A/N: This was written for the Classic Canon Challenge on livejournal, and it is based on the novel and film Gone With the Wind. Information about casting (corresponding characters) can be found here, along with a list of other pairings.
Ginny Weasley was not particularly beautiful, but this was surprising considering the way that her brothers fawned over her.
"She's the prettiest Hogwarts graduate in a decade!" George proclaimed proudly, sitting next to her on the steps leading up to Gryffindor Tower. "Just look at these new dress robes. It's no wonder all of the boys were after her."
"Why, if she weren't my sister, I'd be falling over her too!" Fred chimed in, leaning against the wall on her other side.
She laughed. "Really, you two, you'd think I was the first Weasley to graduate."
"No, not the first! The last," George pointed out, sweeping up an arm dramatically. "The last in a long line of stunning graduates... that is, except for us." He grinned.
"But it's not like we needed to graduate anyway," Fred added, "Now that there's a war going on. The Order needs us."
Ginny sighed. "War, war, war. Is that all you two ever talk about? It's been almost a year since You-Know-Who showed his face, and I'm sure that the real adults have things well under control without help from the two of you."
They looked simultaneously offended. "But Ginny!" George cried, "Surely you don't think there's not going to be a war? Everyone knows that You-Know-Who is just building an army of dark creatures, biding his time until he thinks his forces are strong enough. And even Harry, well everyone knows that Harry..."
Ginny felt a slight flutter in her chest at the mention of the name. "What about Harry? You don't think he's going to... go after him, do you?"
"Well, not right away," Fred assured her. "I mean, especially with him getting married and all..."
"Married?" Ginny stood quickly, hands on her hips as she stared at them, her face having gone vaguely pale. "Did you say married?"
"Well yeah," George said, looking confused. "Didn't you hear? I mean, him and Hermione... I thought everyone knew. The Daily Prophet is calling it the 'marriage of the century'."
Fred held out his hands like a picture frame. "I can see the headlines now," he began, looking through them and sticking his tongue out of the side of his mouth. "The Boy Who Lived and the Woman who Shared it With Him."
Ginny shook her head, already squeezing between them and flouncing up the steps to Gryffindor Tower. "It's not possible," she muttered. "He can't love her... he loves me..."
The twins watched her retreat up the steps and looked quizzically at each other. "What's her problem?" George asked. Fred simply shrugged in reply.
The Weasleys threw a party. It was not necessarily in celebration of Ginny's graduation, but more the end of an era - for at this point, all of the children were grown. Arthur and Molly felt a surprising sense of relief at this, even though most of them were still living at home.
"Because now we can kick them all out if we feel like it," Arthur joked.
All of the family's friends were there - Ginny and Ron's schoolmates, several professors, and nearly all the members of the Order.
Ron pulled Ginny over to a corner and whispered furiously in her ear, "I saw that look that Neville was giving you. You better not be planning on working your charms on him; he's mine."
She waved a dismissive hand. "Oh, pish posh, Ron. I'm not the slightest bit interested in Neville. You can have him."
The corners of his mouth turned up slightly. "Well, you're not getting who you are interested in."
She paled, but covered it with a condescending smile. "Whatever are you talking about?"
"Oh, everyone knows you've had a crush on Harry since before you started school. And now he's marrying Hermione." He frowned. "Which, come to think of it, is rather icky. But still - I suppose they belong together."
"You haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about," Ginny huffed, and left him standing there smirking as she went over to stand by a group of adults.
"Professor Dumbledore was just asking me what you were planning to do now that you've graduated," her father told her when she joined them.
"Oh, well I haven't really decided yet," she admitted, looking up at the white beard with a somewhat shy smile. "I suppose I'll just stay here with Mum and Dad for a while and help them around the house..."
Mr. Weasley chuckled. "That's what Ron said last year too. You're always welcome here, Ginny - no need to pretend you'll do dishes."
She grinned. "Thanks, Dad."
"Hi, Ginny." There was a soft voice behind her, and when she turned around she saw Harry. Her heart began to beat wildly, until she also noticed Hermione standing beside him, at which point it practically stopped.
"I was just telling Hermione how nice it was of you and Ron to keep me company while she was away at her charms apprenticeship last year," Harry said, smiling kindly.
"Oh well, you know," Ginny began, her voice lilting. "Harry sure does know how to show a girl a good time. But I'm sure you would think the fun we have is silly, Hermione. After all, you're so serious."
Hermione laughed. "You may be right, Ginny. Harry was lucky to have you around."
"If you'll excuse me for a moment," Ginny said quickly, "I must go speak to darling Neville. He's looking lonely over there." She stepped away from them quickly, happy for an excuse. She caught Ron's glare out of the corner of her eye as she approached Neville, but ignored it. "Hi there," she greeted with a charming smile.
He looked surprised. "Hi, Ginny! How are you?"
"Oh, I'm just fine, Neville." She was talking to him, but her eyes kept darting to Harry, who leaned over and kissed Hermione on the cheek and then started towards one of the back rooms in the house. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "I'll be back in a moment." With that, she followed Harry's path and entered Bill and Charlie's old bedroom after him.
"I needed to get away from all those people," Harry said when he saw her. He pushed his glasses farther up on his nose and smiled sheepishly. "What's that look on your face? You look as if you have a secret."
She started towards him, her stomach twisted in knots. Finally, unable to hold it in any longer, she let it all out. "Oh, Harry, I love you!"
"What?" He took a step backwards.
"Harry, you must have known it... I've always loved you! From the moment I first saw you on the platform your first year. It's been you, it's always been you, and I know you love me too..."
He shook his head, looking shocked. "No, Ginny, I - I'm marrying Hermione."
"But you don't love her!" She grabbed his shoulders. "Harry, can you honestly tell me you don't love me? Just say you don't and I'll believe you..." Her eyes burned into his.
He looked at her for a moment, and the silence between them almost seemed tangible. Her heart lifted and dropped as she tried to read his expression, unable to decide whether his silence was encouraging or discouraging.
Finally, his eyes dropped. "I - I can't say that."
"I knew it!" She embraced him, nearly in tears. "Marry me, Harry."
He pushed her away. "No, Ginny. I'm marrying Hermione."
She stared at him. "What? But - but you said you loved me!"
"Gods, Ginny, how could I not?" His expression was positively pained. "You're so - full of life, and energy, and joy... the kind of joy I've never really had. But, Hermione and I... we're the same. We've been friends for so long, it's just right."
"But - but she won't love you like I do! You'd rather live with that know-it-all who only reads and... and reads... and she's not nearly as pretty as me!"
"You mustn't say unkind things about Hermione," Harry said softly. "She's saved my life more times than I can count."
"Who are you to tell me that?" Ginny cried. "You - you led me on! You made me believe that you liked me!"
"Ginny!" His voice was shaking. "I never did any such thing. I - "
He was interrupted by a sharp blow to the face when she slapped him. "You did! I'll hate you until I die, Harry Potter."
He held his hand to his face for a moment and then took a step backwards, bowing slightly. "I'm sorry, Ginny," he said, and left the room, her sobs echoing as the door closed behind him.
In a fit of rage, Ginny picked up a glass dragon figurine from the dresser and hurled it across the room where it shattered against the wall beside the bed. Wiping her eyes, she was about to turn to leave when she heard a low whistle coming from the other end of the room.
Her eyes widening, she saw Draco Malfoy stand from where he had been hiding behind the bed.
"Has the war started?" he asked with a smirk.
"Were you... were you listening this whole time?" Ginny hissed, feeling a blush creep up onto her face.
Draco nodded, walking around the bed, the smug look never leaving his features. "I guess I couldn't have credited you with better taste. But really, Ginny - Potter? What a wimp. He and Hermione do belong together. They're both equally boring."
"Oh, you don't know a thing about it, you little worm!" she shrieked, stepping away from him towards the door. "You're not fit to lick his boots, Malfoy."
He snickered. "That's funny - and I thought you were going to hate him until you die."
Ginny opened her mouth to retort, but instead she just stepped out of the room and slammed the door closed in his face.
She could still hear the stupid git chuckling.
"Harry, you can't be serious!"
"I'm not saying that we shouldn't fight, George. It's just that... most of the great miseries of the world have been caused by war. And when they were over, no one could remember what they were about."
Ginny pressed her ear closer to the door, wishing that she knew where her brothers kept their supply of extendable ears. She'd begged her parents to let her sit in on the Order meeting that was occurring after the party, but she'd been refused. She wasn't an official member yet; she'd just graduated after all...
So she was eavesdropping.
"But Harry! We have to protect the rest of the world from - from You Know Who." This was Neville's voice, and it faltered slightly at the end.
"I know," Harry said gently, and Ginny could imagine him putting a comforting hand on Neville's shoulder. "And we will. I just hope that there are few lives lost doing it."
"Right," another voice scoffed, this one harsher than the rest. Ginny bristled; it was Draco.
"What do you want, Malfoy?" Ron growled.
"We're all friends here," Dumbledore's calm voice interjected. "Mr. Malfoy has proven his support for our cause and I for one would like to hear what he has to say."
Ginny snorted. Even if he had turned in his father and helped with their fight against You-Know-Who, he was still a stupid prat and she wouldn't trust him any farther than she could throw him.
"I just feel it remiss not to remind everyone," Draco drawled, "that we're dealing with a group of people using dark magic."
"So?" Ron again.
"So - as much as you may want to ignore the fact, dark magic is powerful. While they're using it, all we have is wand waving, and house elves, and..." He paused, and Ginny imagined the corner of his mouth curling up smugly. "Arrogance."
"Whose side are you on?" Neville suddenly snarled, and Ginny jumped back slightly in surprise; well, good for him for sticking up to Draco for once.
"You know whose side I'm on," Draco said quietly.
"I can't say that I do..."
And then there was the sound of scrambling bodies, and Ron yelling, "He's not worth it, Neville!" while Draco's laugh filled the empty space.
Then she heard the unmistakable sound of Harry's whisper, and she imagined that he was talking to Draco, because then she heard, "I think I'll take my leave of you for a while, gentlemen."
The door swung open and she jumped back, brushing off her robes and trying to pretend that she was just passing by.
"Hear anything interesting?" Draco asked with a smirk, but before she could answer he was already walking away, towards the front door of the Burrow.
If Ginny hadn't been eavesdropping, she might not have even known - but after vigilantly listening for another half hour after Draco left, she found out about the mission. Harry, Neville, her twin brothers, and Snape were all going somewhere very secret and very dangerous - she didn't even know where, as the voices suddenly hushed when the exact details were discussed.
Harry. He was leaving, and she'd said such horrible things to him...
She peered around the corner from where she was hiding as the Order members filed out of the room. It took a great deal of willpower not to run out and embrace Harry, apologize for what she'd said before, but his arm was wrapped around Hermione.
"I can't believe you're leaving," Hermione was saying, eyes wet with tears.
Harry pressed a kiss to her forehead and Ginny cringed as she watched them. "I'll be back before you know it," he said soothingly. "And we'll be married before I leave."
"I love you, Harry."
"And I will always love you."
She jumped, startled that she'd been caught spying. Standing behind her and looking very nervous, was Neville.
"We're leaving," he said quietly.
Oh god. Harry. He was marrying Hermione and he was leaving... She couldn't stop the sob from escaping her throat.
"Oh Ginny! Are you really that upset that I'm going away?" Neville looked down at her with caring eyes and not knowing what to say, she simply nodded. He wrapped his arms around her and she sobbed into his chest. "Shhhh..." he murmured comfortingly. "Ginny, I - I never knew. I always thought you fancied Harry. And, I mean, I really like Ron, but I've always loved -"
She peered up at him. "Me?" she choked out.
"Yes. Oh, Ginny!" He suddenly pressed his lips against hers and she kissed him back, wanting to be doing anything other than thinking about Harry.
When they pulled apart, he breathlessly gazed at her. "I know this is very sudden, darling, but I'm leaving and who knows when I'll see you again... will you marry me?"
"I love you, Ginny. I can't imagine spending my life with anyone else after that kiss we just shared."
Her eyes quickly darted over his shoulder where she could just make out Harry and Hermione in a tight embrace. "Sure," she agreed flippantly. "Why the hell not?"
Ginny was a married woman for exactly one month, three days of which she actually spent with her husband. So it was not long before an owl arrived with a terse message from Snape, and she wondered if he had refused to let Harry write it.
Mrs. Longbottom - I am sorry to be the one to give you ill news of your husband. He died bravely. Regretfully Yours, Severus Snape
And thus, at the age of eighteen, Ginny Weasley Longbottom became a widow. She did care that he was dead, of course - she had liked Neville, quite a bit - but she certainly hadn't loved him, and it was difficult to pretend to be devastated when really she was only slightly sad. The double wedding had been before Harry and Neville left, and now that she was a widow and Hermione was not, she resented the other woman even more.
Ron, of course, still wasn't speaking to her and it had become even worse since he'd learned of Neville's death. He blamed her because she was the easiest target - he accused her of using Neville, of deceiving him, of forcing him to die without real love in his life. She couldn't argue with this, but she knew that Ron hadn't loved him either - they'd really only been shagging and Ron had recently decided that he fancied girls more anyway. She felt guilty enough without him rubbing it in, though, and now even worse since she'd practically lost her brother as well. No amount of apologizing seemed to help, and neither had Hermione's pleas on her behalf.
Her mother, on the other hand, clucked her tongue and made her tea and hovered over her every moment, doting on her bravery.
"I'm okay, really," Ginny assured her a couple of weeks later, and Molly Weasley swept down beside her and pulled her into a huge hug.
"Oh, my brave girl!" she cried, squeezing so hard that Ginny could barely breathe. When she finally let go, she added, "Another owl just came for you with a message from Hermione."
"Yes. She's so sweet, worrying over you like this when she must be so worried about Harry as well!" Molly pulled a folded piece of parchment out of her pocket and handed it to her daughter.
"We're all worried about Harry," Ginny murmured as she unfolded and read it.
I hope you're doing well - or as well as can be expected under the circumstances, I suppose. My thoughts are with you, my poor dear; I can't imagine how I would go on if something happened to Harry. You're so brave!
You may have heard that Remus will be teaching DADA at Hogwarts again starting in the fall - but the big news, I suppose, is that I'm going to be filling in for Professor Snape if he's not back by the time school begins. I'm a bit nervous about teaching potions, but Professor Dumbledore seems to think I can handle it, so I'll give it my best shot.
But the point of my letter, Ginny, is to tell you that Remus is already staying at Hogwarts this summer and I'm going to be joining him there soon so that I can study up in preparation for teaching. That, and I suppose I feel a bit odd still staying with my parents since I'm a married woman (still feels strange to say!) - I thought that perhaps you might feel the same way... about staying with your parents, I mean. Would you like to join us here? Professor Dumbledore says it's fine, and I would really appreciate the company. Remus is great, but he's not my friend in the same way you are.
I hope to hear from you soon!
Molly was, of course, reading over Ginny's shoulder. "You should go!" she prodded excitedly. "You and Hermione will good for each other, I know. We'll miss you of course, but..."
"I don't know, Mum," Ginny began, but then suddenly realized... when Harry came back, he would go there first. To Hogwarts. And she could be there to greet him. "Actually, I think it's a brilliant idea."
She hadn't expected anything different, but staying at Hogwarts was terribly dull. Hermione spent most of her days in the library and writing letters to Harry, and Remus sipping tea and working on some secret project for the Order that - just like everything else it seemed - she wasn't important enough to know about.
The other professors were gone for the summer, and Dumbledore spent most of his time away as well, so the only other occupants of the castle were the house elves. Dobby was the only one who had any contact with Ginny, and he always seemed to be underfoot. Hermione was still treating him as her own personal project, and he was really becoming more annoying with each passing day.
So truth be told, she was almost relieved when Draco Malfoy came to personally deliver a message to Remus and was invited to stay for dinner. Whereas he smirked at her all evening, even when offering his condolences on her husband's passing, simply having someone else to talk to was a nice change of pace.
"I didn't care for Neville," he said quietly to her when Remus and Hermione were engrossed in another conversation about something uninteresting, "But I did respect him. This war is making the most peculiar widows, isn't it?"
She scowled at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You know what it means. I heard you declare your undying love to Harry not an hour before you accepted the poor oaf's proposal. It's probably a good thing he didn't have to live out his life with a woman who married him out of some deranged sense of spite."
"You slimy little - " Ginny cried, balling her hands into fists at her side.
"Draco!" Hermione was suddenly standing beside them, hands on her hips. "I hope you haven't said anything to upset poor Ginny. She's been through enough already without you tormenting her."
Draco tipped an imaginary hat. "I assure you, I haven't. In fact, I was just going to ask Ginny if she was interested in joining me at The Three Broomsticks for a drink."
Remus frowned. "I don't think that's a good idea. I promised Molly that I would look after her, and besides..." He didn't finish, but Ginny knew what he was thinking.
Well, perhaps it was inappropriate for her to be going out with Draco so soon after losing her husband, but at this point she didn't really care. She'd probably go out with Voldemort himself if he could get her out of the damn castle.
"I'd love to go," she interrupted. "And I'll be back before eleven; my mother couldn't possibly have any objection to that."
"You should go, Ginny," Hermione said with a nod. "You deserve to have a little fun; Remus and I are just cooped up with our books all day and I know you probably find us dreadfully dull."
That may have been the smartest thing Ginny had ever heard Hermione the Brilliant say.
Without waiting for Remus to make another objection, Draco took her by the arm and steered her out of the castle.
"Weren't you just practically calling me a cold-hearted whore?" Ginny asked coolly as soon as they were outside.
Draco threw his head back and laughed. "Even if I did, I didn't say it was a bad thing. Bad for poor Neville, of course, but he wasn't right for a woman like you. And neither is Harry, though I suppose that will fall on deaf ears."
"I love Harry." She stopped walking for a moment and stared at him with contempt. "I'll not have you belittle my feelings."
"You little hypocrite!" He chuckled again, shaking his head. "You'll belittle your feelings enough to marry a man you don't love, but Merlin forbid I should suggest that your passion for another may be less than justified."
"And I suppose you think you are more my type?" She smiled suggestively, just waiting for him to make a pass at her so that she could shoot him down.
"Maybe I am, but I certainly wouldn't expect you to understand that now," he said, his eyes burning into hers.
She hadn't known what to say to that, so she'd started walking again, and they continued to Hogsmeade in silence.
Draco continued to visit the castle frequently, despite Remus' misgivings about his intentions and Ginny's well being, but Hermione often reminded him that Draco was now an upstanding member of the Order and certainly wouldn't be less than honorable now even given his past.
Hermione was foolishly na´ve, Ginny thought, and Remus too concerned about what her mother would think. And she - well, she was just glad to have someone around who knew how to have fun in the midst of the stupid war. His intentions were honorable so far; he sometimes brought her gifts but he hadn't so much as tried to kiss her.
This didn't bother her. He was a scoundrel even if he was a scoundrel on the right side now. Besides, her heart belonged to someone else. A married someone else, but these things were merely details.
It was early July when Harry came to Hogwarts. This was a complete surprise, and it was difficult to tell who was more overjoyed - Hermione or Ginny. In any case, Ginny had to force herself not to run to him and betray her feelings. Remus stood beside her as they watched the couple embrace, and said quietly, "Did you see the look on his face when he arrived? I fear this isn't just a social visit."
Harry let go of his wife and walked over to them, first giving Remus a hug and then turning to Ginny. He took both of her hands in his and she looked up at him longingly. There was something in his eyes she couldn't identify, but it was powerful - was he about to declare his love for her in front of his wife and everyone?
But the next words that came out of his mouth she didn't expect. "I've already been to the Burrow and seen your parents," he said softly. "I'm sorry, Ginny, but... your brothers didn't make it."
Her eyes widened and she choked back a gasp. "Fred and George? No!"
He hung his head. "I'm so sorry, Ginny... I tried - I mean, we all tried - I did everything I could, but there was nothing... Death Eaters. They're brutal. Just..." Hermione was suddenly beside him, stroking his hair as he looked at Ginny in an expression of desperate apology.
She couldn't form words. Fred and George, both. Oh god, her mother... she must be absolutely devastated. She looked back and forth between Harry and Hermione and Remus, and realized that there was no one to comfort her.
A sob escaping her lips, she left them there, running through the castle towards her chambers. That night she lay in bed imagining her brothers' broken bodies, interspersed with images of Hermione and Harry in another part of the castle, making love after their long months apart.
It was almost too much for her to bear.
She needed comfort from someone. Not her parents, they would end up leaning on her instead... not Ron, he still hated her, and certainly not Percy. Charlie was still in Romania - but Bill?
She climbed out of bed and over to the hearth in her room, wiping her tears on the back of her sleeve, and after a few minutes managed to find Bill's face in the fire.
"Oh, Ginny," he said softly. "I see you've heard."
"They were so young," she sobbed, holding a handkerchief to her mouth. "And Harry - " She didn't know what to say about Harry - she felt guilty again, guilty that she was almost glad that it had been her brothers and not him, guilty that she was nearly as upset at the thought of him making love to another woman...
"It doesn't seem fair, does it?" Bill said soothingly. "But at least Harry is okay. What if we'd lost all of them? Severus..." His voice trailed off, but she could hear the relief in it.
"Have you heard from him?" she asked, still feeling a bit queasy at the thought of her eldest brother having a relationship with Snape. But for the first time she had seen the snarky potions professor seeming sort of - well, happy - and she imagined that Bill must be equally so. In which case, he was probably just as sick with worry as she and Hermione were.
"Just an owl here or there. Most recently, to tell me himself about Fred and George - he didn't want it to have to come from Harry. He doesn't know when they'll be finished with - well, what it is they're doing. Harry will be joining him again soon; it's just the two of them left now, but the Order is hoping to send others. They don't know who yet..."
"I'll go!" Ginny cried.
Bill smiled sadly. "That's my brave girl. But no - Mum would never let you, and besides, you need to stay at Hogwarts and help out. Once school starts things will be very tense around there and with Dumbledore working with the Order I'm sure he'll need a lot of assistance in keeping things running smoothly."
She nodded reluctantly.
"Are you going to be okay, Ginny? I can come see you, if you want."
"No, that's okay, Bill - I know you're busy..." She managed and weak smile. "Thanks for talking to me. I love you."
"Love you too, Ginny." And with that, there was a slight pop in the fireplace and his face disappeared.
She crawled back into bed and sank her head into her arms. She should have told Bill to come see her - she needed so badly to be comforted. But it wasn't a brotherly embrace that craved, more like Harry's arms wrapped around her the way that they were wrapped around Hermione...
A brief thought crossed her mind before she finally fell asleep - that she should have asked for Draco.
It was two days later, and he was practically sneaking out of the castle - skulking towards the entrance in a defeatist stance, and when he turned towards the sound of Ginny's cry she saw the anguish in his face.
"You weren't going to go without saying goodbye!" She rushed to him, throwing her arms around his neck, willing herself to forget that he was another woman's husband.
He disentangled himself gently. "My leaving is very hard on Hermione. I don't want her to have to say her goodbyes again. And I didn't -" His voice choked slightly. "I didn't want to face you again."
"Harry, you couldn't possibly..."
"I couldn't do anything to save them. I wouldn't blame you if you held me responsible."
"I could never think that of you," Ginny said softly, reaching up to push a strand of black hair across his forehead. "You did everything you could, I know. You can't blame yourself for every death in this war."
"Ginny, you're so kind..." He sighed. "I fear that when this is all over I'll hardly be able to feel joy again." She started to argue, but he suddenly grabbed her wrist and said roughly, "Promise me something, Ginny."
"What is it? I'd do anything for you, Harry, you know that..."
"Take care of Hermione for me."
She bristled. "What?"
His eyes were pleading. "Please, Ginny, I worry about her. She spends too much time helping the Order and I know that when classes begin and she takes Snape's position she'll work herself too hard. She's keeping everything inside pretending to be strong for everyone else, and she exerts so much effort just worrying about me... she's weak in some ways, Ginny, but she would never let anyone know it. And if something happens to me..."
"Don't say it!"
"I have to be realistic, Ginny. You know that it's him or me." His voice was filled with resignation, not fear.
"But - "
"Just promise me. Please. You said you'd do anything."
She was having trouble thinking of anything else now other than the feeling of his hand on hers; his closeness was clouding her thoughts, and she found herself nodding complacently under his pleas.
"Thank you." He squeezed her hand. "This takes a great weight off of my shoulders. I'm afraid I must leave you now, Ginny. There is much to be done, and I've already left Snape by himself for too long."
"Harry!" She wasn't sure what was going to follow her outburst, but she knew she couldn't just let him leave without doing something. "Kiss me goodbye."
He groaned, a soft sound of frustration, and then moved his head towards her, his lips aimed to her cheek. But at the last moment, she turned ever so slightly that he caught her lips instead, and wrapped her arms around his waist.
Her heart soared when she felt him kiss her back.
But it lasted for only a second, until he pushed her away and choked out, "No! I can't, Ginny. I can't."
"But Harry - "
"Goodbye, Ginny," he said softly, and turned away from her, walking to the front of the castle and ignoring her pleas for him to return.
Ron, along with Tonks, eventually joined Snape and Harry. Likewise, Bill went with Charlie to Romania - something to do with vampires, though of course Ginny knew about as much about that as she did anything else.
Ginny had offered to go home to her mother - to keep her company, since she was in pretty bad shape after the twins' deaths. Arthur was working long hours between the Ministry and the Order, and all of the other children were away - Percy, of course, could barely be considered one of their children anymore. When Fudge followed Lucius Malfoy into Voldemort's following, Percy was right at his side. Ginny's brothers all swore that they would never forgive him for what he did, even if he came crawling back. From the looks of things, that wasn't very likely.
But Molly insisted that she was fine, and that Ginny should stay at Hogwarts - especially when September rolled around and the Order members were not back. And as much as she wanted to, Ginny couldn't bring herself to break her promise to Harry. Hermione was a nervous wreck over having to teach potions, especially since by then she was two months pregnant.
Ginny spent most of her time as something of a counselor to the students, who were all having to deal with quite a bit, particularly after a slew of Death Eater attacks over the summer had caused many of them to lose family and friends. By appearances, she was a fixture in the infirmary helping out Madam Pomfrey, but often students came in with nothing physically wrong - and the nurse would cluck her tongue sympathetically and send them to Ginny to talk.
She wasn't sure how much good she was doing, but at least it was something to do, especially when Hermione began to look very pregnant, and Ginny couldn't be around her without thinking about what it was she'd done with Harry to get that way.
Madam Pomfrey seemed to think that Ginny was doing a fine job, however, as not long before Christmas, she left Hogwarts.
"But - I'm not a nurse!" Ginny protested.
"Ginny, dear, we've hardly had more than a sniffle all year and you've learned enough to be just fine tending to the students. I'm needed elsewhere - the Death Eater attacks are getting worse and the number of mediwitches and wizards at St. Mungo's simply cannot handle the demand." She'd smiled kindly and put a hand on Ginny's shoulder. "And the hospital if just a floo away if you need it."
"But what about Hermione? What do I know about babies?" Damn her stupid promise to Harry. She should be at home with her mother or out helping the Order instead of playing nursemaid to a pregnant woman and a school full of students.
Just then, a tiny voice popped up from the corner of the room. Dobby, who had been quietly stacking potions bottles, bounded over to the pair. "Oh, but I know, Miss Ginny!" he cried excitedly.
Poppy peered down at him. "About babies, Dobby?"
"Yes! When I worked with the Malfoys, I always helped with the babies." He bobbed his head up and down excitedly.
Ginny looked at him skeptically, but Poppy just smiled. "See there, Ginny? Nothing to worry about. You should be able to get Hermione to the hospital by floo with no problem, but in the meantime you have Dobby to help you."
"But - but I..."
"Contact me at the hospital if you need me, dear," Poppy said breezily, and glided out of the infirmary.
The months went by with little difference between them, and with each day the suffocation of being stuck in the castle increased. Even Remus left, as he was needed urgently for Order work, and Dumbledore took over his classes. Ginny had begged them to give her something to do, but again she was encouraged to stay with Hermione. She became more and more resentful of the pregnant woman, hating that stupid promise for shackling her there.
Draco still came to the castle occasionally, sometimes with news of Harry - which Hermione clung to for weeks - and sometimes just to entertain Ginny. She still barely tolerated him, as he was just as snarky and arrogant as ever, but couldn't ignore the pleasantness of having someone interesting to talk to. The one time that he'd brought up the subject of Harry - pointing out that it would be a lot harder to love a man with a wife and baby clinging to him - she'd thrown him out and not spoken with him for a week.
By March, Hermione's baby was due any day and tensions were running high everywhere. Death Eaters had attacked Hogsmeade, killing several Muggle-born shop owners, and the students were all terrified that Hogwarts was next. Ginny was frightened as well, but felt something of a sense of security in knowing that Dumbledore was there.
As it turned out, frightened was the right way to feel.
On a Thursday afternoon, the Dark Mark appeared outside the Hogwarts gates, and Dumbledore was nowhere to be found. McGonagall immediately began evacuating the students, sending them out by floo to undisclosed locations one by one. No one knew for sure if it was just a warning, or if the Death Eaters would really begin to descend on the school, but tensions were so high that chances simply could not be taken.
By the time Ginny had heralded the last of the Hufflepuffs through the fireplace, she was scared out of her mind. She had a horrible feeling about the entire situation, and started at the sight of shadows in the corridors. As the other teachers began to leave as well, she went to find Hermione.
"Hermione! We have to leave - the students are safe, they're..." Her voice trailed off as she entered the other woman's chambers and saw her curled up on her bed clutching her rounded belly.
"Oh god," Ginny whispered. "Not - now?"
Hermione bit her lip and nodded. "I'm so sorry, Ginny... it's the worst time. The pain started about an hour ago and I've just..." She groaned loudly, her face contorting in pain.
"But Professor McGonnagall told me before she left that Death Eaters have just attacked the hospital!" Ginny cried, running to her bedside.
Hermione just moaned incoherently.
It didn't take long for Ginny to find Dobby, as he was one of the very few house elves left in the castle. "I'm so glad you're still here," she breathed. "Hermione is having her baby and we can't go to the hospital. I need your help."
His eyes widened. "But - Miss Ginny! We need a doctor!"
"There aren't any doctors, Dobby. You'll have to do it... I can help."
Dobby suddenly banged his head against the nearest wall, hard. Then again. "Stupid Dobby! Stupid! Stupid!"
"Dobby! What is it? Stop that!"
He looked up at her mournfully, biting his lip so hard she thought she saw blood. "Dobby doesn't know why he lied to Missus, but Dobby doesn't know anything about birthing babies!"
Ginny screeched in disbelief and threw her wand at the house elf. It bounced off of his head. "What am I supposed to do now?" she yelled, but was already crouching down to scoop up her fallen wand as Dobby continued to bang his head against the wall. "Now listen to me, you stupid elf," she hissed. "Go get me some hot water and some blankets. We're going to have to do this ourselves."
Bringing a baby really wasn't so difficult as Ginny would have thought, had someone asked her before she actually went through the experience. But between Hermione's dainty yells and Dobby's bashing his head against the bedpost at every opportunity, the experience was certainly an unpleasant one.
The baby was a boy, seemingly in perfect health, but Hermione wasn't looking so good when it was over. "We have to get out of here," Ginny murmured to her as the new mother cradled her son in her arms. "We can take the floo - do you think you can walk well enough to get to a room with a fireplace?"
Hermione nodded. "You're an angel, Ginny..."
But she was already hurrying to the door. As soon as she opened it, she heard a muffled shout of "Incendio!" from the corridor. She gasped and slammed the door, leaning against it and breathing heavily. "They're here," she rasped. "They're going to torch the place."
Hermione moaned softly, and Ginny wasn't even sure if she'd heard. She looked around the room frantically. She could set wards to keep them out but there was no way out of the castle... peering frantically out of the window, she saw rows of Death Eaters with flaming wands raised.
"Oh god." She grabbed the wall for support.
"Miss? What should Dobby do?" He looked up at her with concerned eyes.
Gathering her senses, Ginny pulled a piece of parchment out of Hermione's desk and scribbled a message. She had a moment's hesitation in trying to decide where to send it, but then made up her mind. "Get down to the owlry, Dobby, and don't let them see you. Send the fastest owl you can find...send it to Draco Malfoy."
Dobby bobbed his head up and down and snatched the note from her. "Dobby won't let you down this time!"
She set the wards behind him and slouched into a char.
"What now?" Hermione asked softly.
"Now we wait."
Later, Ginny would look back on that next half hour and decide that it was the scariest of her life. They were trapped in that room and not even able to tell if the castle was burning down around them.
So when she heard the roar outside the window, she was sure some unspoken prayer had been answered. She ran and flung it open and saw a beautiful sight - a Norwegian Ridgeback dragon with Draco Malfoy perched atop it.
"Beautiful weather tonight isn't it, Ginny?" he called pleasantly.
"If you make any jokes now, I'll kill you!" she cried.
"You're not scared, are you, Ginny?" He grinned, and it infuriated her.
"I'm scared to death! And if you had the sense of a garden gnome you would be too! Are they burning the castle around us, Draco?" Her voice faltered at the end, unable to keep up her anger in light of her fear.
His expression sobered and he pointed his wand at their window, and a wooden bridge formed between them. "Is Hermione okay?" he asked.
"I think so," Ginny said. "Oh, we have to go, Draco! The Death Eaters are all around the castle..."
"They know everyone's left," he told her, whispering something to the dragon and then crossing the plank to them. "They wouldn't have dared actually attack it when Dumbledore might have appeared to protect the students. So instead they lured everyone out and now they're going to torch the place as some stupid show of power." She helped him through the window.
"Draco, I've been so scared," Ginny said, unable to keep the words out, so relieved that he was finally there.
He put his arm around her shoulders. "Brave girl," he murmured. "I can't believe you actually delivered a baby."
"We have to go home to my mother. She'll know what to do..." She ignored the warm feeling of his arm around her and motioned to the bed. "Do you think Hermione and the baby will be okay on the dragon?"
He nodded. "They'll be fine."
"Why aren't the Death Eaters attacking us?" she asked, glancing nervously out the window.
"Do you really think they're looking up at the sky?" he scoffed. "They're too busy having their fun and lighting their fires." He walked over to the bed.
"Draco... oh, Draco, you came for us..." Hermione mumbled, sounding delirious. He shushed her and picked her up as she still cradled the baby in her arms.
Carrying her to the window, he let Ginny go first and then followed her, settling the four of them onto the dragon carefully. Looking back at Hogwarts, Ginny gasped, seeing the flames rising from the other side of the castle.
"What if they'd started where we were?" she breathed.
Draco sighed. "Take a good look, Ginny. One day you can look back on this and tell your children how you were there to see the greatest wizarding school in the world burn to the ground." He grabbed the reins and whispered a command to the dragon, and then they took off through the sky.
It wasn't long before they reached the Burrow, and the dragon touched down on the ground gently. Draco took Hermione and the baby down from the dragon and carried them into the house. Ginny followed behind them and called out, "Mum! Mum, where are you?"
Only silence answered her.
"Mum?" Her voice was strangled now. "Dad?"
And then she saw him, leaning against the bay window in the living room. "She's gone," her father said.
"Gone where?" Ginny asked quietly, walking over to him and looking up into his eyes. "Dad? Where is she?"
"The attacks in Hogsmeade this morning. She was there. They called me at the Ministry. They told me. I came home." His voice was choppy, forced, and his eyes were staring out the window, barely acknowledging her.
"What did they tell you?" Panic rose in her throat like bile.
Later, she remembered very little that happened right after that - just vague images of falling and screaming, of yelling at her father's empty eyes, of sobbing into Draco's chest and then into a pillow.
The next morning she woke up with the hazy feeling that the previous night hadn't really happened, but when she saw Hermione in the bed next to her with a baby cradled in her arms, she knew that it had been all too real.
She padded downstairs to the living room, eyes red and swollen from crying, and saw Draco pulling on his coat.
"Did you sleep on the couch?" she asked.
"Yes. I wanted to make sure that you were okay." He really did have concern in his eyes.
"Thank you," she said quietly. Then everything suddenly came pouring back and she could feel the tears start to slide down her face. "Oh Draco, what am I going to do now? Did you see my father? He's - he's... I don't know... and my mum..." The words trailed off into a sob.
He pulled her into his arms. "It's okay, Ginny. Cry. You deserve it."
After a few minutes, she looked up at him. "Thank you for coming for us, Draco."
He chuckled softly, pushed some hair out of her eyes. "Of course I came, Ginny. Do you really think me that uncaring?" He paused, and added, "And it pulled me out of quite the party, I'll tell you."
Bristling slightly, she was almost relieved at the temporary burst of irritation that clouded her pain. "A party?"
"I was at Pansy's new establishment. She was..."
"I know what she was!" Ginny hissed. "Everyone knows that she's a... that's she's opened up a..."
"Brothel? Well, yes, I suppose everyone does know."
"You're... you're..." She tried to think of the appropriate insult, and it finally fell somewhat flat. "You're no gentleman, Draco Malfoy." It did feel good, to be angry for the moment.
He laughed. "And you are no lady." Tipping an imaginary hat, he added, "And now, milady, I must take my leave of you."
"Leave?" she cried. "But - you have to help me! Where are you going?"
"I'm going, my dear, to join Harry and Snape."
"But - why?"
"Because they might need me. I realize it's a bit late, but I figure this is when they'll need it most."
"But you can't leave me here - you saw my father... I'm helpless!"
"Helpless?" He laughed again. "God help the Death Eaters that try to capture you."
"Draco, we need you," she demanded, squirming once she realized that he still had his arms around her. But they merely tightened. "They might come here when they're done with Hogwarts... I'll never forgive you if you go now!"
"You don't have to forgive me," he said. "And if I get hit by a killing curse, I'll never forgive myself. But I have to be there for the last stand, Ginny. You must understand that."
"Well I do. And there's something else that I know." He tightened his arms around her again and looked into her eyes. "I love you, Ginny. Despite the whole stupid world going to pieces around us, I love you. Because we're the same - bad lots, both of us."
"Don't say that!" she tried to yank herself away.
But he continued, his voice quiet and rough. "I love you more than I've loved any woman, and I've waited for you longer, too. But who knows if I'll come back from this in one piece... Nevermind about loving me now, but if I'm going to my death I want to do it with the memory of your kisses."
And with that, she suddenly felt his lips pressing against hers - warm and insistent and passionate. She almost lost herself in the feeling, but then came to her senses and wrenched herself away. She slapped him across the face - hard.
"You loathsome, evil man!" she shrieked. "How dare you kiss me! I was right - you're not a gentleman!"
She had expected a stronger reaction, but he merely rubbed at his mouth where she'd hit him and smiled that cocky smile. "A minor point, at such a moment," he said.
"I hope You-Know-Who curses you himself!" she added, shaking with emotion.
"I get the point," he chuckled, and straightened his coat. "Goodbye, Ginny. Perhaps we'll meet again."
Then he was gone, and she was left alone in the house with a woman ill from childbirth, a newborn, and her father with an addled mind.
Her mother... if she was here, she would have known what to do. And her brothers, they were all out getting themselves killed too - just like Fred and George...
She sank to the floor. Her family was falling apart right before her eyes. Her mother wouldn't have wanted it this way; she would have fought to keep them together. Looking up at the ceiling that had remained unchanging since she was a child, she whispered, "With God as my witness, I won't allow another member of my family to die. If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill - I don't care what I have to do. I'll protect them to my last breath."
Hermione, with Harry's enthusiastic consent by way of owl message, named their son Sirius James. Jimmy, as he came to be called, was a healthy and charming infant and a great comfort to his mother who spent a significant portion of her time worrying over her husband's return. She was also in something of poor health after the birth, and after finally seeing a doctor at St. Mungo's when the hospital was again operational, she found out that she was too weak to risk having any more children.
She remained at the Burrow with Ginny and Mr. Weasley, who with his mind shattered by the death of his wife, no longer worked at the Ministry. Ginny took care of all of them, and as much as she loved her father could not help but resent his condition as much as she resented Hermione. Money was tight, very tight, but things were manageable. Hermione didn't have access to Harry's Gringott's account in his absence because the red tape hadn't been taken care of before he left, but her parents were able to send them a small sum - enough to make sure that they could all eat, anyway.
And then the news stopped. No word of Ron, Bill, or Charlie, nor of Draco, nor Harry. It was difficult to tell who was more upset by the silence - Ginny or Hermione, though both insisted in order to calm themselves that no news was better than ill news.
Early on a Monday morning, there was a quiet pop of apparition downstairs. Hermione was nursing Jimmy while Ginny sat nearby writing another likely unanswered letter to Bill.
"It's probably Dobby again," Ginny sighed, clanking her quill down on the desk irritably. "I wish he would stop coming here; another apology and I think my head may explode. And whenever he tries to help us with chores he ends up breaking something."
Hermione, however, opened her mouth slightly and got to her feet, gingerly placing Jimmy into Ginny's lap despite both of their small yelps of protest. After a few moments, Ginny tightened her grip around the infant and followed Hermione's path out of the room, and peered down the stairs.
At the front door stood Harry and Hermione in a tight embrace. At Ginny's loud gasp, they pulled apart and Harry looked up at her. "It's over," he said.
Voldemort was dead, and the war was over. Despite all that everyone had gone through in the past year since Ginny's graduation, it all suddenly seemed too easy. Because now that it was finished, what to do?
Harry seemed to be suffering from this more than anyone else. He didn't care to talk about the final battle, and Ginny wasn't sure if even Hermione knew all of the details. They continued to stay at the Burrow, along with Ron who had returned with them. No one seemed to have any plans for the future.
But Ginny still loved Harry.
She managed to find him alone a few days after the reunion. He sat on the back porch polishing his broomstick, his hair badly needing to be cut, his face drawn and pale.
"I can't believe it's over," Ginny said softly, sitting down beside him so that their knees just barely touched. "We've been spending so much of our energy fighting... now what?"
"What always happens to people when their purpose in life is finished," Harry told her, not looking up from his broom. "Those with strength and courage go on. And the others are winnowed out. They slip into a nonexistence."
"Oh, Harry, don't talk nonsense when it's us who are being winnowed out!"
"You're right, Ginny." He sighed, glanced up at her. "We do seem to have taken the brunt of it, haven't we? What's to become of us, indeed. Our whole lives have been changed, and not necessarily for the better, considering everything that we've lost. And the truth is, I'm a coward."
"A coward?" She stared at him. "You, Harry? What on earth are you scared of?"
"I've outlived my usefulness, Ginny. If Voldemort hadn't returned I would have lived my life of quiet notoriety for something I'd done when I was a baby, finished school and married Hermione and been a normal wizard for the rest of my days. But as it was, I spent the last year seeing my friends crumble and die in front of me. I saw the flashes of green when I sent the killing curse to countless Death Eaters. And now I've returned to a world that to me is worse than death - one which has no place for me." He managed a kind smile and added, "But Ginny, why am I telling you these things? You couldn't possibly understand. You don't even know the meaning of fear. You never mind facing realities; you're not one to escape from them as I do."
"Harry, you're wrong!" She grabbed his arm. "I do want to escape! I don't want to be taking care of everyone else. That's not what I do! Everything's different now; there's nothing left for us..."Her eyes lit up. "Oh, Harry, let's run away. We can go to America! They won't know you there as they do here, and we could start a brand new life together. You know you don't love Hermione; you told me you loved me that day at my graduation party! And besides..." Her voice trailed off slightly as she saw the astonishment in his eyes, and then continued, "The doctors told me that Hermione can't have any more children. And I could give you..."
He interrupted her roughly. "Ginny, can't we just forget that day?"
"Can you honestly say you don't love me?"
"Yes. I don't love you." His eyes weren't meeting hers.
"Well, what if I was? Do you honestly think that I could go off and leave Hermione and the baby? Are you mad, Ginny?" He grabbed her arms and shook her. "And you - you know you couldn't leave your father now!"
"Oh yes I could! I'm so sick and tired of it all!"
"Yes, you are... you're sick and tired, and that's why you're talking this way."
"Then take me away from it all, Harry! Please - there's nothing to keep us here."
"Nothing except honor."
She stared up at him for a moment, her eyes filling with tears. When she began to sob, he gathered her into his arms. "Don't cry, my dear, please don't cry..."
She tipped up her face and touched her lips to his, and when he tightened his arms around her and kissed her back, so began to sob harder, tears of joy. "You do love!" she cried, pressing kisses to his face. "You do love me!"
"No - no, Ginny, we can't do it!" He pushed her away. "Fine, I'll admit it - I love your courage and your stubbornness. I love them so much that a moment ago I could have forgotten the best wife a man ever had. But Ginny - I'm not going to forget her!"
Her tear-soaked face turned up to his. "Then that's it. There's nothing to fight for, nothing to live for..."
"Yes, there is. There's something that you love better than me, Ginny - your family."
She looked down at her hands. "The ones that are left. Yes. There is that." Standing, she brushed off her robes and lifted her chin as she spoke. "I promise this won't happen again, Harry." And she left him there, not waiting for a reply.
It was only a few weeks following this confrontation that Mr. Weasley disappeared. A frantic search followed but it didn't last long. Ron found him not far from the house, laying broken on the hard ground, the flying Anglia caught in a tree above him.
His death nearly killed Ginny. Particularly after Harry made her realize how much her family meant to her, she felt as if she had already failed them. Her vow had been broken.
So when she received the owl from Percy, she couldn't turn him away.
I'm not sure if you'll even read this, as I wouldn't blame you for ripping it up and tossing it into the fire the moment you see my signature. But I implore you - if you've gotten this far, please continue, if you've ever called me brother.
I know that what I've done is unforgivable. I know that I've caused the family more pain than I could ever make up for with the rest of my days. But believe me when I say that I've seen the error of my ways, and not just because of the end of the war. It was upon hearing about the deaths of my parents that something in me snapped back to the man I once was - the man you may remember, Ginny, before the darkness encased my soul.
I was planning to prevent causing you all more grief by simply disappearing into the Muggle world, never forcing you to hear from me again. But I felt I must tell you, just in case you have any feelings left for me at all, that I won't be with the world at all for much longer.
I've contracted a serious illness, a somewhat rare side effect of a curse I came into contact with before the final days of the war. I probably have a couple of months to live, at the most. There is a cure, but it is a potion that only the most skilled apothecaries can make successfully, and the ingredients are extremely rare and expensive. I certainly don't have the funds to pay for such a thing, and I know that you don't either, so please don't think that I'm asking for your assistance.
I just thought that you should know. And because I wanted to at least put forth an attempt to make my peace with the family before I die. I wrote to you, Ginny, because you seemed the most forgiving. But I don't even expect that from you after what I've done.
Always your loving brother, Percy
Ginny read the letter twice, and realized without hesitation that she could not allow him to die. No matter what he had done in the past, he was still her brother, and she would not break her vow again.
Of course, her other brothers did not feel the same way.
"I'm glad," Ron hissed after he crumpled up the letter and threw it back at her. "Do you realize that Mom and Dad died knowing that their son was a traitor?"
She contacted Bill and Charlie who were still in Romania, assisting with the clean-up effort after some of the most devastating Death Eater activity had occurred in conjuction with vampire attacks.
"Serves him right," Bill said. "Conniving little wanker. Hope he rots."
And though Charlie was more sympathetic, he also offered no help. "I can't say how enthusiastic I would be about helping him even if we could, Ginny - but the truth is, we can't. We don't have that kind of money. And you don't need to worry about trying to get it - it's Percy's problem, and he'll have to deal with the consequences of his actions."
Charlie was right. She didn't have that kind of money. Neither did Harry, as he had emptied out his entire Gringott's account to contribute to the rebuilding of Hogwarts. So really, there was only one person she knew who did.
"Dobby!" she yelled, for once grateful that the annoying house elf had decided to stay with them. When he arrived, breathless and eager to please, she commanded, "Find Mother's green patterned quilt - the one folded up in the top of their closet." Somewhat reluctantly, she added, "It was my grandmother's, and she cherished it, but I'm afraid it must be put to better use now. I need you to transfigure it into some dress robes for me - it shouldn't be too difficult, as it's just the shape, not the material. I would do it myself, but I need to work on my hair."
"What is Miss Ginny doing?" Dobby asked, looking confused.
"Miss Ginny is going to save her brother," she told him. "And if she's going to go beg for money, she has to go looking like a princess."
"You can't imagine how pleased I am to see you, Ginny," Draco said, holding her hands and surveying her new dress robes. "You look absolutely beautiful. I was rather afraid you would be prostrate with grief. Women prostrate with grief are so common and unattractive these days."
She smiled sweetly. "Well, I have been worried, Draco. About you, I mean. Ever since I heard that the Ministry was holding you for questioning - imagine, Draco! They think that you were a Death Eater! Didn't Dumbledore tell them?"
"They're more concerned with my father's estate, really, my dear," he admitted, rubbing the top of her hand gently with his thumb. "Seem to think it's full of Dark magic antiquities and that I'm holding out on them about their whereabouts." Peering at her for a moment, he added with a note of surprise, "You were really worried about me?"
"Yes," she said softly, nodding, and managed a slight sniffle. "I have to admit, I was very angry with you when you left me all alone at the Burrow that morning - it was really awful of you, Draco, - but then when Harry told me that you were stuck here at the Ministry, not even able to go home... why, I was so upset, I cried."
He gaped. "You cried?"
"In fact," she added, sniffing again, "I think I may cry again now." She pulled her hands out of his grasp and turned away.
He put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her back around to face him. "Really, Ginny? You care that much about..." But then he studied her face more carefully and his lips twisted into a sneer. "You know, I almost believed you for a second there, my dear. But I know fake tears when I see them."
"Fake? Why, Draco! I..."
"Don't lie to me, Ginny. I can't believe I almost thought that you cared for me. Now, what is it that you want?" His eyes were cold, glaring.
She scrunched up her face in frustration. "Oh, fine. I want your money, okay?"
"My money?" He laughed cruelly. "Is that rickety old house finally falling in around you?"
"You're still a worm," Ginny snarled. "If you must know, it's to help my dying brother. I need about five thousand galleons. Are you going to give it to me or not?"
He crossed his arms over his chest. "And what are you going to give me in return?"
"I..." Her face fell, then she swallowed nervously. "I, ah... you told me you loved, Draco. So what you can have is me. I'll marry you."
He snorted. "Marry you? Gods, girl, what makes you think I want to marry you?"
"But - but you said you loved me!"
"I'm not a marrying man, Ginny."
She opened her mouth, then closed it again, before finally answering, "Fine, then. We don't have to get married. But you can still have me."
He regarded her for a moment. "A reasonable offer, Ginny, but you're not worth five thousand galleons."
"Oh! You wretched - "
"Besides," he said, interrupting her stream of profanities. "I couldn't give you the money even if I wanted to. The Ministry has frozen my father's bank account. I've not a penny to my name at the moment."
She realized that he was still holding one of her hands, and wrenched it violently out of his grip. "I hope they send you to Azkaban," she hissed. "I hope they suck your soul out through your eyeballs."
And then she turned on her heels and left the room, trying not to hear him laughing wildly behind her.
Outside his holding cell, she was shocked to see a familiar face. Pansy Parkinson, her hair dyed platinum blonde, was wearing a dress tight against her body and talking to a Ministry official. "I'm Draco's cousin," she was saying sweetly, twirling the unnatural hair around her finger. "I'd so like to see him..."
Ginny shot her an evil glare as she made her way out of the Ministry, and then apparated immediately to Diagon Alley so that she could pick up a few things for the house. Now that there was no way she'd find the money to help Percy, spending a little here and there certainly wasn't going to hurt anything.
And as if her day could get any worse, she saw another familiar face - this one nearly as unwelcome as the first.
"Ginny Longbottom," said Severus Snape, who happened to stop right by her. He paused on the cobblestone sidewalk. "My condolences on your loss."
"Losses," she corrected him.
He frowned. "Well, yes. Bill tells me you're not taking things very well."
"Bill wouldn't know, now would he?" she grumbled. "He hasn't exactly stopped by to see me."
"He and Charlie are very busy," Snape snapped. "Besides, they'll be back soon. In fact, within the month." He paused. "And I suppose you may as well know - Bill and I are going to be married."
"Yes, married. What's wrong, you don't approve of your brother marrying an ugly old potions master?" The all too familiar sneer rooted itself on his face.
"That's not what I..." And suddenly, his final words clicked in her head. Potions master. "That's not what I meant at all," she continued, allowing her lips to turn in a slow smile. "I think that you're perfect for Bill. You're an amazing potions master, after all - so intelligent! In fact, I'll bet you even know how to brew a potion that cures grankin's disorder."
He snorted. "Of course I do. Not easy, I'll tell you, but I'm obviously one of the best at what I do."
It took a great deal of will power to not beam at him upon uncovering this bit of information. She thought about Bill for a moment, remembering his angry reaction at her suggestion that they help Percy. There was no way he would convince Snape to brew the potion; in fact, he'd probably insist he not interfere. "How interesting that you've decided to marry now, after so long," she said, tilting her head towards him.
"I'm the last of the Snape family line." His looked down over his hooked nose at her. "Now that the war is over and I'm no longer working as a spy, I feel comfortable starting a family, which is necessary to continue the line. Bill and I will adopt, of course, but there are many children in need right now."
"Oh, so you want... children?" She had to admit, she was slightly surprised, as everything about his behavior while she was at school indicated that he hated them.
"I assure you, Mrs. Longbottom, that my children will be raised in such a way that they will not be like most of those I have taught over the years," he said haughtily. "If that concern controls your hesitation. And besides, I care for Bill very much."
Ginny forced her face to fall, and she looked down at the ground. "Professor Snape, I'm sorry to tell you this, but..."
"What is it, girl?"
"Bill isn't still in Romania because he's helping Charlie. He's there because that's where Fleur is."
"Fleur?" Snape bellowed. "That stupid veela whelp? What's he doing with her?"
"He's in love with her," Ginny lied. "I'm sorry to be the one to tell you."
Snape's face reddened in fury.
"You have every right to never speak to him again," Ginny soothed. "In fact, I think you should just ignore him completely. Serves him right for treating you so. Why, I can't imagine how he could possibly give you up - such an intelligent and distinguished looking man! You're so much more interesting than Fleur."
He didn't say anything, but the normal color returned to his face slowly.
"Would you mind accompanying me back to my house, Professor?" Ginny asked, wrapping her arm around his. "I just have to stop by and pick up some things for the baby. You know, ever since Hermione had little Jimmy I've so been wanting one of my own..."
Within the month, Ginny Longbottom became Ginny Snape, and her new husband brewed a potion that saved Percy's life. Ron was disgusted on both accounts, not the smallest reason being that he suspected that Ginny had stolen Snape from Bill in much the same way she had stolen Neville from him.
Ginny was eavesdropping on Ron the night that Bill's face appeared in the fire. Even in the midst of the cool flames, she could read the mixture of fury and grief on his face as he yelled, "She's gone and married my potions master!"
She felt slightly guilty, but it had to be done. Besides, it was just as much her sacrifice - she was the one stuck with the greasy git now.
And since Hogwarts had been rebuilt, she moved there with Snape just in time for the new school year to begin. At first, Harry and Hermione stayed at the Burrow, but after missing Harry so much - just seeing him, even if she knew deep down that he didn't love her - she managed to remedy that situation as well.
When Harry refused to come teach DADA at Hogwarts, she'd pleaded to Hermione, who accused Harry of being ungrateful after what Ginny had done for them. "If it wasn't for her, Jimmy probably wouldn't be here!" she cried. "In fact, I probably wouldn't either! And all this time, she's put a roof over our heads... why, she's an angel, Harry. I don't see how you can possibly deny her any request. She just wants Hogwarts to be restored back to its former state, especially now that she's married to Professor Snape. Your money can't do everything, Harry. They need you."
So he had conceded wearily and they all moved into the castle. And Ginny pretended, sometimes, that the husband whose chambers she entered at night was someone else who slept not far away.
"Ah, my dear Mrs. Snape."
Ginny turned, hands on her hips, and glared at Draco Malfoy. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to visit your husband, of course. He's my godfather, you know."
"Figures," Ginny muttered. "Well, do go see him, then, and quit bothering me."
"Tell me, Ginny," he began, leaning against the wall and smirking at her. "Do you ever decline marrying men you don't love?"
"How do you know I don't love him?" she retorted, trying to sound sincere.
He laughed. "Really, Ginny. And to think - if you'd waited just a little bit longer you could have had my money."
"Oh, why did they let you go?" she hissed. "You should be in Azkaban!"
He shrugged. "I thought you might feel that way." Seeing her turn away from him, he called after her, "Where are you going, Mrs. Snape?"
"Away from you!" She didn't manage to make it twenty feet down the hallway, however, before she collided directly into her husband.
"Good morning, my wife," Snape purred, quickly running his eyes over her. "I've been looking for you. I would like to speak with you about something."
She glanced back at Draco, who was smirking at his place against the wall, and she grabbed Snape's arm and steered him in the opposite direction. "What is it?" she asked.
"It has come to my attention that you were in the Forbidden Forest several days ago." His voice was stern. "I was very displeased by this information."
"I need someplace where no one bothers me!" she whined, ignoring the scowl on his face.
"This is not an issue up for debate! The Forbidden Forest is even more dangerous now than it was before the war, as it's well known that former Death Eaters are hiding there, particularly those who were once Ministry officials. Look, girl - "
"Great balls of fire, Severus! Stop bothering me, and don't call me 'girl'!" She clamped her hand over her mouth, shocked that the outburst had just come from her.
He seemed shocked as well, because instead of yelling at her he was just standing there with his mouth open, light from an open window glinting off of his white gold wedding band.
"Sorry, dear," Ginny said quickly, rising up on her tiptoes and kissing him on the cheek. "I have to run and meet Hermione; I'll see you tonight at dinner." And then she turned and quickly made her way through the winding corridors, wondering if she was the first person ever to render Severus Snape completely speechless.
It wasn't even an hour later that she realized she really should have listened to him.
"You could have died!" Snape bellowed, glaring down at where she lay on a bed in the infirmary. "I told you not to go into the forest!"
"But I'm not dead," muttered Ginny, redness creeping onto her cheeks. "Everything's fine."
"Only thanks to Firenze! If he hadn't heard you screaming, those Death Eaters would have your head on a stake right now!" His hands shook in fury. "What good to me is a dead wife?"
"Oh, nice to know you care," she snorted, pulling the blankets farther up over her chest. "I mean, it's a good thing I didn't die, so now you can get some babies out of me."
"Don't be stupid," he snapped. "You know that the forest is off limits now more than ever, since the Ministry is concerned about vigilantes going after the remaining Death Eaters. Not only could have gotten yourself killed, you could have been arrested. And I hope you realize now what sort of position you've put me in."
She opened her mouth to question him, but he was already turning away, his black robes sweeping the infirmary floor.
She didn't feel particularly sorry for what she'd done - it was only a forest after all, and there was nothing natural there to hurt her, only the Death Eaters hiding from their rightful trials. Granted, if Firenze hadn't shown up and thrown her on his back after she'd been stunned, she wouldn't be in very good shape right now. But the culprits should have been swept out of the forest months ago instead of being allowed to roam free to hurl curses at young girls when their backs were turned!
Despite all this - later, she couldn't help but think that since she had been through such an ordeal, everyone should have been a lot nicer to her. Ron came to visit that evening so she, Hermione, and Minerva met for tea in the front parlor of Hogwarts. Everyone was awfully quiet, and Ron kept shooting her pointed glares between sips of tea.
"What's your problem?" she finally snapped, narrowing her eyes at him across the table.
"I'll tell you what my - "
"Shush!" Hermione interrupted. "There's no problem here." She looked back down at the book she was reading.
Ron ignored her and narrowed his eyes at Ginny. "What happened this afternoon was just what you deserved, and if there was any justice you would have gotten worse."
"Ron!" Hermione gasped.
"Oh, it's quite all right, Hermione," Ginny said smoothly, looking at her brother. "He's still sore about my taking Neville away from him, even though he's too much of a hypocrite to admit it."
"Oh, sod off, Ginny!" Rod snarled. "You think you know everything. And it's your fault that Harry and Snape are - "
"Shush!" Hermione glared at him.
When Ginny opened her mouth to ask what the hell was going on, Hermione beat her to it, saying, "I think we're all a little tense. Why don't I read aloud from Hogwarts: A History?"
"I think that's a marvelous idea," Minerva agreed.
"Where are Harry and Severus anyway?" Ginny asked quickly, before someone could cut her off again.
"They, along with Professor Dumbledore, are at a special Order meeting," Minerva explained quietly.
Ron snorted, and Hermione began to read aloud.
Forty-five minutes later, Ginny was still managing to stay awake. But when the loud knock sounded on the castle door, it jerked them all to greater focus.
"No one say anything," Minerva said quickly, but then Hermione added, "Professor, would you mind if I handled this?" When the older woman nodded, Hermione looked at Ron and Ginny and said firmly, "Let me do the talking." She stood and walked over to the castle doors, throwing them open and revealing three Aurors, one of which was Tonks, looking very uncomfortable.
"Please, come in," Hermione greeted calmly.
"Thank you, Mrs. Potter," the tallest wizard said. As they walked inside, he added, "I'm Benjamin Spaulding, and this is Ian Groves and Nymphadora Tonks."
"You probably know my friends." Hermione motioned towards the group. "Minerva McGonnagal, Mrs. Ginny Snape, and her brother, Ron Weasley."
Ginny still bristled at her married name.
"I'm sorry to disturb you at this late hour," Benjamin continued. "But I wondered if I could speak with your husband."
"My husband is not here," Hermione answered, folding her hands in front of her. "However, I find it curious that Aurors are looking for him. Surely you don't think Harry is a Dark wizard?"
Benjamin coughed, and Tonks squirmed even more uncomfortably behind him. "Of course not, Mrs. Potter. I meant no disrespect. But if you don't mind, I'd like to ask where your husband is."
"He, Professor Snape, and Professor Dumbledore are all at a political meeting in Diagon Alley."
"Actually, ma'am," Ian interrupted. "They're not. We've already been to the location of that supposed meeting."
"I'm afraid I can't help you then," Hermione said quietly. "You're welcome to search the castle, but I can assure you that they are not here."
"That won't be necessary." Benjamin coughed again. "We will, however, wait for their return."
"Would you mind waiting outside?" Minerva asked from her spot at the table. "I don't wish to explain to the students why there are Aurors in the castle."
"Of course we will," Tonks said quickly, before the others could answer. Then she practically steered them out the doors, which closed loudly behind them.
There was complete silence for nearly a full minute before Ginny finally exploded. "If someone doesn't tell me what's going on here I'll go crazy!"
"We thought it better not to tell you," Hermione murmured, walking over to where the others sat. "But our husbands and Professor Dumbledore have gone to clean the Death Eaters out of the forest where you were attacked today."
"And because of the Ministry ban, they'll be arrested if they're caught," Ron snapped.
"Quiet." Hermione shot him a pointed look. "It's not Ginny's fault. They're just doing what they think they need to do."
Ginny sank down into her chair. "Severus," she whispered. "And... and Harry..."
"There's nothing we can do now but wait," Minerva pointed out. "Hermione, why don't you continue reading."
Ginny barely heard her, images racing through her head of Harry fighting Death Eaters in the forest, dying because of her...
It was nearly an hour later when they heard the singing.
Ginny stood and rushed to castle doors, where she cracked it open and peeked through. Coming up the drawbridge were three men, staggering back and forth along their way and singing one of the Sorting Hat songs very loudly.
"Hermione!" she cried, looking back. "Why, they're drunk!" As they got closer, she realized that the third man after Harry and Dumbledore was not her husband, but Draco.
"Leave this to me." Hermione put a hand on her shoulder, her voice sharp. "Please, Ginny. Don't say anything." She opened the door to let in the newcomers as well as the Aurors.
Draco was holding up Harry, who leaned on him as if he would fall over without the support. "Hello, Hermione," he slurred.
"Well, Draco." Hermione put her hands on her hips. "I see you've gone and gotten my husband intoxicated again." She reached out to guide him in, but Benjamin Spaulding blocked her path with his arm.
"I'm afraid we're going to have to arrest them," he said.
"Arrest them?" Hermione laughed. "Mr. Spaulding, if you arrest all of the Wwizards who come home drunk, I dare say you'd have a good many Ministry employees in Azkaban at the moment." She pushed past him and led Draco and Harry into the castle, followed by the other two Aurors, and Dumbledore, who was also weaving as he made his way through the doorway.
"Now, Draco," Hermione continued sternly as he deposited Harry into the nearest chair. "I would appreciate it if you'd leave the castle and not return. You're a bad influence on the students."
"Leave!" He smirked at her drunkenly. "Why, that's the thanks I get for bringing him home and not leaving him on the streets in this shameful condition? Imagine if he'd tried to apparate; he would have splinched himself!"
Dumbledore walked up behind them and started to sing again.
"And Professor!" Hermione cried, turning her wrath to him. "I'm surprised at you! What kind of example are you setting?" She looked at Harry again. "Harry. How can you do this to me? Again?"
He lifted his head from where it had lolled onto the table. "I ain't so very drunk, Hermy," he muttered, and then let it drop again with a thud.
She shook her head. "Minerva, would you mind taking him back to our chambers and laying him out on the bed as usual?"
"Don't touch him!" Benjamin shouted, moving between them. "He's under arrest!"
"What do you want to arrest him for?" Draco asked, laughing and grabbing Benjamin's shoulders. He leaned in confidentially. "I'm pretty sure I've seen you drunker than this. And you've seen me..." He laughed again.
"He could lie in the gutter for all I care," Benjamin spat. "What do you think we are, Muggle policemen? He led a raid in the Forbidden Forest tonight, went after those alleged Death Eaters. Against the Ministry orders. Most of them were killed, bypassing their right to a fair trial. It's time you war heroes learned that you can't take the law into your own hands!"
Draco looked at him quizzically. "The forest? They weren't in the forest tonight. They were with me."
"With you? Where?"
Draco slumped into the nearest chair and said quietly in the Auror's general direction. "I don't like to say, in the presence of ladies."
"You'd better say!" Benjamin bellowed.
"Come outside then." Draco stood up, shakily.
"No!" Hermione interrupted. "Speak up. I think I have a right to know where my husband has been."
"Well..." Draco's mouth turned into a sly smile. "We dropped in on a friend of mine. Pansy Parkinson. We, ah, played cards, drank a little butterbeer..."
Dumbledore groaned, and glanced over at Minerva. "Now, you've done it. You've gotten me in trouble with my lady."
Draco grinned at the Aurors. "See? These men won't be on speaking terms with their significant others tomorrow."
Benjamin and Ian both appeared shocked, and Tonks was looking at the floor. The first Auror finally spoke. "You'll swear, Mr. Malfoy? That they were with you tonight, at Miss Parkinson's?"
Draco looked solemn. "I swear. I'll take Verasitum if you feel it necessary."
"Well, then..." Benjamin stammered. "Then, I'm sorry. It appears we've made a mistake." He looked at Hermione. "Really very sorry, Ma'am..."
"If you would just go," she said quietly.
"Of course." He started backing towards the door, and the others followed him. Tonks shot a short, meaningful look at Draco before they disappeared outside.
"Bar the door!" Draco bellowed.
Hermione rushed to Harry, transfigured the chair into a cot, and threw open his cloak, revealing large spots of blood on his white shirt.
"Harry!" Ginny gasped.
"Get Madam Pomfrey!" Dumbledore commanded, standing up straight. Ron ran off in the opposite direction.
"Now, Draco, tell me what happened," Hermione said, opening Harry's shirt and conjuring a damp cloth to wipe over the large gashes.
"Tonks contacted me as soon as she heard that the Ministry knew about the raid," he said, his eyes locked on Harry's limp body. "But by the time I got to them, it was too late. They'd already killed most of the Death Eaters, and Harry was hit by several slashing spells in the process. I had to prove that they'd been anywhere but where they were... so I took them to Pany's."
"And she took them in," Hermione breathed, her eyes not leaving her husband's. "What a wonderful woman."
"Well, I'm sorry I couldn't come up with a more dignified alibi."
"This isn't the first time you've come to my aid, Draco," Hermione said quietly, looking up at him. "I appreciate it more than you know." She glanced at Harry again and then added, "I'm going to go make sure that Madam Pomfrey is on her way."
As soon as Hermione had left the room, Ginny rushed over to Harry and took his hand, murmuring his name. She didn't even notice that Draco was still standing there.
"Aren't you concerned about your own husband, Mrs. Snape?" he asked coldly.
"Did he go with you to Pansy's?" she asked, allowing a small smirk to alight on her features.
"No," he answered tersely.
"Then where is he?"
"Lying in the Forbidden Forest. Hit by a killing curse."
For the second time in her nineteen years, Ginny was a widow. Hermione had taken over teaching Potions, and Ginny remained in the castle. Most of her time she spent holed up in her chambers, drinking firwhiskey.
When Draco came to visit her, she managed to hide the alcohol on her breath with a quick spell. Apparently it wasn't very effective, however, because the first thing he said was, "You've been drinking."
"What if I have? Is that any of your affair?" she snapped, ushering him into her drawing room. She settled onto the couch and hiccupped, which turned into a quiet sob.
"What is it?" He sat down beside her, his eyes concerned. "This can't be just over losing Snape."
"I..." She sniffed. "I'm afraid, Draco."
"I've never known you to be afraid."
"I'm afraid now!" She choked back a sob. "I'm afraid I'm going to die and go to Hell!"
He laughed. "You look pretty healthy to me. Besides, what have you done to warrant that sort of punishment?"
"Severus..." She shook her head. "I never should have married him. He was Bill's boyfriend and he loved him, not me. And I made him miserable - even more miserable than he already was! And I killed him. I did. It was all my fault. For the first time in my life I know what it's like to be sorry for something I've done."
"Dry your eyes, Ginny," Draco chuckled. "You know if you had to do it again you wouldn't do any differently. You're like the thief who's not sorry he stole but is awfully sorry he's been caught."
"I'm almost glad my mother's dead... what if she could see me now? She'd be so disappointed!"
Draco sighed, and handed her a handkerchief. "Well, I might as well say what I came here to say."
She blew her nose. "What?"
"I can't go on any longer without you."
"You're a scoundrel," she hissed through a stuffy nose.
"No, no, hear me out, Ginny. I decided long ago that you were the only woman for me - ever since I saw you yelling at Harry at your graduation party. And now that you have Snape's money, you won't come to me as you did that day in the Ministry. So I see now that I'll have to marry you." He shrugged.
She stared at him for a moment. "You're crazy."
"Would it help if I got on one knee?" He slid to the floor and took her hands in his.
"Let go of me!" But she couldn't wrench her hands out of his grasp.
He cleared his throat, and threw out his arm dramatically as he began to speak. "It cannot have escaped your notice that for some time past my friendship for you has ripened into a deeper feeling - a feeling more pure, more real, more sacred... could it be - love?" The smirk never left his face.
"Get up! Stop joking with me."
He frowned. "This is an honorable proposal of marriage, made at what I think is a most opportune moment. I can't keep waiting to catch you between husbands."
"I don't love you," Ginny spat. "Besides, I don't like being married."
"Ginny, you were married to Neville. And Snape. What about marrying someone who knows what they're doing with a woman?"
"You're a fool, Draco," Ginny said coldly. "When you'll always know I love another man."
Suddenly, his features darkened. "No more of that talk." And then he was beside her, his arms wrapped around her waist, and his mouth pressed hotly against hers.
He pulled away. "None of them have ever kissed you like this, have they? Not Neville, or Snape, or stupid Harry." He kissed her again, and drew a contented sigh from deep in her throat before yanking away again. "Say you'll marry me." When she didn't answer right away, he repeated. "Say it."
"I'll marry you," she murmured, nodding.
The smirk reappearing on his features, he kissed her again quickly and then added, "Tell me the truth, Ginny. Did you say yes because of my money?"
"Well, the money does help," she admitted. "We haven't had much since the war. But - well, I am fond of you, Draco."
"Well, if I said I was madly in love with you you'd know I was lying!"
He shook his head and chuckled. "You're right, Ginny. God help the man who ever really loved you. Now, tell me, would you like a ring?"
"Oh, a great big one, Draco!"
There were married within a period of time that Ron called "ridiculous", Bill called "shameful", and Hermione called "romantic." After a long honeymoon in the Mediterranean, they returned to Malfoy Manor. And through all of it, after months of being married to a man she once thought she detested, Ginny was happy.
In fact, she was so happy that she often nearly forgot that she was in love with Harry. She could lose herself in making love to Draco, but then later something would remind her - a photograph, a smell, an owl from Hermione - and she would realize that her contentment must be nothing but an illusion. She couldn't possibly love Draco when her heart already belonged to someone else.
Almost exactly a year after their wedding, Ginny had a baby - a beautiful baby girl, Morgana Molly Malfoy. Whereas Ginny loved the child and treated her as well as any mother could, it was Draco that truly doted. He spoiled her rotten, gave her anything she desired, and taught her to ride a broomstick as soon as she could walk.
Something about the addition of a child made Ginny realize just how permanent her marriage to Draco was - as if it signaled the end of her dreams, a brick wall erected against any hope she had of being happy with Harry. In a fit of self-pity and resentment, she told Draco that she didn't want to have any more children.
He smiled at her, kissed her on the forehead. "That's perfectly fine, my dear Mrs. Malfoy. You know it doesn't matter to me whether we have one or twenty-one. And Morgana is the most wonderful child I could ask for."
"I mean..." She flicked her eyes to the floor. "I mean I don't want to risk having children at all anymore."
At that, his eyes darkened as he grasped her meaning. "I see," he said coldly.
"Well Draco, surely you - "
"I could divorce you for this, you know." He leaned against the post of their bed - that would now just be her bed, he knew - and glared at his wife.
"Divorce? No! I couldn't do that to Morgana! It's just like you to think of something like that. You have no chivalry, Draco. You know, Hermione can't have any more children, and Harry isn't..."
"You've been to Hogwarts today, haven't you, Ginny?"
"What makes you think that?" She looked at the floor.
Draco snorted. "If Harry were free, it makes my head spin to think how quickly you'd divorce me then."
She didn't say anything.
"If you had your precious Harry, do you think you'd be content? You'd never understand him. You're throwing away happiness with both hands, Ginny, and reaching out for something that will never make you happy. You can have your bed," he spat, storming to the door of the bedroom. "The world is full of many women, and I can find my comfort elsewhere. And don't bother warding the door. If I wanted to get in, no stupid spell could keep me out."
The door slammed shut behind him, rattling the walls so hard that a painting fell to the ground, smashing the frame's glass to pieces on the floor.
"Good morning, Harry."
He turned, smiled at her. "Hello there, Ginny."
She walked further into his classroom, robes sweeping the floor behind her. "I came by to bring Morgana to play with Jimmy. Hermione has them in your chambers."
"You don't have to make excuses for me," he chuckled. "I know you're here to help her plan my surprise birthday party."
"Harry! It's supposed to be a surprise! They'll be so disappointed..."
"Oh, I won't let on."
"Good," Ginny said cheerfully. "Because I bought these new robes just for the occasion and I plan to show them off."
"And what lovely robes they are." He took her hands surveyed her quickly. "You know, you haven't changed a bit since your graduation, Ginny."
She snorted. "Right, Harry. I have a four year old daughter. There's no way I look as I did at eighteen."
"I suppose a lot of things are different than they were then." He was quiet for a moment, and then asked, "Are you happy with Draco?"
"I - I suppose so." She looked away.
"You would tell me, if he were treating you badly?" His eyes were filled with concern.
"He treats me like a princess," Ginny told him truthfully, and then pulled him closer to her and whispered into his ear, "But I can't help that I still love you, Harry."
She pressed her head against his chest and sighed. "Just hold me for a minute, Harry."
The door opening was quiet, but Ron's voice was not. "Oh, bugger me."
"So how did it feel?"
Ginny had tiptoed into the Manor's parlor; as soon as she saw Draco's silhouette against the curtains she tried to turn and leave, but his voice cut through the darkness first.
She rooted herself to the spot. "How - how did what feel?" she stammered.
"Hermione, sticking up for you when everyone knew that you'd been caught in a compromising position with her husband just earlier today." He poured another shot of firewhiskey into a crystal glass and knocked it back.
"It wasn't true, Draco! You know how Ron hates me, he was just making it up..."
"Save it," he snarled. "I'll bet you're wondering why Hermione didn't call you out. You know she doesn't care about her own face, so she was just saving your hide by acting like nothing was amiss." She started to say something in her defense, but he interrupted before she could get it out. "Well I'll tell you why, Ginny. It's because - for some reason that I certainly don't understand - Hermione loves you. And she can't possibly comprehend any evil in those she loves. That includes you and your sniveling, honorable Harry Potter."
"You're drunk," she said coldly, ignoring the wave of distress that washed over her at his explanation of Hermione's actions. "I'm going to bed."
"I am drunk, and I intend on getting still drunker before the evening's over. And you're not going to bed." He poured another shot and slid the glass to her. "Here, take it. And don't pretend you don't want it - I know how much you drink on the sly."
She hesitated for just a moment, and then swallowed the whisky in one gulp.
"I suppose you know that Hermione is pregnant again," Draco continued, pouring another for himself.
"Of course I know," Ginny snapped. "And it's dangerous too - the doctors told her she wasn't strong enough to have any more children."
"Some women will do anything for love," he mused.
"Of course," Draco continued, downing more whiskey, "the comic figure in this whole mess is the long suffering Mr. Potter. He won't be mentally faithful to his wife, but he won't be unfaithfull to her technically. Oh, I know that you haven't cheated on me, Ginny, but it's only because of him. He's too much of a wimp to cheat on Hermione even if you would discard me in a heartbeat."
"But - but you've been cheating on me! I know you've been going to see Pansy..."
"You've forced me, Ginny, and you know it!" Draco bellowed, slamming the glass onto the table. "I give you everything, and still you don't love me. What do you want from me? I can't be Harry." He pulled his wand idly out of his robes and pointed it at her. "I could make you forget him. I could cast a memory charm on you and take you far away so that you never see any of them again..."
She pursed her lips, pretending that his words didn't shake her. "Lower your wand, you drunken fool."
She stood, and walked towards the door. "I'm going to bed, Draco."
Within seconds he was upon her, grabbing her around the waist violently, spinning her around to face him. "I may not make you forget permanently, Ginny, but by god I'm going to make you forget tonight." He lowered his mouth to hers and held her in place for the few seconds that she struggled before finally melting into his arms.
"Tonight, you're not going to turn me out," he growled when he ripped his lips away. Then he swept her legs out from under her and carried her up the stairs to what used to be their bedroom.
Ginny discovered the next morning that what she considered to be the best sex of her entire life, Draco considered of little consequence. When he apologized for his drunken mistake, her pride prevented her from telling him how she really felt. Things returned to normal, and they were both miserable. Years slipped past like water down a stream, unchanging, turbulent.
The only thing holding them together was Morgana, and even that couldn't last. At the age of five, her life ended. Morgana fell off of a broomstick... Ginny found her broken body, and the flashback to the death of her father was almost more than she could bear.
Ginny blamed Draco for teaching her to fly. Draco accused Ginny of being a horrible mother. She cried and screamed, and he locked himself in their dead child's room for days. It was finally only Hermione who was able to coax him out.
And it was Hermione, only days later, who lay on her deathbed.
"It's the baby," Harry told her when she came to Hogwarts. "It was too much of a strain on her heart." His eyes were red and swollen, his hair matted, and he obviously hadn't slept in days. Jimmy was curled on the chair beside him, sobbing quietly. "She wants to see you."
Ginny nodded and went into their bedroom where Hermione lay. "Oh, Ginny," she murmured, "I'm so glad you came..."
"Of course I came," Ginny said softly, kneeling beside the bed.
"Promise me," Hermione rasped, taking deep breaths between words. "Look after my son."
"Don't talk to this way - you'll get well!" Ginny grasped her hand.
"Promise me. And... and Harry."
Ginny swallowed. "What about him?"
Hermione licked her parched lips, sighed softly. "Look after him for me... just as you once looked after me. But never let him know."
There was a voice outside - Madam Pomfrey. "I have to go, Hermione," Ginny whispered.
Hermione squeezed her hand. "Goonight, Ginny. And... please, promise me... take care of Draco. Be kind to him - he loves you so."
"Yes, Hermione. I will." She stood and pressed a kiss to the dying woman's forehead, and slipped out of the room. Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she left, and she immediately saw Harry still sitting there, looking lost.
"Oh Harry!" she cried, throwing herself into his embrace. "I'm so frightened..."
He began to sob as well. "How am I going to live without her? Everything I've ever had is going to die with her."
"Oh, Harry." Ginny pulled herself away from his grasp and looked into his eyes. "You really do love her, don't you?"
"Of course I love her. She's the only dream I ever had..." His glasses slipped off of his nose and clanked to the floor. He didn't even notice.
"Dreams. Always dreams with you, never common sense. Harry - you should have told me years ago that you loved her and not me, not left me dangling with your talk of honor."
His shoulders shook, and he was quiet. She wasn't even sure if he was listening.
But she continued, the tears drying from her eyes. "You wait until now - now that Hermione is dying to show me that I never could have meant anything more to you than Pansy Parkinson means to Draco. Everything I've felt... it's all been an illusion. I've loved something that didn't exist." She stroked his hair gently, and stood, leaving him sobbing there. "It's funny... but it doesn't even matter to me. I don't even care that you don't love me! I'm sorry, Harry - I have to go."
She ran. Out of Hogwarts, down the bridge, as fast as she could until she got to a point where she could apparate back to Malfoy Manor. "Draco!" she yelled as soon as she materialized into the house. "Draco! Where are you?"
There was no answer, but she finally found him, sitting in the room that was once Morgana's, looking out the window at the pouring rain.
"Is she dead?" he asked, not looking at her.
"Soon," she said quietly.
"That must be nice for you," he replied, turning to face her.
"How can you say that!" Ginny cried, kneeling beside him. "You know how I loved her!"
"I can't say that I did."
"Of course I did... she thought of everyone but herself. In fact, her last words were of you..." She looked down at the floor.
"Oh? What were they?"
"She said - be kind to Draco. He loves you so."
He didn't react to this, stared out the window again. "Don't worry, I won't hold you to that promise. Anything else?"
"She - she asked me to look after Harry."
He stood, moved away from her. "That's convenient, to have the first wife's permission."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm leaving you, Ginny. Now all you need is a divorce and your precious dream of Harry will come true."
It was then that she noticed the trunk leaning against the door with his cloak draped over it. "But Draco!" She leapt over to him, wrapped her arms around his waist. "But I don't want Harry - I want you! That's why I ran here to tell you... I've realized that I love you, Draco. I love you!"
"That's unfortunate," he said coldly.
"But Draco! I love you! I think I've loved you this whole time, I just didn't realize it because I was so stupid...."
"It's too late." He shook his head. "If only you'd met me halfway, Ginny - if only you'd taken some of what I wanted to give you... When Morgana was here there was a chance, a chance that we might be happy. But now she's gone, and she took everything with her."
He pulled himself from her grasp and walked over to his trunk.
"Where are you going, Draco?" Ginny cried frantically.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "Anywhere but here."
"But I love you!"
"That's your misfortune." He yanked on his cloak.
"Draco..." Tears were running down her face. "Where shall I go? What shall I do?"
He gripped his wand. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
There was a quiet pop, and he was gone.
She stared at the empty space his body had just occupied, and sobbed. Falling to her knees, she tried to wipe the tears from her face as new ones formed to take their place. "There has to be a way to get him back... there has to be."
Swallowing hard, she looked around the room and felt sick to her stomach in the house that was his. "I can't stay here..." she murmured. "I'll go home." Suddenly, something occurred to her. Her eyes widened and she spoke into the silence, purposefully. "I'll go to the Burrow. I'll mend my relationship with Ron... I'll make them accept Percy again. I'll fix my family, and once I've done that I know I can find a way to fix my relationship with Draco."
Standing, she brushed off her robes and straightened her chin. "I'll go to The Burrow tonight," she said. "And then I'll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day."
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