(a/n: this, my lovely readers, is my final curtain call. bows I hope you enjoyed the story, and I hope the ending makes you happy. This is it, lovelies, take it or leave it. There will be a sequel, I think. Look for it to be up in the next week or two, it's called 'Neverending Road' at the moment (a reference to Les Miserables, one of the best musicals EVER -- 'One day more, another day, another destiny, this neverending road to Calvary...' etc. etc. - beautiful show) I hope to see you there, and I hope you'll review this chapter! I love you! And goodbye...)

Chapter Twenty Six, Agony

"Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road.
You can stand there and agonize,
Till your agony's your heaviest load.
You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile.
When you're learning to face the path at your pace,
Every choice is worth your while..." -'Watershed', Indigo Girls

Ginny slept fitfully that night, she kept waking up from nightmares. Every time she closed her eyes a new situation played out in her head, about what could happen if she left, and what would happen if she didn't.

The fact of the matter was that if she stayed she would end up being a Healer or Mediwitch, and she would never see Draco again. Ever. She would spend all of her time at school and at home, without a friend to talk to because Hermione would be off in the real world, or on one of her little adventures with Harry and Ron. Ginny had very little that was real, that was hers, but Draco was one of those things. He was right when he said she needed him, and it made her feel good to know that he needed her, too, that he thought and worried about her.

She realized she was forgiving him all too quickly for breaking up with her like he did, but she knew that there was more to the story, she saw it in his eyes. They swirled with pain and regret, but she didn't know what it was that tore him up. She also knew he wasn't going to tell her any time soon. She figured that when he was ready, he would trust her with it, unless it was something even bigger than she imagined...she really couldn't put a finger on it...

The next day flew by in a breeze, and Ginny just agonized through it. The situations kept playing in her head, and no two endings were alike. She wanted to run off into the sunset with him, hand in hand, but what would happen after that? After the sun actually set and night came? Would the moon be as forgiving? Did she even care anymore?

What she really wanted to do, was go back to the time in her life when boys had cooties. The worst thing in the world that would happen was a scraped knee, and the best was Bill and Charlie coming home from school - Charlie used to sweep her up onto his shoulders and carry her around, while Bill splashed them from the pond. Things were so simple, and she looked forward to getting to Hogwarts so she could be like her big brothers. ...but she didn't want to be like her big brothers anymore, she wanted to be like her. Her own person...

And then there was her family. If she left, what would they do? Her Mum had already lost so many family members to Voldemort, how could Ginny voluntarily leave her? And all her brothers, and even Hermione and Harry...she didn't know what they would do without her. Draco was right - they didn't know her that well, but they did love her. Could she just abandon them all? It was easy for Draco to say - his father was in Azkaban, his life was that of a Death Eater, and if he stayed around someone would probably figure out he had feelings for her, and then they'd both be in trouble.

But when she was with Draco, everything just seemed to fall into place. He knew her like no one else, and he loved her. He didn't have to say it, she could see it, sense it. When he was around, she could forget about all the danger in the world, all the terrible things...all she could feel was his presence. It filled every void, every need in her, and things just felt right. She loved him beyond all the bad things, through all his imperfections. He was more than just her best friend...

Ginny felt like the weight of the world was on her shoulders as 'a few days' drew to a close. She didn't know when Draco was leaving, or if she didn't answer, if he'd leave without her anyway. She didn't know what to do, or what to tell him. Or even what to tell her necklace. She'd been telling it so many different things in the past few days, she barely let it go. If she went, she'd regret it. If she stayed, she'd regret it. She had always wanted to get out, but that was in her dreams, that wasn't real. What was real was her family, Draco, the War.

She wanted to hold onto it all, tightly. She wanted to hold onto all of the love in her life, but she knew she couldn't.

Three days after his proposal she was sitting at breakfast. The agony of her decision had gotten so bad she could barely speak, because she was too busy fighting with herself. She looked down at her eggs and bacon and sighed. She stabbed the bacon a little too violently with her fork.

"You alright, Ginny?" Hermione asked. Ginny just looked up and nodded, then looked back down. Hermione looked as though she were going to pursue it, but at that moment the Daily Prophet fell onto Harry's plate. He paid the Post Owl, and before he could even open the paper, Ron was at it again.

"So...who's...anyone we..." He stuttered, casting nervous glances at Hermione who smiled.

"I think we all know what he's trying to say, so spare him the agony." She said with a giggle. Harry looked up at them grimly and started off with a list of names. Most were Muggles they didn't know, a few Squibs, and a wizard who worked with Ginny's dad. Ginny looked around, trying her best to block out the things she was hearing, looking at her friends, classmates, teachers...All she ever wanted was to belong somewhere. She used to feel like she belonged here, but she wasn't sure anymore. She felt bitter, disillusioned, and just plain unhappy. She thought about her days, versus her nights. The hours she spent in school, in the real world with her friends, versus the fantasy life she'd been living the past months with Draco. He knew her better than anyone ever had, he made her laugh and smile like no one else could. She looked at her friends...they made her laugh and smile, too, sometimes, but she knew she'd never be as important to them as they were to each other. And she accepted that. This was just the way things were meant to be...the way things were meant to be...Ginny gave a bitter, almost inaudible chuckle, as she thought about her fate, her destiny. Where did it lie? People always look back and say 'it was fate'. Was it fate that she met Draco? Was it fate that his words struck a chord deep within her during that first argument? Was it fate that he returned to the library, spoke to her, even respected her? Was it fate that he kissed her?

She couldn't be sure. If it was fate, then her heart told her to go with him, to follow him and stay with him. But frankly, all of those instances could be explained by logic. She'd been unhappy, so logically, unhappy words stuck with her. Logically, he needed a quiet place just like she did, and she happened across the best one in the school. Logically, if he hadn't respected her, she wouldn't have allowed him to return to their peaceful spot. And they had a lot in common, over the months they'd come to care a lot for each other...and when two people learn to love each other...they kiss...it's just...logical.

"Ginny?" She heard her name and looked up. Harry was looking at her expectantly, while Ron and Hermione were bickering about something or other. "What's that?" Ginny got confused and looked down at her neck - the same spot Harry was pointing at. She'd been playing with her necklace again. Her emerald necklace. She hung her head in sorrow and took a deep breath, this was the straw that broke the camel's back. She came to a realization and stood up.

"Just my necklace." She said quietly as she began to move away.

"Where are you going? You haven't finished yet," Harry said with a smile.

"I have to go..." Ginny said quietly but sorrowfully. As she walked out of the Great Hall, she cast a meaningful glance at Draco, who caught it and nodded curtly.

She walked up to her dormitory with determination and packed her things. She worked stoically, barely even realizing what she was doing. If she thought about it too much, she'd hesitate, and she couldn't afford that. She knew that much. She shrunk her trunk and put it in her pocket, before taking a few pieces of parchment out of her now empty dresser drawer. She scribbled out a few very short notes and stood up. She walked silently to Hermione's dormitory and left a note on her bed, on top of another few notes with names on them. A rather large piece of her felt like it was dying, and she was doing her best not to cry, but she knew that this was the right choice.

She needed to get away. She might come back someday, and explain, but at this moment in time, she didn't belong here. She belonged with Draco. She wanted to get out, and he was offering her a life full of love and acceptance.

She walked like a zombie down to the Entrance Hall. If she didn't hear the thumping of her shoes on the floor, she might've believed she was floating through the corridors. When she got there, Harry, Ron and Hermione were just coming out from breakfast. They stopped and greeted her, but she didn't respond, nor did she smile.

She walked up to Harry and looked at him, trying to take in every aspect of his appearance, even that famous scar of his. She gave him a hug and held on tight for a minute. He and Ron looked at her like she was crazy, but Hermione looked nervous. Next she went to Hermione. The two girls stared at each other for awhile, Hermione trying to silently communicate with Ginny, but Ginny wouldn't even respond silently. A tear slipped down Ginny's cheek, and she quickly wiped it away. She didn't want to do that now, she just wanted to say goodbye. She gave Hermione a long hug before moving onto her favorite older brother. She looked at Ron and had to smile.

"Ginny, what's going on? What's wrong?" He asked with concern. He always did worry about her. She wanted to tell him not worry anymore, that she'd be ok, but she couldn't bring herself to speak. She looked down at her shoes as another few tears slipped down her cheeks, and she embraced him. He held her for a moment as he whispered questions in her ear. She still didn't answer him. She took a step back and looked at all three of them, together, the Golden Trio. She smiled, and she couldn't stop the tears from flowing freely. She wasn't sure if she'd ever really get over this moment right here, when Hermione hung her head in sorrow and ushered the boys away.

Ginny watched them go and a sob shook her petite frame. She was about to bury her face in her hands when she saw Draco walk out of the shadows towards her. She looked at him with sorrowful eyes, trying to convey how sad she was. He just looked back, and she knew he understood. She let another sob escape her as he pulled her into him. She cried for a minute as he held her. She felt like she was rooted to the spot, but as he began to walk towards the door, she moved with him. When they got to the large oak doors, he opened them and they looked out onto the grounds. Ginny took a few calming breaths before standing tall on her own. She took Draco's hand, and they walked out onto the grounds, down toward the front gates.

She was utterly torn on the inside, but her feet kept moving. She wanted to scream and yell and cry, but her voice was gone. Her will was still there, though.

When they got down to the front gates, Draco stopped her and turned to her.

"Are you sure about this?" He asked her quietly as he wiped the tears away from her cheeks. That didn't stop new ones from coming. She shook her head, and he pulled her close.

"It's ok, Red...It'll be ok..." He whispered as he held her and stroked her hair. She sobbed into his chest for just a moment before regaining control, and he put his arm firmly around her. She leaned into his chest, and folded her arms across her chest. Together, they walked out into the morning, into the sun. She wanted to take one last glance at the castle, but was afraid that if she did she'd turn back. And ultimately, she didn't want to turn back. It hurt, and she knew it would hurt everyone else, but this was the better choice. This was the choice for her. She needed this, she needed Draco. She needed understanding, acceptance and love in her life and he promised that.

So they walked on. Her heart broke, and her body ached, and she looked up to Draco for support. He just looked ahead, a stony and determined expression on his face. And they walked on, into the early morning sun...