Harry and Ron had been practicing making Portkeys under Moody's supervision when the Emergency Owl arrived. Ron had gone white at the sight of the glowing yellow message that the owl was carrying, and Harry's hands were shaking as he opened it. Ron read over his shoulder, and they both gasped as they read the words:
Ginny hurt in Quidditch accident. Meet us at St. Mungo's.
The almost-illegible writing made it obvious that Arthur Weasley's hands had been shaking when he had written the message, as well.
Harry swayed slightly as he turned to meet Ron's gaze. Ron gripped him supportively, and said, "Steady, mate. Can you Apparate?"
Harry took a deep breath, trying to collect himself. "Yeah," he croaked.
They Apparated to the entrance of St. Mungo's, arriving almost simultaneously. Hurrying inside, they made their way towards the Welcome Witch there.
"Ginevra Weasley?" she responded to their inquiry in a rather bored voice. "Yes, straight ahead and to the left. Quinlin Zephan Ward."
They dashed down the corridor, ignoring her shouting "No running!" after them.
Skidding through the door of the ward, they found Molly and Arthur already there. Molly was obviously crying, her face buried in Arthur's chest, and his face was a mask of pain and fear. A woman in green Healer's robes stood nearby, writing something on a piece of parchment that hovered in front of the door to a private room.
The woman looked up sharply at Harry and Ron's thundering footsteps. "Stop!" she commanded, her voice not terribly loud, but thrumming with authority. "There are very sick people here, and they don't need to be disturbed by you running about like a couple of Bludgers on the loose."
Arthur opened his eyes as she spoke, and met the gazes of the young men before him. "Sit down, Molly. Let me talk to the boys for a moment," he said quietly, and guided his wife into a chair in a small alcove behind them. "She's in there," he added, nodding his head towards the closed door. Harry started towards the door immediately, but Arthur and Ron grabbed his arms. "Not yet, Harry," Arthur commanded. "They're still working on her. They haven't been able to stop the bleeding, yet."
Harry felt his knees weaken, and was glad that Ron caught him. "Easy, mate," he heard Ron murmur, as he was guided into a chair next to where Molly was sitting, still crying softly.
"What happened?" Ron asked, quickly conjuring two more chairs and urging his father into one before sinking onto the other himself.
Harry leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, pressing the heels of his hands against his forehead. This isn't happening, he thought desperately, before forcing himself to look at Mr Weasley, wanting to understand what had brought Ginny to this place.
Arthur ran a shaking hand over his hair. "A Hufflepuff player fell off her broom, and it shot upwards. Ginny couldn't move away, apparently, and the broom pierced her abdomen."
"Pierced? The thing stabbed her?!" Ron gasped, as Molly began crying harder again.
"Yes," she sobbed out. "They're trying to – to save her!" And she burst into a fresh wave of tears. Arthur wrapped his arms around her again, and she leaned onto his shoulder as he explained in a voice strangled by his own emotions.
"Madam Pomfrey couldn't stop the bleeding – the broom went through an artery, and caused massive damage. She had Ginny Portkeyed here for emergency treatment."
"Oh god," Harry whispered, leaning forward to rest his head against his hands again.
"Harry, dear…" Molly began, leaning towards him to wrap an arm around his shoulders.
Whatever else she might have been going to say was drowned out by the arrival of the twins, who were also running as they came around the corner. The Healer at Ginny's door seemed to swell visibly as she issued her command to "Stop!" again.
The twins slowed down, but were still moving very quickly as they joined the family in the alcove. Ron gave a quick repeat of their father's information, and they both hugged Molly before sitting down with the others.
Bill and Fleur arrived soon after the twins, and they joined the circle of chairs after a sombre consultation with the family.
Harry heard quiet voices amongst the family, but he couldn't manage to concentrate on the words. He sat slightly apart, his head reeling with the information they'd received so far. The broom had pierced an artery, had caused severe internal injuries, they were trying to repair all of the damage, and attempting to stave off massive infection at the same time.
Time seemed to crawl by as they waited for word from the Healers who were working on Ginny. Working to save her life, he now knew. Occasionally, the Healer at Ginny's door would disappear inside for a few minutes, before returning to her post. Once or twice, she was able to give them a tidbit of new information. The artery had been healed, but they were still working on the other damages. They'd made progress, but it was still uncertain as to the outcome; Ginny had lost an enormous amount of blood; they just didn't know yet.
Harry felt as if he was going to burst with the intensity of pain and worry and fear beyond anything he'd ever known before. The Final Battle now seemed but a distant haze in comparison, largely because at least then, he'd been able to do something – even though it was all excruciating at the time, of course – but now… he was helpless and he felt as if an icy fist were clenched around his heart. He could hardly even breathe properly. His eyes stung from the tiredness of waiting, from the fact that he could hardly tear his gaze away from the door that separated him from Ginny, and from the whirlpool of emotion that was drowning him.
When Ginny was taken into the Chamber, he'd thought then that it was the worst day ever. Then, he'd been worried because she was his friend, and the sister of his best mate. But now, through the years, that friendly concern had grown into something deeper and richer than he could ever have imagined.
"We won't ever be apart again…" He remembered thinking that after Ginny had accepted his proposal. And here he was, only a few weeks later, with those words echoing in his mind and Ginny fighting for her life – for their life – on the other side of that door.
He was jostled out of his stupor by Ron pushing a cup of hot coffee into his hands. "Drink it," Ron ordered. "You're going to worry yourself sick, and I know you won't even consider leaving until she's out of danger, so you might as well have something in you to help you stay awake."
Harry looked at the cup dubiously, about to protest, but Ron spoke first. "Don't argue, or I'll get Mum on to you."
Harry tried to glare, but he could scarcely tear his eyes away from Ginny's door long enough to do so. He sipped cautiously at the scalding coffee, noting with a grimace that Ron had put in a great deal more sugar than he cared for.
Ron pulled a chair closer to Harry's, eyeing him appraisingly. "How're you holding up?" he asked quietly.
Harry avoided Ron's gaze, afraid he'd crack completely if he looked too closely. "Fine," he managed, staring into his coffee cup.
Ron snorted. "I should've expected that."
Harry ran a shaky hand through his hair as he looked around at the assembled family. Bill and Mr Weasley were talking quietly, and Fleur was sitting by Mrs Weasley, holding the older woman's hand between both of her own.
"When did Percy and Penelope get here?" Harry asked, staring at where the other young couple were talking to the twins.
"A little while ago. You've been pretty out of it."
Harry nodded absently, and looked around a bit more. The Healer by Ginny's door was now sitting in a chair as well, and the corridor appeared darker than when they'd arrived. "Time's it?" Harry asked, trying to get his bearings.
Startled, he asked, "They've been – it's been an awfully long time, hasn't it?" Despite his efforts, his voice wavered slightly.
Ron nodded, and Harry could see the worry and fear in the familiar blue eyes, even though Ron was trying hard not to show it, either. "What do you reckon?" Ron asked, meeting Harry's gaze.
"She'll make it," Harry stated flatly. "She can't…" his voice faltered before he managed to add, "… she has to." He couldn't even begin to imagine any other possible outcome. He couldn't imagine life without Ginny. Even the barest hint of the idea was enough to make his insides go cold with fear, and he fought down a wave of panic that threatened to choke him.
Ron nodded again. "I know," he answered, his voice barely a murmur. Harry could see similar emotions and thoughts reflected in Ron's expression. He wished he had words to express what it meant to him to be a part of a whole in this – he wasn't alone in his worry, or in his love for Ginny. He swallowed against the tightness in his throat and reached out to squeeze Ron's arm supportively. Ron gave him a rather wavering grin and clasped his hand in reply.
The door to Ginny's room opened and Harry looked up, thinking that the Healer at Ginny's door would be going in for more information. Instead, he was suddenly, keenly aware of the difference: this was the first time that the door had opened from the inside.
Heart hammering in anticipation, Harry jumped to his feet, sloshing the hot coffee over his hand, and scarcely noticing it as he swiftly set the cup on the nearby table. The rest of the family crowded around him as the team of Healers in green robes exited the room.
A white-haired man stepped towards them as the other Healers trailed away down the corridor, leaving only the same Healer in front of the doorway as before. The older Healer looked at the group before him, and addressed Mr and Mrs Weasley. "I'm Marcus Consanesco. Are you her parents?" he asked.
"Yes," Mr Weasley answered, his voice anxious. "How is she?"
The Healer looked at the rest of the family, as if wondering if he should speak in front of them. "This is my family," Mr Weasley added, as if reading the Healer's mind.
The older man nodded. "Very well. I'm going to be very honest with you: we quite nearly lost her, more than once. That broom did extensive and serious damage, and it's going to take some time for her to heal. But she's a strong witch, and she's young and healthy. She's pulled through the initial crisis, and we think it's possible that she'll be able to make a full recovery in time, if we're able to prevent infection and any sort of relapse. We're going to keep her mostly in a potion-induced sleep – almost a light coma, if you will – for the next few days. She needs the rest to recover, and she also needs to be as still as possible so that her injuries can heal."
Sweet relief washed over Harry and he gulped deep breaths of air, feeling as if it were the first proper breathing he'd done since that owl had arrived.
"Oh, Merlin!" Mrs Weasley cried, twisting her handkerchief in her hands. "Can we see her?" she asked, her voice quavering as tears spilled down her cheeks again.
The Healer looked again at the group of them, then said, "You and Mr Weasley may go in. And the rest of you may go in two at a time. Not more than four of you at once, and only for a short visit each. She's resting, and she needs to continue to rest. Then you should all go home and rest yourselves before you return in the morning."
"I'm not leaving," Harry said quietly, speaking for the first time since the door had opened.
The Healer turned to face him, and Harry saw his eyes widen slightly in recognition. "My word. Harry Potter. And what are you doing here?" he asked, his voice still kind, but not willing to agree to Harry's intentions just yet.
"Ginny's my fiancée," he answered, meeting the man's gaze steadily. "I'm not leaving her." The very idea left him cold, and he wasn't going to entertain any nonsense about being separated from her. He was staying, whether they wanted him to or not.
Healer Consanesco frowned slightly. "You look like you need a good rest yourself, young man," he began, but Harry shook his head firmly.
"I'm not leaving her alone," he repeated even more firmly.
The Healer's gaze faltered, and he looked at Mr Weasley for support, but Mr Weasley only gave him a bleak sort of smile. "Afraid you're on your own with him, Healer. He's a bit… stubborn about our Ginny."
"Yes, yes, I see," the older man looked at Harry appraisingly for a moment, then smiled slightly. "I'll see what I can do." He looked back at the rest of the family. "You may all visit her for just a few minutes each while I see what I can arrange for the fiancé here." He nodded towards Harry, his blue eyes twinkling in a way that reminded Harry slightly of Dumbledore, before he turned and strode briskly away down the corridor.
"Molly?" Mr Weasley's voice prompted, and Harry turned back to see Mr Weasley reaching to guide Mrs Weasley towards the door.
She nodded shakily, then turned to Harry and held out a hand to him. "Come on, Harry. You need to see her, too."
He nodded and stepped towards Mrs Weasley. She took his hand, enfolding it in both her own, and together, the three of them stepped into Ginny's room.
Much later that night, Harry sat at Ginny's bedside, his head propped up by one hand, his eyes still hungrily drinking in the sight of Ginny sleeping peacefully. The torch on the wall was only dimly illuminating the room now, and he was certain it was quite late, but didn't bother to check his watch.
She was so pale, making even the stark white sheets look dark in comparison. And she was so very, very still, only the slight rise and fall of her chest letting him know that she was just sleeping from the potions they were giving her. He couldn't help wishing that she'd wake up and talk to him, that he could see the light dancing in her eyes again, but for now, even her mere breathing was enough to keep him transfixed, unable to tear his eyes from the sight.
He'd seen enough of death during the war to be haunted by the idea of her suddenly not breathing again. He knew instinctively that, if he were to encounter a Boggart these days, seeing Ginny's lifeless body would be his greatest fear. And today, he'd come much too close to that reality for him to be able to look away from her now.
When he'd entered the room earlier with Molly and Arthur, he'd thought that all three of them had wanted to collapse in shock at how pale and motionless Ginny appeared....
Somehow, even the vibrant colour of her hair was muted in this place. And yet – she was breathing, and she was alive, and the relief of that aspect alone was enough to make him clutch onto the chair at her bedside for support. Molly went to the other side of Ginny's bed, folding her hands around Ginny's as she cried silently. Arthur stood behind Molly, his arms wrapped around her, leaning his cheek against the top of her hair, his eyes never leaving his daughter's face.
Harry lifted Ginny's other hand into his, startled to feel how cool and limp it was. Even when she was deeply asleep, Ginny's hands were never so – so lifeless. He couldn't believe that he'd almost lost her over something so bizarre, so completely unthought-of. He bent over her to tenderly kiss her forehead, and caught a whiff of the scent of her hair. He almost choked on the sudden lump in his throat, his eyes glazing over with tears. That scent had always meant life to him, and Ginny was so…. He couldn't let himself even think it.
He pulled back, wiping his eyes quickly with the back of his hand, and was surprised to feel arms wrap around him. "It's all right, dear. She's going to be all right, I just know it," Molly murmured, pulling him close.
Harry allowed himself to be held, clinging to the warmth and comfort that she offered. He felt Arthur move near them both, and a hand squeezed his other shoulder. "Molly's right," Arthur said, his voice roughened by his own emotions. "Ginny's a fighter, and she'll come back to us."
The others had come and gone, but Molly had parked Harry in one chair and herself in the other, and neither had moved for quite some time. Eventually, Arthur had left to fetch them all something to eat from the tea shop, and Molly had coerced Harry into eating the sandwiches and biscuits that Arthur had brought….
It was almost midnight before Arthur could convince Molly that she needed to rest, and Harry had promised to alert them immediately if there was any change. Occasionally, Healers and other personnel came and went, checking on Ginny and making notes on pieces of parchment that hovered near them as they worked.
Healer Consanesco had arranged for a small bed to be set up in the corner of the room for Harry, but he hadn't been able to make himself move on to it yet. He wanted to be where he could watch Ginny sleep, see the slight movement of her breathing.
The door opened again, and a young woman in Healer's robes entered. She flicked her wand, casting spells about Ginny and apparently studying their results on the parchment before her. She made some notes on the parchment as well, then turned to Harry. "So you're her fiancé?" she asked quietly, her eyes flickering over him as though taking readings of his health as well.
"Um, yeah. Harry—" he began, but she smiled and interrupted.
"Oh, I know who you are, of course. I'm Healer Danbry. I'll be here tonight to watch over Miss Weasley." She paused, and then said, "Healer Consanesco told me to keep an eye on you, too. He seemed to think that you might try to stay up most of the night, and he said that – if that were the case – that I was to tell you he'd send you home first thing in the morning if you didn't sleep tonight, and forbid you to see her for at least twelve hours."
"He – what? But –" Harry sputtered for a moment, then scowled. "Oh, fine. All right, I'll try to sleep in a bit, okay?"
She smiled again. "Do I have your word? You'll try to sleep within the hour?"
Harry sighed in frustration. "Yeah, yeah. I'll try," he grumbled. "I won't make any promises about actually sleeping."
"I believe Healer Consanesco left instructions for a potion for you if that were the case," she answered, still smiling pleasantly. At Harry's groan of annoyance, she sobered, and looked at him quite seriously. "Harry. This is for your own good, as well as for Ginny's. You don't need to wear yourself out so that you end up sent to another ward as a patient, now, do you? Sitting around, waiting, in a hospital is enough to tire out anyone. You won't be doing Ginny any favours if you exhaust yourself too much, and then not be able to stay around her once she begins waking up."
Harry sighed tiredly and rubbed his hands over his face. "All right. I'll try," he repeated.
"Good. I'll be back later to check on you both. If you need anything, just pull the cord."
Harry nodded, and she slipped out the door again, her parchment and quill floating along behind her.
Harry managed to sleep fitfully for a few hours. He kept waking up and sitting up part-way to look across and check on Ginny, watching her for a few moments before lying down and falling back to sleep. He wanted to be sure that, if she did wake up – even just a little bit – that she'd know he was there, and that she wasn't alone.
Molly and Arthur returned early in the morning, and Molly brought him some breakfast that she'd prepared at home. She'd also brought him some clean clothes and his toiletry bag, so he made use of the ensuite and cleaned up as quickly as he could.
He emerged to find Arthur sitting on Harry's bed, propped against the wall and reading the Daily Prophet while sipping a cup of tea. Molly was knitting in one of the chairs next to Ginny's bed. Harry sank into the other chair and poured himself a cup of tea from the pot Molly had left sitting on the small table next to his chair.
"Did you sleep at all, dear?" she asked, looking up from her knitting.
He nodded and raked a hand through his still-damp hair. "Seems the Healer left orders for me to do it, or he'd kick me out until he was sure I'd slept."
Arthur chuckled from behind the paper. "He looked the type to do that sort of thing." He turned a page of the paper and then frowned deeply. "Oh, of all the…." he groaned and slapped the paper down onto the bed. "How dare they...!" he hissed.
Harry looked up in surprise at Arthur's outburst. "What is it, Mr Weasley?"
Molly looked over at her husband, who wasn't answering, just staring down at the newspaper in furious disbelief. "Arthur?" she prompted.
"There's an article here about Ginny's accident. Says that 'sources' at the hospital say that she almost died when she miscarried because of the accident."
"What?!" Molly hissed, her fury no less intense for the lack of volume. "Where do they get this sort of rubbish?" she fumed, her charmed knitting needles clicking even faster in response to her agitation.
"How can they –? Damn, I should've done something about this when they first started printing those lies about her!" Harry chimed in, quickly setting down his tea cup before he could spill it everywhere in his agitation.
"I'm going to speak to someone about this. I may not be able to stop the Prophet from printing such garbage, but I can certainly speak to someone here to make sure they keep their people from contributing to it!" Arthur said, getting to his feet and heading towards the door.
"Do you want me to come with you?" Harry asked, rising from his chair. He could feel himself shaking with anger.
Arthur shook his head. "No, Harry, you stay here in case anyone comes by who shouldn't be here, or in case she wakes up. I know who to speak to. I'll be back shortly."
Harry nodded and sank into his chair again, burying his face in his hands. "I can't believe this...." he muttered to himself.
"I know," Molly responded. "It's unthinkable that they'd do this now, isn't it?"
"I should have done something when they first started writing about us," he answered, still with his face in his hands.
"Harry, look at me," Molly commanded. He slowly lowered his hands and met her gaze. "There is nothing you could have done that wouldn't have just made things worse. You've handled things as well as it was possible to do."
Harry sighed. "Ginny wouldn't have to put up with all this if she weren't involved with me."
Molly sighed and put down her knitting. "Harry. There is no part of this that is your fault. Not one single bit. Ginny is 'involved' with you because she loves you, just as you love her. I believe that was the main reason you two decided to get married, wasn't it?"
Harry felt the corner of his mouth lift slightly at her jibe. "Yes, of course it was. It's just –"
"It's just that you love her, and you don't want to see her hurt. That doesn't sound to me like any sort of reason to be blaming yourself."
Harry sighed. "Mrs Weasley, I –"
"Molly," she corrected, her mouth twitching as she fought a smile. He'd been habitually calling them "Mr" and "Mrs" periodically since the night he'd told them of his proposal, and they'd been teasingly correcting him at every opportunity.
He felt a grin tugging at his own mouth in response. "Molly," he began again, "I just…I hate what they're saying about us, about Ginny. And to be doing it now…." He raked his hands through his hair again and stood up to pace back and forth between his chair and the window, finally pausing to lean against the windowsill, staring at the outside world without truly seeing it.
"I know, dear. And it's worse when something's hurting someone we love than when it's hurting us instead, isn't it?" He nodded, his forehead pressed against the window.
"Does it ever get any easier?" he asked after a few moments of silence, turning his head slightly to look at her.
Molly shook her head, smiling at him fondly. "Not really. You just learn to deal with it in some way, I suppose, but it's never easy to watch someone you love hurt."
Harry nodded again and drifted back to his chair, lifting Ginny's hand into his. She still had only barely moved from when they'd first been allowed to see her last night. Her hands were warmer, though, which was something, he supposed.
They sat in silence for quite sometime, Molly knitting and Harry watching Ginny sleep. Arthur returned after a while, saying that he'd spoken to someone in authority who'd promised to look into the matter.
Eventually, the Healers came again, and the three of them were dismissed from the room while they examined Ginny. Healer Consanesco updated them once they'd finished. There was no major change, but he assured them that that was to be expected. Ginny would continue to sleep, but might begin to wake for brief periods at some point during the day. She was still free of infection, which was the biggest concern at this point.
When he was detailing the extent of her injuries, though, Molly's hand flew to her mouth as he described where and how the broom had pierced Ginny. "Did-did it damage anything that couldn't be repaired?" she asked in a tremulous voice.
"No, Mrs Weasley, we were able to repair all the damage as much as possible. But she will still need time to recover fully, of course."
"I-I mean…" Molly took a deep breath, and asked, "Did it – will she – can she still have children?"
Harry felt himself pale at the thought. He hadn't even considered the possibility, but now that Molly had mentioned it – he knew it would devastate Ginny not to be able to have children, even though they'd never really discussed the idea in great detail.
The Healer smiled and patted her shoulder reassuringly. "She was very lucky in that regard. There was no damage to those organs specifically. She'll need to wait at least a year before becoming pregnant, to ensure that everything else is fully recovered, but after that, she shouldn't have any problems."
After the contingent of Healers left, they resumed their waiting. Arthur left for a while in the afternoon to check in with his office, and the rest of the family came and went throughout the day.
Harry had never known how tiresome worrying and waiting could be. He'd had days that had given him a fair idea before – or so he'd thought. When Ron was poisoned in sixth year, when Ginny was taken to the Chamber, other times during the Horcrux hunt… but this was different.
This was unrelenting waiting, with no real change or variation.
There was only the constant, nagging worry and waiting, and it was exhausting and maddening and frustrating and boring all at the same time. And yet, there was no way he could have even begun to entertain the idea of leaving, or of taking a break.
Ginny was here, and this was where he was going to be, for as long as it took.
During the late afternoon, he once thought he saw Ginny's eyes flicker, but when he looked closer, it was as if nothing had ever happened, and he wasn't sure he hadn't imagined it.
Ron and Molly coerced him into walking to the tea shop with them for something to eat later in the evening. It did feel good to stretch his legs a bit, even if it was just around the hospital. They ate quickly and bought some extra sandwiches and drinks to take back to Arthur and the twins, who'd stayed with Ginny.
When they returned, Arthur told them that they'd thought Ginny had opened her eyes, but it had been so brief that they weren't sure she was actually conscious when she did it.
But still… it was something.
The twins and Ron left not long after everyone finished eating, but Molly insisted on staying a bit longer.
Harry was still sitting on the side of Ginny's bed, where he'd perched while the room was occupied by more people, and he was holding her hand again. This time there was no mistake: he definitely felt her hand move in his grasp, and her eyes opened for a few moments, looking blearily at the room around her. Her eyes met his, but before he could say or do anything, she was asleep again.
Harry was even less inclined to lie down on the bed provided that night, but he finally satisfied the Healer on duty by Transfiguring his chair into a more comfortable configuration and pushing it closer to Ginny's bed. He wanted to be within reach if she woke up again, and he wasn't going to be persuaded otherwise.
Again, he slept only fitfully, waking regularly to peer at Ginny. He didn't even bother to remove his glasses, preferring to be able to see as clearly as possible when he'd lift his head to check on her.
And finally, late in the night, he saw her move slightly as he sat up, and he slid onto the edge of the bed in case she woke, taking her hand in his once again, and caressing it within his grasp.
Her eyes fluttered open, and he found himself staring into their clear brown depths. "Ginny?" he breathed, scarcely daring to hope that she'd answer him.
"Was that really a Clean Sweep Seven?" she asked, her voice raspy with sleep, but otherwise stronger than he'd have hoped for it to be.
"It was," he answered, but she was already asleep again.
Ginny didn't wake again that night that Harry knew of, but the next day, after Molly persuaded him again to go to the tea shop to eat, he returned to discover that Ginny had not only woken up, but she'd asked Molly where Harry was.
His heart flipped over at the thought that she'd been coherent enough to ask for him, and that he hadn't been there for her when she wanted him. His emotions must have shown on his face, because Molly gripped his hand and pulled him down to sit by her on his bed. "Harry, you can't stay in this room twenty-four hours a day. It's not healthy for you. You'll be here when she's awake again. She's not aware enough yet to really know when you're here or not. You mustn't let it bother you so." He nodded, not meeting Molly's eyes, but couldn't shake the feeling that he'd let Ginny down in some way. Molly was not to be deterred, however. She took his hand in hers and gently caught his chin with the other hand. "Harry, look at me." Reluctantly, he did so. "She knows you love her. She knows you're here. That's what's important right now. All right?"
He bit his lip, looking away as he nodded again, and Molly wrapped her arms around him and pulled his head down onto her shoulder. She didn't speak, just held him, one hand idly stroking his hair for several minutes, and her actions did more to calm him than any words could have done. He still wished he had been there when Ginny asked for him, but he also knew that Molly was making sense, even if his logic and his emotions weren't quite ready to agree yet. When he sat up again, rubbing his eyes tiredly, he murmured, "Thanks," as she released him.
She just smiled at him affectionately and patted his shoulder. "You're doing all that anyone can and more, dear. Once Ginny's fully awake, she'll know that, too."
He tried to smile in response but was interrupted by a massive yawn. "Sorry," he said quickly, but Molly just chuckled.
"You need some rest, dear. Why don't you have a lie-down?"
"Oh, no, I'm okay, really. I just –"
"Stuff and nonsense! You've hardly slept since she was hurt, I know." She eyed him knowingly for a moment, then added, "We'll wake you if she asks for you again, Harry. I promise."
He hesitated. "I'm really –"
"Harry. Please. Don't make me worry about you, too," Molly entreated, but she was smiling in a way that let him know she wasn't entirely attempting to make him feel guilty enough to oblige.
"All right," he finally agreed. Molly moved over to the chair by Ginny's bed and picked up her knitting once more as Harry stretched out on the bed. He was asleep almost immediately, and slept better than he had at any time since he'd arrived at the hospital on Saturday.
He awoke a few hours later to hear Molly and Arthur conversing in quiet voices. He was just about to doze off again when he heard Arthur suddenly say, "Ginny?"
Harry scrambled to his feet just as Ginny asked, "Dad, where's –?"
Arthur was smiling as Harry hurried to the bedside. "Harry's right here, love," he replied, and stepped aside to let Harry get closer so that Ginny could see him.
Harry took her hand as he leaned towards her, amazed at the intensity of emotion he felt at seeing her looking directly at him, and knowing that she knew he was there. "You didn't leave," she murmured, squeezing his hand ever so slightly.
"No," he whispered, unable to say more as he swallowed against the lump in his throat.
"I'm not ready to wake up yet," she said softly, her eyes closing drowsily.
"It's the potion they're giving you," Harry managed, forcing himself to talk as normally as he could. "They don't want you to move around too much. It's better you sleep."
She looked at him again for a moment, and he could see a longing in her eyes that he knew matched what was in his heart. "I'll be here," he promised. Ginny sighed softly and fell soundly asleep again. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "I'm not going anywhere," he whispered, knowing she couldn't hear him, but needing to say the words in spite of that fact. He needed her to know, somehow, that he was with her, that he would never leave her.
The next few days passed slowly, with Harry refusing to leave Ginny for any longer than necessary, and sleeping each night in her room. Ginny had more bouts of wakefulness, but only for a few moments at a time. The Healers came and went routinely, saying only that Ginny was still slowly improving, and that there was still no sign of infection, so there was at least no bad news to report.
The rest of the family visited daily, and Arthur spent a few hours each day at his office. Molly spent most of every day with Ginny and Harry, but otherwise, they were largely alone. Harry tried to read some of the books on Defence that he and Ron had been encouraged to read for their Auror training, but most of the time, he couldn't seem to concentrate well enough to feel that he was making any serious progress.
Finally, however, after almost a week of living at St. Mungo's (a feat which Harry heartily hoped to never repeat), Healer Consanesco told them that the danger of Ginny getting an infection had passed, and that, next morning, they were going to eliminate the potion that was keeping her asleep. She should start waking up a few hours afterwards, and then begin sleeping on a more normal basis.
Harry thought he'd never heard such wonderful words from any nurse or Healer before, as Molly hugged him tightly and cried in relief. He knew Ginny would still have a lengthy recovery ahead of her, but at least she was past the worst danger.
The Healers sent him from the room the next day, and he paced anxiously in the hall as they examined Ginny for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time. Molly and Arthur sat in the alcove where they'd first all gathered the night of Ginny's accident, but he couldn't force himself to sit down. They both looked extremely tired and worried, even though they knew Ginny was improving, and he vaguely wondered if he looked as worn as they did.
At long last, the herd of Healers (as Harry thought of them) left, and Healer Consanesco smiled and gestured for him to enter. "She's asking for you," he said with a warm smile, and Harry didn't even pause to thank him before hurrying into the room.
He approached the bed anxiously, wondering what she would remember of the last week, and what the Healers had told her. "Do I look as washed out as you?" she asked, cocking her head at him in that familiar way as she studied him.
I suppose that answers that question, he thought, as he felt a grin spread across his face. He realised then how worried he'd been that she might not be very responsive – might still be half-asleep from the effects of the potions – but she sounded so normal, if still rather fragile. "Is that a trick question?" he asked in response, settling gingerly on the side of her bed. Now that she didn't have the potion keeping her asleep, he was afraid she might be in more pain than before.
She smiled, her eyes warm and alive and welcoming, and opened her arms to him. "I'm so glad you're here," she said softly, as he tenderly wrapped his arms around her.
"Where else would I be?" he asked, unable to think of anything in the world that would have prevented him from being right here, right now.
Her head settled onto his shoulder, where it always fitted so perfectly. "I don't know. Doing something important," she answered rather hesitantly.
He brought a hand up to stroke her hair. "This is important. You are the most important thing to me," he answered simply.
"Oh," she whispered, and sniffled. He realised she was trembling slightly and carefully lowered her on to the pillows.
"You should rest," he said softly, cupping his hand around her cheek and stroking her cheekbone with his thumb.
"I'm all right," she protested.
"I should go and let you sleep," he answered. He didn't want to leave her, but he knew she shouldn't get too tired, and he was afraid she would fight sleep too much in order to talk to him.
"Talk to me for a little while," she pleaded. "I'll be good and just lie here."
He bit back a teasing reply at her promise to be "good" as he looked at her suspiciously. He didn't want to go. "What do you want me to talk about?" he hedged, wondering how he would justify keeping her awake.
Ginny paused to think for a moment, then asked, "What exactly did Ron say when you told him?"
Harry raised his eyebrows, momentarily uncertain if Ginny was asking about Ron's response to her accident or to their engagement. Either way, that wasn't what he was expecting her to ask. Ginny didn't seem to want to talk about her accident much, though, and he was fairly certain it was not foremost in her mind. Perhaps she didn't quite realize just how seriously she'd been hurt; he wasn't quite certain about that aspect. He hesitated, wondering if he should talk to her about it further. Deciding instead to talk about the less serious topic for now, he told her of Ron's response to their engagement, and wasn't surprised when she pronounced that her brother was an "idiot." Harry grinned at her response, glad that he'd correctly interpreted her question. Ginny asked about Hermione, and how long it was taking to receive letters from her. He was surprised when Ginny asked what the papers were saying about them, and was even more surprised when she compared what was being reported to Days of Destiny, the soap opera she was so fond of.
"It was the cliff-hanger for last year's Days of Destiny – although it wasn't a Quidditch accident –" She was grinning, and he could tell she was trying not to giggle. "It was a fall off of an actual cliff."
The idea made Harry's stomach turn over. Not because of the soap opera, but because of the comparison to their lives, and the complications that could easily have resulted from Ginny's accident. He knew now that he had to tell her something more about her injuries, about how serious it had been.
"What?" she asked abruptly, and he realised that what he was thinking must have shown on his face. "Did the Healers tell you I couldn't have children?" Ginny looked as if that possible outcome of her accident had just occurred to her.
"No," he answered quickly, wanting to reassure her before she could get truly upset. "You're okay. They didn't see any damage. They just said you shouldn't get pregnant for a year at least."
"Oh," she said in a small voice, and he could detect a hint of a blush on her face. "Is that okay with you? I mean…."
"Um. Yeah," he murmured, unable to look at her for the moment. They hadn't really talked about this before, and he hoped that what he was going to say wouldn't bother her even more. "I mean, I want children, but – um…" He looked at her again, willing her to understand. "I kind of wanted you to myself for a while."
Ginny sighed. "I know; me, too."
Harry's shoulders sagged with relief and he leaned over to kiss her quickly. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close. "I'm too heavy," he breathed against her, inhaling her scent all over again.
"No, you feel good," she whispered, tightening her arms around him.
He closed his eyes at the wave of emotion that overtook him, shaking him to the core of his being. It was as if the last week's worry and waiting had been erased at being so near her again, and having her feeling so alive again. He remembered that first night, holding her still, cold hand, and how afraid he'd been for what had seemed an eternity – that he might never feel her in his arms like this again.
He felt her slowly relax within his embrace, as his mind whirled with the emotions that he'd been through the past week. The fear and pain and worry of having come so close to losing her was still so fresh in his mind, and to hold her again and feel her respond like this awakened a joy in him that he'd almost forgotten existed. This was what he'd fought for through all those months of Horcrux-hunting and battling the evil that was Voldemort. He'd fought to be able to have a life, and Ginny was his life.
He needed her to know what he'd thought – how he had felt – all this past week, but, for a moment, he couldn't quite find the words that would convey the depth of those feelings. And then, suddenly, he knew.
Harry tightened his hold on her and pressed a kiss against her temple. "I love you." He whisperedthe only words that could possibly encompass what he was feeling. It was such a simple phrase: I-Love-You. And yet in their simplicity the three words were so profound in how they conveyed the depth of his emotions. They were words that people used over and over again. Words that had been missing for so long from his life. Words that Ginny had stirred in his heart in a way he had never dreamed possible. Words that he would never tire of. "I love you," he whispered as if for the first time, "so very much."
When Ginny didn't reply, he drew back slightly, wondering… and smiled as he realised that she was asleep in his arms. He kissed her forehead as he lowered her tenderly onto the pillow and straightened the covers over her. He then settled himself in his familiar chair. When she needed him again, he'd be here.
My deepest thanks also go to those who realllllly helped pull this chapter together. Allie Kiwi, who betaed it more than once, and Parakletos, for going far above and beyond the duties of friendship to let me badger him over and over regarding word choices and what-have-you's until he was about to keel over. He really pushed me to do better, and his influence and help in this chapter, particularly, was huge. And also to Aibhinn, to whom I turned for a fresh perspective when I could no longer see the forest for the trees, and she really helped me see some things that needed assistance. And as I said before – the best thing about all these helpers is the quality of their friendship, and how blessed I am to know them. Thank you all.