Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot. Also, Snape didn't die.

Ginny Weasley stormed through the icy halls, stomping across patches of tranquil moonlight, the pale, almost ghostlike glow pooling around the freckles punctuating her porcelain skin. There had been a time when she hated those freckles. Now it seemed like such a silly thing to worry about; lately she could barely stand to look in the mirror because all she saw there was the weight she bore.

Be careful what you wish for.

No one could have warned her. Even now they'd call her crazy for wanting something else.

Other witches tried to steal him from her. There was a time when it had made her angry, but now she was too tired to care. The boy who saved her life had become the man who saved the world, and he loved Ginny and no one else.

Her mother was already planning the wedding. No one had bothered to ask her if she felt unsure, if this was truly what she wanted. Everyone had assumed. After all of the pain she had seen him suffer, it felt wrong to want to push away when he clung to her.

Bursting through the door of the Astronomy tower, Ginny gasped in the night air so hungrily one might have thought she couldn't breathe in the castle. As her heartbeat slowed and her breathing grew normal once more, she sank down and lit a cigarette, settling in to wait for sunrise.

These sparse lone moments were the only solace she had in a chaotic life, and having one taken from her caused her chest to ache as though it had been torn open as she heard the clear, quiet voice.

"How very ladylike." the sarcasm and distaste she heard in his voice brought something inside her into a much clearer focus. She was sick of everyone being so fucking nice. Instead of trying to hide it or offering some flimsy excuse, Ginny raised one eyebrow, leaned forward, and blew a series of smoke rings in her Professor's direction.

He stepped toward her, leaning in close enough for her to smell the firewhiskey on his breath.

"My. Office. Now." With an apathetic shrug she stood to follow him, taking a long drag from her cigarette before a subtle flick of his wand banished it. His shoulders swayed slightly as he walked beside her, one hand wrapped roughly around her wrist. "And what would your darling fiancé think of his sweet little princess sneaking out to fill her lungs with poison when she should be all snug in her bed?" Beady black eyes stole a sideways glance at her grimace.

"Don't tell Harry." She wasn't begging. Her voice didn't sound desperate, just tired. Snape was intrigued by her apathy. She had returned to Hogwarts after the final battle feminine and refined, a perfect social butterfly. He imagined that she was expected to contort herself until she took the shape of something appropriate for the savior of her world.

No one remembered those who fought beside him, everything they had endured to help him succeed. Ginny shuddered to think of all the times her professor had been tortured, the way he must have felt living a double life, knowing he could be caught at any moment, and the consequences he risked were far beyond the simple pain of death.

Perhaps it was the firewhiskey, perhaps it was just the thrill of seeing the cynicism burning in the honey brown eyes that had shone with innocence and trust mere months before , but Severus couldn't stop himself from uttering the words that came next.

"Miss Weasley, you are aware that use of tobacco is prohibited at Hogwarts, yet you appear to have made a habit of blatantly disregarding the rules. There will be consequences for your actions. I haven't fully decided what to do with you, but I can assure you, you will be punished most severely." A chill shot down her spine at the way his deep, rich voice caressed the last two words, melting in her stomach like dark chocolate.

"What kind of… of punishment?" Her throat felt dry as she spoke.

He stopped abruptly, jabbing at the wall absentmindedly with his wand. A heavy door appeared, creaking as it swung open to reveal the sparsely decorated office. He gestured toward an overstuffed maroon chair that sat facing his extraordinarily large dark cherry wood desk.

"Sit, Ginny." he said in an uncharacteristic chivalrous voice that burned with anticipation. She sat quickly, resting her hands on her knees and staring up at him curiously. Now he could understand the appeal Harry had seen in the young redhead. Constellations of amber freckles sprawled over skin that looked like porcelain in the velvety dancing firelight. As she bit her lip anxiously, he watched the sharp looking little teeth sink into the puffy pink pincushion. Her inviting lower lip reminded him of the other parts of her waiting to be kissed. She was by no means voluptuous, but the slender curve of her spine drove him mad, the way she sat, gleaming with defiance, silenced the last cries of the voice of reason.

"I suppose," he said slowly, as though contemplating something that had never occurred to him before, "that if we resolve the matter of your discipline tonight, this whole little incident can remain our little secret."

Ginny wasn't sure why, but her stomach filled with butterflies and her face grew so warm she wondered if it hadn't perhaps turned fuchsia.

"If you would prefer, we can handle this in the morning."

"No!" she hadn't meant for her response to be so forceful, but a part of her was screaming that she had to stay, even though she had no idea what the night might bring. "I mean," she continued carefully, "I'd prefer to handle the situation tonight. What did you have in mind, professor?"

He sat down behind his desk, pinching the bridge of his nose in an effort to force his mind to work properly. When that failed, he reached behind him to produce a bottle of firewhiskey and a large tumbler. As he started to pour, Ginny spoke.

"Aren't you going to offer me some?"

Dark eyes glinting with mischief, he passed her the bottle. "I doubt very much that you will find this to your liking." His smirk faded as she took a deep swig, suppressing the shudder that it evoked and staring into his eyes in silent challenge. He emptied the tumbler so quickly Ginny's composure faltered for an instant and she looked genuinely impressed. What a strange little girl, he thought to himself, though a small voice reminded him that she wasn't a child anymore by any stretch of the imagination. He cringed the thought away, wondering desperately what kind of trouble he was getting himself into.

Ginny pressed the bottle to her lips, forcing herself to swallow an amount comparable to what she had just seen her professor accomplish. She sat rigidly in her chair, eyes pinched shut, waiting for the burning rush to subside, determined to maintain her composure.

"You look like McGonagall." he muttered, teasing. At first she didn't smile, but two dimples etched themselves into her pink-tinged cheeks. He watched with genuine enjoyment as she dissolved into a fit of giggles, wondering again what he had started.