THE GET-WELL CARD
A/N: Hola! This little plot-bunny came to me by Bohemian on the GWDAS, and I ran with it. One of these days I’ll write something H/G that isn’t short and sobby. Really, I will. Actually I have, it’s just not on the Quill, so for now, deal with the H/G goodness, get-well cards, and huggles.
Also, I don’t own JKR ’s ROXin world, but I wish I did. Or, at least, could raid her head (and cupboards full of HP background material).
And of course, an HUGE thanks to my beta, Elanor Gamgee!!
THE GET-WELL CARD
"No, I’m afraid not. Mr. Potter needs rest, and he’s certainly not getting it, what with the entire school dropping in. No, I’m sorry, Miss Weasley."
Ginny Weasley pressed her lips together, frustrated and even a little bit relieved. She looked up at the stern face of Madam Pomfrey, the school nurse, her fingers clutched around a thick envelope. Part of her wanted very much to turn right back around for the Gryffindor common room. No one would know. Yet the other part of her was telling her otherwise. And she was feeling rather nauseated and flustered.
"Please, Madam Pomfrey," she said, trying to keep her voice even. She was going to do this. "It’ll only be a minute. I just want to give him this."
Madam Pomfrey glanced at the envelope suspiciously, and Ginny realized she probably thought Fred and George were using her to somehow send Harry Potter a toilet seat. It would have been a better idea than this, she thought nervously, staring up at the nurse imploringly.
"I’m afraid Mr. Potter is asleep right now," said Pomfrey, unrelenting.
"Oh, good—er, I mean, I’ll just drop it off then." Ginny felt her cheeks heat under the nurse’s narrowed gaze, but the stern face softened.
"Oh, all right, but only one minute."
Shaking, Ginny followed Pomfrey into the school infirmary, barely noticing the white curtains pulled back from empty beds. No one else was there. Yet. She’d probably faint in a second. She glanced down at the thick parchment of the envelope. Her palms were clammy. She hoped it didn’t stain. That wouldn’t do well at all.
They neared the end of the long room filled with empty beds, but there was one with the curtains drawn around it. Ginny felt her stomach tighten. Now would be the time to run. Madam Pomfrey wouldn’t gossip about her silliness.
Ginny tried to breathe normally and not shake as Pomfrey drew back the curtain a notch, nodded to herself, and then pulled them even further back, revealing Harry Potter, seemingly fast asleep. She stared, unable to help herself. She’d never actually seen Harry asleep before, and it astonished her how peaceful he looked. Normal. His brow wasn’t slightly knitted as it usually was, and he looked incredibly young and small in infirmary robes and white blankets. A slight smile pulled her lips upward.
His hair was still a mess.
And he looked so different without his glasses . . .
"Well, there you are. Fast asleep. The Gryffindor team came in right after the game and overly-excited him. Poor boy."
Ginny nodded absently, barely acknowledging the older witch’s clucking tongue as she turned to tidying the neighboring bed, which was already immaculate with its crisp, white sheets.
Swallowing the lump in her throat and screwing up her courage, she took a step past the open curtains and approached Harry’s bed. She knew what she was doing was stupid, that he didn’t like her at all, and probably thought she was awful. Yet she felt as if she should do something. It was bad enough Ron had heard from someone that she’d been crying when Harry had fallen off his broomstick. Of course, he thought it was all because, well, she had a crush on his best friend.
Ginny closed her eyes briefly.
She hated Dementors.
As she opened her eyes, she quickly turned to the little bedside table, and sat the card down beside the thick, dark bars of rich chocolate and a half-drank glass of water. She brushed her fingers over the thick frames of Harry’s glasses, which amazingly survived the fifty-foot fall. She gave a shudder.
Harry falling . . . people screaming . . . Tom . . .
I should go. Pulling her hand away, Ginny turned to leave, wishing chocolate could solve her troubles, and wanting to be gone before Harry woke up.
She gasped audibly and whirled around, her knees buckling.
Harry was awake, squinting at her curiously. She wasn’t pleased to see a depressed hint in his brilliant green eyes, or the downward tilt of his mouth. He was very pale.
"I—er, I brought you that," she mumbled, gesturing at the little table, afraid to move. She knew her face was a violent shade of red now.
Harry’s eyes trailed to the table, and to Ginny’s horror, he reached for the card. An irrational urge to knock his hand away overwhelmed her, but luckily her knees were immobile. Unfortunately, she was rooted to the spot, unable to escape or breathe as Harry slowly opened the envelope with fumbling fingers. Ginny knew she should leave, that he wanted her to leave, but was too polite to tell her to go and not open the card.
At least Draco Malfoy wasn’t around to mock her.
Ginny clenched her hands. It wasn’t the Valentine fiasco that had upset her so much. The diary. Harry had Tom’s diary—
A shrill voice sliced through her thoughts, causing both her and Harry to jump. It was the get-well card, singing. Ginny barely heard the words, which were hardly intelligible due to the high, trilling voice.
It would have been perfect if she could have dropped dead right then, or a convenient hole had opened up under her, taking her very far away from the infirmary. She should have tested the charm first, but she hadn’t wanted anyone to hear and ask what she was up to. Now that she thought about it, in this humiliating retrospect, it would have been a lot less mortifying.
Harry looked positively terrified and shut the card, but it kept singing, hardly muffled. Ginny felt her eyes and nose sting with the threat of tears. Blinking rapidly, she frantically tried to stem the inevitable.
"Er—um, thanks," mumbled Harry, his cheeks flushed as he tried valiantly to look grateful for her sake. Madam Pomfrey stormed over to see what the racket was about.
Ginny nodded once and whirled around, racing straight out of the infirmary, down the corridor, and up the staircase to Gryffindor Tower, where she pushed past a bewildered George and flung herself onto her four-poster bed, vowing never to emerge from her dormitory again.
Two summers later . . .
"Take these up, will you, dear?"
Obediently, Ginny hefted the heavy stack of black school robes, which her mother insisted on pressing every year before they headed off to Hogwarts. Without comment she headed for the stairwell, which wound its way crookedly up the seven levels of The Burrow. Fred and George had already been nagged into taking their own laundry up.
As she climbed, without watching the steps but moving confidently, she lifted the top two robes, which were Ron’s. They were an old set of Bill’s, and she feared they would come up a bit short on her youngest elder brother. You couldn’t call them black, really, but a dark, faded sort of color. Her mum had sewn in new stitching and reinforced some of the very tattered edges, but they were a very sore sight next to the set laying neatly under them.
Harry’s robes were brand new. He was getting taller, too.
Ginny paused on the second landing and felt the soft, fine material. It wasn’t as audacious and expensive as Malfoy’s robes, but they were by far superior to anything her family had ever known. The black was actually black, the hem crisp and strong, the collar showing no wear.
Yet she wasn’t envious of Harry’s unspoken wealth. How could she envy Harry?
Sighing, she lifted up Harry’s robes to inspect her own. She hadn’t grown more than a couple of inches since first year, and she was still wearing the twins’ old robes, some of which had once been Charlie’s. Yes, and the one on the very bottom had been Ron’s in his first year. It was probably in the sorriest state of all, the scrap material used to patch up a few rips blatantly obvious.
"Oh, well," she muttered, shifting the robes and starting up the stairs again. Everyone basically knew they were poor, and it was only stupid people like Malfoy that made anything of it.
She dropped her robes off in her room before starting up the final set of rickety, crooked steps. Muffled thumps and voices drifted down from Ron’s slightly open door, but Ginny wasn’t really paying attention as she picked at the worn threading of Ron’s Gryffindor patch. Harry had only arrived at The Burrow two days ago, and hardly a word had been said from him. He was listless and brooding, only coming around when Fred and George called for a little Quidditch match in the back paddock.
"They must be insane," said Ron, sounding rather exasperated. Loud thumps that sounded like books hitting the bottom of his trunk echoed in the small space between his opened door and the staircase. "Hermione should be happy. Honestly, did you see her when she was naming all the books in Flourish and Blotts?"
Harry mumbled something, and as Ginny topped the last stair, she saw him sitting on Ron’s violently orange bed, his trunk on the floor at his feet. A tilting pile of thick, challenging textbooks were stacked beside him, a humble pile of his few possessions gathering beside the heavy trunk.
"Mind you, she’s hardly as excited about all those books as she is about being made prefect." Although Ron’s words were off-hand, Ginny thought she detected a hint of pride in his voice. She knew him too well, and a smile flitted across her lips, forgetting that she was quite rudely eavesdropping.
"Not that I’m at all surprised," Ron went on, as if Harry was responding conversationally instead of packing silently. "I mean, she is rather bookish. Can you believe that she told me she wasn’t going to let us get away with stuff? She’s broken just as many rules as us! Good thing McGonagall doesn’t know about her sniping Snape’s cupboard."
Harry nodded absently, and Ginny watched as he reached into his trunk and pulled out two more items. One was a very disgusting old sock, and the other what seemed to be a photo album.
"Remember this?" said Harry, reaching into the revolting sock and pulling out a small instrument.
"Oh, yeah!" Ron said brightly, reaching for it. "The Sneakoscope!" Then his grin faltered and his face darkened. "It’s silent. And all that time we thought it was just worthless junk." He let the object fall on the bed. "Hey, is that the album Hagrid gave you? Of your parents?"
"Yeah," said Harry, opening to the first page.
He looked both happy and wistful, but there was a dark anger around the edge of his eyes that made Ginny shiver. She craned her neck from the topmost step, curious to see Harry’s parents, but yet unable to move. The boys slowly turned through the pages, and suddenly they shared a grin.
"Is that Sir—er, Padfoot?" Ron exclaimed, pointing at the page.
Harry grinned. "Yeah. He was my dad’s best man."
"Wow," breathed Ron, eyes wide. "He just looks so different . . . you know . . . And is that--"
"Yeah." The brief look of fun vanished and Harry pushed the album to Ron, having had enough of it.
Ginny was so enraptured by Harry that she didn’t see what Ron pulled out from between the next two pages until he said, "Hey, Harry, what’s this?"
Both Harry and Ginny looked at the card in Ron’s hand and gave a start. Heart hammering, Ginny realized what it was, and a second later she asked herself, Why does Harry still have that awful card?
Harry seemed equally perplexed, his cheeks reddening as he stared at the card, as if seeing it for the first time. Ron cocked an eyebrow and read aloud from the front, "To Harry. What is this?"
"N-nothing. It’s nothing, Ron."
"That looks like Ginny’s writing, only a bit neater. She gets really loopy."
Ron ignored Harry and opened the letter. Ginny braced herself for the awful, shrill singing, saw Harry take a deep breath—but nothing happened. There was a second of complete silence, then Harry let out a barely audible sigh of relief, and Ginny tried vainly to keep her knees from buckling.
"You’re still the best Seeker. Get well, Ginny. Oh, jeez, Harry! When was this?"
Harry’s cheeks were rather colored as he tried to snatch the card out of Ron’s hand. "After I fell off my broom in third year. Ron—give it!"
Ron deftly pulled the card out of Harry’s reach, a wide, infuriating grin spreading across his freckled face. "Third year? And you still have it? In your album?"
Ginny held her breath at the grasping look on Harry’s face. He mouthed wordlessly for a moment, but then his eyes flashed triumphant, but yet he muttered, "It wouldn’t stop singing. I had to shut it somewhere! I just forgot about it."
Ginny felt sick.
"If Fred or George ever found out about this," whistled Ron, flipping through the card again.
"Well," said Harry between clenched teeth, "they don’t need to know, do they?"
"It sang?" Ron seemed oblivious his friend’s annoyed, embarrassed glare. "I thought she’d stopped all that worshipping after Malfoy got after her about the Valentine. She’s still sweet on you—"
"Oh, shut up!" Harry snatched the card away and slid it between the pages of his photo album.
"Why’d you put it back?" asked Ron curiously.
"Because . . . because—" but Harry didn’t finish why. He’d looked up.
Ginny didn’t react for a split second, her mind still reeling over the conversation she’d just heard. She dimly registered Harry’s mortified choke and Ron’s "What?" before she mentally kicked herself and sprang forward, as if just now popping up the stairs instead of having been standing there dumbly for the past five minutes.
"Mum sent me up with these," she said unsteadily, her voice a bit high. She dared not look at Harry as she shoved the robes at Ron. "She’s got your robes all pressed for school. Don’t wrinkle them."
Ron was giving her a shrewd look, which she did her best to stare down without revealing anything. It was incredibly hot, stifling, in here.
"I don’t wrinkle my robes," he said, raising his eyebrows at her, a cocky tilt to his mouth.
Ginny knew she was blushing furiously, and her eyes slid away from his and landed on the album still in Harry’s lap. Furious with herself and trembling slightly, she glanced back at Ron, feeling Harry’s gaze on her. Ron smirked knowingly.
"Was that all?" he asked innocently. "Nothing else to give Harry or me?"
"Sod off," Ginny said between clenched teeth, so low that Harry might not hear.
"Tell me, Ron, how’s Hermione?"
Ron stopped laughing. "What do you mean?" he said suspiciously.
"Oh, nothing. Never mind." She forced a smirk and whirled around.
Ginny tried not to flee, but she ran the last few feet to her room two levels down and slammed the door behind her, falling back against it, and finally succumbing to her shaking knees. Face burrowed into her knees, she took several deep, calming breaths.
Harry had kept that awful get-well card. Even after he’d dismissed it as nothing and Ron had teased him, he’d put it back in the album. What did it mean?
The following June . . .
The long corridor to the infirmary was quiet. The dim light emanating from the torches swayed slowly, as if fearing the usual flickering dance. It was late. Very late. The ghosts would be haunting the halls, whispering in hushed tones to one another as they slipped through walls and closed doors. The quiet stillness unsettled Ginny as she pulled her dressing gown tighter around herself, shivering despite the warm summer night.
Fred, George, Ron, and everyone else thought she’d disappeared to her dormitory to sleep. She’d slipped away with the barely audible excuse and climbed up the spiraling stairs. Ron had his arm wrapped protectively around Hermione, whose eyes shone with tears as she stared unseeingly into the empty fireplace. No one saw Ginny silently descend and slip through the portrait hole.
No one knew she was gone. If Hermione ventured into the fourth year girl’s dormitory, she would find Ginny’s bed empty, and probably panic. Ginny crossed her fingers, hoping Ron would keep her at his side for another hour. She doubted Hermione would move at all. Hermione and Ron had been huddled together ever since Madam Pomfrey had kicked them out of the infirmary that afternoon.
As she came to the end of the corridor, Ginny felt for the folded parchment inside her dressing gown’s pocket. It was hardly déjà vu, despite the fact she was practically reenacting her second year, when she’d made the nauseatingly embarrassing visit to Harry.
Ginny stared at the closed double doors of the infirmary, heart beating painfully, breath coming short and raspy. With trembling fingers, she reached up and touched the long, thin cut running along her cheek. It was a surface wound that had bled profusely, but she couldn’t even remember the sting of it. Far worse things had been happening then, things she had never before imagined . . .
Weakly, she wiped a hand across her eyes and choked back a sob. Ron had actually been in the infirmary for injuries, and Harry . . . Harry was still there. Alone. Alone with his pain and guilt.
Thinking of Harry vanquished her tears, and Ginny took a deep breath as she reached out to grasp the handsome knob of the infirmary door. She stared at it for a minute, noticing the little hub that was a nightingale’s eye. Gently, she rubbed her thumb down into the smooth bronze. A jewel had been there once.
Had the nightingale looked upon her two years ago? Or had it been blind as now?
Unable to swallow, Ginny turned the nightingale’s head and felt a jolt of unexplainable panic surge through her at the soft creaking. The languid movement of the torches leaped at the change in air, sending dark, dangerous shadows licking towards Ginny. She quickly shut the door behind her, gasping for breath.
She might have told herself to settle down, but it didn’t cross her mind.
"Miss Weasley!" exclaimed Madam Pomfrey in a hushed tone as she bustled around the corner, pushing the white curtain aside agitatedly. "It’s past midnight! I suppose I’ll have to call for someone to escort you back to the tower, I certainly can’t leave Mr. Potter alone, and you can’t be wandering the corridors—"
Ginny was grateful for the medi-witch’s flustered, motherly reprimand. It was comforting. She stopped trembling.
"There’s no need to call anyone, Madam Pomfrey," she said with surprising firmness. The witch gaped at her for a moment, then pressed her lips into a very thin line. "I know what time it is, and that I’m not supposed to be out of the tower. However," Ginny took a deep breath and pulled the folded parchment out of her dressing gown, "I want to give Harry this."
Madam Pomfrey shook her head. "Another singing card, Miss Weasley?"
"No." Ginny fought to keep from flushing under the bemused gaze. "Please, Madam, it won’t be but a minute."
"Mr. Potter is sleeping, but I don’t suppose you’ll consider that," said Pomfrey skeptically.
Ginny shook her head. "I don’t think he is, Madam. Could you?" Her voice was unsteady as she felt. "He’s had hours to just sit there on his own, without anyone to talk to. We’ve all been talking—"
"He’s been given a Dreamless Sleeping Draught—"
Ginny said nothing, but continued to stare up at the nurse.
"Oh, all right, but only a moment!"
Ginny nodded, feeling neither relieved nor nervous as she had before as she followed the witch into the infirmary. The closed curtains were very close to Pomfrey’s desk, instead of towards the far end where people were less likely to notice an invalid. The nurse peeked in through the curtains.
"Asleep, as I told you," whispered Madam Pomfrey, but she let Ginny through anyway.
The swish of the curtains closing made Ginny’s ears itch, but she hardly noticed as she took a step further. Harry lay on his left side, his back facing her, his body tucked into himself as if to ward off harm. Only his wild hair stuck out from underneath the crisp white sheets, but Ginny could see the brutal, purpling bruise at the back of his neck.
He wasn’t sleeping. He was tense, his breathing irregular. Ginny took another step forward, but kept one step away from his bed, and waited. Humiliation wasn’t even a risk now. She’d gone around two years ago in a rather silly manner, but she’d only been twelve and still immature despite her good intentions. Singing cards were definitely not the best approach. She’d known that, even back then, but she had been afraid, and had done something that had been sincere, but not truly from her.
There was no safety now.
The parchment was smooth between her fingertips, and delivered nothing except, well, herself. It was all she could offer. Harry might accept it. It had been a long, trying year, and, especially after tonight, Ginny knew she was considered a friend. If Harry didn’t accept it, Ginny would make it quite clear it would never expire.
Ginny stood and waited.
A full five minutes passed before Harry moved. A barely audible sigh of weariness escaped him and he slowly rolled onto his back.
He looked awful. Ginny bit the inside of her cheek to keep from gasping. She’d seen Harry bleeding, but even with his wounds cleaned and in his pajamas, the cruelty of it didn’t wane. His face was extremely pale except for the black bruise running from his lip and under his eye, the edges a sickly green. A clear, gelatin cream glistened in a thin line through the ghastly bruise, healing the deep gash. Yet the physical injury seemed mild in comparison to the dullness in Harry’s green eyes, the grim set of his mouth.
Ginny wanted desperately to feel the sting of her cut cheek. Anything to keep her from breaking down when she needed to be strong. She wanted to see a fierce, angry glint in Harry’s dull gaze, any emotion that proved he was alive.
"Are you all right?" said Harry softly, his words slurred from the deformation on one side of his face.
"I knew you weren’t sleeping. Your glasses weren’t on the nightstand."
Harry looked as if he might nod, but stopped before he moved his neck. He said nothing, but continued to gaze at her without a change in his expression. Stiff, exhausted.
She wasn’t going to cry. She wasn’t.
"I brought you this," she said quietly, taking the last step forward and presenting to parchment to Harry. He moved his eyes over it, a flicker of light flitting across the cloudy orbs. "It doesn’t sing."
Harry’s gaze moved upwards, and Ginny knew he would have smiled. Stiffly, he took the parchment and stared at it for a long moment, barely bending his neck downwards and wincing. Ginny stepped back, forcing herself not to fidget or bite her lip as Harry, with agonizing care and slowness, unfolded the simple parchment. His eyes moved over her writing and then froze.
She stopped breathing. Something flickered.
Harry let the parchment fall from his hand. His eyes watched it float down to rest atop the crisp, glaringly white sheets.
Ginny stared at the parchment as well, feeling not at all relieved or burdened, but neither was she calm. The offer was there. It was up to Harry now. She lifted her gaze from the parchment to see a brightness in Harry’s eyes that hadn’t been there a moment before. Stricken, she realized they were tears. But he blinked rapidly, resolutely, and the emotion was pushed away, tucked somewhere deep inside, untouchable.
Mum always hugged me after something terrible happened. I am here with nothing to offer you but a hug.
The words seemed to appear before Ginny’s eyes, written without any flourished loops. Harry had to know he had her friendship and loyalty, it didn’t need to be written as well. It was simple, pure, and completely honest. She had known it was what Harry need at this very moment, but as she stared at his stony, unmoved face, she began to doubt.
A long, awkward moment passed, without Harry looking up or moving. It was worse than the humiliation of the appalling singing card or foolish valentine.
Ginny opened her mouth to say something—anything—but her throat had ceased working. She clamped her mouth shut and pulled her eyes away from Harry, blinking hard at the prickling sensation.
She’d only taken two steps when Harry called croakily, "Ginny."
She froze. Taking a deep breath, she turned slowly.
Harry stared back at her, and it was all Ginny could do to keep from collapsing. His brilliant green eyes, deadened just moments before, were shining with an onslaught of emotions. Harry was breathing very fast, as if struggling to keep control, his chest rising and falling raggedly. The tense, grim mask of his face seemed to shatter, falling in invisible shards as his grief was exposed, released from its hard shield.
And then—slowly and painfully—Harry opened his arms.
A/N: Harry needs a hug. Badly. And I’d be more than happy to give him one (and kick Voldie’s little slimy arse), but alas, the task is better left to Ginny. I’d kidnap Harry and feed him milk and cookies in front of the TV while he watched a happy show, and feed him warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream for desert. Mmmmm . . . warm apple pie . . .