A year and a half later, the dust of the Battle still hung in the air, not quite settled.
Kingsley and a few remaining Aurors had come by, asking to move Fred's body. They were trying to clear the dead, trying to take stock of the living. Ginny had never had so much sorrow and joy at the same time. Her whole world was shattered, but there was hope that it would be put back together.
As her mother left her side to go accompany the body, Ginny felt for the first time in a long time utterly lonesome. The air had a buzz of victory with Voldemort's defeat and absolute, untouchable sorrow over those lost along the way. Most people had stopped their crying, the night had been too long for the energy to be spared, but no one was overtly celebrating either.
Ginny would have liked to go off with Harry and find a corner to rest in, but he had disappeared with Ron and Hermione awhile ago. Despite the kiss she still felt she was intruding on their space when she was around. The three of them, it would always be. It didn't matter if she warmed Harry's bed, or wore his name. It didn't matter that she wanted to kiss him again, and thank him for saving their world.
Her eyes scanned the Great Hall, falling on Luna and Neville, their talking in hushed tones. It had been something she had seen coming years ago, she wasn't about to be the one to interrupt it.
And then there was Draco, sat between his parents at the corner of the Hall, looking every bit as shell-shocked and miserable as he should given their surroundings.
She caught his gaze and when he gestured towards the Hall entrance, she nodded without giving it a spare thought.
Draco detached himself from his family and left through the open doors. She followed him twenty paces behind as she had when they'd first 'met'. He lead her to a nearby classroom, most of the rubble still too obstructive to roam the whole castle for a more secluded spot. She followed him into the room and shut the door behind them, turning to see the blown open stone front of the room. Most of the tower above and the outer wall had been busted open, dawn across the highlands in full view.
He stood silhouetted against the sun of the morning for a long moment, taking it in. The night had felt ages long, the sun a glaring contrast.
"I can't believe it's over," she said softly, squinting in the light.
Draco knew it wasn't, not really. The reconstruction would take months, maybe years. He'd stand trial, along with his parents, for their involvement as Death Eaters. He'd likely go to Azkaban, at least briefly. The vanishing cabinet, the cursed necklace, the poisoned wine, those were all his misdeeds. Still he let himself suspend those thoughts and agreed with her. The hardest part was over. Somehow they had lived through it.
"Did you lose...?"
Ginny nodded quickly, but said nothing more on the subject. Draco respected her boundary. Given the size of her family, the odds hadn't been in her favor.
"I think about you all the time," he said softly, unable to stop the words from tumbling out.
"Don't, Draco," she whimpered, shaking her head.
"About what you said. To not let them change me, to think of the consequences," his tone had turned desperate somehow, clinging to the statement.
"Child's lessons, Draco," she frowned, shaking her head. "Stop."
"Why? When you're important to someone they should let you know," Draco's words echoed in the empty classroom. "I think about your advice, and I think about the way we used to be..."
"I'm glad I could help you, but I don't want the string that attaches to those words," Ginny could always see through him. She could see through everyone. "Harry and I are together again."
It was the only explanation needed to shut him up. None of this mattered then, none of their past had mattered now, because it was over. Draco was alive but he was clearly not the victor.
He'd stopped rambling but she still didn't want to leave him. She didn't want to return to the Great Hall, to her grieving family and Harry and pretend everything was okay. For her it felt like it never had been, and it certainly wasn't now. Not yet. The only one who seemed to understand that reality was Draco. She stepped towards him then, wrapping her arms around him tightly, relaxing only as his arms squeezed her body close to his in return.
"I fucked it all up," Draco murmured, his lips dragging along her forehead. "I was supposed to fuck you and not love you, wasn't I?" he whispered the question against her skin.
Ginny had never felt her heart break before. When Harry and Cho had begun to date it had been a dull ache, and again when Harry broke things off with her. When she and Dean decided fighting wasn't worth their relationship, or when she found out Michael Corner had cheated on her. When Tom told her she had just been a pawn in his scheme. None of it came close to the feeling that was set ablaze in her chest as the implication of Draco's words sank in.
She felt her eyes well up in uncharacteristic emotion, the exhaustion and high intensity of the night catching up to her in the moment.
It was as close as he'd get to an admission and Ginny longed to echo the sentiment, but it wasn't worth the pain. She gave a pulse of tightness to her hug before pulling out of the embrace, pushing past him to the door, which she wretched open and walked through. She discretely dried her eyes as she walked forward, hoping he wouldn't see her cry.
They had collided together with little thought to the damage it might cause.
She had wanted to hurt, but never like this.
She returned to her family and announced she needed to go home. Percy took her to the Burrow dutifully, without asking any questions.
The dreams still came, less frequently since she used Luna's dream-catcher, and almost stopping when she began spending her nights with Harry. But still, sometimes, they came. After the war, the figure was never Tom again. In his place her shadow figure appeared now with blond hair and strong hands that would grip her body, hold her down, make her beg and cry out in pleasure and pain.
She would wake with the ache of bruised flesh and bite marks that were not to be seen.
She would wake with a throbbing quim, sore from a night of phantom use.
She would wake to sweat-sheened skin and a racing heart.
Most of all, she would wake up happy, sated, content with a brief taste of the life she could never live