Ginny Weasley was pacing.
The skirt of her too-long dress tripped her up every time she turned. She was almost running late, but her thoughts were fixed on the headline of last week’s Prophet glaring at her.
Malfoy Heir Released Early
Since the moment the owl had dropped the newspaper in her window it was all she’d been able to think about. He’d been out a week and still hadn’t sought her ought. No owls, nothing. Of course, it wasn’t like he’d written to her at all while he’d been locked up, either, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to her.
But it did surprise her.
After the final battle at Hogwarts, everything was chaos. The Ministry was frantic to reassemble itself, the school was in ruins, and surviving Aurors were rounding up the last of the Death Eaters. The news came that the Malfoy family had willingly turned themselves in, being held on house arrest until their trials several months later.
She didn’t see or hear from Draco at all during that time. Her life was taken over by funerals, grieving, rebuilding Hogwarts, and healing. The entire Weasley family seemed to have Dementors hanging over their heads. Ginny couldn’t remember ever crying as hard as she did when they finally laid Fred’s body to rest in a small graveyard near her home.
Ever so slowly, things began to settle. The most dangerous of Voldemort’s supporters had been caught and tried, earning life sentences in Azkaban. By the time the Malfoy family’s trials came, the school had been mended as best as possible and Ginny was halfway through her seventh year. She hadn’t been able to attend Draco’s trial, as much as she’d wanted to. After wrestling with herself on whether or not to send Harry a letter begging him to do something, anything, she found out Harry had been planning to testify all along.
According to Hermione, who had managed to leave school to attend the hearings, Lucius Malfoy had gratefully accepted his life sentence. He’d been found guilty on all counts -- murder, torture, conspiracy, use of the Imperius, the list went on. Aurors led him away after he’d tearfully embraced his wife and son.
Narcissa Malfoy had her own speedy trial. Luckily for her, she’d never taken the Mark, and even as the wife of a Death Eater in Voldemort's inner-circle she’d managed to garner some sympathy within the Wizengamot. Most of that sympathy came after Harry had explained in detail how Mrs. Malfoy saved his life, defied Voldemort to his face. Her reasons weren’t noble at all -- the only reason she had to lie was to have a chance to find her son -- but the court was lenient regardless. Five years of house arrest and a hefty fine were her punishments.
Ginny remembered sitting in the common room late at night, hanging on Hermione’s every word as she recounted Draco’s trial. For all the reasons Harry had to hate Draco, he’d still testified on behalf of his former bully, emphasizing how Draco was still a child when he’d been forced to take the Mark, and how he’d changed sides at the last minute.
Only Ginny knew the truth -- that Draco had switched allegiance long before the battle. If only she’d managed to attend the trial, if she’d argued a bit longer with McGonagall, with her parents, with Harry. Then perhaps Draco’s sentence would not be quite so severe. In all, Draco was still found guilty and given five years in Azkaban, with a lengthy probation after that.
Her stomach hurt as she tried to imagine Draco, her Draco, being locked away in that horrible place. When Ginny was a child, her father had to go to Azkaban just once for work. She remembered the bleak expression on his face when he returned, how it took weeks for the shadows under his eyes to disappear. Of course, now there weren’t Dementors guarding the prison anymore, but after years of haunting the place it was bound to still have a dark grimness about it.
While Draco was in prison, Ginny had sent him one letter. Just one, laying everything on the line. She told him everything -- she was truly in love with him, and although they were young and he’d be spending the next five years in prison, she felt sure they’d find their way back to each other somehow. It was the sappiest, girliest thing she’d ever done -- writing a love letter -- almost as embarrassing as that stupid valentine she’d written for Harry in her first year. But she wrote it, and she sent it, and she truly believed he’d write back to her.
But he never did.
She’d waited weeks, glancing hopefully at the owls flying down each morning at breakfast, hoping that one would be for her, only for her heart to sink with disappointment. Finally she gave up -- he didn’t want to keep in contact with her. Didn’t want her. She’d waited too long, she realised, she should have tried writing him before his trial…
So Ginny resolved to get on with her life. It wasn’t difficult. Once she’d gotten back into quidditch, multiple offers were sent her way from professional teams. One in particular stood out to her: the Holyhead Harpies. As soon as she graduated, she joined the Harpies as a second-string chaser. She really hadn’t expected to have any real playing time, but it was nice to have her own income. But fame hit quickly -- during one game, two of their starting players were knocked out of the game -- their keeper and a chaser -- leaving the Harpies trailing behind by over two hundred points. Ginny was thrown into the game with impossible odds, and yet managed to almost single-handedly bring her team to victory.
From then her world was filled with excitement -- games, interviews, parties, money -- but she’d tried to stay practical about it all. She kept close with her old friends, not letting the fame get to her head. She opened her own vault at Gringotts and saved as much of her paycheck as she could, choosing to live modestly. Even now she was living in George’s spare room in his flat above the joke shop, although he spent most of his time at Angelina’s.
Through it all, Ginny and Harry had managed to reconnect. It was a slow, careful process, but she really felt like she was falling in love with him again. Like maybe she’d never really stopped. It felt like it was meant to be, that he was her soulmate, like he was the future she’d always wanted. And she was glad it had turned out this way, that she and Harry had found each other again, and that it was supposed to be him all along.
Now she’d barely spoken to Harry in a week. She knew he could guess why -- she’d never exactly told Harry about what happened while he was gone that year, but he did know that she had struck an unlikely friendship with Draco, which was the main catalyst behind Draco switching sides at the end. And now that he was released she couldn’t make sense of her feelings. And for what? It wasn’t like she’d spoken or heard from Draco since the battle. It wasn’t like she’d promised him anything, or he to her. Especially after that letter, that stupid letter which now seemed so silly and immature to have sent. So why was her heart suddenly so conflicted, and why couldn’t she make herself look Harry in the eye?
Once more Ginny tripped over the obnoxiously long dress she was wearing, bringing her out of her thoughts. She glanced at the clock -- Harry would be there any minute to pick her up, and then she’d have to talk to him. There was a Ministry event that they were attending together, as Ginny was quickly reminded after almost tearing the silky fabric of her dress. With a huff, she flicked the Prophet into the garbage bin. Draco hadn’t contacted her, so she needn’t be fussing over all of this. Especially now, when she had other things to worry about.
She shoved her feet into the too-tall heels she’d bought to go with her dress and pulled on her cloak, suddenly wanting to get out of the flat and away from the stupid newspaper. Sliding her wand into a hidden pocket in her dress, she locked the door behind her and stepped carefully down the stairs to the alley behind the joke shop.
For a few moments she stood next to the rickety stairs, shivering slightly although it was still a warm evening. Harry would be meeting her back there any moment, all false-exasperation that once again she didn’t let him knock on her door like a real gentleman, but for the moment she was alone. The bustle of Diagon Alley could be heard from the back alley, a dull sort of background sound that would settle soon as the shops began to close. She loved this time of day -- the warm sunlight turning the sky pink and orange, the winding-down of the main road as the world begins to slow down for the evening, the few stars that peek through the still-bright sky…
The back of Ginny’s neck tingled. She peered over her shoulder down the back alley, having the sudden feeling that she was being watched. Her fingers itched for her wand and she quickly pulled it from the hidden pocket.
“Lumos,” she whispered. The light chased away any shadows, but nothing was there. Holding her wand in front of her defensively, Ginny stepped further down the alley, sensing that although she couldn’t see it she was definitely not alone. A flicker of panic went through her -- old anxiety from the war surfaced and she had to force herself to be calm. The war was over: there was nothing to fear here. Her careful eyes swept over the area, looking for anything suspicious, when she caught it -- just the smallest movement, a shimmer of air shifting from one color to another.
The momentary panic was soon replaced by wonder. Stuck in her spot, she watched intently, waiting -- hoping -- for it to happen again.
She whirled around, heart racing, to see Harry jogging down the lane. A wide smile graced his face, his untameable hair flopping with every step.
“Sorry I’m late,” he apologised quickly, pulling Ginny into a quick hug. “Had a lead on that case we’re following, but it ended up being a dead end.”
Ginny was used to these explanations. Ever since Harry joined the Auror department his life had been nearly as busy as her own. Somehow they made it work, not missing a beat even when it had been weeks since they’d seen each other. She allowed herself to melt into his embrace, ignoring the slight disappointment in her heart as she wondered what would have happened if Harry had been just five minutes later.
“It’s fine, Potter, just don’t let it happen again,” she winked. Harry laughed -- a full, rich sound that she loved.
“Potter now, is it?” He took her hand in his and twirled her around. “Wow. Gin, you look…”
“Yes, yes, I look fabulous. Try not to drool.” This got another laugh out of Harry and Ginny smoothed her dress nervously. “It’s not too much, is it? I know some people are still stuck on dress robes, but I couldn’t help--”
Harry held her hands in his to stop her fussing. “Gin, you’re beautiful. As beautiful now as when you’re all sweaty and dirty after a day-long quidditch training.”
She smacked him playfully. “Hey!”
It was just so easy with Harry -- part of her wondered if a relationship should be more difficult than this. But then she had to remind herself that it really should be this easy. No sneaking around, no hiding, no running for your lives…
“Ready?” Harry asked.
Harry grasped her hand, ready to apparate, but hesitated at the last second.
“Ginny…” he began carefully. “Are you… I know something’s been…off...and I saw the Prophet last week. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
Ginny stared. For all the times Harry was totally oblivious to things, now he decided to pay attention?
“I mean, I know you two were friends, and I just… Have you talked to him at all? Since he was let out?”
After taking a moment, she shook her head. “No, I haven’t talked to him at all since, you know, everything. But I’m fine, really. Now let’s go before Ron eats all the hors d’ouevres.”
Harry’s laugh could be heard as they disappeared with a crack!
Less than an hour later, the two of them reappeared in the alley. The sun had set a bit, making the dusty lane dim.
“I’m sorry,” Harry was saying, steadying Ginny as they landed. “Apparently the lead was good after all, and we have to go before they move again--”
She pushed a hand against his mouth to stop his apologies.
“Harry, it’s okay!” she insisted as he continued to mumble against her hand. She held it there until he paused, then recoiled. “You licked my hand!” she cried, wiping the saliva on Harry’s jacket.
He grinned at her goofily before pressing a quick kiss to her lips.
“I’ll be back in a week!” he promised, turning on the spot. In a blink of an eye he had Disapparated.
As soon as he was gone, Ginny turned back to stare down the alley. It was darker now, and colder. She shivered slightly under her light cloak, but stayed where she was. She had to see, she had to know…
Suddenly the air shimmered again, closer to her than she expected. She yelped and stumbled backward, yet again tripping over her stupid dress, but this time she had nothing to hold onto and fell.
Strong hands caught her, pulling her up and holding her waist until she was steady. Still, all Ginny could see was distorted air in front of her, blending in with the colors of the evening, but she didn’t care. She knew that touch.
“Draco?” she asked quietly, holding onto the invisible hands on her waist. The figure exhaled in a soft sigh, as if he’d been waiting years just to hear her say her name. But that was enough. Ginny threw herself at him, holding him tightly as he spun her around.
Draco set her down, tapping himself with his wand to lift the charm. As he faded into view Ginny suddenly grew shy. It had been years since she’d seen him in person, and although she’d dreamed and hoped that this day would come she felt awkward and nervous. He'd never written back, after she'd spilled her guts to him in that letter. The two of them stood, staring at each other for a long moment.
He looked so different, and yet still the same. He’d kept his hair long; it suited his face, which had somehow grown even more handsome than Ginny remembered. His body had filled out a bit over the years. The angles of his cheeks and jaw were softer, not quite as sharp as they were before, but still just as striking. Lean muscles showed under his button-up shirt. The sleeves were casually rolled up to the elbows. Ginny’s eyes trailed down Draco’s arm to where she knew the Mark was. It had faded considerably, much like Harry’s lightning-bolt scar, looking more like an oddly-shaped birth mark than the skull and snake it once was.
“You look good, Gin,” Draco finally said, echoing her own thoughts about him.
Cursing herself for the blush that flooded her cheeks, she motioned towards the old staircase leading up to her flat.
“Want to come up?” she asked, already walking. He followed her up the steps, hesitating in the doorway until Ginny rolled her eyes and dragged him inside. The door closed with a flick of her wand.
An awkward silence hung over them for a moment.
“Er, how are you?” said Ginny, earning a grim chuckle from Draco.
“I’m good,” he answered. “As good as I can be, anyway, after spending over three years in prison.” There was a wry smile on his face, with just a little bitterness.
Ginny bit her lip. “What was it like?” she whispered, wondering if she was even allowed to ask.
Draco sighed and ran a hand over his face. “Honestly, not as bad as it could have been,” he said. “I’ve heard stories from my father about the dementors… It wasn’t as bad as that.”
He sat down carefully onto her sofa as if he wasn’t sure what he was doing. Ginny copied him, perching on the edge of her seat as comfortable as her dress would allow. Everything between them seemed so formal, so forced.
“You look nice,” he said, glancing over at her again.
Ginny laughed nervously, a breathy, awkward sound. “Yes, well, not my usual attire.” She looked down at her gown. “Actually -- would you mind if I changed? I’ll just be a moment.” Not only did she want to get out of that stupid dress and into some real clothes, she was desperate for a moment alone to collect her thoughts.
Draco nodded politely. “Of course. I’ll just...be here.”
Ginny all but scurried to her bedroom. It took less than a minute to slip out of the dress and into one of her old Harpies T-shirt and some shorts. Running her fingers through her hair, she sat on her bed for another minute, trying to calm her breathing. When she felt more sure of herself she padded back into the living room barefoot.
Draco looked up when he heard her come back into the living room, watching her as she plopped back down on the sofa. She left a space between them so she could see him fully -- and to put a careful distance between them.
“So,” Draco began. It seemed he couldn’t -- or wouldn’t -- meet her eyes. As it was he stared determinedly at the freckles on Ginny’s knees. “So, you live here?”
Ginny nodded. “Much to my mother’s dismay. Mum would much rather I still be living at the Burrow. I moved here right after Hogwarts, because George needed someone here. But after I got my contract with the Harpies it was just easier to live in the city.” She felt like she was rambling. Draco didn’t seem to mind.
“Makes sense,” he said.
“And you?” Ginny asked. “Are you back home now?”
“No, I’ve been staying with Blaise. I don’t think I could go back…” He trailed off. Ginny was aware of what had happened at the Manor, before the battle at Hogwarts. She wouldn’t want to go home either if she was in his position.
Once more they fell into an awkward silence. Ginny rubbed her arms self-consciously, glancing around the room, reaching for something -- anything -- to talk about.
“Er… How about a drink?” she finally asked, trying to fill the silence.
Draco’s lips quirked into a slight smirk. “Sure. That might help.”
With a breathy chuckle (that totally embarrassed her because she didn’t even know she could even make such a sound) Ginny went into the kitchen. Glancing in the cupboard, she called over her shoulder if Draco would prefer Butterbeer or Firewhiskey.
“Er… Firewhiskey,” came the reply.
“Thank Merlin,” Ginny said to herself, pouring two glasses and chilling them slightly with a tap of her wand. Hopefully it would simultaneously cool her off and settle her down.
She returned to the living room and handed Draco his drink, sitting once more on the sofa. The suffocating awkwardness returned with her. Ginny took a sip of her Firewhiskey. The drink burned her throat and warmed her body, but did nothing to ease the tension.
“Merlin, why is this so weird?” she finally blurted, looking up at Draco helplessly.
That seemed to do the trick. Both of them dissolved into laughter, and the metaphorical ice was broken. The two settled into themselves, catching up on the last four years. Ginny told him about rebuilding Hogwarts, about returning -- and graduating -- school. Draco had less to talk about, but still humored Ginny by telling her about a tattoo -- which turned out to be a hippogriff, making Ginny laugh for more than one reason -- and when he’d gotten it. Ginny was insanely jealous -- she’d wanted her own tattoo for years but worried she’d tire of it in the future.
“That’s why we have magic,” Draco deadpanned, nudging Ginny gently. “So,” he began slyly, “What’s it like being a famous quidditch star? Can I have your autograph?”
Ginny groaned. “Stop!” she said, covering her face as she laughed. “It’s honestly so stressful, like can I not even grab a cup of tea without being attacked by the press? And most of what they print are lies anyway, so I have zero privacy and they spread rumours about me constantly. I’m serious!” she cried when Draco could only laugh at her. “I don’t know where they get their info, but ninety percent of the time it’s completely false!”
Draco gasped with mock surprise. “Are you telling me you’re not pregnant with Longbottom’s baby?”
Ginny could only roll her eyes. Draco's face grew serious.
“But you are dating Potter again.” It wasn’t a question.
His voice was kind, sincere, but it still made Ginny want to hide under a rock. She knew this was coming, the deep stuff, but she didn’t want to get into it yet. If only they could stay in the shallow waters of easy conversation, instead of diving into the mess of their relationship.
“Yes,” she answered softly after a moment. “Only recently.”
Draco sighed and rubbed at his face. “Hell of a guy, Potter,” he said. “Can’t do much worse than him.”
“No, really,” he insisted. His voice held a slight undertone of pain, but he spoke kindly. “Truly. I’m glad you ended up with him. You two will be quite the power couple.”
He gave her a genuine smile, but Ginny shook her head. Long-forgotten anger suddenly rose to the surface, hot and quick.
“You’re not allowed to be upset about this, Draco,” she whispered. She’d never been one to easily hold back, and it was taking every ounce of self control to keep her voice low.
“I’m not upset--”
“Stop it,” she snapped. “I know you well enough to know when you’re not happy, and right now you--”
“Of course I’m not happy!” he exploded. “You’re riding off into the sunset with Boy Wonder just like I knew would happen and I didn’t even have a chance from the beginning--”
“Stop it!” she said again, sharper this time. Her thoughts were swirling -- did he really, truly care after all this time? -- “If you’re really upset why did you wait so long?! I gave you a chance, Draco! I wrote you, I wrote you and you never wrote back!”
Draco sighed and rubbed at his face. For another minute neither one of them spoke, until his pained voice reached out to her.
“The guards,” he choked, dropping his head into his hands. “The guards -- they must not have sent them. And why would they? I mean, a Malfoy writing a Weasley, I must have ulterior motives. Who would believe otherwise?” he said bitterly before lifting his head again. “And you gave up on me so quickly after that?”
“I--” Ginny stopped, her mind racing for an explanation. But the truth was, she really had given up on him, that he’d want to write her after that. And in that moment she hated herself for it. Everything was so much more confusing now -- Draco really did care about her, still, and yet there was still Harry...
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. She stared at Draco’s tortured, beautiful face, until he stood suddenly.
“I should go,” he said quietly. “It was good to see, you, Ginny. I mean that.”
He was walking towards the door before Ginny realised what was actually happening. She sat frozen on the sofa, unable to watch as he shut the door behind him. It was that sound, the soft snick of the door shutting firmly, keeping her away from him, that made the resolve for her. All she could think was not again-- He was walking out of her life again and she wasn’t doing a thing to stop it.
“Wait!” she cried, stumbling over furniture to get to him. As soon as she reached the door she wrenched it open, ready to chase him down if she needed. But Draco was still on the steps when Ginny stepped outside. She caught him by the hem of his shirt.
“Four years,” she whispered. “I didn’t hear from you for four years, Draco, whoever’s fault it was, and now you show up and you dare to ask me how I gave up on you? I didn’t want to! And I don’t think I ever really did -- not on you. Not on us.”
They stood, staring at each other for a few breaths. It was if they were balancing on the edge of a knife - they’d have to fall one way, but as of yet hadn’t decided which way they were going to go. Ginny could see the indecision in Draco’s eyes -- he wasn’t going to make the first move, but she knew as soon as she did he’d reciprocate. So she did, tugging on his shirt and pulling him towards her. It took only a beat for Draco to respond, kissing her so fiercely that it was almost painful, but she didn’t care. She clung to him, her fingers gripping his shirt, and blindly pulled him back into the flat. She felt him reach back with one hand to swing the door shut behind them before he held her close again -- impossibly close. The way Draco pressed her against the wall made Ginny’s mind flood with memories of a dark broom closet and a much younger Draco, his hands shaking as he held her. But they weren’t kids anymore.
Ginny’s hand was still fisted in Draco’s shirt, pressed between their bodies. She flattened her hand against him, feeling the muscles in his stomach twitch at her touch. The movement made her smile against his lips -- she still had that effect on him, even after all the years apart. It seemed Ginny’s actions emboldened Draco, and he let his own hands wander. His fingers threaded through her long hair, down to her back, her waist. Ginny slid her hands up Draco’s chest so she could run her fingers through Draco’s hair, as soft and fine as she remembered. When she raised her arms, her shirt rose up a bit as well, and Draco’s hands found the sensitive skin between the top of Ginny’s shorts and the hem of her shirt. Ginny shivered at the touch. Almost as if Draco couldn’t resist, he let his hands feel their way from her hips, her waist, up her back--
His hands suddenly froze, along with the rest of his body. He pulled back. Ginny panicked a little -- had she done something wrong? Had she pushed him too far? -- but his eyes were closed as he rested his forehead against hers. There was a sort of energy emanating from him that Ginny recognised but couldn’t name.
“Ginny,” he whispered, his voice husky and breathless and troubled.
“The scars, Ginny.”
Ginny felt like she’d been doused in ice water. She’d forgotten all about the thin, raised scars that still laced across her back.
Draco leaned back to look her in the eyes. “Can I see them?” he asked hesitantly.
Ginny nodded. Draco stepped back, giving Ginny room to turn around and slip off her Harpies shirt, hugging it to her body. Facing the wall, Ginny couldn’t see Draco’s expression but heard his sharp intake of breath as he saw the silvery-white lines and spots on her back, shining stark against her pale, freckled skin.
There were only two other people who knew about the remaining scars -- her brother George, and Harry. George had begged her tell their parents or go to Mungo’s or something, but Ginny had refused, much to George’s confusion and frustration. Harry, however, had understood. These were her battle scars. These were the physical proof -- not that she had suffered, but that she had survived. She wouldn’t get them lightened or removed or whatever Mungo’s might suggest, because they were a part of her. Her pain, her endurance, her story.
Her eyes closed as Draco’s fingers lightly traced the scars. The only sound was their breathing. When Draco’s hand left Ginny’s skin she shivered again, this time suddenly cold. She boldly turned around to meet his expression.
“Do you hate them?” she asked.
He recoiled at her implication, eyes wide. “What? No! Of course not.” He pulled her back to him and held her tightly. “It’s just -- I just wish I could have taken them for you,” he whispered into her hair.
“Does he know about them?” Draco asked after a moment.
Ginny didn’t have to ask who Draco was referring to. “Yes.” She didn’t elaborate.
They stayed that way a while, clinging to each other, as reality crashed back onto them. The realisation of what they’d done -- what they could have done, what she’d wanted -- weighed heavily on Ginny, and she suddenly felt impossibly sad. They’d had their time, written their story, as unlikely as it was. And now it was over. It was all very clear to her now. She couldn’t explain how she knew it, or why, but there was an indisputable awareness that this was how their story ended, and it seemed somehow Draco knew it, too.
“Ginny,” he began.
“I need you to know -- I didn’t come here for -- for any of that--”
She laughed softly. “I know.”
He sighed into her before handing her her shirt. She tugged it on quickly and folded into him again, desperate to make this moment last longer.
“I wish it was different,” she said honestly. “I wish--”
And for the last time, she pressed her lips to his. She poured everything she felt into the kiss, as did Draco. Passion, heartbreak, hopes and dreams and wishes…
They broke apart at last. Draco placed a gentle kiss on Ginny’s forehead. She closed her eyes, willing herself to be strong as she felt him move to open the door.
“I love you,” she said at last. Draco’s hand squeezed hers.
“I know, Gin.”
A genuine, yet still sad smile crept on her face, mirroring Draco’s. She watched him leave, making his way to the bottom of the stairs. He looked over his shoulder at her one more time before turning on the spot.
Everything would be all right.
For the first time since Fred died, Ginny cried.
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