mischievous grin on her face. “Do you remember when I’d sneak up to your dorm under your invisibility cloak?”
She was happy to hear Harry chuckle as she inched toward the bed.
“It’s a good thing your brother, Seamus, Neville, and Dean are heavy sleepers, and that the beds had hangings. Your mum would kill us both, even now, if she knew the half of it.”
Ginny had reached the bed. In the dark, she peeled back the covers and climbed into bed with Harry. The way she snuggled against him felt so familiar.
“Oh, Ginny,” he whispered into the dark silence while she draped an arm over him. “I’m so glad yours was the first face I recognized.”
“Me too, Harry,” she breathed softly. “You’ll never know what it was like to get that call tonight.”
“Telephone call?” Harry asked, confused. “Why do you have a Muggle telephone?”
Ginny was carelessly twirling the button of his pyjamas. “Oh, you know, for Muggle friends, silly.” Her reply was offhand and dismissive. “Now, hush. You need your rest.”
Harry sighed with dissatisfaction and forced his eyes closed. “I know I’ll fall asleep, but tell me about everything I’ve missed. Spare no details.”
“Ha,” Ginny replied sardonically, thinking for a few moments. Unfortunately there were plenty of details that she needed to skip over for the present. She would tell Harry when the time was right. “Well, I spent a few days in St. Mungo’s with the boys and Hermione. Nothing too serious, don’t worry.” She settled deeper into Harry’s arms and yawned. “McGonagall let me Floo here everyday. The Healers said it was good for you, and I wanted to be here, anyway. I would have pitched a right fit if they had kept me away from you. So I Flooed back and forth to Hogwarts every day. I somehow managed to pass my NEWTS and went into the Healer in Training Program.”
“You’re a Healer?” Harry asked, hoping that she hadn’t changed any of her life plans for him.
“Yes, in the Birthing Ward. I deliver babies.” Ginny paused to smile. “It’s rather lovely to be with people at their happiest moments, to be there at the beginning of life.”
Harry yawned. “I’m really proud of you, Ginny.”
The truth be told, Ginny was really proud of herself. It had been difficult, but she studied her textbooks and read aloud to Harry. She wouldn’t be surprised if he’d remember a thing or two about babies and the witch birthing process.
“So, I was here everyday and got to spend lots of time with you. I haven’t missed one single, solitary day.”
“Trust me when I say that somewhere inside me, I cherished them all,” Harry admitted, kissing Ginny’s forehead.
The soft pressure of Harry’s lips on Ginny’s skin brought a fresh wave of tears again. “That was our first kiss in 1,819 days. I’ve counted them all.”
“Oh, Ginny,” Harry lamented, wiping one of the tears off her cheek with the pad of his thumb. She tilted her head toward his, letting instinct rather than deliberation take over. An intrinsic, deep-seated need took over, and Ginny didn’t care if she’d regret it later or not. She closed her eyes and gave in to the urge.
Their trembling lips met very delicately at first, rather like two teenagers kissing for the first time, but soon enough that simple pressure wasn’t enough. Harry felt Ginny’s tongue gently part his lips, seeking entry to explore his mouth.
Harry’s hand moved up to cradle her face, tenderly grazing his thumb across her moist cheek. He deepened the kiss, letting her have the access that she obviously wanted. Harry shifted in his place on the bed, so they were no longer side-by-side but rather so he was leaning on Ginny.
She wrapped her arms around him, wanting partly to never let go. Her mind began to wander and split. How can something so good feel both right and wrong? Betrayal! her mind seemed to shout at her. That’s how! You’re betraying someone; you’re lying to someone! You’re playing games! the demure and innocent side of her mind wanted to cry back, This is Harry. Didn’t I know he would always come back to me? True love never dies!
Just as she was about to entangle her fingers in Harry’s messy black hair, she stopped herself.
“No,” she gasped quietly, breaking the awesome kiss. “We shouldn’t, Harry. I’ve spoken with Healer Borchard; the more you rest, the sooner you'll get to leave. You need to rest.”
Even in the dim light of the room, Ginny could see the disappointment on his face. For a glorious few moments, it was as if nothing had changed, as though time didn’t exist. Harry sighed and laid back. Once again, Ginny snuggled in close, resting her head and one hand on Harry’s chest. It had been second nature so many years ago that they assumed this position. Nights on the couch in the Gryffindor Common Room, and stealing into Harry’s dorm room in the middle of the night. Intuitively, Ginny slid her fingers into the gap between the buttons on Harry’s pyjamas.
“I remember that,” he yawned.
Her fingers gently rubbed his skin. “Me, too. I did it every day.”
It was quiet then, and Ginny knew Harry had drifted off to sleep.
Ginny’s prayers had been answered, Harry had awoken, but while he was absent from her life, she had danced, and now it was time to pay the fiddler. She’d have to tell Harry the truth, but how long could she wait?
“I’m sorry, Harry,” she whispered to the sleeping man holding her close. “I have so much to say. Everything I ever wished for came true tonight, and that’s all that matters.”
Ginny eventually was given a reprieve from her thoughts and granted sleep in Harry’s arms.