Ginny stood at the edge of the parade route as the newly dubbed Golden Trio walked by, waving. She'd never resented Harry before but, suddenly, she did. He smiled to the crowd and slung an arm around Hermione, and Ginny knew it was an act and he hated the attention but, for the first time, she didn't care.
Her fingers crept to one of the scars she'd received during her hellish year at Hogwarts, learning what torture felt like under the hands of the Carrow twins. People spoke in hushed voices about what Hermione had endured, a secret the world knew, but no one spared a thought for the people the Trio had left behind. She knew what the cruciatus curse felt like. They all did.
It didn't bother Neville. He would duck his head and shrug off what he'd done in their absence. He didn't mind playing the supporting role, the eternal sidekick. He was happy to slip back into the greenhouse with his plants.
Ginny remembered sneaking into the shed to steal brooms because she had to learn to fly in secret. She remembered putting herself back together after she'd spent a year possessed, the only help from her family scoldings about how had she been so stupid as to trust an enchanted object and some hot chocolate.
Harry had forgotten she'd endured that. When she'd reminded him he wasn't the only one to know what it felt like to have Voldemort in his head he'd blushed and muttered, "I forgot."
"Lucky you," she'd said.
She couldn't forget. She couldn't forget the possession or having to learn things in secret her brothers did openly. She couldn't forget the feel of cruciatus or the mad laugh of Alecto Carrow calling her a blood traitor. She couldn't forget, also, that Bellatrix had gone for her personally. Bellatrix had known she was dangerous. Bellatrix had known she was powerful.
No one else seemed to remember.
She stood and clapped for her brother and his friends as they walked by and waved. Ron was half-embarrassed, half-gratified by the attention.
"You're a good girlfriend." Draco Malfoy had come up behind her. Since the war he'd cheered at the right times, and the Malfoys had given donations to the right causes. He was so, so reformed. She didn't believe it. "Standing on the sidelines and clapping for the heroes."
"Fuck you, Malfoy," she said without turning her head.
"Didn't you wait for him so patiently, too," Draco went on as if she hadn't spoken. "Keeping the home fires burning, and all that."
"The fires I lit were to try to - "
"Oh, I know," Draco said. "You waged quite the insurgency, you and Longbottom and that Ravenclaw. Not so daft after all, was she."
"There's nothing wrong with Luna."
"Which is why I'm curious why you're on the sidelines and not in the parade."
Draco Malfoy's words settled along her shoulders and she opened her mouth to retort, but everything tasted of ash and rage so she closed her lips again. He reached down and pressed a small box into her hand. Her fingers clenched around the present; this was one way they'd passed information along at Hogwarts that year. Messages had been slipped hand to hand as people kept seemingly compliant eyes on their teachers and tormentors. "What's this?" she asked him.
"A portkey to the Manor," he said. "On the off chance you're interested in being more than a follower."
She almost threw the portkey away. Who did Malfoy think he was? She wasn't some doxy to come when the pretty rich boy crooked his probably manicured finger. Then there was another reception, and her mother fussed at her until she agreed to go because it was important for her father's job that they presented a united front as a family, and she sat through another Ministry official speech so tedious even Percy looked bored. She almost ripped the hem of her second-hand dress when she stalked off to a balcony to get fresh air, and did spill the contents of her bag when she tried to find a pack of chewing gum to get the taste of the cheap table wine out of her mouth.
The box Malfoy has given her sat amidst scraps of parchment and a broken quill and a dirty handkerchief and she looked at it until she muttered, "What the hell", opened the box, and let the contents jerk her to what turned out to be a dark library.
Draco must have set the portkey to alert him if it were used because he arrived in the room, via a heavy door, only moments after she did. He raked his eyes over her dress and her cheap shoes and she felt every Knut she didn't have in that glance. All he said, however, was, "I'd rather given up expecting you."
She flung herself down into a chair of dark leather and stretched her legs out. To his credit, he didn't eye the thigh she knew she'd bared. "The wine was shitty at the We Love Our Heroes thing," she said. "I thought you might have better."
"Aren't you a little young for Ministry galas and cheap wine?" he asked.
"Weren't you a little young to let Death Eaters into Hogwarts?"
"Touché." He got a bottle from somewhere and poured her a glass. "To those of us who stopped being children far too early," he said, raising his own toward her.
She raised hers back, then took a sip. This bore about as much resemblance to what has been in her cup as she'd played dutiful daughter and awed sister not an hour before as the man in front of her bore to Harry Potter.
She must not have controlled her reaction because a slow smile played about Draco Malfoy's lips. "You like it, I guess," he said.
"I've had worse," Ginny said. "What do you want?"
He took a sip and then said, "To run the world, albeit secretly. To not be at anyone's mercy." There was a pause before he said, "I don't care to follow orders, or have to do what I'm told, any longer."
"The whole world?"
He shrugged. "Britain, at least." He took another sip. "Wizarding Britain. Can't claim to care about Muggles."
"Take over the world?" Ginny asked. "With what? Exploding Snap cards and candy quills? Or were you going to make another stab at doing it with Dark Magic and lunatics, because that worked out so well the last time somebody tried it."
Draco didn't rise to the bait. "You're very pretty," he said, and it sounded as if he were listing off the qualities of a broom he was considering buying. "Ronald was a lazy shite, happy to let Granger do his homework in exchange for carefully metered out affection and friendship, and the twins were loose canons, but you've always been the lethal one." He shrugged. "Seventh child. Makes sense."
"Pretty?" she asked.
"I know your parents are paupers, but mirrors are cheap," he said. He eyed her with a grin that almost crossed into being a smirk but didn't quite. The expression warmed his pointed face and made him look like a mischievous boy instead of a bully on the prowl. "You know what you look like."
"Blood traitor," she pointed out.
"Even better," he said. "Makes the politics work."
She waited for him to go on. "I'm not going to use candy and card games," he said. "No one, by the end, liked the Dark Lord."
"The Carrows," she said.
"Might have an accident in Azkaban," Draco said. "People don't like the Order, either," he said, returning to his original thought. "Dumbledore was skewered by Rita Skeeter, and a secret organization made up of werewolves, criminals and school boys that he headed isn't going anywhere."
"And you plan to…?"
He just took another sip and smiled at her. "Win," he said. "I plan to win." He let that boyish grin return. "And court you, last Pureblood daughter of two old families. If you'll let me."
"I don't care about that rot," Ginny said.
Draco shrugged. "I do. Is that a deal breaker for you?"
"Courting?" Ginny took another sip of the ridiculously good wine and looked at Draco Malfoy as if he'd lost his mind. "I knew your family was old fashioned but courting? What is this, 1732?"
"Is that a, 'I'm not interested'?" Draco asked her.
"I'm barely of age," she said. "Aren't we both a little young for anything as serious as what 'courting' would lead to?"
Draco's eyes got momentarily bleak. "I haven't been young since I had a Mark burned into my arm," he said. "I haven't been young since I was told to do murder or see my parents cut into pieces in front of me. I doubt you've been truly young since Tom Riddle took up temporary residence in your soul."
"How did you - ?"
"I'm good at figuring things out," he said. She considered survival from his end, and thought he must be good at a lot of things. "Since the war was over I've done a bit of thinking and I took what I learned about horcruxes, what happened your first year, and what the Dark Lord was like and put it all together."
"You're a bad idea," Ginny said, though she'd be lying to herself if she didn't find it a tempting idea. "And I don't talk about Tom."
"How are you sane?" Draco asked her.
"I don't talk about it," she said. Her voice got edges and he backed off before he cut himself on the knives and broken glass she threw out at him. The look he gave her, however, burned with a certain rage she couldn't quite decipher. It wasn't directed at her, and it was gone before she could ask about it.
"Very well," he said.
"A very bad idea," she muttered.
"The point of courting, Ginevra, would be to convince you I'm not," he said. "The point would be to convince you that you might find me to be a very good idea indeed."
"It would… Ron would blow a gasket," she said. "And I'm… I was sort of with -"
"Not that with," he said. "Not so with you didn't come here to see what I wanted." He looked down and there was a moment of raw vulnerability. "Give me a chance?"
"Dinner," she said. "One dinner."
"This Friday?" he suggested. "I'll pick you up at six?"
. . . . . . . . . .
Her mother glowered and Ron looked like he might burst as his face got rounder in absolute rage but Ginny just smiled, scooped up her bag and met Draco Malfoy on her front steps. "He's a worthless coward," Ron hissed from the door.
"But he's got nice eyes," Ginny said and took the arm Draco offered her. He'd arrived dressed in spotless black that draped over his lean hips and broke over his shined shoes. She felt like a peasant out with a prince until she met those eyes she'd called nice. She wasn't new to the glint of male appreciation that she saw there. Usually she'd seen it before sweaty hands slid under her shirt and schoolboys shoved tongues into her mouth.
"Is Spanish okay?" Draco asked her as his eyes glinted and his hands kept to themselves. "I have a reservation, but if you don't care for it, we can try our luck elsewhere."
"I've never had it," Ginny said. "I'm sure it's fine."
It was. The restaurant was hushed and filled with dark woods and rich colors and she felt horribly out of place until her dark-clad princeling held out a chair, suggested she just let him order since she didn't know the cuisine, until he asked her intelligent questions about Quidditch, until he made a cutting remark about a student they'd both known and she heard herself laughing. "You're a rotten prat," she said through the laughter.
"And a worthless coward," he said. She began to demur but he took her hand in his and said, "By the end I would have said or done anything to survive. I'm not a hero, Ginevra. I'm a survivor." He turned her hand over and ran a thumb in circles over her palm, sending shivers down her spine. "Your brother's not wholly wrong."
" I don't let Ron select my boyfriends," she said. She pulled her hand away as the waiter arrived bearing salads and busied herself with the chopped lettuce. "This is good," she said.
"I have excellent taste," Draco said.
"In restaurants you do," Ginny agreed. She met the challenging smile with a bland one of her own. "Didn't you date Pansy Parkinson for a few years?"
His smile wavered a little. "No," he said. "We've never been more than friends. Pansy is rather like a sister, I suppose. But I've never dated." A hint of bitterness crept into his voice. "I was a bit distracted those last two years at school. Didn't really have the energy for girls."
The flash of vulnerability spurred her to offer a truth of her own. "I wanted to push the memories away." Draco's hand stilled just for a moment before he took another bite of his salad. "He had beautiful handwriting," she said. She could still see it. She saw it in her dreams. She could see the looping, graceful letters appearing in her book, her precious, cursed book.
"Well, the 40s," Draco said. "They probably beat students with badly formed letters in those days. No choice but to develop good penmanship." His voice was light but the concern made her fingers tighten around her fork.
"A nice thought," she said.
"I agree," Draco Malfoy said. He steered the conversation back to lighter topics and she found herself flushed with gratitude for that consideration. By the time dessert had arrived, she'd begun to regret her fall plans.
"I'm going back," she said. "To school."
Draco didn't look surprised. "Of course," he said. "You have a year left." He nudged her with his foot. "Plan to miss me?"
She felt her mouth twitch up. "You plan to stop courting me?"
He smiled back and said very softly, "No."
. . . . . . . . . .
A/N - This is wholly rough drafted. Though I'll surely edit and shift things based on reader comments on FFN, it is, effectively, done but for the revising. Much love and thanks to the people on tumblr who've cheered the rough draft along the way. You made writing this fun.