‘It has been a wonderful night,' Ginny thought happily for the first time in what seemed like too long. The summer had been difficult with all that had happened, but now in this moment, it was as if nothing bad had ever happened. Her smile, unseen in the dark, disappeared when his face came into view. ‘Even in sleep, it appears that he was haunted.'
All of them had been shocked the first time they had seen him. In some ways they expected it to be bad, but in others even the Weasleys thought of Harry as invincible. It was hard not to, Ginny mused silently. He was after all, the Boy-who-lived.
It had taken most of the summer just to get Dumbledore to agree to the visit, and not a minute too soon, Ginny thought, if the condition they found him in was any indication. The boy they found wasn't the one that had been so much apart of the family in the last four years. This boy was closed off, his face blank, his eyes, those wonderful green eyes dull. He was stronger too, physically at least, and after watching him silently in the garden where they found him hauling rocks, she knew why. Ginny cursed the Dursleys in her mind for using Harry as slave labour, and Harry for caring so little that he let them.
She never thought she would see the day that he would give up, but even Ginny had to admit that it was pretty close when they pulled him out of there and brought him home. Ron and Hermione were in shock at the sight of their friend, who reacted so little to everything, his face expressionless. The new Harry didn't say much, a few words here and there, but for the most part sat silently, observing behind those green eyes that had once held so much life.
Ginny had never seen her mother so furious after she, Ron, Hermione, and Percy had arrived with him. She yelled at Dumbledore, to the shock of everyone for at least half an hour. Only after Harry was asleep, of course. As only Molly Weasley could, she gave him an earful over his negligence in leaving Harry with those ‘cursed' people. And because in her opinion the admonishment through the fire place wasn't quite enough, she sent three Howlers to the man most wouldn't have dared to even raise a voice to. Ginny had never been prouder of her mother. She ignored her brothers comments on the event, especially since she had lost total control of her temper as well.
Still Ginny didn't feel too embarrassed over her burst of temper. In a moment of sheer anger, to date Ginny had not yet released completely, she had let fly, and punched Mr. Dursley, breaking his nose in two places to the utter amazement of all her brothers. She didn't know why. She had six of them, did they really think she didn't know how to defend herself? Fred and George had been giving her looks since then. Looks she didn't quite know how to interpret. Percy who had witnessed the event, for the first time in his life hadn't given her lecture on proper behaviour for ladies. Instead he handed the man her handkerchief, and to the greater shock of the twins, who Ron had told the story to in great relish afterwards, told Vernon Dursley quite plainly not to bleed all over Harry's trunk.
Ginny was surprised at her parents reactions though. When Percy recited the story to his parents, the two had exchanged a look. Then Molly had walked up to her daughter, and to Ginny's and her brothers complete shock, hugged her tightly and whispered that she was proud of her. Harry was the only person who hadn't reacted, although in this case Ginny was sure it was because he didn't know what she did. Ron and Hermione had already bundled him off in the Ministry car Arthur Weasley had commandeered for the trip, while Percy and Ginny took care of Harry's trunk and Hedwig when The Incident - as Fred and George referred to it - occurred.
Ron caught the tail end of the event coming back to help with trunk, and didn't hear the comments about the good-for-nothing boy he was forced to keep that Vernon Dursley had made. However it was hard to miss Ginny's eyes flashing with fury, her bright red hair flaming around, as she totally and completely lost her temper. Her fists flew while Percy and Ron, along with Petunia and Dudley stared open-mouthed at the tiny slip of a girl, who now stood still, unable to believe what she had just done. It was Percy who first reacted. He took Ginny gently by the hand, handed her over to Ron, warning him in a low voice not to mention it in front of Harry. As Ron left the room he heard over the howling Vernon was exhibiting, drowned slightly by the bawling by Petunia and Dudley's sobbing, Percy telling them all quite plainly to shut up. And then with the dignity only Percy could exhibit, he walked out, Harry's trunk levitating behind him, the warnings by Molly Weasley not to use magic at the Dursleys now a moot point.
The car ride was silent, and not just because Ginny couldn't talk, but because Harry wouldn't. Ron and Hermione tried, starting conversations - over and over again. But the monosyllabic answers by their best friend had them all falling silent eventually, while Harry stared unseeingly out the window. Ron and Hermione exchanged worried looks at his profile, interchanged with admiring ones Ron sent her way, and the questioning ones Hermione gave.
That had been a week ago. There had been a little change since then. Harry smiled twice on the second day, each one treasured greatly by the whole family, and setting Fred and George on a mission to get more out of him. They played more jokes and pranks than ever before, and for the first time Mrs. Weasley refrained from yelling at her twin sons over their behaviour. Ron forcing Harry to play Quidditch gave some reaction, so much so that Molly let them play way past dinner time. Hermione, in a panic, wrote to Sirius, telling him about the condition they found him in.
The result was the arrival of both Sirius and Professor Lupin, who despite the heavy schedule they were on for the Order, took time off to see Harry. The two arrived with Sirius in his Padfoot form, until the news could be broken to the Weasleys. Ron called a family meeting and he and Remus told the astounded Weasleys what had really happened all those years ago, about Scabbers and how Sirius finally escaped Azkaban.
‘They took the news rather well', Remus thought. Ginny Weasley walked up to Padfoot, and waited patiently until he transformed. She stared intently into his dark eyes, as he stared back, both gauging the others love for Harry. The others stood silently as the two took the other in, waiting, until Ginny nodded slightly, in acceptance. Ginny lightly touched his face, in comfort it seemed.
"He'll be happy to see you," she said softly. And Sirius nodded, feeling uncomfortably grateful at her words, and her actions. It was rare to receive such acceptance. Especially at a first meeting.
Fred and George took that as their cue. Giving their sister another one of the inscrutable looks the two had worded their acceptance as well, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, who trusted Dumbledore implicitly. Percy was the last to agree. The decision to include him had been made, by of all people Ron, who's estimation of Percy had been greatly improved since Ginny had punched Harry's uncle. Still despite this new admiration for his brother, none of them had been sure of his reaction to the news of Sirius's innocence. Percy was a firm supporter of Cornelius Fudge, and took working at the ministry seriously.
"She trusts you, " Percy said, consideringly, looking at Ginny with a sideways glance, "I will, as well." Ginny ran to her brother and hugged him tightly, surprised at his words. He hugged her back, and gave the former Azkaban convict a warning look over his little sister's shoulder. Sirius took it the way it was meant; a grudging trust, and a warning not to hurt his family. He nodded in understanding back at Percy.
Taking that as an agreement, Hermione ran to get Harry then, dragging him into the kitchen. Both Sirius and Lupin were distressed at Harry's appearance, although they took great care not to show it to the boy. As for Harry, he looked genuinely happy for the first time in a week. A bright light lit up his green eyes when he saw his Godfather, standing surely in the Weasley kitchen, and for a second there he just stood there staring at them. Ginny took his arm gently and pushed him towards Sirius, and the move had them all reacting. Harry ran into Sirius's arms and hugged him, holding him tightly.
Harry shuddered, with great emotion, keeping his face hidden. He had grown taller during the year they had been apart, and his head now reached Sirius's shoulder. All the Weasleys felt hope at his reaction. They turned silently, and as a family left the room, leaving them the privacy they deserved, Ginny giving one last look back at the embracing almost-father and son.
The day had gotten better after that. Harry had laughed at Sirius's and Lupin's deliberate attempts at fooling around, and the stories the two told of Marauder escapades, much to Fred and George's delight. The sound of Harry's laughter was welcome in the home, which had been too quiet recently.
Lunch was a loud affair, as well. The Weasleys all came in one or two at a time, while Sirius and Remus took seats near the adults. Harry sat down, playing with his fork, his plate empty. Remus and Sirius both exchanged worried glances at his disinterest in the food. Sirius opened his mouth to speak, to insist that Harry eat. Arthur noticing his action, placed a restraining arm on the man's shoulder.
"Wait," he said, softly so only the two men could hear, "She'll be here soon." Remus didn't get to ask the questions both he and Sirius wanted to, as Ginny came in then. No one said anything to her, as she took her seat next to Harry and calmly, naturally, reached for the food, and dished it out, first in his plate, then in hers. She didn't look at Harry and he didn't look at her. None of the others took notice of this. Ginny then smiled at her father, and began to eat, and after a minute Harry moved his fork to his plate and ate as well.
When he was finished, Harry sat back and waited. Ginny calmly took his plate and gave him some more, and Harry ate it. Sirius and Lupin took their cues from the rest of the family and ignored this strange behaviour. After the meal, Sirius insisted quite clearly that they all go play Quidditch, while he and Remus helped Molly and Arthur with the dishes. As was becoming insistently normal with Harry he didn't raise any arguments, and quietly left.
Remus turned to Arthur and Molly, "What was that?"
Molly waved her wand at the table, and the dishes began to fly into the kitchen and stack up against at the sink, "It started on the second day he was here at breakfast," she said in answer to Remus's question. She sighed heavily, "The first day he didn't eat, just sat there, playing with his food, not saying a word. We didn't want to push him too much. You saw him, it was much worse at the beginning of the week."
"The next morning at breakfast," Arthur took over, "He did the same thing. Hermione and Molly tried to insist he eat, but he just stared at them blankly. We didn't know what to do. He was getting really thin, but we didn't know how to make him eat."
"Then Ginny came in," Molly's voice held pride, "She just walked in, like you saw her just now, sat down next to him, picked up his plate, dished out what he likes best, and then she handed him a spoon, and started eating herself. I don't think he knew what to do with that spoon, and I didn't want to say a word, none of us did, that you know will make him not eat. Hermione decided to follow Ginny and started to eat, and then Ron did as well, so did the twins, and the next thing you know, so did Harry," Molly finished, relief evident in her voice.
"I think he eats because she expects him too, and never asks him too," Arthur said musingly, "Its the same thing every meal. He doesn't eat until she gives him a plate of food."
"It was really strange in the beginning, especially if you consider that the two of them barely speak," Molly said, and with a wave of her wand again, the dishes began washing themselves.
"Harry and Ginny don't speak?" Sirius asked, surprised.
"No, not really," Arthur replied.
"Of course, right now, he's barely speaking to anyone," Molly added.
"At least he's eating, right?" Remus said, worriedly. All the adults nodded.
"And since Wednesday, he's been asking for second helpings," Molly said, and then clarified, "Well, not exactly ask. He kind of waits for Ginny and then hands her his plate and she fills it up for him."
"It's strange all right, like mind-reading," Remus said, having noticed the asking at today's table.
"You're right, but you want to know what's really strange – my sons. The boys have been great. None of them even mention the food thing. And believe me, you don't know how odd that it, because they tease Ginny about everything. But this they ignore. Not a word. You'd think they don't even see it," Molly said.
Arthur laughed at her puzzlement, "You know they're just as worried about him as she is. I heard Fred tell George ‘Whatever works' and he has a point."
"I want to kill those damn relatives of his," Molly said angrily, not noticing her husband's shocked look at her language, "What they did to that poor boy."
"Me, too," Sirius said, so seriously, that for a second Remus was actually worried.
Molly suddenly smiled, " At least Ginny got to do something about that," she said, rather proudly.
"What do you mean?" Sirius asked.
"Ron and Hermione didn't tell you?" Arthur asked.
Remus and Sirius shook their heads, "What did she do?" Sirius was dying of curiosity.
"She broke his nose in two places," Percy's voice cut in, a curiously satisfied tone to it. He stood at the doorway, observing.
Sirius and Remus looked dumbfounded, "She did what?" Remus asked, not quite believing the same girl he taught did that.
"Punched him!" Even Arthur sounded proud.
Sirius started to laugh. And then Remus joined in.
"I would have liked to see that," he said between chuckles, "What…" he trailed off, laughing too much to finish the sentence.
Percy's voice hardened, "They were going on about him, not nice things too, that son of a…" Percy stopped his rather uncharacteristic story telling, and looked at his mother, but she didn't say a word about his language, "Ginny let fly. It was beautiful. You should have seen it," he continued, and somehow Sirius knew, despite never having met Percy before how unlike him it was to speak like that, or accept his sister's violence.
"What did they do?" Remus asked, curiosity eating him.
"Please," Percy said scornfully, "They were making such a huge noise, you'd have thought they were all dying. I sent Ginny out with Ron, told them all to shut up and not to bleed on Harry's trunk."
Everyone laughed again, before Sirius turned solemn, "Thank you!" he said to Percy, and Percy nodded.
"She's always been really protective of Harry," he said, before turning and walking out, "And somehow, it has always gone both ways. We will always owe him, he saved her life, and now she'll save his." Percy said.
The adults were silent for a minute, taking in the insightful words.
"I owe your family a great debt, Arthur, Molly for being there for Harry when I couldn't," Sirius said finally.
"Don't. Don't you dare thank us for that. Harry's like a son to us," Molly said, fervently.
Arthur put his arm around his wife's shoulders, "Molly's right, Sirius. That's the one thing you'll never have to thank us for. And as Harry's family, you're now part of ours. Both of you."
Sirius and Remus looked surprised, and then happy, "We would be honoured," Remus said, when Sirius was too choked up to speak.
The boys all came rushing into the kitchen after that, with Ginny trailing behind them. Sirius and Remus took a careful look at the girl, who managed to do what others couldn't. She was laughing, her face lit up and her bright red hair lying like a halo around her. She walked to the two men and unselfconsciously hooked her arms through theirs, dragging them out to play Quidditch with the rest. No one protested, not even Percy when she made him join in. She was a hard person to say no to.
The day was filled with laughter and smiles. Harry spoke more than he had the entire week, and the twins made Sirius and Remus talk till late that night - until they had told of every prank they could remember. Eventually they had all fallen of to sleep, sprawled out on the many couches in the living room.
‘A good night. A wonderful night,' Ginny thought again. She tried to hold onto the thought, even as she waited, staring at Harry's sleeping form. She was the only one awake. The twins were in sleeping bags on the one end of the room, with Ron and Hermione curled up below the sofa that Harry lay sleeping, Remus had bagged the armchair opposite Harry, with Sirius on the floor below him while Ginny sat waiting on her makeshift bed, diagonally to Harry.
She didn't have to wait long. It started, like it had every night since he had come to the Burrow. He began moaning in his sleep. Protests. The word "No" over and over again. Sometimes names. His parents. Cedric. Ron. Hermione. Her. Ginny heard him cry out softly, before the tossing and turning began. The same every night. It was as if something drew her there. Tonight she couldn't let him be heard. Ron, after years of living with a ghoul in the attic could sleep through anything, and Hermione never noticed her roommate sneaking out the room in the middle of the night. But tonight was different. Tonight they all were downstairs together.
Somewhere deep in her Ginny knew that if Harry woke them all up with his nightly terrors, they wouldn't be able to get him back, because he would withdraw from all of them. Far too far for them to reach him again. Not tonight. Not on this one day when they had all been happy. And so she waited. She sat up, her arms wrapped around her legs and she watched him carefully.
When the moaning began, Ginny rose carefully from her bed, and sat on the edge of the sofa, lifting Harry's head gently into her lap. And then she began the ritual she carried out every night. She sang a lullaby softly, stroking his head tenderly. Then she whispered the words she knew he need to hear, even if he was still asleep. Reassurances that he was safe, that they were all safe, that it wasn't his fault. She repeated them until he finally calmed down, and the nightmare passed.
Ginny stood up, laying Harry's head back on the soft and smoothed his hair back from his forehead, wet with perspiration. She bent down, and kissed his scar, an aching white in the dark. And then - silently went back to bed, her eyes closing immediately, sleep easy knowing that now Harry would pass the rest of the night peacefully.
She didn't notice the two pairs of worried eyes watching, one pair that had been trained to open at the slightest sound after years of imprisonment, and one pair that came with the added advantage of werewolf hearing. Ginny missed both the worry, and gratefulness. She wasn't aware that the two men stayed up the rest of the night, keeping watch, over the boy that they both loved as a son, or the decision that they made that night. And when she threw off her covers turning in her sleep, she missed Sirius gently covering her up again.
"She keeps a lot of secrets, doesn't she?" Remus said softly to Sirius standing and staring down at the girl.
"She keeps his secrets," Sirius replied.
"I can't come back with you, can I?" Remus said.
"No. One of us has to keep an eye on him. I wish it could be me," Sirius answered sadly, hating in that second the limits on his freedom, "He needs us."
"I'll contact Dumbledore in the morning. We'll will have to deal with the Malfoys though."
"Let Dumbledore deal with them. Do you want to tell Harry, or surprise him?" Sirius asked, in a whisper, in respect to the sleeping teenagers.
"Lets get it sorted first. Then we'll tell them. This year I think its best if Harry knows he isn't alone," Remus returned.
"God, I miss James and Lily," Sirius said, a little desperately. But Remus knew what he meant. He felt it too. The two were silent for a moment in remembrance to their fallen friends.
"Do you think he knows what she does for him?" Remus broke it, glancing at the red-head curled up on the couch.
"Subconsciously, I think he does. He obviously trusts her, even if they don't admit it out loud," Sirius said.
"Then don't worry, Padfoot. He'll be fine. Ron and Hermione will keep an eye on him, and I know that Ginny will take care of him. She obviously does that now," Remus's reassurance was just as much for him as it was for his best friend.