They had to attack at the wedding, of course. Even though the family had prepared, even though there were Aurors and Goblin guards, no one had really expected thirty Death Eaters to come swarming in, two Giants wreaking havoc in their wake. No one had expected her and Harry to find themselves shoulder to shoulder, defending Gabrielle Bloody Delacour, the two bridesmaids in their little-girl golden gowns, Harry in his green dress robes, dodging curses and firing back.
Then again, nobody had expected Gabrielle’s sister to blast Fenrir Greyback’s head off with a Veela fireball. Standing in front of her new husband, she had looked more like a Harpy than a bride, but Ginny had never seen her look so wonderful.
And again, when Mum had been trapped screaming as the last Giant toppled the beloved, decrepit Burrow, nobody had expected Percy to run in and try to save her.
Poor old house. Poor Mum. Poor, stick-in-the-mud Percy.
Ginny rested her chin on the Grimmauld Place kitchen table. Her mother and brother’s deaths, the destruction of her family home, the devastation on what was supposed to be one last shining day of peace—none of it seemed real here, cut off from the rest of the world, in Harry’s ancient, moldering old pile of a house.
Nothing seemed real at all. Nothing would, supposed Ginny, well past two in the morning.
For ten days since the attack, they’d been stuck here. Professor McGonagall and old Mad-Eye had sworn that the only way to keep Ginny and her family and some of their friends safe was to seclude them, to lock them away in the safest place they could manage.
The Ancient and Most Smelly House of Black.
Before the wedding, she would have reveled in the opportunity to spend time with him—to get him to see reason, at least to spend time with him. But her mother’s death, and Percy’s, had pushed even Harry from the center of her thoughts, something that very little else had done over the course of the past five years.
Looking at the whitewashed wall opposite her, Ginny sighed, sensing the ghosts of the place—real ghosts, imagined ghosts, metaphoric ghosts—swirling around the damp, heavy pile above her head.
Poor Michael. Poor Dean. They’d each rowed with her, telling her she was still thinking of him. She’d told each to go stuff it, but they were right after all, poor sods. Well, they were gits. But they had been right about her feelings...
But being here, close to him again—what a waste. Ginny herself barely felt as if she inhabited her own body. Crying. Crying some more. And heaven forbid that Harry ever be cried on. Stupid git wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to do. He barely spoke to her. Oh, he’d said all the obligatory stuff about how sorry he was and all of that crap. But he wouldn’t look at her, and when she saw him, he had his stupid bloody tragic face on, as if Ginny’s mother’s death was somehow his fault, as if it was something that had happened to him. Bastard.
Beautiful, wonderful bloody bastard.
Neville had tried to help—he was here too, and Luna, since Voldemort’s buggers knew that the three of them had fought with Harry more than once and they were targets in their own rights. Neville had sat and held her hand and handed her tissues until she yelled at him to go away and leave her alone, poor Neville.
Even Luna helped—Luna, who had lost her own mother just before she and her father had moved to Ottery St Catchpole. Quietly braiding Ginny’s hair.
But not Harry. No.
He stared at her, eyes as sad and round as that lovely bloody owl of his, but he didn’t seem willing or able to say a word. Did he not care at all? Did he not have the slightest idea what she was going through? What did he want her to do? Stop crying? Stop caring? Stop hating herself for having thrown parsnips at Percy when she’d seen him last?
How could anyone love such a stupid, self-involved, emotionally-retarded git?
Harry’s face, after the second Giant finally fell, after he realized what had happened to Ginny’s mum. After he realized what he himself had done, running to her side as she fought to keep Amycus Carrow and his sister from killing Gabrielle. He had run to her. Not to Ron and Hermione, who had been helping Neville and Luna fend off Bellatrix Lestrange and her husband. Not to Remus Lupin, or to Bill and Fleur. Not to any of the Goblins or the Order folk or the other guests. Not to Ginny’s father or her poor, poor, poor mum, trying to defend the Burrow and helping others Floo to safety. He had come to her, and the knowledge seemed to have devastated him. Haunted him.
Is it such a bad thing to care for someone, you wanker? she’d wanted to scream at him.
“I’m so sorry,” he’d muttered, and stumbled away.
Ginny raised the bottom of her t-shirt and wiped her eyes dry. Perhaps he wasn’t so far from the center of her thoughts, after all. Ten days and barely a dozen words between them, and yet just thinking about that sad, wonderful face made her chest want to contract and swell at the same time, and she rested her forehead on the oak table and wept like the silly girl that she knew herself to be. How could she feel such rage and such love, both at the same time?
She simply did.
Harder the agony of it shredded at her gut, and she wept and retched and howled at the table, slowing only when her eyes seemed to have run out of tears. Yet for all of that, she did not feel at all purged. It was as if she had been vomiting out her pain and finished, only to find her stomach full and roiling all the same.
As she caught her breath, Ginny heard a steady dripping sound. More than a drip—more like the drizzling sound of water pouring off of a wet towel onto the stone floor. Disconcerted, Ginny peered up from the table.
A woman stood opposite her, where none had stood before. She was dressed for bed in a sheer nightgown—sheerer for that it was over-soaked with water, which was flooding down onto the kitchen floor. Water poured likewise from her hair which—water-dark as it was—seemed to be Ginny’s own shade of red. “Ginny?” the woman said in a voice that sounded totally unused to speaking. “You are...Ginny?”
Dumbfounded—not a case in which she often found herself—Ginny nodded.
The woman smiled a deep, joyous smile, as if Ginny were a long-lost child. “Oh, Ginny,” she moaned, “I am so happy...” Suddenly the woman was by Ginny’s side, though Ginny had not seen the wet lady move. Water continued to stream off of her; when she lifted Ginny’s hands to her lips, it dribbled down Ginny’s arms and dampened her sleeves.
“I... I...” Ginny fought for reason. “Who are you?”
The woman stroked Ginny’s already-wet cheek. “I love you, Ginny. I love you so much.” Her eyes flashed wetly; they were a bright emerald green.
Ginny tried to pull back, but found that she couldn’t. “I...Who are you?”
“You are so sad,” the woman said, frowning.
Ginny recognized that frown, and her heart seized. No, she thought, no, she can’t. The woman moved closer to Ginny and the smell of her was the smell of the Otter River in the summer, of sunlight and mystery and cool, lazy pleasure.
“You should never be sad, Ginny,” the woman continued, wrapping her still-streaming arms around Ginny, embracing her as she so longed to be embraced. A mother’s embrace.
In the damp circle of the mysterious redhead’s arms, Ginny felt some of the agony that churned in her chest like broken glass smooth away, the edges polished down, sea glass, and pain leeched away in the flood of the woman’s hug. Ginny wept again, but it was relief, relief that the feelings that had been tormenting her were slowly washing away.
“Yes, Ginny, yes, my love, I love you, I love you so, let me hold you.” The woman’s voice was so caring, cool as it was, and it bathed Ginny in a sense of completion, in a sense of safety beneath the storm. The woman’s lips—Lily’s lips?—touched Ginny’s own and it was as if that wonderful mouth was sucking everything out of Ginny, sucking away everything that frightened or hurt, everything...
If anyone knew about possession, it was Ginny Weasley. She had felt another’s will subvert her own for an entire year. Dementors tortured her whenever they came close. She knew what it felt like to lose herself.
She fought back.
Like a drowning girl, Ginny fought against the seductive pull of the woman’s wet mouth, of her wet arms, of her moist, aroused clinch. Mentally she pulled back the stream of self that the woman—the thing—seemed to be swallowing from her. She tried to push away with her arms, but the grip of the waterlogged arms was tenacious, the kiss demanding, cool and painful. Her mind suddenly lightning-clear, Ginny considered her options. Her wand lay by the range where she had made herself a cup of tea when she first realized that she couldn’t sleep. The woman—not a woman, definitely not a woman—was unnaturally strong. Certainty washed over Ginny: she was going to die in an underground room after all, and no Harry to save her this time.
She kicked, knees splashing against surprisingly strong thighs. Ginny’s hands pushed against the demon’s chest trying to wrench herself loose even as she felt her breath and consciousness squeezed lovingly out of her. Its hands began searching under Ginny’s shirt, down her trousers, and Ginny screamed into the creature’s mouth with all of her might as awareness began to fade and she pushed and kicked even as her sight dimmed...
A bright flare of red, silken, seductive, the woman’s hair, and Ginny pushed it away, willed it away, refused to be swallowed. “NO!” she yelled. “NO! YOU CAN’T BLOODY HAVE ME!”
When she came to, gasping for air, bright red still dominated Ginny’s vision—wet, cloying red. Ginny blinked, and realized she could see, but that her face was splattered...
The woman had a hole in her chest as if a Bludger had passed clean through it; a moist circle of blood was just beginning to drip down the far wall, staining the white.
The creature’s eyes were still open and she was still smiling, the green eyes—the beloved green eyes—bright and clear. I love you, the wet, red lips mouthed, and then the arms and legs that held Ginny released her, and she stumbled back. Should get my wand, her mind commanded, but her legs were made of suet and she staggered in the other direction, crashing with a thud against the doorway that led to the stairs.
A high, panicked voice called down from the front hall. “Geeny! Geeny! Are you well? What ‘as ‘appened!” White-faced, hair wild, more unkempt than Ginny had ever seen her, except after the wedding, Fleur ran down the stairs, wand in hand. She gasped when she saw Ginny. “Ah! Mon dieu! But you are okay?”
Ginny looked up at her sister-in-law. She wanted to nod. She wanted to say she was fine. Instead, she pointed back towards the kitchen. “I killed... I think I killed Harry’s... mum.”
“Merde!” Fleur swore, seeing the body on the table. She pushed past Ginny and stared. “Eet... Eet was not ‘Arry’s muzzer, Geeny. It was not.”
Now Ginny nodded. Cold seemed to be crystallizing her marrow. Wet from head to toe as she was, she could still feel the thick moisture of the creature’s blood dripping from her hands.
Fleur peered at Ginny for a moment, then blinked and—with a flourish of her wand—conjured a warm, fluffy blanket. Gently, she wrapped it around Ginny. Good thing it’s conjured, Ginny thought, Mum’d never get all of that blood...
“Geeny, viens,” Fleur said quietly when Ginny’s shivering had subsided somewhat. “Look.”
Peering over her sister-in-law’s fine shoulder, Ginny could see that the body had darkened, had begun to disintegrate into strands, into... seaweed. “Do you know what thees eez, Geeny?” Fleur asked.
Ginny shook her head, transfixed. The blood was still red on her hands, on the wall. But on the table was a pile of nothing more than kelp.
“Eet eez—eet was a Rusalka. Zay are very rare, petite. You ‘ave studied zem in Professor ‘Agrid’s class?”
Struggling to wrap her brain around the words, Ginny finally shook her head.
“Zay are ze spirits of dead girls ‘oo ‘ave died for l’amour, tu comprends? Usually, zay ‘aunt ze beloved; zay love ‘im to death.” Fleur raised a hand to Ginny’s cheek. “Geeny? ‘Ave you ‘ad the love affairs with a girl?”
“No!” Ginny said. She only loved...
Fleur nodded. “Oui. I thought.” Fleur frowned, then looked past Ginny, back up the stairs. “Tonight, ‘Arry woke Bill and me with a cauchemar. ‘E screamed that ‘e ‘ad keeled you in ze kitchen. Bill, ‘e stayed weeth ‘Arry. I came down to you. Do you think...?”
Ginny looked into Fleur’s wide, blue eyes, then over to the pile of dripping seaweed. Love. She loved me. She died for Harry. Her love still protects Harry. Was this...her love protecting him from me? His love, gone out of control? Love?
The sound of running steps thudded down the stairwell, and Ginny and Fleur both turned. Bill, Ron, and Hermione were trying to restrain a frantic Harry. When he saw her, still standing there in the conjured blanket, he stopped, collapsing against his friends’ supporting hands, and gave a moan of feeling so deep that Ginny had no idea what it meant. The green eyes stayed fixed on her. “Oh, hell, Ginny,” he sobbed. “Bloody hell. I’m so sorry.”
Desire, those green eyes flashed, and relief and fear. And a deep, deep sorrow that Ginny knew only too well.
“It’s fine,” she said, and he nodded.
Like the Veela, a Rusalka is indeed a spirit from Eastern European folklore — usually that of a girl who committed suicide by drowning herself in a river. Her spirit would then rise up from her watery grave and curse the unfaithful wretch who had driven her to it. Which just goes to show what men really thought of “weak, expendable” women in the good old days. ;-)
I obviously played with the idea a bit.
This story was inspired by a wonderfully simple, evocative bit of fanart by Maracela called Red Silk Five