The Wrath of Loki
Ginny sat in one of the waiting-room chairs, hugging her elbows and staring at her mother. She wasn’t used to her mother weeping, not in front of them. Mum was always so strong. She always knew what to do.
Dad didn’t say anything, just held her, one hand slowly stroking up and down her back, his cheek resting against her hair.
Ginny hugged herself tighter. Although it was very warm, she felt cold inside, as if she’d swallowed an iceberg. Her stomach roiled. She looked across the room. Penny was huddled in a chair, wrapped tightly in her cloak. Her face was chalk-white. Ginny hadn’t seen her cry or heard her speak since they’d all arrived here.
She got up and went over. She’d never felt entirely comfortable around Penny, after first year, but she needed to do something. "D’you want some water?"
Penny looked up. "No," she said.
Ginny sat down next to her and looked at the door they’d taken her brother through, willing a Healer to come through and tell them that he was going to be all right.
Bill and Charlie came rushing into St. Mungo’s within minutes of each other, full of questions and bristling with fury. Ginny let their angry voices wash past her without trying to understand them. She knew it all anyway.
"They found him in an alley," her father said. "He was in bad shape--they think if it had been another hour--" His voice broke.
"Doesn’t he know better protective spells?" Bill snarled. "The stupid fool--he works at the Ministry, he should know--"
"We don’t know the capabilities of the ones who attacked him. Maybe they got around them somehow--"
Ginny laid her head on the back of her chair, trying to drain the threatening tears back into her body. It didn’t work--they escaped and trickled down cold into her hair and ears.
"He works at the Ministry," Charlie said. "They must have wanted information."
"Did he give it to them, Dad?"
"There’s no way to tell."
Ron said flatly, "He can’t have."
"We don’t know--" their father started.
"He can’t have!" Ron insisted. "Breaking his fingers and toes--that might have been torture, but the beating itself--I mean, this MLES wizard said was too vicious to have been anything but punishment--"
Penny made a strangled noise in her throat.
Ginny said, "Ron!"
Ron pressed his lips together, looking down at his knees. Silence fell like a muffling blanket over their little corner of the waiting room.
Ginny curled her hands around the armrests of her uncomfortable chair. With all her might, she pushed thoughts through the wall at Percy. If he was somewhere in that poor broken body, could he hear her?
You stupid arse, don’t die on us. Don’t go. I know things haven’t been perfect between us since last year, but you’re still ours and we love you no matter what you do. You stupid proud stubborn twit, we love you, we all love you, we’re all here, so DON’T YOU GO!
Maybe if they all thought it--all at the same time--maybe they could call Percy back from wherever he was--
She looked around, counting. Her parents. Penny. Ron. Bill. Charlie. The--
Where were the twins?
Why weren’t they here?
Why would they stay away?
* * *
The Healer who came out close to noon said straight away, "He’s still alive."
"Oh, God," Penny said, and burst into tears.
"We lifted the Hemophilia Jinx first thing, which helped us put a stop to the internal bleeding, and we’ve repaired all the bones."
"That sounds good," Ron said, looking around for confirmation. "Doesn’t--doesn’t that sound good?"
"What we don’t know," the Healer added, "is if the trauma to the skull has affected his brain."
"When will you know?" their dad asked in a raw voice.
"When he wakes up. He’s unconscious still. We’ve done the best we can, and now we need to let his body heal itself."
About six voices said simultaneously, "Can we see him?"
"He’s not going to wake up--" the Healer started.
"Hell with that, I need to see my brother," Ron snapped.
Faced with a multitude of Weasleys, the Healer finally said, "You lot can have a look-in--for a moment! Just a moment. His parents can stay longer. Is this all of you?"
They all looked around.
"Where are Fred and George?" her mother asked, her voice rising to a near-wail. "I called them--I told them--where are they?"
* * *
They didn’t see Fred and George for a full week. The shop was closed--"Until Further Notice"--they didn’t come ‘round the Burrow or Grimmauld Place, and no matter how many messages their mother left or what odd times she called their fire, there wasn’t so much as a peep of answer. She was torn between fury and terror, and when a terse message came to the Burrow on the fourth day--"Mum. Stop nagging. We’re alive."--fury won out.
"Their brother," she snarled. "Their own brother, they can’t be bothered to come see him--"
Ginny said nothing to that. She was too angry at them herself. Of course, Percy had been an idiot all this past year, but he was their brother.
And he was dying.
The Healers had stopped reassuring them that Percy’s body was simply repairing itself, and had started looking grave when they examined him. "If he doesn’t show some signs of awareness soon," one of them started to say, and stopped speaking when he noticed Ginny standing in the door.
"Then what?" she asked.
"Then nothing," he said.
She put up her chin. "Then what?"
They looked at her until she understood.
"I’m sorry," another Healer said. "We’ve done our best."
* * *
On the seventh day, Ginny was serving her rotation at Percy’s bedside. He still hadn’t woken up.
Her mum had taken Penny to the Burrow to get some sleep. Percy’s girlfriend had stayed with him through all the dark nights and lonely days when nobody else could, and Mum had finally put her foot down.
"We’re not having two members of this family in hospital," she said.
"But I’m not--" Penny started.
Mum said, "After this, you are."
So Ginny was alone with the carefully patched wreck of her brother’s body. She sat wondering, as they all had for the past week, if his mind was still somewhere in the debris. She couldn’t stand to look at him for long. Lurid bruises and healed cuts turning to scars were nothing new to her, but when they came in such unspeakable volume, and when she knew that it hadn’t been a friendly scuffle that produced them, but a vicious beating . . .
Instead, she was reading aloud from the Daily Prophet. The Healers said people in comas could hear things, so she thought she’d give it a try. " . . . the Ministry said last night that full protective spells will be erected around not only the Ministry itself, but the homes of its employees, which had previously been protected on their own, according to their skill level or what they could afford . . ."
The door of the ward creaked, and she looked up. "Fred! George!" She leapt to her feet, scattering sheets of newsprint in every direction. "Where have you been?"
They hugged her back, but looked over her head at the bed. "Has he woken up yet?" Fred asked her. He looked as if he’d been in the same robes for days. There were strange stains at the hem and cuffs, and a long rip gaped over one shoulder.
"No, not once," Ginny answered, and barely stopped her voice trembling. "It’s about time you dropped by."
"He looks--" George said, and broke off. The circles under his eyes seemed to darken. A faint, weird smell hung around him, like the ointment the Healers used on burns and bruises.
"Like someone went at him with a meat tenderizer," Ginny said bitterly.
Fred said in a hard voice, "We should have--"
George shook his head sharply, and his twin fell silent.
"What?" Ginny asked.
"Nothing," George said.
They both left her and went to the bed. George sat down on it. Fred leaned against the bedside table, which held a couple of books and Percy’s glasses. He picked them up, unfolded the earpieces, and held them up toward the window. Light glittered in the spiderwebby cracks. Nobody had thought to fix them.
Fred folded them and put them down again.
George looked down at Percy’s hand, studying the raw knuckles and the seeping, dark nailbeds where the fingernails had been torn away. His throat worked, and he put his own hand over his brother’s.
Fred leaned down and whispered something in Percy’s ear.
Then, so slowly Ginny thought she was imagining it, Percy’s poor battered hand turned, until it was palm-up. His swollen fingers curled around George’s.
And then he opened his eyes.
* * *
Everyone except Ron and their father came back several minutes later, and Ginny leapt on them. "Where were you?" she fairly shouted. "I’ve been calling all over--"
"What? What is it?" Mum put her hand to her mouth. "Oh, Ginny, he didn’t--"
Ginny grabbed her mother’s hands. "He’s awake! And they’re here!"
"Percy? Percy’s awake?"
"The twins are here?"
They all rushed into the ward and surrounded the bed. Except for Penny, who took Percy’s hand and didn’t let it go, they were all talking at once. Mrs. Weasley kept hugging Percy, Fred, and George in turns, sobbing. "Where were you--my God, I was so worried--"
"We had something to do," Fred managed to say, when she let him catch his breath.
"What could be more important than--"
"Mum," Percy said weakly, and she went silent. "Mum, it’s all right."
He fell asleep again after about fifteen minutes of his family. Ginny didn’t blame him. Leaving Penny behind, they tiptoed out, not making any more noise than a herd of elephants wearing tap-dancing shoes. In the waiting room, the babble of voices started up again.
"Where’s your father? He’ll want to know this!"
"Dad’ll want to know what?" Ron asked from the door.
"Ron!" Ginny squealed. "Ron! He woke up!"
"Woke up!" Ron started for the stairs, but Ginny grabbed his shirt.
"He’s asleep now," she said. "Real sleep. Good sleep. Later, when he’s awake again, or they’re going to kick us all out."
"Right. Okay." Ron looked anxiously around the family circle. "But he’s all right? All--there?"
"Looks like." Ginny found herself smiling. "Where were you?"
"I went with Dad. He got called down to the office."
"At a time like this?" their mother said indignantly.
"Definitely at a time like this." Ron seemed to vibrate with his information.
"What? Why? What happened?"
"Hang on--wait for it," Ron said. "Someone’s confessed. To--what they did to Percy."
"Who is it?"
"Don’t know them. They were Death Eaters. Trying to get information, just like Dad thought." Ron shook his head. "It was really weird. They came into the Ministry all on their own and confessed."
"Lucky, that," George said, rather coolly.
"They’ve been taken to Azkaban, have they?" Fred asked. There was something strangely savage in his voice.
"No, they were brought here," Ron said. "They were in pretty bad shape, I guess. Don’t know how they managed to get to MLES, to tell you the truth."
"Maybe somebody dropped them off," Fred said.
"Hopefully from a great height," Ginny said ferciously.
Ron didn’t even glance at her, but looked at the twins for several seconds. "Yeah," he said finally. "Could be."
* * *
They ended up back at Number Twelve, assembling and consuming ham sandwiches by the wagonload, filling the kitchen edge-to-edge with voices and relief-hysterical laughter.
Ginny had to lean across the table to say to Ron under the cacophony, "What did you mean, they were in bad shape?"
"The Death Eaters, you mean?" Ron actually put down his sandwich. "That’s the funny bit. Didn’t know if I should say it in front of Mum, but it was really odd."
Ginny clutched her own sandwich so hard she tore it in half. "What?"
"Well, they were beaten all to bloody hell, that was part of it. Not as bad as Percy." His voice turned acid. "They could still walk. But the rest of it--I mean, it was just weird. One of them had lost about half the blood in his body. Looked like a vampire had got to him. Said he’d had a nosebleed, of all things."
"Well--you said they’d been beaten up--"
"And the other one-- he couldn’t even down a glass of water without it coming back up. They kept having to bring in buckets."
"That is weird."
"Yeah . . . it all starts to sound a bit familiar, doesn’t it?"
Ginny’s eyes widened, and she tilted her head at the twins, who were scraping out the mustard pot. "You mean--?"
"But they didn’t even bother coming to see him!"
"You heard them. Said they had something to do."
"That we did, little brother," Fred said, making them both jump. "Budge up, there’s a mate." He shoved Ron over and put about half his sandwich in his mouth at once.
Ginny watched George, sitting beside her, down his sandwich in three bites and start in on a second one before she found the right words, and the right casual tone. "George--Fred. Whatever did you do with all those old sweets from last year that didn’t--quite--work right?"
"Which ones would those be?" George asked through a mouthful.
"You know, the ones you used to--" Ginny broke off, looked across the kitchen at their mum, and cleared her throat. Just because the twins had moved out, that didn’t mean they weren’t subject to maternal wrath. Nobody got out of that. "Test out on first years," she finished in a whisper. "The really dangerous ones. I know you couldn’t have used them all up--"
Ron chewed slowly, watching them with narrowed eyes.
"You know, I haven’t the foggiest notion," George said coolly.
"The Puking Pastilles . . . those Nosebleed Nougats--" she trailed off.
Fred said softly, "They should have known better than to mess with our brother."