Summary: It was a decision that would change Ginny Weasley and Draco Malfoy's lives, though she had no idea how large an impact that simple choice would have. The decision to walk towards Malfoy instead of away from him, as everyone else had done.
Disclaimer: I only own the plot.
It was a decision that would forever change Ginny Weasley and Draco Malfoy's lives, though at the time she had no idea how large an impact that simple choice would have.
The decision to walk towards the boy instead of away from him, as everyone else would do.
First instinct had told Ginny not to bother with him. Why should she, after all? He was the cause of many people's deaths, the loss of many sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. He was wrong, he was a Malfoy, he was not what she needed and not what she wanted.
But, for whatever reason, Ginny did walk towards him. And it would forever change the direction their lives should have gone in.
It was surprisingly bright outside despite everything that had just happened. Ginny stumbled across the field, ignoring the blood stains in the grass, the broken glass, the fallen stones from the castle. There was a lost shoe to her left and her eyes stared at it for a long moment before she continued her walk.
For all her years at Hogwarts there was only one place that could calm her nerves, which could quiet her fears. Ginny was sure the lake was viewed as a place of relaxation for many of the students over the years. Ever since the incident with the Chamber Ginny had developed a case of claustrophobia. She hated being in the dark, hated small places, couldn't stand the idea of going underground anywhere. And the lake was the exact opposite of everything the Chamber was. There was space, even if there were a hundred other students outside with her, and the fresh air always helped calm her.
And now, more than ever, Ginny needed to be calmed. Her mother was near hysterics after the ending of the Final Battle. The Final Battle. Ginny scoffed at the name of it. She knew, even at sixteen years old, that this was not the end of anything. There were still going to be rogue Deatheaters. There was still reconstruction to be done. Though Voldemort was dead there would be those would try to avenge him, those who still carried his ideologies. There were still families who would have to rebuild their lives without the loved ones they lost…
Ginny stopped, closing her eyes and leaning against a fallen stone. She could see the empty stare on his normally laughing face, the way the blood smeared at the corner of his mouth, as if it were burned into her brain. Digging her hands into the stone, Ginny willed herself to stop thinking. To stop thinking before it became too much.
Fred, Fred, Fred, Fred-
How did this happen? How did she continue? How did anyone continue? Fred was dead. Fred, the brother who made sure to write her every Wednesday once he left Hogwarts. He was the one who whispered stories to her at night when she couldn't sleep. He hugged her the longest, his face wet, when she had been returned from the Chamber.
He had been the reason she had to leave the Great Hall, where her family was. She couldn't bear being around everyone who was celebrating, to be around the cheers and drinking and eating. Ginny couldn't continue to watch her mum try to look happy, couldn't bear it anymore. Fred…
Forcing herself to continue towards the lake, she was almost there, Ginny tried to turn her thoughts to Harry. She hadn't had time to see him since Voldemort's death. It was strange because Ginny had thought her first instinct, after being with her family, would have been to find him. She wanted to see him so badly, wanted to be able to celebrate with him, wanted to hold him. Her dad had told her that Ron and Hermione were gone, most likely with Harry.
"Probably resting," he had whispered, his words hardly full of their normal sympathy.
And Ginny had let them disappear together. She was use to the trio and knew they needed their time together. She wasn't angry or upset. Ginny needed her time to breathe too.
The lake came into view, with the sun blazing behind it. Night was approaching; the sun was beginning its trek to sink below the ground. Wrapping her arms around her waist, Ginny slowed her walk, taking a deep breath. All she smelt was a combination of dirt and fire. No wonder, though, for she felt filthy. Dust from the ruined castle lay on her like a second skin. As much as she had wiped at her face the last few hours she couldn't get it off. There was even dried blood still caked underneath her fingernails.
Ginny lifted her head toward the sun, basking in it, willing it to clean her, to take away her pain. Fred. His name made her swallow hard, almost overwhelmed by her emotions. She lifted a hand to her mouth, keeping her eyes closed as she tried to breathe easy. Fred was gone forever. She supposed she should be counting her blessings, for other than Fred so few had been lost…
The thought made her retch and she collapsed onto her knees, heaving, though nothing would come up for she hadn't eaten in over a day. Her eyes watered and just as she stopped heaving she heard a branch snap. She looked up warily, brushing her knotted hair from her face. For a moment the sun blinded her and she squinted. Who was outside with her?
"Weasley," a soft voice muttered. "If you get sick near me, I may have to curse you."
Her eyes adjusted to the brightness of the sun but she did not have to see the person after hearing his voice. Draco Malfoy sat by the edge of the lake, his back to her. She could see his head bowed, his clothes dark with the same dust that blanketed her own. His normally white blonde hair seemed brown. If it were not for his voice, the familiar drawl that made Ginny's skin crawl, she would not have thought it to be him. He looked defeated.
She got to her feet, wiping at her mouth. He wasn't watching her and didn't turn when he heard her get up. Malfoy didn't care. Ginny felt herself frown, her eyes water. How was it fair that he got to live when Fred was dead? When Remus and Tonks were dead? Why did he get to still breathe the same air as her when he had done so much to let her know he thought so lowly of her and everything she viewed? That he had supported the man who ultimately cause her brother's death?
Ginny took a step back. If she stayed near him any longer she would probably kill him. It wasn't fair, it just wasn't. She stumbled away from him, turning her back on him. She would just go back into the castle, she could find her family, she could find Harry. They could comfort her. There was no reason for her to be out here, she didn't need to be near Malfoy. Ginny could see herself telling Harry, Ron and Hermione how she had seen Malfoy out by the lake, alone, looking so unlike himself it was astonishing. She could picture them nodding in understanding, Harry wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. He would whisper that, if anything, Malfoy needed to be pitied…
But, as she took another step closer to the destroyed castle, her eyes taking in the sight of her second home that barely seemed able to stand, Ginny stopped. She felt overwhelmed at the prospect of having to go back in there, to face reality. She could imagine her mother's eyes on her, empty but still alert. She could imagine her father, sobbing as he held Fred's hand. She could see George, lost, so lost without his other half...
And she would not leave because of bloody Malfoy. He had lost and she had won.
Even as she made her decision, Ginny's hands were shaking. She turned around and walked towards the lake, sitting away from Malfoy but close enough to him that he was in her peripheral vision. Keeping her eyes trained on the setting sun, Ginny took off her shoes with her trembling hands. Tossing her shoes to the side of her, she took off her socks, one of which had a big hole in the toe. She wanted to take off all her clothes, everything, to forget about it all. Instead she settled for the freedom of her feet.
"Why are you here, Malfoy?" Ginny asked warily, when she found she was too irritated with his presence to relax. "Shouldn't you and your family be going into hiding? Meeting up with your other Deatheaters and figuring out some plan of attack?"
Ginny looked over at him. Malfoy looked as war beaten as she did. He was clearly tired, the skin under his eyes purple despite the dirt on his face. There was a cut on his left cheek and his lip was busted. Some of his hair seemed to be burnt too, a smell that lingered between them.
But he didn't answer, didn't even have the decency to look at her.
"Why are you still here?" Ginny snapped, her voice rising. "You don't deserve to be here!"
And it was true. Hogwarts was in ruins. This was a time of celebration, a time to mourn, a time to heal. And Malfoy and his family had no right to be a part of it. Malfoy was lucky to be alive. Why couldn't he scurry home to his perfect manor and let his parents cuddle him as they figured out how to manipulate the system once again?
At her words, Malfoy turned his head slightly to look at her. The intensity of his eyes caused her to falter. She wondered if he could hear her thoughts.
"The last thing I want to do right now," he said slowly, his voice sharp. "is talk to you. So do me a favor and shut your bloody trap."
Ginny's cheeks flushed as he looked back to the setting sun.
"Harry won. How does that make you feel?"
The words slipped out before Ginny could help it. Malfoy's head snapped towards her and her back straightened in defense.
"Potter," he spat. "Is that all you can talk about? Still? Fucking Potter and his two minions?"
Her eyes narrowed and her wand, which was in her waistband, seemed to burn with her anger.
"Don't talk about him like that-"
"Oh, quiet," Malfoy pointed a finger at her. "If you want to talk about Potter, go find him and you two can talk about how perfect you are for each other and how perfect your life is going to be and about how perfectly he killed the Dark Lord."
"You almost seem like you wish the Dark Lord were still around," Ginny said, her voice low. "You sound like you wish he won."
He didn't answer and Ginny could only hear the softness of the lake water splashing on the bank, the breeze in the trees, the movement in the castle behind them, as she waited for his response. She felt a shiver run up and down her back as she stared at him. Malfoy's face was completely blank; something that only Slytherins ever seemed capable of achieving.
"You know nothing, you worthless girl," Malfoy finally spoke.
But his voice lacked the normal hostility. He drew his knees up to his chest, which was almost a ridiculous sight because Malfoy was a boy, a man, and it made him look like a small child.
"Everything I've been taught, everything my parents told me, everything I thought I would become…" his voice trailed off and he wasn't looking at Ginny any longer.
He seemed to be looking past her, his gray eyes unfocused. It was as though all his hopes and dreams were to be abandoned, put in a bottle and placed on a shelf where they would collect dust and never be thought of again. The dull ache in her heart made itself present again. Ginny understood the sense of loss in his eyes, though it was Fred's loss and not her own she felt.
The anger in her drained away and the pair remained quiet. Ginny didn't want to fight anymore. She never wanted to fight again, never wanted to utter a curse at another human being. She never wanted to be the cause of someone else's pain, ever again. Biting her lip, Ginny realized she should have never stayed to speak to Malfoy. What was the point? She should have left him be, let his wallow in his own self pity while she went and wallowed in her own somewhere else.
Though he was alive, he was experiencing a very different loss than she was.
And the fact that she almost felt bad for him was confusing her just as much as her decision to stay with him by the lake.
"Look, Malfoy…" Ginny trailed off, unsure of what to say.
He didn't look at her but she knew he was listening.
"You're alive. You're breathing. You can still make choices, can still have a future. You can get married and you can have children or you don't have to because you are still alive and you are still able to make that choice-"
Malfoy stood up abruptly at that, running a hand through his hair. His hair, so dirty, stood up at odd ends and he looked like a mad man. Ginny watched as his lips twisted in a scowl and he straightened, looking more like a Malfoy than he had in years.
"I didn't realize I asked your opinion on anything," he hissed. "Not that the opinion of a Weasley matters."
Ginny let out a laugh at his words, though it sounded choked. She couldn't believe he would dare say that to her. The anger in her bristled again, as though waiting for this opportunity to show itself. She didn't flinch as he walked away, his hands shoved deep in his pockets and his head bent. He was probably going to find his parents, though Ginny was sure the Aurors weren't going to let the Malfoys go anywhere they couldn't be found.
She sighed through her nose, unwillingly twisting around to watch as his dark form dodged fallen stone and broken glass to reenter the castle. Why had she stayed and talked to him?
Author's Note: Just something that popped into my head randomly. Set right after the Final Battle.