A/N: DEATHLY HALLOWS SPOILERS. Compliant with all except Epilogue. Harry Potter is not mine. Thanks for sticking with me on this incredible ride! --cb
Chapter Forty-Eight – Breaking Up the Band
She was aware of warmth first, the warmth and softness of a well-worn bed that has been moulded to the shape of the sleeper. Her own, then. She turned onto her side and sank once more into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Later, she was still in her bed, but her limbs ached and were heavy, and the room was dark on the other side of her eyelids. Something pricked at the back of her mind, something she thought she should remember, but she was so tired, and her bed was so soft and inviting. There was nothing that couldn't wait for a few more hours' sleep. She turned onto her back and found a good position, and returned to oblivion.
The third time she was more awake than ever, but she remained with her eyes shut, perfectly still. She was in her own bed in her own flat; that was certain. A faint light hit her face, which meant either it was still only early morning or the curtains were closed.
Ginny opened her eyes.
She was in her pyjamas, her favourites: an old Harpies t-shirt that had seen better days, with trousers striped in orange and blue. The curtains were drawn, showing her that it was – was it morning? She turned and looked at her alarm clock, which read 6:18. That meant nothing. Was it day or night? Why had she been sleeping? What had she been doing that she felt so weak?
At once, she remembered. In a rush, bolting upright in bed, she remembered the trial, Draco, her family being there, John and Lucius watching her from the stands. But what had happened afterwards? Had there been a verdict? Oh, Merlin, why couldn't she remember it?
Ginny stifled a moan as a frantic thought occurred to her. Maybe it had all been a dream. One long, complicated dream. That would explain how she had mysteriously ended up in her own bed, and how there was no conclusion. Her breath started coming hard and fast. She hadn't found Draco at all; he was still missing, on the run from the Ministry, and wonderful Simon and John had been mere figments of her lonely imagination, and—
She looked up from her misery to see none other than John Palmer standing in the door to her bedroom. He leaned against the doorframe, one fist pressed to his forehead. He had a regretful look on his face.
"Kinky told me to put the calendar next to your bed so you'd see it," he said, gesturing. "But you didn't, did you?"
Ginny blinked and looked to her little bedside table. Sure enough, a calendar had been placed beside her clock. It was August, not June. It wasn't a dream. It had all happened. The relief that washed over her was infinite.
"Oh God, John," she breathed, as she sagged back into her pillows, "you can't imagine how terrified I was that – that I had never found Draco—"
"Kinky told me you would be," John said. He came in and sat on the edge of her bed. "He also said that I had to tell you that it's evening, not morning, and you've been asleep for more than twenty-four hours. This is the evening of the day following the end of the trial."
Ginny started, not sure she was hearing him correctly. "But – how is that possible?"
"After your mum and dad delivered you here and dressed you in pyjamas, they had a Healer give you potions to make you sleep and give you some nourishment." He shook his head. "You really don't know how awful you looked, do you? We were terrified that you would blow away with the next strong breeze, and that's almost what happened. You hadn't been sleeping or eating, had you?"
"Tell me what happened in court," she insisted.
"You looked blooming awful," he said again. "Kingsley asked for you and the other counsellor to stand as he read the verdict, and you did, but you wobbled a bit and fell to the floor in a dead faint. Your mum rushed right out of the stands to help you, shouting for a Healer."
"Draco was a right wreck," John said. "He kept pulling at his chains like he wanted to be the one carrying you out of the courtroom, not your dad."
"No, not that – what was the verdict? The sentence?" Ginny lunged forward and latched onto John's arm. "Where is Draco?"
John looked down at her bedspread. "Kinky said I wasn't to tell you yet," he said slowly.
"That's bollocks," she cried angrily. "You tell me where—"
"Now calm down," he soothed, completely unruffled. "Look, any tick of the clock now Kinky's going to ring me—" At that moment, something buzzed, and John reached into his trouser pocket and withdrew his vibrating mobile phone.
"All right? Yeah, she just woke up a minute ago," he said when he answered it. Ginny heard Simon's muffled response as John eyed her warily. "Are you sure? I mean – yeah. Yeah. I know." John snorted. "You usually are right, you bastard. Bonzer. We'll see you in a bit." He flipped it shut and looked at her. "What I said before, Ginny. Kinky says you aren't ready to know yet, and he does have a good reason. You let yourself get in a very bad way, and you need to eat a solid meal before you take any major shocks."
There it was. A major shock. Draco had been sent to Azkaban. Ginny swallowed back the tears that threatened to return, determined to wait until she heard the news officially.
"Then you'll tell me?" she demanded.
"Then we're going back to Earl's Court."
"And then you'll tell me where Draco is."
"Take a shower first," John said, standing, as Ginny got out of bed. "I'll make us something whilst you dress, I went out to Sainsbury's earlier and picked up a few things."
"John Palmer, if you dodge the question one more time—"
John held up one hand and placed the other over his heart. "Ginny Weasley," he said sincerely, "I promise that once we've arrived at the house you will learn everything. It's really killing me that I can't tell you right this moment, but I'm doing it for your health. For now, I'm making us something to eat."
It was enough, for the time being. "Something edible?" she said over her shoulder, as she headed to the loo.
"Cheeky. You're lucky I like you."
Ginny tried to laugh but found she couldn't. Her voice was still scratchy from disuse, but besides that, she simply didn't have the desire to laugh. Instead, she shut herself up in her loo and started the hot water running. Rather than turning on the shower head, she decided she would take a bath, and she filled the tub with sudsy, fragrant water and lit a few candles.
Her stomach grumbled noisily as she lay in the tub, but she ignored it. So this was life on the other side of Draco's sentence. Her face crumpled as tears rushed to her eyes, but she fought them back again and sank deeper, soaking her sore body in the hot water. Why was John here alone, and not with Simon? Why were her parents not here, after she had collapsed in public? Where were her brothers?
Where was Draco?
She cut her bath short by hastily washing her hair and scrubbing smelly soaps into her skin, then let the water drain out as she dried her long, curly red mane. It glowed romantically in the candlelight, so Ginny blew out the candles, glaring at them as though they had done her wrong.
When she came out into the kitchen, smelling something quite appetizing in the air, John turned to look at her and rolled his eyes. "No, not that," he said, looking at her jeans and plain green t-shirt. "Wear the purple dress. The one you bought at Top Shop last year that still has the tags on it."
"Were you rummaging through my drawers whilst I slept?" Ginny asked, startled.
"Don't shoot the messenger," he said, shrugging. "I'm only relaying what Kinky told me to say."
"Meddling prat," she mumbled as she returned to her room to change. She found the dress in question – John was right, she had never worn it – and cut the tags off and put it on.
Before she returned to the kitchen, though, Ginny looked at herself in the mirror. Oh, bother, she thought, eyeing her reflection critically. They had all been right: she looked positively peaky. Ginny reached for her makeup bag on the dresser and took it into the loo to do her face, to hide some of the black crescents that hung under her eyes and put some colour back in her skin. She wondered why she was putting so much effort into her appearance, but she decided that any sort of distraction was good for her right at the moment. By the time she went back to John, Ginny thought she looked significantly better.
John agreed. "Excellent," he said in approval. "And now you eat." He had made them a delicious pasta, with bits of tuna and mozzarella cheese and vegetables mixed in. At her look, John chuckled. "Don't be so shocked," he said. "Just because Draco's a professional chef doesn't mean he's the only one who can cook in our house."
Ginny wolfed down her portion, and let John keep serving her more until she was pleasantly full. She watched as he withdrew his wand again from thin air and sent all of their dirty dishes into the sink, where they started washing themselves.
"I love magic," he sighed.
"Come on, now, John," Ginny said, leaning forward. "Really, what's going on?"
"What's going on is we're heading back to mine," he said, standing, "and then you'll find out everything, as promised. Are you ready? I'll Apparate us, if you don't mind grabbing onto my arm."
Frustrated, Ginny made sure her own wand was tucked inside her dress, then threaded her arm through John's. He made a violent swish with his wand, Ginny exhaled, and they were no longer in her kitchen but in the little alley near Barkston Gardens that she always used, to avoid having Muggles see her pop out of nowhere. The evening sky was drab and featureless above them, the same uniform shade of dark grey. The air was warm but damp. Ginny looked up as she followed John to their townhouse, wondering if and almost hoping it would rain. It seemed fitting that way, that the entire city should mourn her loss with her.
But as they stepped onto the front stoop and John fished out his keys, Ginny frowned. Every light in the house was on, glowing cheerfully out into the gloom, but not a sound escaped. Next door she could hear two boys loudly playing some video game, but meanwhile, the house in front of her was silent. Her heart sank. Her hands shook. She had seen her father's newest car project – a Ford Zephyr – parked at the kerb with Simon's shiny Peugeot. They had decided to break the news to her as a unit, en masse, so that they would all be there to support her as she mourned—
John finally found the right key and raised his head. "Brace yourself," he said, and he unlocked the front door.
At once, they were blasted by the sound of loud music pouring from the speakers in the living room, and John had to shout, "We're here!" to be heard. Curiously, the mood was not sombre at all – but more like a party. Ginny saw down the hallway to the kitchen and George was standing there, holding a drink in one hand. He was talking to a man she didn't know.
"Come in," John said with a jerk of his head. She found she was still on the step. Ginny entered the house and he closed the door behind her.
Then she noticed the handmade banner tied to the banister in the foyer.
Welcome home Ben! it read.
Ginny's heart leapt into her throat, and she struggled to take in a breath. John left her side, still shouting to be heard over the music, and then someone came to the kitchen doorway. Another person she didn't recognise, with curly strawberry blond hair.
He gave a hearty laugh. "Oi, Hamilton!" he shouted back into the kitchen. "Your lady love has finally arrived!"
The stranger moved aside to make room for someone else to enter the foyer.
Ginny didn't hesitate more than a split second before she barrelled across the room and leapt into Draco's arms. Draco held her so tightly he lifted her clear off the floor, leaving her feet to dangle in midair as he spun her around.
"Oh, thank God," he was muttering into her hair, "you're all right, you're all right."
"I thought you'd be halfway to Azkaban by now," she breathed.
"Shh, there's Muggles here," he warned, then he pulled away. For the first time, Ginny noticed that he'd had a haircut, at last, and was shaved and freshly showered and wearing clean clothes. He looked wonderful. No, he looked phenomenal.
And he was here. In his own house, in her arms. Not in Azkaban.
"You look absolutely incredible, love," he said, his eyes scanning her head to foot.
"I – so do you," she said, her mind still spinning. She couldn't stop running her hands up and down his arms, down his chest, as though to confirm that he was really here, solid, real, standing in front of her. Draco took both her hands in his and kissed them.
"Hell, you'd think they hadn't seen each other in a month," the stranger said to John with a laugh. "I think whatever recovery Ben has yet to do will be quick in coming."
"I agree," John said, giving Ginny a look. Right. The Muggles thought Draco had been in hospital with meningitis. That was why she couldn't mention anything about the trial or Azkaban. "But Ben's lucky to even be alive."
"I don't know if you remember me," the stranger said to Ginny, offering his hand to shake. "I was there at the park the day you and Ben met. Cillian Moreau. I've known these wankers for years and still haven't been scared off."
"Ginny, pleasure," she said, shaking his hand and holding Draco's with the other.
Cillian grinned at them. "We all missed His Highness the Thin White Duke," he said. "We were just talking about when Ben will be ready to hit the rugby pitch again."
"I told you, I'm still weak from being in bed for weeks on end," Draco said. "But I'll be ready in no time, you'll see."
"Here, let me get you a bitter," John said to her. "You drink Guinness, yeah?"
"A Guinness would be lovely, thanks," she said. John and Cillian both headed into the kitchen, and as soon as they had gone, Draco pulled Ginny into his arms and hugged her again.
"I'm still so confused," she whispered, touching the side of his face, "I woke up an hour ago and thought I would never see you again, I need to know what happened after I fainted—"
"You will," he assured her, brushing her hair from her face. "We have time."
Ginny's breath hitched. "Yes, we do," she said. "We do have time. All the time in the world."
Draco grinned at her, that silly, goofy grin that she adored more than anything else. It had been too long since she had last seen it. She could do nothing but grin in return.
They eventually made their way into the kitchen, where Molly fussed over her and made sure she was all right without arousing the suspicion of Draco, Simon, and John's Muggle friends. Arthur and Ron just smiled and hugged her, and to her surprise, Ron even shook Draco's hand. Simon was holding court in the kitchen, mixing cocktails and telling wild stories with elaborate hand gestures, but he paused briefly to give Ginny a cheery, "Hallo there!" from across the room.
"You scheming bastard!" she cried, not unkindly.
"Did ye expect nae less from me?" he asked as she worked her way across the kitchen.
"You had me convinced we would lose the case," she said, throwing her arms around him.
"Ah had ta," Simon said. "Spurred ye on ta win, didn't et? But bloody hell were there times ah just wanted ta give up an tell ye he'd be all right."
"Thank you," she said in his ear. "For everything."
"Of course," Draco complained as he joined them, "on our first date he gets to snog you first, and now that I'm out of hospital, you run right into his arms. I see how it is."
Ginny released herself from Simon and gave Draco a wicked look. Before she could start to tease him, however, Simon said, "Ah told her how brilliant ah am, an she did nae believe a word. Me! Aren't ah amazing?" he asked of the closest person to him.
"Amazing at making cocktails," the friend said, raising his drink.
"The problem was she met you first," Simon said to Draco, "an now there's no one else for her."
Draco grinned sadly and reached out to hug him. "Thanks for looking after her for me, Kinky," he said sincerely. "Now hands off so I can say hello properly."
With that, Draco took Ginny into his arms, bent over, and kissed her thoroughly, while his mates all cheered him on.
From that point on, Ginny never broke contact with Draco; there was never a moment when they weren't touching. When they stood in the kitchen discussing the West Ham Football Club with some of the others – Mark and Tim, she remembered their names were – Draco had one hand at her waist, and Ginny leaned back against his chest. When they talked to Simon and George about Simon's ideas for Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, Ginny had her arm round Draco, and he had one draped over her shoulders. It was absolutely wonderful to see how animated George became in Simon's company, and it was clear that Simon knew more than a little about how to run a business. George even laughed as Simon brought up a product idea, so hard he was gripping his sides. The sound, so unusual since Fred's passing, brought tears to Ginny's eyes.
"Oi, Ben!" Simon abruptly called across the room at one point. "Et's your song!"
Ginny paused to listen to the music still blasting over the speakers, while beside her Draco laughed. "The lyrics are all wrong, though!" Draco called back. "I fought the law and I won!"
"Hear, hear!" a few of his mates cried, without really knowing what they were cheering for.
When her mother came over to them, Draco kissed Ginny's forehead and murmured, "I'll get us fresh drinks," before leaving her side. Ginny was immediately bereft of his presence and anxious for his return.
"Well, you look a sight better than you did yesterday," Molly said, hands on her hips. "You know I hate it when you scare me like that."
"I was stupid, I'll admit," Ginny said, blushing. "You know how I am sometimes."
"Yes I do, because I was the same way," Molly said with a wink. She took Ginny's face in her hands and gave her a kiss on each cheek. "Ginny dear, I'm so proud of you. Are you going to keep working as a solicitor, do you think? I know they make very good money, and the best ones can take very nice holidays—"
"I'm retiring after this case," Ginny said. "I'd like to keep my success rate at one hundred percent. No, actually, Mum, I'm going to try out for a Quidditch team."
"Quidditch!" Molly cried. Ginny wondered at her speaking so freely, until she saw that only one of the Muggles remained. As the evening had worn on, she'd noticed people trickling out, starting early on with Ron, Hermione, and Bill, who needed to return to their children. Only her parents and Cillian Moreau remained.
"Quidditch!" Molly said again. "Here I was thinking you'd take a safer job, one where you could easily leave to someday start a family, and I find you want to play Quidditch! Ginevra Molly Weasley, you are going to be the death of me."
Ginny sighed. Now she was positive that everything really was as it had been before.
A few minutes had gone by before she noticed Draco had still not returned with drinks. On scanning the kitchen and living room, he was nowhere to be found. "Where did he go?" she asked Simon.
"Needed fresh air," he told her. "Been very claustrophobic this past day or so. Understandable, bein cooped up en tha little cell o his."
"I need to know what happened yesterday," she said to him, and to John as he joined them. "Nothing has been explained to me yet."
Simon and John looked at each other, and John muttered, "I'll see Cillian off," before ducking away. Molly and Arthur came over to say their own goodbyes, as it was already fast approaching midnight. Soon it was just the three of them, alone in the kitchen.
"You fainted," John began bluntly, "and there was total uproar in the courtroom. I told you your mum went right to you, and Draco was shouting his head off about getting a doctor. Even Draco's dad, that scary bloke in black, looked shocked to see you go down. So everything came to a halt until they brought in a Healer and your dad carried you out of the courtroom to be taken care of. Draco was a mess, not even paying attention to the Wizengamot as the Chief Warlock brought everyone back to order.
"He had Harper stand again," John went on, "and since you were 'incapacitated,' one of your brothers stood up to represent Draco in your stead – er, the one with the ponytail?" he said delicately.
"Bill," Ginny said with a nod.
"Yeah, that's the one. Anyway, so the Chief Warlock said that on further study of Yaxley's memory its authenticity was in doubt, plus you had raised serious questions when you reminded them that he was able to lie under Veritaserum. If that was possible, they reasoned, wouldn't it also be possible that he could forge memories? And you'd given them cause to think that Yaxley had a motive to frame Draco with murder, especially with those off-hand comments he made. Actually," John interjected, "one of the things you told us he said sounded familiar, so I Googled it."
"What?" Ginny asked, frowning.
"I did some research," John amended. "And you know what? 'I shan't quit ripping till I do get buckled' was a quote from one of the Jack the Ripper letters, this Victorian-era serial murderer who was never caught. So Yaxley's entire testimony was thrown out and the charge dismissed because of a lack of solid evidence." John leaned against the workspace and folded his arms. "I really think it was the lack of spectators that did it," he told them. "Without them screeching down the court's backs, they were able to see clearly that Draco was merely a victim of circumstance, not a criminal."
"Oh thank Merlin," Ginny breathed. "But what about his mother's wand? It was obviously the murder weapon."
"They've reopened Yaxley's case," John said. "They're going to try him for killing that boy, since someone speculated that he could easily have forged his memory if in fact he was there when the kid was killed. They think Yaxley did it himself, since no one else is present in the memory."
"I always thought that," Ginny insisted, "right from the beginning."
"They also decided to treat Draco as a minor for the other things he did, like with that necklace," John said. "That was due to his dad's testimony, and Kinky's, because of what he said about Draco not having the stones to out and out kill someone. For that, and taking into consideration his amnesia and what they called his 'new attitude,' they decided that Draco will be on heavily supervised probation for the next three to five years, to monitor his activities and be sure he has no 'evil tendencies' as he re-enters Wizarding society." John rolled his eyes. "As if Draco were a threat to anyone. Even better, the liaison assigned to him is someone Kinky knows from childhood."
"Closet blood purity fiend," Simon said, vigorously nodding his head. "He thinks purebloods shit gold an piss rainbows. Dragon boy es perfectly safe en his hands."
"Then that's it?" Ginny said. "He has to meet with a liaison for the next few years?"
"That's it," John said, smiling. "You did it, Ginny. You saved our mate."
"Now hang on a mo, tha's nae all tha happened," Simon interjected. "Tell her aboot what happened after they undid Dragon boy's chains and let him go."
"Oh." John blushed furiously, and scuffed his shoe on the floor. "She doesn't need to hear that—"
"Gin love, you really need ta hear this," Simon told her with a grin.
"Well…" John huffed. "Draco stood up and was rubbing his wrists, after they freed him from the chains?" he continued reluctantly. "And Harry Potter, who was up in the stands near me, marches down from his seat and goes up to Draco and starts sniping at him. Just being a right little drongo, if you ask me," John added darkly. "He said some nasty things about appealing the decision and bringing Draco back to trial, this time to be sure he gets locked up in Azkaban for good. I heard it all. And I… might've shut him up."
"John Palmer, why so modest?" Simon said with a laugh. "Gin, this boyo hears Potter talkin trash, right after our best mate has just been freed, and he completely loses his temper! For the first time in bloody five years!" Simon shook his head. "Ach, ah would've paid good money ta see et!"
"Get on," John complained.
"Johnny here whips out his wand like a bloody superhero, an hexes Harry clear ento next Tuesday!" Simon finished grandly.
"I would've paid money to see that as well," Ginny said, laughing.
"I don't usually like being angry," John admitted. He gave them both a conspiring look. "But I think Harry was asking for it, honestly."
"Et even got Johnny deported!" Simon said proudly.
"Wait, what?" Ginny stared at John, eyes wide. "No!"
"Well, I did hex the most famous wizard in Europe in front of the entire judicial body of the British Isles," John said with a shrug. "And when they found out I wasn't a citizen, no less than Simon's dear old dad told me there'd be a hearing. He might as well have told me then and there I'm being shipped out. But it's time anyway. I rang my parents this morning to tell them that we can head back to Perth as soon as they're ready."
"But – London is your home now," Ginny insisted, "we're all here, your friends—"
"Australia is my home," John said gently. "Always has been, always will be. I belong there, just as you belong here, in the UK. A day hasn't gone by in the past eight years when I haven't missed Perth. It's time for me to go back." He sighed and looked away, and when he looked back his eyes were slightly shinier than usual. "But it's been quite a walkabout, that's for sure," he murmured, smiling at them both.
"No, wait," Ginny said, thinking quickly. "The prophecy hasn't been completely fulfilled. You can't go yet."
John raised his eyebrows. "Er, I'm pretty sure it has been," he said slowly.
"No, the part at the end, the last line," she said, trying to remember it. "His only chance for salvation, for the salvation of all. I mean, I've kept him out of prison, which is his salvation I suppose, but what about the 'salvation of all' bit, hm?"
"Tha's easy," Simon said. "Et just means that Dragon boy's meant ta do sommat important. Or," he added, with a broad wink, "one o his sprog."
Ginny gulped and rested a hand on her stomach, but just as quickly Simon batted it away.
"You're nae preggers ef tha's what you're thinkin," he cried, sounding completely scandalised. "Bugger all, Gin, ef Dragon boy saw ye rubbin your belly like tha he'd just aboot have a stroke!"
"Prophecies aren't stronger than birth control," John said with a snort.
"No time for tha anyway," Simon said brusquely, hustling Ginny out of the kitchen. "Ah cannae imagine what you're still doin here with us dodgy characters."
"Es up on the roof," Simon finished. He took one arm, John took the other, and they frog marched her out to the foot of the stairs. "Go up ta the third floor, ta the door across from my darkroom. A spiral staircase goes right up. He's waitin."
Ginny smiled brilliantly at them both, before taking the stairs two at a time in her haste to reach the roof.
The air was warm and drowsy when she opened the door and stepped out, and the heavy midnight sky was completely starless, only illuminated by the lights of London. The narrow bit of roof that belonged to the trio had been decorated like a patio, complete with outdoor sofas and chairs, a table, and a small grill. They were all covered now with a fine layer of moisture, as a light, noiseless rain had begun to fall.
Draco stood near the edge, looking out at the street below. Ginny joined him there, and he turned to put both arms around her and heave a giant sigh.
"It's all over," he said. "It's done."
"No," she said, "it's just beginning."
Draco grinned. "You know what, you're right." He chuckled and kissed her near the temple. "I had the most amazing conversation with my dad yesterday, after the trial," he said excitedly. "I mean, the first time I saw him I was almost pissing myself I was so scared, but I can see now it's just a front. I was exactly like that when I first came out of my fugue state, very cold and distant. We had the most – it was a bloody unbelievable talk, Ginny. He wants to tell me about my mum and the rest of my family, show me the grounds of Malfoy Manor – I'm really going to inheritall that," he added in obvious disbelief. "He said he wants to do anything he can to help me regain my memory, no matter how long it takes. Oh! And he said I'm only twenty-six years old!" Draco shook his head. "I feel like I've gone back in time or something. The lads love that, since we always thought I was the oldest and now I'm the baby. But Dad's also going to show me around to the people I used to know, get my wand back, hire a tutor to help me learn magic again…"
As Ginny listened to him go on about his re-entry into Wizarding society, her heart began to sink lower and lower. Bringing Draco back to the world in which he belonged would not be as simple as him moving his possessions into Malfoy Manor. It would require a lot out of him, a great deal of energy. Having her around would only slow his progress. She had been here before, when Harry broke up with her before setting off on his search for the Horcruxes.
"Isn't that incredible?" Draco asked when he had done.
"Wonderful," she said, stepping back. She fiddled with the bodice of her dress, and Draco frowned at her.
"All right, let's have it," he said, folding his arms.
Ginny looked up and met his eyes, his beautiful silver eyes. "Draco," she began, "you have a lot of hard work in front of you, a lot of – long days and short nights. Discovering your past and embracing your old life will require your full attention, and so—" Her voice hitched slightly, but she ploughed on. "I will understand completely if you wish to give us a break. Temporary, of course, if you like."
Draco stared at her for a tense moment, one in which his face betrayed no emotion. Then: "Oh bloody hell, Ginny," he burst out, laughing hysterically. "You really had me going there for a minute, you know," he said, pulling her back into his arms and squeezing her against him. "What utter rubbish."
"It's not rubbish," she said, her voice muffled into his jumper. "I don't want to impede anything—"
"Ginny." Draco looked down at her, now very serious. "It is rubbish. All that stuff I just mentioned, all the things I need to do? It's nothing to me without you. I don't want any of it if it means I have to give you up. And look," he went on, looking suddenly uncomfortable. "I was going to save this for a special occasion or whatever, but – I got a new memory yesterday, and it was of you."
Ginny gaped. "What?"
"I'm positive it's you," he reiterated. "I'm sitting in some kind of box – stands or benches or something – high up in the air, and watching about twenty people flying around in the air."
Inexplicably, her heart rate picked up. "On broomsticks?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Ah, so that's what they are. Half are in red and the other half are in yellow uniforms."
"Gryffindor and Hufflepuff," she murmured, her heart full, burying her face against his chest. He put one hand in her hair and stroked it while he continued.
"I'm watching them toss a ball around," he muttered in her ear, "and then, very close, I see a girl with bright red hair zooming past me." He snorted. "I feel more than a bit pervy about it, since you can't be more than fifteen. But, I don't know, I just felt this sort of rightness when I realised it was you."
"It's called Quidditch," she said, lifting her chin to look at him. "You used to play as well. You were brilliant at it, actually. I'll teach it to you."
"Teach me to fly again?" Draco said, smirking. "Haven't you already?"
Ginny giggled. "Charmer. And how many birds has that line gotten you into bed with?"
"Hopefully just the one," he murmured, before closing the distance between them.
He had a blanket he had stowed away, and they ended up on the patio sofa underneath it, fumbling like teenagers with the buttons and zippers on their clothes. It was still drizzling out, and when Ginny fell back onto the damp sofa cushions, completely naked, she pointed out, "I'm going to get soaking wet."
"That's the general idea, love," Draco growled hungrily.
His body moved surely above hers, ivory pale in the little light that reached them, and his hair and the rain sprinkled tiny droplets onto her neck and breasts. He made a point of licking them off, slowly, and Ginny shuddered at the electrifying contrast between the cool rain and his hot tongue. They both glistened, their skin slick and wet as they slid against each other. Ginny thought they looked like pagan gods. She must have spoken the thought aloud, for he bent and whispered teasingly into her ear, "That's all right, you can just call me Draco," as he entered her.
They never could see stars in the night sky over London. The city lights, the smoke, the clouds, they were too concealing, and the distant stars were rarely able to seep through to the bustling streets below. But that night, Ginny would've sworn there were millions of stars, billions, filling every corner of the universe and illuminating the world. Draco had hung them there.
When she awoke the next morning they were in his bed, safe and dry inside the house, with the sun shining through his windows. He was stretched out next to her, one leg tucked between hers, and he had propped his head up on his arm to look at her.
On seeing her awaken, he leaned down to kiss her forehead. "Good morning," he said.
And Ginny knew it really was.