Chapter Twenty-Eight: Aftermath
When they got to the Hospital Wing, Luna and Hermione were already there. Professor Flitwick was there as well, but he was lying on a bed. After a quick look at the newly arrived people, Madam Pomfrey started ordering all of them around. She gave Professor Lupin instructions of what to do with Neville while she took care of Bill.
“Is he going to be okay?” asked Ron.
Madam Pomfrey looked up at Ron and Ginny’s worried faces. “I’m confident he will be fine. He won’t look the same, though.”
That was the least important think in Ginny’s opinion. All she wanted was to be assured that he would make a full recovery. She moved closer to Neville and Remus.
“Are you okay Neville?” she asked.
“I’m fine, just a bit sore,” he smiled faintly.
“Professor,” Ginny turned to Remus. “Have this ever happened before? Had a werewolf bitten someone when he was not transformed?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” Remus said. “I don’t know what the consequences may be.”
She nodded. He seemed concerned, but she knew he was telling her the truth. He simply didn’t know.
She joined Ron, Luna and Hermione, who were sharing each other’s experiences.
“Ron, do you still have the map?”
“Yes.” He took it out of his pocked and showed it to her.
“Look for Harry,” Ginny said. “And see if the Deaths Eaters are still on the grounds.”
Ron did what she asked. She was also looking to the map and found Harry walking with Hagrid toward the base of the Astronomy Tower, where a crowd of students had started to gather.
“I’ll go get Harry,” she said.
“No,” said Hermione. “There could be danger still.”
“They’re gone, Hermione. It’s over,” Ginny said. “I’ll get Harry and bring him here.”
Without waiting for a response, she slipped out superstitiously. When she got to the entrance hall, the oak front doors stood open ahead of her, light flooding out onto the drive and the lawn. Slowly, uncertainly, dressing-gowned people were creeping down the steps and out of the castle, looking around nervously for some sign of the Death Eaters who had fled into the night. Ginny followed them. They were all huddled up at the foot of the Astronomy Tower, looking at something on the ground.
Ginny moved, dreamlike, through the murmuring crowd to the very front, where the dumbstruck students and teachers had left a gap. Harry was crouching next to what looked like a body lying at the base of the tower; Hagrid was standing next to him, weeping. Ginny was now close enough to recognize the body on the ground; it was Dumbledore.
She gasped, seeing him there, spread-eagled, broken; his eyes were closed; and his arms and legs were extended in strange angles. Ginny had not been prepared for this sight. She couldn’t believe Dumbledore was dead. Her heart broke when Harry reached out, straightened the half-moon spectacles upon Dumbledore’s crooked nose, and wiped a trickle of blood from the mouth with his own sleeve.
Ginny wiped the tears that had begun to fall down her cheeks. She needed to be strong now. Harry needed her, and going to him all weepy and lost just wouldn’t do.
“C ‘mere, Harry …” said Hagrid.
“Yeh can’ stay here, Harry. … Come on, now….”
Ginny made the way to his side and took Harry’s hand. “Harry, come on,” she said, and pulled him upward. He obeyed her and let her lead him back through the crowd, and back into the castle. Harry and Ginny walked on, back up the steps into the entrance hall, not paying attention to the shouts and wails that could be heard now. As they made their way toward the marble staircase Ginny saw that the Gryffindor rubies were spread on the floor, glistening like drops of blood; she hadn’t noticed them on her way out.
“We’re going to the hospital wing,” said Ginny.
“I’m not hurt,” said Harry.
“It’s McGonagall’s orders,” said Ginny. “Everyone’s up there, Ron and Hermione and Lupin and everyone…”
Was that really her voice? How could she sound so collected? How could she be walking beside Harry? All she wanted to do was hold on to him and cry until she had ran out of tears.
“Ginny, who else is dead?” Harry asked with obvious fear in his voice.
“Don’t worry, none of us.”
“But the Dark Mark… Malfoy said he stepped over a body…”
“He stepped over Bill, but its all right, he’s alive,” she said in a strangled voice. Alive… But for how long? What was his condition? What consequences would have that werewolf bite? She had seen Professor Lupin’s face. It had not been reassuring.
“Are you sure?” Harry asked. Apparently some of her apprehension filtered through her voice.
“Of course I’m sure…” she managed to say. “He’s a… a bit of a mess, that’s all. Greyback attacked him. Madam Pomfrey says he won’t… won’t look the same anymore…” Ginny’s voice trembled a little. “We don’t really know what the aftereffects will be… I mean, Greyback being a werewolf, but not transformed at the time.”
“But the others… There were other bodies on the ground….”
“Neville and Professor Flitwick are both hurt, but Madam Pomfrey says they’ll be all right. And a Death Eater’s dead, he got hit by a Killing Curse that huge blond one was firing off everywhere.” She took a breath to steady herself before continuing, “Harry, if we hadn’t had your Felix potion, I think we’d all have been killed, but everything seemed to just miss us.”
They had reached the hospital wing. They pushed open the doors and entered. The first thing they saw was Neville, who was now lying, apparently asleep, in a bed near the door. Ron, Hermione, Luna, Tonks, and Lupin were gathered around another bed near the far end of the ward; Bill’s bed. At the sound of the doors opening, they all looked up. Hermione ran to Harry and hugged him; Lupin moved forward too, looking anxious.
“Are you all right, Harry?”
“I’m fine…. How’s Bill?”
Nobody answered. Harry looked over Hermione’s shoulder and saw an unrecognizable face lying on Bill’s pillow, so badly slashed and ripped that he looked grotesque. Madam Pomfrey was dabbing at his wounds with some harsh-smelling green ointment. Ginny could see the shock in his face. He wanted to know all about Bill’s condition and interrogated both Madam Pomfrey and Lupin about it. He seemed to want to know everything they knew. Unfortunately at this point it was not enough.
Then Ron asked where Dumbledore where and Ginny told him he was dead. Everyone wanted to know every detail and Harry had to recount the horrid experience. Ginny could tell how much he was hurting, but he remained firm, telling them how Snape had killed Dumbledore.
Somewhere out in the darkness, a phoenix was singing. It was a stricken lament of terrible beauty. How long they all stood there, listening, Ginny did not know, nor why it seemed to ease their pain a little to listen to the sound of their mourning, but it felt like a long time later that the hospital door opened again and Professor McGonagall entered the ward. Like all the rest, she bore marks of the recent battle: There were grazes on her face and her robes were ripped. She announced Molly and Arthur were on their way to Hogwarts.
When she talked, the spell of the music was broken and everyone roused themselves as though coming out of trances. Ginny’s head was again full of Bill, of Harry, of Dumbledore and Snape, but must of all, it was full of her parents, who would arrive in no time to see Bill in the condition he was in.
The conversation started again. Everyone was eager to get details, as though knowing everything that had happened that night would make it somehow easier to accept.
They were discussing Snape again. No one seemed to believe he had been able to kill Dumbledore. Ginny’s attention was focused on Harry. He looked calm and almost cold as he answered question after question, but Ginny knew better. She could sense the anger and frustration in him seething just below the surface, and it scared her. She could also feel he was reaching away from her. And that scared her even more.
Now it was Harry who wanted to know everything that had happened in the castle while he had been away with Dumbledore. He asked everyone exactly what they were doing. He was particularly interested in knowing Snape’s every action. Ginny thought he didn’t want to have any doubt of Snape’s duplicity and infamy. He seemed to be collecting more reasons to hate him. Ginny helped as much as she could, giving him all the information she could remember, as did everyone else.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Fleur’s shriek.
“And what do you mean by zat?” she said suddenly and loudly. “What do you mean, ‘he was going to be married’?”
Mrs. Weasley raised her tear-stained face, looking startled. “Well… only that…”
“You theenk Bill will not wish to marry me anymore?” demanded Fleur. “You theenk, because of these bites, he will not love me?”
“No, that’s not what I…”
“Because ‘e will!” said Fleur, drawing herself up to her full height and throwing back her long mane of silver hair. “It would take more zan a werewolf to stop Bill loving me!”
“Well, yes, I’m sure,” said Mrs. Weasley, “but I thought perhaps… given how… how he…”
“You thought I would not weesh to marry him? Or per’aps, you hoped?” said Fleur, her nostrils flaring. “What do I care how he looks? I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk! All these scars show is zat my husband is brave! And I shall do zat!” she added fiercely, pushing Mrs. Weasley aside and snatching the ointment from her.
Mrs. Weasley fell back against her husband and watched Fleur mopping up Bill’s wounds with a most curious expression upon her face. Nobody said anything; no one even dared to move. Ginny was expecting an explosion, but instead, the most unexpected thing happened.
“Our Great-Auntie Muriel,” said Mrs. Weasley after a long pause, “has a very beautiful tiara – goblin-made – which I am sure I could persuade her to lend you for the wedding. She is very fond of Bill, you know, and it would look lovely with your hair.”
If Ginny had been surprised then, her jaw almost dropped to the ground when both women fell in each other’s arms, crying and hugging each other. She was exchanging a startle look with Hermione when, out of the blue, Tonks started proclaiming her undying love for Lupin. Apparently she wanted to marry him, but he didn’t think it was safe.
Was anything safe anymore? Ginny looked at Tonks transfixed, and she actually understood her. She loved Lupin, she didn’t care about his particular circumstances; she just wanted to be with him. Just the same way Fleur wanted to be with Bill even though he would never look the same…
And just the same way -she thought giving Harry a sidelong glance- she wanted to be with Harry even though he had been marked by Voldemort himself.
Sometimes you just couldn’t help who you fell in love with. And the heart was not big on reasons.
Hagrid arrived with news that he had removed Dumbledore’s body. Ginny felt as though her heart was being squeezed by an iron hand. She glanced at Harry; he looked pale and distant.
After Hagrid left the hospital wing, Professor McGonagall told Harry that she wanted to have a word with him in Professor Dumbledore’s office –which was for now her office, as Deputy Headmistress- before the Minister of Magic arrived to Hogwarts. Harry stood up, murmured “See you in a bit” to Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, and followed Professor McGonagall back down the ward. Ginny watched him leave, biting her lip. She didn’t want to be away from him.
They stayed in the hospital wing for a while longer. Ginny was barely paying attention while the others talked about the possibility of Hogwarts closing. Tonks and Lupin were the first to leave, but soon after their departure Madam Pomfrey shooed Ron, Hermione, Luna and Ginny out of the hospital wing.
The four friends walked in absolute silence, until they said goodnight and Luna went on to Ravenclaw Tower. No one talked again until the three Gryffindors were about to reach the portrait of the Fat Lady.
“Everybody should be in the common room waiting for news,” said Hermione.
“The last thing I want is to have to talk to anyone,” said Ginny. She suddenly felt exhausted.
When they entered they found that, as expected, the common room was jam-packed. The room fell silent as they climbed through the portrait hole. All eyes were fixed on Ron, Ginny and Hermione. Everyone was eagerly expecting any information they could give. However, they had other plans.
“I’m going upstairs to wait for Harry,” Ron said, and started walking toward the stairs.
Ginny made to follow him, but Hermione grabbed her arm. “We should go upstairs too,” she told Ginny, but motioned toward the girls’ dormitories.
“But,” Ginny started, but then decided to follow Hermione without an argument.
She wanted to see Harry. She wanted to hold him and make sure he was unharmed. But she knew he needed space. He needed time to internalize everything that had happened tonight. She will see him tomorrow. She was not happy about it, but she would have to accept it.
Ginny lay in bed for hours, staring blankly at the ceiling. As she lay there, she became aware suddenly that the grounds were silent. The phoenix had stopped singing.
And in the absolute silence of her room, all the events of the evening finally started to sink in, and now she felt alone and scared. During the battle with the Death Eaters she had reacted; she had known that her life depended on it. When she had gone out to get Harry she had known that he needed her to be strong and she had managed to be. At the hospital wing she had kept her composure because she knew her parents didn’t need to worry about her as well as about Bill. But now, lying alone in her bed, she finally broke down. She buried her head on her pillow and cried. Violent, silent sobs were shaking her body to its core. It was not until a long while later that the overwhelming pain in her chest started to subside and she finally fell on an exhausted sleep.