George looked away from the picture when Ginny screamed, confused and frowning as she ran out of the room. He saw his wand sitting beside him on the bed, and with sudden realisation, he grabbed his wand and hurried out after her. She wasn't hard to find, considering all the screaming that was happening. But it wasn't his sister. It was from the healers. Even the patients were silent, the same patients who usually screamed and yelled and cried the moment anything out of the ordinary happened.
One of the healers was attempting to hex Ginny, his expression twisted into something that just seemed so wrong on a human being's face. The desire to protect Ginny - his sister, his only sister, protect her in the way he hadn't been able to in her first year - overwhelmed him, and George found himself pointing his wand at the crowd of healers. He cast the spell without thinking, without realising what he even said, and a barrier formed around Ginny and the two people she was standing with.
The Longbottoms. Alice and Frank didn't seem perturbed by her presence, and Alice even offered Ginny a gum wrapper. Frowning, George made his way over, ignoring the shouting healers. His sister had gone to two people who were supposed to fear her with everything they had, but here they were sitting together, and Ginny was holding their hands, all three of them looking fairly comfortable the way he saw it. Neither Alice nor Frank looked as though they were about to start screaming, start beating at her to get away, and Ginny's screams had stopped too.
"What is going on here?" Draco asked, coming over at all the commotion.
He'd been at the very far end of the ward, but all of the screaming had brought him over to deal with whatever had happened. He had at least thought he'd be dealing with patients, not his bloody colleagues!
"It's the Weasley girl. She's gone and taken the Longbottoms' hands, and our spells can't stop her!" one of the healers replied. "He put a barrier around them," she added, glaring at George.
"Let me get this straight..." Draco said, a few more of the healers stopping their noise. "You're trying to hex Ginny Weasley because she's holding Frank and Alice Longbottom's hands?" he asked, his disbelief and scorn making the noise stop entirely. "And you're upset because her brother - her guardian, due to his presence here, I might add - stopped you from hexing her?"
The fact that Ginny had willingly touched anyone surprised him, but their ridiculous response to it was just uncalled for. She wasn't harming anyone that he could see, and it seemed that she'd even fallen asleep, for the gods' sakes!
There was silence from all of the healers, and not one looked at George as he and Draco waited for an answer. When no answer was given, the healers began to slink away quickly, still looking anywhere else but at Draco and George.
"Take the barrier down, would you? I'll check that Frank and Alice are all right, and you can take Ginny back to her room if you'd like to stay," Draco said.
George nodded, the barrier falling away with a word and a flick of his wand. Draco made his way over slowly, even though it was obvious that Ginny was still asleep. Frank and Alice were stroking her hair gently, another odd happenstance for the day.
"Frank, Alice, are you all right? I'm just going to check your vitals, okay?" Draco said, his voice soft as he held up his wand, not wanting to spook them.
"We're fine, actually. Would you be a dear and call our son?" Alice said, smiling up at him.
If he'd been anyone else, Draco's mouth would have hit the floor. Beside him, George's mouth was hanging open, and for a moment, all either of them could do was just stare. Alice looked perfectly sane, her eyes were clear, and beside her, Frank looked the same.
"I'll... I'll still need to check your vitals before I call Neville. If you don't mind?" Draco asked, looking between them.
"Go ahead. But I have a feeling you'll be surprised at the results," Frank said with a bit of a smirk.
Draco nodded, completely in agreement with him. And when he saw the results of his spells, he saw that Frank hadn't been lying. Their brainwaves, which had been tangled messes with little coherency, now seemed to be ... well, normal.
"I ... I don't understand," George said, staring between the two adults and his sister, still sleeping between them.
"It was your sister. She helped us. She tried to help last time, but she hadn't had enough time yet," Alice said, looking down at Ginny fondly.
"Time? Time to do what?"
"To sort through Voldemort's thoughts, of course," Frank said, as if the answer was obvious.
"I think you should start from the beginning," Draco said, feeling as confused as George looked.
So they did. Sitting there in the common area, stroking Ginny's hair as if it was an everyday occurrence, Frank and Alice explained Ginny as not even the young girl had been able to do.
When Voldemort had stolen Ginny's sanity, he'd left his own memories and knowledge in her mind. Harry had killed him too quickly for him to take it all back, so instead Voldemort had made a choice to make Harry suffer with the knowledge that he'd made the Weasley girl go insane. And in Ginny's mind swirled all of Voldemort's thoughts, his desires, his power, his ambition, his abilities, every single thing he'd known in his sixteen years of life. It was enough to drive anyone mad, and since she'd already had her sanity stolen, there wasn't much else for Ginny to do. She couldn't escape the insanity, so she drowned in it.
Voldemort had the ability to see into people's heads, to see their memories, their lives, their fear, their everything. Ginny had gleaned this ability from him, but her eyes had glowed red when she used it at first, and she'd been unable to stop it from happening every time she looked at someone. As such, this continued to terrify the people around her, even though it wasn't Voldemort - it was all her.
And the words and books and conversations? That was her own fear, warped and twisted and mutated over time. Words had power. Written, spoken, thought, whispered, mumbled, all of it had the power to wrap around an innocent mind, meld it, and torture it. Words that had the power to control others, make them do things that they hadn't wanted to do, make them hurt friends, hurt strangers, even hurt family. All of it could be used against her, and her fear continued long after Voldemort's death. She'd felt him die, felt him disappear from the world, but by then her fear had wrapped itself around her mind, and she couldn't even talk. She was still insane, but within the insanity there was sanity. As much sanity as the rest of the world pretended to have, but without words, without the ability to get past her fear, Ginny had no life outside of the St. Mungo's ward. The world had become a foreign concept to her, and her routine became everything.
So she'd sat in her room every day, processing the thoughts that Voldemort had left behind, listening and watching and waiting. The thoughts of spells, of potions, of harm, of torture, of blood, of the undead living beneath the water. Her nightly screams were nightmares of Voldemort's memories, of thinking them to be her own, believing it was herself that did them. It was the reason she hadn't slept in almost three years.
The screams whenever someone touched her? Oh yes, she had a reason for those too. Her last sane memory was of being touched, of being taken down to the Chamber of Secrets. Of being held and pushed and thrown to the ground and her soul starting to leave her body... She didn't want anyone to touch her, didn't want to relive those feelings every time someone came too close. Even if it was her beloved loving brother.
You understand her picture now, don't you? Good, she thought you would. It's all of her love for you, and it's everything she's ever felt from you. Don't cry now, dear, it's all the best feelings, all the good ones so you can always feel them when you look at the picture, no matter what's wrong. You always made her feel happy, no matter what nightmare or thought she had in her mind. Smile a bit now, there you go. Have some gum, dear.
The hair incident? Oh, I thought you of all people would have understood. You know how little of a person's being you need to control, to affect them. A strand of hair in Polyjuice Potion, for example. A nail, a piece of skin, a tear, a drop of blood, all of it can be taken and used against the owner's will. No matter if they're dirt poor, or have more riches than the Minister himself, a person's body can be turned against them. Ah yes, now you understand. Now you might take a bit more care of your own bodies, won't both of you?
Frank and Alice finished their tale, still stroking Ginny's hair slowly. She didn't move from between them. Silence fell as Draco and George tried to process everything they'd said.
As Draco's mind did process it, he realised that Alice and Frank had been talking about Ginny in past tense. His face drained of its' blood, and he stared at the girl between the two adults, taking a step forward.
"She didn't just do this for us, you know. She did it for you too," Frank said, looking at him.
"Like we said, Ginny could see everyone's life with just a look. She knew why you came here, and she knew what you were going to do to save us," Alice added.
"She loved you, in her own way. She didn't want you to do it, so she did it so you wouldn't leave. You're good for this place, you know," Frank added, looking at the patients milling around.
George seemed to realise what they were saying, and he fell to his knees, staring at his sister. His silent, screaming, sanely insane sister, who hated to be touched, hated anyone getting too close, his sister who was lying there between two people, letting them stroke her hair. No, she wasn't... She couldn't... The words seemed to stick in his throat, and he moved to her, to touch her, to be close to her. He wouldn't even mind the screaming. Just scream, yell, hit, punch, bite, do something, do anything. Please, no...
A sound of pure sadness escaped him, unable to form his emotions into words. Tears began to track their way down his cheeks, and he hurried to wipe them on his sleeve. His precious tears...
"She loved you best, George. Always had, but don't tell your brothers that," Frank said, a small understanding sad smile on his face.
George stood up and picked his sister up in his arms gently. He hadn't held her like this since they were both children, just kids running around, with no thought of war, only siblings and love in their hearts and minds. He carried her to her room, not saying a word when the people around him stilled and stared. Cradling his beloved sister in his arms, he cried with every emotion he had inside.
Draco stood before Frank and Alice, unable to comprehend what Ginny had done. She'd done it for him, so he wouldn't die. It had been the only way to save the Longbottoms from their fate, his research over the years had come to the final conclusion that a life must be given for their sanity to be restored.
Draco hadn't been rewarded as the Golden Ones had, the mark on his left forearm made sure of that, but he worked for money. He had knowledge of things, of spells, of the darkness that had infected people and things, and he knew how to cure them. For a price, of course.
He'd been paid well by Neville to find the solution, and then promised double to cure them. Draco hadn't told Neville what the solution was, worried that the foolish Gryffindor would offer his own life just so he wouldn't have to pay Draco to do it.
Dead men had no use for money, of course, but he'd already organised for the money to be donated to the permanent ward of St. Mungo's. He'd seen what had been going on, the lack of money, the Ministry pulling their tight little strings, cutting funds, the absolute hell that people had to go through just to see a relative in the ward. They could have used the money more than him.
And now... now, Ginny had done what he hadn't been able to do yet. He'd just wanted one more week, one selfish week, where he could see her red hair, see her glare and roll her eyes at him, and watch as she listened to everything around her with closed eyes, listen to her screams to understand her a bit more, even look forward to some more laughter, even though it wasn't for him.
He felt sick, wondering if the price had been too high for this job.
"She wanted to go, dear. She didn't want it to be so soon, but she knew if she'd waited, you would have done it instead," Alice murmured, standing and rubbing his back soothingly. She kissed his cheek briefly and went with Frank to firecall Neville on their own.
No healers stopped them, and not one person said a thing when Draco sat on the armchair, staring at nothing for the rest of his shift.
End of the fifth chapter.