The tearoom at St. Mungo's was a dismal place; the tea was lukewarm, the sandwiches stale and the conversation gloomy.
Snape had already returned to Hogwarts, but the others remained. They sat at a table, barely touching the food in front of them.
There wasn't much to say. Harry was stabilized, but unresponsive. There wasn't a potion or spell in existence that could help, and so they had no choice but to simply wait for something in his condition to change.
The waiting and silence and quiet sighs affected Ginny to her very soul, and despite her father trying to goad her out of her silence, she finally excused herself to go back down to the fourth floor. "To check on Mum," she explained.
Molly Weasley was fussing about Harry's room when Ginny quietly pushed open the door. The room was bright and warm, thanks to a "sun" which Molly had hung above Harry's bed, sending much-needed warmth into his body. In addition, Molly had magically grown a soft, fresh-smelling grass beneath their feet and had painted the walls a sky blue.
Mrs. Weasley smiled. "Hello, darling."
She held out her hand, beckoning her daughter to come near. "Come hold his hand. Let him know you are here."
The older woman summoned a chair close beside Harry's bed and sat her daughter in it. Ginny seemed afraid to be in the same room as Harry, much less to touch him, so Mrs. Weasley took her daughter's hand and joined it with Harry's. "There, now."
In her "I'm your mother, don't tell me no" voice, she added, "I know you're frightened, but now is the time to be strong. We raised you to be strong, Ginny, and Harry needs you. He's probably wondering where you've been."
"Do you really think he knows whether I'm here or not, Mum?" the girl whispered.
"Of course he knows," Mrs. Weasley said briskly. "He can hear you and he can feel your presence. Undoubtedly he's frightened by what's happened. Comfort him, love."
Ginny nodded, her fear melting away at her mother's wise words. She raised Harry's hand and held it tightly against her cheek. Her eyes were squeezed shut, but still tears came, leaking from the corners of her tightly closed eyelids.
"It's all right, Harry," she mumbled.
She cleared her throat and repeated herself, stronger this time. "It's all right, Harry. I'm here now."
Mrs. Weasley stood beside her, gently petting her daughter's smooth auburn hair, trying to comfort her own child even as the child--no, Molly realized, the young woman--tried to comfort Harry.
Ginny's warm tears coursed over Harry's knuckles, and she pressed her lips against his curled fingers, speaking gently to him. She was just telling him about some bit of school gossip when she gasped, the words dying on her lips and her eyes widening.
"What is it?" Mrs. Weasley was immediately alarmed.
"He..." Ginny swallowed convulsively. "He squeezed my hand."
Mrs. Weasley's eyes welled with sudden tears, and she nodded. "That's our good boy, Harry."
"Do it again, Harry," Ginny whispered. "Please."
But if Harry heard her, he couldn't obey, and the brightness and hope slowly faded from Ginny's eyes as the hours passed without another squeeze from Harry. Still, she held his hand tightly, watching his face for the slightest sign of wakening.
Outside the hospital room window, the skies grew dark. Ginny, still seated beside Harry, began to nod off, her cheeks still damp from the last of her tears.
When the door opened, Molly turned toward it, ready to stare down the healer if necessary. But it wasn't the healer who came inside; it was her husband.
"Easy, Molly," he said, a tired smile on his face. "No one is here to do battle with you."
Behind him, Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall stepped inside the room, their faces etched in relief.
"We were concerned when Ginny didn't return," Dumbledore said quietly.
"She's exhausted," Molly said. "But I didn't have the heart to tell her to go."
Mr. Weasley looped his arms around Ginny and lifted her, intending to hold her in his arms and Apparate her back to school for the night. But when her hand dropped away from Harry's, the loss of contact was enough to jolt Ginny from sleep. She struggled to free herself from her father, not awake enough to fully comprehend her surroundings. She sobbed Harry's name and fought her father so hard that Mr. Weasley had no choice but to set her back on the grass. Once on her feet, the girl began to sway from exhaustion.
"All right, dear." Molly lowered the guardrail of Harry's bed; she and her husband settled Ginny against the edge of the mattress. The mattress was so large--Mr. Weasley suspected his wife had enlarged it to make Harry more comfortable--that the two did not even touch. When she was next to Harry once more, Ginny immediately rolled on to her side and drifted back to sleep. Molly draped a spare blanket over Ginny's limp body.
"We need to take the children back to Hogwarts," McGonagall said. "It's late and they have classes in the morning."
Mrs. Weasley nodded. Clearly, she had no intention of leaving Harry's bedside.
"We've spoken with Harry's healer," Dumbledore said. "There is little more they can do for him, except take care of his basic needs and pray for the best."
"Stop speaking as if he isn't here," Mrs. Weasley said. "He can hear you.
"He squeezed Ginny's hand earlier." She added this last sentence with triumph in her voice.
The professors exchanged sad glances; when Dumbledore spoke, he chose his words carefully. "The healers warned us that there might be...reflexive movement. But that we shouldn't get our hopes up."
Molly set her jaw; her husband recognized that expression and knew his wife's mind was set on something. He suspected he knew what that 'something' was.
"They don't know everything, these healers," Molly said. "His friends, his family can certainly take better care of him than they can here."
She took a deep breath, knowing that what she was about to say would cause protest among those assembled in the room.
"Madam Pomfrey was here earlier," she began. "We discussed what would need to be done for Harry's long-term care."
"Are you suggesting...?" Dumbledore began, but McGonagall interrupted. "She's suggesting precisely what we've been thinking, Albus, what we've been discussing these past hours," she said. "Madam Pomfrey is one of the best healers there is. In addition, we have a school full of students who are studying healing."
"We cannot ask Madam Pomfrey to orchestrate such round-the-clock care," Dumbledore protested. "She has other patients, other responsibilities."
"I'll come to Hogwarts," Molly said.
The headmaster shook his head. "We cannot ask you to do that."
"Professor Dumbledore, all of my children are away from home now," Molly said. "I have free time to spare."
"We could take Harry back to the Burrow," Mr. Weasley suggested.
"It would be too difficult for Harry to be away from his friends," his wife replied. Her eyes drifted to her daughter; in her sleep, Ginny had found Harry's hand and held it tightly once again.
"It would be too difficult," Molly repeated.
Her husband nodded, not entirely comfortable with his daughter innocently sleeping next to Potter and not entirely happy with the idea of his wife being gone from the Burrow.
"I'll be home every night to cook your dinner," she said, as if reading his mind. Silently, she implored him, "It's Harry."
He nodded his agreement. There was little he wouldn't do for Harry Potter.
"It's settled then," he said, returning his wife's smile.
"I'll alert Madam Pomfrey," Dumbledore said quietly. "And tell her we are bringing Harry home as soon as his healer allows it."