It was a cold night. The moon and stars were lurking out of sight, their backs to the gruesome scene that spread out in the village of Godric’s Hollow. Some patches of the ground bore stinging marks, caused by the curses that hadn’t hit their mark. Like a blanket of death, dozens of bodies covered most of the High Street. Some were breathing, and others had succumbed to the eternal dream. Among them all, a certain redhead opened her caramel brown eyes.
Ginny looked up from where she was lying, terrified of what she would see. Her ears had gone deaf – or maybe she had been deaf all along, and she’d realised it just now. Maybe her ears had chosen not to hear some time ago, because not hearing at all was better than being tormented over and over again by people’s screams as they were tortured into insanity. She remembered when Tom and his Death Eaters tried to take over Hogwarts – she remembered the people crying, Ernie choking on his own blood as he struggled to tell Luna that he loved her, but most of all she remembered the gleeful look in Tom’s eyes every time a member of the Order fell and his freezing laugh that haunted her dreams at night, only to have her wake up in an equally cold sweat. She couldn’t hear that laughter now…it was giving her the chills, being so wrapped up in the eerie silence. Perhaps Tom was dead… or perhaps both of them were dead. Tears started welling up in Ginny’s eyes at this thought, but she furiously wiped them off with her right hand, leaving a trace of scarlet blood along her pale face.
With a grunt, she grabbed a nearby piece of a wall that had been blasted off and heaved herself to her feet. She staggered slightly as she fought for consciousness. She had lost a lot of blood, and she knew it was a matter of time before she passed out, but she fought her hardest – she needed to see if Harry was all right.
She concentrated on walking without tripping on any of the bodies that lay on the cold ground, which was proving to be a difficult task. Blood was everywhere she looked – everything was so covered in red that she barely saw her brother Ron as he tried to wake up an unconscious Hermione. Ginny was feeling light-headed, and more than once she had to stop to avoid falling. However, when she saw his tall figure standing over that of a black-robed wizard, all rational thought left her mind. She ran as fast as her bruised legs would let her. There was another fragment of wall in her path, but she didn’t see it – her eyes were focused on him, the reason of her existence, the man who she had loved for as long as she could remember. Her wounds and bruises didn’t matter; her pain was nothing compared to the love she felt for him. She knew that if only she could reach him, touch his skin and confirm that he was there for real, for the first time in two years she would be all right.
She felt a sharp pain in her left leg and fell to the ground. Everything went pitch black; she fought but she knew she was fading away. She couldn’t hear or see him anymore… In a last desperate attempt to cling to his essence, she cried out, “Harry!” before her blood stained the broken wall and she knew no more.
“Ginny! Ginny, my baby, wake up!” cried a terrified voice.
Ginny was vaguely aware of people rushing up and down, shouting instructions to each other, crying and asking about their friends or relatives. She tried to open an eye, but her lids were extremely heavy – she could only hold them up for a millisecond, but in that time she caught a glimpse of her mother, Molly Weasley, walking next to her. They were moving – Ginny reckoned she was probably on a stretcher.
“Mum…” she croaked weakly.
“Ginny, oh Gin, thank the gods that you’re alive!” Molly Weasley cried in relief, fighting to keep her voice steady. “Your brother Ron has a broken leg, Hermione was knocked out by a spell but she’ll be fine as soon as she wakes up –”
“Harry… where’s Harry?” she moaned, feeling anguish and helplessness flood her. She felt dizzy and light-headed, and knew she was fading. She could hear her mother speaking, but her voice was trailing away, drowning into the sea of noises surrounding them. “Harry… I need Harry,” Ginny called, before darkness claimed her again.
“Harry… where are you?” Ginny cried out to the cold night. Tears were running down her face, obscuring her vision. The deserted streets were engulfing her in their velvety darkness, drowning her with their vanity and helplessness. Ginny sobbed, feeling like a lost child in the middle of the night. She looked around her desperately, but there was not a trace of her love, not a place where she could rest, not a voice that could bring her back from her nightmare. She looked up to the sky, but all the stars had disappeared. The moon was slowly fading away as well, and it started to rain heavily.
“Why do you punish me, Lord?” she cried out to the night, her throat tearing as the raindrops mingled with her tears. Sobbing, she felt her knees give in to the weight of her body, because the burden on her shoulders was just too heavy to carry it anymore, and for the first time in her life, Ginny Weasley surrendered. She cried, knowing no one could hear her, and she balled her hands into fists. With an ear-splitting scream, she hit the ground with both hands and wished for nothing more than to be washed away with the rain, and taken to wherever he was. “Harry, Harry, come back…” she wailed.
The wind started blowing among the leaves of the weeping willow which was the only witness to Ginny’s grief. The night breeze made her shiver, but she let herself merge with the melancholic tunes it carried, the melody of her bittersweet memories…
Molly Weasley sat on the wooden chair next to her daughter’s bed. She was holding her hand tenderly, as if the touch would keep Ginny alive. If she could give all her energy to her daughter right now, she wouldn’t hesitate. Ginny couldn’t die… her baby girl had to stay… Molly didn’t know what she’d do without her. She remembered when she was just a child…
“Mummy, Mummy, tell me the story of the Boy Who Lived!” seven-year-old Ginny Weasley asked, laughing.
“But honey, I just told you it!” Molly Weasley laughed, looking at her innocent daughter.
“Oh, but Mummy… I want to hear it again!” Ginny begged with a pout. Molly smiled… how could she ever deny anything to her little girl?
Molly smiled at the memories. Every night the same thing… every night the same story, and Ginny always gasped and clapped in the right places.
“And that’s how Harry, the Boy Who Lived, defeated the bad wizard You-Know-Who, and saved the magical community once and for all,” Molly finished with a smile.
Ginny clapped and smiled. “He’s very good and kind, Mum. I’m sure his family loves him very much,” Ginny said with a yawn.
As if on cue, Molly went serious. “Time to sleep, missy! You’re exhausted, you are.”
Ginny frowned slightly, but knew better than to argue with her mum. As Molly pulled the covers tight around her daughter, Ginny asked, “Mummy, do you think he’ll go to Hogwarts? Do you think I’ll meet him?”
“One day, who knows,” Molly answered with a smile, and kissed her daughter’s forehead. “Goodnight, darling,” she said, and turned the lights off with a wave of her wand.
“Mum?” came Ginny’s voice as Molly opened the door.
“Yes?” Molly asked, turning around.
“Will you sing me a lullaby? Just till I fall asleep?” Ginny begged.
Molly smiled softly. With a sigh, she closed the door again and, guided by the moonlight floating in through the window, she found her way to the chair she had occupied moments ago. She sat down and, after clearing her throat softly, she closed her eyes and started to sing.
Molly felt melancholy, and sadness flooded her at the memory. Sniffing, she looked down at her lap and was startled to see that it was wet. It wasn’t water, but her own tears. She reprimanded herself mentally. ‘I have to be strong for them,’ she thought determinedly. She looked at her daughter – still asleep. The question was whether she’d wake up or not… the bleeding had stopped, but the gods knew she was weak.
Molly kissed her daughter’s forehead like she would have done all those years ago. She let her gaze linger on Ginny’s pale face for just a moment before she turned away and walked to the other corner of the ward, where her son Bill was starting to wake up.
‘Why does everything happen to my family?’ Molly thought as she saw Bill lying there. It wasn’t the first time she had seen Bill like this, but every time the wounds she thought had healed started bleeding again. Molly knew the scars were there, and that they were deep. Bill lazily blinked, and he smiled weakly when he saw Molly standing there.
“Hey, Mum,” he croaked, and shook his head slightly as if to clear it.
“Think so,” Bill nodded, sitting bolt upright. “Where’s Fleur?”
“She’s okay, a Healer was having a look at her, but she doesn’t seem to have any injuries…” Molly stopped talking suddenly.
“Mum?” asked Bill, concerned about the sudden interruption. “What’s wrong?”
“Listen,” Molly stated simply.
Outside, there seemed to be quite the commotion. They could hear the voices of upset Healers and other people, but a voice rang above the rest. “I’m bloody well fine, I say! Go help someone who needs it and leave me alone!”
Molly and Bill’s eyes met as they uttered the same word. “Harry?”
“Look, you can stuff your priorities for all I care. It’s my priorities that matter here, and my priority right now is her. I want you to make sure she’s going to be all right!”
Bill and Molly could only stare at each other in shock as they heard the Healer protest, and then something happened. A wave of raw power was coming from the hallway, and it shook both mother and son. Only silence could be heard, and then, a voice barely above a whisper, but so menacing that it made them both shiver. “You will do what I ask, or I will personally make sure you regret it.”
“Yes, of course, Mr Potter,” the Healer stuttered, clearly terrified. “Now, if you would lower your wand, I’ll call some colleagues… Smethwyck! Meyers! Wilson! Chase! McMallan!”
They heard the sounds of several pairs of footsteps approaching, and the wave of power subsided slightly. “Wow,” muttered Bill, gaping in awe.
The door to the ward opened, and Harry came rushing in. He didn’t look at anything but Ginny – he didn’t even register Bill’s and Molly’s presence – he just ran to the bed where the redhead was lying unconscious. When he was a mere six feet away, he halted suddenly and gasped.
“Merlin… what happened to you?” he spoke tenderly, as he sat down on the edge of her bed. The Healers came in immediately and went up to them. One of them timidly asked Harry to back away, and he complied and leant against the wall, giving the Healers their space but not letting Ginny away from his sight.
Three pairs of eyes watched as the Healers started examining Ginny’s wounds, healing some of them with their wands and putting bandages on others. Healer Smethwyck ran out of the ward and came back minutes later with two flasks of Blood-Replenishing Potion, which he left on Ginny’s bedside table. He clumsily poured one of them into Ginny’s mouth. After a while, all six healers seemed satisfied with their work and told Harry that she’d be all right when she woke up.
Bill and Molly remained in silence, as if afraid to break the charm that had been placed upon the room the moment the Healers left. They felt as if they were intruding upon Harry and Ginny’s private moment (though the latter was unconscious) and could not – would not – speak.
Ginny’s brow was furrowed, as if she were having a very bad nightmare. As the door closed, Ginny moaned in her sleep. “Harry,” she said.
Harry’s eyes widened slightly, and he quickly crossed the distance that separated them. He sat on the edge of her bed again and took her hand. “I’m here. You’re going to be okay.”
Ginny’s features relaxed immediately, and a slight smile formed on her lips.
“Harry,” Ginny sobbed, pleading. She needed him, she needed him now, and she was so alone… She heard a twig break behind her, and she whirled around. Harry was there. He was standing a mere six feet from her, his robe swirling in the wind, his green eyes twinkling merrily, like they did before the war whisked him away from her.
With a strangled cry of happiness, Ginny ran to him. He opened his arms to welcome her, and she hugged him fiercely. “Oh thank Merlin, thank Merlin you’re here…” she sobbed with relief, as her heart started beating madly.
He hugged her closer to him and started whispering soothing words in her ear, like a mantra. “I’m here. You’re going to be okay.” Ginny felt happiness flood her as she clung to Harry. Like coming home after a long journey, like seeing the sun after the longest of nights… now she could rest in peace. She relaxed in his embrace and kissed him softly before finally giving in to sleep.
“You’re going to get well… you have to,” Harry spoke to her in what he hoped was a reassuring voice. He let his green eyes wander over Ginny. Her skin was paler than usual, almost colourless, except for her freckles that covered the bridge of her little nose. Her silky red hair lay sprawled over her pillow, and seemed to hold the last bit of life left in her petite body. ‘How could I let this happen to her?’ thought Harry. His eyes stung as hot tears leaked out of them. “If… if you died… I’d never forgive myself. I wish I could take all your pain for you…”
Molly started sobbing as she heard Harry’s words. Her heart broke at the sight of him saying all of that – she knew Ginny had to stay, if not for her, then for Harry. He needed her more than Molly did. Bill hugged his mother, praying that everything would come to a happy ending.
“When we were away, we often found ourselves surrounded by destruction everywhere. We were in Kent, and there was a Death Eater attack… we tried to keep the children safe while we fought, but then a kid appeared out of nowhere… we tried to put him with the others, but then…” Harry stopped his tale and took a deep breath, in an effort to calm himself. “One of the Death Eaters fired a curse at his mother while she was trying to tell him to go and hide. The kid saw the green jet coming and he pushed his mother away… the spell hit him on the chest. He died.”
Harry ran a hand through his hair as the memories of that night started flooding his brain. “The night after that, while Ron and Hermione were sleeping in our friend’s house, I went out because I needed some fresh air. I didn’t realise where my feet were taking me until I arrived there, at the same place where the kid had died. His mother was crouching there, singing a lullaby as if he could hear her…”
Harry stopped dead in his tracks as he saw Melissa crouching on the cold ground, next to the old bookshop where the children had hidden. He was struck by the heart-shattering beauty of the moment – she had positioned herself under the dim moonlight, in the exact same place where Timmy had died the night before. Melissa’s pale skin and her blond hair made her look ghostly in her dirty blue dress. Harry felt a sudden wave of hatred towards Voldemort flood through him – hadn’t he had enough with taking Melissa’s husband and parents? Thanks to him, her son was gone too, and Melissa was alone. Her sweet, sorrowful voice was carried to him by the night breeze…
You’ll always be
My love, my own
Where you are dearest
I’ll call home.
If you should fly
To heaven’s star
To be where you are.
Not fire nor water
Earth nor air
Could keep me
If you want me there.
Melissa closed her eyes and muffled a sob. With trembling hands, she took out her wand and fingered it as she raised her voice again.
And yet if you
Should turn away
Refuse my love
I would not stay.
Taking a deep breath, she raised her wand and turned it on herself. Afraid, Harry went out of the shadows and walked up to her, hoping he could stop her from doing what he knew she was about to do.
“Melissa! Lower the wand! Don’t be foolish!” Harry cried, walking faster. “They would not want you to throw away your life! They would want you to live! They gave their lives so you could live yours happily!”
“Wake up,” Melissa croaked, and looked up from her lap, her eyes haunted and bloodshot. “Do not mistake life for a fairytale… there’s no happily ever after. I can never be happy on my own… I need them with me.”
“You’ll regret it if you do that, Melissa. Please be sensible,” Harry tried to reason with her, but her mind was made up.
“I have been sensible, I have fought for a long time… First I fought for my parents, then for Hank, and then for Timmy… my Timmy…” Her voice quavered and broke, but she took a deep breath and stared at him in the eyes, hard. “Tell me, Harry… what is left to fight for?”
“A free world! A world with no Voldemort, no Death Eaters, no darkness!”
“I like it better when it’s dark… that’s when I can’t see all the death around me,” Melissa said. “But I want to thank you, Harry. You are a good person… a good man… I know you will lead a happy life one day. But it is not on this Earth where I shall find my happiness… I belong with them.”
“Melissa…”Harry moved to stand beside her, feeling helpless.
She took his hand and kissed it. “You deserve happiness…”She closed her eyes and sang for the last time.
But cast away
From sleep’s fair shore
Of you to dream
“Thanks, Harry,” she muttered. Harry kneeled next to her and hugged her, who had become a true friend for him. His heart was beating frantically as the tears started running down his face. Two words were all it took to end her nightmare…
On the ground of the old village of Kent, as the church clock struck midnight, Melissa’s weathered heart found the rest it had always longed for.
Harry caressed Ginny’s face with his callused hand, relishing in her touch. He sighed – if the Healers were right, she would wake up any moment. He could not face her yet, not when he had broken her heart to keep her safe. If there was something Melissa had taught him, it was that the heart’s happiness is more important than physical well-being. The one thing that Ginny had been trying to tell him all along… and yet, he hadn’t understood. He hadn’t thought about her wishes… she deserved better than him.
He looked at her and sighed. He got up and kissed her softly on the lips. “I love you,” he muttered. He let his gaze linger on her for a second longer, and then he turned and went out of the ward.
“He’ll be happy,” Melissa whispered, hugging her son to her. “He deserves it.”
A/N: The lullaby Melissa sings here is not mine. It comes from chapter 19 of SSHENRY's Towards Tomorrow.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed, you’re what keeps me going. Also thanks to the wonderful LisaK, my beta. This wouldn’t be possible without you! *wink*